Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Fridthjof’s Temptation.

Spring is coming, song-birds twitter, woods are leafing, smiles the sun;

Dancing downward, toward the ocean, see the loosened rivers run;

Glowing like the cheeks of Freyja, from the buds the roses ope, —

Hearts of men to life awaken, full of courage, love and hope.

Ho! the chase! the aged monarch with his queen will go today;

Now in crowds the court assembles, waiting in confused array, —

Bows are clanging, quivers rattling, steeds impatient paw the ground;

Hooded falcons, wildly shrieking, make the echoing hills resound.

See! the queen appears! Poor Fridthjof, do not thither cast your eye;

Sits she on her milk-white palfrey like a star in spring’s clear sky, —

Half a Freyja, half a Rota, — lovelier far than either one, —

From her dainty hat of purple, plumes are waving in the sun.

Look not on those eyes so heavenly, — of those golden locks beware!

Oh! take care! that form is supple, full that bosom, oh! take care!

Look not where the rose and lily shifting hues alternate fling;

Listen not to those loved accents, sighing like the winds of spring.

Now the hunting troop is ready. Hark, through hills and valleys all

Sounds the horn, the falcon loosened straight ascends to Odin’s hall;

Forest denizens in terror haste to seek their cavern-homes;

But, with spear outstretched before her, each valkyrie swiftly comes.

Aged Ring no longer follows where the eager hunter flies;

By his side alone rides Fridthjof, silent, grave, with downcast eyes.

Darkest thoughts, and full of anguish, stir within his sorrowing breast,

And wherever he may wander, haunting voices banish rest.

“Oh, the sea! why did I leave it? thus to my own peril blind!

Sorrow thrives not on the billow, scattered ’tis by every wind.

Broods the viking? danger cometh bidding him the lance prepare;

Vanish then all sad reflections, blinded by the weapon’s glare.

“Here, a longing, past describing, flaps its wings about my brow,

And like one asleep and dreaming, to and fro I wander now;

Balder’s precincts I remember, nor forget the oath she gave.

’Twas the gods, not she, who broke it, — gods relentless as the grave.

“For they hate the race of mortals, on their joy with anger look,

So to deck cold winter’s bosom, they my tender rose-bud took;

What does Winter with my blossom? Can he understand its worth?

Nay, but bud and stem and leaflet, clothes in ice with frosty breath.”

Thus bewailed he. Soon they came into a dark and lonesome dell,

Gloomy, crowded ‘twixt two mountains; o’er it densest shadows fell.

Then the monarch halted, saying: “See how lovely, fresh and deep!

I am weary and would rest me, fain would have a moment’s sleep.”

“Sleep not here, for hard and chilly is the ground, O king, indeed:

Up, thy sleep will not refresh thee, let me back the monarch lead.”

“Like the other gods, sleep cometh unexpected. Does my guest,”

Said the king with feeble accents, “grudge his host a moment’s rest?”

Fridthjof then took off his mantle, and outspread it ‘neath a tree;

And the king, in trusting friendship, laid his head on Fridthjof’s knee;

Soon he slept as sleeps the hero after battle’s rude alarms,

On his shield, or as an infant cradled in his mother’s arms.

As he slumbers, hark! there singeth from a branch a coal-black bird;

“Hasten, Fridthjof, slay the gray-beard, free your mind by discord stirred;

Take the queen, she’s thine by promise; thee the bridal kiss she gave,

Human eyes do not behold thee; deep and silent is the grave.”

Fridthjof listens; hark! there singeth from a branch a snow-white bird:

“Though no human eye behold thee, Odin sees and hears each word;

Coward, wilt thou murder slumber? Slay an old defenceless man?

Win what else, the crown of heroes is not won by such a plan.”

So sang both the birds, but Fridthjof, snatching up his battle-blade,

Flung it from him with a shudder, far into the gloomy glade.

Black-bird flew away to Nastrand, airily the other one,

Singing, sweetly as a harp-tone, straightway mounted toward the sun.

Suddenly the old man wakens. “Much that sleep was worth to me;

Guarded by a brave man’s weapon, sleep is sweet beneath a tree.

Yet I do not see your weapon; where has fled the lightning’s twin?

What has parted you who never in your lives have parted been?”

“Little matters it,” said Fridthjof, “’tis not hard to find a sword;

Sharp its tongue, O king. and never speaks for peace a single word;

Haunted ’tis by evil spirit, black, from Niflheim it roams,

Sleep is here in danger from it, seeking silver locks it comes.”

“I, O youth, have not been sleeping, but to prove you have I tried;

Man or sword a wise man testeth, ere in them he will confide.

You are Fridthjof; since you entered first my hall I’ve known you well;

Ring, though old, at once detected what his guest would fain conceal.

“Wherefore, thus into my dwelling, crept you nameless, in disguise?

Wherefore, but to cheat and rob me, and my bride bear off a prize?

Honor, Fridthjof, sits not nameless, hospitality’s rude guest;

Bright its shield as sun at noonday, on its face all eyes may rest.

“Fame had told us of a Fridthjof, whom both men and gods revere;

Shields he cleft and temples wasted, bold and brave, without a fear.

Soon with war-shield, so I reasoned, he will come against my land;

And he came, but clad in tatters, beggar’s staff within his hand.

“Wherefore now cast down your eyelids? Once, like you, I too was young;

From the first is life a struggle, and fresh youth its Berserk-gang.

Hardly pressed and tried it must be, that its onset triumph not;

I have proved you and forgiven. I have pitied and forgot.

“Now am I grown old and weary, in the grave shall rest me soon,

Therefore take O youth, my kingdom, take my queen, she is thine own;

Be my son, till then remaining still my guest as heretofore.

Swordless champion shall protect me and our feud exist no more.”

“As a thief,” said Fridthjof sadly, “came I not, O king, to thee;

Had I wished thy queen to capture, tell me, who had hindered me?

But my bride, though lost forever, wished I to behold once more;

Fool was I! anew I kindled flames which were half quenched before.

“In thy halls too long I’ve tarried; here I must no longer stay.

Gods unreconciled their anger rest upon me day by day;

Balder, with the light locks flowing, loveth all mankind but one;

Only I am now rejected; see, he hateth me alone}!

“Yes, l set on fire his temple. Fane-profaner call they me.

Children shriek when I am mentioned, joy and gladness from me flee;

Northland casteth out the lost one, and in anger cries — depart!

In my native land I’m outlawed, I am outlawed in my heart.

“I will seek for peace no longer on the earth, so green and sweet,

Trees no more their shade aford me, burns the ground beneath my feet.

Ingeborg I’ve lost forever; she, my bride, accepted Ring,

From my life the Sun has vanished, night and noonday darkness bring.

“Therefore hence to ocean’s billow! Out, away my dragon good,

Bathe again thy pitch-black bosom in the briny boiling flood;

Wave in clouds thine inky pinions, let the sea a path prepare,

Fly as far as star can guide us, far as conquered billows bear.

“Let me hear the rolling thunder, let me hear the lightning’s voice;

When it thunders all around me, Fridthjof’s heart will then rejoice;

Clang of shields and rain of arrows! Let the sea the battle fill;

Purified, I’ll then fall gladly, reconciled to heaven’s will.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00