Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Fridtimof at his Father’s Grave.

“How brightly smiles the sun, so friendly seeming.

As swift from branch to branch its soft rays glide!

Allfather’s light within the dew-drop gleaming,

Is clear and pure as in the ocean wide.

See! all the mountain tops with red are streaming, —

From Balder’s altar flows the bloody tide;

In night will shortly sink the world’s commotion,

As sinks the golden shield beneath the ocean.

“Yet let me first behold those well known places,

My childhood friends that I have loved so well;

The same sweet beauty still the valley graces,

The same birds yet alight in wood and dell;

The same blue wave the stable rock embraces, —

Oh, would I ne’er had tried its treacherous swell!

It always speaks of fame and high endeavor,

But far from home it bears thee on forever.

“I know thee, stream, whose waters erst were freighted

With swimmer bold, who with thy billows fought!

I know thee, too, thou vale where oft we plighted

Eternal faith! Alas! earth holds it not!

Ye birchen trees, whose bark I carved delighted

With many runes, still wedded to the spot

Your white stems stand, crown-capped with sunshine golden,

All save myself unchanged since days now olden.

“Is all unchanged? Where, then, is Framness’ dwelling,

And Balder’s temple on the sacred shore?

At thought of childhood’s dales my heart is swelling.

But fire and sword devoured them, they’re no more.

Of human vengeance, of God’s wrath their telling

To wanderers over blackened field and floor;

Thou pious pilgrim, come not here to ponder,

For forest beasts in Balder’s grove now wander.

“With Nidhug’s curse each human life is teeming, —

The cruel tempter from the land of shade,

He hates the asa-light with glory beaming

On hero’s brow and on his shining blade;

Each coward deed, each act of wrathful scenting,

Is his, a tribute unto darkness paid;

He wins when temples burn and gods are slighted,

He claps his coal-black hands and laughs delighted.

“Is there no expiation, radiant heaven?

Thou blue-eyed god, dost thou no penance take?

Man pardons man who has for pardon striven.

When men atone the gods their wrath forsake;

By thee, the mildest one, I’m unforgiven; —

Command, and any sacrifice I’ll make;

No will had Fridthjof in the temple’s burning;

Oh! stainless make his shield, thine anger turning.

“Thy burden take away, I cannot bear it,

The dark wood’s music in my soul doth cry.

A moment’s fault! cannot a life repair it, —

An upright life? Then hear my contrite sigh!

If Thor’s fierce bolt should strike, I still would dare it:

Nor shrink to meet the look of Hel’s pale eye.

Thou pious god, who moonlight glances bendest,

’Tis thee I fear, and vengeance which thou sendest.

“My father’s grave is here. The hero sleepeth; —

Alas! whence he has gone none ever roam;

A starry tent his home, no more he weepeth,

Where shields rejoice and brimming mead-horns foam;

Thou asa-guest, from heaven look down where keepeth

His weary watch thy child. O father, come!

I bring not runes nor charms, but bending lowly

Would learn to appease pale Balder holy.

“Still silent is the grave? Ah yes, and cruel.

A sword roused Angantyr within his grave;

A sword is naught, — Tirfing a trifling jewel

Compared with what I ask. A sword the brave

Can gain on battle field or in a duel,

Forgiveness from the asas’ home I crave;

Bear thou my plea, my sorrowing look to heaven,

No rest have noble minds if unforgiven.

“Thou’rt silent, father! Hear the waves resounding,

And send thy loving word by their sweet cry;

Now flies the storm, on its swift pinions bounding.

O, whisper to me as it flieth by;

See golden rings the western sky surrounding,

Let them the message give which words deny.

No sign or answer for thy son forsaken?

How poor indeed are those whom death has taken!”

The sun is quenched. The evening breeze is stealing

Upon earth’s children with its lullaby,

And sunset tints in myriad circles wheeling

Around the brim of heaven’s rosy sky,

O’er hill and dale their azure hues revealing,

A vision now of Valhal passeth by;

Then unexpected comes with rustling motion,

An image, gold and flames from western ocean.

A wondrous Hagring now the heavens covers.

(The name that Valhal gives hath lovelier sound),

And over Balder’s grove it gently hovers.

A golden chaplet set in emerald ground;

Resplendence everywhere the eye discovers,

Such lustre mortals ne’er before had found.

It stops and sinks to earth, not disappearing,

But where the temple stood, a temple rearing.

An imaged Breidablik its wall upreareth,

(So burnished silver on the cliff had shone),

Each pillar cut of deep blue steel appealeth,

The altar is a single precious stone,

A power unseen the vaulted roof upbeareth,

A winter sky with sparkling stars o’erstrewn;

And there with golden crowns and robes befitting,

Of azure splendor. Valhal’s gods are sitting.

With rune-writ shields, the maids of fateful power,

The noble norns, within the portal stand, —

Three rosebuds springing in a single flower,

A grave and yet a fascinating band;

While Urd is pointing to the ruined tower, —

The new one Skuld doth greet with welcome hand;

But scarce restored is Fridthjof, filled with blended

Delight and wonder, ere the scene is ended.

“From you, Time’s maidens, comes illumination, —

Thine, hero-father, is the token good:

The wasted shrine I’ll build on sure foundation,

In beauty shall it stand where erst it stood;

How excellent to thus make expiation,

By peaceful deeds to atone for actions rude!

The outcast still may hope who sues in meekness, —

The White God softens, and forgives his weakness.

“All hail, ye myriad stars in splendor beaming!

With joy I watch you silent tread the skies;

And welcome, Northern-lights. above me streaming, —

No more a flaming temple to mine eyes:

Grow green, O grave! and from the wave bright gleaming,

Thou wondrous melody again arise.

I’ll sleep upon my shield, and dream how heaven

Forgets the faults its mercy hath forgiven.

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