Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Buried were Bele and Thorstein together, as they had commanded;

High rose their grave-mounds on each side the gulf by the blue rolling water,

Death having sundered the hearts that in life were so closely united.

Helge and Halfdan, by will of the people, took jointly the kingdom

Left by their father; but Fridthjof, an only son, heired alone Framness,

Took unmolested possession, and settled himself there in quiet.

Stretching around him for twelve miles unbroken his acres extended;

Three sides were dale, hill and mountain, the fourth side looked out on the ocean;

Crowned were the hill-tops with forests of birch-wood, but, on their sides sloping,

Golden corn plentiful grew, and like billows the tall rye was waving.

Many in number the lakes which their mirrors held up for the mountains;

Held them up, too, for the woods in whose thickets the high-horned elks wandered,

Making there kingly roads, drinking from running brooks counted by hundreds.

But in the valleys wide, on the smooth greensward were quietly grazing

Glossy-skinned herds, which with udders distended now long for the milk-pail.

Scattered among them were myriads of white-wooled sheep, constantly moving,

Looking like fleecy clouds sailing serenely across the blue heavens,

Wafted now hither now thither in crowds by the winds in the spring-time.

Twelve times two coursers, fierce whirlwinds, defiant though fettered,

Stood in the rows of stalls, stamping and restless, the meadow-hay chewing,

Knotted their long manes with red, and their hoofs were with iron shoes glistening.

Standing apart was the drinking-hall, built of the choicest fir timber;

Counting ten twelves to the hundred, not five hundred warriors assembled

Filled up the spacious apartment, when all met to drink mead at Yule-time.

Down through the middle, from end to end, ran a strong table of stone-oak,

Polished with wax and like steel shining; carved on two pillars of elm-wood,

Far at one end, Frey and Odin supported the dais of honor,

Odin with lordly look, Frey with the sun for a crest on his bonnet.

’Twixt the two, on a bear-skin (black as a coal was this bear-skin,

Scarlet the mouth, while the tips of the claws were with bright silver shining),

Thorstein among his friends sat — hospitality ministering to Gladness.

Oft when the moon in the heavens was riding, the old man related

Wonders of foreign lands seen by him when as a viking he journeyed,

Far on the waves of the Baltic, the White, and the Northern seas tossing.

Mutely the company listened. Fixed were their eyes on the speaker,

Even as bees upon roses; the poet was thinking of Brage,1

1 (Bra’-gay)

Brage with silver beard flowing, and tongue clothed in wisdom the choicest,

Sitting ‘neath shadowy birches, telling a story by Mimer’s

Unceasingly murmuring fountain, he too a saga unending.

Covered with straw was the floor, and upon a walled hearth in the center,

Constantly burned, warm and cheerful, a fire, while down the wide chimney

Twinkling stars, heavenly friends, glanced upon guest and hall, quite unforbidden.

Studded with nails were the walls, and upon them were hanging

Helmets and coats-of-mail closely together; also between them

Here and there flashed down a sword, like a meteor shooting at evening.

Brighter than helmet or sword were the sparkling shields ranged round the chamber;

Bright as the time of the sun were they, clear as the moon’s disc of silver.

Oft as the horns needed filling, there passed round the table a maiden;

Modestly blushing she cast down her eyes, her beautiful image

Mirrored appeared in the shields, and gladdened the heart of each warrior.

Rich was the house, and the eye of the stranger, whichever way gazing,

Rested on cellar well filled, or on pantry or press overflowing.

Jewels the rarest, trophies of conquest, gleamed in profusion;

Gold carved in runes with great skill, and wonderful things wrought in silver.

Chief in this limitless treasure three things were most of all valued.

First of the three was a sword, which from sire and from grandsire descended.

Called Angervadil, or grief-wader, sometimes, too, brother of lightning.

Far, far away in the East it was forged — so at least says the story —

Tempered in fire by the dwarfs. Bjorn Bluetooth the first one who bore it.

Bjorn lost at once both the sword and his life in a bravely-fought battle,

Southward in Groning Sound, where he struggled with Vifil the powerful.

Vifil’s possessions descended to Viking.

At Woolen–Acre,

Old and infirm, there lived a great king with a beautiful daughter.

See, from the depths of the forest there cometh a giant misshapen,

Higher in stature than man, a monster ferocious and shaggy,

Boldly demanding a hand-to-hand combat, or kingdom and daughter.

No one, however, accepted the challenge, for none had a weapon

Able his hard skull to pierce, and therefore they called him the Iron-skull.

Viking, whose winters scarce fifteen had numbered, nobly advancing,

Entered the fray, secure in his strong arm and good Angervadil.

Cleft at one blow the hideous goblin, and rescued the maiden.

Viking bequeathed the good weapon to Thorstein, his son, and Thorstein,

To Odin ascended, bequeathed it to Fridthjof. Whenever he drew it,

Light filled the hall as when northern lights entered, or lightning flashed through it.

Hammered of gold was the hilt, with strange letters ’twas covered;

Wonderful mysteries were they in Northland, but known to the people

Who dwell near the gates of the sun, where our fathers lived ere they came hither.

Faint were the runes when the land was in quiet throughout all its borders;

But when the followers of Hild were summoned, then were they burning

Red as the comb of a cock when he fighteth. Lost was the warrior

Who met, on the field of encounter, the blade with its red letters glowing.

Highly renowned was that sword, and of swords was the chief in the Northland.

Next highly prized was the ponderous arm-ring, widely notorious,

Forged by the Vulcan of northern tradition, the halting smith Volund;

Three marks it weighed, and gold was the metal of which it was fashioned;

Carved were the heavens with twelve towering castles, where dwell the immortals, —

Emblem of changing months, called by the poets the sun’s glorious dwelling.

First there was Frey’s castle Alfheim, that is the sun, which born newly,

Starts once again to ascend the steep pathway of Heaven at Yule-time.

There too was Sokvabek; seated within it were Odin and Saga

Drinking together their wine from a gold shell, — that shell is the Ocean,

Colored with gold from the glow of the morning. Saga is Spring-time,

Writ on the green of the fresh springing field, with flowers for letters.

Balder, the kingly, is pictured there, throned on the sun at midsummer,

Which pours from the firmament riches untold, — personified goodness;

For lights are the good, radiant, resplendent, but the evil are darkness.

Constantly rising the sun groweth weary; the good also falter,

Giddy with walking precipitous heights; sighing they downward

Sink to the land of the shades, — down to Hel. That is of Balder

The funeral pile. Glitner, the castle of Peace, is there; seated

Within it was Forse’te’,2 scales in hand, meting out justice.

2 For-se-te

Many more pictures with these there engraven, betoken the conflict

Waged against darkness, on earth and in heaven; bright were they shining,

Wrought by a master’s hand on the broad arm-ring. Clustering rubies

Crown its high center, e’en as in summer the sun crowns the heavens.

Long was the circlet a family heir-loom. On the side of the mother

Traced they their pedigree back to old Volund, ancestor mighty.

Once, says tradition, the jewel was stolen by robber named Soti,

Roaming abroad through the seas. Long was it ere ’twas recovered.

Finally (so runs the story) ’twas said that the robber had buried

Himself with his ship, and. his treasure, deep on the far coast of Britain.

Pleasure or quiet he found not, a ghost was his irksome companion.

Hearing the rumor, Thorstein with Bele the dragon ship mounted,

Dashed through the foaming waves, straight to the place of the sepulcher steering.

Wide as a temple’s arch, or a king’s gateway, bedded in gravel,

Covered with grassy turf, arched to the top, the tomb rose forbidding.

Light issued from it. Through a small crevice within the closed portal,

Peered the two champions. There the pitched viking ship

Stood with its masts, its yards and its anchor. High in the stern sheets

Was seated a terrible figure, clad in a mantle all flaming,

Furious demon scouring a blade that with blood spots was covered.

Vain was his labor, naught could remove them. All his rich booty

Round him was scattered, and on his arm was the ring he had stolen.

“Go we,” said Bele, “down thither and fight with the hideous goblin,

Two ‘gainst a spirit of fire.” But Thorstein half angrily answered:

“One against one is the rule of our fathers. I fight well singly.”

Long they contended which first of the two the encounter should venture,

Proving the perilous journey. Bele at last took his helmet,

Shaking two lots therein. Watched by the stars Thorstein saw by their shimmer

His was the lot first appearing. A blow from his javelin of iron

Cleft the huge bolts and strong locks. He descended. Did any one question

What was revealed in the cavern, then was he silent and shuddered.

Bele at first heard strange music. It rang like the song of a goblin;

Then was a clattering noise, like the clashing of blades in a combat,

Lastly a hideous shriek, — then silence. Out staggered Thorstein,

Confounded, bewildered, all pale was his face, for with death had he battled;

Yet bore he the arm-ring a trophy. “’Twas dear bought,” he often said frowning;

“Once in my life was I frightened; ’twas when I recovered that arm-ring.”

Widely renowned was that ring, and of rings was the chief in the Northland.

Lastly the ship, called Ellide, was one of the family jewels.

Viking, so say they, returning triumphant from venturesome journeys,

Sailed along coasting near Framness. There he espied on a shipwreck,

Carelessly swinging, a sailor, sporting as ’twere with the billows.

Noble of figure, tall in his stature, joyful his visage,

Changeable too, like the waves of the sea when they sport ill the sunshine, —

Blue was his mantle, golden his girdle and studded with corals;

Sea-green his hair, but his beard was as white as the foam of the ocean.

Viking his serpent steered thither to rescue the unfortunate stranger, —

Took him half frozen to Framness, and there as a guest entertained him.

When by his host to repose he was bidden, smiling he answered:

“Fair sits the wind, and my ship which you boarded, is not yet disabled;

Long ere the morning I trust she will hear me a hundred miles seaward.

Thanks for thy bidding, ’twas well meant and kindly. Ah! could I only

Leave thee a gift to remind thee of me! but afar on the ocean

Lieth my kingdom. Perhaps in the morning ’twill waft thee a token.”

Viking next day by the sea-shore was standing, when lo! like an eagle

Madly pursuing its prey, a dragon ship sailed into harbor.

Nowhere was visible sailor or captain, or even a steersman;

Winding ‘mid rocks and through breakers, the rudder a path sought unaided;

When the firm strand it was nearing, sudden, as ruled by a spirit,

Reefed were the sails unassisted. Untouched by finger of mortal,

The anchor sped through the clear water and fastened its barbs in the bottom.

Viking gazed, speechless with wonder; the sportive winds sang in low cadence:

“AEger the rescued forgetteth no kindness, he gives thee the dragon.”

Kingly the gift to behold. The heavy curved planks of oak timber

Matched not together like others, but grew in one broad piece united.

It stretched its huge form in the sea like a dragon, its stem proudly lifted,

A stately head high in the air. Its throat with red gold was all blazing;

Sprinkled its belly with yellow and azure, and back of the rudder,

Covered with scales of pure silver, its tail lashed the waves in a circle.

Bordered with red were its inky black pinions. When all unfolding,

It flew in a race with the whirlwind, and left far behind the swift eagle.

When it was filled with armed warriors, you’d fancy you were beholding

A citadel swimming the billows, or palace o’er ocean ave flying.

Widely renowned was that ship, and of ships was the chief in the Northland.

All this and other vast treasures did Fridthjof receive from his father.

Scarce was there found in the Northland any with richer possessions,

Save were he heir of a kingdom, for of kings is the wealth always greatest.

Though from no king he descended, yet was his mind truly royal,

Courteous, noble and kind. Daily became he more famous.

Twelve gray-haired champions, valorous chieftains, sat at his table,

Thorstein’s steel-breasted companions, whose brows were with scars deeply furrowed.

Next to the warriors was seated a youth of the same age as Fridthjof, —

Like a fresh rose ‘mid the dry leaves of autumn; Bjorn was this blossom.

Grown up with Fridthjof, in days of their boyhood their blood they commingled,

Brothers becoming in good northern fashion, sworn to each other

In joy and in grief, the survivor avenging the death of his comrade.

In the midst of the warriors and guests who had come to the funeral banquet,

Fridthjof, a sorrowing host, his eyelids with tears overflowing

Drank in accordance with ancestral usage, a skoal to his father,

Heard the old minstrels sing loudly his praises, a thundering drapa,

Rightfully took of his late father’s seat undisputed possession,

And sat between Odin and Frey. So sitteth Thor up in Valhal.

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