Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


The Parting.


The day breaks clear, and Fridthjof cometh not,

Though yesterday the council was proclaimed

At Bele’s grave. The place was rightly chosen,

His daughter’s fate should be determined there.

How many supplications hath it cost me,

How many tears by Freyja counted o’er,

To melt the ice of hate around Fridthjof’s heart.

And gain a promise from his haughty lips

To give his hand in reconciliation.

Alas! how hard is man! And for his honor,

So calleth he his pride, he counts it not,

Or lightly counts it, if he rudely break,

Of true and faithful hearts one more or less.

But wretched woman, leaning on his breast,

Is like the moss-growth blooming on the cliff, —

With faded tints, it difficultly holds

Itself unnoticed fast unto the rock,

Is only nourished by the dews of night.

But yesterday, indeed, my fate was fixed,

And now the evening sun hath set upon it,

Still Fridthjof cometh not. The pallid stars

Die one by one, and sadly disappear,

And with each one of them a hope is quenched

And goes from out my heart unto its grave.

Ah! wherefore still to hope? Valhal’s gods

No longer love me; I’ve offended them.

And Balder, ‘neath whose shelter I reside,

Is wroth with me, because a human love

Is too unholy for the sight of gods,

And earthly joy must never risk itself

Beneath the temple-arch in which the grave,

The haughty powers have fixed their dwelling-place.

And yet what fault is mine? and wherefore frowns

The pious god upon a maiden’s love?

Is it not pure as Urd’s bright sparkling fount,

And innocent as Gefjon’s morning dream?

The shining sun doth never turn away

From loving ones, its pure and watchful eyes.

And daylight’s widow, starry night, doth hear

With gladness, in her sorrow, all their vows.

That which is worthy under heaven’s vault,

Can that be guilty ‘neath the temple’s dome?

I love my Fridthjof. Oh! through all the past,

As far as memory runs, I loved him well, —

A holy feeling twin-born with my soul,

I know not whence it came, nor comprehend

The dismal thought that it was ever gone.

As fruit is timely set about the stone

And groweth up, and round about it all

In summer sunshine wraps its cloth of gold,

So, too, indeed, have I maturing grown

About this stone, and my existence is

Of my affection but the outer shell.

Forgive me, Balder! With a faithful heart

Thy hall I sought, and with a faithful one

Will I go hence; I’ll take it with me now

Out over Bifrost-bridge, and place myself

With all my love before great Valhal’s gods.

And there my love, like them an Asa-child,

Shall see itself reflected in the shields,

And fly with loosened dove-wings through the blue

Unending space unto the Allfather’s bosom,

From whence it came. Oh! wherefore is the frown,

In morning’s twilight, on thy brow so fair?

There floweth in my veins, as flows in thine,

Old Odin’s blood. What wilt thou, kinsman dear?

My ardent love I cannot offer thee,

Nor would I offer it, worth all thy joys;

But I can offer thee my life’s delight, —

Can cast it from me as the stately queen

Her mantle flings aside, and still remains

Her queenly self. But my resolve is taken,

And Valhal high shall never be ashamed

To own me kindred. I will meet my fate

As meets the hero his. Ah! here he comes!

How wild he seems, how pale! ’Tis done, ’tis done!

My angry norn she comes beside him now:

Be strong, my soul! At last I welcome thee.

Our fate is fixed; ’tis plain to read it where

Upon thy brow it stands.


And stand not there

As well the blood-red runes, which speak of shame,

And scorn and banishment?


Oh, Fridthjof; think! Relate what passed, for I have long foreseen

The worst, and am prepared for all.


I found the council at our fathers’ graves.

Around the grassy mounds, shield meeting shield,

Stood many Northland sons with swords in hand,

One circle standing close within another

Unto the top. Upon the judgment seat,

A thunder cloud, thy brother Helge sat, —

A pallid headsman with a dusky look.

And next to him, a seeming grown up child,

Sat Halfdan, —— thoughtless, playing with his sword.

Then I arose, and, said: “War waiting stands

Within thy borders, beating on the shield, —

Thy kingdom now, king Helge, is in peril;

Give me my sister, and I’ll give to thee

Mine arm, it may be useful in this strife.

Between us let ill will forgotten be, —

I would not cherish it ‘gainst Ing’borg’s brother.

To reason listen, king, and save at once

Thy golden crown, thy purest sister’s heart.

Here is my hand. By Asa–Thor, I swear,

I’ll never offer it again to thee.”

An uproar shook the thing. A thousand swords

Approval hammered on a thousand shields.

The clang of weapons flew to heaven, which heard

With joy the assent of freemen to the right.

“To him give Ingeborg, the slender lily,

Most beautiful our dales have ever grown;

No better sword our favored land can boast, —

To him give Ingeborg.” Our foster-father,

The reverend Hilding, with his silver-beard,

Stood forth and spoke in words of wisdom full,

Short apothegms, as keen as sharpened swords.

And Halfdan, too, from off of royal seat

Arose, with pleading words and pleading looks, —

But it was all in vain; each prayer was wasted, —

Like sunshine lavished on a barren rock,

No growth alluring from his stony heart.

King Helge’s sullen countenance was like

His heart, — a pale-faced “No” to human prayers.

“A peasant’s son,” said he, contemptuously,

“Could Ing’borg gain, but who profanes the temple

Ill-suited seems to holy Valhal’s daughter.

Hast thou not, Fridthjof, broken Balder’s peace?

Hast thou not seen my sister in his temple

When day had hid itself from your communion?

Say yes, or no!” A deafening shout resounded

From all those rings of men: “Say no, say no,

We take thee at thy word, we sue for thee, —

Thou son of Thorstein, equal to a king;

Say no, say no, and Ingeborg is thine!”

“My life’s delight hangs on a feeble word,”

Said I, “but fear it not, king Helge!

I would not lie myself to Valhal’s joy,

Much less to earth’s. Thy sister I have seen,

Have talked with her beneath the temple’s night,

But Balder’s peace I have not therefore broken.”

They let me say no more. Abhorrent cries

Flew through the thing, and those who nearest stood

Drew back as from a pestilent disease;

And when I looked around, their superstition

Had palsied every tongue, and blanched each cheek

So lately glowing with expectant joy.

And then king Helge triumphed. With a voice

As sad, as awful as the ghostly vala’s

In Vegtam’s song, when she for Odin sung

Of asas’ fate and grim Hel’s victory,

So sad he spoke: “Though banishment or death

I could decree, by our ancestral laws

Against this crime, yet I’ll be mild as Balder,

Whose sacred dwelling thou hast so profaned.

The western sea a wreath of islands holds,

Where Angantyr, the earl, is governor.

As long as Bele lived the earl each year

His tribute paid, but ceased when Bele died.

Go o’er the sea and drive this tribute in;

This penance thy audacity demands.

’Tis said,” sneered he, with meanest mockery,

“That Angantyr hard-fisted is, and broods

Like dragon Fafner o’er his gold: but who

Can stand ‘gainst our new Sigurd, Fafner’s bane?

Exploits more manly must thou undertake

Than luring maidens under Balder’s roof.

When summer comes shall we expect you here

With all thy honor, first of all the tribute.

If not, thou art to every man a felon,

And during life art outlawed through the land.”

His judgment rendered, he dissolved the thing.


And your decision?


Have I aught to choose?

Is not mine honor bound by his decree?

And that will I redeem though Angantyr

His paltry gold doth hide in Nastrand’s flood.

To-day will I depart.


And Ing’borg leave?


Nay, nay, I leave thee not, thou goest too.




O! hear me, ere thou answerest.

Thy crafty brother seemeth to forget,

That Angantyr was my dear father’s friend,

As well as Bele’s. Perhaps he’ll give

Without constraint what I demand; if not

A worthy advocate, a sharp one too,

Have I. ’Tis always ready at my side.

The gold he covets I’ll to Helge send,

And thus will I from sacrificial knife

Of this crowned hypocrite redeem us both.

But we, my beauteous Ingeborg, will spread

O’er seas unknown Ellide’s willing sail,

She’ll kindly bear us to a friendlier strand

Where exiled love may safe asylum find.

What is the North to me? And what a race,

Which pales at every word of priest or king,

Whose shameless hands would pluck the living rose

From out the sanctuary of my heart?

So, Freyja help, it shall not prosper them!

The wretched slave is bound unto the turf

Where he was born, hut I will still be free,

Free as the mountain winds. A little earth

From Bele’s grave and from my father’s taken,

Can find a place,upon our ship, and that

Is all of fatherland that we can need.

My loved one, there another sun is found

Than that which pales above these hills of snow,

And there another sky, more bright than this;

And milder stars with god-like glance adorned,

Look down therefrom in balmy summer nights

On lovers wandering in the laurel groves.

My father, Thorstein, Viking’s son, in wars

Had journeyed far, and oft I’ve heard him tell,

By fireside light in winter evenings long,

About the Grecian sea with islands filled, —

Fresh groves of green in brightly shining waves.

A powerful race once had its dwelling there, —

And holy gods the marble temples graced.

But now they stand deserted; grasses thrive

In paths left desolate, and flowers grow

From out the runes that tell of ancient lore;

The slender columns stand like budding trees

Entwined by graceful stems of southern vines.

Throughout the year the earth spontaneous yields,

In unsown harvests, all that men require.

There golden apples glow between the leaves,

And blushing grapes from every bough hang down

And, ripening, swell luxurious as thy lips.

There, Ing’borg, there we’ll build us near the wave

A little North, more beautiful than this;

And with our ever faithful love we’ll fill

The radiant temple vaults, and thus delight

With human fondness the forgotten gods.

And when, with loosened sheets (no storms are there)

The sailor idly floats along our isle

In twilight’s glow, and turns his joyous glance

From rosy-colored ripples to the strand, —

Upon the temple’s threshold shall he see

A second Freyja, Aphrodite called

In southern tongue, and he shall wonder at

The golden locks, seen flowing in the breeze,

And eyes which brighter gleam than southern skies.

And one by one around her groweth up

A little temple-dwelling race of fairies,

With cheeks where yon might see the south had set,

In Northern snowdrifts, freshly blooming roses.

Ah! Ingeborg, how beautiful, how near.

Stands earthly happiness to faithful hearts;

If they are brave enough to seize it when disposed,

It follows willingly and builds for them

A Vingolf even here beneath the clouds.

O come, let’s haste away, each spoken word

A moment shorter makes our waiting joy.

Come, all’s prepared! Ellide stretches now

Her shadowy eagle wings for eager flight, —

And freshly blowing winds now guide the way

Henceforth from this inconstant land forever.

Why tarriest thou?


I cannot follow thee.


Not follow me?


Ah! Fridthjof, thou art blest!

Thou followest none, but always in the front,

The stem of thy good dragon ship, dost place

Thy will beside the helm, to steer the way

With steady hand above the wrathful waves.

How widely different the case with me!

My cruel fate is held in other’s hands,

Which loosen not the prey although it bleed;

And sacrifice, lament and lonesome pining,

Is all king Bele’s daughter knows of freedom.


Art thou not free, if so thou willest? In the grave

Thy father sits.


No, Helge is my father,

Is in my father’s stead; on his consent

My hand depends, and Ing’borg will not steal

Her happiness, however near it stands.

Ah! what would woman be if she cut loose

The sacred band with which the Allfather binds

Unto the stronger power her gentle being?

The water-lily pale resembles her;

It rises with the wave and with it falls.

The sailor’s keel goes forward over it

And marks it not although it cut the stem.

Such is indeed her fate! And yet the flower,

As long as clings the root unto the sand,

Its growth increases, borrowing color pure

From its pale sister stars which shine above, —

Itself a star upon the waters blue.

But rudely broken loose, it ceaseless drives,

A withered leaf along deserted waves.

Last night, — that was indeed a fearful night,

An unrewarded watch I kept for thee,

And children of the night, the serious thoughts,

With raven locks went thronging closely by

My ever watchful, burning, tearful eyes;

And Balder too, the bloodless god looked down

On me with frowning glances full of threats.

Last night I pondered o’er my wretched fate.

My resolution’s taken; I remain

Obedient victim at my brother’s altar.

Yet it is well I did not hear thee then,

With fabled islands floating in the clouds

Where evening’s glowing twilights always show

A flowery world of peace and happy love.

Who knows how weak one is? My childhood dreams

Though silent long, with joy rise up again,

And whisper in my anxious ear with voice

Familiar as a sister’s kindly tones,

As tender as a lover’s ardent praise.

I hear ye not! ah, no, I hear ye not,

Alluring accents once so fondly loved!

A child of Northland cannot elsewhere dwell;

Too pale am I for those bright summer roses;-

Too colorless my mind for that deep glow;

The scorching sun would quite consume me there.

Of anxious longing full, my eyes would seek

The northern star which always watchful stands

A heavenly sentry o’er our fathers’ graves.

My noble Fridthjof shall not now desert

The cherished hind that he was born to guard;

He shall not fling away his honored name

To gain so poor a thing, a maiden’s love.

A life where spins the sun from year to year,

And where each day is ever like the next —

A beauteous but unending sameness, is

For woman only, but for manly souls,

And most for thine, it’s quiet, weary dullness.

Thou thrivest best where storms are raging round.

On foaming pacers o’er the heaving sea,

And on thy tossing plank, come life or death,

Thou mayest fight with peril for thine honor.

The beauteous desert thou dost paint, would be

A grave for high achievements, not yet born;

And like thy shield, with rust would be dissolved,

Thine independent mind. It shall not be!

I will not steal away my Fridthjof’s name

From poet’s storied song; I will not quench

My hero’s glory in its morning dawn.

Be wise, my Fridthjof; let us yield unto

The haughty norn; let us rescue yet

Our cherished honor from this wreck of life;

Our happiness we cannot save, ’tis gone,

And separate we must!


And wherefore must?

Because a sleepless night disturbed thy mind?


Because my honor must be saved, and thine.


A woman’s honor rests on manly love.


Not long loves he whom he cannot respect.


Respect is not by fickle fancy gained.


A sense of justice is a noble fancy.


Our love strove not with justice yesterday.


Nor love to day, but all the more our flight.


Necessity commands our flight, — Oh, come!


What’s right and noble, that’s necessity.


High rides the sun and time is fleeting by.


Ah, me, it has gone by, gone by forever!


Consider well. Is that thy last resolve?


I have considered well; it is my last.


Farewell then, fare thee well, king Helge’s sister.


Oh, Fridthjof! Fridthjof! must we separate thus?

Hast thou indeed no friendly glance to give

Thy childhood’s friend; no kindly hand to reach

To the unfortunate, once so beloved?

Think’st thou I stand on roses here, and turn

Away with smiles my happiness for life?

And that I pangless tear from out my breast

A hope that hath with my affections grown?

Oh! wert thou not my heart’s own morning dream?

Each joy that I have known was Fridthjof named,

And all of life that great or noble seemed,

Did Fridthjof’s likeness take before mine eyes.

Bedim the image not: oh, do not meet

With cruelty the weak one offering up

The dearest thing upon the face of earth.

The dearest thing that Valhal’s gods can give!

That offering, Fridthjof, is severe enough.

And words of consolation well deserves.

I know thou lovest me — that I have known

E’er since my being first began to dawn;

And Ing’borg’s thoughts will surely follow thee

For years to come wherever thou may’st go.

The clang of warlike weapons deadens grief.

’Tis blown away upon the wild, wild waves,

Nor ventures to return when champions all

Their victory celebrate with drinking horn.

Yet sometimes, then, when in the peace of night,

Thy thoughts review again forgotten days,

There will among them glide an image pale,

Thou knowest well; it fondly greeteth thee

From regions dear; it is the image of

That virgin pale in Balder’s holy grove.

Thou must not drive it thence away, although

It looketh sorrowful, but whisper kind

Into its ear a friendly word; the winds

Of night on faithful wings will bear it me;

One comfort yet, I have none else beside.

For me there’s naught to dissipate my grief;

In all surrounding me it hath a tongue;

The holy temple vaults speak but of thee:

The temple’s God, which should all threatening seem,

Thy likeness takes when shines the streaming moon.

Behold the sea — there swam thy keel through foam

To her who on the strand awaited thee;

Behold the woods — there stand so many stems

With Ing’borg’s runes engraven in the bark;

Now grows the bark and wears away my name,

And that betokens death, the sagas say.

I ask the day when last it saw thy form,

I ask the night, but both are silent still:

And e’en the sea which bears thee, gives reply

But with a solemn sigh along the shore.

With evening’s ruddy glow I’ll send to thee

A greeting, when it sinks into thy waves.

And heaven’s long ship, the fleeting cloud, shall take

On board the wail of the abandoned one.

So shall I sit within my virgin bower,

In mourning clad, of all life’s joy bereft,

And broken lilies sew into the cloth,

Until the Spring its cloth doth weave, and sew

It full of better lilies on my grave.

And when I sadly take the harp to sing

Unending sorrow in profoundest tones,

Then burst the burning tears as now —


Thou conquerest, Bele’s daughter, weep no more!

Forgive my wrath, it was alone my sorrow

Which for a moment took a wrathful dress, —

A wrathful dress it cannot long endure.

Thou art my kindest norn, my Ingeborg.

A noble mind best teaches what is noble.

Necessity’s real wisdom cannot have

A fairer, better advocate than thou,

Thou beauteous vala with the rosy lips!

I yield indeed unto necessity;

I part with thee but part not with my hope;

I’ll take it with me over western waves,

I’ll take it with me to the gates of death.

The nearest spring-day sees me here again:

King Helge, so I hope, shall see me too.

Then from my promise freed, his bidding done,

The calumny against me, too, atoned,

Then I’ll request thee, — nay but I’ll demand

In open council and with naked swords,

And not of Helge but of Northland’s sons.

Who only can dispose a princess’ hand;

I have a word for him who dare refuse.

Farewell till then; be true, forget me not,

And take in memory of our childhood’s love,

My arm-ring here, a beauteous Volund-work,

With heaven’s wonders graven in the gold;

The best of wonders is a faithful heart.

How well it suits thine arm so snowy-white —

A glow-worm coiled around the lily’s stem!

Farewell, my bride, my loved one, fare thee well.

Ere many moons our mournful lot will change.

[He goes.]


How glad, how trusting, and of hope how full!

He sets the glittering point of his good sword

Against the norns, and says: “Ye must retreat!”

Thou wretched Fridthjof, the norns will ne’er retreat;

They go their way and laugh at Angervadil.

How little knowest thou my gloomy brother.

Thy brave, heroic temper fathoms not

The awful depths of his, nor understands

The hate that in his envious bosom burns.

His sister’s hand he’ll never give to thee;

He’d sooner give his crown, pour out his life,

Of me an offering make to Odin old,

Or to old Ring, whom now he fights against.

Wherever I may look, no hope is found, —

Yet am I glad hope lives within thy breast.

In secret will I keep my poor heart’s wound,

And pray that all the good gods follow thee.

Here on thine arm-ring can I reckon up

Each separate month of all this lonesome sorrow.

In two, four, six, — then can’st thou come again,

But can’st not find again thine Ingeborg.

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