« PreviousContinue »
Nor win bright harvests from their barren breast.
So did King Helga's iron brow return
Its chill refusal to warm human prayers !
“ The peasant's son,” he said, ('twas spoke in scorn,)
Might wed my sister ; but the sacrilege
Were no fit mate, methinks, for Odin's daughter !
Didst thou not, Frithioff, Baldur's shrine invade?
Saw'st thou not Ingeborg within his temple,
While Day, affrighted, shrunk before thy crime ?
Speak ! yea or nay." Loud from the circling crowd
Echoed the cry,
Say Nay, say only Nay;
We will believe thy word, enforce thy suit,
Thou son of Thorsten, as thou wert the King's;
Say only Nay, and thine is Ingeborg !"
“ My life-long bliss hangs on a single word,” (So did I speak) “ yet fear it not, King Helga ! I would not lie to gain Valhalla's joys, Nor those of earth-Yes! I have seen thy sister, Have spoken with her in the Temple's night; Yet did I not thus break the peace of Baldur.”
I said no more. But murmurs deep of horror
Ran through the circle ; those that nearest stood,
Shrunk, as from breath of pestilence away ;
And, as I gazed round, pale panic sat
On every cheek late blooming bright with hope ;
King Helga conquer'd ; and with hollow
Like those in which dead Wala sang to Odin
His kindred's overthrow and Hela's triumph-
Thus did he speak;—“ To banishment or death
I might condemn thee ; but I be mild
As him, whose sanctity thou hast invaded.
Far in the western sea, a garland floats
Of Isles, whose sovereign is Earl Aganthyr.
Long as King Bela lived, to him the Eari
Sent yearly tribute—ours is yet unpaid.
Be't thine to sail, and claim the right withheld.
This penance for thy boldness I impose.
'Tis said,” (again he spoke in keen derision)
“ That Aganthyr is close, and like the dragon,
Renowned Fofnir, watches o'er his gold;
But who our modern Sigurd shall withstand ?
A manlier enterprise is this, I ween,
Than to delude a maid in Baldur's grove !
When summer shall return, we wait thee, here,
With thy renown-but above all the tribute.
Else is thy honour, Frithioff, forfeited,
And from our land thou dwellest a life-long exile."
This was his speech and so the council rose.
Ingeb. And thy resolve ?
Doth there remain a choice ?
Hangs not mine honor on my sovereign's challenge ?
I will redeem it, should Aganthyr hide
His worthless gold in Nastrand's deepest flood.
Ev'n now I sail.
Ingeb. And thou forsakest me ?
Frith. Nay, I forsake thee not—thou comest with me.
Ingeb. Impossible !
Nay, hear me ere thou answer.
We are reluctantly obliged to omit for ever bound,) a mariner shall pass the long and glowing speech in which our isle in the rosy glow of evening, Frithioff, from the descriptions of his he shall see a southern Freya, (for late father, draws a delicious picture such there is, called Aphrodita,) and of a life of love and freedom amid the marvel as he sees her golden locks lovely isles of Greece. He paints, with flow in the winds, and her eyes brightall the eloquence of passion, their lau- er than Heaven's own blue. There, rel.groves and clustering vines, and too, like a troop of elves, a little band the moss-grown temples and moulder- of ministering cherubs shall grow ing pillars, whose graceful forms look around her, with cheeks glowing as out from amidst them, to enchant the if the South had shed her clustering wondering mariner. “Here, my In- roses on our Northern snows." geborg !” exclaims he,“ We will How eloquent is passion !- how build ourselves among the waves a tempting opportunity. Ellida flaps little Northland, fairer than the one her eagle wings, and favouring breezes we have left-our love shall animate only await the fiat of the maiden to the deserted temples, and please their bear her for ever from bondage and forsaken gods—and when with loose- oppression to liberty and love. Let ly-flowing sail (for storms are here her reply.
Alas! I cannot follow thee !
Frith. Not follow-me?
Ah! Frithioff, thou art happy,
Thou followest none; thou wend'st thine own bright way,
Just like thine arrowy sea-snake, at whose helm
Stands stern resolve, and guides her destined course,
With steadfast hand amid the chafing billows.
Oh! it is sadly otherwise with me!
In ruthless hands my destiny has fall’n ;
Hands that ne'er quit their prey till it has bled.
To yield herself a victim, scarce complaining,
Is the King's daughter's lotand therefore mine!
Frith. Art thou not free, if such thy will ?—thy father
Lies in his cairn ..
King Helga is my father,
Stands in his room, nor can I without him
Bestow my hand. And know that Bela's daughter
Steals not her bliss, though placed within her grasp.
Oh! what were woman, did she proudly spurn
The holy ties with which Eternal wisdom
Bound her frail being to some mighty stem ?
Her fittest emblem is the water-lily,
That sinks and rises with the billows' swell.
The mariner holds on his reckless course,
Nor marks when her frail stem his keel has sever'd !
Such is her simple history—while yet
Her deep roots anchor in th' unfathom'd sand.
Worth and esteem are hers—she borrows hues
From her pale sisterhood the stars, and swims
Amid her own blue depths-herself a star
Let her but struggle free, then does she float
A wither'd leaf upon the waste of waters !
This very night-O 'twas a fearful night!
(In agony I waited, and thou cam’st not,)
While swam a cloud of pale and dark-hair'd thoughts
Before my wakeful, burning, tearless eyes,
While Baldur's pallid image look'd upon me
With fix’d, unalter'd, threatening, dreadful gaze,
This night I wrestled with my fate-'tis seald-
I bend a victim at my brother's altar.
Yet would I ne'er had heard of those bright isles
Swimming in floods of evening's purple glow,-
A quiet land of flowers, and love, and peace !
Who can her weakness fathom ? Childhood's dreams,
That long had slept, awaken'd with the sound,
And whisper'd in mine ear with voice familiar
As sisters—tender as love's flatteries !
I hear you not-nay, nay, I will not listen-
Ye voices, so seducing-once so dear !
Child of the North, why should I seek the South ?
I am too pale for yonder rosy clime-
My soul would fade beneath its ardent suns,
And still my longing glance would fondly seek
The steadfast Pole-star-keeping heavenly watch
Over my father's grave.
My noble Frithioff
Shall never scorn for me his native land,
Shall never cast his bright renown away
For aught so worthless as a loving maiden !
A life of sunny days, whose golden threads
Still flow'd alike-were sweet, perchance, to woman-
But to man's soul to thine a leaden chain !
Thou’rt happy, when the tempest proudly bears thee
Upon its foaming crest o'er depths unfathom'd,
Mid life and death, on some frail bounding plank,
Plucking bright honour from the grasp of Danger.
The lovely solitude thou'st drawn, would be
To thee, the grave of many an unborn deed.
And envious rust might, like thy shield, corrode
Thy noble nature-It shall never be !
No! never will I steal my Frithioff's name
From the proud songs of heroes, nor eclipse
In its first rosy dawn-his bright renown!
Frithioff! be wise, and let us from Fate's shipwreck
Save fame and honour, though life's bliss be lost.
Frith. 'Tis well ! King Helga's sister, fare thee well ?
Ingeb. Oh! Frithioff, Frithioff! is it thus we part ?
Hast thou no look of kindness for the playmate
Of unoffending childhood ?—not a hand
For one so wretched, and so late beloved ?
Think'st thou I tread on roses, and can fling,
With cold and hollow smiles, life's bliss away,
And rend without a pang that bosom's hope
That twined with all my being's fibres grew ?
Hast thou not been my young soul's morning dream ?
All I e'er knew of joy, I call it Frithioff!
And all that life contains of great or noble,
Brought to my mind's eye but the thought of thee.
Shroud not this sunny picture !_nor repay
Thus sternly woman's weakness, when she offers
All that is dearest to her here below,
And dearest shall be in yon high Valhalla !
Hard is the offering, Frithioff! hard enough,
And well deserves one word of friendly comfort.
I know thou lov'st me I have known it long,
E'er since thought dawn'd upon my infant being.
And memory of Ingeborg will haunt thee
For many a year-go wheresoe'er thou wilt.
Now drown'd, perchance, amid the din of arms,
Now lost amid wild winds, and wilder waves ;
Scared by the tumults of the jovial board,
Shunning the deep carouse for victory won,-
But now and then, when in the hush of night,
Days long gone by are hovering o'er thy pillow
A pale and shadowy form shall lit among them.
Thou know'st it well—it comes a gentle herald
From youth's enchanted land !—it is the form
Of the pale distant maid in Baldur's grove.
Thou wilt not chide it hence-no! as its gaze
It fondly fixes—thou one friendly word
Wilt softly whisper--and the winds of night
On viewless wings shall waft it to mine ear !
One comfort yet remains—I have no other !
Nothing lives round me to disturb my grief,
For all that dwells around me speaks of Thee.
They speak of thee-these lofty temple halls
No longer threatening-the sacred image
Seems in the moonbeam to assume thy features.
If I gaze on the sea—there swam thy prow,
Cutting its way through foam, to gain the shore.
If I roam in the wood, there many a stem
Has Ingeborg's cipher on its tender bark,
Though still, as grows the rind, it disappears,
And that, old proverbs say, betokens death !
I ask of Day, when last it gazed on thee
Night, too, I question—but 'tis silent still.
Even the sea that bears thee breathes alone
Soft sighs in answer to th' unconscious strand.
I send thee greetings with the eve's red glow,
As in thy kindred waves it sinks to rest.
And the swift-sailing clouds ne'er flit above me,
But freighted with the poor forsaken's tears !
So sit I in our maiden's bower-a dark
And shrouded widow, 'mid the joys of life
Weaving pale lilies, all untimely gather'd,
Till spring shall weave a greener, fresher woof,
And scatter brighter flowers upon my grave.
Frith. Thou’st conquer'd–Bela's daughter, weep no more !
He then conjures her to forgive his injustice, the effect of bitter disappointment, adopts her for his good Destiny, and, under its influence, promises himself speedy conquest, and subsequent success in a suit no longer addressed to a tyrannical brother, but to the nation assembled in council. In the meantime, he bids her the tenderest farewell, and puts on her arm the wonderful bracelet before mentioned among his heir-looms, as a sort of golden zodiac. He compares it on her white arm to a “glow-worm on a lily's stem,” breathes a passionate adieu, and departs.
How bravely he departs-how full of hope !
He sets his good sword's point to the hard heart
Of Destiny, and says "Thou shalt give way!”
Alas! poor friend-Destiny yields to none -
way, and laughs at idle threats !
How little dost thou know my gloomy brother !
Thy open hero's soul could never fathom
The dusky depths of his, nor guess the hate
That burns concentred in his envious bosom.
Never will he give thee his sister's hand !
Rather than yield his crown, he'll sacrifice me-
Either my life to Odin, or my hand
To yon old King, who claims it with the sword.
Far as I see, there is no hope for me,
Yet I rejoice she dwells within thy heart.
Mine be the pangs—Heaven's blessing go with thee !
Thy bracelet here shall lend me lore to reckon
The dreary months, that roll on leaden wing-
One, two, four, six-These past, thou mayst return,
But thou shalt find thine Ingeborg—no more !
Ingeborg's complaint follows, a sweet panions a massy gold bracelet, the gift pathetic strain, in which, after com- of King Bela, that “they may not go mitting her absent lover to the special empty-handed to dark Rana's cold charge of winds and waves, and stars embrace." friendly to mariners, she bewails her The sails are rent, the rudder snaps, own approaching, immolation, and and Frithioff can no longer conceal holds converse with her Frithioff's from himself that “Death is on board;" stray falcon, which had remained be- yet, amid the howling of the angry elehind with her. She longs to borrow ments, his voice yet resounds in tones his wings to follow his master, but of courage and confidence. He exsighing, invokes the heavenward pi- claims that such an unheard-of temnions of Death to re-unite her finally pest cannot be the legitimate decree of with her beloved.
the Gods, but the work of unhallowed Frithioff at sea, is one of the finest arts; and, climbing. “ like a martin,” and most characteristic of the various to the mast-head, he discovers that strains, which, in delightful diversity the ship is pursued by three sea monof subject, of measure, and of passion, sters, a huge whale, a bear, and an are strung together to form this most eagle. Ellida is desired to exert her spirit-stirring of epics. Perhaps a self-moving and instinctive power ; to more animated picture of danger at steer right upon, and cleave with her sea, and heroism amidst it, was never keel the whale that “ floats like an drawn. The tempest, which nearly island;" while a pair of well-aimed proves fatal to Frithioff
, is conjured lances demolish the unholy bear and up by the magic arts and incantations eagle. All goes henceforth well with of Helga. At every new assault of the the mariners ; the spell is broken, and elements, the hero waxes bolder and the wished-for land comes in sight. more unappalled ; only contrasting, The return of fine weather is beautiduring the intervals of the storm, its fully hailed, and ascribed by the grateawful accompaniments, with his still ful Frithioff to the prayers and tears moonlight voyage and blissful inter- of his betrothed. view with Ingeborg in the peaceful The exhausted crew are carried to grove of Baldur.
land on the sturdy shoulders of the He declines running for a port, hero and his friend ; Biorn carrying fearful of the maiden's contempt as a four, and Frithioff of course twice as timid mariner, and declares his lofty many. They kindle a fire, and are joy in contending with the mountain just beginning to forget the perils of billows. The marvellous ship is de- the deep in a horn of mead to Ingescribed as threading the waves, borg's health, when they are descried, disappearing beneath them like a fall- and, as a matter of course, defied to ing star,” then “springing up again deadly combat, by some of Earl Aganfrom the abyss like a chamois among thyr's champions. the cliffs.”
Frithioff, exhausted as he is, accepts Night comes on, so grim and star- the challange of a gigantic adversary. less, that one mast is not to be seen Chivalry could have taught nothing from the other, and an unfathomable new, in the way of courtesy, to either grave yawns for the devoted crew." of these doughty warriors; for, when Still Frithioff is undaunted, though the stranger's sword snaps, Frithioff the sea goddess Rana is even now, he throws his to a distance; and, when says, “ spreading for him her deep, the former lies prostrate, and Frithioff blue couch." While he is yet speak- cannot give him the coup
de grace for ing, a mountain ware sweeps the deck, want of a sword, the vanquished man carrying all before it. He then be promises “to lie still in his present thinks him of propitiating the goddess, position, till the weapon is picked up by dividing with his surviving com- again ;" coolly observing, that one