Henrik Ibsen.

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Margrete. Oh God, thou almighty !

{Sinks down on the bench, covers her face with her
hands and weeps?)

HAKON. Two kings in the land !

MARGRETE. My husband the one — my father the
other !

HAKON {goes restlessly up and down). Give me a
good counsel, Margrete ! Should I hasten across by
the Uplands, come first to Nidaros, and prevent the
crowning ? No, it may not be done ; I have too few
men with me ; there in the north he is more powerful
than I. — Give me counsel ; how can I have the Duke
slain, ere he come to Nidaros ?

M A RGRETE {imploringly, with folded hands). Hakon,
Hakon !

HAKON. Can you not hit upon a good device, I
say, to have the Duke slain ?

MARGRETE {sinks down from the bench in agony
and remains kneeling). Oh, can you so utterly forget
that he is my father !

HAKON. Your father ; ay, ay, it is true ; I had

forgotten. {Raises / her up.) Sit, sit, Margrete; com-
fort you; do not weep; you have no fault in this.
{Goes over to the window?) Duke Skule will be worse
for me than all other foemen ! God, God, — why hast
thou stricken me so sorely, me, who have not sinned !

302 The Pretenders. [Act III.

(A knock at the door in the back; he starts, listens, and
cries:) Who knocks so late?

Inga's VOICE {outside). One who is a-cold, Hakon !

HAKON {with a cry). My mother !

MARGRETE {springs up). Inga!

HAKON {rushes io the door and opens it; INGA is
sitting on the doorstep). My mother ! Sitting like a
dog outside her son's door ! And I ask why God has
stricken me !

Inga {stretches out her arms towards him). Hakon,
my child ! Blessings upon you !

Hakon {raising her up). Come — come in ; here are
light and warmth !

Inga. May I come in to you ?

HAKON. Never shall we part again.

Inga. My son — my King — oh, but you are
good and loving ! I stood in a corner and saw you,
as you came from the Bishop's Palace ; you looked so
sorrowful ; I could not part from you thus.

HAKON. God be thanked for that ! No one, truly,
could have come to me more welcome than you !
Margrete — my mother — I have greatly sinned; I have
barred my heart against you two, who are so rich
in love.

MARGRETE {falls on his neck). Oh, Hakon, my
beloved husband ; do I stand near you now ?

HAKON. Ay, near me, near me ; not to give me
cunning counsels, but to shed light over my path.
Come what will, I feel the Lord's strength within me !

Dagfinn the Peasant {enters hastily from
the back). My lord, my lord ! The worst has
befallen !

Act III.] The Pretenders. 303

Hakon {smiles confidently, while he holds MAR-
GRETE and Inga closely to him). I know it; but be
not cast down, good Dagfinn ! If there be two kings
in Norway, there is but one in Heaven — and He will
guide all things aright !


304 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

Act Fourth.

{The great hall in Oslo Palace. King Skule is feasting with
his Guard and his Chiefs. In front, o?i the left, stands the
throne, where Skule sits, richly attired, with a purple
mantle and the royal circlet on his head. The supper-table,
by which the guests are seated, stretches fro?n the throne
towards the background. Opposite to Skule sit Paul
Flida a?id Bard Bratte. Some of the hutnbler guests
arc standing, to the right. It is late evening; the hall is
brightly lighted. The banquet is drawi?ig to a close ; the
meti are very merry, and partly drunk; they drink to each
other, laugh, and all talk together.)

Paul Flida (rises and strikes the table). Silence
in the hall; Jatgeir Skald will say forth his song in
honour of King Skule.

Jatgeir (stands out i7i the middle of the floor)}
Duke Skule he summoned the Orething 2
when 'twas mass-time in Nidaros town ;
and the bells rang and swords upon bucklers

clashed bravely
when Duke Skule he donned the crown.

King Skule marched over the Dovrefjeld,
his host upon snow-shoes sped;
the Gudbranddalesman he grovelled for grace,
but his hoard must e'en ransom his head.

1 The metre of this song is very rugged in the original, and the
wording purposely uncouth. See Appendix.

2 See note, p. 217.

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 305

King Skule south over Miosen fared, —
the Uplander cursed at his banner;
King Skule hasted through Raumarike
to Laka in Nannestad manor.

'Tvvas all in the holy Shrove-tide week

we met with the Birchleg horde;

Earl Knut was their captain — the swords with

loud tongue
in the suit for the throne made award.

They say of a truth that since Sverre's days
was never so hot a fight ;
red-sprent, like warriors' winding-sheets,
grew the upland that erst lay white.

They took to their heels did the Birchcnlegs,
flinging from them both buckler and bill there;
many hundreds, though, took to their heels

for they lay and were icily chill there.

No man knows where King Hakon hideth;- —
King Skule stands safe at the helm.
All hail and long life to thee, lord, in thy state
as monarch of Norway's realm !

SKULE'S Men {spring up with loud jubilation, hold
goblets and beakers aloft, clash their weapons, and
repeat :)

All hail and long life to thee, lord, in thy state
as monarch of Norway's realm !


306 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

King Skule. Thanks for the song, Jatgeir Skald !
'Tis as I best like it ; for it praises my men to the
full as much as myself.

Jatgeir. 'Tis to the King's honour that his men
should be praised.

King Skule. Take as guerdon this arm-ring, stay
with me, and be of my household ; I will have many
skalds about me.

Jatgeir. 'Twill need many, my lord, if all your
achievements are to be sung.

King Skule. I will be threefold more bountiful
than Hakon ; the skald's song shall be honoured and
rewarded like all other noble deeds, so long as I am
king. Be seated ; now you belong to my household ;
all you have need of shall be freely given you.

JATGEIR (seats himself). What I most need, I
shall soon lack utterly, my lord.

King Skule. What mean you ?

Jatgeir. Foes to King Skule, whose flight and
fall I can sing.

Many OF THE Men {amid laughter and applause).
Well said, Icelander !

Paul Flida {to Jatgeir). The song was good ;
but 'tis known there goes a spice of lying to every
skald-work, and yours was not without it.

JATGEIR. Lying, Sir Marshal ?

PAUL Flida. Ay ; you say no man knows where
King Hakon is hiding ; that is not true ; we have
certain tidings that Hakon is at Nidaros.

King Skule {smiling). He has claimed homage
for the King-child, and given it the kingly title.

Jatgeir. That have I heard ; but I knew not that

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 307

any man could give away that which he himself does
not possess.

King Skule. 'Tis easiest to give what you your-
self do 'not possess.

BARD Bratte. But it can scarce be easy to
beg your way in midwinter from Bergen to

Jatgeir. The fortunes of the Birchlegs move in a
ring ; they began hungry and frozen, and now they
end in like case.

Paul Flida. 'Tis rumoured in Bergen that Hakon
has forsworn the Church and all that is holy ; he
heard not mass on New Year's day.

BArd Bratte. He could plead lawful hindrance,
Paul ; he stood all day cutting his silver goblets and
dishes to pieces — he had naught else wherewith to
pay his household.

(Laughter and loud talk among tJie Guests.)

KING SKULE (raises his goblet). I drink to you,
Bard Bratte, and thank you and all my new men.
You fought manfully for me at Laka, and bore a great
part in the victory.

BARD BRATTE. It was the first time I fought
under you, my lord ; but I soon felt that 'tis easy
to conquer when such a chieftain as you rides at the-
head of the host. But I would we had not slain so
many and chased them so far; for now I fear 'twill
be long ere they dare face us again.

King Skule. Wait till the spring comes, and we
shall meet them again, never fear. Earl Knut lies
with the remnant at Tunsbcrg rock, and Arnbiorn
Jonsson is gathering a force eastward in Vikcn; when

3o8 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

they deem themselves strong enough, they will soon
let us hear from them.

BArd Bratte. They will never dare to, after the
great slaughter at Laka.

King Skule. Then will we lure them forth with

Many Voices. Ay, ay — do so, lord King !

Bard Bratte. You have good store of cunning,
King Skule. Your foemen have never warning ere
you fall upon them, and you are ever there where
they least await you.

Paul Flida. 'Tis therefore that the Birchlegs
call us Varbaelgs. 1

King SKULE. Others say Vargbaelgs ; but this I
swear, that when next we meet, the Birchlegs shall
learn how hard it is to turn such Wolf-skins inside

Bard Bratte. With their good will shall we
never meet — 'twill be a chase the whole country

King Skule. Ay, that it shall be. First we
must purge Viken, and make sure of all these east-
ward parts; then will we get our ships together, and
sail round the Naze and up the coast to Nidaros.

1 The derivation of this word is doubtful. In the form Vargbcelg it
means Wolf-skin, from Icelandic Vargr=a.v.-oU, and Be/gr=the skin of
an animal taken off whole. The more common form, however, is
Varbeig, which, as P. A. Munch suggests {Dei Norske Folks Historie,
iii. 219), may possibly come from var (our word " ware "), a covering,
and may be an allusion to the falsity and cunning of the faction. What
Ibsen understands by the form Varbalg I cannot discover. Var
(Icelandic Var) means the springtide. The nick-name had been applied
to a political faction as early as 1 190, and was merely revived as a
designation for Skule's adherents.

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 309

BArd Bratte. And when you come in that wise
to Nidaros, I scarce think the monks will deny to
move Saint Olaf's shrine out to the mote-stead, as
they did in the autumn, when we swore allegiance.

King Skule. The shrine must out ; I will bear
my kingship in all ways lawfully.

Jatgeir. And I promise you to sing a great
death-song, when you have slain the Sleeper.
{An outburst of laugJiter among the men.)

King Skule. The Sleeper ?

Jatgeir. Know you not, my lord, that King
Hakon is called " Hakon the Sleeper," because he sits
as though benumbed ever since you came to the
throne ?

BArd BRATTE. They say he lies ever with his
eyes closed. Doubtless he dreams that he is still king.

King Skule. Let him dream ; he shall never
dream himself back into the kingship.

Jatgeir. Let his sleep be long and dreamless,
then shall I have stuff for songs.

The Men. Yes, yes, do as the skald says !

King Skule. When so many good men counsel
as one, the counsel must be good ; yet will we not
talk now of that matter. But one promise I will
make : — each of my men shall inherit the weapons
and harness, and gold and silver, of whichever one of
the enemy he slays ; and each man shall succeed t< >
the dignities of him he lays low. He who slays a
baron shall himself be a baron ; he who slays a thane,
shall receive his thancship ; and all they who already
hold such dignities and offices, shall be rewarded after
other kingly sort.

310 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

The Men {spring up in wild delight). Hail, hail,
King Skule ! Lead us against the Birchlegs !

BARD Bratte. Now are you sure to conquer in
all battles.

PAUL Flida. I claim Dagfinn the Peasant for
myself; he owns a good sword that I have long
hankered after.

BARD BRATTE. I will have Bard Torsteinsson's
hauberk ; it saved his life at Laka, for it withstands
both stroke and thrust.

Jatgeir. Nay, but let me have it ; 'twill fit
me better ; you shall have five golden marks in

BArd Bratte. Where will you find five golden
marks, Skald ?

Jatgeir. I will take them from Gregorius Jons-
son when we come northwards.

The Men (all talking together). And I will have

— I will have (The rest becomes indistinct in the


Paul Flida. Away ! Every man to his quarters ;
bethink you that you are in the King's hall.

The Men. Ay, ay, — hail to the King, hail to
King Skule !

King Skule. To bed now, good fellows! We
have sat long over the drinking- table to-night.

A Man-at-Arms (as the crowd are about to go).
To-morrow we will cast lots for the Birchlegs'

ANOTHER. Rather leave it to luck !

Several. Nay, nay !

Others. Ay, ay !

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 311

Bard Bratte. Now the Wolf-skins are righting
for the bear-fell.

Paul Flida. And they have yet to fell the bear.
{All go out by the back?)

KING Skule {waits till the men are gone; the
tension of his features relaxes ; he sinks upon a bench).
How weary I am, weary to death. To live in the
midst of that swarm day out and day in, to look smil-
ingly ahead as though I were so immovably assured
of right and victory and fortune. To have no creature
with whom I may speak of all that gnaws me so
sorely. (Rises, with a look of terror?) And the battle
at Laka ! That I should have conquered there !
Hakon sent his host against me ; God was to judge
and award between the two kings — and I conquered,
conquered, as never any before has conquered the
Birchlegs ! Their shields stood upright in the snow,
but there was none behind them — the Birchlegs took
to the woods, and fled over upland and moor and lea
as far as their legs would carry them. The unthinkable
came to pass ; Hakon lost and I won. There is a
secret horror in that victory. Thou great God of
Heaven ! there rules, then, no certain law on high,
that all things must obey ? The right carries with it
no conquering might? (With a wild outburst.) I
am sick, I am sick ! — Wherefore should not the right
be on my side? May I not deem that God himself
would assure me of it, since he let me conquer ?
(Broodingly.) The possibilities are even ; — not a
feather-weight more on the one side than on the
other; and yet — (shakes his head) — yet the scale dips
on Hakon's part. When the thought of the kingly

312 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

right comes over me unawares, 'tis ever he, not I,
that is the true king. When I would see myself as the
true king, I must do it with forethought, I must
build up a whole fabric of subtleties, a work ot
cunning ; I must hold memories aloof, and take
faith by storm. It was not so before. What has
befallen to fill me so full of doubt? The burning of
the letter ? No — that made the uncertainty eternal,
but not greater. Has Hakon done any great and
kingly deed in these later days? No, he achieved
his greatest deeds while I least believed in him.
{Seats liimself on the right.) What is it ? Ha,
strange ! It comes and goes like a marsh-fire ; it
dances at the tip of my tongue, as when one has lost
a word and cannot find it. {Springs 7tp.) Ha ! Now

I know it ! No ! Yes, yes ! Now I know it! —

" Norway has been a kingdom, it shall become a
people; all shall be one, and all shall feel and know
that they are one ! " Since Hakon spoke these mad-
man's words, he stands ever before me as the rightful
king. ( Whispers, with fixed and anxious gaze?) What
if God's calling glimmered through these strange
words ? If God had garnered up the thought till
now, and would now strew it forth — and had chosen
Hakon for his sower ?

Paul Flida (enters from the back). My lord King,
I have tidings for you.

King Skule. Tidings ?

PAUL Flida. A man who comes from down the
fiord brings news that the Birchlegs in Tunsberg have
launched their ships, and that many men have
gathered in the town in these last days.

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 313

King Skule. Good, we will go forth to meet
them — to-morrow.

PAUL FLIDA. It might chance, my lord King, that
the Birchlegs would come to meet us first.

King Skule. They have not ships enough for
that, nor men.

PAUL FLIDA. But Arnbiorn Jonsson is gathering
both men and ships, all round in Viken.

King Skule. The better for us ; we will crush
them at one blow, as we did at Laka.

PAUL FLIDA. My lord, 'tis not so easy to crush
the Birchlegs twice following.

King Skule. And wherefore not ?

PAUL FLIDA. Because Norway's saga tells not
that the like has ever befallen. — Shall I send spies out
to Hoved-isle?

King Skule. 'Tis needless ; the night is dark, and
there is a sea-fog to boot.

Paul Flida. Well well, my lord knows best ; but
bethink you that all men are against you here in
Viken. The townsfolk of Oslo hate you, and should
the Birchlegs come they will make common cause
with them.

King Skule {with animation'). Paul Flida, were
it not possible that I could win over the men of
Viken to my side ?

PAUL FLIDA {looks at him in astonish ///mt,
and shakes his head). No, my lord, it is not

KING Skule. And wherefore not ?

Paul Flida. Why, for that you have the TrSnders
on your side.

3 H The Pretenders. [Act IV.

KING Skule. I will have both the Trondcrs and
the men of Viken !

PAUL Flida. Nay, my lord, that cannot be !

King Skule. Not possible ! cannot be ! And
wherefore — wherefore not ?

PAUL Flida. Because the man of Viken is the
man of Viken, the Tronder is the Tronder; because
so it has always been, and no saga tells of a time
when it was otherwise.

KING Skule. Ay, ay — you are right. Go.

PAUL Flida. And send forth no spies ?

King Skule. Wait till daybreak. (Paul Flida
goes.) Norway's saga tells of no such thing; it has
never been so yet; Paul Flida answers me as I
answered Hakon. Are there then upward as well as
downward steps ? Stands Hakon as high over me as
I over Paul Flida ? Has Hakon an eye for unborn
thoughts, that is lacking in me ? Who stood so high
as Harald Harfager in the days when every headland
had its king, and he said : Now they must fall — here-
after shall there be but one ? He threw the old saga
to the winds, and made a new saga. (A pause; he
paces up and down lost in thongJit; then he stops.) Can
one man take God's calling from another, as he takes
weapons and gold from his fallen foe ? Can a Pre-
tender clothe himself in a king's life-task, as he can
put on the kingly mantle ? The oak that is felled to
be a ship's timber, can it say: Nay, I will be the mast,
I will take on me the task of the fir-tree, point
upwards, tall and shining, bear the golden vane at
my top, spread bellying white sails to the sunshine,
and meet the eyes of all men, from afar! — No, no,

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 315

thou heavy gnarled oak-trunk, thy place is beneath
the keel ; there shalt thou lie, and do thy work,
unheard of and unseen by those aloft in the daylight ;
it is thou that shalt hinder the ship from being
whelmed in the storm ; while the mast with the
golden vane and the bellying sail shall bear it for-
ward toward the new, toward the unknown, toward
alien strands and the saga of the future! ( Vehemently.)
Since Hakon uttered his great king-thought, I can
see no other thought in the world but that only. If
I cannot take it and make substance of it, I see no
other thought to fight for. (Broodingly.) And can I
not make it mine ? If I cannot, whence comes my
great love for Hakon's thought ?

Jatgeir {enters from the back). Forgive my
coming, lord King

King Skule. You come to my wish, Skald !

Jatgeir. I overheard some townsfolk at my
lodging talking darkly of

King Skule. Let that wait. Tell me, Skald :
you who have fared far abroad in strange lands, have
you ever seen a woman love another's child ? Not
only be kind to it — 'tis not that I mean ; but love it,
love it with the warmest passion of her soul.

Jatgeir. That can only those women do who
have no child of their own to love.

King Skule. Only those women ?

Jatgeir. And chiefly women who are barren.

KING SKULE. Chiefly the barren ? They

love the children of others with all their wannest
passion ?

Jatgeir. That will oftentimes befalL

316 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

KING Skule. And docs it not sometimes befall
that such a barren woman will slay another's child,
because she herself has none ?

Jatgeir. Ay, ay ; but in that she does unwisely.

King Skule. Unwisely?

Jatgeir. Ay, for she gives the gift of sorrow
to her whose child she slays.

King SKULE. Think you the gift of sorrow is a
great good?

Jatgeir. Yes, lord.

King Skule {looks fixedly at him). Methinks
there are two men in you, Icelander. When you sit
amid the household at the merry feast, you draw
cloak and hood over all your thoughts; when one is
alone with you, sometimes you seem to be of those
among whom one were fain to choose his friend.
How comes it ?

Jatgeir. When you go to swim in the river, my
lord, you would scarce strip you where the people
pass by to church ; you seek a sheltered privacy.

King Skule. True, true.

JATGEIR. My soul has the like shyness ; therefore
I do not strip me when there are many in the hall.

King SKULE. Hm. {A short pause.) Tell me,
Jatgeir, how came you to be a skald ? Who taught
you skaldcraft?

JATGEIR. Skaldcraft cannot be taught, my lord.

KING Skule. Cannot be taught ? How came it

JATGEIR. I got the gift of sorrow, and I was a skald.

King SKULE. Then 'tis the gift of sorrow the
skald has need of?

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 317

Jatgeir. I needed sorrow ; others there may be
who need faith, or joy — or doubt

King Skule. Doubt as well?

Jatgeir. Ay ; but then must the doubter be
strong and sound.

King Skule. And whom call you the unsound
doubter ?

Jatgeir. He who doubts of his own doubt.

King Skule {slowly). That, methinks, were

JATGEIR. 'Tis worse; 'tis neither day nor night.

KING SKULE {quickly, as if shaking off his
thoughts). Where are my weapons ? I will fight
and act — not think. What was it you would have
told me when you came ?

JATGEIR. 'Twas what I noted in my lodgings.
The townsmen whisper together secretly, and laugh
mockingly and ask if we be well assured that King
Hakon is in the westland; there is somewhat they
are in glee over.

King Skule. They are men of Viken and there-
fore against me.

JATGEIR. They scoff because King Olaf 's shrine;
could not be brought out to the mote-stead when we
did you homage; they say it boded ill.

KING Skule. When next I come to Nidaros,
the shrine shall out ! It shall stand under the open
sky, though I should have to tear down St. Olaf's
church and widen out the mote-stead over the spot
where it stood.

JATGEIR. That were a strong deed ; but I shall
make a song of it, as strong as the deed itself.

318 The Pretenders. [Act IV.

King Skule. Have you many unmade songs
within you, Jatgeir?

JATGEIR. Nay, but many unborn ; they are con-
ceived one after the other, come to life, and are
brought forth.

King SKULE. And if I, who am King and have
the might, if I were to have you slain, would all the
unborn skald-thoughts you bear within you die along
with you ?

JATGEIR. My lord, it is a great sin to slay a fair

KING SKULE. I ask not if it be a sin; I ask if it
be possible !

Jatgeir. I know not.

King Skule. Have you never had another skald
for your friend, and has he never unfolded to you a
great and noble song he thought to make ?

Jatgeir. Yes, lord.

KING SKULE. Did you not then wish that you
could slay him, to take his thought and make the
song yourself?

Jatgeir. My lord, I am not barren ; I have
children of my own ; I need not to love those of
other men. {Goes.)

King Skule {after a pause). The Icelander is in
very deed a skald. He speaks God's deepest truth
and knows it not. / am as a barren woman. There-
fore I love Hakon's kingly thought-child, love it with
the warmest passion of my soul. Oh, that I could
but adopt 1 it ! It would die in my hands. Which
were best, that it should die in my hands, or wax

1 Kncesatte; see note, p. 138.

Act IV.] The Pretenders. 319

great in his? Should I ever have peace of soul if
that came to pass ? Can I forego all ? Can I stand
by and see Hakon make himself famous for all time !
How dead and empty is all within me — and around
me. No friend — ah, the Icelander ! {Goes to the door
and calls-) Has the skald gone from the palace?

A Guard {outside). No, my lord; he stands in the
outer hall talking with the watch.

King Skule. Bid him come hither. {Goes for-
ward to the table; presently Jatgeir enters}) I cannot
sleep, Jatgeir ; 'tis all my great kingly thoughts that
keep me awake, you see.

Jatgeir. Tis with the king's thoughts as with
the skald's, I doubt not. They fly highest and grow
quickest when there is night and stillness around.

King SKULE. Is it so with the skald's thoughts

JATGEIR. Ay, lord ; no song is born by daylight ;
it may be written down in the sunshine ; but it makes
itself in the silent night

King Skule. Who gave you the gift of sorrow,
Jatgeir ?

Jatgeir. She whom I loved.

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