[After a pause, without looking at himi\ Is it done ?
You need fear him no more; he will betray no one.
178 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act v
[-4s before.] Then he is dumb ?
Six inches of steel in his breast. I felled him with my
Ay, ay â the right was too good for such work.
That is your affair; â the thought was yours. â And
now to Sweden ! Peace be with you meanwhile ! When
next we meet at Ostrat, I shall bring another with me.
^Goes out by the furthest door on the right.
Blood on my hands. Then 'twas to come to that! â
He begins to be dear-bought now.
[Biorn comes in, with a number of Swedish Men-at-
Arms, by the first door on the right.
One of the Men-at-Arms.
Pardon, if you are the lady of the house
Is it Count Sture ye seek ?
Then you are on the right track. The Count has
sought refuge with me.
ACT V] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 17D
Refuge ? Pardon, my noble lady, â you have no power
to harbour him; for
That the Count himself has doubtless understood ; and
therefore he has â ay, look for yourselves â therefore he
has taken his own life.
His own life!
Look for yourselves, I say. You will find the corpse
within there. And since he already stands before another
judge, it is my prayer that he may be borne hence with all
the honour that beseems his noble birth. â Biorn, you
know my own cofiin has stood ready this many a year
in the secret chamber. [To the Men- at- Arms.] I pray
that in it you will bear Count Sture's body to Sweden.
It shall be as you command. [To one of the others.]
Haste with these tidings to Jens Bielke. He holds the
road with the rest of the troop. We others must in
[One of the Men- at- Arms goes out to the right; the
others go with Biorn into the room on the left.
[Moves about for a time in uneasy siletice.] If Count
Sture had not taken such hurried leave of the world,
180 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act v
within a month he had hung on a gallows, or had lain
for all his days in a dungeon. Had he been better
served with such a lot ?
Or else he had bought his life by betraying my child
into the hands of my foes. Is it /, then, that have
slain him ? Does not even the wolf defend her cubs ?
Who dare condemn me for striking my claws into him
that would have reft me of my flesh and blood ? â It had
to be. No mother but would have done even as I.
- But 'tis no time for idle musings now. I must to work.
[Sits down by the table on the left.
I will write to all my friends throughout the land.
They must rise as one man to support the great cause.
A new king, â regent first, and then king [Begins to
write, but falls into thought, and says softly:] Who will be
chosen in the dead man's place ? â A king's mother â ?
'Tis a fair word. It has but one blemish â the hateful
likeness to another word. â King's mother and â
king's m u r d e r e r^ â King's murderer â one that takes
a king's life. King's mother â one that gives a king
life. [She rises.
Well, then; I will make good, what I have taken. â My
son shall be a king!
[She sits down again and begins writing, but fushes
the paper away again, and leans back in her chair.
There is ever an eerie feeling in a house where lies a
corpse. 'Tis therefore my mood is so strange. [Turns
her head to one side as if speaking to some one.] Not
therefore ? Why else should it be .'' [Broodingly .
Is there such a great gulf, then, between openly striking
down a foe and slaying one thus ? Knut Alfson had
cleft many a brow with his sword; yet was his own as
' The words in the original are " Kongemoder " and " Konge-
morder," a difference of one letter only.
ACT V] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 181
peaceful as a child's. Why then do I ever see thisâ
[makes a motion as though striking with a knife] â this stab
in the heart â and the gush of red blood after ? [Rings,
and goes on speaking ivhile shifting about her papers.]
Hereafter I will have nought to do with such ugly sights.
I will be at work both day and night. And in a month â
in a month mv son will be here
[Entering.] Did you strike the bell, my lady ?
[Writing.] Bring more lights. See to it in future that
there are many lights in the room.
[BioRN goes out again to the left.
[After a pause, rises impetuously.] No, no, no; â I can-
not guide the pen to-night! My head is burning and
throbbing [Startled, listens.] What is that?
Ah, they are screwing the lid on the coffin.
They told me when I was a child the story of Sir
Aage,^ who rose up and walked with his coffin on his
back. â If h e in there bethoug-ht him one night to come
with the coffin on his back, and thank me for the loan ?
[Laughs quietly.] H'm â what have we grown people to
do with childish fancies.^ [Vehemently.] Nevertheless,
such stories do no good! They give uneasy dreams.
When my son is king, they shall be forbidden.
[Paces up and down once or twice; then opens the
^ Pronounce Oaghe.
182 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act v
How long is it, commonly, ere a body begins to rot ?
All the rooms must be aired. 'Tis not wholesome here
till that be done.
[BioRN comes in with two lighted branch-candlesticks,
which he places on the tables.
[Who has set to work at the papers again.] It is well.
See you forget not what I have said. Many lights on
What are they about now in there ?
They are still screwing down the coffin-lid.
[Writing.] Are they screwing it down tight ?
As tight as need be.
Ay, ay â who can tell how tight it needs to be ? Do
you see that 'tis well done. [Goes up to him with her
hand full of papers, and says mysteriously:] Biorn, you
are an old man; but one counsel I will give you. Be
on your guard against all men â both those that are
dead and those that are still to die. â Now go in â go in
and see to it that they screw the lid down tightly.
[Softly, shaking his head.] I cannot make her out.
[Goes back again into the room on the left.
ACTV] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 183
[Begins to seal a letter, hut throws it down half-closed;
walks up and down awhile, and then says vehemently:^
Were I a coward I had never done it â never to all
eternity! Were I a coward, 1 had shrieked to myself:
Refrain, while there is yet a shred of hope for the saving
of thy soul!
[Her eye falls on Sten Sture^s picture; sJie turns to
avoid seeing it, and says softly:
He is laughing down at me as though he were alive!
[Turns the picture to the wall without looking at it.
Wherefore did you laugh ? Was it because I did evil
to your son ? But the other, â is not he your son too ?
And he is mine as well; mark that!
[Glances stealthily along the row of pictures.
So wild as they are to-night, I have never seen them
yet. Their eyes follow me wherever I may go. [Stamps
on the floor. ^ I will not have it! I will have peace in my
house! [Begins to turn all the pictures to the walll\ Ay,
if it were the Holy Virgin herself Thinkest thou
now is the time ? W^hy didst thou never hear
my prayers, my burning prayers, that I might have my
child again ^ Why } Because the monk of Wittenberg
is right: There is no mediator between God and man!
[She draws her breath heavily, and continuÂ£s in ever-
'Tis well that I know what to think in such things.
There was no one to see what was done in there. There
is none to bear witness against me.
[Suddenly stretches out her hands and ivhispers :
My son! My beloved child! Come to me! Here I
am! â Hush! I will tell you something: They hate me
184 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act v
up there â beyond the stars â because I bore you into the
world. 'Twas their will that I should bear the Lord
God's standard over all the land. But I went my own
way. That is why I have had to suffer so much and so
[Comes from the room on the left.] My lady, I have to
tell you â Christ save me â what is this ?
[Has climbed up into the high-seat by the right-hand
vjalL] Hush! Hush! I am the King's mother. My
son has been chosen king. The struggle was hard ere it
came to this â for 'twas with the Almighty One himself I
had to strive.
[Comes in breathless from the right.] He is saved!
I have Jens Bielke's promise. Lady Inger, â know
Peace, I say! look how the people swarm.
[A funeral hijmn is heard from the room within.
There comes the coronation train. What a throng!
All men bow themselves before the King's mother. Ay,
ay; has she not fought for her son â even till her hands
grew red withal '^ â Where arc my daughters ? I see
God's blood ! â what has befallen here ?
ACT V] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 185
My daughters â my fair daughters! I have none any
more. I had one left, and her I lost even as she was
mounting her bridal bed. [Whispers.] In it lay Lucia
dead. There was no room for two.
Ah â it has come to this! The Lord's vengeance is
Can you see him ? Look, look ! 'Tis the King. It is
Inger Gyldenlove's son! I know him by the crown and
by Sten Sture's ring that he wears round his neck. Hark,
what a joyful sound! He is coming! Soon will he be in
my arms! Ha-ha! â who conquers, God or I?
[The Men- AT- Arms co7ne out with tJie coffin.
[Clutclies at her head and shrieks.] The corpse!
[Whispers.] Pah! 'Tis a hideous dream.
[Sinks back into the high-seat.
[Who has come in from the right, stops and cries in
astojiishment.] Dead! Then after all
One of the Men-at-Arms.
'Twas he himself that
[With a look at Nils Lykke.] He himself ?
186 LADY INGER OF OSTRAT [act v
[Faintly, coming to herself.] Ay, right; â now I re-
[To tlie Men- AT- Arms.] Set down the corpse. It is
not Count Sture.
One of the Men-at-Arms.
Your pardon. Captain; â this ring that he wore around
[Seizes his arm^ Be still!
[Starts uj)^ The ring.' The ring!
[Rushes up and snatches the ring from him.
Sten Sture's ring! [With a shriek.] Oh God, oh God
â my son! [Throivs herself down on the coffin.
[At the same time.] Inger Gyldenlove's son?
So is it.
But why did you not tell me ?
ACTV] LADY INGER OF OSTRAT 187
[Trying to raise her up.] Help! help! My ladyâ
what ails you ? what lack you ? J J
[In a faint voice, half raising herself.] What lack I ?
Une coffin more. A grave beside my child
[Shilcs again, senseless, on the coffin. Nils Lykke
goes hastily out to the right. 'General constertia-
tion among the rest.
THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
Exactly a year after the production of Lady Inger of
Ostrat â that is to say on the "Foundation Day" of the
Bergen Theatre, January 2, 1856 â The Feast at Solhoug
was produced. The poet himself has written its history
in full in the Preface to the second edition (see p. 196),
The only comment that need be made upon his rejoinder
to his critics has been made, with perfect fairness as it
seems to me, by George Brandes in the following pas-
sage:^ "No one who is unacquainted with the Scandina-
vian languages can fully understand the charm that the
style and melody of the old ballads exercise upon the
Scandinavian mind. The beautiful ballads and songs of
Des Knahen Wunderhorn have perhaps had a. similar
power over German minds; but, as far as I am aware, no
German poet has ever succeeded in inventing a metre
suitable for dramatic purposes, which yet retained the
mediaeval ballad's sonorous swing and rich aroma. The
explanation of the powerful impression produced in its
day by Henrik Hertz's Svend Dyring's House is to be
found in the fact that in it, for the first time, the problem
was solved of how to fashion a metre akin to that of the
' Ibsen and Bjornson. London, Heinemann, 1899, p. 88.
* Copyright, 1908, by Charles Scribner's Sons.
192 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
heroic ballads, a metre possessing as great mobility as the
verse of the Niehelungenlied, along with a dramatic value
not inferior to that of the iambic pentameter. Henrik
Ibsen, it is true, has justly pointed out that, as regards
the mutual relations of the principal characters, Svend
Dyring's House owes more to Kleist's Kdtlwhen von Heil-
hronn than The Feast at Solhoug owes to Svend Dyring^s
House. But the fact remains that the versified parts
of the dialogue of both The Feast at Solhoug and Olaf
Liliekrans are written in that imitation of the tone and
style of the heroic ballad, of which Hertz was the hap-
pily-inspired originator. There seems to me to be no
depreciation whatever of Ibsen in the assertion of Hertz's
right to rank as his model. Even the greatest must have
learnt from some one."
The question is, to put it in a nutshell: Supposing
Hertz had never adapted the ballad measures to dramatic
purposes, would Ibsen have written The Feast at Solhoug,
at any rate in its present form ? I think we must answer:
Almost certainly, no.
But while the influence of Danish lyrical romanticism
is apparent in the style of the play, the structure, as it
seems to me, shows no less clearly that influence of the
French plot-manipulators which we found so unmistak-
ably at work in Lady Inger. Despite its lyrical dialogue.
The Feast at Solhoug has that crispness of dramatic
action which marks the French plays of the period. It
may indeed be called Scribe's Bataille de Dames writ
tragic. Here, as in the Bataille de Dames (one of the
earliest plays produced under Ibsen's supervision), we
have the rivalry of an older and a younger woman for the
love of a man who is proscribed on an unjust accusation,
and pursued by the emissaries of the royal power. One
might even, though this would be forcing the point, find
an analogy in the fact that the elder woman (in both
plays a strong and determined character) has in Scribe's
comedy a cowardly suitor, while in Ibsen's tragedy, or
melodrama, she has a cowardly husband. In every
other respect the plays are as dissimilar as possible; yet
it seems to me far from unlikely that an unconscious
reminiscence of the Bataille de Dames may have con-
tributed to the shaping of The Feast at Solhoug in Ibsen's
mind. But more significant than any resemblance of
theme is the similarity of Ibsen's whole method to that
of the French school â the way, for instance, in which
misunderstandings are kept up through a careful avoid-
ance of the use of proper names, and the way in which a
cup of poison, prepared for one person, comes into the
hands of another person, is, as a matter of fact, drunk by
no one, but occasions the acutest agony to the would-be
poisoner. All this ingenious dovetailing of incidents and
working-up of misunderstandings Ibsen unquestionably
learned from the French. The French language, indeed,
is the only one which has a word â quiproquo â to indi-
cate the class of misunderstanding which, from Lady
Inger down to TJie League of Youth, Ibsen employed
Ibsen's first visit to the home of his future wife took
place five days after the production of The Feast at Sol-
houg. It seems doubtful whether this was actually his
first meeting with her;* but at any rate we can scarcely
* See note, p. 12.
194 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
suppose that he knew her during the previous summer,
when he was writing his play. It is a curious coincidence,
then, that he should have found in Susanna Thoresen
and her sister Marie very much the same contrast of
characters which had occupied him in his first dramatic
effort, Catilina, and which had formed the main subject
of the play he had just produced. It is less wonderful
that the same contrast should so often recur in his later
works, even down to John Gabriel Borkman. Ibsen was
greatly attached to his gentle and retiring sister-in-law,
v/ho died unmarried in 1874.
The Feast at Solhoug has been translated by Miss
Morison and myself, only because no one else could be
found to undertake the task. We have done our best;
but neither of us lays claim to any great metrical skill,
and the light movement of Ibsen's verse is often, if not
always, rendered in a sadly halting fashion. It is, how-
ever, impossible to exaggerate the irregularity of the
verse in the original, or its defiance of strict metrical law.
The normal line is one of four accents; but when this is
said, it is almost impossible to arrive at any further gen-
eralisation. There is a certain lilting melody in many
passages, and the whole play has not unfairly been said to
possess the charm of a northern summer night, in which
the glimmer of twilight gives place only to the gleam of
morning. But in the main (though much better than its
successor, Olaf Liliekrans) it is the weakest thing that
Ibsen admitted into the canon of his works. He wrote
of it in 1870 as "a study which I now disown"; and had
he continued in that frame of mind, the world would
scarcely have quarrelled with his judgment. At worst,
then, my collaborator and I cannot be accused of marring
a masterpiece; but for which assurance we should prob-
ably have shrunk from the attempt.
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND
I WROTE The Feast at Solhoug in Bergen in the sum-
mer of 1855 â that is to say, about twenty-eight years
The play was acted for the first time on January 2,
1856, also at Bergen, as a gala performance on the anni-
versary of the foundation of the Norwegian Stage.
As I was then stage-manager of the Bergen Theatre,
it was I myself who conducted the rehearsals of my play.
It received an excellent, a remarkably sympathetic in-
terpretation. Acted with pleasure and enthusiasm, it
was received in the same spirit. The "Bergen emo-
tionalism," which is said to have decided the result of
the latest elections in those parts, ran high that evening
in the crowded theatre. The performance ended with
repeated calls for the author and for the actors. Later
in the evening I was serenaded by the orchestra, ac-
companied by a great part of the audience. I almost
think that I went so far as to make some kind of speech
from my window; certain I am that I felt extremely
A couple of months later. The Feast at Solhoug was
played in Christiania. There also it was received by the
public with much approbation, and the day after the first
performance Bjornson wrote a friendly, youthfully ardent
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 197
article on it in the Morgenhlad. It was not a notice or
criticism proper, but rather a free, fanciful improvisa-
tion on the play and the performance.
On this, however, followed the real criticism, written
by the real critics.
How did a man in the Christiania of those daysâ by
which I mean the years between 1850 and 1860, or there-
abouts â become a real literary, and in particular dra-
matic, critic ?
As a rule, the process was as follows: After some pre-
paratory exercises in the columns of the Samfundshlad,
and after having frequently listened to the discussions
which went on in Treschow's cafe or at "Inffebret's"
after the play, the future critic betook himself to Johan
Dahl's bookshop and ordered from Copenhagen a copy
of J. L. Heiberg's Prose Works, among which was to be
found â so he had heard it said â an essay entitled On the
Vaudeville. This essay was in due course read, rumi-
nated on, and possibly to a certain extent understood.
From Heiberg's writings the young man, moreover,
learned of a controversy which that author had carried
on in his day with Professor Oehlenschlager and with the
Soro poet, Hauch. And he was simultaneously made
aware that J. L. Baggesen (the author of Letters from the
Dead) had at a still earlier period made a similar attack
on the great author who wrote both Axel arid Valborg and
A quantity of other information useful to a critic was
to be extracted from these writings. From them one
learned, for instance, that taste obliged a good critic to
be scandalised by a hiatus. Did the young critical Jero-
198 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
nimuses of Christiania encounter such a monstrosity in
any new verse, they were as certain as their prototype in
Holberg to shout their "Hoity-toity! the world will not
last till Easter!"
The origin of another peculiar characteristic of the
criticism then prevalent in the Norwegian capital was
long a puzzle to me. Every time a new author published
a book or had a little play acted, our critics w^ere in the
habit of flying into an ungovernable passion and behav-
ing as if the publication of the book or the performance
of the play were a mortal insult to themselves and the
newspapers in which they wrote. As already remarked,
I puzzled long over this peculiarity. At last I got to
the bottom of the matter. Whilst reading the Danish
Monthly Journal of Literature I was struck by the fact
that old State-Councillor Molbech was invariably seized
with a fit of rage when a young author published a book
or had a play acted in Copenhagen.
Thus, or in a manner closely resembling this, had the
tribunal qualified itself, which now, in the daily press,
summoned The Feast at Solhoug to the bar of criticism in
Christiania. It was principally composed of young men
who, as regards criticism, lived upon loans from various
quarters. Their critical thoughts had long ago been
thought and expressed by others; their opinions had
lono- ere now been formulated elsewhere. Their aesthetic
principles were borrowed ; their critical method was bor-
rowed; the polemical tactics they employed were bor-
rowed in every particular, great and small. Their very
frame of mind was borrowed. Borrowing, borrowing,
here, there, and everywhere! The single original thing
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 199
about them was that they invariably made a wrong and
unseasonable application of their borrowings.
It can surprise no one that this body, the members
of which, as critics, supported themselves by borrowing,
should have presupposed similar action on my part, as
author. Two, possibly more than two, of the news-
papers promptly discovered that I had borrowed this,
that, and the other thing from Henrik Hertz's play, Svend
This is a baseless and indefensible critical assertion.
It is evidently to be ascribed to the fact that the metre
of the ancient ballads is employed in both plays. But
my tone is quite different from Hertz's; the language
of my play has a different ring; a light summer breeze
plays over the rhythm of my verse; over that of Hertz's
brood the storms of autumn.
Nor, as regards the characters, the action, and the
contents of the plays generally, is there any other or any
greater resemblance between them than that which is a
natural consequence of the derivation of the subjects of
both from the narrow circle of ideas in which the ancient
It might be maintained with quite as much, or even
more, reason that Hertz in his Svend Dyring's House had
borrowed, and that to no inconsiderable extent, from
Heinrich von Kleist's Kdthclun von Heilbronn, a play
written at the beginning of this century. Kathchen's re-
lation to Count Wetterstrahl is in all essentials the same
as Ragnhild's to the knight, Stig Hvide. Like Ragn-
hild, Kathchen is compelled by a mysterious, inexplica-
ble power to follow the man she loves wherever he goes.
200 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG
to steal secretly after him, to lay herself down to sleep
near him, to come back to him, as by some innate com-
pulsion, however often she may be driven away. And
other instances of supernatural interference are to be
met with both in Kleist's and in Hertz's play.
But does any one doubt that it would be possible, with a
little good- or a little ill-will, to discover among still older
dramatic literature a play from which it could be main-
tained that Kleist had borrowed here and there in his
Kdthchen von Heilhrunn ? I, for my part, do not doubt
it. But such suggestions of indebtedness are futile.
What makes a work of art the spiritual property of its