Jack London.

Romantic Ballads, Translated from the Danish; and Miscellaneous Pieces online

. (page 4 of 6)
Online LibraryJack LondonRomantic Ballads, Translated from the Danish; and Miscellaneous Pieces → online text (page 4 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

'T was done with his own consent."

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
And he would fain know all.
"O, I will ride to the wood, and see
How Sivard endures his thrall."

Vidrik spoke to his burly groom:
"Go, saddle me Skimming gray,
For I will ride to the wood, and hear
What Sivard himself will say."

Sivard stands in the good green wood,
There sees he Vidrik ride:
"If Vidrik finds me bounden here,
He'll hew my rib-bones from my side."

Then loud laugh'd Vidrik Verlandson,
And Skimming began to neigh,
For Sivard rooted the oak tree up;
He dar'd no longer stay.

The queen she sat in the high, high, loft,
And thence look'd far and wide:
"O there comes Sivard Snaresvend,
With a stately oak at his side."

Then loud laugh'd fair Queen Gloriant,
As she look'd on Sivard full:
"Thou wert, no doubt, in great, great need,
When thou such flowers didst pull."

The King he stood at the castle gate,
In his robes and kingly crown:
"O there comes Sivard Snaresvend,
And he brings us Summer to town."{f:22}

Now dance the heroes by Brattingsborg;
They dance in their coats of felt;
There dances Sivard, the purblind swain,
With an oak tree under his belt.


King Diderik sits in the halls of Bern,
And he boasts of his deeds of might;
So many a swain in battle he's fell'd,
And taken so many a knight.

King Diderik sits in the halls of Bern,
And he strikes his moony shield;
"O, would that I knew of a hero now,
'Gainst whom I could take the field."

Then answer'd Master Hildebrand,
(For he knew all things best,)
"There sleeps a Giant at Birtingsberg;
Dar'st thou disturb his rest?"

"Now, hear me, Master Hildebrand;
Thou art huge in body and limb;
Thou foremost shall ride, in the wood, this day,
And bear our challenge to him."

Then answer'd Master Hildebrand,
So careful a knight was he;
"Not so, my Lord, will I do, this day,
For the wages delight not me."

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson,
And he spoke in wrathful mood;
"O, I'll be first of the band, this day,
All through the Birting wood."

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson,
And he spoke with lofty pride;
"The smith he forg'd me a faulchion good,
That can steel, like cloth, divide."

They were three hundred valorous knights,
Unto Birting's land that rode;
They go in quest of Langben the Jutt,
To the gloomy wood, his abode.

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson;
"A wondrous game we'll play;
For I will ride in the green wood first,
If ye'll but trust me away."

Then answer'd bold King Diderik,
He answer'd hastily then;
"When thou therein shalt have found the Jutt
Come back for me and my men."

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
In the forest alone he sped;
And there he found so little a way,
Which up to the Giant led.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
He came unto Birting's hill;
There black and dread lay Langben the Jutt,
He lay stretch'd out, and still.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
With his lance touch'd him on the knee;
"Wake up! wake up! now Langben the Jutt,
Thou sleepest full sound, I see."

"Here have I lain, for many a year,
'Mid the leaf and the dew-wet herb;
But never, till now, came a warrior by,
That has dar'd my sleep to disturb."

"Here stand I, Vidrik Verlandson,
With a sword, so good, at my side;
I came to wake thee up from thy sleep,
Betide whatever betide."

It was Langben the Giant, then,
Turn'd up the white of his eye;
"O, whence can come this warrior youth,
Who such bold words lets fly?

"But hear, but hear, thou warrior youth;
I will not do battle with thee,
Except thou prove of a knightly race;
So thy lineage tell to me."

"A handsome smith my father was,
And Verland hight was he:
Bodild they call'd my mother fair;
Queen over countries three:

"Skimming I call my noble steed,
Begot from the wild sea-mare:
Blank {f:23} do I call my haughty helm,
Because it glitters so fair:

"Skrepping I call my good thick shield;
Steel shafts have furrow'd it o'er:
Mimmering have I nam'd my sword;
'T is harden'd in heroes' gore:

"And I am Vidrik Verlandson;
For clothes bright iron I wear:
Stand'st thou not up on thy long, long legs,
I'll pin thee down to thy lair:

"Do thou stand up on thy long, long legs,
Nor look so dogged and grim;
The King holds out before the wood;
Thou shalt yield thy treasure to him."

"All, all the gold that I possess,
I will keep with great renown;
I'll yield it at no little horse-boy's word,
To the best king wearing a crown."

"So young and little as here I seem,
Thou shalt find me prompt in a fray;
I'll hew the head from thy shoulders off,
And thy much gold bear away."

It was Langben the mighty Jutt,
With fury his heart was fir'd;
"Ride hence! ride hence! thou warrior youth,
If of life thou be not tir'd."

Skimming sprang up, with both his legs,
Against the giant's side
Asunder went five of his rib-bones then,
And the fight began at that tide.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
He wav'd his steel mace round;
He sent a blow after Vidrik;
But the mace struck deep in the ground.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
Who had thought his foeman to slay,
But the blow fell short of Vidrik;
For the good horse bore him away.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
That shouted in wild despair:
"Now lies my mace in the hillock fast,
As though 't were hammer'd in there!"

Vidrik paus'd no moment's space;
So ready was he to assail:
"Upon him, Skimming, upon him once more!
Now, Mimmering, now prevail!"

He seiz'd his sword in both his hands,
Unto Langben Giant he flew;
He struck him so hard in the hairy breast,
That the point his lungs went through.

Now Langben Giant has got a wound,
And he's waken'd thoroughly now;
So gladly would he have paid it back,
But, alas! he knew not how.

"Accursed be thou, young Vidrik!
And accurs'd thy piercing steel!
Thou hast given me, see, a wound in my breast,
Whence rise the pains I feel."

"I'll hew thee, Giant, I'll hew thee as small
As leaves that are borne on the blast,
Except thou showest me all the gear,
That hid in the forest thou hast."

"Forbear, O Vidrik Verlandson,
Strike me not cruelly dead!
And I will lead thee straight to my house,
That's thatch'd with gold so red."

Vidrik rode, and the Giant crept,
So far through the forest ways,
They found the house with the red gold thatch'd;
It glitter'd like straw in a blaze.

"Therein, therein are heaps of gold,
No King has a greater store;
Do thou remove the big black stone,
And lift from the hinges the door."

With both hands Vidrik seiz'd the stone,
But to stir it in vain did he try;
The Giant took it with finger and thumb,
And lifted it up in the sky.

"Now hear, now hear, thou warrior youth,
Thou canst wheel thy courser about;
But in every feat of manly strength
I could beat thee out and out."

Then answer'd Vidrik Verlandson,
(He fear'd for himself some ill)
"'T is not the custom of any wise man
His strength on a stone to spill."

"Therein, therein is much more gold
Than fifteen kings can show;
Hear me, Vidrik Verlandson,
Thou therein first shalt go."

Then answer'd Vidrik Verlandson,
(For his cunning intent he saw)
"Thou shalt lead the way into thine own house,
For that is warrior-law."

It was Langben the Giant then,
To the door he stoop'd down low:
It was Vidrik Verlandson
Cleft off his head at a blow.

Away the quivering body he drew,
And propp'd it against an oak;
Then back he rode the long, long way,
He's thought of a wondrous joke.

With giant's blood he besmear'd himself,
And besmear'd his steed all o'er;
Then back he rides to King Diderik,
Pretends to be wounded sore.

"Here bide ye in peace, my companions good,
All under the grass-green hill;
Langben the Giant has smote me to day,
I doubt I shall fare but ill."

"If thou from the Giant hast got a blow,
Thy life must be nigh its close;
We'll ride swift back to the halls of Bern,
No man more will we lose."

"Now wend thee, bold King Diderik,
Wend into the wood with me;
And all the gold that the giant had,
That will I show to thee."

"If thou hast slain the giant this day,
'T will far be blaz'd in the land;
And the warrior lives not in this world,
'Gainst whom thou may'st fear to stand."

But what befel King Diderik's men?
When the giant they first perceiv'd,
They all stopp'd short, in the good green wood,
Of courage at once bereav'd.

They thought the giant verily would
That moment after them stride:
Not one of them all would have battled with him;
Back would they all have hied.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
He laugh'd at their craven fear:
"How would ye have fac'd him when alive,
Ye dare not him, dead, go near?

With his lance's haft the body he push'd,
The head came toppling down:
That the Giant was a warrior stark,
Forsooth, I am forc'd to own.

Out took they then his ruddy gold,
And shar'd it amongst the band:
To Vidrik came the largest part,
For 't was earn'd with his good hand.

Little car'd he for the booty, I ween,
But he thought of his meed of fame;
When men should say, in the Danish land,
That the Giant he overcame.

So gladly rode they to Bern again;
King Diderik gladdest of all:
There caus'd he Vidrik Verlandson
To sit next him in the hall.


Upon this Ballad Oehlenslaeger founded his "Elvir Shades," a translation
of which has already been given.

I rested my head upon Elvir Hill's side, and my eyes were beginning to
That moment there rose up before me two maids, whose charms would take
ages to number.

One patted my face, and the other exclaim'd, while loading my cheek with
her kisses,
"Rise, rise, for to dance with you here we have sped from the undermost
caves and abysses.

"Rise, fair-headed swain, and refuse not to dance; and I and my sister
will sing thee
The loveliest ditties that ever were heard, and the prettiest presents
will bring thee."

Then both of them sang so delightful a song, that the boisterous river
before us
Stood suddenly quiet and placid, as though 't were afraid to disturb the
sweet chorus.

The boisterous stream stood suddenly still, though accustom'd to foam and
to bellow;
And, fearless, the trout play'd along with the pike, and the pike play'd
with him as his fellow.

The fishes, whose dwelling was deep in the flood, up, up from their
caverns did sally;
The gay little birds of the forest began to warble, forthwith, in the

"Now, listen thou fair-headed swain, and if thou wilt stand up and dance
for a minute,
We'll teach thee to open the sorcerer's book, and to read all the Runic
that's in it.

"The bear and the wolf thou shalt trammel, unto the thick stem of the
oak, at thy pleasure;
Before thee the dragon shall fly from his nest, and shall leave thee sole
lord of his treasure."

Then about and around on the moonlight hill, in their fairy fashion they
While unmov'd sat the gallant and fair young swain, whom they, in their
wantonness, courted.

"And wilt thou not grant us our civil request, proud stripling, and wilt
thou deny it?
By hell's ruddy blazes, our gold-handled knife shall lay thee for ever in

And if my good luck had not manag'd it so, that the cock crew out, then,
in the distance,
I should have been murder'd by them, on the hill, without power to offer

'T is therefore I counsel each young Danish swain, who may ride in the
forest so dreary,
Ne'er to lay down upon lone Elvir Hill though he chance to be ever so


The following Ballad is merely a versification of one of the many feats
of Waldemar, the famed phantom hunter of the North, an account of whom,
and of Palnatoka and Groon the Jutt, both spectres of a similar
character, may be found in Thiele's Danske Folkesagn.

Late at eve they were toiling on Harribee bank,
For in harvest men ne'er should be idle:
Towards them rode Waldemar, meagre and lank,
And he linger'd and drew up his bridle.

"Success to your labour; and have ye to night
Seen any thing pass ye, while reaping?"
"Yes, yes;" said a peasant, "I saw something white,
Just now, through the corn-stubble creeping."

"Which way did it go?" "Why methought to the beach."
Then off went Waldemar bounding;
A few minutes after, they heard a faint screech,
And the horn of the hunter resounding.

Then back came he, laughing in horrible tone,
And the blood in their veins ran the colder,
When they saw that a fresh-slaughter'd mermaid was thrown
Athwart his proud barb's dappled shoulder.

Said he, "I have chas'd her for seven score years,
As she landed to drink at the fountains."
No more did he deign to their terrified ears,
But gallop'd away to the mountains.


"Do thou, dear Mother, contrive amain
How Marsk Stig's daughter I may gain."

She made him, of water, a noble steed,
Whose trappings were form'd from rush and reed.

To a young knight chang'd she then her son;
To Mary's church at full speed he's gone.

His foaming horse to the gate he bound,
And pac'd the church full three times round:

When in he walk'd with his plume on high,
The dead men gave from their tombs a sigh:

The priest heard that, and he clos'd his book;
"Methinks yon knight has a strange wild look."

Then laugh'd the maiden beneath her sleeve;
"If he were my husband I should not grieve."

He stepp'd over benches one and two:
"O, Marsk Stig's daughter, I doat on you."

He stepp'd over benches two and three:
"O, Marsk Stig's daughter, come home with me."

Then said the maid, without more ado,
"Here take my troth, I will go with you."

They went from the church a bridal train,
And danc'd so gaily across the plain;

They danc'd till they came to the strand, and then
They were forsaken by maids and men.

"Now, Marsk Stig's daughter, sit down and rest;
To build a boat I will do my best."

He built a boat of the whitest sand,
And away they went from the smiling land;

But when they had cross'd the ninth green wave,
Down sunk the boat to the ocean cave!

I caution ye, maids, as well as I can,
Ne'er give your troth to an unknown man.


Fair Agnes alone on the sea-shore stood,
Then rose a Merman from out the flood:

"Now, Agnes, hear what I say to thee,
Wilt thou my leman consent to be?"

"O, freely that will I become,
If thou but take me beneath the foam."

He stopp'd her ears, and he stopp'd her eyes,
And into the ocean he took his prize.

The Merman's leman was Agnes there, -
She bore him sons and daughters fair:

One day by the cradle she sat and sang,
Then heard she above how the church bells rang:

She went to the Merman, and kiss'd his brow;
"Once more to church I would gladly go."

"And thou to church once more shalt go,
But come to thy babes back here below."

He flung his arm her body around,
And he lifted her up unto England's ground.

Fair Agnes in at the church door stepp'd,
Behind her mother, who sorely wept.

"O Agnes, Agnes, daughter dear!
Where hast thou been this many a year?"

"O, I have been deep, deep under the sea,
And liv'd with the Merman in love and glee."

"And what for thy honour did he give thee,
When he made thee his leman beneath the sea?"

"He gave me silver, he gave me gold,
And sprigs of coral my hair to hold."

The Merman up to the church door came;
His eyes they shone like a yellow flame;

His face was white, and his beard was green -
A fairer demon was never seen.

"Now, Agnes, Agnes, list to me,
Thy babes are longing so after thee."

"I cannot come yet, here must I stay
Until the priest shall have said his say."

And when the priest had said his say,
She thought with her mother at home she'd stay.

"O Agnes, Agnes, list to me,
Thy babes are sorrowing after thee."

"Let them sorrow, and sorrow their fill,
But back to them never return I will."

"Think on them, Agnes, think on them all;
Think on the great one, think on the small."

"Little, O little, care I for them all,
Or for the great one, or for the small."

O, bitterly then did the Merman weep;
He hied him back to the foamy deep:

But, often his shrieks and mournful cries,
At midnight's hour, from thence arise.



This is Denmark's holyday;
Dance, ye maidens!
Sing, ye men!
Tune, ye harpers!
Blush, ye heroes!
This is Denmark's holyday.


In right's enjoyment, in the arm of love,
Beneath the olive's shadow,
The Daneman sat;
Whilst wet and steaming wav'd the bloody flag
Above the regions of the sunny South.
Pure was our heaven, -
Pure and blue;
For, with his pinions, angel Peace dispell'd
All reek and vapour from mild virtue's sphere;
Then lower'd Battle's blood-bespatter'd son
Upon our coast, -
And haggard Envy lent to him her torch,
Which sparkled high with hell's sulphureous light,
Then fled the genius of peace, and wept.


But mighty thunders peal'd; the earth it shook,
While rattled all the moss-grown giant stones, {f:24}
And Oldom's sunken grave-hill rais'd itself;
Then started Skiold and Frode,
And Svend, and Knud, and Waldemar, {f:25}
In copper hauberks up, and pointing to
Rust-spots of blood on faulchion and on shield -
They vanish'd:
And in the Gothic aisles, high arch'd and dim,
Wild flutter'd of itself, the ancient banner
Which hung above a hero's bones;
The faulchion clatter'd loud and ceaselessly
Within the tomb of Christian the Fourth, {f:26}
By Tordenskiold's {f:27} chapel on the strand,
Wild rose the daring Mermaid's witching song;
The stones were loosen'd round about the grave
Where lay great Juul;
And Hvidtfeld, clad in a transparent mist,
With smiles cherubic beaming on his face,
Stray'd, arm in arm, with his heroic brothers,
Along the deep.


We felt the presence of one and all;
The old flags wav'd in the arsenal,
A wondrous spirit went round, went round
The Northern ground.


Then waken'd Thor, {f:28}
And drew around his loins the mighty belt
Of bear-sinews;
With love fraternal harden'd he his shield,
With eager haste he sharp'd his blunted glaive,
And, with the iron of his hammer, touch'd
Each Dane's and every Norman's breast -
Shot his heroic flame therein, and smil'd!


And Denmark and Norway smil'd.


Upon the water,
Upon the land,
We boun'd for slaughter,
At Thor's command.


Then fell our tears so quickly,
We breath'd, we breath'd so thickly,
While scarce our lips could stammer forth
Prayers for you, and for the North.


And we, and we, with breasts that smarted,
Knelt, lowly knelt, whilst firm ye stood,
From us and from affection parted,
In reek and smoke, in brothers' blood!


Tenderness comes from God;
Woman and man in its praise should sing;
But tenderness flies at honour's nod;
We offer all up to our land and King.


What sang ye, warlike throngs?
Repeat, repeat this day,
One of the simple, nervous, songs
Ye murmur'd out, when, hot with wrongs,
Ye waited the coming fray.


We love, we all love thee, beneficent Peace, &c.


Like the wave of the wild North main,
Foaming and frothing came on our foe;
Proud of his triumphs, proud of his train,
He thought to lay us low:
But, from Denmark's lines of oak,
A horrible, horrible volley outbroke;
Then tumbled his mast,
His courage fell fast;
And the wave, which resembled his furious mood,
Was now with his blood embrued.


This is Denmark's holyday;
Dance, ye maidens!
Sing, ye men!
Tune, ye harpers!
Blush, ye heroes!
This is Denmark's holyday.


But, hark! what sobbing and what mournful notes
Are mixing with our hymns of ardent joy!
Hush, hush, be still;
A band of white-rob'd maids approaches slow,
With lily chaplets round their yellow locks,
With heavy tear-drops in their sunken eye;
Broken and trembling sounds
The melancholy song,
Accompanied by harp-tones rising mild.


Love, with rosy fetter,
Held us firmly bound;
Pure unmix'd enjoyment
Grateful here we found.
Bosom, bosom meeting,
'Gainst our youths we press'd;
Bright the moon arose, then,
Glad to see us blest.

Denmark's honour beckon'd,
Loud the canon roar'd;
Perish'd in the battle
They whom we ador'd.
Sweet is, grave, thy slumber,
Free from care and noise;
Short are earthly sorrows, -
Endless heaven's joys.


From the heavenly, clear, invisible, home
Our voices come:
No joy can resemble the joy which reigns
In our seraph veins.
Lov'd ones, lov'd ones, weep for us not,
Soon shall ye here partake of our lot;
High o'er the stars' extremest line
The sun of affection more bright shall shine:
Brothers, brothers, 't is sweet to die
For the land of our birth, and the maid of our eye.
Blest are ye who like us shall fall;
The righteous Jehovah rewards, above,
Courage and love:
Hallelujah, peace be with you all!


Sigvald Jarl was a famous Sea Rover, who, when unengaged in his predatory
expeditions, resided at Jomsborg, in Denmark. He was the terror of the
Norwegian coasts, which he ravaged and pillaged almost at his pleasure.
Hacon Jarl, who at that time sat on the Norwegian throne, being informed
that Sigvald meditated a grand descent, and knowing that he himself was
unable to oppose him, had recourse to his God, Thorgerd, to whom he
sacrificed his son Erling. In what manner Thorgerd assisted him and his
forces, when the Danes landed, will best be learned from the bold song
which the circumstance gave rise to, and which the following is a feeble
attempt to translate.

When from our ships we bounded,
I heard, with fear astounded,
The storm of Thorgerd's waking,
From Northern vapours breaking;
With flinty masses blended,
Gigantic hail descended,
And thick and fiercely rattled
Against us there embattled.

To aid the hostile maces,
It drifted in our faces;
It drifted, dealing slaughter,
And blood ran out like water -
Ran reeking, red, and horrid,
From batter'd cheek and forehead;
We plied our swords, but no men
Can stand 'gainst hail and foemen.

And demon Thorgerd raging
To see us still engaging,
Shot, downward from the heaven,
His shafts of flaming levin;
Then sank our brave in numbers,
To cold eternal slumbers;
There lay the good and gallant,
Renown'd for warlike talent.

Our captain, this perceiving,
The signal made for leaving,
And with his ship departed,
Downcast and broken-hearted;
War, death, and consternation,
Pursu'd our embarkation;
We did our best, but no men
Can stand 'gainst hail and foemen.


According to the Danish tradition, there is a female Elf in the elder
tree, which she leaves every midnight; and, having strolled among the
fields, returns to it before morning.

Though tall the oak, and firm its stem,
Though far abroad its boughs are spread,
Though high the poplar lifts its head,
I have no song for them.
A theme more bright, more bright would be
The winsome, winsome elder tree,
Beneath whose shade I sit reclin'd; -
It holds a witch within its bark,
A lovely witch who haunts the dark,
And fills with love my mind.

When ghosts, at midnight, leave their graves,
And rous'd is every phantom thing;
When mermaids rise and sweetly sing
In concert with the waves;
When Palnatoka, {f:29} on his steed,
Pursues the elves across the mead,
Or gallops, gallops o'er the sea,
The witch within the elder's bark,
The lovely witch who haunts the dark,
Comes out, comes out to me.

Of leaves the fairies make our bed;
The knight, who moulders 'neath the elm, {f:30}
Starts up with spear and rusted helm, -
By him the grace is said;
And though her kiss is cold at times,
And does not scent of earthly climes,
Though glaring is her eye, yet still
The witch within the elder's bark,
The lovely witch who haunts the dark,
I prize, and ever will.

Yet, once I lov'd a mortal maid,
And gaz'd, enraptur'd, on her charms,

1 2 4 6

Online LibraryJack LondonRomantic Ballads, Translated from the Danish; and Miscellaneous Pieces → online text (page 4 of 6)