Jack London.

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

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Oft circled in each other's arms,
Together, here we stray'd; -
But, soon, she found a fairer youth,
And I a fairer maid, forsooth!
And one more true, more true to me,
The witch within the elder's bark,
The lovely witch who haunts the dark,
Has been more true to me.


"Is luaimnach mo chodal an nochd."

Oh restless, to night, are my slumbers;
Life yet I retain, but not gladness;
My heart in my bosom is wither'd,
And sorrow sits heavy upon me.
For cold, in her grave-hill, is lying
The maid whom I gaz'd on, so fondly,
Whose teeth were like chalk from the quarry,
Whose voice was more sweet than harp music.
Like foam that subsides on the water,
Just where the wild swan has been playing;
Like snow, by the sunny beam melted,
My love, thou wert gone on a sudden.
Salt tears I let fall in abundance,
When memory bringeth before me
That eye, like the placid blue heaven;
That cheek, like the rose in its glory.
Sweet object of warmest affection,
Why could not thy beauty protect thee?
Why, sparing so many a thistle,
Did Death cut so lovely a blossom?
Here pine I, forlorn and abandon'd,
Where once I was cheerful and merry:
No joy shall e'er shine on my visage,
Until my last hour's arrival.
O, like the top grain on the corn-ear,
Or, like the young pine, 'mong the bushes;
Or, like the moon, 'mong the stars shining,
Wert thou, O my love, amongst women!


The squirrel that's sporting
Amid the green leaves,
Full oft, with its rustle,
The hunter deceives;
Who starts - and believing
That booty is nigh,
His heart, for a moment,
With pleasure beats high.

"Now, courage!" he mutters,
And crouching below
A thunder-split linden,
He waits for his foe:
"Ha! joy to the hunter;
A monstrous bear
E'en now is approaching,
And bids me prepare.

"Hark! hark! for the monarch
Of forests, ere long,
Will breathe out his bellow,
Deep-throated and strong:"
Thus saying, he gazes
Intently around;
But, death to his wishes!
Can hear not a sound:

Except when, at moments,
The wind rising shrill
Wafts boughs from the bushes,
Across the lone hill.
Wo worth, to thee, squirrel,
Amid the green leaves,
Full oft thy loud rustle
The hunter deceives.


King Christian stood beside the mast;
Smoke, mixt with flame,
Hung o'er his guns, that rattled fast
Against the Gothmen, as they pass'd:
Then sunk each hostile sail and mast
In smoke and flame.
"Fly!" said the foe: "fly! all that can,
Nor wage, with Denmark's Christian,
The dread, unequal game."

Niels Juul look'd out, and loudly cried,
"Quick! now's the time:"
He hoisted up his banner wide,
And fore and aft his foemen plied;
And loud above the battle cried,
"Quick! now's the time."
"Fly!" said the foe, "'t is Fortune's rule,
To deck the head of Denmark's Juul
With Glory's wreath sublime."

Once, Baltic, when the musket's knell
Rang through the sky,
Down to thy bosom heroes fell
And gasp'd amid the stormy swell;
While, from the shore, a piercing yell
Rang through the sky!
"God aids me," cried our Tordenskiold;
"Proud foes, ye are but vainly bold;
Strike, strike, to me, or fly!"

Thou Danish path to fame and might,
Dark-rolling wave,
Receive a friend who holds as light
The perils of the stormy fight;
Who braves, like thee, the tempest's might;
Dark rolling wave,
O swiftly bear my bark along,
Till, crown'd with conquest, lull'd with song,
I reach my bourne - the grave.


Here have I stood, the pride of the park,
In winter with snow on my frozen bark;
In spring 'mong the flowers that smiling she spread,
And among my own leaves when summer was fled.
Three hundred years my top I have rais'd,
Three hundred years I have sadly gaz'd
O'er Nature's wide extended scene;
O'er rushing rivers and meadows green,
For though I was always willing to rove,
I never could yet my firm foot move.

They fell'd my brother, who stood by my side,
And flung out his arms so wide, so wide;
How envy I him, for how blest is he,
As the keel of a vessel he sails so free
Around the whole of the monstrous earth;
But I am still in the place of my birth.
I once was too haughty by far to complain,
But am become feeble through age and pain;
And therefore I often give vent to my woes,
When through my branches the wild wind blows.

A night like this, so calm and clear,
I have not seen for many a year;
The milk-white doe and her tender fawn
Are skipping about on the moonlight lawn;
And there, on the verge of my time-worn root,
Two lovers are seated, and both are mute:
Her arm encircles his youthful neck,
For none are present their love to check.
This night would almost my sad heart cheer,
Had I one hope or one single fear.


A lad, who twenty tongues can talk
And sixty miles a day can walk;
Drink at a draught a pint of rum,
And then be neither sick nor dumb
Can tune a song, and make a verse,
And deeds of Northern kings rehearse
Who never will forsake his friend,
While he his bony fist can bend;
And, though averse to brawl and strife
Will fight a Dutchman with a knife.
O that is just the lad for me,
And such is honest six-foot three.

A braver being ne'er had birth
Since God first kneaded man from earth:
O, I have cause to know him well,
As Ferroe's blacken'd rocks can tell.
Who was it did, at Suderoe,
The deed no other dar'd to do?
Who was it, when the Boff {f:31} had burst,
And whelm'd me in its womb accurst -
Who was it dash'd amid the wave,
With frantic zeal, my life to save?
Who was it flung the rope to me?
O, who, but honest six-foot three!

Who was it taught my willing tongue,
The songs that Braga {f:32} fram'd and sung?
Who was it op'd to me the store
Of dark unearthly Runic lore,
And taught me to beguile my time
With Denmark's aged and witching rhyme:
To rest in thought in Elvir shades,
And hear the song of fairy maids;
Or climb the top of Dovrefeld,
Where magic knights their muster held?
Who was it did all this for me?
O, who, but honest six-foot three!

Wherever fate shall bid me roam,
Far, far from social joy and home;
'Mid burning Afric's desert sands,
Or wild Kamschatka's frozen lands;
Bit by the poison-loaded breeze,
Or blasts which clog with ice the seas;
In lowly cot or lordly hall,
In beggar's rags or robes of pall,
'Mong robber-bands or honest men,
In crowded town or forest den,
I never will unmindful be
Of what I owe to six-foot three.

That form which moves with giant-grace;
That wild, though not unhandsome, face;
That voice which sometimes in its tone
Is softer than the wood-dove's moan,
At others, louder than the storm
Which beats the side of old Cairn Gorm; {f:33}
That hand, as white as falling snow,
Which yet can fell the stoutest foe;
And, last of all, that noble heart,
Which ne'er from honour's path would start,
Shall never be forgot by me -
So farewell, honest six-foot three!



Lo, a pallid fleecy vapour
Far along the East is spread;
Every star has quench'd its taper,
Lately glimmering over head.
On the leaves, that bend so lowly,
Drops of crystal water gleam;
Yawning wide, the peasant slowly
Drives afield his sluggish team.
Dreary looks the forest, lacking
Song of birds that slumber mute;
No rough swain is yet attacking,
With his bill, the beech's root.
Night's terrific ghostly hour
Backward through time's circle flies;
No shrill clock from moss-grown tower
Bids the dead men wake and rise.
Wearied out with midnight riot
Mystic Nature slumbers now;
Mouldering bodies rest in quiet,
'Neath their tomb-lids damp and low;
Sad and chill the wind is sighing
Through the reeds that skirt the pool,
All around looks dead or dying,
Wrapt in sorrow, clad in dool.


Roseate colours on heaven's high arch
Are beginning to mix with the blue and the gray,
Sol now commences his wonderful march,
And the forests' wing'd denizens sing from the spray.
Gaily the rose
Is seen to unclose
Each of her leaves to the brightening ray.
Waves on the lake
Rise, sparkle, and break:
O Venus, O Venus, thy shrine is prepar'd,
Far down in the valley o'erhung by the grove;
Where, all the day, Philomel warbles, unscar'd,
Her silver-ton'd ditty of pleasure and love.

Innocence smiling out-carrols the lark,
And the bosom of guilt becomes tranquil again;
Nightmares and visions, the fiends of the dark,
Have abandon'd the blood and have flown from the brain.
Higher the sun
Up heaven has run,
Beaming so fierce that we feel him with pain;
Man, herb, and flower,
Droop under his power.
O Venus, O Venus, thy shrine is prepar'd,
Far down in the valley o'erhung by the grove
Where, all the day, Philomel warbles, unscar'd,
Her silver-ton'd ditty of pleasure and love.


What darkens, what darkens? - 't is heaven's high roof:
What lightens? - 't is Heckla's flame, shooting aloof:
The proud, the majestic, the rugged old Thor,
The mightiest giant the North ever saw,
Transform'd to a mountain, stands there in the field,
With ice for his corslet, and rock for his shield;
With thunder for voice, and with fire for tongue,
He stands there, so frightful, with vapour o'erhung.
On that other side of the boisterous sea
Black Vulcan, as haughty as ever was he,
Stands, chang'd to a mountain, call'd Etna by name,
Which belches continually oceans of flame.
Much blood have they spilt, and much harm have they done,
For both, when the ancient religions were gone,
Combin'd their wild strength to destroy the new race,
Who were boldly beginning their shrines to deface.
O, Jesus of Nazareth, draw forth the blade
Of vengeance, and speed to thy worshippers' aid;
Beat down the old gods, cut asunder their mail -
Amen! - brother Christians, why look ye so pale.


Pale the moon her light was shedding
O'er the landscape far and wide;
Calmly bright, all ills undreading,
Emma wander'd by my side.

Night's sad birds their harsh notes utter'd,
Perching low among the trees;
Emma's milk-white kirtle flutter'd
Graceful in the rising breeze:

Then, in sweetness more than mortal,
Sang a voice a plaintive air,
As we pass'd the church's portal,
Lo, a ghostly form stood there!

"Emma, come, thy mother's calling;
Lone I lie in night and gloom,
Whilst the sun and moon-beams, falling,
Glance upon my marble tomb."

Emma star'd upon the figure, -
Wish'd to speak, but vainly tried,
Press'd my hand with loving vigour,
Trembled - faulter'd - gasp'd - and died!

Home I bore my luckless maiden,
Home I bore her in despair;
Chilly blasts, with night-dew laden,
Rustled through her streaming hair.

Plunging then amid the forest,
Soon I found the stately tree,
Under which, when heat was sorest,
She was wont to sit with me.

Down my cheek ran tears in fever,
While with axe its stem I cut;
Soon it fell, and I with lever
Roll'd it straight to Emma's hut.

Kiss'd her oft, and love empassion'd
Sung a song in wildest tones;
While the oaken boards I fashion'd,
Doom'd to hide her lovely bones.

Thereupon I sought the bower,
Where she kept her single hive;
Morning shone on tree and flower,
All around me look'd alive.

Stung by bees in thousand places,
Out I took the yellow comb;
Emma, deck'd in all her graces,
Past my vision seem'd to roam.

Soon of wax I form'd a taper,
O'er my love it cast its ray,
'Till the night came, clad in vapour,
When in grave I laid her clay.

Deep below me sank the coffin,
While my tears fell fast as rain;
Deep it sank, and I, full often,
Thought to heave it up again.

Soon as e'er the stars, so merry,
Heaven's arch next night illum'd,
Sad I sought the cemetery,
Where my true love lay entomb'd.

Then, in sweetness more than mortal,
Sang a voice a plaintive lay;
Underneath the church's portal
Emma stood in death array.

"Louis! come! thy love is calling;
Lone I lie in night and gloom,
Whilst the sun and moon beams, falling,
Glance upon my lowly tomb."

"Emma! dear!" I cried in gladness,
"Take me too beneath the sod;
Leave me not to pine in sadness,
Here on earth's detested clod."

"Death should only strike the hoary,
Yet, my Louis, thou shalt die,
When the stars again in glory,
Shine upon the midnight sky."

Tears bedeck'd her long eyelashes,
While she kiss'd my features wan;
Then, like flame that dies o'er ashes,
All at once the maid was gone.

Therefore, pluck I painted violets,
Which shall strew my lifeless clay,
When, to night, the stars have call'd me
Unto joys that last for aye.


How lovely art thou in thy tresses of foam,
And yet the warm blood in my bosom grows chill,
When yelling thou rollest thee down from thy home,
'Mid the boom of the echoing forest and hill.

The pine-trees are shaken - they yield to thy shocks,
And spread their vast ruin wide over the ground,
The rocks fly before thee - thou seizest the rocks,
And whirl'st them like pebbles contemptuously round.

The sun-beams have cloth'd thee in glorious dyes,
They streak with the tints of the heavenly bow
Those hovering columns of vapour that rise
Forth from the bubbling cauldron below.

But why art thou seeking the ocean's dark brine?
If grandeur makes happiness, sure it is found,
When forth from the depths of the rock-girdled mine
Thou boundest, and all gives response to thy sound.

Beware thee, O torrent, of yonder dark sea,
For there thou must crouch beneath tyranny's rod,
Here thou art lonely, and lovely, and free, -
Loud as a thunder-peal, strong as a god.

True, it is pleasant, at eve or at noon,
To gaze on the sea and its far-winding bays,
When ting'd with the light of the wandering moon,
Or red with the gold of the midsummer rays.

But, torrent, what is it? what is it? - behold
That lustre as nought but a bait and a snare,
What is the summer sun's purple and gold
To him who breathes not in pure freedom the air.

Abandon, abandon, thy headlong career -
But downward thou rushest - my words are in vain,
Bethink thee that oft-changing winds domineer
On the billowy breast of the time-serving main.

Then haste not, O torrent, to yonder dark sea,
For there thou must crouch beneath tyranny's rod;
Here thou art lonely, and lovely, and free, -
Loud as a thunder-peal, strong as a god.


O the force of Runic verses,
O the mighty strength of song
Cannot baffle all the curses
Which to mortal state belong.

Slaughter'd chiefs, that buried under
Heaps of marble, long have lain,
Song can rend your tomb asunder,
Give ye life and strength again.

When around his dying capture,
Fierce, the serpent draws his fold,
Song can make him, wild with rapture,
Straight uncoil, and bite the mould.

When from keep and battled tower,
Flames to heaven upward strain,
Song has o'er them greater power,
Than the vapours dropping rain.

It can quench the conflagration
Striding o'er the works of art;
But nor song nor incantation
Can appease love's cruel smart.

O the force of Runic verses,
O the mighty strength of song
Cannot baffle all the curses
Which to mortal state belong.


Perhaps 't is folly, but still I feel
My heart-strings quiver, my senses reel,
Thinking how like a fast stream we range
Nearer and nearer to yon dread change,
When soul and spirit filter away,
And leave nothing better than senseless clay.

Yield, beauty, yield; for the grave does gape,
And horribly alter'd reflects thy shape, -
For ah! think not those childish charms
Will rest unrifled in its cold arms,
And think not there, that the rose of love
Will bloom on thy features as here above.

Let him who roams at vanity fair,
In robes that rival the tulip's glare,
Think on the chaplet of leaves which round
His fading forehead will soon be bound;
Think on each dirge the priests will say
When his cold corse is borne away.

Let him who seeketh for wealth uncheck'd
By fear of labour - let him reflect,
The gold he wins will brightly shine,
When he has perish'd with all his line.
Though man may rave and vainly boast,
We are but ashes when at the most.


So hot shines the sun upon Nile's yellow stream,
That the palm-trees can save us no more from his beam;
Now comes the desire for home, in full force,
And Northward our phalanx bends swiftly its course.

Now dim underneath us, through distance we view
The green grassy earth, and the ocean's deep blue;
There tempests and frequent disasters arise,
Whilst free and untroubled we wend through the skies.

Lo, high among mountains a meadow lies spread,
And there we alight, and get ready our bed;
There hatch we our eggs, and beneath the chill pole
We wait while the summer months over us roll.

No hunter, desirous to make us his prey,
Invades our lone valley by night or by day;
But green-mantled fairies their merry routs hold,
And fearless the pigmy {f:34} there hammers its gold.

But when pallid winter, again on the rocks
Shakes down in a shower the snow from his locks,
Then comes the desire for heat, in full force,
And Southward our phalanx bends swiftly its course.

To the verdant Savannah, and palm-shaded plain,
Where the Nile rolls his water, we hurry again;
There rest we till summer's sun, waxing too hot,
Makes us wish for our native, our hill-girded spot.


O thou, who, 'mid the forest trees,
With thy harmonious trembling strain,
Could'st change at once to soothing ease,
My love-sick bosom's cruel pain:
Thou droop'st in dreary silence now,
With shiver'd frame, and broken string,
While here, unhelp'd, beneath the bough
I sit, and feebly strive to sing.

The moon no more illumes the ground;
In night and vapour dies my lay;
For with thy sweet and melting sound
Fled, all at once, her silver ray:
O soon, O soon, shall this sad heart,
Which beats so low, and bleeds so free,
O'ercome by its fell load of smart,
Be broke, O ruin'd harp, like thee!


Observe ye not yon high cliff's brow,
Up which a wanderer clambers slow,
'T is by a hoary ruin crown'd,
Which rocks when shrill winds whistle round;
That is an ancient knightly hold, -
Alas! it droops, deserted, cold;
And sad and cheerless seems to gaze,
Back, back, to yon heroic days,
When youthful Kemps, {f:35} completely arm'd,
And lovely maids around it swarm'd.

You, in the tower, a hole may see;
A window there has ceas'd to be.
From that once lean'd a damsel bright,
In evening's red and fading light,
And star'd intently down the way,
Up which should come her lover gay:
But, time it flies on rapid wing -
Far off a church is towering,
Within it stand two marble stones,
That rest above the lovers' bones.
But see, the wanderer, with pain,
Has reach'd the pile he wish'd to gain;
Whilst Sol, behind the ruin'd walls,
Down into sacred nature falls.

See, there, two hostile nobles fight,
With tiger-rage and giant-might.
There's seen no smoke, there's heard no shot,
For guns and powder yet were not.
'T was custom then, when foemen warr'd,
To win or lose with spear and sword:
A wild heroic song they yell,
And each the other seeks to fell.
Oft, oft, her ownself to destroy,
Her own hand nature does employ.
There casts the hill up fire-flakes,
And Earth's gigantic body quakes:
There, lightnings through the high blue flash,
And ocean's billows wildly dash:
There, men 'gainst men their muscles strain,
And deal out death, and wounds, and pain.
O Nature! to thyself show less
Of hate, and more of tenderness.

How dusky is the air around;
We are no more above the ground;
But, down we wend within the hill,
Whose springs our ears with hissings fill.
See, there, how rich the ruddy gold
Winds snakeways, 'midst the clammy mould
And hard green stone. By torches' ray,
The harvest there men mow away.
But, see ye not yon gath'ring cloud,
Which 'gainst them cometh paley proud;
That holds the spirit of the hill,
Who brings death in its hand so chill:
If down they do not quickly fall,
Most certainly 't will slay them all;
For sorely wrathful is its mood,
Because they break its solitude:
Because its treasure off they bear,
And fling light o'er its gloomy lair.
'T is white, and Kobbold is the name
Which it from oldest days does claim.

Now, back at once into time we go,
For many a hundred years, I trow.
A gothic chamber salutes your sight:
A taper gleams feebly through the night;
A ghostly man by the board you see,
With his hand to his temples muses he:
Parchments, with age discolour'd and dun;
Ancient shields all written upon;
Tree-bark, bearing ciphers half defac'd;
Stones with Runes and characters grac'd;
Things of more worth than ye are aware,
On the mighty table are pil'd up there.
He gazes now in exstatic trance
Through the casement, out into nature's expanse.
Whene'er we sit at the lone midnight,
And stare out into the dubious light,
Whilst the pallid moon is peering o'er
Ruin'd cloister and crumbling tower,
Feelings so wondrous strange come o'er us;
The past, and the future, arise before us;
The present fadeth, unmark'd, away
In the garb of insignificancy.
He gazes up into nature's height,
The noble man with his eye so bright;
He gazes up to the starry skies,
Whither, sooner or later, we hope to rise;
And now he takes in haste the pen,
And the spirit of Oldom flows from it amain;
The scatter'd Goth-songs he changes unto
An Epic which maketh each bosom to glow.
Thanks to the old Monk, toiling thus -
They call him Saxo Grammaticus.

An open field before you lies,
A wind-burst o'er its bosom sighs,
Now all is still, all seems asleep;
'Midst of the field there stands a heap,
Upon the heap stand Runic stones,
Thereunder rest gigantic bones.
From Arild's time, that heap stands there,
But now 't is till'd with utmost care,
In order that its owner may
Thereoff reap golden corn one day.
Oft has he tried, the niggard soul,
The mighty stones away to roll,
As useless burdens of his ground;
But they for that too big were found.
See, see! the moon through cloud and rack
Looks down upon the letters black:
And when the ghost its form uprears
He shines upon its bursting tears -
For oh! the moon's an ancient man,
Describe him, mortal tongue ne'er can,
He shines alike, serene and bright,
At midmost hour of witching night,
Upon the spot of love and glee,
And on the gloomy gallows-tree.
Upon each Rune behold him stare,
While off he hastes through fields of air;
He understands those signs, I'll gage,
Whose meaning lies in sunken age;
And if he were in speaking state,
No doubt the old man could relate
Strange things that have on earth occurr'd,
Of which fame ne'er has said a word;
But since with look, with look alone,
He cannot those events make known,
He waketh from his height sublime
Mere longing for the dark gone time.


This piece is not translated for the sentiments which it contains, but
for its poetical beauties. Although the path of human life is rough and
thorny, the mind may always receive consolation by looking forward to the
world to come. The mind which rejects a future state has to thank itself
for its utter misery and hopelessness.

The evening shadows fall upon the grave
On which I sit; it is no common heap, -
Below its turf are laid the bones of one,
Who, sick of life and misery, did quench
The vital spark which in his bosom burn'd.

The shadows deepen, and the ruddy tinge
Which lately flooded all the western sky
Has now diminish'd to a single streak,
And here I sit, alone, and listen to
The noise of forests, and the hum of groves.

This is the time to think of nature's God,
When birds and fountains, streams and woods, unite
Their various-sounding voices in his praise:
Shall man alone refuse to sing it - yes,
For man, alone, has nought to thank him for.

There's not a joy he gives to us on earth
That is not dash'd with bitterness and gall,
Only when youth is past, and age comes on,
Do we find quiet - quiet is not bliss,

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Online LibraryJack LondonRomantic Ballads, Translated from the Danish; and Miscellaneous Pieces → online text (page 5 of 6)