Edmund Gosse.

The collected works of Henrik Ibsen, Volume 1 online

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song. If it please you to hear it —

Several of the Guests.

Thanks, thanks, Gudmund Alfson!

[They close around him, some sitting , others standing.
Maroit leans against a tree in front on the right.
SiGNE stands on the left, near the house.

Gudmund.
[Sings.]

I rode into the wildwood,

I sailed across the sea,
But 'twas at home I wooed and won

A maiden fair and free.

It was the Queen of Elfland,
She waxed full wroth and grim:

Never, she swore, shall that maiden fair
Bide to the church with him.

Hear me, thou Queen of Elfland.

Vain, vain are threat and spell;
For naught can sunder two true hearts

That love each other well!

An Old Man.

That is a right fair song. See how the young swains
cast their glances thitherward! [Pointing towards the
Gibus.] Aye, aye, doubtless each has his own.

Bengt.

[Making eyes at Maroit.] Yes, I have mine, that b
sure enough. Ha, ha, ha!

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ACT n] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG «69

Margit.

[ To herself^ quivering.] To have to suffer all this shame
and scorn! No, no; now to essay the last remedy!

Bengt.
What ails you ? Meseems you look so pale.

Margit.

'Twill soon pass over. [Turns to the Gvestq.] Did I
say e'en now that I had forgotten all my tales? I be-
think me now that I remember one.

Bengt.
Good, goody my wife! Come, let us hear it.

Young Gibus.
[Urgently.] Yes» tell it us, tell it us. Dame Margit!

MARGrr.

I almost fear that 'twill little please you; but that must
be as it may.

GUDMUND.

[7*0 himsey^,] Saints in heaven, surely she would
not — !

Margit.

It was a fair and noble maid.

She dwelt in her father's hall;

Both linen and silk did she broider and braid.

Yet found in it solace small.

For she sat there alone in cheerless state,

Empty were hall and bower;



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«70 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG [act n

In the pride of her heart, she was fain to mate

With a chieftain of pelf and power.

But now 'twas the Hill-King, he rode from the north.

With his henchmen and his gold;

On the third day at night he in triumph fared forth.

Bearing her to his mountain hold.

Full many a sunmier she dwelt in the hill;

Out of beakers of gold she could drink at her will.

Oh, fair are the flowers of the valley, I trow.

But only in dreams can she gather them now!

Twas a youth, right gentle and bold to boot.

Struck his harp with such magic might

That it rang to the mountain's inmost root.

Where she languished in the night.

The sound in her soul waked a wondrous mood^

Wide open the mountain-gates seemed to stand;

The peace of Grod lay over the land.

And she saw how it all was fair and good.

There had happened what never had happened before;

She had wakened to life as his harp-strings thrilled;

And her eyes were opened to all the store

Of treasure wherewith the good earth is filled.

For mark this well: it hath ever been found

That those who in caverns deep lie bound

Are lightly freed by the harp's glad sound.

He saw her prisoned, he heard her wail —

But he cast unheeding his harp aside.

Hoisted straightway his silken sail.

And sped away o'er the waters wide

To stranger strands with his new-found bride.

[With ever-increanng pcusion.
So fair was thy touch on the golden strings
That my breast heaves high and my spirit sings!
I must out, I must out to the sweet green least



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ACT II] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 271

I die in the Hill-King's fastnesses!

He mocks at mj woe as he clasps his bride

And sails away o*er the waters wide! [Shrieks.

With me all is over; my hill-prison barred;
Unsunned is the day, and the night all unstarred.

[She totters and^ fainting^ seeks to support herself
against the trunk of a tree.

SiGNE.

[Weeping, has rushed up to her, and takes her in her
arms.] Margit! My sister!

GUDMXJND.

[At the same tim>e supporting her.] Help! Help! she
is dying!

[Bengt and the Gjtebts flock round them with cries
of alarm.



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ACT THIRD

The ?uiU ai 'Solhoug as before^ btU now in disorder after
the feast. It is night still, but with a glimmer of ap-
proaching dawn in the room and over the landscape
withotU.

Bengt stands otUside in the passage-way , wiih a be€Jcer of
ale in his hand. A party of Guests are in the act
of leaving the house. In the room a Maid-Seb-
VANT is restoring order.

Bengt.

[Calls to the departing Guests.] God speed you,
then, and bring you back ere long to Solhoug. Me-
thinks you, like the rest, might have stayed and 8l^>t
till morning. Well, well! Yet hold — I'll e*en go with
you to the gate. I must drink your healths once more.

[He goes out.
Guests.

[Sing in the distance.]

Farewell, and God's blessing on one and all

Beneath this roof abiding!
The road must be faced. To the fiddler we call:
Tune up! Our cares deriding.
With dance and with song
We'll shorten the way so weary and long.
Right merrily off we go.

[The song dies away in the distance.
[Margit enters the ?uiU by the door on the right*
272



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ACT ml THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 278

Maid.
God save us, my lady, have you left your bed ?

Marqit.

I am well. Go you and sleep. Stay — ^tell me, are
the guests all gone ?

Maid.

No, not all; some wait till later in the day; ere now
they are sleeping sound.

Marqit.
And Gudmund Alfson — ?

Maid.

He, too, is doubtless asleep. [Points to the right.]
*Tis some time since he went to his chamber — ^yonder,
across the passage.

Marqit.

Good; you may go. [The Maid goes o%d to the left.
[Marqit walks slowly (icross the halU seats herself
by the table on the right, and gazes otU at the open
window.

Marqit.

To-morrow, then, Gudmund will ride away
Out into the world so great and wide.
Alone with my husband here I must stay;
And well do I know what will then betide.
Like the broken branch and the trampled flower
I shall suffer and fade from hour to hour.

[Short pause; she leans back in her chair.



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274 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG [act m

I once heard a tale of a child blind from birth.

Whose childhood was full of joy and mirth;

For the mother, with spells of magic might.

Wove for the dark eyes a world of light.

And the child looked forth with wonder and glee

Upon valley and hill, upon land and sea.

Then suddenly the witchcraft failed —

The child once more was in darkness pent;

Good-bye to games and merriment;

With longing vain the red cheeks paled.

And its wail of woe, as it pined away.

Was ceaseless, and sadder than words can say. —

Oh! like that child's my eyes were sealed,

To the light and the life of summer blind —

[She springs up.
But n o w — ! And I in this cage confined!
No, now is the worth of my youth revealed !
Three years of life I on him have spent —
My husband — but were I longer content
This hapless, hopeless weird to dree,
Meek as a dove I needs must be.
I am wearied to death of petty brawls;
The stirring life of the great world calls.
I will follow Gudmund with shield and bow,
I will share his joys, I will soothe his woe.
Watch o'er him both by night and day.
All that behold shall envy the life
Of the valiant knight and Margit his wife. —
His wife! [Wrings her hands.

Oh God, what is this I say!
Forgive me, forgive me, and oh! let me feel
The peace that hath power both to soothe and to heal.

[Walks back and forward, brooding silenUy.
Signe, my sister — ? How hateful 'twere



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ACT in] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 275

To steal her glad young life from her!

But who can tell ? In very sooth

She may love him but with the light love of youth.

[Again silence; she takes oiU the little phial, looks
long at it and says under her breath:
This phial — were I its powers to try —
My husband would sleep for ever and aye!

[Horror-struck.
No, no! To the river's depths with it straight!

[In the act of throvring it out of the window, stops.
And yet I could — 'tis not yet too late. —

[With an expression of mingled horror and rapture ^
whispers.
With what a magic resistless might
Sin masters us in our own despite!
Doubly alluring methinks is the goal
I must reach through blood, with the wreck of my soul.
[Bengt, with the empty beaker in his hand, comes in
from the passage-way; his face is red; he staggers
slightly.

Bengt.

[Flinging the beaker upon the table on the left.] My
faith, this has been a feast that will be the talk of the
country. [Sees Margit.] Eh, are you there ? You are
well again. Good, good.

Margft.

[Who in the msaniime has concealed the phial.] Is the
door barred ?

Bengt.

[Seating himself at the table on the left.] I have seen to
everything. I went with the last guests as far as the



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£76 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG tAcrm

gates. • But what became of Knut Gresling to-night ? —
Give me mead, Maigit! I am thirsty. Fill this cup.
[Mabgit fetches ajlagon cf mead from a cupboofd.

and Jills the goblet which is on the table in front €f

h^tn,

Margft.

[Crossing to the right with the Jkyon,] You asked
about ICnut Gesling.

Bengt.

That I did. The boaster, the braggart! I have not
forgot his threats of yester-moming.

Marqit.
He used worse words when he left to-night.

Bengt.
He did ? So much the better. I will strike him dead.

Margit.
[Smiling contemptuously.] Wm —

Bengt.

I will kill him, I say! I fear not to face ten such
fellows as he. In the store-house hangs my grandfather's
axe; its shaft is inlaid with silver; with that axe in my
hands, I tell you — ! [Thumps the table and drinks J\
To-morrow I shall arm myself, go forth with all my men»
and slay Knut Gesling. [Empties the beaker.

MARGrr.

[To herself.] Oh, to have to live with him!

[Is in the act of leaving the room.



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▲crm] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 277

Bengt.

Maigit, come here! Fill my cup again. [She ajh
proaehes; he tries to draw her dawn on to his knee,] Ha,
ha* ha! You are right fair, Margit! I love you well!

Margit.

[Freeing herse^".] Let me go!

[Croesesy with the goblet in her hand^ to the left.

Bengt.

You are not in the humour to-night. Ha, ha, ha!
That means no great matter, I know.

Margft.

[Softly 9 CL8 she fills the gMet!\ Oh, that this might be
the last beaker I should fill for you.

[She leaves the goblet on the table and is making her
way out to the left,

Bengt

Hark to me, Margit. For one thing you may thank
Heaven, and that is, that I made you my wife before
Gudmund Alfson came back.

Mabgit.
[SUyps at the door.] Why so?

Bbngt.

Why, say you ? Am I not ten times the richer man ?
And certain I am that he would have sought you for
his wife, had you not been the mistress of Solhoug.



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878 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG [act in

Margit.
[Drawing nearer and glancing at the goblei.] Say you

80?

Bengt.

I could take my oath upon it. Bengt Gauteson has
two sharp eyes m his head. But he may still have Sign^

Margit.
And you think he will — ?

Bengt.

Take her ? Ay, since he cannot have you. But had
you been free, — ^then — Ha, ha, ha! Gudmund is like
the rest. He envies me my wife. That is why I set
such store by you, Margit. Here with the goblet again.
And let it be full to the brim!

Margit.

[Cfoee ununllingly across to the right.] You shall have
it straightway.

Bengt.

Knut Gesling is a suitor for Signe, too, but him I am
resolved to slay. Gudmund is an honourable man; he
shall have her. Think, Margit, what good days we
shall have with them for neighbours. We will go a-visit-
ing each other, and then will we sit the live-long day,
each with his wife on his knee, drinking and talking of
this and of that.

Margit.

[Whose mental struggle is visibly becoming more severe,
involuntarily takes ovi the phial as she says:] No doubt»
no doubt!



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Acrra] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 279

Bengt.

Ha» ha» ha! it may be that at first Gudmund will
look askance at me when I take you in my arms; but
that, I doubt not, he will soon get over.

Mabgit.

This is more than woman can bear! [Pours the con-
tents of the phial into the goblet^ goes to the window and
throws out the phial^ then says, without looking at him.]
Your beaker is full.

Bengt.
Then bring it hither!

MARGrr.

[Battling in an agony of indecision, at last says:] I
pray you drink no more to-night!

Bengt.

[Leans back in his chair and laughs.] Oho! You are
impatient for my coming? Get you in; I will follow
you soon.

MARGrr.

[Suddenly decided.] Your beaker is full. [Points.]
There it is. [She goes quickly out to the left.

Bengt.

[Rising^ I like her well. It repents me not a whit
that I took her to wife, though of heritage she owned
no more than yonder goblet and the brooches of her
wedding gown.

[He goes to the table at the window and takes the goblet.
[A House-Carl enters hurriedly and with scared looks,
from the back.



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280 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG Ucr m

House-Cabl.

[Calls.] Sir Bengt, Sir Bengt! haste forth with all the
speed you can! Knut Gresling with an armed train is
drawing near the house.

Bbnot.

[PuUing dawn the goUei.] Knut Gesling? Who
brings the tidings?

House-Cabl.

Some of your guests espied him on the road beneath^
and hastened back to warn you.

Benqt.

E*en so. Then will I — ! Fetch me my grandfather's
battle-axe!

[He and the House-Carl go out at the back.
[Soon after^ Gudmund and Signs erUer quieily and
cautiously by the door on the right.

SiGNE.

[In muffled tones.]

It musty then, be so!

Gudmund.

[Also softly.]

Necessity's might
Constrains us.

SlQNE.

Oh! thus under cover of night
To steal from the valley where I was bom!

[Dries her eyes.



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ACT in] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 281

Yet shalt thou hear no plaint forlorn.
Tis for thy sake my home I flee;
Wert thou not outlawed, Gudmund dear,
I'd stay with my sister.

Gudmund.

Only to be
Ta*en by Knut Gesling, with bow and spear.
Swung on the croup of his battle-horse.
And made his wife by force.

SiGNE.

Quick, let us flee. But whither go ?

Gudmund.

Down by the fiord a friend I know;

He'll find us a ship. O'er the salt sea foam

We'll sail away south to Denmark's bowers.

There waits you there a happy home;

Right joyously will fleet the hours;

The fairest of flowers they bloom in the shade

Of the beech-tree glade.

SlONE.

[Bursts into tears.]

Farewell, my poor sister! Like mother tender
Thou hast guarded the ways my feet have trod.
Hast guided my footsteps, aye praying to Grod,
The Almighty, to be my defender. —
Gudmund — here is a goblet filled with mead;
Let us drink to her; let us wish that ere long
Her soul may again be calm and strong.
And that God may be good to her need.

[She takes the goblet into her hands.



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282 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG Uct m

GUDMUND.

Aye, let us drain it» naming her name! [Starts.

Stop! [Takes the goblet from her.

For meseems it is the same —

SlONE.

'Tis Maigit's beaker.

GUDMUND.

[Examining it carefully,]

By Heaven, 'tis sol
I mind me still of the red wine's glow
As she drank from it on the day we parted
To our meeting again in health and glad-hearted.
To herself that draught betided woe.
No, Signe, ne'er drink wine or mead
From that goblet. [Pours its contents out at the window.
We must away with all speed.
[TumvU and calls without y at the hack.

SiGNR.

List, Gudmund! Voices and trampling feet!

GuDMUND.

Knut Gesling's voice!

SlONE.

O save us, Lord!

GuDBiUND.

[Places himself in front of her ^

Nay, nay, fear nothing, Signe sweet —
I am here, and my good sword.

[Mabgit comes in in haste from the left



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Acrra] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG 288

Mabgit.

[LUtening to the noise.l What means this? Is my
husband — ?

GUDMUND AND SiGNE.

Margit!

Margit.

[Catches sight of them.] Gudmund! And SignS! Are
you here?

SiGNE.

[Going towards her.] Margit — dear sister!

MARGrr.

[AppaUedy halving seen the goblet which Gudmund still
holds in his hand.] The goblet ! Who has drunk from it ?

Gudmund.
[Confused,] Drunk — ? I and SignS — we meant —

MARGrr.

[Screams.] O God, have mercy! Help! Help! They
will die!

Gudmund.
[Setting down the goblet.] Margit — !

SiGNE.

What ails you, sister ?

MARGrr.

[ Towards the back,] Help, help ! Will no one help ?
[A House-Carl rushes in from the passage-way.



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ftM THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG Uer m

House-Carl.

[C(dls in a terrified voice.] Lady Mai^! Your hus-
band — !

Mabgit.

He — has he, too, drunk — !

GUDMTJND.

[To himae^.] Ah! now I understand —

House-Carl.
Knut Gesling has slain him.

SiGNE.

Slain!

GUDMXTND.

[Drawing his sword.] Not yet, I hope. [Whispers io
Maroit.] Fear not. No one has drunk from your
goblet.

Margit.

Then thanks be to God, who has saved us all!

[She sinks down on a chair to the left. Gudmund
hastens towards the door at the bcusk.

Another House-Carl.

[Enters^ stopping him.] You come too late. Sir
Bengt is dead.

GuDBfUND.

Too late, then, too late.



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ACT lul THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG «86

Hoube-Carl.

The guests and your men have prevailed against the
murderous crew. Knut Gresling and his men are pris-
oners. Here they oome.

[Gudmitnd's men, and a number of Guxstb and
Houbb-Carib, lead in Kmrr Gb8lino» Erik op
Hegoe» and several of E^nut'b men, bound.

Knut.

[Who is pale, says in a low voice.] Man-skyer, Gud-
mund. What say you to that ?

GUDlfUNB.

Knut» Knut, what have you done?

Erik.
'Twas a mischance, of that I can take my oath.

Knut.

He ran at me swinging his axe; I meant but to defend
myself, and struck the death-blow unawares.

Erik.
Many here saw all that befell.

Knut.

Lady Maigit, crave what fine you will. I am ready
to pay it.

MARorr.

I crave naught. God will judge us all. Yet stay — one
thing I require. Forgo your evil design upon my sister.



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jiSa THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG [act m

Knxjt.

Never again shall I essay to redeem my baleful pledge.
From this day onward I am a better man. Yet would I
fain escape dishonourable punishment for my deed. [To
GuDMUND.] Should you be restored to favour and place
again, say a good word for me to the King!

GuDMUND.

I ? Ere the sun sets, I must have left the country.
[Asionishment amongst the Guests. Erik, in whis^
pers, explains the situation.

MARorr.
[To GuDMUND.] You go ? And Signe with you ?

SiGNE.

[Beseechingly.] Margit!

MARorr.
Good fortune follow you both!

SiGNE.

[Flinging her arms round Margit's neck.] Dear sister!

GuDBfUND.

Margit, I thank you. And now farewell. [Listening.]
Hush! I hear the tramp of hoofs in the court-yard.

Signe.

[Apprehensively.] Strangers have arrived.
[A House-Carl appears in the doorway at the back



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Acrra] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG «87

Hous£-Carl.

The King's men are without. They seek Gudmund
Alfson.

Signs.
Oh God!

Maroit.
[In greai alarm!\ The King's men!

Gudmund.

All is at an end» then. Oh SignS» to lose you now —
could there be a harder fate ?

Knut.

Nay, Gudmund; sell your life dearly, man! Unbind
us; we are ready to fight for you» one and all.

Erik.

\L00k9 ovt.'l 'Twould be in vain; they are too many
for us.

SiGNE.

Here they come. Oh Gudmund, Gudmund!
[The King's Messenger eniersfrom the back, with
hie escort.

Messenger.

In the King's name I seek you, Gudmund Alfson, and
bring you his behests.

Gudmund.

Be it so. Yet am I guiltless; I swear it by all that
is holy!



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S88 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG Iact m

ME88ENOSB.

We know it,

GUDMXTND.

What say you ? [Agitation amongH those prestnL

Messengbb.

I am ordered to bid you as a guest to the King's house.
His friendship is yours as it was before, and along with
it he bestows on you rich fiefs.

GUDMUND.

Signg!

SlONE.

Gudmund!

GUDMUND

But tell me—?

Messenger.

Your enemy, the Chancellor Audun Hugleikson, has
fallen.

Gudmund.
The Chancellor!

Guests.
[To each other, in a hatf-whisper.] Fallen!

Messenger.

Three days ago he was beheaded at Bergen. [£ok^
ering his voice.] His offence was against Norway's
Queen.



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ACT in] THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG «89

Mabgit.

[Placing herself between Gtjdmund and Signs J
Thus punishment treads on the heels of crime!
Protecting angels, loving and bright.
Have looked down in mercy on me to-night.
And come to my rescue while yet it was time.
Now know I that life's most precious treasure
Is nor worldly wealth nor earthly pleasure,
I have felt the remorse, the terror I know.
Of those who wantonly peril their soul,
To St. Sunniva's cloister forthwith I go. —

[Before Gudmund and SiGNis can speak.
Nay: think not to move me or control.

[Places Signe's hand in Gudmund'b.
Take her then, Gudmund, and make her your bride.
Your union is holy; God*s on your side.

[Waving farewell^ she goes towards (he doorway on
the left. Gudmund and Signe follow her, she
stops them with a motion of her handy goes out,
and shuts the door behind her. At this nuymeni
the sun rises and sheds its light into the hali.

Gudmund.

Signl& — my wife! See, the morning glow!
*Tis the morning of our young love. Rejoice!

Signe.

All my fairest of dreams and of memories I owe

To the strains of thy harp and the sound of thy voice.

My noble minstrel, to joy or sadness

Tune thou that harp as seems thee best;

There are chords, believe me, within my breast

To answer to thine, or of woe or of gladness.



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290 THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG [act in

Chobus op Men and Wobcen.

Over earth keeps watch the eye of light,
Guardeth lovingly the good man's ways,
Sheddeth round him its consoling rays; —
Praise be to the Lord in heaven's height!



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LOVE'S COMEDY



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LOVERS COMEDY
INTRODUCTION

KtJBrlighedens Komedie was published at Christiania in
Januaiy, 1863. The polite world — so far as such a thing
existed at that time in the Northern capital — received it
with an outburst of indignation not now entirely easy to
understand. It has indeed faults enough. / Th e char-
acter-drawing is often crude, the action, though full of
eflfective by-play, extremely slight, and the sensational
climax has little relation to human nature as exhibited in
Norway, or out of it, at that or any other time^ But the
sting lay in the unflattering veracity of the piece as a
whole; in the merciless portrayal of the trivialities of per-
sons, or classes, high in their own esteem; in the unex-
ampled effrontery of bringing a clergyman upon the stage. \
All these have long since passed, in Scandinavia, into tCe
category of the things which people take with their Ibsen
as a matter of course, and the play is welcomed with de-
light by every Scandinavian audience. But in 1864 the
matter was serious, and Ibsen meant it to be so.

For they were years of ferment — those six cwr seven
which intervened between his return to Christiania from
Bergen in 1857, and his departure for Italy in 1864. He
was just entering on his intellectual prime. Ten years of
chequered, and mostly stern, experience had only ma-

293



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204 LOVE'S COMEDY

tured and deepened the uncompromising sincerity whidi
had made the Grimstad apprentice an Ishmael in his
little community; had only turned the uncomfortable boy,
who tried to ** waken Scandinavia '* to the bitter need of
Hungaiy in 1849» into the man who was presently to
waken the civilised world to the yet more appalling verac-
ities of Ghosts. The atmosphere of Christiania in the
fifties was little calculated to assuage this temper, and
Ibsen's position brought with it fresh elements of prov-
ocation. The newly founded " Norwegian Theatre," of
which he had accepted the directorship, barely main-
tained itself, in the very capital of Norway, against
the ascendancy of Danish taste and acting, enthroned
then at the *^ Christiania'' Theatre. A little band of
'nationalists' championed it valiantly in the press; but
the solid phalanx of well-to-do and official society looked
upon the nationalist movement, and especially upon the
nationalist drama, as a provincial heresy; and the Nor-
wegian Theatre, crippled for want of resources, found
itself unable to stage just the plays which would most
powerfully have vindicated the nationalist cause. Ibsen's
own Vikings in Helgeland, in particular, rejected as too


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Online LibraryEdmund GosseThe collected works of Henrik Ibsen, Volume 1 → online text (page 13 of 21)