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{Ballad Stories of the Affections. From the Scandinavian 1866}





WHERE the sea is smiling
     So blue and cold,
There stood a city
     In days of old;
But the black earth opened
     To make a grave,
And the city slumbers
     Beneath the wave.

Where life and beauty
     Dwelt long ago,
The oozy rushes
     And seaweeds grow;
And no one sees,
     And no one hears,
And none remember
     The far-off years.

But go there, lonely,
     At eventide,
And hearken, hearken
     To the lisping tide;
And faint sweet music                                                              2
     Will float to thee,
Like church bells chiming
     Across the sea.

It is the olden,
     The sunken town,
Which faintly murmurs
     Far fathoms down;
Like the sea-winds breathing
     It murmurs by,
And the sweet notes tremble,
     And sink, and die.

Where now is moorland,
     All dark and dry,
Where fog and night-mist
     For ever lie,
Of old there blossomed,
     Divinely free,
A flowery kingdom
     Of Poesy.

A wondrous region
     Of visions proud,
’Neath bright blue heaven
     And white dream-cloud!
With scent of roses,
     And song of birds,
And gentle zephyrs
     Of loving words.


Each thing of beauty
     The old earth bore,
Each tone, each odour,
     (Alas! no more!)
By Art and Music                                                                   4
     Were hither brought,
And grew eternal
     In divinest thought.

Here lies the moorland,
     All dark and dry,
Here fogs and night-mist
     For ever lie;
And no one sees,
     And no one hears,
And few remember
     These far-off years.

But if thou hast not
     In sin and strife
Forgot already
     Thy childish life,
If things that harden
     The human heart
Have not yet murdered
     Thy nobler part—

Then on that moorland,
     In the summer dark,
While the wind sighs past thee,
     Stand still and hark,
And a faint sweet music
     Will float to thee,
Like church bells chiming
     Across the sea.

It is the world                                                                            5
     That once hath been,
Which sadly chimeth,
     Itself unseen;

Like the sea-winds breathing,
     The tones creep by—
They faint, they tremble,
     And sweetly die !





SAFE in its earth nest lying,
     The bird is closing its eyes:
Dream!—while the wind is flying
     From its lair in the lofty skies!
Sweet in its earth nest lying,
     The flower is sinking to sleep:
Dream!—while the waves are crying
     On shores of the mighty deep!

For, dearest, thine eyelid closes,
     Safe as the bird’s in the bower;
Thy golden brow reposes,
     Sweet as the head of the flower.
Night wind, murmur yonder!
     Sea-wave, break and scream!
Your voices can never wander
     To the beautiful shores of Dream!





THE lady spake to Signelil,
     ‘Signelil, my maiden!
Wherefore, wherefore so thin and ill?’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Sma’ wonder I am sae ill and thin,
     Malfred, O my lady!
I hae sae muckle to sew and spin.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Before, thy cheek was rosy red,
     Signelil, my maiden!
Now ’tis pale as the cheek o’ the dead.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘I can nae longer hide ought frae thee,
     Malfred, O my lady!
Thy son hath plighted his vows to me.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!


‘My son hath plighted his troth to thee,
     Signelil, my maiden!
Say, what gifts did he dare to gie?’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘He gave me the silver buckled shoon,                                      8
     Malfred, O my lady!
I wear when tramping up and doon.
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘He gave to me the silken sark,
     Malfred, O my lady!
’Tis slit and torn wi’ my weary wark.
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘On my finger he put a gold ring fine,
     Malfred, O my lady!
As bonnie as glitters on fingers o’ thine.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘What matters the gifts he dared to gie,
     Signelil, my maiden!
Since he never can be wed to thee?’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Yea, he hath sworn to marry me,
     Malfred, O my lady!
Gifts he gave as to ony ladie.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘What mattereth the oaths he swore,
     Signelil, my maiden!
Many a lass hath heard them before.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!


‘I hae the gift o’ minstrelsie,
     Malfred, O my lady!
Nae man can hear wi’ a tearless e’e.
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Whene’er I take my harp on my knee,                                     10
     Malfred, O my lady!
Thy son must show he loveth me.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

She touched the string, she sang o’ love,
     Signelil the maiden!
The young knight heard in the room above.
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

Unto his little foot-page cried he,
     Fetch Signelil the maiden!
Bid her quickly come hither to me!’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

Upon the cushioned couch slapped he:
     ‘Signelil, my maiden!
Sit down, dear love, and play to me!
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Hast thou not kissed me tenderlie?
     Signelil, my maiden!
Dost thou not keep the gifts I gie?
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

‘Thou art my dearest, thou art my bride,
     Signelil, my maiden!
Thou shalt sit, thou shalt sleep, full soon at my side.’
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!

Signelil is her lord’s ladie!                                                        11
     Signelil the maiden!
She won him with love and with minstrelsie.
     But the sorrow stings so sorely!





I SAW him at morning adown the green glen,
Young, bonnie, and merry, a man among men;
There sang he aloud with the birds, as he passed,
So merry a ditty—ah me! ’twas the last!

I saw him at noon by the side of the stream,—
There walked we together, and talked in a dream;
He kissed me, he kissed me, and, clasping me fast,
Sighed, ‘Maybe, belovèd, this kiss is the last!’

I saw him when gloaming was gathering gray,
Pale, pale, on the greensward, smit sore in the fray;
One look on my face he in silence upcast,
And bade me farewell with a smile—with the last!

And since, when ’tis dark over meadow and stream,
I have seen him a thousand times over in dream,
And first have sighed low to the spirit who passed,
That he was the first one, and would be the last!





HEARKEN, child, unto a story!
     For the moon is in the sky,
And across her shield of silver,
     See! two tiny cloudlets fly.

Watch them closely, mark them sharply,
     As across the light they pass,
Seem they not to have the figures
     Of a little lad and lass?

See, my child, across their shoulders
     Lies a little pole; and, lo!
Yonder speck is just the bucket,
     Swinging softly to and fro.

It is said, these little children,
     Many and many a summer night,
To a little well far northward
     Wandered in the still moonlight.


To the wayside well they trotted,
     Filled their little buckets there,
And the Moon-man, looking downward,
     Saw how beautiful they were.

Quoth the man, ‘How vexed and sulky                                    14
     Looks the little rosy boy!
But the little handsome maiden
     Trips behind him full of joy.

‘To the well behind the hedgerow
     Trot the little lad and maiden;
From the well behind the hedgerow
     Now the little pail is laden.

‘How they please me! how they tempt me!
     Shall I snatch them up to-night?
Snatch them, set them here for ever
     In the middle of my light?

‘Children, aye, and children’s children,
     Should behold my babes on high,
And my babes should smile for ever,
     Calling others to the sky!”

Thus the philosophic Moon-man
     Muttered many years ago,
Set the babes with pole and bucket,
     To delight the folks below.

Never is the bucket empty,
     Never are the children old;
Ever when the moon is shining
     We the children may behold.

Ever young and ever little,                                                        15
     Ever sweet and ever fair!
When thou art a man, my darling,
     Still the children will be there!

Ever young and ever little,
     They will smile when thou art old;
When thy locks are thin and silver,
     Theirs will still be shining gold.

They will haunt thee from their heaven,
     Softly beckoning down the gloom—
Smiling in eternal sweetness
     On thy cradle, on thy tomb!





HELGA sits at her chamber door—
God only my heart from sorrow can sever!
She seweth the sarne seam o’er and o’er.
Let me tell of the sorrow that lives for ever!

What she should work with golden thread,
She works alway with silk instead;

What her fingers with silk should sew,
She works alway with the gold, I trow.

One whispereth in the ear of the Queen,
‘Helga is sewing morning and e’en!

‘Her seam is wildly and blindly done;
Down on the seam her tear-drops run!’

The good Queen hearkens wonderingly:
In at the chamber door goes she.

‘Hearken unto me, little one!
Why is thy seam so wildly done?’


‘My seam is wild and my work is mad,
Because my heart is so sad—so sad!

‘My father was a King so good—                                                     18
Fifty knights at his table stood.

‘My father let me sew and spin.
Twelve knights each strove my love to win:

‘Eleven wooed me as lovers may,
The twelfth he stole my heart away;

‘And he who wed me was Hildebrand,
Son to a King of Engelland.

‘Scarce did we our castle gain,
When the news was to my father ta’en.

‘My father summoned his followers then:
“Up, up! and arm ye, my merry men!

‘“Don your breastplates and helmets bright,
For Hildebrand is a fiend in fight!”

‘They knocked at the door with mailèd hand:
“Arise and hither, Sir Hildebrand!”

‘Sir Hildebrand kissed me tenderly:
“Name not my name, an’ thou lovest me;

‘“Even if I bleeding be,
Name me never till life doth flee!”

‘Out at the door sprang Hildebrand,
His good sword glistening in his hand,

‘And ere the lips could mutter a prayer,                                             19
Slew my five brothers with golden hair.

‘Only the youngest slew not he—
My youngest brother so dear to me.

‘Then cried I loud, “Sir Hildebrand,
In the name of our Lady, stay thy hand!

‘“Oh, spare the youngest, that he may ride
With the bitter news to my mother’s side!”

‘Scarcely the words were utterèd,
When Sir Hildebrand fell bleeding and dead.

‘To his saddle my brother, fierce and cold,
Tied me that night by my tresses of gold.

‘Over valley and hill he speeds;
With thorns and brambles my body bleeds.

‘Over valley and hill we fleet;
The sharp stones stick in my tender feet.

‘Through deep fords the horse can swim;
He drags me choking after him.

‘We came unto the castle great;
My mother stood weeping at the gate.

‘My brother built a tower forlorn,
And paved it over with flint and thorn;

‘My cruel brother placed me there,                                                     20
With only my silken sark to wear.

‘Whene’er I moved in my tower forlorn,
My feet were pierced with the sharp, sharp thorn.

‘Whensoever I slept on the stones,
Aches and pains were in all my bones.

‘My brother would torture me twentyfold;
But my mother begged I might be sold.

‘A clock was the price they took for me—
It hangs on the Kirk of our Ladie.

‘And when the clock on the kirk chimed first,
The heart of my mother asunder burst.’

Ere Helga all her tale hath said,
(God only my heart from sorrow can sever!)
On the arm of the Queen she is lying dead.
(Let me tell of the sorrow that lives for ever!)





ON a hill that faced the western sea
     A peasant went to bide;
He carried all his household there,
     And hawk and hound beside.
The wild deer, the wild, wild deer in the forest!

He carried with him hawk and hound,
     And built his house of wood;
There were trees for stakes, and turfs for roof,
     And the wild, wild deer for food.

He felled the oak and the poplar white,
     And the silver beech alsò:
The sharp ‘clump! clump!’ of his axe was heard
     By the gumlie gnomes below.

The gumlie gnomes in the hill that dwelt,
     Grumbled and gathered in crowd;
They cried, while he felled his posts and staves,
     ‘Who is it knocks so loud?’

Then up and spake the smallest gnome,—                                           22
     Small as a mouse was he,—
‘It is a Christian man that knocks,
     I know it certainlie!’

And up and spake the wee, wee gnome,
     So small, and spare, and thin:
‘Let us unto the peasant’s house,
     And hold our court within!

‘He cutteth down our forest trees,
     Whose shade we love to see;
But he shall as a guerdon give
     His own goodwife to me.’

And all the gnomes that dwelt in the hill
     Joined hands in a wild delight,
Round and around they danced and danced
     To the door of the Christian wight.

Five score of gumlie gnomes they were,
     And seven beside, I weet,
And they will be the peasant’s guests,
     And feast on his drink and meat.

The hound howled loudly at the gate,
     The herdsman his great horn blew,
The cattle lowed from stall to stall,
     And the grey and black cock crew.

The peasant from the window looked,                                                23
     And grew so pale with fear:
‘Now help me, Jesus, Mary’s Son!
     The gnomes are coming here!’

In every nook of every room
     He made the cross divine;
And the gumlie gnomes in terror fled,
     For well they knew the sign.

And some fled east, and some fled west,
     And some fled north beside,
And some fled down to the deep, deep sea,
     And there they still abide.

But the wee, wee gnome, with glittering eyes,
     Lifted the great door-pin,
And trembled not at the cross’s sign,
     But smiled and entered in.

The housewife forced a welcome smile,
     Curtsied, and spake him sweet;
She sat him at the table board,
     And gave him oil and meat.

The wee, wee gnome he knit his brows,
     And slapt the table board:
‘Who gave thee leave to build thy house
     Where I am king and lord?

‘But if thou wilt beneath me dwell,—                                               24
     Mark what I say to thee,—
Ho! thou must give thine own goodwife
     As guerdon and as fee.’

Then answered back the trembling wight,
     And he was pale with fear,
‘Sweet sir, take not mine own goodwife,
     Whom I esteem so dear!

‘O gracious sir! O gentle sir!
     You seem so sweet and kind;
Take all my chattels and my gold,
     And leave my wife behind!’

“’Ho! shall I take thy goods and gold
     To my cave as black as soot?
Ho! shall I take thy wife and thee,
     And trample ye under foot?’

The peasant and his household quake
     And eye each other in pain:
‘Better, indeed, that one should go
     Than we should all be slain!’

And up and stood the peasant then,
     And he was pale as foam,
He gave Eline his own goodwife
     Unto the wee, wee gnome.


The wee, wee gnome leapt up and laughed,
     And chucked her ’neath the chin!
Her knees grew weak, and her face grew pale,
     And her heart was cold within.

Her tears fell fast, as the wee, wee gnome                                           26
     Twinkled his glittering een:
‘Now Heaven help a lost goodwife!
     —That I had never been!

‘I married with as braw a man
     As may a-wooing go,
And shall I have this wee, wee gnome
     To be my bedfellòw!’

He kissed her once, he kissed her twice,
     And wildly struggled she;
He was the ugliest wee, wee gnome
     That eye of man could see.

He kissed her once, he kissed her twice,
     She could not wrestle or run;
He kissed her twice, he kissed her thrice,—
     She called on Mary’s Son.

And when she called on Mary’s Son,
     Oh, what a wondrous sight!
The ugly wee, wee gnome became
     A tall and comely knight.

‘My stepmother put a curse on me,
     And made me a goblin gray,
But when you called on Mary’s Son
     The curse was cast away.

‘And since thou canst not,’ laughed the knight,                                    27
     ‘From thy dear husband go,
Oh, I will take thy daughter dear
     To be my bedfellòw.

‘But grace be thine, thou brave Eline,
     And be thy husband’s too;
May Mary’s Son watch over thee,
     For thou art strong and true!’

The peasant dwells on the hill by the sea,
     And the gnomes stay far, far down;
His daughter in green England dwells,
     And wears a golden crown.

Now hath Eline, the true goodwife,
     Won honour to her home;
She is mother to a bonnie Queen
     Who has wed the wee, wee gnome.

Now reigns the daughter of Eline,
     So queenly and fair of face;
Eline bides still with her old goodman,
     And goes singing about the place,
The wild deer, the wild, wild deer in the forest.





ONE sister to the other spake,
The summer comes, the summer goes!
Wilt thou, my sister, a husband take?’
On the grave of my father the green grass grows!

‘Man shall never marry me
Till our father’s death avengèd be.’

‘How may such revenge be planned?—
We are maids, and have neither mail nor brand.’

‘Rich farmers dwell along the vale;
They will lend us brands and shirts of mail.’

They doff their garb from head to heel;
Their white skins slip into skins of steel.

Slim and tall, with downcast eyes,
They blush as they fasten swords to their thighs.

Their armour in the sunshine glares
As forth they ride on jet-black mares.


They ride unto the castle great:
Dame Erland stands at the castle gate.

‘Hail, Dame Erland!’ the sisters say;                                                  30
‘And is Herr Erland within to-day?’

‘Herr Erland is within indeed;
With his guest he drinks the wine and mead.’

Into the hall the sisters go;
Their cheeks are paler than driven snow.

The maidens in the chamber stand:
Herr Erland rises with cup in hand.

Herr Erland slaps the cushions blue:
‘Rest ye, and welcome, ye strangers two!’

‘We have ridden many a mile,
We are weary, and will rest awhile.’

‘Oh, tell me, have ye wives at home?
Or are ye gallants that roving roam?’

‘Nor wives nor bairns have we at home,
But we are gallants that roving roam.’

‘Then, by our Lady, ye shall try
Two bonnie maidens that dwell hard by—

‘Two maidens with neither mother nor sire,
But with bosoms of down and eyes of fire.’

Paler, paler the maidens turn;
Their cheeks grow white, but their black eyes burn.

‘If they indeed so beauteous be,                                                         31
Why have they not been ta’en by thee?’

Herr Erland shrugged his shoulders up,
Laughed, and drank of a brimming cup.

‘Now, by our Lady, they were won,
Were it not for a deed already done:

‘I sought their mother to lure away,
And afterwards did their father slay!’

Then up they leap, those maidens fair;
Their swords are whistling in the air.

‘This for tempting our mother dear!’
Their red swords whirl, and he shrieks in fear.

‘This for the death of our father brave!’
Their red swords smoke with the blood of the knave.

They have hacked him into pieces, small
As the yellow leaves that in autumn fall.

Then stalk they forth, and forth they fare;
They ride to a kirk, and kneel in prayer.

Fridays three they in penance pray,
The summer comes, the summer goes!
They are shriven, and cast their swords away.
On the grave of my father the green grass grows!



Ballad Stories of the Affections continued

or back to Ballad Stories of the Affections - Contents








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search