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





I’LL sing to ye a song,
     If ye will list to me,
Of how the young Sir Morten Dove
     Betrothed a fair ladye.
The roses and lilies grow bonnily!

Sir Morten loved fair Adelaide,
     And Adelaide loved him;
But since the maid had little gear,
     His friends looked black and grim.

So full of wrath were one and all,
     When the strange news was spread:
They prayed the Lord who rules the world,
     The two might never wed.

Sir Morten’s father drove him forth
     Into a strange countree,
And Adelaide was to cloister borne,
     Though sorely struggled she.

And young Herr Morten dwelt afar                                           69
     For weary winters nine,
And all the while for his true-love
     Did nought but fret and pine.

So sore the young Sir Morten yearned
     To see his winsome May,
Though it should be his death, he would
     No longer stay away.

It was the young Sir Morten hied
     Home to his own countree;
But there they carried unto him
     Tidings of miserie.

Ah! bitter, bitter was the tale
     They whispered in his ear,—
That they had to the cloister borne
     The maid he held so dear.

Unto his father dear he spake,
     ‘O father, father, hark!
My foes have given my own true-love
     Unto the cloister dark!’

‘O dry thine eyes, my son, my son,
     And hearken unto me:
The maid that waits to be thy bride
     Is twice as rich as she.

‘Unto a bonnier, richer May
     Thou soon shalt give thy hand;
Little red gold hath Adelaide,
     And less of rich green land.’

‘Sweeter to me my own true-love,
     With nought but her red dress,
Than the rich daughter of Sir Stig,
     And all she will possess!

‘And what care I for rich green land?
     And what care I for wealth?
I care but for my own true-love,
     Whom I have won in stealth.

‘And what care I for kinsmen,
     Were they thrice as high in worth?
Yea, I will seek my own true-love,
     Though ye hound me o’er the earth.’

Then whispered with his brother dear
     The young Sir Morten Dove:
‘And how may I from cloister steal
     Away my own true-love?’

‘Go, deck thyself in grave-clothes white,
     And lay thee in a shell,
And I will to the cloister ride,
     The bitter tale to tell.’


He decked himself in grave-clothes white,
     And lay in death-shell cold;
Herr Nilans to the cloister rode
     And the bitter tale was told.

‘Hail unto ye, O holy maids,
     And great shall be your gain,
If my dear brother Morten’s corse
     May in your walls be lain.’

All silent sat the holy maids,
     In black, black raiment all—
Only the sweet maid Adelaide
     Let work and scissors fall.

Then cried the sweet maid Adelaide,
     With tears upon her face,
‘Yea! bury Morten, if ye list,
     Here in this holy place.

‘Yea, here, in holy cloister-kirk,
     Bury his sweet young clay,
And daily where he lies asleep
     I’ll kneel me down and pray!

‘I was a little child when first
     I heard him sue and woo;
The Powers of heaven know full well
     That I have loved him true.

‘His cruel father drove him off
     Into a strange countree,
And into these dark cloister walls
     Against my will brought me.’

It was Sir Nilans bent his head,                                                 73
     And whispered in her ear,
‘Ah, dry thine eyes, Maid Adelaide,
     And be of happy cheer.’

‘Never shall I forget my woe!
     Never forget my wrong!
For murdered is my own true-love,
     Whom I have loved so long.’

Sorely she wept, Maid Adelaide,
     And her wet eyes were red,
When through the dismal cloister gate
     They brought Sir Morten, dead.

She crept unto Sir Morten’s bier,
     And prayed to Heaven above:
‘I loved thee, Morten, to the end,
     As never maid did love!’

She lighted up the wax lights two,
     And sat her by his side:
‘I would to God, dear love, that I
     Had in my cradle died.

‘Nine winters, while thou wert away,
     Here weary life I led,
And never saw thy face again
     Until I saw thee dead!’

And bitterly wept Adelaide,                                                      74
     Wringing her hands so white.
Herr Morten heard her in his shell,
     Laughed loud, and rose upright.

Oh, up he stood, and gazed again
     On her he loved the best,
And tossed the gloomy grave-clothes off,
     And caught her to his breast.

‘O hearken, hearken, my own true-love,
     Put all thy grief aside;
Thou shalt from cloister follow me,
     And be my bonnie bride!

‘Black are the horses that await
     In the kirkyard there without,
And black in suits of iron mail
     Await my henchmen stout.’

Softly Sir Morten led her forth
     Out of the chapel wall,
And over her shoulders, for a cloak,
     He threw the sable pall.

All silent stood the cloister maids,
     Reading by candle-light;
They thought it was an angel bore
     Their sister off by night.

All silent stood the holy maids,                                                 75
     Save only two or three.
‘That such an angel,’ murmured these,
     ‘Would come by night for me!’

Honour to young Sir Morten Dove!
     His heart was staunch and stout.
He bore her to his dwelling-house,
     And bade the bells ring out.

Honour to young Sir Morten Dove,
     And to his sweet ladye!
May more such maids be carried off
     By angels such as he!
The roses and lilies grow bonnily!






MAID AGNES musing sat alone
     Upon the lonely strand;
The breaking waves sighed oft and low
     Upon the white sea-sand.

Watching the thin white foam, that broke
     Upon the wave, sat she,
When up a beauteous merman rose
     From the bottom of the sea.

And he was clad unto the waist
     With scales like silver white,
And on his breast the setting sun
     Put rosy gleams of light.

The merman’s spear a boat-mast was,
     With crook of coral brown,
His shield was made of turtle-shell,
     Of mussel-shells his crown.


His hair upon his shoulders fell,
     Of bright and glittering tang;
And sweeter than the nightingale’s
     Sounded the song he sang.

‘And tell to me, sweet merman,                                                 78
     Fresh from the deep, deep sea,
When will a tender husband come
     To woo and marry me?’

‘O hearken, sweetest Agnes,
     To the words I say to thee—
All for the sake of my true heart,
     Let me thy husband be.

‘Far underneath the deep, deep sea,
     I reign in palace halls,
And all around, of crystal clear,
     Uprise the wondrous walls.

‘And seven hundred handmaids wait,
     To serve my slightest wish—
Above the waist like milk-white maids,
     Below the waist, like fish.

‘Like mother-of-pearl the sea-sledge gleams,
     Wherein I journey crowned,
Along the sweet green path it goes,
     Dragged by the great seal-hound.

‘And all along the green, green deeps
     Grow flowers wondrous fair;
They drink the wave, and grow as tall
     As those that breathe the air.’

Fair Agnes smiled, and stretched her arms,                               79
     And leapt into the sea,
And down beneath the tall sea-plants
     He led her tenderlie.



Eight happy years fair Agnes dwelt
     Under the green-sea wave,
And seven beauteous little ones
     She to the merman gave.

She sat beneath the tall sea-plants,
     Upon a throne of shells,
And from the far-off land she heard
     The sound of sweet kirk bells.

Unto her gentle lord she stept,
     And softly took his hand:
‘And may I once, and only once,
     Go say my prayers on land?’

‘Then hearken, sweet wife Agnes,
     To the words I say to thee—
Fail not in twenty hours and four
     To hasten home to me.’

A thousand times ‘Good night’ she said                                   80
     Unto her children small,
And ere she went away she stooped,
     And softly kissed them all;

And, old and young, the children wept
     As Agnes went away,
And loud as any cried the babe
     Who in the cradle lay.

Now Agnes sees the sun again,
     And steps upon the strand—
She trembles at the light, and hides
     Her eyes with her white hand.

Among the folk she used to know,
     As they walk to kirk, steps she,
‘We know thee not, thou woman wild,
     Come from a far countree.’

The kirk bells chime, and into kirk
     And up the aisle she flies;
The images upon the walls
     Are turning away their eyes!

The silver chalice to her lips
     She lifteth tremblinglie,
For that her lips were all athirst,
     Under the deep, deep sea.

She tried to pray, and could not pray,                                       81
     And still the kirk bells sound;
She spills the cup of holy wine
     Upon the cold, cold ground.

When smoke and mist rose from the sea,
     And it was dark on land,
She drew her robe about her face,
     And stood upon the strand.

Then folded she her thin, thin hands,
     The merman’s weary wife:
‘Heaven help me in my wickedness,
     And take away my life!’

She sank among the meadow grass,
     As white and cold as snow;
The roses growing round about
     Turned white and cold alsò.

The small birds sang upon the bough,
     And their song was sad and deep—
‘Now, Agnes, it is gloaming hour,
     And thou art going to sleep.’

All in the twilight, when the sun
     Sank down behind the main,
Her hands were pressed upon her heart,
     And her heart had broke in twain.


The waves creep up across the strand,
     Sighing so mournfullie,
And tenderly they wash the corse
     To the bottom of the sea.

Three days she stayed beneath the sea,                                     83
     And then came back again,
And mournfully, so mournfully,
     Upon the sand was lain.

And, sweetly decked by tender hands,
     She lay a-sleeping there,
And all her form is wreathed with weeds,
     And a flower was in her hair.

The little herd-boy drove his geese
     Seaward at peep o’ day,
And there, her hands upon her breast,
     Sweet Agnes sleeping lay.

He dug a grave behind a stone,
     All in the soft sea-sand,
And there the maiden’s bones are dry,
     Though the waves creep up the strand.

Each morning and each evening,
     The stone is wet above;
The merman hath wept (the town girls say)
     Over his lost true-love.





SIR TONNE forth from Alsö fares,
     With his good sword by his side,
Whether it be on sea or land,
     A hero trusty and tried.
                                   Listen to my rune!

Herr Tonne in the rose grove rides,
     He rides to hunt the hare,
And there he spies the dwarf’s daughter
     Among her maidens fair.

Herr Tonne in the rose grove rides,
     To hunt the hind rides he,
And there he spies the dwarf’s daughter
     Under the linden tree.

With golden harp in hand, she lies
     Under a linden fair:
‘See, yonder where Sir Tonne rides,
     And hunts the hind and hare.

‘Sit down, sit down, my maidens small,                                     85
     And my little foot-page alsò,
While I play a rune, and cause the flowers
     O’er field and mead to grow.’

Upon her harp of gold she struck,
     And played a Runic lay:
The wild, wild fowl forgot his song
     And listened on the spray.

The wild, wild fowl upon the spray
     Forgot to pipe and sing;
The wild, wild hart on greenwood path
     Paused in the act to spring.

The meadow flowered, the greenwood bloomed,
     So wondrous was the song;
Deep, deep Sir Tonne spurred his steed,
     But could not move along.

The meadow flowered, the greenwood bloomed—
     Sir Tonne could not ride;
Lightly he sprang from off his horse,
     And sat him by her side.

‘Hail unto thee, O dwarf’s daughter!
     And wilt thou be my May?
And I will love and honour thee
     Until my dying day.

‘Hail unto thee, O dwarf’s daughter!                                     86
     A rose among lilies thou art!
There is never a man who longs so much
     To wear thee in his heart.’

‘Hearken, Sir Tonne, hearken,
     Talk not of love to me!
I have a lover, and the King
     Of all the Dwarfs is he.

‘My father sits in the mountain,
     Among his men sits he;
And in a month I shall be wed,
     With feast and melodie!

‘My mother sits in the mountain,
     Spinning with golden thread;
But I have crept away from her
     To strike the gold harp red.’

‘Ere the Dwarf King shall marry thee,
     Foul, foul shall be his fall;
Ho! I will lose my life, or break
     My sword in pieces small.’

Answered the weird dwarf’s daughter,
     And softly answered she:
‘A fairer maid shall be thy May,
     Thou ne’er canst marry me!

‘Haste, haste away, Herr Tonne!                                            87
     As fast as thou canst ride;
My father and my lover fierce
     Will soon be at my side.’

It was her dear, dear mother,
     Out of the hill peered she,
And there she saw Herr Tonne stand
     Under the linden tree.

Out came her dear, dear mother,
     And she was wroth, I ween.
‘Now, wherefore, Alfhild, daughter mine,
     Sit here in the forest green?

‘Better, better thy linen sew
     Within the mountain old,
Than here within the rose grove sit
     And strike thy harp of gold.

‘The King of Dwarfs hath feasted thee
     All for thy honeymoon—
Shame, shame! to meet Sir Tonne here,
     And bind him with a rune.’

It was the weird dwarf’s daughter,
     Unto the cave hied she,
And young Sir Tonne followed her,
     But could not hear nor see.

Upon a stool, within the cave,                                                   88
     The dwarf’s wife spread a cloak,
And there Sir Tonne sat in trance,
     But at cock-crow he awoke.

The dwarf’s wife opened her mystic book,
     All in the cavern dim,
And freed Sir Tonne from the spell
     Her daughter had cast on him.

‘Now have I freed thee from the rune,
     And cast the spell away;
And this I did for honour’s sake,
     And thou art safe for aye.

‘And I for love and right goodwill,
     A goodlier gift will give;
And I will woo a maid for thee,
     Fairest of all that live.

‘For I was reared of Christian folk,
     And stolen here to wean:
I have a sister dear to me,
     And named the Queen Christine.

‘She bears a crown in Iceland,
     And a Queen’s proud name also:
Her daughter once was stolen away
     Many a year ago.

‘Her daughter once was stolen away,                                      89
     And the search was long and drear,
And never now at kirk or dance
     They see that daughter dear.

‘She dares not from her window peep,
     They watch her so in fear;
She dare not play at chess with the King,
     Unless the Queen be near.

‘Save that old King, her gentle eyes
     Have seen no mortal wight;
Her mother locks with lock and bolt
     Her chamber door at night.

‘This maiden sits in Upsal,
     And they name her Ermelin,
And steel, and bolt, and iron ring
     From lovers lock her in.

‘The old King’s brother hath a son,
     Who is the old King’s heir—
Sir Allerod will have the throne,
     And wed the maiden fair.

‘And I will give thee saddle and horse,
     And spurs of gold beside;
How wild soe’er thy path may be,
     Thou shalt in safety ride.

‘And I will give thee clothes of price,                                        90
     With golden seams and hems;
And I will give thee the red shield, deckt
     With precious stones and gems;

‘And I will give thee a golden scroll,
     Where runes are wrought by me;
And every word thou utterest
     Like written speech shall be.’

Out spake Alfhild, the dwarf’s daughter,
     For well she loved the knight:
‘And I will give a trusty sword,
     And a lance all burnished bright;

‘And thou shalt never miss the way,
     However wild it be;
And thou shalt never fight with foe,
     But gain the victorie;

‘And thou shalt safely come to land
     Whene’er thou sailest the sea;
And never by a man on earth
     Shall thy body wounded be.’

It was the dwarf’s wife, Thorelil,
     Filled out the wine so clear:
‘Haste, haste upon thy way, before
     My husband cometh near.’


Herr Tonne in the rose grove rode,
     With glittering lance rode he,
And there he met the dwarf himself
     A-riding moodily.

‘Well met, well met, Sir Tonne;                                                92
     But wherefore thus away?
And whither doth thy charger step
     So gallantly, I pray?’

‘I ride unto a distant place,
     To pluck a bonnie rose;
And I am bold to break a lance
     With the doughtiest of foes.’

‘Ride on, ride on, and fare thee well—
     Ride on, my gallant knight—
At Upsal waits a champion stout,
     And all athirst for fight.’

Herr Tonne swiftly rode along
     Till he came to Swedish ground,
And there beneath the greenwood boughs
     Ten armèd knights he found.

On every head a helmet bright,
     A shield on every breast,
At every side a glittering sword,
     And a shining lance in rest.

‘Hail unto ye, O Swedish knights,
     That gather armèd here,
And will ye fight for gold, or fame,
     Or for your true-loves dear?’

Answered the slim Prince Allerod,                                            93
     Proud to the red heart’s core,
‘Ho! I have honour and red, red gold,
     And seek to win no more;

‘But there in Upsal dwells a maid,
     By name Maid Ermelin,
And he who conquers in the joust
     Shall that sweet lady win.’

The first joust they together rode,
     With wondering knights around,
Their shields were shattered, and their spears
     Drove deep into the ground.

The second joust the warriors rode,
     They met at topmost speed,
And Allerod with broken neck
     Was hurled from off his steed.

Then fiercely strove those Swedish knights
     To venge their leader’s fall;
But young Sir Tonne waved his sword,
     And overthrew them all.

And up they picked their mantles blue,
     Moodily muttering,
And off they rode into the west,
     And stood before the King.

‘A Jutish knight hath come to land,                                            94
     With neither fame nor name;
Eight warriors hath he overthrown,
     And made them blush for shame.

‘Eight warriors hath he overthrown,
     And put them all to flight,
And he hath slain thy brother’s son,
     Young Allerod the knight.’

Then answered back the fierce old King,
     With long and silver hair,
‘Revenge me on that traitor knight,
     And ye shall sable wear.’

Out rode those angry Swedish knights,
     The precious prize to gain;
But in a trice those Swedish knights
     Were overthrown again;

And skin of calf they still must wear,
     Not sable rich and gay;
Yea! skin of calf they still must wear
     And cloth of wadmel gray.

It was the angry Swedish knights
     Turned wild and shamed and wan:
There lives no man in all the world
     Could beat this Jutland man.


Herr Tonne still in Upsal rides
     With glittering sword and spear;
His foemen thank the Lord they live,
     And sneak away in fear.

He slew the bear that watched the door,                                  96
     And broke the great door-pin,
And gazed upon the captive maid,
     The sweet Maid Ermelin.

The Swedish courtiers silent were,—
     They dared not speak a word,
For of this gallant Jutland knight
     Such wonders they had heard.

He hurled aside the Swedish knights,
     And slew the lion and bear,
And entered in the high chamber,
     And freed the maiden fair.

And there was joy in Iceland,
     When the tidings there were ta’en,
Joy in the hearts of King and Queen,
     That their child was found again.

Herr Tonne now in Iceland
     The old King’s crown doth wear,
And blooming sweetly by his side
     Sits Ermelin the Fair.
                             Listen to my rune!





IT was Sir Morten of Fogelsong,
     He rode in greenwood lawn,
And there a fatal blow gat he,
     All in the morning dawn.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsong!

To kirk he gave the red, red gold,
     To cloister gave his horse;
All in the black and chilly earth
     They laid Sir Morten’s corse.

It was the young Sir Folmer Skot—
     He swiftly galloped along—
For, craving speech, behind him rode
     Sir Morten of Fogelsong.

‘O hearken, young Sir Folmer Skot,
     Rein in and talk with me,
For by my faith in Christ the Lord,
     I will not injure thee!’

‘O hearken, dark Sir Morten;                                                 98
     How ridest thou here to-day?
They tolled the church bells yesternight,
     And laid thy corse in clay!’

‘I ride not here to sue for gifts,
     Nor doomed to ride for wrong,
But only for a plot of ground
     Forsworn to Fogelsong.

‘I ride not here for red, red gold,
     And unto thee make moan;
I ride here for the plot of ground
     Two fatherless bairns should own.

‘O haste to Mettelil, my wife,
     And tell her my behest:
Until she yield the ground again,
     My soul can never rest!

‘And if fair Mettelil, my wife,
     Should doubt thee or deny,
Say that without my chamber door
     My chamber slippers lie.

‘Say that my chamber slippers lie
     Without my chamber door,
And if she look at dead of night,
     They will be full of gore.’


‘Ride back, ride back, Sir Morten,
     And slumber peacefullie;
The fatherless bairns shall have their own,
     By Christ I swear to thee!’

Black was Sir Morten’s horse,                                                  100
     Black was Sir Morten’s hound,
And black, black were the ghostly folk
     That followed him into the ground.

But grace to fair Dame Mettelil!
     She heard her lord’s behest:
The fatherless held their own again,
     And Sir Morten’s soul had rest.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsong!





’TWAS clear, cold, starry, silver night,
     And the old year was a-dying,
Three pretty girls with melted lead
     Sat gaily fortune-trying.
They dropt the lead in water clear,
     With blushing palpitations,
And as it hissed, with fearful hearts
     They sought its revelations.


In the deep night, while all around
     The snow was whitely falling,
Each pretty girl looked down to find
     Her future husband’s calling:
The eldest sees a castle grand                                                   102
     Girt round by shrubland shady,
And, blushing bright, she feels in thought
     A lady rich already!

The second sees a silver ship,
     And bright and glad her face is:
Oh, she will have a skipper bold,
     Grown rich in foreign places!
The youngest sees a glittering crown,
     And starts in consternation,
For Molly is too meek to dream
     Of reaching regal station.

And time went by,—one maiden got
     Her landsman, one her sailor—
The lackey of a country count!
     The skipper of a whaler!
And Molly has her crown, although
     She unto few can show it—
Her crown is true-love, fancy-wrought,
     Her husband,—a poor Poet!


‘The Lead-Melting’ was included in The New Rome (1898), by which time Buchanan seems to have adopted it as his own - there is no mention of it being a translation of a poem by Claudius Rosenhoff. The poem was also published in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan. There are a couple of changes in this later version of the poem, which is available in The New Rome section of this site.]



Ballad Stories of the Affections continued

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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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