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





THE King’s men ride in merry greenwood,
     To hunt the hart and hind,
And lying under a linden tree
     A little child they find.
In the greenwood slumbers fair Ellen!

They lifted up the bonnie boy,
     They wrapt him in mantle blue,
They bore him back to the King’s own Court,
     And found him a nurse so true.

They carried him forth when all was still,
     To christen him by night;
They christened him young Axelvold,
     All in the pale moonlight.

They fostered him in winters cold,
     In winters cold full three;
He blossomed to the sweetest flower
     The eye of man could see.

They fostered him for fifteen years,                                                     104
     In sun and snow and wind;
He grew to be the bravest youth
     That hunted hart and hind.

The King’s men shoot upon the lawn,
     With jest and loud acclaim:
Who shoots like young Herr Axelvold?
     He puts them all to shame.

The King’s men gather on the lawn,
     And shoot with arrow and bow;
They gnaw the trembling under lip
     That he should shame them so.

‘Far better run unto thy nurse,
     And ask thy mother’s name,
Than meet the honourably born,
     And put them all to shame.’

Then answered back young Axelvold,
     His cheeks were white with pain:
‘I’ll know the name of my mother dear
     Before we meet again!’

It is the fair young Axelvold,
     His bonnie brow he knits,
He strideth to the high chamber
     Where his foster-mother sits.


‘God save thee, foster-mother dear!
     And listen unto me:
Tell me the name of my dear mother,
     For it is known to thee.’

‘God save thee, dearest Axelvold!                                                      106
     And listen unto me:
I know not the name of thy dear mother,
     Whether living or dead she be.’

It was the pale young Axelvold,
     He drew his glittering knife:
‘Name me the name of my dear mother,
     Or yield me up thy life!’

‘Then sheathe thy knife, and hasten down,
     And heed what thou art told—
Thy mother in the palace sits,
     And wears a crown of gold.’

It is the fair young Axelvold,
     To the women’s hall hies he,
Among the matrons and the maids
     That sit in company.

And some are brown, and some are fair,
     And some white-haired and old,
And Ellen is the fairest there,
     And wears the crown of gold.

‘God save ye, wives and maidens eke,
     Maidens and matrons dear!
God also save my sweet mother,
     If she be sitting here.’

And silent sat the women all,                                                              107
     And none dared breathe a breath;
But Ellen plucked her crown away,
     And grew as pale as death.

‘God save thee, then, my true mother,
     That wear’st the crown of gold!
Where is the son you left asleep
     All in the greenwood cold?’

Fair Ellen stood with downcast eyes,
     And heart that wildly stirred;
Her cheeks grew pale as the ash of fire,
     And she answered not a word.

She took the gold brooch from her breast,
     The crown from off her brow:
Ne’er left I son in greenwood cold,
     By God and our Lady I vow!’

‘O hearken to me, dear mother mine!
     And blushest thou not for shame,
That thou from such a son so long
     Hast hid thy name and fame?

‘O hearken, dearest mother mine!
     By the tears ye cause to me,
Name me the name of him who put
     The shame on thy son and thee!’

Fair Ellen clutched her brooch of gold,                                              108
     And eke her golden crown,
She held her hand upon her heart,
     With moist eyes drooping down.

‘Haste, haste thee to the palace hall,
     Where they drink red wine and white;
Thy father at the table sits
     With many a goodly knight.

‘Haste, haste thee to the palace hall,
     Where they drink both mead and wine;
For there the king’s son Erland sits,
     With a calm proud smile like thine!’

It is the fair young Axelvold,
     His cheeks are brightening;
He strides into the banquet-hall
     Before the Danish King.

‘All hail, ye knights and merry men,
     Who drink the wine and mead!
All hail, my dearest father too,
     If thou be here indeed!

‘All hail, O dearest father mine!
     And blushest thou not for shame?
A foundling thing they call the son
     Who is meet to bear thy name!’


All frowning sit the King’s men all,
     And never a word they speak;
Only the King’s son Erland stirs,
     With a blush upon his cheek.

Only the King’s son Erland speaks,                                                   110
     And him all eyes behold:
‘I am not thy father, by my troth
     I swear it, Axelvold!’

It was the pale young Axelvold,
     He drew his glittering knife:
‘Thou shalt wipe my mother’s shame away,
     Or yield me up thy life!

‘O shame! among these goodly knights
     To be so basely styled!
Shame to be named as basely born,
     Yet be a prince’s child!’

Up sprang Prince Erland eagerly,
     And a smile was on his face:
‘Thou worthy art to be called my son,
     I swear, by Heaven’s grace!

‘Thou art indeed, young Axelvold,
     As brave a knight as stands,
And Ellen is my own true wife,
     And thou shalt join our hands!’

’Tis merry, ’tis merry, in palace hall,
     Morning and eventide;
Young Axelvold gives his mother away,
     And she is a prince’s bride!

It was the brave young Axelvold                                                        111
     Was blithe as ever a one:
‘Last night I was a foundling base,
     To-day am a prince’s son!’
In the greenwood slumbers fair Ellen!





‘WHY planest thou with weary moan,
Pale youth, by midnight and alone?
Why is thy cheek so thin and ghast?
Why do thy still tears fall so fast?’

‘The work I do must all be done
Ere the red rising of the sun;
Wherefore at dead of night I plane,
So thin and ghast, with mickle pain!’

‘Why must thou work while others sleep?
While others smile, why must thou weep?
Though here thou moanest, planing slow,
Of old thou wert a gay fellòw.’

‘My hope, my joy, have wholly died—
My girl became another’s bride;
God also held her very dear,
For, see! I make her coffin here.’





IT was the young Herr Aage,
     He rode in summer shade,
To pay his troth to Elsie,
     The rosy little maid.

He paid his troth to Elsie,
     And sealed it with red, red gold;
But ere a month had come and gone
     He lay in kirkyard mould.

It was the little Elsie,
     Her heart was clayey cold,
And young Herr Aage heard her moan
     Where he lay in kirkyard mould.

Uprose the young Herr Aage,
     Took coffin on his back,
And walked by night to Elsie’s bower,
     All through the forest black.

Then knocked he with his coffin,                                               113
     He knocked and tirled the pin:
‘Rise up, my bonnie Elsie lil,
     And let thy lover in!’

Then answered little Elsie,
     ‘I open not the door
Unless thou namest Mary’s Son,
     As thou could’st do before.’

‘Stand up, my little Elsie,
     And open thy chamber door,
For I have named sweet Mary’s Son,
     As I could do before.’

It is the little Elsie,
     So worn, and pale, and thin,
She openeth the chamber door
     And lets the dead man in.

His dew-damp dripping ringlets
     She kaims with kaim of gold,
And aye for every lock she curls
     Lets fall a tear-drop cold.

‘O listen, dear young Aage!
     Listen, all-dearest mine!
How fares it with thee underground
     In that dark grave of thine?’

‘Whenever thou art smiling,                                                      114
     When thy bosom gladly glows,
My grave in yonder dark kirkyard
     Is hung with leaves of rose;

‘Whenever thou art weeping,
     And thy bosom aches full sore,
My grave in yonder dark kirkyard
     Is filled with living gore.

‘Hark! the red cock is crowing,
     And the dawn gleams chill and gray,
The dead are summoned back to the grave,
     And I must haste away.

‘Hark! The black cock is crowing,
     ’Twill soon be break of day—
The gate of heaven is opening,
     And I must haste away!’

Up stood the pale Herr Aage,
     His coffin on his back,
Wearily to the cold kirkyard
     He walked through the forest black.

It was the little Elsie,
     Her beads she sadly told—
She followed him through the forest black,
     Unto the kirkyard cold.


When they had passed the forest,
     And gained the kirkyard cold,
The dead Herr Aage’s golden locks
     Were gray and damp with mould;

When they had passed the kirkyard,                                         116
     And the kirk had entered in,
The young Herr Aage’s rosy cheeks
     Were ghastly pale and thin.

‘O listen, little Elsie,
     All-dearest, list to me!
O weep not for me any more,
     For I slumber tranquillie.

‘Look up, my little Elsie,
     Unto the lift so grey,
Look up unto the little stars,—
     The night is winging away.’

She raised her eyes to heaven,
     And the stars that glimmered o’er,
Down sank the dead man to his grave—
     She saw him never more.

Home went little Elsie,
     Her heart was chilly cold,
And ere a month had come and gone
     She lay in kirkyard mould.









THEY scattered dice on the golden board,
     And blithe and merry were they;
The two fair ladies, face to face,
     Smiled at the wondrous play.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

And up and down were scattered the dice,
     And round and round they rolled;
And round goes Fortune’s wheel, too swift
     For mortals to behold.

Dame Juliet and Queen Malfred
     The white dice nimbly threw;
And on the floor, with apples and pears,
     The bairn was playing too.

The bonnie bairn with apples and flowers                                           118
     Was playing on the ground,
When in Sir Axel Thorsen stept,
     And he for Rome was bound.

He greeted the dames and maidens fair,
     For a courteous knight was he;
He smiled upon the bonnie bairn,
     And took her on his knee.

He tapped her on the white, white cheek,
     For dear to him was she:
‘Now, would thou wert a woman grown,
     Mine own true-love to be!’

Then, covered o’er with seams of gold,
     His youngest sister said,
‘Were she a woman grown this night,
     Ye twain could never wed!’

Then up and spake his mother dear,
     And true, I ween, spake she:
‘My son, ye are too near of kin,
     Though equal in degree.’

For plaything to the bonnie bairn
     He gave his golden ring:
The gift, ere she was woman grown,
     Had set her sorrowing.


‘Now, mark thou well, my little bride,
     We twain betrothen are;
And now I leave thy side, to fight
     For foreign kings afar.’




’Tis bright, bright where Sir Axel rides,
     As out of the land he hies;
’Tis dark, dark in the cloister walls
     Where his little true-love lies.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

In cloister walls she learns to read,
     And silken seams she sews;
She turns into a maiden fair,
     The bonniest flower that grows.

She turns into a maiden fair,
     And maidenly things is taught;
And strange old songs and ancient lore
     Sweeten her face with thought.

Eleven years she in cloister dwelt,
     Until her mother died,
And she was ta’en to the Queen’s own Court,
     And set at the Queen’s own side.

Sir Axel serves in the Emperor’s Court,
     With golden spurs at heel,
And many are the knightly deeds
     Done by his glittering steel.


Sir Axel, sweetly stretched in sleep,
     Full fair and still doth seem;
But in the dead of night he groans,
     And hath a fearful dream.

Sir Axel in the high chamber                                                               122
     On silken cushions lies,
But dreams he sees his own true-love
     Stand pale before his eyes;

He dreams he sees sweet Walborg stand
     Clad in her velvet dress,
And at her side Prince Hogen stoops,
     Wooing in tenderness.

Early at morning, at dawn o’ day,
     When the laverock singing rose,
Up leapt Sir Axel from his bed,
     And tremblingly donn’d his clothes.

Swiftly he saddled his good gray steed,
     Swiftly he galloped along;
Sadly he sought to forget his dream,
     And hark to the wood-bird’s song.

It was Sir Axel Thorsen,
     Through the rose grove bent his way,
And there, all in the morning-time,
     He met a pilgrim gray.

‘Well met! Good day, thou pilgrim gray!
     What may thy errand be?
Now, from thy raiment it is clear
     Thou art from my countree!’

‘Norway it is my fatherland;                                                               123
     From Gildish race I come;
And, bent to look upon the Pope,
     I drag my way to Rome.”

‘If thou art sprung of Gildish race,
     Then near of kin are we:
Speak! dost thou know the fair Walborg?
     Hath she forgotten me?’

‘Fair Walborg is a maiden sweet!
     I ken her certainlie;
Many a knight’s son, pale wi’ love,
     Doth woo her on his knee.

‘Full oft fair Walborg have I seen,
     All in her sable gear!
The Court holds many a bonnie maid,
     But none can be her peer.

‘And she is now a woman grown,
     A lily white and tall;
Ah! many a beauty lights the land,
     But she is crown of all!

‘Dame Juliet sleeps ’neath kirkyard stone,
     By her proud husband’s side:
Queen Malfred fostered Walborg well,
     When her dear mother died.

‘And gold is on her small white hand,                                                124
     And pearls are in her hair;
Yet is she named Sir Axel’s bride
     By people everywhere.

‘They call her Axel’s own true-love,
     Yet loveless is her lot;
They seek her for Prince Hogen’s bed,
     And murmur, and scheme, and plot.’

It was Sir Axel Thorsen drew
     His cloak across his face,
And stept before the Emperor
     All in the audience-place.

‘All hail to thee, my Emperor!
     Thou art my lord and pride,
And on my knee I crave thy leave
     To fatherland to ride.

‘For strange men seek my goods and gear,
     Now father and mother are dead;
But most I fear for my own true-love,
     Whom others seek to wed.’

‘Leave shalt thou have right willingly,
     Herewith I give it thee;
And till thou dost return again,
     Thy place shall open be.’

With armèd men from the Emperor’s Court                                        125
     Doth Axel Thorsen hie,
And all the Emperor’s courtiers bid
     ‘Good speed,’ as he rides by.

With thirty armèd men behind,
     So swiftly did he ride,
That when he reached his mother’s gate
     Not one rode at his side.

Up to his mother’s castle gate
     Rode Axel, gloomy and grim;
There stood Helfred his sister sweet,
     Who soothly greeted him.

‘Thou standest here, my sister sweet,
     Nor thought me close at hand!
How fares Walborg, mine own true-love,
     The rose of all the land?’

‘With that sweet May it fareth well,
     For great hath been her gain—
She is the Queen’s own waiting-maid,
     And bonniest of the train.’

‘Thy counsel, sister, give to me,
     As tender sisters can:
How may I speak with my true-love,
     Unheard by mortal man?’

‘Go, dress thyself in beauteous silk,                                                    126
     In silk and eke in fur;
Say that thou carriest from me
     A message unto her.’




It was Sir Axel Thorsen
     Unto the Court hied he,
And as they came from vespers, met
     The maiden companie.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

He touched sweet Walborg’s white, white hand,
     And soft and low he said,
‘I am a trusty messenger
     From the fair dame, Helfred.’

She brake the seal, and on her knee
     Spread smoothly out the screed,
And there were words but one could write
     For only one to read.

There lay five rings of red, red gold,
     Enwrought with lily and rose.
‘Walborg, thine own betrothen knight,
     Sir Axel, sends thee those.


‘Thou vowed to be his own true-love,
     And wilt not break thy vow:
I loved thee when thou wert a child,
     And dearly love thee now.’

There on the castle balcony,                                                               128
     By earth and heaven above,
By everything that solemn is,
     They sware a vow of love:

By Mary Mother did they sware,
     And by Saint Dorothy,
In honour would they live and love,
     And eke in honour die.

Sir Axel rode to the Emperor’s Court
     As blithe as well could be;
Maid Walborg in the high chamber
     Sat laughing merrilie.




For months full five they dwelt apart,
     And months full nine thereto:
Eleven earls’ sons at Walborg’s feet
     Kneel down, and plead, and sue.
The Wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

Eleven fair and gallant knights
     Knelt down, and prayed, and sued;
And twelfth the proud Prince Hogen came
     And early and late he wooed.

‘Hearken to me, O sweet Walborg!                                                 129
     O Walborg, turn and hear;
Thou shalt be Queen and wear the crown,
     An thou wilt be my dear!’

‘Hearken to me, Prince Hogen,
     It is vain to plead and sue;
Sir Axel hath my love and truth,
     And I will aye be true.’

Wroth grew the young Prince Hogen,—
     Drew his cloak across his face,
And hied unto his mother dear
     All in the audience-place.

‘Hail unto thee, dear mother mine!
     Thy counsel give to me!
I seek to wive the May Walborg,—
     She answereth scornfullie!

‘In honour and truth I sue and woo,
     Offering riches and land;
She cries Sir Axel is her dear,
     And he shall have her hand.’

‘If May Walborg her troth hath given,
     Then is she vowed and won,
And many a May as sweet as she
     Bides in the Court, my Son.’

‘Full many a May is at the Court,                                                      130
     But none so high in grace;
Full many a noble May I ken,
     Yet none so fair of face.’

‘Thou canst not win the maid by force,—
     That were a shame and woe;
Thou hast a sword, but he she loves
     Can wield a sword alsò!’

More wroth grows young Prince Hogen,
     And from the palace flies,
And meeteth Knud, the Black Friàr,
     With coal black hair and eyes.

‘Why paceth my lord so sadly forth,
     With dull and heavy gait?
If aught hath happ’d to cause him woe,
     Let him unfold it straight.’

‘A grievous woe hath happ’d to me,
     A sorrow sore to tell:
The fair Walborg betrothen is
     Unto the young Axèl.’

‘Ne’er shall he bear the maiden home,
     Though they betrothen be,
For in our cloister black we keep
     May Walborg’s pedigree:

‘And they are born of two sisters,                                                     131
     Full stately dames and fair,
And one nurse held both lass and lad
     When they baptizèd were.

‘Thence brethren by the cloister law
     They are full certainlie,
Thence can we prove them lass and lad
     Akin in fourth degree.

‘To chapter summon priests and clerks,
     And they shall swift decide:
Sir Axel by the cloister black
     Shall lose his lily bride!’




It was the young Prince Hogen
     Spake to his trusty groom:
‘Go, summon Walborg’s uncles straight
     Into the audience-room.’
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

The earls around the broad board stand,
     And the great chamber fill:
‘Our noble lord hath sent for us,
     And we would hear his will.’

‘Your bonnie niece, the sweet Walborg,                                           132
     In honour I crave of ye,
And surely if ye will consent,
     The May my Queen shall be.’

Answered the maiden’s uncles three,
     And their delight was great,
‘Thus to be sought by the prince himself,
     Sooth, she is fortunate!’

It was the noble uncles wrapt
     Their faces in mantles red,
And strode into the high chamber
     Before the Queen, Malfred.

And first they hailed the comely Queen,
     And wished her right good cheer,
And then they hailed the sweet Walborg,
     Who waited trembling near.

‘Hail unto thee, O bonnie niece!
     Fair may thy fortune be!
If thou wilt take the fair young prince
     Whom we would wed to thee.’

‘And have ye falsely promised me?
     Then hearken what I say,—
To Axel, to my dearest dear,
     I will be true for aye.’

Then answered back her uncles three,                                               133
     Those mighty earls and bold,
‘Never, in sooth, thou wilful girl,
     Shalt thou that troth-plight hold.’

It was the young Prince Hogen,
     He hastily wrote again,
And summonèd the archbishop,
     With his clerks seven times ten.

It was Erland the archbishòp,
     He read in angry mood,
‘Shame on the planner of this deed,
     Ay, first and last, on Knud!’

Proud Erland stood before the board,
     And spake full calm and clear:
‘My honoured lord hath sent for me,
And humbly wait I here.’

‘I have a bonnie maiden wooed,
     Whom thou shalt make my bride:
Dear is Sir Axel to her heart,
     But he must stand aside.’

They wrote the solemn summons out,
     They read it out in state,—
It called the lovers to appear
     Before old Erland straight.

The matin-song was sounding,                                                           134
     All in the morning tide—
To kirk, and with his own true-love,
     Must young Sir Axel ride.

The knight he climbs upon his steed,
     And sighs to hear the bell;
The May rides in her coach behind,
     And hides her sorrow well.

The knight hangs o’er his saddle-bow,—
     His thoughts they wander wide;
The May rides in her coach behind,
     And hides her pain by pride.

Without the Kirk of our Ladye
     They all from horse alight,—
Into the holy kirk there steps
     Full many a gallant knight.

There in the aisle are the lovers met
     By the bishop and his clerks,
And woefully their faces look,
     To every eye that marks.

There meeteth them the archbishòp
     Holding his silver wand,
And round about with gloomy looks
     The Black Friar brethren stand.

Then forth stept Knud the Black Friàr,                                               135
     The convent book gript he,
And read that Axel and Walborg
     Were kin in fourth degree.

The record old of the convent cold
     He read full loud and slow;
Akin were they by rite of kirk,
     Akin by birth alsò.

Cousins by birth they surely were
     In fourth degree akin;
For such to wed, the grim law said,
     Were little else than sin.

They both were born of Gildish race,
     Akin in fourth degree:
Sir Axel and the fair Walborg
     Must never mated be.

‘One nurse held both unto the font
     When they were baptizèd;
Sir Asbiorn sponsor was to both,’
     The ghostly record said.

Yea, kin they were by birth and blood,
     And kin by ghostly rite,—
The kirk forbade that such a pair
     In honour should unite.

Up to the altar they were led,                                                             136
     Weary and pale of hue:
They placed a kerchief in their hands,
     And, praying, cut it in two.

They placed the kerchief in their hands,
     And cut it cruellie.
‘The hand of Fate is stronger far
     Than any folk that be.

‘The kerchief ye have cut in two,
     And still we hold the parts,
But never, never can ye cut
     The love of leal young hearts.’

They took the ring from her fingèr,
     The bracelet from her hand,
They gave the knight his gifts again,
     Breaking the true-love band.

Sir Axel on the altar cast
     Bracelet and ring of gold,
And sware so long as he did live
     His love should ne’er grow cold.



Ballad Stories of the Affections - ‘Axel and Walborg’ continued

or back to Ballad Stories of the Affections - Contents








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