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



[‘Axel and Walborg’ - continued]




Then wroth grew young Prince Hogen,
     Wrapt in his mantle red.
‘If thou canst not forget her now,
     She is not pure!’ he said.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

Up spake the good old archbishňp,
     All in his priestly guise,
‘Who knoweth not the strength of love
     I hold to be unwise!

‘Water may quench the flaming fire,
     Put out the brand ablaze,
But the fire of love in mortal breast
     No power of earth allays.

‘Hot, hot is the summer sun,
     And who its heat can still?
Hotter far is the fire of love,
     And it must cheer or kill.’

Young Hogen spake to young Axčl
     Wrapt in his mantle red,
‘This thing, I swear, shall have an end,
     Though I should die!’ he said.

Wroth grew the young Prince Hogen,                                               138
     Treading the paven floor:
‘To-morrow shalt thou swear an oath,
     Or rue thy baseness sore.

‘To-morrow shalt thou swear an oath
     Upon thy sword and glaive,
That, falsely wooing fair Walborg,
     Thou ne’er hast played the knave.’

‘And must I swear upon my sword
     Walborg from stain is free?
That will I do, and with my sword
     Uphold her purity!’

Sir Henrik’s wife, Dame Eskelin,
     Awoke from sleep in fright:
‘Saint Bridget clear unto my soul,
     What have I dreamt this night!

‘I dreamt my cousin Juliet rose
     Out of the black, black grave,
And cravčd me full sisterlie
     Her child, Walborg, to save.

‘Lord, I have seven sons, and each
     Hath thirty men beside—
Let them go bind the sword on thigh,
     And unto Walborg ride.


‘Lord, saddle, saddle ten good steeds,
     And ride in lordly state;
Follow thy sons! stand by her side!
     It is not yet too late!

‘Seven sons we now together have—                                                140
     Seven strong and goodly wights—
And it is now our hope and joy
     They hold themselves like knights.

‘I and Dame Juliet alsň
     Were of two sisters born;
And by this deed against Walborg
     We two are brought to scorn.’

The sun is shining on the heath,
     All in the morning-tide,
As, bent to swear Walborg is pure,
     The gallant champions ride.

Sir Axel, all in armour clad,
     Reached out his hand, and cried,
‘Welcome, ye knights of Gildish race,
     Right welcome, to my side!’

The seven knights then forward strode
     Arrayed in sable all:
‘We come to swear with Sir Axčl,
     And with him stand or fall!’

Then tears ran down the maiden’s cheek
     Like rain, and she made moan:
‘What men that be will swear by me?—
     I am alone, alone!’

Then answered back her uncles three,                                             141
     Those wroth and angry men,
‘Thou hast loved alone—thou hast sworn alone—
     Thou canst swear alone again!’

But murmured Erland, archbishňp,
     With mild and gentle mien,
‘Kinsmen thou hast full many here—
     Friends only few, I ween.

‘Kinsmen thou hast full many here,
     Yet none to take thy part:
God help thee from thy peril now,
     And soothe thy gentle heart!’

‘My father and my mother are dead,
     And piteous is my plight;
But God, who helpeth all in need,
     Knows well my soul is white.

‘Dame Juliet sleeps ’neath the marble stone,
     Sir Immer in black, black clay;
I should not stand alone and weep
     Were they alive this day.’

And while she sat in sorrow and fear,
     Weeping and desolate,
She saw Sir Henrik riding swift
     Up to the castle gate.

With hasty step he ran to her,                                                           142
     And cheerfully he cried,
‘Thou goest to take the oath, and I
     Will take it by thy side.

‘Dame Eskelin, my own goodwife,
     Holdeth thine honour dear;
Thy mother and she were kin by blood,
     And therefore am I here.

‘Now, forward, forward, my seven sons,
     And swear the May is true;
Seven sons of Carl from Sonderland
     Will do as we must do.’

Seven earls’ sons, in sable clad,
     Stept lightly forth to swear—
Full daintilie they all were clad,
     And curlčd was their hair.

Seven young counts stept forward next,
     And fair was each and bold,
Curled also was their golden hair;
     Their swords were bright with gold.

‘To swear the May is free from stain,
     Ho! hand in hand come we:
Step forth and speak, O noble pair!
     For all shall hark to ye.’

One hand upon the Mass-book laid,                                                  143
     The other on his brand,
Sir Axel swears; and, round about,
     His gallant kinsmen stand.

He held the sword-hilt in his hand,
     The blade upon a stone,
And there he swore the May was pure,
     And in no woman’s tone.

‘Dear, dear to me is May Walborg,
     That stainless May and meek,
Yet never have I been so bold
     As even to kiss her cheek!’

She touched the Mass-book with her hand,
     Sware by our Lady of Grace,
‘Mine eyes have scarcely been so bold
     As look into his face.’

They raised bright banners o’er her head,
     And none her oath denied,
And they bare her along unto her bower,
     And called her ‘Prince’s Bride.’

Outspake young Prince Hogen
     Unto that gathering bright,
‘Never a gentleman or squire
     Shall ride away this night.’

He said, ‘The bonnie May Walborg                                                   144
     I my Heart’s Dearest hold,
And she shall be mine own sweet Queen,
     And wear the crown of gold.’




The cloth was spread, the board was filled,
     The mead and wine ran free:
Sir Axel Thorsen sat apart,
     Beside his lost ladie.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

‘Speak to me, speak to me, Heart’s Dearčst,
     While here we sit alone;
What peace remains on earth for me,
     What cheer for thee, mine own?’

‘If they should wed me to the King
     And crown my brow with gold,
Although I live a thousand years,
     My love will ne’er grow cold.

‘But I will gold embroidery sew,
     And moan for my true-love;
In lonely pain will I remain,
     Like to the turtle-dove:

‘She sleepeth not in greenwood bough,                                              145
     She seeketh not to eat,
She drinketh ne’er the pure clear well
     Till muddied with her feet.

‘But thou, my lord, wilt gladly ride
     To hunt the forest hart;
If thoughts of me e’er trouble thee,
     Full soon they will depart.

‘Ay, thou, my lord, wilt merrilie ride
     To chase the hind and hare;
If thoughts of me e’er trouble thee,
     They will be light as air.’

‘And if I chase in greenwood grove
     To drown the thought of thee,
What shall I do at midnight hour
     When sleep comes not to me?

‘My lands and goods I straight will sell
     For pieces golden red,
And hie away to a strange countree,
     And mourn till I be dead.’

‘Dear lord, sell not thy goods and lands
     For pieces golden red,
But hie away to old Asbiorn,
     And wive his child, Alhed.

‘Hie there, and woo the fair Alhed,’                                                   146
     The weeping Walborg cried,
‘And I will take the mother’s place,
     And sadly bless the bride.’

‘Never will I fair maiden woo,
     Never, ah, nevermore!
I will be leal, though I might wed
     The child of the Emperňr!’

In stept Erland, archbishňp,
     And tapped their cheeks of snow:
‘Now must ye say a sad “good-night,”
     For it must e’en be so.’

The archbishop raised up his hand,
     And angrily cried out,
‘Shame be the fall of Black Friar Knud,
     Who brought this grief about!’

Sir Axel bade the May good-night,
     And his voice was hoarse with pain,
His heart was aching with its woe
     Like a slave beneath his chain.

Fair Walborg hied to the high chamber,
     And her maidens followed slow,
Her heart was like the flaming fire,
     Her cheek was like the snow.


Early in the morning-tide,
     When sunshine ‘gan to fall,
The gentle Queen arose from sleep,
     And called her maidens all.

Queen Malfred bade her maidens sweet                                           148
     To work the red, red gold;
But still stood May Walborg, with heart
     As full as it could hold.

‘Hearken, Walborg, bonnie May!
     Why stand so sad aside?
Thy heart should happy be, because
     Thou art a prince’s bride.’

‘Rather would I Sir Axel have,
     And love as poor folk may,
Than take the mighty gift ye bring—
     The crown of all Norwŕy.

‘Ah, little care my kinsmen proud,
     But smile to find it so;
My heart may bleed, my eyes may weep,
     My life may melt like snow!’




A gloomy time, two weary months,
     Passed bitterlie away:
Sir Axel and the fair Walborg
     Smiled neither night nor day.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

Then came a war upon the land,                                                       149
     And the foe rushed on in might;
The young Prince Hogen verily
     Must lead his folk to fight.

Prince Hogen called his men to field,
     Yea, priests and clerks alsň.
Sir Axel was a gallant knight,
     And was not loath to go.

It was the young Prince Hogen
     Rode up and down the land,
And called unto him every man
     With strength to wield a brand.

He called upon him every man
     Who could a weapon wield,
And as a captain of the host
     Bids Axel hie afield.

Sir Axel’s shield was blue and white,
     And terriblie it shone,
And all the warriors could see
     Two bleeding hearts thereon.

There riding forth afield they saw
     The foeman’s armour glance:
In sooth, ’t was bloody strife of men,
     And not a ladies’ dance!

Sir Axel strikes for fatherland,                                                           150
     His sword reeks hot and red:
They who come face to face with him
     Drop from their saddles, dead.

Full many a gallant gentleman
     By his strong hand doth bleed;
The noble and the base alike
     He tramples ’neath his steed.

He slays the lords of Oppeland,
     Who ride on chargers tall;
King Amund’s sons fall by his hand,—
     Full gallant foemen all.

As thick as hay by peasants tost,
     The killing arrows fly;
Prince Hogen drops upon the dust,
     And, wounded sore, must die.

It was the young Prince Hogen
     He dropt from his charger gray;
Sir Axel to the prince’s side
     Full swiftly cut his way.

‘Hearken, Sir Axel Thorsen,—
     Avenge my death on the foe,
And thou shalt get my lands and crown,
     And May Walborg alsň.’


‘Terribly will I wreak thy death
     Upon the coward foe:
Though score on score encircle me,
     I’ll give them blow for blow.’

Sir Axel seeks the thick o’ the fight,                                                   152
With black and angry frown,
And every wight he meets in fight
     Is slain and trampled down.

So manfullie Sir Axel fought,
     No man his sword dared meet;
Swiftly he slew the gallant foe
     As a reaper reapeth wheat.

So manfullie Sir Axel fought,
     Till his armour stained the field,
So manfullie Sir Axel fought
     Till cloven was his shield;

Still manfullie Sir Axel fought
     Until his helm was cleft;
Yet manfullie Sir Axel fought
     Till his sword brake at the heft.

With eight red wounds upon his breast
     Sank Axel, worn and spent;
Deeply he breathed, brightly he bled,
     As they bare him to his tent.

Ah! woefully Sir Axel bled
     After the victorie:
The latest words he spake alive
     Were of his dear ladie:

‘Say to my love a thousand “good-nights”;                                        153
Our Lord will soothe her pain:
In heaven above full speedilie
     We two shall meet again!’




In before the fair Queen’s board
     Sir Axel’s page did walk;
He was a wise and gentle child,
     And fittingly could talk.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

‘Maidens, who sew the linen white
     And eke the silk so red,
Prince Hogen and the young Axčl
     They both are lying dead.

‘Dead is the young Prince Hogen,
     He lies on his bier of death!
Sir Axel to avenge his fall
     Fought till his dying breath.

‘And they have won the victorie,
     And they for Norway died,
And many a knight lies dead afield,
     And many a swain beside.’

Ah! bitterlie Queen Malfred wept                                                     154
All for her gentle son;
Sweet Walborg wrang her lily hands
     For her belovčd one.

May Walborg called her little page,
     And murmured woefullie,
‘Haste! haste, and find my chest of gold,
     And bring it in to me.

‘Place my gray steed in the chariot red,—
     To cloister I’ll begone;
I never can forget Axčl
     So long as I live on.’

Without the Kirk of our Ladie
     She from her chariot stept,
And as she stept into the kirk
     Most bitterlie she wept.

She took the gold crown from her head,
     She set it on a stone.
‘And never will I mate with man,
     But live a maid alone.

‘Twice have I been a maid betrothed,
     But never yet a wife,
And now unto the cloister cold
     I give my woeful life.’




They brought to her the red, red gold
     That filled the golden chest,
She shared the same among the friends
     Who had been goodliest.
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.

She took the great neck-band of gold,
     Inlaid with jewels fine,
And that, for having loved her long,
     She gave to Eskeline.

Unto Sir Henrick next she gave
     The great clasped armlet bright,
Because he sware with mouth and hand
     Her name and fame were white.

She took a hundred golden rings,
     And silver and gold good store,
And these she gave the gallant knights
     Who with Sir Henrick swore.

She dowered the kirk and cloister old,
     And priests and clerks so gray,
That they for Axel’s soul and hers
     With daily Mass should pray.

She gave to widows and fatherless bairns,                                        156
And footsore pilgrims old,
And to the image of Saint Ann
     She gave her crown of gold.

‘Hither, hither, O archbishňp,
     Scatter me o’er with clay!
For here I take the cloister oath
     And quit the world for aye.

‘Hither, hither, O archbishňp,
     And make me God’s alone,
For ne’er shall I quit cloister more
     Till I be cold as stone.’

Many and many a gallant knight
     Wept like a little child
To see them cast the black, black dust
     Over that maiden mild.

So sweet Walborg in cloister dwelt
     A weary nun for long,
And never missed the blessed Mass
     Or holy vesper-song.

Full many a noble woman and maid
     In cloister dwell, I wis,
But never a maiden of them all,
     So fair as Walborg is.


Far better never be born at all
     Than wearily mourn and ’plain—
Than drink a bitter daily cup,
     And eat the bread of pain.

God’s ban be on the wicked churl,                                                    158
     And thriftless may he be,
Who tears in twain two lovers’ hearts
     That love so tenderlie!
The wheel of Fortune goes round and round.





I LOVE you, Heaven’s divinest blue!
The light I cannot reach unto;
With earthly joys and wishes, I
Remain heart-laden utterly.

I love the shadowy blue of waves,
That whisper in the sweet sea-caves;
But earth so pleasant is to me,
I would not sail upon the sea.

I love the blue of yonder plots,
Where blow the sweet forget-me-nots;
But dare not pluck them from their bed,
They would so soon be vanishčd.

The blue for me—and here it lies,
Sweet-shining in my true-love’s eyes,
Where flower’s blue, heaven’s blue, sea’s blue shine,
Mingled, to make my bliss divine!





IN the warmth of a singer’s chamber, where never wild wind blew,
Whither no cold was wafted, a tender rose-tree grew.

The sweet wood sent out knots, and each a red rose gave:
And ‘My tree,’ cried the happy singer, ‘shall grow upon my grave!’

Then came the Angel who smileth through tears while mourners weep,
And the tree was red and in bloom, but the singer was asleep.

And his friends fulfilled his wish: the tree grew over the dead;
The sunrise shimmered upon it, and the sunset stained it red.

But the cold, cold winds of night blew in the leaves of the tree;
Alas! ’twas born for a chamber, not for the life of the free.

Poor tree! in the air of freedom thou couldst not live and grow,
Whence over thy grave, poor singer! not one of thy roses blow!





‘LITTLE CHRISTINA, come dance with me,
     Hither unto me!
And a silken sark will I give to thee.’
     For methought that no one knew me!

‘A silken sark is a precious thing,
But I would not dance for the son of a King.’

“’Little Christina, come dance with me—
Two silver shoes shall thy guerdon be.’

‘Two silver shoes were a guerdon fair,
But I would not dance with the King’s own heir.’

‘Little Christina, come dance with me,
And a red gold band I will give to thee.’

‘A red gold band is a precious thing,
But I would not dance for the son of the King.’

‘Little Christina, come dance with me,
And half a gold ring shall thy guerdon be.’


‘I dance not for half of golden ring—
I would not dance with the son of the King.’

‘Little Christina, come dance with me—                                             162
Two silver knives will I give to thee.’

‘Two silver knives were a guerdon fair—
But I would not dance with the King’s own heir.’

‘Little Christina, come dance with me,
And my honour and troth I will plight to thee.’ *

Into his arms leapt the little one fair—
The pale, pale face set in golden hair.

Round and round the dancers sped,
Till the cheeks of Christina were rosy red.

‘My troth and plight I have given to thee”—
They are wedded together where none can see.

The days and the nights have swiftly flown:
Little Christina is all alone.

On a mantle spread in a secret place,
Christina lies with a blush on her face.

To the King on his throne a murmur runs—
‘Little Christina hath two little sons.’

Lonely little Christina lies:
There is royal light in her little ones’ eyes.

* This plighting of troth was, as nearly as possible, equivalent to marriage.


The monarch stands by the maiden’s bed,—
He covers his face and bows his head:

He covers his face with his mantle blue:                                             164
‘Name me the sire of thy children two.’

‘Now God the Father forgive my shame!
Be he living or dead, I know not his name.

‘My father wandered the ocean o’er;
He built me a bower on the ocean shore.

‘Thither came men of the stormy sea,
With dancing and feasting and melody;

‘Thither came men of the stormy sea,
Each of them seeking to marry me.

‘With none of them danced I night or day,
No man of them stole my heart away.

‘A stranger plighted his troth to me—
We were wedded together where none could see.’

‘Hearken, little Christina, to me:
What gifts did the stranger give to thee?’

‘He gave me a sark of the silk so fine,—
It covers this beating heart of mine;

‘He gave me shoes of the silver bright,—
They are worn with seeking him day and night;

‘He gave me a band of the red, red gold,—
It burns like fire on my temples cold;

‘He gave me the half of a golden ring,—                                            165
Shame and pain may the other half bring!

‘He gave me two silver knives of price,—
Would they were stuck in his heart of ice!’

The monarch trembled and tried to speak,
Then plucked the mantle of blue from his cheek.

‘O little Christina! my sweet! my true!
I am the sire of thy children two!

‘O little Christina! my sweet! my true!
That dance of thine thou shalt never rue!’

He clasps in his arms the little one fair,
The pale, pale face set in golden hair.

The rumour wanders from town to town—
She is Queen Christina, and wears a crown!

Little Christina is throned in pride—
     Hither unto me!
She sits by the King of Denmark’s side.
     For I thought that no one knew me!





WHILE the white snows are falling
     So glistening and cold,
And while the chilly tempest
     Shrieks in the wintry wold,
Safe in the chimney corner,
     With faces brown uplit,
Talking of village wonders,
     The quiet cotters sit.

And gray old Hans sits talking
     In the bright oven’s light—
What would one hark to sooner
     Than tales he tells to-night?
‘But is it true, then, father,
     That underneath the ground,
If men will seek them rightly,
     Such treasures may be found?’

‘Ay, boy! when the cock croweth
     One find the treasure may,
But if a word be spoken,
     It vanisheth away!’


By strange wild thoughts kept silent,
     They gather, wondering-eyed,
When, lo! there comes a knocking,
     And the door is opened wide;

And bearing spade on shoulder                                              168
     Enters a peasant boy,
And though his face be haggard,
     He smiles as if with joy;
His hair about his forehead
     By the wild wind is blown;
And glancing round, he speaketh
     In words of eldritch tone.

‘Chill, chill is all without there!
     And I am stiff with cold!
Hark! hear the wild wind beating
     Upon the kirkyard old!
Deep was the treasure buried!
     Hard was the prize to win!
It lieth close without there—
     Help me to bear it in!’

Bloody and pale he standeth,
     Trembling the cotters see—
‘Art thou a treasure-seeker?”
     He smileth craftilie.
Up in the air he springeth,
     Then standeth still once more,
And wipes his eyes a-weeping,
     And moveth to the door.

‘Follow!’ he crieth, showing
     The spade begrimed with clay:
All trembling, hoping, follow,
     And mutter on the way.
And suddenly he halteth                                                          169
     While midnight hour is tolled,
Where the dead lie a-sleeping,
     All in the kirkyard cold.

In the chill mist of midnight
     His lantern glimmereth dim;
He entereth at the wicket,—
     Trembling they follow him.
Dark, dark is all around them,
     Loudly the wild winds rave,
And the lantern gleameth faintly
     Upon an open grave.

Nearer they creep, and nearer,
     Through the chill mist of night,
And look upon the treasure
     In the faintly glimmering light:
While thin sick beams are falling,
     Below them they behold
A black and blood-stained coffin,
     Half dug from the black mould.

‘See!’ cried the stripling, pointing,
     With wild and hollow eyes,
‘Here in the grave’s embraces
     My dearest treasure lies!
Four hours my hands have laboured
     Out in the tempest drear.
I bleed! The clock is sounding!
     Eliza, I am here!’

‘O God that art in heaven!                                                       170
     This is the hapless lad
Who, when his true-love perished,
     For woe of heart grew mad;
And from his home out creeping
     He here this night hath hied’—
Thus, tremblingly and faintly,
     The pale-faced cotters cried.

‘See! see how still he lieth
     In the coffin’s cold embrace!
Hark to the death-clock singing!
     God on his soul have grace!
Raise him, and bear him homeward,’
     The shivering cotters said:
They raised him from the coffin,
     He smiled—and he was dead!





IT is wake to-night, it is wake to-night!
Come, dance who will!
So many are dancing by candle-light.
Thither, alas! goes Signelil.

Fair Signelil to her mother spake,
‘Mother, dear, may I see the wake?’

‘What wouldst thou there, O little one?
Sisters or brothers thou hast none.

‘If thou alone to the wake-room go,
Thine will be bitterness and woe.

‘There dance the King and his companie:
List to my rede and stay with me.’

‘The Queen and her maidens are also there,
And I long to chat with those maidens fair.’

So long the maiden prayed and cried,
At last the mother no more denied.

‘Go then, go then, if thou must, my child,                                 172
But thy mother ne’er went to a place so wild.’

Alone she went through the greenwood gloom
Unto the merry dancing-room.

As o’er the dusky meads she sped,
The Queen and her maidens had gone to bed.

Into the wake-room Signe tript;
Wildly the dancers twirled and skipt—

Madder dance could never be;
And the King danced there with his companie.

The King stretched out his hand in glee,
‘Pretty maiden, come dance with me!’

‘Over the dale have I come to see
The Danish Queen and her companie.’

‘Dance with me and my merry men—
The Queen will soon be here again.’

Light and lithe as a willow wand
She danced, and the monarch held her hand.

‘Signelil, pause on thy small white feet;
Sing me a song of love, my sweet!’

‘I know no love-song, sad or gay,
But I will sing ye the best I may.’

Sweet she sang: the King stood nigh;                                       173
The pale Queen heard in her chamber high.

The pale Queen heard upon her bed:
‘Which of my maidens sings?’ she said.

‘Who dares to linger after me,
And sing so loud to that companie?’

Answered the page in kirtle red,
‘’Tis none of thy maidens who sing,’ he said;

‘None of thy maidens linger still;
’Tis the little peasant, Signelil.’

‘My cloak and hood come give to me;
I am fain this maiden’s face to see.’

Better dance could never be;
And the King danced there with his companie.

Round and round in a ring went they:
The Queen stole down and watched the play.

‘Sin and sorrow!’ thought the Queen,
‘That he holds the hand of one so mean!’

The pale Queen whispered quietlie,
‘A wine-filled beaker bring to me.’

The King reached out his hand: ‘Sophič,
Hither, and trip a step with me.’

‘I will not dance till this maiden fine                                          174
Drinketh to me in the red, red wine.’

Signelil drank the wine so red,—
On the floor of the hall she lieth dead!

Long looked the King on that maiden sweet,
Slain so cruelly at his feet.

‘I have never, since I drew breath,
Known sweeter maid or fouler death.’

Maids and good women wept full sore
As they followed the corse through the kirkyard door.

There ne’er had been so black a deed,
Come, dance who will!
Had Signe hearked to her mother’s rede.
Thither, alas! goes Signelil.



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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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