George Borrow

(1803-1881 / England)

Aager And Eliza (From The Old Danish)


Have ye heard of bold Sir Aager,
How he rode to yonder isle;
There he saw the sweet Eliza,
Who upon him deign’d to smile.

There he married sweet Eliza,
With her lands and ruddy gold—
Wo is me! the Monday after,
Dead he lay beneath the mould!

In her bower sat Eliza;
Rent the air with shriek and groan;
All which heard the good Sir Aager,
Underneath the granite stone.

Up his mighty limbs he gather’d,
Took the coffin on his back;
And to fair Eliza’s bower
Hasten’d, by the well-known track.

On her chamber’s lowly portal,
With his fingers long and thin,
Thrice he tapp’d, and bade Eliza
Straightway let her bridegroom in!

Straightway answer’d fair Eliza,
“I will not undo my door
Till I hear thee name sweet Jesus,
As thou oft hast done before.”

“Rise, O rise, my own Eliza,
And undo thy chamber door;
I can name the name of Jesus,
As I once could do before.”

Up then rose the sweet Eliza,—
Up she rose, and twirl’d the pin.
Straight the chamber door flew open,
And the dead man glided in.

With her comb she comb’d his ringlets,
For she felt but little fear:
On each lock that she adjusted
Fell a hot and briny tear.

“Listen, now, my good Sir Aager,
Dearest bridegroom, all I crave
Is to know how it goes with thee,
In that lonely place, the grave?”

“Every time that thou rejoicest,
And thy breast with pleasure heaves,
Then that moment is my coffin
Lin’d with rose and laurel leaves.

“Every time that thou art shedding
From thine eyes the briny flood,
Then that moment is my coffin
Fill’d with black and loathsome blood.

“Heard I not the red cock crowing,
Distant far upon the wind?
Down to dust the dead are going,
And I may not stop behind.

“Heaven’s ruddy portals open,—
Daylight bursts upon my view;
Though the word be hard to utter,
I must bid thee, love, adieu!”

Up his mighty limbs he gather’d,
Took the coffin on his back,
To the church-yard straight he hasten’d
By the well-known, beaten, track.

Up then rose the sweet Eliza;
Tear-drops on her features stood,
While her lover she attended
Through the dark and dreary wood.

When they reach’d the lone enclosure,
(Last, sad, refuge of the dead)—
From the cheeks of good Sir Aager
All the lovely colour fled:

“Listen, now, my sweet Eliza,
If my peace be dear to thee:
Never, then, from this time forward,
Shed a single tear for me.

“Turn thy lovely eyes to heaven,
Where the stars are beaming pale;
Thou canst tell me, then, for certain,
If the night begins to fail.”

When she turn’d her eyes to heaven,
All with stars besprinkled o’er,
In the earth the dead man glided,
And she never saw him more.

Homeward went the sweet Eliza;
Oh, her heart was chill and cold:—
Wo is me! the Monday after,
Dead she lay beneath the mould!

Submitted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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