George Borrow (1803-1881 / England)
Fridleif and Helga
The woods were in leaf, and they cast a sweet shade;
Among them walk'd Helga, the beautiful maid.
The water is dashing o'er yon little stones;
She sat down beside it, and rested her bones.
She sat down, and soon, from a bush that was near,
Sir Fridleif approach'd her with sword and with spear:
'Ah, pity me, Helga, and fly me not now,
I live, only live, on the smile of thy brow:
'In thy father's whole garden is found not a rose,
Which bright as thyself, and as beautiful grows.'
'Sir Fridleif, thy words are but meant to deceive,
Yet tell me what brings thee so late here at eve.'
'I cannot find rest, and I cannot find ease,
Though sweet sing the linnets among the wild trees;
'If thou wilt but promise, one day to be mine,
No more shall I sorrow, no more shall I pine.'
She sank in his arms, and her cheeks were as red
As the sun when he sinks in his watery bed;
But soon she arose from his loving embrace;
He walk'd by her side, through the wood, for a space.
'Now listen, young Fridleif, the gallant and bold,
Take off from my finger this ring of red gold,
Take off from my finger this ring of red gold,
And part with it not, till in death thou art cold.'
Sir Fridleif stood there in a sorrowful plight,
Salt tears wet his eyeballs, and blinded his sight.
'Go home, and I'll come to thy father with speed,
And claim thee from him, on my mighty grey steed.
Sir Fridleif, at night, through the thick forest rode,
He fain would arrive at his lov'd one's abode;
His harness was clanking, his helm glitter'd sheen,
His horse was so swift, and himself was so keen:
He reach'd the proud castle, and jump'd on the ground,
His horse to the branch of a linden he bound;
He shoulder'd his mantle of grey otter skin,
And through the wide door, to Sir Erik went in.
'Here sitt'st thou, Sir Erik, in scarlet array'd;
I've wedded thy daughter, the beautiful maid.'
'And who art thou, Rider? what feat hast thou done?
No nidering coward shall e'er be my son.'
'O far have I wander'd, renown'd is my name,
The heroes I conquer'd wherever I came:
'Han Elland, 't is true, long disputed the ground,
But yet he receiv'd from my hand his death-wound.'
Sir Erik then alter'd his countenance quite,
And out hurried he, in the gloom of the night.
'Fill high, little Kirstin, my best drinking cup,
And be the brown liquor with poison mixt up.'
She gave him the draught, and returning with speed,
'Young gallant,' said he, 'thou must taste my old mead.'
Sir Fridleif unbuckled his helmet and drank;
Sweat sprung from his forehead-his features grew blank.
'I never have drain'd, since the day I was born,
A bitterer draught, from a costlier horn:
'My course is completed, my life is summ'd up,
For treason I smell in the dregs of the cup.'
Sir Erik then said, while he stamp'd on the ground,
'Young knight, 't is thy fortune to die like a hound.
'My best belov'd friend thou didst boast to have slain,
And I have aveng'd him by giving thee bane:
'Not Helga, but Hela, shall now be thy bride;
Dark blue are her cheeks, and she looks stony-eyed.'
'Sir Erik, thy words are both witty and wise,
And hell, when it has thee, will have a rich prize!
'Convey unto Helga her gold ring so red;
Be sure to inform her when Fridleif is dead;
'But flame shall give water, and marble shall bleed,
Before thou shalt win by this treacherous deed:
'And I will not die like a hound, in the straw,
But go, like a hero, to Odin and Thor.'
He cut himself thrice, with his keen-cutting glaive,
And went to Valhalla, the way of the brave.
The knight bade his daughter come into the room:
'Look here, my sweet child, on thy merry bridegroom.'
She look'd on the body, and gave a wild start;
'O father, why hadst thou so cruel a heart?'
She moan'd and lamented, she rav'd and she curst;
She look'd on her love, till her very eyes burst.
At midnight, Sir Erik was standing there mute,
With two pallid corses beside his cold foot:
He stood stiff and still; and when morning-light came,
He stood, like a post, without life in his frame.
The youth and the maid were together interr'd,
Sir Erik could not from his posture be stirr'd:
He stood there, as stiffly, for thirty long days,
And look'd on the earth with a petrified gaze.
'T is said, on the night of the thirtieth long day,
To dust and to ashes he moulder'd away.
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