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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Closing Scene of “The Viking”

By Elwyn Alfred Barron (1855–1929)

[Born in Lima, N. Y., 1855. Died, 1929. The Viking. 1888.]

ACT IV. SCENE.An interior, level with the ground. Arched window above steps, left, through which FENJA views a portion of the battle. Several women up stage. GURTH sits one side disconsolately leaning on his harp. EYVIND moves about, upbraiding himself for the infirmities of age.

EYSA[entering hurriedly].Oh, my darling lady.[Embracing.]
FENJA.Sweet sister! You weep!

What evil fortune do these tears forerun?

EYSA.We are undone by these most savage Danes,

’Fore whom our vikings disappear as grass

Before the browsing herd. They’re all in flight,

And as they run the foe smites them with death.

FENJA[aside].Horrible! And my accusing terror

Lays the blame upon my wilful soul.
EYVIND[at window].Gods!

It is a fearful thing to see.
EYSA[to FENJA].Go look,

If you would have your eyes like mine, weep blood!

FENJA.Though nature sicken at the sight, I’ll look.

EYVIND[descending].Nay, do not so.
FENJA.Deny me not. My will

Is stronger than my fears. Lend me your hand.

[Takes EYVIND’S hand and mounts steps to window. EYVIND stands beside her. FENJA looks a moment in silence.]
EYSA.This day fills up the woe of Norway quite.

Would I were underneath their rushing feet,

If so I might find Thord!
EYVIND[to FENJA].You shake with fear.

I pray you be advised; there’s danger there.

Descend into the room.
FENJA[looking out].My veins are chilled

With the cold horror of the bloody scene.

Nor can my startled eyes give shape to men,

Massed like some writhing monster self-destroyed!

I know not which are friends, so close impact

Are slayers and the slain. There is a break!

The moving bulk has stopped. Those in retreat

Have turned to fight us though they do despair

Of safe escape, and mean to sell their lives

At dearest price. They gain some backward way!

But now they’re forced again! I see the plume

My brother wears. ’Tis he! he strives to check

The tide of fell disaster. Ne’er till now

Have I beheld him kingly; but he towers

Majestic where he fights. Oh, gods, what now!

One comes against him that I know. Yes, ’tis—

’Tis Hafthor’s self encounters him full tide!

Such stroke of swords! I am afraid to look,

But dare not else. So noble both appear,

And yet so deadly fearful, friend and foe

Stand locked from action, wondering to see

Their mighty leaders so engaged! Oh, gods!

Is Hafthor fallen so? He’s up again

And lays such rapid blows his shining sword

Is like a halo in the sun. Look now!

My brother yields, his strength declines, his sword

Strikes heavily and slow; he stumbles, falls.

Oh, spare him, Hafthor! put him not to death!

He holds his sword aloft! The gods be thanked,

He lets my brother live! They bind him fast;

And over all there is a sudden hush,—

A deathlike stillness, as the fight were done.

But there’s old Swend, who was my purchased lord,

Steps forth and fits an arrow to his bow.

[Turning.]Eysa, mount with me; there is no terror now.

Peace has come.[Cries out and falls.]’Twas Swend!

[FENJA falls into the arms of EYVIND, who takes in his hands the shaft of an arrow snatched from her breast. FENJA is borne to couch, EYSA and the women gathering around her.]
EYSA.In holy ruth

Inform me what has chanced! Darling Fenja!

If she be in swoon— What! Look you! She bleeds!

Oh! Came that arrow from her breast? Sweet girl!

[EYSA kneels down by FENJA.]
EYVIND.Speak to me, Fenja, for I quake to see

The lily wonder of your skin so stained;

You are not but a little hurt? No worse?

FENJA.I think it touched the core of life! Ah, me!

I did not hope to die; but death were good

Did it withhold till I might speak with him,

And feel his lips—his look—his touch——
EYVIND.She faints.

Guard her full tenderly. Stanch close the wound.

I’ll look beyond for medicines.[Exit, left.]
EYSA.Dear friend,

Most darling lady, look not so composed,

The very counterpart of what we fear.

There is no tremor of her heart. I doubt

If any wistful spark of life remain.[Bows, weeping.]

[The women surround, concealing couch. Enter HAFTHOR with drawn sword, followed by ERIC, guarding HAROLD bound, THORD, and several others. HAFTHOR goes to throne chair, which he mounts, smiting the top with his sword.]
HAFTHOR.In Denmark’s name, and for great Denmark’s king,

I seize on Norway as the prize of arms.

And, for I know him faithful, capable,

I name, till such good time as Denmark speaks,

Young Thord of Norway to be Norway’s jarl.

Kneel you, and you who late were Norway’s king.

[They kneel. HAFTHOR touches sword to the head of HAROLD, then to THORD’S.]
HAFTHOR.Thus passes majesty from one to one

As lightly as we breathe a sigh. Arise!

HAFTHOR.Who calls so faintly on my name?

[The women move apart, revealing couch and EYSA kneeling beside FENJA.]
HAFTHOR.Gods! Am I turned to ice within,

That I am struck so cold at heart?

[EYSA rises, and HAFTHOR hastens to take place, kneeling beside FENJA. EYSA goes tearfully to THORD, and flings herself upon his breast. HAROLD comes quickly and takes place behind couch.]
HAFTHOR.Most precious to my heart, how came this hurt?

What cruel fortune touched you thus? You smile!

Then may my soul drink hope from your wreathed lips.

FENJA.I did but wait your coming that my life

Might leap into our parting kiss. Your lips.

[HAFTHOR kisses her. EYVIND reënters.]
HAROLD.My little sister, speak to me.[ERIC cuts his cords.]
FENJA.That voice—

More tender than it ever spoke. Good-night,—

[Giving her hand to HAROLD.]
For there is darkness round about me now.

Hafthor, Harold, lead me forth.

[She dies. HAFTHOR and HAROLD kneel on either side, each holding one of her hands.]
HAROLD[after a pause].She is dead.

[HAFTHOR kisses her brow and rises. HAROLD continues kneeling. EYVIND, showing grief and as if sorely stricken, comes forward and takes the place vacated by HAFTHOR.]
HAFTHOR[aside].Shall I, who conquered Norway for her sake,

Now live without her? Yet I may not yield

To self-inflicted death without some shame.

[Suddenly.]Ay! there’s a way.[To HAROLD.]You need not be a slave,

The sport and plaything of a foreign king,—

For we were friends in youth— Nay, truth to say,

For that I loved your sister,—ah, how well!—

I would not have it so. Take chance with sword

To gain the liberty you crave.
HAROLD.How so?

HAFTHOR.We two will fight in equal combat here;

And if the god of fortune smile on you,

Upon my troth you shall be free to go

Whither your humbled hopes may lead.

HAROLD.It is a noble offer. Let my sword

Speak better than my tongue my thanks. My sword!

[THORD hands his sword to HAROLD. HAFTHOR and HAROLD take position. THORD and ERIC stand near. EYSA slips around back of couch, kisses FENJA, and then watches to see the combat. EYVIND remains bowed, paying no heed. GURTH takes place near front with harp in front of him. After a pass or two, HAFTHOR lets fall his guard just as HAROLD makes a thrust, receiving HAROLD’s sword in his breast.]
THORD[starting forward].That was an unresisted stroke.
HAFTHOR[smiling].Well struck.

Your arm has strength.
HAROLD.I understand you now.

You tricked me to your death. It was not just.

[THORD half supports HAFTHOR, who wavers, but remains standing. GURTH half unconsciously touches his harp, playing. EYVIND, dumfounded, arises and goes back of couch.]
HAFTHOR.You scorned to give her to me when glad life

Was sportive in her dimpled cheeks; but now

Amend the wrong, and I will happier die

Than ever in most joyous hour I lived.

[Struggles an instant, then clasps his hand to his side and recovers.]
My tawny ship lies there among the fleet,

A golden dragon at her head. She came,

My father told me, from the unknown sea,

Full-sailed to court the breeze, and yet unmanned;

Her spacious deck uncumbered, and her hold

Unlined with trace of any former life.

He first beheld her in the summer light

That marked the mid-day calm,—the sea serene

As face of sleeping pool; yet on she moved,

A thing of beauty and of life. A space,

And from the prow there seemed to rise a flame

That spread its arms and caught the sails and mast,

And wrapped the vessel in a yellow cloak.

Whereat my father sighed that craft so fair

Should burn, thinking it the funeral bed

Of some departed king. But, as he gazed,

The yellow flame, as though an orb of light,

Rolled from the ship into a ball of fire

That fled along the surface of the sea;

Then, cleft in twain, it rose into the sky,

As ’twere two images, a man and maid,

And vanished where the overhanging blue

Shuts in the fields of Asgard. All amazed,

My father turned from looking, and behold!

The ship lay moored before him. Such the tale.

I think I read the omen in my fate;

And if I lie with this fair hapless maid

Upon the mystic deck, my ship again

Will sail into the unknown waiting sea,

Where our two souls entwining will ascend

Into the region of the gods. Do this;

Let our asundered lives unite in death,

And all will be forgiven.[Dies.]