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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

The Seaside and the Fireside

By the Fireside. Tegnér’s Drapa

  • “October 14, 1847. Went to town, after finishing a poem on Tegnér’s death, in the spirit of the old Norse poetry.” In the first edition, the poem bore the title Tegnér’s Death. The word drapa signifies death-song, or dirge.

  • I HEARD a voice, that cried,

    “Balder the Beautiful

    Is dead, is dead!”

    And through the misty air

    Passed like the mournful cry

    Of sunward sailing cranes.

    I saw the pallid corpse

    Of the dead sun

    Borne through the Northern sky.

    Blasts from Niffelheim

    Lifted the sheeted mists

    Around him as he passed.

    And the voice forever cried,

    “Balder the Beautiful

    Is dead, is dead!”

    And died away

    Through the dreary night,

    In accents of despair.

    Balder the Beautiful,

    God of the summer sun,

    Fairest of all the Gods!

    Light from his forehead beamed,

    Runes were upon his tongue,

    As on the warrior’s sword.

    All things in earth and air

    Bound were by magic spell

    Never to do him harm;

    Even the plants and stones;

    All save the mistletoe,

    The sacred mistletoe!

    Hœder, the blind old God,

    Whose feet are shod with silence,

    Pierced through that gentle breast

    With his sharp spear, by fraud,

    Made of the mistletoe,

    The accursed mistletoe!

    They laid him in his ship,

    With horse and harness,

    As on a funeral pyre.

    Odin placed

    A ring upon his finger,

    And whispered in his ear.

    They launched the burning ship!

    It floated far away

    Over the misty sea,

    Till like the sun it seemed,

    Sinking beneath the waves.

    Balder returned no more!

    So perish the old Gods!

    But out of the sea of Time

    Rises a new land of song,

    Fairer than the old.

    Over its meadows green

    Walk the young bards and sing.

    Build it again,

    O ye bards,

    Fairer than before!

    Ye fathers of the new race,

    Feed upon morning dew,

    Sing the new Song of Love!

    The law of force is dead!

    The law of love prevails!

    Thor, the thunderer,

    Shall rule the earth no more,

    No more, with threats,

    Challenge the meek Christ.

    Sing no more,

    O ye bards of the North,

    Of Vikings and of Jarls!

    Of the days of Eld

    Preserve the freedom only,

    Not the deeds of blood!