Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  From the Swedish and Danish. Passages from Frithiof’s Saga. III. Frithiof’s Temptation

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


From the Swedish and Danish. Passages from Frithiof’s Saga. III. Frithiof’s Temptation

By Esaias Tegnér

SPRING is coming, birds are twittering, forests leaf, and smiles the sun,

And the loosened torrents downward, singing, to the ocean run;

Glowing like the cheek of Freya, peeping rosebuds ’gin to ope,

And in human hearts awaken love of life, and joy, and hope.

Now will hunt the ancient monarch, and the queen shall join the sport:

Swarming in its gorgeous splendor, is assembled all the court;

Bows ring loud, and quivers rattle, stallions paw the ground alway,

And, with hoods upon their eyelids, scream the falcons for their prey.

See, the Queen of the chase advances! Frithiof, gaze not at the sight!

Like a star upon a spring-cloud sits she on her palfrey white.

Half of Freya, half of Rota, yet more beauteous than these two,

And from her light hat of purple wave aloft the feathers blue.

Gaze not at her eyes’ blue heaven, gaze not at her golden hair!

Oh beware! her waist is slender, full her bosom is, beware!

Look not at the rose and lily on her cheek that shifting play,

List not to the voice beloved, whispering like the wind of May.

Now the huntsman’s band is ready. Hurrah! over hill and dale!

Horns ring, and the hawks right upward to the hall of Odin sail.

All the dwellers in the forest seek in fear their cavern homes,

But, with spear outstretched before her, after them the Valkyr comes.


Then threw Frithiof down his mantle, and upon the greensward spread,

And the ancient king so trustful laid on Frithiof’s knee his head,

Slept as calmly as the hero sleepeth, after war’s alarm,

On his shield, or as an infant sleeps upon its mother’s arm.

As he slumbers, hark! there sings a coal-black bird upon the bough;

“Hasten, Frithiof, slay the old man, end your quarrel at a blow:

Take his queen, for she is thine, and once the bridal kiss she gave,

Now no human eye beholds thee, deep and silent is the grave.”

Frithiof listens; hark! there sings a snow-white bird upon the bough:

“Though no human eye beholds thee, Odin’s eye beholds thee now.

Coward! wilt thou murder sleep, and a defenceless old man slay!

Whatsoe’er thou winn’st, thou canst not win a hero’s fame this way.”

Thus the two wood-birds did warble: Frithiof took his war-sword good,

With a shudder hurled it from him, far into the gloomy wood.

Coal-black bird flies down to Nastrand, but on light, unfolded wings,

Like the tone of harps, the other, sounding towards the sun, upsprings.

Straight the ancient king awakens. “Sweet has been my sleep,” he said;

“Pleasantly sleeps one in the shadow, guarded by a brave man’s blade.

But where is thy sword, O stranger? Lightning’s brother, where is he?

Who thus parts you, who should never from each other parted be!”

“It avails not,” Frithiof answered; “in the North are other swords:

Sharp, O monarch! is the sword’s tongue, and it speaks not peaceful words;

Murky spirits dwell in steel blades, spirits from the Niffelhem;

Slumber is not safe before them, silver locks but anger them.”