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


From the Swedish and Danish. The Elected Knight

  • (Den Udkaarne Ridder)
  • This strange and somewhat mystical ballad is from Nyerup and Rahbek’s Danske Viser fra Middelalderen. It seems to refer to the first preaching of Christianity in the North, and to the institution of Knight-Errantry. The three maidens I suppose to be Faith, Hope, and Charity. The irregularities of the original have been carefully preserved in the translation.H. W. L.

  • SIR OLUF he rideth over the plain,

    Full seven miles broad and seven miles wide,

    But never, ah never can meet with the man

    A tilt with him dare ride.

    He saw under the hillside

    A Knight full well equipped;

    His steed was black, his helm was barred;

    He was riding at full speed.

    He wore upon his spurs

    Twelve little golden birds;

    Anon he spurred his steed with a clang,

    And there sat all the birds and sang.

    He wore upon his mail

    Twelve little golden wheels;

    Anon in eddies the wild wind blew,

    And round and round the wheels they flew.

    He wore before his breast

    A lance that was poised in rest;

    And it was sharper than diamond-stone,

    It made Sir Oluf’s heart to groan.

    He wore upon his helm

    A wreath of ruddy gold;

    And that gave him the Maidens Three,

    The youngest was fair to behold.

    Sir Oluf questioned the Knight eftsoon

    If he were come from heaven down;

    “Art thou Christ of Heaven,” quoth he,

    “So will I yield me unto thee.”

    “I am not Christ the Great,

    Thou shalt not yield thee yet;

    I am an Unknown Knight,

    Three modest Maidens have me bedight.”

    “Art thou a Knight elected,

    And have three maidens thee bedight,

    So shalt thou ride a tilt this day,

    For all the Maidens’ honor!”

    The first tilt they together rode

    They put their steeds to the test;

    The second tilt they together rode

    They proved their manhood best.

    The third tilt they together rode

    Neither of them would yield;

    The fourth tilt they together rode

    They both fell on the field.

    Now lie the lords upon the plain,

    And their blood runs unto death;

    Now sit the Maidens in the high tower,

    The youngest sorrows till death.