Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to Denmark

The Bard

By Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger (1779–1850)

Translated by William Sidney Walker

O, GREAT was Denmark’s land in time of old!

Wide to the south her branch of glory spread;

Fierce to the battle rushed her heroes bold,

Eager to join the revels of the dead:

While the fond maiden flew with smiles to fold

Round her returning warrior’s vesture red

Her arm of snow, with nobler passion fired,

When to the breast of love, exhausted, he retired.

Nor bore they only to the field of death

The bossy buckler and the spear of fire;

The bard was there, with spirit-stirring breath,

His bold heart quivering as he swept the wire,

And poured his notes, amidst the ensanguined heath,

While panting thousands kindled at his lyre:

Then shone the eye with greater fury fired,

Then clashed the glittering mail, and the proud foe retired.

And when the memorable day was past,

And Thor triumphant on his people smiled,

The actions died not with the day they graced;

The bard embalmed them in his descant wild,

And their hymned names, through ages uneffaced,

The weary hours of future Danes beguiled:

When even their snowy bones had mouldered long,

On the high column lived the imperishable song.

And the impetuous harp resounded high

With feats of hardiment done far and wide,

While the bard soothed with festive minstrelsy

The chiefs, reposing after battle-tide:

Nor would stern themes alone his hand employ;

He sang the virgin’s sweetly tempered pride,

And hoary eld, and woman’s gentle cheer,

And Denmark’s manly hearts, to love and friendship dear.