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

Norway: Guldbrandsdal

Thoralf and Synnöv

By Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848–1895)

O, HAVE you been in Guldbrands-Dale, where Laagen’s mighty flood

Chants evermore its stirring strain unto the listening wood?

And have you seen the evening sun on those bright glaciers glow,

When valleyward it shoots and darts like shafts from elfin bow?

Have you beheld the maidens, when the saeter path they tread,

With the ribbons in their sunny hair and the milk-pails on their head?

And have you heard the fiddles, when they strike the lusty dance?

Then you have heard of Synnöv Houg, and of myself perchance.

For Synnöv Houg is lissome as the limber willow spray,

And when you think you hold her fast, and she is yours for aye,

Then like the airy blow-ball that dances o’er the lea,

She gently through your fingers slips, and lightly floateth free.

Then it was last St. John’s Eve,—I remember it so well,—

And we had lit a bonfire in a grass-grown little dell;

And all the lads and maidens were seated in a ring,

And some were telling stories, while the rest were listening.

Till up sprang little Synnöv, and she sang a stave as clear

As the skylark’s earliest greeting in the morning of the year;

And I,—I hardly knew myself, but up they saw me dart,

For every note of Synnöv’s stave went straight unto my heart.

And like the rushing currents, that from the glaciers flow,

And down into the sunny bays their icy waters throw,

So streamed my heavy bass-notes through the forests far and wide,

And Synnöv’s treble rocked like a feather on the tide.

“And little Synnöv,” sang I, “thou art good and very fair”;

“And little Thoralf,” sang she, “of what you say, beware!”

“My fairest Synnöv,” quoth I, “my heart was ever thine,

My homestead and my goodly farm, my herds of lowing kine.”

“O Thoralf, dearest Thoralf, if that your meaning be,—

If your big heart can hold such a little thing as me,

Then—I shall truly tell you if e’er I want a man,

And—you are free to catch me, handsome Thoralf,—if you can.”

And down the hillside ran she, where the tangled thicket weaves

A closely latticed bower with its intertwining leaves.

And through the coppice skipped she, light-footed as a hare,

And with her merry laughter rang the forests far and near.

And whenever I beheld little Synnöv all that year,

She fled from my sight as from hunter’s shaft the deer.

I lay awake full half the nights, and knew not what to do,

For I loved little Synnöv so tenderly and true.

Then ’t was a summer even up in the birchen glen,

I sat listening to the cuckoo and the twitter of the wren;

And suddenly above me rang out a silver voice;

It rose above the twittering birds and o’er the river’s noise.

There sat my little love, where the rocks had made a seat,

And the crimson-tipped flowerets grew all around her feet,

And on her yellow locks clung a tiny roguish hood;

Its edge was made of swan’s-down, but the cloth was red as blood.

And noiselessly behind her I had stolen through the copse;

I cursed the restless birch-trees when they waved their rustling tops.

Full merrily my heart beat; then forth I leapt in haste,

And flung a slender birch-bough around the maiden’s waist.

She blushed and she fluttered, then turned away to run;

But straight into my sturdy arms I caught the little one.

I put her gently down in the heather at my side,

Where the crimson-tipped flowerets the rocky ledges hide.

And as the prisoned birdling, when he knows his cage full well,

Pours forth his silver-toned voice, and naught his mirth can quell,

So little Synnöv, striving in vain my hold to flee,

Turned quick on me her roguish eyes and laughed full heartily.

“My little Synnöv,” said I, “if I remember right,

’T was something that you promised me a year ago to-night.”

Then straight she stayed her laughter, and full serious she grew,

And whispered: “Little Thoralf, you promised something too.”