Tegnér's Fridthjof's Saga
“How oft, in lungs of offer’d hawk,
Stand faithless token-signs!
And falsely many a rune doth talk.
Though deeply-grav’d the lines;
But, Helge, on a heart whose lore
Is sound, glad, upright, just,
Has Odin written runes all o’er.
Which gods and men may trust.
“Firm, but not harsh, my son, — let might
The touch of mercy feel;
For sword that bends the most will bite
Most sharply on the steel.
Know, Helge, it becomes a king
Gentle to be, though bold,
As flow’rs adorn the shield; soft spring
Brings more than winter cold.
“A friendless chief, however fear’d,
However bright his day,
Dies like a trunk in deserts rear’d,
It’s mark all peel’d away;
But whoso claims fast-faithful friends
Grows like the woodland tree,
Round whose deep roots the streamlet wends.
Whose branches shelter’d be.
“Boast not the fame thy dead sires gain’d, —
Each hath his own, no more;
Hast thou to bend the bow vain strain’d?
The bow’s not thine, —give o’er.
What wilt though with that bright esteem
Which down i’ the grave doth sleep?
With own fierce waves, the rushing stream
Flows onward through the deep.
“Thou, Halfdan, hear! A pleasant wit
Is wise men’s profiting:
But idle talk can none befit,
And least of all a kin;
Mere honey can no mead afford. —
With hops ‘tis brew’d away:
Put steel, young man, into thy sword,
Put earnest in thy play.
“Too much good sense none ever show.
However wise it fall:
But little enough full many know,
who have no wit at all.
An ignorant guest is but despis’d.
Though seated on the dais:
But clever men’s discourse is priz’d,
However low their place.
“Thy true-fast friend is close at hand.
Thy foster-brother dear.
Although, to reach his welc’ming land,
The road be not so near;
But Halfdan, far enough away
That mansion proves to be,
Be short the journey as it may,
Which hold an enemy.
“Let not a forward man be made
Thy bosom counselor;
An empty house stands wide display’d,
Barr’d is the rich man’s door.
Choose one: unnecessary ‘tis
To seek a second friend:
And the world’s secret, Halfdan, is
What with the third should end.”
Then up stood Thorstein, and began
In words like these to speak:
“Not thus, alone, king Bele can
The hall of Odin seek.
Together have we shar’d, O king.
The changing scenes of life —
And death, I hope, will never bring
Occasion for our strife.
“Old age, son Fridthjof, in mine ear
Full many a warning speech
Hath whisper’d soft; list now, and hear
What wisdom they can teach.
I’ the Northland Odin’s birds sweep down
On cairn and hero-mound;
On the old man’s lips – ah, sweet renown! —
Sit wise words, thoughts profound.
“And first, the high gods reverence!
For good and evil come,
Like storm and sunshine, hot form hence,
But Valhal’s shining home.
The heart’s most secret vaults they see,
Though clos’d with fast’nings strong,
And long years’ penance shall there be
For but one moment’s wrong.
“Obey the king. With force and skill
Shall one the scepter sway:
With stars dim night the sky may fill,
But one eye hath bright day.
Willing the better man will pledge
The best, glad praise his deeds;
The sword not only wants an edge,
A good hilt, too, it needs.
“Fridthjof, great strength the gods bestow —
And good it is, my son!
But without wit, mere force we know
Is soon outspent and done.
By one man slain — the bear can wield
Twelve men’s strength in his paw;
Yes! ‘gainst the sword- thrust’s held the shield,
‘Gainst violence, the law.