Tegnér's Fridthjof's Saga
“Earth is heav’n’s shadow
— human life the porch
And outer court of Balder’s heav’nly temple.
The vulgar offer blood — they bring proud steeds,
With gold and purple deck’d, before the altar, —
It is a symbol, rightly read, that blood
Is the red dawn of every day of grace.
“But still the token
Can ne’er the substance be;
What thou thyself hast broken
None but thyself atones for thee!
The dead are reconcil’d in great Allfather’s
Bosom celestial; but the sole atonement
Of him who lives, is in his own deep breast.
There is one off’ring which the gods prefer
To thousand hecatombs, — the sacrifice
Of that wild hate and burning, fierce revenge
Harbor’d in thine own bosom. Canst thou not
Their thirsty sabres charm to peace again —
Ah! canst thou not forgive — what wilt thou, youth,
In Balder’s mansion here? what meant thou, say,
With this arch’d temple, built to peaceful powers?
No pil’d-up stones atone!
Such off’rings Balder will have none.
No! with mild, merciful, pure peace alone
In heav’n on earth, ‘tis only peace that pardon gives.
First with thyself and with thy foe united be, —
Thou then art reconcil’d with yon pale deity.
“In lands far south, ‘tis said,
Is some new Balder worshiped, —
He, the pure virgin’s son from heav’n who sped,
Sent by the Allfather’s self to explain the dim
And yet unfathom’d runes which crowd the rim
Bord’ring the shield of darkness, that dread shield
Worn by the norns. And never would this Balder wield
Our earth’s dark blood-stain’d arms. No! still in his glad field
Was peace his battle cry, his bright sword, love,
And o’er his silver helmet sat the dove
Of brooding innocence. his pious days
In sweet instruction pass’d, or prey’r or praise;
And when he died, his dying voice forgave, —
And now, ‘neath far-off palms, still stands his shining grave.
This doctrine, say they, spread o’er ev’ry alnd,
Melting hard hearts and joining hand in hand,
And on this earth, now reconcil’d again,
Upraising gentle peace’s wide domain.
Not yet! alas!
Hath human lip to mine ag’d ear explain’d aright
This creed; but still, when better moments o’er me pass,
My dim gaze darkly sees afar its streaming light.
Ah! where is human heart that hath not, like as mine,
Presag’d its truths divine?
But this I know: — One day, with dove-white wings
She comes, and gently gloats along, and sings
O’er all the hilly North. But then no North
Will send, as now, its savage warriors forth; —
No! while new chieftains reign, shall flourish other men;
and deep in hero-cairns, forgotten then,
Our bones will lie,
While Northland’s oaks above us deeply sigh.
Ye happier race, ye sons who then shall drink
That new light’s lustre foaming o’er the brink
Of truth’s bright-beaming goblet, all hail, all hail!
Yes! words would fail
To speak how bless’d ye’ll be,
If far from off your heav’n those shadows flee
Which have so gloomily,
As yet, hung thickly stretch’d on high,
Hiding like some damp veil life’s sunny sky!
But still, ye sons, despise not us, your father’s line.
Ah! with what eager gaze our eyne
Have ceaseless sought to drink those rays divine
Shining from life’s and light’s bright sun!
Know! he hath many envoys, but the Allfather’s one!
“Thou hatest Bele’s sons! — but wherefore hate them?
Forsooth, because that to a yeoman’s child
They would not give their sister, — she, descended
From Seiming’s blood, th’ illustrious Odin’s offspring!
Yes, sprung from Valhal’s throne in Bele’s race, —
Bright genealogy, just source of pride!
But birth is chance, is fortune, thou observest,
And cannot be a merit. Know, my son,
That man still boasts of fortune, not of merit.
Say! is’t not gen’rous gods who were the givers,
Should any noble quality adorn us?
With haughty pride thou art thyself inflam’d
At all thy hero exploits, all thy fierce-nerv’d
Resistless strength; but didst thou give thyself
This force? Was’t not great Asa-Thor who strung
Firm as gnarl’d oak thy tough and sinewy arm?
Say, it’s not god-sprung courage that so gladly,
So loudly throbs within that shield-hung fortress,
Thy fast arch’d breast? And that clear flaming glance
Leaping form out thine eye, — say, is’t not lightning
From heav’n that playeth there? The lofty norns
E’en at thy cradle sang the princely legend
Of all thy life’s adventures. Ah! from these
Thou has no greater merit than have king Bele’s
Two boasting sons that ‘twas a king begat them!
Condemn not, judge not other’s pride! then none
Will judge thine own. King Helge is no more!”
“King Helge, he, “ — said Fridthjof, ---- “when, where, how?”