The Northern Way

The Norse King's Bridal

AGNES AND THE MERMAN

Agnes she walked on the cliff so steep;
Up came a merman out of the deep.
(Ha, ha, ha!
Up came a merman out of the deep.)

"Hearken now, Agnes, so fair and so fine!
Say, wilt thou come to be true love o' mine?"

"Yes, good sooth, that will I be---
But how can I dwell in the depths of the
        sea?"

He has stopped her ears, and stopped her
        mouth as well;
So he bore her down, all in the sea to dwell.

She dwelt with the merman eight years and
        more----
Seven fair sons to him she bore.

Agnes she sat by the cradle and sang,
And she heard how the bells of England rang.
Unto the merman she then did say:
"May I go up to the kirk to pray?"

"Yes, thou shalt go, and pray withal;
But see thou come back to thy children
        small.

"When thou has entered the kirkyard fair,
Then shalt thou not let down thy shining
        golden hair.

"And when thou hast entered the door so
        wide,
Then sit not down by thy mother's side.

"When the priest names the Name of dread,
Thou shalt not bow thy head."

He has stopped her ears, and stopped her
        mouth amain;
So he bore her up to the English strand again.

When she came to the kirkyard fair,
Then she let down her shining golden hair.

And when she entered the door so wide,
She sat her down by her mother's side.

When she heard the Name of dread,
Then she bowed down her head.

"Hearken now, Agnes, to what I ask of thee---
Where hast thou been eight years away from
        me?"

"I dwelt in the sea eight years and more;
Seven sons so fair I to the merman bore."

"Tell me, dear daughter, and fear no blame,
What did he give for thy maiden fame?"

"He gave me a ring of golden sheen---
Never a better one hath the queen.

"Of golden shoon he gave me a pair---
Never a better the queen may wear.

"He gave me a harp of gold so gay,
That I might play upon, to drive my cares
        away."

The merman he made him a path so straight
Up from the strand to the kirkyard gate.

Into the kirk he went, that selfsame day,
And all the holy images, they turned their
        heads away.

Like the red, red gold was his shining hair;
His eyes were full of sorrow and care.

"Hearken now, Agnes, hearken unto me!
All thy little children are longing after thee."

"Let them long as they will, yea, let them
        long so sore!
I shall return to them never more."

"Think of the big ones, and think of the
        small!
Of the baby in the cradle think thou most
        of all."

"I think not of the big ones, I think not of
        the small!
Of the baby in the cradle I'll think no more
        at all!"
(Ha, ha, ha!
Of the baby in the cradle I'll think no more
        at all.)

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