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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Bergliot

Today King Harald
must settle the thing-peace;
for five hundred farmers
was Einar´s escort.

Eindride, his son,
keeps guard on the house,
while the old one
goes in to the king.

Then Harald may remember
that Einar crowned
two kings
in Norway,

and gives peace
and reconciliation in law;
such was his promise,
and the people desire it.

How the sand blows
along the road,
and noise rises!
Look without, my servant!

Perhaps just the wind!
For the fjord is open,
the mountains low,
and the town unsheltered.

I remember the town
from my childhood;
this wind whips
savage hounds.

But noise rises
from a thousand voices,
steel-coloured
with the red flames of battle!

Yes, it is the clamour of shields!
And look, how the sand whirls:
waves of spears rolling
around Tambarskjelve!

He is in battle!
Treacherous Harald!
The corpse-raven rises
over your thing-peace!

Wheel out the waggon!
I must to the fight;
now to sit at home
would cost my life!

Oh farmers, save him!
Form a ring around him!
Eindride, protect now
your old father!

Build him a rampart of shields
and give him his bow;
for death ploughs a path
with Einar´s arrows!

And you, St Olav!
Oh, for your son´s sake,
speak for him
in the halls of Gimle!

The crowds disperse…
they fight no longer…
in waves
they follow
each other to the river,--
what can have happened?
What does this trembling forebode?
Has fortune turned?
What is it? Why is the army of farmers
standing still?…

With lowered lances
two dead they encircle
and Harald escapes?
What a throng there is
at the door of the court!
The whole army
turns silently away.
Where is Eindride?
Eyes full of sorrow
turn aside,
afraid to meet me…
now I know:
the two are dead!

Stand aside! I have to see:
yes, it is them!
Can this be?--
Yes, it is them.

Fallen is the most glorious
chief of the North;
the best bow of Norway
is broken.

Fallen is Einar
Tambarskjelve,
his son beside him,-
Eindride!

Murdered in darkness,
he, who was more than a father
to Magnus,
chosen by Knut the Mighty
to be counsel to his son!

Fallen, cut down,
the archer of Svolder,
the lion who sprang
over Lyrskog heath!

Slaughtered, ambushed,
the farmer´s chief,
the honour of Trøndelag,
Tambarskjelve!

His white hair mocked,
thrown to the dogs,
his son beside him,--
Eindride!

Up, up, farmers, he has fallen,
but he who felled him, lives!
Do you not know me? Bergliot,
Håkon of Hjørnungavåg´s daughter-
now I am Tambarskjelves´s widow!

I call upon you, men of arms:
my old husband is fallen.
Look, look, there is blood on his pale hair;
over your heads will it come
if his blood turns cold unavenged.

Up, up, warriors! Your chief is fallen,
your honour, your father, the joy of your children,
the legend of the valley, the whole country´s hero,
here is he fallen, and should you not take revenge?

Murdered in darkness, in the hall of the king,
in the hall of the thing, the hall of law, has he been murdered,
murdered by the first man of law.
Oh, lightning will strike the land from the heavens
if this is not purged in th flames of revenge!

Put the longships to sea!
Einar´s nine longships are here,
let them bring vengeance to Harald!

Oh, if he stood here, Håkon Ivarsson,
if he were standing here, my kinsman,
then Einar´s murderer would not find the fjord,
and I would not have to beg you cowards!

Oh, farmers, hear me, my husband has fallen!
The high-seat of my thoughts for half a centruy
is overturned, and on its right side
lies our only son, oh, all our future!

Empty are my two arms now;
can I ever again raise them in prayer?
Or where shall I turn on earth?
If I go away to foreign parts,
I shall miss those where we lived together.
but if I go there, 
oh, it is them I shall miss.

Odin in Valhalla I dare not seek,
for him I forsook in my childhood.
The new god in Gimle?-
But he has taken all I had!

Revenge? Who speaks of revenge?
Can revenge awaken my dead,
or cover me from the cold?
Can it give a widow her husband back,
or comfort a childless mother?

Let me be with your revenge, leave me!
Lay him on the waggon, him and his son,
come, we will follow them home.
The new god in Gimle, the terrible one, who took all,
let him take revenge - that he understands!
Drive slowly, for Einar always drove thus;
we shall be home soon enough.

The dogs will not meet us with happy leaps,
but with howls and hanging tails.
And the horses of the farm will cock their ears,
neigh happily towards te stable door,
expecting to hear the voice of Eindride.

But it sounds no longer,--
nor do Einar´s steps in the yard,
that called for all to rise,
because the chief was coming!
The large house I will close,
the people I will send away;
cattle and horses I will sell,
move out and live alone.
Drive slowly;
we shall be home soon enough.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Norwegian romantic composer
Translation © Frode Følling Birkeland. 
Some small changes by me.