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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Pyre of Balder

Innocence is resting
on the blessed pyre.
All that breathe are taken
by an icy shudder.
Red as blood the sun sinks,
mountain shadows lengthen;
through the Ash´s foliage
Time-at-Autumn sighs.

Silent gods hold vigil
round the livid Balder.
Fimbulnight is falling—
let the pyre be kindled!
Dark the dome of heaven.
Odin grasps the torch-hilt;
furrowed deep, his forehead
toward his bosom bows.

Every hight-heroic
fight is done forever.
Men shall henceforth purpose
naught but woe and evil,
strong shall stand the scoundrel,
good in links lie bounden
till the flame of Súrter
O´er the world shall run.

Now like one entrancéd
numbly Odin pauses,
while his mind considers
deep and murky riddles,
probes the depths to ponder
secret runes, and listens
at the spirit´s bedrock
for an answer won.

Did the brooding father
find the thing he hunted?
Odin leans his forehead,
smoothed and clear, to Balder´s,
whispers to the dead one
what Valhalla never,
never has imagined,
something known to none.

Would you guess the riddle?
Walk the woods at midnight,
hear the tempest howling
in the misty uplands!
Hear the anguished whimpers,
hear the cries and plaining,
hear the deep confession
wrung from Nature´s lips.

Holy silence follows
horror´s wild lamenting,
and like organ music
Odin´s great idea
floats through all the forest:
meaning in the conflict,
comfort in the deeps.

Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895)

Swedish poet, novelist, essayist, idealist philosopher

Translation by Judith Moffet