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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Original: Faroese ballad (91 stanzas). Referring to myths from the 9th century,
put to rhyme probably in the 14th century, it was written down 1851 by V. U. Hammershaimb
in the New Faroese language (in FΖRΦISKE KVΖDER).

Translation from: Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer: A Faroλse Ballad-Cycle, E.M. Smith-Dampier, 1934.
Transkription by courtesy of Kiyo.  Kiyo΄s Repository of Myhos & Poesy

The Ballad of Ragnar

Burden (refrain):
Hart-in-the-Fortress, tall
& towered thy dwelling !
Brighter than shining shield-boss is thy beauty,
Well-learned art thou in lore of wild birds' wisdom.

LITHE ye now and listen,
Whenas the song I sing
All of the beauteous maiden
Was daughter of Uppland's King.
Stately she sat in high-seat,
Mirror of ladies all;
Many were the maidens
Dwelt in the kingly hall.
The hall her father builded
Shone all with the red, red gold;
Thither he led the Princess
‘ 'Mid pleasures manifold.
All in the morning early
When sun shone far and wide,
To good greenwood went Tora
With all her maids beside.
A shining Worm those maidens found
Under the greenwood tree—
Full oft is born from joyance
Both sorrow and jeopardy!
With mirth and song the glades among
Those merry maidens roam,
And they've ta'en the Serpent all in sport,
And borne it safely home.
All in a kist those maidens
Have laid the Worm away,
But it waxeth while a man may watch,
By night and eke by day.
It was the King took his golden ring
And laid it by the Worm,
Yet still it grew while the moments flew,
And fearsome was its form.
Was sore afraid each merry maid
That saw the portent's power;
The kingly hall was over-small;
Too strait the ladies' bower,
They haled it forth to the grassy garth,
But whenas it felt the sun,
It towered eftsoon their heads aboon,
Nor yet its growth was done.
And every wight that saw that sight
With fear was like to die
For its back o'er-topped the loftiest tower
And its head was in the sky
It was the King of Uppland
That spake at last and said:
‘ Now whoso slayeth this shining Worm
My daughter fair shall wed.
‘ To him I'll give my daughter
With joyance and junketting,
Who saveth the maid from peril,
And slayeth this deadly thing. ’
To the Count afar in the Southland
Were borne these words of doom:
‘ The Serpent hath ringed the maidens' bower
With a flood of deadly spume! ’
All in the morning early
He cried thro' bower and hall
‘ Now will I slay the Serpent
That wardeth the maidens all! ’
Rocking over the rollers,
The good ship leaves the shore;
And long ere half the way was won
They heard the Dragon roar.
They heard the Dragon roaring
While yet their course ran free;
And the Count he deemed it a luckless hour
When put out to sea.
‘ Now turn ye again, my merry men,
Too few, were ye ten times more,
The power to break of the fierce Fire-drake
That watcheth the maidens o'er!
‘ Now turn ye again, my merry men,
Nor seek this weird to dree!
Long may the Worm keep watch and ward
Over those maids, for me. ’
Now tidings reached King Ragnar
(Whose sire was Sigurd Ring):
‘ The Worm hath circled the maidens' bower,
And none doth succour bring. ’
He caulked with pitch his garments all
And strewed thereon the sand,
That deadly fume and poisoned spume
No flesh of his might brand.
The garb he bore, behind, before,
With pitch he pies and streaks;
And ever the by-name he had of yore
Was Ragnar Roughen-Breeks.
At early dawn he's wakened
His warriors true and tried:
‘ With cheerful heart will we depart
To tame this Dragon's pride! ’
The ship they drag from shelter,
Those warriors bold and free;
The salt shore shakes, the white foam breaks,
When the vessel takes the sea.
They hoisted up their silken sail
Before the wind to run,
And they heard the Dragon roaring
Ere half the way was done.
They heard the Dragon roaring
Or ever they came ashore;
But Ragnar bade his merry men
The foaming mead to pour.
‘ Now ward ye well my gallant ship,
And let your hearts be gay,
The while I wend this guest unkenned,
This land-fish foul, to slay! ’
‘ Now nay, now nay, to follow thee
Thy merry men all are boun;
‘ Tis more than one man's work, I trow,
To strike the Dragon down! ’
Oh; the Serpent slept in the grass-grown garth,
And fearsome and foul was he;
Long stood the King, a-marvelling,
That monstrous sight to see.
‘ Awake, awake, thou fierce Fire-drake,
Shalt reckon anon with me!
Fair Tora Borgarhjort shall learn
How little I reck of thee. ’
‘ Who dares from dream to waken me
Must needs be bold of mood,
Yet he who fain that maid would wed
Hath greater hardihood! ’
E'en yet the stroke that Ragnar struck
Do men account a wonder!
With mighty strength, in midmost length,
He hewed the Worm asunder.
Never, I wis, did warrior
More valiant victory win;
He tore away his spear-shaft,
But the head remained within.
Now he has doffed his base attire,
And donned the linen white,
While the maidens, all a-marvelling,
Gazed on that seemly sight.
Now he has donned the linen white
With the scarlet over all;
Never so gay a gallant
Was seen in kingly hall!
The maidens stand in the glass-window,
And pour the foaming mead,
But Ragnar the King to their wassailing
He payeth but little heed.
The maidens stand in the glass-window,
And pour the wine so red,
But down to his ship by the salt sea-shore
In haste hath Ragnar fled.
He toiled, the thrall, till evenfall,
And prayed for rest in vain,
Ere since he saw at the mirk midnight
Where the loathly Worm lay slain.
He toiled, poor wight, from morn till night,
Wearied in every limb,
Yet scarce could brook his flesh should touch.
That ghastly corse and grim.
So far did stretch the luckless wretch,
His belt asunder brast,
Till his fingers feel the point of steel
That sticketh firm and fast.
Then straightway Ragnar's spear-point
Unto the King he bore:
‘ 'Twas I that slew the Dragon,
And saved thee from peril sore! ’
Adown before the high-seat
He hurled the broken spear:
‘ Now I that slew the Dragon
Shall wed thy daughter dear! ’
Red shone the early morning
On moor and billowy main,
When Tora went in with the sunbeams
To greet her parents twain.
‘ Now maiden, take it not amiss
That I wed thee with a thrall!
To him that slew the Worm is due
The fairest prize of all. ’
‘ Oh trust him not, oh trust him not,
So foully hath he lied!
Faster than all he fled, I ween,
Whenas the Dragon died.
‘ The warrior brave that thrust the glaive,
Goodsooth, no thrall was he,
But like the son of a mighty king
That ruleth some far countrie. ’
The King doth call his counsel all,
And none shall say him nay;
His house must drink the blithe bridale
All on the self-same day.
The board was spread, the wine was red,
Was none that dared repine;
By hundreds twelve the guests were bidden
From castles nine and nine.
Now two-score dishes of silver fair
Are set upon the board,
With cups of silver like to them,
Worthy a monarch's hoard.
In he came, the little page,
To tell them tidings new:
‘ Behold a ship that skims the
Sound With sails o' the gold and blue! ’
Up spake Tora Borgarhjort,
And these were the words she said:
‘ Who sails the sea, that man is he
My weird would have me wed! ’
Oh, he hath brought his gallant ship
So fairly in to land,
And cast therewith his anchor
All on the snow-white sand.
Softly the foam was seething,
All on the snow-white sand,
And it was brave King Ragnar
That first set foot on land.
Bold, I ween, was that warrior!
He entered in the hall:
‘ The weird is mine, fair Tora
To wed despite ye all! ’
Strong, I wis, was that warrior!
He entered in the hall,
And the thrall was out of the high-seat
Ere a moment well was o' er.
Minded to do him a mischief,
Uprose the angry King—
But none in hall beheld that thrall,
So swift his vanishing!
It was brave King Ragnar
That fell upon his knee,
And prayed fair Tora Borgarhjort
Eftsoon his bride to be.
Abed they were laid together,
King Ragnar and his wife;
Blithely went the bridal,
And merry was their life.
Oft doth it chance with men's joyance
That sorrow followeth!
Yet young, I ween, was Ragnar's Queen,
When she fell sick to death.
Right woefully she up and spake
All in the midnight drear:
‘ Shalt woo that maiden for thy wife
Who best my garb may wear. ’
Faint she grew, that lady fair,
All on her sore sick-bed:
And 'Never, ah never,' King Ragnar cried,
‘ Shall I that maiden wed! ’
Wan she grew, that lady bright,
All on her bed of pain,
And: 'Never, ah never,' King Ragnar cried,
‘ Shall I woo maid again! ’
‘ Now nay, thou shalt wed that maiden
Who dwells by the Southland sea;
Her birth befits thy station,
Tho' small her kingdom be. ’
All in the morning early
When red was the sunrise sheen,
King Ragnar fared forth from the castle,
And with him his dead young Queen.
Under the howe that the henchmen
Had heaped upon the wold,
‘ 'Twas there they laid her bright bodye,
Down in the darksome mould.
All by the howe on the heathland
They spake with weeping eye:
‘ Doleful it is on sunbright day
In darksome mould to lie. ’
Up and spake King Ragnar
That stood by the dark graveside:
‘ Never, ah never while I live
Shall I woo another bride! ’
No peace he got, King Ragnar,
Neither by night nor day;
He bade them build him a gallant ship
To sail so faraway.
Now certain swains that bread should bake
Went riding here and there,
Till they met with a wight that Haki hight,
And he had a daughter fair.
Right swiftly did those swains return
(Small was their work, I ween!):
‘ Behold, we have found a maiden fair
Whose like was never seen.
‘ Behold, we have met with a maiden,
Both joyous and wise is she;
Had Tora the Queen been like her,
Like Tora that maid would be! ’
Up and spake King Ragnar,
And answered those swains so free:
‘ Little reck I of her beauty,
Tho' beauteous she well may be!
‘ Bid ye that maid come hither
With a young swain by her side,
A swain that yet no swain may be,
And thus come boun to bide.
‘ Bid ye that maid come hither
All in a garb of pride,
A garb that yet no garb may be,
And thus come boun to bide! ’
And now those swains that bake the bread
Go riding here and there,
Till they meet with the wight that Haki hight, .
Who hath a daughter fair.
‘ Our king doth bid the maiden come
With a young swain by her side,
A swain that never a swain may be,
And thus come boun to bide.
‘ Our King doth bid the maiden come
All in a garb of pride,
And yet that garb no garb must be,
And thus come boun to bide. ’
Her locks of gold the maid did fold
Her body white around,
And, all for a swain to run beside,
She called her faithful hound.
She went her way where the good ship lay
Down by the salt sea-shore;
And the Serpent-sign within her eyne
Was the same that Sigurd bore.
Up and spake King Ragnar
A word so blithe and free:
‘ Thy father's name, thou maiden,
I fain would ask of thee. ’
‘ Haki I call my father,
& Krαka he calleth me;
To ward the goats beside the way
My daily toil must be. ’
Silken sark & scarlet robe
All in a pile he pressed:
‘ Now take them, Krαka, thou churl's daughter,
& wear them as likes thee best! ’
Scarlet robe & silken shoon
He rolleth all in haste:
‘ Now take them, Kdka, thou churl's daughter,
& bear them as best thou mayest! ’
Silken sark & scarlet robe
In wrath she cast away:
‘ More wont am I the goats to ward
Than walk in garments gay! ’
Oh fair, so fair her golden hair,
& light her dancing tread!
King Ragnar's cheek grew white & wan,
& then again grew red.
‘ No churl, no churl was sire o' thine,
Whate'er thy tale, I trow!
That thou art come of high degree
Is told by blee & brow.'
Again he spake, King Ragnar:
‘ Now fear nor ban nor blame,
But speak thou sooth, fair maiden,
& name thy father's name. ’
‘ My sire was Sigurd the Valiant
That slew the Worm langsyne;
Queen Brynhild she that bore me,
And Asla name o' mine. ’
Down came the churl to the sea-shore,
& cried both loud & long:
‘ Behold, ye have seized on my daughter,
& done me right grievous wrong! ’
Oh, they've lifted her high on the gallant ship,
Queen of those Sea-kings bold,
& they've given the churl, his grief to 'suage,
Great store of the red, red gold.
The maiden sat on the high-seat,
& the King his swains among;
But the end of the tale hath ne'er been told,
& so I cease my song.