Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
Svend Vonved
By George Borrow (1803–1881)
[Translated from the old Danish]

SVEND VONVED binds his sword to his side;
He fain will battle with knights of pride.
“When may I look for thee once more here?
When roast the heifer, and spice the beer?”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        5
“When stones shall take, of themselves, a flight,
And ravens’ feathers are woxen white,
Then expect Svend Vonved home:
In all my days, I will never come.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        10
His mother took that in evil part:
“I hear, young gallant, that mad thou art;
Wherever thou goest, on land or sea,
Disgrace and shame shall attend on thee.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        15
He kissed her thrice with his lips of fire:
“Appease, O mother, appease thine ire!
Ne’er wish me any mischance to know,
For thou canst not tell how far I may go.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        20
“Then I will bless thee, this very day;
Thou never shalt perish in any fray;
Success shall be in thy courser tall,
Success in thyself which is best of all.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        25
“Success in thy hand, success in thy foot,
In struggle with man, in battle with brute;
The Holy God and Saint Drotten dear
Shall guide and watch thee through thy career.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        30
Svend Vonved took up the word again—
“I’ll range the mountain, and rove the plain,
Peasant and noble I’ll wound and slay;
All, all, for my father’s wrong shall pay.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        35
His helm was blinking against the sun,
His spurs were clinking his heels upon,
His horse was springing, with bridle ringing,
While sat the warrior wildly singing.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        40
He rode and lilted, he rode and sang,
Then met he by chance Sir Thulé Vang;
Sir Thulé Vang, with his twelve sons bold,
All cased in iron, the bright and cold.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        45
Svend Vonved took his sword from his side,
He fain would battle with knights so tried;
The proud Sir Thulé he first ran through,
And then, in succession, his sons he slew.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        50
Svend Vonved binds his sword to his side,
It lists him farther to ride, to ride;
He rode along by the grené shaw,
The Brute-carl there with surprise he saw.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        55
A wild swine sat on his shoulders broad,
Upon his bosom a black bear snored;
And about his fingers with hair o’erhung,
The squirrel sported and weasel clung.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        60
“Now, Brute-carl, yield thy booty to me,
Or I will take it by force from thee.
Say, wilt thou quickly thy beasts forego,
Or venture with me to bandy a blow?”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        65
“Much rather, much rather, I’ll fight with thee,
Than thou my booty should get from me:
I never was bidden the like to do,
Since good King Esmer in fight I slew.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        70
“And didst thou slay King Esmer fine?
Why, then thou slewest dear father mine;
And soon, full soon, shalt thou pay for him,
With the flesh hackt off from thy every limb!”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        75
They drew a circle upon the sward;
They both were dour, as the rocks are hard;
Forsooth, I tell you, their hearts were steeled,—
The one to the other no jot would yield.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        80
They fought for a day,—they fought for two,—
And so on the third they were fain to do;
But ere the fourth day reached the night,
The Brute-carl fell, and was slain outright.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        85
Svend Vonved binds his sword to his side,
Farther and farther he lists to ride;
He rode at the foot of a hill so steep,
There saw he a herd as he drove the sheep.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.        90
“Now listen, Herd, with the fleecy care;
Listen, and give me answers fair.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“What is rounder than a wheel?
Where do they eat the holiest meal?        95
Where does the sun go down to his seat?
And where do they lay the dead man’s feet?
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“What fills the valleys one and all?
What is clothed best in the monarch’s hall?        100
What cries more loud than cranes can cry?
And what in whiteness the swan outvie?
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“Who on his back his beard doth wear?
Who ’neath his chin his nose doth bear?        105
What’s more black than the blackest sloe?
And what is swifter than a roe?
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“Where is the bridge that is most broad?
What is, by man, the most abhorred?        110
Where leads, where leads, the highest road up?
And say where the hottest of drink they sup?”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“The sun is rounder than a wheel.
They eat at the altar the holiest meal.        115
The sun in the West goes down to his seat:
And they lay to the East the dead man’s feet.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“Snow fills the valleys, one and all.
Man is clothed best in the monarch’s hall.        120
Thunder cries louder than cranes can cry.
Angels in whiteness the swan outvie.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“His beard on his back the lapwing wears.
His nose ’neath his chin the elfin bears.        125
More black is sin than the blackest sloe:
And thought is swifter than any roe.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“Ice is of bridges the bridge most broad.
The toad is, of all things, the most abhorred.        130
To paradise leads the highest road up:
And in hell the hottest of drink they sup.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
Svend Vonved binds his sword to his side,
It lists him farther to ride, to ride:        135
He found upon the desolate wold
A burly knight, of aspect bold.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
“Now tell me, Rider, noble and good,
Where does the fish stand up in the flood?        140
Where do they mingle the best, best wine?
And where with his knights does Vidrick dine?
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.”
“The fish in the East stands up in the flood.
They drink in the North the wine so good.        145
In Halland’s hall does Vidrick dine,
With his swains around, and his warriors fine.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
From his breast Svend Vonved a gold ring drew,
At the foot of the knight the gold ring he threw;        150
  “Go! say thou wert the very last man
Who gold from the hand of Svend Vonved wan.”
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.
*        *        *        *        *
Then in he went to his lonely bower,
There drank he the wine, the wine of power;        155
His much-loved harp he played upon
Till the strings were broken every one.
  Look out, look out, Svend Vonved.

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