Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX TO AUTHORS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
The Combat of Lars and Per
By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)
 
[From Lars. A Pastoral of Norway. 1873.—Poetical Works. Household Edition. 1883.]

THE TWO before her, face to face
Stared at each other: Brita looked at them!
All three were pale; and she, with faintest voice,
Remembering counsel of the tongues unkind,
Could only breathe: “I know not how to choose.”        5
“No need!” said Lars: “I choose for you,” said Per.
Then both drew off and threw aside their coats,
Their broidered waistcoats, and the silken scarves
About their necks; but Per growled “All!” and made
His body bare to where the leathern belt        10
Is clasped between the breast-bone and the hip.
Lars did the same; then, setting tight the belts,
Both turned a little: the low daylight clad
Their forms with awful fairness, beauty now
Of life, so warm and ripe and glorious, yet        15
So near the beauty terrible of Death.
All saw the mutual sign, and understood;
And two stepped forth, two men with grizzled hair
And earnest faces, grasped the hooks of steel
In either’s belt, and drew them breast to breast,        20
And in the belts made fast each other’s hooks.
An utter stillness on the people fell
While this was done: each face was stern and strange,
And Brita, powerless to turn her eyes,
Heard herself cry, and started: “Per, O Per!”        25
 
When those two backward stepped, all saw the flash
Of knives, the lift of arms, the instant clench
Of hands that held and hands that strove to strike:
All heard the sound of quick and hard-drawn breath,
And naught beside; but sudden red appeared,        30
Splashed on the white of shoulders and of arms.
Then, thighs entwined, and all the body’s force
Called to the mixed resistance and assault,
They reeled and swayed, let go the guarding clutch,
And struck out madly. Per drew back, and aimed        35
A deadly blow, but Lars embraced him close,
Reached o’er his shoulder and from underneath
Thrust upward, while upon his ribs the knife,
Glancing, transfixed the arm. A gasp was heard:
The struggling limbs relaxed; and both, still bound        40
Together, fell upon the bloody floor.
 
Some forward sprang, and loosed, and lifted them
A little; but the head of Per hung back,
With lips apart and dim blue eyes unshut,
And all the passion and the pain were gone        45
Forever. “Dead!” a voice exclaimed; then she,
Like one who stands in darkness, till a blaze
Of blinding lightning paints the whole broad world,
Saw, burst her stony trance, and with a cry
Of love and grief and horror, threw herself        50
Upon his breast, and kissed his passive mouth,
And loud lamented: “Oh, too late I know
I love thee best, my Per, my sweetheart Per!
Thy will was strong, thy ways were masterful;
I did not guess that love might so command!        55
Thou wert my ruler: I resisted thee,
But blindly: Oh, come back!—I will obey.”
 
 
CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX TO AUTHORS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors