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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Norwegian Dance
By Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848–1895)
 
From ‘Gunnar, a Tale of Norse Life’

THEY all hurried back to the hall. Gudrun might well wish to ask questions, but she dared not; for she felt the truth, but was afraid of it. They could not help seeing, when they entered the hall, that many curious glances were directed toward them. But this rather roused in both a spirit of defiance. Therefore, when Gunnar was requested to begin the stev he chose Ragnhild for his partner, and she accepted. True, he was a houseman’s son, but he was not afraid. There was a giggling and a whispering all round, as hand in hand they stepped out on the floor. Young and old, lads and maidens, thronged eagerly about them. Had she not been so happy, perhaps she would not have been so fair. But as she stood there in the warm flush of the torchlight, with her rich blond hair waving down over her shoulders, and with that veiled brightness in her eyes, her beauty sprang upon you like a sudden wonder, and her presence was inspiration. And Gunnar saw her; she loved him: what cared he for all the world beside? Proudly he raised his head and sang:—

  Gunnar  There standeth a birch in the lightsome lea,
Ragnhild          In the lightsome lea;
Gunnar  So fair she stands in the sunlight free,
Ragnhild          In the sunlight free;
Both  So fair she stands in the sunlight free.
  
Ragnhild  High up on the mountain there standeth a pine,
Gunnar          There standeth a pine;
Ragnhild  So stanchly grown and so tall and fine,
Gunnar          So tall and fine;
Both  So stanchly grown and so tall and fine.
  
Gunnar  A maiden I know as fair as the day,
Ragnhild          As fair as the day;
Gunnar  She shines like the birch in the sunlight’s play,
Ragnhild          In the sunlight’s play;
Both  She shines like the birch in the sunlight’s play.
  
Ragnhild  I know a lad in the spring’s glad light,
Gunnar          In the spring’s glad light;
Ragnhild  Far-seen as the pine on the mountain-height,
Gunnar          On the mountain-height;
Both  Far-seen as the pine on the mountain-height.
  
Gunnar  So bright and blue are the starry skies,
Ragnhild          The starry skies;
Gunnar  But brighter and bluer that maiden’s eyes,
Ragnhild          That maiden’s eyes;
Both  But brighter and bluer that maiden’s eyes.
  
Ragnhild  And his have a depth like the fjord, I know,
Gunnar            The fjord, I know;
Ragnhild  Wherein the heavens their beauty show,
Gunnar            Their beauty show;
Both  Wherein the heavens their beauty show.
  
Gunnar  The birds each morn seek the forest glade,
Ragnhild            The forest glade;
Gunnar  So flock my thoughts to that lily maid,
Ragnhild            That lily maid;
Both  So flock my thoughts to that lily maid.
  
Ragnhild  The moss it clingeth so fast to the stone,
Gunnar            So fast to the stone;
Ragnhild  So clingeth my soul to him alone,
Gunnar            To him alone;
Both  So clingeth my soul to him alone.
  
Gunnar  Each brook sings its song, but forever the same,
Ragnhild            Forever the same;
Gunnar  Forever my heart beats that maiden’s name,
Ragnhild            That maiden’s name;
Both  Forever my heart beats that maiden’s name.
  
Ragnhild  The plover hath but an only tone,
Gunnar            An only tone;
Ragnhild  My life hath its love, and its love alone,
Gunnar            Its love alone;
Both  My life hath its love, and its love alone.
  
Gunnar  The rivers all to the fjord they go,
Ragnhild            To the fjord they go;
Gunnar  So may our lives then together flow,
Ragnhild            Together flow;
Both  Oh, may our lives then together flow!
  1
 
  Here Gunnar stopped, made a leap toward Ragnhild, caught her round the waist, and again danced off with her, while a storm of voices joined in the last refrain, and loud shouts of admiration followed them. For this was a stev that was good for something; long time it was since so fine a stev had been heard on this side of the mountains. Soon the dance became general, and lasted till after midnight. Then the sleigh-bells and the stamping of hoofs from without reminded the merry guests that night was waning. There stood the well-known swan-shaped sleigh from Henjum, and the man on the box was Atle himself. Ragnhild and Gudrun were hurried into it, the whip cracked, and the sleigh shot down over the star-illumined fields of snow.  2
  The splendor of the night was almost dazzling as Gunnar came out from the crowded hall and again stood under the open sky. A host of struggling thoughts and sensations thronged upon him. He was happy, oh, so happy!—at least he tried to persuade himself that he was; but strange to say, he did not fully succeed. Was it not toward this day his yearnings had pointed, and about which his hopes had been clustering from year to year, ever since he had been old enough to know what yearning was? Was it not this day which had been beckoning him from afar, and had shed light upon his way like a star, and had he not followed its guidance as faithfully and as trustingly as those wise men of old? “Folly and nonsense,” muttered he; “the night breeds nightly thoughts!” With an effort he again brought Ragnhild’s image before his mind, jumped upon his skees, and darted down over the glittering snow. It bore him toward the fjord. A sharp, chill wind swept up the hillside, and rushed against him. “Houseman’s son!” cried the wind. Onward he hastened. “Houseman’s son!” howled the wind after him. Soon he reached the fjord, hurried on up toward the river-mouth, and coming to the Henjum boat-house, stopped, and walked out to the end of the pier, which stretched from the headland some twenty to thirty feet out into the water. The fjord lay sombre and restless before him. There was evidently a storm raging in the ocean, for the tide was unusually high, and the sky was darkening from the west eastward. The mountain-peaks stood there, stern and lofty as ever, with their heads wrapped in hoods of cloud. Gunnar sat down at the outer edge of the pier, with his feet hanging listlessly over the water, which, in slow and monotonous plashing, beat against the timbers. Far out in the distance he could hear the breakers roar among the rocky reefs; first the long, booming roll, then the slowly waning moan, and the great hush, in which the billows pause to listen to themselves. It is the heavy deep-drawn breath of the ocean. It was cold, but Gunnar hardly felt it.  3
  He again stepped into his skees and followed the narrow road, as it wound its way from the fjord up along the river. Down near the mouth, between Henjum and Rimul, the river was frozen, and could be crossed on the ice. Up at Henjumhei it was too swift to freeze. It was near daylight when he reached the cottage. How small and poor it looked! Never had he seen it so before;—very different from Rimul. And how dark and narrow it was all around it! At Rimul they had always sunshine. Truly, the track is steep from Henjumhei to Rimul; the river runs deep between.  4
 
 
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