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From Russian Poems,
translated with notes by C. Fillingham Coxwell,
London: C.W. Daniel Company,



by D.V. Davydov (1784-1839)

Where are the friends of former years,
The old original hussars?
Where is the chief who ruled his peers,
My boon companions of the wars?

Veterans, I remember all,
How you grew mellow without stint,
Your places round the fire recall,
And noses of a purple tint,

The soldiers' caps thrown lightly back,
The jackets reaching to your knees,
Sabres, and sabretaches slack,
The hay whereon you lay at ease.

Holding black pipes between your teeth,
You spare your speech; the smoke ascends
Or, choosing tortuous paths beneath
Your muffled coats, its way extends.

No single word, much columned smoke;
None stirs, and all to silence keep;
Each drinks and, wrapped within his cloak,
Stretches and quickly goes to sleep.

Scarecely appears the break of day,
Ere each is scudding o'er the field,
With cap askew in brave display,
Lets his pelisse to breezes yield.

His steed is quivering with delight,
His sabre whistles, cleaves a foe;
With battle done, his appetite
Demands a chance itself to show.

But what distresses now my view?
Fear rules hussars of modish shape,
Ill-uniformed, in high boots new,
They pirouette and work escape.

They sagely speak, wiseacres look,
Believe the tought of  love absurd;
They like Jomini and his book,
Concerning vodka say no word.

Where are my friends of former years,
The real, superlative hussars?
Where is the chief who ruled his peers,
My boon companions of the wars?



(Concluding Stanzas)

by A.S. Pushkin (1799-1837)

Under the shade of foreign skies,
The master of fierce warlike arts,
In stifling exile, by his sighs
Softens the ire of conquered hearts.
And, if a northern sail excites
His mind beside his prison door,
The lonely outcast clearly writes
A peaceful word on that far shore.

Thence, he looks forth across the deep,
And captive hears the clashing sword,
Sees icy fields where brave men sleep,
Or France the beautiful, adored;
And, in his wilderness at times,
Seeking from woes to gain relief,
Views, through a veil of martial crimes,
His dearest son with bitter grief.

Let them be overcome with shame
Whose petty-minded souls have owned
A wish to overwhelm with blame
The shade of one from might dethroned!
Nay, praise the sacrificial priest
Who showed our folk their destiny
And, from his isle, the thought released
Of endless world-wide liberty!

[This poem, with the exception of four censored stanzas,
was printed in 1821, the year of Napoleon's death.]



by M.Y. Lèrmontov (1814-1841)

Granddad, came any good at last,
When stricken Moscow's burning vast
     Drove the French host away?
Or then occurred incessant fights
And endless dreadful days and nights?
Russia assuredly delights
     In Borodino's day!

Yes, there were many in my time
Who, in their youth, or manhood's prime,
     Were heroes of that field!
To suffer was our common lot,
Few, that arrived, e'er left the spot,
What might have been for us was not:
     We would not Moscow yield.

We had continued the retreat
And as we hoped the French to beat,
     We chafed and muttered threats.
Though Frenchmen dared our land invade,
We'd never flee from them dismayed,
The foe would soon become afraid
     Of Russiasn bayonets!

We found in time a glorious field,
There we drew up, our might revealed,
     And built a great redoubt.
O, we rejoiced at what was done!
We took our place beside each gun,
Hardly had seen the rising sun
     Before the French were out.

I loaded from the cannon's end
And thought: I'll now salute a friend,
     M'sieu and brother, stay!
To be heroic through it all
Until my head should stop a ball,
I could but try to break the wall,
     And bring the foe to bay.

Two days are spent in musket fire,
And then such trifling sees us tire,
     For greater things we pray.
On every side a call was heard,
"Now for the grape," arose the word;
The shadows of the night had blurred
     The horrors of the day.

I gently dozed beside my gun,
Yet heard the French, before they won,
     Cheer in a manner rash.
We in our bivouac kept still;
One cleaned his shako with a will,
Made sure his bayonet would kill,
     Gnawed at his long moustache.

As soon as came the morning light,
Line after line apprached in sight,
     And forward swift would leap.
Our colonel, ever critical,
A father seemed to one and all;
Alas, his fate 'twas there to fall,
     In the cold ground to sleep.

He spoke and looked with flashing eyes,
"Lads! Moscow's future with us lies.
     We would for Moscow fall.
Have not our brothers nobly died?"
We promised with an honest pride
And kept our oath, "To victory!" cried
     At Borodino's call.

The day had come! In serried crowds
The French advanced through smoky clouds
     And made for our redoubt.
Dragoons with horse-tails dark and slight,
And lancers with their pennons bright,
Deploying slowly into sight,
     Would put us soon to rout.

No more such combats will be seen;
The flags displayed a ghostly sheen,
     Through smoke oft pierced by fire.
Loud clashed the steel, the grape shot hissed;
The weary swordsmen would desist;
The heaps of bloody dead unmissed
     By cannon balls rose higher.

Our foes that day had truly felt
Where Russian skill and vigour dwelt,
     We fought them hand to hand.
The earth was shaking like each breast,
A thousand guns the sky addressed,
Tore horse and man together pressed
     In battle for our land.

When darkness fell our men were true,
Ready at dawn to fight anew
     And battle till the end.
Alas! the drums began to beat;
And all that liked not to retreat
Said they the foe again would meet;
     I helped a wounded friend.

Yes, there were many in my time,
Of fortitude and skill sublime,
     And heroes of that field.
To suffer was our common lot,
Few that arrived e'er left the spot,
What might have been for us was not,
     We would not Moscow yield.


[from Timoleon Etc., New York: Caxton Press, 1891]


Herman Melville (1819-1891)

NEVER Pharoah's Night,
Whereof the Hebrew wizards croon,
Did so the Theban flamens try
As me this veritable Noon.

Like blank ocean in blue calm
Undulates the ethereal frame;
In one flowing oriflamme
God flings his fiery standard out.

Battling with the Emirs fierce
Napoleon a great victory won,
Through the through his sword did pierce;
But, bayonetted by this sun
His gunners drop beneath the gun.

Holy, holy, holy Light!
Immaterial incandescence,
Of God the effluence of the essence,
Shekinah intolerably bright!


[from Specimens of the Russian Poets:
with Preliminary Remarks and Biographical Notes
by John Bowring, London: 1821]


by Denis Davydov

   While honouring the grape's ruby nectar,
   All sportingly, laughingly gay;
We determined -- I, Silvia, and Hector,
   To drive old dame Wisdom away.

   "O my children, take care," said the beldame,
    "Attend to these counsels of mine:
Get not tipsy! for danger is seldom
   Remote from the goblet of wine."

"With thee in his company, no man
Can err," said our wag with a wink;
"But come, thou good-natured old woman,
There's a drop in the goblet -- and drink!"

She frowned -- but her scruples soon twisting,
   Consented: -- and smilingly said:
   "So polite -- there's indeed no resisting,
   For Wisdom was never ill-bred."

She drank but continued her teaching:
   "Let the wise from indulgence refrain;"
And never gave over her preaching,
   But to say, "Fill the goblet again."

And she drank, and she totter'd, but still she
   Was talking and shaking her head:
Muttered "temperance" -- "prudence" -- until she
   Was carried by Folly* to bed.

(*Note:  Original has Love rather than Folly)


[from The Poetical Works of Lord Byron,
London: Oxford University Press, 1926]

by George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)


"Expende Annibalem: -- quot libras in duce summo Invenies?" -- Juvenal, Sat. x.

"The Emperor Nepos was acknowledged by the Senate, by the Italians, and by the Provincials of Gaul; his moral virtues, and military talents, were loudly celebrated; and those who derived any private benefit from his government announced in prophetic strains the restoration of public felicity.... By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life a few years, in a very ambiguous state, between an Emperor and an Exile, till ----." -- Gibbon's Decline and Fall, vol. vi., p. 220.

'TIS done -- but yesterday a King! And arm'd with Kings to strive -- And now thou art a nameless thing: So abject -- yet alive! Is this the man of thousand thrones, Who strew'd our earth with hostile bones, And can he thus survive? Since he, miscall'd the Morning Star, Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.
Ill-minded man! why scourge thy kind Who bow'd so low the knee? By gazing on thyself grown blind, Thou taught'st the rest to see. With might unquestion'd, -- power to save, -- Thine only gift hath been the grave, To those that worshipp'd thee; Nor till thy fall could mortals guess Ambition's less than littleness!
Thanks for that lesson -- It will teach To after-warriors more, Than high Philosophy can preach, And vainly preach'd before. That spell upon the minds of men Breaks never to unite again, That led them to adore Those Pagod things of sabre sway With fronts of brass, and feet of clay.
The triumph and the vanity, The rapture of the strife -- The earthquake voice of Victory, To thee the breath of life; The sword, the sceptre, and that sway Which man seem'd made but to obey, Wherewith renown was rife -- All quell'd! -- Dark Spirit! what must be The madness of thy memory!
The Desolator desolate! The Victor overthrown! The Arbiter of others' fate A Suppliant for his own! Is it some yet imperial hope That with such change can calmly cope? Or dread of death alone? To die a prince -- or live a slave -- Thy choice is most ignobly brave!
He who of old would rend the oak, Dream'd not of the rebound: Chain'd by the trunk he vainly broke -- Alone -- how look'd he round? Thou, in the sternness of thy strength, An equal deed hast done at length, And darker fate hast found: He fell, the forest prowler's prey; But thou must eat thy heart away!
The Roman, when his burning heart Was slaked with blood of Rome, Threw down the dagger -- dared depart, In savage grandeur, home -- He dared depart in utter scorn Of men that such a yoke had borne, Yet left him such a doom! His only glory was that hour Of self-upheld abandon'd power.
The Spaniard, when the lust of sway Had lost its quickening spell, Cast crowns for rosaries away, An empire for a cell; A strict accountant of his beads, A subtle disputant on creeds, His dotage trifled well: Yet better had he neither known A bigot's shrine, nor despot's throne.
But thou -- from thy reluctant hand The thunderbolt is wrung -- Too late thou leav'st the high command To which thy weakness clung; All Evil Spirit as thou art, It is enough to grieve the heart To see thine own unstrung; To think that God's fair world hath been The footstool of a thing so mean;
And Earth hath spilt her blood for him, Who thus can hoard his own! And Monarchs bow'd the trembling limb, And thank'd him for a throne! Fair Freedom! we may hold thee dear, When thus thy mightiest foes their fear In humblest guise have shown. Oh! ne'er may tyrant leave behind A brighter name to lure mankind!
Thine evil deeds are writ in gore, Nor written thus in vain -- Thy triumphs tell of fame no more, Or deepen every stain: If thou hadst died as honour dies, Some new Napoleon might arise, To shame the world again -- But who would soar the solar height, To set in such a starless night?
Weigh'd in the balance, hero dust Is vile as vulgar clay; Thy scales, Mortality! are just To all that pass away: But yet methought the living great Some higher sparks should animate, To dazzle and dismay: Nor deem'd Contempt could thus make mirth Of these, the Conquerors of the earth.
And she, proud Austria's mournful flower, Thy still imperial bride; How bears her breast the torturing hour? Still clings she to thy side? Must she too bend, must she too share Thy late repentance, long despair, Thou throneless Homicide? If still she loves thee, hoard that gem, -- 'Tis worth thy vanish'd diadem!
Then haste thee to thy sullen Isle, And gaze upon the sea; That element may meet thy smile -- It ne'er was ruled by thee! Or trace with thine all idle hand In loitering mood upon the sand That Earth is now as free! That Corinth's pedagogue hath now Transferr'd his by-word to thy brow.
Thou Timour! in his captive's cage What thought will there be thine, While brooding in thy prison'd rage? But one -- "The word was mine!" Unless, like he of Babylon, All sense is with thy sceptre gone, Life will not long confine That spirit pour'd so widely forth-- So long obey'd -- so little worth!
Or, like the thief of fire from heaven, Wilt thou withstand the shock? And share with him, the unforgiven, His vulture and his rock! Foredoom'd by God -- by man accurst, And that last act, though not thy worst, The very Fiend's arch mock; He in his fall preserved his pride, And, if a mortal, had as proudly died!
There was a day -- there was an hour, While earth was Gaul's -- Gaul thine -- When that immeasurable power Unsated to resign Had been an act of purer fame Than gathers round Marengo's name, And gilded thy decline, Through the long twilight of all time, Despite some passing clouds of crime.
But thou forsooth must be a king, And don the purple vest, As if that foolish robe could wring Remembrance from thy breast. Where is that faded garment? where The gewgaws thou wert found to wear, The star, the string, the crest? Vain froward child of empire! say, Are all thy playthings snatched away?
Where may the wearied eye repose When gazing on the Great; Where neither guilty glory glows, Nor despicable state? Yes -- one -- the first -- the last -- the best -- The Cincinnatus of the West, Whom envy dared not hate, Bequeath'd the name of Washington, To make man blush there was but one!


March 27, 1815

ONCE fairly set out on his party of pleasure,
Taking towns at his liking, and crowns at his
From Elba to Lyons and Paris he goes,
Making balls for the ladies, and bows to his



WE do not curse thee, Waterloo! Though Freedom's blood thy plain bedew; There't was shed, but is not sunk -- Rising from each gory trunk, Like the water-spout from ocean, With a strong and growing motion -- It soars, and mingles in the air, With that of lost Labedoyère -- With that of him whose honour'd grave Contains the "bravest of the brave." A crimson cloud it spreads and glows, But shall return to whence it rose; When 'tis full 'twill bust asunder -- Never yet was heard such thunder As then shall shake the world with wonder -- Never yet was seen such lightning As o'er heaven shall then be bright'ning! Like the Wormwood Star foretold By the sainted Seer of old, Show'ring down a fiery flood, Turning rivers into blood.
The Chief has fallen, but not by you, Vanquishers of Waterloo! When the soldier citizen Sway'd not o'er his fellow-men -- Save in deeds that led them on Where Glory smiled on Freedom's son -- Who, of all the despots handed, With that youthful chief competed? Who could boast o'er France defeated, Till lone Tyranny commanded? Till, goaded by ambition's sting, The Hero sunk into the King? Then he fell: -- so perish all, Who would men by man enthral!
And thou, too, of the snow-white plume! Whose realm refused thee ev'n a tomb; Better hadst thou still been leading France o'er hosts of hirelings bleeding, Than sold thyself to death and shame For a meanly royal name; Such as he of Naples wears, Who thy blood-bought title bears. Little didst thou deem, when dashing On thy war-horse through the ranks, Like a stream which burst its banks, While helmets cleft, and sabres clashing, Shone and shiver'd fast around thee -- Of the fate at last which found thee: Was that haughty plume laid low By a slave's dishonest blow? Once -- as the moon sways o'er the tide, It roll'd in air, the warrior's guide; Through the smoke-created night Of the black and sulphurous fight, The soldier raised his seeking eye To catch that crest's ascendancy, -- And, as it onward rolling rose, So moved his heart upon our foes. There, where death's brief pang was quickest, And the battle's wreck lay thickest, Strew'd beneath the advancing banner Of the eagle's burning crest -- (There with thunder-clouds to fan her, Who could then her wing arrest -- Victory beaming from her breast?) While the broken line enlarging Fell, or fled along the plain; There be sure was Murat charging! There he ne'er shall charge again!
O'er glories gone the invaders march, Weeps Triumph o'er each levell'd arch -- But let Freedom rejoice, With her heart in her voice; But, her hand on her sword, Doubly shall she be adored; France hath twice too well been taught The "moral Lesson" dearly bought -- Her safety sits not on a throne, With Capet or Napoleon! But in equal rights and laws, Hearts and hands in one great cause -- Freedom, such as God hath given Unto all beneath his heaven, With their breath, and from their birth, Though guilt would sweep it from the earth; With a fierce and lavish hand Scattering nations' wealth like sand; Pouring nations' blood like water, In imperial seas of slaughter!
But the heart and the mind, And the voice of mankind, Shall arise in communion -- And who shall resist that proud union? The time is past when swords subdued -- Many may die -- the soul's renew'd: Even in this low world of care Freedom ne'er shall want an heir; Millions breathe but to inherit Her for ever bounding spirit -- When once more her hosts assemble, Tyrants shall believe and tremble -- Smile they at this idle threat? Crimson tears will follow yet.



MUST thou go, my glorious Chief, Sever'd from thy faithful few? Who can tell thy warrior's grief, Maddening o'er that long adieu? Woman's love, and friendship's zeal, Dear as both have been to me -- What are they to all I feel, With a soldier's faith for thee?
Idol of the soldier's soul! First in fight, but mightiest now; Many could a world control; Thee alone no doom can bow. By thy side for years I dared Death; and envied those who fell, When their dying shout was heard, Blessing him they served so well.
Would that I were cold with those, Since this hour I live to see; When the doubts of coward foes Scarce dare trust a man with thee, Dreading each should set thee free! Oh! although in dungeons pent, All their chains were light to me, Gazing on thy soul unbent.
Would the sycophants of him Now so deaf to duty's prayer, Were his borrow'd glories dim, In his native darkness share? Were that world this hour his own, All thou calmly dost resign, Could he purchase with that throne Hearts like those which still are thine?
My chief, my king, my friend, adieu! Never did I droop before; Never to my sovereign sue, As his foes I now implore: All I ask is to divide Every peril he must brave; Sharing by the hero's side His fall, his exile, and his grave.


[from the French.] (1816)

STAR of the brave! -- whose beam hath shed
Such glory o'er the quick and dead --
Thou radiant and adored deceit!
Which millions rush'd in arms to greet,
Wild meteor of immortal birth;
Why rise in Heaven to set on Earth?

Souls of slain heroes form'd thy rays;
Eternity flash'd through thy blaze;
The music of thy marital sphere
Was fame on high and honour here;
And thy light broke on human eyes,
Like a volcano of the skies.

Like lava roll'd thy stream of blood,
And swept down empires with its flood;
Earth rock'd beneath thee to her base,
As thou didst lighten through all space;
And the shorn Sun grew dim in air,
And set while thou wert dwelling there.

Before thee rose, and with thee grew,
A rainbow of the loveliest hue
Of three bright colours, each divine,
And fit for that celestial sign;
For Freedom's hand had blended them,
Like tints in an immortal gem.

One tint was of the sunbeam's dyes;
One, the blue depth of Seraph's eyes;
One, the pure Spirit's veil of white
Had robed in radiance of its light:
The three so mingled did beseem
The texture of a heavenly dream.

Star of the brave! thy ray is pale,
And darkness must again prevail!
But, oh thou Rainbow of the free!
Our tears and blood must flow for thee.
When thy bright promise fades away,
Our life is but a load of clay.

And Freedom hallows with her tread
The silent cities of the dead;
For beautiful in death are they
Who proudly fall in her array;
And soon, oh Goddess! may we be
For evermore with them or thee!


[from the French] (1816)

FAREWELL, to the Land where the gloom of my Glory Arose and o'ershadow'd the earth with her name -- She abandons me now -- but the page of her story, The brightest or blackest, is fill'd with my fame. I have warr'd with a world which vanquish'd me only When the meteor of conquest allured me too far; I have coped with the nations which dread me thus lonely, The last single Captive to millions in war.
Farewell to thee, France! when thy diadem crown'd me, I made thee the gem and the wonder of earth, But thy weakness decrees I should leave as I found thee, Decay'd in thy glory, and sunk in thy worth. Oh! for the veteran hearts that were wasted In strife with the storm, when their battles were won -- Then the Eagle, whose gaze in that moment was blasted, Had still soar'd with eyes fix'd on victory's sun!
Farewell to thee, France! -- but when Liberty rallies Once more in thy regions, remember me then, -- The violet still grows in the depth of thy valleys; Though wither'd, thy tear will unfold it again -- Yet, yet, I may baffle the hosts that surround us, And yet may thy heart leap awake to my voice -- There are links which must break in the chain that has bound us, Then turn thee and call on the Chief of thy choice!


Terje Viken [Terje Vigens, 1862]

by Henrik Ibsen

[translated by Alfred Lishman in
published by the author at Fockerby, Goole, 1897]

[by Alfred Lishman]

THE poem "Terje Viken" has probably been more read in Norway than all the rest of Ibsen's works put together. It is found in many of the school reading books, and few youths leave school without being able to recite the whole or a part of it. It was written when Ibsen was a young and enthusiastic man, and, in its tone and tendency, offers a curious contrast to his later writings. The British public, which has had opportunities of seeing and reading his dramas, will surely welcome this product of his youthful genius.

  The peculiar metre of the original has been preserved in this adaptation, although the extra line in the middle of each stanza may, at first, sound rather odd to English ears. The attempt at a translation in verse has naturally necessitated a rather free treatment, but I have tried to preserve the spirit and tone of the original work, and have closely followed the narrative.

  Norway was, of course, involved in the war which arose between Denmark and England early in the present century, during which the Norwegian ports were rigidly blockaded by the English fleet. As they grew little corn, and as the harvests failed miserably, the suffering amongst the Norwegian people was incredibly severe. I have been informed by intelligent Scandinavians that in some parts people were reduced so low as to make their bread from the white inner bark of trees.

  The battle of Lyngör alluded to in the text and in the original, was fought in the remote recesses of a tortuous fjord of Southern Norway. The present writer has visited the spot, and marvelled how a foreign vessel could thread its way for so great a distance in the narrow and twisting channel. Here, however, an English man-o'-war penetrated and destroyed some Scandanavian warships. There is a monument on the spot erected by a Danish lady to the fallen on both sides.

    November 25th, 1897


*Pronouced Ter-ye Veeken.

ON a bleak Norse island, rocky and bare,
   Lived a grey-haired pilot strong;
He wrought no harm at sea or on land,
   He who had suffered wrong.
But each foul-weather night his eyes gleamed bright,
   Eyes that had known no fear!
And few without dread when his mood was stern,
And his hands would clench and his lips would burn,
   Came Terje Viken near.

Again I saw him, but once again;
   At the wharf with fish he lay,
Snow-white was his hair, but mild his eyes,
   Sign of a better day!
With the maids he spoke, with the bairns made joke,
   Then, waving his hat in the air,
He sprang, in the sunshine, his boat on board,
Hoisted the mainsail and homeward soared,
   The old eagle! to his lair.

In a pilot's hut one winter's night,
   On an isle by Lillesand,*
I heard poor Terje Viken's tale —
   A tale of the lone Norseland —
From the lips of those, his eyes to close,
   Who watched by his dying bed
When he finished his course in sixty-one
In the heaven of peace, his duty done,
   And lay down his weary head.

*Pronounced Lil-le-sand.

In youth his ardent Viking blood
   Drove Terje soon from school
To a sea-dog's life of peril and toil
   Under a sea-dog's rule.
With the good ship Fram, Captain August Pram,
   Back at length came he,
But father and mother were dead, and the folk
Of the smart young sailor nor thought nor spoke,
   Who had gone as a boy to sea.

Short time he spared to mourn on land
   For the two who'd loved him well;
He sought for peace where the sailor seeks,
   In the sea's eternal spell.
Three year's more toil, then his native soil
   The wanderer sought again;
There found he a Norseland maiden fair
Who vowed at Fjoere* Church to share
   His pleasure and his pain.

*Pronounced Fyó-re.

A winter's revel! A winter's joy!
   A cottage painted red!
Small curtains, flowers and window panes
   Bright as the day, 'twas said!
But ah! too soon the ice gave way,
   Thawed by the breath of spring,
And Terje sailed with a stout old ship
Away to the south on a summer's trip,
   A winter's food to bring.

Homeward bound, the wild-goose flocks
   He met on their southern flight,
When sunny shores he left to meet
   Dark winter's dreary night.
But Thulë's rocks he loved the more
   Because of a cot he knew
Where sat his wife by the spinning-wheel,
Counting the hours by its constant reel,
   And noting the winds that blew.

They reached the wharf, and his messmates rushed
   To drink a skaal* in the town,
But Terje quietly turned aside
   To the home that he called his own;
He saw behind the window-blind
   A sight expected not,
There, reeling flax, was his year-wed bride,
And a sweet girl babe was by her side
   And laughed in its little cot.

*Pronounced skohl = a health.

More earnest now is Terje's life,
   He toils and moils all day
For the young girl-child with the laughing eyes
   Born when he was away;
When on Sunday night, in revel bright,
   Others dance to a favourite air,
He sings his brightest songs at home
While little Anna's fingers roam
   About his tawny hair.

But famine came, alas! and war
   In eighteen hundred and nine,
When British cruisers barred each port,
   And we saw our children pine.
The poor starved soon, the rich man's boon
   Was but protracted pain.
No use were Terje's two strong arms,
No food on the ships! no food on the farms
   For willing toil to gain!

No fee for work in the forest deep!
   For work on the wharf no fee!
But he thought of an old and trusty friend —
   The deep and constant sea.
In the isles of the south, by the Skajer's mouth,
   They tell of his matchless deed.
In a tiny boat, for wife and child,
Full sixty miles o'er the surges wild
   He pulled in his time of need.

Nor sail, nor mast had that puny skiff,
   For a British watch was laid;
'Twas peril to weather dread Jutland's reefs,
   Twas worse to brave the blockade.
But at last he saw the point of Skaw,
   And for Fladstrand harbour made;
He loaded with barley — homely food —
But good for a wife of Norseman blood,
   And life for the little maid.

And now for home! Three nights and days
   He toiled as tied to the thwart;
On the dawn of the fouth, when black despair
   Grasped at his labouring heart
Whose beats were his log, an edge of fog
   Arose to his raptured eye;
Not clouds were there, but good Norsk rock
Old Saddleback, king of that mountain block,
   Lay broad and blue in the sky.

Uplifted heart, unwonted prayer
   A moment stayed his toil;
Good hope had he ere noon to place
   His foot on Norway's soil.
On his lips the prayer which lingered there
   Froze sudden as he gazed,
For a smart corvette in Hesnes Bay,
Pitching lazily as she lay,
   Poor Terje's heart amazed.

His boat was seen and a signal fired;
   Over the gunwale side
They quickly lowered the jolly-boat
   Upon the freshening tide;
He heard them row and sing ho! ho!
   Nor did his courage fail,
But 'gainst a thwart his feet he thrust
And pulled until the hot blood burst
   From out each finger-nail.

Up Homberg Sound are the Gjeslings*dread,
   Broad shelves of flattened stone;
Where the sea breaks high with the wind in shore,
   And the depth — two feet alone:
The waves dash white though the wind be light
   And calm the restless main;
But Terje knew each turn and twist
Of the narrow fairway that ran betwixt
   Those lines of breakers twain.

*Pronounced Gyes-lings

Like an arrow between the feather-white waves
   His tiny bark sped then,
But behind him, steered by the trace of his wake,
   Came that boat with fifteen men.
To God alone in his utmost pain,
   Through the whistling surf ahead
He cried — "Oh there on the innermost shore
Stand my wife and child at the poorhouse door,
   They cry to me for bread."

But louder still yelled the fifteen men,
   As on Lyngör's bloody day,
(For fortune favours the English race
   When on Norway's coasts they prey,)
Then with sudden shock on the hidden rock
   Together struck each bow.
"Stop your boat," was the leader's roar,
And he stove its side with upraised oar
   By a fierce and ruthless blow.

Frame and deals were burst by the stroke,
   And the sea came rushing in;
The dear-bought freight in two feet depth
   Sank mid the surf and din.
But his heart sank not in that fatal spot
   O'er the side he quickly won,
And dived and swam and dived again
Till a rifle cracked, and in sudden pain
   The fearful chase was done.

To the captain of that smart corvette,
   A lad of eighteen years,
Poor Terje's capture, his first exploit,
   A gallant deed appears.
But Terje feels, as he humbly kneels,
   (The strong man kneels to the youth,)
That he'd surely hark to his humble prayer
As warmly pleading kneeling there
   He tells them the grim, sad truth.

He bought with tears, they sold him smiles,
   Till all his stock was spent;
On usury of his prayers and pain
   'Twas mockery they lent:
They spurned his suit; thereafter mute
   He nursed his grief alone;
But weathered away was all kindly trace
From that clouded brow and grim set face
   That once with kindness shone.

Five years in an English prison passed,
   And Terje's neck was bent;
His hair was grey with dreams of home,
   Through nights in sorrow spent;
His heart was gone, he spoke with none,
   And none with him had say
Till peace was signed in the year sixteen,
And Terje came in a brigantine
   Back to his native bay.

Few recognized that grey-haired man
   Who'd sought for bread at the Skaw;
A stranger dwelt in the old red cot,
   Nor friend nor kin he saw.
But what of the two? — they told him true —
   "The husband left his own;
In the famine time none came to save,
And soon they filled one pauper's grave
   Unmarked by burial stone."

Long from an island rocky and bare
   Sailed the gray-haired pilot strong;
He wrought no harm at sea or on shore,
   He who had suffered wrong;
But each foul-weather night his eyes gleamed bright,
   Those eyes that had known no fear,
And few without dread when his mood was stern,
When his hands would clench and lips would burn,
   Came Terje Viken near.

One moonlight night, the wind in shore,
   (Rough night for a pilot's task,)
The red flag flew from an English yacht,
   A pilot's help to ask.
Her sails were rent, her rudder bent,
   She drifted fast to wreck,
But a boat tacked out in the teeth of the blast,
It reached the vessel's side at last,
   And Terje stepped on deck.

Strong and tall was the stern old man,
   His grasp on the helm like steel!
He steered the yacht for shelter safe,
   And behind came his own boat's keel.
Said the chief on board, an English lord,
   With wife and child at his heel,
"I'll make you as rich as you now are poor
If you bring us safe from the tempest's roar." —
   But the pilot dropped the wheel.

His check turned white, and a ghastly smile
   Crept slowly o'er his face;
It deepened still when the vessel struck
   At a rocky, perilous place.
"No more she'll float! Down, down to the boat!
   I know my duty well;
Not far from here is a safe fairway,
My old keel-trace shall show you the way —
   Shall show you the way to h-ll."

The channel's course seemed now illumined
   By a phosphorescent light;
Aft stood the pilot, grim and tall,
   His glance was fierce and bright;
He looked a-lee, where the Gjeslings be,
   To windward at Hesnes Bay,
Then he let go helm and staysail strop,
Swung round an oar with its broad blade up
   And stove her on her way.

The sea rushed in with gurgling sound,
   No time for useless strife!
The mother screamed, "My child, my child!
   Oh save but Anna's life!"
And raised her high with a piercing cry;
   The name gave Terje shock,
He quailed and turned the helm a-lee,
And grounded the boat where the feathering sea
   Broke white on the hidden rock.

It touched! they sank! but the sea was smooth
   Beyond that belt of spray;
They stood in knee-deep water where
   Poor Terje's treasure lay.
Cried the stricken peer, "No rock is here,
   It gives beneath our feet."
"'Tis a sunken skiff with its precious freight —
Three barrels of barley — that bears our weight —
   'Twas food for my child to eat."

A vision clear of his youthful feat —
   The half-forgotten prize —
Now flashed across his anxious mind,
   He knew his victim's eyes,
The eyes of him, with tears so dim,
   Who wept on his own corvette;
And then it befel that the proud grandee
To the old Norsk pilot bent his knee
   And sued for his own fair pet.

But Terje leant on his long oar-shank,
   Now straight as in youth was he!
And stern was the gleam of his deep-set eyes
   As his long grey hair blew free.
"You sail at ease where'er you please,
   I pulled that skiff hard by,
I toiled for my own in vain — their bread!
You took it all — they're dead, they're dead,
   And you mocked my pleading cry."

"Comely the face of your lady wife!
   Smooth as silk is her hand;
My own dead wife's was coarse and hard,
   But the dearest to me in the land.
Golden hair has your child so fair,
   Christ's favourite and guest;
Mine, well-a-day! was thin and grey
From want, but she was mine, I say;
   And all that I loved best."

He caught the child and swung her round,
   He held the lady near;
"Back, my lord, lest one only step
   Cost all that you hold dear."

But on Terje's face did a calm replace
   The stormy clouds long there;
He breathed as one from dungeon freed,
He held the child with gentle heed,
   And spoke the lady fair.

His voice so harsh was to sweetness toned,
   And calmly flowed his blood
That for long had run like a river full
   To the brink with the first Spring flood:
Revenge was here which for many a year
   He'd hungered for in vain;
But now he cried — "It is past! it is past!
I cannot seize what I've found at last,
   I yield it to God again."

When day-break came he saved them all;
   The yacht was long in the sound,
But little he said of what passed that night
   Though the pilot's fame went round;
And no more that cloud, like a burial shroud
   Enwrapped his striking face;
Erect was the form and straight was the neck
That first were bent on the corvette's deck
   Where the foaming Gjeslings race.

The lord and his lady and many more
   To the pilot's cottage came;
In the truce of God they took his hand,
   Nor thought of praise or blame.
When they tendered meed for his daring deed
   Amid the waves and rocks,
"Not I," he said, "who saved you there
But the little child with the auburn hair,"
   And he stroked fair Anna's locks.

When the homeward yacht passed Hesnes Sound
   The old Norsk flag was spread,
And a broadside boomed where the Gjeslings foam
   Over the famine bread.
Then in Terje's eye, to tears long dry,
   There shone the tear of peace;
With softened thoughts of bygone days
To Him, at last, he rendered praise
   Whose mercies never cease.

Such he was when I saw him last;
   At the wharf with fish he lay;
Snow-white was his fair, but mild his eyes,
   Sign of a brighter day!
With the maids he spoke, with the bairns would joke,
   Then waving his hat in the air,
He sprang 'mid the sunshine his boat on board,
Hoisted his mainsail and homeward soared,
   The old eagle! to his lair.

At Fjœre Church is a simple tomb
   In a bleak unsheltered spot;
No friends, no kin, no neighbours come
   To tend that narrow plot;
But there on a board o'er the heaving sward
   Which old ocean once did lave
Is writ, in letters of white the name
Of one whose love was his greatest fame: —
   'Tis Terje Viken's grave.


(Proofread by Patricia Teter)

last updated: 00-feb-11; sld