Monday 24 November 2014

Anonymous Swedish medieval ballad

The power of grief

Little Kerstin and her mother laid gold on the bier,
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
little Kerstin from his grave mourned her true love so dear.
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

With fingers so small on the door he did knock:
‘Arise, little Kerstin, and undo the lock!’

‘To hold a tryst here did I no one invite,
And to no one my door will I open at night.’

‘Arise, little Kerstin, the lock now undo!
for I’m the young man that you once loved so true.’

As quick as she could did the maid now arise
and opened the lock on her door in a trice.

On a chest of red gold she prepared him a seat
and in finest clear wine did she wash both his feet.

Then into her bed did the both of them creep,
they talked through the night, there was no time for sleep.

‘The cocks I can hear are beginning to crow,
no longer in homes may the dead tarry now.’

The young maid arose and her shoes she put on,
she went through the wood where her young man was gone.

And when at the churchyard he stopped and did stay,
his fair blond hair then started fading away.

‘Oh look, lovely maid, how the moon’s end is near!’
At which did the young man so fast disappear.

Then did the maid sit herself down on his tomb:
‘I’ll stay here till for me the Lord God shall come!’

To this could the young man be just heard to say:
‘Little Kerstin, please heed me, return home I pray!’

For each single tear that you happen you shed,
my tomb will start filling with blood that’s bright red.

Each moment however your heart gladness knows
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
shall my tomb fill with petals that come from the rose.’
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

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