Friday, 16 June 2017

And a third Danish ballad

The maid in the guise of a bird

I know where there lies a forest,
far out at the edge of the fjord;
therein there grow the fairest of trees
that ever a man has heard.
So does a man gain his maiden.

Therein there grow the fairest of trees,
that one calls wood-willow and lime.
therein there play the noblest of beasts
that one calls the hart and the hind.

Therein there play both the hart and the hind
and other beasts pleasing to see;
there sings so tiny a nightingale
up in a lime so green.

Of this learned Nilaus Erlandsøn.
[a hunting man known for his skill],
he had his steed shod with shoes of red gold,
and yonder he rode for a kill.

Yonder did ride Nilaus Erlandsøn,
so deep-felt was his rapture;
there he stayed for three whole days,
but never the bird did he capture.

Then traps he did set on all of the trees
the bird would choose to alight on;
the bird it grew so keen of eye
the net he never could tighten.

Then traps he did set on all of the paths
the bird would walk on by nature;
the bird it was so keen of eye
he never was able to catch her.

He took his axe up in his hand,
he would the tree have felled;
the man who owned the forest came,
his spear between he held.

“If you chop down my forefathers’ trees
and do me such a wrong:
I promise you, Nilaus Erlandsøn,
you’ll rue the day ere long.”

Then came the voice of the fair maid,
up from the top of the tree:
‘Young man, should you heed my advice,
Then yours the bird shall be.

Hark you well, you handsome man,
and heed you my advice:
without tame flesh you shall not catch
the wild bird in a trice.”

He cut the tame flesh from his breast,
he hung it from a branch of lime;
she flapped her wings, it pleased her well,
to gain such flesh lost no time.

It was the tiny nightingale
the tame bloody flesh she soon found;
then she became the loveliest maid
that ever had trod the ground.

The maiden under the lime tree stood
in silken shift of red;
the knight he took her by the arm,
their woes to each other they said.

The knight he took her on his arm,
her lily-white cheek he did stroke:
‘Oh tell me, dearest to my heart,
who then did such sorrow provoke?”

“At my father’s table I did sit,
with roses and lilies did play;
my stepmother came into the room,
who wanted to have me away.

She made a small nightingale out of me
and told me to fly to the wood:
my seven maids into wolves were all turned,
told to tear the bird if they could.”

The maiden under the lime tree stood,
tossed her fine golden hair;
out ran her seven maids to her,
as wolves they were all still ensnared.

Now has Nilaus Erlandsøn
defeated all fear and all harm;
now without a single care
he sleeps on his maiden’s arm.
So does a man gain his maiden.

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