Thursday 25 June 2020


While in Amsterdam in 1965-66 and studying at university there I joined the  Scandinavian Society 'Yggdrasil'. The Dutch, polyglots back then, held weekend conferences with  themselves as speakers in Norwegian (AND nynorsk!) , Swedish and Danish on set subjects. I recall one such on the water sprite 'näcken'. I was ashamed that the Danish contributions sounded completely incomprehensible and decided to do something about it on returning to Cambridge for the final two years of my doctorate. So I took lessons in Danish and did Scandinavian Studies under, among others, Elias Bredsdorff. One topic I chose was Danske Folkeviser i Udvalg, and on p. 106 was '25. Ebbe Skammelsøn'.
Soon after I had arrived in Denmark to be English Lecturer at Odense University, by a series of serendipities, in 1968, an LP was released by Birgitte Grimstad (daughter of Aksel Schiøtz) called 'Viser er så meget'. One of the tracks was Ebbe Skammelsen.

Ebbe Skammelsøn

Skammel lives in Ty
both rich and mighty glad,
so courtly the five sons he has –
the end two met was bad.
So outlawed must Ebbe Skammelsøn
                   tread tracks far from home.

Ebbe he serves at the king’s high court
for gold and kine serves he;
Peder his brother he has a ship built,
its mast a straight tall tree.

And out there in the courtyard
he ups and shoulders his skin;
and then Maid Lucelille’s
high loft he enters in.

“Hail Maid Lucelille, sit you here
and sew Knight Ebbe fine frocks;
Knight Ebbe serves at the king’s high court
You and your honour he mocks.”

That answered Maid Lucelille,
and answered full and free:
“He never does mock a maiden proud,
far less does he mock me.”

“Rise up, Maid Lucelille,
And pledge yourself my wife!
In truth I now do tell you:
That Ebbe last year lost his life.”

Answered that Maid Lucelille,
and answered full and free:
“Half more the hurt of it you’ll have
than lies in wait for me.”

Hear you me, Maid Lucelille,
And pledge yourself Peder’s wife!
In truth I now do tell you:
That Ebbe last year lost his life.”

In beer they plighted both their troth
even in that same night:
the wedding they fixed for that day month
as quickly as they might.

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
at midnight he awoke;
turned to the man right next to him,
of his sudden dream he spoke:

“I thought I saw my stone chamber
ablaze unto the skies!
my mother dear consumed within,
my maiden fair likewise.”

“What you thought was your stone chamber,
its gleam spread far and wide:
’Tis Peder your own brother
who’s made your love his bride.”

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
he went to see the king;
begged for leave of absence,
was directly granted him.

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
came riding into town:
“Who then are these people
now gathered all around?”

Answered him the young maiden
dressed in her kirtle red:
“’Tis Peder, your own brother,
who now your love has wed.”

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
who from the place would ride,
his mother and his sisters two
they bade him wait and bide.

“Oh hear me, my dear mother
Allow me now to ride!
were I to bide this evening,
You’d rue it all your life.”

One sister he gave a fine golden brooch,
the other a ring for her hand;
for Maid Lucelille he’d had it wrought,
when serving in foreign land.

His father bade him sit at the bench
placed highest in the hall:
his mother placed a jug in his hand,
and bade him pour for them all.

He poured for all the golden mead
and then the wine full clear;
each time he glimpsed the lovely bride,
his eye it shed a tear.

The ladies at the topmost bench
they spoke in disbelief:
“Why does Ebbe Skammelsøn
pour wine while in such grief?”

“You eat and drink, my ladies,
both mead and cool clear wine!
Soon there’ll be else to speak of
than the sorrow that is mine.”

That evening late when dew did fall
and all had drunk and fed,
the time came for the fair young bride
to seek her wedding bed.

They all led the fair young bride
to where her bed was made:
before went Ebbe Skammelsøn,
his torch did light the way.

Along the gallery he led
the bride, though he was loath:
“And do you happen to recall
To me you did plight your troth?”

All I ever pledged to you,
Has Peder now, your brother;
all the days I yet may live
I’ll be to you as a mother.”

Then answered Ebbe Skammelsøn,
the tears ran down his cheek:
“It was as wife I you would wed,
and I no mother seek.

Hark you, Maid Lucelille,
With me now flee the land!
my brother Peder I will slay
and that hard fate withstand!”

“If brother Peder you do slay,
I’m lost to you for ever;
Then you must grieve yourself to death
as a bird astray must shiver.”

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
sword from sheath did draw;
it was Lucelille
he cut down to the floor.

His bloody sword he then did hide
beneath his purple skin;
he entered the stone chamber
where Peder his brother was in.

“Hark you, Peder Skammelsøn
the time too fast has fled!
A full hour by the clock has passed
since the bride went to her bed.

Hark you, Peder Skammelsøn
all does you avail!
The bride sits in the bridal bed,
and waits for you so pale.”

“Hark you, Ebbe Skammelsøn,
dear brother by my side;
I promise you this selfsame night
to sleep with my fair bride!”

It was Ebbe Skammelsøn,
sword from sheath did draw;
It was Peder Skammelsøn
he cut down to the floor.

His father parted with his left foot,
his mother her right hand;
So outlawed must Ebbe Skammelsøn
steer clear now of this land:
So outlawed must Ebbe Skammelsøn
                    tread tracks far from home.

Listen to Birgitte Grimstad sing the song here

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