Eric, Gunthar, Swegn, Aslaug, Hertha.
Not by love only, but by force and love. '
This man must lower his fierceness to the fierce,
He must be beggared of the thing left, his pride
And know himself for clay. He could not honour¹
This unfamiliar movement of my soul
But would contemn and think my seated strength
Had changed to trembling. Sound² the audience-gong,³
Herald. The master of my stars is he
Who owns no master. Odin, what is this play,
Thou playest with thy world, of fall and rise,,
Of death, birth, greatness, ruin? The time may come
When Eric shall not be remembered! Yes,
But there's a script, there are archives that endure.
Before a throne in some superior world
Bards with undying lips and eyes still young
After the ages sing of all the past
And the Immortal's Children hear. Somewhere
In this gigantic world of which one grain of dust
Is all our field, Eternal Memory keeps
Our great things and our trivial equally
To whom the peasant's moans above his dead
Are tragic as a prince's fall. Some say
Atomic Chance has put Eric here, Swegn there,
Aslaug between. But I have seen myself,
O you revealing gods, and know though veiled
The immortality that thinks in me,
That plans and reasons.4
Masters of Norway, hail!
For all are masters here, not I alone
¹Alternative for two lines:
For he will not honour mildness nor revere
4That loves, that labours.
Page – 546
Who am my country's brain of unity,
Your oneness. Swegn's at last in Norway's hands
Who shook our fates. And what shall Norway do with Swegn,
One of her mightiest ?
If his might submits,
Then, Eric, let him live. We cannot brook
These disorders always.
Norway cannot brook.
Therefore he must submit. Bring him within.
We'll see if this strong iron can be bent,
This crudeness bear the fire. Swegn Olafson,
Hast thou considered yet this state ? Hast thou
Submitted to thy gods or must we, Swegn,
Consider now thy sentence ?
I have seen
My dire misfortune. I have seen myself
And know that I am greater. Do thy will
Since what the son of Yarislaf commands,
The son of Olaf bears!
Thou wilt not yield?
My father taught me not the word.
Thou hast forgotten, Swegn, thy desperate words.
Or were they meant only for the free snows,
And here retracted ?
Page – 547
Son of Yarislaf, they stand.
I claim the cross I would have nailed thee on,
I claim the flayer's knife.
These for thyself.
And for thy wife and sister, Swegn ?
I think thy father taught thee not the word,
But I have taught thee. Since thou lovest yet, —
No man who says that he will stand alone,
Swegn, can afford to love, — thou then art mine
Inevitably. Thou vauntest thy blood,
Thy strength ? Thou art much stronger, so thou say'st,
Than thy misfortunes. Art thou stronger, Swegn,
Than theirs ? Can all thy haughty pride of race
Or thy heart's mightiness undo my will
In whose strong hands thou liest? Swegn Olafson,
The gods are mightier than thy race and blood,
The gods are mightier than thy arrogant heart.
They will not have one violent man oppose
His egoism, his pride and his desire
Against a country's fate. Thou hast no strength,
For thou and these are only Eric's slaves
Who have been his stubborn hinderers. Therefore Fate,
Norway, whose favourite and brother I have grown,
Turned wroth and brought¹ you all into my grasp.
I will that you should live and yield. These yield,
But thou withstandest wisdom. Fate and love,
Allied against thee, I offer, Swegn, yield to me,
Stand by my side and share thy father's throne.
Page – 548
(after a silence)
Yes, thou art fierce and subtle! Let them pronounce
My duty's preferences, if not my heart's,
To them or Right.
O narrow obstinate heart!
Had this been but thy country or a cause
Men worship, then it would indeed have been¹
A noble blindness, but thou serv'st thy pride.
Wilt thou abide by their pronouncement, Swegn?
Aslaug and Hertha, see your brother and lord,
This mighty captive, royal once, now fallen
And helpless in my hands. I wish to spare
His mightiness, his race, his royal heart;
But he prefers the cross instead, prefers
Your shame — thy brother, Aslaug, — Hertha, he
Thy spouse consents to utmost shame for both,
If from the ages he can buy this word,
"Swegn still was stubborn." That to him is all.
He who forgot to value Norway's will,
Forgets to value now your pride, your love.
This was not royal nor like Olaf's son!
Come, will you speak to him, will you persuade ?
Walk there aside with him and aim at his heart.
Hertha, my subject, Aslaug, thou my thrall,
Save, if he will, this life. Remember, Swegn,
If Olaf's children must be shame-crowned slaves,
'Tis thou that makest them so.
'Tis thus we meet, —
Were not the snows of Norway preferable,
Daughter of Olaf?
They were high, but cold.
¹Men worship, thine would then indeed have been
Page – 549
Wilt thou not speak to Hertha, Swegn, my lord?
Hertha, alas, thy crooked scheming brain
That brought us here.
The gods use instruments,
Not ask their consent. O Swegn, accept the gods
And their decision.
Must we live always cold?
O brother, cast the snows out of thy heart.
Let there be summer.
Yield, husband, to the sun.
There is no shame in yielding to the gods.
Not to a god, although his room be earth
And his body mortal.
There was an Aslaug once
Whose speech had other grandeurs. Can it not find¹
The argument that can excuse thy fall,
O not to me, but to that worshipped self
Thou wast, my sister?
¹Alternative to the words starting with "Can it not find...."
Let me hear
What arguments thou hast to justify
A thing our father's spirit cries upon.
After this, Aslaug's speech begins with "I seek no argument...." See next page:
Page – 550
I seek no argument except my heart
Nor need excuse for what I glory in.
Brother, were we not always one ? 'Tis strange
That I must reason with thee.
O, thou knewest.
Therefore I fell, therefore, my strength is gone
And where a god's magnificence lived once,
Here, here, 'tis empty. O inconstant heart, .
Thou wast my Fate, my courage, and at last
Thou hast gone over to my enemy,
Taking my Fate, my courage. I will hear
No words from such. Thou wouldst betray what's left,
Until not even Swegn is left to Swegn,
But only a coward's shadow.
Hear me, Swegn.
Ah, Hertha, what hast thou to say to me?
Save me, my lord, from my own punishment,
Forgetting my deserts.
Alas! thy love,
O my beloved, has been great to me,
Though great, was never wise! but must it ask
So huge a recompense ?
Thou hadst myself. Thou askest my honour.
Will this persuade thee ? I have nothing else.
Page – 551
O thou hast overcome my strength at last.
Thou only and so only couldst prevail.
King, thou hast conquered. Not to thee I yield,
But those I loved are thy allies. From these
Recall the wrath, on me instead pronounce
What doom thou wilt — though yielding is doom enough
For Swegn of Norway.
Abjure rebellion then,
Receive my mercy.¹
O fortune! It will out.²
The spirit of Olaf will no more sit still
Within me. O though thou slaughter these with pains
I will not yield. Take, take thy mercy back.
I take it back. What wouldst thou in its stead ?
Do what thou wilt with these and me. I have done!
Thou cast'st thy die, thou weak and violent man! I will cast mine
I have endured the worst.
Thou thinkest I will help thee to thy death,
Allowing the blind grave to seal thy eyes
¹Receive my boons.
² I have said; it is received.
Page – 552
To all that I shall do to thine. Learn, Swegn,
I am more cruel! Thou shalt live and see
On them my vengeance. Aslaug, go and return
Robed as thou wast upon the night thou knowest
Wearing thy dagger, wearing too thy ring.
What wilt thou do with her? God! what wilt thou do?
O wherefore have I seen and taken back love
Into a heart that had shut....¹
But death and greatness ?
I will inflict on them
What thou canst not endure to gaze upon
Or if thou canst then with that hardness live.
For die thou shalt not. I have ways for that.
Thou thought's! to take thy refuge in a grave
And let these bear thy punishment for thee,
Thy heart being spared. It was no valiant thought,
No worthy escape for Swegn. Aslaug and Hertha,
My thralls, remove your outer robes.
What must I see ?
As dancing-girls the women came to me,
As dancing-girls I keep them. Thou shalt see
Aslaug of Norway at her trade — to dance
Before me and my courtiers. That begins,
There's more behind, unless thou change thy mood.
Thou knowest how to torture.
Page – 553
And to break.
Thou seest, Swegn. Shall I command the dance ?
Shall this be the result of Olaf's house ?
Daughter of Olaf, wilt thou then obey ?
Yes, since thou lov'st me not, my brother Swegn,
Whom else should I obey, save him I love ?
But hadst thou loved me still, I should not need.
Stay, Aslaug. Since thou bad'st me love
Thee, not my glory, as indeed I must
To save the house of Olaf from this shame, —
Whose treacherous weakness works for him and thee.
Pause not again — for pause is fatal now.
King, I have yielded, I accept thy boons.
Heir of a starveling Earl, I bow my head
Even to thy mercies. I am Olaf's son,
I shall be faithful to my own disgrace.¹
O fear not. King. I can be great again.
Without conditions hast thou yielded.
¹Yet yield — that name I remember, speak this word.
Page – 554
Let these be spared all shame — for that I yield
My honour has a price — and it is small.
That's given without terms binding.
Give me a dungeon deep enough, O King,
To hide my face from all these eyes.
Whatever prison I assign thee, be it wide
Or narrow, to observe its state, its bounds
And do even there my will.
(with a gesture)
That too is sworn!
Let Thor and Odin witness to my oath.
Four prisons I assign to Olaf's son.
Thy palace first in Trondhjem, Olaf's roof,
Thy house in Nara, Eric's court — thy country,
To whom thou yieldest, Norway — and at last
My army's head when I invade the world.
(amazed and doubtful)
Thou hast surprised me, Eric, with an oath
Hertha, to thy lord
Return unharassed — thou seest thou wast safe.
Page – 555
Trondhjem's and Olaf's treasures with thee take
The second in the land beneath our throne.
Eric, enough! Have I not yielded ? Here
Let thy boons rest.'
'Tis truth. For my next boon
Is to myself. Look not upon this hand
I clasp in mine, although the fairest hand
That God has made. Observe instead
This ring and recognise it.
It's Freya's ring, worn
On Aslaug's hand. And she who once wears
Thenceforth sits on Norway's throne.
Possess thy father's chair
Intended for thee always from the first.
Nor be amazed that in these dancing-robes
I seat her here — for they increase its beauty
More than imperial purple. Nor think, Swegn,
Thy sister shamed or false who came to me
,...¹ spilling my blood and hers,
A violent and mighty purpose — such
As only noble hearts conceive; and only
She yielded to that noble heart at last
Because 'twas Odin's purpose.
So they came.
Aslaug, thou sought'st my throne, but findst thine own.
I grudge it not to thee — for thy great heart
Page – 556
Deserves it. Eric, thou hast won at last
I could not shame thy sister, Swegn,
Save by my wife's disgrace and this was none
But only a deceit to prove thy heart
And thou seest that thou couldst not have rebelled
Except by treason against Olaf's seed
That must again rule Norway.
Eric, for thy boons
They hurt not now — take what return thou wilt;
For I am thine, thou hast found out the way
To save from me thy future. It has....¹
With my heart's strings.
Swegn, excuse and love
Thy comrade Hardicnut, for he intended
A kind betrayal.
This is nothing, King.
His act my heart had come to understand
And yet has pardoned.
Sigurd, thy foe, as I have pardoned first
My father's slaughterer. This is thy....²
'Tis pardoned, not forgiven. Let him not come
Too often in my sight.
Page – 557
Swegn, I too have boons
To ask of thee.
Let them be difficult then,
If thou wouldst have me grant them.
The gods have
Let this embrace engulf our ended strife,
Brother of Aslaug.
Husband of my sister,
Thou assum'st our blood and it ennobles thee
To the height of thy great victories — this thy last
And greatest. Thou hast dealt with me as a King,
Then as a brother. Thou adorn'st thy throne.
Rest, brother, from thy hardships and thy wars
Until I need thy sword that matched with mine
To smite my foemen.
Aslaug, what thinkest thou?
If thou art satisfied, then all well, nobly done.
Thou hast the tyrant in thy nature still
And so I love thee best. What canst thou do but well ?
For in thy every act and word I see
The gods compel thee.
Or thou hast changed me with thy starry eyes,
Daughter of Olaf, and....¹ a man
Page – 558
Where was but height and iron, all my roots
Of action, mercy, greatness, enterprise
Sit now transplanted in thy breast, O charm,
O noble marvel! From thy bosom my strength
Comes out to me.
Thou sangst, Aslaug, once of the golden hoop,
Mightier and swifter than the warrior's sword.
Dost thou remember what thou cam'st to do,
Aslaug, from Gothberg?
The gods have spoken since and shown their hand.
They shut our eyes and drive us, but at last
Our souls remember when the act is done.
That it was fated. Now for us, O beloved,
The world begins again, who since the stars were formed
Playing the game of games by Odin's will
Have met and parted, parted, met again
Page – 559