The Tournament (From The Old Danish)

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Six score there were, six score and ten,
  From Hald that rode that day;
And when they came to Brattingsborg
  They pitch’d their pavilion gay.

King Nilaus stood on the turret’s top,
  Had all around in sight:
“Why hold those heroes their lives so cheap,
  That it lists them here to fight?

“Now, hear me, Sivard Snaresvend;
  Far hast thou rov’d, and wide,
Those warriors’ weapons thou shalt prove,
  To their tent thou must straightway ride.”

It was Sivard Snaresvend,
  To the broad tent speeded he then:
“I greet ye fair, in my master’s name,
  All, all, ye Dane king’s men.

“Now, be not wroth that here I come;
  I come as a warrior, free:
The battle together we soon will prove;
  Let me your bearings see.”

There stands upon the first good shield
  A lion, so fierce and stark,
With a crown on his head, of the ruddy gold,
  That is King Diderik’s mark.

There shine upon the second shield
  A hammer and pincers bright;
Them carries Vidrik Verlandson,
  Ne’er gives he quarter in fight.

There shines upon the third good shield
  A falcon, blazing with gold;
And that by Helled Hogan is borne;
  No knight, than he, more bold.

There shines upon the fourth good shield
  An eagle, and that is red;
Is borne by none but Olger, the Dane;
  He strikes his foemen dead.

There shines upon the fifth good shield
  A couchant hawk, on a wall;
That’s borne by Master Hildebrand;
  He tries, with heroes, a fall.

And now comes forth the sixth good shield
  A linden is thereupon;
And that by young Sir Humble is borne,
  King Abelon’s eldest son.

There shines upon the seventh good shield
  A spur, of a fashion so free;
And that is borne by Hogan, the less,
  Because he will foremost be.

There shines upon the eighth good shield
  A gray wolf, meagre and gaunt;
Is borne by youthful Ulf van Jern;
  Beware how him you taunt!

There shine upon the ninth good shield
  Three arrows, and white are they;
Are borne by Vidrik Stageson,
  And trust that gallant you may.

There shines upon the tenth good shield
  A fiddle, and ’neath it a bow;
That’s borne by Folker Spillemand;
  For drink he will sleep forego.

There shines upon the eleventh shield
  A dragon that looks so dire;
Is carried by Orm, the youthful swain;
  He trembles at no man’s ire.

And, now, behold the twelfth good shield,
  And upon it a burning brand;
Is borne by stout Sir Vifferlin
  Through many a prince’s land.

There stands upon the thirteenth shield
  A sprig of the mournful yew;
That’s borne by Harrald Griskeson;
  And he’s a comrade true.

There stand upon the fourteenth shield
  A cloak, and a mighty staff;
And them bore Alsing, the stalwart monk,
  When he beat his foes to chaff.

And now comes forth the fifteenth shield,
  And upon it three naked blades
Are borne by good King Esmer’s sons,
  In their wars and furious raids.

There stands upon the sixteenth shield,
  With coal-black pinion, a crow;
That’s borne by rich Count Raadengaard;
  The dark Runes well can he throw.

There shines upon the seventeenth shield
  A horse, so stately and high,
Is borne by Count Sir Guncelin;
  “Slay! slay! bide not,” is his cry.

There shine upon the eighteenth shield
  A man, and a fierce wild boar,
Are borne by the Count of Lidebierg;
  His blows fall heavy and sore.

There shines upon the nineteenth shield
  A hound, at the stretch of his speed;
Is borne by Oisten Kiaempe, bold;
  He risks his neck without heed.

There shines upon the twentieth shield,
  Among branches, a rose, so gay;
Wherever Sir Nordman comes in war,
  He bears bright honour away.

There shines on the one-and-twentieth shield
  A vase, and of copper ‘t is made;
That’s borne by Mogan Sir Olgerson;
  He wins broad lands with his blade.

And now comes forth the next good shield,
  With a sun dispelling the mirk;
And that by Asbiorn Milde is borne;
  He sets the knights’ backs at work.

There shines on the three-and-twentieth shield
  An arm, in a manacle bound;
And that by Alvor Sir Lange is borne,
  To the heroes he hands mead round.

Now comes the four-and-twentieth shield,
  And a bright sword there you see;
And that by Humble Sir Jerfing is borne;
  Full worthy of that is he.

There shines upon the next good shield
  A goss-hawk, striking his game;
That’s borne by a knight, the best of all—
  Sir Iver Blaa is his name.

Now comes the six-and-twentieth shield,
  A jav’lin there you spy;
Is borne by little Mimring Tan;
  From no one will he fly.

Such knights and bearings as were there,
  And who can them all relate;
It was Sivard, the Snaresvend;
  No longer he deign’d to wait.

“If there be one of the Dane king’s men,
  Who at Dyst is willing to ride,
Let him, I pray, without pause or delay,
  Meet me by the wild wood’s side.

“The man among you, ye Danish court men,
  Who at Dyst has won most meeds;
Him I am ready to fight, this day,
  For both of our noble steeds.”

The heroes cast the die on the board;
  The die it roll’d so wide:
“Since, young Sir Humble, it stops by thee,
  ‘Gainst Sivard thou must ride.”

Sir Humble struck his hand on the board;
  No longer he lists to play:
I tell you, forsooth, that the rosy hue
  From his cheek fast faded away.

“Now, hear me, Vidrik Verlandson;
  Thou art so free a man;
Do lend me Skimming, thy horse, this day;
  I’ll pledge for him what I can:

“Eight good castles, in Birting’s land,
  As pledges for him I’ll set;
My sister too, the lily-cheek’d maid,
  A fairer thou ne’er hast met:

“Eight good castles, and eight good knights;
  I’d scorn to offer thee less:
If Skimming should meet any hurt this day,
  My sister thou shalt caress.”

“If yonder mountains all were gold,
  And yonder streams were wine;
The whole for Skimming I would not take;
  I bless God he is mine.

“Sivard is a purblind swain;
  Sees not to his faulchion’s end:
If Skimming were hurt thou couldst not pay me
  With the help of thy every friend.

“The sword it whirls in Sivard’s hand,
  As whirl the sails of the mill;
If thou take Skimming ‘gainst that wild fool,
  ‘T is sorely against my will.”

Humble, he sat him on Skimming’s back,
  So gallantly can he ride;
But Skimming thought it passing strange
  That a spur was clapt to his side.

The first course that together they rode,
  So strong were the knightly two,
Asunder went Humble’s saddle-ring,
  And a furlong his good shield flew.

“Methinks thou art a fair young swain,
  And well thy horse canst ride;
Dismount thee, straight, and gird up thy steed;
  I am willing for thee to bide.”

The second course that together they rode
  Was worthy of knights renown’d;
Then both their saddles burst in two,
  And Humble was sent to the ground.

“Now have I cast thee from thy steed,
  Thy courser by right is mine;
But, tell me, youthful and gallant swain,
  Who art thou, and of what line?

“Now have I won from thee the prize,
  And Skimming belongs to me;
But, tell me, youthful and gallant swain,
  What parents gave birth to thee?”

“Abelon is my father’s name;
  He sits upon Birting’s throne:
Queen Ellina my mother is,
  And that for truth is known.

“Queen Ellina my mother is—
  A Queen whom all admire;
Good King Abelon Haardestaal,
  So call they my hoary sire.

“And who am I, but Humble, the young,
  A knight of Birting’s land;
Of hero race, whose fame extends
  To the wide earth’s farthest strand.”

“If Abelon be thy father’s name,
  The courser I straight restore;
Thou art, I find, my very good friend;
  I knew thee not, youth, before.

“If Queen Ellina thy mother is,
  Then Skimming thou hast rewon;
Thou art, indeed, my very good friend;
  Thou art my sister’s son.

“Take both the shield ropes, take them straight,
  And bind me to yon oak tree;
Then hie thee back to King Diderik,
  And say thou hast conquer’d me.”

In came Humble, the youthful knight,
  Was clad in a kirtle, green;
“O!  I have got my courser again,
  And have bound the warrior keen.”

In came Humble, with boot and spur,
  He cast on the table his sword:
“Sivard stands in the green wood bound,
  He speaks not a single word.

“O, I have been to the wild forest,
  And have seiz’d the warrior stark;
Sivard there was taken by me,
  And tied to the oak’s rough bark.”

“Now hear me, young Sir Humble, the knight,
  ‘T is plain a jest is meant,
Whenever Sivard was bound by thee,
  ‘T was done with his own consent.”

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
  And he would fain know all.
“O, I will ride to the wood, and see
  How Sivard endures his thrall.”

Vidrik spoke to his burly groom:
  “Go, saddle me Skimming gray,
For I will ride to the wood, and hear
  What Sivard himself will say.”

Sivard stands in the good green wood,
  There sees he Vidrik ride:
“If Vidrik finds me bounden here,
  He’ll hew my rib-bones from my side.”

Then loud laugh’d Vidrik Verlandson,
  And Skimming began to neigh,
For Sivard rooted the oak tree up;
  He dar’d no longer stay.

The queen she sat in the high, high, loft,
  And thence look’d far and wide:
“O there comes Sivard Snaresvend,
  With a stately oak at his side.”

Then loud laugh’d fair Queen Gloriant,
  As she look’d on Sivard full:
“Thou wert, no doubt, in great, great need,
  When thou such flowers didst pull.”

The King he stood at the castle gate,
  In his robes and kingly crown:
“O there comes Sivard Snaresvend,
  And he brings us Summer to town.”

Now dance the heroes by Brattingsborg;
  They dance in their coats of felt;
There dances Sivard, the purblind swain,
  With an oak tree under his belt.

© George Borrow