Vidrik Verlandson (From The Old Danish)

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King Diderik sits in the halls of Bern,
  And he boasts of his deeds of might;
So many a swain in battle he’s fell’d,
  And taken so many a knight.

King Diderik sits in the halls of Bern,
  And he strikes his moony shield;
“O, would that I knew of a hero now,
  ‘Gainst whom I could take the field.”

Then answer’d Master Hildebrand,
  (For he knew all things best,)
“There sleeps a Giant at Birtingsberg;
  Dar’st thou disturb his rest?”

“Now, hear me, Master Hildebrand;
  Thou art huge in body and limb;
Thou foremost shall ride, in the wood, this day,
  And bear our challenge to him.”

Then answer’d Master Hildebrand,
  So careful a knight was he;
“Not so, my Lord, will I do, this day,
  For the wages delight not me.”

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson,
  And he spoke in wrathful mood;
“O, I’ll be first of the band, this day,
  All through the Birting wood.”

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson,
  And he spoke with lofty pride;
“The smith he forg’d me a faulchion good,
  That can steel, like cloth, divide.”

They were three hundred valorous knights,
  Unto Birting’s land that rode;
They go in quest of Langben the Jutt,
  To the gloomy wood, his abode.

Then out spoke Vidrik Verlandson;
  “A wondrous game we’ll play;
For I will ride in the green wood first,
  If ye’ll but trust me away.”

Then answer’d bold King Diderik,
  He answer’d hastily then;
“When thou therein shalt have found the Jutt
  Come back for me and my men.”

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
  In the forest alone he sped;
And there he found so little a way,
  Which up to the Giant led.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
  He came unto Birting’s hill;
There black and dread lay Langben the Jutt,
  He lay stretch’d out, and still.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
  With his lance touch’d him on the knee;
“Wake up! wake up! now Langben the Jutt,
  Thou sleepest full sound, I see.”

“Here have I lain, for many a year,
  ’Mid the leaf and the dew-wet herb;
But never, till now, came a warrior by,
  That has dar’d my sleep to disturb.”

“Here stand I, Vidrik Verlandson,
  With a sword, so good, at my side;
I came to wake thee up from thy sleep,
  Betide whatever betide.”

It was Langben the Giant, then,
  Turn’d up the white of his eye;
“O, whence can come this warrior youth,
  Who such bold words lets fly?

“But hear, but hear, thou warrior youth;
  I will not do battle with thee,
Except thou prove of a knightly race;
  So thy lineage tell to me.”

“A handsome smith my father was,
  And Verland hight was he:
Bodild they call’d my mother fair;
  Queen over countries three:

“Skimming I call my noble steed,
  Begot from the wild sea-mare:
Blank do I call my haughty helm,
  Because it glitters so fair:

“Skrepping I call my good thick shield;
  Steel shafts have furrow’d it o’er:
Mimmering have I nam’d my sword;
  ‘T is harden’d in heroes’ gore:

“And I am Vidrik Verlandson;
  For clothes bright iron I wear:
Stand’st thou not up on thy long, long legs,
  I’ll pin thee down to thy lair:

“Do thou stand up on thy long, long legs,
  Nor look so dogged and grim;
The King holds out before the wood;
  Thou shalt yield thy treasure to him.”

“All, all the gold that I possess,
  I will keep with great renown;
I’ll yield it at no little horse-boy’s word,
  To the best king wearing a crown.”

“So young and little as here I seem,
  Thou shalt find me prompt in a fray;
I’ll hew the head from thy shoulders off,
  And thy much gold bear away.”

It was Langben the mighty Jutt,
  With fury his heart was fir’d;
“Ride hence! ride hence! thou warrior youth,
  If of life thou be not tir’d.”

Skimming sprang up, with both his legs,
  Against the giant’s side
Asunder went five of his rib-bones then,
  And the fight began at that tide.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
  He wav’d his steel mace round;
He sent a blow after Vidrik;
  But the mace struck deep in the ground.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
  Who had thought his foeman to slay,
But the blow fell short of Vidrik;
  For the good horse bore him away.

It was Langben the lofty Jutt,
  That shouted in wild despair:
“Now lies my mace in the hillock fast,
  As though ‘t were hammer’d in there!”

Vidrik paus’d no moment’s space;
  So ready was he to assail:
“Upon him, Skimming, upon him once more!
  Now, Mimmering, now prevail!”

He seiz’d his sword in both his hands,
  Unto Langben Giant he flew;
He struck him so hard in the hairy breast,
  That the point his lungs went through.

Now Langben Giant has got a wound,
  And he’s waken’d thoroughly now;
So gladly would he have paid it back,
  But, alas! he knew not how.

“Accursed be thou, young Vidrik!
  And accurs’d thy piercing steel!
Thou hast given me, see, a wound in my breast,
  Whence rise the pains I feel.”

“I’ll hew thee, Giant, I’ll hew thee as small
  As leaves that are borne on the blast,
Except thou showest me all the gear,
  That hid in the forest thou hast.”

“Forbear, O Vidrik Verlandson,
  Strike me not cruelly dead!
And I will lead thee straight to my house,
  That’s thatch’d with gold so red.”

Vidrik rode, and the Giant crept,
  So far through the forest ways,
They found the house with the red gold thatch’d;
  It glitter’d like straw in a blaze.

“Therein, therein are heaps of gold,
  No King has a greater store;
Do thou remove the big black stone,
  And lift from the hinges the door.”

With both hands Vidrik seiz’d the stone,
  But to stir it in vain did he try;
The Giant took it with finger and thumb,
  And lifted it up in the sky.

“Now hear, now hear, thou warrior youth,
  Thou canst wheel thy courser about;
But in every feat of manly strength
  I could beat thee out and out.”

Then answer’d Vidrik Verlandson,
  (He fear’d for himself some ill)
“‘T is not the custom of any wise man
  His strength on a stone to spill.”

“Therein, therein is much more gold
  Than fifteen kings can show;
Hear me, Vidrik Verlandson,
  Thou therein first shalt go.”

Then answer’d Vidrik Verlandson,
  (For his cunning intent he saw)
“Thou shalt lead the way into thine own house,
  For that is warrior-law.”

It was Langben the Giant then,
  To the door he stoop’d down low:
It was Vidrik Verlandson
  Cleft off his head at a blow.

Away the quivering body he drew,
  And propp’d it against an oak;
Then back he rode the long, long way,
  He’s thought of a wondrous joke.

With giant’s blood he besmear’d himself,
  And besmear’d his steed all o’er;
Then back he rides to King Diderik,
  Pretends to be wounded sore.

“Here bide ye in peace, my companions good,
  All under the grass-green hill;
Langben the Giant has smote me to day,
  I doubt I shall fare but ill.”

“If thou from the Giant hast got a blow,
  Thy life must be nigh its close;
We’ll ride swift back to the halls of Bern,
  No man more will we lose.”

“Now wend thee, bold King Diderik,
  Wend into the wood with me;
And all the gold that the giant had,
  That will I show to thee.”

“If thou hast slain the giant this day,
  ‘T will far be blaz’d in the land;
And the warrior lives not in this world,
  ‘Gainst whom thou may’st fear to stand.”

But what befel King Diderik’s men?
  When the giant they first perceiv’d,
They all stopp’d short, in the good green wood,
  Of courage at once bereav’d.

They thought the giant verily would
  That moment after them stride:
Not one of them all would have battled with him;
  Back would they all have hied.

It was Vidrik Verlandson,
  He laugh’d at their craven fear:
“How would ye have fac’d him when alive,
  Ye dare not him, dead, go near?

With his lance’s haft the body he push’d,
  The head came toppling down:
That the Giant was a warrior stark,
  Forsooth, I am forc’d to own.

Out took they then his ruddy gold,
  And shar’d it amongst the band:
To Vidrik came the largest part,
  For ‘t was earn’d with his good hand.

Little car’d he for the booty, I ween,
  But he thought of his meed of fame;
When men should say, in the Danish land,
  That the Giant he overcame.

So gladly rode they to Bern again;
  King Diderik gladdest of all:
There caus’d he Vidrik Verlandson
  To sit next him in the hall.

© George Borrow