“Tie stille, barn min
Imorgen kommer Fin,
Og gi’er dig Esbern Snares nine og hjerte at lege med!”
“Build at Kallundborg by the sea
A church as stately as church may be,
And there shalt thou wed my daughter fair,”
Said the Lord of Nesvek to Esbern Snare.
And the Baron laughed. But Esbern said,
“Though I lose my soul, I will Helva wed!”
And off he strode, in his pride of will,
To the Troll who dwelt in Ulshoi hill.
“Build, O Troll, a church for me
At Kallundborg by the mighty sea;
Build it stately, and build it fair,
Build it quickly,” said Esbern Snare.
But the sly Dwarf said, “No work is wrought
By Trolls of the Hills, O man, for naught.
What wilt thou give for thy church so fair?”
“Set thy own price,” quoth Esbern Snare.
“When Kallundborg church is builded well,
Than must the name of its builder tell,
Or thy heart and thy eyes must be my boon.”
“Build,” said Esbern, “and build it soon.”
By night and by day the Troll wrought on;
He hewed the timbers, he piled the stone;
But day by day, as the walls rose fair,
Darker and sadder grew Esbern Snare.
He listened by night, he watched by day,
He sought and thought, but he dared not pray;
In vain he called on the Elle-maids shy,
And the Neck and the Nis gave no reply.
Of his evil bargain far and wide
A rumor ran through the country-side;
And Helva of Nesvek, young and fair,
Prayed for the soul of Esbern Snare.
And now the church was wellnigh done;
One pillar it lacked, and one alone;
And the grim Troll muttered, “Fool thou art
To-morrow gives me thy eyes and heart!”
By Kallundborg in black despair,
Through wood and meadow, walked Esbern Snare,
Till, worn and weary, the strong man sank
Under the birches on Ulshoi bank.
At, his last day’s work he heard the Troll
Hammer and delve in the quarry’s hole;
Before him the church stood large and fair
“I have builded my tomb,” said Esbern Snare.
And he closed his eyes the sight to hide,
When he heard a light step at his side
“O Esbern Snare!” a sweet voice said,
“Would I might die now in thy stead!”
With a grasp by love and by fear made strong,
He held her fast, and he held her long;
With the beating heart of a bird afeard,
She hid her face in his flame-red beard.
“O love!” he cried, “let me look to-day
In thine eyes ere mine are plucked away;
Let me hold thee close, let me feel thy heart
Ere mine by the Troll is torn apart!
“I sinned, O Helva, for love of thee!
Pray that the Lord Christ pardon me!”
But fast as she prayed, and faster still,
Hammered the Troll in Ulshoi hill.
He knew, as he wrought, that a loving heart
Was somehow baffling his evil art;
For more than spell of Elf or Troll
Is a maiden’s prayer for her lover’s soul.
And Esbern listened, and caught the sound
Of a Troll-wife singing underground
“To-morrow comes Fine, father thine
Lie still and hush thee, baby mine!
“Lie still, my darling! next sunrise
Thou’lt play with Esbern Snare’s heart and eyes!”
“Ho! ho!” quoth Esbern, “is that your game?
Thanks to the Troll-wife, I know his name!”
The Troll he heard him, and hurried on
To Kallundborg church with the lacking stone.
“Too late, Gaffer Fine!” cried Esbern Snare;
And Troll and pillar vanished in air!
That night the harvesters heard the sound
Of a woman sobbing underground,
And the voice of the Hill-Troll loud with blame
Of the careless singer who told his name.
Of the Troll of the Church they sing the rune
By the Northern Sea in the harvest moon;
And the fishers of Zealand hear him still
Scolding his wife in Ulshoi hill.
And seaward over its groves of birch
Still looks the tower of Kallundborg church,
Where, first at its altar, a wedded pair,
Stood Helva of Nesvek and Esbern Snare!
. . . . .
“What,” asked the Traveller, “would our sires,
The old Norse story-tellers, say
Of sun-graved pictures, ocean wires,
And smoking steamboats of to-day?
And this, O lady, by your leave,
Recalls your song of yester eve:
Pray, let us have that Cable-hymn once more.”
“Hear, hear!” the Book-man cried, “the lady has the floor.
“These noisy waves below perhaps
To such a strain will lend their ear,
With softer voice and lighter lapse
Come stealing up the sands to hear,
And what they once refused to do
For old King Knut accord to you.
Nay, even the fishes shall your listeners be,
As once, the legend runs, they heard St. Anthony.”