So tightly was Swanelil lacing her vest,
That forth spouted milk, from each lily-white breast;
That saw the Queen-mother, and thus she begun:
“What maketh the milk from thy bosom to run?”
“O this is not milk, my dear mother, I vow;
It is but the mead I was drinking just now.”
“Ha! out on thee minion! these eyes have their sight;
Would'st tell me that mead, in its colour, is white?”
“Well, well, since the proofs are so glaring and strong,
I own that Sir Middel has done me a wrong.”
“And was he the miscreant? dear shall he pay,
For the cloud he has cast on our honour's bright ray;
I'll hang him up; yes, I will hang him with scorn,
And burn thee to ashes, at breaking of morn.”
The maiden departed in anguish and wo,
And straight to Sir Middel it lists her to go;
Arriv'd at the portal, she sounded the bell,
“Now wake thee, love, if thou art living and well.”
Sir Middel he heard her, and sprang from his bed;
Not knowing her voice, in confusion he said,
Away: for I have neither candle nor light,
And I swear that no mortal shall enter this night!”
“Now busk ye, Sir Middel, in Christ's holy name;
I fly from my mother, who knows of my shame;
She'll hang thee up; yes, she will hang thee with scorn,
And burn me to ashes, at breaking of morn.”
“Ha! laugh at her threat'nings, so empty and wild;
She neither shall hang me, nor burn thee, my child:
Collect what is precious, in jewels and garb,
And I'll to the stable and saddle my barb.”
He gave her the cloak, that he us'd at his need,
And he lifted her up, on the broad-bosom'd steed.
The forest is gain'd, and the city is past,
When her eyes to the heaven she wistfully cast.
“What ails thee, dear maid? we had better now stay,
For thou art fatigu'd by the length of the way.”
“I am not fatigu'd by the length of the way;
But my seat is uneasy, in truth, I must say.”
He spread, on the cold earth, his mantle so wide;
“Now rest thee, my love, and I'll watch by thy side.”
“O Jesus, that one of my maidens were near!
The pains of a mother are on me, I fear.”
“Thy maidens are now at a distance from thee,
And thou art alone in the forest with me.”
“'Twere better to perish, again and again,
Than thou should'st stand by me, and gaze on my pain.”
“Then take off thy kerchief, and cover my head,
And perhaps I may stand in the wise-woman's stead.”
“O Christ, that I had but a draught of the wave!
To quench my death-thirst, and my temples to lave.”
Sir Middel was to her so tender and true,
And he fetch'd her the drink in her gold-spangled shoe.
The fountain was distant, and when he drew near,
Two nightingales sat there and sang in his ear:
“Thy love, she is dead, and for ever at rest,
With two little babes that lie cold on her breast.”
Such was their song; but he heeded them not,
And trac'd his way back to the desolate spot;
But oh, what a spectacle burst on his view!
For all they had told him was fatally true.
He dug a deep grave by the side of a tree,
And buried therein the unfortunate three.
As he clamp'd the mould down with his iron-heel'd boot
He thought that the babies scream'd under his foot:
Then placing his weapon against a grey stone,
He cast himself on it, and died with a groan.
Ye maidens of Norway, henceforward beware!
For love, when unbridled, will end in despair.