A wooded hillside near Åse’s farm. A river rushes down the slope. On the farther side of it an old mill-shed. It is a hot day in summer.
Peer Gynt, a strongly-built youth of twenty, comes down the pathway. His mother, Åse, a small, slightly-built woman, follows him, scolding angrily.
Peer, you’re lying!
No, I am not!
Well then, swear that it is true!
Swear? Why should I?
See, you dare not!
It’s a lie from first to last.
It is true—each blessed word!
Don’t you blush before your mother?
First you skulk among the mountains
Monthlong in the busiest season,
Stalking reindeer in the snows;
Home you come then, torn and tattered,
Gun amissing, likewise game;—
And at last, with open eyes,
Think to get me to believe
All the wildest hunters’-lies!—
Well, where did you find the buck, then?
West near Gendin.1
Keen the blast towards me swept;
Hidden by an alder-clump,
He was scraping in the snow-crust
Breathlessly I stood and listened,
Heard the crunching of his hoof,
Saw the branches of one antler.
Softly then among the boulders
I crept forward on my belly.
Crouched in the moraine I peered up;—
Such a buck, so sleek and fat,
You, I’m sure, have ne’er set eyes on.
No, of course not!
Bang! I fired.
Clean he dropped upon the hillside.
But the instant that he fell,
I sat firm astride his back,
Gripped him by the left ear tightly,
And had almost sunk my knife-blade
In his neck, behind his skull—
When, behold! the brute screamed wildly.
Sprang upon his feet like lightning,
With a back-cast of his head
From my fist made knife and sheath fly,
Pinned me tightly by the thigh,
Jammed his horns against my legs,
Clenched me like a pair of tongs;—
Then forthwith away he flew
Right along the Gendin-Edge!
Jesus save us——!
Have you ever
Chanced to see the Gendin-Edge?
Nigh on four miles long it stretches
Sharp before you like a scythe.
Down o’er glaciers, landslips, screes,
Down the toppling grey moraines,
You can see, both right and left,
Straight into the tarns that slumber,
Black and sluggish, more than seven
Hundred fathoms deep below you.
Right along the Edge we two
Clove our passage through the air.
Never rode I such a colt!
Straight before us as we rushed
’Twas as though there glittered suns.
Brown-backed eagles that were sailing
In the wide and dizzy void
Half-way ’twixt us and the tarns,
Dropped behind, like motes in air.
On the shores crashed hurtling ice-floes,
But no echo reached my ears.
Only sprites of dizziness2 sprang,
Dancing, round;—they sang, they swung,
Circle-wise, past sight and hearing!
Oh, God save me!
All at once,
At a desperate, break-neck spot,
Rose a great cock-ptarmigan,
Flapping, cackling, terrified,
From the crack where he lay hidden
At the buck’s feet on the Edge.
Then the buck shied half around,
Leapt sky-high, and down we plunged,
Both of us, into the depths!
[Åse totters, and catches at the trunk of a tree. Peer Gynt continues:
Mountain walls behind us, black,
And below a void unfathomed!
First we clove through banks of mist,
Then we clove a flock of sea-gulls,
So that they, in mid-air startled,
Flew in all directions, screaming.
Downward rushed we, ever downward.
But beneath us something shimmered,
Whitish, like a reindeer’s belly.—
Mother, ’twas our own reflection
In the glass-smooth mountain tarn,
Shooting up towards the surface
With the same wild rush of speed
Wherewith we were shooting downwards.
[Gasping for breath.]
Peer! God help me——! Quickly, tell——
Buck from over, buck from under,
In a moment clashed together,
Scattering foam-flecks all around.
There we lay then, floating, plashing,—
But at last we made our way
Somehow to the northern shore;
Swam the buck, I clung behind him:—
I ran homewards——
But the buck, dear?
He’s there still, for aught I know;—
[Snaps his fingers, turns on his heel, and adds:
Catch him, and you’re welcome to him!
And your neck you haven’t broken?
Haven’t broken both your thighs?
And your backbone, too, is whole?
Oh, dear Lord—what thanks, what praise,
Should be thine who helped my boy!
There’s a rent, though, in your breeches;
But it’s scarce worth talking of
When one thinks what dreadful things
Might have come of such a leap——!
[Stops suddenly, looks at him open-mouthed and wide-eyed; cannot find words for some time, but at last bursts out:
Oh, you devil’s story-teller,
Cross of Christ, how you can lie!
All this screed you foist upon me,
I remember now, I knew it
When I was a girl of twenty.
Gudbrand Glesnë it befell,
Never you, you——
Me as well.
Such a thing can happen twice.
Yes, a lie, turned topsy-turvy,
Can be prinked and tinselled out,
Decked in plumage new and fine,
Till none knows its lean old carcass.
That is just what you’ve been doing,
Vamping up things, wild and grand,
Garnishing with eagles’ backs
And with all the other horrors,
Lying right and lying left,
Filling me with speechless dread,
Till at last I recognised not
What of old I’d heard and known!
If another talked like that
I’d half kill him for his pains.
Oh, would God I lay a corpse;
Would the black earth held me sleeping.
Prayers and tears don’t bite upon him.—
Peer, you’re lost, and ever will be!
Darling, pretty little mother,
You are right in every word;—
Don’t be cross, be happy——
Could I, if I would, be happy,
With a pig like you for son?
Think how bitter I must find it,
I, a poor defenceless widow,
Ever to be put to shame!
How much have we now remaining
From your grandsire’s days of glory?
Where are now the sacks3 of coin
Left behind by Rasmus Gynt?
Ah, your father lent them wings,—
Lavished them abroad like sand,
Buying land in every parish,
Driving round in gilded chariots.
Where is all the wealth he wasted
At the famous winter-banquet,
When each guest sent glass and bottle
Shivering ’gainst the wall behind him?
Where’s the snow of yester-year?
Silence, boy, before your mother!
See the farmhouse! Every second
Window-pane is stopped with clouts.
Hedges, fences, all are down,
Beasts exposed to wind and weather,
Fields and meadows lying fallow,
Every month a new distraint——
Come now, stop this old-wife’s talk!
Many a time has luck seemed drooping,
And sprung up as high as ever!
Salt strewn is the soil it grew from.
Lord, but you’re a rare one, you,—
Just as pert and jaunty still,
Just as bold as when the Pastor,
Newly come from Copenhagen,
Bade you tell your Christian name,
And declared that such a headpiece
Many a Prince down there might envy;
Till the cob your father gave him,
With a sledge to boot, in thanks
For his pleasant, friendly talk.—
Ah, but things went bravely then!
Provost,4 Captain, all the rest,
Dropped in daily, ate and drank,
Swilling, till they well-nigh burst.
But ’tis need that tests one’s neighbour.
Lonely here it grew, and silent,
From the day that “Gold-bag Jon”5
Started with his pack, a pedlar.
[Dries her eyes with her apron.
Ah, you’re big and strong enough,
You should be a staff and pillar
For your mother’s frail old age,—
You should keep the farm-work going,
Guard the remnants of your gear;—
Oh, God help me, small’s the profit
You have been to me, you scamp!
Lounging by the hearth at home,
Grubbing in the charcoal embers;
Or, round all the country, frightening
Girls away from merry-makings—
Shaming me in all directions,
Fighting with the worst rapscallions——
[Turning away from her.]
Let me be.
Can you deny
That you were the foremost brawler
In the mighty battle royal
Fought the other day at Lundë;
When you raged like mongrels mad?
Who was it but you that broke
Blacksmith Aslak’s arm for him,—
Or at any rate that wrenched one
Of his fingers out of joint?
Who has filled you with such prate?
Cottar Kari heard the yells!
[Rubbing his elbow.]
Maybe, but ’twas I that howled.
Yes, mother,—I got beaten.
What d’you say?
He’s limber, he is.
Why Aslak, to be sure.
Shame—and shame; I spit upon you!
Such a worthless sot as that,
Such a brawler, such a sodden
Dram-sponge to have beaten you!
Many a shame and slight I’ve suffered;
But that this should come to pass
Is the worst disgrace of all.
What if he be ne’er so limber,
Need you therefore be a weakling?
Though I hammer or am hammered,—
Still we must have lamentations.
Cheer up, mother——
What? You’re lying
Yes, just this once.
Come now, wipe your tears away;—
[Clenching his left hand.
See,—with this same pair of tongs,
Thus I held the smith bent double,
While my sledge-hammer right fist——
Oh, you brawler! You will bring me
With your doings to the grave!
No, you’re worth a better fate;
Better twenty thousand times!
Little, ugly, dear old mother,
You may safely trust my word,—
All the parish shall exalt you;
Only wait till I have done
Who knows what may befall
Could you but find so much sense,
One day, as to do the darning
Of your breeches for yourself!
I will be a king, a kaiser!
Oh, God comfort me, he’s losing
All the little wits he’d left!
Yes, I will! Just give me time!
Give you time, you’ll be a prince,
So the saying goes, I think!
You shall see!
Oh, hold your tongue
You’re as mad as mad can be.—
Ah, and yet it’s true enough,—
Something might have come of you,
Had you not been steeped for ever
In your lies and trash and moonshine.
Hegstad’s girl was fond of you.
Easily you could have won her
Had you wooed her with a will——
The old man’s too feeble
Not to give his child her way.
He is stiff-necked in a fashion;
But at last ’tis Ingrid rules;
And where she leads, step by step
Stumps the gaffer, grumbling, after.
[Begins to cry again.
Ah, my Peer!—a golden girl—
Land entailed on her! Just think,
Had you set your mind upon it,
You’d be now a bridegroom brave,—
You that stand here grimed and tattered!
Come, we’ll go a-wooing then!
Ah, poor boy;
Hegstad way is barred to wooers!
How is that?
Ah, woe is me!
Lost the moment, lost the luck——
While in the Wester-hills
You in air were riding reindeer,
Here Mads Moen’s6 won the girl!
What! That women’s-bugbear! He——
Ay, she’s taking him for husband.
Wait you here till I have harnessed
Horse and waggon——
Spare your pains,
They are to be wed to-morrow——
Pooh; this evening I’ll be there!
Fie now! Would you crown our miseries
With a load of all men’s scorn?
Never fear; ’twill all go well.
[Shouting and laughing at the same time.
Mother, jump! We’ll spare the waggon;
’Twould take time to fetch the mare up——
[Lifts her up in his arms.
Put me down!
No, in my arms
I will bear you to the wedding!
[Wades out into the stream.
Help! The Lord have mercy on us!
Peer! We’re drowning——
I was born
For a braver death——
Sure enough you’ll hang at last!
[Tugging at his hair.
Oh, you brute!
Keep quiet now;
Here the bottom’s slippery-slimy.
That’s right, don’t spare your tongue;
That does no one any harm.
Now it’s shelving up again——
Don’t you drop me!
Now we’ll play at Peer and reindeer;—
I’m the reindeer, you are Peer!
Oh, I’m going clean distraught!
See now—we have reached the shallows;—
Come, a kiss now, for the reindeer;
Just to thank him for the ride——
[Boxing his ears.]
This is how I thank him!
That’s a miserable fare!
Put me down!
First to the wedding.
Be my spokesman. You’re so clever;
Talk to him, the old curmudgeon;
Say Mads Moen’s good for nothing——
Put me down!
And tell him then
What a rare lad is Peer Gynt.
Truly, you may swear to that!
Fine’s the character I’ll give you.
Through and through I’ll show you up;
All about your devil’s pranks
I will tell them straight and plain——
[Kicking with rage.]
I won’t stay my tongue
Till the old man sets his dog
At you, as you were a tramp!
H’m; then I must go alone.
Ay, but I’ll come after you!
Mother dear, you haven’t strength——
Strength? When I’m in such a rage,
I could crush the rocks to powder!
Hu! I’d make a meal of flints!
Put me down!
You’ll promise then——
Nothing! I’ll to Hegstad with you!
They shall know you, what you are!
Then you’ll even have to stay here.
Never! To the feast I’m coming!
That you shan’t.
What will you do?
Perch you on the mill-house roof.
[He puts her up on the roof. Åse screams.
Lift me down!
Yes, if you’ll listen—
Dearest mother, pray——
[Throwing a sod of grass at him.]
Lift me down this moment, Peer!
If I dared, be sure I would.
Now remember, sit quite still.
Do not sprawl and kick about;
Do not tug and tear the shingles,—
Else ’twill be the worse for you;
You might topple down.
Do not kick!
I’d have you blown,
Like a changeling, into space!7
Rather give your
Blessing on my undertaking.
Will you? Eh?
I’ll thrash you soundly,
Hulking fellow though you be!
Well, good-bye then, mother dear!
Patience; I’ll be back ere long
[Is going, but turns, holds up his finger warningly, and says:
Careful now, don’t kick and sprawl!
Peer!—God help me, now he’s off;
Reindeer-rider! Liar! Hei!
Will you listen!—No, he’s striding
O’er the meadow——! [Shrieks.] Help. I’m dizzy!
Two Old Women, with sacks on their backs, come down the path to the mill.
Christ, who’s screaming?
It is I!
Åse! Well, you are exalted!
This won’t be the end of it;—
Soon, God help me, I’ll be heaven
Bless your passing!
Fetch a ladder;
I must be down! That devil Peer——
Peer! Your son?
Now you can say
You have seen how he behaves.
We’ll bear witness.
Only help me;
Straight to Hegstad will I hasten——
Is he there?
You’ll be revenged, then;
Aslak Smith will be there too.
[Wringing her hands.]
Oh, God help me with my boy;
They will kill him ere they’re done!
Oh, that lot has oft been talked of;
Comfort you: what must be must be!
She is utterly demented.
[Calls up the hill.
Eivind, Anders! Hei! Come here!
A Man’s Voice.
Peer Gynt has perched his
Mother on the mill-house roof!
A hillock, covered with bushes and heather. The highroad runs behind it; a fence between.
Peer Gynt comes along a footpath, goes quickly up to the fence, stops, and looks out over the distant prospect.
Yonder lies Hegstad. Soon I’ll have reached it.
[Puts one leg over the fence; then hesitates.
Wonder if Ingrid’s alone in the house now?
[Shades his eyes with his hand, and looks out.
No; to the farm guests are swarming like midges.—
H’m, to turn back now perhaps would be wisest.
[Draws back his leg.
Still they must titter behind your back,
And whisper so that it burns right through you.
[Moves a few steps away from the fence, and begins absently plucking leaves.
Ah, if I’d only a good strong dram now.
Or if I could pass to and fro unseen.—
Or were I unknown.—Something proper and strong
Were the best thing of all, for the laughter don’t bite then.
[Looks around suddenly as though afraid; then hides among the bushes. Some Wedding-guests8 pass by, going downwards towards the farm.
[In conversation as they pass.]
His father was drunken, his mother is weak.
Ay, then it’s no wonder the lad’s good for nought.
[They pass on. Presently Peer Gynt comes forward, his face flushed with shame. He peers after them.
Was it me they were talking of?
[With a forced shrug.
Oh, let them
After all, they can’t sneer the life out of my body.
[Casts himself down upon the heathery slope; lies for some time flat on his back with his hands under his head, gazing up into the sky.
What a strange sort of cloud! It is just like a horse.
There’s a man on it too—and a saddle—and bridle.—
And after it comes an old crone on a broomstick.
[Laughs quietly to himself.
It is mother. She’s scolding and screaming: You beast!
Hei you, Peer Gynt——
[His eyes gradually close.
Ay, now she is frightened.—
Peer Gynt he rides first, and there follow him many.—
His steed it is gold-shod and crested with silver.
Himself he has gauntlets and sabre and scabbard.
His cloak it is long, and its lining is silken.
Full brave is the company riding behind him.
None of them, though, sits his charger so stoutly.
None of them glitters like him in the sunshine.—
Down by the fence stand the people in clusters,
Lifting their hats, and agape gazing upwards.
Women are curtseying. All the world knows him,
Kaiser Peer Gynt, and his thousands of henchmen.
Sixpenny pieces and glittering shillings
Over the roadway he scatters like pebbles.
Rich as a lord grows each man in the parish.
High o’er the ocean Peer Gynt goes a-riding.
Engelland’s Prince on the seashore awaits him;
There too await him all Engelland’s maidens.
Engelland’s nobles and Engelland’s Kaiser,
See him come riding and rise from their banquet.
Raising his crown, hear the Kaiser address him——
Aslak the Smith.
[To some other young men, passing along the road.]
Just look at Peer Gynt there, the drunken swine——!
[Starting half up.]
[Leaning against the fence and grinning.]
Up with you, Peer, my
What the devil? The smith! What do you want here?
[To the others.]
He hasn’t got over the Lundëspree yet
You’d better be off!
I am going, yes.
But tell us, where have you dropped from, man?
You’ve been gone six weeks. Were you troll-taken, eh?
I have been doing strange deeds, Aslak Smith!
[Winking to the others.]
Let us hear them, Peer!
They are nought to you.
[After a pause.]
You’re going to Hegstad?
They said that the girl there was fond of you.
You grimy crow——!
[Falling back a little.]
Keep your temper, Peer
Though Ingrid has jilted you, others are left;—
Think—son of Jon Gynt! Come on to the feast;
You’ll find there both lambkins and well-seasoned widows——
You will surely find one that will have you.—
Good evening! I’ll give your respects to the bride.—
[They go off, laughing and whispering.
[Looks after them a while, then makes a defiant
motion and turns half round.]
For my part, may Ingrid of Hegstad go marry
Whoever she pleases. It’s all one to me.
[Looks down at his clothes.
My breeches are torn. I am ragged and grim.—
If only I had something new to put on now.
[Stamps on the ground.
If only I could, with a butcher-grip,
Tear out the scorn from their very vitals!
[Looks round suddenly.
What was that? Who was it that tittered behind there?
H’m, I certainly thought—— No no, it was no one.—
I’ll go home to mother.
[Begins to go upwards, but stops again and listens towards Hegstad.
They’re playing a dance!
[Gazes and listens; moves downwards step by step, his eyes glisten; he rubs his hands down his thighs.
How the lasses do swarm! Six or eight to a man!
Oh, galloping death,—I must join in the frolic!—
But how about mother, perched up on the mill-house——
[His eyes are drawn downwards again; he leaps and laughs.
Hei, how the Halling9 flies over the green!
Ay, Guttorm, he can make his fiddle speak out!
It gurgles and booms like a foss10 o’er a scaur.
And then all that glittering bevy of girls!—
Yes, galloping death, I must join in the frolic!
[Leaps over the fence and goes down the road.
The farm-place at Hegstad. In the background, the dwelling-house. A Throng of Guests. A lively dance in progress on the green. The Fiddler sits on a table. The Kitchen-master is standing in the doorway. Cookmaids are going to and fro between the different buildings. Groups of Elderly People sit here and there, talking.
[Joins a group that is seated on some logs of wood.]
The bride? Oh yes, she is crying a bit;
But that, you know, isn’t worth heeding.
[In another group.]
Now then, good folk, you must empty the barrel.
Thanks to you, friend; but you fill up too quick.
[To the Fiddler, as he flies past, holding a Girl by
To it now, Guttorm, and don’t spare the fiddle-strings!
Scrape till it echoes out over the meadows!
[Standing in a ring round a lad who is dancing.]
That’s a rare fling!
He has legs that can lift him!
The roof here is high,11 and the walls wide asunder!
[Comes whimpering up to his Father, who is standing talking with some other men, and twitches his jacket.]
Father, she will not; she is so proud!
What won’t she do?
She has locked herself in.
Well, you must manage to find the key.
I don’t know how.
You’re a nincompoop!
[Turns away to the others. The Bridegroom drifts across the yard.
[Comes from behind the house.]
Wait a bit, girls! Things’ll soon be lively!
Here comes Peer Gynt.
[Who has just come up.]
Who invited him?
[Goes towards the house.
[To the girls.]
If he should speak to you, never take notice!
[To the others.]
No, we’ll pretend that we don’t even see him.
[Comes in heated and full of animation, stops right
in front of the group, and claps his hands.]
Which is the liveliest girl of the lot of you?
[As he approaches her.]
I am not.
I am not.
No; nor I either.
[To a fourth.]
You come along, then, for want of a better.
Haven’t got time.
[To a fifth.]
Well then, you!
I’m for home.
To-night? are you utterly out of your senses?12
[After a moment, in a low voice.]
See, Peer, she’s taken a greybeard for partner.
[Turns sharply to an elderly man.]
Where are the unbespoke girls?
Find them out.
[Goes away from him.
Peer Gynt has suddenly become subdued. He glances shyly and furtively at the group. All look at him, but no one speaks. He approaches other groups. Wherever he goes there is when he moves away they look after him and smile.
Mocking looks; needle-keen whispers13 and smiles.
They grate like a sawblade under the file!
[He slinks along close to the fence. Solveig, leading little Helga by the hand, comes into the yard, along with her Parents.
[To another, close to Peer Gynt.]
Look, here are the new folk.
The ones from the west?
The First Man.
Ay, the people from Hedal.
Ah yes, so they are.
[Places himself in the path of the new-comers, points
to Solveig, and asks the Father:]
May I dance with your daughter?
You may so; but first
We must go to the farm-house and greet the good people.
[They go in.
[To Peer Gynt, offering him drink.]
Since you are here, you’d best take a pull at the liquor.
[Looking fixedly after the new-comers.]
Thanks; I’m for dancing; I am not athirst.
[The Kitchen-master goes away from him. Peer Gynt gazes towards the house and laughs.
How fair! Did ever you see the like!
Looked down at her shoes and her snow-white apron—!
And then she held on to her mother’s skirt-folds,
And carried a psalm-book wrapped up in a kerchief—!
I must look at that girl.
[Going into the house.
[Coming out of the house, with several others.]
Are you off so soon, Peer,
From the dance?
Then you’re heading amiss!
[Takes hold of his shoulder to turn him round.
Let me pass!
I believe you’re afraid of the smith.
You remember what happened at Lundë?
[They go off, laughing, to the dancing-green.
[In the doorway of the house.]
Are you not the lad that was wanting to dance?
Of course it was me; don’t you know me again?
[Takes her hand.
We mustn’t go far, mother said.
Mother said! Mother said! Were you born yesterday?14
Now you’re laughing——!
Why sure, you are almost a child.
Are you grown up?
I read with the pastor last spring.15
Tell me your name, lass, and then we’ll talk easier.
My name is Solveig. And what are you called?
[Withdrawing her hand.]
Why, what is it now?
My garter is loose; I must tie it up tighter.
[Goes away from him.
[Pulling at his Mother’s gown.]
Mother, she will not——!
She will not? What?
She won’t, mother——
Unlock the door.
[Angrily, below his breath.]
Oh, you’re only fit to be tied in a stall!
Don’t scold him. Poor dear, he’ll be all right yet.
[They move away.
[Coming with a whole crowd of others from
Peer, have some brandy?
Only a drain?
[Looking darkly at him.]
Well, I won’t say but I have.
[Pulls out a pocket flask and drinks.
Ah! How it stings your throat!—Well?
Let me try it.
Now you must try mine as well, you know.
Oh, what nonsense; now don’t be a fool.
Take a pull, Peer!
Well then, give me a drop.
Come, let’s be going.
Afraid of me, wench?
A Third Lad.
Who isn’t afraid of you?
You showed us clearly what tricks you could play.
I can do more than that, when I once get started!
The First Lad.
Now he’s forging ahead!
[Forming a circle around him.]
Tell away! Tell away!
What can you——?
No, now, to-night!
Can you conjure, Peer?
I can call up the devil!
My grandam could do that before I was born!
Liar! What I can do, that no one else can.
I one day conjured him into a nut.
It was worm-bored, you see!
Ay, that’s easily guessed!
He cursed, and he wept, and he wanted to bribe me
With all sorts of things——
One of the Crowd.
But he had to go in?
Of course. I stopped up the hole with a peg.
Hei! If you’d heard him rumbling and grumbling!
It was just like a humble-bee buzzing.
Have you got him still in the nut?
By this time that devil has flown on his way.
The grudge the smith bears me is all his doing.
I went to the smithy, and begged
That he would crack that same nutshell for me.
He promised he would!—laid it down on his anvil;
But Aslak, you know, is so heavy of hand;—
For ever swinging that great sledge-hammer——
A Voice from the Crowd.
Did he kill the foul fiend?
He laid on like a man.
But the devil showed fight, and tore off in a flame
Through the roof, and shattered the wall asunder.
And the smith——?
Stood there with his hands all scorched.
And from that day onwards, we’ve never been friends.
Some of the Crowd.
That yarn is a good one.
About his best.
Do you think I am making it up?
That you’re certainly not; for I’ve heard the most on’t
From my grandfather——
Liar! It happened to me!
Yes, like everything else.
[With a fling.]
I can ride, I can,
Clean through the air, on the bravest of steeds!
Oh, many’s the thing I can do, I tell you!
[Another roar of laughter.
One of the Group.
Peer, ride through the air a bit!
Do, dear Peer Gynt——!
You may spare you the trouble of begging so hard.
I will ride like a hurricane over you all!
Every man in the parish shall fall at my feet!
An Elderly Man.
Now he is clean off his head.
Ay, wait till you see!
Ay, wait; you’ll soon get your jacket dusted!
Your back beaten tender! Your eyes painted blue!
[The crowd disperses, the elder men angry, the younger laughing and jeering.
[Close to Peer Gynt.]
Peer, is it true you can ride through the air?
It’s all true, Mads! You must know I’m a rare one!
Then have you got the Invisible Cloak too?
The Invisible Hat, do you mean? Yes, I have.
[Turns away from him. Solveig crosses the yard, leading little Helga.
[Goes towards them; his face lights up.]
Solveig! Oh, it is well you have come!
[Takes hold of her wrist.
Now will I swing you round fast and fine!
You are so wild.
The reindeer is wild, too, when summer is dawning.
Come then, lass; do not be wayward now!
[Withdrawing her arm.]
No, you’ve been drinking.
[Moves off with Helga.
Oh, if I had but my knife-blade driven
Clean through the heart of them,—one and all!
[Nudging him with his elbow.]
Peer, can’t you help me to get at the bride?
The bride? Where is she?
In the store-house.
Oh, dear Peer Gynt, you must try at least!
No, you must get on without my help.
[A thought strikes him; he says softly but sharply.
Ingrid! The store-house!
[Goes up to Solveig.
Have you thought better on’t?
[Solveig tries to go; he blocks her path.
You’re ashamed to, because I’ve the look of a tramp.
No, that you haven’t; that’s not true at all!
Yes! And I’ve taken a drop as well;
But that was to spite you, because you had hurt me.
Even if I wished to, I daren’t.
Who are you frightened of?
Father? Ay, ay; he is one of the quiet ones!
One of the godly, eh?—Answer, come!
What shall I say?
Is your father a psalm-singer?16
And you and your mother as well, no doubt?
Come, will you speak?
Let me go in peace.
[In a low but sharp and threatening tone.
I can turn myself into a troll!
I’ll come to your bedside at midnight to-night.
If you should hear some one hissing and spitting,
You mustn’t imagine it’s only the cat.
It’s me, lass! I’ll drain out your blood in a cup,
And your little sister, I’ll eat her up;
Ay, you must know I’m a were-wolf at night;—
I’ll bite you all over the loins and the back——
[Suddenly changes his tone, and entreats, as if in dread:
Dance with me, lass!
[Looking darkly at him.]
You were ugly then.
[Goes into the house
[Comes sidling up again.]
I’ll give you an ox if you’ll help me!
[They go out behind the house. At the same moment a crowd of men come forward from the dancing green; most of them are drunk. Noise and hubbub. Solveig, Helga, and their Parents appear among a number of elderly people in the doorway.
[To the Smith, who is the foremost of the crowd.]
Keep peace now!
[Pulling off his jacket.]
No, we must fight it out here.17
Peer Gynt or I must be taught a lesson.18
Ay, let them fight for it!
No, only wrangle!
Fists must decide; for the case is past words.
Control yourself, man!
Will they beat him, mother?
Let us rather taunt him with all his lies!
Kick him out of the company.
Spit in his eyes.
[To the Smith.]
You’re not backing out, smith?
[Flinging away his jacket.]
The jade shall be slaughtered!
There, you can see how that windbag is thought of.
[Coming up with a stick in her hand.]
Is that son of mine here? Now he’s in for a drubbing!
Oh! how heartily I will dang him!
[Rolling up his shirt-sleeves.]
That switch is too light for a carcase like
Some of the Crowd.
The smith will dang him!
[Spits on his hands and nods to Åse.]
What? Hang my Peer? Ay, just try if you dare;—
Åse and I,19 we have teeth and claws!—
Where is he? [Calls across the yard.] Peer!
[Comes running up.]
Oh, God’s death on the cross!
Come father, come mother, and——!
What is the matter?
Just fancy, Peer Gynt——!
Have you taken his life?
No, but Peer Gynt——! Look, there on the hillside——!
[Lets her stick sink.]
Oh, the beast!
[As if thunderstruck.]
Where the slope rises sheerest
He’s clambering upwards, by God, like a goat!
He’s shouldered her, mother, as I might a pig!
[Shaking her fist up at him.]
Would God you might fall, and——!
[Screams out in terror.
Take care of your footing!
The Hegstad Farmer.
[Comes in, bare-headed and white with rage.]
I’ll have his life for this bride-rape yet!
Oh no, God punish me if I let you!
- Pronounce Yendeen
- This is the poet’s own explanation of this difficult passage. “Hvirvlens vætter,” he writes, is equivalent to “Svimmelhedens ånder”—i.e., spirits of dizziness or vertigo.
- Literally “bushels.”
- An ecclesiastical dignitary—something equivalent to a rural dean.
- “Jon med Skjæppen”—literally, “John with the Bushel”—a nickname given him in his days of prosperity, in allusion to his supposed bushels of money.
- Pronounce Maass-Moo-en.
- It is believed in some parts of Norway that “changelings” (elf-children left in the stead of those taken away by the fairies) can, by certain spells, be made to fly away up the chimney.
- “Sendingsfolk,” literally, “folks with presents.” When the Norwegian peasants are bidden to a wedding-feast, they bring with them presents of eatables.
- A somewhat violent peasant dance.
- Foss (in the North of England “force”)—a waterfall.
- To kick the rafters is considered a great feat in the Halling-dance. The boy means that, in the open air, his leaps are not limited even by the rafters.
- A marriage party among the peasants will often last several days.
- Literally, “thoughts.”
- Literally, “last year.”
- “To read with the pastor,” the preliminary to confirmation, is currently used as synonymous with “to be confirmed.”
- Literally, “A reader.”
- Literally, “Here shall judgment be called for.”
- Literally, “Must be bent to the hillside,” made to bite the dust—but not in the sense of being killed.
- A peasant idiom.