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The Death of Balder

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BALDER and THOR are seated upon stones at some distance from each other.  Both are armed—THOR with his hammer, and BALDER with spear and sword.

BALDER.  Land whose proud and rocky bosomBraves the sky continually!

THOR.  Where should strength and valour blossom,Land of rocks, if not in thee?

BALDER.  Odin’s shafts of ruddy levinBack from thy hard sides are driven;Never sun thy snow dispels.

THOR.  Sure, he’ll joy in deeds of daring,Ne’er for ease voluptuous caring,Who upon the mountain dwells.

BOTH.  Land whose proud and rocky bosomBraves the sky continually!Where should strength and valour blossom,Land of rocks, if not in thee?

BALDER (he springs up, but THOR remains sitting, like one in deep thought).  Ha!  I will quickly fly from thee for ever,Thou hated land, where everything so proudlyUpbraids me for my weakness—for my fetters:Where I, pursu’d by pains of hopeless passion,The live-long nights among deaf rocks do wander—Whose echoes sport with Balder’s lamentations,Each cold, each feelingless, as Nanna’s bosom,The fair, unpitying savage!

THOR.  Son of Odin!

BALDER.  Speak, mighty Thor!

THOR.  Thou sighest, then—and vainly?

BALDER.  Vainly: without a glimpse of hope; bewildered.What, what have I not promised, vow’d, attempted?How oft have I, O Thor!—I blush, but hear it—To tears debas’d myself: my tears have trickled—Have vainly trickled—before Gevar’s daughter.

THOR.  Ha!  Gevar’s daughter?

BALDER.  Yes, the haughty Nanna.

THOR.  Dost mean the daughter of the wise King Gevar,Who reads the actions of the unborn hero,The will of Fate, malicious foemen’s projects,And war and death of warriors in the planets:Dost mean his daughter?

BALDER.  Think’st thou other fathers possess a Nanna?

THOR.  Gods!

[He again casts his eyes upon the ground, like one who meditates deeply.

BALDER.  Behind yon pine wood he built an altar unto thee and Odin,There thou mayst see the roof of his still dwelling.There lives the earthly Freia—cruel maiden—There slumbers she, perhaps—the proud one rests inJoy’s downy arms, undreaming aught of Balder!As if I did not love, were not a half-god;As if by Skalds my name were never chantedAs if I were a demon, bad as Loke!Ha! if upon my tongue lurked bane and magic,When fear enchains it and the pale lip trembles;When broken words and a disordered wailingAre all with which I can express my bosom’sDesire intense, and dread unwonted torments.Ha! were my voice like Find’s when he, distracted,Goes over Horthedal; as when he bellows,And wild at last, and blind with fury, splintersThe oaks, the glory of the sacred forest.Ha! if the blood of maids and unarm’d wretchesOf harmless travellers, stained the hands of Balder—If ruddy lightnings burnt between these fingers—Then might’st thou well be pale;And thou wert right to fly from me, O Nanna!

THOR.  Now, Balder, hear my word, and fly from Nanna!

BALDER.  From Nanna!  Yes, I ought—that see I plainly....