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Title: Niels Ebbesen and Germand Gladenswayne - two ballads
Author: Borrow, George Henry, 1803-1881 [Translator], Wise, Thomas James, 1859-1937 [Editor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1913 Thomas J. Wise pamphlet by David Price, email

                              NIELS EBBESEN
                           GERMAND GLADENSWAYNE

                               TWO BALLADS

                              GEORGE BORROW


               _Copyright in the United States of America_
           _by Houghton_, _Mifflin & Co. for Clement Shorter_.


All his men the Count collects,
   And from Slesvig marched away;
Never such as host was seen
   Or before or since that day.

Into Denmark marched the Count,
   Followed by so fair a band;
Banners twenty-four they bore,
   Power like theirs might none withstand.

Gert the Count to Randers rode,
   To bad counsel lending ear;
For from old it stood foretold,
   He should end there his career.

He would not the place avoid,
   But seemed bent to tempt his fate;
Of the rural lords and thanes
   He the quarters up will beat.

Knights and freeborn men apart,
   There trooped eighteen thousand bows;
Forty thousand made they all,
   Who could such a host oppose?

To Niels Ebbesen the Count
   Word to appear before him sent;
And safe convoy him he gave,
   Which should doubt and fear prevent.

Gert the Count met Ebbesen
   North of Randers by the sea:
“Welcome be, Niels Ebbesen!
   Say how matters stand with thee.”

To Niels stretched the Count his hand,
   And to parleying straight they go;
There was little then of jest,
   And of dallying less, I trow.

“Sir Niels Ebbesen, thou art
   Welcome as the flowers in spring;
How stand minds in North Jutland,
   Thence what tidings dost thou bring?

“Say how all thy wealthy friends
   And thy heart’s loved lady are;
Which dost wish for at my hands,
   Smiling peace, or bloody war?”

“Well stand minds in North Jutland,
   Each man’s courage there’s erect;
Say, dost come as friend or foe?
   What from thee may we expect?

“I have kindred in the North,
   Men of wealth and noble race;
Shouldst thou it require of them
   They’ll be ready for thy Grace.”

“Wise art thou, Niels Ebbesen,
   And thy prudence none can doubt;
When thou canst not straightway hit
   Widely then thou ridst about.

“Hear thou, Sir Niels Ebbesen,
   Thou must on mine errand ride;
Say, how many men thou hast
   Brought, on whom thou mayst confide?”

“Kindred, Sir, I have, and friends,
   ’Mongst the hardy Jutlanders;
Willingly they follow me
   To the stormy strife of spears.

“I have brought, such as they are,
   With me thirty mounted men;
Be they fewer, or be they more,
   Dear are they to Ebbesen.”

“Hast thou with thee thirty lads?
   That seems but a scanty force;
Yester e’en at Sir Bugge’s Gate
   Stood’st thou with a hundred horse.”

Backward Ebbesen recoiled,
   And with high flushed cheek replied:
“He nor knight nor gentleman
   Is, who me hath thus belied.

“Be it man or woman who
   To my face dares that to say,
Till I’ve answered suitably,
   Ne’er from him I’ll flinch away.”

“Hear thou, dear Niels Ebbesen,
   We thereof will talk no more;
To thy friend Sir Bugge ride,
   Him to serve me true win o’er.”

“If your errand I shall do,
   And to Bugge bold repair,
From thy part what I’m to say
   First to me thou must declare.”

“Bugge bold has me defied,
   Young Poul Glob has done the same;
Anders Frost makes one of them,
   Him your Chief ’tis said ye name.

“And e’en thou, Niels Ebbesen,
   Certain courtiers hast with thee,
Who have eaten of my bread,
   And have basely quitted me.

“First there is young Eske Frost,
   And his stalwart brothers two;
Without leave of mine obtained,
   From my service they withdrew.

“More there are whom I’ve obliged,
   And who pay me now no heed;
If to Bugge’s rede you list
   Soon ye’ll see how you will speed.”

“Nought of Bugge’s rede I know,
   What he’ll do or leave undone;
Eske thy true servant was,
   Cast no blame that knight upon.

“Eske Frost’s a gallant man,
   Guards his honour like his eye;
Sought he his discharge to gain,
   Why to him didst it deny?

“Custom ’tis in Danish land,
   And has been from days of eld,
That the man who will not serve
   Shall not be to serve compell’d.

“No two things, save Monk and cowl,
   Are for aye together tied;
As they loathe or like their place
   Courtmen ride away or bide.”

It was Count Sir Gert, could not
   Such like reasoning understand:
“No one ought to quit his lord
   Whilst that lord would him command.

“And, Sir Niels, too long thou hast
   Here stood idly chattering;
Either thou shalt Denmark quit,
   Or thou shalt on gallows swing.

“’Neath safe convoy since thou’rt come
   Thou shalt go withouten hurt;
To thy cost else thou should’st learn
   What it is to anger Gert.”

“I thy princely passport hold,
   Whether it avail or not;
If thou do me aught of harm,
   Infamy thy name will blot.

“Thieves mayst thou on gallows hang,
   To be torn by carn and crow;
For thy threat from native land,
   Wife, and child, I will not go.

“But if me from native land
   And my wife and babes you chase,
Thou shalt soon, for certainty,
   Rue thou e’er hast seen my face!”

“Ride away, Sir Ebbesen,
   Quickly hence thyself betake,
Or I will, as well I can,
   On thy skull the helmet break.”

“None e’er saw me so adread
   But that I could tremble still, {12}
Hear, Count Gert! look to thyself,
   Guard thee from approaching ill.”

“Ebbesen, thou tirest me,
   Suffering thus thy tongue to run;
Till to-morrow thou art safe,
   Even till the set of sun.

“This, and the next day till eve,
   Thou for me shalt be at rest;
But no belted knight am I
   If I be not soon thy guest.”

Swift away rode Ebbesen,
   Shook his iron-gloved fist in air:
“That I soon shall come again,
   Good Sir Count, in memory bear.”

Forward rode Niels Ebbesen,
   Spurred his steed till blood outflew;
With his men the Count remained,
   No one dared the knight pursue.

Till he reached his Castellaye,
   Still he rode withouten rest;
To his dear Dame he complained,
   Begged of her her counsel best.

“Here thou sitt’st, dear Housewife mine,
   What advice canst thou bestow?
Gert will drive me from the land,
   Hath declared himself my foe.

“To my choice three things he put,
   Least of all I liked the third;
I should join him, or the land
   Quit, or hang, such was his word.”

“Ah! what counsel can I give
   From my simple woman’s mind?
The most desperate counsel’s best,
   Can we but that counsel find.

“The most desperate counsel’s best,
   If we can but it discover;
Either slay the tyrant, or
   Burn the house the tyrant over.

“To the smithy lead your steeds,
   Let them all be shod anew;
Turn ye all the heels afore,
   Thus your trace will cheat the view.

“Turn ye all the heels afore,
   Track ye thus, I ween, can no man;
Never tell to mortal wight,
   Thou hast learnt this from a woman.”

“Here my gallant swains ye sit,
   Merry-making o’er your drink;
Every lad who loves his lord
   From his lord now must not shrink.”

Up then rose the Courtmen bold,
   To take on anew agreed;
Save Sir Niels’ sister’s son,
   From his uncle would recede.

Swore the knights a solemn oath
   That for him their lives they’d stake,
And with him would dauntless ride
   Wheresoe’er a fray he’d make.

So they rode to Fruerlund,
   From their steeds they there dismount;
Into Randers then they walked,
   To beat up the hairless Count.

It was Sir Niels Ebbesen,
   To the bridge of Randers came:
“He who’s loath to follow me
   Straightway his discharge may claim.”

Forward stepped the tiny Frost,
   Thought the truest of the true:
“Give me my dismissal, Sir,
   Give me horse and saddle too.”

So he sought and got discharge,
   Saddle got and steed withall;
But he served his master best
   That same day ere evening fall.

To the Count’s door rode Sir Niels,
   Ne’er from that withdrew his look;
Thrice thereon with iron lance
   Heavily the hero strook.

“Rise up from thy sleep, my lord!
   Let me in right speedily;
Thy dear brother, Henrik Count,
   Has dispatched me unto thee.”

“By my brother if thou’rt sent,
   Rest thee from thy journey long;
Me to-morrow in the Kirk
   Meet ’twixt mass and matin song.”

“Let your page but at the door
   Take from me the entrusted scroll;
Ribe hard invested is,
   Colding town is burnt to coal.

“Ribe hard invested is,
   Colding’s burnt, and Vedel’s flung
Open to our troops its gate,
   And Niels Ebbesen is hung.”

“If what thou hast told be truth,
   News it is to make one gay;
Thou shalt in respect be held
   Herald till thy dying day.

“Page! no more keep fast the door,
   Let me on the herald gaze;
For that we the land have won
   Is the sum of what he says.”

To the window went the Count,
   Thence his eye the lances caught:
“Ha! Niels Ebbesen’s at hand,
   Curse the hour I Denmark sought.”

Fierce with shields the doors they banged,
   Burst the locks with frequent blow:
“Hairless Count! art thou within?
   Hairless Count, we pledge thee now!”

“Set thee down, Niels Ebbesen,
   We shall things accommodate;
Let us send to Henrik Count,
   And Claus Krummedige straight.”

“Not so yesterday didst thou
   Speak, Sir Count, by Randers strand;
Then thou saidst that I should hang,
   Or should quit my native land.”

Up and spoke the Count’s footpage,
   Kinsman he to Ebbesen:
“By his words if ye be fooled
   Lost art thou and all thy men.”

Up and spoke the black young page,
   Black because he was not white:
“Straight desist from useless talk,
   Let, I rede, your faulchions bite.”

“I’ve no castles, Sir, which can
   Such a prisoner long contain;
Now, ye men, spare not your swords!
   Hew at him with might and main!”

So the tyrant Count they took,
   Made him kneel upon the floor;
And his bald head off they hewed,
   Hewed it off the bedstead o’er.

Soon as they the Count had slain,
   Loud the drums the alarum beat;
It was Sir Niels Ebbesen
   From the town would fain retreat.

From the town he hasted then,
   Dared no longer there to stay;
Soon met him Sir Ove Hals,
   And essayed to bar his way.

“Do thou hear, Sir Ove Hals!
   Do to me no injury!
Thou my faithful cousin art,
   Prythee, Ove, let me flee.”

“Our affinity I know
   Well I know its near degree;
But my Lord you’ve foully slain,
   Niels! I will not let thee flee.”

Bleat the sheep, the ganders hiss,
   Crows the cock upon the wall;
Ove Hals was sore beset,
   Must to the Holsteiners call.

’Gainst the Danes he could not stand,
   Must to the Holsteiners call;
“Murdered is your liege the Count
   Up, and on his butchers fall!”

Fight Sir Ove and Sir Niels,
   Ebbesen he would not fly,
He Sir Ove’s head smote off,
   Left the corse in blood to lie.

Ebbesen to Randers bridge
   Came, there grew the combat hot,
There he found the tiny Frost
   Who had late dismissal got.

Niels sped over Randers bridge,
   Holstein’s men came thronging after;
What did then the tiny Frost
   But the bridge drop in the water.

Thanks to Niels’s sister’s son,
   Well he served his uncle then;
In the firth the planks he cast,
   No bridge found the Holstein men.

Niels a widow visited,
   She’d but barley bannocks two,
One she gave to Niels, because
   He the hairless tyrant slew.

Ebbesen!  God sain thy soul,
   Never was a braver Dane;
Thou didst free thy fatherland
   From a foreign tyrant’s chain.

Christ bless every gallant man,
   Who shall both with mouth and hand,
In the time of its distress,
   Seek to serve his fatherland!


Our King and Queen sat o’er the board
   In high festivity;
Between them there was much discourse
   About the briny sea.

Our gallant King and youthful Queen
   They sailed across the foam;
Much better had it been for both
   That they had stayed at home.

But barely they a mile had gone
   When still the vessel stood,
There came a raven wild, who strove,
   To sink them in the flood.

“If any thing the ship doth hold
   Concealed beneath the main,
I’ll give thee, bird, a lump of gold
   To set it free again.

“O do not sink us in the sea,
   Swart bird,” exclaimed the Queen,
“And I’ll give thee a lump of gold
   Weighs Bismer pounds fifteen.”

“Gold and silver I heed them not,
   I crave another fee,
The treasure neath thy girdle fair
   Thou now must promise me.

“Plenty of gold I have myself,
   From gold no help you’ll find,
On what beneath your girdle’s hid
   I’ve firmly set my mind.”

“I give what neath my girdle’s hid,
   My bunch of keys—what more?
I’ll speedily have others forged
   If I but win to shore.”

Then straight she took the little keys
   And cast them overboard;
Away then flew the Raven, glad
   He had obtained her word.

The Queen walks on the yellow sand,
   Then o’er her came a gloom,
She felt that Germand Gladenswayne
   Was quick within her womb.

And from that day when five short months
   Her head had flitted o’er,
The Queen she went to the chamber high,
   And a lovely son she bore.

Born was he in the evening hour,
   They christened him at night;
They called him Germand Gladenswayne,
   Concealed him whilst they might.

They fostered him a winter’s space,
   They fostered him for nine;
The fairest youth he grew on whom
   The sun did ever shine.

So well he throve, so well he grew,
   His horse he well could ride,
Whene’er his mother on him gazed
   So woefully she sigh’d.

“Now list to me, my mother dear,
   One thing I fain would know;
Why dost thou sigh so piteously
   Whene’er I past thee go?”

“Now hear thou, Germand Gladenswayne,
   I’ve cause to be forlorn;
Beguiled I gave thee to a fiend
   Before thou yet wast born.”

“And do thou hear, my mother dear,
   All sorrow cast aside:
Whatever be the will of God
   By that I must abide.”

It chanced upon a harvest morn
   The breezes scarcely stirr’d,
That as the chamber door stood ope
   So wild a yell was heard.

In came the laidly bird of prey,
   And stood the Queen before:
“Dost thou remember, gracious Queen,
   Thy gift to me of yore?”

She swore by God, and by the saints,
   By all that’s good she swore,
That son nor daughter in the world
   She never, never bore.

Then flew away the bird of prey,
   With an eldritch shriek he’s flown:
“Whene’er I meet Germand Gladenswayne
   I’ll remember he’s my own.”

When Germand fifteen years had reached
   He’d fain a damsel wed;
He loved the daughter of England’s king,
   The angel-lovely maid.

His longing to be with his plighted maid
   He might no more withstand:
“O how shall I come across the foam
   To the flood-encircled land?”

It was Germand Gladenswayne,
   He donned his best array;
And he has ta’en to his mother dear
   To the lofty hall his way.

In came Germand Gladenswayne,
   In scarlet clad was he:
“O mother lend me thy feather robe
   To fly across the sea.”

“My feather robe hangs upon the crook,
   The feathers droop so low,
If thou dost fly to the foreign land
   I shall see thee never moe.

“The pinions are so broad that they
   Grow heavy in the air,
I’ll have another made for me
   If I live another year.”

He set himself in the feather robe,
   Flew o’er the ocean straight;
And there met him the raven wild,
   Beneath a rock did wait.

He flew up, and he flew down,
   He flew in fearless guise;
And when he reached the midst of the sea
   He heard a frightful voice.

“Ha, well met, Germand Gladenswayne,
   O’er long hast thou delay’d;
Thou wast but little when to me
   A present thou wast made!”

“O let me fare, O let me fly,
   To speak my maiden dear;
Be sure that I, when her I’ve seen,
   Again will meet thee here.”

“Then I will let thee fly, but still
   My mark on thee will set,
Lest thou midst knights and beauteous dames
   Thy raven lord forget.”

Then out the boy’s right eye he tore,
   And drank up half his blood;
But still he reached the bower of his bride,
   His heart was yet so good.

He set himself by the Damsels’ bower,
   All bloody and distrest;
All the dames within that were
   Forgot to smile and jest.

All the damsels grew so still,
   With horror sat they fast;
Except proud Damsel Adelude,
   Aside her work she cast.

All the maids within forsook
   Both jest and merry note;
’Twas the proud Damsel Adelude
   Her hands together smote.

“Now welcome, Germand Gladenswayne,
   Where hast thou been to play?
Say, why bebloodied are thy clothes,
   And pale thy cheeks as clay?”

“Farewell, dear Damsel Adelude,
   I soon from thee must fly;
For he must have my youthful life
   Who tore from me my eye.”

Her silver handled comb she took,
   And strove to comb his head;
For every hair that she did comb
   A briny tear she shed.

For every lock the maiden combed
   A stream of tears did run;
How often she the mother cursed
   Who had betrayed her son.

It was Damsel Adelude,
   She took him in her arm:
“Accursed be the wicked Dame
   Who caused us all this harm.”

“Hear thou, sweet Damsel Adelude,
   Curse not my mother so,
She had no power in this affair,
   We all to fate must bow.”

He set him in his feather robe,
   And mounted on the wind;
She set her in another robe,
   And followed fast behind.

“O turn thee, Damsel Adelude,
   Turn my beloved one,
Thy bower door doth open stand,
   Thy keys lie on the stone.”

“Though my bower door doth open stand,
   And my keys lie on the stone,
Yet I will follow thee to the place
   Where harm to thee was done.”

All the birds she cut so small
   She met with there on high,
Except the laidly Raven wild,
   And him she could not spy.

’Twas the proud Damsel Adelude
   Flew down towards the strand;
Nought found she of the Gladenswayne
   Except the good right hand.

She flew so wroth the clouds below
   The laidly bird to find;
She flew East, and she flew West,
   To slay him she designed.

She hacked the birds into pieces three,
   Before her knife that came;
But when she met the Raven wild
   Into ten she hacked his frame.

And still till she of sorrow died
   She flew across the heath;
It was for Germand Gladenswayne
   She suffered grief and death.

                                * * * * *

               Printed for THOMAS J. WISE, Hampstead, N.W.

                   _Edition limited to Thirty Copies_.


{12}  A common Danish expression denoting contempt for threat.

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