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Full text of "The medieval popular ballad"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

FROM THE LIBRARY 
OF 

ELI SOBEL 



THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR 
BALLAD 



TRANSLATED FROM THE DANISH OF 
JOHANNES C. H. R. STEENSTRUP 



BY 



EDWARD GODFREY COX 



GINN AND COMPANY 

BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO LONDON 



COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY EDWARD GODFREY COX 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



Cfat fltbtnatum j>rt 

GINN AND COMPANY PRO- 
PRIETORS BOSTON U.S.A. 




rr 

773^ 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

Aside from the admirable books of Professor F. B. 
Gummere on the ballad, I know of no other work whose 
covers include such a comprehensive and fundamental ex- 
position of the ballad, its origin, nature, subject matter, 
form, and age, as does the one which appears here in 
translation. Its peculiar claim to be placed before English 
students, that which distinguishes it from other works on 
the subject, is its purpose of making us see what the bal- 
lad of the Middle Ages was really like. In other words, 
using Grundtvig's mammoth collection of Danish ballads 
as illustrations, it sifts out, chips away, rubs off all impu- 
rities, in the shape of diction, metrical items, and ideas 
which had no legitimate claim to existence before the six- 
teenth century. In the residue thus purged and restored we 
have the genuine unalloyed ballad of the Middle Ages. 

In another respect also this book merits consideration. 
While Professor Steenstrup's studies lay bare the make-up 
of the ballad as a universal form of literature, by the very 
fact that he uses largely the ballads of Denmark for illustra- 
tive material he enriches for English readers the study of 
the subject, in that they herein make the acquaintance of a 
ballad literature which, in importance and bulk, surpasses 
that of all other European nations. Then, too, the circum- 
stance that the ballads constitute the only vernacular litera- 
ture of early Denmark makes them of peculiar interest in 
a comparative study of literature. 



iv THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

The extracts from the ballads themselves I have en- 
deavored to turn into suitable ballad measure with as close 
an adherence to literalness as possible. In many cases the 
baldness of the English rendering may be excused on the 
score that the original verse is equally bald. Naturally 
genuine ballad flavor could best be imparted to the trans- 
lations by the employment of the Scotch dialect ; but for 
one not to the manner born such a venture is hazardous. 
Where ballad stanzas are cited as bearing on questions of 
meter and diction I have given the original also. The 
numbers following the title refer, except when otherwise 
indicated, to Grundtvig's collection. 

In conclusion I record with pleasure my obligation to 
Mr. Haldor Hermansson, the librarian of the Icelandic col- 
lection at Cornell University, for generous help in looking 
up references and in explaining passages. 

EDWARD GODFREY COX 
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE 

In the winter of 1886-1887 I gave a series of lectures in 
the University on our popular ballads, in which, in addi- 
tion to elucidating the cultural life manifested in them, I 
set myself to the task of pointing out what was peculiar to 
our ballads with respect to their form and their content. 
By this I thought to arrive at a sharper definition between 
those ballads and verses which were old and genuine and 
those which at a later date had come into being or had 
found their way into Denmark or else had assumed a 
wholly modern form. 

It is this portion of the lectures that I am bringing out 
here. Our scholars and, after them, our poets, who have 
had daily recourse to this ever-flowing spring, have not, 
so it seems to me, rightly understood the style of the old 
ballads, which in simplicity and naturalness are still un- 
surpassed. Since we otherwise lay such great stress on 
finding the proper time coloring, why should we then con- 
found the songs that were sung on gentlemen's estates in 
the period of the Reformation with those that were current 
in the feudal castles of the Middle Ages ? Why should 
we be content to look at a blank white wall, when it is 
possible, by knocking off the plaster, to discover lifelike 
pictures painted beneath the lime ? Now in this work I 
have attempted in various ways to separate the new from 
the old, the chance additions from the original, the slips 
of memory from the poet's own production. And here it 



vi THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

is not a question of demolishing but only of removing the 
ugly so that the genuine and true coloring can emerge into 
view. Thus, I believe, those features which are individual 
and unique can more fully assert themselves. 

In my studies I have used not only the ballads that have 
been published but also the entire great collection of bal- 
lads which Grundtvig left behind him, and which one can 
now find in the Royal Library. 

I have sought to make the presentation of the material 
readable and intelligible to all, and to this end I have 
added throughout whatever explanation of words was need- 
ful. Since the interpretation did not require the old spelling 
found in the manuscripts, I have modernized the language 

of the ballads. 

JOHANNES STEENSTRUP 

COPENHAGEN, 1891 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. INTRODUCTION i 

II. THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 9 

I. The Nature of the Dance, 10. II. How the Ballad and 
the Dance began, 26. 

III. THE / 34 

I. A Ballad will I sing to you, 40. II. Monologue within 
the Ballad, 49. III. The Change of Narrator in the 
Ballad, 53. IV. / Throughout the Entire Ballad, 58. 

V. This I say to you in Sooth, 66. 

IV. THE REFRAIN 81 

I. Nature of the Refrain, 82. II. Ballads without Re- 
frains, 95. 

V. RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 125 

VI. THE SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE OF THE BALLADS 1 70 

I. Nature, 171. II. Religion, 178. III. Morals and Wishes, 

194. IV. Fatherland, 202. V. Romantic Ballads, 210. 

VI. Ballad Style, 216. VII. Dramatic Structure, 228. 
VIII. Simplicity, 232. 

VII. SOME REMARKS ON HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD 

POETRY 237 

VIII. RETROSPECT 252 

INDEX TO BALLADS 263 

SCANDINAVIAN BALLAD COLLECTIONS CITED IN 

THE TEXT 266 

INDEX 267 

vii 



THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR 
BALLAD 

CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTION 

The scope of this book may be stated in a few words. 
It is an attempt to discover what our ballads of the Middle 
Ages were like originally, and to determine their proper 
form and subject matter. Perhaps the reader will say that 
this is supposedly well known already, since the greater 
part of our ballads are accessible in the model collection 
of Svend Grundtvig's. Here every one, so to speak, not 
only may see the ballads for himself, just as they were 
written down in the old manuscripts, but may also be led, 
through the highly enlightening remarks of the editor, to 
form his own estimate of the subject matter and different 
versions of individual ballads, as well as to compare our 
Danish and Scandinavian stock of ballads with that of 
other nations. 

Nevertheless it may safely be asserted that very few 
people are really alive to the genuine form and spirit of 
our medieval ballads. Grundtvig's work bears as its title 
"The Old Popular Ballads of Denmark" (Danmarks 
Gamle Folkeviser) and, though it was his special en- 
deavor to present to us the popular ballads that belong 



2 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

distinctly to the Middle Ages, still he included many bal- 
lads which he himself referred to the sixteenth and sev- 
enteenth centuries. Furthermore, Grundtvig is strongly 
inclined to dwell upon the changes which a ballad may 
have undergone in the course of later centuries, down 
even to our day, although this can possess but a transient 
interest in comparison with the great and weighty prob- 
lem of settling upon the genuinely earliest version. In a 
large number in by far the greater majority of cases, 
the modern forms have not the slightest claim to literary 
notice. In the next place, none of the manuscripts in 
which the complete texts are recorded can be traced farther 
back than to the age of the Reformation, and only some 
few fragments of ballads are to be found in manuscripts 
that date from the Middle Ages. Thus it is clear that, 
along with what is really old, this great work contains 
much that is modern, that is, belonging to the period of 
the Reformation and to much later centuries. Obviously it 
ought to be one's task to separate the later additions from 
the original versions, and to set entirely aside the later 
poems of the sixteenth century and of the Period of Learn- 
ing- provided that one wished to know the ballads as 
they originally issued from the poet's mouth. In several 
specific cases Grundtvig has given us suggestive hints that 
throw light upon this point, but nowhere has he offered us 
a general line of argument. He has nowhere classified 
the distinguishing features by which we may detect the 
new apparel the new finery clothing the old body. In 
several respects also, it seems to me, Grundtvig's ear 
has deceived him ; he has not caught the true ring of 
antiquity. 



INTRODUCTION 3 

The general survey of the ballads which Grundtvig 
failed to give us has been attempted by others. In his 
" Intellectual Life of the Northern Peoples," Carl Rosen- 
berg has entered into the spirit of ballad poetry with 
delicate appreciation and intelligence ; he has strikingly 
illuminated many sides of the subject matter and the form. 
But he has taken virtually the same standpoint as did 
Grundtvig, and moreover he has made no attempt at a 
discriminating criticism. On the other hand, while Rosen- 
berg has industriously studied Grundtvig's work, this can- 
not altogether be said of Professor Peter Hansen, though 
the latter has laid before us a pretty detailed exposition of 
the ballads in his " Illustrated History of Danish Litera- 
ture." In place of a searching study of Grundtvig's chef- 
d'ceuvre, Professor Hansen has contented himself with 
the popular books or discussions which Grundtvig pub- 
lished in addition to his great collection, in particular his 
"Selected Popular Ballads of Denmark" (1882). And 
one cannot help a feeling of resentment toward Professor 
Hansen when he passes so harsh a judgment as this : " So 
far as the needs of our literature are concerned, Grundt- 
vig's edition of the ballads is a supererogation, and is 
based upon principles that are, to say the least, debat- 
able." That such a work as this " Illustrated History of 
Danish Literature " should characterize Grundtvig's collec- 
tion as a supererogation is indeed remarkable. At every 
point the author has called down punishment upon his 
head for these hard and other still more unreasonable ex- 
pressions ; and vengeance has not stayed her hand, for 
Professor Hansen's own sketch of the popular ballads has 
turned out to be an utter failure. 



4 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Though we may differ with Grundtvig in our studies in 
the ballads, and in our conceptions of how they should be 
edited, the only charge that we can lay to him is that he 
has included too much, we should be altogether wrong 
in misjudging the significance of his edition as a land- 
mark in the history of Danish literature. For we have 
here a work that is distinguished by unique accuracy, by 
rare fullness of knowledge, and by great acuteness and 
far-reaching insight. Moreover, the way the material is 
shaped to the hand of him who is disposed to investigate 
further makes obligatory the study of a volume in which 
are preserved such precious relics of antiquity. 

That there exists little real knowledge of the subject 
of our popular ballads is attested by the odd conceptions, 
ordinarily met with (especially noticeable in quotations 
from heroic ballads), of what the language of the Middle 
Ages is capable of expressing, and of what belongs to 
genuine ballad style. Even among our good writers I 
name as ready examples the great works on Danish his- 
tory by Niels Bache and Troels Lund one frequently 
meets verses quoted which have absolutely nothing to do 
with the Middle Ages or with folk poetry, but which 
are, on the contrary, later reshapings and fabrications of 
Anders Vedel, Peder Syv, and others. In other words, the 
whole ballad literature has been regarded too much as an 
entirety ; whereas it well admits of a division, not only 
according to subject matter, but also according to period 
of origin. Such a division would mark off the later ele- 
ments from the older. 

Now the present book has set for itself the task of 
coming to a clear understanding of the true form and 



INTRODUCTION 5 

nature of the old ballads. The investigation will first and 
foremost seek to solve the question of how the ballads 
were utilized ; that is, what end they served, and how this 
end influenced their form. I shall investigate the changes 
the ballads necessarily underwent in the wear and tear of 
daily use, for memory constantly let fall the precious vessel 
to the ground only to pick it up again, though dented and 
cracked. In addition, my plan will be to pursue one course 
as long as I can ; I shall, for example, endeavor to estab- 
lish a general trait that will serve as a determining feature 
of ballad style or of choice of subject, by which individual 
ballads that appear as exceptions will be made to stand out- 
side, or at least in the neighborhood, of the dividing line. 
After this I shall take up in a similar way another line of 
thought and continue on the chosen path as long as I can. 

When by degrees all or the greater part of my separate 
investigations combine to set precisely the same ballads or 
group of ballads without the general circumference ; when 
all lines gradually come to converge at the same place and 
to point, though with varying definiteness, to the above- 
mentioned class of ballads, then I shall believe indeed 
that I must have attained to a right understanding of 
what is native to the ballads of the Middle Ages, and of 
what is to be regarded as foreign and excrescent. At any 
rate, my researches will have laid bare what is in reality 
to be found in this borderland of literature, whether we 
confine ourselves to the age in which the ballads flour- 
ished, or whether we step outside of the realm of popular 
poetry and touch upon what is conscious and literary. 

Meanwhile I wish to call attention to the following. As 
is well known, Denmark is by no means the only land that 



6 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

possesses popular ballads of the Middle Ages ; on the 
contrary, they are to be found in nearly every country. 
Nevertheless our popular poetry has clearly marked supe- 
riorities which cannot be too strongly insisted upon. The 
Danish ballads of the Middle Ages have apparently fur- 
nished the only outlet to the popular imagination, to its 
creative power and its narrative impulse ; for centuries 
they have served as practically the sole form in which the 
people gave vent to their feelings at any rate outside of 
the church and the hours of prayer. This explains why 
such poetry has become so rich in various directions, and 
happens to contain so long and variegated a series of 
shadings. 

Though the Faroes and Iceland, Norway and Sweden 
have preserved, to be sure, rich remains of old popular 
poetry, yet Denmark's store is far more important than 
that of any of these countries, whether in respect to 
numbers or to value. Then, too, Denmark's collection is 
characterized by the presence of a large number of his- 
torical ballads. However much one is obliged to shear 
away of what Grundtvig classes under this head, there 
still exists a large residue, which in numbers and worth, 
in beauty and illuminating power, far surpasses what is to 
be found of the same nature in the neighboring lands of 
the North. And it is clear that when the question turns 
upon the precise form and age of our popular ballads, 
the ballads that treat of historical subjects have a deep 
significance. 

For the end I have in view there is one circumstance of 
even greater weight ; namely, that Denmark possesses the 
earliest written records. However invaluable the literary 



INTRODUCTION 7 

material found lately in the living tradition of Denmark ; 
however wonderful those objects unearthed in the heaths 
at Herning, or the songs heard in Telemark's fields, still 
I entertain no doubt that if we succeeded in gaining a 
knowledge of the genuine popular poetry of the Catholic 
Middle Ages, we should have to render our thanks exclu- 
sively to the noble ladies of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. To them it is due that we are acquainted with 
the old versions of ballads, and that we can see what 
changes the ballads themselves have undergone at various 
periods. To appreciate our wealth we need only to com- 
pare our sources of material with those of Sweden ; for, 
while we possess forty ballad manuscripts of a period prior 
to 1750, Sweden has only about ten, the oldest of which 
are antedated by a number of the Danish. Of the Norse 
ballads there exist only a few that were written down in 
early times, and the same is true in a still more limited 
degree of the Icelandic ballads. In other words, the ma- 
terial to show what the ballads were really like three hun- 
dred to four hundred years ago is to be found solely in 
Denmark. Furthermore, the frequent recurrence of the 
same ballad in many manuscripts is of great importance in 
bringing about a knowledge of the true form of the ballad. 
Finally, I desire to call attention to the fact that it is de- 
cidedly advisable, it seems to me, to be cautious in the use 
of Icelandic and Faroese ballads. Among the inhabitants 
of these islands the recollection of Saga and Edda poetry 
was constant and vigorous, and this recollection must easily 
have blended with and influenced the poetry of the Middle 
Ages. In Denmark, on the contrary, all knowledge of the 
poetry of antiquity had completely disappeared. While in 



8 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

the latter country there exist practically no poetical compo- 
sitions in the vernacular, except the ballads, in Iceland the 
popular ballads form only a small part of a great poetical 
literature dating from the latter part of the Middle Ages. 
It lies in the nature of the case, then, that the one branch 
of poetry could not help influencing the other ; that is to 
say, in Iceland and in the Faroes the ballads have acquired 
a more conscious and literary stamp than they have else- 
where. Moreover it happened that " learned men," in 
particular the clergy, throughout these islands contributed 
in a high degree to the flowering of this poetry, or at least 
to its preservation. Thus it took an impress which makes 
it less adapted to serve as a touchstone for what is genuine 
and ancient in the Danish ballads. 

Having thus indicated the purpose and method of my 
studies, I shall pass on to the special investigations. 



CHAPTER II 
THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 

There is a marked difference between a poem as we 
ordinarily understand it and a ballad. The popular ballads 
of the Middle Ages are not poems which were written 
down in books and intended for reading ; they are songs 
which have been preserved by memory and were sung 
by one or more persons in the presence of others, being 
accompanied at the same time by a dance of a mimic or 
dramatic nature. In the oldest poetry of every people 
there exists a close relation between these three things, 
says a well-informed writer : no poem that was not sung, 
no song that was not danced to, and no dance that was 
not accompanied by a song. 1 This statement admits of no 
question. Nowadays, in the majority of songs we sing, we 
lay only an infinitesimal stress, if any at all, on the text, 
which perhaps we do not even remember rightly, and 
which, at any rate, we seldom sing through to the end. 
We are never moved to embellish the performance with 
dramatic or mimic gestures, nor to mark the rhythm of the 
melody with the swaying of our bodies. 

In earlier times song and mimic gestures were much 
more intimately related. As late as 1 767 as we can see 
from a poster of the Royal Theatre a young Scotch lady 

1 Franz Bohme, Geschichte des Tanzes in Deutschland, I, 13, 229; 
cf. Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, p. xlvii. 

9 



10 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

appeared in various dances at the theater, singing at the 
same time, in accordance with the custom of former 
dancers, French and Italian arias. If we go back to Hoi- 
berg's day we shall meet with a poster of 1726, which 
reads that during the performance of " the I ith of June " 
there will appear between acts " one of the best singers 
and dancers from the opera in Stockholm." 1 If we pursue 
the inquiry as far back as the Middle Ages, we shall find 
singing and dancing closely linked together ; in Iceland, in 
fact, the term "ballad " signified a dance. For instance, Earl 
Gissur sang the dance " My sorrows are heavier than lead," 
and a man by the name of Berg was called " Dancing 
Berg," doubtless because he composed satirical ballads. 
Even in the word " ballade " we have an indication of its 
former connection with the dance. 

The Icelandic sagas, which allude to so many amuse- 
ments, games, and festivals of Norse antiquity, say not a 
word about the dance. It is not till the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries that we hear the dance at all commonly spoken of. 
At this period, however, as stated above, the dance meant 
also a popular ballad or a satirical poem, whose metrical 
form was identical with that of the Danish popular ballads. 

I. THE NATURE OF THE DANCE 

It must now be our task to inquire into the meaning of 
the term "dance " as understood in those times, and whether 
or not we dare apply our modern conception of the term 
to the dance of our forefathers. The answer must evidently 
be " No " ; the difference is too striking. The manner of 

1 Th. Overskou, Den danske Skueplads, I, 228 ; II, 400. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD II 

dancing with which we are generally familiar, namely, that 
of couples, who glide over the floor, whirling each other 
around more or less rapidly, belongs to a far later time. 
We can learn something of the period when the new 
fashion of dancing came into vogue from a study of the 
conditions existing in Germany. But I direct especial 
attention to "Chronik des Landes Dithmarschen," an 
account written in 1 598 by the pastor Koster, called Neo- 
corus. Here he relates that formerly the inhabitants of 
Ditmarsh had two styles of dancing, namely, " Trymmeken- 
dans," which was characterized by certain steps and imitative 
gestures (Trymmeke means a person with nice, affected 
ways), and a leaping or hopping dance. Finally, however, 
there was introduced from abroad about the time of the 
Ditmarsh wars (i 559) "eine sonderlike Manere," according 
to which people danced in couples. 1 This mode of dancing, 
however, had come up from the South to other countries 
somewhat earlier than in the case of Ditmarsh. 2 Perhaps 
it was the appearance of this new fashion that gave rise to the 
following admonition, recorded in a book entitled " The 
Wreath of Honor of all Virtuous, Christian Maidens," 
which came out toward the close of the sixteenth century : 
" That they engage in a short, modest, and honest dance, 
doing the steps after one another in decency and order, 
without undue swinging and other indecorum." 3 

This older style of dancing brought to our notice in the 
Ditmarsh chronicle we can very clearly identify first and 

1 Johann Adolfi (called Neocorus), Chronik des Landes Dithmarschen, 
ed. by F. C. Dahlmann, I, 177 ff. Bohme, Tanz, I, 49 ff. 

8 Fol. VII; cf. O. Nielsen, Copenhagen's Diplomatarium, VI, 157; 
Troels Lund, Danmarks og Norges Historic i det 16. Aarh., VI, 169. 



12 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

foremost with the help of our popular ballads. Thus runs 
the ballad of " Proud Elselille " (No. 220) : 

Midsummer night upon the sward, 
Knights and squires were standing guard. 

In the grove a knightly dance they tread 
With torches and garlands of roses red. 

In sable and marten before them all, 
Dances Sir Iver, the noblest of all. 

To the king in his tower strong 
Floats the noise of the dancing throng. 

" Who is yon knight that leads the dance, 
And louder than all the song he chants? " 

Shortly afterwards the king enters the dance by the side 
of Sir Iver. From this ballad it appears that one walks the 
dance, that one steps it, that it takes place in the grove, 
that one person leads another by the hand, and that the whole 
is directed by a leader. Or we may cite " Hagen's Dance " 

(No. 465) : 

The king he sits in Ribe, 

Quaffing the wine ; 
He summons all his Danish knights 

Each to his home. 
So stately dances Hagen. 

" Stand up, stand up, my merry men 

And knights so keen ; 
And step for me a beggar-dance 

In the meadows green ! " 
So stately dances Hagen. 

Now longs the king himself 

To step the dance ; 
The hero Hagen follows after, 

For them the song he chants. 
So stately dances Hagen. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 13 

Or " Knight Stig's Wedding " (No. 76) : 

F 1 8. Gaily the maidens join in the dance, 

Each with crowns of roses and garlands. 

19. There dances Sir Stig as light as a wand, 
With a silver cup in his white hand. 

Here also the dance is held out of doors, in the grove, in 
the green meadows (that is, on the lawns), and always one 
"steps" the dance. So the refrain runs in No. 189: 
" She stepped so stately," and in No. 261 : 

It was Mettelil, the count's daughter, 
She stepped the dance for them. 

Among the Scandinavian peasants dancing in the open 
air is still kept up. In confirmation of this reads the 
account written by Jonas Stolt, a village shoemaker, setting 
forth the conditions existing in the region about Kalmar 
in 1820 : " On summer evenings a dance was held on the 
grass-plots of the court-yards and on Sunday afternoons 
on the bridges that lead over the river " (p. 114). 

The men can carry a cup, a ring, or a staff ; the women 
a garland, or, according to ballads Nos. 364, 432, " she 
dances with mirror and wreaths of roses." In Germany it 
is said that the maidens dance with mirrors suspended 
coquettishly from a ribbon. Here, furthermore, the garland 
is most intimately associated with the dance, just as to-day 
it is used for cotillion favors and bouquets. Such may 
well have been the case in Denmark. In " The Maiden's 
Defense of Honor " (No. 189) occur the lines : 

6. Fair Ingelil came to Thure's isle, 
Where ladies the time in dance beguile. 

7. Lords and knights began the dance, 
Proud Ingelil sat still and wove garlands. 



14 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

8. Then spake Sir Thure by the salt sea-strand : 

" For whom do you weave those gay garlands ? " 

9. " I weave this garland for no other man 
Than him, my brother, the best in the land." 

We read in Article 32 of the statutes of a guild in 
Ny-Larsker on Bornholm (1599) that it was enjoined on 
all men and boys, members and guests, to be present in the 
barn while the preliminary dance was going on and the 
garlands were being distributed. He who declined the re- 
sponsibility of the garland was fined one keg of beer. 
And in Articles 37, 38 of the same statutes we read that 
virtuous gentlewomen and modest girls were free to choose 
the May-king while the garlands were receiving their deco- 
rations of pretty herbs. Here, too, the member or guest 
who refused the garland made by honest folk, when prof- 
fered by the May-king, and in the struggle happened to 
tear it, had to pay for his obstinacy one keg of beer 
(The New Royal Collection, No. 399, Fol. C). 

We can corroborate what we know of the old style of 
dancing by examining the pictorial illustrations of the 
dances performed by the nobility during the Middle Ages. 
A fresco painting from the fourteenth century in the church 
at Orslev on Skjelskor depicts a row of dancing men and 
women, led by a " foredancer," who directs those taking 
part with lively and emphatic gestures of his left hand, 
while in his right he carries a ring or some other object. 1 
Some frescoes in Runkelstein Castle in the Tyrol repre- 
sent a long chain of couples dancing under the trees in 
the garden. At their head dances a woman, followed by a 

1 For picture see Aarbogerfor nord. Oldk., 1888, p. 135, and Tidsskrift 
for Kunstindustrie, 1890, Vol. I. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 15 

man clad in a thick doublet and wearing peaked shoes, 
holding his right hand behind him ; he in turn leads with 
graceful steps the woman next to him. 1 

Similar to these dances thus portrayed we may conceive 
the dances in Denmark to have been. Besides these more 
decorous dances with tripping steps, there is found another, 
which the peasantry especially affect, characterized by leap- 
ing steps and wilder movements. At the memorable wed- 
ding of Solenta, sister of Iver Blaa, and Count Gunzelin 
(No. 1 6), which fell out so merrily and boisterously, there 
were present all those famous heroes, Vidrik Verlandson, 
Didrik of Bern, Holger Danske, Master Hildebrand, Sivard 
Snarensvend, and Langben Risker. But the bride herself 
was an imposing figure : 

Six whole oxen she consumed, 

And five full flitches of bacon, 

And when the hiccoughs put an end to her bout, 

Seven barrels of beer she had taken. 

The rank began to leap and frolic (Skrikke-Ref) 
From Ribe to the bay of Sli ; 
The smallest warrior in the dance 
Towered well five ells above the knee. 

Even the table and the benches danced, 
And fire flew from the hats ; 
Out then ran the warriors good : 
" Now help us, Mother Scratch ! " 

Rei means "rank," "a row," "a train of followers" (cf. 
Asgaards-Reien, that is, Odin's Hunt, Arthur's Chase), 
and Hoppelrei was the name given in Germany to a dance 
which used to be popular with the peasants, who danced 

1 Bohme, Tanz, pp. 31, 320. 



16 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

it "as if they would fly." On the whole, den Reihen 
springen corresponds to den Tanz treten. Skrikke means 
" to leap " or " gambol like a calf or kid." It may well be 
said, therefore, to have been a remarkable dance in which 
the merry revelers indulged. 

Emphatic gestures were characteristic of even the more 
sedate dances. This we can gather from pictures, which 
almost invariably represent the arms, legs, and feet smartly 
extended and the head bent low, often combined with cer- 
tain contortions of the body. At times the movements 
seem to overstep the bounds of grace. In the church at 
Hecklingen, Saxony, there is portrayed an angel dancing 
with the tips of the toes turned out on the right foot, and 
turned in on the left so that when the legs crossed the 
toes of both feet met. In several miniatures from a manu- 
script of Heinrich von Stretlingen ladies are represented 
with breasts and waists extended well forward, heads and 
arms sharply inclined, legs and feet forming acute angles, 
and the fingers spread widely apart and bent in various 
directions. In the church of St. Sernin in Toulouse is a 
picture of Salome, the daughter of Herodias, dancing with 
a bell in her hand before Herod Antipas ; the right foot 
executes a curious step with the toes bent backward to 
the right. 1 

I am in some doubt, however, just how reliable to regard 
the evidence offered by these last mentioned pictures. The 
perplexing footboard on which several figures stand, to- 
gether with the defective ability of the artist, however, may 

1 Puttrich, Denkmale der Baukunst in Sachsen, I, table 32. See Von 
der Hagen, Bildersaal, tables 16, 22, 39, 46; Bohme, Tanz, pp. 33 ff. ; 
Schultz, Das hofische Leben, 2d ed., I, 550 ff. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 17 

explain away some of the oddities. But thus much is cer- 
tain, that during the dance a very strong play of feature 
was called into action. In the Icelandic Vikivaki dance 
the participants stood on the right foot and swayed the 
upper part of the body to and fro. An account from East 
Friesland (1691) tells of an old dance, common among the 
peasantry, which was performed by two men and two 
women, accompanied by set movements of the arms, hands, 
legs, and head ; distinct movements and gestures, in fact, 
existed for all the limbs, at the expense, it may be added, 
of much perspiration. The men struck their hands smartly 
together, first behind their backs, then in front of their 
legs, while the women went through the same motions 
after them. Their most individual postures they assumed 
toward the close of the singing, which was slow and 
mournful. 1 

Those were famous dances that were performed toward 
the close of the Middle Ages with so much dignity and 
splendor by the patrician families of South Germany. 
When King Christian I, in his travels abroad in 1474, 
made a stay in Augsburg, the families of the nobility 
held a dance in his honor, which seems to have been 
marked by a becoming union of mirth and gravity. As 
the old account reads : 2 " For the pleasure of the King 
of Denmark and at the wish of the Kaiser there was held 
soon after a merry dance, which was carried out with great 
pomp and dignity in the usual dance hall, lasting almost 
four hours, which the King mentioned as having witnessed 
with especial delight." 

1 Bbhrae, Tanz, p. 51. 

2 Werlich, Chronica von Augspurg (1595), II, 229. 



1 8 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

A dance often spoken of in the ballads is the " Beggar- 
dance " (see Vol. II, 59, st. 8 ; Vol. Ill, 166, sts. 13, 27 ; 
Vol. IV, 365, 455, st. i). In " Proud Signild and Queen 
Sophie " (No. 129) occur the lines : 

27. When to the castle gate she chanced, 
She saw them dancing the beggar-dance. 

28. Twice they danced the dance around, 
The queen stood gazing at her spell-bound. 

29. Sad at heart then was the queen 

When Signelil danced by the side of the king. 

From this ballad it appears to have been a figure dance. 
In Germany there was found a " Bettlertanz," in which 
all the couples formed a circle while dancing, with one 
couple in the middle, who assumed various attitudes and 
enacted a scene, somewhat perhaps after the style of the 
Polish " Going a-begging." In every instance song accom- 
panied this dance, according to the old beggar ballad. 
This ballad treats of the same theme as the Danish drama 
"Karrig Niding" ("The Miserly Scoundrel"), in which 
the beggar, during the miser's absence, is received most 
courteously by the housewife and installed with all the privi- 
leges of the husband. The audacity inherent in the theme 
doubtless affected the dance, which became so hilarious 
that in 1580 it was forbidden by decree in the Electo- 
rate of Saxony. 1 The Danish beggar-dance must certainly 
have been identical with this. It is also called the " Beggars' 
dance " (and the " Begging-dance "), a name that is derived 

1 Bohme, Tanz, pp. 57, 103, 1 16. The German song has been printed 
by Birket Smith, Rauch's Plays, pp. Ixxxii ff. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 19 

from Bedere, a beggar, which the old translators of 
the Bible rendered as " needy men " or " mendicants." 
The name " mendicants " was also applied to those in- 
mates of the monasteries who journeyed about collecting 
the benefactions (see Molbech's and Kalkar's dictionaries). 
Our own time has preserved three distinct references to 
this term in the double refrain of " Peder and Malfred " 
(No. 278) : 

Step ye well ! 

Step and beg, an ye will ! 

or, 

Step up and beg, an ye will ! 

There seems to be good ground for believing that the re- 
frain in its original form was an animating shout : 

Step up, beggar, an ye will ! 

One gets the impression that in Denmark also this dance 
was relegated to the more boisterous spirits. Perhaps it 
was a kiss that was requested ; for that a kiss could be ex- 
changed during the dance is scarcely to be questioned. In 
this respect the Germans never overstepped the bounds of 
propriety. 1 

In " The Rape of the Venedian King " (No. 240) there 
is named another dance : 

i. So merrily goes the beggar-dance 
On the plain outside the wall ; 
Maidens are stepping the luck-dance (Lykke-Dans), 
And knights are playing ball. 

This last dance I am not acquainted with. 

1 Bohme, Tanz, index. 



20 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

As is well known, the old dances are still kept up 
among the Faroe islanders. Men and women take each 
other by the hand and form a circle. The movement con- 
sists simply of taking three regular steps to the left, then, 
after balancing a little, bringing the right over against the 
left and kicking the left out, etc. Most frequently it is 
danced slowly and solemnly ; but the youthful spirits of 
-the circle often indulge in a faster step, leaping up in the 
air and raising their hands above their heads. It can also 
be executed in a lively, exuberant fashion. In the Heb- 
rides, where they dance faster than in other places, is 
found a round dance which is taken at a very rapid tempo. 
This dance is considered to be their oldest. The partici- 
pants form the usual circle. During the singing of the 
strophe they either remain in their places or dance back ; 
but during the refrain they rush quickly forward. Through- 
out the dance the leader's song is heard above that of the 
others. The Faroe islanders make manifest, on the whole, 
that they are not indifferent to the content of the song ; 
but that by their looks and gestures they endeavor to 
express the varying nature of the subject matter. 1 

All the above conditions must be borne in mind when 
we are considering our popular ballads. Beyond all doubt 
the style of dancing has influenced the form of the bal- 
lads, and vice versa. Moreover, that the ballads have 
been utilized by the dance does not follow merely from 
what has been stated above. Individual ballads them- 
selves, so to speak, mention that they were danced to. 

1 Lyngbye, Faeroiske Quasder, pp.8 ff.; Antiquarisk Tidsskrift, 1846- 
1848, p. 259 ; 1849-1851, p. 279 ; N. Winther, Faeroernes Oldtidshistorie, 
pp. 442 ff. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 21 

For example, note the refrain in " The Skipper and the 
Maid" (No. 241): 

Step lightly o'er the green plain 
The maid must follow me ; 

and in " The Wounded Maiden " (No. 244) : 

Step up boldly, young knight ! 
Honor the maidens in the dance. 

It must not be asserted, however, that the ballads served 
no other end than that of accompaniment to the dance ; 
naturally they could be sung like any other song, and, to 
judge from several refrains, we must even think of people 
singing them while out riding or rowing. 

So much is certain : the subject matter never interfered 
with the use of the ballads in the dance. To this the his- 
torical ballads, for example, testify. We know that the 
inhabitants of the Faroes danced to the ballad of " King 
Hans' Wedding " (" King Hans he sits in Copenhagen "), 
and the pastor Koster says that the inhabitants of Dit- 
marsh danced to a song on the Danish defeat at Hem- 
mingsted. In the Faroes people danced to ballads that 
were religious in content, and in the preceding century 
even the clergy were seen in their ecclesiastical robes tak- 
ing part in a dance, on such occasions as weddings, to the 
accompaniment of ballads like the " Ballad of Isaac " 
(" Ye noble bridal pair, give heed "), which was a psalm 
from the Book of Psalms ; or the " Ballad of Susanna," 
which treated of Daniel and Susanna. In 1818 the pastor 
Lyngbye saw the congregation assemble in the churchyard 
and there carry on a pantomimic dance to an old mytho- 
logical ballad " Grane bore the gold from the heath." 



22 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

At Danish manses solemn dances were permitted to the 
music of the Psalms of David. 1 

It goes without saying that erotic ballads took their rise 
in the dance. As far as satirical ballads are concerned, we 
know that in the Faroes lampooning ballads were danced 
to, and that he who was the subject of the ballad and the 
victim of the satire had to dance into the bargain, for he 
was seized by two stout men and held fast in line by either 
hand until the ballad came to an end. 2 In Bavaria there 
exists the so-called " Schnada-hiipfl " (schnada means "to 
babble," " to tralala "), which consists of a four-line stanza 
with one or two rimes, sung to well known melodies, and 
often composed offhand by the dancers. While these 
" Schnada-hiipfl " are often erotic, they are especially satiri- 
cal. Two fellows seem to find amusement, for example, in 
endeavoring to outsatirize each other, being privileged in 
this sport, for the purpose of ridicule, to draw upon the 
faults and foibles of the whole valley side. 3 

This variety of petty satirical verse has found a home 
here in Denmark as well ; mention of this fact is made in 
the sagas (see p. 10 above). An interesting specimen of 
such an improvised satirical ballad, which was danced to 
by those who composed it, is to be found in ballad No. 366. 
Here follows the greater portion of this ballad : 

" All day my heart is heavy 
With many a sigh and groan ; 
All because of those rich wooers, 
Sir Lave's sons from Lund. 
All day my heart is heavy ! 

1 Vilhelm Bang, Praestegaardsliv, p. 272. 

3 Skand. Lift. Selsk. Skrifter, ser. 12-13, P- 2 &S '> Lyngbye, Faeroiske 
Quaeder, p. 14. 8 Bohme, Tanz, p. 239. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 23 

" Stand up, stand up, my maidens all, 
And dance for me a space ; 
And sing for me a ballad 
About the sons of Lave's race ! 

" And sing for me a ballad, 
And this your song shall be : 
All how they wait outside my gate, 
And no answer get from me. 

" The first is hight Sir Ove, 

The second Sir Eskel Hawk ; 

They Ve served so long at the court of the king, 

They stand neither heat nor smoke. 

" The third is hight Sir Magnus, 
A learned clerk is he ; 
There lies a jewel hid in my chest 
Is worth more than all three." 

Nought else thought Elselille 
Than they two were alone ; 
But by stood Sir Magnus 
And listened till she was done. 

It was then Sir Magnus 
He stepped within the door; 
It was young Elselille, 
Her face deep blushes bore. 

" Stand up, stand up, my comely young men, 
And dance with me a space ; 
And we ourselves shall sing a ballad 
About the sons of Lave's race. 

" Sing for me a ballad, 

And sing it so for me : 

They ride to proud Elselille's gate 

And good the answer will be. 



24 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

" The first is hight Sir Ove, 

The second Sir Eskel Hawk ; 

They 've served so long at the court of the king 

They stand both heat and smoke. 

11 The third is hight Sir Magnus, 

A learned clerk is he ; 

There lies a jewel in the maiden's chest 

Is worth more than we three ! " 

" Hear me now, Sir Magnus, 
With your chaffing now let be ; 
Meet me the morn at the church door 
And plight your vows to me." 

Up then stood Sir Magnus 
And leaned him on his sword ; 
" Men know well, proud Elselille, 
The feast is more than you are worth." 

He lifted up young Elselille 

And set her upon his horse, 

He led her out to the wild greenwood, 

Where thick grow the broom and gorse. 



This is the reward proud Elselille got 
For her scornful, bitter word : 
For eight long years she sat a widow 
Alone at her own board. 

When eight years had come and gone, 
He remembered honor and right ; 
He rode out to her father's gate 
And wooed her for his heart's delight. 
All day my heart is heavy / 

To avoid misunderstanding, let me add in conclusion 
that while in by far the greatest number of cases one 
danced to the singing of ballads, yet instrumental music 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 25 

was also made use of. The simplest form of accompani- 
ment was undoubtedly that of the drum alone. An account 
from I5/O, 1 treating of the shopmen's guild in Randers, 
preserves the regulation that the drummer must not beat 
his drum longer than the master of the corporation allows. 
The drum was frequently heard also in the guilds of the 
peasants. In Article 32 of the statutes of a guild in Ny- 
Larsker on Bornholm (1599) there is a rule that " no one 
must be found playing the drum in our guild except our 
appointed drummer, unless the master of the corporation 
gives his consent thereto." 

Further information on this point can be gained from 
a consideration of the " players " (jongleurs). These cor- 
responded to the present-day musicians, and often in olden 
times most closely to ale-house fiddlers and jugglers. The 
"player" of the earliest day was an individual more or 
less defenseless and subject to ridicule, concerning whom 
the laws made various amusing provisions. Later he seems 
to have commanded more respect ; at any rate, he is often 
mentioned in ballads as being attendant on weddings and 
other festivals. " No gold was grudged the player " is a 
standing ballad formula. There certainly can be no doubt 
that singing was one of his accomplishments. On the 
whole, his task was to furnish amusement, and listening 
to music was such a favorite recreation that singing and 
song naturally came under his jurisdiction. That the verb 
" to play " can mean " to sing " as well is evident from the 
expression " they played in the Danish tongue," and there 
is mention in the Norse Didrik saga of a " player " who 
sang, plucked the harp strings, and played the fiddle. In 
1 Stadfeldt, Randers, p. 88. 



26 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

a church in Upland there is a picture of a fool singing to 
the accompaniment of a zither he is playing. Archbishop 
Johannes Magni (ob. 1544) relates that heroic ballads were 
sung to the music of pipes. 1 It is scarcely probable that 
the " player " took any part in the dancing ; at least it 
would depend on the esteem in which he was held. Peder 
Laale, however, has the proverb : " The player dances 
willingly for pay." Very possibly the capers of the juggler 
were what he had in mind here. 

From all this evidence it appears that the ballad, when 
not danced to, could be accompanied by stringed instru- 
ments, as was indeed the custom in other lands. In wit- 
ness of this run the following stanzas from " Hagen's 
Dance " (No. 465) : 

Then awoke the Danish queen, 

As in her tower she lay : 
" Which one of my maidens 

On the harp doth play ? " 

" There is no one of your maidens 

That on the harp doth play ; 
It is the hero Hagen 

Who sings so gay." 

II. How THE BALLAD AND THE DANCE BEGAN 

I have striven to detail thus explicitly the old style of 
dancing and the use of the ballad in the dance, because 
I shall constantly need to refer to these features in the 
investigations that follow. And here I shall dispose of a 
single question at once. 

1 Axel Olrik, in Mindre Afhandlinger, published by the Philol.- 
Histor. Samfund, pp. 74 ff., 265 ff. ; Schiick, Svensk Literaturhistoria, 
pp. in ff. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 27 

How did the dance begin ? In Ditmarsh, according to 
Neocorus, it was started by a leader of the song, who 
stepped out in front of the others, holding a drinking cup 
in his hand. After he had sung a verse, all those assem- 
bled repeated it. He then sang another, which was like- 
wise repeated. At this point another sprang forward, who 
as leader assumed charge of the dance. Taking his hat 
in his hand, he danced sedately around the room, at the 
same time urging the others to join in and arrange them- 
selves in line. The leader kept time with the song, and the 
other dancers kept time with the leader. The latter was 
thus enabled to direct as many as two hundred dancers. 

Manifestly the same thing is set forth in our popular 

ballads : 

" Who is yon knight that leads the dance, 
And louder than all the song he chants ? " 

The leader of the dance must carry a drinking cup, a 
beaker, or a glass in his hand. This feature still survives 
in those localities where the " Schnada-hiipfl " is danced ; 
and in old German accounts we often read of how the 
" foredancer " would dance around with a bowl or cup on 
his head. 1 (The leader of the dance or " foredancer "- 
is the one who begins the dance and exhorts the others to 
take part ; he is also the one who later directs it.) We 
have something similar to this in the North. At a be- 
trothal in Christiania in 1637, it is said that the parish 
priest, Master Kjeld Stub, " danced in public with a glass 
in his hand and led the dance " ; but the burgomaster, 
Laurids Ruus, jumping up from his seat, picked out a 
partner and, holding a glass in his hand, ran against 

1 Bohme, Tanz, p. 27. 



28 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Master Kjeld in such a way as to obstruct and break up 
the dance. On the fifteenth of May of the same year a 
royal mandate was issued to the bishops in which the 
priests were admonished to lead a more Christian life, 
and to abstain from drunkenness and, among other things, 
" from dancing with a glass in the hand and such worldly 
indecencies." * 

Let us now see whether our ballads do not make some 
reference to the beginning of the dance. It must be borne 
in mind that our popular ballads are not lyrical in nature, 
nor do they voice the usual expressions of the singer's 
emotions. This subject I shall discuss more fully later 
on ; here I venture to assume the general character of the 
ballads to be already known : namely, that they contain, 
not an expression of lyrical, subjective feeling, but merely 
an epical narration of events. Nevertheless we find as 
a general rule in the first stanza of a ballad a lyrical 
outburst ; as, for instance, in " The Forced Consent " 
(No. 75) : 

B i . Have mercy, O Lord, our grief is deep, 
And sorrow reigns in our breast ; 
He who bears a secret sorrow, 
His heart is ill at rest. 
Have mercy, O Lord, our grief is deep. 

2. Winters fully five Sir Peter 
Proud Mettelille did woo ; 
But ever she put off her answer, 
Though yearly he did sue. 
Have mercy, O Lord, our grief is deep. 

1 TTieologisk Tidsskrift, published by Caspari and several others, II, 
463 ; Ketilson, Forordninger for Island, II, 414. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 29 

As we see here, the narrative is not taken up until the 
second stanza, or even until the third, as in " King 
Didrik in Birtingsland " (No. 8) : 

1. The king rules over the castle tower, 

And lords it over land, 
And many a gallant champion leads 

All armed and sword in hand. 
While the king rules over the castle tower. 

2. Then let the peasant till his farm, 

His horse the trooper guide, 
The king of Denmark, he alone, 

O'er fort and tower preside. 
While the king rules over the castle tower. 

3. King Didrik sits in Brattingsbord, 

Looks over land and sea ; 
" I know not one in all this world 
Dares match himself with me." 

(From Prior's " Danish Ballads.") 

In this ballad the story begins with the third stanza and 
has nothing to do with the king of Denmark ; on the 
contrary, it deals with Didrik and other champions. These 
preliminary stanzas constitute an introduction which strikes 
the keynote, and at the same time, in both of the examples 
quoted above, give rise to the refrain. 1 One more case 
may be cited from " The Valraven " (No. 60) : 

The raven wings his flight by night, 
He dares not stir by day ; 
111 luck befalls the wretched wight 
When good luck says him nay. 
The raven wings his flight by night. 

1 Scattered throughout his work, as well as in the preface to Part III, 
will be found Grundtvig's opinions on the subject of ballad burdens. 



30 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

The maiden stands on her tower high 
And gazes o'er land and sea ; 
She sees the wild Valraven winging 
His way o'er mountain-side and lea. 
The raven wings his flight by night. 

Here again it is manifest that the first stanza is lyrical in 
feeling and gives shape to the refrain. 

But there is still more to be gathered from ballad 
refrains. The ballad of " King Birger's Sister Bengta " 
(No. 155) begins : 

I dare not ride by the light of day ; 

I suffer grief and pain for a maiden proud and gay, 

They know my war array. 

It was young Sir Laurids, 
Had plighted his vows to his love so dear ; 
She spent her days in a cloister cell, 
And heavy sorrow lay him near. 
They know my war array. 

In the first stanza it is " I " that speaks, who must be iden- 
tical with Sir Laurids, the knight that dares not ride out by 
day because he is pursued and his shield too well known. 
But in the remainder of the ballad the " I " has completely 
disappeared, and the story is related in the customary third 
person. Furthermore it will be noted that the first stanza 
or refrain has an entirely different meter from that of the 
ballad proper. This has often escaped the notice of old 
collectors and editors, who, considering the verse to be 
defective, have made alterations in it. Accordingly Peder 
Syv has dressed up the foregoing lines into the following 
beautiful version ! 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 31 

I will not ride by day 
Through field and through forest ; 
I suffer for a proud young maiden 
Both grief and pain the sorest. 

As another example may be cited the following from 
"Proud Signild and Queen Sophie" (No. 129): 

1. The lyke-wake holds to-night, 
He wakes whoever will ; 

Proud Signelil wakes alone out in the forest green. 

2. Proud Signelil hasted to her mother and spake : 

He wakes whoever -will 

" May I to-night attend the wake ? " 

Proud Signelil wakes alone out in the forest green. 

From " King Hakon's Death " (No. 142) : 

It now has come 
What long ago was foretold 
Of Hakon, the holy king ; 
Norway a captive he holds. 

From "Marsk Stig's Daughter" (No. 146) : 

The king sits in Kollen, 

Hey / the rose and sweet flowers / 

The king's two daughters away were stolen. 

Nor spake they a word of their native towers. 

The eldest took the youngest by the hand, 
And so they journeyed to King Sifrid's land. 

Stanza one of " The Betrothed in the Grave " (No. 90) 
supplies an introduction if not a refrain : 

I . Three maidens sat in their bower, 

Two were plaiting gold ; 

The third bewailed her lover dead, 

Lay buried beneath the mould. 
For she had plighted her vows to the knight. 



32 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

2. It was the rich Sir Aage, 

He rode by the salt sea strand ; 

He wooed and won young Elselille, 

The fairest may in the land. 
For she had plighted her vows to the knight. 

Here the first stanza has nothing whatever to do with the 
narrative, which is taken up at the second ; it is simply an 
introduction which at the outset pictures the sorrowing 
maiden who was affianced to the rich young knight. 

We could point out this circumstance in a score of 
ballads. 1 It is true that this is a small number among 
so many hundreds. But we may rest assured that many 
ballads originally possessed such a stanza, which in the 
course of time has gone astray because one no longer 
understood that it was a part of the ballad, or which has 
undergone alteration to fit the usual verse form. In every 
case this opening stanza indicates clearly how the ballad 
used to be rendered. Between the introductory and the 
following stanzas there exists a marked contrast, which 
appears externally in the different rhythm of the two 
parts, and internally in the different nature of the subject 
matter. The introductory stanza is often lyrical or general 
in content and suggests the mood ; the main body of the 
ballad is narrative. If the first stanza thus differs from 
those that follow, on the other hand, it stands in the 
closest relation to the refrain of the ballad ; it even gives 
up one of its lines to the latter, or may be evolved there- 
from. The song or the dance begins in this fashion : the 
singer steps forth, holding some silver vessel in his hand ; 
he strikes up the tune and bids the others to participate, 

1 Nos. 8, 32, 60, 67, 75, 83, 129, 132, 138, 155, 196, 202, 249, 261, and 
several unpublished ballads. 



THE DANCE AND THE BALLAD 33 

the proceeding reminding us somewhat of the well-known 
first thirty-five bars of Weber's " Invitation to the Dance." 
The mood and tune which he has set afloat, and which is 
naturally identical with that of the ballad proper, is main- 
tained throughout by means of the constantly repeated 
refrain. 

In case a ballad contains no such introductory verse, it 
invariably begins with the refrain. It is not likely that the 
singer took up at once the narrative. This we can infer 
from the fact that the oldest manuscript copy of any heroic 
ballad in our possession " The Knight transformed into 
a Hart " (No. 67) begins as follows : 

I spent the live-long night dreaming of a maiden, 

It was Sir Peter, 

He bade his retainers run : 

" Could ye to proud Ose-lille 

And get me speech right soon ? " 
I spent the live-long night dreaming of a maiden. 

There is found also another ballad copy (Unpublished 
No. 156) which has the refrain placed at the beginning: 

I know a maiden in our land, she never leaves my fancy. 

In the music to the Faroese "Song of Sigurd" (Lyngbye's 
" Faeroiske Quaeder "), the refrain is likewise found at the 
beginning, a feature that is in accord with the practice of 
the islanders of always singing the refrain first, for it de- 
termined the tempo of the dance. The circumstance that 
nearly all ballad versions place the refrain after the first 
stanza or at the end of the ballad arises from the fact that 
here in every case was its proper place. 1 

1 Cf. also Grundtvig's statement to P. G. Thorsen, Om Runernes 
Brug til Skrift udenfor det monumentale, p. 53. 



CHAPTER III 
THE I 

Are the popular ballads lyrical ? That these songs do 
not voice the emotions of the poet himself admits of no 
question ; on the other hand, it can hardly be denied that 
they are expressive to the highest degree of the inner, 
emotional life. A consideration of their subject matter 
makes evident that the ballads are nothing more than 
tales which recount incident and action, either past or 
present. A consideration of their spirit, however, reveals 
to us that it is not mere accident which omits all men- 
tion of the poet's name and forces the singer to remain 
in the background. And however much the ballad may 
deal with strength and heroic deed, with faith and love, 
it never refers to these attributes and virtues as ideas and 
conceptions, but it always bodies forth such abstractions in 
the plastic figures of the actors. Accordingly all subjec- 
tivity is eliminated, the objectivity of the narrative forbids 
an alliance with the thoughts and impulses of the poet 
himself. Emotion never gets the upper hand of narra- 
tion ; the poet is not given to restless moods, nor does 
he linger over his own sorrows. The imagination of the 
audience is concerned with action and yet the ballad 
always awakens a peculiar feeling, a distinctive mood. 
This was precisely the intention of the narrative. But it 
brings this about so unobtrusively that we fail to note the 

34 



THE I 35 

design, and consequently we are aware of no discord. 
Thus far the lyric and the epic blend together in the 
ballad ; and even a didactic, a corrective, an admonitory 
tone may insensibly find its way into the ballad's epic 
mode of narration. No matter how great the variety, how 
numerous the moods and tones, the chords and harmonies 
that characterize our ballads, individually they bear no im- 
press of any one poet. The artist is here responsible for 
nothing. It is as if emotion had not yet learned to express 
itself without the aid of narration. Only at a later date 
did the lyric element diffuse itself through the ballads. In 
accordance with the demands of the prevailing taste, lyrical 
variations were woven into certain ballads as ornaments ; 
they were even shifted from ballad to ballad. Gradually 
there arose erotic, satiric, didactic, and allegorical ballads, 
but at this point we are wholly within the period of the 
Reformation, the period of the Renaissance in the North. 
The distinctive qualities of our ballads can be thrown 
into clearer relief if we institute a comparison with the 
medieval folk songs of Germany. In going through one 
of the many collections of these songs, we shall meet 
with such a love song as the following, which is older 
than 1400 : A11 mein Gedenken, die ich ban, 

die sind bei Dir, 

Du auserwahlter einger Trost 

bleib stets bei mir. . . . 

or this one, which antedates 1500 : 
Ach hertzigs Hertz, 
mein Scbmertz 
erkennen thu ! 
Ich hab kein Rub 
nach Dir steht mein Verlangen. . . . 



36 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

On the whole, some of the most beautiful flowers of Ger- 
man folk poetry of the Middle Ages are to be found in 
these love songs. The following charming little verse 
came into being as early as the twelfth century : 1 

Du bist min, ich bin din, 
des soltu gewis sin. 
Du bist beslozzen 
in minen herzen ; 
verloren ist das sluzzelin : 
du muost immer dar inne sin. 

There likewise belongs to this period a great variety of 
Tagelieder, in which lovers give utterance to their grief at 
having to part when day breaks upon them ; also Wdchter- 
lieder, of similar nature, in which the watchman, seeing 
daylight at hand, warns the lovers that it is time to part : 

Wohlauf, Wohlauf, mit lauter Stimm 
thut uns der Wachter singen. 

These Tagelieder were probably original with the Minne- 
singers ; but by the thirteenth century they had made 
their way into the ranks of the populace, where they be- 
came the property of all classes and passed from hand to 
hand. Furthermore we find songs dealing with nature, 
such as the following dance at the appearance of the 
first violet, which is from the fourteenth or the fifteenth 
century : Der MeyC) der Meye 

bringt uns der Bliimlein viel. . . . 

and the following, which antedates 1467 : 

Es ist ein Schnee gefallen, 
und es ist doch nit Zeit, 
man wirft mich mit dem Ballen, 
der Weg ist mir verschneit. 

1 Godeke, Grundrisz z. Geschichte d. d. Dichtung, 2d ed., I, 48. 



THE / 37 

Other songs that are met with are farewell songs, wan- 
derers' songs, riddle songs, wager songs, wishing songs, 
lansquenet, knight, and soldier songs, vocation songs, 
such as the fliting song between a nobleman and a peasant 
(thirteenth century), a student song from 1454 : 

ich weisz ein frisch Geschlechte, 

das sind die Burschenknechte (Burs, i.e. college) 

ihr Orden steht also : 

sie leben ohne Sorge 

den Abend und den Morgen 

sie sind gar statclich froh. . . . 

and finally spiritual songs and historical ballads. 1 

For parallels to the greater part of what is cited above 
one will search in vain our great store of ballad poetry of the 
Middle Ages. For us lyric poetry in its entirety was per- 
fected abroad ; at least no evidence to the contrary has 
come down to us. On the other hand, we possess an ex- 
tensive collection of songs concerning heroes, or, more 
properly, " heroic ballads," while Germany can lay claim 
to very few. Nor can the latter country point to any com- 
prehensive body of songs dealing with magic, or to any 
wide range of love ballads. 2 The North has long been the 

1 During the war which has been waged in Germany the past few 
years over the oldest popular poetry and its relation to " die hbfische 
Dichtung" (which had its origin in the twelfth century), it has been 
admitted by all that there existed previous to the Minnesingers a folk 
poetry with a subjective, lyrical stamp. On the other hand, it is not 
generally agreed whether this folk poetry had a very great accepta- 
tion, and the question has arisen, Did this folk poetry furnish a model 
for the Minnesongs, or did the latter evolve directly from the folk 
poetry? See Zeit.f. d. Altertum, XXVII, 343 ff., XXIX, 121 ff., XXXIV, 
146 ff. ; Zeit.f. d. Pkilologie, XIX, 440 ff. ; Germania, XXXIV, I ff. 

2 Talvj (Mrs. Robinson), Charakteristik der Volkslieder, pp. 389 ff. ; 
Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, pp. xxviii ff. 



38 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

home, as it were, of a serious, gloomy, often demoniacal, 
species of poetry, which refused to be deposed by the cul- 
ture of the South or by the spirit of Christianity. Not- 
withstanding the large number of popular songs of a ballad 
or romantic nature that is native to Germany, Goethe was 
not wrong in his observation that this kind of poetry would 
not have flourished with his German forefathers. 1 

In the Danish ballads we find more or less prominent 
an erotic element, a moral questioning, a sentiment for 
nature ; but in an objective sense something always hap- 
pens, action is always present. With the riddle songs of 
Germany mentioned above, we might well compare what 
is of a similar nature in the Icelandic riddle poems " Vaf- 
prudnismal," " Alvissmal," "Fjolsvinnsmal," and Hervor's 
and Heidrek's sagas. In the ballad of " Svend Vonved " 
(No. 1 8) we see also a series of riddles propounded and 
solved ; but, mind you, as a component part of the action. 
Though a large number of historical ballads have grown up 
on German soil, yet they all date from the conclusion of 
the Middle Ages. They differ from the Danish historical 
ballads, which are also considerable in number over three- 
score and, in addition, of the highest worth, in that 
they are more political, or inclined to talk politics, and 
hence composed from a definite standpoint and with a 
definite, practical end in view. It is also apparent that the 
subjective element is a prominent feature of the German 
ballads. Moreover, whereas the latter are short, very 
frequently being an outburst of only a couple of stanzas, 
or, at the most, of five or six, our ballads are long, seldom 
numbering fewer than twenty stanzas, and often many 

1 Bohme, Liederbuch, pp. xxviii ff. 



THE 7 39 

more. And finally, whereas the German ballads generally 
sing of "ein Fraulein," " ein Jiinglein," our ballads 
almost invariably attach specific names to the personages, 
such as " Little Kirstin," " Proud Elselil," " The Lady 
Mettelil," " Sir Ove," " Sir Peter," " Sir Lauge Stison," etc. 
How near we came to having erotic lyric poetry may 
be seen from the following poem, which dates from the 
Middle Ages. 1 

Love's true worth with song and mirth 

I shall never cease to honor ; 

A flower I know well whose name I '11 ne'er tell, 

But praise I shall heap upon her. 

Of all others she beareth the prize, 

Prudent, faithful, virtuous, wise, 

And loyal beyond them all. 

As the stars all pale in the light of the sun, 

So pale before this peerless one 

Women from thorp and hall. 

Heia, heia, 
Would that she gave me a call. 

Although the subject of this poem is not of earthly origin, 
although the maiden is not a mortal maiden, but the Virgin 
Mary, yet we should not hesitate to regard such a mode 
of expression as belonging to lyrics of love. Still a com- 
parison between this poem and the manner of erotic ex- 
pression to be found in our ballads cannot help but be 
instructive as showing how the more conscious and learned 
poet (in this case the monk Peder Reff Little) strikes a 
tone that is several octaves higher than that of the popular 
ballads, and adorns his execution with shakes and runs that 
are quite foreign to the naive utterance of the simple ballad. 

1 Brandt and Ilclveg, Den danske Psalmedigtning, I, x. 



40 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

With a few exceptions, the characteristics of the Danish 
ballads as sketched above hold good also of the other 
Scandinavian lands. With respect to Sweden, however, I 
may add that not only is her store of ballad material much 
less comprehensive than ours, but also that as early as the 
fifteenth century there began to appear both a more artifi- 
cial kind of poetry, which could be ascribed to definite 
authors (for example, Bishop Thomas), and a ballad poetry 
that was political and satirical. 1 

Leaving the subject of general characteristics, we shall 
now seek to determine just how far the ballads are imper- 
sonal, just how far the poet and singer remain concealed. 

I. A BALLAD WILL I SING TO YOU 

Every one knows how the modern street songs begin 
with a verse which resembles very closely that which we 
meet with in ballad No. 86 : 

A ballad will I sing to you, 
Which many a time I have sung, 
All how the lovely Lady Margaret 
Was loved by Sir Flores Bendiktson. 

Every one surely knows also that this is not the way our 
ballads usually begin. In this particular ballad of " Flores 
and Margaret," the above verse is found in a number of 
versions ; but this ballad belongs to the so-called ballads of 
romance, " which give us a picture, not of the actual life 
of the Middle Ages, but of the taste." They could better 
be designated as echoes of the romances of chivalry. That 

1 Hylten-Cavallius and G. Stephens, Sveriges historiska och politiska 
visor; H. Schiick, Svensk Literaturhistoria, pp. 119 ff. 



THE 7 41 

they date from a late period scarcely needs proof. I shall 
later touch more intimately upon their characteristics. 

The same introductory verse appears in several copies 
of " The Cloister Robbery " (No. 476) : 

1. A ballad will I sing to you, 
Come listen to my song, 

All how the young Sir Morten 
A lovely maiden won. 

2. Sir Morten wooed the maiden Lisbeth, 
Virtuous she was and fair ; 

Much it vexed the knight's friends 
That she lacked riches rare. 

In conformity with the general practice of ballad introduc- 
tions, the oldest copy of the ballad begins with the second 
of the above stanzas. Accordingly the first stanza should 
be omitted on account of both its extreme plainness and the 
absence of traditional warrant. 

We meet this verse again in a ballad whose age is 
known, namely, No. 172, "King Christian of Denmark 
in Sweden" (1520), which is preserved in a manuscript 

of 1550: 

1 . Come listen to my song, 
A ballad will I sing to you 

Of King Christian, the high-born prince, 
To whom all honor is due. 

2. There one wrote MD (i.e. 1500) 
And also the eighteenth year, 

At Helsingborg in Skaane the king 
He bade his folk appear. 

23. Attend to me yet awhile 
And hear what it is about ; 
Good Friday they did them all to Upland, 
There a marvellous play fell out. 



42 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

30. Praised be God, our Father in Heaven, 
The Danish men the glory have won ! 
God give us rest in Heaven at last, 
With Him to dwell forever at one. 

Such stanzas as the above are downright jarring on the 
ear, so striking is their departure from the usual ballad 
style. All this harangue, this learning, this direct appeal 
to the audience is utterly foreign to the style of other bal- 
lads. Such stanzas are therefore extremely significant for 
showing how people composed about 1 5 20, and how they 
did not compose in the Middle Ages. This species of 
introductory verse clearly belongs to a later date and to a 
pseudo-popular ballad literature. 

It is invariably the case that such verses are late addi- 
tions to ballads and not part and parcel of them originally. 
A similar verse is found in four out of the five copies of 
" Knud of Borg" (No. 195). The fact that it is not found 
in the Norse version led Landstad to remark that its 
presence in the Danish versions indicated " its recent 
origin." It turns up again in one of the five Icelandic 
versions, and also in ballad No. 212 (Abr.) ; but in the 
latter instance it is wanting in the oldest text and also in 
the Icelandic form. 

Accordingly we may safely affirm that no genuine 
popular ballad begins with the announcement that the 
singer will now sing a ballad. Long ago an excellent 
critic made a similar observation in connection with the 
Swedish ballads. Talvj (pseudonym of Mrs. Robinson) 
stated that, as far as she knew, not a single Swedish, 
and only two Danish, ballads began in the manner popu- 
lar with singers : " Ich will euch eine Weise singen," or 



THE 7 43 

" Kommt all' im Kreis und hort mir zu," etc., as do so 
many English and German ballads. 1 

In this connection the concluding stanza and its 
peculiarity may be discussed. " Sir Stig's Wedding " 
(No. 76 B) has this ending : 

Safe and sound from hurt and harm, 

Sir Stig sleeps nightly on Regisse's arm. . 

Stig Lilies' ballad is now at an end : 
May God in Heaven His grace us send ! 

It should be borne in mind that the first of the two 
stanzas just quoted forms the conclusion of a large number 
of our ballads. On the other hand, it is plain that the 
second is sheer fabrication ; it occurs only in texts B and 
F, texts that were not recorded until 1600. In some of 
the other, versions, which belong in part to manuscripts 
older than 1600, this last stanza is wanting. " Sir Bugge's 
Death " (No. 158) reads in conclusion : 

D 35. He ruled in Hald a year or so, 
More than this I cannot say. 

This clumsy verse appears in only one of the four texts, 
and this text belongs neither to Karen Brahe's Folio Manu- 
script of 1550 nor to Sten Miller's manuscript of 1555. 
Text B of " King Birger's Sister Bengta " (No. 155) has 
this ending : 

46. A ballad of these two 
I shall no longer sing, 
I trust they are at rest in Heaven 
And dwell with Heaven's King. 

1 Talvj, Versuch einer geschichtlichen Charakteristik der Volkslieder 
germanischer Nationen, p. 340. 



44 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

This text is "an uncalled-for revision of a genuine copy," 
whereas " only A can lay claim to being genuine " ; in A 
we do not find this stanza. All in all, these concluding 
stanzas of so unpoetic a character point to a late period. 

To return to the subject of ballad openings. There are a 
number of ballads which would seem to introduce the /of the 
singer into the ballad somewhat indirectly. One will perceive, 
however, that this is merely a question of the same conditions 
which I have mentioned in connection with the refrain. In 
a remarkably guileless manner both the singer and the audi- 
ence are ushered into the middle of events by a stanza such 
as the following from" German Gladensvend" (No. 33 B,C): 

I. Our king and his young queen 
They sailed them over the sea, 
They found their ship held fast in the waves, 
And no breeze to set them free. 

Here, however, the our is perhaps an interloper ; a text 
equally old and another somewhat younger have " The 
king and queen of Denmark." 

Again we read in " Find Lille " (No. 123) : 

3. He summons the king and all his men : 
Our fair young queen shall follow them. 

Since this verse is found only in Magdalena Barnewitz's 
manuscript of 1650, and is, in addition, borrowed from 
" Sir Stig's Wedding " (No. 76) : 

A 48. He summons the king and all his men : 

The Danish queen home must follow them, 

its testimony is of little worth. In " The Knight trans- 
formed into a Bird " (No. 68) the first verse runs : 

There lives a maiden in our land 
Denies the suit of every man. 



THE I 45 

So in versions B and C, which belong to manuscripts of 
1650 and after; whereas the other five versions, among 
them A of 1550, do away with otir. In "Proud Elin's 
Revenge " (No. 209), from Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript, 
is met this opening stanza : 

1. It was the bold Sir Renold, 
Rode by the salt sea strand, 

He wooed Sir Bunde's daughter, 
The fairest in the land. 

2. He wooed Sir Bunde's daughter, 
He led her home : 

The king and our archbishop 
With them did come. 

This our seems to have intruded itself a number of times 
into late forms of ballads ; its presence may be explained, 
however, by the desire of the singer to plunge his audience 
into the thick of events right at the beginning of the ballad. 
This is further borne out by the fact that in certain ballads 
we find the refrain closely bound up with the opening 
stanza. Compare the beginning of " Olaf and Asser 
White " (No. 202) : 

There stands without our castle-gate 
Many a noble knight ; 
There are two maidens fair within, 
Of love they think but light. 

Sir Olaf and Sir Asser White 
They bade their pages run : 
" Do ye to those maidens fair, 
And get us speech right soon." 
There are two maidens fair within. 

The refrain grows out of the first of these two stanzas. 



46 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Equally significant are the opening stanzas in version C 
(Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript) of " The Forced Con- 
sent" (No. 75) : 

1 . I heard a knight in my lady's bower, 
And they were seated at play, 

Of gold the table and red gold the dice, 
And he wooed the maiden gay. 
No one can with her compare. 

2. " Hear my suit my lady fair, 
Nor grace from me withhold ; 
And you shall wear the scarlet fine 
And shoes of the ruddy gold." 

No one can with her compare. 

Thus it is reasonably certain that such an opening is merely 
an overture, an introduction to the tale which assures the 
audience, as it were, that he who sings and relates was an 
eye-witness of the event. Another form of ballad structure 
opens up with the refrain : 

B i. Have mercy, O Lord, our grief is deep 
And sorrow reigns in our breast ; 
He who bears a secret sorrow, 
His heart is ill at rest. 
Have mercy, O Lord, our grief is deep. 

The examples cited above by no means conflict, as will be 
evident, with my former assertion that the personality of 
the singer never fills the foreground of the ballad ; I have 
shown above that it also counts for nothing in this re- 
spect when the singer steps out in front and, with cup 
raised aloft, leads the song and dance. And it is in the 
same light that we are to regard his appearance here in the 
first stanza. 



THE I 47 

Meanwhile it will prove instructive to note the length 
to which the introductory portions of ballads attain. The 
" Combat with the Worm " (No. 24) begins as follows : 

1. When that I was a little boy 
Herding the cattle and sheep ; 
I found a little spotted snake 
Gliding through the grasses deep. 

And she bore the prize from all. 

2. I lifted up the spotted snake, 

And wrapped it in a mantle around ; 
To Helsing's daughter at Lundegaard 
I made a gift of what I found. 

3. " A thousand thanks, my bonny boy, 

A thousand thanks for the gift you gave ; 
I '11 ne'er forget what I owe to you 
If e'er a boon you crave." 

4. She fed the snake the winter through 
And winters fully three, etc. 

Only at this point begins the tale of the snake and the 
maiden ; the peasant lad disappears completely from view. 
The snake grows up into a loathsome monster, which 
keeps the maiden a prisoner. Her father promises that 
he who slays the monster shall have his daughter to wife. 
The first to attempt the feat, Sivard Ingvordson, fails out- 
right. Then Peder Riboltson presents himself, and, pro- 
tected by a bull's hide smeared with tar, succeeds in killing 
the snake and winning the maiden. 

Similar in nature are the introductory portions of several 
ballads in which the singer intimates that his song and 
story are based on experience, or in which he practically 
inquires whether they have heard the same story. To this 



48 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

class belong those ballads in which the singer affirms (as 
in No. 22), " It 's talked of far and near " that such and 
such a thing has happened ; or, as in " King Hakon's 
Death " (No. 142), " It now has come what long ago was 
foretold." Then the narrative proper is taken up. Here 
we must also assign " Niels Paaskeson and Lave Brok " 
(No. 164), which besings an event dating from 1468. 
Before relating how Lave Brok slew Niels Paaskeson, the 
singer sets forth how the Paaskesons, a merchant family 
in Randers, built such a dwelling that the castles of the 
nobility were all dwarfed in comparison. 

1. The Paaskesons have built a house 
In the middle of Randers' street ; 
In all my days so high a house 
My eyes did never meet. 

Paaskesons'' house tops the castles. 

2. One finds within this same house 
Stories fifteen in all ; 

The knobs are of the red, red gold, 
They shine o'er croft and wall. 

3. One finds within this same house 
Fifteen doors, stout and strong ; 
Never yet saw I such a house 

In all my life so long. 

4. One finds within this same house 
Both mead and cider good ; 
One finds within this same house 
Five winters' fill of food. 

5. It was Niels Paaskeson, 

He strides down Randers' street, etc. 

Herewith the story runs on in the usual narrative style. 



THE I 49 

II. MONOLOGUE WITHIN THE BALLAD 

Several of our ballads present further peculiarities. As 
every one knows, the style of narrative usually in vogue 
with the ballad is akin to that of the epic ; that is, the singer 
stands in an impersonal relation to the events of his story, 
intruding neither himself nor his own conclusions into his 
verse. This last consideration affects also the actors in the 
ballad, who, to a large extent, are made to speak only so far 
as their speeches forward the requisite dramatic effect. But 
it sometimes happens that that portion which in one ballad 
is told in the third person, in another is put into the mouth 
of some speaker, who at a certain point appears upon the 
scene. " The picture which the one ballad unrolls before 
us in its entirety," says Grundtvig, " is, in the second 
instance, thrust back to form the background. In the 
second picture, then, the spirited life and stir of the back- 
ground is thrown into strong relief by the extreme sim- 
plicity and repose of the foreground. At the same time, 
the latter forms a substantial complement to the action 
itself " (Grundtvig, II, 390 ; V, 289). " Ribolt and Guld- 
borg" (No. 82) tells how Ribolt, having carried off his 
truelove Guldborg, is overtaken by her father and brothers ; 
he rights manfully with them until Guldborg, against his 
injunction not to speak his name (" name him to death "), 
calls out : " Ribolt, spare my youngest brother ! " Upon 
this he loses his strength and receives a deadly wound. 
Guldborg herself dies shortly afterwards. " Hildebrand 
and Hilde " (No. 83) relates how Hilde sewed her seam 
so recklessly that it attracted the notice of the queen, who 
was led to ask where her thoughts were. Thus she learned 



50 

of Hilda's sorrow. It had happened with Hilde as with 
Guldborg ; she had called to Hildebrand to spare at least 
her youngest brother. After his death she had been sold 
by her parents. Then the ballad goes on to say : 

The queen then spake in changed tone, 
And fast the tears her cheek ran down : 

" Now that thy sad tale is done, 

Thy lord was Hildebrand, my own dear son." 

Scarce had Hildelil told her tale, 
When at the foot of the queen she fell. 

The queen in her heart was sad and wae, 
Dead in her arms proud Hildelil lay. 

In the above ballad the story is set in a frame, which 
serves to isolate the narrator from his audience, despite the 
fact that a large part of the ballad is told in the first person. 
The same conditions are met with in "The Maiden 
transformed into a Wolf" (No. 55) and in "The Maiden 
transformed into a Hind " (No. 58). The latter tells in the 
third person how Sir Peder kills a hart; when he is about 
to flay it, he finds his sister within the skin, who relates to 
him how her wicked stepmother had changed her succes- 
sively into a pair of scissors, a sword, a hare, and a hind. 
Sir Peder cuts his little finger and gives her blood to drink, 
whereby she is retransformed into a beautiful maiden. 
In revenge they cast the stepmother into a spiked barrel. 
The same story is found in " The Maiden transformed 
into a Wolf" (No. 55), where the maiden herself relates 
how she, in the shape of a wolf, has torn her stepmother 
to pieces. In the end she enters a cloister. As the third 



THE I 51 

set of parallels may be mentioned " The Bold Sir Nilaus' 
Reward" (No. 270) and " Redselille and Medelvold" 
(No. 271) in conjunction with "The Son's Sorrow" (No. 
272). The first two recount the fortunes of a maiden who 
has been abducted. In the journey through the woods she 
is overtaken by the pangs of childbirth. She dies while 
her lover is in search of water. When he finds her dead, 
he slays himself. The third text puts the story into the 
mouth of the lover himself a manifest absurdity, espe- 
cially when it appears that he sings in conclusion : 

A 21. I set my sword against a stone, 

Off the point my heart's blood ran down. 

This verse is impossible. The Icelandic, Norse, and Swed- 
ish versions represent the lover as narrating the story to 
one of his parents, as, for instance, in the following Norse : 

Up and spake his father then : 

" Why sittest thou so still and wan ? 

" Your noble brethren leap and run, 
But ever thou sittest still and wan." 

" I served a count for meat and fee, 
And he had daughters three," etc. 

When he had told his tale so sad, 

In his father's arms he fell down dead. 

An exactly parallel situation is found in a fourth Danish 
ballad, "The Companion's Grief" (No. 273), in which it 
is a comrade who asks his fellow if he is borne down by a 
secret sorrow. The latter then details the causes of his 
melancholy and dies immediately. 

The result of this investigation brings out that a couple 
of ballads are characterized by monologue spoken by the 



52 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

chief personage, and furthermore that these ballads are 
supplemented by others, which incase the monologue in 
a setting of narration, thus allowing the third person to 
appear at the beginning and at the end of the ballad. 
Here again we seem to be reminded that narration in the 
first person is not in favor with ballad style, that it is 
even looked upon as foreign, and that, when it is used in 
isolated cases, it is made a part of the story itself. 

We can note exactly similar characteristics in Old Norse 
poetry. As an exception to the general run of the " Elder 
Edda " may be named the second " Lay of Gudrun," in 
which Gudrun herself tells her experiences. Now this lay 
could be easily transposed, by scarcely more than chang- 
ing / to she, into a form analogous to the other lays, since 
the monologue of Gudrun contains in direct discourse not 
only her own words, but also the words of those with whom 
she speaks. As was pointed out by Grundtvig, the orig- 
inal form of this lay was doubtless that of an impersonal 
narrative recited by the poet. Those who came upon the 
stage spoke in their own persons. The lays resembling 
most closely the structure of this lay are two from a later 
period - " Oddrunargratr ' ' and ' ' GuSrunarhvot ' ' ; but here 
we have in the introduction the situation and the occasion 
of the retrospective monologue, which then follows as the 
main body of the recital. And in this monologue none of 
the characters speak in their own persons. Narrative in 
the first person does not seem to have become prevalent 
until later. 1 

1 Svend Grundtvig, Udsigt over den nordiske Oldtids heroiske 
Digtning, pp. 79 ff. 



THE I 53 

III. THE CHANGE OF NARRATOR IN THE BALLAD 

A number of ballads present the curious feature of 
changing the person of the narrator. " True as Gold " 
(No. 254), for instance, begins with: 

A i. Early in the morning the knight rides out 
To chase the roe and the deer ; 
I found a maid on the mountain-side, 
My service I offered to her. 

Hereupon the /disappears, leaving behind only the knight 
and the maiden. In B and C we have the stanza : 

I rode me out in the morning early 
To chase the roe and the deer ; 
I found a maiden under a linden, 
My service I offered to her. 

In the stanza that follows the recital deals only with the 
young man and the maiden. As will be shown later, the 
ballad is borrowed from abroad ; but in the four German 
and the one Netherland parallels which Grundtvig cites, 
the narrative is told entirely in the third person. 

" The Maiden transformed into a Bird " (No. 56) is 
an account of how a maiden was metamorphosed by her 
wicked stepmother, first into a hind, and then into a 
hawk, and her attendant maids into wolves. Her lover is 
on the point of attempting her capture, when he is told 
that he cannot hope to insnare the hawk unless he offers 
as a bait the flesh of a domesticated animal. He there- 
upon cuts a slice from his own breast and gives it to the 
hawk, which at once assumes the form of a most beauti- 
ful girl. In the first eight stanzas of the ballad it is the 



54 THE .MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

girl herself who speaks ; but from this point on to the end 
the recital is concerned only with the girl and the hawk. 

i . When that I was a little boy, 
My mother fell sick and died ; 
My father rode out o'er the land, 
Brought home another bride. 

8. My love he serves at the court of the king, etc. 

15. The youth he cut a slice from his breast 
And hung it high on the linden tree ; 
Full glad was she, for sore was her need, 
And flapped her wings right lustily. 

23. The youth has now got his reward, 
Safely has he won from harm ; 
At night he sleeps full joyously 
Within his truelove's arms. 

This singularity manifests itself in several texts with the fol- 
lowing arrangement: A stanzas 1-8 7, 9-23 she; B 1-8 /, 
9-24 she ; C i / (but the / of the singer, not of the 
maiden), the remainder in the third person ; D third per- 
son throughout except in 2 ; E i / (of the young man), 
2-8 he ; F 1-16 /(of the maiden), 17-18 she. 

"The Maiden's Morning Dream" (No. 239) tells the 
story of a girl who is treated rather harshly by her 
maternal aunt. She dreams that she is a duck in the pond 
of the Wendish king ; when pressed to sell her dream she 
refuses. Immediately the Wendish king appears on the 
scene and demands her in marriage ; this is consummated, 
despite the efforts of her aunt to prevent it. Three good 
texts start out with the narration in the first person (A 1-4, 
B 1-3, D i, 2) and then change to the third person, which 
carries it on. 



THE I 55 

" Folke Algotson " (No. 180) relates how a young man 
carries out the request of his truelove to arrive on the scene 
in time to prevent her marriage to another. At the proper 
moment thirty youths clad in mail appear on the spot and 
carry off the bride. The different copies of this ballad 
present the greatest variations: B I, 26-29 third person, 
4-25 /; G 1-3, 9-16 third person, 4-8 /; H (from 1650) 
1-3 third, 4-12 /; I and K also fluctuate; and D (from 
Peder Syv) has in the beginning (1-4) and the conclu- 
sion (23, 24) the first person, and in the intervening stan- 
zas (5-22) the third. In an unpublished ballad (No. 46) 
we likewise find an /, which gradually gives way to he. 
Another unpublished ballad (No. 299) offers us two old 
forms, one of which uses the third person throughout ; 
the other uses the first up to the middle of the ballad, 
where it changes over to that of the maiden, who, by the 
way, comes to her death. 

The inference that ballads so constructed would not 
admit of singing is untenable in the light of the similarity 
presented by ballads collected in our own day by the school- 
master Kristensen. For instance, in "The Faithless Bride " 
(Kristensen, I, No. 78 ; II, No. 54) we find / in the first 
part, but in the last stanza he. In " The Meeting in the 
Wood " (Kristensen, I, No. 79 ; Grundtvig, No. 284) 
the first few stanzas are told in the words of the actors 
themselves, whereas the remainder is related in the third 
person. In "The Poacher" (Kristensen, II, No. 6) /runs 
through all the twenty-two stanzas except the fifteenth ; in 
this instance, however, the alteration might well be due 
to a lapse of memory, which so often has disfigured the 
original aspect of a ballad. 



$6 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In reply to the question, Which of the two forms is the 
older, narration or monologue, only one answer is pos- 
sible. The simple recital of events that have befallen others 
appears to be far more natural than a monologue, which is 
open to many objections. In addition to the fact that they 
contain the speeches of all the actors, the ballads are other- 
wise highly dramatic in structure. Although, as a rule, it 
is not said who is speaking, yet it is never a matter of 
doubt. Now, if he who is the main character in the ballad 
is at the same time the narrator, and if he has occasion to 
speak with any one of the other characters, it will be diffi- 
cult to make his replies appear as such, namely, to make 
them stand out distinct from his narrative, unless he uses 
the rather unfortunate ' ' I said . " In other words, the dramatic 
force of the ballad is ruined and the impression confused 
by such a multitude of /'s. Moreover monologue is absurd 
when a tragic end awaits the singer, since it is manifestly 
impossible for a person to tell the story of his own death. 
Accordingly the stanza cited above in " The Son's Sorrow" 
(No. 272) is sheer nonsense. Such a novel style of story- 
telling as is met with in the "Rimed Chronicle," in which 
each king relates how he died and was buried, does not lend 
itself to imitation in a song which has a musical delivery. 

But first and foremost must be taken into consideration 
man's natural timidity about laying bare his whole history 
to the general multitude, especially where, as in the bal- 
lads, it is a case of exposing his innermost feelings. When 
Ingemann decided to write his experiences, he sought 
a mode of expression that would permit him to stand 
objectively apart from his life and to look back upon his 
career as though it were terminated. This " insulating 



THE I 57 

stool," which, by permitting him to overlook his past, 
would vouchsafe him freedom and spare him confessional 
obligations, he discovered at last, he writes, " approximately 
by just using he for /in writing about himself." 

If this is true of a literary artist in a thoroughly cultured 
period, how must it be with an unsophisticated singer ap- 
pearing before an artless folk ? Even if the balladist, unlike 
Ingemann, does not precisely relate his own experiences, 
yet he knows full well that he whom these things did be- 
fall would have been reluctant enough to speak without 
the aid of this " insulating stool." 

" The simple man," says a German writer, " who is 
wholly possessed by an emotion that demands expression 
lacks the courage to body it forth in its naked reality ; he 
is ashamed to appear as suffering from the force of his 
own emotions. Therefore he conceals it under the form 
of a simile or picture, or assuming the character of a 
dispassionate narrator he employs an epic situation to 
give vent to the feelings under which he labors." l It is 
precisely on this basis that the epic-lyric romances have 
become the most accepted form for all folk poetry, and 
this is most eminently true of our Danish ballads. When- 
ever these deviate from that form, whenever the / becomes 
predominant, we have every reason to believe such cases 
to be exceptions. We can well understand the need, which 
might easily have arisen even when the /-form of narra- 
tion was used, of concealing the face, as it were, by letting 
what was told take the shape of a story foisted upon some 
one else and not as the experiences of the narrator, who 
would now be in the position to stand by as an auditor. 

1 Berger, in Zeit.f. d. Philologie, XIX, 443. 



58 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In the same manner we may explain those ballads in 
which / gradually and unobtrusively goes over into he. 
In certain ballads the / that is found in the introductory 
stanza, where the singer himself speaks, or where he 
stands in some definite relation to the action, has, to be 
sure, spread improperly throughout the entire ballad. But 
this does not account for all the cases where there is an 
interchange of the first and third persons. Nor can it be 
assigned to chance or to mistakes in writing the ballad 
down, for we see the same thing obstinately persisting in 
the songs of the peasants to-day. Hence there seems to 
be no other alternative possible than to regard it as a pecu- 
liarity inherent in popular poetry and in artless methods 
of singing. Children and negro servants exhibit a similar 
inclination to substitute their own names for 7. 1 The folk 
singer never obtrudes himself, and, during the progress of 
the ballad, he always remains an outsider. And it is well 
to notice that the shifting of persons in the ballad is 
always from the first to the third, never from the third to 
the first. If this exchange rested upon mere caprice or 
upon a faulty memory, the reverse phenomenon would 
certainly have taken place. This, however, we never find. 

IV. / THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BALLAD 

It is manifest from the above discussion that one will 
have to search a long time before he finds a ballad in 
which the singer is completely merged into the chief char- 
acter. The question naturally arises, If no ballads exist in 
which the poet has composed according to the art of song 

1 Cf. also Jakob Grimm, Kleinere Schriften, III, 241 ff. ; Burdach, 
in Zeit.f. d. Altcrtum, XXVII, 351. 



THE 7 59 

affected by modern lyrics, what has become of him ? The 
answer does not admit of detail, since the number of such 
ballads is very small, and since they all virtually lead to 
the same conclusions that have been already reached. 

As the first of these can be cited " Hedeby's Ghost " 
(No. 91), which begins as follows : 

1. I rode abroad till eventide, 

I tethered my steed by my side. 

2. I laid my head on the bent so brown, 
And longed right sorely for slumber sound. 

3. The sleep that first did seal my eyes, 
Before my view a corpse did rise. 

4. "If you are a man of my race, 
You shall set to rights my case." 

The dead man goes on to relate how his wife encompassed 
his death, how she lives with his squire as a mistress, and 
how she humiliates his children. Here the ballad ends, 
being only a fragment. Several versions from other lands, 
however, have preserved the conclusion. The Norse text, 
for instance, which Bugge heard sung in Telemark (" Old 
Norse Popular Ballads," No. 15), begins with /, to whom 
the ghost appears and relates his melancholy tale ; this / 
is changed at the end of the ballad to Herrepaer, who 
wreaks vengeance on Lady Ingeborg. 

i. I walked abroad late at night, etc. 

8. An angry man waxed Herrepaer, 

And from the wood the corpse he bore. 

9. Herrepasr cast the corpse to the floor 
Pale, then black, was Ingeborg's color. 

13. They buried her alive under a stone. 



60 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

With this the ballad concludes. The dead man was avenged 
and the wife punished. The Norse version has lost its sig- 
nificance for our purpose, however, for it will be noted that 
it employs the old, familiar device of starting out with /, 
which toward the end gives way to Herrepaer. The Swedish, 
German, and Slavic versions, moreover, tell the story in 
the third person. The source of the Danish version, which 
is found only in Vedel's collection, is not known to us. 

Peculiarly unique is the highly subjective little ballad 
of "The Young Man's Complaint" (No. 53). 7 was 
banished by my stepmother during my father's absence 
from home ; in the valley lived a huge serpent, of which 
7 was much afraid ; 7 saw two red roses, but they were 
uprooted by the serpent ; in a green meadow 7 saw a 
maiden preparing a young man's bed ; under the coverlet 
7 found my brother with my truelove ; 7 went away, and 
on a green stretch of land 7 came upon a roebuck play- 
ing with a roe ; since the death of my father and mother 
(but note that the father was still alive in the first stanza) 
7 have not a single true friend left ; " the more I mourn, 
the less relief I find." Neither Northern nor foreign 
parallels exist to throw light upon this curious ballad. It 
tells of many different things and throws out occasional 
hints and allegorical suggestions ; but these are only half 
intelligible. Its main drift is apparently to voice the 
lowest depths of pessimism, a feature often met with in 
ballads dating from the conclusion of the sixteenth cen- 
tury (see below). The oldest manuscript in which it is 
found belongs to the age of Frederick II. 

In the manuscript of Anna Basse's (c. 1600), but in 
no other place, is found a ballad (Unpublished No. 134) 



THE 7 61 

which tells how / arrived at a castle, where / was well 
received by two maidens and put to bed ; one of them lay 
down by my side. The remarkable thing about this 
meager, worthless fragment is that the majority of its 
verses are repeated in a ballad from Arwidsson's collec- 
tion (No. 147), which has to do with a mountain maid 
whose singing makes the streams to stop and listen. This 
Swedish version belongs to the class of fairy hillock bal- 
lads, and accordingly ends with the well-known verse, that 
if the cock had not flapped his wings, the young man 
would not have escaped from the hill. I shall revert to 
the fairy hillock ballads shortly. 

" The Nightingale " (No. 57) "I know well where a 
castle stands" is, as Grundtvig pointed out, entirely 
wanting in popular elements. That it belongs to the 
seventeenth or eighteenth century will be shown later. 
Another ballad (Unpublished No. 171) "I dreamed at 
night as I lay in sleep," which has affinities with a lyric 
of love, is a translation of a German ballad " Mir 
traumte in einer Nacht gar spat." 

Schoolmaster Kristensen has discovered in Jutland a 
ballad which contains rules that are to be observed by 
young men when courting (Kristensen, II, No. 27) : 

i. I rede you, young men, come learn of me 
What to do in the bower of a fair lady. 

Hereupon follows a deal of good advice. In Anna Urop's 
"Book of Ballads," from 1610, there is found a similar 
ballad with directions for the conduct of young men ; as, 
for example, 

Clasp her fingers gently, draw boldly near ; 

If thou knowest how to love, she will hold thee dear. 



62 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

According to this old ballad, it is the young man who 
goes to his foster-mother and asks her to advise him how 
to win a maiden. In a Swedish, and also in a Norse, version, 
the mother gives the advice to the son as he is about to 
set out for the wedding feast. Here we see again how the 
ballad will not allow direct speech to run through the 
whole. None of these forms can be traced farther back 
than 1610, and their whole character, marked as it is by 
wide departure from popular ballad style, indicates that 
the ballad itself is not much older. Furthermore some of 
its versions are borrowed directly from German ballads. 

A noteworthy exception comes to light in " The Elf en 
Hill" (No. 46) "I laid me down on an elfen hill." 
Here we have before us virtually a subjective, lyrical bal- 
lad. Of action there is very little. A youth, enchanted 
with the dancing of an elf maid, is on the point of being 
lured into the interior of the hill, when, fortunately, the 
flapping of the cock's wings announcing the approach of 
day warns the maiden that she must flee. Text A alone 
contains the additional features of the youth's recognizing 
his sister in the elf maid, and of her counsel not to drink the 
draft which the girls offer to him, but to let it run down his 
breast. In this text, however, as in all the others, the main 
point is the presentation of a scene showing the effect of 
the song on nature, on the streams, the fishes, and the 
birds. This capital ballad, it seems to me, must assuredly 
be referred to a late period, certainly as late as the begin- 
ning of the sixteenth century, both because of the forms of 
speech used, and because of the stress laid upon the lyrical 
element, together with an absence of epical content. In any 
case, it constitutes an exception to the general run of ballads. 



THE 7 63 

It remains to note a couple more of ballads which use / 
throughout; the first, a rather extravagant production, is 
" The Maiden's Punishment " 1 (No. 464), and the second 
" The Cloister Maiden " (No. 20 in Grundtvig's " Heroic 
Ballads," 1867). In this last ballad a maiden sings of how 
she was betrayed by her lover, and how she desires to take 
the veil. 

9. I '11 now seek out some cloister lone, 
And serve the Virgin meek ; 
Never again will I trust a young man, 
Though he burn to a fiery gleed. 

10. The first step you step that cloister within, 
You meet three bad dishes ; 

The first is Hunger, the second Thirst, 
The third is Wakeful Nights. 

11. Oh ! and if the cloister were burned, 
And all the nuns were dead, 

And that I had a faithful friend 
Who would me clothe and feed. 

12. Now I am like the silly man 
Who built his house on the ice ; 

The ice gave way, and the house sank down, 
Sorrow has made him wise. 

13. Now I am like the lonely tree 
That stands on the plain so wide ; 
Far from shelter, far from town, 
Where the wind sweeps from every side. 

1 A maiden has taken refuge with a young man ; she is driven away 
by his relatives ; she wanders about as a beggar until the plague visits 
the land, when all her relatives die, leaving her rich ; she then accepts 
the youth who was her lover, and who had given her bread and water 
when she was in poverty. 



64 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

14. Now I am like the little bird 

Which flies o'er the plain so wide ; 
Try where it may, it finds no spot 
Where it and its nest may abide. 

Grundtvig has already remarked that this lament cannot 
be old : " It is perhaps no older than the fifteenth century." 
It would be more correct to assign it to the first half of 
the sixteenth. There is altogether too much art displayed 
in its parallelism. Stanzas 5 and 6 are parallel ; also 7, 8, 
and 9; also 12, 13, and 14. The similitude in stanza 10 
of the " three bad dishes " smacks too much of a taste 
that belongs to the world of culture, and is entirely foreign 
to ballad style. On the whole, its accumulation of images 
and its use of proverbs agree but little with the language 
of popular ballads. This point will be discussed at more 
length later on. All in all, the form of the ballad seems 
to have been affected by subsequent accretions. It begins 
with the singer proposing to enter the cloister, but it ends 
with her being already an inmate, who wishes that it would 
burn down. Quite otherwise runs the Swedish version 
(Arwidsson No. 123), which consists of only five stanzas. 
In stanza 4 we find the line, " They led her into the 
cloister," etc. Here, then, we notice that the first person is not 
employed throughout. When we take into further considera- 
tion the fact that this same subject is treated very vigorously 
in a German ballad, we seem to have sufficient ground for re- 
garding this ballad as heterogeneous and, at any rate, recent. 
Thus I have gone through all the modes in which the 
/manifests itself in the ballads. I have shown to what 
extent the balladist remains incognito, and how little it is 
known that some ballads are monologues which are spoken 



THE 7 65 

by the chief characters, and that others are given up to 
subjective, lyrical expression. The two ballads that partake 
of this latter nature bear every token of belonging to the 
sixteenth century, and not to the Middle Ages. As a rule, 
the 7 and the pure lyrical element appear in the first stanza 
and in the refrain ; the remaining portion of the ballad is 
always taken up with objective, epical narrative. 

How little known it is that the above is the main ten- 
dency of ballads is strikingly borne out by the following 
instance. On the basis of two ballad lines, which are pre- 
served in a runic manuscript of Skaane laws (c. 1 300), the 
learned Professor L. Fr. Laffler has recently composed a 
little song of five stanzas, "just as he thought the ballad 
would have continued it." l 

I dreamed a dream late last night, 
Of silk and the velvet fine. 
He has won to his prize at last, 
This gallant knight of mine. 
But where Oh ! where will he find rest f 

He bore me away from the cloister wall, 
And set me on his charger brown. 
And so with pomp and prancing steed 
We rode into the town. 
But -where Oh ! where will he find rest ? 

The wedding passes off safely and merrily, and she sleeps 
in her lord's arms. 

I awoke and still in my cloister bed 
I lay, cold and alone. 
Vanished were all my garments gay, 
The bridal feast was gone. 
But where Oh ! where shall I find rest ? 

1 Nyare bidrag till Kannedom om de svenska landsmSlen och svenskt 
folklif, Vol. VI ; see Minor Articles, p. cl. 



66 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Granted that it be very pretty indeed, yet Professor Laffler 
has wholly missed the mark. Not only do the complaints 
of nuns dissatisfied with their chosen lot belong entirely 
to the close of the Middle Ages or to the period of the 
Reformation, but also the /-form, as has been pointed out, is 
practically unknown to our ballads of the Middle Ages. 
Above all, the poet failed to perceive that the two extant 
lines constitute an introduction, in which the /, in accordance 
with the old laws of poetry, has the right to appear ; and 
that it should vanish at once after having struck the key- 
note and possibly indicated the refrain. It is therefore 
utterly beside the mark to surmise how the ballad may 
have run. Thus much is certain, however, it was not a 
lyrical, erotic lament, but an epical ballad whose story was 
told in the third person. 

V. THIS I SAY TO YOU IN SOOTH 

Hitherto I have avoided mentioningone form of/, namely, 
that verse which we meet a hundred times : " This I say to 
you in sooth." We are fully aware by this time how seldom 
the / of the poet makes its appearance in the ballads, even 
if the / of the actor now and then is found. The poet can 
intrude himself only in the introductory stanza, and in the 
line just referred to, which greets us with such extraordinary 
frequency that it has come to be regarded as a character- 
istic of ballad form. Keeping in mind the fact that the /, 
as we have seen, is all but constantly held in leash, could 
we entertain the supposition that its continual appearance 
in the ballads resulted from the need which the / felt of 
expressing itself ? Or could it not rather be a line which, 



THE 7 67 

not the poet, but he who in later times sang or noted down 
the ballad used whenever his memory failed him ? 

We meet with this line even in the first ballad of 
Grundtvig's collection " Thor of Havsgaard " (No. i), 
which is handed down from antiquity in two old manu- 
scripts, A together with Vedel B. In A we find the line 
three times : 

A 14. Then they brought the young bride forth, 
They brought her into the bridal court ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
No gold was grudged the players' sport 

20. Eight there were of warriors 
They carried the hammer on a tree ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 

They laid it over the bride's knee. 

21. It was then the young bride 
Took the hammer in her hand ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
She tossed it lightly as a wand. 

Its very position here in the middle of the ballad goes to 
prove that it is a corruption, for certainly one would expect 
a heightening of expression or an unexpected turn in the 
thought to justify the use of the assertion that the balladist 
is telling the truth. There is nothing wonderful, however, 
in a warrior's placing a hammer on the bride's knee. 
Vedel, therefore, in his rendering, which is based on the 
two manuscripts, has corrected the line to : 

They laid it then so artfully 
Right over the bride's knee. 

The same general criticism holds true of line four in 
stanza 14 "No gold was grudged the players," which 



68 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

appears constantly in the ballads, and which was never 
omitted by the " players " when they performed for money ; 
probably it was often introduced as a suggestive reminder 
to the audience. The insertion in this stanza, as well as 
that of the other line, seems wholly mechanical ; apparently 
the reciter had forgotten the two genuine lines. The text of 
the same ballad which Kristensen noted down in Jutland 
not long ago has the following stanzas corresponding to 
stanzas 20 and 2 1 above : 

22. Twelve there were of warriors 
To lift the hammer at all ; 

But eighteen there were of warriors 
Bore it into the hall. 

23. Eighteen there were of warriors 
Bore it into the hall ; 

But it was the stout young bride 
Raised it with her fingers small. 

From this stanza then, it would seem possible to construct 
a more correct stanza than stanza 20 of Grundtvig's version ; 
as, for example : 

Twelve there were of warriors 
Carried the hammer on a tree ; 
Eighteen there were of warriors 
Laid it over the bride's knee. 

Furthermore it may be noted that the modern text men- 
tioned above contains in none of its twenty-five stanzas the 
line, " This I say to you in sooth " ; nor does the Swedish 
text, which is preserved in two manuscripts of the seven- 
teenth century. It can safely be affirmed that this line is 
not a part of the original ballad, and that accordingly it 
should be omitted. 



THE I 69 

Let us pass on to " Sivard Snarensvend " (No. 2), where 
the same peculiarity repeats itself. In A we find the line 
twice, but not at all in B. The story is concerned with 
Sivard's wonderful horse Skimling, or Gram : 

A 9. It was Sivard Snarensvend, 

He clapped his spurs to his steed ; 
It gave three bounds out o'er the field, 
And they served him not at need. 

10. He gave three bounds out o'er the field, 
And they served him not at need ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
He sweated drops of blood. 

Every one must feel that this commonplace, tedious verse, 
with its endless repetitions, can be neither original nor 
correct. In B the corresponding stanza, though not per- 
fectly clear, is at least complete and is free from that line : 

B 7. Gram he led out to the heath, 
It served him not at need ; 
Sorely wounded he sat in the saddle, 
He sweated the blood so red. 

Further on in A runs a stanza as follows : 

A 15. It was Sivard Snarensvend, 

He clapped his spurs to his horse ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
He leaped into the castle court. 

Here are the first two lines of B 1 1 : 

Gram took the bit between his teeth 
And sprang o'er the castle wall. 

Perhaps it is not unreasonable therefore to conjecture the 
last two lines of A 1 5 to have run so : 

Gram took the bit between his teeth 
And leaped into the castle court. 



70 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

These characteristic lines occur again in a Jutland version 
of the ballad taken down by Kristensen (Grundtvig, IV, 583): 

D 13. It was Sivard's gallant steed, 

In his teeth he champed the bit ; 
Fifteen fathoms he plunged o'er the wall, 
So both their lives they quit. 

In " The Lombards " (No. 21) occurs the stanza : 

AID. When they reached the open sea, 
Joyful grew each eye and heart ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
Of fame and wealth they had their part. 

How flat and insipid this verse sounds ! And when we 
compare it with the last two lines of the other two texts, 
which are preserved in old manuscripts : 

B 1 2. When they came to the foreign shore, 
They won both wealth and fame. 

C 1 1 . When they fared them through the land, 
They won them many victories, 

we cannot entertain the slightest doubt that the line in ques- 
tion is mere padding used to fill out a defective memory. 
In " Queen Dagmar's Ballad " (No. 135) we read : 

A 6. St. Mary's book she then took up, 
She read it the while she might ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
The salt tear blinded her sight. 

The copy of this ballad noted down in recent times 
(Kristensen, I, No. 56) has a line which may well have 
stood here : 

9. She took up the Bible and the holy book, 
And read all that she might ; 
And every line she read therein, 
The salt tear blinded her sight. 



THE 7 71 

Grundtvig is of the opinion that this latter text has its 
original in Vedel's " Book of a Hundred Ballads " ; but 
Vedel's text wants this third line, which, however, reads 
as naturally as if it were native to the ballad. Thus this 
ballad goes to show that whenever the above notorious line 
creeps in, the expression becomes enfeebled and puerile ; 
whereas we should expect, according to the context of 
such an affirmation, that is, from what is foreshad- 
owed, a heightening of expression. 

Furthermore, in all these ballads cited there is room 
nowhere for an /, whether it be in the introduction or in 
the conclusion ; the narrative runs along entirely in the 
objective third person. Only in that one line an / sud- 
denly obtrudes itself. Is not this fact significant, and does 
not such an interpolation clash with all good rules of 
artistic composition ? 

Let us look at it from another point of view. Here is 
a good, complete stanza from " German Gladensvend " 
(No. 33), which is found with some variations in four of 
the five texts of the ballad : 

B ii. It was German Gladensvend, 
He rode by the salt sea strand ; 
He wooed the maiden Adelude, 
The fairest in the land. 

Note how this stanza can be diluted. In the remaining 
version (A 14) we find the last two lines replaced by: 

This I say to you in sooth : 
He wooed so fair a maid. 

Curiously enough, Grundtvig, who, on the whole, has not 
been sensible of the peculiarity of this line, has refused to 



72 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

adopt it in his popular edition of the ballads. And which 
of the two following forms is correct ? 

B 24, C 27, E 22. She then took out her golden comb 
And combed his yellow hair ; 
With every lock she stroke, 
Let fall a bitter tear, 

or as in the last two lines of D 20 ? 

This I say to you in sooth : 
Let fall a bitter tear. 

In this instance Grundtvig has not sanctioned the line. 
In both cases, however, there seems to be no doubt that 
it is an illegitimate verse which has displaced the genuine 
verse. 

Another objection that follows in the wake of this verse 
is that it is never found twice in the same place in any 
two versions of the same ballad. For example, in "Peder 
Gudmandson and the Dwarfs" (No. 35), Grundtvig, 
who first regarded A as the best text, has later adopted 
the view that B " gives us everything that belongs to 
genuine old tradition, whereas A is a later, arbitrary ex- 
pansion of this framework " (IV, 790). In this Grundtvig 
is wholly right. Now in B we meet the stanza : 

3. " Right welcome, Peder Gudmandson, 
Right welcome are you here ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
You shall drink the Yule with dwarfs this year." 

Although this line, since it is spoken here by a character 
other than the hero, does not wholly conflict with ballad 
style, yet beyond all question it ought to be omitted. In 



THE I 73 

the corresponding stanza of A the line is wanting, but its 
place is taken by an intolerable prolixity : 

6. Right welcome, Sir Peder Gudmandson, 
Right welcome are you here ; 

We '11 pour for you the mead so brown 
And the blood-red wine so clear. 

7. We '11 pour for you the mead so brown 
And the blood-red wine so clear ; 

By my faith, Peder Gudmandson, 

You shall drink apart with dwarfs this year. 

In addition A contains the following meretricious set of 
verses : 

19. It was early in the morning, 
As soon as day was come ; 
It was Sir Peder Gudmandson 
Was fain to be up and gone. 

20. It was Sir Peder Gudmandson, 
Was fain to be up and gone ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
Of help was there none. 

2 1 . This I say to you in sooth : 
It brought him grief and woe, 
Since that (sic !) the elf-man's daughter 
Was loath to let him go. 

25. She yielded to his wish at last, 
He must away from the hill ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
With her it never went well. 

The amount of padding used in this ballad illustrates how 
memory is accustomed to stuff and patch its gaps. It is 
also significant that gange (go) occurs as a riming word 
in stanzas 19 and 20 ; fromme (benefit, to go well with 



74 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

one) in 16, 20, 24, 25 ; komme (come) in 13, 16, 17, 24, 
25, 26. The stanza last enumerated Grundtvig considers to 
be " a late fabrication." The fact that it is found in such 
bad company is in itself a sufficient indication of its worth. 
" The Elfen Hill " (No. 46) is related entirely in the 
first person ; hence the line in question does not clash 
with the style. Nevertheless, even in this case, its genu- 
ineness is open to doubt. In " Queen Sophie's Ballad- 
Book " and in several other manuscripts, we find the 
following stanza : 

63. " Wake up, wake up, my bonny boy ! 
Come dance with us right featly ; 
My maiden shall sing a song for you, 
And Oh ! but she sings sweetly." 

4. The maiden then began her song, 
Fairest was she under the sun ; 
The bustling stream it ceased to flow 
So fast was wont to run. 

There is no call for regarding an interpolation necessary 
between these two stanzas ; this would result rather in 
weakening the dramatic force. Yet in A appears a stanza 
explaining that a stool was first handed to the maiden to 
sit upon while she was singing : 

A 5. They brought a stool of the burnished gold, 
A seat for the elfen maid ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
The game for me was badly played. 

This stanza is inserted between the two cited above. It 
is found only in Sten Bille's manuscript ; neither text B 
nor any of the modern copies recognize it. To acquiesce 
in its usurpation would be an unparalleled instance of 
good nature. 



THE 7 75 

In the diffuse, spun-out romances of the Middle Ages, 
in which length and rime are aimed at, the above line, 
together with " What more can I say ? " leads an accept- 
able existence. Compare, for example, verses 250, 269, 
365, 477, 1375 in the romance of " Persenober and Con- 
stantianobis." In these romances the /of the singer con- 
stantly forces itself upon our notice. It has gained a place 
in the ballads as a result of the frequent use of the ballad 
in the dance, and of the unique mode of preservation by 
tradition instead of by writing. But since it originally had 
no place in the ballad, it should be banished entirely. I 
shall illuminate this point from another direction. 

Although repetition is somewhat characteristic of ballad 
style, as I shall make clear later, yet, in many places, 
repetitions have crept in that were not part of the original 
ballad. In the Faroese ballad of " Regin the Smith " are 
met the stanzas : 

74. The sword's pieces Sigurd struck 
With mighty blow across the knee ; 
Then shook with fear Regin the Smith 
Just like a lily leaf. 

75. The sword's pieces Sigurd took 
And laid them in his hand ; 

Then shook with fear Regin the Smith 
Just like a lily wand. 

The communicator of this ballad, Pastor Lyngbye, remarks 
that the last stanza repeats with only slight variations the 
substance of the preceding. " I have omitted many such 
verses, which were patently variations ; yet I have allowed 
several to stand as specimens, for this repetition is some- 
what peculiar to old Faroese poetry (it is found sometimes 



76 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR 'BALLAD 

in the old Danish heroic ballads), and at times is neces- 
sary ; inasmuch as the songs were not preserved in writing, 
this repetition afforded the leader of the song a breathing- 
spell, during which he could recall to mind what was to 
follow " (" Faeroiske Quaeder," pp. 74 ff ). 

As we can readily see, the same observation applies 
equally well to our Danish ballads. Among others, the 
stanzas cited above from " Peder Gudmandson " could 
serve as examples. Now if it were the case that a singer 
was obliged to compose a new stanza alongside of the 
old with but trifling changes, here was a line "This I 
say to you in sooth " all ready to his hand as material 
toward such a stanza. It is now plainly conceivable how 
such a stanza as the second of the following, from " Marsk 
Stig " (No. 145), has originated : 

B 24. It was Eric the king 

Gazed out his window high ; 
" Yonder I see Sir Marsti 
Come riding his steed so gray. 

25. " Yonder I see Sir Marsti 

At the gate he stands to view ; 

This I say to you in sooth : 

He glistens like the dove so blue." 

None of the other texts have a stanza corresponding to 
this last. The repetition in this case is not only super- 
fluous, but is also monotonous and wearisome. The stanza 
contains nothing new ; it is merely a dilution of the pre- 
ceding. It belongs solely to that style of verse which 
exists only for the convenience of the singer ; and it 
would never have been acknowledged by the original 
balladist as his own. 



THE I 77 

I shall illustrate by one more example how this super- 
fluous verse arose. In " Marsk Stig " (No. 145) we have : 

F 7. It was Ranild Jensson, 

He hewed both beam and board ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
He proved a traitor to his lord. 

8. They have stricken him in to his shoulder-bone, 
It stood out beyond his neck ; 

This I say to you in sooth : 
It was a traitor's trick. 

9. They have stricken him in to his shoulder, 
And out his left side too ; 

"Now have we done a deed to-day 
All Denmark will sorely rue." 

Not only the diffuseness, but also the quadruple rime 
(Balk, Skalk, Hals, Falsk), clearly show that here lie 
before us an addition and an expansion ; the mortising 
line moreover is forced into service twice. The text 
most closely linked with F, namely G, runs as follows : 

5. They have stricken their lord through the heart, 
And out his left side too ; 

" Now have we done to-day a deed 
All Denmark shall rue." 

6. It was then that Ranild 

So fierce did hew and slay ; 
Upon the floor their king lay dead, 
For he got no help that day. 

He who sang these lines had a good memory, he had no 
need of padding ; he knew that the beauty of the text was not 
to be measured by the number of words. And every one 
will find, by testing for himself, that the line which asserts 



78 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

the truth of the singer's statements frequently makes its 
appearance in company with verse repetition and with lines 
whose riming words have been used before. 

In conclusion I shall discuss an illuminating feature 
connected with the influence exercised on the original form 
of the ballad by the mode of delivery. I refer to the fashion 
of singing their runic songs in vogue with the Finns. 
These are commonly executed by two singers, of whom 
only one is properly the performer, the other acting 
merely as an echo, as an assistant or supporter. The two 
join hands and sit facing each other. Number one then 
chants a line. By the time he has reached the last stave 
his assistant has grasped what is to come and there- 
upon sings the same thing in concert with him. Now 
the second singer repeats the whole line by himself in a 
slightly varied pitch of voice, and usually with some little 
addition, such as "truly," "rightly," " indeed," "I say," " it 
was said," " in truth," etc. The last word of the line is sung 
anew in unison, after which the first man sings the second 
line of the poem. The second singer joins in on the last 
word and then repeats the line. Meanwhile the first man 
has had time to recall what is to follow. After the pair 
have sung the concluding word of the line as a duet, num- 
ber one takes up the third line. And so on to the end. 1 
Here is appended a specimen of such a poem in order to 
make clear how this performance looks. I omit, however, 
one of the duets, which, at any rate, is not always found, 
and have distinguished by different type the part sung by 
the fore-singer from the part sung by his comrade. 

1 Gustaf Retzius, Finska Kranier jamte nS.gra natur- och literatur- 
studier, pp. 132 ff. 



THE I 79 

f Wainamoinen 
Old, confident < ,,, ...... 

I. Wainamoinen 

Old, confident Wainamoinen 

f scabbard 
Drew the sharp steel from the -J AAV 

Drew so surely the sharp steel from the scabbard 

f water 
Thrust the sword deep into the-s 

i. -water 

Thrust, I say, the sword deep into the water 

{vessel 
, 
vessel 

Struck up, in truth, from under the side of the vessel 

. f shoulder 
Into the great V& 



Into the great pike 1 s shoulder 

. f backbone 
Against the cruel water-dog's s , , , 

Against the cruel water-dog's backbone 

f Wainamoinen 
Old, confident { ,,, ...... 

i. Wainamoinen 

Old, confident Wainamoinen 

f surf ICG 
Sought to draw the fish to the-{ 

^surface 

Sought, in fact, to draw the fish to the surface 

f water 
Lifted the pike out of the { 

(_ water 

Lifted, they say, the pike out of the water 

f pieces 
The pike burst into two { , . 

\_pieces 

The pike, indeed, burst into two pieces 

The tail sank and went to the \ , 

I, bottom 

The tail sank, I say, and went to the bottom 

{vessel 
. 

Only the upper half fell into the vessel. 



8o THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

If one should here set down the version sung by the com- 
rade as the correct text of the poem, he would sin grievously 
against the poet. The same holds good of our Danish 
ballads ; namely, that the line " This I say to you in 
sooth " and many other repetitions are additions, a little 
dressed up, which arose from the manner of performing 
the ballad. They have nothing at all to do with the 
original ballad, and, for the reading of the ballad to-day, 
they work only for confusion. 

Thus, I believe, I have thrown considerable light on the 
worth and significance of this well-known line. It is to 
be hoped that in the future efforts will be made to extir- 
pate this weed which has grown up in the garden of our 
popular ballads. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE REFRAIN 

The refrain is a distinctive characteristic of the Scan- 
dinavian ballads and gives rise to a discussion of a varied 
nature. As is well known, it is most frequently found at 
the end of each stanza ; but double, and even triple, re- 
frains are not uncommon. The first part of such a 
many-jointed refrain can be interpolated in a two-line 
stanza after the first line, and in a four-line stanza after 
the second line, the second and third parts after the fourth 
line. The refrain is by no means unrhythmical, but its 
rhythm is not that of the ballad proper ; on the whole, it 
can show the widest variation. Time with its gnawing 
tooth has worked nearly as much destruction on the re- 
frains of our ballads as on the texts themselves. Many 
refrains have become meaningless ; by daily repetition their 
form has been marred and their substance rendered un- 
certain. Finally many ballads have lost their original refrains 
and have been forced to borrow others, in many cases get- 
ting hold of one which did not fit. At length they have 
ended up with the modern nonsensical refrains, nonnenino, 
didaderit, and the like. 1 

1 Note by translator : Instances of similar breakdowns of refrains 
into meaningless syllables will readily come to the minds of English 
readers, such as, for example, the " Downe a downe, hay down, hay 
down . . . with a downe derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe," of the 
ballad of " The Three Ravens." 

81 



82 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

I. NATURE OF THE REFRAIN 

Though our refrains are diversified and multifarious, 
yet they can be grouped into certain leading divisions. 1 
In the refrain the ballad may all but announce its title ; it 
may set forth its principal event or its chief personage 
and his attributes ; or it may specify the nature of the 
treatment to be meted out to him whom the ballad 
would especially emphasize : 

No. 30. Holger Dansk has overthrown Burmand. 
No. 92. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fuglsang. 
No. 135. In Ringsted there dwells Queen Dagmar. 
No. 145. My noble lord, that young Sir Marsti! 

As it appears, this is particularly true of the historical 
ballads. But the refrain may likewise endeavor to accen- 
tuate the dominant mood, the ground tone of the subject 
matter that is to prevail : 

No. 83. Sorrow is heavy when one must bear it alone. 

No. 145. And we are driven from Denmark. 

No. 146. And wide they roamed through the world. 

More frequently, however, a joyous ring greets the listener's 
ear, such as is found, for example, in the references to the 
season of the year : 

No. 45. While (men) z the linden grows leafy. 
No. 125. As far as the leaves are green. 

1 Cf. N. M. Petersen, Den danske Literaturs Historic, 2d ed., II, 157 ; 
Rosenberg, Nordboernes Aandsliv, II, 524. 

2 Men (but) possibly means here medens (while) ; yet, since this men 
occurs so frequently, I shall call attention to the fact that " the peasants 
in Jutland usually begin their conversation with this conjunction" 
(Lyngbye, Faeroiske Quaeder, p. 577). Cf. Feiberg, Ordbog over jyske 
Almuesmaal, men. Ballad No. 298 L begins so : " But (men) there dwells 
a rich lady south of the river." 



THE REFRAIN 83 

No. 1 84. The woods are wondrous green 

In the growing summer time. 
No. 1 86. So early in summer. 
No. 199. It is so fair in summer. 

No. 20 1. There stands a noble linden in the count's garden. 
No. 252. All through the winter so cold 

Await us, fair ladies, all through the summer 
No. 273. Both winter and summer time. 
No. 234. The leaves spring forth so green. 
No. 297. Why dawns not the day, I wonder. 

In the case of the double refrain one can sometimes 
distinguish two chords in vibration : 

No. 1 1 6. On grassy mountain-sides 

The king of Sweden's crown he seeks to avenge (or, 

with the crown). 
No. 1 86. There fall so fair a frost 

So merrily goes the dance. 
No. 1 89. Forget me not ! 

She stepped so stately. 
No. 210. While the summer grows 

I cannot sleep for my longing. 

Many ballads furthermore take into account the singer's 
environment Attention has been called several times 
already to the mention of dancing ; references are also 
made to riding and rowing : 

No. 1 24. All ye row off ! 

No. 140. Betake yourself to your oar. 

No. 460. To the north 

And now lay all these oars beside the ship. 
No. 244. (Norwegian). Row off, noble men ! 

To the maiden. 

No. 399. Row out from shore, ye speak with so fair a one ! 
No. 1 6. Long before the dawn we come far over the moorland. 
No. 84. Beneath so green a linden 

Ye ride so wary through the woods with her. 



84 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

No. 141. Ye do not ride! 

No. 1 34. Ride to the maiden's bower, comrade mine ! 

The word which we meet with most frequently in the 
refrains is certainly " maiden." Still it would be a mis- 
take to infer on that score that those who sang were in- 
variably young men ; there are ballads which allow the 
maiden herself to speak in the refrain : 

No. 20. Whether you win me or so fair a one. 
No. 121. Would I were as fair as Tovelille was ! 

And indeed, according to the story related by the ballad, 
it is the maiden who very often leads off the singing. In 
one instance it would seem as though the balladist stood 
in a definite relation to the chief character of the ballad, 
namely, " Marsk Stig" (No. 145) : " My noble lord, that 
young Sir Marsti ! " I have pointed out before that sim- 
ilarly in the first stanza the singer at times considers himself 
to be present or to be taking part in the action. 

That which we never find in our genuinely popular 
ballads, on the contrary, is those exclamations which occur 
so generally in the German ballads and which appear in 
late Danish copies, where they must have displaced, within 
the last two hundred years, the good, old refrains : namely, 
interjections such as Haa ! Haa ! or Eja ! which are 
usually accompanied by a repetition of the last line. In 
11 Redselille and Medelvold " (No. 271), for instance, from 
a broadside of about 1770, we find the refrain " Haa, haa, 
haa ! " with a repetition of the last line. Such an exclama- 
tion might have exceptionally slipped into a ballad which 
could be traced back to an old manuscript, but rather under 
the guise of a preliminary chant at the beginning of the 



THE REFRAIN 85 

ballad, and later before each stanza. Similarly we find 
"Saa vel hei" (much the same as "hey noninony") as some 
such fore-song introducing each stanza in two ballads from 
Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript (No. 2 5 and Unpublished 
No. 119) and also in a ballad from Anna Basse's manu- 
script (No. 373 ; cf. Grundtvig, I, 351). A German dance 
" Hoppeldei " and a related " Heierlei," in which the cry 
heiahei! was used, are known to have existed. 1 The South 
German poet Nithart (ob. 1220) sings in one place : 

die sah ich den heijerleis 
schone springen, 

and in another place : 

dennoch haben s' einen sit' : 
swer dem reigen volget mit, 
der muosz schrien heia hei ! unt hei ! 

It is my opinion that here we are to seek for the source 
of the exclamations in the Danish ballads. Since these 
ballads have in addition a regular refrain at the end of 
each stanza, it is manifest that here we have to deal with 
something out of the ordinary. On the other hand, such 
a cry can have a place in the refrain itself : 

No. 37. Eia! Oh, sorrow, how heavy art thou! 

All the refrains have this in common : they voice the 
mood. Even though they deal with a purely matter-of-fact 
situation, they can still indicate the fundamental tone ; or 
they may engross the reader's attention in a way that is 
explicable only at the close of the ballad. But the same 

1 Weinhold, Die deutschen Frauen, p. 373 ; Bbhme, Tanz, I, 35 ; 
Von der Hagen, Minnesinger, III, 189, 283. 



86 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

feeling may be roused by a variety of refrains, and the 
same fundamental mood may serve as the basis or the 
object of many ballads ; hence it follows that a ballad may 
well have several refrains, and that the refrains may easily 
be shifted from one ballad to another. At the same time 
the refrain often possesses a cohering quality ; it contains, 
to use the words of Wilhelm Grimm, " many a time the 
basis upon which the whole circumstance rests, it explains 
the connection, and again rings out as a voice of destiny." 
It creates a certain repose. While the body of the text 
forges ahead in its epical progress, the refrain remains 
stationary and reflective. 1 It gives the listener time to 
apprehend the narrative ; it rounds off every stanza to a 
whole ; it provides the fore-singer with an opportunity to 
recall what is to follow. It is the custom in the Faroes, 
when the fore-singer cannot recollect the verse, for the 
participants to repeat the refrain until the missing lines 
come back to him, and in the Finnish runic song, as has 
been shown above, every single line is repeated in order 
to give the fore-singer time to recall those succeeding. 

Geijer has been inclined to deny that the refrain was 
delivered by the chorus. But in support of such a theory 
there is plenty of testimony. There is a verse from an old 
German poet which runs : 

ein maget in siiezer wise 

diu sane vor, die andern sungen alle nich. 2 

Both in Germany and in Scotland the chorus seems to 
have sung the refrain. 3 In Iceland, according to an old 

1 Peder Grbnland, in Allgem. musikal. Zeitttng, 1816, No. 35. 

2 Bohme, Tanz, I, 27. 

8 Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 336. 



THE REFRAIN 87 

account, 1 the chorus sang responsively to the fore-singer : 
first one took up the song, with two or more others repeat- 
ing the same after him, while the remainder danced to 
the rhythm ; the hemistich was repeated in unison by 
the general body. In the Faroes all, as a rule, took part 
in singing the ballad, and all, without exception, joined in 
the refrain. 2 

On the other hand, Geijer is right in his conclusion 
that the refrain is essentially a subjective element. It has 
been the main task of several of the above investigations 
to show with what extraordinary nicety the ballads have 
drawn the limits and bounds between the narrator and his 
story. As a result the poet has been denied all opportunity 
of inserting remarks and arguments of his own. It is only 
in the refrain that he finds such an opportunity ; there it 
is that the mood expresses itself ; and there it is, as is in- 
dicated by their responses, that the listeners are recognized 
as participants. It is precisely this participation of the 
singers and dancers in the lyrical utterance that works for 
the finest totality of the ballad and the refrain. Thus the 
refrain is preeminently a component part of the ballad ; 
aesthetically it is fully justified, but when read it becomes, 



1 Crymogaea, per Arngrimum Jonam, p. 57 : staticulos voco saltatio- 
nem ad states musicos contentus ; quae carmen vel cantilenam, quasi 
praeceptum saltandi adhibet : praecinit autem unus : duo pluresve paulo 
subcinunt : reliqui ad numerum seu rythmum saltant. Orbis saltatorius 
viris et faeminis alternatim incedentibus constabat et quodamodo inter- 
sectis et divisis (in the margin : wikivake) . . . hie singuli ordine canti- 
lenam aliquam cantant per certas pausas, dimidiis versibus (qui a choro 
reliquo una voce canendo repetuntur) constantes : ad finem singulorum 
versuum, principio vel fine primi versus reduplicatione quadam (aliquando 
etiam sine ea) intercalate. 

2 Lyngbye, in Magazin f. Reiseiagttageher, I, 216. 



88 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

on account of its constant repetition, very monotonous, 
and in consequence it has been shortened in the texts, or 
else omitted, except in the first and last stanzas. It is only 
when it is sung, when it is elevated by the melody ; only 
when another, in addition to the fore-singer, helps to deliver 
it, with the remainder joining in, and when the dance is 
combined with it, that it fully comes into its own. " The 
sentimental or, as it might be called, the egoistic song, in 
which the poet or singer is alone with himself, as it were, 
is not known to the old North, for here the individual 
never wanted for comrades and witnesses." 1 

The refrain assumes a somewhat different character 
when it undergoes alteration in its text, namely, when indi- 
vidual words or phrases are changed with every stanza in 
order to bring it into a definite relation with the context 
of the stanza. That is scarcely in accordance with the 
good old ballad style. The result is that the singer has no 
chance to rest, for he must ever be reminding his com- 
pany of what they shall sing. This constant adjustment 
to every stanza easily goes over into something trivial or 
attenuated. In such a case the refrain becomes a definite 
part of the text, whereas it almost invariably forms a con- 
trast. That the variable refrain can be used with great 
success for comic purposes is brilliantly demonstrated by 
Baggesen's familiar song of "Sir Ro and Sir Rap" ; but 
this instance serves also to disprove the supposition that the 
variable refrain permits of a general usage in the ballads. 
And in a lengthy ballad, whatever the contents may be, the 
variable refrain will become downright intolerable. Even 
if we imagined ourselves to be present at the singing of a 

1 Peder Gronland, in Allgem. musikal. Zeitung, 1816, column 597. 



THE REFRAIN 89 

song that altered its refrain with every stanza, we should 
not find the aesthetic result satisfactory. The great dearth 
of ballads that possess such a refrain indicates also that 
here lies before us an abnormal case. 

The truth of the above statements is borne out by a 
consideration of every one of these ballads. In " Young 
Ranild " (No. 28), a ballad of thirty stanzas, we find a 
continual change : 

1. Had I been so wise ! said Ranild. 

2. I am not greatly afraid ! said Ranild. 

3. It grieves me sore ! said Ranild. 

4. So would I like to do ! said Ranild. 

It is evident here that the fore-singer must also sing the 
refrain, since his company could not be expected to remem- 
ber what fitted in with each individual stanza. On the 
whole, the variable refrain seems better adapted to a ballad 
that is to be written down than to one that owes its pres- 
ervation to memory. Although " Young Ranild " may be 
an old ballad, yet it makes use of a number of modern 
expressions ; it is found only in a single manuscript, that 
of Anna Basse's, of about 1600. 

Another ballad, " Gralver the King's Son " (No. 29), 
preserved in nine texts, of which four belong in manu- 
script to the time of Frederick II, evinces great pains and 
ingenuity in adapting the refrain by slight changes to every 
stanza. But in text B, which is preserved in a manuscript 
from the time of Christian III, the refrain runs constantly, 
" Because of her proud Signild beneath Stjernfeld " ; 
likewise two of Schoolmaster Kristensen's newly recorded 
copies have a constant refrain, "There lies a worm be- 
fore Isereland upon the flood." To this corresponds the 



90 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

unchanging refrain found in two Norwegian copies, "Be- 
cause there lies a worm upon the flood." Grundtvig says 
that this refrain must certainly be an old one in the ballad 
here in Denmark. Thus all warrant for the variable re- 
frain disappears. 

In texts A (64 stanzas !) and B of " Rane Jensen's 
Marriage " (No. 48) there is also a variable refrain ; but 
Vedel, who seems to have used only B, prints the ballad 
with a constant refrain: "I have often been told 
Although I am banished from friends and comrades." 
The same refrain is also found in No. 128 C (manuscript 
of 1555). 

In " The Mermaid's Prophecy " (No. 42), on the other 
hand, Vedel has given a variable refrain, despite the fact 
that his source (" though possibly it was not his only one "), 
namely, the only copy preserved, has the constant double 
refrain : " The mermaid dances upon Tillie For she had 
obtained her will." Kristensen's copies from modern times 
also make use of the variable refrain (I, No. 55; II, No. 82), 
but since their only source, as Grundtvig declares, is Vedel's 
" Book of a Hundred Ballads," they do not count for much. 
A corresponding Swedish ballad (Geijer and Afzelius, 
No. 94) does not employ the variable refrain. 

The two copies of "Daniel Boson" (No. 421) which 
were recorded in olden times have a constant refrain, 
while the six from modern times show a variable one. 
The Norwegian form of " Dalebu Jonsen " cannot be con- 
sidered as belonging to the class of ballads with variable 
refrains, although its refrain, " Dost know Dalebu Jonsen ? " 
is changed in the sixteenth and last stanza to " Now dost 
know Dalebu Jonsen ? " (Landstad, No. 24). In like 



THE REFRAIN 9 1 

manner the Swedish form (Arwidsson No. 18) has, " But 
he was one ! For he was one." 

Finally we can cite the well known ballad of " Sir Lave 
and Sir Jon " (No. 390) with the trebled refrain, the 
middle one of which is variable : 

You are well prepared, 

I ride too, said Jon. 

Tie up the helmet of gold and follow Sir Jon ! 

The same is true of Kristensen, I, No. 62 ; II, No. 86. 
In manuscript this ballad goes no farther back than to 
the middle of the seventeenth century. 

These investigations seem to lead to the conclusion that 
at the most only a few old ballads preserved in old manu- 
scripts use the variable refrain. The latter was in accord, 
on the other hand, with the taste of the times in the six- 
teenth and seventeenth centuries, when people having 
grown tired of much that belonged to the older form of 
the ballad desired a change ; at the same time, it is true, 
some of the most characteristic features of the old ballads 
were thus discarded. 

The refrain is also known in other lands. In fact, it is 
found in folk poetry the world over. In the refrain the 
instinct for beauty finds one of its favorite modes of ex- 
pression, namely, the sense of rhythmic recurrence, the 
parallelism. 1 But I doubt if the refrain has anywhere been 
felt to be so integral a part of the ballads as in the Scandi- 
navian, and especially the Danish, ballads. 2 It follows also 
from the epic nature of our folk poetry that a far greater 
opportunity here offers itself for the contrast which a lyric 

1 Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 135. 

2 Cf. also Rosenberg, Nordboernes Aandsliv, II, 531. 



92 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

refrain presents. The refrain is found in Germany, too, 
but particularly in narrative ballads, and by no means so 
generally as in Denmark. Many of the German refrains 
are doubtless lost, but in a number of ballads they were 
wanting originally. 

I shall now call attention to how peculiarly the refrain 
and the text proper can be interwoven in the Danish 
ballads. In "Memering" (No. 14), for example: 

1 . Memering was the smallest man 

That ever was born in King Karl's land. 

My fairest maidens. 

The smallest man 
That ever was born in King Karl's land. 

2. Even before he saw the light, 

His clothes already for him were dight. 

My fairest maidens. 

He saw the light, 
His clothes already for him were dight. 

3. Even before he had formed his gait, 
He bore the armor's weight. 

My fairest maidens. 

A ballad that progresses in this fashion is liable to prove, 
when read, tiresome and difficult ; when sung, however, it 
becomes all the more alive, since the refrain is taken up by 
the chorus. But the question involuntarily arises, Did the 
fore-singer join in also with the repeated lines of the stanza? 
It might seem plausible to wish for a variation here. If so, 
this would be secured provided there were two fore-singers, 
the one supporting the other by repeating half of what the 
first sang, and thereby leading the narrative one verse for- 
ward. The chorus meanwhile would constantly be chiming 



THE REFRAIN 93 

in as the third participant in the execution of the ballad. 
I am not the first to voice this theory ; it has already been 
advanced by Peder Grdnland. 1 But this interruption and 
repetition are found in many ballads, such as, for example, 
" Hildebrand and Hilde " (No. 83) : 

1. Proud Hildelil sits in her bower sewing, 
For the Danish queen a cap she is making. 

Sorrow is heavy when one must bear it alone. 

Sewing, 
For the Danish queen a cap she is making. 

2. She sews with gold so red 
What calls for silken thread. 

Sorrow is heavy when one must bear it alone. 

In some copies of this ballad this repetition is not found ; 
in its place stands a double refrain. 

Is it known that there were two fore-singers ? Yes, to 
be sure. We read in Koster's account of Ditmarsh that 
the fore-singer "either sings alone or else chooses another, 
who also can sing the song, in order that he may have 
assistance and relief. " 2 In Iceland, likewise, we see that 
the song was divided up between a fore-singer and others, 
who sing in response. How closely the fore-singer and 
his assistant are linked together in the Finnish folk poetry 
has already been pointed out. 

But there are undoubtedly many ways in which a song 
could assert itself that are now not at all, or only in part, 
intelligible from the appearance which the ballad makes 

1 Allgem. musikal. Zeitung, 1816, column 598. 

2 De Vorsinger, de wol alleine edder ok wol einen tho sick nimbt, de 
den Gesang mit singen kan, dat he ehne entlichtere unnd helpe, steidt 
unnd hefft ein Drinkgeschir in der Handt. Dahlmann's edition of Johann 
Adolfi's (called Neocorus) "Chronik des Landes Dithmarschen," I, 178. 



94 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

on paper. I shall merely point out how marvelously the 
song and its refrain must have dovetailed when the two 
fore-singers led off the singing ; as, for example, in 
" Marsk Stig's Daughters " (No. 146) : 

FIRST SINGER 

Marsti had two daughters fair, 

And bitter fate fell to their share. 

The eldest took the youngest by the hand, 

CHORUS 
And wide they roam through the -world. 

SECOND SINGER 

The eldest took the youngest by the hand, 
And so they journeyed to King Malfred's land. 
King Malfred home from the meeting rode. 

CHORUS 
And wide they roam through the world. 

FIRST SINGER 

King Malfred home from the meeting rode ; 

Before him Marsti's daughters stood : 

" What are these women that I see here ? " 

CHORUS 
And wide they roam through the world. 

Since we have ground for believing that the delivery of 
the ballad was made as lively and dramatic as possible, and 
since we know from the account just given 1 that in Ice- 
land the stanza was divided into halves, I do not think I 
am wrong in assuming that the ballad was sung in the 
manner detailed above. 

1 See p. 87, note i. 



THE REFRAIN 95 

Finally it would be perfectly reasonable to conclude that 
the ballads in which the two refrains have a wholly different 
trend were sung each by its own circle ; as, for example, 

MAIDENS. Forget me not ! 
189 YOUNG MEN. She stepped so stately! 

KNIGHTS. Here stand the Duke's own men. 
1 1 5 LADIES. They come not yet 

MAIDENS. Step boldly up, young knight ! 
244 YOUNG MEN. Honor the maidens in the dance ! 

We might also conceive of a portion of the refrain as 
devolving upon the singer's assistant, and the remaining 
portion upon the chorus ; as, for example, in No. 278 : 

FIRST SINGER 
Sir Peter mounts and rides away. 

SECOND SINGER 
While the cuckoo calls. 

FIRST SINGER 
He meets a woman who greets him good day. 

SECOND SINGER 

Upon the balcony walls. 

CHORUS 

In the tower Malfred is weeping. 
In the grove she is sorrowing. 

II. BALLADS WITHOUT REFRAINS 

Should the refrain be regarded as an essential constit- 
uent of our ballads ? It can by no means be denied that 
there are ballads which lack refrains. Geijer has answered 
the question thus : that as a rule refrains go with a ballad, 
but that they cannot be regarded as a necessary adjunct to 



96 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

the ballads. Nevertheless it may very confidently be as- 
serted as a fundamental principle that the popular ballad 
is invariably attended by a refrain, and that every ballad 
which is not has either worn it out in the course of time, 
or else is assuredly not a genuine popular ballad. It is pre- 
cisely because this characteristic is so marked that further 
investigations on this point are necessary. 

In Grundtvig's collection (completed by Axel Olrik) 
there are four hundred and eighty published ballads, and 
about forty more are known to me from his collected writ- 
ings or from other sources. Among these half a thousand 
ballads there are found about a score which have no refrain. 
These consequently form positive exceptions and are in 
no position to affect the general rule. Since the ballads were 
not recorded in writing until long after their genesis, it is in- 
deed very possible, not to say highly probable, that the ballads 
mentioned have lost something they possessed originally, 
especially as it is often forced upon our attention that, while 
the refrains are missing in several versions of a recorded 
ballad, they are present in other forms of the same ballad. 

But let us turn to the above-mentioned score of ballads 
to see whether the majority of them do not present some 
additional peculiarities. Among these I find, for example, 
"The Murdered Housewife" (No. no), which was re- 
corded in 1845 ; " Child Jacob " (No. 253), whose earliest 
date of communication is 1840 (and one of the texts has 
a refrain yet) ; " The Meeting in the Woods " (No. 284), 
recorded in 1868; "Sir Sallemand " (Abr. No. 153), a 
prosaic, sentimental, romantic ballad, which ends so : 

Never was told a tale of greater love, 

Since the days of Tristram and his lady Isold. 



THE REFRAIN 97 

In addition may be cited an artistic, six-line song (Un- 
published No. 292) and the ballad " The Dialogue of Two 
Maidens" (Unpublished No. 291), which is translated from 
a German ballad, " Es waren einmal zwei Gespielen." 
The absence of refrains in these ballads manifestly does 
not affect our consideration of the question, What were 
the ballads of the Middle Ages like ? 

Another example of this group is "Agnete and the 
Merman " (No. 38), which can show in the way of a 
refrain only a tiresome Haaja! together with a repetition 
of the last line of its two-line stanza : 

Agnete walks on Highland bridge, 

There mounts a merman to the top of the sea, 

Haa ja ! 
There mounts a merman to the top of the sea. 

Grundtvig has been slow in arriving at a clear decision 
over this ballad. Although he was obliged to admit in 
the second volume of his work that it had wandered up 
into this country " only a few hundred years ago," yet 
he retracted this statement immediately afterwards ; but in 
his fourth volume he repeated that "at a comparatively 
late period it had emigrated from Germany into Denmark, 
although it is impossible to state more explicitly the time 
and the way" (II, 39, 66 1 ; IV, 812). The possibility 
of an earlier immigration Grundtvig would meanwhile re- 
luctantly abandon, and accordingly he included the ballad 
of " Agnete " in his works " Heroic Ballads and Folk 
Songs of the Middle Ages" (1867, No. 9) and "The 
Popular Ballads of Denmark" (1882, II, No. 6). Here 
again I shall confidently assert that if one would really 
know what the poetry of the Middle Ages was like, he 



98 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

must reject everything obscure and ambiguous and, above 
all, everything which lacks the remotest proof to substan- 
tiate its claim to so great an age. And this applies most 
peculiarly to the ballad of "Agnete." It can be traced 
back no farther than to a printed broadside belonging to 
the close of the eighteenth century ; moreover it contains 
not a single word, not a turn of phrase, not a glint of 
anything which would suggest antiquity. 1 It is impossible 
to believe otherwise than that the connection with the 
popular poetry of the outside world, which we know 
existed in the Middle Ages, should have persisted 
in the following centuries ; and in such a manner the 
ballad of "Agnete," like many others, was attracted to 
this country. 

This situation fits in admirably with what Grundtvig him- 
self has noted ; namely, that in contrast with those Norse 
ballads which treat of a similar subject (Nos. 37, 39, and 
40) this ballad exhibits certain distinguishing marks that 
point to Germany. " First, the name Agnete appears in 
the German versions as Agnete, Agnese, Angnina, An- 
nerle, Hannale ; second, the mention of Engelland (she 
is the daughter of the king of England), her enticement 
down to the bottom of the ocean, the sea, or the flood, 
in contrast with her enticement into the mountain ; the 



1 The kinship between the ballad of " Agnete " and Ewald's " Little 
Gunver" is rather distant. Ewald meant, if anything, to imitate the 
popular ballad in general, wherefore he also provides his song with a 
refrain. For the rest he might well have become acquainted with the 
ballad of " Agnete " in the course of his roving life in foreign lands, 
and even if he had known it in a Danish form, we could still maintain 
that he had led us back no farther than to the middle of the eighteenth 
century. 



THE REFRAIN 99 

sound of bells and the going to church ; all these traits 
distinguish the borrowed ballad from the older Norse 
ballad, with which it has in modern tradition blended 
itself." To this I can add that precisely such an excla- 
mation as that Haa ja ! is just as general in German 
ballads as it is rare or rather wholly unknown in Danish. 
In his popular edition of the ballads, Grundtvig has 
given the double refrain " The birds sing . . . Beautiful 
Agnete ! " one of the refrains with which it is sung at 
present ; but that this is not good ballad style, nor in the 
least degree smacking of the Middle Ages, scarcely needs 
to be asserted. None of the old refrains are written or 
sung in such a dreamy mood. This ballad has therefore 
not the least claim to consideration when the discussion 
concerns the poetry of the Middle Ages. 

There exist, in addition, several religious ballads which 
lack refrains ; such as, for example, " The Boyhood of 
Jesus, Stephan, and Herod " (No. 96). The ballad was 
communicated in a work by Erik Pontoppidan, which 
appeared in 1736. It begins as follows: 

A maiden pure is born to earth, 

The rose among all women ; 

She is the fairest the world has seen, 

And she is called the Empress of heaven. 

No less modern than this verse are the remaining verses. 
Over half of the eleven stanzas employ terminal rimes in 
all four lines, a feature wholly foreign to the ballads of 
the Middle Ages. Since Grundtvig groups this ballad with 
the Stephan ballads of the Middle Ages, attention must be 
called to the fact that only the three following stanzas out 
of the eleven have to do with Stephan, and that not even 



100 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

the most discriminating critic will be able to recognize in 
them the style of the Middle Ages : 

6. Saint Stephan he led the colts to drink, 
All by the starry glimmer ; 

" For surely now the prophet is born 
Who shall save all sinners ! " 

7. King Herod made him answer thereto : 
" I do not believe this story : 

Save that the roast cock on the table will crow 
And flap his wings so sturdy ! " 

8. The cock he flapped his wings and crowed, 
Our Lord his natal hour : 

King Herod fell down from his royal throne, 
And swooned for very sorrow. 

As early as 1695 this last verse was referred to by Peder 
Syv as belonging to a ballad on Christ's boyhood ; there 
are found also Swedish and Faroese ballads on Stephan, 
but none older than the Danish. When one assumes these 
ballads to be relics from our Catholic days, he fails to take 
into account the fact that their form by no means points 
so far back, and also the ready possibility that many foreign 
Catholic ballads were later conveyed into Denmark orally. 
Several investigators have interpreted Saint Stephan's pat- 
ronage of horses as an offshoot of Frey's relation to that 
animal and to horse-racing at Yuletide ; but however one 
explains that question, the solution cannot affect the inter- 
pretation of the ballad, which has merely appropriated the 
popular belief. And even if one may be wholly disinclined to 
share the doubts here expressed, he can place no reliance on 
the absence of a refrain in the Danish ballad as proof of any- 
thing, for that seems to be due to pure accident ; a refrain 
is present in both the Faroese and the Swedish versions. 



THE REFRAIN ioi 

A refrain is also wanting in " Grimild's Revenge " 
(No. 5). This ballad presents a most curious situation, 
and this I shall dwell upon at some length, since in many 
ways its striking colors illuminate and clarify, by way of 
contrast, what is genuinely Danish and old in Denmark. 
It treats of the destruction of the Nibelungs and relates 
how Grimhild, in order to avenge the murder of her hus- 
band, Sigfred, sends an invitation to such famous heroes 
as Hero Hagen and Folkver Spillemand. Hagen has been 
disquieted by a dream, which he gets a mermaid to read 
for him ; upon her finding it to portend evil, he slays her. 
He likewise slays a ferryman who refused to row him, 
and thereupon he ferries himself across to Grimhild's 
land. When they arrive there they are seized by the fol- 
lowers of Grimhild's consort, King Kanselin, but Folkver, 
snatching up a steel bar, slaughters a great number of 
his foes. The king himself receives a severe wound, and 
Folkver dies. 

I entertain no doubt that Professor Sophus Bugge has 
pointed out the right source of this ballad. Professor 
Gustav Storm would maintain, on the basis of certain 
peculiarities in narration, that it had borrowed its sub- 
stance from the Swedish " Didrik Saga " or " Didrik 
Chronicle," which dates from the years 1420-1450, and 
not from German sources. Several details, however, should 
be credited to the German " Heldenbuch " (printed 1477), 
which the author of the ballad probably did not use di- 
rectly ; it was more natural to assume that the manuscript 
of the " Didrik Chronicle " which he used contained also 
this borrowing from the " Heldenbuch." Storm differs 
in his interpretation from Doling, whose line of proof 



102 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

attempts to show that the chief sources were the Norse 
"Thidrik Saga" (of 1250) and the " Nibelungenlied." 
In opposition to these views, Grundtvig points out that 
the ballad must be regarded as a reshaping of a Low 
German ballad, which in turn stood closely related to the 
" Nibelungenlied " ; on the other hand, there is no evi- 
dence of any particular connection with the Norse or the 
Swedish " Didrik Saga." Moreover the Swedish " Chron- 
icle " was not very generally known, and the widely spread 
Didrik traditions could not have sprung from it. 1 

Bugge's arguments seem to me to be incontestable. In 
content the ballad clearly approximates most closely to the 
sources he has named, and the linguistic evidence certainly 
points toward a Low German form. In the following dis- 
cussion I shall have occasion to repeat the greater part of 
Bugge's proofs ; what I shall bring forward must be looked 
upon rather as a continuation of Bugge's line of argument. 
But at the same time I arrive at another conclusion ; namely, 
first that the ballad ought not to be regarded as a popular 
ballad, and next that it belongs to a very late period, a 
period much more recent than that to which Gustav Storm 
assigns it. 

Bugge calls attention to the remarkable expression, 

A 2. There was many a hero 

Who should part with (fordoie) his young life. 

7. Am I in the heathen land 

To part (fordoje) with my young life. 

9. You are parted (fordoit) with your young life. 

1 Bugge in Grundtvig's Folkeviser, IV, 595ff. ; Storm, Sagnkredsene 
om Karl den Store," pp. 197 if. ; Boring in Hopfner u. Zacher, Zeit. 
/. d. Phil., II, 274. 



THE REFRAIN 103 

Beyond a doubt fordoje was used in old Danish in the 
sense of "to waste," "to squander " ; but there was scarcely 
ever a time when it could mean " to lose one's life." Hence 
it must be regarded as a rendering of Low German vordo- 
den, " to slay"; sik vordon, " to commit suicide," in mod- 
ern Dutch zijn kind verdoen, "to kill his child." 
In A 4 we read : 

Frem da gick hun Buodel 
Hellet Hagens moder : 
11 Mig tocte, de fogle 
alle dode vaar." 

Forth then stepped Buodel, 
The Hero Hagen's mother; 
" The birds, it seemed to me, 
All were dead." 

Here are wanting both rime and assonance, whereas in 
the model upon which the ballad was formed, the " Nibe- 
lungenlied" (Lachmann's edition), both, as Bugge points 
out, are present : 

1449. Mir ist getroumet hinte 
von engestlicher n6t 
wie allez dasz gefugele 
in disme lande wasre tot. 



In verse 17, 



Saa kast hand det blodige hoffuit, 

han kaste hende udi sund, 

saa kaste hand kropen effter 

han bad, de skulde findes ved grund. 

He cast away the bloody head, 

He cast it far into the sound, 

So cast he then the body after, 

And bade at the bottom they both be found, 



104 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

we find the same rimes as in the " Nibelungenlied " : 

1 502. Er sluoc im ab daz houbet 
unde warf ez an den grunt : 
diu maere wurden schiere 
den Burgonden kunt. 

Compare, in addition, the following lines : 

B 25. That heard Falcko Spillemandt, 

And over the table he sprang (han snart offuer borden spranck) 

with " Nibelungenlied," 1903 : 

von dem tische spranc. 

In B 22 slag (blow) does not rime with laa (lay), but 
the corresponding German words, slag and lag, rime well 
enough. 

It may safely be granted that Bugge has made no mis- 
take in the line of argument he has chosen to follow. At 
the same time, according to my belief, it leads us much 
farther. 

When Hagen steps ashore he finds a marraminde 
(mermaid) asleep upon the bank. The language of the 
Middle Ages offers us no clew to this word, although 
Anders Vedel uses it to suit himself in his version of the 
ballad on the Danish " Series of Kings" (No. 115, B 19). 
In version B of our ballad we read : 

6. sig mig det, god marae, 

mon du est en kunstig quinde : 
skal'jeg paa det hedenske landt 
forlade unge liiff min. 

Tell me this, good marcs, 
An thou be a canny woman : 
Am I in the heathen land 
To quit my young life ? 



THE REFRAIN 105 

Grundtvig ingeniously suggests that here we should read : 
god maramon (mermaid) Du est t etc., and that mon is 
probably Old Norse man (girl), whence mareminde (mer- 
maid), which corresponds to the German mereminne. But 
man in the sense of girl is utterly unknown to the Danish, 
and hence it will not do to relate the word in any way to 
the Norse form. He who noted down the ballad heard 
sung the German mereminne, or some word formed upon 
it, which he did not understand, and for that reason he 
split the word, as it stands above. In the other transcript 
(A 6) stands mare-mynd, which is prudently glossed haff 
fnte (the usual Danish for " mermaid "). As for the rest, 
how far it is good Danish to say forlade mit unge Liv 
(quit my young life) must be passed by ; Kalkar's Diction- 
ary gives no parallel to this. In Low German the expres- 
sion is dat levent vorlisen (ich verliese minen Up is also a 
standing formula with the German minnesingers). 
Hagen addresses the mermaid so : 

7. Wake up, wake up, my mermaid, 
Pretty lande-viff! 

Bugge remarks, " lande-viff I am not acquainted with ; 
vande-viff (water-wife) would give us a quite unknown ex- 
pression for ' mermaid.' " It seems to me that we need only 
to look to the Low German lantwif, which signifies a 
"countrywoman," "a girl native to the country " (Flensborg, 
" Stadsret," 11: "quaenaes lanzman til by eldasr lanz- 
quinnae giftaes til by : gyft sick eyn lantman edder lant- 
vrowe in de stat " [that is, if a country man marries into 
the city or a country woman marries into the city]). 

Hagen thereupon rides saafriskelig (so heartily) (stanza 
n) into the heathen land, and later we meet the expression 



106 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

tre saafriske helt (three such hearty heroes) (stanzas 24,37). 
There is no doubt that by this is meant " intrepid," " bold " ; 
but when it is objected that the ballad " King Didrik and 
the Lion " (No. 9, B 2) has denfriske Love (the bold lion), 
we may reply that the word is rarely found in our older 
tongue, while, on the contrary, it is peculiar to the heroic 
language of Germany. In the unintelligible stanza 15, 

Jeg kommer aldrig i den stad 
jeg tager ey for hender nod, 

" I never come to such a state 
I suffer aught for her sake," 

(meaning, no doubt, " I am never so situated as to have 
need of") we seem to note the presence of the German 
nothebben (with the genitive), "to have need of something." 

1 8. When they came into the sound, 

A storm rose up /// haan (against them). 

Bugge compares with this the Old Norse til handa ; it is 
true that Old Danish offers examples of the use of til 
hand, but in Icelandic and in Danish (see Kalkar's Dic- 
tionary) til hand most frequently means " in favor of," "in 
support of," whereas a storm suggests precisely the oppo- 
site. It is but natural to call to mind the German to kant, 
the usual German expression for " at once," "immediately." 
With stanza 20, 

The man that next stepped after him, 
It was Falquor Spilmand, 

can be compared " Nibelungenlied," 1416, 

d8 kom der kiiene Volke'r 
ein edel spilman. 



THE REFRAIN 107 

Here it must be remembered, however, that Spilmand is 
not an Old Danish word and never appears in the ballads ; 
on the contrary, we have "Folkvar Spillemand" in Nos. 7 
and 8. 

23. Den ene hand forde en hog, 

er det sinner skjold ; 

den anden hand forde en feddel, 

en hertugs son saa bold. 

The one he bears a hawk, 
It is (on) his shield ; 
The other he bears a fiddle, 
A brave duke's son it wields. 

The second line assuredly can only mean : ist es seiner 
schild (a hawk was pictured on his shield), and, as far as 
fiddles are concerned, they are never found in the ballads. 
The popular book " Lucidarius " mentions " the finest 
fiddle that one may hear " ; otherwise " fiddle " is first 
spoken of in the sixteenth century (see Kalkar's Dictionary 
under Fidle). 1 

25. " Let them now all come in, 
Except Hero Hagen." 

27. " We shall hold a rend (ra.cz) to-day 
With Hero Hagen (met Helle Hagen)." 

Bugge remarks that here we must read " Hagen " with 
the accent on the last syllable. If we change the word 
to Hagenen (nominative Hagene\ as it is generally 

1 In Thomas Gheysmer's " Chronicle," the man who sang before 
Erik Eiegod is called " citharedus vel fiellator," since apparently a 
foreign expression was used. The same holds true of the " Rimed 
Chronicle," which tells that King Erik brought a " Spelman " with him 
from Rome. Cf. A. Olrik in " Mindre Afhandlinger," ed. by the phil.- 
hist. Samfund, p. 265. 



108 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

found in the German text, we shall have made good the 
missing syllable. When finally we run across stanzas 32, 33, 

In nomine domini, said Hero Hagen, 
Now goes my fiddle well, 

we learn what never before was heard of or known ; namely, 
that Latin was spoken in a popular ballad ! 
As for text B, Bugge has compared stanza 20, 

Her maa ingen suerde 
paa dett slott nu drage, 

" Here must be no sword 
Within the castle worn," 

with " Nibelungenlied," 1683, 

man sol deheiniu wafen 
tragen in den sal. 

One will notice here how slavishly and laboriously the 
Danish text follows the German, and how the verb and 
the word it governs fail to stand in the same line a 
style foreign to ballads. 

By this time, surely, the character of the ballad must, 
on the whole, have been sufficiently indicated. To press 
the conclusion home I shall call attention to the following 
lines and to the remarks subjoined thereto : 

A 7. Skal jeg til den hedenske land 
fordoye mit unge liff ? 

" Am I in the heathen land 
To part with my young life ? " 

This must be, to dent lande. 

A 8. Thou art a knave so bold. 



THE REFRAIN 109 

But is a knave (Kncegf) mentioned anywhere else in the. 
ballads, and is the word used to designate a warrior ? I 
recall having met with it in only one place, namely, in 
Vedel's version of the ballad " Queen Margrete " : 

No. 1 59. 2. King Albret with his knights and knaves (Rytter oc 

Knecte) 
And they would go to Skaane ; 

where, however, all the older texts from various manu- 
scripts testify against Vedel : " King Albret and his good 
courtiers (Hofmand}." None of the citations in Kalkar's 
Dictionary are older than the sixteenth century, with the 
exception of a reference in an Inventory of Agerhus 
Castle from 1487, which says : " i Knecktpill with 6 
Dozen " (Danske Magazin, 3d Series, II, 14). Such 
stanzas as the following have miscarried remarkably in 
their transit to Denmark : 

A 9. Du haffuer paa dit eget land 
Saa meget gods saa fri. 

10. Det vaar sollige marre-mind 
och der han hoffdet aff hug. 

1 6. Det vor den sellige ferri-mand, 
der hand hoffden fra hug. 

25. Ud stander frue Kremold 
I siner skind gron. 

A 9. You have at home in your own country 
Castles and lands so free. 

10. It was the silly mermaid 

Her head he there struck off. 

1 6. It was the silly ferryman, 
And off his head he struck. 

25. Forth stands Lady Kremold 
Arrayed in green fur. 



no THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In conclusion there are found everywhere inversions and 
absurd, annoying repetitions ; such as, for instance, in 
stanza 17 : "so cast ... he cast ... so cast ... he bade." 

The result of the above investigations may be summed 
up thus : Here lies before us a translation, often meaning- 
less, of a Low German ballad, characterized by faulty meter 
and faulty Danish. That should by no means be regarded 
as a Danish form which has been patterned after a Ger- 
man model, itself an import into Denmark. The ballad 
is frankly a translation, made particularly by the pen, a 
translation that could never have resulted in a singable 
ballad. This view is strikingly confirmed by various con- 
ditions. Because of its form and meter this ballad stands 
unique among all other ballads. Both versions A and B 
are written in eight-line stanzas, and their division by 
Grundtvig into four-line stanzas (like that of Vedel's ear- 
lier) is wholly arbitrary. Several of the stanzas have now 
and then a couple of lines too many. Moreover the rhythm 
is incontestably foreign to that of the average popular 
ballad ; it is based on a meter that is ordinarily never found 
in Denmark, namely, that of the " Nibelungen " stanza 
(more of this later). Then, too, the absence of a refrain 
points to the conclusion that the ballad was never intended 
for singing. Of not the least significance is the fact that 
the ballad is preserved in only one manuscript, namely, 
Svaning's, and then in the composite, final section of the 
manuscript, where it appears in two different places. 
Hence this ballad, in all probability, never boasted of a 
wide circulation ; it progressed no farther than a single 
manor, where some German servant made it known to the 
housewife, who wrote it down twice. Or more likely, the 



THE REFRAIN in 

German's fellow-servants attempted to give the ballad a 
Danish dress, which, however, did not fit well ; this would 
account for the two copies of it. 

There is not the slightest ground for assuming that a 
Danish ballad with so meaningless a verse, with so faulty 
and unintelligible a language, with so unsingable a form, 
would have been taken up by popular tradition. It has 
been preserved by the pen and is quite late, certainly as 
late as the sixteenth century. 

Clearly, notwithstanding, this ballad has a certain amount 
of interest. It manifests to us the vital energy of the 
" Grimhild Saga," and instructs us concerning an unknown 
German poem ; through its wholly incongruous character 
it enables us to understand the remainder of our ballads. 
But its worth lies, not in its holding up to view a sample 
of ballad style prevailing in the Middle Ages, but in its 
furnishing a contrast to such a style. 

With respect to the ballad of " The Nightingale " 
(No. 57), Grundtvig has gradually come to the right con- 
clusion. In the second volume of his work he had already 
pointed out its close relation to foreign versions ; the fol- 
lowing comparison will show what a family resemblance 
exists between it and a Netherlandish ballad : 

i. I know well where a castle stands, 
And it is bedecked so richly 
With silver and the red, red gold, 
With carved stones walled rarely. 

i. Daer staet een clooster in oostenrijc, 
Het is so wel ghecieret 
Met silver ende rooden gout, 
Met grauwen steen doormoeret. 



112 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

6. Art thou a wild bird alone in the world 
And no man doth know thee ; 
Hunger will nip thee, and cold and snow 
That falls on thy way so lonely. 

6. Sidi een clein wilt voghelken stout, 
Can u gheen man bedwinghen, 
So dwinghet u die haghel, die coude snee 
Die loovers vander linden. 

Still these strophes are not entirely conclusive, since they 
belong to a kind of unsettled lyrical verse which recurs 
in various Swedish and German ballads. But the entire 
atmosphere of the ballad is foreign. 

In the Danish ballad the nightingale tells the knight 
that she is a young girl who has been metamorphosed 
by her stepmother. She is captured by the knight and 
imprisoned in a cage. She then undergoes various trans- 
formations, ending up in the shape of a serpent ; when the 
knight cuts the serpent with his knife, it turns into a 
maiden, the daughter of an Egyptian king. Although the 
corresponding foreign ballads tell no such story of enchant- 
ment and disenchantment, yet Grundtvig entertains no 
doubt that the ballad originates in a foreign type, " its rich 
lyricism and its land of Egypt invest it with a decisively 
foreign appearance " ; yet he adds, " to regard one of them 
(the Danish or the Swedish text) as a matter-of-fact trans- 
lation made by the pen from another language is forbidden 
by nothing more than the defective rime of the text, for 
this bears earmarks of having been taken up by popular 
tradition before it came into print." Later Grundtvig has 
been more clearly impressed with the ballad's "lack of 
genuine popular foundation," and with the fact " that from 



THE REFRAIN 113 

the first it has worn an untraditional guise with, in part, a 
more artistic (though certainly not a prettier) form than 
belongs to the genuine popular ballad. It once had com- 
plete rime, whereas now it lacks even the ordinary half- 
rime " (III, 833). Grundtvig has also pointed out that 
no Danish tradition appears independently of the broad- 
side in which it first came out. Since this ballad is dated 
from the time of Frederic IV, having been "printed in the 
year," say somewhere previous to 1721, it seems to me to 
be a simple matter to name the ballad rightly. It is not 
a popular ballad, but it is a street song, translated from the 
German by some poet of Holberg's day. 

A ballad which Grundtvig has treated with great fullness 
is "Fair Anna" (No. 258); it takes up forty pages of 
his text and is accompanied by a general synopsis. Beyond 
a doubt it has figured as the most popular ballad of the 
past few centuries. It tells of an abducted king's daughter, 
who had been bought by a knight and kept as his mistress, 
becoming by him the mother of seven sons. The knight 
concludes later to take another woman as his wife. When 
the concubine offers wine to the bride, the latter looks 
curiously at the sorrowing woman and asks her name. 
Thus she discovers that Fair Anna is her husband's mis- 
tress, and even learns that she is her own sister. She 
then withdraws, and Anna becomes the lawful wife. The 
ballad, which is found in two of our oldest manuscripts, 
Sten Bille's and Karen Brahe's (c. 1 5 50), resembles 
very closely, as Grundtvig has pointed out, a German and 
a Netherlandish ballad. If we now examine text A, we 
shall find the following striking conditions : 
i . Der red en Mur ad stellen ud ; 



114 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

that is to say, there rode a Moor out for to steal. 
2. Fair Anneck is she called. 

This German form of the name is found throughout the 
entire ballad. 

17. I give to her my new mills all 
That lie on the plains so wide ; 
And they grind out the cinnamon meal, 
And nothing else besides. 

30. She let fall many bitter tears 
Down into the cup they sank. 

See the Netherlandish form (Grundtvig, App. 3, V, 17) : 

zii liet er alzoo menigen traan 

al in de gouden wijnschaal zinken. 

38. Had I now a lansquenet good 
Of honor and of price, 
Who would follow me all through the land 
Like as a faithful wife. 

19, 23. Fair Anneck, myfrynd-ynne (a female friend). 

These specimens indicate sufficiently well that here we 
have to do with a German importation ; for our ballads in- 
deed never deal with Moors, cinnamon, or lansquenets 
who first arose in Germany at the conclusion of the fif- 
teenth century. The language is superlatively un-Danish. 
Frynt, for Ven (friend), unquestionably found its way into 
Denmark during the sixteenth century, but scarcely earlier. 
No instance of it prior to this time is recorded in Kalkar, 
and hardly ever is it met with in the ballads. In Langebek's 
Quarto Manuscript of the time of Frederic II, is found the 
phrase (No. 2546) "With great frynt-lighed (friendship) 
she received him " ; the other two manuscripts of B, and 
also the other texts, have " With great tucht (propriety)." 



THE REFRAIN 115 

The other two texts of " Fair Anna " belonging to 
the sixteenth century exhibit German forms of words to 
a less degree : 

B 27. Take with thee thy kamer-viff (lady of honor, 
German kammerweib), 

but such a mode of address and such a splitting up of the 
speech as follows, though common to all the forms of this 
ballad, whether of our time or of that of the earliest re- 
corded copy, is unknown to our other ballads : 

B 4. Fair Anne is to his mother gone ; 
11 Mother ! " said she, " lady ! 
Will you ask your own dear son 
If me he will promise to marry ? " 

12. Her lord is to Fair Anne gone ; 
" Anne, my trust, my treasure ! 

What gifts do you intend for my noble bride, 
Will surely give her pleasure ? " 

13. " Gifts enow I '11 give to her, 

My king ! " said she, " my master ! 
I '11 give to her my seven bold sons, 
Of whom I am the mother." 

14. " That is not a generous gift, 
Anne, my trust, my treasure ! 
Other gifts you must give to her, 
If you hold dear my pleasure." 

15. " Then I '11 give her gifts enow, 
My king ! " said she, " my master ! 
I '11 give to her your own dear self, 
And I live alone hereafter." 

This mode of address, together with the attempt to 
employ two titles on either side, runs throughout the 
whole ballad. For counterparts to this usage our other 



Ii6 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

ballads yield nothing ; besides it conflicts with all ballad 
style to introduce "said she" in the middle of a verse- 
line and in direct discourse. Foreign texts, on the contrary, 
furnish parallels to this practice : " och moeder, zeide ze, 
landsvrouwe ! " or " koning Alewijn, zeide ze, heere ! " 

Whatever else comes to light in the Danish texts of 
this ballad, thus much is certain : none of them represent 
the genuine style of the Danish popular ballad ; some of 
them are German in language, and version A exhibits 
marks of the translation, which add in no way to its 
aesthetic value. Grundtvig declares that the ballad " could 
scarcely be dated back farther than about 1400." The 
facts, however, stand as follows : The ballad was written 
down in Denmark in 1550, and even at that time it bore 
most distinctly telltale marks of its homeland ; so over- 
whelmingly present are these that the language is mean- 
ingless. Hence it failed to get its German accent rubbed 
off ; if we then concede that it was translated into Danish 
during the sixteenth century, we surely give to the ballad 
all its due. It does no more than indicate the nature of 
the taste obtaining in the sixteenth century ; it has noth- 
ing to do with the fifteenth century or with the Middle 
Ages. It presents an incongruous appearance in the com- 
pany of our other ballads. If the art of song-writing had 
been known here in Denmark in the fifteenth century, it 
certainly would have exerted a lasting and unmistakable 
influence on Danish song-writing. 

In " True as Gold " (No. 254) we have likewise a foreign 
ballad in Danish guise. A young man meets a maiden, 
who is listening to the song of a bird, and proffers his love 
to her ; but she replies that she already has a good friend. 



THE REFRAIN 117 

He then removes his hat from his head and discloses 
himself as her lover. The foreign and somewhat learned 
tone is repeated in practically all of the texts. Such verses 
as these, for example, run through nearly all versions : 

A 3. I listen to peace and the song of birds 
In this the summer's verdure. 

10. The birds they sang in a shady dale, 
The nightingales in song were wooing ; 
They both were afraid of calumny's tale, 
Which ever is joy's undoing. 

C 10. The birds did sing within the dale, 

Lady Nightingale in song was wooing. 

Compare Grundtvig, App. 3, V, I : 

Darauf da sitzt Frau Nachtigall, 

Das kleine Waldvogelein vor dem Wald. 

The ballad has near relatives in a number of lands, and 
its whole bearing shows its remoteness from the general 
popular style. The popular ballad falls short of such 
properly constructed verse. Especially open to suspicion 
is the precision of such lines as " I hold a youth so dear 
in my heart," " With all decorum (Titgt] she received him 
then." (Bb has here " With great friendliness \Fryndt- 
lighed'] she received him then.") Our ballads are not at 
all given to speaking of so abstract a thing as calumny, 
which is joy's undoing (more of this later) ; they do not 
treat of a youth and a maiden, but of Sir Oluf and Young 
Else. Hence one is no more surprised to find that a 
refrain is wanting than he is to find that texts A, B, and C 
begin the narrative in the /-form (though they conclude in 
the third person), for both of these features are character- 
istic of the German ballad. 



n8 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

" Little Karen " (No. 101) is built upon the old legend 
of St. Catherine, whom the emperor attempts to make his 
mistress. She firmly defends her virtue, and as a result she 
is cast into the tower, there to suffer the painful tortures 
of being broken upon the wheel and stuck full of spikes. 
The ballad exists here in the North only in modern copies ; 
yet Peder Syv mentions a " St. Karen's ballad." On the 
other hand, there is found a series of German ballads on 
St. Catherine, one of which is so nearly akin to a Swedish 
ballad as to suggest that the ballad was translated either 
from the German into the Swedish or from the Swedish 
into the German. Grundtvig considers the original to have 
been Swedish, whereas Bergstrom and Hoijer 1 take the 
opposite view. Six out of the seven Danish versions have 
no refrains and go to the other extreme in a repetition 
of the first or of both lines in a stanza. The seventh 
form has the refrain " Yes, it is you I was engaged to in 
my youth," which is also found in version M of " Ribold 
and Guldborg" (No. 82). It is certainly difficult to make 
good the assumption that this ballad can be assigned to 
the Middle Ages ; we have far greater reason, or even 
right, to regard it as having been imported from Germany 
into Denmark in the seventeenth century. Why, indeed, 
should the importation have been impossible at this period ? 
At a very recent date, as Bugge has pointed out, the bal- 
lad has strayed from Sweden into Eastdale in Norway, 
and an almost perfect Danish form has forced its way 
even up to Telemark (II, 546, III, 895). As a final 
proof of its modern character let me call attention to its 

1 E. G. Geijer och A. A. Afzelius, Svenska Folkvisor ; new, much 
enlarged edition, ed. by R. Bergstrom and L. Hoijer, 1880. 



THE REFRAIN 119 

meter, which is altogether different from that of all other 
ballads ; this feature will be dwelt upon more precisely in 
the following chapter. 

"The Bald Monk " (No. 15) sings of one of those in- 
trepid monastic characters which were not infrequently the 
subject of song and popular tradition in the later periods 
of the Middle Ages. Twelve warriors lie in ambush before 
the cloister gate and kill the oxen and cows of the monks. 
Upon this the bald monk snatches up a heavy ax, and, 
engaging in combat with them, slays them all. Seized by 
a sort of Berserker fury the monk rushes out into the 
woods, where he meets a trold, whom he puts to such hard 
straits that the trold in order to persuade his foe to leave 
off must surrender to him a large amount of gold and silver. 
On his return home to the monastery the monk continues 
his violent behavior, mistreating his brother monks and 
striking out one of the abbot's eyes. The monks therefore 
conclude to choose him for their abbot. 

Some of the verses must have been badly remembered ; 
as, for example : 

7. de skreff krensen (Kredsen) paa den lord, 
de quad huer-ander en vise ; 
det vil jeg for sanden sige : 
det vaar saa beesk en lise. 

They wrote a circle upon the ground 
They sang each one a ballad ; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
It was relief so wretched. 

In others German words appear : 

9. He fain then would be walking (spatzere). 



120 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Stanza 13 has: "He struck the monk on the tonsure 
(plade)" where plade is the German word Platte, that 
is, "tonsure." 

Only one version of the ballad is extant, and that be- 
longs to a broadside of the seventeenth century. Although 
the printed ballad in this case is virtually of the Middle 
Ages, we have no reason to assume that the ballad origi- 
nally lacked a refrain merely because one is not found in 
the broadside. 

In "Henry of Brunswick" (No. 114) Henry has gone 
away to fight the heathen ; he bade his wife to wait for 
him seven years and not to put a hare in the bear's den. 
Henry is taken prisoner by the heathen and is compelled 
to draw the harrow and the plow. One day he sees a lion 
and a serpent fighting together ; he assists the lion, who 
thereupon follows him about as faithfully as though he were 
his hound. He sits down upon a stone and falls asleep. 
Then an angel appears and leads him seven hundred miles 
to Brunswick, where he arrives just as his wife is about to 
marry another. The following verses will, I believe, suffi- 
ciently indicate the character of this ballad : 

A i. The Duke of Brunsvig, 

hvor finder man ien iginn nu slig ! x 
All. Du laeg aldrig Hare in Bjornens Leie. 
12. Fangen blev Hertugen, det var vaerre. 
1 8. Saa underlig Ting emthyrit ham. 
25. Saa underlig Ting wyndthyres han. 
28. Du saette Dig neder og hvile Dig, 
men jeg vil bede min Skaber for Dig. 

1 Cf. " Persenober," stanza 4 (Brandt, II, 35) : "man finder ikke nu 
mange slig" (one finds not now many such). 



THE REFRAIN 121 

I. The Duke of Brunswick, 

Where will one find again now such ! 

1 1 . Never lay a hare in the bear's den. 

12. A captive was the Duke, that was true. 
1 8. So wonderful a thing befell him. 

25. So wonderful a thing he had to endure. 
28. Now sit you down and rest you, 
But I shall pray my Maker for you. 

If it were really true that the language of the old ballads 
knew a verb emthyre, " to experience," " to endure," such 
a word would have been found in daily use, for so largely 
is the language of our ballads a part of common speech ; 
but this is not the case. Just as little do the ballads speak 
of " my Maker," and just as little do they speak, on the 
whole, in the language of this ballad. It presents essen- 
tially nothing more than the character of a rimed tale. 

Two forms of the ballad, A and B, are found ; but B, 
according to Grundtvig, bears throughout "the stamp of 
an untraditional revision " ; "it seems to be an arbitrary 
revision, for which A has furnished the basis, but for 
which, in addition, was used another genuine copy, which 
is not now known." A is found in Karen Brahe's Folio 
Manuscript and in two other manuscripts, which had a 
common source, but the first-named manuscript, accord- 
ing to Grundtvig, furnishes the oldest and best text. The 
text is written, however, in six-line stanzas, of which the 
first and second lines are a repetition of the last line and a 
half of the preceding stanza ; the third and fourth lines 
rime together, likewise the fifth and sixth. B has four- 
line stanzas with the first and second lines riming, and 
the third and fourth ; the repetition, however, is absent 
(though it may have been present originally). Hence only 



122 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Ab and Ac have the general two-line stanza, of which 
one and a half lines are repeated ; but it is extremely doubt- 
ful whether this form is not a reworking and an expansion 
of the heterogeneous form, by which it was forced more 
into the general style of the popular ballad. 

" St. George and the Dragon " (No. 103) is a rather 
dull and unpoetic composition ; its three Swedish forms 
have the following introductory stanza : 

Praised be the Virgin Mary 

And her well-blessed Son ! 

A ballad will I sing to you, 

It was made on the knight St. Orrian. 

" Beyond a doubt such a stanza was present in our 
ballad too," says Grundtvig. If this be the case, the ro- 
mances and the religious poetry of the monasteries come 
into close touch with each other. In the Battle of Brun- 
kebjerg (1471) the Swedes are said to have sung the ballad 
of " St. George." Possibly that is the one which has been 
preserved ; though it is hard to understand how the ballad 
could serve as a war ballad. At any rate it dates from the 
late Middle Ages, and it properly belongs to the romances. 

The historical ballad "The Defeat in Ditmarsh " 
(No. 170) (1500 A.D.) is, as Grundtvig says, "composed 
in an entirely new style, the allegorical," and it "has 
a verse-form differing from that of every other old popular 
ballad. Nevertheless it is neither an art form, nor even a 
rimed chronicle, but a genuinely popular ballad; it was 
the property of the people and remained so down to the 
time when half a century later it was put to paper. All 
three versions are much distorted, first by oral tradition, 
and second by the pen." Of the ballad's aesthetic worth I 



THE REFRAIN 123 

shall not speak here. Thus much, at all events, is certain : 
the ballad with its stanzas in from three to five lines, with 
its whole vacillating, enigmatical, and allegorical character, 
is such a departure from the hundreds of other ballads that 
it cannot enter into any discussion of the general structure 
of the popular ballad. The closing lines of version B, 
" this says the boy who accompanied the host," remind 
one of the German historical ballads, in which the con- 
clusion often states that the ballad was sung "von einem, 
der auch dabei gewesen." 

There are found a few other ballads which lack refrains ; 
but these are cases where the refrain has been lost. The 
most noteworthy of these is " Niels Ebbeson " (No. 1 56), a 
genuine popular ballad ; in none of its five forms nor in 
Vedel's text is there any refrain. The ballad must conse- 
quently be regarded as a peculiar exception. Yet there is 
no doubt that only by an untoward chance was it robbed 
of what it originally possessed. 

The results of the foregoing detailed investigations may 
be summed up thus. There are extant only a very few 
ballads which possess no refrains, and in the majority of 
these cases the absence of this feature should certainly be 
charged to an accidental loss attendant upon the course 
of time. With a few of these exceptions, the lack of a re- 
frain is peculiarly significant, in that a close examination 
makes them stand forth as ballads that do not belong to 
the Middle Ages, or, at any rate, to Danish popular poetry. 
Several of them were imported into Denmark during either 
the last two hundred years or the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries ; others are downright translations, bearing both 
in their language and in their form marks of their original 



124 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

nature and birthplace ; others again can be looked at only 
as pseudo-popular ballads, since they appear neither to 
have been sung nor to have been constructed for being 
sung, but simply and solely to have been written. As a 
consequence they are met with in only one manuscript. 

In the next chapter, when we come to discuss the gen- 
uine ballad style and genuine ballad tone, and to investi- 
gate what is unique in the contents and spirit of the ballads, 
we shall meet with these same ballads again. If one should 
be of the opinion that a sentence of "guilty " ought hardly to 
be passed upon all the ballads just analyzed above (though 
certainly they must be classed as suspects), still it will cause 
no surprise, at any rate, to find again later on the same 
ballads in the felon's dock prosecuted for other offenses. 



CHAPTER V 
RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 

My investigations in this chapter will cover the outer 
form and appearance of the ballads. The metrical struc- 
ture of the ballads, however, I shall not discuss in any 
great detail. That has already been done very competently 
by Ernst von der Recke and by Carl Rosenberg. I dare 
not lay claim to any special knowledge in that field, nor 
can I bring to bear any new observations. But precisely 
because Von der Recke 's researches lead to several of the 
same conclusions at which I have arrived independently, 
I shall give a brief account of the ballad meter. 

Using the terms proper to the metrical art of the classics, 
we may describe the basic form of the ballads to be iambic 
dimeter, with a strophe of two or four lines. It is seldom, 
however, that we find the iambic measure intact ; its place 
may be taken by the anapaest, and the dancing step of the 
choriambus a single arsis followed by an anapaest is 
often heard. On the whole, great freedom prevails. I have 
had to search for several days to find so regular a verse 
as this : 

No. 114 (B 51), 

Du rag mit Skjaeg, Du to mit Haar ! 
saa maa Du se mit dybe Saar. 

" You shave my beard, you wash my hair, 
So you may see my wounds laid bare." 
125 



126 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

No. 31 (A 1 6), 

End haver jeg an danske Hest, 
er f 6'dt i Saebylund ; 
hver Sinde ban til Mollen gaar, 
da baer han femten Fund. 

" And I have yet a Danish horse 
Was born in Saebylund ; 
And ev'ry time he goes to mill 
Bears fifteen hundred pounds." 

Hence it is purely by reconstruction that we meet the 
iambic dimeter as a basic form. In view of the great free- 
dom in which the rhythm moves, it may well be regarded 
as a fixed rule that each verse-line consists of four (or 
three) accented syllables, with one or several unaccented 
syllables in between each pair of accents. 

The two-line strophe, which is perhaps the oldest, holds 
its own throughout the entire Middle Ages down to their 
conclusion and into the sixteenth century. But the lan- 
guage meanwhile had undergone a change which must have 
exercised an influence on the verse measure ; the termina- 
tions disappeared, being supplanted by prepositions ; the 
unaccented particles became numerous, and the articles 
assumed prominence. 1 This evolution forced out the old 
metrical system, making way gradually for a broader 
rhythm, which created a place for extra syllables in the 
verse. Thus the two-line strophe took on an expanded 
form. 

Ernst von der Recke has illustrated the change in the 
ballad structure by a comparison of the following verses : 

1 Rosenberg in Nordisk Tidsskrift, issued by the Letterstedtska 
Foreningen, 1883, p. 294. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 127 

Icelandic : Forste Terning paa Tavlbord randt, 
Svenden table, Jomfruen vandt. 

Norse : Forste Guldterning paa Tavlebord randt, 

Ungersvend table, skjon Jomfru hun vandt. 

Danish (E) : Den forste Gang Guldterning over Tavlebordet 

randt, 
den Baadsmand han table og Jomfruen vandt 

Danish (C) : Den forsle Gang Guldterning 
over Tavlebordet randt, 
den liden Baadsmand table, 
og den skjon Jomfru vandl. 

Icelandic : The first dice over the checkerboard ran, 
The youth he lost, the maiden won. 

Norse : The first gold dice over the checkerboard ran, 
The young man lost, the fair maid she won. 

Danish (E) : The first time the gold dice over the checkerboard 

ran, 
The boatman he lost and the maiden won. 

Danish (C) : The first time the gold dice 
Over the checkerboard ran, 
The litlle boalman losl 
And Ihe fair maid she won. 

We can thus readily see how the number of accents has 
increased and how the rhythmical movement has changed. 
The dimeter has been expanded by means of small addi- 
tions, exchange of words, and embellishments, first in the 
direction of the anapaest, and next in that of the paeon, 
until the paeon (w w w __) breaks over into two pure iambics 
(^_^_). We then fall back upon the old fundamental 
iambic foot, but with a doubled number of arses, for an 
accent has stepped in between the accents originally 



128 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

contiguous. 1 This accounts for the appearance, among 
other things, of the so-called Little Karen strophe : 

Og hor Du, liden Karen, og vil Du vaere min, 
syv silkestukne Kjoler dem vil jeg give Dig. 

" And hear thou, little Karen, and if thou wilt be mine, 
Seven silk-embroidered dresses I promise will be thine." 

This strophe has reproduced some of the peculiarities 
of the Nibelungen verse (which I shall presently discuss), 
namely, the use of a pause after the third foot (Kar-en, 
Kjo-ler), and its dipodic structure. These two styles of 
verse, however, are not wholly identical. 2 

Here I wish to call attention to the unique situation in 
which we again meet this ballad of Little Karen (No. 101). 
In the preceding chapter I pointed out that, on other 
grounds, it is a late ballad, which was brought over into 
Denmark from Germany in the course of the seventeenth 
century (p. 118); now, on metrical grounds, it proves to 
be a foreign import. Several of the ballads recently found 
in Jutland appear to have adopted the same metrical sys- 
tem as that of the Little Karen ballad. The late Swedish 
ballads especially have made general use of it, and to a cer- 
tain extent that language is better adapted to such a sys- 
tem, since Swedish words often have a secondary accent 
where the Danish have a wholly unaccented syllable (Dan. 
hellige, Sw. heligd), which could easily become weak after 
a pause (Dan. og alle de Guds Engle, Sw. och alia smd 
Gudsenglar) . 3 

1 Recke, Principerne for den danske Verskunst, I, 101 ; Recke, 
Dansk Verslsere, 93. 

2 For a more detailed treatment, see Rosenberg, in Nordisk Tids- 
skrift, 1883, p. 502. 8 Rosenberg, in Nordisk Tidsskrift, p. 501. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 129 

In addition to the ordinary two-line and four-line strophes, 
we find in some ballads a very peculiar metrical system. 
In " Sivard and Brynild " (No. 3), for instance, we have : 

i. Sivard han haver en Fole, 

den er saa spag. 

Han tog stolt Brynild af Glarbjerget 
om lysen Dag. 

3. Stolten Brynild og stolten Signild, 

de Jomfruer to, 
de gaar dennem til Strande, 
deres Silke at to. 

i. Sivard he has a filly, 

A gentle wight. 

He bore proud Brynild away from Glarbjerg 
In broad daylight. 

3. The proud Brynild and the proud Signild, 

The maidens twain, 
They went down to the seashore 
Their silks to clean. 

Likewise in " The Betrothed in the Grave " (No. 90) : 

11 Du stat op, stolten Elselille, 

luk op din Dor ! 
jeg kan saa vel Jesu Navn naevne 

som jeg kunde for." 

Op staar stolten Elselille 

med Taare paa Kind : 
saa lukker hun den ddde Mand 

i Buret ind. 

" Get up, get up, proud Elselille, 

Open the door ! 
I can name the name of Jesus as well 

As I could before." 



130 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Up then rose proud Elselille 

With tearful face ; 
She let the dead man then enter 

Into the place. 

In version B of this ballad the meter has already begun 
to disintegrate. A similar phenomenon is apparent in a 
number of ballads, in which the old rhythm, such as that 
above, can but faintly be made out through its disguise. 
This meter is not found in many ballads ; the few that 
may be named are : "Proud Elin's Revenge " (No. 209), 
" Peder and Duke Henry " (No. 334), " Hagen's Dance " 
(No. 465 ; see above, p. 12), Unpublished No. 42, and 
Kristensen, I, No. 65; II, Nos. n, 27. 

I have no doubt that this rhythm is old. Rosenberg 
surmises that the following stanza from an Icelandic sa- 
tirical ballad (1221 A.D., " Sturlunga Saga," VII, c. 44) 
once possessed the same meter : 

Loptr er f eyjum Lopt er paa Oerne, 

bftr lunda-bein ; gnaver Ben af Lunde (Fugl) ; 

Saemundr er d heidum, Saemund er paa Hederne, 

etr berin ein. spiser ikkun Baer. 

Lopt is on the islands, 
He gnaws the legs of puffins ; 
Saemund is on the moorlands, 
He lives on berries alone. 

It seems to me, however, that an accent ought to fall on 
bitr and etr combined with a weak secondary accent ; in 
other words, the second and fourth lines contain three 
beats. This indeed is confirmed by one of the manuscripts, 
in which the fourth line runs : " ok etr berin ein." Hence 
the above can scarcely be regarded as the parent of this 
ballad measure. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 131 

The most peculiar feature of this rhythm is that the 
first and third lines form a decided contrast to the second 
and fourth. While the first line goes dancing upon the 
tiptoes, the second marches along beating time ; one feels, 
as it were, the heavy tread. I shall touch again upon this 
feature when I come to speak of the melodies. 

The metrical system discussed above is far removed from 
that of the Nibelungen verse. The latter is well known 
in the poetry of Denmark. It consists of eight lines, of 
which the second and the fourth, and the sixth and the 
eighth, rime in pairs and, as a rule, have masculine 
endings ; whereas the other lines, likewise riming in 
pairs, have feminine endings, with a characteristic pause 
at the end of the first, third, fifth, and seventh lines ; or, 
to speak more technically, in place of the fourth arsis in 
an imperfect iambic tetrameter line stands a pause, which 
makes up a component part of the rhythm itself. This is 
the most obvious token of this kind of verse. 1 The genuine 
old Nibelungen verse has, in addition, the peculiarity of 
an extra arsis in the eighth line ; that is, four complete 
accents make up the eighth line. 

This last characteristic has slipped out of the verse of 
our modern poets who have composed in this kind of 
meter, and the strophe has, on the whole, suffered some 
small modifications. To recall the rhythm to mind I subjoin 
as a specimen a stanza from Ohlenschlager's " Helge " : 

Da sagde Konning Helge : 
af tvende haarde Kaar 
det blideste vi vaelge, 
som Helten vel anstaar. 

1 Recke, Verskunst, I, 178 ff., II, 68 ff. ; Verslaere, chap. viii. 



132 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Jeg seiled over Vandet 
med Kaemper og med Mod, 
men jeg vil skaane Landet, 
og jeg vil spare Blod. 

Then spoke the good king Helge : 
" Of two conditions hard 
Why let us choose the lesser, 
Befits both knight and lord. 
I sail far o'er the water, 
With men of fearless mood, 
To lands I shall give quarter, 
And shall also spare blood." 

At first sight one might be tempted to scan this form as 
being made up of iambic lines of six feet with an anapaest 
in the fourth foot. But then one would miss precisely what 
is most characteristic of this verse, namely, the accent which 
falls in between the third and fourth arses (Hel-ge). Here 
one must imagine the arsis which the ear demands as being 
replaced by a pause. 

The Nibelungen strophe can undergo a series of mod- 
ifications without the groundwork of its form being in any 
way disturbed. The second syllable of the thesis can be 
dispensed with (Des antwurte Stvrif) ; the pause can be 
shoved forward, two thesis syllables in two adjoining feet 
can be omitted (Wol df, sprach Sivrif), and so forth. The 
metrical system is extraordinarily rich, capable of being 
expanded and contracted with wonderfully expressive varia- 
tions, and with a wealth of forms surpassing all other 
systems. 1 According to Recke's computation 50,000 mil- 
lions of combinations can appear in the eight-line strophe ; 

i Recke, Verskunst, II, 68 ff. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 



133 



but in spite of the multiplicity of variations, the verse still 
holds its own character unimpaired. 

Not the slightest trace of this meter is to be found in 
our popular ballads, although, to be sure, the two rhythms 
have at times been likened with one another, especially 
since the theory has originated that herein is to be found 
the source of the Little Karen strophe. The features which 
differentiate the two meters so sharply are the absence in 
the ballad both of the above-mentioned pause and of the 
four accented syllables in the last line of the stanza, and 
the failure to exhibit a double arsis, which the elision of 
the syllables of the thesis should create. An exception is 
exemplified in one ballad, namely, " Grimild's Revenge " 
(No. 5). Grundtvig has remarked the kinship existing be- 
tween this ballad and the " Nibelungenlied " ; he has set 
up in parallel columns verses from the German poem and 
from the ballad of " Grimild " in order to establish the like- 
ness, but without going so far as to pass judgment upon 
the rhythm of this ballad. Both Rosenberg and Recke 
have meanwhile shown adequately that the meter of this 
ballad is wholly out of keeping with that of the other 
Danish ballads, and, on the other hand, have pointed out 
its correspondence with that of the Nibelungen verse. A 
comparison will easily make this apparent : 



D6 wuohs in Niderlanden 
eins richen kiineges kint, 
des vater der hiez Sigemunt, 
sin muoter Sigelint, 
in einer richen biirge, 
witen wol bekant, 
nidene bi dem Rine : 
diu was ze Sdntdn genant. 



Det var Fru Kremold, 

hun lod Mjoden blende : 

det var saa mangen fri Helled, 

hun Buden efter sende : 

" Dubeddennem kommetil Orlog, 

Du bed dennem komme til Krig ! 

der skal saa mangen fri Helled 

forlade sit unge Liv ! " 



134 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In sinen besten ziten, Det var Helled Hagens Moder, 

bi sinen jungen tagen, hun dromte saa underlige, 

man mohte michel wunder at den gode Fole styrte, 

von Sivride sagen. som han skulde hen ride : 

waz eren an im wiichse " Den Drom, han haver at saede, 

und wie schone was sin lip. kjaere Sonne min ! 

sit heten in ze minne Vogte Dig alt fuld saare vel, 

diu vil watlichen wip. Din Soster forraader Dig ! " 

"It was Dame Kremold, 
She set the mead a-brewing ; 
There was many a bold hero 
Her summons would be rueing : 
1 Go bid them come to battle, 
Go bid them come to fight ! 
There is so many a young hero 
Is doomed to lose his life ! ' " 

" It was Hero Hagen's mother, 
She dreamed so uncannily, 
That the good filly stumbled 
He was to ride away : 
' The dream it will be fateful, 
My son, so dear to me ! 
Guard thyself, I warn thee well, 
Thy sister is false to thee ! ' " 

In the words Orlog, Moder, styrte, scede, one can readily 
notice the pauses spoken of above ; the elided theses appear 
most characteristically in : " Det var Fru Kremold, hun 
lod Mjoden, . . . ' Du bed dennem,' " etc. Accordingly 
there is no question that in this one ballad, out of the whole 
store of ballads, we meet with the Nibelungen verse. Here 
I have additional proof to bear out my assertion, which I 
have maintained on many other grounds, that this ballad 
should by no means be regarded as a popular ballad. It 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 135 

is not a reworking or a reshaping of a German ballad ; it 
is a translation of a foreign text. 

I shall now make some comments on the origin of the 
strophe of the popular ballads. Several critics for exam- 
ple, N. M. Petersen, Grundtvig, and Rosenberg have 
expressed the belief that the two-line strophe must be the 
oldest. Rosenberg has proposed further the theory that the 
four-line strophe has developed from the two-line strophe 
by absorbing the two refrains Qhe Indstev and tiiQEfterstev 1 ) 
and making them a component part of the text. Ernst von 
der Recke has rejected, on good grounds, it seems to me, 
such an assumption. He calls attention to the facts that 
in an overwhelming number of cases in which this double 
refrain occurs, the first refrain is short, the second long, 
as, for example, " Med Raade Kong Valdemar han lover 
dem baade," and that, in metrical respects, this type is 
more perfect than that of two equally long lines, since the 
Indstev clearly discovers itself to be a Bistev (secondary 
refrain) and the Efterstev, a Hovedstev (principal refrain). 2 
Hence the ordinary form of the refrain does not lead to 
the supposition that the two refrains formed a transition 
to the four-line stanza. 

For a connecting link one must rather by far look to 
the ballad form where the first and second refrains rimed 
together. But this type is comparatively rare. Rosenberg 
has cited as an example of a transitional form " The Mer- 
maid's Prophecy" (No. 42), where the first refrain runs 
constantly, " Den Havfrue danser paa Tillie," while the 

1 Note by translator : The Indstev comes after the first line, and the 
Efterstev after the second line, of a two-line strophe. 

2 Recke, Verskunst, I, 114 ff. 



136 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

last refrain varies : " For him skal fremme min Villie," 
" Nu haver jeg fremmet Din Villie," " Da fremmed hun 
ikke min Villie," etc., thus to a certain extent becoming a 
part of the strophe. This example does not seem to be 
happily chosen, since Vedel alone has given this variable 
refrain. The old text in Svaning's manuscript, which was 
Vedel's source, shows without variation : " For [once men] 
hun haver [havde] fremme hendes Villie." Finally the 
variable refrains are, on the whole, as was pointed out 
above, such a late product and so incongruous with the 
entire essence of the ballad that they surely could not have 
exercised such an influence on the basic form of the ballads. 

I do not believe that we are in any position to point 
to any transition between the two-line and the four-line 
stanzas, and I am far rather inclined therefore to agree 
with Ernst von der Recke, who advances the theory that 
the four-line stanzas of the Heroic Ballads made their way 
up into Denmark from Germany along with the subject 
matter, which in general, to be sure, has been brought to 
us from the South. For confirmation of this one needs 
but to call to mind all that has been advanced concerning 
the traditions dealing with Dietrich of Bern. 

According to N. M. Petersen, the two-line stanza of the 
Heroic Ballad had its origin in the old Norse KvtiSuhdtt 
(name of an Icelandic verse). Hence such a stanza as this 
(from the " Voluspd ") 

6nd }>au ne dttu Spirit they had not, 

6$ tau ne hofSu And mind they had not, 

Id ne" laeti Blood nor voice 

nd" litu g<5a Nor fair appearance. 1 

1 Taken from " The Elder Edda," by Olive Bray, p. 283. Translator. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 137 

should be reconstructed so that the first and second lines 
would form the first line of the two-line stanza of the 
Heroic Ballad, the other two its second. Rosenberg sub- 
scribes to this theory, which he finds strengthened by the 
appearance presented by some of the earliest recorded 
ballad stanzas. To this end he cites a fragment of a ballad 
met with in a runic manuscript of about 1300 : " Dromde 
mik en drom i nat um silki ok aerlik pael [psel some 
costly stuff] " (I dreamed a dream late last night of silk 
and the velvet fine), and another fragment discovered in 
an old Swedish manuscript of 1420-1450 : l 

Redhu kompana redhobona (Faellerne rede redebonne) 
iwer thiockka skogha 
oc gildo met synd 
venisto jomfrw. 

The company rode ready 
Through thick forests 
And beguiled into sin 
The fairest maiden. 

Here where the verse contains alliteration, the resemblance 
ought presumably to be striking. Rosenberg then compares 
the verses in this manner : 

la" ne" lasti dromde mik redhu kompana 

ne" litu gdfta en drom i nat redhobona 

Meanwhile Rosenberg himself has set forth an objec- 
tion to this theory. 2 He remarks that in the KviSuhatt 
every accent is equally strong, whereas in the line " Dromde 
mik en drom i nat," the second and fourth accents are 
weaker than the first and third. And this is precisely the 

1 Fornsvenskt Legendarium, p. 877. 

2 Nordboernes Aandsliv, II, 412. 



138 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

case with all ballads ; or, in other words, the ballad verse 
has a far more nimble and rapid movement than has the 
KviSuhatt. Rosenberg brings to light still another point 
which might induce one to look upon the KviSuhatt as the 
source of the two-line strophe ; namely, that in our ballads 
a pause is perceptible (Dronning Dagmar ligger i Ribe 
syg, " Queen Dagmar lay in Ribe sick "). This incision 
in the line is, as he presumes, general and seems to point 
to a keen desire on the part of him who first invented such 
a verse to hear each portion of the verse by itself. Or, in 
other words, in that place where the two short lines of 
the KviSuhatt have grown together, a scar is noticeable. 
Recke has satisfactorily established, however, that no such 
pause is found in the verse-line ; if such had been present, 
one would never have been permitted to set polysyllables 
with two accents exactly across the alleged gap (Det maa 
nu hver Danekvinde vide, " That now may each Danish 
woman know "), as often happens to be the case. 1 

As an additional objection to the theory of descent from 
the KviSuhatt Rosenberg himself urges that it is inex- 
plicable why only half of the KviSuhdtt strophe should be 
used to form the ballad verse ; whereas the last four short 
lines ought to have formed two more ballad lines. Further- 
more the remaining ornamentations of the ballad rhythm 
differ wholly from those of the KviSuhatt. In the meas- 
ure of the latter, end-rime is never found, but alliteration 
appears ; and Rosenberg admits that in the ballads the 
alliteration is " never sought for as a regular embellish- 
ment." I shall point out below that alliteration plays no 
part whatever in the ballads. Finally the refrain is an 

1 Recke, Verskunst, I, 109 ff. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 139 

indispensable part of the ballad. For the rest I shall merely 
remark, with reference to the old ballad verses cited above 
in parallel form, that there exists some difficulty in using 
them as examples, because they are the opening verses, 
which very often possess a firmer structure than does the 
body of the text, and besides are composed in a meter 
that varies from that of the stanzas following. On the 
whole, it is best to leave alone the question, How did the 
meter of our ballads arise ? There is only one thing, I 
believe, which can be asserted in all reason, and that is 
that we gain nothing, but rather involve ourselves in con- 
fusion and obscurity, by taking the verse laws of old Ice- 
landic prosody as a starting point for comparisons. It 
holds good here, as in so many other instances, with 
respect to the form and subject matter of the ballads, that 
one arrives at a far more correct judgment if he bears in 
mind the great distance and the glaring differences between 
the ballads and the poetry of antiquity. 

We shall next consider the rime. The ballads have 
syllabic rime ; that is, the final vowel sounds of the 
accented syllables in the riming words accord. The 
ballads, however, do not require perfect rime (conso- 
nantal) ; that is, a rime in which all the letters following 
the vowels accented are in agreement. If we examine a 
ballad like " German Gladensvend " (No. 33), we shall find, 
in addition to rimes like Hand kan, smaa slaa, O 

Mo, rimes such as Stavn kan, sammel Vand, 
Strand Barn, hvide given, Vinge paa Kinde, Rhin 

Tid, which can be denominated assonantal rimes ; that 
is, rimes in which the consonants following after the same 
vowel are different. In this same ballad, however, we meet 



140 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

with rimes in which the vowels are different, such as fern 

kom,fem Son, Hand hjem ; that is, the so-called 
consonantal assonance, in which the similarity of sounds and 
the euphony are brought into agreement by the consonants. 

It would seem then that the poets of the Middle Ages 
were far more lax in their rimes than are the poets of 
modern times. Our day has the great advantage, however, 
of possessing a language that is rich and various in a 
wholly different way ; and, in addition, many rimes 
which were then not allowable or usable are now regarded 
as good and permissible. I shall call attention to a fact 
which every one who knows anything of the language of 
the popular ballad will confirm ; namely, that diphthongs 
were never employed, except very reluctantly, as riming 
vowels ; hence there would not be found such rimes as 
Vet ei, Feide Leide, havde lagde (in No. 196, 
recorded in 1650, stanza 13 has Ravn Navri). If one 
did use a diphthong in one of the riming words, he never 
made it rime completely with the second riming word. 
Of precisely such a nature are the rimes in " German 
Gladensvend " Stavn kan ; and in the rimes Stavn 

Havn, which appear in one stanza, we have a mistake 
for Hav (ud of den vilde Hav, " out of the wild sea "). 
Such rimes as undre dundre, vandre andre we shall 
search the ballads for in vain. Whereas such rimes as 
Bjerg Dvarg, Konster Blomster, Borrig Sorrig 
swarm in the poetical romances, their presence in the 
ballads was not permitted. Least of all will one come across 
such rimes as ringende klingende. This points to a 
self-imposed restraint, and leads to the conclusion that 
everything which could smack of jingle was avoided. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 141 

Furthermore let us investigate whether, besides end- 
rime, the ballads employed alliteration. By alliteration, 
consonantal rime, alliterative verse, is meant that two 
words following in close succession have the same conso- 
nant or consonants at the beginning, immediately preced- 
ing the vowels (Skam og Skjandsel, Spot og Spe, fra Top 
til Taa], together with the condition that these occur in 
the most important syllables. 1 In the introductory stanza 
to " Sune Folkeson " (No. 138) we have " strongly alliter- 
ative verse," as Grundtvig calls it : 

A i. Nu Jigger de Helte veien 

saa vidt over Sveriges Land : 
det voldte Hr. Sune Falkursen, 
voldtog den Lillievand. 

Now lie the heroes fallen 

O'er Sweden far and wide ; 

That was the fault of Sune Falkursen, 

Beguiled a lily maid. 

The same holds good also of the corresponding stanza in 
the Swedish ballad : 

De hjelther de ligge slagne 
sa vitt om Sveriges landh, 
alt sedan Hr. Sone Folvarson 
borttog det lillievand. 

The heroes they lie slaughtered 
O'er Sweden far and wide, 
All since Sir Sone Folvarson 
Rode off with a lily maid. 

As for the Danish verse, I shall merely remark that the 

singer, if he had been truly artistic, would have used a 

1 Recke, Verslaere, p. 192. 



142 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

new alliterative letter in the last two lines ; and, as for 
the Swedish verse, that only the third line contains genu- 
ine alliteration ; that is, an alliteration in which all the con- 
sonants preceding the accented vowel agree. 

That alliteration is found in our ballads is commonly 
regarded as an accepted fact. Even Rask made mention 
of it in the introduction to his Anglo-Saxon grammar 
(p. 28). Many people, especially philologists, have later 
remarked it or have gleefully pointed it out, even though 
they possibly confessed that it was not used as a regular 
embellishment. Against this supposition, however, one 
voice has been raised in loud protest, that of Ernst von 
der Recke, and his fine, poetical ear ought indeed in such 
a question to count for more than the eyesight of philol- 
ogists, deceived as it is with the aspect of words. We 
shall now demonstrate that alliteration is by no means any 
more prevalent in our ballads than it is in any euphonious 
poem, that it was never employed consciously by the ballad- 
ists, and that he labors under a misapprehension who either 
believes that he has frequently observed it or believes that 
he can produce an older and more correct version one 
which once had alliteration, but which now has broken 
down under the tooth of time. 

The poets of that day felt no less than do the poets of 
to-day the unconscious value of alliteration in giving the 
verse cadence and ring ; but they never adopted it deliber- 
ately, unless exceptionally for a special purpose. They 
did not place the alliterative letter in the weightiest sylla- 
bles nor in the accented syllables, and it is only when the 
alliterative letter and the accent fall together that there can 
be talk of alliteration. One will perceive this more clearly 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 143 

by running through the examples cited. Concerning 
text A of " Young Sir Thor and Lady Thore " (No. 72), 
for instance, Bugge says that it " sounds ancient and so- 
norous and vigorous; alliteration occurs very frequently." 
Let us append here the following stanzas as a specimen 
of this long ballad (III, 843), in which this ornament 
supposedly manifests itself. The knight's daughter comes 
to her father and says : 

A 40. Zover I mig til Tavlbord at gaa, 
den /ange Dag maa mig forgaa. 

41. Den Ridder /aerte sin Datter 
den /ange Dag til Aften. 

42. " En /iden Stund dog ikke /aenge ; 

Du vinde ikke Guld af fremmede Svende ! 

43. " Du z/ogte Dig z/el for Thor bin rige, 
jeg frygter saa vist, ban in\ Dig svige." 

44. Bruden axler S&ailagensmd ; 
bun gaar i Loft for unge Thor ind. 

45. Jomfruen ind ad Doren /ren, 
unge Thor staar hende op igjen. 

46. Den forste Tavel paa Tavelbordet randt, 
bin unge Thor Legen vandt. 

40. Promise to sit at the chessboard with me, 
To pass the tardy day away. 

41. The knight he taught his young daughter 
The tardy day's long measure. 

42. " One little hour, but stay no longer, 
And win no gold from foreign suitor ! 

43. " But guard thee 'gainst Sir Thor the wealthy, 
I fear the game will go for thee badly." 



144 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

44. The bride flung on her robes so red, 
And aloft to meet young Thor she sped. 

45. The maid stepped in the open door, 
Then stood up to meet her young Sir Thor. 

46. The first move on the chessboard done, 
The young Sir Thor the match had won. 

In these stanzas I have pointed out all the places where 
alliteration shows the slightest trace of having been used ; 
but it is manifest to all how weak and tame, how flat and 
meager all that alliteration sounds, simply because the allit- 
erative syllables are, for one thing, only half such, and, 
for another, are found in weakly accented syllables. 

Highly significant are the remarks which Bugge makes 
concerning " The Soul at Heaven's Door " (No. 106), as 
well as his general conception of this ballad. The ballad 
runs as follows : 

1 . Der kom en Sjael for Himmeriges Dor : 
Herre Jesu vare her inde has os ! 

hun bad sig ind udi Jesu Navn. 
Herre Jesu Christ, for han beer Himmeriges Krone. 

2. Der udkom en Engel, for Sjaelen at staa : 
" Slet ingen Naade saa kan Du faa. 

3. " Hvad gjorde Du om Afandagen? 

Du vilde ikke give den Hungrige Mad. 

4. " Hvad gjorde Du om T^irsdagen ? 

Du vilde ikke laedske den /orstige Sjael. 

5. " Hvad gjorde Du om Onsdagen ? 

Du vilde ikke laane den Ndgne Dine Klaeder. 

6. " Hvad gjorde Du om Torsdagen ? 

Du vilde ikke laane den //usvilde //us. 

7. " Hvad gjorde Du om /^redagen ? 
Du vilde ikke hore den /-attiges Bon. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 145 

8. " Hvad gjorde Du om Z,6verdagen? 
Du vilde ikke op/ukke de Fangnes Dor. 

9. " Hvad gjorde Du om Sondagen ? 

Du vilde ikke gaa til Kirken med Bon. 

10. " Praediken var ikke halv endt, 
Herre Jesu vcere her inde hos os / 

forend Du gik hjem og syndede igjen." 
Herre Jesu Christ, for han beer Himmeriges Krone. 

1. There came a soul up to Heaven's door; 
Lord Jesus be here about us ! 

She prayed to get in in Jesus' name. 
Lord Jesus Christ, for He bore Heaven's crown. 

2. Out came an angel the soul to halt : 
11 You cannot win such favor at all. 

3. " What have you on Monday done? 
You would not give the hungry meat. 

4. " What have you on Tuesday done ? 
You would not slake the thirsty soul. 

5. " What have you on Wednesday done? 
You would not loan the naked your clothes. 

6. " What have you on Thursday done ? 
You would not loan the homeless a house. 

7. "What have you on Friday done? 

You would not hear the poor folks' prayer. 

8. " What have you on Saturday done ? 
You would not set open the prison door. 

9. " What have you on Sunday done ? 

You would not go to church with prayers. 

10. " The sermon was scarcely half at an end, 
Lord Jesus be here about us / 

Before you went home and sinned again." 
Lord Jesus Christ, for he bore Heaven's crown. 



146 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In admitting this ballad among the old popular ballads 
of Denmark, for such is the title of his work, Grundtvig 
clearly implied that it belonged to the Middle Ages. It 
seems to me, however, that the question may properly be 
raised, What right has this song to a place among our 
popular ballads, and, everything considered, why should 
one assume that it is older than 1732, the date of its ap- 
pearance in a broadside ? Its only resemblance to popular 
ballads lies in its double refrain. But the refrain had its 
place in the folk poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries as well as earlier. By this time the old popular 
ballads with refrains had become widely spread in popular 
tradition, just as the refrain is yet to be found to-day; 
even religious songs were provided with refrains. It is 
extremely doubtful whether this ballad can be said to pos- 
sess a meter. The rimes are not worth mentioning; in 
place of genuine rime the "author" of the ballad has 
used a sort of rime, similar to which nothing has ever 
been seen before or after ; as, for example, Fredagen 
Fattiges Bon, Loverdagen oplukke Dor, Sb'ndagen Bon, 
etc. In the whole ballad there is not the slightest trace of 
Catholicism ; hence on this ground one should not regard 
it as being hundreds of years old. Not the slightest trace 
of old linguistic forms exists to constrain us to date it back 
farther than 1732. Finally, as Grundtvig points out, the 
theme of a soul at Heaven's door has been handled a 
number of times in German song. Here, in other words, 
we have every reason for insisting on the rules observed 
of all other historical sources ; namely, that the age of a 
document is first and foremost determined according to the 
date when it first appeared. Accordingly the ballad may 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 147 

be characterized as a childish, unpoetical production by 
some penny ballad monger and poet of Aabenraa 1 in Hoi- 
berg's day. 

Nevertheless Bugge says in connection with this abor- 
tion of a ballad that " it seems to be something more than 
an accident that alliteration is found in several stanzas 
where on the other hand rime is wanting," and that from 
this alliteration we must conclude " that alliteration was 
present also in stanzas 5, 6, and 9. Perhaps in stanza 6 we 
should read Tag for If us, and in stanza 9 Sang for Bon. 
From stanza 4, moreover, we should conclude that the ballad 
was composed after the sound f> had disappeared from 
Danish ; for the words Tirsdag and torstig, which here 
rime together, were in old Danish Tyrsdagr and pyrster. 
The alliterating verse was therefore composed in Danish 
in that period when the sound f was no longer heard " 
(III, 903). This theory has found another distinguished 
supporter in Gustav Storm, who cites this ballad as one 
of his proofs that alliteration and Fornyrdalag (a special 
kind of Icelandic meter) maintained themselves a long 
time in Denmark ; the ballad "is no older than the 
fourteenth century, perhaps the fifteenth," " but it is 
apparently in a transitional stage, since it has given up 
Fornyrdalag'' 2 

I can make out nothing else than that some wretched 
street versifier, who lived at the beginning of the eighteenth 
century, has led these learned gentlemen entirely astray. 
If it were not for the fact that we have been accustomed 

1 A street in Copenhagen where, in Holberg's day, a ballad monger 
lived. 

2 Storm, Sagnkredsene om Karl den Store, p. 171. 



148 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

to look at the popular ballads en masse, according to a 
tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages, without deem- 
ing it possible for us to discriminate between the recent 
and the remote, the new and the old, we should never have 
imagined a source to be five hundred years old which bears 
the date 1732. 

The cause of the misunderstanding meanwhile lies in 
the wholly inaccurate conception of the time when allitera- 
tion made its appearance in the ballads. For the facts 
represent the precise antithesis of what is held by many 
scholars. Alliteration is something recent and originated 
in the poetry of art. In the following arguments I shall 
try to make good my position. 

Let us turn again to the stanza cited above from " Sune 
Folkeson" (No. 138): 

C i. Nu ligger de Helte veide 
saa vide under Sveriges 6 : 
det voider Hr. Sune Folkeson, 
voldtog den vaene Mo. 

Now lie the heroes fallen, 
On Sweden's strand so wide ; 
That is the fault of Sune Folkeson, 
Beguiled so fair a maid. 

This ballad is recorded in a score of different manuscripts 
and exists in half a score of different versions. Hence 
there is no lack of good material to use in investigating the 
question, Which is the best and earliest text ? The earliest 
is found in Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript of 1550 and 
in Rentzel's manuscript of Frederick II's time, as well as 
in several later manuscripts. It begins as follows : 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 149 

B I. Kong Magnus var Konge i Sverrig, 
han havde de Dottre to ; 
de var dem baade liden og unge, 
der dennem faldt Moder fra. 
Nu ligger de Helleder veien. 

King Magnus was king of Sweden, 
He had two daughters born ; 
When they were yet both young and tiny, 
Of their mother they were left forlorn. 
Now lie the heroes fallen. 

Here we see that the introductory verse with alliteration 
is altogether wanting. The version next to this one in 
point of time of recording is that of C, which is found in 
Langebek's Folio Manuscript, belonging close to 1600 and 
in other manuscripts. Its first verse reads as above. This 
same verse appears likewise in texts A, D, E, F, K, and L, 
that is, in manuscripts the earliest of which hark back to 
the period between the beginning and the middle of the 
seventeenth century ; on the other hand, it is wanting in 
G, which is recorded in Countess Christiane's manuscript 
(1660). H, which belongs to about the same period, does 
not possess alliterative verse, although its last stanza runs : 

H 33. Nu ligger de Hellede veied 
og ind i Sverriges Rige : 
bort da red Hr. Sonnildt 
alt med den Jomfru saa rige. 

Now lie the heroes fallen 
Within the realm of Sweden ; 
Away then rode Sir Sonnildt 
All with the rich young maiden. 

Text I, of the seventeenth century, lacks this stanza alto- 
gether. The result shows therefore that in the oldest 



ISO THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

manuscripts the alliterative stanza in question is not pres- 
ent, and that, in several other forms of the ballad also, it 
is wanting. 

If we examine the Swedish versions, we shall see that 
B (Geijer, No. 92), according to a broadside of the 
eighteenth century, presents an entirely different begin- 
ning and exhibits no alliteration in the first stanza. The 
same can be said of C. Version A (Arwidsson, No. 163), 
according to a manuscript of the seventeenth century, 
opens up, on the other hand, with the following stanza : 

De hielther de ligge slagne 
sa vitt om Sveriges landh, 
alt sedan Hr. Sone Folvarson 
borttog det lillievand. 
Der ligge de hielther slagne. (Seep. 141.) 

The alliterative letter, if such can be found, is here a 
different one ; but, in any case, only the third line has 
genuine, regular alliteration. It is therefore extremely 
doubtful whether, on the whole, this stanza will serve as 
proof that alliteration existed in the Middle Ages. 

Another example will help to show when alliteration 
arose. We find in Vedel's tragical ballad of " Sir Ebbe's 
Daughters" (No. 194): 

33. Hver den Svend, som rider ad gilie, 
og .Z?eilen til .Solen vil vende, 
ban -z/over dert/ed baade Liv og Gods, 
slig Forsaet tager aldrig god Ende. 

Whoever the youth rides out to a brothel, 
From wooing to whoring is descending, 
He places in peril both life and wealth, 
Such purpose comes never to good ending. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 151 

There is no question here that the stress falls upon the 
alliterative syllables with a clear consciousness of its sig- 
nificance. Peder Syv has a proverb : " Many turn wooing 
to whoring " (in proverbs alliteration is common). We 
know, however, the source of Vedel's stanza, and there 
the above stanza is not found ; nor is it met with in any 
other manuscript of this text, nor in texts B and C. There- 
fore no doubt exists that Vedel himself is the author of 
the verse. 

Alliteration strikes the ear just as forcibly in the follow- 
ing stanza from " Mettelil and Queen Sofie " (No. 130) : 

C 13. Ingen Fuglfloyer saa^ast under Sky, 

som Hr. Nielus rider sin (Danger ^jennem By. 

No fowl flies so fast above the ground, 

As Sir Nielus rides his pacer past the town. 

But here, too, Vedel's source is well known to us, and his 
stanza is, as Grundtvig points out, borrowed from version 
B, whose ninth stanza runs very differently : 

Ingen (Fugl) flyer saa snart under Sky, 
som Hr. Nicholaus rider igjennem den By, 

None (fowl) flies so swiftly above the ground, 
As Sir Nicholaus rides past the town ; 

here we have no alliteration, but rather a decided euphony, 
which is gained without the aid of the much prized allitera- 
tion. Furthermore let us cite a well-known stanza from 
" Niels Ebbeson " (No. 156), which in Vedel runs : 

F 25. Herr Anders Frost, den duelig Mand, 
forsvarer saa vel sin /Ere ; 
znlde han af Eder Orlov have, 
hvi t/ilde I ham det -z/aegre ? 



152 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Sir Anders Frost, the gallant man, 
Knows well how to defend his honor ; 
If he of you a furlough seeks, 
Then why refuse him the furlough ? 

The other and older texts have : 

A 20. vilde han Orlov af Eder tage, 
hvi maatte han det ikke gjore? 

B 1 8. vil han Orlov have, 

hvi monne han det ei faa? 

C 1 7. Om en Svend vil Orlov have, 
hvi maa han det ei gjore? 

A 20. Would he a furlough of you request, 
Why should he then not have it ? 

B 1 8. If he a furlough will have, 

Why may he then not get it ? 

17. If a youth asks for a furlough, 

Why should he then not have it ? 

(This verse is wanting in D and E.) Here again Vedel 
has refined the last line in order to give it alliteration. It 
cannot be gainsaid that in fullness and variety of tone the 
old verses are just as effective. 

Thus we see that it is Vedel who concocted the allitera- 
tion, but we have no reason for following the same methods, 
as is often done by modern editors. In " Svend Vonved " 
(No. 1 8), which tells of the wonderful hero who carries 
so many animals, occur the lines : 

A 1 6. Og han havde Lossen paa sin Bag 
og Bjornen paa sin hoire Hand. 

B 22. Bassen havde han paa sin Bag 

og Bjorn i Haende. 
C 28. Han havde Bjornen paa sin Bag 

og Bassi paa sin Laende. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 153 

A 1 6. And he had the lynx upon his back, 
And the bear in his right hand. 

B 22. The boar he had upon his back, 
A bear in his hand. 

C 28. He had the bear upon his back, 
And the boar upon his loins. 

Concerning the above Bugge remarks : " This verse has 
no rime in any of its three forms, and I see no evidence 
that it ever had. On the other hand, it has alliteration, for 
Bassen in B and C is more correct than Laassen in A. 
Here therefore, in the middle of a ballad with end-rime, is 
left standing a verse which, in olden time, contented itself 
with the customary alliteration " (III, 787). As has been 
pointed out already, there does not exist in our ballads the 
slightest evidence of alliteration having been handed down 
from an older period, let alone its having taken the place of 
end-rime. Furthermore it seems to me an easy matter to 
find the end-rime which the verse probably had ; namely, 

Han havde Bjornen paa hoire Haende 
og Lossen paa sin Laende. 

In his version of the ballad in his " Selected Popular Ballads," 
Grundtvig happens upon the same idea ; but since he starts 
from the point of view that the ballads aspired to allitera- 
tion, he writes : 

22. Bassen bar han paa Laende 
og Bjorn i hoire Haende. 

For several reasons I am inclined to believe that my 
attempt at reconstructing the verse comes nearer to the 
genuine tone of the Middle Ages. 



154 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

On the whole, it is significant to observe how allitera- 
tion, in the course of time, becomes attached to verses ; 
where one verse, for instance, originally possessed simple 
and natural alliteration, gradually several became infected 
with it. This will be evident from a comparison of the 
following stanzas of " King Hans' Wedding " (No. 166) : 

A 17. Dagen dages osten, 

og Bolgen blaeser blaa. 

B 1 6. Dagen den dages osten, 

og Bolgen den blaeser blaa. 

C 19. Boren blaeser for Osten, 

og Bolgeren [Bolgerne] driver paa Sand. 

A 1 7. Day is dawning eastward, 

And billows are blowing blue. 

B 1 6. Day it is dawning eastward, 

And billows they are blowing blue. 

C 19. The breeze is blowing easterly, 

And the billows dash on the sand. 

The last version is undoubtedly the genuine one ; not only 
is it found in the oldest manuscript (1550), A is nearly 
contemporaneous, but it also agrees far better with the 
context, which relates that the present time offers a favor- 
able opportunity to return home to Denmark. The desire 
for alliteration, however, in A and B has given rise to a 
meaningless line (" Bolgen blaeser blaa "). In " Svend Fel- 
ding " (No. 32) is set forth exactly the same situation ; 
namely, that they who are to fetch home the foreign prin- 
cess will not wait longer, but will fare homeward : 

A 1 6. Boren blseser saa mildelig, 
og Bolger leger paa Sand. 

The breeze is blowing so gently, 
The billows play on the sand. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 155 

There is a ballad whose capital verses often use, among 
other devices, alliteration ; namely, " The Trold and the 
House-wife " (No. 52). In one of the oldest texts we find: 

B 4. Hunden gjoer i Gaarden, 
og Hyrden tuder i Horn ; 
Hanen galer i Baenke, 
som hannem gives Korn. 

The hound cries in the courtyard, 
The herd toots on his horn ; 
The cock on his perch is crowing, 
When they feed him corn. 

Have not these lines a splendid ring? But does it lie 
entirely in the fact that the ballad aimed to use allitera- 
tion ? No, certainly not in this alone ; rather it lies in the 
facts that alliteration was not allowed to dominate, that, on 
the whole, all the devices which go toward making a lan- 
guage sonorous variation in sound and shifting cadences 
have operated to this end. In these four lines not one 
of the total sum of vowels in the language has been for- 
gotten. For the sake of comparison one should read how 
this stanza runs in a later form, which, through the fond- 
ness of the seventeenth century for having verses perme- 
ated with alliteration, allows this feature a prominent place : 

C 7. Saa hoit da^jode den^ode Hund, 
som Jaegeren blaeser i Horn : 
og saa da ^aled den ^ode Hane, 
som Bonden havde .givet sin Korn. 

As loud then growled the good hound, 
As the hunter blows on his horn ; 
And so then crowed the cock so good 
When the farmer had fed him his corn. 



156 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Or let us cite another verse from the ballad, such as, for 
example : 

B 2. Han hugger neder Eg, ban faelder neder Bog, 
han bygger op Husen saa faste. 

C 3. Han hugger Eg, han hugger der Birk, 
og Bdgen monne han der faelde. 

B 2. He hews down the oak, he fells down the beech, 
He builds up a house so strongly. 

C 3. He hews the oak, he hews the birch, 
The beech he did there harry. 

B is pleasing simply because of its rhythmical vibration, 
its parallelism, and, at the same time, its variation ; 
C, however, has laid a preponderating stress upon allitera- 
tion, calling therefore into requisition the birch tree, 
which otherwise has no place in the botany of the ballads. 

Altogether I can heartily agree with the assertion of 
Ernst von der Recke that the ballads exhibit no trace of 
alliteration : " The opinion that such a trace was actually 
to be found has been repeated from one time to another, 
but it is wholly groundless." 1 Thus I have attempted to 
show that the supposed alliteration is in reality no such 
thing, and that it is not found in the oldest texts ; I have 
also pointed out the desire of the later, artistic age to 
make use of this same kind of rime in the construction 
of verses. 

To the above I shall add meanwhile one more observa- 
tion. Of the marvelous stuff which makes up a verse-line 
its coloring, ring, and atmosphere, that which changes 
prose into poetry alliteration is and always will be a part. 
1 Recke, Verskunst, I, 112. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 157 

Even in our daily speech we cannot avoid using it ; every 
one who says from top to toe, head over heels, fair and 
free, with hide and hair, every one who speaks of foul and 
fair, employs such rime; it comes to our hands as a 
natural instrument and adornment. Only when we are 
first made aware of this do we discover to what great ex- 
tent we are inclined to its use. When Jourdain in Moliere's 
" Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme " becomes informed of the 
difference between poetry and prose, he breaks out in a 
transport of joy : " So I have truly been talking prose for 
over forty years without having had the least suspicion of 
it." So it is with us when our attention is called to the 
fact that we use alliteration, and when we see how the 
popular ballads employ it as they do many other poetic 
devices. 

Every language strives after euphony ; likewise did our 
language of the Middle Ages. The modern poets also 
frequently use alliteration ; but here again we should 
determine clearly whether alliteration predominates in the 
poet's song, whether it coincides with the verse's weight- 
iest word and with the accent, whether it is the poet's 
main poetic device in addition to end-rime, or whether 
it is supported and shaped according to the presence of 
the devices which generate euphony. Among these last 
I must lay especial stress upon assonance, that is, agree- 
ment between the principal vowels of two words, as being 
of far more value than alliteration ; for it gives rise to a 
chord, whereas alliteration often sounds only the same 
note an octave lower. This is frequently overlooked by 
our latest poets and prose writers ; for, along with a 
very disgusting affectation, which has broken out over the 



158 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

country, alliteration has made its appearance in prose. 
CEhlenschlager and our older poets certainly did not 
commit such errors, and even the following well-known 
verses of the priest Laurids Kok (ob. 1691) can prove 
suggestive : 

Ztenmark, deiligst Fang og Faenge, 

lukt med ^olgen laa, 

hvor de -z/akre t/oxne Drenge 

kan i Leding gaa 

mod de Tydsker, Slaver, Vender, 

hvor man dem paa Tog hensender ; 

en Ting mangier for den Have, 

Zedet er af Zave. 

Denmark, fairest fields and forests, 

Hedged with billows blue, 

Where the sturdy, stalwart warriors 

On expeditions go 

Against the Wends, Slavs, and Germans, 

When one to war them summons ; 

In the garden is one thing lacking, 

The gate itself is sagging. 

Is not this stanza closely packed with alliteration, and 
yet many other factors operate with it in the most beauti- 
ful union, such as a sonorous assonance built upon all the 
vowels of the language, a variation in sound that causes 
one to pass by the alliteration and to delight only in the 
euphony. The statements here set forth will be borne out 
by a consideration of the refrain. 

In the refrains the absence of rime as an ornament 
leads indeed to a more frequent use of alliteration. On 
the whole, the refrains are subject, as I shall have many 
occasions to point out, to other rules than to those of the 
stanza. I shall cite here : 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 159 

No. 146. Og foer de vide om Verden. 

No. 183. Se, Folen for Liget over Hede. 

No. 63. Saa render han rank alt under skjonne Jomfruer. 

No. 146. And wide through the world they roamed. 

No. 183. See, the colt bears the corpse over the moor. 

No. 63. The horse runs so brisk beneath the beautiful maidens. 

In his " Selected Popular Ballads," Grundtvig offers as a 
refrain to No. i : 

Tor han taemmer Fole sin i Tomme, 

Thor he breaks his colt to the bridle, 

but whether this refrain was in use in Denmark is open 
to question. Manuscripts from the seventeenth century, 
on the other hand, show us that in the Norse it ran : 
" Torekal tommaa foelen sin med toumaa," and in the 
Swedish : " Thorer tamjer fahlen sin i tomme." In Den- 
mark the refrain ran, both early and late : " Saa vinder 
man Suerkin" (So wins one Suerkin, that is, the proud, 
haughty woman). Far more frequently than alliteration, 
however, we find in the refrain assonance, or agreement 
between the accented vowels of two words : 

No. 8. Men Kongen raader for Borgen. 
No. 35. Maatte jeg en med de t^neste f angel 
No. 59. Den R0.ren vilde han love. 
No. 79. Saa haver hun \ag\. hans Hjerte udi T-vang. 
No. 80. Saa vel da iorganges vor Angest. 
No. 84. De danske Fruer udi Dans&n. 
No. 84. Det voider min egen Rose ; min Hjerte haver ei Ro. 
No. 127. Saa let fa ganger der Dansen. 
No. 206. Der min jFole render igjemmel Skovz. 
No. 231. Alt om en -Sbmrnerens Morgen. 
No. 260. Denne Sorg haver I mig wldet, Herre. 
Abr. No. 146. Thi sb'rger hun for hannem saa tonlig. 



160 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

No. 8. The king rules over the fortresses. 
No. 35. Might I one of the loveliest capture ! 
No. 59. On the rose he praise would bestow. 
No. 79. So has she laid his heart in chains. 
No. 80. So lightly our terror has ended. 
No. 84. The Danish women in the dance. 
No. 84. For this I blame my rose ; my heart has no repose. 
No. 1 27. So light then goes the dance. 
No. 206. There my horse runs through the forest. 
No. 231. All on a summer morning. 
.No. 260. This sorrow have you brought to me, my lord. 
Abr. No. 146. She mourns for him so sad and lonely. 

Several of these rimes should perhaps be called asso- 
nances ; the name is immaterial. They certainly are far 
more significant than alliteration. Often it is merely a 
certain parallelism in structure, a certain lilt in the rhythm 
that produces this strange, wonderfully pleasing, melodious 
impression ; such as, for instance, may be found in the 
following : 

No. 45. Men Zz'nden hun /0ves. 

No. 66. Imo d saa \fdd en Sommer. 

No. 84. Det voider mig den ^ne, som jeg haver Agt paa. 

No. 45. While the linden grows leafy. 

No. 66. Toward so mild a summer. 

No. 84. I blame for this the one for whom I have esteem. 

How much greater stress is laid upon the euphony of 
vowels than upon the similarity of initial consonants will 
be brought home to us by reading a refrain such as be- 
longs to " King Didrik and his Warriors " (No. 7) : 

Der stander en B0rg hedder Bi?rne, han bar derpaa Konning 
Diderik. 

There stands a tower called Berne, there dwells therein King 
Diderik. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 161 

In several forms of the ballad (D, E, G) the refrain 
runs so : 

Det donner under de raske Hovmsend, de*r de udride, 

It thunders beneath the impetuous warriors, there they ride out ; 

and from this Vedel has again concocted : 

Det donner under Ros, de danske Hovmaend ddr de udride, 
It thunders under the horse, the Danish warriors there ride out. 

Against this verse one can urge, among other objections, 
that the word Ros (horse) is a German word, one that is 
never used in our ballads. It is likewise presumable that 
in " Sir Bugge's Death " (No. 158) there should be a sort 
of alliteration in the refrain : 

De fare saa fri igjennem Jylland. 
They fare so free through Jutland. 

This is found in the first stanza of A, but all the remain- 
ing stanzas of this text, and, in addition, B, C, and D have : 

De rider saa frit gjennen Jylland. 
They ride so freely through Jutland. 

In " Bedeblak " (No. 63), from a manuscript of the be- 
ginning of the eighteenth century, we meet with a pretty 
alliteration : 

Saa render han rank alt under skjonne Jomfruer. 

The horse runs so brisk beneath the beautiful maidens. 

Yet here again it is rather euphony of the vowels that 
produces a pleasing sound. 

I shall now mention as characteristic of the ballads a 
final instance of what they strive for in this direction, and 



1 62 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

of what they do not aim at. In version A of " Half red 
and Magnus " (No. 49), the refrain, which is found in many 
manuscripts, runs so : 

Saa rask da -var de ^Edeling udi deres Brynje, 
So rash then were the nobles in their breastplates, 

and in B (likewise an old manuscript) : 

Saa karsk da rider de ^deling i deres Brynje, 
So hale then ride the nobles in their breastplates. 

It would be the most natural thing in the world then for 
the poet to strive after alliteration in molding a refrain : 

Saa rask da rider de yEdeling udi deres Brynje. 
So rash then ride the nobles in their breastplates. 

But none of the versions were willing to purchase such a 
rime at the expense of such harmony as this : " saa rask 
da var," " saa karsk da rider." 

Therefore it can be asserted positively that the poets 
of our popular ballads did not care for alliteration ; 
they made no greater effort to secure it than they did to 
secure rime between the first and third lines. Herein it 
is evident how completely our ballads are differentiated 
from the poetry of antiquity, and furthermore how far 
removed they stand from the ballads of the Faroes and 
Iceland. As a typical example of a verse which is marked 
by a superfluity of alliteration can be cited the first stanza 
of the Faroese version of " Iron- Wolf " (No. 10) : 

t/ftt um r/6lli gyltir hjdlmar jyngja, 

jtfga teir d .rinar hestar, teir springa, 

hoyrast mdtti /angt a" /eid, hvar teirra sporar ringja, 

z/ftt um z/6lli gyltir hjdlmar syngja. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 163 

Far over the fields golden helmets are singing, 
They up and mount their horses and away are springing, 
And afar could be heard the sound of their spurs ringing, 
Far over the fields golden helmets are singing. 

This stanza was not recorded, however, until 1846 (V, 113). 
But in the Faroes and in Iceland the popular ballads were 
taken up, far more so than in other lands, by the priests and 
the cultured people, who had been immersed in the literature 
of antiquity, and consequently had become very familiar with 
it. Therefore it is not at all surprising that we should here 
meet with poetic devices which are never found in Denmark. 

In conclusion I shall add some remarks on the melodies. 
The Middle Ages did not possess the major and minor 
scales in force to-day. In their places were used the so- 
called Greek, or ecclesiastical, modes ; namely, the Ionian 
(nearly like C major), the Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, 
and the ^olian (nearly like our A minor). In these modes 
there were found intervals of semitones in only two places ; 
namely, between e and f, and b and c ; hence, to use a 
modern illustration, only the white keys of the piano were 
in use ; exceptionally, however, a single other note, espe- 
cially b, appeared. Our modern scales, which arose about 
1600, have a far greater range of modulations and more 
mobility ; whereas the older were extraordinarily rich in 
chords, indeed far more so than the modern scales. 

If now we examine Berggreen's " Folkesange og 
Melodier," we shall see that he has established beyond 
question that several of the melodies are in the Greek 
mode (" The Valraven," No. 28a ; in the Swedish folk 
songs, Nos. 39, 49), but that altogether the great majority 
are in the major and minor scales. 



164 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

That this can originally have been the case is exceed- 
ingly improbable. In the Middle Ages there existed no 
difference in modes between the ecclesiastical and the 
secular music ; or, in other words, the secular songs and the 
folk songs were in the Greek modes. If therefore our 
melodies at that time had used the modern scales, we 
Danes must have been a couple of hundred years in ad- 
vance of the rest of Europe, for it was only as the sixteenth 
century was passing into the seventeenth that the new 
modes appear, and only in the middle of the latter century 
that the old modes withdrew. 1 

As for the German popular melodies, it is also known 
that they were originally composed in the ecclesiastical 
modes. 2 In his " Om Kirkesangen " (pp. 45 ff., 134) the 
organist Thomas Laub has succeeded, by going through 
all the melodies preserved in Denmark, in establishing 
clearly that several of those printed in Berggreen do not 
fit in with the new modes, since they can be classed 
neither as major nor minor. On the contrary, they find 
their place in the ecclesiastical modes. Others of the 
melodies agree very well, it is true, with our present 
modes, but they fall in just as well with the old. Those 
melodies taken down by Schoolmaster Kristensen also 
point back to the old musical system. It certainly cannot 
be denied that it is solely the circumstance of their having 
been recorded at a late date and at a time when the old 
system was no longer well known that has carried the 
melodies over into the new modes. 3 This very same obser- 
vation has been made by another musical authority with 

1 Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, p. Ixi. a Ibid., pp. lix ff. 

8 Gronland, in Allgem. musik. Zeitung, 1816, column 613. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 165 

respect to the Swedish folk melodies. 1 It ought therefore 
to be the clear duty of musicians to restore, in any case, a 
portion of the Scandinavian melodies to their former 
shape. 

It is an unmistakable characteristic of the music of olden 
times, especially of folk music, that it had no set or regu- 
lar rhythm, that it did not require, as does the music of 
the present day, the entire piece to be written in the same 
kind of time. True it is that to-day we may vary the time 
of different portions of a composition ; but, as a rule, we do 
not permit, for instance, in a single, continuous piece of 
music several parts or a short series of notes to stand in 
three-four time, the next in two-four time, etc. To our 
forefathers this did not serve in the least as a hindrance. 
Many melodies were, to be sure, written in a measure that 
was carried through unvaried ; but very frequently the 
rhythm was changed, with the result that the melody 
gained a peculiar warmth and naturalness. Even in the 
dance, where we to-day insist on a rhythm maintained 
uniformly throughout, a variation was often indulged in, 
as, by the way, is still the practice in the dances of the 
German peasantry. In German dance melodies, some of 
which have been recorded as far back as the fourteenth 
century, we run across changes in the time ; for example, 
after several measures in three-four time come several 
measures in four-four, whereupon the three-four time 
resumes. 

It cannot help but be instructive to observe how the 
peasants still dance to-day in Oberpfalz. In addition to 

1 K. Valentin, Studien iiber die schwedischen Volksmelodien, 
pp. 22 ff., 55, 72. 



1 66 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

the Schleifer (a waltz) in three-eight time, there is the 
Dreher in three-four time ; the latter, however, is most 
commonly danced with Eintreten, as it is called, which 
obliges one to change over rapidly from one time to 
another. In a Dreifach, for instance, one sings and dances 
the first three measures in three-four time, three measures 
in two-four, four in three-four, and three in two-four. The 
dance is performed as follows : where the melody runs in 
three-eight time, the movement is about the same as in 
our waltz ; during the two-four measures, the dancers 
execute certain movements which resemble those of a bear 
rocking ; that is, they sway themselves without bending the 
body forward, smartly from one side to the other, standing 
alternately on the right foot and on the left. What dis- 
tinguishes a very jaunty dancer in Oberpfalz is not any 
real innate grace of movement, or any great liveliness, 
but rather an astounding virtuosity in being able to vary 
the time. 1 

Our own melodies are no strangers to this variation in 
time. Even among Berggreen's popular ballads we find 
a number of melodies which exhibit several changes in 
the tempo; as, for example, that of No. 25b, "I know 
well where a castle stands." There is no doubt, however, 
that this change took place far oftener than we now have 
evidence of. Furthermore we can find in individual 
melodies, and in their relations to the texts, other traces 
of this change ; and also at the present day we can some- 
times hear in the songs of the peasantry the free rhythm 
together with the fixed tempo. 2 A question that deserves 

1 Bohme, Tanz, pp. 192 ff., 248, 254. 

2 Laub, Om Kirkesangen, pp. 64 ff., 135. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 167 

to be investigated is whether or not the variation in tempo 
could have been indicated in the verse measure. At any 
rate, there is one rhythm found in ballads that draws 
especial attention to itself ; namely, that verse measure which 
I have already spoken of (p. 129) and which one will 
recognize especially as belonging to " The Betrothed in 
the Grave " (No. 90). I shall here cite several stanzas from 
" Proud Elin's Revenge " (No. 209) : 

3. Og saa forte de den unge Brud 
i Hr. Renoldts Gaard : 

der var ikke det rode Guld 
for Legeren spart. 

4. Saa fulgte de den unge Brud 
i Salen ind : 

for gik Ridder og Svende, 
de bar hendes Skind. 

5. Og saa satte de den unge Brud 
paa Brude-Baenk: 

frem gaar Ridder og Svende 
de bar hender Skjaenk. 

6. Op stod stolten Ellind, 

hun tog sig Kanden i Haand : 
saa gaar hun at skjaenke Vin, 
men Dagen vaand [mens Dagen randt]. 

7. Saa gaar hun at skjaenke Vin, 
men Dagen vaand ; 

saa vredlig tog hun Solvkar 
af Brudens Haand. 

3. And so they led the youthful bride 
To Sir Renoldt's yard ; 
There was plenty of the red, red gold 
To the players spared. 



1 68 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

4. So followed they the youthful bride 
Within the door ; 

Before her marched the knights and squires, 
Her furs they bore. 

5. And so they set the youthful bride 
On the bridal chair ; 

Forth then stepped the knights and squires, 
With gifts so rare. 

6. Up then stood proud Ellind, 
She raised the cup on high ; 
So she poured around the wine 
The livelong day. 

7. So she poured around the wine 
The livelong day ; 

Angrily she snatched the cup 
From the bride away. 

Here is a marked contrast between the rhythmical swing 
of the first and third lines, and that of the other two lines. 
While the latter move like a marching step, the long lines 
of the former hasten on with a certain flying momentum. 
If one is not inclined to grant, however, that this differ- 
ence is necessarily a result of a change in tempo, in no 
case do the melodies preserved contradict my theory, 
yet one must surely concede that it points, at the entrance 
of each line, to a change in the manner of dancing. 

Ewald's romance of " Liden Gunver " has imitated in 
part this verse measure, in that two of his lines fit in per- 
fectly with the rhythm of the ballad : 

Liden Gunver vandrer som heist i Kvaeld, 

saa tankefuld. 
Hendes Hjerte var Vox, hendes unge Sjael 

var provet Guld. 



RIME, RHYTHM, AND MELODY 169 

Liden Gunver meder med Silken-Snor 

ved Havets Bred ; 
da haevedes Bolgen, og Vandet foer 

saa brat afsted. 

Little Gunver walks about at even-time 

Lost deep in thought. 
Her heart was wax, her fair young mind 

Like gold well wrought. 

Little Gunver fishes with the silken thread 

At the sea's brim ; 
The billows heaved, and the waters spread 

Away so dim. 

A comparison of the modern poem with the ballad, 
however, will make evident how great is the gulf between 
the rhythm of the two. The contrast between the two 
pairs of lines is not felt in Ewald's poem to the same 
degree as in the ballad ; the first line has a far steadier 
movement in place of the hasty run of the ballad, a conse- 
quence of the strong use of anapaests, and of a regular 
structure of the strophe consistently carried out. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE OF THE 
BALLADS 

It lies outside the province of this work to consider all the 
themes which furnish material for the ballads, to trace out 
all the relics of old, mythological beliefs in the poetry of 
the Christian period, to inquire into the kind and nature 
of the superstitions, to see relations with the poetry and 
the world of tradition in other lands, 1 to paint pictures of 
the life of chivalry, of the doings of the common people, 
of moral aspects and customs all of which our ballads 
unroll before us. All that can be thought of here is to 
bring to light general features of ballad poetry regarded as 
a specific form of poetry, to see in what degree it adapts 
itself to that epic scope of action with lyrical backgrounds 
which it has chosen, for better or for worse, as a scene of 
action ; to indicate the general point of view of ballad 
poetry respecting religion and the instinct of patriotism. 
But these various researches may also be undertaken in 
order that the boundaries of the ballads may be drawn more 
distinctly, and thus what is new and what is old be de- 
termined more sharply. Finally I shall endeavor to throw 
some light upon the means used by the ballads to further 
their poetical ends. 

1 Both Child and Grundtvig have laid the student under great obliga- 
tions in this respect in their introductions to the ballads. Translator. 

170 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 17 1 
I. NATURE 

In a consideration of the ballad's point of view as that 
of the epic with a lyrical background, the first question 
that forces itself upon the attention is, What is the attitude 
of the ballads toward nature ? 

Nature is always depicted in the ballads only as a back- 
ground for events ; almost without exception what we meet 
with is intimations like " Late in the evening when the dusk 
drew on" or a remark like " Now crows the cock." The 
place is always indicated in general terms on the strand, 
on the mountain side, under the linden, in the orchard, in 
the rose grove, by the castle gate, upon the grassy field. Of 
flowers there are named only the rose but its realistic 
thorns are never mentioned and the lilies ; we have found 
once " She made a garland and 't was violet blue " (No. 1 89, 
B 8). Only in the refrain does the joy in nature come out 
at all decisively, but it is never a pleasure in nature's many 
details. Here rings out clearly the delight in the linden tree, 
the favorite tree of the ballads, 1 in spring and in summer. 
The birds sing, but their names are not given ; and it is only 
in the later ballads that the nightingale is allowed to be heard. 
In the colors also there is shown but little naturalism ; the 
standing expressions constantly appear. The maiden's arms 
are lily-white, the steed at times can be white as a wall 
(No. 182, E 5) ; but the silver especially gleams white and 
the gold red. The eyes of the dying queen Dagmar are 
red as blood (No. 135, A 19); otherwise they are pref- 
erably likened to the red of roses. The ground is black 
and so is the moor ; " what is blacker than the sloe ? " 

1 Johannes Steenstrup, Normannerne, I, 182 ff. 



172 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Svend Vonved asks, and gets for an answer, " Sin" (No. 1 8, 
A 29). " Blacker than the sloe " is furthermore an expres- 
sion belonging to the Romanic languages (IV, 751). " Like 
doves so blue" appears once (No. 181, E 15). In short, 
a very limited choice of figures is permitted to colors, and 
these are far from being realistic. Such verses as these 
have ventured pretty far out from shore : 

No. 73, A 26. By the river's side I wandered down 

I looked at the flowers both blue and brown. 

27. I looked at the flowers both blue and brown, 
The fairest I thought to pick for my own. 

28. I looked at the roses, both red and white, 
They stand in their fairest growth bedight. 

These verses are noted down as early as 1550; but from 
the text recorded by Kristensen (II, No. 34), a text which 
goes back independently to the original version, they 
have disappeared. 

In the refrain, on the other hand, delight in the world 
of nature is allowed expression. And, since we have 
already seen how closely related the first stanza often is to 
the refrain, we need not be surprised to find that some 
praise of nature creeps out in the first stanza. Accordingly 
the oldest text of the " Faithless Bride " (Kristensen, I, 
No. 90 ; II, No. 73 ; III, No. 57), from Karen Brahe's 
Folio Manuscript (No. 355) runs thus : 

1 . There 's come so merry a summer this year, 
Cold winter is fled away ; 

Roses and lilies are springing up, 
The forest is decked so gay. 
Now comes the pretty time. 

2. It was the bold Sir Nilaus, etc. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 173 

The stanza has all but assumed the burden of a refrain. 
The same stanza appears in No. 356, and a stanza of 
similar nature turns up here and there and in an odd bal- 
lad ; in any case, it belongs to the framework and not to 
the text itself. We might well wonder why a stanza con- 
cerning nature does not appear far more often in our bal- 
lads, for such an introductory reference to nature is very 
general, for instance, in the German ballads ; in fact, it is 
found in all folk poetry the world over, from the songs of 
the Romanic peoples in the west to the poetry of the 
Chinese and the Malays in the east. Of a very different 
order, on the other hand, is that endeavor to harmonize the 
natural environment with the poet's own feelings, such as 
we find in the German poetry of art ; namely, the minne- 
songs. 1 No such element is to be found in our popular 
ballads. 

The statement just made will be illuminated by a dis- 
cussion of individual ballads which form exceptions. The 
famous ballad "The Game at Dice" (No. 238) "And 
do thou hear, thou bonny boy, come play at dice with me " 
has been noted down also in Iceland, and concerning 
it Grundtvig remarks that " scarcely any other of the Ice- 
landic popular ballads bears a more decided stamp of its 
Danish origin." At the same time the Icelandic version 
departs very widely from the Danish, the cause of which 
presumably is that it represents a much older Danish tra- 
dition than does that which meets us in the records of the 
seventeenth-nineteenth centuries. " The Icelandic tradition 
gives us, if anything, the ballad as it ran in the twelfth 

1 See Zeit. f. d. Altertum, XIX, 199 ft . ; XXIX, 192 ff . ; Zeit. f. d. 
Philologie, XIX, 444 ff. 



1/4 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

and thirteenth centuries." It seems to me, however, that 
one must be somewhat cautious in venturing to say what 
the poem was like in the twelfth century ; it would certainly 
prove a difficult matter to furnish any evidence of what 
the ballad was like at that precise period. On this point, 
however, I shall dwell no longer. Here follow the opening 
stanzas of the Icelandic version (translated by Grundtvig 
into Danish, " Islenzk FornkvaeSi," No. 38) : 

1. It is so merry on a summer's day 
Every maid grows gentle and gay. 

2. The maidens deck them one and all : 
Some in silk and some in pall. 

3. In softest silk their limbs are arrayed, 
They rest beneath the linden's shade. 

4. They rest them at the linden's foot, 
The stag his horn thrusts in its root. 

5. The stag his horn thrusts in the tree, 
The fishes sport so light in the sea. 

6. The maiden sits aloft in her bower, 
She plays at chess by the hour. 

The earliest manuscript in which these verses are found 
dates from 1665. I need not affirm that this sort of 
verse never appears in our Danish ballads, and that if 
such a form of composition had prevailed in the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries or throughout the entire Middle 
Ages, and if such detailed sketches of nature had been 
drawn, they certainly would have left their mark on 
the ballads. But, as a matter of fact, they are absolutely 
wanting. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 1/5 

One version of " The Maiden transformed into a Bird " 
(No. 56), which is found in a manuscript of the time of 
Frederick II, begins thus : 

C i. I know well where a forest stands, 
It stands far out by the fjord ; 
Within it grow the fairest trees 
That are known to knight or lord. 

2. Within it grow the fairest trees, 
Willows and lindens, their name ; 
Within it sport both hart and hind, 
The honest beasts so tame. 

3. Within it sport both hart and hind 
And other beasts are seen ; 

There sings a little nightingale (Nachtegal) 
In a linden tree so green. 

4. This asked then Niclaus Erlandsson. . . . 

These stanzas are not included in the other forms ; on the 
other hand, they haunt a number of Norse and Swedish 
ballads and also turn up elsewhere in Denmark. They are 
not native to the " birdskin ballads " and their origin is 
betrayed by the German word Nachtigal ; in German 
songs similar stanzas appear very frequently (cf . Grundtvig, 
III, 834). 

Just as the lyrical element in the ballads is seldom satis- 
fied with pictorial images of nature's details, so is the ballad 
temperate in its use of nature for allegorical ends as well 
as in the practice of framing thoughts in pictures. It is 
certainly startling to come across such stanzas as the fol- 
lowing from "The Maiden in the Woods" (No. 416). 
A knight finds a maiden in the woods and rests the live- 
long night by her side. When he meets her brothers the 



176 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

next morning, he is asked where he has been. They accuse 
him of having slept with their sister, upon which he replies : 

I rode me out to chase the deer, 
Your sister I never knew ; 
I baited me the fairest deer 
That came first to my view. 

It hid itself under my scarlet cloak, 
With me was well contented ; 
That suited me well and made me glad, 
Of that I 've not repented. 

I made the wild deer run to the forest 
Before my hounds so fleet ; 
The tame deer to my bosom I pressed, 
Our hearts with joy did beat. 

A maid she was both fine and bold 
As man could wish to see. 
If she 's your sister, I pray you then 
You let our wedding be. 

Thus a modern poet might well sing; but the lengthy 
comparison and the great amount of pictorial language have 
no connection with good ballad style. None of the manu- 
scripts have these stanzas, neither are they to be found in 
the modern copies. They were composed by Vedel, who 
probably discovered his models in various German ballads. 
There exist a number of vagabond verses which have 
taken root in every possible place, and which are really 
acknowledged by no one : 

To hold a young man to his word 
Is like taking an eel by the tail. 

To hold a young man to his faith 
Is like riding over a rotten bridge. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE I// 

In Queen Sophie's Ballad Manuscript these verses stand un- 
attached to any ballad ; in Vedel's "Tragica" they form the 
conclusion of a ballad, and likewise of ballads from copies 
of the seventeenth century. Even in our own time they flit 
about and attach themselves to other vagrant stanzas (see 
Nos. 230, 462). In this way these lines, along with others, 
have connected themselves with two other lines, which also 
belong to the vagabonds of the world of later folk songs : 

Ah ! had I the door-key to this day, 

To the bottom of the sea I 'd cast it away ; 

or with clearer application in the ballad of " The Bridal " 

(No. 88) : 

And if they 'd had the key to lock the morning's door, 
They would have wished the night would ne'er be o'er. 

However excellent these figures may be otherwise, they 
are wholly foreign to the style of our ballads ; on the other 
hand, these lines belong to the conscious, intensely lyrical 
songs of Germany. And it is an easy matter to point them 
out, since they are very general in old German and Dutch 
ballads. In these the lovers express a wish that the night 
would never end, that they could lock up the dawn and 
the day and throw the key into the water. As early as 
the fifteenth century these verses are found quoted in a 
Netherlandish manuscript and run as follows 1 : 

Had ic den slotel vanden daghe, 
ic weerpen in ghender wilder Masen 
oft vander Masen tot inden Rijn, 
al en soude hi nemmer vonden sijn. 

1 Since the above was written these shifting verses have been thor- 
oughly discussed by Richard Steffer, Enstrofig nordisk folklyrik. Nyare 
bidrag till kannedom af svenska landsmilen, hefte 63. 



1 78 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

II. RELIGION 

Let us turn from the feeling for nature in the ballads to 
their attitude toward religion. Here we meet first of all the 
legendary ballads, for which Grundtvig seems to have had 
an especial affection he has included no less than four- 
teen in his " Selected Danish Ballads." I confess that in 
regard to these ballads I entertain some critical doubts. 
That legendary ballads were composed in Denmark during 
the Middle Ages is probable enough. I shall not deny 
that several of the ballads preserved were written in that 
period ; very possibly Peter Palladius had these in mind in 
his " Visitation Book," when he forbade pipers at weddings 
and banquets to sing " their ungodly ballads on the invok- 
ing of saints and other such " (p. 79). At the same time 
many of them are not substantiated by evidence of any 
kind. They appear in broadsides of the eighteenth century, 
and their form is not such as to warrant the supposition 
that they are old. 

In all probability the rupture with Catholicism here in 
Denmark was so sharp that everything which bore marks 
of the old faith was grudgingly allowed to live. Neverthe- 
less it is strange that not a single one of these ballads is to 
be found in manuscript ; several of them, however, contain 
in reality very little Catholicism. On the other hand, one 
can very readily admit the possibility of a new immigration 
of legendary ballads from abroad in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. We know assuredly, as has been 
pointed out a number of times, that new varieties of ballads 
made their way into the country during these periods. 
Apparently there was nothing to hinder our soldiers of 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 179 

the Thirty Years' War, or our troopers in foreign service, 
or our seamen in harbors abroad, not to speak of various 
wandering warriors and artisans, from bringing back such 
ballads. I need not go farther into this phase of the sub- 
ject, since a notice of these ballads is not necessary to 
establish the statements which I wish to lay down. Pre- 
cisely because the old records are not forthcoming, the 
history of these ballads escapes our eyes. I own to a cer- 
tain fear that much of what is given for ancient in reality 
is not. 1 

We shall leave out of consideration therefore the genu- 
inely religious or legendary ballads. Concerning all others 
the rule holds good that however many remarkable and 
marvelous things happen, miracles never find a place. It 
is not by prayers and petitions to God and to the saints 
that metamorphosed knights and maidens get their own 
shape back again, nor is it by making the sign of the cross 
nor by reading the Scriptures that evil is bested. The 
intervention of the Virgin Mary or of holy men is un- 
necessary ; that which heals or reshapes, that which draws 
the frigid lover to longing is mysterious remedies, the 
various instruments of superstition, the token and the 
mystic word. Runes have a wonderful alluring power, a 
man's life is bound up in his name as if in a mathematical 

1 In any case the real legendary ballads may assuredly be regarded 
as being farther removed from folk poetry. In the field of German folk 
poetry but consequently in the realm of the lyric some German 
writers, as, for example, Vilmar, show no inclination to recognize a clerical 
or religious popular ballad. Even Bohme remarks : " Upon the whole, 
one cannot call spiritual songs true ballads even though they exhibit no 
ecclesiastical marks and would be nothing more than religious poems ; 
there is wanting the genuine folk tone, above all naivete" (Altdeutsches 
Liederbuch, pp. xlvi, 676). 



1 80 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

power, and with or against this one can work precisely as 
though it were the man himself. In a kiss lies witchcraft, 
which releases that which is bewitched, and drinking a 
man's warm blood and tasting of his flesh leads to meta- 
morphosis. 

Grundtvig has incidentally said the same things that 
have here been asserted, and in an excellent manner. 
That which gave him the occasion was " The Dalby Bear " 
(No. 64). A bear goes into Dalby 's fields and knocks 
everything down, causing the farmers great annoyance. In 
reality the bear is the king's son, who has been transformed 
by his stepmother. The old copy of the ballad omits the 
explanation of how the bear regained his former shape ; 
one learns that he engages in conflict with a man, but 
nothing further. The diffuse text of Anders Sorensen 
Vedel, on the contrary, reads that the man, after fighting 
with the bear and hearing how the latter has been trans- 
formed by his stepmother, who has laid an iron band on 
his neck, says : 

22. "I shall release you from your plight: 
Mary's Son, who sets all things right, 

23. He will loose for you that hard band, 

So great is the power of His right hand." 

24. The knight made over him the sign of the cross, 
The band it broke, and he was loose. 

25. He then became a knight so bold, 
His father's kingdom he came to hold. 

These verses, and, in fact, almost all of Vedel's contribu- 
tion, Grundtvig would not admit to be genuine ; there is 
nothing in the language, style, or rime that suggests any 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 181 

great age, " and as far as the substance is concerned, it is 
very suspicious that the bear's release is brought about by 
a miracle, a procedure that is never met with in any of the 
many tales of transformation and deliverance which we 
find as the subject of our old ballads. For the remarkable 
circumstance connected with these, and one which indicates 
great age, is that the trace of Christianity which appears 
in them never touches their essential nature; the action 
itself goes on everywhere (if one may so speak) according 
to Nature's own laws of the supernatural. In contrast with 
this hard and fast situation, stands here one in which only 
through divine assistance the knight is enabled to break 
the band that held the bear imprisoned." These words 
are true and pertinent, and can be substantiated by many 
ballads. 

But Grundtvig has not always applied his true percep- 
tions nor has he always followed them out to their conse- 
quences. Precisely because the religious impulse and the 
encroachments of the God of Christianity in events are 
so rare, Grundtvig's remarks on " The Game at Dice " 
(No. 238) are, it seems to me, incorrect. This is the 
excellent, well-known song, " And do thou hear, thou 
bonny boy, come play at dice with me," in which the 
maiden plays away everything she owns and finally her 
honor and her faith. She desires to purchase her freedom, 
but the bonny boy will not accede, and already she sighs 
despairingly over the match she has made. The youth 
then discloses his identity as the king's son. In one of 
the later versions which Kristensen has collected (II, 
No. 40), the story runs that the maiden was lucky at the 
beginning of the play : 



1 82 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

A 13. The knight goes into the garden, lets fall the bitter tear: 

" I've rolled the dice with the maiden, my luck went against 
me here ! " 

14. There came to him from heaven a voice both loud and clear : 
" Go roll the golden dice with the maiden one time more." 

He ventures one more trial and wins thereby her honor 
and troth. 

According to Grundtvig, the recent forms deserve 
especial attention because they give us the ballad in an 
older shape and closer to the original form of the legend. 
In them the old legend is serious in tone, whereas the 
later versions are facetious. Now it is unfortunate that 
these recent forms are wholly meaningless. We can repeat 
Grundtvig's own words : "In version A the knight has 
played away horse and saddle and eighteen farms in 
Skaane ; in B even two kingdoms and seven ships at sea. 
After all this the maiden surely cannot look upon him as 
a simple boatman." This statement admits of no question, 
and here we have one of those not infrequent cases in 
which it is the late recorded forms that have so very slight 
a value and are rather misleading than instructive. And 
to this should be added that the proud king's son steps 
entirely out of his character when he goes down to the 
garden and weeps over having lost eighteen farms in 
Skaane. When moreover he is said to be assisted by a 
voice from Heaven, a voice which can call out that things 
will once more turn out well for him if he but venture 
another cast of the dice, then we have entered the realm 
of the ludicrous, the tasteless, and the profane. 

Grundtvig points to the Icelandic version (" Islenzk 
FornkvaeSi," No. 38) as the one which is to give us the 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 183 

ballad in its oldest shape in fact, " in the shape which 
was current in Denmark during the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries." Here the ballad strikes a serious tone ; it is 
no disguised prince, but a knight who has fallen a victim 
to passion and plays away everything ; then he goes out 
and calls upon God for better luck and wins. But to 
what extent the ballad has become Catholic will appear 
from verses such as these : 

He then went out by the garden wall, 
On God and Saint Canute he calls. 

He calls on God and the holy Cross : 

" Let not the maiden play our life from us ! " 

He calls on God and Saint Paul, 

The tricks of the game, that he win them all. 

He calls on God and the holy Shrine, 
That the maiden should belong to him. 

I believe that our ballads, taken as a whole, will testify to 
the fact that such a sudden, solemn invocation of higher 
powers is as wholly unknown to the earliest versions of the 
ballad as is the intervention of these same powers. Further- 
more it is truly remarkable that all the various Danish, 
Norwegian, and Swedish texts, however diversified they 
may appear to be, exhibit absolutely no trace of the inter- 
ference of Heaven, if we set aside the two meaningless 
texts which have turned up last. That the ballad dates 
from the Middle Ages can well be doubted, since it cannot 
be traced farther back than Peder Syv's time (c. 1695 or 
1700). The Icelandic ballad has taken on such a priestly 
and learned character that it might well arouse suspicion ; 



1 84 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

with the exception of the last stanza, the lines quoted 
above are found in manuscripts as early as 1665. Never- 
theless the ballad, even in this form, is forbearing enough 
not to allow Heaven itself to speak, nor does it give instruc- 
tions to the knight how to play the game. But can these 
lines attest anything else than the taste which prevailed in 
the seventeenth century ? To shift the ballad back to 
Catholic times, on the ground of its invocation of the 
saints, would be to leave out of account the learned hands 
by which the ballad has been preserved. 

On the other hand, a similar use of a voice from Heaven 
is found in a ballad (Unpublished No. 101) which tells how 
a mother, during the bridegroom's absence, had his true- 
love, Amor, buried alive : 

One must have heard far over the sound 
How Amor shrieked beneath the ground. 

One must have heard in foreign town, 
How Amor cried beneath the ground. 

There came a voice to the knight's own door : 
" Your mother has buried alive Amor." 

Now one would think it sufficient if Amor's complaining 
cry reached her lover's ears in the foreign land ; but the 
poet, who, on the whole, is lacking in taste, has intro- 
duced Heaven. The ballad is found in only one manu- 
script, which dates from 1650. 

I shall cite further several examples to make good the 
assertion that miracles do not happen in the ballads. As 
far as " The Maiden in the Linden " (No. 66) is concerned, 
one will be able to note a difference according as a copy 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 185 

from the sixteenth or from the seventeenth century is used. 
In A and B it runs naturally and prettily : 

A 24. He gave a kiss to the linden root, 
So she became a maiden good. 

B 22. He laid him down and kissed its root, 
So she became a maiden good. 

On the contrary, C (written down in 1650) relates : 

28. King Magnus he laid him upon the green earth, 
And then he kissed the linden root. 

29. He kissed it once, he kissed it twice, 
The root stood ever as it was. 

30. The third time he called on the Son of Mary, 
Then the linden became a maiden fair. 

That these three stanzas neither fly the old ensign nor 
outweigh poetically the simple lines of the other two forms 
may be taken for granted. 

The three versions of " The Trold and the Housewife " 
(No. 5 2) which are known from old manuscripts assert that 
the trold is released and transformed by the kissing of the 
farmer's wife ; Vedel alone relates that when he would 
kiss for the third time she called on the Son of Mary, 
and then the trold 's skin fell off. In the " Lind-Worm " 
(No. 65) Peder Syv has, as Grandtvig points out, added 
a stanza in which the Son of Mary is invoked. 

There is one ballad, " The Water of Life " (No. 94), 
which we might believe has lighted upon a miracle. The 
king has found a suspicious relation existing between the 
queen and the count, for which he has had the count put 
to death, chopped to pieces, and placed before his wife as 



1 86 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

a dish. She discovers what is offered to her, collects all 
the pieces, and carries them to Maribo's well : 

A 20. In clearest water she then dipped them : 

" Stand up, stand up, thou Christian man ! " 

21. The man stood up and thanked God, 
So from his country he fared abroad. 

Thus runs the ballad with Peder Syv. But a copy from 
popular tradition reads : 

615. She picked up the fingers, she picked up the legs, 
To the living water so fared she then. 

1 6. She washed the fingers, she washed the legs, 
" Stand up, little Lofgren, and be a man ! " 

What is referred to in the expression " det levende Vand " 
(the living water) is the old German heilawdc, that is, heal- 
ing water or healing ; in an old English magic formula it is 
hdlew&g, and heilivdgr in several Icelandic sagas ; it also 
appears in Norse and Faroese ballads and in the Danish 
ballad of " The Valraven " (No. 60 ; A 16, 17) : 

So flew he then to Hileva's well, 

So dipped the maiden in Hileva's flood 

(see Grundtvig's remarks, III, 835). Here then we are 
constantly within the bounds of the supernatural ; the word 
has nothing to do with hellig (holy), but with hel (healthy) ; 
in the Laws of Skaane it runs : " hel aellaer siukaer," 
that is, healthy or sick (Helbred, Helse, " health "), and 
the collecting and resuscitation of dead men's bones are 
found in many sagas and tales as well as in the myths of 
Thor's goat. Peder Syv has had this healing take place at 
Maribo's well. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 187 

We saw that healing waters are found in the ballad of 
" The Valraven " (No. 60). In this ballad various trans- 
formations take place. The maiden's betrothed, who was 
metamorphosed into a bird, drinks her blood and is re- 
leased. Upon this the dead maiden is recalled to life by 
being washed in Hileva's well. Finally their child, who 
was to fall to the raven as the price of his assistance, speaks 
three words as soon as it is born, and by this means effects 
the release of the Valraven, which is transformed into a 
knight. So goes version A ; versions B-E, however, run 
somewhat differently : the Valraven drinks the child's 
blood and thereupon is transformed ; the child is revived 
by all falling upon their knees and praying to God to re- 
store it to life, or by its being carried to the holy place. 
One feels upon reading these texts that the picture as a 
whole is wanting in something, that a certain logical order 
in the management of the universe is lacking. When it 
is possible to effect transformations and other wonderful 
deeds by means of legends and superstitions, it seems a 
little strange that final recourse must be had to a Christian 
miracle, to an invocation of God. If one could prevail 
upon God through prayer to interfere, why did he not let 
Him assist him from the very beginning ? Accordingly 
the text quoted first appears to be the more reasonable ; 
right from the start it allows the knight to be metamor- 
phosed into a Valraven upon the condition that upon the 
first words of the child which is to be born to the maiden 
he shall be released. Grundtvig must have come to a like 
conclusion, for in his popular edition of " Selected Popular 
Ballads " he says nothing of this calling upon God for help. 
With reference to the assistance rendered by the dead in 



1 88 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

" St. Gertrude " (No. 93 : St. Gertrude, whose land has 
been attacked and laid desolate by a count, conjures her 
godfather up from the grave and gets his help), I shall 
content myself with pointing out what Grundtvig has 
said upon the subject. It is a cross between a legendary bal- 
lad and a ballad of magic. In the narrative concerning 
St. Gertrude heathen elements seem to be present, and in 
some countries a use similar to that of " Cyprianus " has 
actually been made of " Gertrude's Book " (III, 875). 

Of all our ballads, however high and surely they have 
aimed and struck, there are none which can be compared 
with the ballads of magic. These seem also to have looked 
deepest into the human heart ; they have depicted not only 
love, but other joys and sorrows that befall humankind, and 
in matchless words and pictures have brought comforting 
thoughts and refreshing promises. As a notable example 
I shall name here " The Buried Mother " (No. 89) and 
" The Betrothed in the Grave " (No. 90). If guessing were 
allowable, I should say that these two were written by the 
same ingenious author. But even in the case of these bal- 
lads, which conduct us to places the other side of the earth 
and earthly life, we can perceive to what small degree the 
ecclesiastical, or the strictly Catholic, element, or whatever 
we should like to call it, gets leave to appear ; although these 
ballads are, as a matter of course, like all our ballads, cer- 
tainly built upon a Christian basis. When the buried mother, 
observing how her children are neglected by the stepmother 
Blide, is irresistibly impelled to see her children again, 
naturally she must first gain permission of God to return to 
middle earth (Middelhjem, corresponding to the Old Norse 
, that is, the world of men ; Grundtvig, III, 870) : 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 189 

On Saturday night at eventide, 
Then should all souls in peace abide. 

To the home of angels she took her way, 
Of Jesus Christ a boon did pray. 

She prayed that to earth she might return, 
And talk again with her small children. 

" Yes, indeed, go you may, 

But do not remain too long away." 

This is all we hear of God or of Christ. It is not to preach 
any Christian lore that the dead one appears ; she indulges 
in no threats, but merely tells her former husband, Sir Bjorn : 

An I must come to you any more, 
Blidelil shall die a death right sore. 

When you hear the hounds a moaning, 
Then you may know the dead are roaming. 

The punishment of the stepmother she promises here as 
a natural, inevitable revenge, and she says nothing of the 
punishment which God inflicts upon all wicked people. 
Thereupon she departs, having accomplished everything : 

No sooner was she beneath the mould 
Than her children on bolsters blue did roll. 

Blide brushed them clean and combed their hair, 
She raised them up and eased their care. 

She gave them wine, she gave them bread, 
And never again did they suffer need. 

Whenever she heard the hound a baying, 
The children with gold so red were playing. 

Heiberg, in his criticism of Hertz's " Svend Dyring's 
Hus," pointed out that the latter, in the chorus of angels 
at the end of the play, carried the use of the supernatural 



190 

far beyond the stage that gives success to illusion ; and 
here Heiberg has the support of the ballads, which hold 
the other world off at a great distance. 

The same is true of that other noble ballad, " The 
Betrothed in the Grave " (No. 90). The distinctly Chris- 
tian features are repressed as much as possible, even in the 
scene where the knight knocks at the door of his truelove's 

bower : 

9. Then spoke the little Elselille, 

With tearful mien : 

" And you can name the name of Jesus, 
You may come in." 

10. " Get up, get up, proud Elselille, 

Open the door ! 

I can name the name of Jesus as well 
As I could before." 

When she follows him to the churchyard, he reiterates 
that she must sorrow for him no more : 

29. " Get up, get up, proud Elselille, 

And get you home ! 
And never weep again 
For your bridegroom. 

30. " Look up to heaven high and see 

The stars so small ; 
So you will come to know 
How the night doth fall." 

31. And quickly slid the dead man 

Into the ground ; 

So sorrowfully goes proud Elselille 
Homeward bound. 

It is indeed possible that stanza 30 has been changed and 
that originally it ran otherwise ; but, as it lies before us, it 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 191 

contains at any rate no reference to the search after re- 
ligious consolation. At the most, it directs attention to the 
pleasure of gazing at the stars in heaven, and first and 
foremost Sir Aage refers to heaven in order to turn away 
Else's gaze, which holds him fast, so that he may "slide" 
into the earth again. No, throughout the whole ballad 
there sounds rather a consolation of a more general human 
order, even if, as has been said before, the Christian 
faith is always conceived of as lying behind, and, above 
all, in the sublime stanzas which have an inherent healing 
power of wonderful strength : 

"As often as you do weep for me, 

And sad your mood : 
Then stands my narrow coffin filled 
With clotted blood. 

"As often as you do sing, 
And glad your mind ; 
Then is my narrow grave within 
With rose-leaves lined." 

I shall now leave the miracles and shall briefly discuss in 
conclusion the reserve with which even the naming of 
God's name is practiced. The way in which God is drawn 
into one form of "The Trold and the Housewife" (No. 52) 
deserves notice. I have already mentioned that version C 
shows a distinct attempt to bring about alliteration, whereas 
the older texts avoid it. But in another respect also this 
version points to a later date : 

C 6. He 's hied him to the farmer's croft 
Right late it was one evening ; 
The hound it growled in the farmer's croft, 
For so our good Lord had willed the thing. 



THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

The meaningless intrusion of God in the fourth line cer- 
tainly requires no comment ; nothing corresponding to it 
is found in the other versions. But farther on in the ballad 
we read : 

14. Up then stood the wretched farmer, 
O Lord, hear well his moan ; 
Elline he gave, his own true wife, 
To the ugly trold for his own. 

The exclamation contained in the second line, the poet's 
own utterance, is surely not original. The copyist mis- 
understood an exclamation that had been put into the 
mouth of the farmer thus : 

This then spake the wretched farmer : 
" Lord God, hear well my moan." 

In like manner we find God invoked in the other forms, 
as, for instance, in the verses from C below. It is not the 
singer but the actors that call upon Him : 

An. The housewife became right heavy of heart : 
" Now help me, our dear Lord's Son ! " 

Bio. " May God that now forbid 

That ever I whore with a trold ! " 

C 15. " O Lord, be gracious to my poor woman, 
My fate is hard to bear." 

How later times have changed the tone one can see for 
one's self by noting the way a ballad sings in the period of 
the Reformation. It is indeed in a ballad that we come 
across such a beginning as "Will ye listen and hear, A 
ballad I'll sing to you." In No. 172, "Christian II in 
Sweden" (1520), we read: 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 193 

8. They marched forth both over hill and dale 
Through the gloomy forest ; 
In God, in whom reposed all their faith : 
Not in man they set their trust. . . . 

u. The captains called their riflemen out, 
They bade them level their weapons ; 
" We will advance if it be God's will, 
Despite what the Swedish threaten." . . . 

13. Sir Sten his leg was shot to pieces 
In the second shot; 
This I say to you in sooth : 
It was foreseen of God. . . . 

30. Praised be God, our Father in Heaven, 
The Danish men the glory have won ! 
God give us rest in Heaven at last, 
With him to dwell forever at one. 

From all the above discussion, two things, I believe, will stand 
out clearly. First, the reader will notice the great difference 
between the ballads and the rimed romances, in which we 
usually meet with allusions to Christian dogmas and Catholic 
doctrines, and in which the language in so many ways re- 
minds us of ecclesiastical speech. Second, the evidence all 
goes to show that clerical people are not the authors of the 
ballads. In other words, there is found in no genuine ballad 
any indication that men of learning or of wide knowledge, 
least of all, ecclesiastics, are the authors of the ballads. It is 
related in a chronicle from Limburg 1 that a leprous monk 
was the composer of the very best songs and melodies, and 
that he had no equal on the Rhine or elsewhere. It is very 
possible that in Denmark such monks were to be found who 
composed ballads ; but in any case these have an aspect which 
does away with the necessity of considering such an origin. 

1 Bohme, Liederbuch, p. xxii. 



194 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

III. MORALS AND WISHES 

In close relation to the subject just discussed stands the 
question, How near do the ballads come to the goal at 
which they aim ; namely, the ethical and aesthetic impression 
they wish to produce ? 

On this point the rule holds good that the essentially 
objective movement of the narrative is never interrupted 
by any application to the listeners. We have already seen 
that all references to the setting find their place in the re- 
frain. Here it is interesting to note the parallel offered by 
the Norse poetry of antiquity in the course of its develop- 
ment. Not until we come to its final flowering do we meet 
with poems whose conclusions confess that pointing a 
moral or uttering a wish was their object. " Gudrun's In- 
citement " (Gudriinarhvot), for instance, ends as follows : 

May every earl's 
Fate grow better, 
Every woman's 
Pain grow lesser, 
When this song of sorrow 
All men sing, 
Gudrun's incitement, 
Before all peoples ! 

Counterparts to this are found in "Atli's Song" (Atli- 
), but not in the older poems. 

Blessed will he be called 
Who such a son begets, 
Such heroic offspring 
As Gjuke begot. 
His praise shall live 
Through all the lands 
So long as folk listen 
To conflicts of passion. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 195 

Such applications or concluding observations discover 
themselves in a few ballads. We can easily make clear, 
however, what the true conditions are. " The Linden on 
Lindenberg " (No. 205) ends so : 

F 28. God pity the maiden wherever she be 
Must live without a friend ! 
She bargains with God that she be not tempted 
And guards her honor to the end. 

Grundtvig has already recognized the fact that F is "a 
worked-over text, which for one thing changes the phrasing 
to suit the rime, and for another adds this moralizing clos- 
ing stanza." The stanza is found only in Dorothea Thott's 
manuscript of the time of Frederick III or Christian V. 
Belonging to the same period is a broadside ballad with 
rime in all four lines and with an entirely different, but 
likewise moralizing, conclusion : 

27. God grant him luck and happiness 
Who regards his honor rightly, 
And from that man withhold His peace 
Who treats his truelove lightly. 

The ballad is extant, however, in five other versions, which 
are both older and better than these two corrupted texts, 
and from them the above stanza is absent. 

In " Proud Elin's Revenge " (No. 209) it runs : 

This is a rede for every young man 

Who wooes so far away, 

That he makes no promise for the sake of spite (Hadings Ref) 

To any honest may. 

He should never go back on his plighted word 
Whatever is in his power ; 
For falsehood strikes its lord on the neck 
Mayhap at any hour. 



196 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

These stanzas, which read as if they were copied from a 
book of precepts, were added arbitrarily to the ballad by 
Vedel. In its sole genuine form it is extant in Karen 
Brahe's Folio Manuscript. Indeed, on the whole, fabrica- 
tions of this kind constantly emanate from Vedel's hand 
(see, for example, Nos. 145, 149, 156, 295). 

But with respect to another ballad the last-named manu- 
script leaves the theory which I have here defended in the 
lurch. In " The Maiden's Morning Dream " (No. 239) 
we read these two closing stanzas : 

B 37. Let no one say nay to another's desire, 

They know not what fortune they may yet acquire. 

38. Let no one hinder another more, 

They know not what fortune God has in store. 

Though it may well be that in the great collection of ballads 
preserved in this manuscript we shall not find another 
single ballad which ends with such a moralizing stanza, 
yet it appears from these lines that not only in Vedel's 
day but also in 1550 there existed a fondness for this sort 
of talk. When the question touches upon the genuine 
stamp of our ballads during the Middle Ages, then we 
can assert without regard to these two exceptional and 
homely stanzas that such ballad endings were wholly un- 
known. Luckily we have a test by which we can determine 
in some measure whether or not such a condition as this 
text reveals is out of the ordinary. There are found, in all, 
twelve different texts of the ballad, of which six belong to 
old manuscripts and six to modern records. Moreover the 
ballad is extant in Icelandic, Swedish, and in eight Norse 
forms ; but halfway between all these variations stands this 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 197 

version B in apprehensive solitude, unattended by any par- 
allel whatsoever to its over-moral concluding verse. There- 
fore we need have no hesitation in declaring it to be 
unoriginal in the ballad. 

On the whole, there is much interest attached to the 
study of those ballads which exist in a great number of 
copies dating from olden times. Thus one has the oppor- 
tunity of seeing how a certain taste, working its way down, 
sought to impress the ballads with a character which at. 
first they did not possess. For instance, in five versions 
(B, C, E, I, M) of " The Youth of Vollerslov " (No. 298) 
we meet an / in the opening stanza : 

I know a right rich maiden 

By a brook south in the land ; 

And she prayed that the youth of Vollerslov 

Might never win her hand. 

The other texts which were written down in the sixteenth 
century, begin, on the other hand, in this fashion : 

There lives a woman in Vermerland, 
And she has daughters two, 

or 

There lives a right modest woman 
By a brook south in the land ; 

that the latter is the correct form admits of not the slightest 
doubt. Corresponding to this intrusion of the / appears an 
/ in the concluding stanza. L, N, O end so : 

Praised be God the Father in Heaven, 
From evil he is able to defend ; 
Never did I hear of a worse journey 
Which came to a better end. 

In K and P these lines are the concluding words of 
Lady Mettelil, and do not concern the singer at all. And 



198 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

where B, C end with " Thanks be to young William," etc., 
A (cf. K) gives as Lady Mettelil's last words : " Many 
thanks, young Sir William," etc. 

Finally D closes with a stanza which is unique in the 
whole fifteen different versions : 

Now I warn both women and maids 

Who wish to live with honor, 

That they mock no man, neither rich nor poor, 

Even though he be yet unborn (sic !). 

One will thus see how unauthentic are all these expres- 
sions on the part of the singer ; and since such stanzas 
are wholly wanting in A, E, F, G, H, I, K, M, it can serenely 
be maintained that the taste of the sixteenth and later 
centuries bears the blame. 

In version D of " The Test of Fidelity " (No. 252) we 
find this closing stanza : 

44. This it is to be firm and loyal 

To try his truelove with honest toil. 

50. It ever happens as God so wills, 

He helps neither falsehood nor scandal's ills. 

This form is referred to by Grundtvig as "a late, per- 
haps made over in the seventeenth century, untraditional 
dilution of a genuine basis best represented in A, B." Since 
therefore the three older forms, A, B, C, omit this stanza 
and bring the ballad to a close in good, old, popular style 
with holding a wedding ; and since the four copies of the 
present time, as well as those from the Faroes and Sweden, 
fail to recognize it, we may well feel ourselves justified in 
saying that such stanzas are not native to the ballads. 

A ballad which to an unusual degree preaches a moral, 
but which has concerned itself especially with a certain 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 199 

phase of the moral, is "The Sacrilege" (No. 112). It 
emphasizes in its narrative how unlucky it is to go hunt- 
ing on the Sabbath, "All on the holy Eastermorn." The 
two hunters who are guilty of this sin fall into a quarrel 
over their horses and hounds and end by killing each other. 
The ballad gives no utterance, however, to any general 
moral sentiment until it reaches the end. Seven of the 
texts have nothing whatever to say in conclusion which is 
in any way indicative of the quintessence of the ballad. 
Only in the eighth form, written down in the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, do we meet with the stanza : 

G 23. Now I counsel you, each one and all, 
Who early ride to the wood ; 
That you ride down to the church 
And fear Almighty God. 

" This moral is manifestly a later addition," as Grundtvig 
very truly observes. But is it not significant that the taste 
of later times deemed it necessary for practical purposes 
to state expressly the moral of the ballad, instead of allow- 
ing the fundamental tone of morality to find its own echo 
in the minds of its hearers ? 

In conclusion, I shall merely add that in " Anna Urop's 
Ballad Book," the ballad of " The Faithless Bride " (see 
above, p. 172) ends as follows: 

Then up spake little Kirsten, 
As he ran the sword in her side : 
" I thought to find a better fate, 
Now sorrow I must abide. 

" I warn every proud young maiden 
Who thinks to keep her estate : 
That she plight her troth to only one man 
And hold to him in good faith." 



200 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Here it might appear as though the ballad poet himself 
had spoken this concluding moral, but in reality it is a part 
of Little Kirsten's speech, as is evident from Karen Brahe's 
Folio Manuscript. It is purely by accident that the ballad 
in Anna Urop's manuscript concludes with this stanza. 

Ballad style demands a narrative of events that is wholly 
objective. The singer never mingles his judgments or re- 
marks with the narrative stream. If by exception he steps 
into view, it is at the beginning of the ballad, or rather in 
the first stanza and possibly in the last. This is so marked 
a characteristic that any arrangement to the contrary is sure 
to shock the reader. Now let us read the following stanzas 
taken from the middle of a ballad on " Burd Ellensborg 
and Sir Oluf " (No. 303), beginning after the point where 
the maiden had plighted her troth with a knight who had 
slain her maternal uncle and who was in consequence in 
danger of his life from her brothers : 

1 2. The young pair bade each other good night 
With many a grievous groan ; 
May God the Father who dwells in Heaven 
Grant that they meet right soon. 

Then follows a narrative of how the brothers kill Sir Oluf 
and of how the maiden mourns for him. The detail cited 
in the above stanza is wholly foreign to ballad style, and 
should one investigate more closely the sources, he will 
find that it is Peder Syv, and after him Abrahamson, who 
has altered the old text, which in all four versions runs : 

The young pair bade each other good night 
With many a grievous groan ; 
" May God the Father who dwells in Heaven 
Grant that we meet right soon." 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 201 

At the close of the ballad a wish is sometimes in place. 
Examples of this, however, are not many. In one of the 
concluding stanzas of " The Wager " (No. 224) we meet 
with a " thanks" : 

B 24, C 21. Thanks be to every gentlewoman 

Who brings up her daughter in honor ! 
Sir Peder rides out to the Landsthing, 
He woos her with glory and honor. 

This stanza, however, is found in only two texts out of the 
nine, and both of these were written down in the first 
quarter of the seventeenth century ; whereas several of 
the other texts were written down half a century earlier. 
The corresponding stanza found in the other manuscripts 
is in keeping with normal ballad style, and runs with 
several variations as follows : 

This got Ingerlil, Thorlof's daughter, 
For giving Sir Peder such answer : 
Sir Iver rides off to her father's court, 
And demands her hand in marriage. 

On the other hand, this same verse with " thanks be " 
occurs in all the forms of "In Chastity and Honor " 
(No. 225), and here too in manuscripts of the sixteenth 
century; likewise in "Proud Ellensborg" (No. 218), a 
ballad preserved also in old copies, where the expres- 
sion is even bound up with another tramp line, "Where 
will such another be ! " 

Thanks be to proud Ellensborg, 
Where will such another be ! 
She dared to fetch her own truelove 
From the Easter king's country. 



202 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Somewhat improbable is the exclamation contained in 
stanza 12 of No. 202. Finally, one of the best known ex- 
amples of the " thanks be " is found in the last stanza of 
the ballad "Niels Ebbeson " (No. 156), with which one 
should compare "Magnus Algotson " (No. 181). As an- 
other example of how a wish can form a part of the ballad's 
conclusion can be named "Sir Bugge's Death" (No. 158), 
where we find in all four texts : 

The Medelfar men, Christ give them bad luck, 
They shot Sir Bugge under a safe-conduct ! 

The Medelfar men, Christ give them shame, 
They shot Sir Bugge, the well-born man ! 

IV. FATHERLAND 

A conception of which no mention is made in our bal- 
lads is that of fatherland. Neither does it appear in the 
ballads of Germany. But here I must lay special emphasis 
upon the fact that we are concerned only with the abstract 
notion of fatherland. Certainly we should clearly distin- 
guish between whether the name is missing, whether the 
idea is wanting, or whether, on the whole, the feeling 
which we call love of one's native land is nonexistent. 
That such a feeling did exist in the fullest measure does 
not admit of question. Our Danish nationality was de- 
fended against the Wends, Germans, and Swedes by the 
men of the Middle Ages as bravely as by those of any 
other period ; but with us, as with other peoples, the prince 
stood as the incarnate representative of the folk, its will and 
wishes. The struggle for the land became fused in a 
peculiar manner with the struggle for the king. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 203 

The question has been raised whether the word " father- 
land " appears in the ballads. In the ballad " Marsk Stig's 
Daughters " (No. 146) the two daughters ask : 

Nothing else of you we desire 

Than you let us go home to our Fame (our father's land ?), 

and the queen orders the five knights : 

" Ye shall lead the maids home to Kollen ! " 

In version A the maidens are not daughters of Marsk Stig 
but of "the king out of Kollen," which is a land of adven- 
ture. The place is mentioned also in other Scandinavian 
ballads, and perhaps was originally Colonia, now Cologne. 
Meanwhile the word Fadrene comes closest in meaning 
to " vor Faders Land " (that is, our paternal possessions). 

33. They came not ere Yuletide to their fathers' land (for deres 

Faders Land) 
44. Promise us to remain in your fathers' land (/ Eders Faders Land) 

Again F<zme possibly means "paternal ancestry " (fadrene 
Slagt) ; in both these senses it is used very generally in 
the " Provincial Laws " and in later works (cf. also " The 
Maiden at the Thing " (No. 222, A 17) : "I will give your 
Grace my patrimony (mit Fame) " ; " The Maiden trans- 
formed into a Bird " (No. 56, B 14, 1 5). As is well known 
Marsk Stig's exiled adherents fought to win their inherit- 
ance, and Huitfeld says that at length it is granted them 
" to enjoy their fathers and their mothers " (I, 344). 
Kalkar in his dictionary translates Fame of the above bal- 
lad as " fatherland " (Fadreneland}, but he cites no similar 
instance ; on the other hand, there are numerous examples 
of its use in the sense of paternal estate or family. 



204 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In B 2 and D 2 of " Ribold and Guldborg " (No. 82) 
it runs : " To my fathers' land (Fcedrene Land} I shall 
thee lead " ; but the discrepancy between these texts from 
Sophie Sandberg's manuscript and those from the great 
Stockholm manuscript of the beginning and middle of the 
seventeenth century, as well as the numerous other texts, 
speaks very decidedly against the supposition that Fadrene- 
land was original here. Indeed, by comparing " min feme 
land " (my paternal land) of B 2 with til en halfieer land, 
that is, dobbelt saafagert Land (doubly so fair a land) or 
detfeierste Land (the fairest land) of D, one will see how 
the words originally ran. 

Although I can find neither that word nor Fosterland 
(native land) in Danish sources of the Middle Ages, yet it 
may well have been used, for we read in Magnus Smek's 
" Town Laws " the words fadhurlandh 23\&fcedhernis land, 
and in old Swedish laws likewise Fosterland, with refer- 
ence to both the native province and the country. 

But as has already been stated, love of one's fatherland 
does not, on the whole, show itself in our ballads. The same 
thing holds true of Sweden in the Middle Ages. The 
individual provinces as yet stood opposed to each other 
with so strong a national independence that it is difficult to 
see how any very marked degree of feeling for the father- 
land could be expected of the Swedes. The monarchical 
unity, says Henrik Schiick, in his excellent " Literary His- 
tory of Sweden," and the notion of Sweden's being one 
land for everybody, Uplanders as well as West Goths, had 
not yet come into being : " It follows as a natural conse- 
quence that in Swedish literature, even down to the days 
of Albrecht of Mecklenburg and Engelbrekt, Swedish 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 205 

patriotism is conspicuous by its absence." In what is sup- 
posedly the oldest work preserved to us, St. Sigfred's 
legend, dating from 1206, one can notice how the author 
warms up to his subject when he speaks of his native parish, 
the beautiful Varend, but farther than local patriotism 
one never reached. The author of the oldest of the rimed 
chronicles, that of Erik's, is an enthusiast of the first 
water, but a proper patriot he is not. " In the introduction 
he has only a few words to say of Sweden's renown, and 
these are quite trivial ; but in 1452, when this introduction 
was rewritten, the tone changed. The new writer, in poetic 
respects, can by no means sustain a comparison with his 
predecessor ; . . . but in one thing he is a skald, one can 
almost say a great skald, and that is when he speaks of 
his fatherland. The nearer one comes to the end of the 
Middle Ages the higher this note of patriotism mounts up. 
Its form manifests itself in an increasingly wilder hatred 
of the Danes" (p. 85). 

The same conditions obtained no doubt in Denmark, 
and if our ballads bore a date, we should perhaps discover 
a similar change in the national feeling. For instance, a 
new national tone emerges characteristically in the ballads 
on Svend Felding. This famous hero rides to Rome, visit- 
ing en route a certain maiden. When she sees his gold- 
stitched shirt she exclaims that he must be either king of 
Denmark or else of the highest rank. She has heard all her 
days that the Danish men are very brave ; therefore she is 
very glad to see one of them, for a trold has been plaguing 
her land and carrying off women and girls for food. Svend 
Felding is sufficiently desirous of breaking a lance with 
the trold for her sake, but he must have such a horse and 



206 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

armor as will suit him. The Spanish horses which were 
led out for him fell to the ground when he barely laid hands 
on them, upon which he exclaims : 

A 14. " Oh, I would give the red, red gold, 
But and a thousand marks, 
If now I had a Danish horse 
Was born in Dennemark." 

15. And by there came a miller good, 
And speak right well could he : 

" Oh, I have a right good Danish horse, 
But ridden he dare not be. 

1 6. " Oh, I have a Danish horse, 
Was born in Saebylund, 

And every time he goes to mill 
Bears fifteen hundred pounds." 

1 7. " Hear me, thou good miller, 
That horse now let me see ; 
Then we ourselves, we two Danes, 
Will fight with Southrons three." 

Svend Felding then draws the saddle-girths so tight that 
the horse falls down on its knees, and at once he rides 
into combat against the trold. His spear breaks, however, 
and his shield rolls on the ground. 

27. Then sped he off to the church, 
His sins he there confessed ; 
He bore away the sacrament, 
To the spear he made it fast. 

28. " Now put away the crowned spear, 
It failed me in time of need ; 

And fetch me hither a good sloop mast, 
Then well I can me speed." 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 207 

In the second tilt Svend Felding breaks the evil one's 
neck. Then the bold warrior was offered the maiden and 
land and kingdom ; but he is already plighted to another 
and he will not betray her. " But if a Danish pilgrim visits 
you, Spare neither bread nor wine." 

Evidently this is a ballad that would commend itself in 
the highest degree to the Danish national feeling. The 
renown of the Danes had already reached foreign lands 
before Svend Felding made his journey south, but he gave 
a brilliant exhibition of the might that lay in a Danish 
man's arm and of the strength that resided in a Danish 
horse. There is only one vulnerable point in all this glory, 
which, when viewed closely, proves to be an Achilles' heel ; 
that is, the circumstance that all this strength is abso- 
lutely of no avail. Only after Svend has laid the Host on 
the spear does he gain the victory. As a matter of fact, 
that is a very stupid piece of business, for it is, if anything, 
by a trick or stratagem that Svend Felding bears off the 
victory. I can think of nothing else than that two ideas 
here run counter to each other. Moreover it is unintel- 
ligible why Svend Felding takes the mast of a sloop for 
a weapon, since it is not the weapon but what is con- 
cealed on it that counts. Here again one feels, as I have 
pointed out in many other ballads, that the religious, 
the ecclesiastical, the Catholic element has been clapped 
on later, and that it is a disturbing and jarring force. 
Svend Grundtvig must have had the same feeling, for in 
the text which he published in his " Selected Popular 
Ballads," he leaves out altogether the stanza dealing with 
the Host on the spear for the reason that it is wholly 
superfluous. 



208 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

The second ballad on " Svend Felding " (No. 32) also 
makes use of the Host, but in a more rational manner : 

A 64. He bids consecrate God's body, 
Bids set it on his spear-shaft ; 
Right soon then fled the loathed trold 
That sat on the warrior's back. 

65. The second tilt they together rode 
The heroes were strong enow ; 
It was Sir Peder Kaempe, 
His neck was broke in two. 

The German warrior has a trold sitting behind him on his 
horse ; it is he whom Svend Felding overthrows by means 
of God's body. Upon this the strife between the German 
and the Dane becomes equalized, and now the Dane wins 
the victory. In texts B, C the motif respecting the Host 
and the trold is wholly wanting, thereby showing very 
clearly that it has been stitched on. 

In this ballad Svend Felding is sent out by the Danish 
king to propose by proxy to the Lady Juttelil. She is much 
prejudiced in advance against the Danes and makes sport of 
them in various ways ; but she gets a rough answer from Svend 
Felding. Moreover, when Jutta comes to Denmark, she is far 
from being pleased ; she does not think the bridal house good 
enough, and she rejoices when Svend Felding is overthrown 
in a j oust by Peder Kaempe. But at the next onset when Svend 
Felding breaks the German's neck, the queen weeps. The way 
in which B (in the burden) forms its refrain indicates the drift of 

the ballad : 

i. There are setting out for Denmark 

Many a renowned knight, 
And so many Germans, 
I cannot count them quite. 
There are setting out for Denmark. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 209 

Whoever Svend Felding may be, whether, as Bugge sup- 
poses, the mythical hero Sinfjotli in a new guise, or, as 
Grundtvig assumes, "a popular mythical personage who 
was certainly called into being in comparatively late times, 
but wholly in the old style (III, 804)," I shall leave unsaid. 
But Grundtvig's conjecture that the ballad on Queen Jutta 
was composed on the occasion of Erik Plovpenning's mar- 
riage with the Saxon Princess Jutta (1239) seems to me 
highly improbable. In Ryd Kloster's Annals, to be sure, 
one comes upon decidedly strong expressions of feeling 
against the Germans in consequence of King Valdemar's 
imprisonment : " And you should know that the Germans 
have seldom or never won any advantage or victory over 
the Danes without using treachery or deceit, as may be 
evidenced in the case of these two kings, and in many 
other ways." But this is merely a temporary blaze which 
was quickly put out and which was followed by a still closer 
alliance with the Germans, bringing in its train even greater 
misfortunes for Danish nationality. Neither the positive 
side of national feeling, satisfaction over what is Danish, 
nor the negative, hatred for what is foreign, crops out very 
noticeably in the earlier periods of the Middle Ages. It 
is not until the fifteenth century, when our kings took up 
the fight against the Germans whether the latter came in 
the likeness of merchants or of warriors, that the national 
feeling flames aloft. Who knows but that it was the jour- 
ney of the gigantic King Christian I to Rome, and the 
sensation and renown that his trip aroused, which may 
have given rise to a new conception of the story of Svend 
Felding and to the treatment of the subject found in these 
two ballads ? 



210 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

In conclusion I shall mention that the tradition of Holger 
Dansk, as all know, is not of national origin, but that it found 
its way in during the latest period of the Middle Ages, 
and that in any case the ballad of " Holger Dansk and 
Burmand " (No. 30) cannot be said to manifest any marked 
patriotic stamp. Such a character, on the contrary, appears 
rather in "King Didrik and Holger Dansk" (No. 17); 
but this ballad also bears every mark of youth. Grundtvig 
regards it as " certainly the youngest of the Didrik ballads, 
and in one respect distinct from the others, in that it is 
not a spontaneous, naive rendering of the old legend, but 
rather a conscious use of this for patriotic ends." Gustav 
Storm assigns the ballad to the sixteenth century. 1 

V. ROMANTIC BALLADS 

As a distinct group must be segregrated those ballads 
which Grundtvig has incidentally called romantic ballads. 
Since he has not described these ballads in detail, I shall 
attempt to throw into relief various features of their physi- 
ognomy. The best known of these ballads is "Axel and 
Valborg" (No. 475, in 180-200 stanzas); others are 
" Malfred and Magnus" (No. 49, 89 stanzas), " Flores and 
Margrete" (No. 86, 30-40 stanzas), " Karl and Margrete" 
(No. 87, 50-70 stanzas), " King Apollonius of Tyre " 
(No. 88, 25 stanzas), " The Cloister Robbery" (No. 476, 94 
stanzas), " Terkel Trundeson " (No. 480, 207 stanzas !), 
" Oluf Gudmundson" (Unpub. No. 306, 152 stanzas) 

I shall give the substance of one of these ballads in 
order to make their character plain. Earl Iver Ulfson, 

1 Gustav Storm, Sagnkredsene om Karl den Store, p. 187. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 211 

the standard bearer of the king, falls in battle. He has 
intrusted his three daughters to the queen's care, but 
when she learns from a sibyl that the youngest one, 
Malfred, is to marry Magnus her son, she sends this 
daughter away on a ship. The boat is stranded on the 
shores of Spain, and the girl is led away to become the 
bride of a chieftain. Before her wedding she catches 
sight of Magnus, who has been captured by pirates and 
carried off to a foreign country and forced to sit at the 
oars and row. She manages to have him ransomed. 
Magnus kills the bridegroom and flees with her. One 
day during their sojourn in the forest Malfred was lured 
into the mountain by a trold, and Magnus journeys home 
alone. After the lapse of nine years he engages to marry 
Thorelille, but just then Malfred, who has slipped away 
from the mountain, comes sailing home to Norway. The 
two women agree to share Magnus as a husband. 

As is very evident, strict unity of treatment is abandoned. 
Of dramatic force there is not a tittle ; its place is taken 
by a whole string of adventures. A similar peculiarity 
marks the narration of " Flores and Margrete." Flores 
loves Margrete, but her friends wed her against her will 
to Sir Herman, the rich count. When Flores meets 
Margrete in the church, she confesses to him that she 
still loves him. Her husband, on his return home, notes 
that she has been weeping, upon which he declares that 
after all he intends to relinquish her to Flores. But 
Flores' mother has in the meantime come to his rescue 
by sending out a trold in the shape of a hart at whom the 
count shoots ; the bullet, however, turns against the count 
himself. Now Margrete is a widow, and Flores woos her; 



212 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

but she will remain a widow a year. Thereupon joy and 
mirth prevail. In this ballad the want of unity in the 
thought as well as in the treatment is likewise conspicuous. 

The length of the ballads is remarkable and seems 
designed to supply a want in the substance. But this 
feature indicates their purpose ; namely, to provide enter- 
tainment for long evenings. In addition the ballads seek 
to fix the interest by new means ; they concern themselves 
with foreign lands ; as, for instance, Spain (No. 49), Tyre 
and Naples (No. 88) ; they use foreign personal names 
(Flores), and they are erudite ; as, for example, the ballad 
of " Malfred and Magnus," which allows Earl Iver to say, 
as though it were modeled on the classical style of the 
sagas, " So help me, Lady Freya and Thor, and keep my 
life free from pain " (No. 119, A 10). Furthermore, in- 
stead of employing good dramatic diction, which goes 
straight to the point, they take up much time and use 
many words on matters of inquiry, reflection, and per- 
suasion. Altogether they have a character of long, spun- 
out precision. 

In the next place the moral force is lost, or rather the 
ballads are morally bungled. No. 49 unblushingly allows 
the narrative to end with Magnus becoming the husband 
of both Malfred and Thorelille. 

It has come to pass in Norway's land 
And it comes to mind full ready, 
Sir Magnus lived for eighteen years 
With two fair noble ladies. 
They lived together for eighteen years, 
With love and right good feeling, 
And never mortal man has heard 
A quarrelsome word between them. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 213 

To such bad taste had the times fallen. The heroes of 
the ballads dare not do evil nor dare they do good. 
Margrete will not permit Flores to kill Count Herman ; 
Count Herman would gladly resign his wife to her lover ; 
Flores is to be rewarded for his languishing fidelity. But 
why does the ballad lug in here the ugly story of his 
mother's magic arts ? And yet Count Herman up to the 
last is so virtuous that when dying he bewails the fact 
that he and his wife have no child, not because he 
wishes to leave an avenger behind him, but because 
the inheritance will go to relatives instead of to Margrete. 
It would be wrong to say that these ballads are immoral ; 
rather are they fairly tricked out with virtue. 

A sentimental tone, on the whole, has crept into these 
ballads. In his great sorrow Flores resolves : " I '11 lay 
me in an upper room and grieve myself to death." And 
the same holds good of " Axel and Valborg " (No. 475), 
however beautiful it may be otherwise. A master like 
Oehlenschlager can annihilate doubt and make us believe 
that Valborg dies of a ballad. But a too bounteous meas- 
ure of virtue finds expression in such stanzas as 

1 1 8. " Deep is my love for Valborg fair, 
She was my highest bliss. 

But never once did I come so near 
As to give her a single kiss." 

119. She laid her hand on the mass-book nigh 
And swore with right good grace : 

" I was ne'er so bold as to lift my eyes 
And look him full in the face." 

Though both in ancient times and the Middle Ages men 
and women were found who conceived love for one whom 



214 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

they never saw, for the might of runes and love is strong, 
yet surely they dared to look upon one another when they 
met. And it is precisely because the lovers themselves 
speak of their great bashfulness that something of the 
na'fve beauty is lost. On the one hand, we can readily 
agree with a Swedish author, who said of these lines : 
" Over all these stanzas there is diffused a fine blush " ; 
but, on the other hand, we realize that we have approached 
tolerably near to the edge of the truly natural, and we can 
understand why the bailiff of Anholt, in Holberg's poem 
of " Peder Paars," reproached his wife with being almost 
drowned in a flood of tears at the last festival because 
some one had read to her a little of Axel Thorsen. Here 
we feel as if we were present at the wind-up of the days 
of knighthood. And in reality, after one has lingered a 
little over these ballads, he needs but to glance around the 
corner to see that familiar Spanish knight of the lanky 
figure approaching. 

Furthermore these ballads are difficult to remember 
because of their great length and especially because of 
the lack of continuity in their plots. Adventure succeeds 
adventure and speech follows upon speech. If ballads 
ever required the services of professional singers, they 
may well have done so in these instances. Such ballads 
show clearly that they are at home among the romances. 
The subject of the ballad of " King Apollonius of Tyre " 
(No. 88) is derived from the romance of the same name. 
" Malfred and Magnus " (No. 49) treats of a familiar 
German legend of the Count of Gleichen and the two 
women. The sentimental ballad of " Sir Sallemand " 
(Abr. No. 1 5 3), who loves his sister's child, ends with the 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 215 

statement that such love was never seen " since Tristram 
and Isald died." Such a beginning as opens up "Flores 
and Margrete " (No. 86), 

i . A ballad I will sing to you, 

Which many a time I have sung, 
All how the lovely Lady Margret 
Was loved by Sir Flores Bendiktson ; 

or such a conclusion as that which appears in the last 
stanza of " Oluf Gudmundson " (Unpublished No. 306, 
152 stanzas !), 

Of nothing was this ballad made, 

The truth I tell to you, 

Now must another begin 

Who better can do, 

is likewise found continually in the romances. In his 
manuscript collection Grundtvig has written concerning 
this last quoted stanza : " The last stanza is noteworthy 
for showing us the use the ballad was put to in social 
entertainment when delivered by a single, let us say a 
professional, singer. People of this class have, I dare say, 
composed ballads of this sort." 

That such ballads belong to a very late date may well 
be regarded as certain. The ballad of " Axel and Valborg " 
(No. 475), judged by its costume and apparatus, cannot, 
as R. Bergstrom has pointed out (" Historiskt Bibliothek " 
III, 419 ff.), be set farther back than the fifteenth century. 
Finally let me call attention to the fact that these ballads 
commonly lay their scenes in Norway ; this is true, for 
example, of " Malfred and Magnus " (No. 49), "Axel 
and Valborg " (No. 475), and " The Cloister Robbery " 
(No. 476), in which a son of a Swedish king robs the 



216 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

daughter of a Norwegian duke in the Lyse Cloister. How 
far " Karl and Margrete " (No. 87), which, as Grundtvig 
says, shows " a good deal of similarity " to the last named 
ballad, has anything to do with Danish personages, might 
well be questioned ; it concerns itself chiefly with Sweden. 
" Terkel Trundeson " (No. 200) treats of Denmark and 
the king of Iceland. 

These remarks by no means imply that these ballads 
are wholly lacking in poetical qualities. A number of 
them, in addition to a certain amount of dilution and dull- 
ness, contain good stanzas and good scenes. Regarded as 
a whole, however, they can be taken only as a medley. 

VI. BALLAD STYLE 

I now turn to the various peculiarities of ballad style. 

We commonly understand by inversion that a word does 
not occupy the same place in a sentence it would in ordi- 
nary speech. In daily speech we often shift a word about 
for the sake of emphasis and accentuation ; in poetry the 
same causes operate, but most frequently with a view to 
rhythm and rime. There is a great difference in the ex- 
tent to which various poets use inversion ; mediocre poets 
will often resort to it to secure rime, or because they are 
misled by the belief that this is the only means available 
of drawing the attention. The poet who is imbued with a 
strong didactic sense will knit words together in weighty 
sentences. There is no question that those poets must 
be ranked highest who, with the simplest means, gain 
the same ends as those who must rely on the aid of 
embellishment. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 2 1/ 

In this respect, then, there is a very great deal to be 
learned from the ballads, which are extremely moderate in 
their use of inversion as an aid in the construction of the 
verse and in the securing of rime. One can find "son mine," 
" the knights good," " maiden fair" (or rather "maiden so 
fair"), and the object before the verb ; but, on the whole, 
inversions are not frequent and in any case never violent. 
When in " Ribold and Guldborg" (No. 82) we read : 

G 62. Ribold was dead ere the cock crew, 
Guldborg died ere rose the sun, 

we see that the last line, even when the license of our own 
time on this point is considered, contains an all too violent 
inversion. But it happens that this verse is found only in 
Peder Syv and that in the remaining eighteen forms it is 
wanting. A corresponding verse is found in several texts, 
dating from the middle of the seventeenth century, of 
" Soborg and Adelkind " (No. 266), but the oldest form 
of the ballad in Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript has a far 
more unobtrusive inversion : 

E 2. She was born at eventide, 

Her mother was dead ere rose the sun. 

In the " Kinsman's Revenge " (No. 4) we read : 

C 44. Hun redte deres Senge paa Dunen blod, 
hun vilde dennem unde Sovnen sod. 

She made their beds of down smooth, 
She wished them well sleep sweet ; 

but only under Vedel's hand could the stanza get those 
two inversions. His only source, as Grundtvig points out, 
is A 32 : 



218 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Stolt Ellind gjorde deres Senge paa Dune : 
hun vilde [dennem] Sovnen vel unde. 

Proud Ellind made their beds of down, 

She wished that they might well sleep sound. 

Here we have a familiar inversion in the second line, if 
it is an inversion. One must remember, on the whole, 
that many word orders which depart from the popular 
usage of to-day were at that time natural and common fea- 
tures of daily speech. Two inversions in succession, how- 
ever, the balladists would regard, I believe, as inadmissible. 
A familiar inversion is to be found in " Niels Ebbeson " 
(No. 1 56) : 

15. " Hear now this, Sir Niels Ebbeson, 
I talk with you too long ; 
You shall either from Denmark flee 
Or I shall have you hanged." 

1 6. " Thieves you may on the gallows hang, 
Both for owls and erns ; 
But I shall surely in Denmark live 
All with my wife and bairns." 

For all that the "Thieves," when placed at the beginning, 
rings out so boldly, yet it seems to take one by surprise 
and to sound so harsh that the line almost becomes top- 
heavy. The other three texts have preserved the following 
version of the stanza : 

Must I out of Denmark flee 
From my wife and bairns so small ; 
Unlucky shall you think it then 
That ever you me saw ! 

Grundtvig may allow therefore that "this proud stanza (E 1 6 
above), which, when looked at from a poetic standpoint, 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 219 

is certainly a gain to the ballad, in originality must give 
way before the stanza found in the other three copies." 
" There is the greatest probability that it was added at the 
same time with the renovation of the expression, which E 
in several places exhibits ; and by one possessed of an 
undoubtedly poetical talent, which knew how to patch up 
in masterly fashion the weak spots in the memory, which 
overtake, however, the expression more frequently than 
the contents." Nevertheless, Grundtvig has included this 
stanza in his popular edition of 1867. In A 84, 85 of 
the same ballad appears "sige Dronning Tiding slig" (tell 
the queen tidings such), likewise a violent inversion ; 
Vedel has more correctly : " Dronningen Tidende sige " 
(the queen tidings tell) ; cf. Ab 84 : " sige Dronningen 
sligt Men " (tell the queen such hurt). 

In many other places we could point out inversions that 
have originated in later times ; as, for instance, in C 9 
of " Sir Ebbe's Daughter " (No. 194) : " Up then waked 
the maidens shrewd." This is a labored text with rime 
in all four lines ; the older forms omit this line. 

Inversion is found by far most frequently in the re- 
frains ; I cite the following examples : 

No. 130. Selv lader him sig vel. 

No. 142. Og saar er min Haand af den Brynje. 

No. 167. Saa glad rider Erik Stygge imod sin Jomfru. 

No. 1 74. Til Meissen kom den Froken med stor yre. 

No. 195. Deraf al vor Sorg matte sig vel fordrive. 

No. 130. So behaves she well. 
No. 142. And sore is my hand on the breastplate. 
No. 167. So gladly rides Erik Stygge to his truelove. 
No. 1 74. To Meissen comes the lady with great honor. 
No. 195. Thereby all our sorrow must be driven away. 



220 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

As one will notice, there is not a single inversion here 
which could not be found in an ordinary prose text of the 
same period. 

The connection between sentences is marked by a great 
simplicity. Parallel structure is the general favorite ; all 
involved constructions are avoided. The apodosis follows 
in the next verse-line ; in the case of a four-line stanza 
the first two lines readily constitute an entity, and seldom 
or never do we find the third line knit grammatically 
with the second. At as late a period as after " Sir Tyge 
Krabbe's Fight in Skaane in 1510" (No. 171) one 
could still write : 

C 21. Sir Tyge orders the spies to go out, 
They should in truth discover 
What the enemy had in mind to do, 
And what way they meant to manoeuvre ; 

the older forms, however, have no such ponderously con- 
structed stanza, nor any like it. " It runs contrary to good, 
old ballad style to have an antecedent in one verse and an 
apodosis in another," says Grundtvig in his introduction 
to No. 220 (A, stanzas 287-288). Nevertheless in all 
manuscripts of " The Buried Mother " (No. 89) are to be 
found the verses : 

1 6. She 's ta'en her way to the angel's home, 
She begged of Jesus Christ a boon, 

1 7. That she might to earth return 

And speak again with her little bairns ; 

but evidently the first line in stanza 17 should be 
amended to : 

She begged she might to earth return. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 221 

In his popular edition of the ballads (1882) Grundtvig also 
has made this change in the line. 

On the whole, repetition aids in avoiding any heavy or 
involved construction. Simplicity in sentence construction 
is a striking feature in the ballads and sets them apart from 
the style of to-day. They may indeed vary widely in this 
respect from the style of the romances. And such con- 
structions as are found in the " Nibelungenlied " would be 
wholly impossible to a ballad poet. One need but glance 
at the first stanza of that famous poem to see the difference : 

Uns ist in alten maeren 

wunders vil geseit 

von helden lobebaeren, 

von grQszer kuonheit, 

von frouden hSchgeziten, 

von weinen und von klagen, 

von kiiener recken striten 

muget ir nu wunder hoeren sagen. 

As on many other occasions, counterfeit stanzas are in- 
structive also in the matter of sentence formation. 

No. 4, C 22. She placed beneath their side 

Their knife upon which they relied. 

This is a stanza of Vedel's ; the old text runs : 

B 1 7. She placed beneath their side 
Their sword and a bared knife. 

" Hagbard and Signe " (No. 20) has the following stanza 

in form A : 

10. Hear me now, proud Signild, 
To me you will allow it : 
That I may handiwork learn from you, 
So few are they that know it. 



222 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Not one of the other seven versions, which are found in 
copies equally old, has in the corresponding stanza so heavy 
a construction. In its place appears, for example : 

C 13. Here you sit, proud Signild, 
You spin the silken twill ; 
Hafbard, the king's son, has sent me to you, 
If me you would teach like skill. 

Karen Brahe's Folio Manuscript contains the following 

stanza : 

No. 30, A 1 8. He swore by God on high, 

That he his word would hold, 

If she could hand to him the man 

Would dare to strive with Burmand so bold. 

The other two texts have no stanza answering to this ; and 
Grundtvig in his introduction to this ballad calls attention 
to the fact that that manuscript " expands and revises the 
traditional texts " (IV, 782). 

A striking parallelism occurs in a stanza of " Magnus 
Algotson" (No. 181, B 8, E 17) : 

Sharp are their swords 
And bent are their bows ; 
Wrathful are they in mind, 
And hard are they in mood. 

This stanza, which from a modern point of view would be 
regarded as excellent, is found in a manuscript of 1590 
and in one of 1610 ; but it is interesting to see what the 
stanza is like in other texts : 

A 7 (1550) Here stay three hundred armed men 
In front of our courtyard ; 
Without they all in silk are clad, 
Within in steel so hard. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 223 

C 8 (1650) Above they wear the silk, 
Beneath the cuirass blue ; 
Wrathful are they in mind, 
And rough are they in mood. 

D 9 (1625) Here stay three hundred brave lordlings, 
All blue as any dove ; 
The horse he is in silk bedecked, 
The lord he rides above. 

This fourfold parallelism is found therefore in only one 
form, and it can hardly be said to be well certified. 

And very seldom is antithesis used. Professor Peter 
Hansen has quoted the following stanza from the ballad 
of the "Cloister-Maiden" ("Danish Heroic Ballads," 
1867, No. 20) as an example of this artifice: 

Now sits the swain in the bower aloft, 
He plays with the silver so white ; 
So little heed the swain pays to me, 
So grievous is my plight. 

Now sits the swain in the bower aloft, 
He plays with the gold so red ; 
So little the swain now thinks of me, 
So grievous is my dread. 

But nothing definite may be gathered from this ballad ; 
it is, as has been pointed out, scarcely older than the six- 
teenth century. Professor Peter Hansen cites further the 
words between Agnete and the Merman (in the ballad of 
that name, No. 38) : 

" But when you to the church are bound, 
You must not wear the red gold on your gown. 

" And when you to the churchyard repair, 
You must not unbind your fair yellow hair. 



224 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

" And when you within the church door step, 
You must not smile under your scarlet cape. 

" And when you walk up through the aisle, 
You must not sit by your mother the while. 

" And when the priest names Him most dread, 
You must not then bow down your head." 

And when she to the church was bound, 
She wore the red gold on her gown. 

And when she to the churchyard repaired, 
Agnete unbound her fair yellow hair. 

And when she within the church door stepped, 
Agnete she smiled under her scarlet cape. 

And when she walked up through the aisle, 
Agnete sat by her mother the while. 

And when the priest named Him most dread, 
She then bowed down her head. 

Here we have parallelism carried out in full, together 
with what in the truest sense can be called antithesis ; and 
herein we are again brought face to face with the purely 
artistic. We now stand on the exact border line of the rigid 
and the uniform, at the very threshold of the Learned 
Period ; whereas our ballads of the Middle Ages speak in 
the fashion of children, or rather as a mother speaks to 
her child. The proof that " Agnete and the Merman " 
should be dated back to the Middle Ages, when its eccen- 
tric form and its late appearance certainly relegate it 
to the eighteenth century, has meanwhile not yet been 
brought forward, and he who is to adduce this will have 
his work cut out for him. Until that has been done, we 
ought to leave this ballad out of consideration when the 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 225 

question deals with the qualities peculiar to the ballads 
of the Middle Ages. 

It will be evident from the foregoing discussion that the 
style of our ballads forms a complete contrast to that of 
our proverbs. In the latter we frequently meet with an- 
tithesis ("Speech is silver, silence is golden"; "Penny- 
wise and pound-foolish"; " It is sweet to get and bitter to 
pay ") and with inversion (" To every cow belongs her 
calf " ; " Little is the harm silence does "). Proverbs also 
attract alliteration (" Look before you leap " ; " Plunder 
Peter and pay Paul " ; " Cat will after kind "), and they 
affect disjointed speech (" A bad egg, a bad bird " ; " Out 
of sight, out of mind"; "bad beginning, bad ending"). 
When therefore one asserts that many old proverbs lie hid- 
den in the popular ballads, it seems to me that he misun- 
derstands the language in which they are usually couched, 
for in the ballad there is found absolutely nothing of the 
sententiousness, the weighty thought, and the condensed 
expression that everywhere prevail in the proverb. 

Perhaps one will be inclined to say that in " Marsk Stig" 
(No. 145) are to be heard not a few proverbs and senten- 
tious utterances. Especially does this apply to the bold 
conversation between the Marshal and King Erik : 

A 42. Then answered young Sir Marsti, 
He was sorrowful enow : 
" It is a well-known adage, 
Scorn and skaith together go." 

47. " Marsti, thou dost not ride so hard 

But well I can ward myself against thee ; 
If thou wilt naught of my friendship have, 
Then thou must let it be." 



226 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

48. " No, I do not ride so hard, 
Thy might is more than mine ; 
Hast thou never heard it said before : 
That strength takes the road before might? 

49. " No, I do not ride so hard, 

I am not so stubborn of mind ; 
One finds very often a greyhound 
Puts to flight both hart and hind. 

50. " Call this well to mind, 
I have thee here defied ! 

It happens right often a little hump 
Will upset a full great load." 

All of this sounds splendid enough ; yet I must confess 
that the other texts display more effectively the haughty 
spirit of Marsk Stig. That wealth of proverbs, which 
Marsk Stig even quotes as proverbs, makes him in my 
eyes look book-learned. It must be remembered that text 
A, in which these stanzas are found, has been freely worked 
over in a late period, and that additions or expansions, 
which propose a little too much of what is good, have cer- 
tainly found a place here. In any case the older forms 
have nothing like these proverbs. 

Vedel has allowed "The Death of Alf the Lesser" 
(No. 151) to conclude with a long soliloquy in which Alf 
confesses that he has been a horrible sinner, to the terror 
and warning of everybody. There occurs also this stanza : 

19. I have robbed and stolen without any stint 
Many long days and years ; 
What one with sin and wrong has gotten 
With shame and sorrow disappears. 

But Vedel must assume the responsibility of this. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 227 

At any rate a distinction must be made between two 
things. One is that current proverbs are used in direct 
discourse, and the other that the speaker utters the words 
which the event calls forth as if they were proverbial say- 
ings. This is true, as we have seen, of Marsk Stig. And 
when Niels Ebbeson says : 

Never did you see me so afraid 
That I did not dare to shiver, 

it is indeed possible that he is speaking a line that is 
original with the ballad poet ; but it has been cited already 
in the collection of proverbs by Peder Laale. In the same 
ballad Niels says : 

The count offered me two terms, 
And neither of them was good ; 

which is an old expression occurring also in the sagas 
(cf. No. 300, 14 : " There are two choices and neither is 
good "). But wholly different from this is the case where 
the poet strives on his own account to muster his im- 
pressions, his reflections, or his doctrines in sentences 
weighted with thought. Such a manner does not belong 
to the ballad. 

In conclusion it may be illuminating perhaps to consider 
a stanza which is even yet to-day cited as though it were 
really a glorious relic of the Middle Ages. It is the con- 
cluding stanza of "Niels Ebbeson" (No. 156, F 83), in 
the form which Anders Vedel has communicated : 

Christ prosper every good Danish man, 

Who with both mouth and hand, 

Without jesting and scoffing, with heart and soul, 

Will serve his fatherland. 



228 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

This stanza really deserves to be made the object of study, 
since it is a richly significant example of how stanzas were 
not constructed and spoken in the Middle Ages. In the 
very first line our attention is called to a wish or prayer, 
which, as has been pointed out above, never or seldom 
occurs in the ballads. In the second and third lines we 
meet with three parallelisms as well as with a relative sen- 
tence whose beginning and subject appear in the second 
line and whose conclusion and verb in the fourth. Finally, 
as has been shown, " fatherland " is a conception the 
ballads do not mention or treat of. 

VII. DRAMATIC STRUCTURE 

That which is so often wonderfully contrived in the 
ballads is the introduction. The first stanza frequently 
leads us straight into the situation, and every line of the 
stanza carries us a step farther into the story. Let me call 
attention, for instance, to the beginning of "Young 
Sveidal " (No. 70) : 

It was the young Sveidal 

Was playing at the ball ; 

The ball bounced into the maiden's bower, 

It made his color fall. 

The ball bounced into the maiden's lap, 
And the youth went in to get it ; 
Ere he out of that bower came, 
His heart with sorrow was fretted. 

" Hear thou, young Sveidal, 
Why drivest thou the ball to me ? 
There sits a maiden in a foreign land, 
She longs sorely after thee." 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 229 

With this Sveidal's work is mapped out for him, and he 
must seek out this maid who has been bound to him by 
runes. In the same manner the task and the subject are 
set forth in " Karl and Margrete " (No. 87). 

Can one call to mind a more compact narrative than 
that with which " The Betrothed in the Grave " (No. 90) 
opens : 

It was the knight Sir Aage, 

He rides so far away , 

He wooed the maiden Elselille, 

She was so fair a may. 

He wooed the maiden Elselille, 

All with stores of gold. 

On the Monday after 

He lay in the black, black mould. 

It was the maiden Elselille, 
She had grief untold ; 
That heard Sir Aage 
Under the black, black mould. 

Modern poets by the hundreds might well envy the singer 
of those vanished days the ability to lead us with such 
magical power and in so few seconds into the midst of his 
world of ideas, foreign though it may be ; and in such a 
manner that we believe ourselves to have been conducted 
thither step by step, and are made to feel at home. 

An introduction of another kind is mentioned above in 
which the singer evokes a universal mood, and in a few 
chords brings the listeners within his realm of feeling and 
action upon which the text of the ballad proper is built. 
In glaring contrast with these openings are the later "I 
shall sing to you a ballad " of the street ballads. 



230 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

The truly dramatic narrative does not relate all that 
happens. The account does not seek to be absolutely com- 
plete ; on the contrary, it strives to make everything stand 
out realistically and well defined. All intermediate stages 
are therefore leaped over, and only the most prominent are 
related. By this means the ballad attains to real energy 
and impressive strength. What a character thinks or 
decides upon is told as briefly as possible ; it is by their 
actions that we learn to know the hero and the knight, their 
dispositions and peculiarities. The ballads are only now 
and then descriptive. The beauty of the maiden or of the 
sweetheart is never detailed to us ; it is mentioned in 
general terms, and we believe in it because we hear how 
widely through the land its fame is spread, how many 
wooers it has lured, and how heavy of heart are the re- 
jected lovers. A man's strength is vividly presented to us 
by his deeds ; but his appearance is not described except 
again in the most general way. And only in the later bal- 
lads do we get so detailed a picture of his costume as those 
which are found in the rimed romances. In the words of 
a German writer, "With the Aventiure [Romances] appear 
the inane sketches of horse, saddles, bridles, tents, rugs, 
beds, cloaks, equipments, which are so costly because 
they cost nothing." 1 

All pauses in the action are avoided. Scene is knitted 
to scene, and transitions are prepared for us, as when, for 
instance, it is related how " the watcher stands upon the 
wall " and sees what is coming. In the same manner the 
eye is led from scene to scene in the sketch of the Bayeux 

1 Godecke, Grundrisz zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung, 
2d ed., I, 75. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 231 

Tapestry. 1 The common use of the present tense of the 
verb, of the narrative in the present, conjures up the pic- 
ture more clearly. Then the rise in the narrative awakens 
attention : " They were there in a month, they were there 
in three." When an offer is made, when an oath is sworn, 
there comes after several lesser statements, as a conclu- 
sion, the highest and most solemn one. When wealth is 
depicted, the possessions are not enumerated coordinately, 
but in a series from the less to the greater, from the 
commonplace to the remarkable. Yet withal, the repose 
essential to the picture is not wanting. The repetition 
often impresses the picture more deeply in the conscious- 
ness of the audience. 2 Several verse-lines recur intention- 
ally, as in such cases when a messenger is charged with 
his duties and is made to repeat his tidings in the same 
words. 

Speeches, questions and answers constitute a main 
ingredient of the ballad. Moreover it is noteworthy that 
time after time in fact, in the majority of instances 
dialogue is not assigned. As a rule we find no such intro- 
ductory line as "he then replied," etc. "The Dangerous 
Maiden " (No. 184) relates the doings of the chief person- 
ages and intermingles with these a long series of speeches 
without saying once who is speaking, and yet without 
leaving us in any doubt concerning the speaker. This is true 
to a great extent of the dialogue of " Hagbard and Signe " 
(No. 20). In the old Norse poetry we run across the same 
thing ; for example, the " Alvi'ssmal " consists wholly of 
dialogue between the dwarf Alvis and Thor. 

1 Johannes Steenstrup, Bayeux-Tapetet, p. 44. 
3 N. M. Petersen, Literaturhistorie, zd ed., I, 146. 



232 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

One might ask whether a number of the actors do not 
reappear with the same general traits in various ballads. 
This holds good, as a matter of course, with the well-known 
mythical heroes and heroines as well as of individual his- 
torical personages. Queen Sophie of the ballad world is 
sketched in the same outline in a number of ballads. This 
is not the case, on the other hand, with the knights and 
their ladies. No specific traits of character are bound up 
with Sir Iver or Sir Oluf 1 and scarcely with Kirstine or 
Margrete. Only thus much is certain : the first is always 
called " little " Kirsten (and not " proud "), while Mar- 
grete, Ingeborg, and Else are usually named " proud " 
Mettelil, Ingerlil, Elselil, etc. 

VIII. SIMPLICITY 

Schoolmaster T. Kristensen mentions in one place 2 
" the wonderful execution and expression with which an 
old woman can sing a ballad. For this is demanded a cer- 
tain simplicity and a perfect ignorance of the great world 

1 Lave comes most readily to mind. Lave is, for example, violent. 
Lave Stison flogs his betrayed (or innocent) wife to death with a bridle 
(No. 259). But he is also unfortunate. When Lave Stison would use 
violence toward Proud Margrete, she slays him with her knife (No. 196). 
When Lave Pedersdn breaks into the bower of the maiden Ludselille at 
nighttime, her brother cuts off one of his hands and he rides shamed 
away (No. 199). Little Kirsten loves Sir Peter, whom she may not have, 
and when she is to be forced into marriage with Sir Lave she dies of 
sorrow (Abr. No. 135). Sir Lave holds a wedding, but Sir Jon locks the 
door and sleeps with the bride ; Lave complains to the king and a 
duel is fought, in which Jon comes out victorious (No. 390). Sir Lave 
seduces Eline at the night-watch party, but he is faithful and marries 
her (No. 282). In No. 122 Sir Lave must marry Tovelille, the king's 
concubine. a " Jydske Folkeminder," I, viii. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 233 

and its motley press of business, a life with few thoughts 
and yet with a certain degree of poetry." But what is thus 
exacted of the singer must also be found in the poems 
themselves, and only through these means can they con- 
tinue to live and be preserved in the lower stratum. Thus 
it levels for itself a new road and appears again in the lit- 
erary cultured circle, where it will perhaps become invested 
with deeper significance. 

It is therefore this incomparable singleness and simplic- 
ity that is the most unique quality of the ballad. It appears 
to a like degree in the body and soul of the ballad, in the 
antecedents out of which the ballad grew, in the means 
used to give a stamp to its style and tone, and in the object 
and end which the ballad has in sight. The language is 
simple and commonplace, like that of our daily talk, and 
the vocabulary used is that which is found in the mouth of 
the ordinary man ; and only few expressions current in a 
higher world, such as meet one in all other poetry, occur. 
And the ballads are marvelously temperate in the use of 
imagery. The lass that is besung can shine like a star, she 
is called the rose, the lily maid, or the mirror of all women ; 
but beyond such expressions the ballad seldom goes. 

Here again comes to light the vast distance separating 
the poetry of antiquity from the ballads of the Middle 
Ages. For nothing could be farther removed from the 
former than the practice of calling a thing by its right 
name ; rather it uses a conventional name which is to be 
translated into its real worth. The ballads never speak of 
"sea-trees" when they mean ships, nor of "army-wasters" 
when they mean heroes. A kenning appears in only one 
ballad, that of " Ironwolf " (No. 10) : 



234 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

1 5. Then answered the king of Blideuinder, 
He spoke as a man may dare : 

" I '11 meet in the morn in the chieftains' storm (Hbvdingens Storm) 
If me a horse can bear." 

Here the Norse and Faroese versions have Odderstoi-m, 
Oddabragd, a kenning for battle, which must also be 
the meaning of Hbvdingens Storm}- This is such a 
glaring exception in a Danish ballad that it arouses all 
sorts of conjectures over the authorship of the ballad and 
its wanderings before it was written down. In the Faroese 
and Icelandic ballads kennings can be pointed out readily 
enough. 

Everything that is of the nature of learning and is ex- 
traneous to the ballad is wanting. Every one can listen 
to them and enjoy them without any prerequisite knowl- 
edge or culture. They contain no mythological, Biblical, 
or historical references. The action takes place in Den- 
mark or everywhere. The king of England, the king of 
Iceland, and the king of the Wends, all possess an equally 
high degree of poetical reality ; they only want genuine 
historical and geographical ground to stand upon. Any 
one who has had an interest in human conduct and feel- 
ings can find pleasure in these ballads. 

Abstractions or persons who impersonate abstractions 
never, as has been stated before, appear in the ballads. 
The wicked stepmother who calumniates, the cunning 
handmaiden who effects dissension, the faithless groom 
who betrays his master, are all admitted to the ballads 
and there they receive their punishment ; but we learn, 

1 Grundtvig, Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser, I, 145 ; III, 783 ; IV, 687, 
691, 697, 701. 



SUBJECT MATTER AND PURPOSE 235 

however, their names, where they live, and whom they serve. 
They are real people, not Lady Invidia in her ethereal 
role ; not, as in school comedies, the ghosts of Fallacia or 
of Perfidia. Directly opposed to this is the poetic product 
of the sixteenth century. In the truly lyrical poetry of that 
age calumny or backbiting lurks everywhere. The despond- 
ent tone which crops out in much of the poetry of that 
time harmonizes well with the daily use of the " backbiter." 
If one will turn to the ballad book of the Swede, Harald 
Oluffson, of 1572 (edited by A. Noreen and H. Schiick), 
he will find in the ballads the " backbiter " (Klafferen) 
(cf. No. i, "Ah, Backbiter, how wonderful you are," etc.; 
No. 3, " God keep me from the backbiter" ; Nos. 5, 8, "The 
backbiters are so many"; Nos. 18, 22, 23, 25, 29, 37, 41). 
One might think that the taste of the individual collector 
was responsible for this choice, but the same contents are 
found in Nils Larson's book ; and from Broms Gyllen- 
mar's "Ballad Book," of about 1620, can be cited the songs 
Nos. 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 27, 34, 36, 43, 47, 48, 50, 51, 52, 
55, etc. In short, it had become a mania; wherever one 
sits, stands, or walks, he meets the "backbiter," even "at 
night, when I should rest at peace, I find myself thinking 
on faith and law." But that agrees well with the entire 
suspicious, pessimistic tone inherent in indolence which 
is struck in these songs, whose favorite subjects are the 
world, wickedness, friendship's unreliability, woman's faith- 
lessness, and the backbiter's duplicity : 

Yea, a false tongue, 
It is most like a basilisk ; 
Who catches it in a net, 
Catches a baneful fish. 



236 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

We shall find the "backbiter" admitted into various stanzas 
of Danish ballads which have been stitched on in this 
period ; examples have been given above (see pp. 60, 117, 
199). 

But now along with all this simplicity is not this poetry 
also monotonous and wearisome ? Certainly the number 
of our popular ballads is remarkably large, but in appear- 
ance they resemble each other like relatives, and in their 
character and make-up there exists much uniformity ; 
furthermore this poetry is able to represent only one side 
of a folk's poetic field of activity. As for the rest, what a 
German author has said of the minnesongs can be fittingly 
applied to our popular ballads : " There have been many 
complaints of their monotony, and, on the whole, the 
charge cannot be well denied. Nevertheless, the ear that 
listens more closely will find an endlessly stirring life 
within this uniformity. It affects us in the same way as 
when we enter a forest, and our ears ring with the voices 
from innumerable feathered throats. At first we think we 
hear only a hubbub of sounds, in which nothing can be 
distinguished ; but a keener regard makes us aware of the 
individual emerging from the general. Yonder, skillfully 
interlaced runs and trills, here a capricious chirping ; 
yonder again complaining tones drawn from the depths of 
the heart, here a tender seductive coaxing ; suddenly in 
the midst of all this calling tone, like an audible conjura- 
tion, an unending series of tone colors and intervals." 1 

1 Roquette, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, I, 130. 



CHAPTER VII 

SOME REMARKS ON HISTORICAL TRUTH IN 
BALLAD POETRY 1 

The question has recently been overhauled, How far 
may a poet, in treating of historical facts and personages, 
depart from hard and fast reality, such as is familiar to 
every one ? At the same time attention has been directed 
not only to the question, How free did the poets in olden 
times feel themselves to be when face to face with con- 
temporary facts ? but also to the matter of the narratives in 
our historical ballads. 

A. D. Jorgensen would maintain that they who com- 
posed the ballads were very probably licensed to make 
very free use of contemporary facts, even to the extent of 
departing widely from what had actually taken place, not- 
withstanding that they had heard of or had witnessed the 
deeds themselves, and that the real facts were known to 
all. Professor Karl Erslev has indorsed Jorgensen's view 
by embodying it as the leading proposition in his book, 
a work replete with interest, on the criticism of histori- 
cal sources. It will perhaps be worth our while to examine 
more narrowly the correctness of Jorgensen's theory. 

Professor Erslev is right in his thesis that the use of 
many details awakens credence in an historical narrative, 
even though we are not in a position to verify them ; but 

1 Reprint from Historisk Tidsskrift, 8th Series, 1907, I. 
237 



238 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

he adds that this does not hold true of the use of such 
details as, for example, the introduction of dialogue, in 
such artistic forms of historical writings as the classics 
and the sagas. " Still less does it hold true of details in 
a poetical composition ; on the whole, the poet stands 
from the start far more emancipated from the shackles of 
his material than does, as a rule, the narrator in prose." l 
This is absolutely true of the poet who sings of the more 
distant past; but Professor Erslev may also have had in 
mind poems on contemporary events. This is evident 
from his next remark : " While formerly, with respect to 
our historical ballads, one laid down only two possibilities, 
namely, the historically correct, hence contemporary ; the 
historically incorrect, hence later, A. D. Jorgensen has 
been the first to bring home to us the truth that a ballad 
poet, even though contemporaneous with his events, could 
subject his material to so free a treatment that the result 
would be far from historical reality. Examples of this are 
found in the ballads on Marsk Stig and Niels Ebbeson." 

Now it is clear to me that those who differ from 
Jorgensen cannot claim to have had their views rightly 
interpreted. " Historically correct, hence contemporary," 
the conclusion has not been drawn. A ballad can re- 
late an historical occurrence so "truthfully," that is to say, 
so conformably to all the accounts at issue, that it appears 
for the most part to express the general, well-known run 
of traditions concerning it ; hence there arises no tempta- 
tion to overlay it with any synchronism, especially if it 
contains no details which bear witness of fresh and inde- 
pendent experience and interpretation. And furthermore, 

1 Karl Erslev, Grundsaetninger for historisk Kildekritik, 1892, p. 21. 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 239 

in those details which it communicates, a ballad can tally 
with a single source to such a degree that it seems to be 
founded upon that source. This I have pointed out with 
respect to the ballad " The Meeting of Kings in Roskilde" 
(No. 1 1 8), which Jorgensen identifies as the ballad that 
was sung before the battle at Grathehede; I accounted 
for its particularly close relation to Svend Aageson's 
" Chronicle," and asserted therefore that it belongs to a 
much later day because of this very " correctness." 

But neither can it be admitted that the second phrase, 
"historically incorrect, hence later," is an accurate render- 
ing of the proposition laid down. It is here a matter of 
prime importance to know in what phases the incorrect- 
ness manifests itself. Those inaccurate features which a 
singer embodies in his song may have grown out of a 
false rumor which was current at the time ; therefore just 
as we have no ground for surprise at its appearance in 
the ballad, so the audience had none at hearing it men- 
tioned. Meanwhile the falsity of the report would in a 
short time become apparent, and it is doubtful whether 
the ballad, or the verses containing the false item, would 
be able to maintain themselves. The inaccuracy could 
furthermore have originated in the poet's assuming a cer- 
tain attitude or in his belonging to a certain political party, 
so that he would most naturally view the occurrence in a 
certain light, or conceive of this or that causal relation be- 
tween events. In this case incorrectness will far rather 
indicate that the ballad was written in the thick of events. 
In striking contrast to this situation is that in which the 
balladist, even though knowing better, distorts the true 
conditions to suit his own invention. 



240 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Let us now turn to the principle 1 which Jorgensen has 
laid down and which Professor Erslev has sanctioned ; 
namely, that a poet is at liberty to treat contemporary 
events so freely as to drift far away from actual condi- 
tions. Here the question concerns only a ballad or poem 
that is narrative in content, one that is distinguished from 
a prose recital only by the nature of the portrayal and by 
the metrical form ; the audience has had no hint that the 
subject matter of the song is not an incident drawn from 
Denmark's history. 

Jorgensen has advanced this statement as his view or 
opinion without giving any proofs to substantiate its truth ; 
consequently it is not easy for one who holds another view 
to attack it. If it were attended with some supporting ex- 
planations, one could perhaps expose its inaccuracy. As 
it is, one is reduced merely to pointing out the internal 
evidence of its improbability. Here then I shall make an 
attempt, by bringing to light various conditions, to show 
how slightly tenable it really is. 

Would we in our own day approve of a poet who arbi- 
trarily distorted familiar events to the extent of shocking 
our sense of what is true ? Suppose that a poet repre- 
sented King Christian IX of the twentieth century as 
having committed his duchy of Schleswig to the adminis- 
tration of his minister Estrup, or Queen Louise as having 
visited her grandson King Haakon of Norway, 2 how 

1 Jorgensen published his view in the Bidrog til Nordens Historic, pp. 
164 ff. ; he returns to it in the introduction of my work, " Vore Folkeviser 
fra Middelalderen," in Historisk Tidsskrift, 6th Series, III, 58 ff., 60 ff. . 

2 Schleswig was lost to Denmark in 1864 ; Minister Estrup resigned 
in 1894 ; Queen Louise died in 1898 ; and Haakon became king of Nor- 
way in 1905. Translator's note. 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 241 

should we submit to this, I wonder? Here I have in- 
vented such conditions of the present day as Jorgensen 
imagines a balladist of the Middle Ages was privileged to 
do for his own age. 1 Certain it is that we of to-day should 
find it intolerable nonsense, always assuming, of course, 
that the poet had no thought of travesty in his mind when 
he wrote the ballad. 

Other times have other customs, one will perhaps say ; 
but parallels to the above in one age or another can cer- 
tainly be found, especially in the Middle Ages. It is 
accordingly worth while to investigate the situation in 
foreign lands. 

The North offers to us in the Icelandic lays one of the 
most remarkable examples of poetical treatment of con- 
temporary events. The scalds sing of the latest happen- 
ings, they relate the exploits of the king in whose honor 
they are singing, they use vigorous terms and a pictorial 
language ; but they never fabricate, distort, or subvert. 
Thus to a great extent Snorri builds up his picture of 
Norway's past upon the lays. And he says in the preface 
to his work : " We regard everything we find in the lays 
as true concerning the chiefs or their battles. It is the 
practice of the scalds to extol most the prince before 
whom they are singing ; but no one would have dared to 
relate to the very face of the prince such exploits as every- 
one, including the prince, knew to be lying boasts. This 
would have been an insult, not a eulogy." The other saga 

1 Jbrgensen accordingly maintains that a contemporary of Valdemar 
the Victorious could well sing that the king owned seven realms ; namely, 
besides Denmark, Sweden, the land of the Wends, England, Norway, 
Scotland, and Holstein with Mecklenburg. 



242 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

writers own to the same views. In many of the family 
sagas and in all of the kings' sagas, the scald's verses are 
referred to as contemporary witnesses, and everywhere the 
notion prevails that the scald's utterances are historically 
true. Even scholars of to-day hold the same opinion regard- 
ing the trustworthiness of scaldic poetry. 1 Those who 
have objected have scarcely made good their point, that 
the scalds were independent of events, or that they fabri- 
cated outright, 2 even if they did regard the lays as strongly 
colored or incorrectly transmitted. 

A notable study of the character of the lays was made 
not long ago by Gustav Storm in his researches on the 
exploits of Harald Hardrada in Greece and Italy. Munch 
had already maintained that the Byzantine material deal- 
ing with the subject should be compared directly with the 
statements in the lays, instead of with the sketches found 
in the sagas, which, as a matter of fact, depended on the 
lays and often no doubt misrepresented the foreign con- 
ditions. Moreover Storm had at his disposal a newly dis- 
covered Greek source, and thereby could carry on the 
investigation much further ; he showed that the scald's 
assertions were borne out at every point by the actual 
events, so that the verses in part agreed with the Greek 
account and in part supplemented it. 3 

1 See Finnur Jonsson's account in Den oldnorske og oldislandske 
Litteraturs Historic, I, 358 ff. 

2 A. D. Jbrgensen has asserted in Den nordiske Kirkes Grundlaeg- 
gelse, Tillaeg, pp. 69 ff., that the narratives dealing with the events of 
Harald Hardrada's home-coming, and with his relations to Magnus the 
Good, ought to show how the scalds kept dark things which had taken 
place and to a certain extent distorted them. He is explicitly opposed 
to Finnur Jonsson, ibid., pp. 362-366. 

8 Norsk hi$torisk Tidsskrift, 2d Series, IV, 354 ff., 379. 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 243 

Let us turn now to another people. 

In Germany there exists a wealth of ballads on historical 
subjects. A collection of these, 625 in number, has been 
published in four volumes by Von Liliencron. In the 
preface to the second volume, the editor acknowledges 
that he ought to have called the collection " political bal- 
lads." They bear so close a relation to the conditions of 
the day that they in reality enter into them and seek to 
influence the course of events. Consequently these " Neue 
Lieder " have quite a well-marked partisan standpoint, and 
therefore it is possible that their portrayal of occurrences 
is strongly colored. At the same time there is to be noted 
throughout the utter absence of fabrication on the part of 
the authors, who were contemporary with the incidents. 
The audience was not possessed with the idea that, because 
it is the world of song or because a narrative is rimed 
and metrical, other rules govern the presentation of reality. 
A search through the whole collection 1 will reveal that 
this is an altogether fixed, general principle, and that it is 
only after some time has elapsed and after events have 
become wrapped up in the haze of the past that the poet 
may run counter, either through personal bias or through 
defective knowledge, to the facts of reality. The worst 
fault of these ballads, in poetical respects, lies in this, that 
they are altogether accurate, that they follow too closely 
the succession and course of details without giving us a 
general survey of principle, and without striving for dra- 
matic unity. Consequently the poetical worth of the ballads 
is rigidly circumscribed. If one still remains unconvinced 

1 Von Liliencron, Die historischen Volkslieder der Deutschen, I~IV. 
Cf. id., Deutsches Leben im Volkslied um 1 530, pp. xxx ff. 



244 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

after a perusal of Von Liliencron's collection or of his 
commentaries on the ballads, he needs but to examine 
other collections to find the same view holding good. 1 

Let us look still farther afield and come to France. Here 
it is of moment to ask how the Norman dukes and Eng- 
lish kings were besung in the long, metrical romances of 
Wace and Benoit. These poems were designed to be re- 
cited in the presence of public assemblies ; they related 
not only happenings of the more distant past but also 
events nearer to their own day. But the poets recorded as 
faithfully as they could, and they embellished their por- 
trayals only with speeches and with anecdotes which they 
had heard. It did not occur to them to distort truth. 2 Now 
it is an utter certainty that these poets did not bring their 
recitals down to the period in which they were living them- 
selves ; it is wholly inconceivable, however, that if they had 
advanced farther as was their intention they would 
have allowed the narrative to shift the characters about, and 
have permitted fantasy to rule, particularly over the period 
which was best known to themselves and to their audience. 

The poet Ambroise, who took part in the expedition of 
Richard the Lion-Hearted to the Holy Land, described 
immediately after, in poetical form, the deeds and achieve- 
ments of this famous king, in which he showed himself to 
be an honest, straightforward, and accurate recorder. On 
this account he is a valuable source of historical material. 

1 Such as Erk u. Bohme, Deutscher Liederhort, II ; Bohme, Alt- 
deutsches Liederbuch. Cf. Rud. Hildebrand, Materialien zur Geschichte 
des deutschen Volkslieder, I, 183 ff. 

2 Grober, Grundrisz der romanischen Philologie, Vol. II, Pt. r, 
pp. 635-637 ; Gaston Paris, La litterature frai^aise au moyen age, 
2d ed., p. 133. 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 245 

Among the Anglo-Norman poets the unknown author of 
the recently discovered great " Vie de Guillaume le Mare- 
chal " occupies the place of honor. The explicit descrip- 
tion of the Earl of Pembroke's private and public life was 
composed, according to the wish of his son, a few years 
after the earl's death (1219); the author was a highly 
cultured, clear-headed, and observant man, who was just 
as painstaking as he was solicitous of truth. The marvel- 
ous deeds of Crusading days may well have given rise to 
pictures wholly imaginative in character; but these very 
poems, as Gaston Paris points out, depended on older ac- 
counts, which in a higher degree retailed genuine history. 1 
Such seems to be the evidence that French literature 
offers us. The poems cited are not, to be sure, historical 
popular ballads ; since the latter are not to be found in 
France, I had to content myself with showing how the 
poets treated contemporary history. 

It is only in English literature that we meet with ballads 
which, not only in respect to their form but also in respect 
to their portrayal of historical events, are comparable to 
our Danish ballads of historical content. Whoever goes 
through Child's great collection, or through that of any one 
else, will arrive at the same conclusion. 2 The balladist 
sings about that which has taken place as well as he knows 
how ; but he does not consciously distort things. Nor, as 
far as I know, has any one accused him of composing 

1 Cf. chap. v. " Langlois " in Julleville's Histoire de la langue et de la 
litterature frai^aise, Vol. II, Pt. 2, pp. 280 ff., 292, 295 ; Grober, Grund- 
risz, Vol. II, Pt. i, p. 639; Gaston Paris, La litterature franjaise, 
pp. 125 ff., 136. 

2 F. J. Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Vols. I-IV ; 
F. B. Gummere, Old English Ballads. 



246 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

contrary to his better knowledge. On this point I shall quote 
Talvj. After calling attention to the fresh, healthy blood 
of the English ballads, she goes on to say : " The simple, 
unadorned truth of history is here so poetic that not even 
the help of verse seems needed to impart to the ballads the 
highest degree of poetic interest. That is, of course, not 
objective but subjective truth ; that is, not facts as they 
really were, for the historical ballads of the English have 
wandered far from conscientious fidelity, which is unfortu- 
nately the main excellence and often the sole merit of the 
historical ballads of the Germans." 1 

To this I can add that, as far as I am aware, none of 
the historians of literature in foreign lands have expressed 
themselves so radically on poetic composition of any sort 
as has Jorgensen. Apparently, then, people have had a 
natural antipathy to seeing those matters which every one 
knows of or can learn the truth of turned arbitrarily upside 
down by a poet. 2 Even to-day the people demand of a 
" new ballad " 3 that it give a true account of the last 

1 Talvj, Versuch einer geschichtlichen Charakteristik der Volks- 
lieder, p. 480. 

8 No contemporary poet would have sung, " Mallebrok died in the 
war," seeing that Marlborough died on a sick bed many years after the 
war had ceased. True the ballad is not synchronous with the event, but 
sprang from a far older period, and seems to have been sung at an earlier 
day about the Duke of Guise. Cf. Scheffler, Franzosische Volksdich- 
tung, II, 107 ff . ; Zeit. des Vereins f. Volkskunde, VI, 459. 

8 The idea and the term " new ballad " is as old as it is popular, as 
will be seen from various references to it. Even in the twelfth century 
we read in one of the " Carmina Burana " that the maidens played in 
the meadow and sang new ballads : 

quarum nova carmina 
dulci sonant ore, 

and in a manuscript of Lancelot there are mentioned " six puceles qui 
queroloient [carolaient, ' danced '] et chantoient une novele cha^on." 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 247 

murder or the latest accident ; any ballad printed this year 
which departs openly from the truth would fail of popular 
acceptance and would forfeit the general confidence in 
such ballads. 

And while the street ballads of the present day are prob- 
ably read just as much as they are sung, in the Middle 
Ages the written basis was binding to a very limited de- 
gree ; at that time the ballads virtually lived as song, they 
called an entire circle into cooperation by compelling it to 
take part in the proem or to sing in chorus the refrain. 
But that very community of possession with respect to the 
ballads must have made it more nearly impossible for arbi- 
trary distortion of contemporary history to get the upper 
hand. Such a course would have at once met with objec- 
tions from all those who knew better, and would have 
given rise to a refusal on the part of the audience to share 
in the singer's unreliable account. 1 

These are the general views which may presumably be 
held by one who casts a glance over the literature of Europe 
as opposed to the hypothesis laid down above. I cannot 
therefore entertain any other opinion than that Jorgensen's 
statement, however brilliant it may otherwise be, tends to 
mislead with regard to the real state of things. The cast of 

1 For instance, a contemporary ballad poet might very well say that 
Count Gert was slain in the night, while another contemporary might 
say that he was slain in the daytime, "and not at night with all," or 
rather he might add a rectifying stanza of such a nature to the ballad. 
The difference here is merely one of another interpretation, a varying 
piece of information. But a verse which relates that Niels Ebbeson 
marched to Norway and lived there care-free and happy cannot be 
charged to a contemporary ; the latter could not in the presence of 
everybody turn upside down facts that were known to all. Cf. also 
Dr. Sofus Larsen's remarks in Aarbogerfor nord. Oldk., 1903, pp. 121 ff. 



248 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

mind belonging to the past, and the current attitude toward 
the true and the false, must have tended to sharpen the natural 
feeling against arbitrary distortion of recent experiences. 

In conclusion I shall add a few remarks on the consid- 
erations which would of themselves hinder a poet from 
sacrificing truth to poetic effect. 

In the first place, one spoke of and used the fictitious 
far more guardedly then than at present. A false report 
could produce far greater harm and was far more difficult 
to disprove than in our day, when the means of rapid com- 
munication and the widespread use of newspapers can 
easily reduce incorrect or false statements to their own 
proper level. Moreover those who carried messages which 
concerned the whole country and which might possibly 
bring about an uprising among the people must take pre- 
cautions against bearing unauthenticated reports, if they 
wished to escape severe punishment. 1 There existed, too, 
in those days a public sentiment which resented being 
violated. In the next place, a false recital of contemporary 
events might happen to injure some one party or another, 
or certain circles of society, or a single individual or family, 
and they who felt themselves aggrieved would not suffer 
themselves to be represented in a false or perhaps malicious 
light. The feeling of honor was alive to such a degree 
that it would not allow an accusation to go unpunished. 2 
That the laws in Denmark made very little mention of 

1 Cf., for instance, Fagrskinna, chap, xxxii ; Norges gamle Love, I, 
102 ; II, 35 ; Flateyjarb6k, I, 59, 184 ; Steenstrup, Venderne og de 
Danske, pp. 42 ff. ; Christian IPs gejstlige Lov, chap, cxxiii ; Statute, 
1537, art. 19. 

2 I refer to the material that has been collected by L. Freund, Lug 
u. Trug (vom Standpunkt des Strafrechts und der Geschichte). 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 249 

insults to one's honor is a matter of no consequence ; l it 
was felt to be a difficult subject for legislation. In the realm 
of injuries an individual was adjudged free to rule according 
as he saw fit, to invent his own reparation. 

Most of all, however, poems and ballads were feared, for 
they could flit about the country and leave an insulting rumor 
to germinate in every man's mind. Hence the mere notion 
of a false picture of events must have seemed dangerous. 

Even in olden times, among the Norse, satirical verses 
were a much dreaded weapon. In the Gragas (an Icelandic 
law code) there is found a provision (c. 238) which forbade 
the composition of a poem on an individual, even though 
it contained no satire ; two lines, however, were permitted. 
If an entire poem namely, eight lines contained satire, 
the author was fined three marks, and if the composition 
were longer, he was banished. For a strophe of four lines 
containing satire, the poet was outlawed, as well as he 
who composed lampoons in verse on the Danish, Nor- 
wegian, or Swedish kings. In other lands we find that 
heavy penalties were attached to the composition of satiri- 
cal ballads ; z it was even forbidden to compose new ballads 
on the political situation of the day. Accordingly the 
council of Breslau was obliged to take legal proceedings 
against the "neue Gesange und Gedichte" when the 

1 On the far-reaching effect of a derisive word and on the grim 
revenge exacted, see Grundtvig, Folkeviser, Nos. 358, 363, 364, 366- 
368, 457 ; cf. also No. 391. 

z Koegel, Geschichte der deutschen Litteratur, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 208; 
Paul, Grundrisz der germ. Philologie, Vol. I, Pt. i, pp. 171 ff . ; Gaston 
Paris in Journal des Savants, 1891, p. 680. Luc de la Barre composed 
and sang satirical ballads on Henry I, for which he was condemned to 
lose his sight ; Luc killed himself in prison ; see Orderici Vitalis, Hist. 
Eccles., ed. by Le Prevost, IV, 459 ff. 



250 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

priests and the people raged against the newly chosen king, 
Georg Podiebrad (1457). His successor, King Ladislaus, 
reproached the citizens of Zittau for having composed 
and sung " neue Lieder." When Philip the Good would 
put down the strife in Holland between the two parties, 
Kabeljaus and Hoeks, he forbade the use of these party 
names and the singing and reciting of insulting ballads. 1 
In fact, we have instances to certify that the magistrates 
prohibited the playing of melodies belonging to insulting 
ballads from the towers. 2 

There is found in Von Liliencron a German ballad 
(No. 119) which very characteristically illuminates the sub- 
ject. Bishop Johannes, of Wiirzburg, had a valet named 
Haasz, " der konnte wohl singen," whose especial business it 
was to bring to the bishop the news of everything, important 
or trivial, that happened in the town. Meanwhile Haasz did 
not stick to the truth. He added something of his own, 
according as the person concerning whom he reported was 
friendly or inimical to him. Therefore it came about that 
many people who were innocent got into trouble, and many 
who were guilty escaped punishment. As a consequence, 
the arrogant valet was feared and hardly endured. On the 
bishop's death (1466), the valet at once thought of slipping 
away, but he was captured by the people and, amid many 
bitter jests, his hands were tied behind his back and he 
was thrown into the Main. " Now go to-day to your lord, 
sing him a song, and bring him the news ! " The poem, 
made by some contemporary on the event, contains an 
account of Haasz 's arrival before the bishop. 

1 Von Liliencron, Die historischen Volkslieder, II, iii, 339. 

2 Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, p. xxxvii. 



HISTORICAL TRUTH IN BALLAD POETRY 251 

The editor Von Liliencron sympathizes with Haasz : 
Even if he had been malicious in his songs and talk, " the 
popular justice executed against him was even ruder and 
more atrocious. He has therefore the claim to be remem- 
bered in a collection of historical ballads as a martyr to his 
verse." This is doing Haasz too great an honor. And the 
popular justice which was put into force is, in any case, a 
living witness of how such conduct was regarded. Opposed 
to such false charges the common people stood defenseless, 
and they felt that death alone was a fitting punishment. 
From the Danish ballads also we learn that grim and 
bloody revenge followed upon false charges and assertions. 1 

Thus I have shown how both the nature of things and 
the form of a ballad sung by the people would definitely 
restrict arbitrary distortion of contemporary events. 

But above all, in the foregoing, I have had in mind only 
ballads dealing with contemporary happenings. When treat- 
ing of that which lay a generation back in time, or with the 
distant past of the folk, the poets were not bound to stick so 
rigidly to the truth. And yet a closer examination may show 
that such a free dealing with historical experiences and 
figures of the past as poets of to-day allow themselves, 
did not obtain in the Middle Ages. At any rate, the great 
traditions, which were the common possession of the people 
and were known to high and low, were not suffered to deviate 
from the truth ; the folk would not put up with poetic caprice, 
however much the poets had leave to fill out traditions and 
to invent happenings in the spirit of antiquity. I shall not, 
however, enter upon this comprehensive question. 

1 Grundtvig, Folkeviser, Nos. 262, 266 ; Nyerup og Rahbeck, Udvalgte 
Viser, III, No. 119; Kristensen, Jydske Folkeviser, II, No. 63. 



CHAPTER VIII 
RETROSPECT 

In conclusion let us cast a glance back over the results 
obtained. 

Throughout I have in essence attempted to show on in- 
ternal evidence what is old and genuine, what arose during 
the Middle Ages and persisted on from that time unspoiled ; 
I have tried to point out the contrasting color and tone 
which distinguishes the later, modern additions. It may 
reasonably be asked, however, whether we have no exter- 
nal guides toward identifying the age and aspect of the 
ballads with respect to definite dates. When Svend 
Grundtvig declares, as is frequently the case, a certain 
ballad to be a genuine ballad of chivalry belonging to the 
twelfth century, does he base his statements on belief 
alone ? On this point our only answer is that we must 
depend substantially upon the ballad collections made by 
the ladies of the nobility in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, and that it is very difficult therefore to say just 
what a ballad looked like in the twelfth century. If, into 
the bargain, it is characterized as a ballad of chivalry, it 
deserves to be remembered that certainly nothing of chivalry 
proper is to be found in Denmark at that time. 

We should endeavor to see, on purely external grounds, 
how far back in time we are in a position to trace the ballads. 
When we undertake such a retrogressive journey we light 

252 



RETROSPECT 253 

upon the following results. In the middle of the sixteenth 
century Laurentius Petri mentions the ballad of " Hagbard 
and Signe," and in a tract on the popish mass, dating 
from 1533, the precentor says that he will " cheer himself 
with the ballad of ' Rane,' " which was also known to the 
Swedish historian, Master Erik Olsen (ob. 1486) ; "quidam 
Rane, de quo canticum solenne frequentatur." Christiern 
Pedersen writes in 1534, "the old heroic ballad runs, 
' Olger the Dane won a victory over Burmand ' " ; and the 
very same line is found introduced in a fresco painting in 
the Floda church in Sodermanland, dating from the con- 
clusion of the fifteenth century: "Hollager da(n)s(k) ha(n) 
wan siger af Burman [Holger the Dane won a victory 
over Burmand]." 

But we can go somewhat farther back yet. In a manu- 
script in Linkoping, of 1450, there is written a portion of 
"The Knight transformed into a Hart" (No. 67): "I 
dreamed all the night of a maiden " ; and in a manuscript 
in the Royal Library of Copenhagen, belonging to the 
same date, occurs several times the refrain from the ballad 
of " Marsk Stig" (No. 145) : " For this the land stands 
in danger." l At about the same time the geographer 



1 In a Latin MS., New Royal Collection 123 4to, which contains devo- 
tional and theological pieces, there are found written down at the bottom 
on the side or at the end of the piece the following scraps, which seem 
to be pen tests. On page 26, verso, at the bottom : " Hay ffre gudh 
giordh [God has made ?] "; p. 38, v. : "multi sunt prelati sive sacerdotes 
nomine sed pauci dignitate " (Augustinus) ; " Hay free gudh giord fforthy 
standh j waadh [God has made the land to stand in danger] " ; " Non 
semper oleum " ; p. 50, v. : "fforthy stand landh i waadh [51, r.] cogita 
ad quem finem posses venire"; p. 54, v. : "fforthy stand landh j waad"; 
"Non semper oleum hay hay." The assistant librarian, Mr. C.Weeke, 
came across these notes and kindly called my attention to them. 



254 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Claudius Clavus noted down the ballad verse which he used 
in an enumeration of a series of place-names in Greenland. 1 
It has been mentioned above (p. 137) that a Swedish ballad 
verse is found in a manuscript of the first half of the 
fifteenth century. 

But we can travel a whole century farther back, namely, 
to the stump of a ballad (" I dreamed a dream late last 
night "), which, together with its melody, is found in the 
Runic Manuscript of the Skaane Laws (c. 1300). When 
we consider next that we know of a verse from an Icelandic 
ballad of the thirteenth century which has a form altogether 
like that of the Danish, then we can well believe that our 
ballad poetry goes back to the thirteenth century. 

Saxo repeats in his circumlocutory manner old ballads 
(such as the one on the sons of Armgrim, the one on the 
battle of Braavalla), which were written down in alliterative 
verse ; but this does not preclude the possibility of ballads 
having been composed in the style of the heroic ballads. 
Their form could scarcely be recognized under a Latin dress, 
and there is nothing in the way of the two styles having 
lived side by side, just as was the case in England, where 
one finds alliterative verse existing in as late a period as 
the fourteenth century, 2 while at the same time we know 
that King Canute the Great is said to have composed the 

stanza : 

Merie sungen Se muneches binnen Ely, 

Sa Cnut ching rew fler by ; 
roweft, cnithes, noer iSe land, 
and here we )>es muneches saeng ! 

1 Bjombo and Carl S. Petersen, " Claudius laussaen Swart," in Vidensk. 
Sehkabs Skrifter, 6th Series, Histor.-philos. Afdeling, Vol. VI, Pt. 2, 
pp. 149 ff. 2 Rosenberg, Nordboernes Aandsliv, II, 446. 



RETROSPECT 255 

Perhaps the oldest example extant in Denmark of the use 
of end rime is an inscription in the Oster Bronderslei 
church in Zealand, dating from about 1 200 ; but the in- 
scription uses also alliteration. 1 The conclusion that we 
arrive at is this : there is a possibility that in Denmark 
ballads were composed after the style of the heroic ballads 
as early as the twelfth century ; but that in every case 
proof must be submitted to show that any one ballad can 
be assigned to so distant a date. 

Meanwhile my investigations in the historical ballads 2 
have brought to light that we have no ground for regard- 
ing any given ballad extant as having originated in the 
twelfth century. These deal with events of that time, but 
they do not speak like contemporary witnesses, although, 
on the other hand, they do not appear to be much later. 
As far as the thirteenth century is concerned, the matter 
stands otherwise, for both Dagmar and Marsk Stig have 
been besung as well as events of the time of Valdemar 
the Great. 

There exist moreover several ballads that I have not 
touched upon in the foregoing which surely date from the 
thirteenth century. These are Danish ballads, but they 
concern themselves with Swedish affairs, in that they sing 
of the abduction of women belonging to the family of 
Sune Folkeson. One of these, " King Birger's Sister 
Bengta" (No. 155), tells how Sune Folkeson's daughter 
Benedicte was carried off from the cloister by the 



1 See my treatise on the final period of alliteration and the first of 
end rime in Histor. Ttdsskrift, 7th Series, IV, 121 ff. 

2 Johannes Steenstrup, Vore Folkeviser fra Middelalderen, chap, vii, 
1891. 



256 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Ostrogoth Lagmand Lars. What the ballad relates agrees 
well with what evidence we can gather from scattered 
sources of various kinds. An annal gives us even the date 
of the event, 1245, but it seems highly improbable 
that the author of a ballad should have collected the diverse 
materials and from these formed a ballad. Another ballad, 
" Sune Folkeson" (No. 138), relates that Eline, the mother 
of the woman who was thus carried off, had suffered a simi- 
lar fate, in that Sune had taken her away from the Vreta 
Cloister ; here at any rate several of the actors are histori- 
cal and the events themselves are by no means improbable. 
Finally there befell an abduction in the third generation of 
that family, when, according to the ballad " Folke Algotson " 
(No. 1 80), Ingrid, a daughter of Benedicte by her second 
marriage with Svantopolk Knutson, was abducted by Folke 
Algotson, just as she was about to celebrate her wedding 
with the Danish lord high constable David Thorstenson. 
This event is recorded in the annals for 1287 or 1288, and 
it was one which had serious consequences for the sons of 
Algot (see Nos. 181, 182). In addition to the stamp of 
old age which distinguishes these ballads, historic reality 
pervades them to a remarkable degree, and the representa- 
tion, on the other hand, is so independent of the sources 
that there is no question of their having been written down 
contemporaneously with the events. 1 

With the evidence thus brought forth agrees also the 
fact that a ballad verse was written down as early as the 
time of Erik Menved (c. 1300), and the ballad of " Niels 
Ebbeson " (No. 156) must have been composed immediately 
after the event, that is, April i, 1340. 

1 Cf. H. Schiick, Svenska Literaturhistoria, I, 1 18. 



RETROSPECT 257 

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries apparently repre- 
sent the period of flowering for the ballads, but it is pos- 
sible that a great portion of the ballads of chivalry first 
date from that period which marked the transition to the 
Reformation or even from that age, so full of ferment, 
contemporaneous with Luther. Gaston Paris, in a learned 
dissertation, has set himself against the tendency to place 
the ballads of European lands far back in time, and he 
asserts that the great flowering of lyric-epic poetry begins 
in most lands in the fifteenth or, at the earliest, in the 
fourteenth century. 1 I believe, however, that in the case 
of Denmark this period may be set somewhat farther 
back ; but the main development and the greatest part of 
the fruiting this poetry reserved for the later years of the 
Middle Ages. 

It has thus been possible to trace the changes in taste 
and style which came over the ballads at the conclusion 
of the Middle Ages or in the period of the Reforma- 
tion. When one sets himself to define accurately the 
general outer character and the contents of the ballads ; 
when, for example, one investigates how closely ballad 
poetry approached to the realm of the lyric, or the degree 
in which the refrain and the text admit the personality of 
the singer ; when one considers to how great or how small 
an extent religious belief, feeling for one's fatherland, or 
learning makes itself felt ; when one scrupulously tests 
the ballad's external form and appearance : then he will 
have an opportunity to observe and to marvel over the way 
in which various ballads and groups of ballads constantly 
happen to stand as exceptions, and over the ease with 

1 Journal des savants, 1889, pp. 526 ff. 



258 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

which they become exceptions in several of the directions 
named above. These deviations are in and for themselves 
remarkable, for within all folk poetry composition comes 
about easily, in the same manner, with the same basis, and 
in the same style ; and the singer everywhere avoids as- 
serting his own peculiar individuality and taste. Least of 
all will such a subjective attitude seek to maintain itself 
in a variety of ways, or to depart in several different direc- 
tions from the common starting point, either, for example, 
in form or in content. Ballads which do this are in every 
case pushed out to the extreme limits of this kind of 
poetry ; and suspicion against them is usually augmented 
by the very condition that the predominating taste and 
style of these exceptions prove to be exactly like those 
which prevailed during the Renaissance and the Learned 
Period a taste and style that are highly significant for 
all those verses which were added in late manuscripts to 
ballads of the old type, which are recognized as belonging 
to old manuscripts. 

In this way then a large number of ballads which ob- 
structed the clarity of vision in folk poetry can apparently 
be removed and conducted to their proper place, that is, 
to learned poetry or more particularly to street ballads of 
the last few centuries. 

But among the great number of genuine ballads which 
we can assign to a period preceding the Reformation we 
can find still other tokens which determine their earlier or 
later dates. We trace, for example, in the romantic ballads, 
where a false taste appears, the influence of a more learned 
or more artistic poetry ; we notice in later ballads lyrical 
elements fused with the older, purely epic style ; at the 



RETROSPECT 259 

same time also, as in Germany, the melody has begun to 
get the better of the text. Furthermore there enters into 
the make-up of the ballads a new chord, a new grasp and 
dash ; the note of patriotism constantly lets itself be heard 
more loudly ; and whereas the earlier love songs were to 
a pronounced degree light, cheerful, and happy, 1 the songs 
of the time of the Reformation are in every instance con- 
cerned with rejected passion and distracted moods. De- 
spondency here finds expression rather as a new mood 
than as an emotion arising from a changed conception 
of life. 

It has already been pointed out to what degree the re- 
frains form an inseparable, component part of the ballads. 
The contrast between the text and the refrain has also been 
emphasized. In the refrain the /, which is excluded from 
the body of the ballad, puts itself forward ; it voices its 
joys and sorrows, and it invokes the listeners and sym- 
pathizers. Here feeling is not content with working under 
cover of the narrative, but breaks out directly. Here the 
singer shows his partiality for the beauty of nature and 
the flowers ("The woods are decked all in flowers"). 
Here words are addressed immediately to the auditors 
("Guide ye well the runes"). Here moralizing finds a 
place (" Fair words gladden many a heart "), and wishes 
may be uttered ("May I capture one of the fairest"). 

1 Bohme, Altdeutsches Liederbuch, p. xxxiii : " The older love 
songs are overwhelmingly cheerful and voice practically nothing but 
the victorious mood of love " ; Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder 
germanischer Nationen, p. 444 ; Rosenberg, Nordboernes Aandsliv, 
II, 444: " Love [in the ballads] is never pining; with slighted lovers the 
ballads have not the least sympathy, a Schillerish Ritter von Toggen- 
burg one would have found laughable or stupid." 



260 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

Here one spoke truths of a general nature (" Sorrow is 
heavy when one must bear it alone "). In short, in every- 
thing from which he is otherwise debarred by the rigorous 
epic tone required of ballad style, the singer gives his 
voice free play. 

By a series of investigations I have next established the 
influence which the use of the ballads in the dance has ex- 
erted on their make-up, together with the influence which 
their preservation by memory alone must have exercised. 
In addition I have sought to make plain how very often 
in later times, when the ballads were collected and noted 
down, learning and a new taste have set a stamp upon the 
style not original with them ; how they became overlaid 
with new additions, such as, for instance, Catholicism. 
Thus it has come about that many rust spots and much 
dust have been removed, and thereby are brought into 
clearer light the incomparable simplicity and freedom from 
prejudice, and the plainness in style and expression which 
gives this poetry its greatest worth and keeps it alive among 
the people, while so much of the poetry of art has gone 
out of fashion or has become unintelligible. 

Finally one aim of these studies has been to sever the 
connection of the ballad with the poetry of antiquity. To 
draw a genealogical tree or to build a bridge that will lead 
over from the one to the other is wholly impossible, for 
the two kinds are fundamentally distinct. The Icelandic 
lay, as far as its form is concerned, is constructed on the 
principle of word accent, while the ballad verse is based 
on words in relationship, that is, on the sentence or the 
sense accent. The lay has a slow movement, a measured 
sound, as if one had the swing of a pendulum before his 



RETROSPECT 261 

eyes ; while the ballad ripples melodiously or springs along 
as best it can according to its own sweet will. In the old 
lay the words stand shoulder to shoulder, appositives are 
found in abundance ; while the ballads appear in no way 
so closely drawn together and are by no means so chary 
of words. And whereas the lay permits the most violent 
inversions and arbitrarily shifts the natural places of sub- 
ject, object, and predicate, the ballads never venture on 
such extraordinary transpositions, but adhere to the natural 
order of speech. 

Its manner of expression then fits perfectly the natural, 
simple narrative, which is so far removed from the fre- 
quently weighty, didactic contents of the lays. The lays 
use alliteration and are recited ; while the ballads employ 
end rime and are sung, being accompanied by the dance, 
which the olden times knew not or scarcely at all. When 
in conclusion it is remembered that the lays with their 
kennings affect a difficult language, or even a language 
that belonged exclusively to poetry ; while the ballads have 
no need of such circumlocutions and intellectual pictures, 
and, on the whole, use a language that does not differ from 
that in daily speech : then I well believe that it may safely 
be asserted that here we have before us two widely differ- 
ing species of poetry, between which exists scarcely any 
spiritual affinity. It is quite another thing to say, however, 
that the range of ideas peculiar to antiquity in many ways 
lives again in the poetry of the Middle Ages, that the 
legends and myths of heathendom can here appear under 
new guises, and that even single expressions and images 
from the heathen lays bob up in the folk poetry of Christian 
times. 



262 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 

With this I conclude these attempts to lay bare the true 
spirit and form of the ballads. This book is now com- 
mended to all those who yet love the old, naive art of 
poetry and take pleasure in it as in a fresh fountain and 
cooling shadows on a sultry day, and to those who still 
look upon the popular ballads as one of the unique and 
most valued treasures of our literature. 



INDEX TO BALLADS 

The figures in parentheses give the numbers of the ballads in Svend Grundtvig's 
collection, Danmarks gamle Folkeviser 



Agnete and the Merman, (38), 

97 ff., 223 
Axel and Valborg, (475), 210, 213, 

215 

Bald Monk, The, (15), 119, 120 
Ballad of Envy, The, (366), 22 ff. 
Ballad of Isaac, The, 21 
Ballad of Susanna, The, 21 
Bedeblak, (63), 161 
Betrothed in the Grave, The, (90), 

31, 129, 167, 188, 190, 229 
Bold Sir Nilaus' Reward, (270), 51 
Boyhood of Jesus, Stephan, and 

Herod, The, (96), 99, 100 
Bridal, The, (88), 177 
Burd Ellensborg and Sir Oluf, 

(303), 200 
Buried Mother, The, (89), 188, 220 

Child Jacob, (253), 96 

Cloister Maiden,The, (Grundtvig's 

Heroic Ballads, No. 20), 63, 223 
Cloister Robbery, The, (476), 41, 

210, 215 
Combat with the Worm, The, (24), 

47 
Companion's Grief, The, (273), 51 

Dalby Bear, The, (64), 180 
Dalebu Jonsen, (Landstad, No. 24), 

90 
Dangerous Maiden, The, (184), 

231 

Daniel Boson, (421), 90 
Death of Alf the Lesser, The, 

(151), 226 



263 



Defeat in Ditmarsh, The, (170), 
122 

Dialogue of Two Maidens, (Un- 
published No. 291), 97 

Duke Henry, (334), 130 

Elfen Hill, The, (46), 62, 74 

Fair Annie, (258), 113 ff. 
Faithless Bride, The (Kristensen), 

172, 199 

Find Lille, (123), 44 
Flores and Margeret, (86), 40, 210, 

211 ff., 215 

Folke Algotson, (180), 55, 256 
Forced Consent, The, (75), 28, 46 

Game at Dice, The, (238), 173, 

i8iff. 
German Gladensvend, (33), 44, 71, 

'39 

Gralver the King's Son, (29), 89 
Grimild's Revenge, (5), 101 ff., 
133. 134 

Hagbard and Signe, (20), 221, 231, 

253 

Hagen's Dance, (465), 13, 26, 130 
Hedeby's Ghost, (91), 59 
Henry of Brunswick, (114), 120, 

121, 125 

Hildebrand and Hilde, (83), 49, 93 
Holger Dansk and Burmand, (30), 

210, 253 

In Chastity and Honor, (225), 201 
Iron Wolf, (10), 162, 233 



264 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 



Karl and Margrete, (87), 210, 216, 

229 
King Apollonius of Tyre, (88), 

210, 214 
King Birger's Sister Bengta, (155), 

30, 43, 255 
King Christian II in Sweden, 

(172), 41, 192 
King Didrik and his Warriors, (7), 

160 
King Didrik and Holger Dansk, 

(17). 210 
King Didrik and the Lion, (9), 

106 
King Didrik in Birtingsland, (8), 

29 
King Hakon's Death, (142), 31, 

48 
King Hans' Wedding, (166), 21, 

154 

Kinsman's Revenge, The, (4), 217 
Knight Transformed into a Bird, 

The, (68), 44 
Knight Transformed into a Hart 

The, (67), 33, 253 
Knud of Borg, (195), 42 

Linden on Lindenberg, The, (205), 

195 

Lindworm, The, (65), 185 
Little Karen, (101), 118, 128 
Lombards, The, (21), 70 

Magnus Algotson, (181), 202, 222 
Maiden at the Thing, The, (222), 

203 
Maiden in the Linden, The, (66), 

184 
Maiden in the Woods, The, (416), 

173 
Maiden transformed into a Bird, 

The, (56), 53, 175, 203 
Maiden transformed into a Hind, 

The, (58), 50 
Maiden transformed into a Wolf, 

The, (55), 50 
Maiden's Defense of Honor, The, 

(189), 13 
Maiden's Morning Dream, The, 

(239). 54. 196 



Maiden's Punishment, The, (464), 

63 

Malfred and Magnus, (49), 162, 

210, 211, 212, 214, 215 
Marsk Stig, (145), 76, 77, 84, 225, 

238, 253 
Marsk Stig's Daughters, (146), 31, 

94, 203 
Meeting in the Wood, The, (284), 

55.96 
Meeting of Kings in Roskilde, 

The, (118), 239 
Memering, (14), 92 
Mermaid's Prophecy, (42), 90, 135 
Mettelil and Queen Sofie, (130), 

'5 1 

Murdered Housewif e,The, ( 1 1 o) ,96 

Niels Ebbeson, (156), 123, 151, 

202, 218, 227, 238, 256 
Niels Paaskeson and Lave Brok, 

(164), 48 
Nightingale, The, (57), 61, in ff. 

Olaf and Asser White, (202), 45 
Oluf Gudmundsbn, (Unpublished 
No. 306), 210, 215 

Peder and Malfred, (278), 19, 95 
Peder Gudmandson and the 

Dwarfs, (35), 72, 73, 76 
Poacher, The, 48 
Proud Elin's Revenge, (209), 45, 

130, 167, 195 

Proud Ellensborg, (218), 201 
Proud Elselille, (220), 12 
Proud Signild and Queen Sophie, 

(129), 18, 31 

Queen Dagmar's Ballad, (135), 70 
Queen Margrete, (Vedel), 109 

Rane Jensen's Marriage, (48), 90 
Rape of the Venedian King, The, 

(240), 19 
Redselille and Medelvold, (271), 

51,84 

Regin the Smith, 75 
Riboltand Guldborg, (82), 49, 118, 

204, 217 



INDEX TO BALLADS 



265 



Sacrilege, The, (112), 199 

St. George and the Dragon, (103), 

122 

St. Gertrude, (93), 188 
Series of Kings, The, (115), 104 
Sir Bugge's Death, (158), 43, 161, 

202 

Sir Ebbe's Daughter, (194), 219 
Sir Lave and Sir Jon, (390), 91 
Sir Sallemand (Abrahamson, No. 

153), 96, 214 
Sir Stig's Wedding, (76), 13, 43, 

44 
Sir Tyge Krabbe's Fight in Skaane, 

(171), 220 

Sivard and Brynild, (3), 129 
Sivard Snarensvend, (2), 69, 70 
Skipper and the Maid, The, (241) 

21 

Soborg and Adelkind, (266), 217 
Son's Sorrow, The, (272), 51, 56 
Soul at Heaven's Door, The, ( 106), 

144 ff. 
Sune Folkeson, (138), 141, 148 ff., 

256 
Svend Felding, (31), 126, 205 ff. 



Svend Felding and Queen Jutte, 

(32), 154, 208 
Svend Vonved, (18), 38, 152 

Terkel Trundeson, (480), 210, 216 
Test of Fidelity, The, (252), 198 
Thor of Havsgaard, (i), 67 
Trold and the Housewife, The, 

(52), 155, 185, 191 
True as Gold, (254), 53, 116 

Valraven, The, (60), 29, 163, 186, 
187 

Wager, The, (224), 200 
Water of Life, The, (94), 185 
Wounded Maiden, The, (244), 21 

Young Man's Complaint, The, 

(53). 60 

Young Ranild, (28), 89 
Young Sir Thor and Lady Thore, 

(72), 143 

Young Sveidal, (70), 228 
Youth of Vollerslov, The, (298), 

197 



SCANDINAVIAN BALLAD COLLEC- 
TIONS CITED IN THE TEXT 

A. S. VEDEL. // Hundreds vduaalde danske Viser. 1591. 

ABRAHAMSON, NYERUP, and RAHBEK. Udvalgte danske Viser 
fra Middelalderen , I - V . 1812-1814. Usually cited as Abr . 

SVEND GRUNDTVIG. Danmarks gamle Folkeviser (completed by 
AxelOlrik), I-VIII. 1853-1899. Danske Kcempevtser og Folkesange 
fra Middelalderen, fornyede i gammel Stil. 1867. Danmarks 
Folkeviser i Udvalg. 1882. 

EVALD TANG KRISTENSEN. Jydske Folkeviser og Toner, samlede 
af Folkemunde. 1871. Gamle jyske Folkeviser. 1876. 100 gamle 
jyske Folkeviser. 1 889. The three collections are referred to in the 
text as Kristensen, I, II, III. 

H. C. LYNGBYE. Fceroiske Qvceder om Sigurd Fofnersbane og 
hans sEt. 1822. 

V. U. HAMMERSHAIMB. Fceroiske Kvceder, I-II. 1851-1855. 
Fcerosk Anthologi, 1-4 parts. 1886-1889. 

SVEND GRUNDTVIG and JON SIGURSSSON. Islenzk Fornkvadi, 
I-II. 1854-1885. 

M. B. LANDSTAD. Norske Folkeviser. 1853. 

SOPHUS BUGGE. Gamle norske Folkeviser. 1858. 

A. I. ARWIDSSON. Svenska Fornsangor, I-III. 1834-1842. 

E. G. GEIJER and A. A. AFZELIUS. Svenska Folkvisor. New, 
much enlarged edition, edited by R. Bergstrom and L. Hoijer. 1880. 



266 



INDEX 



Aabenraa, 147 

Abrahamson, 200 

Agerhus Castle, inventory of, 109 

Alliteration, 138 ff., 141 ff. 

" Alvissmal," 38, 231 

Ambroise, 244 

Annals, Ryd Kloster's, 209 

Arthur's Chase, 15 

Arwidsson, 61 

Assonance, 139*?., 159 

Atlikvifra, 194 

Aventiure, 230 

" Backbiter," the, 235 

" Ballad Book " of Broms Gyllen- 
mars, 235 

Ballad style, 216 

Ballads, abstractions in, 234; 
accompanied by the drum, 25 ; 
and the dance, 9 ff. ; " birdskin," 
175; broadside, 120, 146, 150; 
Catholicism in, 146, 178 ff., 207 ; 
change in character of, 258, 
259; Christianity in, 193; Den- 
mark's store of, 6 ; dramatic 
structure of, 228 ff. ; fairy hil- 
lock, 61 ; history in, 237 ff. ; 
/ in, 34 ff. ; introductions to, 32, 
40 ff., 228 ff. ; inversions in, 
216 ff.; kennings in, 233, 234; 
language of, 233; legendary, 
178; lyrical elements in, 34, 35, 
62 ; magic in, 188 ; manner of 
singing, 93 ff. ; melodies, 163 ff. ; 
meter of, 125 ff.; miracles in, 
181, 185, 187 ; monologue in, 
49 ff.; moralizing in, 198 ff.; 
nature in, 1 7 1 ff . ; patriotism in, 
202 ff., 259; proverbs in, 225 ff.; 
records of, 6, 7, 255, 256; re- 
ligion in, i78ff., 191; romance 
in, 210 ff.; satirical, 22; street, 
247 ; supernatural in, 181 



Battle of Brunkebjerg, 122 

Bayeux Tapestry, 230 

Benoit, 244 

Berggreen, 166 

Bergstrbm, R., 118, 215 

Bistev, 135 

" Book of Ballads," Anna Urop's, 

61, 199 
"Book of a Hundred Ballads," 

Vedel's, 71 
Bugge, Sophus, 59, 101, 118, 147, 

153 

" Chronicle," Svend Aageson's, 

239 
" Chronik des Landes Dithmar- 

schen," n, 93 
Clavus, Claudius, 254 
"Cyprianus," 188 

Dance, the, and the ballad, 9 ; 
accompaniments to, 25, 29 ; 
beginning of, 27 ff. ; frescoes 
of, 14; in couples, n; in the 
Faroes, 20; in Germany, 165; 
in Oberpfalz, 165, 166; in the 
open air, i2ff. ; kissing in, 19; 
of the nobility, 17; picture of 
Salome in, 16; with objects in 
the hand, 13, 46 

Didrik Saga, 25, 101, 102 

Dietrich of Bern, 136 

Earl Gissur, 10 

Edda, the Elder, 52 

Efterstev, 135 

England, historical ballads of, 245 

Erotic poetry, 39 

Erslev, Professor Karl, 237, 240 

Faroes, the, ballads of, 7, 162 
Finnish runic songs, 78, 79 
" Fjolsvinnsmal," 38 



267 



268 THE MEDIEVAL POPULAR BALLAD 



Flensborg, 105 

Foresinger, 27, 93 

Fomyrdalag, 147 

France, historical poetry of, 244 

Frey, 100 

Geijer, 87, 95 

Germany, borrowings from, 97, 
102 ff., H4ff., 117, n8ff., 136, 
J 75> X 76; heroic ballads of, 37 ; 
historical ballads of, 243 ff. ; 
medieval folksongs of, 35 ff. 

" Gertrude's Book," 188 

Goethe, 38 

Gragas, 249 

Greek modes, 164 

Grimm, Wilhelm, 86 

Grb'nland, Peder, 93 

Grundtvig, Svend, i, 61, 64, 90, 97, 
98, in, 112, 113, 116, 118, 121, 
122, 135, 146, 153, 159, 180, 181, 
182, 187, 198, 199, 207, 209,217, 
218, 219, 220 

Guild, statutes of a, 14 

" GutSrunarhvot," 52, 194 

Haasz, the valet, 250 

Hansen, Professor Peter, 3, 223 

Harald Hardrada, 242 

Heiberg, 189 

Heidrek's saga, 38 

" Heldenbuch," 101 

Hervor's saga, 38 

Hoijer, L., 118 

Holger Dansk, 210 

Hoppelrei, 15 

Hovcdstev, 135 

Iceland, ballads of, 7, 8, 162, 173 ; 
lays of, 241, 260, 261 ; riddle 
poems of, 38 ; satirical ballads 
of, 130 

" Illustrated History of Danish 
Literature," Professor Han- 
sen's, 3 

Indstev, 135 

Ingemann, 56 

Johannes, Bishop of Wiirzburg, 250 
Jongleurs, 25 



Jorgensen, A. D., 237, 240, 241, 
246, 247 

Kabeljaus and Hoeks, 250 
Kalkar's Dictionary, 105, 106, 107, 

109 

" Karrig Hiding," 18 
King Canute the Great, 153 
King Christian I, 209 
King Christian IX, 240 
King Haakon of Norway, 240 
Kok, Laurids, 158 
Kristensen, E. T., 61, 164, 232 
Kvifruhdtt, 136, 137, 138 

Laale, Peder, 26, 227 

Laffler, Professor L. Fr., 65 

Laub, Thomas, 164 

" Lay of Gudrun," 52 

" Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme," 

157 

"Liden Gunver," 168 
Liliencron, Von, 243, 250, 251 
" Literary History of Sweden," 

Henrik Schiick's, 204 
Little Karen strophe, 128, 133 
" Lucidarius," 107 
Lykke-Dans, 19 
Lyngbye, Pastor, 75 

Magni, Archbishop Johannes, 26 
Manuscripts of ballads, Anna 
Basse's, 60; Countess Chris- 
tiane's, 149; Dorothea Thott's, 
195 ; Karen Brahe's, 43, 45, 46, 
85, 113, 121, 148, 196, 200; 
Langebek's Quarto, 114, 149; 
Magdalena Barnewitz's, 44 ; 
RentzePs 148; Sophie Sand- 
berg's, 204 ; Sten Bille's, 74, 
113; Sten Miller's, 43 ; Svan- 
ing's, 136 
Minnesongs, 236 

" Name him to death," 49 

Neocorus, n, 93 

" Nibelungenlied," 102, 103, 221; 

verse of, 103, no, 128, 131 ff. 
Nibelungs, ballad on, 101 ff. 
Nithart, 85 



INDEX 



269 



"Oddninargratr," 52 

Ohlenschlager, 131, 132, 158, 213 

Olrik, Axel, 96 

Olsen, Master Erik, 253 

" Om Kirkesangen," 164 

Palladius, Peter, 178 

Paris, Gaston, 245, 257 

" Peder Paars," 214 

" Persenober and Constanti- 

anobis," 75 

Petersen, N. M., 135, 136 
Petri, Laurentius, 253 
Philip the Good, 250 
" Players," the, 25, 26, 68 
Plovpenning, Erik, 209 
Podiebrad, Georg, 250 
Pontoppidan, Erik, 99 
Proverbs, 151, 225 

Recke, Ernst von der, 125, 126, 

132, 133, 136, 138, 142, 156 
Refrains, 29, 31, 81 ff., 159, 172; 

alliteration in, 159, 160, 162; 
German, 84, 92 ; in the text, 
92; nature of, 82 ff., 259; pri- 
mary and secondary, 135 ; sub- 
jectivity in, 87 ; variable, 88 ff. 

Rhythm, i25ff. 

Rime, 125 ff. 

" Rimed Chronicle," 56 

Romances, 75 

Rosenberg, Carl, 3, 125, 126, 130, 

133. 135. 137 
Ruus, Laurids, 27 

St. Sigfred's legend, 205 



St. Stephen ballads, 99, 100 
Satire, in Iceland, 249; laws 

against, 250 
Saxo Grammaticus, 254 
" Schnada-hiipfl," 22 
"Sir Ro and Sir Rap," Bagge- 

sen's, 88 

Skaane Laws, 65, 254 
Skrikke-Rei, 15 
Snorri, 241 

" Song of Sigurd," 33 
" Stadsret," 105 
Stolt, Jonas, 13 
Storm, Gustav, 147, 210, 242 
" Sturlunga Saga," 130 
'"Svend Dyring's Hus," 189 
Syv, Peder, 4, 30, 100, 118, 151, 

186, 200, 217 

Tagelieder, 36 
Talvj, 42, 246 
" Town Laws," Magnus Smek's, 

204 

"Tragica," Vedel's, 177 
" Trymmekendans," 1 1 

" Vaf>rudnismal," 38 

Vedel, Anders, 4, 67, 104, 136, 

151, 176, 196, 217, 221, 226,227 
" Vie de Guillaume le Marechal," 

245 

Vikivaki, 17 
" Visitation Book," 178 
"Voluspa," 136 

Wace, 244 
Wdchterlieder, 36 



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