A Comedy in THREE ACTS By · Love’s Comedy A Comedy in THREE ACTS By - [PDF Document] (2024)

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Love’s Comedy

A Comedy in THREE ACTS


Henrik Ibsen (1862)

Translated by John Northam

I b s e n . n e t

2 0 0 7

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PREFACE.............................................................................................................3Cast List ................................................................................................................4ACT I.....................................................................................................................5ACT II .................................................................................................................32ACT III ...............................................................................................................52Notes ....................................................................................................................76

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This is a sadly neglected work, rarely performed. Michael Meyer describes it as “A brilliant poem rather than an poetic play …. crippled by the untheatricality of its form”. It achieved its final form by 1862, but its composition was already well advanced by 1860. The earliest draft was entitled ‘Svanhild’ and was written in prose (see Oxford Ibsen, James MacFarlane vol II).

When published in 1863 it was unfavourably reviewed, largely on moral grounds, as a denigration of both love and marriage, whereas for Ibsen it was a sympathetic exploration of the tensions that can exist between aestheticism and domesticity, a theme that he had already explored in the poem ‘On the Heights’.

Ibsen himself thought highly of the work. In a letter to Hartvig Lassen, 24th October 1872, he wrote “I am … convinced that it cannot be faulted. All in all I reckon ‘Love’s Comedy’ to be amongst the best things that I have done” — this after having written ‘Brand’ and ‘Peer Gynt’.

The moral objections to the play can be ignored, but its untheatricality can be challenged. It is true that the rhymed verse probably remains a considerable obstacle to performance nowadays, but in other respects ‘Love’s Comedy’ deserves attention as a great stride towards Ibsen’s later modern plays. ‘Love’s Comedy’ is the first of the plays — if we except St John’s Night — not to derive its story and stature from an old source — history, saga, legend, ballad. Instead Ibsen creates his own story out of the apparently small-scale events of contemporary suburban life, its characters, setting, language and domestic predicaments. Yet out of this apparently trivial material Ibsen constructs a searching enquiry into a theme that is explored again and again in his later modern plays — the Kierkegaardian conflict between aesthetics and ethics. Moreover, the deeply serious theme that lurks beneath the comic surface owed much to Ibsen’s own experience of married life. Suzannah, his wife, was the inspiration for Svanhild, the aesthetic/ethical dilemma was one that he himself had faced.

Even the verse form characterises brilliantly, in its contemporary idiom, his social types: the dreary phraseology of Styver the law clerk, the fussing of the ladies, the dull prudentiality of Lind, the impressive sincerity of Guldstad and the rapturous intensity of Falk and Svanhild — demonstrate a new mastery. The stage directions by which Ibsen orchestrated the constant flurry of movement reveal a fully dramatic skill.

Unactable or not, the play abounds in a new immediacy, verbal dexterity and dramatic vitality, and merits more attention than it has been given.

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Cast List

(with English equivalents)

Mrs Halm (Chaff)

Svanhild ) ) her daughters

Anna )

Falk (Falcon)

Lind (Linden)

Guldstad (Goldville)

Styver (Tanner i.e. sixpence)

Miss Skjære (Magpie)

Strawman (Strawman)

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(The scene presents an attractive garden irregularly but tastefully laid out; in the background, the fjord and outlying islands. To audience left, the main building, with a verandah and an open dormer window above; in the right foreground an open summer-house with table and seats. The landscape is bathed in strong evening light. Early summer; fruit trees in bloom.) (When the curtain rises, Mrs Halm, Anna and Miss Skjære are sitting on the verandah, the two former with needlework, the latter with a book. Falk, Lind, Guldstad and Styver can be seen inside the summer-house; on the table, a pitcher of punch and glasses. Svanhild sits alone in the background by the water.)

Falk (rises with an upraised glass and sings)Day’s decline `mid garden hedgeswas designed for your delight;don’t reflect that springtime’s pledgesautumn seldom honours quite.Apple-blossom, whitely spreading,weaves its awning o’er your head, —let it, weather-worn and shedding, strew by evening every bed.

Chorus of menLet it, weather-worn and shedding etc

Falk While the tree is still a-blooming 10

how can you then ask for fruit?Why be sighing, why be glooming,dulled by chores and toil to boot?Wherefore let the scarecrow clatteron its stick by night and day?Happy brothers, bird-song chattersounds a better roundelay!

Men Happy brothers etc

Falk Wherefore chase away the sparrowfrom your bloom-sprays ere they drop? 20

Let it, for its song’s sake, harrowone by one, your looked-for crop.Trust me, you will profit, buyingpresent song with later fruit;heed the saying “Time is flying”;outdoor songs will soon fall mute.

Men Heed the saying “Time is flying” etc

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Falk I shall live, shall keep on singingtill the final hedge has died;sweep the rubbish up, start flinging, 30

calmly, the whole lot aside.Lay the fence; let livestock wander,grub and grab as each sees best;I plucked flowers; I’ll not ponderwho’s to have the dead bequest.

Men I plucked flowers etc (they chink and empty their glasses)

Falk (to the ladies)Well, there’s the song you said you’d like to hear; —bear with it; I was somewhat dull, I fear.

Guldstad So what, so long as it’s a song that’s stirring?Miss Skjære (looking about)

But Svanhild who was very keen, I swear — ? 40

When Falk began, she left, with her wings whirring;and now she’s gone.

Anna (pointing off) She’s not, she’s sitting there.Mrs Halm (with a sigh)

That child! God knows where she’s learnt such behaviour!Miss Skjære But Mr Falk, I thought the song lacked savour,

just at the end, lacked — sort of — poetry,which here and there it showed in some degree.

Styver Yes, simple, surely, to make up the lackby adding just a little to the ending.

Falk (chinks glasses with him)Work putty in, like filling up a crack,until its smooth as marble, flush and blending. 50

Styver (blandly)Yes, that’s the way; I well remember itfrom my experience.

Guldstad What? You served the Muse?Miss Skjære What, my fiancé? Yes!Styver O, just a bit.Miss Skjære (to the ladies)

He’s so romantic.Mrs Halm That’s the word we’d choose!Styver Not any more though; that was long ago.Falk Romance and varnish both wear off we know.

But were you really — ?Styver Yes, about the time

when I was, well, in love.Falk Now past its prime?

I didn’t know you’d woken from your passion!Styver But I’ve become engaged in formal fashion; 60

that means much more than being in love, to me!Falk Quite so, my friend, quite so, I quite agree!

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You’ve been promoted, now the worst is over:from wooer to fiancé; you’re in clover.

Styver (with a pleasant, reminiscent smile)And yet it’s strange! The difficulty I’m inis I scarce credit memory, you know.Would you believe it — seven years agoI’d sit there in the office quietly rhyming.

Falk You sat there rhyming — at the desk what’s more?Styver No, table.Guldstad Silence, give the clerk the floor. 70

Styver Especially evenings, when my time was free,I drafted reams on reams of poetry, so many — but, on scraps — that’s all they were.It worked!

Falk You simply gave your Muse the spur,and off she —

Styver Stamped, unstamped, at any ratethe paper seemed to suit her, it was fine.

Falk And so the verses flowed, a flood in spate?But tell me how you gained the Muse’s shrine.

Styver With love’s own jemmy, that is how my friend!In other words, it was Miss Skjære here, 80

my dearest as it turned out in the end,who at the time —

Falk Was your plain, simple dear.Styver (continuing)

It was a strange time; law? — well, I cocooned it;I didn’t trim my pen, o no, I tuned it,and as it scratched rough drafts out, I would gloat, —it harmonised with everything I wrote; —at last I managed to send off a note to her — she —

Falk Whose fiancé you became.Styver Just fancy, by return her answer came;

“Request accepted, matter closed” — and name! 90

Falk And at the desk you felt yourself expand;you’d hooked your sweetheart, brought her safe to land!

Styver Of course I did!Falk Since then, no versifying?Styver No, never felt the impulse since that time;

it seemed my vein of poetry was drying;and when occasionally I’ve tried to rhymea New Year’s greeting, just a line or two,the rhyme and metre turned out all askew,and, — why it should be is a mystery, —what comes out now is law, not poetry. 100

Guldstad (clinks glasses with him)Why then, upon my soul, luck’s on your side! (to Falk) You think the ferry trip on fortune’s tideis just to get you, you alone across;

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but think before you risk the pitch and toss.As for your song, I can’t assess, not really,if it is poetry in all respects;for all its twists and turns though, one rejectsthe moral, which is foul — I speak sincerely.Call such a wastefulness economy?To let all sorts of birds feed — it’s amazing — 110

on fruit-buds, still unripened on the tree,allow the sheep and cattle to run freeand feed in here as though on summer grazing?A pretty sight, eh, Mrs Halm, next spring!

Falk Ah, next, ah next! I find it sickening, the implication of the word — it runsthe risk of beggaring life’s lucky ones!If I enjoyed a language-sultan’s power, could use a silken noose for just one hourI’d rid the world of it remorselessly 120

as Knudsen’s grammar banished b and g. *Styver What’s wrong, then, with a word that’s hopeful, bright?Falk That it enshrouds God’s lovely world in night.

“Our next belovèd one” and “Our next wife”,and “Our next dinner time” and “Our next life”, —yes, the foresightedness implied’s what runsthe risk of beggaring life’s lucky ones.So long as that befouls our times, you see,it robs delight of spontaneity;you get no peace until you’ve sculled your boat 130

with toil towards “the next” shore, though remote;but once you’ve got there, dare you rest, then, yonder?No, you must seek a “next” one — must still wander.And so it goes through life — the speed is taxing, —God knows if the hereafter’s more relaxing.

Mrs Halm But Mr Falk, how could you be so gruff!Anna But I can understand him well enough;

there’s something hidden there, not just a whim.Miss Skjære My fiancé mustn’t listen to such stuff.

He’s an eccentric, don’t encourage him; 140

come here a moment!Styver (busy cleaning his pipe)

Yes, I’m coming dear.Guldstad (to Falk) Well now, at least there’s one thing I’ve got clear:

that you don’t honour foresight half enoughby any means, — just think, suppose you sit and write a poem, putting into itthe capital you’ve built up, value highly,of inspiration and next morning — why!you find your source of inspiration’s dry; —the critics would combine to drive you crazy.

Falk I find that bankrupt notion somewhat hazy; 150

for then I and the critic gang would stroll

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the same road, arm in arm, friends on the whole.(breaks off and changes the subject)

But tell me Lind, how go things? ‘Pon my soulyou sit there in a mood of glum conjecture;perhaps you’re studying the architecture?

Lind (pulls himself together) Whatever gives you that idea?Falk Why, you;

the balcony provides no fetching view.Perhaps it’s the verandah’s columnationyou’re looking at with such deep concentration.The doors maybe, their scrolled, chic furniture, 160

the shutters likewise rich in art’s allure?There’s something that attracts you, that’s for sure.

Lind (his face beaming) No, you are wrong; I’m sitting here just baskingin real life, here and now, it’s all I’m asking.I have a feeling that I stand replete with all earth’s riches spread before my feet!Thanks for your song about life’s vernal zest;it could have been carved out of my own breast!(raises his glass and exchanges glances with Anna, unnoticed by the others)Here’s to the fragrant blossom on its shoot,with ne’er a thought of turning into fruit! (drains his glass) 170

Falk (looks at him, surprised and touched, but forces himself to adopt a bantering tone)

Just hear that, ladies; that was something new!I’ve made a proselyte, quite swiftly too.A prayer-book in his pocket yesterday,but now it’s the poetic drum he’d play. —It’s right — we poets must be born, not made;yet sometimes one of the prosaic tradegrows fat, like Strasbourg geese force-fed with corn,on rhyming rubbish, metres lacking brawn,till innards, liver, lights and soul, when drawn,are found congested, stiff and clotted hard 180

with grease rhetorical and lyric lard. (to Lind)But all the same, thanks for your good intention;henceforth we’ll smite the harp without dissension.

Miss Skjære Yes, Mr Falk, are you kept busy here?In rustic peace — amongst the blooming flowers, where you can haunt, alone, the pensive bowers — —

Mrs Halm (smiling)No, he’s an idler — you have no idea.

Miss Skjære As Mrs Halm’s guest, it would be surprisingif you’d not worked hard here at poetising. (points off right)That garden house screened by the bushes there 190

is simply made to be a poet’s lair;you must have been inspired, I do declare — —

Falk (moves across to the verandah and rests his arm on the paling)

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Let blindness spread infection on my sightand I’ll write poems on the heavenly light.Provide me, if for but a month, on loan,some grief, some crushing sorrow to bemoan *and I’ll extol in song life’s joyfulness.Or best, supply me with a bride to bless,to be my all — light, sun, my God no less.I’ve begged the Lord to grant my prayer, but lately 200

He’s seemed to be quite deaf, unfortunately.Miss Skjære Fi, that was frivolous!Mrs Halm Could well offend.Falk O, don’t think for a moment I’d intend

that we’d seek, hand in hand, some pleasure-dome,no, while the joy’s most boisterous, she must wendher way, depart for our eternal home.I need a bit of spiritual P.E.,and that could be the very thing for me.

Svanhild (who has meanwhile approached; she now stands close to Falk and speaks to him with a firm but whimsical expression)

Good, I shall wish you such a destiny. But when it happens, bear it like a man. 210

Falk (turns, disconcerted) My, my, Miss Svanhild! – I’ll be armed, you’ll see!But do you, too, imagine that I cantrust your wish isn’t out of all proportion?Where Heaven’s concerned, you see, one acts with caution.You’ve will enough for two, that’s plain to see,to rob my mind of its tranquillity, but whether you’ve the faith required will bethe thing to prove.

Svanhild (half joking, half in earnest) Wait for the coming sorrowthat sears life’s gleaming verdure on the morrow, —.wait till it gnaws you in your dreams or waking, 220

then you can judge my wish, and no mistaking. (crosses to the ladies)Mrs Halm (under her breath) O, will the pair of them not call a truce?

You’ve angered Mr Falk, and what’s the use?(continues talking quietly and severely. Miss Skjære joins in theconversation. Svanhild stands cold and silent)

Falk (after a brief, thoughtful silence, crosses to the summer-house and speaks to himself)

Her every glance just blazes with conviction.If only I believed, as she does clearly, that Heaven would —

Guldstad By God, it wouldn’t, really!It would be, with respect, a derelictionif things were ordered that way, I assure you.No, look dear fellow — what you need to cure youis exercise, for trunk, extremities. 230

Don’t lie there gazing up into the treesthe live-long day; if nothing else, try hewing.It would be damned bad luck were you still stewing,

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and hadn’t, in a fortnight, broken freecompletely from your crazy fantasy.

Falk I’m like the ass faced with a choice, bound tight;flesh to the left of me, soul to the right;which one would it be wisest to choose first?

Guldstad (filling the glasses)A glass of punch that quenches care and thirst.

Mrs Halm (looking at her watch)It’s nearly eight; I fancy our respected 240

dear pastor may arrive soon, he’s expected.(stands up and starts tidying the verandah)

Falk What, pastors? Coming here?Miss Skjære Good Lord, why not!Mrs Halm Precisely what I told you — you forgot.Anna No, mother, Mr Falk was not around.Mrs Halm That’s right. But don’t be glum, you’ll gain a lot;

you’ll reap a pleasant harvest, I’ll be bound.Falk But tell me who he is, joy’s seed-broadcaster!Mrs Halm Good heavens, Mr Strawman, it’s our pastor.Falk I see. I fancy that I’ve heard his name

and read that he’ll involve himself, earn fame 250

in parliamentary business just by talking.Styver Yes, orator.Guldstad A shame he can’t stop hawking.Miss Skjære He’s coming with his wife —Mrs Halm And with his offspring —Falk To give them all an outing, that’s the pull,

before he finds he’s got his both hands fullwith Swedish problems, parliamentary jostling;I see.

Mrs Halm A real man, of heroic stamp.Guldstad Well, in his younger days he was a scamp.Miss Skjære (offended)

Why, Mr Guldstad! Since I was a child I’ve heard opinions voiced, of great respect, — 260

and that by folk whose word one can’t reject, —of Pastor Strawman and his life’s romance.

Guldstad (laughing) Romance!Miss Skjære Romance. I’d call his life romantic,

though it’s what common people view askance.Falk You stir my curiosity, I’m frantic.Miss Skjære (continuing)

But Heaven help us, there are always folkwho can’t resist the chance to make a jokeof what’s inspiring. It’s notorious, reallythat we’ve had someone here, a student merely,who was so brazen, dissolute and low 270

that he mocked “William Russell” don’t you know. *Falk Is he a poem in some sort of way,

this country priest, a sort of Christian play?

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Miss Skjære (fighting back her tears)No, Falk, — a man of feeling, I would say.But when a book, a wholly lifeless thingcan be the cause of such vile gossiping,stir passions of such ugliness and strength,so deeply felt, too, —

Falk (joining in) And of such a length —Miss Skjære Well then, with your sharp eyes, you’ll quickly see

the point, which is —Falk Yes, very clear to me. 280

But what has puzzled me though, hitherto,is the romance’s content and its kind.It’s something charming, that may well be true;but whether it is easily defined —

Styver I’ll summarise the main facts appertainingto this case —

Miss Skjære No, let me do the explaining;I know the story.

Mrs Halm I, too, if I may!Miss Skjære No Mrs Halm, please let me have my say.

Look, Mr Falk, — when he took his degreehe ranked amongst the best brains in the city, 290

well-versed in critics, latest trends — and witty —Mrs Halm And acted, sometimes, too — but privately.Miss Skjære Just wait a bit! He played, he painted, drew —Mrs Halm And think, the lovely tales he told us too.Miss Skjære Give me a chance; I’ll get to that in time.

He wrote and set to music a sublimecreation for some publisher — in rhyme;it’s called “Seven Sonnets written for my Mary”.Heavens, sang to the guitar so debonairly!

Mrs Halm He was a genius — no more need be said. 300

Guldstad (under his breath) Hm, some believe the chap was off his head.Falk A wise old bird who didn’t get his learning

just from old parchments green with mouldy growth,said Petrarchs are created by love’s yearning as patriarchs are from blockheads and from sloth.But who was Mary?

Miss Skjære Mary? Why, his dearbelovèd, as you are about to hear.She was the daughter of a company —

Guldstad A timber firm.Miss Skjære (cutting in) God knows, you may be right.Guldstad Dealt in Dutch timber, shipped to us by sea. 310

Miss Skjære Such details are quite trivial and trite.Falk A company?Miss Skjære (continuing) With lots and lots invested.

You can imagine how the wooing went.It’s said the grandest suitors would present —

Mrs Halm And one, a chamberlain, quite interested.

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Miss Skjære But Mary knew her woman’s rights off pat.She first met Strawman at a Green Room do:she saw, she fell for him and that was that —

Falk And left the crowd of suitors there to stew?Mrs Halm Yes, wasn’t that romance? You think so too? 320

Miss Skjære And add to that a gruesome old Papawho’d sever hearts at sweet love’s first appearance;there was a guardian, too, I think, to bartheir way, make matters worse by interference.But she and he stood firmly by their troth;they dreamt of a snug cottage, with straw thatch,a snow-white sheep, enough to feed them both —

Mrs Halm And one small cow, not more, to graze the patch.Miss Skjære In brief, as they would tell me frequently:

a stream, a hut and hearts in harmony. 330

Falk Ah yes! And then — ?Miss Skjære She broke with kith and kin.Falk She broke — ?Mrs Halm She broke with them.Falk She risked her skin!Miss Skjære And moved in with her Strawman in his attic.Falk Moved in! No wedding — sort of morganatic?Miss Skjære O fie!Mrs Halm For shame! My husband — late — attended

amongst the witnesses —Styver Yes, your erratic

omission caused confusion not intended.In giving evidence what carries weightis getting sequences and details straight.But I can’t grasp, however hard I battle, 340

what they were up to —Falk (picking up the thread) — for one must assume

there’s little space for sheep, still less for cattle,in your conventional, small attic room.

Miss Skjære But my good friend, there’s one thing you’ve omitted:where love’s enthroned no thought of want’s admitted;two tender hearts need little, don’t you see? (to Falk)He wooed her by guitar in tuneful fashion,she on the clavier disclosed her passion —

Mrs Halm And then, of course, they borrowed, he and she —Guldstad The firm went bankrupt simultaneously. 350

Mrs Halm Then Strawman got a living somewhere north.Miss Skjære And, in a letter that I’ve seen, poured forth

devotion to his duty and his wife.Falk (chipping in) And that concluded his romantic life.Mrs Halm (rising) I think a stroll about the garden would

be nice, to greet our visitors you know.Miss Skjære (putting on her mantle)

It’s chilly. Mrs Halm Svanhild, would you be so good

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and fetch my shawl?Lind (to Anna, unnoticed by the others) You go ahead!Mrs Halm Let’s go.(Svanhild goes into the house; the others, except Falk, go off left at the rear. Lind, who has followed them, halts and comes back)Lind My friend!Falk My friend to you!Lind Give me your hand!

I am so glad; — I think my heart will burst 360

if I can’t talk about it —Falk Don’t rush; first

you must be tried and sentenced and then hanged.Why this behaviour? Trying to conceal from me, your friend, the treasure that you’ve found; —own up, I guessed correctly I’ll be bound;you’ve drawn a ticket on good fortune’s wheel!

Lind Yes, I have caught luck’s lovely bird for real.Falk What? Caught alive — not strangled in the snare?Lind Just wait a bit; it won’t take long, I swear.

I am engaged! Just think — ! Falk Engaged!Lind God knows 370

how I could find the courage to propose!I said, — o, things like that you can’t repeat;just think — that she, so lovely, young and sweet —she fairly blushed — was not put out at all!Can you imagine, Falk, how I’ve rampaged!She heard me out, — it seemed a tear might fall;is that a good sign?

Falk Yes, go on, complete.Lind O, then it’s true? — we really are engaged?Falk I should imagine; but to make things clearer,

past doubt, you really should consult Miss Skjære. 380

Lind O no, I feel so confident, secure!I am so clear about it, certain, sure.

(beaming and confidential)Just think, she let me hold her hand back there, —as she was tidying the coffee table!

Falk (raising his glass and draining it)Well — may spring flowers crown the happy pair!

Lind (following suit) And I’ll proclaim, as loudly as I’m able,by all that’s holy, as I now do here, I’ll love her till I die; she’s such a dear!

Falk Engaged! So that’s the reason why you’ve quitthe law and prophets, shelved them and instead — 390

Lind (laughing) And you believed it was your song, that it — !Falk My friend, most poets have a swollen head.Lind (seriously) But Falk, don’t think theology’s forefended,

expelled from bliss’s Eden by the rod.The difference merely is — books aren’t intended

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to be a Jacob’s ladder to my God.Now I must go and seek Him out by living,I feel I am a better man at heart;I love the worm, the straw I tread — it’s partof the delight my happiness is giving. 400

Falk But tell me now —Lind You’ve heard the lot, completely, —

the treasure-trove that we three share discreetly.Falk But have you thought — the future, for a start — ?Lind The future? Thought? Henceforth, I’ll tell you this,

I’ll live the spring-like moment to the full.It’s home I’ll look to for my future bliss,we’ll rein in fate however hard it pull.Not Guldstad, you, — not even Mrs Halm dare bid my fresh life’s bloom “Fade! Lose your charm!”I have the will, and she such loving eyes, 410

and so my flower must thrive, shall seek the skies.Falk How right, my brother; joy needs men like you!Lind My courage burns, a song that’s full of cheer.

I know my strength; should an abyss appearbefore my feet, though deep, — I’d leap that too.

Falk That means, when put in plain and simple words:your love’s made you a reindeer, so it seems.

Lind Well, — should I journey with wild reindeer herds,I know where they will fly, my yearning dreams!

Falk By morning then you’ll have to be all set; 420

you’re leaving with the quartet for up yonder.You’ll not need any furs up there I bet.

Lind Quartet! Pah, — leave them on their own to wander!For me, the valley air is mountain-clear;here I’ve the flowers and the fjord’s wide spaces,the bird-song chatter in the leaves’ embraces,good fairies too, — o yes, because she’s here!

Falk Ah, but good fairies, here in Akersdale, *are rare as elks; you grab them by the tail!

(glancing towards the house)Sssh, — Svanhild — .

Lind Right; I’m off, — don’t cause a stir — 430

this matter is between you, me and her.Thanks for your patient hearing — now enfold it,my secret, in your heart, warm as I told it.

(He goes off at the back to join the others)(Falk watches him for a moment and paces up and down in the garden a few times, clearly struggling to control the agitation he feels. Shortly afterwards Svanhild comes out of the house with a scarf over her arm and moves towards the rear. Falk take a step or two nearer and stares fixedly at her; Svanhild halts)

Svanhild (after a brief pause)Why are you staring — ?

Falk (half to himself) Yes, that’s the expression;

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it casts a shadow on her eyes’ deep sea,lurks round her mouth and plays there impishly,it’s there.

Svanhild What? I’m half-frightened — such aggression!Falk They call you Svanhild?Svanhild Yes, as well you know.Falk But do you know, Miss, that the name’s eccentric?

Do me a favour, drop it, let it go! 440

Svanhild Fie, — that would be unfilial, egocentric —Falk (laughs) Mmm, “Svanhild” — “Svanhild” — —

(suddenly serious) Did they give you thatmemento mori at the infant stage?

Svanhild Why, is it ugly?Falk No, so lovely that

it’s far too great and strong for this our age.How could a modern girl expect to matchthe thoughts inspired by Svanhild’s name, no less?Get rid of it, a gown too old to patch.

Svanhild You’re thinking of the saga-king’s princess — *Falk Crushed by a horse’s hooves, though innocent. 450

Svanhild But nowadays the law would not consent.No, in the saddle! Often, when I’m dreaming,I’ve pictured me borne high upon a trackthat spans the wide world, brave, no looking back,the horse’s mane, like freedom’s banner, streaming!

Falk Yes, that’s the old style. In your so-called dreamingthere none of us fear gates, bars don’t deter,there’s no-one who’s afraid to use the spur; —in practice though, we very much preferour terra firma — life’s held dear, not cheap, 460

and no-one risks his neck by jumping madly.Svanhild (animated) Well, set the mark and I shall clear it, gladly!

But then the mark must justify the leap.Some California screened beyond the sands, —if not, one stays precisely where one stands.

Falk (mockingly) I see; so it’s our times it seems that fail.Svanhild (with heat) It is our times indeed! Who would set sail

when there’s no lively breeze to stir the fjord?Falk (ironically) Yes, why wear whip and spur when no award,

no golden cup of victory awaits 470

the man who leaves his home, his table-mates,high in his saddle ventures forth uncaring, to venture for the sake of venture, daring.And daring counts for little now we know;was that your meaning?

Svanhild Yes, exactly so;observe the pear tree by the fencing there, —how sparse of bloom it was this year, how bare.You should have seen it last year, though, weighed downwith all the fruits that hung upon its crown.

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Falk (somewhat baffled)I well believe it; but interpret: where’s — ? 480

Swanhild (with finesse) O, amongst other things, it goes to showthe greediness involved when modern heirs of Zacharias keep demanding pears. — *A tree that carried too much bloom, I fearcannot expect to crop so well next year.

Falk I knew that you’d re-found the proper trackin history —, romances from way back.

Svanhild Yes — worth is valued now in different ways.Who girds himself in truth’s cause nowadays?Who cares what role the individual plays? 490

Where have the heroes gone?Falk (looks at her sharply) And the Valkyria?Svanhild (tosses her head) Valkyries still survive here all the same!

When they attacked our faith last year in Syria, did you crusade there in the cross’s name?No, you spoke ardently, in paper rhymes —and sent some kroner to the “Christian Times”.

(Pause. Falk seems about to answer, but checks himself and walks into the garden.)Svanhild (observes him for a moment, draws closer and gently asks:)

Falk, are you cross?Falk Of course not, just depressed, —

that’s all.Svanhild (sympathetically) You have two natures, — you’re possessed, —

by different personalities — —Falk I know.Svanhild (vehemently) But why?Falk (erupting) But why? Because I, well, detest 500

parading round here with my soul on show,displaying my emotions like the rest, —parading round with my affections bare as girls with naked arms invite a stare!You were the only one, — you, Svanhild, you, —or so I thought, — but now that’s over too —

(turns to her as she goes towards the summer-house and stands watching)You’re listening — ?

Svanhild To another voice that’s speaking,sssh! Listen! As the evening sun is seekingits bed, a little bird flies here to rest, —look there, — it’s come here from its leafy nest — . 510

Do you know what I think? That in the endeach girl denied the gift of song is dueto get from God a little bird as friend —meant for that girl, and for her garden too.

Falk (picks up a stone)That means the bird and owner meet and match, or the song’s lost on some strange garden-patch —

Svanhild That’s true; I’ve found my bird, though. For my partI have no gift for words, no voice for singing;

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but when a birdie sets the greenwood ringingthen poems seem to settle in my heart — — 520

but then — they never stay — they fly, each one —(Falk hurls the stone; Svanhild utters a shriek)

O God, you’ve killed it! Look what you have done!(dashes out to the right and soon returns)

O that was wicked, wicked!Falk Just an eye

for an eye, Svanhild, no more, tooth for a tooth! *You’ll get no greeting now from up on high,and no more gifts from song-land, that’s the truth.See, that’s revenge on you for your great wrong!

Svanhild My wrong?Falk Yes, yours. Until this very hour

a bird sang in my breast, so blithe and strong.Look, now the bells can toll there in the tower 530

for both — you killed it.Svanhild Did I?Falk Killed it when

you felled my brave young hopes into the dust — (scornfully)when you became engaged.

Svanhild But tell me then — !Falk O things will work themselves out as they must;

he’ll finish his exams, he’ll get a parish —of course go to America, as priest —

Svanhild (in the same tone)Inherit a fat sum, all his to lavish; —yes, for it’s Lind you’re meaning?

Falk Well, at least,you ought to know —

Svanhild (suppressing a smile) As sister of the brideI ought to —

Falk O my God! Not you — — !Svanhild Who vied 540

to reap such luck? Not I, unfortunately!Falk (with almost childish glee)

It’s not you then? Praise be to God — but o,He is so kind, works so compassionately!I shall not see you as another’s bride; —He only meant my pain should bring me light — —o hear me Svanhild, — (tries to take her hand)

Svanhild (hastily points towards the background) Look who’s here — good night!

(she goes towards the house. From the background arrive Mrs Halm, Anna, Miss Skjære, Guldstad, Styver and Lind. During the previous scene the sun has set; twilight over the landscape.)Mrs Halm (to Svanhild) We’ll have the priest here soon, he won’t be long.

What kept you all this time?Miss Skjære (after a quick glance at Falk)

Is something wrong?

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Svanhild A touch of headache; it’ll soon be gone.Mrs Halm And yet you go bare-headed, nothing on. 550

Now, get tea ready; mustn’t let things slip;all must be neat, I know her ladyship.

(Svanhild enters the house)Styver (to Falk) D’you know the pastor’s politics, if he’s —Falk I doubt that he would vote for subsidies.Styver But then, suppose that he were tipped the wink

about the verses in my desk, d’you think — ?Falk That just might help.Styver I hope so, — I declare

we’re hard-pressed, setting up a home’s expensive.The pangs of love, their cost is quite extensive.

Falk Your fault; why place yourself dans cet galère? * 560

Styver Is love a galley?Falk No, but marriage is,

with fetters, chains, loss of one’s liberties.Styver (as he sees Miss Skjære approaching)

You cannot know the riches that can dwellin woman’s thoughts and in her words as well.

Miss Skjære (quietly)Will Guldstad act, d’you think, as guarantor?

Styver (crossly) I’ll have to probe — I’ve not had time before.(they go off deep in conversation)

Lind (quietly to Falk, as he approaches with Anna)I can’t contain myself — I really mustannounce the news —

Falk It’s best kept dark, d’you hear?Then busy-bodies cannot interferein your affairs —

Lind No, that would be unjust; —570

what, you, my fellow-lodger, not be toldof the young bliss that sets me in a whirl?No, now my head is crowned, I’m crowned with gold —

Falk Would you prefer to have your hair, then, curl?Well, my dear friend, if that is your position,then go ahead, announce, it’s your decision!

Lind Besides, I’ve thought of other reasons too,amongst them one that carries special weight;say, for example, someone came to woo,to claim her, craftily, get intimate; 580

suppose his suit seemed patently successful,I’d take it hard, I’d find it quite distressful.

Falk Yes, true; it slipped my mind, I quite forgot;you had a higher calling, did you not?At present you’re in love’s novitiate; you’re sure to be promoted one fine day;but it would be absurd, precipitate, were you to be ordained now, straight away.

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Lind So long as the tycoon —Falk That Guldstad man?Anna (bashfully) O, it’s just something Lind’s imagining. 590

Lind Don’t say that; I suspect he’s threateningmy happiness by any means he can.That fellow’s quite a daily guest out here,he’s rich, unmarried, follows you about;in short, there are a thousand things, my dear,that make me — I can’t help it — full of doubt.

Anna (with a sigh)O, what shame; it seemed a lovely day.

Falk (sympathising with Lind)Don’t spoil your happiness for mere suspicion;don’t fly your flag and give yourself away.

Anna O God! Miss Skjære’s watching; — o, perdition! 600

(she and Lind separate in different directions)Falk (follows Lind with his eyes)

He’s marching to youth’s overthrow, I’d say.Guldstad (who has meanwhile been standing by the step in conversation with Mrs

Halm, approaches and slaps him on the shoulder)Well, brooding on some poetry, eh?, what?

Falk No, on a play.Guldstad A play? The deuce you are; —

I didn’t think they were your line.Falk They’re not.

Besides, this one is by a friend; so farI’ve just collaborated, made a pair; —a brilliant writer, that I do declare.Imagine, between lunch and supper hewill polish off an idyll right on cue.

Guldstad (politely) And the dénouement’s happy?Falk Blissfully. 610

The curtain falls — on him and her — part one.But that’s the trilogy’s mere first stage done;then comes the hard bit, writing up part two:the engagement comedy, when she’s been won,takes five long acts to deal with, don’t you see,and out of them the thread has to be spunfor the marriage drama that concludes part three.

Guldstad (smiling) It makes me think the urge to write’s contagious.Falk Why’s that?Guldstad I mean — it may seem quite outrageous —

I too have got a play I’ve contemplated — (confidentially) 620

something that’s factual, nothing complicated.Falk And who’s the hero — if that’s not a bore?Guldstad I’ll tell you in the morning, — not before.Falk It is yourself!Guldstad D’you think I would be suited?Falk A better hero couldn’t be recruited.

But now, the heroine! Of course a wench

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from healthy country parts, not urban stench?Guldstad (shaking an admonishing finger)

Ssh — that’s the nub — for that you’ll have to wait! —(changes his tone)

But tell me what you think of young Miss Halm?Falk O, you are more acquainted with her charm; 630

my judgement can’t exalt her or deflate. — (smiling)Be careful though, that nothing goes astraywith that new piece you claim is on the way.Suppose I broke the trust that you’re extending;completely altered both the plot and ending?

Guldstad (good humouredly) I’d have to say amen, and stop contending.Falk Your word on that?Guldstad You’re one of the elect;

it would be daft if your advice were wreckedby a mere amateur in this respect. (withdraws to the background)

Falk (to Lind in passing)Yes, you were right. The businessman is set 640

on murdering your budding happiness. (moves away)Lind (quietly to Anna)

You see, I was quite justified to fret;we’ll have to break the news now, nonetheless.

(they approach Mrs Halm, who is standing with Miss Skjære by the step)Guldstad (chatting with Styver)

A lovely evening.Styver I suppose it is,

if one is in the mood —Guldstad (jocularly) Something amiss?

Your love-life maybe?Styver No, at least not quite —Falk (who has approached)

With your engagement though?Styver You could be right.Falk Hurrah! then you’re not wholly out, are you,

of poetry’s small change, as I can tell.Styver (offended) I cannot think what poetry’s to do 650

with me, and my engagement too, as well.Falk You mustn’t think; if love should ever try

to probe into its essence, it would die.Guldstad (to Styver) But if there’s something to be put to rights,

then out with it.Styver Yes, all day long I’ve puzzled

how best to bring the matter up, unmuzzled,but haven’t a conclusion in my sights.

Falk I’ll help you and I’ll keep it very short:since your promotion to be the intended,you’ve felt hemmed in and, so to speak, offended. 660

Styver Yes, it’s been pretty hard at times, I’ve thought.Falk (continuing) Felt loaded down with lots of obligations

that you have no idea how you can meet;

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look, that’s the case.Styver What’s your insinuation?

I’ve paid my debts on time, I’m not a cheat;(addressing Guldstad)

but there’ll be more demands next month, I’m certain;when one gets married, then one has a wife —

Falk (gaily) Now youth’s blue heaven draws aside its curtain,that was an echo from your blithe young life!It will be so, I understand your fears; 670

all you need now is wings, and then some shears!Styver Some shears?Falk Yes, will’s shears, shears that can cut through

each bond that binds, thus liberating youto fly away —

Styver (angry) What do you take me for!Implying that I’d break the civil law!Do you imagine I would cut and run?You’re trying to defame me as someone —it’s verbal slander!

Falk Have you lost your wits?What do you mean by that? Explain why it’s —

Guldstad (laughing, to Styver)It’s up to you to clarify, so what 680

is this about?Styver (pulls himself together) A bank loan that I’ve got.Falk A loan! Styver (hastily, to Guldstad) Some hundred daler, quite a stack,

against a guarantee to pay it back.Miss Skjære (who has been standing with Mrs Halm, Lind and Anna)

My word! Congratulations! Heavens, how splendid!Guldstad What’s all this then? (joins the ladies)Styver It’s not what I intended.Falk (enthusiastically throwing an arm around his shoulders)

Hurrah! the trumpet sounds with dulcet blastthat you’ve joined Cupid’s listed men at last!(drags him across to the others)

Miss Skjære (overwhelmed with emotion, to the men)Just fancy, Lind and Anna — she’s said yes!Now they’re engaged!

Mrs Halm And that means eight, no less,who’ve found a husband from this house of mine; — (to Falk) 690

seven nieces — all with lodgers for their mate — —(she is overcome and holds a handkerchief to her eyes)

Miss Skjære (to Anna) What crowds will come here to congratulate!(hugs her, overcome with emotion)

Lind (grasping Falk’s hands)My friend, I feel I’m drunk, it’s quite divine!

Falk Sssh — as a plighted man you’ve joined the ranksof bliss’s temperance party, don’t forget; stick to the rules, no orgies here, no thanks!

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(turns to Guldstad with an expression of mischievous sympathy)Well, Mr Guldstad!

Guldstad I’m prepared to betthose two will make a very happy pair.

Falk (with a look of some surprise)You bear your sorrow with a stoic air.I’m glad.

Guldstad What is it, sir, you’re intimating? 700

Falk That in the light of what you’re contemplating,of your hopes that you —

Guldstad Well? My hopes, you say?Falk Yes, or at least you seemed well on the way;

you asked about Miss Halm; you stood there, drewme out on her —

Guldstad (smiling) Well yes — but aren’t there two?Falk The other one, the sister then you mean?Guldstad The other one, the sister — to the letter.

You get to know that sister somewhat better,and then judge for yourself if she’s not beenendowed to make her mark at something more 710

demanding than a housemaid’s daily chore.Falk (coldly) She’s every quality one can revere.Guldstad Not every one — no social graces, charm,

those she is somewhat lacking in I fear.Falk A flaw, yes.Guldstad But if only Mrs Halm

took her in hand one winter — I would betshe’d yield to none.

Falk No, carry off the palm.Guldstad (laughing) Yes, girls are funny creatures, true, and yet — !Falk (gaily) They look like winter rye-grass as they grow;

they peek unnoticed through the frost and snow. 720

Guldstad At Christmas, in the ballroom, they come out —Falk Well fed, on gossip, scandal, to be sure —Guldstad And when the warm spring weather comes —Falk They sprout

green shoots, young ladies but in miniature!Lind (steps over and shakes Falk by the hand)

How sensible I’ve been, can’t tell you how delighted with my luck, secure position!

Guldstad There’s the fiancé for you; tell us howa man enjoys his nearly-wed condition.

Lind (rattled) That’s private, not a subject I’d allow —Guldstad (playfully) Bad tempered, eh? I shall complain to Anna. 730

(joins the ladies)Lind (following him with his eyes)

How can one bear that man’s unpleasant manner!Falk But you were wrong about him.Lind O? I find —Falk It wasn’t Anna that he had in mind.

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Lind What? Was it Svanhild?Falk That I couldn’t say.

(with a whimsical expression)Forgive me, martyr in another’s stead!

Lind What do you mean?Falk Now tell me, have you read

the dailies?Lind No.Falk I’ll send you one today;

an item on a chap whose fate it wasto have his eye-tooth pulled, still sound, becausea cousin had the toothache, but not he. 740

Miss Skjære (looking off left)Here come the pastor!

Mrs Halm Such virility!Styver Five, six, seven, eight young children —Falk Mostly recent.Miss Skjære Ugh, one could well describe it as indecent!

(in the meantime a carriage has been heard coming to a halt off left.The pastor, his wife and eight children, all in travelling clothes, comeon one by one.)

Mrs Halm (hastens to greet them)How nice to see you — welcome!

Strawman Very kind!Mrs Strawman But you have visitors —Mrs Halm O never mind!Mrs Strawman If we’re a nuisance, please, —Mrs Halm I promise you,

not in the slightest, you’ve come right on cue!My daughter Anna’s got engaged — well, just.

Strawman (takes Anna’s hand with unction)Let me bear witness; that affection, love,is such a treasure as nor moth nor rust * 750

corrupt, given something over and above.Mrs Halm How good of you to bring the children here

to town with you, though.Strawman We’ve left four behind,

besides the ones we’ve brought with us.Mrs Halm O dear!Strawman Yes, three of them are still too young to mind

the loss of a loving father’s presence, owingto the parliamentary session —

Miss Skjære (to Mrs Halm, as she takes her leave) Must be going.

Mrs Halm But why go quite so early, stay my dear!Miss Skjære I must go spread the news in town, must fly; —

the Jensens go to bed quite late I know; 760

the aunts will be delighted, ever so.Anna, my sweet, you must stop being shy.Tomorrow’s Sunday; you’ll face inundations

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of folk here, offering congratulations!Mrs Halm Goodbye then. (to the others)

Now I’m sure a cup of tea’sacceptable. Dear Mrs Strawman, please — !

(Mrs Halm, Strawman, his wife and children, Lind and Anna enter the house)Miss Skjære (taking her fiancé’s arm)

Now we can day-dream! Styver, just look wherethe moon sits gliding on her throne, unflurried!But you’re not looking!

Styver (grumpily) O, I am, I swear;it’s just that guarantee that keeps me worried. 770

(they exit left. Falk, who meanwhile has been watching Strawman and his wife closely, remains in the garden alone; a light comes on in the house)Falk It all seems dead, burnt out, — a sorry sight —!

This is the way folk go through life, in pairs;huddling like tree-trunks on the barren heightblackened by forest fires; one despairs.As far as eye can see, an arid starkness, —o, is there no-one to restore life’s green!

(Svanhild comes out on the verandah with a flowering rose-plant which she places on the paling)

Yes, one — there’s one — !Svanhild Falk! Out here in the darkness!Falk And not afraid? No, darkness is serene.

But tell me, weren’t you frightened there, inside,where lamps shine on the corpses, deathly white — 780

Svanhild O, fie!Falk (gazing at Strawman who appears at the window)

He used to be so full of fight.He fought the world for a belovèd bride;the man defied the church, indoctrination,his love burst forth and bloomed in joyous song — !Look at him now! Canonicals worn long, —a walking tragedy of degradation!That female there, too, in her grubby skirt,shoes down-at-heel that scuffle in the dirt,she is the wingèd sylph whose bounden dutywas to have led him to commune with beauty. 790

What’s left now of the flame? Smoke, nothing more, Miss!Behold: sic transit gloria amoris!

Svanhild It’s wretched, wretched, yes, the whole affair;I cannot think of one whose lot I’d share.

Falk (briskly) Right, we’ll defy, we two, a dispensationthat isn’t nature’s but an affectation!

Svanhild (shaking her head) Believe me, though, our common cause, I fear,would fail as sure as we are standing here.

Falk No, victory’s won when two advance together.We shall not swell the vulgar congregation 800

as birds of triviality’s own feather!You see, the individual’s vocation

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is to be independent, staunch and free.A task that will not daunt us, you and me.A fervent spirit’s pounding in your veins,you’ve warm, warm words to voice your dedication.You won’t endure convention’s servile hireimposing on your heart, it must beat free;you do not have a voice that’s meant to beobedient, blending with the common choir. 810

Svanhild And do you think I haven’t felt the painsthat cloud my vision, clamp my heart in chains?I longed to blaze my own path, choose my way — —

Falk Yes, in your private thoughts?Svanhild No, action, deed.

But then the aunts brought good advice to heed, —they wanted to discuss, explore, and weigh — — (drawing closer)my private thoughts, you said; no, I proceededon one bold venture — I’d become a painter.

Falk What then?Svanhild It failed, I lacked the talent needed;

but lust for liberty grew none the fainter; 820

after the studio the stage invited.Falk And that scheme, too, was certain to be blighted?Svanhild Yes, thanks to what the oldest aunt maintained;

a post as governess should be obtained — —Falk But no-one’s ever told me about this!Svanhild Of course, on purpose — ignorance is bliss.

(with a smile)They feared my “future prospects” might be harmedif young men got to know and were alarmed.

Falk (gazes at her for a while thoughtfully and sympathetically)I’ve often felt you’d met with some such fate, —I well recall the first time that I saw you, 830

how little you and others would relate, and how not one could fathom you, explore you.Around the board a well-dressed gathering sat,the tea smelt nice, — the talk droned on, subdued,the ladies coloured while the men-folk cooedlike tame doves — on a sultry day at that!Religious matters and moralitydiscussed by matrons and maturer mothers,and young wives lauded domesticity,while you perched there, apart from all the others. 840

And when the tea-time chatter started swirlinginto a verbal Bacchanalian caper, —there you shone, silver-bright as hall-marked sterling,amongst forged coins and counterfeited paper.You were the coinage of another country, were valued here at quite a different rate,scarce valid in a glib and smart debateon poetry, art, butter, all and sundry.

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Then, as Miss Skjære, bless her, had her say —Svanhild (with a straight face)

Her swain behind her, like some warrior bold, 850

his hat borne shield-wise for his arm to hold —Falk Your mother nodded, seated by the tray:

“Drink Svanhild, drink, before the tea gets cold.”And drink you did, that luke-warm, horrid brew,like all the others, old and young ones too.The name, though, made me think of that past age;the savage Volsung saga’s griefs, its rage,with its long line of forebears overthrown, it seemed to span from their times to our own;I saw you as a Svanhild in new guise, 860

adapted to our current modern manners.War’s been too long waged under specious banners,the army now wants peace and compromise;but if law’s scorned, the sin of this our time,then blood that’s innocent must purge the crime.

Svanhild (with mild irony)I never thought a simple brew of teacould breed such thoughts, couched so blood-curdlingly;but it’s of course the least part of your skill, to hear soul’s voice even when its voice is still.

Falk No, don’t laugh, Svanhild, please; I see a tear 870

that shines behind your jesting — see it clear.See something more; should you be crushed to makemere dust, be trodden into formless clay,then every jack-of-all-trades will essaywith crude, blunt modelling-knife, to cheat and fake.The world will plagiarise you, God’s own creature,re-shape you, use its image as the norm;will change you, add and alter every feature.And when you’re pedestalled in such a form,it will rejoice: “Look, normal after all! 880

Such cool plasticity — marmoreal! And top-lit by the lamp and chandeliershe goes so nicely with the décor here!”

(grasps her hand ardently)But if you’re doomed to spiritual death, be sage!Live first! Be mine in God’s blithe spring, be mine;you’ll enter soon enough the gilded cage.Fine dames may thrive there, a true woman pine,and I love you the woman, not the dame.Let others have you when the home lays claim;it’s here, though, that my life’s spring first took root, — 890

it’s here my tree of song began to shoot, it’s here I’ve grown my wings, become — I know itif you don’t fail me, Svanhild — a true poet!

Svanhild (gently reproachful, withdrawing her hand)O why make me, just now, this protestation?

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It was so sweet, our meeting casually.Why couldn’t you keep silent? Must it bethat happiness requires a declaration?Now all that’s over, now that you have spoken.

Falk No, I have set the mark, now you must clear it,my doughty Svanhild — that’s unless you fear it. 900

Dare to choose freedom, if your will’s unbroken.Svanhild Choose freedom? Falk Yes, there’s freedom, obviously,

in answering unreservedly will’s call;and you were sent by heaven, it’s plain to see,to save me from aestheticism’s thrall.I’m like the bird from which I take my name,must fight against the wind, must soar on high;that is the buffeting I’ve learnt to tame;it was from you that I drew strength to fly.Be mine, be mine, until the world encroaches, — 910

when ways must part, when autumn-tide approaches.Make your soul’s riches echo forth in mine and poem upon poem I’ll repay you;then you can age beneath the lamps that shine,a tree turned golden, nothing shall dismay you.

Svanhild (with suppressed bitterness)I can’t accept your kind prognostication,though clearly it’s meant kindly, in a way.You see me as a child sees its creation,a flute cut from a reed, to last a day.

Falk That’s better though than standing in a bog, 920

till autumn drowns it in a murky fog. (vehemently)You must! You shall! It is your duty, yes, to share with me God’s wonderful largesse.I’ll make your merest dream sheer poetry!That bird there — that I killed unwittingly; it was your song of songs, your psaltery.Don’t fail me; sing for me the bird’s sweet lays, —my life shall be a poem that repays!

Svanhild And when you’ve fathomed me and I’m drained dry,when I have sung my last song from the bough, — 930

what then?Falk (gazes at her)

What then? Come, you remember; why —(points out into the garden)

Svanhild (softly) You’re good with stones — yes, I remember now.Falk (laughs scornfully)

So that’s your vaunted spirit, fine and free, —that takes risks only when the risk pays off. (vehemently)I showed the goal for you. Reply — don’t scoff —with an eternal vow.

Svanhild You’ve answered me:I’ll never join you where your path will take you.

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Falk (abrupt and cold)Enough; the world can have you, I forsake you.

(Svanhild has turned away from him in silence. She places her hands on the verandah paling and rests her head on them.)Falk (paces back and forth a few times, takes out a cigar, halts beside her and after a glance says):

No doubt you’ve found all this ridiculous,this evening entertainment I’ve provided. 940

(pauses as though expecting an answer. Svanhild remains silent)I quite forgot myself, I have decided;your family loyalty’s meticulous; —I’ll speak with kid gloves on now, for the rest,that way we’ll understand each other best.(pauses a moment; but as Svanhild remains motionless,

he turns away and moves right)Svanhild (raises her head after a brief silence, looks at him steadily and approaches)

Now I shall speak to you, and speak sincerelyto thank you kindly for your helping hand.You used an image that awoke me, clearlyexplaining your “fly, soar above the land”.You were, you said, a falcon that must toweraloft, against the winds that buffet you; 950

I was the gust to launch you in the blue, —without me you would lack the strength and power. —How pitiful! And all in all, how tame —yes, laughable, as you at last suspected!That image fell on good soil, all the same;within my mind another was injectedthat doesn’t limp as yours does, halt and lame.I saw you not as falcon but a kite, a paper kite made out of poetrythat of itself was triviality, 960

it was the kite-string that controlled the flight.The fabric seemed inscribed in letters boldwith promises poetic writ in gold;each panel was adorned with epigramsthat flapped and fluttered aimlessly, all shams;the long tail was composed of modern versethat seemed designed to scourge our modern failingsbut somehow managing, for all its flailings,the merest whispered censures, nothing worse.You knelt before me powerless, not strong; 970

you begged “Please make me fly somehow or other!O let me soar aloft on wingèd song,though it upset your sister and your mother!”

Falk (wrings his hands in great agitation)But heavens above, by God —

Svanhild No, take my word,I find such childish games just too absurd;but you, who were for some great mission bred, —

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you’re satisfied to drift upon the breeze,let your vocation dangle on a thread,which I can sever when and how I please.

Falk (briskly) What day is it today?Svanhild (more gently) The right reply! 980

Let this day be a turning point and train youto let your wings decide how far they’ll fly,no matter if they break or they sustain you.It’s desk-work, is mere paper poetry,and life’s concerned with living; that alonegives access to a higher, loftier zone;but choose now, of the two, which shall it be? (draws closer)Well, I’ve done what you asked me: sung my own, my final song while perching on the bough; —it was my only one; I’m empty now; — 990

now, if you want to, you can cast your stone!(she enters the house. Falk remains motionless, gazing after her; far out on the water a boat can be glimpsed from which can be heard the distant and muted song that follows:)Chorus I’m spreading my pinions, hoist sail with glee,

sweep like an eagle life’s mirror, the sea;leave flocks of seagulls trailing.Away with dull ballast and let it be drowned!It could be I’m running my boat aground;but it’s still a delight to be sailing!

Falk (jolted out of his reverie)What? Singing? Yes, of course — it’s Lind’s quartet;rehearsing glee-songs! Yes, that’s it, I bet!

(to Guldstad, who comes out carrying a light overcoat)Why Mr Guldstad, — sneaking off? But please — 1000

Guldstad I’m off. But let me first put on my coat;we unpoetic folk can’t stand a breeze,we find the evening air affects the throat.Good night!

Falk But Mr Guldstad — if you’d spare —a word. Set me a task, some great affair — !Involving me in life — !

Guldstad (with ironic emphasis) Try living — life involves, as you will find, war to the knife.

Falk (looks at him thoughtfully and says slowly):Yes, that’s the programme in a nutshell, yes. (with animation)Now I have woken from my drowsiness, the die is cast, life’s gamble now proceeds, 1010

and you shall see — the devil take me —Guldstad Fie,

no need to swear; that wouldn’t harm a fly.Falk Not words, you’re right, but deeds and only deeds!

I shall reverse the Lord’s strict working scheme; —six week-days wasted on mere idle shirking;my own creation still an empty dream; —

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tomorrow, Sunday — heigh, I shall get working!Guldstad (laughing)

Yes, let me see you strive with all your might;but go in now and lie down first. Good night!

(goes off left. Svanhild appears in the room above the verandah, closes the window and pulls down the blind)Falk No, time for action; I have been benighted. 1020

(looks up at Svanhild’s window and bursts out as though seized with a firm resolution.)

Good night! Good night! And dream sweet dreams tonight;tomorrow, Svanhild, we two shall be plighted.

(he hurries off right; across the water the sound of:)

Chorus It could be you’re running your boat aground;but it’s still a delight to be sailing!(the boat glides slowly into the distance as the curtain falls)

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(Sunday afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, dressed in their best, are drinking coffee on the verandah. Through the open French window several guests can be seen in the garden room, from where can be heard the following song):

Chorus A welcome to this, our engagement do!Now you’re licensed to woo and not hurry,now you can hug as it pleases you,now you can kiss and canoodle too; —no-one will eavesdrop, don’t worry.

Now you can bask in romance’s glow;you’re free to, you’re going steady.Now you can set up house, you know;keep love well-watered and let it grow;demonstrate, please, that you’re ready. 10

Miss Skjære (inside the room)To think you didn’t tell me, Lind, you hid —I should be cross!

A lady (simultaneously) Behaving in that manner!Another (in the doorway, to Anna)

He wrote though, I assume?Aunt No.Miss Skjære My man did.A lady (on the verandah)

How long has this been kept a secret, Anna? (runs into the room)Miss Skjære Tomorrow you must go and buy a ring.Several ladies We’ll measure him!Miss Skjære You will do no such thing;

she’ll do that for herself.Mrs Strawman (on the verandah to a lady who is knitting)

Is that back-stitch?Housekeeper (in the doorway with a tray)

Another cup of coffee?A lady Thanks — a spot.Miss Skjære How nice — you’ll wear the cloak — the new one which

you bought last week for visits, will you not? 20

An elderly lady (in the room by the window)When are we going shopping then, we women?

Mrs StrawmanWhat are they charging nowadays for linen?

A gentleman (to a lady on the verandah)Just look at Mr Lind, with Anna’s glove.

One of the ladies (with squeals of delight)My word, he’s kissing it!

Others (likewise, leaping to their feet) What! Heavens above!

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Lind (appears in the doorway, red and embarrassed)What rubbish! (he withdraws)

Miss Skjære Yes he did, I saw it clearly.Styver (in the doorway with a cup of coffee in one hand and a biscuit in the other)

One shouldn’t treat the facts so cavalierly; I would submit the witness got it wrong.

Miss Skjære (out of sight inside)Come Anna: by the mirror, come along!

Some ladies (calling) You too Lind!Miss Skjære Back to back! Now don’t be shy!Ladies on the verandah

And then we’ll see how much he’s taller by! 30

(they all run into the garden room; laughter and loud conversation can be heard for a while inside)

Falk (who has during the previous scene been strolling in the garden, now comes forward, stops and looks in until the noise subsides somewhat).

They’re butchering a young love’s poesy. —That oaf, who killed a cow and botched the slaughterso that it died in needless agony,was sentenced to ten days on bread and water; —but these — these here — they all get off scot free. (clenches his fists)If only —; hush, words are a mere distraction;from now on I’ll devote myself to action.

Lind (slips out through the door in a hurry)Thank God for that, they’re talking about fashion;now I can slip —

Falk Heigh, you’re in luck; a swarmof fond good wishes, far more than your ration, 40

have buzzed here all day long, sincere and warm.Lind They mean so well, the lot of them; although

a little less would have sufficed, you know,it’s quite exhausting is their contribution;a moment for oneself, that’s the solution. (makes to go off right)

Falk Where are you off to?Lind To the attic — but

knock on the door if you should find it shut.Falk But don’t you want me to bring Anna too!Lind No, — she can send a message, that will do.

Last night we had a long talk, never-ending. 50

I said most things I needed to express, besides it seems wrong to be over-spendingwhat ought to be one’s store of happiness.

Falk You’re right of course; one shouldn’t draw too muchfor running costs —

Lind Hush, look, I have to go.I’ll spoil myself — a pipe perhaps — it’s sucha while since last I smoked, three days or so.My blood’s been in such turmoil it’s confused me,I trembled, thinking, what if she refused me.

Falk Yes, what you need is some sort of distraction. 60

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Lind The pipe will do it, to my satisfaction. (goes off right. Miss Skjære and various other ladies emerge from

the garden room)Miss Skjære (to Falk)

It was him who just left?Falk Your quarry, yes.Some ladies Just think, avoiding us! Others Fie, it’s a shame!Falk He’s just a little shy, but he’ll be tame —

when he’s endured a week-long break, I guess.Miss Skjære Where is he hiding?Falk Why, he’s in the attic

we share between us in the garden hut; (pleading)please don’t disturb him there; please — I’m emphatic,o let him get his breath.

Miss Skjære Alright then — buthe shan’t be free for long.

Falk Grant him at least 70

ten minutes, then restart your sport anew.He’s busy with a sermon — English, too —

Miss Skjære An English — ?Ladies Oh, you’re mocking us! You beast!Falk I’m deadly serious. He’s quite settled on

his call to minister to emigrantssomewhere or other, —

Miss Skjære (shocked) Has he not forgone that crazy notion! Summon all the aunts!Fetch Anna, Mrs Strawman, Halm! — be quick.

Some ladies (indignantly)This must be stopped!

Others Enough to make one sick!Miss Skjære Thank heaven, they’re here! 80

(to Anna, who enters from the garden room together with the pastor, his wife and children, Styver, Guldstad, Mrs Halm and the other guests)

Can you believe what kindof scheme Lind has concocted in his mind?To go abroad as missionary

Anna I know.Mrs Halm And you have promised him — !Anna That I will go.Miss Skjære (shocked) He’s talked you over! Ladies (clasping their hands in horror) Such duplicity!Falk Remember, though, his call — !Miss Skjære Heavens, yes; decide

to follow that when unattached and free;but a fiancé must consult his bride. —No, Anna dear, reflect, don’t trust emotions;you’re city-bred, raised in the capital — ! 90

Falk So it’s absurd, to suffer for one’s call!Miss Skjære Must one submit to a fiancé’s notions?

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God knows, for such a man, no need at all! (to the ladies)Come ladies! (takes Anna by the arm)

No, you wait, and pay attention; —teach him what is expected, by convention.

(they go off right, back stage, with several of the ladies, chattering with animation; the other guests disperse in separate groups about the garden. Falk detains Strawman, whose wife and children hover by him. Guldstad walks to and fro during the following conversation.)

Falk Now pastor, end this young priest’s battle royal —Miss Anna will be put off him directly.

Strawman (pompously) Well, women should support their man, be loyal; — — (pensively)at lunch, though, if I understood correctly,the grounds for his vocation were not clear, 100

the sacrifice involved in this rash venture —Falk No pastor, don’t be hasty with your censure.

My word, my hand upon it, I’m sincere, his calling’s strong, his motives are defendable, —

Strawman (his face clears)Yes, — if he’s sure of something quite dependableby way of income — that’s a different case.

Falk (impatiently)You emphasise what I’d rate common-place; I mean his call — conviction, not his wages.

Strawman (with a sympathetic smile)Without a salary no-one engagesto serve in Europe, Asia, USA, — 110

or elsewhere, though, of course, were he available,still single, my young friend, and free, I’d saythat’s fine, just go ahead, no problem there;for Lind, though, who’s engaged, the whole affairbecomes impossible, and he’s assailable!You work it out — he is quite normal, andin time he’ll want to have a family, —he’ll have the best intentions, I agree,but means, my friend —? “Build not upon the sand” *the scripture says. It’s quite another thing 120

if the offering — —Falk Yes, that counts substantially

as well I know.Strawman You see, that’s comforting!

If the offering involved is quite financially *considerable —

Falk He’ll gladly pay the cost.Strawman He? How am I to take you? — I am lost!

He will receive the offering, is that clear? —Not make it —

Mrs Strawman (appearing in the background) They’re still at it, they’re still here.

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Falk (stares at him for a moment in amazement, suddenly comprehends and bursts out laughing)

Hurrah for offerings; yes, notes by the wadbrought on at festivals in praise of God!

Strawman If one’s hard up for money as a rule, 130

one gets it back at Easter and at Yule.Falk (gaily) “The call” is heard — provided it’s well paid, —

even by the family man, however staid!Strawman Of course; if one’s assured of something sizeable

then mission-work with kaffirs is advisable. (lowers his voice)I’ll calm her down, and try to soothe her ire.

(to one of the children)Here, little Mattie, fetch me out my briar.The briar pipe I mean, you understand me —

(fumbling in his coat pocket)no, wait a moment; — here, I’ve got it handy.

(goes off, filling his pipe, followed by wife and children)Guldstad (approaching)

You play the serpent, then, so that’s your part 140

in young love’s Eden, or so I surmise.Falk The tree of knowledge bears green fruit that’s tart;

tempts no-one. (to Lind who enters right)Why it’s you — what a surprise!

Lind May God preserve us, what a frightful stateour room is in; the curtain torn, lamp broken,our pen-nibs are all snapped, the stove’s top-platehas ink all over it, and in the grate —

Falk (claps him on the shoulder)That vandalism is my new life’s token.I’ve sat behind the curtain far too longcomposing verse beneath the dim lamp-light; 150

it’s over now, my lifeless closet-song;I’ll walk abroad in God’s sun, where it’s bright; —my spring’s arrived, my spirit’s transformation; —now actions, deeds shall be my aspiration.

Lind Make verses out of what you like; but don’texpect my ma-in-law — it’s not her wont —to deal with curtains ripped in several places.

Falk What? She who spoils her lodgers, generouswith nieces, daughters, — do you really thinkshe’d jib at that small task, pull sour faces! 160

Lind (angry) It’s nasty, low, the depth to which you sink,yes, for it compromises both of us!You settle it between you; but the lamp —glass, globe and base — that was my property —

Falk Rot, — that won’t weigh a scruple, not with me;you’ve got the summer, marked with God’s clear stamp, —what do you need the lamp for?

Lind You are crazy;you quite forget that summer-time is short.

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If I’m to cram for Christmas, I’d have thoughtI can’t afford to waste time being lazy. 170

Falk (wide eyed)You’re thinking of the future?

Lind True enough;I fancy the exam will be quite tough —

Falk But last night, don’t forget, you plumped for living;rapt in the present, claimed, with emphasis,you’d risk a middling pass at Christmas, givingas your excuse you’d snared the bird of bliss;you had the feeling that you stood replete,with the world’s riches spread before your feet!

Lind I said so, yes, but you must understandone takes such things cum grano salis —

Falk And — ? 180

Lind This morning I’ll indulge my happiness,on that I’m quite decided.

Falk So you’re set!Lind I’ve got to visit in-laws I’ve not met,

so there goes some time wasted anyway;but further interruptions, I must say,would wreck my schedule, make a thorough mess.

Falk You planned last week, though, you’d be on the loose,a lengthy walking-tour in praise of song.

Lind Yes, but I thought the tour would take too long; 190

the fortnight could be put to better use.Falk No, you stayed here on quite another ground;

you said to the effect that you had foundthe dale, for air and bird-song, matched the fell!

Lind Yes, true enough — the climate here’s quite sound;but one can share these pleasures just as wellwhile working at one’s books industriously.

Falk But books were just what couldn’t serve to beyour Jacob’s ladder —

Lind O, you’re obstinate: one talks like that when free and celibate. 200

Falk (stares at him folding his hands in quiet astonishment)Et tu, Brute!

Lind (looking somewhat embarrassed and irritated) But we two, bear in mind,

have obligations different in kind.I’ve my fiancée. Ask the others yonderwho’ve been engaged a long time, many seasons,they’d give you serious grounds, I hope, to ponder, —they’d all maintain that when pairs choose to wanderthrough life together, then —

Falk Spare me your reasons.Whom do you instance?

Lind Styver, for example;now there’s an honest man, a splendid sample.

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Miss Skjære, too, who is so wise and wary, 210

she says —Falk What of the pastor, though, his Mary?Lind Yes, they’re a funny couple, it’s quite true;

a quiet placidness enshrouds those two —imagine, her engagement’s slipped her mind,and being in love once — all that’s gone as well.

Falk Yes, that’s what sleep does for you, as you’ll find, —the birds of memory, well, they rebel.(places his hands on his shoulder and looks at him ironically)You, my dear Lind, — did you sleep well last night?

Lind I went to bed dog-tired; slept a mitebut at the same time tossed and turned, uneasy. 220

I almost felt that I had gone quite mad.Falk Ah yes, — some spell, that must have made you queasy.Lind Thank God, though, woke up feeling not too bad.

(During this scene Strawman has, from time to time, strolled across the background engaged in conversation with Anna; Mrs Strawman and the children trail behind.

Miss Skjære also appears, along with a number of other ladies.)Miss Skjære (before she enters) O, Mr Lind!Lind They’re after me again!

Come, let us go!Miss Skjære Where are you off to then?

Let’s settle, now, this terrible divisionthat’s opened up between the groom and bride.

Lind Are we divided?Miss Skjære (pointing to Anna, who is standing a little way off in the garden)

That you must decide —that tearful look of hers denotes the missionway out there in America.

Lind God knows, 230

she was so willing —Miss Skjære (sarcastically) Yes, I’m sure it shows!

No, friend, you’ll reach a different conclusionwhen the matter’s been more quietly discussed.

Lind But fighting for the faith, why, that was just what I most fondly dreamt of!

Miss Skjære Who’d put trust,in our enlightened age, on dream, illusion?Look, Styver had a dream the other night —a letter came, adorned with seals of wax —

Mrs Strawman A dream like that means cash, the future’s bright.Miss Skjære (nodding) Yes, he was sued next day — arrears of tax. 240

(the ladies form a circle around Lind and walk up the garden with him,chatting together.)

Strawman (monopolising Anna, who does her best to break away.)It’s on such grounds, my dear young child, as these, it’s on such grounds, based on deliberation,morality, in part, yes, revelation,

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that you will see it’s sheer imagination,this change of mind that’s causing you unease.

Anna (half crying)Yes, God, — I’m inexperienced, so unwary — —

Strawman And it’s so natural that one should be chary, afraid of danger when it isn’t necessary;but don’t let doubt ensnare you, face it squarely,be steadfast; see yourself in me and Mary. 250

Mrs Strawman Yes, I’ve just heard this morning, from your mother,that I was as depressed as you are, dear,when we received the call —

Strawman The reason’s clear:she’d have to leave the city altogether; —but when we’d got some cash somehow or other,and when we’d had the first twins, why, the weatherimproved, blew over.

Falk (quietly to Strawman) Bravo! Hit the heightsyour speech did!

Strawman (nods to him and turns to Anna again.) Keep your word! — you should by rights.

Should one throw in one’s hand? Falk’s been explainingthe mission’s not so poor, it’s self-maintaining — 260

was that not so?Falk No, pastor —Strawman Yes, by God! (to Anna)

If something good can’t come of this, it’s odd.In that case, why give up? Let’s show persistence!Survey the past, the days far in the distance!See Adam, Eve, Noah’s animals as well —the lilies of the field — birds on the fell —the little birds — the little birds — the fishes — —

(continues in a low voice as he moves away with Anna.)Falk (as Miss Skjære and the aunts enter with Lind)

Hurrah! Fresh reinforcements, as one wishes; the Old Guard at the ready, in full gear!

Miss Skjære Well, what a good thing that we found you here. 270

(lowers her voice)We’ve dealt with him, Falk — now this little dear.

(approaches Anna)Strawman (with a deprecating gesture)

She has no need of worldly-wise persuasion;redundant where the soul has done its bit;society must — (modestly) I’ve tried, I admit,as best I could — — !

Mrs Halm Please, no elaboration.They’re reconciled then!

Aunts (moved) God is very kind!Strawman Yes, can there be a soul so deaf and blind

as not to feel this scene supremely moving;it is so very touching, so improving,

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it’s so inspiring when we see a nice, 280

still adolescent child, who’ll sacrifice,but willingly, her all to duty.

Mrs Halm Yes,the family’s played its part, though, none the less.

Miss Skjære The aunts and I — I’m well aware of it!You, Lind, you have her heart’s key in your pocket;but we, her friends, we have a burglar’s kitto use should your key not unlock it; — (squeezing his hand)and if, as years pass, there’s the need, you maystill count on us — our friendship’s no pretension.

Mrs Halm Yes, we’ll stand by you, with you all the way — 290

Miss Skjære Protect you from the serpent of dissension.Strawman O, love and friendship! What an awkward pair!

One moment miserable, then full of bliss! (turns to Lind)But now, young man, let’s settle this affair!

(leads Anna to him)Here, take your bride — and give your bride a kiss!

Lind (gives Anna his hand) I’ll stay.Anna (simultaneously) I’ll come with you!Anna (dumbfounded) You’ll stay?Lind (likewise) You’ll come?Anna (with a helpless look at the bystanders)

My God, we’re still at loggerheads somehow!Lind Yes, what is this?Ladies What now?Miss Skjære (eagerly) There must be some

misunderstanding —Strawman But she gave her vow

to go with him!Miss Skjære And Lind swore he’d be staying! 300

Falk (laughing) They’ve yielded, both of them, what happens now?Strawman Too difficult for me, it’s quite dismaying. (goes upstage)Aunts (chattering)

But, Lord, who was it started off this row?Mrs Halm (to Guldstad and Styver, who have been strolling out in the garden and

now approach)At odds, the lot of them, not hand in glove. (continues talking quietly)

Mrs Strawman (to Miss Skjære as she notices that the table is laid)Now we shall have some tea.

Miss Skjære (curtly) Thank heavens.Falk And now

hurrah for friendship, tea, the aunts and love!Styver But since the problem’s been defined, you see,

it can be solved now quite agreeably.The case hangs on a section in the lawthat says: a wife must cleave unto her mate. 310

The wording’s clear, admitting no debate —Miss Skjære Yes, yes; but reconcile them, that’s the chore.Strawman She must obey the edict from on high —

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Styver Trust Lind, he’ll find a way round that, say I —(turns to Lind)

Call off your trip, stay put, don’t move a yard.Aunts (delighted)

Yes, that would work!Mrs Halm Of course!Miss Skjære That wasn’t hard.

(Meanwhile Svanhild and the maids have laid the table below the verandah step. At Mrs Halm’s invitation the ladies seat themselves at the table. The rest of the company arrange themselves, some on the verandah and in the summer-house, some scattered around the garden. Falk sits on the verandah. Tea etc. is taken during what follows.)Mrs Halm (smiling)

That little squall it seems has passed us by.These summer showers do good, when they stop raining;and then the sun shines doubly bright, ordainingan afternoon beneath a cloudless sky. 320

Miss Skjære Yes, love’s sweet bloom needs rain of different kindsif it’s to thrive — now light, now heavyish.

Falk But brought into the dry it quickly pinesand dies; in that respect just like a fish —

Svanhild No, love of course can well survive on air —Miss Skjære And that the fish must die in —Falk That’s quite true.Miss Skjære You see, we’ve stopped your clever tongue for you!Mrs Strawman The tea smells lovely, it must be quite rare.Falk Let’s stick, then, with the flower simile.

Love is a flower; denied heaven’s benison 330

of rain, it wilts, seems done for, as we see — (breaks off)Miss Skjære And then?Falk (with a gallant bow) The aunts, with watering can, come on. —

But that same simile has been in useby poets down the years; most common folk have swallowed it though really it’s obtuse —for there are lots of species to invoke.So which bloom most resembles love precisely?Name one that the comparison fits nicely.

Miss Skjære A rose of course; that everyone must know; —because it lends life such a rosy glow. 340

Young Lady It is a snowdrop peeping through the drifts,when it appears it heralds springtime’s gifts.

An Aunt It is a dandelion, whose bloom improves when crushed by heel of man and cattle hooves,yes, flowers forth when trodden but not grazed,as poet Pedersen so nicely phrased.

Lind It is the bluebell; in its youthful mindit rings in life’s gay Whitsuntide you’ll find.

Mrs Halm No, it’s an evergreen — won’t turn marooneven in December, still less in mid-June. 350

Guldstad No, it’s Icelandic moss, cropped when it’s fine;

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it heals young ladies’ bosoms should they pine.A Gentleman No, a horse-chestnut tree, — that is unbeatable

for stoking stoves — the fruit, though, quite uneatable.Svanhild No, a camellia — to adorn the hair,

it’s what the ladies at a ball would wear.Mrs Halm No, it is like a flower, my special pet; —

wait — it is rather pale — no, violet; —what is it called now — ? It’s — now let me see — — ;no, it is strange, my loss of memory. 360

Styver These flower-similes are very lame.No, love is rather like a flower-pot: meant to contain one plant, yet all the sameholds eight a little later, like as not.

Strawman (surrounded by the children)No, love is like a pear-tree; it will show,in spring time, pear-tree blossom white as snow;but later on the bloom’s exuberance is transformed, creates big, green protuberances;the parent stock provides them sustenance; —with God’s help they’ll grow into pears perchance. 370

Falk So many heads, so many points of view! *You’re on the wrong track, every one of you;each simile’s adrift; now hear my views; —you’re free to twist and turn them as you choose.

(adopts an erect oratorical pose)There is a plant grows o’er far eastern seas;its native home, a lush, sun-warmed plantation —

Ladies Ah, it’s the tea-plant!Falk Yes.Mrs Strawman That intonation

reminded me of Strawman’s voice —Strawman Now please,

don’t put him out.Falk It’s home, the land of fable,

a thousand miles beyond the barren dune; — 380

top up my cup, Lind! Thanks. Now I’ll attunemy theme to tea and love as best I’m able.

(the guests cluster round)Its home is in the legendary land;ah!; love, too, sets up there its habitation.Only the sun’s blithe off-spring understandthe plant, its nurture and its cultivation.It is the same with love, the rule pertains.A drop of sunlight must flow through the veinsif love is to strike root therein, assumeits greenery, thrive well and burst in bloom. 390

Miss Skjære But China is a very ancient land;tea’s age can be worked out precisely, and —

Strawman It out-dates Tyre and Jerusalem.Falk Yes, it was famous when Methusalem, *

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perched at his school-desk, thumbed his picture-book —Miss Skjære (triumphantly)

And love is by its nature young! To lookfor similarities you’ll need good eyes.

Falk No, love is ancient too, the same applies;that doctrine we subscribe to with the briothat’s shown by Cape-folk too, and folk in Rio; — 400

yes, from Nepal to Brevig, northward lying,it’s said all there, too, think that love’s undying; —well, that may be a slight exaggeration, —but old it is, beyond our calculation.

Miss Skjære But love is love wherever felt, I’m sure;while tea, though sometimes good, is sometimes poor.

Mrs Strawman Yes, but we have so many kinds of teas.Anna The earliest springtime shoots that come out first —Svanhild They’re meant to quench the sun-warmed damsels’ thirst.Young Lady They have intoxicating qualities — 410

Another Fragrant as lotus, sweet as almond drops.Guldstad We never seem to have them in our shops.Falk (who has meanwhile stepped down from the verandah)

Ah, ladies, all of us, we’ve all professeda private “heavenly kingdom” in our breast. *There, by the thousand, buds sprout happilybehind the Chinese wall of modesty.But fancy’s little Chinese moppets, sighingas they take shelter in their bowers, vyingto dream their dreams — such dreams — veils on their hip,clutching the golden tulip in their grip — 420

they’re why you picked your crop in early spring;you didn’t think what autumn-tide might bring.So we get stems and rubbish of that ilk, —an aftermath that’s neither hemp nor silk, —a crop of stalks that ought to be despised —

Guldstad That is the black tea.Falk (nods) Widely merchandised.A Gentleman So Holberg says somewhere, about beef tea —Miss Skjære(primly) Quite out of date for modern taste and manners.Falk Ah, but there’s beef-tea love as well, you know;

that browbeats males — as current novels show — 430

there’s proof in the be-slippered infantry advancing under matrimony’s banners.In short, a likeness where you’d least expect.Example, an old saw one can’t neglectsays tea will spoil, lose something of its flavour,the innate quality we all respect,if it’s shipped in by sea for us to savour.It must cross deserts, climb high mountain tracks,pay Russians and the Cossacks custom tax,get passport stamps that will allow it in 440

so we are guaranteed it’s genuine.

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But doesn’t love pursue the self-same routethrough life’s own desert? What a great commotion,what shrieks, what social obloquy to boot,if you, if I shipped love on freedom’s ocean!“Good God, it’s spoilt its moral piquancy!”“Completely lost its legal fragrancy!”

Strawman (rising to his feet)Yes, God be praised — in any decent landsuch wares are still considered contraband!

Falk Yes, for admission here, you are quite right, 450

it must cross regulation’s chill Siberia,where sea air cannot make the stuff inferior; —then it must show the stamp in black and whitefrom verger, organist and sexton too,from friends, acquaintances, from God knows who,and other worthies, over and above the licence granted by the god of love. —And now the last great similarity;look how our culture’s hand lies heavilyon the far east’s “celestial domains”; * 460

it’s ruined walls, its mighty power de-fanged,the last true mandarin of all now hanged,profane hands seek to harvest what remains.“Celestial domains” are just a fiction,a fable-story, widely disbelieved;the wonderland’s a total dereliction,the whole world now a drabness unrelieved.But where is love, with such conditions rife?Ah, that too has departed from this life! (raises his cup)But let it go, the thing our times detest; — 470

a toast, in tea, to Cupid — may he rest!(drains the cup; the company registers shock and indignation)

Miss Skjære That was the oddest speech, quite lamentable.Ladies To think that love could possibly be dead — !Strawman It’s here, look, rosy-cheeked and hale, well-fed,

in folk of every sort at this tea-table.We’ve got the widow in her mourning dress —

Miss Skjære A married couple —Styver One whose faithfulness

can challenge many a pledged fidelity.Guldstad And after that lot comes love’s cavalry,

the light brigade, — those who’ve just pledged their troth. 480

Strawman First come the veterans, who’ve kept their oathdespite the ravages of time —

Miss Skjære (butting in) Behind themthe infant class — who got engaged last year.

Strawman In short, spring, summer, autumn, winter’s here,the facts are palpable, one must so find themif one has eyes to see with, ears to hear.

Falk So what?

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Miss Skjære You’d show them to the door, I fear.Falk But ma’am, you have misunderstood me, flatly.

For when have I denied the status quo?But you must bear in mind it’s not exactly 490

the case that where there’s smoke there’s fire, you know.I’m well aware that people do get bedded,raise families, indulge in suchlike things;you’ve not heard me deny the world is weddedto little baskets and engagement rings, *that blushing little billets-doux are sentsealed with two turtle-doves that — well, dissent,that bridegrooms work themselves into a stateand wedding guests are served with chocolate,that use and custom have devised a code 500

that briefs “the loved one” on what’s à la mode; — —but good Lord, we’ve got majors in addition,we’ve arsenals with heavy guns in store,we’ve drums, spurs, cutlasses to requisition, —but what does all that mean, what is it for?It just means that we get some bandoleeros,by no means that we’re well supplied with heroes.Yes, what if Gardermoen were crammed with tents, — *would that mean high morale, belligerence?

Strawman No, moderation’s everything; indeed 510

it isn’t always wise, can turn out wronglywhen young love is portrayed without due heed,promoted as the only love, too strongly.One shouldn’t always build on that deduction;no, when it comes to marriage, home construction,love needs some solid rock for its foundationthat will not give, ensures its preservation.

Miss Skjære Then I have quite a different way of thinking.I should have thought two hearts, an easy linkingthat could last just a day, but lasts for years, 520

would, proving love authentic, calm your fears.Anna (with warmth)

Not so, — a bond that’s young and free as well,holds a yet bigger nut within its shell.

Lind (thoughtfully)It may waft the ideal’s scent forth, who knows,like maiden snowdrops, but beneath the snows.

Falk (suddenly breaking in)You fallen Adam! That’s nostalgia wailing,that yearns for paradise behind the paling.

Lind What rot!Mrs Halm (offended, to Falk, as she rises)

It isn’t kind, not in the slightest,to stir things up, renew hostilities;don’t worry, your friend’s joy shines at its brightest — 530

Some Ladies No, that’s for sure!

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Others Yes, everyone agrees.Mrs Halm She mayn’t have learnt to cook at school, but she

will surely learn the knack this coming fall.Miss Skjære Embroider her own wedding finery.An Aunt (pats Anna on the head)

Be sensible and so delight us all.Falk (laughs aloud)

O what good sense — it is a parody —your sound advice is, — mad frivolity!Was mere good sense, then, all that he desired?Or cook-book skills, professionally acquired?He came here as the spring’s delighted swain, 540

picked out the garden’s sweetest young, wild rose:you tended it for him; — he came again; —what’s grown? Rose-hips!

Miss Skjære(huffed) That’s funny I suppose?Falk A useful, handy fruit — by God, that’s true!

But rose-hips aren’t the spring bride that he knew.Mrs Halm If Mr Lind has sought a ballroom-lover,

too bad; she isn’t one as he’ll discover.Falk O yes, I know the current preconception,

the toying with ideals of homely life;it is the root-stock of a huge deception 550

that grows tall as a beanstalk, just as rife.I take my hat off, ma’am, to “ballroom-lovers”, —for such a one is beauty’s progeny, the ideal spreads a golden net that coversthe ballroom, scarcely, though, the nursery.

Mrs Halm (with barely suppressed acerbity)It isn’t hard to find an explanation for your behaviour; a fiancé’s lostto his old circle, that’s it, — to their cost;I’ve learnt my lesson in that situation.

Falk Of course — seven nieces, all wed I might mention — 560

Mrs Halm And married happily!Falk (with emphasis) Are you quite sure?Guldstad What?Miss Skjære Mr Falk! Why —Lind Is it your intention

to stir up trouble!Falk (bursts out) Yes, dissension, war.Styver What you, a layman, novice, just a wag!Falk Forget that; I’ll still raise aloft my flag!

Fight with my hands and, yes, I’ll use my boots,fight the big lie with its great massive roots,the lie that you’ve looked after well and watereduntil it looks like truth, completely altered!

Styver Objection; testimony’s so much dross; 570

I rest my case till later — —Miss Skjære O shut up!

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Falk So that’s love’s quenching spring from which to sup,that whispers the unhappy widow’s loss, —that vernal love whose happiest achievementwas to delete the words “grief” and “bereavement”.So that’s the love triumphant, undismayedthat courses through the married couple’s veins; —the love that boldly manned the palisade,that trod convention underfoot and madea mock of all the fools the world contains! 580

So that is love’s resplendent, lovely flamethat keeps fiancés going for so long,for years! Of course! It is the very samethat moved our humble clerk to take to song!So that’s the rapture young love feels so dearly,that’s scared to venture o’er the ocean shelf,demanding sacrifice, when it should reallyshine boldly forth — by sacrificing self! —O no, you mundane prophets of evasion,for once let’s give the thing its proper name; 590

let’s call the widow’s state loss, deprivation,the married state mere habit, dull and tame!

Strawman No, no, young man, you go too far, such cheek!There’s blasphemy in every word you speak!

(stands face to face with Falk)I’ll gird my jerkin on now to give battlefor old beliefs against the modern prattle!

Falk I go to battle as unto a feast.Strawman Good! You will find I’ll face the fire, not weaken. (moves closer)

A wedded pair’s as sacred as a priest.Styver (on Falk’s other side)

And an engaged man —Falk Half and half, a deacon. 600

Strawman Look at these children; see this little throng?They can already sing my victory song!How was it possible — how could you do it — —no, truth’s all-powerful, no answer to it; —who but a fool would want to shut his ears?See, — they’re love-children, all these little dears — — —

(breaks off embarrassed)o, that’s to say — no, well of course I meant — !

Miss Skjære That is the very oddest of expressions.Falk See, you’ve refuted your own argument;

one of our good old national obsessions. 610

You’ve separated wedlock’s covenantsfrom love’s own ditto; — how percipient; they’re chalk and cheese, completely different,like flowers growing wild and potted plants.With us, love soon becomes a branch of learning,long since divorced from passion’s tender yearning.With us love has become a kind of trade;

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it has its guild, a banner to parade;with separate ranks for sweethearts, husbands, — why,they serve apprenticeships and qualify; 620

for it’s a union, like a bed of kelp.A choir’s the one thing missing; that would help —

Guldstad A journal, too!Falk Right! You shall have a journal!

That was a good idea; we’ve several suchfor children, women, hunters, congregations.I hope the cost won’t bother us too much.And there you’ll see, as in some demonstrations,each motley group bound by a bond fraternal;we’ll print each blushing note that the adorers —the Williams — wrote to their sweet, bashful Lauras; 630

we’ll print among events that are quite dire, —including murders, crinolines on fire, —engagements broken in the week as well!We’ll advertise there, under Buy and Sell,where second-hand rings fetch far lower prices;announce the birth of twins and triplets too, —and as for weddings, we’ll drum up the crew,the federation that a show entices.Engagement called off? It shall be headlinedamongst a page of other newsy pieces. 640

“Love’s demon claims a victim; toll increases!”Yes, it will thrive, you’ll see; for at the stagewhen readers may not like my coverage,I’ll use a hook that won’t leave them for dead; —I’ll slay a bachelor, — on centre spread. You’ll see me back the public all the way;a tiger, yes — as editor I’ll prey —

Guldstad The title?Falk “Love’s Norwegian Shooting News”Styver (draws near)

But are you serious? What, would you chooseto risk your reputation in this way? 650

Falk I’m deadly serious. The current viewis one can’t live on what love may afford;I’ll prove that claim entirely untrue,I’ll live on love as richly as a lord,especially if Miss Skjære, as I trust, will soon write Mr Strawman’s “Life’s Romance”to come out in instalments, as it must.

Strawman (alarmed)What sort of scheme is that? My sacred aunts!My life’s romance! When was my life romantic?

Miss Skjære I never said that — !Styver He mistook her meaning! 660

Strawman What! I’ve been guilty of, why, contraveningthe customary rules! The lie’s gigantic!

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Falk All right. (slaps Styver on the shoulder) Here stands a friend who will prove staunch.

I’ll print our law-clerk’s verses for my launch.Styver (glances at the parson aghast)

You must be mad! No, I must have my say! —You dare allege that I write verse — —

Miss Skjære Heavens, no — !Falk Your office leaked the rumour anyway.Styver (in high dudgeon)

Our office doesn’t leak, I’d have you know!Falk You’ve let me down, you too; but I have just

one faithful brother still whom I can trust. 670

I’m waiting for ‘Heart’s Saga’, one of Lind’s, whose love’s too delicate for ocean winds,who’d sacrifice, for love, his nation’s soul, —thus showing feeling in its noblest role!

Mrs Halm I can’t put up with this, not any longer.We cannot share one roof another day; —please leave at once, I cannot put it stronger.

Falk (with a bow as the company goes indoors)I had expected that, I have to say.

Strawman It’s war between us now, war to the knife;you’ve slandered me, together with my wife, 680

yes, children too, from Trina down to Anna; —crow, Mr Falk, — in true idealist manner —

(breaks off and goes indoors with wife and children)Falk And you — tread Peter’s path, display his vice *

with your love, love abandoned in a trice,denied before the co*ck-crow sounded thrice!

Miss Skjære (in pain)Come with me Styver; help me with my stays,they need unhooking — quick, — I’m in a daze.

Styver (to Falk as he leaves with Miss Skjære on his arm)I must renounce our friendship!

Lind So must I.Falk (gravely) You too, Lind!Lind Yes, farewell!Falk You were my nearest — —Lind That doesn’t count; she wishes it, my dearest. 690

(he goes indoors; Svanhild remains standing by the verandah step)Falk So there we are, now I have room to spare; —

I’ve settled everything now!Svanhild Falk, a word!Falk (with a polite gesture towards the house)

That way young lady; that is where the herdof friends, the aunts, your mother went, in there.

Svanhild (draws closwer)Yes, let them go, my way is my decision,the crowd won’t be increased by my addition.

Falk You won’t go?

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Svanhild No. If you’ll confront the lieI’ll stay, a squire on whom you can rely.

Falk You, Svanhild; you —Svanhild Who yesterday indeed — ?

O, Falk, were you then, yesterday the same? 700

You bade me like a youngster with his reed —Falk The reed-pipe fluted, fluted me to shame!

No, it was child’s play then, you’re right I fear;but you have roused me to a task far higher; —amid the tumult rears a mighty spire,the church where truth shall ring out loud and clear.It’s not enough, like some divinity, to gaze aloof upon the wild unrest; —one must bear beauty’s emblem on one’s breast,like Olaf’s cross upon his panoply, — 710

must gaze farsighted o’er the far-flung field,though wreathed in warfare’s chaos, never yield, —to catch a glimpse of sun behind the cloud —that’s the demand life makes, imperiously!

Svanhild And you’ll meet that demand when you stand free,and stand alone.

Falk Was I, then, with the crowd?And that’s the challenge. No, it’s over now,my pact with heaven, my own private vow.I’ve done with poetry within four walls,my verse shall live outdoors, the rowan calls, 720

my battle shall be waged in open field; —I, or lie’s falsehood — one of us shall yield!

Svanhild Turn with a blessing then, from verse to deed!I have misjudged you; you are warm at heart;forgive me, — no ill feelings as we part —

Falk My future’s craft holds two, in case of need!We are not parting. Svanhild, if you dare,we’ll fight the fight together as a pair!

Svanhild Together? Falk Look, I stand bereft of all,

at odds with friends, acquaintances who vent 730

their venom on me, harsh and virulent; —so tell me, are you with me, stand or fall?My future road’s the well-worn highway now,where feet, bogged down in caution’s mire, linger; —there, like the others, I shall strut and bow,and place a ring on my belovèd’s finger!

(takes a ring off his hand and holds it aloft)Svanhild (breathless with tension)

That’s what you — ?Falk Yes, and we shall show the world

that love possesses its own special powerthat carries it unscathed and in full flowerthrough life’s prosaic mud and chores, unfurled. 740

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I pointed out my bonfire yesterday, that blazed just like some mountain-sited beacon; —you as a woman, you recoiled, would weaken;now I point out a woman’s proper way!The vows it made, a soul like yours will keep;the gulf’s before you, — Svanhild, make the leap!

Svanhild (scarcely audible)And if we fall — ?

Falk (jubilant) O no, the gleam I seethere in your eye confirms our hope of winning!

Svanhild Then take me as I am, take all of me!The leaves are sprouting now; my spring’s beginning! 750

(she throws herself boldly into his arms as the curtain falls!)

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(Evening; bright moonlight. Coloured lights burn amongst the trees. In the background, tables laid with bottles of wine, glasses, cakes etc. From the house, where all the windows are lit, can be heard the faint sound of a piano and singing during the scene that follows. Svanhild stands by the verandah. Falk enters right with some books and a portfolio under his arm. The valet follows with a suitcase and valise.)

Falk Is that the lot then?Valet Yes sir, just about;

there’s only your light coat still to come outand a small knapsack.

Falk Good, I’ll carry thosemyself. It’s time we started I suppose; —look, here’s the folder.

Valet All tied up I see.Falk Yes, Sivert, all tied up.Valet Right. Falk It’s to be

burnt, please, at once.Valet Burnt?Falk Yes, to ash — consign (smiling)

each dud poetic I.O.U. of mine.The books too, — you can keep them, for I shan’t.

Valet O no, I can’t accept them, really can’t. 10

But Mr Falk — abandon all your books?You’ve finished learning then? That’s how it looks.

Falk What can be learnt from books I’ve learnt already —and far, far more.

Valet Far more? Now take it steady!Falk Well, hurry up; the porter’s at the door; —

now you must help adjust the load, what’s more.(the valet exits left)

Falk (approaches Svanhild, who comes to meet him)This is our moment, Svanhild, you and I in God’s light, under evening’s constellations;see how they glitter through the leaves on highlike fruit, the tree of life’s new generations. 20

I’ve broken the last shackles, now I am at last relieved from being scourged and whipped;now, like the tribe of Jacob, I’m equipped,with staff in hand, to serve the paschal lamb. *You purblind generation, too abasedto glimpse the promised land beyond the waste,slaves of the age, who do as you are bid,go build a royal grave its pyramid, —I seek out freedom though the present’s stark;a freedom found where strong tides ebb and flow, 30

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but falsehood’s crafty host, my deadly foe,shall find its grave-plot dug there, deep and dark!

(pauses briefly; he looks at her and takes her hand.)You are so quiet, Svanhild.

Svanhild Happy so!O leave me to my dreams, o let me dream.Speak for me; then my budding thoughts will grow,bloom into song, like water lilies, showtheir fullness in the smooth tarn’s placid stream.

Falk No, say it once again, that you are mine, in that firm voice of yours, that candid tone!O say it Svanhild, say —

Svanhild (throws herself into his arms) Yes, I am thine! 40

Falk My songbird, sent by God to me alone!Svanhild Yes, I was homeless in my mother’s house,

I was a lonely soul, I must confess,a guest unbidden at joy’s blithe carouse, —meant nothing there — yes, sometimes even less.And then you came! At long last I could findanother who could voice what’s in my mind;you could give shape to my vague aspiration,you spark of youth mid life’s old generation!You half-repelled me with your intellect, 50

yet in a flash attracted my respect,just as a leafy strand attracts the sea and rocks repel the billows’ urgency.I’ve seen now to the bottom of your soul,you have me now, entirely and whole;you are the tree, dear, on that wave-teased shore,my heart flows strongly now, will ebb no more!

Falk Thanks be to God, then, He who has baptisedmy love in pain’s font. It had scarcely crossedmy mind, what drew me to you till, apprised, 60

I saw in you a treasure nearly lost.Yes, praise to Him who in my book of lifehas graced with sorrow’s signet my love’s course,who gave us leave to overcome our strifeand bade us both ride, pledged as man and wife,home through the forest on the wingèd horse. *

Svanhild (points towards the house)In every room inside there’s celebration,there lamplight’s shining on the happy pair,there sound the friendly songs and conversation.A passer-by could well believe that there 70

amid gay chatter one can find true bliss. (pityingly)You lucky child in worldly terms — poor Sis!

Falk You say she’s poor?Svanhild Yes poor; has she not split

her precious soul with him and all his kin?A hundred hands it’s been invested in

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till no-one owes her for the whole of it.There isn’t one she can rely on solely, not one to dedicate her life to wholly!O I am ten-fold wealthier than her; I’ve just one single person to prefer. 80

When you first came, brave banner fluttering,and countless songs, my heart was empty still;now you pervade my soul like fragrant spring;you lead my thoughts whichever way you will.Yes, I thank God at this auspicious timethat I was lonely till you came in sight; —that I was dead and heard the church bell chimethat bade me leave the vain world for the light.

Falk Yes we, who have no friends to call our own,we are the wealthy ones; we share joy’s treasure, 90

we two who stand out in the dark, alone,and gaze through windows at the scenes of pleasure;let lamplight shine, the music be entrancingas those inside enjoy their merry dancing; —look higher, Svanhild, — up into the blue; — —a thousand little lamps shine bright there too. —

Svanhild Hush, listen dearest, — on night’s balmy breezea music swells among the linden trees.

Falk It is for us they glitter in their throng —Svanhild It is for us it sings the dale a song. 100

Falk I feel I am God’s prodigal; the heirwho failed Him, fell into the worldly net.He beckoned me, come home without repining;and now I’ve come He lights the lamp that’s shining,prepares a welcome for his new-found son,pours for me secretly his benison.Since then I’ve sworn that I shall never falter, —will guard, as sentinel, the camp of light.We shall as one — for our love will not alter —compose a hymn to love’s triumphant might. 110

Svanhild And see how easy victory is for two,when he’s a man —

Falk She, woman, through and through; —it is impossible for them to lose!

Svanhild To war with deprivation then, and sorrow;(shows Falk his ring which she wears on her finger)I’ll go at once and tell them all the news!

Falk (hastily) No, Svanhild, don’t go now; wait till tomorrow!This evening we shall pluck joy’s blooming rose;sheer sacrilege if chores should interpose.

(the garden-room door opens)Your mother! Hide! I won’t have prying eyesinspecting you this evening as my bride! 120

(they go out through the trees towards the summer-house. Mrs Halm and Guldstadcome out onto the verandah)

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Mrs Halm He’s really leaving!Guldstad Yes, that’s no surprise.Styver (enters) He’s leaving ma’am!Mrs Halm O heavens — yes, we’re wide

awake, we see!Styver A contretemps I dreaded!

He’ll keep his word; I know him, he’s pig-headed.He plasters us across his wretched pages;my sweetheart has been featured several times,amongst engagements off, twins, wedding chimes.I tell you what — why don’t we try, by stagesif you can bear it, peaceful arbitration?

Mrs Halm D’you think he would agree?Styver I think so, yes. 130

There’s evidence, unproven, nonethelesssuggesting that his new aggressivenesswas the result of his intoxication.Yes, there is proof, although it might be questioned,that tells against the person afore-mentioned;it is the case that when he left the table,he turned up in the room he shares with Lindand there behaved most wildly, quite unstable,he smashed things — —

Guldstad (catches a glimpse of Falk and Svanhild, who separate as Falk goesupstage into the background; Svanhild stays behind, concealed by thesummer-house.)

Wait! There’s something in the wind!One moment, Mrs Halm! Falk isn’t going, 140

or if he is, he’s leaving as a friend.Styver What? Do you think — ?Mrs Halm Ah, will you never end!Guldstad No worse than usual, madam, on this showing;

I’ll manage things to benefit us all.If we might have a chat —

Mrs Halm Right — where’s my shawl?(they go off into the garden together; during what follows they can beseen now and then in the background, conversing animatedly.)

Styver (steps down into the garden, where he encounters Falk, who standslooking out over the water.)You poet gentry are a vicious crew;we civil servants, statesmen, through and through.I’ll work things out as I see fit —

(catches sight of Strawman emerging from the garden-room.) oh, oh!

Strawman (on the verandah) He’s really leaving! (goes to join Styver.) My dear fellow, go, —

just step inside a moment, have my spouse — 150

Styver What, have your wife, in there, inside the house!Strawman Just chat with you I mean. Our young, you know,

we parents, stick together. It is rare,

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if ever — (as his wife and children emerge through the door.) They’re already on the stair.

Mrs Strawman Where are you, Strawman?Strawman (quietly to Syver) Think up something, do,

that might detain them — and amuse them, too!Styver (approaches the paling.)

Has madam read our latest circular?A model of good style, our best so far; —

(takes a book out of his pocket.)I’ll quote it in extenso if I may —

(ushers them politely into the room and follows, Falk comes in from the garden; he and Strawman meet; they look at one another for a moment.)Strawman Well?Falk Well?Strawman Now, Mr Falk!Falk Now, pastor!Strawman Pray, 160

have you thought better since we parted?Falk No.

My path’s inflexible, and there I’ll go —Strawman Even if it’s your poor neighbour’s hopes you tread?Falk I’ll plant truth’s herb to fill their place instead.

No doubt you’re thinking of my new device, (smiling)Love’s Journal?

Strawman That, perhaps, was just a joke?Falk Believe me, yes, that scheme’s gone up in smoke;

it’s deeds, not print I’ll use to break the ice.Strawman Excuse me, but I’m sure I know someone

who won’t escape scot-free, without a mark; 170

he’ll take advantage, will that lawyer’s clerk, —and you’ll be rightly blamed for what you’ve done.You’ve stirred up ancient feuds I hoped might ceaseand you can wager he won’t hold his peacewere I to utter just one word, look you,opposing shrill demands made by his crew.These civil-servants have a strangle-holdon papers now-a-days, or so I’m told.One penny-hap’nny article can slaymy reputation, printed in the leaders 180

that smite like any Samson, fire away,start casting nets and snares before their readers,especially when there’s quarter-day to handle.

Falk (conceding) Well — there your case was something of a scandal — —Strawman (depressed) No matter. They’ve the space, they wouldn’t falter;

they’d sacrifice me on revenge’s altar.Falk (humorously)

You mean on retribution’s. Well deserved.In life we’re haunted by a Nemesis;it soon or late creeps on us unobserved —no-one escapes, it never aims to miss. 190

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If one has sinned against the great ideal,in wades the press, agog and full of glee,and one must bear the punishment, I feel.

Strawman But when — good heavens — when did I agreewith that “ideal” to which you just referred?I’m married, I am many times a dad, —remember the twelve infants that I’ve had;I’m tied to daily chores as you’ll have heard,I’ve several chapels, parish to upkeep,a lot of cattle, spiritual sheep, — 200

they must be tended, cared for, sheared and fed;there’s threshing, one must turn the compost bed;I’m needed in the byre, when they grind meal; —when have I time to live for the ideal!

Falk Well, off you go back home, but heed my warning;before it’s winter, crawl beneath your thatch.Look, in young Norway now the day is dawning;the host is strong in number, without match;the banner’s filling with the breeze of morning.

Strawman And if, young man, I went home — just suppose — 210

to all my family, indeed all thosethat formed my little kingdom yesterday,would things still seem, today, well, much the same?D’you think I’d be as rich as when I came — (Falk tries to answer)no wait, and hear what I have got to say. (draws nearer)Once I was young, as you are now, but Iwas less intrepid, daring on the whole.I toiled for bread, and there the years went by;such work may callous hands but not the soul.I’m from the north; my home was ringed with moors, 220

my whole world limited to parish chores. —My home — Falk! Do you know what home is, really?

Falk (shortly) I’ve never known one.Strawman I believe that’s true.

A home is where there’s room for five, ideally,but if they don’t get on, it’s cramped for two.A home is where your thoughts need no permissionto romp like children on their father’s knee,it’s where your voice no sooner seeks admissionthan other hearts respond in harmony.A home is where your hair can turn quite grey 230

but no-one notes you’re aging by degrees,where cherished memories grow faint but stay,like hazy ridges looming through the trees.

Falk (with forced derision)You seem aggrieved —

Strawman By something you find funny!The Lord has shaped us so unlike, we two.I lack what you have, all your milk and honey;but I have gained what’s been denied to you.

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There’s many a seed of truth, viewed from on high,seems, scattered by the wayside, a mere lie;you soar, I hardly reach the chimney-cowl, — 240

one bird is hatched an eagle —Falk One, a fowl.Strawman Yes, you can laugh, it’s true, I can’t deny.

Yes, I’m a barnyard-fowl; — right! But my wingprotects a young brood, you’ve not got a thing!And I’ve the barnyard-fowl’s nerve, its big heartand I put up a fight for them when needed.I know you find me stupid for your part,may think still worse of me — yes, point conceded —think I’m too keen on worldly wealth what’s more; —good, we’ve no call to quarrel on that score! 250

(grips Falk’s arm quietly but with mounting vehemence)Yes I am stupid, listless too and greedy;but greedy for God’s gift, my family,made stupid by the war forced on the needy,grown listless sailing loneliness’s sea.But as my youthful vessel, sail by sailwent down beneath the endless timber-shakers,another showed, and foaming at the rail,bore briskly landward mirrored in the breakers.For every dream the turmoil made go under,for every feather broken during flight, 260

I had a gift from God, a little wonder,one I gave praise for, welcomed with delight.It’s them I strove for, strove to heap up treasure.I helped them to interpret Holy Writ; —my little flowers, dear to me past measure; —and you have poisoned them with mocking wit!You’ve proved, both as an æsthete and a writer,my happiness delusion of a kind, my firm beliefs you’ve proved were even slighter; —I now demand of you my peace of mind, 270

but give it me unflawed, intact I say —Falk You want me to define true happiness — ?Strawman Yes, you have cast a stone across my way,

which only you can raise, doubt’s stone no less.Remove the barrier barring me from minethat you’ve built, take the yoke from off my neck —

Falk D’you think I peddle falsehood’s glue on specto mend joy’s fragments and make all seem fine?

Strawman I’ve faith the faith your words have sought to floutyou can restore by words too, in like manner; 280

you can re-weld the links and make them stout; — —consider, — tell the full truth, come, be bold, advise again, — and let me hoist my banner. —

Falk (proudly) I cannot stamp brass happiness as gold.Strawman (looks at him steadily)

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Remember what was said a while back there,by someone on the scent of candour’s hare.

(with raised finger)“In life we’re haunted by a Nemesis;no-one escapes, it never aims to miss.”

(goes into the house)Styver (comes out wearing spectacles and with an open book in his hand)

Ah, Pastor, you must hurry, your young broodare crying —

Children (in the doorway) Daddy!

Styver And your wife is waiting! — 290

(Strawman goes into the house)Wives have no time for serious debating.Falk! (puts his book and spectacles into his pocket and draws nearer)

Falk Yes!Styver I hope you’ve had a change of mood.Falk Why’s that then?Styver O, it makes quite simple sense;

you surely know it’s thought to be essentialnot to divulge what’s strictly confidential; —because one’s duty-bound to reticence.

Falk No, I have heard that’s risky, an offence.Styver By god that’s true!Falk But only for the nobs.Styver (eagerly) It’s risky for the staff in office jobs.

Imagine how my whole career might fare 300

if he were to suspect, that boss of ours,I kept a Pegasus to whinny therein such an office and in working hours.From Audit Office to the Church Commissionthe wingèd horse’s work could earn dismission.But even worse if I were known, in fact,to have broken their official secrets actand leaked a matter of some consequence.

Falk Such carelessness then rates as an offence?Styver (confidentially)

It could compel a civil servant, say, 310

to file his resignation straight away.That is the law on our official labours,to keep our lips sealed even amongst neighbours.

Falk But it’s tyrannical, it’s sheer oppressionto gag a clerk low down in the profession.

Styver (shrugs) That’s what the law says though, like it or not.Besides, just now when wage-reviews are pending,and salaries may alter quite a lot,it isn’t wise to broadcast how we’re spendingour working hours and indeed on what. 320

That’s why I beg you: hold your peace; now look,one word could lose me —

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Falk Your portfolio?Styver Officially known as “copy-book”.

That ledger is a brooch that hides from showthe office bosom, pins its blouse in place;to grope behind that would invite disgrace.

Falk Yet you it was who urged me speak, drop somebroad hint about the treasure in your desk.

Styver That’s true. Was I to know the depths he’d plumb,a pastor so well off that it’s grotesque, 330

who’s got a living, family and wifeand money too, to bear the brunt of life?If he can prove so base a philistinewhat hope is there for clerks with jobs like mine,for me, who simply can’t expect promotion, who’ve a fiancée that I’ll soon have wedded,and there’ll be family to be housed and bedded,etcetera! (more vehemently) Were I rich — what a notion —I’d arm myself against the worldly hostand thump the table-top — that’s not a boast. 340

And were I single, I as well as you,I’d plough right through the drifts, I’d have you know,to the ideal that’s buried in the snow!

Falk Then do it, man!Styver What?Falk Now, your time is due!

Don’t heed the worldly owl’s censorious cries;freedom makes caterpillars butterflies!

Styver (recoils)You mean break off — ?

Falk Why yes, you might as well, —remove the pearl, and what use is the shell?

Styver Such notions well might suit a student binge,they’d make a decent legal person cringe! 350

The fifth King Christian passed a law — my source —on promises of marriage, though of coursethat was in his time; nowadays it’s true,it’s not in Breach of Contract, ’42;so insofar as breach was not a crime, and broke no law, it isn’t criminal —

Falk Well, there you are!Styver Well yes, but in our time

the exception’s rarely mentioned, if at all.In hard times she’s stood by me, she’s a treasure,she doesn’t ask much in the way of pleasure, 360

and I am happy, quite contented thatI am a home-bird, a born beaurocrat.Let others follow flocks of swans in flight;a modest life can also prove just right.What did the Councellor, Herr Goethe say *

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about the white and shining Milky Way?No-one can cream off happiness from that,still less find a supply of butter-fat —

Falk Were butter-churning what you would select,still, as you toil, your guide must be the soul; — 370

a man’s his age’s burgher, must respectit* civic aspirations, fit the role.What’s small can be attractive, on one hand;the art, though, is to see and understand.Not everyone who’s happy clearing dungcan fancy he’s a shire-horse, nobly sprung.

Styver Then let us go, in peace, our even way;we don’t obstruct your road, we choose to stayon well-marked paths, you’d rather range the fells.Hmm, we went ranging there too, she and I; 380

but real life means not song but drudgery, —however one may live, it’s work that tells.You see, our youth is one long legal hearing,and that’s what irks, the last thing that we needed; —go for a compromise, don’t try appealing;you’d lose your every right if you proceeded.

Falk (confidently and self-assured as he glances towards the summer-house)No, were it from the highest court of law, —the verdict will be merciful, I’m sure!I know that couples can well keep alive, their faith, enthusiasm, still survive; 390

your doctrine, though, is mean, contemporary:that the ideal is purely secondary.

Styver No, it comes first; it’s full of zest and yetlike blossom, fades as soon as fruit-buds set.

(inside, the sound of the piano and of Miss Skjære singing: “Ach, du lieber Augustin”. Styver stops and listens with great rapture.)She sings that song to call me, does my pet,the song that spoke the first time that we met.

(he puts his hand on Falk’s arm and gazes into his eyes)Whenever she brings that to life with passionmy darling’s keyboard echoes in such fashionthat the ecstatic ‘yes’ revives again.And when at last our loving season ends, 400

and dies, and we’re reborn as bosom friends,it will link then and now, will that refrain.Though desk-work bend my back — I’ll not grow younger —my daily toil become a fight with hunger,I’ll make my way home, though the road be long,where still the past is conjured up in song.If there’s one measly evening we can shareI’ll have escaped, undamaged, from the snare!

(he goes into the house. Falk turns towards the summer-house. Svanhild comes out; she is pale and agitated. They look at each other for a moment in silence then throw themselves into each other’s arms.)

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Falk O, Svanhild, let’s stay loyal, side by side!You fresh wild-flower in the graveyard; — see 410

what they call life in springtime’s infancy!They smell of corpse, the bridegroom and the bride;they smell of corpse, each couple you may meeton our street corners, — o, their smiles are sweet, but inwardly dank sepulchres of lies, death’s torpor marks their every enterprise.And that’s what they call living! ‘Pon my soul,is such a burden worth that rigmarole?To raise a brood of children just for that;feed them on morals, duty, till they’re fat; 420

stuff them with faith until the hour tollsannouncing slaughter-time for their young souls!

Svanhild Let’s go away, Falk!Falk Go? And where to, pray?

The whole world over, isn’t it the same,and doesn’t everybody’s wall displaythe same lie decked in truth’s neat glass and frame?No, we’ll stay here, enjoy the trumpery, the clowning and the tragicomedy, —a nation that believes the nation’s lies!Look at the priest, his wife, Lind, Styver — they 430

all played at trick-or-treat, they proved to beliars at heart, though honest outwardly, —yet still they’re decent folk too, in their way!They lie both to themselves and one another;the fact of lying, that they seek to smother; —each one, though on his beam-ends otherwise,thinks he’s a Crœsus, blessed with luck; none feelsit’s they who drove themselves from Paradiseinto the brim-stone pit, head over heels;but none of them can see themselves aright, 440

and each one thinks he’s Paradise’s knight,and each one smiles even though the going’s rough;and if the Devil comes, all huff and puff,with horns and cloven hooves — and worse quite likely —he’ll nudge his neighbour, chide him with a gruff“Take off your hat, look, there goes God Almighty!”

Svanhild (after a brief, thoughtful silence)How wonderful — a loving hand has shownme where the spring-tide path leads on ahead.The life I’ve played at in vague dreams, alone,I shall from now on call my daily bread. 450

O, gracious God! I groped through life, groped blindly, —you summoned light —led me to Him, so kindly!

(looks at Falk with loving wonderment)What strength there is in you, you mighty treeamidst the wind-felled trunks, the forest’s grave,who stand robust, alone, yet shelter me

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from harm — ?Falk It’s God’s truth, Svanhild, makes one brave.Svanhild (glances with some wariness towards the house)

They came like evil tempters, those two — showthey’re spokesmen for each side in our time’s schism.One asks how youthful love can hope to grow when soul’s weighed down by sheer materialism. 460

The other asks: what place has love in lifewhen poverty imposes endless strife?It’s horrible — to preach, pontificatingon gospel truth, yet still endure life’s baiting!

Falk And what if that’s our lot?Svanhild Our lot? What then?

Can circ*mstances change our regimen?I have already told you: if you’ll fightI’ll stand and fall beside you. O `tis light, *the Bible’s call: leave home, through joy and pain follow the loved-one unto God’s domain. 470

Falk (embraces her)Come winter then, however wild your weather!We cannot fail, we’ll face the storm together.

(Mrs Halm and Guldstad enter backstage right. Falk and Svanhild remain standing by the summer-house)

Guldstad (quietly)See, Ma’am?

Mrs Halm (astonished) Together!Guldstad Still in doubt? But why?Mrs Halm It’s quite astonishing.Gulstad I’ve often spotted

him quietly brooding on some scheme he’s plotted.Mrs Halm (agitated)

Who could have thought that Svanhild was so sly?(crossly, to Guldstad)

But no, I can’t believe it —Guldstad Well, let’s see.Mrs Halm This very moment?Guldstad Yes, decisively.Mrs Halm (holds her out hand to him)

May God be with you!Guldstad (seriously) Thanks, may need Him, yes.

(moves downstage)Mrs Halm (looks after him as he moves away)

Whatever happens she’ll find happiness. 480

(goes into the house)Guldstad (approaches Falk)

Not in a hurry are you?Falk The next chime

means I must leave.Guldstad That gives us ample time.Svanhild (trying to leave) Goodbye!

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Guldstad No, stay!Svanhild Must I?Guldstad Till you’ve replied.

Things must be straight between us, clarified; —we must speak frankly now, whoever wins.

Falk (surprised)We three?

Guldstad Yes, Falk, — we three must slough our skins.Falk (suppressing a smile)

Your servant, sir.Guldstad Then listen. Some half-year

has passed since we first grew acquainted; we —well, we have squabbled —

Falk Yes.Guldstad Could not agree;

fired broadsides at each other without pause; 490

you seemed the leader of a noble cause,I, a mere business man, brought up the rear.And yet it seemed some bond still bound us tight together, as though old forgotten storiesfrom my own youth’s great store of former glorieshad been tracked down by you and brought to light.Yes, yes, you look at me; but my grey crown had hair that spring would ruffle, and still brown,a brow that, though a calling of my kinddrenched it in servile sweat, was never lined. 500

Enough of that now; business is my trade —Falks (laughs derisively)

You’re sound, your judgement’s of the highest grade. —Guldstad And you, the bright, young bard of aspiration.

(steps between them)So, Falk and Svanhild, that’s why I stand here.Now we must speak; for the occasion’s nearwhose scutcheon heralds joy or desolation.

Falk (tensely) Then speak!Guldstad (smiling) I said last night that I was pondering

a sort of poem —Falk One that’s factual —Guldstad (nods slowly) True!Falk And if one asks the source on which you drew — ?Guldstad (glances at Svanhild for a moment, then turns back to Falk)

The self-same ground that we have both been wandering. 510

Svanhild I must go now. Guldstad No, stay and hear me out.

I’ve never begged a woman in this way;I’ve learnt to know you, Svanhild, without doubt;your soul’s too rich for modesty’s display;I’ve watched you grow, unfold in your full pride;you’re all that I admire in womankind; —I saw you as a daughter — I was blind.

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I ask you now — will you become my bride?(Svanhild recoils)

Falk (grabs him by the arm) That’s quite enough!Guldstad Calm down; it’s her decision.

You ask her too — let her choose, willingly. 520

Falk I — did you say?Guldstad (looks at him steadily) We’ve now reached a position

affecting not one happiness but three.It doesn’t help, your putting on a show;though my profession isn’t highly ratedI’ve gained a sort of perspicacity.Yes, Falk, you love her. I was quite elatedto see your young love blossom forth and grow;but that same love, the strong, the daring sort,that’s what may snap her happiness off short!

Falk You dare say that!Guldstad (calmly) By right of my grey hairs. 530

If you should win her —Falk What then?Guldstad Say she dares

risk building everything on that foundation,stakes everything upon that single card, —and life’s storm sweeps the site then, blowing hard,time’s shadow fades the bloom’s bright colouration —

Falk (forgets himself and blurts out)Impossible!

Guldstad (looks at him meaningfully) Hmm, yes, I thought so too

when I was your age. I can well recallI fell in love; ways parted, as they do.We met last evening; nothing left at all.

Falk Last evening?Guldstad (with a grave smile)

Yes, you know the pastor’s dame — 540

Falk What? Was it she who —Guldstad Yes, who lit the flame.

For years I mourned for her like anything,for years her memory haunted my despair,how she was then, her young, fair floweringwhen first we met, when spring was in the air.And now you’re lighting that same foolish flame,you try your luck in that same risky game, —you see that’s why I say to you: Be wary!Just pause and think; your game’s not for the chary.

Falk I’ve told the tea-party of my belief, 550

my firm belief which doubt can never shatter —Guldstad (fills out the sentence)

That love, correctly viewed, denies all grief, need, age, and poverty, they do not matter.Well let it pass; perhaps it may be so;

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but different views are possible you know.What love is, that’s what no-one has unravelled;and where it comes from, this idyllic viewthat individuals suit a life for two —there’s not a soul can tell — completely gravelled.But marriage is a practical affair, 560

and likewise an engagement, my good friend; —it soon becomes self-evident if they’remade for each other, he and she can blend.But love aims blindly, causes so much strife;selects a female merely, not a wife; but if that female isn’t meant to bethe wife for you — ?

Falk (tensely) What then?Guldstad (shrugging) Catastrophe.

Engagements that turn out well don’t relyon love and love alone but on much more,on family ties one’s happy to explore, 570

on shared ideas, on seeing eye to eye.And marriage? O yes, marriage is a seaof obligations, claims not easilycompatible with love, with pure affection.Requires domestic skills and calm reflection,a knack for cooking, all that’s practical,and self-denial, heeding duty’s call, —and more that, while this lady here is present,can’t be gone into, might prove less than pleasant.

Falk And so — ?Guldstad Take some advice, it’s solid gold. 580

Draw on experience; look at your confrères,where every loving couple makes so boldas to assert that they are millionaires.They’ll rush to reach the altar, two by two;they’ll set up house, feel happy there and revel;a time of confidence and derring-do;and then the day of reckoning falls due!Their home’s gone bankrupt now, gone to the devil!Bankrupt of bloom to deck the woman’s cheek,bankrupt of thoughts to blossom in her heart, 590

bankrupt of courage — the man’s nerve is weak —bankrupt of fire that glowed there at the start;bankrupt, quite bankrupt now, it falls apart;yet when the pair moved in, they thought, alas,love’s business-house was solvent, quite first-class!

Falk (bursts out)That is a lie!

Guldstad (unmoved) Yet it’s not long agosince it was true. It’s your words that I cite,when, just like the Brabanter, you let go *your salvoes at the party here tonight.

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Then howls of protest came from each direction 600

as they have now from you; the reason’s clear;we, all of us, are troubled when we heardeath named when we’re laid low with an infection.Look at the pastor’s courting days for proof —wrote soulful music, painted with good taste; —why be surprised that since they shared one roof, the pair of them, his talents went to waste?Well suited to be love’s bright seraphim, she wasn’t made to be a wife for him.And what about that clerk who wrote good verse? 610

But then he got engaged — it makes one weep —his rhyming promptly went from bad to worse,and since that time his muse has gone to sleeprocked on law’s surge that’s dull, monotonous.You see then — — (looks at Svanhild)

Are you cold?Svanhild (quietly) No, I’m not cold.Falk (forces a jocular tone)

And since things never end up with a plus,but with a minus, — why are you so boldto risk your capital so recklessly in such a poorly-paying lottery?It might appear you think fate’s destined you 620

to end up, it would seem, in bankruptcy.Guldstad (looks at him, smiles and shakes his head)

My brave young Falk, spare me your flippancy.There’s not one way to set up house, but two.It can be based on nest-eggs of illusions,on long-term prospects that bliss never wanes, —on being always eighteen, on delusionsabout avoiding snuff, rheumatic pains; —it can be based on cheeks forever blooming,on flowing locks, eyes bright and debonair,on faith that such things never fail, assuming 630

the time will never come to use false hair.Be based on intuitions, airy notionsthat in the desert blooms grow undeterred,that hearts will, throughout life, recall emotionsroused when that first “I will” was said and heard.What is such business called? You know, I’m sure; —it’s humbug, friends, sheer humbug, plain and pure!

Falk I see now you’re a demon at temptation.You’re comfortable, perhaps a millionaire,I’m not, my worldly goods cannot compare; 640

two gunners could arrange their transportation.Guldstad What do you mean by that?Falk No problem there.

I take your firm foundation allegoryto mean it’s cash that can perform this wonder,

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financing many a dowager to plunder, Saint Gertrude’s halo in its golden glory. *

Guldstad No, it means something better in effect.It is the tranquil, the heart-warming streamof loving-kindness that conveys respectmore than does revelling in a mirage-dream. 650

It is the atmosphere that trust fulfilsof loving care, peace that the home diffuses — ,of mutual deference to each other’s wills,solicitude lest any stray stone bruisesthe loved-one’s foot whichever path she chooses.It is the healing hand of the physician, the manly shoulder glad to bear the weight,composure that survives time’s intermission,the arm that’s steady, faith inviolate. —That is the contribution I can make 660

towards your happiness; now answer me.(Svanhild struggles to speak; Guldstad raises his hand and prevents her)

Think well — to save your making a mistake.Now choose between us, calmly, carefully.

Falk What makes you think —Guldstad That you want her for yours?

I’ve read it deep, deep down there in your eye.So tell her too, while she is standing by. (grasps his hand)The game is over. I must go indoors.And if you’ll swear on oath that you’ll provide herwith such a life-long friend who’s staunch and true,with such support, a staff to prop and guide her 670

as I can — (turns towards Svanhild) Good, then it’s high time you drew

a line through the proposal I made you.Then I’ll have gained a quiet victory; you’ve won, you’re happy; that’s my wish, you see. (to Falk)And, by the way, you once referred to cash;Believe you me, it’s little more than trash.I’ve no close ties, I’ve always lived alone;all my possessions will become your own;you shall be like a son and she my daughter;you know my farm that’s in a distant quarter; 680

I’ll move there, — you’ll have your establishmentand in a year we’ll find out how things went. —You know me now, Falk; now consult your mind.The voyage down life’s stream is not, you’ll find,a game to be enjoyed, mere carefree cruising; —so there, in heaven’s name — yours for the choosing!

(goes into the house. A pause. Falk and Svanhild exchange furtive glances.)Falk You are so pale.Svanhild And you so quiet.Falk True.Svanhild He was our worst trial.

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Falk (vacantly) Chilled me through and through.Svanhild His aim was shrewd.Falk He has a marksman’s eye.Svanhild It seemed that everything had gone awry. (draws closer) 690

How rich in one another we both were,when all the world forsook us both outright,when our thoughts lashed the shore and caused a stir,like crashing billows in the still of night.Then courage reigned triumphant in our soul,and trust that shared love would be ever cherished; —then he came bearing worldly gifts, he stoleour faith, sowed doubt — now all of that has perished!

Falk (vehemently)Forget about it! Why, his every word was true for others, but for us, absurd! 700

Svanhild (gently shaking her head)Corn that’s been laid by doubt’s hail can’t survive,it can’t, despite life’s havoc, wave and thrive.

Falk (with mounting anxiety) Yes, we two, Svanhild —Svanhild O don’t fantasise;

you’ll harvest tears if what you plant is lies?The others that you mention? Can’t you seeeach one has thought the same as you and me —that it was he who dared defy the lightning —whose knee no storm could force to yield and bend,whom distant, threatening clouds, however frighteningcould never reach, engulf him, in the end? — 710

Falk The others set themselves too many a goal;your love is all that matters now to me.They scare themselves in life’s shrill rigmarole,my branches shall protect you quietly.

Svanhild But if it ever fades, should ever founder,the love that should be strong, endure all, —can you provide a base that will prove sounder?

Falk No, if that failed then everything would fall.Svanhild And dare you then, before God, make a vow

that it will never wither or grow sear, 720

but be as fragrant then as it is now, will last through life?

Falk (after a brief pause)A long time, never fear.

Svanhild (bitterly)“A long time”; o what phrasing, “long” indeed!What use is “long” to love if it’s sincere?It dooms it, just as mildew blights the seed.“Love lives eternally”, — now there’s a creed —that song must die, then, and instead we’ll hear“I was in love the whole of this last year!”

(as though suddenly inspired)No; no; our day of happiness shan’t set,

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shan’t drown in drizzle in the cloudy west; — 730

our sun shall go out like some portent, yetgo out at noon, still shining at its best.

Falk (dismayed)But Svanhild, what — !

Svanhild We’re children of the spring;there’ll never be an autumn after that,when in your breast your songbirds cease to singand never yearn for their old habitat.And after that, no snow will be allowedto wrap dream’s corpses in a winter shroud; —our love, that love triumphant, blithe and gayno sickness shall consume nor age decay, — 740

it shall die, as it lived, young, rich and proud.Falk (deeply hurt)

If I’m not by you, what becomes of me?Svanhild What if we stayed together — not in love?Falk A home! Svanhild That bliss’s elf was forced to flee!

I lack the strength to be your wife I see,can feel it, know it now — o heavens above!I could have schooled you in love’s playful sport,but daren’t, in life’s trials, give your soul support.

(comes closer, with increasing vehemence)We’ve revelled in a spring day’s frolicking;no drowsing now on indolence’s pillows! 750

Give love’s elf liberty, let it take wingwith flocks of young gods on life’s airy billows!And though our future’s vessel may capsize, —one plank will float, — I know how it will be;the doughty swimmer will reach paradise!Let happiness go under, drown at sea;but our love, God be praised, shall still contrive,despite the shipwreck, to reach land alive!

Falk I understand you! But to part like this!Just when the glorious world lies open too — 760

here, in mid-spring, beneath the heavenly blue,the day that we baptised our youthful bliss!

Svanhild That’s why we must. Henceforth our journey will,our blissful journey, needs must go downhill.And woe, if on the day when we atone, and stand before God’s judgement seat where He,a righteous God, demands we pay the loanHe made us when we voyaged on life’s sea —how then, Falk, will it answer if we sayin our defence “we lost it on the way.” 770

Falk (decisively)Cast off the ring!

Svanhild (ardently) You — ?

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Falk Off! I understand!Yes, it’s the only way to you not banned!Just as the grave leads where life’s dawn is burning,so love embraces life when it is free,released from wild desires and from all yearning,to seek the spiritual home of memory.Come, Svanhild, cast it off!

Svanhild (joyfully) I’ve done what’s right!I’ve filled your soul with poetry and light!Fly free! You’ve soared in triumph for the sun, —your Svanhild’s sung her swan-song, now it’s done! 780

(takes off the ring and puts it to her lips)Until the whole world falls into the sea,sink, dream; — I sacrifice you in its stead!(she takes a few steps upstage, throws the ring out into the fjordand returns to Falk, her face transfigured.)I may have lost you in the life ahead;but I have won you for eternity!

Falk (firmly) And now to work, each in our different ways!Our paths will never cross, that is the price.We’ll each strive bravely in our own great cause.We were infected by the time’s malaise;sought, without fighting, victory’s applause,the Sabbath peace without the working days, — 790

though fighting is what’s called for, sacrifice.Svanhild No morbid thoughts, though. Falk No — we shall not wilt;

we are not threatened by a flood of guilt;the life-long memories we two have reapedshall through the murky cloud-banks shine abroad,stand, like a seven-hued rainbow, colour-steeped, —as covenant between us and the Lord.By that light you shall go about your duty —

Svanhild And you soar high, a bard in search of beauty!Falk A bard; yes, for a bard is every man, 800

be it in school-room, parliament or kirk,each man of high or low estate who canglimpse the ideal concealed behind his work.Yes, I’ll soar high; the wingèd horse stands ready;my call’s a noble one, my faith is steady!And now, good-bye!

Svanhild Good-bye!Falk (embraces her) A kiss!Svanhild The last! (tears herself free)

I’ll gladly lose you till this life has passed.Falk Though every light world-wide should cease to shine, —

the inspiration lives; for it’s divine.Svanhild (withdraws into the background)

Good-bye! (withdraws further)Falk Good-bye! — I can still shout my mirth — 810

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(waves his hat)hurra for God’s sublime love here on earth!(the door opens. Falk moves right; the youngsters amongst the

guests emerge in high spirits, laughing)Young girls Let’s dance outside!A girl O, life is made for dancing!Another A springtime dance with garlands is entrancing!A third Yes, dance, let’s dance!Together Yes, never stop our prancing!

(Styver comes on with Strawman, arm in arm. Mrs Strawman follows with the children)

Styver Yes, from today on, you and I are friends.Strawman And you and I shall fight for mutual ends.Styver When two props of the state agree some measure —Strawman The outcome will be —Styver (quickly) Profits!Strawman Yes, and pleasure.(Mrs Halm, Lind, Anna, Guldstad and Miss Skjære emerge, together with the remaining guests. All eyes are searching for Falk and Svanhild. A general flurry

when they are seen to be standing apart.)Miss Skjære (amongst the aunts)

What? Am I dreaming or awake? I saw —Lind (who has not noticed)

I’ve got to meet my brand-new brother-in-law. 820

(he, with several of the guests, approaches Falk, but takes an involuntary step backwards to look at him and exclaims:)

What’s happened to you? You are like some Janus, *two faced!

Falk (with a smile) Yes, I’m proclaiming like Montanus: *“The world is flat, Messieurs — my eye-sight lied;flat as a pancake”; — are you satisfied?

(goes off right abruptly)Miss Skjære It’s off!Aunts It’s off?Mrs Halm Hush, let’s have no excess!

(approaches Svanhild)Mrs Strawman (to the pastor)

.It’s off, just fancy!Strawman Can it be?Miss Skjære O yes!The ladies (from one to the other)

It’s off! It’s off!(they huddle together in the garden)

Styver (as though turned to stone) What? He’s proposed? You are — ?

Strawman Just fancy, yes! The laugh’s on us, ha, ha — (laughs)(they look at one another, speechless)

Anna (to Lind) Good riddance! Ugh, he’s nasty, far too smart.Lind (embraces and kisses her)

Hurra, for you are mine now, heart and soul! 830

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(they retire into the garden)Guldstad (looks back towards Svanhild)

There’s someone here who’s got a broken heart;but anything that lives still, I’ll make whole.

Strawman (getting his voice back and embracing Styver)You can be happy now, your prospect’s fairersince you’re engaged still to your dear Miss Skjære.

Styver And you can watch your progeny expand, year after year, with yet more little Strawmen!

Strawman (rubs his hands with satisfaction and gazes after Falk)He’s got what he deserves, he’s so off-hand; —so should they all, those co*cky, over-sure men!

(they go upstage deep in conversation as Mrs Halm approaches with Svanhild)Mrs Halm (quietly and eagerly)

You’re not committed then?Svanhild No, I am free.Mrs Halm O, good; so you well know a daughter’s role — 840

Svanhild Advise me.Mrs Halm Thank you, child.

(with a gesture towards Guldstad) He’s quite a catch,and since there’s no objection on the whole —

Svanhild Yes, one thing I insist on in the match,I want to move —

Mrs Halm And so, I’m sure, would he.Svanhild And time —Mrs Halm How long? Remember bliss is calling.Svanhild (smiles quietly)

Ah, not too long; until the leaves start falling.(she moves away towards the verandah; Mrs Halm seeks out Guldstad)

Strawman (amongst the guests)There’s one thing, my dear friends, I’ve learnt today:though many doubts may well beset us sorely,truth overcomes the serpent in its way,and love will triumph.

Guests Yes, will triumph surely! 850

(embraces and kisses all round. Laughter and song heard off left)Miss Skjære Now what is that?Anna The students!Lind The quartet,

off to the mountains; how could I forgetto send apologies — ?(the students enter left and remain standing by the entrance)

Student (to Lind) We’re punctual!Mrs Halm It’s Lind you’ve come for then?Miss Skjære It would be cruel;

he’s just now got engaged —An Aunt And so you see

he’s can’t go traipsing off, he isn’t free.Student Engaged!All the students Congratulations!

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Lind Thanks a lot.Student (to his companions) That’s sunk our singing tour, like as not!

What can we do — no tenor we can hire.Falk (who enters right, in summer gear, with student cap, a rucksack and a stick)

I’ll sing the part in Norway’s blithe young choir! 860

Student You, Falk! Cheers!Falk To the fells, God’s nature’s there,

that drives the bee to leave its winter lair!I have a double sound-board in my breast,a zither that’s equipped with double stringingthat resonates, the high, with life and zest,and one that’s lower, keeps the bass notes ringing.

(to various students)You have the palette? You’ve the sketch book, score?Good; let us swarm the leafa*ge while it’s green,bear home the pollen to the beehive’s queen,the mighty mother whom we all adore! 870

(to the assembled company, as the students leave, and thechorus from Act 1 can be faintly heard outside.)

Forgive me my short-comings, great and small.I shall not brood, (softly) but I’ll remember all.

Strawman (beside himself with glee)O fiddlesticks, joy’s cup is still intact!My wife’s expecting, positively glowing.

(draws him aside to whisper)The dear soul’s just assured me, it’s a fact —

(continues inaudibly for a moment)thirteen by Michaelmas, the way it’s going.

Styver (with Miss Skjære on his arm, turns towards Falk, smiles exultantly and says,indicating the priest)I’ve raised the cash, can settle down — all’s clear —

Miss Skjære (curtseys ironically)I’ll shed my girlish dresses come next Yule.

Anna (follows suit as she take her fiancé’s arm)He may have promised, but my Lind stays here —

Lind (conceals his embarrassment)I’ll seek a post at some young ladies’ school. 880

Mrs Halm I’ll train young Anna in all kinds of lore —Guldstad (gravely)

I’ll start a poem, nothing grand, right now, on someone’s life pledged to a sacred vow.

Falk (with a smile for the whole company)I’ll seek out future’s challenges — I’ll soar!Good-bye! (quietly to Svanhild)

God bless you, my spring-season’s wife; —you’ll hear of me, where’er my quest may take me!

(waves his hat and follows the students)Svanhild (follows him with her eyes for a moment and says, quietly but firmly)

Now I have finished with my outdoor life;the leaves are falling; now the world can take me.

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(At that moment the piano starts playing dance music and champagne corks pop in the background. The gentlemen circulate together with their ladies on their arms; Guldstad approaches Svanhild and bows; she starts, recovers and gives him her hand. Mrs Halm and the closest relatives, who have been observing the scene anxiously, rush towards them and surround them in high glee that is drowned by the

music and merriment amongst the ladies further away in the garden.) (But from far inland, and sounding above the dance music, there echoes, strongly and boldly:)

Chorus of Falk and the students

And though I have sailed my boat hard aground,O, it was so grand to be sailing! 890

Those on stage Hurrah!

(dance and celebration; curtain)

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121 Knudsen’s grammar: Knut Knudsen, a prominent member of a group working towards the standardisation of spelling in the three Scandinavian languages.

196 Some grief: The sentiment echoes those expressed in Ibsen’s letter to Karl Anker, 30th July 1858.

271 William Russell: ‘Lord William Russell’, a tragedy by Andreas Munch,1857. Ibsen was impressed by it because it depicted not gods butgreat human beings.

428 Akersdale, the valley in the eastern outskirts of Oslo through which the river Aker flows to enter the fjord near the ancient palace-fortress of Akershus.

449 Saga-King’s Princess: The tragic death of Svanhild is told in the Volsungasaga.

483 Zacharias: Luke 1:5 tells the story of the elderly priest and his wife who, though barren, longed for a son. Because of Zacharias’s belief in God, his prayer was answered and they begot a son, John the future Baptist. Svanhild suggests that the modern, faithless generation is unreasonable in demanding too much of an old, exhausted stock.

524 Exodus 21:24.

560 Galère: A quotation from the currently popular sixteenth century French poet Villon.


119 Build on sand: Matt 7:26.

123 Offering: The Norwegian “offer” can mean both sacrifice and the collection made after a church service, hence the misunderstanding that follows.

371 Falk’s translation of the Latin phrase “quot homines tot sententiae”. (Terence, Phormio)

394 Methuselem: Ibsen’s form of Methuselah.

414 Heavenly kingdom: China was known as the celestial kingdom (460).

495 Engagements were confirmed by the delivery of a ring in a small basket. The

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receipt of a basket from which the bottom had been removed signified the endof an engagement.

508 Gardermoen: The military base and parade-ground north of Oslo.

683 Mat.XXVI:34 Jesus said unto [Peter] … before the co*ck crow, thou shaltbetray me thrice.


24 Genesis 32:10 And Jacob said: for with my staff I passed over this Jordan.

66 Wingèd horse: Pegasus, the horse of the Muses.

365 At the invitation of the Duke, Goethe spent several years at the Court ofWeimar, where he was saddled with a variety of official responsibilities —for agriculture, forestry, mining. He also had a seat in the Cabinet and was Chairman of the Treasury.

468 It is light: Matt 11:30 “and my burden is light”. The circ*mstances maysuggest a further reference, to Genesis 11:24. [And Adam said] “Thereforeshall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife;”

598 Brabanter: In Holberg’s ‘Jacob Von Tyboe’ the protagonist, a version of Plautus’s miles gloriosus, boasts of his single-handed prowess at the siege of Brabant.

646 Probably St Gertrude of Nivelles, a life-long virgin who died young in 659.A body of folk-lore became attached to her name. Ibsen’s “golden glory” mayrefer solely to her iconographic representation but may also hint at the giftattributed to her of ensuring sunny weather at the planting season — henceher adoption as the patron saint of gardeners.

821 Janus, a god with two heads facing in different directions, the guardian ofdoorways and gates.

822 Montanus: The conceited, logic-chopping pedant in Holberg’s ‘Erasmus Montanus’ who, having quarrelled throughout the play with the peasants amongst whom he grew up as to whether the earth is round (as he maintains) or flat, is tricked into having to recant or be drafted for military service.

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