I rode into the wildwood,
I sailed across the sea,
But ’twas at home I wooed and won
A maiden fair and free.
It was the Queen of Elfland,
She waxed full wroth and grim:
Never, she swore, shall that maiden fair
Ride to the church with him.
Hear me, thou Queen of Elfland,
Vain, vain are threat and spell;
For naught can sunder two true hearts
That love each other well!
That is a right fair song. See how the young swains cast their glances thitherward! [Pointing towards the GIRLS.] Aye, aye, doubtless each has his own.
[Making eyes at MARGIT.] Yes, I have mine, that is sure enough. Ha, ha, ha!
[To herself, quivering.] To have to suffer all this shame and scorn! No, no; now to essay the last remedy.
What ails you? Meseems you look so pale.
’Twill soon pass over. [Turns to the GUESTS.] Did I say e’en now that I had forgotten all my tales? I bethink me now that I remember one.
Good, good, my wife! Come, let us hear it.
[Urgently.] Yes, tell it us, tell it us, Dame Margit!
I almost fear that ’twill little please you; but that must be as it may.
[To himself.] Saints in heaven, surely she would not—!
It was a fair and noble maid,
She dwelt in her father’s hall;
Both linen and silk did she broider and braid,
Yet found in it solace small.
For she sat there alone in cheerless state,
Empty were hall and bower;
In the pride of her heart, she was fain to mate
With a chieftain of pelf and power.
But now ’twas the Hill King, he rode from the north,
With his henchmen and his gold;
On the third day at night he in triumph fared forth,
Bearing her to his mountain hold.
Full many a summer she dwelt in the hill;
Out of beakers of gold she could drink at her will.
Oh, fair are the flowers of the valley, I trow,
But only in dreams can she gather them now!
’Twas a youth, right gentle and bold to boot,
Struck his harp with such magic might
That it rang to the mountain’s inmost root,
Where she languished in the night.
The sound in her soul waked a wondrous mood—
Wide open the mountain-gates seemed to stand;
The peace of God lay over the land,
And she saw how it all was fair and good.
There happened what never had happened before;