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The Glaciers of Paradise by Hjalmar Hjarth Boyesen

Spring is waking, and the Yokul lifts on high his glittering shield,

Far and wide in sunny splendor gleams the ice-engirded field,

And the swelling freshet murmurs gay spring-ditties as it flows,

Till its noisy life it mingles in the ocean's grand repose;

And in silence,

Dream-fraught silence,

O'er its course the billows close.

On the strand they gayly played, where the trembling birch trees grow,

Children both with golden ringlets and with cheeks like maiden snow,

Wherein blushed fresh spring-like roses—blushed and hid, and blushed again,

While they plucked the shining pebbles, smooth-worn by the stormy main;

And in silence,

Rippling silence,

Chants the sea its old refrain.

She, the fair and gladsome maiden, raised her head and called his name:

He was deep-eyed, light and slender, shy of mien and slight of frame.

Like a laughing brook she skippèd to and fro along the strand;

He was grave, like nodding fern-leaf, gently by the breezes fanned,

Which in silence,

Pensive silence,

Grows upon the brooklet's sand,

"Ragnas," said she, "when God's angels visit will this world of ours,

They descend, so mother told me, on the Yokul's shining towers.

Now, if I should die, then promise thou wilt climb the peaks of ice,

And my hand I'll reach to help thee up to God's bright paradise."

But in silence,

Wondering silence,

Gazed he in her innocent eyes.

It was summer: thrush and linnet sung their gladsome summer-lay;

Through the fir trees' cooling vista rose the cataract's white spray;

And the light blue smoke of even o'er the darksome forests fell—

Rose and lingered like a lover loath to bid his love farewell;

And in silence,

Wistful silence,

Shed its peace o'er sunlit dell.

On the pleasant hillside sat they, where the silvery birches grow,

And th' eternal sun of midnight bathed them in its fitful glow—

She a maid of eighteen summers, fresh and fair as Norway's spring;

Tall and dark-browed he, like pine-woods in whose gloom the Hulders1 sing,

When in silence,

Deep-toned silence,

Night lets droop her dusky wing.

It was now that he must leave her, and the waves and tempest breast:

Heavy-hearted sat they, gazing on the Yokul's flaming crest;

And she spoke: "O Ragnas, never, while yon airy peak shall gleam

O'er our home, shall I forget thee or our childhood's blissful dream,

Until silence,

Death and silence,

Freeze my heart and memory's stream."

Up he sprang, and boldly looked he toward the midnight-lighted west,

Seized her white, soft hand and pressed it closely to his throbbing breast,

And the love his childhood fostered, and in youth made warm his blood,

Trembled on his lips as trembles bursting flower in freezing bud:

Ah, but silence,

Fateful silence,

Held the mighty feeling's flood.

Years had passed with autumn's splendor, like a glistening shower of gems;

Doubly rich the sunlight streamèd from the Yokul's diadems;

Once again in joyful rapture he his native vale beheld,

For the love long years had fostered whispered still of faith unquelled,

Spite of silence,

Hapless silence,

That the timid tongue had spelled.

And his boat shot swiftly onward: well the rowers plied their oar,

Till a heavy tolling reached them from the church-tower on the shore;

And a solemn train of barges slowly wound their pensive way

Through the hushèd waves that glittered o'er their image in the bay;

And the silence,

Listening silence,

Dimmed the splendor of the day.

O'er the barge that now drew nearer countless virgin lilies wept,

Telling that some white-souled maiden in the snowy bower slept.

Dumb he stood, and gazed in terror on the shroud and lilies sweet,

And a dread foreboding filled him, and his heart forgot to beat;

And in silence,

Deathlike silence,

Fell he at the boatman's feet.

So the parish-people told me; and as years went rolling by

Oft they saw him sadly staring on the flaming sunset sky;

Watched the purple-stainèd Yokul, half in joy and half in pain,

As if hoped he there to see her coming back to earth again;

Mourned his silence,

Fateful silence,

That had rent two lives atwain.

Till at length one Sabbath morning—deep-voiced church-bells shook the air—

While in festal garb the church-folk wandered to their house of prayer,

Reached their ears a hollow thunder from the glaciers overhead,

And huge blocks of ice came crashing downward to the river's bed,

And in silence,

Wrathful silence,

Down the seething stream they sped.

Ah, the breathless hush that followed! for amid the icy waste

They a human shape discernèd, madly, as by demons chased,

Up the crystal ledges climbing, pausing now where ice-walls screen

From the blast, then upward springing o'er abyss and dread ravine,

Until silence,

Glittering silence,

Reigned amid the icebergs' sheen.

They have searched for him, they told me, sought him far and sought him near:

Ne'er a trace was found to tell them of his grave so lone and drear;

But the legend goes that angels swift the shining ether clove,

And with them his youth's beloved bore him up to God above,

Where shall silence,

Deepest silence,

Never sunder hearts that love.

Footnote 1: (return)

The Hulder is the spirit of the forest, and is represented as a virgin of wonderful beauty. She plays her loor, a long birch-bark horn, at evening, and is the protecting genius of the cattle.