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A Year of Poetry – Day 344

Bjorn and Fridthjof chess were playing
On a board, whose squares displaying
Gold and silver deftly fitted,
Skill and beauty both combined.
Then stepped Hilding in. “Come nigher,”
Fridthjof said, “and sit thee higher
‘Till our game shall be completed,—
Foster-father kind.”

Hilding answered: “From the palace
I am come to you for solace.
Evil are the times at present,
You are all the people’s hope.”
Fridthjof said: “The foe encroaches,
Danger, Bjorn, your king approaches;
You can save him by a peasant.—
He is nothing, give him up.

“Fridthjof, anger kings no longer,
Lo, the eagle’s young grow stronger;
Ring may thwart, their weak endeavor,
Thou wilt surely find it hard.”
“Bjorn, I see you storm the tower.
And in vain your threatening power
‘Gainst the castle is; it ever
Safety seeks behind its guard.”

“Ing’borg sits in Balder’s dwelling,
Grief her constant tears compelling:
She should make thee seize thy armor
She with tearful eyes of blue.”
“Vain you strive my queen to capture,
Dear from childhood’s days of rapture;
Best of all, there’s nought shall harm her
Come what may, to her I’m true.”

“Fridthjof, art thou still unheeding
All thy foster-father’s pleading?
For thy foolish game art ready
I should go without a word?”
Fridthjof then arises, laying
Hilding’s hand in his, and saying:
“My resolve is firm and steady,
And my answer you have heard.

“Go to Bele’s sons and warn them,
Peasants love not those who scorn them;
To their power I bid defiance,
Their behests will not obey.”
“In thy chosen way abide thee,
For thy wrath I can not chide thee;
Odin must be our reliance,”
Hilding said, and went his way.

— Esaias Tegne’r, Fridthjof Plays Chess

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