The Gold Horns
by Adam Gottlob Oehlenschlager
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Transcribed from the 1913 Thomas J. Wise pamphlet by David Price, email Many thanks to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, UK, for kindly supplying the images from which this transcription was made.




EDITED with an Introduction by EDMUND GOSSE, C.B.


Copyright in the United States of America by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. for Clement Shorter.


Early in the present year Mr. Thos. J. Wise discovered among the miscellaneous MSS. of Borrow a fragment which proved to be part of a version of Oehlenschlager's Gold Horns. His attention being drawn to the fact, hitherto unknown, that Borrow had translated this famous poem, he sought for, and presently found, a complete MS. of the poem, and from this copy the present text has been printed. The paper on which it is written is watermarked 1824, and it is probable that the version was composed in 1826. The hand-writing coincides with that of several of the pieces included in the Romantic Ballads of that year, and there can be little doubt that Borrow intended The Gold Horns for that volume, and rejected it at last. He was conscious, perhaps, that his hand had lacked the skill needful to reproduce a lyric the melody of which would have taxed the powers of Coleridge or of Shelley. Nevertheless, his attempt seems worthy of preservation.

The Gold Horns marks one of the most important stages in the history of Scandinavian literature. It is the earliest, and the freshest, specimen of the Romantic Revival in its definite form. In this way, it takes in Danish poetry a place analogous to that taken by The Ancient Mariner in English poetry.

The story of the events which led to the composition of The Gold Horns is told independently, by Steffens and by Oehlenschlager in their respective Memoirs, and the two accounts tally completely. Adam Gottlob Oehlenschlager (1779-1850), the greatest poet whom the North of Europe has produced, had already attracted considerable renown and even profit by his writings, which were in the classico-sentimental manner of the late 18th century, when, in the summer of 1802, the young Norwegian philosopher, Henrik Steffens, arrived in Copenhagen from Germany, where he had imbibed the new romantic ideas. He began to give lectures on aesthetics, and these awakened a turmoil of opposition. Among those who heard him, no one was more scandalised than Oehlenschlager, then in his twenty-third year. He was not acquainted with Steffens, but in the course of the autumn they happened to meet at a restaurant in Copenhagen, when they instantly experienced a violent mutual attraction. Steffens has described how deep an impression was made upon him by the handsome head, flashing eyes, and graceful vivacity of the poet, while Oehlenschlager bears witness to being no less fascinated by the gravity and enthusiasm of the philosopher. The new friends found it impossible to part, and sixteen hours had gone by, and 3 a.m. had struck, before Oehlenschlager could tear himself away from the company of Steffens.

He scarcely slept that night, and rose in a condition of bewilderment and rapture. His first act, after breakfast, was to destroy a whole volume of his own MS. poetry, which was ready for press, and for which a publisher had promised him a handsome sum of money. His next was to sit down and write The Gold Horns, a manifesto of his complete conversion to the principles of romanticism. Later in the day he presented himself again at Steffens' lodgings, bringing the lyric with him, "to prove," as he says, "to Steffens that I was a poet at last beyond all doubt or question." His new friend received him with solemn exultation. "Now you are indeed a poet," he said, and folded him in his arms. The conversion of Oehlenschlager to romanticism meant the conquest of Danish literature by the new order of thought.

Oehlenschlager has explained what it was that suggested to him the leading idea of his poem. Two antique horns of gold, discovered some time before in the bogs of Slesvig, had been recently stolen from the national collection at Rosenborg, and the thieves had melted down the inestimable treasures. Oehlenschlager treats these horns as the reward for genuine antiquarian enthusiasm, shown in a sincere and tender passion for the ancient relics of Scandinavian history. From a generation unworthy to appreciate them, the Horns had been withdrawn, to be mysteriously restored at the due romantic hour. He was, when he came under the influence of Steffens, absolutely ripe for conversion, filled with the results of his Icelandic studies, and with an imagination redolent of Edda and the Sagas. To this inflammable material, Henrik Steffens merely laid the torch of his intelligence.

It is impossible to pretend that Borrow has caught the enchanting beauty and delicacy of the Danish poem. But he has made a gallant effort to reproduce the form and language of Oehlenschlager, and we have thought it not without interest to print opposite his version the whole of the original Danish.



De higer og soger Upon the pages I gamle Boger, Of the olden ages, I oplukte Hoie, And in hills where are lying Med speidende Oie, The dead, they are prying; Paa Svaerd og Skjolde, On armour rusty, I mulne Volde, In ruins musty, Paa Runestene, On Rune-stones jumbled, Blandt smuldnede Bene. With bones long crumbled.

Oldtids Bedrifter Eld's deeds, through guesses Anede trylle, Beheld, are delighting, Men i Mulm de sig hylle, But mist possesses De gamle Skrifter. The ancient writing. Blikket stirrer, The eye-ball fixed is, Sig Tanken forvirrer, The thought perplexed is; I Taage de famle. In darkness they're groping "I gamle, gamle, Their mouths they're op'ing: Forsvundne Dage! "Ye days long past, Da det straalte paa Jorden, When the North was uplighted, Da Osten var i Norden, And with earth heav'n united, Giver Glimt tilbage!" A glimpse back cast."

Skyen suser, The clouds are bustling, Natten bryser, The night blasts rustling, Gravhoien sukker, Sighs are breaking, Rosen sig lukker. From grave-hills quaking, De sig mode, de sig mode, The regions were under De forklarede Hoie, Thunder. Kampfarvede, rode, Of the mighty and daring, Med Stjerneglands i Oie. The ghosts there muster, Stains of war bearing, In their eye star lustre.

"I, som rave iblinde, "Ye who blind are straying, Skal finde And praying, Et aeldgammelt Minde, Shall an ag'd relic meet, Der skal komme og svinde! Which shall come and shall fleet, Dets gyldne Sider Its red sides golden, Skal Praeget baere, The stamp displaying Afaeldste Tider. Of the times most olden.

Af det kan I laere, That shall give ye a notion Med andagtsfuld AEre To hold in devotion I vor Gave belonne! Our gift, is your duty! Det skjonneste Skjonne, A maiden, of beauty En Mo Most rare. Skal Helligdommen finde!" Shall find the token!"

Saa sjunge de og svinde, They vanished; this spoken Lufttonerne doe. Their tones die in air.

Hrymfaxe, den sorte, Black Hrymfax, weary, Puster og dukker Panteth and bloweth, Og i Havet sig begraver; And in sea himself burieth; Morgenens Porte Belling, cheery, Delling oplukker, Morn's gates ope throweth; Og Skinfaxe traver Forth Skinfax hurrieth, I straalende Lue On heaven's bridge prancing, Paa Himmelens Bue. And with lustre glancing.

Og Fuglene synge; The little birds quaver, Dugperler bade Pearls from night's weeping; Blomsterblade, The flowers are steeping Som Vindene gynge; In the winds which waver; Og med svaevende Fjed To the meadows, fleet En Mo hendandser A maiden boundeth; Til Marken afsted. Violet fillet neat Violer hende krandser, Her brows surroundeth; Hendes Rosenkind braender, Her cheeks are glowing, Hun har Liljehaender; Lilly hands she's showing; Let som et Hind, Light as a hind, Med muntert Sind With sportive mind Hun svaever og smiler; She smiling frisketh. Og som hun iler And as on she whisketh, Og paa Elskov grubler, And thinks on her lover, Hun snubler— She trips something over; Og stirrer og skuer And, her eyes declining, Gyldne Luer Beholds a shining, Og rodmer og baever And red'neth and shaketh, Og skjaelvende haever And trembling uptaketh Med undrende Aand With wondering sprite Udaf sorten Muld From the dingy mould, Med snehvide Haand, With hand snow-white, Det rode Guld. The ruddy gold. En sagte Torden A gentle thunder Dundrer; Pealeth; Hele Norden The whole North wonder Undrer. Feeleth.

Og hen de stimle Forth rush with gabble I store Vrimle; A countless rabble; De grave, de soge The earth they're upturning, Skatten at foroge. For the treasure burning. Men intet Guld! But there's no gold! Deres Haab har bedraget: Their hope is mistaken; De see kun det Muld, They see but the mould, Hvoraf det er taget. From whence it is taken.

Et Sekel svinder! An age by rolleth.

Over Klippetinder Again it howleth Det atter bruser. O'er the tops of the mountains. Stormens Sluser Of the rain the fountains Bryde med Vaelde Burst with fury; Over Norges Fjelde The spirits of glory Til Danmarks Dale. From Norge's highlands, I Skyernes Sale To Denmark's islands, De forklarede Gamle In the halls of ether Sig atter samle. Again meet together.

"For de sjeldne Faa, "For the few there below Som vor Gave forstaae, Who our gift's worth know, Som ei Jordlaenker binde Who earth's fetters spurn all, Men hvis Sjaele sig haeve And whose souls are soaring Til det Eviges Tinde; To the throne of th' Eternal; Som ane det Hoie Who in eye of Nature I Naturens Oie; Behold the Creator; Som tilbedende baeve And tremble adoring, For Guddommens Straaler 'Fore the rays of his power I Sole, Violer, In the sun, in the flower, I det Mindste, det Storste, In the greatest and least, Som braendende torste And with thirst are possest Efter Livets Liv; For of life the spring; Som, o store Aand Who, O powerful sprite For de svundne Tider! Of the times departed! Se dit Guddomsblik See thy look bright Paa Helligdommens Sider: From the relic's sides darted: For dem lyder atter vort Bliv. For them our Be once more shall ring.

"Naturens Son, "Nature's son, whose name Ukjaendt i Lon, Is unknown to fame, Men som sine Faedre But his acre tilling, Kraftig og stor, Strong-armed and tall, Dyrkende sin Jord, Like his forefathers all, Ham vil vi haedre, Him to honour we're willing, Han skal atter finde!" He shall find the second token!" Saa syngende de svinde. They vanished, this spoken.

Hrymfaxe, den sorte, Black Hrymfax weary Puster og dukker Panteth and bloweth, Og i Havet sig begraver: And in sea himself buried; Morgenens Porte And Belling cheery Delling oplukker; Morn's gates ope throweth; Skinfaxe traver Forth Skinfax hurrieth, I straalende Lue On heaven's bridge prancing, Paa Himmelens Bue. And with lustre glancing.

Ved lune Skov By the bright green shaw Oxnene traekke The oxen striding Den tunge Plov The heavy plough draw, Over sorten Daekke. The soil dividing.

Da standser Ploven The plough stops; sorest En Gysen farer Of shudders rushes Igjennem Skoven; Right through the forest; Fugleskaren The bird-quire hushes Pludsclig tier; Sudden its strains; Hellig Taushed Holy silence Alt indvier. O'er all reigns.

Da klinger i Muld Then rings in the mould Det gamle Guld. The ancient gold.

Tvende Glimt fra Oldtidsdage Glimpses two from period olden Funkle i de nye Tider; Lo! in modern time appearing; Selsomt vendte de tilbage, Strange returned those glimpses Gaadefyldt paa blanke Sider. golden, On their sides enigmas bearing.

Skjulte Helligdom omsvaever Holiness mysterious hovers Deres gamle Tegn og maerker; O'er their signs, of meaning Guddomsglorien ombaever pond'rous; Evighedens Undervaerker. Glory of the Godhead covers These eternal works so wondrous.

Haedre dem ved Bon og Psalter; Reverence them, for nought is Snart maaske er hver stable; forsvunden. They may vanish, past all Jesu Blod paa Herrens Alter seeking. Fylde dem, som Blod i Lunden. Let Christ's blood on Christ's own table Fill them, once with red blood reeking.

Men I see kun Guldets Lue, But their majesty unviewing, Ikke de AErvaerdighoie! And their lustre but Saete dem som Pragt tilskue descrying, For et mat, nysgjerrigt Oie! Them as spectacles ye're shewing To the silly and the prying.

Himlen sortner, Storme brage! Storm-winds bellow, blackens Visse Time, du er kommen. heaven! Hvad de gav, de tog tilbage— Comes the hour of melancholy; Evig bortsvandt Helligdommen. Back is taken what was given,— Vanished is the relic holy.

LONDON: Printed for THOMAS J. WISE, Hampstead, N.W. Edition limited to Thirty Copies.


{10} The left-hand column contains the even pages of the printed pamphlet, and the right-hand column the corresponding odd pages which appear opposite them.—DP.


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