The following is a chapter of Frithjof, the Viking of Norway, by Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin.
It was a glorious evening following on one of those perfect days in our early Northern spring, when nature seems to make the most of every hour to efface all signs of winter’s long reign. Frithjof stood upon his father’s mound and let his eyes wander leisurely from point to point of the beautiful landscape. The whole scene was so sweetly familiar in the golden light of the hour just before sunset, each well-loved landmark —of tree, and stream, and rock— stood out so clear and peaceful, that he found himself living again those days which he had for years, in his fierce and bitter grief, striven —how vainly!— to forget.
“Unchanged are all things, save I alone!” That was the burden of his thoughts, the cry of his heart — and how passionately he wished the last few years away!
One feature of the scene, indeed, was new — and from that he had shudderingly turned away: the blackened, desolate spot where Balder’s temple had stood, with the stately surrounding grove. But now he turned resolutely towards it and looked full at the mutely accusing ruins.
“Oh!” he cried in despairing longing, “is there no such thing as forgiveness in Odin’s heaven? A man whose friend was slain takes blood money and forgives. The gods accept men’s sacrifices. And thou, great Balder, can nothing pacify thy wrath? Yet men do say thou art the mildest of them all. And, knowing all things, thou must know that I never meant to burn thy house. Have mercy, then, and take the stain from my dishonored shield! Lift from me the burden which is more than I can bear, and disperse the spirits of darkness which beset me! Cannot repentance and a blameless life atone for one moment’s madness?”
He threw himself upon the mound as he would have thrown himself upon his father’s breast.
“Dost sleep, my father?” he whispered. “But no! Thou sittest, guest of the gods, at Odin’s board, where voices from the earth may never reach thee. Yet, father, this once look down from those blessed abodes above the stars: thy son it is that calls thee — thee, Thorsten Vikingson. Give me but a sign! A word! How can I win great Balder’s pardon?”
He sank, exhausted, on the grass. The sun was just setting in a golden sea; the evening breeze, softly rustling through the trees, sang its gentle lullaby to the weary man; sleep touched his brow with pitying hand, and the peace he sought so passionately came to him at last.
And in his sleep he saw a vision. A strange splendor seemed to descend from the darkening heavens, a mist of gold and purple, irradiated with a light not of this world. And slowly the glory took shape, and a wondrous aerial structure stood before the sleeper’s spirit sight, upon the rock where Balder’s temple had been: high walls of silver, pillars of brass, an altar of a single precious stone. The dome, high and rounded, hung free above, as held by unseen hands, a half sphere of crystal, pure and blue as virgin ice or as the winter sky; and through the crystal were seen Valhalla’s gods, seated on thrones in azure mantles and golden crowns. In the temple’s wide-open portal stood the three Norns, the sister Fates — with the shield on which, in heavenly runes, are writ all things that have been, are, and are to be — of countenance grave, yet mild withal and wondrous fair; Urda, the sister of the Past, pointing to the ruins of the old temple, and Skulda, the sister of the Future, to the vision of the new temple. Frithjof gazed in awe, admiring, and, ere he could gather his sleep-bound wits, the marvel had vanished. But as he woke he knew his prayer had been answered.
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“The sign!” he cried. “Father, the sign from thee! I am to rebuild Balder’s temple, fairer than it was, on the same spot. Oh, joy, that ’tis given me to atone! The outcast may hope once more; the divine arms will open for him at last. Hail, ye stars! Once more, with peace at my heart, I may watch your course. And hail, my native Northern Light! Once more I may look on thy fiery beauty, nor think of burning temples. Now, father, I will lay me down, and while away this blessed night with dreams of human love and mercy all divine.”