Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen



(A hillock, covered with bushes and heather. The highroad runs behind it; a fence between.

PEER GYNT comes along a footpath, goes quickly up to the fence, stops, and looks out over the stretch of country below.)


There it lies, Hegstad. Soon I'll have reached it.

(Puts one leg over the fence; then hesitates.)

Wonder if Ingrid's alone in the house now?

(Shades his eyes with his hand, and looks out.)

No; to the farm guests are swarming like gnats.-
Hm, to turn back now perhaps would be wisest.

(Draws back his leg.)

Still they must titter behind your back,
and whisper so that it burns right through you.

(Moves a few steps away from the fence, and begins absently plucking leaves.)

Ah, if I'd only a good strong dram now.
Or if I could pass to and fro unseen.-
Or were I unknown.-Something proper and strong
were the best thing of all, for the laughter don't bite then.

(Looks around suddenly as though afraid; then hides among the bushes. Some WEDDING-GUESTS pass by, going downwards towards the farm.)


(in conversation as they pass).

His father was drunken, his mother is weak.


Ay, then it's no wonder the lad's good for nought.

(They pass on. Presently PEER GYNT comes forward, his face flushed with shame. He peers after them.)



Was it me they were talking of?

(With a forced shrug.)

Oh, let them chatter!
After all, they can't sneer the life out of my body.
(Casts himself down upon the heathery slope; lies for some time flat

on his back with his hands under his head, gazing up into the sky.)

What a strange sort of cloud! It is just like a horse.
There's a man on it too-and saddle-and bridle.-
And after it comes an old crone on a broomstick.

(Laughs quietly to himself.)

It is mother. She's scolding and screaming: You beast!
Hei you, Peer Gynt-

(His eyes gradually close.)

Ay, now
she is frightened.-
Peer Gynt he rides first, and there follow him many.-
His steed it is gold-shod and crested with silver.
Himself he has gauntlets and sabre and scabbard.
His cloak it is long, and its lining is silken.
Full brave is the company riding behind him.
None of them, though, sits his charger so stoutly.
None of them glitters like him in the sunshine.-
Down by the fence stand the people in clusters,
lifting their hats, and agape gazing upwards.
Women are curtseying. All the world knows him,
Kaiser Peer Gynt, and his thousands of henchmen.
Sixpenny pieces and glittering shillings
over the roadway he scatters like pebbles.
Rich as a lord grows each man in the parish.
High o'er the ocean Peer Gynt goes a-riding.
Engelland's Prince on the seashore awaits him;
there too await him all Engelland's maidens.
Engelland's nobles and Engelland's Kaiser,
see him come riding and rise from their banquet.
Raising his crown, hear the Kaiser address him-


(to some other young men, passing along the road).

Just look at Peer Gynt there, the drunken swine-!


(starting half up).

What, Kaiser-!


(leaning against the fence and grinning).

Up with you, Peer, my lad!


What the devil? The smith? What do you want here?


(to the others).

He hasn't got over the Lunde-spree yet.


(jumping up).

You'd better be off!


I am going, yes.
But tell us, where have you dropped from, man?
You've been gone six weeks. Were you troll-taken, eh?


I have been doing strange deeds, Aslak Smith!


(winking to the others).

Let us hear them, Peer!


They are nought to you.


(after a pause).

You're going to Hegstad?




Time was
they said that the girl there was fond of you.


You grimy crow-!


(falling back a little).

Keep your temper, Peer!
Though Ingrid has jilted you, others are left;-
think-son of Jon Gynt! Come on to the feast;
you'll find there both lambkins and widows well on-


To hell-!


You will surely find one that will have you.-
Good evening! I'll give your respects to the bride.-

(They go off, laughing and whispering.)


(looks after them a while, then makes a defiant motion and turns half round).

For my part, may Ingrid of Hegstad go marry
whoever she pleÅSEs. It's all one to me.

(Looks down at his clothes.)

My breeches are torn. I am ragged and grim.-
If only I had something new to put on now.

(Stamps on the ground.)

If only I could, with a butcher-grip,
tear out the scorn from their very vitals!

(Looks round suddenly.)

What was that? Who was it that tittered behind there?
Hm, I certainly thought-No no, it was no one.-
I'll go home to mother.

(Begins to go upwards, but stops again and listens towards Hegstad.)

They're playing a dance!

(Gazes and listens; moves downwards step by step, his eyes glisten; he rubs his hands down his thighs.)

How the lasses do swarm! Six or eight to a man!
Oh, galloping death,-I must join in the frolic!-
But how about mother, perched up on the mill-house-

(His eyes are drawn downwards again; he leaps and laughs.)

Hei, how the Halling flies over the green!
Ay, Guttorm, he can make his fiddle speak out!
It gurgles and booms like a foss o'er a scaur.
And then all that glittering bevy of girls!-
Yes, galloping death, I must join in the frolic!

(Leaps over the fence and goes down the road.)

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