Tilbake

Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen

ACT 2

SCENE SIXTH

(The Royal Hall of the King of the Dovre-Trolls. A great assembly of TROLL-COURTIERS, GNOMES, and BROWNIES. THE OLD MAN OF THE DOVRE sits on the throne, crowned, and with his sceptre in his hand. His CHILDREN and NEAREST RELATIONS are ranged on both sides. PEER GYNT stands before him. Violent commotion in the hall.)

THE TROLL-COURTIERS

Slay him! a Christian-man's son has deluded
the Dovre-King's loveliest maid!

A TROLL-IMP

May I hack him on the fingers?

ANOTHER

May I tug him by the hair?

A TROLL-MAIDEN

Hu, hei, let me bite him in the haunches!

A TROLL-WITCH
(with a ladle).

Shall he be boiled into broth and bree?

ANOTHER TROLL-WITCH
(with a chopper).

Shall he roast on a spit or be browned in a stewpan?

THE OLD MAN OF THE DOVRE

Ice to your blood, friends!

(Beckons his counsellors nearer around him.)

Don't let us talk big.
We've been drifting astern in these latter years;
we can't tell what's going to stand or to fall,
and there's no sense in turning recruits away.
Besides the lad's body has scarce a blemish,
and he's strongly-built too, if I see aright.
It's true, he has only a single head;
but my daughter, too, has no more than one.
Three-headed trolls are going clean out of fashion;
one hardly sees even a two-header now,
and even those heads are but so-so ones.

(To PEER GYNT.)

It's my daughter, then, you demand of me?

PEER

Your daughter and the realm to her dowry, yes.

THE OLD MAN

You shall have the half while I'm still alive,
and the other half when I come to die.

PEER

I'm content with that.

THE OLD MAN

Ay, but stop, my lad;-
you also have some undertakings to give.
If you break even one, the whole pact's at an end,
and you'll never get away from here living.
First of all you must swear that you'll never give heed
to aught that lies outside Ronde-hills' bounds;
day you must shun, and deeds, and each sunlit spot.

PEER

Only call me king, and that's easy to keep.

THE OLD MAN

And next-now for putting your wits to the test.

(Draws himself up in his seat.)

THE OLDEST TROLL-COURTIER

(to PEER GYNT)

. Let us see if you have a wisdom-tooth
that can crack the Dovre-King's riddle-nut!

THE OLD MAN

What difference is there 'twixt trolls and men?

PEER

No difference at all, as it seems to me.
Big trolls would roast you and small trolls would claw you;-
with us it were likewise, if only they dared.

THE OLD MAN

True enough; in that and in more we're alike.
Yet morning is morning, and even is even,
and there is a difference all the same.-
Now let me tell you wherein it lies:
Out yonder, under the shining vault,
among men the saying goes: 'Man, be thyself!'
At home here with us, 'mid the tribe of the trolls,
the saying goes: 'Troll, to thyself be-enough!'

THE TROLL-COURTIER

(to PEER GYNT)

. Can you fathom the depth?

PEER

It strikes me as misty.

THE OLD MAN

My son, that 'Enough,' that most potent and sundering
word, must be graven upon your escutcheon.

PEER

(scratching his head).

Well, but-

THE OLD MAN

It must, if you here would be master!

PEER

Oh well, let it pass; after all, it's no worse-

THE OLD MAN

And next you must learn to appreciate
our homely, everyday way of life.

(He beckons; two TROLLS with pigs'-heads, white night-caps, and so
forth, bring in food and drink.)

The cow gives cakes and the bullock mead;
ask not if its taste be sour or sweet;
the main matter is, and you mustn't forget it,
it's all of it home-brewed.

PEER

(pushing the things away from him).

The devil fly off with your home-brewed drinks!
I'll never get used to the ways of this land.

THE OLD MAN

The bowl's given in, and it's fashioned of gold.
Whoso owns the gold bowl, him my daughter holds dear.

PEER

(pondering).

It is written: Thou shalt bridle the natural man;-
and I daresay the drink may in time seem less sour.
So be it! (Complies.)

THE OLD MAN

Ay, that was sagaciously said.
You spit?

PEER

One must trust to the force of habit.

THE OLD MAN

And next you must throw off your Christian-man's garb;
for this you must know to our Dovre's renown:
here all things are mountain-made, nought's from the dale,
except the silk bow at the end of your tail.

PEER

(indignant).

I haven't a tail!

THE OLD MAN

Then of course you must get one.
See my Sunday-tail, Chamberlain, fastened to him.

PEER

I'll be hanged if you do! Would you make me a fool!

THE OLD MAN

None comes courting my child with no tail at his rear.

PEER

Make a beast of a man!

THE OLD MAN

Nay, my son, you mistake;
I make you a mannerly wooer, no more.
A bright orange bow we'll allow you to wear,
and that passes here for the highest of honours.

PEER

(reflectively).

It's true, as the saying goes: Man's but a mote.
And it's wisest to follow the fashion a bit.
Tie away!

THE OLD MAN

You're a tractable fellow, I see.

THE COURTIER

just try with what grace you can waggle and whisk it!

PEER

(peevishly).

Ha, would you force me to go still further?
Do you ask me to give up my Christian faith?

THE OLD MAN

No, that you are welcome to keep in peace.
Doctrine goes free; upon that there's no duty;
it's the outward cut one must tell a troll by.
If we're only at one in our manners and dress,
you may hold as your faith what to us is a horror.

PEER

Why, in spite of your many conditions, you are
a more reasonable chap than one might have expected.

THE OLD MAN

We troll-folk, my son, are less black than we're painted;
that's another distinction between you and us.-
But the serious part of the meeting is over;
now let us gladden our ears and our eyes.
Music-maid, forth! Set the Dovre-harp sounding!
Dancing-maid, forth! Tread the Dovre-hall's floor!
(Music and a dance.)

THE COURTIER

How like you it?

PEER

Like it? Hm-

THE OLD MAN

Speak without fear!
What see you?

PEER

Why, something unspeakably grim:
a bell-cow with her hoof on a gut-harp strumming,
a sow in socklets a-trip to the tune.

THE COURTIERS

Eat him!

THE OLD MAN

His sense is but human, remember!

TROLL-MAIDENS

Hu, tear away both his ears and his eyes!

THE GREEN-CLAD ONE

(weeping).

Hu-hu! And this we must hear and put up with,
when I and my sister make music and dance.

PEER

Oho, was it you? Well, a joke at the feast,
you must know, is never unkindly meant.

THE GREEN-CLAD ONE

Can you swear it was so?

PEER

Both the dance and the music
were utterly charming, the cat claw me else.

THE OLD MAN

This same human nature's a singular thing;
it sticks to people so strangely long.
If it gets a gash in the fight with us,
it heals up at once, though a scar may remain.
My son-in-law, now, is as pliant as any;
he's willingly thrown off his Christian-man's garb,
he's willingly drunk from our chalice of mead,
he's willingly tied on the tail to his back,-
so willing, in short, did we find him in all things,
I thought to myself the old Adam, for certain,
had for good and all been kicked out of doors;
but lo! in two shakes he's atop again!
Ay ay, my son, we must treat you, I see,
to cure this pestilent human nature.

PEER

What will you do?

THE OLD MAN

In your left eye, first,
I'll scratch you a bit, till you see awry;
but all that you see will seem fine and brave.
And then I'll just cut your right window-pane out-

PEER

Are you drunk?

THE OLD MAN

(lays a number of sharp instruments on the table).

See, here are the glazier's tools.
Blinkers you'll wear, like a raging bull.
Then you'll recognise that your bride is lovely,-
and ne'er will your vision be troubled, as now,
with bell-cows harping and sows that dance.

PEER

This is madman's talk!

THE OLDEST COURTIER

It's the Dovre-King speaking;
it's he that is wise, and it's you that are crazy!

THE OLD MAN

Just think how much worry and mortification
you'll thus escape from, year out, year in.
You must remember, your eyes are the fountain
of the bitter and searing lye of tears.

PEER

That's true; and it says in our sermon-book:
If thine eye offend thee, then pluck it out.
But tell me, when will my sight heal up
into human sight?

THE OLD MAN

Nevermore, my friend.

PEER

Indeed! In that case, I'll take my leave.

THE OLD MAN

What would you without?

PEER

I would go my way.

THE OLD MAN

No, stop! It's easy to slip in here,
but the Dovre-King's gate doesn't open outwards.

PEER

You wouldn't detain me by force, I hope?

THE OLD MAN

Come now, just listen to reason, Prince Peer!
You have gifts for trolldom. He acts, does he not,
even now in a passably troll-like fashion?
And you'd fain be a troll?

PEER

Yes, I would, sure enough.
For a bride and a well-managed kingdom to boot,
I can put up with losing a good many things.
But there is a limit to all things on earth.
The tail I've accepted, it's perfectly true;
but no doubt I can loose what the Chamberlain tied.
My breeches I've dropped; they were old and patched;
but no doubt I can button them on again.
And lightly enough I can slip my cable
from these your Dovrefied ways of life.
I am willing to swear that a cow is a maid;
an oath one can always eat up again:-
but to know that one never can free oneself,
that one can't even die like a decent soul;
to live as a hill-troll for all one's days-
to feel that one never can beat a retreat,-
as the book has it, that's what your heart is set on;
but that is a thing I can never agree to.

THE OLD MAN

Now, sure as I live, I shall soon lose my temper;
and then I am not to be trifled with.
You pasty-faced loon! Do you know who I am?
First with my daughter you make too free-

PEER

There you lie in your throat!

THE OLD MAN

You must marry her.

PEER

Do you dare to accuse me-?

THE OLD MAN

What? Can you deny
that you lusted for her in heart and eye?

PEER

(with a snort of contempt).

No more? Who the deuce cares a straw for that?

THE OLD MAN

It's ever the same with this humankind.
The spirit you're ready to own with your lips,
but in fact nothing counts that your fists cannot handle.
So you really think, then, that lust matters nought?
Wait; you shall soon have ocular proof of it-

PEER

You don't catch me with a bait of lies!

THE GREEN-CLAD ONE

My Peer, ere the year's out, you'll be a father.

PEER

Open doors! let me go!

THE OLD MAN

In a he-goat's skin,
you shall have the brat after you.

PEER

(mopping the sweat off his brow).

Would I could waken!

THE OLD MAN

Shall we send him to the palace?

PEER

You can send him to the parish!

THE OLD MAN

Well well, Prince Peer; that's your own look-out.
But one thing's certain, what's done is done;
and your offspring, too, will be sure to grow;
such mongrels shoot up amazingly fast-

PEER

Old man, don't act like a headstrong ox!
Hear reason, maiden! Let's come to terms.
You must know I'm neither a prince nor rich;-
and whether you measure or whether you weigh me,
be sure you won't gain much by making me yours.

(THE GREEN-CLAD ONE is taken ill, and is carried out by TROLL-MAIDS.)

THE OLD MAN

(looks at him for a while in high disdain; then says:)

Dash him to shards on the rock-walls, children!

THE TROLL-IMPS

Oh dad, mayn't we play owl-and-eagle first!
The wolf-game! Grey-mouse and glow-eyed cat!

THE OLD MAN

Yes, but quick. I am worried and sleepy. Good-night!
(He goes.)

PEER

(hunted by the TROLL-IMPS).

Let me be, devil's imps!
(Tries to escape up the chimney.)

THE IMPS

Come brownies! Come nixies!
Bite him behind!

PEER

Ow! (Tries to slip down the cellar trap-door.)

THE IMPS

Shut up all the crannies!

THE TROLL-COURTIER

Now the small-fry are happy!

PEER

(struggling with a little imp that has bit himself fast to his ear).

Let go, will you, beast!

THE COURTIER

(hitting him across the fingers).

Gently, you scamp, with a scion of royalty!

PEER

A rat-hole-!
(Runs to it.)

THE IMPS

Be quick, Brother Nixie, and block it!

PEER

The old one was bad, but the youngsters are worse!

THE IMPS

Slash him!

PEER

Oh, would I were small as a mouse!

(Rushing around.)

THE IMPS

(swarming round him).

Close the ring! Close the ring!

PEER

(weeping).

Would that I were a louse! (He falls.)

THE IMPS

Now into his eyes!

PEER

(buried in a heap of imps).

Mother, help me, I die! (Church-bells sound far away.)

THE IMPS

Bells in the mountain! The Black-Frock's cows!

(THE TROLLS take to flight, amid a confused uproar of yells and
shrieks. The palace collapses; everything disappears.)


From the homepage of Espen Joranger

PGENG