Peer Gynt

by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen



(Deep in the pine-woods. Grey autumn weather. Snow is falling.

PEER GYNT stands in his shirt-sleeves, felling timber.)


(hewing at a large fir-tree with twisted branches).

Oh ay, you are tough, you ancient churl;
but it's all in vain, for you'll soon be down.

(Hews at it again.)

I see well enough you've a chain-mail shirt,
but I'll hew it through, were it never so stout.-
Ay, ay, you're shaking your twisted arms;
you've reason enough for your spite and rage;
but none the less you must bend the knee-!

(Breaks off suddenly.)

Lies! 'Tis an old tree, and nothing more.
Lies! It was never a steel-clad churl;
it's only a fir-tree with fissured bark.-
It is heavy labour this hewing timber;
but the devil and all when you hew and dream too.-
I'll have done with it all-with this dwelling in mist,
and, broad-awake, dreaming your senses away.-
You're an outlaw, lad! You are banned to the woods.

(Hews for a while rapidly.)

Ay, an outlaw, ay. You've no mother now
to spread your table and bring your food.
If you'd eat, my lad, you must help yourself,
fetch your rations raw from the wood and stream,
split your own fir-roots and light your own fire,
bustle around, and arrange and prepare things.
Would you clothe yourself warmly, you must stalk your deer;
would you found you a house, you must quarry the stones;
would you build up its walls, you must fell the logs,
and shoulder them all to the building-place.-

(His axe sinks down; he gazes straight in front of him.)

Brave shall the building be. Tower and vane
shall rise from the roof-tree, high and fair.
And then I will carve, for the knob on the gable,
a mermaid, shaped like a fish from the navel.
Brass shall there be on the vane and the door-locks.
Glass I must see and get hold of too.
Strangers, passing, shall ask amazed
what that is glittering far on the hillside.

(Laughs angrily.)

Devil's own lies! There they come again.
You're an outlaw, lad!

(Hewing vigorously.)

A bark-thatched hovel
is shelter enough both in rain and frost.

(Looks up at the tree.)

Now he stands wavering. There; only a kick,
and he topples and measures his length on the ground;-
the thick-swarming undergrowth shudders around him!
(Begins lopping the branches from the trunk; suddenly he listens,
and stands motionless with his axe in the air.)

There's some one after me!-Ay, are you that sort,
old Hegstad-churl;-would you play me false?

(Crouches behind the tree, and peeps over it.)

A lad! One only. He seems afraid.
He peers all round him. What's that he hides
'neath his jacket? A sickle. He stops and looks around,-
now he lays his hand on a fence-rail flat.
What's this now? Why does he lean like that-?
Ugh, ugh! Why, he's chopped his finger off!
A whole finger off!-He bleeds like an ox.-
Now he takes to his heels with his fist in a clout.


What a devil of a lad! An unmendable finger!
Right off! And with no one compelling him to it!
Ho', now I remember! It's only thus
you can 'scape from having to serve the King.
That's it. They wanted to send him soldiering,
and of course the lad didn't want to go.-
But to chop off-? To sever for good and all-?
Ay, think of it-wish it done-will it to boot,-
but do it-! No, that's past my understanding!

(Shakes his head a little; then goes on with his work.)

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