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Duke Magnus and the Mermaid
Title Page
Act I
Act II
Title Page
Act I
Act II

Act II


In the fisherman’s cottage. Ingrid is spinning and Peder is preparing fishing nets

Busy yourself assiduously with your
Work, old man, work!
Human life is like driftwood,
Work, old man, work!
Before the fair child, the prince
Threw himself blindly into the water!
Soon your rich crop will sprout
And your ardent prayer will be heard.
Work, work!
Wind the thread well and roundly!
If you have not caught any fish yet,
What difference does it make?
Only the King’s son
Goes into the fair maid’s net!

Then you will be rich again.
Work, old man, work!
Everyone will be your friend
Work, old man, work!
You will then no more be chilled
By the cold wind of night!
After your hour of need, you will be
Satiated with abundance
Work, work!
Wind the thread well and roundly!
If you have not caught any fish yet,
What difference does it make?
Only the King’s son
Goes into the fair maid’s net!

[Ingrid is concerned about where Peder’s ideas will lead. Following the Duke’s accident that morning, Anna has disappeared. Peder dismisses her gossip. Anna will be all right – who knows, he asks, whether she is a changeling or an elf-child? She is not really their daughter: they found her abandoned when she was very small. Ingrid answers that she is an angel of God, sent to be their comfort. Ingrid can forgive him anything – unless some misfortune were to befall Anna. They go out with the net. Anna and Lisa arrive. Lisa explains that she has heard Peder’s plan that Anna should appear as a mermaid and entice the Duke. To Lisa’s surprise, Anna is desperately unhappy. She must have her eyes set on someone else.]

How can you be so full of joy
And joke and smile, every hour
That passes?

Well, sorrow may take its leave,
It is too tiresome a customer,
And such a difficult one!

But love begets tears,
That is such an old story!

That story won’t fool me,
For never, no, never have I wept!

Oh, how lucky you are
To be untouched by sorrow,
But to bear such courage in your heart!

Yes, for I know that Ulf loves me.
Yes, the flame of love
Does not teach me sorrow,
For me it is no torment
But pure bliss!
Oh! The flame of love
Burns and consumes,
It begets a torment
That is yet bliss!

But should you not likewise
Have a friend that you hold dear?

I shall tell you the truth, –
But he is not of my station!

Don’t say that, no, no, my friend:
Love makes us all alike,
Of high or low birth, poor or rich,
He makes kings and soldiers
Infatuated, all alike!

No, to be sure it is not like that;
For destinies do not yield,
But separate hearts from each other! –
As for me, poor and insignificant as I
I shall indeed be compelled
To forget all about my dearest friend,
For he is of noble birth,
With spurs and with a sword!

Of noble birth?

Yes, by God!

I won’t get a nobleman!

You are making fun of my pain!

No, Anna, no, I also have a heart, believe it my friend;
It just doesn’t take after yours.

You are fortunate, you are fortunate.

No, the flame of love, (etc.)

[Lisa realises that Anna is in love with Sir Brynolf. She promises that her fiancé, Ulf, will put in a good word for her with the Duke. Ulf rushes in. He has no time to speak to them; he has a message for Peder from lord high constable Sten. Peder and Ingrid arrive. Ulf explains that Sten wants to meet Peder and Anna at the castle immediately.]

Oh God!

Ingrid (embraces her)
My child!

I suspect that only bad
Will come of this message!

Peder (to himself)
Here I observe the Monk’s plan:
She will become the prince’s bride!

Away, let us hurry to the castle!

Now the flame of sorrow is ignited again!

Peder (to Ingrid)
Now I hold fortune in my hand!

Ingrid (imploringly)
Just remember what she meant to us!

Ulf (to Lisa)
I shall return to you presently!
Longing urges me to return
To you, my fair bride!
How loudly love urges me,
And yet I fear his message!
I suspect misfortune;
What does this message concern?
I suspect misfortune!
Peder (to himself)
Here I observe the Monk’s plan:
She will become the prince’s bride!
I sense that no good will come of it,
I fear this message!

Peder (to Anna)
Now hurry and prepare yourself
And fear no danger
Because I shall accompany you!

But who knows whether
Some trap lies concealed here?

Be quiet, woman, be quiet! This is a matter for me!
Here I observe the Monk’s plan, (etc.)
Longing urges me to return, (etc.)
How loudly love urges me, (etc.)
I suspect misfortune, (etc.)
I sense that no good will come of it,

Oh torment and sorrow!

Away to the prince’s castle.

(Exeunt Peder, Anna and Ulf, followed by Ingrid and Lisa)

[In a room at VadstenaCastle the courtiers and ladies-in-waiting are gathered.]

Unease and torment
Rule silently
In the hall of the heart!
What indeed happened
To the prince by the shore?
Who indeed ignited
The consuming fire
That ravages his breast
Without comfort?
What might he have seen
In his sick mind
At the clear waters?

A Courtier
Quiet, now! I can see Lord Sten coming!

What message might he bring?

Look! Gloomily he casts his eye
What lesson are we to hear?

Sten (from the right)
I greet you all here:
Our dear prince has been saved!

Praise be to God! He is alive!

Now he only needs quiet
In his hall, and in the castle.

So let us leave the hall and the castle:
Now he only needs quiet!

But first a prayer to Heaven
To grant him peace again!

Yes, let us pray to God in Heaven
For peace for this friend of every poor man!

Prayer (Chorus)
Now we pray loudly to Heaven
That our prince may be protected,
We pray for him of happiness,
Of good fortune, bliss and peace!
May heavy sorrows never
Approach his heart until the end!
Oh, may the treacherous waves no longer sing
To his sick mind about loss,
Oh God, to his sick mind,
Oh God, we pray for him!
For him, Heaven, we pray,
For a prosperous future!
Oh, hear our prayer!
(When the song is over, they leave quietly to the back of the stage.)

[The courtiers leave the room and Sten receives his son Brynolf in private. He wishes to thank him for rescuing the Duke. Sten wonders how the accident came to happen. Did somebody push the Duke into the water? Moreover there was a rumour that a woman had been seen on the lake. Sten informs Brynolf that he intends to question the fisherman and his daughter. He is aware of Peder’s vengeful inclination. Brynolf speaks strongly in defence of Anna and is forced to explain himself. He tells his father that he is in love with Anna. Sten orders Brynolf to forget the poor fisherman’s daughter. Brynolf refuses.]

Rather ask the sun to forget
To colour the rose’s petals,
That can be seen, dreaming with yearning
Bathed in the morning dew.
Sooner ask the star not to listen
To the dark traces of the night,
Ask the wave to contain no sigh
When it breaks on the shore!

But oh, as long as the sun
Looks down with love-filled glances,
From its royal throne on high; –
As long as the star is smiling;
As long as the clear wave
Sighingly reaches the shore,
Not before then will I cease
To cherish Anna in my thoughts!

I know what you will answer,
O father! with your look:
It was from destiny that I received
My judgement to be obedient.
But, if I cannot have Anna,
Even though you see my pain,
Then I shall remain
With you on earth no longer.
(He exits slowly backstage.)

[Brynolf makes his exit. Peder and Anna are led before Sten. Sten asks Anna if her father had made her lay traps for the Duke. Anna does not understand what he is talking about.]

There I enjoyed my childhood days,
Calmly and quietly they passed by,
And can you really believe
That I would commit such an offence?

Sten (aside)
I see the truth in her eyes,
I don’t know what to believe!
You know how to behave all too well
For a simple fisherman’s daughter,
Raised in a meagre dwelling!

Oh, my strict Lord, yes!
Look, my wife would so much like
That she, our comfort in our old age,
Should shine like a star in our

And yet you caused my misfortune!

Anna (aside)
Oh, my God!

Peder (likewise)
What is he saying?

For you have bewitched my son,
Just now I discovered it!

Peder (uneasily)
That cannot be true!
(to Anna)
Answer me, girl! Do you know
The knight’s son?

Answer us, answer us!

Yes, oh yes, I do know him;
He was the first man upon whom
My gaze fell with enchantment!
O my father! Just don’t be angry,
How did you want me to answer,
I, who cannot even understand myself?

Peder (aside)
Oh, hang it all! I didn’t realise!

And you cunningly beat a path
To his heart; answer, then!

Misfortune will befall you, then!

Sten (to himself)
Her innocence moves me deeply
But, as a father, it is my duty
To ensure that she does not seduce
This breast too!
Peder (to himself)
What deception do I hear,
She is distracting me from my goal;
The vengeance and rage within my breast
Silence the voice of paternal feelings!
Anna (to herself)
Brynolf! My life belongs to you;
Wherever destiny may lead me,
Nothing will disturb my love,
For it is my only comfort!

[Sten also demands from Anna that she must forget Brynolf. Peder agrees; Anna refuses. Suddenly the Duke arrives, confused. He catches sight of Anna and, believing her to be the mermaid, rushes towards her. Sten tries to explain, but the Duke will not listen. He commands Sten and Peder to leave him alone with Anna. Anna tries to say that she is a normal girl. The Duke does not believe her and asserts his love for the mermaid.]

Do not tell me that a mortal maiden
Can sing like that, can have such a gaze
That sends flames into my heart,
Risen up from the clasp of the waves!
No, you are not like other girls
Who walk down here on earth! –
Daughter of the waves, that’s your name!

Oh! Stop treating me like this!

No, I wish to hold you tenderly and gently,
Like a breath of wind to my bosom!
I want to kiss
These rosy lips!
I want to lull
My soul to rest!
Do not tell me that a mortal maiden, (etc.)

Oh! Stop treating me like this!
My God, my God, protect me,
Oh, take pity on me!
As, you see, I, poor thing,
Have pledged my faith
To someone else!

No! At my breast,
With warm kisses,
Every pain
Shall be changed to peace!

Anna (anxiously)
O Brynolf! Rescue me!

You pretend in vain!
(tries to embrace her)
No! At my breast, (etc.)

(rushes in from backstage and hurries forward, and pushes away the Duke who, beside himself with passion, is trying to embrace Anna)
Get back, you are too bold!

Anna (beside herself with joy, as she throws herself into Brynolf’s arms)
You are my saviour!

Magnus (furious)
What do you want, acting so rashly, answer me!
How do you dare
Forcefully to part your prince
From the one he loves?

My lord! She is mine,
Your desire will not snatch her
From my warm bosom!

Go! I command you!

Anna (imploringly)

I shall not leave my Anna!

O Heaven, hear my voice
And protect us from danger!

You can be as safe with me
As at your mother’s breast!
Come, let us go!
(He tries to leave with Anna.)

Magnus (prevents them from leaving)
Do not attempt to depart from this place,
Or you will both be smitten by my vengeance!

Oh, may my tender prayers
Persuade you, O prince!
I can never forget him,
Anna loves only him!
Do not force me to forget
That you are the prince here!
For, by Heaven, blood will flow
If you now hinder me further.
I shall drain your deceitful blood
If you do not learn to be respectful!
I shall never forget the affront
That you have inflicted upon me!
I do not wish to listen:
My thrall! You should be obedient!

Brynolf (draws his sword)
Your thrall? What an insult!

Anna (imploringly)
Calm down!

Begone! Or you will regret it!

Calm down! Calm down! Calm down!

Go, I command you! Go!

What an insult!

Brynolf (furiously)
You are forcing me to forget
That you are a prince!
And blood must flow,
I swear it solemnly!
Let my tender prayers
Persuade you now!
I can never forget
The man I love!
I shall drain your blood,
And solemnly I swear
Not to forget the affront
That I have received here!

(Brynolf, beside himself, pushes the Duke away and hurries away backstage with Anna. Magnus stands for a moment, as though struck dumb, and then utters a cry of rage and hurries after them with his sword drawn.)


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