Mittwoch, 13. April 2016

Peer Gynt. A Dramatic Poem by Henrik Ibsen. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

Peer Gynt was written in 1867, when Henrik Ibsen was nearly forty. "This poem," he wrote to his friend Hansen in 1870,"contains much that is reminiscent of my own youth ; for Aase my mother with necessary exaggerations served as model." Again, in a letter written to Brandes in 1882, he says : "My father was a merchant with a large business and wide connections, and he enjoyed dispensing reckless hospitality. In 1836 he failed, and nothing was left to us except a farm. ... In writing Peer Gynt I had the circumstances and memories of my own childhood before me when I described the life in the house
of  ‚the rich John Gynt.'
The action, which begins in the early years of the nineteenth century and ends somewhere about 1867, takes place partly in the Gudbrandsdal and on the surrounding mountain-tops, partly on the coast of Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, in the Cairo Lunatic Asylum, at sea, etc.

Peer before the King of Trolls

Aase on the mill-house roof

AASE. Peer ! Heaven help me, he is gone !
Reindeer-rider! Liar! Hi!
Will you listen ? No, he's off
Over the meadows.
[Screams. Help! I'm giddy!
[Two OLD WOMEN, with sacks on their backs, come down the path towards the mill.
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Who's that screaming ?
You have had a lift in life !
AASE. One that won't do me much good
I'll be booked for heaven directly !

Peer among the wedding guests

PEER GYNT [tossing his head]. Pooh! I can ride through the clouds on horseback !
There are lots of fine things I can do, I tell you !
[Roars of laughter again.
ONE OF THE GROUP. Peer, let us see you ride clouds !
OTHERS. Yes, dear Peer !
PEER GYNT. Oh, you won't need to beg me so humbly. One day I'll ride like a storm o'er the lot of you ! The whole countryside shall fall at my feet !
AN OLDER MAN. Why, now he's raving !
ANOTHER. Yes, the great booby !
A THIRD. The braggart !
A FOURTH. The liar !
PEER GYNT [threatening them]. Just wait and you'll see, then!
A MAN [half drunk]. Yes, wait and you'll get your jacket well dusted !
OTHERS. A good sound drubbing ! A nice black eye, too !
[The crowd disperses, the older ones angry and the younger ones laughing and mocking him.

Peer and Solveig at the wedding

SOLVEIG. Let me alone.
PEER GYNT. I won't ! [In a low but hard and threatening voice.
I can turn myself into a troll !
I shall come and stand by your bed at midnight ;
And if you hear something that's hissing and spitting
Don't you suppose it's your cat you are hearing.
It is I ! And I'll drain your life-blood out of you ;
And your little sister I'll eat her up,
For I turn to a were-wolf whenever the night falls,
Your loins and your back I'll bite all over
[Changes his tone suddenly and entreats her anxiously.
Dance with me, Solveig !
SOLVEIG [looking darkly at him]. Ah now you are horrid.

PEER GYNT [is silent for a little; then suddenly calls out]. Oh, the devil
take all thinking !
And the devil take all women !

Peer follows the woman in green

A mountain-side, with trees in full leaf through which the wind is whispering.
Stars are twinkling through the branches. Birds are singing in the tree-tops. A WOMAN IN GREEN crosses the slope. After her follows PEER GYNT, performing all sorts of amorous antics.

THE WOMAN IN GREEN [stopping and turning round]. Is it true?
PEER GYNT [drawing his finger across his throat]. As true as my nameis Peer ;
As true as that you are a lovely woman !
Will you have me ? You'll see how nice I can be ;
You shall never have to weave or to spin ;
You shall be fed till you're ready to burst ;
I promise I never will pull your hair-
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Nor strike me, either ?

 PEER GYNT [whipping up the pig, which trots
off]. Great folk are known by the steeds they ride !

The dance of the Trolls
THE TROLL KING. We Trolls are better than our reputation,
My son ; and that is another difference
Between you and us. But now we have finished
The serious part of the present assembly.
Our ears and our eyes shall now be delighted.
Let the harp-maid waken the Dovre-harp's strings,
Let the dance-maiden tread the Dovre-hall's floor.
[Music and a dance.

The TROLLS disperse in a turmoil amid wild shrieks. The Hall falls to pieces. Everything disappears.

 BIRDS' CRIES. Boyg, he is down ! Boyg, seize him ! Seize him !

Peer and the Troll Witch
 [Seizes his axe and crosses over towards the trees. At the same moment an elderly woman in a tattered green gown advances out of the wood; an ugly child with a flagon in his hand limps
after her, holding on to her skirt.
THE WOMAN. Good evening, Peer Light-Foot !
PEER GYNT. What is it ? Who are you ?
THE WOMAN. Old friends, Peer Gynt ! My hut is quite near here.
We're neighbours.

The death of Aase
Why do you stare so, mother ?
Have you lost your senses, dear? [Goes to the head of the bed.
You mustn't lie and stare so !
Speak, mother ; it's I, your boy !
[Feels herforehead and hands cautiously ; then throws the cord away
on to the chair and says in a low voice:
So it's that ! You may rest now, Grane ;
Our journey's over and done. [Shuts her eyes and bends over her.

 WARRIORS spring on to their steeds and gallop off in all directions.

Gallops away across the desert...

Anitra's dance 
[The tent of an Arab chieftain on an oasis. PEER GYNT, in his Oriental robes, is taking his ease on a divan, drinking coffee and smoking a long pipe. ANITRA and a troupe of GIRLS are dancing and singing to him.
The Prophet is come !
The Prophet, the Lord, the All-Wise One,
To us, to us he has come,
Riding over the sea of sand !
The Prophet, the Lord, the Infallible,
To us, to us he has come,
Sailing over the sea of sand !
Blow flute ! Sound drum !
The Prophet, the Prophet is come !

Peer and the Statue of Memnon 
In Egypt, at the foot of the statue of Memnon, at dawn. PEER GYNT comes
walking along, stops, and looks around him.

 On board a ship in the North Sea off the coast of Norway. Sunset and a threatening sky.

Peer and the Treadballs
 What is that sound like children's weeping-
Weeping that is half a song ?
What are these that I see rolling
At my feet, like balls of thread ? [Kicks his feet about.
Get away ! You block the path up !
THE THREADBALLS  [on the ground].
We are thoughts ;
You should have thought us

(The idea of Trolls incorporated in threadballs is frequently met with in Scandinavian

The thin person
 A THIN PERSON, dressed in a priesfs cassock which is well tucked up, and carrying a bird-catcher's net over his shoulder, comes running down the hill.


The British edition of Arthur Rackham Peer Gynt was published by George G. Harrap and Co Ltd in London in 1936.

An original  watercolor picture of Arthur Rackham  for Peer Gynt

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