HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW.
BOSTON: TICKNOR AND FIELDS. 1863.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, AND COMPANY, CAMBRIDGE.
TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN.
THE WAYSIDE INN 1
THE LANDLORD'S TALE.
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE 18
THE STUDENT'S TALE.
THE FALCON OF SER FEDERIGO 30
THE SPANISH JEW'S TALE.
THE LEGEND OF RABBI BEN LEVI 49
THE SICILIAN'S TALE.
KING ROBERT OF SICILY 55
THE MUSICIAN'S TALE.
THE SAGA OF KING OLAF 71
I. The Challenge of Thor 71 II. King Olaf's Return 74 III. Thora of Rimol 79 IV. Queen Sigrid the Haughty 83 V. The Skerry of Shrieks 88 VI. The Wraith of Odin 94 VII. Iron-Beard 98 VIII. Gudrun 103 IX. Thangbrand the Priest 106 X. Raud the Strong 111 XI. Bishop Sigurd at Salten Fiord 114 XII. King Olaf's Christmas 120 XIII. The Building of the Long Serpent 125 XIV. The Crew of the Long Serpent 130 XV. A Little Bird in the Air 134 XVI. Queen Thyri and the Angelica Stalks 137 XVII. King Svend of the Forked Beard 144 XVIII. King Olaf and Earl Sigvald 149 XIX. King Olaf's War-Horns 152 XX. Einar Tamberskelver 156 XXI. King Olaf's Death-drink 160 XXII. The Nun of Nidaros 165
THE THEOLOGIAN'S TALE.
THE POET'S TALE.
THE BIRDS OR KILLINGWORTH 189
BIRDS OF PASSAGE.
FLIGHT THE SECOND.
THE CHILDREN'S HOUR 209
THE CUMBERLAND 215
A DAY OF SUNSHINE 220
SOMETHING LEFT UNDONE 222
TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN.
THE WAYSIDE INN.
One Autumn night, in Sudbury town, Across the meadows bare and brown, The windows of the wayside inn Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves Their crimson curtains rent and thin.
As ancient is this hostelry As any in the land may be, Built in the old Colonial day, When men lived in a grander way, With ampler hospitality; A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall, Now somewhat fallen to decay, With weather-stains upon the wall, And stairways worn, and crazy doors, And creaking and uneven floors, And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall.
A region of repose it seems, A place of slumber and of dreams, Remote among the wooded hills! For there no noisy railway speeds, Its torch-race scattering smoke and gleeds; But noon and night, the panting teams Stop under the great oaks, that throw Tangles of light and shade below, On roofs and doors and window-sills. Across the road the barns display Their lines of stalls, their mows of hay, Through the wide doors the breezes blow, The wattled cocks strut to and fro, And, half effaced by rain and shine, The Red Horse prances on the sign.
Round this old-fashioned, quaint abode Deep silence reigned, save when a gust Went rushing down the county road, And skeletons of leaves, and dust, A moment quickened by its breath, Shuddered and danced their dance of death, And through the ancient oaks o'erhead Mysterious voices moaned and fled.
But from the parlor of the inn A pleasant murmur smote the ear, Like water rushing through a weir; Oft interrupted by the din Of laughter and of loud applause, And, in each intervening pause, The music of a violin. The fire-light, shedding over all The splendor of its ruddy glow, Filled the whole parlor large and low; It gleamed on wainscot and on wall, It touched with more than wonted grace Fair Princess Mary's pictured face; It bronzed the rafters overhead, On the old spinet's ivory keys It played inaudible melodies, It crowned the sombre clock with flame, The hands, the hours, the maker's name, And painted with a livelier red The Landlord's coat-of-arms again; And, flashing on the window-pane, Emblazoned with its light and shade The jovial rhymes, that still remain, Writ near a century ago, By the great Major Molineaux, Whom Hawthorne has immortal made.
Before the blazing fire of wood Erect the rapt musician stood; And ever and anon he bent His head upon his instrument, And seemed to listen, till he caught Confessions of its secret thought,— The joy, the triumph, the lament, The exultation and the pain; Then, by the magic of his art, He soothed the throbbings of its heart, And lulled it into peace again.
Around the fireside at their ease There sat a group of friends, entranced With the delicious melodies; Who from the far-off noisy town Had to the wayside inn come down, To rest beneath its old oak-trees. The fire-light on their faces glanced, Their shadows on the wainscot danced, And, though of different lands and speech, Each had his tale to tell, and each Was anxious to be pleased and please. And while the sweet musician plays, Let me in outline sketch them all, Perchance uncouthly as the blaze With its uncertain touch portrays Their shadowy semblance on the wall.
But first the Landlord will I trace; Grave in his aspect and attire; A man of ancient pedigree, A Justice of the Peace was he, Known in all Sudbury as "The Squire." Proud was he of his name and race, Of old Sir William and Sir Hugh, And in the parlor, full in view, His coat-of-arms, well framed and glazed, Upon the wall in colors blazed; He beareth gules upon his shield, A chevron argent in the field, With three wolf's heads, and for the crest A Wyvern part-per-pale addressed Upon a helmet barred; below The scroll reads, "By the name of Howe." And over this, no longer bright, Though glimmering with a latent light, Was hung the sword his grandsire bore, In the rebellious days of yore, Down there at Concord in the fight.
A youth was there, of quiet ways, A Student of old books and days, To whom all tongues and lands were known, And yet a lover of his own; With many a social virtue graced, And yet a friend of solitude; A man of such a genial mood The heart of all things he embraced, And yet of such fastidious taste, He never found the best too good. Books were his passion and delight, And in his upper room at home Stood many a rare and sumptuous tome, In vellum bound, with gold bedight, Great volumes garmented in white, Recalling Florence, Pisa, Rome. He loved the twilight that surrounds The border-land of old romance; Where glitter hauberk, helm, and lance, And banner waves, and trumpet sounds, And ladies ride with hawk on wrist, And mighty warriors sweep along, Magnified by the purple mist, The dusk of centuries and of song. The chronicles of Charlemagne, Of Merlin and the Mort d'Arthure, Mingled together in his brain With tales of Flores and Blanchefleur, Sir Ferumbras, Sir Eglamour, Sir Launcelot, Sir Morgadour, Sir Guy, Sir Bevis, Sir Gawain.
A young Sicilian, too, was there;— In sight of Etna born and bred, Some breath of its volcanic air Was glowing in his heart and brain, And, being rebellious to his liege, After Palermo's fatal siege, Across the western seas he fled, In good King Bomba's happy reign. His face was like a summer night, All flooded with a dusky light; His hands were small; his teeth shone white As sea-shells, when he smiled or spoke; His sinews supple and strong as oak; Clean shaven was he as a priest, Who at the mass on Sunday sings, Save that upon his upper lip His beard, a good palm's length at least, Level and pointed at the tip, Shot sideways, like a swallow's wings. The poets read he o'er and o'er, And most of all the Immortal Four Of Italy; and next to those, The story-telling bard of prose, Who wrote the joyous Tuscan tales Of the Decameron, that make Fiesole's green hills and vales Remembered for Boccaccio's sake. Much too of music was his thought; The melodies and measures fraught With sunshine and the open air, Of vineyards and the singing sea Of his beloved Sicily; And much it pleased him to peruse The songs of the Sicilian muse,— Bucolic songs by Meli sung In the familiar peasant tongue, That made men say, "Behold! once more The pitying gods to earth restore Theocritus of Syracuse!"
A Spanish Jew from Alicant With aspect grand and grave was there; Vender of silks and fabrics rare, And attar of rose from the Levant. Like an old Patriarch he appeared, Abraham or Isaac, or at least Some later Prophet or High-Priest; With lustrous eyes, and olive skin, And, wildly tossed from cheeks and chin, The tumbling cataract of his beard. His garments breathed a spicy scent Of cinnamon and sandal blent, Like the soft aromatic gales That meet the mariner, who sails Through the Moluccas, and the seas That wash the shores of Celebes. All stories that recorded are By Pierre Alphonse he knew by heart, And it was rumored he could say The Parables of Sandabar, And all the Fables of Pilpay, Or if not all, the greater part! Well versed was he in Hebrew books, Talmud and Targum, and the lore Of Kabala; and evermore There was a mystery in his looks; His eyes seemed gazing far away, As if in vision or in trance He heard the solemn sackbut play, And saw the Jewish maidens dance.
A Theologian, from the school Of Cambridge on the Charles, was there; Skilful alike with tongue and pen, He preached to all men everywhere The Gospel of the Golden Rule, The New Commandment given to men, Thinking the deed, and not the creed, Would help us in our utmost need. With reverent feet the earth he trod, Nor banished nature from his plan, But studied still with deep research To build the Universal Church, Lofty as is the love of God, And ample as the wants of man.
A Poet, too, was there, whose verse Was tender, musical, and terse; The inspiration, the delight, The gleam, the glory, the swift flight, Of thoughts so sudden, that they seem The revelations of a dream, All these were his; but with them came No envy of another's fame; He did not find his sleep less sweet For music in some neighboring street, Nor rustling hear in every breeze The laurels of Miltiades. Honor and blessings on his head While living, good report when dead, Who, not too eager for renown, Accepts, but does not clutch, the crown!
Last the Musician, as he stood Illumined by that fire of wood; Fair-haired, blue-eyed, his aspect blithe, His figure tall and straight and lithe, And every feature of his face Revealing his Norwegian race; A radiance, streaming from within, Around his eyes and forehead beamed, The Angel with the violin, Painted by Raphael, he seemed. He lived in that ideal world Whose language is not speech, but song; Around him evermore the throng Of elves and sprites their dances whirled; The Stroemkarl sang, the cataract hurled Its headlong waters from the height; And mingled in the wild delight The scream of sea-birds in their flight, The rumor of the forest trees, The plunge of the implacable seas, The tumult of the wind at night, Voices of eld, like trumpets blowing, Old ballads, and wild melodies Through mist and darkness pouring forth, Like Elivagar's river flowing Out of the glaciers of the North.
The instrument on which he played Was in Cremona's workshops made, By a great master of the past, Ere yet was lost the art divine; Fashioned of maple and of pine, That in Tyrolian forests vast Had rocked and wrestled with the blast: Exquisite was it in design, Perfect in each minutest part, A marvel of the lutist's art; And in its hollow chamber, thus, The maker from whose hands it came Had written his unrivalled name,— "Antonius Stradivarius."
And when he played, the atmosphere Was filled with magic, and the ear Caught echoes of that Harp of Gold, Whose music had so weird a sound, The hunted stag forgot to bound, The leaping rivulet backward rolled, The birds came down from bush and tree, The dead came from beneath the sea, The maiden to the harper's knee!
The music ceased; the applause was loud, The pleased musician smiled and bowed; The wood-fire clapped its hands of flame, The shadows on the wainscot stirred, And from the harpsichord there came A ghostly murmur of acclaim, A sound like that sent down at night By birds of passage in their flight, From the remotest distance heard.
Then silence followed; then began A clamor for the Landlord's tale,— The story promised them of old, They said, but always left untold; And he, although a bashful man, And all his courage seemed to fail, Finding excuse of no avail, Yielded; and thus the story ran.
THE LANDLORD'S TALE.
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the North Church tower as a signal light,— One, if by land, and two, if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said, "Good night!" and with muffled oar Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore, Just as the moon rose over the bay, Where swinging wide at her moorings lay The Somerset, British man-of-war; A phantom ship, with each mast and spar Across the moon like a prison bar, And a huge black hulk, that was magnified By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street, Wanders and watches with eager ears, Till in the silence around him he hears The muster of men at the barrack door, The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet, And the measured tread of the grenadiers, Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed to the tower of the church, Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry-chamber overhead, And startled the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him made Masses and moving shapes of shade,— Up the trembling ladder, steep and tall, To the highest window in the wall, Where he paused to listen and look down A moment on the roofs of the town, And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead, In their night-encampment on the hill, Wrapped in silence so deep and still That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread, The watchful night-wind, as it went Creeping along from tent to tent, And seeming to whisper, "All is well!" A moment only he feels the spell Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread Of the lonely belfry and the dead; For suddenly all his thoughts are bent On a shadowy something far away, Where the river widens to meet the bay,— A line of black that bends and floats On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere. Now he patted his horse's side, Now gazed at the landscape far and near, Then, impetuous, stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry-tower of the Old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still. And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet; That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep, And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep, Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; And under the alders, that skirt its edge, Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge, Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock When he crossed the bridge into Medford town. He heard the crowing of the cock, And the barking of the farmer's dog, And felt the damp of the river fog, That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock, When he galloped into Lexington. He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare, Gaze at him with a spectral glare, As if they already stood aghast At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock, When he came to the bridge in Concord town. He heard the bleating of the flock, And the twitter of birds among the trees, And felt the breath of the morning breeze Blowing over the meadows brown. And one was safe and asleep in his bed Who at the bridge would be first to fall, Who that day would be lying dead, Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read, How the British Regulars fired and fled,— How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farm-yard wall, Chasing the red-coats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm,— A cry of defiance and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forevermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
The Landlord ended thus his tale, Then rising took down from its nail The sword that hung there, dim with dust, And cleaving to its sheath with rust, And said, "This sword was in the fight." The Poet seized it, and exclaimed, "It is the sword of a good knight, Though homespun was his coat-of-mail; What matter if it be not named Joyeuse, Colada, Durindale, Excalibar, or Aroundight, Or other name the books record? Your ancestor, who bore this sword As Colonel of the Volunteers, Mounted upon his old gray mare, Seen here and there and everywhere, To me a grander shape appears Than old Sir William, or what not, Clinking about in foreign lands With iron gauntlets on his hands, And on his head an iron pot!"
All laughed; the Landlord's face grew red As his escutcheon on the wall; He could not comprehend at all The drift of what the Poet said; For those who had been longest dead Were always greatest in his eyes; And he was speechless with surprise To see Sir William's plumed head Brought to a level with the rest, And made the subject of a jest.
And this perceiving, to appease The Landlord's wrath, the others' fears, The Student said, with careless ease, "The ladies and the cavaliers, The arms, the loves, the courtesies, The deeds of high emprise, I sing! Thus Ariosto says, in words That have the stately stride and ring Of armed knights and clashing swords. Now listen to the tale I bring; Listen! though not to me belong The flowing draperies of his song, The words that rouse, the voice that charms. The Landlord's tale was one of arms, Only a tale of love is mine, Blending the human and divine, A tale of the Decameron, told In Palmieri's garden old, By Fiametta, laurel-crowned, While her companions lay around, And heard the intermingled sound Of airs that on their errands sped, And wild birds gossiping overhead, And lisp of leaves, and fountain's fall, And her own voice more sweet than all, Telling the tale, which, wanting these, Perchance may lose its power to please."
THE STUDENT'S TALE.
THE FALCON OF SER FEDERIGO.
One summer morning, when the sun was hot, Weary with labor in his garden-plot, On a rude bench beneath his cottage eaves, Ser Federigo sat among the leaves Of a huge vine, that, with its arms outspread, Hung its delicious clusters overhead. Below him, through the lovely valley, flowed The river Arno, like a winding road, And from its banks were lifted high in air The spires and roofs of Florence called the Fair: To him a marble tomb, that rose above His wasted fortunes and his buried love. For there, in banquet and in tournament, His wealth had lavished been, his substance spent, To woo and lose, since ill his wooing sped, Monna Giovanna, who his rival wed, Yet ever in his fancy reigned supreme, The ideal woman of a young man's dream.
Then he withdrew, in poverty and pain, To this small farm, the last of his domain, His only comfort and his only care To prune his vines, and plant the fig and pear; His only forester and only guest His falcon, faithful to him, when the rest, Whose willing hands had found so light of yore The brazen knocker of his palace door. Had now no strength to lift the wooden latch, That entrance gave beneath a roof of thatch. Companion of his solitary ways, Purveyor of his feasts on holidays, On him this melancholy man bestowed The love with which his nature overflowed. And so the empty-handed years went round, Vacant, though voiceful with prophetic sound, And so, that summer morn, he sat and mused With folded, patient hands, as he was used, And dreamily before his half-closed sight Floated the vision of his lost delight. Beside him, motionless, the drowsy bird Dreamed of the chase, and in his slumber heard The sudden, scythe-like sweep of wings, that dare The headlong plunge thro' eddying gulfs of air, Then, starting broad awake upon his perch, Tinkled his bells, like mass-bells in a church, And, looking at his master, seemed to say, "Ser Federigo, shall we hunt to-day?"
Ser Federigo thought not of the chase; The tender vision of her lovely face, I will not say he seems to see, he sees In the leaf-shadows of the trellises, Herself, yet not herself; a lovely child With flowing tresses, and eyes wide and wild, Coming undaunted up the garden walk, And looking not at him, but at the hawk. "Beautiful falcon!" said he, "would that I Might hold thee on my wrist, or see thee fly!" The voice was hers, and made strange echoes start Through all the haunted chambers of his heart, As an aeolian harp through gusty doors Of some old ruin its wild music pours.
"Who is thy mother, my fair boy?" he said, His hand laid softly on that shining head. "Monna Giovanna.—Will you let me stay A little while, and with your falcon play? We live there, just beyond your garden wall, In the great house behind the poplars tall."
So he spake on; and Federigo heard As from afar each softly uttered word, And drifted onward through the golden gleams And shadows of the misty sea of dreams, As mariners becalmed through vapors drift, And feel the sea beneath them sink and lift, And hear far off the mournful breakers roar, And voices calling faintly from the shore! Then, waking from his pleasant reveries, He took the little boy upon his knees, And told him stories of his gallant bird, Till in their friendship he became a third.
Monna Giovanna, widowed in her prime, Had come with friends to pass the summer time In her grand villa, half-way up the hill, O'erlooking Florence, but retired and still; With iron gates, that opened through long lines Of sacred ilex and centennial pines, And terraced gardens, and broad steps of stone, And sylvan deities, with moss o'ergrown, And fountains palpitating in the heat, And all Val d'Arno stretched beneath its feet. Here in seclusion, as a widow may, The lovely lady whiled the hours away, Pacing in sable robes the statued hall, Herself the stateliest statue among all, And seeing more and more, with secret joy, Her husband risen and living in her boy, Till the lost sense of life returned again, Not as delight, but as relief from pain. Meanwhile the boy, rejoicing in his strength, Stormed down the terraces from length to length; The screaming peacock chased in hot pursuit, And climbed the garden trellises for fruit. But his chief pastime was to watch the flight Of a gerfalcon, soaring into sight, Beyond the trees that fringed the garden wall, Then downward stooping at some distant call; And as he gazed full often wondered he Who might the master of the falcon be, Until that happy morning, when he found Master and falcon in the cottage ground.
And now a shadow and a terror fell On the great house, as if a passing-bell Tolled from the tower, and filled each spacious room With secret awe, and preternatural gloom; The petted boy grew ill, and day by day Pined with mysterious malady away. The mother's heart would not be comforted; Her darling seemed to her already dead, And often, sitting by the sufferer's side, "What can I do to comfort thee?" she cried. At first the silent lips made no reply, But, moved at length by her importunate cry, "Give me," he answered, with imploring tone, "Ser Federigo's falcon for my own!"
No answer could the astonished mother make; How could she ask, e'en for her darling's sake, Such favor at a luckless lover's hand, Well knowing that to ask was to command? Well knowing, what all falconers confessed, In all the land that falcon was the best, The master's pride and passion and delight, And the sole pursuivant of this poor knight. But yet, for her child's sake, she could no less Than give assent, to soothe his restlessness, So promised, and then promising to keep Her promise sacred, saw him fall asleep.
The morrow was a bright September morn; The earth was beautiful as if new-born; There was that nameless splendor everywhere, That wild exhilaration in the air, Which makes the passers in the city street Congratulate each other as they meet. Two lovely ladies, clothed in cloak and hood, Passed through the garden gate into the wood, Under the lustrous leaves, and through the sheen Of dewy sunshine showering down between.
The one, close-hooded, had the attractive grace Which sorrow sometimes lends a woman's face; Her dark eyes moistened with the mists that roll From the gulf-stream of passion in the soul; The other with her hood thrown back, her hair Making a golden glory in the air, Her cheeks suffused with an auroral blush, Her young heart singing louder than the thrush. So walked, that morn, through mingled light and shade, Each by the other's presence lovelier made, Monna Giovanna and her bosom friend, Intent upon their errand and its end.
They found Ser Federigo at his toil, Like banished Adam, delving in the soil; And when he looked and these fair women spied, The garden suddenly was glorified; His long-lost Eden was restored again, And the strange river winding through the plain No longer was the Arno to his eyes, But the Euphrates watering Paradise!
Monna Giovanna raised her stately head, And with fair words of salutation said: "Ser Federigo, we come here as friends, Hoping in this to make some poor amends For past unkindness. I who ne'er before Would even cross the threshold of your door, I who in happier days such pride maintained, Refused your banquets, and your gifts disdained, This morning come, a self-invited guest, To put your generous nature to the test, And breakfast with you under your own vine." To which he answered: "Poor desert of mine, Not your unkindness call it, for if aught Is good in me of feeling or of thought, From you it comes, and this last grace outweighs All sorrows, all regrets of other days."
And after further compliment and talk, Among the dahlias in the garden walk He left his guests; and to his cottage turned, And as he entered for a moment yearned For the lost splendors of the days of old, The ruby glass, the silver and the gold, And felt how piercing is the sting of pride, By want embittered and intensified. He looked about him for some means or way To keep this unexpected holiday; Searched every cupboard, and then searched again, Summoned the maid, who came, but came in vain; "The Signor did not hunt to-day," she said, "There's nothing in the house but wine and bread."
Then suddenly the drowsy falcon shook His little bells, with that sagacious look, Which said, as plain as language to the ear, "If anything is wanting, I am here!" Yes, everything is wanting, gallant bird! The master seized thee without further word, Like thine own lure, he whirled thee round; ah me! The pomp and flutter of brave falconry, The bells, the jesses, the bright scarlet hood, The flight and the pursuit o'er field and wood, All these forevermore are ended now; No longer victor, but the victim thou!
Then on the board a snow-white cloth he spread, Laid on its wooden dish the loaf of bread, Brought purple grapes with autumn sunshine hot, The fragrant peach, the juicy bergamot; Then in the midst a flask of wine he placed, And with autumnal flowers the banquet graced. Ser Federigo, would not these suffice Without thy falcon stuffed with cloves and spice?
When all was ready, and the courtly dame With her companion to the cottage came, Upon Ser Federigo's brain there fell The wild enchantment of a magic spell; The room they entered, mean and low and small, Was changed into a sumptuous banquet-hall, With fanfares by aerial trumpets blown; The rustic chair she sat on was a throne; He ate celestial food, and a divine Flavor was given to his country wine, And the poor falcon, fragrant with his spice, A peacock was, or bird of paradise!
When the repast was ended, they arose And passed again into the garden-close. Then said the lady, "Far too well I know, Remembering still the days of long ago, Though you betray it not, with what surprise You see me here in this familiar wise. You have no children, and you cannot guess What anguish, what unspeakable distress A mother feels, whose child is lying ill, Nor how her heart anticipates his will. And yet for this, you see me lay aside All womanly reserve and check of pride, And ask the thing most precious in your sight, Your falcon, your sole comfort and delight, Which if you find it in your heart to give, My poor, unhappy boy perchance may live."
Ser Federigo listens, and replies, With tears of love and pity in his eyes: "Alas, dear lady! there can be no task So sweet to me, as giving when you ask. One little hour ago, if I had known This wish of yours, it would have been my own. But thinking in what manner I could best Do honor to the presence of my guest, I deemed that nothing worthier could be Than what most dear and precious was to me, And so my gallant falcon breathed his last To furnish forth this morning our repast."
In mute contrition, mingled with dismay, The gentle lady turned her eyes away, Grieving that he such sacrifice should make, And kill his falcon for a woman's sake, Yet feeling in her heart a woman's pride, That nothing she could ask for was denied; Then took her leave, and passed out at the gate With footstep slow and soul disconsolate.
Three days went by, and lo! a passing-bell Tolled from the little chapel in the dell; Ten strokes Ser Federigo heard, and said, Breathing a prayer, "Alas! her child is dead!" Three months went by; and lo! a merrier chime Rang from the chapel bells at Christmas time; The cottage was deserted, and no more Ser Federigo sat beside its door, But now, with servitors to do his will, In the grand villa, half-way up the hill, Sat at the Christmas feast, and at his side Monna Giovanna, his beloved bride, Never so beautiful, so kind, so fair, Enthroned once more in the old rustic chair, High-perched upon the back of which there stood The image of a falcon carved in wood, And underneath the inscription, with a date, "All things come round to him who will but wait."
Soon as the story reached its end, One, over eager to commend, Crowned it with injudicious praise; And then the voice of blame found vent, And fanned the embers of dissent Into a somewhat lively blaze.
The Theologian shook his head; "These old Italian tales," he said, "From the much-praised Decameron down Through all the rabble of the rest, Are either trifling, dull, or lewd; The gossip of a neighborhood In some remote provincial town, A scandalous chronicle at best! They seem to me a stagnant fen, Grown rank with rushes and with reeds, Where a white lily, now and then, Blooms in the midst of noxious weeds And deadly nightshade on its banks."
To this the Student straight replied, "For the white lily, many thanks! One should not say, with too much pride, Fountain, I will not drink of thee! Nor were it grateful to forget, That from these reservoirs and tanks Even imperial Shakspeare drew His Moor of Venice and the Jew, And Romeo and Juliet, And many a famous comedy."
Then a long pause; till some one said, "An Angel is flying overhead!" At these words spake the Spanish Jew, And murmured with an inward breath: "God grant, if what you say is true It may not be the Angel of Death!"
And then another pause; and then, Stroking his beard, he said again: "This brings back to my memory A story in the Talmud told, That book of gems, that book of gold, Of wonders many and manifold, A tale that often comes to me, And fills my heart, and haunts my brain, And never wearies nor grows old."
THE SPANISH JEW'S TALE.
THE LEGEND OF RABBI BEN LEVI.
Rabbi Ben Levi, on the Sabbath, read A volume of the Law, in which it said, "No man shall look upon my face and live." And as he read, he prayed that God would give His faithful servant grace with mortal eye To look upon His face and yet not die.
Then fell a sudden shadow on the page And, lifting up his eyes, grown dim with age, He saw the Angel of Death before him stand, Holding a naked sword in his right hand. Rabbi Ben Levi was a righteous man, Yet through his veins a chill of terror ran.
With trembling voice he said, "What wilt thou here?" The angel answered, "Lo! the time draws near When thou must die; yet first, by God's decree, Whate'er thou askest shall be granted thee." Replied the Rabbi, "Let these living eyes First look upon my place in Paradise."
Then said the Angel, "Come with me and look." Rabbi Ben Levi closed the sacred book, And rising, and uplifting his gray head, "Give me thy sword," he to the Angel said, "Lest thou shouldst fall upon me by the way." The Angel smiled and hastened to obey, Then led him forth to the Celestial Town, And set him on the wall, whence, gazing down, Rabbi Ben Levi, with his living eyes, Might look upon his place in Paradise.
Then straight into the city of the Lord The Rabbi leaped with the Death-Angel's sword, And through the streets there swept a sudden breath Of something there unknown, which men call death. Meanwhile the Angel stayed without, and cried, "Come back!" To which the Rabbi's voice replied, "No! in the name of God, whom I adore, I swear that hence I will depart no more!"
Then all the Angels cried, "O Holy One, See what the son of Levi here has done! The kingdom of Heaven he takes by violence, And in Thy name refuses to go hence!" The Lord replied, "My Angels, be not wroth; Did e'er the son of Levi break his oath? Let him remain; for he with mortal eye Shall look upon my face and yet not die."
Beyond the outer wall the Angel of Death Heard the great voice, and said, with panting breath, "Give back the sword, and let me go my way." Whereat the Rabbi paused, and answered, "Nay! Anguish enough already has it caused Among the sons of men." And while he paused He heard the awful mandate of the Lord Resounding through the air, "Give back the sword!"
The Rabbi bowed his head in silent prayer; Then said he to the dreadful Angel, "Swear, No human eye shall look on it again; But when thou takest away the souls of men, Thyself unseen, and with an unseen sword, Thou wilt perform the bidding of the Lord."
The Angel took the sword again, and swore, And walks on earth unseen forevermore.
He ended: and a kind of spell Upon the silent listeners fell. His solemn manner and his words Had touched the deep, mysterious chords, That vibrate in each human breast Alike, but not alike confessed. The spiritual world seemed near; And close above them, full of fear, Its awful adumbration passed, A luminous shadow, vague and vast. They almost feared to look, lest there, Embodied from the impalpable air, They might behold the Angel stand, Holding the sword in his right hand.
At last, but in a voice subdued, Not to disturb their dreamy mood, Said the Sicilian: "While you spoke, Telling your legend marvellous, Suddenly in my memory woke The thought of one, now gone from us,— An old Abate, meek and mild, My friend and teacher, when a child, Who sometimes in those days of old The legend of an Angel told, Which ran, if I remember, thus."
THE SICILIAN'S TALE.
KING ROBERT OF SICILY.
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, Apparelled in magnificent attire, With retinue of many a knight and squire, On St. John's eve, at vespers, proudly sat And heard the priests chant the Magnificat. And as he listened, o'er and o'er again Repeated, like a burden or refrain, He caught the words, "Deposuit potentes De sede, et exaltavit humiles"; And slowly lifting up his kingly head He to a learned clerk beside him said, "What mean these words?" The clerk made answer meet, "He has put down the mighty from their seat, And has exalted them of low degree." Thereat King Robert muttered scornfully, "'Tis well that such seditious words are sung Only by priests and in the Latin tongue; For unto priests and people be it known, There is no power can push me from my throne!" And leaning back, he yawned and fell asleep, Lulled by the chant monotonous and deep.
When he awoke, it was already night; The church was empty, and there was no light, Save where the lamps, that glimmered few and faint, Lighted a little space before some saint. He started from his seat and gazed around, But saw no living thing and heard no sound. He groped towards the door, but it was locked; He cried aloud, and listened, and then knocked, And uttered awful threatenings and complaints, And imprecations upon men and saints. The sounds re-echoed from the roof and walls As if dead priests were laughing in their stalls!
At length the sexton, hearing from without The tumult of the knocking and the shout, And thinking thieves were in the house of prayer, Came with his lantern, asking, "Who is there?" Half choked with rage, King Robert fiercely said, "Open: 'tis I, the King! Art thou afraid?" The frightened sexton, muttering, with a curse, "This is some drunken vagabond, or worse!" Turned the great key and flung the portal wide; A man rushed by him at a single stride, Haggard, half naked, without hat or cloak, Who neither turned, nor looked at him, nor spoke, But leaped into the blackness of the night, And vanished like a spectre from his sight.
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, Despoiled of his magnificent attire, Bare-headed, breathless, and besprent with mire, With sense of wrong and outrage desperate, Strode on and thundered at the palace gate; Rushed through the court-yard, thrusting in his rage To right and left each seneschal and page, And hurried up the broad and sounding stair, His white face ghastly in the torches' glare. From hall to hall he passed with breathless speed; Voices and cries he heard, but did not heed, Until at last he reached the banquet-room, Blazing with light, and breathing with perfume.
There on the dais sat another king, Wearing his robes, his crown, his signet-ring, King Robert's self in features, form, and height, But all transfigured with angelic light! It was an Angel; and his presence there With a divine effulgence filled the air, An exaltation, piercing the disguise, Though none the hidden Angel recognize.
A moment speechless, motionless, amazed, The throneless monarch on the Angel gazed, Who met his looks of anger and surprise With the divine compassion of his eyes; Then said, "Who art thou? and why com'st thou here?" To which King Robert answered, with a sneer, "I am the King, and come to claim my own From an impostor, who usurps my throne!" And suddenly, at these audacious words, Up sprang the angry guests, and drew their swords; The Angel answered, with unruffled brow, "Nay, not the King, but the King's Jester, thou Henceforth shalt wear the bells and scalloped cape, And for thy counsellor shalt lead an ape; Thou shalt obey my servants when they call, And wait upon my henchmen in the hall!"
Deaf to King Robert's threats and cries and prayers, They thrust him from the hall and down the stairs; A group of tittering pages ran before, And as they opened wide the folding-door, His heart failed, for he heard, with strange alarms, The boisterous laughter of the men-at-arms, And all the vaulted chamber roar and ring With the mock plaudits of "Long live the King!"
Next morning, waking with the day's first beam, He said within himself, "It was a dream!" But the straw rustled as he turned his head, There were the cap and bells beside his bed, Around him rose the bare, discolored walls, Close by, the steeds were champing in their stalls, And in the corner, a revolting shape, Shivering and chattering sat the wretched ape. It was no dream; the world he loved so much Had turned to dust and ashes at his touch!
Days came and went; and now returned again To Sicily the old Saturnian reign; Under the Angel's governance benign The happy island danced with corn and wine, And deep within the mountain's burning breast Enceladus, the giant, was at rest.
Meanwhile King Robert yielded to his fate, Sullen and silent and disconsolate. Dressed in the motley garb that Jesters wear, With looks bewildered and a vacant stare, Close shaven above the ears, as monks are shorn, By courtiers mocked, by pages laughed to scorn, His only friend the ape, his only food What others left,—he still was unsubdued. And when the Angel met him on his way, And half in earnest, half in jest, would say, Sternly, though tenderly, that he might feel The velvet scabbard held a sword of steel, "Art thou the King?" the passion of his woe Burst from him in resistless overflow, And, lifting high his forehead, he would fling The haughty answer back, "I am, I am the King!"
Almost three years were ended; when there came Ambassadors of great repute and name From Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, Unto King Robert, saying that Pope Urbane By letter summoned them forthwith to come On Holy Thursday to his city of Rome. The Angel with great joy received his guests, And gave them presents of embroidered vests, And velvet mantles with rich ermine lined, And rings and jewels of the rarest kind. Then he departed with them o'er the sea Into the lovely land of Italy, Whose loveliness was more resplendent made By the mere passing of that cavalcade, With plumes, and cloaks, and housings, and the stir Of jewelled bridle and of golden spur.
And lo! among the menials, in mock state, Upon a piebald steed, with shambling gait, His cloak of fox-tails flapping in the wind, The solemn ape demurely perched behind, King Robert rode, making huge merriment In all the country towns through which they went.
The Pope received them with great pomp, and blare Of bannered trumpets, on Saint Peter's square, Giving his benediction and embrace, Fervent, and full of apostolic grace. While with congratulations and with prayers He entertained the Angel unawares, Robert, the Jester, bursting through the crowd, Into their presence rushed, and cried aloud, "I am the King! Look, and behold in me Robert, your brother, King of Sicily! This man, who wears my semblance to your eyes, Is an impostor in a king's disguise. Do you not know me? does no voice within Answer my cry, and say we are akin?" The Pope in silence, but with troubled mien, Gazed at the Angel's countenance serene; The Emperor, laughing, said, "It is strange sport To keep a madman for thy Fool at court!" And the poor, baffled Jester in disgrace Was hustled back among the populace.
In solemn state the Holy Week went by, And Easter Sunday gleamed upon the sky; The presence of the Angel, with its light, Before the sun rose, made the city bright, And with new fervor filled the hearts of men, Who felt that Christ indeed had risen again. Even the Jester, on his bed of straw, With haggard eyes the unwonted splendor saw, He felt within a power unfelt before, And, kneeling humbly on his chamber floor, He heard the rushing garments of the Lord Sweep through the silent air, ascending heavenward.
And now the visit ending, and once more Valmond returning to the Danube's shore, Homeward the Angel journeyed, and again The land was made resplendent with his train, Flashing along the towns of Italy Unto Salerno, and from there by sea. And when once more within Palermo's wall, And, seated on the throne in his great hall, He heard the Angelus from convent towers, As if the better world conversed with ours, He beckoned to King Robert to draw nigher, And with a gesture bade the rest retire; And when they were alone, the Angel said, "Art thou the King?" Then bowing down his head, King Robert crossed both hands upon his breast, And meekly answered him: "Thou knowest best! My sins as scarlet are; let me go hence, And in some cloister's school of penitence, Across those stones, that pave the way to heaven, Walk barefoot, till my guilty soul is shriven!" The Angel smiled, and from his radiant face A holy light illumined all the place, And through the open window, loud and clear, They heard the monks chant in the chapel near, Above the stir and tumult of the street: "He has put down the mighty from their seat, And has exalted them of low degree!" And through the chant a second melody Rose like the throbbing of a single string: "I am an Angel, and thou art the King!"
King Robert, who was standing near the throne, Lifted his eyes, and lo! he was alone! But all apparelled as in days of old, With ermined mantle and with cloth of gold; And when his courtiers came, they found him there Kneeling upon the floor, absorbed in silent prayer.
And then the blue-eyed Norseman told A Saga of the days of old. "There is," said he, "a wondrous book Of Legends in the old Norse tongue, Of the dead kings of Norroway,— Legends that once were told or sung In many a smoky fireside nook Of Iceland, in the ancient day, By wandering Saga-man or Scald; Heimskringla is the volume called; And he who looks may find therein The story that I now begin."
And in each pause the story made Upon his violin he played, As an appropriate interlude, Fragments of old Norwegian tunes That bound in one the separate runes, And held the mind in perfect mood, Entwining and encircling all The strange and antiquated rhymes With melodies of olden times; As over some half-ruined wall, Disjointed and about to fall, Fresh woodbines climb and interlace, And keep the loosened stones in place.
THE MUSICIAN'S TALE.
THE SAGA OF KING OLAF.
THE CHALLENGE OF THOR.
I am the God Thor, I am the War God, I am the Thunderer! Here in my Northland, My fastness and fortress, Reign I forever!
Here amid icebergs Rule I the nations; This is my hammer, Mioelner the mighty; Giants and sorcerers Cannot withstand it!
These are the gauntlets Wherewith I wield it, And hurl it afar off; This is my girdle; Whenever I brace it, Strength is redoubled!
The light thou beholdest Stream through the heavens, In flashes of crimson, Is but my red beard Blown by the night-wind, Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother; Mine eyes are the lightning; The wheels of my chariot Roll in the thunder, The blows of my hammer Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world still, Has ruled it, shall rule it; Meekness is weakness, Strength is triumphant, Over the whole earth Still is it Thor's-Day!
Thou art a God too, O Galilean! And thus single-handed Unto the combat, Gauntlet or Gospel, Here I defy thee!
KING OLAF'S RETURN.
And King Olaf heard the cry, Saw the red light in the sky, Laid his hand upon his sword, As he leaned upon the railing, And his ships went sailing, sailing Northward into Drontheim fiord.
There he stood as one who dreamed; And the red light glanced and gleamed On the armor that he wore; And he shouted, as the rifted Streamers o'er him shook and shifted, "I accept thy challenge, Thor!"
To avenge his father slain, And reconquer realm and reign, Came the youthful Olaf home, Through the midnight sailing, sailing, Listening to the wild wind's wailing, And the dashing of the foam.
To his thoughts the sacred name Of his mother Astrid came, And the tale she oft had told Of her flight by secret passes Through the mountains and morasses, To the home of Hakon old.
Then strange memories crowded back Of Queen Gunhild's wrath and wrack, And a hurried flight by sea; Of grim Vikings, and their rapture In the sea-fight, and the capture, And the life of slavery.
How a stranger watched his face In the Esthonian market-place, Scanned his features one by one, Saying, "We should know each other; I am Sigurd, Astrid's brother, Thou art Olaf, Astrid's son!"
Then as Queen Allogia's page, Old in honors, young in age, Chief of all her men-at-arms; Till vague whispers, and mysterious, Reached King Valdemar, the imperious, Filling him with strange alarms.
Then his cruisings o'er the seas, Westward to the Hebrides, And to Scilly's rocky shore; And the hermit's cavern dismal, Christ's great name and rites baptismal, In the ocean's rush and roar.
All these thoughts of love and strife Glimmered through his lurid life, As the stars' intenser light Through the red flames o'er him trailing, As his ships went sailing, sailing, Northward in the summer night.
Trained for either camp or court, Skilful in each manly sport, Young and beautiful and tall; Art of warfare, craft of chases, Swimming, skating, snow-shoe races, Excellent alike in all.
When at sea, with all his rowers, He along the bending oars Outside of his ship could run. He the Smalsor Horn ascended, And his shining shield suspended On its summit, like a sun.
On the ship-rails he could stand, Wield his sword with either hand, And at once two javelins throw; At all feasts where ale was strongest Sat the merry monarch longest, First to come and last to go.
Norway never yet had seen One so beautiful of mien, One so royal in attire, When in arms completely furnished, Harness gold-inlaid and burnished, Mantle like a flame of fire.
Thus came Olaf to his own, When upon the night-wind blown Passed that cry along the shore; And he answered, while the rifted Streamers o'er him shook and shifted, "I accept thy challenge, Thor!"
THORA OF RIMOL.
"Thora of Rimol! hide me! hide me! Danger and shame and death betide me! For Olaf the King is hunting me down Through field and forest, through thorp and town!" Thus cried Jarl Hakon To Thora, the fairest of women.
"Hakon Jarl! for the love I bear thee Neither shall shame nor death come near thee! But the hiding-place wherein thou must lie Is the cave underneath the swine in the sty." Thus to Jarl Hakon Said Thora, the fairest of women.
So Hakon Jarl and his base thrall Karker Crouched in the cave, than a dungeon darker, As Olaf came riding, with men in mail, Through the forest roads into Orkadale, Demanding Jarl Hakon Of Thora, the fairest of women.
"Rich and honored shall be whoever The head of Hakon Jarl shall dissever!" Hakon heard him, and Karker the slave, Through the breathing-holes of the darksome cave. Alone in her chamber Wept Thora, the fairest of women.
Said Karker, the crafty, "I will not slay thee! For all the king's gold I will never betray thee!" "Then why dost thou turn so pale, O churl, And then again black as the earth?" said the Earl. More pale and more faithful Was Thora, the fairest of women.
From a dream in the night the thrall started, saying, "Round my neck a gold ring King Olaf was laying!" And Hakon answered, "Beware of the king! He will lay round thy neck a blood-red ring." At the ring on her finger Gazed Thora, the fairest of women.
At daybreak slept Hakon, with sorrows encumbered, But screamed and drew up his feet as he slumbered; The thrall in the darkness plunged with his knife, And the Earl awakened no more in this life. But wakeful and weeping Sat Thora, the fairest of women.
At Nidarholm the priests are all singing, Two ghastly heads on the gibbet are swinging; One is Jarl Hakon's and one is his thrall's, And the people are shouting from windows and walls; While alone in her chamber Swoons Thora, the fairest of women.
QUEEN SIGRID THE HAUGHTY.
Queen Sigrid the Haughty sat proud and aloft In her chamber, that looked over meadow and croft. Heart's dearest, Why dost thou sorrow so?
The floor with tassels of fir was besprent, Filling the room with their fragrant scent.
She heard the birds sing, she saw the sun shine, The air of summer was sweeter than wine.
Like a sword without scabbard the bright river lay Between her own kingdom and Norroway.
But Olaf the King had sued for her hand, The sword would be sheathed, the river be spanned.
Her maidens were seated around her knee, Working bright figures in tapestry.
And one was singing the ancient rune Of Brynhilda's love and the wrath of Gudrun.
And through it, and round it, and over it all Sounded incessant the waterfall.
The Queen in her hand held a ring of gold, From the door of Lade's Temple old.
King Olaf had sent her this wedding gift, But her thoughts as arrows were keen and swift.
She had given the ring to her goldsmiths twain, Who smiled, as they handed it back again.
And Sigrid the Queen, in her haughty way, Said, "Why do you smile, my goldsmiths, say?"
And they answered: "O Queen! if the truth must be told, The ring is of copper, and not of gold!"
The lightning flashed o'er her forehead and cheek, She only murmured, she did not speak:
"If in his gifts he can faithless be, There will be no gold in his love to me."
A footstep was heard on the outer stair, And in strode King Olaf with royal air.
He kissed the Queen's hand, and he whispered of love, And swore to be true as the stars are above.
But she smiled with contempt as she answered: "O King, Will you swear it, as Odin once swore, on the ring?"
And the King: "O speak not of Odin to me, The wife of King Olaf a Christian must be."
Looking straight at the King, with her level brows, She said, "I keep true to my faith and my vows."
Then the face of King Olaf was darkened with gloom, He rose in his anger and strode through the room.
"Why, then, should I care to have thee?" he said,— "A faded old woman, a heathenish jade!"
His zeal was stronger than fear or love, And he struck the Queen in the face with his glove.
Then forth from the chamber in anger he fled, And the wooden stairway shook with his tread.
Queen Sigrid the Haughty said under her breath, "This insult, King Olaf, shall be thy death!" Heart's dearest, Why dost thou sorrow so?
THE SKERRY OF SHRIEKS.
Now from all King Olaf's farms His men-at-arms Gathered on the Eve of Easter; To his house at Angvalds-ness Fast they press, Drinking with the royal feaster.
Loudly through the wide-flung door Came the roar Of the sea upon the Skerry; And its thunder loud and near Reached the ear, Mingling with their voices merry.
"Hark!" said Olaf to his Scald, Halfred the Bald, "Listen to that song, and learn it! Half my kingdom would I give, As I live, If by such songs you would earn it!
"For of all the runes and rhymes Of all times, Best I like the ocean's dirges, When the old harper heaves and rocks, His hoary locks Flowing and flashing in the surges!"
Halfred answered: "I am called The Unappalled! Nothing hinders me or daunts me. Hearken to me, then, O King, While I sing The great Ocean Song that haunts me."
"I will hear your song sublime Some other time," Says the drowsy monarch, yawning, And retires; each laughing guest Applauds the jest; Then they sleep till day is dawning.
Pacing up and down the yard, King Olaf's guard Saw the sea-mist slowly creeping O'er the sands, and up the hill, Gathering still Round the house where they were sleeping.
It was not the fog he saw, Nor misty flaw, That above the landscape brooded; It was Eyvind Kallda's crew Of warlocks blue, With their caps of darkness hooded!
Round and round the house they go, Weaving slow Magic circles to encumber And imprison in their ring Olaf the King, As he helpless lies in slumber.
Then athwart the vapors dun The Easter sun Streamed with one broad track of splendor! In their real forms appeared The warlocks weird, Awful as the Witch of Endor.
Blinded by the light that glared, They groped and stared Round about with steps unsteady; From his window Olaf gazed, And, amazed, "Who are these strange people?" said he.
"Eyvind Kellda and his men!" Answered then From the yard a sturdy farmer; While the men-at-arms apace Filled the place, Busily buckling on their armor.
From the gates they sallied forth, South and north, Scoured the island coast around them, Seizing all the warlock band, Foot and hand On the Skerry's rocks they bound them.
And at eve the king again Called his train, And, with all the candles burning, Silent sat and heard once more The sullen roar Of the ocean tides returning.
Shrieks and cries of wild despair Filled the air, Growing fainter as they listened; Then the bursting surge alone Sounded on;— Thus the sorcerers were christened!
"Sing, O Scald, your song sublime, Your ocean-rhyme," Cried King Olaf: "it will cheer me!" Said the Scald, with pallid cheeks, "The Skerry of Shrieks Sings too loud for you to hear me!"
THE WRAITH OF ODIN.
The guests were loud, the ale was strong, King Olaf feasted late and long; The hoary Scalds together sang; O'erhead the smoky rafters rang. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The door swung wide, with creak and din; A blast of cold night-air came in, And on the threshold shivering stood A one-eyed guest, with cloak and hood. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King exclaimed, "O graybeard pale! Come warm thee with this cup of ale." The foaming draught the old man quaffed, The noisy guests looked on and laughed. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then spake the King: "Be not afraid; Sit here by me." The guest obeyed, And, seated at the table, told Tales of the sea, and Sagas old. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
And ever, when the tale was o'er, The King demanded yet one more; Till Sigurd the Bishop smiling said, "'Tis late, O King, and time for bed." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King retired; the stranger guest Followed and entered with the rest; The lights were out, the pages gone, But still the garrulous guest spake on. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
As one who from a volume reads, He spake of heroes and their deeds, Of lands and cities he had seen, And stormy gulfs that tossed between. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then from his lips in music rolled The Havamal of Odin old, With sounds mysterious as the roar Of billows on a distant shore. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
"Do we not learn from runes and rhymes Made by the gods in elder times, And do not still the great Scalds teach That silence better is than speech?" Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Smiling at this, the King replied, "Thy lore is by thy tongue belied; For never was I so enthralled Either by Saga-man or Scald." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The Bishop said, "Late hours we keep! Night wanes, O King! 'tis time for sleep!" Then slept the King, and when he woke The guest was gone, the morning broke. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
They found the doors securely barred, They found the watch-dog in the yard, There was no footprint in the grass, And none had seen the stranger pass. Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
King Olaf crossed himself and said: "I know that Odin the Great is dead; Sure is the triumph of our Faith, The one-eyed stranger was his wraith." Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Olaf the King, one summer morn, Blew a blast on his bugle-horn, Sending his signal through the land of Drontheim.
And to the Hus-Ting held at Mere Gathered the farmers far and near, With their war weapons ready to confront him.
Ploughing under the morning star, Old Iron-Beard in Yriar Heard the summons, chuckling with a low laugh.
He wiped the sweat-drops from his brow, Unharnessed his horses from the plough, And clattering came on horseback to King Olaf.
He was the churliest of the churls; Little he cared for king or earls; Bitter as home-brewed ale were his foaming passions.
Hodden-gray was the garb he wore, And by the Hammer of Thor he swore; He hated the narrow town, and all its fashions.
But he loved the freedom of his farm, His ale at night, by the fireside warm, Gudrun his daughter, with her flaxen tresses.
He loved his horses and his herds, The smell of the earth, and the song of birds, His well-filled barns, his brook with its watercresses.
Huge and cumbersome was his frame; His beard, from which he took his name, Frosty and fierce, like that of Hymer the Giant.
So at the Hus-Ting he appeared, The farmer of Yriar, Iron-Beard, On horseback, with an attitude defiant.
And to King Olaf he cried aloud, Out of the middle of the crowd, That tossed about him like a stormy ocean:
"Such sacrifices shalt thou bring; To Odin and to Thor, O King, As other kings have done in their devotion!"
King Olaf answered: "I command This land to be a Christian land; Here is my Bishop who the folk baptizes!
"But if you ask me to restore Your sacrifices, stained with gore, Then will I offer human sacrifices!
"Not slaves and peasants shall they be, But men of note and high degree, Such men as Orm of Lyra and Kar of Gryting!"
Then to their Temple strode he in, And loud behind him heard the din Of his men-at-arms and the peasants fiercely fighting.
There in the Temple, carved in wood, The image of great Odin stood, And other gods, with Thor supreme among them.
King Olaf smote them with the blade Of his huge war-axe, gold inlaid, And downward shattered to the pavement flung them.
At the same moment rose without, From the contending crowd, a shout, A mingled sound of triumph and of wailing.
And there upon the trampled plain The farmer Iron-Beard lay slain, Midway between the assailed and the assailing.
King Olaf from the doorway spoke: "Choose ye between two things, my folk, To be baptized or given up to slaughter!"
And seeing their leader stark and dead, The people with a murmur said, "O King, baptize us with thy holy water!"
So all the Drontheim land became A Christian land in name and fame, In the old gods no more believing and trusting.
And as a blood-atonement, soon King Olaf wed the fair Gudrun; And thus in peace ended the Drontheim Hus-Ting!
On King Olaf's bridal night Shines the moon with tender light, And across the chamber streams Its tide of dreams.
At the fatal midnight hour, When all evil things have power, In the glimmer of the moon Stands Gudrun.
Close against her heaving breast, Something in her hand is pressed; Like an icicle, its sheen Is cold and keen.
On the cairn are fixed her eyes Where her murdered father lies, And a voice remote and drear She seems to hear.
What a bridal night is this! Cold will be the dagger's kiss; Laden with the chill of death Is its breath.
Like the drifting snow she sweeps To the couch where Olaf sleeps; Suddenly he wakes and stirs, His eyes meet hers.
"What is that," King Olaf said, "Gleams so bright above thy head? Wherefore standest thou so white In pale moonlight?"
"'Tis the bodkin that I wear When at night I bind my hair; It woke me falling on the floor; 'Tis nothing more."
"Forests have ears, and fields have eyes; Often treachery lurking lies Underneath the fairest hair! Gudrun beware!"
Ere the earliest peep of morn Blew King Olaf's bugle-horn; And forever sundered ride Bridegroom and bride!
THANGBRAND THE PRIEST.
Short of stature, large of limb, Burly face and russet beard, All the women stared at him, When in Iceland he appeared. "Look!" they said, With nodding head, "There goes Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest."
All the prayers he knew by rote, He could preach like Chrysostome, From the Fathers he could quote, He had even been at Rome. A learned clerk, A man of mark, Was this Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
He was quarrelsome and loud, And impatient of control, Boisterous in the market crowd, Boisterous at the wassail-bowl, Everywhere Would drink and swear, Swaggering Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
In his house this malecontent Could the King no longer bear, So to Iceland he was sent To convert the heathen there, And away One summer day Sailed this Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
There in Iceland, o'er their books Pored the people day and night, But he did not like their looks, Nor the songs they used to write. "All this rhyme Is waste of time!" Grumbled Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
To the alehouse, where he sat, Came the Scalds and Saga-men; Is it to be wondered at, That they quarrelled now and then, When o'er his beer Began to leer Drunken Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest?
All the folk in Altafiord Boasted of their island grand; Saying in a single word, "Iceland is the finest land That the sun Doth shine upon!" Loud laughed Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
And he answered: "What's the use Of this bragging up and down, When three women and one goose Make a market in your town!" Every Scald Satires scrawled On poor Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
Something worse they did than that; And what vexed him most of all Was a figure in shovel hat, Drawn in charcoal on the wall; With words that go Sprawling below, "This is Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest."
Hardly knowing what he did, Then he smote them might and main, Thorvald Veile and Veterlid Lay there in the alehouse slain. "To-day we are gold, To-morrow mould!" Muttered Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
Much in fear of axe and rope, Back to Norway sailed he then. "O, King Olaf! little hope Is there of these Iceland men!" Meekly said, With bending head, Pious Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest.
RAUD THE STRONG.
"All the old gods are dead, All the wild warlocks fled; But the White Christ lives and reigns, And throughout my wide domains His Gospel shall be spread!" On the Evangelists Thus swore King Olaf.
But still in dreams of the night Beheld he the crimson light, And heard the voice that defied Him who was crucified, And challenged him to the fight. To Sigurd the Bishop King Olaf confessed it.
And Sigurd the Bishop said, "The old gods are not dead, For the great Thor still reigns, And among the Jarls and Thanes The old witchcraft still is spread." Thus to King Olaf Said Sigurd the Bishop.
"Far north in the Salten Fiord, By rapine, fire, and sword, Lives the Viking, Raud the Strong; All the Godoe Isles belong To him and his heathen horde." Thus went on speaking Sigurd the Bishop.
"A warlock, a wizard is he, And lord of the wind and the sea; And whichever way he sails, He has ever favoring gales, By his craft in sorcery." Here the sign of the cross made Devoutly King Olaf.
"With rites that we both abhor, He worships Odin and Thor; So it cannot yet be said, That all the old gods are dead, And the warlocks are no more," Flushing with anger Said Sigurd the Bishop.
Then King Olaf cried aloud: "I will talk with this mighty Raud, And along the Salten Fiord Preach the Gospel with my sword, Or be brought back in my shroud!" So northward from Drontheim Sailed King Olaf!
BISHOP SIGURD AT SALTEN FIORD.
Loud the angry wind was wailing As King Olaf's ships came sailing Northward out of Drontheim haven To the mouth of Salten Fiord.
Though the flying sea-spray drenches Fore and aft the rowers' benches, Not a single heart is craven Of the champions there on board.
All without the Fiord was quiet, But within it storm and riot, Such as on his Viking cruises Raud the Strong was wont to ride.
And the sea through all its tide-ways Swept the reeling vessels sideways, As the leaves are swept through sluices, When the flood-gates open wide.
"'Tis the warlock! 'tis the demon Raud!" cried Sigurd to the seamen; "But the Lord is not affrighted By the witchcraft of his foes."
To the ship's bow he ascended, By his choristers attended, Round him were the tapers lighted, And the sacred incense rose.
On the bow stood Bishop Sigurd, In his robes, as one transfigured, And the Crucifix he planted High amid the rain and mist.
Then with holy water sprinkled All the ship; the mass-bells tinkled; Loud the monks around him chanted, Loud he read the Evangelist.
As into the Fiord they darted, On each side the water parted; Down a path like silver molten Steadily rowed King Olaf's ships;
Steadily burned all night the tapers, And the White Christ through the vapors Gleamed across the Fiord of Salten, As through John's Apocalypse,—
Till at last they reached Raud's dwelling On the little isle of Gelling; Not a guard was at the doorway, Not a glimmer of light was seen.
But at anchor, carved and gilded, Lay the dragon-ship he builded; 'Twas the grandest ship in Norway, With its crest and scales of green.
Up the stairway, softly creeping, To the loft where Raud was sleeping, With their fists they burst asunder Bolt and bar that held the door.
Drunken with sleep and ale they found him, Dragged him from his bed and bound him, While he stared with stupid wonder, At the look and garb they wore.
Then King Olaf said: "O Sea-King! Little time have we for speaking, Choose between the good and evil; Be baptized, or thou shalt die!"
But in scorn the heathen scoffer Answered: "I disdain thine offer; Neither fear I God nor Devil; Thee and thy Gospel I defy!"
Then between his jaws distended, When his frantic struggles ended, Through King Olaf's horn an adder, Touched by fire, they forced to glide.
Sharp his tooth was as an arrow, As he gnawed through bone and marrow; But without a groan or shudder, Raud the Strong blaspheming died.
Then baptized they all that region, Swarthy Lap and fair Norwegian, Far as swims the salmon, leaping, Up the streams of Salten Fiord.
In their temples Thor and Odin Lay in dust and ashes trodden, As King Olaf, onward sweeping, Preached the Gospel with his sword.
Then he took the carved and gilded Dragon-ship that Raud had builded, And the tiller single-handed, Grasping, steered into the main.
Southward sailed the sea-gulls o'er him, Southward sailed the ship that bore him, Till at Drontheim haven landed Olaf and his crew again.
KING OLAF'S CHRISTMAS.
At Drontheim, Olaf the King Heard the bells of Yule-tide ring, As he sat in his banquet-hall, Drinking the nut-brown ale, With his bearded Berserks hale And tall.
Three days his Yule-tide feasts He held with Bishops and Priests, And his horn filled up to the brim; But the ale was never too strong, Nor the Saga-man's tale too long, For him.
O'er his drinking-horn, the sign He made of the cross divine, As he drank, and muttered his prayers; But the Berserks evermore Made the sign of the Hammer of Thor Over theirs.
The gleams of the fire-light dance Upon helmet and hauberk and lance, And laugh in the eyes of the King; And he cries to Halfred the Scald, Gray-bearded, wrinkled, and bald, "Sing!"
"Sing me a song divine, With a sword in every line, And this shall be thy reward." And he loosened the belt at his waist, And in front of the singer placed His sword.
"Quern-biter of Hakon the Good, Wherewith at a stroke he hewed The millstone through and through, And Foot-breadth of Thoralf the Strong, Were neither so broad nor so long, Nor so true."
Then the Scald took his harp and sang, And loud through the music rang The sound of that shining word; And the harp-strings a clangor made, As if they were struck with the blade Of a sword.
And the Berserks round about Broke forth into a shout That made the rafters ring: They smote with their fists on the board, And shouted, "Long live the Sword, And the King!"
But the King said, "O my son, I miss the bright word in one Of thy measures and thy rhymes." And Halfred the Scald replied, "In another 'twas multiplied Three times."
Then King Olaf raised the hilt Of iron, cross-shaped and gilt, And said, "Do not refuse; Count well the gain and the loss, Thor's hammer or Christ's cross: Choose!"
And Halfred the Scald said, "This In the name of the Lord I kiss, Who on it was crucified!" And a shout went round the board, "In the name of Christ the Lord, Who died!"
Then over the waste of snows The noonday sun uprose, Through the driving mists revealed, Like the lifting of the Host, By incense-clouds almost Concealed.
On the shining wall a vast And shadowy cross was cast From the hilt of the lifted sword, And in foaming cups of ale The Berserks drank "Was-hael! To the Lord!"
THE BUILDING OF THE LONG SERPENT.
Thorberg Skafting, master-builder, In his ship-yard by the sea, Whistled, saying, "'Twould bewilder Any man but Thorberg Skafting, Any man but me!"
Near him lay the Dragon stranded, Built of old by Raud the Strong, And King Olaf had commanded He should build another Dragon, Twice as large and long.
Therefore whistled Thorberg Skafting, As he sat with half-closed eyes, And his head turned sideways, drafting That new vessel for King Olaf Twice the Dragon's size.
Round him busily hewed and hammered Mallet huge and heavy axe; Workmen laughed and sang and clamored; Whirred the wheels, that into rigging Spun the shining flax!
All this tumult heard the master,— It was music to his ear; Fancy whispered all the faster, "Men shall hear of Thorberg Skafting For a hundred year!"
Workmen sweating at the forges Fashioned iron bolt and bar, Like a warlock's midnight orgies Smoked and bubbled the black caldron With the boiling tar.
Did the warlocks mingle in it, Thorberg Skafting, any curse? Could you not be gone a minute But some mischief must be doing, Turning bad to worse?
'Twas an ill wind that came wafting, From his homestead words of woe; To his farm went Thorberg Skafting, Oft repeating to his workmen, Build ye thus and so.
After long delays returning Came the master back by night; To his ship-yard longing, yearning, Hurried he, and did not leave it Till the morning's light.
"Come and see my ship, my darling!" On the morrow said the King; "Finished now from keel to carling; Never yet was seen in Norway Such a wondrous thing!"
In the ship-yard, idly talking, At the ship the workmen stared: Some one, all their labor balking, Down her sides had cut deep gashes, Not a plank was spared!
"Death be to the evil-doer!" With an oath King Olaf spoke; "But rewards to his pursuer!" And with wrath his face grew redder Than his scarlet cloak.
Straight the master-builder, smiling, Answered thus the angry King: "Cease blaspheming and reviling, Olaf, it was Thorberg Skafting Who has done this thing!"
Then he chipped and smoothed the planking, Till the King, delighted, swore, With much lauding and much thanking, "Handsomer is now my Dragon Than she was before!"
Seventy ells and four extended On the grass the vessel's keel; High above it, gilt and splendid, Rose the figure-head ferocious With its crest of steel.
Then they launched her from the tressels, In the ship-yard by the sea; She was the grandest of all vessels, Never ship was built in Norway Half so fine as she!
The Long Serpent was she christened, 'Mid the roar of cheer on cheer! They who to the Saga listened Heard the name of Thorberg Skafting For a hundred year!
THE CREW OF THE LONG SERPENT.
Safe at anchor in Drontheim bay King Olaf's fleet assembled lay, And, striped with white and blue, Downward fluttered sail and banner, As alights the screaming lanner; Lustily cheered, in their wild manner, The Long Serpent's crew.
Her forecastle man was Ulf the Red; Like a wolf's was his shaggy head, His teeth as large and white; His beard, of gray and russet blended, Round as a swallow's nest descended; As standard-bearer he defended Olaf's flag in the fight.
Near him Kolbiorn had his place, Like the King in garb and face, So gallant and so hale; Every cabin-boy and varlet Wondered at his cloak of scarlet; Like a river, frozen and star-lit, Gleamed his coat of mail.
By the bulkhead, tall and dark, Stood Thrand Rame of Thelemark, A figure gaunt and grand; On his hairy arm imprinted Was an anchor, azure-tinted; Like Thor's hammer, huge and dinted Was his brawny hand.
Einar Tamberskelver, bare To the winds his golden hair, By the mainmast stood; Graceful was his form, and slender, And his eyes were deep and tender As a woman's, in the splendor Of her maidenhood.
In the fore-hold Biorn and Bork Watched the sailors at their work: Heavens! how they swore! Thirty men they each commanded, Iron-sinewed, horny-handed, Shoulders broad, and chests expanded, Tugging at the oar.
These, and many more like these, With King Olaf sailed the seas, Till the waters vast Filled them with a vague devotion, With the freedom and the motion, With the roll and roar of ocean And the sounding blast.
When they landed from the fleet, How they roared through Drontheim's street, Boisterous as the gale! How they laughed and stamped and pounded, Till the tavern roof resounded, And the host looked on astounded As they drank the ale!
Never saw the wild North Sea Such a gallant company Sail its billows blue! Never, while they cruised and quarrelled, Old King Gorm, or Blue-Tooth Harald, Owned a ship so well apparelled, Boasted such a crew!
A LITTLE BIRD IN THE AIR.
A little bird in the air Is singing of Thyri the fair, The sister of Svend the Dane; And the song of the garrulous bird In the streets of the town is heard, And repeated again and again. Hoist up your sails of silk, And flee away from each other.
To King Burislaf, it is said, Was the beautiful Thyri wed, And a sorrowful bride went she; And after a week and a day, She has fled away and away, From his town by the stormy sea. Hoist up your sails of silk, And flee away from each other.
They say, that through heat and through cold, Through weald, they say, and through wold, By day and by night, they say, She has fled; and the gossips report She has come to King Olaf's court, And the town is all in dismay. Hoist up your sails of silk, And flee away from each other.
It is whispered King Olaf has seen, Has talked with the beautiful Queen; And they wonder how it will end; For surely, if here she remain, It is war with King Svend the Dane, And King Burislaf the Vend! Hoist up your sails of silk, And flee away from each other.
O, greatest wonder of all! It is published in hamlet and hall, It roars like a flame that is fanned! The King—yes, Olaf the King— Has wedded her with his ring, And Thyri is Queen in the land! Hoist up your sails of silk, And flee away from each other.
QUEEN THYRI AND THE ANGELICA STALKS.
Northward over Drontheim, Flew the clamorous sea-gulls, Sang the lark and linnet From the meadows green;
Weeping in her chamber, Lonely and unhappy, Sat the Drottning Thyri, Sat King Olaf's Queen.
In at all the windows Streamed the pleasant sunshine, On the roof above her Softly cooed the dove;
But the sound she heard not, Nor the sunshine heeded, For the thoughts of Thyri Were not thoughts of love.
Then King Olaf entered, Beautiful as morning, Like the sun at Easter Shone his happy face;
In his hand he carried Angelicas uprooted, With delicious fragrance Filling all the place.
Like a rainy midnight Sat the Drottning Thyri, Even the smile of Olaf Could not cheer her gloom;
Nor the stalks he gave her With a gracious gesture, And with words as pleasant As their own perfume.
In her hands he placed them, And her jewelled fingers Through the green leaves glistened Like the dews of morn;
But she cast them from her, Haughty and indignant, On the floor she threw them With a look of scorn.
"Richer presents," said she, "Gave King Harald Gormson To the Queen, my mother, Than such worthless weeds;
"When he ravaged Norway, Laying waste the kingdom, Seizing scatt and treasure For her royal needs.
"But thou darest not venture Through the Sound to Vendland, My domains to rescue From King Burislaf;
"Lest King Svend of Denmark, Forked Beard, my brother, Scatter all thy vessels As the wind the chaff."
Then up sprang King Olaf, Like a reindeer bounding, With an oath he answered Thus the luckless Queen:
"Never yet did Olaf Fear King Svend of Denmark; This right hand shall hale him By his forked chin!"
Then he left the chamber, Thundering through the doorway, Loud his steps resounded Down the outer stair.
Smarting with the insult, Through the streets of Drontheim Strode he red and wrathful, With his stately air.
All his ships he gathered, Summoned all his forces, Making his war levy In the region round;
Down the coast of Norway, Like a flock of sea-gulls, Sailed the fleet of Olaf Through the Danish Sound.
With his own hand fearless, Steered he the Long Serpent, Strained the creaking cordage, Bent each boom and gaff;
Till in Vendland landing, The domains of Thyri He redeemed and rescued From King Burislaf.
Then said Olaf, laughing, "Not ten yoke of oxen Have the power to draw us Like a woman's hair!
"Now will I confess it, Better things are jewels Than angelica stalks are For a Queen to wear."
KING SVEND OF THE FORKED BEARD.
Loudly the sailors cheered Svend of the Forked Beard, As with his fleet he steered Southward to Vendland; Where with their courses hauled All were together called, Under the Isle of Svald Near to the mainland.
After Queen Gunhild's death, So the old Saga saith, Plighted King Svend his faith To Sigrid the Haughty; And to avenge his bride, Soothing her wounded pride, Over the waters wide King Olaf sought he.
Still on her scornful face, Blushing with deep disgrace, Bore she the crimson trace Of Olaf's gauntlet; Like a malignant star, Blazing in heaven afar, Red shone the angry scar Under her frontlet.
Oft to King Svend she spake, "For thine own honor's sake Shalt thou swift vengeance take On the vile coward!" Until the King at last, Gusty and overcast, Like a tempestuous blast Threatened and lowered.
Soon as the Spring appeared, Svend of the Forked Beard High his red standard reared, Eager for battle; While every warlike Dane, Seizing his arms again, Left all unsown the grain, Unhoused the cattle.
Likewise the Swedish King Summoned in haste a Thing, Weapons and men to bring In aid of Denmark; Eric the Norseman, too, As the war-tidings flew, Sailed with a chosen crew From Lapland and Finmark.
So upon Easter day Sailed the three kings away, Out of the sheltered bay, In the bright season; With them Earl Sigvald came, Eager for spoil and fame; Pity that such a name Stooped to such treason!
Safe under Svald at last, Now were their anchors cast, Safe from the sea and blast, Plotted the three kings; While, with a base intent, Southward Earl Sigvald went, On a foul errand bent, Unto the Sea-kings.
Thence to hold on his course, Unto King Olaf's force, Lying within the hoarse Mouths of Stet-haven; Him to ensnare and bring, Unto the Danish king, Who his dead corse would fling Forth to the raven!
KING OLAF AND EARL SIGVALD.
On the gray sea-sands King Olaf stands, Northward and seaward He points with his hands.
With eddy and whirl The sea-tides curl, Washing the sandals Of Sigvald the Earl.
The mariners shout, The ships swing about, The yards are all hoisted, The sails flutter out.
The war-horns are played, The anchors are weighed, Like moths in the distance The sails flit and fade.
The sea is like lead, The harbor lies dead, As a corse on the sea-shore, Whose spirit has fled!
On that fatal day, The histories say, Seventy vessels Sailed out of the bay.
But soon scattered wide O'er the billows they ride, While Sigvald and Olaf Sail side by side.
Cried the Earl: "Follow me! I your pilot will be, For I know all the channels Where flows the deep sea!"
So into the strait Where his foes lie in wait, Gallant King Olaf Sails to his fate!
Then the sea-fog veils The ships and their sails; Queen Sigrid the Haughty, Thy vengeance prevails!
KING OLAF'S WAR-HORNS.
"Strike the sails!" King Olaf said; "Never shall men of mine take flight; Never away from battle I fled, Never away from my foes! Let God dispose Of my life in the fight!"
"Sound the horns!" said Olaf the King; And suddenly through the drifting brume The blare of the horns began to ring, Like the terrible trumpet shock Of Regnarock, On the Day of Doom!
Louder and louder the war-horns sang Over the level floor of the flood; All the sails came down with a clang, And there in the mist overhead The sun hung red As a drop of blood.
Drifting down on the Danish fleet Three together the ships were lashed, So that neither should turn and retreat; In the midst, but in front of the rest The burnished crest Of the Serpent flashed.
King Olaf stood on the quarter-deck, With bow of ash and arrows of oak, His gilded shield was without a fleck, His helmet inlaid with gold, And in many a fold Hung his crimson cloak.
On the forecastle Ulf the Red Watched the lashing of the ships; "If the Serpent lie so far ahead, We shall have hard work of it here," Said he with a sneer On his bearded lips.
King Olaf laid an arrow on string, "Have I a coward on board?" said he. "Shoot it another way, O King!" Sullenly answered Ulf, The old sea-wolf; "You have need of me!"
In front came Svend, the King of the Danes, Sweeping down with his fifty rowers; To the right, the Swedish king with his thanes; And on board of the Iron Beard Earl Eric steered On the left with his oars.
"These soft Danes and Swedes," said the King, "At home with their wives had better stay, Than come within reach of my Serpent's sting: But where Eric the Norseman leads Heroic deeds Will be done to-day!"
Then as together the vessels crashed, Eric severed the cables of hide, With which King Olaf's ships were lashed, And left them to drive and drift With the currents swift Of the outward tide.
Louder the war-horns growl and snarl, Sharper the dragons bite and sting! Eric the son of Hakon Jarl A death-drink salt as the sea Pledges to thee, Olaf the King!
It was Einar Tamberskelver Stood beside the mast; From his yew-bow, tipped with silver, Flew the arrows fast; Aimed at Eric unavailing, As he sat concealed, Half behind the quarter-railing, Half behind his shield.
First an arrow struck the tiller, Just above his head; "Sing, O Eyvind Skaldaspiller," Then Earl Eric said. "Sing the song of Hakon dying, Sing his funeral wail!" And another arrow flying Grazed his coat of mail.
Turning to a Lapland yeoman, As the arrow passed, Said Earl Eric, "Shoot that bowman Standing by the mast." Sooner than the word was spoken Flew the yeoman's shaft; Einar's bow in twain was broken, Einar only laughed.
"What was that?" said Olaf, standing On the quarter-deck. "Something heard I like the stranding Of a shattered wreck." Einar then, the arrow taking From the loosened string, Answered, "That was Norway breaking From thy hand, O king!"
"Thou art but a poor diviner," Straightway Olaf said; "Take my bow, and swifter, Einar, Let thy shafts be sped." Of his bows the fairest choosing, Reached he from above; Einar saw the blood-drops oozing Through his iron glove.
But the bow was thin and narrow; At the first assay, O'er its head he drew the arrow, Flung the bow away; Said, with hot and angry temper Flushing in his cheek, "Olaf! for so great a Kaemper Are thy bows too weak!"
Then, with smile of joy defiant On his beardless lip, Scaled he, light and self-reliant, Eric's dragon-ship. Loose his golden locks were flowing, Bright his armor gleamed; Like Saint Michael overthrowing Lucifer he seemed.
KING OLAF'S DEATH-DRINK.
All day has the battle raged, All day have the ships engaged, But not yet is assuaged The vengeance of Eric the Earl.
The decks with blood are red, The arrows of death are sped, The ships are filled with the dead, And the spears the champions hurl.
They drift as wrecks on the tide, The grappling-irons are plied, The boarders climb up the side, The shouts are feeble and few.
Ah! never shall Norway again See her sailors come back o'er the main; They all lie wounded or slain, Or asleep in the billows blue!
On the deck stands Olaf the King, Around him whistle and sing The spears that the foemen fling, And the stones they hurl with their hands.
In the midst of the stones and the spears, Kolbiorn, the marshal, appears, His shield in the air he uprears, By the side of King Olaf he stands.
Over the slippery wreck Of the Long Serpent's deck Sweeps Eric with hardly a check, His lips with anger are pale;
He hews with his axe at the mast, Till it falls, with the sails overcast, Like a snow-covered pine in the vast Dim forests of Orkadale.
Seeking King Olaf then, He rushes aft with his men, As a hunter into the den Of the bear, when he stands at bay.
"Remember Jarl Hakon!" he cries; When lo! on his wondering eyes, Two kingly figures arise, Two Olafs in warlike array!
Then Kolbiorn speaks in the ear Of King Olaf a word of cheer, In a whisper that none may hear, With a smile on his tremulous lip;
Two shields raised high in the air, Two flashes of golden hair, Two scarlet meteors' glare, And both have leaped from the ship.
Earl Eric's men in the boats Seize Kolbiorn's shield as it floats, And cry, from their hairy throats, "See! it is Olaf the King!"
While far on the opposite side Floats another shield on the tide, Like a jewel set in the wide Sea-current's eddying ring.
There is told a wonderful tale, How the King stripped off his mail, Like leaves of the brown sea-kale, As he swam beneath the main;
But the young grew old and gray, And never, by night or by day, In his kingdom of Norroway Was King Olaf seen again!
THE NUN OF NIDAROS.
In the convent of Drontheim, Alone in her chamber Knelt Astrid the Abbess, At midnight, adoring, Beseeching, entreating The Virgin and Mother.
She heard in the silence The voice of one speaking, Without in the darkness, In gusts of the night-wind Now louder, now nearer, Now lost in the distance.
The voice of a stranger It seemed as she listened, Of some one who answered, Beseeching, imploring, A cry from afar off She could not distinguish.