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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 piace,
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 tunos,
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.
1. —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,
Miölner 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 hamme:
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,
And thus single-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel
Here I defy thee!
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 armour 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 honours, 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! 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 honoured 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.