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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 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 hammer
Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world stili,
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
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.