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His hair was yellow as hay,
But threads of a silvery gray

Gleamed in his tawny beard.

Hearty and hale was Othere,

His cheek had the color of oak; With a kind of laugh in his speech, Like the sea-tide on a beach,

As unto the King he spoke.

And Alfred, King of the Saxons,

Had a book upon his knees,
And wrote down the wondrous tale

Of him who was first to sail

Into the Arctic seas.

“ So far I live to the northward,

No man lives north of me; To the east are wild mountain-chains, And beyond them meres and plains;

To the westward all is sea.

“ So far I live to the northward,

From the harbor of Skeringes-hale, If you only sailed by day, With a fair wind all the way,

More than a month would you sail.

" I own six hundred reindeer,

With sheep and swine beside; I have tribute from the Finns, Whalebone and reindeer-skins,

And ropes of walrus-hide.

“ I ploughed the land with horses,

But my heart was ill at ease, For the old seafaring men Came to me now and then,

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“Of Iceland and of Greenland,

And the stormy Hebrides,

And the undiscovered deep; -
I could not eat nor sleep

For thinking of those seas.

66 To the northward stretched the desert,

How far I fain would know;
So at last I sallied forth,
And three days sailed due north,

As far as the whale-ships go.

66 To the west of me was the ocean,

To the right the desolate shore,
But I did not slacken sail
For the walrus or the whale,

Till after three days more.

“ The days grew longer and longer,

Till they became as one,
And southward through the haze
I saw the sullen blaze

Of the red midnight sun.

" And then


Upon the water's edge,
The huge and haggard shape
Of that unknown North Cape,

Whose form is like a wedge.

“ The sea was rough and stormy,

The tempest howled and wailed, And the sea-fog, like a ghost, Haunted that dreary coast,

But onward still I sailed.

“ Four days I steered to eastward,

Four days without a night:
Round in a fiery ring
Went the great sun, O King,

With red and lurid light."

Here Alfred, King of the Saxons,

Ceased writing for a while ;

And raised his eyes from his book, With a strange and puzzled look,

And an incredulous smile.

But Othere, the old sea-captain,

He neither paused nor stirred, Till the King listened, and then Once more



And wrote down every word.

“ And now the land,” said Othere,

“Bent southward suddenly, And I followed the curving shore And ever southward bore

Into a nameless sea.

" And there we hunted the walrus,

The narwhale, and the seal;
Ha! 't was a noble game!
And like the lightning's flame

Flew our harpoons of steel.

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