The Musicians Tale - The Saga Of King Olaf - The Wayside Inn - Part First




    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,
    Miolner 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!



    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 rifled
    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 the rapture
    Of 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! 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 Thorn, 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 Thorn, 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 Thorn, 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 Thorn, the fairest of women.



    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?



    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.

    Facing 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 Kallda 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 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,
    "'T is 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! 't is 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 water-cresses.

        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, in 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?"

    "'T is the bodkin that I wear
    When at night I bind my hair;
    It woke me falling on the floor;
        'T is 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!



    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,
        Would drink and swear,
    Swaggering Thangbrand, Olaf's Priest

    In his house this malcontent
        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.



    "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!



    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.

    "'T is the warlock! 't is 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;
    'T was 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.



    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 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 though 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 't was 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:

    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

    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!"



    Thorberg Skafting, master-builder,
        In his ship-yard by the sea,
    Whistling, said, "It would 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?

    'T was 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!



    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
    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.



    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 Venland 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."



    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;
    Erie 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!



    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!



    "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
    To 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 Kamper
        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.



    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 Olaf's 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!



    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.

    The voice of Saint John,
    The beloved disciple,
    Who wandered and waited
    The Master's appearance.
    Alone in the darkness,
    Unsheltered and friendless.

    "It is accepted
    The angry defiance
    The challenge of battle!
    It is accepted,
    But not with the weapons
    Of war that thou wieldest!

    "Cross against corselet,
    Love against hatred,
    Peace-cry for war-cry!
    Patience is powerful;
    He that o'ercometh
    Hath power o'er the nations!

    "As torrents in summer,
    Half dried in their channels,
    Suddenly rise, though the
    Sky is still cloudless,
    For rain has been falling
    Far off at their fountains;

    So hearts that are fainting
    Grow full to o'erflowing,
    And they that behold it
    Marvel, and know not
    That God at their fountains
    Far off has been raining!

    "Stronger than steel
    Is the sword of the Spirit;
    Swifter than arrows
    The light of the truth is,
    Greater than anger
    Is love, and subdueth!

    "Thou art a phantom,
    A shape of the sea-mist,
    A shape of the brumal
    Rain, and the darkness
    Fearful and formless;
    Day dawns and thou art not!

    "The dawn is not distant,
    Nor is the night starless;
    Love is eternal!
    God is still God, and
    His faith shall not fail us
    Christ is eternal!"


    A strain of music closed the tale,
    A low, monotonous, funeral wail,
    That with its cadence, wild and sweet,
    Made the long Saga more complete.

    "Thank God," the Theologian said,
    "The reign of violence is dead,
    Or dying surely from the world;
    While Love triumphant reigns instead,
    And in a brighter sky o'erhead
    His blessed banners are unfurled.
    And most of all thank God for this:
    The war and waste of clashing creeds
    Now end in words, and not in deeds,
    And no one suffers loss, or bleeds,
    For thoughts that men call heresies.

    "I stand without here in the porch,
    I hear the bell's melodious din,
    I hear the organ peal within,
    I hear the prayer, with words that scorch
    Like sparks from an inverted torch,
    I hear the sermon upon sin,
    With threatenings of the last account.
    And all, translated in the air,
    Reach me but as our dear Lord's Prayer,
    And as the Sermon on the Mount.

    "Must it be Calvin, and not Christ?
    Must it be Athanasian creeds,
    Or holy water, books, and beads?
    Must struggling souls remain content
    With councils and decrees of Trend?
    And can it be enough for these
    The Christian Church the year embalms
    With evergreens and boughs of palms,
    And fills the air with litanies?

    "I know that yonder Pharisee
    Thanks God that he is not like me;
    In my humiliation dressed,
    I only stand and beat my breast,
    And pray for human charity.

    "Not to one church alone, but seven,
    The voice prophetic spake from heaven;
    And unto each the promise came,
    Diversified, but still the same;
    For him that overcometh are
    The new name written on the stone,
    The raiment white, the crown, the throne,
    And I will give him the Morning Star!

    "Ah! to how many Faith has been
    No evidence of things unseen,
    But a dim shadow, that recasts
    The creed of the Phantasiasts,
    For whom no Man of Sorrows died,
    For whom the Tragedy Divine
    Was but a symbol and a sign,
    And Christ a phantom crucified!

    "For others a diviner creed
    Is living in the life they lead.
    The passing of their beautiful feet
    Blesses the pavement of the street
    And all their looks and words repeat
    Old Fuller's saying, wise and sweet,
    Not as a vulture, but a dove,
    The Holy Ghost came from above.

    "And this brings back to me a tale
    So sad the hearer well may quail,
    And question if such things can be;
    Yet in the chronicles of Spain
    Down the dark pages runs this stain,
    And naught can wash them white again,
    So fearful is the tragedy."
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Add The Musicians Tale - The Saga Of King Olaf - The Wayside Inn - Part First to your library.

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