The Vikings

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

A Saga of Yule.

Far to the South a star,
Bright-shining over all;
And a sound of voices singing,
'Round a Babe in an ox's-stall.

Three Kings a-riding, riding,
With gifts of myrrh and gold,
Far, far from the wild North Ocean,
Of which this tale is told:

By the sea, in the Hall of Beele,
Were Yule and joy and feast,
Outside was the noise of the ocean
And storm, like a howling beast.

The King sate at the banquet
With his Jarls and Berserks hale,
Quaffing to Thor and Odin
Huge horns of mead and ale.

Unheeded howled the winter
'Round the oak walls of the King,
For a mighty skald with a runic harp
Made the hall re-echoing ring.

Loud laughed the blonde Norse maidens
As they brimmed the barmy cup,
Where the torches flickered the war-blades
And the bucklers hanging up.

But out by the thundering North Sea
Ten shattered dragons lie,
Vessels, like great sea-monsters,
To the billows heaving high.

And pale and hacked with gashes,
'Mid his battered arms lies low
The red-haired Viking, Hareck,
Half-buried in the snow.

And wan, where the waves beat sullen,
Lies his brother, one-eyed Hulf,
Above whose mail├ęd visage
Snarls the winter-famished wolf.

And where is seen the glimmer
Of arms on dune and shore,
Their warriors, fierce and long-haired,
Lie frozen in their gore.

For Hulf and red-haired Hareck
To Sogn did harrying sail,
But Beele and his Berserkers
Did give them welcome hale.

On the shore of the wild North Ocean,
In the wild mist and the spray,
In the spindrift and the tempest
The battle clanged all day.

On the shore of the wild North Ocean,
When fell the wilder night,
The Vikings, Hulf and Hareck,
As the snow lay cold and white.

Not for long in their shattered armor,
By the billow-booming deep,
Were left the terrible warriors
In their eternal sleep.

For Odin from Valhala
Saw the Vikings fight and fall,
And bade the Valkyrs summon
The heroes to his Hall.

They came. The ghosts of the Vikings
Stood dark-browed on the field,
Moody within the tempest,
Each leaning on his shield.

In his great-horned helm loomed Hareck,
His face like some wild moon
That looks upon the havoc
Of a field with battle strewn.

Like a dark star, dim and misty,
Faint-seen through scud-blown air,
Hulf's-face on the Maids of Odin
Shone in its wind-tossed hair.

And with them, lo! another,
Whose face was mild and sad
Unarmed, no Viking warrior,
A Man in whiteness clad.

Through snow and the foam of the ocean
Glittered the Valkyries,
And the sound of their trumpet voices
Was like to the stormy sea's.

"Behold, " they cried, "Valhala
Awaits! And Odin sent!
The polished skulls are brimmed with mead
And ready the tournament!

"And Thor and Brage and Balder,
And many an Aza fair,
On the pleasant plain of Ida,
Await your coming there!"

And they stretched their glittering gauntlets
To the Vikings standing pale,
And joy lit up their lowering brows
Like moonlight in a gale.

And then the other murmured,
And His voice was soft and low,
And a scent as of myrrh and lilies
Swept through the storm and snow:

"Come to Me, ye who labor,
And ye who are distressed!
All, all whose hearts are burdened,
And I will give you rest.

"I bring a different message
From that just brought of these,
A message of love and forgiveness
From My Father the King of Peace.

"Now ends the reign of Odin,
And My Father's rule begins!
Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
And forgiveness of all sins!"

And He stretched His arms toward them,
And hushed were the howling gales:
And they saw that His brow was crowned with thorns,
And His hands were pierced with nails.

And there in the Hall of Beele
The sound of Yule died low,
And all was hushed as the Word of Christ
Pealed far through the wind and snow.

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