Hymn To Woden

A poem by William Lisle Bowles

God of the battle, hear our prayer!
By the lifted falchion's glare;
By the uncouth fane sublime,
Marked with many a Runic rhyme;
By the "weird sisters"[1] dread,
That, posting through the battle red,
Choose the slain, and with them go
To Valhalla's halls below,
Where the phantom-chiefs prolong
Their echoing feast, a giant throng,
And their dreadful beverage drain
From the skulls of warriors slain:
God of the battle, hear our prayer;
And may we thy banquet share!
Save us, god, from slow disease;
From pains that the brave spirit freeze;
From the burning fever's rage;
From wailings of unhonoured age,
Drawing painful his last breath;
Give us in the battle death!
Let us lift our glittering shield,
And perish, perish in the field!
Now o'er Cumri's hills of snow
To death, or victory, we go;
Hark! the chiefs their cars prepare;
See! they bind their yellow hair;
Frenzy flashes from their eye,
They fly, our foes before them fly!
Woden, in thy empire drear,
Thou the groans of death dost hear,
And welcome to thy dusky hall
Those that for their country fall!
Hail, all hail the godlike train,
That with thee the goblet drain;
Or with many a huge compeer,
Lift, as erst, the shadowy spear!
Whilst Hela's inmost caverns dread
Echo to their giant tread,
And ten thousand thousand shields
Flash lightning o'er the glimmering fields!
Hark! the battle-shouts begin
Louder sounds the glorious din:
Louder than the ice's roar,
Bursting on the thawing shore;
Or crashing pines that strew the plain,
When the whirlwinds hurl the main!
Riding through the death-field red,
And singling fast the destined dead,
See the fatal sisters fly!
Now my throbbing breast beats high
Now I urge my panting steed,
Where the foemen thickest bleed.
Soon exulting I shall go,
Woden, to thy halls below;
Or o'er the victims, as they die,
Chaunt the song of Victory!

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