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!"
- by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882), "The Skerry of Shrieks", appears in Tales of a Wayside Inn, in The Musician's Tale; The Saga of King Olaf, no. 5, first published 1863 [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
This text was added to the website: 2009-10-02
Line count: 96
Word count: 465