List of Poems from the Prose Romances

From The House of the Wolfings

Contents: Epigraph Chapters 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 15 16 17 19 20 22 23 26 27 28 29 30 31

Epigraph

Whiles in the early Winter eve
We pass amid the gathering night
Some homestead that we had to leave
Years past; and see its candles bright
Shine in the room beside the door
Where we were merry years agone
But now must never enter more,
As still the dark road drives us on.
E’en so the world of men may turn
At even of some hurried day
And see the ancient glimmer burn
Across the waste that hath no way;
Then with that faint light in its eyes
A while I bid it linger near
And nurse in wavering memories
The bitter-sweet of days that were.


CHAPTER II—THE FLITTING OF THE WAR-ARROW

As he stood there gathering his breath for speech, Thiodolf stood up, and poured mead into a drinking horn and held it out towards the new-comer, and spake, but in rhyme and measure:

“Welcome, thou evening-farer, and holy be thine head,
Since thou hast sought unto us in the heart of the Wolfings’ stead;
Drink now of the horn of the mighty, and call a health if thou wilt
O’er the eddies of the mead-horn to the washing out of guilt.
For thou com’st to the peace of the Wolfings, and our very guest thou art,
And meseems as I behold thee, that I look on a child of the Hart.”

But the man put the horn from him with a hasty hand, and none said another word to him until he had gotten his breath again; and then he said:

“All hail ye Wood-Wolfs’ children! nought may I drink the wine,
For the mouth and the maw that I carry this eve are nought of mine;
And my feet are the feet of the people, since the word went forth that tide,
‘O Elf here of the Hartings, no longer shalt thou bide
In any house of the Markmen than to speak the word and wend,
Till all men know the tidings and thine errand hath an end.’
Behold, O Wolves, the token and say if it be true!
I bear the shaft of battle that is four-wise cloven through,
And its each end dipped in the blood-stream, both the iron and the horn,
And its midmost scathed with the fire; and the word that I have borne
Along with this war-token is, ‘Wolfings of the Mark
Whenso ye see the war-shaft, by the daylight or the dark,
Busk ye to battle faring, and leave all work undone
Save the gathering for the handplay at the rising of the sun.
Three days hence is the hosting, and thither bear along
Your wains and your kine for the slaughter lest the journey should be long.
For great is the Folk, saith the tidings, that against the Markmen come;
In a far off land is their dwelling, whenso they sit at home,
And Welsh is their tongue, and we wot not of the word that is in their mouth,
As they march a many together from the cities of the South.’”

Then said Thiodolf:

“Forth will we Wolfing children, and cast a sound abroad:
The mouth of the sea-beast’s weapon shall speak the battle-word;
And ye warriors hearken and hasten, and dight the weed of war,
And then to acre and meadow wend ye adown no more,
For this work shall be for the women to drive our neat from the mead,
And to yoke the wains, and to load them as the men of war have need.”

Out then they streamed from the hall, and no man was left therein save the fair Hall-Sun sitting under the lamp whose name she bore. But to the highest of the slope they went, where was a mound made higher by man’s handiwork; thereon stood Thiodolf and handled the horn, turning his face toward the downward course of Mirkwood-water; and he set the horn to his lips, and blew a long blast, and then again, and yet again the third time; and all the sounds of the gathering night were hushed under the sound of the roaring of the war-horn of the Wolfings; and the Kin of the Beamings heard it as they sat in their hall, and they gat them ready to hearken to the bearer of the tidings who should follow on the sound of the war-blast.

But when the last sound of the horn had died away, then said Thiodolf:

“Now Wolfing children hearken, what the splintered War-shaft saith,
The fire scathed blood-stained aspen! we shall ride for life or death,
We warriors, a long journey with the herd and with the wain;
But unto this our homestead shall we wend us back again,
All the gleanings of the battle; and here for them that live
Shall stand the Roof of the Wolfings, and for them shall the meadow thrive,
And the acres give their increase in the harvest of the year;
Now is no long departing since the Hall-Sun bideth here
’Neath the holy Roof of the Fathers, and the place of the Wolfing kin,
And the feast of our glad returning shall yet be held therein.
Hear the bidding of the War-shaft! All men, both thralls and free,
’Twixt twenty winters and sixty, beneath the shield shall be,
And the hosting is at the Thingstead, the Upper-mark anigh;
And we wend away to-morrow ere the Sun is noon-tide high.”


CHAPTER III—THIODOLF TALKETH WITH THE WOOD-SUN

Therewith he [Thiodolf] laughed out amid the wild-wood, and his speech became song, and he said:

“We wrought in the ring of the hazels, and the wine of war we drank:
From the tide when the sun stood highest to the hour wherein she sank:
And three kings came against me, the mightiest of the Huns,
The evil-eyed in battle, the swift-foot wily ones;
And they gnashed their teeth against me, and they gnawed on the shield-rims there,
On that afternoon of summer, in the high-tide of the year.
Keen-eyed I gazed about me, and I saw the clouds draw up
Till the heavens were dark as the hollow of a wine-stained iron cup,
And the wild-deer lay unfeeding on the grass of the forest glades,
And all earth was scared with the thunder above our clashing blades.

“Then sank a King before me, and on fell the other twain,
And I tossed up the reddened sword-blade in the gathered rush of the rain
And the blood and the water blended, and fragrant grew the earth.

“There long I turned and twisted within the battle-girth
Before those bears of onset: while out from the grey world streamed
The broad red lash of the lightening and in our byrnies gleamed.
And long I leapt and laboured in that garland of the fight
’Mid the blue blades and the lightening; but ere the sky grew light
The second of the Hun-kings on the rain-drenched daisies lay;
And we twain with the battle blinded a little while made stay,
And leaning on our sword-hilts each on the other gazed.

“Then the rain grew less, and one corner of the veil of clouds was raised,
And as from the broidered covering gleams out the shoulder white
Of the bed-mate of the warrior when on his wedding night
He layeth his hand to the linen; so, down there in the west
Gleamed out the naked heaven: but the wrath rose up in my breast,
And the sword in my hand rose with it, and I leaped and hewed at the Hun;
And from him too flared the war-flame, and the blades danced bright in the sun
Come back to the earth for a little before the ending of day.

“There then with all that was in him did the Hun play out the play,
Till he fell, and left me tottering, and I turned my feet to wend
To the place of the mound of the mighty, the gate of the way without end.
And there thou wert. How was it, thou Chooser of the Slain,
Did I die in thine arms, and thereafter did thy mouth-kiss wake me again?”

Ere the last sound of his voice was done she turned and kissed him; and then she said; “Never hadst thou a fear and thine heart is full of hardihood.”

Then he said:

“`Tis the hardy heart, beloved, that keepeth me alive,
As the king-leek in the garden by the rain and the sun doth thrive,
So I thrive by the praise of the people; it is blent with my drink and my meat;
As I slumber in the night-tide it laps me soft and sweet;
And through the chamber window when I waken in the morn
With the wind of the sun’s arising from the meadow is it borne
And biddeth me remember that yet I live on earth:
Then I rise and my might is with me, and fills my heart with mirth,
As I think of the praise of the people; and all this joy I win
By the deeds that my heart commandeth and the hope that lieth therein.”

“Yea,” she [Wood-Sun] said, “but day runneth ever on the heels of day, and there are many and many days; and betwixt them do they carry eld.”

“Yet art thou no older than in days bygone,” said he. “Is it so, O Daughter of the Gods, that thou wert never born, but wert from before the framing of the mountains, from the beginning of all things?”

But she said:

“Nay, nay; I began, I was born; although it may be indeed
That not on the hills of the earth I sprang from the godhead’s seed.
And e’en as my birth and my waxing shall be my waning and end.
But thou on many an errand, to many a field dost wend
Where the bow at adventure bended, or the fleeing dastard’s spear
Oft lulleth the mirth of the mighty. Now me thou dost not fear,
Yet fear with me, beloved, for the mighty Maid I fear;
And Doom is her name, and full often she maketh me afraid
And even now meseemeth on my life her hand is laid.”

But he laughed and said:

“In what land is she abiding? Is she near or far away?
Will she draw up close beside me in the press of the battle play?
And if then I may not smite her ’midst the warriors of the field
With the pale blade of my fathers, will she bide the shove of my shield?”

But sadly she sang in answer:

“In many a stead Doom dwelleth, nor sleepeth day nor night:
The rim of the bowl she kisseth, and beareth the chambering light
When the kings of men wend happy to the bride-bed from the board.
It is little to say that she wendeth the edge of the grinded sword,
When about the house half builded she hangeth many a day;
The ship from the strand she shoveth, and on his wonted way
By the mountain-hunter fareth where his foot ne’er failed before:
She is where the high bank crumbles at last on the river’s shore:
The mower’s scythe she whetteth; and lulleth the shepherd to sleep
Where the deadly ling-worm wakeneth in the desert of the sheep.
Now we that come of the God-kin of her redes for ourselves we wot,
But her will with the lives of men-folk and their ending know we not.
So therefore I bid thee not fear for thyself of Doom and her deed,
But for me: and I bid thee hearken to the helping of my need.
Or else—Art thou happy in life, or lusteth thou to die
In the flower of thy days, when thy glory and thy longing bloom on high?”

But Thiodolf answered her:

“I have deemed, and long have I deemed that this is my second life,
That my first one waned with my wounding when thou cam’st to the ring of strife.
For when in thine arms I wakened on the hazelled field of yore,
Meseemed I had newly arisen to a world I knew no more,
So much had all things brightened on that dewy dawn of day.
It was dark dull death that I looked for when my thought had died away.
It was lovely life that I woke to; and from that day henceforth
My joy of the life of man-folk was manifolded of worth.
Far fairer the fields of the morning than I had known them erst,
And the acres where I wended, and the corn with its half-slaked thirst;
And the noble Roof of the Wolfings, and the hawks that sat thereon;
And the bodies of my kindred whose deliverance I had won;
And the glimmering of the Hall-Sun in the dusky house of old;
And my name in the mouth of the maidens, and the praises of the bold,
As I sat in my battle-raiment, and the ruddy spear well steeled
Leaned ’gainst my side war-battered, and the wounds thine hand had healed.
Yea, from that morn thenceforward has my life been good indeed,
The gain of to-day was goodly, and good to-morrow’s need,
And good the whirl of the battle, and the broil I wielded there,
Till I fashioned the ordered onset, and the unhoped victory fair.
And good were the days thereafter of utter deedless rest
And the prattle of thy daughter, and her hands on my unmailed breast.
Ah good is the life thou hast given, the life that mine hands have won.
And where shall be the ending till the world is all undone?
Here sit we twain together, and both we in Godhead clad,
We twain of the Wolfing kindred, and each of the other glad.”

But she answered, and her face grew darker withal:

“O mighty man and joyous, art thou of the Wolfing kin?
’Twas no evil deed when we mingled, nor lieth doom therein.
Thou lovely man, thou black-haired, thou shalt die and have done no ill.
Fame-crowned are the deeds of thy doing, and the mouths of men they fill.
Thou betterer of the Godfolk, enduring is thy fame:
Yet as a painted image of a dream is thy dreaded name.
Of an alien folk thou comest, that we twain might be one indeed.
Thou shalt die one day. So hearken, to help me at my need.”

His face grew troubled and he said: “What is this word that I am no chief of the Wolfings?”

“Nay,” she said, “but better than they. Look thou on the face of our daughter the Hall-Sun, thy daughter and mine: favoureth she at all of me?”

He laughed: “Yea, whereas she is fair, but not otherwise. This is a hard saying, that I dwell among an alien kindred, and it wotteth not thereof. Why hast thou not told me hereof before?”

She said: “It needed not to tell thee because thy day was waxing, as now it waneth. Once more I bid thee hearken and do my bidding though it be hard to thee.”

He answered: “Even so will I as much as I may; and thus wise must thou look upon it, that I love life, and fear not death.”

Then she spake, and again her words fell into rhyme:

“In forty fights hast thou foughten, and been worsted but in four;
And I looked on and was merry; and ever more and more
Wert thou dear to the heart of the Wood-Sun, and the Chooser of the Slain.
But now whereas ye are wending with slaughter-herd and wain
To meet a folk that ye know not, a wonder, a peerless foe,
I fear for thy glory’s waning, and I see thee lying alow.”

Then he brake in: “Herein is little shame to be worsted by the might of the mightiest: if this so mighty folk sheareth a limb off the tree of my fame, yet shall it wax again.”

But she sang:

“In forty fights hast thou foughten, and beside thee who but I
Beheld the wind-tossed banners, and saw the aspen fly?
But to-day to thy war I wend not, for Weird withholdeth me
And sore my heart forebodeth for the battle that shall be.
To-day with thee I wend not; so I feared, and lo my feet,
That are wont to the woodland girdle of the acres of the wheat,
For thee among strange people and the foeman’s throng have trod,
And I tell thee their banner of battle is a wise and a mighty God.
For these are the folk of the cities, and in wondrous wise they dwell
’Mid confusion of heaped houses, dim and black as the face of hell;
Though therefrom rise roofs most goodly, where their captains and their kings
Dwell amidst the walls of marble in abundance of fair things;
And ’mid these, nor worser nor better, but builded otherwise
Stand the Houses of the Fathers, and the hidden mysteries.
And as close as are the tree-trunks that within the beech-wood thrive
E’en so many are their pillars; and therein like men alive
Stand the images of god-folk in such raiment as they wore
In the years before the cities and the hidden days of yore.
Ah for the gold that I gazed on! and their store of battle gear,
And strange engines that I knew not, or the end for which they were.
Ah for the ordered wisdom of the war-array of these,
And the folks that are sitting about them in dumb down-trodden peace!
So I thought now fareth war-ward my well-beloved friend,
And the weird of the Gods hath doomed it that no more with him may I wend!
Woe’s me for the war of the Wolfings wherefrom I am sundered apart,
And the fruitless death of the war-wise, and the doom of the hardy heart!”

Then he answered, and his eyes grew kind as he looked on her:

“For thy fair love I thank thee, and thy faithful word, O friend!
But how might it otherwise happen but we twain must meet in the end,
The God of this mighty people and the Markmen and their kin?
Lo, this is the weird of the world, and what may we do herein?”

Then mirth came into her face again as she said:

“Who wotteth of Weird, and what she is till the weird is accomplished? Long hath it been my weird to love thee and to fashion deeds for thee as I may; nor will I depart from it now.” And she sang:

“Keen-edged is the sword of the city, and bitter is its spear,
But thy breast in the battle, beloved, hath a wall of the stithy’s gear.
What now is thy wont in the handplay with the helm and the hauberk of rings?
Farest thou as the thrall and the cot-carle, or clad in the raiment of kings?”

He started, and his face reddened as he answered:

“O Wood-Sun thou wottest our battle and the way wherein we fare:
That oft at the battle’s beginning the helm and the hauberk we bear;
Lest the shaft of the fleeing coward or the bow at adventure bent
Should slay us ere the need be, ere our might be given and spent.
Yet oft ere the fight is over, and Doom hath scattered the foe,
No leader of the people by his war-gear shall ye know,
But by his hurts the rather, from the cot-carle and the thrall:
For when all is done that a man may, ’tis the hour for a man to fall.”

She yet smiled as she said in answer:

“O Folk-wolf, heed and hearken; for when shall thy life be spent
And the Folk wherein thou dwellest with thy death be well content?
Whenso folk need the fire, do they hew the apple-tree,
And burn the Mother of Blossom and the fruit that is to be?
Or me wilt thou bid to thy grave-mound because thy battle-wrath
May nothing more be bridled than the whirl wind on his path?
So hearken and do my bidding, for the hauberk shalt thou bear
E’en when the other warriors cast off their battle-gear.
So come thou, come unwounded from the war-field of the south,
And sit with me in the beech-wood, and kiss me, eyes and mouth.”

And she kissed him in very deed, and made much of him, and fawned on him, and laid her hand on his breast, and he was soft and blithe with her, but at last he laughed and said:

“God’s Daughter, long hast thou lived, and many a matter seen,
And men full often grieving for the deed that might have been;
But here my heart thou wheedlest as a maid of tender years
When first in the arms of her darling the horn of war she hears.
Thou knowest the axe to be heavy, and the sword, how keen it is;
But that Doom of which thou hast spoken, wilt thou not tell of this,
God’s Daughter, how it sheareth, and how it breaketh through
Each wall that the warrior buildeth, yea all deeds that he may do?
What might in the hammer’s leavings, in the fire’s thrall shall abide
To turn that Folks’ o’erwhelmer from the fated warrior’s side?”

Then she laughed in her turn, and loudly; but so sweetly that the sound of her voice mingled with the first song of a newly awakened wood-thrush sitting on a rowan twig on the edge of the Wood-lawn. But she said:

“Yea, I that am God’s Daughter may tell thee never a whit
From what land cometh the hauberk nor what smith smithied it,
That thou shalt wear in the handplay from the first stroke to the last;
But this thereof I tell thee, that it holdeth firm and fast
The life of the body it lappeth, if the gift of the Godfolk it be.
Lo this is the yoke-mate of doom, and the gift of me unto thee.”

Then she leaned down from the stone whereon they sat, and her hand was in the dewy grass for a little, and then it lifted up a dark grey rippling coat of rings; and she straightened herself in the seat again, and laid that hauberk on the knees of Thiodolf, and he put his hand to it, and turned it about, while he pondered long: then at last he said:

“What evil thing abideth with this warder of the strife,
This burg and treasure chamber for the hoarding of my life?
For this is the work of the dwarfs, and no kindly kin of the earth;
And all we fear the dwarf-kin and their anger and sorrow and mirth.”

She cast her arms about him and fondled him, and her voice grew sweeter than the voice of any mortal thing as she answered:

“No ill for thee, beloved, or for me in the hauberk lies;
No sundering grief is in it, no lonely miseries.
But we shall abide together, and that new life I gave,
For a long while yet henceforward we twain its joy shall have.
Yea, if thou dost my bidding to wear my gift in the fight
No hunter of the wild-wood at the changing of the night
Shall see my shape on thy grave-mound or my tears in the morning find
With the dew of the morning mingled; nor with the evening wind
Shall my body pass the shepherd as he wandereth in the mead
And fill him with forebodings on the eve of the Wolfings’ need.
Nor the horse-herd wake in the midnight and hear my fateful cry;
Nor yet shall the Wolfing women hear words on the wind go by
As they weave and spin the night down when the House is gone to the war,
And weep for the swains they wedded and the children that they bore.
Yea do my bidding, O Folk-wolf, lest a grief of the Gods should weigh
On the ancient House of the Wolfings and my death o’ercloud its day.”

And still she clung about him, while he spake no word of yea or nay: but at the last he let himself glide wholly into her arms, and the dwarf-wrought hauberk fell from his knees and lay on the grass.


CHAPTER IV—THE HOUSE FARETH TO THE WAR

So she began in a sweet voice yet clear and far-reaching:

“O Warriors of the Wolfings by the token of the flame
That here in my right hand flickers, come aback to the House of the Name!
For there yet burneth the Hall-Sun beneath the Wolfing roof,
And this flame is litten from it, nor as now shall it fare aloof
Till again it seeth the mighty and the men to be gleaned from the fight.
So wend ye as weird willeth and let your hearts be light;
For through your days of battle all the deeds of our days shall be fair.
To-morrow beginneth the haysel, as if every carle were here;
And who knoweth ere your returning but the hook shall smite the corn?
But the kine shall go down to the meadow as their wont is every morn,
And each eve shall come back to the byre; and the mares and foals afield
Shall ever be heeded duly; and all things shall their increase yield.
And if it shall befal us that hither cometh a foe
Here have we swains of the shepherds good players with the bow,
And old men battle-crafty whose might is nowise spent,
And women fell and fearless well wont to tread the bent
Amid the sheep and the oxen; and their hands are hard with the spear
And their arms are strong and stalwart the battle shield to bear;
And store of weapons have we and the mighty walls of the stead;
And the Roof shall abide you steadfast with the Hall-Sun overhead.
Lo here I quench this candle that is lit from the Hall-Sun’s flame
Which unto the Wild-wood clearing with the kin of the Wolfings came
And shall wend with their departure to the limits of the earth;
Nor again shall the torch be lighted till in sorrow or in mirth,
Overthrown or overthrowing, ye come aback once more,
And bid me bear the candle before the Wolf of War.”

CHAPTER V—CONCERNING THE HALL-SUN

But as she sat musing thus, came to her a woman exceeding old to look on, whom she knew not as one of the kindred or a thrall; and this carline greeted her by the name of Hall-Sun and said:

“Hail, Hall-Sun of the Markmen! how fares it now with thee
When the whelps of the Woodbeast wander with the Leafage of the Tree
All up the Mirkwood-water to seek what they shall find,
The oak-boles of the battle and the war-wood stark and blind?”

Then answered the maiden:

“It fares with me, O mother, that my soul would fain go forth
To behold the ways of the battle, and the praise of the warriors’ worth.
But yet is it held entangled in a maze of many a thing,
As the low-grown bramble holdeth the brake-shoots of the Spring.
I think of the thing that hath been, but no shape is in my thought;
I think of the day that passeth, and its story comes to nought.
I think of the days that shall be, nor shape I any tale.
I will hearken thee, O mother, if hearkening may avail.”

The Carline gazed at her with dark eyes that shone brightly from amidst her brown wrinkled face: then she sat herself down beside her and spake:

“From a far folk have I wandered and I come of an alien blood,
But I know all tales of the Wolfings and their evil and their good;
And when I heard of thy fairness, thereof I heard it said,
That for thee should be never a bridal nor a place in the warrior’s bed.”

The maiden neither reddened nor paled, but looking with calm steady eyes into the Carline’s face she answered:

“Yea true it is, I am wedded to the mighty ones of old,
And the fathers of the Wolfings ere the days of field and fold.”

Then a smile came into the eyes of the old woman and she said.

“How glad shall be thy mother of thy worship and thy worth,
And the father that begat thee if yet they dwell on earth!”

But the Hall-Sun answered in the same steady manner as before:

“None knoweth who is my mother, nor my very father’s name;
But when to the House of the Wolfings a wild-wood waif I came,
They gave me a foster-mother an ancient dame and good,
And a glorious foster-father the best of all the blood.”

Spake the Carline.

“Yea, I have heard the story, but scarce therein might I trow
That thou with all thy beauty wert born ’neath the oaken bough,
And hast crawled a naked baby o’er the rain-drenched autumn-grass;
Wilt thou tell the wandering woman what wise it cometh to pass
That thou art the Mid-mark’s Hall-Sun, and the sign of the Wolfings’ gain?
Thou shalt pleasure me much by the telling, and there of shalt thou be fain.”

Then answered the Hall-Sun.

“Yea; thus much I remember for the first of my memories;
That I lay on the grass in the morning and above were the boughs of the trees.
But nought naked was I as the wood-whelp, but clad in linen white,
And adown the glades of the oakwood the morning sun lay bright.
Then a hind came out of the thicket and stood on the sunlit glade,
And turned her head toward the oak tree and a step on toward me made.
Then stopped, and bounded aback, and away as if in fear,
That I saw her no more; then I wondered, though sitting close anear
Was a she-wolf great and grisly. But with her was I wont to play,
And pull her ears, and belabour her rugged sides and grey,
And hold her jaws together, while she whimpered, slobbering
For the love of my love; and nowise I deemed her a fearsome thing.
There she sat as though she were watching, and o’er head a blue-winged jay
Shrieked out from the topmost oak-twigs, and a squirrel ran his way
Two tree-trunks off. But the she-wolf arose up suddenly
And growled with her neck-fell bristling, as if danger drew anigh;
And therewith I heard a footstep, for nice was my ear to catch
All the noises of the wild-wood; so there did we sit at watch
While the sound of feet grew nigher: then I clapped hand on hand
And crowed for joy and gladness, for there out in the sun did stand
A man, a glorious creature with a gleaming helm on his head,
And gold rings on his arms, in raiment gold-broidered crimson-red.
Straightway he strode up toward us nor heeded the wolf of the wood
But sang as he went in the oak-glade, as a man whose thought is good,
And nought she heeded the warrior, but tame as a sheep was grown,
And trotted away through the wild-wood with her crest all laid adown.
Then came the man and sat down by the oak-bole close unto me
And took me up nought fearful and set me on his knee.
And his face was kind and lovely, so my cheek to his cheek I laid
And touched his cold bright war-helm and with his gold rings played,
And hearkened his words, though I knew not what tale they had to tell,
Yet fain was my heart of their music, and meseemed I loved him well.
So we fared for a while and were fain, till he set down my feet on the grass,
And kissed me and stood up himself, and away through the wood did he pass.
And then came back the she-wolf and with her I played and was fain.
Lo the first thing I remember: wilt thou have me babble again?”

Spake the Carline and her face was soft and kind:

“Nay damsel, long would I hearken to thy voice this summer day.
But how didst thou leave the wild-wood, what people brought thee away?”

Then said the Hall-Sun:

“I awoke on a time in the even, and voices I heard as I woke;
And there was I in the wild-wood by the bole of the ancient oak,
And a ring of men was around me, and glad was I indeed
As I looked upon their faces and the fashion of their weed.
For I gazed on the red and the scarlet and the beaten silver and gold,
And blithe were their noble faces and kindly to behold,
And nought had I seen of such-like since that hour of the other day
When that warrior came to the oak glade with the little child to play.
And forth now he came, with the face that my hands had fondled before,
And a battle shield wrought fairly upon his arm he bore,
And thereon the wood-wolf’s image in ruddy gold was done.
Then I stretched out my little arms towards the glorious shining one
And he took me up and set me on his shoulder for a while
And turned about to his fellows with a blithe and joyous smile;
And they shouted aloud about me and drew forth gleaming swords
And clashed them on their bucklers; but nought I knew of the words
Of their shouting and rejoicing. So thereafter was I laid
And borne forth on the warrior’s warshield, and our way through the wood we made
’Midst the mirth and great contentment of those fair-clad shielded men.

“But no tale of the wolf and the wild-wood abides with me since then,
And the next thing I remember is a huge and dusky hall,
A world for my little body from ancient wall to wall;
A world of many doings, and nought for me to do,
A world of many noises, and known to me were few.

“Time wore, and I spoke with the Wolfings and knew the speech of the
And was strange ’neath the roof no longer, as a lonely waif therein;
And I wrought as a child with my playmates and every hour looked on kin,
Unto the next hour’s joyance till the happy day was done.
And going and coming amidst us was a woman tall and thin
With hair like the hoary barley and silver streaks therein.
And kind and sad of visage, as now I remember me,
And she sat and told us stories when we were aweary with glee,
And many of us she fondled, but me the most of all.
And once from my sleep she waked me and bore me down the hall,
In the hush of the very midnight, and I was feared thereat.
But she brought me unto the dais, and there the warrior sat,
Who took me up and kissed me, as erst within the wood;
And meseems in his arms I slumbered: but I wakened again and stood
Alone with the kindly woman, and gone was the goodly man,
And athwart the hush of the Folk-hall the moon shone bright and wan,
And the woman dealt with a lamp hung up by a chain aloft,
And she trimmed it and fed it with oil, while she chanted sweet and soft
A song whose words I knew not: then she ran it up again,
And up in the darkness above us died the length of its wavering chain.”

“Yea,” said the carline, “this woman will have been the Hall-Sun that came before thee. What next dost thou remember?”

Said the maiden:

“Next I mind me of the hazels behind the People’s Roof,
And the children running thither and the magpie flitting aloof,
And my hand in the hand of the Hall-Sun, as after the others we went,
And she soberly hearkening my prattle and the words of my intent.
And now would I call her ‘Mother,’ and indeed I loved her well.

“So I waxed; and now of my memories the tale were long to tell;
But as the days passed over, and I fared to field and wood,
Alone or with my playmates, still the days were fair and good.
But the sad and kindly Hall-Sun for my fosterer now I knew,
And the great and glorious warrior that my heart clung sorely to
Was but my foster-father; and I knew that I had no kin
In the ancient House of the Wolfings, though love was warm therein.”

Then smiled the carline and said: “Yea, he is thy foster-father, and yet a fond one.”

“Sooth is that,” said the Hall-Sun. “But wise art thou by seeming. Hast thou come to tell me of what kindred I am, and who is my father and who is my mother?”

Said the carline: “Art thou not also wise? Is it not so that the Hall-Sun of the Wolfings seeth things that are to come?”

“Yea,” she said, “yet have I seen waking or sleeping no other father save my foster-father; yet my very mother I have seen, as one who should meet her in the flesh one day.”

“And good is that,” said the carline; and as she spoke her face waxed kinder, and she said:

“Tell us more of thy days in the House of the Wolfings and how thou faredst there.”

Said the Hall-Sun:

“I waxed ’neath the Roof of the Wolfings, till now to look upon
I was of sixteen winters, and the love of the Folk I won,
And in lovely weed they clad me like the image of a God:
And lonely now full often the wild-wood ways I trod,
And I feared no wild-wood creature, and my presence scared them nought;
And I fell to know of wisdom, and within me stirred my thought,
So that oft anights would I wander through the mead and far away,
And swim the Mirkwood-water, and amidst his eddies play
When earth was dark in the dawn-tide; and over all the folk
I knew of the beasts’ desires, as though in words they spoke.

“So I saw of things that should be, were they mighty things or small,
And upon a day as it happened came the war-word to the hall,
And the House must wend to the warfield, and as they sang, and played
With the strings of the harp that even, and the mirth of the war-eve made,
Came the sight of the field to my eyes, and the words waxed hot in me,
And I needs must show the picture of the end of the fight to be.
Then I showed them the Red Wolf bristling o’er the broken fleeing foe;
And the war-gear of the fleers, and their banner did I show,
To wit the Ling-worm’s image with the maiden in his mouth;
There I saw my foster-father ’mid the pale blades of the South,
Till aloof swept all the handplay and the hurry of the chase,
And he lay along by an ash-tree, no helm about his face,
No byrny on his body; and an arrow in his thigh,
And a broken spear in his shoulder. Then I saw myself draw nigh
To sing the song blood-staying. Then saw I how we twain
Went ’midst of the host triumphant in the Wolfings’ banner-wain,
The black bulls lowing before us athwart the warriors’ song,
As up from Mirkwood-water we went our ways along
To the Great Roof of the Wolfings, whence streamed the women out
And the sound of their rejoicing blent with the warriors’ shout.

“They heard me and saw the picture, and they wotted how wise I was grown,
And they loved me, and glad were their hearts at the tale my lips had shown;
And my body clad as an image of a God to the field they bore,
And I held by the mast of the banner as I looked upon their war,
And endured to see unblenching on the wind-swept sunny plain
All the picture of my vision by the menfolk done again.
And over my Foster-father I sang the staunching-song,
Till the life-blood that was ebbing flowed back to his heart the strong,
And we wended back in the war-wain ’midst the gleanings of the fight
Unto the ancient dwelling and the Hall-Sun’s glimmering light.

“So from that day henceforward folk hung upon my words,
For the battle of the autumn, and the harvest of the swords;
And e’en more was I loved than aforetime. So wore a year away,
And heavy was the burden of the lore that on me lay.

“But my fosterer the Hall-Sun took sick at the birth of the year,
And changed her life as the year changed, as summer drew anear.
But she knew that her life was waning, and lying in her bed
She taught me the lore of the Hall-Sun, and every word to be said
At the trimming in the midnight and the feeding in the morn,
And she laid her hands upon me ere unto the howe she was borne
With the kindred gathered about us; and they wotted her weird and her will,
And hailed me for the Hall-Sun when at last she lay there still.
And they did on me the garment, the holy cloth of old,
And the neck-chain wrought for the goddess, and the rings of the hallowed gold.
So here am I abiding, and of things to be I tell,
Yet know not what shall befall me nor why with the Wolfings I dwell.”

Then said the carline:

“What seest thou, O daughter, of the journey of to-day?
And why wendest thou not with the war-host on the battle-echoing way?”

Said the Hall-Sun.

“O mother, here dwelleth the Hall-Sun while the kin hath a dwelling— place,
Nor ever again shall I look on the onset or the chase,
Till the day when the Roof of the Wolfings looketh down on the girdle of foes,
And the arrow singeth over the grass of the kindred’s close;
Till the pillars shake with the shouting and quivers the roof-tree dear,
When the Hall of the Wolfings garners the harvest of the spear.”

Therewith she stood on her feet and turned her face to the Great Roof, and gazed long at it, not heeding the crone by her side; and she muttered words of whose signification the other knew not, though she listened intently, and gazed ever at her as closely as might be.

Then fell the Hall-Sun utterly silent, and the lids closed over her eyes, and her hands were clenched, and her feet pressed hard on the daisies: her bosom heaved with sore sighs, and great tear-drops oozed from under her eyelids and fell on to her raiment and her feet and on to the flowery summer grass; and at the last her mouth opened and she spake, but in a voice that was marvellously changed from that she spake in before:

“Why went ye forth, O Wolfings, from the garth your fathers built,
And the House where sorrow dieth, and all unloosed is guilt?
Turn back, turn back, and behold it! lest your feet be over slow
When your shields are heavy-burdened with the arrows of the foe;
How ye totter, how ye stumble on the rough and corpse-strewn way!
And lo, how the eve is eating the afternoon of day!
O why are ye abiding till the sun is sunk in night
And the forest trees are ruddy with the battle-kindled light?
O rest not yet, ye Wolfings, lest void be your resting-place,
And into lands that ye know not the Wolf must turn his face,
And ye wander and ye wander till the land in the ocean cease,
And your battle bring no safety and your labour no increase.”

Then was she silent for a while, and her tears ceased to flow; but presently her eyes opened once more, and she lifted up her voice and cried aloud —

“I see, I see! O Godfolk behold it from aloof,
How the little flames steal flickering along the ridge of the Roof!
They are small and red ’gainst the heavens in the summer afternoon;
But when the day is dusking, white, high shall they wave to the moon.
Lo, the fire plays now on the windows like strips of scarlet cloth
Wind-waved! but look in the night-tide on the onset of its wrath,
How it wraps round the ancient timbers and hides the mighty roof
But lighteth little crannies, so lost and far aloof,
That no man yet of the kindred hath seen them ere to-night,
Since first the builder builded in loving and delight!”

Then again she stayed her speech with weeping and sobbing, but after a while was still again, and then she spoke pointing toward the roof with her right hand.

“I see the fire-raisers and iron-helmed they are,
Brown-faced about the banners that their hands have borne afar.
And who in the garth of the kindred shall bear adown their shield
Since the onrush of the Wolfings they caught in the open field,
As the might of the mountain lion falls dead in the hempen net?
O Wolfings, long have ye tarried, but the hour abideth yet.
What life for the life of the people shall be given once for all,
What sorrow shall stay sorrow in the half-burnt Wolfing Hall?
There is nought shall quench the fire save the tears of the Godfolk’s kin,
And the heart of the life-delighter, and the life-blood cast therein.”

Then once again she fell silent, and her eyes closed again, and the slow tears gushed out from them, and she sank down sobbing on the grass, and little by little the storm of grief sank and her head fell back, and she was as one quietly asleep. Then the carline hung over her and kissed her and embraced her; and then through her closed eyes and her slumber did the Hall-Sun see a marvel; for she who was kissing her was young in semblance and unwrinkled, and lovely to look on, with plenteous long hair of the hue of ripe barley, and clad in glistening raiment such as has been woven in no loom on earth.


CHAPTER VI—THEY TALK ON THE WAY TO THE FOLK-THING

“Yea,” said the Elking, “Hearken how it is told in the South-Welsh Lay:

“‘Have ye not heard
Of the ways of Weird?
How the folk fared forth
Far away from the North?
And as light as one wendeth
Whereas the wood endeth,
When of nought is our need,
And none telleth our deed,
So Rodgeir unwearied and Reidfari wan
The town where none tarried the shield-shaking man.
All lonely the street there, and void was the way
And nought hindered our feet but the dead men that lay
Under shield in the lanes of the houses heavens-high,
All the ring-bearing swains that abode there to die.’

“Tells the Lay, that none abode the Goths and their fellowship, but such as were mighty enough to fall before them, and the rest, both man and woman, fled away before our folk and before the folk of the Kymry, and left their town for us to dwell in; as saith the Lay:

“‘Glistening of gold
Did men’s eyen behold;
Shook the pale sword
O’er the unspoken word,
No man drew nigh us
With weapon to try us,
For the Welsh-wrought shield
Lay low on the field.
By man’s hand unbuilded all seemed there to be,
The walls ruddy gilded, the pearls of the sea:
Yea all things were dead there save pillar and wall,
But THEY lived and THEY said us the song of the hall;
The dear hall left to perish by men of the land,
For the Goth-folk to cherish with gold gaining hand.’


CHAPTER VII—THEY GATHER TO THE FOLK-MOTE

But Wolfkettle brake out into speech and rhyme, and said:

“O warriors, the Wolfing kindred shall live or it shall die;
And alive it shall be as the oak-tree when the summer storm goes by;
But dead it shall be as its bole, that they hew for the corner-post
Of some fair and mighty folk-hall, and the roof of a war-fain host.”

. . . .

For thuswise would he say and this was a word of his:

“Let us rest to-morrow, fellows, since to-day we have fought amain!
Let not these men we have smitten come aback on our hands again,
And say ‘Ye Wolfing warriors, ye have done your work but ill,
Fall to now and do it again, like the craftsman who learneth his skill.’”

CHAPTER VIII—THE FOLK-MOTE OF THE MARKMEN

So the Dayling warrior lifted up his voice and said:

“O kindreds of the Markmen, hearken the words I say;
For no chancehap assembly is gathered here to-day.
The fire hath gone around us in the hands of our very kin,
And twice the horn hath sounded, and the Thing is hallowed in.
Will ye hear or forbear to hearken the tale there is to tell?
There are many mouths to tell it, and a many know it well.
And the tale is this, that the foemen against our kindreds fare
Who eat the meadows desert, and burn the desert bare.”

Then sat he down on the turf seat; but there arose a murmur in the assembly as of men eager to hearken; and without more ado came a man out of a company of the Upper-mark, and clomb up to the top of the Speech-Hill, and spoke in a loud voice:

“I am Bork, a man of the Geirings of the Upper-mark: two days ago I and five others were in the wild-wood a-hunting, and we wended through the thicket, and came into the land of the hill-folk; and after we had gone a while we came to a long dale with a brook running through it, and yew-trees scattered about it and a hazel copse at one end; and by the copse was a band of men who had women and children with them, and a few neat, and fewer horses; but sheep were feeding up and down the dale; and they had made them booths of turf and boughs, and were making ready their cooking fires, for it was evening. So when they saw us, they ran to their arms, but we cried out to them in the tongue of the Goths and bade them peace.

. . . .

For as to the Folks on the other side of the Water, all these lie under their hand already, what by fraud what by force, and their warriors go with them to the battle and help them; of whom we met bands now and again, and fought with them, and took men of them, who told us all this and much more, over long to tell of here.”

He paused and turned about to look on the mighty assembly, and his ears drank in the long murmur that followed his speaking, and when it had died out he spake again, but in rhyme:

“Lo thus much of my tidings! But this too it behoveth to tell,
That these masterful men of the cities of the Markmen know full well:
And they wot of the well-grassed meadows, and the acres of the Mark,
And our life amidst of the wild-wood like a candle in the dark;
And they know of our young men’s valour and our women’s loveliness,
And our tree would they spoil with destruction if its fruit they may never possess.
For their lust is without a limit, and nought may satiate
Their ravening maw; and their hunger if ye check it turneth to hate,
And the blood-fever burns in their bosoms, and torment and anguish and woe
O’er the wide field ploughed by the sword-blade for the coming years they sow;
And ruth is a thing forgotten and all hopes they trample down;
And whatso thing is steadfast, whatso of good renown,
Whatso is fair and lovely, whatso is ancient sooth
In the bloody marl shall they mingle as they laugh for lack of ruth.
Lo the curse of the world cometh hither; for the men that we took in the land
Said thus, that their host is gathering with many an ordered band
To fall on the wild-wood passes and flood the lovely Mark,
As the river over the meadows upriseth in the dark.
Look to it, O ye kindred! availeth now no word
But the voice of the clashing of iron, and the sword-blade on the sword.”

Therewith he made an end, and deeper and longer was the murmur of the host of freemen, amidst which Bork gat him down from the Speech-Hill, his weapons clattering about him, and mingled with the men of his kindred.

Then came forth a man of the kin of the Shieldings of the Upper-mark, and clomb the mound; and he spake in rhyme from beginning to end; for he was a minstrel of renown:

“Lo I am a man of the Shieldings and Geirmund is my name;
A half-moon back from the wild-wood out into the hills I came,
And I went alone in my war-gear; for we have affinity
With the Hundings of the Fell-folk, and with them I fain would be;
For I loved a maid of their kindred. Now their dwelling was not far
From the outermost bounds of the Fell-folk, and bold in the battle they are,
And have met a many people, and held their own abode.
Gay then was the heart within me, as over the hills I rode
And thought of the mirth of to-morrow and the sweet-mouthed Hunding maid
And their old men wise and merry and their young men unafraid,
And the hall-glee of the Hundings and the healths o’er the guesting cup.
But as I rode the valley, I saw a smoke go up
O’er the crest of the last of the grass-hills ’twixt me and the Hunding roof,
And that smoke was black and heavy: so a while I bided aloof,
And drew my girths the tighter, and looked to the arms I bore
And handled my spear for the casting; for my heart misgave me sore,
For nought was that pillar of smoke like the guest-fain cooking-fire.
I lingered in thought for a minute, then turned me to ride up higher,
And as a man most wary up over the bent I rode,
And nigh hid peered o’er the hill-crest adown on the Hunding abode;
And forsooth ’twas the fire wavering all o’er the roof of old,
And all in the garth and about it lay the bodies of the bold;
And bound to a rope amidmost were the women fair and young,
And youths and little children, like the fish on a withy strung
As they lie on the grass for the angler before the beginning of night.
Then the rush of the wrath within me for a while nigh blinded my sight;
Yet about the cowering war-thralls, short dark-faced men I saw,
Men clad in iron armour, this way and that way draw,
As warriors after the battle are ever wont to do.
Then I knew them for the foemen and their deeds to be I knew,
And I gathered the reins together to ride down the hill amain,
To die with a good stroke stricken and slay ere I was slain.
When lo, on the bent before me rose the head of a brown-faced man,
Well helmed and iron-shielded, who some Welsh speech began
And a short sword brandished against me; then my sight cleared and I saw
Five others armed in likewise up hill and toward me draw,
And I shook the spear and sped it and clattering on his shield
He fell and rolled o’er smitten toward the garth and the Fell-folk’s field.

“But my heart changed with his falling and the speeding of my stroke,
And I turned my horse; for within me the love of life awoke,
And I spurred, nor heeded the hill-side, but o’er rough and smooth I rode
Till I heard no chase behind me; then I drew rein and abode.
And down in a dell was I gotten with a thorn-brake in its throat,
And heard but the plover’s whistle and the blackbird’s broken note
’Mid the thorns; when lo! from a thorn-twig away the blackbird swept,
And out from the brake and towards me a naked man there crept,
And straight I rode up towards him, and knew his face for one
I had seen in the hall of the Hundings ere its happy days were done.
I asked him his tale, but he bade me forthright to bear him away;
So I took him up behind me, and we rode till late in the day,
Toward the cover of the wild-wood, and as swiftly as we might.
But when yet aloof was the thicket and it now was moonless night,
We stayed perforce for a little, and he told me all the tale:
How the aliens came against them, and they fought without avail
Till the Roof o’er their heads was burning and they burst forth on the foe,
And were hewn down there together; nor yet was the slaughter slow.
But some they saved for thralldom, yea, e’en of the fighting men,
Or to quell them with pains; so they stripped them; and this man espying just then
Some chance, I mind not whatwise, from the garth fled out and away.

“Now many a thing noteworthy of these aliens did he say,
But this I bid you hearken, lest I wear the time for nought,
That still upon the Markmen and the Mark they set their thought;
For they questioned this man and others through a go-between in words
Of us, and our lands and our chattels, and the number of our swords;
Of the way and the wild-wood passes and the winter and his ways.
Now look to see them shortly; for worn are fifteen days
Since in the garth of the Hundings I saw them dight for war,
And a hardy folk and ready and a swift-foot host they are.”

Therewith Geirmund went down clattering from the Hill and stood with his company. But a man came forth from the other side of the ring, and clomb the Hill: he was a red-haired man, rather big, clad in a skin coat, and bearing a bow in his hand and a quiver of arrows at his back, and a little axe hung by his side. He said:

“I dwell in the House of the Hrossings of the Mid-mark, and I am now made a man of the kindred: howbeit I was not born into it; for I am the son of a fair and mighty woman of a folk of the Kymry, who was taken in war while she went big with me; I am called Fox the Red.

. . . .

“As to their numbers, they of the burg are hard on three thousand footmen of the best; and of horsemen five hundred, nowise good; and of bowmen and slingers six hundred or more: their bows weak; their slingers cunning beyond measure. And the talk is that when they come upon us they shall have with them some five hundred warriors of the Over River Goths, and others of their own folk.”

Then he said:

“O men of the Mark, will ye meet them in the meadows and the field,
Or will ye flee before them and have the wood for a shield?
Or will ye wend to their war-burg with weapons cast away,
With your women and your children, a peace of them to pray?
So doing, not all shall perish; but most shall long to die
Ere in the garths of the Southland two moons have loitered by.”

Then rose the rumour loud and angry mingled with the rattle of swords and the clash of spears on shields; but Fox said:

“Needs must ye follow one of these three ways. Nay, what say I? there are but two ways and not three; for if ye flee they shall follow you to the confines of the earth. Either these Welsh shall take all, and our lives to boot, or we shall hold to all that is ours, and live merrily. The sword doometh; and in three days it may be the courts shall be hallowed: small is the space between us.”

. . . .

Therewith he and the two War-dukes came down from the hill; and stood before the altar; and the nine warriors of the Daylings stood forth with axes to hew the horses and with copper bowls wherein to catch the blood of them, and each hewed down his horse to the Gods, but the two War-dukes slew the tenth and fairest: and the blood was caught in the bowls, and Agni took a sprinkler and went round about the ring of men, and cast the blood of the Gods’-gifts over the Folk, as was the custom of those days.

Then they cut up the carcases and burned on the altar the share of the Gods, and Agni and the War-dukes tasted thereof, and the rest they bore off to the Daylings’ abode for the feast to be holden that night.

Then Otter and Thiodolf spake apart together for awhile, and presently went up again on to the Speech-Hill, and Thiodolf said:

“O kindreds of the Markmen; to-morrow with the day
We shall wend up Mirkwood-water to bar our foes the way;
And there shall we make our wain-burg on the edges of the wood,
Where in the days past over at last the aliens stood,
The Slaughter Tofts ye call it. There tidings shall we get
If the curse of the world is awakened, and the serpent crawleth yet
Amidst the Mirkwood thicket; and when the sooth we know,
Then bearing battle with us through the thicket shall we go,
The ancient Wood-wolf’s children, and the People of the Shield,
And the Spear-kin and the Horse-kin, while the others keep the field
About the warded wain-burg; for not many need we there
Where amidst of the thickets’ tangle and the woodland net they fare,
And the hearts of the aliens falter and they curse the fight ne’er
done,
And wonder who is fighting and which way is the sun.”

Thus he spoke; then Agni took up the war-horn again, and blew a blast, and then he cried out:

“Now sunder we the Folk-mote! and the feast is for to-night,
And to-morrow the Wayfaring; But unnamed is the day of the fight;
O warriors, look ye to it that not long we need abide
’Twixt the hour of the word we have spoken, and our fair-fame’s blooming tide!
For then ’midst the toil and the turmoil shall we sow the seeds of peace,
And the Kindreds’ long endurance, and the Goth-folk’s great increase.”

Then arose the last great shout, and soberly and in due order, kindred by kindred, they turned and departed from the Thing-stead and went their way through the wood to the abode of the Daylings.

CHAPTER IX—THE ANCIENT MAN OF THE DAYLINGS

And when the old carle saw the guests, he fixed his eyes on Thiodolf, and presently came up and stood before him; and Thiodolf looked on the old man, and greeted him kindly and smiled on him; but the carle spake not till he had looked on him a while; and at last he fell a-trembling, and reached his hands out to Thiodolf’s bare head, and handled his curls and caressed them, as a mother does with her son, even if he be a grizzled-haired man, when there is none by: and at last he said:

“How dear is the head of the mighty, and the apple of the tree
That blooms with the life of the people which is and yet shall be!
It is helmed with ancient wisdom, and the long remembered thought,
That liveth when dead is the iron, and its very rust but nought.
Ah! were I but young as aforetime, I would fare to the battle-stead
And stand amidst of the spear-hail for the praise of the hand and the head!”

Then his hands left Thiodolf’s head, and strayed down to his shoulders and his breast, and he felt the cold rings of the hauberk, and let his hands fall down to his side again; and the tears gushed out of his old eyes and again he spake:

“O house of the heart of the mighty, O breast of the battle-lord
Why art thou coldly hidden from the flickering flame of the sword?
I know thee not, nor see thee; thou art as the fells afar
Where the Fathers have their dwelling, and the halls of Godhome are:
The wind blows wild betwixt us, and the cloud-rack flies along,
And high aloft enfoldeth the dwelling of the strong;
They are, as of old they have been, but their hearths flame not for me;
And the kindness of their feast-halls mine eyes shall never see.”

Thiodolf’s lips still smiled on the old man, but a shadow had come over his eyes and his brow; and the chief of the Daylings and their mighty guests stood by listening intently with the knit brows of anxious men; nor did any speak till the ancient man again betook him to words:

“I came to the house of the foeman when hunger made me a fool;
And the foeman said, ‘Thou art weary, lo, set thy foot on the stool;’
And I stretched out my feet,—and was shackled: and he spake with a dastard’s smile,
‘O guest, thine hands are heavy; now rest them for a while!’
So I stretched out my hands, and the hand-gyves lay cold on either wrist:
And the wood of the wolf had been better than that feast-hall, had I wist
That this was the ancient pit-fall, and the long expected trap,
And that now for my heart’s desire I had sold the world’s goodhap.”

Therewith the ancient man turned slowly away from Thiodolf, and departed sadly to his own place. Thiodolf changed countenance but little, albeit those about him looked strangely on him, as though if they durst they would ask him what these words might be, and if he from his hidden knowledge might fit a meaning to them. For to many there was a word of warning in them, and to some an evil omen of the days soon to be; and scarce anyone heard those words but he had a misgiving in his heart, for the ancient man was known to be foreseeing, and wild and strange his words seemed to them.

CHAPTER XI—THE HALL-SUN SPEAKETH

But when she heard the Hall-Sun she turned and saw her on the threshold, and her speech fell suddenly, and all that might and briskness faded from her, and she fixed her eyes on the Hall-Sun and looked wistfully and anxiously on her.

Then spake the Hall-Sun standing in the doorway:

“Hear ye a matter, maidens, and ye Wolfing women all,
And thou alien guest of the Wolfings! But come ye up the hall,
That the ancient men may hearken: for methinks I have a word
Of the battle of the Kindreds, and the harvest of the sword.”

Then all arose up with great joy, for they knew that the tidings were good, when they looked on the face of the Hall-Sun and beheld the pride of her beauty unmarred by doubt or pain.

She led them forth to the dais, and there were the sick and the elders gathered and some ancient men of the thralls: so she stepped lightly up to her place, and stood under her namesake, the wondrous lamp of ancient days. And thus she spake:

“On my soul there lies no burden, and no tangle of the fight
In plain or dale or wild-wood enmeshes now my sight.
I see the Markmen’s wain-burg, and I see their warriors go
As men who wait for battle and the coming of the foe.
And they pass ’twixt the wood and the wain-burg within earshot of the horn,
But over the windy meadows no sound thereof is borne,
And all is well amongst them. To the burg I draw anigh
And I see all battle-banners in the breeze of morning fly,
But no Wolfings round their banner and no warrior of the Shield,
No Geiring and no Hrossing in the burg or on the field.”

She held her peace for a little while, and no one dared to speak; then she lifted up her head and spake:

“Now I go by the lip of the wild-wood and a sound withal I hear,
As of men in the paths of the thicket, and a many drawing anear.
Then, muffled yet by the tree-boles, I hear the Shielding song,
And warriors blithe and merry with the battle of the strong.
Give back a little, Markmen, make way for men to pass
To your ordered battle-dwelling o’er the trodden meadow-grass,
For alive with men is the wild-wood and shineth with the steel,
And hath a voice most merry to tell of the Kindreds’ weal,
’Twixt each tree a warrior standeth come back from the spear-strewn way,
And forth they come from the wild-wood and a little band are they.”

Then again was she silent; but her head sank not, as of one thinking, as before it did, but she looked straight forward with bright eyes and smiling, as she said:

“Lo, now the guests they are bringing that ye have not seen before;
Yet guests but ill-entreated; for they lack their shields of war,
No spear in the hand they carry and with no sax are girt.
Lo, these are the dreaded foemen, these once so strong to hurt;
The men that all folk fled from, the swift to drive the spoil,
The men that fashioned nothing but the trap to make men toil.
They drew the sword in the cities, they came and struck the stroke
And smote the shield of the Markmen, and point and edge they broke.
They drew the sword in the war-garth, they swore to bring aback
God’s gifts from the Markmen houses where the tables never lack.
O Markmen, take the God-gifts that came on their own feet
O’er the hills through the Mirkwood thicket the Stone of Tyr to meet!”

Again she stayed her song, which had been loud and joyous, and they who heard her knew that the Kindreds had gained the day, and whilst the Hall-Sun was silent they fell to talking of this fair day of battle and the taking of captives. But presently she spread out her hands again and they held their peace, and she said:

“I see, O Wolfing women, and many a thing I see,
But not all things, O elders, this eve shall ye learn of me,
For another mouth there cometh: the thicket I behold
And the Sons of Tyr amidst it, and I see the oak-trees old,
And the war-shout ringing round them; and I see the battle-lord
Unhelmed amidst of the mighty; and I see his leaping sword;
Strokes struck and warriors falling, and the streaks of spears I see,
But hereof shall the other tell you who speaketh after me.
For none other than the Shieldings from out the wood have come,
And they shift the turn with the Daylings to drive the folk-spear home,
And to follow with the Wolfings and thrust the war-beast forth.
And so good men deem the tidings that they bid them journey north
On the feet of a Shielding runner, that Gisli hath to name;
And west of the water he wendeth by the way that the Wolfings came;
Now for sleep he tarries never, and no meat is in his mouth
Till the first of the Houses hearkeneth the tidings of the south;
Lo, he speaks, and the mead-sea sippeth, and the bread by the way doth eat,
And over the Geiring threshold and outward pass his feet;
And he breasts the Burg of the Daylings and saith his happy word,
And stayeth to drink for a minute of the waves of Battle-ford.
Lone then by the stream he runneth, and wendeth the wild-wood road,
And dasheth through the hazels of the Oselings’ fair abode,
And the Elking women know it, and their hearts are glad once more,
And ye—yea, hearken, Wolfings, for his feet are at the door.”

CHAPTER XIII—THE HALL-SUN SAITH ANOTHER WORD

Now went the word through the Hall and the Women’s-Chamber that the Hall-Sun would speak again, and that great tidings were toward; so all folk came flock-meal to the dais, both thralls and free; and scarce were all gathered there, ere the Hall-Sun began speaking, and said:

“The days of the world thrust onward, and men are born therein
A many and a many, and divers deeds they win
In the fashioning of stories for the kindreds of the earth,
A garland interwoven of sorrow and of mirth.
To the world a warrior cometh; from the world he passeth away,
And no man then may sunder his good from his evil day.
By the Gods hath he been tormented, and been smitten by the foe:
He hath seen his maiden perish, he hath seen his speech-friend go:
His heart hath conceived a joyance and hath brought it unto birth:
But he hath not carried with him his sorrow or his mirth.
He hath lived, and his life hath fashioned the outcome of the deed,
For the blossom of the people, and the coming kindreds’ seed.

“Thus-wise the world is fashioned, and the new sun of the morn
Where earth last night was desert beholds a kindred born,
That to-morrow and to-morrow blossoms all gloriously
With many a man and maiden for the kindreds yet to be,
And fair the Goth-folk groweth. And yet the story saith
That the deeds that make the summer make too the winter’s death,
That summer-tides unceasing from out the grave may grow
And the spring rise up unblemished from the bosom of the snow.

“Thus as to every kindred the day comes once for all
When yesterday it was not, and to-day it builds the hall,
So every kindred bideth the night-tide of the day,
Whereof it knoweth nothing, e’en when noon is past away.
E’en thus the House of the Wolfings ’twixt dusk and dark doth stand,
And narrow is the pathway with the deep on either hand.
On the left are the days forgotten, on the right the days to come,
And another folk and their story in the stead of the Wolfing home.
Do the shadows darken about it, is the even here at last?
Or is this but a storm of the noon-tide that the wind is driving past?

“Unscathed as yet it standeth; it bears the stormy drift,
Nor bows to the lightening flashing adown from the cloudy lift.
I see the hail of battle and the onslaught of the strong,
And they go adown to the folk-mote that shall bide there over long.
I see the slain-heaps rising and the alien folk prevail,
And the Goths give back before them on the ridge o’er the treeless vale.
I see the ancient fallen, and the young man smitten dead,
And yet I see the War-duke shake Throng-plough o’er his head,
And stand unhelmed, unbyrnied before the alien host,
And the hurt men rise around him to win back battle lost;
And the wood yield up her warriors, and the whole host rushing on,
And the swaying lines of battle until the lost is won.
Then forth goes the cry of triumph, as they ring the captives round
And cheat the crow of her portion and heap the warriors’ mound.
There are faces gone from our feast-hall not the least beloved nor worst,
But the wane of the House of the Wolfings not yet the world hath cursed.
The sun shall rise to-morrow on our cold and dewy roof,
For they that longed for slaughter were slaughtered far aloof.”

She ceased for a little, but her countenance, which had not changed during her song, changed not at all now: so they all kept silence although they were rejoicing in this new tale of victory; for they deemed that she was not yet at the end of her speaking. And in good sooth she spake again presently, and said:

“I wot not what hath befallen nor where my soul may be,
For confusion is within me and but dimly do I see,
As if the thing that I look on had happed a while ago.
They stand by the tofts of a war-garth, a captain of the foe,
And a man that is of the Goth-folk, and as friend and friend they speak,
But I hear no word they are saying, though for every word I seek.
And now the mist flows round me and blind I come aback
To the House-roof of the Wolfings and the hearth that hath no lack.”

Her voice grew weaker as she spake the last words, and she sank backward on to her chair: her clenched hands opened, the lids fell down over her bright eyes, her breast heaved no more as it had done, and presently she fell asleep.

CHAPTER XV—THEY HEAR TELL OF THE BATTLE ON THE RIDGE

[Egil speaks] There fell of the Roman footmen five hundred and eighty and five, and the remnant that fled was but little: but of the slingers and bowmen but eighty and six were slain, for they were there to shoot and not to stand; and they were nimble and fleet of foot, men round of limb, very dark-skinned, but not foul of favour.”

Then he said:

“There are men through the dusk a-faring, our speech-fiends and our kin,
No more shall they crave our helping, nor ask what work to win;
They have done their deeds and departed when they had holpen the House,
So high their heads are holden, and their hurts are glorious
With the story of strokes stricken, and new weapons to be met,
And new scowling of foes’ faces, and new curses unknown yet.
Lo, they dight the feast in Godhome, and fair are the tables spread,
Late come, but well-beloved is every war-worn head,
And the God-folk and the Fathers, as these cross the tinkling bridge,
Crowd round and crave for stories of the Battle on the Ridge.”

Therewith he came down from the Speech-Hill and the women-folk came round about him, and they brought him to the Hall, and washed him, and gave him meat and drink; and then would he sleep, for he was weary.

CHAPTER XVI—HOW THE DWARF-WROUGHT HAUBERK WAS BROUGHT AWAY FROM THE HALL OF THE DAYLINGS

As she spoke, Thorkettle had passed the door, and got into his saddle, and sat his black horse like a mighty man as he slowly rode down the turf bridge that led into the plain. And Asmund went to the door and stood watching him till he set spurs to his horse, and departed a great gallop to the south. Then said Asmund:

“What then are the Gods devising, what wonders do they will?
What mighty need is on them to work the kindreds ill,
That the seed of the Ancient Fathers and a woman of their kin
With her all unfading beauty must blend herself therein?
Are they fearing lest the kindreds should grow too fair and great,
And climb the stairs of God-home, and fashion all their fate,
And make all earth so merry that it never wax the worse,
Nor need a gift from any, nor prayers to quench the curse?
Fear they that the Folk-wolf, growing as the fire from out the spark
Into a very folk-god, shall lead the weaponed Mark
From wood to field and mountain, to stand between the earth
And the wrights that forge its thraldom and the sword to slay its mirth?
Fear they that the sons of the wild-wood the Loathly Folk shall quell,
And grow into Gods thereafter, and aloof in God-home dwell?”

Therewith he turned back into the Hall, and was heavy-hearted and dreary of aspect; for he was somewhat foreseeing; and it may not be hidden that this seeming Thorkettle was no warrior of the Wolfings, but the Wood-Sun in his likeness; for she had the power and craft of shape-changing.

CHAPTER XVII—THE WOOD-SUN SPEAKETH WITH THIODOLF

But she looked so fair and lovely even in that end of the night-tide, that he remembered all her beauty of the day and the sunshine, and he laughed aloud for joy of the sight of her, and said:

“What aileth thee, O Wood-Sun, and is this a new custom of thy kindred and the folk of God-home that their brides array themselves like thralls new-taken, and as women who have lost their kindred and are outcast? Who then hath won the Burg of the Anses, and clomb the rampart of God-home?”

But she spoke from where she stood in a voice so sweet, that it thrilled to the very marrow of his bones.

“I have dwelt a while with sorrow since we met, we twain, in the wood:
I have mourned, while thou hast been merry, who deemest the war-play good.
For I know the heart of the wilful and how thou wouldst cast away
The rampart of thy life-days, and the wall of my happy day.
Yea I am the thrall of Sorrow; she hath stripped my raiment off
And laid sore stripes upon me with many a bitter scoff.
Still bidding me remember that I come of the God-folk’s kin,
And yet for all my godhead no love of thee may win.”

Then she looked longingly at him a while and at last could no longer refrain her, but drew nigh him and took his hands in hers, and kissed his mouth, and said as she caressed him:

“O where are thy wounds, beloved? how turned the spear from thy breast,
When the storm of war blew strongest, and the best men met the best?
Lo, this is the tale of to-day: but what shall to-morrow tell?
That Thiodolf the Mighty in the fight’s beginning fell;
That there came a stroke ill-stricken, there came an aimless thrust,
And the life of the people’s helper lay quenched in the summer dust.”

He answered nothing, but smiled as though the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand were pleasant to him, for so much love there was in her, that her very grief was scarcely grievous. But she said again:

“Thou sayest it: I am outcast; for a God that lacketh mirth
Hath no more place in God-home and never a place on earth.
A man grieves, and he gladdens, or he dies and his grief is gone;
But what of the grief of the Gods, and the sorrow never undone?
Yea verily I am the outcast. When first in thine arms I lay
On the blossoms of the woodland my godhead passed away;
Thenceforth unto thee was I looking for the light and the glory of life
And the Gods’ doors shut behind me till the day of the uttermost strife.
And now thou hast taken my soul, thou wilt cast it into the night,
And cover thine head with the darkness, and turn thine eyes from the light.
Thou wouldst go to the empty country where never a seed is sown
And never a deed is fashioned, and the place where each is alone;
But I thy thrall shall follow, I shall come where thou seemest to lie,
I shall sit on the howe that hides thee, and thou so dear and nigh!
A few bones white in their war-gear that have no help or thought,
Shall be Thiodolf the Mighty, so nigh, so dear—and nought.”

His hands strayed over her shoulders and arms, caressing them, and he said softly and lovingly:

“I am Thiodolf the Mighty: but as wise as I may be
No story of that grave-night mine eyes can ever see,
But rather the tale of the Wolfings through the coming days of earth,
And the young men in their triumph and the maidens in their mirth;
And morn’s promise every evening, and each day the promised morn,
And I amidst it ever reborn and yet reborn.
This tale I know, who have seen it, who have felt the joy and pain,
Each fleeing, each pursuing, like the links of the draw-well’s chain:
But that deedless tide of the grave-mound, and the dayless nightless day,
E’en as I strive to see it, its image wanes away.
What say’st thou of the grave-mound? shall I be there at all
When they lift the Horn of Remembrance, and the shout goes down the hall,
And they drink the Mighty War-duke and Thiodolf the old?
Nay rather; there where the youngling that longeth to be bold
Sits gazing through the hall-reek and sees across the board
A vision of the reaping of the harvest of the sword,
There shall Thiodolf be sitting; e’en there shall the youngling be
That once in the ring of the hazels gave up his life to thee.”

She laughed as he ended, and her voice was sweet, but bitter was her laugh. Then she said:

“Nay thou shalt be dead, O warrior, thou shalt not see the Hall
Nor the children of thy people ’twixt the dais and the wall.
And I, and I shall be living; still on thee shall waste my thought:
I shall long and lack thy longing; I shall pine for what is nought.”

But he smiled again, and said:

“Not on earth shall I learn this wisdom; and how shall I learn it then
When I lie alone in the grave-mound, and have no speech with men?
But for thee,—O doubt it nothing that my life shall live in thee,
And so shall we twain be loving in the days that yet shall be.”

It was as if she heard him not; and she fell aback from him a little and stood silently for a while as one in deep thought; and then turned and went a few paces from him, and stooped down and came back again with something in her arms (and it was the hauberk once more), and said suddenly:

“O Thiodolf, now tell me for what cause thou wouldst not bear
This grey wall of the hammer in the tempest of the spear?
Didst thou doubt my faith, O Folk-wolf, or the counsel of the Gods,
That thou needs must cast thee naked midst the flashing battle-rods,
Or is thy pride so mighty that it seemed to thee indeed
That death was a better guerdon than the love of the God-head’s seed?”

But Thiodolf said: “O Wood-Sun, this thou hast a right to ask of me, why I have not worn in the battle thy gift, the Treasure of the World, the Dwarf-wrought Hauberk! And what is this that thou sayest? I doubt not thy faith towards me and thine abundant love: and as for the rede of the Gods, I know it not, nor may I know it, nor turn it this way nor that: and as for thy love and that I would choose death sooner, I know not what thou meanest; I will not say that I love thy love better than life itself; for these two, my life and my love, are blended together and may not be sundered.

. . . .

But if thou sayest that I have deemed aright, and that a curse goeth with the hauberk, then either for the sake of the folk I will not wear the gift and the curse, and I shall die in great glory, and because of me the House shall live; or else for thy sake I shall bear it and live, and the House shall live or die as may be, but I not helping, nay I no longer of the House nor in it. How sayest thou?”

Then she said:

“Hail be thy mouth, beloved, for that last word of thine,
And the hope that thine heart conceiveth and the hope that is born in mine.
Yea, for a man’s delivrance was the hauberk born indeed
That once more the mighty warrior might help the folk at need.
And where is the curse’s dwelling if thy life be saved to dwell
Amidst the Wolfing warriors and the folk that loves thee well
And the house where the high Gods left thee to be cherished well therein?

“Yea more: I have told thee, beloved, that thou art not of the kin;
The blood in thy body is blended of the wandering Elking race,
And one that I may not tell of, who in God-home hath his place,
And who changed his shape to beget thee in the wild-wood’s leafy roof.
How then shall the doom of the Wolfings be woven in the woof
Which the Norns for thee have shuttled? or shall one man of war
Cast down the tree of the Wolfings on the roots that spread so far?
O friend, thou art wise and mighty, but other men have lived
Beneath the Wolfing roof-tree whereby the folk has thrived.”

He reddened at her word; but his eyes looked eagerly on her. She cast down the hauberk, and drew one step nigher to him. She knitted her brows, her face waxed terrible, and her stature seemed to grow greater, as she lifted up her gleaming right arm, and cried out in a great voice.

“Thou Thiodolf the Mighty! Hadst thou will to cast the net
And tangle the House in thy trouble, it is I would slay thee yet;
For ’tis I and I that love them, and my sorrow would I give,
And thy life, thou God of battle, that the Wolfing House might live.”

Therewith she rushed forward, and cast herself upon him, and threw her arms about him, and strained him to her bosom, and kissed his face, and he her in likewise, for there was none to behold them, and nought but the naked heaven was the roof above their heads.

. . . .

But if thou sayest that I have deemed aright, and that a curse goeth with the hauberk, then either for the sake of the folk I will not wear the gift and the curse, and I shall die in great glory, and because of me the House shall live; or else for thy sake I shall bear it and live, and the House shall live or die as may be, but I not helping, nay I no longer of the House nor in it. How sayest thou?”

Then she said:

“Hail be thy mouth, beloved, for that last word of thine,
And the hope that thine heart conceiveth and the hope that is born in mine.
Yea, for a man’s delivrance was the hauberk born indeed
That once more the mighty warrior might help the folk at need.
And where is the curse’s dwelling if thy life be saved to dwell
Amidst the Wolfing warriors and the folk that loves thee well
And the house where the high Gods left thee to be cherished well therein?

“Yea more: I have told thee, beloved, that thou art not of the kin;
The blood in thy body is blended of the wandering Elking race,
And one that I may not tell of, who in God-home hath his place,
And who changed his shape to beget thee in the wild-wood’s leafy roof.
How then shall the doom of the Wolfings be woven in the woof
Which the Norns for thee have shuttled? or shall one man of war
Cast down the tree of the Wolfings on the roots that spread so far?
O friend, thou art wise and mighty, but other men have lived
Beneath the Wolfing roof-tree whereby the folk has thrived.”

He reddened at her word; but his eyes looked eagerly on her. She cast down the hauberk, and drew one step nigher to him. She knitted her brows, her face waxed terrible, and her stature seemed to grow greater, as she lifted up her gleaming right arm, and cried out in a great voice.

“Thou Thiodolf the Mighty! Hadst thou will to cast the net
And tangle the House in thy trouble, it is I would slay thee yet;
For ’tis I and I that love them, and my sorrow would I give,
And thy life, thou God of battle, that the Wolfing House might live.”

Therewith she rushed forward, and cast herself upon him, and threw her arms about him, and strained him to her bosom, and kissed his face, and he her in likewise, for there was none to behold them, and nought but the naked heaven was the roof above their heads.

CHAPTER XIX—THOSE MESSENGERS COME TO THIODOLF

So they went down the ford, which was not very deep; and Wolfkettle rode the ford behind Geirbald, and another man behind Viglund; but Hiarandi went afoot with the others beside the horses, for he was a very tall man.

But as they rode amidst the clear water Wolfkettle lifted up his voice and sang:

“White horse, with what are ye laden as ye wade the shallows warm,
But with tidings of the battle, and the fear of the fateful storm?
What loureth now behind us, what pileth clouds before,
On either hand what gathereth save the stormy tide of war?
Now grows midsummer mirky, and fallow falls the morn,
And dusketh the Moon’s Sister, and the trees look overworn;
God’s Ash tree shakes and shivers, and the sheer cliff standeth white
As the bones of the giants’ father when the Gods first fared to fight.”

And indeed the morning had grown mirky and grey and threatening, and from far away the thunder growled, and the face of the Kite’s Nest showed pale and awful against a dark steely cloud; and a few drops of rain pattered into the smooth water before them from a rag of the cloud-flock right over head. They were in mid stream now, for the water was wide there; on the eastern bank were the warriors gathering, for they had beheld the faring of those men, and the voice of Wolfkettle came to them across the water, so they deemed that great tidings were toward, and would fain know on what errand those were come.

Then the waters of the ford deepened till Hiarandi was wading more than waist-deep, and the water flowed over Geirbald’s saddle; then Wolfkettle laughed, and turning as he sat, dragged out his sword, and waved it from east to west and sang:

“O sun, pale up in heaven, shrink from us if thou wilt,
And turn thy face from beholding the shock of guilt with guilt!
Stand still, O blood of summer! and let the harvest fade,
Till there be nought but fallow where once was bloom and blade!
O day, give out but a glimmer of all thy flood of light,
If it be but enough for our eyen to see the road of fight!
Forget all else and slumber, if still ye let us wake,
And our mouths shall make the thunder, and our swords shall the lightening make,
And we shall be the storm-wind and drive the ruddy rain,
Till the joy of our hearts in battle bring back the day again.”

As he spake that word they came up through the shallow water dripping on to the bank, and they and the men who abode them on the bank shouted together for joy of fellowship, and all tossed aloft their weapons.

. . . .

The ragged cloud had drifted down south-east now and the rain fell no more, but the sun was still pale and clouded.

Then Thiodolf looked gravely on them, and spake:

“What do ye sons of the War-shield? what tale is there to tell?
Is the kindred fallen tangled in the grasp of the fallow Hell?
Crows the red cock over the homesteads, have we met the foe too late?
For meseems your brows are heavy with the shadowing o’er of fate.”

But Geirbald answered:

“Still cold with dew in the morning the Shielding Roof-ridge stands,
Nor yet hath grey Hell bounden the Shielding warriors’ hands;
But lo, the swords, O War-duke, how thick in the wind they shake,
Because we bear the message that the battle-road ye take,
Nor tarry for the thunder or the coming on of rain,
Or the windy cloudy night-tide, lest your battle be but vain.
And this is the word that Otter yestre’en hath set in my mouth;
Seek thou the trail of the Aliens of the Cities of the South,
And thou shalt find it leading o’er the heaths to the beechen-wood,
And thence to the stony places where the foxes find their food;
And thence to the tangled thicket where the folkway cleaves it through,
To the eastern edge of Mid-mark where the Bearings deal and do.”

Then said Thiodolf in a cold voice, “What then hath befallen Otter?”

Said Geirbald:

“When last I looked upon Otter, all armed he rode the plain,
With his whole host clattering round him like the rush of the summer rain;
To the right or the left they looked not but they rode through the dusk and the dark
Beholding nought before them but the dream of the foes in the Mark.
So he went; but his word fled from him and on my horse it rode,
And again it saith, O War-duke seek thou the Bear’s abode,
And tarry never a moment for ought that seems of worth,
For there shall ye find the sword-edge and the flame of the foes of the earth.

“Tarry not, Thiodolf, nor turn aback though a new foe followeth on thine heels. No need to question me more; I have no more to tell, save that a woman brought these tidings to us, whom the Hall-Sun had sent with others to watch the ways: and some of them had seen the Romans, who are a great host and no band stealing forth to lift the herds.”

. . . .

Then came forth Thiodolf from the midst of his kindred, and they raised him upon a great war-shield upheld by many men, and he stood thereon and spake:

“O sons of Tyr, ye have vanquished, and sore hath been your pain;
But he that smiteth in battle must ever smite again;
And thus with you it fareth, and the day abideth yet
When ye shall hold the Aliens as the fishes in the net.
On the Ridge ye slew a many; but there came a many more
From their strongholds by the water to their new-built garth of war,
And all these have been led by dastards o’er the way our feet must tread
Through the eastern heaths and the beechwood to the door of the Bearing stead,
Now e’en yesterday I deemed it, but I durst not haste away
Ere the word was borne to Otter and ’tis he bids haste to-day;
So now by day and by night-tide it behoveth us to wend
And wind the reel of battle and weave its web to end.
Had ye deemed my eyes foreseeing, I would tell you of my sight,
How I see the folk delivered and the Aliens turned to flight,
While my own feet wend them onwards to the ancient Father’s Home.
But belike these are but the visions that to many a man shall come
When he goeth adown to the battle, and before him riseth high
The wall of valiant foemen to hide all things anigh.
But indeed I know full surely that no work that we may win
To-morrow or the next day shall quench the Markmen’s kin.
On many a day hereafter shall their warriors carry shield;
On many a day their maidens shall drive the kine afield,
On many a day their reapers bear sickle in the wheat
When the golden wind-wrought ripple stirs round the feast-hall’s feet.
Lo, now is the day’s work easy—to live and overcome,
Or to die and yet to conquer on the threshold of the Home.”

And therewith he gat him down and went a-foot to the head of the Wolfing band, a great shout going with him, which was mingled with the voice of the war-horn that bade away.

CHAPTER XX—OTTER AND HIS FOLK COME INTO MID-MARK

But when they were all jingling and clashing on together, the dust arising from the sun-dried turf, the earth shaking with the thunder of the horse-hoofs, then the heart of the long-hoary one stirred within him as he bethought him of the days of his youth, and to his old nostrils came the smell of the horses and the savour of the sweat of warriors riding close together knee to knee adown the meadow. So he lifted up his voice and sang:

“Rideth lovely along
The strong by the strong;
Soft under his breath
Singeth sword in the sheath,
And shield babbleth oft
Unto helm-crest aloft;
How soon shall their words rise mid wrath of the battle
Into wrangle unheeded of clanging and rattle,
And no man shall note then the gold on the sword
When the runes have no meaning, the mouth-cry no word,
When all mingled together, the war-sea of men
Shall toss up the steel-spray round fourscore and ten.

“Now as maids burn the weed
Betwixt acre and mead,
So the Bearings’ Roof
Burneth little aloof,
And red gloweth the hall
Betwixt wall and fair wall,
Where often the mead-sea we sipped in old days,
When our feet were a-weary with wending the ways;
When the love of the lovely at even was born,
And our hands felt fair hands as they fell on the horn.
There round about standeth the ring of the foe
Tossing babes on their spears like the weeds o’er the low.

“Ride, ride then! nor spare
The red steeds as ye fare!
Yet if daylight shall fail,
By the fire-light of bale
Shall we see the bleared eyes
Of the war-learned, the wise.
In the acre of battle the work is to win,
Let us live by the labour, sheaf-smiting therein;
And as oft o’er the sickle we sang in time past
When the crake that long mocked us fled light at the last,
So sing o’er the sword, and the sword-hardened hand
Bearing down to the reaping the wrath of the land.”

So he sang; and a great shout went up from his kindred and those around him, and it was taken up all along the host, though many knew not why they shouted, and the whole host quickened its pace, and went a great trot over the smooth meadow.

CHAPTER XXII—OTTER FALLS ON AGAINST HIS WILL

Then the foremost of those who had come back from the houses waved his hand toward the ford, but could say nought for a while; but the captain and chief of the Bearings, a grizzled man very big of body, whose name was Arinbiorn, spake to that man and said; “What aileth thee Sweinbiorn the Black? What hast thou seen?”

He said:

“Now red and grey is the pavement of the Bearings’ house of old:
Red yet is the floor of the dais, but the hearth all grey and cold.
I knew not the house of my fathers; I could not call to mind
The fashion of the building of that Warder of the Wind.
O wide were grown the windows, and the roof exceeding high!
For nought there was to look on ’twixt the pavement and the sky.
But the tie-beam lay on the dais, and methought its staining fair;
For rings of smoothest charcoal were round it here and there,
And the red flame flickered o’er it, and never a staining wight
Hath red earth in his coffer so clear and glittering bright,
And still the little smoke-wreaths curled o’er it pale and blue.
Yea, fair is our hall’s adorning for a feast that is strange and new.”

Said Arinbiorn: “What sawest thou therein, O Sweinbiorn, where sat thy grandsire at the feast? Where were the bones of thy mother lying?”

Said Sweinbiorn:

“We sought the feast-hall over, and nought we found therein
Of the bones of the ancient mothers, or the younglings of the kin.
The men are greedy, doubtless, to lose no whit of the prey,
And will try if the hoary elders may yet outlive the way
That leads to the southland cities, till at last they come to stand
With the younglings in the market to be sold in an alien land.”

Arinbiorn’s brow lightened somewhat; but ere he could speak again an ancient thrall of the Galtings spake and said:

“True it is, O warriors of the Bearings, that we might not see any war-thralls being led away by the Romans when they came away from the burning dwellings; and we deem it certain that they crossed the water before the coming of the Romans, and that they are now with the stay-at-homes of the Wolfings in the wild-wood behind the Wolfing dwellings, for we hear tell that the War-duke would not that the Hall-Sun should hold the Hall against the whole Roman host.”

. . . .

And he was very wrath, and turned away; and again there was a murmur and a hum about him. But while these had been speaking aloud, Sweinbiorn had been talking softly to some of the younger men, and now he shook his naked sword in the air and spake aloud and sang:

“Ye tarry, Bears of Battle! ye linger, Sons of the Worm!
Ye crouch adown, O kindreds, from the gathering of the storm!
Ye say, it shall soon pass over and we shall fare afield
And reap the wheat with the war-sword and winnow in the shield.
But where shall be the corner wherein ye then shall abide,
And where shall be the woodland where the whelps of the bears shall hide
When ’twixt the snowy mountains and the edges of the sea
These men have swept the wild-wood and the fields where men may be
Of every living sword-blade, and every quivering spear,
And in the southland cities the yoke of slaves ye bear?
Lo ye! whoever follows I fare to sow the seed
Of the days to be hereafter and the deed that comes of deed.”

Therewith he waved his sword over his head, and made as if he would spur onward. But Arinbiorn thrust through the press and outwent him and cried out:

. . . .

So Otter led them forth, and when he heard the whole company clattering and thundering on the earth behind him and felt their might enter into him, his brow cleared, and the anxious lines in the face of the old man smoothed themselves out, and as he rode along the soul so stirred within him that he sang out aloud:

“Time was when hot was the summer and I was young on the earth,
And I grudged me every moment that lacked its share of mirth.
I woke in the morn and was merry and all the world methought
For me and my heart’s deliverance that hour was newly wrought.
I have passed through the halls of manhood, I have reached the doors of eld,
And I have been glad and sorry, but ever have upheld
My heart against all trouble that none might call me sad,
But ne’er came such remembrance of how my heart was glad
In the afternoon of summer ‘neath the still unwearied sun
Of the days when I was little and all deeds were hopes to be won,
As now at last it cometh when e’en in such-like tide,
For the freeing of my trouble o’er the fathers’ field I ride.”

Many men perceived that he sang, and saw that he was merry, howbeit few heard his very words, and yet all were glad of him.

CHAPTER XXIII—THIODOLF MEETETH THE ROMANS IN THE WOLFING MEADOW

Then Thiodolf heeded nothing save the battle, but ran forward hastily, and those warriors followed him, the old man last of all holding the Hauberk in his hand, and muttering:

“So fares hot blood to the glooming and the world beneath the grass;
And the fruit of the Wolfings’ orchard in a flash from the world must pass.
Men say that the tree shall blossom in the garden of the folk,
And the new twig thrust him forward from the place where the old one broke,
And all be well as aforetime: but old and old I grow,
And I doubt me if such another the folk to come shall know.”

And he still hurried forward as fast as his old body might go, so that he might wrap the safeguard of the Hauberk round Thiodolf’s body.

CHAPTER XXVI—THIODOLF TALKETH WITH THE WOOD-SUN

And the Hall-Sun stood before them and looked at them for a little while; and then she fell to speech; but at the first sound of her voice, it seemed that the Wood-Sun trembled, but still she hid her face. Said the Hall-Sun:

“Two griefs I see before me in mighty hearts grown great;
And to change both these into gladness out-goes the power of fate.
Yet I, a lonely maiden, have might to vanquish one
Till it melt as the mist of the morning before the summer sun.
O Wood-Sun, thou hast borne me, and I were fain indeed
To give thee back thy gladness; but thou com’st of the Godhead’s seed,
And herein my might avails not; because I can but show
Unto these wedded sorrows the truth that the heart should know
Ere the will hath wielded the hand; and for thee, I can tell thee nought
That thou hast not known this long while; thy will and thine hand have wrought,
And the man that thou lovest shall live in despite of Gods and of men,
If yet thy will endureth. But what shall it profit thee then
That after the fashion of Godhead thou hast gotten thee a thrall
To be thine and never another’s, whatso in the world may befall?
Lo! yesterday this was a man, and to-morrow it might have been
The very joy of the people, though never again it were seen;
Yet a part of all they hoped for through all the lapse of years,
To make their laughter happy and dull the sting of tears;
To quicken all remembrance of deeds that never die,
And death that maketh eager to live as the days go by.
Yea, many a deed had he done as he lay in the dark of the mound;
As the seed-wheat plotteth of spring, laid under the face of the ground
That the foot of the husbandman treadeth, that the wind of the winter wears,
That the turbid cold flood hideth from the constant hope of the years.
This man that should leave in his death his life unto many an one
Wilt thou make him a God of the fearful who live lone under the sun?
And then shalt thou have what thou wouldedst when amidst of the hazelled field
Thou kissed’st the mouth of the helper, and the hand of the people’s shield,
Shalt thou have the thing that thou wouldedst when thou broughtest me to birth,
And I, the soul of the Wolfings, began to look on earth?
Wilt thou play the God, O mother, and make a man anew,
A joyless thing and a fearful? Then I betwixt you two,
’Twixt your longing and your sorrow will cast the sundering word,
And tell out all the story of that rampart of the sword!
I shall bid my mighty father make choice of death in life,
Or life in death victorious and the crowned end of strife.”

Ere she had ended, the Wood-Sun let her hands fall down, and showed her face, which for all its unpaled beauty looked wearied and anxious; and she took Thiodolf’s hand in hers, while she looked with eyes of love upon the Hall-Sun, and Thiodolf laid his cheek to her cheek, and though he smiled not, yet he seemed as one who is happy. At last the Wood-Sun spoke and said:

“Thou sayest sooth, O daughter: I am no God of might,
Yet I am of their race, and I think with their thoughts and see with their sight,
And the threat of the doom did I know of, and yet spared not to lie:
For I thought that the fate foreboded might touch and pass us by,
As the sword that heweth the war-helm and cleaveth a cantle away,
And the cunning smith shall mend it and it goeth again to the fray;
If my hand might have held for a moment, yea, even against his will,
The life of my beloved! But Weird is the master still:
And this man’s love of my body and his love of the ancient kin
Were matters o’er mighty to deal with and the game withal to win.
Woe’s me for the waning of all things, and my hope that needs must fade
As the fruitless sun of summer on the waste where nought is made!
And now farewell, O daughter, thou mayst not see the kiss
Of the hapless and the death-doomed when I have told of this;
Yet once again shalt thou see him, though I no more again,
Fair with the joy that hopeth and dieth not in vain.”

Then came the Hall-Sun close to her, and knelt down by her, and laid her head upon her knees and wept for love of her mother, who kissed her oft and caressed her; and Thiodolf’s hand strayed, as it were, on to his daughter’s head, and he looked kindly on her, though scarce now as if he knew her.

. . . .

Then he sat down on the stone again, and took her hand and kissed her and caressed her fondly, and she him again, and they spake no word for a while: but at the last he spake in measure and rhyme in a low voice, but so sweet and clear that it might have been heard far in the hush of the last hour of the night:

“Dear now are this dawn-dusk’s moments as is the last of the light
When the foemen’s ranks are wavering, and the victory feareth night;
And of all the time I have loved thee of these am I most fain,
When I know not what shall betide me, nor what shall be my gain.
But dear as they are, they are waning, and at last the time is come
When no more shall I behold thee till I wend to Odin’s Home.
Now is the time so little that once hath been so long
That I fain would ask thee pardon wherein I have done thee wrong,
That thy longing might be softer, and thy love more sweet to have.
But in nothing have I wronged thee, there is nought that I may crave.
Strange too! as the minutes fail me, so do my speech-words fail,
Yet strong is the joy within me for this hour that crowns the tale.”

Therewith he clipped her and caressed her, and she spake nothing for a while; and he said; “Thy face is fair and bright; art thou not joyous of these minutes?”

. . . .

He laid his hand fondly on her head, and spake smiling: “Such is the wont of the God-kin, because they know not the hearts of men. Tell me all the truth of it now at last.”

She said:

“Hear then the tale of the Hauberk and the truth there is to tell:
There was a maid of the God-kin, and she loved a man right well,
Who unto the battle was wending; and she of her wisdom knew
That thence to the folk-hall threshold should come back but a very few;
And she feared for her love, for she doubted that of these he should not be;
So she wended the wilds lamenting, as I have lamented for thee;
And many wise she pondered, how to bring her will to pass
(E’en as I for thee have pondered), as her feet led over the grass,
Till she lifted her eyes in the wild-wood, and lo! she stood before
The Hall of the Hollow-places; and the Dwarf-lord stood in the door
And held in his hand the Hauberk, whereon the hammer’s blow
The last of all had been smitten, and the sword should be hammer now.
Then the Dwarf beheld her fairness, and the wild-wood many-leaved
Before his eyes was reeling at the hope his heart conceived;
So sorely he longed for her body; and he laughed before her and cried,
‘O Lady of the Disir, thou farest wandering wide
Lamenting thy beloved and the folkmote of the spear,
But if amidst of the battle this child of the hammer he bear
He shall laugh at the foemen’s edges and come back to thy lily breast
And of all the days of his life-time shall his coming years be best.’
Then she bowed adown her godhead and sore for the Hauberk she prayed;
But his greedy eyes devoured her as he stood in the door and said;
‘Come lie in mine arms! Come hither, and we twain the night to wake!
And then as a gift of the morning the Hauberk shall ye take.’
So she humbled herself before him, and entered into the cave,
The dusky, the deep-gleaming, the gem-strewn golden grave.
But he saw not her girdle loosened, or her bosom gleam on his love,
For she set the sleep-thorn in him, that he saw, but might not move,
Though the bitter salt tears burned him for the anguish of his greed;
And she took the hammer’s offspring, her unearned morning meed,
And went her ways from the rock-hall and was glad for her warrior’s sake.
But behind her dull speech followed, and the voice of the hollow spake:
‘Thou hast left me bound in anguish, and hast gained thine heart’s desire;
Now I would that the dewy night-grass might be to thy feet as the fire,
And shrivel thy raiment about thee, and leave thee bare to the flame,
And no way but a fiery furnace for the road whereby ye came!
But since the folk of God-home we may not slay nor smite,
And that fool of the folk that thou lovest, thou hast saved in my despite,
Take with thee, thief of God-home, this other word I say:
Since the safeguard wrought in the ring-mail I may not do away
I lay this curse upon it, that whoso weareth the same,
Shall save his life in the battle, and have the battle’s shame;
He shall live through wrack and ruin, and ever have the worse,
And drag adown his kindred, and bear the people’s curse.’

“Lo, this the tale of the Hauberk, and I knew it for the truth:
And little I thought of the kindreds; of their day I had no ruth;
For I said, They are doomed to departure; in a little while must they wane,
And nought it helpeth or hindreth if I hold my hand or refrain.
Yea, thou wert become the kindred, both thine and mine; and thy birth
To me was the roofing of heaven, and the building up of earth.
I have loved, and I must sorrow; thou hast lived, and thou must die;
Ah, wherefore were there others in the world than thou and I?”

He turned round to her and clasped her strongly in his arms again, and kissed her many times and said:

“Lo, here art thou forgiven; and here I say farewell!
Here the token of my wonder which my words may never tell;
The wonder past all thinking, that my love and thine should blend;
That thus our lives should mingle, and sunder in the end!
Lo, this, for the last remembrance of the mighty man I was,
Of thy love and thy forbearing, and all that came to pass!
Night wanes, and heaven dights her for the kiss of sun and earth;
Look up, look last upon me on this morn of the kindreds’ mirth!”

Therewith he arose and lingered no minute longer, but departed, going as straight towards the Thing-stead and the Folk-mote of his kindred as the swallow goes to her nest in the hall-porch. He looked not once behind him, though a bitter wailing rang through the woods and filled his heart with the bitterness of her woe and the anguish of the hour of sundering.

CHAPTER XXVII—THEY WEND TO THE MORNING BATTLE

But when he was gone Thiodolf was alone in that place with the Hall-Sun, and he turned to her, and kissed her, and caressed her fondly, and spake and said:

“So fare we, O my daughter, to the sundering of the ways;
Short is my journey henceforth to the door that ends my days,
And long the road that lieth as yet before thy feet.
How fain were I that thy journey from day to day were sweet
With peace to thee and pleasure; that a noble warrior’s hand
In its early days might lead thee adown the flowery land,
And thy children in its noon-tide cling round about thy gown,
And the wise that thy womb has carried when the sun is going down,
Be thy happy fellow-farers to tell the tale of Earth,
But I wot that for no such sweetness did we bring thee unto birth,
But to be the soul of the Wolfings till the other days should come,
And the fruit of the kindreds’ harvest with thee is garnered home.
Yet if for no blithe faring thy life-day is ordained,
Yet peace that long endureth maybe thy soul hath gained;
And thy sorrow of this even thy latest grief shall be,
The grief wherewith thou singest the death-song over me.”

She looked up at him and smiled, though the tears were on her face; then she said:

“Though to-day the grief beginneth yet the bitterness is done.
Though my body wendeth barren ‘neath the beams of the quickening sun,
Yet remembrance still abideth, and long after the days of my life
Shall I live in the tale of the morning, when they tell of the ending of strife;
And the deeds of this little hand, and the thought conceived in my heart,
And never again henceforward from the folk shall I fare apart.
And if of the Earth, my father, thou hast tidings in thy place
Thou shalt hear how they call me the Ransom and the Mother of happy
days.”

Then she wept outright for a brief space, and thereafter she said:

“Keep this in thine heart, O father, that I shall remember all
Since thou liftedst the she-wolf’s nursling in the oak-tree’s leafy hall.
Yea, every time I remember when hand in hand we went
Amidst the shafts of the beech-trees, and down to the youngling bent
The Folk-wolf in his glory when the eve of fight drew nigh;
And every time I remember when we wandered joyfully
Adown the sunny meadow and lived a while of life
’Midst the herbs and the beasts and the waters so free from fear and strife,
That thy years and thy might and thy wisdom, I had no part therein;
But thou wert as the twin-born brother of the maiden slim and thin,
The maiden shy in the feast-hall and blithe in wood and field.
Thus have we fared, my father; and e’en now when thou bearest shield,
On the last of thy days of mid-earth, twixt us ’tis even so
That the heart of my like-aged brother is the heart of thee that I know.”

Then the bitterness of tears stayed her speech, and he spake no word more, but took her in his arms a while and soothed her and fondled her, and then they parted, and he went with great strides towards the outgoing of the Thing-stead.

CHAPTER XXVIII—OF THE STORM OF DAWNING

“But, War-duke,” says he, “I came also across our own folk of the second battle duly ordered in the wood ready to meet them; and they shall be well dealt with, and the sun shall rise for us and not for them.”

Then turns Thiodolf round to those nighest to him and says, but still softly:

“Hear ye a word, O people, of the wisdom of the foe!
Before us thick they gather, and unto the death they go.
They fare as lads with their cur-dogs who have stopped a fox’s earth,
And standing round the spinny, now chuckle in their mirth,
Till one puts by the leafage and trembling stands astare
At the sight of the Wood wolf’s father arising in his lair —
They have come for our wives and our children, and our sword-edge shall they meet;
And which of them is happy save he of the swiftest feet?”

Speedily then went that word along the ranks of the Kindred, and men were merry with the restless joy of battle: but scarce had two minutes passed ere suddenly the stillness of the dawn was broken by clamour and uproar; by shouts and shrieks, and the clashing of weapons from the wood on their left hand; and over all arose the roar of the Markmen’s horn, for the battle was joined with the second company of the Kindreds. But a rumour and murmur went from the foemen before Thiodolf’s men; and then sprang forth the loud sharp word of the captains commanding and rebuking, as if the men were doubtful which way they should take.

Amidst all which Thiodolf brandished his sword, and cried out in a great voice:

“Now, now, ye War-sons!
Now the Wolf waketh!
Lo how the Wood-beast
Wendeth in onset.
E’en as his feet fare
Fall on and follow!”

And he led forth joyously, and terrible rang the long refrained gathered shout of his battle as his folk rushed on together devouring the little space between their ambush and the hazel-beset green-sward.

. . . .

So now the Wolfings and the Bearings met joyously the kindreds of the Nether Mark and the others of the second battle, and they sang the song of victory arrayed in good order hard by the Roman rampart, while bowstrings twanged and arrows whistled, and sling-stones hummed from this side and from that.

And of their song of victory thus much the tale telleth:

“Now hearken and hear
Of the day-dawn of fear,
And how up rose the sun
On the battle begun.
All night lay a-hiding,
Our anger abiding,
Dark down in the wood
The sharp seekers of blood;
But ere red grew the heaven we bore them all bare,
For against us undriven the foemen must fare;
They sought and they found us, and sorrowed to find,
For the tree-boles around us the story shall mind,
How fast from the glooming they fled to the light,
Yeasaying the dooming of Tyr of the fight.

“Hearken yet and again
How the night gan to wane,
And the twilight stole on
Till the world was well won!
E’en in such wise was wending
A great host for our ending;
On our life-days e’en so
Stole the host of the foe;
Till the heavens grew lighter, and light grew the world,
And the storm of the fighter upon them was hurled,
Then some fled the stroke, and some died and some stood,
Till the worst of the storm broke right out from the wood,
And the war-shafts were singing the carol of fear,
The tale of the bringing the sharp swords anear.

“Come gather we now,
For the day doth grow.
Come, gather, ye bold,
Lest the day wax old;
Lest not till to-morrow
We slake our sorrow,
And heap the ground
With many a mound.
Come, war-children, gather, and clear we the land!
In the tide of War-father the deed is to hand.
Clad in gear that we gilded they shrink from our sword;
In the House that we builded they sit at the board;
Come, war-children, gather, come swarm o’er the wall
For the feast of War-father to sweep out the Hall!”

Now amidst of their singing the sun rose upon the earth, and gleamed in the arms of men, and lit the faces of the singing warriors as they stood turned toward the east.

CHAPTER XXIX—OF THIODOLF’S STORM

Meanwhile the Hall-Sun standing on the Hill of Speech beheld it all, looking down into the garth of war; for the new wall was no hindrance to her sight, because the Speech-Hill was high and but a little way from the Great Roof; and indeed she was within shot of the Roman bowmen, though they were not very deft in shooting.

So now she lifted up her voice and sang so that many heard her; for at this moment of time there was a lull in the clamour of battle both within the garth and without; even as it happens when the thunder-storm is just about to break on the world, that the wind drops dead, and the voice of the leaves is hushed before the first great and near flash of lightening glares over the fields.

So she sang:

“Now the latest hour cometh and the ending of the strife;
And to-morrow and to-morrow shall we take the hand of life,
And wend adown the meadows, and skirt the darkling wood,
And reap the waving acres, and gather in the good.
I see a wall before me built up of steel and fire,
And hurts and heart-sick striving, and the war-wright’s fierce desire;
But there-amidst a door is, and windows are therein;
And the fair sun-litten meadows and the Houses of the kin
Smile on me through the terror my trembling life to stay,
That at my mouth now flutters, as fain to flee away.
Lo e’en as the little hammer and the blow-pipe of the wright
About the flickering fire deals with the silver white,
And the cup and its beauty groweth that shall be for the people’s feast,
And all men are glad to see it from the greatest to the least;
E’en so is the tale now fashioned, that many a time and oft
Shall be told on the acre’s edges, when the summer eve is soft;
Shall be hearkened round the hall-blaze when the mid-winter night
The kindreds’ mirth besetteth, and quickeneth man’s delight,
And we that have lived in the story shall be born again and again
As men feast on the bread of our earning, and praise the grief-born grain.”

As she made an end of singing, those about her understood her words, that she was foretelling victory, and the peace of the Mark, and for joy they raised a shrill cry; and the warriors who were nighest to her took it up, and it spread through the whole host round about the garth, and went up into the breath of the summer morning and went down the wind along the meadow of the Wolfings, so that they of the wain-burg, who were now drawing somewhat near to Wolf-stead heard it and were glad.

CHAPTER XXX—THIODOLF IS BORNE OUT OF THE HALL AND OTTER IS LAID BESIDE HIM

So now they bore him to the mound where Thiodolf lay and set the bier down beside Thiodolf’s, and the two War-dukes of the Markmen lay there together: and when the warriors beheld that sight, they could not forbear, but some groaned aloud, and some wept great tears, and they clashed their swords on their shields and the sound of their sorrow and their praise went up to the summer heavens.

Now the Hall-Sun holding aloft the waxen torch lifted up her voice and said:

“O warriors of the Wolfings, by the token of the flame
That here in my right hand flickers, ye are back at the House of the Name,
And there yet burneth the Hall-Sun beneath the Wolfing Roof,
And the flame that the foemen quickened hath died out far aloof.
Ye gleanings of the battle, lift up your hearts on high,
For the House of the War-wise Wolfings and the Folk undoomed to die.
But ye kindreds of the Markmen, the Wolfing guests are ye,
And to-night we hold the high-tide, and great shall the feasting be,
For to-day by the road that we know not a many wend their ways
To the Gods and the ancient Fathers, and the hope of the latter days.
And how shall their feet be cumbered if we tangle them with woe,
And the heavy rain of sorrow drift o’er the road they go?
They have toiled, and their toil was troublous to make the days to come;
Use ye their gifts in gladness, lest they grieve for the Ancient Home!
Now are our maids arraying that fire-scorched Hall of ours
With the treasure of the Wolfings and the wealth of summer flowers,
And this eve the work before you will be the Hall to throng
And purge its walls of sorrow and quench its scathe and wrong.”

She looked on the dead Thiodolf a moment, and then glanced from him to Otter and spake again:

“O kindreds, here before you two mighty bodies lie;
Henceforth no man shall see them in house and field go by
As we were used to behold them, familiar to us then
As the wind beneath the heavens and the sun that shines on men;
Now soon shall there be nothing of their dwelling-place to tell,
Save the billow of the meadows, the flower-grown grassy swell!
Now therefore, O ye kindreds, if amidst you there be one
Who hath known the heart of the War-dukes, and the deeds their hands have done,
Will not the word be with him, while yet your hearts are hot,
Of our praise and long remembrance, and our love that dieth not?
Then let him come up hither and speak the latest word
O’er the limbs of the battle-weary and the hearts outworn with the sword.”

She held her peace, and there was a stir in the ring of men: for they who were anigh the Dayling banner saw an old warrior sitting on a great black horse and fully armed.

CHAPTER XXXI—OLD ASMUND SPEAKETH OVER THE WAR-DUKES: THE DEAD ARE LAID IN MOUND

Now while all looked on, he went to the place where lay the bodies of the War-dukes, and looked down on the face of Otter and said:

“O Otter, there thou liest! and thou that I knew of old,
When my beard began to whiten, as the best of the keen and the bold,
And thou wert as my youngest brother, and thou didst lead my sons
When we fared forth over the mountains to meet the arrowy Huns,
And I smiled to see thee teaching the lore that I learned thee erst.
O Otter, dost thou remember how the Goth-folk came by the worst,
And with thee in mine arms I waded the wide shaft-harrowed flood
That lapped the feet of the mountains with its water blent with blood;
And how in the hollow places of the mountains hidden away
We abode the kindreds’ coming as the wet night bideth day?
Dost thou remember, Otter, how many a joy we had,
How many a grief remembered has made our high-tide glad?
O fellow of the hall-glee! O fellow of the field!
Why then hast thou departed and left me under shield?
I the ancient, I the childless, while yet in the Laxing hall
Are thy brother’s sons abiding and their children on thee call.

“O kindreds of the people! the soul that dwelt herein,
This goodly way-worn body, was keen for you to win
Good days and long endurance. Who knoweth of his deed
What things for you it hath fashioned from the flame of the fire of need?
But of this at least well wot we, that forth from your hearts it came
And back to your hearts returneth for the seed of thriving and fame.
In the ground wherein ye lay it, the body of this man,
No deed of his abideth, no glory that he wan,
But evermore the Markmen shall bear his deeds o’er earth,
With the joy of the deeds that are coming, the garland of his worth.”

He was silent a little as he stood looking down on Otter’s face with grievous sorrow, for all that his words were stout.

. . . .

But at last he arose again, and stood firmly on his feet, and faced the folk-mote, and in a voice more like the voice of a man in his prime than of an old man, he sang:

“Wild the storm is abroad
Of the edge of the sword!
Far on runneth the path
Of the war-stride of wrath!
The Gods hearken and hear
The long rumour of fear
From the meadows beneath
Running fierce o’er the heath,
Till it beats round their dwelling-place builded aloof
And at last all up-swelling breaks wild o’er their roof,
And quencheth their laughter and crieth on all,
As it rolleth round rafter and beam of the Hall,
Like the speech of the thunder-cloud tangled on high,
When the mountain-halls sunder as dread goeth by.

“So they throw the door wide
Of the Hall where they bide,
And to murmuring song
Turns that voice of the wrong,
And the Gods wait a-gaze
For that Wearer of Ways:
For they know he hath gone
A long journey alone.
Now his feet are they hearkening, and now is he come,
With his battle-wounds darkening the door of his home,
Unbyrnied, unshielded, and lonely he stands,
And the sword that he wielded is gone from his hands —
Hands outstretched and bearing no spoil of the fight,
As speechless, unfearing, he stands in their sight.

“War-father gleams
Where the white light streams
Round kings of old
All red with gold,
And the Gods of the name
With joy aflame.
All the ancient of men
Grown glorious again:
Till the Slains-father crieth aloud at the last:
‘Here is one that belieth no hope of the past!
No weapon, no treasure of earth doth he bear,
No gift for the pleasure of Godhome to share;
But life his hand bringeth, well cherished, most sweet;
And hark! the Hall singeth the Folk-wolf to greet!’

“As the rain of May
On earth’s happiest day,
So the fair flowers fall
On the sun-bright Hall
As the Gods rise up
With the greeting-cup,
And the welcoming crowd
Falls to murmur aloud.
Then the God of Earth speaketh; sweet-worded he saith,
‘Lo, the Sun ever seeketh Life fashioned of death;
And to-day as he turneth the wide world about
On Wolf-stead he yearneth; for there without doubt
Dwells the death-fashioned story, the flower of all fame.
Come hither new Glory, come Crown of the Name!’”

All men’s hearts rose high as he sang, and when he had ended arose the clang of sword and shield and went ringing down the meadow, and the mighty shout of the Markmen’s joy rent the heavens: for in sooth at that moment they saw Thiodolf, their champion, sitting among the Gods on his golden chair, sweet savours around him, and sweet sound of singing, and he himself bright-faced and merry as no man on earth had seen him, for as joyous a man as he was.

But when the sound of their exultation sank down, the Hall-Sun spake again:

“Now wendeth the sun westward, and weary grows the Earth
Of all the long day’s doings in sorrow and in mirth;
And as the great sun waneth, so doth my candle wane,
And its flickering flame desireth to rest and die again.
Therefore across the meadows wend we aback once more
To the holy Roof of the Wolfings, the shrine of peace and war.
And these that once have loved us, these warriors images,
Shall sit amidst our feasting, and see, as the Father sees
The works that menfolk fashion and the rest of toiling hands,
When his eyes look down from the mountains and the heavens above all lands,
And up from the flowery meadows and the rolling deeps of the sea.
There then at the feast with our champions familiar shall we be
As oft we are with the Godfolk, when in story-rhymes and lays
We laugh as we tell of their laughter, and their deeds of other days.

“Come then, ye sons of the kindreds who hither bore these twain!
Take up their beds of glory, and fare we home again,
And feast as men delivered from toil unmeet to bear,
Who through the night are looking to the dawn-tide fresh and fair
And the morn and the noon to follow, and the eve and its morrow morn,
All the life of our deliv’rance and the fair days yet unborn.”

So she spoke, and a murmur arose as those valiant men came forth again.

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