The Northern Way

The Norse King's Bridal


It was the outworn clay
That slept in endless peace;
It was the dead man's sprite,
All in the wan moonlight
An hour before the day,
That mourned, and might not cease.

"Oh body, oh body of mine,
Deep, deep and soft thy rest!
Thy burning now is cold
In kindly churchyard and mould,
That weights thy wearied eyne
And thine untroubled breast.

"But I must wander and wail---
Must bear, in wrath and rue,
The burning of quenchless fire---
The frustrate, deep desire
For heights did not scale,
For deeds I did not do.

"Oh warm life left behind!
Oh hearts that held me dear!
In my remembered place
Dwells healing and solace,
Among the kinsmen kind
Who decked my sepulchre."

He sought his father's castle---
But lo! in bower and hall
The time was come for mirth.
No place, by that glad hearth,
'Mid song and feast and wassail,
For care funereal.

"Where hushed is earthly din,
And dreams may come and go;
Where day is drowned deep
All under the wings of sleep,
There will I enter in,
And there will tell my woe."

He mixed with the drifting dance
Of dreams that went and came---
But by the sleeper's head
An angel watched the bed;
His pure and piercing glance
Was like a sword of flame.

"Hence, thou overbold,
Wouldst do the deed forbid!
Unmeet that flesh should hear
Thy tale of woe and fear---
Unmeet that flesh should see
What God with a veil hath hid."

"Oh eyes that have grown blind!
Oh hearts that have forgot!
Of human love bereft,
One hope to me is left;
The beast's dumb soul is kind,
Faithful, forsaking not."

But the petted palfrey neighed
In fear, with starting eye
That searched the shades around---
And shrank the faithful hound,
Bristling, sore afraid,
When he felt the dead draw nigh.

Then the spirit turned and fled,
Wailing, along the blast;
"Torn, torn from life's warm breast,
In death I find no rest!
Where hide my shameful head?
What refuge find at last?"

Around and about and abroad
He went, while the stars grew dim,
Till 'neath a sombre pine
He saw a wayside shrine,
And heard how Christ the Lord
Spake from the Rood to him.

Yea, once and yet again
Spake that small voice and still:
"I bear thy sins for thee;
Canst thou not wait with Me
The slow-wrought fruit of pain,
The long redress of ill?"

It was the outworn clay
That slept beneath the sod:
It was the dead man's sprite,
While all the east grew white
In the wide dawn of day,
That waited, praising God.

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