The Norse King's Bridal
BALLAD OF ALL SOULS' EVE
Between the shrouded fen, and the desolate
dunes of sand
Where the fretting seas gnash white, there
lies a lonely land.
No heights about it couch their grim flanks
seamed with scars;
But it hath the wider heaven, and the sky
more full of stars.
Like the verge of the ultimate seas are its
long horizon lines;
Like the moan of mourning waves the song
of its sombre pines.
The minstrel's out on the moor; while far
and faint in the wind
Ring the bells of All Souls' Eve in the town
he has left behind.
Beneath the sombre pine he has laid him down
With his harp beside his head; and night
grows dark and deep.
Softly the wind came sighing, and as it sighed
In the harp a voice that moaned and mourned
on a woeful word;
"Lo, is it naught?" said the voice in the
sobbing strings that sighed---
With the wind it wailed and rose, with the
wind it sank and died.
Spell-bound he, Herluin, lay, and watched
like one in a dream,
The moonbeams quiver and dance, and the
long reeds sway in the stream.
Till again, an icy breath, the wind came
And stirred his stiffened hair, and sighed
from string to string.
And sobbed into speech; "Is it naught,"
the low voice singing said,
"Is it naught to thee at all that dust of
"Is mixed in this lean grey soil? that on
this moorland lone
The hosts of mighty men lie scattered bone
"Go search the monkish records, and scarce
shall be descried
Thro' the dust on an ancient page, the tale
of us who died!
"Ho, morn of shrieks and slaughter, when
my Danes and I came down,
Driving our foes like flocks, and sacked the
"When I struck to my battle-song, and the
swords rang round my head
That I heard not mine own voice, and
knew not that I bled!
"Woe worth the brand that broke! Woe
worth the blinding blow!
Woe worth, woe worth the day when I felt
my life-blood flow!
"I felt my life-blood flow; I felt my strength
and my wit,
My heart and my hope and my valour flow
drop by drop with it.
"Under these pines I fell, and under these
pines I woke;
And I saw their stems as a fire, their boughs
as a brooding smoke.
"Woe, woe! for the fight was over, and all
around was peace,
Save for a moan on the moor, and a long
sigh in the trees,
"And a voice that came and went and wailed
in its wandering---
Deep in my mazed mind I knew 'twas an evil
"Oh for the age that I heard, dying alone in
That baleful voice, and watched the green
and glimmering spark,
"The eye of the prowling wolf, draw near
and near and near!---
Thou of the stone-built dwelling what dost
thou know of fear?"
Sudden, the wind dropped. The voice died
into the night
As the ripples died on the river, and, in
the wan moonlight,
Still grew the wavering rushes, and still
the trembling strings:
Spell-bound lay Herluin, who gazed on all
And knew not that he saw---while o'er the
Lucent, and wan, and lone, the cold moon
stared at him.
Long, long it seemed till the wind, a frozen,
Wailed back from far away, "What dost
thou know of Death?"
Murmured the voice, "Give heed, list to the
dark, oh day!
Hot heart, hear thou the dust! For, as in
fear I lay,
"Cursing my limbs of lead, Death's icy hand
Of my heart; the stars went out; thus,
thus my tale was told!
"I stood, a naked soul; 'tis strange and
still, I trow,
When the heart has ceased to beat, and the
blood has ceased to flow.
"Ay, strange to the shuddering soul, when
the heart has ceased to beat,
And it sees the wan corse lie, unheeding at is
"I hear a rush in the firs, a rush as of hasten-
Like the forelocks of fiery steeds the branches
waver and toss.
"See, see where Odin's war-maids to choose
the dead draw nigh!
They come with the shout o' the storm along
the scurrying sky.
"See where their lucent spears, like shafts
of wan moonlight,
Pierce from the height of the heavens, lay
bare the heart of night!
"See, see where Bifrost Bridge arches from
cloud to cloud,
Built of the gleaming rainbow! See the
"Of the heroes that shouting cross to feast
in high Valhall,
Where the Maids pour the Æsir-mead to
glad their souls withal!
"And I---I strained and strove" (and the
voice grew shrill and thin;
Like to the shuddering harp was the soul of
"But the Maids were drifting clouds, and
the Bridge that spanned the skies
Was the glint of the mocking moon on the
tears that filled mine eyes.
"Dead, they are dead, the gods in whom we
have put our trust;
The hopes of heroes' hearts are ashes and
dross and dust.
"We have seen our flesh the sport of the
crows and the creeping things---
We have seen the moss and lichen grow
over the bones of kings---
"The firs from us have fed their writhen
boughs and thin
Our burning blood springs up in the cold
green sap o' the whin---
"A whirl of withered leaves in the desolate
land of death,
Such are our haughty hosts, and our foes
are wind and breath.
"I found in thy harp a voice; and, after
As a man to a man I spoke, and thou couldst
not close thine ears.
"Yea, now thine ears are opened, for I saw
thy soul as a fire
Aflame in the wastes of the night, the depth
of my vain desire.
"As a moth to the torch's flame, as to the
moon the tide,
Drawn by thy tameless spirit, drawn by thy
passion and pride,
"Storming the gates of Sense, as the cry of
the chords outbroke,
Out of the deep I called, and unto the deep
Darkness dissolved; the earth stole back to
sight; and shrill
A cock crew far away; like tears the dew lay
And Herluin raised his head, and saw the
Stand in the face of the East above the shim-
While o'er him as he lay, half-mazed in a
The black pine-branches hovered like torn
clouds hung in heaven.
Day stood upon the moor; and the wailing
Sighed, o'er the sobbing harp-strings, and
died in the wind of dawn.