The Northern Way

The Norse King's Bridal

THE WOLF OF IRONWOOD

Ho for the white of the withered bough
        And the red of the wrinkled leaf!
Sir Arngrim sits in Ironwood,
        And his heart is filled with grief.

The sun sinks down on Ironwood
        Blood-red behind the trees;
Sir Arngrim stares upon the sword
        That lies across his knees.

"Oh my father died a death of blood,
        And my mother of wasting woe;
And their spirits dwell in the rocky fell
        Where the trees of Ironwood grow.

"And still the guilt of the life-blood spilt
        Doth unavenged remain;
And in the red of the wrinkled leaf
        I read my father's pain.

"Oh the kings were three, sailed o'er the sea
        To wokr us havoc and harm;
And I see in the white of the wizened bough
        My mother's beckoning arm."

Sir Arngrim stood with the sea beneath
        And the rocky fell behind,
And there he saw three gallant ships
        That sailed before the wind.

"Oh red of hand, they come to land
        With a host and a mighty horde!
And how shall I wreak my father's death
        With the power of a single sword?"

When the writhen shadows in Ironwood
        Grew long, and the fading rim
Of the sun sank low behind the fell,
        The witch-wife came to him.

"Now hearken to me, thou goodly knight!
        And, if thou grant me grace,
I'll work a spell shall serve thee well
        For love of thy fair young face.

"Oh a maid am I from dawn till dusk---
        But by night of a magic rune,
And a weird of woe, a wolf I go
        O' nights beneath the moon.

"Thou shalt slay three hosts in Ironwood
        That the wolf her fill may feed---
Then as lover true, when the fight is done,
        Shalt pay the maiden's meed."

Sir Arngrim looked upon the witch,
        And her face was fair to see.
He's plighted her troth on his knightly oath
        And sealed it with kisses three.

It was the first o' the hosts came on
        With the rush of a roaring gale---
But they might not stir the single sword
        That bit through bone and mail.

Oh half o' the host at eve were slain,
        And half o' the host were fled;
And all night long in Ironwood
        The wolf howled o'er the dead.

It was the second host came on
        As levin leaps from the sky;
But they might not quell the witch's spell
        And the sword of grammarye.

Oh half o' the host at eve were fled,
        And half in their blood lay still;
And all night long in Ironwood
        The wolf did feed her fill.

It was the third o' the hosts came on
        Like the waves of a winter sea;
But they broke on the sword as billows break
        Where the hidden skerries be.
Oh half o' the host at eve were slain,
        And half were fled away;
And like the dead, among the dead,
        In a swoon Sir Arngrim lay.

The moon shone down on Ironwood
        Above the trees so tall;
And lo! the red and wrinkled leaves
        Upon his face did fall.

And lo! the shade of the withered bough
        Across his face lay dim,
And the wolf she leapt, and seized, and tore
        The warrior limb from limb.

Ho ho for the red of the wrinkled leaf!
        His spirit has gone to dwell
With the grimly ghosts of the ancient hosts
        That haunt the rocky fell!

Ho ho for the white of the withered bough!
        The witch she wails full sore;
And Ironwood, for that deed of blood,
        Is accursed evermore!

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