And they answered: “O Queen! if the truth
must be told,
The ring is of copper, and not of gold!”
The lightning flashed o’er her forehead and
She only murmured, she did not speak:
“If in his gifts he can faithless be,
There will be no gold in his love to me.”
A footstep was heard on the outer stair,
And in strode King Olaf with royal air.
He kissed the Queen’s hand, and he whispered
And swore to be true as the stars are above.
But she smiled with contempt as she answered:
Will you swear it, as Odin once swore, on the ring?”
And the King: “O speak not of Odin to me,
The wife of King Olaf a Christian must be.”
Looking straight at the King, with her level brows,
She said, “I keep true to my faith and my vows.”
Then the face of King Olaf was darkened with gloom,
He rose in his anger and strode through the room.
“Why, then, should I care to have thee?”
“A faded old woman, a heathenish jade!”
His zeal was stronger than fear or love,
And he struck the Queen in the face with his glove.
Then forth from the chamber in anger he fled,
And the wooden stairway shook with his tread.
Queen Sigrid the Haughty said under her breath,
“This insult, King Olaf, shall be thy death!”
Why dost thou sorrow so?
THE SKERRY OF SHRIEKS
Now from all King Olaf’s farms
Gathered on the Eve of Easter;
To his house at Angvalds-ness
Fast they press,
Drinking with the royal feaster.
Loudly through the wide-flung door
Came the roar
Of the sea upon the Skerry;
And its thunder loud and near
Reached the ear,
Mingling with their voices merry.
“Hark!” said Olaf to his Scald,
Halfred the Bald,
“Listen to that song, and learn it!
Half my kingdom would I give,
As I live,
If by such songs you would earn it!
“For of all the runes and rhymes
Of all times,
Best I like the ocean’s dirges,
When the old harper heaves and rocks,
His hoary locks
Flowing and flashing in the surges!”
Halfred answered: “I am called
Nothing hinders me or daunts me.
Hearken to me, then, O King,
While I sing
The great Ocean Song that haunts me.”
“I will hear your song sublime
Some other time,”
Says the drowsy monarch, yawning,
And retires; each laughing guest
Applauds the jest;
Then they sleep till day is dawning.
Facing up and down the yard,
King Olaf’s guard
Saw the sea-mist slowly creeping
O’er the sands, and up the hill,
Round the house where they were sleeping.