They drift as wrecks on the tide,
The grappling-irons are plied,
The boarders climb up the side,
The shouts are feeble and few.
Ah! never shall Norway again
See her sailors come back o’er the main;
They all lie wounded or slain,
Or asleep in the billows blue!
On the deck stands Olaf the King,
Around him whistle and sing
The spears that the foemen fling,
And the stones they hurl with their hands.
In the midst of the stones and the spears,
Kolbiorn, the marshal, appears,
His shield in the air he uprears,
By the side of King Olaf he stands.
Over the slippery wreck
Of the Long Serpent’s deck
Sweeps Eric with hardly a check,
His lips with anger are pale;
He hews with his axe at the mast,
Till it falls, with the sails overcast,
Like a snow-covered pine in the vast
Dim forests of Orkadale.
Seeking King Olaf then,
He rushes aft with his men,
As a hunter into the den
Of the bear, when he stands at bay.
“Remember Jarl Hakon!” he cries;
When lo! on his wondering eyes,
Two kingly figures arise,
Two Olaf’s in warlike array!
Then Kolbiorn speaks in the ear
Of King Olaf a word of cheer,
In a whisper that none may hear,
With a smile on his tremulous lip;
Two shields raised high in the air,
Two flashes of golden hair,
Two scarlet meteors’ glare,
And both have leaped from the ship.
Earl Eric’s men in the boats
Seize Kolbiorn’s shield as it floats,
And cry, from their hairy throats,
“See! it is Olaf the King!”
While far on the opposite side
Floats another shield on the tide,
Like a jewel set in the wide
Sea-current’s eddying ring.
There is told a wonderful tale,
How the King stripped off his mail,
Like leaves of the brown sea-kale,
As he swam beneath the main;
But the young grew old and gray,
And never, by night or by day,
In his kingdom of Norroway
Was King Olaf seen again!
THE NUN OF NIDAROS
In the convent of Drontheim,
Alone in her chamber
Knelt Astrid the Abbess,
At midnight, adoring,
The Virgin and Mother.
She heard in the silence
The voice of one speaking,
Without in the darkness,
In gusts of the night-wind
Now louder, now nearer,
Now lost in the distance.
The voice of a stranger
It seemed as she listened,
Of some one who answered,
A cry from afar off
She could not distinguish.
The voice of Saint John,
The beloved disciple,
Who wandered and waited
The Master’s appearance.
Alone in the darkness,
Unsheltered and friendless.
“It is accepted
The angry defiance
The challenge of battle!
It is accepted,
But not with the weapons
Of war that thou wieldest!