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Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 234 pages of information about King Alfred's Viking.

Neot spoke mostly, but Alfred put in words now and then that ever seemed to make things plainer; and I mind how Ethelnoth the ealdorman sat silent, listening to questions and answers that maybe he had never needed to put or hear concerning his own faith.

At first I was only asking because the king wished it, then because I grew curious, and because I thought it well to know what a Saxon’s faith was if I was to bide among Alfred’s folk.  Kolgrim listened, saying nought.  But presently Harek the scald would ask more than I, and his questions were very deep, and I thought that as days went on he grew thoughtful and silent.

Then one evening the song woke within the scald’s breast, and he said to Neot: 

“Many and wise words have you spoken, Father Neot.  Hear now the song of Odin—­the Havamal—­and tell me if you have aught to equal it.”

“Sing, my son,” the good man answered.  “Wisdom is from above, and is taught in many ways.”

Then Harek sang, and his voice went over the hillsides, echoing wonderfully; while we who heard him were very still, unwilling to lose one word or note of the song.  Many verses and sayings of the “Havamal” I knew, but I had not heard it all before.  Now it seemed to me that no more wisdom than is therein could be found {ix}.

So when Harek ended Neot smiled on him, and said: 

“That is a wondrous song, and I could have listened longer.  There is little therein that one may not be wiser in remembering.”

“There is nought wiser; it is Odin’s wisdom,” said Harek.

Now the old hermit, Guerir, Neot’s friend, sat on the stone bench beside the king, and he said: 

“Hear the words of the bards, the wondrous ‘triads’ of old time.”

And he chanted them in a strange melody, unlike aught I had ever heard.  And they, the old savings, were wise as the “Havamal” itself.  But he stopped ere long, saying: 

“The English words will not frame the meaning rightly.  I do no justice to the wisdom that is hidden.”

Then Neot turned to the king, and said: 

“Sing to Harek words from the book of Wisdom that we know.  I think you can remember it well.”

“I have not rhymed it,” the king answered; “but sometimes the song shapes itself when it is needed.”

He took Guerir’s little harp and tuned it afresh and sang.  And in the words were more wisdom than in the Havamal or in the song of the bards, so that I wondered; and Harek was silent, looking out to the sunset with wide eyes.

Not long did the king sing, as it seemed to us; and when he ceased, Harek made no sign.

“Sing now, my cousin, words that are wiser than those; even sing from the songs of David the king.”

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