The viking code.
Now he floated around on the desolate sea, like a
prey-seeking falcon he rode,
To the champions on board he gave justice and law; wilt thou hear now the sea-viking’s code?
“Make no tent on thy ship, never sleep in a
house, for a foe within doors you may view;
On his shield sleeps the viking; his sword in his hand, and his tent is the heavenly blue.
See how short is the shaft of the hammer of Thor,
but an ell’s length the sword blade of Frey;
’Tis enough, for your weapon will ne’er be too short if you dare near the enemy stay.
“When the storm rageth fierce, hoist the sail
to the top,—
O how merry the storm-king appears;
Let her drive! let her drive! better founder than strike, for who strikes is a slave to his fears.
“Never take on thy vessel the land-sheltered
maid; were she Freyja herself she’d ensnare;
For the dimples she wears are but pitfalls for men, and a net is her free flowing hair.
“Wine is Allfather’s drink, and the cup
is allowed if you only can use it with sense;
He who falls on the land may arise,—who falls here he to Ran, the sleep-giving, goes hence.
“If a merchant sail by, you must shelter his
ship, but the weak will not tribute withhold;
You are king of the waves, he a slave to his gains; and your steel is as good as his gold.
“Let your goods he divided by lot or by dice,
how it falls you may never complain;
But the sea-king himself takes no part in the lots,—he considers the honor his gain.
“If a viking-ship come, there is grappling and
strife, and the fight ’neath the shields will
If you yield but a pace you are parted from us; ’tis the law, you may act by your choice.
“If you win, be content; he who praying for
peace yields his sword, is no longer a foe;
“Prayer’s a Valhalla-child, hear the suppliant voice; he’s a coward who answereth no.
“Wounds are viking’s reward, and the pride
of the man on whose breast or whose forehead they
Let them bleed on unbound till the close of the day, if you wish to be one of our band.”
Thus his law was enrolled,—and his name,
every day, through all foreign coasts grew renowned;
For his like was not seen on the blue-rolling sea, nor the valor his champions crowned.
Then he sat by the rudder and sullenly gazed in the
depths of the blue rocking tide;
“Thou art deep; in thy depths thriveth peace, it may be, but it thriveth not here where we ride.
“Is the White God enraged? Let him take
up his sword,
I will fall if it thus is designed;
But he sits in the skies, and the thoughts he sends down which forever are clouding my mind.”
When the conflict came on, then his spirit arose like
an eagle refreshed for its flight;
And his brow it was clear, and his voice it rang high,— like the thunderer first in the fight.