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THE FATAL SISTERS 1.
FROM THE NORSE TONGUE.
Now the storm begins to lower
To be found in the Orcades of Thormodus Torfæus ; Hafniæ, 1697, folio: and also in Bartholinus.
Vitt er orpit fyrir valfalli, &c.
In the eleventh century, Sigurd, Earl of the Orkney Islands, went with a fleet of ships and a considerable body of troops into Ireland, to the assistance of Sictryg with the silken beard, who was then making war on his father-in-law Brian, King of Dublin: the earl and all his forces were cut to pieces, and Sictryg was in danger of a total defeat; but the enemy had a greater loss by the death of Brian, their king, who fell in the action. On Christmas Day (the day of the battle) a native of Caithness, in Scotland, saw at a distance a number of persons on horseback, riding full speed towards a hill, and seeming to enter into it. Curiosity led him to follow them, till looking through an opening in the rocks he saw twelve gigantic figures, resembling women: they were all employed about a loom; and as they wove, they sung the following dreadful song; which, when they had finished, they tore the web into twelve pieces, and (each taking her portion) galloped six to the north, and as many to the south. These were the Valkyriur, female divinities, servants of Odin (or Woden) in the Gothic Mythology. Their name signifies choosers of the slain. They were mounted on swift horses, with drawn swords in their hands; and in the throng of battle selected such as were destined to slaughter, and conducted them to Valkalla, the hall of Odin, or paradise of the brave; where they attended the banquet, and served the departed heroes with horns of mead and ale.
2 How quick they wheel'd, and, flying, behind them shot Sharp sleet of arrowy shower.
Milton's Paradise Regained.
3 The noise of battle hurtled in the air.
Shakspeare's Julius Cæsar.
Glittering lances are the loom
Where the dusky warp we strain, Weaving many a soldier's doom,
Orkney's woe, and Randver's bane. See the grisly texture grow!
('Tis of human entrails made) And the weights, that play below,
Each a gasping warrior's head. Shafts for shuttles, dipp'd in gore,
Shoot the trembling cords along. Sword, that once a monarch bore,
:: Keep the tissue close and strong. Mista, black terrific maid,
Sangrida, and Hilda, see! Join the wayward work to aid :
'Tis the woof of victory. Ere the ruddy Sun be set,
Pikes must shiver, javelins sing, Blade with clattering buckler meet,
Hauberk crash, and helmet ring. (Weave the crimson web of war)
Let us go, and let us fly,
Where they triumph, where they die. As the paths of fate we tread,
Wading through the’ ensanguined field, Gondula, and Geira, spread
O'er the youthful king your shield. We the reins to slaughter give,
Ours to kill, and ours to spare : Spite of danger he shall live.
(Weave the crimson web of war.)
They, whom once the desert beach
Pent within its bleak domain, Soon their ample sway shall stretch
O'er the plenty of the plain. Low the dauntless earl is laid,
Gored with many a gaping wound: Fate demands a nobler head;
Soon a king shall bite the ground. Long his loss shall Eirin * weep,
Ne'er again his likeness see; Long her strains in sorrow steep;
Strains of immortality! Horror covers all the heath,
Clouds of carnage blot the Sun. Sisters, weave the web of death :
Sisters, cease : the work is done. Hail the task, and hail the hands!
Songs of joy and triumph sing ! Joy to the victorious bands;
Triumph to the younger king. Mortal, thou that hear'st the tale,
Learn the tenour of our song. Scotland, through each winding vale
Far and wide the notes prolong. Sisters, hence with spurs of speed :
Each her thundering falchion wield; Each bestride her sable steed. Hurry, hurry to the field.
THE DESCENT OF ODIN'.
FROM THE NORSE TONGUE,
UPROSE the king of men with speed,
Right against the eastern gate,
1 The original is to be found in Bartholinos, de Causis contemnendæ Mortis ; Hafniæ, 1689, quarto.
Upreis Odinn allda gautr, &c. 2 Niflheimr, the hell of the Gothic nations, consisted of nine worlds, to which were devoted all such as died of sickness, old age, or by any other means than in battle. Over it presided Hela, the Goddess of Death.
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
What call unknown, what charms presume To break the quiet of the tomb ? Who thus afflicts my troubled sprite, And drags me from the realms of night? Long on these mouldering bones have beat The winter's snow, the summer's heat, The drenching dews, and driving rain! Let me, let me sleep again. Who is he, with voice unbless'd, That calls me from the bed of rest?
A traveller, to thee unknown,
Mantling in the goblet see