Romsdal Part IV

Submitted by Caleb on Mon, 02/19/2018 - 01:20

As the goat upon the mountain,
As the long-ship on the wave-road,
As the sword in battle swinging
So the poet’s swift in speaking.


Then he came, the great hall owner.
From his covert Thorstein saw him,
Tall and warlike, long hair falling,
Gold around his giant shoulders.

Like a king he led his horse in,
Striding through the massive doorway,
Took to stall his mountain racer,
Turned at last to his own table.

Hilt and pommel of his short-sword
Thorstein saw with blood upon them,
And his hands stained cloth and water
As he washed them in a basin.

Then he filled a glinting goblet —
By the fire-gleam drank the vine’s blood:
Held a feast with manner regal
In the dark hall full of treasure.

Here no song, no bright hall-laughter
Sounded, ringing to the rafters;
But the forest deep with shadow,
In the night-wind sang then softly

When the stranger to his hearth came,
Saw the glowing gold-red coal-bed,
Said he, ‘Someone stirred my fire up,
Set the log-foe fiercely flaming.

Dauntless men have come to hunt me,
Come to rive my breath from body;
They have cause to seek my life-blood,
Send my spirit down in sword-sleep."

With his tongs he took an ember,
Held aloft the red-coal glowing,
Cast a light upon the timbers,
Of the mighty forest dwelling.

Every shadow, black, foreboding,
Could be hiding some avenger;
On the beams the dragon carvings
Leered at him with greedy hunger.

When he came to where was lying
All his pillage and provisions,
Thorstein stole from out the packing
Through a cleft behind the chimney.

He escaped the threatening searcher
In the fog-cloak of the forest,
Sat and smiled and blessed his smallness
In the night outside the death-hall.

Three times through the great hall owner
Searched his hall with smouldering ember,
Three times through the highway-hunter,
Sought the hero who would hunt him.

Said he 'My mind's dark as midnight
I will leave things as they're lying —
Yet I fear my own heart's counsel
Will betray me before morning.'

Thorstein watched him loose his short-sword
Through the cloven chimney hatchway,
Saw him hang it by the headboard,
Sharp to pour warm wine for ravens.

Spell-bound Thorstein looked upon it,
Shining, biting, sharp wound-maker,
And he listened for the breathing
Soft and even of a sleeper.


All fell dark -- to prove his slumber,
Thorstein scratched as midnight-mouse scrapes --
Listened -- heard the robber turning,
Stirring in his dreams of ambush.

Then again to prove his slumber
Thorstein made a clanking clatter;
Less he stirred, the long-haired sleeper,
And he dreamed of red wounds flowing.

Then he crossed the boards more boldly,
And he struck a blow like thunder
On the bedpost of the sleeper,
Who lay still, and dreamed of grave-worms.

Had he stol'n away in darkness
Left his death-den? Thorstein wondered;
So again he stirred the embers,
By their low light saw him lying.

Never had he seen his equal —
Taller, stronger than old Ketil,
In a silk shirt of Samarcand,
Hair like gold embroidery glistening.

As to take a crown of silver,
Seven year’s work of a master,
And to cast it in the ocean,
So it seemed, to kill this stranger.

But the words of grey-haired Ketil
Followed Thorstein to the forest,
From the Fjord in grey-cliff’s shadow,
From the grass-capped hall in Romsdal.

'Greater honor to our family
Would a man be great of spirit,
Not a man like little Thorstein
Who knows sword-play like a woman.'

Thorstein reached to take the short-sword,
Grasped the sword made sharp for slaughter,
Tempered with the blood of strangers
By the man who lay beside it,

Clenched the hilt and raised his hand up
As a priest would, or a murderer:
Brought it down and broke his breastbone,
Stabbed the sword straight through the sleeper.

Thorstein’s sword-thrust tore through silk shirt,
Thrilled through heart-chest, struck the bed-board.
All at once he felt five fingers
Seize his arm and pull him upward.


I don't know of any illustrations to this story but, here's an illustration from another saga that could be of the robber thinking in bed.…

Author's age when written


Hey there! I just wanted to say that I've been meaning to read Part III for several days now, but I always only remember late at night when my poetry understanding/appreciating abilities are pretty much dead. I will try to remember sometime during the day tomorrow while I'm fully awake. :) I have briefly skimmed part IV and I liked what I saw. Keep it up!

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

This verse was particularly pleasing in word and rhythm:
Every shadow, black, foreboding,
Could be hiding some avenger;
On the beams the dragon carvings
Leered at him with greedy hunger.
And then this line made me smile:
Sat and smiled and blessed his smallness
Well done! I'm really enjoying this.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

Oh wow, nicely done with the cliff-hanger! I'll definitely be looking for the next part. I realized that through reading all these, I had the impression they rhymed, even though they don't, because of how well the lines flow. Sometimes people write in this meter and it doesn't work well since they combine words that sit harshly next to each other; but yours ripple. I'm really enjoying this.

"Come, travel with me in dreams far, far beyond the range of the possible and the known." ~Charles Baudelaire

I think someone already mentioned that this sounds like Hiawatha - yes! The rhythm is perfect (I know I've commented on rhythm before, but still! Rhythm is my favorite part of most poems). Looking forward to the next installment. . .

I actually didn't mean to leave the story hanging on a cliff for so long!

Damaris, it's funny you should notice that line about smiling because it is certainly not based on anything in the original story; I purposefully added it because it was wearing me down to write a story where no one ever smiled.

Yes the rhythm is trochaic tetrameter, the same as Hiawatha.

It's also the same as the Finnish epic Kalevala which influenced Longfellow in writing Hiawatha. Sometimes when I'm writing I like to get a poem to reference and draw from, but I didn't use Kalevala or Hiawatha. Maybe I should have. If I had, I probably would have used more parallelisms as abound in both.

The Kalevala, excerpt from The Bride's Farewell about the Maiden of the Rainbow.

Listen well to what I tell thee
Of the Maiden of the Rainbow,
Of thy beauteous life-companion
Bridegroom, praise thy fate hereafter,
Praise forever thy good fortune;
If thou praisest, praise sincerely,
Good the maiden thou hast wedded,
Good the bride that Ukko gives thee...

(And from Wainamoinen and Youkahainen, when Youkahainen hears of Wainamoinen)

Came upon his ears the story
That there lived a sweeter singer,
On the meadows of Wainola,
On the plains of Kalevala,
Better skilled in chanting legends,
Better skilled than Youkahainen,
Better than the one that taught him.

Straightway then the bard grew angry,
Envy rose within his bosom,
Envy of this Wainamoinen,
Famed to be a sweeter singer;
Hastes he angry to his mother,
To his mother, full of wisdom,
Vows that he will southward hasten,
Hie him southward and betake him
To the dwellings of Wainola,
To the cabins of the Northland,
There as bard to vie in battle,
With the famous Wainamoinen.

From Hiawatha's Childhood

Then Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
He the traveller and the talker,
He the friend of old Nokomis,
Made a bow for Hiawatha;
From a branch of ash he made it,
From an oak-bough made the arrows,
Tipped with flint, and winged with feathers,
And the cord he made of deer-skin.

Then he said to Hiawatha:
"Go, my son, into the forest,
Where the red deer herd together,
Kill for us a famous roebuck,
Kill for us a deer with antlers!"


And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse