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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

 

Snow on the Meadow            Snow on the Meadow MP3
Tune: "Down in yon Forest", trad.

There’s snow on the meadow and ice on the trees,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
Black is the cloud that before the moon flees,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

When the bells in the church tower have ceased holy chime,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
Through the night sounds a horn made of silver and rime,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

For the quarry now runs before Furious Host,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
The ghost of a quarry pursued hard by ghosts,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

Sometimes ‘tis a stag and sometimes wood-wight maid,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
Sometimes a troll, sometimes mortal betrayed,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

The wolfhounds are black and red-fiery their eyes,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
Flame from their mouths springs with the hunters’ deep cries,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

The horses are black as a night of despair,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
And red sparks leap forth where their hooves strike the air,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

The riders’ bones gleam where their flesh has long fled,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
Yet dark cloaks are spattered from wounds newly red,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

In the hand of the leader there glints a keen spear,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
His one eye is shadowed by grim Helm of Fear,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

His blue-black cloak ripples and flows in the wind,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
And black ravens flutter before and behind,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

On the mountain a poor man sits hungry alone,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
The Host roars above, and a stag’s haunch drops down,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

There’s feasting and dancing in the lord’s house below,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
But when the Host’s passed, there is blood on the snow,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

Through winter’s dark nights he will ride over the earth,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
To some he brings gifts and to some he is Death,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

Leave food and drink for those who ride through the sky,
The Wild Hunt’s hoofbeats, I hear them ring,
But do not look up when the Host thunders by,
Let none dare meet the eye of the Hunt’s stormy king.

© KveldúlfR Gundarsson

Voice: Michaela Macha

Author's Notes:

The tune is from the Grail-hymn, “Down in yon Forest”. The words to the original date back to the fifteenth century; the tune is a traditional collected by Vaughan Williams from the singing of Mr. Hall at Castleton in Derbyshire (Healey: Wassail! - A Country Christmas).

The lyrics of the song are drawn from a variety of accounts of the Furious Host/Wild Hunt, a phenomenon with its origins in the earliest roots of the native Germanic religion. Originally the Furious Host, or Wodan’s Host, was the troop of the restless dead following the god Wodan/Óðinn through the winter storms (de Vries, “Wodan und die Wilde Jagd”). It is mentioned in several mediaeval sources, including, among others, the Ordericus Vitalis (1075), Jakob Trausch’s Straßberger Chronik, and Hans Sachs’ Das wütend heer der kleynen dieb (Meisen, Die sagen vom wütenden Heer und wilden Jäger), which describe the Host as being composed of those who have died before their time by violence or execution; variations such as the Norwegian oskorei (a corruption of “Asgard-ride”) have a fight at Yule ended when “one man was struck to death and lay dead on the floor. Then the oskoreidi came riding in, took him with them and rode off, and threw a burning torch on the floor of the stead” (Flatin, “Tusse og Trolldom”, p. 76).

Although the Furious Host is often perceived as a sign of bad luck, offerings were left for it as a matter of custom throughout the Germanic world (de Vries, “Contributions to the Study of Othin”), and a number of accounts also show the Host as bringing good fortune to those who meet with it and keep their wits about them, particularly the poor and humble (Liungman, “Traditionswanderungen Euphrat-Rhein”).

In the Middle Ages, the Furious Host developed into and was conflated with a parallel legend, that of the Wild Hunt. The two are technically distinguished in that the Wild Hunt stories normally focus on a nobleman doomed to the hunt of the damned for his sins - a form of social commentary, in which the original context of the supernatural Everlasting Battle is altered into the hunt that lasts until Judgement Day (Grundy, Miscellaneous Studies towards the Cult of Óðinn, pp. 44-45).

Yet a third strand appears in the person of the lone hunter whose quarry is a supernatural being of some sort, often female (a troll, mermaid, or wood-maid); Celander suggests that this may be derived from the god Þórr’s hunting of destructive giants and trolls, many of whom, according to Hárbarðsljóð 23 and the praise-poem written to the god by Þórbjörn dísarskáld, are female (‘Oskoreien ok besläktade föreställningar’, p. 155).

Discography

Healey, Tim (researcher, producer); Magpie Lane (arrangement and performance). “Down in Yon Forest”, Wassail! - A Country Christmas, #9.

Bibliography

Celander, Hilding. “Oskoreien ok besläkada föreställningar i äldre och nyare nordisk tradition”, Saga och sed [n. vol.] (1942), 71-175.
Flatin, Tov. “Tusse og Trolldom”, Norsk Folkeminneslag, 21 (1930), 7-154.
Grundy, Stephan. Miscellaneous Studies towards the Cult of Óðinn (Seattle: Vikar, 1994).
Liungman, Waldemar. “Traditionswanderungen Euphrat-Rhein”, part II, FFC 119 (1938), 401-1220.
Meisen, Karl, ed. Die Sagen vom wütenden Heer und Wilden Jäger (Münster: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1935).
de Vries, Jan. “Contributions to the Study of Othin, especially in his Relation to Agricultural Practices in Modern Popular Lore”, FFC, 94 (1931), 3-79.
de Vries, Jan. “Wodan und die Wilde Jagd”, Nachbarn (1963), 31-69.

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