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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Death of King Hacon

It was Odin that whispered inVingolf,
"Go forth to the heath by the sea;
Find Hacon before the moon rises,
And bid him to supper with me."

They go forth to choose from the Princes
Of Yugvon, and summons from fight
A man who must perish in battle,
And sup where the gods sup to-night.

Leaning over her brazen spear, Gondula
Thus bespake her companions, "The feast
Of the gods shall, in Vingolf, this evening,
O ye Daughters of War, be increast.

"For Odin hath beckoned unto me.
For Odin hath whispered me forth.
To bid to his supper King Hacon
With the half of the hosts of the North.

Their horses gleamed white through the vapor:
In the moonlight their corselets did shine
As they wavered and whispered together
And fashioned their solemn design.

Hacon heard them discoursing "Why hast thou
Thus disposed of the battle so soon ?
O, were we not worthy of conquest ?
Lo! we die by the rise of the moon."

It is not the moon that is rising,
But the glory which penetrates death,
When heroes to Odin arc summoned .
Rise, Hacon, and stand on the heath !

"It is we," she replied, "that have given
To thy pasture the flower of the fight
It is we, it is we that have scattered
Thine enemies yonder in flight.

Come now. let us push on our horses,
Over yonder given worlds in the east,
Where the grout gods are gathered together,
And the tables are piled for the feast!

"Betimes to give notice to Odin,
Who waits in his sovran abodes,
That the King to his palace is coming
This evening to visit the gods."

Odin rose when he heard it, and with him
Rose the gods, every god to his feet:
He beckoned Hermoder and Brage,
They came to him, each from his seat.

"Go forth, O my sons, to King Hacon,
And meet him and greet him from all,
A King that we know by his valor
Is coming to-night to our hall."

Then faintly King Hacon approaches,
Arriving from battle, and sore
With the wounds that yet bleed through his armor
Bedabbled and dripping with gore.

His visage is pallid and awful
With the awe and the pallor of death,
Like the moon that at midnight arises
Where the battle lies strewn on the heath.

To him spake Hermoder and Brage,
"We meet thee and greet thee from all,
To the gods thou art known by thy valor,
And they bid thee a guest to their hall.

"Come hither, come hither, King Hacon,
And join those eight brothers of thine,
Who already, awaiting thy coming,
With the gods in Walhalla recline.

"And loosen, Hacon, thy corselet,
For thy wounds are yet ghastly to see.
Go pour ale in the circle of heroes,
And drink, for the gods drink to thee."

But he answered, the hero, "I never
Will part with the armor I wear.
Shall a warrior stand before Odin
Unshamed-, without helmet and spear?"

Black Fenris, the wolf, the destroyer,
Shall arise and break loose from his chain
Before that a hero like Hacon
Shall stand in the battle again.

Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1831-1891),
English statesman and poet, wrote under the pen name of Owen Meredith.