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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Descent of Frea

Act II

SCENE.—Valhalla. The Gods assembled in Odin's Hall.

Welcome, fair Queen of Love, to Odin's hall.
Say, hast thou mov'd the stubborn soul of Hela,
By soft persuasion and resistless sighs,
To yield the much-lov'd Balder back to light ?

Great king of gods and men, the only boon
That Hela granted to my sorrowing soul
Was this; when all the gods of nature weep
The briny tear on hapless Balder's grave,
Then from the dreary clime of ghosts he comes
To grace Valhalla's halls; but golden hope
Has not yet fled the woe-worn Frea's bosom;
Still may the words of grief entice the tear
From pitying gods, and snatch from Hela's arms
Her splendid prey.—

(Continues addressing Odin.)
Chief of warriors, king of might,
Clinging to thy sable steed,
And dashing thro' the fight,
Thou smil'st when thousands bleed:
Coucher of the ponderous spear,
Thou shout'st amid the battle's stound—
The armed Sisters hear,
Viewless hurrying o'er the ground
They strike the destin'd chiefs and call them to the skies.

Lo! from Schulda's misty towers
On jetty wing the raven flies
And bears the deeds of future hours;
To thee he hastes—in solemn state
Thou read'st the dread commands of fate
To listening deities ;
Say, is it doom'd no parent's tear
Shall wet thy Balder's sable bier ?
Wilt thou not weep thy child forlorn,
Thy blooming child by Hela torn
From halls of bliss
To caves of dark despair ?
Yes, Odin, yes,
I mark the gushing drops which stain
A father's cheek,
Those gushing drops thy anguish speak,
Balder shall live again
And cleave the realms of air.

Odin drops the tear,
To wet thy Balder's bier.

FREA. ( Addressing Hertha.)
Queen of the fertile earth,
Whose all creative-hand
First gave the sons of man their birth;
And scatter'd o'er the desert land
The painted flower, the budding tree,
The billowy crops of yellow grain,
Peopled every teeming plain,
And fill'd with life the restless sea;
Whene'er thy stately form appears
On mortal shore,
No war nor battle's din,
Is heard thy realms within;
No more the armed soldier rears
The tined lance,
And spurs the steed no more.—
Before thy veiled car the rosy Pleasures dance,
Balmy odours round thee play
Richer verdure dyes thy way,
Double glory gilds the day.

Say, Hertha, wilt thou drop the tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier ?

Hertha drops the tear,
To wet thy Balder's bier.

FREA. (Addressing Thor.)
God of the wandering air,
Whose forked flashes tear
The pine high-towering on the mountain-side;
Who joy'st o'er shaking rocks to guide
The thunder's fiery course;
Who bidst thy dark clouds pour
The vast and whelming mower
And swell the torrent's force.
God of storms, when levelling hail,
When hollow-roaring whirlwinds fail,
Sweeping o'er the valley's pride,
Rolling high the weltering tide,
Thou speak'st—thy potent voice disarms
The tempest's rage:—thy genial calms,
Thy sultry gales, and fostering dew
Cloath the wasted earth anew.
God of the iron-mace,
Which tames the giant-race,

Say, wilt thou drop the pitying tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier ?

Thor shall drop the pitying tear,
And wet thy Balder's sable bier.

FREA. (Addressing Surtur.)
King of resistless fire,
Who bidst the nightly meteors ride
Along the snow-wrapt Hecla's side—
Who wieldst aloft with mighty hand
The burning, starry-pointed brand,
And dazzled hosts retire ;
Where'er thy furious course is sped,
Nature bows her wither'd head :
Thy fatal car outstrips the wind,
Thy coursers' scorching nostrils breathe
A wide consuming steam beneath—
Destruction flies behind;
She rears her red right hand
And with her flaming besom sweeps the blasted land.—

Say, Surtur, wilt thou drop the tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier?

Surtur drops the tear,
To wet thy Balder's bier.

FREA. (Addressing Niord.)
Lord of the boundless deep,
Whose murmuring waters gently swell
And kiss the craggy steep;
When thunders burst around,
And tempests yell,
Thy heaving plain repeats th' appalling sound,
Thy frothy surges rise
And lash the darken'd skies,
Thy rapid eddies wheel with fleeter motion;
Then by the lightning's livid glare,
Thou stalk'st serene thro' murky air,
Which shrouds the raging ocean;
But soon the smouldering thunders cease,
Soon the winged tempests flee,
Thor in breezes whispers peace,
Sun-beams gild the sinking sea.—
O'er its white brim on calming wing
The heitre play'd—

And stillness hover'd on the gales of spring—
When Braga touch'd the quivering string,
And flowly stray'd
To Niord's Ihore;
On its shining surface stood
The father of the flood,
He bade the bard celestial pour
His softest notes—
The melting music floats
Upon the charmed wave—
Come from thy dewy cave,
My father cries,
Arise, arise,
Let the azure waters lave
Thy snowy limbs and golden hair—
He spake, and Frea rose to realms of air.—
Then Niord clasp'd me to his breast
And all the parent's pride confest;
Now will my father's heart disdain
To ease his daughter's piercing pain ?

Or wilt thou drop the pitying tear,
On youthful Balder's sable bier ?

Niord drops the tear,
To wet thy Balder's bier.

FREA. (Addressing Lok.)
God of the nether world,
Whose deadly arrow hurl'd
The youthful Balder to the caves of night,
O, let not Schulda write
His everlasting doom;
O let not Balder's tomb
For ever stand,
But snatch with pitying hand
From Hela's curs'd abode
The fallen god;
Revive, revive his wither'd charms,
And give him back to Frea's arms.

Drop, O Lok, the pitying tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier.

Away, away,
Lok ne'er will weep—
Let Hela keep
Her splendid prey.

By the raven's song of death,
By the night-mair's baneful breath,
By the glutted vulture's scream,
By the tomb-fire's lurid gleam,
By the mighty serpent's blood,
By the roar of Giall's flood,
By the war-hounds' fatal yell,
By all the horrors of thy hell,
I charge thee weep the briny tear
On youthful Balder's sable bier.

No—tho' Valhalla's towering wall
Around these sinewy limbs should fall,
Tho' Skinfax plunge his flaming head
Amid the caverns of the dead,
Tho' Surtur aim his fiery dart
And heap his flames around my heart,
Tho' Niord's foaming main should roar,
And dash me lifeless on the shore;
Tho' Thor should hurl his iron mace
And stain with gore this hated face;
Tho' Odin's self in wrath should rear
His golden spear
And shining shield,
This stubborn heart shall never yield,
Hela shall hold her splendid prey'
While countless ages roll away.


Frank Sayers (1763-1817)
From: "Poems, containing sketches of northern mythology, &c. (1803)"