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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Full many a cunning work,
In cavern smithy wrought,
Gauntlet and helm and dirk,
To Asgard’s sons they’ve brought.

A dwarf, was Brokur hight,
Thor’s matchless hammer gave,
Breathes not, I trow, the wight
Its desperate swing might brave;

The like his girdle rare,
And Odin’s spear and ring,
Freyr’s ship, and Sif s gold hair,
And many a costly thing.

The Dwarfs.

Loke sat and thought till his dark eyes gleam
    With joy at the deed he’d done;
When Sif look’d into the crystal stream
    Her courage was well nigh gone.

For never again her soft amber hair
    Shall she braid with her hands of snow;
From the hateful image she turn’d in despair,
    And hot tears began to flow.

In a cavern’s mouth, like a crafty fox,
    Loke sate, ’neath the tall pine’s shade,
When sudden a thundering was heard in the rocks,
    And fearfully trembled the glade.

Then he knew that the noise good boded him nought,
    He knew that ’twas Thor who was coming,
He changed himself straight to a salmon trout,
    And leap’d in a fright in the Glommen.

But Thor changed too to a huge sea-gull,
    And the salmon-trout seized in his beak:
He cried, “Thou traitor, I know thee well,
    And dear shalt thou pay thy freak.

“Thy caitiff bones to a meal I’ll pound,
    As a mill-stone crusheth the grain.”
When Loke that nought booted his magic found,
    He took straight his own form again.

“And what if thou scatter’st my limbs in air!”
    He spake: “will it mend thy case?
Will it gain back for Sif a single hair?
    Thou’lt still a bald spouse embrace.

“But if now thou’lt pardon my heedless joke,
    For malice sure meant I none,
I swear to thee here by root, billow, and rock,
    By the moss on the Bauta-stone.

“By Mimer’s well, and by Odin’s eye,
    And by Miölner, greatest of all;
That straight to the secret caves I’ll hie,
    To the Dwarfs, my kinsmen small:

“And thence for Sif new tresses I’ll bring
    Of gold, ere the day-light’s gone,
So that she shall liken a field in spring,
    With its yellow-flower’d garment on.”

Him answer’d Thor: “Why, thou brazen knave,
    To my face to mock me dost dare,
Thou know’st well that Miölner is now ’neath the wave
    With Ran, and wilt still by it swear?”

“O! a better hammer for thee I’ll obtain,”
    And he shook like an aspen-tree,
“’Fore whose stroke, shield, buckler, and greave shall be
    And the Giants with terror shall flee.”

“Not so,” cried Thor: and his eyes flash’d fire,
     “Thy base treason calls loud for blood;
And hither I’m come, with my sworn brother Freyr,
    To make thee of ravens the food.

“I’ll take hold of thine arms and thy coal-black hair,
    And Freyr of thy heels behind,
And thy lustful body to atoms well tear,
    And scatter thy limbs to the wind.”

“O spare me, Freyr, thou great-souled king!”
    And, weeping, he kissed his feet.
“O mercy, and thee I’ll a courser bring,
    No match in the wide world shall meet.

“Without whip or spur round the earth you shall ride;
    He’ll ne’er weary by day nor by night;
He shall carry you safe o’er the raging tide,
    And his golden hair furnish you light.”

Loke promised so well with his glozing tongue,
    That the Aser at length let him go,
And he sank in the earth, the dark rocks among,
    Near the cold fountain, far below.

He crept on his belly, as supple as eel,
    The cracks in the hard granite through,
Till he came where the Dwarfs stood hammering steel,
    By the light of a furnace blue.

I trow ’twas a goodly sight to see,
    The Dwarfs with their aprons on,
A hammering and smelting so busily,
    Pure gold from the rough brown stone.

Rock crystals from sand and hard flint they made,
    Which, tinged with the rose-bud’s dye,
They cast into rubies and carbuncles red,
    And hid them in cracks hard by.

They took them fresh violets all dripping with dew,
    Dwarf women had pluck’d them, the morn,
And stain’d with their juice the clear sapphires blue
    King Dan in his crown since hath worn.

Then for emeralds, they searched out the brightest green,
    Which the young spring meadow wears,
And dropp’d round pearls, without flaw or stain,
    From widows’ and maidens’ tears.

And all round the cavern might plainly be shewn
    Where Giants had once been at play;
For the ground was with heaps of huge muscle-shells strewn,
    And strange fish were mark’d in the clay.

Here an Icthyosaurus stood out from the wall,
    There monsters ne’er told of in story,
Whilst hard by.the Nix in the waterfall,
    Sang wildly the days of their glory.

Here bones of the Mammoth and Mastodon,
    And serpents with wings and with claws;
The elephant’s tusks from the burning zone
    Are small to the teeth in their jaws.

When Loke to the Dwarfs had his errand made known,
    In a trice for the work they were ready;
Quoth Dvalin: “O, Loptur, it now shall be shown
    That Dwarfs in their friendship are steady.

“We both trace our line from the self-same stock;
    What you ask shall be furnish’d with speed,
For it ne’er shall be said, that the sons of the rock
    Turn’d their backs on a kinsman in need.”

Then they took them the skin of a large wild-boar,
    The largest that they could find,

And the bellows they blew till the furnace ’gan roar,
    And the fire flamed on high for the wind.

And they struck with their sledge-hammers stroke on stroke,
    That the sparks from the skin flew on high;
But never a word good nor bad spake Loke,
    Though foul malice lurk’d in his eye.

The thunderer far distant, with sorrow he thought
    On all he’d engaged to obtain,
And, as summer-breeze fickle, now anxiously sought
    To render the Dwarf’s labour vain.

Whilst the bellows plied Brokur, and Sindrig the hammer
    And Thror,
that the sparks flew on high,
And the sides of the vaulted cave rang with the clamour,
    Loke changed to a huge forest fly.

And he sate him, all swelling with venom and spite,
    On Brokur, the wrist just below;
But the Dwarfs skin was thick, and he reck’d not the bite,
    Nor once ceased the bellows to blow.

And now, strange to tell, from the roaring fire
    Came the golden-haired Gullinbörst,
To serve as a charger the sun-god Freyr,
    Sure of all wild boars this the first.

They took them pure gold from their secret store,
    The piece ’twas but small in size,
But ere’t had been long in the furnace roar,
    ’Twas a jewel beyond all prize.

A broad red ring all of wroughten gold;
    As a snake with its tail in its head;
And a garland of gems did the rim enfold,
    Together with rare art laid.

’Twas solid and heavy, and wrought with care,
    Thrice it pass’d through the white flames’ glow;
A ring to produce, fit for Odin to wear,
    No labour they spared I trow.

They work’d it and turn’d it with wondrous skill,
    Till they gave it the virtue rare,
That each thrice third night from its rim there fell
    Eight rings, as their parent fair.

’Twas the same with which Odin sanctified
    God Baldur’s and Nanna’s faith,
On his gentle bosom was Draupne laid
    When their eyes were closed in death.

Next they laid on the anvil a steel-bar cold,
    They needed nor fire nor file,
But their sledge hammers following, like thunder roll
    And Sindrig sang Runes the while.

When Loke now mark’d how the steel gat power,
    And how warily out ’twas beat,
(’Twas to make a new hammer for Auka-Thor)
    He’d recourse once again to deceit.

In a trice, of a Hornet the semblance he took,
    Whilst in cadence fell blow on blow,
In the leading Dwarf’s forehead his barbed sting he stuck,
    That the blood in a stream down did flow.

Then the Dwarf raised his hand to his brow, for the smart,
    Ere the iron well out was beat,
And they found that the haft by an inch was too short,
    But to alter it then ’twas too late.

Now a small elf came running with gold on his head,
    Which he gave a dwarf-woman to spin,
Who the metal like flax on her spinning-wheel laid,
    Nor tarried her task to begin.

So she span and span, and the gold thread ran
    Into hair, though Loke thought it a pity:
She span and sang to the sledge-hammer’s clang,
    This strange, wild spinning-wheel ditty.

“Henceforward her hair shall the tall Sif wear,
    Hanging loose down her white neck behind;
By no envious braid shall it captive be made,
    But in native grace float in the wind.

“No swain shall it view in the clear heaven’s blue,
    But his heart in its toils shall be lost;
No goddess, not e’en beauty’s faultless queen,
    Such long, glossy ringlets shall boast;

“Tho’ they now seem dead, let them touch but her head,
    Each hair shall the life-moisture fill,
Nor shall malice nor spell henceforward prevail
    Sif’s tresses to work aught of ill.”

His object attained, Loke no longer remain’d
    ’Neath the earth, but straight hied him to Thor,
Who own’d than the hair, ne’er, sure, aught more fair
    His eyes had e’er look’d on before.

The Boar Freyr bestrode, and away proudly rode,
    And Thor took the ringlets and hammer,
To Valhalla they hied, where the Aser reside,
    Mid of tilting and wassail the clamour.

At a full, solemn Thing—Thor gave Odin the ring,
    And Loke his foul treachery pardon’d:
But the pardon was vain—for his crimes soon again
    Must do penance, the arch-sinner harden’d.

From Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger
(1779-1850)     Short Biography of Adam Oehlenschläger

Translation by Grenville Pigott, in "A Manual of Scandinavian Mythology,
Containing a Popular Account of the Two Eddas and of the Religion of Odin" (London, 1839)