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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Dwarves

Loke sat and thought, till his dark eyes gleam
With joy at the deed he'd done;
When Sif looked into the crystal stream,
Her courage was wellnigh gone.

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

In a cavern's mouth, like a crafty fox,
Loke sat '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 naught,
He knew that 't was Thor who was coming;
He changed himself straight to a salmon trout,
And leaped in a fright in the Glommen.

But Thor changed too, to a huge seagull,
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's bones to a meal I'll pound,
As a millstone crusheth the grain.
When Loke that naught 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 Beata-stone,

By Mimer's well, and by Odin's eye,
And by Mjolmer, 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 daylight's gone,
So that she will liken a field in spring,
With its yellow-flowered garment on.

            * * * * * * * * * * * 

Loke promised so well with his glozing tongue
That the Asas 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 't was 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 rosebud'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 plucked them, the morn,--
And stained 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 dropped round pearls, without flaw or stain,
From widows' and maidens' tears.

            * * * * * * * * * * * 

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

We both trace our line from the selfsame stock;
What you ask shall be furnished with speed,
For it ne'er shall be said that the sons of the rock
Turned their backs on a kinsman in need.

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 or bad spoke Loke,
Though foul malice lurked 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 Brok, and Sindre the hammer,
And Thor, that the sparks flew on high,
And the slides of the vaulted cave rang with the clamour,
Loke changed to a huge forest-fly.

And he sat him all swelling with venom and spite,
On Brok, the wrist just below;
But the dwarf's skin was thick, and he recked not the bite,
Nor once ceased the bellows to blow.

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

They took them pure gold from their secret store.
The piece 't was but small in size,
But ere 't had been long n the furnace roar,
'T was 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.

'T was solid and heavy, and wrought with care,
Thrice it passed through the white flames' glow;
A ring to produce, fit for Odin to wear,
No labour they spared, I trow.

They worked it and turned 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.

            * * * * * * * * * * * 

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

When Loke now marked how the steel gat power,
And how warily out 't was beat
--'T was to make a new hammer for Ake-Thor,--
He'd recourse once more 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 't was too late.

              * * * * * * * * * * * 

His object attained, Loke no longer remained
'Neath the earth, but straight hied him to Thor,
Who owned than the hair ne'er, sure, aught more fair
His eyes had e'er looked on before.

The boar Frey bestrode, and away proudly rode,
And Thor took the ringlets and hammer;
To Valhal they hied, where the Asas reside,
'Mid of tilting and wassail the clamour.

At a full solemn ting, Thor gave Odin the ring,
And Loke his foul treachery pardoned;
But the pardon was vain, for his crimes soon again
Must do penance the arch-sinner hardened.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Image: Loki and Sif, artist unknown