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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Thor's Visit to the Giant Hymir.

Thor ( ...) resolved to repair to Jotunheim a second time.
(...) Odin told him that force would be of but little avail against the giants, unless it was joined with foresight,
and by his magic art, Seid, lie prepared an ointment by means of which Thor acquired the power of changing his form.
Having good reason to suspect Asa-Loke’s honesty, he resolved this time to undertake the adventure alone, a
nd leaving behind him his car and goats, he proceeded on his journey on foot.

O’er Dovre’s ridge3 he strode,
For cliff nor torrent slack’d;
The tall pines, where he trode,
Like field of stubble crack’d.

Sneehattan’s peak of snow,
And Jotunfieldt he past,
Then sought the plains below,
And the sea reach’d at last;
He mark’d in curling wreath,
The dull wave roll away,
And saw where, far beneath,
The serpent, brooding, lay.

His heart with hope beat high,
His voice shook as he spake,
Turning to Heaven his eye,
“No more, accursed snake,”
Quoth he: “in giant bend
Earth prison’d shalt thou keep,
Nor struggling sea-man send
To fell Ran’s cavern deep.”

But being now resolved to proceed with caution, he began by changing his form.
Throwing his ponderous helmet on the ground, it became a rock ered with pines.

Next, from his cloven chin,
He tore the bushy beard;
Which, cast in the ravine,
A thorny copse appear’d.
A smooth-faced peasant boy
He stood, in wadmel
White Heimdall
smiled for joy
The cunning wile to view.

Now straight to Hymir’s grot
He hies, a simple hind,
His flaxen ringlets float
Wild in the morning wind;
His belt, by magic cheat,
A woollen girdle seem’d,
Art with like art to meet,
No shame the Aser deem’d.

Miölner, as woodman’s axe,
Athwart his arm he bare,
His courage high ’gan wax
At thought of vengeance near.
In moss-lined cavern deep,
Lull’d by a torrent’s play,
Taking his morning sleep,
At length the giant lay.

On hearing a stranger’s step, Hymir sprang up, and demanded of the stripling how he dared
unbidden to venture into his wood. Thor replied that he felt no apprehension:

“My pulse beats steadily,”
The youth replied: “for ne’er
Hath Nornies stern decree
Been changed, I trow, by fear—
One of a form so good,
Of generous soul should be;
My little drop of blood
What would it profit thee?”

He finishes a long speech by saying, that his object was to obtain the giant’s permission
to accompany him when he went out to fish.

The grisly giant grinn’d
So wide, that either ear
His mouth appear’d behind,
Ne’er yet was seen such leer;
The earth shook all around,
He laugh’d so heartily,
“One with a heart so sound
I’ll never harm,” quoth he.

He then granted the request, and invited Thor to take shelter in his cave from the keen morning wind, adding tauntingly,

“When many a league from shore
The kraken’s
6 snort we hear,
And whirling Maelstrom’s roar,
’Tis then we’ll talk of fea

(...) Thor went into the field, and a wild bull rushing towards him, he seized it by the horns and brake off its head (...)

When Hymir the bull’s head
On the youth’s shoulders saw,
He laugh’d, and own’d the deed
Was good for one so raw.
Then shoved the boat from shore,
Swift through the waves it flew,
Hymir plied well his oar,
And Thor row’d stoutly too.

The god now became elated at the near prospect of measuring himself with the serpent,
and gave full liberty to his thoughts. If he could succeed in slaying it,

“By Yggdrasill, the feat
Would glad me more, by far,
In Valhall than to beat
Ten score Einheriar.
What fruitful seeds of ill
To mar man’s mortal state,

And earth with woes to fill,
From the worm emanate!
His pestilential breath
Fevers and plagues doth cause,
And each disease to death
Which man untimely draws.

When one in manhood’s prime
Feels his approaching end,
And ere yet lapsed his time,
To Hela’s power must bend;
When his heart-broken spouse
Sees hope’s last promise fail,
Then his fell might he’ll rouse
To mock the widow’s wail.

Her babe, which will not rest
When the pale mother clasps,
And gives in vain the breast,
Struggling for life it gasps.
Poor babe, as early rose
Late fresh—she sees its eye
In death for ever close—
Nor weeps for agony:

When one, who purely bums,
Absent for many a year,
To his true love returns
And finds her on her bier.
When from a mourning realm
Some virtuous prince is ta’en,
Or chief has bow’d his helm;
Then sure the foul snake’s seen

Writhing for joy. Their birth
All serpents, which infest
Man’s central spot of earth,
Draw from his nostril’s blast.
The great snake, whose wide jowl,
(To th’ southwards, far away)
Will gulp a raging bull,
Through him first saw the day.

Its tail wound round an oak
It watcheth long its prey,
Which from th’ affrighted flock
Struggling it drags away.
Others, with diamond eyes,
To Askur’s mortal race,
Death-doom’d! though less in size,
Alas! not fatal less.

Fair sight their forms to view
Basking in new-donn’d sheen,
To theirs the violet’s blue
Must yield, or emerald’s green:
They know, by wizard gaze,
Coil’d ‘neath some leafy bower,
Their prey with fear to glaze,
And charm him to their power.

Gaunt Fenris, Loptur’s son,
Who loves to prowl the night,
Bewilder’d travellers down
Hurling trom rocky height:
When bloody treason’s rife,
When for some murder foul
The bandit whets his knife,
The wolf for joy doth howl.

All who delight in blood
From him beginning have,
From him the tiger brood
Th’ hyaena’s traitor laugh;
The like each robber beast,
Which from the fair light shrinks,
Fitchet of plunderers least,
Marten, and fox, and lynx.

For nought hath Fenris ruth,
When midnight winds blow hoarse,
His sacrilegious tooth
Tears from its grave the corse—
Still ‘twere my chiefest joy
The foul worm and his brood
Of reptiles to destroy.
Grieves me that man the food

Of crawling worms should be—
This slain his life should pass,
From loathsome sickness free,
In years of happiness.
And, when th’ o’er-peopled earth
No more her sons could feed,
The bravest should stand forth,
And like good warriors bleed.

“Not hatred should unsheathe
Their swords, nor lust of power,
But a soul-warming wrath
Gone, when the fight was o’er;
From some dark cloud the fray
I’d watch, my bolts in hand
The boldest on their way
To Odin’s hall to send.”

Thus mused the Aser Thor,
And pull’d with all his might,
Each time he struck his oar
The dark-green wave turn’d white.
The more his anger burn’d
The huge boat sped the more,
Seem’d as the waves it spurn’d
Skimming like Dolphin o’er—

So swiftly on it flew,
The sides began to split,
The sea so fast came through,
The twain in water sit.
Quick Hymir sprang to bale
It out, and loud to roar,
(His giant-heart ’gan fail)
“Avast there! back your oar.

“An you keep on this rate
We soon to Ran shall go”—
Quoth Thor: “Take heart, must yet
A score good leagues or so.”
“Score leagues!” cried Hymir: “why,
Art mad! mark’st not the storm!
E’en now I can descry
Where lies fell Midgard’s worm.”

“And what care I for worm!”
Cried Thor, the fisher good:
“The bleak north’s bitterest storm
But fans ray heated blood—
I love the tempest’s roar—
Ha! there the foul worm struck.
Now I’ll take in mine oar,
And try with line my luck.”

Then, rising to full height,
The iron kedge he took,
Which, though it seem’d him light,
Must serve him for a hook.
The gory bullock’s head
He took him for a bait—
The giant, pale with dread,
In the stern, trembling, sate.

For line he next made loose
His belt, and one end pass’d
Twice round his waist, with noose
Well bound to th’ other fast
The baited hook he tied,
And in the ocean threw:
O’er the boat’s yielding side
The girdle, hissing, flew.

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

Translation and in-between text 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)