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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Valhalla: The Myths of Norseland; A Saga, in Twelve Parts

Part Sixth

Casting out of Loki´s Brood

Deep down in the realms of night,
Hideous powers dwelt in might,
Brought forth on the dragon's bed,
With dwarf's dew and venom fed ;
Awful, dreadful shapes of terror.
Guilty forms of darkest horror !
Demon birth.
Accursed of Earth !
Well do the Aesir know the sight.
The traitor Loki was their father
By Angurboda, Jötun mother ;
Fierce hate and wrong
With time grown strong ;
The brood triumphant,
In this exultant,
By Fate 'twas given
That they should raven
Proud Asgard's sons and men among.

Seated high among the Aesir,
In Valhalla's shield-hung Hall,
Words of judgment spake God Odin,
Counsel took he with them all.
Fiercely burned the gods' just ire !
Angry-browed, with shoulders bent,
On their rune-graved staves they lent ;
Thro' Loki's art, had peace within
Been slain, while loathsome forms of sin, —
The Wolf, the Serpent, and pale Hel, —
Permitted upon Earth to dwell.

Rising from his Judgment-Seat,
From his spear-supported Throne,
Tow'ring to his fullest height.
Spake great Odin, " Thou most fleet
Tried Hermodur ! quick begone !
Bear my mandate ! speed thou forth
Thro' the wild and frozen North ;
From drear Jötun lands of night
Bring the foul death-dealing blight
To be judged by Aesir might."

'Twas done. The deadly brood
Before the high Throne stood.
Wildly striving,
Wrestling, writhing,
Unwilling, to the Judgment came,
Compelled by power of Odin's name.
Defiant, haughty Loki reared
His lofty head ; with threat'nings dared
Affront the gods ; if so they feared
His power of ill, to cease from wrath,
Resign to him his race of death !
Bold Tyr, undaunted, smote swift blow.
Then hurled the Evil One below.

With venom-dripping crest.
Fierce tail in mad unrest,
Coiling his loathsome length,
Launching forth rings of strength,
Forked tongue, and poisoned breath,
The Serpent, child of Death,
Menaced Valhalla high ;
With heaving throes,
And deaf 'ning blows,
Lashing the very sky.
Close by the Throne now Hela stood
Whose awful aspect chilled the blood ;
Gaunt and pallid,
Grim and livid,
A frightful, ghastly shape was she,
As dead among the dead shall be.
Red lightnings flashed from hollow eyes,
Her dark robes gave forth groans and sighs.
Back shrank the Aesir, pale, aghast.
As thro' their midst the Dread One passed,
All reeking with the fumes of death,
Mad, drunken, wild with frantic wrath ;
Malignant glared she round the Hall,
As, baleful, would she crush them all ;
Shaking in rage her mighty arm,
Burning to work high Asgard harm.

Then thronéd Justice, roused at length,
Seized each the monsters in his grasp,
Awful in ire and wondrous strength ;
In vain they strove 'gainst Odin's clasp !
Swiftly impelled thro' air
In breathless race
They flew thro' space,
Thro' mist and cloud,
With howlings loud.
Cowered the Earth in fear !
While, in Valhalla, at the sight.
Shivered the Gods with faces white.

Into mid-ocean's dark depths hurled,
Grown with each day to giant size.
The Serpent soon enclosed the world.
With tail in mouth, in circle-wise ;
Held harmless still
By Odin's will,
With lurid eye, in strong despair,
Belching forth fierce
Winds that should pierce
With rain and storm, the trembling air.
Up maëlstroms broke.
While thunders woke
With sullen roar,
From shore to shore,
As he, with baffled ire,
Writhed still in vain desire.

By Odin strong,
Avenging wrong,
In ice-bound realms of Niflheim dread,
In gloomy regions of the Dead,
Was hideous Hel
Condemned to dwell.
Hither, to her dark domain.
Came those worthless spirits, slain
By old age, disease, or pain,
Captive, by the Dragon, Death,
Borne on black-hued wings beneath ;
Unmarked by hero-gore.
There wade they evermore
In venom-streams that pour
'Round that dismal habitation ;
All restless driven
Till chains be riven
In the Day of consternation ;
When will those rigid bands
Rush forth from Hela's lands,
And, in the shock
Of Ragnarock,
Thro' Thund's roaring river.
Against the high Aesir,
'Gainst the Einheriar,
Led by Valkyriar,
Shall strive that fearful host,
The armies of the lost.
Elvidner was Hela's hall.
Iron-barred, with massive wall ;
Horrible that palace tall !
Hunger was her table bare ;
Waste, her knife ; her bed, sharp care ;
Burning Anguish spread her feast ;
Bleachéd bones arrayed each guest ;
Plague and Famine sang their runes.
Mingled with Despair's harsh tunes.
Misery and Agony
E'er in Hel's abode shall be !
'Round about Thund's torrent poured ;
Loud without, Garm, Hell-dog, roared ;
While, on the bridge of glass,
To take from whom might pass
The toll of blood,
Grim Modgud stood;
There, Hel shall reign
Till, freed from chain,
In Ragnarock she rave in strife, —
Evil 'gainst Good, and Death 'gainst Life.

Remained for doom Fenrir alone ;
Even Al-father on his throne
Trembled before that Jötun power,
Fearing should come the woeful hour,
Decreed by Nornir,
Foretold by Mimir,
To most high Aesir,
When bright Valhal be plunged in gloom,
The Wolf's red jaws be Odin's tomb.

Exultant in his awful strength
Before the gods he stood at length.
None but hraxe Tyr might dare
To come the Wolf anear.
Twice did the Aesir strive to bind,
Twice did they fetters powerless find ;
Iron or brass of no avail,
Naught, save thro' magic could prevail.
Gleipnir, at last,
By Dark Elves cast.
In Svartalf-heim, with strong spells wrought.
To Odin was by Skirnir brought,
As soft as silk, as light as air.
Yet still of magic power most rare ;
Wound round his limbs in weblike fold,
Full tight did Gleipnir Fenrir hold.
Striving in vain
Freedom to gain,
Each struggle only tighter bound ;
The Wolf lay chainéd on the ground.
With bristling back and gnashing teeth,
The monster rolled the throne beneath ;
The venom froth
From gory mouth
Was scattered by his blistering breath ;
Ever he sought in rage to rise,
Drawn ever back by magic plies ;
With frenzied bite
And furious might.
Would tear apart his fetters light.
Mad howUngs loud
Pierced Asgard proud ;
More frantic grew !
His huge weight threw
From side to side ;
His hideous hide
With dust and gore
Was covered o'er.
With foaming jaws
And outstretched claws
Then glared he, impotent, about ;
With fury heard the taunting shout,
The shrill laughter of the Aesir,
Derision loud of all save Tyr,
Thro' him one-handed evermore.

Bound firm, this scourge of earth.
Fierce Loki's fiercer birth,
On rocky isle
To wait the while,
A sword between his wide jaws thrust, —
The mighty sword of Odin just, —
On earth the hilt, the point aloft,
His howlings oft
Shook earth and main ;
Struggles all vain !
There lies he fast
Till time be past,
And Ragnarock burst forth at last.

In vain, alas ! did vengeance come ;
Doomed, even then, Valhalla's dome.
Too late, too late !
Decrees of Fate,
Unchanged and sure,
Must still endure.
Stern Destiny, who can avoid ?
She, pitiless, shall govern all !
Fair Asgard's gold-thatched roofs must fall
Void be her thrones ; guestless each hall.
Alas ! the hour still came apace
When all of earth and Odin's race
In Ragnarock should be destroyed.

Julia Clinton Jones, 1878