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WHEREVER I wander, up and about,
This is the puzzle I can’t make out—
Because I care little for books, no doubt:

I have a Wife, and she is wise,
     Deep in philosophy, strong in Greek;
Spectacles shadow her pretty eyes,
     Coteries rustle to hear her speak;
She writes a little—for love, not fame;
Has published a book with a dreary name;
     And yet (God bless her!) is mild and meek.
And how I happened to woo and wed
     A wife so pretty and wise withal
Is part of the puzzle that fills my head—
Plagues me at daytime, racks me in bed,
     Haunts me, and makes me appear so small.
The only answer that I can see
Is—I could not have married Hermioné
(That is her fine wise name), but she
Stoop’d in her wisdom and married me.

For I am a fellow of no degree,
Given to romping and jollity;
The Latin they thrash’d into me at school
     The world and its fights have thrash’d away:
At figures alone I am no fool,
     And in City circles I say my say.
But I am a dunce at twenty-nine,
And the kind of study that I think fine
Is a chapter of Dickens, a sheet of the Times,
     When I lounge, after work, in my easy-chair;
Punch for humour, and Praed for rhymes,
     And the butterfly mots blown here and there
     By the idle breath of the social air.
A little French is my only gift,
Wherewith at times I can make a shift,
Guessing at meanings, to flutter over
A filigree tale in a paper cover.

Hermioné, my Hermioné!
What could your wisdom perceive in me?
And, Hermioné, my Hermioné!
How does it happen at all that we
Love one another so utterly?
Well, I have a bright-eyed boy of two,
     A darling who cries with lung and tongue about:
As fine a fellow, I swear to you,
     As ever poet of sentiment sung about!
And my lady-wife with the serious eyes
     Brightens and lightens when he is nigh,
And looks, although she is deep and wise,
     As foolish and happy as he or I!
And I have the courage just then, you see,
To kiss the lips of Hermioné—
Those learnëd lips that the learnëd praise—
And to clasp her close as in sillier days;
To talk and joke in a frolic vein,
     To tell her my stories of things and men;
And it never strikes me that I’m profane,
For she laughs and blushes and kisses again,
     And, presto! fly! goes her wisdom then!
For Boy claps hands, and is up on her breast,
     Roaring to see her so bright with mirth,
And I know she deems me (O the jest!)
     The cleverest fellow on all the earth!

And Hermioné, my Hermioné,
Nurses her boy and defers to me;
Does not seem to see I’m small—
Even to think me a dunce at all!
And wherever I wander, up and about,
Here is the puzzle I can’t make out:
That Hermioné, my Hermioné,
In spite of her Greek and philosophy,
When sporting at night with her boy and me,
Seems sweeter and wiser, I assever—
Sweeter and wiser, and far more clever,
And makes me feel more foolish than ever,
Through her childish, girlish, joyous grace,
And the silly pride in her learnëd face!

That is the puzzle I can’t make out—
Because I care little for books, no doubt;
But the puzzle is pleasant, I know not why,
     For, whenever I think of it, night or morn,
I thank my God she is wise, and I
     The happiest fool that was ever born!

                                                                                                 R. B.


‘Hermioné’ was published in The Argosy (December 1865 - No. 1, pp.47-49).





VERNER, called the Raven, a Norwegian barbarian, in arms against King Oluf the Holy.
HELGA.        His Daughter.
ORM.          His Son, a boy.
EBBESEN.    A Heathen Priest.
VANA.        A Sorceress.
ERIK.      } Barbarians.

PLACE: Norway. PERIOD: The reign of King Oluf, called the Holy, who forced Christianity on his kingdom with fire and sword.

SCENE: THE SACRED GROVES. High Druid Arches, surrounding an Altar, on the steps of which crouches VANA the SORCERESS. In the far distance, Mountains of Snow. A Dark Night, with the Moon driving through the Storm-Rack. Close to the Altar, gazing upward, EBBESEN. Distant thunder.

EBBE.    From vale to vale pale Oluf’s banners pass
               Triumphant, dreadful with the blood-red Cross,
               Leaving upon their track the whitening bones
               Of Odin’s children. Thrice hath Verner Ravn
               Flown, shrieking hoarsely, with his scatter’d hosts;
               And now, a price upon his head, he wanders
               Homeless among these wilds; while nearer, nearer,
               Comes Oluf victory-crown’d—the ghastly man,
               Like to a skeleton equip’d in steel!
               O spirits, to whom these hands have offered up
               Life’s costliest sacrifice of flesh and blood,
               Hither, from mansions of the sunless snow,
               To Verner and your children!

Enter, hurriedly, ERIK and BJÖRN.

ERIK.                                                  He is here!
BJÖRN.    He stands beside the Altar!—Ebbesen!
EBBE.      Whence come ye in such haste?
ERIK.                                                      From Verner Ravn.
               Again have we been scatter’d, and again
               Is Verner conquer’d.
EBBE.                            [Hearken, and be pitiful!]
               Where met the hosts?
ERIK.                                        Yonder in Bergendal,
               Under the hills, and fought a fearful fight,
               Till one croak’d out aloud the chief was slain,
               And panic-struck we fled. O Ebbesen,
               Our enemies are not human!
EBBE.                                                  Wherefore not?
ERIK.      Knife, bolt, and iron fail to penetrate
               Their hard and glistening skins. The God they serve
               Arms them against us.
EBBE.                            [Hear, ye pale gods, hear!]
BJÖRN.    Onward they sweep like things ye cannot kill,
               With ranks that gleam like corn against the sun;
               And in their midst the bloodless monarch stalks,
               Huge, gaunt, white-faced, with horror-gleaming eyes,
               Making a burning circle with his sword
               And striking down in fire!

Enter ULV.

ULV.        Say, where is Verner Ravn?
EBBE.                                                Ask the gods!
.        He fled this way,—I followed. O my friends,
               All hope is gone! In yonder battle, Verner
               Faced Oluf singly twice; twice, as he fled,
               The ghastly leader laughed!
BJÖRN.                                            Who comes?
ULV.                                                                    ’Tis he!
               Wild, haggard, bleeding, like a murder’d man
               Started to life, he rushes hither.

VERNER rushes in, and prostrates himself before the altar.
VANA stirs, watching him intently.

VERNER.                                                          Odin!
               Gods of the mists and snows! ye awful shapes
               Who in Valhalla sit with sword on thigh,
               Come from your halls behind the thunder-cloud,
               Gather, O gather, gather!
EBBE.                                            Verner!
VERNER (starting up).                               Ebbesen!
               And ye—O cowards, that ye turned and fled
               When victory was so near!
ERIK.                                                It is too late—
               Their god is strongest.
VERNER.                                    Liar!
EBBE.                                                It is true!
               The gods are angry. Pale and fierce and still
               They gaze upon thee from their icy realm
               Beyond the thunder: white and tame the lightning
               Plays round their dreadful foreheads silently—
               They grasp it not to wither up the foe!
               We must appease them.
VERNER.                                      How?

VANA creeps forward, gripping the arm of VERNER.

VANA.                                                  By sacrifice!
               At sunrise, Verner, must our choicest blood
               Stain yonder altar.
VERNER.                              Vana!
VANA.                                          Since the sun
               Burnt to its setting, and the tempest gather’d,
               Under the naked heaven have I lain
               Communing with the dead. They answer’d me.
VERNER. Their answer?
VANA.                          Even this: “O widow’d Vana,
               Whose husband Verner in his anger slew,
               O Vana! homeless as the winter wind,
               Hearken! The gods are wroth, yet would appoint
               Verner the leader of their scatter’d children;
               And this bright boon they will deny till blood
               Appeaseth them!”—Nay, hush,—and hear the rest:
               “That which is dearest to the Raven’s heart,
               Must Verner, at to-morrow’s sunrise, slay
               On yonder altar. Let his heart fail now,
               And Oluf treads him down. Let him be strong,
               And lo! his host shall conquer, and himself
               Pass armëd to Valhalla!” (Aside) Now, ye gods,
               I hold him!—Now, O husband, Sigurdsön,
               Slumber in peace, avenged!

VANA and EBBESEN go up. ULV and ERIK whisper.

ULV.                                                  Question it not!
               Their god is mightiest of gods, and ours
               Speed shrieking from the thunder of his feet:
               Wait calmly but the issue of to-night;—
               If it be fatal, fly to Oluf!
ERIK.                                          Oluf!
ULV.      Yea,—with the head of Verner for a gift!
               For Oluf, taught by him he serves, hath offer’d
               Red gold for Verner’s life. When all is done,
               The mighty god who makes the king so strong
               Will guard our lives against the gods of Verner!                      [They retire.
VERNER. “That which is dearest to the Raven’s heart?”
               Gods, I have given ye blood of friend and foe,
               And still ye gaze with pale insatiate eyes,
               Nor send the mighty wind whereby our foes
               Shall droop and break and fall like stalks of corn.
               What further can I offer ye, O gods,
               Ere, on your fatal fields, I offer up
               This battle-bruiséd body? (ORM passes.) Who goes there?
ORM.                  ’Tis I!
VERNER.                        Orm?
ORM.                                      Yea, father, Orm, thy son.
VERNER.  Whence comest thou?
ORM.                              From within the cavern yonder,
               Where thou didst leave me yesternight.
VERNER.                                                            And Helga?
ORM.      Is yonder also, praying on her knees
               That the great gods may charm thy life, and put
               The battle in thy hands.
VERNER.                                    She prays in vain!
               The gods are angry with thy father, Orm!
               I am again a shadow on the hills
               Fleeing the foeman’s foot, alone, alone,
               And hounded like the bird of prey I am!
(Aside, watching ORM earnestly) Can it be thus ye answer me, O powers?
               Thirst ye for blood of one whose light young step
               Is yet so weak upon the ground, whose arm
               Would crack beneath the sword his father wields?
(Aloud) Come to my side, boy!—closer, let the moon
               Scatter her dusky silver on thy face:
               ’Tis not too like thy mother’s face to show
               Some glimmering of thy father’s soul beneath.
               It was my precious dream, when thou wert born,
               That thou shouldst be a warrior trained in arms—
               Hast thou a warrior’s heart?
ORM.                                                Ay! I were else
               No son of thine! Oh, I have knelt and prayed
               The powers above to hasten on the time
               When by thy side, in battle, I might show
               A spirit worthy thee.
VERNER.                                ’Tis bravely spoken!
               Art thou prepared to die?
ORM.                                            To die?—I am!
               To die a warrior’s death; amid the din
               Of battles, ’mong the dying and the dead,
               Blood steaming in my nostrils, to be wafted
               By spirits to Valhalla!
VERNER.                                  That is well!
               Yet, boy, the mighty gods will otherwise:
               Thy fight shall be in regions far from here,
               Beyond these hills where wearily we walk
               With bloody footprints round us in the snow.
               Yea, thou shalt die a calmer, grander death,
               Mild as the going of a summer day,
               On yonder holy Altar!
ORM (screaming).                     Ah!
VERNER.                                          Be still!
               Be silent! Is thy heart a craven, Orm?
               Or art thou Verner's son?—Were it not glorious
               To die for the good spirits who have made thee
               So strong, so bold?

VANA interposes, gazing sternly at VERNER.

VANA.                                    Verner, forbear!—and thou, (to ORM)
               Get thee within the cavern! (Exit ORM.) Verner, Verner,
               Dissemble not with thine own heart. The gods
               Demand thy dearest gifts. Thou hast a daughter!—
(With malicious emphasis.) A girl whose eyes are blue and deep as water,
               Whose face and frame are like the snow, whose motion
               Is light as clouds upon a summer heaven!
               The pale gods see that she is beautiful!
               And smiling, with their large eyes fixed on thine,
               As holy offering demand her. (A thunder-clap.) Hark!
               They answer from their clouds. Why dost thou bow
               Thy face within thy hands? (Thunder.) Hark! hear again
               The muttering gods. Ha, wouldst thou be a slave
               To slaves—that serve a petty spirit bred
               I’ the summer storm o’ the south? Thou, o’er whose cradle
               Fair Freya bent with falling golden hair,
               That made a holy radiance round thy sleep!
               Thou, by whose side immortal Bragi struck
               His fiery harp-strings, while the melody
               So blended with thy soul that it became
               Part of the very motion of thy limbs!
               Thou, bird of omen on the bloody field,
               Raven of Battle, at whose shriek the hosts
               Turn pale, and rush upon their dooms, and die,
               Echoing thee!—Arouse, and follow me!
               Strengthen thy heart with silence and with prayer;
               Pray to the gods for courage; since, at sunrise,
               Helga must die!
VERNER.                          Helga!—O gods, be pitiful!
               ’Tis doom’d! Thy dearest sacrifice once given,
               The thunder-bolt drops down from yonder heaven,
               The bloody Cross is rent, the Raven calls,
               The ordeal is reversed, and Oluf falls.
               Lo, steel thy heart and gain immortal life!
               Lay bare the Altar, and uplift the knife!
               Then raise aloft thy bloody hands and cry,
               And crave the aid gods dare not then deny!
                               [Exeunt. The clouds thicken. Thunder and lightning.


Lo! the blood of heroes
     Stains our banquet-hall,—
Yea, the blood of women,
     And of children small!
With the red feast drunken,
     From the clouds we cry—
Pour the bright stream faster,
     Lest we shriek and die!
And, like distant thunder,
     Comes a sound of woe,
From the battles under,
     To our thrones of snow.
Lay bare the altar!
     Uplift the knife!
For the blood of mortals
     Is our breath and life.
Ho, faster, faster,
     Let the bright stream fall,
While we quaff and listen
     In our banquet-hall!

Ah woe! ah terror!
     As we cry aloud,
From the distance northward
     Comes a thunder-cloud;
And within its shadow
     Walk priests and kings,
And it floateth hither
     With a sound of wings!
And behold! it opens,
     And a Face snow-white,
Whose eyes are troubled
     With a dreadful light,
Whose brow is bleeding
     With a thorny crown,
Whence the blood-drops trickle
     And brighten down,
Smiles strangely on us,
     And approaches near,
With a peace we fade from,
     With a light we fear;
And our thrones are thawing,
     And our sceptres fall,
And the Face’s breathing
     Melts our banquet-hall.
Lay bare the altar!
     Uplift the knife!
For the blood of mortals
     Is our breath and life!
For the pale Face brightens
     From the southern sky—
Pour faster, faster,
     Lest we shriek and die.

                                                             [The voices die in the distance.    The scene grows lighter.

Enter HELGA.

HELGA.  The cave is full of eyes and tongues!—wild shapes
               Are thronging in the darkness, dreadful voices
               Dismally moaning!—and methought I heard
               Out in the tempest fearful mutterings
               Of gods at strife. How cold it is! how still!
               The storm is over, and the lightning, playing
               On yonder snowy peaks without a sound,
               Grows fainter, fading upward to its bourne
               Beyond the clouds. I would that Orm were here!
               Yea, even Vana’s cruel voice were sweeter
               Than this dark silence. Hush! What sound was that?
VERNER (without).       Hoa, Helga! Helga!
HELGA (clings affrightedly to one of the pillars). ’Tis no human voice
               That shrieks so wildly! . . . Nay, an angry god
               Beats the black air above with dreadful wings,
               And calls upon me!
VERNER (without).               Helga!


HELGA.                                            What art thou,
               Who callest in so terrible a tone
               For Helga?
VERNER (aside).       She is here! (Aloud) Come hither, child!
               Thy father calls thee!
HELGA.                                    Father! . . . yea, indeed,
               The lightning lights thy brow, and thou art he!
               Why dost thou turn away, and hide thy face?
                                                                         (The scene grows lighter.)
VERNER. Art thou alone?
HELGA.                            Alone!
VERNER.                                      Methought I saw
               A shadow at thy back,—as of a man,
               Yet awful, like the shadow of a god!—
               Why dost thou tremble?
HELGA.                                        It is bitter cold,—
               And—and—I fear thee!—See, thine eyes gleam strangely!
               Thy voice is hoarse and awful!—and I feel
               That thou art frowning on me!
VERNER.                                              Frowning on thee!
               O that a father’s brightest smiles could equal
               The love I bear thee as I frown. Fear nothing!
               My voice is broken with appeals to those
               Who hear me not; mine eyes are bright with seeking
               The light that never dawns in yonder sky,
               Where stir the powers who heed me not. But hush!
               Didst thou hear nothing?
HELGA.                                        Only the whispering wind.
VERNER. The gods are out across the heavens to-night.
               The lift is dark; but yonder, far away,
               Faint silver streaks creep up behind the snows—
               ’Twill soon be dawn!
HELGA.                                    Why dost thou grip me so?
               Art angry with me?
VERNER.                              Angry with thee, Helga!
               I am a woman when I look upon thee!
               The blood-stained Battle-Raven, near to thee,
               Becomes the innocent dove. Until to-night
               I scarcely knew I loved thee half so well.—
               Teach me to hate thee!
HELGA.                                      Hate me!
VERNER.                                                    Creep unto me,
               Hide thy fair face upon my bosom, thus,
               And whisper in mine ears some hideous thing
               That thou hast done—that thou hast even thought—
               But speak not with thy buried mother’s voice
               To rob me of my strength!
HELGA.                                            O father! father!
               The sorcerer Oluf hath a spell upon thee!
               His black arts fret thee, and thy looks are wild,
               Thy brain is dizzy, and thy limbs are feeble,—
               Come in, and rest!
VERNER.                              Oluf! it is a name
               To make me strong as Thor. His bloodhounds yelped
               Around our hiding-place that summer night,
               When in a mountain cave thy gentle mother
               Woke on her bed of rain-soak’d reeds, stretch’d up
               Her arms, drew down the face she could not see,
               And kissing it, breath’d deep—and died. O child,
               I have sworn a dreadful oath.
HELGA.                                                What hast thou sworn?
VERNER. To tear the heart of Oluf from between
               The iron ribs where now it beats so proudly,
               And fling it to the wolves;—the toughest meal
               The famish’d ever gnaw’d! It shall be done,
               Ye gods, it shall be done? (In a very low voice) The dawn creeps near—
               I feel its clammy breath upon my brow
               From far away. O that some wondrous hand
               Would hold the round sun down beneath the sea,
               That sunrise ne’er might come.—’Twere bliss to grope
               For ever in this darkness.
HELGA.                                          Thou art mad!
VERNER. I am mad! and the gods have made me mad!
               I am the rude barbarian Oluf calls me,
               A cruel, peevish, wild, untutor’d man,
               Whose playmates were the bear and mountain wolves;
               And yet, if those cold gods would grant my prayer,
               And hurl the blood-red horror from the land,
               I could lie down between thine arms and sleep
               Mildly as any lamb!
HELGA.                                  Thou shalt do so!
               Sleep—with thy dear head pillow’d on my knee!
               Sleep—I will watch with loving, sleepless eyes,
               And at the sound of any foeman’s foot
               Will wake and bid thee fly.
VERNER.                                          Fly! Verner fly!
               Am I a wolf?—I am hunted like the wolves!
               Ye gods, it shall be done. Helga, behold! (He draws the knife.)
HELGA.  Something is glittering close before mine eyes!
HELGA.            Something cold is pressed against my cheek!
VERNER. Child, ’tis the knife wherewith the sacrifice
               Is slain on yonder altar! (Gripping her.)
HELGA (struggling).                   Father! father!
               Thou wouldst not harm me!
VERNER (releasing her; vacantly).   Harm thee? Nay, not I!
               I am foolish, and I knew not what I said.
               Is there no refuge from this thing, O gods?
               O that for one short hour, one little hour,
               The King and I stood face to face alone—
               He arm’d with every spell that sorcery gives,
               And I a famish'd thing, weary and weak—
               Then would I give, ye gods, a sacrifice
               To make ye glow thro’ all your banquet-halls
               And rain your smiles on Verner. Answer me,
               Ye spirits; are ye still so pitiless,
               Forgetting, in your chilly lairs of snow,
               Even the hunted Raven loves its young?
(As he walks up, the morning breaks, and the scene is suddenly bright. He screams and flings up his arms.)
               Ha! ’tis the sun! Roll back, thou horrible light,
               And leave us sightless in the happy dark!
               He hears not! Higher—higher—higher!—gods!
               He gleams upon the altar! (Sinks on the altar steps.)
HELGA.                                          Ah, he raves!
               Look up, my father!—It is but the sun,
               The beautiful god that brings the warmth and light,
               Who walks the bright blue sky, and hides his face
               In wings of blinding gold!
VERNER (leaping up and seizing her). I have thee now!
               I will not think—I will not pause to breathe
               Until the deed is done. This way! this way !
               Up to the altar!
HELGA.                          Help! What wouldst thou do?
               Grip me not so . . . thou hurtest me!
VERNER.                                                        Be silent!
               For thou must die!
HELGA.                                Die!
VERNER.                                      Ay, the gods demand it!
               It is ordained;—that cruel spirit comes
               To drink into his greedy orbs of fire
               The radiance of the sweetest eyes that live.
               Come, come!
HELGA.                        O mercy, mercy!
VERNER.                                                  Ask the gods
               For mercy—l have none.
HELGA.                                          Thou canst not kill me!
VERNER. I must!
(He stands on the altar steps, holding her by the hair, and raising the knife; she clings to his knees, looking up at him.)
HELGA.              Thou art too gentle! Long ago,
               When I was playing at my mother’s knee,
               Although thy face was rugged, fierce, and wild,
               So that I cried, and feared it, didst thou not
               Kiss me, and were thine eyes not dim with tears?
               Thou art my father! thou didst give me life!
               My mother taught me how to pray for thee
               To those strange gods who led thee forth a-field!
               I do remember many a woman’s task
               Thy great strong hands have gently done for me;
               Yea, many a merry sport to pleasure me,
               And many a simple jest to make me smile.
               Thy love conceives I am a little one still,
               And frights me thus in sport.
VERNER (aside).                                 Has my heart broken,
               Or am I Verner Ravn? Can these tears
               Moisten the eyelids of the bird of prey
               Bloody and torn from battles. (Aloud) Child, prepare!
               Stay! let me kiss thee once before thou diest,—
               I could not bear to see thee go away
               Before I kissed thee—thus? My child, my child,
               The gods are pitiless, but their will is law
               For miserable lives . . . Now, turn thy face!
               I canst not slay thee looking in thine eyes!—
HELGA.            Must I die?
VERNER.                              I have sworn!
HELGA.                                                      Then will I die,
               Thus hanging on thy neck and kissing thee,
               Breathing my mother’s name! Is it not meet
               A daughter should die thus? Uplift thy knife,
               And think it is the babe upon the breast
               Whom thou art slaying!
VERNER (dropping knife). O ye gods, ye gods!
               Pitiless, pitiless, pitiless, pitiless!
               Launch down your thunderbolts—set loose your fires—
               Let your fierce thunders roar our people’s doom—
               Scorch me, consume me, trample on me, curse me—
               I will not do this deed!
[He falls, weeping, with his face to the ground. HELGA clings to the altar, looking upward. Full daylight.


Lo! thawing, melting,
     Are our thrones of snows,
And from them swiftly
     A rainbow grows,
That brightens southward
     With a singing sound,
And puts a sweetness
     On the Face thorn-crown’d!
And the wingëd meteors
     Burst brightly forth,
And illume the whiteness
     Of the frozen North;
And looming dimly
     On the cold white sky,
We clasp each other,
     We implore and cry,—
And the meteors drink us
     As we melt and die!
                       [The music dies away as the scene closes.



‘Verner Ravn: a Drama’ was published in The Argosy (December, 1865 - No. 1, pp. 69-79).






WHILE winter snows were falling,
     So glistening and white,
And while the tempest murmur’d
     Across the fields by night,
Within the peasant’s dwelling,
     Beside the peasant’s hearth,
They sat and talk’d together,
     In fellowship and mirth.

Old Hans, in quiet gossip,
     Sits where the oven glows
(What one would list to rather
     Than the strange tales he knows?):
“But is it true, my father?
     And is there treasure still,
Which unto favour’d mortals
     The elves can give at will?”

“Ay, son, when the cock croweth,
     One needs must seize it then!
But if a word thou speakest,
     It vanishes again.”
Then in a silent wonder
     All sat as still as stone,
When lo! a hasty knocking,
     And the door was open thrown.

Then enter’d, spade on shoulder,
     A stripling, snowy white;
A shadow is on his features,
     But in his eyes strange light.
His locks are wild and tangled,
     With melting snowflakes drown’d,
The look is full of sadness
     With which he looks around.

     * Skaltegraveren—signifying the digger after hidden treasures.

“It is so cold without there!
     I am so stiff with cold!
Ha! hear ye not the tempest
     Howling across the wold?
Ah! the cancer was so bitter,
     And the earth as hard as stone;
Oh, help, that I my treasure
     May lift and make my own!”

So pale he stands, and bloody,
     They gaze in fear the while.
“Art thou a treasure-seeker?”
     He nods with pensive smile,
And eagerly leaps upward;
     Then, standing still once more,
Wipes strangely tearful eyelids
     Ere he glimmers through the door.

His spade he quickly shoulder’d,
     And whisper’d, “Follow me!”
And all the household follow’d,
     Palely and silently.
In haste he crept, while midnight
     Chimes solemn, dull, and deep,
Toward the silent churchyard,
     Where the dumb dead men sleep.

Dimly along the darkness
     His lantern glimmereth;
The churchyard gate he opens,
     And gains the place of death.
The wondering peasants follow,
     And quake with cold and fright,
While above the graves gleams ghostly
     The lantern’s fitful light.

They follow, but in horror,
     They, shrinking backward, gaze,
For the treasure gleams before them
     In the faint and yellow rays.
The lantern glimmers dimly,
     And they see with awful eyes
That among the graves below them
     A blood-stain’d coffin lies.

“See!” cried the pallid stripling,
     Wildly and eagerly,
“Here, in the grave’s embraces,
     Lies my dearest treasure—see!
Lo! here, for four long hours,
     Labour’d these arms of mine.
I bleed! the clock strikes midnight!
     Eliza, I am thine!”

“Oh, gracious God of heaven!”
     The peasants cried, “’tis he,
Who, when his sweetheart perish’d,
     Lost reason utterly;
From home outcreeping hither,
     In frenzy he has hied.”
So, pale as snows of winter,
     The fearful peasants cried.

See how he wildly claspeth
     The coffin to his breast!
Hark, how the death-clock chimeth!
     O Jesu, give him rest!
See how the poor wretch quivers;
     “Raise him!” the peasants said.
They drew him from the coffin;
     He smiled—and he was dead!


‘Romance From The Danish: The Treasure-Seeker by Œhlenschlager’ was published in The St. James’s Magazine (December, 1865). In the previous month’s issue ‘Newton Neville’ had published an article entitled ‘Danish Romances’ which had included several other of his translations from the Danish. ‘The Treasure-Seeker’ is also included in Buchanan’s Ballad Stories of the Affections: from the Scandinavian, published in December 1866, in fact it is the only poem translated by both Buchanan and Neville, and the translations are completely different.





AY! there is Silly Nanny with the child!
     And here am I, a-chopping wood, you see!—
For Tom has got the fit, and drinking wild—
     We’ve a hard pull to manage such as he!
Drink makes him mad, and he will have his way;
I wouldn’t be the one to speak him nay;
But, Lord! his heart is right, his love is tried,
     And we’ve a trick that serves our purpose best—
I chop the sticks, and make a bright fire-side,
     And Nanny, though she’s witless, does the rest!

For though he’d frown on me when he’s in drink,
     His girl can manage him and bring him round:
Though she’s no brains to use, no head to think,
     Though Nature stinted her, her heart is sound.
Well, father sees her moving ’bout the place
With kindly ways and tender quiet face,
And thinks, I know, how Nature has denied
     His Nanny wits, but made her all good-will,—
Then, his eyes fall upon the bright fire-side,
     And he feels shamed to use his brains so ill!

He thinks,—how witless ones are good and kind,
     How even silly beasts have gentle ways,
And all the while the fire-light fills his mind
     With homely thoughts of cozier, brighter days;
And by the time I bring his cup o’ tea,
The drink is conquer’d, he has warm’d to me!
His eyes grow dim, he holds his arms out wide,
     Poor Nanny brings the baby to his breast!—
Ay! there’s our plan! Make up a bright fire-side,
     And leave a man’s own love to do the rest!

                                                                           Robert Buchanan.


‘At The Threshold’ was published in A Round of Days (George Routledge & Sons, 1866).






At Roslock lieth a cavern great,
Where a poisonous dragon dwelt in state,

Who with bloody teeth and a flaming tongue
Munch’d men and women, old and young.

Like torches glimmer’d his eyes each night;
In the mountain he guarded a treasure bright.

Now who will slay this dragon of sin,
And who the treasure will raise and win?

The doughtiest cannot the monster withstand,
But the treasure could free the whole wide land!

So many a knight, both doughty and good,
Has stained the mouth of the den with blood.

And the dragon springeth with claws accurst,
While the champion’s armour and breastplate burst.

Upriseth, upriseth at last a knight,
Who thirsteth his manhood to prove in fight.

White are his locks as the mountain snow,
But his heart is of different hue, I trow.

In armour he standeth erect and hale,
As the glacier glistens his shirt of mail.

Twelve sons once sat at this champion’s side;
Eleven have by the dragon died.

Where was a knight so bold to be found?
The twelfth son play’d with his shield on the ground.

“Though half the world in his den be dead,
The monster escapes not from Winkelred.”

The little boy hears his father’s groan,—
“Till I am big, let the beast alone!

“So will I knock him so much about,
That all my brothers he’ll vomit out!”

The old man smiles in a fierce unrest,
And snatches the little boy to his breast.

“Thy brothers thou’lt look on never more;
But hell has plenty of dragons in store!

“When thou art big, and manly, and tall,
Thou shalt fight with the biggest of them all!”

By Roslock gleameth the dragon bright,
It gleameth by day, it gleameth by night.

In the cavern the monster raises his head;
At the mouth of the cavern stands Winkelred.

“Ah! ah! to battle with me you’d try—
With your sons in my hole do you wish to lie?

“Wouldst raise the treasure which none have seen,
Which a hundred years has buried been?”

With his sword responded the brave old man,—
In the cavern a terrible fight began.

The flesh of the dragon is stung, and stung;
’Mid flames, black darteth his poisonous tongue.

“Truce, champion! cause me no further pain!
And the bones of your sons you shall have again!

“Spare me! spare me! spare me! I pray,
And the treasure bright thou shalt take away!”

As the dragon utter’d the final word,
In his flaming throat plunged the fatal sword.

Over and over the dragon fell dead;
For the treasure dug conquering Winkelred.

It is not silver, it is not gold,
’Tis a spear of iron, wondrous and old.

With the spear returns the champion now—
He has proved his manhood full well, I vow.

Honour’d let the champion be!
He has freed the land from its slavery!

Where the free hand wields that weapon tried,
Chains are broken, and bonds untied.

’Tis a heritage from son to son;
Full often ’tis wielded in Ledinsdrun.

It has wielded been since the days of old,
When ’twas won by Winkelred the bold.

Bravely ’twas wielded by Winkelred,
And ’twas hung above him when he was dead.

Never shall it return to the ground,
While power and freedom on earth are found.


‘Old Winkelred and the Dragon’ was published in The St. James’s Magazine (January, 1866).






The sky is netted with sable cloud,
     And the Pleiads glimmer pale;
From heaven sweepeth the wind aloud,
     And the pine trees creak in the gale.
In the groves of the gods the wind moans cold
Round Valhalla’s moss-grown pillars old:
         “One time has gone by,
         We sink, we die!”
It startles ghosts from the bloody stone,
And the bones of the sacrificed make a moan.

The Gothic stone mass uprises high,
     Brown in the moon’s pale glance,
Its peaks upreach to the dark-blue sky,
     And around the corpses dance.
From the long blue window a beam creeps fair
To the altar’s crucifix, smiling there:
         “White Christ, thy brow
         Wears victory now!
And soon shall the wild north zone fall down
On thy forehead in lieu of a thorny crown!”

On Norway’s shore King Olaf springs,
     And masses sings on the strand,
From southerly strongholds great he brings
     His monks to the rocky land.
The word of Christ upon swift wings flies,
But Hakon the mighty still denies:
         For the old faith
         Christ he gainsayeth,
And leads the Norsemen in fearless pride—
But Olaf scatters them far and wide.

Loud crows the cock at midnight-tide,
     His son Earl Hakon slays,
And plucking the smoking knife from his side,
     Kneels down in the grave and prays:
“White Christ! harm not our gods divine,
But take this offering of mine!
         Stay Thy strong hand!
         Forsake our land;”
But the owl flaps mildly its gloomy wings,
As on Rota’s bosom it shrieking springs.

High in the air cross-banners wave,
     They gleam along in pride,
The Christian heroes lead Olaf the brave,
     And fortune walks by his side!
Before him they carry the book of the Word,
Around the psalms of the church are heard,
         A cross-handled band
         He holds in his hand,
Before him rumour wanders and cries,
Before him Hakon the mighty flies.

On, on, rides Hakon, a trembling steed,
     Till it halts with white foam wet;
“Though the Norsemen be slaves and deny their creed,
     I will be constant yet!”
With tears his last friend he slaughters, and stains
His robe in the blood of his horse’s veins—
         “Now think me dead,
         That my life has fled,
But, Olaf! the north has champions in store,
And on my side battle Tyr and Thor.”

Gloom and anger are on his face,
     As he creeps up a mountain tall,
And seeks in a cave a hiding-place,
     With Karker * his freed thrall.
With a fire of shavings the cavern glares,
There sit they dumb, and the freedman stares,—
         The one gainsayeth
         The other’s faith;
The freedman eyes Hakon the wan and white;
Then he falls to sleep in the dead of night.

Then the darkness murmurs; at Olaf’s side
     The red god Harmod† stands.
“The gods have trust,—King Olaf’s pride,
     And the Christ shall fall by thy hands!
Freya is weeping tears of gold!
Shall a cross-deck’d robber and thief make bold
         To disturb our land?
         Grip sword in hand!
With the blood of Olaf our altars stain,
And thou in Valhalla’s halls shall reign.”

     * In the original the name is Thormod Karker; i.e., Karker against Thor.
     † The messenger of the gods.

The red shade vanishes while it speaks;
     Up springeth the freedman now,—
“Christ stood before with smiling cheeks,
     And touch’d his blood-stain’d brow.”
“Fright the thunderer’s thunder, thou trembling slave!
Why growest thou chill and cold as the grave?
         Wouldst thou betray
         Thy master?” “Nay!”
The freedman answer’d, in fear and pain;
And the worn-out Hakon slumber’d again.

In his dream smiles Hakon quietly,
     While Karker looks in affright:
“Why saw I him swooning in blood? and why
     Do I feel thus strange to-night?
He is but an outcast, a foe to the land,
So now in his blood will I stain this hand,
         And from Olaf gain
         A golden chain!”
Through the darkness pallidly creeps the churl,
And trembles, and cuts the throat of the Earl!

Loud cry the spies from the mountains near,—
     “Ho, hither! for here is his den!”
Like a rush of wolves in the cave appear
     King Olaf and his men.
They slay the blood-stain’d freedman, while
King Olaf gazes with pensive smile
         On the bloody head
         Of Hakon dead!
“Their doughtiest leader is no more,
And the reign of ignorance is o’er!”

The thunder roars and rolls in the sky,
     Tremble both heaven and earth;
The swarm of the old gods swiftly fly,
     To return no more to the north.
Instead of the altars of sacrifice,
Bloodless churches and cloisters rise.
         But strangely, here
         And there, appear
Memorials huge of the gods who have flown,
A height and gigantic pillars of stone.


‘Hakon Jarl’ was published in The St. James’s Magazine (February, 1866).






WHILE the high gods sported
     Where the salt blue sea,
Near the isle of Ægir,
     Moan’d tumultuously,
Ægir, god of ocean,
     Grasp’d a drinking-horn,
Which a cunning artist
     Did with power adorn.

No snail-shell lying
     In the waters blue,
Was so strangely fashion’d,
     And so fair of hue;
Speck’d with marvellous colours
     Whence lustres break,
And grotesquely twisted,
     Like a speckled snake.

The red winds melting
     In the gold and white,
And the bowl within is
     Spacious and bright;
In the bottom glitters
     A carbuncle green,
And the fair rim sparkles
     Into golden sheen.

The goddesses assembled
     Praised the beauteous cup.
Cried Ægir, “Uove!
     Fill the beaker up!”
With her hair rush-plaited
     Stood the sea-maid sweet,
Blue her beauteous girdle,
     Small her tender feet.

Follow’d by her sister,
     While the great gods smiled,
With her virgin bosoms
     Swelling plump and mild,
While beneath those bosoms
     Her warm heart shook,
Stretching white arms dumbly,
     She the snail-horn took.

Then the young sea-maiden,
     Blushing bright of hue,
Like a swan plunged swiftly
     In the waters blue;
Reappearing quickly
     She upheld the cup,
And with small pearls dewy
     It was brimming up.

Ægir’s great brown fingers
     Gripp’d the horn;—quoth he,
“God Ægir sendeth
     A gift from his green sea;
To the goddess only,
     Of the beauteous throng,
Who is mightiest, greatest,
     Shall the horn belong.”

Then the beech-crown’d Frigga
     In her beauty rose,
And her heavenly glances
     Round the hall she throws:
“Than the earth’s fair mother,
     Odin’s stately queen,
Who is mightier, greater,
     In the god’s demesne?”

Then Gesion stretch’d snowy
     Hands towards the sea
(Never was a maiden
     Fruitful-loin’d as she!):
“Who ploughs the earth, and makes it
     Fruitful as can be?
Drops the rain pure golden,
     Ægir, who but me?”

Then rose Eir, upholding
     Root and glittering knife:
“How have you trembled
     For the hero’s life?
What is land, what valour,
     Without health’s pure shower?
And what can liken
     With my healing power?”

Rota, high and mighty,
     Rose with stately glance,—
All the gods assembled
     Gazed upon her lance:
“Ye of life have prated,
     Powers assembled here;
What stops life’s strong action?
     Rota’s fatal spear.”

Then smiled Freya, tripping
     On her feet snow-white
To the spot where Ægir
     Held the goblet bright:
“Give the horn to Freya!
     Ægir, hour by hour
All the earth is crying,
     ‘Love has greatest power.’”

On his knee she sat her,
     With a fond caress,
From her limbs of beauty
     Floated back her dress;
Round his neck she wound her
     Alabaster arms,
Let him see her bosoms
     In their naked charms.

Ægir grasp’d the goblet,
     Fill’d with flaming fire,
When, lo! soft music
     Broke from Bragi’s lyre!
As the god of ocean
     Listen’d wondering-eyed,
Saw he gentle Ydun*
     At her husband’s side.

     * The holder of the precious fruit whereby the gods continually renewed their immortality.

With her crape-bound forehead,
     And her beauteous waist
Like a slender tendril,
     Sat the dumb and chaste;
Brown her hair’s rich brightness,
     In a knot upbound,
Dewy azure pansies
     In the tresses wound.

She a bowl pure golden
     Held in hand snow-white.
For when Bragi playeth
     On his harp-strings bright,
Hanging fruit grows fragrant,
     Scenting sea and land,
And the fruit drops juicy
     Into Ydun’s hand.

And the mild-eyed goddess,
     With her sweetness wise,
Broke the spell of ever
     Freya’s witching eyes.
“Ydun!” cried Ægir, loudly,
     “To the harp of gold
Sing what wondrous treasure
     Thy pure bowl doth hold!”

With a voice which murmurs
     Like the nightingale,
When unseen it fluteth
     In a leafy dale,
To the harp sang Ydun,
     At the sea-king’s call,
And the wondrous music
     Witch’d the hearts of all.

“Only those small apples,
     Beautiful of hue,
Fresh and sweet and juicy,
     May the gods renew!
Drank they not the juices
     Of this fruit of gold,
Odin would grow hoary,
     Freya worn and old!

“While the harp of Bragi
     Chimes melodiously,
Lo! the ripe fruit droppeth
     From the holy tree;
Strength, and health, and beauty,
     An immortal life,
Only these can give ye!”
Thus sang Bragi’s wife.

And in awe and wonder
     Heark’d the gods the while;
Then, behold, King Ægir
     Pour’d, with eager smile,
In the lap of Ydun
     All the white pearls small.
“Take the gift, O Ydun!
     Mightiest of all!”

“And I ask thee only,
     For this gift I give,
But to sip the juicy
     Fruit whereby we live;
Of my deed and treasure
     Sing a Runic rhyme,
Let it sound in beauty
     Down the tracks of time.”

Gentle Ydun promised;
     With the snowy fair
Pearls she deck’d the foreheads
     Of every goddess there;
Gave the horn to Bragi,
     To be kept for use,
Wet the lips of Ægir
     With immortal juice!

If thereafter Loke,
     With the heart of gall,
Had not stolen darkly
     On the banquet hall,
Then had minstrel Sœmund
     Sang this song of mine;
But the great theme perish’d
     In the less divine.

That the wondrous story
     Should not perish quite,
Did my goddess bid me
     Strike the gold harp bright
Mists of ages vanish,
     Valhal’s glories shine,
And the fruit of Ydun
     Giveth life divine!

                                                                   NEWTON NEVILLE.


‘The Gift of Ægir’ was published in The St. James’s Magazine (March, 1866).



Poems from Other Sources - continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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