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Viking Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Viking's Daughter by S. Collinson
  2. The Viking by Hugh McNab
  3. The Skeleton in Armor by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  4. The Norseman by John Greenleaf Whittier
  5. The Viking-Maid by Helen E. Wieand
  6. The Viking's Daughter by Isadore Baker
  7. The Vikings' Grave by Anonymous
  8. The Spirit of the North by Oscar Williams
  9. A Norse Lad by Oscar H. Roesner

  1. The Viking's Daughter

    by S. Collinson

    It is the Viking's daughter,
    She is coming over the sea,
    The Prince of the Isles has sought her,
    His royal bride to be;
    Shrill through the shrouds the winds are singing,
    The wild white horses chafe and foam,
    Their silver manes on the billows flinging,
    They bear the maid to her Island home.

    From their long slumbers waking,
    The Sea Kings of the North,
    From ocean's caverns breaking,
    In triumph issue forth.
    Pride in their flashing eyes is beaming,
    They fear not the storm or wreck,
    The black Raven Banner is streaming
    High o'er each wave-washed deck.

    And thus they wildly singing
    Come bounding over the wave,
    Their voices loud and ringing,
    These ocean kings so brave:—
    "Joy, joy, through Odin's echoing halls,
    Lift up the mead cup rare—
    A health! a health!" each chieftain calls,
    "To the Viking's daughter fair.

    In the happy sea-girt land
    Whose white cliffs loom through the mist,
    Whose sheltering bays and golden sands
    By the rippling sea are kissed,
    Long may she loving and beloved
    Live in the hearts of the brave,
    Whose arms a thousand times have proved
    They're the Rulers of the Waves."

  2. The Viking

    by Hugh McNab

    A baneful comet from the Bear
    Flamed in the northern sky;
    It summoned sinful men to prayer,
    It summoned Svend to die.

    Beneath its influence malign
    The pole star sickly grew;
    Too well the meaning of the sign
    The aged viking knew.

    Before his birth a warlock wise
    Thus had his fate foretold
    To that fair girl with noonday eyes
    And hair of sunset gold,

    Who, haply lingering in the bay
    To watch the turning tide,
    From home and kin was rapt away
    To be a robber's bride.

    "The babe thou bearest with thee now
    No fertile land shall till,
    The barren ocean shall he plough
    And thereof reap his fill.

    "With him shall no man kinship claim,
    But none shall dare refuse
    What he shall ask in friendship's name,
    Or uninvited choose.

    "A welcome never bought with gold
    From all shall he receive,
    For what their hate would fain withhold
    Their fear shall freely give.

    "The cheeks of maidens in their play
    At thought of him shall pale;
    Herdsmen shall drive their herds away
    When they espy his sail;

    "The warders of the lonely coasts,
    Within their castles strong,
    All night shall sit, unwilling hosts,
    To hear his drinking song.

    "But humble fisherfolk from sea
    Shall leave their weary toil,
    His faithful followers to be,
    And share the captured spoil.

    "So wandering on the waves afar
    Shall rove his homeless crew;
    The Bear that guards the northern star
    Shall be his guardian too.

    "But when the Bear with fiery breath
    The star shall dare consume,
    Then let his spirit look for death,
    And meet the appointed doom.

    "Yet after life, 'tis so ordained,
    He once again shall sail;
    A land, where never mortal reigned,
    A deathless king shall hail."

    Year after year had passed away,
    Hot summers, winters cold,
    And now was come the fatal day
    Whereof the wizard told.

    With age the face of Svend was scarred,
    His beard was white and long;
    But, as in youth, his thews were hard,
    His bones and joints were strong.

    But what avails man's utmost power
    Against the Fates' decree?
    Theirs is it to appoint the hour,
    His but to bow the knee.

    Now twice by night that token same
    Had shone for all to view,
    And on the third, when evening came,
    Svend summoned up his crew.

    "Come round me now, my faithful friends
    Alike in storm and fight;
    Yon fiery sign in heaven portends
    That I shall die to-night.

    "Receive ye then my last command,
    And swear my word to keep,
    So may you prosper in the land,
    So I in peace may sleep."

    They raised their hands with one accord,
    With one accord they swore
    Inviolate to keep his word,
    Then wept in silence sore.

    So Svend uprose beneath the stars
    And put his armour on,
    Reflected in the steely bars
    The fateful comet shone.

    His battle-axe in hand he held,
    His mighty sword was slung
    Beside his thigh, his studded shield
    Upon his shoulder hung.

    On heaven he fixed his eyes a space
    As who should gaze his last,
    Then o'er the sea's familiar face
    A loving look he cast;

    Awhile to all his gods in prayer
    His head he humbly bent,
    Then bade his weeping comrades cheer
    And cease from vain lament.

    "Build me," he cried, "no mound of stones
    My buried corpse to hold,
    Nor burn the flesh from off my bones
    And leave them bare and cold.

    "Clad in my arms and coat of mail
    Seat me within my ship,
    Gather the cords that hold the sail
    And tie them in my grip;

    "Lash firm my right hand to the helm,
    The rudder let go free,
    For I must steer to seek a realm
    Alone beyond the sea.

    "So, when the tide is ebbing fast
    And grows the morning light,
    Hoist up the sail upon the mast
    And watch me out of sight."

    Softly the dawn began to creep
    Across the slumbering land,
    No need to waken Svend from sleep
    Or rouse that faithful band.

    All night their torches flamed amid
    The silence and the gloom,
    All things were done as he had bid,
    And now the time was come.

    Clad in his arms and coat of mail,
    His right hand on the helm,
    They launched him out with hoisted sail
    Alone to seek his realm.

    No breeze was there to carry him,
    Yet fast he sped along,
    And for a final requiem
    They sang his battle-song.

    So to the north he sailed away,
    They watched him out of sight
    Upon his left the ocean lay,
    The coast upon his right.

    Soon were the bays and headlands crost
    Where pines and birches grow,
    And where the stunted firs are lost
    In fields of endless snow.

    It seemed as though the sail were swelled
    By some mysterious breath,
    Or the uplifted keel impelled
    By mermen from beneath.

    Norwegian fishermen with awe
    A magic ship descried,
    Laplanders trembled as they saw
    No mortal vessel glide.

    An eagle dropping from the height
    Swooped once about his head,
    She dipped her wings to cross his sight,
    Then on her way she sped;

    Seagulls, awakening from their sleep,
    Like souls of drowned men
    Rose silently from out the deep,
    And followed in his train;

    A school of porpoises swam round
    And kept the ship in view,
    And formed as if on duty bound
    A royal retinue;

    Two seals, fleet coursers of the sea,
    A league in front set forth
    To herald his advance as he
    Sailed on toward the north;

    In ordered ranks the whales drew out
    And lay to at the sign,
    Saluting with their waterspout
    In turn along the line.

    Still on he passed beyond the land,
    To where in seas unknown
    The breakers on a frozen strand
    In flakes of ice fall down.

    But further north and yet more far
    He steered with steadfast gaze,
    As if he sought the northern star
    By old familiar ways.

    At last the waves grew firm and hard
    His errant ship to block,
    Gigantic icebergs rose and barred
    His path, like hills of rock.

    Here, where the winds in council meet
    And sally forth to blow,
    His rigid fingers loosed the sheet
    And let the halliards go;

    Down dropped the sail, the vessel swung
    Secure beneath the lee
    Of cliffs of ice, that overhung
    And formed a canopy.

    With frost bedecked, her sides, her mast,
    Her spars, her rigging shone;
    No earthly potentate could boast
    So glorious a throne.

    Upright he sat, and on his brow
    Was placed a coronet,
    With flashing emeralds aglow,
    And sapphires richly set.

    Across his shoulders to his feet
    A mantle white was spread,
    And all the deck about his seat
    With white was carpeted.

    The Arctic lights shot up on high
    Above the starry dome,
    Illuminating all the sky
    To give him welcome home.

    And now throughout the pathless waste,
    That leads nowhence nowhere,
    To greet their new-found king, in haste
    His subjects gathered near;

    Old Winter's chosen favourites,
    Who wear his livery,
    Wont to pursue their loves and fights,
    Undisciplined and free.

    The bears approached with stately stride,
    Lords of the great white sward,
    They made obeisance at his side,
    And set a body-guard.

    The foxes limped around and stared
    With hunger in his face,
    They touched him not, and scarcely dared
    To snarl about the place.

    The timid hares forgot their foes
    Beneath his rule benign,
    They crowded in from all the snows
    Like pilgrims to a shrine.

    Within the presence of the king
    The king's own peace prevailed,
    His influence kept a hallowed ring,
    A refuge unassailed.

    In heaven above to mark his reign,
    In token of his sway,
    The northern star shone forth again,
    The comet passed away.

    But him no summer sun shall warm,
    No winter tempest chill,
    Alike to him are calm and storm,
    Alike are good and ill.

    There in the frozen solitude
    That guards the Arctic zone,
    Where mortal man may not intrude,
    He sits and reigns alone.

  3. The Skeleton in Armor

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    “Speak! speak! thou fearful guest!
    Who, with thy hollow breast
    Still in rude armor drest,
    Comest to daunt me!
    Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
    But with thy fleshless palms
    Stretched, as if asking alms,
    Why dost thou haunt me?”

    Then, from those cavernous eyes
    Pale flashes seemed to rise,
    As when the Northern skies
    Gleam in December;
    And, like the water’s flow
    Under December’s snow,
    Came a dull voice of woe
    From the heart’s chamber.

    “I was a Viking old!
    My deeds, though manifold,
    No Skald in song has told,
    No Saga taught thee!
    Take heed, that in thy verse
    Thou dost the tale rehearse,
    Else dread a dead man’s curse;
    For this I sought thee.

    “Far in the Northern Land,
    By the wild Baltic’s strand,
    I, with my childish hand,
    Tamed the gerfalcon;
    And, with my skates fast-bound,
    Skimmed the half-frozen Sound,
    That the poor whimpering hound
    Trembled to walk on.

    “Oft to his frozen lair
    Tracked I the grisly bear,
    While from my path the hare
    Fled like a shadow;
    Oft through the forest dark
    Followed the were-wolf’s bark,
    Until the soaring lark
    Sang from the meadow.

    “But when I older grew,
    Joining a corsair’s crew,
    O’er the dark sea I flew
    With the marauders.
    Wild was the life we led;
    Many the souls that sped,
    Many the hearts that bled,
    By our stern orders.

    “Many a wassail-bout
    Wore the long Winter out;
    Often our midnight shout
    Set the cocks crowing,
    As we the Berserk’s tale
    Measured in cups of ale,
    Draining the oaken pail,
    Filled to o’erflowing.

    “Once as I told in glee
    Tales of the stormy sea,
    Soft eyes did gaze on me,
    Burning yet tender;
    And as the white stars shine
    On the dark Norway pine,
    On that dark heart of mine
    Fell their soft splendor.

    “I wooed the blue-eyed maid,
    Yielding, yet half afraid,
    And in the forest’s shade
    Our vows were plighted.
    Under its loosened vest
    Fluttered her little breast,
    Like birds within their nest
    By the hawk frighted.

    “Bright in her father’s hall
    Shields gleamed upon the wall,
    Loud sang the minstrels all,
    Chanting his glory;
    When of old Hildebrand
    I asked his daughter’s hand,
    Mute did the minstrels stand
    To hear my story.

    “While the brown ale he quaffed,
    Loud then the champion laughed,
    And as the wind-gusts waft
    The sea-foam brightly,
    So the loud laugh of scorn,
    Out of those lips unshorn,
    From the deep drinking-horn
    Blew the foam lightly.

    “She was a Prince’s child,
    I but a Viking wild,
    And though she blushed and smiled,
    I was discarded!
    Should not the dove so white
    Follow the sea-mew’s flight,
    Why did they leave that night
    Her nest unguarded?

    “Scarce had I put to sea,
    Bearing the maid with me,
    Fairest of all was she
    Among the Norsemen!
    When on the white sea-strand,
    Waving his armed hand,
    Saw we old Hildebrand,
    With twenty horsemen.

    “Then launched they to the blast,
    Bent like a reed each mast,
    Yet we were gaining fast,
    When the wind failed us;
    And with a sudden flaw
    Came round the gusty Skaw,
    So that our foe we saw
    Laugh as he hailed us.

    “And as to catch the gale
    Round veered the flapping sail,
    ‘Death!’ was the helmsman’s hail,
    ‘Death without quarter!’
    Mid-ships with iron keel
    Struck we her ribs of steel;
    Down her black hulk did reel
    Through the black water!

    “As with his wings aslant,
    Sails the fierce cormorant,
    Seeking some rocky haunt,
    With his prey laden,—
    So toward the open main,
    Beating to sea again,
    Through the wild hurricane,
    Bore I the maiden.

    “Three weeks we westward bore,
    And when the storm was o’er,
    Cloud-like we saw the shore
    Stretching to leeward;
    There for my lady’s bower
    Built I the lofty tower,
    Which, to this very hour,
    Stands looking seaward.

    “There lived we many years;
    Time dried the maiden’s tears;
    She had forgot her fears,
    She was a mother;
    Death closed her mild blue eyes,
    Under that tower she lies;
    Ne’er shall the sun arise
    On such another!

    “Still grew my bosom then,
    Still as a stagnant fen!
    Hateful to me were men,
    The sunlight hateful!
    In the vast forest here,
    Clad in my warlike gear,
    Fell I upon my spear,
    Oh, death was grateful!

    “Thus, seamed with many scars,
    Bursting these prison bars,
    Up to its native stars
    My soul ascended!
    There from the flowing bowl
    Deep drinks the warrior’s soul,
    Skoal! to the Northland! skoal!
    Thus the tale ended.

  4. The Norseman

    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Gift from the cold and silent Past!
    A relic to the present cast,
    Left on the ever-changing strand
    Of shifting and unstable sand,
    Which wastes beneath the steady chime
    And beating of the waves of Time!
    Who from its bed of primal rock
    First wrenched thy dark, unshapely block?
    Whose hand, of curious skill untaught,
    Thy rude and savage outline wrought?
    The waters of my native stream
    Are glancing in the sun's warm beam;
    From sail-urged keel and flashing oar
    The circles widen to its shore;
    And cultured field and peopled town
    Slope to its willowed margin down.
    Yet, while this morning breeze is bringing
    The home-life sound of school-bells ringing,
    And rolling wheel, and rapid jar
    Of the fire-winged and steedless car,
    And voices from the wayside near
    Come quick and blended on my ear,–
    A spell is in this old gray stone,
    My thoughts are with the Past alone!

    A change!–The steepled town no more
    Stretches along the sail-thronged shore;
    Like palace-domes in sunset's cloud,
    Fade sun-gilt spire and mansion proud:
    Spectrally rising where they stood,
    I see the old, primeval wood;
    Dark, shadow-like, on either hand
    I see its solemn waste expand;
    It climbs the green and cultured hill,
    It arches o'er the valley's rill,
    And leans from cliff and crag to throw
    Its wild arms o'er the stream below.
    Unchanged, alone, the same bright river
    Flows on, as it will flow forever!
    I listen, and I hear the low
    Soft ripple where its water go;
    I hear behind the panther's cry,
    The wild-bird's scream goes thrilling by,
    And shyly on the river's brink
    The deer is stooping down to drink.

    But hark!–from wood and rock flung back,
    What sound come up the Merrimac?
    What sea-worn barks are those which throw
    The light spray from each rushing prow?
    Have they not in the North Sea's blast
    Bowed to the waves the straining mast?
    Their frozen sails the low, pale sun
    Of Thulë's night has shone upon;
    Flapped by the sea-wind's gusty sweep
    Round icy drift, and headland steep.
    Wild Jutland's wives and Lochlin's daughters
    Have watched them fading o'er the waters,
    Lessening through driving mist and spray,
    Like white-winged sea-birds on their way!

    Onward they glide,–and now I view
    Their iron-armed and stalwart crew;
    Joy glistens in each wild blue eye,
    Turned to green earth and summer sky.
    Each broad, seamed breast has cast aside
    Its cumbering vest of shaggy hide;
    Bared to the sun and soft warm air,
    Streams back the Northmen's yellow hair.
    I see the gleam of axe and spear,
    A sound of smitten shields I hear,
    Keeping a harsh and fitting time
    To Saga's chant, and Runic rhyme;
    Such lays as Zetland's Scald has sung,
    His gray and naked isles among;
    Or mutter low at midnight hour
    Round Odin's mossy stone of power.
    The wolf beneath the Arctic moon
    Has answered to that startling rune;
    The Gael has heard its stormy swell,
    The light Frank knows its summons well;
    Iona's sable-stoled Culdee
    Has heard it sounding o'er the sea,
    And swept, with hoary beard and hair,
    His altar's foot in trembling prayer!

    'T is past,–the 'wildering vision dies
    In darkness on my dreaming eyes!
    The forest vanishes in air,
    Hill-slope and vale lie starkly bare;
    I hear the common tread of men,
    And hum of work-day life again;
    The mystic relic seems alone
    A broken mass of common stone;
    And if it be the chiselled limb
    Of Berserker or idol grim,
    A fragment of Valhalla's Thor,
    The stormy Viking's god of War,
    Or Praga of the Runic lay,
    Or love-awakening Siona,
    I know not,–for no graven line,
    Nor Druid mark, nor Runic sign,
    Is left me here, by which to trace
    Its name, or origin, or place.
    Yet, for this vision of the Past,
    This glance upon its darkness cast,
    My spirit bows in gratitude
    Before the Giver of all good,
    Who fashioned so the human mind,
    That, from the waste of Time behind,
    A simple stone, or mound of earth,
    Can summon the departed forth;
    Quicken the Past to life again,
    The Present lose in what hath been,
    And in their primal freshness show
    The buried forms of long ago.
    As if a portion of that Thought
    By which the Eternal will is wrought,
    Whose impulse fills anew with breath
    The frozen solitude of Death,
    To mortal mind were sometimes lent,
    To mortal musing sometimes sent,
    To whisper–even when it seems
    But Memory's fantasy of dreams–
    Through the mind's waste of woe and sin,
    Of an immortal origin!

  5. The Viking-Maid

    by Helen E. Wieand

    Oh, a heart as wild as the wildest sea
    Was born in me long ago,
    When a Viking-maid, so bold and free,
    I roamed over meadow and forest and lea,
    With never a care in the world for me,—
    A Viking of long ago.

    But it died one night and slept away
    The centuries until now;
    And now it beats in a different way,
    Though once and again it longs to stray
    And roam like a Viking, as today.
    Those days come back to me now.

  6. The Viking's Daughter

    by Isadore Baker

    Venus above the wave,
    Daughter of Viking brave,
    Who to all welcome gave,
    Save to thy lover;
    Lover awaiting thee
    Far over Northern sea,
    Heart all aflame for thee
    As for none other.

    Message I'll send to thee,
    Sea-birds shall wend to thee,
    Winged lilies lend to thee
    Some of their fragrance;
    List to their whisper low,
    Gulls white as drift of snow.
    Fearing nor friend nor foe,
    Birds of brave vagrance.

    They shall my message bring,
    They of unwearied wing,
    Scorn not thy offering,
    Daughter of Viking:
    WhUe I, in this new world,
    I, as in vortex whirled,
    By fate or chance am hurled,
    My fortune seeking.

    Is this thine history,
    Maiden of mystery,
    Sea-swans to whisper thee
    News of thy lover?
    Lover awaiting thee,
    Far over Northern sea,
    Heart all aflame for thee
    As for none other.

    Art thou a phantom proud,
    Spirit of storm and cloud,
    Never to mortal vowed,
    Never troth-plighted?
    Wear'st no ring of gold
    From Lade's temple old,
    Ring of King Olaf bold,
    Jewel love-lighted.

    Or, but a vision sweet—
    Dawning from wave to greet
    Eyes that with thine may meet
    Love's own expression;
    Speak thou, O maid of mist!
    Oft by the tempest kissed,
    Speak! for we fain would list
    Thy naive confession.

  7. The Vikings' Grave

    by Anonymous

    Very quietly they sleep,
    Where the cliffs stand, grim and steep;
    Where the shadows, long and cool,
    From the side of great Berule,
    Sweeping from the changing sky,
    As the silent days go by,
    Touch at last the ceaseless waves,
    Thundering 'neath the Vikings' graves.

    Fitting requiem do they make,
    As they gather, roll and break,
    For the warrior kings of man,
    Who, as only Islesmen can,
    Loved the glory and the glee
    Of the ever-changing sea;
    Drew from her their stormy breath,
    Sought her for the calm of death.

    Very quietly they rest,
    With the green turf on their breast;
    Mace, and blade, and mighty shield,
    Arms that they alone could wield,
    Notched and browned by blow and rust,
    Lying silent by their dust,
    Who in the sweet sunny Isle,
    Held thtir own by them erewhile.

    Chance and change have swept away
    Relics of the elder day.
    Like the tiny "Church of Treen,"
    Ruins tell of what has been;
    Times of prayer and praise devout,
    Times of furious fray and rout,
    Times of royal pageantry,
    Passed away—and here they lie.

    Solemnly, to quiet graves,
    Rowed across the subject waves
    To their last homes Vikings came,
    With songs of triumph and acclaim;
    Then Berule looks grimly down
    On hero dead, on forfeit crown,
    On chanting monk, and sail, and prow,
    Even as he watches now.

    "Peace," says the stranger as he stands,
    Gazing o'er the golden sands,
    Where, with endless crash and shock,
    Breakers surge round Niarbyl Rock;
    Where the sea-mews sweep and cry;
    Where Fleshwick towers to the sky;
    Where Bradda rears his giant head;
    "Peace be with the mighty dead."

  8. The Spirit of the North

    by Oscar Williams

    The sea blood slumbering in our veins
    Through the life we've led on hills and plains
    Has caught the sound of waves once more
    That break upon the northern shore.

    And a thousand years are swept away —
    The Vikings' time was yesterday —
    We cannot live in land-locked bowers,
    The sea is ours! The sea is ours!

    And we'll scour the seas in our ships of steam,
    And our merchantmen with their sails shall gleam,
    And it shall come to all men's ken
    That the old north spirit moves again.

  9. A Norse Lad

    by Oscar H. Roesner

    He watches the great ships swinging
    Like birds on the tide's vast flow,
    And out of the past swift winging
    Come visions that grip and glow—
    Fierce fights of forgotten rover,
    Adventurous deeds and bold
    Of ancestors who sailed over
    Grim seas with some Viking old;

    And stirred by an old, old longing,
    An urge that dead ages fling,
    He thrills to memories thronging
    Of some long gone old sea king,
    And dreams with a deep emotion
    Of wonderful days to be
    When he sails over the ocean
    A thrall to its mystery.

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