Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
Extracts from Sigurd the Volsung: Sigurd on Hindfell
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
SO he rideth higher and higher, and the light grows great and strange,
And forth from the clouds it flickers, till at noon they gather and change,
And settle thick on the mountain, and hide its head from sight;
But the winds in a while are awakened, and day bettereth ere the night,
And, lifted a measureless mass o’er the desert crag-walls high,        5
Cloudless the mountain riseth against the sunset sky,
The sea of the sun grown golden, as it ebbs from the day’s desire;
And the light that afar was a torch is grown a river of fire,
And the mountain is black above it, and below it is dark and dun;
And there is the head of Hindfell as an island in the sun.        10
 
Night falls, but yet rides Sigurd, and hath no thought of rest,
For he longs to climb that rock-world and behold the earth at its best;
But now ’mid the maze of the foot-hills he seeth the light no more,
And the stars are lovely and gleaming on the lightless heavenly floor.
So up and up he wendeth till the night is wearing thin;        15
And he rideth a rift of the mountain, and all is dark therein,
Till the stars are dimmed by dawning and the wakening world is cold;
Then afar in the upper rock-wall a breach doth he behold,
And a flood of light poured inward the doubtful dawning blinds:
So swift he rideth thither and the mouth of the breach he finds,        20
And sitteth awhile on Greyfell on the marvellous thing to gaze:
For lo, the side of Hindfell enwrapped by the fervent blaze,
And nought ’twixt earth and heaven save a world of flickering flame,
And a hurrying shifting tangle, where the dark rents went and came.
 
Great groweth the heart of Sigurd with uttermost desire,        25
And he crieth kind to Greyfell, and they hasten up, and nigher,
Till he draweth rein in the dawning on the face of Hindfell’s steep:
But who shall heed the dawning where the tongues of that wildfire leap?
For they weave a wavering wall, that driveth over the heaven
The wind that is born within it; nor ever aside is it driven        30
By the mightiest wind of the waste, and the rain-flood amidst it is nought;
And no wayfarer’s door and no window the hand of its builder hath wrought.
But thereon is the Volsung smiling as its breath uplifteth his hair,
And his eyes shine bright with its image, and his mail gleams white and fair,
And his war-helm pictures the heavens and the waning stars behind:        35
But his neck is Greyfell stretching to snuff at the flame-wall blind,
And his cloudy flank upheaveth, and tinkleth the knitted mail,
And the gold of the uttermost waters is waxen wan and pale.
 
Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts,
And draws a girth the tighter; then the gathered reins he lifts,        40
And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire’s heart;
But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart,
And high o’er his head it riseth, and wide and wild is its roar
As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor:
But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye,        45
When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh;
The white flame licks his raiment and sweeps through Greyfell’s mane,
And bathes both hands of Sigurd and the hilts of Fafnir’s bane,
And winds about his war-helm and mingles with his hair,
But nought his raiment dusketh or dims his glittering gear;        50
Then it fails and fades and darkens till all seems left behind,
And dawn and the blaze is swallowed in mid-mirk stark and blind.
 
But forth a little further and a little further on
And all is calm about him, and he sees the scorched earth wan
Beneath a glimmering twilight, and he turns his conquering eyes,        55
And a ring of pale slaked ashes on the side of Hindfell lies;
And the world of the waste is beyond it; and all is hushed and grey,
And the new-risen moon is a-paleing, and the stars grow faint with day.
 
 
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