Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Tales of a Wayside Inn
Part First.
The Musician’s Tale: The Saga of King Olaf.
II. King Olaf’s Return
 
AND King Olaf heard the cry,
Saw the red light in the sky,
  Laid his hand upon his sword,
As he leaned upon the railing,
And his ships went sailing, sailing        5
  Northward into Drontheim fiord.
 
There he stood as one who dreamed;
And the red light glanced and gleamed
  On the armor that he wore;
And he shouted, as the rifted        10
Streamers o’er him shook and shifted,
  “I accept thy challenge, Thor!”
 
To avenge his father slain,
And reconquer realm and reign,
  Came the youthful Olaf home,        15
Through the midnight sailing, sailing,
Listening to the wild wind’s wailing,
  And the dashing of the foam.
 
To his thoughts the sacred name
Of his mother Astrid came,        20
  And the tale she oft had told
Of her flight by secret passes
Through the mountains and morasses,
  To the home of Hakon old.
 
Then strange memories crowded back        25
Of Queen Gunhild’s wrath and wrack,
  And a hurried flight by sea;
Of grim Vikings, and the rapture
Of the sea-fight, and the capture,
  And the life of slavery.        30
 
How a stranger watched his face
In the Esthonian market-place,
  Scanned his features one by one,
Saying, “We should know each other;
I am Sigurd, Astrid’s brother,        35
  Thou art Olaf, Astrid’s son!”
 
Then as Queen Allogia’s page,
Old in honors, young in age,
  Chief of all her men-at-arms;
Till vague whispers, and mysterious,        40
Reached King Valdemar, the imperious,
  Filling him with strange alarms.
 
Then his cruisings o’er the seas,
Westward to the Hebrides
  And to Scilly’s rocky shore;        45
And the hermit’s cavern dismal,
Christ’s great name and rites baptismal
  In the ocean’s rush and roar.
 
All these thoughts of love and strife
Glimmered through his lurid life,        50
  As the stars’ intenser light
Through the red flames o’er him trailing,
As his ships went sailing, sailing
  Northward in the summer night.
 
Trained for either camp or court,        55
Skilful in each manly sport,
  Young and beautiful and tall;
Art of warfare, craft of chases,
Swimming, skating, snow-shoe races,
  Excellent alike in all.        60
 
When at sea, with all his rowers,
He along the bending oars
  Outside of his ship could run.
He the Smalsor Horn ascended,
And his shining shield suspended        65
  On its summit, like a sun.
 
On the ship-rails he could stand,
Wield his sword with either hand,
  And at once two javelins throw;
At all feasts where ale was strongest        70
Sat the merry monarch longest,
  First to come and last to go.
 
Norway never yet had seen
One so beautiful of mien,
  One so royal in attire,        75
When in arms completely furnished,
Harness gold-inlaid and burnished,
  Mantle like a flame of fire.
 
Thus came Olaf to his own,
When upon the night-wind blown        80
  Passed that cry along the shore;
And he answered, while the rifted
Streamers o’er him shook and shifted,
  “I accept thy challenge, Thor!”
 
 
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