Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part First. The Musician’s Tale: The Saga of King Olaf. XIV. The Crew of the Long Serpent

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. XIV. The Crew of the Long Serpent

SAFE at anchor in Drontheim bay

King Olaf’s fleet assembled lay,

And, striped with white and blue,

Downward fluttered sail and banner,

As alights the screaming lanner;

Lustily cheered, in their wild manner,

The Long Serpent’s crew.

Her forecastle man was Ulf the Red;

Like a wolf’s was his shaggy head,

His teeth as large and white;

His beard, of gray and russet blended,

Round as a swallow’s nest descended;

As standard-bearer he defended

Olaf’s flag in the fight.

Near him Kolbiorn had his place,

Like the King in garb and face,

So gallant and so hale;

Every cabin-boy and varlet

Wondered at his cloak of scarlet;

Like a river, frozen and star-lit,

Gleamed his coat of mail.

By the bulkhead, tall and dark,

Stood Thrand Rame of Thelemark,

A figure gaunt and grand;

On his hairy arm imprinted

Was an anchor, azure-tinted;

Like Thor’s hammer, huge and dinted

Was his brawny hand.

Einar Tamberskelver, bare

To the winds his golden hair,

By the mainmast stood;

Graceful was his form, and slender,

And his eyes were deep and tender

As a woman’s, in the splendor

Of her maidenhood.

In the fore-hold Biorn and Bork

Watched the sailors at their work:

Heavens! how they swore!

Thirty men they each commanded,

Iron-sinewed, horny-handed,

Shoulders broad, and chests expanded,

Tugging at the oar.

These, and many more like these,

With King Olaf sailed the seas,

Till the waters vast

Filled them with a vague devotion,

With the freedom and the motion,

With the roll and roar of ocean

And the sounding blast.

When they landed from the fleet,

How they roared through Drontheim’s street,

Boisterous as the gale!

How they laughed and stamped and pounded,

Till the tavern roof resounded

And the host looked on astounded

As they drank the ale!

Never saw the wild North Sea

Such a gallant company

Sail its billows blue!

Never, while they cruised and quarrelled,

Old King Gorm, or Blue-Tooth Harald,

Owned a ship so well apparelled,

Boasted such a crew!