Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part First. The Musician’s Tale: The Saga of King Olaf. XVII. King Svend of the Forked Beard

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. XVII. King Svend of the Forked Beard

LOUDLY the sailors cheered

Svend of the Forked Beard,

As with his fleet he steered

Southward to Vendland;

Where with their courses hauled

All were together called,

Under the Isle of Svald

Near to the mainland.

After Queen Gunhild’s death,

So the old Saga saith,

Plighted King Svend his faith

To Sigrid the Haughty;

And to avenge his bride,

Soothing her wounded pride,

Over the waters wide

King Olaf sought he.

Still on her scornful face,

Blushing with deep disgrace,

Bore she the crimson trace

Of Olaf’s gauntlet;

Like a malignant star,

Blazing in heaven afar,

Red shone the angry scar

Under her frontlet.

Oft to King Svend she spake,

“For thine own honor’s sake

Shalt thou swift vengeance take

On the vile coward!”

Until the King at last,

Gusty and overcast,

Like a tempestuous blast

Threatened and lowered.

Soon as the Spring appeared,

Svend of the Forked Beard

High his red standard reared,

Eager for battle;

While every warlike Dane,

Seizing his arms again,

Left all unsown the grain,

Unhoused the cattle.

Likewise the Swedish King

Summoned in haste a Thing,

Weapons and men to bring

In aid of Denmark;

Eric the Norseman, too,

As the war-tidings flew,

Sailed with a chosen crew

From Lapland and Finmark.

So upon Easter day

Sailed the three kings away,

Out of the sheltered bay,

In the bright season;

With them Earl Sigvald came,

Eager for spoil and fame;

Pity that such a name

Stooped to such treason!

Safe under Svald at last,

Now were their anchors cast,

Safe from the sea and blast,

Plotted the three kings;

While, with a base intent,

Southward Earl Sigvald went,

On a foul errand bent,

Unto the Sea-kings.

Thence to hold on his course

Unto King Olaf’s force,

Lying within the hoarse

Mouths of Stet-haven;

Him to ensnare and bring

Unto the Danish king,

Who his dead corse would fling

Forth to the raven!