Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  Part First. The Musician’s Tale: The Saga of King Olaf. XX. Einar Tamberskelver

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. XX. Einar Tamberskelver

IT was Einar Tamberskelver

Stood beside the mast;

From his yew-bow, tipped with silver,

Flew the arrows fast;

Aimed at Eric unavailing,

As he sat concealed,

Half behind the quarter-railing,

Half behind his shield.

First an arrow struck the tiller,

Just above his head;

“Sing, O Eyvind Skaldaspiller,”

Then Earl Eric said.

“Sing the song of Hakon dying,

Sing his funeral wail!”

And another arrow flying

Grazed his coat of mail.

Turning to a Lapland yeoman,

As the arrow passed,

Said Earl Eric, “Shoot that bowman

Standing by the mast.”

Sooner than the word was spoken

Flew the yeoman’s shaft;

Einar’s bow in twain was broken,

Einar only laughed.

“What was that?” said Olaf, standing

On the quarter-deck.

“Something heard I like the stranding

Of a shattered wreck.”

Einar then, the arrow taking

From the loosened string,

Answered, “That was Norway breaking

From thy hand, O King!”

“Thou art but a poor diviner,”

Straightway Olaf said;

“Take my bow, and swifter, Einar,

Let thy shafts be sped.”

Of his bows the fairest choosing,

Reached he from above;

Einar saw the blood-drops oozing

Through his iron glove.

But the bow was thin and narrow;

At the first assay,

O’er its head he drew the arrow,

Flung the bow away;

Said, with hot and angry temper

Flushing in his cheek,

“Olaf! for so great a Kämper

Are thy bows too weak!”

Then, with smile of joy defiant

On his beardless lip,

Scaled he, light and self-reliant,

Eric’s dragon-ship.

Loose his golden locks were flowing,

Bright his armor gleamed;

Like Saint Michael overthrowing

Lucifer he seemed.