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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to Norway

The Norseman’s Ride

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

THE FROSTY fires of Northern starlight

Gleamed on the glittering snow,

And through the forest’s frozen branches

The shrieking winds did blow;

A floor of blue, translucent marble

Kept ocean’s pulses still,

When, in the depth of dreary midnight,

Opened the burial hill.

Then while a low and creeping shudder

Thrilled upward through the ground,

The Norseman came, as armed for battle,

In silence from his mound:

He who was mourned in solemn sorrow

By many a swordsman bold,

And harps that wailed along the ocean,

Struck by the Skalds of old.

Sudden, a swift and silver shadow

Rushed up from out the gloom,—

A horse that stamped with hoof impatient,

Yet noiseless, on the tomb.

“Ha, Surtur! let me hear thy tramping,

Thou noblest Northern steed,

Whose neigh along the stormy headlands

Bade the bold Viking heed!”

He mounted: like a north-light streaking

The sky with flaming bars,

They, on the winds so wildly shrieking,

Shot up before the stars.

“Is this thy mane, my fearless Surtur,

That streams against my breast?

Is this thy neck, that curve of moonlight,

Which Helva’s hand caressed?

“No misty breathing strains thy nostril,

Thine eye shines blue and cold,

Yet, mounting up our airy pathway,

I see thy hoofs of gold!

Not lighter o’er the springing rainbow

Walhalla’s gods repair,

Than we, in sweeping journey over

The bending bridge of air.

“Far, far around, star-gleams are sparkling

Amid the twilight space;

And Earth, that lay so cold and darkling,

Has veiled her dusky face.

Are those the Nornes that beckon onward

To seats at Odin’s board,

Where nightly by the hands of heroes

The foaming mead is poured?

“’T is Skuld! her star-eye speaks the glory

That waits the warrior’s soul,

When on its hinge of music opens

The gateway of the Pole,—

When Odin’s warder leads the hero

To banquets never done,

And Freya’s eyes outshine in summer

The ever-risen sun.

“On! on! the Northern lights are streaming

In brightness like the morn,

And pealing far amid the vastness,

I hear the Gjallarhorn:

The heart of starry space is throbbing

With songs of minstrels old,

And now, on high Walhalla’s portal,

Gleam Surtur’s hoofs of gold!”