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

Norway: Angvalds-ness

The Skerry of Shrieks

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

NOW from all King Olaf’s farms

His men-at-arms

Gathered on the Eve of Easter;

To his house at Angvalds-ness

Fast they press,

Drinking with the royal feaster.

Loudly through the wide-flung door

Came the roar

Of the sea upon the Skerry;

And its thunder loud and near

Reached the ear,

Mingling with their voices merry.

“Hark!” said Olaf to his Scald,

Halfred the Bald,

“Listen to that song and learn it!

Half my kingdom would I give,

As I live,

If by such songs you would earn it!

“For of all the runes and rhymes

Of all times,

Best I like the ocean’s dirges,

When the old harper heaves and rocks,

His hoary locks

Flowing and flashing in the surges!”

Halfred answered: “I am called

The Unappalled!

Nothing hinders me or daunts me.

Hearken to me, then, O King,

While I sing

The great Ocean Song that haunts me.”

“I will hear your song sublime

Some other time,”

Says the drowsy monarch, yawning,

And retires; each laughing guest

Applauds the jest;

Then they sleep till day is dawning.

Pacing up and down the yard,

King Olaf’s guard

Saw the sea-mist slowly creeping

O’er the sands, and up the hill,

Gathering still

Round the house where they were sleeping.

It was not the fog he saw,

Nor misty flaw,

That above the landscape brooded;

It was Eyvind Kallda’s crew

Of warlocks blue

With their caps of darkness hooded!

Round and round the house they go,

Weaving slow

Magic circles to encumber

And imprison in their ring

Olaf the King,

As he helpless lies in slumber.

Then athwart the vapors dun

The Easter sun

Streamed with one broad track of splendor!

In their real forms appeared

The warlocks weird,

Awful as the Witch of Endor.

Blinded by the light that glared,

They groped and stared

Round about with steps unsteady;

From his window Olaf gazed,

And, amazed,

“Who are these strange people?” said he.

“Eyvind Kallda and his men!”

Answered then

From the yard a sturdy farmer;

While the men-at-arms apace

Filled the place,

Busily buckling on their armor.

From the gates they sallied forth,

South and north,

Scoured the island coast around them,

Seizing all the warlock band,

Foot and hand

On the Skerry’s rocks they bound them.

And at eve the king again

Called his train,

And, with all the candles burning,

Silent sat and heard once more

The sullen roar

Of the ocean tides returning.

Shrieks and cries of wild despair

Filled the air,

Growing fainter as they listened;

Then the bursting surge alone

Sounded on;—

Thus the sorcerers were christened!

“Sing, O Scald, your song sublime,

Your ocean-rhyme,”

Cried King Olaf: “it will cheer me!”

Said the Scald, with pallid cheeks,

“The Skerry of Shrieks

Sings too loud for you to hear me!”