Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Incantation of Ulfo
By Richard Alsop (1761–1815)
From the Conquest of Scandinavia.

  FORTH from his camp the dire enchanter stray’d,
’Mid the weird horrors of the midnight shade,
Till a lone dell his wandering footsteps found,
Fenced with rough cliffs, with mournful cypress crown’d;
There stayed his course: with stern, terrific look,        5
Thrice waved on high, his magic wand he shook;
And thrice he raised the wild funereal yell,
That calls the spirits from th’ abyss of hell.
When, shrilly answering to the yell afar,
Borne on the winds, three female forms appear;        10
Dire as the hag who, ’mid the dreams of night,
Pursues the fever’d hectic’s trembling flight.
With gestures strange, approach the haggard band,
And nigh the wizard take their silent stand.
Near, in a rock, adown whose rugged side        15
The lonely waters of the desert glide,
O’ergrown with brambles, oped an ample cave,
Drear as the gloomy mansions of the grave.
Within, the screech-owl made her mournful home,
And birds obscene that hover round the tomb;        20
Dark, from the moss-grown top, together clung,
Ill-omen’d bats, in torpid clusters, hung;
And o’er the bottom, with dank leaves bestrow’d,
Crept the black adder, and the bloated toad.
Thither the magic throng repair’d, to form        25
Their spells obscure, and weave the unhallow’d charm.
Muttering dire words, thrice strode the wizard round;
Thrice, with his potent wand, he smote the ground;
Deep groans ensued; on wings of circling flame,
Slow-rising from beneath, a cauldron came;        30
Blue gleam’d the fires amid the shades of night,
And o’er the cavern shot a livid light.
  Now oped a horrid scene: all black with blood,
Th’ infernal band, prepared for slaughter, stood.
Two beauteous babes, by griffons borne away,        35
While lock’d in sleep the hapless mothers lay,
Whose smiles the frozen breast to love might warm,
And e’en the unsparing wolf to pity charm,
The hags unveil’d; and sportive as they play’d,
Deep in their hearts embrued the murderous blade;        40
Their dying pangs with smile malignant view’d,
And life’s last ebbings in the sanguine flood.
Now, mix’d with various herbs of magic power,
In the dark cauldron glows the purple gore:
The night-shade dire, whose baleful branches wave,        45
In glooms of horror o’er the murderer’s grave;
The manchineel, alluring to the eye,
Where, veil’d in beauty, deadliest poisons lie;
The far-famed Indian herb, of power to move
The foes of nature to unite in love,        50
The serpent race to infant mildness charm,
And the fierce tiger of his rage disarm,—
Known to the tribes that range the trackless wood
Where mad Antonio heaves the headlong flood;—
The monster plant that blasts Tartaria’s heath;        55
And Upas fatal as the stroke of death:
Boil’d the black mass, the associate fiends advance,
And round the cauldron form the magic dance.
Three times around, in mystic maze they trod,
With hideous gesture, and terrific nod;        60
While Runic rhymes, and words that freeze the soul,
From their blue lips, in tones of horror, roll.
The wizard raised his voice, the cavern round,
Wild shuddering, trembled at the fearful sound;
In mute attention stood the haggard throng,        65
As thus he woke th’ incantatory song.
        From the dreary realms below,
          From the dark domains of fear,
        From the ghastly seats of wo,
          Hear! tremendous Hela, hear!        70
        Dreadful Power! whose awful form
        Blackens in the midnight storm;
        Glares athwart the lurid skies,
        While the sheeted lightning flies;
        When the thunder awful roars;        75
        When the earthquake rocks the shores;
        Mounted on the wings of air,
        Thou rulest the elemental war.
        When famine brings her sickly train;
        When battle strews the carnaged plain;        80
        When pestilence her venom’d wand
        Waves o’er the desolated land;
        Rush the ocean’s whelming tides
        O’er the foundering vessel’s sides;
        Then ascends thy voice on high;        85
        Then is heard thy funeral cry;
        Then, in horror, dost thou rise
        On th’ expiring wretch’s eyes.
        From the dreary realms below,
          From the dark domains of fear,        90
        From the ghastly seats of wo,
          Hear! tremendous Hela, hear!
        Goddess! whose terrific sway
        Nastrond’s realms of guilt obey;
        Where, amid impervious gloom,        95
        Sullen frowns the serpent dome;
        Roll’d beneath th’ envenom’d tide,
        Where the sons of sorrow ’bide;
        Thee, the mighty demon host;
        Thee, the giants of the frost;        100
        Thee, the genii tribes adore;
        Fenris owns thy sovereign power:
        And th’ imperial prince of fire,
        Surtur, trembles at thine ire.
        Thine, the victor’s pride to mar;        105
        Thine, to turn the scale of war;
        Chiefs and princes at thy call,
        From their spheres of glory fall;
        Empires are in ruin hurl’d;
        Desolation blasts the world        110
        From the dreary realms below,
          From the dark domains of fear,
        From the ghastly seats of wo,
          Hear! tremendous Hela, hear
        Queen of terror, queen of death!        115
        Thee, we summon from beneath.
        From the deep infernal shade;
        From the mansion of the dead;
        Niflheim’s black, funereal dome:
        Hither rise, and hither come!        120
        By the potent Runic rhyme,
        Awful, mystic, and sublime;
        By the streams that roar below;
        By the sable fount of wo;
        By the burning gulf of pain,        125
        Muspel’s home, and Surtur’s reign;
        By the day when, o’er the world,
        Wild confusion shall be hurl’d,
        Rymer mount his fiery car,
        Giants, genii, rush to war,        130
        To vengeance move the prince of fire,
        And heaven, and earth, in flames expire
        From the dreary realms below,
          From the dark domains of fear,
        From the ghastly seats of wo,        135
          Hear! tremendous Hela! hear.
He ceased—the flames withdrew their magic light,
And, clothed in deeper horrors, frown’d the night.
At once, an awful stillness paused around,
Hush’d were the winds, and mute the tempest’s sound,        140
One deep, portentous calm o’er nature spread,
Nor e’en the aspen’s restless foliage play’d;—
Such the dire calm that glooms Caribean shores,
Ere, roused to rage, the fell tornado roars:—
Not long, for lo! from central earth released,        145
Shrill through the cavern sigh’d a hollow blast;
Wild wails of wo, with shrieks of terror join’d,
In deathful murmurs groan along the wind;
Peal following peal, hoarse bursts the thunder round,
Redoubling echoes swell the dreadful sound;        150
Flash the blue lightnings in continual blaze;
One sheet of fire the kindling gloom displays;
And o’er the vault, with pale, sulphureous ray,
Pour all the horrors of infernal day.
Now heaved the vale around, the cavern’d rock,        155
The earth, deep trembling, to its centre shook,
Wide yawn’d the rending floor, and gave to sight
A chasm tremendous as the gates of night.
Slow from the gulf, ’mid lightnings faintly seen,
Rose the dread form of death’s terrific queen;        160
Of wolfish aspect, and with eyes of flame,
Black Jarnvid’s witch, her fell attendant, came;
Than whom, no monster roams the dark abodes,
More fear’d by friends, more hated by the gods.
  More frightful, more deform’d, than fancy’s power        165
Pourtrays the demon of the midnight hour,
In hideous majesty, of various hue,
Part sallow pale, and part a livid blue,
A form gigantic, awful Hela frown’d;
Her towering head with sable serpents crown’d;        170
Around her waist, in many a volume roll’d,
A crimson adder wreathed his poisonous fold;
And o’er her face, beyond description dread,
A sulphury mist its shrouding mantle spread.
Her voice, the groan of war, the shriek of wo,        175
When sinks the city whelm’d in gulfs below,
In tones of thunder, o’er the cavern broke,
And nature shudder’d as the demon spoke.
  “Presumptuous mortal! that, with mystic strain,
Dost summon Hela from the realms of pain,        180
What cause thus prompts thee rashly to invade
The deep repose of death’s eternal shade?
What, from the abodes of never-ending night,
Calls me, reluctant, to the climes of light?”
  “Empress supreme! whose wide-extended sway        185
All nature owns, and earth and hell obey;
The solemn call no trivial wish inspires;
No common cause thy potent aid requires;
The dooms of empires on the issue wait,
And doubtful tremble in the scale of fate.        190
The glow of morn, on yon extended heath,
Will light the nations to the strife of death.
There Saracinia’s sons their force unite
With Scandia’s monarch, Woldomir, in fight;
By strength combined, proud Odin to o’erwhelm.        195
The fierce invader of the Scandian realm;
By Woden favor’d with peculiar grace;
Friend of the gods, and odious to thy race.
Then, in th’ impending fight, thy succor lend,
And o’er our host thy arm of strength extend;        200
The hostile bands, protected by thy foes,
With dangers circle, and with ruin close;
With wild dismay their shrinking ranks pervade;
Whelm their pale numbers in th’ eternal shade;
And wing, with certain aim, the missive dart,        205
Or point the falchion, to the leader’s heart.”
  Thus Ulfo spoke—and Hela thus return’d.
“Know, while in primal night creation mourn’d,
The eternal cause, the great, all-ruling mind,
The various term of human life assign’d;        210
Irrevocably firm, the fix’d intent
No power can vary, and no chance prevent.
Mark’d by the fates, for years of bloody strife,
Rolls the long flood of Odin’s varied life;
Nor is it ours the stern decree to thwart        215
By open violence, or by covert art.
Yet still the power is left us to annoy,
Whom rigid heaven denies us to destroy;
And, though of life secure, the hostile chief,
The wretched victim of severest grief,        220
Shall mourn his arms disgraced, on yonder plain,
His laurels blasted, and his heroes slain.”
  She ceased;—in thunder vanishing from view,
The fiends, the cauldron, and the hags withdrew.
Back to the camp the enchanter sped his way,        225
Ere, o’er the east, arose the first faint glimpse of day.

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