Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Battle-flag of Sigurd
By Dora Greenwell (1821–1882)
I HAVE 1 no folded flock to show,
  Tho’ from my youth I have loved the sheep
And the lambs, as they stray’d in the valleys low
  Or clomb the upland pastures steep;
  But none were given me to keep!        5
I stood on the hill when the dawn brake red;
  Thro’ the darkling glen the fire drew nigh;
They came on swift with a stealthy tread;
  I gave the earliest warning cry!
Then flash’d the falchion, the arrow flew;        10
  I did not fight, nor yield, nor fly—
I held up the flag the whole day through—
  Wrap it round me when I die!
I have no garner’d sheaf to show;
  Tho’ oft with my shining sickle bared        15
I have wrought with the reapers, row by row,
  And join’d in the shout as they homeward fared:
  I was not by when the land was shared!
I stood at noon when the maidens dread
  Came forth ere the battle to choose the slain,        20
And at nightfall the raven’s foot was red
  And the wolves were met on the dark’ning plain.
Then hew’d the hanger, the sword smote sore,
  I held up the flag till the day went by;
It was glued to my straining clasp with gore—        25
  Wrap it round me when I die!
I have no silken spoil to show,
  Nor torque of the beaten gold, no red
Rich broider’d mantle, wrung from the foe
  Or flung by chief as the banquet sped;        30
  I have only watch’d, and toil’d, and bled!
I stand at eve on the vessel’s prow,
  My heart is wounded, and I have striven
So long that my arm is weary now,
  And the flag I bear is stain’d and riven;        35
The dark waves mutter, the night dews fall;
  Twixt a sullen sea and a stormy sky
I hold up the flag in sight of all—
  Wrap it round me when I die!
Note 1. The flag of Sigurd carried victory with it, but brought death to its bearer. [back]

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