Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Viking Code
By Esaias Tegnér (1782–1846)
From ‘Frithiof’s Saga’
  [Frithiof having set sail, draws up a code of conduct and honor for himself and his party; and after a career of successful sea-roving, resolves to revisit his native land.]

FAR and wide, like the falcon that hunts through the sky, flew he now o’er the desolate sea;
And his Vikinga Code, for his champions on board, wrote he well: wilt thou hear what it be?
“On thy ship pitch no tent; in no house shalt thou sleep: in the hall who our friends ever knew?
On his shield sleeps the Viking, his sword in his hand, and for tent has yon heaven the blue.
“With a short-shafted hammer fights conquering Thor; Frey’s own sword but an ell long is made:        5
That’s enough. Hast thou courage? Strike close to thy foe: not too short for thee then is thy blade!
“When the storm roars on high, up aloft with the sail; ah! how pleasant’s the sea in its wrath!
Let it blow, let it blow! He’s a coward that furls; rather founder than furl in thy path.
“On the shore, not on board, mayst thou toy with a maid: Freja’s self would prove false to thy love;
For the dimple deceives on her cheek, and her tresses would net-like entrap thee above!        10
“Wine is Valfather’s drink,—a carouse thou mayst have; but yet steady and upright appear:
He who staggers on shore may stand up, but will soon down to sleep-giving Ran stagger here.
“Sails the merchant ship forth, thou his bark mayst protect, if due tribute his weak hand has told:
On thy wave art thou king; he’s a slave to his pelf, and thy steel is as good as his gold!
“With the dice and the lot shall the booty be shared; and complain not, however it goes:        15
But the sea-king himself throws no dice on the deck,—only glory he seeks from his foes.
“Heaves a Viking in sight,—then come boarding and strife, and hot work is it under the shield;
But from us art thou banished—forget not the doom—if a step or a foot thou shalt yield!
“’Tis enough, shouldst thou conquer! Who prays thee for peace has no sword, and cannot be thy foe:
Prayer is Valhalla’s child, hear the pale Virgin’s voice; yes! a scoundrel is he who says no!        20
“Viking gains are deep wounds, and right well they adorn if they stand on the brow or the breast.
Let them bleed! Twice twelve hours first must circle ere binds them, who Vikinga comrade would rest!”
Thus his laws carved he out, and fresh exploits each day and fresh fame to strange coast-lands he brought;
And his like found he none on the blue-rolling sea, and his champions right willing they fought.
But himself sat all darkly, with rudder in hand, and looked down on the slow-rocking spray;—        25
“Deep thou art! Peace perchance in those depths still may bloom, but above here all peace dies away.
“Is the White God enraged? Let him take his good sword,—I will fall should it so be decreed:
But he sits in yon sky, gloomy thoughts sending down; ne’er my soul from their sadness is freed!”
Yet when battle is near, like the fresh eagle flying, his spirit fierce soars with delight;
Loudly thunders his voice, and with clear brow he stands, like the lightener still foremost in fight.        30
Thus from vict’ry to vict’ry he ceaselessly swam, on that wide-foaming grave all secure;
And fresh islands he saw, and fresh bays in the south, till fair winds on to Greek-Land allure.
When its groves he beheld, in the green tide reflected, its temples in ruin bent low,—
Freja knows what he thought, and the scald; and if e’er thou hast known how to love—thou wilt know!
“Here our dwelling had been! Here’s the isle, here’s the land: of this temple my sire oft would tell;        35
Hither ’twas, hither ’twas, I invited my maid;—ah! she, cruel, the North loved too well!
“’Mong these happy green vales dwells not peace? and remembrance, ah! haunts she not columns so fair?
Like the whisp’rings of lovers soft murmur those springs, and with bridal songs birds fill the air.
“Where is Ingeborg now?—Is so soon all forgot, for a chief withered, gray-haired, and old?
I, I cannot forget! Gladly gave I my life, yet once more that dear form to behold!        40
“And three years have gone by since my own land I saw, kingly hall of fair Saga the Queen!
Rise there yet so majestic those mountains to heaven? keeps my forefathers’ dale its bright green?
“On the cairn where my father lies buried, a lime-tree I planted,—ah! blooms it there now?
Who its tender shoot guards? Give thy moisture, O earth! and thy dews, O thou heaven, give thou!
“Yet why linger I here, on the wave of the stranger?—Is tribute, is blood, then my goal?        45
I have glory sufficient; and beggarly gold and its brightness, deep scorneth my soul.
“There’s the flag on the mast; to the Northland it points, and the North holds the country I love:
Back to northward I’ll steer, and will follow the course of the breezes fresh-blowing above!”

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