A Viking Foray [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


A Viking Foray.

There’s an echo at the ford,
Where a sobbing tide out-poured
When the mid-sun rose a-noon;
There’s a clamour on the hills, where the clear sky slowly fills
With the glory of the moon.

Hear! a rousing clang of steel
To the belted Norseman’s heel
As his corsair hosts come down,
With the blood-light in their eyes, with their long swords at their thighs,
And their curling beards and brown.

Hark! a woman’s laugh afield,
Where the strong Norsemaidens yield
To their War-Man’s hot request.
Hark! the children’s shout afar, where the Wolf-cub plays at war
With the cub-wolf’s savage zest.

They have bared the naked sword
To the Saxon and his horde,
As a wild wolf bares its fang:
And to-night they’ll sniff the breeze on their chilly Northern seas,
While the fretted rowlocks clang.

Oh, to-night they’ll scent the brine,
With their level oars a-line,
And the sea-froth in their trail;
While their shining axes gleam, and along the moonlit stream
Glides the shadow of the sail.

They will wassail long and deep
Where the curling surges leap
At the whip-strokes of the wind,
With the Dragon in the lead and her Viking drunk with mead,
And his roaring crews behind.

As the rolling Raven reels,
And the Great Ox kicks his heels,
And the Were-wulf strains and snarls,
They will gather to the song of their Nor’land, bold and strong,
And the sagas of her jarls.

’T is “Valhalla for our brave!”
’T is the guerdon that they crave
When the red torch throws its glare;
When the glutted raven feeds by the English Severn’s reeds,
And the spoiler takes his share.

Oh! ’t is ’ware, ye English earls!
And ’t is woe! ye Saxon girls!
And ’t is woe! the Wolf’s intent,
When he comes to cut a way to his plunder and his play
With the captured maids of Kent!

With a hauberk and a helm,
And with bull-hide and with elm,
Ye must gather, ye must band,
When the Eagle flouts the gale, when the Black Ship swings her sail,
And her helmsman heads to land.

For they love to hear the sledge
Of a bitter, biting edge
On the stalwart Saxon’s crown:
For they revel in the game that is played with sword and flame
When the heavy hand comes down.

Oh, to parry and to thrust!
And to cleave us, like a crust
Of our rye bread, fresh and new!
It were sweeter than the tune of their boldest bardic rune —
It were strong man’s deed to do.

They have harried, they have held;
They were robber-born of Eld,
E’en as robber-bred we be:
We must meet them in the wrack with our strong men back to back,
And our ships upon the sea.

We will track them, as they go,
By our women’s wail of woe
And the roof-tree charred once more;
By our good swords hacked and hewed we will know the Rover’s brood
Till the young Wolf-cub comes o’er.

We must light the beacon’s blaze
In our English creeks and bays
Till the English coast’s aglow,
For to-night, along the breeze, on their chilly Northern seas
Rings the war song of our foe.

For the Great Ox and his load
And the Were-wulf feel the goad
Of the steady Nor’-west wind;
And the Dragon’s in the lead, with her Viking drunk with mead,
And his roaring crews behind.

For they swell the runic rhyme
While their steady oars keep time,
And the great sail spreads the yard:
For the sea-foam floats a-lea, and the Robber’s on the sea —
Keep watch, ye Saxon earls! Keep guard!

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 109-112

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