Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRAGEDY OF ASGARD: LOKI'S INSULTING, by VICTOR GUSTAVE PLARR



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THE TRAGEDY OF ASGARD: LOKI'S INSULTING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A bard in unforgotten verse has told
Last Line: Their guileful trapper in a foaming pool.
Subject(s): Balder (Norse God Of Light); Loki (Norse God); Mythology - Norse; Odin (Norse God)


A bard in unforgotten verse has told
How Loki slew by stealth and Balder died,
And the remorseful Hodur, instrument
Of Loki's guile, fell on his sword like Saul,
And perished in his house while slept the gods
In Asgard near him, so that the new ghost
Quick followed Balder's to the shores of Hel,
Thus expiating ill an innocent crime,
Wrought, when, in blindness, Loki whispering him,
He flung the Bough of Mistletoe and slew
Balder the Bright, esteemed invulnerable,
Balder the Beautiful, the clement god.
Arnold, ensuing Balder's virtue, ceased
Singing his lustrous theme when Hermod stood
At gaze, while Balder and that dear god's wife,
Who softly died for love of him in sleep,
Took each a hand of Hodur's, and all three,—
The bright forgiving and the blind forgiven,—
'Departed o'er the cloudy plain, and soon
Faded from sight in the interior gloom.'
They had gone down to Death nor might return,
And Hermod with a sigh rode back to Heaven.

There came a day when the divinities
In Oegir's habitation, crystal-wrought,
Assembled at the bottom of the deep.
It was the time for harvesting the flax,
And, grieving still for Balder, they repaired
To drink their anguish down in golden mead
And to become forgetful. Far below
The lapsing of the waves gleam Oegir's halls,
Lit by the corals and the golden ores
That burn in the green waters underneath
The swiftly-cleaving ships of fair-haired men.
Oegir, the Giant, and his consort Ran,
Are by the gods beloved and roam the seas
Restlessly evermore amid their band
Of water-spirits. Now the mournful gods,
Assembled in the glimmering sunk house,
Sate each in state along the board enthroned.
Thor only was not there, for he was gone
To help the peasants cut the weavers' flax
And to slay giants and huge noisome beasts
Such as lie ambushed for lone harvesters.
Then slily Loki glided into hall,
Softly with catlike step, to drink the mead,
And tilt the long horn to the rafters high,
And one again mix in divine discourse.
But Funafeng, who stood as sentinel
By the great door, delayed his mean advance.
'There is no seat,' he cried, 'prepared for thee
In Oegir's hall. Go, seek thyself a place
In Angurboda's house who bore thee wolves!'
Loudly the gods acclaimed bold Funafeng,
But anger leapt in Loki's tragic heart,
And lifting up his hand he struck one blow
And slew the watchman. Thereupon arose
A clamour of immortal voices joined
To mourn that outrage. Had not blood been spilt
In holy places? Swift the gods to arms
Flew and on Loki rushed, but in the whirl
Of dispread golden draperies he dodged,
Slipt in a twinkling from the unguarded door,
And, turning crab, lurked in a wood hard by
Made of old sea-wrack and fine-branching tulse.
Slowly the gods each to his place returned,
And now the mead flowed free, and every hand
Held up a horn that of itself refilled.
Beyggwir and Beyla, the housekeeper, served,
And tottering brought the Boar Serimner's flesh
Heaped on great platters. Soon the God of Masques,
The Mumel-King, stood forth. He brought with him
Gleemen with harps and jugglers deft to toss
The dagger's danger and the whirl of balls
Swift-circling round their heads. The gods forgot
Their anger, for no feast could they contrive
In Heaven's high hall more excellent than this.
Then Loki in their midst, creeping low-bent
Among the benches, sudden reappeared.
He had found Eldir at the gate on guard
And thus had asked: 'Of what do they discourse,
The Gods of Victory?' Eldir replied:—
'Of arms and valiant deeds, but not of thee!
Never a word of Loki now they tell!'
And the bad god had thrust him on one side,
Averring loud: 'Then will I join myself
Unto their company and with their shame
So cover them and guilt, not one shall dare
Answer me any word.' Among the gods
Sudden he loomed, and a deep quiet reigned,
And every burning eye on him was bent
Who with red death had sullied sanctuary.
Then boldly Loki asked:—'Will you refuse
Me your co-equal, me a god like you,
A bench at table and a cup of mead?'
But Bragi, god of poets, answer made,—
'Never shall we consent to take you back
Vile Lok, on equal terms!' Then Loki turned
To glorious Odin. 'Hast thou then forgot
How in old days,' he cried, 'we mingled blood,
Spurting from our right arms, in the same bowl,
And how we swore fraternity and vowed
Never to drink unless his fellow drank?'
Vainly he did not speak, for Odin now
Remembered that old customary bond.
So he bade Widar make a place for Loki
Beside him on the bench and give him mead,
Perjured although he was, yea, wholly vile.
Then Loki at one draught the mead drank down:
'All hail,' he cried, 'O holy gods! All hail,
Most noble goddesses! But on this Brag
Confusion fall, for he denied me drink
When that I thirsted.' Silent Bragi sat,
Then in a simple passionate phrase averred,
'I would give sword, and ring, and horse, if now
I could ensure that Lok no more should harm!'
But the Blasphemer: 'Bragi is not rich
In treasure of bright rings: the Prince of Skalds
Has little use for swords, and only wants
A horse to flee upon when foes press hard!
You know a herd of swine will frighten him
In a farm-garth—this gentle god of songs!'
Then Bragi challenged him to instant fight,
But Loki, as insulting guests are wont,
Heeded him not and quietly poured forth
Continuous torrents of accusing speech,
Veiling his insolence in polished phrase
With smiles to right and left. Unscholared folk
Had almost deemed him versed in compliment.
His art—Oh, is it not well practised still
In large luxurious cities? He o'erwhelmed
Both goddesses and gods with charges dark,
Aspersions couched in tropes and gracious words.
Odin and Freya were tormented so,
That she cried out: 'Were only Balder here,
My son had silenced thy too slanderous tongue!'
'Queen of the Goddesses,' he mild rejoined,
Speaking as soft as though he wooed her love,
'Shall I confess to thee one more misdeed
Done by thy serf? Shall I avow 'twas I
Gave the branched Mistletoe to Hodur blind
That he might send thy darling down to Hell?'
Loud shrieked the Queen of Goddesses; the gods
Caught up their weapons, lying piled around,
But ere each hand was clasped upon the haft,
A clap of dreadful thunder shook the house,
And Thor stood in the middle of the hall,
Wielding his giant club, Miölnir hight.
Nothing abashed, him Loki now did taunt,
Turning upon him with a raging sneer,
'Hast thou done hiding then within the thumb
Of Skrymir's glove?' Him Thor, the Heat-bringer,
Hlorridi called, with hammer threatened fierce,
But Loki rose and thus did perorate:—
'Lo, I have sung your glory in these halls,
But see, this glory shall evanish soon
When once Destruction's burning fires draw near
Here for the last time they have drunk cool mead,
For Ragnarök is coming! As for me
I hide myself from that uplifted club,
Whereof the wielder fain would strike me down!'
And ere the mace could fall—yea, ere it fell,
Innocuous in air, straining Thor's arm,
And ere the gods could utter any word,
Sudden, before their dazed immortal eyes
Loki became a fish and darted far
Through the wide doorway in the rushing floods.
Long the gods sought for Loki. They went through
Asgard their city, Midgard or man's earth,
And Jotunheim and the Black Elves' abode;
Yet found not. Then great Odin did ascend
To Lidskialf's solitary lodge on high,
And sate him on his throne, and gravely scanned
The Nine Wide Worlds, and at the last he saw
A lonely house on a high mountain side,
Where the Betrayer lurked. Descending swift,
The gods he taught where Loki should be found.
So they marched thither, but the watchful god
Dived as a salmon in a raving flood.
His fire was smouldered on his hearth, and there
Geifion beheld the semblance of a net,
Woven by Loki in long watchful days.
It was the first that ever yet was woven,
And Lok had flung it madly in the flame
When he beheld the fast approaching gods,
But the gods drew it forth, and copied it,
And with the double of his snare entrapped
Their guileful trapper in a foaming pool.





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