Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRAGEDY OF ASGARD: NAGELFARI, by VICTOR GUSTAVE PLARR



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THE TRAGEDY OF ASGARD: NAGELFARI, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Blinded he sped, the stars around him thrown
Last Line: The embattled host of heaven expectant held.
Subject(s): Bridges; Horseback Riding; Mythology - Norse; Ships & Shipping; Travel; Journeys; Trips


Blinded he sped, the stars around him thrown
Now useless in his cloudy mantle's fold,
As glow-worms in the meshes of a scarf
Dropt by a damsel on a bank of moss;
And as he rode, against his sightless front,
Racked by such thoughts, sudden there smote a breath
Of far-advancing flame. So in the night
Beyond the Atlantic, on the prairies huge,
A quick untoward savour of much smoke,
And on the horizon's verge a battling throb
Of rushing fire appal the rider lone.
Swiftly he shakes his rein: his horse in fear
Tosses its head and spreads strained nostrils wide,
Then gallops madly to the desert farm
To save his master's folk—the shrilling babes,
The goodwife quickly gathering her goods,
The children's dress, and water hard to find,
And papers in their box, and pans, and bread.
So now tall Odin shook out Sleipnir's rein
And spurred to Asgard, and the glorious barb,
Eight-legged, of seed divine, bent nose to earth
And rushed to Odin's city, scenting ill
In that advancing flame. Southward it burned
In Muspel and from Muspel travelled up,
And its fierce redness covered all the dark,
And all the waves of seas, transfused to fire,
Glowed as red coal, and all the skies grew red,
Vomiting forth great sparks and tongues of heat,
And through that fury came a gaunt white ship.
The building of that vessel was untoward.
Never should gods have built her! She is called
The Ship of Dead Men's Nails, ev'n Nagelfar.
And Loki was her steersman. At her helm
He loomed, an awful anger in his eyes.
What of her building? Now, alas, although
Good men had lived and wrought unnumbered years,
Impiety was builder of that ship,
For she was welded from top-mast to keel
With nails untrimmed, wrenched from th' untended hands
Of the stark dead, who lay about the fields
In Midgard, in the Fimbul Winter drear
When brother warred with brother, son with sire,
And left the corpses with long beards unshorn
And nails untrimmed, carrion for wolf and crow.
When that thou trimm'st thy nails, O son of man,
—So might an old, wise skald have counsel given—
Burn what thou parest, for the powers of ill
Catch ever at these fragments of thyself
And hold them hostages against thy soul.
They for long years with such dead spoils contrived
To fashion Nagelfari, which of late
Had found in fratricide both ribs and deck,
Bulwarks and half her hull. And now she sailed,
Wan on the waves, that reddened league on league,—
Sailed forward-blown by tempests from the south,
With Loki for her steersman, in his eyes
An awful anger, and beside him set
Surtur with fiery sword, that waved itself
Above his head far brightlier than day,
And all the Sons of Muspel clustered round,
On thwart and hatchway, hosts of steel-capped heads,
Terribly lucent, and strong shoulders dight
With burning harness, blinding to man's gaze.
And round the bulwarks of the gaunt white ship
The Sons of Muspel had hung out their shields,
With dragons and old symbols of the pit
Flamingly traceried. And now behold
Another craft from eastward cleaving swift
Through the everlasting sea, a barque of night,
Thronged with the Giants of the Outer Garth,
Rimethurses called or Jotuns, who by Thrym
Their king were steered unto their destiny.
Eye could scarce note the mast of that tall ship,
So thickly was she thronged from stem to stern
With clubs and javelins, clasped in monster hands,
Nor might ear well endure her swift advance
So loudly roared the Jotuns in their wrath
Against their hated lords, pillars of Heaven!
And now both ships attained the strand desired,
Where Bifröst's Rainbow-Bridge shone trembling still.
Disdaining to cast anchor, to the shore
Rushed in a wading multitude the hosts
Of Muspel and of Utgard. With them came
Their horses, lean and terrible of eye,
Which mounting, they with clatter of great hooves
Thundered across the bridge. A flame of fire
In front of him and walls of flame behind,
Surtur with brandished sword rode in the van,
Leading the hosts of Darkness and of Death,
And as he leapt upon the Bridge, it brake
Beneath his onset; but the giants strode
Across the ruined arches, and helped o'er
His people to the place for which they sought.
There is a plain that 'trembles at the fight.'
Wigrid 'tis called, and thither Loki led
His multitudes. So vast is that expanse,
A man might journey for a hundred days
Ere he should cross it!
Now its further side
The embattled Host of Heaven expectant held.





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