Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RACE OF ODIN, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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THE RACE OF ODIN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Loud was the hostile clang of arms
Last Line: "she falls—and lo, the world again is free!"
Subject(s): Freedom; Mythology - Celtic; War; Liberty


LOUD was the hostile clang of arms,
And hoarse the hollow sound,
When Pompey scatter'd wild alarms
The ravag'd East around,
The crimson deluge dreadful dy'd the ground:
An iron forest of destructive spears
Rear'd their stern stems, where late
The bending harvest wav'd its rustling ears:
Rome, through the swarming gate,
Pour'd her ambitious hosts to slaughter forth:
Such was the will of fate!
From the cold regions of the North,
At length, on raven wings, shall vengeance come,
And justice pour the urn of bitterness on Rome.

"Roman!" ('twas thus the chief of Asgard cried)
"Ambitious Roman! triumph for awhile,
Trample on freedom in thy victor pride;
Yet, though now thy fortune smile,
Though Mithridates fly forlorn,
Once thy dread, but now thy scorn,
Odin will never live a shameful slave;
Some region will he yet explore,
Beyond the reach of Rome;
Where, upon some colder shore,
Freedom yet thy force shall brave,
Freedom yet shall find a home:
There, where the eagle dares not soar,
Soon shall the raven find a safe retreat.
Asgard, farewell! Farewell, my native seat!
Farewell for ever! Yet, whilst life shall roll
Her warm tide through thine injured chieftain's breast,
Oft will he to thy memory drop the tear.
Never more shall Odin rest,
Never quaff the sportive bowl,
Or soothe in peace his slothful soul,
Whilst Rome triumphant lords it here.
Triumph in thy victor might,
Mock the chief of Asgard's flight;
But soon the seeds of vengeance shall be sown,
And Odin's race hurl down thy blood-cemented throne."

Nurtur'd by Scandinavia's hardy soil,
Strong grew the vigorous plant;
Danger could ne'er the nation daunt,
For war, to other realms a toil,
Was but the pastime here;
Skill'd the bold youth to hurl the unerring spear,
To wield the falchion, to direct the dart,
Firm was each warrior's frame, yet gentle was his heart.

Freedom, with joy, beheld the noble race,
And fill'd each bosom with her vivid fire;
Nor vice, nor luxury, debase
The free-born offspring of the free-born sire;
There genuine poesy, in freedom bright,
Diffus'd o'er all her clear, her all-enlivening light.

From Helicon's meandering rills
The inspiring goddess fled;
Amid the Scandinavian hills
In clouds she hid her head;
There the bold, the daring muse,
Every daring warrior wooes;
The sacred lust of deathless fame
Burnt in every warrior's soul:
"Whilst future ages hymn my name,
(The son of Odin cries)
I shall quaff the foaming bowl
With my forefathers in yon azure skies;
Methinks I see my foeman's skull
With the mantling beverage full;
I hear the shield-roof'd hall resound
To martial music's echoing sound;
I see the virgins, valour's meed,—
Death is bliss—I rush to bleed."

See where the murderer Egill stands,
He grasps the harp with skilful hands,
And pours the soul-emoving tide of song;
Mute admiration holds the listening throng:
The royal sire forgets his murder'd son;
Eric forgives; a thousand years
Their swift revolving course have run,
Since thus the bard could check the father's tears,
Could soothe his soul to peace,
And never shall the fame of Egill cease.

Dark was the dungeon, damp the ground,
Beneath the reach of cheering day,
Where Regner dying lay;
Poisonous adders all around
On the expiring warrior hung,
Yet the full stream of verse flow'd from his dauntless tongue:
"We fought with swords," the warrior cry'd,
"We fought with swords," he said—he died.

Jomsburg lifts her lofty walls,
Sparta revives on Scandinavia's shore;
Undismay'd each hero falls,
And scorns his death in terror to deplore.
"Strike, Thorchill, strike! drive deep the blow,
Jomsburg's sons shall not complain,
Never shall the brave appear
Bound in slavery's shameful chain,
Freedom ev'n in death is dear.
Strike, Thorchill, strike! drive deep the blow,
We joy to quit this world of woe;
We rush to seize the seats above,
And gain the warrior's meed of happiness and love."

The destin'd hour at length is come,
And vengeful heaven decrees the queen of cities' doom;
No longer heaven withholds the avenging blow
From those proud domes whence Brutus fled;
Where just Cherea bow'd his head,
And proud oppression laid the Gracchi low:
In vain the timid slaves oppose,
For freedom led their sinewy foes,
For valour fled with liberty:
Rome bows her lofty walls,
The imperial city falls,
She falls—and lo, the world again is free!"





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