The Descent of Odin. An Ode
(From the Norse-Tongue,) in Bartholinus, de causis contemnendae mortis; Hafniae, 1689, Quarto. Upreis Odinn allda gautr, &c.
1 Uprose the King of Men with speed,
2 And saddled straight his coal-black steed;[*]
[*] [steed] Sleipner was the Horse of Odin, wch had eight legs. [Note inC (ommonplace) B (ook).]
3 Down the yawning steep he rode,
4 That leads to Hela's[*]
[*] [Hela the Latinized form of O [ld] N [orse] Hel] Niflheimr, the hell of the Gothic nations, consisted of nine worlds, to which were devoted all such as died of sickness, old-age, or by any other means than in battle: Over it presided Hela, the Goddess of Death. Hela is described with a dreadful countenance, & her body half flesh-colour & half blew. [Note inC (ommonplace) B (ook).]drear abode.
5 Him the dog of darkness spied,
6 His shaggy throat he opened wide,
7 While from his jaws, with carnage filled,
8 Foam and human gore distilled:
9 Hoarse he bays with hideous din,
10 Eyes that glow and fangs that grin;
11 And long pursues with fruitless yell
12 The father of the powerful spell.
13 Onward still his way he takes,
14 (The groaning earth beneath him shakes,)
15 Till full before his fearless eyes
16 The portals nine of hell arise.
17 Right against the eastern gate,
18 By the moss-grown pile he sate,
19 Where long of yore to sleep was laid
20 The dust of the prophetic maid.
21 Facing to the northern clime,
22 Thrice he traced the runic rhyme;
23 Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
24 The thrilling verse that wakes the dead;[*]
[*] The original word is Vallgaldr; from Valr mortuus, & Galdr incantatio. [Note inC (ommonplace) B (ook).]
25 Till from out the hollow ground
26 Slowly breathed a sullen sound.
27 What call unknown, what charms, presume
28 To break the quiet of the tomb?
29 Who thus afflicts my troubled sprite,
30 And drags me from the realms of night?
31 Long on these mouldering bones have beat
32 The winter's snow, the summer's heat,
33 The drenching dews, and driving rain!
34 Let me, let me sleep again.
35 Who is he, with voice unblest,
36 That calls me from the bed of rest?
37 A Traveller, to thee unknown,
38 Is he that calls, a Warrior's son.
39 Thou the deeds of light shalt know;
40 Tell me what is done below,
41 For whom yon glittering board is spread,
42 Dressed for whom yon golden bed.
43 Mantling in the goblet see
44 The pure beverage of the bee,
45 O'er it hangs the shield of gold;
46 'Tis the drink of Balder bold:
47 Balder's head to death is given.
48 Pain can reach the sons of Heaven!
49 Unwilling I my lips unclose:
50 Leave me, leave me to repose.
51 Once again my call obey.
52 Prophetess, arise and say,
53 What dangers Odin's child await,
54 Who the author of his fate.
55 In Hoder's hand the hero's doom:
56 His brother sends him to the tomb.
57 Now my weary lips I close:
58 Leave me, leave me to repose.
59 Prophetess, my spell obey,
60 Once again arise and say,
61 Who the avenger of his guilt,
62 By whom shall Hoder's blood be spilt.
63 In the caverns of the west,
64 By Odin's fierce embrace compressed,
65 A wondrous boy shall Rinda bear,
66 Who ne'er shall comb his raven-hair,
67 Nor wash his visage in the stream,
68 Nor see the sun's departing beam:
69 Till he on Hoder's corse shall smile
70 Flaming on the funeral pile.
71 Now my weary lips I close:
72 Leave me, leave me to repose.
73 Yet a while my call obey.
74 Prophetess, awake and say,
75 What virgins these, in speechless woe,
76 That bend to earth their solemn brow,
77 That their flaxen tresses tear,
78 And snowy veils, that float in air.
79 Tell me whence their sorrows rose:
80 Then I leave thee to repose.
81 Ha! no Traveller art thou,
82 King of Men, I know thee now,
83 Mightiest of a mighty line —
84 No boding maid of skill divine
85 Art thou, nor prophetess of good;
86 But mother of the giant-brood!
87 Hie thee hence and boast at home,
88 That never shall enquirer come
89 To break my iron-sleep again,
90 Till Lok[*]
[*] Lok is the evil Being, who continues in chains till the Twilight of the Gods approaches, when he shall break his bonds; the human race, the stars, and sun, shall disappear; the earth sink in the seas, and fire consume the skies: even Odin himself and his kindred-deities shall perish. For a farther explanation of this mythology, see Mallet's Introduction to the History of Denmark, 1755, Quarto. [(A slightly more detailed draft of this note is inC [ommonplace] B [ook]).]has burst his tenfold chain;
91 Never, till substantial Night
92 Has reassumed her ancient right;
93 Till wrapped in flames, in ruin hurled,
94 Sinks the fabric of the world.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): The Descent of Odin. An Ode (From the Norse-Tongue,) in Bartholinus, de causis contemnendae mortis; Hafniae, 1689, Quarto. Upreis Odinn allda gautr, &c.
Author: Thomas Gray
Genres: ode; dialogue; Ossianic verse; prophecy
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