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The idea of this ballad is taken from a scene in “Starkother,” a tragedy by the Danish poet Ochlenschlager. The sepulchral fire here alluded to, and supposed to guard the ashes of deceased heroes, is frequently mentioned in the Northern Sagas. Severe sufferings to the departed spirit were supposed by the Scandinavian mythologists to be the consequence of any profanation of the sepulchre.
See Ochlenschlager's Plays,
“ Voice of the gifted elder time !
Voice of the charm and the Runic rhyme !
Speak! from the shades and the depths disclose,
How Sigard may vanquish his mortal foes ;
Voice of the buried past !
6 Voice of the grave! 'tis the mighty hour,
When night with her stars and dreams hath power,
And my step hath been soundless on the snows,
And the spell I have sung hath laid repose
On the billow and the blast.”
Then the torrents of the North,
And the forest pines were still,
While a hollow chant came forth
From the dark sepulchral hill.
6. There shines no sun 'midst the hidden dead,
But where the day looks not the brave may tread;
There is heard no song, and no mead is pour’d,
But the warrior may come to the silent board
In the shadow of the night.
“ There is laid a sword in thy father's tomb,
And its edge is fraught with thy foeman's doom ;
But soft be thy step through the silence deep,
And move not the urn in the house of sleep,
For the viewless have fearful might!”
Then died the solemn lay,
As a trumpet's music dies,
By the night-wind borne away
Through the wild and stormy skies.
The fir-trees rock'd to the wailing blast,
As on through the forest the warrior pass'd,
Through the forest of Odin, the dim and old,
The dark place of visions and legends, tolel
By the fires of Northern pine.
The fir-trees rock’d, and the frozen ground
Gave back to his footstep a hollow sound ;
And it seem'd that the depths of those awful shades,
From the dreary gloom of their long arcades,
Gave warning, with voice and sign.
But the wind strange magic knows
To call wild shape and tone
From the grey wood's tossing boughs
When night is on her throne.
The pines clos'd o'er him with deeper gloom,
As he took the path to the monarch's tomb;
The pole-star shone, and the heavens were bright
With the arrowy streams of the northern light,
But his road through dimness lay!
He pass'd, in the heart of that ancient wood,
The dark shrine stain'd with the victim's blood :
Nor paused, till the rock where a vaulted bed
Had been hewn of old for the kingly dead,
Arose on his midnight way.
Then first a moment's chill
Went shuddering through his breast,
And the steel-clad man stood still
Before that place of rest.
But he cross'd at length, with a deep-drawn breath,
The threshold-floor of the hall of Death,
And look'd on the pale mysterious fire
Which gleam'd from the urn of his warrior-sire,
With a strange and solemn light.
Then darkly the words of the boding strain
Like an omen rose on his soul again,
—“ Soft be thy step through the silence deep,
And move not the urn in the house of sleep,
For the viewless have fearful might!
But the gleaming sword and shield
Of many a battle-day
Hung o'er that urn, reveal'd
By the tomb-fire's waveless ray.
With a faded wreath of oak-leaves bound,
They hung o'er the dust of the far-renown'd,
Whom the bright Valkyriur's warning voice
Had call'd to the banquet where gods rejoice,
And the rich mead flows in light.
With a beating heart his son drew near,
And still rang the verse in his thrilling ear,
-“ Soft be thy step through the silence deep, And move not the urn in the house of sleep,
For the viewless have fearful might!"
And many a Saga's rhyme,
And legend of the grave,
That shadowy scene and time
Call’d back, to daunt the brave.
But he rais'd his arm and the flame grew dim,
And the sword in its light seem'd to wave and swim,
And his faltering hand could not grasp it well-
From the pale oak-wreath, with a clash it fell
Through the chamber of the dead!
The deep tomb rang with the heavy sound,
And the urn lay shiver'd in fragments round;
And a rush, as of tempests, quench'd the fire,
And the scatter'd dust of his warlike sire
Was strewn on the Champion's head.
One moment-and all was still
In the slumberer's ancient hall,
When the rock had ceas'd to thrill
With the mighty weapon's fall.
The stars were just fading, one by one,
The clouds were just ting'd by the early sun,
When there stream'd through the cavern a torch's