Menella Bute Smedley

The Priest's Speech

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“Odin hath spoken! The king of heaven
Answer dark to my prayer hath given;
Odin hath spoken a fearful thing,—
Hear, O people! and hear, O King!
The vow ye but this moment heard
in the far sky registered.

Woe to him whose heart afraid
Shuns the vow his lip hath made!
Dreary life shall the doomed one lead,
And his grasp, when life is fled,
Never shall take the bowl of mead
From the hand of the mighty dead;
An honourless doom shall lay him low!—
Woe, for my lips have said it, woe!”

The wild priest tossed his arms on high,
And his words went echoing through the sky,
Through its wide blue wastes resounding go
The doom of shame and the words of woe,
Till all the people cower and quake
As though Odin's voice in thunder spake.
Then ceased that awful echo-strain,

“Within the Temple I watched alone,
I lay before the war-god's throne;
Night and day I fasted there,
Night and day I lay in prayer,

But still the god, tremendous, cold,
Did stare upon me as of old;
Never a sound and never a sign
Answered all those prayers of mine,
Till, as the sixth and latest night
Gaped slowly for the sinking light,
And one by one the shadows stole
Like muttered spells across my soul,
I rose and paced the dreary stone,
Before the terrors of the throne,
And shuddered while the cell I trod,
Alone with the giant and speechless god!

“Was it a cloud from the changing sky
That cheated my bewildered eye?
Not a voice nor a breath was heard,
But it seemed to me that Odin stirred!
My heart grew cold and shrank away,
I thought he was coming to seize his prey,
Down I fell and covered my face,
Though night was darkening through the place,
For I dared not turn nor lift my eye
Lest I should see the god and die.
There as I lay in the night alone,
Hiding my face on the altar stone,
A great Voice fell, as thunder falls,
And clove the cloud and shook the walls,
And the war-god uttered this word of fear,—
Give ear, O people! O King, give ear!”

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Menella Bute Smedley