The Earthly Paradise, (September-November), by William Morris, , at sacred-texts.com
Kiartan's Farewell to Norway.
MEANWHILE to Kiartan far across the sea,
Unto all seeming, life went merrily;
Yet none the less the lapse of days would bring
Unto his frank heart something of a sting,
And Bodli's sad departing face and word,
Not wholly thrust out from his memory, stirred
Doubts of the changing days in Kiartan's mind,
And scarce amid his joyance might he find
The happy days he ever looked to have,
Till he were lying silent in his grave.
And somewhat more distraught now would he take
The gentle words that the king's sister spake,
And look into her eyes less fervently,
And less forget the world when she drew nigh,
And start and look around as her soft hand
Fell upon his, as though a ghost did stand
Anigh him, and he feared to hear it speak.
And Ingibiorg for her part, grown too weak p. 419
Against the love she had for him to strive,
Yet knew no less whither the days did drive
Her wasted life; and, seeing him as oft
As she might do, and speaking sweet and soft,
When they twain were together: smiling, too,
Though fast away the lovesome time did go,
Wept long through lonely hours, nor cast away
From out her heart thought of the coming day,
When all should be as it had never been,
And the wild sea should roll its waves between
His grey eyes and her weary useless tears.
But while she brooded oer the coming years
Empty of love, and snatched what joy there was
Yet left to her, great tidings came to pass;
For late the summer after Bodli sailed,
News came, that now at last had Christ prevailed
In Iceland; that the Hill of Laws had heard
Sung through the clear air many a threatening word,
And seen the weapons gather for the fight;
Till Snorri's wiles, Hall's wisdom, Gizur's might,
And fears of many men, and wavering doubt
On the worse side, had brought it so about
That now Christ's faith was law to everyone:
The learned say, a thousand years agone
Since the cold shepherds in the winter night
Beheld and heard the angels fresh delight.
King Olaf's heart swelled at such news as these,
Straightway he sent for the four hostages, p. 420
And bade them with good gifts to go their ways
If so they would; or stay and gather praise
And plenteous honour there; and as he spake
He glanced at Kiartan, and a smile did break
Across his kingly face, as who would say,
"Thou at the least wilt scarcely go away."
But Kiartan answered not the smile, but stood
Grave with deep thought, and troubled in his mood,
Until he saw his fellows looked that he
Should speak for all; then said he presently:
"Thanks have thou, King, for all that thou hast done
To us, and the great honour I have won
At thine hands here; yet be not angry, King,
If still we thank thee most for this one thing,
That here thou stayst us not against our will;
Thicker is blood than water, say I still;
This is the third year since I left my kin
And landand other things that dwell therein."
The king's face fell, and in sharp words and few
He answered: "Well, a gift I gave to you;
And will not take it backGo, Kiartan, then,
And, if thou canst, find kinder, truer men,
And lovelier maids in thy land than in this!"
But Kiartan said, "King, take it not amiss!
Thou knowest I have ever said to thee,
That I must one day go across the sea;
Belike I shall come back upon a tide, p. 421
And show thee such a wonder of a bride
As earth holds not, nay nor the heavens, I deem."
"God send thee a good ending to thy dream;
Yet my heart cries that if thou goest from me,
Thy pleasant face I never more shall see;
Be merry then, while fate will have it so!"
So therewith unto high feast did they go,
And by the king sat Kiartan, and the day
Twixt merry words and sad thoughts wore away.
Now were the ships got ready, and the wares
Drawn for long months past from the upland fairs
Were laid ashipboard. Kálf was skipper still
Of Kiartan's ship, for never had he will
To leave his side. Now restless Kiartan was,
And longed full sore for these last days to pass,
For in his heart there lurked a spark of fear,
Nor any word of Gudrun might he hear
From those who brought the news of change of faith,
Since nigh the fleet they dwelt, my story saith,
In the south country, and knew nought at all
Of what in Laxdale late had chanced to fall.
Now by their bridges lay the laden ships,
And he now at the last must see the lips
Of Ingibiorg grow pale with their farewell;
And sick at heart he grew, for, sooth to tell,
He feared her sorrow much, and furthermore p. 422
He loved her with a strange love very sore,
Despite the past and future. So he went
Sad-eyed amid the hall's loud merriment
Unto her bower on that last morn of all.
Alone she was, her head against the wall
Had fallen; her heavy eyes were shut when he
Stood on the threshold; she rose quietly,
Hearing the clash of arms, and took his hand,
And thus with quivering lips awhile did stand
Regarding him: but he made little show
Of manliness, but let the hot tears flow
Fast oer his cheeks. At last she spake:
If thou who art the kindest of all men
Must sorrow for me, yet more glad were I
To see thee leave my bower joyfully
This last time; that when oer thee sorrow came,
And thought of me therewith, thou mightst not blame
My little love for ever saddening thee.
Love!let me say love oncegreat shalt thou be,
Beloved of all, and dying neer forgot.
Farewell! farewell! farewell! and think thou not
That in my heart there lingers any hate
Of her who through these years for thee did wait,
A weary waitingthree long, long, long years,
Well over now; nay when of me she hears,
Fain were I she should hate me not. Behold,
Here is a coif, well wrought of silk and gold p. 423
By folk of Micklegarth, who had no thought
Of thee or me, and thence by merchants brought
Who perchance loved not. Is Gudrun too fair
To take this thing, a queen might long to wear?
Upon the day when on the bench ye sit,
Hand held in hand, crown her fair head with it,
And tell her whence thou hadst it. Ah, farewell,
Lest of mine eyes thou shouldst have worse to tell
Than now thou hast!"
Therewith she turned from him
And took the coif, wherein the gold was dim
With changing silken threads, the linen white
Scarce seen amid the silk and gold delight.
With hands that trembled little did she fold
The precious thing, and set its weight of gold
Within a silken bag; and then to his
She reached her hands, and in one bitter kiss
Tasted his tears, while a great wave of thought
Of what sweet things the changed years might have brought
Swept over herand then she knew him gone,
And yet for all that scarcely felt more lone
Than for a many days past she had felt.
So with fixed eyes she drew into her belt
Her kirtle, and to this and that thing turned
With heart that ever for the long rest yearned.
Bearing that gift, but heeding not what thing
He had with him, came Kiartan to the king, p. 424
Who in the porch abode him, his great men
Standing around; then said he:
This last day that I see thee; go we forth,
Fair lords, and see his ship's head greet the north,
For seldom from the north shall any come
Like unto him to greet us in our home."
So forth they went, and all the Iceland men
Gat them aboard, and skipper Kálf by then
Stood midway on the last bridge, while the king
Gan say to Kiartan:
"Many a treasured thing
Had I laid down, O friend, to keep thee here,
But since the old thing still must be more dear
Than the new thing, to such men as thou art,
Now, with my goodwill, to thy love depart,
And leave me here the coming woes to meet
Without thee. May thy life be fair and sweet,
Nor yet drag on till present days are nought,
And all the past days a tormenting thought!
Take this last gift of me; a noble sword,
Which if thou dost according to my word,
Shall never leave thy side; for who can know
Ere all is oer, how madly things may go?"
So Kiartan took the sword, and thanked the king,
With no light heart, for that and everything
That at his hands he had, and therewith crossed p. 425
The gangway; shoreward were the hawsers tossed,
The long sweeps smote the water, and the crew
Shouted their last farewell; the white sail drew,
Twixt Norway and the stern, swept in the sea.
There stood the king, and long time earnestly
Looked on the lessening ship; then said at last,
As oer his knitted brow his hand he passed:
"Go thy ways, Kiartan; great thou art indeed,
And great thy kin are, nathless shalt thou need
Stout heart enough to meet what waiteth thee
If aught mine eyes of things to come may see."