The Earthly Paradise, (September-November), by William Morris, , at sacred-texts.com
Kiartan brought dead to Bathstead.
MEN say that those who went the corpse to bring
To Bathstead thence, found Bodli muttering
Over the white face turned up to the sky,
Nor did he heed them as they drew anigh,
Therefore they stood by him, and heard him say:
"Perchance it is that thou art far away
From us already; caring nought at all
For what in after days to us may fall
O piteous, piteous!yet perchance it is
That thou, though entering on thy life of bliss,
The meed of thy great heart, yet art anear,
And somewhat of my feeble voice can hear;
Then scarce for pardon will I pray thee, friend,
Since thus our love is brought unto no end,
But rather now, indeed, begins anew;
Yet since a long time past nought good or true p. 507
My lips might utter, let me speak to thee,
If so it really is that thou art free,
At peace and happy past the golden gate;
That time is dead for thee, and thou mayst wait
A thousand years for her and deem it nought.
O dead friend, in my heart there springs a thought
That, since with thy last breath thou spakst her name,
And since thou knowest now how longing came
Into my soul, thou wilt forgive me yet
That time of times, when in my heart first met
Anger against thee, with the sweet sweet love
Wherewith my old dull life of habit strove
So weakly and so vainlydidst thou quite
Know all the value of that dear delight
As I did? Kiartan, she is changed to thee;
Yea, and since hope is dead changed too to me,
What shall we do, if, each of each forgiven,
We three shall meet at last in that fair heaven
The new faith tells of? Thee and God I pray
Impute it not for sin to me to-day,
If no thought I can shape thereof but this:
O friend, O friend, when thee I meet in bliss,
Wilt thou not give my love Gudrun to me,
Since now indeed thine eyes made clear can see
That I of all the world must love her most?"
Then his voice sank so that his words were lost
A little while; then once again he spake,
As one who from a lovesome dream doth wake: p. 508
"Alas! I speak of heaven who am in hell!
I speak of change of days, who know full well
How hopeless now is change from misery:
I speak of time destroyed, when unto me
Shall the world's minutes be as lapse of years;
I speak of love who know how my life bears
The bitter hate which I must face to-day
I speak of thee, and know thee passed away,
Neer to come back to help or pity me."
Therewith he looked up, and those folk did see,
And rose up to his feet, and with strange eyes
That seemed to see nought, slunk in shamefast wise,
Silent, behind them, as the corpse they laid
Upon the bier; then, all things being arrayed,
Back unto Bathstead did they wend once more,
As mournful as though dead with them they bore
The heart of Iceland; and yet folk must gaze
With awe and pity upon Bodli's face,
And deem they never might such eyes forget.
But when they reached the stead, anigh sunset,
There in the porch a tall black figure stood,
Whose stern pale face, neath its oerhanging hood,
In the porch shadow was all cold and grey,
Though on her feet the dying sunlight lay.
They trembled then at what might come to pass,
For that grey face the face of Gudrun was,
And they had heard her raving through the day
As through the hall they passed; then made they stay p. 509
A few yards from the threshold, and in dread
Waited what next should follow; but she said,
In a low voice and hoarse:
"Nay, enter here,
Without, this eve is too much change and stir,
And rest is good,is good, if one might win
A moment's rest; and now none is within
The hall but Oswif: not much will he speak,
And as for mebehold, I am grown weak!
I cannot vex him much."
She stepped aside,
And the dark shade her raiment black did hide
As they passed through into the dusky hall,
Afraid to see her face, and last of all
Went Bodli, clashing through the porch, but he
Stayed in the midst, and turned round silently,
And sought her face and said:
"Thy will is done.
Is it enough? Art thou enough alone
As I am?"
Never any word she spake.
No hate was in her face now: "For thy sake
I did it, Gudrun. Speak one word to me
Before my bitter shame and misery
Crushes my heart to death."
She reached a hand
Out toward the place where trembling he did stand,
But touched him not, and never did he know p. 510
If she had mind some pity then to show
Unto him, or if rather more apart
She fain had thrust him from her raging heart,
For now those men came tramping from the hall,
And Bodli shrank aback unto the wall
To let them pass, and when the last was gone,
In the dim twilight there he stood alone,
Nor durst he follow her, but listened there,
Half dead, and but his breathing might he hear,
And the faint noises of the gathering night.
He stood so long that the moon cast her light
In through the porch, and still no sound he heard
But the faint clink of mail-rings as he stirred.
"Ah, she is dead of grief, or else would she
Have come to say some little word to me,
Since I so love her, love her!"
With a wail
He cried these words, and in the moonlight pale,
Clashing he turned: but een therewith a shriek
From out the dead hush of the hall did break,
And then came footsteps hurrying to the porch,
And the red flare of a new-litten torch,
And smit by nameless horror and affright
He fled away into the moonlit night.