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The House of the Wolfings, by William Morris, [1889], at


But for the Hall-Sun; she sat long on that stone by the Women's-door; but when the evening was now come, she arose and went down through the cornfields and into the meadow, and wandered away as her feet took her.

Night was falling by then she reached that pool of Mirkwood-water, whose eddies she knew so well.  There she let the water cover her in the deep stream, and she floated down and sported with the ripples where the river left that deep to race over the shallows; and the moon was casting shadows by then she came up the bank again by the shallow end bearing in her arms a bundle of the blue-flowering mouse-ear.  Then she clad herself at once, and went straight as one with a set purpose toward the Great Roof, and entered by the Man's-door; and there were few men within and they but old and heavy with the burden of years and the coming of night- tide; but they wondered and looked to each other and nodded their heads as she passed them by, as men who would say, There is something toward.

So she went to her sleeping-place, and did on fresh raiment, and came forth presently clad in white and shod with gold and having her hair wreathed about with the herb of wonder, the blue-flowering mouse-ear of Mirkwood-water.  Thus she passed through the Hall, and those elders were stirred in their hearts when they beheld her beauty.  But she opened the door of the Women's-Chamber, and stood on the threshold; and lo, there sat the carline amidst a ring of the Wolfing women, and she telling them tales of old time such as they had not yet heard; and her eyes were glittering, and the sweet words were flowing from her mouth; but she sat straight up like a young woman; and at whiles it seemed to those who hearkened, that she was no old and outworn woman, but fair and strong, and of much avail.  But when she heard the Hall-Sun she turned and saw her on the threshold, and her speech fell suddenly, and all that might and briskness faded from her, and she fixed her eyes on the Hall-Sun and looked wistfully and anxiously on her.

Then spake the Hall-Sun standing in the doorway:

   "Hear ye a matter, maidens, and ye Wolfing women all,
   And thou alien guest of the Wolfings!  But come ye up the hall,
   That the ancient men may hearken: for methinks I have a word
   Of the battle of the Kindreds, and the harvest of the sword."

Then all arose up with great joy, for they knew that the tidings were good, when they looked on the face of the Hall-Sun and beheld the pride of her beauty unmarred by doubt or pain.

She led them forth to the dais, and there were the sick and the elders gathered and some ancient men of the thralls: so she stepped lightly up to her place, and stood under her namesake, the wondrous lamp of ancient days.  And thus she spake:

   "On my soul there lies no burden, and no tangle of the fight
   In plain or dale or wild-wood enmeshes now my sight.
   I see the Markmen's wain-burg, and I see their warriors go
   As men who wait for battle and the coming of the foe.
   And they pass 'twixt the wood and the wain-burg within earshot of the horn,
   But over the windy meadows no sound thereof is borne,
   And all is well amongst them.  To the burg I draw anigh
   And I see all battle-banners in the breeze of morning fly,
   But no Wolfings round their banner and no warrior of the Shield,
   No Geiring and no Hrossing in the burg or on the field."

She held her peace for a little while, and no one dared to speak; then she lifted up her head and spake:

   "Now I go by the lip of the wild-wood and a sound withal I hear,
   As of men in the paths of the thicket, and a many drawing anear.
   Then, muffled yet by the tree-boles, I hear the Shielding song,
   And warriors blithe and merry with the battle of the strong.
   Give back a little, Markmen, make way for men to pass
   To your ordered battle-dwelling o'er the trodden meadow-grass,
   For alive with men is the wild-wood and shineth with the steel,
   And hath a voice most merry to tell of the Kindreds' weal,
   'Twixt each tree a warrior standeth come back from the spear-strewn way,
   And forth they come from the wild-wood and a little band are they."

Then again was she silent; but her head sank not, as of one thinking, as before it did, but she looked straight forward with bright eyes and smiling, as she said:

   "Lo, now the guests they are bringing that ye have not seen before;
   Yet guests but ill-entreated; for they lack their shields of war,
   No spear in the hand they carry and with no sax are girt.
   Lo, these are the dreaded foemen, these once so strong to hurt;
   The men that all folk fled from, the swift to drive the spoil,
   The men that fashioned nothing but the trap to make men toil.
   They drew the sword in the cities, they came and struck the stroke
   And smote the shield of the Markmen, and point and edge they broke.
   They drew the sword in the war-garth, they swore to bring aback
   God's gifts from the Markmen houses where the tables never lack.
   O Markmen, take the God-gifts that came on their own feet
   O'er the hills through the Mirkwood thicket the Stone of Tyr to meet!"

Again she stayed her song, which had been loud and joyous, and they who heard her knew that the Kindreds had gained the day, and whilst the Hall- Sun was silent they fell to talking of this fair day of battle and the taking of captives.  But presently she spread out her hands again and they held their peace, and she said:

   "I see, O Wolfing women, and many a thing I see,
   But not all things, O elders, this eve shall ye learn of me,
   For another mouth there cometh: the thicket I behold
   And the Sons of Tyr amidst it, and I see the oak-trees old,
   And the war-shout ringing round them; and I see the battle-lord
   Unhelmed amidst of the mighty; and I see his leaping sword;
   Strokes struck and warriors falling, and the streaks of spears I see,
   But hereof shall the other tell you who speaketh after me.
   For none other than the Shieldings from out the wood have come,
   And they shift the turn with the Daylings to drive the folk-spear home,
   And to follow with the Wolfings and thrust the war-beast forth.
   And so good men deem the tidings that they bid them journey north
   On the feet of a Shielding runner, that Gisli hath to name;
   And west of the water he wendeth by the way that the Wolfings came;
   Now for sleep he tarries never, and no meat is in his mouth
   Till the first of the Houses hearkeneth the tidings of the south;
   Lo, he speaks, and the mead-sea sippeth, and the bread by the way doth eat,
   And over the Geiring threshold and outward pass his feet;
   And he breasts the Burg of the Daylings and saith his happy word,
   And stayeth to drink for a minute of the waves of Battleford.
   Lone then by the stream he runneth, and wendeth the wild-wood road,
   And dasheth through the hazels of the Oselings' fair abode,
   And the Elking women know it, and their hearts are glad once more,
   And ye—yea, hearken, Wolfings, for his feet are at the door."

Next: Chapter XII—Tidings of the Battle in Mirkwood