Poems: Old and New

by Frederick George Scott


 

THOR.


 

HERE stood the great god Thor,
   There he planted his foot,
And the whole world shook, from the shore
   To the circle of mountains God put
For its crown in the days of yore.
5

The waves of the sea uprose,
   The trees of the wood were uptorn,
Down from the Alps’ crown of snows
   The glacial avalanche borne
Thundered at daylight’s close.
10

But the moon-lady curled at his feet,
   Like a smoke that will not stir,
When the summer hills swoon with the heat,
   Till his passion was centred on her,
And the shame of his yielding grew sweet. [Page 44]
15

Empty the moon-lady’s car,
   And idly it floated away,
Tipped up as she left it afar.
   Pale in the red death of day,
With its nether lip turned to a star.
20


Fearful the face of the god,
   Stubborn with sense of his power,
The seas would roll back at his nod
   And the lion-voiced thunder-clouds lower,
While the lightening he broke as a rod.

25


Fearful his face was in war,
   Iron with fixed look of hate,
Through the battle-smoke thick and the roar
   He trod with invincible weight
Till the legions fell back before Thor.

30


But the white thing that curled at his feet
   Rose up slowly beside him like mist,
Infinite, wan, incomplete,
   Till she touched the rope veins on his wrist
And love pulsed to his heart with a beat. [Page 45]

35


Then he looked, and from under her hair,
   As from out of a mist, grew her eyes,
And firmer her flesh was and fair
   With the tint of the sorrowful skies,
Sun-widowed and veiled with thin air.

40


She seemed of each lovable thing
   The soul that infused it with grace,
Her thoughts were the song the birds sing,
   The glory of flowers was her face,
And her smile was the smile of the spring.

45


Madly his blood with a bound
   Leaped from his heart to his brain,
Till his thoughts and his senses were drowned
   In the ache of a longing like pain,
In a hush that was louder than sound.

50


Then the god, bending his face,
   “Loveliest,” said he, “if death
Mocked me with skulls in this place,
   And age and spent strength and spent breath,
Yet would I yield to thy grace; [Page 46]

55


“Yet would I circle thee, love,
   With these arms which are smoking from wars,
Though the father up-gathered above,
   In his anger, each ocean that roars,
Each boulder the cataracts shove,

60


“To hurl at me down from this throne,
   Though the flood were as wide as the sky.
Yea, love, I am thine, all thine own,
   Strong as the ocean to lie
Slave to thy bidding alone.”

65


Folds of her vesture fell soft,
   As she lifted her eyes up to his:
“Nay, love, for a man speaketh oft
   In words that are hot as a kiss,
But man’s love may be donned and be doft.

70


“Love would have life for its field—
   Love would have death for its goal;
And the passion of war must yield
   To the passion of love in the soul,
And the eyes that Love kisses are sealed. [Page 47]

75


“Wouldst thou love if the scorn of the world
   Covered thy head with its briars;
When, soft as an infant curled
   In its cradle, thou, chained with desires,
Lay helpless when flags were unfurled?”

80


Fiercely the god’s anger broke,
   Fired with the flames in his blood:
“Who careth what words may be spoke?
   For the feet of this love is a flood,
And its finger the weight of a yoke.

85


“I bow me, sweet, under its power,
   I, who have stooped to none;
I bring thee my strength for a dower,
   And deeds like the path of the sun;
I am thine for an age or an hour.”

90


Then the moon-lady softly unwound
   The girdle of arms interlaced,
And the gold of her tresses unbound,
   Till it fell from her head to her waist,
And then from her waist to the ground. [Page 48]

95


“Love, thou art mine, thou art mine,”
   Softly she uttered a spell;
“Under the froth is the wine,
   Under the ocean is Hell,
Over the ocean stars shine.

100


“Lull him, ye winds of the South,
   Charm him, ye rivers that sing,
Flowers be the kiss on his mouth,
   Let his heart be the heart of the spring,
And his passion the hot summer drouth.”

105


Swiftly extending her hands,
   She made a gold dome of her hair;
Dumb with amazement he stands,
   Till down, without noise in the air,
The moon-car descends to the sands.

110


He taketh her fingers in his,
   Shorn of his strength and his will;
His brave heart trembles with bliss—
   Trembles and will not be still,
Mad with the wine of her kiss. [Page 49]

115


They mount in the car, and its beams
   Shoot over the sea and the earth,
And clothe in a net-work of dreams
   The mountains where rivers have birth,
And the lakes that are fed by the streams.

120


Swiftly ascending, the car
   Silvers the clouds in its flight,
Piercing the ether afar
   Up to a bridge out of sight
That skirteth that path of a star.

125


One end of the bridge lay on land,
   The other hung over the deep;
It was fashioned of ropes of grey sand,
   And cemented together with sleep,
With its undergirths formed like a hand.

130


Pleasant the land to the sight,
   Laden with blossoms and trees,
And the grasses to left and to right
   Waved in the wind like the seas,
When the blue day is high in the height. [Page 50]

135


Under the breezy bowers
   Cushions of moss were laid,
And ever through sultry hours
   Fairy-like fountains played,
Cooling the earth with their showers.

140


The horizon was crowned with blue hills,
   And woodland and meadowland lay
Lit with the glory that thrills
   Souls in a dreamland way,
Where the nightingales sing to the rills.

145


Deer and the white kine feed
   On the foam-fretted shores of the lake,
And through many a flowery mead,
   And from many a forest and brake,
The gold birds of paradise speed.

150


The lissome moon-lady led on
   Up to a bower on a hill
With the flowers at its door rained upon
   By a fountain as constant and still
As the bow in the cloud that has gone. [Page 51]

155


“O love, thou art weary,” she said,
   “Who erst wast so valiant and strong,
And here will I make thee a bed,
   And here will I sing thee a song
To the tune of the leaves overhead.

160


“And here will thy great strength flow,
   Melted away in the sweet,
Soft touch of ineffable woe,
   Which is heart of the joy made complete,
And the taste of the pleasure we know.”

165


Where the mosses were piled in a heap,
   He laid his giant form down,
And she charmed all his senses to sleep,
   With her hands on his head like a crown,
Till the sound of his breathing was deep.

170


With a noise like a serpent’s hiss,
   The moon-lady bent her head,
And she sucked out his breath with a kiss—
   A kiss that was subtle and dread,
Like the sorrow that lurks in a bliss. [Page 52]

175


Then she rose and waved her hands
   In circles over the sod,
And her gold hair wove in strands
   Round the limbs of the sleeping god,
With the strength of adamant bands.

180


She opened the great, clenched fist,
   And softly the lady withdrew,
Was it only a serpent that hissed?
   For her face is transparent as dew,
And her garments are thin as the mist.

185


Spellbound on the dreamland floor,
   Chained with the golden hair,
Weak as a babe lay Thor,
   While the fountain played soft in the air,
And the nightingales sang evermore.

190


Like a babe in its cradle curled,
   He was chained with the chain of desire,
Though they needed his arm in the world,
   For the battle-strife raged, and its fire
And the flags of the gods were unfurled. [Page 53]

195


Then Odin, the father of Heaven,
   Called a council of gods on high,
To each was a white cloud given
   At the foot of his throne in the sky,
And the steps of his throne were seven.

200


“Children,” the father cried,
   “Lost is the great god Thor,
Lost is the sword at his side,
   Lost is his arm in the war,
And the fury which all things defied.

205


“In the heart of a dreamland bower
   Sleepeth he under a spell,
Who yielded his strength for an hour,
   And under the meshes of Hell
He is chained by invincible power.

210


“None may his shackles unbind;
   Strength must return to his will,
And himself must unprison his mind
   From the dreams he is dreaming still,
In the moon-lady’s tresses entwined. [Page 54]

215


“Over the mountains the road,
   Dismal and drear to return,
Face it he must with his load,
   Though the underbrakes crackle and burn,
Though the serpent-bites blister and goad.

220


“Not a mere shadow is sin,
   Clinging like wine to the lip,
To be wiped from the mouth and the chin
   After man taketh a sip;
But a poison that lurketh within.

225


“The forces that hold back the sea,
   That grapple the earth from beneath,
Are not older than those which decree
   The marriage of sin unto death
In the sinner, whoever he be.

230


“Who of our numbers will go
   Up to the death-tainted land,
Braving the dangers, and so
   Reaching the heart and the hand
And the form of the god lying low?” [Page 55]

240


“Sire,” answered Balder the fair,
   “Rugged the journey and long,
Manifold dangers are there,
   But my heart and my arms are strong,
And my soul is as pure as the air.

245


“I will go, for we need him in war,
   And without him we struggle and die;
I will put on the armour he bore,
   And gird on his sword to my thigh;
I will sit by and say, ‘I am Thor.’

250


“Perchance when he opens his eyes,
   Shorn of his own armour-plate,
Smitten with rage and surprise,
   Burning with anger and hate,
He will burst from the bed where he lies.

255


“Swift as the kiss of the fire,
   Knowledge shall flash to his brain,
And the thought of his past self inspire
   His spirit with valour again,
Till he shatter the bonds of desire.” [Page 56]

260


So Balder, the fairest of all,
   And purest of gods by the throne,
Went from the heavenly hall
   Into the darkness alone,
To loosen the god from his thrall.

265


Black was the charger he rode,
   Winged, and its eye-balls of fire;
From mountain to mountain it strode,
   Spurning the valleys as mire,
Till it sprang into air with its load.

270


Then swift, with its neck side-curled,
   Half hid in the smoke of its breath,
Upward it bounded, and hurled
   Volleys and splinters of death
From the fire of its hoofs on the world.

275


The moon-lady leaned from her car
   And beheld the fierce course of the god,
For, as though with the birth of a star,
   A fire track as straight as a rod
Burnt in the heavens afar. [Page 57]

280


Then she trembled and sickened with fear,
   Till her face grew as white as the mist
When at day-dawn the stars disappear,
   And her body did coil and untwist
Like a serpent’s folds caught in a weir.

285


Her heart was a fire that was spent,
   Her lips could not utter a charm,
And she cowered from his sight as he went,
   While Balder flew by without harm,
’Neath the shield of a pure intent.

290


He came to the moon-lady’s bower,
   And girded the sword to his thigh,
And put on the cincture of power,
   Unbound from the god lying by,
Nor waited a day nor an hour;

295


For, startled, the sleeper awoke,
   Black-visaged, like storm on the skies;
But Balder sat upright, nor spoke,
   Till the flames darted out of Thor’s eyes,
And the passionate silence he broke. [Page 58]

300


“Who is it, when dreaming is o’er,
   Mocks me with helm like to mine,
Ungirding the armour I bore
   From the sweet silken nets that entwine?”
Quoth Balder, “Behold! I am Thor.

305


“I am he that was ‘Thunderer’ called,
   And my fame is as wide as the world;
At my anger the rocks were appalled
   And the waves of the sea were up-curled,
But now I am weak and enthralled.

310


“The battle is fierce on the earth,
   While I sit here idle and still;
Unfulfilled are the hopes of my birth,
   For the strength of the mind is the will,
And the will is more potent than girth.

315


“The foes of the gods wax bold,
   And they mock at the armies of heaven;
At their banquets the story is told—
   ‘A weak woman’s heart hath been given
To Thor, the avenger of old.’ [Page 59]

320


“And the wives, as they sit by the cot,
   Sing, ‘Sleep, for the god cannot come;
Sleep, the avenger is not;
   Hush, let his praises be dumb;
Hush, let his name be forgot.’”

325


Then the god, smitten with pain,
   Shamèd and stung to the heart,
Knowing a god’s voice again,
   Rent every fetter apart,
And sprang from the moon-lady’s chain.

330


Instantly vanished in night
   Fountains and meadows and streams,
Never a glimmer of light
    Lit up the palace of dreams,
As the god made his way, without sight,

335


Back to the heavenly shore,
   Over mountain and wild ravine,
Morasses, and seas that roar,
   Till the portals of heaven were seen
And he stood in Valhalla once more. [Page 60]

340