Lucy Larcom (1824-1895)

"The Legend of Skadi" (a poem)


THROUGH the leaves of the Edda there rustles a tale
Of Skadi, the daughter of torrent and gale,
Who, leaving her snow-summits, breezy and free,
Went down to be wedded to Njord of the sea.

Though bright was the ocean as now, in the day
When Vanir and Aesir held nature in sway,
Of gods though her bridegroom was reckoned the third,
In Skadi's new mansion a murmur was heard.

"O Njord, I am homesick! the gull's tiresome note,
The moan of the breakers, the tide's endless rote,
They hold my eyes sleepless; I never can stay
By the wide-staring ocean. Come, let us away!

"Away to my mountains, my home in the height,
To the glens and the gorges, the summits of light!"
And Njord could but listen, and go with his bride;
But there for his sea-haunts he drearily sighed.

"O Skadi, come back to the warm, sunny surf!
The beach-sand is smoother than frost-bitten turf;
I like not, at midnight, the wolf's hungry howl,
The bear's stealthy footstep, the shriek of the owl.

"Nine sunsets, my Skadi, from sole love of thee,
I will give to the mountains, if only for three
With me thou wilt linger the blue wave beside;
The billows shall lull thee, my wild one, my bride!"

Then down the steep gorges went Skadi and Njord;
Like wind through the pine-woods they swept to the fiord)
And back in three mornings they hurried again,
Bearing up to the hill-tops the sigh of the main.

So hither and thither awhile swayed the pair:
But Njord sickened soon of the fresh inland air;
And once, as he scented afar the salt sea,
"No more of the mountains," he shouted, "for me!"

"I am nine times too weary of cavern and cliff;
All the pine-groves of Norway I'd give for my skiff.
The twilight, that buries the white, solemn hills,
My blood like the coming of Ragnarok chills."

"Three days and three nights are too many for me
To waste on the ocean, O dull Njord, and thee!" —
And Skadi has buckled her snow-sandals on,
And back to her mountains alone she has gone.

The red, climbing sunrise, the rosy-fringed mist,
Stealing up from the valley, her clear cheek have kissed.
And over the hill-tops the frosty blue sky
With the joy of its welcome rekindles her eye.

She tightens her bowstring, she bounds from the rock;
The elves in their caverns her merry voice mock;
The waterfall's rush to the tarn by the crag,
And the leap of the reindeer, behind her both lag.

But still, as she chases the wolf and the boar,
By sounds she is startled, like surf on the shore,
That surge through the forest, and whisper, and rave; —
'Tis Njord, who is calling her back to the wave.