Gisli: The Chieftain

To the Goddess Lada prayed
Gisli, holding high his spear
Bound with buds of spring, and laughed
All his heart to Lada's ear.

Damp his yellow beard with mead,
Loud the harps clang'd thro the day;
With bruised breasts triumphant rode
Gisli's galleys in the bay.

Bards sang in the banquet hall,
Set in loud verse Gisli's fame,
On their lips the war gods laid
Fire to chaunt their warrior's name.

To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd,
Buds upon his tall spear's tip;
Laughter in his broad blue eyes,
Laughter on his bearded lip.

To the Spring-queen Gisli pray'd,
She, with mystic distaff slim,
Spun her hours of love and leaves,
Made the stony headlands dim--

Dim and green with tender grass,
Blew on ice-fields with red mouth;
Blew on lovers hearts; and lured
White swans from the blue-arched south.

To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd,
Groan'd far icebergs tall and blue
As to Lada's distaff slim,
All their ice-locked fires flew.

To the Love-queen Gisli prayed,
She, with red hands, caught and spun.
Yellow flames from crater lips,
flames from the waking sun.

To the Love-queen Gisli prayed,
She with loom and beam and spell,
All the subtle fires of earth
Wove, and wove them strong and well.

To the Spring-queen Gisli prayed,
Low the sun the pale sky trod;
Mute her ruddy hand she raised
Beckon'd back the parting God.

To the Love-queen Gisli prayed--
Weft and woof of flame she wove--
Lada, Goddess of the Spring!
Lada, Goddess strong of Love!

Sire of the strong chieftain's prayer,
Victory with his pulse of flame;
Mead its mother--loud he laughed,
Calling on great Lada's name.

'Goddess Lada--Queen of Love!
'Here stand I and quaff to thee--
'Deck for thee with buds my spear--
'Give a comely wife to me!

'Blow not to my arms a flake
'Of crisp snow in maiden guise;
'Mists of pallid hair and tips
'Of long ice-spears in her eyes!

'When my death-sail skims the foam--
'Strain my oars on Death's black sea--
'When my foot the 'Glass-Hill' seeks--
'Such a maid may do for me!

'Now, O Lada, mate the flesh!
'Mate the fire and flame of life,
'Tho' the soul go still unwed,
'Give the flesh its fitting wife!

'As the galley runs between,
'Skies with billows closely spun:
'Feeling but the wave that leaps
'Closest to it in the sun.'

'Throbs but to the present kiss
'Of the wild lips of the sea;
'Thus a man joys in his life--
'Nought of the Beyond knows he!

'Goddess! here I cast bright buds,
'Spicy pine boughs at thy feet;
'Give the flesh its fitting mate
'Life is strong and life is sweet!'

To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd--
Weft and woof of flame she wove:
Lada, Goddess of the Spring--
Lada, Goddess strong of Love!

* * * * *

PART II.

From harpings and sagas and mirth of the town,
Great Gisli, the chieftain strode merrily down.

His ruddy beard stretch'd in the loom of the wind,
His shade like a dusky God striding behind.

Gylfag, his true hound, to his heel glided near,
Sharp-fang'd, lank and red as a blood-rusted spear.

As crests of the green bergs flame white in the sky,
The town on its sharp hill shone brightly and high.

In fjords roared the ice below the dumb stroke
Of the Sun's red hammer rose blue mist like smoke.

It clung to the black pines, and clung to the bay--
The galleys of Gisli grew ghosts of the day.

It followed the sharp wings of swans, as they rose--
It fell to the wide jaws of swift riven floes.

It tam'd the wild shriek of the eagle--grew dull
The cries, in its foldings, of osprey and gull.

'Arouse thee, bold wind,' shouted Gisli 'and drive
'Floe and Berg out to sea as bees from a hive.

'Chase this woman-lipped haze at top of thy speed,
'It cloys to the soul as the tongue cloys with mead!

'Come, buckle thy sharp spear again to thy breast!
'Thy galley hurl forth from the seas of the West.

'With thy long, hissing oars, beat loud the north sea.
'The sharp gaze of day give the eagles and me.

'No cunning mists shrouding the sea and the sky,
'Or the brows of the great Gods, bold wind, love I!

'As Gylfag, my hound, lays his fangs in the flank
'Of a grey wolf, shadowy, leather-thew'd, lank.

'Bold wind, chase the blue mist, thy prow in its hair,
'Sun, speed thy keen shafts thro' the breast of the air!

* * * * *

PART III.

The shouting of Gisli, the chieftain
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Isabella Valancy Crawford

Isabella Valancy Crawford was an Irish-born Canadian writer and poet. more…

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"Gisli: The Chieftain" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 15 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/19896/gisli:-the-chieftain>.

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