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The Earthly Paradise, (September-November), by William Morris, [1870], at

The Sword comes back without the Scabbard.

WHEN of this wedding first came tidings true
To Bathstead, then it was that Gudrun knew
How much of hope had been before that day
Within her heart; now, when a cast-away
Upon the lonely rocks of life, she was
With nought to help whate’er might come to pass;
Deaf, dumb, and blind, long hours she went about
Her father's house, till folk began to doubt
If she would ever speak a word again;
Nay, scarce yet could she think about her pain,
Or e’en know what it was, but seemed to face
Some huge blank wall within a lonely place.
And Bodli watched her with a burning heart
Baffled and beaten back, yet for his part
Something like hope ’gan flit before his eyes,
Hope of some change e’en if new miseries
Wrapped it about.
                       As on a day she went
Slow-footed through the hall without intent,
Taking no heed of aught, of Kiartan's name
She heard one speak, and to her stunned heart came p. 457
A flash of hope and pain, against her will
Her foot must stay her, and she stood there still,
And turning round she saw where Ospak stood,
And slowly talking in a sullen mood
Unto his brother Thorolf; but they made
As though they saw her not, and Ospak said:

   "Thou art young, Thorolf, and thy words are vain,
So it has been, so it shall be again,
One man shall deem all others made for him,
And ’neath his greatness shall all fame grow dim;
Till on a day men try if he is man
Eh! what then falleth—let him, if he can
Play Thor among the mannikins, and cast
The swords aback when he is caught at last."

   "Hist!" Thorolf said; "there sister Gudrun goes!
Kiartan has froze her heart up: stand we close!"

   Then Ospak laughed: "She will not hear us yet,
She hath a hope she cannot quite forget,
That he who twice has flung her love aside,
Will come some day to claim her as his bride,
When he has slain our long-faced champion there!
Good sooth, the house of Hauskuld waxeth fair,
We shall have kings in Iceland ere our day
Is quite gone by."
                    Slowly she gat away
Stung to the heart by those coarse words of hate, p. 458
Wondering withal what new thought lay in wait
To change her life; she sat her down alone
And covered up her face, and one by one
Strove to recall the happy days past by,
And wondering why they past so happily
While yet none strove for happiness; at last
She raised her head up and a glance she cast
Unto the open door and down the hall
A streak of sun on Bodli's head did fall
As he turned round and saw her; then she said
Unto herself: 'Nay, then, love is not dead
Since Bodli lives: why should I hate him then
Because he heeded not the shame of men
Amidst his love? but thou, I once called love,
On whom I flung my heart, with whom I strove
For ever, thy weak measured love to make
Equal to mine, what didst thou for my sake?
Thy soul is saved, thy fame is won, and thou
Hast a fair damsel's arms about thee now—
Not mine—and thou art happy. Who can tell,
O Bodli Thorleikson, but down in hell
We twain shall love, and love, and love again,
When the first wave of the eternal pain
Has washed our folly from us, and I know
Why upon earth I loved a weak heart so
That loved me not, while I was ice to thee,
O loving lovesome traitor."
She hung her head with parted lips awhile, p. 459
Silent she sat, until a bitter smile
Bemocked her face: "Yet if I call thee love,
And kiss thee with sweet kisses, such as move
Great men to great deeds, trust me not too much,
But think of honied words and tremulous touch
As things that slay. If Kiartan lay there dead,
How I should love him!"
                            Once more sank her head,
And long she sat in silence, till at last
She heard how Bodli toward her bower passed,
And rose and met him coldly, with no sign
That anywise her vexed heart did incline
To ease the bitter burden that he bore.

   Unheeding all, the year moved as before,
And autumn came again. What hearts soe’er
The younger folk each unto each might bear
Olaf and Oswif chose to shut their eyes,
And close their ears, as peaceful men and wise,
And make believe that nought amiss there was
’Twixt the two houses; so it came to pass
That Bathstead to the Herdholt feast did go
At autumn-tide once more at least; and though
Kiartan was loth enow those folk to face,
Yet so hard Olaf prayed that he would grace
His father's house with his great fame, and sit,
Yet once again while he might look at it,
A glory to the feast, that he put by
His doubts once more, and there with troubled eye p. 460
Noted the twain among the Bathstead crowd,
And Oswif's ill sons, insolent and loud,
And turned pale when the words of greeting came
From out his lips. Meanwhile, with shrinking shame
And anxious heart, did Refna gaze upon
Gudrun's great beauty, deeming she had won
A troublous lot; and Kiartan, noting that,
And how scarce like the mistress there she sat,
Yet to his eyes seemed fairer, because love
Had forged the fear that so her heart did move,
Grew wroth that still so many memories
Must vex his heart, and turn aside his eyes
To Gudrun, the world's wonder there, whose face,
Now coldly watchful, scanned the busy place.

   Men say that at this feast three things betid,
Whereby the flame the elders deemed well hid,
Showed through the heap of smouldering love and hate.
First, when the new-come guests did stand and wait
Till they were marshalled to their seats, the maid
Who did this for the women turned and said
To Kiartan, "Who the high-seat fills to-day
Beside the goodwife?"
                          In most bright array
Stood Gudrun, gazing ever at the bride,
As though she saw not anything beside;
And Kiartan noted her, and therewith deemed
That in her eyes a look of hate there gleamed,
And saw withal Refna's soft eyes fall down p. 461
Before hers; then he spake out, with a frown:

   "Nay, thou art foolish, damsel: who shall sit
In the best place, if I may deal with it,
Saving my wife?" But as he said the word,
The struggling devil so his vexed heart stirred,
That he must look at Gudrun; their eyes met,
Paler she grew than he had seen her yet,
Then red as blood; but he waxed wroth and said:

   "Ah, wert thou e’en so foolish, then, O maid?
For such a guest belike we have got here
As thinketh everything of great or dear,
Honour, and hearts of men, and women's tears
Are but for her." Then tingling took the ears
Of those that stood thereby; as he strode off,
Gudrun's cold smile was bitterer than a scoff
Spoken aloud: but Ospak laughed, and said
In a loud whisper, close to Bodli's head:

   "Nay, thou shalt have to fight for Gudrun yet,
Even though Refna did the bride-bed get.
He deems our sister may not quench the thought
Of all the joy she erst to Herdholt brought.
Ah, we shall yet see Refna lie a-cold,
Brother-in-law, unless thou waxest bold."

   Such a beginning to the feast there was.

   Moreover, the next day it came to pass, p. 462
As folk ere supper sported in the hall,
That unto her did goodwife Thorgerd call
The gentle Refna, bidding her as one
Who well might bid, to do the rich coif on,
The wonder of the Greeks, the fair queen's gift:
Then Refna reddened, and her eyes did lift
To Kiartan, e’en as asking him thereof;
But he spake nought, her soft look might not move
His heart from deep thought; so she went her ways,
Scarce happy ’neath his far-off moody gaze,
And came back glittering like a new-born star,
And sat upon the dais seen afar
Down the dusk hall. Then Ospak noted how
Gudrun turned pale, and he his teeth did show
Like a crossed hound, and muttered:
                                        "Past belief,
As men may deem it, sister, yet a thief
Asgeir begat; for longeth not that gold
To Bathstead, if the tale be rightly told?"

   Now Kiartan seemed to wake as from a dream,
When in the torches' flare that gold did gleam,
And went across to Refna's side, and said,
Smiling and whispering: "More I love thy head
Uncovered, O my love; yea, and withal,
Sharp swords thy helm from out their sheaths may call:
Look down there, how the sons of Oswif scowl
Around poor Bodli's face; the storm doth growl
Afar already—nay, nay, fear thee nought!— p. 463
But good I deemed it thou shouldst know my thought."

   Sour and sick-hearted Gudrun turned away,
Noting how Kiartan's hand on Refna's lay,
And how their cheeks were close each unto each.
And Refna's eyes that love did so beseech,
Her soft mouth, tremulous with longing sore
For yet more kisses, long time hung before
Her weary eyes upon that weary night,
Yea, and till mirth of men was slain by light.

   Hearken once more: the morn the guests should go,
About the stead Kiartan went to and fro,
Busied in such things, as his father's son,
For honour's very sake, must see well done;
And as he ordered how the folk should ride,
His sword, 'The King's Gift' named, which by his side
Was ever wont to hang, upon his bed
He left awhile, and, when the guests were sped,
Came back to seek the same, and found it gone.
Then questioning there was of everyone,
And mighty trouble; An the Black meanwhile,
A sturdy house-carle, slipped out with a smile,
Just as old Olaf to his son ’gan talk
In such wise:
                  "Son, hate far abroad will walk
E’en when new-born, although we nurse it not:
Now my heart tells me much must be forgot,
Many words hidden, many sights be seen p. 464
By thine eyes only, son, if I, between
Death and the end of life shall see thee last;
And hold thy living hands as life goes past,
Mine eyes a-waxing dim: wait then, and hope:
Thou shalt grow stronger with the world to cope,
If thou sitst down with patience, casting not
Long days and sweet on drawing of a lot."
   Such things and more he spake, and Kiartan heard
With kind eyes, if his heart were little stirred.
But, as they sat and talked thereof, came back,
Smiling, but panting sorely, An the Black,
And in his cloak he carried something wrapped.

   "Well," Olaf said, "and what new thing hath happed?"

   "Soon told," said An; "I followed them afar,
Knowing what thieves those Bathstead skinkers are,
And at the peat moss where the road doth wind
About the dale, young Thorolf lagged behind;
I saw him take a something from his cloak,
And thrust it down just were the stream doth soak
The softest through the peat; then swift again
Ride on: so when they might not see me plain,
O ho, says I, and comes up to the place,
And here and there I peer with careful face
Until at last I draw this fair thing forth;
—A pity though, the scabbard is of worth!
Clean gone it is." p. 465
                   Then from his cloak he drew
'The King's Gift' bright and naked. Olaf grew
Joyous thereover, praising An right well.
But Kiartan ’gan to gloom: "Ah, who can tell,"
He muttered, as he took the sword to him,
"But this shall end the troublous tale and dim?—
Well, I at least cast not the sheath away;
Bewail not ye too much, who have to pay
For pleasure gained; his may the worst hap be,
Who best can bear the pain and misery."


Next: The Stealing of the Coif