F Robertson.

Torquil ; or The days of Olaf Tryggvason, with legends, ballads, dreams, etc. online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryF RobertsonTorquil ; or The days of Olaf Tryggvason, with legends, ballads, dreams, etc. → online text (page 1 of 6)
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ywpnfos, gallabs, Dreams, tit.



" To Norroway, to Norroway !

To Norroway, o'er the faem " —

Sir Patrick Spens.






Part I. — Maida 1

Part II. — The Priest of Odin 22

Part III. — The Sacrifice 46

Part IV.— Katla 58

Part V. — Olaf Tryggvason's Last Battle ... 80


Adam Fleming 93

The Hunted Macgregor 100

Basil the Coenobite 106

The Cavalier Slave 108

The Moddey Dhoo Ill

The Loch of Destruction 121


The Prince 128

Childhood 130

The Voyage 135

The Gathering 138

The Embroidering of the Motto 143

The Betreat 146

Culloden 148

Flora Macdonald 150

The End 152



Magnus op Norway 157

Icelandic Ballad 163


A Cairn 171

A Pict's House 176

On a Runic Cross in the Isle of Man 179


A Sprig of Heather 185

Three Men of a Noble Line 187

Snow 189

Rain 190

A Lay of the Unmusical 191



| art Jfirst


The waves were running wild and high,
Their foam crests white against the sky ;
The clouds athwart the dome of Heaven
Burst angrily in gleams of levin ;
The thunder's savage roaring came
After each flash of livid flame.
A strange, wild scene, that storm-beat isle,
Cleft by the sea from fair Argyle,
With barren cliffs of deep grey rock,
Storm-washed by every tempest's shock,
With hoary mountains, bleak and bare,
Bearing their summits in mid -air.


Deep clefts, where little streams rushed down
In tiny falls from pools, deep brown ;
And here, and there, in emerald sheen,
A meadow stretched of fertile green.


On a tall rock, layer upon layer,
Creviced and carved by sea and air,
A castle stood in grandest gloom —
Like some old giant's storied tomb.
Its ramparts circled round the cliff,
Stone piled on stone, massive, and stiff ;
Its one round tower stood wide and high,
In outline dark against the sky.
Built of huge stones, unpolished, rude,
But refuge safe in times of feud.
From this tall tower, the eye was free
To watch what came by land or sea:
North, south, or west, the glance quick flew ;
But east, a mountain checked the view.
A mountain, where the mist oft lay,
When brightly shone the summer day,
As though a veil would circle round,
What islesmen counted holy ground :
For here their priest dwelt with the earn,
In solitude unfathomed, stern.



On grey- ramparts, looking o'er the wave, —

Where ceaseless rang the ocean's rave —

A man paced, heedless of the storm,

That wildly beat his stalworth form.

His hazel eyes bent on the ground,

In meditation, wrapt, profound.

The wind played through his beard and hair,

That fell luxuriant and fair.

Its tawny waves told of Nbrweyan strain,

From Vikings come, who sailed the main.

Till, liking well this island strand,

They settled down to rule the land.

The many beaded tore was round his neck ;

His robe of wool, with divers coloured check ;

The brogues upon his feet of red deer's hide ;

His broad-leafed sword hung by his side

In 'broidered belt, inwrought with wires of gold,

With magic runes in cunning legends scrolled.

Such was the chieftain of the isle. — Torcmil, his name !

Young as he was, the land had heard his fame :

How on the mainland down he bore,

Sweeping the country bare from hill to shore,

In vengeance for his father, slain of old,

When to the isles the mainland warfare rolled.


Just now, his heart was very sore and hot ;

He had prayed for love, from one who loved him not

A captive maiden, that his arms had ta'en,

"When raged the island war on mainland plain.

A chieftain's daughter, gentle, sweet, and fair,

But drooping with her early weight of care ;

Weeping for sire, and nohle "brethren slain ;

Her captor's suit but gave her double pain,

Her heart seemed buried in their silent grave.

To Torquil's love no answering sign she gave.

This day he found her weeping all alone,

And his kind heart was anxious to atone

For ill that he had wrought :

He took her small cold hand in his, and told

Of his own father slain of old,

And how revenge he sought ;

" Unavenged I dare not let him be. —

" How could the Gods have then blessed me 1 "

He told his grief that he had slain

The maiden's sire, and brethren twain ;

And last, his love he told —

Prayed her to he his own fair wife,

With nuptial tie to still the strife.

She answered, sad and cold,


" E'en if I loved thee, could I wed
" The slayer of my father dead 1 "
" Nay, leave me ! love indeed is vain,
" Kind Torquil, spare to me this pain :
" Sad was my life, — nor wanted this."
He stooped, her small white hand to kiss,
Then left her sorrowing, very sore
That no kind thought for him she hore.


Thus Torquil now, with hasty stride,

Paced on the ramparts grey and wide.

It flashed across his sorrowing brain :

Why need I let my love be vain ;

Why not compel her to my will ;

And then he muttered, " Heart, be still !

" coward heart ! What would'st thou do 1

" To thine own self be thus untrue.

" Nay, rather wait her love to gain,

" Than take her hand, nor heed her pain

" Nay, rather win her not at all,

" Than harm a captive in thine halL

" Nay, rather hold her, sister fair,

" Till time shall dim the maiden's care,

" Than seek for bride the maid to win

" By captor's power, by deed of sin.



" Balder, pure God ! 0, for thine aid,
" Of mine own self I am afraid !
" For I have loved her more than life,
u And now she will not he my wife,
" Have loved her since I scaled that tower
" To snatch her from the burning bower ;
" Since pah; as death on that fierce day
" Unconcious in mine arms she lay,
" E'en on that day of war raged wide,
" I felt that she must be my bride :
" And she alone ; and now, in vain
" Is all my love her heart to gain."
Thus, with his eyes bent on the ground,
He walked the ramparts, round and round,
But when the wind had cooled his brain,
He paused, and glanced around again.


The waves still ran huge, wild, and high,
But the storm scud swept from the sky.
The fitful sun across the wave
A hundred tiny rainbows gave.
And far away, where sky and sea
Were blent in grey, dim, mistily,
A little sail — white as the snow,
Cresting a wave, now dashed below —


Caught Torquil's eye, who all amazed,
With deeper interest, stood and gazed.
He stood, and gazed with earnest eye
At the small skiff against the sky,
Then, as loud came the ocean's roar,
" That ship will never reach our shore,"
He murmured sadly. " Who can dare
" Down on this rocky isle to bear
" On such a day 1 — surely some wight,
" Who holds his life as vain and light ;
" I, too, could sail through storm and spray
" In such a mood as mine to-day."


The little skiff drew near the land,
By two old men alone 'twas manned,
With seemingly but little power
To guide it in such stormy hour ;
And at the prow — its only sign —
A rugged cross of mountain pine.
Young Torciuil, wondering at this sight,
In haste descended from his height,
And hurried to the rocks below.
While the old men feebly, and slow,
Strove hard their little skiff to land
On a small space of shingly sand.


Driven, and tossed against the rocks,

Eattered and beaten by the shocks ;

At last, with every muscle strained,

The sandy beach they thankful gained,

Dragged their small boat on land.

Then, kneeling first in fervent prayer,

Brought forth the cross with reverent care.

One held it in his hand ;

The other spake, " Seek we some cave,

" Where, listening to the chaunting wave,

" We may dwell in holy peace.

" Whence going forth, day-after-day,

" To preach, exhort, to bless, and pray,

" From evil powers we may release

" These islands of the sea."

The other said, " Thy will be mine,

" I bear the Cross, symbol divine,

" Lead on, I follow thee."


More Torquil marvelled at the sight,

He drew his form to its full height,

Then haughtily, he cried :

" Stay ! hold ! old men, this isle is mine,

" I would know what means this strange new sign.

" "Whence ye come across the tide ?


" How ye dared sail here without my will ?"

At his first words the monks stood still,

And meekly, answer made :

" Our master bids us wander forth

" To east and west, to south and north,

" With this, our sign displayed ;

" A higher power our feet doth guide

" Than thine, young chieftain, in thy pride ;

" But little, at thy hands we crave —

" A dwelling in some quiet cave."


Again, spake Torquil, angry still

That they dared come without his will,

" Old men, why come ye to mine isle 1

" Say, are ye men of cunniug wile ]

" Can ye read the mystic signs on high,

" When stars are gleaming in the sky ;

" When like a shield the sdver moon

" Maketh the earth like winter noon %

" Give ye a charm 'gainst wounds and death 1

" Can ye bring back the fleeting breath 1

" Say ! what are ye 1

" Will ye seek the mystic circled stone,

" Where ye may stand, dread and alone,

" The bright north star to see 1"



No answer back the elder made,

"With his white locks the wild winds played ;

His once tall form bent from its height,

But his blue eyes, still keen and bright,

Grasping the Cross in his thin hand,

Like seer of old, he seemed to stand.

The younger, with words of hasty speech,

His holy faith thus strove to teach :

" "We are no priests of savage rite,

" "We give no charm against the fight,

" We study not the stars of night ;

" But wandering o'er these isles we go,

" A better faith to teach and show. —

" This Cross our emblem and our sign,

" Sacred, mysterious, and divine,

" On this our God died once, to save

" A sinful world his life he gave.

" He is the only God ! noble chief ! —

" Thine — only foolish dreams of men's belief.

" This is the faith we wander forth to preach,

" Leaving Iona's sacred shrine to teach."


" The sea still tosses wild, and high
" To-night I will not bid ye fly."


Torquil replied, in gentler tone,

" And ye may dwell in cavern lone,

" For ought I care.

" If Odin's priest ye can appease:

" For dread he is, and hard to please.

" If he learn that ye are there,

" He may come upon you in his power,

" Aye e'en to kill in evil hour.

" Ye care not, fear not then to die,

" I like ye for your courage high.

" This strange new God of whom ye speak,

" I know not. — At mornings golden streak

" I bow me down at Father's Odin's name.

" I tremble when I hear Thor's hammer ring ;

" To Freya* and Frigga praises sing,

" Remembering Balder' s fame.

" But Lok f I fear far more than all the rest,

" That grim wierd God of guile and pest.

*" Freya the most propitious of the goddesses. The place
which she inhabits in heaven is called Falcvanger, or union of the
people. She goes on horseback to every place where battles are
fought, and asserts her right to one-half of the slain ; the other
belongs to Odin." — Cottle's translation of the Edda of

Frigga is the wife of Odin, queen of Valhalla.

t Lok was the evil genius of the Scandinavians, yet worshipped
as a god. He was the author of all fraud, and the bringer of


" I pray to Thor to aid,

' When 'mid the battle's din the arrows fly,

" When flaming castles tint the sky,

" In tempest, or in raid.

" Of thy new God, nothing I know,

"Nor reverence, nor worship owe.

" But follow me, and rest within my hall,

"For this one night, whatever may befall. —

" But stay ! what are the names men know ye by V

" Mine, Guthlac, his, Anselm," the elder made reply.


Then Torquil turned, and clomb the rocky stair,

Bidding them follow him with care,

Taking good heed their faltering steps to guide,

For the low rocks were slippery with the tide.

He led them to a door high in the wall,

By flight of wooden steps they reached the hall ;

There, leaving them beside the blazing fire,

Bidding them take what they would most desire, —

For on the board was food in plenty spread,

With ale, heather wine,* and fresh baked oaten bread —

He mounted to his mother Thora's bower,

The topmost room within the bleak high tower,

* Sir James Foulis of Colinton in the first volume of " Tran-
sactions of the Society of the Antiquaries of Scotland," states
that the ancient Caledonians made a beverage from heather,
which they called Lusadh.


Yet warm, and curtained well within,
And carpeted with, red deer skin.


In few brief words Torquil told all

Of the old men within his hall,

Praying his mother see that they

Are tended well while here they stay.

Then Thora rose from off her chair,

Crying, in accents of despair,

" My son ! My son ! I tremble much for this,

" Odin's dread priest will take thy deed amiss.

" A new religion ! — sayest thou, my son,

" Surely, thou knowest there is only one.

" And yet, and yet, how strange and sad to tell,

" Maida, the captive girl thou lov'st too well,

" But yesternight, in this my bower,

" Raving, declared there was another power :

" An old thrall of her father's, years ago,

" Another god had tried to make her know.

" son ! dear son ! seek out another bride,

" Not one who thus can dare our Gods deride."


A stately maiden stood by Thora's chair,
Katla, an island bonder's heir,


Kinswoman of Lady Thora too ;

To her white brow the red blood flew. —

Only too well fair Katla knew

That Thora would rejoice

If Torquil's love on her would fall ;

If she could Torquil's heart enthrall,

And be his choice. —

And Katla's heart indignant burned,

That her white hand the chieftain spurned.

Now backing, Thora murmered low,

" These three, I fear, will work us woe."


Torquil marked not the blushing face,

±>ut seeing vacant Maida's place —

" Wanders she forth this stormy eve ? "

" Yes, she loves well my bower to leave,

" And wander dreaming all alone,"

Thora replied, in angry tone.

Now, Torquil thought — " Bearing this news,

" My presence she will not refuse." —

'' I go to seek her then," he said,

And from his mother's chamber sped.



Then Thora turned to Katla with a sigh,

" Who will sit within my place when I shall die

" A stranger maid, a foe, a slave !

" How can I rest within my grave %

" A wild new faith rising in baleful ray,

" Driving our ancient rites away.

" Torquil, by this woman led,

" His soul within him tame and dead.

" Katla, my dead sister's child,

" Why will he not be reconciled

" To take thee for his bride 1

" Then could I lay me down in peace,

" Knowing his valour ne'er would cease

" With Katla at his side."


" 0, Lady Thora ! " Katla sadly said,

" Oft'times my heart has sorely bled

" When Torquil coldly passed me by,

u On Maida's face fixed loving eye.

" Thou knowest well my love for him of old,

" When still a child my heart its secret told. "*

" For him I sang the softest, sweetest tunes,

" Wearied my eyes deciphering ancient runes,

" That I from him might win a smile,

" Singing the Saga's of his isle ;


"And all in vain ! a captive maiden's face —
« And not so fair— has won my rightful place."


While thus they talked with many a sigh

In Lady Thora's chamber high ;

Torquil passed downward through the hall,

And paused his house-carles loud to call,

Eade them attend the aged men ;

Then took his way to a small glen,

That landward lay, quiet and still,

With a pine wood half up the hill ;

A noisy "burn ran Drawling past,

Bound many a boulder tempest cast.

Here would fair Maida oft retreat,

Taking on some grey stone her seat,

And watch the sunset's golden beam,

Or the north streamers mystic gleam ;

Or in the little wood lone stray,

'Mid shadow's dark, at close of day.

Here Torquil sought her,— nor sought long—

For on his ear there broke a song,

So sweet, so sad, so full of care,

As if some spirit wailed in air.


Beside a cairn, huge in the gathering gloom —
Some ancient chief's forgotten tomb—


Fair Mai da sat, the quickly fading light

Showing her lovely face, wan, still, and white ;

Her dark blue robes fell down in heavy fold,

A golden circlet bound her locks, pale gold.

Thus sitting, lonely musings keeping,

Like Frigga fair for Balder weeping,

Some goddess, cold and high,

Lovelier than Katla, proudly standing,

Her brown eyes flashing and commanding,

Seemed she to Torquil's eye.

She marked him not, but murmured low,

"Watching the bright north streamers glow, —

" I wonder what is there. —

" Is it the wild Yalhalla's crew,

" Quaffing metheglin ever new,

" Warring in air ;

" Or is it as that old thrall used to tell,

"The work of one great God, doing all things well ?"


So Maida mused, then Torquil forward came :
O'er all her face the hot blood ran like flame.
" Why sittest thou so sadly and alone 1 "
Thus Torquil spoke in gentle soothing tone,
" The mists grow heavy on the hill,
" The evening air is damp and chill."


" I love the even hour, so still and grey,"
Maida replied, " Then may I steal away
" To weep in peace.

" The song jars on my heavy, weary heart,
" In the gay dance I cannot take a part,
" Or hid it cease.

" Torquil ! nohle Torquil! lov'st thou me 1 ?
" Then show thy love, and set me free,
u hear me to the mainland shore again !
" Where my sire sleeps, and brethren twain :
" Above their grave to lie and rest,
" It seems to me would be most blest.
'• Then might'st thou wed with Katla fair,
" And free thy mother's heart from care.''


" I love not Katla," Torquil made reply,

" Rather will wait as years fly by —

" My every act showing the love I bear —

" Watching o'er thee with lover's care,

'• Repentant that my sword has wrought thee ill,

" Striving their places well to fill.

' Father and brother I will be to thee,

" If more thou wilt not have of me.

a It wearies thee this subject, then I'll tell

" How strange a thing to-day befell.


" Two ancient men, so thin and spare,
" As if would through them pass the air,
" To our wild coast this day were blown
" In a small skiff, these two alone :
" They come — so said they on the beach —
" A strange new faith to show and teach,
" About a God who died a world to save ;
" Surely these men but doting rave ;
" And yet, I hear that thou did'st dare
" Thy faith in some new power declare."


Torcpiil marked the change in Maida's face,

The new light in her eyes.

From her seat she rose with lithsome grace,

And glanced to the lightened skies.

" Then it was true what that old bondman told :

" A God who walked this earth of old.

" Then it is true that one great power

" Made sky, and sea, and earth, and flower.

" Then it is true that our wild Gods are dreams,

" This light from no Valhalla streams.

" Doubt has been within my heart for long,

" I shuddered at the savage song

" Of Cormac, your wild priest.

" Balder alone seemed like a God to me,


" Yet lacking something, even he,
"My heart is now released.
" The old thrall's God is true indeed,
" To these old men my footsteps lead."


" They rest within my hall," Torquil replied,

Then, " Maida, mine own love," he cried,

" Surely our Gods ride all the world in might,

"Do they not answer every holy rite,

" Have they not aided in the battle hour,

"When we appeased by blood their mighty power?

" speak not words of unbelief

" In these our Gods ! for though the chief

" Of all this isle am I,

" The dread wrath of Cormac, seer,

" Who speaketh for the Gods, I fear.

" He my love may doom to die,

" He careth not, dread Odin's priest,

" For blood of bird, or life of beast,

"To give the Gods on high."


' ' Torquil, that old thrall used to tell,
" Of holy men, and maids that fell
" For his pure faith.


" And then their souls flew upward to their rest,

" To dwell for aye in regions of the blest,

" To suffer no more skaith.

" He told of many, younger far than I,

'* Who deemed it bliss for this new life to die.

" I think the suffering I could bear,

"Ifl might rest for ever there."

Now Torquil spoke, a strange pain in his voice,

" The woman that I love would then rejoice

" Eather to die than be my bride ;

" They shall not tear thee from my side.

" Maida, I fear thy love is more

" To me, than the God's pleasure. — Oft before

" I felt I worshipped only thee.

" Thou goddess wert alone to me ;

" Of thy sweet head one golden hair

" They shall not harm, they shall not dare.

" If this new faith can win my bride,

" The ancient men with us shall bide."

She tbanked him, with a half-checked sigh,

And tearful glance of her blue eye ;

Murmuring a hope that future day

Would wean his heart from her away.

But Torqud checked her — " Cold mists fall,"

He said, " Then let us seek the halL"



Ijart Bttavfo.

The morning light beams softly o'er the wave,
The angry winds have wearied cease to rave,
The brilliant sun from every wavelet bright
Brings forth a hundred sparks of light ;
The white sea birds in graceful circles sailing,
In eager search for food are wailing.
The dreaded mountain top the mists are shading,
Their snowy wreaths, now dense, now fading.
Through Torquil's hall the early light is flowing,
On mail and weapon brightly glowing ;
There Maida sits, with solemn eager face,
Listing good Guthlac's words of holy grace.
Anselm, the younger of the twain, has gone
To seek some cavern still and lone ;


Refusing Torquil's offer kind,

A home within his tower to find.

Saying : " Young chieftain, on thy head

" Bring we no wrath of false priest dread,

" But we alone his anger hear —

" We know our God of us hath care.

" Some future time, if, as I pray ye may,

" Our holy faith thou takest for thy stay,

" A chapel hy thy tower we'll raise.

" There pray to God, there sing our praise."


Sweetly the words of holy comfort fell
On Maida's heart, working their peaceful spell,
Bidding the mourner suffer and he still,
And how her meekly to our Father's will.
Torquil had early gone the wild red deer to chase,
Glad to escape his mother's lowering face ;
And Thora sat within her lofty room,
Knitting her "brow in angry gloom,
Complaining that her son, for Maida's sake,
Had risked with Cormac peace to "break ;
That dreaded priest, who over all the land,
In virtue of his office, held command ;
Awing the people with a single word.
They trembled when his voice they heard,


Hovering between two fears, then Thora sate,
Trembling for Torquil's future fate,
Fearing that he too from the Gods would turn,
Against him their dread anger burn.
Now, half disposed to call for Cormac's aid,
Then drawing back, uncertain and afraid.


Fair Katla's eyes were bright to-day,

The damask flush on her cheek lay,

Eestless she was, and from her distaff turned

To press a hand to brow that burned,

With the wild thoughts that raged within.

She saw a way young Torquil's heart to win, —

Or thought she saw — '' Set Maida once aside,

" I surely then may be his chosen bride."

So mused she, as from hall below

The sounds of murmuring gently flow —

Good Guthlac's words of peace.

" If Cormac knew how things go here,"

She muttered softly, half in fear,

" This wooing then must cease.

" Dare I to seek him on yon hill,

" For such a prize, I must, I will.

" I must seek him if he is to know."

For Cormac, his dread power to show,


Seldom descended from his mountian grey,

Save on some festival, or "burial day.

His people sought him when they craved his aid,

In charm or omen for the raid,

Or fight on land or sea ;

To bless their crops, or sickness stay ;

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Online LibraryF RobertsonTorquil ; or The days of Olaf Tryggvason, with legends, ballads, dreams, etc. → online text (page 1 of 6)