Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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'' No pleasure like a Christian roasted slowly,
To Odin's greatest number can be given ;

The will of freemen to the gods is holy ;

The People's voice must be the voice of Heaven.

On selfish principles you chafe at capture,

But what are private pangs to public rapture ?


" You doubt that giving you as food for Freya
Will have much marked effect upon the seas ;

Let's grant you right : — all pleasure's in idea ;
If thousands think it, you the thousands please.

Your private interest must not be the guide,

When interest clash majorities decide."


These doctrines, wise, and worthy of the race
From whose free notions modern freedom flows,

Bore with such force of reasoning on the case.
They left the knight dumbfounded at the close ;

Foiled in the w^eapons which he most had boasted,

He felt sound logic proved he should be roasted.


Discreetly waiving farther conversations.
He, henceforth, silent lived his little hour ;

Indulo'ed at times such soothins: meditations,

As, " Flesh is grass," — and " Life is but a flower."

For men, like swans, have strains most edifying.

They never think of till the time for dying.



And now at last, the fatal voyage o'er,

Sir Gawaine hears the joyous shout of " Land !"

Two Vikings lead him courteously on shore :
A crowd as courteous wait him on the strand.

Fifes, viols, trumpets braying, screaming, strumming,

Flatter his ears, and compliment his coming.


Eight on the shore the gracious temple stands,
Form'd like a ship, and jjuilded but of log ;

Thither at once the hospitable bands

Lead the grave Knight and unsuspicious dog.

Which, greatly pleased to walk on land once more,

Swells with unprescient bark the tuneful roar.


Six Priests and one tall Priestess clothed in white,
Advance — and meet them at the porch divine;

With seven loud shrieks they pounce upon the Knight,-
Whisked by the Priests behind the inmost shrine,

While the tall Priestess asks the congregation

To come at dawn to witness the oblation.


Tho' somewhat vex'd at this so brief delay —
Yet as the rites, in truth, required preparing.

The Hock obedient took themselves aw^ay ; —
Meanwhile the Knight was on the Idol staring,

Not without wonder at the tastes terrestrial

Which in that image, hail'd a shape celestial.



Full thirty ells in height — the goddess stood
Based on a column of the bones of men,

Daub'd was her face with clots of human blood,
Her jaws as wide, as is a tiger's den ;

With giant fangs as strong and huge as those

That cranch the reeds, thro' which the sea-horse goes.


" Right reverend Sir," quoth he of golden tongue,

"A most majestic gentlewoman this !
Is it the Freya* whom your scalds have sung

Goddess of love and sweet connubial bliss ? —
If so — despite her very noble carriage,
Her charms are scarce what youth desires in marriage."


" Stranger," said one who seemed the hierarch-priest —

" In that sublime, symbolical creation,
The outward image but conveys the least

Of Freya's claims on human veneration —
But, (thine own heart if Love hath ever glowed in,)
Thou' It own that Love is quite as fierce as Odin 1


^^ Hence, as the cause of full one half our quarrels,
Freya with Odin shares the rites of blood ; —

In this — thou see'st a hidden depth of morals,
But by the vulgar little understood ; —

We do not roast thee in an idle frolic ;"

But as a type mysterious and symbolic."

* Freya is the Goddess of love, beauty, and Hymen; the Scandinavian Venus.



The liierarch motions to the priests around,
They bind the victim to the Statue's base,

Then, to the Knight they link the wondering hound,
Some three yards distant — looking face to face.

" One word," said Gawaine — " ere your worships quit us,

" How is it meant that Freya is to eat us ?"


" Stranger," replied the priest — " albeit we hold
Such questions idle, and perhaps profane ;

Yet much the wise will pardon to the bold —
When what they ask 't is easy to explain —

Still typing Truth, and shaped with sacred art,

We place a furnace in the statue's heart.


" That furnace heated by mechanic laws

Which gods to priests for godlike ends permit,

We lay the victim bound across the jaws.
And let him slowly turn upon a spit ;

The jaws — (when done to what we think their liking)

Close ; — all is over : — The effect is striking."


At that recital made in tone complacent

The frozen Knight stared speechless and aghast,

Stared on those jaws to which he was subjacent,
And felt the grinders cranch on their repast.

Meanwhile the priest said — " Keep your spirits up.

And ere I go, say when you'd like to sup?"



'' Sup !" faltered out the melancholy Knight,
" Sup ! pious Sir — no trouble there, I pray !

Good tho' I grant my natural appetite,
The thought of Freya's takes it all away :

As for the dog — poor, unenlightened glutton.

Blind to the future, — let him have his mutton."


'T is night : behold the dog and man alone !

The man hath said his thirtieth noster jyater^
The dog has supped, and having picked his bone,

(The meat was salted) feels a wish for water \
Puts out in vain a reconnoitering paw.
Feels the cord, smells it, and begins to gnaw.


Abash'd Philosophy, that dog survey !

Thou call'st on freemen — bah ! expand thy scope !
' Aide4oi toi meme^ et Dieu faideraP

Doth thraldom bind thee? — gnaw thyself the rope. —
Whatever Laws, and Kings, and States may be ;
Wise men in earnest, can be always free.


By a dim lamp upon the altar stone

Sir Gawaine marked the inventive work canine ;
" Cords bind us both — the dog has gnawed his own ;

Dog skoinophagous'^" — a tooth for mine ! —
And both may scape that too-refining Goddess
Who roasts to types what Nature meant for bodies."

* Id est "rope-eating" — a compound adjective borrowed from such Greek as Sir
Gawaine might have learned at the then flourishing c»l!ege of Caerleon. The les-
sons of education naturally recur to us in our troubles.



Sir GaAvaine calls the emancipated lioiiiid,
And strives to show his own illegal ties ;

Explaining how free dogs, themselves unbound.
With all who would be free should fraternise —

The dog looked puzzled, licked the fettered hand,

Pricked up his ears — but would not understand.


The unhappy Knight perceived the hope was o'er,

And did again to fate his soul resign ;
When hark ! a footstep, and an opening door,

And lo once more the Hierarch of the shrine ;
The dog his growl at Gawa^ine's whisper ceast,
And dog and Knight, both silent watched the priest.


The subtle captive, saw with much content
No sacred comrade had that reverend man ;

Beneath a load of sacred charcoal bent.

The Priest approach'd ; when Gawaine thus began

" It shames me much to see you thus bent double,

And feel myself the cause of so much trouble.


" Doth Freya's kitchen, ventrical and holy,

Afford no meaner scullion to prepare
The festive rites ? — on you depends it wholly

To heat the oven and to dress the fare ?"
'' To hands less j)ure are given the outward things,
To Ilierarchs only, the interior springs,"



Eeplied the Priest — " and till my task is o'er,
AH else intruding, wrath divine incur."

Sir Gawaine heard and not a sentence more

Sir Gawaine said, than — " Up and seize him, Sir,"

Sprung at the word, the dog ; and in a trice

Grip'd the Priest's throat and lock'd it like a vice.

" Pardon, my sacred friend," then quoth the Knight,

" You are not strangled from an idle frolic,
When bit the biter, you'll confess the bite

Is full of sense, mordacious but symbolic;
In roasting men, culinary brother,
Learn this grand truth — ' one turn deserves another 1' "


Extremely pleased the oratorio Knight
Regained the vantage he had lost so long,

For sore, till then, had been his just despite

That Northern wit should foil his golden tongue.

Now, in debate how proud was his condition.

The opponent posed and by his own position !


Therefore, with more than his habitual breeding.
Resumed benign an tly the bland Gawaine,

While much the Priest against the dog's proceeding
With stifling gasps protested, but in vain —

" Friend — (softly, dog ; so — ho !) Thou must confess

Our selfish interests bid us coalesce. —



'^ Uiiknit tliese cords ; and, once unloosed the knot,
I pledge my troth to call the hound away,

If thou accede — a show of hands ! if not
TJiat dog at least I fear must have his day."

High in the air, both hands at once appear !

'^ Carried, nem. con., — Dog? fetch him, — gently, here !"

Not without much persuasion yields the hound !

Loosens the throat, to gripe the sacred vest.
'' Priest," quoth Gawaine, " remember, but a sound.

And straight the dog — let fanc}^ sketch the rest !"
The Priest^ by fancy too dismay'd already,
Fumbles the knot with lingers far from steady.


Hoarse, while he fumbles, growls the dog suspicious.
Not liking such close contact to his Lord ;

(The best of friends are sometimes too officious,
And grudge all help save that themselves afford.)

His hands set free, the Knight assists the Priest,

And, finis, funis, stands at last releast.

True to his word — and party coalitions,

The Knight then kicks aside the dog, of course ;
Salutes the foe and states the new conditions

The facts connected with the times enforce ;
All coalitions naturally denote.
That State-Metempsychosis — change of coat !



" Ergo," quoth Gawaine, — " first, the sacred cloak ;

Next, when two parties, but concur pro. temp.
Their joint opinions only should be spoke

By that which has most cause to fear the hemp.
Wherefore, my friend, this scarf supplies the gag
To keep the cat symbolic — in the bag ! — "


So said, so done, before the Priest was able
To prove his counter interest in the case.

The Knight had bound him with the victim's cable,
Closed up his mouth and covered up his face.

His sacred robe with hands profane had taken.

And left him that which Gawaine had forsaken.


Then boldly out into the blissful air.

Sir Gawaine stept ! Sweet Halidom of Night ;

With Ocean's heart of music heaving there.
Under its starry robe ! — and all the might

Of rock and shore, and islet deluge-riven,

Distinctly dark against the lustrous heaven !


Calm lay the large rude Nature of the North,
Glad as when first the stars rejoicing sang,

And fresh as when from kindling Chaos forth
(A thought of God) the young Creation sprang ;

When man in all the present Father found.

And for the Temple, paused and look'd around !

VOL. II. 5



Nature, thou earliest Gospel of the Wise,
Thou never-silent Hymner unto God !

Thou Angel-Ladder lost amid the skies,
Tho' at the foot we dream upon the sod !

To thee the Priesthood of the Lyre belong —

They hear Religion and reply in Song !


If he hath held thy worship undefiled

Through all the sins and sorrows of his youth.

Let the man echo what he heard as Child
From the far hill-tops of melodious Truth,

Leaving on troubled hearts some lingering tone

Sweet with the solace thou hast given his own !




Invocation to the North ; Winter, Labour, and Necessity, as Agents of
Civilization — The Polar Seas described ; the lonely Ship ; its Leader
and Crew; Honour due from Song to the Discoverer! The battle with
the Walruses ; the crash of The floating Icebergs ; The ship ice-locked ;
Arthur's address to the Norwegian Crew; They abandon the vessel and
reach land ; the Dove finds the healing herb ; returns to the ship, which
is broken up for log huts ; The winter deepens ; The sufferings and
torpor of the crew ; The effect of Will upon life ; Will preserves us from
ills our own, not from sympathy Avith the ills of others ; Man in his
higher development has a two-fold nature — in his imagination and his
feelings ; Imagination is lonely. Feeling social ; The strange aifection
between the King and the Dove ; The King sets forth to explore the
desert ; his joy at recognizing the print of human feet ; The attack of
the Esquimaux ; The meeting between Arthur and his friend ; The
crew are removed to the ice-huts of the Esquimaux ; The adventures
of Sir Gawaine continued ; His imposture in passing himself off as a
priest of Freya ; He exorcises the winds which the Norwegian hags
had tied up in bags ; And accompanies the Whalers to the North Seas ;
The storm ; How Gawaine and his hound are saved ; He delivers the
Pigmies from the Boars, and finally establishes himself in the Settle-
ment of the Esquimaux ; Philosophical controversy between Arthur
and Gawaine relative to the Raven — Arthur briefly explains how he
came into the Polar Seas in search of the Shield of Thor ; Lancelot
and Genevra having sailed for Carduel ; Gawaine informs Arthur that
the Esquimaux have a legend of a Shield guarded by a Dwarf ; The
first appearance of the Polar Sun above the horizon.



Throned on the dazzling and untrodden height,
Formed of the frost-gems ages* labour forth

From the blanch'd air — crown'd with the pomp of light
I' the midst of dark, — stern Father of the North,

Thee I invoke, as, awed, my steps profane

The dumb gates opening on thy deathlike reign !

Thee, sure the Ithacanf — thee, sure, dread lord.

When in the dusky, Avan, Cimmerian waste
By the last bounds of Ocean, he explored

Ghast Erebus, beheld ; — and here embraced
In vain the phantom Mother ! lo, the gloom
Pierced by no sun, — the Hades of the tomb ! —


Magnificent horror ! — How like royal Death
Broods thy great hush above the seeds of Life !

Under the snow-mass cleaves thine icy breath.
And Avith the birth of fairy forests rife.

Blushes the world of white ; J — the green that glads

The wave, is but the march of myriads;

* The mountains of hard and perfect ice are the gradual production perhaps of
many centuries. — Leslie's Polar Stas and Regions.
■\ Ulysses, Odys. 1. xi.
\ The phenomenon of the red snow on the Arctic mountains is formed by innumer-



There, immense, moves uncouth leviathan ;

There from the hollows of phantasmal isles,
The morse* emerging rears the face of man,

There the huge bear scents, miles on desolate miles,
The basking seal ; — and ocean shallower grows,
Where, thro' its world a world, the krakenf goes.


Father of races who have led back Time
Into the age of Demigods ; — whose art

Excells all Egypt's magic — Wizards sublime

To whom the Elements are slaves; whose chart

Belts worlds by boldest seraph yet untrod,

The embryo orbs flash'd from the smile of God, —


Imperial Winter, hail ! — All hail with thee
Man's Demiurgus, Labour, side by side

With thy stern grandeur seated kinglily,
And ever shaping out the fates that guide

The onward cycles to the farthest goal

I' the fields of light, — the loadstone of the soul !

able vegetable bodies ; and the olive green of the Greenland Sea by Medusan animal-
( ules, the number of which Mr. Scoresby illustrates by supposing that 80,000
l)ersons would have been employed since the creation in counting it. — See Lkslik.

* The Morse, or Walrus, supposed to be the original of the Merman ; from iha
likeness its face presents at a little distance to that of a human being.

•j- The kraken is probably not wholly fabulous, but has its prototype in the enor-
mous polypus of the Arctic Seas.



Winter, and Labour, and Necessity,
Behold the Three that make us what we are,

The eternal pilots of a shoreless sea,
The ever-conquering armies of the Far !

By these we scheme, invent, ascend, aspire.

And, pardon'd Titans, steal from Jove the fire !


Dumb Universe of Winter — there it lies
Dim thro' the mist, a spectral skeleton !

Far in the wan verge of the solid skies

Hangs day and night the phantom of a moon ;

And slowly moving on the horizon's brink

Floats the vast ice-field with its glassy blink.*


But huge adown the liquid Infinite

Drift the sea Andes — by the patient wrath

Of the strong waves uprooted from their site
In bays forlorn — and on their winter path,

(Themselves a winter,) glide, or heavily, where

They freeze the wind, halt in the inert air.

Nor bird nor beast lessens with visible

Life, the large awe of space without a sun ;

Tho' in each atom life unseen doth dwell

And glad with gladness God the Living One.

He breathes — but breathless hangs the airs that freeze !

He speaks — but noiseless list the silences !

• The ice-blink seen on the horizon.



A lonely ship — lone in the me.;sureless sea,
Lone in tlie channel thro' the frozen steeps,

Like some bold thought launched on infinity
By early sage — comes glimmering up the deeps !

The dull wave, dirge-like, moans beneath the oar ;

The dull air heaves with wings that glide before.


From earth's warm precincts, thro' the sunless gates
That guard the central NifFelheim* of Dark,

Into the heart of the vast Desolate,

Lone flies the Dove before the lonely bark.

While the crown'd seeker of the glory-spell

Looks to the angel and disdains the hell.


Huddled on deck, one-half that hardy crew
Lie shrunk and withered in the biting sky.

With filmy stare and lips of livid hue.
And sapless limbs that stiffen as they lie ;

While the dire pest-scourge of the frozen zonef

Rots thro' the vein, and gnaws the knotted bone.


Yet still the hero-remnant, sires perchance

Of Hollo's Norman knighthood, dauntless steer

Along the deepening horror, and advance
Upon the invisible foe, loud chaunting clear

Some lusty song of Thor, the ILxmmer-God,

When o'er those iron seas the Thunderer trod,

* Vapour-horne, or Scandinavian hell.

t Though ihe fearful disease known by the name of the scurvy is not peculiar
to the northern latitudes; and Dr. Budd has ably disproved (in the Library of Prac-



And pierced the halls of Lok ! Still while they sung,
The sick men lifted dim their languid eyes,

And palely smiled, and with convulsive tongue
Chimed to the choral chaunt in hollow sighs ;

Living or dying, those proud hearts the same

Swell to the danger and foretaste the fame


On, ever on, labours the lonely bark.

Time in that world seems dead. Nor jocund sun
Nor rosy Hesperus dawns ; but visible Dark

Stands round the ghastly moon. For ever on
Labours the lonely bark, thro' lock'd defiles
That crisping coil around the drifting isles.


Honour, thrice honour unto ye, Brave !

And ye, our England's sons, in the later day.
Whose valour to the shores of Hela gave

Names, — as the guides where suns deny the ray !
And, borne by hope and vivid strength of soul,
Left Man's last landmark — Nature's farthest goal !


Whom, nor the unmoulded chaos, with its birth
Of uncouth monsters, nor the fierce disease,

Nor horrible f\imine, nor the Stygian dearth
Of Orcus, dead'ning adamantine seas,

Scared from the Spirit's grand desire, — to know !

The Galileos of new worlds below !

tical Medicine) the old theory that it originated in cold and moisture ; yet the disease
was known in the north of Europe from the remotest ages, while no mention is
made of its appearance in more genial climates before the year 1260.



Man the Discoverer — whosoe'er thou art,
Honour to thee from all the lyres of song !

Honour to him who leads to Nature's heart
One footstep nearer ! To the Muse belong

All who enact what in the song we read ;

Man's noblest poem is Man's bravest deed.


On, ever on, — when veering to the West
Into a broader desert leads the Dove;

A larger ripple stirs the ocean's breast,
A hazier vapour undulates above ;

Along the ice-fields move the things that live,

Large in the life the misty glamours give.


In flocks the lazy walrus lay around

Gazing and stolid ; while the dismal crane

Stalk'd curious near ; — and on the hinder ground
Paused indistinct the Fenris of the main,

The insatiate bear,— to sniff the stranger blood, —

For Man till then had vanished since the flood,


And all of Man were fearless ! — On the sea
The vast leviathians came up to breathe,

With their young giants leaping forth in glee,
Or leaving whirlpools where they sank beneath.

And round and round the bark the narwal* sweeps,

With white horn ^listenin«: thro' the sluirirish deeps.

* The Sea Unicorn.



Uprose a bold Norwegian, hunger-stung.

As near the icy marge a walrus lay,
Hurl'd his strong spear, and smote the beast and sprung

Upon the frost-field on the wounded prey ;-^—
Sprung and recoiled — as, writhing with the pangs,
The bulk heaved towards him with its flashing fangs.


Roused to fell life — around their comrade throng.
Snorting wild wrath, the shapeless, grisly swarms —

Like moving mounts slow masses trail along ;
Aghast the man beholds the larva-forms —

Flies — climbs the bark — the deck is scaled — is won ;

And all the monstrous march rolls lengthening on.


" Quick to your spears !" the kingly leader cries.

Spears flash on flashing tusks ; groan the strong planks
With the assault : front after front they rise

With their bright* stare ; steel thins in vain their ranks.
And dyes with blood their birth-place and their grave ;
Mass rolls on mass, as flows on wave a wave.


These strike and rend the reeling sides below ;

Those grappling clamber up and load the decks,
With looks of wrath so human on the foe.

That half they seem the ante-Daedal wrecks
Of what were men in worlds before the Ark !
Thus raged the immane and monster war — when, hark,

• The eye of the Walrus is singularly bright.

72 KING Arthur.


Crash'cl thro' the dreary air a thunder peal !

In their slow courses meet two ice-rock isles
Clanging ; the wide seas far-resounding reel ;

The toppling ruin rolls in the defiles ;
Tlie pent tides quicken with the headlong shock ;
Broad-billowing heave the long waves from the rock ;


Far down the booming vales precipitous
Plunges the stricken galley, — as a steed

Smit by the shaft runs reinless, — o'er the prows
Howl the lash'd surges ; Man and monster freed

By power more awful from the savage fray,

Here roaring sink — there dumbly whirl away.


The w^ater runs in maelstroms ; — as a reed
Spins in an eddy and then skirs along, —

Round and around emerged and vanished
The mighty ship amidst the mightier throng

Of the revolving hell. With abrupt spring

Boundin«: at last — on it shot maddeninj



Behind it, thunderous swept the glacier masses,
Shivering and splintering, hurthng each on each :

Narrower and narrower press the frowning passes : —
Jamm'd in the farthest gorge the Ijarlv may reach,

Where the grim ScyUa locks the direful way,

The fierce Chary bdis flings her mangled prey.



As if a living thing, in every part

The vessel groans — and with a dismal chime

Cracks to the cracking ice ; asunder start

The brazen ribs : — and, clogg'd and freezing, climb

Thro' cleft and chink, as thro' their native caves,

The gelid armies of the hardening waves.


One sigh whose lofty pity did embrace
The vanish'd many, the surviving few,

The Cymrian gave — then with a cheering face
He spoke, and breathed his soul into the crew,

" Ye whom the hauglit desire of Fame, whose air

Is storm, — and tales of what your fathers were,


" What time their valour wrought such deeds below
As made the vaUant lift them to the gods.

Impeird with me to spare all meaner foe.

And vanquish Nature in the fiend's abodes ; —

Droop not nor faint, ye who survive, to give

Themes to such song as bids your Odin live,


" And to preserve from the oblivious sea
What it in vain engulfs ; — for all that life,

When noble, lives for is the memory !

The wave hath pluck'd us from the monster strife,

Lo where the icebay frees us from the wave,

And yields a port in what we deemed a grave !



" Up and at work all hands to lash the bark

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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 16 of 25)