TRANSLATED FROM THE SAXON.
THE loud winds whistled through the sacred grove of Thor; far over the plains of Denania, were the cries of the spirits heard. The howl of Hubba's horrid voice swelled upon every blast, and the shrill shriek of the fair Locabara, shot through the midnight-sky.
Gorthmund slept on his couch of purple; the blood of the slain was still on his cruel hand: his helmet was stained with purple, and the banner of his father was no more white. His soul shuddered at the howl of Hubba, and the shrill shriek of Locabara: he shook like the trembling reed, when the loud tempest rolls the foaming flood over the pointed rocks: pale was his face as the eglantine, which climbs the branches of the slowery bramble. He started from his couch: his black locks stood upright on his head, like the spears which stand round the tent of the warriors, when the silver moon spangles on the tranquil lake.[Page 46]
Why wilt thou torment me, Hubba; it was not by my hand that the sword drank thy blood. Who saw me plunge the dagger to the heart of Locabara? No! Nardin of the forest was far away. Cease, cease, thy shrieks; I cannot bear them. On thy own sword thou hast thy death; and the fair virgin of the hills fell beneath the rage of the mountains. Leave me, leave me: witness Hel,** Hela, or Hel, was the idol of the Danes, not, as some authors falsely aslert, of the Saxons. He was the god of battle and victory. It is worthy remark, that every pagan deity of the northern nations, had his symbol or type, under which he was worshipped. The type of Hel was a black raven: hence the Danish standard was a raven. The symbol of Woden was a dragon, which was the standard of the Saxons in general, and the arms of Wessex. I knew not Locabara, I forced her not to my embraces; no, I slew her not; she fell by the mountaincers. Leave me, leave me, O soul of Hubba!
Exmundbert, who bore the†† The office of shield-bearer was very ancient and honourable; the leaders of armies had generally three shield-bearers; one to bear the shield, painted or engraved with the symbol of the god, and the others were employed to sound the shields of alarm. silver shield of Gorthmund, flew from his downy couch, swift as[Page 47] the rumour of a coming host. He struck the golden cup, and the king of the flying warriors awakened from his dream of terror. Exmundbert, is he gone? Strike the silver shield, call up the sons of battle, who sleep on the mossy banks of Frome. But stay, 'tis all a vision; 'tis over and gone as the image of Woden, in the evening of a summer-day. Hence to thy tent, I will sleep again.
Gorthmund doubled his purple robe, and slept again.
Loud as the noise of a broken rock breaking down the caverns of Seoggeswaldscyre** Seoggeswaldscyre, from Seggeswald, where Ethelbald, the ninth king of the Mercians, and fifteenth monarch of England, was slain in an insurrection of his subjects. This poem is certainly older than Alfred's time, and is, among numerous others, a proof that the division of England into shires, was not introduced by that glorious monarch., was the voice of Hubba heard: sharp as the cry of the bird of death at the window of the wounded warrior,[Page 48] when the red rays of the morning rise breaking from the east, and the soul of the sick is flying away with the darkness, was the shriek of Locabara. Rise from thy couch, Gorthmund, thou wolf of the evening. When the sun shines in the glory of the day; when the labouring swain dances in the wood-land shade; when the sparkling stars glimmer in the azure of the night, and contentment sleeps under the rustic roof, thou shalt have no rest. Thine are the bitter herbs of affliction; for thee shall the wormwood shed its seed on the blossoms of the blooming flower, and imbitter with its falling leaves the waters of the brook. Rise, Gorthmund, rise, the Saxons are burning thy tents: rise, for the Mercians are assembled together, and thy armies will be slain with the sword, or burnt in the image of** The pagan Saxons had a most inhuman custom of burning their captives alive in a wicker image of their god Tewisk. Whilst this horrid sacrifice was performing, they shouted and danced round the flames. Tewisk. The god of victory shall be red with thy blood, and they shall shout at the sacrifice. Rise, Gorthmund, thy eyes shall be closed in peace no more.[Page 49]
The king of the swift warriors started from his couch: he shook like an oak through which the lightnings have cut their rapid way; his eyes rolled like the lights on the Saxons barks, in the tempest of the dark and black night.
Exmundbert flew to his chief: he struck the silver shield. Sueno of the dark lake, and the black haired Lecolwin, caught the lance and the shield, and prest into the royal tent.
Warriors strike the shields of alarm; the Mercians are assembled together, the Saxons are burning our tents: give the cry of war, and issue to the battle: come upon them by the side of the thick wood, near the city of** Rowcester, in Derbyshire, a place of great antiquity. Reggacester. Lift the banner Reafan; and he is a worshipper of false gods who with-holds his sword from blood. The silver shield resounded to the wood of Sel, and the†† In the original Muchilney. As there were several islands of this name, the particular one here mentioned is Aubions. great island trembled at the clamorous noise.[Page 50]
Delward of the strong arm, and Ax-bred of the forest of wolves, led the warriors to the thick wood: but quiet was the forest as the tranquil lake, when the winds sleep on the tops of the lofty trees. The inhabitants of Reggacester slept in the strength of their walls. The leaders returned.
There is no enemy near, O king: still as the habitation of the dead, are the kingdoms around us: they have felt the strength of thy arm, and will no more rise up to oppose us. As the grass falls by the hand of the mower, so shall they fall before us, and be no more. The banner Reafan shall be exalted, and the seven gods of the Saxons be trampled in the dust. Let the armies of the north rejoice, let them sacrifice to the gods of war, and bring out the prisoners, for the** The Danes, not to be behind-hand with the Saxons in acts of barbarity, had also their bloody sacrifices. Their captives were bound to a stake, and shot to death with arrows, feast of blood. The warriors threw down the lance, and the shield, and the axe of battle: the plates of brass dropped from their shoulders; and they danced to the[Page 51] sound of the** The word in the original is Regabibol, an instrument of music, of which, as I know nothing farther, than that it was used in sacrifices, I have translated as above. Ribible, among the Anglo-Saxons, was an instrument not unlike a violin, but played on with the fingers. instrument of sacrifice. Confused as the cry of the fleet dogs when the white bear is pursued over the mountains of the north: confused as the resolutions of terror was the noise of the warriors. They danced till the mantle of midnight ascended from the earth.
The morning shook the dew from her crown of roses, on the yellow locks of the dancers; and the gleams of light shot through the dark grey sky, like the reeking blood over the shield of steel. See, warriors, a dark cloud sits on the mountain's brow, it will be a tempest at noon, and the heavy rains will fall upon us. Yes, ye†† In the original, Tanmen, which signifies either Danes or northern men. Danes, it will be a tempest, but a tempest of war: it will rain, but in showers of blood. For the dark cloud is[Page 52] the army of‡‡ A Mercian of this name commanded the army of Offa; and a nobleman named Sigebert was of great account in the court of Brightrick, king of Essex. Segowald: he leads the flower of the warriors of Mercia, and on his right hand is the mighty son of battle, the great Sigebert, who leads the warriors of Wessex.
The dance was ended; and the captives of sacrifice bound to the sacred tree: they panted in the pangs of death.
Sudden from the borders of the wood, was the alarm given: and the silver shield rouzed the sun from behind the black clouds. The archers of the sacrifice dropped the bow, and caught the lance and the shield. Confusion spread from watch-tower to watch-tower, and the clamour rung to the distant hills.
Gorthmund raged like a wild boar, but he raged in vain: his whole army was disordered, and the cry of war was mixed with the yell of retreat.[Page 53]
Segowald came near with his Mercians on the right-hand: and the great Sigebert led the Saxons round the thick wood.
The Danes rage like the tempest of winter, but the Mercians stand firm as the grove of oaks on the plains of§§ Ambrosbury, in Wiltshire, where Alfritha, wife to king Edgar, built a nunnery to atone for the murder of her son-in-law, Edward. In this place, Eleanor, queen to Henry the Third, lived a nun. Ambroisburgh: great is the strength of the swift warriors of the north, but their troops are broken, and out of the order of battle.
The Saxons, with the great Sigebert, have incircled the wood; they rage in the fight like wolves. The Danes are pressed on all sides; they fly like the leaves in autumn before the strong wind.
Gorthmund scorns to fly; he is descended from the son of battle, L'achollan, whose sword put to flight the armies of Moeric, when the sun was covered with a mantle of blood, and darkness descended upon the earth at noon day. He bears upon his arm the shield of Lofgar, the keeper of the[Page 54] castle of Teigne. Lofgar never fled, though the lances of the foe flew about him numerous as the winged ants in summer. Lofgar never fled, though the warriors of the mountains hurled the rocks upon him in the valley, when he fought for the shield of Penda: and should Gorthmund fly, Gorthmund, whose sword was his law, who held justice in his banner?
Segowald sought Gorthmund: he found him singly encountering an army.
Turn to me, son of Lofgar; I am Segowald of the lake hast thou not heard of my fame in battle? When the army of Hengist panted on the dark-brown heath, I cheared them to the war; and the banner of victory waved over my head. Turn thy arms upon me, Gorthmund, I am worthy thy strength.
The son of Lofgar rushed to the son of Alderwold: they fought like the children of destruction on the plain of Marocan. Gorthmund fell. He fell, like the mountain boar beneath the arrow of the hunter.[Page 55]
As the shades of death danced before his eyes, he heard the yell of Hubba, and the shrill shriek of Locabara: Thou art fallen, thou son of injustice, thou art fallen; thy shield is degraded in the dust; and thy banner will be honoured no more! Thy swift warriors are fled over the plain, as the driving sheep before the wolf. Think, Gorthmund, think on Hubba, the son of Crinewalch of the green hill. Think on Locabara, whom thy sword sent to the regions of death. Remember thy injustice and die.
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Chatterton, Thomas, 1752-1770. Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; by Thomas Chatterton, the supposed author of the poems published under the names of Rowley, Canning, &c. London: printed for Fielding and Walker, Pater-Noster Row, MDCCLXXVIII., 1778, pp. 45-55. xxxii,245,p.,plates; 8⁰. (ESTC T39457; OTA K039720.000)
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