How The Mead-Slave Was Set Free



Nay, move not! Sit just as you are,
Under the carved wings of the chair.
The hearth-glow sifting through your hair
Turns every dim pearl to a star
Dawn-drowned in floods of brightening air.
  
I have been thinking of that night
When all the wide hall burst to blaze
With spears caught up, thrust fifty ways
To find my throat, while I lay white
And sick with joy, to think the days
  
I dragged out in your hateful North--
A slave, constrained at banquet's need
To fill the black bull's horns with mead
For drunken sea-thieves--were henceforth
Cast from me as a poison weed,
  
While Death thrust roses in my hands!
But you, who knew the flowers he had
Were no such roses ripe and glad
As nod in my far southern lands,
But pallid things to make men sad,
  
Put back the spears with one calm hand,
Raised on your knee my wondering head,
Wiped off the trickling drops of red
From my torn forehead with a strand
Of your bright loosened hair, and said:
  
"Sea-rovers! would you kill a skald?
This boy has hearkened Odin sing
Unto the clang and winnowing
Of raven's wings. His heart is thralled
To music, as to some strong king;
  
"And this great thraldom works disdain
Of lesser serving. Once release
These bonds he bears, and he may please
To give you guerdon sweet as rain
To sailors calmed in thirsty seas."
  
Then, having soothed their rage to rest,
You led me to old Skagi's throne,
Where yellow gold rims in the stone;
And in my arms, against my breast,
Thrust his great harp of walrus bone.
  
How they came crowding, tunes on tunes!
How good it was to touch the strings
And feel them thrill like happy things
That flutter from the gray cocoons
On hedge rows, in your gradual springs!
  
All grew a blur before my sight,
As when the stealthy white fog slips
At noonday on the staggering ships;
I saw one single spot of light,
Your white face, with its eager lips--
  
And so I sang to that. O thou
Who liftedst me from out my shame!
Wert thou content when Skagi came,
Put his own chaplet on my brow,
And bent and kissed his own harp-frame?
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

Modified on March 05, 2023

1:57 min read
1

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABBAB CDDCD EFFEF GHHGH IJJIJ CKKCK LXMLM NOONO PQQPQ CRRCR STTST
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,990
Words 389
Stanzas 11
Stanza Lengths 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

William Vaughn Moody

William Vaughn Moody was an American dramatist and poet. more…

All William Vaughn Moody poems | William Vaughn Moody Books

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