Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/The Viking's serf



Sing me a song that will make me young,”
Cried the Dane to the captive boy,
A song that will stir my blood like wine.”
So he sang of peace, and homely joy,
But every Dane, with a frown of scorn,
Clash’d on his target and blew his horn.


Then, to soothe those hard and wolfish hearts,
He sang them a lullaby,
A rocking tune that mothers sing
To the children upon their knee;
Still they would not listen, the thievish horde,
But beat their knives on the oaken board.


Sing us a song of youth and love.”
Then he struck his harp with might,
And sang of the eyes that had shot their fire
Into his breast that night.
Then the old king kiss’d the ring he wore,
And cried, “My kingdom for me once more.”


They said, “Sing now of the Saxon shore.”
So he sang of those long white walls,
Where the broad surf seethes and the breakers leap,
And the galley rises and falls.
Then they roar’d, “Launch out,” and their axes rose
And beat together the wild tune’s close.


Give us a seaman’s song!” cried they.
So he sang of the steady gale,
That fills with a full and constant breath
The straining galley’s sail,
And drives, come daylight or come dark,
To the Saxon shore, the Danish bark.


And he sang of the green surge under the cliffs,
And the white wave spitting foam
O’er the jagged snout of the “shark-tooth” reef,
Not a mile from his Cornish home.
Then every Viking cried, “To sea!”
Hearing that song of pride and glee.


Sing us a battle-song!” they said.
And he blew them a trumpet blast,
Like the shrill night shriek from a burning town,
That makes the wolf aghast.
Then they cried, “To sea!” and the galleys sprang
To the waves’ embrace, as the captive sang.

Walter Thornbury.