Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Poem a Day 12

The Shieldings

On earth for long aeons
neither king nor wise counsel ruled,
no song or psalm broke cold darkness.
Shadows haunted mount and moor
with death and dread of night.
Then a ship came sailing, sea-shine bright,
unmasted, unoared, majestic on wave.

On the island of Skani, men gathered, crowds grew;
they looked within the wave-rider.
In the boat was a boy, asleep;
fair-faced and golden-haired he slept.
Weapons of war were arranged around him.
The wood about him was worked with gold
and his hand was on a cunning harp.
His head was resting on a wheaten sheaf
and Sheaf they named him.
Charmed he was beyond all other children;
he was crowned by ancient rite as king
and his followers called him the Fruitful Lord.
Laws forgotten he restored to life;
the hurts of the people he healed.
On need he had pity, but wrongs he punished.
A man might lose a ring on the road
and receive it again when returning that way.
Prosperity's gates he opened to the people;
great were the gifts he gave with his hands.

A son Sheaf begat, whose name was Shield,
who grew strong. And when the son was of age,
Sheaf took the sea; his ship did not return,
and Shield Sheafing was crowned king.
He fought for the people; enemies feared him;
he raised a great hall where heroes drank mead.
He ruled the people wisely with his words.
King Shield a son begat, whose name was Barley;
great grew his glory, even when young.
But Shield bowed beneath his burden
and nobly died, having done splendid deeds.
They bore him down to a boat,
placed their lord Shield on a ship,
laid him to rest with rings and riches.
Weapons of war they laid around him
and, sighing, sent him away on the sea.

Then Barley Shielding, beloved of men, ruledd,
and form that lord the Lombards came.
he was father to Clever, and when he died,
the people laid him on a mighty pyre
hung with shield and helm.
The fire blazed, the flame burned his body
as maidens sang songs of his deeds;
then they made a great mound
over the fire's remains for his long rest,
piling the tomb with treasures bright,
returning fair gold to the ground
as a dirge  was raised for the death of their lord.

And all these are the customs the kings have kept.

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