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~Historical & Classical Poetry~

Åsgårdsreien
(The Wild Hunt)

Loudly through air at night they haste,
An uproar on wild black horses!
As a storm the wild crowds travel by
With nothing but clouds for foothold.
Over the valleys, the woods and meadows -
Through darkness and weather, they never heed.
The traveler throws himself frightened to ground.
Listen... what clamor! It's the forces of Asgard!

Thor, the strong one, his hammer high,
Stands tall in his rig, in front of the pack.
He strikes his shield and hot red flames
Light up the nightly raid at the scene.
Horns blow, and an awesome noise
From bells and riding gear resounds.
Then the pack roars loudly and people listen
With rising fear in their quaking homes.

The Wild Hunt of Asgard raids the county
Whilst fall and winter at stormy nights.
But it favors to travel at Yuletide...
They feast with trolls and giants;
they closely ride by meadow and path
And pass the fearful nation.
Then, - take care farmer! Keep all in order!
As the wild hunt of Asgard may visit your home!

With the beer working in your lodge
Awaking the heathen Yule-tradition...
And fire from the fireplace shines
on swinging knives and crazy eyes,
Then a sudden shiver goes through the party,
Then sound the nightly black riders' clamor...
Then the walls crack and the glasses dance;
the Armies of Asgard surround the building!

There was a wedding at Oevre Flage
Three holy Yule-days to the end.
Among the maids there were none like the bride
And no rival to the groom among men.
There was a glow to the shining hall
from set tables and expensive metal,
There was a treasure, the rumor says,
Of copper on walls and silver on tables.

And merrily sounded the drums and fiddles
as the groom was steadily dancing
leading his bride among young men and women -
Then the Halling-dance easily rumbled!
To the Dancer's forceful moves and jumps
the Maiden would swing like a pendulum,
Then floated the noise and the music together
And the hall would thunder from vigor and delight.

The third night, -when the beer was consumed
through all the holidays - by old and young,
Then thirst in the party was stopped,
But the men were drunken and slow.
Our bride wore her crown...
It was time for the bowl to be sent round the table
And the toastmaster demanded silence
with a knock on the table, - and started his speech.

Then charging in on the benched circle
the widely infamous Seim's Berserks,
Their eyes were rolling dark and wild
On their foreheads they had scars from fighting.
They leaped over the floor of the hall,
-Yes! It was the brothers Grim and Wolf!
Grim, who was recently turned down by the bride
Came there himself, - and he was not invited.

The sleepy guests got up shaking
And had little desire for fighting.
Every raving man who raised his fist
Was grabbed by the chest and thrown aside.
The groom placed his mug down on the table
Stepped up on the bench and asked for peace.
But the brothers already took out their knives,
- It was the groom's life it was all about.

Then women gathered into a crowd
and formed a guard for the man in danger;
sheltered behind tables and benches,
They stood closed in at the Bench of Honor.
The eldest woman in their circle
removed her headwear, revealed her gray hair
and gave the groom the name of her son,
Embraced him and sat him on her knee.

But the brothers wouldn't listen to women's plea -
Attacked forward over tables and benches
and divided the women with wildness-
Now every thought of peace was forgotten...
They grabbed their victim and dragged him along
To the door of the hall and out through it.
It came to a cruel fight in the yard,
And the guests followed in wild disorder.

They rushed out there with candles and torches,
‘Cause over the landscape the darkness reigned.
They saw the groom standing tall and strong,
As now he was strengthened by winter air.
He used his knife for cutting and slashing -
So he gave back what they offered him.
The three of them formed an ugly triangle,
And none would let go of the others.

Then, -all of a sudden Grim fell over!
With blood running like streams from his chest.
Then even harder the other two wrestled
And held each other’s backs in a grip.
In the end the groom was laid to the ground,
With the knife on it’s way to his throat...
But then Wolf held back and stood like a drunk,
And trembled and shook like a leaf.

As through the air in the dark came a thunder,
- a howling horde on ferocious horses,
It raced over woods to the wedding house,
Intended to visit the bloody performance.
Then horns blew, and an awesome noise
From bells and riding-gear resounded.
Now it was close - it came over the hill -
There was an outcry: The wild hunt of Asgard!

There was a tempest in Heaven and Earth,
That hurled a horror in every heart,
It blasted along in growing circles,
It punched with wings and grabbed with arms.
Then Wolf was dragged away by his hair,
thrown up in the air and taken away,
Yes, taken away over woods and mountains,
He was never seen or heard of again.

When tumults were over at the horror scene,
lay Grim from his death pains coiled up,
But the groom was escorted inside from the snow
And placed on a bunk in the guestroom.
His head was shaking, his blood was pouring;
he was pending a while between life and death,
But he was nursed and well taken care of,
so by spring he had healed from it all.

Now he sits there, - aged and well respected,
He can gather his offspring around the fire,
now he often tells stories in the circle
And shortens time for the young and the old.
It was like that last Yule-night too,
When the youth shouted, "Tell us, tell us!"
His eyes in flames as he was looking back...
And then he recalled his wedding days.

Johan Sebastian Welhaven (1807-1873),
Translated from Norwegian by Liv Wenger

This translation, by permission, was taken from Koordinatoren.