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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~
Oswald, a Gothic Chieftain, oppress'd at once by old age and a painful disease,
exerts his remaining strength to die in a manner which was esteemed highly
by his countrymen, and was also believed to entitle him to a seat in Valhalla.
SCENE, an inner-room, Oswald on a couch, his
armour lying near him: rising slowly, he begins.
Hence, hence, ye languid groans, ye racking pangs,
That flowly drag the trembling frame of Oswald
To those accursed climes where Hela reigns
Stern on her icy throne—thou quivering arm !
Oft have I seen thee in the battle's rage
Bedew'd with red heart's blood—ye tottering knees!
Oft have ye stood unmov'd by pressing hosts,
Oft have ye waded thro' the steaming field,
Trampling the mangled corses of my foes ;—
Why shake ye thus ?—disease with poison'd breath
My firm nerves withers—and shall Oswald then
Sink, tamely sink to everlasting night ?—
Shall feeble age with lingering hand conduct him
To the bleak regions girt with stubborn frost ?
And bend this warlike heart in massy chains
Of solid ice ?—what ?—shall the holy bards
Who sing my glorious deeds, thus end the song ?
Alas! he dar'd not snatch the joys of heaven,
But meanly fell, the prey of age and sickness ?
Why have I liv'd?—shake, sake, ye palsied limbs—
Pant, pant, thou fainting breast, old Oswald's soul
Is yet untouch'd, awake, awake, it cries.
And speed me hence to Odin's echoing balls;
Who yet can boast amid his spoils of war
A trophy from my mail ?—what dark-brow'd chief
E'er yet beheld me turning from the combat ?
And shall that heart, which laugh'd at fear and danger
Yield, poorly yield, to pain ?—it must not be—
While yet my hand has strength, I'll rear the sword,
And die a soldier in my glittering arms.
Yes, 'tis decreed—my helmet, shade again
Thy master's silver locks—from thy hard sides
Oft has the gleaming spark burst forth amid
The tempest of the fight—thou steel-ribb'd cuirass,
Come to my breast again—how many a dart
Has hiss'd across thee, which thy firm-knit plates
Drove from my glowing heart ? now loose and yielding
Thou shalt protect no more—again I raise
The weighty shield, whose dim reflecting orb
So oft has shot a purple beam deep-dy'd
With With hostile blood—and thou, O faithful steel,
Who ne'er hast fail'd thy master's vigorous arm
When rear'd to strike, swift speed me to the gods,
Pierce, pierce me deep, thy blade was never wet
With braver blood than that which warms my heart.
Father of gods! when Oswald quits the earth,
Rear thou my orphan boy—how oft I've smil'd
To see his tender fingers grasp the spear,
And his young sinews struggling to uplift
His father's solid shield; to thee,
O Odin, I early gave him: teach him, like his sire,
To scorn the coward's name, to joy in battle,
And when his warlike years have run in glory,
Give him a happy death in fields of blood.
My daughter too—begone, unmanly drops,
Nor cloud my dying hour—may Frea love her,
Form her soft limbs to grace and lead her forth
The blushing prize of valour—Ah!—I faint!—
What deadly throes deep tear me!—'tis enough—
My strength ebbs quickly—now, thou trembling arm,
Feel my soul's latest fire.
[He stabs himself.
Yes, friendly steel, thy searching point is moist
With Oswald's blood.
[After a pause.
—What glorious visions rise!
I see the festive gods at Odin's board!
I hear the splendid warrior's gladsome din.
Yon golden seat is vacant—'tis for me—
I come, I come, the gloom of death has wrapt
My eyes in mist.—Hark, hark!—the notes of joy
Die on my ear—and now a louder peal
Bursts on my fluttering soul—
From: "Poems, containing sketches of northern mythology,
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