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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Valhalla: The Myths of Norseland; A Saga, in Twelve Parts

Part Fourth

Loki, the Mischief Maker

Neath Valhalla's glorious dome,
In the Aesir's heavenly home,
Hither, hence, they ceaseless roam,
Rest to find, their labors done ;
Rest and pleasure
Without measure !
Finished task is pleasure won.
In fair Duty's perfect round.
Godlike souls are ever found.

From beaming day till cloudless night
The gods compete in works of might ;
Great Friga's bounteous smiles delight
And warm the Earth ; Frey, from his height.
Sunshine and rain
O'er hill and plain,
Sends to the Earth,
That plenteous birth
From Nature's womb may deck his fane.
Lovely Gerda's brilliant blushes,
Lights auroral, quiv'ring flushes.
From Frey's proud throne, thro' evening air.
Tremble in ether wavelets rare.
The grateful Earth looks up with love
To bright Valhalla's dome above ;
While, in dark Jötunheim most drear,
Giants and dwarfs shrink down in fear.

Love is the rule of all
In Valhalla's high hall !
Love is the Lord ! Love never fails !
Meekness and strength,
Mingled at length,
By Love poised in Odin's just scales.
So Love ruled all
Till Loki's fall,—
Loki, thro' whom Death, Sin and Woe
Should ravage Heaven, and Earth below.
One with Odin at the first
When the grand Creation burst
From the Aesir's glorious plan ;
One with him when Time began ;
One with him in godlike thought :
One with him in good deeds wrought ;
At every feast
His honored guest ;
His foster-brother,
Of Jötun mother ;
Fair of face, seductive grace.
Fair, as tho' of  Aesir race, —
Fell he from his high estate.
Sinking in the depths of Earth,
There had Loki second birth, —
Born of Laufey, frail and base ;
His father, Wind,
Fickle, unkind ;
Dwelt he within Utgard's gate.
Thro' Jötun change, his holy fire
Burnt fiercer into wrong desire,
Mingling with evil ones, became
An earthly, devastating flame.

Deep below, on dragon's bed,
Brought he forth his children dread,
Frightful, fearful, fiendish brood !
Loving evil, hating good ;
Wily Serpent, raging Fenrir,
Dark Hel most awful, scourges drear,
Shapes so terrible,
Forms too horrible
For aught but wretched Guilt to see,
Yet ever in the world to be ;
While in fierce Loki's deepest soul
Held he most dear these offspring foul.

Now back to Asgard having come,
The gods receive the traitor home.
Little the mighty yEsir dream
Their brother be not all he seem.
But prone to hate
Their better state ;
Ah ! bitter have the high gods cursed
The evil stock which Loki nursed !
Goes he where the Aesir go,
Working still as secret foe
To undo their mighty deeds ;
Leaves them at their greatest needs.
Now soon in Asgard peace is dead !
From Valhalla rest has fled.
Creeping in
Shapes of sin,
Lust of gold and greed of gain,
Dim the light on Ida's plain.
Darkly, densely gather there
Forms that seem of thinnest air.
But as yet that show all fair; — -
Hateful forms, by Loki brought,
Which shall render Asgard naught!

Ever by stealth
Works he himself,
Foul and fiendish like his race ;
All woes that fall
On Odin's hall
Can be traced to Loki base.
From out Valhalla's portal
'Twas he who pure Iduna lured, —
Whose casket fair
Held apples rare
That render gods immortal, — 
And in Thiassi's tower immured.
By his mocking, scornful mien.
Soon, in Valhal it was seen
'Twas the traitor Loki's art
Which had led Idun apart
To gloomy tower.
And Jötun power.
In eagle guise he wrought the wrong ;
In like disguise the wrathful throng
Of Aesir force him bring the maid
Safe under Asgard's mighty shade,
Guarded by god-like power most strong.

Once did the traitor rank conspire
'Gainst Asgard's mighty host entire ;
At one fell blow
To wreak dread woe.
Tho' trusted by the Aesir still,
'Twas Loki planned the hateful ill.
To Asgard came an architect,
And castle offered to erect, —
A castle high
Which should defy
Deep Jotun guile and giant raid ;
And this most wily compact made, —
Fair Freya, with the Moon and Sun
As price the fortress being done.
Darkened, indeed, and gloomy all
Earth, Asgard, and Valhalla's hall.
Should aught the Moon or Sun befall ;
Barren the earth, breathless the air,
If they should lose loved Freya's care !

Deceitful wile,
Seducing guile
So well had veiled the deep-laid scheme,
The gods could not detect, nor dream
Which one of all Valhalla's throng
Had been the author of the wrong,
Till, like a flash, the memory came, —
'Twas Loki did the payment name !
Horror and fear the gods beset ;
Finished almost the castle stood !
In three days more
The work be o'er ;
Then must they make their contract good,
And pay the awful debt.

Horror and fear
At danger near
Sudden to fiercest anger turned ;
Each god-like soul now eager burned
To force him break the contract dread,
Or vengeance wreak on Loki's head.
Guile and fear are kindred ever,
Brothers they, who may not sever !
To appease the Aesir ire
Loki bent to their desire,
That crafty builder's strongest stay,
The magic steed, to wile away.
Subtile and full of strange device,
As a young mare did he entice
The horse afar to unknown shore
Thus could the plotter harm no more.
Thro' all the night,
Till morning's light,
Swift after Svadelfari fleet
The Builder sped with anxious feet.

But useless all ! By Loki foiled,
His anger on the gods recoiled.
As further work himself could naught
Without the magic aid he brought.
Now, casting all disguise aside,
Amidst the gods in angry pride, —
While crumbling sank the half-built tower,-
In giant form and Jötun power
He stood ! Wild terror seized on all,
Lest ruin should on Asgard fall.

Dread hour for Valhal ! help was none
When Asgard's stoutest stay was gone !
The vengeful Jötun, tow'ring high,
With scoffing taunt and furious cry.
Shook gate and roof— e'en upper sky, —
Grasped at the Sun,
While pallid Moon
Coursed swiftly by !
Then on the trembling ALsir turned,
And forward dashed ;
In thunders crashed
Portal and wall, defences they
Too feeble all in such affray, —
Like reeds from out his path he spurned.

But, joy ! great Thor, returning slow
From road and toil
And frequent broil.
In wearied march
Up rainbow arch,
Heard the foul insults of the foe.
Frantic at the outrage wrought.
Maddened by the ruin sought.
As storm-wind sudden, on he swept.
Like thunder-bolt on Jötun leapt !
As on the giant foe he sprang,
'Gainst rib and thigh great Mjolnir rang,
With mighty stroke
His skull he broke,—
Then hurled him down to Hel below.

So Thor restored Valhalla's peace.
But ills in Asgard did not cease ;
Uneven balanced Odin's scales.
Kindness on evil nature fails,
Meekness naught avails !
Odin's self, distraught
By the trouble wrought.
Early and late e'er sought from Fate
Wisdom to rule in god-like state.

Julia Clinton Jones, 1878