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The Ballad of the Three Kings
Three Kings rode out on the road to Hel
ravens flew on the gale
the night wind rang like an iron bell
and hissed with sleet and hail
three Kings rode out thru the Gates of Hel
and on to Death's Highway
the King of the Britons
the King of the Huns
and the King of Nor-o-way!
And the King of the Britons was helmed with gold
and rode a stallion white
"Oh all men go when they are cold
but I go not in fright!
A goodly King who loved his Folk
and guarded them with the rod....
and stake...and gallows....against themselves
will surely go to God!"
And the King of the Huns was helmed in steel
and rode a stallion red
"Oh fiercely proud my fathers feel
of me, who crowned my head
halfway round a world in pain,
which I did mightily win
and surely I go to my Father's Fane
and not to the evil Djinn!"
And the King of Norway was helmed with wings
and rode a stallion grey
"Truly proud my heart now feels
Odin gets me today!
I died in bed, ah, but first I hung
full many a squealing thrall
from Odin's Tree. With Rune on tongue
I go now to Odin's Hall!"
Three Kings rode out thru the depths of Hel
with a bloody-breasted Hound
that howls above black rivers that run
icy beneath the ground
Three Kings a Final Judgement won
from the High God's lips that day:
The Devil took the Briton,
the Djinni took the Hun,
and Hel took Nor-o-way!
1980 Poul Anderson (1926-2001)
"The Warriors", Viktor Michailowitsch Vasnezov, Russian Painter
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