The Sailing of King Olaf

“ NORROWAY hills are grand to see,
Norroway vales are broad and fair:
Any monarch on earth might be
Contented to find his kingdom there! ”
So spake Harald Haardrade bold
To Olaf, his brother, with beard red-gold.
“ A bargain! ” cried Olaf. “ Beside the strand
Our ships rock idle. Come, sail away!
Who first shall win to our native land,
He shall be king of old Norroway.”
Quoth Harald the Stern, “ My vessel for thine
I will not trust to this laggard of mine.”
“ Take thou my Dragon with silken sails,”
Said Olaf. “ The Ox shall be mine in place.
If it pleases our Lord to send me gales,
In either vessel I ’ll win the race.
With this exchange art satisfied? ”
“ Ay, brother,” the crafty one replied.
King Olaf strode to the church to pray
For blessing of God on crew and ship;
But Harald, the traitor, made haste to weigh
His anchor, and out of the harbor slip.
“ Pray! ” laughed Harald Haardrade. “ Pray!
The wind ’s in my favor. Set sail! Away! ”
As Olaf knelt by the chancel rail,
Down the broad aisle came one in haste,
With panting bosom and cheeks all pale;
Straight to King Olaf’s side he paced.
“ Oh, waste no time in praying,” cried he,
“ For Harald already is far at sea! ”
But Olaf answered: “ Let sail who will,
Without God’s blessing I shall not go.”
Beside the altar he tarried still,
While the good priest chanted soft and slow;
And Olaf prayed the Lord in his heart,
“ I shall win yet if thou take my part! ”
Cheerily then he leaped on board;
High on the prow he took his stand.
Forward,” he bade, “ in the name of the Lord!
Held the white horn of the Ox in his hand:
“ Now, Ox! good Ox! I pray thee speed
As if to pasture in clover-mead! ”
The huge Ox rolled from side to side,
And merrily out of the harbor sped.
Dost see the Dragon? ” King Olaf cried
To the lad who clung to the high mast-head.
“ Not so! ” the watcher swift answer gave;
“ There is never a boat upon the wave.”
Onward then for a league and twain,
Right in the teeth of the wind they flew.
Seest aught of the Dragon upon the main? ”
“ Something to landward sure I view!
Far ahead I can just behold
Silken sails with a border of gold.”
The third time Olaf called with a frown:
“ Dost see my Dragon yet? Ho! Say! ”
Out of the mast-head the cry came down:
“ Nigh to the shores of Norroway
The good ship Dragon rides full sail,
Driving ahead before the gale! ”
Ho! to the haven! ” King Olaf cried,
And smote the eye of the Ox with his hand.
It leaped so madly along the tide
That never a sailor on deck could stand;
But Olaf lashed them firm and fast
With trusty cords to the strong oak mast.
Now, who,” the helmsman said, “ will guide
The vessel upon the tossing sea? ”
That will I do! ” King Olaf cried;
“ And no man’s life shall be lost through me.
Like a living coal his dark eye glowed
As swift to the helmsman’s place he strode.
Looking neither to left nor right,
Toward the land he sailed right in,
Steering straight as a line of light:
“ So must I run if I would win;
Faith is stronger than hills or rocks.
Over the land speed on, good Ox! ”
Into the valleys the waters rolled;
Hillocks and meadows disappeared.
Grasping the helm in his iron hold
On, right onward, St. Olaf steered;
High and higher the blue waves rose.
On! ” he shouted. “ No time to lose! ”
Out came running the elves in a throng;
Out from cavern and rock they came:
“ Now, who is this comes sailing along
Over our homes? Ho! tell us thy name! ”
“I am St. Olaf, my little men!
Turn into stones till I come again.”
The elf-stones rolled down the mountain side;
The sturdy Ox sailed over them all.
‘Ill luck be with thee! ” a Carline cried;
“ Thy ship has shattered my chamber wall! ”
In Olaf’s eyes flashed a fiery glint:
“ Be turned forever to rock of flint! ”
Never was sailing like this before:
He shot an arrow along the wind,
Or ever it lighted the ship sailed o’er
The mark; the arrow fell far behind.
“ Faster, faster! ” cried Olaf. “ Skip
Fleet as Skidbladnir, the magic ship! ”
Swifter and swifter across the foam
The quivering Ox leaped over the track,
Till Olaf came to his boyhood’s home;
Then fast as it rose the tide fell back.
And Olaf was king of the whole Norse land
When Harald the third day reached the strand.
Such was the sailing of Olaf, the king,
Monarch and saint of Norroway;
In view of whose wondrous prospering
The Norse have a saying unto this day:
“ As Harald Haardrade found to his cost,
Time spent in praying is never lost !”
Alice Williams Brotherton.