The Northern Way

THE SONG OF HARBARD

Thor returning from his expedition in the East
comes to a certain ford: on the opposite side stood
a ferryman near his boat, with whom Thor thus
begins ----

THE SONG OF HARBARD

        THOR.
What Ferryman is he who stands,
By his Boat on yonder sands?

        (1) HARBARD.
What man is he, on yonder side,
Who sends his voice across the tide?

        THOR.
O'er the ferry bear me hence;
I'll an ample meed dispense.
In my basket, lo! I bear,
Cates I've cull'd with nicest care.
Ere I left my homely shed,
On oats and herrings long I fed:
But viands on a toilsome way,
The trav'ller needs more choice than they.

        HARBARD.
Improvident! thy basket store,
Why praise for nourishable power?
And little prescient of the road,
Know'st not to prize the precious load.
(2) Hark! death invades thy distant home!
Heard'st thou not thy mother's groan?

        THOR.
Well I know thee --- thou hast said,
Hark! thy distant mother's dead;
Because thou knewest, I believe,
How my soul the news would grieve.

        HARBARD.
Grief had been none, if some estate,
Had reconcil'd thy mother's fate.
That thou art poor, thy legs declare,
And weeds that strolling jugglers wear.
Naught do I see --- so mean thou art,
(3) To hide thy most inglorious part.

        THOR.
Hither ferryman, I pray,
Push thy vessel on its way.
Who the owner, tell beside
That bade thee o'er these banks preside?

        HARBARD.
Hildolf is the owner's name;
Far thro' these lands, has spread, his fame.
In Radseyia's bay he lives,
And thence this strict injunction gives ---
Let not the base-born press thy keel,
Nor vagabonds, that horses steal:
Be honorable men thy freight,
And on the worthy trav'ller wait.
Across the Frith thy name unfold,
If on thy way thou wish to hold.

        THOR.
With other views, this morn I came ---
Yet freely I profess my name;
And all my pedigree unfold,
In archives of the Gods enroll'd.
Odin's paternal care I prove;
Meili claims a brother's love;
Me Magni's filial mind reveres ---
Stern dynast of the starry spheres.
With might Thor discourse you hold ---
Ferryman! thy name unfold.

        HARBARD.
Harbard I! and 'tis my pride,
Never from man my name to hide.

        THOR.
Why should'st thou wish to hide thy name,
Except opprest with guilty shame?

        HARBARD.
Did I such guilty terror feel,
'Tis true my name I would conceal;
When such a virtuous God were by,
Unless I madly wish'd to die.

        THOR.
Among the mis'ries of my life,
With thee I deem this verbal strife:
Forc'd as I am, to seek thy shore,
And wet my garments with thine oar.
But villian! know some other day,
Thy words sarcastic I'll repay.

        HARBARD.
I my rightful power use,
And hither all approach refuse:
Since bold (4) Hrugner went below,
Thou never found'st so fierce a foe,

        THOR.
Those words to memory recall,
Hrugner's unlamented fall.
On him my fatal mallet sped ---
The Giant with the rocky head:
He trod no more the ways of men ---
What, Harbard! thine achievements then?

        HARBARD.
In (5) Algrona's fertile isle,
Five winters I endur'd the while:
With brave Fiolvar there I liv'd,
And hospitable cheer receiv'd.
With him the battles brunt I bore,
And dy'd the meadow flower with gore:
There did I every danger prove;
And largely too indulg'd in love.

        THOR.
Didst thou in that happy isle,
The maidens easily beguile?

        HARBARD.
They were wise, as wise I've seen;
But tainted with virago spleen:
They were fair, as fair could be;
But all their pastime, cruelty.
They twisted once with dexterous hand,
A rope of untenacious sand;
And fill'd a valley's vast profound,
With many a mountain summit round.
Happy I their love to gain,
Revell'd with them on the plain.
Oft encircled in their arms,
I woo'd their smiles and won their charms.
What the mean time didst thou do?

        THOR.
I the race of Thiaz slew:
Above I hurl'd their glaring eyes,
And stars illumin'd all the skies.
There all mortals ever read
The records of the glorious deed.
What meantime did the fates decree,
Harbard! for thy destiny?

        HARBARD.
To Gigantean dames I bore,
Philtres of seductive power ---
Strong was the spell, and tender flame,
Shot unresisted thro' their frame.
Helibard was great of mind,
And chief among the Giant kind;
He gave a wand, by magic made,
And I with guile his gift repaid.

        THOR.
Good with evil to requite,
Has ever been the knave's delight.

        HARBARD.
What you approve, may me displease ---
A different soil to different trees:
Let each his own misdeeds reform.
What meanwhile did Thor perform?

        THOR.
I in eastern climate's rode,
Near a Giant's drear abode:
There, the crafty dames to spite,
I sent the chief to shades of night.
Had he liv'd, fair (6) Midgard's zone,
A wild and joyless waste had shown.
Meanwhile Harbard what thine aim?

        HARBARD.
Bent on war to (7) Gaul I came:
Chief I stir'd with chief to fight,
Nor cared I which was wrong or right.
Odin's heroes boldly dare,
The fierce arbitrament of war:
A servile, cringing, coward race
The banners of vile Thor disgrace.
        
        THOR.
Had'st thou the power to divide,
Honor's meed to either side;
Unjustly would'st thou sink my fame,
And lift on high my rival's name.


Notes:

1. Harbard. We find this mentioned as one of the names of Odin in the enumeration of them given in the Song of Grimner; and it is probable that Odin took the disguise of a ferryman, that he might have an opportunity of trying his with with his Son Thor. [Back]
2. "Hark," --- As Harbard intended to delay Thor at the ford, he wished to make the hinderance as irksome as possible, and therefore mentioned a circumstance which he knew would, above all others, excite his curiosity, and increase his desire of finishing speedily his journey. [Back]
3. "To hide," --- It is probable that Thor had stripped off his lower garments for the purpose of wading through the ford; but finding it too deep, had been compelled to call upon Harbard for assistance. [Back]
4. Hrugner. --- This giant, in his encounter with Thor, carried a lance made all of whetstone. Thor broke it in pieces by a blow with this mallet, and made the splinters fly so far, that all the subsequent wetstones found in the world, are parts of it; as indeed they appear evidently broken off from something by violence. This genealogy of wetstones is not inferior in ingenuity to that of Ovid's Lapis Lydius. [Back]
5. "Algrona" signifies perpetual verdure. [Back]
6. "Midgard," was the fortress by which men were defended against the incursions of the Giants. [Back]
7. "Gaul," from the derivation of this word in the Icelandic language it may signify any foreign country or field of battle. [Back]

 

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