December 30, 2016 by David.Groveman
‘Twas the night before Yuletide, and all through the hall
Not a hearthman was stirring, not even the jarl.
The boots were lined up by the hearth fire to dry,
All expecting the blessings of our God with one eye.
The thralls were fettered and kept snug in their pens,
While seether and ghost lights danced over the fens.
Our gothi in his corner, and I on my throne,
With a great ghastly carcass picked down to the bone.
When from outside the hall there arose such a din,
That I sprang from my furs and roused most my kin.
We rushed out from the great hall and ran down the hill,
With our byrnie and bearskins, to keep out the chill.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to our half sober eyes should appear,
The wanderer in gray and the eight legged Sleipnir.
With it’s muzzle still foaming, and dripping with gore,
It snorted a warning as it stamped on the shore.
More rapid than eagles, his courser it came,
And he bellowed and shouted and called us by name:
“Hail Sigmund! Hail Renialf!
Hail, Olaf and Thorbjorn!
Hail, Sigurd! Hail, Floki!
Hail, Slagfit the Troll Born!
I ride unto Valhall!
Which you all will I think!
With your legends and sword song!
I will feast you with drink!”
As dry leaves that before the storms of Ran fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So up to our longhouse the reindeer it sped,
With my warriors fearing they were, all of them, dead.
And then, in a heartbeat, he was there by my side
The great Aesir All-Father and he viewed me with pride.
As I drew forth my long seax, and awaited my death,
I opened my eyes still surprised to draw breath.
He was dressed all in gray, from his head to his toe,
Though his clothes were all dappled with patches of snow.
A sea chest of plunder had he up on his back,
Yet he looked like no tradesman tanning skins on a rack.
His eye burned with hunger! His shoulders, were wide!
His beard hung like moss, and he wore it with pride!
His grim visage was shadowed hidden under his hood,
And his smile was true wicked as if up to no good.
The wolf-lean old man still surprisingly spry,
Held us each in the gaze of his smouldering eye.
He had a long spear and a little round shield,
And my chattering huscarls feared to face him afield.
He was wiry and strong, he stood upright and tall,
And he made my poor hearthmen, feel petty and small.
A wink from his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know we had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And handed us weapons and then turned with a jerk.
And climbing his reindeer he surveyed us once more,
Before he raced down towards that bleak frozen fjord shore.
He rode over the ice, sleipnir’s hoofbeats all frost,
And away the two rode until to sight they were lost.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he galloped from sight,
“Happy Yuletide to all, and to all a good fight!”