George Borrow

(1803-1881 / England)

From Allan Cunningham


Sing, sing, my friend; breathe life again
Through Norway’s song and Denmark’s strain:
On flowing Thames and Forth, in flood,
Pour Haco’s war-song, fierce and rude.
O’er England’s strength, through Scotland’s cold,
His warrior minstrels marched of old—
Called on the wolf and bird of prey
To feast on Ireland’s shore and bay;
And France, thy forward knights and bold,
Rough Rollo’s ravens croaked them cold.
Sing, sing of earth and ocean’s lords,
Their songs as conquering as their swords;
Strains, steeped in many a strange belief,
Now stern as steel, now soft as grief—
Wild, witching, warlike, brief, sublime,
Stamped with the image of their time;
When chafed—the call is sharp and high
For carnage, as the eagles cry;
When pleased—the mood is meek, and mild,
And gentle, as an unweaned child.
Sing, sing of haunted shores and shelves,
St. Oluf and his spiteful elves,
Of that wise dame, in true love need,
Who of the clear stream formed the steed—
How youthful Svend, in sorrow sharp,
The inspired strings rent from his harp;
And Sivard, in his cloak of felt,
Danced with the green oak at his belt—
Or sing the Sorceress of the wood,
The amorous Merman of the flood—
Or elves that, o’er the unfathomed stream,
Sport thick as motes in morning beam—
Or bid me sail from Iceland Isle,
With Rosmer and fair Ellenlyle,
What time the blood-crow’s flight was south,
Bearing a man’s leg in its mouth.
Though rough and rude, those strains are rife
Of things kin to immortal life,
Which touch the heart and tinge the cheek,
As deeply as divinest Greek.
In simple words and unsought rhyme,
Give me the songs of olden time.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

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