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Then said the angel, "Come with me and look."
Rabbi Ben Levi closed the sacred book,
And rising, and uplifting his gray head,
"Give me thy sword," he to the Angel said,
"Lest thou shouldst fall upon me by the way."
The angel smiled and hastened to obey,
Then led him forth to the Celestial Town,
And set him on the wall, whence, gazing down,
Rabbi Ben Levi, with his living eyes,
Might lock upon his place in Paradise.
Thyself unseen, and with an unseen sword, Thou wilt perform the bidding of the Lord." The Angel took the sword again, and swore, And walks on earth unseen forevermore.
HE ended and a kind of spell
Upon the silent listeners fell.
His solemn manner and his words
Had touched the deep, mysterious chords,
That vibrate in each human breast
Alike, but not alike confessed.
The spiritual world seemed near;
And close above them, full of fear,
Its awful adumbration passed,
A luminous shadow, vague and vast.
They almost feared to look, lest there,
Embodied from the impalpable air,
They might behold the Angel stand,
Holding the sword in his right hand.
At last, but in a voice subdued,
Not to disturb their dreamy mood,
Said the Sicilian: "While you spoke,
Telling your legend marvellous,
Suddenly in my memory woke
The thought of one, now gone from us,--
An old Abate, meek and mild,
My friend and teacher, when a child,
Who sometimes in those days of old
The legend of an Angel told,
Which ran, as I remember, thus."
THE SICILIAN'S TALE.
KING ROBERT OF SICILY.
ROBERT of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Apparelled in magnificent attire,
With retinue of many a knight and squire,
On St. John's eve, at vespers, proudly sat
And heard the priests chant the Magnincat.
And as he listened, o'er and o'er again
Repeated, like a burden or refrain,
He caught the words, "De, osuit potentes
De sede, et exaltavit humiles ;"
And slowly lifting up his kingly head
He to a learned clerk beside him said,
What mean these words?"
answer meet, "He has put down the mighty from their seat And has exalted them of low degree." Thereat King Robert muttered scornfully, "T is well that such seditious words are sung Only by priests and in the Latin tongue; For unto priests and people be it known, There is no power can push me from my throne !" And leaning back, he yawned and fell asleep, Lulled by the chant monotonous and deep.
When he awoke, it was already night;
The church was empty, and there was no light,
Save where the lamps, that glimmered few and
Lighted a little space before some saint.
He started from his seat and gazed around,
But saw no living thing and heard no sound.
He groped towards the door, but it was locked;
He cried aloud, and listened, and then knocked,
And uttered awful threatenings and complaints,
And imprecations upon men and saints.
The sounds re-echoed from the roof and walls
As if dead priests were laughing in their stalls.
At length the sexton, hearing from without The tumult of the knocking and the shout,
And thinking thieves were in the house of prayer, Came with his lantern, asking, "Who is there?" Half choked with rage, King Robert fiercely said, Open: 't is I, the King! Art thou afraid?" The frightened sexton, muttering, with a curse, "This is some drunken vagabond, or worse!" Turned the great key and Hung the portal wide; A man rushed by him at a single stride, Haggard, half naked, without hat or cloak, Who neither turned, nor looked at him, nor spoke, But leaped into the blackness of the night, vanished like a spectre from his sight. And Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, Despoiled of his magnificent attire, Bareheaded, breathless, and besprent with mire, With sense of wrong and outrage desperate, Strode on and thundered at the palace gate; Rushed through the courtyard, thrusting in his rage
To right and left each seneschal and page,
And hurried up the broad and sounding stair,
His white face ghastly in the torches' glare.
From hall to hall he passed with breathless speed;
Voices and cries he heard, but did not heed,
Until at last he reached the banquet-room,
Blazing with light, and breathing with perfume
A group of tittering pages ran before,
And as they opened wide the folding-door,
H.s heart failed, for he heard, with strange
The boisterous laughter of the men-at-arms,
And all the vaulted chamber roar and ring
With the mock plaudits of Long live the
Next morning, waking with the day's first beam,
He said within himself, "It was a dream!"
But the straw rustled as he turned his head,
There were the cap and bells beside his bed,
Around him rose the bare, discolored walls,
Close by, the steeds were champing in their stalls,
And in the corner, a revolting shape,
Shivering and chattering sat the wretched
It was no dream; the world he loved so much
Had turned to dust and ashes at his touch!
Ambassadors of great repute and name
From Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Unto King Robert, saying that Pope Urbane
By letter summoned them forthwith to come
On Holy Thursday to his city of Rome.
The Angel with great joy received his guests,
And gave them presents of embroidered vests,
And velvet mantles with rich ermine lined,
And rings and jewels of the rarest kind.
Then he departed with them o'er the sea
Into the lovely land of Italy,
Whose loveliness was more resplendent made
By the mere passing of that cavalcade,
With plumes, and cloaks, and housings, and the
Of jewelled bridle and of golden spur.
And lo! among the menials, in mock state,
Upon a piebald steed, with shambling gait,
His cloak of fox-tails flapping in the wind,
The solemn ape demurely perched behind,
King Robert rode, making huge merriment
In all the country towns through which they went.
The Pope received them with great pomp and blare
Of bannered trumpets on Saint Peter's square,
Giving his benediction and embrace,
Fervent, and full of apostolic grace.
While with congratulations and with prayers
He entertained the Angel unawares,
Robert, the Jester, bursting through the crowd,
Into their presence rushed, and cried aloud,
"I am the King! Look, and behold in me
Robert, your brother, King of Sicily!
This man, who wears my semblance to your eyes.
Is an impostor in a king's disguise.
Do you not know me? does no voice within
Answer my cry and say we are akin?
The Pope in silence, but with troubled mien,
Gazed at the Angel's countenance serene;
The Emperor, laughing, said, "It is strange sport
To keep a madman for thy Fool at court!"
And the poor, baffled Jester in disgrace
Was hustled back among the populace.
In solemn state the Holy Week went by,
And Easter Sunday gleamed upon the sky;
The presence of the Angel, with its light,
Before the sun rose, made the city bright,
And with new fervor filled the hearts of men,
Who felt that Christ indeed had risen again.
Even the Jester, on his bed of straw,
With haggard eyes the unwonted splendor saw,
He felt within a power unfelt before,
And, kneeling humbly on his chamber floor,
He heard the rushing garments of the Lord
Sweep through the silent air, ascending heaven-
And now the visit ending, and once more
Valmond returning to the Danube's shore,
Homeward the Angel journeyed, and again
The land was made resplendent with his train,
Flashing along the towns of Italy
Unto Salerno, and from thence by sea.
And when once more within Palermo's wall,
And, seated on the throne in his great hall,
He heard the Angelus from convent towers,
As if the better world conversed with ours,
He beckoned to King Robert to draw nigher,
And with a gesture bade the rest retire;
And when they were alone, the Angel said,
"Art thou the King? Then, bowing down his
King Robert crossed both hands And meekly answered him: best!
upon his breast, Thou knowest
THE SAGA OF KING OLAF.
THE CHALLENGE OF THOR.
I AM the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!
Here amid icebergs Rule I the nations; This is my hammer, Miölner the mighty; Giants and sorcerers Cannot withstand it!
These are the gauntlets Wherewith I wield it, And hurl it afar off; This is my girdle; Whenever I brace it, Strength is redoubled!
The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant,
Over the whole earth
Still it is Thor's-Day!
Thou art a God too,
And thus single-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel,
Here I defy thee!
KING OLAF'S RETURN.
AND King Olaf heard the cry,
Saw the red light in the sky,
Laid his hand upon his sword,
As he leaned upon the railing,
And his ships went sailing, sailing
Northward into Drontheim fiord.
There he stood as one who dreamed; And the red light glanced and gleamed
On the armor that he wore; And he shouted, as the rifted Streamers o'er him shook and shifted, "I accept thy challenge, Thor!"
To avenge his father slain,
And reconquer realm and reign,
Came the youthful Olaf home,
Through the midnight sailing, sailing,
Listening to the wild wind's wailing,
And the dashing of the foam.