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And Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Had a book upon his knees, And wrote down the wondrous tale Of him who was first to sail
Into the Arctic seas.
“So far I live to the northward,
No man lives north of me; To the east are wild mountain-chains, And beyond them meres and plains ;
To the westward all is sea.
“ So far I live to the northward,
From the harbor of Skeringes-hale, If you only sailed by day, With a fair wind all the way,
More than a month would you sail.
“I own six hundred reindeer,
With sheep and swine beside ; I have tribute from the Finns, Whalebone and reindeer-skins, And ropes of walrus-hide.
“ I ploughed the land with horses,
But my heart was ill at ease, For the old seafaring men Came to me now and then,
With their sagas of the seas ;
“ Of Iceland and of Greenland,
And the stormy Hebrides, And the undiscovered deep ;I could not cat nor sleep
For thinking of those seas.
“ To the northward stretched the desert,
How far I fain would know ;
As far as the whale-ships go.
“ To the west of me was the ocean,
To the right the desolate shore,
Till after three days more.
“ The days grew longer and Jonger,
Till they became as one,
Of the red midnight sun.
“ And then uprose before me,
Upon the water's edge,
Whose form is like a wedge.
“ The sea was rough and stormy,
The tempest howled and wailed, And the sea-fog, like a ghost, Haunted that dreary coast,
But onward still I sailed.
“Four days I steered to eastward,
Four days without a night :
With red and lurid light.”
1 Iere Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Ceased writing for a while ; And raised his eyes from his book, With a strange and puzzled look,
And an incredulous smile.
But Othere, the old sea-captain,
He neither paused nor stirred, Till the King listened, and then Once more took up his pen,
And wrote down every word.
“ And now the land,” said Othere,
“ Bent southward suddenly, And I followed the curving shore And ever southward bore
Into a nameless sea.
“ And there we hunted the walrus,
The narwhale, and the seal ;
“ There were six of us altogether,
Norsemen of Helgoland ;
And dragged them to the strand !”
Here Alfred the Truth-Teller
Suddenly closed his book,
Depicted in their look.
And Othere the old sea-captain
Stared at him wild and weird, Then smiled, till his shining teeth Gleamed white from underneath
His tawny, quivering beard.
And to the King of the Saxons,
In witness of the truth, Raising his noble head, He stretched his brown hand, and said,
“ Behold this walrus-tooth !”