Thou fair green mound on the wide brown
Where the strong-winged breezes blow,2
I wonder who the wight might be3
That slept thy cone below.4
Some haughty Jarl, some Norway King,5
A stormy loon, whose life6
Was still to risk the chanceful death,7
And whet the eager strife.8
A Jarl who swept the seas with war,9
And ruled with brawny might,10
And where his forceful arm prevailed,11
Pronounced his lordship right.12
Or was it a Celt, the primal drift13
From the men-dispersing East,14
When cravens crouched to Nimrod’s name,15
And despot power increased,—16
The Celt who reared the huge grey stones17
That stand and flout the gale,18
Erect in pride of hoary strength,19
While creeds and kingdoms fail ?20
Or was it a dame, a sorceress,21
With charm and ban compelling,22
Who framed this grassy mound beneath,23
Her dark and chambered dwelling,24
That she with Hela might converse,25
And with the Nornies three,26
And to her will bend fearful men27
With baneful glamourie ?28
Or was it a lady fair and fine,29
Of queenly worth, to whom :30
Her lord, with proud regardful grief,31
Upreared this stately tomb ?32
I know not: but, while thus I mused,33
A tall, strong-featured man34
Came up to me with torch and key,35
And thus to speak began :36
“Good sir, if you this mound admire37
Without so grassy green,38
Within you will admire it more,39
And marvel much, I ween.”40
He spoke, and oped the massy door,41
And led the way to me,42
Thorough a passage long and low,43
With mighty masonrie44
Right bravely fenced ; and soon beneath45
A chambered vault we stood46
Of shapely stones with chilly glance47
Of earthy drip bedewed.48
And where the glimmering torch was held—49
The tale I tell is true50
A dragon shape upon the wall51
Uncouthly came to view.52
A dragon of the scaly brood,53
Like dire Chimera old,54
Transfixed upon the bristling back55
By lance of hero bold.56
A dragon dire, and eke a snake,57
A snake, whose glittering twine58
Embraced a rod, like Hermes’ wand,59
I saw with wondering eyne.60
And right and left the dripping wall61
Was lettered strangely round62
With scripture rude, to tell the tale63
Of him who built the mound.64
But what it told of Saga old65
And stout sea-roving loons66
I might not know : much wiser men67
May spell the mystic Runes.68
This only lore my beggar wit69
Could eathly understand,70
That mighty men had lived of yore,71
And died in Orkney land.72
I left the chilly chamber then,73
And through the passage low74
I crept, and walked into the light75
Where healthful breezes blow,76
And in the bright blue sky rejoiced,77
And in the grassy sod,78
And far and free o’er Harra Moor79
With lightsome foot I trod.80