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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1925

In The Hall of Sigurd

page 36

In The Hall of Sigurd

[Trumpets, and a slow march. Enter Olaf Tryg-Vason, with ceremony: after him Einar Tambar-Skelver, Thorolf, Forkbeard and others, through archway R. Back: enter L. Haakon and Sigurd's retainers.]

Sigurd: Welcome, King Olaf, for the cordial heart With which thou honourest my feast, and welcome For those warm feelings which thou showest me. King Thorolf, welcome! I shall welcome thee More than another man: thou hast deserved Best welcome from my heart.

Thorolf: Why, what a sheaf of welcomes have we here! [Aside.]

Olaf: I do adjure thee solemnly by heaven, Soil not thy soul with lies.

Sigurd: I'll sift my words.

To table!

[They sit.]

Thorolf: Is thy lady still abed?

Sigurd: She is as grim as thou art gaudy, Thorolf: She sits within her chamber stitching black Into the funeral sheets.

[The curtain over the archway L.C. is swept aside: Gerda appears at the top of the steps, in such a manner as to appear between and a little above two torch-bearers, and framed by the arch as in a picture. She is dressed in vivid scarlet, with ornaments of gold: her hair loose, now flecked with grey: the black-winged helmet of Harald of the Orkneys upon her head, and the dagger with which she slew him at her side. Excitement has brought back some of the youthfulness to her cheeks. She resembles the Gerda of the Prologue, but sterner, more dominant.—Astonishment and confusion.]

Olaf: Is this thy meekness, Gerda?

Gerda: Liege, it is.

Old Odin give thee cheer: The gods exact Payment for infidelity.

Olaf: Then ne'er

Wast baptised—

Gerda: And I now am wholly Norse—

Wholly the people thou and I destroyed—

A folk of steel and iron, that we swaddled

In puling Southern customs.

Olaf: Thou'rt unmatched

In insolence.

Gerda [comes to the table in high fettle] : Hail to the Norse! may all

The gaudy fooleries of chivalry

Be powerless to unsoul them!

Einar: Gerda, hail!

No white young girl can match thy pagan brow.

Forkbeard: I knew a rock upon the coast of Hoy

page 37

Beaten by winter winds, cracked with the frosts,

Live with the cries of gulls: alone and torn:

It was the king of storms: that art thou, dame,

And with all that—I hate thee!

Olaf: Scarlet cloths

At Christian funeral-feasts!

Gerda: It is the king

Of all the colours as the horn of war,

Of all the lutes—as thunder of the rout,

Of mountain storms. Here's to young Olaf! Not

The King of Norway, but the landless man,

Sent from his home to rove the winter seas

And know the green below the breaking wave,

From Ireland to old Novgorod the king

Of winter seas, and winter hearts, and men

Of headlong passions!

Olaf [leaps to his feet] : Gerda! what art thou That scarred and torn keep'st such a power in thee?

Gerda: Sigurd, thou'rt silent.

Olaf: Witch! thou'lt win me back

To favour Sigurd—I am here on earth

As Heaven's justice, and I will see guilt

Or innocence proved clear this day.

Gerda: Thou had'st

The whiff o' the mountains in thy nostrils: pure.

Rich air like wine above the birch-tops, where

Short summer grass awaits the winter snows.

Be Norse, not foreign: cast these new ideas

Of chivalry and Christianity Away from thee!

Forkbeard [to Olaf] : King! can'st thou ne'er gainsay a woman's power!

Thorolf: Dead Harald's raven-helmet on her brow.

Gerda: Be true unto thyself, what thou wast born.

And let all Rome and Saxon England wail

In vain for influence o'er thy Northern heart.

There is a magic in the North, no lull

Of soft silk Southern waves—

Olaf: 'Greet thee, Jarl's-wife!

The Valkyr looks from out thine eyes! thou speak'st Like runes of Odin: thou alone art worthy To guide my kingdom! Thou and Sigurd be My right hand till I die—and all old crimes As Martyrs' dust i' the South.

[Pause. Olaf clasps Gerda's hands. Sigurd has leapt to his feet.]

Sigurd: Gerda! art thou

One more than mortal?

Gerda [laughs wildly] : Ha! the berserk blood

Laughs in my veins! Now am I very Gerda—

And thy true wife! I've journeyed far with thee;

We are one flesh : we'll die in the same hour.

Now is it rich to live and brave the world!

page 38

Sigurd—thy hand—there's fire before mine eyes

And in mine ears the roar of mountain floods.

[The figure of Helga crosses slowly from an angle L. back, appearing to come from the wall, and walks out of door R. back. Gerda sees her. She pauses suddenly and for a few seconds catches her breath. Then in a torrent]

I killed him—Harald Jarl—Peace, Helga. peace;

There's blood before mine eyes—I killed the Jarl!

With mine own hand!—Seize her—she'll make me blind!

Ha! call me murderess and bid her go—

[Exit wraith of Helga.]

Olaf: Seize her!

Gerda: The Black Ship—bear the body out—

It floats to sea amid the hail—Ho, Thorolf!

He died like a rat—

Olaf: Justice upon them both!

Bind them! King Olafs justice!

[Guards spring to seize Sigurd and Gerda. Sigurd leaps the table and stands by Gerda, his sword drawn.]

Sigurd: Let my sword

Speak, and not I.

Gerda [calmer]: I did not kill the Jarl:

It was a fit of madness—I am tired:

No word I said was true. Fight, Sigurd, fight!

Olaf [draws]: They are without the law, both man and wife!

Let them be hunted like the desert deer.

Sigurd: Ha, Thorolf! here's my thanks. Rockskull! Be near! Ahoy! ahoy!

Gerda: This dagger be my hope!

Thorolf: Jarl Harald's blood is on it.

[Sigurd wounds Thorolf, who falls. Sigurd and Gerda dash out of the archway R. back.]

Sigurd: To the wilds!

Olaf: After them, knights! wind horns unto the hunt!

[Trumpets, blows, tumult. As Olaf and his men rush out the curtain falls swiftly. R. front, vessels upset, retainers and servants heeled into a corner.]

E. L. Palmer.