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Hacon in the mean time singles out the Irish monarch, who is performing prodigies of valour, as the object most worthy of his sword. He fails, however, in his attack, for his courser being struck dead by the ponderous mace of Fiacha, he is thrown prostrate at the feet of his enemy, and the same weapon is about to extinguish his own existence, when Sweno rushes to his aid, and directing his spear beneath the uplifted arm of Fiacha, pierces through his chest, and the brave Hibernian falls bathed in gore.
Panic-struck at this disastrous event, the Irish give way in every direction, and it is probable that the British would have shared the calamity, had not Arthur at this critical moment appeared on the field:
terrified at the sight of Minerva, though at the same time she was invisible to Telemachus. It is remarkable that a similar kind of superstition should still prevail among our country people; but Addison drew from real life when he represents a servant terrified at the candle's burning blue, and the spayed bitch's looking as if she saw something.' To which the others answer very characteristically: 'Ay, poor cur, she is almost frightened out of her wits;-I warrant ye she hears him (the supposed ghost) many a time, and often when we don't. ""-HOLE.
Lo! darting through the plain, in arms whose blaze Rivall'd the summer sun's meridian rays,
A stately knight, on his hot courser borne,
That champ'd the golden bit he seem'd to scorn,
B. v. p. 147.
In short, the presence and invincible ardour of the British prince turn the fortune of the day; all rally around him, and rushing on the hitherto victorious Norwegians, he encounters Sweno, who had as yet found no equal. The result of the contest is the fall of this noble youth, whose death, and the consequent anguish of his father, are painted by the poet in strains worthy of the tenderness of Virgil.
Hurl'd from his seat, beside the stream he lies;
B. v. p. 149.
Grief swells swells the breast of Arthur as he
contemplates his fallen foe:
Perchance, he cries, not mortal is the blow:
Sweno, however, meets death not only with calm and heroic firmness, but, acting up to the stern creed of his country, with welcome, rejoicing that instead of living vanquished, he had fallen beneath the arm of the valiant; and his only suit is, that his arms and his body may be given to his father, a request which still further excites the commiseration of his conqueror :
Farewell, brave youth! thus Uther's generous son
Sweno, farewell! thou bright, but transient ray-
He fell by Arthur, who bewail'd his fate.—B. v. p. 154.
The distress of Hacon on learning the event is
poignant in the extreme; he views the dead body of his son in speechless agony, and, at length, throwing himself on the corpse, refuses to rise or to be comforted. His friends are alarmed, and Oswald, one of his bards, indignantly exclaims
Is this the haughty chief,
Who wades to fame through war's empurpled tide,
His destined course thy son with honour ran,
That be his praise, to glory in it thine;
'Tis Hacon's right to triumph, not repine!
The voice of Nature, however, cannot be suppressed, and the reply of the bereaved parent is full of truth and tenderness:
Cease, cease, he cried: can words relief impart,
And to the winds its leafy honours spread?
My hero's budding honours. -B. v. p. 155.
Recovered in some degree from the paroxysm of his grief, his first thought is to rush upon the enemy and avenge the death of his son; but his bards reminding him that unless sepulchral honours are now paid to Sweno, his body, from the chance of war, may be left a prey to wolves, he alters his resolution, and retires with them in order to celebrate the funeral rites.
Whilst these things are passing in one part of the field, the forces under Lancelot and Valdemar are contending in the other with as yet undecided fortune. The two leaders, however, at length meet, and every eye is fixed upon them in silent expectation. The combat is long and obstinately maintained; but, at last, Valdemar's horse, trampling on a splintered spear, is wounded in the hoof and falls, whilst Lancelot, disdaining to take advantage of the accident, dismounts and continues the contest on foot. At this moment the Danes, trembling for the life of their monarch, assail the British chieftain from a distance with missile weapons, and he is wounded severely though not fatally. The outrage is instantly retaliated by the friends of Lancelot, who sweep all before them, and the engagement again becomes general. Valdemar meantime