« PreviousContinue »
Lo! darting through the plain, in arms whose blaze
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
fear : To his sad sire the breathless warrior bear; And (may it soothe his troubled breast), relate He fell by Arthur, who bewaild 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,
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,
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
having obtained another war-steed, flies to the aid of his warriors, and turns the tide of victory. He slays Urien ; and Hoel, the Armorican king, is about to experience a similar fate, when loud groans and shrieks are heard from the other division of the Saxon army, and Ida, one of its leaders, bleeding and desperately wounded, is seen crossing the plain and rushing into the presence of Valdemar : he implores him to hasten to their assistance, for that Arthur had slain their noblest knights, and that his friend, the brave Biorno, was no more. Having said this, and again urged immediate vengeance, he drops down dead, exhausted from fatigue and loss of blood.
Valdemar, who, whilst the Saxon was yet speaking, had beheld the shameful rout, now hastens to the support of his friends, trusting to arrest the arm of Arthur, and calling upon him in defiance as he advances. Arthur hears and instantly confronts him ; but the weird sisters, fearful of the issue of the combat, strike the horse of Valdemar with frenzy, and immediately, impelled by rage and terror, he rushes with irresistible impetuosity through the ranks, bearing his enraged and reluctant master from the field, in spite of every effort to impede his