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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Kiartan Bids Farewell to Gudrun

By William Morris (1834–1896)

From ‘The Lovers of Gudrun’

SO passed away

Yule-tide at Herdholt, cold day following day,

Till spring was gone, and Gudrun had not failed

To win both many days where joy prevailed,

And many a pang of fear; till so it fell

That in the summer whereof now we tell,

Upon a day in blithe mood Kiartan came

To Bathstead not as one who looks for blame,

And Bodli with him, sad-eyed, silent, dull,

Noted of Gudrun, who no less was full

Of merry talk,—yea, more than her wont was.

But as the hours toward eventide did pass,

Said Kiartan:—
“Love, make we the most of bliss,

For though, indeed, not the last day this is

Whereon we twain shall meet in such a wise,

Yet shalt thou see me soon in fighting guise,

And hear the horns blow up our Loth to go;

For in White-River—”
“Is it even so,”

She broke in, “that these feet abide behind?

Men call me hard, but thou hast known me kind;

Men call me fair—my body give I thee;

Men call me dainty—let the rough salt sea

Deal with me as it will, so thou be near!

Let me share glory with thee, and take fear

That thy heart throws aside!”
Hand joined to hand,

As one who prays, and trembling, did she stand

With parted lips, and pale and weary-faced.

But up and down the hall-floor Bodli paced

With clanking sword, and brows set in a frown,

And scarce less pale than she. The sun low down

Shone through the narrow windows of the hall,

And on the gold upon her dress did fall,

And gilt her slim clasped hands.
There Kiartan stood

Gazing upon her in strange wavering mood,

Now longing sore to clasp her to his heart,

And pray her, too, that they might ne’er depart.

Now well-nigh ready to say such a word

As cutteth love across as with a sword;

So fought love in him with the craving vain

The love of all the wondering world to gain,

Though such he named it not. And so at last

His eyes upon the pavement did he cast,

And knit his brow as though some word to say:

Then fell her outstretched hands; she cried,
“Nay, nay!

Thou need’st not speak: I will not ask thee twice

To take a gift, a good gift, and be wise;

I know my heart, thou know’st it not: farewell,—

Maybe that other tales the Skalds shall tell

Than of thy great deeds.”
Still her face was pale,

As with a sound betwixt a sigh and wail

She brushed by Bodli, who aghast did stand

With open mouth and vainly stretched-out hand;

But Kiartan followed her a step or two,

Then stayed, bewildered by his sudden woe;

But even therewith, as nigh the door she was,

She turned back suddenly, and straight did pass,

Trembling all over, to his side, and said

With streaming eyes:—
“Let not my words be weighed

As man’s words are! O fair love, go forth

And come thou back again,—made no more worth

Unto this heart, but worthier it may be

To the dull world, thy worth that cannot see.

Go forth, and let the rumor of thee run

Through every land that is beneath the sun;

For know I not, indeed, that everything

Thou winnest at the hands of lord or king,

Is surely mine, as thou art mine at last?”

Then round about his neck her arms she cast,

And wept right sore: and, touched with love and shame,

Must Kiartan offer to leave hope of fame,

And noble life; but ’midst her tears she smiled,—

“Go forth, my love, and be thou not beguiled

By woman’s tears,—I spake but as a fool;

We of the north wrap not our men in wool,

Lest they should die at last: nay, be not moved

To think that thou a faint-heart fool hast loved!”

For now his tears fell too; he said, “My sweet,

Ere the ship sails we yet again shall meet

To say farewell, a little while; and then,

When I come back to hold my place ’mid men,

With honor won for thee—how fair it is

To think on now, the sweetness and the bliss!”

Some little words she said no pen can write,

Upon his face she laid her fingers white,

And ’midst of kisses with his hair did play;

Then, smiling through her tears, she went away.

Nor heeded Bodli aught.
Men say the twain,

Kiartan and Gudrun, never met again

In loving wise; that each to each no more

Their eyes looked kind on this side death’s dark shore;

That ’midst their tangled life they must forget,

Till they were dead, that ere their lips had met.