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The Wraith of Odin (Chorus: Ballad)

Language: English

The guests were loud, the ale was strong,
King Olaf feasted late and long;
The hoary Scalds together sang;
O'erhead the smoky rafters rang.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

The door swung wide, with creak and din;
A blast of cold night-air came in,
And on the threshold shivering stood
A one-eyed guest, with cloak and hood.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

The King exclaimed, "O graybeard pale!
Come warm thee with this cup of ale."
The foaming draught the old man quaffed,
The noisy guests looked on and laughed.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

Then spake the King: "Be not afraid;
Sit here by me."  The guest obeyed,
And, seated at the table, told
Tales of the sea, and Sagas old.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

And ever, when the tale was o'er,
The King demanded yet one more;
Till Sigurd the Bishop smiling said,
"'T is late, O King, and time for bed."
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

The King retired; the stranger guest
Followed and entered with the rest;
The lights were out, the pages gone,
But still the garrulous guest spake on.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

As one who from a volume reads,
He spake of heroes and their deeds,
Of lands and cities he had seen,
And stormy gulfs that tossed between.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

Then from his lips in music rolled
The Havamal of Odin old,
With sounds mysterious as the roar
Of billows on a distant shore.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

"Do we not learn from runes and rhymes
Made by the gods in elder times,
And do not still the great Scalds teach
That silence better is than speech?"
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

Smiling at this, the King replied,
"Thy lore is by thy tongue belied;
For never was I so enthralled
Either by Saga-man or Scald,"
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

The Bishop said, "Late hours we keep!
Night wanes, O King! 't is time for sleep!"
Then slept the King, and when he woke
The guest was gone, the morning broke.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

They found the doors securely barred,
They found the watch-dog in the yard,
There was no footprint in the grass,
And none had seen the stranger pass.
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang. 

King Olaf crossed himself and said:
"I know that Odin the Great is dead;
Sure is the triumph of our Faith,
The one-eyed stranger was his wraith."
    Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.



E. Elgar sets stanzas 1-4, 7-8, 11-13

View text with footnotes

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Text added to the website: 2009-10-02.

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