The Song of the Slow Hound

Words: Mikal Hrafspa (Mikal the Ram)
This is an excerpt from a saga I have been writing for the last two years. The plot line in the saga is that a Christianized Norse poet, John, has returned to Norway and is caught up in the actions of the old gods. This song has little to do with that story line, but it is some good poetry. It is written in the style of Norse poetry circa 780, and has a fairly good story line as well.

High in Halogaland            hidden in hoarfrost,
There was a hunter            who lived by the hides
Of elk and of bear            of otter and badger
To buy his bread            for he had no brothers.

But he had his hounds.            They were his helpers
The happiest host            any chief could have.
Loyal and faithful,            his orders were followed
By his true family;            these hounds so fine

Each was the son            Of the same sire:
A hound like a stag            the hunter's prize stud.
Their dam was the best            of the villages' beasts;
Dauntless and brave            like all of her blood.

The hunter would come            each year to the council.
And in that country            a feast would commence.
Each man would swear            his dogs were supreme.
each telling stories            of their great skills.

But in the fighting            his hounds were fiercer.
Driving their foes            well off of the field,
They were the swiftest            the wildest and surest.
All save the slow one            who stayed by his side.

When they would hunt,            his marvelous hounds
Would fly over hills            chasing the hind.
Not to be shaken            from the prey they sought.
All save the slow one            who stayed by his side.

"All of my hounds            are stout hearted;
Speed like the harpies            and courage like heroes.
All but my Sathi            who runs so slow
And stays by my side.            He cares not for slaying.

Are you then fearful            to take to the field?
All of your fellows            run like the fire!
Is your heart weak,            Your courage like water,
That you still wait            to walk where I walk?"

Many the season            they hunted the snows.
Ran on the steeps.            Followed the spoor.
Much gold was bought            with hides of the beasts
Brought to their bay            by Sathi's fast brothers.

On one cold morning            they hunted the mountains.
Deep in the mists            such music they made!
Hounds on the scent!            Wild hunt singing!
All save the slow one            who stayed by his side.

Their prey ran far,            so they ran faster;
Howling so fierce            rang in the forest.
Leaving their master            behind on the mountain,
Much slower moving            than running mastiffs.

Only slow Sathi            remained by his side.
Trotting so silent            keeping his speed,
Beside the hunter,            at his right hand.
Ignoring the howls            of the far hunt.

Up rose a bear                       out of a brook.
A great angry beast            mad with the baying.
The hounds were singing;    still far on the scent,
All but the slow one            who stayed by his side.

The hunter was fearful.            He saw his fate;
Here he would fall            before this huge foe.
He readied his spear,            his chances were spent.
All but slow Sathi            who stayed by his side.

The hunter was ready,            the great bear roared,
With his paw reached            the hunter to rend.
Sathi gave a loud bark            and leaped at the beast,
Seeking to bite            and taking the blows.

The bear was strong            and wounded good Sathi,
Ripping his shoulder            leaving bone showing.
But Sathi bit deep            even while dying,
Clawing and digging            wounding him dire.

The hunter was free            a target to find.
His spear flew                       into the fur,
Seeking the blood            of the great bear.
Striking the breast            of the wild beast.

When it had fallen,            from the cold field
Came his fair hounds            hearing the fight.
He brushed them aside            away from the slaying,
Away from good Sathi            who'd stayed by his side.

"All of my hounds            have stout hearts;
Speed like the harpies            and courage like heroes.
All but my Sathi            who runs so slow,
and stays by my side,            and cares not for slaying.

Staying to ward            against all the wild.
Staying to watch.            Willing to wait.
Of all my hounds,            This was the hero!
Knowing his heart            and what he would hold."

There in the trees            he raised a tower
Of heavy timbers            stacked by tens.
Laid on that pile            the hunter's protector;
Sathi the proud            upon the high pyre.

As were these hounds            servants to hunter,
Bound by the heart            to serve his hand,
Your warriors sing            for glory and slaying.
I'll be the slow one            and stay by your side.

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