Arthurian and Grail Poetry

The Landing Of Hengist And Horsa
By John Lesslie Hall

Early thereafter, earlmen of Anglia,
With Hengist and Horsa, heroes distinguished and
Leaders belovèd, leaped in their fast-chasing,
Stout-builded, sturdy steeds of the water-ways,
On the seas clomb then, to seek for the far-away,
Wide-famed, sea-girt, water-encircled
Island of Albion, most excellent land
The sun ever smiled on. -- In song and in legend
Of the folk of the east, 't was often recited
(The heroes had heard it), how hardy, brave-mooded
Men of the mainland once mounted the ocean,
The storm-troubled sea, that stretched to the westward,
And sailed o'er the currents, till they came to a land of
Fruits and of flowers and foliage so green
As never was seen, whither Saxon rovers
Thronged in thousands, thinking to capture
That land so lovely. -- Light-hearted, glad were
The henchmen of Hengist; high their glee was,
Merry their mood: men do not know what
Wyrd awaiteth them. Wassail and song
Rose to the welkin, There rode, then, at anchor
Close by the cliff-edge, keels for the journey,
Three of them lovely: lay they well fastened there
Safe by the sea-shore, with sails fluttering
Broad on the breezes that blew o'er the ocean,
The realm of the oar. The excellent vessels were
Eager and anxious to be off on adventure,
Longingly looked tow'rd the lands of the west,
Thirsted for glory. Thanemen of Hengist
From afar and anear knew of the journey,
To the coast came then; craving for glory,
Begged he would grant them to go on the far-famed,
Daring and venturesome voyage, to bear their
Aid unto Albion: earls of that day were all
Eager for honor. Off by the shore, then,
The birds of the billows blithely awaited the
Heroes' behest; in harbor all ready were
The keels at the coast. There clomb to the prow, then,
High-mooded, happy henchmen and kinsmen
Of Hengist and Horsa. Hundreds of earlmen
To the shore thronged, then, each thinking that, haply,
'T was he that would have the high and distinguished
Honor and glory of going that daring and
Venturesome voyage. The vessels lay ready,
Foam-throated floaters. Fair-haired, eagle-eyed
Heroes of Anglia were happy and glee-hearted,
Lifting their lances, laughing, shouting,
Wished for the wind to waft them to Albion's
Beautiful shores. Bountiful treasures,
Richest of ring-mails, rings and jewels and
Collars and corselet with carving embellished
By armorer's art -- all quickly were
Laid on the vessel, loveliest of gifts for the
King of the Kentmen. The customs they knew
Of earls of that era. Not ever was told me
Of gifts that were greater: good were the heroes! --
They sailed seaward then; saw in the distance
The fairest of fatherlands, fond-lovèd country,
Home of good heroes. -- High on his courser,
The guard of the strand stood on his watch and
Gazed out to seaward, saw his dear comrades
Sail out on the ocean, off on the fathomless
Home of the whale: his heart wavered then
'Twixt sorrow and joy. He rejoiced in glory and
Augured them fame; but he feared that his dear ones
Were leaving belovèd land-folk and kindred
Forever behind them, on endless adventure,
To meet them no more. Yet, mindful of honor,
Loudly he shouted: "Lords of the Anglians,
Hengist and Horsa; hail, ye distinguished
Earls of the ocean. To all and some of you
My greeting I give, gladly saluting you,
Wishing you well. Wend on your journey,
The gods watch over you. Odin and Frea
Keep you and care for you coming and going,
Where'er on the ocean ye earlmen may venture.
May Njörd graciously grant you his aid o'er
The throng of the waters. Thor the Hammerer
And Baldur the Beautiful bless you and keep you
Fighting for fame. Farewell, ye heroes:
Hasten ye hitherward home to your fatherland,
Laden with lustre." Then, lightly and sprightly,
The foamy-necked barks fanned by the breezes,
Likest to birds bosomed the waters,
Coursing the currents, keels of the dauntless,
Famous, fearless, far-sailing heroes,
Encircled with speed. The sea-boats glided,
Barks of the vikings, bounded the mere-ways,
The fields of the flood. Fain, glad-mooded,
Hengist the high-hearted hero and leader,
Stood by the steersman that sturdily guided the
Rein-deer of breezes as she ran through the water-streets
Over to Albion. The Anglian leader, then,
Eagerly asked as to all of the beauteous,
Delightsome lands that lay in his vision
Afar and anear, northward, southward,
Eastward and westward; anxiously waited he
And hoped for his haven, as hied the good vessel,
The deer of the surf, southward, westward,
To Albion, the fair and ever-belovèd
Land of great heroes. -- High on his seat, then,
The steersman espied a storm to the northward;
Ocean was angry; the oarsmen fearless,
Sons of the sea. Soon were the vessels
Embraced by the billows, the birds of the ocean
Clutched by the currents. The cordage creaked,
The chains rattled, chattered and clattered,
The good ships groaned, grewsomely moaned.
Blustering blasts blew from the northward,
Eager and icy:
I have heard never
That so fierce and frightful and frantic a storm e'er
So rushed in its rage and raved o'er the sea-deeps
Icicle-laden. -- The earlmen were merry,
And shaking their shields, shouted so loud that
The terrible roar of the tempest was more
Than drowned in the sound. -- The sea-ways were troubled,
Rocking and roaring; no rest had the vessels;
The tackling crackled, as timbers and beams were
Mashing and crashing. The men of the Anglians
Wished but weened not the well-lovèd ships could
Bear them to Albion. Then brightened the heavens,
The sun from the southward soon in the welkin
Lavished his luminous lustre and splendor
O'er land-folk and races, lovely, brilliant
Candle of heaven. O'er the cup of the waves, then,
The swans of the sea swam on the billows,
Southward and westward, till soon in the distance the
Earls of the Anglians not aught could behold of
The land where their loved ones long o'er the waters,
Yearning to meet them, waited to greet them;
No more saw then the sweetest of countries
That ocean doth ever ardently woo to his
Blustering embraces. The battle-brave earls
Saw in the distance southward and eastward,
Far o'er the sea, Saxon and Angle-land,
Cradle of heroes, and the cloud-capped shores
Where the free Frisians, famed 'mid the races,
Have with locks unshorn lived through the ages,
Bending their necks to none under heaven,
Kingliest of kins. They came on their journey
Where Eider and Elbe and Ems and Weser,
Dear-lovèd waters, wind to the ocean,
And beauteous Rhine, river of heroes,
Flashing and splashing foams to the northward
Seeking the sea. Then sailing westward, they
Early anon drew nigh to the beautiful,
Longed-for, lovely land they had dreamed of
On their way o'er the waters, winsome, peerless
Isle of the ocean, ever-belovèd
Land of the leal. Live forever, thou
Beauteous Albion, bride of the waters,
Fairest of fatherlands! Fondly, lovingly,
Sing we thy praises, precious and world-honored
Land of our fathers. -- The foam-covered vessels
Came to the coast, the keels speedily
Borne by the breezes, birds of the water-ways
Flying afar. Folk of the island, then,
Gladly greeted them, giving them welcome as
Friends that the Father had found them and brought them
To fight with the foeman. Few of them wist, then,
How Wyrd the weaver wove at her spindle
Of good or of ill for all men and races
That dwell on the earth, as ever she must do,
Goddess supreme. -- Proudly equipped
The men of the ocean were eager to step then
Off the dear barks that had brought them to Albion's
Shores they had longed for. Their lances did shimmer,
Their bills and burnies brightly did glimmer
And glisten resplendent; sparkling, flashing,
Jewels were bright in the battle-true, sturdy
Brands of the heroes. The barks of the troopers,
Well-lovèd vessels, went shoreward then,
Grinding the gravel. Glad were the sea-boats
To lie by the land they long had been seeking for
O'er ocean's angry eddies and currents
That had dashed them and lashed them. Then the daring, intrepid
Earls of the Angles eagerly hastened to
Leap to the land, longed to possess the
Loveliest of isles that ocean claspeth
In his big embraces, most beauteous of places
In the wash of the waters. -- Well they remembered
The rings, jewels and richest of burnies,
Collars, corselets, with carving embellished,
They had laid on the ship as likest to please the
King of the Kentmen. With care lifted they
The bountiful treasure. -- So the troopers all ready
Stood on the strand: the strangers were eager to
March on their mission. Men of the island,
Folk of the Kentmen, came then to meet them
And gladly did greet them, gratefully hailing the
Fond-lovèd heroes that feared not to bring them
Aid o'er the ocean, early did hie then
To bind the dear barks that brought them to Albion,
Where Wantsum's waters, washing and swashing
Shingled the shore. The ships quickly were
Bound with their ropes and rocked on the billows;
The beautiful-bosomed birds of the ocean
Quietly lay in the long-sought, well-earned
Nests they had flown to. Fain, Anglians
Would look for the king; called for the gleeman to
Sweep o'er his strings and sing them the glories
Of their fathers before them, folk-leaders mighty,
And lays of the land they had left far behind them when
Hither they hastened. The harp resounded
With music and melody. Mightily shouted
The exultant, triumphant earls of the ocean,
Sons of the sea; they sang with the gleeman of
The doughty and daring deeds wrought by their
Fathers of old, earth-famed, distinguished
Founders of freedom and folk-builders mightiest
Known of the nations. Anon, the joyous
Shaft and the shield shared in the merriment,
Clanging and clanking and clashing and crashing,
Well-lovèd weapons. War-thanes, liegemen
Of Hengist and Horsa hied them to Vortigern,
Lord of the land, liegelord of Albion;
The troopers did tramp, treading measuredly,
Sought for the king: the sweetest of melodies
Wound to the welkin, winsomest of music
'Neath the hand of the harper. -- High on the dais then,
The lord of the Kentmen saluted the brave-hearted
Heroes and vikings: "Hail! ye distinguished
Men of the mainland, mighty, eminent
Folk-leaders famed. Foeman implacable
Are cruelly harrying, killing and slaying us;
Men of the Picts painted, horrible,
Grisly and grim, ghastly destroyers,
Swoop from the northward sacking and burning our
Hedges and homesteads, heedless of pity and
Fierce-mooded, fell; and, from far o'er the waters,
Men of the Scots, mighty and scatheful and
Cruel and venomous, are coming in hordes
To grind us to powder. Great-hearted heroes,
If ye came o'er the ocean to aid us in driving
And beating these demons back to their dens in the
North and the west, I know it will happen
That forever and ever earthmen shall honor you
And gleeman and minstrel remember your deeds in their
Legend and story." Strided then Hengist
Up to the dais; angrily, hurriedly
Cried to the king: "We came o'er the ocean,
Asking not honor: the island of Thanet
Is the loveliest of lands that lie in the billows and
Are washed by the waters, well-lovèd island,
Dearest of places. Promise us this
To have and to hold as a homestead forever
For us and our heirs, if we aid you in driving these
Demons and devils to their dens in the northland and
West o'er the waters." "Well hast thou spoken,
Hengist the Saxon; so shall be it then,
High-mooded heroes." The hall resounded
With gladness and glee; gifts were abundant and
Beer was not bitter; bowls overflowing were
Lifted aloft; and the lord of the Kentmen
In the brimming bumper buried the sorrow that
The wrath of the hero-chief wrought in his soul-deeps.