Part 1: Religions Old and New
Chilly morn Christmastide week, I awake,
Frosty breath, broken fiord ice, lazy smoke
Rising from homestead hearth chimneys.
To fiord shore, I, Brithe, am lone-walker,
Fathom attempting, mingling of Christian-
Pagan blood-rituals adopted, Odin, Yule
Father, White Bearded One, more feasting,
Boasting, swords and shields, than to Christ
Praying, conflict of Norse invaders, religion
Of divine love, peace, forgiveness.
Admixed we have religions old and new,
Neither recognizable, name of Christian and
Cross we carry, no benefit of holy scripture
Or monk-administered sacraments, except
Animal sacrifice, blood sprinkled on mead-
Hall walls, meat roasted, ale flowing, chieftain
Offers coarse blessings, then we Christ prayed,
Savior-chieftain of our souls, deliver us from
Evil, warlords to slaves, eternal life granted,
Valhalla of many rooms.
To whom do we show greatest honour, Odin
Or Christ? Or are both profaned? I ask not for
Gifts of silver or of gold but understanding,
Greater god, obligation, keen-eyed longboat
Navigation, souls saved from sword-wrath,
Sea-doom, heavenly homestead, sun-warmed
Fertile-field dwelling. Voice of ancient ages
Spoke, “Brithe, Isle of Sandey.” Seven men of
Mark, I approached for long-ship sailing
Voyage, winter-perilous seas.
“Det er vinterhøyd hav, Brithe,” fur-skin clad
Chieftain stated of North Sea storms, foam-
Streaked waves. “Warm wind from south
Approaches,” I countered, fear of southerly
Gales, slashing waves, fog woolen-weave
Thick, descending on home waters, broad-
Firth. “Hva skjer med Ilse Sandey?” In truth,
No one, Norse or Celts, wintered there, summer
Ship-station, beacon fires, fresh water, not
Single ewe or ram for spit-roasting slaughter.