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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tales of a Wayside Inn

XX

EINAR TAMBERSKELVER

It was Einar Tamberskelver
  Stood beside the mast;
From his yew-bow, tipped with silver,
  Flew the arrows fast;
Aimed at Eric unavailing,
  As he sat concealed,
Half behind the quarter-railing,
  Half behind his shield.

First an arrow struck the tiller,
  Just above his head;
"Sing, O Eyvind Skaldaspiller,"
  Then Earl Eric said.
"Sing the song of Hakon dying,
  Sing his funeral wail!"
And another arrow flying
  Grazed his coat of mail.

Turning to a Lapland yeoman,
  As the arrow passed,
Said Earl Eric, "Shoot that bowman
  Standing by the mast."
Sooner than the word was spoken
  Flew the yeoman's shaft;
Einar's bow in twain was broken,
  Einar only laughed.

"What was that?" said Olaf, standing
  On the quarter-deck.
"Something heard I like the stranding
  Of a shattered wreck."
Einar then, the arrow taking
  From the loosened string,
Answered, "That was Norway breaking
  From thy hand, O King!"

"Thou art but a poor diviner,"
  Straightway Olaf said;
"Take my bow, and swifter, Einar,
  Let thy shafts be sped."
Of his bows the fairest choosing,
  Reached he from above;
Einar saw the blood-drops oozing
  Through his iron glove.

But the bow was thin and narrow;
  At the first assay,
O'er its head he drew the arrow,
  Flung the bow away;
Said, with hot and angry temper
  Flushing in his cheek,
"Olaf! for so great a Kamper
  Are thy bows too weak!"

Then, with smile of joy defiant
  On his beardless lip,
Scaled he, light and self-reliant,
  Eric's dragon-ship.
Loose his golden locks were flowing,
  Bright his armor gleamed;
Like Saint Michael overthrowing
  Lucifer he seemed.