The Gnome

Lantern-light is over the fells
      When the sun has sunken low;
Lantern-light and the moorland smells,
      The rain on the good brown soil.
Over the moorland we go, we go,
      Through the wet earth we toil. …

Sunken, sunken was the sun
      Ere ever the moon uprose,
And the tall dark trees cast shadows dun
      Over the lonely way;
Over the moorland the long path goes
      We trod at the close of day.

We sped to reach the dark green hill.
      The Hill of the Bloody Bowl,
And the shadows were watching, watching us still
      As we crept in the shadowless path,
Over the moor to the Mother Troll
      With the heart that was pierced in wrath. {236}

Stumbling over the fallen leaves,
      sliding over the dew,
Staring up at the barley sheaves
      That nod in the autumn wind,
We pushed and jostled the twilight thro',
      Shrilling to those behind.

And ere the night had grown to noon
      We were under the Bloody Bowl,
And then uprose a huge pale moon.
      Behind the shivering trees;
And so we found the Mother Troll
      Well-skilled in mysteries.

She heard our coming, and rose to the door,
      And we hurried eagerly through;
We entered in with a breeze from the moor,
      And stood by the fading pyre.
The air was smoky, the flame was blue,
      And the face of the Troll like fire.

And so we gave her the heart of the slain,
      That was slain for a dead man's sake;
She chuckled low at each blackened vein
      Gory an brown and torn;
She wriggled her sides like a wounded snake
      As she squeezed the blood into a horn. {237}

Far into the fire she cast the blood,
      And the flames grew twisted and red;
Her breast heaved with her passion's flood
      As a hollow-eyed ghost arose
Like a cloud of stench from the rotting dead.
      When a wind from a pest-house blows.

She clasped the ghost to her skinny dugs, —
      No other love might she know, —
The dead man squirmed at her panting hugs,
      But she had her passionate will,
And a sobbing breeze began to blow
      From the top of the lonely hill.

And then a dim grey streak of dawn
      Came, and the sad ghost fled,
With staring sockets and jaw-bone drawn,
      Back to the desolate place;
The morning breeze grew still and dead
      As it played around his face.

So we fled from the Mother Troll
      Under the dawning grey;
We left the Hill of the Bloody Bowl;
      Ere ever the sun uprose,
But the dead man's heart till Judgment-day
      Shall there with the Troll repose.

Victor B. Neuburg


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