The Winning of Brisingamen

By Diana Paxson

The forgelight fades.  The hammering is stilled.
The weary dwarf-smiths straighten; tired eyes
Rise from the glory that their skill has wrought
To her who willed it.  Proud, the goddess bends,
Lifting with white arms her golden hair.

With trembling hands, around her swan-smooth throat
The dwarf-king clasps the warm and heavy gold.
The goddess turns.  She gazes with desire
into the mirror, sways, refracting light
Across the fluttering shadows.  Freya’s hair
Shines not so brightly as the collar’s gold.

Yet as she moves, her firm breasts mold her gown.
The dwarves’ eyes glow like coals from their own forge.
Their chieftain bows.  “The task you set is done,
The necklace yours.  Now, Lady, you must pay. . .”

She laughs.  “And think you I will break my word?”

He slowly answers, “until your fair feet
Brought beauty to these depths, of all the gods,
Loki alone came here.  He told a tale–
How Odin bargained once to build Valhall.
Your body was the price, a payment claimed
Unwilling, and reclaimed by trickery.
But Odin One-Eye cannot see you now.
The price you freely offered must be paid.”

Once more he feels her glance, once more she laughs.
The myriad pendants of Brisingamen
Chime golden echoes in the heavy air.
“when I was giants’ prey, I’d cause to fear,
Yet I, who have taught love to gods and men,
Faced their great strength until I conquered them.
What I have promised I will surely pay–
Oh little ones– if you can take my coin!”
Smiling at her reflection in the bronze,
She thinks how goddesses will envy her,
Anticipates the lust of feasting gods.

The dwarf’s voice grates, his teeth flash in his beard.
“You may be Mistress of the arts of Love,
but we are workmen who respect our craft.
We try no task without the proper tool!”

Their eyes are burning brighter than the fire;
They loose and let their leathern aprons fall.
The goddess sees, and smiles.  In the still air
They hear the silken slither of her gown.

Swiftly the secret hours of darkness pass,
And though the cavern’s endless night goes on,
Soon, in the world above, the rising sun
Turns dew-pearled meadows into living gold.

The goddess rises, stretching like a cat.
Her debt is paid.  Upon the shadowed stone
Her white feet, retreating, make no sound.
Spent, upon the skins her lovers lie.
In dreams their longing follows her where flowers
Fill Freya’s footsteps.  Shining in their eyes
Her image lingers.  On her snowy breast
Their necklace sparkles in the morning sun.

(Diana Paxson, 1977)

2 thoughts on “The Winning of Brisingamen

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