Else few are the gifts that he bringeth the while;
He weareth at best but a mocking smile,
Like a foe confessed, who knoweth his power,
And his victim's weakness, yet bides the hour.*
On the North Sea's icy and heaving breast
The islet of Amroom finds doubtful rest,
Above the wild waters scarce holdeth its place.
And bleak are the winds that sweep o'er its face
All bare to the blast, for shelter is none,
Save what the billows in scorn have upthrown —
The downs low and broken along the strand,
'Gainst the North Sea a rampart of shifting sand.
'Twould seem that King Ægir,† in merry mood,
Would teach us to fetter his own wild flood.
* One is constantly reminded by the figurative language of the people
that the whole coast is at war with the sea. They always speak of the
west wind and the ocean as "the enemy ;" of the downs and dykes as
"the defences and intrenchments against the enemy;" of the outer tier
of islands as "the vanguard," and of the inner as "the rear-guard."
† In the Scandinavian mythology Ægir is a sea-god, who personifies
the destructive, as Njörd does the beneficent powers of the ocean.