Seite:Marsh Wolfe of the knoll.djvu/265

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269

AXEL.

And rode both day and night with speed,
Till he on Ukraine's border stood —
A flash of steel within the wood !
Sabres and lances quick upspring,
And round him close a glittering ring.
"Dispatches thou dost bear from Bender ;
Dismount, and to my hand surrender
Thy charge, — or die !" His ready blade
A plain, a Swedish answer made ;
Grown sudden meek, the speaker bowed
To earth, and weltered in his blood.
With back against an oak-tree stayed,
His desperate game the hero played.
At every whiz of his good sword
A knee was bowed, and life-blood poured.
Nobly he kept the oath they made —
One against seven — why, that were naught !
One against twenty, flew his blade.
He fought as once Rolf Krake fought,
Striving, since hope of life was none.