The Dance at Hruni

Last year the Yule Cat stalked my journal as I explored a story from Iceland's Christmas tradition. This year I'll take another story, The Dance at Hruni, and add my own flourishes to the dance. Here's a quick summary of the story.

The priest at Hruni made a habit of hosting extended merriment on Yule Eve. His old mother, Una, disapproved and urged him to start the church service, but he insisted on "one more round." Una heard someone recite, "Hátt lætur í Hruna,/ hirðar þangað bruna./ Svo skal dansinn duna,/ að drengir megi það muna./ Enn er hún Una,/ og enn er hún Una," which means "Loud noises at Hruni,/ People hurry there./ Let the dance continue,/ so men will that remember./ Still is Una,/ and still is Una." Outside Una saw a stranger and knew that he was the source of the verse and figured he was the devil. She saddled up and went to bring back another priest to save her son. When they returned the church had been swallowed up by the earth and the people inside could be heard wailing underground. (More at The Yule Pages.)

While reading about the extended untoward merriment, a Leonard Cohen song came to mind. (If you're familiar with it, you'll recognise my unashamed borrowing of rhythm and form. If not, then let me encourage you to listen to Leonard. You've been missing out.) Here's my interpretation of the Dance at Hruni:

Oh! at Hruni's church they're chanting
But it's cheers all prayers supplanting,
With the "holy" spirit flowing fast and free;
And my son, the priest, is playing
Host to punters while delaying
Yule devotions and evading prods by me.
And I close my eyes to the tragic truth
As I try to warn my wayward youth,
But his congregation forms a conga line,
Singing, "God can wait for one more round;
This wondrous night we're glory-bound.
In our hearts and heads the Babe is crowned
As Heavenly King of the lightly drowned:

Yes, they cut the decks and roll the dice
And they dance together to the edge of vice.
You mark my words, they'll pay the price.
May't please the Lord, I've warned them thrice:

Then I hear a voice rehearsing
And I hope it isn't cursing;
In its rhythmic verse I know I hear my name.
"Still is Una," is the ending
Of an omen or a sending.
There's a stranger standing outside; he's to blame
For the devilish vague and veiled threat,
For the voice of dread, for the shivering sweat
That forced me to attend his telling rhyme.
And within his smile I see the beast.
I saddle, race for the nearest priest
To save the fools from the devil's feast
And free them all (my son at least).

Returned, the flock cannot be found,
Sunk fast beneath their godless ground,
Yet from below, a longing sound:
"Hey Leifur, pour another round!