The Danish History/Book VIII
STARKAD was the first to set in order in Danish speech the history of the Swedish war, a conflict whereof he was himself a mighty pillar; the said history being rather an oral than a written tradition. He set forth and arranged the course of this war in the mother tongue according to the fashion of our country; but I purpose to put it into Latin, and will first recount the most illustrious princes on either side. For I have felt no desire to include the multitude, which are even past exact numbering. And my pen shall relate first those on the side of Harald, and presently those who served under Ring. Now the most famous of the captains that mustered to Harald are acknowledged to have been Sweyn and Sambar (Sam?), Ambar and Elli; Rati of Funen, Salgard and Roe (Hrothgar), whom his long beard distinguished by a nickname. Besides these, Skalk the Scanian, and Alf the son of Agg; to whom are joined Olwir the Broad, and Gnepie the Old. Besides these there was Gardh, founder of the town Stang. To these are added the kinsfolk or bound followers of Harald: Blend (Blaeng?), the dweller in furthest Thule, (1) and Brand, whose surname was Crumb (Bitling?). Allied with these were Thorguy, with Thorwig, Tatar (Teit), and Hialte. These men voyaged to Leire with bodies armed for war; but they were also mighty in excellence of wit, and their trained courage matched their great stature; for they had skill in discharging arrows both from bow and catapult, and at fighting their foe as they commonly did, man to man; and also at readily stringing together verse in the speech of their country: so zealously had they trained mind and body alike. Now out of Leire came Hortar (Hjort) and Borrhy (Borgar or Borgny), and also Belgi and Beigad, to whom were added Bari and Toli. Now out of the town of Sle, under the captains Hetha (Heid) and Wisna, with Hakon Cut-cheek came Tummi the Sailmaker. On these captains, who had the bodies of women, nature bestowed the souls of men. Webiorg was also inspired with the same spirit, and was attended by Bo (Bui) Bramason and Brat the Jute, thirsting for war. In the same throng came Orm of England, Ubbe the Frisian, Ari the One-eyed, and Alf Gotar. Next in the count came Dal the Fat and Duk the Sclav; Wisna, a woman, filled with sternness, and a skilled warrior, was guarded by a band of Sclavs: her chief followers were Barri and Gnizli. But the rest of the same company had their bodies covered by little shields, and used very long swords and targets of skiey hue, which, in time of war, they either cast behind their backs or gave over to the baggage- bearers; while they cast away all protection to their breasts, and exposed their bodies to every peril, offering battle with drawn swords. The most illustrious of these were Tolkar and Ymi. After these, Toki of the province of Wohin was conspicuous together with Otrit surnamed the Young. Hetha, guarded by a retinue of very active men, brought an armed company to the war, the chiefs of whom were Grim and Grenzli; next to whom are named Geir the Livonian, Hame also and Hunger, Humbli and Biari, bravest of the princes. These men often fought duels successfully, and won famous victories far and wide.
The maidens I have named, in fighting as well as courteous array, led their land-forces to the battle-field. Thus the Danish army mustered company by company. There were seven kings, equal in spirit but differing in allegiance, some defending Harald, and some Ring. Moreover, the following went to the side of Harald: Homi and Hosathul (Eysothul?), Him...., Hastin and Hythin (Hedin) the Slight, also Dahar (Dag), named Grenski, and Harald Olafsson also. From the province of Aland came Har and Herlewar (Herleif), with Hothbrodd, surnamed the Furious; these fought in the Danish camp. But from Imisland arrived Humnehy (?) and Harald. They were joined by Haki and by Sigmund and Serker the sons of Bemon, all coming from the North. All these were retainers of the king, who befriended them most generously; for they were held in the highest distinction by him, receiving swords adorned with gold, and the choicest spoils of war. There came also.... the sons of Gandal the old, who were in the intimate favour of Harald by reason of ancient allegiance. Thus the sea was studded with the Danish fleet, and seemed to interpose a bridge, uniting Zealand to Skaane. To those that wished to pass between those provinces, the sea offered a short road on foot over the dense mass of ships. But Harald would not have the Swedes unprepared in their arrangements for war, and sent men to Ring to carry his public declaration of hostilities, and notify the rupture of the mediating peace. The same men were directed to prescribe the place of combat. These then whom I have named were the fighters for Harald.
Now, on the side of Ring were numbered Ulf, Aggi (Aki?), Windar (Eywind?), Egil the One-eyed; Gotar, Hildi, Guti Alfsson; Styr the Stout, and (Tolo-) Stein, who lived by the Wienic Mere. To these were joined Gerd the Glad and Gromer (Glum?) from Wermland. After these are reckoned the dwellers north on the Elbe, Saxo the Splitter, Sali the Goth; Thord the Stumbler, Throndar Big-nose; Grundi, Oddi, Grindir, Tovi; Koll, Biarki, Hogni the Clever, Rokar the Swart. Now these scorned fellowship with the common soldiers, and had formed themselves into a separate rank apart from the rest of the company. Besides these are numbered Hrani Hildisson and Lyuth Guthi (Hljot Godi), Svein the Topshorn, (Soknarsoti?), Rethyr (Hreidar?) Hawk, and Rolf the Uxorious (Woman-lover). Massed with these were Ring Adilsson and Harald who came from Thotn district. Joined to these were Walstein of Wick, Thorolf the Thick, Thengel the Tall, Hun, Solwe, Birwil the Pale, Borgar and Skumbar (Skum). But from, Tellemark came the bravest of all, who had most courage but least arrogance -- Thorleif the Stubborn, Thorkill the Gute (Gothlander), Grettir the Wicked and the Lover of Invasions. Next to these came Hadd the Hard and Rolder (Hroald) Toe-joint.
From Norway we have the names of Thrand of Throndhjem, Thoke (Thore) of More, Hrafn the White, Haf (war), Biarni, Blihar (Blig?) surnamed Snub-nosed; Biorn from the district of Sogni; Findar (Finn) born in the Firth; Bersi born in the town F(I)alu; Siward Boarhead, Erik the Story-teller, Holmstein the White, Hrut Rawi (or Vafi, the Doubter), Erling surnamed Snake. Now from the province of Jather came Odd the Englishman, Alf the Far-wanderer, Enar the Paunched, and Ywar surnamed Thriug. Now from Thule (Iceland) came Mar the Red, born and bred in the district called Midfirth; Grombar the Aged, Gram Brundeluk (Bryndalk?) Grim from the town of Skier (um) born in Skagafiord. Next came Berg the Seer, accompanied by Bragi and Rafnkel.
Now the bravest of the Swedes were these: Arwakki, Keklu-Karl (Kelke-Karl), Krok the Peasant, (from Akr), Gudfast and Gummi from Gislamark. These were kindred of the god Frey, and most faithful witnesses to the gods. Ingi (Yngwe) also, and Oly, Alver, Folki, all sons of Elrik (Alrek), embraced the service of Ring; they were men ready of hand, quick in counsel, and very close friends of Ring. They likewise held the god Frey to be the founder of their race. Amongst these from the town of Sigtun also came Sigmund, a champion advocate, versed in making contracts of sale and purchase; besides him Frosti surnamed Bowl: allied with him was Alf the Lofty (Proud?) from the district of Upsala; this man was a swift spear-thrower, and used to go in the front of the battle.
Ole had a body-guard in which were seven kings, very ready of hand and of counsel; namely, Holti, Hendil, Holmar, Lewy (Leif), and Hame; with these was enrolled Regnald the Russian, the grandson of Radbard; and Siwald also furrowed the sea with eleven light ships. Lesy (Laesi), the conqueror of the Pannonians (Huns), fitted with a sail his swift galley ringed with gold. Thririkar (Erik Helsing) sailed in a ship whose prows were twisted like a dragon. Also Thrygir (Tryggve) and Torwil sailed and brought twelve ships jointly. In the entire fleet of Ring there were 2,500 ships.
The fleet of Gotland was waiting for the Swedish fleet in the harbour named Garnum. So Ring led the land-force, while Ole was instructed to command the fleet. Now the Goths were appointed a time and a place between Wik and Werund for the conflict with the Swedes. Then was the sea to be seen furrowed up with prows, and the canvas unfurled upon the masts cut off the view over the ocean. The Danes had so far been distressed with bad weather; but the Swedish fleet had a fair voyage, and had reached the scene of battle earlier. Here Ring disembarked his forces from his fleet, and then massed and prepared to draw up in line both these and the army he had himself conducted overland. When these forces were at first loosely drawn up over the open country, it was found that one wing reached all the way to Werund. The multitude was confused in its places and ranks; but the king rode round it, and posted in the van all the smartest and most excellently-armed men, led by Ole, Regnald, and Wivil; then he massed the rest of the army on the two wings in a kind of curve. Ung, with the sons of Alrek, and Trig, he ordered to protect the right wing, while the left was put under the command of Laesi. Moreover, the wings and the masses were composed mainly of a close squadron of Kurlanders and of Esthonians. Last stood the line of slingers.
Meantime the Danish fleet, favoured by kindly winds, sailed, without stopping, for twelve days, and came to the town (stead) of Kalmar. The wind-blown sails covering the waters were a marvel; and the canvas stretched upon the yards blotted out the sight of the heavens. For the fleet was augmented by the Sclavs and the Livonians and 7,000 Saxons. But the Skanians, knowing the country, were appointed as guides and scouts to those who were going over the dry land. So when the Danish army came upon the Swedes, who stood awaiting them, Ring told his men to stand quietly until Harald had drawn up his line of battle; bidding them not to sound the signal before they saw the king settled in his chariot beside the standards; for he said he should hope that an army would soon come to grief which trusted in the leading of a blind man. Harald, moreover, he said, had been seized in extreme age with the desire of foreign empire, and was as witless as he was sightless; wealth could not satisfy a man who, if he looked to his years, ought to be well-nigh contented with a grave. The Swedes therefore were bound to fight for their freedom, their country, and their children, while the enemy had undertaken the war in rashness and arrogance. Moreover, on the other side, there were very few Danes, but a mass of Saxons and other unmanly peoples stood arrayed. Swedes and Norwegians should therefore consider, how far the multitudes of the North had always surpassed the Germans and the Sclavs. They should therefore despise an army which seemed to be composed more of a mass of fickle offscourings than of a firm and stout soldiery.
By this harangue of King Ring he kindled high the hearts of the soldiers. Now Brun, being instructed to form the line on Harald's behalf, made the front in a wedge, posting Hetha on the right flank, putting Hakon in command of the left, and making Wisna standard-bearer. Harald stood up in his chariot and complained, in as loud a voice as he could, that Ring was requiting his benefits with wrongs; that the man who had got his kingdom. by Harald's own gift was now attacking him; so that Ring neither pitied an old man nor spared an uncle, but set his own ambitions before any regard for Harald's kinship or kindness. So he bade the Danes remember how they had always won glory by foreign conquest, and how they were more wont to command their neighbours than to obey them. He adjured them not to let such glory as theirs to be shaken by the insolence of a conquered nation, nor to suffer the empire, which he had won in the flower of his youth, to be taken from him in his outworn age.
Then the trumpets sounded, and both sides engaged in battle with all their strength. The sky seemed to fall suddenly on the earth, fields and woods to sink into the ground; all things were confounded, and old Chaos come again; heaven and earth mingling in one tempestuous turmoil, and the world rushing to universal ruin. For, when the spear-throwing began, the intolerable clash of arms filled the air with an incredible thunder. The steam of the wounds suddenly hung a mist over the sky, the daylight was hidden under the hail of spears. The help of the slingers was of great use in the battle. But when the missiles had all been flung from hand or engines, they fought with swords or iron-shod maces; and it was now at close quarters that most blood was spilt. Then the sweat streamed down their weary bodies, and the clash of the swords could be heard afar.
Starkad, who was the first to set forth the history of this war in the telling, fought foremost in the fray, and relates that he overthrew the nobles of Harald, Hun and Elli, Hort and Burgha, and cut off the right hand of Wisna. He also relates that one Roa, with two others, Gnepie and Gardar, fell wounded by him in the field. To these he adds the father of Skalk, whose name is not given. He also declares that he cast Hakon, the bravest of the Danes, to the earth, but received from him such a wound in return that he had to leave the war with his lung protruding from his chest, his neck cleft to the centre, and his hand deprived of one finger; so that he long had a gaping wound, which seemed as if it would never either scar over or be curable. The same man witnesses that the maiden Weghbiorg (Webiorg) fought against the enemy and felled Soth the champion. While she was threatening to slay more champions, she was pierced through by an arrow from the bowstring of Thorkill, a native of Tellemark. For the skilled archers of the Gotlanders strung their bows so hard that the shafts pierced through even the shields; nothing proved more murderous; for the arrow-points made their way through hauberk and helmet as if they were men's defenceless bodies.
Meanwhile Ubbe the Frisian, who was the readiest of Harald's soldiers, and of notable bodily stature, slew twenty-five picked champions, besides eleven whom he had wounded in the field. All these were of Swedish or Gothic blood. Then he attacked the vanguard and burst into the thickest of the enemy, driving the Swedes struggling in a panic every way with spear and sword. It had all but come to a flight, when Hagder (Hadd), Rolder (Hroald), and Grettir attacked the champion, emulating his valour, and resolving at their own risk to retrieve the general ruin. But, fearing to assault him at close quarters, they accomplished their end with arrows from afar; and thus Ubbe was riddled by a shower of arrows, no one daring to fight him hand to hand. A hundred and forty-four arrows had pierced the breast of the warrior before his bodily strength failed and he bent his knee to the earth. Then at last the Danes suffered a great defeat, owing to the Thronds and the dwellers in the province of Dala. For the battle began afresh by reason of the vast mass of the archers, and nothing damaged our men more.
But when Harald, being now blind with age, heard the lamentable murmur of his men, he perceived that fortune had smiled on his enemies. So, as he was riding in a chariot armed with scythes, he told Brun, who was treacherously acting as charioteer, to find out in what manner Ring had his line drawn up. Brun's face relaxed into something of a smile, and he answered that he was fighting with a line in the form of a wedge. When the king heard this he began to be alarmed, and to ask in great astonishment from whom Ring could have learnt this method of disposing his line, especially as Odin was the discoverer and imparter of this teaching, and none but himself had ever learnt from him this new pattern of warfare. At this Brun was silent, and it came into the king's mind that here was Odin, and that the god whom he had once known so well was now disguised in a changeful shape, in order either to give help or withhold it. Presently he began to beseech him earnestly to grant the final victory to the Danes, since he had helped them so graciously before, and to fill up his last kindness to the measure of the first; promising to dedicate to him as a gift the spirits of all who fell. But Brun, utterly unmoved by his entreaties, suddenly jerked the king out of the chariot, battered him to the earth, plucked the club from him as he fell, whirled it upon his head, and slew him with his own weapon. Countless corpses lay round the king's chariot, and the horrid heap overtopped the wheels; the pile of carcases rose as high as the pole. For about 12,000 of the nobles of Ring fell upon the field. But on the side of Harald about 30,000 nobles fell, not to name the slaughter of the commons.
When Ring heard that Harald was dead, he gave the signal to his men to break up their line and cease fighting. Then under cover of truce he made treaty with the enemy, telling them that it was vain to prolong the fray without their captain. Next he told the Swedes to look everywhere among the confused piles of carcases for the body of Harald, that the corpse of the king might not wrongfully lack its due rights. So the populace set eagerly to the task of turning over the bodies of the slain, and over this work half the day was spent. At last the body was found with the club, and he thought that propitiation should be made to the shade of Harald. So he harnessed the horse on which he rode to the chariot of the king, decked it honourably with a golden saddle, and hallowed it in his honour. Then he proclaimed his vows, and added his prayer that Harald would ride on this and outstrip those who shared his death in their journey to Tartarus; and that he would pray Pluto, the lord of Orcus, to grant a calm abode there for friend and foe. Then he raised a pyre, and bade the Danes fling on the gilded chariot of their king as fuel to the fire. And while the flames were burning the body cast upon them, he went round the mourning nobles and earnestly charged them that they should freely give arms, gold, and every precious thing to feed the pyre in honour of so great a king, who had deserved so nobly of them all. He also ordered that the ashes of his body, when it was quite burnt, should be transferred to an urn, taken to Leire, and there, together with the horse and armour, receive a royal funeral. By paying these due rites of honour to his uncle's shade, he won the favour of the Danes, and turned the hate of his enemies into goodwill. Then the Danes besought him to appoint Hetha over the remainder of the realm; but, that the fallen strength of the enemy might not suddenly rally, he severed Skaane from the mass of Denmark, and put it separately under the governorship of Ole, ordering that only Zealand and the other lands of the realm should be subject to Hetha. Thus the changes of fortune brought the empire of Denmark under the Swedish rule. So ended the Bravic war.
But the Zealanders, who had had Harald for their captain, and still had the picture of their former fortune hovering before their minds, thought it shameful to obey the rule of a woman, and appealed to OLE not to suffer men that had been used to serve under a famous king to be kept under a woman's yoke. They also promised to revolt to him if he would take up arms to remove their ignominious lot. Ole, tempted as much by the memory of his ancestral glory as by the homage of the soldiers, was not slow to answer their entreaties. So he summoned Hetha, and forced her by threats rather than by arms to quit every region under her control except Jutland; and even Jutland he made a tributary state, so as not to allow a woman the free control of a kingdom. He also begot a son whom he named Omund. But he was given to cruelty, and showed himself such an unrighteous king, that all who had found it a shameful thing to be ruled by a queen now repented of their former scorn.
Twelve generals, whether moved by the disasters of their country, or hating Ole for some other reason, began to plot against his life. Among these were Hlenni, Atyl, Thott, and Withne, the last of whom was a Dane by birth, though he held a government among the Sclavs. Moreover, not trusting in their strength and their cunning to accomplish their deed, they bribed Starkad to join them. He was prevailed to do the deed with the sword; he undertook the bloody work, and resolved to attack the king while at the bath. In he went while the king was washing, but was straightway stricken by the keenness of his gaze and by the restless and quivering glare of his eyes. His limbs were palsied with sudden dread; he paused, stepped back, and stayed his hand and his purpose. Thus he who had shattered the arms of so many captains and champions could not bear the gaze of a single unarmed man. But Ole, who well knew about his own countenance, covered his face, and asked him to come closer and tell him what his message was; for old fellowship and long-tried friendship made him the last to suspect treachery. But Starkad drew his sword, leapt forward, thrust the king through, and struck him in the throat as he tried to rise. One hundred and twenty marks of gold were kept for his reward. Soon afterwards he was smitten with remorse and shame, and lamented his crime so bitterly, that he could not refrain from tears if it happened to be named. Thus his soul, when he came to his senses, blushed for his abominable sin. Moreover, to atone for the crime he had committed, he slew some of those who had inspired him to it, thus avenging the act to which he had lent his hand.
Now the Danes made OMUND, the son of Ole, king, thinking that more heed should be paid to his father's birth than to his deserts. Omund, when he had grown up, fell in nowise behind the exploits of his father; for he made it his aim to equal or surpass the deeds of Ole.
At this time a considerable tribe of the Northmen (Norwegians) was governed by Ring, and his daughter Esa's great fame commended her to Omund, who was looking out for a wife.
But his hopes of wooing her were lessened by the peculiar inclination of Ring, who desired no son-in-law but one of tried valour; for he found as much honour in arms as others think lies in wealth. Omund therefore, wishing to become famous in that fashion, and to win the praise of valour, endeavoured to gain his desire by force, and sailed to Norway with a fleet, to make an attempt on the throne of Ring under plea of hereditary right. Odd, the chief of Jather, who declared that Ring had assuredly seized his inheritance, and lamented that he harried him with continual wrongs, received Omund kindly. Ring, in the meantime, was on a roving raid in Ireland, so that Omund attacked a province without a defender. Sparing the goods of the common people, he gave the private property of Ring over to be plundered, and slew his kinsfolk; Odd also having joined his forces to Omund. Now, among all his divers and manifold deeds, he could never bring himself to attack an inferior force, remembering that he was the son of a most valiant father, and that he was bound to fight armed with courage, and not with numbers.
Meanwhile Ring had returned from roving; and when Omund heard he was back, he set to and built a vast ship, whence, as from a fortress, he could rain his missiles on the enemy. To manage this ship he enlisted Homod and Thole the rowers, the soils of Atyl the Skanian, one of whom was instructed to act as steersman, while the other was to command at the prow. Ring lacked neither skill nor. dexterity to encounter them. For he showed only a small part of his forces, and caused the enemy to be attacked on the rear. Omund, when told of his strategy by Odd, sent men to overpower those posted in ambush, telling Atyl the Skanian to encounter Ring. The order was executed with more rashness than success; and Atyl, with his power defeated and shattered, fled beaten to Skaane. Then Omund recruited his forces with the help of Odd, and drew up his fleet to fight on the open sea.
Atyl at this time had true visions of the Norwegian war in his dreams, and started on his voyage in order to make up for his flight as quickly as possible, and delighted Omund by joining him on the eve of battle. Trusting in his help, Omund began to fight with equal confidence and success. For, by fighting himself, he retrieved the victory which he had lost when his servants were engaged. Ring, wounded to the death, gazed at him with faint eyes, and, beckoning to him with his hand, as well as he could -- for his voice failed him -- he besought him to be his son-in-law, saying that he would gladly meet his end if he left his daughter to such a husband. Before he could receive an answer he died. Omund wept for his death, and gave Homod, whose trusty help he had received in the war, in marriage to one of the daughters of Ring, taking the other himself.
At the same time the amazon Rusla, whose prowess in warfare exceeded the spirit of a woman, had many fights in Norway with her brother, Thrond, for the sovereignty. She could not endure that Omund rule over the Norwegians, and she had declared war against all the subjects of the Danes. Omund, when he heard of this, commissioned his most active men to suppress the rising. Rusla conquered them, and, waxing haughty on her triumph, was seized with overweening hopes, and bent her mind upon actually acquiring the sovereignty of Denmark. She began her attack on the region of Halland, but was met by Homod and Thode, whom the king had sent over. Beaten, she retreated to her fleet, of which only thirty ships managed to escape, the rest being taken by the enemy. Thrond encountered his sister as she was eluding the Danes, but was conquered by her and stripped of his entire army; he fled over the Dovrefjeld without a single companion. Thus she, who had first yielded before the Danes, soon overcame her brother, and turned her flight into a victory. When Omund heard of this, he went back to Norway with a great fleet, first sending Homod and Thole by a short and secret way to rouse the people of Tellemark against the rule of Rusla. The end was that she was driven out of her kingdom by the commons, fled to the isles for safety, and turned her back, without a blow, upon the Danes as they came up. The king pursued her hotly, caught up her fleet on the sea, and utterly destroyed it, the enemy suffered mightily, and he won a bloodless victory and splendid spoils. But Rusla escaped with a very few ships, and rowed ploughing the waves furiously; but, while she was avoiding the Danes, she met her brother and was killed. So much more effectual for harm are dangers unsurmised; and chance sometimes makes the less alarming evil worse than that which threatens. The king gave Thrond a governorship for slaying his sister, put the rest under tribute, and returned home.
At this time Thorias (?) and Ber (Biorn), the most active of the soldiers of Rusla, were roving in Ireland; but when they heard of the death of their mistress, whom they had long ago sworn to avenge, they hotly attacked Omund, and challenged him to a duel, which it used to be accounted shameful for a king to refuse; for the fame of princes of old was reckoned more by arms than by riches. So Homod and Thole came forward, offering to meet in battle the men who had challenged the king. Omund praised them warmly, but at first declined for very shame to allow their help. At last, hard besought by his people, he brought himself to try his fortune by the hand of another. We are told that Ber fell in this combat, while Thorias left the battle severely wounded. The king, having first cured him of his wounds, took him into his service, and made him prince (earl) over Norway. Then he sent ambassadors to exact the usual tribute from the Sclavs; these were killed, and he was even attacked in Jutland by a Sclavish force; but he overcame seven kings in a single combat, and ratified by conquest his accustomed right to tribute.
Meantime, Starkad, who was now worn out with extreme age, and who seemed to be past military service and the calling of a champion, was loth to lose his ancient glory through the fault of eld, and thought it would be a noble thing if he could make a voluntary end, and hasten his death by his own free will. Having so often fought nobly, he thought it would be mean to die a bloodless death; and, wishing to enhance the glory of his past life by the lustre of his end, he preferred to be slain by some man of gallant birth rather than await the tardy shaft of nature. So shameful was it thought that men devoted to war should die by disease. His body was weak, and his eyes could not see clearly, so that he hated to linger any more in life. In order to buy himself an executioner, he wore hanging on his neck the gold which he had earned for the murder of Ole; thinking there was no fitter way of atoning for the treason he had done than to make the price of Ole's death that of his own also, and to spend on the loss of his own life what he had earned by the slaying of another. This, he thought, would be the noblest use he could make of that shameful price. So he girded him with two swords, and guided his powerless steps leaning on two staves.
One of the common people, seeing him, thinking two swords superfluous for the use of an old man, mockingly asked him to make him a present of one of them. Starkad, holding out hopes of consent, bade him come nearer, drew the sword from his side, and ran him through. This was seen by a certain Hather, whose father Hlenne Starkad had once killed in repentance for his own impious crime. Hatfier was hunting game with his dogs, but now gave over the chase, and bade two of his companions spur their horses hard and charge at the old man to frighten him. They galloped forward, and tried to make off, but were stopped by the staves of Starkad, and paid for it with their lives. Hather, terrified by the sight, galloped up closer, and saw who the old man was, but without being recognized by him in turn; and asked him if he would like to exchange his sword for a carriage. Starkad replied that he used in old days to chastise jeerers, and that the insolent had never insulted him unpunished. But his sightless eyes could not recognize the features of the youth; so he composed a song, wherein he should declare the greatness of his anger, as follows:
"As the unreturning waters sweep down the channel; so, as the years run by, the life of man flows on never to come back; fast gallops the cycle of doom, child of old age who shall make an end of all. Old age smites alike the eyes and the steps of men, robs the warrior of his speech and soul, tarnishes his fame by slow degrees, and wipes out his deeds of honour. It seizes his failing limbs, chokes his panting utterance, and numbs his nimble wit. When a cough is taken, when the skin itches with the scab, and the teeth are numb and hollow, and the stomach turns squeamish, -- then old age banishes the grace of youth, covers the complexion with decay, and sows many a wrinkle in the dusky skin. Old age crushes noble arts, brings down the memorials of men of old, and scorches ancient glories up; shatters wealth, hungrily gnaws away the worth and good of virtue, turns athwart and disorders all things.
"I myself have felt the hurtful power of injurious age, I, dim-sighted, and hoarse in my tones and in my chest; and all helpful things have turned to my hurt. Now my body is less nimble, and I prop it up, leaning my faint limbs on the support of staves. Sightless I guide my steps with two sticks, and follow the short path which the rod shows me, trusting more in the leading of a stock than in my eyes. None takes any charge of me, and no man in the ranks brings comfort to the veteran, unless, perchance, Hather is here, and succours his shattered friend. Whomsoever Hather once thinks worthy of his duteous love, that man he attends continually with even zeal, constant to his purpose, and fearing to break his early ties. He also often pays fit rewards to those that have deserved well in war, and fosters their courage; he bestows dignities on the brave, and honours his famous friends with gifts. Free with his wealth, he is fain to increase with bounty the brightness of his name, and to surpass many of the mighty. Nor is he less in war: his strength is equal to his goodness; he is swift in the fray, slow to waver, ready to give battle; and he cannot turn his back when the foe bears him hard. But for me, if I remember right, fate appointed at my birth that wars I should follow and in war I should die, that I should mix in broils, watch in arms, and pass a life of bloodshed. I was a man of camps, and rested not; hating peace, I grew old under thy standard, O War-god, in utmost peril; conquering fear, I thought it comely to fight, shameful to loiter, and noble to kill and kill again, to be for ever slaughtering! Oft have I seen the stern kings meet in war, seen shield and helmet bruised, and the fields redden with blood, and the cuirass broken by the spear-point, and the corselets all around giving at the thrust of the steel, and the wild beasts battening on the unburied soldier. Here, as it chanced, one that attempted a mighty thing, a strong-handed warrior, fighting against the press of the foe, smote through the mail that covered my head, pierced my helmet, and plunged his blade into my crest. This sword also hath often been driven by my right hand in war, and, once unsheathed, hath cleft the skin and bitten into the skull."
Hather, in answer, sang as follows:
"Whence comest thou, who art used to write the poems of thy land, leaning thy wavering steps on a frail staff? Or whither dost thou speed, who art the readiest bard of the Danish muse? All the glory of thy great strength is faded and lost; the hue is banished from thy face, the joy is gone out of thy soul; the voice has left thy throat, and is hoarse and dull; thy body has lost its former stature; the decay of death begins, and has wasted thy features and thy force. As a ship wearies, buffeted by continual billows, even so old age, gendered by a long course of years, brings forth bitter death; and the life falls when its strength is done, and suffers the loss of its ancient lot. Famous old man, who has told thee that thou mayst not duly follow the sports of youth, or fling balls, or bite and eat the nut? I think it were better for thee now to sell thy sword, and buy a carriage wherein to ride often, or a horse easy on the bit, or at the same cost to purchase a light cart. It will be more fitting for beasts of burden to carry weak old men, when their steps fail them; the wheel, driving round and round, serves for him whose foot totters feebly. But if perchance thou art loth to sell the useless steel, thy sword, if it be not for sale, shall be taken from thee and shall slay thee."
Starkad answered: "Wretch, thy glib lips scatter idle words, unfit for the ears of the good. Why seek the gifts to reward that guidance, which thou shouldst have offered for naught? Surely I will walk afoot, and will not basely give up my sword and buy the help of a stranger; nature has given me the right of passage, and hath bidden me trust in my own feet. Why mock and jeer with insolent speech at him whom thou shouldst have offered to guide upon his way? Why give to dishonour my deeds of old, which deserve the memorial of fame? Why requite my service with reproach? Why pursue with jeers the old man mighty in battle, and put to shame my unsurpassed honours and illustrious deeds, belittling my glories and girding at my prowess? For what valour of thine dost thou demand my sword, which thy strength does not deserve? It befits not the right hand or the unwarlike side of a herdsman, who is wont to make his peasant-music on the pipe, to see to the flock, to keep the herds in the fields. Surely among the henchmen, close to the greasy pot, thou dippest thy crust in the bubbles of the foaming pan, drenching a meagre slice in the rich, oily fat, and stealthily, with thirsty finger, licking the warm juice; more skilled to spread thy accustomed cloak on the ashes, to sleep on the hearth, and slumber all day long, and go busily about the work of the reeking kitchen, than to make the brave blood flow with thy shafts in war. Men think thee a hater of the light and a lover of a filthy hole, a wretched slave of thy belly, like a whelp who licks the coarse grain, husk and all.
"By heaven, thou didst not try to rob me of my sword when thrice at great peril I fought (for?) the son of Ole. For truly, in that array, my hand either broke the sword or shattered the obstacle, so heavy was the blow of the smiter. What of the day when I first taught them, to run with wood-shod feet over the shore of the Kurlanders, and the path bestrewn with countless points? For when I was going to the fields studded with calthrops, I guarded their wounded feet with clogs below them. After this I slew Hame, who fought me mightily; and soon, with the captain Rin the son of Flebak, I crushed the Kurlanders, yea, or all the tribes Esthonia breeds, and thy peoples, O Semgala! Then I attacked the men of Tellemark, and took thence my head bloody with bruises, shattered with mallets, and smitten with the welded weapons. Here first I learnt how strong was the iron wrought on the anvil, or what valour the common people had. Also it was my doing that the Teutons were punished, when, in avenging my lord, I laid low over their cups thy sons, O Swerting, who were guilty of the wicked slaughter of Frode.
"Not less was the deed when, for the sake of a beloved maiden, I slew nine brethren in one fray; -- witness the spot, which was consumed by the bowels that left me, and brings not forth the grain anew on its scorched sod. And soon, when Ker the captain made ready a war by sea, with a noble army we beat his serried ships. Then I put Waske to death, and punished the insolent smith by slashing his hinder parts; and with the sword I slew Wisin, who from the snowy rocks blunted the spears. Then I slew the four sons of Ler, and the champions of Permland; and then having taken the chief of the Irish race, I rifled the wealth of Dublin; and our courage shall ever remain manifest by the trophies of Bravalla. Why do I linger? Countless are the deeds of my bravery, and when I review the works of my hands I fail to number them to the full. The whole is greater than I can tell. My work is too great for fame, and speech serves not for my doings."
So sang Starkad. At last, when he found by their talk that Hather was the son of Hlenne, and saw that the youth was of illustrious birth, he offered him his throat to smite, bidding him not to shrink from punishing the slayer of his father. He promised him that if he did so he should possess the gold which he had himself received from Hlenne. And to enrage his heart more vehemently against him, he is said to have harangued him as follows:
"Moreover, Hather, I robbed thee of thy father Hlenne; requite me this, I pray, and strike down the old man who longs to die; aim at my throat with the avenging steel. For my soul chooses the service of a noble smiter, and shrinks to ask its doom at a coward's hand. Righteously may a man choose to forstall the ordinance of doom. What cannot be escaped it will be lawful also to anticipate. The fresh tree must be fostered, the old one hewn down. He is nature's instrument who destroys what is near its doom and strikes down what cannot stand. Death is best when it is sought: and when the end is loved, life is wearisome. Let not the troubles of age prolong a miserable lot."
So saying, he took money from his pouch and gave it him. But Hather, desiring as much to enjoy the gold as to accomplish vengeance for his father, promised that he would comply with his prayer, and would not refuse the reward. Starkad eagerly handed him the sword, and at once stooped his neck beneath it, counselling him not to do the smiter's work timidly, or use the sword like a woman; and telling him that if, when he had killed him, he could spring between the head and the trunk before the corpse fell, he would be rendered proof against arms. It is not known whether he said this in order to instruct his executioner or to punish him, for perhaps, as he leapt, the bulk of the huge body would have crushed him. So Hather smote sharply with the sword and hacked off the head of the old man. When the severed head struck the ground, it is said to have bitten the earth; thus the fury of the dying lips declared the fierceness of the soul. But the smiter, thinking that the promise hid some treachery, warily refrained from leaping. Had he done so rashly, perhaps he would have been crushed by the corpse as it fell, and have paid with his own life for the old man's murder. But he would not allow so great a champion to lie unsepulchred, and had his body buried in the field that is commonly called Rolung.
Now Omund, as I have heard, died most tranquilly, while peace was unbroken, leaving two sons and two daughters. The eldest of these, SIWARD, came to the throne by right of birth, while his brother Budle was still of tender years. At this time Gotar, King of the Swedes, conceived boundless love for one of the daughters of Omund, because of the report of her extraordinary beauty, and entrusted one Ebb, the son of Sibb, with the commission of asking for the maiden. Ebb did his work skilfully, and brought back the good news that the girl had consented. Nothing was now lacking to Gotar's wishes but the wedding; but, as he feared to hold this among strangers, he demanded that his betrothed should be sent to him in charge of Ebb, whom he had before used as envoy.
Ebb was crossing Halland with a very small escort, and went for a night's lodging to a country farm, where the dwellings of two brothers faced one another on the two sides of a river. Now these men used to receive folk hospitably and then murder them, but were skilful to hide their brigandage under a show of generosity. For they had hung on certain hidden chains, in a lofty part of the house, an oblong beam like a press, and furnished it with a steel point; they used to lower this in the night by letting down the fastenings, and cut off the heads of those that lay below. Many had they beheaded in this way with the hanging mass. So when Ebb and his men had been feasted abundantly, the servants laid them out a bed near the hearth, so that by the swing of the treacherous beam they might mow off their heads, which faced the fire. When they departed, Ebb, suspecting the contrivance slung overhead, told his men to feign slumber and shift their bodies, saying that it would be very wholesome for them to change their place.
Now among these were some who despised the orders which the others obeyed, and lay unmoved, each in the spot where he had chanced to lie down. Then towards the mirk of night the heavy hanging machine was set in motion by the doers of the treachery. Loosened from the knots of its fastening, it fell violently on the ground, and slew those beneath it. Thereupon those who had the charge of committing the crime brought in a light, that they might learn clearly what had happened, and saw that Ebb, on whose especial account they had undertaken the affair, had wisely been equal to the danger. He straightway set on them and punished them with death; and also, after losing his men in the mutual slaughter, he happened to find a vessel, crossed a river full of blocks of ice, and announced to Gotar the result, not so much of his mission as of his mishap.
Gotar judged that this affair had been inspired by Siward, and prepared to avenge his wrongs by arms. Siward, defeated by him in Halland, retreated into Jutland, the enemy having taken his sister. Here he conquered the common people of the Sclavs, who ventured to fight without a leader; and he won as much honour from this victory as he had got disgrace by his flight. But a little afterwards, the men whom he had subdued when they were ungeneraled, found a general and defeated Siward in Funen. Several times he fought them in Jutland, but with ill-success. The result was that he lost both Skaane and Jutland, and only retained the middle of his realm without the head, like the fragments of some body that had been consumed away. His son Jarmerik (Eormunrec), with his child-sisters, fell into the hands of the enemy; one of these was sold to the Germans, the other to the Norwegians; for in old time marriages were matters of purchase. Thus the kingdom of the Danes, which had been enlarged with such valour, made famous by such ancestral honours, and enriched by so many conquests, fell, all by the sloth of one man, from the most illustrious fortune and prosperity into such disgrace that it paid the tribute which it used to exact. But Siward, too often defeated and guilty of shameful flights, could not endure, after that glorious past, to hold the troubled helm of state any longer in this shameful condition of his land; and, fearing that living longer might strip him of his last shred of glory, he hastened to win an honourable death in battle. For his soul could not forget his calamity, it was fain to cast off its sickness, and was racked with weariness of life. So much did he abhor the light of life in his longing to wipe out his shame. So he mustered his army for battle, and openly declared war with one Simon, who was governor of Skaane under Gotar. This war he pursued with stubborn rashness; he slew Simon, and ended his own life amid a great slaughter of his foes. Yet his country could not be freed from the burden of the tribute.
Jarmerik, meantime, with his foster-brother of the same age as himself, Gunn, was living in prison, in charge of Ismar, the King of the Sclavs. At last he was taken out and put to agriculture, doing the work of a peasant. So actively did he manage this matter that he was transferred and made master of the royal slaves. As he likewise did this business most uprightly, he was enrolled in the band of the king's retainers. Here he bore himself most pleasantly as courtiers use, and was soon taken into the number of the king's friends and obtained the first place in his intimacy; thus, on the strength of a series of great services, he passed from the lowest estate to the most distinguished height of honour. Also, loth to live a slack and enfeebled youth, he trained himself to the pursuits of war, enriching his natural gifts by diligence. All men loved Jarmerik, and only the queen mistrusted the young man's temper. A sudden report told them that the king's brother had died. Ismar, wishing to give his body a splendid funeral, prepared a banquet of royal bounty to increase the splendour of the obsequies.
But Jarmerik, who used at other times to look after the household affairs together with the queen, began to cast about for means of escape; for a chance seemed to be offered by the absence of the king. For he saw that even in the lap of riches he would be the wretched thrall of a king, and that he would draw, as it were, his very breath on sufferance and at the gift of another. Moreover, though he held the highest offices with the king, he thought that freedom was better than delights, and burned with a mighty desire to visit his country and learn his lineage. But, knowing that the queen had provided sufficient guards to see that no prisoner escaped, he saw that he must approach by craft where he could not arrive by force. So he plaited one of those baskets of rushes and withies, shaped like a man, with which countrymen used to scare the birds from the corn, and put a live dog in it; then he took off his own clothes, and dressed it in them, to give a more plausible likeness to a human being. Then he broke into the private treasury of the king, took out the money, and hid himself in places of which he alone knew.
Meantime Gunn, whom he had told to conceal the absence of his friend, took the basket into the palace and stirred up the dog to bark; and when the queen asked what this was, he answered that Jarmerik was out of his mind and howling. She, beholding the effigy, was deceived by the likeness, and ordered that the madman should be cast out of the house. Then Gunn took the effigy out and put it to bed, as though it were his distraught friend. But towards night he plied the watch bountifully with wine and festal mirth, cut off their heads as they slept, and set them at their groins, in order to make their slaying more shameful. The queen, roused by the din, and wishing to learn the reason of it, hastily rushed to the doors. But while she unwarily put forth her head, the sword of Gunn suddenly pierced her through. Feeling a mortal wound, she sank, turned her eyes on her murderer, and said, "Had it been granted me to live unscathed, no screen or treachery should have let thee leave this land unpunished." A flood of such threats against her slayer poured from her dying lips.
Then Jarmerik, with Gunn, the partner of his noble deed, secretly set fire to the tent wherein the king was celebrating with a banquet the obsequies of his brother; all the company were overcome with liquor. The fire filled the tent and spread all about; and some of them, shaking off the torpor of drink, took horse and pursued those who had endangered them. But the young men fled at first on the beasts they had taken; and at last, when these were exhausted with their long gallop, took to flight on foot. They were all but caught, when a river saved them. For they crossed a bridge, of which, in order to delay the pursuer, they first cut the timbers down to the middle, thus making it not only unequal to a burden, but ready to come down; then they retreated into a dense morass.
The Sclavs pressed on them hard and, not forseeing the danger, unwarily put the weight of their horses on the bridge; the flooring sank, and they were shaken off and flung into the river. But, as they swam up to the bank, they were met by Gunn and Jarmerik, and either drowned or slain. Thus the young men showed great cunning, and did a deed beyond their years, being more like sagacious old men than runaway slaves, and successfully achieving their shrewd design. When they reached the strand they seized a vessel chance threw in their way, and made for the deep. The barbarians who pursued them, tried, when they saw them sailing off, to bring them back by shouting promises after them that they should be kings if they returned; "for, by the public statute of the ancients, the succession was appointed to the slayers of the kings." As they retreated, their ears were long deafened by the Sclavs obstinately shouting their treacherous promises.
At this time BUDLE, the brother of Siward, was Regent over the Danes, who forced him to make over the kingdom to JARMERIK when he came; so that Budle fell from a king into a common man. At the same time Gotar charged Sibb with debauching his sister, and slew him. Sibb's kindred, much angered by his death, came wailing to Jarmerik, and promised to attack Gotar with him, in order to avenge their kinsman. They kept their promise well, for Jarmerik, having overthrown Gotar by their help, gained Sweden. Thus, holding the sovereignty of both nations, he was encouraged by his increased power to attack the Sclavs, forty of whom he took and hung with a wolf tied to each of them. This kind of punishment was assigned of old to those who slew their own kindred; but he chose to inflict it upon enemies, that all might see plainly, just from their fellowship with ruthless beasts, how grasping they had shown themselves towards the Danes.
When Jarmerik had conquered the country, he posted garrisons in all the fitting places, and departing thence, he made a slaughter of the Sembs and the Kurlanders, and many nations of the East. The Sclavs, thinking that this employment of the king gave them a chance of revolting, killed the governors whom he had appointed, and ravaged Denmark. Jarmerik, on his way back from roving, chanced to intercept their fleet, and destroyed it, a deed which added honour to his roll of conquests. He also put their nobles to death in a way that one would weep to see; namely, by first passing thongs through their legs, and then tying them to the hoofs of savage bulls; then hounds set on them and dragged them into miry swamps. This deed took the edge off the valour of the Sclavs, and they obeyed the authority of the king in fear and trembling.
Jarmerik, enriched with great spoils, wished to provide a safe storehouse for his booty, and built on a lofty hill a treasure- house of marvellous handiwork. Gathering sods, he raised a mound, laying a mass of rocks for the foundation, and girt the lower part with a rampart, the centre with rooms, and the top with battlements. All round he posted a line of sentries without a break. Four huge gates gave free access on the four sides; and into this lordly mansion he heaped all his splendid riches. Having thus settled his affairs at home, he again turned his ambition abroad. He began to voyage, and speedily fought a naval battle with four brothers whom he met on the high seas, Hellespontines by race, and veteran rovers. After this battle had lasted three days, he ceased fighting, having bargained for their sister and half the tribute which they had imposed on those they had conquered. After this, Bikk, the son of the King of the Livonians, escaped from the captivity in which he lay under these said brothers, and went to Jarmerik. But he did not forget his wrongs, Jarmerik having long before deprived him of his own brothers. He was received kindly by the king, in all whose secret counsels he soon came to have a notable voice; and, as soon as he found the king pliable to his advice in all things, he led him, when his counsel was asked, into the most abominable acts, and drove him to commit crimes and infamies. Thus he sought some device to injure the king by a feint of loyalty, and tried above all to steel him against his nearest of blood; attempting to accomplish the revenge of his brother by guile, since he could not by force. So it came to pass that the king embraced filthy vices instead of virtues, and made himself generally hated by the cruel deeds which he committed at the instance of his treacherous adviser. Even the Sclavs began to rise against him; and, as a means of quelling them, he captured their leaders, passed a rope through their shanks, and delivered them to be torn asunder by horses pulling different ways. So perished their chief men, punished for their stubbornness of spirit by having their bodies rent apart. This kept the Sclavs duly obedient in unbroken and steady subjugation.
Meantime, the sons of Jarmerik's sister, who had all been born and bred in Germany, took up arms, on the strength of their grandsire's title, against their uncle, contending that they had as good a right to the throne as he. The king demolished their strongholds in Germany with engines, blockaded or took several towns, and returned home with a bloodless victory. The Hellespontines came to meet him, proffering their sister for the promised marriage. After this had been celebrated, at Bikk's prompting he again went to Germany, took his nephews in war, and incontinently hanged them. He also got together the chief men under the pretence of a banquet and had them put to death in the same fashion.
Meantime, the king appointed Broder, his son by another marriage, to have charge over his stepmother, a duty which he fulfilled with full vigilance and integrity. But Bikk accused this man to his father of incest; and, to conceal the falsehood of the charge, suborned witnesses against him. When the plea of the accusation had been fully declared, Broder could not bring any support for his defence, and his father bade his friends pass sentence upon the convicted man, thinking it less impious to commit the punishment proper for his son to the judgment of others. All thought that he deserved outlawry except Bikk, who did not shrink from giving a more terrible vote against his life, and declaring that the perpetrator of an infamous seduction ought to be punished with hanging. But lest any should think that this punishment was due to the cruelty of his father, Bikk judged that, when he had been put in the noose, the servants should hold him up on a beam put beneath him, so that, when weariness made them take their hands from the burden, they might be as good as guilty of the young man's death, and by their own fault exonerate the king from an unnatural murder. He also pretended that, unless the accused were punished, he would plot against his father's life. The adulteress Swanhild, he said, ought to suffer a shameful end, trampled under the hoofs of beasts.
The king yielded to Bikk; and, when his son was to be hanged, he made the bystanders hold him up by means of a plank, that he might not be choked. Thus his throat was only a little squeezed, the knot was harmless, and it was but a punishment in show. But the king had the queen tied very tight on the ground, and delivered her to be crushed under the hoofs of horses. The story goes that she was so beautiful, that even the beasts shrank from mangling limbs so lovely with their filthy feet. The king, divining that this proclaimed the innocence of his wife, began to repent of his error, and hastened to release the slandered lady. But meantime Bikk rushed up, declaring that when she was on her back she held off the beasts by awful charms, and could only be crushed if she lay on her face; for he knew that her beauty saved her. When the body of the queen was placed in this manner, the herd of beasts was driven upon it, and trod it down deep with their multitude of feet. Such was the end of Swanhild.
Meantime, the favourite dog of Broder came creeping to the king making a sort of moan, and seemed to bewail its master's punishment; and his hawk, when it was brought in, began to pluck out its breast-feathers with its beak. The king took its nakedness as an omen of his bereavement, to frustrate which he quickly sent men to take his son down from the noose: for he divined by the featherless bird that he would be childless unless he took good heed. Thus Broder was freed from death, and Bikk, fearing he would pay the penalty of an informer, went and told the men of the Hellespont that Swanhild had been abominably slain by her husband. When they set sail to avenge their sister, he came back to Jarmerik, and told him that the Hellespontines were preparing war.
The king thought that it would be safer to fight with walls than in the field, and retreated into the stronghold which he had built. To stand the siege, he filled its inner parts with stores, and its battlements with men-at-arms. Targets and shields flashing with gold were hung round and adorned the topmost circle of the building.
It happened that the Hellespontines, before sharing their booty, accused a great band of their men of embezzling, and put them to death. Having now destroyed so large a part of their forces by internecine slaughter, they thought that their strength was not equal to storming the palace, and consulted a sorceress named Gudrun. She brought it to pass that the defenders of the king's side were suddenly blinded and turned their arms against one another. When the Hellespontines saw this, they brought up a shield-mantlet, and seized the approaches of the gates. Then they tore up the posts, burst into the building, and hewed down the blinded ranks of the enemy. In this uproar Odin appeared, and, making for the thick of the ranks of the fighters, restored by his divine power to the Danes that vision which they had lost by sleights; for he ever cherished them with fatherly love. He instructed them to shower stones to batter the Hellespontines, who used spells to harden their bodies against weapons. Thus both companies slew one another and perished. Jarmerik lost both feet and both hands, and his trunk was rolled among the dead. BRODER, little fit for it, followed him as king.
The next king was SIWALD. His son SNIO took vigorously to roving in his father's old age, and not only preserved the fortunes of his country, but even restored them, lessened as they were, to their former estate. Likewise, when he came to the sovereignty, he crushed the insolence of the champions Eskil and Alkil, and by this conquest reunited to his country Skaane, which had been severed from the general jurisdiction of Denmark. At last he conceived a passion for the daughter of the King of the Goths; it was returned, and he sent secret messengers to seek a chance of meeting her. These men were intercepted by the father of the damsel and hanged: thus paying dearly for their rash mission. Snio, wishing to avenge their death, invaded Gothland. Its king met him with his forces, and the aforesaid champions challenged him to send strong men to fight. Snio laid down as condition of the duel, that each of the two kings should either lose his own empire or gain that of the other, according to the fortune of the champions, and that the kingdom of the conquered should be staked as the prize of the victory. The result was that the King of the Goths was beaten by reason of the ill-success of his defenders, and had to quit his kingdom for the Danes. Snio, learning that this king's daughter had been taken away at the instance of her father to wed the King of the Swedes, sent a man clad in ragged attire, who used to ask alms on the public roads, to try her mind. And while he lay, as beggars do, by the threshold, he chanced to see the queen, and whined in a weak voice, "Snio loves thee." She feigned not to have heard the sound that stole on her ears, and neither looked nor stepped back, but went on to the palace, then returned straightway, and said in a low whisper, which scarcely reached his ears, "I love him who loves me"; and having said this she walked away.
The beggar rejoiced that she had returned a word of love, and, as he sat on the next day at the gate, when the queen came up, he said, briefly as ever, "Wishes should have a tryst." Again she shrewdly caught his cunning speech, and passed on, dissembling wholly. A little later she passed by her questioner, and said that she would shortly go to Bocheror; for this was the spot to which she meant to flee. And when the beggar heard this, he insisted, with his wonted shrewd questions, upon being told a fitting time for the tryst. The woman was as cunning as he, and as little clear of speech, and named as quickly as she could the beginning of the winter.
Her train, who had caught a flying word of this love-message, took her great cleverness for the raving of utter folly. And when Snio had been told all this by the beggar, he contrived to carry the queen off in a vessel; for she got away under pretence of bathing, and took her husband's treasures. After this there were constant wars between Snio and the King of Sweden, whereof the issue was doubtful and the victory changeful; the one king seeking to regain his lawful, the other to keep his unlawful love.
At this time the yield of crops was ruined by most inclement weather, and a mighty dearth of corn befell. Victuals began to be scarce, and the commons were distressed with famine, so that the king, anxiously pondering how to relieve the hardness of the times, and seeing that the thirsty spent somewhat more than the hungry, introduced thrift among the people. He abolished drinking-bouts, and decreed that no drink should be prepared from gram, thinking that the bitter famine should be got rid of by prohibiting needless drinking, and that plentiful food could be levied as a loan on thirst.
Then a certain wanton slave of his belly, lamenting the prohibition against drink, adopted a deep kind of knavery, and found a new way to indulge his desires. He broke the public law of temperance by his own excess, contriving to get at what he loved by a device both cunning and absurd. For he sipped the forbidden liquor drop by drop, and so satisfied his longing to be tipsy. When he was summoned for this by the king, he declared that there was no stricter observer of sobriety than he, inasmuch as he mortified his longing to quaff deep by this device for moderate drinking. He persisted in the fault with which he was taxed, saying that he only sucked. At last he was also menaced with threats, and forbidden not only to drink, but even to sip; yet he could not check his habits. For in order to enjoy the unlawful thing in a lawful way, and not to have his throat subject to the command of another, he sopped morsels of bread in liquor, and fed on the pieces thus soaked with drink; tasting slowly, so as to prolong the desired debauch, and attaining, though in no unlawful manner, the forbidden measure of satiety.
Thus his stubborn and frantic intemperance risked his life, all for luxury; and, undeterred even by the threats of the king, he fortified his rash appetite to despise every peril. A second time he was summoned by the king on the charge of disobeying his regulation. Yet he did not even theft cease to defend his act, but maintained that he had in no wise contravened the royal decree, and that the temperance prescribed by the ordinance had been in no way violated by that which allured him; especially as the thrift ordered in the law of plain living was so described, that it was apparently forbidden to drink liquor, but not to eat it. Then the king called heaven to witness, and swore by the general good, that if he ventured on any such thing hereafter he would punish him with death. But the man thought that death was not so bad as temperance, and that it was easier to quit life than luxury; and he again boiled the grain in water, and then fermented the liquor; whereupon, despairing of any further plea to excuse his appetite, he openly indulged in drink, and turned to his cups again unabashed. Giving up cunning for effrontery, he chose rather to await the punishment of the king than to turn sober. Therefore, when the king asked him why he had so often made free to use the forbidden thing, he said:
"O king, this craving is begotten, not so much of my thirst, as of my goodwill towards thee! For I remembered that the funeral rites of a king must be paid with a drinking-bout. Therefore, led by good judgment more than the desire to swill, I have, by mixing the forbidden liquid, taken care that the feast whereat thy obsequies are performed should not, by reason of the scarcity of corn, lack the due and customary drinking. Now I do not doubt that thou wilt perish of famine before the rest, and be the first to need a tomb; for thou hast passed this strange law of thrift in fear that thou wilt be thyself the first to lack food. Thou art thinking for thyself, and not for others, when thou bringest thyself to start such strange miserly ways."
This witty quibbling turned the anger of the king into shame; and when he saw that his ordinance for the general good came home in mockery to himself, he thought no more of the public profit, but revoked the edict, relaxing his purpose sooner than anger his subjects.
Whether it was that the soil had too little rain, or that it was too hard baked, the crops, as I have said, were slack, and the fields gave but little produce; so that the land lacked victual, and was worn with a weary famine. The stock of food began to fail, and no help was left to stave off hunger. Then, at the proposal of Agg and of Ebb, it was provided by a decree of the people that the old men and the tiny children should be slain; that all who were too young to bear arms should be taken out of the land, and only the strong should be vouchsafed their own country; that none but able-bodied soldiers and husbandmen should continue to abide under their own roofs and in the houses of their fathers. When Agg and Ebb brought news of this to their mother Gambaruk, she saw that the authors of this infamous decree had found safety in crime. Condemning the decision of the assembly, she said that it was wrong to relieve distress by murder of kindred, and declared that a plan both more honourable and more desirable for the good of their souls and bodies would be, to preserve respect towards their parents and children, and choose by lot men who should quit the country. And if the lot fell on old men and weak, then the stronger should offer to go into exile in their place, and should of their own free will undertake to bear the burden of it for the feeble. But those men who had the heart to save their lives by crime and impiety, and to prosecute their parents and their children by so abominable a decree, did not deserve life; for they would be doing a work of cruelty and not of love. Finally, all those whose own lives were dearer to them than the love of their parents or their children, deserved but ill of their country. These words were reported to the assembly, and assented to by the vote of the majority. So the fortunes of all were staked upon the lot and those upon whom it fell were doomed to be banished. Thus those who had been loth to obey necessity of their own accord had now to accept the award of chance. So they sailed first to Bleking, and then, sailing past Moring, they came to anchor at Gothland; where, according to Paulus, they are said to have been prompted by the goddess Frigg to take the name of the Longobardi (Lombards), whose nation they afterwards founded. In the end they landed at Rugen, and, abandoning their ships, began to march overland. They crossed and wasted a great portion of the world; and at last, finding an abode in Italy, changed the ancient name of the nation for their own.
Meanwhile, the land of the Danes, where the tillers laboured less and less, and all traces of the furrows were covered with overgrowth, began to look like a forest. Almost stripped of its pleasant native turf, it bristled with the dense unshapely woods that grew up. Traces of this are yet seen in the aspect of its fields. What were once acres fertile in grain are now seen to be dotted with trunks of trees; and where of old the tillers turned the earth up deep and scattered the huge clods there has now sprung up a forest covering the fields, which still bear the tracks of ancient tillage. Had not these lands remained untilled and desolate with long overgrowth, the tenacious roots of trees could never have shared the soil of one and the same land with the furrows made by the plough. Moreover, the mounds which men laboriously built up of old on the level ground for the burial of the dead are now covered by a mass of woodland. Many piles of stones are also to be seen interspersed among the forest glades. These were once scattered over the whole country, but the peasants carefully gathered the boulders and piled them into a heap that they might not prevent furrows being cut in all directions; for they would sooner sacrifice a little of the land than find the whole of it stubborn. From this work, done by the toil of the peasants for the easier working of the fields, it is judged that the population in ancient times was greater than the present one, which is satisfied with small fields, and keeps its agriculture within narrower limits than those of the ancient tillage. Thus the present generation is amazed to behold that it has exchanged a soil which could once produce grain for one only fit to grow acorns, and the plough-handle and the cornstalks for a landscape studded with trees. Let this account of Snio, which I have put together as truly as I could, suffice.
Snio was succeeded by BIORN; and after him HARALD became sovereign. Harald's son GORM won no mean place of honour among the ancient generals of the Danes by his record of doughty deeds. For he ventured into fresh fields, preferring to practise his inherited valour, not in war, but in searching the secrets of nature; and, just as other kings are stirred by warlike ardour, so his heart thirsted to look into marvels; either what he could experience himself, or what were merely matters of report. And being desirous to go and see all things foreign and extraordinary, he thought that he must above all test a report which he had heard from the men of Thule concerning the abode of a certain Geirrod. For they boasted past belief of the mighty piles of treasure in that country, but said that the way was beset with peril, and hardly passable by mortal man. For those who had tried it declared that it was needful to sail over the ocean that goes round the lands, to leave the sun and stars behind, to journey down into chaos, and at last to pass into a land where no light was and where darkness reigned eternally.
But the warrior trampled down in his soul all fear of the dangers that beset him. Not that he desired booty, but glory; for he hoped for a great increase of renown if he ventured on a wholly unattempted quest. Three hundred men announced that they had the same desire as the king; and he resolved that Thorkill, who had brought the news, should be chosen to guide them on the journey, as he knew the ground and was versed in the approaches to that country. Thorkill did not refuse the task, and advised that, to meet the extraordinary fury of the sea they had to cross, strongly-made vessels should be built, fitted with many knotted cords and close-set nails, filled with great store of provision, and covered above with ox-hides to protect the inner spaces of the ships from the spray of the waves breaking in. Then they sailed off in only three galleys, each containing a hundred chosen men.
Now when they had come to Halogaland (Helgeland), they lost their favouring breezes, and were driven and tossed divers ways over the seas in perilous voyage. At last, in extreme want of food, and lacking even bread, they staved off hunger with a little pottage. Some days passed, and they heard the thunder of a storm brawling in the distance, as if it were deluging the rocks. By this perceiving that land was near, they bade a youth of great nimbleness climb to the masthead and look out; and he reported that a precipitous island was in sight. All were overjoyed, and gazed with thirsty eyes at the country at which he pointed, eagerly awaiting the refuge of the promised shore. At last they managed to reach it, and made their way out over the heights that blocked their way, along very steep paths, into the higher ground. Then Thorkill told them to take no more of the herds that were running about in numbers on the coast, than would serve once to appease their hunger. If they disobeyed, the guardian gods of the spot would not let them depart. But the seamen, more anxious to go on filling their bellies than to obey orders, postponed counsels of safety to the temptations of gluttony, and loaded the now emptied holds of their ships with the carcases of slaughtered cattle. These beasts were very easy to capture, because they gathered in amazement at the unwonted sight of men, their fears being made bold. On the following night monsters dashed down upon the shore, filled the forest with clamour, and beleaguered and beset the ships. One of them, huger than the rest, strode over the waters, armed with a mighty club. Coming close up to them, he bellowed out that they should never sail away till they had atoned for the crime they had committed in slaughtering the flock, and had made good the losses of the herd of the gods by giving up one man for each of their ships. Thorkill yielded to these threats; and, in order to preserve the safety of all by imperilling a few, singled out three men by lot and gave them up.
This done, a favouring wind took them, and they sailed to further Permland. It is a region of eternal cold, covered with very deep snows, and not sensible to the force even of the summer heats; full of pathless forests, not fertile in grain and haunted by beasts uncommon elsewhere. Its many rivers pour onwards in a hissing, foaming flood, because of the reefs imbedded in their channels.
Here Thorkill drew up his ships ashore, and bade them pitch their tents on the beach, declaring that they had come to a spot whence the passage to Geirrod would be short. Moreover, he forbade them to exchange any speech with those that came up to them, declaring that nothing enabled the monsters to injure strangers so much as uncivil words on their part: it would be therefore safer for his companions to keep silence; none but he, who had seen all the manners and customs of this nation before, could speak safely. As twilight approached, a man of extraordinary bigness greeted the sailors by their names, and came among them. All were aghast, but Thorkill told them to greet his arrival cheerfully, telling them that this was Gudmund, the brother of Geirrod, and the most faithful guardian in perils of all men who landed in that spot. When the man asked why all the rest thus kept silence, he answered that they were very unskilled in his language, and were ashamed to use a speech they did not know. Then Gudmund invited them to be his guests, and took them up in carriages. As they went forward, they saw a river which could be crossed by a bridge of gold. They wished to go over it, but Gudmund restrained them, telling them that by this channel nature had divided the world of men from the world of monsters, and that no mortal track might go further. Then they reached the dwelling of their guide; and here Thorkill took his companions apart and warned them to behave like men of good counsel amidst the divers temptations chance might throw in their way; to abstain from the food of the stranger, and nourish their bodies only on their own; and to seek a seat apart from the natives, and have no contact with any of them as they lay at meat. For if they partook of that food they would lose recollection of all things, and must live for ever in filthy intercourse amongst ghastly hordes of monsters. Likewise he told them that they must keep their hands off the servants and the cups of the people.
Round the table stood twelve noble sons of Gudmund, and as many daughters of notable beauty. When Gudmund saw that the king barely tasted what his servants brought, he reproached him with repulsing his kindness, and complained that it was a slight on the host. But Thorkill was not at a loss for a fitting excuse. He reminded him that men who took unaccustomed food often suffered from it seriously, and that the king was not ungrateful for the service rendered by another, but was merely taking care of his health, when he refreshed himself as he was wont, and furnished his supper with his own viands. An act, therefore, that was only done in the healthy desire to escape some bane, ought in no wise to be put down to scorn. Now when Gudmund saw that the temperance of his guest had baffled his treacherous preparations, he determined to sap their chastity, if he could not weaken their abstinence, and eagerly strained every nerve of his wit to enfeeble their self-control. For he offered the king his daughter in marriage, and promised the rest that they should have whatever women of his household they desired. Most of them inclined to his offer: but Thorkill by his healthy admonitions prevented them, as he had done before, from falling into temptation.
With wonderful management Thorkill divided his heed between the suspicious host and the delighted guests. Four of the Danes, to whom lust was more than their salvation, accepted the offer; the infection maddened them, distraught their wits, and blotted out their recollection: for they are said never to have been in their right mind after this. If these men had kept themselves within the rightful bounds of temperance, they would have equalled the glories of Hercules, surpassed with their spirit the bravery of giants, and been ennobled for ever by their wondrous services to their country.
Gudmund, stubborn to his purpose, and still spreading his nets, extolled the delights of his garden, and tried to lure the king thither to gather fruits, desiring to break down his constant wariness by the lust of the eye and the baits of the palate. The king, as before, was strengthened against these treacheries by Thorkill, and rejected this feint of kindly service; he excused himself from accepting it on the plea that he must hasten on his journey. Gudmund perceived that Thorkill was shrewder than he at every point; so, despairing to accomplish his treachery, he carried them all across the further side of the river, and let them finish their journey.
They went on; and saw, not far off, a gloomy, neglected town, looking more like a cloud exhaling vapour. Stakes interspersed among the battlements showed the severed heads of warriors and dogs of great ferocity were seen watching before the doors to guard the entrance. Thorkill threw them a horn smeared with fat to lick, and so, at slight cost, appeased their most furious rage. High up the gates lay open to enter, and they climbed to their level with ladders, entering with difficulty. Inside the town was crowded with murky and misshapen phantoms, and it was hard to say whether their shrieking figures were more ghastly to the eye or to the ear; everything was foul, and the reeking mire afflicted the nostrils of the visitors with its unbearable stench. Then they found the rocky dwelling which Geirrod was rumoured to inhabit for his palace. They resolved to visit its narrow and horrible ledge, but stayed their steps and halted in panic at the very entrance. Then Thorkill, seeing that they were of two minds, dispelled their hesitation to enter by manful encouragement, counselling them, to restrain themselves, and not to touch any piece of gear in the house they were about to enter, albeit it seemed delightful to have or pleasant to behold; to keep their hearts as far from all covetousness as from fear; neither to desire what was pleasant to take, nor dread what was awful to look upon, though they should find themselves amidst abundance of both these things. If they did, their greedy hands would suddenly be bound fast, unable to tear themselves away from the thing they touched, and knotted up with it as by inextricable bonds. Moreover, they should enter in order, four by four.
Broder and Buchi (Buk?) were the first to show courage to attempt to enter the vile palace; Thorkill with the king followed them, and the rest advanced behind these in ordered ranks.
Inside, the house was seen to be ruinous throughout, and filled with a violent and abominable reek. And it also teemed with everything that could disgust the eye or the mind: the door-posts were begrimed with the soot of ages, the wall was plastered with filth, the roof was made up of spear-heads, the flooring was covered with snakes and bespattered with all manner of uncleanliness. Such an unwonted sight struck terror into the strangers, and, over all, the acrid and incessant stench assailed their afflicted nostrils. Also bloodless phantasmal monsters huddled on the iron seats, and the places for sitting were railed off by leaden trellises; and hideous doorkeepers stood at watch on the thresholds. Some of these, armed with clubs lashed together, yelled, while others played a gruesome game, tossing a goat's hide from one to the other with mutual motion of goatish backs.
Here Thorkill again warned the men, and forbade them to stretch forth their covetous hands rashly to the forbidden things. Going on through the breach in the crag, they beheld an old man with his body pierced through, sitting not far off, on a lofty seat facing the side of the rock that had been rent away. Moreover, three women, whose bodies were covered with tumours, and who seemed to have lost the strength of their back-bones, filled adjoining seats. Thorkill's companions were very curious; and he, who well knew the reason of the matter, told them that long ago the god Thor had been provoked by the insolence of the giants to drive red-hot irons through the vitals of Geirrod, who strove with him, and that the iron had slid further, torn up the mountain, and battered through its side; while the women had been stricken by the might of his thunderbolts, and had been punished (so he declared) for their attempt on the same deity, by having their bodies broken.
As the men were about to depart thence, there were disclosed to them seven butts hooped round with belts of gold; and from these hung circlets of silver entwined with them in manifold links. Near these was found the tusk of a strange beast, tipped at both ends with gold. Close by was a vast stag-horn, laboriously decked with choice and flashing gems, and this also did not lack chasing. Hard by was to be seen a very heavy bracelet. One man was kindled with an inordinate desire for this bracelet, and laid covetous hands upon the gold, not knowing that the glorious metal covered deadly mischief, and that a fatal bane lay hid under the shining spoil. A second also, unable to restrain his covetousness, reached out his quivering hands to the horn. A third, matching the confidence of the others, and having no control over his fingers, ventured to shoulder the tusk. The spoil seemed alike lovely to look upon and desirable to enjoy, for all that met the eye was fair and tempting to behold. But the bracelet suddenly took the form of a snake, and attacked him who was carrying it with its poisoned tooth; the horn lengthened out into a serpent, and took the life of the man who bore it; the tusk wrought itself into a sword, and plunged into the vitals of its bearer.
The rest dreaded the fate of perishing with their friends, and thought that the guiltless would be destroyed like the guilty; they durst not hope that even innocence would be safe. Then the side-door of another room showed them a narrow alcove: and a privy chamber with a yet richer treasure was revealed, wherein arms were laid out too great for those of human stature. Among these were seen a royal mantle, a handsome hat, and a belt marvellously wrought. Thorkill, struck with amazement at these things, gave rein to his covetousness, and cast off all his purposed self-restraint. He who so oft had trained others could not so much as conquer his own cravings. For he laid his hand upon the mantle, and his rash example tempted the rest to join in his enterprise of plunder. Thereupon the recess shook from its lowest foundations, and began suddenly to reel and totter. Straightway the women raised a shriek that the wicked robbers were being endured too long. Then they, who were before supposed to be half-dead or lifeless phantoms, seemed to obey the cries of the women, and, leaping suddenly up from their seats, attacked the strangers with furious onset. The other creatures bellowed hoarsely.
But Broder and Buchi fell to their old and familiar arts, and attacked the witches, who ran at them, with a shower of spears from every side; and with the missiles from their bows and slings they crushed the array of monsters. There could be no stronger or more successful way to repulse them; but only twenty men out of all the king's company were rescued by the intervention of this archery; the rest were torn in pieces by the monsters. The survivors returned to the river, and were ferried over by Gudmund, who entertained them at his house. Long and often as he besought them, he could not keep them back; so at last he gave them presents and let them go.
Buchi relaxed his watch upon himself; his self-control became unstrung, and he forsook the virtue in which he hitherto rejoiced. For he conceived an incurable love for one of the daughters of Gudmund, and embraced her; but he obtained a bride to his undoing, for soon his brain suddenly began to whirl, and he lost his recollection. Thus the hero who had subdued all the monsters and overcome all the perils was mastered by passion for one girl; his soul strayed far from temperance, and he lay under a wretched sensual yoke. For the sake of respect, he started to accompany the departing king; but as he was about to ford the river in his carriage, his wheels sank deep, he was caught up in the violent eddies and destroyed.
The king bewailed his friend's disaster and departed hastening on his voyage. This was at first prosperous, but afterwards he was tossed by bad weather; his men perished of hunger, and but few survived, so that he began to feel awe in his heart, and fell to making vows to heaven, thinking the gods alone could help him in his extreme need. At last the others besought sundry powers among the gods, and thought they ought to sacrifice to the majesty of divers deities; but the king, offering both vows and peace-offerings to Utgarda-Loki, obtained that fair season of weather for which he prayed.
Coming home, and feeling that he had passed through all these seas and toils, he thought it was time for his spirit, wearied with calamities, to withdraw from his labours. So he took a queen from Sweden, and exchanged his old pursuits for meditative leisure. His life was prolonged in the utmost peace and quietness; but when he had almost come to the end of his days, certain men persuaded him by likely arguments that souls were immortal; so that he was constantly turning over in his mind the questions, to what abode he was to fare when the breath left his limbs, or what reward was earned by zealous adoration of the gods.
While he was thus inclined, certain men who wished ill to Thorkill came and told Gorm that it was needful to consult the gods, and that assurance about so great a matter must be sought of the oracles of heaven, since it was too deep for human wit and hard for mortals to discover.
Therefore, they said, Utgarda-Loki must be appeased, and no man would accomplish this more fitly than Thorkill. Others, again, laid information against him as guilty of treachery and an enemy of the king's life. Thorkill, seeing himself doomed to extreme peril, demanded that his accusers should share his journey. Then they who had aspersed an innocent man saw that the peril they had designed against the life of another had recoiled upon themselves, and tried to take back their plan. But vainly did they pester the ears of the king; he forced them to sail under the command of Thorkill, and even upbraided them with cowardice. Thus, when a mischief is designed against another, it is commonly sure to strike home to its author. And when these men saw that they were constrained, and could not possibly avoid the peril, they covered their ship with ox-hides, and filled it with abundant store of provision.
In this ship they sailed away, and came to a sunless land, which knew not the stars, was void of daylight, and seemed to overshadow them with eternal night. Long they sailed under this strange sky; at last their timber fell short, and they lacked fuel; and, having no place to boil their meat in, they staved off their hunger with raw viands. But most of those who ate contracted extreme disease, being glutted with undigested food. For the unusual diet first made a faintness steal gradually upon their stomachs; then the infection spread further, and the malady reached the vital parts. Thus there was danger in either extreme, which made it hurtful not to eat, and perilous to indulge; for it was found both unsafe to feed and bad for them to abstain. Then, when they were beginning to be in utter despair, a gleam of unexpected help relieved them, even as the string breaks most easily when it is stretched tightest. For suddenly the weary men saw the twinkle of a fire at no great distance, and conceived a hope of prolonging their lives. Thorkill thought this fire a heaven-sent relief, and resolved to go and take some of it.
To be surer of getting back to his friends, Thorkill fastened a jewel upon the mast-head, to mark it by the gleam. When he got to the shore, his eyes fell on a cavern in a close defile, to which a narrow way led. Telling his companions to await him outside, he went in, and saw two men, swart and very huge, with horny noses, feeding their fire with any chance-given fuel. Moreover, the entrance was hideous, the door-posts were decayed, the walls grimy with mould, the roof filthy, and the floor swarming with snakes; all of which disgusted the eye as much as the mind. Then one of the giants greeted him, and said that he had begun a most difficult venture in his burning desire to visit a strange god, and his attempt to explore with curious search an untrodden region beyond the world. Yet he promised to tell Thorkill the paths of the journey he proposed to make, if he would deliver three true judgments in the form of as many sayings. Then said Thorkill: "In good truth, I do not remember ever to have seen a household with more uncomely noses; nor have I ever come to a spot where I had less mind to live." Also he said: "That, I think, is my best foot which can get out of this foremost."
The giant was pleased with the shrewdness of Thorkill, and praised his sayings, telling him that he must first travel to a grassless land which was veiled in deep darkness; but he must first voyage for four days, rowing incessantly, before he could reach his goal. There he could visit Utgarda-Loki, who had chosen hideous and grisly caves for his filthy dwelling. Thorkill was much aghast at being bidden to go on a voyage so long and hazardous; but his doubtful hopes prevailed over his present fears, and he asked for some live fuel. Then said the giant: "If thou needest fire, thou must deliver three more judgments in like sayings." Then said Thorkill: "Good counsel is to be obeyed, though a mean fellow gave it." Likewise: "I have gone so far in rashness, that if I can get back I shall owe my safety to none but my own legs." And again: "Were I free to retreat this moment, I would take good care never to come back."
Thereupon Thorkill took the fire along to his companions; and finding a kindly wind, landed on the fourth day at the appointed harbour. With his crew he entered a land where an aspect of unbroken night checked the vicissitude of light and darkness. He could hardly see before him, but beheld a rock of enormous size. Wishing to explore it, he told his companions, who were standing posted at the door, to strike a fire from flints as a timely safeguard against demons, and kindle it in the entrance. Then he made others bear a light before him, and stooped his body through the narrow jaws of the cavern, where he beheld a number of iron seats among a swarm of gliding serpents. Next there met his eye a sluggish mass of water gently flowing over a sandy bottom. He crossed this, and approached a cavern which sloped somewhat more steeply. Again, after this, a foul and gloomy room was disclosed to the visitors, wherein they saw Utgarda-Loki, laden hand and foot with enormous chains. Each of his reeking hairs was as large and stiff as a spear of cornel. Thorkill (his companions lending a hand), in order that his deeds might gain more credit, plucked one of these from the chin of Utgarda-Loki, who suffered it. Straightway such a noisome smell reached the bystanders, that they could not breathe without stopping their noses with their mantles. They could scarcely make their way out, and were bespattered by the snakes which darted at them on every side.
Only five of Thorkill's company embarked with their captain: the poison killed the rest. The demons hung furiously over them, and cast their poisonous slaver from every side upon the men below them. But the sailors sheltered themselves with their hides, and cast back the venom that fell upon them. One man by chance at this point wished to peep out; the poison touched his head, which was taken off his neck as if it had been severed with a sword. Another put his eyes out of their shelter, and when he brought them back under it they were blinded. Another thrust forth his hand while unfolding his covering, and, when he withdrew his arm, it was withered by the virulence of the same slaver. They besought their deities to be kinder to them; vainly, until Thorkill prayed to the god of the universe, and poured forth unto him libations as well as prayers; and thus, presently finding the sky even as before and the elements clear, he made a fair voyage.
And now they seemed to behold another world, and the way towards the life of man. At last Thorkill landed in Germany, which had then been admitted to Christianity; and among its people he began to learn how to worship God. His band of men were almost destroyed, because of the dreadful air they had breathed, and he returned to his country accompanied by two men only, who had escaped the worst. But the corrupt matter which smeared his face so disguised his person and original features that not even his friends knew him. But when he wiped off the filth, he made himself recognizable by those who saw him, and inspired the king with the greatest eagerness to hear about his quest. But the detraction of his rivals was not yet silenced; and some pretended that the king would die suddenly if he learnt Thorkill's tidings. The king was the more disposed to credit this saying, because he was already credulous by reason of a dream which falsely prophesied the same thing. Men were therefore hired by the king's command to slay Thorkill in the night. But somehow he got wind of it, left his bed unknown to all, and put a heavy log in his place. By this he baffled the treacherous device of the king, for the hirelings smote only the stock.
On the morrow Thorkill went up to the king as he sat at meat, and said: "I forgive thy cruelty and pardon thy error, in that thou hast decreed punishment, and not thanks, to him who brings good tidings of his errand. For thy sake I have devoted my life to all these afflictions, and battered it in all these perils; I hoped that thou wouldst requite my services with much gratitude; and behold! I have found thee, and thee alone, punish my valour sharpliest. But I forbear all vengeance, and am satisfied with the shame within thy heart -- if, after all, any shame visits the thankless -- as expiation for this wrongdoing towards me. I have a right to surmise that thou art worse than all demons in fury, and all beasts in cruelty, if, after escaping the snares of all these monsters, I have failed to be safe from thine."
The king desired to learn everything from Thorkill's own lips; and, thinking it hard to escape destiny, bade him relate what had happened in due order. He listened eagerly to his recital of everything, till at last, when his own god was named, he could not endure him to be unfavourably judged. For he could not bear to hear Utgarda-Loki reproached with filthiness, and so resented his shameful misfortunes, that his very life could not brook such words, and he yielded it up in the midst of Thorkill's narrative. Thus, whilst he was so zealous in the worship of a false god, he came to find where the true prison of sorrows really was. Moreover, the reek of the hair, which Thorkill plucked from the locks of the giant to testify to the greatness of his own deeds, was exhaled upon the bystanders, so that many perished of it.
After the death of Gorm, GOTRIK his son came to the throne. He was notable not only for prowess but for generosity, and none can say whether his courage or his compassion was the greater. He so chastened his harshness with mercy, that he seemed to counterweigh the one with the other. At this time Gaut, the King of Norway, was visited by Ber (Biorn?) and Ref, men of Thule. Gaut treated Ref with attention and friendship, and presented him with a heavy bracelet.
One of the courtiers, when he saw this, praised the greatness of the gift over-zealously, and declared that no one was equal to King Gaut in kindliness. But Ref, though he owed thanks for the benefit, could not approve the inflated words of this extravagant praiser, and said that Gotrik was more generous than Gaut. Wishing to crush the empty boast of the flatterer, he chose rather to bear witness to the generosity of the absent than tickle with lies the vanity of his benefactor who was present. For another thing, he thought it somewhat more desirable to be charged with ingratitude than to support with his assent such idle and boastful praise, and also to move the king by the solemn truth than to beguile him with lying flatteries. But Ulf persisted not only in stubbornly repeating his praises of the king, but in bringing them to the proof; and proposed their gainsayer a wager.
With his consent Ref went to Denmark, and found Gotrik seated in state, and dealing out the pay to his soldiers. When the king asked him who he was, he said that his name was "Fox-cub" The answer filled some with mirth and some with marvel, and Gotrik said, "Yea, and it is fitting that a fox should catch his prey in his mouth." And thereupon he drew a bracelet from his arm, called the man to him, and put it between his lips. Straightway Ref put it upon his arm, which he displayed to them all adorned with gold, but the other arm he kept hidden as lacking ornament; for which shrewdness he received a gift equal to the first from that hand of matchless generosity. At this he was overjoyed, not so much because the reward was great, as because he had won his contention. And when the king learnt from him about the wager he had laid, he rejoiced that he had been lavish to him more by accident than of set purpose, and declared that he got more pleasure from the giving than the receiver from the gift. So Ref returned to Norway and slew his opponent, who refused to pay the wager. Then he took the daughter of Gaut captive, and brought her to Gotrik for his own.
Gotrik, who is also called Godefride, carried his arms against foreigners, and increased his strength and glory by his successful generalship. Among his memorable deeds were the terms of tribute he imposed upon the Saxons; namely, that whenever a change of kings occurred among the Danes, their princes should devote a hundred snow-white horses to the new king on his accession. But if the Saxons should receive a new chief upon a change in the succession, this chief was likewise to pay the aforesaid tribute obediently, and bow at the outset of his power to the sovereign majesty of Denmark; thereby acknowledging the supremacy of our nation, and solemnly confessing his own subjection. Nor was it enough for Gotrik to subjugate Germany: he appointed Ref on a mission to try the strength of Sweden. The Swedes feared to slay him with open violence, but ventured to act like bandits, and killed him, as he slept, with the blow of a stone. For, hanging a millstone above him, they cut its fastenings, and let it drop upon his neck as he lay beneath. To expiate this crime it was decreed that each of the ringleaders should pay twelve golden talents, while each of the common people should pay Gotrik one ounce. Men called this "the Fox-cub's tribute". (Refsgild).
Meanwhile it befell that Karl, King of the Franks, crushed Germany in war, and forced it not only to embrace the worship of Christianity, but also to obey his authority. When Gotrik heard of this, he attacked the nations bordering on the Elbe, and attempted to regain under his sway as of old the realm of Saxony, which eagerly accepted the yoke of Karl, and preferred the Roman to the Danish arms. Karl had at this time withdrawn his victorious camp beyond the Rhine, and therefore forbore to engage the stranger enemy, being prevented by the intervening river. But when he was intending to cross once more to subdue the power of Gotrik, he was summoned by Leo the Pope of the Romans to defend the city.
Obeying this command, Karl intrusted his son Pepin with the conduct of the war aganst Gotrik; so that while he himself was working against a distant foe, Pepin might manage the conflict he had undertaken with his neighbour. For Karl was distracted by two anxieties, and had to furnish sufficient out of a scanty band to meet both of them. Meanwhile Gotrik won a glorious victory over the Saxons. Then gathering new strength, and mustering a larger body of forces, he resolved to avenge the wrong he had suffered in losing his sovereignty, not only upon the Saxons, but upon the whole people of Germany. He began by subduing Friesland with his fleet.
This province lies very low, and whenever the fury of the ocean bursts tho dykes that bar its waves, it is wont to receive the whole mass of the deluge over its open plains. On this country Gotrik imposed a kind of tribute, which was not so much harsh as strange. I will briefly relate its terms and the manner of it. First, a building was arranged, two hundred and forty feet in length, and divided into twelve spaces; each of these stretching over an interval of twenty feet, and thus making together, when the whole room was exhausted, the aforesaid total. Now at the upper end of this building sat the king's treasurer, and in a line with him at its further end was displayed a round shield. When the Frisians came to pay tribute, they used to cast their coins one by one into the hollow of this shield; but only those coins which struck the ear of the distant toll-gatherer with a distinct clang were chosen by him, as he counted, to be reckoned among the royal tribute. The result was that the collector only reckoned that money towards the treasury of which his distant ear caught the sound as it fell. But that of which the sound was duller, and which fell out of his earshot, was received indeed into the treasury, but did not count as any increase to the sum paid. Now many coins that were cast in struck with no audible loudness whatever on the collector's ear, so that men who came to pay their appointed toll sometimes squandered much of their money in useless tribute. Karl is said to have freed them afterwards from the burden of this tax. After Gotrik had crossed Friesland, and Karl had now come back from Rome, Gotrik determined to swoop down upon the further districts of Germany, but was treacherously attacked by one of his own servants, and perished at home by the sword of a traitor. When Karl heard this, he leapt up overjoyed, declaring that nothing more delightful had ever fallen to his lot than this happy chance.
ENDNOTES: (1) Furthest Thule -- The names of Icelanders have thus crept into the account of a battle fought before the discovery of Iceland.