The Orkneyingers Saga is a rare historical narrative of the history of the Orkney Islands, Scotland, from the time they were captured by the Norwegian king in the 800s CE onwards until about 1200. It is suggested that the saga is as much a fictional story as a historic document, compiled from a number of sources, combining oral legends with historical facts. And a few more quite different accounts of the creation of the Norse earldom on Orkney and Shetland exist than this one.
Several characters who are both historical and legendary are introduced, such as Rognvald, Earl of Moere (Norway). His son Torf-Einarr succeeded in defeating Danes that raided the Orkneys and in founding a dynasty that kept control of the islands for centuries after he died.
The Orkneyingers Saga was translated from the Norse to English by Sir George Webbe Dasent in 1894. The language of the public domain text has been modernised a little here, so you will not find translator supplied old-fashioned forms like 'canst' - even though some "oldies" remain.
The Orkneys is a small archipelago off the northeast coast of Scotland. Large islands are:
Orkney and Shetland were ruled by Norway until 1472. As well as settling on Shetland, the Norsemen colonised Caithness and Sutherland in what is today's Scotland. We see the evidence in the place names. From the Shetlands and Orkeys, the Norsemen travelled on to the Hebrides and from from there to the Isle of Man, Cumbria, Wales and, particularly, to Ireland. The Norsemen traded with Ireland and established several towns including Dublin and Cork. Among the commodities traded were slaves.
Norsemen also settled on the Isle of Man imparting much of their culture to the island. For example, the the annual open-air Manx parliament, Tynwald, is a Norse meeting and still survives to this day. Fifteen per cent of the male population of the Isle of Man carry the Norwegian genetic legacy, recent studies reveal.
Not all the Norse sea-raiders turned south into the Hebrides. Some of them sailed on out into the Atlantic and from this stemmed the colonisation of Iceland, Greenland and eventually, landings on North America long before Columbus (1492).
Norsemen left archaeological evidence in other places too.
Vikings and Norse settlers left a genetic mark on these islands too, not only their language and place names. By the way, very recent gene analyses show that 60% of the Orcadian men tested on the Orkneys were descended from Norwegian Vikings, as well as 30% of those in the Hebrides. . . . The Viking influence in these areas has been well known.
And now for the old Orkneyingers' Saga:
The two groups of islands, in which the events narrated in the Orkneyingers' Saga for the most part happened, are widely different in their geographical confirmation. While the Orkneys lie like Cyclades round Hrossey or the Mainland, and are tolerably equal in size and shape, Shetland may be said to be altogether overpowered by its Mainland, which is larger than all the other islands put together, only two or three of which are of any importance. Added to this the Orkneys are, with the exception of a part of Hoy, "the tall island," generally flat; and the hills even in Hrossey rarely rise to any great elevation. When we have named Wideford Hill, the Keely Long Hills, the Ward Hill of Orfir, and the uplands of Rowsay, we have almost exhausted the hills of Orkney. In Shetland, on the other hand, the Mainland is full of high hills and headlands culminating in North Mavin at the extreme north-west of the island in Rona's Hill. Between the two groups politically united in the days described in the Orkneyingers' Saga, but thus physically distinct, lies the waste of waters called Sumburgh Roost in modern times, and "Dynraust," or Dynröst, that is the "thundering, roaring roost" by the Northmen who saw in its wild waves and rushing tides an apt occasion for the name. In the midst of this Race lies the Fair Isle, the Friðarey of the Saga, an isle shunned by travellers and steamers at the present time, and memorable in the story of the Armada for Spanish shipwrecks, but not so inhospitable in older days when its bays and creeks afforded frequent shelter to the small craft in which the Northmen ran from one group of islands to the other. There is probably no part of the British Isles which now plays a less part and is more rarely heard of than the Fair Isle or Fair Hill as it is sometimes incorrectly called, but there was certainly none which in the time of earl Rognvald-Kali was more conspicuous in Orkney story. Then Friðarey formed the point on which the earl's operations against the Orkneys turned, and it was on Friðarey that the beacons were to have been lighted which were to warn earl Paul and his adherents that mischief was threatening them from Shetland. The Fair Isle, therefore, forms in the Saga a geographical link between the two groups of Orkney and Shetland, and we can hardly understand the story unless we keep the position of Friðarey on the map steadily in view.
Having thus roughly sketched in outline the two groups and their connecting link, let us enter more fully into the geographical description of the two groups themselves, and let us begin with Shetland, as the group which the Northmen first made as they ran over from Norway, and which we may be sure was known to their vikings and sea-rovers before the more westerly group.
Whatever may be the case with the name of Orkney, it is certain that the name which Shetland bore before the Northmen called it Hjaltland or Hjaltaland is lost. Some, indeed, have thought with Munch that these islands never had any fixed population before the Northmen, except those Papæ or Irish Anchorites and Hermits, whose cells are found on all the islands of the west as far as Iceland. But it is clear that this view is unfounded. Not to mention the existence in Shetland of those burghs or castles, of which that on the isle of Moussa alone remains in something like its full proportions, the underground dwellings and "weems" in which the Shetland as well as the Orkney Isles abound afford evidence to prove that both groups of islands were inhabited in early times by one, and probably two distinct races, to one of which the subterranean earth dwellings and underground weems are to be assigned, while to the other and more advanced race the burghs and castles, which tower above the soil like Moussa, are due. What these races were, whether the first which dwelt underground, in what the Icelandic Sagas call "jarðhúsa," were Esquimaux of Turanian race, while the burghs, or castles, or Picts' houses, are the handiwork of that mysterious race of Picts so long the terror of British antiquaries, may be matter of doubt. But certain it is, from the evidence of our eyes, that both the dwellers in the earthhouses and weems and the builders of the burghs existed long before the arrival of the Northmen. How those races perished and passed away is also a matter of which we are in complete ignorance. It would seem from the silence of the Sagas, and still more perhaps from the fact that the anchorites referred to only chose the waste places of the earth for their ascetic abodes, that the Northmen really found those islands empty and desolate, and that it was not before their swords that the ancient races vanished away. If so this only throws these questions further up the stream of time. Who were the races who built these subterranean dwellings and these towering burghs? By what name did they call the country? And how did they vanish, leaving no trace of their nationality behind?
As soon as the Northmen came they gave the new found land a name, and they called it "Hjaltaland," or "Hjaltland," from "Hjalt," the knob or guard of the hilt of a sword. It is idle to ask why the name was given, for the Northmen, as Munch well says, gave names to places from the most trivial accidents; as when Auda, the Deeply-wealthy, who passed from Scotland to Iceland by way of Shetland, called a headland or "ness" "Kambnes," or Combness, because she had lost her comb there. In the same way Shetland may have been called "Hjaltland," or "Hjaltaland" because some sea-rover lost the pommel of his sword there. It is easier to show how the modern Shetland—not Zetland, which is a barbarous distortion—arose out of the ancient Hjaltland. First of all the pronunciation of the word went over in Norway itself to Hjeltland and Hjetland; the inhabitants of Shetland were called by their Norwegian cousins, "Hjelter" instead of Hjalter; and even at this day we have the authority of Munch for saying that boats built in Norway for sale in Shetland are called "Hjeltebaade," while the northern entrance to Bergen Sound, the point for which ships from Shetland usually steered, is still called "Hjeltefjord." At the same time, as the pronuciation of "Hj" in many Norwegian dialects is very nearly "Sh" or "Sch," the name of the group must have sounded to Scotch and English ears as "Shatland" or "Shetland," and thus "Hjaltaland" or "Hjeltland," written phonetically, would have become Shatland or Shetland, and so passed into legal deeds and documents. Just in the same way the supposed name of the Orkney Island, "Hjálpandisey," was turned into "Shapandsey,"
"Shapensey," and "Shapinsay." It can also be shown that this change of name occurred early, for in a deed of the year 1289, given in Rymer's Fædera, I. 2, p. 706, we find the name of Thorvaldus de Shetland, and in a letter of the year 1319, in the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. I., and also printed in the Diplomatarium Norwegicum, II. No. 114, the form "Syettelandia" occurs. In the same way the ponies which come from Shetland are called "Shelties," which is only another form of the word "Hjelte" or "Hjalte," and means "Shetlander," just in the same way, as Munch well observes, Norwegian horses are called "Norbagger," that is, "Norwegians," and horses from Arabia "Arabs." In another point of view the form "Sheltie" is curious as retaining the "l" of the original name, which is thus preserved in common speech, though it has dropped out of the name of the country itself.
Passing from the common appellation of the whole group of islands to each in particular, we find the principal islands mentioned in our Saga, or in old deeds and documents to be the following:—Meginland, Mainland, Jalda, or Ála, the modern Yell; Örnist or Örmstr, the modern Unst; Fetilar or Fætilör, the modern Fetlar; Hvalsey, the modern Whalesay; Nös, the modern Noss; Brúsey, the modern Bressay; Mosey or Morsey, the modern Moussa; two called Papey, the big and the little; Glumsey; Fugley, the modern Foula; and Friðarey, the modern Fair Isle or Fair Hill.
Of these after the Mainland, the ancient Meginland, Jala is often named as well as
Jalasund or Álasund, the modern Yell Sound, which arose out of the ancient name by a very
natural corruption. Munch has pointed out that as the form "Jala" occurs in a list of
islands and firths given in Skálda, and printed in the Ann. for North. Archæol. 1846, p. 86,
it is probably the true form, and not, Ála, in both of which the final -a is another of
those old indeclinable endings in -a which also occur in "Gula" and "Aga," and must not be
confounded with the feminine ending -a which forms u in the genitive. The Saga, p. 107,
speaks of Álasund, and not Jalasund, on the authority of a good MS., 325. As to the original
meaning of the word we have no information, but any one who has lain in Yell Sound and seen
the rush of its tideway and heard the roaring which it makes both in flood and ebb, will
acknowledge that the modern "yell" is very suggestive of the character of its waters. It was
in Álasund that earl Paul seized the ships of his rival earl Rognvald, Tr. p. 114.
Fætilör, the modern Fetlar, occurs in the list from the Skálda, but the short Saga of St. Magnus reads "Fetilar," as we have corrected the false reading "Færeyjum," of the Cod. Flat. Saga, p. 91. Munch thinks the name is derived from fót, leg or foot, and that the "lör" of the ending should be "laer," a thigh, in which case the name might come from a fanciful resemblance in the shape of the island to a human thigh.
Passing over the minor islands, we come to Brúsey or Brúsi's island, the modern representative of which is the modern Bressay, which helps to make the magnificent harbour of Lerwick off the Mainland. It perhaps takes its name from Brúsi, one of the earlier Orkney earls, and earl Rognvald's father.
The two islands called Papa Stour and Papa Little recall the anchorites, recall the anchorites, who have left evidence of thier ancient occupation of them in those names. Papa Stour means the big Papa, as Papa Little means the small Papa. In the Icelandic they would be Papey Stora and Papey Littla.
The Mainland of Shetland though preponderating in size over all the other islands, plays no such part in the Orkneyingers' Saga as that assumed by Hrossey of the Mainland of Orkney. That was the abode of mighty earls who had their seats at various times in different parts of the island. But the Mainland of Shetland, so far as the Orkney Saga is concerned, seems rather to have been used by those great chiefs as a house of call or a harbour of refuge. So it was that Harold Fairhair and a long line of kings of his race who followed him steered for Shetland on their voyages west, and after laying in Bressay Sound off the modern Lerwick, or in some other convenient haven for a while, passed on to conquest or piracy further west. The case was nearly the same with the Orkney earls and with the chiefs and bishops who passed west from Norway. When earl Rognvald-Kali, the kinsman of Saint Magnus set out on his expeditions against earl Paul Hacon's son, he twice made Shetland his halting place, once to return inglorious to his politic father's house, and once again to pass on victorious to the Orkneys. So again when earl Paul had been seized and carried off, and when earl Rognvald at the height of his power resolved on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he sailed for Shetland from Norway in his two ships Help and Arrow and lost them both in the breakers of Gullberwick near the modern Lerwick. (Tr. p. 154, 155.) The loss of his ships delayed him long in Shetland. The Saga expressly says that "the earl stayed very long in Shetland" that autumn, and it was then that the romantic episode occurred which is described in the Story of Earl Rognvald.
On other occasions when we hear of any of the earls going to Shetland it is only to
stay there for a comparatively short time, and never with a view to a fixed above. It
follows from this that but very few Shetland names are mentioned in the Saga even on the
Mainland, and though we can in most cases restore the old Norse names from their modern
equivalents, we can but rarely point to the old names themselves in the pages of the Saga.
One of these cases in which we can fix the locality of the ancient name with certainty is
Borgarfjörðr now Burrafirth on the Mainland, of which we read at p. 75 of our Saga, Tr. p.
76, that while earl Hacon and earl Magnus held the joint wardship of the land, they made an
expedition to Shetland and put to death Thorbjorn, a nobleman in "Burrafirth." On a holm
near the "væ" stands the ruins of the "Borg" or "Burgh" which gave a name to the Firth,
which seems to have been a castle of the same kind as that on the isle of Moussa, and if so
erected long before the arrival of the Northmen in Shetland. (1) Munch supposes that it was
in this castle that the noble Thorbjorn lived when he was cut off about the year 1100 by the
cousins, and that from its strength he must have made a long resistance. But the Saga simply
says that the two earls went against him together and put him to death.
But perhaps the most interesting place in all Shetland is the burgh of Moussa which lies near Sandwick (Sandvík) in the southern part of the Shetland Main. Here, on a little island, stands the "Burgh" of which we have already spoken, and the only one of those ancient castles which exists in tolerable preservation. It was famous for its strength before the period of which the Saga treats, for in the Egils Saga, ch. 32 and 33, we read that about the year 900 Björn the freeman from Aurland in Sogn, in Norway, who had run away with Thora Hladhand, the sister of Thorir, a hersir or baron from the district called the Firths, and was on his voyage with her to Iceland, suffered shipwreck in Shetland, and took refuge in this castle while his ship was being repaired. In that Saga it is called Morseyjarborg or Moseyjarborg, a name which we find in our Saga, p. 189, where oddly enough, we find another pair of fugitive lovers taking shelter in its strong walls. In the year 1153 Erlend the young, a noble chief, but not, as some have supposed, the young earl of that name, carried off, or rather run off with earl Harold Maddadson's mother Margaret, who is described as rather a forward woman. The pair fled from the wrath of the earl and shut themselves up in the burgh on Moussa, where they were besieged for some time by earl Harold, until peace was made between him and them, and Erlend was allowed to marry the widow of Maddad who had been earl of Athole.
These are almost the only places which can be identified in Shetland, and which are mentioned in the Saga. All the names in these islands are corruptions of old Norse names as Scalloway and Thingwell, which are clearly the old "Skálavágr" and "Þingvöll." The latter was the place where the solemn assemblies of the freeman were held, as was invariably the case in early Northern times, under the free and open air of heaven; while the former was the bay or "væ" on which the booths and huts were erected for the convenience and shelter of those who attended the assemblies, and which temporary shelter gradually grew into a village, and a town. In later times when the fashion of open-air Parliaments went out, Scalloway became the place of meeting, and there in a building the later assemblies were held. These and many other old names have been identified by Munch in his exhaustive essays on this subject in the Annals for Northern Archæology; but our purpose here is with the names and places actually mentioned in the Saga. Before we pass on from Shetland to the Fair Isle, across Sumburgh Roost, which takes its name from Sumburgh, the southernmost point of the island, let us pause to remark that as the troubled sea between Shetland and Orkney was called "Dynröst" (Saga, p. 192), and as the modern name for the southernmost parish of the Shetland mainland, is Dunrossness, it is plain that this modern application is only a distortion of "Dynrastarnes," the first part of which is the genitive of "Dynröst." Dynrastarnes dæs not occur in the text of the Saga, but in the new matter printed in this edition we find both Dynrastar höfcti and Dynrastarvágr, Dynröst-head and Dynrost-væ, as the old names for the headland now called Sumburgh Head and the væ beneath it, out of which earl Rognvald rowed in disguise with the poor fisherman to fish at the very edge of the dangerous race (pp. 155-7). The word "Sumburgh," is to be found in the old Norse "Svínborg" and in earlier deeds is called not "Sumburgh" but "Swynburgh." The "Fitful Head," separated from its sister headland by Quendal Bay, which all readers of the "Pirate" know, has unfortunately nothing to do with the capricious nature of the winds, but is derived, as Munch has shown, from the old "Fitfuglahöfði," that is, the head covered with sea-foul, or "web-footed birds,"
"fitfuglar," which may still be seen sitting in myriads on the ledges of the noble promontory which rises more than 900 feet into the air.
From all that we have said of Shetland, it will be seen that to the Orkneyingers it was always more or less a foreign land. The one group seems to have clung more closely to Norway, and to have been far more dependent on that country than the other. We hear little there of risings against the power of the kings of Norway, and Norwegians seem always to have been welcome in Shetland, as may be seen by the way in which Rognvald-Kali, a pure Norwegian on his father's side, was welcomed on his expeditions against Orkney, and from the dread which earl Paul had of landing and fighting out his quarrel with his rival, even after he had seized his ships in Yell Sound. The Saga, p. 114, expressly says that the reason why earl Paul would not land was that he put no trust in the Shetlanders, and the best proof that his power over these islands was merely nominal is to be found in the fact that earl Rognvald stayed there the whole summer after the loss of his ships in the autumn, only to return to Shetland the summer after on a more successful expedition. It is evident, therefore, that geographically as well as politically the Shetlanders were more dependent on Norway. Lying north-east and not far from the Faræs, both their politics and position were Norwegian, while the Orkneys, lying more to the west and farther from the mother country of the first settlers, were more independent, and besides politically attracted towards Scotland and the British Isles. Much, no doubt, was due to the seat of rule being in the Orkneys, from which the earls ruled Shetland as a dependency, but still more was owing to the geographical position of the group of isles, and to the temper of the people, which in Shetland remained more purely Norse than the inhabitants of the sister group. At last, in the days of king Sverrir, at the end of the 12th century, in the year 1194, just at the period when the Orkneyingers' Saga ends, Shetland was separated by that king altogether from Orkney, and associated, for the purpose of government, with the Faræ islands, and thus the earls of Orkney lost for some years the rights of lordship and the power of taxation which they had so long held over Shetland as vassals of the Kings of Norway. pp. 231, 235-6.
We now leave Shetland, and pass on our way to the Orkneys, stopping for a while at the Fair Isle or Fairhill, the Friðarey of the Saga, in which, at one period, the little island became suddenly famous. The position of the Fair Isle midway between Orkney and Shetland made it a very important place when the power of earl Paul Hacon's son was threatened by the expeditions of Rognvald-Kali, who claimed to be one of the rightful earls of the Orkneys, not only because of the grant which King Harold Gilli had made to him, but because he was the son of the sister of the saint, earl Magnus, and thus came into the land strong both from a political and a religious point of view. In those days the proverb was as true as it has ever been before and since, "forewarned is forearmed." It was everything to earl Paul to know when earl Rognvald, whom he knew had arrived among the untrusty Shetlanders, would start on his expedition against the Orkneys. For this purpose, as our Saga informs us, p. 115, a system of beacons was established, the first of which was to be on the Fair Isle, a second on Rínansey, or North Ronaldsay, a third on Sanday, a fourth on Westray, and a fifth on Rowsay. But all the others rested on the first, so that the beacon on the Fair Isle was the most important of all. These several beacons were entrusted to the care of earl Paul's most faithful adherents, and not the least interesting portion of the Saga is that which describes how this system of beacons was turned to the gain, instead of the harm of earl Rognvald, by the good counsel of his father, the politic Kol. At that time the chief householder on the Fair Isle was Dagfinn Hlodver's son, described at p. 122 of the Saga as "a brisk stirring man." So long as he had charge of the beacon it was sure to be lighted at the first approach of an enemy. But at p. 124 foll. we are informed how even the wary Dagfinn was deceived by the guile of Kol into lighting the beacon on a false alarm; how the warning lights spread from isle to isle, and earl Paul's host flocked together, only to find themselves gathered for no purpose; and at last how quarrels and recriminations arose, in the course of which Dagfinn was slain. After that false alarm a man named Eric succeeded to the care of the beacon on the Fair Isle, who, not so wary as Dagfinn, was beguiled into handing over the beacon to the care of Uni, a confederate of Kol, who took care to drench it so thoroughly with water that it would not catch fire when earl Rognvald really started with his expedition (p. 127). The result was that no beacons were lighted on the other islands, and earl Rognvald established himself in Westray, where his friends and kinsmen soon flocked to him in sufficient numbers to enable him to hold his own against earl Paul. After this sudden blaze, like that of its own beacon, the Fair Isle, or Friðarey, passed out of the story, and is scarcely mentioned again, except at p. 195, when Sweyn Asleif's son bore up for it when he and earl Erlend the young were caught and parted in Sumburgh Roost in such a violent storm that each gave the other up as lost.
From the Fair Isle we pass on to Rínansey or North Ronaldsay, the first of the Orkney islands. But before we proceed farther, let us, as we have given the etymology of the name Shetland, spend a little time in the consideration of the name Orkney. If we can believe that Shetland was a nameless land till the Northmen came and called it after the pommel of a sword, the same cannot be said of the Orkneys, which were already called Orcades by Pliny the elder in his Natural History, I. 4. ch. 10., and Juvenal in his second Satire, II. 161, (2) quotations which show that the name did not arise with the Northmen who came more than 700 years after Pliny, but that it is only their adaptation of the old Celtic name which the islands received from their earliest inhabitants. The Irish and Gaelic tribes called the group "Innsi'h Orce," or Innish Orc, that is the Ork isles; the Northmen Orkn-eyjar, that is the Orkn-isles, where Orkn- seems to be a contraction of Orkan, for the Anglo-Saxons called the group Orcan-ig, where "an" is only a derivative ending, and has nothing to do with the root. That root is "Ork" or "Orc," and, as we must look to the Celtic tribes for the first application of the term to the Orkneys, we must see what "Orc" means in those dialects. Now "Orc" in Gaelic means a smaller sort of whale, a grampus or bottle-nose whale, the Delphinus orca of Linnæus, which is still found in large shoals, in the seas round Orkney, Shetland, and Faræ. Pliny himself calls this kind of whale "orca," and when Ptolemy calls a promontory, supposed to be Dunnet Head in Caithness opposite the Orkneys, "Tarvedum or Orcas," we recognise with Munch in the first word the Gaelic "Tarbat," (3) and in the second the singular of Orcades. So, too, this primæval or aboriginal "Ork" may be seen in the "Orkahaugr" or Orkahow of the Saga, p. 187; Tr. 190. It was the name which the Northmen gave to the huge barrow, now called the Maes Howe, which stands near "the Stones of Stennes," and they gave it a name from the largest animal which they knew on land or in the sea; much in the same way as the Americans speak in modern times of "Mammoth" caves and trees to express natural objects of huge size.
There can be no room for doubt then that in the words "Orkneyjar" and "Orkney" we have a Celtic derivative, and that the islands were so called from the shoals of a particular kind of whale which in earlier times were much more numerous than they are at present. The Northmen, as was their common practice, took the ancient name of the islands as they found it adopted by the Anglo-Saxons. They turned the "Orc" of the Celts into Orkn and added "ey," their word for an island, to the Celtic appellation.
As they had adopted the Celtic term for the whole group they proceeded in the same way with each island. When it had what they called Örnefni, that is, an old ariginal received name of its own, they adopted it, merely putting "ey" after it to mark its insular character. In cases where an island had no old name of its own, or when its ancient appellation was unknown, they gave it a new one of their own sometimes descriptive of its natural features, and sometimes taken from the name of a person. In process of time the termination "ey" in the names of each of the islands has been transformed into ay or a; thus "Shapinsay" or "Shapinsa," while certain combinations of letters are slurred over in utterance; "alp" or "olp" or "alb" in particular have lost their "l," so that the old Skálpeið, the neck or isthmus between Kirkwall and Scapa Bay, is now pronounced Scapa, and Kolbeinsey has become Copinsay and Cobesa. At the same time the same change has taken place with regard to names beginning with Hj, as we have already remarked as being the origin of the name "Shetland." Thus "Hjálpandisey," which it is conjectured is the old form of one of the Orkney isles, has become Shapinsay, and the rule holds good in other cases. But as this perversion of the ending of the names of each isle has given rise to two forms in ay and a, both plainly derived from the old Norse "ey," it was proposed by Munch in his essay on this subject in the Annals for Northern Archæology for 1852, to revert to the old form "ey;" and in fact this change had already been made, even before that learned historian suggested it, on the excellent charts of the Orkneys, published by the late Captain Thomas, R.N., under the direction of the Admiralty. We cannot learn, however, that this suggestion has been accepted by the inhabitants of the islands themselves, and we have therefore in general adhered to the more usually received form.
After these introductory remarks let us give a list of the Orkney isles as we find them mentioned in the Saga with their ancient names, and then direct our attention to each island in its turn, beginning from the North.
The names are North Ronaldsay, Rínansey; Sanay, Sandey; Papa Westray, Papey Meiri; Westray, Vestrey; Stronsay, Strjónsey; Papa Stronsay, Papey Minni; Egilsay or Egelsha, Egilsey; Rowsay, Hrólfsey; Mainland, Hrossey; Eynhallow, Eyinhelga; Weir, Vigr; Gairsay, Gareksey; Damsay, Daminsey; Eller or Hellier Holm, Hellisey; Burray, Borgarey; Græmsay, Grímsey; How with Walls, Háey with Vágar or Vágaland; South Ronaldsay, Rögnvaldsey; Svonay, Svíney; Stromay or Stroma, Straumey, and the Pentland Skerries, Pettland-sker. Two of the larger islands, Eday, Eiðey, and Shapinsay, Hjálpandisey, together with many smaller ones, are not mentioned in the Saga.
In this list there are some which, at the very first sight, betray a Celtic and a Christian origin. Just as in the "Orkn" or "Ork" of the Orkneys we perceive a Celtic root, so is a Celtic and a religious appellations as plainly discernible in Papey, the name given to two islands. We have seen that the Irish anchorites of St. Columba's rule had left traces of their cells and ascetic life in Shetland and Iceland. These anchorites the Northmen believed to have been "Westmen" or Irishmen. (4) Thus there were Papar or anchorites in Orkney and Shetland, where islands were named after them, and even farms such as Papuli or Papýli, now Paplay. When the heathen Northmen came to disturb them in their hermitages these anchorites vanished before them, leaving behind them their cells and churches, as the Dwarfie Stone on Hoy, and the old church on Egilsay. In Iceland we are told they left behind them books and staves and rings, and Ari Fróði in his Islendíngabók expressly says of Iceland, when it was discovered by his countrymen, "Then there were here Christian men, those whom the Northmen call Papa; but afterwards they went away for that they would not be here with heathen men, and they left behind them Irish books" (that is manuscripts), and staves and rings, from that it might be known that they were Irishmen." Besides this we know from Dicuil's Treatise De Mensurâ Orbis, that about the year 795 several priests had resided in Iceland from the 1st of February to the 1st of August. What happened in Iceland, Faræ, and Shetland had more frequently happened in the Orkneys, and we may be sure, as indeed the names Papey and Papýli sufficiently prove, that this group of isles, so long as they were waste, in what may be supposed to be the interval between the coming of the Northmen and the disappearance of the earlier races, was a favourite resort for Irish anchorites of St. Columba's rule.
And here let us remark that the same problem remains to be solved in Orkney that was left unsolved in Shetland. The testimony of the soil shows that this group of islands was inhabited in early times by races which burrowed in the earth in weems and Picts' houses and erected stately burghs like that at Moussa. But whæver they were and in whatever way they disappeared, it is certain that at one time these isles were inhabited by races which possessed considerable skill in construction, and in the case of the burgh-dwellers had made great advances to civilisation.
Returning to the traces of Celtic influence in the names of the Orkneys, we find it in Rínansey, Rinarsey, or Ronansey, all ancient names for North Ronaldsay. This is one of the first islands mentioned in the Saga, in the time of Turf-Einar the fourth Orkney earl, and there can be little doubt that it took its name from St. Ninian whom the Scots also called Ringan and Ronan. In later times Rínansey or Ronansey was perverted into Ronaldsay, and as there was another Ronaldsay in the south of the group, it became necessary to distinguish one as North, and the other as South Ronaldsay; but originally the name of the northern island was Rínansey after the saint, and that of the southern Ronaldsey after one of the earl Rognvalds. (5)
In Daminsey we find another name derived from St. Damian; and in the case of Egilsey, though it seems thoroughly Norse at first sight, and to have come from the well-known Norse name Egill, and to be the island of Egill, Munch has endeavoured to show that the name is derived from the ancient church which still stands with its round tower on the little island. This church has indeed been a puzzle to ecclesiastical antiquaries. While some have thought it so like the Irish churches of the same supposed age and character that it seems to them to have been transported from Ireland; others like Sir Henry Dryden have refused to see in it a building earlier than the 12th century. According to the first view, Egilsey would be called not from Egill but from the Irish ecclais or the Welsh eglaus, a church, and was so named by the Northmen because they found the venerable church standing on the island when they first arrived in the Orkney waters. In after times, the origin of the name was forgotten, though the church still stood, memorable for the martyrdom of St. Magnus which happened hard by, and Egilsey came to be looked on as the island of Egill. But in the midst of this controversy one fact remains that there was a church on Egilsey when St. Magnus was slain in the year 1116, and from this church whether it were that now existing or not the name of the island may have been derived. If this be so in the collective name of Orkney itself, as well as in the particular names, Papey, Papýli, Rínansey, Daminsey, and Egilsey, we have unmistakeable evidence of Celtic origin. (6)
After these general remarks we return to our list of islands beginning from the north. And first of North Ronaldsay, Rínansey, a low flat island, the northernmost of the group and lying well to the east. This is one of the earliest of all the islands to be mentioned in the Saga, and in the old edition which is very imperfect in the beginning, it is the first of all mentioned. As it is, the Mainland, Hrossey, is the first named at p. 6 of this edition of the Saga, where it is said that earl Hallad, the do-nothing son of earl Rognvald of Mæren, sate down in Hrossey while the Vikings harried his realm. But after earl Hallad came Turf-Einar, who thus mentions Rínansey after his battle with Halfdan Longlegs: "I know not what I see in Rínansey, sometimes it lifts itself up, but sometimes it lays itself down; that is either a bird or a man, and we will go to it."—P. 8. The battle itself, which ended in Halfdan's disastrous defeat and death, probably took place in the firth between Sanday and North Ronaldsay, and from Toftsness on the former island it would be possible for a sharp-sighted man, as we are told earl Einar was, to see across to the opposite island. But we are not reduced to this supposition, as he might well have been on board his ship the morning after the battle when the search for his routed enemies began. At the present time, North Ronaldsay with its beautiful lighthouse and dangerous reefs is shunned by voyagers, but in the days of the Saga it was easy of approach to the light craft of the islanders, and was a place of importance. There it was, in the days of earl Paul, that the second beacon was to be lighted on the approach of earl Rognvald-Kali, and Thorstein Ragna's son was to have charge of it (p. 115). His mother was the outspoken Ragna, who at page 121 foll., entertained earl Paul at a banquet in her house on the island, and gave him such offence by her bold advice. After earl Paul was carried off by Sweyn Asleif's son, the very man whom the wise widow advised the earl to make his friend, Ragna and her son became firm friends of earl Rognvald-Kali. At p. 144, we are told, how when Hall, the son of Thorarin Broadpaunch came from Iceland to spend the winter with Ragna and her son, and was ill at ease, and wished to be passed on to the earl's court, Ragna and her son did their best to further his wishes at first without success. The earl had warriors enough and said, "No, to neighbour of the brawn." But Ragna was not a woman to be put off, for the Saga gæs on to tell us that she provoked the earl's satire by paying him a visit in a new fashioned head dress. After that they began to talk, and the end was that Ragna got her way, and Hall was long afterwards with earl Rognvald, with whom, as they were both excellent skalds, he made what the Icelanders called the Old Key to Metres.
We next come to Vestrey, Westray, the Western isle, about the Norse derivation of which there can be no doubt. It and the West Firth, Vestfjörðr, that is, the troubled strait between it and Rowsay, are often mentioned in the Saga. There, at Rapness, Hreppisnes, p. 89, lived Kugi, a powerful man, and an adherent of earl Paul, while at Höfn lived Helgi, who was inclined to earl Rognvald; for the earl came to his house when he got a fair wind from Shetland, while Kugi was thrown into fetters and badly beaten by the earl's men (p. 127 fol.) Rapness is also mentioned at p. 209 as the place where earl Rognvald met John Wing when he had carried off Sweyn Aslief's son Olaf. It is called also the "Bull" of Rapness, that is, the "ból" or farm of Rapness, and lies on the south-east side of the island, while Höfn, that is, the "Haven," was on the north-east side, where the modern Pier o' Wall lies. Close by are the "Links," the Norse "lykkjur," where a number of old interments, described in Wilson's Archæology, pp. 552-555, were discovered in 1849. Not far from Pier o' Wall, or the ancient Höfn, called also the thorpe or village, lies Trenaby, from which Mr. Balfour of Balfour takes one of his territorial titles. On the west of the island, not far from the Noup Head, the Icelandic Gnúpr, stands Noltland Castle, also owned by Mr. Balfour. This, in John Ben's description of Orkney in 1529, is described as "excellentissia arx sive castellum sed nondum tamen adhuc completa." In this unfinished state it has remained ever since, with its walls of immense thickness, its two round towers, and its arched portal. The name of the place, "Noltland" or "Nowtland," seems plainly derived from the Norse Nautaland, that is, "neat" or "cattle land." It was on the West Firth, between Westray and Rowsay, that Waltheof Olaf's son was lost in a ten-oared boat in the year 1135, when on his way to a yule feast given by earl Paul at Orfir. He was brother of the powerful and unruly Sweyn Asleif's son, with whose adventures the last part of our Saga is full. At p. 116 will be found an account of Waltheof's loss. There is a farm called Rackwick on the north-east of Westray, which has been supposed by some to be the Rekavík of the Saga, where Thorliot, the father of Oliver the unruly, lived; but it is certain that the Rekavík where that powerful family lived was the other Rackwick in Hoy, for all the relations of Thorliot and Oliver lay in the south, and not in the north isles. At p. 87 of our Saga will be found an account of Thorliot and his kindred, who were in reality rather Scotch than Orkneyingers.
To the north-east of Westray and just opposite to the little harbour of Pier o' Wall or Höfn, the thorpe where Helgi lived, and where earl Rognvald-Kali first landed in Orkney, lies Papey Meiri, the bigger Papey, now called Papa Westray to distinguish it from Papey Minni, the lesser Papey, now called Papa Stronsay. Both these isles, as we have seen, take their names from the cells of Irish anchorites, and not from any Norse derivatives. As soon as the Orkneys became Christian, shortly after the days of Olaf Tryggvi's son, that is, about the year 1000, Papey Meiri became a holy place, and until the great cathedral in Kirkwall was built it is probable taht St. Tredwall's chapel (7) on Papey Meiri was considered the holiest spot in all the isles. In the days described by our Saga, St. Tredwall's chapel has an interest as being the burial place of the gallant earl Rognvald Brúsi's son, whose body, after he had been slain on Papey Minni or the lesser Papey off Stronsay, was brought to St. Tredwall's chapel to be interred. Our Saga, p. 53, foll., tells the story of his death, which for interest and truth may vie with any scene in any Saga.
We now pass by Eday, the ancient name of which is to be restored as Eiðey, that is, the island of the eið or aith, or isthmus, from the neck or waist of land which joins the two ends of the island together, and along with it its satellites Kalfr the Calf, Færey the Sheep isle, Hólmr the Holm of Farey, and Grænuholmr the Greenholms; for all these are never mentioned in the Saga, though it is easy to restore, as Munch has done, their ancient form from their modern names.
Next in order and position is Sandey, Sanday, which is often mentioned in the Saga, and lies east of Westray and north-east of Eday. Here it was, off the northern end of the island, which looks on Rínansey or North Ronaldsay, that Turf-Einar lay with his ships when he had that engagement with Halfdan Longlegs, the son of the mighty Harold Fairhair, which ended in his defeat and death by immolation to Odin, the God of battles. With regard to the possibility of that sharp-sighted though one-eyed earl being able to see from Sanday as far as Rínansey, Munch tells us that it is no more than 6,000 paces from Toftsness in Sanday to Stromness in Rínansey, a distance to which earl Einar's sharp eyes might perhaps have reached; but we have already remarked that, in all probability, the earl was on board his ships when he uttered the words given in the Saga, which besides would seem to have been caused by something seen on land from the water. After the bloody rite of cutting a spread-eagle on the back of the victim with a sword by severing the ribs from the backbone on each side and drawing the lungs out, earl Einar made his men cast a "howe" or cairn over his enemy, and burst out into a song of triumph on having revenged his father, earl Rognvald of Mæren, on the son of the great king Harold. It is probable that, as the battle was fought in Sanday, that the sacrifice to Odin took place on that island, and not on Rínansey; and that the cairn of Halfdan Longlegs must be sought for among the many barrows which still exist on Sanday.
In later times Sanday was the abode of a great chief, Thorstein Havard's son, one of earl Paul's most active followers, and when the care of the beacon on Rínansey was entrusted to his namesake the son of Ragna, (8) his brother Magnus was to attend to that on Sanday; later on in the Saga earl Rognvald sent for him and his namesake from Sanday, p. 129, that they try to arrange matters between himself and earl Paul. Still farther on in the Saga we read of Sanday and a farm on it called Völuness or Valeness, in the account of Swein Asleif's son's flight from earl Harold, when the earl seized his house on Gairsay, p. 206. It was on Sanday that, as the Saga tells us, p. 195, Sweyn Asleif's son and earl Erlend met after they had parted in Dynröst or sumburgh Roost in so violent a storm that each gave up the other as lost. It was in Sanday too that Sweyn Asleif's son forced his kinsman John Wing the younger to fly from Völuness in the bitter winter night, because he abused earl Erlend, p. 206.
Next in order is Strjónsey, Stronsay, which is frequently mentioned in the Saga. The chief house on it in old times, seems to have been "the Brink," Brekkar or í Brekkum, where Richard lived, one of Sweyn Asleif's son's kinsmen, of whom we read, p. 130, that he and John Wing of the Uplands in Hoy fell on Thorkell flat or the flayer, to whom earl Paul had given the land in Stronsay which Waltheof Sweyn's brother had owned, and burnt him in it with nine men. Before that Thorkell had lived in Westray with his sons, not much beloved by his neighbours, p. 89. Munch has recognised the old Hofsness in the modern Hvipsness on Stronsay where earl Erelend met Sweyn Asleif's son on his return from Norway at the house of Sweyn's brother-in-law, Thorfinn Brúsi's son, who had married his sister Ingigerd, whom Thorbjörn the clerk had repudiated (Saga, p. 187). There the old feud between the young earl and the old Viking, which arose out of the burning of Frakok, was finally arranged, and Sweyn became Erelend's chief adviser. In Rousholmhead or the Red Head of Stronsay, may also be recognised the old name Rauðholmshöfði. Off Stronsay, too, lay Papey Minni, now Papa Stronsay, where earl Rognvald Brúsi's son was slain.
Shapinsay, which may be restored to Hjálpandisey, is, as we have said, not mentioned in the Saga by name, but the modern name of the island is well known to all visitors to Orkney as the principal seat of Mr. Balfour of Trenaby, the owner of this island as well as of so many others in the Orkneys. But close to Ellwick, the ancient Ellidavík, on the south side of the island, lies Ellerholm, or Hellierholm, the ancient Hellisey, where, according to Captain Thomas, quoted by Munch, the cave may still be seen in which the shifty Sweyn Asleif's son hid his boat when escaping from the pursuit of earl Harold Maddad's son (Saga, p. 205). At that time there must have been a monastery on one or other of the islands, for as Sweyn's boat was high and dry in the cave, Sweyn sailed away to Sanday in an old ship of burden belonging to the monks.
We next come to Egilsey, of which we have already shown that it possibly derives its name, not from any "Egill" but from the Irish "ecclais" or the Welsh "eglws," meaning a church, and was called Church island by the Northmen because, when they first came into the islands, they saw a church standing on it; just as they called Stennis "Steinsnes" because of the large circle of stones which they beheld standing on that promontory between the two lakes on the Mainland. Here, at any rate, until the cathedral in Kirkwall was built, the bishops of Orkney seem to have had their residence. That old church was what may be called their peculiar as opposed to the earl's churches at Birsay and Orfir, and St. Olaf's church in Kirkwall, which was the church of the burghers. On various occasions in the Saga when bishop William was wanted, and especially twice at Christmans (Saga, p. 119, 137), when the proper place for a bishop would be at his own church, we find him at Egilsay. On the last of these occasions bishop John of Athole visited bishop William at Egilsay before his interview with earl Rögnvald as the bearer of Margaret's proposals as to the claim of her son Harold to half the Orkneys. This church, therefore, remained the bishop's church, though his cathedral was the Earl's church at Birsay, till the relics of St. Magnus were translated from that church, where he was first buried, to St. Olaf's church in Kirkwall, to be again translated to the stately minster which the piety of earl Rognvald-Kali reared in obedience to his vow to the honour of his holy kinsman. And there on the island which was called after it still stands the venerable church, a silent witness of so much that has happened in the isles besides the martyrdom of St. Magnus which threw over it an additional sanctity throughout Catholic times. At p. 78 foll. of the Saga will be found an account of the treacherous attack of earl Hacon Paul's son on his cousin Magnus, which ended in the death of the pious earl, who so soon afterwards was revered as the patron saint of the isles.
Next we come to Gairsay, the ancient Gareksey, famous in the Saga as the chief abode of the adventurous Sweyn Asleif's son, though he had other farms in Stronsay and Caithness, where on the Scotch mainland he held Duncansby, and the strong castle of Lambaborg close to Þrasvík, the modern Freswick. It was on gairsay that he built himself a house, the drinking hall of which was so long that it could contain eighty retainers. Here it was that, when he was at feud with earl Harold, when the earl had seized his house and wasted his corn and goods, Sweyn fell on him unawares, and sought to burn the house over his head, even though his own wife and children were in it, and it was fortunate for the earl that he was just then away hare hunting (Saga, p. 204). Here too, when the long feud between Harold and himself had burnt itself out and they were reconciled, Sweyn entertained the earl at a great banquet about the year 1171, when the earl advised him to leave off sea roving, and in the words of the proverb, "to drive home with a whole wain." The Saga tells, p. 222, how Sweyn neglected the earl's advice, said he would leave off after one more voyage, set off on a cruise to Dublin and there perished by treachery. After his death his sons parted their father's goods and his hall between them, and built up a wall which cuts the large room in two. (9) All certain traces of this large drinking hall, which surpassed in size all others in the Orkneys, have now perished, but the name lingers, perhaps, in the farm Langskeal on the south-west side of the island, which may be restored to Lángskáli, that is the Long Hall.
On Vígr, now Wyre or Weir, lived another great chief, Kolbeinn the Burly, a Norwegian, who, as the Saga tells us, p. 151, built a strong stone castle on it which was known as hard to take. As for Kolbeinn himself he seems to have been a prudent man and to have kept himself, as much as he could, out of strife. He was the friend of Sweyn Asleif's son, his neighbour in Gairsay, and fostered his son Olaf (Saga. p. 209). After Sweyn's death his son Andrew married Kolbein's daughter Frida. At the end of his life he sided with earl Harold Maddad's son, and together with his son Bjarni, called in the Saga both Bjarni Skáld and Bjarni Bishop, was a firm adherent of that earl. By their mother Herbjorg Kolbein's children were descended from earl Paul Thorfinn's son. Some remains of his castle are still to be seen on Weir, where they are pointed out as "Cobbe Row's castle," that is, Kolbein Hruga's Castle. In popular tradition he has become a giant, and his burliness is shown in throwing rocks at churches, after the fashion of the trolls in the popular tales of Norway.
West of Egilsay lies Rowsay, the ancient Hrólfsey, often confounded by careless
scribes in the MSS. of the Saga with Hrossey or the Mainland. After Hoy it is the hilliest
of all the islands, and its dark upland moors are seen over the green fields of Gairsay and
Weir, as the voyager enters Kirkwall Bay. Here at Westness, Vestnes, then, as now, the chief
house on the island, lived in the time described in the latter part of the Saga, Sigurd of
Westness, the husband of Ingibjörg the honourable, earl Paul's warmest adherent in his feud
with earl Rognvald. Here it was while that ill-fated earl was on a visit to his friend that
he was seized and carried off to perish miserably in Scotland by the daring Sweyn Asleif's
son; a feat which is described in the Saga, p. 131 foll., with a force and liveliness
nowhere surpassed in northern story. At Swendro near the "Urð," the "Ord" or heap of stones
where the earl was seized after a fierce struggle when out otter-hunting, remains have been
found in recent times which may well have been the bones of those nineteen men of the earl's
followers whom Sigurd knew when he went to look at the slain and those six "whom he did not
know" who had fallen on Sweyn's side (Saga, p. 133). Between Rowsay and the Mainland is Evie
Sound, the ancient Efjusund so called from efja, the backwater which is to be found at both
ebb and flow in sounds where the stream runs out and in so violently as it dæs in Evie
Sound. There may be seen and heard that terrific bore or wall of water caused by the waves
of the deep Atlantic when borne by the tide over shallower ground. It may, perhaps be seen
best in Yell Sound in Shetland; but it is seen more or less in all the Orkney and Shetland
firths and sounds, and certainly in a most remarkable degree in Evie Sound.
We now come to the Mainland called by the Northmen Hrossey (10) or the Horse Island.
What induced them to call it by this name is as doubtful as the occassion which gave rise to
the name Hjaltland for Shetland. Perhaps it was because they found ponies running wild
there; perhaps because they turned horses loose themselves as they did in Iceland.
"Mainland," the modern name of the central island, is the old Norse "Meginland" which they
gave in the case of both Orkney and Shetland to the largest island in each group.
For readers of the Saga, the most interesting fact connected with these Celtic monuments is the strange discovery when the "Maes Howe" was excavated, that the stones of its central sepulchral chamber were scored with runes which have been variously read. One fact, however, remains clear, that the Howe was broken open by the followers of earl Rognvald-Kali to the Holy Land. This appears plain from one of the very few readings on which the antiquaries seem all agreed. In inscription 20 occurs the line "Iorsalafarar bruto "Orkhaug,"
"The Jewryfarers broke into Orkhow;" but the wise men are wrong in seeking Orkhaug or "Orkhaugr" anywhere else than in the Maes Howe itself. (13) In spite of the opinions expressed by authorities on runic inscriptions who venture to ascribe various dates to the inscriptions in question, it is probable that they were all done at the same time, and before the expedition to the Holy Land started. That was part of the sport of that idle winter which earl Rognvald and his unruly Norwegian comrades spent in the Orkneys, when, as we are told, that bold band was full of outrage and frolic. There has always been a tendency to make more of runic inscriptions that they deserve. They were as often as not the production of whim or caprice, and no more meant to be serious than the scrawlings of modern tourists after their own names on national monuments. Thus when we read in one of these inscriptions "Ingigerð is the loveliest woman," this may mean earl Rognvald's only child Ingigerð; but then Ingigerd is not at all an uncommon name, and just as when we read "Mary is a pretty girl" on the Pyramids we do not think it means a Princess Mary, but some Mary whom the tourist knows, it is probable that this Ingigerd was another maiden than the earl's daughter.
So also when another of the inscriptions says, "This was cut with the axe which Gauk Trandil's son from the south country owned," that is an allusion indeed to a weapon owned by one of the chiefs named in the Njal's Saga as alive two hundred years before; but it was probably only scored as a joke or hoax on generations to come. It seems pretty plain that if, as these inscriptions expressly assert, the voyagers to the Holy Land broke into the Howe, that the inscriptions would be all after their time, the middle of the twelfth century. With regard to the Maes Howe itself, the evidence of the Saga, as well as of the inscriptions, seems to show that it was called "Orkahaugr" or Orkahow in the time of the Saga. At p. 190, it is mentioned that when earl Harold Maddad's son set off on one of his expeditions against earl Erlend who then lay at Damsay, two of his men went mad, and delayed them much, owing to the inclemency of the wintry weather while they were in "Orkahow," where they had taken shelter. This is the Howe now known as the Maes Howe, and it was open, because a year or two before at most it had been broken into by the followers of earl Rognvald. On the occasion in question as earl Harold was on an adventure the success of which depended on secrecy, nothing could be more appropriate than that he should use the deserted chamber of the Howe as a place of shelter after landing from his ship on the shore of the lake of Stennis on his straight road to Aurriðafirth or Wideford Bay, in which the isle of Damsay lies. On the other hand, had he been staying at a farm, his sick men would not have delayed him; he would have left them there, and passed on. The Howe was called Orkahaugr because it was the largest of the great barrows which surround the Stones of Stennis.
The south west point of the peninsula beyond Sandwick forms Stromness parish, a name no doubt derived from the stream or tide which rushes in between the isles of Hoy and Græmsay and the Mainland. In ancient times a farm called Kjarrekstaðir stood near the site of the modern Stromness, which has been identified with the modern Cairston or Carstone. (14)
The southern extremity of this part of the island forms the parish of Orphir or Orfir, the ancient Orfjara or Örfjara, the meaning of which is a flat or foreshore left bare at the ebb tide, a character which the coast still remains. Here it was that earl Paul Hacon's son kept his court, and here was a stately hall and a round church close by it, which also has been identified by the skill of Mr. George Petrie; for their position see the Saga p. 117, foll., where the earl's court and the events which led Sweyn Asleif's son to slay his namesake Sweyn Breastrope are graphically described. The hall lay near the modern Swanbister under what is now called the Ward Hill of Orfir, that is to say, the beacon hill of Orfir, and the highest in the island, which rises behind it to a height of 700 feet. But Munch has well pointed out that the Saga is wrong when it says that the Bay of Firth or Aurriðafjörðr, in which Damsay lies, can be seen from that hill, for the prospect in that direction is intercepted by the Keely Long Hills, the Norse Kilir, and Wideford Hill. At the extreme southern point of Orfir parish lies a little island, between which and the mainland is formed what is called in modern times Midland Harbour, in which we at once recognise the Meðallandshöfn of the Sagas. (15)
Munch thinks that the "væ" or "vágr" which runs up into the mainland protected by this island was called Hafnarvágr, that is the "væ of the harbour or haven" the modern Hamnavæ, and he quotes the Saga, p. 190, where it is said, that when earl Harold Maddad's son attempted to surprise earl Erlend, he sailed first to Græmsay, where he lay two nights. After that they landed at Hafnarvágr in Hrossey, and crossed to Firth, that is, Wideford Firth. Then it was that they were caught in that storm which drove them to take shelter in "Orkahaugi," which Munch calls a farm, and identifies as the modern "Orkhill," but we have already seen that the Orkahaugr here mentioned is probably no other than the How now called Maes Howe, and that it was within its sepulchral chambers, then recently broken into by earl Rognvald's companions, that the earl took refuge. He was on a secret expedition, bent on seizing his unwary enemy by a sudden dash, and the site of the modern Orkhill is too near Orfir to have rendered it a suitable stopping place. It is probable, therefore, that the site of Hafnarvágr is to be sought further up in the bight of the bay, where the stream from the Lake of Stennis meets the sea. There Harold Maddad's son landed, and thence he started to traverse the district between the Stones of Stennis and the bay of Firth. Overtaken by a storm, he sought shelter in Orkahow, and there it was that two of his men went mad.
East of Orfir parish lies that of St. Olaf, which comprises the waist of the Orkney Mainland, and in which lies Kirkwall, the heart of the islands, as fortunate in its position between two seas as the ancient Corinth. The parish was called after the royal Norwegian saint from the church which was erected to his honour on the shores of the "væ" which runs into the mainland on the north side of the isthmus. From the church the town which sprang up round it took its name Kirkjuvágr "the væ of the church," which modern pronunciation has turned into Kirkwall. From the "væ of the church" across the isthmus to the southern bay it is hardly so much as an English mile. That isthmus or "eið" is the Skálpeið so often mentioned in the Saga, and the bay itself is called Skálpaflói or "Skálpeiðsflói," which have both degenerated in modern speech into "Scapa," and "Scapa bay." On this isthmus, at or close to the town , but near enough to the bay to see ships sailing up, Things and gatherings of the freemen were frequently held. No doubt as Kirkwall rose into importance after the translation there of the relics of St. Magnus and the building of the cathedral, (16) the ancient place of assembly at the Stones of Stennis was deserted for the more frequented locality near the capital, and as Scapa Bay became the great landing place of travellers from the south to Kirkwall, the place of meeting was transferred to the spot where men most congregated. So it was that after earl Paul was spirited away in that mysterious manner by Sweyn Asleif's son we find earl Rognvald, p. 134, assembling a Thing to discuss matters near Kirkwall, where the text shows that the place of meeting was close enough to the shore to see and even to recognize travellers as they landed. Not far from the landing place on the western side of Scapa Bay lay the ancient "Knarrarstaðir," Knarstead, that is, the "stead of ships" and especially merchant ships, from the ancient "Knörr." This was a farm which belonged to the earls, or at least to earl Rognvald-Kali, p. 137, and where there was according to the Saga, p. 188, some sort of fortification or castle. The Saga, p. 198 foll., shows how narrowly the earls, on more than one occasion, escaped the attacks of their enemies at this very farm. On the east side of the bay, where the land is higher, lies the modern Gatnip, where the Saga, p. 134, tells us that Borgar, the son of earl Erlend's base-born daughter, Jadvör, lived. The ancient name was Geitaberg or "Goathill" or Jadvarastaðr, Jadvorstead, and from that elevation Borgar saw Sweyn Asleif's son as he sailed from Caithness through the South Isles on his adventurous voyage to seize earl Paul. The same sharp eyes saw the bold Viking return with his prey after he had accomplished his daring feat.
Now let us return to Kirkwall. The position of the town is peculiar. To the north
and west it is bounded by water. To the north by the open sea of the væ, and on the west by
a backwater called the "Oyce" or "Peerie Sea," that is, the Little Sea. This backwater is
cut off from the open sea by a bank of sand and shingle called the "air," derived from the
ancient Norse "eyrr," the old English form of which is "before" or "or." (17)
We now come to the cathedral, which is the glory of the Orkneys and indeed of all the north. It stands nobly on an open space to the east of the long straggling high street, pretty nearly at the end of the town, and south east of the king's castle or ancient earl's palace. The Saga relates how this splendid church arose in obedience to a vow suggested by the politic Kol, the father of earl Rognvald-Kali. It also tells us that Kol was the master mason, in which case he was as skilled in architecture as in policy, and how, when money fell short, the work was carried on by allowing the freemen to redeem their allodial holdings for a fixed sum (Saga, p. 137). But in spite of all efforts the work after the first start proceeded slowly, as was often the case with mediæval buildings; and there was a great gap in the west end of the church which was not filled up till the time of bishop Thomas Tulloch, about the year 1450. In it, till the Reformation, was that magnificent shrine of St. Magnus of which we read so much in the Saga. In that religious revolution it perished with all its treasures. The bones of the saint and his skull, bearing marks of the fracture made by Lifolf's axe (Saga, p. 81), were then immured in one of the massive pillars of the choir, whence they were broken out a few years ago by an English nobleman, and having been inspected, and as far as possible identified, they were returned to the resting place in which they had so long remained. In this respect the relics were more fortunate than those of any saint, either in North or South Britain, except perhaps those of Cuthbert at Durham, and of Edward the Confessor, which last are supposed still to rest at Westminster in the wooden shrine to which they were restored by Abbot Feckenham in the time of Queen Mary. For those of St. Cuthbert inquire of the Benedictines. In the cathedral too rested the bones of bishop William, whom the Saga calls the first bishop of the Orkneys. After having held the see for the long space of 60 years, he was buried there in the year 1168. In 1848, when the church was repaired, his bones were found enclosed in a stone cist along with a leaden plate, on which was inscribed "Hic requiescit Willielmus senex, felicis memoria, primus Episcopus." The bones and the cist were carted away as rubbish, but the plate and the bone head of the bishop's pastoral staff are preserved in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
On the south side of the cathedral and just opposite to it, nearer to the sea shore, stand the venerable remains of Saint Olaf's church and the cathedral, the oldest building in the town. For Norwegian history it has great interest, as being the abode and death place of king Hacon Hacon's son, in the year 1263. His remains found a resting place in St. Magnus Church till they were removed to Norway.
With regard to the earls and their residence in Kirkwall, it is probable that, in the times of which the Saga treats, they seldom took up their abode in the town. The earliest mention of Kirkwall in our Saga is at p. 53, where it is said that earl Rognvald established himself there, and how earl Thorfinn, after slaying earl Rognvald Brúsi's son and his followers on the Greater Papey, sailed for Kirkwall, where, by a stratagem, he induced the remaining adherents of his rival on land to meet him at the landing place unarmed, when he seized them and put them all to death but one. At the end of the Saga and especially in the quarrels between the earls Rognvald and Harold and Sweyn Asleif's son, we hear much of Kirkwall in connexion with the cathedral, which was used both as a sanctuary for fugitives and a storehouse for sails and the tackling of ships which the earls had seized.
Leaving Kirkwall and Thievisholm, which no doubt may be restored to Þíofahólmr from the thieves who met their deaths on the gallows there, but which is not mentioned in the Saga, we come to Quanterness on the west side of the væ, with its Picts' house, first described by Barry and since scientifically examined along with so many others in the Orkneys by the late lamented Mr. George Petrie. Looking west from Quanterness and Kirkwall the horizon is intercepted by Wideford Hill, in which "Wideford" is a corruption of "Aurriðafjörðr," that is Troutfirth, otherwise called simply Fjörðr or Firth in the Saga. From this hill, which almost rivals the Ward Hill of Orfir in height, an extended prospect is afforded over the whole archipelago and especially north and west towards Westray and Stronsay. Its sides are hollow with those weems and Picts' houses already described, which seem more common in this neighbourhood than anywhere else in the Orkneys. Close under the feet of the beholder as he stands on the top of Wideford Hill lies Aurriðafjörðr, the bay or firth already mentioned. It is often mentioned in the Saga and was the scene of the death of the ill fated earl Erlend, who lay in his ship off Damsay, the ancient Daminsey. Of the strong castle on that island a few remains are visible. On the north side of the Bay of Firth we return to Rendale parish, the ancient Rennadalr, from which we started, and we have now completed our perambulation of Hrossey or the Mainland west of the isthmus at Scapa Bay. The districts east of that isthmus remain to be described.
Off Inganess lies Shapinsay, which is not mentioned in the Saga, but which, as has been already said, may be with certainty restored to the ancient Hjálpandisey. On its southern side which protects the entrance to Kirkwall Harbour lies Ellwick, the ancient Elliðavík which is mentioned in Hacon Hacon's son's Saga.
Returning to the Mainland east of Scapa Bay we come after Inganess Bay to
Tankarness, a peninsula which juts out into the sea, the north point of which was called
Tannskaranes, off which earl Paul Hacon's son (Saga, p. 112 foll.), met the ships of Oliver
the Unruly and Frakok and signally defeated them, having first descried them rounding the
Mull Head off Deerness on their way to join his rival earl Rognvald. Here, on a farm of the
same name, lived a freeman named Erling, who, with his stalwart sons, helped the earl by
bringing stones, the rude artillery of those times, to hurl at his fæs, down to his ship.
Passing on from Tankarness we come to the easternmost peninsula of the Mainland, Deerness,
the ancient Dýrnes, which is almost an island, being only joined to the Mainland by a narrow
neck, probably called in ancient times Sandeið from the nature of the soil, and now called
"Sandaysand." Off the Mull Head (Múli) of Deerness, the bloody sea fight took place between
earl Thorfinn and the Scot-king, Karl Hound's son, and in the verses of Arnor Earlskald, the
name of the promontory is given (Saga, p. 33). This Dýrnes is not to be mistaken for another
Dýrnes or Djurnes near Cape Wrath, which is also mentioned in the Sagas.
Off Deerness lies Copinsay, the first islet which the traveller passes when steering for Kirkwall. It is not mentioned in the Saga, but there is no doubt that its ancient name was Kolbeinsey, as Munch has restored it, and not "Kaupmannaey island" or "Merchant's island" as some have supposed.
Last of all we come to the south easternmost part of Mainland, the parish of Holm or Paplay. Munch supposes that Holm is a mispronunciation of "Heimr," but it might have arisen from the Holms which lie off the coast. The "Papýli" or "Papuli" mentioned in our Saga was probably this Paplay in Hrossey, and not another farm of the same name in the neighbouring island of South Ronaldsay. See Saga, page 198. Whichever it was, it was part of the landed property which belonged to the family of earl Erlend, the father of Saint Magnus, for Paplay is mentioned by the Saga, p. 74, as part of the dower which Gunhilda, the sister of the saint, brought to her husband Kol, the son of Kali; and here, too lived the saint's mother, and after her her son Hacon churl.
We now leave the Mainland, and passing rapidly over Lambholm, Glimsholm, and Burray,
on the last of which there are the remains of a fine burgh, like that at Moussa, from which
no doubt the island took its ancient name of Borgarey, "the island of the burgh or castle,"
we come to South Ronaldsay, which is often mentioned in the Saga. We have already seen that,
in modern times, South Ronaldsay took its prefix "South" to distinguish it from North
Ronaldsay; but in ancient times there was no such ambiguity. The northern island was called
Rínansey and the southern Rögnvaldsey, though, as the MSS. sometimes write both names R-ey,
some confusion has arisen from the carelessness of transcribers, both ancient and modern.
After Hrossey no island is named so often in our Saga as South Ronaldsay, a fact easily
accounted for by its nearness to the Scottish main, whence so many expeditions against the
Isles were planned and executed. On this island was Barðsvik, now Barswick, where Sweyn
Asleif's son (p. 207) saw a ship of war sailing from Hrossey to South Ronaldsay, and from
the same place, (p. 208) earl Rognvald and Sweyn saw earl Harold Maddad's son sailing over
from Caithness to Vágaland, or Walls or Waas, that is to the low lying portion of Hoy. On
the northwest side of the island lies Ronaldsvæ, the ancient Rognvaldsvágr, which,
according to Munch, is the inner bight of the great bay now called "Widewall Bay," and in
ancient times Víðivágr. Ronaldsvæ is interesting as being the harbour in which king Hacon
Hacon's son lay from the 1st to the 10th of August in 1263, when he witnessed the annular
eclipse of the sun which happened on the 5th of August in that year. (18)
Here, too, on the east side of the island, is another Papýli or Paplay, which, with the other Paplay already mentioned in Hrossey, claims to be the farm described in the Saga, p. 74, as part of the possessions of the descendents of earl Magnus the Saint. In any case the name is another proof of the abode of Irish anchorites in the Orkneys. Off South Ronaldsay lies Swanay, the ancient Swíney, mentioned in the Saga, p. 89, as the abode of Grim, a man of small means, whose sturdy sons Asbjorn and Margad were the constant followers of Sweyn Asleif's son.
After South Ronaldsay we have only one considerable island of the group left to
describe. This is Hoy, the ancient Háey, or "high island," which answers to its name as
being, in part at least, the only really mountainous island of the group. The southeastern
extremity of the island is, however, flat; cut off from the hilly part by a narrow neck of
land, just where the "væ," which forms part of the splendid harbour of Longhope, indents
the shore, it is almost considered a distinct island, and is called "Walls," from the
ancient vágar, from vágr, a "væ." In the Saga it is called repeatedly Vágaland. Here is the
væ or haven called Osmondswall in modern and Ásmundarvágr in ancient times; where the Saga
tells us that earl Sigurd was caught weatherbound by king Olaf Tryggvi's son, in the year
995, and forced to become an unwilling convert to Christianity (Saga, p. 15). here too earl
Einar Wrymouth caught and slew Eyvind Urarhorn, king Olaf's dear friend (Saga, p. 20). By
some it has been supposed that Osmondswall is to be sought on South Ronaldsay opposite, but
Munch has shown that it is more properly placed on Walls. The remainder of Hoy is so hilly
as to be scarcely habitable, though there on the "Upland," no doubt a hill farm, lived John
WIng, the friend and kinsman of Sweyn Asleif's son (Saga, p. 89). His brother was Richard of
the Brink on Stronsay, and the Saga tells us (p. 130) how the two fell on Thorkel the
flayer, and burnt him and nine men in the house which their kinsman Waltheof had owned. At
Rackwick, the ancient Rekavík, on the northwest side lived Thorljót, the father of Oliver
the Unruly, and the son in law of Frakok, whose fate is described, Saga, p. 140. In a valley
on the side of the highest hill on Hoy is the famous Dwarfie Stone which contains three
chambers hewn by human hands, and in which we, no doubt, see one of those cells to which the
Papæ or anchorites retired to spend their ascetic lives. Here in Hoy the legends of the
North laid the scene of that endless mythical combat mentioned in the Skálda as
Hjaðnínga-víg, where day by day the followers of Högni and Heðinn fought and fell, only to
rise up at dawn next day to renew the struggle, which was to last till the day of doom. This
is not the only tale which shows that to the Northmen those islands of the West were holy
ground, but it is remarkable that the last remains of Norse pætry in these islands, rescued
by Low in 1774, should have turned on one of the episodes in this Hjaðnínga-víg.
Finally, before we land on Caithness, we must mention "Svelgr" a dangerous whirlpool or "maelstrom," which may, perhaps, be identified with the eddy off Swelchie or Swilchie Point in the island of Stroma. It was in this famous whirlpool that Grotti the mill of the mythic king Fróði, which could grind all things, was sunk by the sea rover who carried it off; a story which still lingers in the Norse popular tale, "Why the Sea is Salt," and there at the bottom of the "Swelchie," Fróði's mill is supposed still to lie and to grind all the salt in the sea.
Landing in Caithness we shall not be suprised to find the Northmen simultaneously with their colonization of the Orkneys established on various parts of the north of Scotland. On jutting headlands and in deep bays and along the winding dales and straths of the rivers, Northern names still linger to witness their ancient occupation by this stirring race. Of Caithness, the ancient Katanes or more shortly Nes, the Naze or promontory par excellence, it may be said that it was in those times purely Norse. It seems always to have been held by the Orkney earls, and notably by earl Harold Maddad's son, as a fief from the Scottish king, who, even when most exasperated against his vassal, gave vent to his wrath rather on the population and freemen than on the earl (Saga, p. 230). When there were joint earls in the Orkneys and they were good friends, they went annually over to Caithness to hunt deer, as when earls Rognvald and Harold set out on that hunting party which ended in Rognvald's death (Saga p. 214-5). Sutherland, too, the ancient Suðrlönd took its name from the Northmen. It was south to them though north to almost all the rest of Scotland. Over both these counties, which, by the conformation of the coasts east and west, form as it were a promontory by themselves, for a long period the Northmen held more sway than any other rulers in Scotland. In the time of the earls their power naturally varied on the Mainland as they were strong and aggressive, or weak and peaceful at home. The power wielded by a Sigurd or a Thorfinn differed much from that claimed by a Brúsi or a Paul. Speaking generally, we may say that the rule of the Northmen in early times extended as far as the Dornoch Firth and the Oikel; and on the banks of the latter river it is expressly said of Sigurd, one of the earliest earls, that he was buried under a "howe" (19) there (Saga, p. 6). The Torfnes, where earl Einar first cut turf as we are told, and whence he took his nickname, is supposed to be the same as Tarbetness which divides the Dornoch from the Moray Firth. Arnor Earlskald sings of it as south of Oikel, p. 35. That this influence of the Northmen existed in later times, is shown by the account of the route pursued by Sweyn Asleif's son when he went out to take vengeance on the carline Frakok. He sailed from the Orkneys east of the Swelchie in the Pentland Firth to the Moray Firth, the ancient Breiðafjörðr, and on to Elgin and the valley of the Oikel, (20) and so up the country to Athole, where he got guides, and then fell on his enemy by a back blow in Sutherland, where he wreaked his vengeance to the full.
In both Caithness and Sutherland a glance at the map will show from the names the prevalence of Northern settlers in the country. Along the coast, Cape Wrath is a distortion of cape Hvarf, that is Turnagain Point, because after it the coast trends away south. Close to it was a Djurnes or Dýrnes, not to be confounded with the headland of the same name in Hrossey. Then there is Force or Fors, the "waterfall" at the mouth of the river which runs down from Loch Caldell, the ancient Kalfadals-vatn, through the side dale of the same name, in which Earl Rognvald-Kali met his death by the hands of the unruly Thorbjorn Clerk (Saga, p. 215). Next comes Thurso, the ancient Þórsá, mentioned in the Saga, p. 130, as the abode of earl Ottar Frakok's brother and afterwards of his kinsman, earl Harold Maddad's son. Not far off is Staur, supposed to be Broom Ness. At Scrabster, Skarabólstaðr, they had a castle. Not far from Scrabster lies Murkle, the ancient Myrkholl, where Ragnhilda, Eric Bloodaxe's bloodthirsty daughter, caused her husband earl Arnfinn to be murdered (Saga, p. 11). Dunnet Head is probably the Rauðabjörg or Red Head of the Sagas. Between it and Duncansby Head is the Dungalsbær of the Saga, in which it is mentioned often as one of the possessions of Sweyn Asleif's son, and on the east coast was Lambaborg, Lamburg, the strong castle whence he and Margad escaped when besieged by earl Rognvald. It is clear from the Saga, pp. 186, 191, that this castle was close to Freswick, the ancient Þrasvík. Further down the coast is Víkr the modern Wick. It is uncertain where Skidmire, the ancient Skiðamýri, lay, where the rival earls of Northern and Scottish or Pictish race met to settle their quarrels in staked lists. It was probably in the interior of Caithness, in the district called the Dales. (21) There in the Dales at one time dwelt the treacherous and intriguing Frakok till her designs against earl Paul made both Caithness and Sutherland too hot to hold her, and she retired to Athole, where her niece Margaret had married earl Maddad. Afterwards she returned to Helmsdale, Hjalmundalr, in Sutherland, and there it was that her implacable fæ, Sweyn Asleif's son, fell on her after a circuitous expedition, and burnt her and all who were in the house (Saga, p. 139, 140). Besides these and many others in Caithness and Sutherland, which last was the border country between the Northmen and the Scottish races, numberless names of places along the coasts east and west attest the extent to which their expeditions reached when they were bent on conquest or sea roving. Not to speak of the invasions both of Scotland, England, and Ireland by earl Thorfinn, the life of Sweyn Asleif's son, so graphically told in the Saga, proves how wide a flight the old Viking took in his private wars. Sometimes he is harrying and burning either alone or in partnership, in the Southern Isles and Scotland's Firths, that is the Firths on the west coast, where dwelt the great race of which Somerled was the chief, whom Sweyn was said to have slain. Sometimes he is on an expedition into the heart of Scotland as far as Athole, bent on vengeance in a blood feud. Now he is plundering monks or merchants in the Firth or Forth, and seizing, in company with Anakol, on the goods of Canute, a merchant of North Berwick; for it is plain from the context that it is North Berwick, and not Berwick-on-Tweed, which is meant when the Saga in several places talk of Beruvík. At another time he is in the Scilly Isles at Port St. Mary's, or off Ireland robbing English traders of their broadcloth. Going regularly out to rob and plunder twice in each year, in spring after he had sown his crops, and in autumn after he had reaped them, he dies at last in Dublin, the victim of treachery; and so ended the career of one who may be called the last of the Vikings. Wherever the Northman went he left his mark, and one of his marks was giving names to places which to his day all over Scotland and the West bear witness to his enterprize and power.
But this geographical account would be incomplete were we to pass over in silence those expeditions by the Northmen which went beyond the Narrow Seas away from Norway and the islands of the West, and entered what to them was the ocean of the Mediterranean. Such were the fleets fitted out by king Sigurd for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, whence he got his nickname "Jewryfarer," and by earl Rognvald-Kali expressly in imitation of that monarch. Those pilgrimages followed the Crusades and the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, and as in the days of the earlier earls, such as Thorfinn and Hacon, a pilgrimage to Rome followed by absolution from the Holy Father for direful sins was looked on as the fitting end of an earthly career too often debased by ambition; so in the days of their successors it was thought that to visit Jerusalem and to see the Holy Places in that city and in Palestine was a voyage which might atone for many crimes. In those days the northern pilgrims, like the modern Syrians and Copts, swam across the muddy Jordan in token that their sins were washed out by the waves of that holy stream, and not one of the least curious facts recorded in the pilgrimage of earl Rognvald is his swimming across that river with Sweyn Asleif's son's stepson, the dashing Sigmund angle, and twisting the knot of shame in the hoary willows on the opposite bank as a brand of disgrace for the false Eindrid who had deserted them on the way. These expeditions in another way were connected with the Crusades. As the Crusaders had often lingered at Constantinople sometimes aiding, sometimes expelling, the emperors of the East, so king Sigurd and earl Rognvald after him thought it right to show themselves and their trim ships and bold crews at the Byzantine court, and as they neared the imperial city, which to their eyes was greater and richer far than any capital in the world, they strained every nerve and put on all their bravery of apparel to present themselves as great kings and mighty earls before the eyes of the Greeks and their master. Nor, assuredly, was it without a flush of pride as they sailed through the Dardanelles and across the sea of Marmora that those hardy children of the North remembered that the mainstay of all the pomp and pride of the empire of the East was that chosen band of Varangians, on whom, of all their legions, the emperors most relied, and to whom the most exclusive rights and the most sweeping privileges were granted as the reward of their unflinching allegiance. With regard to these expeditions the Orkneyingers' Saga affords the most curious information. In it we can follow such a design through every stage from its very conception to its perfect accomplishment. Here we see how Eindrid the young, who had served long among the Varangians, first incited earl Rognvald to gain glory by deeds in the East; then how earl Rognvald's friends and relations rallied round him as soon as he had made up his mind to make the pilgrimage; next how the ships were built and how long they took to build, how jealously earl Rognvald's rights as leader of the expedition were guarded in the stipulation that no one but he was to have a gaily painted and decorated ship, no one but he one of more than sixty oars; (22) both of which conditions were broken by the ambition of Eindrid, whose ship alone of all the squadron rivalled in burden and beauty the longship of the earl.
At last after the ships had been built and his plans matured, earl Rognvald started, late in the summer of 1151—for they had to wait for the traitor Eindrid's new ship— for his voyage to the east. Besides bishop William, who, as a clerk of Paris, was supposed to know all things, and whom they took with them as an interpreter, the earl was followed by his Orkney chiefs and his Norse kinsmen and friends. In all they had a fleet of fifteen ships, as well built and fitted out as ships in that age could be. Our purpose here is only with the geography of their voyage,—the places they passed rather than the feats they performed are what we wish to describe. As they passed the Vesla-sands off the Northumbrian coast, that is, the northeast coast of England, as far as the Humber, one of the skalds who accompanied the earl burst out into song, the words of his verse fix the spot as off Humber-mouth, and perhaps one of the many shoals which fringe the mouth of that estuary and the Wash may be the sand meant. (23) After this we hear of them sailing south along the coast of England till they come to Valland, that is, France, or some country peopled by a Romance race; and next we find them at Nerbon, according to all the best MSS. That this Nerbon is the same as Narbonne in the Gulf of Lyons, in the south of France, seems impossible, for that city is just the last spot on the shores of the Mediterranean in which we should expect to find these adventurers, as it lay entirely out of their course. That, however, it was some place in the wine-growing country is clear from the fact that Ermingard pours out wine to the earl and his captains rather than mead or ale; and, on the whole, it seems not unlikely that "Nerbon" is the river Nerbion or Nervion, and that the sea burg is the modern Bilbao in the north of Spain; but wherever it was, that lovely lady received the Northmen most hospitably, and whatever might be the case with her, it is plain from earl Rognvald's verses, long after their parting and when much of that salt water which proverbially washes out love was between them, that she made a great impression on him. But their aim was the Holy Land, not to make love in Nerbon, and so earl Rognvald tore himself away and we next hear of him as sailing west off Thrasness, which may mean Capes La Hogue, Ortegal, or Finisterre in Spain, according to the position of the doubtful "Nerbon" on the map of Europe. Next they came, still sailing west, to Galicia in Spain, and there they wintered, spending part of it, till the weather allowed them to sail in the spring of 1152, in ridding the inhabitants of the district of a tyrant named Godfrey who oppressed them terribly. Having taken his castle, they sailed thence west along the shore of heathen Spain, that is, along the districts possessed by the Moors, landing and harrying the country, and encountering a violent storm before they could beat through the Gut at Gibraltar. As soon as they had passed it the treacherous nature of Eindrid was revealed. He sailed away with six ships for Marseilles, while earl Rognvald and the rest lay to in the Straits. After that the earl sailed along the Barbary coast till he came off the island of Sardinia, where he fell in with a huge Dromond, or ship of burden, which had been driven to sea from Tripoli, Tunis, or Algiers, having on board of her a Moorish chief and untold wealth in wares and gold and silver. The Northmen took her after a sharp struggle, and then, after a custom not uncommon in those times, put into a port in Barbary to dispose of the prisoners they had spared, and some of the goods which they had taken out of their prize. Thence they sailed south to Crete, again encountering heavy weather, and there they lay under the lee of the island till they got a fair wind for Acre in Palestine, where they arrived early on a Friday morning. (24)
There they landed after their long voyage, but sickness as was not unlikely, broke out among them, and many died. From Acre earl Rognvald and his men visited all the "halidoms" or holy places in Jewry, and as we have already seen bathed in Jordan, and swam across it, as it seems on St. Laurence's Day, August 10th, 1152. Soon after that they left the Holy Land and completed their adventures by a visit to the city of cities, Constantinople. On their way there they came in the autumn to a place which is in its way as puzzling as Nerbon. This was "Imbolum," which some have thought to be the island of Imbros, while the late Gudbrand Vigfusson thought it to be only a distortion of "ej tan polin." In the account of their stay at this place, another puzzling word occurs in "miðhæfi," which the inhabitants called out to one another when they met in a narrow place. This, too, Mr. Vigfusson explains in the Icelandic Dictionary by the Greek metabhqi, "get down," or "get out of the way," and whatever it was, ignorance of it caused Erling, the second in command of the expedition, a fall and roll in the mud. A more tragical event happened there in the murder of John Peter's son, the earl's brother in law, who seems to have been slain by some of the inhabitants after he had missed his way when drunk at night.
Leaving "Imbolum" they passed "Engilsness," or Cape St. Angelo, though another reading is Ægisness, said to be the point at the end of the Thracian Chersonese, at the mouth of the Dardanelles, where they lay some nights waiting for a fair south wind to carry them across the sea of Marmora to the great city. As soon as it came, they sailed up with great pomp, just after the pattern of king Sigurd, and when they came to Constantinople they were made much of by the emperor Manuel and the Varangians, though the traitor Eindrid, whom they found there in great favour, did everything in his power to set men against them. About winter the earl began his voyage home, sailing first to Bulgaria and Durazzo, and thence across the Adriatic to Apulia. There he left his ships, and with the noblest of his company ended his journey home by land, clearly leaving the rest of his force to bring the ships home by sea. From Apulia he took horse and rode to Rome, where, though it is not mentioned, he no doubt got absolution for his sins. From Rome he went "Rome way," that is, by the usual route of pilgrims to that city, and so passing through Germany he came to Denmark and to Norway. No wonder after such a voyage and such exploits men were glad to see them safe back, and thought that their voyage had been most glorious, and they were much greater men then than they had been before. This must have been early in 1153. Many things kept earl Rognvald most of that year in Norway. When the winter was far spent he reached his realm in a merchant ship with a great train. Ships of war were being built for him in Norway, and his old ships seem never to have returned from the Mediterranean; at least they are never heard of. During his absence there had been many changes in the Orkneys, and he found a new pretender to the earldom in Erlend, the son of earl Harold smooth-tongue. Whatever they might have thought of him in Norway, earl Rognvald must have felt that to come home in a merchant ship, after having sailed from the Isles with such a goodly fleet, and to return to find strife where he had left peace, was a downfall in his position and power which it would require all his skill and tact to retrieve. How he did this and kept his predominance in the Orkneys till his death will be seen in that Story of Earl Rognvald which forms the third portion of the Orkney Sagas.
The late Mr. Vigfusson having elaborately described in the preface to the Norse text, of which the translation is contained in this volume, the process whereby he was enabled to build up from various sources the structure of the Orkneyingers' Saga, and having also most carefully examined and estimated the value which, in point of historical credibility, attaches to each fragment, it is unnecessary for the translator to add anything to the information which has already been laid before the student of this period of English History. It may, however, be pointed out that this volume and the translation of the Hacon Saga and its Appendices should, with the Norse text and Mr. Vigfusson's laborious introductions, be treated as a whole, as between them they contain nearly all that is known from northern sources as to the dominion claimed and exercised by the Northmen over portions of Great Britain from the reign of Harold Fairhair, in the latter half of the ninth century, until the collapse of King Hacon's great expedition to Scotland in 1263.
1. It is described in Hibbert's book on Shetland, p. 544, as built of stones, without cement. In the walls, which are thirteen feet thick, are eleven small round rooms, each five feet in diameter, with a separate entrance from the inner court, which is 31 feet in diameter. This "burgh" seems to have differed from that at Moussa in having single, and not double walls.
2. The lines in Juvenal, II. 159-161—"Arma quidem ultra...... Littora Juvernæ promovimus, et modo captas Orcadas, ac minimâ contentos nocte Britannos." were written after A.D. 84, when Agricola sailed round Britain and discovered the Orkneys. They are also important as marking the quantity Orcades with a short pen- ultimate like Strophades, Pleiades, and Symplegandes.
3. The meaning of this word is a portage, or place where boats and ships are dragged across a narrow isthmus from sea to sea. Any one acquainted with Scotland, will recall several Tarbats, or Tarbets, as for instance, that across the neck of the Mull of Cantire, that at the head of Loch Lomond, where a narrow neck of land separates it from Loch Long, and another on the east coast in the Dornoch Firth.
4. See Munch's essay in the Annals: and Introduction to Burnt Njal, Edinburgh, 1861.
5. Great confusion has arisen between these two islands from the custom in MSS. of
using the abreviation R-ey for both of them. This abreviation when expanded under the pen of
a careless scribe often turned Rinansey into Rögnvaldsey, and vice versa.
8. The text of the Saga, p. 111, says that Thorstein Havard's son Gunnis son was to have charge of the beacon on Rínansey, but this probably arises out of a confusion between the two Thorstein's, for at p. 121 it is said that Thorstein Ragna's son fired the beacon on Rínansey.
9. This seems to be the meaning of the words (p. 221), "Þeir (his sons Olaf and Andres) gjörðu hit næsta sumar eptir er Sveinn var látinn gaflhlöd í drikkjuskála þann hinn mikla er hann hafði áttan i Gareksey." Munch says that the meaning of the words is that Andrew and Olaf built an upper story to the house when their father died, but the sense of the context plainly is that the hall which Sweyn built was too long for them, they therefore cut it in half and divided it between them.
10. Munch has shown that the strange name, Pomona, identical with that of the Roman goddess of Fruit and Plenty, which Buchanan gave to the mainland of Orkney when he says, "Orcadum maxima multis veterum Pomona vocatur," arose out of a mistake in some MS. of Solinus, who, in speaking of the Orcades and Thyle, says, "Secundum a continenti stationem Orcades præbent .... vacant homine, non habent silvas, tantum junceis herbis inhorrescunt. Cætera eorum nudæ arenæ. Ab Orcadibus Thylen usque 5 dierum ac noctium navigatio est; sed Thyle larga et diutinâ copiosa est." In this passage both diutina and pomona have been taken as local names at various times, as when Torfæus tells us that Hrossey or the Mainland was called Diutina by Solinus, and when the MS. which Fordun and Buchanan preferred read Pomona. In the one case, the passage in Solinus would have run, "Sed Thyle larga, et Diutina pomonâ copiosa est," and in the other "Sed Thyle larga et diutina Pomona copiosa est." Solinus was as Munch well says, a geographical oracle all through the middle ages, but it is clear that in the passage in question he says nothing whatever about the Orkneys, but only that "Thyle, which was distant from that group by a voyage of five days and nights, was fruitful and abundant in the lasting yield of its crops." It follows, therefore, that "Pomona," of which Barry says "This appellation has been traced, ridiculously enough to a word in the Roman (i.e., Latin) language, that implies the core or heart of an apple, an allusion to the situation of this with regard to the rest of the islands," should be banished from the geography of the Orkneys, as well as the Celtic derivation from "po," little, and "mon," country. It is remarkable that Solinus describes the Orkneys as uninhabited in his day, but when he flourished is very doubtful; about the middle of the third century of the Christian era seems the most probable date.
11. In this parish the old Norse dialect seems to have maintained itself a long time. John Ben, as quoted by Munch and Anderson, found it in full force there in 1529. "Utuntur idiomate proprio," he says, "veluti quum dicimus 'guid 'day, guidman," illi dicunt 'goand da, boundæ.'" That is, "godan dag, bóndi."
12. The name of this parish is probably derived from the word herad, which forms the last part of the compound Birgis-herad, now Birsay. In old times both the parishes of Harray and Birsay were united in the district called Birgis-herad. Munch thinks that Birsay dæs not come from Birgis-ey, the isle or brock of Birsay, but Birgis-á, the stream which falls into the sea at that spot.
13. See Farrer's beautiful book, Maes Howe, 1862. Compare also this translation of the Saga, p. 190.
14. The conjecture of Munch is no doubt right that for "Kjarrekstöðum," p. 185 of the text of the Saga, we should read "Hnarrarstum" Knarstead. Arni could never have run so far with his shield on his back without being aware of it.
15. Hacon Hacon's son's Saga, p. 352, new ed.
16. The Saga, p. 92, expressly says of Kirkwall, before the translation of the
relics of St. Magnus, from Christ Church in Birsay, that it "had few houses."
18. Hacon Hacon's son's Saga, p. 333-4, 352, new ed.
19. Mr. Anderson in Hjaltalins translation of the Saga, p. 107,has identified Sigurd's Howe through Siward hoch, and Siddera with the modern Cyder hall "near the ferry on the north bank of the Dornoch Firth into which the Oykel runs." Mr. Skene, however, dæs not agree with this view.
20. This route by the Oikel is a stumbling block to Mr. Anderson, who proposes to read "Atjöklabakki" for Ekkjals-bakki; but there seems no good reason for the alteration.
21. Mr. Anderson places it at Skitten.
22. The longships, that is, the warships of the Northmen, were vessels with one mast and one sail of a lug shape; they must also have carred a jib or foresail. Aft there seems to have been a half deck, on which was a poop, lypting, where the cabin of the captain was. In the waist, they were undecked, and here on benches, sessur, sat the rowers two on a bench. Hence, when a ship is said to be a twitugsessa, or twenty benches, that means she had forty oars, halfþritugt, like earl Rognvald's ship fifty oars, and so on, some ships being said to have had 100 oars on each side, though that, no doubt, is a fabulous number. The way in which the rowers sat is not clear, though it is not quite such a puzzle as the position of the oarsmen in the ancient trireme. It is not improbable, if the oars were long and the longship high out of the water, that the rower who pulled the oar on the starboard side sat over to larboard and his mate on the bench who pulled on the larboard in his turn over to starboard, so that each might have more purchase and control over his oar. Across the undecked part of the ships were thwarts or planks, þoptur; whether these were the benches on which the rowers sat is uncertain. Passing on to the forepart of the ship, that, too, was decked, and under the deck, in what would now be called the forecastle, some of the crew were lodged at night. The rest found shelter under the awnings, tjöld, with which the ships of the Northmen seem always to have been covered at night when strife was not looked for. See Saga, p. 192, and Sweyn Asleif's son's advice to his companions. The word "forecastle" exactly implied what the bow or forepart of the Northmen's ships were. It was raised like the poop, and on it stood in action the picked men of the crew who were called stafnbúar that is, stem-men or bowmen. On either side of the prow or true bow, where the bowsprit projected, were two cat heads, brandar, which were often, together with the figure-head of the ship, much carved and decorated, and hence often taken as trophies and erected at the doors of the conquerors' houses as signs of victory; just as was the case with the prows of galleys in ancient times, and even among the Anglo-Saxons, as when earl Harold Godwin's son sent similar trophies to Edward the Confessor after he had slain Griffith and taken his ship. As the waists of the ships were low compared with the stem and stern means were taken to raise the sides before action by temporary bulwarks, this "clearing the decks for action" was called víggyrðla skipit. At other times this waist of the ship was decorated with the shields of the crew which were hung along them on a rail which is even found in trading ships or býrðinger, see the account in the Saga, page 54, of the surprise of earl Rognvald's men in Kirkwall by earl Thorfinn. In shape and look these longships or warships were long and narrow, and so less seaworthy than the byrðings, in which the ordinary traffic of the time was carried on. It is also a question whether the true byrðingr or trading ship, also called Knörr, was ever rowed unless in very exceptional cases. Sometimes a warship was called Snekkja, a snake, or Dreki, a drake or dragon; a ship of this name probably differed in nothing from the mould of other warships, except that it had, as in Eindrid's ship, which is expressly called a Drake, a figurehead carved like a dragon, and that at the taffrail at the sterm, it was carved into coils resembling the folds and tail of a serpent. Besides the thirty, forty, fifty, or more rowers that each longship carried, her crew consisted of a greater number, some to fight while the oarsmen rowed the ship into action, some to relieve the rowers when they had rowed a certain time, Thus, to take one instance out of many, earl Harold's ship, mentioned in the Saga, page 184, was one of forty oars, and yet her crew was made up of eighty men; and again, page 48, seventy dead are mentioned as having been taken out of earl Thorfinn's ship, though it had been said before that his ships were not large. One hundred and twenty men was no unusual number for a longship to carry. It seems to have been an invariable practice when Northmen fought against Northmen that the attacking side rowed up to their adversaries, who awaited them, having first lashed their ships together in line. As soon as the attacking ships came close enough to begin the action, they too were lashed together, and after a struggle which lasted some time with missiles, in which stones were largely and constantly employed, the two lines closed together by the action of wind or tide, and then when the decks of either side had been sufficiently cleared to allow them to board, those who had the best of it boarded, gengu upp, much in our old English way, and then cleared the enemy's deck by a struggle hand to hand. All round the ship on both sides a gangway seems to have run, and when these and the poop and forecastle were cleared the ship was said to be "hroðit," and the conquerors passed on from her to the next ship in the enemy's line to which she was as has been said, lashed. In this way action went on, till one side had so much the best of it and had cleared or captured so many of the enemy that the day was won. The sign of this stage was the contest was the signal given on the beaten side to cut away the lashings, höggva tengslin, and to fly. Then as the line was broken every ship of the worsted party rowed or sailed off and shifted for itself. This was followed by a similar sundering of the lashings in the conqueror's line, which then ship by ship chased the flying fæ. Very graphic accounts of such actions will be found in the Saga, page 33, fol., where the sea fight near Dyrness between earl Thorfinn and king Karl of Scotland is described, and also at page 47, fol., where the action between earls Thorfinn and Rognvald off Dunnet Head in the Pentland Firth is minutely detailed. Compare also the account of the battle at Hjoring væ, in the Iomsvíkinga Saga. These were the fights of Northmen against Northmen, but an action very nearly resembling a boarding expedition in large boats against a galleon of great size will be found at page 173, fol., where earl Rognvald with his seven ships attacked the Moorish Dromond, which was so huge that she loomed through the fog like an island, while her sides were so tall and round that they could not board her when they closed with her broadside to broadside, and at last had to hew their way into her through her ironbound sides. This combat with the Dromond reminds one much of Drake or Hawkins or Cavendish capturing the huge galleons or carracks of the Spaniards off the Spanish Main.
23. The Flatey Book reads for Humrumynni Hverumynni, that is, "Wearmouth." If so, the sand in question must be sought for off the mouth of the Wear in Durham; and as even the Flatey Book may have sometimes a good reading, this may be one of the exceptional merits of that text.
24. The text says only Föstumorgin snemma, "Friday morning early," but it was probably Good Friday morning, as that was the day by which all pilgrims desired to be in the Holy Land.
1. There was a king named Fornjot, he ruled over those lands which are called Finland and Kvenland; that is to the east of that bight of the sea which gæs northward to meet Gandvik; that we call the Helsingbight. Fornjot had three sons; one was named Hler, whom we call Ægir, the second Logi, the third Kari; he was the father of Frost, the father of Snow the old, his son's name was Thorri; he (Thorri) had two sons, one was named Norr and the other Gorr; his daughter's name was Goi. Thorri was a great sacrificer, he had a sacrifice every year at midwinter; that they called Thorri's sacrifice; from that the month took its name. One winter there were these tidings at Thorri's sacrifice, that Goi was lost and gone, and they set out to search for her, but she was not found. And when that month passed away Thorri made them take to sacrifice, and sacrifice for this, that they might know surely where Goi was hidden away. That they called Goi's sacrifice, but for all that they could hear nothing of her. Four winters after those brothers vowed a vow that they would search for her; and so share the search between them, that Norr should search on land, but Gorr should search the outscars and islands, and he went on board ship. Each of those brothers had many men with him. Gorr held on with his ships out along the sea-bight, and so into Alland's (1) sea; after that he views the Swedish scars far and wide, and all the isles that lie in the East salt sea; after that to the Gothland scars, and thence to Denmark, and views there all the isles; he found there his kinsmen, they who were come from Hler the old out of Hler's isle, (2) and he held on then still with his voyage and hears nothing of his sister. But Norr his brother bided till snow lay on the heaths, and it was good going on snow-shoon. After that he fared forth from Kvenland and inside the sea-bight, and they came there where those men were who are called Lapps, that is at the back of Finmark. But the Lapps wished to forbid them a passage, and there arose a battle; and that might and magic followed Norr and his men; that their fæs became as swine (3) as soon as they heard the war-cry and saw weapons drawn, and the Lapps betook themselves to flight. But Norr fared thence west on the Keel, (4) and was long out, so that they knew nothing of men, and shot beasts and birds for meat for themselves; they fared on till they came where the waters turned to the westward from the fells. Then they fared along with the waters, and came to a sea; there before them was a firth as big as it were a sea-bight; there was a mickle tilths, and great dales came down to the firth. There was a gathering of folk against them, and they straightway made ready to battle with Norr, and their quarrel fared as was to be looked for. All that folk either fell or fled, but Norr and his men overcame them as weeds over cornfields. Norr fared round all the firth and laid it under him, and made himself king over those districts that lay there inside the firth. Norr tarried there the summer over till it snowed upon the hearths; then he shaped his course up along the dale which gæs south from the firth; that firth is now called Drontheim. Some of his men he lets fare the coast way round Mæren; he laid under him all withersæver he came. And when he comes south over the fell that lay to the south of the dalebight, he went on still south along the dales, until he came to a great water which they called Mjösen. Then he turns west again on to the fell, because it had been told him that his men had come off worsted before that king whose name was Sokni. Then they came into that district which they called Valders. Thence they fared to the sea, and came into a long firth and a narrow, which is now called Sogn; there was their meeting with Sokni, and they had there a mickle battle, because their witchcraft had no hold on Sokni. Norr went hard forward, and he and Sokni came to handstrokes. There fell Sokni and many of his folk.
2. After that Norr fared on into the firth that gæs north from Sogn. There Sokni had ruled before in what is now called Sokni's dale. There Norr tarried a long time, and that is now called Norafirth. There came to meet him Gorr his brother, and neither of them had then heard anything of Goi. Gorr too had laid under him all the outer land as he had fared from the south, and then those brothers shared the lands between them. Norr had all the mainland, but Gorr shall have all those isles between which and the mainland he passes in a ship with a fixed rudder. And after that Norr fares to the Uplands, and came to what is now called Heidmörk (5); there that king ruled whose name was Hrolf of the Hill; he was the son of Svadi the giant from north of the Dovrefell. Hrolf had taken away from Kvenland Goi, Thorri's daughter; he went at once to meet Norr, and offered him single combat; they fought long together and neither was wounded. After that they made their quarrel up, and Norr got Hrolf's sister, but Hrolf got Goi to wife. Thence Norr turned back to the realm which he had laid under him, that he called Norway; he ruled that realm while he lived, and his sons after him, and they shared the land amongst them, and so the realms began to get smaller and smaller as the kings got more and more numerous, and so they were divided into provinces.
3. Gorr had the isles, and for that he was called a sea-king; his sons were they Heiti and Beiti, they were sea-kings and mighty overbearing men. They made many inroads on the realm of Norr's sons, and they had many battles, and now one, now the other won the day. Beiti ran into Drontheim and warred there; he lay where it is now called Beitsea and Beitstede; thence he made them drag his ship from the innermost bight of Beitstede, and so north over Elduneck, that is where the Naumdales come down from the north. He sat himself on the poop and held the tiller in his hand, and claimed for his own all that land that then lay on the larboard, and that is many tilths and much land. Heiti, Gorr's son, was father of Sveiði the sea-king, the father of Halfdan the old, the father of Ivar the Uplanders' earl, the father of Eystein the noisy, the father of earl Rognvald the mighty and the wise in council. (6)
4. Earl Rognvald joined Harold fair-hair when he seized the land, but he (Harold) gave him lordship over both the Mæren and Romsdale; (7) he had to wife Ragnhilda the daughter of Hrolf nosy; their son was Hrolf who won Normandy, he was so tall that horses could not carry him; for that he was called Ganging-Hrolf; from him are come the Rouen Jarls and the English Kings; their son was also Ivar, and Thorir the silent. Rognvald had also base-born sons, their names were Hallad and Hrollaug and Einar, he was the youngest. Harold fair-hair fared one summer west across the sea to chastise the Vikings, when he was weary at the peacelessness of those who harried in Norway in summer, but were in the winter in Shetland or the Orkneys. He laid under him Shetland and the Orkneys and the Southern Isles; he fared west too as far as Man, and laid waste the tilths of Man. He had there many battles, and took as his own lands so far west that no king of Norway has ever owned land further west since. And in one battle, Ivar, son of earl Rögnvald, fell. But when king Harold sailed from the west, then he gave to earl Rognvald, as an atonement for his son, Shetland and the Orkneys; but earl Rognvald gave both lands to Sigurd his brother: he was one of king Harold's forecastle men. The king gave Sigurd the title of earl when he went from the west, and Sigurd stayed behind there in the west.
5. Earl Sigurd made himself a mighty chief; he joined his fellowship with Thorstein the red, son of Olaf the white and Aud the deep-minded, (8) and they won all Caithness and much else of Scotland, Moray and Ross; there he caused to be built a burg southward of Moray. These two agreed between themselves to meet, Sigurd and Melbricta toothy the Scot-earl, that they should meet and settle their quarrel at a given place, each with forty men. And when the day named came, Sigurd thought to himself that the Scots were faithless. He made them mount eighty men on forty horses; and when Melbricta got to see them, he said to his men: "Now are we cheated by Sigurd, for I see two feet of a man on each horse's side, and the men must be twice as many again as the steeds that bear them. Let us now harden our hearts, and let us see that each has a man for himself before we die;" and they got ready after that. And when Sigurd saw their plan, he said to his men: "Now half of our force shall get off horseback and come on them in flank when the battle is joined; but we will ride at them as hard as we can, and break in sunder their array." And so they met and there was a hard battle, and not long before Melbricta fell and his followers, and Sigurd caused the heads to be fastened to his horses' cruppers as a glory for himself. And then they rode home, and boasted of their victory. And when they were come on the way, then Sigurd wished to spur the horse with his foot, and he struck his calf against the tooth which stuck out of Melbricta's head and grazed it; and in that wound sprung up pain and swelling, and that led him to his death. And Sigurd the mighty is buried under a "how" at Ekkjalsbakka. (9) Guttorm was the name of Sigurd's son; he ruled the lands one winter and died childless. And when earl Rognvald of Mæren learnt the death of that father and son, he sent his son Hallad west, and king Harold gave him the title of earl. And when Hallad came west, he sate down in Hrossey, but Vikings went about the isles and over in Caithness; they slew and robbed men. But when the yeomen brought their scathe before earl Hallad, then he thought it hard to right their lot, and he grew weary of the dignity; he turned himself out of the earldom, and took up his freehold right, and went back to Norway; and his journey was thought the greatest mark for mockery.
6. Two Dansk Vikings set themselves down in the lands; the name of the one was Thorir tree-beard, but the other's Kalf Skurvy; and when earl Rognvald learnt this, he took it very ill to heart, and fetched before him his sons Thorir and Hrollaug. Hrolf was then out warring. Rögnvald asked which of them would go west into the isles. Thorir bade him see about his passage. "So says my mind about this," says the earl, "that your thriving will be most here, and your ways lie not hence." Then Hrollaug asked, "Wilt you that I go?" The earl says, "Not for you will the earldom be destined, and the spirits that follow you lie towards Iceland; there wilt you increase your race and be a famous man in that land."" Then Einar went forward, the youngest of his sons, and said, "Wilt you that I go to the isles? I will promise that I will never come back into your eyesight; besides I have here little good to part from, and it is not to be looked for that my thriving will be less anywhere else than here." The earl says, "Unlikely are you for a chief for your mother's sake, for she is thrall born on all sides, but true it is that I should think it all the better that you gæst soon away and comest late back." Rögnvaldr gave Einar a ship of twenty benches fully maned, but king Harold gave him the title of earl.
7. Einar sailed west to Shetland, and there folk gathered to him; after that he went south into the Orkneys, and held on at once to meet Kalf and his companion. There a battle arose, and both those Vikings fell. Then this stave was sung: "He gave Treebeard to Trolls. Turf-Einar slew Skurvy." After that he laid the lands under him, and made himself the greatest chief. He first of men found out how to cut turf out of the earth for firewood on Turfness in Scotland, for they were ill off for wood in the isles. Einar was a tall man and ugly, one-eyed, and yet the sharpest-sighted of men.
8. When the sons of Harold fair-hair had grown to man's estate, they became most overbearing men and unruly within the land; they fell on the king's earls, some they slew, but some they drove from their owndoms. Snowfrid's sons, Halfdan long-leg, and Gudred the bright, fell on earl Rognvald of Mæren, and slew him, and took to themselves his realm. But when king Harold heard that, he grew very wrath, and went out against his sons. Halfdan rushed on ship-board and sailed west across the sea, but Gudred gave himself up to his father's power. King Harold gave Thorir as an atonement for his father, Alofa harvest-heal his daughter, and the title of earl, and all that his father left behind him. Halfdan long-leg came into the Orkneys, and as soon as it was known that a son of king Harold was come there, then men became full of fear. Some became Halfdan's liegemen, but earl Einar fled away out of the isles and up into Scotland. Halfdan laid the isles under him, and made himself king over them. Einar came back that same year, and he and Halfdan met; there arose then a great battle, and Einar gained the victory, but Halfdan leapt overboard in the dusk at eventide. Then Einar sang a stave:
"I see not from Hrolf's hand,
Nor Hrollaug's eke, fly
Dart on the fæman flock,
Father-vengeance befits us;
But while we the battle
This even urged on,
Earl Thorir in Mæren
Over mead-cup sits mute."
Next morning when it was light they went to look for runagate men among the isles if any had got away; and each was slain on the spot as he stood. Then earl Einar took to saying these words: "I know not what I see in Rinansey, sometimes it lifts itself up, but sometimes it lays itself down, that is either a bird or a man, and we will go to it." There they found Halfdan long-leg, and Einar made them carve an eagle on his back with a sword, and cut the ribs all from the backbone, and draw the lungs there out, and gave him to Odin for the victory he had won (10) then Einar sung this:
"Man broad-bearded oft is outlawed,
Many a one, for stealing sheep;
But in isles here I for felling
Mighty Harold's youthful son:
Risk hangs over me, say the freemen,
From the king so courage-full,
Harold's shield I've hewn a hole in,
None can call that dint in doubt."
And again this:
"Ever am I glad since spears,
—-Good 'tis daring deeds to do,—
Spears of warriors fond of fight,
Bit the boy-son of the king;
Him I hide not they mislike,
There flew grey across the isles
Bird that feasts on body-wounds,
Wounds of Halfdan, joy of hawks."
After that he made them cast Halfdan's "how," and sang:
"Wreakt I reckon Rognvald's death,
Right in this the Norns have shapen.
Now the people's prop has fallen
To my fourth share of revenge;
Scatter stones you lissom lads,
For a victory we have won,
Scatt to Long-legs here I scatter,
Scatt of stones of grit so hard."
And when this news was heard in Norway, then his brothers took it very ill, and vowed a vow to fare to the Orkneys and avenge him, but king Harold made them put off their voyage. Einar sung when he heard of their vow:
"For my life forsooth are many
Eager, as I hear them say,
Mighty men of no mean race,
From divers mansions of the earth;
But for that they do not know,
These, until they lay me low,
Which of us the eagle's claws
Shall bow beneath before all be over."
But sometime after king Harold fared west across the sea and came to the isles.
Einar fled away out of the isles and over to Caithness; after that men came between them and
they made up their quarrel. King Harold laid a fine upon the isles, and bade them pay sixty
marks of gold. Earl Einar offered to bring out the fine alone, and then to own all the
allodial holdings, and the freeholders were willing to do that; for the wealthy thought they
would be able to buy back their holdings, but the poor had no money to pay the fine with.
Einar paid up the fine, and so it was long after that the earls had all the allodial lands,
till earl Sigurd gave back to the Orkneyingers their allodial lands. King Harold fared back
to Norway, but earl Einar ruled over the Orkneys a long time, and died of sickness. He had
three sons. One's name was Arnkell, another Erlend, a third Thorfinn skull-splitter. When
Harold the fair-haired breathed his last, Eric blood-axe was king two winters.
9. Thorfinn had five sons. The name of the first was Havard the harvest happy, the second was Hlodver, the third Ljot, the fourth Skuli, the fifth Arnfinn, Ragnhilda Eric's daughter wrought her husband Arnfinn's death at Murkle in Caithness; but she gave herself away to Havard the harvest-happy, his brother. Harvard took the earldom, and was a good chief; and in his days were good harvests. Einar oily-tongue was the name of a man, Harvard's sister's son. He was a great chief, and had a great following, and went a-warring in the summers. He was guest at a feast at Havard's, and at that feast they, Ragnhilda and Einar, talked much together. She said such a man was well worthy to be a chief, and better fitted for the earldom than Havard, his kinsman; she called, too, that woman well wedded who had such a husband. Einar bade her not to take to such words; said he (Harvard) was the noblest man in the isles, and she full well wedded. Ragnhild answers: "Short henceforth shall be my and Harvard's wedded life; true it is that there must be men in the isles who will not let everything grow in their eyes, even if you puttest aside the honour from you." With such upbraidings Einar's mind turned to greed and guile against the earl his kinsman, and they settled it between them that he should slay the earl, but that she should be wedded to him. And sometime after Einar busked himself to that journey, and then a spaeman spoke, who was with him: "Don't do this work today, but rather tomorrow, else kin-killing will last long in your family." Einar made as though he heard it not. Havard was then at Stoneness (12) in Hrossey; there they met one another, and there was a hard battle, and not long before the earl fell. That place is now called Havard's crofts. And when these tidings were heard, Einar was thought to have been a mickle dastard for this deed; then Ragnhilda would have no fellowship with him, and said it was all a lie that she had ever given her word. Then she sent for Einar hardchaft; he was son of another sister of Harvard's; and when they met, she said 'twas shame on such kinsmen of his who would not avenge him, and she said she would do anything that the earl might be avenged. "Besides, too," she said, "it is well known that he must be most honoured by all good men who avenges the earl, and that man, too, will have won his way to his realm." Einar answers: "About this it is said," he says, "that you sometimes say other things than what you have in your heart, but whoso dæs this work must have for it that you holdest in hand for him the realm and those other things too, which will not be thought less worth having." So they break off their speech. After this Einar hardchaft fell on Einar oily-tongue, and slew him; but Ragnhilda sent for Ljot their (Havard's and Arnkell's) brother, and wedded him. Ljot took the earldom, and became a mighty chief. Einar hardchaft had now slain his kinsman, but was no nearer the earldom than before. Now he is very ill pleased with his lot, and would gather men to him, and seek to have the isles by main force; but he was ill off for men, for the Orkneyingers would only serve the sons of Thorfinn skull-splitter; and sometime after the earl let Einar hardchaft be slain.
10. Skuli, Ljot's brother, fared away up into Scotland, and there the title of earl was given him by the Scot-king. After that he came down on Caithness, and gathered folk to him there; and thence he fared into the isles, and there strove against his brother Ljot for the realm. Ljot gathers folk, and fared to meet Skuli, and had more men on his side; but when they met, Skuli would hear of nothing but fighting, so there was a hard battle, and Ljot won the victory; but Skuli fled over to the Ness and up into Scotland, and there Ljot fares after him, and stayed there a while, and had more men on his side. And then Skuli rides down from Scotland with a mighty host, which the Scot-king and earl Macbeth had given him, and he and Ljot met in the Dales in Caithness, and there arose a mickle battle. And the Scots were most hot at the beginning of the fight. Earl Ljot bade his men to keep under their shields, but still to stand as fast as they could. But when the Scots could do nothing, Ljot egged on his men, and was himself the hottest. And when things had stood so for a while, then the array of those Scots was broken, and after that they fly; but Skuli kept up the battle, though he fell at last. Ljot took Caithness under him, and then there was strife between the King of Scots and earl Ljot, for the Scots were ill pleased at their bad luck. When earl Ljot was in Caithness with few men, then earl Macbeth came down from Scotland with a mighty host, and he and Ljot met on Skidmoor in Caithness; and earl Ljot had no great force against them, but still Ljot went so fast forward, that the Scots they yielded before him, and there was a short battle before they fled, who chose life, but many were wounded. Ljot turned back with victory, but his men were much wounded. Earl Ljot also had gotten that wound which led him to his death, and his death was much mourned.
1. The sea in which are the Åland Isles in the Gulf of Bothnia.
3. That is, were panic stricken and rushed wildly about.
4. Keel: The ridge of mountains which forms the watershed, backbone, or keel, between Sweden and Norway.
5. Now Hedemark.
6. "He was called Rognvald the mighty and wise in council, and men say both were true names." R. L.
7. "Both the Mæren" are North and South Mæren, which are divided the one from the other by the Romsdale firth. They stretch north-eastward along the coast from Stadt to Naumdale."
8. The Flatey Book reads "very wealthy," as Aud was more commonly called.
10. The Run. Lex. quotes this passage thus: "Then earl Einar went to Halfdan and
carved a blood-eagle on his back in this wise, that he thrust a sword into his trunk by the
backbone and cut all the ribs away, from the backbone down to the loins, and drew the lungs
out there;" omitting the interesting words as to the sacrifice to Odin.
12. Now Stennis.
11. Hlodver Thorfinn's son took the earldom after Ljot, and was a great chief; he had to wife Edna, daughter of Kjarval, the Irish king; their son was Sigurd the stout. Hlodver died of sickness, and is buried under a "how" at Hofn in Caithness. Sigurd, his son, took the earldom after him; he was a great chief and wide of lands. He held by main force Caithness against the Scots, and had a host out every summer. He harried in the Southern Isles, in Scotland and Ireland. It chanced one summer that Finnleik, the Scot-earl, staked in a battle-field for Sigurd on Skidmoor by a day named, but Sigurd went to ask his mother's counsel, for she knew many things. (1) The earl told her that there would not be less odds against him than seven men for one. She answers: "I had reared you up long in my wool-bag had I known you wouldest like to live for ever; and fate rules life, but not where a man is come; better it is to die with honour than to live with shame. Take you here hold of this banner which I have made for you with all my cunning and I ween it will bring victory to those before whom it is borne, but speedy death to him who bears it." The banner was made with mickle needlecraft and famous skill. It was made in raven's shape; and when the wind blew out the banner, then it was as though the raven spread his wings for flight. Earl Sigurd was very wrath at the words of his mother, and gave the Orkneyingers their allodial holdings for their help, and so he fared to meet earl Finnleik on Skidmoor, and each drew up his host in battle array. And when the battle was joined, the banner bearer of earl Sigurd was shot to death. The earl bade another man go and bear the banner, and after they had fought a while that man fell. So three banner bearers of the earl fell, but he had the victory, and then the Orkneyingers got back their allodial rights.
12. Olaf Tryggvi's son was four years in warfare in the western lands since he had come from Vindland—the land of the Wends—before he let himself be baptized in the Scilly isles. Thence he fared to England—read Ireland—and got there to wife Gyda, the daughter of Kvaran the Irish king. After that he stayed a while in Dublin until earl Hacon sent Thorir the whiner to lure him thence. Olaf sailed from the west with four ships and came first to the Orkneys. There he met earl Sigurd in Osmund's væ in South Rognvaldsey with three ships, and he was boun for warfare. King Olaf let the earl be called on board his ship and said he wished to talk with him; and when they met king Olaf spoke to him, "It is my will that you lettest thyself be baptized and all the folk that serve you, else you shall die here at once, but I will fare with fire and flame over all the isles." But when the earl saw into what a strait he had come he gave up all his suit into the king's power. The king then let him be baptized, and took as a hostage his son whose name was Hound or Whelp, but the king let him be baptized in the name of Hlodvir. Then all the Orkneys became Christian. But king Olaf then sailed east to Norway, and Hlodvir fared with him, but he lived a short while. But after that earl Sigurd yielded no obedience to king Olaf. He went into a marriage with a daughter of Malcolm the king of the Scots, and their son was earl Thorfinn. Earl Sigurd had before had three sons who were then alive, the name of one of them was Summerled, of the second Brusi, the third Einar. (2)
13. A little while after the agreement between king Olaf and earl Sigurd Hlodverson, the earl took to wife the daughter of Malcolm, the Scot-king, and their son was earl Thorfinn. Earl Sigurd had three other sons, one was called Brusi, the second Summerled, the third Einar wry-mouth. Five winters (3) after the battle at Svolder, earl Sigurd fared to Ireland, to help king Sigtrygg silk-beard, but he set up his elder sons over the lands, but his son Thorfin, he gave over into the hands of the Scot-king, his mother's father, to foster. But when earl Sigurd came to Ireland, he and king Sigtrygg marched with that host to meet Brian, the Irish king, and their meeting was on Good Friday. Then it fell out that there was no one left to bear the raven banner, and the earl bore it himself, and fell there, but king Sigtrygg fled. King Brian fell with victory and glory.
14. After the fall of earl Sigurd, his sons took the realm and shared it into trithings among Summerled, Brusi, and Einar. Thorfinn was with the Scot-king five winters old when his father Sigurd fell. Then the Scot-king gave Thorfinn, his daughter's son, Caithness and Sutherland and the title of earl, and set up men to rule the land with him. Earl Thorfinn was early in coming to his full growth, the tallest and strongest of men; his hair was black, his features sharp, and his brows scowling, and as soon as he grew up it was easy to see that he was forward and grasping. Those brothers, Brusi and Einar, were unlike in temper. Einar was a man stern and grasping, unfriendly, and a mighty man for war. Brusi was a meek man, he kept his feelings well in hand and was humble, and ready-tongued. Summerled was like to Brusi in temper; he was the eldest of those brothers, and lived shortest, and died of sickness. After his death earl Thorfinn claimed a share of the realm in the Orkneys. Einar said that Thorfinn had Caithness and Sutherland, that realm which their father had owned, and called it more than a trithing of the isles, and would not grant Thorfinn a share after Summerled; but Brusi was willing to grant it, and gave over the share for his part. "I will not," he said, "covet more of the realm than that trithing which I own by right." Then Einar took two lots of the isles under him; then he made himself mighty, and had many followers, was oft a-warring in the summers, and had a great levy of men out of the land, but it was quite another story with the spoil. Then the freemen began to be weary of that toil; but the earl held boldly on with his burdens, and suffered no man to speak a word against him. Einar was the most overbearing of men. A great dearth arose in his realm from the toil and outgoings which the freemen had; but in that lot of the land that Brusi had was great peace and plenty, and the freemen had an easy life; for that he had many friends.
15. There was a powerful and wealthy man named Amund, he dwelt at Hrossey, at Sandwick on Lopness. His son's name was Thorkell, the properest man of all men who were then growing up in the Orkneys. Asmund was a wise man, and one of the men most esteemed in the islands. It fell out one spring that the earl had a mighty levy, as was his wont, but the freemen grumbled and took it ill, and brought the matter before Amund, and bade him speak to the earl for a little forbearance. Amund said the earl would turn a deaf ear, "and little will come of it; as it is the earl and I are good friends, but methinks there is a great risk if we two should come to a quarrel with our tempers. No," says he, "I will have nothing to do with it." Then they told their story to Thorkell; he was loath to do anything, but still promised them his good offices, after being egged on by the men. Amund thought he had been too hasty in promising. But when the earl held a Thing, then Thorkell spoke on behalf of the freemen, told the need of the men, and bade the earl spare his people. Einarr answers well, and says he will give heed to his words: "I had meant now to have six ships out of the land, but now no more than three shall go; but as for you, Thorkell, don't now ask this any more." The freemen thanked Thorkell well for his help. The earl fared away on a Viking voyage, and came back at autumn. But after that, in the spring, the earl had again a levy and held a Thing with the freemen. Then Thorkell spoke again, and bade the earl spare the freemen. The earl answers wrathfully, and said that the lot of the freemen should much worsen for his speech. He made himself so wood and wrath, that he said they should not be both there another spring safe and sound at the Thing. And so the Thing broke up. But when Amund became ware of what had passed between the earl and Thorkell, he begged Thorkell to go away. So he fared over to Caithness to earl Thorfinn, and was there long afterwards, and fostered him, when the earl was young, and was afterwards called Thorkell fosterer; and he was a man of mark. Many were the men of might who fled away out of the Orkneys for the overbearing of earl Einarr. Most fled to earl Thorfinn, some to Norway and to divers lands.
16. As soon as earl Thorfinn was grown up, then he sent a message to Einar his brother, and asked of him that share of the realm which he thought belonged to him in the Orkneys, but that was a trithing. Einar was in no hurry to lessen himself so. But when earl Thorfinn hears that, then he calls out force from Caithness. But when earl Einar was ware of that, then he gathers force, and gæs against Thorfinn, and means to fight with him. Earl Brusi also gathers force, gæs to meet them, and brings about an agreement that Thorfinn should have a trithing of the realm in the Orkneys which he owned by right, but earl Brusi and earl Einarr laid their lots together. Einar was to have the leadership over them, and the wardship of the land. But if either of them died before the other, then that one of them who lived longer should take the lands after the other. But that settlement was thought to be unfair, for Brusi had a son, whose name was Rognvald, but Einar was sonless. Earl Thorfinn sets men to keep watch and ward over that realm which he owned in the Orkneys; but he was most often in Caithness.
17. Earl Einar (4) was most often in the summers in warfare round Ireland and Scotland and Wales. It happened one summer when he was warring on Ireland that he fought in Ulfreksfirth (5) with Konufogur the Irish king. Earl Einar there got a mighty defeat and loss of men. The next summer after Eyvind Urarhorn fared from the west from Ireland, and meant to steer for Norway. The weather was sharp, and there was a great storm. Then Eyvind put in to Osmund's væ, (6) and lay there weather bound a while. But when earl Einar learns that, then he went there with a great force, and he took there Eyvind, and made them slay him, but gave peace to most of his men. They fared home to Norway about autumn, and went to find king Olaf, and told him how Eyvind had been taken off. The king answers little about it, and yet it could be found out that he thought this a mickle manscathe, and wrought more against himself than any one else. The king was short of words whenever he thought anything much against his mind. Earl Thorfinn sent Thorkell, his fosterer, out into the isles to get together his scatts and tolls. Earl Einar laid at Thorkell's door much of that rising against him which had happened when earl Thorfinn laid his claim out in the isles. Thorkell fared hastily out of the isles over to the Ness, and told earl Thorfinn that he had become sure of this, that earl Einar meant death for him, if his friends or kinsmen had not given him warning. "Now I must choose one of these two things, either to let the earl's and my meeting be so that we may settle our business once for all; or that other to fare further away, and there where the earl shall never have power over me." Earl Thorfinn was very eager that he should fare east to Norway to meet King Olaf. "You wilt," says the earl, "be made much of wherever you art with honourable men; but I know both your tempers, the earl's and thine, that you two would be but a scant time before you came to blows." Then Thorkell busked him to go to king Olaf, and fared about autumn to Norway, and was with king Olaf that winter in great love; the king took Thorkell much into his counsel. He thought, as was true, that Thorkell was a wise and very able man. The king found out from his talk that he was very uneven in his stories about the earls, and that he was a great friend of Thorfinn, but slow to praise earl Einar. And early next spring the king sent a ship west over the sea to find earl Thorfinn, and this bidding, by word of mouth, that the earl should come to see him. He did not lay the journey under his pillow, for words of friendship came along with the message.
18. Earl Thorfinn fared east to Norway and came to see king Olaf. He got there a good welcome, and stayed there long on in the summer. But when he made ready to go west, then king Olaf gave him a great and good longship, with all her tackling. Thorkell fosterer made up his mind to go with earl Thorfinn, and the earl gave him that ship which he had brought from the west that summer. The king and the earl parted the best of friends with great love. Earl Thorfinn came back about autumn to the Orkneys. But when earl Einar heard this, he got many men together and lay aboard ship. Earl Brusi went to meet those brothers, and tried to bring about a settlement between them, and so it came about that they were set at one again, and bound that with oaths. Thorkell fosterer was then to be taken into that settlement, and into friendship with earl Einar, and that was also said that each of them should make the other a feast, and the earl was to come first to pay Thorkell a visit at Sandwick. But when the earl was there at the feast, he was treated in the bravest way. The earl was not cheerful. There was a mickle hall there, and doors at both ends. That day on which the earl was to go away, and was busking himself, Thorkell was to go along with him to the feast, Thorkell sent men forward to spy out on the road along which they were to fare that day; but when they came back they told Thorkell that they found there three ambushes and men with weapons; "and we think, to say you sooth, that treachery must lie under this." But when Thorkell learned that he put off his busking and got his men together. The earl bade him busk himself and said 'twas high time to ride. Thorkell said he had much to look after. He went sometimes out and sometimes in. Fires were on the floor. Then Thorkell went in at one of the doors and with him a man who is named Hallvard. He was a man from Iceland, an Eastfirther by kin. He shut the door after them. Thorkell went inside along the hall between the fire and where the earl sate. The earl asked, "Art you boun now?" Thorkell answers, "I am boun now." Then Thorkell hewed at the earl on his head. The earl fell forward stooping on the floor. Hallvard said, "Here I see the worst of all wrestling tricks, that you do not draw the earl from the fire." Then he thrust an Irish axe (7) under the nape of the earl's neck, and jerked him up on the bench. Then both those comrades Thorkell and Hallvard, went out hastily, by the other doorway facing that by which they went in, and there outside stood Thorkell's men armed to the teeth. The earl's men looked to him, but he was then dead, and the hands of all failed them to avenge him; besides, it was all done in a hurry, for no man looked for such a deed from Thorkell; for they all thought that it would be, as was already agreed, that there should be friendship between the earl and Thorkell. Most of the men too were weaponless who were inside the hall, and many of them good friends of Thorkell of yore. It happened too by that fate by which longer life was allotted to Thorkell. When Thorkell came out he had no less force than the earl's men. Then Thorkell fared to his ship, but the earl's men went away. Thorkell sailed away that day east into the sea, and that was after the winter had begun. Then they came safe and sound to Norway. Thorkell went at once to find king Olaf, and he got there a good welcome: The king showed himself well pleased at this deed. Thorkell was with him that winter.
19. After the falling away of earl Einar, earl Brusi took that lot of the lands which earl Einar had before had, for it was with many men's witness on what terms Brusi and Einar had gone into partnership. It seemed most right to earl Thorfinn that each of them should have half the isles; but still Brusi had that winter both lots of the isles. But the spring after Thorfinn laid claim to the land against Brusi, saying that he will have half the lands, but Brusi would not say yes to that; so they summoned meetings about those matters. Then their friends went about to settle the business, and so it came out not only that Thorfinn would let nothing else please him than to have half the isles; but he says at the same time that Brusi, with the temper he had, had no need of more than a trithing. "I grudged not," says he (Brusi), "to have a trithing of the land which I took after my father as my heritage; and no one challenged my right to that; but now I have taken another trithing after my brother by lawful agreement. But though I am unable to strive in rivalry with you, kinsman, yet I will look to some one else rather than consent to give away my realm in such a way." When things had gone so far at that parley they parted. But when Brusi saw that he could not stand on even feet against Thorfinn, for that he had a much greater realm, besides the trust that he had in the Scot-king, his mother's father, then he, Brusi, made up his mind to fare away out of the land east to find king Olaf, and he had with him his son Rognvald, who was then ten winters old. But when the earl met the king, he gave him a good welcome. But when the earl unfolded his errand, and tells the king the whole story of what had happened between his brother and himself, and begged the king to lend him strength to hold his realm, he offered him at the same time in return his entire friendship. The king answers, and began first to say how Harold fair-hair had owned all the allodial land in the Orkneys, "but the earls have held it since in fief, but never as their owndom; and that is a token," says he, "that when Eric blood-axe and his sons were in the Orkneys, then the earls were bound to do them service. But when Olaf, Tryggvi's son, my kinsman, came there, then earl Sigurd, your father, made himself his man. Now I have taken all the heritage after him. Now I will make you that choice that you becomest my man; then will I give over to you the isles in fief; then we two will try, if I lend you my strength, whether it shall stand you in better stead, or whether his trust in the Scot-king, to your brother Thorfinn. But if you wilt not take this choice, then must I look after those rights and owndoms which our kinsmen have held there away west."" The earl bore these sayings in his mind, and laid them before his friends, and asked counsel of them to what he should consent, and whether he should strike a bargain with king Olaf on those terms and become his man. "But it is not at all plain to me what my lot will be when we part, if I say nay; for the king has made bare to me his claim, that he thinks he owns the isles. But with his boldness of purpose, and bearing in mind this too that we have come here, it will be a little thing for him to do just as he pleases with our affair." But though the earl found manifest fault with both courses, whichever way he went, still he took that choice, to lay all in the king's power, both himself and his realm. Then king Olaf took from the earl power and lordship over all his lands of heritage, and then the earl was made the king's man, and bound that with oaths.
20. Earl Thorfinn learnt that Brusi his brother had fared east to find king Olaf, to seek trust from him; but because Thorfinn had before fared to find king Olaf and got himself into friendship there, then he thought he had made it all right there beforehand, and knew that many there would back his cause; so earl Thorfinn takes this counsel: he makes ready his voyage as speedily as he can and fared to Norway, and thought that he should make the passage almost as soon as Brusi, and that his errand would not be brought to an end. But when Thorfinn met the king, it was another way than he had thought; for when he came to see king Olaf, all that bargain between the king and Brusi was made and struck. Besides, earl Thorfinn did not know that Brusi had given up his realm before ever earl Thorfinn had come to see king Olaf. But as soon as they met, the earl and king Olaf, then the king raised the same claim to the realm in the Orkneys which he had already made to Brusi, and bade Thorfinn do the same thing, that he should yield over to the king those lots of the lands which he already owned. The earl answers well to the king's words, and spoke so as to show that he set great store on his friendship. "And if you, lord," said the earl, "think that you need my help against other chiefs, then you have won it fully; but it is not in my power to yield you homage, for I am already the Scot-king's earl, and bound to do him service." But when the king found that there was drawing back in the earl's answers as to this question which he had raised, then the king spoke: "If you, earl, wilt not become my man, there is yet another choice, that I set that man up over the Orkneys whom I will, and my will then is that you take oath to lay no claim to their lands, and to let them be in peace for you whom I set up. But if you wilt have none of these choices, then it must so seem to those whom I set up, as though strife were to be looked for them from you; then may you not think it wonderful though the dale comes to meet the hill." (8) The earl answers, and bade the king give him time to think over that matter. The king did so, and gave the earl time and leave to take counsel with his friends as to this. Then the earl begged the king to grant him time till the next summer, and that he might fare home first of all. "All my councillors are at home," (9) he says, "and I am but a child for my years' sake." But the king bade him choose one of the two courses there and then. Thorkell fosterer was then with the king; he sent men stealthily to the earl, and besought him not to think, whatever might be on his mind, of parting so with king Olaf that they were not good friends, just when he had put himself in the king's hands. He (Thorkell) thought he could see that the only choice left him was to let the king have his will in everything. It seemed to them (Thorkell and his friends) though not at all a good choice to have no hope one's self of one's heritage, and to take an oath to the effect that they might have that realm in peace who were not born to it. But because that he thought it uncertain about his going away, then he made that choice to give himself over into the king's hand, and become his man as his brother Brusi had done. The king found out that Thorfinn was of a much higher spirit than Brusi, and for that sake he trusted Thorfinn less; the king saw too that he would think he might look for strength from the Scot-king, even though he broke this agreement; the king understood that out of his wisdom. Brusi went unwillingly into all the agreement, but spoke nothing but what he meant to hold; but where Thorfinn was he went gladly at everything; as soon as ever he had made up his mind what part he should take, (then he went gladly into every condition) (10) and did not stickle in the least at what the king asked the first evening; but the king doubted that he must mean to go back on some of his undertakings.
1. That is "by witchcraft."
2. The true text here is preserved only in the Danish Translation, in its place The Flatey Book has a long chapter out of the Saga of king Olaf, Tvyggvi's son, as contained in Fms. That chapter will be found in the Appendix.
3. Thus, according to the chronology of the Icelandic writers, it was in reality fourteen years afterwards.
4. The Flatey Book begins here a new section of the Saga thus: "The chapter of those Orkneyingers. A mighty man of war in the Orkneys was earl Einar, earl Sigurd's son. He was thought no fair man. He warred in Ireland, etc."
5. Lough Larne in Ireland.
6. Now Osmondswall in the Orkneys.
7. In the original Sparða, some sort of bill or pole-axe. The word occurs as "spart" or "spert" in mediæval lists of arms in England. See Hist. Com. Report for 1877. I. p. 491.
8. A proverb meaning that Thorfinn must not be surprised if the natural result followed.
9. In the Runic Lex. the whole passage runs thus: "earl Thorfinn said, as was true, that most of his councillors were at home."
10. The sentence in brackets is a repetition.
21. When king Olaf had thought over with himself the whole matter, he let them blow the trumpets for a great gathering of men, and made them call both the earls there. Then he spoke thus: "I will now declare before the whole people the settlement between the Orkney earls and myself. They have now agreed to my absolute right over the Orkneys and Shetland, and made themselves my men, and bound that with oaths, and I will now give them in fief, to Brusi one trithing and to Thorfinn another as they have had before; but that trithing which earl Einar owned, that I make fall to me, for that sake that he slew Eyvind Urarhorn, my henchman and dear brother in arms. For that lot of the lands, I will take care as I think good. That, too, I lay on both you brethren, my earls, that you take an atonement from Thorkell, Amund's son, for the slaying of your brother Einar; and I wish to lay down the terms of the atonement if you will say yes to that." But it was now as it was in other things; they said yes to everything the king said. Then Thorkell went forward and bound himself by the king's award, and so that Thing broke up. King Olaf awarded an atonement for earl Einar as though for three kings' thanes, but for cause given a trithing of the fine was to fall to the ground. Earl Thorfinn begged leave of the king to go away, but as soon as he got that he busked him speedily. But when he was all-boun, it fell upon a day when the earl was a-drinking on his ship, that there came to him stealthily Thorkell Amund's son, and laid his head upon his knees, and bade him do with it as he would. The earl asked why he did so, "now that we are already set at one by the king's doom. Stand up, pray." He did so, and said, "That atonement which the king made between us I may trust between Brusi and me; but so far as you have any share in it, you alone shall have your way. Though the king has awarded me my estates and right to stay in the Orkneys, still I know your frame of mind so well that I can never go into the isles unless I fare there on your good faith. I will bind myself to you," he says, "never to come to the Orkneys, whatever the king may have said about that." The earl held his peace, and was slow to speak, and then he spoke thus: "Wilt you, Thorkell, that I speak my doom about our matter, and not rest on the king's doom. Then must I have this beginning of our atonement, that you shallt fare with me to the Orkneys, and be with me, and never part from me, unless you have my leave; that you shall be bound to guard my land, and do all things that I will have done so long as we two both live." Thorkell answers: "That shall be in your power, lord, as well as everything else in which I may have any voice." Then Thorkell went up (to earl Thorfinn), and bound himself to the earl in everything that the earl laid down. The earl says that he will utter his doom as to the payment of the fine (for Einar) afterwards, but he took there and then oaths from Thorkell, and he turned him then at once to fare away with the earl. Then the earl fared away at once, as soon as ever he was boun, and he and king Olaf never saw each other more. Earl Brusi stayed then after him and took more time to busk himself; but before he fared away, king Olaf had a meeting with him, and said, "It looks to me, earl, that I am like to have you for a faithful liegeman there away over the western sea, and so I purpose that you shall have two lots of the lands to rule over, those two I mean which you hadst of yore; and my will is that you shouldest not be a less man, nor a less powerful, now that you have given thyself into my hand, than you wast before; but I will clench your faithfulness with this, that I will that your son Rognvald be here behind. I see then, if you have any trust and two lots of the lands, that you may well hold your own by right against earl Thorfinn." Brusi took that with thanks to have two lots of the lands. Brusi stayed there a little while longer before he fared away, and came about autumn west to the Orkneys. Rognvald, Brusi's son, stayed behind with king Olaf. He was of all men fairest; his hair was full and yellow, like silk. He was soon tall and strong; the most perfect man was he both for wit's sake and courtesy. He was long with king Olaf. Ottar the black makes mention of these things in that ode which he made on king Olaf:
"Among your thanes are reckoned
Bold lads of Hialti's land,
You gotten have a handy realm
Of princes of the people;
There was no king on earth,
Before you cam'st, warlike lord,
Who underneath his yoke could bow
Those islands of the west."
When those brothers came west to the Orkneys, Thorfinn and Brusi, then Brusi took two lots of the lands under his lordship, but Thorfinn a trithing. He was ever in Caithness and Scotland, but set up his men over the isles. At that time Brusi alone kept watch and ward over the isles. But in that time they were much warred on, for Northmen and Danes harried much in the west, sea-roving, and came often to the isles when they fared west, or from the west, and seized this or that ness. Brusi complained that Thorfinn had no force out to guard the Orkneys or Shetland, but kept the scatts and dues all to his share. Then Thorfinn made him that offer, that Brusi should have a trithing of the lands, but Thorfinn two lots, and alone keep watch and ward over the land. But though this arrangement was not made all at once, yet at last this settlement came about, that Brusi had a trithing and Thorfinn two lots. This was when Canute had rule in Norway, but Olaf had been forced to fly out of the land.
22. Earl Thorfinn (1) made himself a great chief; he was the tallest and strongest of men, ugly, black-haired, sharp-featured, and big-nosed, and with somewhat scowling brows. He was a mighty man of strife, and greedy both of money and honour; he was lucky in battle, and skilful in war, and good in onslaught; he was then five winters old when Malcolm the Scot-king, his mother's father, gave him the title of earl and Caithness as his lordship, as was written above; but he was fourteen winters when he had war levies out of his land, and harried on the realms of other chiefs. So says Arnor Earlskald:
"The king amid the crash of helms
Died red his broadsword's edge,
Before fifteen winters he had filled,
Reddener of raven's feet;
Brave chief, of Einar's brothers last,
Lands good to win and guard
He proved himself, a properer man
Is no man beneath the sky."
Earl Thorfinn had much strength from his kinsman the Scot-king; it was a great help to his power in the Orkneys that that strength was so near. The Scot-king breathed his last just when those brothers, Brusi and Thorfinn, were set at one again. Then Karl Houndson took the rule over Scotland; he thought he ought to own Caithness too, like the former Scot-kings; and he would have scatt from that part of the realm as from other places, but earl Thorfinn thought he had not too great a heritage after his mother's father, though he had Caithness. He said that realm had been given to him, and he would pay no scatt for it; now out of this arose a mighty feud, and each harried the other's realm. King Karl would set up in Caithness that chief whose name was Mumtan or Muddan; he was his sister's son, and he gave him the title of earl. Then Muddan rode down on Caithness, and gathered force together in Sutherland; then news came to earl Thorfinn; and then he drew together a host all over Caithness; there came too out from the Orkneys Thorkell fosterer, with much force to meet the earl; then Thorfinn fared to meet Muddan, and had then the greater host. And as soon as the Scots knew that they had fewer men, they would not fight, (2) and rode up back to Scotland. Then earl Thorfinn fared after them and laid under him Sutherland and Ross, and harried far and wide over Scotland; thence he turned back to Caithness, but Thorkell went out to the isles. The levies of the people also went home. The earl sate in Caithness at Duncansby, and had there five long-ships, and just so much force as was enough to man them well. Muddan came to see king Karl in Berwick, and tells him how his paths had not been smooth. King Karl then got very wrath when he learned that his land was harried; he went then at once on ship-board, and had eleven long-ships and much people; then he held on north along Scotland. Muddan he sent back to Caithness with a great force, and he rode the upper way through Scotland; it was so settled that he should come down thence, and then Thorfinn would be in a cleft stick. Now it must be told of Karl that he never slackened sail before he came to Caithness; and then there was scant space between him and Thorfinn. Then Thorfinn took that counsel to go on ship-board and hold out into the Pentland firth, and he meant to go to the Orkneys; by that time there was so scant space between them, that Karl and his men saw Thorfinn's sails as he sailed east across the firth, and they sailed after them at once. Thorfinn and his men had not seen their sails, and so east he steered along the isles, and meant to go to Sandwick. He ran in from the east under Deerness, and sent word at once to Thorkell that he should gather force together. Brusi had the northermost lot of the isles, and was then there. Thorfinn lay under Deerness, as was written before, and had come there late. But next morning when it was light, the first thing they found out was that Karl and his men were rowing up to them with eleven ships. There were then two choices on hand: the one was to jump ashore and leave the ships and all his goods to his fæs; the other is to put out to meet them and then let destiny have her sway. Thorfinn called then on his men, and bade them get out their weapons; he said he would not run away, and bade them row against them manfully. And after that each side lashed their ships together. Earl Thorfinn egged on his men much, and bade them be hot, and make the first bout hard. As for the Scots, he said few of them would stand. This fight was both hard and long, and it was long before it could be seen which way the day would turn. Of this battle Arnor makes mention in Thorfinn's ode:
"At last I trow our lord has taught
To mail-linked Karl a lesson,
Away east off Deerness,
The prince's rule prospered:
With war-snakes five the wrathful chief
Rushed against eleven of the king,
And hating flight himself held on
His course with constant heart.
The seamen laid their ships aboard,
Along the thwarts the fæmen fell,
Sharp-edged steel in blood was bathed,
Black blood of Scottish men.
The hero's heartstrings did not quake,
Bowstrings sung and blades were biting,
Shafts were shot and sweat was streaming,
Spear-heads quivered, bright and gleaming."
Now earl Thorfinn egged on his men hotly; then he ran his ship aboard of Karl's ship, and there was a very hard fight. Then the Scots held together, just before the mast on the king's ship, and then earl Thorfinn leaps out of the poop and forward on the ship, and fought most bravely. And when he saw that men grew thin on board Karl's ships, he egged on his men to board; and when king Karl saw that, he bade them cut the lashings and hold away. (3) Then Thorfinn and his men cast grappling hooks on board the king's ship. Then Thorfinn bade them bear up his banner, and he followed it there himself, and a great company of men with him. Then Karl leapt from his ship with those men that were left upstanding; but the most part had fallen on board that ship. Karl leapt on board another ship, and bade them take to their oars, and then the Scots laid themselves out to fly, but Thorfinn chased them. So says Arnor:
So much shorter was the onslaught,
For my lord to honour dear,
Speedy drove at point of spear,
With less force the fæ to flight:
Over that army sorely smitten
Screamed the seamew bird of battle
Before their red brands sheathed the king's men;
From Sandwick south he fought and won."
Karl held on away south to Broadfirth, (4) and went on shore there and gathered force anew. Thorfinn turned back after the battle. Then came Thorkell fosterer to meet him, and then they had much people; then they sailed south to Broadfirth after Karl and his men, and as soon as ever they came off Scotland they began to harry. Then they were told how Muddan was north in Caithness at Thurso, and had there a great host; he had also sent to Ireland after men, for he had there many friends and kinsmen, and there he waited for this force. Then Thorfinn and Thorkell took this counsel, that Thorkell fosterer should go north along Caithness with some of the host, while Thorfinn lay behind off Scotland and harried there. Thorkell went stealthily; besides all the land-folk was true and trusty to him in Caithness; no news of him went before him until he came into Thurso at dead of night, and took the house over the heads of Muddan and his men and set fire to it. Muddan slept up in a loft, and just as he leapt out and down out of the loft gallery, Thorkell hewed at him, and the blow came on his neck and took off his head. After that the men gave themselves up, but some got away by running. There many men were slain, but there were a very great many to whom peace was given. Thorkell stayed there a short while before he fared back to Broadfirth; he had then a whole host with him which he had got in Caithness and out of Sutherland and Ross; then he met earl Thorfinn south of Moray, and tells him what had been done in his travels. The earl thanked him well for his toil; then they both lay there a while and harried the land.
Now it must be told about king Karl, that he fared up into Scotland after the battle which he had with earl Thorfinn, and there gathered forces anew. He drew together a host all from the south of Scotland, both east and west, and from the south all the way to Cantire. Then also came to meet him that host from Ireland which Muddan had sent after; he sends too far and wide to chiefs for force, and summoned all that host to meet him against earl Thorfinn; and the place where he and Thorfinn met was at Turfness, south of Broadfirth. There arose a mighty battle, and the Scots had a far greater host. Earl Thorfinn was at the head of his battle array; he had a gilded helmet on his head, and was girt with a sword; a great spear in his hand, and he fought with it, striking right and left. So it is said that he was the foremost of all his men. He went there at first where the battle of those Irish was; so hot was he with his train, that they gave way at once before him, and never afterwards got into good order again. Then Karl let them bring forward his banner to meet Thorfinn; there was a hard fight, and the end of it was, that Karl laid himself out to fly, but some men say that he has fallen. But Arnor says thus:
"Gleaming edge of swords grew gory,
Turfness hight the battle-field,
Young in years the chieftain wrought it,
'Twas on Monday that it fell;
Then to battle there were singing
Blades so thin near Oikel south,
When the sea-king sharp and shifty
Fared to fight with Scotland's lord.
High aloft bore Shetland's lord
Helm amid the crash of spears,
First in fight in Irish blood
The warrior bathed his ruddy brand.
My bounteous lord put forth his might
Under his British shield,
And Hlodver's kinsman caught the host
And set their farms on fire."
Earl Thorfinn drove the flight before him a long way up into Scotland, and after that he fared about far and wide over the land and laid it under him. He fared then so far south as Fife, and laid the land under him; men went under him wherever he fared. And then while he was staying in Fife he sent away from him Thorkell fosterer with some of his force. And when the Scots knew that, how the earl had sent away from him some of his host, those very same came against him who had already given themselves up to him; and as soon as ever the earl was ware of their guile, he fetched together his force and fared to meet them; then the Scots were slower in their onslaught when they knew the earl was ready for them. Earl Thorfinn made ready to fight as soon as ever he met the Scots; but then they did not dare to defend themselves, but broke off at once into flight, and fled wide away to woods and wastes. And when Thorfinn had chased the fleers, he got together his men, and says that then he will let them burn all that district in which they were then were, and so pay the Scots for their enmity and treachery. Then the earl's men fared among thorpes and farms, and so burned everything, that not a cot stood after them; they slew too all the fighting-men they found, but women and old men dragged themselves off to woods and wastes with weeping and wailing. Much folk too they made captives of war and put them into bonds, and so drove them before them. So says Arnor:
"Homesteads then in blaze were blasted,
Danger that day did not fail them,
Ruddy flame over reeking roofs
Leapt throughout the Scottish land;
Manslayers paid their footing painful
To men, and in one summer's space
Thrice they got the lesser lot
Before our chief, the caitiff Scots."
After that earl Thorfinn fared north along Scotland to his ships, and laid under him the land wherever he went. He fared then north to Caithness, and sate there that winter; but every summer thenceforth he had his levies out, and harried about the West lands, but sat most often still in the winters.
23. Earl Thorfinn did that noble deed in the Orkneys, that he furnished all his body-guard and many other powerful men all the winter through, both with meat and drink, so that no man needed to go into inn or boarding-house; just as it is the custom with kings or earls in other lands to furnish their body-guard and guests with meat and drink at Yule. So says Arnor:
"All throughout the scourge of serpents, (5)
Rognvald's royal progeny
Drank the lake of barleycorn,
Then the chieftain gleamed in glory."
At this time earl Brusi breathed his last, and then Thorfinn took under him all the Orkneys. But it must be told of Rognvald Brusi's son, that he was in the battle at Sticklestead when the saint king Olaf fell; Rognvald got away with the rest of the men who fled. He brought out of the battle Harold Sigurd's son, king Olaf's brother; Harold was very much wounded. Rognvald left him to be healed at a small freeman's house, but Rognvald then fared east across the Keel to Jemtland, and thence to Sweden, to find King ænund. Harold was with the freeman till he was healed; the freeman then gave his son for a guide to Harold, and they fared east to Jemtland, and thence to Sweden, and fared much with hooded head. (6) Harold sung this stave as they ride over some thickets. (7)
Now pass I wood on wood,
Wandering little worth;
Who knows whether I may be
Widely known hereafter."
Harold went in Sweden to meet Rognvald Brusi's son. Thence they both fared east to Russia, and much folk beside who had been with king Olaf. They did not stop till they came east into Holmgard (8) to meet king Jarizleif; he made them welcome for the sake of the saint king Olaf. Then they were made land-warders over Russia, all of them, and earl Eilif, the son of earl Rognvald Wolf's son.
24. Rognvald Brusi's son stayed behind in Russia when Harold Sigurd's son fared out to Micklegarth (Constantinople); Rognvald had then the wardenship of the land in the summers, but was in Holmgard in the winters. King Jarizleif esteemed him much, and all the people too. Rognvald was, as was written before, taller and stronger than any man; he was the fairest too of men in his face, and a most gifted man both in mind and body, so that his match was not to be found. So says Arnor earlskald, that Rognvald had in Russia ten pitched battles.
"He flourished as a fruitful tree,
And fierce in fight as battle's God,
Ten storms of swords that file the shield
In Russia's regions won."
When they, Einar Thambaskelfir (9); and Kalf Arni's son, sought out Magnus Olaf's son, east in Russia, Rognvald met them at Aldeigjuborg; (10) then he was just about falling on Kalf until Einar made him aware in what way it stood with their journey. Einar let Rognvald be told that Kalf repented him of that wickedness that he had killed the saint king Olaf from off the face of the land, and now he will atone for that in his son; says that Kalf then wishes to raise Magnus to rule in Norway and strengthen him against the Knutlings. And after that Rognvald softened down; then Einar begs him to make up his mind to a journey with them up to Holmgard, and to back their suit with king Jarizleif, and Rognvald says yea to that. After that they hire themselves carriage in Aldeigjuborg and drive up to Holmgard, and find there king Jarizleif, then they bring forward their errand, and say that the rule of the Knutlings and of Alfifa most of all had got so wearisome to them, that they cannot at all bear to serve them any longer. Then they beg that king Jarizleif would give over to them Magnus Olaf's son as a chief. Then Rognvald backs their suit with them, and so dæs Ingigerd the queen, and many other chiefs. The king was slow to give over Magnus into the hands of the Northmen, after what they had done towards the saint king Olaf his father: but still it came about in this way, that twelve of the most noble men swore to king Jarizleif this oath, that all was true and trustworthy, but king Jarizleif forbore to take the oath of Rognvald for his faithfulness' sake. Kalf swore that oath to Magnus, that he would follow him without the land and within the land, and do all those things that Magnus thought more or safer for his power. After that the Northmen took Magnus for their king, and became hand-bound to him. Kalf and his friends stayed at Holmgard until Yule went by; then they fared down to Aldeigjuborg and got ship there; they fared at once from the east as soon as the ice loosened in the spring; then Rognvald Brusi's son, made up his mind to journey with the king. They fared first to Sweden, as is said in king Magnus' saga, and thence to Jemtland, and so from the east across the Keel to Verdale. And as soon as Magnus came into Drontheim, all the people came under his power. Then he fared to Nidaros, and was there taken to be king over all the land at the Eyra Thing. After that came about the dealings which he had with king Sweyn, as is said in the Lives of the kings of Norway.
25. When Rognvald Brusi's son came into Norway, he heard of the death of earl Brusi his father; he heard also this, that earl Thorfinn had taken under him all the Orkneys. Then Rognvald was eager to go to his own land, and begged that King Magnus would give him leave to do that. King Magnus saw that this was needful to Rognvald, and stood well with him in this matter. Then king Magnus gave Rognvald the title of earl, and three longships, and all well manned; he gave him also in fief that trithing which king Olaf had owned in the Orkneys, and which he had given to Brusi, Rognvald's father. Then king Magnus promised to Rognvald his foster-brother his entire friendship, and said he might reckon his strength his own whenever he needed it. Thus they parted with such like love-tokens as now were written.
26. Rognvald Brusi's son sailed west to the Orkneys, and fared first to those homesteads which his father had owned; then he sent a message to earl Thorfinn his kinsman, and begged to have that trithing of the isles which his father had owned. He made them also tell Thorfinn that king Magnus gave him in fief that trithing of the lands which king Olaf had owned. He begged to have those two lots of the lands at his will of his kinsman Thorfinn. But at that time earl Thorfinn had great quarrels with the Southislanders and the Irish; he thought he had much need of help in men, and he made these answers to Rognvald's messengers, that he shall take of a surety that trithing of the isles which he owned by right, "but that trithing which Magnus claims as his, then we yielded in that to king Olaf, more for that we were come within his grasp, than because we thought it right; and so we and our kinsman Rognvald will agree all the more if we two talk little to each other about that trithing of the lands; it has long been a cause of quarrel. But if Rognvald will be a trusty kinsman and strengthener to me, then methinks my realm will be well bestowed if he has that trithing as a pastime for himself and a strength for both of us. In short, his help is worth more to me than the scatts which I get from it." After that the messengers fared back, and said to Rognvald that Thorfinn had yielded to him two lots of the lands, if he will be his strengthener, as ought to be for kinship's sake. Rognvald says that he had only laid claim to what he thought he owned. But for that Thorfinn gave the lands up so readily, he said he would of a surety be willing to lend him help and to be his entire friend, just as their kinship bound them. Now Rognvald took under him two lots of the lands, and so things stood that winter. But very early in the spring earl Thorfinn sent word to his kinsman Rognvald, and begs him to fare a-roving with him, and to bring as many men as he could get with him. And when these words came to Rognvald, he got ready at once and drew a host together, and gathered to himself all the ships he could get; and when that host was boun, he fared to meet earl Thorfinn; then Thorfinn had also got his host boun; and he gave his kinsman Rognvald a good welcome, and then they went into fellowship together.
27. Those kinsmen Thorfinn and Rognvald harried that summer over the Southern isles and Ireland, and far and wide about Scotland's firths. Thorfinn laid the land under him wherever they fared. In the summer they had a great fight in the place called Waterfirth; (11) there was a great loss of men. They took to battle speedily, and those kinsmen won a bright victory. Of this battle Arnor earlskald makes mention in Thorfinn's ode: He was there in the battle.
"There was I where Waterfirth
The place is hight in mickle risk,
With my Lord the friend of man,
Of his works I know the tokens;
From the ships the warriors speedy
Bore the shieldburg, Friday morning
There I saw the grey wolf gaping
Over wounded corse of many a man."
After this battle they turned back to the Orkneys, and sate still through that winter. And so eight winters went by that Rognvald had two lots of the isles, so that earl Thorfinn made no complaint about it. But every summer they were a-roving, sometimes both together, but sometimes each of them by himself, as Arnor says:
"He who loved was often working,
Ireland's offspring fell before him,
When he fell on British races,
Fire flew over Scotland's realm."
28. With those kinsmen everything went always well when they met; but if bad (worse) men went between them (tale-bearing) the disputes were always talked out. Earl Thorfinn sate long in Caithness, and Rognvald in the isles. It fell out one summer that earl Thorfinn harried in the Southern isles and about the West Coast of Scotland. He lay at the place called Galloway, there Scotland and England meet. He had sent away from him a force south to England to land and seize and slaughter cattle, for there where he lay with his force all the folk had fled away, and all the cattle were driven away from him. But when the Englishmen were ware of the Vikings, they gathered themselves together and fell upon them, and took from them all the cattle, but slew of them all the men who were fit for anything, but sent back some runagates, and bade them tell earl Thorfinn how they made Vikings sick of wrong and robbery; and they had besides about it many scornful words. So they fared to find earl Thorfinn, and told him how ill they had fared. He took it ill that his men were lost, but said he could not help it; but this he said he was well able to do, and that was to pay off the Englishmen for all the gibes and jeers which they made out of the matter; and he said he must first of all part from them for a while, but if he were safe and sound next summer he said he and they should meet.
29. At that time Hardicanute was (king) over England and Denmark. After that earl Thorfinn fared to the Orkneys and sate there that winter. Early in the spring he called out his levies over all his realm; then he sent a message to his kinsman Rognvald, and Rognvald agrees to it. Rognvald had a levy over all his realm. Earl Thorfinn drew together a host from the Orkneys and Caithness; he had also a mighty host from Scotland and Ireland, and from all the Southern isles people flocked to him. He held on with all that host to England just as he had promised them the autumn before. Hardicanute was in Denmark when these tidings happened. But as soon as ever the earls came to England they began to harry and waste; but those chiefs who were set there to watch the land fared against them with force, and there was a great and hard battle, and the earls got the victory. After that they fared far and wide over England, and harried, slew men, and burned the farms wherever they went. This Arnor mentions in Thorfinn's ode:
"One there was that Angles mind
Storm of spears, nor evermore
Shall the lord of rings come there
WIth a greater force to battle.
Thin-ground swords bit sturdy people,
But the child of ancient Rognvald
Rushed beneath his buckler there,
South from Man across the main.
On English native land his banner
Bore the earl, and often reddened
Tongue of eagles, troops to carry
Ensigns onward still he ordered,
Fire waxed and homes were blazing,
As the army chased the fleers,
Flames spread fast, and near to heaven
Smote the glare of forest's fæman. (12)
Many blasts of horns were blowing,
Through the burgs when bold to battle
Rushed the ruler, while his banner
Fluttered bravely in the breeze.
'Twas on a rainy Friday morning,
When the day scarce beamed for battle,
That the fæman fierce he scattered;
Weapons flew and wolves were fattened."
Earl Thorfinn had two pitched battles in England, but on the other hand he gave them many defeats and man-slayings. He lay there almost all the summer through, but at autumn he fared hom to the Orkneys, and was there that winter.
30. At this time Kalf Arni's son fled out of the land before king Magnus. He fared west across the sea to his nephew-in-law earl Thorfinn. Thorfinn had then to wife Ingibiorg earlsmother, the daughter of earl Finn Arni's son. Then Kalf was in great love with earl Thorfinn. He held about him a great following of men; that was very costly to the earl. There were many, too, then who said out before him that he should not let Rognvald have two lots of the isles, when he had to spend so much money himself. And after that earl Thorfinn sent men out into the isles, and asked for that trithing from earl Rognvald, which earl Einar wrymouth had owned. But when that message came, the earl brought it before his friends and counsellors. After that he calls there earl Thorfinn's messengers. Rognvald says, that as for that lot of the isles which they claim, he had taken it in fief from king Magnus, and that the king called it his father's heritage. Now he said king Magnus had power to say which of them should own that lot; but he said he would not let it go if it were the king's will that he should have it. On this the messengers fared away, and tell earl Thorfinn those words. They said, too, it was surely to be looked for that this would not be got without a struggle. But when earl Thorfinn heard that, he grew very wrath, and said it was a likely story that king Magnus was to have his brother's heritage. He said, too, that had been agreed to more because he and earl Brusi were then come into king Olaf's grasp than because it was a fair and rightful sharing of the inheritance. "Now methinks Rognvald doth not repay me well when I have now let him have that realm in freedom for a while, if I shall not now come near the heritage my brother has left me unless I fight for it." Earl Thorfinn was so wrath at this, that no long time after he sends men into the Southern isles, and up into Scotland, and drew a force together. He gave it out too, that he meant to come to blows with earl Rognvald, and then take that without forbearance which he could not get when he sought for it in peace. And now, when this is told to earl Rognvald, that earl Thorfinn was gathering a force against him, he summoned his friends about him, and moots this with them, that earl Thorfinn his kinsman means to come to blows with him with a host and strife. He asked then what force they will furnish him with, and says he is not willing to lose his own without one trial of strength. But when he begged for their judgment on this matter then men gave it in very different ways. Some spoke after earl Rognvald, and said it was to be forgiven him that he did not wish to share his realm; but there were some who said it was to be forgiven to Thorfinn that he wished to have the realm for a while, when Rognvald had already had that lot which earl Einar had owned. They said, too, it was bad counsel that Rognvald should lay himself out to fight against Thorfinn with that force which he could get from two lots of the isles, when Thorfinn had a trithing and Caithness, and a great share of Scotland and all the Southern isles. There were men, too, who spoke and said that a peaceful settlement must be sought, who beg that Rognvald would offer earl Thorfinn a half of the isles, and so in that way their kinship might still be saved. But when Rognval found that each had a way of his own, but all were against his resisting, then he laid bare his will, and said that he will not cut his realm asunder by any settlement; that he would far rather give up the realm at once, and go to seek king Magnus his fosterbrother, and look after what strength the king will give him to hold his realm. After that he makes ready for his voyage, and fares east to Norway, nor dæs he slacken his course before he comes into the presence of king Magnus. And when he is come there, he tells the king the whole story. The king made earl Rognvald good cheer, and bade him be with him so long as he liked, and to take a fief of him so large that he could well maintain himself and his people; but earl Rognvald told the king that he wished he would give him strength enough to seek back his realm. King Magnus said of a surety he would aid him with strength to get what he asked. Rognvald stayed a short time in Norway before he began his voyage west to the Orkneys. He had then many picked men whom king Magnus had granted him. And this went with him too; he (the king) sent word to Kalf Arni's son, that he should have his lands and leave to live in Norway, if he would stand by earl Rognvald in this quarrel between him and earl Thorfinn.
1. The Flatey Book heads this chapter with the following passage: "King Olaf, Harold's son, got no service from earl Thorfinn, since they parted after earl Brusi and they came to a settlement all together.
2. The Flatey Book "They were slower about an onslaught."
3. The Flatey Book "and get all his fleet of ships under way as fast as they could, take to their oars and row away."
4. The Moray firth.
5. The scourge of serpents "the winter."
6. With hooded head, very secretly.
7. "when they parted in a thicket."
8. Holmgard, probably Novgorod.
9. Thambaskelfir, "paunch-shaker," from his fatness, or "good archer," "string twanger," for his skill with the bow.
10. Aldeigjuborg, the burg on the Aldeiga, or Ladoga lake.
11. A firth in the Isle of Skye.
12. forest's fæman; fire.
31. Earl Rognvald sailed from Norway west towards the Orkneys, and made Shetland from the sea, and drew force to himself, and thence fared south into the Orkneys. There he summoned his friends to meet him, and gathered force thence. Earl Thorfinn was over in Caithness, and news came to him at once of Rognvald's doings, and he drew force to himself from Scotland and the Southern isles. Earl Rognvald sent at once the message of king Magnus to Kalf Arni's son, and Kalf took in a kind way all that the king had spoken. Earl Rognvald drew his host together in the Orkneys, and meant to cross over into the Ness. But when he came into the Pentland firth, then he had thirty war-ships, all big and in good trim. There came against him earl Thorfinn, and had sixty ships, and most of them small. Their meeting was off the Red Head, and they ran into battle at once. There, too, was come Kalf Arni's son, and had six ships, and all great, and did not run into the fight. And now arises the hardest battle; either earl egged on his people. But when things had gone on so for a while, the loss of men turns on earl Thorfinn's side, and that was most because the difference in the height of the ship's sides was great. Thorfinn had a great ship, and in good trim, and in that he ran forward most bravely. But when the decks of the smaller ships were cleared, then the earl's ship was run aboard of on both sides; and then they stood in very great need. Then numbers of men fell on board the earl's ship, but some were very badly wounded. Earl Rognvald then egged on his men to board; but when earl Thorfinn saw into what a bad plight they were come, he made them cut his ship away from her lashings and rowed to land. He made them bear out of his ship seventy corpses. There, too, went out all those who were unfightworthy for their wounds' sake. Then earl Thorfinn begged Arnor earlskald to go out of the ship; he was in the earl's train, and held in great love. He went on shore and chaunted a song:
"This man is loath to go against
Brusi's son, one's lord to follow
Is good, that lesson to the people
Ne'er shall I be found gainsaying;
Hard the choice we have before us
If these earls so full of fury
Fall to blows, a time of trial
For friendship we shall surely see."
Earl Thorfinn mans his ship with the best men he had left. After that he fares to find Kalf, and asked him for help. He said thus, that Kalf could not get bought back the friendship of king Magnus when he had already been forced to flee out of the land. "When you found it no good that you hadst already been taken into very great love. So may you make up your mind if Rognvald is victorious over us, and if the power of king Magnus and of him spreads here over the western sea, that then you wilt not be welcome here. But if we win the day, then nothing shall fall short to you that I have power to give. We two shall be at no man's mercy here across the western sea, if we two are both of one mind. And you wilt not surely like to have that on your mind that you lie here like a cat in a cave, while I fight for the freedom of us both. Besides, there are those ties between us two, that it beseems each of us better to lend the other help, since men who are bound to you by no ties are against us." But when Kalf heard the egging on of Thorfinn, he called on his men, and bade them put out to battle together with earl Thorfinn. As Bjarni Gullbrar-Skald says:
"We have heard, Kalf, to hurly
How Finn's son-in-law you followedst,
And your war-snakes over the waters
Swiftly swept against the earl;
All unwilling to attack
Brusi's son so bold in battle;
Thorfinn had your help at last."
Now they made an onslaught by rowing, both of them together, earl thorfinn and Kalf. And when they came to the fight, Thorfinn's host was ready to flee, but very many of them were fallen. The earl ran his ship against the ship of earl Rognvald, and there arose the hardest fight. So says Arnor:
"I saw both my goldbestowers,
Each the other's henchmen hewing,
On the fitful firth of Pentland;
Thence my grief grew more and more;
Sea was blood-stained, black kept dripping
Gore between the gaping seams,
Sweat was shed on rim of shield,
All the sides with blood were dabbled."
Kalf ran up against the smaller ships of Rognvald and cleared their decks quickly, for there was a great difference in the height of their sides. But when the levies who had come from Norway saw ships cleared hard by them, they then loosed their ships from their lashings and laid themselves out to fly, so that scarce a ship was left behind with the earl's ship. Then the fight began to turn. So says Arnor earlskald:
"The lord, so brave in burst of battle,
Then had surely laid beneath him
All that ancient land of Orkney,
—He had far less loss of men,—
If the sea-king son of Endil
Could have brought that host to help him,
Island-born, but Shetland's lord,
By his army was betrayed."
And now that the main host had fled, then they, Kalf and Thorfinn, both ran aboard of earl Rognvald's ship, and then many men of earl Rognvald's fell. And when earl Rognvald saw in what a straight he was come, and that he could not conquer Thorfinn and Kalf both, then he made them hew the lashings asunder, and laid himself out to fly. Then the day was far spent, and it began to grow dark. Earl Rognvald sailed at once that night into the main, and so east to Norway; he did not slacken his course till he came into king Magnus' presence; he made him welcome now as before, and bade him be with him; and there earl Rognvald stayed a while.
32. Now it is to be said of earl Thorfinn, that on the morning after the fight he made them row about all the isles to search for the men who had fled. Many were slain, but some came to terms of peace; then earl Thorfinn laid under him all the isles, and made every man come into his hand, (1) and those as well who had been before bound by an oath to Rognvald. He sat himself up then in the Orkneys with a very great band of men, and drew his supplies from Caithness on the other side. But Kalf Arni's son, he sends into the Southland isles, and let him sit there as a means of strength for himself. But when earl Rognvald had stayed in Norway awhile with king Magnus, he said to the king that he would try back to the Orkneys. But when the king heard that, he called it unwise to fare before the winter abated and ice loosened and the sea began to thaw; said he then would give him ships and crews as many as he needed. Rognvald speaks thus, and said now he was not willing to lose king Magnus' men; said, too, that it could not be carried out unless with great loss of men, if he gathered a host to come to blows with Thorfinn and Karl, such a large realm as they have there west: "I mean now," he said, "to hold on west with one ship, and to man it as well as I can; then I ween that no news of us will be borne before us. Then it will either be, that we shall come upon them unawares, and then we may speedily win that victory which we should win hardly or not at all with a great force. But if they become aware of our voyage, then we will let the sea still take care of us."
King Magnus bade him fare as he liked, but to come back to him again as soon as he chose. And after that earl Rognvald makes ready his voyage and takes pains in choosing men to go with him; and some of the king's bodyguard made up their minds to go with him; then he had a picked force. And when they were boun they sailed away to sea. That was about the beginning of winter. (2)
33. Earl Rognvald made Shetland from the sea; then he learnt that earl Thorfinn was in the Orkneys and had no very great force with him; he had then no fear of war in high-winter. Now Rognvald held on straightway south to the Orkneys. Earl Thorfinn was then in Hrossey, and had no fear for himself. But as soon as Rognvald came into the Orkneys he held on there where he heard Thorfinn was, and came upon him so unawares, that nothing was heard of them before they had seized all the doors of the house which Thorfinn and his men were in. It was night then, and most men were asleep, but the earl sat then still a-drinking. Rognvald and his men bore fire to the homestead; but when earl Thorfinn was ware of the strife, he sent men to the doors and let them ask, who had sway over the strife. Then it was said that Earl Rognvald was come there. Then men sprung to their arms. Then nothing could be done in the way of defence, because outlet was shut to all. The house began soon to blaze. Thorfinn gave counsel that men should beg for leave to go of the earl, and he allowed it to all women and unfree men, but said most of earl Thorfinn's bodyguard would be no better to him alive than dead. So those men were drawn out to whom peace was given and then the whole house was soon burning. Earl Thorfinn broke away a wainscot panel at the back of the house, and sprung out there; he had Ingibjorg his wife in his arms. The night was pitch dark and moonless, and he got away under the smoke, so that the earl's men were not ware of him. He rowed at once that night alone in a boat over to the Ness. Earl Rognvald burned down the whole homestead, and all those men who were inside it, to whom leave was not given to go out. Now no man thought anything else than that earl Thorfinn had lost his life there. After this earl Rognvald fared about over all the isles and laid them under him. He sent also those words over to Caithness and to the Southern isles, that he meant to claim all that realm that earl Thorfinn had owned. No man gainsaid him in this. Earl Thorfinn was in divers places in hiding in Caithness with his friends, and no news went abroad that he had got away from the burning.
34. Earl Rognvald sat in Kirkwall, and drew there the stores which he needed to have for his winter quarters. He had a great band of men, and much good cheer. But a little before Yule earl Rognvald fared with a great following into the Little Papey to fetch malt, to be brewed for Yule. And at even, as they were on the isle, they sate long over a roasting fire, and he who made up the fire spoke and said that the firewood began to fall short. Then the earl made a slip of the tongue, and these were the words he spoke: "Then are we full old when these fires are burnt out."
But he meant so to have spoken, that they would then be full warmed. And as soon as ever he found it out, he said "I have not made a slip of the tongue before this so that I call it to mind; it comes into my mind what king Olaf my foster-father said at Sticklestead when I took him up for a slip of the tongue: If it ever happens that I made a slip of the tongue I might make up my mind that I should then have but a short time unlived. May be that my kinsman Thorfinn is yet alive."
And just then they heard how that the homestead was girt round by men. There was come earl Thorfinn. They bore fire at once to the house, and laid up a pile of fuel before the doors. They allowed all to go out save the earl's men. And when most of the men were drawn out, a man went out into the doorway in linen underclothes, and begged earl Thorfinn to stretch out his hand toward the deacon. But that man rested his hands on the balk of wood across the doorway, and vaulted out over the balk and the ring of men, so that he came down ever so far off all of them, and was lost in the darkness of night. Thorfinn bade them hold on after him, and says there went earl Rognvald, "this is his nimbleness, and no one's else."
Then they fared to hunt for him, and parted themselves into companies, and Thorkell fosterer went along the sea-shore to search. They heard how a dog barked among the rocks on the seashore. Earl Rognvald had his lapdog with him, and he betrayed the earl. (3) They put him to death at once among the rocks, and it is the story of some men that Thorkell fosterer slew him, because there were no other men who would do it. But he had sworn to do all those deeds which seemed to Thorfinn more for his realm's safety than otherwise. Thorfinn and his men stayed that night on the isle, and there all the train that had followed Rognvald there were slain. But the morning after they took a ship of burden and laded her with malt. After that they went on board, and left the shields at stem and prow which Rognvald and his men had owned. They let, too, no more men be seen in the ship than had followed the earl. Then they rowed to Kirkwall. And when the followers of Rognvald who were in the town saw that, they thought that there earl Rognvald must be coming and his men; then they went to meet him, and most of them unarmed. Earl Thorfinn let them there take about thirty men and slay them. They were most of them of king Magnus' bodyguard and his friends. The earl gave peace to one of king Magnus' bodyguard, and bade that man fare east to Norway and tell these tidings to king Magnus.
35. The body of earl Rognvald was carried to the Greater Papey, and there buried; and it was the saying of men that he has been by far the best bred man and with most friends of all the Orkney earls, and his death was a great grief to many a man. After that earl Thorfinn laid all the isles under him, and now no man gainsaid him in that. Early in the spring came these tidings east to Norway, and king Magnus thought the loss of Rognvald, his foster-brother, the greatest scathe, and said he would avenge him as soon as ever he had time. But he had at that time great strife with king Sweyn Ulfson, who had then let himself be chosen to be king over Denmark.
36. At that time came into Norway Harold Sigurd's son, the kinsman of king Magnus, and king
Magnus gave him half Norway. They were both kings in Norway one winter. Then they called out
a levy over all Norway and meant to go south to Denmark. But when they lay in the Selisles
two long-ships ran into the haven, and up to king Magnus' ship. A man went from the long
ship in a white cowl, and aft along the ship and up into the poop. The king sate over meat.
This man hailed the king, and bowed before him, took up a loaf of bread and broke a bit off
and ate. The king took his greeting, and reached out to him the bowl when he saw that he ate
the bread. This man took the bowl, and said: "We want peace, messmate."
"I am Thorfinn, Sigurd's son."
"Are you earl Thorfinn," says the king.
"So I am called west yonder," says he, "but I am come here with two ships of twenty benches each, and rather well manned, so far as we are able. Now I will row on this levy with you, if you will take help of me. But all my matter and I myself shall be at God's command and yours, lord, for the sake of those great misdeeds which I have broken against your will."
Then men went up and heard their talk. The king was slow in answering, and spoke thus: "True it is, earl Thorfinn, that I had not meant, if the meeting of us two ever took place as it has now done, that you should be able to tell of our parting. But now things have happened so, that it beseems not my honour that I should take and kill you, now you shall fare with me, but the terms of our atonement I will utter at my leisure."" Earl Thorfinn bade the king good-bye, and went to his ships. The king lay a very long time in the Selisles. Then a host gathered there to him out of the Bay. He meant to sail thence south under Jutland as soon as he got a fair wind. Earl Thorfinn was then often long a-talking with the king. The king treated him well, and took him much into his counsels. It fell out one day that the earl went on board the king's ship, and aft into the poop. The king bade him sit by him. The earl sat him down, and they both drank together and were merry. A tall brisk man in a red kirtle came into the poop, that man hailed the king. The king took his greeting blithely; that was one of the king's bodyguard. This man began to speak, and said, "You am I come to find, earl Thorfinn."
"What will you of me," says the earl. "I want to know with what you will atone to me for my brother, whom you let to be slain west in Kirkwall, along with other thanes of king Magnus."
"Have you not heard that," says the earl, "that I am not wont to atone for those men with money whom I cause to be slain. And this is how it is, that methinks I have always had good cause when I have let men be slain."
"It is no business of mine how you have done by other men, if you atonest for this one, on whose behalf I make this claim. Besides, I left behind me there some goods of my own, and for myself I was shamefully treated. I have the best right, therefore, to make this claim in my brother's name and my own, and I will have amends for it. But the king may as well forgive everything that is done against him, if he thinks it nothing worth when his thanes are led out and hewn down like sheep."
The earl answers: "I see plainly that it is all the better for me here that you have
not had power over me. Are you not that man to whom I gave peace yonder."
Then the earl answers: "Sooth it is, as the saying gæs, that 'many things happen that one least looks for.' I thought then that I could never be so placed that I should have to pay for being too peaceable to my fæs; but now I am to smart for having given you mercy. You wouldest not be able to cry out against me today before princes if I had let you be slain like the rest of your companions."
The king looked at the earl and said: "There it comes out though, earl Thorfinn,
that you thinkest you have slain too few of my thanes without atonement."
37. Earl Thorfinn now ruled over the Orkneys and all the rest of his realms. Kalf, Arni's son, was also mostly with him. Sometimes he went west sea-roving, and harried the coasts of Scotland and Ireland; he was also in England, and was for a while over the Thingmen's band. When earl Thorfinn heard of the death of king Magnus, he sent then men east to Norway to find king Harold and greet him with friendly words; he says, thus, that he wishes to become his friend. But when that message came to the king, he took it well, and the king promised him his friendship. And when this message came back to the earl, he made ready his voyage, and had with him from the west two ships of twenty benches each, and more than a hundred men, all fine picked fellows. Then he fared east to Norway, and found the king in Hördaland. He gave him a very hearty welcome; and at their parting the king gave him good gifts. Thence the earl sailed south along the land and so to Denmark. There he fared round the land, and found king Sweyn in Aalborg; he asked the earl to his house, and made him a grand feast. Then the earl laid bare his purpose how he meant to go south to Rome. But when he came to Saxony, he met there the kaiser Henry, and he gave the earl a very hearty welcome, and gave him many great gifts. He got him, too, many horses, and then he made ready his journey south. Then he fared to Rome and saw the pope there, and there he took absolution from him for all his misdeeds. The earl turned thence to his journey home, and came back safe and sound into his realm; and that journey was most famous. Then the earl sat down quietly and kept peace over all his realm. Then he left off warfare; then he turned his mind to ruling the people and land, and to law-giving. He sate almost always in Birsay, and let them build there Christchurch, a splendid minster. There first was set up a bishop's seat in the Orkneys. Earl Thorfinn had to wife Ingibjorg earlsmother; they had two sons, who grew up out of childhood; the name of one was Paul and the other's Erlend; they were tall men and fair, and took more after their mother's side. They were men wise and meek. The earl loved them much, and so too did all the people.
38. Earl Thorfinn held all his realms till his death day; it is soothly said that he has been the most powerful of all the Orkney earls. He owned nine earldoms in Scotland, and all the Southern isles, and he had a great realm in Ireland. So says Arnor earlskald:
"All the way from Tuskar-skerry
Down to Dublin hosts obeyed him,
Royal Thorfinn, raven-feeder;
True I tell how liegemen loved him."
Earl Thorfinn was then five winters old when Malcolm the Scot-king, his mother's father, gave him the title of earl; but afterwards he was sixty (5) winters earl. He breathed his last about the end of king Harold Sigurd's son's days. He is buried at Christchurch in Birsay, which he let be built. The earl's death was a great grief in the Orkneys and in his lands of heritage. But in those lands which he had laid under him with war, then many thought it great thraldom to abide under his power. Then many realms fell away which the earl had laid under him, and men looked for trust under those chiefs who were there home-born to rule in those realms. So losses were very soon plainly seen when earl Thorfinn fell away.
These songs were sung about the battle between earl Rognvald Brusi's son, and earl Thorfinn:
"Loath am I to tell the story,
How I witness was when men
Broke the truce between the earls,
Equal corpses got the corbies:
Off the isles the mighty monarch
Tore the sea's blue tent in twain,
Storm-cold waters then were stiffened,
Striking ships with buffets sore.
Hard mishap uprose triumphant
As the earls in onslaught strove,
Many a man then learnt the lesson
How to fall in bloody fight;
Hard beneath the headland ruddy
Hearty friends of ours fought,
Storm of spear-points followed after,
Many mild folk there met grief.
Gloom over gleaming sun shall gather,
Earth 'neath billow black be merged,
Austri's burden (6) break to pieces,
Main-sea mount above the mountains;
Before among those isles a fairer
Chieftain shall again be born,
Thorfinn trusty lord of thanes
Long may God him guard alive."
39. Now (7) the sons of earl Thorfinn took the realm after him. Paul was the elder of them, and he took the lead over them. They did not share the lands between them, and yet were a very long time well agreed in their dealings. Ingibjorg earlsmother gave herself away, after the death of earl Thorfinn, to Malcolm the Scot-king, who was called long-neck; their son was Duncan the Scot-king, father of William the nobleman. His son's name again was William the prince, whom all the Scots wished to take for the king. Earl Paul, Thorfinn's son, got to wife the daughter of earl Hacon Ivar's son, and they had many children. Their son's name was Hacon. They had a daughter whose name was Thora; she was given away in Norway to Haldor, the son of Brynjulf (the old) camel. Their son's name was Brynjulf; his son's name was Haldor, who had to wife Gyrid Dag's daughter. Another daughter of Paul's was named Ingirid, whom Einar Vorsacrow had to wife. Herbjorg was the name of Paul's third daughter; she was the mother of Ingibjorg the honourable, whom Sigurd of Westness had to wife, and their sons were Hacon pick and Brynjulf. Sigrid was another daughter of Herbjorg, the mother of Hacon bairn and Herborg, whom Kolbeinn the burly had to wife. Ragnhilda was the name of a fourth daughter of earl Paul, she was the mother of Benedict, the father of Ingibjorg, the mother of Erling the archdeacon. Bergliot was the name of another ? daughter of Ragnhilda, whom Havard Gunni's son had to wife; their sons were Magnus and Hacon claw, and Dufnjal and Thorstein. These are all earls' kin, and noblemen in the Orkneys, and all these men come into the story afterwards. Earl Erlend Thorfinn's son had to wife that woman whose name was Thora and was the daughter of Summerled the son of Ospak. The mother of Ospak was Thordis, daughter of Hall o' the Side. Erling and Magnus were their (Erlend's and Thora's) sons, but their daughters were Gunnhilda and Cecilia, whom Isaac had to wife, and their sons (Cecilia's and Isaac's), were Endridi and Kol. Jatvor was the name of a base-born daughter of Erlend, her son's name was Borgar.
40. When those brothers Paul and Erlend had taken the rule in the Orkneys, Harold Sigurd's son came from the east out of Norway with a great host. He came first to Shetland. Thence he fared to the Orkneys. There he left behind him Elspeth his queen and their daughters Maria and Ingigerd. Out of the Orkneys he had much force. Both the earls made ready to go with the king. The king fared thence south to England, and landed in the place called Cleveland, and won Scarborough. After that he ran in at Hallorness, and had there a battle and won the victory. On the mid-week day (Wednesday) next before Matthiasmass he had a battle in York against earls Waltheof and Morcar. There Morcar fell. The Sunday after that burg was given into the power of king Harold which stood by Stamford-bridge. The Monday after he went on land to settle things in the town. At the ships he left behind him his son Olaf, and earls Paul and Erlend, and Eystein gorcock his brother-in-law, and Thorberg Arni's son. In that land journey came Harold, Godwin's son, against king Harold with an overwhelming host. A great battle arose at once, and in that battle fell Harold Sigurd's son. After the king's fall came Eystein gorcock from the ships, and the earls, and made a very hard onslaught. That battle was called the gorcock's storm or the gorcock's bout. There fell Eystein gorcock and well nigh the whole host of the Northmen. After those fights king Harold gave Olaf Harold's son, and the earls leave to go away out of England, and also to all that host that had not already fled. Olaf sailed out about autumn from Ravensere, and so to the Orkneys. And there they heard these tidings, that on that day and at that hour when Harold fell, his daughter Maria died a sudden death, and it is the talk of men that they have had but one man's life between them. Olaf was that winter in the Orkneys, and he was the greatest friend of the earls his kinsmen. They were brother's daughters, Thora king Olaf's mother and Ingibjorg the earls' mother. Olaf fared when the spring came east to Norway, and was there taken to be king with Magnus his brother.
But when those brothers ruled the Orkneys, then was their agreement great and good a long while. But when their sons began to grow up, then they became very overbearing men, Hacon and Erling. Magnus was the quietest tempered of them. They were all of them tall and strong, and proper men in all things. Hacon, Paul's son, would be the leader over those brothers (his cousins); he thought he was more by birth than the sons of Erlend, because he was the daughter's son of earl Hacon Ivar's son and Ragnhilda daughter of king Magnus the good. Hacon would have it that his friends should have a larger lot when there was anything to share than they allowed to the sons of Erlend; but Erlend would not that his sons should have the worst of it there in the isles. Then it so came about that those kinsmen could not be together in peace, and there was danger with them. Then their fathers took a share in the matter; they were to try and make matters up; then a meeting was fixed, and it was soon found out that each of them leant towards his own sons, and they could make no settlement. Now disagreement arose between those brothers, and they parted bad friends, and that many thought great scathe.
1. come into his hand, become his liegeman.
2. The Flatey Book adds, "and got a fair wind."
3. The Flatey Book adds, "Thorkell made him captive, and bade men put an end to the earl, and offered them money to do it; but no one would do it any more for money. Then Thorkell did the deed himself, for that he knew that one or other of them must bow before the other. Then earl Thorfinn came up, and did not blame the deed."
4. The Flatey Book has here left out a long passage which runs thus in the Danish translation: "But to kjing Sweyn he gave Denmark. He also sent his brother Thorir and many other of his friends whom he wished to be well treated to king Sweyn. But after king Magnus was dead, king Harold gave out that he would make for Veborg Thing, and let himself be chosen there king over all Denmark; and said that then the Norwegians would be for ever over the Danes, and made a long speech about it. But Einar Paunchshaker answered him, and said, 'It is more to my mind, and I am more bound, to bear the body of king Magnus north to Norway to the saint king Olaf, his father, than to fight along with king Harold for other kings' realms.' And at the same time he ended his speech by saying he thought it better to follow king Magnus dead than any other king alive; and there and then Einar went to his ship, and as he went all the chiefs whose homes lay north of Stad in Norway, went with him. Then king Harold saw no other way than to sail first to Norway, and first take the kingdom under him. King Sweyn was in Skanör at the time that he heard that king Magnus was dead. He had it then in his mind to ride east into Sweden, and to give up the name of king which he had taken; and just as he was ready to start there came a man to him who told him that king Magnus was dead, and all the Norwegian host had gone out of Denmark. Then king Sweyn swore by God that he would never give up Denmark for any man so long as he was alive. Then he crossed over to Zealand, and laid the realm under him wherever he came. There he met Thorir and many other of king Magnus' men whom he had sent together. He took very kindly to them, and Thorir was with him a long time afterwards."
5. Fifty would seem to be the true reading, for Thorfinn seems to have reigned from
AD 1014 till 1064, in which latter year the earl apears to have died.
7. Here begins the second part of the Orkneyingers' Saga, containing an abridgement of the Life of St. Magnus.
41. After that kindly men came between them, and seek to settle things; so there was a peace-meeting fixed for them in Hrossey. At that meeting a settlement was made in this way, that then the isles were shared into halves as they had been between Thorfinn and Brusi. So things stood awhile. Hacon was then almost always away war-roving since he had grown up. He became then a very overbearing man, and they (Hacon and his men) were hard on those men who served under those kinmen, Erlend and his sons. So it came about again that the settlement was broken, and they fared against each other a great force. Havard Gunni's son and all the other noblemen of the earls came one day between them and again brought them together and tried to bring about a settlement. Then Erlend and his sons would not make matters up, so that Hacon was to be there in the isles. But because it seemed to their friends that there was great risk in their quarrels, then they prayed Hacon not to let this stand in the way of peace; but that he would rather fare away out of the isles. They said it would be good counsel if he fared east across the sea to visit his kinsmen, both in Norway and Sweden. And at the beseeching of his men, and also that Hacon was envious of his kinsmen there in the isles, and thought it good to learn the ways of other chiefs, then he granted them their prayer that he would fare away at once out of the isles. Then the settlement was again made by the counsel of good men. After that Hacon fared away out of the isles, first east to Norway, and he found there king Olaf the quiet. This was about the end of his days. There Hacon stayed some time. After that he fared east to Sweden to see king Ingi, Steinkel's son, and he made him welcome. He found there his friends and kinsmen. He reaped there the greatest honour from the friendships of Hacon, his mother's father. He had held rule there from Steinkel, the Swede king, after he had to fly the land before king Harold Sigurd's son. He had grown there to be the greatest friend, both of the king and the men of the land. Another daughter's son of earl Hacon Ivar's son, was Hacon, who called the Northman; he was father of Eric the wise, who was king in Denmark after king Eric the ever-memorable. Hacon stayed in Sweden a while, and king Ingi was good to him. But when things had gone on so a while then home-sickness came over him to seek west to the isles. Christianity was then young in Sweden; there were then many men who went about with witchcraft, and thought by that to become wise and knowing of many things which had not yet come to pass. King Ingi was a thorough Christian man, and all wizards were loathsome to him. He took great pains to root out those evil ways which had long gone hand in hand with heathendom, but the rulers of the land and the great freeholders took it ill that their bad customs were found fault with. So it came about that the freemen chose them another king, Sweyn, the queen's brother, who still held to his sacrifices to idols, and was called Sacrifice-Sweyn. Before him king Ingi was forced to fly the land into West-Gothland; but the end of their dealings was, that king Ingi took the house over Sweyn's head and burnt him inside it. After that he took all the land under him. Then he still went on rooting out many bad ways.
42. When Hacon Paul's son was in Sweden, he had heard say that there in the land was a man who went about with wisdom and spaedom, whether he got it by witchcraft or other things. He had a great longing to find out this man, and to know whether he could be made wise as to his future fate. And after that he fared to that man, and found him at last dwelling in the woods. There he used to go about to feasts, and told the freemen about their crops and other things. But when he found that man, then he asked him he might come to power or other good luck. The wizard asked him what manner of man he was. He told him his name and kin, that he was the daughter's son of Hacon Ivar's son. Then said the wizard: "Why will you take of me wisdom or sayings; you knowest that those kinsmen of thine of old have had little mind for such like men as I am, and it may serve your need that you shouldest seek to know your fate from Olaf the stout, they kinsman, the king of Norway, whom you set all faith in. But I rather doubt that he would not have humble-mindness enough to tell you what you are eager to know, or perhaps be not so mighty either as you say he is."
Then Hacon answers: "I will not speak ill of him. I think it more likely that I may not have worthiness enough to take wisdom from him, than that he may not be so powerful, that for that reason I should not take wisdom from him. But this is why I have come to see you, because it has come into my mind that here neither of us will need to envy the other for the sake of matters of virtue or belief."
That man answers: "It likes me well that I find that you thinkest that you have all
trust where I am, and before that faith which you have followed, you and your other kinsmen.
So it is, too, that with you those who lay themselves out for such things go wondrously to
work. They go about with fasts and wakes, and deem that therefore those things must be
granted to them which they are eager to know. But though they take such pains, yet are they
all the less wise of what they desire to know, the more they mix themselves up with them;
but we lay ourselves under no penance, and yet we are always wise as to those things of
which our friends think it worth while that they should not go on in ignorance. Now things
will so go with us two that you shall get this gain from me, as I see clearly that you
thinkest thyself better able to get the truth from me than from king Ingi's priestly
teachers, whom he thinks he may put all trust in. You shall come in three nights' space, and
then we two will try if I can tell you anything which you are eager to know."
The spaeman bade him believe it or not as he chose, but said that it would come to pass.
43. After that Hacon went away to see king Ingi, and stayed with him a short time before he set his heart on faring to the western lands. Then he took leave of the king to go away. Hacon fared first to Norway to see his kinsman king Magnus, and he made him welcome. Then he learnt those tidings from the Orkneys, that earl Erlend and his sons had it almost all their own way there, and had won very many friends, but Paul his father had little or nothing to do with ruling the land. He thought, too, he made out from those men who came from the west, and in whose words he could put most faith, that the Orkneyingers would long very little for his coming there west; for they had already good peace and quietness, but feared if Hacon came west that strife and uproar would arise from him. But when Hacon thought of this to himself, then he thought it not unlikely that those kinsmen would hold the realm from him, but let it not be without risk to him if he came there west without a great force. So he took that counsel to seek to king Magnus that he would bring him to power in the Orkneys.
This was after that king Magnus had made them put to death Steigar-Thorir and Egil,
and freed the land from all strife. Hacon was a wise man, and he thought he could see by
king Magnus' talk when they spoke together, that the king would be high-minded and eager to
attack the realms of other chiefs. Hacon fell to saying this before the king, that it would
be a brave deed for a prince to have out the levy and harry west across the sea, and lay the
isles under him, as Harold fair-hair did. Says, too, if he could get rule in the Southern
isles, it would be handy to harry thence in Ireland and Scotland; and if he put the western
lands under him, that thence it would be good to strive with the strength of the Northmen
against the Englishmen, "and so avenge Harold Sigurd's son, your father's father."
But when Hacon heard this utterance, he grew cold and said very little more about it, and doubted for what these words could be spoken. He left off after that egging on the king to any voyage; but then little was needed, for after this speech the king sent messengers over all his realm that the levy should be out. He laid it bare before all the people that he meant to hold on with that host west over the sea, whatever tidings might happen afterwards in his voyages. So men made ready for this voyage all over the land. King Magnus had with him his son on this voyage, eight winters old, whose name was Sigurd; he was much of a man for his years.
44. When those brothers Paul and Erlend ruled over the Orkneys, king Magnus, the son of Olaf the quiet, came from the east out of Norway. He had a mighty host, and many liegemen followed him. Vidkun Johnson, Sigurd Hranis' son, Sark out of Sogn, Dag Eilif's son, Skopti of Gizki, ægmund, Finn, and Thord; Eyvind elbow the king's marshal. There was also Kali of Agdir Seabear's son, the son of Thorleif the wise, whom Hallfred maimed, and Kol his son. Kali was a very wise man, and dear to the king, and a good rhymer. Now when king Magnus came to the Orkneys, then he seized the earls Paul and Erlend, and sent them east to Norway, but set up his son Sigurd over the isles, and gave him councillors. King Magnus fared to the Southern isles and the earls' sons, Magnus and Erling, sons of earl Erlend, and Hacon, Paul's son, went along with him. But when king Magnus came into the isles, he fell to harrying first in the Lewes, and won them; and in that voyage he won all the Southern isles, and took captive Lögman, the son of Gudred, the king of the Southern isles. Thence he fared south under Bretland (Wales), and had a great battle in Anglesey-sound with two British earls, Hugh the stout and Hugh the proud. They were brothers of Costnami, who was then king in Ireland in Ulster. And when men were getting out their weapons and busking themselves for the fight, Magnus, Erlend's son, sate him down aft in the forecastle, and did not arm himself. The king asked why he sate. He said he had no quarrel with any man there; "that's why I will not fight."
The king said: "Get you away down under the thwarts, and don't lie here before men's feet, if you darest not to fight, for I do not think that faith drives you to this."
Magnus took a psalter, and sung while the battle lasted, but did not shield himself. This battle was both hard and long, and both spears were thrown and blows struck; it was long so that it could not be seen between them which way the fight would turn. King Magnus shot with a crossbow, and another man from Helgeland by his side. Hugh the proud fought most sturdily; he was so clad and byrnied that there was no bare spot on him save the eyes. King Magnus bade the man from Helgeland that they should both shoot at him at once, and so they did, and one arrow struck him on his nose-guard, but the other went in at the eye, and flew afterwards through the head. That shot was reckoned to the king.
45. There fell Hugh the proud. After that the British fled and had lost many men; but king Magnus had won a great victory, but had yet lost many good men, and very many were wounded. So this was made about it:
"Bolts on byrnies then came rattling,
Might and main the monarch fought,
Agdir's ruler bent his crossbow,
Blood on helmets there was sprinkled:
Bowstrings' hail on mail came flying,
Men fell fast, and Hordas' king,
Seeking land with onslaught hard,
Dealt his deathblow to the earl."
Then king Magnus made Anglesea his own as far south as ever the kings of Norway of old had ever owned it. Anglesea is a trithing of Bretland (Wales). Kali Seabear's son had got many wounds in Anglesea sound, though none of them at once mortal. Afterwards king Magnus turned back by the south course along Scotland.
King Magnus had made Magnus Erlend's son his page, and he served always at the king's board. But after the battle in Anglesey-sound king Magnus took a great dislike to him. He said he had behaved like a coward. It fell on a night when king Magnus lay off Scotland that Magnus Erlend's son ran away from king Magnus' ship when he thought he had the best chance of flying from the king. He jumped overboard and swam to land, and made up his berth so that it seemed as if a man lay there. But when he came to land he ran into the woods, and was in his under-clothing. He struck his foot, and hurt himself much, as he was bare-foot, and so he could walk no longer at that time. He came to a great tree, and climbed up there into the branches, and there bound up his foot, and hid himself there in the branches for some time. But in the morning when men went to meat on board the king's ship, the king asked where Magnus Erlend's son was. He was told that he was asleep in his berth. The king bade them wake him, and said something else than sleep must have come over him when he lay longer than other men. But when they came to his place, then he was missing. Then the king bade them search for him and let loose the slot hounds. But when the hounds were loose, they came at once on his track, and ran off to the wood, and came to that tree in which Magnus was up. Then one hound ran round and round the oak and bayed. Magnus had a stick in his hand, and threw it at the hound, and hit him on the side. The hound laid his tail between his legs and ran down to the ships, and the others after it. The king's men could not find Magnus. He lay hid for a while in the wood, and was next heard of in the court of Malcolm the king of Scots, and stayed there a while, but sometimes he was in Bretland with a certain bishop. He was sometimes in England, or in other places with his friends, but he did not come back to the Orkneys while king Magnus lived.
King Magnus held on his course from the south along Scotland, and then came to meet him messengers from Malcolm the king of Scots, and offered him peace. They said thus that the king of Scots would give up to him all those isles that lie to the west of Scotland, between which and the mainland he could sail in a ship with a fixed rudder. But when king Magnus ran in from the south to Cantire, he let them drag a cutter over the neck of Cantire, he held the tiller, and so took as his own all Cantire. That is better than the best isle in the Southern isles save Man. It gæs from the west of Scotland, and has a narrow neck of land at the top of it, so that there ships are very often drawn over. King Magnus held on thence into the Southern isles, but sent his men into Scotland's firths; they were to row in hugging the land on one side, and out hugging it on the other, and so King Magnus claimed as his own all the isles to the west of Scotland. Then the king gave it out that he would sit that winter in the Southern isles, but gave leave to those men who he thought had most need of it to fare home. But when the levies knew that, they became home-sick, and grumbled badly about their being so long away. The king then had a talk with his men and councillors. he went and looked at the wounds of his men. Then the king went to see Kali Seabear's son and asked after his wounds. Kali said they healed very little, and let him know that he could not tell how they would turn out. The king asked counsel of him. Kali asked: "Is it not so king that now your friends steal away from you."
The king made as though he thought that were not so. Kali bade him call them under arms, and so muster his men. The king did so, and then missed many men. And when the king told this to Kali, then Kali chaunted this:
"How your wary chiefs reward you
For those precious gifts of thine?
West the vessel's sides are shaking,
Try our trustiness, king!"
Then the king answers:
"Ill have I my boons bestowed,
Boons that brighten face of man,
Buoyant keel to climb the billow,
Now must I command in vain."
After this the king kept watch and ward if men ran from him, and let none .......... (1) When king Magnus was in the Southern isles, then he got as a bride for his son Sigurd, Bjadmunja, daughter of Moorkiartan, Thialbi's son, the Irish king of Connaught. Sigurd was then nine winters old and the maiden five. This winter Kali Seabear's son breathed his last of his wounds. In Anglesey-sound had fallen Sigurd skewer, Kali's kinsman. He was liegeman in Agdir.
Next spring early king Magnus fared away from the Southern isles. He fared first to the Orkneys. There he heard from the east across the sea of the death of the earls, and how Erlend had died in Nidaros, and was buried there, and Paul in Bergen. In the spring in the Orkneys king Magnus gave away Gunnhilda, the daughter of earl Erlend, to Kol Kali's son, as an atonement for the loss of his father, and some estates in the Orkneys went with her as her dowry, and a homestead in Paplay. Of Erling, the son of earl Erlend, some men say that he had fallen in Anglesey sound, but Snorri Sturla's son says he has fallen in Ulster with king Magnus. Kol Kali's son became king Magnus' liegeman, and fared east into Norway with the king, and home to Agdir with his wife, and settled down on his farms. They, Kol and Gunnhilda, had two children; their son's name was Kali, but their daughter's name was Ingirid. they were both of the greatest promise, and reared up with much love.
46. When king Magnus had ruled the land nine winters, he fared away out of the land west across the sea and harried in Ireland, and was the winter in Connaught. But the summer after he fell in Ulster on Bartholomew's day. But when king Sigurd in the Orkneys heard of his father's fall, he fared at once to Norway, and was there taken to be king with his brothers Eystein and Olaf. Sigurd left behind him over the western sea the daughter of the Irish king. One winter or two after the fall of king Magnus, Hacon Paul's son came from the west across the sea, and the kings gave him the title of earl and such power, as was due to his birth. Then he fared west across the sea and took the realm under him in the Orkneys; he had always followed king Magnus while he lived. He was with him in his warfare east in Gothland, as is said in that lay which was made on Hacon Paul's son.
47. When earl Hacon had taken the rule in the Orkneys, Magnus earl Erlend's son came down from Scotland and asked to take his father's heritage. That pleased the freemen well, for he had very many friends. He had there many kinsmen and connexions who were glad to raise him to power. A worthy man named Sigurd then had his mother to wife; their son was Hacon churl; they kept house in Paplay. When earl Hacon heard that earl Magnus was come into the isles, he drew force to himself, and would not give up the Orkneys or share that realm which he had there. After that friends came between them and tried to settle matters. So it came about that they were made friends on those terms, that Hacon gave up half the realm if that were the award of the kings of Norway, and with that this strife was stayed. Magnus fared straightway in the spring to Norway to find king Eystein, for Sigurd had then fared out abroad to Jerusalem. King Eystein made him a hearty welcome, and gave him up his father's inheritance, half the Orkneys and the title of earl. Earl Magnus fared west over the sea to take up his power, and his kinsmen and friends and all the people were glad at that; then the kinship of Hacon and Magnus throve well when friends took part in it. There was then peace and plenty in the Orkneys so long as their friendship lasted.
48. Saint Magnus the isle earl was the most peerless of men, tall of growth, manly, and lively of look, virtuous in his ways, fortunate in fight, a sage in wit, ready-tongued and lordly-minded, lavish of money and high-spirited, quick of counsel and more beloved of his friends than any man; blithe and of kind speech to wise and good men, but hard and unsparing against robbers and sea-rovers; he let many men be slain who harried the freemen and landfolk; he made murderers and thieves be taken, and visited as well on the powerful as on the weak robberies and thieveries and all ill deeds. He was no favourer of his friends in his judgments, for he valued more godly justice than the distinctions of rank. He was open-handed to chiefs and powerful men, but still he showed most care for poor men. In all things he kept straitly God's commandments, and kept down his body in many things which in his praiseworthy life where bright before God, but hidden before men. He then showed his purpose when he asked the hand of a maiden of the most noble race of Scotland, and drank the bridal feast with her; he lived ten years with her so that he fulfilled neither of their lusts, but was pure and spotless of all carnal sins. And when he felt temptation coming over him, then he went into cold water, and asked support of God for himself. Many were those other things and noble virtues which he showed to God himself, but hid from men.
49. Those kinsmen Magnus and Hacon held the wardship of the land for some while, so that they were well agreed. So it is said in that song which is made of them, that they fought against that chief whose name was Duffnjal, and who was one step further off than the earl's brother's son, (2) and he fell before them. Thorbjorn was the name of a noble man whom they put to death in Burra-firth in Shetland; it is the story of many men that they took the house over his head and burnt him inside it. There are more tidings on which songs have been made which show that they must have been both together, though here it is not fully told about them. But when those kinsmen had ruled the land some time, then again happened, what often and always can happen, that many ill-willing men set about spoiling their kinship. Then unlucky men gathered more about Hacon, for that he was very envious of the friendships and lordliness of his kinsman Magnus.
50. Two men are they who are named, who were with earl Hacon, and who were the worst of all the tale-bearers between those kinsmen, Sigurd and Sighvat sock. This slander came so far with the gossip of wicked men, that those kinsmen again gathered forces together, and each earl fared against the other with a great company. Then both of them held on to Hrossey, where the place of meeting of those Orkneyingers was. But when they came there, then each drew up his men in array, and they made them ready to battle. There were then the earls and all the great men, and there too were many friends of both who did all they could to set them at one again. Many then came between them with manliness and goodwill. This meeting was in Lent, a little before Palm Sunday. But because many men of their well-wishers took a share in clearing up these difficulties between them, but would stand by neither to do harm to the other, then they bound their agreement with oaths and handsels. (3) And when some time had gone by after that, then earl Hacon, with falsehood and fair words, settled with the blessed earl Magnus to meet him on a certain day; so that their kinship and steadfast new-made peace should not be turned aside or set at naught. This meeting for a steadfast peace and thorough atonement between them was to be in Easter week that spring on Egil's isle. This pleased earl Magnus well, being, as he was, a thoroughly whole-hearted man, far from all doubt, guile, or greed; and each of them was to have two ships, and each just as many men; this both swore, to hold and keep those terms of peace which the wisest men made up their minds to declare between them. But when Eastertide was gone by, each made him ready for this meeting. Earl Magnus summoned to him all those men whom he knew to be kindest-hearted and likeliest to do a good turn to both those kinsmen. He had two longships and just as many men as was said. And when he was ready he held on his course to Egil's isle. And as they were rowing in calm over the smooth sea, there rose a billow against the ship which the earl steered and fell on the ship just where the earl sate. The earl's men wondered much at this token, that the billow fell on them in a calm where no man had ever known it to fall before, and where the water under was deep. Then the earl said: "It is not strange that you wonder at this, but my thought is, that this is a foreboding of my life's end; may be that may happen which was before spaed about earl Hacon. We should so make up our minds about our undertaking, that I guess my kinsman Hacon must not mean to deal fairly by us at this meeting."
The earl's men were afraid at these words, when he said he had so short hope as to his life's end, and bade him take heed for his life, and not fare farther trusting in earl Hacon. Earl Magnus answers: "We shall fare on still, and may all God's will be done as to our voyage."
1. The end of this sentence is illegible in the MS.
2. That is, he was their second cousin.
3. The Danish Translation adds "and the wisest men were to decide between them."
51. Now it must be told about earl Hacon, that he summoned to him a great company, and has many warships, and all manned and trimmed as though they were to run out to battle. And when the force came together, the earl makes it clear to the men that he meant at that meeting so to settle matters between himself and earl Magnus, that they should not both of them be over the Orkneys. Many of his men showed themselves well pleased at this purpose, and added many fearful words; and they, Sigurd and Sighvat sock, were among the worst in their utterance. Then men began to row hard, and they fared furiously. Havard Gunni's son was on board the earl's ship, a friend and counsellor of the earls', and a fast friend to both alike. Hacon had hidden from him this bad counsel, which Havard would surely not join in. And when he knew the earl was so steadfast in this bad counsel, then he jumped from the earl's ship and took to swimming, and swam to an isle where no man dwelt. Earl Magnus came first to Egil's isle with his company, and when they saw Hacon coming, they knew that treachery must be meant. Earl Magnus then betook himself up on the isle with his men, and went to the church to pray, and was there that night, but his men offered to defend him. The earl answers: "I will not lay your life in risk for me, and if peace is not to be made between us two kinsmen, then be it as God wills."
Then his men thought that what he had said when the billow fell on them was coming true. Now for that he felt sure as to the hours of his life beforehand, whether it was rather from his shrewdness or of godly foreshadowing, then he would not fly nor fare far from the meeting of his fæs. (1) He prayed earnestly, and let a mass be sung to him.
52. Hacon and his men jumped up in the morning and ran first to the church, and ransacked
it, and did not find the earl. He had gone another way on the isle with two men into a
certain hiding place. And when the saint earl Magnus saw that they sought for him, then he
calls out to them, and says where he was; he bade them look nowhere else for him. And when
Hacon saw him, then they ran there with shouts and crash of arms. Earl Magnus was then at
his prayers when they came to him, and when he had ended his prayers, then he signed himself
(with the cross), and said to earl Hacon, with steadfast heart: "You didst not well,
kinsman, when you wentest back on your oaths, and it is much to be hoped that you dæst this
more from others badness than thine own. Now will I offer you three choices, that you dæst
some one of these rather than break your oaths and let me be slain guiltless."
To this they said "Nay" at once. Then earl Magnus spoke: "Now seeing that my life is in your power, and that I have in many things made myself an outlaw before Almighty God, then send you me up into Scotland to some of both our friends, and let me be there kept in ward, and two men with me as a pastime. Take you care then that I may never be able to get out of that wardship."
To this they said "Nay" at once. Magnus spoke: "One choice is still behind, which I will offer you, and God knows that I look more to your soul than to my life; but still it better beseems you than to take away my life. Let me be maimed in my limbs as you pleasest, or pluck out my eyes, and set me in a dark dungeon."
Then earl Hacon spoke: "This settlement I am ready to take, nor do I ask anything farther."
Then the chiefs sprang up and said to earl Hacon: "We will slay now either of you
twain, and you two shall not both from this day forth rule the lands."
So says Holdbodi, a truthful freeman from the Southern isles, of the parley they had. he was then with Magnus, and another man with him, when they took him captive.
53. So glad was the worthy earl Magnus as though he were bidden to a feast; he neither spoke with hate nor words of wrath. And after this talk he fell to prayer, and hid his face in the palms of his hands, and shed out many tears before God's eyesight. When earl Magnus the saint was done to death, Hacon bade Ofeig his banner-bearer to slay the earl, but he said "Nay" with the greatest wrath. Then he forced Lifolf his cook to kill Magnus, but he began to weep aloud. "You shall not weep for this," said the earl, "for that there is fame in doing such deeds; be steadfast in your heart, for you shall have my clothes, as is the wont and law of men of old (2) and your will, and he who forces you misdæs more than you."
But when the earl had said this, he threw off his kirtle and gave it to Lifolf. After that he begged leave to say his prayers, and that was granted him. He fell to earth, and gave himself over to God, and brought himself as an offering to him. He not only prayed for himself or his friends, but rather there and then for his fæs and banemen, and forgave them with all his heart what they had misdone towards him, and confessed his own misdeeds to God, and prayed that they might be washed off him by the outshedding of his blood, and commended his soul into God's hand, and prayed that God's angels would come to meet his soul, and bear it into the rest of Paradise. Some men say that he took the Lord's Body when the mass was sung to him. When the friend of God was led out to slaughter, he spoke to Lifolf: "Stand you before me, and hew me on my head a great wound, for it beseems not to chop off chiefs' heads like thieves'; strengthen thyself, wretched man, for I have prayed for you to God that he may have mercy on you."
After that he signed himself (with the cross), and bowed himself to the stroke. And his spirit passed to heaven.
54. That spot was before mossy and stony. But in a little after the worthiness of earl Magnus before God was so bright that there sprung up a green sward where he was slain, and God showed that, that he was slain for righteousness' sake, and inherited the fairness and greenness of Paradise, which is called the earth of living men. Earl Hacon did not allow the earl to be borne to the church. The death-day of earl Magnus is two nights after Tiburce mass. He had then been earl over the Orkneys seven winters, he and Hacon both together. There had then passed since the fall of king Olaf seventy four winters. Sigurd and Eystein and Olaf were the kings over Norway. There had been passed since the birth of Christ one thousand and ninety and one winters. (3)
55. After the meeting, Thora, the mother of earl Magnus, had bidden both earls to a feast, (4) and now came earl Hacon to the feast after the slaying of earl Magnus the saint. Thora went about waiting on the guests herself, and bore drink to the earl and his men, those who had been at the slaying of her son. And when the drink took hold of the earl, then Thora went before him and said: "Now are you come here alone, lord, but I looked for you both; will you now gladden me before the witness of God and men; be now to me in a son's stead, and I will be to you in a mother's stead; I much need now your pity, and that you givest me leave that my son may be borne to church; be now so with me in my prayers as you wouldest wish God to be with you at doomsday."
The earl holds his peace and thinks over the matter, and was sorry for those ill deeds when she begged so meekly with tears that she might have her way about bearing her son to church. He looked at her, and dropped tears, and said to her: "Bury your son where it pleases you."
After that earl Magnus was borne to Hrossey, and buried at that Christchurch (in Birsay) which earl Thorfinn made them make. Straightway after that a heavenly light was often seen shining over his grave. Afterwards men began to call upon him often, if they were placed in danger, and their matter was granted at once as they prayed. In the same way a heavenly fragrance was often perceived at his grave, and sick men got back their health thence. Then next men made journeys there both from the Orkneys and Shetland, who were in weak health, and watched at the tomb of earl Magnus the saint, and got healing for their ailments. But yet men did not dare to spread this abroad while earl Hacon lived. It is also so said, that those men who were most in the treachery against earl Magnus the saint, most of them died ill and harrowing deaths. At that time William was bishop in the Orkneys; he was the first bishop there. The bishop's seat was then at Christchurch in Birsay. William was bishop sixty-six years. He doubted long the holiness of earl Magnus. (5) After the slaying of earl Magnus, Hacon took all the realm under him in the Orkneys; he then made all men take an oath to him who had before served earl Magnus; then he became a great chief, and laid heavy burdens on the friends of earl Magnus, whom he thought had been most against him in their quarrels. But some winters after, Hacon began his voyage out of the land, and fared south to Rome; in that journey he fared out to Jerusalem, thence he sought the halidoms, and bathed in the river Jordan, as is palmers' wont. After that he turned back to his own land, and took under him the realm in the Orkneys. He then became a good ruler, and kept his realm well at peace. Then he set up in the Orkneys new laws, which pleased the freemen much better than those that had been before. With such things his friendships began to grow; and so it came about that the Orkneyingers cared for nothing else than to have Hacon for their chief, and his offspring after him.
56. At that time, when earl Hacon had rule in the Orkneys, that man dwelt at the Dale in Caithness whose name was Moddan, a man of rank and very wealthy; his daughters were these, Helga and Frakok and Thorleif. Helga, Moddan's daughter, was the concubine of earl Hacon, and their son was Harold, who was called the smooth-tongued, but their daughter was Ingibjorg, whom Olaf bitling (6) the Southern isle king had to wife, and Margaret was also their daughter. Frakok, Moddan's daughter, was given away to that man in Sutherland whose name was Ljot the dastard, and their daughter was Steinvor the stout, whom Thorljot in Rackwick had to wife. Their sons were Oliver the unruly and Magnus, and Orm, and Moddan and Eindrid; and Audhild (was their daughter). Another daughter of Frakok was Gudrun, whom Thorstein the freeman, dribblemouth, had to wife; their son was Thorbjorn the clerk. Thorleif, Moddans' daughter, had also a daughter whose name was Gunnhilda. (Audhild?) Earl Hacon had also another son, whose name was Paul, and was called hold-tongue; he was gloomy, but had many friends. Between those brothers there was never much love lost when they grew up. Earl Hacon Paul's son was smitten to death by sickness there in the isles, and men thought that great scathe, for at the end of his days there was good peace, but the freemen misdoubted much whether those brothers, Paul and Harold, would be of one mind.
57. After the death of earl Hacon, his sons took the rule, and they were soon of two minds, and shared the realm into halves. There soon arose great divisions among the great men, and the chieftains threw themselves very much into two sides. Earl Harold held Caithness from the Scot-king, and he was almost always there, but sometimes he was up in Scotland, for he had there many kinsmen and friends. When earl Harold was seated in Sutherland, there came to him that man whose name was Sigurd, who was said to be the son of Ethelbert the priest; he was called snap-deacon; he came down then from Scotland, and had been with David the Scot-king, and he had laid upon him great honours. Earl Harold gave him a very hearty welcome. Sigurd fared out to the Orkneys with earl Harold, and so did Frakok, Moddan's daughter, for that Ljot the dastard, her husband was then dead. She and her sister Helga had then a great share in ruling the land with earl Harold. Sigurd snap was in great love with all of them. Then Audhild the daughter of Thorleif, Moddan's daughter, followed him as his leman, and their daughter was Ingigerd, whom Hacon claw afterwards had to wife. Eric the straight had before had Audhild to wife; their son was Eric stay-brails. When they, Sigurd and Frakok, came into the isles, a great sundering of followers arose, and each of the earls gather as many of his friends about him as he could. These were dearest to earl Paul, Sigurd of Westness, who had to wife Ingibjorg the honourable, the earl's kinswoman, and Thorkel Summerled's son, who was always with earl Paul, and was called fosterer. He was near of kin to Magnus the saint, and was more beloved of his friends than any man. Now the friends of earl Harold deemed that Thorkell would be the last man to spare those brothers strife for the sake of those griefs which he had suffered from earl Hacon their father. So it came about at last that earl Harold and Sigurd snap fell on Thorkell fosterer and slew him. But when earl Paul heard that, he took the tidings very ill, and gathered force together to him. But then the news came at once to earl Harold, and he, too, drew force to him. But when the friends of both of them were aware of this, they came up and tried to settle matters, and then all men had a share in setting them at one again. Earl Paul was so wrath that he would hear of no terms, unless all those men were sent away who had been at the slaying. But inasmuch as it seemed to the freemen that great harm would come of their strife, then all men threw in their word that they should make friends. So it came about that Sigurd was sent away out of the isles, and those other men whom earl Paul thought were most guilty of the deed. Earl Harold paid up the fines that followed on Thorkell's slaying. It was also said at this peace-making that the kinship of those brothers, Paul and Harold, should be bettered, and they were both to be together at Yule and all the other greatest high-days. Sigurd snap fared away out of the Orkneys, and up into Scotland, and dwelt there awhile with Malcolm the Scot-king in good cheer, and he was there thought to be the doughtiest man in all manly feats. He stayed for a time in Scotland before he fared out to Jewry.
58. It fell out once in the days of those brothers, earl Harold and earl Paul, that they were to keep the Yule feast at Orfir, in the house of earl Harold, and he was to find the fare for both of them. He was busy there working hard in getting ready for the feast. Those sisters were there, Frakok and Helga, the earl's mother, and they were sitting in the little room at their sewing. Then earl Harold went into the room, but those sisters sat on the cross-bench, and a new-sewn linen shirt lay between them, white as driven snow. The earl took up the shirt and saw that it was thickly stitched with gold. He asked: "Who owns this precious thing?" Frakok says: "'It is meant for your brother Paul."
The earl says: "Why work you so hard at clothes for him? You do not take as much pains in making me clothes."
The earl was just risen up from his bed, and was only in a shirt and linen breeks, and had cast a cloak over his shoulders. He threw off the cloak and unfolded the linen shirt. His mother caught at it, and bade him not be envious though his brother had good clothes. The earl jerked it out of her hand, and got ready to put it on. Then they threw off their wimples and tore their hair, (7) and said, his life lay on it if he put on the shirt. They both then wept sore. The earl put it on nevertheless, and let it fall down over him. But as soon as ever the cloth clung about his body, a shiver came over his skin, and straightway after that followed great pain. And from that the earl took to his bed, and lay but a short while before he breathed his last. That his friends thought great scathe. But at once after the death of earl Harold, earl Paul his brother took all the realm under him with the consent of all the freemen in the Orkneys. Earl Paul reckoned as if Frakok and her sister had meant that precious thing for him which earl Harold had put on, and for that sake he would not have them live there in the isles. Then they fared away with all their kith and kin, first to Caithness, and thence up into Sutherland, to those homesteads which Frakok owned there. There was reared up with her Erlend son of Harold the smoothed-tongued, while he was a youngster. There, too, was reared up Oliver the unruly, the son of Thorljot of Rackwick, and of Steinvor Frakok's daughter. Oliver was the tallest of men, and of very great strength, and wantonly quarrelsome, and a great manslayer; there too was reared up Thorbjorn the clerk, son of Thorstein the freeman and Gudrun Frakok's daughter. There, too was reared up Margaret, daughter of earl Hacon and Helga Moddan's daughter, and Eric staybrails, Frakok's kinsman. These men were all of great family and great for their own sakes, and they all thought they had a great claim in the Orkneys to those realms which their kinsman earl Harold had owned. The brothers of Frakok were Angus of the open-hand, and earl Otter in Thurso; he was a man of birth and rank.
59. Then Earl Paul ruled the Orkneys, and had very many friends. He was a man of few words, and no speaker at the Things. He let many other men rule the land with him. The earl was courteous and kind to all the land-folk, liberal of money, and spared nothing to his friends. He was not fond of war, and sate much in quiet. There were then in the Orkneys many men of rank who were come from the stock of the earls. There then dwelt at Westness, in Rowsay, a man of rank, whose name was Sigurd; he had to wife Ingibjorg the honourable, but her mother's name was Herbjorg, daughter of earl Paul Thorfinn's son. Their sons were these, Brynjulf and Hacon pike. They were all chieftains of earl Paul. The sons of Havard Gunni's son, were also friends of earl Paul, Magnus, and Hacon claw, and Thorstein and Dufnjal. Their mother was Bergljot, but her mother was Ragnhilda, daughter of earl Paul. (8) Erling was the name of a man; he dwelt at Tankarnes, in Hrossey; he had four sons, all of them proper men. Olaf was the name of a man, and he was Hrolf's son, who dwelt in Gairsay; he had another house at Duncansby in Caithness. Olaf was a man of the greatest strength and power, and had great honours given him by earl Paul. Asleif was the name of his wife. She was wise, and of great family, and was much thought of for her own sake. Waltheof was the name of one of their sons, Sweyn was another, a third Gunni; all these were tall and proper men. Their sister's name was ingigerd. Sigurd earl's-father-in-law had to wife Thora, the mother of Magnus the saint; their son was Hacon churl; that father and son were mighty chiefs. In Rinansey (9) dwelt that woman whose name was Ragna, a worthy housewife. Her son's name was Thorstein, a fine man of good parts. Kugi was the name of a householder in Westray, a wise man and wealthy, at Rapness. Helgi was the name of a householder, a man of worth and power, who lived there in Westray, in a thorpe that was then there. Thorkel flat was the name of a householder in Westray, cross-grained and high and mighty; Thorstein and Haflidi were his sons; they had not many friends. In Swanay in the Pentland firth, dwelt Grim, a man of small means; his sons were these, Asbjorn and Margad, the briskest of men. In the Fair Isle dwelt that man whose name was Dagfinn. Thorstein was the name of a man who dwelt at Flydruness in Hrossey; his sons were Asbjorn crook-eye and Blian; they were all unfriendly cross-grained men. Jaddvor, she was the bastard daughter of earl Erlend, born of a thrall, dwelt at Knarstead, and her son Borgar with her; they were not much beloved. John wing dwelt in Hoy at the Upland. Richard his brother dwelt at the Brink in Stronsay; they were grand men, and kinsmen of Olaf Hrolf's son. Grimkel was the name of a man who dwelt at Gletness. These were all friends of earl Paul, and all the people along with them. These men all come into the story afterwards.
William was then bishop of the Orkneys, (10) and the bishop's seat was at Christchurch in Birsay. There then were wrought ever and anon great tokens from the holiness of earl Magnus when men watched over his tomb, but little stir was made about it because of the rule of earl Paul. Bishop William too took the edge off of what men said about the tokens of earl Magnus, and said it was great misbelief to go about with such things. Now we will first of all let the story stop awhile and rather say something of those glorious tokens which God has granted for the worth's sake of earl Magnus the saint.
60. Bergfinn Skati's son was the name of a householder in Shetland, and he was blind; he brought two cripples south into the Orkneys; the name of the one was Sigurd and the other's Thorbjorn; they all watched over the tomb of earl Magnus. To all of them earl Magnus the saint appeared, and gave them their health with God; and Bergfinn became so clear-sighted that he saw and knew his right hand from his left, but both the others stood straight up. But some time after, on the eve of the death day of earl Magnus, four and twenty men in weak health watched over the tomb, and all got cured. Then many men craved that of the bishop, that he would let earl Paul be spoken to, that he would give leave that the tomb should be searched and the halidom (the relics) of earl Magnus taken up. The bishop took that heavily when it was said. It happened one summer that bishop William fared east to Norway, and when he fared back he was late boun, and came to Shetland in autumn, a little before winter set in. Then foul weather arose and mighty storms, but the bishop could not bear to spend his time there, and was eager to get home. After that gales burst upon them, and the winter was come. Then the captain spoke to the bishop, and asked if he would vow for a fair wind not to say anything against taking up the halidom of earl Magnus; the bishop said yea to that, if the weather bettered so that he might sing mass at home on the second Sunday at his bishop's seat. And as soon as ever that vow was fast made, the weather began to change, and came round to their mind, and they had a fair wing to the Orkneys, and such a quick one that the bishop sung mass at home the next Sunday. But even when such things were granted to him, still he would not for all that believe in the holiness of earl Magnus. Earl Paul too laid his displeasure on all those men who spread such stories about. This event happened in Christchurch at Birsay one day that the bishop went into the church, and was at his prayers; he was all alone in the church, but when he stood up and meant to go away, then he became blind, and could not find his way to the doors; he went about a long time seeking if he might get away. Then great fear fell upon him, and with that he fared to the tomb of earl Magnus, and there prayed with tears, and vowed that he would take up the halidom of earl Magnus, whether earl Paul liked it well or ill. And after that he got back his sight there over the tomb. After that the bishop sent to fetch to him all the most noble men in the Orkneys, and made it plain to them that he was ready then to search the tomb of earl Magnus. And when it was dug into, the coffin was taken out of the ground; the bishop then let the bones be washed, and they were of a right fair hue. He let them take a knuckle-bone and proves it thrice in hallowed fire, and it burnt not, but rather became of a hue as though it were gold. It is the story of some men that it had then run into the shape of a cross. Then many tokens were there wrought at the halidom of earl Magnus. Then the body was laid in a shrine and set over the altar. That was on St. Lucia's day. (11) He had then lain in the mould twenty-one winters. Then it was taken as law that each day should be kept holy,— the day that he was taken up and the day of his death. The halidom of earl Magnus was kept there for some time.
It happened once that a man dreamed a dream in Westray, whose name was Gunni, a good
yeoman, that Magnus the saint came to him and said to him: "This shall you say to bishop
William, that my will is to fare away from Birsay and east to Kirkwall, and I trow that
Almighty God will grant me of his mercy that those men shall be healed of their ailments who
seek there past hope of cure with right faith. This dream shall you boldly tell."
A little after Bergfinn Skati's son fared from the north from Shetland the second time to watch over the halidom of earl Magnus, and had with him his leprous son, whose name was Halfdan. Earl Magnus appeared to both of them, and passed his hands over them, and then Halfdan was made thoroughly whole; but Bergfinn got back his sight, so that he became a sharp-sighted man.
Amundi was the name of a man from the north of Shetland; he had leprosy over all his body; he fared to Kirkwall, and watched at the shrine of earl Magnus the saint, and prayed for help and health for himself; but the holy servant of God, earl Magnus, showed himself to him as he slumbered, and passed his hands over all his body, and when he awoke he was whole and well, and knew no ailment anywhere, and all praised God and earl Magnus the saint.
Thorkel was a man's name who kept house in the Orkneys; he fell down from off his barley-stack right down to the ground, and was all crushed on one side; he was brought to the shrine of the blessed earl Magnus, and there he got back his health.
Sigurd was the name of a man from the north out of Fetlar. His hand was cramped, so that all his fingers lay in the palm; he fared to Kirkwall, and was there made whole.
Thorbjorn was the name of a man, but Gurth was the name of his father; he was from Shetland, and was mad, and was brought to earl Magnus, and became straightway whole.
Thord was the name of a man whose nickname was dragon-shot; he was Bergfinn's hireling of Shetland; he thrashed corn from the halm in the barley barn the next day before St. Lucia's and St. Magnus' day. But when the daylight began to change, then Bergfinn the master went out there into the barn and bade him strike off work. Thord says: "It dæsn't often happen that you thinkest I work over long."
Bergfinn said: "Tomorrow is St. Magnus' day, which we ought to hold with all such honour as we best can."
Then Bergfinn went away, but Thord worked still as hard as he could. But when a short time had gone by then Bergfinn went a second time and spoke to Thord in mickle wrath, and said he thought there was spite in that, "that you workest now at holy tides, and now leave off at once."
Then Bergfinn went away in a rage. But Thord worked on as before. But when men had sat down to the board, and had eaten and were full, Thord came in in his workaday clothes, just when men took to drinking, and began to drink at once. But when he had drained one full cup, then he lost his wits at once and got wild, so that men had to hold him and to put him into bonds, and so it went on for three days and nights. Then Bergfinn vowed for him to give half a mark of silver to the shrine of earl Magnus, and to let Thord watch for three nights if he might become whole. But Thord became whole on that night, on the evening of which the vow had just been made. Two men took gold from the shrine of earl Magnus, one an Orkney and the other a Caithness man; the Caithness man was lost in the Pentland firth; his name was Gilli. The Orkney man went mad, and said in his fits what they had done, and then a vow was made for him to go on a pilgrimage south (to Rome), if he might be made whole at the shrine of earl Magnus. Now he was brought there and became whole at once. -- Ogmund was the name of a Shetlander on whose head a crossbeam fell and crushed his skull much, but Bergfinn vowed for him, and cast lots whether the vow should be to go south on a pilgrimage, or to set a slave free, or to give money to earl Magnus' shrine if he were made whole. But the lot turned up to give money for earl Magnus' shrine. But the lot turned up to give money for earl Magnus' shrine, and there he became whole. But Bergfinn, his mother's brother, gave half a mark as he had vowed. Sigrid Sigurd's daughter was the name of a woman from the north out of Shetland, who was blind from childhood and till she was twenty; then her father went with her to earl Magnus, and let her watch there, and gave much goods to the shrine of Magnus, and there she got her sight.
Sigrid was again the name of a woman from Shetland whose leg broke in two bits; she was taken to Magnus and she got back there her health.
Sigrid was the name of a third woman from the north out of Shetland in the island of Unst; she was with Thorlak, who kept house at Baltastead; (12) she sewed when other men left off work on the eve of earl Magnus' mass; but Thorlak asked why she worked so long; she said she would leave off there and then. He went away, but she sewed on as before. Then Thorlak went a second time, and asked why she did so ill; "and away with you," he says, "and don't work in my house."
She said she had only a little bit unsewn, and worked on as before till it got dark, and she sate in her place. But when fires were made, and men busked them to eating and drink, then she fell mad and was thrown into bonds, and she was mad till Thorlak vowed a vow for her. He cast lots whether the vow should be a pilgrimage south, or setting a slave free, or giving money to the shrine of earl Magnus the saint, but the lot came up to give money to earl Magnus' shrine. Thorlak brought her there, and there she became whole, and went south afterwards.
In England were two men who staked much money on casting of dice, and one of them had already lost a large sum. Then he staked a ship of burden and all that he had against all that he had already lost. But the other man threw first two sixes. Then that man thought things looked badly for him, and called on earl Magnus the saint that he might not lose all that he had, and then threw his throw. But one of the dice burst asunder, and there turned up two sixes and and ace, and he gained all that lay upon the throw, and after that he gave earl Magnus much goods.
Groa was a woman's name in Hrossey; she became raving mad, and was brought to earl Magnus the saint, and got there her health, and was there all her life after and praised God.
Sigurd was the name of a man; he was Tand's son, he kept house north in Shetland, he became devil-mad; and was sewn up in a hide, and was brought afterwards from the north to Kirkwall to earl Magnus the saint, and there he got back his health, and all praised God who were by and his holy bosom-friend earl Magnus.
Now is done telling here of those glorious tokens which God grants for the sake of saint Magnus the isle-earl. Now also we must make an end of these stories with this prayer, that he who wrote this Saga, and he who dictated it, and everyone who listened to it, may have intercession and help in their prayers from the holy knight of God earl Magnus, to the absolution of their sins and to everlasting joy; but of our almighty Lord Jesus Christ may they have help and mercy, peace and joy, both now and for ever, from him who is and was and shall be, one true and everlasting God, granting and willing and mighty to give all good things for ever and ever. Amen.
1. The Danish Translation here adds "He did not go into the church for any other reason than that he wished to preserve his life. (sic) There he made his prayers heartily to God, and commended himself into his hands. Early the morning after he went out of the church, and two others with him by another way down to the shore into a secret place, and then said his prayers again to God."
2. The Danish Translation adds, "that he shall have one's weapons and clothes who puts him to death."
3. This date is wrong, to agree with the others it should be 1116.
5. The Flatey Book adds, "till his worthiness was so plainly revealed that God let his holiness wax higher in the same proportion as it was more tried, as is said in his Book of Tokens and Wonders."
6. bitling; i.e., "the little bit" or "the tiny."
7. The Flatey Book reads, "Then Frakok threw off her wimple and tore her hair."
8. Earl Paul; that is, of earl Paul the 1st, grandfather of earl Paul Hacon's son.
9. Rinansy; North Ronaldsay.
10. Comp. above ch. 55, and Isl. Ann. under the year 1168.
11. St. Lucia's day; Comp. Magn. S. Eyjajarls, ch. 31. and ch. 54 above.
61. Cecilia (1) was the name of a sister of earl Magnus, born in wedlock. She was given away east in Norway, and that man whose name was Isaac had her to wife. Their son's name was Kol. Kol (Kali's son) sate on his farms in Agdir, as was written before, and was the wisest of all men. He did not fare into the Orkneys. Kol was a very shrewd man. Kali his son grew up there, and was the most hopeful (2) man, a middleman in growth, well set up, one of the best limbed of men, with light brown hair. He had more friends than most men, and was a more proper man, both in body and mind, than most of the other men of his time. He made this song:
"Draughts I play with open hand,
Games and feats so skilful nine;
Writing runes to me comes ready;
Books I read and smith's work furnish;
I can glide on snow-shoon swift;
Doughtily I shoot and row;
Either stands at my behest,
Sweep of harp or burst of song."
Kali was almost always with Solmund his kinsman, the son of Sigurd supple. He was (the king's) steward at Tunsberg, and had a house of his own at East Agdir. He was a chief, and had a great following. They were much of an age, those kinsmen.
62. Kali was fifteen winters old when he fared with chapmen west to England, and had good wares for traffic. They held on their course to that town which is called Grimsby. There came a very great crowd of men both from Norway, the Orkneys, and from Scotland, and so also from the Southern isles. There Kali met that man who went by the name of Gillikrist. (3) He asked then much about Norway, and talked most with Kali; there was a great fellowship sprung up (between them). He told Kali as a secret that his name was Harold, and that king Magnus barelegs was his father, but that his mother's stock was in the Southern isles, and some of them in Ireland. He asked Kali how he thought he would be welcomed if he came to Norway. Kali says he thought king Sigurd likely to give him a good welcome if other men did not spoil matters between them. They, Gillikrist and Kali, exchanged gifts at their parting; each promised the other his thorough friendship wherever their next meeting might be. But Gillikrist dæs not tell his secret to more men in that place.
63. After that Kali fared from the west on board the same ship, and they came from abroad at Agdir, and held on thence north to Bergen. Then Kali sang this song:
Weeks of grimmest walking five
We have waded through the mud;
In mid Grimsby where we were,
Was no want of mud and mire.
Now it is with merry minds,
Over the sea-moors (4) that we let,
Beaked elk (5) across the billow,
Blithely bound to Bergen home."
But when they came to the town, they found there a great crowd of men out the land, both from the north and from the south, and many, too, from other lands, who had flitted there much goods. Then those shipmates went into the taverns to make merry. Kali was then a great man for dress, and had many braveries with him as he was newly come from England. Then he thought much of himself, and many others thought so too, for he came of a good stock, and was a well-bred man in himself. But in that tavern where he drank he found a young man of rank whose name was John; he was the son of Peter Sark's son of Sogn. He was then one of the king's liegemen. His mother's name was Helga, a daughter of Harek of Sæter. John was a very showy man in his dress. Unna was the name of a worthy housewife who owned the house in which they drank. Then there arose a great fellowship between those two, John and Kali, and they parted with love; John fared then south (6) to Sogn, to his abode, but Kali east to Agdir, to his father. Kali was also often with Solmund his kinsman. So it went on for some half years, that Kali was in the summers on trading voyages, but at home in the winters or with his kinsman Solmund.
64. So it fell out one summer, when Kali had fared north to Drontheim, that he lay weather-bound under that island which is called Doll. (7) In the isle was a great cave, which is called Doll's cave. In the cave was great hope of treasure. The chapmen made ready, and went into the cave, and had the hardest work to make their way there. They came where water stood across the cave, and none dared to fare across the water save Kali and another man, whose name was Havard, Solmund's house-carle. They swam across the water, and had a rope between them. Kali swam first, and had in his hand a blazing torch and a tinder-box between his shoulders. (8) So they swam over the water and came to land. That place was rough and rugged, and there was a great stench, and they could scarce get the light struck. Then Kali gave out that they would go no farther, and said they should make a beacon there as a memorial. Then Kali sang a song:
"Here have I built in darksome cave
Of Doll a beacon high
To goblin grim of sternest mood,
So golden store I sought,
None knows what man of those who work
The water-skates (9) will wend his way,
His long and weary path, once more
Across this water wide."
After that they turned back and came safe and sound to their men, then they fared
out of the cave; it is not told about their journey that any tidings happened that summer.
They came back to Bergen, and Kali turned into the same tavern to Unna the housewife. There
too he found again John Peter's son and his serving-man, whose name was Brynjulf. There were
there besides many others of his men, though they are not named. It happened one evening
that they John Peter's son and Kali, were gone to sleep, but many sat behind and drank. Then
there was much talk, when men were well drunk; and it came about that they spoke of matching
one man with another, and of who were thought to be noblest of the king's liegemen in
Norway. Brynjulf stood up that John Peter's son was the best bred and best born of the
younger men south of Stad; (10) but Havard Kali's companion spoke up for Solmund, and said
he was no worse bred than John, and declared that the dwellers in the Bay would set much
greater store by him than by John Peter's son. Out of this a great strife arose, and when
the ale spoke in them, then no better heed was taken than this, that up jumped Havard and
got him a cudgel and gave Brynjulf there and then such a blow on the head that he fell down
at once senseless, and men ran to help him up; but Havard was packed off to see Kali, and
Kali sent him south into Alvidra to a priest whose name was Richard, "and bring him," he
says, "my message that I beg him to take you in till I go home east."
"Methought you wert showing yourself in a strange light when you tookest any atonement before your kinsman Solmund were by; now methinks you has come into a strait, and can take little part in the matter, except to ask for atonement; and so would not Solmund do if your house-carle were slain and his shipmate."
"You speak the truth, no doubt, father, when you sayest that I have been too hasty in looking at the matter; but you wert too far off to teach me what to do. It will often be shown too that I am not so deep-witted as you, but still I thought this, that Solmund would be never the nearer his due though I forsook that which was offered to me; and I do not call it a disgrace either to Solmund or to you to accept the right to fix your own terms from John for your share in the suit, if he offers it you, though I very much doubt whether there is any need for you to take up the matter. But as for myself, I call myself quite free as to Brynjulf, so long as I have come to no final utterance in the matter, and taken no money in atonement."
So that father and son talked much together, and each of them drew his own way about
it; (12) then they sent men to tell Solmund those tidings. After that Kol and Kali and
Solmund met; Kol wished that men should be sent to John to seek for an atonement; but
Solmund and Hallvard, Havard's brother, would hear of nothing but revenge, man for man; and
said it was unseemly to ask a Sogn man for atonement. But for all that the plan was taken
which Kol wished, with this understanding, that Kol gave his word not to withdraw from this
suit before Solmund got what was due to his honour. Kol too was to have the whole management
of the matter in his hands. But when the messengers came back, they say that their business
was taken up slowly and unwillingly; and John refused right out to atone for that man with
money who had before made himself an outlaw by his deeds. Solmund said that had gone just
after his guess, that it would bring them little honour to ask John for an atonement; and
now he begged Kol to give them some advice that was worth having. Kol says:
Hallvard said he would not spare himself to get revenge for his brother, even though there were risk of life in it. Kol says:
"Then shall you fare north stealthily to Sogn to that man whose name is Uni; he dwells hard by John: he is a wise man and rather short of money, for John has long elbowed him out of his means. He is a great friend (of mine), and now rather stricken in years. To him you shall bring six marks weighed, which I send him that he may lay some plan how you may wreak your revenge on Brynjulf, or some other man of John's household, whom he will think not less loss (than Brynjulf.) But if this deed be fulfilled, then Uni shall send you on to Studla (13) to Kyrping-Worm my kinsman, and his sons Ogmund and Erling, and then methinks you are as good as come home. Bid Uni after that to sell his land, and change his abode here to me."
Now Hallvard busked him to this journey, and nothing is told of how he fared, or
where his night-quarters were, before he came one day at evening to Uni's house, and did not
call himself by his own name. Uni and his household asked him about the news of the day, and
at night when men sat by the fires, then the guest asked much about high-born men there in
Sogn and Hördaland. Uni said that none of the king's liegemen there was thought more
powerful than John, both for his birth's sake, but still more for his unfairness, and asked
whether they had not some keepsakes of that down south in the land. The guest he said little
when he (Uni) spoke thus; and after that men dropped off from the fires one by one, so that
at last they two were left behind. Then Uni began to speak, and said thus:
says he. "Nay," says the guest, and again gave the name he had given in the evening. Then Uni said:
"Off then is my difficulty," says he, "and yet I would have thought that if my name
were Brynjulf, thine would be Hallvard; but still we two will now go to sleep."
"No, we two will not go yet," and with that he handed him over the bag of money, and says that Kol sent him that silver, with his greeting, "and why he sends it is that you may lay a plan with me that I may fulfil my revenge for my brother," and then he tells him all Kol's counsel. Uni said:
"Kol were worthy of good from me, but I cannot tell how it is fated as to revenge on Brynjulf; but he is looked for here tomorrow to fetch clothes from his sweetheart."
And now Uni led him out to the horse-stable which stood before the door outside, and stowed him away there in the manger. That was before men rose, but he had lain indoors during the night. Now, when Hallvard had been a little while in the horse stable, he saw how a huge man had come up to the homestead, and calls out that the woman must be quick; she took her clothes, and carries them out. Then Hallvard thinks he knows who it must be. So he gæs out. Brynjulf had laid aside his arms while he tied up the clothes which the woman brought, and as soon as ever they meet, Hallvard smites Brynjulf his death-blow, and then went back again into the horse stable, and hid himself there. While the slaying was going on the woman had gone into the house to kiss and take leave of her friends in the household; and when she came out she saw the tokens of the deed, and ran in with a great shriek, and was in such a fright that she was just about to faint away, but still she told them what had happened. Goodman Uni ran out, and said that the guest must have been a hired murderer, and sent a man at once to John to tell these tidings, and egged on men as much as he could to search for the man, and for that no man suspected him of having anything to do with the deed. Hallvard was in the horse stable till the hottest of the chase had passed off, but after that he fared by Uni's help and counsel till he came to Studla to Worm and his sons, and they got him company home east. Kol and Solmund made him welcome, and were well pleased with their share in the matter; and now these tidings are noised abroad, and men became aware of the truth. Now John is heavily displeased at this, and so that winter and the summer after pass away; and thenext winter when Yule was drawing on, John busked him from home with thirty men, and gave it out that he meant to go on a journey to see his kinsfolk up at Sæter to the house of Harek, his mother's father, and so he did, and gets there a hearty welcome. And when those kinsmen were talking together, John says that he means to go thence to East Agdir to look up Solmund. Harek tried to turn him from this, and said he had not got the worst of it, though they (John and Solmund) parted as they were. John said he would not be content that Brynjulf should be unavenged. Harek said he thought his lot would not be bettered, though they (John and Solmund) had any further dealings in the matter; but still he had with him away thence thirty men, and so they fared east with half a hundred men (14) by the upper road, and thought to come unawares upon Solmund and Kol. But when John was newly gone from home, Uni bestirred himself and fared south to Studla to see Worm, and that father and son got him company south to Kol, and he came there at Yule, and told them he thought that John was on his way to attack them. Kol sends out spies at once on all the ways about him, by which he looked that John might come, and he fared to find Solmund; and those kinsmen sat with a great company. News came to them about John's journey, and they fared against him; their meeting was in a wood; they fell at once to battle; Kol and his men were far more in number, and had the victory. But John lost many men and fled himself into the woods. He got a wound in his leg, and that healed so ill that he was halt ever after, and was called limp-leg John. He came home north in Lent, and his journey was thought most shameful. So now this winter wore away. But the summer after John made them slay two of Kol's kinsmen, Gunnar and Aslak. A little after king Sigurd came to the town, (15) and this difficulty was brought before him. After that the king sent word to both sides, and summoned them to him. Then they came to the king, with their kinsfolk and friends; then an atonement was sought, and the end of it was that the king's doom should pass upon all their quarrels, and either side plighted their troth to the other. King Sigurd made a settlement between them with the advice of the best men. It was so fixed in that settlement that John Peter's son should take Ingirid Kol's daughter to wife, and then friendship would spring up with those ties, while the manslaughters (of Havard and Brynjulf) were to be set off one against the other. The attack on Kol and John's wound were set off against the loss of men away there east, but the wounds on either side were matched together and set off, and those that were odd were atoned for in money. Each side too was to yield help to the other both at home and abroad. It followed also on this settlement that king Sigurd gave Kali Kol's son half the Orkneys with earl Paul Hacon's son, and the title of earl too. He also gave him the name of earl Rognvald Brusi's son, because his mother Gunnhilda said that he had been the most proper man of all the Orkney earls, and thought the name would bring good luck. This share of the Orkneys Saint Magnus had owned, Rognvald-Kali's mother's brother. After this atonement they parted with great love-tokens; they who had erewhile been fæs.
65. That winter after king Sigurd sat in Oslo, (16) but about the spring in Lent he took a sickness, and breathed his last one night after Lady-day. His son Magnus was then in the town there, and held a Thing at once, and was taken to be king over all the land according to the oath which men had sworn to king Sigurd. Then he took the king's treasures into his power. Harold Gilli was then at Tunsberg, (17) when he heard of king Sigurd's death, then he held meetings with his friends. Then he sent for Rognvald and his kindred, for he had always been his friend (18) since they met in England. That father and son too had most hand in Harold's clearing himself by ordeal before king Sigurd, with the help of other liegemen, Ingimar Sweyn's son and Thiostolf Ali's son. The counsel of Harold and his friends was to hold the Hauga-Thing there in Tunsberg. There Harold was taken to be king over half the land. Then those were called force-oaths (19) by which he had sworn away his fathers inheritance out of his hands before they would let him take the ordeal. Then men flocked to him and became hand-bound to him, and he gathered a very great company. Then words passed between those kinsmen. And it was so that seven nights passed before a settlement was brought about on these terms, that each of them should have half the land against the other; but king Magnus had (beside) king Sigurd's longship and his table furniture and all his treasures, and yet he still was not content with his share. He fastened feuds on all Harold's friends. King Magnus too would not let that gift hold good by which king Sigurd gave the Orkneys and the earldom to Rognvald, because he clung very fast to Harold's cause in all their quarrels, and would never leave his cause till all their quarrels were brought to an end. They, Magnus and Harold, were three winters kings over Norway, so that their settlement might be said to hold good, but the fourth summer they fought at Fyrileif; (20) then king Magnus had near sixty hundred men, but Harold had fifteen hundred. These chiefs were with Harold: Kristred his brother, earl Rognvald, Ingimar of Ask, Thiostolf Ali's son, and Solmund. King Magnus got the victory, but king Harold fled. There fell Kristred and Ingimar. He (Ingimar) chanted this song:—
"Friends befooled me
To Fyrileif field,
Aye was I unwilling
For onslaught of war;
Me bit bolts bitter
From crossbow sped,
Ne'er again shall I
To Ask (21) go back."
King Harold fled east to the Bay to his ships, and fared south to Denmark to find king Eric the ever-memorable. He gave him Halland as a lordship and eight longships without tackle. Thiostolf Ali's son sold his lands for ships and arms, and went to seek king Harold south in Denmark that autumn. King Harold came towards Yule to Bergen, and lay over Yule-tide in Floru-væ. (22) But after Yule they run up to the town, and there was but a little struggle; king Magnus was taken captive on board his ship and maimed, but king Harold took all the land under his sway. But the next spring after king Harold renewed the gift to Rognvald about the isles, and the title of earl as well.
66. Kol gave this advice to send men to the Orkneys at once after this, and (Rognvald) begged earl Paul that he would give up half the isles as king Harold had given them to him; then friendship and thorough kinship should spring up between them. But if earl Paul refused these things, then these very same men should fare to find Frakok and Oliver the unruly, and offer them half the lands with earl Rognvald, if they would seek to get it from earl Paul with a host. But when these men came to the Orkneys and saw earl Paul, and brought forward their errand there, then earl Paul answers:
"I understand this claim, how it is made with mickle cunning and forethought; they have betaken themselves to the kings of Norway to get the realm away from under me. Now I will not reward that faithlessness by giving up my realm to those who come no nearer to me than Rognvald, and by refusing it to my brother's son and my sister's son. There is no need here of long words, for I will guard the Orkneys by the strength of my friends and kinsfolk while God grants me life to do so."
Then the messengers saw how their errand was likely to turn out there. So they fared
away, and went south over the Pentland firth to Caithness, and so into Sutherland to find
Frakok, and tell their errand there, how earl Rognvald and Kol offer Oliver and Frakok half
the Orkneys if they will win them back from earl Paul. Frakok speaks thus:
Now the messengers fare back east to Norway, and tell that father and son how they had sped.
67. That winter after this earl Rognvald busked him to fare west, and these chiefs with him, Solmund and John; they fared in the course of the summer after, and had picked men, though not many; (and) five or six ships. They come off Shetland at midsummer and heard nothing of Frakok. Then high and foul winds arose, and they laid their ships up in Alasound, (23) but fared about to feasts and free-quarters over the land and the freemen made them good cheer. But of Frakok it must be told that she fares in the spring out to the Southern isles, and she and Oliver gather force thence to themselves in men and ships; they got twelve ships, and all of them small and rather thinly manned. And near midsummer they held on for the Orkneys, and mean to meet earl Rognvald, as was said; they were slow in getting a wind. There Oliver the unruly was leader of that host, and the earldom in the Orkneys was meant for him if they could get it. Frakok was there in the fleet too, and many of her kith and kin.
68. Earl Paul was then at Westness in Rowsay at a feast with Sigurd, when he heard that earl Rognvald was come to Shetland; then too was heard how a host was gathering together in the Southern isles to attack them. Then the earl sent word to Kugi in Westray, and to Thorkell flayer, they were wise men; and many other chieftains he summoned to him. At this meeting the earl asked counsel of his friends, but they did not all look on the matter in one way; some wished to share the realm with one or other (of the fæ), and not to have both against them, but some advised that the earl should fare over to the Ness to his friends, and see what force he could get there. Earl Paul answers:
"I will not now offer my realm to those to whom I refused it then right out when they sought it by fair means; methinks too it is unchieftainlike to fly my land without one trial of strength; I will take that counsel to send men tonight round all the isles to gather force, and let us fare against Rognvald and his men as soon as we can, and let our quarrel come to the sword'' point before the South-islanders come."" This plan was taken which the earl spoke of. That man was then with earl Paul, whose name was Sweyn breastrope; he was one of the earl's bodyguard, and well honoured of him; he was ever on viking voyages in the summer, but the winters he spent with earl Paul. Sweyn was a tall, strong man, swarthy and rather unlucky-looking; he was very fond of the old faith, and had all his life lain out at night (to follow his black arts). He was one of the earl's forecastle men. These chiefs came at once that night to earl Paul; Eyvind Melbrigdi's son; he had a longship fully manned. Olaf Hrolf's son of Gairsay had another, Thorkell flayer a third, Sigurd the master of the house there a fourth, the fifth the earl had himself. With these five ships they hold on to Hrossey, and come there on the evening of the fifth day of the week (Thursday evening) at sundown; then force flocked to them during the night, but they got no more ships. They meant the day after to sail to Shetland against Rognvald and his men. But next morning, when it had got light, and the sun was just up, those men came to the earl, who said they had seen longships fairing from the south on the Pentland firth; they said they could not tell whether there were ten or twelve of them. The earl and his men made up their minds that there must be coming Frakok's host. Then the earl bade them to get ready to row against them as hard and as fast as they could. Then they, Olaf and Sigurd begged him to take time about it, and said men would come into them every hour. And lo! as they rowed east from Tankarness, longships come sailing against them from the east round the Mull, and they were twelve in all. Then the earl and his men lashed their ships together. Then came to him Erling, the master of Tankarness, and his sons, and offered him his help. By that time they were so thronged on board their ships that they thought they could find room for no more men. Then the earl bade Erling to bring down stones for them while they were in no risk of attack. And when they had made all clear for fight, Oliver and his side came up, and gave them an onslaught by rowing at once, and they had far more men, but smaller ships. Oliver had a great ship, and he laid that against the earl's ship. There was then the hardest fight. Olaf Hrolf's son, laid his ship against the smaller ships of Oliver, and there was a great difference in the height of the sides, and in a short while he cleared the decks of three ships. Oliver made such a hard onslaught on the earl's ship, that all the forecastle men gave way and fled aft of the mast. Then Oliver egged on his men to board, and gæs himself the first man up. Sweyn breastrope was the foremost of all the earl's men, and fought most stoutly. Earl Paul sees now that Oliver was come up on board his ship, and eggs on his men fast; he leaps down himself from the poop, and springs forward in the ship, and when Oliver saw that, he snatched up a boat-hook, and hurled it at the earl, and it fell upon his shield, and down he fell at once on the planks. Then there was a great shout. And at that moment Sweyn breastrope snatched up a great stone and hurled it at Oliver, and hit him full in the breast; the blow was so great that he tumbled at once overboard, and sank in the sea. His men got hold of him, and then he was drawn up into his ship, and he lay there senseless, and men knew not whether he were dead or alive. Then some ran and hewed the lashings asunder, and were for flying, and then all Oliver's men were driven down from the earl's ship. Then they took to flying. Just then Oliver came to himself, and bade them not to fly; but then no one made as though he knew what he said: The earl chased the flying ships east of Hrossey, and so farther east of Hrossey and Rognvaldsey, and so into the Pentland firth; then they drew away from one another. Then the earl turns back, and where they had fought five ships of Oliver's fleet lay empty and unmanned. The earl took them for his own, and manned them with his followers. The fight took place on the Fastday (Friday), but that night the earl made them put their ships into trim. Then many men gathered to him, and two longships. Next morning he had twelve ships, and all in good trim and well manned. Saturday he sailed to Shetland, and came by night into Alasound unawares to those who watched earl Rognvald's ships; then earl Paul made them slay the men, but took the ships and the goods to himself. But next morning news came to Rognvald and his men; they rushed together and had a great gathering of the freemen; after that they fared down to the strand, and then egg on Paul and his men to come on shore and fight with them. But earl Paul put no trust in the Shetlanders, and therefore would not go on land, but offered that they should get them ships and fight it out on shipboard. But Rognvald and his men saw that they could get no ships in which they could fight on fair terms. And so they parted as things stood. Earl Paul and his men fared back to the Orkneys, but earl Rognvald and his men were in Shetland all that summer, but at autumn they got carried in ships to Norway by divers chapmen, and their voyage was thought rather shameful. But when earl Rognvald came home, and he and his father met, Kol asks whether Rognvald was ill content with his lot. He says he thinks very little had come of his errand, and that little rather unworthily. Kol says:
"I do not think so though; methinks the errand has been good, and that much has been done if the Shetlanders are your friends, and that it is better to have gone than not to have gone."
"If you praise this voyage, then it must either be that you must care less about our lot than I thought, or you must see something in our voyage which we have not yet thought of seeing. I should be very glad now that you shouldest lay down a plan for us and be yourself on the voyage with us."
"Both of these things now shall not be done; say all your work is easy, but come one self's never near the spot. I shall be very glad to use my counsel so as not to swerve from your honour."
"We will willingly follow the advice you givest."
"My first advice is that you sendest word to king Harold and other of your friends that they get you force and ships for a western voyage early in the spring, but we will draw to us all the strength we can get this winter, and let us so lay our plans this second time that one of two things may be, either that we get the Orkneys, or else lay our bones there."
"The thought dwells in my mind not to fare on many more such voyages as this which we have now fared; and such, I ween, is the thought of most of those who lately fared with us."
69. Earl Paul fared to the Orkneys after that he had taken the ships of earl Rognvald and his men; he had then to boast over a great victory. Then he had a great feast and bade to him his chieftains. There then was taken that counsel to pile up (24) a beacon in the Fair Isle; fire was to be put to it if a host were seen sailing from Shetland. Then there was another on Rinansey (North Ronaldsay), and so on in more of the isles, so that it might be seen all over the isles if war were coming on them. Then too men were set to call out men round all the islands; Thorstein Havard's son, Gunni's son, was to have Rinansey, but his brother Magnus was to have Sanday, Kugi (was to be on the watch) round Westray, Sigurd of Westness on Rowsay, Olaf Hrolf's son fared to Duncansby in Caithness, and had the wardship there. His son Waltheof dwelt then in Stronsay. Then earl Paul granted gifts to his friends, and all promised him their thorough friendship. He kept many men about him that autumn, till he learned that Rognvald and his men were away from Shetland. Then no tidings happened in the islands, and so it went on up to Yule. Earl Paul had a great Yule-feast, and made ready for it at that homestead of his which is called Orfir; he bade there many noble men. There was bidden Waltheof Olaf's son out of Stronsay. (25) They set off ten of them in a ten-oared boat, and they were all lost in the West-firth the day before Yule, and that was thought great tidings, for Waltheof one of the best-bred of men. His father Olaf had a great train of followers in Caithness; there were his sons Sweyn and Gunni, and the sons of Grim of Swanay, Asbjorn and Margad, but Asleif the mistress of the house and her son Gunni had gone to a feast at a friend's house no long way off. These tidings happened at Duncansby three nights before Yule that Sweyn Olaf's son had rowed out to fish, and those brothers Asbjorn and Margad with him. They always went about with him, and were the briskest and bravest of men. But in the night after they had gone away came Oliver the unruly to Duncansby with that train which had followed him on his viking voyage that summer, and seized the house over Olaf's head and set fire to it at once, and burned him inside it and six men with him, but allowed the others in the house to go out. They took there all the chattels and goods, and went away after they had done that deed. Sweyn, who was afterwards called Asleif's son, came home before the first day of Yule, and fared at once north on the Pentland firth; he came about midnight to Swanay to the house of Grim, the father of Asbjorn and his brother. Grim got into a ship with them, and they put Sweyn across to Knarstead on Scapa-neck. Arnkell was the name of the man who kept house there, and his sons' names were Hanef and Sigurd. Grim and his sons turned back thence, and Sweyn gave Grim a gold finger-ring. Hanef and his brother Sigurd brought Sweyn to Orfir; there he had a hearty welcome; men guided him to Eyvind Melbrigdi's son, Sweyn's kinsman. Eyvind led Sweyn before earl Paul, and the earl greeted Sweyn well and asked him what news, but Sweyn tells the death of his father, with all that had happened. The earl was ill pleased at that, and said that he had suffered a great loss; he asked Sweyn to be with him, and said that he would do him great honour. Sweyn thanks the earl kindly for his bidding, and said he would willingly accept it.
70. After that men went to even-song. There was a great homestead there, and it stood on the side of a slope, and there was a steep hill at the back of the house, and when one came on to the brow of the hill, Orrida-firth lay down below. In it lies Damsay. There was a castle in the island, and that man guarded it whose name was Blann, a son of Thorstein of Flidruness. There in Orfir was a great drinking hall, and there was a door at the east gable from the south in the side wall, and a noble church stood before the hall door, and one went down steps from the hall into the church. But as one went into the hall, there was on the left hand a great flat stone, and further on inside ale-casks, both many and great, but when one passed through the doorway there was a small room facing one. (26) When men were come from even-song, they were ranged in seats. The earl made Sweyn Asleif's son sit next to him on the inside, but on the outside of the earl Sweyn breastrope sat next him, and then John the kinsman of Sweyn breastrope. When the board was cleared those men came who told of the drowning of Waltheof Olaf's son; and the earl thought that great news. Then the earl bade that no one should tease Sweyn Asleif's son while Yule lasted, and said that even then he would have enough to think on. And at even, when men had drunk, the earl and most men with him went to sleep. But Sweyn breastrope went out, and sat out all night, in heathen rites, as was his wont. And during the night men rose and went to church and heard prayers, and after high mass men sat down at the board. Eyvind Melbrigdi's son had most of the management of the feast with the earl, and did not sit down himself. The waiting-men and torch-bearers stood before the earl's table, but Eyvind poured out the drink into the cup of each of those namesakes. Then Sweyn breastrope thought that Eyvind filled his cup higher, and would not touch it before Sweyn Asleif's son had drunk off his cup, and said Sweyn (Asleif's son) drank unfairly. There had long been no love lost between Sweyn breastrope and Olaf Hrolf's son, and so too between those namesakes since Swein Asleif's son grew up to be a man. And when drinking had gone on a while, then they went to Nones. But when men came in again, then healths and memories were solemnly spoken of, and horns were drained. Then Sweyn breastrope would change horns with his namesake, and said he thought it was a little one. Then Eyvind thrust a great horn into Sweyn Asleif's son's hand, and he offered that to his namesake. Then Sweyn breastrope got wrath, and said to himself between his lips, so that some men, and the earl among the rest, heard him:
"Sweyn will be Sweyn's death, and Sweyn shall be Sweyn's death."
"No," he said. Then Eyvind repeated the words, and said that the fiend must have put those words into his mouth during the night. "He must mean you death, but you shall be beforehand with him in the deed, and slay him."" Eyvind put an axe into his hand, and bade him stand by the flat stone in the shade, and told him to give Sweyn the blow in front if John went before him, but if John went behind, then he bade Sweyn to deal his namesake the blow behind. The earl went to church, and no one gave heed to Eyvind and Sweyn. But Sweyn breastrope and John went out a little later than the earl. Sweyn breastrope had a sword in his hand, for he always bore his sword, though others were weaponless, and John went first. It was light up to the doorway, but the weather was thick. And when Sweyn breastrope came to the doorway, Sweyn Asleif's son smote him in front on the forehead, and he stumbled forward at the blow, but did not fall. And when he stood straight again, then he saw a man standing at the door, and thought it must be he that had wounded him. Then he drew his sword, and dealt him a blow with it on the head, and clave him down to the shoulders; but it was his kinsman John on whom the blow fell, and there they both fell down. Then Eyvind came up and led Sweyn Asleif's son into that room which was over against the doorway, and he was there drawn out at a window-slit. (27) There Magnus Eyvind's son has a horse ready saddled, and guided him away at the back of the homestead, and so to Orrida-firth. Then they took ship, and Magnus carried Sweyn to Damsay, and brought him to the castle; but Blann carried him next morning north to Egil's isle to meet bishop William. The bishop was then at prayers when they came there. And after mass Sweyn was brought by stealth to the bishop, and Sweyn tells him the tidings, the death of his father Olaf and of Waltheof, and the slaying of Sweyn and John, and called on the bishop to shelter him. The bishop thanked him for the slaying of Sweyn breastrope, and said that had been a cleansing of the land. The bishop let Sweyn stay there till Yule was over; but after that he sent him into the Southern isles to Tyree, to that man whose name was Holdbodi, and who was Hundi's son; he was a great chief there, and gave Sweyn a very hearty welcome. He stayed there that winter, and was thought of much worth by all the people.
1. This passage from "Cecilia" to "Kol" is an addition of the Danish Translation, M.O. reads, "Kali was the name of a man, Kol's son, Kali's son, Seabear's son. Kali was a son of Gunnhilda, daughter of earl Erlend, the son of Thorfinn, the Orkney earl, who (Kali) after a time was called Rognvald."
2. hopeful; that is, "of the greatest promise," as in the English expression "young hopeful."
3. Gillikristi; i.e., "the servant of Christ," one of a series of Celtic names which came in with the conversion of the heathen, and which still remains in the surname Gilchrist, Gillespie, "the bishop's servant," is another; Gillicallum, "St. Columba's servant," another; Gilpatrick, "St. Patrick's servant," another. Of the same character are Melbride (Melbrigði), Malise, Malcolm, and Melmari, which mean respectively St. Bride's, Jesus', St. Columba's and the Virgin Mary's servant; Mail or Maoile, like Gilli or Giolla, being Celtic for servant. Comp. an excellent essay by Munch, on the Runic Inscriptions in the Isle of Man, in the Mémoires de la Soc. Roy. des Antiquaires du Nord. Copenh. 1845-49.
4. sea-moors; the waste surface of the sea.
5. beaked elk; the ship.
6. So the MS., it should be "north."
7. This island was also called Sandey, Fornm. S. xii. 344. It belongs to the province of South Mæren, near Drontheim. The cave is still to be seen on its western shore. Comp. Munch. N.H. iii. 688.
8. Shoulders; That is, the materials for striking a light were fastened at the nape of his neck and remained dry.
9. Water-skates; ships, i.e., what sailor will ever again, etc.
11. The sound near the island of Græning, now Gröningen, north of Mostr, in South Hördaland.
12. The Flatey Book "each thought his own way about it."
13. Now Stöle in South Hördaland.
14. That is with sixty, half the long hundred of 120. Thirty of his own people and thirty of Harek's.
15. That is to the town of Bergen.
16. Oslo; Now Christiania, a town of much importance in ancient times.
By "the Bay" was meant the great Gulf in the south of Norway, the entrance to which
is the Skaw, and at the bottom of which lies the Christiania firth. The district round the
Gulf was also called "the Bay," and the inhabitants were called "Bay-dwellers."
22. A creek, or "væ," near Bergen.
23. Alasound; Yell Sound.
24. The Danish Translation paraphrases the passage:
"Then that counsel was taken that they should bring together heath, wood, and tar on the highest hills in the Fair Isle, and make out of them a pile or heap of wood; that they called a beacon."
25. So the Danish Translation. The Flatey Book reads "Stroma" (badly).
27. Literally "bladder-window," a narrow window covered with bladder to supply the place of glass. Comp. Sturl. S. i. 168. The Run. Lex s.v. ljóri reads, "he was drawn up through the louvre."
71. A little while after those manslayings had taken place in Orfir men ran up from the church, and Sweyn was borne inside the house, for he had not yet drawn his last breath, though he had lost his senses. He died in the course of the night. Then the earl made every man take his seat, and wanted to be sure who it was that had caused the slayings; and then Sweyn Asleif's son was missing. Then men thought it clear that Sweyn had slain them. Then Eyvind came up and said:
"Any man can see that Sweyn breastrope must have given John his death."
(2) Men thought it most likely that Sweyn would have gone to Paplay to Hacon churl, brother of earl Magnus the saint; he was a great chief, mild and gentle. The earl heard no news of Sweyn that winter, and made them make him an outlaw. When the spring began the earl fared far and near about the north isles to get in his rents. He made great friends with the great men, and gave away almost with both hands. The earl came into Stronsay, and gave Thorkell flayer that farm which Waltheof Olaf's son had owned, for the sake of knowing where Sweyn had settled down. Thorkell spoke and said:
"It dæs not turn out now as the saying gæs, 'Many are a king's ears.' But though you beest earl, still it seems to me wonderful that though have heard no tidings of Sweyn, for I knew at once that bishop William sent him to the Southern isles to Holdbodi Hundi's son, and there he has been this winter."
The earl said:
"What shall I do to the bishop who has dared to do this?"
"No blame must be given to the bishop for this in the face of what now lies at the
door; you will need all your friends if Rognvald and his men come from the east."
Earl Paul fared thence to Rinansey (North Ronaldsay), and accepted feast at mistress Ragna's house and Thorstein's her son. Ragna was a wise woman. They had another farm in Papay. (3) The earl sat there three nights, for he could not get a wind to Kugi's house in Westray. They, Ragna and the earl, talked much, and she says to the earl that he had little loss in Sweyn breastrope, even though he was a great warrior. "You gottest from him many feuds; it were my counsel, in the face of that trouble which stares you in the face, that you make you as many friends as you can, and not be fault-finding. I would too that you laid no blame on bishop William or the other kinsmen of Sweyn Asleif's son; but I would rather that you wouldest forgive the bishop your wrath, and this besides, that you wouldest let word be sent to the Southern isles for Sweyn, and forgive him your wrath too, and give him back his estates on condition that he will be to you such a man as his father was. It has always been the custom of the noblest men to do much for the sake of their friends, and so to gather to themselves force and friendship."
The earl answers:
"You are a wise wife, Ragna, but still you has not yet gotten the title of earl in the Orkneys; you shall not rule the land here. A pretty thing indeed that I should give Sweyn goods for an atonement, and think that I should win victory for my side in that way!" He gets wrath about this, and said:
"God settle matters between my kinsman earl Rognvald and me, and let things so go as each has deserved by his deeds. If I have misdone towards him, then it is time that I should atone for it; but if so be his aim is to get my realm, then methinks that man my best friend who aids me, that I may be able to hold my realm. Rognvald I have never yet seen; and this is why, so far as my knowledge gæs, I have all the less done him any wrong, because whatever our kinsfolk may have caused to be done, men know well enough that I had no share in those things."
Many answered that it was quite unpardonabl for any one to try and strive with him for the realm, but no one spoke against him. When the spring began to wear away, earl Paul made them pile up the beacons in the Fair Isle and Rinansey, and in almost all the isles, so that each might be seen from the other. There was a man named Dagfinn Hlodver's son, who kept house on the Fair Isle, a brisk stirring man; he was to watch that beacon and set fire to it if a host were seen faring from Shetland.
Earl Rognvald sat that winter at home in Agdir on the farms of that father and son, and sent word to his friends and kinsfolk; but some he went to see, and begged that they would aid him in his voyage west both in men and ships, and most of them turned a willing ear to his wants. But about February Kol sent two ships of burden out of the land, one west to England to buy stores and weapons, but in the other Solmund sailed south to Denmark to buy there what Kol bade him, for he has now all the business of fitting them out in his hands. It was so meant that these ships of burden should come back to Norway at Easter, but they mean to set sail on the voyage after Easter week. So it was done, and they held on from the east after Easter week. Each of that pair, father and son, had his own long-ship, but Solmund had the third. Kol and his son had besides a ship of burden laden with stores. But when they came to Bergen, they found king Harold there; he gave Rognvald a long-ship fully trimmed and manned. John limp-leg had also a long-ship. The sixth Aslak, son of Erlend of Hern had; he was a daughter's son of Steigar-Thorir. He too had a ship of burden laden with stores. They had six large ships, five cutters, and three ships of burden. When they lay waiting for a wind at Hern, a ship ran in from the west, and they heard news from the Orkneys and Shetland, and what preparations earl Paul was taking, if earl Rognvald came there west with a host that summer.
72. Earl Rognvald let them blow the trumpets to call together a house-Thing (4) while they lay in Hern, (5) and spoke then of earl Paul's preparations, and how great feud the Orkneyingers showed towards him when they meant to keep him from the inheritance of his kinsfolk, after the kings of Norway had given it to him as the rightful heir. And so he makes them a long and clever speech,—I meant, he said, "so to go to the Orkneys as either to get them or else die."
Men gave him great praise for his speech, and promised him trustier following. Then Kol stood up and said:
"We have heard from the Orkneys how all men there will rise up against you, and keep you from your realm, siding with earl Paul; and be sure, kinsman, that they will be slow to lay down that feud which they have taken up against you. Now, it is my counsel to look for trust there where there is enough of it and to spare, that he may give you your realm who owns it by right; but that is the saint earl Magnus, your mother's brother. My wish is that though vowest to him, if he will grant you the inheritance of your kindred and make you his heir, that you will let a stone minster be built in the Orkneys at Kirkwall if you can get that realm, so that there shall not be another as splendid in that land, and let it be hallowed in the name of Saint Magnus the earl your kinsman, and that you will lay out money, so that the church may grow and thrive, and that there may come his halidom, together with the bishop's seat."
This all thought good advice. And that vow was fast made. After that they put to sea, and they got a fair wind, and made Shetland, and each were glad at meeting the others. The Shetlanders were able to tell them many tidings from the Orkneys, and so they stayed there some time.
73. It chanced once that Kol asks Uni, for he was then there, and had changed his abode to that of Kol and his son, after he had taken part in the plot against Brynjulf. Then Kol asks:
"Whether of the twain will you, Uni, give counsel how the beacon in the Fair Isle may be set on fire for naught, or undertake that work that another beacon may not be lighted. I speak to you about this because I know that you are wiser than most of the others who are now here, though we have here many men of worth."
"I am no man for advice, but still less would I make a rush to war by my plans. I will therefore rather choose what shall be done last, because I mean to take the doing of it all on myself."
(6) And a little after, one day when the weather was fair, Kol made them fit out many small ships, and turned his course towards the Orkneys. There were no chiefs on board the ships but Kol. And when they come so far that they think their fleet might be seen from the Fair Isle, then Kol made them hoist the sails on all the ships, and set men to back water with the oars, so that the ships might move as slowly as possible, though the wind was right aft; and he made them set the sails no higher than half-mast, and so hoist them higher and higher up as they had gone further on. Kol says that then their fleet would be seen from the Fair Isle, "[and it would seem] as though the ships were coming near to the isle. (7) May be then that they will set fire to the beacon, and there will be a rush to arms all over the islands."
Then Dagfinn of the Fair Isle saw the ships sailing and he set fire to the beacon at once, but fared himself to the earl and told him the news. And as soon as ever the beacon was seen on the Fair Isle, then Thorstein Ragna's son made them kindle the beacon on Rinansey. And after that all the others were lit one after the other over all the isles. But all the freemen fared to meet the earl, and that was the greatest war-gathering. But when Kol saw that the beacon was a-blaze, he bade his men fare back; and said it might so happen that this would be a cause of quarrel to some of them; Kol fares back to Shetland after he had done thus much, and says that now Uni shall betake himself to his plans. Uni calls three Shetlanders to go along with him; they take a six-oared boat and a few stores beside and fishing-tackle. They fared to the Fair Isle, and Uni said he was a Norseman, but gives out that he had wedded in Shetland and had sons there; he says too he had been robbed by earl Rognvald's men, and speaks the hardest things of them. He takes up his abode in a house there, and his sons row out to fish; but he stays at home to watch their stores and catch. He gets to speaking with and to knowing those men who take the lead there, and they are well pleased with him.
74. After that Dagfinn had set fire to the beacon, he set off to find earl Paul, as was before said, and there came all the earl's chieftains. Then they took to asking every one about the doings of earl Rognvald and his men; and men thought it wonderful when they showed themselves nowhere. But still they kept the force together three days. Then the freemen began to take it ill, and say that it was great folly to burn the beacons, though fishermen were seen sailing in their boats. Then blame was laid on Thorstein Ragna's son that he had done a bad thing when he kindled the beacon on Rinansey. Thorstein answers, and says he could do nothing else than fire the beacon, when he saw the blaze on the Fair Isle, and said this had been all Dagfinn's doing. Dagfinn answers:
"Men far more often get ill from you than though art able to say the same of me."
Thorstein bade him hold his tongue, and sprang up to him with an axe, and smote him there and then his death-blow. Then men sprang to arms and a battle arose. This was in Hrossey, a little way from Kirkwall. Sigurd of Westness and his sons Hacon pike and Brynjulf aided Hlodver Dagfinn'' father, but his own kin helped Thorstein. Then this was told the earl, and he came up, but it was long before he could get them parted. Then Kugi of Westray speaks a long speech, and says thus:
"Do not do the earl this shame, that you fall to blows among yourselves, for you will need all your men within a little time. Let us take heed then that we be not unhandy or quarrelsome. But as for this, it must have come about by the will and plan of our fæs, and it must have been a trick of theirs to waste the beacons thus. But now they may be looked for to come every day, and so let us take counsel and make our plans. No ill-will could have driven Dagfinn to do as he did, but he was a little more hasty than he ought to have been."
This guess of Kugi was the very truth, and so he went on with many wise words. So it came about that each side was willing that the earl should settle the matter; but still it was thought best to break up the gathering, and men went home. But that man was set to watch the beacon in the Fair Isle whose name was Eric. And when Uni had been a little while in the Fair Isle, he came to Eric and said:
"Will you that I watch the beacon? since I do naught else, and I may well sit and spend all my time on it."
Eric accepted that. But as soon as ever no men were near to the spot, Uni threw water on the beacon, and made it so wet that fire had no hold of it anywhere.
75. Earl Rognvald and his men agreed that they would wait till the spring tides and east wind set in together, for then it is scarcely possible to pass between Westray and Hrossey, but with an east wind one may sail from Shetland to Westray. And so earl Rognvald and his men profited by this, and came on Friday evening to Westray into Hofn, to the house of Helgi, who lived there. No signs were then given by the beacons, for when the sails were seen from the Fair Isle, Eric busked him to go to earl, and sent men to Uni to bid him fire the beacon, but when that man came there, Uni was off and away. And when that man wanted to fire the beacon, then it was so wet that the fire would not catch it. And when Eric hears this, he thinks he sees how things have gone. After that he fares to find earl Paul, and tells him. But when earl Rognvald was come into Westray, all the island blades gathered together, and they, Kugi and Helgi, take counsel for them. The first thing was to seek for peace from the earl. And the end of this business was that the Westrayingers come under earl Rognvald's power, and swear oaths to him.
76. On the Sunday after earl Rognvald heard mass there in the thorpe, and they were standing outside by the church. Then they saw how sixteen men walked without weapons and bald. Them they thought wonderously boun. The earl's men talked together, and asked who these men might be. Then the earl sang a song:
"Sixteen have I seen at once—
Topknots fell about their brows,
Shield or weapon bore they none,—
Women all together walk;
We bore witness now to this,
That here west are far the most
Shaveling maidens in this isle,
In the main it lies in tempests."
When the Sunday was over earl Rognvald's men fared there about the country round,
and all men came under the earl's power. It fell out one night in Westray that the earl's
men had news that the islanders were to have a secret meeting to plot against earl Rognvald.
But when the earl got news of that, then he arose and went to the meeting. But it happened
that the earl's men had beaten many of the island blades, and taken master Kugi and put him
in fetters, and said he was at the bottom of this plot. But when earl Rognvald came to the
meeting Kugi fell at his feet and laid all his cause in God's hand and the earl's; he said
he had been brought to the meeting against his will, for all the freemen wished him to be
foreman in the plot. Kugi pleaded his own cause well and glibly, and many others pleaded
with him, and tried to prove what he said to be true. Then the earl chanted this:
On the legs of greybeard Kugi,
Kugi, worst of midnight plotters,
Fetters now forbid your straying!
Kugi! never hold again
Midnight tryst nor bargain break,
You shall be shut out from guile,
Take an oath and keep it too."
The earl gave all the men there peace. Then they bound their fellowship anew [with oaths].
77. When earl Rognvald had come into the Orkneys and many men had come under his power, Paul was in Hrossey, and he and his friends held a Thing and took counsel with their men. The earl asked for advice as to how he should behave in this strait. But men handled it in various ways, and it was counsel of some that the lands should be shared with earl Rognvald; but most of the mighty men, and the freemen too, wished to buy earl Rognvald off with money, and offered there and then help to do it. Some were eager to have a fight for it, and said that had turned out well before. Earl Rognvald had had spies at the meeting, and when they come to him, the earl asked the news. A skald who had been at the Thing answered the earl: (8)
"Mighty chief! I hear that our
Fæmen hide a hostile mind,
From the freemen at the meeting
This report I also heard,
That the feeders of the wolf,
Many masters too of ships,
Wished your ships to keep the sea,
But for Paul to hold the land."
After that earl Rognvald sent men to find the bishop and begged him to become a
daysman (9) between them, and (he) sent for Thorstein Ragna's son, and Thorstein Havard's
son out of Sanday, and bade them to go with him and try to make a settlement and to stand by
neither side in making any strife; and when they came to the bishop they fared altogether to
find earl Paul, and he (the bishop) tried to make a settlement between those kinsmen. The
bishop brought this about, that peace was fixed for half a month, that they might try to
make a more lasting settlement. Then the isles were shared into lots, where either earl
should have his living during that time. Then earl Rognvald fared to Hrossey, but earl Paul
fared to Rowsay. And in that time these tidings happened in the isles, that those kinsmen of
Swein Asleif's son, John wing of the Upland in Hoy, and Richard of the Brink in Stronsay,
fared against Thorkell flayer to that farm which Waltheof had owned, and burned him inside
it, and nine men with him. They fared after that to find earl Rognvald, and gave him that
choice, that they would join earl Paul with all their kin if earl Rognvald would not take to
them. The earl did not turn them away from him. And when Haflidi Thorkell's son heard that,
he fared at once to find earl Paul, as soon as he heard of his father's burning, and earl
Paul took to him. After that John and his kinsfolk bound themselves as earl Rognvald's
liegemen. He soon had a great following there in the isles, and was much beloved. Earl
Rognvald gave John and Solmund and Aslak and many other of his helpers leave to go home; but
they wished to stay and see how things would turn out. Then earl Rognvald said:
After that they fared home to Norway, each of them to his own abode.
78. That spring early Sweyn Asleif's son had fared away from the Southern isles up into Scotland to see his friends. He stayed a long time in Athole with earl Moddad and Margaret Hacon's daughter, and they talked about many things in secret. There Sweyn heard of strife from the Orkneys, and he grew eager to fare there and find his kinsfolk. He fared first to Caithness to Thurso, and a noble man with him whose name was Ljotolf; with him Sweyn had been long that spring. They came to earl Ottar's house in Thurso, Frakok's brother, and Ljotolf tried to bring about a settlement between Ottar and Sweyn for what Frakok had caused to be done, and earl Ottar paid down the fines for the atonement on his own behalf. The earl also gave his word that he would be friends with Sweyn, but Sweyn promised earl Ottar to strengthen Erlend the son of Harold smooth-tongue, so that he might get back his father's inheritance in the Orkneys when he laid claim to it. Sweyn there changed ships, and had a ship of burden thence, and thirty men on board her. Thence he took a northwest wind across the Pentland firth, and so west of Hrossey, and so to Evie sound, and so up the sound to Rowsay. At the isle's end was a high headland, and a great heap of stones under it beneath; and there otters often lay among the rocks. And as Sweyn and his men were rowing along the sound, he began to speak, and said:
"There are men yonder on the headland, and we will run in there and learn the news of them. My will now is that men should change their trim a little; we will take to our hammocks; and there twenty men shall lie down, but ten shall row; (10) we will go softly and slowly."
But when they neared the isle, men call out from the head that they must row to Westness, and bring to earl Paul what they had on board ship. They thought they were speaking to chapmen. But earl Paul had been that night at Westness to a feast in Sigurd's house. The earl had risen up betimes, and he and nineteen men had gone south on the isle to hunt otters which lay among the rocks under the head. They meant to be back home in time for their morning draught. The men on board the ship of burden rowed to land, and they asked one another of this thing and that, and what the men were called whom they had met. The men in the ship of burden told whence they had come; they ask also where the earl might be. They tell them that he was there on the rocks. Sweyn and his men heard that as they lay in their hammocks; and Sweyn then told them to run the ship in so that she might not be seen from the head. Then Sweyn said that they must arm themselves, and fall at once on the earl's men when they met. And so they do. There they slew nineteen men, but six of Sweyn's men fell. They took earl Paul by force, and led him on board their ship, and turned their stem to the sea, and fared back the same way west of Hrossey, and ran in between Hoy and Grimsey, and so east of Swelg, (11) thence south to Broad firth, and up it to Ekkjalsbakka. (12) There he left his ship and twenty men, but he and the rest fared till he came to Athole and met earl Maddad and Margaret earl Paul's sister. There they had a hearty welcome, and earl Maddad set earl Paul in his own high-seat. And when they had sat down, in came Margaret walking with a great train of women, and threw her arms round her brother. After that men were brought in to amuse them. Earl Paul was rather short of words, as was not wonderful that he should have great misgivings. Nothing has been handed down of earl Paul's words, or of Sweyn's as they were faring both together. Earl Maddad and Margaret and Sweyn Asleif's son went into a room and talked together. But at even after drink Sweyn and his captive were shown the way to a sleeping-house all alone, and they were locked in there, and so it went on every evening while they were there.
79. It happened one day that Margaret gave out that Sweyn Asleif's son was going to the Orkneys to see earl Rognvald, and give him his choice whether he would rather have earl Paul to rule with him in the Orkneys, or Harold, son of Maddad and herself, who was three winters old. And when earl Paul heard of that, he answers:
"As to my mind, it is to be said that I fared away so from my realm that men will never have heard of such doings before: nor will I ever go back to the Orkneys. I see that this vengeance must be given of God for the robbery of me and my kinsmen; but if it seems to God that the realm is mine, then will I give it to Harold, if he may live to enjoy it; but as for me, I wish that money may be given me to settle me in some cloister, and then keep you watch and ward, so that I do not get away thence. But my wish is, Sweyn, that you farest to the Orkneys, and sayest that I am blinded, or even more maimed, for my friends will seek me out if I am sound and hale in all my limbs. It may then be that I may not be able to forego faring back to my realm with them, for I guess they will think there is more harm in our parting than will really befall them."
No more words of the earl are handed down than these. After that Sweyn Asleif's son fared to the Orkneys, but earl Paul stayed behind in Scotland. And this is the story that Sweyn told of what had happened. But some men tell a story which is less seemly, that Margaret had led Sweyn Asleif's son by her counsel to blind earl Paul her brother, and put him into a dark dungeon; but after that she got another man to take his life there. But we do not know which of the two stories is more true; but all men know that he never afterwards came back to the Orkneys, nor held he any rule in Scotland.
80. These tidings happened at Westness, when the earl's home-coming grew late, then Sigurd, the master of the house, made them send men to look for them; but when they got to where the pile of rocks was, they saw the bodies of the slain. Then they thought the earl must have fallen there; fared home and told these tidings. Sigurd fared at once to the spot to see and reckon the dead, and they found there nineteen of the earl's men, but there were six men besides there whom they knew not. After that Sigurd sent men to Egil's isle to find the bishop and to tell him these tidings. And the bishop fared at once to see Sigurd, and they fell to talk of these tidings, and Sigurd guessed that this must have been by the plotting of earl Rognvald. But the bishop answers that some other proof must be brought forward before he would believe that earl Rognvald had betrayed earl Paul his kinsman. "I guess," says the bishop, "that some others must have wrought this ill deed."
Borgar the son of Jatvor Erlend's daughter, who dwelt at Goathill, (13) he had seen the ship of burden when it fared from the south, and fared back south. But when that was heard, then men thought that this must have been by the plotting of Frakok and Oliver the unruly. But when these tidings were noised about the isles, that earl Paul was away and gone, and no man knew what was become of him, then they sought counsel among themselves, and there were very many who then fared to find earl Rognvald, and swore fealty to him. But Sigurd of Westness, and his sons Brynjulf and Hakon pike, said they would swear oaths to no man, while they were without news of earl Paul, whether he were to be looked for back or not. There were more men too who refused to take oaths to earl Rognvald, but there were some who laid down a time or a day when they would come over into his hand if nothing was then heard of earl Paul. But when earl Rognvald saw that he had to do with many mighty men, then he took crossly nothing that the freemen asked. And so time went on, that every now and then he held Things with the freemen, and from time to time some of them came over to his hand at each Thing.
Now it happened one day at Kirkwall, that earl Rognvald had a Thing with the freemen, and when men were at the Thing, it was seen how nine armed men came from Scapa-neck to the Thing. And when they came to the Thing, there they knew Sweyn Asleif's son, and men were eager to know what tidings he had to tell. Sweyn had sailed in his ship from the south to Scapa-neck, and there left his ship, but he and his men walked to Kirkwall afterwards. And so when they came on the place of meeting, then his friends and kinsfolk flocked round him, and asked him what news, but he answered little, and bade them call the bishop to him. But the bishop greeted Sweyn well, for they had long been friends. They two went aside to talk, and Sweyn tells the bishop all the truth about his doings, and bade him now take counsel with him about these knotty points. The bishop said:
"These are mickle tidings that you tell Sweyn, and it is more than likely that we two shall not be able to settle this matter by ourselves; and now my will is that you bidest for me here, but I will go and back your suit before all the people and earl Rognvald."
Then the bishop gæs to the meeting, and craves for a hearing, and when he got it, then the bishop pleads Sweyn's cause, and said for what cause he had fared away from the Orkneys, and what penalties earl Paul had laid on him for the slaying of Sweyn breastrope, that worst of men. Then the bishop begged of earl Rognvald for peace on Sweyn'' part, and he begs it too of all the people. Then earl Rognvald answers:
"I give my word that Sweyn shall have peace from me for three nights, but methinks, bishop, you bearest that look beneath your brow, as though you two, Sweyn and you, will be able to tell us of some great tidings which have not yet come out. My will is that you takest Sweyn into your keeping and be answerable for him, but I will have a talk with him on the morrow.""
"Yes, yes," said the bishop, "willingly will he talk with you, and that as soon as may be, and he will become your man if you will take to him."
The earl answers:
"Methinks there are not over many friends of mine in this land, but still we must talk more together before I agree to that."
After that those four went aside to talk, earl Rognvald, Kol his father, the bishop, and Sweyn Asleif's son; then Sweyn tells them the lieve and the loath (14) of all that had passed between him and earl Paul; but they took that counsel to let most of the crowd of men fare away from the Thing. The earl stands up the morning after, and gave the men then leave to go home. But when the crowd of men broke up from the Thing, then he fetched this man and that man by himself to come and talk with them, and made all men first promise Sweyn peace who were by before he told the tidings. But the morning after Hacon churl, brother of earl Magnus the saint, was got to go and tell Sigurd of Westness and his sons of what had befallen the earl, and this too that he was not to be looked for to take up his rule, and that he was maimed. Sigurd says:
"This methinks is great tidings about the earl's going away, but that methinks is heaviest of all that he is maimed, for there is no place where he could have gone that I would not fare to find him out if he were hale."
And so he had said to his friends afterwards, that Hacon should not have gone away unmaimed if he had had force enough when he [Hacon] told him this story, he took it so much to heart.
But after these tidings, all men in the Orkneys went over into earl Rognvald's hands, and now he became sole chief over that realm which earl Paul had owned. And not long after the ground plan was marked out for Magnus' church, and builders were gathered for it; and the work went on so fast in three years, that less was done in four or five thenceforth. Kol was the man who looked most after the workmanship of the building, and had most of the guidance as to the plan. But as the building went on, it grew costly to the earl, and his money was far spent. Then the earl sought for counsel to his father. But Kol gave him that advice that the earl should bring in a law to the effect that the earls had taken all freehold lands in inheritance after men, but that the heirs had to redeem them for their own, and that was thought rather hard. Then earl Rognvald made them call together a Thing, and offered the freemen the choice of buying their freeholds out and out, so that there was no need to redeem them. And that they agreed on among themselves, so that all were well pleased. But a mark was to be paid to the earl for every plough-land over all the isles. But thenceforth money was not lacking for the church building, and that building is wrought with much toil and pains.
1. Sweyn's; i.e. Sweyn Asleif's son's.
2. The Danish Translation reads:
"Then he must have something on his conscience, and knows that he is guilty; else I will not believe that he has done this without cause."
3. Papay; Probably in Papay Westray.
4. The original of our "husting" or "hustings."
5. A group of islands near Bergen off the coast of Hördeland.
"still less would I go there with warriors, and therefore I will come afterwards with my plan, if I can think anything out by myself."
7. In the Translation the stratagem of Kol is thus described. "As if the ships were coming ever nearer and nearer as they hoisted the sails, though they scarcely moved on at all."
8. The Flatey Book reads, "the earl asked the news of a skald who had been there."
9. daysman] "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us."
—Job ix. 33.
10. The Danish Translation adds, "and we will take in our sail."
12. Ekkjalsbakka ] No doubt Strath Oikel.
13. In chapter 59 they are said to have lived at Knarstead.
14. the lieve and the loath] that is he made a clean breast of it; he told them everything, whether it were pleasing or displeasing to them.
81. When earl Rognvald had ruled two winters over the Orkneys, then he kept the Yule feast at one of his farms which is called Knarstead. It was the sixth Yule day, that a ship was seen faring from the south from the Pentland firth. The weather was good, and the earl stood out of doors, and many men by him, and looked and thought what that ship might be. That man was there whose name was Hrolf, and he was the earl's body-priest. And when these men came to land, then they went up from their ship, and the earl's men kept count of them and reckoned that they might be fifteen or sixteen men. But at the head of the band walked a man in a blue cape, and he had tucked his hair under the hood; he had shaven the beard from his chin in front, but his jaws and cheeks were unshaven, and there (the hair) hung down full and long. This man seemed rather strange to them (the earl's men), but Hrolf the Priest knew that man, and says that that was bishop John who had come down from Scotland out of Athole. Then the earl went to meet them, and gives the bishop a hearty welcome. The earl seated the bishop on his own high-seat, but waits himself at the board before him like a page. Next morning the bishop held mass early, and then he fared north to Egil's isle to see bishop William, and was there till the tenth Yule day. Then both the bishops fared to see earl Rognvald with a worthy following, and brought out their errand. They tell him of that agreement between Sweyn's Asleif's son and earl Maddad, that their son Harold should fare out into the Orkneys to be fostered by earl Rognvald, with this understanding that Harold should bear the title of earl, and have half the Orkneys with earl Rognvald, but they should both have one court, and that earl Rognvald should rule for both of them, and do so though Harold grew to be a man; and if each had a will of his own, then earl Rognvald was to have his way. Sweyn was there too, and brought this matter forward along with the bishop. So earl Rognvald and his friends took this counsel, that a meeting was fixed for the spring at Lent in Caithness, and then an agreement was made on those terms, and was bound by the oaths of the best men of the Orkneys and of Scotland. Then Harold Maddad's son fared out into the Orkneys with earl Rognvald, and there and then the title of earl was given him. Then Thorbjorn clerk fared to the isles with earl Harold; he was a son of Thorstein the freeman and Gudrun Frakok's daughter; he was a wise man and of great weight; he then fostered earl Harold, and had great power over him. Thorbjorn took to himself a wife in the Orkneys, and got Ingirid (1) Olaf's daughter, Sweyn Asleif son's sister. Thorbjorn was then by turns either out there in the Orkneys or up in Scotland, and he was the boldest of men, and the most unfair overbearing man in most things. Sweyn Asleif's son took under him all those estates which his father Olaf and his brother Waltheof had owned; he then became a mighty chief, and always had a great company of men with him. He was a wise man and foresighted (2) about many things; an unfair overbearing man, and reckless towards others. There were not at that time those two men west across the sea, who were not of greater birth, who were thought of more power and weight than those brothers-in-law Sweyn and Thorbjorn. There was then between them great love.
82. It fell out once that Sweyn Asleif's son came to talk with earl Rognvald, and asked that he would give him strength of men and ships to avenge on Oliver and Frakok the burning of his father Olaf. The earl spoke and said:
"Do not think, Sweyn, that either of us need now look for harm at the hands of either Oliver or Frakok, a carline, who is fit for nothing."
"There will always be harm at their hands so long as they live; and I must say I then looked for other things when I did my utmost for your sake, than that you shouldest not grant me such things [as I now ask]."
The earl answers:
"What help then shall I give you which will please you?"
"Two ships well fitted and manned."
The earl said it should be as he asked. And after that Sweyn busked him for that voyage, and when he was "boun" he sailed south to Broadfirth, and took the north-west wind to Dufeyra. (3) That is a market town in Scotland. But thence he sailed into the land along the shore of Murray and to Ekkjalsbakka. Thence he fared next of all to Athole to earl Maddad and lay at the place called Elgin. Then he [the earl] gave Sweyn guides, who knew the paths over fells and wastes, where he wished to go. Thence he fared the upper way over fells and wood, above all places where men dwelt, and came out in Helmsdale, near the middle of Sutherland. But Oliver and his men had spies out everywhere where they thought that strife was to be looked for from the Orkneys, but on this way they did not at all look for warriors. So they were not ware of the host before Sweyn and his men had come to a slope at the back of Frakok's homestead. There came against them Oliver the unruly with sixty men; then they fell to battle at once, and there was a short struggle. Oliver and his men gave way towards the homestead, for they could not get to the wood. Then there was a great slaughter of men, but Oliver he fled away up to Helmsdale water, and swam across the river and so up on to the fell, and thence he fared to Scotland's firth, and so out to the Southern isles. And he is out of the story. But when Oliver drew off, Sweyn and his men fared straight up to the house and plundered it of everything, but after that they burnt the homestead, and all those men and women who were inside it. And there Frakok lost her life. Sweyn and his men did there the greatest harm in Sutherland before they fared to their ships. After that they lay out that summer, and harried round Scotland. Sweyn came home at autumn to the Orkneys to see earl Rognvald; and he gave Sweyn a hearty welcome; then Sweyn fared across to the Ness to Duncansby, and sat there that winter. At that time came a message by word of mouth to Sweyn from Holdbodi out of the Southern isles, that Sweyn should come to help him, for there to Tyree had come a Freeman from Wales, and had chased Holdbodi out of house and home, and had robbed him of much goods. That man was called Robert who was sent, English by kin. Sweyn bestirred himself at once when the message was sent to him, and came out into the Orkneys to meet earl Rognvald, and begged earl Rognvald that he would give him force and ships. The earl asked what Sweyn wanted to take in hand. He said that man had sent him word, to whom of all others he ought to be the last to say "nay," and who had stood him then in best stead, when he had most need when almost every one turned against him. The earl answers:
"It were well then if you two parted friends, but most South-islanders are untrue; but you will be able to show your manliness, and I will give you two ships thoroughly manned."
This pleases Sweyn well, and they fared then to the Southern isles, and he did not
find Holdbodi before he got as far west as Man, for he [Holdbodi] had fled away there. But
when Sweyn came to Man, then Holdbodi was fain to see him. And there in Man that Freeman
from Wales had done great harm in plunderings and manslayings, and so wide about in the
Southern-isles. Before him had fallen a man of birth and worth, whose name was Andrew; he
left behind him a wife whose name was Ingirid, and a son whose name was Sigmund angle.
Ingirid the housewife had much goods and a great homestead. Holdbodi gave Sweyn that advice
to ask for her hand, but when that question was put to her, then she said that Sweyn must do
that deed for his match, to avenge her husband Andrew. Sweyn answers that he might do the
Welshmen some harm, "but I cannot tell how it will be fated as to loss of life."
After that they fared to their ship, and lay out that summer and got much war-spoil, but the Freeman ran away to that isle which is called Lund. (4) There was a good stronghold; Sweyn and Holdbodi sat before it for some time, and could do nothing. And they fared home in the autumn to Man.
83. That winter Sweyn made his wedding-feast with Ingirid, and then sat there in great honour. Next spring he gathered men to him, and fared to see Holdbodi, and asked him for force of men, but he begged off, and said the men were many of them at work, but some were on trading voyages, and Sweyn got nothing of what he asked. But there was proof plain that the Freeman and Holdbodi had come to terms by stealth, and bound their bargain by gifts. But Sweyn fared away nevertheless, and had then three ships, and they got little spoil in goods at the beginning of the summer. But as time went on they fared south under Ireland, and took there a bark which the monks of the Scilly Isles owned and plundered it. He harried also far and wide on Ireland, and took there much goods, and they fared home at autumn to Man, and had a great force. Sweyn Asleif's son had sat there at home but a scant time, when he heard this rumour that Holdbodi would not be true to him but Sweyn would not hear of such a thing. And one night about winter those tidings happened, that Sweyn's watchmen came and said that strife was coming upon them. Sweyn and his men ran to their weapons and out of doors. They saw where men were coming with fire to the homestead, and they had a great band. Then Sweyn and his men sprung up on a hillock and defended themselves thence; they had horns and blew them. But that place is thickly peopled, and men flocked to help Sweyn and his band, so that the end of it was, that those who had come against them fell off. Sweyn and his men followed them up and chased them. There many men fell in the flight, but a crowd were wounded on either side before they parted. But Holdbodi was the leader of this band, and he had taken himself off in the flight. He fared away till he came to Lundy; the Freeman gave him a hearty welcome, and they held together. Sweyn fared home, and had many men with him and kept good watch and ward, for he put little faith in the South-islanders. When the stores of Sweyn and his men began to fail, the folk quarrelled with him; and he sold his lands when the winter went on for money and goods, and fared early in the spring from the South to the Lewes, and stayed there a long time. He had done much mischief in this voyage.
84. When Sweyn was in the Southern isles, earl Rognvald had fared to Caithness, and went to
a feast at Wick with that man whose name was Hroald, his wife's name was Arnljot. Sweyn was
the name of their son, and he was the briskest of men. But when the earl was at the feast,
Thorbjorn clerk and his men came down from Scotland, and told these tidings that Thorstein
the freeman his father was slain, and that a Scottish earl had slain him, but that earl's
name was Waltheof. But men made that a matter of talk what a deal earl Rognvald and
Thorbjorn had to say to one another, for the earl could scarce finish the business he had in
hand for their talk. Thorbjorn fared thence out into the isles with the earl, but Sweyn
Hroald's son then became the earl's waiting-man. Thorbjorn had then been for a while in
Scotland; he had let two men be slain who had been at the burning of Frakok with Sweyn
Asleif's son. But when Sweyn came out of the Southern isles, then he fared home to Gairsay
to his house, but he did not go to see earl Rognvald as he was wont when he came off
warfare. But when the earl heard that he was come home, he asked Thorbjorn if he thought he
knew why it was that Sweyn would not come to see him. Thorbjorn answers:
The earl said:
"I will not that you two be at strife."
And after that earl Rognvald fared to Gairsay, and tried to bring about an atonement between them, and that was easy, for they both were willing that the earl should settle the matter. After that he made them good friends for that time, and that settlement was kept a long time after.
85. In that time a vessel from Iceland came to the Orkneys, and that man was on board whose name was Hall, son of Thorarin broad-paunch; he fared to live and lodge in Rinansey with Ragna and her son Thorstein. He was ill at ease there, and begged Thorstein that he would take him to earl Rognvald. They fared to find him, but the earl would not take him into his service; but when they came home, then Ragna asks how they had fared. Then Hall sang a song:
"I sent your son on an errand, Ragna, Man to man speaks words of truth; This his weighty calling was Place at court for me to ask; But the prince, of rings the waster, He who rules with glory highest, Says he has warriors enough; Said 'No' to neighbour of the brawn."
A little after Ragna fared to see earl Rognvald on some errand of her own. She was so "boun" that she had a red cap on her head made of horsehair. And when the earl saw that, he sang:
"Never have I heard that ladies, All of them if highly born, Wimples wore upon their heads; Soft-tongued grows not rings' assassin; (5) But now Ragna, gold-lands' fury, (6) Binds a mare's tail round her brow; She a bride in gay attire Gæs to meet the wound-goose feeder."
(7) Ragna said:
"Now it comes to that which is often said that no man is so wise as to see everything as it is, for this is of a horse and not of a mare."
She took then a silken cloth, and threw it over her head as a wimple, and still went on talking of her affairs. The earl was rather slow in listening to her at first, but afterwards softened down his speech as she went on, and she got her business settled as she wished, and leave for Hall to live at the earl's court. And he was there long afterwards with earl Rognvald. They made both of them together the old Key to Verse-making, and let there be five strophes in each metre, but then the song seemed too long, and now two strophes are sung in each metre.
86. It is said that Sweyn Asleif's son heard how Holdbodi was come into the Southern isles, then he begged Earl Rognvald to give him strength to avenge himself. The earl gave him five ships, and Thorbjorn clerk steered one of them, but Haflidi son of Thorkell flayer the second, Duffnjal son of Havard Gunni's son the third, Richard Thorleif's son the fourth, Sweyn Asleif's son the fifth. But as soon as ever Holdbodi heard of Sweyn, then he fled back south to Lundy; and his fellows took him to them. Sweyn and his companions slew many men in the Southern isles, but plundered and burnt far and wide. They got much goods, but they could not get at Holdbodi, and he never came back to the Southern isles afterwards. Sweyn wanted to be in the Southern isles that winter, but Thorbjorn and the rest wished to go home, and so late in the autumn they fared from the south to Caithness, and came to Duncansby. And when they were to share their war-spoil, then Sweyn said that all should have an even share, save himself, who was to have a chief's share, for he said he alone had led them, and said the earl had given them to him as help. He said too he was the only one who had any quarrel with the South-islanders, but they had none. But Thorbjorn thought he had not done a bit less work, and been not a whit less a leader than Sweyn. They wished also that all the ship-captains should have an even share. But the end of it was that Sweyn had his way, for he had many more men to back him there on the Ness. But Thorbjorn fared out to the Orkneys to find earl Rognvald, and told him how things had gone between them and Sweyn, and how ill pleased they were that he had robbed them of their shares. The earl said it would not be the only time that Sweyn would be found to be no fair man in his dealings, "but still the day will come when he will take his pay for his wrong-doings. But you shall not strive with him about this. I will give you as much out of my goods as you lose by him; my will also is that you make no claim against him for this, and it will be well if greater difficulties do not flow from him; though I fear that we shall not have long to wait for this."
"God thank you, lord, for this honour which you do to us, and we will not strive with Sweyn about this, but never hereafter will I be his friend, and I will do him some dishonour instead of this."
And after that Thorbjorn declares himself parted from Ingirid Sweyn's sister, and sent her over to the Ness to Sweyn. He gave her a hearty welcome, but thought great shame had been done to him. Then there was feud between them, and it came to what the saw says, "Set a thief to catch a thief."
But still neither now plotted openly against the other.
When Sweyn was in the Souther-isles, he had set Margad Grim's son in Duncansby to govern it, and given into his hand that charge (8) which he held of earl Rognvald. But Margad was quibbling and quarrelsome, and he became hated for his unfairness. But those who were most sufferers by his unfairness ran off to find master Hroald and kept themselves there with him. From that a feud arose between Hroald and Margad. A little after Sweyn had come home Margad fared south to Wick with nineteen men on some business of his own. And before he came from the south he made an onslaught on master Hroald's house and slew him and some men more. After that they fared to Duncansby to find Sweyn. Then Sweyn gathers men and fares to Lambburg, and got the place ready. There was a good stronghold, and there he sat with sixty men, and flitted there for himself food and other stores, which they needed to have. The burg stood on some sea-crags, but at the top on the land side there was a stone wall well built. The rocks went far along the sea the other way. They did there much mischief in Caithness in robberies, and flitted there their spoil into the burg, and they became much hated.
87. These tidings came to the ears of earl Rognvald and Sweyn Hroald's son; Sweyn begged the earl for help that he might set this matter straight; many men backed this prayer with Sweyn. So it came about that earl Rognvald bestirred himself and fared over to the Ness, and these chiefs with him; Thorbjorn, Haflidi Thorkel's son, Duffnjal Havard's son, and Richard, and they were the worst in their counsel against Sweyn. They fared to Duncansby, and Sweyn was then away. It was said that he had fared south to Wick, and they fared there. But when they came there they heard that Sweyn was in Lambburg. Then the earl and his men fared there. And when they came to the burg, then Sweyn asks who ruled over the band. He was told that Earl Rognvald ruled over it. Sweyn greeted him well and asked the earl after his errand. The earl answers that he wills that he should hand over Margad into their power. Sweyn asks whether he shall have peace. The earl said he would not promise that. Then Sweyn said:
"I cannot find it in my heart to give Margad up to the power of Sweyn Hroald's son and his band, or any other of my fæs, those I mean who are with you, but willingly would I be atoned with you, lord."
Then Thorbjorn clerk answers:
"Hear now what the lord's traitor says, that he will willingly be atoned; but he has already robbed his land, and lain out like a thief. Ill repayest you the earl the many honours which he has done to you, as you will [repay] all those over whom you may be able to come."
"You have no need Thorbjorn, to throw in so much talk here, for it will not be done after your words. But that is my foreboding that you will repay him in the worst way the honour that he has done you before you two part, for that none will ever reap luck from you who have anything to do with you."
Then earl Rognvald bade that men should not rail at one another. After that they sat themselves down round the burg, and forbade all ingoings of food, and so it went on for a long time that they could do nothing in the way of attack. And when their food was wellnigh spent, then Sweyn called his men together and sought counsel of them, but all men spoke with one mouth that they would have his guidance and foresight while they had the choice of it. Then Sweyn took to words, and said:
"It seems to me most unworthy to starve here, but after all to fall into the power of one's fæs. And this too has gone, as was likely, [and proves] that we lack both wit and luck when matched with earl Rognvald. And here now it was tried to bring about peace and atonement, but neither could be got for Margad my companion; but though I know that all other men here will have a choice of peace, yet I cannot find it in my heart to hand him over [to fall] under the axe. Now it is not right that so many should pay for his perplexity, though I dare not part from him even yet."
And after this Sweyn took that counsel to knit together those ropes that they had. But at night then they let Sweyn and Margad slip down out of the burg into the sea. And after that they took to swimming, and struck out along the rocks till the cliffs broke off. After that they stepped on land, and fared up into Sutherland, and so to Murray, and thence to Dufeyri. There they found some Orkneymen in a ship of burden; the man's name was Hallvard who was their chief, but the second's name was Thorkell; they were ten in all. Sweyn and Margad went on board ship with them, and they twelve together fared in the ship of burden south off Scotland till they came to the isle of May. There was then a monastery. Baldwin was the abbot's name who ruled over it. There Sweyn and his men were seven nights weather-bound, and said that they were sent to find the Scot-king from earl Rognvald. The monks doubted their story, and thought they were robbers, and sent to the land for men. But when Sweyn and his men were ware of that, then they sprang on shipboard and plundered the place of much goods. They fared away and in up Murkfirth. (9) They found in Edinburgh David the Scot-king; he gave Sweyn a hearty welcome, and bade them stay with him. Sweyn told the king the whole story of his coming there, and how things had gone between him and earl Rognvald before they parted, and so also that they had robbed in the isle of May. Sweyn and his men were there for a while with the Scot-king in good cheer. King David sent men to those men who had lost goods at Sweyn's hands in his voyage, and let them put their own worth on their scathe, but made good with his own money to each his loss. King David offered Sweyn to send and fetch his wife from the Orkneys, but to give him such honour in Scotland as he might well be pleased with. Sweyn laid bare his will before the king, and spoke thus that his wish was that Margad should be there behind with the king, but that he should send word to earl Rognvald that he should take an atonement at his hand, but Sweyn says that he was ready to lay all his suit in earl Rognvald's power; he said he would ever be well-pleased if they were good friends, but ill-pleased if they were fæs. King David answers:
"It is now clear both that this earl must be worthy, and besides that you think that only worth having which looks towards him; for now you riskest all on his good faith, but givest up that which we offer you."
Sweyn says he will never give up his friendship, but still says that he must beg the king to grant him this. The king said so it should be. King David sent men north into the Orkneys with gifts, and this message, that the earl should take atonement from Sweyn. Then Sweyn too fared north into the isles, but Margad stayed behind with the king. King David's messengers fared to find earl Rognvald. He gave them a hearty welcome, took the gifts too which the king sent him, and gave his word as to the atonement. He took Sweyn after that into his peace and full friendship, and then he [Sweyn] fared back to his house.
88. When Sweyn and Margad were away out of Lambburg, those who were in the burg took that counsel to give up the place into earl Rognvald's power. He asked what was the last they knew of Sweyn and Margad; but they told him all about it. And when the earl heard that, he said:
"Sooth it is to say that no man is Sweyn's match of all those men of whom we have a choice here with us; such deeds are both manly and hardy. But I will not be a dastard towards you, though you have been woven up in this difficulty with Sweyn; each of you shall fare away in peace from before me."
The earl fared home thence to the Orkneys, but sent Thorbjorn clerk with forty men on board a ship south to Broadfirth to look after Sweyn and Margad, and naught could be heard of him. Then Thorbjorn speaks out and tells them that they are going on wondrously:
"Here we are driving along ever so far at Sweyn's heels, but we have heard that earl Waltheof my father's bane-man is but a short way hence with a small following of men. And now if you will fare with me against him, then will I give you my word that I shall not behave as Sweyn, that I should make you robbed of your share if war-spoil falls into our hands; for those goods which we shall get you shall have, but allot me that only which you please, for methinks fame is better than fee."
After that they fared to where earl Waltheof was at a feast, and took the house over
their heads, and set fire to it at once. Waltheof and his men ran to the doors, and asked
who was master of that fire. Thorbjorn said who he was. Waltheof offered atonement for the
slaying of Thorstein, but Thorbjorn said there was no need to seek for a settlement.
Waltheof and his men defended themselves well for a while. But when the fire pressed them
hard, they sprang out, and then their defence lasted but a short while, for they were much
worn out by the fire. There fell earl Waltheof and thirty men with him. There Thorbjorn and
his men got much goods, and he kept all his promise manfully by his men; they fared after
that out to the Orkneys to find earl Rognvald, and he showed that he was well pleased at
their errand. Then it was quiet in the isles, and there was good peace.
89. In that time the sons of Harold Gilli ruled over Norway. Ingi and Sigurd were children in years. Then liegemen were chosen as councillors to those brothers. Eystein was the eldest of them. But Ingi was lawfully begotten, and the liegemen paid most honour to him; he let them have their own way in everything as they chose. In that time these liegemen had most to do with his counsel, Ogmund and Erling, the sons of Kyrping-Worm. They took that counsel with king Ingi, that he should send word to earl Rognvald, and give him a seemly bidding to come and see him. They said, as was true, that the earl had been a great friend of his father, and they bade him to behave as lovingly as he could to the earl, so that he might be more his friend than his brothers', whatever might arise between them. The earl was a kinsman of those brothers, (10) and one of their greatest friends. But when these words came to earl Rognvald, he listened to them quickly, and busks him for his voyage, for he was eager to fare to Norway to see his kinsfolk and friends. On this voyage earl Harold begged to go for the sake of curiosity and pastime; he was then fourteen or fifteen years old. And when the earls were "boun," they fared from the west with chapmen, and had a proper following, and came in the spring early to Norway. They found king Ingi in Bergen, and king Ingi gave them a very hearty welcome; there earl Rognvald found many of his kinsfolk and friends; he stayed there very long that summer. That summer came from abroad, from Micklegarth, (11) Eindrid the young; he had been there long in [the Emperor's] service; he was able to tell them many tidings thence, and men thought it a pastime to ask him about things that had happened abroad out in the world. The earl often talked with him. And once on a time when they were talking, then Eindrid said:
"Methinks it is wonderful, earl, that you will not fare out to Jewry, and not have stories alone as to the tidings which are to be told thence. That is the fittest place for such men as you for the sake of your skill; you will be best honoured there when you fallest in with men of rank."
And when Eindrid had said that, many others backed it with him, and egged the earl
on that he should become the leader of this voyage. Erling threw in many words in favour of
it, and said that he would make up his mind to join the voyage, if the earl would become
their leader. And so, when so many men of rank and birth were eager, then the earl gave his
word to go on the voyage. And when the earl and Erling made up their minds to this, then
many great men chose to go on this voyage. These liegemen: Eindrid the young shall tell them
the way, John Peter's son, Aslak Erlend's son, and Gudorm Mjola-pate of Helgeland. It was
agreed that none of them should have a larger ship than one but the earl should have a
carved or painted or gilded ship. That should be done so that no man might envy another for
that one had fitted out his ship or his crew better than another; John limp-leg shall get a
ship made for the earl to sail abroad in, and take the greatest pains with it.
In these ships the earls held on west across the sea. Earl Rognvald had also taken great gifts from his friends. It was on Tuesday evening that the earl's put to sea, and they sailed with a very good wind that night; and the wind began to get high. Midweek-day (Wednesday) there was a mighty storm, but on Thursday night they were ware of land. It was then very dark. They saw the surf of breakers on every side about them. They had sailed in company up to this. Then there was no other choice than to sail on and dash both ships to pieces, and so they did. There were rocks a-head, and a little strip of foreshore, but all the rest above cliffs. There all the men were saved, but they lost much goods; some of it was thrown ashore in the night. Earl Rognvald behaved himself then still best of all men, as he ever did. He was so merry, that he played with his fingers and made verses nearly at every word. He drew his finger-ring off his finger with his lips and sang a song:
"Here I hang with hammer bent
The hanger of the falcon's seat, (12)
On the gallows of the hawk's bridge (13)
Golden ring to Odin's draught; (14)
Cave-dwellers of giant voice
Me so glad your pine has made,
That I play now with my fingers,
Perch of hawk that harries geese."
And when they had got together their baggage, they fared up into the country to look for dwellings, for they thought they knew that they must have come to Shetland. They found homesteads speedily, and then the men were shared out amongst the houses of the district. Men were fain to see the earl where he came, and the mistress asked about his voyage. The earl sang a song:
"There was a crash when ocean billow
Crushed to pieces, Help and Arrow;
To those wives the storm brought sorrow,
Wild waves threatened men with scathe;
I see this voyage of ready-witted
Earls, will long be had in mind;
Hard work surely had the seamen
To withstand the watery shock."
The housewife bore a cloak of skin to the earl instead of a cloak; he took it laughingly, and reached out his hands towards her and sang:
"Here I shake a wrinkled skin-cloak,
Strangely scanty is my dress;
That ship-plain that stands over our
Plaids and mantles rises high;
Still perhaps attired more bravely
From the eel-mead's briny horse (15)
We may go; against the rocks
Dashed the surf the yardarm's steed."
Then great fires were made for them, and they roasted themselves at the fires. Asa was the name of the waiting-maid. She went out for water, and another woman with her. But when they came to the water Asa stumbled into the well in the fog; but she ran home much chilled and spoke between her shiverings, and men could not make out what she said. The earl says he knows her tongue, and sang:
"Be quiet, now, alas! but Asa
Atatata! in water lieth;
Hutututu! where by the fire
Shall I sit? I'm very cold."
The earl sends twelve of his men to Einar in Gullberwick, but he said he would not take them in unless the earl came himself. And when earl Rognvald hears that, then he sang:
"Einar says that he will nourish
None of Rognvald's trusty men
Save the earl himself; now Odin's
Ocean(16) rises in my throat;
Well I know the stout of heart
Ne'er yet broke his word to men;
Late at even in I went
Where the fires brightly blazed."
This even happened one day south in Dynröstvæ in Shetland, that an old and poor householder waited long for his mate, but all the boats rowed out, each as it was manned. Then came a man to the old householder in a white cowl; and asked why he did not row out a-fishing like other men. The householder says that his mate was not come. "Master," says the cowl-man will "you that I row with you?"
"That I will" says the householder, "but still I must have the lot which falls to my
boat; for I have many bairns at home, and I work for them as well as I can."
And the householder was so afraid that he wept, and he dreaded that his death was nigh. The cowl-man answers, "Be cheerful master, and do not weep; for he will pull us two out of the race who let us fall into it."
After that the cowl-man rowed out of the race, and the householder was very glad at that. Then they rowed to land, and put up the boat. And the householder bade the cowl-man to go with him and share the fish. But the cowl-man told the householder to share them as he liked; he says he will not have more than his third. There was much folk come down to the strand, both men and women, and many needy folk. The cowl-man gave the poor all the fish which had fallen to his lot that day; and then he made ready to go away. There was a steep slope to walk up, and many woman sat on the slope. But as he went up the slope his foot slipped, for it was slippery after rain, and he fell down from the slope. A woman was the first to see that and laughed loud at him, and after her other folk. But when the cowl-man heard that he sang:
"The nymph of silk with eyes of fire,
Louder laughs the lovely may,
Than she anything at my array:
Few can tell an earl indeed,
Thus disguised in fisher's weed,
Yet through billows danger scorning,
I drew the boat this early morning."
After that the cowl-man went away; and men became aware later that this cowl-man had been earl Rognvald. It became also known afterwards to many men that there had been many such feats of his which were both helpful in the sight of God, and pleasant in the eyes of men. Men reckoned (to him) also as a proverb what stood in the verse that "Few can tell an earl in fisher's weeds."
The earl stayed very long in Shetland, and fared in the autumn south to the Orkneys, and sat in his realm. That autumn two Iceland men came to him, the one's name was Armod, and he was a skald; the other's Oddi the little Glum's son, a man from Broadfirth, and he too made good verses. The earl took to them both and gave them board and lodging in his train. The earl had a great Yule feast, and bade men to it and gave gifts. He reached out a spear inlaid with gold to Armod skald, and shook it as he did that, and bade him make a song in return. [Armod sang]:
"The best of chiefs, of Odin's storm
The rouser, dæs not trust his gifts
To other men to bring to me,
The pæt who will sound his praise;
The noble warder of the land,
The first of kings, to Armod bore
This best blood-taper (17) bright with gold,
And placed the weapon in his hand."
It fell out one day about Yule that men were looking at the hangings; then the earl said to Oddi the little:
"Make you a song about the behaviour of that man who is there on the hanging, and have you your song sung when I have ended my song; and mind and have none of those words in your song that I have in my song."
The earl sang:
"The ring lord of the falcon's seat
Who, old in years, stands on the hanging
Down from his shoulder by his side;
Bandy-legs will not move forward,
Through the grove of Ocean's brightness
Waxes wrath with him who loves
The icicle of battle-hour."
"Sword-god here with stooping shoulders
Stands, and thinks to hew with sword
His rival in a woman's love
At the door of yonder tent;
He will do the men a mischief
With his sword; and now 'tis time
For the loaders of the sea-skates
To make friends before wounds are given."
It happened one day that a mad man got loose from his bonds, and rushed at earl Rognvald; and clutched him so fast that the earl all but tottered to his fall. Then the earl sang a song:
"At the mantle of the monarch
The sturdy beggar caught and clutched,
The carle was on the eve of hurling
Hard to earth the liberal lord;
Still the tree of steel stood upright,
Though men said they saw him stagger;
Might enow the sword-edge scatterer
Careful keeps to hold his own."
The earl had also bishop William at his feast that Yule, and many of his chieftains. Then he laid bare his plans how he meant to go away from the land and out to Jewry; he begged the bishop to go with him on his voyage. The bishop was a Paris clerk, and the earl wished above all things that he should be their spokesman. The bishop promised to go with him.
90. These men made ready to go with earl Rognvald: Magnus, son of Havard Gunni's son, and Sweyn Hroald's son. They were captains of ships both of them. These fared of the lesser men, so far as they are named: Thorgeir Scotpoll, Oddi the little, Thorbjorn the swarthy, and Armod. These were the earl's skalds. Then there were also these men: Thorkell crook-eye, and Grimkel of Glettness, and Blian, son of Thorstein of Flydruness.
And when those two winters were spent which they were to have to get ready, earl Rognvald fared out of the Orkneys east to Norway early in the spring, and wished to know how those liegemen got on with their outfit. And when the earl came to Bergen, he found there Erling wryneck and John limp-leg the earl's brother-in-law. There too had come Aslak, but Gudorm came a little after. There too was that ship off the wharf which John had got made for the earl; it had five-and-thirty seats for rowers, and was a very careful piece of work, and the figure-head and taffrail and weather-vanes were all overlaid with gold, and she was carved and painted in many other places; the ship was the greatest treasure of her kind. Eindrid came also from time to time to the town that summer, and always says that he would be boun the week after; but men were ill-pleased when they had to wait so long. Some wished that he should not be waited for, and said that men had sailed on such voyages before though Eindrid were not with them. And a little while after Eindrid came to the town and gave out that he was then boun, and then the earl bade him set sail as soon as ever he thought he was like to get a fair wind. And when that day came that they thought they had a good chance, they pulled out of the town and took to their sails. The wind was rather light, and the earl's ship made little way, for she needed a good breeze. The other chiefs slackened sail, and would not sail away from the earl. But as they drew away from among the isles, the wind began to get sharp, and then it grew so high that they had to reef sail on board the smaller ships, but the earl's ship began to walk fast. Then they saw two big ships sailing after them and at once by and beyond them. One of those ships was a work of much pains, it was a drake; both the head forward and the coils aft were much gilded. It was gay and gaudy, and painted all above the water-line wherever it seemed to look well. The earl's men said that there must Eindrid be sailing, "and he has kept little to that which was laid down, that no one should have a carved or gilded ship but you, lord."
The earl says:
"Great is Eindrid's pride. But now there is this excuse for his refusing to be equal with us that we have been so far wrong in our opinion as to him; but it is hard to see whether luck gæs before him or after him; we will not shape our course after his haste."
Then Eindrid bore speedily away from them in that big ship, but the earl kept in company with his ships, and they had a good passage. They came about autumn to the Orkneys safe and sound. Then it was thought best that they should sit there that winter; some sat at their own cost, but some were with the householders, and many with the earl.
In the isles there was great stir that winter, and the Easterlings and the Orkneyingers fell asunder about bargains and love-matters, and many quarrels sprang up. The earl took great pains to keep watch on those on both sides who thought they wre bound to repay him for all the good he had done them, and that they were worthy of all good from him.
Of Eindrid and his messmates that is to be told that they came to Shetland; and he dashed there that good ship to splinters and lost much goods, but the lesser ship was saved. Eindrid was that winter in Shetland, and sent men east to Norway to let them build him a ship for his voyage abroad.
There was a man named Arni spindleshanks, a messmate of Eindrid's; he fared south into the Orkneys that winter and nine of his companions with him. Arni was a very unfair man and bold and strong. He and his companions sat at his own cost in one of the isles that winter. Arni buys malt and cattle for slaughter from a tenant of Sweyn Asleif's son; but when he asked for the price, Arni put him off. And a second time, when he asked for it, he was paid with threats, and before they parted Arni gave him a blow with the back of his axe and said this:
"Go now and tell that champion Sweyn with whom you are ever threatening us, and let him set your lot straight; you will not need more than this."
The husbandman went and told Sweyn and bade him set his lot straight. Sweyn answers shortly about it, and said he could make no promise about it. It was one day about spring that Sweyn fared to get in his rents; they were four of them in an eight-oared boat. Their course lay by that isle in which Arni and his men sat. Sweyn told his men to pull in towards the land, but there was a strong ebb tide on. Sweyn went on shore alone, and had his hand-axe in his hand and no other weapons. He bade them watch the boat so that the ebb did not leave it high and dry. Arni and his men sat in an outhouse a short way from the sea. Sweyn went up to the outhouse and into it. Arni and five of his men were inside and hailed Sweyn; he took their greeting, and spoke to Arni, and told him that he must pay up his debt to the husbandman. Arni said there was good time still for that. Sweyn bade him do as he asked him, and pay up the debt. Arni said he would not do so for all that. Sweyn said he would only ask him for a little more, and with that he struck his axe against Arni's head, so that it went up to the back of the blade, and he lost his hold of the axe. Sweyn sprang out, but Arni's messmates looked to him, but some ran after Sweyn down into the mud. So they ran along the shore and one was fleetest; Sweyn and his pursuer were then at very close quarters. Great sea-weed tangles lay on the shore in the mud. Sweyn caught up one of the tangles and dashed it into the face of him who was nearest to him, sand and all. This man took to rubbing his eyes with both hands, and wiped the sand out of them. But Sweyn got clear off to his boat, and fared home to Gairsay to his house. A little while after Sweyn fared over to the Ness on an errand of his own; he sent word to earl Rognvald that he should take an atonement for the slaying of Arni spindleshanks. And as soon as these words came to him, he [the earl] summoned to him all those who had the blood feud for the slaying of Arni, and made matters up with them, so that they were pleased, and he paid up the fine himself. Much other mischief the earl made good with his own money that was wrought that winter both by the Easterlings and Orkneyingers, for they had pulled very ill together. In the spring very early the earl summoned a crowded Thing in Hrossey; there came all the chiefs who were in his realm. Then he made it bare to them that he meant to go out of the land to Jewry, and says that he would give over his realm into the hands of Harold Maddod's son, his kinsman. He begged this that all would follow him like true men in whatever he might need while he was away. Earl Harold was then nearly a man of twenty. (18) He was a tall man of growth, and stout and strong, an ugly man and wise enough, and men thought him a likely man for a chief. Thorbjorn clerk had then most share in ruling the land with him when earl Rognvald first fared out of the Orkneys.
1. Thus in the text and in the Danish Translation. In chap. 59. she is called Ingigerd, cf. ch. 86, below.
2. foresighted] This word implies that he had a supernatural foreknowledge of many things which were about to happen. We have the remnant of this old belief in the Scottish "second sight."
3. Deveron. (?)
4. Lund] Lundy island in the Bristol Channel.
5. A "kenning" or periphrasis for king or earl.
6. A periphrasis for lady.
7. A periphrasis for hawk, and "the wound-goose feeder," a periphrasis for chief or earl.
8. charge] Swayn was earl Rognvald's sýslumaðr, i.e. his "steward" or "bailiff," in Caithness, whose office it was to collect the earl's income from taxes, fines, and dues. When Sweyn went to the Southern isles he handed over these duties to Margad as his deputy.
9. Murk-firth] The Firth of Forth.
10. i.e. of Ogmund and Erling.
12. A periphrasis for ring which hangs on the hand, the falcon's seat.
14. A periphrasis for "pætry."
15. This and "the yard-arm's steed" are periphrasis for "a ship."
17. A periphrasis for a sword.
18. man of twenty] He was then between eighteen and nineteen.
91. Earl Rognvald busked him that summer to leave the Orkneys, and he was rather late boun, for they had a long while to wait for Eindrid, as his ship did not come from Norway which he had let be made there the winter before. But when they were boun, they held on their course away from the Orkneys in fifteen big ships. These were then the ship-captains; earl Rognvald, bishop William, Erling wry-neck, Aslak Erlend's son, Gudorm, Mjola-pate of Helgeland, Magnus Havard's son, Sweyn Hroald's son, Eindrid the young, John Peter's son limpleg, and those five whose names are not told. They were Eindrid's men. They sailed away from the Orkneys, and south to Scotland, and so on to England, and as they sailed by Northumberland, off Humbermouth, Armod sang a song:
"The sea was high off Humbermouth
When our ships were beating out,
Bends the mast and sinks the land
'Neath our lee off Vesla-sand;
Wave with veil of foam that rises
Drives not in the eyes of him
Who now sits at home; the stripling
From the meeting rideth dry."
They sailed thence south round England and to France. (1) Nothing is said of their voyage before that they came to that seaburg which is named Nerbon. (2) There these tidings had happened, that the earl who before had ruled the town was dead; his name was Germanus; he left behind him a daughter young and fair, whose name was Ermingerd. She kept watch and ward over her father's inheritance with the counsel of the most noble men of her kinsfolk. They gave that counsel to the queen that she should bid the earl to a worthy feast, and said that by that she would be famous if she welcomed heartily such men of rank who had come so far to see her, and who would bear her fame still further. The queen bade them see to that. And when this counsel had been agreed on by them, men were sent to the earl and he was told that the queen bade him to a feast with as many of his men as he chose to bring with him. The earl of his men bidding with thanks; he chose out all his best men for this journey with him. And when they came to the feast, there was the best cheer, and nothing was spared which could do the earl more honour than he had ever met before. One day it happened as the earl sat at the feast that the queen came into the hall and many women with her, she held a beaker of gold in her hand. She was dressed in the best clothes, had her hair loose as maidens wont to have, and had put a golden band round her brow. She poured the wine into the earl's cup, but her maidens danced before them. The earl took her hand and the beaker too and set her on his knee, and they talked much that day. Then the earl sang a song:
"Sure it is, lady lovely,
That your stature far outvies
Form of women whose attire
Gleams well fringed with Frodi's meal; (3)
Locks as soft as yellow silk,
Lets the maiden downward fall
On her shoulders; I have reddened
Eager eagles' crooked claws."
The earl stayed there very long in the best of cheer. The townsmen pressed the earl to settle down there, and spoke out loudly about how they would give him the lady to wife. The earl said he would fare on that voyage which he had purposed, but said he would come there as he fared back, and then they could carry out their plan [or not] as they pleased. After that the earl busked him away thence with his fellow voyagers. And as they sailed west of Thrasness they have a good wind; then they sat and drank and were very merry. Then the earl sang a song:
"Noble youth will long remember
Words which Ermingerda spoke;
Brave bride wills that we should ride
Over Ran's home to Jordan's stream;
But when back the water-horse's
Woods (4) fare north across the wave,
He will cut the whale-land then
Home to Nerbon at the fall."
This Armod sang:
"Unless changes my fate hard,
I shall fair Ermingerd
Ne'er meet again;
Many nurseth for that noble maiden his pain;
Were I not blessed in slumbering—
'Twere luck past all numbering—
One night by her side;
The fairest of faces has surely that bride."
Oddi the little sang a song:
"We are scarcely, as I ween,
Worthy of fair Ermingerd;
Well I know that noble crown-land
May be called the king of queens;
For it well befits that goddess
Of the ringfield's fire to find
A better husband altogether;
May she live blest 'neath seat of sun."
92. They fared till they came west to Galicialand in the winter before Yule, and meant to sit there Yule over. They dealt with the landsmen and begged them to set them a market to buy food; for the land was barren and bad for food; for the land was barren and bad for food, and the landsmen thought it hard to feed that host of men. Now these tidings had happened there, that in that land sat a chief, who was a stranger, in a castle, and he had laid on the landsmen very heavy burdens. He harried them on the spot if they did not agree at once to all that he asked, and he offered them the greatest tyranny and oppression. And when the earl spoke to the landsmen about bringing him food to buy, they made him that offer, that they would set them up a market thenceforth on till Lent, but they must rid them in some way or other of the men in the castle; but earl Rognvald was to bear the brunt in return for the right of having all the goods that were gotten from them. The earl laid this bare before his men, and sought counsel from them as to which choice he should take, but most of them were eager to fall on the castlemen, and thought it bid fair for spoil. And so earl Rognvald and his host went into that agreement with the landsmen. But when it drew near to Yule, earl Rognvald called his men to a talk and said:
"Now have we sat here awhile, and yet we have had nothing to do with the castlemen, but the landsmen are getting rather slack in their dealings with us; methinks they think that what we promised them will have no fulfilment; but still that is not manly not to turn our hands to what we have promised. Now, kinsman Erling will I take counsel from you in what way we shall win the castle, for I know that you are here some of you the greatest men for good counsel; but still I will beg all those men who are here that each will throw in what [he thinks] is likeliest to be worth trying."
Erling answered the earl's speech:
"I will not be silent at your bidding, but I am not a man for counsel; and it would be better rather to call on those men for that who have seen more, and are more wont to such exploits, as is Eindrid the young. But here it will be as the saying gæs, 'You must shoot at a bird before you get him.' And so we will try to give some counsel whatever comes of it. We shall today, if it seems to you not bad counsel or to the other shipmasters, go all of us to the wood, and bear each of us three shoulder-bundles of faggots on our backs under the castle; for it seems to me as though the lime will not be trusty if a great fire is brought to it. We shall let this go on for the three next days and see what turn things take."
They did as Erling bade. And when that toil was over, it was come right on to Yule. The bishop would not let them make their onslaught while the Yule high feast stood over them.
That chief's name was Godfrey who dwelt in the castle; he was a wise man and somewhat stricken in years. He was a good clerk, and had fared far and wide, and knew many tongues. He was a grasping man and a very unfair man. He calls together his men when he saw their [Rognvald's] undertakings, and said to them:
"This scheme seems to me clever and harmful to us which the Northmen have taken in hand; it will befall us thus if fire is borne against us, that the stone wall round the castle will be untrusty, but the Northmen are strong and brave; we shall have to look for a sharp fight from them if they get a chance. I will now take counsel with you what shall be done in this strait which has befallen us."
But his men all bade him see to that for them. Then he began to speak, and said:
"My first counsel is that you shall bind a cord round me and let me slide down the castle wall tonight. I shall have on bad clothes and fare into the camp of the Northmen, and know what I can find out."
This counsel was taken as he had laid it down. And when Godfrey came to earl Rognvald, and said he was an old beggar carle, and spoke in Spanish; they understood that tongue best. He fared about among all the booths and begged for food. He found out that there was great envy and splitting into parties amongst the Northmen. Eindrid was the head of one side, but the earl of the other. Godfrey came to Eindrid and got to talk with him, and brought that before him that the chief who held the castle had sent him there. "He will have fellowship with you, and he hopes that you will give him peace if the caste be won; he would rather that you should have his treasures, if you will do so much in return for them, than those who would rather see him a dead man."
Of such things they talked and much besides. But the earl was kept in the dark; all this went on by stealth at first. And when Godfrey had stayed a while with the earl's men, then he turned back to his men. But this was why they did not flit what they owned out of the castle, because they did not know whether the storm would take place at all; besides they could not trust the landfolk.
93. It was the tenth day of Yule that earl Rognvald rose up. The weather was good. Then he bade his men put on their arms, and let the host be called up to the castle with the trumpet. Then they drew the wood towards it, and piled a bale (5) round about the wall; the earl drew up his men for the onslaught where each of them should go. The earl gæs against it from the south with the Orkneyingers; Erling and Aslak from the west; John and Gudorm from the east; Eindrid the young from the north, with his followers. And when they were boun for the storm they cast fire into the bale. Then the earl sang:
"Ermingerd's white handmaid bore
Wine to men, the goddess bright
Of driven snow, so fair she seemed
To my vision when we met;
Now the warrior band resolves
To rush onward and attack
Castle-garrison with fire;
Sharp-swords spring from out the sheaths."
Now they begin to press on fast both with fire and weapons. Then they shot hard into the work, for they could not reach them by any other attack. The castlemen stood loosely here and there on the wall, for they had to guard themselves against the shots. They poured out too burning pitch and brimstone, and the earl's men took little harm by that. Now it turned out, as Erling had guessed, that the castle wall crumbled before the fire when the lime would not stand it, and there were great breaches in it. Sigmund angle was the name of a man in the earl's body-guard; he was Sweyn Asleif's son's stepson; he pressed on faster than any man to the castle, and ever went on before the earl; he was then scarcely grown up. And when the storm had lasted awhile, then all men fled from the castle wall. The wind was on from the south, and the reek of the smoke lay towards Eindrid and his men. And when the fire began to spread very fast, then the earl made them bring water, and cool the rubble that was burned. And then there was a lull in the assault. (6) Then earl Rognvald sang a song:
"Aye shall I that Yule remember,
Warrior! which we spent at Agdir,
East among the fells with Solmund,
Steward strong of Norway's king;
Now again at that same season
Of another year as then
Stunning din of swords I make
On the castle's southern verge."
And again he sang:
"Well pleased was I when the wine-tree (7)
Listened to my winning words;
Past all hope then was I given
At harvest to the foreign maid;
Now again I sate the eagles,
Since full well we love the girl
Nobly born; and now the freestone
Set in mortar must give way."
Then Sigmund angle sang this:
"Bear these words back when the spring comes
To the goddess needle-plying,
Wearing gems from fell-side won,
Bear them over the sea to Orkney;
That no warrior, though he were
Wight of elder years, went farther
Forward 'neath the castle walls,
When strokes sung high at early morn."
After that the earl made ready to storm, and Sigmund angle with him. There was then but a little struggle, and they got into the castle. There many men were slain, but those who would take life gave themselves up to the earl's power. There they took much goods, but they did not find the chief, and scarcely any precious things. Then there was forthwith much talk how Godfrey could have got away; and then at once they had the greatest doubt of Eindrid the young, that he must have passed him away somehow, and that he [Godfrey] must have gone away under the smoke to the wood.
After that earl Rognvald and his host stayed there a short time in Galicialand, and held on west off Spain. They harried wide in that part of Spain which belonged to the heathen, and got there much goods. They ran up into a thorpe there, as the earl told them. But those who dwelt in the thorpe ran together and made ready to battle; then there was a hard struggle, and the landfolk fled at last, but many were slain. Then the earl sang a song:
"Lady-meeting now I long for;
Out away in Spain was driven
Fæ in speedy flight, and many
Ring-trees (8) panting rushed before me;
We were worthy Ermingerda,
For that then sweet songs were chaunted
In our praises to the people;
Corses covered all the field."
After that they sailed west off Spain, and got there a great storm, and lay three days at anchor, so that they shipped very much water, and it lay near that they had lost their ships. Then the earl sang:
"Cool fields goddess! (9) never shall I
Free afraid in wintry storm
If along the good ship's sides
Hemp and cable do not snap;
To the white-hued clad in linen,
To lady proud my word when sailing
South I gave; and now the wind
To the Sound soon bears my ship."
After that they hoisted their sails, and beat out to Njorfa Sound (10) with a very cross wind. (11) Then Oddi the little sang:
"Hearty friend of men, who drinks
Mead in-doors, has often spent
Seven much more cheerful days
With the captain of the sound-tree; (12)
But today the high-souled Rognvald,
With his band of shielded men,
On his bright-hued wooden horse
Ran for Njorvi's narrow Sound."
And as they were just beating into the Sound, the earl sang:
"Eastern wind has borne along
Our ships at winter-tide
Far from the French lady's hands;
Come, run out our boom to tack;
We shall have to gird our sea-stag
Half-mast high off Spain today;
Soon to Svidrir's stormy Sound,
Speeds the gale our ships along."
They sailed through Njorfa Sound, and then the weather began to get better. And then as they bore out of the Sound, Eindrid the younger parted company from the earl with six ships. He sailed over the sea to Marseilles, but Rognvald and his ships lay behind at the Sound, and men talked much about it, how Eindrid helped Godfrey away. Then the earl made them hoist their sails; they sailed on the main, and steered a south course along Sarkland. (13) Then Rognvald sang a song:
"North away the land still trends,
Brave ship spares not now the wave,
Nor shall now this man be slow
To break out in burst of song;
This soft belt of earth (14) I cut
Off the Spanish shore today;
With thin keel, this hateful bight
To a lazy longshoreman."
Nothing is told of the voyage of the earl and his men before they came south off Sarkland, and lay in the neighbourhood of Sardinia, and knew not what land they were near. The weather had turned out in this wise, that a great calm set in and mists and smooth seas —though the nights were light—and they saw scarcely at all from their ships, and so they made little way. One morning it happened that the mist lifted. Men stood up and looked about them. Then the earl asked if men saw anything new. They said they saw naught but two islets, little and steep; and when they looked for the islets the second time, then one of the islets was gone. They told this to the earl; he began to say:
"That can have been no islets, that must be ships which men have out here in this part of the world, which they call Dromonds; (15) those are ships big as holms to look on. But there where the other Dromond lay a breeze must have come down on the sea, and they must have sailed away, but these must be wayfaring men, either chapmen or faring in some other way on their business."
After that the earl lets them call to him the bishop and all the shipmasters; then he began to say:
"I call you together for this, lord bishop and Erling my kinsman; see you any scheme or chance of ours that we may win victory in some way over those who are on the Dromond."
The bishop answers:
"Hard, I guess, will it be for you to run your longships under the Dromond, for you will have no better way of boarding than by grappling the bulwarks with a broad axe, but they will have brimstone and boiling pitch to throw under your feet and over your heads. You may see, earl, so wise as you are, that it is the greatest rashness to lay one's self and one's men in such risk."
Then Erling began to speak:
"Lord bishop," he says, "likely it is that you are best able to see this that there will be little hope of victory in rowing against them. But somehow it seems to me that though we try to run under the Dromond, so methinks it will be that the greatest weight of weapons will fall beyond our ships, if we hug her close, broadside to broadside. But if it be not so, then we can put off from them quickly, for they will not chase us in the Dromond."
The earl began to say:
"That is spoken like a man and quite to my mind. I will now make that clear to the shipmasters and all the crews, that each man shall busk him in his room, and arm himself as he best can. After that we will row up to them. But if they are Christian chapmen, then it will be in our power to make peace with them; but if they are heathen, as I feel sure they are, then Almighty God will yield us that mercy that we shall win the victory over him. But of the war-spoil which we get there, we shall give the fiftieth penny to poor men."
After that men got out their arms and heightened the bulwarks of their ships, and made themselves ready according to the means which they had at hand. The earl settles where each of his ships should run in. Then they made an onslaught on her by rowing, and pulled up to her as briskly as they could.
94. But when those who were on board the Dromond saw that ships were rowing up to them, and that men meant to make an onslaught on them, they took silken stuffs and costly goods and hung them out on the bulwarks, and then made great shoutings and hailings; and it seemed to the earl's men as though they dared the Northmen to come on against them. Earl Rognvald laid his ship aft alongside the Dromond on the starboard, but Erling aft too on the larboard. John and Aslak, they laid their ships foreward each on his own board, but the others amidships on both boards, and all the ships hugged her close, broadside to broadside. And when they came under the Dromond, her sides were so high out of the water that they could not reach up with their weapons. But they [the fæ] poured down blazing brimstone and flaming pitch over them. And it was as Erling guessed it would be, that the greatest weight of weapons fell out beyond the ships, and they had no need to shield themselves on that side which was next to the Dromond, but those who were on the other side held their shields over their heads and sheltered themselves in that way. And when they made no way with their onslaught, the bishop shoved his ship off and two othes, and they picked out and sent there their bowmen, and they law within shot, and shot thence at the Dromond, and then that onslaught was the hardest that was made. Then those [on board the Dromond] got under cover, but thought little about what those were doing who had laid their ships under the Dromond. Earl Rognvald called out then to his men that they should take their axes and hew asunder the broadside of the Dromond in the parts where she was least iron-bound. But when the men in the other ships saw what the earls men were about, they also took the like counsel. Now where Erling and his men had laid their ship a great anchor hung on the Dromond, and the fluke was hung by the crook over the bulwark, but the stock pointed down to Erling's ship. Audun the red was the name of Erling's bowman; he was lifted up on the anchor-stock. But after that he hauled up to him more men, so that they stood as thick as every they could on the stock, and thence hewed at the sides as they best could, and that hewing was by far the highest up. And when they had hewn such large doors that they could go into the Dromond, they made ready to board, and the earl and his men got into the lower hold, but Erling and his men into the upper. And when both their bands had come up on the ship, there was a fight both great and hard. On board the Dromond were Saracens, what we call Mahomet's unbelievers. There were many blackamoors, and they made the hardest struggle. Erling got there a great wound on his neck near his shoulders as he sprang up into the Dromond. That healed so ill, that he bore his head on one side ever after. That was why he was called wryneck. And when they met, earl Rognvald and Erling, the Saracens gave way before them to the forepart of the ship, but the earl's men then boarded her one after another. Then they were more numerous, and they pressed the enemy hard. They saw that on board the Dromond was that one man who was both taller and fairer than the others; the Northmen held it to be the truth that that man must be their chief. Earl Rognvald said that they should not turn their weapons against him, if they could take him in any other way. Then they hemmed him in and bore him down with their shields, and so he was taken, and afterwards carried to the bishop's ship, and few men with him. They slew there much folk, (16) and got much goods and many costly things. When they had ended the greatest part of their toil, they sat down and rested themselves. Then the earl sang this:
"Famous in victorious glory,
Erling, brave in battle, went
Against the galleon, tree of spears, (17)
When our banners dripped with blood;
Low we laid the swarthy champions,
Blood of fæmen then was shed
Far and wide, and soldiers brave
Died their keen-edged faulchions red."
And again he sang:
"We make up our minds to win
The galleon, slaughter this I call;
At early dawn the warrior crew
Reddened all their blades with gore;
North and from the north the lady
Of this shower of spears will hear
Up to Nerbon; from our people
Fæmen loathsome life-loss bore."
Men spoke of these tidings which had happened there. Then each spoke of what he thought he had seen; and men talked about who had been the first to board the Dromond, and could not agree about it. Then some said that it was foolish that they should not all have one story about these great tidings; and the end of it was that they agreed that earl Rognvald should settle the dispute; and afterwards they should all back what he said. Then the earl sang:
"First upon the gloomy galleon
Ruddy Audun went with eager
Daring, and the warrior dauntless
Swift dashed on to seize the spoil;
There at last we reached to redden
Weapons in our fæman's blood;
Mankind's God has ruled it so;
On the planks fell corses black."
When they had stripped the Dromond, they put tire into her and burnt her. And when that tall man whom they had made captive saw that, he was much stirred and changed colour, and could not hold himself still. But though they tried to make him speak, he said never a word, and made no manner of sign, nor did he pay any heed to them whether they promised him good or ill. But when the Dromond began to blaze, they saw as though blazing molten ore ran down into the sea. That moved the captive man much. They were quite sure then that they had looked for goods carelessly, and now the metal had melted in the heat of the fire, whether it had been gold or silver. Earl Rognvald and his men sailed thence south under Sarkland, and lay under a sea-burg, and made a seven nights' truce with the townsmen, and had dealings with them, and sold them the men whom they had taken. No man would buy the tall man. And after that the earl gave him leave to go away, and four men with him. He came down the next morning with a train of men, and told them that he was a prince of Sarkland, and had sailed thence with the Dromond and all the goods that were aboard her. He said too he thought that worst of all that they burnt the Dromond, and made such waste of that great wealth, that it was of no use to any one. "But now I have great power over your affairs. Now you shall have the greatest good from me for having spared my life, and treated me with such honour as you could; but I would be very willing that we saw each other never again. And so now live safe and sound and well."
After that he rode up the country, but earl Rognvald sailed thence south to Crete, and they lay there in very foul weather. Then Armod sang a song when he kept watch at night on board the earl's ship.
"On the keel-horse we keep watch,
Where below the stiff ribs dashes
Wave on wave; this weary work
Have we here to win till morning;
Over my shoulder now I look
Back on Crete, while milksop soft
Sleeps to night with sleek-skinned maiden,
Kind in her close-fitting smock."
95. The earl and his men lay under Crete till they got a fair wind for Jewry-land, and came to Acreburg early on a Friday morning, and landed then with such great pomp and state as was seldom seen there. Thorbjorn the swarthy then made a song:
"In the Orkneys for a winter
Was I serving with the chief;
Feeder of the bird of battle
First arose to strive in fight;
Now the shield on Friday morning
Here we bear with eager haste,
With the earl in battle proven,
In watery port of Acre town."
The earl and his men stayed in Acreburg a while. There sickness came into their ranks, and many famous men breathed their last. There Thorbjorn the swarthy a liegeman breathed his last. Oddi the little sang:
"Barks of chieftains
Swarthy of hue,
By Thrasness swift;
Under the best of skalds
Woodbear (18) trode
Then saw I him,
The hero's friend,
Sprinkled with mould
In mother church;
Now the soil stony,
By sunbeam blest,
Lies heavy over him
In southern land."
Earl Rognvald and his men then fared from Acreburg, and sought all the holiest places in the land of Jewry. They all fared to Jordan and bathed there. Earl Rognvald and Sigmund angle swam across the river, and went up on the bank there, and there where was a thicket of brushwood, and there they twisted great knots. Then the earl sang:
"For the men a coil I twisted
Of the way-thong on the heath,
Out on Jordan's further bank;
Clever woman this will learn;
But I trow that it will seem
Long to go so far as this
To all lazy stay-at-homes;
On wide field the blood falls warm."
Then Sigmund sang:
"I will wreathe another knot
For the sloth who sits at home;
Sooth to say that we have set
For his child a snare today."
The earl sang:
"To the coward here we twine
In the thicket close a knot,
On this feast of holy Laurence;
Tired to quarters good I came."
After that they fared back to Jerusalem. And when they came close to the city, then earl Rognvald sang:
"At this bard's breast hangs a cross,
Between his shoulder-blades a palm;
Pride of heart shall be laid low;
Soldiers scale the cliffs in order."
96. Earl Rognvald and his men fared that summer from the land of Jewry, and meant to go north to Micklegarth, and came about autumn to that town which is called Imbolar. (19) They stayed there a very long time in the town. They had that watchword in the town if men met one another walking where it was throng and narrow, and the one thought it needful that the other who met him should yield him the path, then he says thus:
"Out of the way,"
"Out of the way."
One evening as the earl and his men were coming out of the town, and Erling wryneck went out along the whart to his ship, some of the townsmen met him and called out, "Out of the way, Out of the way."
Erling was very drunk, and made as though he heard them not, and when they ran against one another, Erling fell off the wharf, and down into the mud which was below, and his men ran down to pick him up, and had to strip off every stitch of his clothes, and wash him. Next morning when he and the earl met, and he was told what had happened, he smiled at it and sang:
" 'Mid-street' my friend would not call
So he had in filth to fall
Head and heels, and thus in that
Great misfortune nearly followed;
Then I trow the king's own cousin
Little comely looked when rolling
midst the mud in Imbolar;
To his breeks the blue clay clung."
These tidings happened a little while after there in the town, when they came out of the town very drunk that John limpleg's men missed him, but no man else. They sent at once to look for him on board the other ships that night, and he could not be found, but they could not look for him upon the land in the night. But next morning they rose up as soon as ever it was light, and found him a little way from the burg-wall, and he had breathed his last, and they found wounds on him. But it was never known who had given him his hurt. Then they bestowed burial on his body, and found him a grave at the church. After that they fared away thence. And nothing is told of their voyage before they come north to Engilsness [Cape St. Angelo]. There they lay some nights and waited for a wind which would seem fair to them to sail north along the sea to Micklegarth. They took great pains then with their sailing, and so sailed with great pomp just as they had heard that Sigurd Jewryfarer had done. And as they sailed north along the sea, earl Rognvald sang a song:
"Let us ride on Refil's steed (20)
Out to Micklegarth with speed;
From the field draw not the plough,
Ear the main with dripping prow;
Take we bounty of the king,
Push we on while weapons ring,
Redden maw of wolf with gore,
Mighty monarch bow before."
97. When earl Rognvald and his men came to Micklegarth, they had a hearty welcome from the emperor and the Varangians. Menelaus was then emperor over Micklegarth, whom we call Manuel; he gave the earl much goods, and offered them bounty-money if they would stay there. They stayed there awhile that winter in very good cheer. There was Eindrid the young, and he had very great honour from the emperor. He had little to do with earl Rognvald and his men, and rather tried to set other men against them. Earl Rognvald set out on his voyage home that winter from Micklegarth, and fared first west to Bulgaria-land to Dyrrachburg. (21) Thence he sailed west across the sea to Poule. (22) There earl Rognvald and bishop William and Erling and all the nobler men of their band landed from their ships, and got them horses, and rode thence first to Rome, and so homewards on the way from Rome till they come to Denmark, and thence they fared north to Norway. There men were glad to see them, and this voyage was most famous, and they who had gone on it were thought to be men of much more worth after than before. While they had been on their travels Ogmund the gallant, Erling wryneck's brother had died; he was thought of most worth of those brothers while they were both alive. Erling threw in his lot at once with king Ingi, because he leant most to him of those brothers in all friendship, and they never parted so long as they both lived.
But after king Ingi's fall Magnus was chosen to be king over that band, the son of Erling and Kristina, daughter of king Sigurd Jewryfarer; but Erling alone had then the whole rule over the land in Norway. Waldemar the Dane-king gave Erling the title of earl; he became the greatest man after that, and a mighty chief, as is written in his saga. Eindrid the young came from abroad some winters later than earl Rognvald and his men, and he threw in his lot then with king Eystein, for he would have nothing to do with Erling. But after the fall of king Eystein, these, Eindrid the young and Sigurd son of Havard the freeman of Reyrir, got together a band, and chose as king Hacon broadshoulders, son of king Sigurd Harold's son. They slew Gregory Dag's son and king Ingi. Those two, Eindrid and Hacon, fought with Erling wryneck under Sekk; there Hacon fell but Eindrid fled. Earl Erling let Eindrid the young be slain sometime after away east in the Bay.
98. Earl Rognvald stayed a very long time in Hordaland that summer when he came into the land, and heard then many tidings out of the Orkneys. It was told him that there was great strife, and the chieftains had gone into two bands, but there were few who sat by so that they had no share in the strife. Earl Harold was on one side, but on the other earl Erlend and Sweyn Asleif's son. And when the earl heard that said, he sang this song:
"Now the princes of the people
Have gone back on many an oath;
That is blasphemy against God;
Men's ill redes now come to light;
But this evil will not lessen
In those who guile devise at home;
So let us on lissom leg
Step light so long as beard will wag."
The earl had no ships at his command. Then he looked to his kinsfolk and friends that they should get him some longships made that winter. They took that well upon them, and granted him in that matter just what he asked. The earl busked him that summer to fare west into the Orkneys to his realm, and he was very late boun, for he lingered much. He fared west on board that trading-ship which Thorhall Asgrim's son owned; he was an Icelander, and of great kindred, and had a house south at Bishopstongues. The earl had for all that a great train on board the ship and a noble band of companions. They made Scotland when the winter was far spent, and long lay off Scotland under Turfness. The earl came a little before Yule into the Orkney to his realm.
99. Now shall be told what tidings happened in the Orkneys while earl Rognvald was abroad on his travels.
That same summer that the earl had fared away from the land, came east from Norway king Eystein son of Harold Gilli; he had a great host. And when he came into the Orkneys he steered with his host for South Ronaldshay. Then he heard that earl Harold Maddad's son had fared over to Caithness with a twenty-benched ship, and had eighty men with him; he lay in Thurso. But when king Eystein heard of him, he manned three cutters and fared west over the Pentland-firth, and so to Thurso. He came there so that the earl and his men were not ware of it before the king's men boarded their ship and made the earl captive. He was led before the king, and their dealings turned out so, that the earl ransomed himself with three marks of gold, but his realm he gave over into king Eystein's hands, so that he was to hold it of him ever after. Then the earl became king Eystein's man, and bound that with oaths. And after that king Eystein fared to Scotland, and harried there that summer. He harried far and wide too round England on that voyage, and he was thought to aveng king Harold Sigurd's son. After that king Eystein fared east into his realm to Norway, and very various stories were told of his doings. Earl Harold stayed behind in the Orkneys in his realm, and he was in good favour with most men. Earl Maddad his father was then dead, but his mother Margaret had come out into the Orkneys. She was a fair woman and very proud and haughty. At that time David the Scot-king died, and Malcolm his grandson (23) was taken to be king; he was a child in years when he took the realm.
100. Erlend, son of Harold smooth-tongue, was most of his time in Thurso, but sometimes he was in the Southern isles, or a-roving after earl Ottar was dead. He was the most promising man, and thoroughly trained and skilled in most things, bountiful of money, blithe and ready to listen to good advice, and of all men most beloved by his followers. He had a great train. Anakol was the name of a man, he was Erlend's fosterer, and had most weight in his counsels. Anakol was a viking and a man of good birth and great hardihood, a Southislander by kin; he was Erlend's counsellor.
When Erlend heard that earl Rognvald was gone away from his realm abroad to Jerusalem, he went to him to give him the title of earl and Caithness as a lordship, as his father Harold had held it from king David, king Malcolm's grandfather. King Malcolm was then a child in years, but for that Erlend had there many noble kinsfolk who backed his cause, it came about that the Scot-king gave Erlend the title of earl, and granted him half Caithness with his kinsman Harold. Then Erlend fared to Caithness and met his friends there. After that he gathered force to himself and fared out into the Orkneys. There he bade them do homage to him, but earl Harold Maddad's son got a force together at once, when he heard of Erlend, and had many men on his side. Then men went between those kinsman, and tried to set them at one. Erlend asked for half the isles with Harold, but he will not give them up, and the end of it was that peace was fixed for that year. But the plan was that Erlend shall fare east into Norway to find king Eystein and ask for that half which earl Rognvald owned, and then Harold said he would give it up. Then Erlend fared east into Norway, but Anakol and some of his train were behind in the Orkneys. Gunni Olaf's son, Sweyn Asleif's son's brother, had got a child by Margaret earl Harold's mother, but the earl made him an outlaw. From that unfriendliness sprung up between Sweyn and earl Harold, and Sweyn sent Gunni south into the Lewes to his friend Ljotolf, with whom Sweyn had been before. Fogl was the name of Ljotolf's son; he was with earl Harold, and he and Sweyn had little to say to one another. When earl Erlend fared east to Norway, earl Harold fared over to Caithness, and sat that winter in Wick. Sweyn Asleif's son was then in Thraswick in Caithness, and had under his charge the farms of his stepsons. He had first to wife Ragnhild Ogmund's daughter; they were but a short while together. Olaf was their son. After that he had to wife Ingirid Thorkel's daughter. Andrew was their son. It was on Wednesday in Passion week that Sweyn had gone up into Lambaburg with some men. They saw where a ship of burden fared from the east off the Pentland firth, and Sweyn thought he knew that there must be earl Harold's men, whom he had sent after his scatts to Shetland. Sweyn bade his men go on board ship, and pull out to the ship of burden, and so they did. They took the ship of burden and all that was worth anything, but shoved earl Harold's men ashore, and they went east to Wick and told him. Earl Harold said little in answer, and says that he and Sweyn would take it by turns to have each other's goods, and he quartered his men about at different houses during Easter. Then the Caithness men said that the earl was on his visitations. But as soon as ever Easter was over, Sweyn fared away with the ship of burden and a rowing cutter to the Orkneys. And when they came to Scapa-neck, they took there a ship from Fogl Ljotolf's son; he was then come from the south out of the Lewes from his father, and meant to go to earl Harold. And in that trip they took about twelve ounces of gold from Sigurd cloven-foot, earl Harold's house-carle; that money had been brought into his house, but they were in Kirkwall who owned it. After that Sweyn fared over to the Ness and up into Scotland, and found Malcolm the Scot-king at Aberdeen. He was then nine winters old. (24) There Sweyn was a month in very good cheer, and the Scot-king bade him take all those rights and easements in Caithness which he had owned before he fell out with earl Harold. Sweyn thanked the king. After that Sweyn busked him to go away, and he and the Scot-king parted with great love. Then Sweyn fared to his ships, and sailed from the south to the Orkneys. Anakol was then in Deerness when Sweyn and his men sailed from the south, and they saw his sails off the east side of the Mull. They sent to Sweyn and his men Gauti the Master of Skeggbjornsstead, and Anakol begged that Sweyn would come to terms with Fogl about taking the ship, for there was kinship between them, and Fogl was then with Anakol. But when Gauti found Sweyn and his men, and told him Anakol's words, then Sweyn bade them sail to Sanday and meet him there, for he said he must sail there at once. There was a very numerous meeting there to make matters up, and the atonement was only brought about slowly. But the end of it was that Sweyn alone was to make what award he chose. After that Anakol threw in his force with Sweyn, and they bound themselves to try to bring about an atonement between him and earl Erlend when he came from the east, for there was feud between them for the burning of Frakok. Sweyn and Anakol fared to Stronsay, and lay by Hofsness some nights. Thorfinn Brusi's son then dwelt in Stronsay; he had then to wife Ingigerd Sweyn's sister, whom Thorbjorn clerk had left to herself. When Sweyn and Anakol lay by Hofsness, earl Erlend sailed up from off the main, and Anakol and Thorfinn Brusi's son fared out at once to meet him, and tried to bring about an atonement between him and Sweyn, and the earl took the offer of atonement heavily, and said Sweyn had always gone against the stream towards his kinsfolk and himself, but not kept to what he [Sweyn] and earl Ottar had settled as to lending him [Erlend] strength to get the realm for himself. (25) Then Sweyn offered to the earl his following and counsel, and they were trying to bring the atonement about all day, but it was not brought about before they both of them, Anakol and Thorfinn, gave out that they would follow Sweyn out of the islands if the earl would not be atoned with him. Earl Erlend brings back from the east that message from king Eystein, that he should have that lot of the Orkneys which earl Harold had owned before. Sweyn gave that counsel, when he and the earl were set at one, that they should fare at once to find earl Harold before he heard that of others, and bid him give up the realm to him. It was done as Sweyn said. They met earl Harold off Kjarrekstead, (26) and he lay on shipboard. It was on Michaelmas morning that earl Harold and his men saw that longships were faring up to them, and they doubted that there would be strife. They ran from their ships and into the castle that was then there. Arni Hrafn's son was the name of a man who ran from earl Harold's ship and to Kirkwall; he was so scared that he did not know that he had his shield at his back before he stuck fast in the church-door. Thorgeirr was the name of a man who was there inside and saw him Arni's messmates thought that he was lost, and looked for him two days. Earl Erlend and Sweyn ran from their ships to the castle after earl Harold and his men, and attacked them all that day both with fire and weapons. They made a very stout defence, and the darkness of night parted them. There many men were wounded on either side, but earl Harold and his men had surely been worn out and forced to give themselves up to them if the onslaught had lasted longer. But next morning freemen came up, friends of both sides, and tried to bring about an atonement between them, and Sweyn and earl Erlend were loath to make matters up. But still it came about that they were set at one on these terms, that earl Harold swore oaths that Erlend should have his (Harold's), share of the isles, and that he would never make any claim against him for that realm. These oaths were taken before many of the best men then in the isles as witnesses, and after that earl Harold fared over to the Ness, and so on up to Scotland to his kinfolk, then few Orkneyingers fared with him. Earl Erlend and Sweyn and his companions summoned a Thing of the freemen in Kirkwall, and the freemen came to it from all the isles. Earl Erlend pleaded his cause, and so too did many others of his friends and kinsfolk. Then the earl said that king Eystein had given him that realm in the Orkneys which earl Harold had before had in his keeping; then he begged the freemen to do him homage. He had there with him Eystein's letters, which proved that he spoke sooth. So it came about that the freemen yielded obedience to earl Erlend, and then he took under him all the Orkneys, and made himself chief over them. But it was so settled between earl Erlend and the freemen, that he should not withhold from earl Rognvald that half of the realm which he owned, if it were fated that he should come back. But if earl Rognvald claimed more than half, then the freemen should hold that against him along with earl Erlend. Sweyn Asleif's son was ever with earl Erlend, and bade him be wary, and not trust too well earl Harold or the Scots. They lay most part of the winter on shipboard, and kept spies out away from them. But when Yule drew on, and the weather began to grow hard, then Sweyn fared home to Gairsay to his house, but bade the earl be not the less wary though they were parted, and so the earl did, for he lay long on shipboard, and gathered stores together in no one place for his Yule feast.
1. France] Valland in its widest sense means all the Romano-Celtic nations in the west of Europe, and is used just as the Germans speak of Welschland. In a more restricted sense it is used of the north-west of France, or of Brittany and Normandy. Fm. S. iv. 59. Here it seems to include both France and Spain.
2. This is probably the best reading: The "seaburg" might be Bilbao on the "Nerbion" or "Nervion."
3. A periphrasis for "gold."
4. A periphrasis for "ships."
5. bale] The old meaning of the word was a heap of fuel for a fire, a pyre, whence all the other meanings of the word and its compounds, as "baleful" and "balefire" are derived.
6. M.O. reads thus: "and cool the grit that had run (been fused by the heat) before
they made ready to the storm. But while the lull lasted the earl sang this song."
8. Ring-trees, a periphrasis for men.
9. Cool fields goddess, a periphrasis for lady, i.e. Ermengarda.
11. The Danish Translation reads, "for the wind was very much on one side."
The Flatey Book reads "a very fair wind."
12. A periphrasis for "a ship."
14. A periphrasis for "sea."
15. Also called "Dromons" from the Greek "dromwn," used at first for a swift ship of
war, and afterwards for any large vessel. See Du Cange, s.v. "Dromones."
17. Periphrasis for man, i.e. Erling.
18. A periphrasis for "ship."
19. Imbolar] It is very hard to identify this place. If Ægissness be the true reading at the end of this chapter, Imbolar may very well be the island of Imbros at the mouth of the Dardanelles, for Ægisness is said to be the extreme point of the Thracian Chersonese. On the other hand, if Engilsness be the true reading in the passage referred to, Imbolar must be sought for in the south-western part of Asia Minor, or even in Crete, for Engilsness, or Egilsness, is identified with Cape Malea or St. Angelo in the Peloponese. Munch inclines to the latter view, N. H. iii, 840, note. G. V. supposes, in the Icel. Dict., that Imbolum is a mistake of the Northmen for "empolij" as "miðhæfi" a little further on is a distortion of "metabhqi" - "get down" or "out of the way."
20. A periphrasis for "ship."
23. Grandson] The Cd. reads "son," the Tr. "grandson" correctly.
25. himself] Comp. ch. 78.
26. Kjarrekstead] Munch N. H. iii., 849, note, has well pointed out that Knarrarstöðum, the present Knarstane, is probably the right reading here. Kjarrekstödum, answering to the present Cairston or Stromness, would be too far off the Arni's flight, while Knarstane is within easy reach of Kirkwall.
101. It happened on the tenth day of Yule that Sweyn sat in Gairsay and drank with his house-carles; he began to speak and rubbed his nose:
"It is my meaning that now earl Harold is on his voyage to the isles."
So that talk fell to the ground, and they drank on as before. Earl Harold began his voyage out to the Orkneys at Yule. He had four ships and one hundred men; he lay two nights off Grimsay. They landed at Hamnavæ in Hrossey; thence they went the thirteenth day of Yule to Firth. They were in Orkahow while a snow-storm drove over them, and there two men of their band lost their wits and that was a great hindrance to their journey. It was in the night that they came to Firth; it happened then that earl Erlend had gone on board his ship, but he had drunk that day up at the house. Earl Harold and his men slew two men there, and the name of one of them was Kettle; (1) but they took prisoners four men: Arnfinn Anakol's brother, Ljot was the name of the second, and two others. Earl Harold fared back to Thurso, and Thorbjorn clerk and his men. But those brothers Benedict and Eric fared to Lambaburg, and had Arnfinn along with them. At once that very night, as soon as earl Erlend was ware of the strife, then he sent men to Gairsay to tell Sweyn, and he [Sweyn] made them run down to his ships to the sea the day after, and fared to find earl Erlend, as he had sent word, and they were then on shipboard most of the winter. Benedict and his brother sent that message, that Arnfinn would only be set loose on those terms, if earl Erlend and his men would let them have that ship which they had taken off Kjarrekstead. The earl was rather eager that the ship should be given up; but Anakol set his face against it, and said that Arnfinn should get away not a whit the less that winter, though that were not granted. It was on the midweekday (Wednesday) next before the Fast that they Anakol and Thorstein Ragna's son, fared over to the Ness with twenty men in a cutter, and came off the coast in the night. They drew the cutter into a hidden cove under a certain burg. (2) They go up on shore, and hide themselves in thickets a short way from the house in Thraswick, but they dressed up the ship so, that it looked just as if men lay in every seat. Men had come to the ship in the morning, and had no doubt as to what she was. Anakol and his men saw men row in a ship away from the burg and land at the oyce. (3) Then they saw a man too ride out from the burg, and another walking, and knew it was Eric. Then Anakol and his men parted their force, and ten of them went to the sea, down the river, and watched that no one should come to the ship, but the other ten went to the house. Eric came to the homestead a little before them, and went up to the hall, there he heard the sound of armed men, and then ran into the hall, and out at the other door, and wanted to go to the ship, but there the men were in his way, and he got taken captive there, and was carried out into the isles to earl Erlend. Then men were sent to earl Harold, and it was told him that Eric would not be set free till Arnfinn and his companions came safe and sound to earl Erlend, and that was done as he was told. Next spring earl Harold busked him from Caithness, and fared north to Shetland; he meant to take the life of Erlend the young, for he had asked the hand of Margaret the earl's mother, but she had refused. After that he got himself a train of followers, and took her away from the Orkneys, and bore her north to Shetland, and sat himself down in Moussaburg; there he had laid in great stores. But when earl Harold came to Shetland, he sat down round the burg and forbade all supplies, but it is an unhandy place to get at by storm. Then men came up and tried to bring about an atonement between them. Erlend asked that the earl should give him the woman in marriage, but offered himself to strengthen the earl's hands, and said that it was worth more to him to get back his realm, but said too that the likeliest way to do that was to make himself as many friends as he could. That prayer many backed with Erlend, and this was the end of the matter, that they were set at one, and Erlend got Margaret, and after that made ready to follow the earl, and they fared that summer east to Norway. And when that was heard in the Orkneys, then earl Erlend and his men laid their plans, and Sweyn was eager that they should fare a sea-roving, and so get money. And so they did, and fared south to Broadfirth, and harried off the east of Scotland. They fared south to Berwick. (4)
Canute the wealthy was the name of a man, he was a chapman, and sat very often in Berwick. Sweyn and his companions took a ship large and good, which Canute owned, and much goods aboard her; there too his wife was on board. After that they fared south under Blyholm. Canute was then in Berwick when he heard of the robbery; he made a bargain with the men of Berwick for a hundred marks of silver, that they go out to get back the goods. They were most of them chapmen who went out to look for the goods. They fared in fourteen ships to look for them. Now when Erlend and Sweyn lay under Blyholm, Sweyn spoke to them, and told them that men should lie with no awning over their ships; said he had got it into his head that the men of Berwick would come in a great company to look them up at night. But there was a sharp wind on, and men gave no heed to what he said, and all men lay under their awnings, save that on Sweyn's ship there was no awning aft of the mast. Sweyn sat up on the poop in a hairy cloak on a chest and said he was so boun to spend the night. Einar skew was the name of a man on board Sweyn's ship; he spoke and said that far too many stories had been told of Sweyn's bravery; "he is called a better man than other men, but now he dares not throw an awning over his ship."
Sweyn made as though he heard not. There were watchmen upon the holm; Sweyn heard how they could not agree as to what they saw. He went up to them and asked about what they strove. They said they could not tell what they saw. Sweyn was the sharpest-sighted of all men, and when he looked steadfastly at the spot, he saw that there were fourteen ships coming on them from the north all together. He went on board his ship and bade the watchmen go on board the ships and tell what had happened. Sweyn bade his men wake up and throw off their awnings. After that a great cry arose, and most men shouted out to Sweyn, and asked what counsel should be taken; he bade men be still, but said his counsel was to lay their ships between the holm and the land, "and try if they will so sail round away from us; but if that may not be, then let us row against them as hard as we can."
But other counsellors spoke against that, and said the only plan was to sail away, and so it was done. Then Sweyn spoke:
"If you will sail away, then beat out to sea."
Sweyn was last boun. Anakol waited for him. But when Sweyn's ship went faster, then he made them slacken sail, and waited for Anakol, and would not that he should be left behind with a single ship. Then Einar skew said, as Sweyn and his men sailed with all sail:
"Sweyn," says he, "is it not so that our ship stands still?"
"I do not think that," says he, "but I counsel you that you speak no more against my bravery, if you can not tell for fear's sake whether the ship walks under you or not, for this is the fastest of all ships under sail."
The men of Berwick sailed south away from them, but Sweyn and his fleet then turned in under the mainland. And when they came under the Isle of May, then Sweyn sent men to Edinburgh to tell the Scot-king of the spoil they had taken, but before they came to the burg, twelve men rode to meet them, and they had bags full of silver at their cruppers. And when they met, the Scottish men asked after Sweyn Asleif's son; they said where he was, and asked what they wanted of him. The Scots said that they had been told that Sweyn was taken prisoner, and the Scot-king had sent them to set him free with that money which they carried with them. Sweyn's men told them the news in return, and fared to find the Scot-king, and told him their errand. The king spoke lightly of the loss of Canute's money, and sent Sweyn a costly shield and other good gifts more. Earl Erlend and Sweyn fared that autumn to the Orkneys and came back rather late.
That summer earl Harold fared to Norway, as was before told. Then too earl Rognvald came back from abroad from Micklegarth into Norway, and Erling wry-neck with him, as was before written. And earl Rognvald came into the Orkneys a little before Yule.
102. Then men at once came between earl Rognvald and earl Erlend, and tried to set them at one. Then men brought forward that understanding which had passed between freemen and earl Erlend, that he should not withhold his share of the isles from earl Rognvald. Then things came to a fixed meeting between those earls in Kirkwall, and at that meeting they made matters up and bound that by oaths. That was two nights before Yule, and the terms of the settlement were that each of them should have half of the isles, and both should guard them against earl Harold or any others if they laid claim to them. Earl Rognvald had then no force of ships before the summer after, when his ships came from the east out of Norway. That winter all stood quiet, but in the spring after the earls laid their plans against earl Harold if he should come from the east, and earl Erlend and Sweyn Asleif's son fared to Shetland, and were to lie in wait for him there if he showed himself. Earl Rognvald fared over to Thurso, for they thought that Harold might make there when he came from the east, for he had many kinsfolk and friends there. Earl Erlend and Sweyn were in Shetland that summer, and stopped all ships so that no one might go to Norway. Earl Harold fared that summer from the east out of Norway, and had seven ships; he made the Orkneys, but three of his ships were driven into Shetland by stress of weather, and Erlend and Sweyn took them. When earl Harold came into the Orkneys, there he heard those tidings, that earl Rognvald and earl Erlend were atoned, and that each of them was to have half the isles. Then earl Harold thought he saw that as for his choice, nothing was meant for him. Then he took that counsel to fare over to the Ness at once to find earl Rognvald before earl Erlend and Sweyn came back from Shetland. Earl Erlend and Sweyn were then in Shetland, when they heard that earl Harold was come into the Orkneys with five ships; they held on south at once into the isles with five ships, and got caught in Dynrace, (5) in dangerous tides and a storm of wind, and there they parted company. Then Sweyn bore up for the Fair isle in two ships, and they thought the earl lost. Thence they held on their course south under Sanday, and there earl Erlend lay before them with three ships, and that was a very joyful meeting. Thence they fared to Hrossey, and heard there that earl Harold had fared over to the Ness. But that is to be said of earl Harold's doings, that he came to Thurso and had six ships. Earl Rognvald was then up the country in Sutherland, and sat there at a wedding, at which he gave away his daughter Ingirid to Eric staybrails. News came to him at once that earl Harold was come into Thurso. Earl Rognvald rode down with a great company from the bridal to Thurso. Eric staybrails was Harold's kinsman, and he did all he could to set them at one again, and many others backed that with him, and said that it was as clear as day to them that they ought not to let themselves be parted for the sake of that kinship and those foster-ties and that fellowship which had been between them. So it came about that a meeting was brought to pass between them and peace given, and they were to meet in a castle at Thurso, and they two talk alone, but each of them was to have as many men as the other hard by the castle. They talked long, and things went well with them. They had not met before since earl Rognvald came into the land. And when the day was far spent, earl Rognvald was told that earl Harold's people were flocking there with arms. Earl Harold said that no harm would come of that. Next after that they heard great blows struck outside, and then they ran out. There was come Thorbjorn clerk with a great train of men, and he began straightway to wound and maimearl Rognvald's men when they met. The earls called out that they should not fight. Then men ran up out of the town and parted them. There fell thirteen of earl Rognvald's house-carles, but he himself was wounded in the face. After that their friends did their best to set them at one again, and so it came about that they were atoned and bound anew their friendship with oaths. This was four nights before Michaelmas. Then too that counsel was taken that they should fare at once that night out into the Orkneys against earl Erlend and Sweyn. They held on with thirteen ships west on the Pentland firth, and ran across to Rognvaldsey, (6) and made the land in Vidvæ, and there went on shore. Earl Erlend and his men lay on shipboard in Bardswick, and thence they saw a great company in Rognvaldsey, and sent out spies there, and then they had sure news that the earls had been set at one. It was also told them that they would not let them have the power either of strand-slaughter or any other stores of food, and must so mean then and there to cut off their food in the isles. Then earl Erlend and his men went to talk, and he sought counsel of his men. But they all agreed with one voice that Sweyn should see to it what counsel should be taken. But Sweyn gave utterance to this decision, that they should at once that very night sail over to the Ness, and said that they had no strength to strive with both of them there in the isles. He made that show before the people at large, that they would fare to the Southern isles, and be there that winter. That was Michaelmas eve when they sailed on the firth, but as soon as ever they came to Caithness, they hastened up into the country, and drove down to the shore great droves of cattle to slaughter and slaughtered them, and put them on board their ships. Great storms were on and foul weather, and the firth was always impassable. But as soon as ever there was a fair wind, Sweyn sent men in a boat to the other side from the Ness to say that earl Erland had slaughtered cattle on the shore in Caithness, and that they lay boun to sail to the Southern isles as soon as ever they got a breeze. And when these tidings came to earl Rognvald's ears, he brought them before a meeting of householders, and spoke to his people. He bade his men be wary and keep good watch, and lie every night on board their ships, "for there is not an hour of the day or night that I do not look for Sweyn here in the Orkneys, and so much the rather that he made so many words about how he would fare out of the land."
At the beginning of winter Sweyn and his companions fared out of Thurso, and turned west round the coast of Scotland. They had seven ships, and all well manned and trimmed and big. They began their passage by the help of oars alone. But when they were come on their course away from the Ness, earl Rognvald's spies fared out into the isles, and told him these tidings. The earls then rowed their ships to Scapaneck, and earl Rognvald would that they should lie on board their ships a while. Now when Sweyn and his companions had got about as far west as Staur, Sweyn spoke and said that they would not plague themselves any longer by rowing, and bade them put their ships about and hoist their sails. This plan the men thought rather foolish, but still it was done as Sweyn would. But when they had sailed about, the war-snakes ran swiftly before the wind. (7) And nothing is told of their voyage before they come to Vogland (8) in the Orkneys. There they heard that the earls lay at Scapa-neck with fourteen ships off Knarstead. There was then Erlend the young and Eric staybrails, and many other noble men.
103 Thorbjorn clerk had gone east to Paplay at Firth to the house of Hacon churl, his father-in-law. Thorbjorn then had his daughter Ingigerd to wife. It was four nights before Simon's mass that Sweyn uttered that decision, that he would row up and make an onslaught on the earls at night. But that seemed rather foolhardy considering the difference of force which there was. Still Sweyn would have his way, and so it was, for the earl too was rather eager for it.
At even a storm of soft melting sleet set in; then earl Rognvald went away from his ship and meant to go to Ofir to his house; he knew no cause for fear; he was with six men. They came to Knarstead in the sleet storm. There dwelt Botolf bungle, a man from Iceland and a good skald. He asked earl Rognvald to be there with him the night over, and tried to talk him over with many words. They went in, and their clothes were pulled off them; they lay down to sleep, but Botolf was to keep watch. That self same night earl Erlend and his men pulled up against earl Harold and his men, and came upon them unawares, so that they knew nothing of their coming before they heard the warcry. Then they ran to their arms, and defended themselves like men. There was great slaughter, and the onslaught ended so that earl Harold fled away up on shore, when only five men were left upstanding on board the ship. There fell Bjarni Erlend the young's brother, a man of rank and worth, and a hundred men with him, but a whole crowd were wounded. All men ran from their ships and fled up on the land. Few fell of earl Erlend's men, but the earl took there fourteen ships that the earls owned, and all the goods that were on board them. When the most of the work was done, they heard that earl Rognvald had gone away from his ship that evening, and first up to Knarstead, and there they fared. Botolf the master was outside before the door when they came there, and he gave them a hearty greeting. They asked whether earl Rognvald were there by chance. Botolf said he had been there that night. But they behaved wildly, and asked where he then was, and said he must know. Botolf stretched out his hand up and round about the yard, and sang a song:
"After fowls the chieftain fares;
Soldiers shoot their weapons well;
Yonder heath-hen 'neath the hill
May have hope of blow on neck;
There the cross-bow crushes heath-poults
Wondrously when warriors meet,
Warrior stems that wound the snake; (9)
The king defends his land with sword."
The earl's men ran headlong out of the "town," (10) and he thought he had the best of it who ran fastest and first got power over the earl. But Botolf went indoors and woke up the earl, and tells him those tidings that had happened in the night, and also what the earl's men were after. Then they jumped up and clothed themselves, and fared away at once, and to Orfir to the earl's house, and when they came there, earl Harold was there before them in hiding. Then they fared at once over to the Ness each in his boat, the one with three men and the other with four men. All their men fared over to the Ness as they got passages. Earl Erlend and Sweyn took all the earl's ships and very much goods. Sweyn Asleif's son made them hand over to him as his share all earl Rognvald's treasures that were taken on board his ship, and he sent them to earl Rognvald over to the Ness. Sweyn was very eager that earl Erlend and his men should station their ships out in Vogaland, and that they should lie in that part of the Firth (11) where they could see any sailing of ships as soon as ever they put out from the Ness. He thought it good thence to lie in wait for attacks, if there were any chance of a passage. But earl Erlend made up his mind, for the sake of the egging on of his levies, that they should fare north to Damsay, and there they drank by day in a great hall, but lashed their ships together every evening, and slept in them by night. And so it went up to the Yule fast. It was five nights before Yule, that Sweyn Asleif son fared east to Sandwick to Sigrid his kinswoman; he was to make up a quarrel between her and her neighbour, whose name was Bjorn. But before he fared away, he spoke to earl Erlend that he should sleep on shipboard by night, and be then not less wary though he [Sweyn] were not with him. Sweyn was one night at the house of his kinswoman Sigrid.
104 Gisl was the name of a man; he was Sweyn's tenant and dear friend. He made a prayer to Sweyn that he should come as a guest to his house, and see how matters stood with him. He had made them brew liquor, and wated to tap it for Sweyn and his men. When they came at even to Gil's (12) house, it was told them that earl Erlend had not gone to the ships the evening before. As soon as ever Sweyn heard this, he sent Margad Grim's son and two other men to the earl, and bade him take heed to his counsel, though he had not done so the night before; "but," says he, "methinks it is to be dreaded that I shall need to take counsel for this earl but a short while longer."
Margad and his companions fared to find earl Erlend, and told him Sweyn's words. The earl's men said he [Sweyn] had wondrous ways; they said that one while he thought nothing too dangerous, but sometimes he was so afraid that he scarce knew how to keep himself or others safe. They said that they would sleep in peace on land, and not fare to the ships. The earl said it should be so as Sweyn had laid it down; and the end of it was, that the earl went on board his own ship with four-and-twenty men, but all the others lay up at the house. Margad and those who were on board Sweyn's ship lay in another bay a short way off thence.
This very same night earl Rognvald and earl Harold came unawares upon earl Erlend, so that those watchmen who watched on the isle and on the ship were none of them aware of it before they boarded the ship. Orm was the name of a man, and Ufi was another; they were in the forehold on board earl Erlend's ship. Ufi jumped up, and would wake the earl, and could not get him awakened, so dead drunk was he. Ufi caught up the earl in his arms, and leapt overboard with him, and into the after boat which floated by the ship's side; but Orm leapt over on the other side, and he got safe to land. But the earl lost his life, and most of the other men who were in the ships. (13) The men on board Sweyn's ship wakened at the war cry, and cut the cable asunder, and pulled out off the ness, but the full moon gave a strong light, and then they saw that the earls were pulling away. Then they thought they could tell that they must have settled their business with earl Erlend. Sweyn's house carles then rowed away, and fared first to Rendale, but sent a man to Sweyn to tell him such things as they had then seen and heard. Earl Harold was for giving peace to earl Erlend's men, but earl Rognvald would wait first to see whether his body were found, or whether he had got away. Earl Erlend's body was found two nights before Yule; the shaft of a spear was seen standing up out of the seaweed, and when they got to it, that spear stood right through him. His body was borne to the church, but then peace was given to the earl's men, and so too to four of Sweyn's house carles who were taken. John was the name of a man who was called wing; he was a sister's son of John wing, of whom it was spoken before, he had been with Hacon churl, and had got his sister with child, and then ran away a sea roving with Anakol, but now he was with earl Erlend, and yet he had not been at the battle. Earl Erlend's men made their way to Kirkwall, and took shelter in Magnus' church. The earls also fared there, and then a meeting for a settlement was fixed in the church. Then John could not get an atonement with the earls before he had given his word to keep his wedding with the woman. There all men took oaths to the earls, and they settled that matter rather easily. John wing bound himself over into earl Harold's hand, and became his steward.
105 When Sweyn Asleif's son heard of the fall of earl Erlend, he fared to Rendale, and met his house carles there. (14) They were able to tell him plainly of the tidings that had happened in Damsay. After that Sweyn and his men fared to Rowsay, and came there at the flood-tide; they took all the tackling out of the ship, and laid her up; they shared the men about among the houses, and kept spies out between them and the earls and others of the great men to know what each were doing. Sweyn Asleif's son went there up on the fell, and five men with him, and so down the other side to the sea shore, and stole right up to a homestead thereabouts in the darkness. They heard a great chattering inside. There were that father and son, Thorfinn and Ogmund, and Erlend their brother in law. Erlend, he was boasting about that to that father and son, that he had given earl Erlend his death blow, but they all thought they had fought very well. And when Sweyn heard that, he springs inside into the house at them, and his companions after him. Sweyn was quickest, and he smote Erlend at once his death blow; but they took Thorfinn prisoner, and had him off along with them, but Ogmund was slightly wounded. Sweyn and his men fared to Thingwall; there dwelt then Helgi Sweyn's father's brother, and they were there at the beginning of Yule in hiding. Earl Rognvald fared to Damsay at Yule, but earl Harold stayed behind at Kirkwall. Earl Rognvald sent men to Thingwall to Helgi, and bade him tell his kinsman Sweyn if he knew anything as to where he was, that the earl wanted to bid him to stay with him at Yule, and said he was willing to have a hand in setting him and earl Harold at one again. And when these words came to Sweyn, he fared to meet earl Rognvald with five men, and was with him the latter part of Yule. (15) But after Yule a meeting to make friends was fixed between Sweyn and the earls; there all those quarrels were to be put an end to which had not been already made up. And when they met, earl Rognvald did his best to make Sweyn and earl Harold friends, but most men there were very hard in their counsel against him, who were not already either kinsfolk or friends of Sweyn; but those men said that trouble would always arise from Sweyn if he were not made away with out of the isles. But that settlement was made, that Sweyn should pay a mark of gold to each of the earls, and lose half his lands and his good longship. Sweyn answers when he hears the award:
"This atonement will be best kept if I am not treated with dishonour."
"Hold your peace then and point it out to us."
She would not do that either. She was the earl's kinswoman. Sweyn gave up some of their arms when they came on shipboard. There was an end of the atonement between Sweyn and the earl when this news was heard. Earl Harold had gone to a little isle to hunt hares. Sweyn held on his course to Hellis isle, (17) that is a craggy isle towards the sea, and there is a great cave in the rock, and the sea came right up into the mouth of the cave at flood-tide. When earl Harold's house carles got their weapons from Sweyn and his men, they fared straightway to find earl Harold, and told him of their dealings with Sweyn. The earl made them launch his ship at once, and egged on his men to row after them, "and let us now bring matters to the sword's point."
Then they fell to rowing after them, and each saw the other and knew one another. And when Sweyn sees that the earl and his men were drawing up to them, Sweyn spoke and said:
"We must try and seek some plan, for I have no mind to meet him when matters are so
hot between us, with the difference in force which there will be; we will take that
counsel," says he, "to fare to the cave, and see what turn our matters then take."
They went in and were alone in [a room in] the house, so that only a wall of wattle was between them and other men. There was a secret doorway in the house in which Sweyn was, and stones were loosely piled up in it. That afternoon came John wing earl Harold's steward and seven of them together. Bard gave them a hearty welcome, and fires were made for them, and they roasted themselves at them. John was very wild in his words, and talked about the tidings that had happened in those dealings which the earls had had with Sweyn; he blamed Sweyn much, and said he was a dastardly trucebreaker and true to no man; he had but just now made peace with earl Harold, and yet he would fare forthwith and burn the house over his head: he said too there would never be peace in the land before Sweyn were driven out of the land. The master Bard and John's companions rather spoke up for Sweyn. After that John took to speaking ill of earl Erlend, and said that was no scathe though he had lost his life; he called him such an overbearing man, that no one dared to call his head his own for him. And when Sweyn heard that, then he could not stand it, and snatched up his weapons and ran at the secret doorway, and hurled down the stones out of it. Then there was a great clatter. Sweyn meant to run round to the hall door. John sat in his shirt and linen breeks. And when he heard the noise that Sweyn made he lost no time in lacing up his shoon, but jumped up from the fire, and set off at once away from the house. But it was moonless and pitch dark, and a sharp frost. He came that night to another homestead, and was much frostbitten on his feet, so that some of his tæs dropped off. Sweyn gave peace to John's companions for master Bard's words' sake. Sweyn was there that night, but afterwards next morning they fared away thence with a cutter which Bard owned and gave to Sweyn. Then they fared south to Bardswick, and were there at a cave. Sweyn was sometimes during the day at the house and drank there, but slept by his ship at night, and so guarded himself against his fæs.
106 It happened one morning early that Sweyn and his men saw a great longship fare from Hrossey to Rognvaldsey, and Sweyn knew at once that it was earl Rognvald's ship, that he was wont to steer himself, and they ran into Rognvaldsey, and there where Sweyn's cutter lay, and five men went on shore from the earl's ship, but Sweyn and his men were on a height, and pelted the earl's men with stones thence. And when they saw that from the ship, men got out their arms. But when Sweyn and his men saw that they ran down from the height and to the beach, and shoved off the cutter and jumped into her. The longship had run up on shore, so that she was fast. Sweyn stood up in his cutter as they rowed out by the longship, and had a spear in his hand. But when earl Rognvald saw that, then he took a shield and held it before him, but Sweyn did not throw the spear. But when the earl saw that they were about to part, he made them hold up a truce shield, (19) and begged that Sweyn and his men would come to land. But when Sweyn saw that, he bade his men pull to land, and says he would still be best pleased if he could be made friends with earl Rognvald.
107 After that earl Rognvald and Sweyn went on shore, and they two talked long together, and things went smoothly with them. And as they sat a talking then they saw earl Harold's sailing, as he fared from Caithness and to Vogaland. (20) And when the ship bore away under the island, then Sweyn asked the earl what counsel should be taken now. The earl says that Sweyn should fare over to the Ness then and there. This was in Lent. They fared both at the same time out of Rognvaldsey, the earl he fared to Hrossey, but Sweyn fared west to Stroms, and earl Harold and his men saw the ship, and thought they knew that Sweyn owned her. They put out at once into the firth after them. And when Sweyn and his men saw that the earl and his men held on after them; then they left their ship and hid themselves away. But when earl Harold came to Stroms, they saw Sweyn's ship, and doubted then that the abodes of men must be too near, and for that they would not land from their ship. Amundi was a man's name the son of Hnefi; he was a friend of earl Harold, but a father's brother of Sweyn Asleif's son's step-children; he came between them then, and got it brought about that the same atonement should be held which had been made the winter before. Then a storm of wind sprung up; and each side had to stay there that night; and Amundi stowed away earl Harold and Sweyn both in one bed. In that house many men of each of them took their rest. After this atonement Sweyn fared over to the Ness, but earl Harold over to the Orkneys. Sweyn heard that the earl had said that he called their peace making rather loosely made. Little heed paid Sweyn to that. He fared south into the Dales, and was that Easter with Summerled his friend; but earl Harold fared north to Shetland, and was there very long that spring. Sweyn fared from the south after Easter, and met on the way John wing's two brothers, the name of the one was Peter down-at-heel, (21) but the other's Blane. Sweyn and his men took them captive and stripped them of all their goods, but brought them to land; then a gallows tree was hewn for them. And when all was ready, Sweyn said that they should run away up the country; he said it would be more shame to their brother John that they should live. They were long out in the cold and much frozen when they got to a homestead. Sweyn fared thence to the Southern isles to the Lewes, and stayed there a while. But when John wing heard that Sweyn had taken his brothers captive, but knew not what he had done with them, then he fared to Enhallow, (22) and there seized Olaf Sweyn's son, Kolbein the burly's fosterchild, and fared with him to Westray. Then earl Rognvald and he met at Rapness, and when the earl saw Olaf there, he said:
"Why are you here, Olaf?"
He answers: "It is John wing's doing."
The earl looked to John, and said: "Why did you bring Olaf here?"
The earl said: "Carry him back as fast as you can, and do not dare to do him any harm, whatever has become of your bretheren; for you will have no peace in the isles, either at Sweyn's or Kolbein's hands, if you do anything to him."
108 After Easter in the spring Sweyn began his voyage from the Southern isles, and had sixty men. He held on his course to the Orkneys, and first to Rowsay. There he seized that man whose name was Hacon churl; he had been with earl Harold when earl Erlend fell. Hacon bought himself off with three marks of gold, and so freed himself from Sweyn. There in Rowsay Sweyn and his men found that ship which the earls had awarded that Sweyn should give up, and the bulwarks on both sides had been hewn out of her. That earl Rognvald had made them do, for no one had been willing either to buy or beg the ship from the earls. Sweyn held on then to Hrossey, and found earl Rognvald in Birsay. The earl gave him a hearty welcome, and Sweyn was with him that spring. Earl Rognvald says that was why he had hewn the bulwarks out of the ship, because he did not wish him to do any hasty deed there in the isles when he came back from the Southern isles. Sweyn was there with earl Rognvald and fourteen men besides himself. Earl Harold came from Shetland that spring at Whitsuntide, and as soon as ever he came into the Orkneys, earl Rognvald sent men to him to say that his will was that he and Sweyn should make friends anew. And then the meeting for an atonement was fixed for the Friday in the Holy Week in Magnus' church, and earl Rognvald went with a broad axe to the meeting and Sweyn with him. Then the self same atonement was agreed upon which had been brought about the winter before.
109 Then earl Rognvald gave to earl Harold that ship which Sweyn had owned, but he gave to Sweyn all else that had been awarded from him and came to his share. Earl Rognvald and Sweyn stood by the church door while the sail was being borne out; for it had been laid up in Magnus' church; and Sweyn looked rather cross when they bore out the sail. The Saturday after, when nones were over, earl Harold's men came to see Sweyn Asleif's son, and said that he would that Sweyn should come and talk with him. Sweyn brought that message before earl Rognvald, and he was not very eager that Sweyn should go on this quest; he says he dæs not know whether he might trust them. But Sweyn went nevertheless, and six of them together. The earl sat in a little room on a cross bench, and Thorbjorn clerk by him. There were few other men with the earl. They greeted the earl worthily; and he took their greeting well. They made room for Sweyn to sit; so they sat a while and drank. After that Thorbjorn went away, and Sweyn and his men said that they then doubted much as to what the earl was about to take in hand. Thorbjorn came back a little after and gave Sweyn a scarlet kirtle and cloak and sword; he said he did not know whether he would call them a gift, for those precious things had been taken from Sweyn the winter before. Sweyn accepted these gifts. Earl Harold gave Sweyn the longship which he had owned, and half his lands and estates. He asked Sweyn to come and be with him, and said their friendship should never fail. Sweyn took this well, and went at once that night, and told earl Rognvald how things had gone with earl Harold and himself. Earl Rognvald showed that he was glad at that, and bade Sweyn take heed that they did not fall out again.
110 Sometime after these three chiefs made up their minds to go a sea roving, Sweyn,
Thorbjorn, and Eric. They fared first to the Southern isles. They fared as far west as the
Scilly isles, and won there a great victory in Mary Haven (23) on Columba's mass, and got
very much war spoil. After that they fared to the Orkneys, and were well agreed.
1. The Flatey Book adds, "but the other is not named."
2. The Flatey Book reads, "some rocks."
3. i.e., River's mouth. Oyce is the modern Orkney word for this.
5. Dynrace] Sumburg Roost.
6. South Ronaldshay.
7. The Flatey Book reads, "the war-snakes began to walk swiftly for there was a good breeze."
8. Vogland] Walls in Hoy in the Orkneys.
9. A periphrase for "men."
10. i.e. "homefield."
11. i.e. the Pentland Firth.
12. Thus, by transposition, for "Gisl's."
13. The Flatey Book "ship."
14. The Flatey Book reads, "After the fall of earl Erlend, Sweyn Asleif's son fared to Rendale and found there Margad, and his house-carles."
15. The Flatey Book adds, "in good cheer."
16. The Flatey Book reads, "they fared to the back of the house, Sweyn wished that they should light a fire."
17. Hellis isle ] Ellarholm, near Shapinsay.
18. Because they could not launch her as she was high and dry.
20. Vogaland ] Walls in Hoy.
21. The Translation reads "whining-Peter."
22. Eyin Helga, i.e., the Holy Island, now Enhallow, between Rowsay and the Mainland.
23. Port St. Mary.
24. i.e., the tiny, an allusion probably to his stature.
111. After that Sweyn fared off on his viking cruise, and had five longships. And when he came west off Scotland's firths, Sweyn heard that Summerled the freeman was gone on board ship, and meant to go a roving; he had seven ships. There Gilli-Odran steered one ship, and he was gone higher up the firths after that force which had not yet come. As soon as ever Sweyn heard of Summerled, he ran in to battle against him, and there was a hard battle. And in that fight fell Summerled the freeman, and much folk with him. There Sweyn became sure that Gilli-Odran had not been there. Then Sweyn fared to look him up, and found him in Murkfirth, and there he slew Gilli-Odran and fifty men with him. After that Sweyn fared a sea roving, and back at autumn, as he was wont. And when he came home he was not long in meeting earl Rognvald, and he showed himself well pleased at those deeds.
112. It was the earl's custom nearly every summer to fare over to Caithness, and there to go up into the woods and wastes to hunt red deer or reindeer. (1) Thorbjorn clerk was with Malcolm the Scot-king, but sometimes he fared down to the Ness, and was with his friends by stealth. He had three friends in Caithness, in whom he placed most trust. One was Hosvir his brother in law; the second Lifolf, who dwelt in Thorsdale; the third was Halvard Dufa's son, who dwelt at Force in Calfdale which gæs off from Thorsdale. These were his bosom friends.
113. When earl Rognvald had been earl two and twenty winters since earl Paul was made captive, then the earls fared over to Caithness, when the summer was far spent, after their wont. And when they came to Thurso, then they heard some rumour that Thorbjorn clerk must be up Thorsdale in hiding, and not at all short-handed, and how he must mean an onslaught thence if he got a chance. Then the earls got men together to them, and fared with a band of one hundred, and twenty of them ride, but the others were on foot. They fared in the evening up the dale and turned in as guests somewhere where there was (what the Celts call) "erg," but we call "setr" (a shieling on the hill). That evening, as men sat by the fires, earl Rognvald sneezed very often. Earl Harold spoke and said:
"Shrill sneezing kinsman."
They fared on up the dale the next morning, and earl Rognvald rode always on in front that day, and that man with him whose name was Asolf; another man who was with him was Jomar his kinsman. Five of them together so ride a head up along Calfdale. (2) And as they fared to the homestead which is called Force, master Halvard was up on a corn-rick, and piled it up, but his house carles bore the sheaves up to him. Earl Harold and his men rode somewhat behind. But when Halvardk knew earl Rognvald, he hailed him by name, and bawled out very loud, and asked him after news, and his voice might have been heard just as well though he were farther off. This was a little way from the sitting room, and the house stood on a high brink; but there was a narrow fenced path to ride along up to the house, and it was very steep. In this homestead was Thorbjorn clerk inside, and sat at drink. The fenced path led up to the house end at the gable, and there was a doorway in the house and another doorway in the gable, and stones heaped up loosely in it. When Thorbjorn and his men heard the words that passed, and how Halvard hailed earl Rognvald and his men, they ran at once to their arms, and broke down the stones out of the secret door, and sprang out at it. Thorbjorn runs round the gable, and to the fence of the path. Just then the earl and his men had come to the door. Then Thorbjorn smote at once at the earl, but Asolf threw his arms in the way, and the stroke toomk off his hand. Afterwards the sword came on the earl's chin, and that was a great wound. Asolf said, when he got the stroke:
"Let those follow the earl better who have more gifts to pay him for."
"For Thorbjorn is a very great friend of mine as you know, for kinship's sake, and many other ties which are between us."
But those men who were with earl Rognvald thronged about him dead, (3) and rather a long time passed before earl Harold and his men heard the tidings. Then they [Thorbjorn and his men] were come on to the moor, and across the quagmire which ran along through the moor. But for the egging on of the earls' companions, earl Harold and his men ran down on the moor, and the two bands met at the quagmire, so that each band was on its own side, and Thorbjorn and his men held the bank of the dike against them. Then those men flocked to him from the homestead who had followed him there, and all together they made up fifty men. Then they defended themselves manfully, and had a good stronghold to fight from, for the quagmire was both broad and deep, and the moor was soft up to it in front, and the only way they could make an onslaught on them was, that they shot at them with spears. Thorbjorn told his men that they should not shoot any of them back. And when the shots died away, then they began to speak to one another, and Thorbjorn called out to earl Harold and spoke thus:
"This I will pray of you, kinsman, that you give me peace; but I will offer to give over this matter into your power, that you alone may doom it; and I will then shrink from no one thing that is in my power, that your honour may be then more than it was before. I hope also, kinsman, that you will bear in mind that those strifes have been, in which you would not have made such a difference between us two, earl Rognvald and me, that you would have slain me though I had done this deed, I mean when he kept you most under his elbow, and let you have no voice in anything any more than his knave; but I gave you the best gifts, and looked to do you honour in all that I could. But this deed that I have done in great wickedness, and that lies on me, but the whole realm is fallen into your power. You may also know this, that earl Rognvald meant the same lot for me which I have now given to him; and it is my foreboding, kinsman, though things had turned out so that I were dead, but earl Rognvald were alive, that you would treat him as a man who had done a deed which you must put up with, but me you now wish to make a dead man."
Thorbjorn went on so that many and fair spoken words, and many men backed that with him, and begged for peace for him. So it came that the earl began to listen to what he said when many backed it. Then Magnus the son of Havard Gunni's son, a chieftain of the earls' and their kinsman. He was the man of most birth and worth in the band with earl Harold. He spoke thus:
"It is no business of ours to teach you what to do, earl, after these great deeds which we see before us. But I must say how the common fame will run about them, if peace be given to Thorbjorn after this work; and this besides I will say, that when he dares to say to your face nearly at every word that he has done this his ill deed for you, or wrought it for your honour, it will be an everlasting shame and dishonour to you, and to all the earl's kinsfolk, if he be not avenged. I think that earl Rognvald's friends will hold it for sooth that you must for a long while have been plotting the earl's death; but now have brought it about. Or thinkest you that he will clear your conscience when he has to throw off the blame from himself, but when no one makes an answer for you, when he now tells you to your face that he has wrought this misdeed for your sake; or how couldest you better prove the truth of that but by now giving him peace. As for me, my mind is made up, that he shall never have peace from me, if any good men and true will follow me, whether it believe or loath to you."
Just in the same way spoke his brothers, Thorstein and Hacon, and Sweyn Hroald's
son. Then they turned away from the earl, and went up along the bank of the dike, and tried
where they might get across. And when Thorbjorn and his men saw that Magnus and his
followers turn away along the dike, then Thorbjorn began to speak and said:
But while they were speaking about that, Thorbjorn and his men fell away from the dike. Earl Harold and his men stood on the dike bank. And when he saw that nothing would come of the peace giving, he leapt over the quagmire with all his weapons, and it was nine ells across the dike. His companions leapt after him, and no one got to leap clear over, but most of them got hold of the bank and so floundered to land. Thorbjorn's men egged him on that they should turn either against the earl and his men or against Magnus and his men, and let their quarrel be settled, there and then. Then Thorbjorn said:
"Methinks the best plan is that each man should choose what he thinks likeliest to
stand him in stead, but as for me, I will still look to meeting with earl Harold."
"Away and save yourself, Thorbjorn, I have no heart to slay you, but I will not see you henceforth."
Then they were faring down along Calfdale's river, when these words passed between them. Magnus and his men pressed on hard after them, and when the earl saw that, he spoke:
"Save yourself, Thorbjorn; I cannot fight for you against my men."
Earl (4) Harold and his men fared with the body away thence out into the Orkneys with a goodly company, and bestowed burial on it in St. Magnus' church in the choir; and there he rested till Bishop Bjarni caused his halidom (relics) to be taken up by the Pope's leave. (5) There on the stone on which earl Rognvald's blood had come when he died, it may still be seen at this very day as fair as though it were new shed blood. Earl Rognvald's death was a great grief, for he was very much beloved there in the isles, and far and wide elsewhere. He had been a very great helper to many men, bountiful of money, gentle, and a steadfast friend; a great man for feats of strength and a good skald. He had a daughter his only child alive, Ingigerd, whom Eric staybrails had to wife. Their children were these: Harald the young, and Magnus mannikin, Rognvald, and Ingibjorg, Elin, and Ragnhilda.
114. After the fall of earl Rognvald, earl Harold took all the isles under his rule, and became the sole chief over them. Earl Harold was a mighty chief, one of the tallest and strongest of men, "dour" and hard-hearted; he had to wife Afreka; (6) their children were these: Henry and Hacon, Helena and Margaret. When Hacon was but a few winters old, Sweyn Asleif's son offered to take him as his foster child, and he was bred up there, and as soon as ever he was so far fit, that he could go about with other men, then Sweyn had him away with him a sea roving every summer, and led him on to the worthiness in everything. It was Sweyn's wont at that time, that he sat through the winter at home in Gairsay, and there he kept always about him eighty men at his beck. He had so great a drinking hall, that there was not another as great in all the Orkneys. Sweyn had in the spring hard work, and made them lay down very much seed, and looked much after it himself. But when that toil was ended, he fared away every spring on a viking voyage, and harried about among the Southern isles and Ireland, and came home after midsummer. That he called spring-viking. Then he was at home till the corn fields were reaped down, and the grain seen to and stored. Then he fared away on a viking voyage, and then he did not come home till the winter was one month spent and that he called his autumn viking.
115. These tidings happened once on a time, that Sweyn Asleif's son fared away on his spring cruise, then Hacon earl Harold's son fared with him; and they had five ships with oars, and all of them large. They harried about among the Southern isles. Then the folk was so scared at him in the Southern isles, that men hid all their goods and chattels in the earth or in piles of rocks. Sweyn sailed as far south as Man, and got ill off for spoil. Thence they sailed out under Ireland and harried there.But when they came about south under Dublin, then two keels sailed there from off the main, which had come from England, and meant to steer for Dublin; they were laden with English cloths, and great store of goods was aboard them. Sweyn and his men pulled up to the keels, and offered them battle. Little came of the defence of the Englishmen before Sweyn gave the word to board. Then the Englishmen were made prisoners. And there they robbed them of every penny which was aboard the keels, save that the Englishmen kept the clothes they stood in and some food, and went on their way afterwards with the keels, but Sweyn and his men fared to the Southern isles, and shared their war spoil. They sailed from the west with great pomp. They did this as a glory for themselves when they lay in harbours, that they threw awnings of English cloth over their ships. But when they sailed into the Orkneys, they sewed the cloth on the fore part of the sails, so that it looked in that wise as though the sails were made altogether of broadcloth. This they called the broadcloth cruise. Sweyn fared home to his house in Gairsay. He had taken from the keels much wine and English mead. Now when Sweyn had been at home a short while, he bade to him earl Harold, and made a worthy feast against his coming. When earl Harold was at the feast, there was much talk amongst them of Sweyn's good cheer. The earl spoke and said:
"This I would now, Sweyn, that you wouldest lay aside your sea rovings; 'tis good
now to drive home with a whole wain. But you knowest this, that you have long maintained
yourself and your men by sea roving, but so it fares with most men who live by unfair means,
that they lose their lives in strife, if they do not break themselves from it."
The earl answered: "I shall have to answer for my share, but a gossiping tongue drives me to say what I do."
Sweyn said: "Good, no doubt, drives you to it, lord. And so it shall be, that I will leave off sea roving, for I find that I am growing old, and strength lessens much in hardships and warfare. Now I will go out on my autumn cruise, and I would that it might be with no less glory than the spring cruise was; but after that my warfaring shall be over."
The earl answers: "It is hard to see, messmate, whether death or lasting luck will come first."
After that they dropped talking about it. Earl Harold fared away from the feast, and was led out with fitting gifts. So he and Sweyn parted with great love-tokens.
116. A little after Sweyn busks him for his roving cruise; he had seven longships and all great. Hacon earl Harold's son went along with Sweyn on his voyage. They held on their course first to the Southern isles, and got there little war spoil; thence they fared out under Ireland, and harried there far and wide. They fared so far south as Dublin, and came upon them there very suddenly, so that the townsmen were not ware of them before they had got into the town. They took there much goods. They made prisoners there those men who were rulers in the town. The upshot of their business was that they gave the town up into Sweyn's power, and agreed to pay as great a ransom as he chose to lay upon them. Sweyn was also to hold the town with his men and to have rule over it. The Dublin men swear an oath to do this. They fared to their ships at even, but next morning Sweyn was to come into the town, and take the ransom, place his men about the town, and take hostages from the townsmen. Now it must be told of what happened in the town during the night. The men of good counsel who were in the town held a meeting among themselves, and talked over the straits which had befallen them; it seemed to them hard to let their town come into the power of the Orkneyingers, and worst of all of that man whom they knew to be the most unjust man in the Western lands. So they agreed amongst themselves that they would cheat Sweyn if they might. They took that counsel, that they dug great trenches before the burg gate on the inside, and in many other places between the houses where it was meant that Sweyn and his men should pass; but men lay in wait there in the houses hard by with weapons. They laid planks over the trenches, so that they should fall down as soon as ever a man's weight comes on them. After that they strewed straw on the planks so that the trenches might not be seen, and so bided the morrow.
117. On the morning after Sweyn and his men arose and put on their arms; after that they went to the town. And when they came inside beyond the burg gate the Dublin men made a lane from the burg gate right to the trenches. Sweyn and his men saw not what they were doing, and ran into the trenches. The townsmen they ran straightway to hold the burg gate, but some to the trenches, and brought their arms to bear on Sweyn and his men. It was unhandy for them to make any defence, and Sweyn lost his life there in the trenches, and all those who had gone into the town. So it was said that Sweyn was the last to die of all his messmates, and spoke these words before he died:
"Know this all men, whether I lose my life today or not, that I am one of the saint earl Rognvald's bodyguard, and I now mean to put my trust in being there where he is with God."
(7) Sweyn's men fared at once to their ships and pulled away, and nothing is told about their voyage before they come into the Orkneys. There now is an end of telling about Sweyn; and it is the talk of men that he has been most of a man for his own sake in the Western lands, both of yore and now a days, of those men who had no higher titles of honour than he. (8)
After the fall of Sweyn, his sons Olaf and Andrew shared his inheritance between them. They made the next summer after Sweyn lost his life a party-wall in that great drinking hall which he had owned in Gairsay. Andrew Sweyn's son had to wife Frida Kolbein the burly's daughter, sister of Bjarni, bishop of the Orkneyingers.
Earl Harold now ruled over the Orkneys, and was the greatest chief; he had to wife afterwards Hvarflada (9) earl Malcolm's daughter of Moray. Their children were these: Thorfinn, David, and John, Gunhilda, Herborga, and Longlife.