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The Danish History, Books I-IX* by Saxo Grammaticus ("Saxo the Learned")

Part 3 out of 9

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happiness marred by consorting with this bed! thy purity is
handled by the impurity of a peasant, thy nobility is bowed down
by ignoble commonness, thy high birth is impaired by the estate
of thy husband! But thou, if any pith be in thee, if valour
reign in thy soul at all, if thou deem thyself fit husband for a
king's daughter, wrest the sceptre from her father, retrieve thy
lineage by thy valour, balance with courage thy lack of ancestry,
requite by bravery thy detriment of blood. Power won by daring
is more prosperous than that won by inheritance. Boldness climbs
to the top better than inheritance, and worth wins power better
than birth. Moreover, it is no shame to overthrow old age, which
of its own weight sinks and totters to its fall. It shall be
enough for my father to have borne the sceptre for so long; let
the dotard's power fall to thee; if it elude thee, it will pass
to another. Whatsoever rests on old age is near its fall. Think
that his reign has been long enough, and be it thine, though late
in the day, to be first. Further, I would rather have my husband
than my father king -- would rather be ranked a king's wife than
daughter. It is better to embrace a monarch in one's home, than
to give him homage from afar; it is nobler to be a king's bride
than his courtier. Thou, too, must surely prefer thyself to thy
wife's father for bearing the sceptre; for nature has made each
one nearest to himself. If there be a will for the deed, a way
will open; there is nothing but yields to the wit of man. The
feast must be kept, the banquet decked, the preparations looked
to, and my father bidden. The path to treachery shall be
smoothed by a pretence of friendship, for nothing cloaks a snare
better than the name of kindred. Also his soddenness shall open
a short way to his slaughter; for when the king shall be intent
upon the dressing of his hair, and his hand is upon his beard and
his mind upon stories; when he has parted his knotted locks,
either with hairpin or disentangling comb, then let him feel the
touch of the steel in his flesh. Busy men commonly devise little
precaution. Let thy hand draw near to punish all his sins. It
is a righteous deed to put forth thy hand to avenge the

Thus Ulfhild importuned, and her husband was overcome by her
promptings, and promised his help to the treachery. But meantime
Hadding was warned in a dream to beware of his son-in-law's
guile. He went to the feast, which his daughter had made ready
for him with a show of love, and posted an armed guard hard by to
use against the treachery when need was. As he ate, the henchman
who was employed to do the deed of guile silently awaited a
fitting moment for his crime, his dagger hid under his robe. The
king, remarking him, blew on the trumpet a signal to the soldiers
who were stationed near; they straightway brought aid, and he
made the guile recoil on its deviser.

Meanwhile Hunding, King of the Swedes, heard false tidings that
Hadding was dead, and resolved to greet them with obsequies. So
he gathered his nobles together, and filled a jar of
extraordinary size with ale, and had this set in the midst of
the feasters for their delight, and, to omit no mark of
solemnity, himself assumed a servant's part, not hesitating to
play the cupbearer. And while he was passing through the palace
in fulfilment of his office, he stumbled and fell into the jar,
and, being choked by the liquor, gave up the ghost; thus atoning
either to Orcus, whom he was appeasing by a baseless performance
of the rites, or to Hadding, about whose death he had spoken
falsely. Hadding, when he heard this, wished to pay like thanks
to his worshipper, and, not enduring to survive his death, hanged
himself in sight of the whole people.


HADDING was succeeded by FRODE, his son, whose fortunes were many
and changeful. When he had passed the years of a stripling, he
displayed the fulness of a warrior's prowess; and being loth that
this should be spoilt by slothfulness, he sequestered his mind
from delights and perseveringly constrained it to arms. Warfare
having drained his father's treasury, he lacked a stock of pay to
maintain his troops, and cast about diligently for the supplies
that he required; and while thus employed, a man of the country
met him and roused his hopes by the following strain:

"Not far off is an island rising in delicate slopes, hiding
treasure in its hills and ware of its rich booty. Here a noble
pile is kept by the occupant of the mount, who is a snake
wreathed in coils, doubled in many a fold, and with tail drawn
out in winding whorls, shaking his manifold spirals and shedding
venom. If thou wouldst conquer him, thou must use thy shield and
stretch thereon bulls' hides, and cover thy body with the skins
of kine, nor let thy limbs lie bare to the sharp poison; his
slaver burns up what it bespatters. Though the three-forked
tongue flicker and leap out of the gaping mouth, and with awful
yawn menace ghastly wounds remember to keep the dauntless temper
of thy mind; nor let the point of the jagged tooth trouble thee,
nor the starkness of the beast, nor the venom spat from the swift
throat. Though the force of his scales spurn thy spears, yet
know there is a place under his lowest belly whither thou mayst
plunge the blade; aim at this with thy sword, and thou shalt
probe the snake to his centre. Thence go fearless up to the
hill, drive the mattock, dig and ransack the holes; soon fill thy
pouch with treasure, and bring back to the shore thy craft

Frode believed, and crossed alone to the island, loth to attack
the beast with any stronger escort than that wherewith it was the
custom for champions to attack. When it had drunk water and was
repairing to its cave, its rough and sharp hide spurned the blow
of Frode's steel. Also the darts that he flung against it
rebounded idly, foiling the effort of the thrower. But when the
hard back yielded not a whit, he noted the belly heedfully, and
its softness gave entrance to the steel. The beast tried to
retaliate by biting, but only struck the sharp point of its mouth
upon the shield. Then it shot out its flickering tongue again
and again, and gasped away life and venom together.

The money which the King found made him rich; and with this
supply he approached in his fleet the region of the Kurlanders,
whose king Dorn, dreading a perilous war, is said to have made a
speech of the following kind to his soldiers:

"Nobles! Our enemy is a foreigner, begirt with the arms and the
wealth of almost all the West; let us, by endeavouring to defer
the battle for our profit, make him a prey to famine, which is
all inward malady; and he will find it very hard to conquer a
peril among his own people. It is easy to oppose the starving.
Hunger will be a better weapon against our foe than arms; famine
will be the sharpest lance we shall hurl at him. For lack of
food nourishes the pestilence that eats away men's strength, and
lack of victual undermines store of weapons. Let this whirl the
spears while we sit still; let this take up the prerogative and
the duty of fighting. Unimperilled, we shall be able to imperil
others; we can drain their blood and lose no drop of ours. One
may defeat an enemy by inaction. Who would not rather fight
safely than at a loss? Who would strive to suffer chastisement
when he may contend unhurt? Our success in arms will be more
prosperous if hunger joins battle first. Let hunger captain us,
and so let us take the first chance of conflict. Let it decide
the day in our stead, and let our camp remain free from the stir
of war; if hunger retreat beaten, we must break off idleness. He
who is fresh easily overpowers him who is shaken with languor.
The hand that is flaccid and withered will come fainter to the
battle. He whom any hardship has first wearied, will bring
slacker hands to the steel. When he that is wasted with sickness
engages with the sturdy, the victory hastens. Thus, undamaged
ourselves, we shall be able to deal damage to others."

Having said this, he wasted all the places which he saw would be
hard to protect, distrusting his power to guard them, and he so
far forestalled the ruthlessness of the foe in ravaging his own
land, that he left nothing untouched which could be seized by
those who came after. Then he shut up the greater part of his
forces in a town of undoubted strength, and suffered the enemy to
blockade him. Frode, distrusting his power of attacking this
town, commanded several trenches of unwonted depth to be made
within the camp, and the earth to be secretly carried out in
baskets and cast quietly into the river bordering the walls.
Then he had a mass of turf put over the trenches to hide the
trap: wishing to cut off the unwary enemy by tumbling them down
headlong, and thinking that they would be overwhelmed unawares by
the slip of the subsiding earth. Then he feigned a panic, and
proceeded to forsake the camp for a short while. The townsmen
fell upon it, missed their footing everywhere, rolled forward
into the pits, and were massacred by him under a shower of

Thence he travelled and fell in with Trannon, the monarch of the
Ruthenians. Desiring to spy out the strength of his navy, he
made a number of pegs out of sticks, and loaded a skiff with
them; and in this he approached the enemy's fleet by night, and
bored the hulls of the vessels with an auger. And to save them
from a sudden influx of the waves, he plugged up the open holes
with the pegs he had before provided, and by these pieces of wood
he made good the damage done by the auger. But when he thought
there were enough holes to drown the fleet, he took out the
plugs, thus giving instant access to the waters, and then made
haste to surround the enemy's fleet with his own. The Ruthenians
were beset with a double peril, and wavered whether they should
first withstand waves or weapons. Fighting to save their ships
from the foe, they were shipwrecked. Within, the peril was more
terrible than without: within, they fell back before the waves,
while drawing the sword on those without. For the unhappy men
were assaulted by two dangers at once; it was doubtful whether
the swiftest way of safety was to swim or to battle to the end;
and the fray was broken off at its hottest by a fresh cause of
doom. Two forms of death advanced in a single onset; two paths
of destruction offered united peril: it was hard to say whether
the sword or the sea hurt them more. While one man was beating
off the swords, the waters stole up silently and took him.
Contrariwise, another was struggling with the waves, when the
steel came up and encompassed him. The flowing waters were
befouled with the gory spray. Thus the Ruthenians were
conquered, and Frode made his way back home.

Finding that some envoys, whom he had sent into Russia to levy
tribute, had been horribly murdered through the treachery of the
inhabitants, Frode was stung by the double wrong and besieged
closely their town Rotel. Loth that the intervening river should
delay his capture of the town, he divided the entire mass of the
waters by making new and different streams, thus changing what
had been a channel of unknown depth into passable fords; not
ceasing till the speed of the eddy, slackened by the division of
its outlet, rolled its waves onward in fainter current, and
winding along its slender reaches, slowly thinned and dwindled
into a shallow. Thus he prevailed over the river; and the town,
which lacked natural defences, he overthrew, his soldiers
breaking in without resistance. This done, he took his army to
the city of Paltisca. Thinking no force could overcome it, he
exchanged war for guile. He went into a dark and unknown hiding-
place, only a very few being in the secret, and ordered a report
of his death to be spread abroad, so as to inspire the enemy with
less fear; his obsequies being also held, and a barrow raised, to
give the tale credit. Even the soldiers bewailed his supposed
death with a mourning which was in the secret of the trick. This
rumour led Vespasins, the king of the city, to show so faint and
feeble a defence, as though the victory was already his, that the
enemy got a chance of breaking in, and slew him as he sported at
his ease.

Frode, when he had taken this town, aspired to the Empire of the
East, and attacked the city of Handwan. This king, warned by
Hadding's having once fired his town, accordingly cleared the
tame birds out of all his houses, to save himself from the peril
of like punishment. But Frode was not at a loss for new
trickery. He exchanged garments with a serving-maid, and feigned
himself to be a maiden skilled in fighting; and having thus laid
aside the garb of man and imitated that of woman, he went to the
town, calling himself a deserter. Here he reconnoitred
everything narrowly, and on the next day sent out an attendant
with orders that the army should be up at the walls, promising
that he would see to it that the gates were opened. Thus the
sentries were eluded and the city despoiled while it was buried
in sleep; so that it paid for its heedlessness with destruction,
and was more pitiable for its own sloth than by reason of the
valour of the foe. For in warfare nought is found to be more
ruinous than that a man, made foolhardy by ease, should neglect
and slacken his affairs and doze in arrogant self-confidence.

Handwan, seeing that the fortunes of his country were lost and
overthrown, put all his royal wealth on shipboard and drowned it
in the sea, so as to enrich the waves rather than his enemy. Yet
it had been better to forestall the goodwill of his adversaries
with gifts of money than to begrudge the profit of it to the
service of mankind. After this, when Frode sent ambassadors to
ask for the hand of his daughter, he answered, that he must take
heed not to be spoiled by his thriving fortunes, or to turn his
triumph into haughtiness; but let him rather bethink him to spare
the conquered, and in this their abject estate to respect their
former bright condition; let him learn to honour their past
fortune in their present pitiable lot. Therefore, said Handwan,
he must mind that he did not rob of his empire the man with whom
he sought alliance, nor bespatter her with the filth of
ignobleness whom he desired to honour with marriage: else he
would tarnish the honour of the union with covetousness. The
courtliness of this saying not only won him his conqueror for
son-in-law, but saved the freedom of his realm.

Meantime Thorhild, wife of Hunding, King of the Swedes, possessed
with a boundless hatred for her stepsons Ragnar and Thorwald, and
fain to entangle them in divers perils, at last made them the
king's shepherds. But Swanhwid, daughter of Hadding, wished to
arrest by woman's wit the ruin of natures so noble; and taking
her sisters to serve as retinue, journeyed to Sweden. Seeing the
said youths beset with sundry prodigies while busy watching at
night over their flocks, she forbade her sisters, who desired to
dismount, in a poem of the following strain:

"Monsters I behold taking swift leaps and flinging themselves
over the night places. The demon is at war, and the unholy
throng, devoted to the mischievous fray, battles in the mid-
thoroughfare. Prodigies of aspect grim to behold pass by, and
suffer no mortal to enter this country. The ranks galloping in
headlong career through the void bid us stay our advance in this
spot; they warn us to turn our rein and hold off from the
accursed fields, they forbid us to approach the country beyond.
A scowling horde of ghosts draws near, and scurries furiously
through the wind, bellowing drearily to the stars. Fauns join
Satyrs, and the throng of Pans mingles with the Spectres and
battles with fierce visage. The Swart ones meet the Woodland
Spirits, and the pestilent phantoms strive to share the path with
the Witches. Furies poise themselves on the leap, and on them
huddle the Phantoms, whom Foreboder (Fantua) joined to the
Flatnoses (Satyrs), jostles. The path that the footfarer must
tread brims with horror. It were safer to burden the back of the
tall horse."

Thereon Ragnar declared that he was a slave of the king, and gave
as reason of his departure so far from home that, when he had
been banished to the country on his shepherd's business, he had
lost the flock of which he had charge, and despairing to recover
it, had chosen rather to forbear from returning than to incur
punishment. Also, loth to say nothing about the estate of his
brother, he further spoke the following poem:

"Think us men, not monsters; we are slaves who drove our
lingering flocks for pasture through the country. But while we
took our pastime in gentle sports, our flock chanced to stray and
went into far-off fields. And when our hope of finding them, our
long quest failed, trouble came upon the mind of the wretched
culprits. And when sure tracks of our kine were nowhere to be
seen, dismal panic filled our guilty hearts. That is why,
dreading the penal stripe of the rod, we thought it doleful to
return to our own roof. We supposed it safer to hold aloof from
the familiar hearth than to bear the hand of punishment. Thus we
are fain to put off the punishment; we loathe going back and our
wish is to lie hid here and escape our master's eye. This will
aid us to elude the avenger of his neglected flock; and this is
the one way of escape that remains safe for us."

Then Swanhwid gazed intently, and surveying his features, which
were very comely, admired them ardently, and said:

"The radiant flashing of thine eyes is eloquent that thou art of
kingly and not of servile stock. Beauty announces blood, and
loveliness of soul glitters in the flash of the eyes. A keen
glance betokens lordly birth, and it is plain that he whom
fairness, that sure sign of nobleness, commends, is of no mean
station. The outward alertness of thine eyes signifies a spirit
of radiance within. Face vouches for race; and the lustre of
forefathers is beheld in the brightness of the countenance. For
an aspect so benign and noble could never have issued from base
parentage. The grace of thy blood makes thy brow mantle with a
kindred grace, and the estate of thy birth is reflected in the
mirror of thy countenance. It is no obscure craftsman,
therefore, that has finished the portrait of so choice a chasing.
Now therefore turn aside with all speed, seek constantly to
depart out of the road, shun encounters with monsters, lest ye
yield your most gracious bodies to be the prey and pasture of the
vilest hordes."

But Ragnar was seized with great shame for his unsightly attire,
which he thought was the only possible device to disguise his
birth. So he rejoined, "That slaves were not always found to
lack manhood; that a strong hand was often hidden under squalid
raiment, and sometimes a stout arm was muffled trader a dusky
cloak; thus the fault of nature was retrieved by valour, and
deficiency in race requited by nobleness of spirit. He therefore
feared the might of no supernatural prowess, save of the god Thor
only, to the greatness of whose force nothing human or divine
could fitly be compared. The hearts of men ought not to be
terrified at phantoms, which were only awful from their ghastly
foulness, and whose semblances, marked by counterfeit
ghostliness, were wont for a moment to borrow materiality from
the fluent air. Swanhwid therefore erred in trying, womanlike,
to sap the firm strength of men, and to melt in unmanly panic
that might which knew not defeat."

Swanhwid marvelled at the young man's steadfastness, and cast off
the cloud of mist which overshadowed her, dispelling the darkness
which shrouded her face, till it was clear and cloudless. Then,
promising that she would give him a sword fitted for diver's
kinds of battle, she revealed the marvellous maiden beauty of her
lustrous limbs. Thus was the youth kindled, and she plighted her
troth with him, and proffering the sword, she thus began:

"King, in this sword, which shall expose the monsters to thy
blows, take the first gift of thy betrothed. Show thyself duly
deserving hereof; let hand rival sword, and aspire to add lustre
to its weapon. Let the might of steel strengthen the defenceless
point of thy wit, and let spirit know how to work with hand. Let
the bearer match the burden: and that thy deed may sort with thy
blade, let equal weight in each be thine. What avails the
javelin when the breast is weak and faint, and the quivering
hands have dropped the lance? Let steel join soul, and be both
the body's armour! Let the right hand be linked with its hilt in
alliance. These fight famous battles, because they always keep
more force when together; but less when parted. Therefore if it
be joy to thee to win fame by the palm of war, pursue with daring
whatsoever is hard pressed by thy hand."

After thus discoursing long in harmoniously-adjusted strains, she
sent away her retinue, and passed all the night in combat against
the foulest throngs of monsters; and at return of daybreak she
perceived fallen all over the fields diverse shapes of phantoms,
and figures extraordinary to look on; and among them was seen the
semblance of Thorhild herself covered with wounds. All these she
piled in a heap and burnt, kindling a huge pyre, lest the foul
stench of the filthy carcases might spread in pestilent vapour
and hurt those who came nigh with its taint of corruption. This
done, she won the throne of Sweden for Ragnar, and Ragnar for her
husband. And though he deemed it uncomely to inaugurate his
first campaign with a wedding, yet, moved by gratitude for the
preservation of his safety, he kept his promise.

Meantime one Ubbe, who had long since wedded Ulfhild the sister
of Frode, trusting in the high birth of his wife, seized the
kingdom of Denmark, which he was managing carelessly as deputy.
Frode was thus forced to quit the wars of the East and fought a
great battle in Sweden with his sister Swanhwid, in which he was
beaten. So he got on board a skiff, and sailed stealthily in a
circuit, seeking some way of boring through the enemy's fleet.
When surprised by his sister and asked why he was rowing silently
and following divers meandering courses, he cut short her inquiry
by a similar question; for Swanhwid had also, at the same time of
the night, taken to sailing about alone, and was stealthily
searching out all the ways of approach and retreat through
devious and dangerous windings. So she reminded her brother of
the freedom he had given her long since, and went on to ask him
that he should allow her full enjoyment of the husband she had
taken; since, before he started on the Russian war, he had given
her the boon of marrying as she would; and that he should hold
valid after the event what he had himself allowed to happen.
These reasonable entreaties touched Frode, and he made a peace
with Ragnar, and forgave, at his sister's request, the wrongdoing
which Ragnar, seemed to have begun because of her wantonness.
They presented him with a force equal to that which they had
caused him to lose: a handsome gift in which he rejoiced as
compensation for so ugly a reverse.

Ragnar, entering Denmark, captured Ubbe, had him brought before
him, and pardoned him, preferring to visit his ill deserts with
grace rather than chastisement; because the man seemed to have
aimed at the crown rather at his wife's instance than of his own
ambition, and to have been the imitator and not the cause of the
wrong. But he took Ulfhild away from him and forced her to wed
his friend Scot, the same man that founded the Scottish name;
esteeming change of wedlock a punishment for her. As she went
away he even escorted her in the royal chariot, requiting evil
with good; for he regarded the kinship of his sister rather than
her disposition, and took more thought for his own good name than
of her iniquity. But the fair deeds of her brother did not make
her obstinate and wonted hatred slacken a whit; she wore the
spirit of her new husband with her design of slaying Frode and
mastering the sovereignty of the Danes. For whatsoever design
the mind has resolutely conceived, it is slow to quit; nor is a
sin that is long schemed swept away by the stream of years. For
the temper of later life follows the mind of childhood; nor do
the traces easily fade of vices which have been stamped upon the
character in the impressible age. Finding the ears of her
husband deaf, she diverted her treachery from her brother against
her lord, hiring bravoes to cut his throat while he slept. Scot
was told about this by a waiting-woman, and retired to bed in his
cuirass on the night on which he had heard the deed of murder was
to be wrought upon him. Ulfhild asked him why he had exchanged
his wonted ways to wear the garb of steel; he rejoined that such
was just then his fancy. The agents of the treachery, when they
imagined him in a deep sleep, burst in; but he slipped from his
bed and cut them down. The result was, that he prevented Ulfhild
from weaving plots against her brother, and also left a warning
to others to beware of treachery from their wives.

Meantime the design occurred to Frode of a campaign against
Friesland; he was desirous to dazzle the eyes of the West with
the glory he had won in conquering the East. He put out to
ocean, and his first contest was with Witthe, a rover of the
Frisians; and in this battle he bade his crews patiently bear the
first brunt of the enemy's charge by merely opposing their
shields, ordering that they should not use their missiles before
they perceived that the shower of the enemy's spears was utterly
silent. This the Frisians hurled as vehemently as the Danes
received it impassively; for Witthe supposed that the long-
suffering of Frode was due to a wish for peace. High rose the
blast of the trumpet, and loud whizzed the javelins everywhere,
till at last the heedless Frisians had not a single lance
remaining, and they were conquered, overwhelmed by the missiles
of the Danes. They fled hugging the shore, and were cut to
pieces amid the circuitous windings of the canals. Then Frode
explored the Rhine in his fleet, and laid hands on the farthest
parts of Germany. Then he went back to the ocean, and attacked
the Frisian fleet, which had struck on shoals; and thus he
crowned shipwreck with slaughter. Nor was he content with the
destruction of so great an army of his foes, but assailed
Britain, defeated its king, and attacked Melbrik, the Governor of
the Scottish district. Just as he was preparing to fight him, he
heard from a scout that the King of the Britons was at hand, and
could not look to his front and his rear both at once. So he
assembled the soldiers, and ordered that they should abandon
their chariots, fling away all their goods, and scatter
everywhere over the fields the gold which they had about them;
for he declared that their one chance was to squander their
treasure; and that, now they were hemmed in, their only remaining
help was to tempt the enemy from combat to covetousness. They
ought cheerfully to spend on so extreme a need the spoil they had
gotten among foreigners; for the enemy would drop it as eagerly,
when it was once gathered, as they would snatch it when they
first found it; for it would be to them more burden than profit.

Then Thorkill, who was a more notable miser and a better orator
than them all, dishelming and leaning on his shield, said:

"O King! Most of us who rate high what we have bought with our
life-blood find thy bidding hard. We take it ill that we should
fling away what we have won with utmost hazard; and men are loth
to forsake what they have purchased at peril of their lives. For
it is utter madness to spurn away like women what our manly
hearts and hands have earned, and enrich the enemy beyond their
hopes. What is more odious than to anticipate the fortune of war
by despising the booty which is ours, and, in terror of an evil
that may never come, to quit a good which is present and assured?
Shall we scatter our gold upon the earth, ere we have set eyes
upon the Scots? Those who faint at the thought of warring when
they are out for war, what manner of men are they to be thought
in the battle? Shall we be a derision to our foes, we who were
their terror? Shall we take scorn instead of glory? The Briton
will marvel that he was conquered by men whom he sees fear is
enough to conquer. We struck them before with panic; shall we be
panic-stricken by them? We scorned them when before us; shall we
dread them when they are not here? When will our bravery win the
treasure which our cowardice rejects? Shall we shirk the fight,
in scorn of the money which we fought to win, and enrich those
whom we should rightly have impoverished? What deed more
despicable can we do than to squander gold on those whom we
should smite with steel? Panic must never rob us of the spoils
of valour; and only war must make us quit what in warfare we have
won. Let us sell our plunder at the price at which we bought it;
let the purchase-money be weighed out in steel. It is better to
die a noble death, than to molder away too much in love with the
light life. In a fleeting instant of time life forsakes us, but
shame pursues us past the grave. Further, if we cast away this
gold, the greater the enemy thinks our fear, the hotter will be
his chase. Besides, whichever the issue of the day, the gold is
not hateful to us. Conquerors, we shall triumph in the treasure
which now we bear; conquered, we shall leave it to pay our

So spoke the old man; but the soldiers regarded the advice of
their king rather than of their comrade, and thought more of the
former than of the latter counsel. So each of them eagerly drew
his wealth, whatever he had, from his pouch; they unloaded their
ponies of the various goods they were carrying; and having thus
cleared their money-bags, girded on their arms more deftly. They
went on, and the Britons came up, but broke away after the
plunder which lay spread out before them. Their king, when he
beheld them too greedily busied with scrambling for the treasure,
bade them "take heed not to weary with a load of riches those
hands which were meant for battle, since they ought to know that
a victory must be culled ere it is counted. Therefore let them
scorn the gold and give chase to the possessors of the gold; let
them admire the lustre, not of lucre, but of conquest;
remembering, that a trophy gave more reward than gain. Courage
was worth more than dross, if they measured aright the quality of
both; for the one furnished outward adorning, but the other
enhanced both outward and inward grace. Therefore they must keep
their eyes far from the sight of money, and their soul from
covetousness, and devote it to the pursuits of war. Further,
they should know that the plunder had been abandoned by the enemy
of set purpose, and that the gold had been scattered rather to
betray them than to profit them. Moreover, the honest lustre of
the silver was only a bait on the barb of secret guile. It was
not thought to be that they, who had first forced the Britons to
fly, would lightly fly themselves. Besides, nothing was more
shameful than riches which betrayed into captivity the plunderer
whom they were supposed to enrich. For the Danes thought that
the men to whom they pretended to have offered riches ought to be
punished with sword and slaughter. Let them therefore feel that
they were only giving the enemy a weapon if they seized what he
had scattered. For if they were caught by the look of the
treasure that had been exposed, they must lose, not only that,
but any of their own money that might remain. What could it
profit them to gather what they must straightway disgorge? But
if they refuse to abase themselves before money, they would
doubtless abase the foe. Thus it was better for them to stand
erect in valour than be grovelling in greed; with their souls not
sinking into covetousness, but up and doing for renown. In the
battle they would have to use not gold but swords."

As the king ended, a British knight, shewing them all his lapful
of gold, said:

"O King! From thy speech can be gathered two feelings; and one
of them witnesses to thy cowardice and the other to thy ill will:
inasmuch as thou forbiddest us the use of the wealth because of
the enemy, and also thinkest it better that we should serve thee
needy than rich. What is more odious than such a wish? What
more senseless than such a counsel? We recognise these as the
treasures of our own homes, and having done so, shall we falter
to pick them up? We were on our way to regain them by fighting,
we were zealous to win them back by our blood: shall we shun them
when they are restored unasked? Shall we hesitate to claim our
own? Which is the greater coward, he who squanders his winnings,
or he who is fearful to pick up what is squandered? Look how
chance has restored what compulsion took! These are, not spoils
from the enemy, but from ourselves; the Dane took gold from
Britain, he brought none. Beaten and loth we lost it; it comes
back for nothing, and shall we run away from it? Such a gift of
fortune it were a shame to take in an unworthy spirit. For what
were madder than to spurn wealth that is set openly before us,
and to desire it when it is shut up and kept from us? Shall we
squeamishly yield what is set under our eyes, and clutch at it
when it vanishes? Shall we seek distant and foreign treasure,
refraining from what is made public property? If we disown what
is ours, when shall we despoil the goods of others? No anger of
heaven can I experience which can force me to unload of its
lawful burden the lap which is filled with my father's and my
grandsire's gold. I know the wantonness of the Danes: never
would they have left jars full of wine had not fear forced them
to flee. They would rather have sacrificed their life than their
liquor. This passion we share with them, and herein we are like
them. Grant that their flight is feigned; yet they will light
upon the Scots ere they can come back. This gold shall never
rust in the country, to be trodden underfoot of swine or brutes:
it will better serve the use of men. Besides, if we plunder the
spoil of the army that prevailed over us, we transfer the luck of
the conqueror to ourselves. For what surer omen of triumph could
be got, than to bear off the booty before the battle, and to
capture ere the fray the camp which the enemy have forsaken?
Better conquer by fear than by steel."

The knight had scarce ended, when behold; the hands of all were
loosed upon the booty and everywhere plucked up the shining
treasure. There you might have marvelled at their disposition of
filthy greed, and watched a portentous spectacle of avarice. You
could have seen gold and grass clutched up together; the birth of
domestic discord; fellow-countrymen in deadly combat, heedless of
the foe; neglect of the bonds of comradeship and of reverence for
ties; greed the object of all minds, and friendship of none.

Meantime Frode traversed in a great march the forest which
separates Scotland and Britain, and bade his soldiers arm. When
the Scots beheld his line, and saw that they had only a supply of
light javelins, while the Danes were furnished with a more
excellent style of armour, they forestalled the battle by flight.
Frode pursued them but a little way, fearing a sally of the
British, and on returning met Scot, the husband of Ulfhild, with
a great army; he had been brought from the utmost ends of
Scotland by the desire of aiding the Danes. Scot entreated him
to abandon the pursuit of the Scottish and turn back into
Britain. So he eagerly regained the plunder which he had
cunningly sacrificed; and got back his wealth with the greater
ease, that he had so tranquilly let it go. Then did the British
repent of their burden and pay for their covetousness with their
blood. They were sorry to have clutched at greed with insatiate
arms, and ashamed to have hearkened to their own avarice rather
than to the counsel of their king.

Then Frode attacked London, the most populous city of Britain;
but the strength of its walls gave him no chance of capturing it.
Therefore he reigned to be dead, and his guile strengthened him.
For Daleman, the governor of London, on hearing the false news
of his death, accepted the surrender of the Danes, offered them a
native general, and suffered them to enter the town, that they
might choose him out of a great throng. They feigned to be
making a careful choice, but beset Daleman in a night surprise
and slew him.

When he had done these things, and gone back to his own land, one
Skat entertained him at a banquet, desirous to mingle his
toilsome warfare with joyous licence. Frode was lying in his
house, in royal fashion, upon cushions of cloth of gold, and a
certain Hunding challenged him to fight. Then, though he had
bent his mind to the joys of wassail, he had more delight in the
prospect of a fray than in the presence of a feast, and wound up
the supper with a duel and the duel with a triumph. In the
combat he received a dangerous wound; but a taunt of Hakon the
champion again roused him, and, slaying his challenger, he took
vengeance for the disturbance of his rest. Two of his chamber-
servants were openly convicted of treachery, and he had them tied
to vast stones and drowned in the sea; thus chastising the
weighty guilt of their souls by fastening boulders to their
bodies. Some relate that Ulfhild gave him a coat which no steel
could pierce, so that when he wore it no missile's point could
hurt him. Nor must I omit how Frode was wont to sprinkle his
food with brayed and pounded atoms of gold, as a resource against
the usual snares of poisoners. While he was attacking Ragnar,
the King of Sweden, who had been falsely accused of treachery, he
perished, not by the spears, but stifled in the weight of his
arms and by the heat of his own body.

Frode left three sons, Halfdan, Ro, and Skat, who were equal in
valour, and were seized with an equal desire for the throne. All
thought of sway, none was constrained by brotherly regard: for
love of others forsaketh him who is eaten up with love of self,
nor can any man take thought at once for his own advancement and
for his friendship with others. Halfdan, the eldest son,
disgraced his birth with the sin of slaying his brethren, winning
his kingdom by the murder of his kin; and, to complete his
display of cruelty, arrested their adherents, first confining
them in bonds, and presently hanging them. The most notable
thing in the fortunes of Halfdan was this, that though he devoted
every instant of his life to the practice of cruel deeds, yet he
died of old age, and not by the steel.

Halfdan's sons were Ro and Helge. Ro is said to have been the
founder of Roskild, which was later increased in population and
enhanced in power by Sweyn, who was famous for the surname
Forkbeard. Ro was short and spare, while Helge was rather tall
of stature. Dividing the realm with his brother, Helge was
allotted the domain of the sea; and attacking Skalk, the King of
Sklavia, with his naval force, he slew him. Having reduced
Sklavia into a province, he scoured the various arms of the sea
in a wandering voyage. Savage of temper as Helge was, his
cruelty was not greater than his lust. For he was so
immoderately prone to love, that it was doubtful whether the heat
of his tyranny or of his concupiscence was the greater. In
Thorey he ravished the maiden Thora, who bore a daughter, to whom
she afterwards gave the name of Urse. Then he conquered in
battle, before the town of Stad, the son of Syrik, King of
Saxony, Hunding, whom he challenged, attacked, and slew in duel.
For this he was called Hunding's-Bane, and by that name gained
glory of his victory. He took Jutland out of the power of the
Saxons, and entrusted its management to his generals, Heske, Eyr,
and Ler. In Saxony he enacted that the slaughter of a freedman
and of a noble should be visited with the same punishment; as
though he wished it to be clearly known that all the households
of the Teutons were held in equal slavery, and that the freedom
of all was tainted and savoured equally of dishonour.

Then Helge went freebooting to Thorey. But Thora had not ceased
to bewail her lost virginity, and planned a shameful device in
abominable vengeance for her rape. For she deliberately sent
down to the beach her daughter, who was of marriageable age, and
prompted her father to deflower her. And though she yielded her
body to the treacherous lures of delight, yet she must not be
thought to have abjured her integrity of soul, inasmuch as her
fault had a ready excuse by virtue of her ignorance. Insensate
mother, who allowed the forfeiture of her child's chastity in
order to avenge her own; caring nought for the purity of her own
blood, so she might stain with incest the man who had cost her
her own maidenhood at first! Infamous-hearted woman, who, to
punish her defiler, measured out as it were a second defilement
to herself, whereas she clearly by the selfsame act rather
swelled than lessened the transgression! Surely, by the very act
wherewith she thought to reach her revenge, she accumulated
guilt; she added a sin in trying to remove a crime: she played
the stepdame to her own offspring, not sparing her daughter
abomination in order to atone for her own disgrace. Doubtless
her soul was brimming over with shamelessness, since she swerved
so far from shamefastness, as without a blush to seek solace for
her wrong in her daughter's infamy. A great crime, with but one
atonement; namely, that the guilt of this intercourse was wiped
away by a fortunate progeny, its fruits being as delightful as
its repute was evil.

ROLF, the son of Urse, retrieved the shame of his birth by signal
deeds of valour; and their exceeding lustre is honoured with
bright laudation by the memory of all succeeding time. For
lamentation sometimes ends in laughter, and foul beginnings pass
to fair issues. So that the father's fault, though criminal, was
fortunate, being afterwards atoned for by a son of such
marvellous splendour.

Meantime Ragnar died in Sweden; and Swanhwid his wife passed away
soon after of a malady which she had taken from her sorrow,
following in death the husband from whom she had not endured
severance in life. For it often happens that some people desire
to follow out of life those whom they loved exceedingly when
alive. Their son Hothbrodd succeeded them. Fain to extend his
empire, he warred upon the East, and after a huge massacre of
many peoples begat two sons, Athisl and Hother, and appointed as
their tutor a certain Gewar, who was bound to him by great
services. Not content with conquering the East, he assailed
Denmark, challenged its king, Ro, in three battles, and slew him.
Helge, when he heard this, shut up his son Rolf in Leire,
wishing, however he might have managed his own fortunes, to see
to the safety of his heir. When Hothbrodd sent in governors,
wanting to free his country from alien rule, he posted his people
about the city and prevailed and slew them. Also he annihilated
Hothbrodd himself and all his forces in a naval battle; so
avenging fully the wrongs of his country as well as of his
brother. Hence he who had before won a nickname for slaying
Hunding, now bore a surname for the slaughter of Hothbrodd.
Besides, as if the Swedes had not been enough stricken in the
battles, he punished them by stipulating for most humiliating
terms; providing by law that no wrong done to any of them should
receive amends according to the form of legal covenants. After
these deeds, ashamed of his former infamy, he hated his country
and his home, went back to the East, and there died. Some think
that he was affected by the disgrace which was cast in his teeth,
and did himself to death by falling upon his drawn sword.

He was succeeded by his son Rolf, who was comely with every gift
of mind and body, and graced his mighty stature with as high a
courage. In his time Sweden was subject to the sway of the
Danes; wherefore Athisl, the son of Hothbrodd, in pursuit of a
crafty design to set his country free, contrived to marry Rolf's
mother, Urse, thinking that his kinship by marriage would plead
for him, and enable him to prompt his stepson more effectually to
relax the tribute; and fortune prospered his wishes. But Athisl
had from his boyhood been imbued with a hatred of liberality, and
was so grasping of money, that he accounted it a disgrace to be
called openhanded. Urse, seeing him so steeped in filthy
covetousness, desired to be rid of him; but, thinking that she
must act by cunning, veiled the shape of her guile with a
marvellous skill. Feigning to be unmotherly, she spurred on her
husband to grasp his freedom, and urged and tempted him to
insurrection; causing her son to be summoned to Sweden with a
promise of vast gifts. For she thought that she would best gain
her desire if, as soon as her son had got his stepfather's gold,
she could snatch up the royal treasures and flee, robbing her
husband of bed and money to hoot. For she fancied that the best
way to chastise his covetousness would be to steal away his
wealth. This deep guilefulness was hard to detect, from such
recesses of cunning did it spring; because she dissembled her
longing for a change of wedlock under a show of aspiration for
freedom. Blind-witted husband, fancying the mother kindled
against the life of the son, never seeing that it was rather his
own ruin being compassed! Doltish lord, blind to the obstinate
scheming of his wife, who, out of pretended hatred of her son,
devised opportunity for change of wedlock! Though the heart of
woman should never be trusted, he believed in a woman all the
more insensately, because he supposed her faithful to himself and
treacherous to her son.

Accordingly, Rolf, tempted by the greatness of the gifts, chanced
to enter the house of Athisl. He was not recognised by his
mother owing to his long absence and the cessation of their
common life; so in jest he first asked for some victual to
appease his hunger. She advised him to ask the king for a
luncheon. Then he thrust out a torn piece of his coat, and
begged of her the service of sewing it up. Finding his mother's
ears shut to him, he observed, "That it was hard to discover a
friendship that was firm and true, when a mother refused her son
a meal, and a sister refused a brother the help of her needle."
Thus he punished his mother's error, and made her blush deep for
her refusal of kindness. Athisl, when he saw him reclining close
to his mother at the banquet, taunted them both with wantonness,
declaring that it was an impure intercourse of brother and
sister. Rolf repelled the charge against his honour by an appeal
to the closest of natural bonds, and answered, that it was
honourable for a son to embrace a beloved mother. Also, when the
feasters asked him what kind of courage he set above all others,
he named Endurance. When they also asked Athisl, what was the
virtue which above all he desired most devotedly, he declared,
Generosity. Proofs were therefore demanded of bravery on the one
hand and munificence on the other, and Rolf was asked to give an
evidence of courage first. He was placed to the fire, and
defending with his target the side that was most hotly assailed,
had only the firmness of his endurance to fortify the other,
which had no defence. How dexterous, to borrow from his shield
protection to assuage the heat, and to guard his body, which was
exposed to the flames, with that which sometime sheltered it amid
the hurtling spears! But the glow was hotter than the fire of
spears; as though it could not storm the side that was entrenched
by the shield, yet it assaulted the flank that lacked its
protection. But a waiting-maid who happened to be standing near
the hearth, saw that he was being roasted by the unbearable heat
upon his ribs; so taking the stopper out of a cask, she spilt the
liquid and quenched the flame, and by the timely kindness of the
shower checked in its career the torturing blaze. Rolf was
lauded for supreme endurance, and then came the request for
Athisl's gifts. And they say that he showered treasures on his
stepson, and at last, in order to crown the gift, bestowed on him
an enormously heavy necklace.

Now Urse, who had watched her chance for the deed of guile, on
the third day of the banquet, without her husband ever dreaming
of such a thing, put all the king's wealth into carriages, and
going out stealthily, stole away from her own dwelling and fled
in the glimmering twilight, departing with her son. Thrilled
with fear of her husband's pursuit, and utterly despairing of
escape beyond, she begged and bade her companions to cast away
the money, declaring that they must lose either life or riches;
the short and only path to safety lay in flinging away the
treasure, nor could any aid to escape be found save in the loss
of their possessions. Therefore, said she, they must follow the
example of the manner in which Frode was said to have saved
himself among the Britons. She added, that it was not paying a
great price to lay down the Swedes' own goods for them to regain;
if only they could themselves gain a start in flight, by the very
device which would check the others in their pursuit, and if they
seemed not so much to abandon their own possessions as to restore
those of other men. Not a moment was lost; in order to make the
flight swifter, they did the bidding of the queen. The gold is
cleared from their purses; the riches are left for the enemy to
seize. Some declare that Urse kept back the money, and strewed
the tracks of her flight with copper that was gilt over. For it
was thought credible that a woman who could scheme such great
deeds could also have painted with lying lustre the metal that
was meant to he lost, mimicking riches of true worth with the
sheen of spurious gold. So Athisl, when he saw the necklace that
he had given to Rolf left among the other golden ornaments, gazed
fixedly upon the dearest treasure of his avarice, and, in order
to pick up the plunder, glued his knees to the earth and deigned
to stoop his royalty unto greed. Rolf, seeing him lie abjectly
on his face in order to gather up the money, smiled at the sight
of a man prostrated by his own gifts, just as if he were seeking
covetously to regain what he had craftily yielded up. The Swedes
were content with their booty, and Rolf quickly retired to his
ships, and managed to escape by rowing violently.

Now they relate that Rolf used with ready generosity to grant at
the first entreaty whatsoever he was begged to bestow, and never
put off the request till the second time of asking. For he
preferred to forestall repeated supplication by speedy
liberality, rather than mar his kindness by delay. This habit
brought him a great concourse of champions; valour having
commonly either rewards for its food or glory for its spur.

At this time, a certain Agnar, son of Ingild, being about to wed
Rute, the sister of Rolf, celebrated his bridal with a great
banquet. The champions were rioting at this banquet with every
sort of wantonness, and flinging from all over the room knobbed
bones at a certain Hjalte; but it chanced that his messmate,
named Bjarke, received a violent blow on the head through the ill
aim of the thrower; at whom, stung both by the pain and the
jeering, he sent the bone back, so that he twisted the front of
his head to the back, and wrung the back of it to where the front
had been; punishing the wryness of the man's temper by turning
his face sidelong. This deed moderated their wanton and
injurious jests, and drove the champions to quit the place. The
bridegroom, nettled at this affront to the banquet, resolved to
fight Bjarke, in order to seek vengeance by means of a duel for
the interruption of their mirth. At the outset of the duel there
was a long dispute, which of them ought to have the chance of
striking first. For of old, in the ordering of combats, men did
not try to exchange their blows thick and fast; but there was a
pause, and at the same time a definite succession in striking:
the contest being carried on with few strokes, but those
terrible, so that honour was paid more to the mightiness than to
the number of the blows. Agnar, being of higher rank, was put
first; and the blow which he dealt is said to have been so
furious, that he cut through the front of the helmet, wounded the
skin on the scalp, and had to let go his sword, which became
locked in the vizor-holes. Then Bjarke, who was to deal the
return-stroke, leaned his foot against a stock, in order to give
the freer poise to his steel, and passed his fine-edged blade
through the midst of Agnar's body. Some declare that Agnar, in
supreme suppression of his pain, gave up the ghost with his lips
relaxed into a smile. The champions passionately sought to
avenge him, but were visited by Bjarke with like destruction; for
he used a sword of wonderful sharpness and unusual length which
he called Lovi. While he was triumphing in these deeds of
prowess, a beast of the forest furnished him fresh laurels. For
he met a huge bear in a thicket, and slew it with a javelin; and
then bade his companion Hjalte put his lips to the beast and
drink the blood that came out, that he might be the stronger
afterwards. For it was believed that a draught of this sort
caused an increase of bodily strength. By these valorous
achievements he became intimate with the most illustrious nobles,
and even, became a favourite of the king; took to wife his sister
Rute, and had the bride of the conquered as the prize of the
conquest. When Rolf was harried by Athisl he avenged himself on
him in battle and overthrew Athisl in war. Then Rolf gave his
sister Skulde in marriage to a youth of keen wit, called
Hiartuar, and made him governor of Sweden, ordaining a yearly
tax; wishing to soften the loss of freedom to him by the favour
of an alliance with himself.

Here let me put into my work a thing that it is mirthful to
record. A youth named Wigg, scanning with attentive eye the
bodily size of Rolf, and smitten with great wonder thereat,
proceeded to inquire in jest who was that "Krage" whom Nature in
her beauty had endowed with such towering stature? Meaning
humorously to banter his uncommon tallness. For "Krage" in the
Danish tongue means a tree-trunk, whose branches are pollarded,
and whose summit is climbed in such wise that the foot uses the
lopped timbers as supports, as if leaning on a ladder, and,
gradually advancing to the higher parts, finds the shortest way
to the top. Rolf accepted this random word as though it were a
name of honour for him, and rewarded the wit of the saying with a
heavy bracelet. Then Wigg, thrusting out his right arm decked
with the bracelet, put his left behind his back in affected
shame, and walked with a ludicrous gait, declaring that he, whose
lot had so long been poverty-stricken, was glad of a scanty gift.
When he was asked why he was behaving so, he said that the arm
which lacked ornament and had no splendour to boast of was
mantling with the modest blush of poverty to behold the other.
The ingenuity of this saying won him a present to match the
first. For Rolf made him bring out to view, like the other, the
hand which he was hiding. Nor was Wigg heedless to repay the
kindness; for be promised, uttering a strict vow, that, if it
befell Rolf to perish by the sword, he would himself take
vengeance on his slayers. Nor should it be omitted that in old
time nobles who were entering. The court used to devote to their
rulers the first-fruits of their service by vowing some mighty
exploit; thus bravely inaugurating their first campaign.

Meantime, Skulde was stung with humiliation at the payment of the
tribute, and bent her mind to devise deeds of horror. Taunting
her husband with his ignominious estate, she urged and egged him
to break off his servitude, induced him to weave plots against
Rolf, and filled his mind with the most abominable plans of
disloyalty, declaring that everyone owed more to their freedom
than to kinship. Accordingly, she ordered huge piles of arms to
be muffled up under divers coverings, to be carried by Hiartuar
into Denmark, as if they were tribute: these would furnish a
store wherewith to slay the king by night. So the vessels were
loaded with the mass of pretended tribute, and they proceeded to
Leire, a town which Rolf had built and adorned with the richest
treasure of his realm, and which, being a royal foundation and a
royal seat, surpassed in importance all the cities of the
neighbouring districts. The king welcomed the coming of Hiartuar
with a splendid banquet, and drank very deep, while his guests,
contrary to their custom, shunned immoderate tippling. So, while
all the others were sleeping soundly, the Swedes, who had been
kept from their ordinary rest by their eagerness on their guilty
purpose, began furtively to slip down from their sleeping-rooms.
Straightway uncovering the hidden heap of weapons, each girded on
his arms silently and then went to the palace. Bursting into its
recesses, they drew their swords upon the sleeping figures. Many
awoke; but, invaded as much by the sudden and dreadful carnage as
by the drowsiness of sleep, they faltered in their resistance;
for the night misled them and made it doubtful whether those they
met were friends or foes. Hjalte, who was foremost in tried
bravery among the nobles of the king, chanced to have gone out in
the dead of that same night into the country and given himself to
the embraces of a harlot. But when his torpid hearing caught
from afar the rising din of battle, preferring valour to
wantonness, he chose rather to seek the deadly perils of the War-
god than to yield to the soft allurements of Love. What a love
for his king, must we suppose, burned in this warrior! For he
might have excused his absence by feigning not to have known; but
he thought it better to expose his life to manifest danger than
save it for pleasure. As he went away, his mistress asked him
how aged a man she ought to marry if she were to lose him? Then
Hjalte bade her come closer, as though he would speak to her more
privately; and, resenting that she needed a successor to his
love, he cut off her nose and made her unsightly, punishing the
utterance of that wanton question with a shameful wound, and
thinking that the lecherousness of her soul ought to be cooled by
outrage to her face. When he had done this, he said he left her
choice free in the matter she had asked about. Then he went
quickly back to the town and plunged into the densest of the
fray, mowing down the opposing ranks as he gave blow for blow.
Passing the sleeping-room of Bjarke, who was still slumbering, he
bade him wake up, addressing him as follows:

"Let him awake speedily, whoso showeth himself by service or
avoweth himself in mere loyalty, a friend of the king! Let the
princes shake off slumber, let shameless lethargy begone; let
their spirits awake and warm to the work; each man's own right
hand shall either give him to glory, or steep him in sluggard
shame; and this night shall be either end or vengeance of our

"I do not now bid ye learn the sports of maidens, nor stroke soft
cheeks, nor give sweet kisses to the bride and press the slender
breasts, nor desire the flowing wine and chafe the soft thigh and
cast eyes upon snowy arms. I call you out to the sterner fray of
War. We need the battle, and not light love; nerveless languor
has no business here: our need calls for battles. Whoso
cherishes friendship for the king, let him take up arms. Prowess
in war is the readiest appraiser of men's spirits. Therefore let
warriors have no fearfulness and the brave no fickleness: let
pleasure quit their soul and yield place to arms. Glory is now
appointed for wages; each can be the arbiter of his own renown,
and shine by his own right hand. Let nought here be tricked out
with wantonness: let all be full of sternness, and learn how to
rid them of this calamity. He who covets the honours or prizes
of glory must not be faint with craven fear, but go forth to meet
the brave, nor whiten at the cold steel."

At this utterance, Bjarke, awakened, roused up his chamber-page
Skalk speedily, and addressed him as follows:

"Up, lad, and fan the fire with constant blowing; sweep the
hearth clear of wood, and scatter the fine ashes. Strike out
sparks from the fire, rouse the fallen embers, draw out the
smothered blaze. Force the slackening hearth to yield light by
kindling the coals to a red glow with a burning log. It will do
me good to stretch out my fingers when the fire is brought nigh.
Surely he that takes heed for his friend should have warm hands,
and utterly drive away the blue and hurtful chill."

Hjalte said again: "Sweet is it to repay the gifts received from
our lord, to grip the swords, and devote the steel to glory.
Behold, each man's courage tells him loyally to follow a king of
such deserts, and to guard our captain with fitting earnestness.
Let the Teuton swords, the helmets, the shining armlets, the
mail-coats that reach the heel, which Rolf of old bestowed upon
his men, let these sharpen our mindful hearts to the fray. The
time requires, and it is just, that in time of war we should earn
whatsoever we have gotten in the deep idleness of peace, that we
should not think more of joyous courses than of sorrowful
fortunes, or always prefer prosperity to hardship. Being noble,
let us with even soul accept either lot, nor let fortune sway our
behaviour, for it beseems us to receive equably difficult and
delightsome days; let us pass the years of sorrow with the same
countenance wherewith we took the years of joy. Let us do with
brave hearts all the things that in our cups we boasted with
sodden lips; let us keep the vows which we swore by highest Jove
and the mighty gods. My master is the greatest of the Danes: let
each man, as he is valorous, stand by him; far, far hence be all
cowards! We need a brave and steadfast man, not one that turns
his back on a dangerous pass, or dreads the grim preparations for
battle. Often a general's greatest valour depends on his
soldiery, for the chief enters the fray all the more at ease that
a better array of nobles throngs him round. Let the thane catch
up his arms with fighting fingers, setting his right hand on the
hilt and holding fast the shield: let him charge upon the foes,
nor pale at any strokes. Let none offer himself to be smitten by
the enemy behind, let none receive the swords in his back: let
the battling breast ever front the blow. `Eagles fight brow
foremost', and with swift gaping beaks speed onward in the front:
be ye like that bird in mien, shrinking from no stroke, but with
body facing the foe.

"See how the enemy, furious and confident overduly, his limbs
defended by the steel, and his face with a gilded helmet, charges
the thick of the battle-wedges, as though sure of victory,
fearless of rout and invincible by any endeavour. Ah, misery!
Swedish assurance spurns the Danes. Behold, the Goths with
savage eyes and grim aspect advance with crested helms and
clanging spears: wreaking heavy slaughter in our blood, they
wield their swords and their battle-axes hone-sharpened.

"Why name thee, Hiartuar, whom Skulde hath filled with guilty
purpose, and hath suffered thus to harden in sin? Why sing of
thee, villain, who hast caused our peril, betrayer of a noble
king? Furious lust of sway hath driven thee to attempt an
abomination, and, stung with frenzy, to screen thyself behind thy
wife's everlasting guilt. What error hath made thee to hurt the
Danes and thy lord, and hurled thee into such foul crime as this?
Whence entered thy heart the treason framed with such careful

"Why do I linger? Now we have swallowed our last morsel. Our
king perishes, and utter doom overtakes our hapless city. Our
last dawn has risen, unless perchance there be one here so soft
that he fears to offer himself to the blows, or so unwarlike that
he dares not avenge his lord, and disowns all honours worthy of
his valour.

"Thou, Ruta, rise and put forth thy snow-white head, come forth
from thy hiding into the battle. The carnage that is being done
without calls thee. By now the council-chamber is shaken with
warfare, and the gates creak with the dreadful fray. Steel rends
the mail-coats, the woven mesh is torn apart, and the midriff
gives under the rain of spears. By now the huge axes have hacked
small the shield of the king; by now the long swords clash, and
the battle-axe clatters its blows upon the shoulders of men, and
cleaves their breasts. Why are your hearts afraid? Why is your
sword faint and blunted? The gate is cleared of our people, and
is filled with the press of the strangers."

And when Hjalte had wrought very great carnage and stained the
battle with blood, he stumbled for the third time on Bjarke's
berth, and thinking he desired to keep quiet because he was
afraid, made trial of him with such taunts at his cowardice as

"Bjarke, why art thou absent? Doth deep sleep hold thee? I
prithee, what makes thee tarry? Come out, or the fire will
overcome thee. Ho! Choose the better way, charge with me!
Bears may be kept off with fire; let us spread fire in the
recesses, and let the blaze attack the door-posts first. Let the
firebrand fall upon the bedchamber, let the falling roof offer
fuel for the flames and serve to feed the fire. It is right to
scatter conflagration on the doomed gates. But let us who honour
our king with better loyalty form the firm battle-wedges, and,
having measured the phalanx in safe rows, go forth in the way the
king taught us: our king, who laid low Rorik, the son of Bok the
covetous, and wrapped the coward in death. He was rich in
wealth, but in enjoyment poor, stronger in gain than bravery; and
thinking gold better than warfare, he set lucre above all things,
and ingloriously accumulated piles of treasure, scorning the
service of noble friends. And when he was attacked by the navy
of Rolf, he bade his servants take the gold from the chests and
spread it out in front of the city gates, making ready bribes
rather than battle, because he knew not the soldier, and thought
that the foe should be attempted with gifts and not with arms: as
though he could fight with wealth alone, and prolong the war by
using, not men, but wares! So he undid the heavy coffers and the
rich chests; he brought forth the polished bracelets and the
heavy caskets; they only fed his destruction. Rich in treasure,
poor in warriors, he left his foes to take away the prizes which
he forebore to give to the friends of his own land. He who once
shrank to give little rings of his own will, now unwillingly
squandered his masses of wealth, rifling his hoarded heap. But
our king in his wisdom spurned him and the gifts he proffered,
and took from him life and goods at once; nor was his foe
profited by the useless wealth which he had greedily heaped up
through long years. But Rolf the righteous assailed him, slew
him, and captured his vast wealth, and shared among worthy
friends what the hand of avarice had piled up in all those years;
and, bursting into the camp which was wealthy but not brave, gave
his friends a lordly booty without bloodshed. Nothing was so
fair to him that he would not lavish it, or so dear that he would
not give it to his friends, for he used treasure like ashes, and
measured his years by glory and not by gain. Whence it is plain
that the king who hath died nobly lived also most nobly, that the
hour of his doom is beautiful, and that he graced the years of
his life with manliness. For while he lived his glowing valour
prevailed over all things, and he was allotted might worthy of
his lofty stature. He was as swift to war as a torrent tearing
down to sea, and as speedy to begin battle as a stag is to fly
with cleft foot upon his fleet way.

"See now, among the pools dripping with human blood, the teeth
struck out of the slain are carried on by the full torrent of
gore, and are polished on the rough sands. Dashed on the slime
they glitter, and the torrent of blood bears along splintered
bones and flows above lopped limbs. The blood of the Danes is
wet, and the gory flow stagnates far around, and the stream
pressed out of the steaming veins rolls back the scattered
bodies. Tirelessly against the Danes advances Hiartuar, lover of
battle, and challenges the fighters with outstretched spear. Yet
here, amid the dangers and dooms of war, I see Frode's grandson
smiling joyously, who once sowed the fields of Fyriswald with
gold. Let us also be exalted with an honourable show of joy,
following in death the doom of our noble father. Be we therefore
cheery in voice and bold in daring; for it is right to spurn all
fear with words of courage, and to meet our death in deeds of
glory. Let fear quit heart and face; in both let us avow our
dauntless endeavours, that no sign anywhere may show us to betray
faltering fear. Let our drawn sword measure the weight of our
service. Fame follows us in death, and glory shall outlive our
crumbling ashes! And that which perfect valour hath achieved
during its span shall not fade for ever and ever. What want we
with closed floors? Why doth the locked bolt close the folding-
gates? For it is now the third cry, Bjarke, that calls thee, and
bids thee come forth from the barred room."

Bjarke rejoined: "Warlike Hjalte, why dost thou call me so loud?
I am the son-in-law of Rolf. He who boasts loud and with big
words challenges other men to battle, is bound to be venturous
and act up to his words, that his deed may avouch his vaunt. But
stay till I am armed and have girded on the dread attire of war.

"And now I tie my sword to my side, now first I get my body
guarded with mail-coat and headpiece, the helm keeping my brows
and the stout iron shrouding my breast. None shrinks more than I
from being burnt a prisoner inside, and made a pyre together with
my own house: though an island brought me forth, and though the
land of my birth be bounded, I shall hold it a debt to repay to
the king the twelve kindreds which he added to my honours.
Hearken, warriors! Let none robe in mail his body that shall
perish; let him last of all draw tight the woven steel; let the
shields go behind the back; let us fight with bared breasts, and
load all your arms with gold. Let your right hands receive the
bracelets, that they may swing their blows the more heavily and
plant the grievous wound. Let none fall back! Let each
zealously strive to meet the swords of the enemy and the
threatening spears, that we may avenge our beloved master. Happy
beyond all things is he who can mete out revenge for such a
crime, and with righteous steel punish the guilt of treacheries.

"Lo, methinks I surely pierced a wild stag with the Teutonic
sword which is called Snyrtir: from which I won the name of
Warrior, when I felled Agnar, son of Ingild, and brought the
trophy home. He shattered and broke with the bite the sword
Hoding which smote upon my head, and would have dealt worse
wounds if the edge of his blade had held out better. In return I
clove asunder his left arm and part of his left side and his
right foot, and the piercing steel ran down his limbs and smote
deep into his ribs. By Hercules! No man ever seemed to me
stronger than he. For he sank down half-conscious, and, leaning
on his elbow, welcomed death with a smile, and spurned
destruction with a laugh, and passed rejoicing in the world of
Elysium. Mighty was the man's courage, which knew how with one
laugh to cover his death-hour, and with a joyous face to suppress
utter anguish of mind and body!

"Now also with the same blade I searched the heart of one sprung
from an illustrious line, and plunged the steel deep in his
breast. He was a king's son, of illustrious ancestry, of a noble
nature, and shone with the brightness of youth. The mailed metal
could not avail him, nor his sword, nor the smooth target-boss;
so keen was the force of my steel, it knew not how to be stayed
by obstacles.

"Where, then, are the captains of the Goths, and the soldiery of
Hiartuar? Let them come, and pay for their might with their
life-blood. Who can cast, who whirl the lance, save scions of
kings? War springs from the nobly born: famous pedigrees are the
makers of war. For the perilous deeds which chiefs attempt are
not to be done by the ventures of common men. Renowned nobles
are passing away. Lo! Greatest Rolf, thy great ones have
fallen, thy holy line is vanishing. No dim and lowly race, no
low-born dead, no base souls are Pluto's prey, but he weaves the
dooms of the mighty, and fills Phlegethon with noble shapes.

"I do not remember any combat wherein swords were crossed in turn
and blow dealt out for blow more speedily. I take three for each
I give; thus do the Goths requite the wounds I deal them, and
thus doth the stronger hand of the enemy avenge with heaped
interest the punishment that they receive. Yet singly in battle
I have given over the bodies of so many men to the pyre of
destruction, that a mound like a hill could grow up and be raised
out of their lopped limbs, and the piles of carcases would look
like a burial-barrow. And now what doeth he, who but now bade me
come forth, vaunting himself with mighty praise, and chafing
others with his arrogant words, and scattering harsh taunts, as
though in his one body he enclosed twelve lives?"

Hjalte answered: "Though I have but scant help, I am not far off.
Even here, where I stand, there is need of aid, and nowhere is a
force or a chosen band of warriors ready for battle wanted more.
Already the hard edges and the spear-points have cleft my shield
in splinters, and the ravening steel has rent and devoured its
portions bit by bit in the battle. The first of these things
testifies to and avows itself. Seeing is better than telling,
eyesight faithfuller than hearing. For of the broken shield only
the fastenings remain, and the boss, pierced and broken in its
circle, is all left me. And now, Bjarke, thou art strong, though
thou hast come forth more tardily than was right, and thou
retrievest by bravery the loss caused by thy loitering."

But Bjarke said: "Art thou not yet weary of girding at me and
goading me with taunts? Many things often cause delay. The
reason why I tarried was the sword in my path, which the Swedish
foe whirled against my breast with mighty effort. Nor did the
guider of the hilt drive home the sword with little might; for
though the body was armed he smote it as far as one may when it
is bare or defenceless; he pierced the armour of hard steel like
yielding waters; nor could the rough, heavy breastplate give me
any help.

"But where now is he that is commonly called Odin, the mighty in
battle, content ever with a single eye? If thou see him
anywhere, Rute, tell me."

Rute replied: "Bring thine eye closer and look under my arm
akimbo: thou must first hallow thine eyes with the victorious
sign, if thou wilt safely know the War-god face to face."

Then said Bjarke: "If I may look on the awful husband of Frigg,
howsoever he be covered with his white shield, and guide his tall
steed, he shall in no wise go safe out of Leire; it is lawful to
lay low in war the war-waging god. Let a noble death come to
those that fall before the eyes of their king. While life lasts,
let us strive for the power to die honourably and to reap a noble
end by our deeds. I will die overpowered near the head of my
slain captain, and at his feet thou also shalt slip on thy face
in death, so that whoso scans the piled corpses may see in what
wise we rate the gold our lord gave us. We shall be the prey of
ravens and a morsel for hungry eagles, and the ravening bird
shall feast on the banquet of our body. Thus should fall princes
dauntless in war, clasping their famous king in a common death."

I have composed this particular series of harangues in metrical
shape, because the gist of the same thoughts is found arranged in
a short form in a certain ancient Danish song, which is repeated
by heart by many conversant with antiquity.

Now, it came to pass that the Goths gained the victory and all
the array of Rolf fell, no man save Wigg remaining out of all
those warriors. For the soldiers of the king paid this homage to
his noble virtues in that battle, that his slaying inspired in
all the longing to meet their end, and union with him in death
was accounted sweeter than life.

HIARTUAR rejoiced, and had the tables spread for feasting,
bidding the banquet come after the battle, and fain to honour his
triumph with a carouse. And when he was well filled therewith,
he said that it was matter of great marvel to him, that out of
all the army of Rolf no man had been found to take thought for
his life by flight or fraud. Hence, he said, it had been
manifest with what zealous loyalty they had kept their love for
their king, because they had not endured to survive him. He also
blamed his ill fortune, because it had not suffered the homage of
a single one of them to be left for himself: protesting that he
would very willingly accept the service of such men. Then Wigg
came forth, and Hiartuar, as though he were congratulating him on
the gift, asked him if he were willing to fight for him. Wigg
assenting, he drew and proferred him a sword. But Wigg refused
the point, and asked for the hilt, saying first that this had
been Rolf's custom when he handed forth a sword to his soldiers.
For in old time those who were about to put themselves in
dependence on the king used to promise fealty by touching the
hilt of the sword. And in this wise Wigg clasped the hilt, and
then drove the point through Hiartuar; thus gaining the vengeance
which he had promised Rolf to accomplish for him. When he had
done this, and the soldiers of Hiartuar rushed at him, he exposed
his body to them eagerly and exultantly, shouting that he felt
more joy in the slaughter of the tyrant than bitterness at his
own. Thus the feast was turned into a funeral, and the wailing
of burial followed the joy of victory. Glorious, ever memorable
hero, who valiantly kept his vow, and voluntarily courted death,
staining with blood by his service the tables of the despot! For
the lively valour of his spirit feared not the hands of the
slaughterers, when he had once beheld the place where Rolf had
been wont to live bespattered with the blood of his slayer. Thus
the royalty of Hiartuar was won and ended on the same day. For
whatsoever is gotten with guile melts away in like fashion as it
is sought, and no fruits are long-lasting that have been won by
treachery and crime. Hence it came to pass that the Swedes, who
had a little before been the possessors of Denmark, came to lose
even their own liberty. For they were straightway cut off by the
Zealanders, and paid righteous atonement to the injured shades of
Rolf. In this way does stern fortune commonly avenge the works
of craft and cunning.


After Hiartuar, HOTHER, whom I mentioned above, the brother of
Athisl, and also the fosterling of King Gewar, became sovereign
of both realms. It will be easier to relate his times if I begin
with the beginning of his life. For if the earlier years of his
career are not doomed to silence, the latter ones can be more
fully and fairly narrated.

When Helgi had slain Hodbrodd, his son Hother passed the length
of his boyhood under the tutelage of King Gewar. While a
stripling, he excelled in strength of body all his foster-
brethren and compeers. Moreover, he was gifted with many
accomplishments of mind. He was very skilled in swimming and
archery, and also with the gloves; and further was as nimble as
such a youth could be, his training being equal to his strength.
Though his years were unripe, his richly-dowered spirit surpassed
them. None was more skilful on lyre or harp; and he was cunning
on the timbrel, on the lute, and in every modulation of string
instruments. With his changing measures he could sway the
feelings of men to what passions he would; he knew how to fill
human hearts with joy or sadness, with pity or with hatred, and
used to enwrap the soul with the delight or terror of the ear.
All these accomplishments of the youth pleased Nanna, the
daughter of Gewar, mightily, and she began to seek his embraces.
For the valour of a youth will often kindle a maid, and the
courage of those whose looks are not so winning is often
acceptable. For love hath many avenues; the path of pleasure is
opened to some by grace, to others by bravery of soul, and to
some by skill in accomplishments. Courtesy brings to some stores
of Love, while most are commended by brightness of beauty. Nor
do the brave inflict a shallower wound on maidens than the

Now it befell that Balder the son of Odin was troubled at the
sight of Nanna bathing, and was seized with boundless love. He
was kindled by her fair and lustrous body, and his heart was set
on fire by her manifest beauty; for nothing exciteth passion like
comeliness. Therefore he resolved to slay with the sword Hother,
who, he feared, was likeliest to baulk his wishes; so that his
love, which brooked no postponement, might not be delayed in the
enjoyment of its desire by any obstacle.

About this time Hother chanced, while hunting, to be led astray
by a mist, and he came on a certain lodge in which were wood-
maidens; and when they greeted him by his own name, he asked who
they were. They declared that it was their guidance and
government that mainly determined the fortunes of war. For they
often invisibly took part in battles, and by their secret
assistance won for their friends the coveted victories. They
averted, indeed, that they could win triumphs and inflict defeats
as they would; and further told him how Balder had seen his
foster-sister Nanna while she bathed, and been kindled with
passion for her; but counselled Hother not to attack him in war,
worthy as he was of his deadliest hate, for they declared that
Balder was a demigod, sprung secretly from celestial seed. When
Hother had heard this, the place melted away and left him
shelterless, and he found himself standing in the open and out in
the midst of the fields, without a vestige of shade. Most of all
he marvelled at the swift flight of the maidens, the shifting of
the place, and the delusive semblance of the building. For he
knew not that all that had passed around him had been a mere
mockery and an unreal trick of the arts of magic.

Returning thence, he related to Gewar the mystification that had
followed on his straying, and straightway asked him for his
daughter. Gewar answered that he would most gladly favour him,
but that he feared if he rejected Balder he would incur his
wrath; for Balder, he said, had proffered him a like request.
For he said that the sacred strength of Balder's body was proof
even against steel; adding, however, that he knew of a sword
which could deal him his death, which was fastened up in the
closest bonds; this was in the keeping of Miming, the Satyr of
the woods, who also had a bracelet of a secret and marvellous
virtue, that used to increase the wealth of the owner. Moreover,
the way to these regions was impassable and filled with
obstacles, and therefore hard for mortal men to travel. For the
greater part of the road was perpetually beset with extraordinary
cold. So he advised him to harness a car with reindeer, by means
of whose great speed he could cross the hard-frozen ridges. And
when he had got to the place, he should set up his tent away from
the sun in such wise that it should catch the shadow of the cave
where Miming was wont to be; while he should not in return cast a
shade upon Miming, so that no unaccustomed darkness might be
thrown and prevent the Satyr from going out. Thus both the
bracelet and the sword would be ready to his hand, one being
attended by fortune in wealth and the other by fortune in war,
and each of them thus bringing a great prize to the owner. Thus
much said Gewar; and Hother was not slow to carry out his
instructions. Planting his tent in the manner aforesaid, he
passed the nights in anxieties and the days in hunting. But
through either season he remained very wakeful and sleepless,
allotting the divisions of night and day so as to devote the one
to reflection on events, and to spend the other in providing food
for his body. Once as he watched all night, his spirit was
drooping and dazed with anxiety, when the Satyr cast a shadow on
his tent. Aiming a spear at him, he brought him down with the
blow, stopped him, and bound him, while he could not make his
escape. Then in the most dreadful words he threatened him with
the worst, and demanded the sword and bracelets. The Satyr was
not slow to tender him the ransom of his life for which he was
asked. So surely do all prize life beyond wealth; for nothing is
ever cherished more among mortals than the breath of their own
life. Hother, exulting in the treasure he had gained, went home
enriched with trophies which, though few, were noble.

When Gelder, the King of Saxony, heard that Hother had gained
these things, he kept constantly urging his soldiers to go and
carry off such glorious booty; and the warriors speedily equipped
a fleet in obedience to their king. Gewar, being very learned in
divining and an expert in the knowledge of omens, foresaw this;
and summoning Hother, told him, when Gelder should join battle
with him, to receive his spears with patience, and not let his
own fly until he saw the enemy's missiles exhausted; and further,
to bring up the curved scythes wherewith the vessels could be
rent and the helmets and shields plucked from the soldiers.
Hother followed his advice and found its result fortunate. For
he bade his men, when Gelder began to charge, to stand their
ground and defend their bodies with their shields, affirming that
the victory in that battle must be won by patience. But the
enemy nowhere kept back their missiles, spending them all in
their extreme eagerness to fight; and the more patiently they
found Hother bear himself in his reception of their spears and
lances, the more furiously they began to hurl them. Some of
these stuck in the shields and some in the ships, and few were
the wounds they inflicted; many of them were seen to be shaken
off idly and to do no hurt. For the soldiers of Hother performed
the bidding of their king, and kept off the attack of the spears
by a penthouse of interlocked shields; while not a few of the
spears smote lightly on the bosses and fell into the waves. When
Gelder was emptied of all his store, and saw the enemy picking it
up, and swiftly hurling it back at him, he covered the summit of
the mast with a crimson shield, as a signal of peace, and
surrendered to save his life. Hother received him with the
friendliest face and the kindliest words, and conquered him as
much by his gentleness as he had by his skill.

At this time Helgi, King of Halogaland, was sending frequent
embassies to press his suit for Thora, daughter of Kuse,
sovereign of the Finns and Perms. Thus is weakness ever known by
its wanting help from others. For while all other young men of
that time used to sue in marriage with their own lips, this man
was afflicted with so faulty an utterance that he was ashamed to
be heard not only by strangers, but by those of his own house.
So much doth calamity shun all witnesses; for natural defects are
the more vexing the more manifest they are. Kuse despised his
embassy, answering that that man did not deserve a wife who
trusted too little to his own manhood, and borrowed by entreaty
the aid of others in order to gain his suit. When Helgi heard
this, be besought Hother, whom he knew to be an accomplished
pleader, to favour his desires, promising that he would promptly
perform whatsoever he should command him. The earnest entreaties
of the youth prevailed on Hother, and he went to Norway with an
armed fleet, intending to achieve by arms the end which he could
not by words. And when he had pleaded for Helgi with the most
dulcet eloquence, Kuse rejoined that his daughter's wish must be
consulted, in order that no paternal strictness might forestall
anything against her will. He called her in and asked her
whether she felt a liking for her wooer; and when she assented he
promised Helgi her hand. In this way Hother, by the sweet sounds
of his fluent and well-turned oratory, opened the ears of Kuse,
which were before deaf to the suit he urged.

While this was passing in Halogaland, Balder entered the country
of Gewar armed, in order to sue for Nanna. Gewar bade him learn
Nanna's own mind; so he approached the maiden with the most
choice and cajoling words; and when he could win no hearing for
his prayers, he persisted in asking the reason of his refusal.
She replied, that a god could not wed with a mortal, because the
vast difference of their natures prevented any bond of
intercourse. Also the gods sometimes used to break their
pledges; and the bond contracted between unequals was apt to snap
suddenly. There was no firm tie between those of differing
estate; for beside the great, the fortunes of the lowly were
always dimmed. Also lack and plenty dwelt in diverse tents, nor
was there any fast bond of intercourse between gorgeous wealth
and obscure poverty. In fine, the things of earth would not mate
with those of heaven, being sundered by a great original gulf
through a difference in nature; inasmuch as mortal man was
infinitely far from the glory of the divine majesty. With this
shuffling answer she eluded the suit of Balder, and shrewdly wove
excuses to refuse his hand.

When Hother heard this from Gewar, he complained long to Helgi of
Balder's insolence. Both were in doubt as to what should be
done, and beat their brains over divers plans; for converse with
a friend in the day of trouble, though it removeth not the peril,
yet maketh the heart less sick. Amid all the desires of their
souls the passion of valour prevailed, and a naval battle was
fought with Balder. One would have thought it a contest of men
against gods, for Odin and Thor and the holy array of the gods
fought for Balder. There one could have beheld a war in which
divine and human might were mingled. But Hother was clad in his
steel-defying tunic, and charged the closest bands of the gods,
assailing them as vehemently as a son of earth could assail the
powers above. However, Thor was swinging his club with
marvellous might, and shattered all interposing shields, calling
as loudly on his foes to attack him as upon his friends to back
him up. No kind of armour withstood his onset, no man could
receive his stroke and live. Whatsoever his blow fended off it
crushed; neither shield nor helm endured the weight of its dint;
no greatness of body or of strength could serve. Thus the
victory would have passed to the gods, but that Hother, though
his line had already fallen back, darted up, hewed off the club
at the haft, and made it useless. And the gods, when they had
lost this weapon, fled incontinently. But that antiquity vouches
for it, it were quite against common belief to think that men
prevailed against gods. (We call them gods in a supposititious
rather than in a real sense; for to such we give the title of
deity by the custom of nations, not because of their nature.)

As for Balder, he took to flight and was saved. The conquerors
either hacked his ships with their swords or sunk them in the
sea; not content to have defeated gods, they pursued the wrecks
of the fleet with such rage, as if they would destroy them to
satiate their deadly passion for war. Thus doth prosperity
commonly whet the edge of licence. The haven, recalling by its
name Balder's flight, bears witness to the war. Gelder, the King
of Saxony, who met his end in the same war, was set by Hother
upon the corpses of his oarsmen, and then laid on a pyre built of
vessels, and magnificently honoured in his funeral by Hother, who
not only put his ashes in a noble barrow, treating them as the
remains of a king, but also graced them with most reverent
obsequies. Then, to prevent any more troublesome business
delaying his hopes of marriage, he went back to Gewar and enjoyed
the coveted embraces of Nanna. Next, having treated Helgi and
Thora very generously, he brought his new queen back to Sweden,
being as much honoured by all for his victory as Balder was
laughed at for his flight.

At this time the nobles of the Swedes repaired to Demnark to pay
their tribute; but Hother, who had been honoured as a king by his
countrymen for the splendid deeds of his father, experienced what
a lying pander Fortune is. For he was conquered in the field by
Balder, whom a little before he had crushed, and was forced to
flee to Gewar, thus losing while a king that victory which he had
won as a common man. The conquering Balder, in order to slake
his soldiers, who were parched with thirst, with the blessing of
a timely draught, pierced the earth deep and disclosed a fresh
spring. The thirsty ranks made with gaping lips for the water
that gushed forth everywhere. The traces of these springs,
eternised by the name, are thought not quite to have dried up
yet, though they have ceased to well so freely as of old. Balder
was continually harassed by night phantoms feigning the likeness
of Nanna, and fell into such ill health that he could not so much
as walk, and began the habit of going his journeys in a two horse
car or a four-wheeled carriage. So great was the love that had
steeped his heart and now had brought him down almost to the
extremity of decline. For he thought that his victory had
brought him nothing if Nanna was not his prize. Also Frey, the
regent of the gods, took his abode not far from Upsala, where he
exchanged for a ghastly and infamous sin-offering the old custom
of prayer by sacrifice, which had been used by so many ages and
generations. For he paid to the gods abominable offerings, by
beginning to slaughter human victims.

Meantime Hother (1) learned that Denmark lacked leaders, and that
Hiartuar had swiftly expiated the death of Rolf; and he used to
say that chance had thrown into his hands that to which he could
scarce have aspired. For first, Rolf, whom he ought to have
killed, since he remembered that Rolf's father had slain his own,
had been punished by the help of another; and also, by the
unexpected bounty of events, a chance had been opened to him of
winning Denmark. In truth, if the pedigree of his forefathers
were rightly traced, that realm was his by ancestral right!
Thereupon he took possession, with a very great fleet, of
Isefjord, a haven of Zealand, so as to make use of his impending
fortune. There the people of the Danes met him and appointed him
king; and a little after, on hearing of the death of his brother
Athisl, whom he had bidden rule the Swedes, he joined the Swedish
empire to that of Denmark. But Athisl was cut off by an
ignominious death. For whilst, in great jubilation of spirit, he
was honouring the funeral rites of Rolf with a feast, he drank
too greedily, and paid for his filthy intemperance by his sudden
end. And so, while he was celebrating the death of another with
immoderate joviality, he forced on his own apace.

While Hother was in Sweden, Balder also came to Zealand with a
fleet; and since he was thought to be rich in arms and of
singular majesty, the Danes accorded him with the readiest of
voices whatever he asked concerning the supreme power. With such
wavering judgment was the opinion of our forefathers divided.
Hother returned from Sweden and attacked him. They both coveted
sway, and the keenest contest for the sovereignty began between
them; but it was cut short by the flight of Hother. He retired
to Jutland, and caused to be named after him the village in which
he was wont to stay. Here he passed the winter season, and then
went back to Sweden alone and unattended. There he summoned the
grandees, and told them that he was weary of the light of life
because of the misfortunes wherewith Balder had twice
victoriously stricken him. Then he took farewell of all, and
went by a circuitous path to a place that was hard of access,
traversing forests uncivilised. For it oft happens that those
upon whom has come some inconsolable trouble of spirit seek, as
though it were a medicine to drive away their sadness, far and
sequestered retreats, and cannot bear the greatness of their
grief amid the fellowship of men; so dear, for the most part, is
solitude to sickness. For filthiness and grime are chiefly
pleasing to those who have been stricken with ailments of the
soul. Now he had been wont to give out from the top of a hill
decrees to the people when they came to consult him; and hence
when they came they upbraided the sloth of the king for hiding
himself, and his absence was railed at by all with the bitterest

But Hother, when he had wandered through remotest byways and
crossed an uninhabited forest, chanced to come upon a cave where
dwelt some maidens whom he knew not; but they proved to be the
same who had once given him the invulnerable coat. Asked by them
wherefore he had come thither, he related the disastrous issue of
the war. So he began to bewail the ill luck of his failures and
his dismal misfortunes, condemning their breach of faith, and
lamenting that it had not turned out for him as they had promised
him. But the maidens said that though he had seldom come off
victorious, he had nevertheless inflicted as much defeat on the
enemy as they on him, and had dealt as much carnage as he had
shared in. Moreover, the favour of victory would be speedily
his, if he could first lay hands upon a food of extraordinary
delightsomeness which had been devised to increase the strength
of Balder. For nothing would be difficult if he could only get
hold of the dainty which was meant to enhance the rigour of his

Hard as it sounded for earthborn endeavours to make armed assault
upon the gods, the words of the maidens inspired Hother's mind
with instant confidence to fight with Balder. Also some of his
own people said that he could not safely contend with those
above; but all regard for their majesty was expelled by the
boundless fire of his spirit. For in brave souls vehemence is
not always sapped by reason, nor doth counsel defeat rashness.
Or perchance it was that Hother remembered how the might of the
lordliest oft proveth unstable, and how a little clod can batter
down great chariots.

On the other side, Balder mustered the Danes to arms and met
Hother in the field. Both sides made a great slaughter; the
carnage of the opposing parties was nearly equal, and night
stayed the battle. About the third watch, Hother, unknown to any
man, went out to spy upon the enemy, anxiety about the impending
peril having banished sleep. This strong excitement favours not
bodily rest, and inward disquiet suffers not outward repose. So,
when he came to the camp of the enemy he heard that three maidens
had gone out carrying the secret feast of Balder. He ran after
them (for their footsteps in the dew betrayed their flight), and
at last entered their accustomed dwelling. When they asked him
who he was, he answered, a lutanist, nor did the trial belie his
profession. For when the lyre was offered him, he tuned its
strings, ordered and governed the chords with his quill, and with
ready modulation poured forth a melody pleasant to the ear. Now
they had three snakes, of whose venom they were wont to mix a
strengthening compound for the food of Balder, and even now a
flood of slaver was dripping on the food from the open mouths of
the serpents. And some of the maidens would, for kindness sake,
have given Hother a share of the dish, had not eldest of the
three forbidden them, declaring that Balder would be cheated if
they increased the bodily powers of his enemy. He had said, not
that he was Hother, but that he was one of his company. Now the
same nymphs, in their gracious kindliness, bestowed on him a belt
of perfect sheen and a girdle which assured victory.

Retracing the path by which he had come, he went back on the same
road, and meeting Balder plunged his sword into his side, and
laid him low half dead. When the news was told to the soldiers,
a cheery shout of triumph rose from all the camp of Hother, while
the Danes held a public mourning for the fate of Balder. He,
feeling no doubt of his impending death, and stung by the anguish
of his wound, renewed the battle on the morrow; and, when it
raged hotly, bade that he should be borne on a litter into the
fray, that he might not seem to die ignobly within his tent. On
the night following, Proserpine was seen to stand by him in a
vision, and to promise that on the morrow he should have her
embrace. The boding of the dream was not idle; for when three
days had passed, Balder perished from the excessive torture of
his wound; and his body given a royal funeral, the army causing
it to be buried in a barrow which they had made.

Certain men of our day, Chief among whom was Harald, (2) since
the story of the ancient burial-place still survived, made a raid
on it by night in the hope of finding money, but abandoned their
attempt in sudden panic. For the hill split, and from its crest
a sudden and mighty torrent of loud-roaring waters seemed to
burst; so that its flying mass, shooting furiously down, poured
over the fields below, and enveloped whatsoever it struck upon,
and at its onset the delvers were dislodged, flung down their
mattocks, and fled divers ways; thinking that if they strove any
longer to carry through their enterprise they would be caught in
the eddies of the water that was rushing down. Thus the guardian
gods of that spot smote fear suddenly into the minds of the
youths, taking them away from covetousness, and turning them to
see to their safety; teaching them to neglect their greedy
purpose and be careful of their lives. Now it is certain that
this apparent flood was not real but phantasmal; not born in the
bowels of the earth (since Nature suffereth not liquid springs to
gush forth in a dry place), but produced by some magic agency.
All men afterwards, to whom the story of that breaking in had
come down, left this hill undisturbed. Wherefore it has never
been made sure whether it really contains any wealth; for the
dread of peril has daunted anyone since Harald from probing its
dark foundations.

But Odin, though he was accounted the chief of the gods, began to
inquire of the prophets and diviners concerning the way to
acomplish vengeance for his son, as well as all others whom he
had beard were skilled in the most recondite arts of soothsaying.
For godhead that is incomplete is oft in want of the help of man.
Rostioph (Hrossthiof), the Finn, foretold to him that another son
must be born to him by Rinda (Wrinda), daughter of the King of
the Ruthenians; this son was destined to exact punishment for the
slaying of his brother. For the gods had appointed to the
brother that was yet to be born the task of avenging his kinsman.
Odin, when he heard this, muffled his face with a cap, that his
garb might not betray him, and entered the service of the said
king as a soldier; and being made by him captain of the soldiers,
and given an army, won a splendid victory over the enemy. And
for his stout achievement in this battle the king admitted him
into the chief place in his friendship, distinguishing him as
generously with gifts as with honours. A very little while
afterwards Odin routed the enemy single-handed, and returned, at
once the messenger and the doer of the deed. All marvelled that
the strength of one man could deal such slaughter upon a
countless host. Trusting in these services, he privily let the
king into the secret of his love, and was refreshed by his most
gracious favour; but when he sought a kiss from the maiden, he
received a cuff. But he was not driven from his purpose either
by anger at the slight or by the odiousness of the insult.

Next year, loth to quit ignobly the quest he had taken up so
eagerly, he put on the dress of a foreigner and went back to
dwell with the king. It was hard for those who met him to
recognise him; for his assumed filth obliterated his true
features, and new grime hid his ancient aspect. He said that his
name was Roster (Hrosstheow), and that he was skilled in
smithcraft. And his handiwork did honour to his professions: for
he portrayed in bronze many and many a shape most beautifully, so
that he received a great mass of gold from the king, and was
ordered to hammer out the ornaments of the matrons. So, after
having wrought many adornments for women's wearing, he at last
offered to the maiden a bracelet which he had polished more
laboriously than the rest and several rings which were adorned
with equal care. But no services could assuage the wrath of
Rinda; when he was fain to kiss her she cuffed him; for gifts
offered by one we hate are unacceptable, while those tendered by
a friend are far more grateful: so much doth the value of the
offering oft turn on the offerer. For this stubborn-hearted
maiden never doubted that the crafty old man was feigning
generosity in order to seize an opening to work his lust. His
temper, moreover, was keen and indomitable; for she knew that his
homage covered guile, and that under the devotion of his gifts
there lay a desire for crime. Her father fell to upbraiding her
heavily for refusing the match; but she loathed to wed an old
man, and the plea of her tender years lent her some support in
her scorning of his hand; for she said that a young girl ought
not to marry prematurely.

But Odin, who had found that nothing served the wishes of lovers
more than tough persistency, though he was stung with the shame
of his double rebuff, nevertheless, effacing the form he had worn
before, went to the king for the third time, professing the
completest skill in soldiership. He was led to take this pains
not only by pleasure but by the wish to wipe out his disgrace.
For of old those who were skilled in magic gained this power of
instantly changing their aspect and exhibiting the most different
shapes. Indeed, they were clever at imitating any age, not only
in its natural bodily appearance, but also in its stature; and so
the old man, in order to exhibit his calling agreeably, used to
ride proudly up and down among the briskest of them. But not
even such a tribute could move the rigour of the maiden; for it
is hard for the mind to come back to a genuine liking for one
against whom it has once borne heavy dislike. When he tried to
kiss her at his departure, she repulsed him so that he tottered
and smote his chin upon the ground. Straightway he touched her
with a piece of bark whereon spells were written, and made her
like unto one in frenzy: which was a gentle revenge to take for
all the insults he had received.

But still he did not falter in the fulfilment of his purpose; for
trust in his divine majesty buoyed him up with confidence; so,
assuming the garb of a maiden, this indefatigable journeyer
repaired for the fourth time to the king, and, on being received
by him, showed himself assiduous and even forward. Most people
believed him to be a woman, as he was dressed almost in female
attire. Also he declared that his name wa s Wecha, and his
calling that of a physician: and this assertion he confirmed by
the readiest services. At last he was taken into the household
of the queen, and played the part of a waiting-woman to the
princess, and even used to wash the soil off her feet at
eventide; and as he was applying the water he was suffered to
touch her calves and the upper part of the thighs. But fortune
goes with mutable steps, and thus chance put into his hand what
his address had never won. For it happened that the girl fell
sick, and looked around for a cure; and she summoned to protect
her health those very hands which aforetime she had rejected, and
appealed for preservation to him whom she had ever held in
loathing. He examined narrowly all the symptoms of the trouble,
and declared that, in order to check the disease as soon as
possible, it was needful to use a certain drugged draught; but
that it was so bitterly compounded, that the girl could never
endure so violent a cure unless she submitted to be bound; since
the stuff of the malady must be ejected from the very innermost
tissues. When her father heard this he did not hesitate to bind
his daughter; and laying her on the bed, he bade her endure
patiently all the applications of the doctor. For the king was
tricked by the sight of the female dress, which the old man was
using to disguise his persistent guile; and thus the seeming
remedy became an opportunity of outrage. For the physician
seized the chance of love, and, abandoning his business of
healing, sped to the work, not of expelling the fever, but of
working his lust; making use of the sickness of the princess,
whom in sound health he had found adverse to him. It will not be
wearisome if I subjoin another version of this affair. For there
are certain who say that the king, when he saw the physician
groaning with love, but despite all his expense of mind and body
accomplishing nothing, did not wish to rob of his due reward one
who had so well earned it, and allowed him to lie privily with
his daughter. So doth the wickedness of the father sometimes
assail the child, when vehement passion perverts natural
mildness. But his fault was soon followed by a remorse that was
full of shame, when his daughter bore a child.

But the gods, whose chief seat was then at Byzantium, (Asgard),
seeing that Odin had tarnished the fair name of godhead by divers
injuries to its majesty, thought that he ought to be removed from
their society. And they had him not only ousted from the
headship, but outlawed and stripped of all worship and honour at
home; thinking it better that the power of their infamous
president should be overthrown than that public religion should
be profaned; and fearing that they might themselves be involved
in the sin of another, and though guiltless be punished for the
crime of the guilty. For they saw that, now the derision of
their great god was brought to light, those whom they had lured
to proffer them divine honours were exchanging obeisance for
scorn and worship for shame; that holy rites were being accounted
sacrilege, and fixed and regular ceremonies deemed so much
childish raving. Fear was in their souls, death before their
eyes, and one would have supposed that the fault of one was
visited upon the heads of all. So, not wishing Odin to drive
public religion into exile, they exiled him and put one Oller
(Wulder?) in his place, to bear the symbols not only Of royalty
but also of godhead, as though it had been as easy a task to
create a god as a king. And though they had appointed him priest
for form's sake, they endowed him actually with full distinction,
that he might be seen to be the lawful heir to the dignity, and
no mere deputy doing another's work. Also, to omit no
circumstance of greatness, they further gave his the name of
Odin, trying by the prestige of that title to be rid of the
obloquy of innovation. For nearly ten years Oller held the
presidency of the divine senate; but at last the gods pitied the
horrible exile of Odin, and thought that he had now been punished
heavily enough; so he exchanged his foul and unsightly estate for
his ancient splendour; for the lapse of time had now wiped out
the brand of his earlier disgrace. Yet some were to be found who
judged that he was not worthy to approach and resume his rank,
because by his stage-tricks and his assumption of a woman's work
he had brought the foulest scandal on the name of the gods. Some
declare that he bought back the fortune of his lost divinity with
money; flattering some of the gods and mollifying some with
bribes; and that at the cost of a vast sum he contrived to get
back to the distinction which he had long quitted. If you ask
how much he paid for them, inquire of those who have found out
what is the price of a godhead. I own that to me it is but
little worth.

Thus Oller was driven out from Byzantium by Odin and retired into
Sweden. Here, while he was trying, as if in a new world, to
repair the records of his glory, the Danes slew him. The story
goes that he was such a cunning wizard that he used a certain
bone, which he had marked with awful spells, wherewith to cross
the seas, instead of a vessel; and that by this bone he passed
over the waters that barred his way as quickly as by rowing.

But Odin, now that he had regained the emblems of godhead, shone
over all parts of the world with such a lustre of renown that all
nations welcomed him as though he were light restored to the
universe; nor was any spot to be found on the earth which did not
hornage to his might. Then finding that Boe, his son by Rhlda,
was enamoured of the hardships of war, he called him, and bade
him bear in mind the slaying of his brother: saying that it would
be better for him to take vengeande on the murderers of Balder
than to overcome the im~occ~}t in battle; for warfare was most
fitting and wholesome when a holy occ,tsion fot' waging it was
furnished by a righteous opening for vengeande.

News came meantime that Gewar had been slain by the guile of his
own satrap (jarl), Gunne. Hother determined to visit his murder
with the strongest and sharpest revenge. So he surprised Gunne,
cast him on a blazing pyre, and burnt him; for Gunne had himself
treacherously waylaid Gewar, and burnt him alive in the night.
This was his offering of vengeance to the shade of his foster-
father; and then he made his sons, Herlek and Gerit, rulers of

Then he summoned the elders to assembly, and told them that he
would perish in the war wherein he was bound to meet Boe, and
said that he knew this by no doubtful guesswork, but by sure
prophecies of seers. So he besought them to make his son RORIK
king, so that the judgment of wicked men should not transfer the
royalty to strange and unknown houses; averring that he would
reap more joy from the succession of his son than bitterness from
his own impending death. This request was speedily granted.
Then he met Boe in battle and was killed; but small joy the
victory gave Boe. Indeed, he left the battle so sore stricken
that he was lifted on his shield and carried home by his foot-
soldiers supporting him in turn, to perish next day of the pain
of his wounds. The Ruthenian army gave his body a gorgeous
funeral and buried it in a splendid howe, which it piled in his
name, to save the record of so mighty a warrior from slipping out
of the recollection of after ages.

So the Kurlanders and the Swedes, as though the death of Hother
set them free from the burden of their subjection, resolved to
attack Denmark, to which they were accustomed to do homage with a
yearly tax. By this the Slavs also were emboldened to revolt,
and a number of others were turned from subjects into foes.
Rorik, in order to check this wrongdoing, summoned his country to
arms, recounted the deeds of his forefathers, and urged them in a
passionate harangue unto valorous deeds. But the barbarians,
loth to engage without a general, and seeing that they needed a
head, appointed a king over them; and, displaying all the rest of
their military force, hid two companies of armed men in a dark
spot. But Rorik saw the trap; and perceiving that his fleet was
wedged in a certain narrow creek among the shoal water, took it
out from the sands where it was lying, and brought it forth to
sea; lest it should strike on the oozy swamps, and be attacked by
the foe on different sides. Also, he resolved that his men
should go into hiding during the day, where they could stay and
suddenly fall on the invaders of his ships. He said that
perchance the guile might in the end recoil on the heads of its
devisors. And in fact the barbarians who had been appointed to
the ambuscade knew nothing of the wariness of the Danes, and
sallying against them rashly, were all destroyed. The remaining
force of the Slavs, knowing nothing of the slaughter of their
friends, hung in doubt wondering over the reason of Rorik's
tarrying. And after waiting long for him as the months wearily
rolled by, and finding delay every day more burdensome, they at
last thought they should attack him with their fleet.

Now among them there was a man of remarkable stature, a wizard by
calling. He, when he beheld the squadrons of the Danes, said:
"Suffer a private combat to forestall a public slaughter, so that
the danger of many may be bought off at the cost of a few. And

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