The Danish History, Books I-IX
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #28a
After the death of Fridleif, his son FRODE, aged seven, was elected in his stead by the unanimous decision of the Danes. But they held an assembly first, and judged that the minority of the king should be taken in charge by guardians, lest the sovereignty should pass away owing to the boyishness of the ruler. For one and all paid such respect to the name and memory of Fridleif, that the royalty was bestowed on his son despite his tender years. So a selection was made, and the brothers Westmar and Koll were summoned to the charge of bringing up the king. Isulf, also, and Agg and eight other men of mark were not only entrusted with the guardianship of the king, but also granted authority to administer the realm under him. These men were rich in strength and courage, and endowed with ample gifts of mind as well as of body. Thus the state of the Danes was governed with the aid of regents until the time when the king should be a man.
The wife of Koll was Gotwar, who used to paralyse the most eloquent and fluent men by her glib and extraordinary insolence; for she was potent in wrangling, and full of resource in all kinds of disputation. Words were her weapons; and she not only trusted in questions, but was armed with stubborn answers. No man could subdue this woman, who could not fight, but who found darts in her tongue instead. Some she would argue down with a flood of impudent words, while others she seemed to entangle in the meshes of her quibbles, and strangle in the noose of her sophistries; so nimble a wit had the woman. Moreover, she was very strong, either in making or cancelling a bargain, and the sting of her tongue was the secret of her power in both. She was clever both at making and at breaking leagues; thus she had two sides to her tongue, and used it for either purpose.
Westmar had twelve sons, three of whom had the same name -- Grep in common. These three men were conceived at once and delivered at one birth, and their common name declared their simultaneous origin. They were exceedingly skillful swordsmen and boxers. Frode had also given the supremacy of the sea to Odd; who was very closely related to the king. Koll rejoiced in an offspring of three sons. At this time a certain son of Frode's brother held the chief command of naval affairs for the protection of the country, Now the king had a sister, Gunwar, surnamed the Fair because of her surpassing beauty. The sons of Westmar and Koll, being ungrown in years and bold in spirit, let their courage become recklessness and devoted their guilt-stained minds to foul and degraded orgies.
Their behaviour was so outrageous and uncontrollable that they ravished other men's brides and daughters, and seemed to have outlawed chastity and banished it to the stews. Nay, they defiled the couches of matrons, and did not even refrain from the bed of virgins. A man's own chamber was no safety to him: there was scarce a spot in the land but bore traces of their lust. Husbands were vexed with fear, and wives with insult to their persons: and to these wrongs folk bowed. No ties were respected, and forced embraces became a common thing. Love was prostituted, all reverence for marriage ties died out, and lust was greedily run after. And the reason of all this was the peace; for men's bodies lacked exercise and were enervated in the ease so propitious to vices. At last the eldest of those who shared the name of Grep, wishing to regulate and steady his promiscuous wantonness, ventured to seek a haven for his vagrant amours in the love of the king's sister. Yet he did amiss. For though it was right that his vagabond and straying delights should be bridled by modesty, yet it was audacious for a man of the people to covet the child of a king. She, much fearing the impudence of her wooer, and wishing to be safer from outrage, went into a fortified building. Thirty attendants were given to her, to keep guard and constant watch over her person.
Now the comrades of Frode, sadly lacking the help of women in the matter of the wear of their garments, inasmuch as they had no means of patching or of repairing rents, advised and urged the king to marry. At first he alleged his tender years as an excuse, but in the end yielded to the persistent requests of his people. And when he carefully inquired of his advisers who would be a fit wife for him, they all praised the daughter of the King of the Huns beyond the rest. When the question was pushed, what reason Frode had for objecting to her, he replied that he had heard from his father that it was not expedient for kings to seek alliance far afield, or to demand love save from neighbours. When Gotwar heard this she knew that the king's resistance to his friends was wily. Wishing to establish his wavering spirit, and strengthen the courage of his weakling soul, she said: "Bridals are for young men, but the tomb awaits the old. The steps of youth go forward in desires and in fortune; but old age declines helpless to the sepulchre. Hope attends youth; age is bowed with hopeless decay. The fortune of young men increases; it will never leave unfinished what it begins." Respecting her words, he begged her to undertake the management of the suit. But she refused, pleading her age as her pretext, and declaring herself too stricken in years to bear so difficult a commission. The king saw that a bribe was wanted, and, proffering a golden necklace, promised it as the reward of her embassy. For the necklace had links consisting of studs, and figures of kings interspersed in bas-relief, which could be now separated and now drawn together by pulling a thread inside; a gewgaw devised more for luxury than use. Frode also ordered that Westmar and Koll, with their sons, should be summoned to go on the same embassy, thinking that their cunning would avoid the shame of a rebuff.
They went with Gotwar, and were entertained by the King of the Huns at a three days' banquet, ere they uttered the purpose of their embassy. For it was customary of old thus to welcome guests. When the feast had been prolonged three days, the princess came forth to make herself pleasant to the envoys with a most courteous address, and her blithe presence added not a little to the festal delights of the banqueters. And as the drink went faster Westmar revealed his purpose in due course, in a very merry declaration, wishing to sound the mind of the maiden in talk of a friendly sort. And, in order not to inflict on himself a rebuff, he spoke in a mirthful vein, and broke the ground of his mission, by venturing to make up a sportive speech amid the applause of the revellers. The princess said that she disdained Frode because he lacked honour and glory. For in days of old no men were thought fit for the hand of high-born women but those who had won some great prize of glory by the lustre of their admirable deeds. Sloth was the worst of vices in a suitor, and nothing was more of a reproach in one who sought marriage than the lack of fame. A harvest of glory, and that alone, could bring wealth in everything else. Maidens admired in their wooers not so much good looks as deeds nobly done. So the envoys, flagging and despairing of their wish, left the further conduct of the affair to the wisdom of Gotwar, who tried to subdue the maiden not only with words but with love-philtres, and began to declare that Frode used his left hand as well as his right, and was a quick and skillful swimmer and fighter. Also by the drink which she gave she changed the strictness of the maiden to desire, and replaced her vanished anger with love and delight. Then she bade Westmar, Koll, and their sons go to the king and urge their mission afresh; and finally, should they find him froward, to anticipate a rebuff by a challenge to fight.
So Westmar entered the palace with his men-at-arms, and said: "Now thou must needs either consent to our entreaties, or meet in battle us who entreat thee. We would rather die nobly than go back with our mission unperformed; lest, foully repulsed and foiled of our purpose, we should take home disgrace where we hoped to will honour. If thou refuse thy daughter, consent to fight: thou must needs grant one thing or the other. We wish either to die or to have our prayers beard. Something -- sorrow if not joy -- we will get from thee. Frode will be better pleased to hear of our slaughter than of our repulse." Without another word, he threatened to aim a blow at the king's throat with his sword. The king replied that it was unseemly for the royal majesty to meet an inferior in rank in level combat, and unfit that those of unequal station should fight as equals. But when Westmar persisted in urging him to fight, he at last bade him find out what the real mind of the maiden was; for in old time men gave women who were to marry, free choice of a husband. For the king was embarrassed, and hung vacillating betwixt shame and fear of battle. Thus Westmar, having been referred to the thoughts of the girl's heart, and knowing that every woman is as changeable in purpose as she is fickle in soul, proceeded to fulfil his task all the more confidently because he knew how mutable the wishes of maidens were. His confidence in his charge was increased and his zeal encouraged, because she had both a maiden's simplicity, which was left to its own counsels, and a woman's freedom of choice, which must be wheedled with the most delicate and mollifying flatteries; and thus she would be not only easy to lead away, but even hasty in compliance. But her father went after the envoys, that he might see more surely into his daughter's mind. She had already been drawn by the stealthy working of the draught to love her suitor, and answered that the promise of Frode, rather than his present renown, had made her expect much of his nature: since he was sprung from so famous a father, and every nature commonly answered to its origin. The youth therefore had pleased her by her regard of his future, rather than his present, glory. These words amazed the father; but neither could he bear to revoke the freedom he had granted her, and he promised her in marriage to Frode. Then, having laid in ample stores, he took her away with the most splendid pomp, and, followed by the envoys, hastened to Denmark, knowing that a father was the best person to give away a daughter in marriage. Frode welcomed his bride most joyfully, and also bestowed the highest honours upon his future royal father-in-law; and when the marriage rites were over, dismissed him with a large gift of gold and silver.
And so with Hanund, the daughter of the King of the Huns, for his wife, he passed three years in the most prosperous peace. But idleness brought wantonness among his courtiers, and peace begot lewdness, which they displayed in the most abominable crimes. For they would draw some men up in the air on ropes, and torment them, pushing their bodies as they hung, like a ball that is tossed; or they would put a kid's hide under the feet of others as they walked, and, by stealthily pulling a rope, trip their unwary steps on the slippery skill in their path; others they would strip of their clothes, and lash with sundry tortures of stripes; others they fastened to pegs, as with a noose, and punished with mock-hanging. They scorched off the beard and hair with tapers; of others they burned the hair of the groin with a brand. Only those maidens might marry whose chastity they had first deflowered. Strangers they battered with bones; others they compelled to drunkenness with immoderate draughts, and made them burst. No man might give his daughter to wife unless he had first bought their favour and goodwill. None might contract any marriage without first purchasing their consent with a bribe. Moreover, they extended their abominable and abandoned lust not only to virgins, but to the multitude of matrons indiscriminately. Thus a twofold madness incited this mixture of wantonness and frenzy. Guests and strangers were proffered not shelter but revilings. All these maddening mockeries did this insolent and wanton crew devise, and thus under a boy-king freedom fostered licence. For nothing prolongs reckless sin like the procrastination of punishment and vengeance. This unbridled impudence of the soldiers ended by making the king detested, not only by foreigners, but even by his own people, for the Danes resented such an arrogant and cruel rule. But Grep was contented with no humble loves; he broke out so outrageously that he was guilty of intercourse with the queen, and proved as false to the king as he was violent to all other men. Then by degrees the scandal grew, and the suspicion of his guilt crept on with silent step. The common people found it out before the king. For Grep, by always punishing all who alluded in the least to this circumstance, had made it dangerous to accuse him. But the rumour of his crime, which at first was kept alive in whispers, was next passed on in public reports; for it is hard for men to hide another's guilt if they are aware of it. Gunwar had many suitors; and accordingly Grep, trying to take revenge for his rebuff by stealthy wiles, demanded the right of judging the suitors, declaring that the princess ought to make the choicest match. But he disguised his anger, lest he should seem to have sought the office from hatred of the maiden. At his request the king granted him leave to examine the merits of the young men. So he first gathered all the wooers of Gunwar together on the pretence of a banquet, and then lined the customary room of the princess with their heads -- a gruesome spectacle for all the rest. Yet he forfeited none of his favour with Frode, nor abated his old intimacy with him. For he decided that any opportunity of an interview with the king must be paid for, and gave out that no one should have any conversation with him who brought no presents. Access, he announced, to so great a general must be gained by no stale or usual method, but by making interest most zealously. He wished to lighten the scandal of his cruelty by the pretence of affection to his king. The people, thus tormented, vented their complaint of their trouble in silent groans. None had the spirit to lift up his voice in public against this season of misery. No one had become so bold as to complain openly of the affliction that was falling upon them. Inward resentment vexed the hearts of men, secretly indeed, but all the more bitterly.
When Gotar, the King of Norway, heard this, he assembled his soldiers, and said that the Danes were disgusted with their own king, and longed for another if they could get the opportunity; that he had himself resolved to lead an army thither, and that Denmark would be easy to seize if attacked. Frode's government of his country was as covetous as it was cruel. Then Erik rose up and gainsaid the project with contrary reasons. "We remember," he said, "how often coveters of other men's goods lose their own. He who snatches at both has oft lost both. It must be a very strong bird that can wrest the prey from the claws of another. It is idle for thee to be encouraged by the internal jealousies of the country, for these are oft blown away by the approach of an enemy. For though the Danes now seem divided in counsel, yet they will soon be of one mind to meet the foe. The wolves have often made peace between the quarrelling swine. Every man prefers a leader of his own land to a foreigner, and every province is warmer in loyalty to a native than to a stranger king. For Frode will not await thee at home, but will intercept thee abroad as thou comest. Eagles claw each other with their talons, and fowls fight fronting. Thou thyself knowest that the keen sight of the wise man must leave no cause for repentance. Thou hast an ample guard of nobles. Keep thou quiet as thou art; indeed thou wilt almost be able to find out by means of others what are thy resources for war. Let the soldiers first try the fortunes of their king. Provide in peace for thine own safety, and risk others if thou dost undertake the enterprise: better that the slave should perish than the master. Let thy servant do for thee what the tongs do for the smith, who by the aid of his iron tool guards his hand from scorching, and saves his fingers from burning. Learn thou also, by using thy men, to spare and take thought for thyself."
So spake Erik, and Gotar, who had hitherto held him a man of no parts, now marvelled that he had graced his answer with sentences so choice and weighty, and gave him the name of Shrewd-spoken, thinking that his admirable wisdom deserved some title. For the young man's reputation had been kept in the shade by the exceeding brilliancy of his brother Roller. Erik begged that some substantial gift should be added to the name, declaring that the bestowal of the title ought to be graced by a present besides. The king gave him a ship, and the oarsmen called it "Skroter." Now Erik and Roller were the sons of Ragnar, the champion, and children of one father by different mothers; Roller's mother and Erik's stepmother was named Kraka.
And so, by leave of Gotar, the task of making a raid on the Danes fell to one Hrafn. He was encountered by Odd, who had at that time the greatest prestige among the Danes as a rover, for he was such a skilled magician that he could range over the sea without a ship, and could often raise tempests by his spells, and wreck the vessels of the enemy. Accordingly, that he might not have to condescend to pit his sea-forces against the rovers, he used to ruffle the waters by enchantment, and cause them to shipwreck his foes. To traders this man was ruthless, but to tillers of the soil he was merciful, for he thought less of merchandise than of the plough-handle, but rated the clean business of the country higher than the toil for filthy lucre. When he began to fight with the Northmen he so dulled the sight of the enemy by the power of his spells that they thought the drawn swords of the Danes cast their beams from afar off, and sparkled as if aflame. Moreover, their vision was so blunted that they could not so much as look upon the sword when it was drawn from the sheath: the dazzle was too much for their eyesight, which could not endure the glittering mirage. So Hrafn and many of his men were slain, and only six vessels slipped back to Norway to teach the king that it was not so easy to crush the Danes. The survivors also spread the news that Frode trusted only in the help of his champions, and reigned against the will of his people, for his rule had become a tyranny.
In order to examine this rumour, Roller, who was a great traveller abroad, and eager to visit unknown parts, made a vow that he would get into the company of Frode. But Erik declared that, splendid as were his bodily parts, he had been rash in pronouncing the vow. At last, seeing him persisting stubbornly in his purpose, Erik bound himself under a similar vow; and the king promised them that he would give them for companions whomsoever they approved by their choice. The brethren, therefore, first resolved to visit their father and beg for the stores and the necessaries that were wanted for so long a journey. He welcomed them paternally, and on the morrow took them to the forest to inspect the herd, for the old man was wealthy in cattle. Also he revealed to them treasures which had long lain hid in caverns of the earth; and they were suffered to gather up whatsoever of these they would. The boon was accepted as heartily as it was offered: so they took the riches out of the ground, and bore away what pleased them.
Their rowers meanwhile were either refreshing themselves or exercising their skill with casting weights. Some sped leaping, some running; others tried their strength by sturdily hurling stones; others tested their archery by drawing the bow. Thus they essayed to strengthen themselves with divers exercises. Some again tried to drink themselves into a drowse. Roller was sent by his father to find out what had passed at home in the meanwhile. And when he saw smoke coming from his mother's hut he went up outside, and, stealthily applying his eye, saw through the little chink and into the house, where he perceived his mother stirring a cooked mess in an ugly-looking pot. Also he looked up at three snakes hanging from above by a thin cord, from whose mouths flowed a slaver which dribbled drops of moisture on the meal. Now two of these were pitchy of hue, while the third seemed to have whitish scales, and was hung somewhat higher than the others. This last had a fastening on its tail, while the others were held by a cord round their bellies. Roller thought the affair looked like magic, but was silent on what he had seen, that he might not be thought to charge his mother with sorcery. For he did not know that the snakes were naturally harmless, or how much strength was being brewed for that meal. Then Ragnar and Erik came up, and, when they saw the smoke issuing from the cottage, entered and went to sit at meat. When they were at table, and Kraka's son and stepson were about to eat together, she put before them a small dish containing a piebald mess, part looking pitchy, but spotted with specks of yellow, while part was whitish: the pottage having taken a different hue answering to the different appearance of the snakes. And when each had tasted a single morsel, Erik, judging the feast not by the colours but by the inward strengthening effected, turned the dish around very quickly, and transferred to himself the part which was black but compounded of stronger juices; and, putting over to Roller the whitish part which had first been set before himself, throve more on his supper. And, to avoid showing that the exchange was made on purpose, he said, "Thus does prow become stern when the sea boils up." The man had no little shrewdness, thus to use the ways of a ship to dissemble his cunning act.
So Erik, now refreshed by this lucky meal, attained by its inward working to the highest pitch of human wisdom. For the potency of the meal bred in him the fulness of all kinds of knowledge to an incredible degree, so that he had cunning to interpret even the utterances of wild beasts and cattle. For he was not only well versed in all the affairs of men, but he could interpret the particular feelings which brutes experienced from the sounds which expressed them. He was also gifted with an eloquence so courteous and graceful, that he adorned whatsoever he desired to expound with a flow of witty adages. But when Kraka came up, and found that the dish had been turned round, and that Erik had eaten the stronger share of the meal, she lamented that the good luck she had bred for her son should have passed to her stepson. Soon she began to sigh, and entreat Eric that he should never fail to help his brother, whose mother had heaped on him fortune so rich and strange: for by tasting a single savoury meal he had clearly attained sovereign wit and eloquence, besides the promise of success in combat. She added also, that Roller was almost as capable of good counsel, and that he should not utterly miss the dainty that had been intended for him. She also told him that in case of extreme and violent need, he could find speedy help by calling on her name; declaring that she trusted partially in her divine attributes, and that, consorting as she did in a manner with the gods, she wielded an innate and heavenly power. Erik said that he was naturally drawn to stand by his brother, and that the bird was infamous which fouled its own nest. But Kraka was more vexed by her own carelessness than weighed down by her son's ill-fortune: for in old time it made a craftsman bitterly ashamed to be outwitted by his own cleverness.
Then Kraka, accompanied by her husband, took away the brothers on their journey to the sea. They embarked in a single ship, but soon attached two others. They had already reached the coast of Denmark, when, reconnoitering, they learned that seven ships had come up at no great distance. Then Erik bade two men who could speak the Danish tongue well, to go to them unclothed, and, in order to spy better, to complain to Odd of their nakedness, as if Erik had caused it, and to report when they had made careful scrutiny. These men were received as friends by Odd, and hunted for every plan of the general with their sharp ears. He had determined to attack the enemy unawares at daybreak, that he might massacre them the more speedily while they were swathed in their night garments: for he said that men's bodies were wont to be most dull and heavy at that hour of dawn. He also told them, thereby hastening what was to prove his own destruction, that his ships were laden with stones fit for throwing. The spies slipped off in the first sleep of the night, reported that Odd had filled all his vessels with pebbles, and also told everything else they had heard. Erik now quite understood the case, and, when he considered the smallness of his own fleet, thought that he must call the waters to destroy the enemy, and win their aid for himself.
So he got into a boat and rowed, pulling silently, close up to the keels of the enemy; and gradually, by screwing in an auger, he bored the planks (a device practiced by Hadding and also by Frode), nearest to the water, and soon made good his return, the oar-beat being scarce audible. Now he bore himself so warily, that not one of the watchers noted his approach or departure. As he rowed off, the water got in through the chinks of Odd's vessels, and sank them, so that they were seen disappearing in the deep, as the water flooded them more and more within. The weight of the stones inside helped them mightily to sink. The billows were washing away the thwarts, and the sea was flush with the decks, when Odd, seeing the vessels almost on a level with the waves, ordered the heavy seas that had been shipped to be baled out with pitchers. And so, while the crews were toiling on to protect the sinking parts of the vessels from the flood of waters, the enemy hove close up. Thus, as they fell to their arms, the flood came upon them harder, and as they prepared to fight, they found they must swim for it. Waves, not weapons, fought for Erik, and the sea, which he had himself Enabled to approach and do harm, battled for him. Thus Erik made better use of the billow than of the steel, and by the effectual aid of the waters seemed to fight in his own absence, the ocean lending him defence. The victory was given to his craft; for a flooded ship could not endure a battle. Thus was Odd slain with all his crew; the look-outs were captured, and it was found that no man escaped to tell the tale of the disaster.
Erik, when the massacre was accomplished, made a rapid retreat, and put in at the isle Lesso. Finding nothing there to appease his hunger, he sent the spoil homeward on two ships, which were to bring back supplies for another year. He tried to go by himself to the king in a single ship. So he put in to Zealand, and the sailors ran about over the shore, and began to cut down the cattle: for they must either ease their hunger or perish of famine. So they killed the herd, skinned the carcases, and cast them on board. When the owners of the cattle found this out, they hastily pursued the free-booters with a fleet. And when Erik found that he was being attacked by the owners of the cattle, he took care that the carcases of the slaughtered cows should be tied with marked ropes and hidden under water. Then, when the Zealanders came up, he gave them leave to look about and see if any of the carcases they were seeking were in his hands; saying that a ship's corners were too narrow to hide things. Unable to find a carcase anywhere, they turned their suspicions on others, and thought the real criminals were guiltless of the plunder. Since no traces of free-booting were to be seen, they fancied that others had injured them, and pardoned the culprits. As they sailed off, Erik lifted the carcase out of the water and took it in.
Meantime Frode learnt that Odd and his men had gone down. For a widespread rumour of the massacre had got wind, though the author of the deed was unknown. There were men, however, who told how they had seen three sails putting in to shore, and departing again northwards. Then Erik went to the harbour, not far from which Frode was tarrying, and, the moment that he stepped out of the ship, tripped inadvertently, and came tumbling to the ground. He found in the slip a presage of a lucky issue, and forecast better results from this mean beginning. When Grep heard of his coming, he hastened down to the sea, intending to assail with chosen and pointed phrases the man whom he had heard was better- spoken than all other folk. Grep's eloquence was not so much excellent as impudent, for he surpassed all in stubbornness of speech. So he began the dispute with reviling, and assailed Erik as follows:
Grep: "Fool, who art thou? What idle quest is thine? Tell me, whence or whither dost thou journey? What is thy road? What thy desire? Who thy father? What thy lineage? Those have strength beyond others who have never left their own homes, and the Luck of kings is their houseluck. For the things of a vile man are acceptable unto few, and seldom are the deeds of the hated pleasing."
Erik: "Ragnar is my father; eloquence clothes my tongue; I have ever loved virtue only. Wisdom hath been my one desire; I have travelled many ways over the world, and seen the different manners of men. The mind of the fool can keep no bounds in aught: it is base and cannot control its feelings. The use of sails is better than being drawn by the oar; the gale troubles the waters, a drearier gust the land. For rowing goes through the seas and lying the lands; and it is certain that the lands are ruled with the lips, but the seas with the hand."
Grep: "Thou art thought to be as full of quibbling as a cock of dirt. Thou stinkest heavy with filth, and reekest of nought but sin. There is no need to lengthen the plea against a buffoon, whose strength is in an empty and voluble tongue."
Erik: "By Hercules, if I mistake not, the coward word is wont to come back to the utterer. The gods with righteous endeavour bring home to the speaker words cast forth without knowledge. As soon as we espy the sinister ears of the wolf, we believe that the wolf himself is near. Men think no credit due to him that hath no credit, whom report accuses of treachery."
Grep: "Shameless boy, owl astray from the path, night-owl in the darkness, thou shalt pay for thy reckless words. Thou shalt be sorry for the words thou now belchest forth madly, and shalt pay with thy death for thy unhallowed speech. Lifeless thou shalt pasture crows on thy bloodless corpse, to be a morsel for beasts, a prey to the ravenous bird."
Erik: "The boding of the coward, and the will that is trained to evil, have never kept themselves within due measure. He who betrays his lord, he who conceives foul devices, will be as great a snare to himself as to his friends. Whoso fosters a wolf in his house is thought to feed a thief and a pest for his own hearth."
Grep: "I did not, as thou thinkest, beguile the queen, but I was the guardian of her tender estate. She increased my fortunes, and her favour first brought me gifts and strength, and wealth and counsel."
Erik: "Lo, thy guilty disquiet lies heavy on thee; that man's freedom is safest whose mind remains untainted. Whoso asks a slave to be a friend, is deceived; often the henchman hurts his master."
At this Grep, shorn of his glibness of rejoinder, set spurs to his horse and rode away. Now when he reached home, he filled the palace with uproarious and vehement clamour; and shouting that he had been worsted in words, roused all his soldiers to fight, as though he would avenge by main force his luckless warfare of tongues. For he swore that he would lay the host of the foreigners under the claws of eagles. But the king warned him that he should give his frenzy pause for counsel, that blind plans were commonly hurtful; that nothing could be done both cautiously and quickly at once; that headstrong efforts were the worst obstacle; and lastly, that it was unseemly to attack a handful with a host. Also, said he, the sagacious man was he who could bridle a raging spirit, and stop his frantic empetuosity in time. Thus the king forced the headlong rage of the young man to yield to reflection. But he could not wholly recall to self- control the frenzy of his heated mind, or prevent the champion of wrangles, abashed by his hapless debate, and finding armed vengeance refused him, from asking leave at least to try his sorceries by way of revenge. He gained his request, and prepared to go back to the shore with a chosen troop of wizards. So he first put on a pole the severed head of a horse that had been sacrificed to the gods, and setting sticks beneath displayed the jaws grinning agape; hoping that he would foil the first efforts of Erik by the horror of this wild spectacle. For he supposed that the silly souls of the barbarians would give away at the bogey of a protruding neck.
Erik was already on his road to meet them, and saw the head from afar off, and, understanding the whole foul contrivance, he bade his men keep silent and behave warily; no man was to be rash or hasty of speech, lest by some careless outburst they might give some opening to the sorceries; adding that if talking happened to he needed, he would speak for all. And they were now parted by a river; when the wizards, in order to dislodge Erik from the approach to the bridge, set up close to the river, on their own side, the pole on which they had fixed the horse's head. Nevertheless Erik made dauntlessly for the bridge, and said: "On the bearer fall the ill-luck of what he bears! May a better issue attend our steps! Evil befall the evil-workers! Let the weight of the ominous burden crush the carrier! Let the better auguries bring us safety!" And it happened according to his prayer. For straightway the head was shaken off, the stick fell and crushed the bearer. And so all that array of sorceries was baffled at the bidding of a single curse, and extinguished.
Then, as Erik advanced a little, it came into his mind that strangers ought to fix on gifts for the king. So he carefully wrapped up in his robe a piece of ice which he happened to find, and managed to take it to the king by way of a present. But when they reached the palace he sought entrance first, and bade his brother follow close behind. Already the slaves of the king, in order to receive him with mockery as he entered, had laid a slippery hide on the threshold; and when Erik stepped upon it, they suddenly jerked it away by dragging a rope, and would have tripped him as he stood upon it, had not Roller, following behind, caught his brother on his breast as he tottered. So Erik, having half fallen, said that "bare was the back of the brotherless." And when Gunwar said that such a trick ought not to be permitted by a king, the king condemned the folly of the messenger who took no heed against treachery. And thus he excused his flout by the heedlessness of the man he flouted.
Within the palace was blazing a fire, which the aspect of the season required: for it was now gone midwinter. By it, in different groups, sat the king on one side and the champions on the other. These latter, when Erik joined them, uttered gruesome sounds like things howling. The king stopped the clamour, telling them that the noises of wild beasts ought not to be in the breasts of men. Erik added, that it was the way of dogs, for all the others to set up barking when one started it; for all folk by their bearing betrayed their birth and revealed their race. But when Koll, who was the keeper of the gifts offered to the king, asked him whether he had brought any presents with him, he produced the ice which he had hidden in his breast. And when he had handed it to Koll across the hearth, he purposely let it go into the fire, as though it had slipped from the hand of the receiver. All present saw the shining fragment, and it seemed as though molten metal had fallen into the fire. Erik, maintaining that it had been jerked away by the carelessness of him who took it, asked what punishment was due to the loser of the gift.
The king consulted the opinion of the queen, who advised him not to relax the statute of the law which he had passed, whereby he gave warning that all who lost presents that were transmitted to him should be punished with death. Everyone else also said that the penalty by law appointed ought not to be remitted. And so the king, being counselled to allow the punishment as inevitable, gave leave for Koll to be hanged.
Then Frode began to accost Erik thus: "O thou, wantoning in insolent phrase, in boastful and bedizened speech, whence dost thou say that thou hast come hither, and why?"
Erik answered: "I came from Rennes Isle, and I took my seat by a stone."
Frode rejoined: "I ask, whither thou wentest next?"
Erik answered. "I went off from the stone riding on a beam, and often again took station by a stone."
Frode replied: "I ask thee whither thou next didst bend thy course, or where the evening found thee?"
Then said Erik: "Leaving a crag, I came to a rock, and likewise lay by a stone."
Frode said: "The boulders lay thick in those parts."
Erik answered: "Yet thicker lies the sand, plain to see."
Frode said: "Tell what thy business was, and whither thou struckest off thence."
Then said Erik: "Leaving the rock, as my ship ran on, I found a dolphin."
Frode said: "Now thou hast said something fresh, though both these things are common in the sea: but I would know what path took thee after that?"
Erik answered: "After a dolphin I went to a dolphin."
Frode said: "The herd of dolphins is somewhat common."
Then said Erik: "It does swim somewhat commonly on the waters."
Frode said: "I would fain blow whither thou wert borne on thy toilsome journey after leaving the dolphins?"
Erik answered: "I soon came upon the trunk of a tree."
Frode rejoined: "Whither didst thou next pass on thy journey?"
Then said Erik: "From a trunk I passed on to a log."
Frode said: "That spot must he thick with trees, since thou art always calling the abodes of thy hosts by the name of trunks."
Erik replied: "There is a thicker place in the woods."
Frode went on: "Relate whither thou next didst bear thy steps."
Erik answered: "Oft again I made my way to the lopped timbers of the woods; but, as I rested there, wolves that were sated on human carcases licked the points of the spears. There a lance- head was shaken from the shaft of the king, and it was the grandson of Fridleif."
Frode said: "I am bewildered, and know not what to think about the dispute: for thou hast beguiled my mind with very dark riddling."
Erik answered: "Thou owest me the prize for this contest that is finished: for under a veil I have declared to thee certain things thou hast ill understood. For under the name I gave before of `spear-point' I signified Odd, whom my hand had slain."
And when the queen also had awarded him the palm of eloquence and the prize for flow of speech, the king straightway took a bracelet from his arm, and gave it to him as the appointed reward, adding: "I would fain learn from thyself thy debate with Grep, wherein he was not ashamed openly to avow himself vanquished."
Then said Erik: "He was smitten with shame for the adultery wherewith he was taxed; for since he could bring no defence, he confessed that he had committed it with thy wife."
The king turned to Hanund and asked her in what spirit she received the charge; and she not only confessed her guilt by a cry, but also put forth in her face a blushing signal of her sin, and gave manifest token of her fault. The king, observing not only her words, but also the signs of her countenance, but doubting with what sentence he should punish the criminal, let the queen settle by her own choice the punishment which her crime deserved. When she learnt that the sentence committed to her concerned her own guilt, she wavered awhile as she pondered how to appraise her transgression; but Grep sprang up and ran forward to transfix Erik with a spear, wishing to buy off his own death by slaying the accuser. But Roller fell on him with drawn sword, and dealt him first the doom he had himself purposed.
Erik said: "The service of kin is best for the helpless."
And Roller said: "In sore needs good men should be dutifully summoned."
Then Frode said: "I think it will happen to you according to the common saying, `that the striker sometimes has short joy of his stroke', and `that the hand is seldom long glad of the smiting'."
Erik answered: "The man must not be impeached whose deed justice excuses. For my work is as far as from that of Grep, as an act of self-defence is from an attack upon another."
Then the brethren of Grep began to spring up and clamour and swear that they would either bring avengers upon the whole fleet of Erik, or would fight him and ten champions with him.
Erik said to them: "Sick men have to devise by craft some provision for their journey. He whose sword-point is dull should only probe things that are soft and tender. He who has a blunt knife must search out the ways to cut joint by joint. Since, therefore, it is best for a man in distress to delay the evil, and nothing is more fortunate in trouble than to stave off hard necessity, I ask three days' space to get ready, provided that I may obtain from the king the skill of a freshly slain ox."
Frode answered: "He who fell on a hide deserves a hide"; thus openly taunting the asker with his previous fall. But Erik, when the hide was given him, made some sandals, which he smeared with a mixture of tar and sand, in order to plant his steps the more firmly, and fitted them on to the feet of himself and his people. At last, having meditated what spot he should choose for the fight -- for he said that he was unskilled in combat by land and in all warfare -- he demanded it should be on the frozen sea. To this both sides agreed. The king granted a truce for preparations, and bade the sons of Westmar withdraw, saying that it was amiss that a guest, even if he had deserved ill should be driven from his lodging. Then he went back to examine into the manner of the punishment, which he had left to the queen's own choice to exact. For she forebore to give judgment, and begged pardon for her slip. Erik added, that woman's errors must often be forgiven, and that punishment ought not to be inflicted, unless amendment were unable to get rid of her fault. So the king pardoned Hanund. As twilight drew near, Erik said: "With Gotar, not only are rooms provided when the soldiers are coming to feast at the banquet, but each is appointed a separate place and seat where he is to lie." Then the king gave up for their occupation the places where his own champions had sat; and next the servants brought the banquet. But Erik, knowing well the courtesy of the king, which made him forbid them to use up any of the meal that was left, cast away the piece of which he had tasted very little, calling whole portions broken bits of food. And so, as the dishes dwindled, the servants brought up fresh ones to the lacking and shamefaced guests, thus spending on a little supper what might have served for a great banquet.
So the king said: "Are the soldiers of Gotar wont to squander the meat after once touching it, as if it were so many pared-off crusts? And to spurn the first dishes as if they were the last morsels?"
Erik said: "Uncouthness claims no place in the manners of Gotar, neither does any disorderly habit feign there."
But Frode said: "Then thy manners are not those of thy lord, and thou hast proved that thou hast not taken all wisdom to heart. For he who goes against the example of his elders shows himself a deserter and a renegade."
Then said Erik: "The wise man must be taught by the wiser. For knowledge grows by learning, and instruction is advanced by doctrine."
Frode rejoined: "This affectation of thine of superfluous words, what exemplary lesson will it teach me?"
Erik said: "A loyal few are a safer defence for a king than many traitors."
Frode said to him: "Wilt thou then show us closer allegiance than the rest?"
Erik answered: "No man ties the unborn (horse) to the crib, or the unbegotten to the stall. For thou hast not yet experienced all things. Besides, with Gotar there is always a mixture of drinking with feasting; liquor, over and above, and as well as meat, is the joy of the reveller."
Frode said: "Never have I found a more shameless beggar of meat and drink."
Erik replied: "Few reckon the need of the silent, or measure the wants of him who holds his peace."
Then the king bade his sister bring forth the drink in a great goblet. Erik caught hold of her right hand and of the goblet she offered at the same time, and said: "Noblest of kings, hath thy benignity granted me this present? Dost thou assure me that what I hold shall be mine as an irrevocable gift?"
The king, thinking that he was only asking for the cup, declared it was a gift. But Erik drew the maiden to him, as if she was given with the cup. When the king saw it, he said: "A fool is shown by his deed; with us freedom of maidens is ever held inviolate."
Then Erik, feigning that he would cut off the girl's hand with his sword, as though it had been granted under the name of the cup, said: "If I have taken more than thou gavest, or if I am rash to keep the whole, let me at least get some." The king saw his mistake in his promise, and gave him the maiden, being loth to undo his heedlessness by fickleness, and that the weight of his pledge might seem the greater; though it is held an act more of ripe judgment than of unsteadfastness to take back a foolish promise.
Then, taking from Erik security that he would return, he sent him to the ships; for the time appointed for the battle was at hand. Erik and his men went on to the sea, then covered near with ice; and, thanks to the stability of their sandals, felled the enemy, whose footing was slippery and unsteady. For Frode had decreed that no man should help either side if it wavered or were distressed. Then he went back in triumph to the king. So Gotwar, sorrowing at the destruction of her children who had miserably perished, and eager to avenge them, announced that it would please her to have a flyting with Erik, on condition that she should gage a heavy necklace and he his life; so that if he conquered he should win gold, but if he gave in, death. Erik agreed to the contest, and the gage was deposited with Gunwar. So Gotwar began thus:"Quando tuam limas admissa cote bipennem, Nonne terit tremulas mentula quassa nates?"Erik rejoined:"Ut cuivis natura pilos in corpore sevit, Omnis nempe suo barba ferenda loco est. Re Veneris homines artus agitare necesse est; Motus quippe suos nam labor omnis habet. Cum natis excipitur nate, vel cum subdita penem Vulva capit, quid ad haec addere mas renuit?"Powerless to answer this, Gotwar had to give the gold to the man whom she had meant to kill, and thus wasted a lordly gift instead of punishing the slayer of her son. For her ill fate was crowned, instead of her ill-will being avenged. First bereaved, and then silenced by furious words, she lost at once her wealth and all reward of her eloquence. She made the man blest who had taken away her children, and enriched her bereaver with a present: and took away nothing to make up the slaughter of her sons save the reproach of ignorance and the loss of goods. Westmar, when he saw this, determined to attack the man by force, since he was the stronger of tongue, and laid down the condition that the reward of the conqueror should be the death of the conquered, so that the life of both parties was plainly at stake. Erik, unwilling to be thought quicker of tongue than of hand, did not refuse the terms.
Now the manner of combat was as follows. A ring, plaited of withy or rope, used to be offered to the combatants for them to drag away by wrenching it with a great effort of foot and hand; and the prize went to the stronger, for if either of the combatants could wrench it from the other, he was awarded the victory. Erik struggled in this manner, and, grasping the rope sharply, wrested it out of the hands of his opponent. When Erode saw this, he said: "I think it is hard to tug at a rope with a strong man."
And Erik said: "Hard, at any rate, when a tumour is in the body or a hunch sits on the back."
And straightway, thrusting his foot forth, he broke the infirm neck and back of the old man, and crushed him. And so Westmar failed to compass his revenge: zealous to retaliate, he fell into the portion of those who need revenging; being smitten down even as those whose slaughter he had desired to punish.
Now Frode intended to pierce Erik by throwing a dagger at him. But Gunwar knew her brother's purpose, and said, in order to warn her betrothed of his peril, that no man could be wise who took no forethought for himself. This speech warned Erik to ward off the treachery, and he shrewdly understood the counsel of caution. For at once he sprang up and said that the glory of the wise man would be victorious, but that guile was its own punishment; thus censuring his treacherous intent in very gentle terms. But the king suddenly flung his knife at him, yet was too late to hit him; for he sprang aside, and the steel missed its mark and ran into the wall opposite. Then said Erik: "Gifts should be handed to friends, and not thrown; thou hadst made the present acceptable if thou hadst given the sheath to keep the blade company."
On this request the king at once took the sheath from his girdle and gave it to him, being forced to abate his hatred by the self- control of his foe. Thus he was mollified by the prudent feigning of the other, and with goodwill gave him for his own the weapon which he had cast with ill will. And thus Erik, by taking the wrong done him in a dissembling manner, turned it into a favour, accepting as a splendid gift the steel which had been meant to slay him. For he put a generous complexion on what Frode had done with intent to harm. Then they gave themselves up to rest. In the night Gunwar awoke Erik silently, and pointed out to him that they ought to fly, saying that it was very expedient to return with safe chariot ere harm was done. He went with her to the shore, where he happened to find the king's fleet beached: so, cutting away part of the sides, he made it unseaworthy, and by again replacing some laths he patched it so that the damage might be unnoticed by those who looked at it. Then he caused the vessel whither he and his company had retired to put off a little from the shore.
The king prepared to give them chase with his mutilated ships, but soon the waves broke through; and though he was very heavily laden with his armour, he began to swim off among the rest, having become more anxious to save his own life than to attack that of others. The bows plunged over into the sea, the tide flooded in and swept the rowers from their seats. When Erik and Roller saw this they instantly flung themselves into the deep water, spurning danger, and by swimming picked up the king, who was tossing about. Thrice the waves had poured over him and borne him down when Erik caught him by the hair, and lifted him out of the sea. The remaining crowd of the wrecked either sank in the waters, or got with trouble to the land. The king was stripped of his dripping attire and swathed round with dry garments, and the water poured in floods from his chest as he kept belching it; his voice also seemed to fail under the exhaustion of continual pantings. At last heat was restored to his limbs, which were numbed with cold, and his breathing became quicker. He had not fully got back his strength, and could sit but not rise. Gradually his native force returned. But when he was asked at last whether he sued for life and grace, he put his hand to his eyes, and strove to lift up their downcast gaze. But as, little by little, power came back to his body, and as his voice became more assured, he said:
"By this light, which I am loth to look on, by this heaven which I behold and drink in with little joy, I beseech and conjure you not to persuade me to use either any more. I wished to die; ye have saved me in vain. I was not allowed to perish in the waters; at least I will die by the sword. I was unconquered before; thine, Erik, was the first wit to which I yielded: I was all the more unhappy, because I had never been beaten by men of note, and now I let a low-born man defeat me. This is great cause for a king to be ashamed. This is a good and sufficient reason for a general to die; it is right that he should care for nothing so much as glory. If he want that, then take it that he lacks all else. For nothing about a king is more on men's lips than his repute. I was credited with the height of understanding and eloquence. But I have been stripped of both the things wherein I was thought to excel, and am all the more miserable because I, the conqueror of kings, am seen conquered by a peasant. Why grant life to him whom thou hast robbed of honour? I have lost sister, realm, treasure, household gear, and, what is greater than them all, renown: I am luckless in all chances, and in all thy good fortune is confessed. Why am I to be kept to live on for all this ignominy? What freedom can be so happy for me that it can wipe out all the shame of captivity? What will all the following time bring for me? It can beget nothing but long remorse in my mind, and will savour only of past woes. What will prolonging of life avail, if it only brings back the memory of sorrow? To the stricken nought is pleasanter than death, and that decease is happy which comes at a man's wish, for it cuts not short any sweetness of his days, but annihilates his disgust at all things. Life in prosperity, but death in adversity, is best to seek. No hope of better things tempts me to long for life. What hap can quite repair my shattered fortunes? And by now, had ye not rescued me in my peril, I should have forgotten even these. What though thou shouldst give me back my realm, restore my sister, and renew my treasure? Thou canst never repair my renown. Nothing that is patched up can have the lustre of the unimpaired, and rumour will recount for ages that Frode was taken captive. Moreover, if ye reckon the calamities I have inflicted on you, I have deserved to die at your hands; if ye recall the harms I have done, ye will repent your kindness. Ye will be ashamed of having aided a foe, if ye consider how savagely he treated you. Why do ye spare the guilty? Why do ye stay your hand from the throat of your persecutor? It is fitting that the lot which I had prepared for you should come home to myself. I own that if I had happened to have you in my power as ye now have me, I should have paid no heed to compassion. But if I am innocent before you in act, I am guilty at least in will. I pray you, let my wrongful intention, which sometimes is counted to stand for the deed, recoil upon me. If ye refuse me death by the sword I will take care to kill myself with my own hand."
Erik rejoined thus: "I pray that the gods may turn thee from the folly of thy purpose; turn thee, I say, that thou mayst not try to end a most glorious life abominably. Why, surely the gods themselves have forbidden that a man who is kind to others should commit unnatural self-murder. Fortune has tried thee to find out with what spirit thou wouldst meet adversity. Destiny has proved thee, not brought thee low. No sorrow has been inflicted on thee which a happier lot cannot efface. Thy prosperity has not been changed; only a warning has been given thee. No man behaves with self-control in prosperity who has not learnt to endure adversity. Besides, the whole use of blessings is reaped after misfortunes have been graciously acknowledged. Sweeter is the joy which follows on the bitterness of fate. Wilt thou shun thy life because thou hast once had a drenching, and the waters closed over thee? But if the waters can crush thy spirit, when wilt thou with calm courage bear the sword? Who would not reckon swimming away in his armour more to his glory than to his shame? How many men would think themselves happy were they unhappy with thy fortune? The sovereignty is still thine; thy courage is in its prime; thy years are ripening; thou canst hope to compass more than thou hast yet achieved. I would not find thee fickle enough to wish, not only to shun hardships, but also to fling away thy life, because thou couldst not bear them. None is so unmanly as he who from fear of adversity loses heart to live. No wise man makes up for his calamities by dying. Wrath against another is foolish, but against a man's self it is foolhardy; and it is a coward frenzy which dooms its owner. But if thou go without need to thy death for some wrong suffered, or for some petty perturbation of spirit, whom dost thou leave behind to avenge thee? Who is so mad that he would wish to punish the fickleness of fortune by destroying himself? What man has lived so prosperously but that ill fate has sometimes stricken him? Hast thou enjoyed felicity unbroken and passed thy days without a shock, and now, upon a slight cloud of sadness, dost thou prepare to quit thy life, only to save thy anguish? If thou bear trifles so ill, how shalt thou endure the heavier frowns of fortune? Callow is the man who has never tasted of the cup of sorrow; and no man who has not suffered hardships is temperate in enjoying ease. Wilt thou, who shouldst have been a pillar of courage, show a sign of a palsied spirit? Born of a brave sire, wilt thou display utter impotence? Wilt thou fall so far from thy ancestors as to turn softer than women? Hast thou not yet begun thy prime, and art thou already taken with weariness of life? Whoever set such an example before? Shall the grandson of a famous man, and the child of the unvanquished, be too weak to endure a slight gust of adversity? Thy nature portrays the courage of thy sires; none has conquered thee, only thine own heedlessness has hurt thee. We snatched thee from peril, we did not subdue thee; wilt thou give us hatred for love, and set our friendship down as wrongdoing? Our service should have appeased thee, and not troubled thee. May the gods never desire thee to go so far in frenzy, as to persist in branding thy preserver as a traitor! Shall we be guilty before thee in a matter wherein we do thee good? Shall we draw anger on us for our service? Wilt thou account him thy foe whom thou hast to thank for thy life? For thou wert not free when we took thee, but in distress, and we came in time to help thee. And, behold, I restore thy treasure, thy wealth, thy goods. If thou thinkest thy sister was betrothed to me over-hastily, let her marry the man whom thou commandest; for her chastity remains inviolate. Moreover, if thou wilt accept me, I wish to fight for thee. Beware lest thou wrongfully steel thy mind in anger. No loss of power has shattered thee, none of thy freedom has been forfeited. Thou shalt see that I am obeying, not commanding thee. I agree to any sentence thou mayst pronounce against my life. Be assured that thou art as strong here as-in thy palace; thou hast the same power to rule here as in thy court. Enact concerning us here whatsoever would have been thy will in the palace: we are ready to obey." Thus much said Erik.
Now this speech softened the king towards himself as much as towards his foe. Then, everything being arranged and made friendly, they returned to the shore. The king ordered that Erik and his sailors should be taken in carriages. But when they reached the palace he had an assembly summoned, to which he called Erik, and under the pledge of betrothal gave him his sister and command over a hundred men. Then he added that the queen would be a weariness to him, and that the daughter of Gotar had taken his liking. He must, therefore, have a fresh embassy, and the business could best be done by Erik, for whose efforts nothing seemed too hard. He also said that he would stone Gotwar to death for her complicity in concealing the crime; but Hanund he would restore to her father, that he might not have a traitress against his life dwelling amongst the Danes. Erik approved his plans, and promised his help to carry out his bidding; except that he declared that it would be better to marry the queen, when she had been put away, to Roller, of whom his sovereignty need have no fears. This opinion Frode received reverentially, as though it were some lesson vouchsafed from above. The queen also, that she might not seem to be driven by compulsion, complied, as women will, and declared that there was no natural necessity to grieve, and that all distress of spirit was a creature of fancy: and, moreover, that one ought not to bewail the punishment that befell one's deserts. And so the brethren celebrated their marriages together, one wedding the sister of the king, and the other his divorced queen.
Then they sailed back to Norway, taking their wives with them. For the women could not be torn from the side of their husbands, either by distance of journey or by dread of peril, but declared that they would stick to their lords like a feather to something shaggy. They found that Ragnar was dead, and that Kraka had already married one Brak. Then they remembered the father's treasure, dug up the money, and bore it off. But Erik's fame had gone before him, and Gotar had learnt all his good fortune. Now when Gotar learnt that he had come himself, he feared that his immense self-confidence would lead him to plan the worst against the Norwegians, and was anxious to take his wife from him and marry him to his own daughter in her place: for his queen had just died, and he was anxious to marry the sister of Frode more than anyone. Erik, when he learnt of his purpose, called his men together, and told them that his fortune had not yet got off from the reefs. Also he said that he saw, that as a bundle that was not tied by a band fell to pieces, so likewise the heaviest punishment that was not constrained on a man by his own fault suddenly collapsed. They had experienced this of late with Frode; for they saw how at the hardest pass their innocence had been protected by the help of the gods; and if they continued to preserve it they should hope for like aid in their adversity. Next, they must pretend flight for a little while, if they were attacked by Gotar, for so they would have a juster plea for fighting. For they had every right to thrust out the hand in order to shield the head from peril. Seldom could a man carry to a successful end a battle he had begun against the innocent; so, to give them a better plea for assaulting the enemy, he must be provoked to attack them first.
Erik then turned to Gunwar, and asked her, in order to test her fidelity, whether she had any love for Gotar, telling her it was unworthy that a maid of royal lineage should be bound to the bed of a man of the people. Then she began to conjure him earnestly by the power of heaven to tell her whether his purpose was true or reigned? He said that he had spoken seriously, and she cried: "And so thou art prepared to bring on me the worst of shame by leaving me a widow, whom thou lovedst dearly as a maid! Common rumour often speaks false, but I have been wrong in my opinion of thee. I thought I had married a steadfast man; I hoped his loyalty was past question; but now I find him to be more fickle than the winds." Saying this, she wept abundantly.
Go to Book Five: Part II