The Danish History, Books I-IX
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #28a
After the death of Frode, the Danes wrongly supposed that Fridleif, who was being reared in Russia, had perished; and, thinking that the sovereignty halted for lack of an heir, and that it could no longer be kept on in the hands of the royal line, they considered that the sceptre would be best deserved by the man who should affix to the yet fresh grave of Frode a song of praise in his glorification, and commit the renown of the dead king to after ages by a splendid memorial. Then one HIARN, very skilled in writing Danish poetry, wishing to give the fame of the hero some notable record of words, and tempted by the enormous prize, composed, after his own fashion, a barbarous stave. Its purport, expressed in four lines, I have transcribed as follows:
"Frode, whom the Danes would have wished to live long, they bore long through their lands when he was dead. The great chief's body, with this turf heaped above it, bare earth covers under the lucid sky."
When the composer of this song had uttered it, the Danes rewarded him with the crown. Thus they gave a kingdom for an epitaph, and the weight of a whole empire was presented to a little string of letters. Slender expense for so vast a guerdon! This huge payment for a little poem exceeded the glory of Caesar's recompense; for it was enough for the divine Julius to pension with a township the writer and glorifier of those conquests which he had achieved over the whole world. But now the spendthrift kindness of the populace squandered a kingdom on a churl. Nay, not even Africanus, when he rewarded the records of his deed, rose to the munificence of the Danes. For there the wage of that laborious volume was in mere gold, while here a few callow verses won a sceptre for a peasant.
At the same time Erik, who held the governorship of Sweden, died of disease; and his son Halfdan, who governed in his father's stead, alarmed by the many attacks of twelve brothers of Norwegian birth, and powerless to punish their violence, fled, hoping for reinforcements, to ask aid of Fridleif, then sojourning in Russia. Approaching him with a suppliant face, he lamented that he was himself shattered and bruised by a foreign foe, and brought a dismal plaint of his wrongs. From him Fridleif heard the tidings of his father's death, and granting the aid he sought, went to Norway in armed array. At this time the aforesaid brothers, their allies forsaking them, built a very high rampart within an island surrounded by a swift stream, also extending their earthworks along the level. Trusting to this refuge, they harried the neighborhood with continual raids. For they built a bridge on which they used to get to the mainland when they left the island. This bridge was fastened to the gate of the stronghold; and they worked it by the guidance of ropes, in such a way that it turned as if on some revolving hinge, and at one time let them pass across the river; while at another, drawn back from above by unseen cords, it helped to defend the entrance.
These warriors were of valiant temper, young and stalwart, of splendid bodily presence, renowned for victories over giants, full of trophies of conquered nations, and wealthy with spoil. I record the names of some of them -- for the rest have perished in antiquity -- Gerbiorn, Gunbiorn, Arinbiorn, Stenbiorn, Esbiorn, Thorbiorn, and Biorn. Biorn is said to have had a horse which was splendid and of exceeding speed, so that when all the rest were powerless to cross the river it alone stemmed the roaring eddy without weariness. This rapid comes down in so swift and sheer a volume that animals often lose all power of swimming in it, and perish. For, trickling from the topmost crests of the hills, it comes down the steep sides, catches on the rocks, and is shattered, falling into the deep valleys with a manifold clamour of waters; but, being straightway rebuffed by the rocks that bar the way, it keeps the speed of its current ever at the same even pace. And so, along the whole length of the channel, the waves are one turbid mass, and the white foam brims over everywhere. But, after rolling out of the narrows between the rocks, it spreads abroad in a slacker and stiller flood, and turns into an island a rock that lies in its course. On either side of the rock juts out a sheer ridge, thick with divers trees, which screen the river from distant view. Biorn had also a dog of extraordinary fierceness, a terribly vicious brute, dangerous for people to live with, which had often singly destroyed twelve men. But, since the tale is hearsay rather than certainty, let good judges weigh its credit. This dog, as I have heard, was the favourite of the giant Offot (Un-foot), and used to watch his herd amid the pastures.
Now the warriors, who were always pillaging the neighbourhood, used often to commit great slaughters. Plundering houses, cutting down cattle, sacking everything, making great hauls of booty, rifling houses, then burning them, massacring male and female promiscuously -- these, and not honest dealings, were their occupations. Fridleif surprised them while on a reckless raid, and drove them all back for refuge to the stronghold; he also seized the immensely powerful horse, whose rider, in the haste of his panic, had left it on the hither side of the river in order to fly betimes; for he durst not take it with him over the bridge. Then Fridleif proclaimed that he would pay the weight of the dead body in gold to any man who slew one of those brothers. The hope of the prize stimulated some of the champions of the king; and yet they were fired not so much with covetousness as with valour; so, going secretly to Fridleif, they promised to attempt the task, vowing to sacrifice their lives if they did not bring home the severed heads of the robbers. Fridleif praised their valour and their vows, but bidding the onlookers wait, went in the night to the river, satisfied with a single companion. For, not to seem better provided with other men's valour than with his own, he determined to forestall their aid by his own courage. Thereupon he crushed and killed his companion with a shower of flints, and flung his bloodless corpse into the waves, having dressed it in his own clothes; which he stripped off, borrowing the cast-off garb of the other, so that when the corpse was seen it might look as if the king had perished. He further deliberately drew blood from the beast on which he had ridden, and bespattered it, so that when it came back into camp he might make them think he himself was dead. Then he set spur to his horse and drove it into the midst of the eddies, crossed the river and alighted, and tried to climb over the rampart that screened the stronghold by steps set up against the mound. When he got over the top and could grasp the battlements with his hand, he quietly put his foot inside, and, without the knowledge of the watch, went lightly on tiptoe to the house into which the bandits had gone to carouse. And when he had reached its hall, he sat down under the porch overhanging the door. Now the strength of their fastness made the warriors feel so safe that they were tempted to a debauch; for they thought that the swiftly rushing river made their garrison inaccessible, since it seemed impossible either to swim over or to cross in boats. For no part of the river allowed of fording.
Biorn, moved by the revel, said that in his sleep he had seen a beast come out of the waters, which spouted ghastly fire from its mouth, enveloping everything in a sheet of flame. Therefore the holes and corners of the island should, he said, be searched; nor ought they to trust so much to their position, as rashly to let overweening confidence bring them to utter ruin. No situation was so strong that the mere protection of nature was enough for it without human effort. Moreover they must take great care that the warning of his slumbers was not followed by a yet more gloomy and disastrous fulfilment. So they all sallied forth from the stronghold, and narrowly scanned the whole circuit of the island; and finding the horse they surmised that Fridleif had been drowned in the waters of the river. They received the horse within the gates with rejoicing, supposing that it had flung off its rider and swum over. But Biorn, still scared with the memory of the visions of the night, advised them to keep watch, since it was not safe for them yet to put aside suspicion of danger. Then he went to his room to rest, with the memory of his vision deeply stored in his heart.
Meanwhile the horse, which Fridleif, in order to spread a belief in his death, had been loosed and besprinkled with blood (though only with that which lies between flesh and skin), burst all bedabbled into the camp of his soldiers. They went straight to the river, and finding the carcase of the slave, took it for the body of the king; the hissing eddies having cast it on the bank, dressed in brave attire. Nothing helped their mistake so much as the swelling of the battered body; inasmuch as the skin was torn and bruised with the flints, so that all the features were blotted out, bloodless and wan. This exasperated the champions who had just promised Fridleif to see that the robbers were extirpated: and they approached the perilous torrent, that they might not seem to tarnish the honour of their promise by a craven neglect of their vow. The rest imitated their boldness, and with equal ardour went to the river, ready to avenge their king or to endure the worst. When Fridleif saw them he hastened to lower the bridge to the mainland; and when he had got the champions he cut down the watch at the first attack. Thus he went on to attack the rest and put them to the sword, all save Biorn; whom he tended very carefully and cured of his wounds; whereupon, under pledge of solemn oath, he made him his colleague, thinking it better to use his services than to boast of his death. He also declared it would be shameful if such a flower of bravery were plucked in his first youth and perished by an untimely death.
Now the Danes had long ago had false tidings of Fridleif's death, and when they found that he was approaching, they sent men to fetch him, and ordered Hiarn to quit the sovereignty, because he was thought to be holding it only on sufferance and carelessly. But he could not bring himself to resign such an honour, and chose sooner to spend his life for glory than pass into the dim lot of common men. Therefore he resolved to fight for his present estate, that he might not have to resume his former one stripped of his royal honours. Thus the land was estranged and vexed with the hasty commotion of civil strife; some were of Hiarn's party, while others agreed to the claims of Fridleif, because of the vast services of Frode; and the voice of the commons was perplexed and divided, some of them respecting things as they were, others the memory of the past. But regard for the memory of Frode weighed most, and its sweetness gave Fridleif the balance of popularity.
Many wise men thought that a person of peasant rank should be removed from the sovereignty; since, contrary to the rights of birth, and only by the favour of fortune, he had reached an unhoped-for eminence; and in order that the unlawful occupant might not debar the rightful heir to the office, Fridleif told the envoys of the Danes to return, and request Hiarn either to resign the kingdom or to meet him in battle. Hiarn thought it more grievous than death to set lust of life before honour, and to seek safety at the cost of glory. So he met Fridleif in the field, was crushed, and fled into Jutland, where, rallying a band, he again attacked his conqueror. But his men were all consumed with the sword, and he fled unattended, as the island testifies which has taken its name from his (Hiarno). And so, feeling his lowly fortune, and seeing himself almost stripped of his forces by the double defeat, he turned his mind to craft, and went to Fridleif with his face disguised, meaning to become intimate, and find an occasion to slay him treacherously.
Hiarn was received by the king, hiding his purpose under the pretence of servitude. For, giving himself out as a salt- distiller, he performed base offices among the servants who did the filthiest work. He used also to take the last place at meal- time, and he refrained from the baths, lest his multitude of scars should betray him if he stripped. The king, in order to ease his own suspicions, made him wash; and when he knew his enemy by the scars, he said: "Tell me now, thou shameless bandit, how wouldst thou have dealt with me, if thou hadst found out plainly that I wished to murder thee?" Hiarn, stupefied, said: "Had I caught thee I would have first challenged thee, and then fought thee, to give thee a better chance of wiping out thy reproach." Fridleif presently took him at his word, challenged him and slew him, and buried his body in a barrow that bears the dead man's name.
Soon after FRIDLEIF was admonished by his people to think about marrying, that he might prolong his line; but he maintained that the unmarried life was best, quoting his father Frode, on whom his wife's wantonness had brought great dishonour. At last, yielding to the persistent entreaties of all, he proceeded to send ambassadors to ask for the daughter of Amund, King of Norway. One of these, named Frok, was swallowed by the waves in mid-voyage, and showed a strange portent at his death. For when the closing flood of billows encompassed him, blood arose in the midst of the eddy, and the whole face of the sea was steeped with an alien redness, so that the ocean, which a moment before was foaming and white with tempest, was presently swollen with crimson waves, and was seen to wear a colour foreign to its nature.
Around implacably declined to consent to the wishes of the king, and treated the legates shamefully, declaring that he spurned the embassy because the tyranny of Frode had of old borne so heavily upon Norway. But Amund's daughter, Frogertha, not only looking to the birth of Fridleif, but also honouring the glory of his deeds, began to upbraid her father, because he scorned a son-in- law whose nobility was perfect, being both sufficient in valour and flawless in birth. She added that the portentous aspect of the sea, when the waves were suddenly turned into blood, simply and solely signified the defeat of Norway, and was a plain presage of the victory of Denmark. And when Fridleif sent a further embassy to ask for her, wishing to vanquish the refusal by persistency, Amund was indignant that a petition he had once denied should be obstinately pressed, and hurried the envoys to death, wishing to offer a brutal check to the zeal of this brazen wooer. Fridleif heard news of this outrage, and summoning Halfdan and Biorn, sailed round Norway. Amund, equipped with his native defences, put out his fleet against him. The firth into which both fleets had mustered is called Frokasund. Here Fridleif left the camp at night to reconnoitre; and, hearing an unusual kind of sound close to him as of brass being beaten, he stood still and looked up, and heard the following song of three swans, who were crying above him:
"While Hythin sweeps the sea and cleaves the ravening tide, his serf drinks out of gold and licks the cups of milk. Best is the estate of the slave on whom waits the heir, the king's son, for their lots are rashly interchanged." Next, after the birds had sung, a belt fell from on high, which showed writing to interpret the song. For while the son of Hythin, the King of Tellemark, was at his boyish play, a giant, assuming the usual appearance of men, had carried him off, and using him as an oarsman (having taken his skiff over to the neighbouring shore), was then sailing past Fridleif while he was occupied reconnoitering. But the king would not suffer him to use the service of the captive youth, and longed to rob the spoiler of his prey. The youth warned him that he must first use sharp reviling against the giant, promising that he would prove easy to attack, if only he were assailed with biting verse. Then Fridleif began thus:
"Since thou art a giant of three bodies, invincible, and almost reachest heaven with thy crest, why does this silly sword bind thy thigh? Why doth a broken spear gird thy huge side? Why, perchance, dost thou defend thy stalwart breast with a feeble sword, and forget the likeness of thy bodily stature, trusting in a short dagger, a petty weapon? Soon, soon will I balk thy bold onset, when with blunted blade thou attemptest war. Since thou art thyself a timid beast, a lump lacking proper pith, thou art swept headlong like a flying shadow, having with a fair and famous body got a heart that is unwarlike and unstable with fear, and a spirit quite unmatched to thy limbs. Hence thy frame totters, for thy goodly presence is faulty through the overthrow of thy soul, and thy nature in all her parts is at strife. Hence shall all tribute of praise quit thee, nor shalt thou be accounted famous among the brave, but shalt be reckoned among ranks obscure."
When he had said this he lopped off a hand and foot of the giant, made him fly, and set his prisoner free. Then he went straightway to the giant's headland, took the treasure out of his cave, and carried it away. Rejoicing in these trophies, and employing the kidnapped youth to row him over the sea, he composed with cheery voice the following strain:
"In the slaying of the swift monster we wielded our blood-stained swords and our crimsoned blade, whilst thou, Amund, lord of the Norwegian ruin, wert in deep slumber; and since blind night covers thee, without any light of soul, thy valour has melted away and beguiled thee. But we crushed a giant who lost use of his limbs and wealth, and we pierced into the disorder of his dreary den. There we seized and plundered his piles of gold. And now with oars we sweep the wave-wandering main, and joyously return, rowing back to the shore our booty-laden ship; we fleet over the waves in a skiff that travels the sea; gaily let us furrow those open waters, lest the dawn come and betray us to the foe. Lightly therefore, and pulling our hardest, let us scour the sea, making for our camp and fleet ere Titan raise his rosy head out of the clear waters; that when fame noises the deed about, and Frogertha knows that the spoil has been won with a gallant struggle, her heart may be stirred to be more gentle to our prayer."
On the morrow there was a great muster of the forces, and Fridleif had a bloody battle with Amund, fought partly by sea and partly by land. For not only were the lines drawn up in the open country, but the warriors also made an attack with their fleet. The battle which followed cost much blood. So Biorn, when his ranks gave back, unloosed his hound and sent it against the enemy; wishing to win with the biting of a dog the victory which he could not achieve with the sword. The enemy were by this means shamefully routed, for a square of the warriors ran away when attacked with its teeth.
There is no saying whether their flight was more dismal or more disgraceful. Indeed, the army of the Northmen was a thing to blush for; for an enemy crushed it by borrowing the aid of a brute. Nor was it treacherous of Fridleif to recruit the failing valour of his men with the aid of a dog. In this war Amund fell; and his servant Ane, surnamed the Archer, challenged Fridleif to fight him; but Biorn, being a man of meaner estate, not suffering the king to engage with a common fellow, attacked him himself. And when Biorn had bent his bow and was fitting the arrow to the string, suddenly a dart sent by Ane pierced the top of the cord. Soon another arrow came after it and struck amid the joints of his fingers. A third followed, and fell on the arrow as it was laid to the string. For Ane, who was most dexterous at shooting arrows from a distance, had purposely only struck the weapon of his opponent, in order that, by showing it was in his power to do likewise to his person, he might recall the champion from his purpose. But Biorn abated none of his valour for this, and, scorning bodily danger, entered the fray with heart and face so steadfast, that he seemed neither to yield anything to the skill of Ane, nor lay aside aught of his wonted courage. Thus he would in nowise be made to swerve from his purpose, and dauntlessly ventured on the battle. Both of them left it wounded; and fought another also on Agdar Ness with an emulous thirst for glory.
By the death of Amund, Fridleif was freed from a most bitter foe, and obtained a deep and tranquil peace; whereupon he forced his savage temper to the service of delight; and, transferring his ardour to love, equipped a fleet in order to seek the marriage which had once been denied him. At last he set forth on his voyage; and his fleet being becalmed, he invaded some villages to look for food; where, being received hospitably by a certain Grubb, and at last winning his daughter in marriage, he begat a son named Olaf. After some time had passed he also won Frogertha; but, while going back to his own country, he had a bad voyage, and was driven on the shores of an unknown island. A certain man appeared to him in a vision, and instructed him to dig up a treasure that was buried in the ground, and also to attack the dragon that guarded it, covering himself in an ox-hide to escape the poison; teaching him also to meet the envenomed fangs with a hide stretched over his shield. Therefore, to test the vision, he attacked the snake as it rose out of the waves, and for a long time cast spears against its scaly side; in vain, for its hard and shelly body foiled the darts flung at it. But the snake, shaking its mass of coils, uprooted the trees which it brushed past by winding its tail about them. Moreover, by constantly dragging its body, it hollowed the ground down to the solid rock, and had made a sheer bank on either hand, just as in some places we see hills parted by an intervening valley. So Fridleif, seeing that the upper part of the creature was proof against attack, assailed the lower side with his sword, and piercing the groin, drew blood from the quivering beast. When it was dead, he unearthed the money from the underground chamber and had it taken off in his ships.
When the year had come to an end, he took great pains to reconcile Biorn and Ane, who had often challenged and fought one another, and made them exchange their hatred for friendship; and even entrusted to them his three-year-old son, Olaf, to rear. But his mistress, Juritha, the mother of Olaf, he gave in marriage to Ane, whom he made one of his warriors; thinking that she would endure more calmly to be put away, if she wedded such a champion, and received his robust embrace instead of a king's.
The ancients were wont to consult the oracles of the Fates concerning the destinies of their children. In this way Fridleif desired to search into the fate of his son Olaf; and, after solemnly offering up his vows, he went to the house of the gods in entreaty; where, looking into the chapel, he saw three maidens, sitting on three seats. The first of them was of a benignant temper, and bestowed upon the boy abundant beauty and ample store of favour in the eyes of men. The second granted him the gift of surpassing generosity. But the third, a woman of more mischievous temper and malignant disposition, scorning the unanimous kindness of her sisters, and likewise wishing to mar their gifts, marked the future character of the boy with the slur of niggardliness. Thus the benefits of the others were spoilt by the poison of a lamentable doom; and hence, by virtue of the twofold nature of these gifts Olaf got his surname from the meanness which was mingled with his bounty. So it came about that this blemish which found its way into the gift marred the whole sweetness of its first benignity.
When Fridleif had returned from Norway, and was traveling through Sweden, he took on himself to act as ambassador, and sued successfully for Hythin's daughter, whom he had once rescued from a monster, to be the wife of Halfdan, he being still unwedded. Meantime his wife Frogertha bore a son FRODE, who afterwards got his surname from his noble munificence. And thus Frode, because of the memory of his grandsire's prosperity, which he recalled by his name, became from his very cradle and earliest childhood such a darling of all men, that he was not suffered even to step or stand on the ground, but was continually cherished in people's laps and kissed. Thus he was not assigned to one upbringer only, but was in a manner everybody's fosterling. And, after his father's death, while he was in his twelfth year, Swerting and Hanef, the kings of Saxony, disowned his sway, and tried to rebel openly. He overcame them in battle, and imposed on the conquered peoples a poll-tax of a coin, which they were to pay as his slaves. For he showed himself so generous that he doubled the ancient pay of the soldiers: a fashion of bounty which then was novel. For he did not, as despots do, expose himself to the vulgar allurements of vice, but strove to covet ardently whatsoever he saw was nearest honour; to make his wealth public property; to surpass all other men in bounty, to forestall them all in offices of kindness; and, hardest of all, to conquer envy by virtue. By this means the youth soon won such favour with all men, that he not only equalled in renown the honours of his forefathers, but surpassed the most ancient records of kings.
At the same time one Starkad, the son of Storwerk, escaped alone, either by force or fortune, from a wreck in which his friends perished, and was received by Frode as his guest for his incredible excellence both of mind and body. And, after being for some little time his comrade, he was dressed in a better and more comely fashion every day, and was at last given a noble vessel, and bidden to ply the calling of a rover, with the charge of guarding the sea. For nature had gifted him with a body of superhuman excellence; and his greatness of spirit equalled it, so that folk thought him behind no man in valour. So far did his glory spread, that the renown of his name and deeds continues famous even yet. He shone out among our own countrymen by his glorious roll of exploits, and he had also won a most splendid record among all the provinces of the Swedes and Saxons. Tradition says that he was born originally in the country which borders Sweden on the east, where barbarous hordes of Esthonians and other nations now dwell far and wide. But a fabulous yet common rumour has invented tales about his birth which are contrary to reason and flatly incredible. For some relate that he was sprung from giants, and betrayed his monstrous birth by an extraordinary number of hands, four of which, engendered by the superfluity of his nature, they declare that the god Thor tore off, shattering the framework of the sinews and wrenching from his whole body the monstrous bunches of fingers; so that he had but two left, and that his body, which had before swollen to the size of a giant's, and, by reason of its shapeless crowd of limbs looked gigantic, was thenceforth chastened to a better appearance, and kept within the bounds of human shortness.
For there were of old certain men versed in sorcery, Thor, namely, and Odin, and many others, who were cunning in contriving marvellous sleights; and they, winning the minds of the simple, began to claim the rank of gods. For, in particular, they ensnared Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the vainest credulity, and by prompting these lands to worship them, infected them with their imposture. The effects of their deceit spread so far, that all other men adored a sort of divine power in them, and, thinking them either gods or in league with gods, offered up solemn prayers to these inventors of sorceries, and gave to blasphemous error the honour due to religion. Hence it has come about that the holy days, in their regular course, are called among us by the names of these men; for the ancient Latins are known to have named these days severally, either after the titles of their own gods, or after the planets, seven in number. But it can be plainly inferred from the mere names of the holy days that the objects worshipped by our countrymen were not the same as those whom the most ancient of the Romans called Jove and Mercury, nor those to whom Greece and Latium paid idolatrous homage. For the days, called among our countrymen Thors-day or Odins-day, the ancients termed severally the holy day of Jove or of Mercury. If, therefore, according to the distinction implied in the interpretation I have quoted, we take it that Thor is Jove and Odin Mercury, it follows that Jove was the son of Mercury; that is, if the assertion of our countrymen holds, among whom it is told as a matter of common belief, that Thor was Odin's son. Therefore, when the Latins, believing to the contrary effect, declare that Mercury was sprung from Jove, then, if their declaration is to stand, we are driven to consider that Thor was not the same as Jove, and that Odin was also different from Mercury. Some say that the gods, whom our countrymen worshipped, shared only the title with those honoured by Greece or Latium, but that, being in a manner nearly equal to them in dignity, they borrowed from them the worship as well as the name. This must be sufficient discourse upon the deities of Danish antiquity. I have expounded this briefly for the general profit, that my readers may know clearly to what worship in its heathen superstition our country has bowed the knee. Now I will go back to my subject where I left it.
Ancient tradition says that Starkad, whom I mentioned above, offered the first-fruits of his deeds to the favour of the gods by slaying Wikar, the king of the Norwegians. The affair, according to the version of some people, happened as follows: --
Odin once wished to slay Wikar by a grievous death; but, loth to do the deed openly, he graced Starkad, who was already remarkable for his extraordinary size, not only with bravery, but also with skill in the composing of spells, that he might the more readily use his services to accomplish the destruction of the king. For that was how he hoped that Starkad would show himself grateful for the honour he paid him. For the same reason he also endowed him with three spans of mortal life, that he might be able to commit in them as many abominable deeds. So Odin resolved that Starkad's days should be prolonged by the following crime: Starkad presently went to Wikar and dwelt awhile in his company, hiding treachery under homage. At last he went with him sea- roving. And in a certain place they were troubled with prolonged and bitter storms; and when the winds checked their voyage so much that they had to lie still most of the year, they thought that the gods must be appeased with human blood. When the lots were cast into the urn it so fell that the king was required for death as a victim. Then Starkad made a noose of withies and bound the king in it; saying that for a brief instant he should pay the mere semblance of a penalty. But the tightness of the knot acted according to its nature, and cut off his last breath as he hung. And while he was still quivering Starkad rent away with his steel the remnant of his life; thus disclosing his treachery when he ought to have brought aid. I do not think that I need examine the version which relates that the pliant withies, hardened with the sudden grip, acted like a noose of iron.
When Starkad had thus treacherously acted he took Wikar's ship and went to one Bemon, the most courageous of all the rovers of Denmark, in order to take up the life of a pirate. For Bemon's partner, named Frakk, weary of the toil of sea-roving, had lately withdrawn from partnership with him, after first making a money- bargain. Now Starkad and Bemon were so careful to keep temperate, that they are said never to have indulged in intoxicating drink, for fear that continence, the greatest bond of bravery, might be expelled by the power of wantonness. So when, after overthrowing provinces far and wide, they invaded Russia also in their lust for empire, the natives, trusting little in their walls or arms, began to bar the advance of the enemy with nails of uncommon sharpness, that they might check their inroad, though they could not curb their onset in battle; and that the ground might secretly wound the soles of the men whom their army shrank from confronting in the field. But not even such a barrier could serve to keep off the foe. The Danes were cunning enough to foil the pains of the Russians. For they straightway shod themselves with wooden clogs, and trod with unhurt steps upon the points that lay beneath their soles. Now this iron thing is divided into four spikes, which are so arranged that on whatsoever side chance may cast it, it stands steadily on three equal feet. Then they struck into the pathless glades, where the woods were thickets, and expelled Flokk, the chief of the Russians, from the mountain hiding-places into which he had crept. And here they got so much booty, that there was not one of them but went back to the fleet laden with gold and silver.
Now when Bemon was dead, Starkad was summoned because of his valour by the champions of Permland. And when he had done many noteworthy deeds among them, he went into the land of the Swedes, where he lived at leisure for seven years' space with the sons of Frey. At last he left them and betook himself to Hakon, the tyrant of Denmark, because when stationed at Upsala, at the time of the sacrifices, he was disgusted by the effeminate gestures and the clapping of the mimes on the stage, and by the unmanly clatter of the bells. Hence it is clear how far he kept his soul from lasciviousness, not even enduring to look upon it. Thus does virtue withstand wantonness.
Starkad took his fleet to the shore of Ireland with Hakon, in order that even the furthest kingdoms of the world might not be untouched by the Danish arms. The king of the island at this time was Hugleik, who, though he had a well-filled treasury, was yet so prone to avarice, that once, when he gave a pair of shoes which had been adorned by the hand of a careful craftsman, he took off the ties, and by thus removing the latches turned his present into a slight. This unhandsome act blemished his gift so much that he seemed to reap hatred for it instead of thanks. Thus he used never to be generous to any respectable man, but to spend all his bounty upon mimes and jugglers. For so base a fellow was bound to keep friendly company with the base, and such a slough of vices to wheedle his partners in sin with pandering endearments.
Still Hugleik had the friendship of Geigad and Swipdag, nobles of tried valour, who, by the lustre of their warlike deeds, shone out among their unmanly companions like jewels embedded in ordure; these alone were found to defend the riches of the king. When a battle began between Hugleik and Hakon, the hordes of mimes, whose light-mindedness unsteadied their bodies, broke their ranks and scurried off in panic; and this shameful flight was their sole requital for all their king's benefits. Then Geigad and Swipdag faced all those thousands of the enemy single- handed, and fought with such incredible courage, that they seemed to do the part not merely of two warriors, but of a whole army. Geigad, moreover, dealt Hakon, who pressed him hard, such a wound in the breast that he exposed the upper part of his liver. It was here that Starkad, while he was attacking Geigad with his sword, received a very sore wound on the head; wherefore he afterwards related in a certain song that a ghastlier wound had never befallen him at any time; for, though the divisions of his gashed head were bound up by the surrounding outer skin, yet the livid unseen wound concealed a foul gangrene below.
Starkad conquered, killed Hugleik and routed the Irish; and had the actors beaten whom chance made prisoner; thinking it better to order a pack of buffoons to be ludicrously punished by the loss of their skins than to command a more deadly punishment and take their lives. Thus he visited with a disgraceful chastisement the baseborn throng of professional jugglers, and was content to punish them with the disgusting flouts of the lash. Then the Danes ordered that the wealth of the king should be brought out of the treasury in the city of Dublin and publicly pillaged. For so vast a treasure had been found that none took much pains to divide it strictly.
After this, Starkad was commissioned, together with Win, the chief of the Sclavs, to check the revolt of the East. They, having fought against the armies of the Kurlanders, the Sembs, the Sangals, and, finally, all the Easterlings, won splendid victories everywhere.
A champion of great repute, named Wisin, settled upon a rock in Russia named Ana-fial, and harried both neighbouring and distant provinces with all kinds of outrage. This man used to blunt the edge of every weapon by merely looking at it. He was made so bold in consequence, by having lost all fear of wounds, that he used to carry off the wives of distinguished men and drag them to outrage before the eyes of their husbands. Starkad was roused by the tale of this villainy, and went to Russia to destroy the criminal; thinking nothing too hard to overcome, he challenged Wisin, attacked him, made even his tricks useless to him, and slew him. For Starkad covered his blade with a very fine skin, that it might not met the eye of the sorcerer; and neither the power of his sleights nor his great strength were any help to Wisin, for he had to yield to Starkad. Then Starkad, trusting in his bodily strength, fought with and overcame a giant at Byzantium, reputed invincible, named Tanne, and drove him to fly an outlaw to unknown quarters of the earth. Therefore, finding that he was too mighty for any hard fate to overcome him, he went to the country of Poland, and conquered in a duel a champion whom our countrymen name Wasce; but the Teutons, arranging the letters differently, call him Wilzce.
Meanwhile the Saxons began to attempt a revolt, and to consider particularly how they could destroy Frode, who was unconquered in war, by some other way than an open conflict. Thinking that it would be best done by a duel, they sent men to provoke the king with a challenge, knowing that he was always ready to court any hazard, and that his high spirit would not yield to any admonition whatever. They fancied that this was the best time to attack him, because they knew that Starkad, whose valour most men dreaded, was away on business. But while Frode hesitated, and said that he would talk with his friends about the answer to be given, Starkad, who had just returned from his sea-roving, appeared, and blamed such a challenge, principally (he said) because it was fitting for kings to fight only with their equals, and because they should not take up arms against men of the people; but it was more fitting for himself, who was born in a lowlier station, to manage the battle.
The Saxons approached Hame, who was accounted their most famous champion, with many offers, and promised him that, if he would lend his services for the duel they would pay him his own weight in gold. The fighter was tempted by the money, and, with all the ovation of a military procession, they attended him to the ground appointed for the combat. Thereupon the Danes, decked in warlike array, led Starkad, who was to represent his king, out to the duelling-ground. Hame, in his youthful assurance, despised him as withered with age, and chose to grapple rather than fight with an outworn old man. Attacking Starkad, he would have flung him tottering to the earth, but that fortune, who would not suffer the old man to be conquered, prevented him from being hurt. For he is said to have been so crushed by the fist of Hame, as he dashed on him, that he touched the earth with his chin, supporting himself on his knees. But he made up nobly for his tottering; for, as soon as he could raise his knee and free his hand to draw his sword, he clove Hame through the middle of the body. Many lands and sixty bondmen apiece were the reward of the victory.
After Hame was killed in this manner the sway of the Danes over the Saxons grew so insolent, that they were forced to pay every year a small tax for each of their limbs that was a cubit (ell) long, in token of their slavery. This Hanef could not bear, and he meditated war in his desire to remove the tribute. Steadfast love of his country filled his heart every day with greater compassion for the oppressed; and, longing to spend his life for the freedom of his countrymen, he openly showed a disposition to rebel. Frode took his forces over the Elbe, and killed him near the village of Hanofra (Hanover), so named after Hanef. But Swerting, though he was equally moved by the distress of his countrymen, said nothing about the ills of his land, and revolved a plan for freedom with a spirit yet more dogged than Hanef's. Men often doubt whether this zeal was liker to vice or to virtue; but I certainly censure it as criminal, because it was produced by a treacherous desire to revolt. It may have seemed most expedient to seek the freedom of the country, but it was not lawful to strive after this freedom by craft and treachery. Therefore, since the deed of Swerting was far from honourable, neither will it be called expedient; for it is nobler to attack openly him whom you mean to attack, and to exhibit hatred in the light of day, than to disguise a real wish to do harm under a spurious show of friendship. But the gains of crime are inglorious, its fruits are brief and fading. For even as that soul is slippery, which hides its insolent treachery by stealthy arts, so is it right that whatsoever is akin to guilt should be frail and fleeting. For guilt has been usually found to come home to its author; and rumour relates that such was the fate of Swerting. For he had resolved to surprise the king under the pretence of a banquet, and burn him to death; but the king forestalled and slew him, though slain by him in return. Hence the crime of one proved the destruction of both; and thus, though the trick succeeded against the foe, it did not bestow immunity on its author.
Frode was succeeded by his son Ingild, whose soul was perverted from honour. He forsook the examples of his forefathers, and utterly enthralled himself to the lures of the most wanton profligacy. Thus he had not a shadow of goodness and righteousness, but embraced vices instead of virtue; he cut the sinews of self-control, neglected the duties of his kingly station, and sank into a filthy slave of riot. Indeed, he fostered everything that was adverse or ill-fitted to an orderly life. He tainted the glories of his father and grandfather by practising the foulest lusts, and bedimmed the brightest honours of his ancestors by most shameful deeds. For he was so prone to gluttony, that he had no desire to avenge his father, or repel the aggressions of his foes; and so, could he but gratify his gullet, he thought that decency and self-control need be observed in nothing. By idleness and sloth he stained his glorious lineage, living a loose and sensual life; and his soul, so degenerate, so far perverted and astray from the steps of his fathers, he loved to plunge into most abominable gulfs of foulness. Fowl-fatteners, scullions, frying-pans, countless cook-houses, different cooks to roast or spice the banquet -- the choosing of these stood to him for glory. As to arms, soldiering, and wars, he could endure neither to train himself to them, nor to let others practise them. Thus he cast away all the ambitions of a man and aspired to those of women; for his incontinent itching of palate stirred in him love of every kitchen-stench. Ever breathing of his debauch, and stripped of every rag of soberness, with his foul breath he belched the undigested filth in his belly. He was as infamous in wantonness as Frode was illustrious in war. So utterly had his spirit been enfeebled by the untimely seductions of gluttony. Starkad was so disgusted at the excess of Ingild, that he forsook his friendship, and sought the fellowship of Halfdan, the King of Swedes, preferring work to idleness. Thus he could not bear so much as to countenance excessive indulgence. Now the sons of Swerting, fearing that they would have to pay to Ingild the penalty of their father's crime, were fain to forestall his vengeance by a gift, and gave him their sister in marriage. Antiquity relates that she bore him sons, Frode, Fridleif, Ingild, and Olaf (whom some say was the son of Ingild's sister).
Ingild's sister Helga had been led by amorous wooing to return the flame of a certain low-born goldsmith, who was apt for soft words, and furnished with divers of the little gifts which best charm a woman's wishes. For since the death of the king there had been none to honour the virtues of the father by attention to the child; she had lacked protection, and had no guardians. When Starkad had learnt this from the repeated tales of travellers, he could not bear to let the wantonness of the smith pass unpunished. For he was always heedful to bear kindness in mind, and as ready to punish arrogance. So he hastened to chastise such bold and enormous insolence, wishing to repay the orphan ward the benefits he had of old received from Frode. Then he travelled through Sweden, went into the house of the smith, and posted himself near the threshold muffling his face in a cap to avoid discovery. The smith, who had not learnt the lesson that "strong hands are sometimes found under a mean garment", reviled him, and bade him quickly leave the house, saying that he should have the last broken victuals among the crowd of paupers. But the old man, whose ingrained self-control lent him patience, was nevertheless fain to rest there, and gradually study the wantonness of his host. For his reason was stronger than his impetuosity, and curbed his increasing rage. Then the smith approached the girl with open shamelessness, and cast himself in her lap, offering the hair of his head to be combed out by her maidenly hands.
Also he thrust forward his loin cloth, and required her help in picking out the fleas; and exacted from this woman of lordly lineage that she should not blush to put her sweet fingers in a foul apron. Then, believing that he was free to have his pleasure, he ventured to put his longing palms within her gown and to set his unsteady hands close to her breast. But she, looking narrowly, was aware of the presence of the old man whom she once had known, and felt ashamed. She spurned the wanton and libidinous fingering, and repulsed the unchaste hands, telling the man also that he had need of arms, and urging him to cease his lewd sport.
Starkad, who had sat down by the door, with the hat muffling his head, had already become so deeply enraged at this sight, that he could not find patience to hold his hand any longer, but put away his covering and clapped his right hand to his sword to draw it. Then the smith, whose only skill was in lewdness, faltered with sudden alarm, and finding that it had come to fighting, gave up all hope of defending himself, and saw in flight the only remedy for his need. Thus it was as hard to break out of the door, of which the enemy held the approach, as it was grievous to await the smiter within the house. At last necessity forced him to put an end to his delay, and he judged that a hazard wherein there lay but the smallest chance of safety was more desirable than sure and manifest danger. Also, hard as it was to fly, the danger being so close, yet he desired flight because it seemed to bring him aid, and to be the nearer way to safety; and he cast aside delay, which seemed to be an evil bringing not the smallest help, but perhaps irretrievable ruin. But just as he gained the threshold, the old man watching at the door smote him through the hams, and there, half dead, he tottered and fell. For the smiter thought he ought carefully to avoid lending his illustrious hands to the death of a vile cinder-blower, and considered that ignominy would punish his shameless passion worse than death. Thus some men think that he who suffers misfortune is worse punished than he who is slain outright. Thus it was brought about, that the maiden, who had never had parents to tend her, came to behave like a woman of well-trained nature, and did the part, as it were, of a zealous guardian to herself. And when Starkad, looking round, saw that the household sorrowed over the late loss of their master, he heaped shame on the wounded man with more invective, and thus began to mock:
"Why is the house silent and aghast? What makes this new grief? Or where now rest that doting husband whom the steel has just punished for his shameful love? Keeps he still aught of his pride and lazy wantonness? Holds he to his quest, glows his lust as hot as before? Let him while away an hour with me in converse, and allay with friendly words my hatred of yesterday. Let your visage come forth with better cheer; let not lamentation resound in the house, or suffer the faces to become dulled with sorrow.
"Wishing to know who burned with love for the maiden, and was deeply enamoured of my beloved ward, I put on a cap, lest my familiar face might betray me. Then comes in that wanton smith, with lewd steps, bending his thighs this way and that with studied gesture, and likewise making eyes as he ducked all ways. His covering was a mantle fringed with beaver, his sandals were inlaid with gems, his cloak was decked with gold. Gorgeous ribbons bound his plaited hair, and a many-coloured band drew tight his straying locks. Hence grew a sluggish and puffed-up temper; he fancied that wealth was birth, and money forefathers, and reckoned his fortune more by riches than by blood. Hence came pride unto him, and arrogance led to fine attire. For the wretch began to think that his dress made him equal to the high-born; he, the cinder-blower, who hunts the winds with hides, and puffs with constant draught, who rakes the ashes with his fingers, and often by drawing back the bellows takes in the air, and with a little fan makes a breath and kindles the smouldering fires! Then he goes to the lap of the girl, and leaning close, says, `Maiden, comb my hair and catch the skipping fleas, and remove what stings my skin.' Then he sat and spread his arms that sweated under the gold, lolling on the smooth cushion and leaning back on his elbow, wishing to flaunt his adornment, just as a barking brute unfolds the gathered coils of its twisted tail. But she knew me, and began to check her lover and rebuff his wanton hands; and, declaring that it was I, she said, `Refrain thy fingers, check thy promptings, take heed to appease the old man sitting close by the doors. The sport will turn to sorrow. I think Starkad is here, and his slow gaze scans thy doings.' The smith answered: `Turn not pale at the peaceful raven and the ragged old man; never has that mighty one whom thou fearest stooped to such common and base attire. The strong man loves shining raiment, and looks for clothes to match his courage.' Then I uncovered and drew my sword, and as the smith fled I clove his privy parts; his hams were laid open, cut away from the bone; they showed his entrails. Presently I rise and crush the girl's mouth with my fist, and draw blood from her bruised nostril. Then her lips, used to evil laughter, were wet with tears mingled with blood, and foolish love paid for all the sins it committed with soft eyes. Over is the sport of the hapless woman who rushed on, blind with desire, like a maddened mare, and makes her lust the grave of her beauty. Thou deservest to be sold for a price to foreign peoples and to grind at the mill, unless blood pressed from thy breasts prove thee falsely accused, and thy nipple's lack of milk clear thee of the crime. Howbeit, I think thee free from this fault; yet bear not tokens of suspicion, nor lay thyself open to lying tongues, nor give thyself to the chattering populace to gird at. Rumour hurts many, and a lying slander often harms. A little word deceives the thoughts of common men. Respect thy grandsires, honour thy fathers, forget not thy parents, value thy forefathers; let thy flesh and blood keep its fame. What madness came on thee? And thou, shameless smith, what fate drove thee in thy lust to attempt a high-born race? Or who sped thee, maiden, worthy of the lordliest pillows, to loves obscure? Tell me, how durst thou taste with thy rosy lips a mouth reeking of ashes, or endure on thy breast hands filthy with charcoal, or bring close to thy side the arms that turn the live coals over, and put the palms hardened with the use of the tongs to thy pure cheeks, and embrace the head sprinkled with embers, taking it to thy bright arms?
"I remember how smiths differ from one another, for once they smote me. All share alike the name of their calling, but the hearts beneath are different in temper. I judge those best who weld warriors' swords and spears for the battle, whose temper shows their courage, who betoken their hearts by the sternness of their calling, whose work declares their prowess. There are also some to whom the hollow mould yields bronze, as they make the likeness of divers things in molten gold, who smelt the veins and recast the metal. But Nature has fashioned these of a softer temper, and has crushed with cowardice the hands which she has gifted with rare skill. Often such men, while the heat of the blast melts the bronze that is poured in the mould, craftily filch flakes of gold from the lumps, when the vessel thirsts after the metal they have stolen."
So speaking, Starkad got as much pleasure from his words as from his works, and went back to Halfdan, embracing his service with the closest friendship, and never ceasing from the exercise of war; so that he weaned his mind from delights, and vexed it with incessant application to arms.
Now Ingild had two sisters, Helga and Asa; Helga was of full age to marry, while Asa was younger and unripe for wedlock. Then Helge the Norwegian was moved with desire to ask for Helga for his wife, and embarked. Now he had equipped his vessel so luxuriously that he had lordly sails decked with gold, held up also on gilded masts, and tied with crimson ropes. When he arrived Ingild promised to grant him his wish if, to test his reputation publicly, he would first venture to meet in battle the champions pitted against him. Helge did not flinch at the terms; he answered that he would most gladly abide by the compact. And so the troth-plight of the future marriage was most ceremoniously solemnized.
A story is remembered that there had grown up at the same time, on the Isle of Zealand, the nine sons of a certain prince, all highly gifted with strength and valour, the eldest of whom was Anganty. This last was a rival suitor for the same maiden; and when he saw that the match which he had been denied was promised to Helge, he challenged him to a struggle, wishing to fight away his vexation. Helge agreed to the proposed combat. The hour of the fight was appointed for the wedding-day by the common wish of both. For any man who, being challenged, refused to fight, used to be covered with disgrace in the sight of all men. Thus Helge was tortured on the one side by the shame of refusing the battle, on the other by the dread of waging it. For he thought himself attacked unfairly and counter to the universal laws of combat, as he had apparently undertaken to fight nine men single-handed. While he was thus reflecting his betrothed told him that he would need help, and counselled him to refrain from the battle, wherein it seemed he would encounter only death and disgrace, especially as he had not stipulated for any definite limit to the number of those who were to be his opponents. He should therefore avoid the peril, and consult his safety by appealing to Starkad, who was sojourning among the Swedes; since it was his way to help the distressed, and often to interpose successfully to retrieve some dismal mischance.
Then Helge, who liked the counsel thus given very well, took a small escort and went into Sweden; and when he reached its most famous city, Upsala, he forbore to enter, but sent in a messenger who was to invite Starkad to the wedding of Frode's daughter, after first greeting him respectfully to try him. This courtesy stung Starkad like an insult. He looked sternly on the youth, and said, "That had he not had his beloved Frode named in his instructions, he should have paid dearly for his senseless mission. He must think that Starkad, like some buffoon or trencherman, was accustomed to rush off to the reek of a distant kitchen for the sake of a richer diet." Helge, when his servant had told him this, greeted the old man in the name of Frode's daughter, and asked him to share a battle which he had accepted upon being challenged, saying that he was not equal to it by himself, the terms of the agreement being such as to leave the number of his adversaries uncertain. Starkad, when he had heard the time and place of the combat, not only received the suppliant well, but also encouraged him with the offer of aid, and told him to go back to Denmark with his companions, telling him that he would find his way to him by a short and secret path. Helge departed, and if we may trust report, Starkad, by sheer speed of foot, travelled in one day's journeying over as great a space as those who went before him are said to have accomplished in twelve; so that both parties, by a chance meeting, reached their journey's end, the palace of Ingild, at the very same time. Here Starkad passed, just as the servants did, along the tables filled with guests; and the aforementioned nine, howling horribly with repulsive gestures, and running about as if they were on the stage, encouraged one another to the battle. Some say that they barked like furious dogs at the champion as he approached. Starkad rebuked them for making themselves look ridiculous with such an unnatural visage, and for clowning with wide grinning cheeks; for from this, he declared, soft and effeminate profligates derived their wanton incontinence. When Starkad was asked banteringly by the nine whether he had valour enough to fight, he answered that doubtless he was strong enough to meet, not merely one, but any number that might come against him. And when the nine heard this they understood that this was the man whom they had heard would come to the succour of Helge from afar. Starkad also, to protect the bride-chamber with a more diligent guard, voluntarily took charge of the watch; and, drawing back the doors of the bedroom, barred them with a sword instead of a bolt, meaning to post himself so as to give undisturbed quiet to their bridal.
When Helge woke, and, shaking off the torpor of sleep, remembered his pledge, he thought of buckling on his armour. But, seeing that a little of the darkness of night yet remained, and wishing to wait for the hour of dawn, he began to ponder the perilous business at hand, when sleep stole on him and sweetly seized him, so that he took himself back to bed laden with slumber. Starkad, coming in on him at daybreak, saw him locked asleep in the arms of his wife, and would not suffer him to be vexed with a sudden shock, or summoned from his quiet slumbers; lest he should seem to usurp the duty of wakening him and breaking upon the sweetness of so new a union, all because of cowardice. He thought it, therefore, more handsome to meet the peril alone than to gain a comrade by disturbing the pleasure of another. So he quietly retraced his steps, and scorning his enemies, entered the field which in our tongue is called Roliung, and finding a seat under the slope of a certain hill, he exposed himself to wind and snow. Then, as though the gentle airs of spring weather were breathing upon him, he put off his cloak, and set to picking out the fleas. He also cast on the briars a purple mantle which Helga had lately given him, that no clothing might seem to lend him shelter against the raging shafts of hail. Then the champions came and climbed the hill on the opposite side; and, seeking a spot sheltered from the winds wherein to sit, they lit a fire and drove off the cold. At last, not seeing Starkad, they sent a man to the crest of the hill, to watch his coming more clearly, as from a watch-tower. This man climbed to the top of the lofty mountain, and saw, on its sloping side, an old man covered shoulder-high with the snow that showered down. He asked him if he was the man who was to fight according to the promise. Starkad declared that he was. Then the rest came up and asked him whether he had resolved to meet them all at once or one by one. But he said, "Whenever a surly pack of curs yelps at me, I commonly send them flying all at once, and not in turn." Thus he let them know that he would rather fight with-them all together than one by one, thinking that his enemies should be spurned with words first and deeds afterwards.
The fight began furiously almost immediately, and he felled six of them without receiving any wound in return; and though the remaining three wounded him so hard in seventeen places that most of his bowels gushed out of his belly, he slew them notwithstanding, like their brethren. Disembowelled, with failing strength, he suffered from dreadful straits of thirst, and, crawling on his knees in his desire to find a draught, he longed for water from the streamlet that ran close by. But when he saw it was tainted with gore he was disgusted at the look of the water, and refrained from its infected draught. For Anganty had been struck down in the waves of the river, and had dyed its course so deep with his red blood that it seemed now to flow not with water, but with some ruddy liquid. So Starkad thought it nobler that his bodily strength should fail than that he should borrow strength from so foul a beverage. Therefore, his force being all but spent, he wriggled on his knees, up to a rock that happened to be lying near, and for some little while lay leaning against it. A hollow in its surface is still to be seen, just as if his weight as he lay had marked it with a distinct impression of his body. But I think this appearance is due to human handiwork, for it seems to pass all belief that the hard and uncleavable rock should so imitate the softness of wax, as, merely by the contact of a man leaning on it, to present the appearance of a man having sat there, and assume concavity for ever.
A certain man, who chanced to be passing by in a cart, saw Starkad wounded almost all over his body. Equally aghast and amazed, he turned and drove closer, asking what reward he should have if he were to tend and heal his wounds. But Starkad would rather be tortured by grievous wounds than use the service of a man of base estate, and first asked his birth and calling. The man said that his profession was that of a sergeant. Starkad, not content with despising him, also spurned him with revilings, because, neglecting all honourable business, he followed the calling of a hanger-on; and because he had tarnished his whole career with ill repute, thinking the losses of the poor his own gains; suffering none to be innocent, ready to inflict wrongful accusation upon all men, most delighted at any lamentable turn in the fortunes of another; and toiling most at his own design, namely of treacherously spying out all men's doings, and seeking some traitorous occasion to censure the character of the innocent.
As this first man departed, another came up, promising aid and remedies. Like the last comer, he was bidden to declare his condition; and he said that he had a certain man's handmaid to wife, and was doing peasant service to her master in order to set her free. Starkad refused to accept his help, because he had married in a shameful way by taking a slave to his embrace. Had he had a shred of virtue he should at least have disdained to be intimate with the slave of another, but should have enjoyed some freeborn partner of his bed. What a mighty man, then, must we deem Starkad, who, when enveloped in the most deadly perils, showed himself as great in refusing aid as in receiving wounds!
When this man departed a woman chanced to approach and walk past the old man. She came up to him in order to wipe his wounds, but was first bidden to declare what was her birth and calling. She said that she was a handmaid used to grinding at the mill. Starkad then asked her if she had children; and when he was told that she had a female child, he told her to go home and give the breast to her squalling daughter; for he thought it most uncomely that he should borrow help from a woman of the lowest degree. Moreover, he knew that she could nourish her own flesh and blood with milk better than she could minister to the wounds of a stranger.
As the woman was departing, a young man came riding up in a cart. He saw the old man, and drew near to minister to his wounds. On being asked who he was, he said his father was a labourer, and added that he was used to the labours of a peasant. Starkad praised his origin, and pronounced that his calling was also most worthy of honour; for, he said, such men sought a livelihood by honourable traffic in their labour, inasmuch as they knew not of any gain, save what they had earned by the sweat of their brow. He also thought that a country life was justly to be preferred even to the most splendid riches; for the most wholesome fruits of it seemed to be born and reared in the shelter of a middle estate, halfway between magnificence and squalor. But he did not wish to pass the kindness of the youth unrequited, and rewarded the esteem he had shown him with the mantle he had cast among the thorns. So the peasant's son approached, replaced the parts of his belly that had been torn away, and bound up with a plait of withies the mass of intestines that had fallen out. Then he took the old man to his car, and with the most zealous respect carried him away to the palace.
Meantime Helga, in language betokening the greatest wariness, began to instruct her husband, saying that she knew that Starkad, as soon as he came back from conquering the champions, would punish him for his absence, thinking that he had inclined more to sloth and lust than to his promise to fight as appointed. Therefore he must withstand Starkad boldly, because he always spared the brave but loathed the coward. Helge respected equally her prophecy and her counsel, and braced his soul and body with a glow of valorous enterprise. Starkad, when he had been driven to the palace, heedless of the pain of his wounds, leaped swiftly out of the cart, and just like a man who was well from top to toe, burst into the bridal-chamber, shattering the doors with his fist. Then Helge leapt from his bed, and, as he had been taught by the counsel of his wife, plunged his blade full at Starkad's forehead. And since he seemed to be meditating a second blow, and to be about to make another thrust with his sword, Helga flew quickly from the couch, caught up a shield, and, by interposing it, saved the old man from impending destruction; for, notwithstanding, Helge with a stronger stroke of his blade smote the shield right through to the boss. Thus the praiseworthy wit of the woman aided her friend, and her hand saved him whom her counsel had injured; for she protected the old man by her deed, as well as her husband by her warning. Starkad was induced by this to let Helge go scot-free; saying that a man whose ready and assured courage so surely betokened manliness, ought to be spared; for he vowed that a man ill deserved death whose brave spirit was graced with such a dogged will to resist.
Starkad went back to Sweden before his wounds had been treated with medicine, or covered with a single scar. Halfdan had been killed by his rivals; and Starkad, after quelling certain rebels, set up Siward as the heir to his father's sovereignty. With him he sojourned a long time; but when he heard -- for the rumour spread -- that Ingild, the son of Frode (who had been treacherously slain), was perversely minded, and instead of punishing his father's murderers, bestowed upon them kindness and friendship, he was vexed with stinging wrath at so dreadful a crime. And, resenting that a youth of such great parts should have renounced his descent from his glorious father, he hung on his shoulders a mighty mass of charcoal, as though it were some costly burden, and made his way to Denmark. When asked by those he met why he was taking along so unusual a load, he said that he would sharpen the dull wits of King Ingild to a point by bits of charcoal. So he accomplished a swift and headlong journey, as though at a single breath, by a short and speedy track; and at last, becoming the guest of Ingild, he went up, as his custom was, in to the seat appointed for the great men; for he had been used to occupy the highest post of distinction with the kings of the last generation.
When the queen came in, and saw him covered over with filth and clad in the mean, patched clothes of a peasant, the ugliness of her guest's dress made her judge him with little heed; and, measuring the man by the clothes, she reproached him with crassness of wit, because he had gone before greater men in taking his place at table, and had assumed a seat that was too good for his boorish attire. She bade him quit the place, that he might not touch the cushions with his dress, which was fouler than it should have been. For she put down to crassness and brazenness what Starkad only did from proper pride; she knew not that on a high seat of honour the mind sometimes shines brighter than the raiment. The spirited old man obeyed, though vexed at the rebuff, and with marvellous self-control choked down the insult which his bravery so ill deserved; uttering at this disgrace he had received neither word nor groan. But he could not long bear to hide the bitterness of his anger in silence. Rising, and retreating to the furthest end of the palace, he flung his body against the walls; and strong as they were, he so battered them with the shock, that the beams quaked mightily; and he nearly brought the house down in a crash. Thus, stung not only with his rebuff, but with the shame of having poverty cast in his teeth, he unsheathed his wrath against the insulting speech of the queen with inexorable sternness.
Ingild, on his return from hunting, scanned him closely, and, when he noticed that he neither looked cheerfully about, nor paid him the respect of rising, saw by the sternness written on his brow that it was Starkad. For when he noted his hands horny with fighting, his scars in front, the force and fire of his eye, he perceived that a man whose body was seamed with so many traces of wounds had no weakling soul. He therefore rebuked his wife, and charged her roundly to put away her haughty tempers, and to soothe and soften with kind words and gentle offices the man she had reviled; to comfort him with food and drink, and refresh him with kindly converse; saying, that this man had been appointed his tutor by his father long ago, and had been a most tender guardian of his childhood. Then, learning too late the temper of the old man, she turned her harshness into gentleness, and respectfully waited on him whom she had rebuffed and railed at with bitter revilings. The angry hostess changed her part, and became the most fawning of flatterers. She wished to check his anger with her attentiveness; and her fault was the less, inasmuch as she was so quick in ministering to him after she had been chidden. But she paid dearly for it, for she presently beheld stained with the blood of her brethren the place where she had flouted and rebuffed the brave old man from his seat.
Now, in the evening, Ingild took his meal with the sons of Swerting, and fell to a magnificent feast, loading the tables with the profusest dishes. With friendly invitation he kept the old man back from leaving the revel too early; as though the delights of elaborate dainties could have undermined that staunch and sturdy virtue! But when Starkad had set eyes on these things, he scorned so wanton a use of them; and, not to give way a whit to foreign fashions, he steeled his appetite against these tempting delicacies with the self-restraint which was his greatest strength. He would not suffer his repute as a soldier to be impaired by the allurements of an orgy. For his valour loved thrift, and was a stranger to all superfluity of food, and averse to feasting in excess. For his was a courage which never at any moment had time to make luxury of aught account, and always forewent pleasure to pay due heed to virtue. So, when he saw that the antique character of self-restraint, and all good old customs, were being corrupted by new-fangled luxury and sumptuosity, he wished to be provided with a morsel fitter for a peasant, and scorned the costly and lavish feast.
Spurning profuse indulgence in food, Starkad took some smoky and rather rancid fare, appeasing his hunger with a bitter relish because more simply; and being unwilling to enfeeble his true valour with the tainted sweetness of sophisticated foreign dainties, or break the rule of antique plainness by such strange idolatries of the belly. He was also very wroth that they should go, to the extravagance of having the same meat both roasted and boiled at the same meal; for he considered an eatable which was steeped in the vapours of the kitchen, and which the skill of the cook rubbed over with many kinds of flavours, in the light of a monstrosity.
Unlike Starkad Ingild flung the example of his ancestors to the winds, and gave himself freer licence of innovation in the fashions of the table than the custom of his fathers allowed. For when he had once abandoned himself to the manners of Teutonland, he did not blush to yield to its unmanly wantonness. No slight incentives to debauchery have flowed down our country's throat from that sink of a land. Hence came magnificent dishes, sumptuous kitchens, the base service of cooks, and all sorts of abominable sausages. Hence came our adoption, wandering from the ways of our fathers, of a more dissolute dress. Thus our country, which cherished self-restraint as its native quality, has gone begging to our neighbours for luxury; whose allurements so charmed Ingild, that he did not think it shameful to requite wrongs with kindness; nor did the grievous murder of his father make him heave one sigh of bitterness when it crossed his mind.
But the queen would not depart without effecting her purpose. Thinking that presents would be the best way to banish the old man's anger, she took off her own head a band of marvellous handiwork, and put it in his lap as he supped: desiring to buy his favour since she could not blunt his courage. But Starkad, whose bitter resentment was not yet abated, flung it back in the face of the giver, thinking that in such a gift there was more scorn than respect. And he was wise not to put this strange ornament of female dress upon the head that was all bescarred and used to the helmet; for he knew that the locks of a man ought not to wear a woman's head-band. Thus he avenged slight with slight, and repaid with retorted scorn the disdain he had received; thereby bearing himself well-nigh as nobly in avenging his disgrace as he had borne himself in enduring it.
To the soul of Starkad reverence for Frode was grappled with hooks of love. Drawn to him by deeds of bounty, countless kindnesses, he could not be wheedled into giving up his purpose of revenge by any sort of alluring complaisance. Even now, when Frode was no more, he was eager to pay the gratitude due to his benefits, and to requite the kindness of the dead, whose loving disposition and generous friendship he had experienced while he lived. For he bore graven so deeply in his heart the grievous picture of Frode's murder, that his honour for that most famous captain could never be plucked from the inmost chamber of his soul; and therefore he did not hesitate to rank his ancient friendship before the present kindness. Besides, when he recalled the previous affront, he could not thank the complaisance that followed; he could not put aside the disgraceful wound to his self-respect. For the memory of benefits or injuries ever sticks more firmly in the minds of brave men than in those of weaklings. For he had not the habits of those who follow their friends in prosperity and quit them in adversity, who pay more regard to fortune than to looks, and sit closer to their own gain than to charity toward others.
But the woman held to her purpose, seeing that even so she could not win the old man to convivial mirth. Continuing with yet more lavish courtesy her efforts to soothe him, and to heap more honours on the guest, she bade a piper strike up, and started music to melt his unbending rage. For she wanted to unnerve his stubborn nature by means of cunning sounds. But the cajolery of pipe or string was just as powerless to enfeeble that dogged warrior. When he heard it, he felt that the respect paid him savoured more of pretence than of love. Hence the crestfallen performer seemed to be playing to a statue rather than a man, and learnt that it is vain for buffoons to assail with, their tricks a settled and weighty sternness, and that a mighty mass cannot be shaken with the idle puffing of the lips. For Starkad had set his face so firmly in his stubborn wrath, that he seemed not a whit easier to move than ever. For the inflexibility which he owed his vows was not softened either by the strain of the lute or the enticements of the palate; and he thought that more respect should be paid to his strenuous and manly purpose than to the tickling of the ears or the lures of the feast. Accordingly he flung the bone, which he had stripped in eating the meat, in the face of the harlequin, and drove the wind violently out of his puffed cheeks, so that they collapsed. By this he showed how his austerity loathed the clatter of the stage; for his ears were stopped with anger and open to no influence of delight. This reward, befitting an actor, punished an unseemly performance with a shameful wage. For Starkad excellently judged the man's deserts, and bestowed a shankbone for the piper to pipe on, requiting his soft service with a hard fee. None could say whether the actor piped or wept the louder; he showed by his bitter flood of tears how little place bravery has in the breasts of the dissolute. For the fellow was a mere minion of pleasure, and had never learnt to bear the assaults of calamity. This man's hurt was ominous of the carnage that was to follow at the feast. Right well did Starkad's spirit, heedful of sternness, hold with stubborn gravity to steadfast revenge; for he was as much disgusted at the lute as others were delighted, and repaid the unwelcome service by insultingly flinging a bone; thus avowing that he owed a greater debt to the glorious dust of his mighty friend than to his shameless and infamous ward.
But when Starkad saw that the slayers of Frode were in high favour with the king, his stern glances expressed the mighty wrath which he harboured, and his face betrayed what he felt. The visible fury of his gaze betokened the secret tempest in his heart. At last, when Ingild tried to appease him with royal fare, he spurned the dainty. Satisfied with cheap and common food, he utterly spurned outlandish delicacies; he was used to plain diet, and would not pamper his palate with any delightful flavour. When he was asked why he had refused the generous attention of the king with such a clouded brow, he said that he had come to Denmark to find the son of Frode, not a man who crammed his proud and gluttonous stomach with rich elaborate feasts. For the Teuton extravagance which the king favoured had led him, in his longing for the pleasures of abundance, to set to the fire again, for roasting, dishes which had been already boiled. Thereupon he could not forbear from attacking Ingild's character, but poured out the whole bitterness of his reproaches on his head. He condemned his unfilial spirit, because he gaped with repletion and vented his squeamishness in filthy hawkings; because, following the lures of the Saxons, he strayed and departed far from soberness; because he was so lacking in manhood as not to pursue even the faintest shadow of it. But, declared Starkad, he bore the heaviest load of infamy, because, even when he first began to see service, he forgot to avenge his father, to whose butchers, forsaking the law of nature, he was kind and attentive. Men whose deserts were most vile he welcomed with loving affection; and not only did he let those go scot-free, whom he should have punished most sharply, but he even judged them fit persons to live with and entertain at his table, whereas he should rather have put them to death. Hereupon Starkad is also said to have sung as follows:
"Let the unwarlike youth yield to the aged, let him honour all the years of him that is old. When a man is brave, let none reproach the number of his days.
"Though the hair of the ancient whiten with age, their valour stays still the same; nor shall the lapse of time have power to weaken their manly heart.
"I am elbowed away by the offensive guest, who taints with vice his outward show of goodness, whilst he is the slave of his belly and prefers his daily dainties to anything.
"When I was counted as a comrade of Frode, I ever sat in the midst of warriors on a high seat in the hall, and I was the first of the princes to take my meal.
"Now, the lot of a nobler age is reversed; I am shut in a corner, I am like the fish that seeks shelter as it wanders to and fro hidden in the waters.
"I, who used surely in the former age to lie back on a couch handsomely spread, am now thrust among the hindmost and driven from the crowded hall.
"Perchance I had been driven on my back at the doors, had not the wall struck my side and turned me back, and had not the beam, in the way made it hard for me to fly when I was thrust forth.
"I am baited with the jeers of the court-folk; I am not received as a guest should be; I am girded at with harsh gibing, and stung with babbling taunts.
"I am a stranger, and would gladly know what news are spread abroad by busy rumour; what is the course of events; what the order of the land; what is doing in your country.
"Thou, Ingild, buried in sin, why dost thou tarry in the task of avenging thy father? Wilt thou think tranquilly of the slaughter of thy righteous sire?
"Why dost thou, sluggard, think only of feasting, and lean thy belly back in ease, more effeminate than harlots? Is the avenging of thy slaughtered father a little thing to thee?
"When last I left thee, Frode, I learned by my prophetic soul that thou, mightiest of kings, wouldst surely perish by the sword of enemies.
"And while I travelled long in the land, a warning groan rose in my soul, which augured that thereafter I was never to see thee more.
"Wo is me, that then I was far away, harrying the farthest peoples of the earth, when the traitorous guest aimed craftily at the throat of his king.
"Else I would either have shown myself the avenger of my lord, or have shared his fate and fallen where he fell, and would joyfully have followed the blessed king in one and the same death.
"I have not come to indulge in gluttonous feasting, the sin whereof I will strive to chastise; nor will I take mine ease, nor the delights of the fat belly.
"No famous king has ever set me before in the middle by the strangers. I have been wont to sit in the highest seats among friends.
"I have come from Sweden, travelling over wide lands, thinking that I should be rewarded, if only I had the joy to find the son of my beloved Frode.
"But I sought a brave man, and I have come to a glutton, a king who is the slave of his belly and of vice, whose liking has been turned back towards wantonness by filthy pleasure.
"Famous is the speech men think that Halfdan spoke: he warned us it would soon come to pass that an understanding father should beget a witless son.
"Though the heir be deemed degenerate, I will not suffer the wealth of mighty Frode to profit strangers or to be made public like plunder."
At these words the queen trembled, and she took from her head the ribbon with which she happened, in woman's fashion, to be adorning her hair, and proffered it to the enraged old man, as though she could avert his anger with a gift. Starkad in anger flung it back most ignominiously in the face of the giver, and began again in a loud voice:
"Take hence, I pray thee, thy woman's gift, and set back thy headgear on thy head; no brave man assumes the chaplets that befit Love only.
"For it is amiss that the hair of men that are ready for battle should be bound back with wreathed gold; such attire is right for the throngs of the soft and effeminate.
"But take this gift to thy husband, who loves luxury, whose finger itches, while he turns over the rump and handles the flesh of the bird roasted brown.
"The flighty and skittish wife of Ingild longs to observe the fashions of the Teutons; she prepares the orgy and makes ready the artificial dainties.
"For she tickles the palate with a new-fangled feast; she pursues the zest of an unknown flavour, raging to load all the tables with dishes yet more richly than before.
"She gives her lord wine to drink in bowls, pondering all things with zealous preparation; she bids the cooked meats be roasted, and intends them for a second fire.
"Wantonly she feeds her husband like a hog; a shameless whore, trusting....
"She roasts the boiled, and recooks the roasted meats, planning the meal with spendthrift extravagance, careless of right and wrong, practising sin, a foul woman.
"Wanton in arrogance, a soldier of Love, longing for dainties, she abjures the fair ways of self-control, and also provides devices for gluttony.
"With craving stomach she desires turnip strained in a smooth pan, cakes with thin juice, and shellfish in rows.
"I do not remember the Great Frode putting his hand to the sinews of birds, or tearing the rump of a cooked fowl with crooked thumb.
"What former king could have been so gluttonous as to stir the stinking filthy flesh, or rummage in the foul back of a bird with plucking fingers?
"The food of valiant men is raw; no need, methinks, of sumptuous tables for those whose stubborn souls are bent on warfare.
"It had been fitter for thee to have torn the stiff beard, biting hard with thy teeth, than greedily to have drained the bowl of milk with thy wide mouth.
"We fled from the offence of the sumptuous kitchen; we stayed our stomach with rancid fare; few in the old days loved cooked juices.
"A dish with no sauce of herbs gave us the flesh of rams and swine. We partook temperately, tainting nothing with bold excess.
"Thou who now lickest the milk-white fat, put on, prithee, the spirit of a man; remember Frode, and avenge thy father's death.
"The worthless and cowardly heart shall perish, and shall not parry the thrust of death by flight, though it bury itself in a valley, or crouch in darkling dens.
"Once we were eleven princes, devoted followers of King Hakon, and here Geigad sat above Helge in the order of the meal.
"Geigad used to appease the first pangs of hunger with a dry rump of ham; and plenty of hard crust quelled the craving of his stomach.
"No one asked for a sickly morsel; all took their food in common; the meal of mighty men cost but slight display.
"The commons shunned foreign victual, and the greatest lusted not for a feast; even the king remembered to live temperately at little cost.
"Scorning to look at the mead, he drank the fermented juice of Ceres; he shrank not from the use of undercooked meats, and hated the roast.
"The board used to stand with slight display, a modest salt- cellar showed the measure of its cost; lest the wise ways of antiquity should in any wise be changed by foreign usage.
"Of old, no man put flagons or mixing-bowls on the tables; the steward filled the cup from the butt, and there was no abundance of adorned vessels.
"No one who honoured past ages put the smooth wine-jars beside the tankards, and of old no bedizened lackey heaped the platter with dainties.
"Nor did the vainglorious host deck the meal with little salt- shell or smooth cup; but all has been now abolished in shameful wise by the new-fangled manners.
"Who would ever have borne to take money in ransom for the death of a lost parent, or to have asked a foe for a gift to atone for the murder of a father?
"What strong heir or well-starred son would have sat side by side with such as these, letting a shameful bargain utterly unnerve the warrior?
"Wherefore, when the honours of kings are sung, and bards relate the victories of captains, I hide my face for shame in my mantle, sick at heart.
"For nothing shines in thy trophies, worthy to be recorded by the pen; no heir of Frode is named in the roll of the honourable.
"Why dost thou vex me with insolent gaze, thou who honourest the foe guilty of thy father's blood, and art thought only to take thy vengeance with loaves and warm soup?
"When men speak well of the avengers of crimes, then long thou to lose thy quick power of hearing, that thy impious spirit may not be ashamed.
"For oft has the virtue of another vexed a heart that knows its guilt, and the malice in the breast is abashed by the fair report of the good.
"Though thou go to the East, or live sequestered in the countries of the West, or whether, driven thence, thou seek the midmost place of the earth;
"Whether thou revisit the cold quarter of the heaven where the pole is to be seen, and carries on the sphere with its swift spin, and looks down upon the neighbouring Bear;
"Shame shall accompany thee far, and shall smite thy countenance with heavy disgrace, when the united assembly of the great kings is taking pastime.
"Since everlasting dishonour awaits thee, thou canst not come amidst the ranks of the famous; and in every clime thou shalt pass thy days in infamy.
"The fates have given Frode an offspring born into the world when gods were adverse, whose desires have been enthralled by crime and ignoble lust.
"Even as in a ship all things foul gather to the filthy hollow of the bilge, even so hath a flood of vices poured into Ingild.
"Therefore, in terror of thy shame being published, thou shalt lie crushed in the corners of the land, sluggish on thy foul hearth, and never to be seen in the array of the famous.
"Then shalt thou shake thy beard at thine evil fate, kept down by the taunts of thy mistresses, when thy paramour galls thy ear with her querulous cries.
"Since chill fear retards thy soul, and thou dreadest to become the avenger of thy sire, thou art utterly degenerate, and thy ways are like a slave's.
"It would have needed scant preparation to destroy thee; even as if a man should catch and cut the throat of a kid, or slit the weazand of a soft sheep and butcher it.
"Behold, a son of the tyrant Swerting shall take the inheritance of Denmark after thee; he whose slothful sister thou keepest in infamous union.
"Whilst thou delightest to honour thy bride, laden with gems and shining in gold apparel, we burn with all indignation that is linked with shame, lamenting thy infamies.
"When thou art stirred by furious lust, our mind is troubled, and recalls the fashion of ancient times, and bids us grieve sorely.
"For we rate otherwise than thou the crime of the foes whom now thou holdest in honour; wherefore the face of this age is a burden to me, remembering the ancient ways.
"I would crave no greater blessing, O Frode, if I might see those guilty of thy murder duly punished for such a crime."
Now he prevailed so well by this stirring counsel, that his reproach served like a flint wherewith to strike a blazing flame of valour in the soul that had been chill and slack. For the king had at first heard the song inattentively; but, stirred by the earnest admonition of his guardian, he conceived in his heart a tardy fire of revenge; and, forgetting the reveller, he changed into the foeman. At last he leapt up from where he lay, and poured the whole flood of his anger on those at table with him; insomuch that he unsheathed his sword upon the sons of Swerting with bloody ruthlessness, and aimed with drawn blade at the throats of those whose gullets he had pampered with the pleasures of the table. These men he forthwith slew; and by so doing he drowned the holy rites of the table in blood. He sundered the feeble bond of their league, and exchanged a shameful revel for enormous cruelty; the host became the foe, and that vilest slave of excess the bloodthirsty agent of revenge. For the vigorous pleading of his counsellor bred a breath of courage in his soft and unmanly youth; it drew out his valour from its lurking-place, and renewed it, and so fashioned it that the authors of a most grievous murder were punished even as they deserved. For the young man's valour had been not quenched, but only in exile, and the aid of an old man had drawn it out into the light; and it accomplished a deed which was all the greater for its tardiness; for it was somewhat nobler to steep the cups in blood than in wine. What a spirit, then, must we think that old man had, who by his eloquent adjuration expelled from that king's mind its infinite sin, and who, bursting the bonds of iniquity, implanted a most effectual seed of virtue. Starkad aided the king with equal achievements; and not only showed the most complete courage in his own person, but summoned back that which had been rooted out of the heart of another. When the deed was done, he thus begun:
"King Ingild, farewell; thy heart, full of valour, hath now shown a deed of daring. The spirit that reigns in thy body is revealed by its fair beginning; nor did there lack deep counsel in thy heart, though thou wert silent till this hour; for thou dost redress by thy bravery what delay had lost, and redeemest the sloth of thy spirit by mighty valour. Come now, let us rout the rest, and let none escape the peril which all alike deserve. Let the crime come home to the culprit; let the sin return and crush its contriver.
"Let the servants take up in a car the bodies of the slain, and let the attendant quickly bear out the carcases. Justly shall they lack the last rites; they are unworthy to be covered with a mound; let no funeral procession or pyre suffer them the holy honour of a barrow; let them be scattered to rot in the fields, to be consumed by the beaks of birds; let them taint the country all about with their deadly corruption.
"Do thou too, king, if thou hast any wit, flee thy savage bride, lest the she-wolf bring forth a litter like herself, and a beast spring from thee that shall hurt its own father.
"Tell me, Rote, continual derider of cowards, thinkest thou that we have avenged Frode enough, when we have spent seven deaths on the vengeance of one? Lo, those are borne out dead who paid homage not to thy sway in deed, but only in show, and though obsequious they planned treachery. But I always cherished this hope, that noble fathers have noble offspring, who will follow in their character the lot which they received by their birth. Therefore, Ingild, better now than in time past dost thou deserve to be called lord of Leire and of Denmark.
"When, O King Hakon, I was a beardless youth, and followed thy leading and command in warfare, I hated luxury and wanton souls, and practiced only wars. Training body and mind together, I banished every unholy thing from my soul, and shunned the pleasures of the belly, loving deeds of prowess. For those that followed the calling of arms had rough clothing and common gear and short slumbers and scanty rest. Toil drove ease far away, and the time ran by at scanty cost. Not as with some men now, the light of whose reason is obscured by insatiate greed with its blind maw. Some one of these clad in a covering of curiously wrought raiment effeminately guides the fleet-footed (steed), and unknots his dishevelled locks, and lets his hair fly abroad loosely.
"He loves to plead often in the court, and to covet a base pittance, and with this pursuit he comforts his sluggish life, doing with venal tongue the business entrusted to him.
"He outrages the laws by force, he makes armed assault upon men's rights, he tramples on the innocent, he feeds on the wealth of others, he practices debauchery and gluttony, he vexes good fellowship with biting jeers, and goes after harlots as a hoe after the grass.
"The coward falls when battles are lulled in peace. Though he who fears death lie in the heart of the valley, no mantlet shall shelter him. His final fate carries off every living man; doom is not to be averted by skulking. But I, who have shaken the whole world with my slaughters, shall I enjoy a peaceful death? Shall I be taken up to the stars in a quiet end? Shall I die in my bed without a wound?"
Go to Book Seven