Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, was born in the year A.D. 1015, and left Norway A.D. 1030. He was called Hardrade, that is, the severe counsellor, the tyrant, though the Icelanders never applied this epithet to him. Harald helped the Icelanders in the famine of A.D. 1056, and sent them timber for a church at Thingvol. It was the Norwegians who gave him the name tyrant in contrast to the "debonairete" of Magnus. He came to Norway in A.D. 1046, and became sole king in A.D. 1047. He died in A.D. 1066, and his son and successor Magnus died in A.D. 1069.
His saga is to be compared with "Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and "Morkinskinna".
The skalds quoted are: Thiodolf, Bolverk, Illuge Bryndalaskald, Stuf the skald, Thorarin Skeggjason, Valgard o' Val, Od Kikinaskald, Grane Skald, Thorleik the Fair, Stein Herdison, Ulf the Marshal, Arnor the earls' skald, Thorkel Skallason, and King Harald Hardrade himself.
Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, brother of Olaf the Saint, by the same mother, was at the battle of Stiklestad, and was fifteen years old when King Olaf the Saint fell, as was before related. Harald was wounded, and escaped with other fugitives. So says Thiodolf: –
At Haug the fire-sparks from his shield Flew round the king's head on the field, As blow for blow, for Olaf's sake, His sword and shield would give and take. Bulgaria's conqueror, I ween, Had scarcely fifteen winters seen, When from his murdered brother's side His unhelmed head he had to hide.
Ragnvald Brusason led Harald from the battle, and the night after the fray took him to a bonde who dwelt in a forest far from other people. The peasant received Harald, and kept him concealed; and Harald was waited upon until he was quite cured of his wounds. Then the bonde's son attended him on the way east over the ridge of the land, and they went by all the forest paths they could, avoiding the common road. The bonde's son did not know who it was he was attending; and as they were riding together between two uninhabited forests, Harald made these verses:
My wounds were bleeding as I rode; And down below the bondes strode, Killing the wounded with the sword, The followers of their rightful lord. From wood to wood I crept along, Unnoticed by the bonde-throng; `Who knows,' I thought, `a day may come My name will yet be great at home.'
He went eastward over the ridge through Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and came to Svithjod, where he found Ragnvald Brusason, and many others of King Olaf's men who had fled from the battle at Stiklestad, and they remained there till winter was over.
The spring after (A.D. 1031) Harald and Ragnvald got ships, and went east in summer to Russia to King Jarisleif, and were with him all the following winter. So says the skald Bolverk: –
The king's sharp sword lies clean and bright, Prepared in foreign lands to fight: Our ravens croak to have their fill, The wolf howls from the distant hill. Our brave king is to Russia gone, – Braver than he on earth there's none; His sharp sword will carve many feast To wolf and raven in the East.
King Jarisleif gave Harald and Ragnvald a kind reception, and made Harald and Ellif, the son of Earl Ragnvald, chiefs over the land-defence men of the king. So says Thiodolf: –
Where Ellif was, one heart and hand The two chiefs had in their command; In wedge or line their battle order Was ranged by both without disorder. The eastern Vindland men they drove Into a corner; and they move The Lesians, although ill at ease, To take the laws their conquerors please.
Harald remained several years in Russia, and travelled far and wide in the Eastern land. Then he began his expedition out to Greece, and had a great suite of men with him; and on he went to Constantinople. So says Bolverk: –
Before the cold sea-curling blast The cutter from the land flew past, Her black yards swinging to and fro, Her shield-hung gunwale dipping low. The king saw glancing o'er the bow Constantinople's metal glow From tower and roof, and painted sails Gliding past towns and wooded vales.
At that time the Greek empire was ruled by the Empress Zoe the Great, and with her Michael Catalactus. Now when Harald came to Constantinople he presented himself to the empress, and went into her pay; and immediately, in autumn, went on board the galleys manned with troops which went out to the Greek sea. Harald had his own men along with him. Now Harald had been but a short time in the army before all the Varings flocked to him, and they all joined together when there was a battle. It thus came to pass that Harald was made chief of the Varings. There was a chief over all the troops who was called Gyrger, and who was a relation of the empress. Gyrger and Harald went round among all the Greek islands, and fought much against the corsairs.
It happened once that Gyrger and the Varings were going through the country, and they resolved to take their night quarters in a wood; and as the Varings came first to the ground, they chose the place which was best for pitching their tents upon, which was the highest ground; for it is the nature of the land there to be soft when rain falls, and therefore it is bad to choose a low situation for your tents. Now when Gyrger, the chief of the army, came up, and saw where the Varings had set up their tents, he told them to remove, and pitch their tents elsewhere, saying he would himself pitch his tents on their ground. Harald replies, "If ye come first to the night quarter, ye take up your ground, and we must go pitch our tents at some other place where we best can. Now do ye so, in the same way, and find a place where ye will. It is, I think, the privilege of us Varings here in the dominions of the Greek emperor to be free, and independent of all but their own commanders, and bound only to serve the emperor and empress." They disputed long and hotly about this, and both sides armed themselves, and were on the way to fight for it; but men of understanding came between and separated them. They said it would be better to come to an agreement about such questions, so that in future no dispute could arise. It came thus to an arbitration between them, at which the best and most sagacious men should give their judgment in the case. At this arbitration it was determined, with the consent of all parties, that lots should be thrown into a box, and the Greeks and Varings should draw which was first to ride, or to row, or to take place in a harbour, or to choose tent ground; and each side should be satisfied with what the drawing of the lots gave them. Accordingly the lots were made and marked. Harald said to Gyrger, "Let me see what mark thou hast put upon thy lot, that we may not both mark our lots in the same way." He did so. Then Harald marked his lot, and put it into the box along with the other. The man who was to draw out the lots then took up one of the lots between his fingers, held it up in the air, and said, "This lot shall be the first to ride, and to row, and to take place in harbour and on the tent field." Harald seized his band, snatched the die, and threw it into the sea, and called out, "That was our lot!" Gyrger said, "Why did you not let other people see it?" Harald replies, "Look at the one remaining in the box, – there you see your own mark upon it." Accordingly the lot which was left behind was examined, and all men saw that Gyrger's mark was upon it, and accordingly the judgment was given that the Varings had gained the first choice in all they had been quarrelling about. There were many things they quarrelled about, but the end always was that Harald got his own way.
They went out all on a campaign in summer. When the whole army was thus assembled Harald kept his men out of the battle, or wherever he saw the least danger, under pretext of saving his men; but where he was alone with his own men only, he fought so desperately that they must either come off victorious or die. It thus happened often that when he commanded the army he gained victories, while Gyrger could do nothing. The troops observed this, and insisted they would be more successful if Harald alone was chief of the whole army, and upbraided the general with never effecting anything, neither himself, nor his people. Gyrger again said that the Varings would give him no assistance, and ordered Harald to go with his men somewhere else, and he, with the rest of his army, would win what they could. Harald accordingly left the army with the Varings and the Latin men, and Gyrger on his side went off with the Greek troops. Then it was seen what each could do. Harald always gained victories and booty; but the Greeks went home to Constantinople with their army, all except a few brave men, who, to gain booty and money, joined themselves to Harald, and took him for their leader. He then went with his troops westward to Africa, which the Varings call Serkland, where he was strengthened with many men. In Serkland he took eighty castles, some of which surrendered, and others were stormed. He then went to Sicily. So says Thiodolf: –
The serpent's bed of glowing gold He hates – the generous king, the bold! He who four score towers laid low, Ta'en from the Saracenic foe. Before upon Sicilian plains, Shield joined to shield, the fight he gains, The victory at Hild's war game; And now the heathens dread his name.
So says also Illuge Bryndala-skald: –
For Michael's empire Harald fought, And southern lands to Michael brought; So Budle's son his friendship showed When he brought friends to his abode.
Here it is said that Michael was king of the Greeks at that time. Harald remained many years in Africa, where he gathered great wealth in gold, jewels, and all sorts of precious things; and all the wealth he gathered there which he did not need for his expenses, he sent with trusty men of his own north to Novgorod to King Jarisleif's care and keeping. He gathered together there extraordinary treasure, as is reasonable to suppose; for he had the plundering of the part of the world richest in gold and valuable things, and he had done such great deeds as with truth are related, such as taking eighty strongholds by his valour.
Now when Harald came to Sicily he plundered there also, and sat down with his army before a strong and populous castle. He surrounded the castle; but the walls were so thick there was no possibility of breaking into it, and the people of the castle had enough of provisions, and all that was necessary for defence. Then Harald hit upon an expedient. He made his bird-catchers catch the small birds which had their nests within the castle, but flew into the woods by day to get food for their young. He had small splinters of tarred wood bound upon the backs of the birds, smeared these over with wax and sulphur, and set fire to them. As soon as the birds were let loose they all flew at once to the castle to their young, and to their nests, which they had under the house roofs that were covered with reeds or straw. The fire from the birds seized upon the house roofs; and although each bird could only carry a small burden of fire, yet all at once there was a mighty flame, caused by so many birds carrying fire with them and spreading it widely among the house roofs. Thus one house after the other was set on fire, until the castle itself was in flames. Then the people came out of the castle and begged for mercy; the same men who for many days had set at defiance the Greek army and its leader. Harald granted life and safety to all who asked quarter, and made himself master of the place.
There was another castle before which Harald had come with his army. This castle was both full of people and so strong, that there was no hope of breaking into it. The castle stood upon a flat hard plain. Then Harald undertook to dig a passage from a place where a stream ran in a bed so deep that it could not be seen from the castle. They threw out all the earth into the stream, to be carried away by the water. At this work they laboured day and night, and relieved each other in gangs; while the rest of the army went the whole day against the castle, where the castle people shot through their loop-holes. They shot at each other all day in this way, and at night they slept on both sides. Now when Harald perceived that his underground passage was so long that it must be within the castle walls, he ordered his people to arm themselves. It was towards daybreak that they went into the passage. When they got to the end of it they dug over their heads until they came upon stones laid in lime which was the floor of a stone hall. They broke open the floor and rose into the hall. There sat many of the castle-men eating and drinking, and not in the least expecting such uninvited wolves; for the Varings instantly attacked them sword in hand, and killed some, and those who could get away fled. The Varings pursued them; and some seized the castle gate, and opened it, so that the whole body of the army got in. The people of the castle fled; but many asked quarter from the troops, which was granted to all who surrendered. In this way Harald got possession of the place, and found an immense booty in it.
They came to a third castle, the greatest and strongest of them all, and also the richest in property and the fullest of people. Around this castle there were great ditches, so that it evidently could not be taken by the same device as the former; and they lay a long time before it without doing anything. When the castle- men saw this they became bolder, drew up their array on the castle walls, threw open the castle gates, and shouted to the Varings, urging them, and jeering at them, and telling them to come into the castle, and that they were no more fit for battle than so many poultry. Harald told his men to make as if they did not know what to do, or did not understand what was said. "For," says he, "if we do make an assault we can effect nothing, as they can throw their weapons under their feet among us; and if we get in the castle with a party of our people, they have it in their power to shut them in. and shut out the others; for they have all the castle gates beset with men. We shall therefore show them the same scorn they show us, and let them see we do not fear them. Our men shall go out upon the plain nearest to the castle; taking care, however, to keep out of bow-shot. All our men shall go unarmed, and be playing with each other, so that the castle- men may see we do not regard them or their array." Thus it went on for some days, without anything being done.
Two Iceland men were then with Harald; the one was Haldor (1), a son of the gode Snorre, who brought this account to Iceland; the other was Ulf Uspakson, a grandson of Usvifer Spake. Both were very strong men, bold under arms, and Harald's best friends; and both were in this play. Now when some days were passed the castle people showed more courage, and would go without weapons upon the castle wall, while the castle gates were standing open. The Varings observing this, went one day to their sports with the sword under their cloaks, and the helmet under their hats. After playing awhile they observed that the castle people were off their guard; and instantly seizing their weapons, they made at the castle gate. When the men of the castle saw this they went against them armed completely, and a battle began in the castle gate. The Varings had no shields, but wrapped their cloaks round their left arms. Some of them were wounded, some killed, and all stood in great danger. Now came Harald with the men who had remained in the camp, to the assistance of his people; and the castle-men had now got out upon the walls, from which they shot and threw stones down upon them; so that there was a severe battle, and those who were in the castle gates thought that help was brought them slower than they could have wished. When Harald came to the castle gate his standard-bearer fell, and Harald said to Haldor, "Do thou take up the banner now." Haldor took up the banner, and said foolishly, "Who will carry the banner before thee, if thou followest it so timidly as thou hast done for a while?" But these were words more of anger than of truth; for Harald was one of the boldest of men under arms. Then they pressed in, and had a hard battle in the castle; and the end was that Harald gained the victory and took the castle. Haldor was much wounded in the face, and it gave him great pain as long as he lived.
The fourth castle which Harald came to was the greatest of all we have been speaking about. It was so strong that there was no possibility of breaking into it. They surrounded the castle, so that no supplies could get into it. When they had remained here a short time Harald fell sick, and he betook himself to his bed. He had his tent put up a little from the camp, for he found quietness and rest out of the clamour and clang of armed men. His men went usually in companies to or from him to hear his orders; and the castle people observing there was something new among the Varings, sent out spies to discover what this might mean. When the spies came back to the castle they had to tell of the illness of the commander of the Varings, and that no assault on that account had been made on the castle. A while after Harald's strength began to fail, at which his men were very melancholy and cast down; all which was news to the castle-men. At last Harald's sickness increased so rapidly that his death was expected through all the army. Thereafter the Varings went to the castle-men; told them, in a parley, of the death of their commander; and begged of the priests to grant him burial in the castle. When the castle people heard this news, there were many among them who ruled over cloisters or other great establishments within the place, and who were very eager to get the corpse for their church, knowing that upon that there would follow very rich presents. A great many priests, therefore, clothed themselves in all their robes, and went out of the castle with cross and shrine and relics and formed a beautiful procession. The Varings also made a great burial. The coffin was borne high in the air, and over it was a tent of costly linen and before it were carried many banners. Now when the corpse was brought within the castle gate the Varings set down the coffin right across the entry, fixed a bar to keep the gates open, and sounded to battle with all their trumpets, and drew their swords. The whole army of the Varings, fully armed. rushed from the camp to the assault of the castle with shout and cry; and the monks and other priests who had gone to meet the corpse and had striven with each other who should be the first to come out and take the offering at the burial, were now striving much more who should first get away from the Varings; for they killed before their feet every one who was nearest, whether clerk or unconsecrated. The Varings rummaged so well this castle that they killed all the men, pillaged everything and made an enormous booty.
Harald was many years in these campaigns, both in Serkland and in Sicily. Then he came back to Constantinople with his troops and stayed there but a little time before he began his expedition to Jerusalem. There he left the pay he had received from the Greek emperor and all the Varings who accompanied him did the same. It is said that on all these expeditions Harald had fought eighteen regular battles. So says Thiodolf: –
Harald the Stern ne'er allowed Peace to his foemen, false and proud; In eighteen battles, fought and won, The valour of the Norseman shone. The king, before his home return, Oft dyed the bald head of the erne With bloody specks, and o'er the waste The sharp-claw'd wolf his footsteps traced.
Harald went with his men to the land of Jerusalem and then up to the city of Jerusalem, and wheresoever he came in the land all the towns and strongholds were given up to him. So says the skald Stuf, who had heard the king himself relate these tidings: –
He went, the warrior bold and brave, Jerusalem, the holy grave, And the interior of the land, To bring under the Greeks' command; And by the terror of his name Under his power the country came, Nor needed wasting fire and sword To yield obediance to his word.
Here it is told that this land came without fire and sword under Harald's command. He then went out to Jordan and bathed therein, according to the custom of other pilgrims. Harald gave great gifts to our Lord's grave, to the Holy Cross, and other holy relics in the land of Jerusalem. He also cleared the whole road all the way out to Jordan, by killing the robbers and other disturbers of the peace. So says the skald Stuf: –
The Agder king cleared far and wide Jordan's fair banks on either side; The robber-bands before him fled, And his great name was widely spread. The wicked people of the land Were punished here by his dread hand, And they hereafter will not miss Much worse from Jesus Christ than this.
Thereafter he went back to Constantinople. When Harald returned to Constantinople from Jerusalem he longed to return to the North to his native land; and when he heard that Magnus Olafson, his brother's son, had become king both of Norway and Denmark, he gave up his command in the Greek service. And when the empress Zoe heard of this she became angry and raised an accusation against Harald that he had misapplied the property of the Greek emperor which he had received in the campaigns in which he was commander of the army. There was a young and beautiful girl called Maria, a brother's daughter of the empress Zoe, and Harald had paid his addresses to her; but the empress had given him a refusal. The Varings, who were then in pay in Constantinople, have told here in the North that there went a report among well-informed people that the empress Zoe herself wanted Harald for her husband, and that she chiefly blamed Harald for his determination to leave Constantinople, although another reason was given out to the public. Constantinus Monomachus was at that time emperor of the Greeks and ruled along with Zoe. On this account the Greek emperor had Harald made prisoner and carried to prison.
When Harald drew near to the prison King Olaf the Saint stood before him and said he would assist him. On that spot of the street a chapel has since been built and consecrated to Saint Olaf and which chapel has stood there ever since. The prison was so constructed that there was a high tower open above, but a door below to go into it from the street. Through it Harald was thrust in, along with Haldor and Ulf. Next night a lady of distinction with two servants came, by the help of ladders, to the top of the tower, let down a rope into the prison and hauled them up. Saint Olaf had formerly cured this lady of a sickness and he had appeared to her in a vision and told her to deliver his brother. Harald went immediately to the Varings, who all rose from their seats when he came in and received him with joy. The men armed themselves forthwith and went to where the emperor slept. They took the emperor prisoner and put out both the eyes of him. So says Thorarin Skeggjason in his poem: –
Of glowing gold that decks the hand The king got plenty in this land; But it's great emperor in the strife Was made stone-blind for all his life.
So says Thiodolf, the skald, also: –
He who the hungry wolf's wild yell Quiets with prey, the stern, the fell, Midst the uproar of shriek and shout Stung tho Greek emperor's eyes both out: The Norse king's mark will not adorn, The Norse king's mark gives cause to mourn; His mark the Eastern king must bear, Groping his sightless way in fear.
In these two songs, and many others, it is told that Harald himself blinded the Greek emperor; and they would surely have named some duke, count, or other great man, if they had not known this to be the true account; and King Harald himself and other men who were with him spread the account.
The same night King Harald and his men went to the house where Maria slept and carried her away by force. Then they went down to where the galleys of the Varings lay, took two of them and rowed out into Sjavid sound. When they came to the place where the iron chain is drawn across the sound, Harald told his men to stretch out at their oars in both galleys; but the men who were not rowing to run all to the stern of the galley, each with his luggage in his hand. The galleys thus ran up and lay on the iron chain. As soon as they stood fast on it, and would advance no farther, Harald ordered all the men to run forward into the bow. Then the galley, in which Harald was, balanced forwards and swung down over the chain; but the other, which remained fast athwart the chain, split in two, by which many men were lost; but some were taken up out of the sound. Thus Harald escaped out of Constantinople and sailed thence into the Black Sea; but before he left the land he put the lady ashore and sent her back with a good escort to Constantinople and bade her tell her relation, the Empress Zoe, how little power she had over Harald, and how little the empress could have hindered him from taking the lady. Harald then sailed northwards in the Ellipalta and then all round the Eastern empire. On this voyage Harald composed sixteen songs for amusement and all ending with the same words. This is one of them: –
Past Sicily's wide plains we flew, A dauntless, never-wearied crew; Our viking steed rushed through the sea, As viking-like fast, fast sailed we. Never, I think, along this shore Did Norsemen ever sail before; Yet to the Russian queen, I fear, My gold-adorned, I am not dear.
With this he meant Ellisif, daughter of King Jarisleif in Novgorod.
When Harald came to Novgorod King Jarisleif received him in the most friendly way and he remained there all winter (A.D. 1045). Then he took into his own keeping all the gold and the many kinds of precious things which he had sent there from Constantinople and which together made up so vast a treasure that no man in the Northern lands ever saw the like of it in one man's possession. Harald had been three times in the poluta-svarf while he was in Constantinople. It is the custom, namely, there, that every time one of the Greek emperors dies, the Varings are allowed poluta-svarf; that is, they may go through all the emperor's palaces where his treasures are and each may take and keep what he can lay hold of while he is going through them.
This winter King Jarisleif gave Harald his daughter Elisabeth in marriage. She is called by the Northmen Ellisif. This is related by Stuf the Blind, thus: –
Agder's chief now got the queen Who long his secret love had been. Of gold, no doubt, a mighty store The princess to her husband bore.
In spring he began his journey from Novgorod and came to Aldeigjuborg, where he took shipping and sailed from the East in summer. He turned first to Svithjod and came to Sigtuna. So says Valgard o' Val: –
The fairest cargo ship e'er bore, From Russia's distant eastern shore The gallant Harald homeward brings – Gold, and a fame that skald still sings. The ship through dashing foam he steers, Through the sea-rain to Svithjod veers, And at Sigtuna's grassy shores His gallant vessel safely moors.
Harald found there before him Svein Ulfson, who the autumn before (A.D. 1045) had fled from King Magnus at Helganes; and when they met they were very friendly on both sides. The Swedish king, Olaf the Swede, was brother of the mother of Ellisif, Harald's wife; and Astrid, the mother of Svein, was King Olaf's sister. Harald and Svein entered into friendship with each other and confirmed it by oath. All the Swedes were friendly to Svein, because he belonged to the greatest family in the country; and thus all the Swedes were Harald's friends and helpers also, for many great men were connected with him by relationship. So says Thiodolf:
Cross the East sea the vessel flew, – Her oak-keel a white furrow drew From Russia's coast to Swedish land. Where Harald can great help command. The heavy vessel's leeward side Was hid beneath the rushing tide; While the broad sail and gold-tipped mast Swung to and fro in the hard blast.
Then Harald and Svein fitted out ships and gathered together a great force; and when the troops were ready they sailed from the East towards Denmark. So says Valgard: –
Brave Yngve! to the land decreed To thee by fate, with tempest speed The winds fly with thee o'er the sea – To thy own udal land with thee. As past the Scanlan plains they fly, The gay ships glances 'twixt sea and sky, And Scanian brides look out, and fear Some ill to those they hold most dear.
They landed first in Seeland with their men and herried and burned in the land far and wide. Then they went to Fyen, where they also landed and wasted. So says Valgard: –
Harald! thou hast the isle laid waste, The Seeland men away hast chased, And the wild wolf by daylight roams Through their deserted silent homes. Fiona too could not withstand The fury of thy wasting hand. Helms burst, shields broke, – Fiona's bounds. Were filled with death's terrific sounds.
Red flashing in the southern sky The clear flame sweeping broad and high, From fair Roeskilde's lofty towers, On lowly huts its fire-rain pours; And shows the housemates' silent train In terror scouring o'er the plain, Seeking the forest's deepest glen, To house with wolves, and 'scape from men.
Few were they of escape to tell, For, sorrow-worn, the people fell: The only captives form the fray Were lovely maidens led away. And in wild terror to the strand, Down to the ships, the linked band Of fair-haired girls is roughly driven, Their soft skins by the irons riven.
King Magnus Olafson sailed north to Norway in the autumn after the battle at Helganes (A.D. 1045). There he hears the news that Harald Sigurdson, his relation, was come to Svithjod; and moreover that Svein Ulfson and Harald had entered into a friendly bond with each other and gathered together a great force, intending first to subdue Denmark and then Norway. King Magnus then ordered a general levy over all Norway and he soon collected a great army. He hears then that Harald and Svein were come to Denmark and were burning and laying waste the land and that the country people were everywhere submitting to them. It was also told that King Harald was stronger and stouter than other men, and so wise withal that nothing was impossible to him, and he had always the victory when he fought a battle; and he was also so rich in gold that no man could compare with him in wealth. Thiodolf speaks thus of it:
Norsemen, who stand the sword of foe Like forest-stems unmoved by blow! My hopes are fled, no peace is near, – People fly here and there in fear. On either side of Seeland's coast A fleet appears – a white winged host; Magnus form Norway takes his course, Harald from Sweden leads his force.
Those of Harald's men who were in his counsel said that it would be a great misfortune if relations like Harald and Magnus should fight and throw a death-spear against each other; and therefore many offered to attempt bringing about some agreement between them, and the kings, by their persuasion, agreed to it. Thereupon some men were sent off in a light boat, in which they sailed south in all haste to Denmark, and got some Danish men, who were proven friends of King Magnus, to propose this matter to Harald. This affair was conducted very secretly. Now when Harald heard that his relation, King Magnus, would offer him a league and partition, so that Harald should have half of Norway with King Magnus, and that they should divide all their movable property into two equal parts, he accepted the proposal, and the people went back to King Magnus with this answer.
A little after this it happened that Harald and Svein one evening were sitting at table drinking and talking together, and Svein asked Harald what valuable piece of all his property he esteemed the most.
He answered, it was his banner Land-waster.
Svein asked what was there remarkable about it, that he valued it so highly.
Harald replied, it was a common saying that he must gain the victory before whom that banner is borne, and it had turned out so ever since he had owned it.
Svein replies, "I will begin to believe there is such virtue in the banner when thou hast held three battles with thy relation Magnus, and hast gained them all."
Then answered Harald with an angry voice, "I know my relationship to King Magnus, without thy reminding me of it; and although we are now going in arms against him, our meeting may be of a better sort."
Svein changed colour, and said, "There are people, Harald, who say that thou hast done as much before as only to hold that part of an agreement which appears to suit thy own interest best."
Harald answers, "It becomes thee ill to say that I have not stood by an agreement, when I know what King Magnus could tell of thy proceedings with him."
Thereupon each went his own way. At night, when Harald went to sleep within the bulwarks of his vessel, he said to his footboy, "I will not sleep in my bed to-night, for I suspect there may be treachery abroad. I observed this evening that my friend Svein was very angry at my free discourse. Thou shalt keep watch, therefore, in case anything happen in the night." Harald then went away to sleep somewhere else, and laid a billet of wood in his place. At midnight a boat rowed alongside to the ship's bulwark; a man went on board, lifted up the cloth of the tent of the bulwarks, went up, and struck in Harald's bed with a great ax, so that it stood fast in the lump of wood. The man instantly ran back to his boat again, and rowed away in the dark night, for the moon was set; but the axe remained sticking in the piece of wood as an evidence. Thereupon Harald waked his men and let them know the treachery intended. "We can now see sufficiently," said he, "that we could never match Svein if he practises such deliberate treachery against us; so it will be best for us to get away from this place while we can. Let us cast loose our vessel and row away as quietly as possible." They did so, and rowed during the night northwards along the land; and then proceeded night and day until they came to King Magnus, where he lay with his army. Harald went to his relation Magnus, and there was a joyful meeting betwixt them. So says Thiodolf: –
The far-known king the order gave, In silence o'er the swelling wave, With noiseless oars, his vessels gay From Denmark west to row away; And Olaf's son, with justice rare, Offers with him the realm to share. People, no doubt, rejoiced to find The kings had met in peaceful mind.
Afterwards the two relatives conversed with each other and all was settled by peaceful agreement.
King Magnus lay at the shore and had set up tents upon the land. There he invited his relation, King Harald, to be his guest at table; and Harald went to the entertainment with sixty of his men and was feasted excellently. Towards the end of the day King Magnus went into the tent where Harald sat and with him went men carrying parcels consisting of clothes and arms. Then the king went to the man who sat lowest and gave him a good sword, to the next a shield, to the next a kirtle, and so on, – clothes, or weapons, or gold; to all he gave one or the other valuable gift, and the more costly to the more distinguished men among them. Then he placed himself before his relation Harald, holding two sticks in his hand, and said, "Which of these two sticks wilt thou have, my friend?"
Harald replies, "The one nearest me."
"Then," said King Magnus, "with this stick I give thee half of the Norwegian power, with all the scat and duties, and all the domains thereunto belonging, with the condition that everywhere thou shalt be as lawful king in Norway as I am myself; but when we are both together in one place, I shall be the first man in seat, service and salutation; and if there be three of us together of equal dignity, that I shall sit in the middle, and shall have the royal tent-ground and the royal landing-place. Thou shalt strengthen and advance our kingdom, in return for making thee that man in Norway whom we never expected any man should be so long as our head was above ground." Then Harald stood up, and thanked him for the high title and dignity. Thereupon they both sat down, and were very merry together. The same evening Harald and his men returned to their ships.
The following morning King Magnus ordered the trumpets to sound to a General Thing of the people; and when it was seated, he made known to the whole army the gift he had given to his relation Harald. Thorer of Steig gave Harald the title of King there at the Thing; and the same day King Harald invited King Magnus to table with him, and he went with sixty men to King Harald's land-tent, where he had prepared a feast. The two kings sat together on a high-seat, and the feast was splendid; everything went on with magnificence, and the kings' were merry and glad. Towards the close of the day King Harald ordered many caskets to be brought into the tent, and in like manner people bore in weapons, clothes and other sorts of valuables; and all these King Harald divided among King Magnus's men who were at the feast. Then he had the caskets opened and said to King Magnus, "Yesterday you gave us a large kingdom, which your hand won from your and our enemies, and took us in partnership with you, which was well done; and this has cost you much. Now we on our side have been in foreign parts, and oft in peril of life, to gather together the gold which you here see. Now, King Magnus, I will divide this with you. We shall both own this movable property, and each have his equal share of it, as each has his equal half share of Norway. I know that our dispositions are different, as thou art more liberal than I am; therefore let us divide this property equally between us, so that each may have his share free to do with as he will." Then Harald had a large ox-hide spread out, and turned the gold out of the caskets upon it. Then scales and weights were taken and the gold separated and divided by weight into equal parts; and all people wondered exceedingly that so much gold should have come together in one place in the northern countries. But it was understood that it was the Greek emperor's property and wealth; for, as all people say, there are whole houses there full of red gold. The kings were now very merry. Then there appeared an ingot among the rest as big as a man's hand. Harald took it in his hands and said, "Where is the gold, friend Magnus, that thou canst show against this piece?"
King Magnus replied, "So many disturbances and levies have been in the country that almost all the gold and silver I could lay up is gone. I have no more gold in my possession than this ring." And he took the ring off his hand and gave it to Harald.
Harald looked at it, and said, "That is but little gold, friend. for the king who owns two kingdoms; and yet some may doubt whether thou art rightful owner of even this ring."
Then King Magnus replied, after a little reflection, "If I be not rightful owner of this ring, then I know not what I have got right to; for my father, King Olaf the Saint, gave me this ring at our last parting."
Then said King Harald, laughing, "It is true, King Magnus, what thou sayest. Thy father gave thee this ring, but he took the ring from my father for some trifling cause; and in truth it was not a good time for small kings in Norway when thy father was in full power."
King Harald gave Thorer of Steig at that feast a bowl of mountain birch, that was encircled with a silver ring and had a silver handle, both which parts were gilt; and the bowl was filled with money of pure silver. With that came also two gold rings, which together stood for a mark. He gave him also his cloak of dark purple lined with white skins within, and promised him besides his friendship and great dignity. Thorgils Snorrason, an intelligent man, says he has seen an altar-cloth that was made of this cloak; and Gudrid, a daughter of Guthorm, the son of Thorer of Steig, said, according to Thorgil's account, that she had seen this bowl in her father Guthorm's possession. Bolverk also tells of these matters: –
Thou, generous king, I have been told, For the green land hast given gold; And Magnus got a mighty treasure, That thou one half might'st rule at pleasure. The people gained a blessed peace, Which 'twixt the kings did never cease; While Svein, disturbed with war's alarms, Had his folk always under arms.
The kings Magnus and Harald both ruled in Norway the winter after their agreement (A.D. 1047), and each had his court. In winter they went around the Upland country in guest-quarters; and sometimes they were both together, sometimes each was for himself. They went all the way north to Throndhjem, to the town of Nidaros. King Magnus had taken special care of the holy remains of King Olaf after he came to the country; had the hair and nails clipped every twelve month, and kept himself the keys that opened the shrine. Many miracles were worked by King Olaf's holy remains. It was not long before there was a breach in the good understanding between the two kings, as many were so mischievous as to promote discord between them.
Svein Ulfson remained behind in the harbour after Harald had gone away, and inquired about his proceedings. When he heard at last of Magnus and Harald having agreed and joined their forces, he steered with his forces eastward along Scania, and remained there until towards winter, when he heard that King Magnus and King Harald had gone northwards to Norway. Then Svein, with his troops, came south to Denmark and took all the royal income that winter (A.D. 1047).
Towards spring (A.D. 1047) King Magnus and his relation, King Harald, ordered a levy in Norway. It happened once that the kings lay all night in the same harbour and next day, King Harald, being first ready, made sail. Towards evening he brought up in the harbour in which Magnus and his retinue had intended to pass the night. Harald laid his vessel in the royal ground, and there set up his tents. King Magnus got under sail later in the day and came into the harbour just as King Harald had done pitching his tents. They saw then that King Harald had taken up the king's ground and intended to lie there. After King Magnus had ordered the sails to be taken in, he said, "The men will now get ready along both sides of the vessel to lay out their oars, and some will open the hatches and bring up the arms and arm themselves; for, if they will not make way for us, we will fight them." Now when King Harald sees that King Magnus will give him battle, he says to his men, "Cut our land-fastenings and back the ship out of the ground, for friend Magnus is in a passion." They did so and laid the vessel out of the ground and King Magnus laid his vessel in it. When they were now ready on both sides with their business, King Harald went with a few men on board of King Magnus's ship. King Magnus received him in a friendly way, and bade him welcome. King Harald answered, "I thought we were come among friends; but just now I was in doubt if ye would have it so. But it is a truth that childhood is hasty, and I will only consider it as a childish freak." Then said King Magnus, "It is no childish whim, but a trait of my family, that I never forget what I have given, or what I have not given. If this trifle had been settled against my will, there would soon have followed' some other discord like it. In all particulars I will hold the agreement between us; but in the same way we will have all that belongs to us by that right." King Harald coolly replied, that it is an old custom for the wisest to give way; and returned to his ship. From such circumstances it was found difficult to preserve good understanding between the kings. King Magnus's men said he was in the right; but others, less wise, thought there was some slight put upon Harald in the business. King Harald's men, besides, insisted that the agreement was only that King Magnus should have the preference of the harbour-ground when they arrived together, but that King Harald was not bound to draw out of his place when he came first. They observed, also, that King Harald had conducted himself well and wisely in the matter. Those who viewed the business in the worst light insisted that King Magnus wanted to break the agreement, and that he had done King Harald injustice, and put an affront on him. Such disputes were talked over so long among foolish people, that the spirit of disagreeing affected the kings themselves. Many other things also occurred, in which the kings appeared determined to have each his own way; but of these little will be set down here.
The kings, Magnus and Harald, sailed with their fleet south to Denmark; and when Svein heard of their approach, he fled away east to Scania. Magnus and Harald remained in Denmark late in summer, and subdued the whole country. In autumn they were in Jutland. One night, as King Magnus lay in his bed, it appeared to him in a dream that he was in the same place as his father, Saint Olaf, and that he spoke to him thus: "Wilt thou choose, my son, to follow me, or to become a mighty king, and have long life; but to commit a crime which thou wilt never be able to expiate?" He thought he made the answer, "Do thou, father, choose for me." Then the king thought the answer was, "Thou shalt follow me." King Magnus told his men this dream. Soon after he fell sick and lay at a place called Sudathorp. When he was near his death he sent his brother, Thorer, with tokens to Svein Ulfson, with the request to give Thorer the aid he might require. In this message King Magnus also gave the Danish dominions to Svein after his death; and said it was just that Harald should rule over Norway and Svein over Denmark. Then King Magnus the Good died (A.D. 1047), and great was the sorrow of all the people at his death. So says Od Kikinaskald: –
The tears o'er good King Magnus' bier, The people's tears, were all sincere: Even they to whom he riches gave Carried him heavily to the grave. All hearts were struck at the king's end; His house-thralls wept as for a friend; His court-men oft alone would muse, As pondering o'er unthought of news.
After this event King Harald held a Thing of his men-at-arms, and told them his intention to go with the army to Viborg Thing, and make himself be proclaimed king over the whole Danish dominions, to which, he said, he had hereditary right after his relation Magnus, as well as to Norway. He therefore asked his men for their aid, and said he thought the Norway man should show himself always superior to the Dane. Then Einar Tambaskelfer replies that he considered it a greater duty to bring his foster-son King Magnus's corpse to the grave, and lay it beside his father, King Olaf's, north in Throndhjem town, than to be fighting abroad and taking another king's dominions and property. He ended his speech with saying that he would rather follow King Magnus dead than any other king alive. Thereupon he had the body adorned in the most careful way, so that most magnificent preparations were made in the king's ship. Then all the Throndhjem people and all the Northmen made themselves ready to return home with the king's body, and so the army was broken up. King Harald saw then that it was better for him to return to Norway to secure that kingdom first, and to assemble men anew; and so King Harald returned to Norway with all his army. As soon as he came to Norway he held a Thing with the people of the country, and had himself proclaimed king everywhere. He proceeded thus from the East through Viken, and in every district in Norway he was named king. Einar Tambaskelfer, and with him all the Throndhjem troops, went with King Magnus's body and transported it to the town of Nidaros, where it was buried in St. Clement's church, where also was the shrine of King Olaf the Saint. King Magnus was of middle size, of long and clear-complexioned countenance, and light hair, spoke well and hastily, was brisk in his actions, and extremely generous. He was a great warrior, and remarkably bold in arms. He was the most popular of kings, prized even by enemies as well as friends.
Svein Ulfson remained that autumn in Scania (A.D. 1047), and was making ready to travel eastward to Sweden, with the intention of renouncing the title of king he had assumed in Denmark; but just as he was mounting his horse some men came riding to him with the first news that King Magnus was dead, and all the Northmen had left Denmark. Svein answered in haste, "I call God to witness that I shall never again fly from the Danish dominions as long as I live." Then he got on his horse and rode south into Scania, where immediately many people crowded to him. That winter he brought under his power all the Danish dominions, and all the Danes took him for their king. Thorer, King Magnus's brother, came to Svein in autumn with the message of King Magnus, as before related, and was well received; and Thorer remained long with Svein and was well taken care of.
King Harald Sigurdson took the royal power over all Norway after the death of King Magnus Olafson; and when he had reigned over Norway one winter and spring was come (A.D. 1048), he ordered a levy through all the land of one-half of all men and ships and went south to Jutland. He herried and burned all summer wide around in the land and came into Godnarfjord, where King Harald made these verses: –
While wives of husbands fondly dream, Here let us anchor in the stream, In Godnarfjord; we'll safely moor Our sea-homes, and sleep quite secure.
Then he spoke to Thiodolf, the skald, and asked him to add to it what it wanted, and he sang: –
In the next summer, I foresee, Our anchorage in the South will be; To hold our sea-homes on the ground, More cold-tongued anchors will be found.
To this Bolverk alludes in his song also, that Harald went to Denmark the summer after King Magnus's death. Bolverk sings thus: –
Next summer thou the levy raised, And seawards all the people gazed, Where thy sea-steeds in sunshine glancing Over the waves were gaily prancing; While the deep ships that plunder bore Seemed black specks from the distant shore. The Danes, from banks or hillocks green, Looked with dismay upon the scene.
Then they burned the house of Thorkel Geysa, who was a great lord, and his daughters they carried off bound to their ships. They had made a great mockery the winter before of King Harald's coming with war-ships against Denmark; and they cut their cheese into the shape of anchors, and said such anchors might hold all the ships of the Norway king. Then this was composed: –"The Island-girls, we were told, Made anchors all our fleet to hold: Their Danish jest cut out in cheese Did not our stern king's fancy please. Now many a maiden fair, may be, Sees iron anchors splash the sea, Who will not wake a maid next morn To laugh at Norway's ships in scorn."
It is said that a spy who had seen the fleet of King Harald said to Thorkel Geysa's daughters, "Ye said, Geysa's daughters, that King Harald dared not come to Denmark." Dotta, Thorkel's daughter, replied, "That was yesterday." Thorkel had to ransom his daughters with a great sum. So says Grane: –
The gold-adorned girl's eye Through Hornskeg wood was never dry, As down towards the sandy shore The men their lovely prizes bore. The Norway leader kept at bay The foe who would contest the way, And Dotta's father had to bring Treasure to satisfy the king.
King Harald plundered in Denmark all that summer, and made immense booty; but he had not any footing in the land that summer in Denmark. He went to Norway again in autumn and remained there all winter (A.D. 1049).
The winter after King Magnus the Good died, King Harald took Thora, daughter of Thorberg Arnason, and they had two sons; the oldest called Magnus, and the other Olaf. King Harald and Queen Ellisif had two daughters; the one Maria, the other Ingegerd. The spring after the foray which has just been related King Harald ordered the people out and went with them to Denmark (A.D. 1049), and herried there, and did so summer after summer thereafter. So says Stuf, the skald: –
Falster lay waste, as people tell, – The raven in other isles fared well. The Danes were everywhere in fear, For the dread foray every year.
King Svein ruled over all the Danish dominions after King Magnus's death. He sat quiet all the winter; but in summer he lay out in his ships with all his people and it was said he would go north to Norway with the Danish army and make not less havoc there than King Harald had made in Denmark. King Svein proposed to King Harald in winter (A.D. 1049) to meet him the following summer at the Gaut river and fight until in the battle-field their differences were ended, or they were settled peacefully. They made ready on both sides all winter with their ships, and called out in summer one-half of all the fighting men. The same summer came Thorleik the Fair out of Iceland, and composed a poem about King Svein Ulfson. He heard, when he arrived in Norway, that King Harald had sailed south to the Gaut river against King Svein. Then Thorleik sang this: –
The wily Svein, I think, will meet These inland Norsemen fleet to fleet; The arrow-storm, and heaving sea, His vantage-fight and field will be. God only knows the end of strife, Or which shall have his land and life; This strife must come to such an end, For terms will never bind King Svein.
He also sang these verses: –
Harald, whose red shield oft has shone O'er herried coasts, and fields hard won, Rides in hot wrath, and eager speeds O'er the blue waves his ocean-steeds. Svein, who in blood his arrows stains, Brings o'er the ocean's heaving plains His gold-beaked ships, which come in view Out from the Sound with many a hue.
King Harald came with his forces to the appointed meeting-place; but there he heard that King Svein was lying with his fleet at the south side of Seeland. Then King Harald divided his forces; let the greater part of the bonde-troops return home; and took with him his court-men, his lendermen, the best men-at-arms, and all the bonde-troops who lived nearest to the Danish land. They sailed over to Jutland to the south of Vendilskage, and so south to Thioda; and over all they carried fire and sword. So says Stuf, the skald: –
In haste the men of Thyland fly From the great monarch's threat'ning eye; At the stern Harald's angry look The boldest hearts in Denmark shook.
They went forward all the way south to Heidaby, took the merchant town and burnt it. Then one of Harald's men made the following verses: –
All Heidaby is burned down! Strangers will ask where stood the town. In our wild humour up it blazed, And Svein looks round him all amazed. All Heidaby is burned down! From a far corner of the town I saw, before the peep of morning, Roofs, walls, and all in flame high burning.
To this also Thorleik alludes in his verses, when he heard there had been no battle at the Gaut river: –
The stranger-warrior may inquire Of Harald's men, why in his ire On Heidaby his wrath he turns, And the fair town to ashes burns? Would that the day had never come When Harald's ships returned home From the East Sea, since now the town, Without his gain, is burned down!
Then King Harald sailed north and had sixty ships and the most of them large and heavily laden with the booty taken in summer; and as they sailed north past Thioda King Svein came down from the land with a great force and he challenged King Harald to land and fight. King Harald had little more than half the force of King Svein and therefore he challenged Svein to fight at sea. So says Thorleik the Fair: –
Svein, who of all men under heaven Has had the luckiest birth-hour given, Invites his foemen to the field, There to contest with blood-stained shield. The king, impatient of delay, Harald, will with his sea-hawks stay; On board will fight, and fate decide If Svein shall by his land abide.
After that King Harald sailed north along Vendilskage; and the wind then came against them, and they brought up under Hlesey, where they lay all night. A thick fog lay upon the sea; and when the morning came and the sun rose they saw upon the other side of the sea as if many lights were burning. This was told to King Harald; and he looked at it, and said immediately, "Strike the tilts down on the ships and take to the oars. The Danish forces are coming upon us, and the fog there where they are must have cleared off, and the sun shines upon the dragon-heads of their ships, which are gilded, and that is what we see." It was so as he had said. Svein had come there with a prodigious armed force. They rowed now on both sides all they could. The Danish ships flew lighter before the oars; for the Northmen's ships were both soaked with water and heavily laden, so that the Danes approached nearer and nearer. Then Harald, whose own dragon-ship was the last of the fleet, saw that he could not get away; so he ordered his men to throw overboard some wood, and lay upon it clothes and other good and valuable articles; and it was so perfectly calm that these drove about with the tide. Now when the Danes saw their own goods driving about on the sea, they who were in advance turned about to save them; for they thought it was easier to take what was floating freely about, than to go on board the Northmen to take it. They dropped rowing and lost ground. Now when King Svein came up to them with his ship, he urged them on, saying it would be a great shame if they, with so great a force, could not overtake and master so small a number. The Danes then began again to stretch out lustily at their oars. When King Harald saw that the Danish ships went faster he ordered his men to lighten their ships, and cast overboard malt, wheat, bacon, and to let their liquor run out, which helped a little. Then Harald ordered the bulwarkscreens, the empty casks and puncheons and the prisoners to be thrown overboard; and when all these were driving about on the sea, Svein ordered help to be given to save the men. This was done; but so much time was lost that they separated from each other. The Danes turned back and the Northmen proceeded on their way. So says Thorleik the Fair: –
Svein drove his foes from Jutland's coast, – The Norsemen's ships would have been lost, But Harald all his vessels saves, Throwing his booty on the waves. The Jutlanders saw, as he threw, Their own goods floating in their view; His lighten'd ships fly o'er the main While they pick up their own again.
King Svein returned southwards with his ships to Hlesey, where he found seven ships of the Northmen, with bondes and men of the levy. When King Svein came to them they begged for mercy, and offered ransom for themselves. So says Thorleik the Fair: –
The stern king's men good offers make, If Svein will ransom for them take; Too few to fight, they boldly say Unequal force makes them give way. The hasty bondes for a word Would have betaken them to the sword, And have prolonged a bloody strife – Such men can give no price for life.
King Harald was a great man, who ruled his kingdom well in home- concerns. Very prudent was he, of good understanding; and it is the universal opinion that no chief ever was in northern lands of such deep judgment and ready counsel as Harald. He was a great warrior; bold in arms; strong and expert in the use of his weapons beyond any others, as has been before related, although many of the feats of his manhood are not here written down. This is owing partly to our uncertainty about them, partly to our wish not to put stories into this book for which there is no testimony. Although we have heard, many things talked about, and even circumstantially related, yet we think it better that something may be added to, than that it should be necessary to take something away from our narrative. A great part of his history is put in verse by Iceland men, which poems they presented to him or his sons, and for which reason he was their great friend. He was, indeed. a great friend to all the people of that country; and once, when a very dear time set in, he allowed four ships to transport meal to Iceland, and fixed that the shippund should not be dearer than 100 ells of wadmal. He permitted also all poor people, who could find provisions to keep them on the voyage across the sea, to emigrate from Iceland to Norway; and from that time there was better subsistence in the country, and the seasons also turned out better. King Harold also sent from Norway a bell for the church of which Olaf the Saint had sent the timbers to Iceland, and which was erected on the Thing-plain. Such remembrances of King Harald are found here in the country, besides many great gifts which he presented to those who visited him.
Haldor Snorrason and Ulf Uspakson, as before related, came to Norway with King Harald. They were, in many respects, of different dispositions. Haldor was very stout and strong, and remarkably handsome in appearance. King Harald gave him this testimony, that he, among all his men, cared least about doubtful circumstances, whether they betokened danger or pleasure; for, whatever turned up, he was never in higher nor in lower spirits, never slept less nor more on account of them, nor ate or drank but according to his custom. Haldor was not a man of many words, but short in conversation, told his opinion bluntly and was obstinate and hard; and this could not please the king, who had many clever people about him zealous in his service. Haldor remained a short time with the king; and then came to Iceland, where he took up his abode in Hjardarholt, and dwelt in that farm to a very advanced age.
Ulf Uspakson stood in great esteem with King Harald; for he was a man of great understanding, clever in conversation, active and brave, and withal true and sincere. King Harald made Ulf his marshal, and married him to Jorun, Thorberg's daughter, a sister of Harald's wife, Thora. Ulf and Jorun's children were Joan the Strong of Rasvol, and Brigida, mother of Sauda-Ulf, who was father of Peter Byrdar-Svein, father of Ulf Fly and Sigrid. Joan the Strong's son was Erlend Himalde, father of Archbishop Eystein and his brothers. King Harald gave Ulf the marshal the rights of a lenderman and a fief of twelve marks income, besides a half- district in the Throndhjem land. Of this Stein Herdison speaks in his song about Ulf.
King Magnus Olafson built Olaf's church in the town (Nidaros), on the spot where Olaf's body was set down for the night, and which, at that time, was above the town. He also had the king's house built there. The church was not quite finished when the king died; but King Harald had what was wanting completed. There, beside the house, he began to construct a stone hall, but it was not finished when he died. King Harald had the church called Mary Church built from the foundations up, at the sandhill close to the spot where the king's holy remains were concealed in the earth the first winter after his fall. It was a large temple, and so strongly built with lime that it was difficult to break it when the Archbishop Eystein had it pulled down. Olaf's holy remains were kept in Olaf's church while Mary Church was building. King Harald had the king's house erected below Mary Kirk, at the side of the river, where it now is; and he had the house in which he had made the great hall consecrated and called Gregorius Church.
There was a man called Ivar the White, who was a brave lenderman dwelling in the Uplands, and was a daughter's son of Earl Hakon the Great. Ivar was the handsomest man that could be seen. Ivar's son was called Hakon; and of him it was said that he was distinguished above all men then in Norway for beauty, strength and perfection of figure. In his very youth he had been sent out on war expeditions, where he acquired great honour and consideration, and became afterwards one of the most celebrated men.
Einar Tambaskelfer was the most powerful lenderman in the Throndhjem land. There was but little friendship between him and King Harald, although Einar retained all the fiefs he had held while Magnus the Good lived. Einar had many large estates, and was married to Bergliot, a daughter of Earl Hakon, as related above. Their son Eindride was grown up, and married to Sigrid, a daughter of Ketil Kalf and Gunhild, King Harald's sister's daughter. Eindride had inherited the beauty of his mother's father, Earl Hakon, and his sons; and in size and strength he took after his father, Einar, and also in all bodily perfections by which Einar had been distinguished above other men. He was, also, as well as his father, the most popular of men, which the sagas, indeed, show sufficiently.
Orm was at that time earl in the Uplands. His mother was Ragnhild, a daughter of Earl Hakon the Great, and Orm was a remarkably clever man. Aslak Erlingson was then in Jadar at Sole, and was married to Sigrid, a daughter of Earl Svein Hakonson. Gunhild, Earl Svein's other daughter, was married to the Danish king, Svein Ulfson. These were the descendants of Earl Hakon at that time in Norway, besides many other distinguished people; and the whole race was remarkable for their very beautiful appearance, and the most of them were gifted with great bodily perfection, and were all distinguished and important men.
King Harald was very proud, and his pride increased after he was established in the country; and it came so far that at last it was not good to speak against him, or to propose anything different from what he desired. So says Thiodolf, the skald: –
In arms 'tis right the common man Should follow orders, one by one, – Should stoop or rise, or run or stand, As his war-leader may command; But now to the king who feeds the ravens The people bend like heartless cravens – Nothing is left them, but consent To what the king calls his intent.
Einar Tambaskelfer was the principal man among the bondes all about Throndhjem, and answered for them at the Things even against the king's men. Einar knew well the law, and did not want boldness to bring forward his opinion at Things, even if the king was present; and all the bondes stood by him. The king was very angry at this, and it came so far that they disputed eagerly against each other. Einar said that the bondes would not put up with any unlawful proceedings from him if he broke through the law of the land; and this occurred several times between them. Einar then began to keep people about him at home, and he had many more when he came into the town if the king was there. It once happened that Einar came to the town with a great many men and ships; he had with him eight or nine great war-ships and nearly 500 men. When he came to the town he went up from the strand with his attendants. King Harald was then in his house, standing out in the gallery of the loft; and when he saw Einar's people going on shore, it is said Harald composed these verses: –
I see great Tambaskelfer go, With mighty pomp, and pride, and show, Across the ebb-shore up the land, – Before, behind, an armed band. This bonde-leader thinks to rule, And fill himself the royal stool. A goodly earl I have known With fewer followers of his own. He who strikes fire from the shield, Einar, may some day make us yield, Unless our axe-edge quickly ends, With sudden kiss, what he intends.
Einar remained several days in the town.
One day there was a meeting held in the town, at which the king himself was present. A thief had been taken in the town, and he was brought before the Thing. The man had before been in the service of Einar, who had been very well satisfied with him. This was told to Einar, and he well knew the king would not let the man off, and more because he took an interest in the matter. Einar, therefore, let his men get under arms, went to the Thing, and took the man by force. The friends on both sides then came between and endeavoured to effect a reconciliation; and they succeeded so far that a meeting-place was appointed, to which both should come. There was a Thing-room in the king's house at the river Nid, and the king went into it with a few men, while the most of his people were out in the yard. The king ordered the shutters of the loft-opening to be turned, so that there was but a little space left clear. When Einar came into the yard with his people, he told his son Eindride to remain outside with the men, "for there is no danger here for me." Eindride remained standing outside at the room-door. When Einar came into the Thing-room, he said, "It is dark in the king's Thing-room." At that moment some men ran against him and assaulted him, some with spears, some with swords. When Eindride heard this he drew his sword and rushed into the room; but he was instantly killed along with his father. The king's men then ran up and placed themselves before the door, and the bondes lost courage, having no leader. They urged each other on, indeed, and said it was a shame they should not avenge their chief; but it came to nothing with their attack. The king went out to his men, arrayed them in battle order, and set up his standard: but the bondes did not venture to assault. Then the king went with all his men on board of his ships, rowed down the river, and then took his way out of the fjord. When Einar's wife Bergliot, who was in the house which Einar had possessed in the town, heard of Einar's fall, she went immediately to the king's house where the bondes army was and urged them to the attack; but at the same moment the king was rowing out of the river. Then said Bergliot, "Now we want here my relation, Hakon Ivarson: Einar's murderer would not be rowing out of the river if Ivar stood here on the riverbank." Then Bergliot adorned Einar's and Eindride's corpses and buried them in Olaf's church, beside King Magnus Olafson's burial-place. After Einar's murder the king was so much disliked for that deed that there was nothing that prevented the lendermen and bondes from attacking the king, and giving him battle, but the want of some leader to raise the banner in the bonde army.
Fin Arnason dwelt at Austrat in Yrjar, and was King Harald's lenderman there. Fin was married to Bergliot, a daughter of Halfdan, who was a son of Sigurd Syr, and brother of Olaf the Saint and of King Harald. Thora, King Harald's wife, was Fin Arnason's brother's daughter: and Fin and all his brothers were the king's dearest friends. Fin Arnason had been for some summers on a viking cruise in the West sea; and Fin, Guthorm Gunhildson and Hakon Ivarson had all been together on that cruise. King Harald now proceeded out of Throndhjem fjord to Austrat, where he was well received. Afterwards the king and Fin conversed with each other about this new event of Einar's and his son's death, and of the murmuring and threatening which the bondes made against the king.
Fin took up the conversation briskly, and said, "Thou art managing ill in two ways: first, in doing all manner of mischief; and next, in being so afraid that thou knowest not what to do."
The king replied, laughing, "I will send thee, friend, into the town to bring about a reconciliation with the bondes; and if that will not do, thou must go to the Uplands and bring matters to such an understanding with Hakon Ivarson that he shall not be my opponent."
Fin replies, "And how wilt thou reward me if I undertake this dangerous errand; for both the people of Throndhjem and the people of Upland are so great enemies to thee that it would not be safe for any of thy messengers to come among them, unless he were one who would be spared for his own sake?"
The king replies, "Go thou on this embassy, for I know thou wilt succeed in it if any man can, and bring about a reconciliation; and then choose whatever favour from us thou wilt."
Fin says, "Hold thou thy word, king, and I will choose my petition. I will desire to have peace and safe residence in the country for my brother Kalf, and all his estates restored; and also that he receive all the dignity and power he had when he left the country."
The king assented to all that Fin laid down, and it was confirmed by witnesses and shake of hand.
Then said Fin, "What shall I offer Hakon, who rules most among his relations in the land, to induce him to agree to a treaty and reconciliation with thee?"
The king replies, "Thou shalt first hear what Hakon on his part requires for making an agreement; then promote my interest as thou art best able; and deny him nothing in the end short of the kingdom."
Then King Harald proceeded southwards to More, and drew together men in considerable numbers.
Fin Arnason proceeded to the town and had with him his house- servants, nearly eighty men. When he came into the town he held a Thing with the town's people. Fin spoke long and ably at the Thing; and told the town's people, and bondes, above all things not to have a hatred against their king, or to drive him away. He reminded them of how much evil they had suffered by acting thus against King Olaf the Saint; and added, that the king was willing to pay penalty for this murder, according to the judgment of understanding and good men. The effect of Fin's speech was that the bondes promised to wait quietly until the messengers came back whom Bergliot had sent to the Uplands to her relative, Hakon Ivarson. Fin then went out to Orkadal with the men who had accompanied him to the town. From thence he went up to Dovrefield, and eastwards over the mountains. He went first to his son-in-law, Earl Orm, who was married to Sigrid, Fin's daughter, and told him his business.
Then Fin and Earl Orm appointed a meeting with Hakon Ivarson; and when they met Fin explained his errand to Hakon, and the offer which King Harald made him. It was soon seen, from Hakon's speech, that he considered it to be his great duty to avenge the death of his relative, Eindride; and added, that word was come to him from Throndhjem, from which he might expect help in making head against the king. Then Fin represented to Hakon how much better it would be for him to accept of as high a dignity from the king as he himself could desire, rather than to attempt raising a strife against the king to whom he was owing service and duty. He said if he came out of the conflict without victory, he forfeited life and property: "And even if thou hast the victory, thou wilt still be called a traitor to thy sovereign." Earl Orm also supported Fin's speech. After Hakon had reflected upon this he disclosed what lay on his mind, and said, "I will be reconciled with King Harald if he will give me in marriage his relation Ragnhild, King Magnus Olafson's daughter, with such dower as is suitable to her and she will be content with." Fin said he would agree to this on the king's part; and thus it was settled among them. Fin then returned to Throndhjem, and the disturbance and enmity was quashed, so that the king could retain his kingdom in peace at home; and the league was broken which Eindride's relations had made among themselves for opposing King Harald.
When the day arrived for the meeting at which this agreement with Harald should be finally concluded, Hakon went to King Harald; and in their conference the king said that he, for his part, would adhere to all that was settled in their agreement. "Thou Hakon," says he, "must thyself settle that which concerns Ragnhild, as to her accepting thee in marriage; for it would not be advisable for thee, or for any one, to marry Ragnhild without her consent." Then Hakon went to Ragnhild, and paid his addresses to her. She answered him thus: "I have often to feel that my father, King Magnus, is dead and gone from me, since I must marry a bonde; although I acknowledge thou art a handsome man, expert in all exercises. But if King Magnus had lived he would not have married me to any man less than a king; so it is not to be expected that I will take a man who has no dignity or title." Then Hakon went to King Harald and told him his conversation with Ragnhild, and also repeated the agreement which was made between him and Fin, who was with him, together with many others of the persons who had been present at the conversation between him and Fin. Hakon takes them all to witness that such was the agreement that the king should give Ragnhild the dower she might desire. "And now since she will have no man who has not a high dignity, thou must give me such a title of honour; and, according to the opinion of the people, I am of birth, family and other qualifications to be called earl."
The king replies, "When my brother, King Olaf, and his son, King Magnus, ruled the kingdom, they allowed only one earl at a time to be in the country, and I have done the same since I came to the kingly title; and I will not take away from Orm the title of honour I had before given him."
Hakon saw now that his business had not advanced, and was very ill pleased; and Fin was outrageously angry. They said the king had broken his word; and thus they all separated.
Hakon then went out of the country with a well-manned ship. When he came to Denmark he went immediately to his relative, King Svein, who received him honourably and gave him great fiefs. Hakon became King Svein's commander of the coast defence against the vikings, – the Vindland people, Kurland people, and others from the East countries, – who infested the Danish dominions; and he lay out with his ships of war both winter and summer.
There was a man called Asmund, who is said to have been King Svein's sister's son, and his foster-son. This Asmund was distinguished among all by his boldness and was much disliked by the king. When Asmund came to years, and to age of discretion, he became an ungovernable person given to murder and manslaughter. The king was ill pleased at this, and sent him away, giving him a good fief, which might keep him and his followers well. As soon as Asmund had got this property from the king he drew together a large troop of people; and as the estate he had got from the king was not sufficient for his expenses he took as his own much more which belonged to the king. When the king heard this he summoned Asmund to him, and when they met the king said that Asmund should remain with the court without keeping any retinue of his own; and this took place as the king desired. But when Asmund had been a little time in the king's court he grew weary of being there, and escaped in the night, returned to his former companions and did more mischief than ever. Now when the king was riding through the country he came to the neighbourhood where Asmund was, and he sent out men-at- arms to seize him. The king then had him laid in irons, and kept him so for some time in hope he would reform; but no sooner did Asmund get rid of his chains than he absconded again, gathered together people and men-at-arms and betook himself to plunder, both abroad and at home. Thus he made great forays, killing and plundering all around. When the people who suffered under these disturbances came to the king and complained to him of their losses, he replied, "Why do ye tell me of this? Why don't you go to Hakon Ivarson, who is my officer for the land-defence, placed on purpose to keep the peace for you peasants, and to hold the vikings in check? I was told that Hakon was a gallant and brave man, but I think he is rather shy when any danger of life is in the way." These words of the king were brought to Hakon, with many additions. Then Hakon went with his men in search of Asmund, and when their ships met Hakon gave battle immediately – and the conflict was sharp, and many men were killed. Hakon boarded Asmund's ship and cut down the men before his feet. At last he and Asmund met and exchanged blows until Asmund fell. Hakon cut off his head, went in all haste to King Svein and found him just sitting down to the dinner-table. Hakon presented himself before the table, laid Asmund's head upon the table before the king, and asked if he knew it. The king made no reply, but became as red as blood in the face. Soon after the king sent him a message, ordering him to leave his service immediately. "Tell him I will do him no harm; but I cannot keep watch over all our relations (1).
Hakon then left Denmark, and came north to his estates in Norway. His relation Earl Orm was dead. Hakon's relations and friends were glad to see Hakon, and many gallant men gave themselves much trouble to bring about a reconciliation between King Harald and Hakon. It was at last settled in this way, that Hakon got Ragnhild, the king's daughter, and that King Harald gave Hakon the earldom, with the same power Earl Orm had possessed. Hakon swore to King Harald an oath of fidelity to all the services he was liable to fulfill.
Kalf Arnason had been on a viking cruise to the Western countries ever since he had left Norway; but in winter he was often in the Orkney Islands with his relative, Earl Thorfin. Fin Arnason sent a message to his brother Kalf, and told him the agreement which he had made with King Harald, that Kalf should enjoy safety in Norway, and his estates, and all the fiefs he had held from King Magnus. When this message came to Kalf he immediately got ready for his voyage, and went east to Norway to his brother Fin. Then Fin obtained the king's peace for Kalf, and when Kalf and the king met they went into the agreement which Fin and the king had settled upon before. Kalf bound himself to the king in the same way as he had bound himself to serve King Magnus, according to which Kalf should do all that the king desired and considered of advantage to his realm. Thereupon Kalf received all the estates and fiefs he had before.
The summer following (A.D. 1050) King Harald ordered out a levy, and went to Denmark, where he plundered during the summer; but when he came south to Fyen he found a great force assembled against him. Then the king prepared to land his men from the ships and to engage in a land-fight. He drew up his men on board in order of battle; set Kalf Arnason at the head of one division; ordered him to make the first attack, and told him where they should direct their assault, promising that he would soon make a landing with the others, and come to their assistance. When Kalf came to the land with his men a force came down immediately to oppose them, and Kalf without delay engaged in battle, which, however, did not last long; for Kalf was immediately overpowered by numbers, and betook himself to flight with his men. The Danes pursued them vigorously, and many of the Northmen fell, and among them Kalf Arnason. Now King Harald landed with his array; and they soon came on their way to the field of battle, where they found Kalf's body, and bore it down to the ships. But the king penetrated into the country, killing many people and destroying much. So says Arnor: –
His shining sword with blood he stains, Upon Fyona's grassy plains; And in the midst of fire and smoke, The king Fyona's forces broke.
After this Fin Arnason thought he had cause to be an enemy of the king upon account of his brother Kalf's death; and said the king had betrayed Kalf to his fall, and had also deceived him by making him entice his brother Kalf to come over from the West and trust to King Harald's faith. When these speeches came out among people, many said that it was very foolish in Fin to have ever supposed that Kalf could obtain the king's sincere friendship and favour; for they thought the king was the man to seek revenge for smaller offences than Kalf had committed against the king. The king let every one say what he chose, and he himself neither said yes or no about the affair; but people perceived that the king was very well pleased with what had happened. King Harald once made these verses: –
I have, in all, the death-stroke given To foes of mine at least eleven; Two more, perhaps, if I remember, May yet be added to this number, I prize myself upon these deeds, My people such examples needs. Bright gold itself they would despise, Or healing leek-herb underprize, If not still brought before their eyes.
Fin Arnason took the business so much to heart that he left the country and went to Denmark to King Svein, where he met a friendly reception. They spoke together in private for a long time; and the end of the business was that Fin went into King Svein's service, and became his man. King Svein then gave Fin an earldom, and placed him in Halland, where he was long earl and defended the country against the Northmen.
Ketil Kalf and Gunhild of Ringanes had a son called Guthorm, and he was a sister's son to King Olaf and Harald Sigurdson. Guthorm was a gallant man, early advanced to manhood. He was often with King Harald, who loved him much, and asked his advice; for he was of good understanding, and very popular. Guthorm had also been engaged early in forays, and had marauded much in the Western countries with a large force. Ireland was for him a land of peace; and he had his winter quarters often in Dublin, and was in great friendship with King Margad.
The summer after King Margad, and Guthorm with him, went out on an expedition against Bretland, where they made immense booty. But when the king saw the quantity of silver which was gathered he wanted to have the whole booty, and regarded little his friendship for Guthorm. Guthorm was ill pleased that he and his men should be robbed of their share; but the king said, "Thou must choose one of two things, – either to be content with what we determine, or to fight; and they shall have the booty who gain the victory; and likewise thou must give up thy ships, for them I will have." Guthorm thought there were great difficulties on both sides; for it was disgraceful to give up ships and goods without a stroke, and yet it was highly dangerous to fight the king and his force, the king having sixteen ships and Guthorm only five. Then Guthorm desired three days' time to consider the matter with his people, thinking in that time to pacify the king, and come to a better understanding with him through the mediation of others; but he could not obtain from the king what he desired. This was the day before St. Olaf's day. Guthorm chose the condition that they would rather die or conquer like men, than suffer disgrace, contempt and scorn, by submitting to so great a loss. He called upon God, and his uncle Saint Olaf, and entreated their help and aid; promising to give to the holy man's house the tenth of all the booty that fell to their share, if they gained the victory. Then he arranged his men, placed them in battle order against the great force, prepared for battle, and gave the assault. By the help of God, and the holy Saint Olaf, Guthorm won the battle. King Margad fell, and every man, old and young, who followed him; and after that great victor, Guthorm and all his people returned home joyfully with all the booty they had gained by the battle. Every tenth penny of the booty they had made was taken, according to the vow, to King Olaf the Saint's shrine; and there was so much silver that Guthorm had an image made of it, with rays round the head, which was the size of his own, or of his forecastle-man's head; and the image was seven feet high. The image thus produced was given by Guthorm to King Olaf of the Saint's temple, where it has since remained as a memorial of Guthorm's victory and King Olaf the Saint's miracle.
There was a wicked, evil-minded count in Denmark who had a Norwegian servant-girl whose family belonged to Throndhjem district. She worshipped King Olaf the Saint, and believed firmly in his sanctity. But the above mentioned count doubted all that was told of the holy man's miracles, insisted that it was nothing but nonsense and idle talk, and made a joke and scorn of the esteem and honour which all the country people showed the good king. Now when his holyday came, on which the mild monarch ended his life, and which all Northmen kept sacred, this unreasonable count would not observe it, but ordered his servant- girl to bake and put fire in the oven that day. She knew well the count's mad passion, and that he would revenge himself severely on her if she refused doing as he ordered. She went, therefore, of necessity, and baked in the oven, but wept much at her work; and she threatened King Olaf that she never would believe in him, if he did not avenge this misdeed by some mischance or other. And now shall ye come to hear a well- deserved vengeance, and a true miracle. It happened, namely, in the same hour that the count became blind of both eyes, and the bread which she had shoved into the oven was turned into stone! Of these stones some are now in St. Olaf's temple, and in other places; and since that time O1afsmas has been always held holy in Denmark.
West in Valland, a man had such bad health that he became a cripple, and went on his knees and elbows. One day he was upon the road, and had fallen asleep. He dreamt that a gallant man came up to him and asked him where he was going. When he named the neighbouring town, the man said to him, "Go to Saint Olaf's church that stands in London, and there thou shalt be cured." There-upon he awoke, and went straightway to inquire the road to Olaf's church in London. At last he came to London Bridge, and asked the men of the castle if they could tell him where Olaf's church was; but they replied, there were so many churches that they could not tell to whom each of them was consecrated. Soon after a man came up and asked him where he wanted to go, and he answered to Olaf's church. Then said the man, "We shall both go together to Olaf's church, for I know the way to it." Thereupon they went over the bridge to the shrine where Olaf's church was; and when they came to the gates of the churchyard the man mounted over the half-door that was in the gate, but the cripple rolled himself in, and rose up immediately sound and strong: when he looked about him his conductor had vanished.
King Harald had built a merchant town in the East at Oslo, where he often resided; for there was good supply from the extensive cultivated district wide around. There also he had a convenient station to defend the country against the Danes, or to make an attack upon Denmark, which he was in the custom of doing often, although he kept no great force on foot. One summer King Harald went from thence with a few light ships and a few men. He steered southwards out from Viken, and, when the wind served, stood over to Jutland, and marauded; but the country people collected and defended the country. Then King Harald steered to Limfjord, and went into the fjord. Limfjord is so formed that its entrance is like a narrow river; but when one gets farther into the fjord it spreads out into a wide sea. King Harald marauded on both sides of the land; and when the Danes gathered together on every side to oppose him, he lay at a small island which was uncultivated. They wanted drink on board his ships, and went up into the island to seek water; but finding none, they reported it to the king. He ordered them to look for some long earthworms on the island, and when they found one they brought it to the king. He ordered the people to bring the worm to a fire, and bake it before it, so that it should be thirsty. Then he ordered a thread to be tied round the tail of the worm, and to let it loose. The worm crept away immediately, while thread wound off from the clew as the worm took it away; and the people followed the worm until it sought downwards in the earth. There the king ordered them to dig for water, which they did, and found so much water that they had no want of it. King Harald now heard from his spies that King Svein was come with a large armament to the mouth of the fjord; but that it was too late for him to come into it, as only one ship at a time can come in. King Harald then steered with his fleet in through the fjord to where it was broadest to a place called Lusbreid. In the inmost bight, there is but a narrow neck of land dividing the fjord from the West sea. Thither King Harald rowed with his men towards evening; and at night when it was dark he unloaded his ships, drew them over the neck of land into the West sea, loaded them again, and was ready with all this before day. He then steered northwards along the Jutland coast. People then said that Harald had escaped from the hands of the Danes. Harald said that he would come to Denmark next time with more people and larger vessels. King Harald then proceeded north to Throndhjem.
King Harald remained all winter at Nidaros (A.D. 1062) and had a vessel built out upon the strand, and it was a buss. The ship was built of the same size as the Long Serpent, and every part of her was finished with the greatest care. On the stem was a dragon-head, and on the stern a dragon-tail, and the sides of the bows of the ship were gilt. The vessel was of thirty-five rowers benches, and was large for that size, and was remarkably handsome; for the king had everything belonging to the ship's equipment of the best, both sails and rigging, anchors and cables. King Harald sent a message in winter south to Denmark to King Svein, that he should come northwards in spring; that they should meet at the Gaut river and fight, and so settle the division of the countries that the one who gained the victory should have both kingdoms.
King Harald during this winter called out a general levy of all the people of Norway, and assembled a great force towards spring. Then Harald had his great ship drawn down and put into the river Nid, and set up the dragon's head on her. Thiodolf, the skald, sang about it thus: –
My lovely girl! the sight was grand When the great war-ships down the strand Into the river gently slid, And all below her sides was hid. Come, lovely girl, and see the show! – Her sides that on the water glow, Her serpent-head with golden mane, All shining back from the Nid again.
Then King Harald rigged out his ship, got ready for sea, and when he had all in order went out of the river. His men rowed very skilfully and beautifully. So says Thiodolf: –
It was upon a Saturday, Ship-tilts were struck and stowed away, And past the town our dragon glides, That girls might see our glancing sides. Out from the Nid brave Harald steers; Westward at first the dragon veers; Our lads together down with oars, The splash is echoed round the shores.
Their oars our king's men handle well, One stroke is all the eye can tell: All level o'er the water rise; The girls look on in sweet surprise. Such things, they think, can ne'er give way; The little know the battle day. The Danish girls, who dread our shout, Might wish our ship-gear not so stout.
'Tis in the fight, not on the wave, That oars may break and fail the brave. At sea, beneath the ice-cold sky, Safely our oars o'er ocean ply; And when at Throndhjem's holy stream Our seventy cars in distance gleam, We seem, while rowing from the sea, An erne with iron wings to be.
King Harald sailed south along the land, and called out the levy everywhere of men and ships. When they came east to Viken they got a strong wind against them and the forces lay dispersed about in the harbour; some in the isles outside, and some in the fjords. So says Thiodolf: –
The cutters' sea-bleached bows scarce find A shelter from the furious wind Under the inland forests' side, Where the fjord runs its farthest tide. In all the isles and creeks around The bondes' ships lie on the ground, And ships with gunwales hung with shields Seek the lee-side of the green fields.
In the heavy storm that raged for some time the great ship had need of good ground tackle. So says Thiodolf: –
With lofty bow above the seas, Which curl and fly before the breeze, The gallant vessel rides and reels, And every plunge her cable feels. The storm that tries the spar and mast Tries the main-anchor at the last: The storm above, below the rock, Chafe the thick cable with each shock.
When the weather became favourable King Harald sailed eastwards to the Gaut river with his fleet and arrived there in the evening. So says Thiodolf: –
The gallant Harald now has come To Gaut, full half way from his home, And on the river frontier stands, To fight with Svein for life and lands. The night passed o'er, the gallant king Next day at Thumia calls a Thing, Where Svein is challenged to appear – A day which ravens wish were near.
When the Danes heard that the Northmen's army was come to the Gaut river they all fled who had opportunity to get away. The Northmen heard that the Danish king had also called out his forces and lay in the south, partly at Fyen and partly about Seeland. When King Harald found that King Svein would not hold a meeting with him, or a fight, according to what had been agreed upon between them, he took the same course as before – letting the bonde troops return home, but manning 150 ships, with which he sailed southwards along Halland, where he herried all round, and then brought up with his fleet in Lofufjord, and laid waste the country. A little afterwards King Svein came upon them with all the Danish fleet, consisting of 300 ships. When the Northmen saw them King Harald ordered a general meeting of the fleet to be called by sound of trumpet; and many there said it was better to fly, as it was not now advisable to fight. The king replied, "Sooner shall all lie dead one upon another than fly." So says Stein Herdison: –
With falcon eye, and courage bright, Our king saw glory in the fight; To fly, he saw, would ruin bring On them and him – the folk and king. `Hands up the arms to one and all!' Cries out the king; `we'll win or fall! Sooner than fly, heaped on each other Each man shall fall across his brother!'
Then King Harald drew up his ships to attack, and brought forward his great dragon in the middle of his fleet. So says Thiodolf: –
The brave king through his vessels' throng His dragon war-ship moves along; He runs her gaily to the front, To meet the coming battle's brunt.
The ship was remarkably well equipt, and fully manned. So says Thiodolf: –
The king had got a chosen crew – He told his brave lads to stand true. The ring of shields seemed to enclose The ship's deck from the boarding foes. The dragon, on the Nis-river flood, Beset with men, who thickly stood, Shield touching shield, was something rare, That seemed all force of man to dare.
Ulf, the marshal, laid his ship by the side of the king's and ordered his men to bring her well forward. Stein Herdison, who was himself in Ulf's ship, sings of it thus: –
Our oars were stowed, our lances high, As the ship moved swung in the sky. The marshal Ulf went through our ranks, Drawn up beside the rowers' banks: The brave friend of our gallant king Told us our ship well on to bring, And fight like Norsemen in the cause – Our Norsemen answered with huzzas.
Hakon Ivarson lay outside on the other wing, and had many ships with him, all well equipt. At the extremity of the other side lay the Throndhjem chiefs, who had also a great and strong force.
Svein, the Danish king, also drew up his fleet, and laid his ship forward in the center against King Harald's ship, and Fin Arnason laid his ship next; and then the Danes laid their ships, according as they were bold or well-equipt. Then, on both sides, they bound the ships together all through the middle of the fleets; but as the fleets were so large, very many ships remained loose, and each laid his ship forward according to his courage, and that was very unequal. Although the difference among the men was great, altogether there was a very great force on both sides. King Svein had six earls among the people following him. So says Stein Herdison: –
Danger our chief would never shun, With eight score ships he would not run: The Danish fleet he would abide, And give close battle side by side. From Leire's coast the Danish king Three hundred ocean steeds could bring, And o'er the sea-weed plain in haste Thought Harald's vessels would be chased.
As soon as King Harald was ready with his fleet, he orders the war-blast to sound, and the men to row forward to the attack. So says Stein Herdison: –
Harald and Svein first met as foes, Where the Nis in the ocean flows; For Svein would not for peace entreat, But, strong in ships, would Harald meet. The Norsemen prove, with sword in hand, That numbers cannot skill withstand. Off Halland's coast the blood of Danes The blue sea's calm smooth surface stains.
Soon the battle began, and became very sharp; both kings urging on their men. So says Stein Herdison: –
Our king, his broad shield disregarding, More keen for striking than for warding, Now tells his lads their spears to throw, – Now shows them where to strike a blow. From fleet to fleet so short the way, That stones and arrows have full play; And from the keen sword dropped the blood Of short-lived seamen in the flood.
It was late in the day when the battle began, and it continued the whole night. King Harald shot for a long time with his bow. So says Thiodolf: –
The Upland king was all the night Speeding the arrows' deadly flight. All in the dark his bow-string's twang Was answered; for some white shield rang, Or yelling shriek gave certain note The shaft had pierced some ring-mail coat, The foemen's shields and bulwarks bore A Lapland arrow-scat(1) or more.
Earl Hakon, and the people who followed him, did not make fast their ships in the fleet, but rowed against the Danish ships that were loose, and slew the men of all the ships they came up with. When the Danes observed this each drew his ship out of the way of the earl; but he set upon those who were trying to escape, and they were nearly driven to flight. Then a boat came rowing to the earl's ship and hailed him and said that the other wing of King Harald's fleet was giving way and many of their people had fallen. Then the earl rowed thither and gave so severe an assault that the Danes had to retreat before him. The earl went on in this way all the night, coming forward where he was most wanted, and wheresoever he came none could stand against him. Hakon rowed outside around the battle. Towards the end of the night the greatest part of the Danish fleet broke into flight, for then King Harald with his men boarded the vessel of King Svein; and it was so completely cleared that all the crew fell in the ship, except those who sprang overboard. So says Arnor, the earls' skald: –
Brave Svein did not his vessel leave Without good cause, as I believe: Oft on his casque the sword-blade rang, Before into the sea he sprang. Upon the wave his vessel drives; All his brave crew had lost their lives. O'er dead courtmen into the sea The Jutland king had now to flee.
And when King Svein's banner was cut down, and his ship cleared of its crew, all his forces took to flight, and some were killed. The ships which were bound together could not be cast loose, so the people who were in them sprang overboard, and some got to the other ships that were loose; and all King Svein's men who could get off rowed away, but a great many of them were slain. Where the king himself fought the ships were mostly bound together, and there were more than seventy left behind of King Svein's vessels. So says Thiodolf: –
Svein's ships rode proudly o'er the deep, When, by a single sudden sweep, Full seventy sail, as we are told, Were seized by Norway's monarch bold.
King Harald rowed after the Danes and pursued them; but that was not easy, for the ships lay so thick together that they scarcely could move. Earl Fin Arnason would not flee; and being also shortsighted, was taken prisoner. So says Thiodolf: –
To the six Danish earls who came To aid his force, and raise his name, No mighty thanks King Svein is owing For mighty actions of their doing. Fin Arnason, in battle known, With a stout Norse heart of his own, Would not take flight his life to gain, And in the foremost ranks was ta'en.
Earl Hakon lay behind with his ships, while the king and the rest of the forces were pursuing the fugitives; for the earls' ships could not get forward on account of the ships which lay in the way before him. Then a man came rowing in a boat to the earl's ship and lay at the bulwarks. The man was stout and had on a white hat. He hailed the ship, "Where is the earl?" said he.
The earl was in the fore-hold, stopping a man's blood. The earl cast a look at the man in the hat and asked what his name was. He answered, "Here is Vandrad: speak to me, earl."
The earl leant over the ship's side to him. Then the man in the boat said, "Earl, I will accept of my life from thee, if thou wilt give it."
Then the earl raised himself up, called two men who were friends dear to him, and said to them, "Go into the boat; bring Vandrad to the land; attend him to my friend's Karl the bonde; and tell Karl, as a token that these words come from me, that he let Vandrad have the horse which I gave to him yesterday, and also his saddle, and his son to attend him."
Thereupon they went into the boat and took the oars in hand, while Vandrad steered. This took place just about daybreak, while the vessels were in movement, some rowing towards the land, some towards the sea, both small and great. Vandrad steered where he thought there was most room between the vessels; and when they came near to Norway's ships the earl's men gave their names and then they all allowed them to go where they pleased. Vandrad steered along the shore, and only set in towards the land when they had come past the crowd of ships. They then went up to Karl the bonde's farm, and it was then beginning to be light. They went into the room where Karl had just put on his clothes. The earl's men told him their message and Karl said they must first take some food; and he set a table before them and gave them water to wash with.
Then came the housewife into the room and said, "I wonder why we could get no peace or rest all night with the shouting and screaming."
Karl replies, "Dost thou not know that the kings were fighting all night?"
She asked which had the better of it.
Karl answered, "The Northmen gained."
"Then," said she, "our king will have taken flight."
"Nobody knows," says Karl, "whether he has fled or is fallen."
She says, "What a useless sort of king we have! He is both slow and frightened."
Then said Vandrad, "Frightened he is not; but he is not lucky."
Then Vandrad washed his hands; but he took the towel and dried them right in the middle of the cloth. The housewife snatched the towel from him, and said, "Thou hast been taught little good; it is wasteful to wet the whole cloth at one time.
Vandrad replies, "I may yet come so far forward in the world as to be able to dry myself with the middle of the towel."
Thereupon Karl set a table before them and Vandrad sat down between them. They ate for a while and then went out. The horse was saddled and Karl's son ready to follow him with another horse. They rode away to the forest; and the earl's men returned to the boat, rowed to the earl's ship and told the success of their expedition.
King Harald and his men followed the fugitives only a short way, and rowed back to the place where the deserted ships lay. Then the battle-place was ransacked, and in King Svein's ship was found a heap of dead men; but the king's body was not found, although people believed for certain that he had fallen. Then King Harald had the greatest attention paid to the dead of his men, and had the wounds of the living bound up. The dead bodies of Svein's men were brought to the land, and he sent a message to the peasants to come and bury them. Then he let the booty be divided, and this took up some time. The news came now that King Svein had come to Seeland, and that all who had escaped from the battle had joined him, along with many more, and that he had a great force.
Earl Fin Arnason was taken prisoner in the battle, as before related; and when he was led before King Harald the king was very merry, and said, "Fin, we meet here now, and we met last in Norway. The Danish court has not stood very firmly by thee; and it will be a troublesome business for Northmen to drag thee, a blind old man, with them, and preserve thy life."
The earl replies, "The Northmen find it very difficult now to conquer, and it is all the worse that thou hast the command of them."
Then said King Harald, "Wilt thou accept of life and safety, although thou hast not deserved it?"
The earl replies, "Not from thee, thou dog."
The king: "Wilt thou, then, if thy relation Magnus gives thee quarter?"
Magnus, King Harald's son, was then steering the ship.
The earl replies, "Can the whelp rule over life and quarter?"
The king laughed, as if he found amusement in vexing him. – "Wilt thou accept thy life, then, from thy she-relation Thorer?"
The earl: "Is she here?"
"She is here," said the king.
Then Earl Fin broke out with the ugly expressions which since have been preserved, as a proof that he was so mad with rage that he could not govern his tongue: –
"No wonder thou hast bit so strongly, if the mare was with thee."
Earl Fin got life and quarter and the king kept him a while about him. But Fin was rather melancholy and obstinate in conversation; and King Harald said, "I see, Fin, that thou dost not live willingly in company with me and thy relations; now I will give thee leave to go to thy friend King Svein."
The earl said, "I accept of the offer willingly, and the more gratefully the sooner I get away from hence."
The king afterwards let Earl Fin be landed and the traders going to Halland received him well. King Harald sailed from thence to Norway with his fleet; and went first to Oslo, where he gave all his people leave to go home who wished to do so.
King Svein, it is told, sat in Denmark all that winter, and had his kingdom as formerly. In winter he sent men north to Halland for Karl the bonde and his wife. When Karl came the king called him to him and asked him if he knew him, or thought he had ever seen him before.
Karl replies, "I know thee, sire, and knew thee before, the moment I saw thee; and God be praised if the small help I could give was of any use to thee."
The king replies, "I have to reward thee for all the days I have to live. And now, in the first place, I will give thee any farm in Seeland thou wouldst desire to have; and, in the next place, will make thee a great man, if thou knowest how to conduct thyself."
Karl thanked the king for his promise, and said he had now but one thing to ask.
The king asked what that was.
Karl said that he would ask to take his wife with him.
The king said, "I will not let thee do that; but I will provide thee a far better and more sensible wife. But thy wife can keep the bonde-farm ye had before and she will have her living from it."
The king gave Karl a great and valuable farm, and provided him a good marriage; and he became a considerable man. This was reported far and wide and much praised; and thus it came to be told in Norway.
King Harald stayed in Oslo the winter after the battle at Nis- river (A.D. 1063). In autumn, when the men came from the south, there was much talk and many stories about the battle which they had fought at Nis-river, and every one who had been there thought he could tell something about it. Once some of them sat in a cellar and drank, and were very merry and talkative. They talked about the Nis-river battle, and who had earne'd the greatest praise and renown. They all agreed that no man there had been at all equal to Earl Hakon. He was the boldest in arms, the quickest, and the most lucky; what he did was of the greatest help, and he won the battle. King Harald, in the meantime, was out in the yard, and spoke with some people. He went then to the room-door, and said, "Every one here would willingly be called Hakon;" and then went his way.
Earl Hakon went in winter to the Uplands, and was all winter in his domains. He was much beloved by all the Uplanders. It happened, towards spring, that some men were sitting drinking in the town, and the conversation turned, as usual, on the Nis-river battle; and some praised Earl Hakon, and some thought others as deserving of praise as he. When they had thus disputed a while, one of them said, "It is possible that others fought as bravely as the earl at Nis-river; but none, I think, has had such luck with him as he."
The others replied, that his best luck was his driving so many Danes to flight along with other men.
The same man replied, "It was greater luck that he gave King Svein quarter."
One of the company said to him, "Thou dost not know what thou art saying."
He replied, "I know it for certain, for the man told me himself who brought the king to the land."
It went, according to the old proverb, that the king has many ears. This was told the king, and he immediately ordered horses to be gathered, and rode away directly with 900 men. He rode all that night and the following day. Then some men met them who were riding to the town with mead and malt. In the king's retinue was a man called Gamal, who rode to one of these bondes who was an acquaintance of his, and spoke to him privately. "I will pay thee," said he, "to ride with the greatest speed, by the shortest private paths that thou knowest, to Earl Hakon, and tell him the king will kill him; for the king has got to the knowledge that Earl Hakon set King Svein on shore at Nis-river." They agreed on the payment. The bonde rode, and came to the earl just as he was sitting drinking, and had not yet gone to bed. When the bonde told his errand, the earl immediately stood up with all his men, had all his loose property removed from the farm to the forest, and all the people left the house in the night. When the king came he halted there all night; but Hakon rode away, and came east to Svithjod to King Steinkel and stayed with him all summer. King Harald returned to the town, travelled northwards to Throndhjem district, and remained there all summer; but in autumn he returned eastwards to Viken.
As soon as Earl Hakon heard the king had gone north he returned immediately in summer to the Uplands (A.D. 1063), and remained there until the king had returned from the north. Then the earl went east into Vermaland, where he remained during the winter, and where the king, Steinkel, gave him fiefs. For a short time in winter he went west to Raumarike with a great troop of men from Gautland and Vermaland, and received the scat and duties from the Upland people which belonged to him, and then returned to Glutland, and remained there till spring. King Harald had his seat in Oslo all winter (A.D. 1064), and sent his men to the Uplands to demand the scat, together with the king's land dues, and the mulcts of court; but the Uplanders said they would pay all the scat and dues which they had to pay, to Earl Hakon as long as he was in life, and had forfeited his life or his fief; and the king got no dues that winter.
This winter messengers and ambassadors went between Norway and Denmark, whose errand was that both Northmen and Danes should make peace, and a league with each other. and to ask the kings to agree to it. These messages gave favourable hopes of a peace; and the matter proceeded so far that a meeting for peace was appointed at the Gaut river between King Harald and King Svein. When spring approached, both kings assembled many ships and people for this meeting. So says a skald in a poem on this expedition of the kings, which begins thus: –
The king, who from the northern sound His land with war-ships girds around, The raven-feeder, filled the coast With his proud ships, a gallant host! The gold-tipped stems dash through the foam That shakes the seamen's planked home; The high wave breaks up to the mast, As west of Halland on they passed,
Harald whose word is fixed and sure, Whose ships his land from foes secure, And Svein, whose isles maintain is fleet, Hasten as friends again to meet; And every creek with vessels teems, – All Denmark men and shipping seems; And all rejoice that strife will cease, And men meet now but to make peace.
Here it is told that the two kings held the meeting that was agreed upon between them, and both came to the frontiers of their kingdoms. So says the skald: –
To meet (since peace the Dane now craves) On to the south upon the waves Sailed forth our gallant northern king, Peace to the Danes with him to bring. Svein northward to his frontier hies To get the peace his people prize, And meet King Harald, whom he finds On land hard used by stormy winds.
When the kings found each other, people began at once to talk of their being reconciled. But as soon as peace was proposed, many began to complain of the damage they had sustained by harrying, robbing and killing men; and for a long time it did not look very like peace. It is here related: –
Before this meeting of the kings Each bende his own losses brings, And loudly claims some recompense From his king's foes, at their expense. It is not easy to make peace, Where noise and talking never cease: The bondes' warmth may quickly spread, And kings be by the people led.
When kings are moved, no peace is sure; For that peace only is secure Which they who make it fairly make, – To each side give, from each side take. The kings will often rule but ill Who listen to the people's will: The people often have no view But their own interests to pursue.
At last the best men, and those who were the wisest, came between the kings, and settled the peace thus: – that Harald should have Norway, and Svein Denmark, according to the boundaries of old established between Denmark and Norway; neither of them should pay to the other for any damage sustained; the war should cease as it now stood, each retaining what he had got; and this peace should endure as long as they were kings. This peace was confirmed by oath. Then the kings parted, having given each other hostages, as is here related: –
And I have heard that to set fast The peace God brought about at last, Svein and stern Harald pledges sent, Who witnessed to their sworn intent; And much I wish that they and all In no such perjury may fall That this peace ever should be broken, And oaths should fail before God spoken.
King Harald with his people sailed northwards to Norway, and King Svein southwards to Denmark.
King Harald was in Viken in the summer (A.D. 1064), and he sent his men to the Uplands after the scat and duty which belonged to him; but the bondes paid no attention to the demand, but said they would hold all for Earl Hakon until he came for it. Earl Hakon was then up in Gautland with a large armed force. When summer was past King Harald went south to Konungahella. Then he took all the light-sailing vessels he could get hold of and steered up the river. He had the vessels drawn past all the waterfalls and brought them thus into the Wener lake. Then he rowed eastward across the lake to where he heard Earl Hakon was; but when the earl got news of the king's expedition he retreated down the country, and would not let the king plunder the land. Earl Hakon had a large armed force which the Gautland people had raised for him. King Harald lay with his ships up in a river, and made a foray on land, but left some of his men behind to protect the ships. The king himself rode up with a part of the men, but the greater part were on foot. They had to cross a forest, where they found a mire or lake, and close to it a wood; and when they reached the wood they saw the earl's men, but the mire was between them. They drew up their people now on both sides. Then King Harald ordered his men to sit down on the hillside. "We will first see if they will attack us. Earl Hakon does not usually wait to talk." It was frosty weather, with some snow-drift, and Harald's men sat down under their shields; but it was cold for the Gautlanders, who had but little clothing with them. The earl told them to wait until King Harald came nearer, so that all would stand equally high on the ground. Earl Hakon had the same banner which had belonged to King Magnus Olafson.
The lagman of the Gautland people, Thorvid, sat upon a horse, and the bridle was fastened to a stake that stood in the mire. He broke out with these words: "God knows we have many brave and handsome fellows here, and we shall let King Steinkel hear that we stood by the good earl bravely. I am sure of one thing: we shall behave gallantly against these Northmen, if they attack us; but if our young people give way, and should not stand to it, let us not run farther than to that stream; but if they should give way farther, which I am sure they will not do, let it not be farther than to that hill." At that instant the Northmen sprang up, raised the war-cry, and struck on their shields; and the Gautland army began also to shout. The lagman's horse got shy with the war-cry, and backed so hard that the stake flew up and struck the lagman on the head. He said, "Ill luck to thee, Northman, for that arrow!" and away fled the lagman. King Harald had told his people, "If we do make a clash with the weapons, we shall not however, go down from the hill until they come nearer to us;" and they did so. When the war-cry was raised the earl let his banner advance; but when they came under the hill the king's army rushed down upon them, and killed some of the earl's people, and the rest fled. The Northmen did not pursue the fugitives long, for it was the fall of day; but they took Earl Hakon's banner and all the arms and clothes they could get hold of. King Harald had both the banners carried before him as they marched away. They spoke among themselves that the earl had probably fallen. As they were riding through the forest they could only ride singly, one following the other. Suddenly a man came full gallop across the path, struck his spear through him who was carrying the earl's banner, seized the banner-staff, and rode into the forest on the other side with the banner. When this was told the king he said, "Bring me my armour, for the earl is alive." Then the king rode to his ships in the night; and many said that the earl had now taken his revenge. But Thiodolf sang thus: –
Steinkel's troops, who were so bold, Who the Earl Hakon would uphold, Were driven by our horsemen's power To Hel, death goddess, in an hour; And the great earl, so men say Who won't admit he ran away, Because his men fled from the ground, Retired, and cannot now be found.
The rest of the night Harald passed in his ships; but in the morning, when it was daylight, it was found that so thick ice had gathered about the vessels that one could walk around them. The king ordered his men to cut the ice from the ships all the way out to the clear water; on which they all went to break the ice. King Harald's son, Magnus, steered the vessel that lay lowest down the river and nearest the water. When the people had cleared the ice away almost entirely, a man ran out to the ice, and began hewing away at it like a madman. Then said one of the men, "It is going now as usual, that none can do so much as Hal who killed Kodran, when once he lays himself to the work. See how he is hewing away at the ice." There was a man in the crew of Magnus, the king's son, who was called Thormod Eindridason; and when he heard the name of Kodran's murderer he ran up to Hal, and gave him a death-wound. Kodran was a son of Gudmund Eyjolfson; and Valgerd, who was a sister of Gudmund, was the mother of Jorun, and the grandmother by the mother's side of this Thormod. Thormod was a year old when Kodran was killed, and had never seen Hal Utrygson until now. When the ice was broken all the way out to the water, Magnus drew his ship out, set sail directly, and sailed westward across the lake; but the king's ship, which lay farthest up the river, came out the last. Hal had been in the king's retinue, and was very dear to him; so that the king was enraged at his death. The king came the last into the harbour, and Magnus had let the murderer escape into the forest, and offered to pay the mulct for him; and the king had very nearly attacked Magnus and his crew, but their friends came up and reconciled them.
That winter (A.D. 1065) King Harald went up to Raumarike, and had many people with him; and he accused the bondes there of having kept from him his scat and duties, and of having aided his enemies to raise disturbance against him. He seized on the bondes and maimed some, killed others, and robbed many of all their property. They who could do it fled from him. He burned everything in the districts and laid them altogether waste. So says Thiodolf: –
He who the island-people drove, When they against his power strove, Now bridle's Raumarike's men, Marching his forces through their glen. To punish them the fire he lights That shines afar off in dark nights From house and yard, and, as he says, Will warn the man who disobeys.
Thereafter the king went up to Hedemark, burnt the dwellings, and made no less waste and havoc there than in Raumarike. From thence he went to Hadeland and Ringerike, burning and ravaging all the land. So says Thiodolf: –
The bonde's household goods are seen Before his door upon the green, Smoking and singed: and sparks red hot Glow in the thatched roof of his cot. In Hedemark the bondes pray The king his crushing hand to stay; In Ringerike and Hadeland, None 'gainst his fiery wrath can stand.
Then the bondes left all to the king's mercy. After the death of King Magnus fifteen years had passed when the battle at Nis-river took place, and afterwards two years elapsed before Harald and Svein made peace. So says Thiodolf: –
The Hordland king under the land At anchor lay close to the strand, At last, prepared with shield and spear The peace was settled the third year.
After this peace the disturbances with the people of the Upland districts lasted a year and a half. So says Thiodolf: –
No easy task it is to say How the king brought beneath his sway The Upland bondes, and would give Nought but their ploughs from which to live. The king in eighteen months brought down Their bonde power, and raised his own, And the great honour he has gained Will still in memory be retained.
Edward, Ethelred's son, was king of England after his brother Hardacanute. He was called Edward the Good; and so he was. King Edward's mother was Queen Emma, daughter of Richard, earl of Rouen. Her brother was Earl Robert, whose son was William the Bastard, who at that time was earl at Rouen in Normandy. King Edward's queen was Gyda, a daughter of Earl Godwin, the son of Ulfnad. Gyda's brothers were, Earl Toste, the eldest; Earl Morukare the next; Earl Walter the third; Earl Svein the fourth; and the fifth was Harald, who was the youngest, and he was brought up at King Edward's court, and was his foster-son. The king loved him very much, and kept him as his own son; for he had no children.
One summer it happened that Harald, the son of Godwin, made an expedition to Bretland with his ships, but when they got to sea they met a contrary wind, and were driven off into the ocean. They landed west in Normandy, after suffering from a dangerous storm. They brought up at Rouen, where they met Earl William, who received Harald and his company gladly. Harald remained there late in harvest, and was hospitably entertained; for the stormy weather continued, and there was no getting to sea, and this continued until winter set in; so the earl and Harald agreed that he should remain there all winter. Harald sat on the high- seat on one side of the earl; and on the other side sat the earl's wife, one of the most beautiful women that could be seen. They often talked together for amusement at the drinking-table; and the earl went generally to bed, but Harald and the earl's wife sat long in the evenings talking together, and so it went on for a great part of the winter. In one of their conversations she said to Harald, "The earl has asked me what it is we have to talk about so much, for he is angry at it." Harald replies, "We shall then at once let him know all our conversation." The following day, Harald asked the earl to a conference, and they went together into the conference-chamber; where also the queen was, and some of the councillors. Then Harald began thus: – "I have to inform you, earl, that there lies more in my visit here than I have let you know. I would ask your daughter in marriage, and have often spoke over this matter with her mother, and she has promised to support my suit with you." As soon as Harald had made known this proposal of his, it was well received by all who were present. They explained the case to the earl; and at last it came so far that the earl was contracted to Harald, but as she was very young, it was resolved that the wedding should be deferred for some years.
When spring came Harald rigged his ships and set off; and he and the earl parted with great friendship. Harald sailed over to England to King Edward, but did not return to Valland to fulfill the marriage agreement. Edward was king over England for twenty- three years and died on a bed of sickness in London on the 5th of January, and was buried in Paul's church. Englishmen call him a saint.
The sons of Earl Godwin were the most powerful men in England. Toste was made chief of the English king's army, and was his land-defence man when the king began to grow old; and he was also placed above all the other earls. His brother Harald was always with the court itself, and nearest to the king in all service, and had the charge of the king's treasure-chamber. It is said that when the king was approaching his last hour, Harald and a few others were with him. Harald first leans down over the king, and then said, "I take you all to witness that the king has now given me the kingdom, and all the realm of England:" and then the king was taken dead out of the bed. The same day there was a meeting of the chiefs, at which there was some talk of choosing a king; and then Harald brought forward his witnesses that King Edward had given him the kingdom on his dying day. The meeting ended by choosing Harald as king, and he was consecrated and crowned the 13th day of Yule, in Paul's church. Then all the chiefs and all the people submitted to him. Now when his brother, Earl Toste, heard of this he took it very ill, as he thought himself quite as well entitled to be king. "I want," said he, "that the principal men of the country choose him whom they think best fitted for it." And sharp words passed between the brothers. King Harald says he will not give up his kingly dignity, for he is seated on the throne which kings sat upon, and is anointed and consecrated a king. On his side also was the strength of the people, for he had the king's whole treasure.
Now when King Harald perceived that his brother Toste wanted to have him deprived of the kingdom he did not trust him; for Toste was a clever man, and a great warrior, and was in friendship with the principal men of the country. He therefore took the command of the army from Toste, and also all the power he had beyond that of the other earls of the country. Earl Toste, again, would not submit to be his own brother's serving man; therefore he went with his people over the sea to Flanders, and stayed there awhile, then went to Friesland, and from thence to Denmark to his relation King Svein. Earl Ulf, King Svein's father, and Gyda, Earl Toste's mother, were brother's and sister's children. The earl now asked King Svein for support and help of men; and King Svein invited him to stay with him, with the promise that he should get so large an earldom in Denmark that he would be an important chief.
The earl replies, "My inclination is to go back to my estate in England; but if I cannot get help from you for that purpose, I will agree to help you with all the power I can command in England, if you will go there with the Danish army, and win the country, as Canute, your mother's brother, did."
The king replied, "So much smaller a man am I than Canute the Great, that I can with difficulty defend my own Danish dominions against the Northmen. King Canute, on the other hand, got the Danish kingdom in heritage, took England by slash and blow, and sometimes was near losing his life in the contest; and Norway he took without slash or blow. Now it suits me much better to be guided by my own slender ability than to imitate my relation, King Canute's, lucky hits."
Then Earl Toste said, "The result of my errand here is less fortunate than I expected of thee who art so gallant a man, seeing that thy relative is in so great need. It may be that I will seek friendly help where it could less be expected; and that I may find a chief who is less afraid, king, than thou art of a great enterprise."
Then the king and the earl parted, not just the best friends.
Earl Toste turned away then and went to Norway, where he presented himself to King Harald, who was at that time in Viken. When they met the earl explained his errand to the king. He told him all his proceedings since he left England, and asked his aid to recover his dominions in England.
The king replied that the Northmen had no great desire for a campaign in England, and to have English chiefs over them there. "People say," added he, "that the English are not to be trusted."
The earl replied, "Is it true what I have heard people tell in England, that thy relative, King Magnus, sent men to King Edward with the message that King Magnus had right to England as well as to Denmark, and had got that heritage after Hardacanute, in consequence of a regular agreement?"
The king replied, "How came it that he did not get it, if he had a right to it?"
"Why," replied the earl, "hast thou not Denmark, as King Magnus, thy predecessor, had it?"
The king replies, "The Danes have nothing to brag of over us Northmen; for many a place have we laid in ashes to thy relations."
Then said the earl, "If thou wilt not tell me, I will tell thee. Magnus subdued Denmark, because all the chiefs of the country helped him; and thou hast not done it, because all the people of the country were against thee. Therefore, also, King Magnus did not strive for England, because all the nation would have Edward for king. Wilt thou take England now? I will bring the matter so far that most of the principal men in England shall be thy friends, and assist thee; for nothing is wanting to place me at the side of my brother Harald but the king's name. All men allow that there never was such a warrior in the northern lands as thou art; and it appears to me extraordinary that thou hast been fighting for fifteen years for Denmark, and wilt not take England that lies open to thee."
King Harald weighed carefully the earl's words, and perceived at once that there was truth in much of what he said; and he himself had also a great desire to acquire dominions. Then King Harald and the earl talked long and frequently together; and at last he took the resolution to proceed in summer to England, and conquer the country. King Harald sent a message-token through all Norway and ordered out a levy of one-half of all the men in Norway able to carry arms. When this became generally known, there were many guesses about what might be the end of this expedition. Some reckoned up King Harald's great achievements, and thought he was also the man who could accomplish this. Others, again, said that England was difficult to attack; that it was very full of people; and the men-at-arms, who were called Thingmen, were so brave, that one of them was better than two of Harald's best men. Then said Ulf the marshal: –
I am still ready gold to gain; But truly it would be in vain, And the king's marshal in the hall Might leave his good post once for all, If two of us in any strife Must for one Thingman fly for life, My lovely Norse maid, in my youth We thought the opposite the truth.
Ulf the marshal died that spring (A.D. 1066). King Harald stood over his grave, and said, as he was leaving it, "There lies now the truest of men, and the most devoted to his king."
Earl Toste sailed in spring west to Flanders, to meet the people who had left England with him, and others besides who had gathered to him both out of England and Flanders.
King Harald's fleet assembled at the Solunds. When King Harald was ready to leave Nidaros he went to King Olaf's shrine, unlocked it, clipped his hair and nails, and locked the shrine again, and threw the keys into the Nid. Some say he threw them overboard outside of Agdanes; and since then the shrine of Saint Olaf, the king, has never been opened. Thirty-five years had passed since he was slain; and he lived thirty-five years here on earth (A.D. 1080-1066). King Harald sailed with his ships he had about him to the south to meet his people, and a great fleet was collected; so that. according to the people's reckoning, King Harald had nearly 200 ships beside provision-ships and small craft.
While they lay at the Solunds a man called Gyrd, on board the king's ship, had a dream. He thought he was standing in the king's ship and saw a great witch-wife standing on the island, with a fork in one hand and a trough in the other. He thought also that he saw over all the fleet, and that a fowl was sitting upon every ship's stern, and that these fowls were all ravens or ernes; and the witch-wife sang this song: –
From the east I'll 'tice the king, To the west the king I'll bring; Many a noble bone will be Ravens o'er Giuke's ship are fitting, Eyeing the prey they think most fitting. Upon the stem I'll sail with them! Upon the stem I'll sail with them!
There was also a man called Thord, in a ship which lay not far from the king's. He dreamt one night that he saw King Harald's fleet coming to land, and he knew the land to be England. He saw a great battle-array on the land; and he thought both sides began to fight, and had many banners flapping in the air. And before the army of the people of the country was riding a huge witch- wife upon a wolf; and the wolf had a man's carcass in his mouth, and the blood was dropping from his jaws; and when he had eaten up one body she threw another into his mouth, and so one after another, and he swallowed them all. And she sang thus: –
Skade's eagle eyes The king's ill luck espies: Though glancing shields Hide the green fields, The king's ill luck she spies. To bode the doom of this great king, The flesh of bleeding men I fling To hairy jaw and hungry maw! To hairy jaw and hungry maw!
King Harald also dreamt one night that he was in Nidaros, and met his brother, King Olaf, who sang to him these verses: –
In many a fight My name was bright; Men weep, and tell How Olaf fell. Thy death is near; Thy corpse, I fear, The crow will feed, The witch-wife's steed.
Many other dreams and forebodings were then told of, and most of them gloomy. Before King Harald left Throndhjem, he let his son Magnus be proclaimed king and set him as king over Norway while he was absent. Thora, the daughter of Thorberg, also remained behind; but he took with him Queen Ellisif and her two daughters, Maria and Ingegerd. Olaf, King Harald's son, also accompanied his father abroad.
When King Harald was clear for sea, and the wind became favourable, he sailed out into the ocean; and he himself landed in Shetland, but a part of his fleet in the Orkney Islands. King Harald stopped but a short time in Shetland before sailing to Orkney, from whence he took with him a great armed force, and the earls Paul and Erlend, the sons of Earl Thorfin; but he left behind him here the Queen Ellisif, and her daughters Maria and Ingegerd. Then he sailed, leaving Scotland and England westward of him, and landed at a place called Klifland. There he went on shore and plundered, and brought the country in subjection to him without opposition. Then he brought up at Skardaburg, and fought with the people of the place. He went up a hill which is there, and made a great pile upon it, which he set on fire; and when the pile was in clear flame, his men took large forks and pitched the burning wood down into the town, so that one house caught fire after the other, and the town surrendered. The Northmen killed many people there and took all the booty they could lay hold of. There was nothing left for the Englishmen now, if they would preserve their lives, but to submit to King Harald; and thus he subdued the country wherever he came. Then the king proceeded south along the land, and brought up at Hellornes, where there came a force that had been assembled to oppose him, with which he had a battle, and gained the victory.
Thereafter the king sailed to the Humber, and up along the river, and then he landed. Up in Jorvik were two earls, Earl Morukare, and his brother, Earl Valthiof, and they had an immense army. While the army of the earls was coming down from the upper part of the country, King Harald lay in the Usa. King Harald now went on the land, and drew up his men. The one arm of this line stood at the outer edge of the river, the other turned up towards the land along a ditch; and there was also a morass, deep, broad, and full of water. The earls let their army proceed slowly down along the river, with all their troops in line. The king's banner was next the river, where the line was thickest. It was thinnest at the ditch, where also the weakest of the men were. When the earls advanced downwards along the ditch, the arm of the Northmen's line which was at the ditch gave way; and the Englishmen followed, thinking the Northmen would fly. The banner of Earl Morukare advanced then bravely.
When King Harald saw that the English array had come to the ditch against him, he ordered the charge to be sounded, and urged on his men. He ordered the banner which was called the Land-ravager to be carried before him, and made so severe an assault that all had to give way before it; and there was a great loss among the men of the earls, and they soon broke into flight, some running up the river, some down, and the most leaping into the ditch, which was so filled with dead that the Norsemen could go dry-foot over the fen. There Earl Morukare fell. So says Stein Herdison: –
The gallant Harald drove along, Flying but fighting, the whole throng. At last, confused, they could not fight, And the whole body took to flight. Up from the river's silent stream At once rose desperate splash and scream; But they who stood like men this fray Round Morukare's body lay.
This song was composed by Stein Herdison about Olaf, son of King Harald; and he speaks of Olaf being in this battle with King Harald, his father. These things are also spoken of in the song called "Harald's Stave": –
Earl Valthiof's men Lay in the fen, By sword down hewed, So thickly strewed, That Norsemen say They paved a way Across the fen For the brave Norsemen.
Earl Valthiof, and the people who escaped, fled up to the castle of York; and there the greatest loss of men had been. This battle took place upon the Wednesday next Mathias' day (A.D. 1066).
Earl Toste had come from Flanders to King Harald as soon as he arrived in England, and the earl was present at all these battles. It happened, as he had foretold the king at their first meeting, that in England many people would flock to them, as being friends and relations of Earl Toste, and thus the king's forces were much strengthened. After the battle now told of, all people in the nearest districts submitted to Harald, but some fled. Then the king advanced to take the castle, and laid his army at Stanforda-bryggiur (Stamford Bridge); and as King Harald had gained so great a victory against so great chiefs and so great an army, the people were dismayed, and doubted if they could make any opposition. The men of the castle therefore determined, in a council, to send a message to King Harald, and deliver up the castle into his power. All this was soon settled; so that on Sunday the king proceeded with the whole army to the castle, and appointed a Thing of the people without the castle, at which the people of the castle were to be present. At this Thing all the people accepted the condition of submitting to Harald, and gave him, as hostages, the children of the most considerable persons; for Earl Toste was well acquainted with all the people of that town. In the evening the king returned down to his ships, after this victory achieved with his own force, and was very merry. A Thing was appointed within the castle early on Monday morning, and then King Harald was to name officers to rule over the town, to give out laws, and bestow fiefs. The same evening, after sunset, King Harald Godwinson came from the south to the castle with a numerous army, and rode into the city with the good-will and consent of the people of the castle. All the gates and walls were beset so that the Northmen could receive no intelligence, and the army remained all night in the town.
On Monday, when King Harald Sigurdson had taken breakfast, he ordered the trumpets to sound for going on shore. The army accordingly got ready, and he divided the men into the parties who should go, and who should stay behind. In every division he allowed two men to land, and one to remain behind. Earl Toste and his retinue prepared to land with King Harald; and, for watching the ships, remained behind the king's son Olaf; the earls of Orkney, Paul and Erlend; and also Eystein Orre, a son of Thorberg Arnason, who was the most able and best beloved by the king of all the lendermen, and to whom the king had promised his daughter Maria. The weather was uncommonly fine, and it was hot sunshine. The men therefore laid aside their armour, and went on the land only with their shields, helmets and spears, and girt with swords; and many had also arrows and bows, and all were very merry. Now as they came near the castle a great army seemed coming against them, and they saw a cloud of dust as from horses' feet, and under it shining shields and bright armour. The king halted his people, and called to him Earl Toste, and asked him what army this could be. The earl replied that he thought it most likely to be a hostle army, but possibly it might be some of his relations who were seeking for mercy and friendship, in order to obtain certain peace and safety from the king. Then the king said, "We must all halt, to discover what kind of a force this is." They did so; and the nearer this force came the greater it appeared, and their shining arms were to the sight like glancing ice.
Then said King Harald, "Let us now fall upon some good sensible counsel; for it is not to be concealed that this is an hostile army and the king himself without doubt is here."
Then said the earl, "The first counsel is to turn about as fast as we can to our ships to get our men and our weapons, and then we will make a defence according to our ability; or otherwise let our ships defend us, for there these horsemen have no power over us."
Then King Harald said, "I have another counsel. Put three of our best horses under three of our briskest lads and let them ride with all speed to tell our people to come quickly to our relief. The Englishmen shall have a hard fray of it before we give ourselves up for lost."
The earl said the king must order in this, as in all things, as he thought best; adding, at the same time, it was by no means his wish to fly. Then King Harald ordered his banner Land-ravager to be set up; and Frirek was the name of him who bore the banner.
Then King Harald arranged his army, and made the line of battle long, but not deep. He bent both wings of it back, so that they met together; and formed a wide ring equally thick all round, shield to shield, both in the front and rear ranks. The king himself and his retinue were within the circle; and there was the banner, and a body of chosen men. Earl Toste, with his retinue, was at another place, and had a different banner. The army was arranged in this way, because the king knew that horsemen were accustomed to ride forwards with great vigour, but to turn back immediately. Now the king ordered that his own and the earl's attendants should ride forwards where it was most required. "And our bowmen," said he, "shall be near to us; and they who stand in the first rank shall set the spear-shaft on the ground, and the spear-point against the horseman's breast, if he rides at them; and those who stand in the second rank shall set the spear-point against the horse's breast."
King Harald Godwinson had come with an immense army, both of cavalry and infantry. Now King Harald Sigurdson rode around his array, to see how every part was drawn up. He was upon a black horse, and the horse stumbled under him, so that the king fell off. He got up in haste and said, "A fall is lucky for a traveller."
The English king Harald said to the Northmen who were with him, "Do ye know the stout man who fell from his horse, with the blue kirtle and the beautiful helmet?"
"That is the king himself." said they.
The English king said, "A great man, and of stately appearance is he; but I think his luck has left him."
Twenty horsemen rode forward from the Thing-men's troops against the Northmen's array; and all of them, and likewise their horses, were clothed in armour.
One of the horsemen said, "Is Earl Toste in this army?"
The earl answered, "It is not to be denied that ye will find him here."
The horseman says, "Thy brother, King Harald, sends thee salutation, with the message that thou shalt have the whole of Northumberland; and rather than thou shouldst not submit to him, he will give thee the third part of his kingdom to rule over along with himself."
The earl replies, "This is something different from the enmity and scorn he offered last winter; and if this had been offered then it would have saved many a man's life who now is dead, and it would have been better for the kingdom of England. But if I accept of this offer, what will he give King Harald Sigurdson for his trouble?"
The horseman replied, "He has also spoken of this; and will give him seven feet of English ground, or as much more as he may be taller than other men."
"Then," said the earl, "go now and tell King Harald to get ready for battle; for never shall the Northmen say with truth that Earl Toste left King Harald Sigurdson to join his enemy's troops, when he came to fight west here in England. We shall rather all take the resolution to die with honour, or to gain England by a victory."
Then the horseman rode back.
King Harald Sigurdson said to the earl, "Who was the man who spoke so well?"
The earl replied, "That was King Harald Godwinson."
Then, said King Harald Sigurdson, "That was by far too long concealed from me; for they had come so near to our army, that this Harald should never have carried back the tidings of our men's slaughter."
Then said the earl, "It was certainly imprudent for such chiefs, and it may be as you say; but I saw he was going to offer me peace and a great dominion, and that, on the other hand, I would be his murderer if I betrayed him; and I would rather he should be my murderer than I his, if one of two be to die."
King Harald Sigurdson observed to his men, "That was but a little man, yet he sat firmly in his stirrups."
It is said that Harald made these verses at this time: –
Advance! advance! No helmets glance, But blue swords play In our array. Advance! advance! No mail-coats glance, But hearts are here That ne'er knew fear.
His coat of mail was called Emma; and it was so long that it reached almost to the middle of his leg, and so strong that no weapon ever pierced it. Then said King Harald Sigurdson, "These verses are but ill composed; I must try to make better;" and he composed the following: –
In battle storm we seek no lee, With skulking head, and bending knee, Behind the hollow shield. With eye and hand we fend the head; Courage and skill stand in the stead Of panzer, helm, and shield, In hild's bloody field.
Thereupon Thiodolf sang: –
And should our king in battle fall, – A fate that God may give to all, – His sons will vengeance take; And never shone the sun upon Two nobler eaglet; in his run, And them we'll never forsake.
Now the battle began. The Englishmen made a hot assault upon the Northmen, who sustained it bravely. It was no easy matter for the English to ride against the Northmen on account of their spears; therefore they rode in a circle around them. And the fight at first was but loose and light, as long as the Northmen kept their order of battle; for although the English rode hard against the Northmen, they gave way again immediately, as they could do nothing against them. Now when the Northmen thought they perceived that the enemy were making but weak assaults, they set after them, and would drive them into flight; but when they had broken their shield-rampart the Englishmen rode up from all sides, and threw arrows and spears on them. Now when King Harald Sigurdson saw this, he went into the fray where the greatest crash of weapons was, and there was a sharp conflict, in which many people fell on both sides. King Harald then was in a rage, and ran out in front of the array, and hewed down with both hands; so that neither helmet nor armour could withstand him, and all who were nearest gave way before him. It was then very near with the English that they had taken to flight. So says Arnor, the earls' skald: –
Where battle-storm was ringing, Where arrow-cloud was singing, Harald stood there, Of armour bare, His deadly sword still swinging. The foeman feel its bite; His Norsemen rush to fight, Danger to share, With Harald there, Where steel on steel was ringing.
King Harald Sigurdson was hit by an arrow in the windpipe, and that was his death-wound. He fell, and all who had advanced with him, except those who retired with the banner. There was afterwards the warmest conflict, and Earl Toste had taken charge of the king's banner. They began on both sides to form their array again, and for a long time there was a pause in fighting. Then Thiodolf sang these verses: –
The army stands in hushed dismay; Stilled is the clamour of the fray. Harald is dead, and with him goes The spirit to withstand our foes. A bloody scat the folk must pay For their king's folly on this day. He fell; and now, without disguise, We say this business was not wise.
But before the battle began again Harald Godwinson offered his brother, Earl Toste, peace, and also quarter to the Northmen who were still alive; but the Northmen called out, all of them together, that they would rather fall, one across the other, than accept of quarter from the Englishmen. Then each side set up a war-shout, and the battle began again. So says Arnor, the earls' skald: –
The king, whose name would ill-doers scare, The gold-tipped arrow would not spare. Unhelmed, unpanzered, without shield, He fell among us in the field. The gallant men who saw him fall Would take no quarter; one and all Resolved to die with their loved king, Around his corpse in a corpse-ring.
Eystein Orre came up at this moment from the ships with the men who followed him, and all were clad in armour. Then Eystein got King Harald's banner Land-ravager; and now was, for the third time, one of the sharpest of conflicts, in which many Englishmen fell, and they were near to taking flight. This conflict is called Orre's storm. Eystein and his men had hastened so fast from the ships that they were quite exhausted, and scarcely fit to fight before they came into the battle; but afterwards they became so furious, that they did not guard themselves with their shields as long as they could stand upright. At last they threw off their coats of ringmail, and then the Englishmen could easily lay their blows at them; and many fell from weariness, and died without a wound. Thus almost all the chief men fell among the Norway people. This happened towards evening; and then it went, as one might expect, that all had not the same fate, for many fled, and were lucky enough to escape in various ways; and darkness fell before the slaughter was altogether ended.
Styrkar, King Harald Sigurdson's marshal, a gallant man, escaped upon a horse, on which he rode away in the evening. It was blowing a cold wind, and Styrkar had not much other clothing upon him but his shirt, and had a helmet on his head, and a drawn sword in his hand. As soon as his weariness was over, he began to feel cold. A waggoner met him in a lined skin-coat. Styrkar asks him, "Wilt thou sell thy coat, friend?"
"Not to thee," says the peasant: "thou art a Northman; that I can hear by thy tongue."
Styrkar replies, "If I were a Northman, what wouldst thou do?"
"I would kill thee," replied the peasant; "but as ill luck would have it, I have no weapon just now by me that would do it."
Then Styrkar says, "As you can't kill me, friend, I shall try if I can't kill you." And with that he swung his sword, and struck him on the neck, so that his head came off. He then took the skin-coat, sprang on his horse, and rode down to the strand.
Olaf Haraldson had not gone on land with the others, and when he heard of his father's fall he made ready to sail away with the men who remained.
When the Earl of Rouen, William the Bastard, heard of his relation, King Edward's, death, and also that Harald Godwinson was chosen, crowned, and consecrated king of England, it appeared to him that he had a better right to the kingdom of England than Harald, by reason of the relationship between him and King Edward. He thought, also, that he had grounds for avenging the affront that Harald had put upon him with respect to his daughter. From all these grounds William gathered together a great army in Normandy, and had many men, and sufficient transport-shipping. The day that he rode out of the castle to his ships, and had mounted his horse, his wife came to him, and wanted to speak with him; but when he saw her he struck at her with his heel, and set his spurs so deep into her breast that she fell down dead; and the earl rode on to his ships, and went with his ships over to England. His brother, Archbishop Otto, was with him; and when the earl came to England he began to plunder, and take possession of the land as he came along. Earl William was stouter and stronger than other men; a great horseman and warrior, but somewhat stern; and a very sensible man, but not considered a man to be relied on.
King Harald Godwinson gave King Harald Sigurdson's son Olaf leave to go away, with the men who had followed him and had not fallen in battle; but he himself turned round with his army to go south, for he had heard that William the Bastard was overwhelming the south of England with a vast army, and was subduing the country for himself. With King Harald went his brothers Svein and Gyrd, and Earl Valthiof. King Harald and Earl William met each other south in England at Helsingja-port (Hastings). There was a great battle in which King Harald and his brother Earl Gyrd and a great part of his men fell. This was the nineteenth day after the fall of King Harald Sigurdson. Harald's brother, Earl Valthiof, escaped by flight, and towards evening fell in with a division of William's people, consisting of 100 men; and when they saw Earl Valthiof's troop they fled to a wood. Earl Valthiof set fire to the wood, and they were all burnt. So says Thorkel Skallason in Valthiof's ballad: –
Earl Valthiof the brave His foes a warming gave: Within the blazing grove A hundred men he drove. The wolf will soon return, And the witch's horse will burn Her sharp claws in the ash, To taste the Frenchman's flesh.
William was proclaimed king of England. He sent a message to Earl Valthiof that they should be reconciled, and gave him assurance of safety to come to the place of meeting. The earl set out with a few men; but when he came to a heath north of Kastala-bryggia, there met him two officers of King William, with many followers, who took him prisoner, put him in fetters, and afterwards he was beheaded; and the English call him a saint. Thorkel tells of this: –
William came o'er the sea, With bloody sword came he: Cold heart and bloody hand Now rule the English land. Earl Valthiof he slew, – Valthiof the brave and true. Cold heart and bloody hand Now rule the English land.
William was after this king of England for twenty-one years, and his descendants have been so ever since.
Olaf, the son of King Harald Sigurdson, sailed with his fleet from England from Hrafnseyr, and came in autumn to the Orkney Isles, where the event had happened that Maria, a daughter of Harald Sigurdson, died a sudden death the very day and hour her father, King Harald, fell. Olaf remained there all winter; but the summer after he proceeded east to Norway, where he was proclaimed king along with his brother Magnus. Queen Ellisif came from the West, along with her stepson Olaf and her daughter Ingegerd. There came also with Olaf over the West sea Skule, a son of Earl Toste, and who since has been called the king's foster-son, and his brother Ketil Krok. Both were gallant men, of high family in England, and both were very intelligent; and the brothers were much beloved by King Olaf. Ketil Krok went north to Halogaland, where King Olaf procured him a good marriage, and from him are descended many great people. Skule, the king's foster-son, was a very clever man, and the handsomest man that could be seen. He was the commander of King Olaf's court-men, spoke at the Things (1) and took part in all the country affairs with the king. The king offered to give Skule whatever district in Norway he liked, with all the income and duties that belonged to the king in it. Skule thanked him very much for the offer, but said he would rather have something else from him. "For if there came a shift of kings," said he, "the gift might come to nothing. I would rather take some properties lying near to the merchant towns, where you, sire, usually take up your abode, and then I would enjoy your Yule-feasts." The king agreed to this, and conferred on him lands eastward at Konungahella, Oslo, Tunsberg, Sarpsborg, Bergen, and north at Nidaros. These were nearly the best properties at each place, and have since descended to the family branches which came from Skule. King Olaf gave Skule his female relative, Gudrun, the daughter of Nefstein, in marriage. Her mother was Ingerid, a daughter of Sigurd Syr and Asta, King Olaf the Saint's mother. Ingerid was a sister of King Olaf the Saint and of King Harald. Skule and Gudrun's son was Asolf of Reine, who married Thora, a daughter of Skopte Ogmundson; Asolf's and Thora's son was Guthorm of Reine, father of Bard, and grandfather of King Inge and of Duke Skule.
One year after King Harald's fall his body was transported from England north to Nidaros, and was buried in Mary church, which he had built. It was a common observation that King Harald distinguished himself above all other men by wisdom and resources of mind; whether he had to take a resolution suddenly for himself and others, or after long deliberation. He was, also, above all other men, bold, brave, and lucky, until his dying day, as above related; and bravery is half victory. So says Thiodolf: –
Harald, who till his dying day Came off the best in many a fray, Had one good rule in battle-plain, In Seeland and elsewhere, to gain – That, be his foes' strength more or less, Courage is always half success.
King Herald was a handsome man, of noble appearance; his hair and beard yellow. He had a short beard, and long mustaches. The one eyebrow was somewhat higher than the other. He had large hands (1) and feet; but these were well made. His height was five ells. He was stern and severe to his enemies, and avenged cruelly all opposition or misdeed. So says Thiodolf: –
Severe alike to friends or foes, Who dared his royal will oppose; Severe in discipline to hold His men-at-arms wild and bold; Severe the bondes to repress; Severe to punish all excess; Severe was Harald – but we call That just which was alike to all.
King Harald was most greedy of power, and of all distinction and honour. He was bountiful to the friends who suited him. So says Thiodolf: –
I got from him, in sea-fight strong, A mark of gold for my ship-song. Merit in any way He generously would pay.
King Harald was fifty years old when he fell. We have no particular account of his youth before he was fifteen years old, when he was with his brother, King Olaf, at the battle of Stiklestad. He lived thirty-five years after that, and in all that time was never free from care and war. King Harald never fled from battle, but often tried cunning ways to escape when he had to do with great superiority of forces. All the men who followed King Harald in battle or skirmish said that when he stood in great danger, or anything came suddenly upon him, he always took that course which all afterwards saw gave the best hope of a fortunate issue.
When Haldor, a son of Brynjolf Ulfalde the Old, who was a sensible man and a great chief, heard people talk of how unlike the brothers Saint Olaf and King Harald were in disposition, he used to say, "I was in great friendship with both the brothers, and I knew intimately the dispositions of both, and never did I know two men more like in disposition. Both were of the highest understanding, and bold in arms, and greedy of power and property; of great courage, but not acquainted with the way of winning the favour of the people; zealous in governing, and severe in their revenge. King Olaf forced the people into Christianity and good customs, and punished cruelly those who disobeyed. This just and rightful severity the chiefs of the country could not bear, but raised an army against him, and killed him in his own kingdom; and therefore he is held to be a saint. King Harald, again, marauded to obtain glory and power, forced all the people he could under his power, and died in another king's dominions. Both brothers, in daily life, were of a worthy and considerate manner of living; they were of great experience, and very laborious, and were known and celebrated far and wide for these qualities."
King Magnus Haraldson ruled over Norway the first winter after King Harald's death (A.D. 1067), and afterwards two years (A.D. 1068-1069) along with his brother, King Olaf. Thus there were two kings of Norway at that time; and Magnus had the northern and Olaf the eastern part of the country. King Magnus had a son called Hakon, who was fostered by Thorer of Steig in Gudbrandsdal, who was a brother of King Magnus by the mother's side; and Hakon was a most agreeable man.
After King Harald Sigurdson's death the Danish king Svein let it be known that the peace between the Northmen and the Danes was at an end, and insisted that the league between Harald and Svein was not for longer time than their lives. There was a levy in both kingdoms. Harald's sons called out the whole people in Norway for procuring men and ships, and Svein set out from the south with the Danish army. Messengers then went between with proposals for a peace; and the Northmen said they would either have the same league as was concluded between King Harald and Svein, or otherwise give battle instantly on the spot. Verses were made on this occasion, viz.: –
Ready for war or peace, King Olaf will not cease From foeman's hand To guard his land.
So says also Stein Herdison in his song of Olaf: –
From Throndhjem town, where in repose The holy king defies his foes, Another Olaf will defend His kingdom from the greedy Svein. King Olaf had both power and right, And the Saint's favour in the fight. The Saint will ne'er his kin forsake, And let Svein Ulfson Norway take.
In this manner friendship was concluded between the kings and peace between the countries. King Magnus fell ill and died of the ringworm disease, after being ill for some time. He died and was buried at Nidaros. He was an amiable king and bewailed by the people.Top of page