The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus / Book VI

After the death of Frode, the Danes wrongly supposed that Fridleif,

who was being reared in Russia, had perished; and, thinking that the

sovereignty halted for lack of an heir, and that it could no longer be

kept on in the hands of the royal line, they considered that the sceptre

would be best deserved by the man who should affix to the yet fresh

grave of Frode a song of praise in his glorification, and commit the

renown of the dead king to after ages by a splendid memorial. Then one

HIARN, very skilled in writing Danish poetry, wishing to give the fame

of the hero some notable record of words, and tempted by the enormous

prize, composed, after his own fashion, a barbarous stave. Its purport,

expressed in four lines, I have transcribed as follows:

“Frode, whom the Danes would have wished to live long, they bore long

through their lands when he was dead. The great chief’s body, with this

turf heaped above it, bare earth covers under the lucid sky.”

When the composer of this song had uttered it, the Danes rewarded him

with the crown. Thus they gave a kingdom for an epitaph, and the weight

of a whole empire was presented to a little string of letters. Slender

expense for so vast a guerdon! This huge payment for a little poem

exceeded the glory of Caesar’s recompense; for it was enough for the

divine Julius to pension with a township the writer and glorifier of

those conquests which he had achieved over the whole world. But now the

spendthrift kindness of the populace squandered a kingdom on a churl.

Nay, not even Africanus, when he rewarded the records of his deed, rose

to the munificence of the Danes. For there the wage of that laborious

volume was in mere gold, while here a few callow verses won a sceptre

for a peasant.

At the same time Erik, who held the governorship of Sweden, died of

disease; and his son Halfdan, who governed in his father’s stead,

alarmed by the many attacks of twelve brothers of Norwegian birth, and

powerless to punish their violence, fled, hoping for reinforcements, to

ask aid of Fridleif, then sojourning in Russia. Approaching him with a

suppliant face, he lamented that he was himself shattered and bruised

by a foreign foe, and brought a dismal plaint of his wrongs. From him

Fridleif heard the tidings of his father’s death, and granting the aid

he sought, went to Norway in armed array. At this time the aforesaid

brothers, their allies forsaking them, built a very high rampart within

an island surrounded by a swift stream, also extending their earthworks

along the level. Trusting to this refuge, they harried the neighborhood

with continual raids. For they built a bridge on which they used to get

to the mainland when they left the island. This bridge was fastened to

the gate of the stronghold; and they worked it by the guidance of ropes,

in such a way that it turned as if on some revolving hinge, and at one

time let them pass across the river; while at another, drawn back from

above by unseen cords, it helped to defend the entrance.

These warriors were of valiant temper, young and stalwart, of splendid

bodily presence, renowned for victories over giants, full of trophies of

conquered nations, and wealthy with spoil. I record the names of some

of them–for the rest have perished in antiquity–Gerbiorn, Gunbiorn,

Arinbiorn, Stenbiorn, Esbiorn, Thorbiorn, and Biorn. Biorn is said to

have had a horse which was splendid and of exceeding speed, so that

when all the rest were powerless to cross the river it alone stemmed the

roaring eddy without weariness. This rapid comes down in so swift and

sheer a volume that animals often lose all power of swimming in it, and

perish. For, trickling from the topmost crests of the hills, it comes

down the steep sides, catches on the rocks, and is shattered, falling

into the deep valleys with a manifold clamour of waters; but, being

straightway rebuffed by the rocks that bar the way, it keeps the speed

of its current ever at the same even pace. And so, along the whole

length of the channel, the waves are one turbid mass, and the white foam

brims over everywhere. But, after rolling out of the narrows between the

rocks, it spreads abroad in a slacker and stiller flood, and turns into

an island a rock that lies in its course. On either side of the rock

juts out a sheer ridge, thick with divers trees, which screen the river

from distant view. Biorn had also a dog of extraordinary fierceness,

a terribly vicious brute, dangerous for people to live with, which had

often singly destroyed twelve men. But, since the tale is hearsay rather

than certainty, let good judges weigh its credit. This dog, as I have

heard, was the favourite of the giant Offot (Un-foot), and used to watch

his herd amid the pastures.

Now the warriors, who were always pillaging the neighbourhood, used

often to commit great slaughters. Plundering houses, cutting down

cattle, sacking everything, making great hauls of booty, rifling houses,

then burning them, massacring male and female promiscuously–these, and

not honest dealings, were their occupations. Fridleif surprised them

while on a reckless raid, and drove them all back for refuge to the

stronghold; he also seized the immensely powerful horse, whose rider, in

the haste of his panic, had left it on the hither side of the river in

order to fly betimes; for he durst not take it with him over the bridge.

Then Fridleif proclaimed that he would pay the weight of the dead body

in gold to any man who slew one of those brothers. The hope of the prize

stimulated some of the champions of the king; and yet they were fired

not so much with covetousness as with valour; so, going secretly to

Fridleif, they promised to attempt the task, vowing to sacrifice their

lives if they did not bring home the severed heads of the robbers.

Fridleif praised their valour and their vows, but bidding the onlookers

wait, went in the night to the river, satisfied with a single companion.

For, not to seem better provided with other men’s valour than with his

own, he determined to forestall their aid by his own courage. Thereupon

he crushed and killed his companion with a shower of flints, and flung

his bloodless corpse into the waves, having dressed it in his own

clothes; which he stripped off, borrowing the cast-off garb of the

other, so that when the corpse was seen it might look as if the king had

perished. He further deliberately drew blood from the beast on which he

had ridden, and bespattered it, so that when it came back into camp he

might make them think he himself was dead. Then he set spur to his

horse and drove it into the midst of the eddies, crossed the river

and alighted, and tried to climb over the rampart that screened the

stronghold by steps set up against the mound. When he got over the top

and could grasp the battlements with his hand, he quietly put his foot

inside, and, without the knowledge of the watch, went lightly on tiptoe

to the house into which the bandits had gone to carouse. And when he had

reached its hall, he sat down under the porch overhanging the door. Now

the strength of their fastness made the warriors feel so safe that they

were tempted to a debauch; for they thought that the swiftly rushing

river made their garrison inaccessible, since it seemed impossible

either to swim over or to cross in boats. For no part of the river

allowed of fording.

Biorn, moved by the revel, said that in his sleep he had seen a beast

come out of the waters, which spouted ghastly fire from its mouth,

enveloping everything in a sheet of flame. Therefore the holes and

corners of the island should, he said, be searched; nor ought they to

trust so much to their position, as rashly to let overweening confidence

bring them to utter ruin. No situation was so strong that the mere

protection of nature was enough for it without human effort. Moreover

they must take great care that the warning of his slumbers was not

followed by a yet more gloomy and disastrous fulfilment. So they all

sallied forth from the stronghold, and narrowly scanned the whole

circuit of the island; and finding the horse they surmised that Fridleif

had been drowned in the waters of the river. They received the horse

within the gates with rejoicing, supposing that it had flung off its

rider and swum over. But Biorn, still scared with the memory of the

visions of the night, advised them to keep watch, since it was not safe

for them yet to put aside suspicion of danger. Then he went to his room

to rest, with the memory of his vision deeply stored in his heart.

Meanwhile the horse, which Fridleif, in order to spread a belief in his

death, had been loosed and besprinkled with blood (though only with that

which lies between flesh and skin), burst all bedabbled into the camp of

his soldiers. They went straight to the river, and finding the carcase

of the slave, took it for the body of the king; the hissing eddies

having cast it on the bank, dressed in brave attire. Nothing helped

their mistake so much as the swelling of the battered body; inasmuch as

the skin was torn and bruised with the flints, so that all the features

were blotted out, bloodless and wan. This exasperated the champions who

had just promised Fridleif to see that the robbers were extirpated:

and they approached the perilous torrent, that they might not seem to

tarnish the honour of their promise by a craven neglect of their vow.

The rest imitated their boldness, and with equal ardour went to the

river, ready to avenge their king or to endure the worst. When Fridleif

saw them he hastened to lower the bridge to the mainland; and when he

had got the champions he cut down the watch at the first attack. Thus

he went on to attack the rest and put them to the sword, all save Biorn;

whom he tended very carefully and cured of his wounds; whereupon, under

pledge of solemn oath, he made him his colleague, thinking it better to

use his services than to boast of his death. He also declared it would

be shameful if such a flower of bravery were plucked in his first youth

and perished by an untimely death.

Now the Danes had long ago had false tidings of Fridleif’s death, and

when they found that he was approaching, they sent men to fetch him,

and ordered Hiarn to quit the sovereignty, because he was thought to

be holding it only on sufferance and carelessly. But he could not bring

himself to resign such an honour, and chose sooner to spend his life for

glory than pass into the dim lot of common men. Therefore he resolved

to fight for his present estate, that he might not have to resume his

former one stripped of his royal honours. Thus the land was estranged

and vexed with the hasty commotion of civil strife; some were of Hiarn’s

party, while others agreed to the claims of Fridleif, because of the

vast services of Frode; and the voice of the commons was perplexed and

divided, some of them respecting things as they were, others the memory

of the past. But regard for the memory of Frode weighed most, and its

sweetness gave Fridleif the balance of popularity.

Many wise men thought that a person of peasant rank should be removed

from the sovereignty; since, contrary to the rights of birth, and only

by the favour of fortune, he had reached an unhoped-for eminence; and

in order that the unlawful occupant might not debar the rightful heir to

the office, Fridleif told the envoys of the Danes to return, and request

Hiarn either to resign the kingdom or to meet him in battle. Hiarn

thought it more grievous than death to set lust of life before honour,

and to seek safety at the cost of glory. So he met Fridleif in the

field, was crushed, and fled into Jutland, where, rallying a band, he

again attacked his conqueror. But his men were all consumed with the

sword, and he fled unattended, as the island testifies which has taken

its name from his (Hiarno). And so, feeling his lowly fortune, and

seeing himself almost stripped of his forces by the double defeat, he

turned his mind to craft, and went to Fridleif with his face

disguised, meaning to become intimate, and find an occasion to slay him


Hiarn was received by the king, hiding his purpose under the pretence

of servitude. For, giving himself out as a salt-distiller, he performed

base offices among the servants who did the filthiest work. He used also

to take the last place at meal-time, and he refrained from the baths,

lest his multitude of scars should betray him if he stripped. The king,

in order to ease his own suspicions, made him wash; and when he knew his

enemy by the scars, he said: “Tell me now, thou shameless bandit, how

wouldst thou have dealt with me, if thou hadst found out plainly that

I wished to murder thee?” Hiarn, stupefied, said: “Had I caught thee I

would have first challenged thee, and then fought thee, to give thee a

better chance of wiping out thy reproach.” Fridleif presently took

him at his word, challenged him and slew him, and buried his body in a

barrow that bears the dead man’s name.

Soon after FRIDLEIF was admonished by his people to think about

marrying, that he might prolong his line; but he maintained that the

unmarried life was best, quoting his father Frode, on whom his wife’s

wantonness had brought great dishonour. At last, yielding to the

persistent entreaties of all, he proceeded to send ambassadors to ask

for the daughter of Amund, King of Norway. One of these, named Frok, was

swallowed by the waves in mid-voyage, and showed a strange portent at

his death. For when the closing flood of billows encompassed him,

blood arose in the midst of the eddy, and the whole face of the sea was

steeped with an alien redness, so that the ocean, which a moment before

was foaming and white with tempest, was presently swollen with crimson

waves, and was seen to wear a colour foreign to its nature.

Around implacably declined to consent to the wishes of the king, and

treated the legates shamefully, declaring that he spurned the embassy

because the tyranny of Frode had of old borne so heavily upon Norway.

But Amund’s daughter, Frogertha, not only looking to the birth of

Fridleif, but also honouring the glory of his deeds, began to upbraid

her father, because he scorned a son-in-law whose nobility was perfect,

being both sufficient in valour and flawless in birth. She added that

the portentous aspect of the sea, when the waves were suddenly turned

into blood, simply and solely signified the defeat of Norway, and was

a plain presage of the victory of Denmark. And when Fridleif sent a

further embassy to ask for her, wishing to vanquish the refusal by

persistency, Amund was indignant that a petition he had once denied

should be obstinately pressed, and hurried the envoys to death, wishing

to offer a brutal check to the zeal of this brazen wooer. Fridleif heard

news of this outrage, and summoning Halfdan and Biorn, sailed round

Norway. Amund, equipped with his native defences, put out his fleet

against him. The firth into which both fleets had mustered is called

Frokasund. Here Fridleif left the camp at night to reconnoitre; and,

hearing an unusual kind of sound close to him as of brass being beaten,

he stood still and looked up, and heard the following song of three

swans, who were crying above him:

“While Hythin sweeps the sea and cleaves the ravening tide, his serf

drinks out of gold and licks the cups of milk. Best is the estate of the

slave on whom waits the heir, the king’s son, for their lots are rashly

interchanged.” Next, after the birds had sung, a belt fell from on high,

which showed writing to interpret the song. For while the son of Hythin,

the King of Tellemark, was at his boyish play, a giant, assuming the

usual appearance of men, had carried him off, and using him as an

oarsman (having taken his skiff over to the neighbouring shore), was

then sailing past Fridleif while he was occupied reconnoitering. But the

king would not suffer him to use the service of the captive youth, and

longed to rob the spoiler of his prey. The youth warned him that he

must first use sharp reviling against the giant, promising that he would

prove easy to attack, if only he were assailed with biting verse. Then

Fridleif began thus:

“Since thou art a giant of three bodies, invincible, and almost reachest

heaven with thy crest, why does this silly sword bind thy thigh? Why

doth a broken spear gird thy huge side? Why, perchance, dost thou defend

thy stalwart breast with a feeble sword, and forget the likeness of thy

bodily stature, trusting in a short dagger, a petty weapon? Soon, soon

will I balk thy bold onset, when with blunted blade thou attemptest war.

Since thou art thyself a timid beast, a lump lacking proper pith, thou

art swept headlong like a flying shadow, having with a fair and famous

body got a heart that is unwarlike and unstable with fear, and a spirit

quite unmatched to thy limbs. Hence thy frame totters, for thy goodly

presence is faulty through the overthrow of thy soul, and thy nature in

all her parts is at strife. Hence shall all tribute of praise quit

thee, nor shalt thou be accounted famous among the brave, but shalt be

reckoned among ranks obscure.”

When he had said this he lopped off a hand and foot of the giant, made

him fly, and set his prisoner free. Then he went straightway to the

giant’s headland, took the treasure out of his cave, and carried it

away. Rejoicing in these trophies, and employing the kidnapped youth

to row him over the sea, he composed with cheery voice the following


“In the slaying of the swift monster we wielded our blood-stained swords

and our crimsoned blade, whilst thou, Amund, lord of the Norwegian ruin,

wert in deep slumber; and since blind night covers thee, without any

light of soul, thy valour has melted away and beguiled thee. But we

crushed a giant who lost use of his limbs and wealth, and we pierced

into the disorder of his dreary den. There we seized and plundered his

piles of gold. And now with oars we sweep the wave-wandering main, and

joyously return, rowing back to the shore our booty-laden ship; we fleet

over the waves in a skiff that travels the sea; gaily let us furrow

those open waters, lest the dawn come and betray us to the foe. Lightly

therefore, and pulling our hardest, let us scour the sea, making for our

camp and fleet ere Titan raise his rosy head out of the clear waters;

that when fame noises the deed about, and Frogertha knows that the spoil

has been won with a gallant struggle, her heart may be stirred to be

more gentle to our prayer.”

On the morrow there was a great muster of the forces, and Fridleif had

a bloody battle with Amund, fought partly by sea and partly by land. For

not only were the lines drawn up in the open country, but the warriors

also made an attack with their fleet. The battle which followed cost

much blood. So Biorn, when his ranks gave back, unloosed his hound and

sent it against the enemy; wishing to win with the biting of a dog the

victory which he could not achieve with the sword. The enemy were by

this means shamefully routed, for a square of the warriors ran away when

attacked with its teeth.

There is no saying whether their flight was more dismal or more

disgraceful. Indeed, the army of the Northmen was a thing to blush for;

for an enemy crushed it by borrowing the aid of a brute. Nor was it

treacherous of Fridleif to recruit the failing valour of his men with

the aid of a dog. In this war Amund fell; and his servant Ane, surnamed

the Archer, challenged Fridleif to fight him; but Biorn, being a man of

meaner estate, not suffering the king to engage with a common fellow,

attacked him himself. And when Biorn had bent his bow and was fitting

the arrow to the string, suddenly a dart sent by Ane pierced the top of

the cord. Soon another arrow came after it and struck amid the joints of

his fingers. A third followed, and fell on the arrow as it was laid to

the string. For Ane, who was most dexterous at shooting arrows from a

distance, had purposely only struck the weapon of his opponent, in order

that, by showing it was in his power to do likewise to his person, he

might recall the champion from his purpose. But Biorn abated none of

his valour for this, and, scorning bodily danger, entered the fray with

heart and face so steadfast, that he seemed neither to yield anything

to the skill of Ane, nor lay aside aught of his wonted courage. Thus

he would in nowise be made to swerve from his purpose, and dauntlessly

ventured on the battle. Both of them left it wounded; and fought another

also on Agdar Ness with an emulous thirst for glory.

By the death of Amund, Fridleif was freed from a most bitter foe, and

obtained a deep and tranquil peace; whereupon he forced his savage

temper to the service of delight; and, transferring his ardour to love,

equipped a fleet in order to seek the marriage which had once been

denied him. At last he set forth on his voyage; and his fleet being

becalmed, he invaded some villages to look for food; where, being

received hospitably by a certain Grubb, and at last winning his daughter

in marriage, he begat a son named Olaf. After some time had passed he

also won Frogertha; but, while going back to his own country, he had a

bad voyage, and was driven on the shores of an unknown island. A certain

man appeared to him in a vision, and instructed him to dig up a treasure

that was buried in the ground, and also to attack the dragon that

guarded it, covering himself in an ox-hide to escape the poison;

teaching him also to meet the envenomed fangs with a hide stretched over

his shield. Therefore, to test the vision, he attacked the snake as it

rose out of the waves, and for a long time cast spears against its scaly

side; in vain, for its hard and shelly body foiled the darts flung at

it. But the snake, shaking its mass of coils, uprooted the trees which

it brushed past by winding its tail about them. Moreover, by constantly

dragging its body, it hollowed the ground down to the solid rock, and

had made a sheer bank on either hand, just as in some places we see

hills parted by an intervening valley. So Fridleif, seeing that the

upper part of the creature was proof against attack, assailed the

lower side with his sword, and piercing the groin, drew blood from

the quivering beast. When it was dead, he unearthed the money from the

underground chamber and had it taken off in his ships.

When the year had come to an end, he took great pains to reconcile Biorn

and Ane, who had often challenged and fought one another, and made them

exchange their hatred for friendship; and even entrusted to them his

three-year-old son, Olaf, to rear. But his mistress, Juritha, the mother

of Olaf, he gave in marriage to Ane, whom he made one of his warriors;

thinking that she would endure more calmly to be put away, if she wedded

such a champion, and received his robust embrace instead of a king’s.

The ancients were wont to consult the oracles of the Fates concerning

the destinies of their children. In this way Fridleif desired to search

into the fate of his son Olaf; and, after solemnly offering up his vows,

he went to the house of the gods in entreaty; where, looking into the

chapel, he saw three maidens, sitting on three seats. The first of them

was of a benignant temper, and bestowed upon the boy abundant beauty

and ample store of favour in the eyes of men. The second granted him

the gift of surpassing generosity. But the third, a woman of more

mischievous temper and malignant disposition, scorning the unanimous

kindness of her sisters, and likewise wishing to mar their gifts, marked

the future character of the boy with the slur of niggardliness. Thus the

benefits of the others were spoilt by the poison of a lamentable doom;

and hence, by virtue of the twofold nature of these gifts Olaf got his

surname from the meanness which was mingled with his bounty. So it came

about that this blemish which found its way into the gift marred the

whole sweetness of its first benignity.

When Fridleif had returned from Norway, and was traveling through

Sweden, he took on himself to act as ambassador, and sued successfully

for Hythin’s daughter, whom he had once rescued from a monster, to

be the wife of Halfdan, he being still unwedded. Meantime his wife

Frogertha bore a son FRODE, who afterwards got his surname from

his noble munificence. And thus Frode, because of the memory of his

grandsire’s prosperity, which he recalled by his name, became from his

very cradle and earliest childhood such a darling of all men, that

he was not suffered even to step or stand on the ground, but was

continually cherished in people’s laps and kissed. Thus he was not

assigned to one upbringer only, but was in a manner everybody’s

fosterling. And, after his father’s death, while he was in his twelfth

year, Swerting and Hanef, the kings of Saxony, disowned his sway, and

tried to rebel openly. He overcame them in battle, and imposed on the

conquered peoples a poll-tax of a coin, which they were to pay as his

slaves. For he showed himself so generous that he doubled the ancient

pay of the soldiers: a fashion of bounty which then was novel. For he

did not, as despots do, expose himself to the vulgar allurements of

vice, but strove to covet ardently whatsoever he saw was nearest honour;

to make his wealth public property; to surpass all other men in bounty,

to forestall them all in offices of kindness; and, hardest of all, to

conquer envy by virtue. By this means the youth soon won such favour

with all men, that he not only equalled in renown the honours of his

forefathers, but surpassed the most ancient records of kings.

At the same time one Starkad, the son of Storwerk, escaped alone, either

by force or fortune, from a wreck in which his friends perished, and

was received by Frode as his guest for his incredible excellence both of

mind and body. And, after being for some little time his comrade, he was

dressed in a better and more comely fashion every day, and was at last

given a noble vessel, and bidden to ply the calling of a rover, with

the charge of guarding the sea. For nature had gifted him with a body of

superhuman excellence; and his greatness of spirit equalled it, so that

folk thought him behind no man in valour. So far did his glory spread,

that the renown of his name and deeds continues famous even yet. He

shone out among our own countrymen by his glorious roll of exploits, and

he had also won a most splendid record among all the provinces of the

Swedes and Saxons. Tradition says that he was born originally in the

country which borders Sweden on the east, where barbarous hordes of

Esthonians and other nations now dwell far and wide. But a fabulous yet

common rumour has invented tales about his birth which are contrary to

reason and flatly incredible. For some relate that he was sprung from

giants, and betrayed his monstrous birth by an extraordinary number of

hands, four of which, engendered by the superfluity of his nature, they

declare that the god Thor tore off, shattering the framework of the

sinews and wrenching from his whole body the monstrous bunches of

fingers; so that he had but two left, and that his body, which had

before swollen to the size of a giant’s, and, by reason of its shapeless

crowd of limbs looked gigantic, was thenceforth chastened to a better

appearance, and kept within the bounds of human shortness.

For there were of old certain men versed in sorcery, Thor, namely,

and Odin, and many others, who were cunning in contriving marvellous

sleights; and they, winning the minds of the simple, began to claim

the rank of gods. For, in particular, they ensnared Norway, Sweden

and Denmark in the vainest credulity, and by prompting these lands to

worship them, infected them with their imposture. The effects of their

deceit spread so far, that all other men adored a sort of divine power

in them, and, thinking them either gods or in league with gods,

offered up solemn prayers to these inventors of sorceries, and gave to

blasphemous error the honour due to religion. Hence it has come about

that the holy days, in their regular course, are called among us by the

names of these men; for the ancient Latins are known to have named these

days severally, either after the titles of their own gods, or after the

planets, seven in number. But it can be plainly inferred from the mere

names of the holy days that the objects worshipped by our countrymen

were not the same as those whom the most ancient of the Romans called

Jove and Mercury, nor those to whom Greece and Latium paid idolatrous

homage. For the days, called among our countrymen Thors-day or

Odins-day, the ancients termed severally the holy day of Jove or of

Mercury. If, therefore, according to the distinction implied in the

interpretation I have quoted, we take it that Thor is Jove and Odin

Mercury, it follows that Jove was the son of Mercury; that is, if the

assertion of our countrymen holds, among whom it is told as a matter

of common belief, that Thor was Odin’s son. Therefore, when the Latins,

believing to the contrary effect, declare that Mercury was sprung from

Jove, then, if their declaration is to stand, we are driven to consider

that Thor was not the same as Jove, and that Odin was also different

from Mercury. Some say that the gods, whom our countrymen worshipped,

shared only the title with those honoured by Greece or Latium, but that,

being in a manner nearly equal to them in dignity, they borrowed from

them the worship as well as the name. This must be sufficient discourse

upon the deities of Danish antiquity. I have expounded this briefly for

the general profit, that my readers may know clearly to what worship in

its heathen superstition our country has bowed the knee. Now I will go

back to my subject where I left it.

Ancient tradition says that Starkad, whom I mentioned above, offered the

first-fruits of his deeds to the favour of the gods by slaying Wikar,

the king of the Norwegians. The affair, according to the version of some

people, happened as follows:–

Odin once wished to slay Wikar by a grievous death; but, loth to do

the deed openly, he graced Starkad, who was already remarkable for his

extraordinary size, not only with bravery, but also with skill in the

composing of spells, that he might the more readily use his services to

accomplish the destruction of the king. For that was how he hoped that

Starkad would show himself grateful for the honour he paid him. For the

same reason he also endowed him with three spans of mortal life, that

he might be able to commit in them as many abominable deeds. So Odin

resolved that Starkad’s days should be prolonged by the following crime:

Starkad presently went to Wikar and dwelt awhile in his company, hiding

treachery under homage. At last he went with him sea-roving. And in a

certain place they were troubled with prolonged and bitter storms; and

when the winds checked their voyage so much that they had to lie still

most of the year, they thought that the gods must be appeased with human

blood. When the lots were cast into the urn it so fell that the king was

required for death as a victim. Then Starkad made a noose of withies and

bound the king in it; saying that for a brief instant he should pay

the mere semblance of a penalty. But the tightness of the knot acted

according to its nature, and cut off his last breath as he hung. And

while he was still quivering Starkad rent away with his steel the

remnant of his life; thus disclosing his treachery when he ought to

have brought aid. I do not think that I need examine the version which

relates that the pliant withies, hardened with the sudden grip, acted

like a noose of iron.

When Starkad had thus treacherously acted he took Wikar’s ship and went

to one Bemon, the most courageous of all the rovers of Denmark, in order

to take up the life of a pirate. For Bemon’s partner, named Frakk, weary

of the toil of sea-roving, had lately withdrawn from partnership with

him, after first making a money-bargain. Now Starkad and Bemon were so

careful to keep temperate, that they are said never to have indulged

in intoxicating drink, for fear that continence, the greatest bond of

bravery, might be expelled by the power of wantonness. So when, after

overthrowing provinces far and wide, they invaded Russia also in their

lust for empire, the natives, trusting little in their walls or arms,

began to bar the advance of the enemy with nails of uncommon sharpness,

that they might check their inroad, though they could not curb their

onset in battle; and that the ground might secretly wound the soles of

the men whom their army shrank from confronting in the field. But not

even such a barrier could serve to keep off the foe. The Danes were

cunning enough to foil the pains of the Russians. For they straightway

shod themselves with wooden clogs, and trod with unhurt steps upon the

points that lay beneath their soles. Now this iron thing is divided into

four spikes, which are so arranged that on whatsoever side chance may

cast it, it stands steadily on three equal feet. Then they struck into

the pathless glades, where the woods were thickets, and expelled Flokk,

the chief of the Russians, from the mountain hiding-places into which

he had crept. And here they got so much booty, that there was not one of

them but went back to the fleet laden with gold and silver.

Now when Bemon was dead, Starkad was summoned because of his valour by

the champions of Permland. And when he had done many noteworthy deeds

among them, he went into the land of the Swedes, where he lived at

leisure for seven years’ space with the sons of Frey. At last he left

them and betook himself to Hakon, the tyrant of Denmark, because when

stationed at Upsala, at the time of the sacrifices, he was disgusted by

the effeminate gestures and the clapping of the mimes on the stage, and

by the unmanly clatter of the bells. Hence it is clear how far he kept

his soul from lasciviousness, not even enduring to look upon it. Thus

does virtue withstand wantonness.

Starkad took his fleet to the shore of Ireland with Hakon, in order that

even the furthest kingdoms of the world might not be untouched by the

Danish arms. The king of the island at this time was Hugleik, who,

though he had a well-filled treasury, was yet so prone to avarice, that

once, when he gave a pair of shoes which had been adorned by the hand

of a careful craftsman, he took off the ties, and by thus removing the

latches turned his present into a slight. This unhandsome act blemished

his gift so much that he seemed to reap hatred for it instead of thanks.

Thus he used never to be generous to any respectable man, but to spend

all his bounty upon mimes and jugglers. For so base a fellow was bound

to keep friendly company with the base, and such a slough of vices to

wheedle his partners in sin with pandering endearments.

Still Hugleik had the friendship of Geigad and Swipdag, nobles of tried

valour, who, by the lustre of their warlike deeds, shone out among their

unmanly companions like jewels embedded in ordure; these alone were

found to defend the riches of the king. When a battle began between

Hugleik and Hakon, the hordes of mimes, whose light-mindedness

unsteadied their bodies, broke their ranks and scurried off in panic;

and this shameful flight was their sole requital for all their king’s

benefits. Then Geigad and Swipdag faced all those thousands of the enemy

single-handed, and fought with such incredible courage, that they seemed

to do the part not merely of two warriors, but of a whole army. Geigad,

moreover, dealt Hakon, who pressed him hard, such a wound in the breast

that he exposed the upper part of his liver. It was here that Starkad,

while he was attacking Geigad with his sword, received a very sore wound

on the head; wherefore he afterwards related in a certain song that

a ghastlier wound had never befallen him at any time; for, though the

divisions of his gashed head were bound up by the surrounding outer

skin, yet the livid unseen wound concealed a foul gangrene below.

Starkad conquered, killed Hugleik and routed the Irish; and had the

actors beaten whom chance made prisoner; thinking it better to order a

pack of buffoons to be ludicrously punished by the loss of their skins

than to command a more deadly punishment and take their lives. Thus

he visited with a disgraceful chastisement the baseborn throng

of professional jugglers, and was content to punish them with the

disgusting flouts of the lash. Then the Danes ordered that the wealth of

the king should be brought out of the treasury in the city of Dublin and

publicly pillaged. For so vast a treasure had been found that none took

much pains to divide it strictly.

After this, Starkad was commissioned, together with Win, the chief of

the Sclavs, to check the revolt of the East. They, having fought against

the armies of the Kurlanders, the Sembs, the Sangals, and, finally, all

the Easterlings, won splendid victories everywhere.

A champion of great repute, named Wisin, settled upon a rock in Russia

named Ana-fial, and harried both neighbouring and distant provinces with

all kinds of outrage. This man used to blunt the edge of every weapon by

merely looking at it. He was made so bold in consequence, by having lost

all fear of wounds, that he used to carry off the wives of distinguished

men and drag them to outrage before the eyes of their husbands. Starkad

was roused by the tale of this villainy, and went to Russia to destroy

the criminal; thinking nothing too hard to overcome, he challenged

Wisin, attacked him, made even his tricks useless to him, and slew him.

For Starkad covered his blade with a very fine skin, that it might not

met the eye of the sorcerer; and neither the power of his sleights

nor his great strength were any help to Wisin, for he had to yield to

Starkad. Then Starkad, trusting in his bodily strength, fought with

and overcame a giant at Byzantium, reputed invincible, named Tanne, and

drove him to fly an outlaw to unknown quarters of the earth. Therefore,

finding that he was too mighty for any hard fate to overcome him, he

went to the country of Poland, and conquered in a duel a champion

whom our countrymen name Wasce; but the Teutons, arranging the letters

differently, call him Wilzce.

Meanwhile the Saxons began to attempt a revolt, and to consider

particularly how they could destroy Frode, who was unconquered in war,

by some other way than an open conflict. Thinking that it would be best

done by a duel, they sent men to provoke the king with a challenge,

knowing that he was always ready to court any hazard, and that his high

spirit would not yield to any admonition whatever. They fancied that

this was the best time to attack him, because they knew that Starkad,

whose valour most men dreaded, was away on business. But while Frode

hesitated, and said that he would talk with his friends about the

answer to be given, Starkad, who had just returned from his sea-roving,

appeared, and blamed such a challenge, principally (he said) because it

was fitting for kings to fight only with their equals, and because

they should not take up arms against men of the people; but it was more

fitting for himself, who was born in a lowlier station, to manage the


The Saxons approached Hame, who was accounted their most famous

champion, with many offers, and promised him that, if he would lend his

services for the duel they would pay him his own weight in gold.

The fighter was tempted by the money, and, with all the ovation of a

military procession, they attended him to the ground appointed for the

combat. Thereupon the Danes, decked in warlike array, led Starkad, who

was to represent his king, out to the duelling-ground. Hame, in his

youthful assurance, despised him as withered with age, and chose to

grapple rather than fight with an outworn old man. Attacking Starkad, he

would have flung him tottering to the earth, but that fortune, who would

not suffer the old man to be conquered, prevented him from being hurt.

For he is said to have been so crushed by the fist of Hame, as he dashed

on him, that he touched the earth with his chin, supporting himself on

his knees. But he made up nobly for his tottering; for, as soon as he

could raise his knee and free his hand to draw his sword, he clove Hame

through the middle of the body. Many lands and sixty bondmen apiece were

the reward of the victory.

After Hame was killed in this manner the sway of the Danes over the

Saxons grew so insolent, that they were forced to pay every year a small

tax for each of their limbs that was a cubit (ell) long, in token of

their slavery. This Hanef could not bear, and he meditated war in his

desire to remove the tribute. Steadfast love of his country filled his

heart every day with greater compassion for the oppressed; and, longing

to spend his life for the freedom of his countrymen, he openly showed

a disposition to rebel. Frode took his forces over the Elbe, and killed

him near the village of Hanofra (Hanover), so named after Hanef. But

Swerting, though he was equally moved by the distress of his countrymen,

said nothing about the ills of his land, and revolved a plan for freedom

with a spirit yet more dogged than Hanef’s. Men often doubt whether

this zeal was liker to vice or to virtue; but I certainly censure it as

criminal, because it was produced by a treacherous desire to revolt. It

may have seemed most expedient to seek the freedom of the country, but

it was not lawful to strive after this freedom by craft and treachery.

Therefore, since the deed of Swerting was far from honourable, neither

will it be called expedient; for it is nobler to attack openly him whom

you mean to attack, and to exhibit hatred in the light of day, than to

disguise a real wish to do harm under a spurious show of friendship. But

the gains of crime are inglorious, its fruits are brief and fading. For

even as that soul is slippery, which hides its insolent treachery by

stealthy arts, so is it right that whatsoever is akin to guilt should be

frail and fleeting. For guilt has been usually found to come home to its

author; and rumour relates that such was the fate of Swerting. For he

had resolved to surprise the king under the pretence of a banquet, and

burn him to death; but the king forestalled and slew him, though slain

by him in return. Hence the crime of one proved the destruction of both;

and thus, though the trick succeeded against the foe, it did not bestow

immunity on its author.

Frode was succeeded by his son Ingild, whose soul was perverted

from honour. He forsook the examples of his forefathers, and utterly

enthralled himself to the lures of the most wanton profligacy. Thus

he had not a shadow of goodness and righteousness, but embraced vices

instead of virtue; he cut the sinews of self-control, neglected the

duties of his kingly station, and sank into a filthy slave of riot.

Indeed, he fostered everything that was adverse or ill-fitted to an

orderly life. He tainted the glories of his father and grandfather by

practising the foulest lusts, and bedimmed the brightest honours of his

ancestors by most shameful deeds. For he was so prone to gluttony, that

he had no desire to avenge his father, or repel the aggressions of his

foes; and so, could he but gratify his gullet, he thought that decency

and self-control need be observed in nothing. By idleness and sloth he

stained his glorious lineage, living a loose and sensual life; and his

soul, so degenerate, so far perverted and astray from the steps of his

fathers, he loved to plunge into most abominable gulfs of foulness.

Fowl-fatteners, scullions, frying-pans, countless cook-houses, different

cooks to roast or spice the banquet–the choosing of these stood to him

for glory. As to arms, soldiering, and wars, he could endure neither

to train himself to them, nor to let others practise them. Thus he cast

away all the ambitions of a man and aspired to those of women; for

his incontinent itching of palate stirred in him love of every

kitchen-stench. Ever breathing of his debauch, and stripped of every rag

of soberness, with his foul breath he belched the undigested filth in

his belly. He was as infamous in wantonness as Frode was illustrious in

war. So utterly had his spirit been enfeebled by the untimely seductions

of gluttony. Starkad was so disgusted at the excess of Ingild, that he

forsook his friendship, and sought the fellowship of Halfdan, the King

of Swedes, preferring work to idleness. Thus he could not bear so

much as to countenance excessive indulgence. Now the sons of Swerting,

fearing that they would have to pay to Ingild the penalty of their

father’s crime, were fain to forestall his vengeance by a gift, and gave

him their sister in marriage. Antiquity relates that she bore him sons,

Frode, Fridleif, Ingild, and Olaf (whom some say was the son of Ingild’s


Ingild’s sister Helga had been led by amorous wooing to return the

flame of a certain low-born goldsmith, who was apt for soft words, and

furnished with divers of the little gifts which best charm a woman’s

wishes. For since the death of the king there had been none to honour

the virtues of the father by attention to the child; she had lacked

protection, and had no guardians. When Starkad had learnt this from the

repeated tales of travellers, he could not bear to let the wantonness of

the smith pass unpunished. For he was always heedful to bear kindness in

mind, and as ready to punish arrogance. So he hastened to chastise

such bold and enormous insolence, wishing to repay the orphan ward the

benefits he had of old received from Frode. Then he travelled through

Sweden, went into the house of the smith, and posted himself near the

threshold muffling his face in a cap to avoid discovery. The smith, who

had not learnt the lesson that “strong hands are sometimes found under a

mean garment”, reviled him, and bade him quickly leave the house, saying

that he should have the last broken victuals among the crowd of paupers.

But the old man, whose ingrained self-control lent him patience, was

nevertheless fain to rest there, and gradually study the wantonness of

his host. For his reason was stronger than his impetuosity, and curbed

his increasing rage. Then the smith approached the girl with open

shamelessness, and cast himself in her lap, offering the hair of his

head to be combed out by her maidenly hands.

Also he thrust forward his loin cloth, and required her help in picking

out the fleas; and exacted from this woman of lordly lineage that

she should not blush to put her sweet fingers in a foul apron. Then,

believing that he was free to have his pleasure, he ventured to put his

longing palms within her gown and to set his unsteady hands close to her

breast. But she, looking narrowly, was aware of the presence of the old

man whom she once had known, and felt ashamed. She spurned the wanton

and libidinous fingering, and repulsed the unchaste hands, telling the

man also that he had need of arms, and urging him to cease his lewd


Starkad, who had sat down by the door, with the hat muffling his head,

had already become so deeply enraged at this sight, that he could not

find patience to hold his hand any longer, but put away his covering and

clapped his right hand to his sword to draw it. Then the smith, whose

only skill was in lewdness, faltered with sudden alarm, and finding that

it had come to fighting, gave up all hope of defending himself, and saw

in flight the only remedy for his need. Thus it was as hard to break out

of the door, of which the enemy held the approach, as it was grievous to

await the smiter within the house. At last necessity forced him to put

an end to his delay, and he judged that a hazard wherein there lay but

the smallest chance of safety was more desirable than sure and manifest

danger. Also, hard as it was to fly, the danger being so close, yet he

desired flight because it seemed to bring him aid, and to be the nearer

way to safety; and he cast aside delay, which seemed to be an evil

bringing not the smallest help, but perhaps irretrievable ruin. But just

as he gained the threshold, the old man watching at the door smote him

through the hams, and there, half dead, he tottered and fell. For the

smiter thought he ought carefully to avoid lending his illustrious hands

to the death of a vile cinder-blower, and considered that ignominy would

punish his shameless passion worse than death. Thus some men think

that he who suffers misfortune is worse punished than he who is slain

outright. Thus it was brought about, that the maiden, who had never had

parents to tend her, came to behave like a woman of well-trained nature,

and did the part, as it were, of a zealous guardian to herself. And when

Starkad, looking round, saw that the household sorrowed over the late

loss of their master, he heaped shame on the wounded man with more

invective, and thus began to mock:

“Why is the house silent and aghast? What makes this new grief? Or where

now rest that doting husband whom the steel has just punished for his

shameful love? Keeps he still aught of his pride and lazy wantonness?

Holds he to his quest, glows his lust as hot as before? Let him while

away an hour with me in converse, and allay with friendly words my

hatred of yesterday. Let your visage come forth with better cheer; let

not lamentation resound in the house, or suffer the faces to become

dulled with sorrow.

“Wishing to know who burned with love for the maiden, and was deeply

enamoured of my beloved ward, I put on a cap, lest my familiar face

might betray me. Then comes in that wanton smith, with lewd steps,

bending his thighs this way and that with studied gesture, and likewise

making eyes as he ducked all ways. His covering was a mantle fringed

with beaver, his sandals were inlaid with gems, his cloak was decked

with gold. Gorgeous ribbons bound his plaited hair, and a many-coloured

band drew tight his straying locks. Hence grew a sluggish and puffed-up

temper; he fancied that wealth was birth, and money forefathers, and

reckoned his fortune more by riches than by blood. Hence came pride unto

him, and arrogance led to fine attire. For the wretch began to think

that his dress made him equal to the high-born; he, the cinder-blower,

who hunts the winds with hides, and puffs with constant draught, who

rakes the ashes with his fingers, and often by drawing back the bellows

takes in the air, and with a little fan makes a breath and kindles the

smouldering fires! Then he goes to the lap of the girl, and leaning

close, says, `Maiden, comb my hair and catch the skipping fleas, and

remove what stings my skin.’ Then he sat and spread his arms that

sweated under the gold, lolling on the smooth cushion and leaning back

on his elbow, wishing to flaunt his adornment, just as a barking brute

unfolds the gathered coils of its twisted tail. But she knew me, and

began to check her lover and rebuff his wanton hands; and, declaring

that it was I, she said, `Refrain thy fingers, check thy promptings,

take heed to appease the old man sitting close by the doors. The sport

will turn to sorrow. I think Starkad is here, and his slow gaze scans

thy doings.’ The smith answered: `Turn not pale at the peaceful raven

and the ragged old man; never has that mighty one whom thou fearest

stooped to such common and base attire. The strong man loves shining

raiment, and looks for clothes to match his courage.’ Then I uncovered

and drew my sword, and as the smith fled I clove his privy parts; his

hams were laid open, cut away from the bone; they showed his entrails.

Presently I rise and crush the girl’s mouth with my fist, and draw blood

from her bruised nostril. Then her lips, used to evil laughter, were wet

with tears mingled with blood, and foolish love paid for all the sins

it committed with soft eyes. Over is the sport of the hapless woman who

rushed on, blind with desire, like a maddened mare, and makes her

lust the grave of her beauty. Thou deservest to be sold for a price to

foreign peoples and to grind at the mill, unless blood pressed from thy

breasts prove thee falsely accused, and thy nipple’s lack of milk clear

thee of the crime. Howbeit, I think thee free from this fault; yet bear

not tokens of suspicion, nor lay thyself open to lying tongues, nor give

thyself to the chattering populace to gird at. Rumour hurts many, and a

lying slander often harms. A little word deceives the thoughts of common

men. Respect thy grandsires, honour thy fathers, forget not thy parents,

value thy forefathers; let thy flesh and blood keep its fame. What

madness came on thee? And thou, shameless smith, what fate drove thee in

thy lust to attempt a high-born race? Or who sped thee, maiden, worthy

of the lordliest pillows, to loves obscure? Tell me, how durst thou

taste with thy rosy lips a mouth reeking of ashes, or endure on thy

breast hands filthy with charcoal, or bring close to thy side the arms

that turn the live coals over, and put the palms hardened with the use

of the tongs to thy pure cheeks, and embrace the head sprinkled with

embers, taking it to thy bright arms?

“I remember how smiths differ from one another, for once they smote me.

All share alike the name of their calling, but the hearts beneath are

different in temper. I judge those best who weld warriors’ swords and

spears for the battle, whose temper shows their courage, who betoken

their hearts by the sternness of their calling, whose work declares

their prowess. There are also some to whom the hollow mould yields

bronze, as they make the likeness of divers things in molten gold, who

smelt the veins and recast the metal. But Nature has fashioned these of

a softer temper, and has crushed with cowardice the hands which she

has gifted with rare skill. Often such men, while the heat of the blast

melts the bronze that is poured in the mould, craftily filch flakes of

gold from the lumps, when the vessel thirsts after the metal they have


So speaking, Starkad got as much pleasure from his words as from his

works, and went back to Halfdan, embracing his service with the closest

friendship, and never ceasing from the exercise of war; so that he

weaned his mind from delights, and vexed it with incessant application

to arms.

Now Ingild had two sisters, Helga and Asa; Helga was of full age to

marry, while Asa was younger and unripe for wedlock. Then Helge the

Norwegian was moved with desire to ask for Helga for his wife, and

embarked. Now he had equipped his vessel so luxuriously that he had

lordly sails decked with gold, held up also on gilded masts, and tied

with crimson ropes. When he arrived Ingild promised to grant him his

wish if, to test his reputation publicly, he would first venture to meet

in battle the champions pitted against him. Helge did not flinch at the

terms; he answered that he would most gladly abide by the compact.

And so the troth-plight of the future marriage was most ceremoniously


A story is remembered that there had grown up at the same time, on the

Isle of Zealand, the nine sons of a certain prince, all highly gifted

with strength and valour, the eldest of whom was Anganty. This last was

a rival suitor for the same maiden; and when he saw that the match

which he had been denied was promised to Helge, he challenged him to

a struggle, wishing to fight away his vexation. Helge agreed to the

proposed combat. The hour of the fight was appointed for the wedding-day

by the common wish of both. For any man who, being challenged, refused

to fight, used to be covered with disgrace in the sight of all men. Thus

Helge was tortured on the one side by the shame of refusing the battle,

on the other by the dread of waging it. For he thought himself attacked

unfairly and counter to the universal laws of combat, as he had

apparently undertaken to fight nine men single-handed. While he was

thus reflecting his betrothed told him that he would need help, and

counselled him to refrain from the battle, wherein it seemed he would

encounter only death and disgrace, especially as he had not stipulated

for any definite limit to the number of those who were to be his

opponents. He should therefore avoid the peril, and consult his safety

by appealing to Starkad, who was sojourning among the Swedes; since it

was his way to help the distressed, and often to interpose successfully

to retrieve some dismal mischance.

Then Helge, who liked the counsel thus given very well, took a small

escort and went into Sweden; and when he reached its most famous city,

Upsala, he forbore to enter, but sent in a messenger who was to invite

Starkad to the wedding of Frode’s daughter, after first greeting him

respectfully to try him. This courtesy stung Starkad like an insult. He

looked sternly on the youth, and said, “That had he not had his beloved

Frode named in his instructions, he should have paid dearly for his

senseless mission. He must think that Starkad, like some buffoon or

trencherman, was accustomed to rush off to the reek of a distant kitchen

for the sake of a richer diet.” Helge, when his servant had told him

this, greeted the old man in the name of Frode’s daughter, and asked him

to share a battle which he had accepted upon being challenged, saying

that he was not equal to it by himself, the terms of the agreement being

such as to leave the number of his adversaries uncertain. Starkad, when

he had heard the time and place of the combat, not only received the

suppliant well, but also encouraged him with the offer of aid, and told

him to go back to Denmark with his companions, telling him that he would

find his way to him by a short and secret path. Helge departed, and if

we may trust report, Starkad, by sheer speed of foot, travelled in one

day’s journeying over as great a space as those who went before him are

said to have accomplished in twelve; so that both parties, by a chance

meeting, reached their journey’s end, the palace of Ingild, at the very

same time. Here Starkad passed, just as the servants did, along the

tables filled with guests; and the aforementioned nine, howling horribly

with repulsive gestures, and running about as if they were on the stage,

encouraged one another to the battle. Some say that they barked like

furious dogs at the champion as he approached. Starkad rebuked them for

making themselves look ridiculous with such an unnatural visage, and for

clowning with wide grinning cheeks; for from this, he declared, soft and

effeminate profligates derived their wanton incontinence. When Starkad

was asked banteringly by the nine whether he had valour enough to fight,

he answered that doubtless he was strong enough to meet, not merely one,

but any number that might come against him. And when the nine heard this

they understood that this was the man whom they had heard would come

to the succour of Helge from afar. Starkad also, to protect the

bride-chamber with a more diligent guard, voluntarily took charge of the

watch; and, drawing back the doors of the bedroom, barred them with

a sword instead of a bolt, meaning to post himself so as to give

undisturbed quiet to their bridal.

When Helge woke, and, shaking off the torpor of sleep, remembered his

pledge, he thought of buckling on his armour. But, seeing that a little

of the darkness of night yet remained, and wishing to wait for the hour

of dawn, he began to ponder the perilous business at hand, when sleep

stole on him and sweetly seized him, so that he took himself back to

bed laden with slumber. Starkad, coming in on him at daybreak, saw him

locked asleep in the arms of his wife, and would not suffer him to be

vexed with a sudden shock, or summoned from his quiet slumbers; lest

he should seem to usurp the duty of wakening him and breaking upon the

sweetness of so new a union, all because of cowardice. He thought it,

therefore, more handsome to meet the peril alone than to gain a comrade

by disturbing the pleasure of another. So he quietly retraced his steps,

and scorning his enemies, entered the field which in our tongue is

called Roliung, and finding a seat under the slope of a certain hill,

he exposed himself to wind and snow. Then, as though the gentle airs of

spring weather were breathing upon him, he put off his cloak, and set to

picking out the fleas. He also cast on the briars a purple mantle which

Helga had lately given him, that no clothing might seem to lend him

shelter against the raging shafts of hail. Then the champions came and

climbed the hill on the opposite side; and, seeking a spot sheltered

from the winds wherein to sit, they lit a fire and drove off the cold.

At last, not seeing Starkad, they sent a man to the crest of the hill,

to watch his coming more clearly, as from a watch-tower. This man

climbed to the top of the lofty mountain, and saw, on its sloping side,

an old man covered shoulder-high with the snow that showered down. He

asked him if he was the man who was to fight according to the promise.

Starkad declared that he was. Then the rest came up and asked him

whether he had resolved to meet them all at once or one by one. But he

said, “Whenever a surly pack of curs yelps at me, I commonly send them

flying all at once, and not in turn.” Thus he let them know that he

would rather fight with-them all together than one by one, thinking that

his enemies should be spurned with words first and deeds afterwards.

The fight began furiously almost immediately, and he felled six of them

without receiving any wound in return; and though the remaining three

wounded him so hard in seventeen places that most of his bowels gushed

out of his belly, he slew them notwithstanding, like their brethren.

Disembowelled, with failing strength, he suffered from dreadful straits

of thirst, and, crawling on his knees in his desire to find a draught,

he longed for water from the streamlet that ran close by. But when he

saw it was tainted with gore he was disgusted at the look of the water,

and refrained from its infected draught. For Anganty had been struck

down in the waves of the river, and had dyed its course so deep with his

red blood that it seemed now to flow not with water, but with some ruddy

liquid. So Starkad thought it nobler that his bodily strength should

fail than that he should borrow strength from so foul a beverage.

Therefore, his force being all but spent, he wriggled on his knees, up

to a rock that happened to be lying near, and for some little while lay

leaning against it. A hollow in its surface is still to be seen, just as

if his weight as he lay had marked it with a distinct impression of

his body. But I think this appearance is due to human handiwork, for it

seems to pass all belief that the hard and uncleavable rock should so

imitate the softness of wax, as, merely by the contact of a man leaning

on it, to present the appearance of a man having sat there, and assume

concavity for ever.

A certain man, who chanced to be passing by in a cart, saw Starkad

wounded almost all over his body. Equally aghast and amazed, he turned

and drove closer, asking what reward he should have if he were to tend

and heal his wounds. But Starkad would rather be tortured by grievous

wounds than use the service of a man of base estate, and first asked

his birth and calling. The man said that his profession was that of a

sergeant. Starkad, not content with despising him, also spurned him with

revilings, because, neglecting all honourable business, he followed the

calling of a hanger-on; and because he had tarnished his whole career

with ill repute, thinking the losses of the poor his own gains;

suffering none to be innocent, ready to inflict wrongful accusation

upon all men, most delighted at any lamentable turn in the fortunes of

another; and toiling most at his own design, namely of treacherously

spying out all men’s doings, and seeking some traitorous occasion to

censure the character of the innocent.

As this first man departed, another came up, promising aid and remedies.

Like the last comer, he was bidden to declare his condition; and he

said that he had a certain man’s handmaid to wife, and was doing peasant

service to her master in order to set her free. Starkad refused to

accept his help, because he had married in a shameful way by taking a

slave to his embrace. Had he had a shred of virtue he should at least

have disdained to be intimate with the slave of another, but should have

enjoyed some freeborn partner of his bed. What a mighty man, then, must

we deem Starkad, who, when enveloped in the most deadly perils, showed

himself as great in refusing aid as in receiving wounds!

When this man departed a woman chanced to approach and walk past the

old man. She came up to him in order to wipe his wounds, but was first

bidden to declare what was her birth and calling. She said that she was

a handmaid used to grinding at the mill. Starkad then asked her if she

had children; and when he was told that she had a female child, he told

her to go home and give the breast to her squalling daughter; for he

thought it most uncomely that he should borrow help from a woman of the

lowest degree. Moreover, he knew that she could nourish her own flesh

and blood with milk better than she could minister to the wounds of a


As the woman was departing, a young man came riding up in a cart. He saw

the old man, and drew near to minister to his wounds. On being asked who

he was, he said his father was a labourer, and added that he was used

to the labours of a peasant. Starkad praised his origin, and pronounced

that his calling was also most worthy of honour; for, he said, such men

sought a livelihood by honourable traffic in their labour, inasmuch as

they knew not of any gain, save what they had earned by the sweat

of their brow. He also thought that a country life was justly to be

preferred even to the most splendid riches; for the most wholesome

fruits of it seemed to be born and reared in the shelter of a middle

estate, halfway between magnificence and squalor. But he did not wish

to pass the kindness of the youth unrequited, and rewarded the esteem

he had shown him with the mantle he had cast among the thorns. So the

peasant’s son approached, replaced the parts of his belly that had been

torn away, and bound up with a plait of withies the mass of intestines

that had fallen out. Then he took the old man to his car, and with the

most zealous respect carried him away to the palace.

Meantime Helga, in language betokening the greatest wariness, began to

instruct her husband, saying that she knew that Starkad, as soon as

he came back from conquering the champions, would punish him for his

absence, thinking that he had inclined more to sloth and lust than to

his promise to fight as appointed. Therefore he must withstand Starkad

boldly, because he always spared the brave but loathed the coward. Helge

respected equally her prophecy and her counsel, and braced his soul

and body with a glow of valorous enterprise. Starkad, when he had been

driven to the palace, heedless of the pain of his wounds, leaped swiftly

out of the cart, and just like a man who was well from top to toe, burst

into the bridal-chamber, shattering the doors with his fist. Then Helge

leapt from his bed, and, as he had been taught by the counsel of his

wife, plunged his blade full at Starkad’s forehead. And since he seemed

to be meditating a second blow, and to be about to make another thrust

with his sword, Helga flew quickly from the couch, caught up a shield,

and, by interposing it, saved the old man from impending destruction;

for, notwithstanding, Helge with a stronger stroke of his blade smote

the shield right through to the boss. Thus the praiseworthy wit of the

woman aided her friend, and her hand saved him whom her counsel had

injured; for she protected the old man by her deed, as well as her

husband by her warning. Starkad was induced by this to let Helge go

scot-free; saying that a man whose ready and assured courage so surely

betokened manliness, ought to be spared; for he vowed that a man ill

deserved death whose brave spirit was graced with such a dogged will to


Starkad went back to Sweden before his wounds had been treated with

medicine, or covered with a single scar. Halfdan had been killed by his

rivals; and Starkad, after quelling certain rebels, set up Siward as the

heir to his father’s sovereignty. With him he sojourned a long time; but

when he heard–for the rumour spread–that Ingild, the son of Frode (who

had been treacherously slain), was perversely minded, and instead

of punishing his father’s murderers, bestowed upon them kindness and

friendship, he was vexed with stinging wrath at so dreadful a crime.

And, resenting that a youth of such great parts should have renounced

his descent from his glorious father, he hung on his shoulders a mighty

mass of charcoal, as though it were some costly burden, and made his

way to Denmark. When asked by those he met why he was taking along so

unusual a load, he said that he would sharpen the dull wits of King

Ingild to a point by bits of charcoal. So he accomplished a swift and

headlong journey, as though at a single breath, by a short and speedy

track; and at last, becoming the guest of Ingild, he went up, as his

custom was, in to the seat appointed for the great men; for he had been

used to occupy the highest post of distinction with the kings of the

last generation.

When the queen came in, and saw him covered over with filth and clad

in the mean, patched clothes of a peasant, the ugliness of her guest’s

dress made her judge him with little heed; and, measuring the man by the

clothes, she reproached him with crassness of wit, because he had gone

before greater men in taking his place at table, and had assumed a seat

that was too good for his boorish attire. She bade him quit the place,

that he might not touch the cushions with his dress, which was fouler

than it should have been. For she put down to crassness and brazenness

what Starkad only did from proper pride; she knew not that on a high

seat of honour the mind sometimes shines brighter than the raiment. The

spirited old man obeyed, though vexed at the rebuff, and with marvellous

self-control choked down the insult which his bravery so ill deserved;

uttering at this disgrace he had received neither word nor groan. But

he could not long bear to hide the bitterness of his anger in silence.

Rising, and retreating to the furthest end of the palace, he flung his

body against the walls; and strong as they were, he so battered them

with the shock, that the beams quaked mightily; and he nearly brought

the house down in a crash. Thus, stung not only with his rebuff, but

with the shame of having poverty cast in his teeth, he unsheathed

his wrath against the insulting speech of the queen with inexorable


Ingild, on his return from hunting, scanned him closely, and, when

he noticed that he neither looked cheerfully about, nor paid him the

respect of rising, saw by the sternness written on his brow that it was

Starkad. For when he noted his hands horny with fighting, his scars in

front, the force and fire of his eye, he perceived that a man whose

body was seamed with so many traces of wounds had no weakling soul.

He therefore rebuked his wife, and charged her roundly to put away her

haughty tempers, and to soothe and soften with kind words and gentle

offices the man she had reviled; to comfort him with food and drink,

and refresh him with kindly converse; saying, that this man had been

appointed his tutor by his father long ago, and had been a most tender

guardian of his childhood. Then, learning too late the temper of the old

man, she turned her harshness into gentleness, and respectfully waited

on him whom she had rebuffed and railed at with bitter revilings.

The angry hostess changed her part, and became the most fawning of

flatterers. She wished to check his anger with her attentiveness; and

her fault was the less, inasmuch as she was so quick in ministering

to him after she had been chidden. But she paid dearly for it, for she

presently beheld stained with the blood of her brethren the place where

she had flouted and rebuffed the brave old man from his seat.

Now, in the evening, Ingild took his meal with the sons of Swerting,

and fell to a magnificent feast, loading the tables with the profusest

dishes. With friendly invitation he kept the old man back from leaving

the revel too early; as though the delights of elaborate dainties could

have undermined that staunch and sturdy virtue! But when Starkad had set

eyes on these things, he scorned so wanton a use of them; and, not to

give way a whit to foreign fashions, he steeled his appetite against

these tempting delicacies with the self-restraint which was his greatest

strength. He would not suffer his repute as a soldier to be impaired

by the allurements of an orgy. For his valour loved thrift, and was a

stranger to all superfluity of food, and averse to feasting in excess.

For his was a courage which never at any moment had time to make luxury

of aught account, and always forewent pleasure to pay due heed to

virtue. So, when he saw that the antique character of self-restraint,

and all good old customs, were being corrupted by new-fangled luxury

and sumptuosity, he wished to be provided with a morsel fitter for a

peasant, and scorned the costly and lavish feast.

Spurning profuse indulgence in food, Starkad took some smoky and rather

rancid fare, appeasing his hunger with a bitter relish because more

simply; and being unwilling to enfeeble his true valour with the tainted

sweetness of sophisticated foreign dainties, or break the rule of

antique plainness by such strange idolatries of the belly. He was also

very wroth that they should go, to the extravagance of having the same

meat both roasted and boiled at the same meal; for he considered an

eatable which was steeped in the vapours of the kitchen, and which the

skill of the cook rubbed over with many kinds of flavours, in the light

of a monstrosity.

Unlike Starkad Ingild flung the example of his ancestors to the winds,

and gave himself freer licence of innovation in the fashions of the

table than the custom of his fathers allowed. For when he had once

abandoned himself to the manners of Teutonland, he did not blush to

yield to its unmanly wantonness. No slight incentives to debauchery have

flowed down our country’s throat from that sink of a land. Hence came

magnificent dishes, sumptuous kitchens, the base service of cooks, and

all sorts of abominable sausages. Hence came our adoption, wandering

from the ways of our fathers, of a more dissolute dress. Thus our

country, which cherished self-restraint as its native quality, has

gone begging to our neighbours for luxury; whose allurements so charmed

Ingild, that he did not think it shameful to requite wrongs with

kindness; nor did the grievous murder of his father make him heave one

sigh of bitterness when it crossed his mind.

But the queen would not depart without effecting her purpose. Thinking

that presents would be the best way to banish the old man’s anger, she

took off her own head a band of marvellous handiwork, and put it in his

lap as he supped: desiring to buy his favour since she could not blunt

his courage. But Starkad, whose bitter resentment was not yet abated,

flung it back in the face of the giver, thinking that in such a gift

there was more scorn than respect. And he was wise not to put this

strange ornament of female dress upon the head that was all bescarred

and used to the helmet; for he knew that the locks of a man ought not to

wear a woman’s head-band. Thus he avenged slight with slight, and repaid

with retorted scorn the disdain he had received; thereby bearing himself

well-nigh as nobly in avenging his disgrace as he had borne himself in

enduring it.

To the soul of Starkad reverence for Frode was grappled with hooks of

love. Drawn to him by deeds of bounty, countless kindnesses, he could

not be wheedled into giving up his purpose of revenge by any sort of

alluring complaisance. Even now, when Frode was no more, he was eager

to pay the gratitude due to his benefits, and to requite the kindness

of the dead, whose loving disposition and generous friendship he had

experienced while he lived. For he bore graven so deeply in his heart

the grievous picture of Frode’s murder, that his honour for that most

famous captain could never be plucked from the inmost chamber of his

soul; and therefore he did not hesitate to rank his ancient friendship

before the present kindness. Besides, when he recalled the previous

affront, he could not thank the complaisance that followed; he could not

put aside the disgraceful wound to his self-respect. For the memory of

benefits or injuries ever sticks more firmly in the minds of brave

men than in those of weaklings. For he had not the habits of those who

follow their friends in prosperity and quit them in adversity, who pay

more regard to fortune than to looks, and sit closer to their own gain

than to charity toward others.

But the woman held to her purpose, seeing that even so she could not win

the old man to convivial mirth. Continuing with yet more lavish courtesy

her efforts to soothe him, and to heap more honours on the guest, she

bade a piper strike up, and started music to melt his unbending rage.

For she wanted to unnerve his stubborn nature by means of cunning

sounds. But the cajolery of pipe or string was just as powerless to

enfeeble that dogged warrior. When he heard it, he felt that the respect

paid him savoured more of pretence than of love. Hence the crestfallen

performer seemed to be playing to a statue rather than a man, and learnt

that it is vain for buffoons to assail with, their tricks a settled and

weighty sternness, and that a mighty mass cannot be shaken with the

idle puffing of the lips. For Starkad had set his face so firmly in his

stubborn wrath, that he seemed not a whit easier to move than ever. For

the inflexibility which he owed his vows was not softened either by the

strain of the lute or the enticements of the palate; and he thought that

more respect should be paid to his strenuous and manly purpose than to

the tickling of the ears or the lures of the feast. Accordingly he flung

the bone, which he had stripped in eating the meat, in the face of the

harlequin, and drove the wind violently out of his puffed cheeks, so

that they collapsed. By this he showed how his austerity loathed the

clatter of the stage; for his ears were stopped with anger and open to

no influence of delight. This reward, befitting an actor, punished

an unseemly performance with a shameful wage. For Starkad excellently

judged the man’s deserts, and bestowed a shankbone for the piper to pipe

on, requiting his soft service with a hard fee. None could say whether

the actor piped or wept the louder; he showed by his bitter flood of

tears how little place bravery has in the breasts of the dissolute. For

the fellow was a mere minion of pleasure, and had never learnt to bear

the assaults of calamity. This man’s hurt was ominous of the carnage

that was to follow at the feast. Right well did Starkad’s spirit,

heedful of sternness, hold with stubborn gravity to steadfast revenge;

for he was as much disgusted at the lute as others were delighted,

and repaid the unwelcome service by insultingly flinging a bone; thus

avowing that he owed a greater debt to the glorious dust of his mighty

friend than to his shameless and infamous ward.

But when Starkad saw that the slayers of Frode were in high favour

with the king, his stern glances expressed the mighty wrath which he

harboured, and his face betrayed what he felt. The visible fury of his

gaze betokened the secret tempest in his heart. At last, when Ingild

tried to appease him with royal fare, he spurned the dainty. Satisfied

with cheap and common food, he utterly spurned outlandish delicacies;

he was used to plain diet, and would not pamper his palate with any

delightful flavour. When he was asked why he had refused the generous

attention of the king with such a clouded brow, he said that he had come

to Denmark to find the son of Frode, not a man who crammed his proud

and gluttonous stomach with rich elaborate feasts. For the Teuton

extravagance which the king favoured had led him, in his longing for the

pleasures of abundance, to set to the fire again, for roasting, dishes

which had been already boiled. Thereupon he could not forbear from

attacking Ingild’s character, but poured out the whole bitterness of

his reproaches on his head. He condemned his unfilial spirit, because

he gaped with repletion and vented his squeamishness in filthy hawkings;

because, following the lures of the Saxons, he strayed and departed far

from soberness; because he was so lacking in manhood as not to pursue

even the faintest shadow of it. But, declared Starkad, he bore the

heaviest load of infamy, because, even when he first began to see

service, he forgot to avenge his father, to whose butchers, forsaking

the law of nature, he was kind and attentive. Men whose deserts were

most vile he welcomed with loving affection; and not only did he let

those go scot-free, whom he should have punished most sharply, but he

even judged them fit persons to live with and entertain at his table,

whereas he should rather have put them to death. Hereupon Starkad is

also said to have sung as follows:

“Let the unwarlike youth yield to the aged, let him honour all the years

of him that is old. When a man is brave, let none reproach the number of

his days.

“Though the hair of the ancient whiten with age, their valour stays

still the same; nor shall the lapse of time have power to weaken their

manly heart.

“I am elbowed away by the offensive guest, who taints with vice his

outward show of goodness, whilst he is the slave of his belly and

prefers his daily dainties to anything.

“When I was counted as a comrade of Frode, I ever sat in the midst of

warriors on a high seat in the hall, and I was the first of the princes

to take my meal.

“Now, the lot of a nobler age is reversed; I am shut in a corner, I am

like the fish that seeks shelter as it wanders to and fro hidden in the


“I, who used surely in the former age to lie back on a couch handsomely

spread, am now thrust among the hindmost and driven from the crowded


“Perchance I had been driven on my back at the doors, had not the wall

struck my side and turned me back, and had not the beam, in the way made

it hard for me to fly when I was thrust forth.

“I am baited with the jeers of the court-folk; I am not received as

a guest should be; I am girded at with harsh gibing, and stung with

babbling taunts.

“I am a stranger, and would gladly know what news are spread abroad by

busy rumour; what is the course of events; what the order of the land;

what is doing in your country.

“Thou, Ingild, buried in sin, why dost thou tarry in the task of

avenging thy father? Wilt thou think tranquilly of the slaughter of thy

righteous sire?

“Why dost thou, sluggard, think only of feasting, and lean thy belly

back in ease, more effeminate than harlots? Is the avenging of thy

slaughtered father a little thing to thee?

“When last I left thee, Frode, I learned by my prophetic soul that thou,

mightiest of kings, wouldst surely perish by the sword of enemies.

“And while I travelled long in the land, a warning groan rose in my

soul, which augured that thereafter I was never to see thee more.

“Wo is me, that then I was far away, harrying the farthest peoples of

the earth, when the traitorous guest aimed craftily at the throat of his


“Else I would either have shown myself the avenger of my lord, or

have shared his fate and fallen where he fell, and would joyfully have

followed the blessed king in one and the same death.

“I have not come to indulge in gluttonous feasting, the sin whereof I

will strive to chastise; nor will I take mine ease, nor the delights of

the fat belly.

“No famous king has ever set me before in the middle by the strangers. I

have been wont to sit in the highest seats among friends.

“I have come from Sweden, travelling over wide lands, thinking that I

should be rewarded, if only I had the joy to find the son of my beloved


“But I sought a brave man, and I have come to a glutton, a king who is

the slave of his belly and of vice, whose liking has been turned back

towards wantonness by filthy pleasure.

“Famous is the speech men think that Halfdan spoke: he warned us it

would soon come to pass that an understanding father should beget a

witless son.

“Though the heir be deemed degenerate, I will not suffer the wealth of

mighty Frode to profit strangers or to be made public like plunder.”

At these words the queen trembled, and she took from her head the ribbon

with which she happened, in woman’s fashion, to be adorning her hair,

and proffered it to the enraged old man, as though she could avert his

anger with a gift. Starkad in anger flung it back most ignominiously in

the face of the giver, and began again in a loud voice:

“Take hence, I pray thee, thy woman’s gift, and set back thy headgear on

thy head; no brave man assumes the chaplets that befit Love only.

“For it is amiss that the hair of men that are ready for battle should

be bound back with wreathed gold; such attire is right for the throngs

of the soft and effeminate.

“But take this gift to thy husband, who loves luxury, whose finger

itches, while he turns over the rump and handles the flesh of the bird

roasted brown.

“The flighty and skittish wife of Ingild longs to observe the fashions

of the Teutons; she prepares the orgy and makes ready the artificial


“For she tickles the palate with a new-fangled feast; she pursues the

zest of an unknown flavour, raging to load all the tables with dishes

yet more richly than before.

“She gives her lord wine to drink in bowls, pondering all things with

zealous preparation; she bids the cooked meats be roasted, and intends

them for a second fire.

“Wantonly she feeds her husband like a hog; a shameless whore,


“She roasts the boiled, and recooks the roasted meats, planning the meal

with spendthrift extravagance, careless of right and wrong, practising

sin, a foul woman.

“Wanton in arrogance, a soldier of Love, longing for dainties, she

abjures the fair ways of self-control, and also provides devices for


“With craving stomach she desires turnip strained in a smooth pan, cakes

with thin juice, and shellfish in rows.

“I do not remember the Great Frode putting his hand to the sinews of

birds, or tearing the rump of a cooked fowl with crooked thumb.

“What former king could have been so gluttonous as to stir the stinking

filthy flesh, or rummage in the foul back of a bird with plucking


“The food of valiant men is raw; no need, methinks, of sumptuous tables

for those whose stubborn souls are bent on warfare.

“It had been fitter for thee to have torn the stiff beard, biting hard

with thy teeth, than greedily to have drained the bowl of milk with thy

wide mouth.

“We fled from the offence of the sumptuous kitchen; we stayed our

stomach with rancid fare; few in the old days loved cooked juices.

“A dish with no sauce of herbs gave us the flesh of rams and swine. We

partook temperately, tainting nothing with bold excess.

“Thou who now lickest the milk-white fat, put on, prithee, the spirit of

a man; remember Frode, and avenge thy father’s death.

“The worthless and cowardly heart shall perish, and shall not parry the

thrust of death by flight, though it bury itself in a valley, or crouch

in darkling dens.

“Once we were eleven princes, devoted followers of King Hakon, and here

Geigad sat above Helge in the order of the meal.

“Geigad used to appease the first pangs of hunger with a dry rump of

ham; and plenty of hard crust quelled the craving of his stomach.

“No one asked for a sickly morsel; all took their food in common; the

meal of mighty men cost but slight display.

“The commons shunned foreign victual, and the greatest lusted not for a

feast; even the king remembered to live temperately at little cost.

“Scorning to look at the mead, he drank the fermented juice of Ceres; he

shrank not from the use of undercooked meats, and hated the roast.

“The board used to stand with slight display, a modest salt-cellar

showed the measure of its cost; lest the wise ways of antiquity should

in any wise be changed by foreign usage.

“Of old, no man put flagons or mixing-bowls on the tables; the steward

filled the cup from the butt, and there was no abundance of adorned


“No one who honoured past ages put the smooth wine-jars beside the

tankards, and of old no bedizened lackey heaped the platter with


“Nor did the vainglorious host deck the meal with little salt-shell

or smooth cup; but all has been now abolished in shameful wise by the

new-fangled manners.

“Who would ever have borne to take money in ransom for the death of a

lost parent, or to have asked a foe for a gift to atone for the murder

of a father?

“What strong heir or well-starred son would have sat side by side with

such as these, letting a shameful bargain utterly unnerve the warrior?

“Wherefore, when the honours of kings are sung, and bards relate the

victories of captains, I hide my face for shame in my mantle, sick at


“For nothing shines in thy trophies, worthy to be recorded by the pen;

no heir of Frode is named in the roll of the honourable.

“Why dost thou vex me with insolent gaze, thou who honourest the foe

guilty of thy father’s blood, and art thought only to take thy vengeance

with loaves and warm soup?

“When men speak well of the avengers of crimes, then long thou to lose

thy quick power of hearing, that thy impious spirit may not be ashamed.

“For oft has the virtue of another vexed a heart that knows its guilt,

and the malice in the breast is abashed by the fair report of the good.

“Though thou go to the East, or live sequestered in the countries of

the West, or whether, driven thence, thou seek the midmost place of the


“Whether thou revisit the cold quarter of the heaven where the pole is

to be seen, and carries on the sphere with its swift spin, and looks

down upon the neighbouring Bear;

“Shame shall accompany thee far, and shall smite thy countenance with

heavy disgrace, when the united assembly of the great kings is taking


“Since everlasting dishonour awaits thee, thou canst not come amidst

the ranks of the famous; and in every clime thou shalt pass thy days in


“The fates have given Frode an offspring born into the world when gods

were adverse, whose desires have been enthralled by crime and ignoble


“Even as in a ship all things foul gather to the filthy hollow of the

bilge, even so hath a flood of vices poured into Ingild.

“Therefore, in terror of thy shame being published, thou shalt lie

crushed in the corners of the land, sluggish on thy foul hearth, and

never to be seen in the array of the famous.

“Then shalt thou shake thy beard at thine evil fate, kept down by the

taunts of thy mistresses, when thy paramour galls thy ear with her

querulous cries.

“Since chill fear retards thy soul, and thou dreadest to become the

avenger of thy sire, thou art utterly degenerate, and thy ways are like

a slave’s.

“It would have needed scant preparation to destroy thee; even as if a

man should catch and cut the throat of a kid, or slit the weazand of a

soft sheep and butcher it.

“Behold, a son of the tyrant Swerting shall take the inheritance of

Denmark after thee; he whose slothful sister thou keepest in infamous


“Whilst thou delightest to honour thy bride, laden with gems and shining

in gold apparel, we burn with all indignation that is linked with shame,

lamenting thy infamies.

“When thou art stirred by furious lust, our mind is troubled, and

recalls the fashion of ancient times, and bids us grieve sorely.

“For we rate otherwise than thou the crime of the foes whom now thou

holdest in honour; wherefore the face of this age is a burden to me,

remembering the ancient ways.

“I would crave no greater blessing, O Frode, if I might see those guilty

of thy murder duly punished for such a crime.”

Now he prevailed so well by this stirring counsel, that his reproach

served like a flint wherewith to strike a blazing flame of valour in the

soul that had been chill and slack. For the king had at first heard

the song inattentively; but, stirred by the earnest admonition of

his guardian, he conceived in his heart a tardy fire of revenge; and,

forgetting the reveller, he changed into the foeman. At last he leapt up

from where he lay, and poured the whole flood of his anger on those at

table with him; insomuch that he unsheathed his sword upon the sons of

Swerting with bloody ruthlessness, and aimed with drawn blade at the

throats of those whose gullets he had pampered with the pleasures of the

table. These men he forthwith slew; and by so doing he drowned the

holy rites of the table in blood. He sundered the feeble bond of their

league, and exchanged a shameful revel for enormous cruelty; the host

became the foe, and that vilest slave of excess the bloodthirsty agent

of revenge. For the vigorous pleading of his counsellor bred a breath of

courage in his soft and unmanly youth; it drew out his valour from its

lurking-place, and renewed it, and so fashioned it that the authors of a

most grievous murder were punished even as they deserved. For the young

man’s valour had been not quenched, but only in exile, and the aid of

an old man had drawn it out into the light; and it accomplished a deed

which was all the greater for its tardiness; for it was somewhat nobler

to steep the cups in blood than in wine. What a spirit, then, must we

think that old man had, who by his eloquent adjuration expelled from

that king’s mind its infinite sin, and who, bursting the bonds of

iniquity, implanted a most effectual seed of virtue. Starkad aided the

king with equal achievements; and not only showed the most complete

courage in his own person, but summoned back that which had been rooted

out of the heart of another. When the deed was done, he thus begun:

“King Ingild, farewell; thy heart, full of valour, hath now shown a deed

of daring. The spirit that reigns in thy body is revealed by its fair

beginning; nor did there lack deep counsel in thy heart, though thou

wert silent till this hour; for thou dost redress by thy bravery what

delay had lost, and redeemest the sloth of thy spirit by mighty valour.

Come now, let us rout the rest, and let none escape the peril which

all alike deserve. Let the crime come home to the culprit; let the sin

return and crush its contriver.

“Let the servants take up in a car the bodies of the slain, and let the

attendant quickly bear out the carcases. Justly shall they lack the

last rites; they are unworthy to be covered with a mound; let no funeral

procession or pyre suffer them the holy honour of a barrow; let them be

scattered to rot in the fields, to be consumed by the beaks of birds;

let them taint the country all about with their deadly corruption.

“Do thou too, king, if thou hast any wit, flee thy savage bride, lest

the she-wolf bring forth a litter like herself, and a beast spring from

thee that shall hurt its own father.

“Tell me, Rote, continual derider of cowards, thinkest thou that we have

avenged Frode enough, when we have spent seven deaths on the vengeance

of one? Lo, those are borne out dead who paid homage not to thy sway in

deed, but only in show, and though obsequious they planned treachery.

But I always cherished this hope, that noble fathers have noble

offspring, who will follow in their character the lot which they

received by their birth. Therefore, Ingild, better now than in time past

dost thou deserve to be called lord of Leire and of Denmark.

“When, O King Hakon, I was a beardless youth, and followed thy leading

and command in warfare, I hated luxury and wanton souls, and practiced

only wars. Training body and mind together, I banished every unholy

thing from my soul, and shunned the pleasures of the belly, loving

deeds of prowess. For those that followed the calling of arms had rough

clothing and common gear and short slumbers and scanty rest. Toil drove

ease far away, and the time ran by at scanty cost. Not as with some men

now, the light of whose reason is obscured by insatiate greed with its

blind maw. Some one of these clad in a covering of curiously wrought

raiment effeminately guides the fleet-footed (steed), and unknots his

dishevelled locks, and lets his hair fly abroad loosely.

“He loves to plead often in the court, and to covet a base pittance, and

with this pursuit he comforts his sluggish life, doing with venal tongue

the business entrusted to him.

“He outrages the laws by force, he makes armed assault upon men’s

rights, he tramples on the innocent, he feeds on the wealth of others,

he practices debauchery and gluttony, he vexes good fellowship with

biting jeers, and goes after harlots as a hoe after the grass.

“The coward falls when battles are lulled in peace. Though he who fears

death lie in the heart of the valley, no mantlet shall shelter him. His

final fate carries off every living man; doom is not to be averted by

skulking. But I, who have shaken the whole world with my slaughters,

shall I enjoy a peaceful death? Shall I be taken up to the stars in a

quiet end? Shall I die in my bed without a wound?”