The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway
Part 154 - King Olaf's Expedition With His Levy
Now we must proceed with the relation we began before, — that King Olaf set out with his men, and raised a levy over the whole country (A.D. 1027).
All lendermen in the North followed him excepting Einar Tambaskelfer, who sat quietly at home upon his farm since his return to the country, and did not serve the king. Einar had great estates and wealth, although he held no fiefs from the king, and he lived splendidly.
King Olaf sailed with his fleet south around Stad, and many people from the districts around joined him. King Olaf himself had a ship which he had got built the winter before (A.D. 1027), and which was called the Visund 1. It was a very large ship, with a bison's head gilded all over upon the bow.
Sigvat the skald speaks thus of it: —
"Trygvason's Long Serpent bore,
Grim gaping o'er the waves before,
A dragon's head with open throat,
When last the hero was afloat:
His cruise was closed,
As God disposed.
Olaf has raised a bison's head,
Which proudly seems the waves to tread.
While o'er its golden forehead dashing
The waves its glittering horns are washing:
May God dispose
A luckier close."
The king went on to Hordaland; there he heard the news that Erling Skjalgson had left the country with a great force, and four or five ships. He himself had a large war-ship, and his sons had three of twenty rowing-banks each; and they had sailed westward to England to Canute the Great.
Then King Olaf sailed eastward along the land with a mighty war-force, and he inquired everywhere if anything was known of Canute's proceedings; and all agreed in saying he was in England but added that he was fitting out a levy, and intended coming to Norway.
As Olaf had a large fleet, and could not discover with certainty where he should go to meet King Canute, and as his people were dissatisfied with lying quiet in one place with so large an armament, he resolved to sail with his fleet south to Denmark, and took with him all the men who were best appointed and most warlike; and he gave leave to the others to return home.
Now the people whom he thought of little use having gone home, King Olaf had many excellent and stout men-at-arms besides those who, as before related, had fled the country, or sat quietly at home; and most of the chief men and lendermen of Norway were along with him.
Visundr is the buffalo; although the modern bison, or American animal of that name, might have been known through the Greenland colonists, who in this reign had visited some parts of America. — L.