The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

by Snorri Sturlson | c.1179-1241 | 320,198 words

The "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to the year A.D. 1177....

Part 218 - Of King Olaf's Skalds

It is related that when King Olaf drew up his men in battle order, he made a shield rampart with his troop that should defend him in battle, for which he selected the strongest and boldest.

Thereafter he called his skalds, and ordered them to go in within the shield defence.

"Ye shall."

says the king,

"remain here, and see the circumstances which may take place, and then ye will not have to follow the reports of others in what ye afterwards tell or sing concerning it."

There were Thormod Kolbrunarskald, Gissur Gulbraskald, a foster-son of Hofgardaref, and Thorfin Mun. Then said Thormod to Gissur,

"Let us not stand so close together, brother, that Sigvat the skald should not find room when he comes. He must stand before the king, and the king will not have it otherwise."

The king heard this, and said,

"Ye need not sneer at Sigvat, because he is not here. Often has he followed me well, and now he is praying for us, and that we greatly need."

Thormod replies,

"It may be, sire, that ye now require prayers most; but it would be thin around the banner-staff if all thy court-men were now on the way to Rome. True it was what we spoke about, that no man who would speak with you could find room for Sigvat."

Thereafter the skalds talked among themselves that it would be well to compose a few songs of remembrance about the events which would soon be taking place.

Then Gissur sang: —

"From me shall bende girl never hear
A thought of sorrow, care, or fear:
I wish my girl knew how gay
We arm us for our viking fray.
Many and brave they are, we know,
Who come against us there below;
But, life or death, we, one and all,
By Norway's king will stand or fall."

And Thorfin Mun made another song, viz.: —

"Dark is the cloud of men and shields,
Slow moving up through Verdal's fields:
These Verdal folks presume to bring
Their armed force against their king.
On! let us feed the carrion crow, —
Give her a feast in every blow;
And, above all, let Throndhjem's hordes
Feel the sharp edge of true men's swords."

And Thorrood sang: —

"The whistling arrows pipe to battle,
Sword and shield their war-call rattle.
Up! brave men, up! the faint heart here
Finds courage when the danger's near.
Up! brave men, up! with Olaf on!
With heart and hand a field is won.
One viking cheer! — then, stead of words,
We'll speak with our death-dealing swords."

These songs were immediately got by heart by the army.

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