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 9 - Of Sigvat The Skald

Sigvat the skald had gone to Rome, where he was at the time of the battle of Stiklestad.

He was on his way back from the South when he heard tidings of King O1af's fall, which gave him great grief.

He then sang these lines: —

"One morning early on a hill,
The misty town asleep and still,
Wandering I thought upon the fields.
Strewed o'er with broken mail and shields,
Where our king fell, — our kind good king,
Where now his happy youthful spring?
My father too! — for Thord was then
One of the good king's chosen men."

One day Sigvat went through a village, and heard a husband lamenting grievously over the loss of his wife, striking his breast, tearing his clothes, weeping bitterly, and saying he wanted to die; and Sigvat sang these lines: —

"This poor man mourns a much-loved wife,
Gladly would he be quit of life.
Must love be paid for by our grief?
The price seems great for joy so brief.
But the brave man who knows no fear
Drops for his king a silent tear,
And feels, perhaps, his loss as deep
As those who clamour when they weep."

Sigvat came home to Norway to the Throndhjem country, where he had a farm and children. He came from the South along the coast in a merchant vessel, and as they lay in Hillarsund they saw a great many ravens flying about.

Then Sigvat said: —

"I see here many a croaking raven
Flying about the well-known haven:
When Olaf's ship was floating here,
They knew that food for them was near;
When Olaf's ship lay here wind-bound,
Oft screamed the erne o'er Hillar sound,
Impatient for the expected prey,
And wont to follow to the fray."

When Sigvat came north to the town of Throndhjem King Svein was there before him. He invited Sigvat to stay with him, as Sigvat had formerly been with his father King Canute the Great; but Sigvat said he would first go home to his farm.

One day, as Sigvat was walking in the street, he saw the king's men at play, and he sang: —

"One day before I passed this way,
When the king's guards were at their play,
Something there was — I need not tell —
That made me pale, and feel unwell.
Perhaps it was I thought, just then,
How noble Olaf with his men,
In former days, I oft have seen
In manly games upon this green."

Sigvat then went to his farm; and as he heard that many men upbraided him with having deserted King Olaf, he made these verses: —

"May Christ condemn me still to burn
In quenchless fire, if I did turn,
And leave King Olaf in his need, —
My soul is free from such base deed.
I was at Rome, as men know well
Who saw me there, and who can tell
That there in danger I was then:
The truth I need not hide from men."

Sigvat was ill at ease in his home. One day he went out and sang: —

"While Olaf lived, how smiled the land!
Mountain and cliff, and pebbly strand.
All Norway then, so fresh, so gay,
On land or sea, where oft I lay.
But now to me all seems so dready,
All black and dull — of life I'm weary;
Cheerless to-day, cheerless to-morrow —
Here in the North we have great sorrow."

Early in winter Sigvat went westward over the ridge of the country to Jamtaland, and onwards to Helsingjaland, and came to Svithjod. He went immediately to Queen Astrid, and was with her a long time, and was a welcome guest. He was also with her brother King Emund, and received from him ten marks of proved silver, as is related in the song of Canute. Sigvat always inquired of the merchants who traded to Novgorod if they could tell him any news of Magnus Olafson.

Sigvat composed these lines at that time: —

"I ask the merchant oft who drives
His trade to Russia, 'How he thrives,
Our noble prince? How lives he there?
And still good news — his praise — I hear.
To little birds, which wing their way
Between the lands, I fain would say,
How much we long our prince to see,
They seem to hear a wish from me."

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