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 73 - Agreement Between King Harald And King Svein

This winter messengers and ambassadors went between Norway and Denmark, whose errand was that both Northmen and Danes should make peace, and a league with each other. and to ask the kings to agree to it. These messages gave favourable hopes of a peace; and the matter proceeded so far that a meeting for peace was appointed at the Gaut river between King Harald and King Svein. When spring approached, both kings assembled many ships and people for this meeting.

So says a skald in a poem on this expedition of the kings, which begins thus: —

"The king, who from the northern sound
His land with war-ships girds around,
The raven-feeder, filled the coast
With his proud ships, a gallant host!
The gold-tipped stems dash through the foam
That shakes the seamen's planked home;
The high wave breaks up to the mast,
As west of Halland on they passed,

"Harald whose word is fixed and sure,
Whose ships his land from foes secure,
And Svein, whose isles maintain is fleet,
Hasten as friends again to meet;
And every creek with vessels teems, —
All Denmark men and shipping seems;
And all rejoice that strife will cease,
And men meet now but to make peace."

Here it is told that the two kings held the meeting that was agreed upon between them, and both came to the frontiers of their kingdoms. So says the skald: —

"To meet (since peace the Dane now craves)
On to the south upon the waves
Sailed forth our gallant northern king,
Peace to the Danes with him to bring.
Svein northward to his frontier hies
To get the peace his people prize,
And meet King Harald, whom he finds
On land hard used by stormy winds."

When the kings found each other, people began at once to talk of their being reconciled. But as soon as peace was proposed, many began to complain of the damage they had sustained by harrying, robbing and killing men; and for a long time it did not look very like peace.

It is here related: —

"Before this meeting of the kings
Each bende his own losses brings,
And loudly claims some recompense
From his king's foes, at their expense.
It is not easy to make peace,
Where noise and talking never cease:
The bondes' warmth may quickly spread,
And kings be by the people led.

"When kings are moved, no peace is sure;
For that peace only is secure
Which they who make it fairly make, —
To each side give, from each side take.
The kings will often rule but ill
Who listen to the people's will:
The people often have no view
But their own interests to pursue."

At last the best men, and those who were the wisest, came between the kings, and settled the peace thus: — that Harald should have Norway, and Svein Denmark, according to the boundaries of old established between Denmark and Norway; neither of them should pay to the other for any damage sustained; the war should cease as it now stood, each retaining what he had got; and this peace should endure as long as they were kings. This peace was confirmed by oath.

Then the kings parted, having given each other hostages, as is here related: —

"And I have heard that to set fast
The peace God brought about at last,
Svein and stern Harald pledges sent,
Who witnessed to their sworn intent;
And much I wish that they and all
In no such perjury may fall
That this peace ever should be broken,
And oaths should fail before God spoken."

King Harald with his people sailed northwards to Norway, and King Svein southwards to Denmark.

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