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 94 - Of The Troop Of The Nobility

Twenty horsemen rode forward from the Thing-men's troops against the Northmen's array; and all of them, and likewise their horses, were clothed in armour.

One of the horsemen said,

"Is Earl Toste in this army?"

The earl answered,

"It is not to be denied that ye will find him here."

The horseman says,

"Thy brother, King Harald, sends thee salutation, with the message that thou shalt have the whole of Northumberland; and rather than thou shouldst not submit to him, he will give thee the third part of his kingdom to rule over along with himself."

The earl replies,

"This is something different from the enmity and scorn he offered last winter; and if this had been offered then it would have saved many a man's life who now is dead, and it would have been better for the kingdom of England. But if I accept of this offer, what will he give King Harald Sigurdson for his trouble?"

The horseman replied,

"He has also spoken of this; and will give him seven feet of English ground, or as much more as he may be taller than other men."


said the earl,

"go now and tell King Harald to get ready for battle; for never shall the Northmen say with truth that Earl Toste left King Harald Sigurdson to join his enemy's troops, when he came to fight west here in England. We shall rather all take the resolution to die with honour, or to gain England by a victory."

Then the horseman rode back.

King Harald Sigurdson said to the earl,

"Who was the man who spoke so well?"

The earl replied,

"That was King Harald Godwinson."

Then, said King Harald Sigurdson,

"That was by far too long concealed from me; for they had come so near to our army, that this Harald should never have carried back the tidings of our men's slaughter."

Then said the earl,

"It was certainly imprudent for such chiefs, and it may be as you say; but I saw he was going to offer me peace and a great dominion, and that, on the other hand, I would be his murderer if I betrayed him; and I would rather he should be my murderer than I his, if one of two be to die."

King Harald Sigurdson observed to his men,

"That was but a little man, yet he sat firmly in his stirrups."

It is said that Harald made these verses at this time: —

"Advance! advance!
No helmets glance,
But blue swords play
In our array.
Advance! advance!
No mail-coats glance,
But hearts are here
That ne'er knew fear."

His coat of mail was called Emma; and it was so long that it reached almost to the middle of his leg, and so strong that no weapon ever pierced it.

Then said King Harald Sigurdson,

"These verses are but ill composed; I must try to make better;"

and he composed the following: —

"In battle storm we seek no lee,
With skulking head, and bending knee,
Behind the hollow shield.
With eye and hand we fend the head;
Courage and skill stand in the stead
Of panzer, helm, and shield,
In hild's bloody field."

Thereupon Thiodolf sang: —

"And should our king in battle fall, —
A fate that God may give to all, —
His sons will vengeance take;
And never shone the sun upon
Two nobler eaglet; in his run,
And them we'll never forsake."

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