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....

It happened once when King Sigurd was going from the drinking- table to vespers, that his men were very drunk and merry; and many of them sat outside the church singing the evening song, but their singing was very irregular.

Then the king said,

"Who is that fellow I see standing at the church with a skin jacket on?"

They answered, that they did not know.

Then the king said: —

"This skin-clad man, in sorry plight,
Puts all our wisdom here to flight."

Then the fellow came forward and said: —

"I thought that here I might be known,
Although my dress is scanty grown.
'Tis poor, but I must be content:
Unless, great king, it's thy intent
To give me better; for I have seen
When I and rags had strangers been."

The king answered,

"Come to me to-morrow when I am at the drink- table."

The night passed away; and the morning after the Icelander, who was afterwards called Thorarin Stutfetd, went into the drinking-room. A man stood outside of the door of the room with a horn in his hand, and said,

"Icelander! the king says that if thou wilt deserve any gift from him thou shalt compose a song before going in, and make it about a man whose name is Hakon Serkson, and who is called Morstrut [1]; and speak about that surname in thy song."

The man who spoke to him was called Arne Fioruskeif.

Then they went into the room; and when Thorarin came before the king's seat he recited these verses: —

"Throndhjem's warrior-king has said
The skald should be by gifts repaid,
If he before this meeting gave
The king's friend Serk a passing stave.
The generous king has let me know
My stave, to please, must be framed so
That my poor verse extol the fame
Of one called Hakon Lump by name."

Then said the king,

"I never said so, and somebody has been making a mock of thee. Hakon himself shall determine what punishment thou shalt have. Go into his suite."

Hakon said,

"He shall be welcome among us, for I can see where the joke came from;"

and he placed the Icelander at his side next to himself, and they were very merry. The day was drawing to a close, and the liquor began to get into their heads, when Hakon said,

"Dost thou not think, Icelander, that thou owest me some penalty? and dost thou not see that some trick has been played upon thee?"

Thorarin replies,

"It is true, indeed, that I owe thee some compensation."

Hakon says,

"Then we shall be quits, if thou wilt make me another stave about Arne."

He said he was ready to do so; and they crossed over to the side of the room where Arne was sitting, and Thorarin gave these verses: —

"Fioruskeif has often spread,
With evil heart and idle head,
The eagle's voidings round the land,
Lampoons and lies, with ready hand.
Yet this landlouper we all know,
In Africa scarce fed a crow,
Of all his arms used in the field,
Those in most use were helm and shield."

Arne sprang up instantly, drew his sword, and was going to fall upon him; but Hakon told him to let it alone and be quiet, and bade him remember that if it came to a quarrel he would come off the worst himself. Thorarin afterwards went up to the king, and said he had composed a poem which he wished the king to hear.

The king consented, and the song is known by the name of the Stutfeld poem. The king asked Thorarin what he intended to do. He replied, it was his intention to go to Rome. Then the king gave him much money for his pilgrimage, and told him to visit him on his return, and promised to provide for him.

Footnotes and references:


Morstrut is a short, fat, punchy fellow. — L.

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