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he exclaimed, ' will be proud when my enemies extol my bravery. I have yet courage though the sword has hewn me asunder. It was from my father I received this great power of endurance.'
Hjalmar fell upon the field of battle, and sung: ‘My armor is broken. I am pierced with sixteen wounds. All is dark before me.
I stagger, and can go no longer. The sword of Agantyr has penetrated to my heart, and had I five mansions I could not inhabit one of them. The beautiful daughter of Helmir told me I should gaze on her no more. Take from my finger this golden ring, and bear it to my Ingenborg. She will know that I have perished. I behold approaching me the ravens, and behind them are the eagles. I shall be their nourishment until my heart's blood is exhausted.'
The Scald Hagbard, who was one day with the daughter of a Danish king, thus addressed her: 'If your father knew I was here, who have killed his sons and seduced his daughter, how gladly would he cast me into prison; and you, where would
you be when I died?' 'I should die also,' was the firm reply. A few days afterward Hagbard was surprised while in her company, and condemned to death. On his way to the scaffold, he desired to know whether his mistress would be faithful to her promise. He therefore prayed the executioner to go forward, bearing a robe, which he gave him. At the sight of this the young girl, confident of her lover's death, set fire to her residence and perished in the flames. Hagbard then proceeded with his death-song: "Hasten, oh, hasten to destroy me. It will be sweet, my beautiful betrothed, to join you in the world of spirits ! Hear you the hissing of those flames? See you those whirling tire-sparks? To me they were like a banner of fidelity. The devotion of her I love mounts higher than the flames. Happy indeed, idol of my heart, have you made me at this moment. You have redeemed your promise. In death as in life, we are still united. That which you swore to do as woman, you have nobly done as heroine. Hasten, oh, hasten, for I now know that even within the realms of death, true love can never die. I come, my beloved, to renew our happiness. From north to south will resound our united death-chant. It shall be heard on earth and reëchoed in the heavens, that equally faithful and equally beloved, we are happy now together.'
The most celebrated Scald of Scandinavia was Ragnar Lodbrok, King of Denmark. History gives the principal details of his life, while popular tradition has developed and adorned them. IIis Saga is one of the most ancient and authentic.
There was formerly, according to this Saga,* a powerful king in Gottland, who had a beautiful daughter named Thora. She was tenderly beloved by her father, whose constant care consisted in seeking out new pleasures, and preparing festivals for her amusement. He built for her a splendid palace, to which he brought one morning a beautiful serpent of the rarest species known in Scandinavia; its eyes were piercing, its head finely shaped, and its skin richly variegated, while at the same time it was graceful and winning in its movements. Thora received the serpent with much satisfaction, and having placed it on a golden cushion, trans
• Saga Regnars Konung's LODBROKAR. Published by Rafn in his Fornaldar Sægur, T. 11, p. 237.
ferred it to a cage. Suddenly the serpent began to increase in size in a most alarming manner. At first one could hold it in the hollow of the hand, and it occupied merely a small corner of its prison. It soon burst the barrier that confined it, and coming out, extended through the room, and afterward throughout the house, which it finally encircled with innumerable folds. As the serpent grew, its cushion increased also, until resting upon it with flaming eyes, it completely terrified by its gaze and hissings all who endeavored to approach it. The king, in his alarm, caused a proclamation to be made that he would bestow the hand of his daughter on the destroyer of the monster. Ragnar, the son of Sigurd, King of Denmark, heard this strange story, and determined to deliver Thora. He caused a suit of armor to be made of copper, tempered in bitumen ; and, lance in hand, advanced to the young girl's residence.
The serpent vomited streams of venom, but Ragnar, protected by his armor, buried his steel lance deep within its vitals. Soon after he espoused Thora, who presented him with two sons, equally distinguished for strength and valor. She died, however; and Ragnar, to console himself, became a pilgrimwarrior, bearing away the palm from all competitors.
One day he arrived in Norway, where his companions, disembarking, discovered, in a miserable cabin, a maiden named Kraka, of surpassing beauty. They spoke of her with enthusiasm to Ragnar, who in return gave them one of those enigmas so common in the middle ages. If,' said he, “this maiden is so beautiful as you represent, bring her to me; but let her come neither naked nor clothed, without having eaten or being hungry, without arriving alone, and yet accompanied by no one.'
Kraka, on hearing this enigma, comprehended it, and prepared to effect its solution. She permitted her long flaxen hair to fall around her body, which she enveloped in a fish-net. She also drank a hastily-prepared soup, and went forth attended by no one, but followed by a dog. The king became enamored, and espoused her.
Time passed on, and Ragnar, tired with inactivity, equipped a vessel, and resumed his explorations of foreign countries. He visited the King of Sweden, who received him with great deference, and placed him at a banquet in the seat of honor. The king had a beautiful daughter, Ingenborg, whom Ragnar saw, and forgot his vows to Kraka. On his return to Sweden his wife questioned him as to his adventures. He replied that he had none to recount. Three times she thus addressed them, and then spoke as follows: 'I know all that has happened. You have demanded Ingenborg in marriage, and are soon to wed her. Your companions have not revealed this secret to me, but I have learnt it from three birds which have been hovering around you.
I am not however affronted at your project, for I am not, as you have hitherto believed, the daughter of a peasant, but I am Aslagua, the child of Sigurd, who killed Fatnir. In proof of what I say, I shall bear you a son in whose eyes will appear
the picture of a dragon. Her words were confirmed, and Ragnar refused the contemplated marriage.
On learning this determinnation, the King of Sweden sent to his various tribes the arrow, (or symbol of war,) and assembled his troops to avenge the injury done to his daughter. But the sons of Ragnar, like their father, were intrepid warriors. They had already stood in the front rank of battle, and shed the blood of their opposers. The two eldest, Agnor and Erik, during the absence of the remainder on a voyage, demanded the privilege of leading on the Danish army. The opposing forces met upon the battle-field, and the children of Ragnar were sustaining themselves with bravery, when a bull suddenly rushed amid the ranks of their army, scattering the lines and affrighting their companions with his bellowings. In vain did the brothers seek to rally the flying troops, or to supply the loss sustained by their own courage. Agnor fell covered with wounds, while Erik was taken prisoner and condemned to death. At this result Aslagua wept, and her tears, says the chronicle, were red as blood and hard as hail-stones. At the same time it was announced that another of her absent sons had fallen gloriously upon a distant field of combat. This intelligence she heard with the pride of a Spartan mother, exclaiming, 'This son has nobly stained with blood his buckler. He has died a true hero, and will go to Odin.'
During these contests Ragnar was far distant in foreign countries, but Aslagua swore his returning sons to avenge their brothers, fanning the flame already kindled in their bosoms, and determined herself to head the forces that were sent to Sweden.
When the opposing armies were the second time arrayed for battle, and the Scalds had chanted the preparatory songs, King Erik again loosed his raging bull. But Ivar had constructed an immense bow, fitted with huge arrows, which was discharged by numerous soldiers until the monster was annihilated. At this defeat fear seized upon the Swedes, who fled disorderly, and were pursued by the sons of Ragnar, covering the ground with dead and wounded.
From this moment the young princes followed an adventurous career, hastening from place to place, taking fortresses by assault, destroying villages — every where regarded as a scourge, and yet every where victorious. It is asserted that they penetrated as far as Switzerland, and would have gone to Rome had they known of its position. While counselling upon the subject, and exhausting all their knowledge, they perceived approaching at a distance a man wearing the broad hat and costume of a traveller, when the following conversation ensued:
• Who are you?'
know this spot?' 'I know all spots where man is found, for I have passed my life in travelling.'
• Are we far from Rome?'
• Far from Rome? Look at these iron shoes I wear, and the pair upon my shoulders. Both are nearly gone. I have come direct from Rome. When I left there they were new!'
The sons of Ragnar, naturally regarding the route a long one, returned northward.
Ragnar, meanwhile, had arrived in Denmark, having heard along the route the exploits of his children. The glory they had acquired reänimated the old warrior, who again determined to traverse the seas in search of combats, and to extend his fame in Scandinavia. Suddenly all things become animate with the bustle of preparation in the Danish
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states. Forges groan with the fabrication of armor and lances, while the tributary chiefs assemble their troops for new engagements, and Ragnar equips two new vessels. The neighboring kings are alarmed at these preparations, and tremble lest their countries are the object of attack. Lodbrok declares, however, his design to conquer England, and embarks for that purpose. Aslagua, affected by some strange presentiment, bears to him, at the moment of departure, a suit of armor, consecrated by Odin, and equally impenetrable by fire or steel.
Elli, King of England, has been warned of this invasion, and advances to meet Ragnar with a numerous army. An obstinate combat commences, during which the Danes perform prodigies of valor. Ragnar beholds his companions gradually fall around him, but remains full of courage, protected by his armor. He is finally surrounded, taken prisoner, and placed, by order of the king, in a ditch filled with serpents. Here he remains for a whole day, uninjured. Finally he is divested of his armor by the order of Elli, when the vipers glide at once upon their victim. The old warrior, conscious that his death approaches, chants his death-song:
'I have combated with the sword! Long since, in Gottland, I destroyed the monster and took Thora as my bride. My sword pierced the vitals of the serpent. The monster felt my strength, and I gained the name of Lodbrok.
'I have combated with the sword! I was yet young, when I furnished, in the east, a repast for the hungry wolves and a banquet for the
Then arose the sea beyond its bounds, and the raven walked in blood.
•I have combated with the sword! Ere twenty years had come to me did I brandish my lance in the hottest of the combat, and at the mouth of the Dyner did I slay eight earls. The wolves gathered to the battle, and the blood of many warriors dyed the sea. "I have combated with the sword ! The
of Hedir did not quit me when I sent the warriors of Helsingor to the halls of Odin. I ascended Ifa. The bite of the arrow was felt, and the rivers ran with the warm blood of the wounded. The sword groaned upon the
and the axe destroyed the strong buckler.
“I have combated with the sword! I am now about to accomplish my destiny. No one can escape the Fates, yet did I think that Elli would become the disposer of my life, when I gave the banquet to the vultures, when I bounded amid the billows, and left food for the eagles in the bays of Russia.
• I have combated with the sword! I rejoice when I remember the couches where repose the favored guests of Balder. Soon shall I too drink from the golden horns. The warrior sighs not on account of death when he enters the splendid halls of Fiolnir. I shall speak no word of fear as I tread the courts of Vidar.
“I have combated with the sword! The sons of Aslagua will hasten, with arms sharpened by the God of battles, when they know the torments I endure, and hear of the serpent-girdle that surrounds me. I have given my sons a mother who has adorned the world with heroes !
• I have combated with the sword! Death is now approaching. The serpents press on me with force, and the vipers eat into
heart. I know that the wrath of Vidar will weigh heavy upon Elli. Rage will possess my sons when they hear the destruction of their father, and the eagerness of youth will allow them no repose.
I have combated with the sword! Fifty and one times have I led my sons to battle! and never have I found one stronger than myself. As a youth I learned to redden the sharp iron. Now the Asers call me. I do not regret to die !
'I finish my existence. The Valkyries of Odin are already seeking me. Gladly shall I sit upon the elevated seats and drink with the Asers. The hours of my life tremble at their end, and I die smiling !'
When the King of England heard the death of the hero, he feared the vengeance of his sons, and immediately dispatched messengers to learn their dispositions. The envoys found the four sons of Ragnar assembled, and recounted their sad story. When they spoke of the manner in which the aged warrior died, Biorn pressed his lance so strongly that he left the print of his fingers in the handle, while Hurtserk crushed a chequer till the blood gushed from his nails, and Sigurd cut with a knife he held, even to the bone, without perceiving it.
Soon after, the four brothers assembled their army and invaded England, but were beaten, and returned to seek new troops. Ivar, however, who was the most artful, quitted them and sought out Elli. “I promise, said he, that I will no more take up arms against you if you will give me, within your kingdom, as much ground as I can cover with a bull's hide.' The king, who knew not the story of Dido, smiled as he ac corded so humble a request. Ivar cut the hide into minute threads, and surrounded a large extent of territory, in which he built London. There he held his court, attracting, by presents and promises, the chief inhabitants, until, confident of their assistance, he sent for his brothers with their army. They arrived with immense forces, and Elli, deceived by the cunning of Ivar, and deserted by his former adherents, in vain attempted to defend himself. The sons of Ragnar conquered and then tortured him. All of them but Ivar returned to Denmark, happy in thus having re. venged their father's murder.
Ivar reigned for many years in England, and at his death ordered his subjects to bury him on that side of the kingdom most open to invasion, that he might still protect his country after his decease. His will was executed, and in 1066, when Haral entered England, he landed near the tomb of Ivar, where he perished. On the approach of William the Conqueror the tomb was opened, and the undecayed body of Ivar burnt to ashes, after which there was nothing to oppose a conquest.
Thus closes the Saga of Ragnar, whose name yet remains popular in Scandinavia, while the peasants of Iceland still recall those early days and sing his death-song.