In those days King Olaf the Swede, son of King Eric the Victorious, and Sigrid the High-counselled, daughter of Skogul Tosti, ruled over Sweden. He was a mighty king and renowned, and full fain of fame.
Gunnlaug came to Upsala towards the time of the Thing of the Swedes in spring-tide; and when he got to see the king, he greeted him. The king took his greeting well, and asked who he was. He said he was an Iceland-man.
Then the king called out: “Raven,” says he, “what man is he in Iceland?”
Then one stood up from the lower bench, a big man and a stalwart, and stepped up before the king, and spake: “Lord,” says he, “he is of good kin, and himself the most stalwart of men.”
“Let him go, then, and sit beside thee,” said the king.
Then Gunnlaug said, “I have a song to set forth before thee, king, and I would fain have peace while thou hearkenest thereto.”
“Go ye first, and sit ye down,” says the king, “for there is no leisure now to sit listening to songs.”
So they did as he bade them.
Now Gunnlaug and Raven fell a-talking together, and each told each of his travels. Raven said that he had gone the summer before from Iceland to Norway, and had come east to Sweden in the forepart of winter. They soon got friendly together.
But one day, when the Thing was over, they were both before the king, Gunnlaug and Raven.
Then spake Gunnlaug, “Now, lord, I would that thou shouldst hear the song.”
“That I may do now,” said the king.
“My song too will I set forth now,” says Raven.
“Thou mayst do so,” said the king.
Then Gunnlaug said, “I will set forth mine first if thou wilt have it so, king.”
“Nay,” said Raven, “it behoveth me to be first, lord, for I myself came first to thee.”
“Whereto came our fathers forth, so that my father was the little boat towed behind? Whereto, but nowhere?” says Gunnlaug. “And in likewise shall it be with us.”
Raven answered, “Let us be courteous enough not to make this a matter of bandying of words. Let the king rule here.”
The king said, “Let Gunnlaug set forth his song first, for he will not be at peace till he has his will.”
Then Gunnlaug set forth the song which he had made to King Olaf, and when it was at an end the king spake. “Raven,” says he, “how is the song done?”
“Right well,” he answered; “it is a song full of big words and little beauty; a somewhat rugged song, as is Gunnlaug’s own mood.”
“Well, Raven, thy song,” said the king.
Raven gave it forth, and when it was done the king said, “How is this song made, Gunnlaug?”
“Well it is, lord,” he said; “this is a pretty song, as is Raven himself to behold, and delicate of countenance. But why didst thou make a short song on the king, Raven? Didst thou perchance deem him unworthy of a long one?”
Raven answered, “Let us not talk longer on this; matters will be taken up again, though it be later.”
And thereat, they parted.
Soon after Raven became a man of King Olaf’s, and asked him leave to go away. This the king granted him. And when Raven was ready to go, he spake to Gunnlaug, and said, “Now shall our friendship be ended, for that thou must needs shame me here before great men; but in time to come I shall cast on thee no less shame than thou hadst will to cast on me here.”
Gunnlaug answers: “Thy threats grieve me nought. Nowhere are we likely to come where I shall be thought less worthy than thou.”
King Olaf gave to Raven good gifts at parting, and thereafter.
From: THE STORY/SAGA OF GUNNLAUG THE WORM-TONGUE AND RAVEN THE SKALD
Translated From The Icelandic EIRIKR MAGNUSSON & WILLIAM MORRIS
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