THE SAGA OF GUNNLAUG THE WORM-TONGUE AND RAVEN THE SKALD – CHAPTER XI – Of how Gunnlaug must needs abide away from Iceland

Now it is to be told of Gunnlaug that he went from Sweden the same summer that Raven went to Iceland, and good gifts he had from King Olaf at parting.


King Ethelred welcomed Gunnlaug worthily, and that winter he was with the king, and was held in great honour.


In those days Knut the Great, son of Svein, ruled Denmark, and had new-taken his father’s heritage, and he vowed ever to wage war on England, for that his father had won a great realm there before he died west in that same land.


And at that time there was a great army of Danish men west there, whose chief was Heming, the son of Earl Strut-Harald, and brother to Earl Sigvaldi, and he held for King Knut that land that Svein had won.


Now in the spring Gunnlaug asked the king for leave to go away, but he said, “It ill beseems that thou, my man, shouldst go away now, when all bodes such mighty war in the land.”

Gunnlaug said, “Thou shalt rule, lord; but give me leave next summer to depart, if the Danes come not.”


The king answered, “Then we shall see.”


Now this summer went by, and the next winter, but no Danes came; and after midsummer Gunnlaug got his leave to depart from the king, and went thence east to Norway, and found Earl Eric in Thrandheim, at Hladir, and the earl greeted him well, and bade him abide with him. Gunnlaug thanked him for his offer, but said he would first go out to Iceland, to look to his promised maiden.


The earl said, “Now all ships bound for Iceland have sailed.”


Then said one of the court, “Here lay, yesterday, Hallfred Troublous-Skald, out tinder Agdaness.”


The earl answered, “That may well be; he sailed hence five nights ago.”


Then Earl Eric had Gunnlaug rowed put to Hallfred, who greeted him with joy; and forthwith a fair wind bore them from land, and they were right merry.


This was late in the summer: but now Hallfred said to Gunnlaug, “Hast thou heard of how Raven, the son of Onund, is wooing Helga the Fair?”


Gunnlaug said he had heard thereof but dimly. Hallfred tells him all he knew of it, and therewith, too, that it was the talk of many men that Raven was in nowise less brave a man than Gunnlaug. Then Gunnlaug sang this stave:—


“Light the weather wafteth;

But if this east wind drifted

Week-long, wild upon us

Little were I recking;

More this word I mind of

Me with Raven mated,

Than gain for me the gold-foe

Of days to make me grey-haired.”


Then Hallfred said, “Well, fellow, may’st thou fare better in thy strife with Raven than I did in mine. I brought my ship some winters ago into Leiruvag, and had to pay a half-mark in silver to a house-carle of Raven’s, but I held it back from him. So Raven rode at us with sixty men, and cut the moorings of the ship, and she was driven up on the shallows, and we were bound for a wreck. Then I had to give selfdoom to Raven, and a whole mark I had to pay; and that is the tale of my dealings with him.”


Then they two talked together alone of Helga the Fair, and Gunnlaug praised her much for her goodliness; and Gunnlaug sang:—


“He who brand of battle

Beareth over-wary,

Never love shall let him

Hold the linen-folded;

For we when we were younger

In many a way were playing

On the outward nesses

From golden land outstanding.”


“Well sung!” said Hallfred.









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The Saga of Gunnlaug the Worm-Tongue and Raven the Skald



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