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that she rose, saying that she must taste one drop of water. Her father raised no objection, so she stepped to the door, opened it and called for water. Her mother came up, and as the girl bent to kiss her, she whispered a word into A'sgerthr's ear. Directly, a large silver-mounted drinkinghorn was brought. Thorgerthr closed the door again, and bolted it, took a slender draught and offered the horn to her father.
"Certainly," said he; "that weed has parched my throat with thirst." So he lifted the horn with both hands, and took a long pull.
"Father," said Thorgerthr, "we have both been deceived; we have been drinking milk, not water." As she spoke, the old man clenched his teeth on the horn, and tore a great sherd from it, then flung the vessel wrathfully to the ground. "What is to be done now, father?" asked the daughter. "This our scheme has broken down at a very early stage, and we can no longer think of continuing it. I have a better plan to propose. Let us live sufficiently long for you to compose a beautiful elegy on your son Bothvar, and for me to carve it in runes on oaken staves; after which we can die, if the fancy takes us. I do not think my brother Thorstein quite the man to make much of a poem on our poor Bothvar, and it would be a disgrace to the family that the gallant boy should remain uncommemorated in song. As soon as your elegy is complete, we will hold a funeral banquet, at which you shall recite it. Now, what think you of my plan, dear father?"
Egill replied that the spirit of song was gone from him, but that he would try his best. Then he sat up in his bed and chanted the following lay, composing,, at first, with difficulty, till the fire of poetry kindled in his soul as brightly as it had burned in the days of youth: and the spot of flame from the setting sun, which had been running up the wall, rested on, and glorified, the old man's inspired countenance. His voice, faltering at first, waxed strong and clear, so that it filled the house. This was his song:—
•• I tone my tongue but feebly
To stir the air with song,
From heavy heart but hardly
I drag the load of wrong.
From frozen brain but thinly
From mines of grief but dolly
My race to death is drawing,
As in the southland garners
Sad is the heart that singeth;
My sorrows rise and swell; The lips but feebly mutter
The bitter tale they tell.
A gap in heart's affections—
The cruel sea hath torn in,
Ran bitterly has tried me 1
And now cold ocean shivers
The bright chain of my weaving 1
But how can these old sinews
Of much, too much, despoiled,
With trembling fingers counting
Bereaved of his last treasure,
Borne by the valkyrie
Oh! would my boy had oldened,
And Odin's hand extended
To father he—e'er faithful—
Held when all else were cold;
Through these thews waxing old.
Now, through the long night watches
I restlessly am tossed:
Of all that I have lost.
Odin I why hast thou riven
The green bough from its stem,
In homes of gods and men?
Spear-shaker 1 our old friendship
I rend for aye away;
Fell leader of the fray I
Upon the grassy headland,
Where father, children, sleep,
Of the ne'er quiet deep,
Stands Death, calmly waiting:
WhatI can I dread to die?
Towards her arms I fly!"
Note.—I know that I shall get into dreadful trouble with Icelandic literati for this version of the famous Sonartorrek, or Son's loss. A literal translation would be quite unintelligible to the majority of readers, so I have culled the sense of the poem, and put it together in a popular form. For the sake of those who would wish to know something more about it, I translate the first seven verses. The original poem is in twenty-four.
"It is much burdensome to me to move my tongue, or stir the weight of the song's balance ;l now bootless is Odin's theft,2 now is it not easily dragged from the lurking place of thought. The hidden store of Odin's kin,3 which was brought from the home of the Jotuns,4 is hard-drawn from the thought-house,5
1 To stir the weight of the song's balance = to compose poetry.
* Odin's theft = Poetry.
s The hidden store of Odin's kin = Poetry also.
* The home of the Jotuns.—The liquor of poetry was in the possession of the brothers Snttung and Bangi in Jotunheim, till Odin robbed them of it.
* The thought-house = the head.
(my heavy sorrow is the case !) When blameless Bragi arose in the dwarfs boat,6 the wounds of the Jotun's neck7 resounded down by the kinsman's sea-gates.8 For my race draws to its close, as the branches of the forest are beaten with fierce blows. He is no happy man who bears the bones of his child's corpse down from his bed. I must first tell of the loss of father and mother. That forest of poetry, leaf-bearing song, bear I out of the hall of words.9 Sad is the rent, where the wave washed into my family! I know the gap (caused by the death) of my son, when the sea despoiled me,—it stands unfilled and open. Kan10 has taken cruel advantage of me; I am bereaved of dear friends. Marr11 cut the bonds of my race, the cord spun by myself."
Now this is sheer nonsense to any one who does not understand the principle upon which Icelandic poetry is constructed: which is to use periphrases on every possible occasion, instead of the plain straightforward word. Without a knowledge of the signification of these far-fetched similes, the poetry is quite unintelligible. This accounts for the fact, that an Icelander of the present day cannot in the least follow the meaning of an old poem. I add explanations of the difficult expressions in the seven verses, literally translated.
Now, it fell out that, as Egill composed, his grief abated, and, when the Lament was complete, he rose from his bed, and, entering the hall, seated himself on the high stool of honour. Then all the house-folk gathered around him, and his wife and daughter sat at his feet. When a silence was made, he lifted his voice and sang the poem; and this Lament he named the Sonartorrek. Afterwards Egill waked his son in the ancient manner with much feasting, and Thorgerthr returned home laden with rich presents her father had bestowed upon her.
When Egill left King Athelstan, he received from him two chests of silver, and these the old man secreted near the house, with the aid of two thralls, whom he slew, that the secret of the treasure might never be revealed. Some suppose that it was buried in the gill aforementioned, because Anglo-Saxon coins have been found in the rubble brought down by the stream; others, that it is concealed near the warm springs, and that the jack-o'-lanthorns which dance there mark the spot where silver is buried; a third conjecture is, that the treasure was deposited in the bogs east of the house. I think the gill the most probable spot; for the old man was aged ninety and perfectly blind at the time, so that he could not have gone far. Now the bogs by the warm springs are too distant, and those east of the house are completely commanded by the farm, and it is unlikely that he should have chosen a place which was overlooked.
6 When blameless Bragi arose in the dwarfs boat = when immaculate song awoke among the gods.
7 The wounds of the Jotun's neck = the blood of Ymir = the sea.
8 The kinsman's sea-gates = the cairn of Skallagrim.
9 The hall of words = the mouth.
10 Ran was a sea-goddess, and is put for the sea itself.
11 Marr was a sea deity, and is put as well for the sea.
I wished much for a spade and mattock, that I might search for antiquities in the tun, or gill, but it is impossible to persuade an Icelander to allow his meadow-land to be upturned. It provides him with but just enough fodder for his cattle, so that every grass-blade is precious in his eyes. Each year dung is thrown over the tun, and any traces of the ancient buildings are gradually buried. It would be most interesting to make excavations on the site of some farm famous in history; but then it must be purchased for the purpose.
But to return to my journal.
We paid to the priest of Mosfell for the keep of the horses, the breakfast of the guides, and the milk and fuel, the sum of a dollar and a half (3s. 4£d.), which was what Grimr decided on as a fair remuneration.
The morning of June 20th was lovely, but cold; a sharp northerly wind was blowing, but we were sheltered from it during a considerable portion of our ride, by the stately serrated ridge to our left. In the best of spirits, though rather empty within, we started for Thingvellir; the horses, partaking in our glee, trotted cheerfully up the moor slopes, and scrambled rapidly over the slants of rubble borne down by spring torrents.
The track led along the brink of a gorge of great wildness and beauty, down which the river thundered in a succession of