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Death of Bodvar: Egil's poem thereon.

Bodvar Egil's son was just now growing up; he was a youth of great promise, handsome, tall and strong as had been Egil or Thorolf at his age. Egil loved him dearly, and Bodvar was very fond of his father. One summer it happened that there was a ship in White-river, and a great fair was held there. Egil had there bought much wood, which he was having conveyed home by water: for this his house-carles went, taking with them an eight-oared boat belonging to Egil. It chanced one time that Bodvar begged to go with them, and they allowed him so to do. So he went into the field with the house-carles. They were six in all on the eight-oared boat. And when they had to go out again, high-water was late in the day, and, as they must needs wait for the turn of tide, they did not start till late in the evening. Then came on a violent south-west gale, against which ran the stream of the ebb. This made a rough sea in the firth, as can often happen. The end was that the boat sank under them, and all were lost. The next day the bodies were cast up: Bodvar's body came on shore at Einars-ness, but some came in on the south shore of the firth, whither also the boat was driven, being found far in near Reykjarhamar.
Egil heard these tidings that same day, and at once rode to seek the bodies: he found Bodvar's, took it up and set it on his knees, and rode with it out to Digra-ness, to Skallagrim's mound. Then he had the mound opened, and laid Bodvar down there by Skallagrim. After which the mound was closed again; this task was not finished till about nightfall. Egil then rode home to Borg, and, when he came home, he went at once to the locked bed-closet in which he was wont to sleep. He lay down, and shut himself in, none daring to crave speech of him.
It is said that when they laid Bodvar in earth Egil was thus dressed: his hose were tight-fitting to his legs, he wore a red kirtle of fustian, closely-fitting, and laced at the sides: but they say that his muscles so swelled with his exertion that the kirtle was rent off him, as were also the hose.
On the next day Egil still did not open the bed-closet: he had no meat or drink: there he lay for that day and the following night, no man daring to speak with him. But on the third morning, as soon as it was light, Asgerdr had a man set on horseback, who rode as hard as he could westwards to Hjardarholt, and told Thorgerdr all these tidings; it was about nones when he got there. He said also that Asgerdr had sent her word to come without delay southwards to Borg. Thorgerdr at once bade them saddle her a horse, and two men attended her. They rode that evening and through the night till they came to Borg. Thorgerdr went at once into the hall. Asgerdr greeted her, and asked whether they had eaten supper. Thorgerdr said aloud, 'No supper have I had, and none will I have till I sup with Freyja. I can do no better than does my father: I will not overlive my father and brother.' She then went to the bed-closet and called, 'Father, open the door! I will that we both travel the same road.' Egil undid the lock. Thorgerdr stepped up into the bed-closet, and locked the door again, and lay down on another bed that was there.
Then said Egil, 'You do well, daughter, in that you will follow your father. Great love have you shown to me. What hope is there that I shall wish to live with this grief?' After this they were silent awhile. Then Egil spoke: 'What is it now, daughter? You are chewing something, are you not?' 'I am chewing samphire,' said she, 'because I think it will do me harm. Otherwise I think I may live too long.' 'Is samphire bad for man?' said Egil. 'Very bad,' said she; 'will you eat some?' 'Why should I not?' said he. A little while after she called and bade them give her drink. Water was brought to her. Then said Egil, 'This comes of eating samphire, one ever thirsts the more.' 'Would you like a drink, father?' said she. He took and swallowed the liquid in a deep draught: it was in a horn. Then said Thorgerdr: 'Now are we deceived; this is milk.' Whereat Egil bit a sherd out of the horn, all that his teeth gripped, and cast the horn down.
Then spoke Thorgerdr: 'What counsel shall we take now? This our purpose is defeated. Now I would fain, father, that we should lengthen our lives, so that you may compose a funeral poem on Bodvar, and I will grave it on a wooden roller; after that we can die, if we like. Hardly, I think, can Thorstein your son compose a poem on Bodvar; but it were unseemly that he should not have funeral rites. Though I do not think that we two shall sit at the drinking when the funeral feast is held.' Egil said that it was not to be expected that he could now compose, though he were to attempt it. 'However, I will try this,' said he.
Egil had had another son named Gunnar, who had died a short time before.
So then Egil began the poem, and this is the beginning.


                                'Much doth it task me
                                My tongue to move,
                                Through my throat to utter
                                The breath of song.
                                Poesy, prize of Odin,
                                Promise now I may not,
                                A draught drawn not lightly
                                From deep thought's dwelling.

                                'Forth it flows but hardly;
                                For within my breast
                                Heaving sobbing stifles
                                Hindered stream of song—
                                Blessèd boon to mortals
                                Brought from Odin's kin,
                                Goodly treasure, stolen
                                From Giant-land of yore.

                                'He, who so blameless
                                Bore him in life,
                                O'erborne by billows
                                With boat was whelmed.
                                Sea-waves—flood that whilom
                                Welled from giant's wound—
                                Smite upon the grave-gate
                                Of my sire and son.

                                'Dwindling now my kindred
                                Draw near to their end,
                                Ev'n as forest-saplings
                                Felled or tempest-strown.
                                Not gay or gladsome
                                Goes he who beareth
                                Body of kinsman
                                On funeral bier.

                                'Of father fallen
                                First I may tell;
                                Of much-loved mother
                                Must mourn the loss.
                                Sad store hath memory
                                For minstrel skill,
                                A wood to bloom leafy
                                With words of song.

                                'Most woful the breach,
                                Where the wave in-brake
                                On the fenced hold
                                Of my father's kin.
                                Unfilled, as I wot,
                                And open doth stand
                                The gap of son rent
                                By the greedy surge.

                                'Me Ran, the sea-queen,
                                Roughly hath shaken:
                                I stand of beloved ones
                                Stript and all bare.
                                Cut hath the billow
                                The cord of my kin,
                                Strand of mine own twisting
                                So stout and strong.

                                'Sure, if sword could venge
                                Such cruel wrong,
                                Evil times would wait
                                Ægir, ocean-god.
                                That wind-giant's brother
                                Were I strong to slay,
                                'Gainst him and his sea-brood
                                Battling would I go.

                                'But I in no wise
                                Boast, as I ween,
                                Strength that may strive
                                With the stout ships' Bane.
                                For to eyes of all
                                Easy now 'tis seen
                                How the old man's lot
                                Helpless is and lone.

                                'Me hath the main
                                Of much bereaved;
                                Dire is the tale,
                                The deaths of kin:
                                Since he the shelter
                                And shield of my house
                                Hied him from life
                                To heaven's glad realm.

                                'Full surely I know,
                                In my son was waxing
                                The stuff and the strength
                                Of a stout-limbed wight:
                                Had he reached but ripeness
                                To raise his shield,
                                And Odin laid hand
                                On his liegeman true.

                                'Willing he followed
                                His father's word,
                                Though all opposing
                                Should thwart my rede:
                                He in mine household
                                Mine honour upheld,
                                Of my power and rule
                                The prop and the stay.

                                'Oft to my mind
                                My loss doth come,
                                How I brotherless bide
                                Bereaved and lone.
                                Thereon I bethink me,
                                When thickens the fight
                                Thereon with much searching
                                My soul doth muse:

                                'Who staunch stands by me
                                In stress of fight,
                                Shoulder to shoulder,
                                Side by side?
                                Such want doth weaken
                                In war's dread hour;
                                Weak-winged I fly,
                                Whom friends all fail.

                                'Son's place to his sire
                                (Saith a proverb true)
                                Another son born
                                Alone can fill.
                                Of kinsmen none
                                (Though ne'er so kind)
                                To brother can stand
                                In brother's stead.

                                'O'er all our ice-fields,
                                Our northern snows,
                                Few now I find
                                Faithful and true.
                                Dark deeds men love,
                                Doom death to their kin,
                                A brother's body
                                Barter for gold.

                                'Unpleasing to me
                                Our people's mood,
                                Each seeking his own
                                In selfish peace.
                                To the happier bees' home
                                Hath passed my son,
                                My good wife's child
                                To his glorious kin.

                                'Odin, mighty monarch,
                                Of minstrel mead the lord,
                                On me a heavy hand
                                Harmful doth lay.
                                Gloomy in unrest
                                Ever I grieve,
                                Sinks my drooping brow,
                                Seat of sight and thought.

                                'Fierce fire of sickness
                                First from my home
                                Swept off a son
                                With savage blow:
                                One who was heedful,
                                Harmless, I wot,
                                In deeds unblemished,
                                In words unblamed.

                                'Still do I mind me,
                                When the Friend of men
                                High uplifted
                                To the home of gods
                                That sapling stout
                                Of his father's stem,
                                Of my true wife born
                                A branch so fair.

                                'Once bare I goodwill
                                To the great spear-lord,
                                Him trusty and true
                                I trowed for friend:
                                Ere the giver of conquest,
                                The car-borne god,
                                Broke faith and friendship
                                False in my need.

                                'Now victim and worship
                                To Vilir's brother,
                                The god once honoured,
                                I give no more.
                                Yet the friend of Mimir
                                On me hath bestowed
                                Some boot for bale,
                                If all boons I tell.

                                'Yea he, the wolf-tamer,
                                The war-god skilful,
                                Gave poesy faultless
                                To fill my soul:
                                Gave wit to know well
                                Each wily trickster,
                                And force him to face me
                                As foeman in fight.

                                'Hard am I beset;
                                Whom Hela, the sister
                                Of Odin's fell captive,
                                On Digra-ness waits.
                                Yet shall I gladly
                                With right good welcome
                                Dauntless in bearing
                                Her death-blow bide.'

        Egil began to cheer up as the composing of the poem went on; and when the poem was complete, he brought it before Asgerdr and Thorgerdr and his family. He rose from his bed, and took his place in the high-seat. This poem he called 'Loss of Sons.' And now Egil had the funeral feast of his son held after ancient custom. But when Thorgerdr went home, Egil enriched her with good gifts.

Next: CHAPTER LXXXII. Hacon's wars and death. Poem on Arinbjorn.