THIS English version of the Gisli Saga is formed out of a fusion of the two Icelandic texts which have come down to us; the elder text having been generally followed, and the younger used to supply deficiencies.
It is needless to speak of the story unless it can speak for itself in the English tongue. It is enough, therefore, to say that this is one of the finest, if it be not the very finest, of the lesser Sagas, among which it holds the same rank as Njala among those of greater length.
In one respect it is perhaps superior to any Saga. Gisli was a true poet, and his verses, though full of the periphrases and involutions common in that class of Icelandic composition, have genuine thought and feeling lying underneath them. It is hoped, if the English renderings run smoother than the Icelandic originals, the spirit which warms them may not be found utterly wanting. In this, as in other respects, Gisli must speak for himself.
But one thing may surely here be spoken of--the kind deeds
and help of friends. To the skilful hand that drew the illustrations which adorn this volume the Translator and the reader owe special thanks. It is seldom that the spirit of a story has been so fully grasped, and details of scenery and costume so thoroughly mastered.
To his friend Guðbrandr Vigfússon, an Icelander of profound O knowledge in the language and literature of his country, the Translator's thanks for many valuable explanations and suggestions are most justly due and most heartily given.
The sword on the title-page has been most daintily drawn from an original, just such as "Graysteel" must have been, by the accomplished pencil of Mr. Drummond. To him, too, a meed of praise is due.
December 15, 1865.