F. --- THE SAGA OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.
The saint king Edward in England was the son of Ethelred the son of Edgar, who was the first sole king over England. Of him heard saint Dunstan the bishop the songs of angels in the air when he was born, with that token that in his days holy Christianity would find peace and prosperity in England. The mother of saint Edward was queen Emma, daughter of Richard, duke of Normandy; she was sister of Robert who was called "the Devil"; he left the dukedom and went into hermit's life. Saint Edward loved straightway in his youth holy church and prayers, to visit cloisters, and to love those monks whom he thought holiest and most virtuous; and also to give noble alms to those who were poor and needy. He had always invocations to Almighty God and his saints in his prayers; but he still honoured most of all after God our Lady, the holy Mary. Next he had the apostle Peter as his special foster-father, and John the Evangelist as the guardian of that pure life which he kept all his days; for so say men thoroughly learned in the matter that those three maids whom he took as his wives, one after the other, kept their virginity at his persuasion all their lives. But after Robert, his mother's brother, who had sundered himself from rule, William his son took the dukedom in Normandy, who was called "bastard"; but for all that he was the son of a lawful wife, and his mother's name was Gunnhilda, daughter of king Edgar, and sister of king Ethelred; but all the dukes in Normandy before him were sons of concubines, and for that he was called "bastard," like all his forefathers. They made peace between them William the bastard and Baldwin the gentle count of Flanders, and the count gave his word to give him his daughter Matilda. And when the duke came to the count's house to see the maiden, and he spoke to her blithely, and called her his "Amie," then the lady answers "Mad art thou, tramp, when thou thinkest that I, come of a king's stock, could wish to be wedded to a bastard." Then this young duke waxed wrath, and took her by the hair, and felled her to the earth, and trode her under foot, so speaking "I am not a bastard save by nickname." After that he jumped on his horse and rode away in haste. The count and his wife comforted the maiden, and prmised her that they would wed her within a month to a duke of Saxony. The maiden answers "To no one will I be wedded in my life save to him to whom I was promised, for to my mind no one can be compared to him." After that the count and his wife sent men after the duke to call him back. The duke thought that they would take him back by force, and for that he hewed one of them asunder at the waist at one blow. But they said that the count meant him naught but good, and confirmed that on their word. Then the duke turned back with them to the castle, and the count made him good cheer, and at that meeting he made Matilda, his daughter, the betrothed bride of the duke, and kept their bridal with the greatest pomp. And after that the duke fared home to Normandy.
2. Now we must tell of the saint king Edward that all Christains in England were glad at that freedom which they had got, after king Canute the mighty and his sons, in taking Edward as king, who was come from the rightful and old royal race in England; for that in his crown holy church got freedom, and great men advancement, and the whole people peace and liberty, vikings and robbers lowering and chastisement. Many things were remarkable in his life as to his tokens and prophecies, though we can tell few of them for lack of knowledge, and because we are so far off. (1)
It befell on a Whitsunday, in Peter's Church, at Westminster, when saint Edward was hearing high mass there, clad in his full royal robes, that when the priest lifted up our Lord's Body, such a burst of laughter came upon him that all wondered who were by. After the mass men asked him, the king what was the cause of that strange laughter. "The king of the Danes" answers the king, "was busking him with a countless host and a multitude of ships to harry our land, and just as he was stepping up into his ship from a boat, then he fell overboard and was drowned by God's rightful doom." Then messengers were sent most speedily to Denmark, and all this was proved to be true tha the king had spoken. But because this Dane-king is not named, then learned men in the king of Norway's realm think they cannot know for a surety who this king was; except that according to the words of Gizur Hall's son, one of the wisest men in Iceland, it is said that this king must have been Sweyn, son of king Canute the mighty and Alfifa.
It so befell again on a third day of Yule, on the feast of John the Evangelist, as the king walked in the procession, clad in his royal robes, then he saw by him as it were a pilgrim come from Jerusalem in a fair garb, and that pilgrim begged the king to give him something; but the king said he had nothing there that he could give him, "Give me something," said the pilgrim, "for the sake of that holy man whom thou lovest most." Then the king called to mind John the Evangelist whose feast was then kept and gave the pilgrim his coronation ring, and then the pilgrim went away. Next night after saint John was revealed to a noble captive Englishman, who had been nine winters a captive to the Saracens, and bade him tell the king of the English that it was John the Evangelist himself who had appeared to him on his highday, and bade him give the king his ring as a token that this was true, and that he might the less doubt what he said. Then saint John bore him at one swoop and in a short time back to England to his own estates, and he was soon known by his wife, children, kinsmen, and housefolk; and he rested that day by them. But the morning after he fared to the king, and told the king, so that all men might hear who were in the house, those words which saint John had bidden him to tell the king. He told also exactly how saint John had borne him and set him free in a moment from the grim thraldom of the Saracens. This all wondered at who heard, and men especially kindled by this unheard of event to praise and love towards saint John the Apostle and Gospeller, and to saintly obedience towards the saint king Edward.
It was on a time on Easterday at Westminster, as the saint king Edward sat at the board, crowned in the midst of many chiefs; but these were the most noble ---- earl Harold and a bishop and a mighty abbot. The king cared more for heavenly than earthly things, so that he saw as in glass those wonderful things which brought on him loud laughter. And when the boards had been cleared the chiefs asked at what he had laughed. And so when they had long asked, then he answers. The Seven Sleepers who rested on the Cælian Hill (2) have now lain two hundred years on their right sides; but when I took to laughing they turned on their left sides, and so must they lie there four and eighty years. And this is to mark the great lucklessness of mortal men, for in these four and eighty years those things will happen which God hath foretold, and which must be towards the world's end, that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be great earthquakes and pestilences, famines, and terrors in the heavens; for now will arise strife and war between heathen and Christian men; but the Christian men will win by turns the victory over heathen men." Many things saint Edward told them, which they wondered how he could know, both of the martyrdom of the Seven Sleepers and of their aspect, and most of things which stand written down before of them in no book; and he told them so exactly as though he had often stood by the Seven Sleepers. But those chiefs who heard that and were named before, Harold and the bishop and the abbot, sent their messengers --- the earl a knight, the bishop a clerk, and the abbot a monk ---- to the emperor at Micklegarth. They had with them letters and presents from king Edward to the emperor in Micklegarth. The emperor of Micklegarth received them worthily, and sent them to the bishop of Ephesus with his letters, which the Greeks called "sacram," that he should show the king of England's messengers the bodies of those holy Seven Sleepers. And the bishop did so, and all was proved to the messengers just as the saint king Edward had told them. The Greeks too said they were ready to swear that their forefathers had said that the Seven Sleepers lay on the right side; but now, as was proved for the sake of the messengers of those English chiefs, they lay on the left side. After that happened speedily what king Edward had foretold of strife and other troubles in the world; for Hagarenes, Arabs, and Turks raised great strife in Syria, Lycia, and Asia Minor, and wasted there many towns, Ephesus and Jerusalem seven years; and after that next in other seven years three Popes died, Victor, Stephen, Nicholas.
4. Once on a time on a great highday when king Edward heard mass, and a bishop stood near. And when the body of our Lord was lifted up it seemed to the king as though it were a young swain very fair. He pointed this out to the bishop as it appeared to the king and him, but to no more of those who were near.
It befell on another time that king Edward sat on his throne, and that a cripple lay before the door of his lodging and said thus, that Peter the Apostle had sent him thither, and so spoken that the king himself should bear him to Peter's church, and then he would be a whole man. But when this was told to king Edward he went to him, and heard himself from his mouth those his words. And for his faith and humbleness sake, then he took the cripple up in his arms and bore him to Peter's church in London, and set him down there. Then the cripple was made whole and upright as a leek. All praised God who saw these miracles.
It so befell once on a time when king Edward sat at the board that three men came into his lodging, and two were blind but one had one eye, but yet saw little with that. They begged the king to have pity on them, and told him their ailments. King Edward bade them bring him the water in a bason in which he had washed his hands after meat, and bade them stroke their eyes with it. And when they had done this they were whole on the spot, and went away joyfully, and had for the king's holiness got five eyes. In the same way men got cured from the water in which he washed his hands, and when he passed his hands over them who were sick.
5. At that time when two of king Edward's lawful wives were dead, who both had kept their virginity at his exhortation, he took to him the third, and she was a daughter of earl Godwin, Ulfnad's son, a sister of Harold and Tosti and the other sons of Godwin. Then that kinsfolk took great honours in England, and they all had the best earldoms in England. So say the English men that Harold Godwin's son has been the boldest man found in England, and that he was the best knight both of new and old time. King Edward had a young brother by the same mother; but we cannot name the lad's father, but still he was a noble chief. But this lad was called next to the kingdom in England after Edward if he should die sonless. But when earl Godwin was aware of this from his daughter that she kept her virginity at the exhortation of king Edward, and they could have no son to take the realm after him, then he would lay his plans so that Harold his son should become king, who was then thought the man of most mark of all the English chiefs. And about that time the king's brother took a sudden sickness and died, and there was then much talk what it was that brought this scathe on the lad. ---- It was on a highday that king Edward sat at his board, and earl Godwin sat on one side of him, and on the other sat a bishop. And when a man bore in meat before the king, his foot tripped and stumbled as about to fall, but then he stamped down his other foot, and so steadied himself. Then earl Godwin took to speaking, and said, "There now brother helped brother." (3) "My brother" answers the king "will not help me so," says he. "May God," answers Godwin, "so let me thrive on this morsel which I now eat, as I had no hand in thy brother's death, though thou art ever misdoubting me of it." After that he took the morsel from the dish and meant to eat it. But the king took him by the arm at the wrist, and stretched it out to the bishop and said, "Lord bishop, bless." The bishop did so. After that earl Godwin put the bit into his mouth and ate, but when he wished to swallow it the bit stuck in his throat, so that it neither went up nor down, and of that he died there and then, and was dragged out of his highseat backwards, and thrown to birds of prey. But still he was buried afterwards at church by the prayers of his friends and kinsfolk.
6. King Edward made up his mind after that that he thought duke William the bastard was next to the kingdom in England after him, both for this cause that he was come from the kings of the English, and because of the near kinship which was between them. Once on a time when Edward had a conference with all the greatest chiefs, he made all take an oath to him; first the sons of Godwin, and all the rest after them, that they would take no king after him but William the bastard. But it was a little after that Harold Godwin's son fared on some business of his own south over the sea, and could not get back for the sake of foul winds. Then he came to visit duke William, and stayed with him awhile. Then he took an oath to William also that he would not hold the realm against him when they lost king Edward. It is also some men's story that then he betrothed a daughter of the duke, and broke himself those bonds.
When king Edward had ruled England three and twenty years he was seated in London. Then he took sickness at Yule, and calls to him many chiefs, and again gave it out that William was to be king after him in England. But when the sickness began to press him so that he had little voice left, men say that Harold stooped over him and called men to witness afterwards that the king had given him the kingdom after him in England. King Edward died a little after and was buried in London in Paul's church. He shone by miracles straightway after his death as he did before, and lay in earth till saint Thomas the archbishop translated him and let them lay him in a worthy shrine.
7. For that Harold, Godwin's son, was of great family in England, and a very proper man in himself, but the rulers of the land thought it hard to come under the rule of outlandish lords, then they took Harold to be king, and he was consecrated under the crown as the custom was of English chiefs. In this design his brother Tosti had no share, but he was older, and so he thought himself nearer to the kingdom. Then he went to meet his brother Harold and claimed to be even with him, but when Harold said "nay" to that, then he fared out of the land and fled to Denmark to find king Sweyn, Wolf's son, his kinsman, and bade him fare to England and win the land under his rule "as the Dane kings of old had done." But Sweyn was not ready to do that. Then Tosti fared north into Norway and egged on king Harold, Sigurd's son, to fare to England and win the land under him. And that same summer those two, king Harold and Tosti, fared to England with a host and slew Morcar, Godwin's son, but earl Gurth his brother fled out of the battle. But a few nights afterwards they fought at Stamford-bridge with king Harold Godwin's son, and there they both fell, Harold and Tosti, as is said in the annals of the kings of Norway.
When William heard of the death of king Edward, and that Harold had let himself be chosen king in England, it liked him very ill, and he thought Harold had broken his oath and agreement with him; then straightway he summoned all the chiefs he could get and a mighty host beside. He made ready that force for England. He came there just at the time when the two Harolds had fought. Then he began to harry the land where he made the coast, and laid it under him wherever he went. But when Harold, Godwin's son, heard that he fared against him, and their meeting was south by Helsingport, and either side had a very great host; then earl Gurth spoke to his brother Harold and said, "I am afraid that it will not answer for thee to hold a battle against duke William because thou art bound by oaths to him, and thou hast sworn not to hold England against him." King Harold answers, "May be brother thou art better fitted to fight with William, but I have not been wont to lie in a lair when other men have fought, and William the bastard shall not hear this that I dare not look him in the face." After that king Harold made them set up his banner before him and went out to battle against William, and there was the greatest battle, and it seemed uncertain a long time which side would win the victory. But as the fight went on the loss of men turned on the English side, and a great host fell there, and all fled who chose life. There fell king Harold and his brother Gurth, but Valtheof their brother fled out of the fight. William the bastard caused him to be burnt afterwards in a wood, and a hundred men with him.
It is the story of Englishmen that in the night after the battle of William and Harold some friends of king Harold fared to the battlefield and looked for his body, and found him alive, and bore him off to be healed; he was cured in secret. And when he was whole he would not strive with William for the kingdom. And it is the story of many men that he has lived on all up to the days of Henry the old. (4)
9. William the bastard laid under him all England, and made himself be taken to be king and consecrated under the crown; so he became the greatest prince. But for all that his rule was very hateful to many men and chiefs in England; and then the English chiefs who would not serve William send messages to Sweyn Wolf's son, the Dane-king, that he should come to England with a host of Danes, and they would fight against William, and come under king Sweyn. But when William heard of those messages, then he sent south (?) to Denmark Godwin the young, Godwin's son, (5) and along with him a famous bishop. They fared with he should not harry in his realm. And for that same king Sweyn was turned back from faring with a host to England. And so it went on for some years that William sent the Dane-king gifts, and so saved his kingdom. And that is what the Danes rest on when they say that king Sweyn has ruled England after Hardicanute and Edward the good.
10. When the English chiefs were sure that the Danes would not help them against William --- but they had made up their minds that they would not abide under his rule --- then they left their estates and fled away from the land with a great host. There were three earls and eight barons who were their leaders, and the formost of them was Sigurd earl of Gloucester. But they had three hundred and fifty ships, and aboard them a great force many picked men. They fared first south over the sea, and afterwards west off Mathewsness, and so further off Galicia-land, and thence they fared to Norva-sound and further across the sound to that capital which is called Septem. They made an onslaught on the city and got it won; they slew there a host of heathen men, but took so much fee in gold and silver that it was more even than what they had taken away with them from England; and yet that was very great, because they had turned into money all the estates that they had in England. Thence they held on east through Norva-sound and came to the isles, and won both of them, Majorica and Minorea. After that they fared to Sicily. And when they were come there then they heard great strife out of Micklegarth, and how heathen folk beleaguered the city both by sea and land. Then Kirjalax the tall was emperor, and had just come to power. That was some winters after the fall of king Harold, Godwin's son. But when the Englishmen heard of strife out of Micklegarth they looked for great advancement, for of a long time ere that the Northmen had very great honour who went into service there. Thence they held on east over the sea, and so north to Micklegarth, and came to the city in the night, but the stars gave some light. They ran into battle at once against those who lay on ship board; and there arose the greatest fight, and those who lay before the city had much the greater host. But the Englishmen ran in so bravely that they got to board those ships that lay outermost and lay furthest from the land and the city walls, but they cleared each ship as they went on, and the crews were slain, though some jumped overboard. Some too jumped on board other ships, and so the flight fared from ship to ship till they had won all the ships that did not fly away. That folk which came to land ran to the tents, and said that an invincible host had come against which no wight could raise a shield. Then all who were in the tents sprang up, and no other plan was taken than that each fled as he stood with what he could lay hold of. But in the morning when it was light the folk of the city saw that all that host was gone which beleaguered the town; but that many ships had come and rigged altogether otherwise than those which had been there before. Then the men of the city sent men to the shipmen. And after that they had a meeting with the king, and he took wonderfully well to them, and thanked them for that great victory which they had won to give him peace and safety. They stayed a while in Micklegarth, and set the realm of the Greek king free from strife. King Kirjalax offered them to abide there and guard his body, as was the wont of the Varangians who went into his pay, but it seemed to earl Sigurd and the other chiefs that it was too small a career to grow old there in that fashion, that they had not a realm to rule over; and they begged the king to give them some towns or cities which they might own and their heirs after them. But the king thought he could not strip other men of their estates. And when they came to talk of this, king Kirjalax tells them that he knew of a land lying north in the sea, which had lain in old under the emperor of Micklegarth, but in after days the heathen had won it and abode in it. And when the Englishmen heard that they took a title from king Kirjalax that that land should be their own and their heirs after them if they could get it won under them from the heathen men free from tax and toll. The king granted them this. After that the Englishmen fared away out of Micklegarth and north into the sea; but some chiefs stayed behind in Micklegarth, and went into service there. Earl Sigurd and his men came to this land, and had many battles there, and got the land won, but drove away all the folk that abode there before. After that they took the land into possession, and gave it a name, and called it England. To the towns that were in the land and to those which they built they gave the names of the towns in England. They called them both London and York, and by the names of other great towns in England. They would not have St. Paul's law, which passes current in Micklegarth, but sought bishops and other clergymen in Hungary. The land lies six days and nights' sail across the sea in the east and northeast from Micklegarth; and there is the best of land there; and that folk has abode there ever since. Explicit.
1. "Which truthful men have written in books, but for lack of knowledge we know hardly what happened first or last in his days, and so we tell that first which we think most worth telling."
2. Here the writer places one of the hills at Rome at Ephesus.
3. An allusion to the story of Erp, Sörli, and Hamdir in the Younger Edda.
4. Fl. gives this more minutely. "And when he was made whole, then it was offered him by his friends to make war on William, and get the land whatever it cost. But king Harold would not do that, and said he understood that God in the kingdom of heaven would not grant him the realm. And after all, may be it is better so. Then the king took a better plan to give up this world's honour, and went into a cell and was a hermit while he lived, so serving Almighty God unceasingly both night and day." Comp. Hemings story.
5. Fl. "the son of earl Baldwin."