Sacred Texts  Sagas & Legends  Index  Previous  Next 


Of Einar Helgi's son and Egil.

        There was a man named Einar. He was the son of Helgi, the son of Ottar, the song of Bjorn Easterling, who took land in Broad-firth. Einar was brother of Osvif the seer. Einar at an early age was tall and strong, and most doughty. He began to compose poetry when quite young, and was eager for learning. One summer at the Thing Einar went to the booth of Egil Skallagrimsson, and they began to talk, and soon their talk took this turn that they spoke of poetry. In this converse both of them found pleasure. After this Einar often went to talk with Egil, and a great friendship was struck up between them.
        Einar had not long returned to Iceland from foreign travel. Egil asked Einar much of tidings from the east, and about his friends, and withal about those that he deemed his enemies. He asked also much about men of rank. Einar in turn asked Egil about the events that had happened in his travels, and about his exploits. This talk pleased Egil, and was kept up briskly. Einar asked Egil on what occasion his prowess had been most hardly tried; this he begged him to say. Egil then sang:

                                'One with eight I battled,
                                Eleven faced I twice,
                                Made for wolf a meal,
                                Myself the bane of all.
                                Shields shook by sword-strokes
                                Smitten fast and furious;
                                Angry fire forth-flashing
                                Flew my ashen spear.'

        Egil and Einar pledged them to friendship on parting. Einar was long abroad from Iceland with men of rank. Einar was open-handed, and often short of money, but noble-hearted and manly. He was in the body-guard of earl Hacon Sigurd's son. At that time there was in Norway much war, the battles between earl Hacon and Eric's sons; and now one, now the other, was driven from the land. King Harold, Eric's son, fell south in Denmark, at Hals in Lima-firth; this was by treachery. He was then fighting with Harold Knut's son, who was called Gold-Harold, and earl Hacon was there. There fell also with king Harold lord Arinbjorn, of whom much has already been told. And when Egil heard of the fall of Arinbjorn, then he sang:

                                'Mead-givers, glorious men,
                                Gold-spending warrior wights
                                Are spent and gone. Where seek
                                Such lavish donors now?
                                Erewhile, beyond the sea,
                                Earth's islet-studded belt,
                                Such on my high hawk-perch
                                Hailed down the silver shower.'

        Einar Helgi's son the poet was nicknamed Skala-glam. He composed a poem about earl Hacon, which is called 'Dearth of Gold'; and for a long time the earl would not hear the poem because he was wroth with Einar. Then Einar sang:

                                'Song made I on a chief
                                Supreme o'er land enthroned;
                                While others slept, I wrought,
                                Whereof I much repent.
                                Hither the earl to seek
                                Eager I came, nor thought
                                From brave free-handed prince
                                Far-comers worse would fare.'

        And further he sang:

                                'Seek we that earl whose sword
                                Spreads banquet for the wolf:
                                To Sigvald's ship well-oared,
                                Shield-fenced, my sword I lend.
                                Wielder of wound-snake, he
                                Will not my succour scorn:
                                I to his sea-borne barque
                                My buckler now will bear.'

        The earl did not wish Einar to go away; so he granted a hearing to the poem, and thereafter gave Einar a shield, which was a most costly work. It was inscribed with old tales; and between the writing were overlaid spangles of gold with precious stones set therein. Einar went to Iceland and lodged with his brother Osvif: but in autumn he rode east and came to Borg, and was guest there. Egil was just then not at home, having gone to the northern part of the district, but was expected home. Einar waited for him three nights: longer than three nights it was not the custom to stay on a friendly visit. Then Einar made him ready to go; but when ready he went to Egil's place in the hall, and there he hung up that precious shield, and told the house-carles that he left it a gift for Egil. Then he rode away.
        But on that same day Egil came home. And when he came in to his place, then he saw the shield, and asked whose was that costly work. It was told him that Einar Skala-glam had come there, and had left the shield as a gift for him. Then said Egil: 'The wretched man, to give it! He means that I should bide awake and compose poetry about his shield. Now, bring my horse. I must ride after him and slay him.' He was told that Einar had ridden away early in the morning. 'He will,' they said, 'by this be come westwards to the dales.' Soon after Egil composed a poem, whereof this is the beginning:

                                'Of shield, the ship's bright guard,
                                To show the praise ''tis time,
                                Home to my hand is given
                                The treasure-sender's gift.
                                Sure hath Skala-glam
                                To skilful guidance lent
                                (Speak, ye who list my lay)
                                The reins of minstrel lore.'

        Egil and Einar remained friends so long as they both lived. But about the shield's fortune at last this is told, that Egil took it with him to the wedding when he went north to Broadmoor with Thorkettle Gunnvald's son and Red-Bjorn's sons Trefill and Helgi. There the shield was spoilt by falling into a tub of sour whey. After this Egil had the outer ornaments taken off: and there were twelve ounces of gold in the spangles.

Next: CHAPTER LXXXIV. Of Thorstein Egil's son.