Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Althing in Session at Law Rock

 

I attended the Althing when it was in session.

The Althing is held on the plains of Thingvell. The Althing is a general assembly of the most powerful men in Iceland. We decide on laws and dispense justice. There is a law-speaker. His responsibilities are to recite aloud the laws.

Then, after business is complete, all free men could attend the assemblies. This is were we settled cases of compensation between each other.

It is the main event of the year and large crowds attend. There are farmers and their families, traders, craftsmen, storytellers and travelers. Those attending the assembly dwell in temporary booths during the session.

It is there, in my booth where I met Einer.

One summer at my booth Einer, son of Helgi, and I began to talk. We spoke of poetry. We found pleasure in meeting like this. Einar often came to talk with me and we soon were great friends.

Einer told me of his travels eastward and asked me about the people I had met during my travels. Then one day he asked me when my strength and courage had been most challenged. Of course I had to make a verse.

‘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.’

Einer had to travel back to Norway. We agreed to stay friends. It was while he was there that the battles between the Eirikssons and Hakon was taking place.

Einer returned with bad news; Cheiftan Arinbjorn had been killed in battle. I had to write a verse in order to cope with the loss of such a great man.

‘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 had previously composed a poem about earl Hakon, which is called ‘Dearth of Gold’; and for a long time the earl would not hear the poem because he was upset with Einar.

Einer read his poems to me.

‘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.’

Einer then said that the earl, upon finally hearing this verse, remained unpleased with him. So Einer immediately spoke a second verse.

‘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 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 returned to Iceland and came to see me. I was just then not at home, having gone to the northern part of the district. Einar hung up that precious shield, and told the house-servants that he left it a gift for me. Then he rode away.

When I returned home I was very sad to have missed Einer. So I wrote a verse.

‘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.’

 

One day I took the shield to a feast. It was damaged there and ended up in a vat of whey. I removed the gold braid and other salvageable ornaments. The gold itself weighed twelve ounces.

Red Banner