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Old Egil

I grew old and infirm. Now that I had lost the power of intimidation people made fun of me. That was fine with me. I had a good run through this life of sailing, pillaging, fighting long-ship to long-ship. I had raised my sons to the best of my ability and had amassed a great deal of wealth and land.

My movements were slow, my eye-sight was failing and I could not hear a damn word that anyone spoke.

This all occurred while I was living with Grim and Thordis.

One day I hobbled outside the wall. I stumbled and fell. Some of the women there saw my embarrassment.

Some of them laughed, saying: “You are now quite gone, Egil, if you fall when alone.”

Then my son Grim said, “Women jeered at us less when we were younger.” I believe he used the term “we” just to make me feel better.

I made a verse.

‘Old haltered horse I waver,
Bald-head I weakly fall:
Hollow my failing leg-bones,
The fount of hearing dry.’

I became quite blind. And it was so that one day, when the weather was cold, I went to the fire to warm myself. Whereupon the cook said that it was a great wonder, so mighty a man as I had been, that he should lie in her way so that she could not do her work.

“Be you civil,” I said, “though I bask by the fire, remember your place.”

“Stand you up” she retorted, “go to your seat, and let me do my work.”

I stood up, and went to my place and made a verse.

Blind near the blaze I wander,
Beg of the fire-maid pardon,
Crave for a seat. Such sorrow
From sightless eyes I bear.
Yet England’s mighty monarch
Praised me with precious gold:
The wild king once
Was tamed by my words


Again, once when I went to the fire to warm myself, a man asked me whether my feet were cold and warned me not to put them too near the fire.

“That shall be so,” I said, “but it is not easy steering my feet now that I cannot see. Being blind is a dismal thing.” Then I made my last verse.

Time passes slowly,
I tarry here alone,
An old, senile elder
From kings’ courts exiled.
I walk on these two widows,
Once true women,
Bedfellows now needing
Blaze of fire.

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