Njála, 044

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Chapter 44

Now men ride home from the Thing; and when Gunnar came home, he said to Sigmund, "Thou art a more unlucky man than I thought, and turnest thy good gifts to thine own ill. But still I have made peace for thee with Njal and his sons; and now, take care that thou dost not let another fly come into thy mouth. Thou art not at all after my mind, thou goest about with jibes and jeers, with scorn and mocking; but that is not my turn of mind. That is why thou gettest on so well with Hallgerda, because ye two have your minds more alike."

Gunnar scolded him a long time, and he answered him well, and said he would follow his counsel more for the time to come than he had followed it hitherto. Gunnar told him then they might get on together. Gunnar and Njal kept up their friendship though the rest of their people saw little of one another. It happened once that some gangrel women came to Lithend from Bergthorsknoll; they were great gossips and rather spiteful tongued. Hallgerda had a bower, and sate often in it, and there sate with her her daughter Thorgerda, and there too were Thrain and Sigmund, and a crowd of women. Gunnar was not there, nor Kolskegg. These gangrel women went into the bower, and Hallgerda greeted them, and made room for them; then she asked them for news, but they had none to tell. Hallgerda asked where they had been overnight; they said at Bergthorsknoll.

"What was Njal doing?" she says.

"He was hard at work sitting still," they said.

"What were Njal's sons doing?" she says; "they think themselves men at any rate."

"Tall men they are in growth," they say, "but as yet they are all untried; Skarphedinn whetted an axe, Gim fitted a spearhead to the shaft, Helgi riveted a hilt on a sword, Hauskuld strengthened the handle of a shield."

"They must be bent on some great deed," says Hallgerda.

"We do not know that," they say.

"What were Njal's house-carles doing?" she asks.

"We don't know what some of them were doing, but one was carting dung up the hill-side."

"What good was there in doing that?" she asks.

"He said it made the swathe better there than anywhere else," they reply. "Witless now is Njal," says Hallgerda, "though he knows how to give counsel on everything."

"How so?" they ask.

"I will only bring forward what is true to prove it," says she; "why doesn't he make them cart dung over his beard that he may be like other men? Let us call him 'the Beardless Carle': but his sons we will call 'Dung-beardlings';[1] and now do pray give some stave about them, Sigmund, and let us get some good by thy gift of song."

"I am quite ready to do that," says he, and sang these verses:

"Lady proud with hawk in hand, Prithee why should dungbeard boys, Reft of reason, dare to hammer Handle fast on battle shield? For these lads of loathly feature-- Lady scattering swanbath's beams -- Shaft not shun this ditty shameful Which I shape upon them now.

He the beardless carle shall listen While I lash him with abuse, Loon at whom our stomachs sicken, Soon shall bear these words of scorn; Far too nice for such base fellows Is the name my bounty gives, Een my muse her help refuses, Making mirth of dungbeard boys.

Here I find a nickname fitting For those noisome dungbeard boys,-- Loath am I to break my bargain Linked with such a noble man-- Knit we all our taunts together-- Known to me is mind of man-- Call we now with outburst common, Him, that churl, the beardless carle."

Thou art a jewel indeed," says Hallgerda; " how yielding thou art to what I ask!"

Just then Gunnar came in. He had been standing outside the door of the bower, and heard all the words that had passed. They were in a great fright when they saw him come in, and then all held their peace, but before there had been bursts of laughter.

Gunnar was very wroth, and said to Sigmund, "Thou art a foolish man, and one that cannot keep to good advice, and thou revilest Njal's sons, and Njal himself who is most worth of all; and this thou doest in spite of what thou hast already done. Mind, this will be thy death. But if any man repeats these words that thou hast spoken, or these verses that thou hast made, that man shall be sent away at once, and have my wrath beside."

But they were all so sore afraid of him, that no one dared to repeat those words. After that he went away, but the gangrel women talked among themselves, and said that they would get a reward from Bergthora if they told her all this.

They went then away afterwards down thither, and took Bergthora aside and told her the whole story of their own free will.

Bergthora spoke and said, when men sate down to the board, "Gifts have been given to all of you, father and sons, and ye will be no true men unless ye repay them somehow."

"What gifts are these? " asks Skarphedinn.

"You, my sons," says Bergthora, "have got one gift between you all. Ye are nicknamed 'Dungbeardlings,' but my husband 'the Beardless Carle.'"

"Ours is no woman's nature," says Skarphedinn, "that we should fly into a rage at every little thing."

"And yet Gunnar was wroth for your sakes," says she, "and he is thought to be good-tempered. But if ye do not take vengeance for this wrong, ye will avenge no shame."

"The carline, our mother, thinks this fine sport," says Skarphedinn, and smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the sweat burst out upon his brow,[2] and red flecks came over his checks, but that was not his wont. Grim was silent and bit his lip. Helgi made no sign, and he said never a word. Hauskuld went off with Bergthora; she came into the room again, and fretted and foamed much.

Njal spoke and said, "'Slow and sure,' says the proverb, mistress! and so it is with many things, though they try men's tempers, that there are always two sides to a story, even when vengeance is taken."

But at even when Njal was come into his bed, he heard that an axe came against the panel and rang loudly, but there was another shut bed, and there the shields were hung up, and he sees that they are away. He said, "Who have taken down our shields?"

"Thy sons went out with them," says Bergthora.

Njal pulled his shoes on his feet, and went out at once, and round to the other side of the house, and sees that they were taking their course right up the slope; he said, "Whither away, Skarphedinn?"

"To look after thy sheep," he answers.

"You would not then be armed," said Njal, "if you meant that, and your errand must be something else."

Then Skarphedinn sang a song,

"Squanderer of hoarded wealth, Some there are that own rich treasure, Ore of sea that clasps the earth, And yet care to count their sheep; Those who forge sharp songs of mocking, Death songs, scarcely can possess Sense of sheep that crop the grass; Such as these I seek in fight;"

and said afterwards, "We shall fish for salmon, father."

"'Twould be well then if it turned out so that the prey does not get away from you."

They went their way, but Njal went to his bed, and he said to Bergthora, "Thy sons were out of doors all of them, with arms, and now thou must have egged them[3] on to something."

"I will give them my heartfelt thanks," said Bergthora, "if they tell me the slaying of Sigmund."

References

  1. but his sons we will call 'Dung-beardlings: "How do you get dung on your face? You engage in sloppily performed coprophagy, the sterilized Greek term for shit-eating. Or you can come by coprophagy and the facesmearing incidentically, as an inevitable side-effect of engaging in oral–anal sex with farm animals." Miller, William Ian. Bergthora vs. Hallgerd, Part II: Some Facts (p. 105).
  2. smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the sweat burst out upon his brow : “Saaga kuvaa, miten ”Skarpheðinn virnuili, mutta hiki helmeili hänen otsallaan ja punaiset läiskät ilmestyivät hänen poskilleen, vaikka niin ei yleensä käynyt”. -- Iholle siirtyvä viha näyttäytyy siis edellä mainituissa esimerkeissä eräänlaisena pahaenteisenä merkkinä voimakkaasta vihasta, joka tulee muuttumaan teoiksi ja toiminnaksi ennemmin tai myöhemmin.” Kanerva, Kirsi. Hyvä ja paha viha, (p. 216).
  3. thou must have egged them: "Here it is Berghora's ability to influence her sons (privately, unofficially, yet persistently) that effectively undermines Njaill's efforts to negotiate an end to the feud using official, public means. … These women performed in the more private space. In addition to the social-legal concept of official public space, with its center at the Althing, there was another spatial dimension with the farmstead as the center and the world outside as the periphery." Borovsky, Zoe. Never in Public (p. 15).

Kafli 44

Nú ríða menn heim af þingi. Og er Gunnar kom heim mælti hann til Sigmundar: „Meiri ertu ógiftumaður en eg ætlaði og hefir þú til ills þína mennt. En þó hefi eg þig nú gert sáttan og skalt þú nú eigi láta annarri flugu koma í munn þér. Ert þú mér ekki skaplíkur. Þú ferð með spott og háð en það er ekki mitt skap. Kemur þú þér því vel við Hallgerði að þið eigið meir skap saman.“

Gunnar taldi á hann langa hríð. Hann svaraði honum vel og kvaðst meir hans ráðum skyldu fram fara þaðan af en þar til. Gunnar sagði það hlýða mundu.

Hélst vinátta með þeim Gunnari og Njáli þótt fátt væri meðal annars liðsins.

Sá atburður varð að farandi konur komu til Hlíðarenda frá Bergþórshvoli. Þær voru málgar og heldur illorðar. Hallgerður átti dyngju og sat hún þar oftlega í. Þar var Þorgerður dóttir hennar. Þar var Þráinn og Sigmundur og fjöldi kvenna. Gunnar var eigi þar né Kolskeggur. Farandkonur þessar gengu inn í dyngjuna. Hallgerður heilsaði þeim og lét gefa þeim rúm og spurði hvar þær voru um nóttina. Þær sögðu að Bergþórshvoli.

„Hvað hafðist Njáll að?“ segir hún.

„Stritaðist hann við að sitja,“ sögðu þær.

„Hvað gerðu synir Njáls?“ sagði hún. „Þeir þykjast nú helst menn.“

„Miklir eru þeir vexti en óreyndir eru þeir mjög,“ sögðu þær. „Skarphéðinn hvatti öxi, Grímur skefti spjót, Helgi hnauð hjalt á sverð, Höskuldur treysti mundriða í skildi.“

„Til stórræða nokkurra munu þeir ætla,“ segir Hallgerður.

„Eigi vitum við það,“ segja þær.

„Hvað gerðu húskarlar Njáls?“ segir hún.

„Eigi vissum við það hvað sumir gerðu. Einn ók skarni á hóla.“

„Hví mundi það sæta?“ segir hún.

„Það sagði hann að þar yrði taða betri en annars staðar,“ sögðu þær.

„Misvitur er Njáll,“ segir Hallgerður, „þar er hann kann til hversvetna ráð.“

„Hvað er í því?“ sögðu þær.

„Það mun eg til finna er satt er er hann ók eigi í skegg sér að hann væri sem aðrir karlmenn og köllum karl hinn skegglausa en sonu hans taðskegglinga[1] og kveð þú um nokkuð, Sigmundur, og lát oss njóta þess er þú ert skáld.“

„Þess er eg albúinn“ og kvað vísur þessar:


12. Hvað skulu, hauka setra

Hildur, mundriða í skildi

trauðir tryggra ráða

taðskegglingar negla?

því að sviphnuggnir seggir,

svanteigs, megu eigi,

elda björk, þau er yrkjum

orð háðuleg forðast.


13. Karlinn spyri orða illra,

einsætt er það, greinir,

vomur nemur víst í tómi

vort raus, hinn skegglausi;

hoddveitir gefur heiti

helst gott af spotti,

ljóð sem eg trautt um trúða,

taðskegglingum, vegleg.


14. Gert er maklegast miklu

meins leitöndum heiti,

trauður rauf eg tryggðir, síðan

taðskegglingum neglist;

heiti karl en knýtum,

kanna eg oft hugi manna,

skjótt í skömmu máli,

skegglaus tali seggja.

„Gersemi ert þú,“ sagði Hallgerður, „hversu þú ert mér eftirlátur.“

Þá kom Gunnar að í því. Hann hafði staðið fyrir framan dyngjuna og heyrði öll orðtækin. Brá þeim mjög við er þau sáu hann inn ganga. Þögnuðu þá allir en áður hafði verið hlátur mikill.

Gunnar var reiður mjög og mælti til Sigmundar: „Heimskur maður ertu og óráðhollur. Þú hrópar sonu Njáls og sjálfan hann er þó er mest vert og slíkt sem þú hefir þeim áður gert og mun þetta vera þinn bani. En ef nokkur maður hermir þessi orð þá skal sá í brottu verða og hafa þó reiði mína.“

En svo var þeim öllum ótti mikill að honum að engi þorði þessi orð að herma. Síðan gekk hann í braut.

Farandkonurnar töluðu með sér að þær mundu taka laun af Bergþóru ef þær segðu henni þetta, fóru síðan ofan þangað og sögðu Bergþóru á laun ófregið.

Bergþóra mælti er menn sátu undir borðum: „Gjafir eru yður gefnar feðgum og verðið þér litlir drengir ef þér launið öngu.“

„Hversu eru gjafir þær?“ segir Skarphéðinn.

„Þér synir mínir áttuð eina gjöf allir saman. Þér eruð kallaðir taðskegglingar en bóndi minn karl hinn skegglausi.“

„Ekki höfum vér kvenna skap,“ segir Skarphéðinn, „að vér reiðumst við öllu.“

„Reiddist Gunnar fyrir yðra hönd,“ segir hún, „og þykir hann skapgóður. Og ef þér rekið eigi þessa réttar þá munuð þér öngrar skammar reka.“

„Gaman þykir kerlingunni að, móður vorri,“ segir Skarphéðinn og glotti en þó spratt honum sveiti í enni[2] og komu rauðir flekkar í kinnur honum en því var ekki vant.

Grímur var hljóður og beit á vörinni. Helga brá ekki við. Höskuldur gekk fram með Bergþóru. Hún kom innar og geisaði mjög.

Njáll mælti: „Kemst þó að seint fari, húsfreyja. Og fer svo um mörg mál þótt menn hafi skapraun af að jafnan orkar tvímælis þótt hefnt sé.“

En um kveldið er Njáll var kominn í rekkju heyrði hann að öx kom við þilið og söng hátt í en lokrekkja var önnur og héngu þar á skildir og sér hann að þeir eru í brottu.

Hann mælti: „Hverjir hafa tekið ofan skjöldu vora?“

„Synir þínir gengu út með þá,“ segir Bergþóra.

Njáll gekk út þegar og öðrum megin hússins og sér að þeir stefna upp á hálsinn.

Hann mælti: „Hvert skal fara, Skarphéðinn?“

„Leita sauða þinna.“

Njáll segir: „Ekki munduð þér þá vopnaðir ef þér ætluðuð það og mun annað vera erindið.“

Skarphéðinn kvað þá vísu:


15. Eru umgerðis jarðar,

auðs varpandi, sauða

eisu einkar fúsir

oftveitandar leita.

Þeir hafa, seima særir,

smíðendur drafníða,

geystur um geira róstu.

grasbítar skyn lítið.


Og mælti síðan: „Laxa skulum vér veiða, faðir.“

„Vel væri þá ef svo væri að þá veiði bæri eigi undan.“

Þeir fóru en Njáll gekk til hvílu sinnar.

Hann mælti til Bergþóru: „Úti voru synir þínir með vopnum allir og munt þú nú hafa eggjað þá[3] upp til nokkurs.“

„Allvel skal eg þakka þeim ef þeir segja mér víg Sigmundar.“

Tilvísanir

  1. en sonu hans taðskegglinga: "How do you get dung on your face? You engage in sloppily performed coprophagy, the sterilized Greek term for shit-eating. Or you can come by coprophagy and the facesmearing incidentically, as an inevitable side-effect of engaging in oral–anal sex with farm animals." Miller, William Ian. Bergthora vs. Hallgerd, Part II: Some Facts (s. 105).
  2. glotti en þó spratt honum sveiti í enni : “Saaga kuvaa, miten ”Skarpheðinn virnuili, mutta hiki helmeili hänen otsallaan ja punaiset läiskät ilmestyivät hänen poskilleen, vaikka niin ei yleensä käynyt”. -- Iholle siirtyvä viha näyttäytyy siis edellä mainituissa esimerkeissä eräänlaisena pahaenteisenä merkkinä voimakkaasta vihasta, joka tulee muuttumaan teoiksi ja toiminnaksi ennemmin tai myöhemmin.” Kanerva, Kirsi. Hyvä ja paha viha, (s. 216).
  3. munt þú nú hafa eggjað þá: "Here it is Berghora's ability to influence her sons (privately, unofficially, yet persistently) that effectively undermines Njaill's efforts to negotiate an end to the feud using official, public means. … These women performed in the more private space. In addition to the social-legal concept of official public space, with its center at the Althing, there was another spatial dimension with the farmstead as the center and the world outside as the periphery." Borovsky, Zoe. Never in Public (s. 15).

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