Njála, 157

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Chapter 157

BRIAN'S BATTLE.


Earl Sigurd Hlodver's son busked him from the Orkneys, and Flosi offered to go with him.

The earl would not have that, since he had his pilgrimage to fulfil.

Flosi offered fifteen men of his band to go on the voyage, and the earl accepted them, but Flosi fared with Earl Gilli to the Southern isles.

Thorstein, the son of Hall of the Side, went along with Earl Sigurd, and Hrafn the Red, and Erling of Straumey.

He would not that Hareck should go, but said he would be sure to be the first to tell him the tidings of his voyage.

The earl came with all his host on Palm Sunday to Dublin, and there too was come Brodir with all his host.

Brodir tried by sorcery how the fight would go, but the answer ran thus, that if the fight were on Good-Friday King Brian would fall but win the day; but if they fought before, they would all fall who were against him.

Then Brodir said that they must not fight before the Friday.

On the fifth day of the week a man rode up to Kormlada and her company on an apple-grey horse, and in his hand he held a halberd; he talked long with them.

King Brian[1] came with all his host to the Burg, and on the Friday the host fared out of the Burg, and both armies were drawn up in array.

Brodir was on one wing of the battle, but King Sigtrygg on the other.

Earl Sigurd was in the mid battle.

Now it must be told of King Brian that he would not fight on the fast-day,[2] and so a shieldburg (1) was thrown round him, and his host was drawn up in array in front of it.

Wolf the Quarrelsome was on that wing of the battle against which Brodir stood; but on the other wing, where Sigtrygg stood against them, were Ospak and his sons.

But in mid battle was Kerthialfad, and before him the banners were home.

Now the wings fall on one another, and there was a very hard fight. Brodir went through the host of the foe, and felled all the foremost that stood there, but no steel would bite on his mail.

Wolf the Quarrelsome turned then to meet him, and thrust at him thrice so hard that Brodir fell before him at each thrust, and was well-nigh not getting on his feet again; but as soon as ever he found his feet, he fled away into the wood at once.

Earl Sigurd had a hard battle against Kerthialfad, and Kerthialfad came on so fast that he laid low all who were in the front rank, and he broke the array of Earl Sigurd right up to his banner, and slew the banner-bearer.

Then he got another man to bear the banner, and there was again a hard fight.

Kerthialfad smote this man too his death blow at once, and so on one after the other all who stood near him.

Then Earl Sigurd called on Thorstein the son of Hall of the Side, to bear the banner, and Thorstein was just about to lift the banner, but then Asmund the White said, "Don't bear the banner! For all they who bear it get their death."

"Hrafn the Red!" called out Earl Sigurd, "bear thou the banner."

"Bear thine own devil thyself," answered Hrafn.

Then the earl said, "'Tis fittest that the beggar should bear the bag;'" and with that he took the banner from the staff and put it under his cloak.

A little after Asmund the White was slain, and then the earl was pierced through with a spear.

Ospak had gone through all the battle on his wing, he had been sore wounded, and lost both his sons ere King Sigtrygg fled before him.

Then flight broke out throughout all the host.

Thorstein Hall of the Side's son stood still while all the others fled, and tied his shoe-string. Then Kerthialfad asked why he ran not as the others.

"Because," said Thorstein, "I can't get home to-night, since I am at home out in Iceland."

Kerthialfad gave him peace.

Hrafn the Red was chased out into a certain river; he thought he saw there the pains of hell down below him, and he thought the devils wanted to drag him to them.

Then Hrafn said, "Thy dog (2), Apostle Peter! hath run twice to Rome, and he would run the third time if thou gavest him leave."

Then the devils let him loose, and Hrafn got across the river.

Now Brodir saw that King Brian's men were chasing the fleers, and that there were few men by the shieldburg.

Then he rushed out of the wood, and broke through the shieldburg, and hewed at the king.

The lad Takt threw his arm in the way, and the stroke took it off and the king's head too, but the king's blood came on the lad's stump, and the stump was healed by it on the spot.

Then Brodir called out with a loud voice, "Now let man tell man that Brodir felled Brian."

Then men ran after those who were chasing the fleers, and they were told that King Brian had fallen, and then they turned back straightway, both Wolf the Quarrelsome and Kerthialfad.

Then they threw a ring round Brodir and his men, and threw branches of trees upon them, and so Brodir was taken alive.

Wolf the Quarrelsome cut open his belly, and led him round and round the trunk of a tree, and so wound all his entrails out of him, and he did not die before they were all drawn out of him.

Brodir's men were slain to a man.

After that they took King Brian's body and laid it out. The king's head had grown fast to the trunk.

Fifteen men of the burners fell in Brian's battle, and there, too, fell Halldor the son of Gudmund the Powerful, and Erling of Straumey.

On Good-Friday that event happened in Caithness that a man whose name was Daurrud went out. He saw folk riding twelve together to a bower, and there they were all lost to his sight. He went to that bower and looked in through a window slit that was in it, and saw that there were women inside, and they had set up a loom. Men's heads were the weights, but men's entrails were the warp and weft, a sword was the shuttle, and the reels were arrows.

They sang these songs,[3] and he learnt them by heart:

THE WOOF OF WAR.

"See! warp is stretched For warriors' fall, Lo! weft in loom 'Tis wet with blood; Now fight foreboding, 'Neath friends' swift fingers, Our grey woof waxeth With war's alarms, Our warp bloodred, Our weft corseblue.

"This woof is y-woven With entrails of men, This warp is hardweighted With heads of the slain, Spears blood-besprinkled For spindles we use, Our loom ironbound, And arrows our reels; With swords for our shuttles This war-woof we work; So weave we, weird sisters, Our warwinning woof.[4]

"Now Warwinner walketh To weave in her turn, Now Swordswinger steppeth, Now Swiftstroke, now Storm; When they speed the shuttle How spearheads shall flash! Shields crash, and helmgnawer (3) On harness bite hard!

"Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof Woof erst for king youthful Foredoomed as his own, Forth now we will ride, Then through the ranks rushing Be busy where friends Blows blithe give and take.

"Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof, After that let us steadfastly Stand by the brave king; Then men shall mark mournful Their shields red with gore, How Swordstroke and Spearthrust Stood stout by the prince.

"Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof. When sword-bearing rovers To banners rush on, Mind, maidens, we spare not One life in the fray! We corse-choosing sisters Have charge of the slain.

"Now new-coming nations That island shall rule, Who on outlying headlands Abode ere the fight; I say that King mighty To death now is done, Now low before spearpoint That Earl bows his head.

"Soon over all Ersemen Sharp sorrow shall fall, That woe to those warriors Shall wane nevermore; Our woof now is woven. Now battlefield waste, O'er land and o'er water War tidings shall leap.

"Now surely 'tis gruesome To gaze all around. When bloodred through heaven Drives cloudrack o'er head; Air soon shall be deep hued With dying men's blood When this our spaedom Comes speedy to pass.

"So cheerily chant we Charms for the young king, Come maidens lift loudly His warwinning lay; Let him who now listens Learn well with his ears And gladden brave swordsmen With bursts of war's song.

"Now mount we our horses, Now bare we our brands, Now haste we hard, maidens, Hence far, far, away."

Then they plucked down the Woof and tore it asunder, and each kept what she had hold of.

Now Daurrud goes away from the Slit, and home; but they got on their steeds and rode six to the south, and the other six to the north.[5]

A like event befell Brand Gneisti's son in the Faroe Isles.

At Swinefell, in Iceland, blood came on the priest's stole on Good-Friday, so that he had to put it off.

At Thvattwater the priest thought he saw on Good-Friday a long deep of the sea hard by the altar, and there he saw many awful sights, and it was long ere he could sing the prayers.

This event happened in the Orkneys, that Hareck thought he saw Earl Sigurd, and some men with him. Then Hareck took his horse and rode to meet the earl. Men saw that they met and rode under a brae, but they were never seen again, and not a scrap was ever found of Hareck.

Earl Gilli in the Southern isles dreamed that a man came to him and said his name was Hostfinn, and told him he was come from Ireland.

The earl thought he asked him for tidings thence, and then he sang this song:

"I have been where warriors wrestled, High in Erin sang the sword, Boss to boss met many bucklers, Steel rung sharp on rattling helm; I can tell of all their struggle; Sigurd fell in flight of spears; Brian fell, but kept his kingdom Ere he lost one drop of blood."

Those two, Flosi and the earl, talked much of this dream. A week after, Hrafn the Red came thither, and told them all the tidings of Brian's battle, the fall of the king, and of Earl Sigurd, and Brodir, and all the Vikings.

"What," said Flosi, "hast thou to tell me of my men?

"They all fell there," says Hrafn, "but thy brother-in-law Thorstein took peace from Kerthialfad, and is now with him."

Flosi told the earl that he would now go away, "For we have our pilgrimage south to fulfil."

The earl bade him go as he wished, and gave him a ship and all else that he needed, and much silver.

Then they sailed to Wales, and stayed there a while.

ENDNOTES:

(1) "Shieldburg," that is, a ring of men holding their shields locked together.

(2) "Thy dog," etc. Meaning that he would go a third time on a pilgrimage to Rome if St. Peter helped him out of this strait.

(3) "Helmgnawer," the sword that bites helmets.

References

  1. King Brian: "Further, it is not true that no saga contains any Irish story or any Irish hero. Kjalnesinga saga contains a garbled version of the Irish story of Cúchukain's killing of his son … And, of course, there is the account of the battle of Clontarf at the end of Njáls saga." Robinson, Peter. Vikings and Celts (p. 128).
  2. Now it must be told of King Brian that he would not fight on the fast-day : “the idea is conveyed that military maneuvers during Holy Week would be to the disadvantage of the Irish army.” Ryan, John. The Battle of Clontarf (p. 16).
  3. They sang these songs: "Pursuing the air/wind/breath concept, it has been suggested that work songs, perhaps not unlike Darraðarlióð from Njáls saga (ch. 157) …, were sung to help those engaged in textile processes rhythmically focus on work. In my opinion, the dual focus and motivational support of work songs is not certain, but certainly likely among the Norse and especially in the quiet, indoor setting of women’s textile work. Wind and air play important roles in various drying processes but perhaps also song and the breath that carries it has the potential to find its way — quite literally — into textile processes and a special place in the cosmological world view." Roy, Carrie. Practical Fastenings Of The Supernatural (p. 202).
  4. So weave we, weird sisters/Our warwinning woof : " Darraðarljóð, dated to the beginning of the tenth century […], constitutes a part of Njáls saga (ch. 157) and describes a scene in which twelve valkyrjur weave a fabric of battle and thus shape human fate according to their will. We might assume that this act influenced the result of the battle with which it was associated." Gardela, Leszek. Into Viking Minds (p. 69)
  5. the other six to the north: "The vision of the Njáls Saga, embodying, no doubt, eleventh century material, has skilfully fused the Irish vision tale of the Morrigan and her weird sisters with features of Scandinavian belief in the Norns and added the Teutonic, perhaps even christian, conception of the demons rushing to a scene of disaster and overheard by a mortal." Krappe, Alexander H.. The Valkyrie Episode in the Njals Saga (p. 474).

Kafli 157

Sigurður jarl Hlöðvisson bjóst af Orkneyjum. Flosi bauð að fara með honum. Jarl vildi það eigi þar sem hann átti suðurgöngu sína að leysa. Flosi bauð fimmtán menn af liði sínu til ferðarinnar en jarl þekktist það. En Flosi fór með Gilla jarli í Suðureyjar. Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson fór með Sigurði jarli, Hrafn hinn rauði, Erlingur af Straumey. Jarl vildi eigi að Hárekur færi en jarl lést mundu segja honum fyrstum tíðindin.

Jarlinn kom með allan her sinn að pálmadegi í Dyflin. Þá var og kominn Bróðir með allan her sinn. Bróðir reyndi til með forneskju hversu ganga mundi orustan. En svo gekk fréttin ef á föstudegi væri barist að Brían konungur mundi falla og hafa sigur en ef fyrr væri barist mundu þeir allir falla er í móti honum væru. Þá sagði Bróðir að eigi skyldi fyrr berjast en föstudaginn.

Þá reið maður að þeim Kormlöðu á apalgrám hesti og hafði í hendi pálstaf. Hann talaði lengi við þau.

Brían konungur[1] kom með allan her sinn til borgarinnar. Föstudaginn fór út herinn af borginni og var fylkt liðinu hvorutveggja. Bróðir var í annan fylkingararminn en Sigtryggur konungur í annan. Sigurður jarl var í miðju liðinu.

Nú er að segja frá Bríani konungi að hann vildi eigi berjast föstudaginn[2] og var skotið um hann skjaldborg og fylkt þar liðinu fyrir framan. Úlfur hræða var í þann fylkingararminn sem Bróðir var til móts en í annan fylkingararm var Óspakur og synir konungs en í miðri fylkingunni var Kerþjálfaður og voru fyrir honum borin merkin.

Fallast nú að fylkingarnar. Var þar orusta allhörð. Gekk Bróðir í gegnum lið þeirra og felldi þá alla er fremstir stóðu en hann bitu ekki járn. Úlfur hræða sneri þá í móti honum og lagði til hans þrisvar sinnum svo fast að Bróðir féll fyrir í hvert sinn og var við sjálft að hann mundi eigi á fætur komast. En þegar hann fékk upp staðið þá flýði hann og þegar í skóginn undan.

Sigurður jarl átti harðan bardaga við Kerþjálfað. Kerþjálfaður gekk svo fast fram að hann felldi þá alla er fremstir voru. Rauf hann þá fylkinguna Sigurðar jarls allt að merkjum og drap merkismanninn. Fékk hann þá til annan mann að bera merkið. Varð þá enn orusta hörð. Kerþjálfaður hjó þenna þegar banahögg og hvern að öðrum þá er í nánd voru. Sigurður jarl kvaddi þá til Þorstein Síðu-Hallsson að bera merkið. Þorsteinn ætlaði upp að taka merkið.

Þá mælti Ámundi hvíti: „Berðu eigi merkið því að þeir eru allir drepnir er það bera.“

„Hrafn hinn rauði,“ sagði jarl, „berðu merkið.“

Hrafn svaraði: „Berðu sjálfur fjanda þinn.“

Jarl mælti: „Það mun vera maklegast að fari saman karl og kýll.“

Tók hann þá merkið af stönginni og kom í millum klæða sinna. Litlu síðar var veginn Ámundi hvíti. Þá var jarl og skotinn spjóti í gegnum.

Óspakur hafði gengið um allan fylkingararminn. Hann var orðinn sár mjög en látið sonu sína báða áður. Sigtryggur konungur flýði fyrir honum. Brast þá flótti í öllu liðinu.

Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson nam staðar þá er aðrir flýðu og batt skóþveng sinn. Þá spurði Kerþjálfaður hví hann rynni eigi.

„Því,“ sagði Þorsteinn, „að eg tek eigi heim í kveld þar sem eg á heima út á Íslandi.“

Kerþjálfaður gaf honum grið.

Hrafn hinn rauði var eltur út á á nokkura. Hann þóttist þar sjá helvítis kvalar í niðri og þótti honum djöflar vilja draga sig til.

Hrafn mælti þá: „Runnið hefir hundur þinn, Pétur postuli, til Róms tvisvar og mundi renna hið þriðja sinn ef þú leyfðir.“

Þá létu djöflar hann lausan og komst Hrafn yfir ána.

Bróðir sá nú að liðið Bríans konungs rak flóttann og var fátt manna hjá skjaldborginni. Hljóp hann þá úr skóginum og rauf alla skjaldborgina og hjó til konungsins. Sveinninn Taktur brá upp við hendinni og tók hana af honum og höfuðið af konunginum en blóðið konungsins kom á stúf sveininum og greri þegar fyrir stúfinn.

Bróðir kallaði þá hátt: „Kunni það maður manni að segja að Bróðir felldi Brían.“

Þá var runnið eftir þeim er flóttann ráku og sagt þeim fallið Bríans konungs. Sneru þeir þá aftur þegar Úlfur hræða og Kerþjálfaður. Slógu þeir þá hring um þá Bróður og felldu að þeim viðu. Var þá Bróðir höndum tekinn. Úlfur hræða reist á honum kviðinn og leiddi hann um eik og rakti svo úr honum þarmana og dó hann eigi fyrr en allir voru úr honum raktir. Menn Bróður voru allir drepnir. Síðan tóku þeir lík Bríans konungs og bjuggu um. Höfuð konungsins var gróið við bolinn. Fimmtán menn af brennumönnum féllu í Bríansorustu. Þar féll og Halldór son Guðmundar hins ríka og Erlingur af Straumey.

Föstudaginn langa varð sá atburður á Katanesi að maður sá er Dörruður hét gekk út. Hann sá að menn riðu tólf saman til dyngju einnar og hurfu þar allir. Hann gekk til dyngjunnar. Hann sá í glugg er á var og sá að þar voru konur inni og höfðu færðan upp vef. Mannahöfuð voru fyrir kljána en þarmar úr mönnum fyrir viftu og garn, sverð var fyrir skeið en ör fyrir hræl.

Þær kváðu vísur þessar:[3]


1.Vítt er orpinn

fyrir valfalli

rifs reiði,

rignir blóði.

Nú er fyrir geirum

grár upp kominn

vefur verþjóðar

er þær vinur fylla

rauðum vefti

Randversk blá.


2.Sjá er orpinn vefur

ýta þörmum

og harðkljáður

höfðum manna.

Eru dreyrrekin

dörr að sköftum,

járnvarður ylli

en örum hrælar.

Skulum slá sverðum

sigurvef þenna.[4]


3.Gengur Hildur vefa

og Hjörþrimul,

Sanngríður, Svipul

sverðum rekna.

Skaft mun gnesta,

skjöldur mun bresta,

mun hjálmgagar

í hlíf koma.


4.Vindum, vindum

vef darraðar

og siklingi

síðan fylgjum.

Þar sjá bragnar

blóðgar randir

Gunnur og Göndul

þær er grami fylgdu.


5.Vindum, vindum

vef darraðar,

sá er ungur konungur

átti fyrri.

Fram skulum ganga

og í fólk vaða

þar er vinir vorir

vopnum skipta.


6.Vindum, vindum

vef darraðar

þar er vé vaða

vígra manna.

Látum eigi

líf hér sparast,

eiga valkyrjur

vals um kosti.

7.Þeir munu lýðir

löndum ráða

er útskaga

áður um byggðu.

Kveð eg ríkum gram

ráðinn dauða.

Nú er fyrir oddum

jarlmaður hniginn.


8.Og munu Írar

angur um bíða,

það er aldrei mun

ýtum fyrnast.

Nú er vefur ofinn,

en völlur roðinn,

munu um lönd fara

læspjöll gota.


9.Nú er ógurlegt

um að litast

er dreyrug ský

dregur með himni.

Mun loft litað

lýða blóði

er spár vorar

springa kunnu.


10. Vel kváðum vér

um konung ungan

sigurljóða fjöld.

Syngjum heilar,

en hinn nemi,

er heyrir á

geirhljóða fjöld

og gumum skemmti.


11. Ríðum hestum,

hart út berum

brugðnum sverðum

á brott héðan.


Rifu þær þá ofan vefinn og í sundur og hafði hver það er hélt á. Gekk Dörruður nú í braut frá glugginum og heim en þær stigu á hesta sína og riðu sex í suður en aðrar sex í norður.[5]

Slíkan atburð bar fyrir Brand í Færeyjum Gneistason.

Á Íslandi að Svínafelli kom blóð ofan á messuhökul prests föstudaginn langa svo að hann varð úr að fara.

Að Þvottá sýndist presti á föstudaginn langa sjávardjúp hjá altarinu og sá þar í ógnir margar og var það lengi að hann mátti eigi syngja tíðirnar.

Sá atburður varð í Orkneyjum að Hárekur þóttist sjá Sigurð jarl og nokkura menn með honum. Tók Hárekur þá hest sinn og reið til móts við jarl. Sáu menn það að þeir fundust og riðu undir leiti nokkurt en þeir sáust aldrei síðan og engi urmul fundust af Háreki.

Gilla jarl í Suðureyjum dreymdi það að maður kæmi að honum og nefndist Herfinnur og kvaðst kominn af Írlandi. Jarl þóttist spyrja þaðan tíðinda.

Hann kvað vísu þessa:


48. Var eg þar er bragnar börðust;

brandur gall á Írlandi.

Margur, þar er mættust törgur,

málmur gnast í dyn hjálma.

Svipun þeirra frá eg snarpa;

Sigurður féll í dyn vigra,

áður téði ben blæða.

Brían féll og hélt velli.


Þeir Flosi og jarl töluðu margt um draum þenna. Viku síðar kom þar Hrafn hinn rauði og sagði þeim tíðindin öll úr Bríansorustu, fall konungs og Sigurðar jarls og Bróður og allra víkinganna.

Flosi mælti: „Hvað segir þú mér til manna minna?“

„Þar féllu þeir allir,“ segir Hrafn, „en Þorsteinn mágur þinn þá grið af Kerþjálfaði og er nú með honum.“

Flosi segir jarli að hann mundi í braut fara, „eigum vér suðurgöngu af höndum að inna.“ Jarl bað hann fara sem hann vildi og fékk honum skip og það sem hann þurfti og í silfur mikið. Sigldu þeir þá til Bretlands og dvöldust þar um stund.

Tilvísanir

  1. Brían konungur: "Further, it is not true that no saga contains any Irish story or any Irish hero. Kjalnesinga saga contains a garbled version of the Irish story of Cúchukain's killing of his son … And, of course, there is the account of the battle of Clontarf at the end of Njáls saga." Robinson, Peter. Vikings and Celts (s. 128).
  2. Nú er að segja frá Bríani konungi að hann vildi eigi berjast föstudaginn : “the idea is conveyed that military maneuvers during Holy Week would be to the disadvantage of the Irish army.” Ryan, John. The Battle of Clontarf (s. 16).
  3. Þær kváðu vísur þessar: "Pursuing the air/wind/breath concept, it has been suggested that work songs, perhaps not unlike Darraðarlióð from Njáls saga (ch. 157) …, were sung to help those engaged in textile processes rhythmically focus on work. In my opinion, the dual focus and motivational support of work songs is not certain, but certainly likely among the Norse and especially in the quiet, indoor setting of women’s textile work. Wind and air play important roles in various drying processes but perhaps also song and the breath that carries it has the potential to find its way — quite literally — into textile processes and a special place in the cosmological world view." Roy, Carrie. Practical Fastenings Of The Supernatural (s. 202).
  4. Skulum slá sverðum / sigurvef þenna : " Darraðarljóð, dated to the beginning of the tenth century […], constitutes a part of Njáls saga (ch. 157) and describes a scene in which twelve valkyrjur weave a fabric of battle and thus shape human fate according to their will. We might assume that this act influenced the result of the battle with which it was associated." Gardela, Leszek. Into Viking Minds (s. 69)
  5. aðrar sex í norður: "The vision of the Njáls Saga, embodying, no doubt, eleventh century material, has skilfully fused the Irish vision tale of the Morrigan and her weird sisters with features of Scandinavian belief in the Norns and added the Teutonic, perhaps even christian, conception of the demons rushing to a scene of disaster and overheard by a mortal." Krappe, Alexander H.. The Valkyrie Episode in the Njals Saga (s. 474).

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