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Early Indo-European Texts

Old Norse

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old Norse with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old Norse Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old Norse language and its speakers' culture.

from the Battle of Stamford Bridge

Haraldr konongr Sighurðarsun ræið svǫrtum hesti blesóttom firir framan fylking sína ok sá hværsu liðit stóð, ok skipaðe þæim framar er þá villde hann. Ok í þesse ræið fell hestrenn undir hanum oc konongrenn framm af, oc mǽllti, "Fall er farar hæill." Þá mǽllti Haraldr Ænghla konongr viðr Norðmenn þá er með hanum váro, "Kenndo þér þenn hinn myckla meðr þæim blá kyrtli oc hin faghra hialm, er þer skaut sér af hestinum frem? Þeir svaraðo, "Kennom vér; þet var Norðmanna konongr." Þá mǽllti Ænghla konongr, "Mikill maðr oc hǫfðinghlegr er hann, oc hitt er nú venna at farinn sé at hamingiu."

Nú ríða fram xx riddarar fyrir fylking Norðmanna oc allir albryniaðer. Þá mǽlti æinn riddarenn, "Hvar er Tósti iarl, hvárt er hann í liði eða æighi?" Hann svaraðe, "Eighi er því at lœyna, hér munu þér hann finna megha." Þá mǽllti enn riddarenn: "Haraldr konongr bróðer yðar sændi yðr kvæðiu oc þer meðr þet, at þér skulur hafa grið oc Norðymbraland allt, oc ænn vill hann, hælldr enn þit bæriz, gefa yðr þriðiung ríkis síns meðr sér." Þá svaraðe iarlenn, "Boðet er þá nǫccut annat enn úfriðr oc svívirðinginn sem í vetr, oc en þetta vǽre fyrr boðet, þá vǽre marghr maðr sá hæill oc meðr lífi er nú er æighi, oc þá mun æighi verr standa ríki Englanz. Nú takum vér þenna kost; enn hvat vilir þér nú bióða Haraldi kononge firir sitt starf?" Þá svaraðe riddarenn: "Sact hæfir hann þer nǫcut af hværs hann mun hanom unna af Englande, hann scal hafa vii fæta længð -- oc því længra, sem hann er hǽrre enn aðrir menn." Þá svaraðe iarlenn, "Farit nú oc sæghit Haraldi kononge at hann búiz til orrosto, firir því at annat skal sannaz enn þet sem Norðmenn sǫghðu at Tósti iarl munde svíkia Harald konong oc skiliaz viðr hann, þeghar hann skulde bæriaz um, oc fylla þá flock fiándmanna hans, enn hældr skulum vér nú taca allir æitt ráð, dœya hældr með sœmd eða fá Ængland með sighri."

Nú riðu riddarar aftr. Þá mǽlti Haralldr konongr Sighurðarsun til iarlsens, "Hvær var þessi hinn snialli maðr?" Þá svaraðe iarlenn, "Þer var Haraldr konongr Goðvinasun." Þá mǽlti Haraldr konongr, "Oflængi var ec þesso lœyndr. Þeir váro svá comnir firir lið várt, at æighi munde þesse Haraldr kunna sæghia dǫuðarorð várra manna." "Satt er þet, herra," saghðe iarlinn, "úvarlegha fór þvílícr hǫfðingi oc væra mǽtti þetta er nú sæghi þér; sannum vér þat, en hann vilde þó bióða brœðr sínum grið oc mikit valld, oc vǽri ec víst þá callaðr værri hǫfðingi, þó at þenn cost tœ'kem vér, hældre enn ec biðaðe svá ælli at ec være banamaðr bróðor míns; enn þó er bætra at þiggja bana af brœðr sínum enn væita honom bana." "Lítil konongr var þesse," saghðe Haraldr konongr, "oc stóð væl í stigræip sin." Þet sæghia menn, at Haraldr konongr kvǽðe vísu þessa:

"Fram gengom vér í fylkingu,
        bryniulausir meðr blár æggiar;
        hialmar skína, hæfkaðek mína;
        nú liggr scrúð várt at scipum niðri."

Emma hét brynia hans; hon tóc ofan í mitt bæin hanum, oc svá stærk at æcki festi vápn á henne. Þá mǽlti Haraldr konongr, "Þetta er illa ort, oc scal gæra nú aðra vísu bætri." oc cvað þá þetta:

"Kriúpum vér firir vópna
        (valtæigs) brǫkon æighi
        (svá bauð Hilldr) at hialdri
        (haldorð) í bugh skialdar;
        hátt bað mec, þer's mœtozt,
        mennskurð bera forðom,
        lackar ís oc hǫusar,
        hialmstal í gný malma."

Nú væita Ænglar Norðmǫnnum áreið oc varð á mót viðrtaca hǫrð, oc svá váro sættar kæsiurnar oc koms þet mest viðr hestana.

Translation

King Harald Sigurtharson rode on a black horse with a white mark out before his troop and saw how the retinue was positioned, and he arranged them further forward, as he then wanted. And during this ride the horse fell beneath him, and the king from off it, and he said: 'A fall is a good sign for a journey.'
Then Harald, king of the Angles, spoke with the Norsemen who were with him: 'Do you know that noble man with the blue kirtle and impressive helmet, who launched himself off his horse?' They answered, 'We know him; that was the king of the Norsemen.' Then the king of the Angles said, 'He is a great and princely man, and it is likely that he has come to the end of his luck.'
Now 20 horsemen ride out before the host of the Norsemen and all are clad in mail. Then one horseman said, 'Where is earl Tosti -- is he in the troop or not?' He answered, 'It is not to be concealed that you might be able to find him here.' Then the horseman said, 'King Harald your brother would send you greetings and in addition to this, that you should have protection and the whole of Northumberland; and further he wishes, rather than you fight, to give you a third of his kingdom beside him.' The earl answered, 'Now there is a request for something other than the hostility and disgrace of last winter; but had that been sought before, then sound and with life would be many a man who now is not, and the kingdom of England might be none the worse for it. Now we have an alternative; but what would you now offer King Harald for his trouble?' Then the horseman answered, 'He said there something of how much of England he would grant him, he shall have a plot of 7 feet -- and longer by as much as he is taller than other men!' The earl responded, 'Go now and tell King Harald that he should ready himself for battle, since something else will prove true than that which the Norsemen said, that Earl Tosti would betray King Harald and part with him, he would fight at once, and increase the number of his enemies; but rather we all will now adopt a single purpose, to die with honor, or to take England in victory.'
The horsemen rode back. Then King Harald Sigurtharson said to the earl, 'Who was that eloquent man?' The earl answered, 'That was King Harald Gothvinason.' King Harald said, 'Too long was I ignorant of this. They came before our troop so that this Harald might not be permitted to pronounce our men's death-tidings.' 'That is true, lord', said the earl, 'the chief proceeded quite incautiously and that which you say might be true; we agree on this, but though he wanted to offer his brother peace and great power, I would certainly be called a worse leader rather if we should take the offer and I might have awaited such old age that I be my brother's killer; for it is better to accept death from your brother than to grant death to him.' 'That one was a small king,' said King Harald, 'and stood well in his stirrups.' Men say that King Harald recited this verse:
    'We went forth in the ranks,
    byrnie-less, with blue edges;
    helmets shine, I have not mine;
    my coat lies on the ship below.'
His byrnie was called Emma; it went all the way down to the middle of his leg, and was so strong that no weapon had any effect on it. Then King Harald said, 'That was poorly composed, so I shall now devise another better verse', and then recited this:
    'We do not creep in battle,
    before the clashing of weapons,
    behind the curve of the shield --
    so commanded the lady of the hawk's land, true of speech;
    the lady bade me, where meet
    skulls and the ice of battle,
    long ago to carry on high
    the helmet's seat into the clash of metal.'
Now the Angles give the Norsemen a charge and a harsh reception comes in return, and so the long spears were set and it hit hard against the horses.