Poem of the Week: The Lay of Ingiald

 

viking

 

1      “Go from the grey-beard! No longer make game of me,

ye deedless swains in the Danish court!

No outcast is the old man before you:

oft hoary hair hideth a hardy mind.

2      “I formerly followed Fróthi for years,

sate in the high-seat,5 and was served before others;

but now I sit nameless and unknown in the hall,

I like a fish at ebb-tide finding a waterhole.

3      “I formerly sate on soft cushions;

now in a corner I sit, crowded by every one.

Fain out of doors would they drive the grey-beard

but wall and wainscot gave welcome foothold.

4      “The courtiers laugh at me who come from afar off,

no one gets up to greet me or to cheer the guest!

What be the ways now in the hall of the Skioldungs?

I should like to learn Leire’s6 new breeding.

5      “Thinkest thou, Ingiald, as at ease thou sittest,

to avenge Fróthi, thy father, on his banesmen?

Or are you pleased, rather to fill your paunch

than to make stern war on the murderers of your father?

6      “That feared I, when farewell to the folkwarder I said,

that slain by the sword he soon would lie.

From Fróthi afar the folklands I roamed

when I learned that our liege had been laid low by Saxons.

7      “Had that time I been with the thane’s shield-bearers,

then not deedless had I seen my dear lord’s fall:

my sword had then smitten the Saxon traitors,

or else had I fallen by Fróthi’s side.

8      “Now on wilding ways I wended from Sweden,

hoping to find Fróthi’s heir-taker—

and find a feaster but for food hankering,

and instead of a king, a coward and wanton.

9      “But sooth did say the Swedish king—7

that ‘deedless scions follow doughty father.’

Shall strangers steal the stores of your father?

Shall his red-gold rings fall in robbers’ hands?”

10   “Away from the warrior with your woman’s finery!

About your own brow bind your fillet,

or else your husband’s, who will highly prize it,

fingering for food steaked fowls’ inwards.

11   “Evil art, thou, Ingiald’s mistress!

Saxland’s ways soft to Sealand thou broughtest!

In the king’s kitchen cook they now tidbits,

such as war-workers ne’er would have eaten.

12   “But on board, bloody, the meat of beeves8

was laid for strong men as they right the battlefield.

In their frosted beards oft bit the rowers,

nor slaked their thirst with sweet milk for babies.

13   “Athelings eleven, all told, were there

with Haki,9 when we rode the horse-of-the-sea.10

Beigath and Belgi at board with us sate;

seldom on sea fared swains more hardy.

14   “With smoked salt meat we sated our hunger,

and slaked our thirst with swallows of ale;

nor was honeyed mead ever Haki’s delight,

nor soft bread, either, when at sea he fared.

15   “But weregild no one e’er would have taken,

or by payment of pence in his purse borne his father;11

nor was ever heard that the heir of his father

sate at festive board with his father’s banesmen.

16   “So, when in the hall great heroes are spoken of,

and skalds are chanting the champions’ great deeds,

then in shame I hide under hood my glances,

for Fróthi’s first-born showed but faint-heartedness.

17   “Why so sternly, Ingiald, starest thou at me?

Never saw the sneering Saxons such glances!

Thou who never didst win other warfare

than cutting down bread and killing puddings.

18   “A cruel fate has befallen Fróthi’s kinsmen

when the king was given such a coward as heir:

no greater worth hast thou than a hunted goat,

or than sheep in shambles shrinking in terror.

19   “Shall Sverting’s12 seed hold sway over Denmark,

Seated at Leire with Saxon warriors,

on thy lap whilst thou fondlest the linen-clad woman,

the fair-haired daughter of thy father’s banesman.

20   “Rail now, Ingiald! Thou art awakened!

No more wavering weakness, thou warriors’ leader,

but slay with the sword all of Sverting’s kinsmen!

Alike be their death as alike was their deed!

21   “Let thralls drag then the dead from the high-seat,

cart away the killed ones from the king’s mead-hall,

toss the dead out-of-doors— nor dig graves for them—

to feed on the heath foxes and ravens.
22   “Still further shalt, Ingiald, if foresight thou hast,

put away the woman wily and evil!

The she-wolf’s whelps will take after her:

beware of the wolf though weak he be now.

23   “Behold now, Hrauthi,13 thou who whettest to strife,

that full vengeance for Fróthi is taken:

the seven sons of Sverting by sword are laid low,

his false friends now are felled by Ingiald.

24   “Though hoary my hair that hope never left me

that Fróthi’s first-born would not flinch in trial;

as only heir shall Ingiald rule here

over the lands of the Danes and Leire’s high-seat.”

Gesta Danorum, Book VI

 

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/Oskkir/viking-warrior-research/

Source/More about the poem: http://sacred-texts.com/neu/onp/onp04.htm

 

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