"Fourth of July" in Iceland. — Political Qualms. — We astonish the Icelanders — Off to the Dettifoss. — The Jokulsa. — A Barren Tract. — Grandeur of the "Second" Fall. — Our Last Saga-Reading. — "Grettir at Drángey." — Back to Akureyri. — Good-by to Jan. — Homeward Bound. — Farewell to the Land of Ice and Fire. — Wash and his Little Song.
RAED waked me at five the next morning. Kit was up loading our shot-gun. Wash was dressing. "What's going on?" I inquired.
"Sluggard!" exclaimed Kit in tones of reproof, "hast forgotten?"
"Forgotten what?" for I was still half dead with sleep.
"Ingrate!" he hissed, pounding down the powder-wad, "hast forgotten the birthday of our nation, the glorious Fourth?"
It was the Fourth of July, sure enough.
"Hush!" Raed interrupted as I was beginning to disclaim any indifference on my part. "You are but a sleepy patriot, to say the best of you."
"Patriot!" cried Wash. "You don't call him a patriot, I hope! Patriot, indeed!"
"I think," Kit observed, capping the gun, "that we ought to make this miserable traitor take the oath of allegiance on this our country's natal morning."
This aggravating talk had the intended effect, — to wake me up thoroughly. These uncompromising comrades of mine have long since discovered how to get my eyes open of an early morning. It is a daily wonder with me how we ever contrive to live so harmoniously together. There must be some strong bond of union between us, — strong and firm enough to span the chasm in our politics. Perhaps this is chiefly from the similarities of our tastes and present aims. But I doubt whether it be right for me thus to acquiesce and remain silent when sentiments so antagonistic to the doctrines in which I have been educated are confidently and defiantly uttered. I doubt. I must shortly take the matter into consideration. One thing becomes more and more apparent: the longer I associate with these young Northerners, the less I feel to differ from them. This fact of itself alarms me; and, if I were not sure that their own extreme political opinions were not similarly softened, I would not remain another month in the North.
"Don't wake the Dane yet!" cautioned Raed. "He has neither part nor lot in this matter. Let him snooze 'neath the wing of tyranny till the thunder of five American powder shall startle him."
The family were not yet up. We stole along the narrow passage, out into the yard; when Kit discharged the gun. It set all the dogs inside barking; the ravens croaked; the sheep bleated. Out rushed young Havisteen in very scanty garments. The old farmer and his son followed him.
"Why, what's up?" demanded our Danish friend.
"Don't you know it's the Fourth of July, Jan?" Wash demanded. "It's Independence Day! — that glorious day which all Americans always celebrate in all places, the broad world over."
At this juncture Kit let off another gun. The old Icelander dodged back: he evidently considered us very dangerously insane. Jan had heard of our national powder-day, and, turning hastily and laughingly explained the nature of our mania: but the old gentleman continued to regard our movements with astonishment; though a smile presently crept into his good-humored face, and he turned to re-explain the whole thing to his goodwife and Indridi, whose visages we could get glimpses of far back in the passage.
Ten guns were fired, and three hearty cheers given, in which young Havisteen joined; though his hurrah was quite out of chord with ours. None but a native-born American can give a genuine hurrah!
The celebration over, we went in to breakfast, and then set off for the Dettifoss Cataract, distant fifteen miles. Biarni went with us to show us the way. Jan had never been to the Dettifoss. A ride of half an hour took us to the Krafla Jokul, which we passed to the left. This volcano has been in eruption since Biarni's remembrance. The plain, for many miles around it, is strewn with black cinders. Over these the hoofs of our ponies clinked and rattled as we galloped onward. The country was bare of vegetation. Only here and there were to be seen thin patches of grass. Eight or nine miles from the byre we crossed another sulphur-range, from the ridge of which we caught a glimpse of the Jokulsa, the largest river of Iceland.
The Dettifoss is a cataract formed by the fall of this stream into a lava-jau, or rift. The Jokulsa rises in the Vatna Jokul, at the south-west coast of the island, and, after a course of a hundred and twenty-five miles nearly north-east, flows into the Arctic Ocean at the north-east corner of the island. The Dettifoss itself is a little north of east from Reykjalith. We took our compass; but, on going over the cinder-strewn plain to the south-east of Krofla, the needle became violently agitated (from the presence of iron in the clinkers, probably), and continued but a doubtful guide all the remainder of the day.
From the sulphur-hills we descended to a small lake, which Biarni called Eylifr (so Jan spelled it for us). A little way up the neighboring hillside we saw a shepherd's byre in one of the most lonely and desolate spots I ever saw inhabited. Why will folks cling to such utterly barren and profitless tracts, when the earth abounds with fertile dales and pleasant prairies? In reply to this query, Jan repeated the well-known Iceland proverb, "Hinn besta land sem solinn skinnar uppa," to the effect that "Iceland is the best land the sun shines upon."
Well, it's well they think so, I suppose; for the poor wretches could never get cash enough together to emigrate to the United States.
An hour later, while pacing over an utterly bare and fire-smitten tract, Biarni pointed off to the northward, where we saw a great misty column rising lazily toward the sky
"Dettifoss," he said.
"Dettifoss," echoed Jan.
"Hah-haw, hah-haw!" to the sweating little heroes; and away we go again, cloperty clop, leaping recklessly over and among the sharp black rocks. Aibains! it makes me shudder to think how we used to ride over those lava-fields. Ere long, the heavy ramble of the falls began to be heard, and steadily increased during the next twenty minutes; till, on reaching a little patch of wild corn, Biarni gave the word to halt. Here we left our horses to refresh themselves, well persuaded that they were too tired to run away.
From this place a scramble of ten or fifteen minutes over rocks and ledges took us out to the river and fall. A feeling of disappointment came over me. It was not very high, nor yet very striking.
"No great shakes!" Wash said; and Raed at once pronounced it inferior to Godafoss. Young Havisteen looked puzzled, and not a little chagrined.
After letting us look at it for ten minutes or more, Biarni quietly made signs for us to follow him; which we did in some vexation. He kept on, winding amid crags and mighty bowlders which shut out the river. Indeed, I began to think he was taking us away from it; when on a sudden he turned to the right again, and, going in between two enormous rocks, stopped short on the brink of an abyss. We came up, and, lo! a second fall, infinitely grander, higher, and more stupendous! We glanced amazedly down, and then at Biarni. He looked perfectly honest and unmoved. Whether he had really planned this surprise, or whether we had simply and innocently sold ourselves, I know not. A river as large as the Connecticut (for in Iceland one must not judge of the volume of rivers by their length) falls into a chasm in the dark basalt, full two hundred feet in depth, at a single plunge! Such was the spectacle before us. Why say more? The reader must imagine the effect. So far as its volume goes, it much surpasses Niagara in grandeur. The black chasm itself would be a great natural curiosity. The thunderous plunge of the cataract renders the scene strikingly complete. It thrills and awes. So far as my observation goes, I place the Dettifoss at the head of what I may conveniently term the second-class cataracts.
We were seventeen hours making the round trip to the falls. The farmer and family had retired ere we got back. The tea-urn was still warm, and awaiting us, however; and, after a light supper, we retired. It had been one of the most fatiguing trips of our tour.
The next day was lowery and wet. We improved the chance to have the farmer read the last chapters of the Gretla. The reading and the interpretation occupied the most of the day.
GRETTIR AT DRÁNGEY.
Poor Grettir! hustled from pillar to post, hunted from one retreat to another, he had spent fifteen years of hardship such as few men have undergone; yet the hatred of his deadly foe, Thorir, had not expended itself
At length, finding that no corner of Iceland was safe, he asked Gúthmundr the wealthy to advise him whither he should flee to be safe from his pursuers.
"There is only one spot, that I know of, where you can be in perfect security."
Grettir replied, that he had hitherto found no such spot.
Gúthmundr continued: "There is an islet in the Skagafjord, hight Drángey, abounding in fish and fowl; and no one can ascend it except by a rope-ladder which hangs down on one of its sides. If you can reach that spot, then you may be assured that it is in no man's power to touch you, so long as you are safe and sound, and able to guard the ladder."
"I will venture out there," said Grettir; "yet I am so timorous in the dark, that, to save my life, I cannot abide alone."
Gúthmundr answered, "Maybe; but I advise you to trust no one but your own self."
Grettir thanked him for his advice, and then hastened to his mother, at Bjarg, in the middle frith. The fear of the dark, to which he alluded, had come on him ever since his wrestle with Glámr, but had increased considerably of late. No sooner did darkness set in than the terrible eyes of the vampire seem to stare at him from the gloom. He slept lightly, starting in his dreams, and waking repeatedly during the night. This was undoubtedly brought on by the unceasing strain on his mind, and the excitability of nerves, caused by the hourly peril in which he had been living for so many years.
On his arrival at Bjarg his mother greeted him affectionately, and told him that she would indeed be glad if he could remain with her; though she feared it would be too venturesome to do so, as Thorir would certainly discover his retreat before many days had elapsed.
The outlaw replied, that he would give her no inconvenience: "For," said he, "I care to take no more trouble about preserving my life. I can bear my solitude no longer." He then told his mother of Gúthmundr's advice; adding, that he would. try his best to reach Drángey, but that he must endeavor to secure some trustworthy companion to be with him.
Illugi, his brother, now fifteen years old, a fine, noble boy, was present during the conversation; and at these words of Grettir he started up, caught his hand, and said, —
"Brother, I will go with you if I may; though I fear you will look on me as but a feeble helpmate: yet I will be faithful to you, and stand by you to the last."
Grettir answered, "Of all men, my brother, I would mother have you with me; and willingly will I consent to your joining your lot with mine, if our mother has no objection."
"Sorrows never come singly," replied the aged woman. "I can hardly bear to part with Illugi: yet I know how dire is your necessity of a comrade, son Grettir; therefore I will not be selfish and keep him. It costs me a bitter pang to part with both my sons in one day."
Illugi was delighted at having thus easily obtained that on which he had set his heart; and he thanked his mother cordially.
The mother provided her sons with money, and such chattels as they would require on the island; and then she accompanied them outside the farm-yard, and, before parting with them, said, "Farewell, my two brave boys! I know that I shall never see you again; but what will befall you in Drángey I know not. Only of this I am certain, — that there you will die; for many will resent your occupation of that island: my dreams have long forewarned me that you will not be divided in your deaths. Beware of treachery: shun any dealings with sorcery; for nothing is more powerful than witchcraft. My blessing be upon you both!" She could speak no more, for her voice was choked with sobs: so, sitting down on a stone, she covered her eyes with her hands; and the tears trickled between her fingers, falling in bright drops on her lap.
"Do not weep, mother!" said Grettir. "What though we both die? It shall ever be said of you, that you bore sons, and not daughters. Long life and health attend you!"
Then they parted; and the brothers went north, and visited their kinsmen. So passed autumn; and with the approach of cold they went towards Skagafjord, crossed the Vatnskarth and Reykjaskarth to Langholl, and reached Glaumboer at the close of day. Grettir had flung his hood over his shoulders, though the wind was piercingly cold; for it was not his wont, fair or foul, warm or cold, to wear any thing on his head.
Near the little farm just mentioned the brothers stumbled upon a tall, thin man, dressed in rags, and with a very big head. They asked each other's names; and the fellow called himself Glaum: he was a bachelor out of work, and withal a gad-about, fond of strolling through the country picking up and retailing news. He was a terrible boaster; but most people thought him both a coward and a fool. He amused the brothers by his continual chatter and by the fund of gossip which he possessed. Grettir was especially pleased with him: and, when Glaum offered to be his servant, Grettir accepted him gladly; and the man became thenceforth his constant attendant.
Says Glaum, "It is a wonder to all the people hereabouts that you wear nothing on your head in such weather as this; and, i' faith! it is no marvel that you are the man they take you for, if you do not mind the cold. Why, there were two of the bonder's sons down yonder going after the sheep, and they could not get clothes enough to put on them, so benumbed were they; and yet they are plucky fellows too!"
After this they went to Reynines; thence they proceeded to the strand, where there is a little byre, Reykir, with a hot spring in the tún, belonging to a man named Thorwaldr. Grettir offered him a bag of silver if he would flit him across to Drángey by moonlight; and to this the man agreed.
On arriving at his destination, Grettir was well pleased with the spot; for it was covered with a profusion of grass, and was so precipitous, that it seemed impossible for any one to ascend it without the aid of they rope-ladder which hung from strong staples at the summit. In summer the place would swarm with sea-birds; and at that time there were eighty sheep left on the island for fattening.
One of the principal chiefs in the Skagafjord was Thorbjorn, nicknamed "The Hook," — a hard-hearted, ill-disposed fellow. His father had married a second time, and there was no love lost between the step-mother and Thorbjorn. It is said that one day, as the Hook was sitting at draughts, she passed, and, looking over his shoulder, noticed that he had made a foolish move: so she laughed; whereupon Thorbjorn retorted angrily. She instantly snatched up a draught-man, and, laying it against his cheek-bone, pressed it into his eye, so that the ball started out of its socket. He sprang up with a curse, and dealt her such a blow, that she took to her bed, and died of the injury. Thorbjorn went from bad to worse; and, leaving home, he settled at Vithvik.
As many as twenty farmers had rights of pasturage on Drángey; but the Hook and his brother had the greatest share.
About the time of the winter solstice, the bonders busked them to visit the island and bring home their sheep. They rowed out in a large boat, and, on nearing the island, were surprised to see figures moving on the top of the cliffs. How any one had reached the islet without their knowledge was a puzzle to them; and they had not the slightest suspicion who these occupants could be. They pulled hard for the landing-place where hung the ladder; but Grettir drew it up before the boat stranded.
The bonders shouted to know who those were on the crags; and Grettir, looking over, told his name and those of his companions.
The bonders asked who had flitted them across to the island. Grettir answered, "If you wish particularly to know, I will tell you: it was a man with a good boat and strong arms, and one who was rather my friend than yours."
"Let us get our sheep," cried the bonders; "and, you come to land with us, we will charge you nothing for those of our sheep you have eaten, and we will let you go from us in peace."
"Well offered," answered Grettir; "but he who takes keeps hold, and 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' Believe me, I never leave the island till I am carried from it dead."
The bonders were silenced. It seemed to them that they had got an ugly customer on Drángey, to get rid of whom would be no easy matter: so they rowed home, very ill pleased at the result of their expedition.
The news spread like wildfire, and was talked about all through the neighborhood; but no one could devise a plan for getting rid of the outlaw.
Winter passed; and, at the beginning of spring, the whole district met at the "Thing," or Council of Hegraness, — an extensive island at the month of the Heradsvatu River. The gathering was thronged; and the litigations and merry-making made the Thing last over many days. Grettir guessed what was going on by seeing a number of boats pass the head of the fiord. He became very restless, and at last announced to his brother that he intended being present at the council. Illugi thought this sheer madness; but Grettir was resolute. He begged Illugi and Glaum to watch the ladder, and await his return.
Then he crossed to the mainland, and hastened in disguise to the council, where he found that sports of all kinds were going on among the able-bodied young men. Grettir was dressed in an old-fashioned suit, very dirty, and falling to tatters. He had on a fur cap, which was drawn closely over his eyes, and concealed his face, so that, no one recognized him. He sauntered among the booths till he reached the spot where the games were taking place.
Among the wrestlers no man surpassed Thorbjorn Hook in skill and prowess. He threw all the strongest men of the neighborhood; and when he had cleared the ground of antagonists, and found that there was no one to oppose him, he stood still, and cast his eyes round him. Suddenly they rested on a tall fellow in the shabbiest and quaintest of suits, but who looked so strongly built, that Thorbjorn walked up to him, and caught him by the shoulders. But the man sat still, and he could not move him from his seat. "Well," exclaimed the Hook, "you are the first fellow I have seen for many a day whom I couldn't pull off his stool. Come now, and wrestle with me. Yet tell me, fast, what is your name."
"Guest," answered the stranger.
"A welcome guest too," quoth the bully, "if you will wrestle with me."
The man replied that they would not be fairly matched, as he was little skilled in athletic sports.
Several men now chimed in, begging the stranger to try what he could do with Thorbjorn, or, at all events, with one of the others.
"Long, long ago," quoth he, "I was able to throw my man as well as the best of you; but those days are gone by, and now I am out of practice."
As he only half refused, the bystanders urged him all the more.
"Now mark you," said he: "I yield on one condition; and that is, that you take your oath to let me go free to my home without one of you lifting your hand against me."
There was a general shout of acquiescence; and Hafr, one of the number, recited the peace-oath in the following legal form: —
"Here set I peace among all men towards the man Guest, who sits before us; and in this peace I include all the priesthood-holders, and well-to-do bonders, and all the young weapon-bearing men, and all the men of the Hegraness district, whether present or absent, named or unnamed. These are to leave in peace, and give passage, without let or hinderance, to the aforenamed stranger, that he may sport, wrestle, make merry, abide with us, and depart from us, without stay, whether he may need to go by land or flood. He shall have peace in all places, named or unnamed, as long as is necessary for him to reach home with ease: so long only shall peace last.
"I set this reconciliation between him and us, our relations, our friends, and kinsmen, male or female, free or thrall, child or full-grown. May the breaker of this peace, and breaker of this oath, be cast out of the presence of God and good men, from the heavenly kingdom, from the company of the saints and just men! Let him be an outcast from land to its farthest limits, — far as men chase wolves at farthest, as Christians seek churches, as heathens sacrifice in shrines, as flame burns, earth produces, as baby calls its mother, and mother bears baby, as fire is kindled, ships glide, lightnings flicker, sun shines, snow lies, Finns slide on snow-shoon, fir grows, falcon flies in the spring day with a fair breeze under its wings, far as heaven bends, earth is peopled, winds sweep waters to the sea, churls grow corn! He shall be banished from churches and the company of Christian men, from heathen folk, from house and den, from every home — save hell! Now let us be atoned and agreed, each with each, in good will, whether we meet on mountain or shore, on ship or on skate, on ground or glacier, at sea or in saddle; as friend meets friend on the deep, as brother meets brother abroad, let us be atoned one with another; as father with son, as son with father, in all our dealing. Lay we now hand to hand, and hold we now true peace, and keep we every word spoken in this our peace-telling, before God and good men, and all those who hear my words and stand around"
After a little hesitation, the oath was taken by all.
Then said Guest, "Now you have done well: only beware of breaking your oaths. I am ready on my part, without delay, to fulfil your wishes." Then he flung aside his hood and almost all his tatters.
The assembled chiefs looked at each other, and were rather disconcerted; for they saw that there stood before them the redoubted Grettir, Asmund's son. They were silent; and Hafr thought that he had acted somewhat rashly. The throng broke up into knots, and began to discuss whether the oath should be kept or not.
"Come, now," shouted Grettir, "let me know your purpose; for I shall not long sit naked. There is more danger to you than to me in the breach of your oaths."
He got no answer; but the chiefs moved away to discuss the question. Some wanted to break the trace; others wanted to keep it. Then Grettir sang, —
"Many trees of wealth,1 this morning,
Failed the well-known, well to know.
Two ways tarn the sea-flame branches2
When a trick on them is tried.
Falter folk their oath fulfilling;
Hafr's talking lips are dumb."
Said a man hight Tongue-stone, "You think so, do you, Grettir? Well, you are a man of dauntless courage: I will say that for you. Look, now! the chiefs are in deep consultation about what is to be done with you." Then Grettir sang, —
"Lifters of shields3 rub their noses,
Shield-tempest gods3 shake their beards,
Go on their way, mach regretting
Peace they have made, now they know me."
Then out spake Hjalti of Hóf brother of Thorbjorn Hook, "Never let it be said of us that we break an oath, even though it were inconsiderately taken. Grettir shall be at full liberty to go to his home in peace; and woe betide him who lays hand on him to do him an injury! But, should he venture again ashore, we are free from our oath."
All except Thorbjorn Hook agreed to this, and were glad that Hjalti had spoken out as became a chieftain.
The wrestling began by Grettir being matched with Thorbjorn; and, after a short struggle, Grettir freed himself from his antagonist, leaped over his back, caught him by the belt of his trousers, lifted him off his legs, and flung him over his back.
It was next proposed that Grettir should be matched against the two brothers together; and he readily agreed to this. The wrestling continued with unabated vigor, and it was impossible to tell which side had the mastery; for, though Grettir repeatedly threw one brother after the other, yet he was unable to hold them both down at the same time. After that all three were covered with blood and bruises, the match was closed by the judges deciding that the two brothers conjointly were not stronger than Grettir alone; though they were each of them as powerful as two ordinary abled-bodied men.
Grettir at once left the Thing, rejecting all the entreaties of the farmers that he should leave Drángey; and, on his return to the little island, he was received by his brother Illugi with open arms.
The small bonders began to feel seriously their want of the island for autumn-pasture; and, as there seemed no prospect of their getting rid of Grettir, they sold their rights to Thorbjorn Hook, who set himself in earnest to devise a plan by which he could possess himself of the island.
When Grettir had been two winters on the island, he had eaten all the sheep except one ram, — a piebald fellow, with magnificent horns, which became so tame, that every evening he came to the hovel which Grettir had erected, and butted at the door till he was admitted. The brothers liked their place of exile, as there was no dearth of eggs and birds; besides which, a considerable amount of drift-timber was thrown upon the strand, and served as fuel.
Grettir and Illugi spent their days in clambering among the rocks, and rifling the nests; and the occupation of the thrall was to collect drift-wood, and keep up the fire in the cottage.
The churl lost his spirits, and became idle, morose, and reserved. One night, notwithstanding Grettir's warnings to him to be careful, as they had no boat, he let the fire go out. Grettir was very angry, and told Glaum that he deserved a sound thrashing for his neglect. The thrall replied that he was heartily tired of the life he had been leading on the island, being scolded or beaten whenever any thing went amiss.
Grettir asked Illugi what had better be done; and his brother replied, that the only thing for them to do was to await the arrival of a boat from the friendly farmer at Reykir.
"We shall have to wait long enough for that," said Grettir: "our only chance is for me to swim ashore and procure a light."
"For Heaven's sake!" exclaimed Illugi, "do not attempt any thing of the kind; for we are undone if any thing happens to you."
"Never fear for me," said Grettir: "I was not born to be drowned."
From Drángey to Reykir is about four miles. Grettir prepared for swimming by dressing in loose, thin drawers, and a sealskin hood: he also tied his fingers together, that they might offer more resistance to the water when he struck out.
The day was warm and fine. Grettir started in the evening, when the tide was in his favor; whilst his brother anxiously watched him from the rocks. At sunset the outlaw reached Reykjaness, after having floated or swum the whole distance. Immediately on coming to land he went to the warm spring, and bathed in it before entering the house. The door of the hall was open, and Grettir stepped in. A large fire had been burning on the hearth, so that the room was very warm. Grettir was so thoroughly exhausted with his swim, that he lay down beside the hot embers, and was soon fast asleep. In the morning he was found by the farmer's daughter, who gave him a bowl of milk, and brought her father to him. Thorwald furnished him with fire, and rowed him back to the island, astonished beyond measure at his achievement in having swum such a distance.
The inhabitants of Skagafjord were angry with Thorbjorn Hook for not having rid the island of its tenants, notwithstanding all his fine promises; but Thorbjorn was sorely puzzled to know what measures to take.
During the summer a ship arrived in the frith, commanded by a young, active fellow, Hoering by name, who was famous for his skill in climbing. He lodged with Thorbjorn during the autumn, and was continually urging his host to row him out to Drángey, that he might escalade the precipitous sides of the islet. Thorbjorn required very little pressing; and one fine afternoon he flitted his guest out to the island, and put him stealthily ashore, without attracting the notice of those on the height.
On reaching the usual landing-place, which was on the opposite side of the island, Thorbjorn shouted, and brought Grettir and his brother to the verge of the cliff. The old arguments were repeated to persuade Grettir to come to the mainland, and with the usual success. The Hook, however, succeeded completely in his attempt to withdraw the outlaw's attention from the farther side of the islet, up which Hoering was clambering.
The young merchant reached the top by a way never attempted before nor since; then, pausing only to take breath, he advanced towards the brothers, who were leaning over the verge of the cliff, little dreaming of danger in their rear.
Grettir was engaged in angry altercation with the Hook: but the young brother took no part in the conversation; and, beginning to feel weary of his position, he turned on one side to relieve his elbows, which had rested on the rock. In so doing, he caught sight of Hoering.
"Brother, brother!" exclaimed he, "here comes a man towards us, brandishing an axe, and bent on mischief!"
"Go after him yourself, lad!" said Grettir: "I will guard the ladder!"
Illugi sprang up, and rushed towards the young merchant, who at once took to flight, ran to the edge of the crag, leaped over, and was dashed to pieces among the rocks. That spot is called "Hoering's Leap" to this day.
"Now, Thorbjorn," shouted Grettir when Illugi returned and told him what had taken place, "you had better row round to the other side of the isle, and gather up the remains of your friend."
The Hook pushed off from the strand, and returned home, ill enough pleased with what had taken place; and Grettir remained at Drángey unmolested through the winter.
At this time died Skapti the lawgiver: and, in the following spring, Grettir's relations and friends moved for a repeal of his sentence of outlawry; but his enemies opposed this vehemently, declaring that he had committed many crimes since he had been pronounced an outlaw.
A new lawgiver, named Steinn, was elected; and, when the case came before him, he gave his opinion, that, after twenty years, the sentence became null and void: so that Grettir's kinsmen had every reason for hoping that in two years, when he would have completed the twenty, he would be restored to their society.
Thorbjorn Hook was exasperated beyond measure at the prospect of Grettir slipping through his fingers after all; and he returned from the Thing, brooding over fresh schemes against the outlaw.
It happened that he had an old feeble foster-mother, — a woman of malicious disposition; and, when Thorbjorn could get help nowhere else, he came to her, as in her youth she had dabbled in sorcery, but had long ceased to practise it, when, after the introduction of Christianity, it became illegal, and was punishable with banishment. However, as the old saw has it, "What is learned in youth is remembered in age;" and though the old woman was believed to have forgotten her witchcraft, yet it remained stored up in the chambers of her mind.
"Ah!" said she when Thorbjorn came to her, "I see that as a last resource you come to me, a bed-ridden old woman, and ask my help. Well, I will assist you to the best of my power on one condition; and that is, that you yield me implicit obedience."
The Hook answered her that he was quite willing to consent, as he had long since learned to rely on his foster-mother's advice, as being most salutary.
When the month of August came round, the hag said to her foster-son one beautiful day, "The sea is calm, and the sky bright: what say you to our rowing over to Drángey, and stirring up the old quarrel with Grettir? I will accompany you, and listen to what he says: I shall then be able to judge what lot awaits him. Besides, I can death-doom him as I please."
The Hook answered, "I am tired of going to Drángey; for I never return from it a whit the better off than when I started."
"Remember your promise," said the old woman. "I shall have nothing to do with you unless you follow my advice."
"Well then, foster-mother," quoth Thorbjorn, "let us go; though I vowed that my third visit should be the death of Grettir."
"Have patience," said the hag: "time and trouble are needed before that man is laid low. And what the result will be I know not: it may be your gain, and it may be your ruin."
Thorbjorn ran out a long boat, and entered it with twelve men: the hag sat in the bows, coiled up amongst wraps and rugs.
When they reached the island, the brothers ran to the ladder; and Thorbjorn asked whether Grettir was yet tired of his island.
Grettir replied as he had replied before. "Do what you will: in this spot I await my destiny."
Thorbjorn saw now that his journey was likely to be without avail. "I see," said he, "that I have to do with the worst of men. One thing is clear enough: it will be a long time before I pay you another visit"
"So much the better," answered Grettir: "I shall not count it as a misfortune if I never see you again."
At this moment the hag began to stir in the bows of the boat Grettir had not previously observed her presence. Now with a shrill voice she cried, "These men are sturdy; but luck has deserted them. See what a difference there is between folk! You, Thorbjorn, make them good offers, which they foolishly reject: those who refuse good when it is offered them always come to a bad end. Grettir, I wish you to be lost to health, wisdom, luck, and prudence! May these blessings be constantly on the wane the longer you live I and may your days henceforth be fewer and sadder than those preceding them!"
As she spoke a cold shudder ran over Grettir's limbs, and he asked what fiend that was in the ship. Illugi replied that she must be the foster-mother of Thorbjorn.
"Since an evil fiend is with our foes, we can expect nothing but the worst," said Grettir. "Never before have I been so agitated at words spoken as whilst the hag was pouring forth her curses on me. I know now that evil must befall me from her witchcraft; but she shall have a reminder of her visit to me." Then he snatched up a large stone and flung it into the boat, so that it fell upon the bundle of rags, among which lay the aged woman. As it struck, there rose a wild shriek from the witch; for the stone had fallen on her leg, and snapped it asunder.
"Brother, you should not have done this," said Illugi.
"Blame me not," answered Grettir. "I only wish that the stone had fallen on her skull, and that her life bad been sacrificed instead of ours."
On the return of Thorbjorn to the mainland, the hag was put to bed, and the Hook was less pleased than ever with his trip to the island.
"Be not downcast," said his foster-mother: "this is the turning-point of Grettir's fortunes, and his luck will leave him more and more. I have no fear of not having my revenge, should my life be spared"
"You are a resolute woman, foster-mother," said Thorbjorn Hook.
After a month the old woman was able to leave her bed and limp across the room. She one day demanded to be led down to the shore. Her wishes were complied with; and, on reaching the strand, she hobbled up and down till she found a large piece of drift-timber, just large enough for a man to carry upon his shoulder. Then she ordered it to be rolled towards her, and turned over. She examined it attentively. The log seemed to have been charred on one side; and this burned portion she ordered to be planed away: then, taking a knife, she cut runes on it, and smeared them with her blood, chanting over them, as she limped round the beam, a wild spell, that it might be borne to Drángey, and there work Grettir's ill. The piece of timber was then pushed into the waves, and thrust off from shore. A fresh northerly wind was blowing; but the beam swam against wind and tide, and held on its course direct for the outlaw's isle.
The old witch returned to Vithvik. Thorbjorn did not think that any thing would come of what she bad done; but she bade him be of good cheer, and wait till she gave him fresh orders.
In the mean time, Grettir, his brother, and the churl were on Drángey, catching fish and fowl for their winter-supplies.
The day after that on which the hag had charmed the piece of timber, the two brothers were walking on the strand to the west of the island, looking for drift-wood.
"Here is a fine log!" exclaimed Illugi: "help me to lift it on my shoulder, and I will carry it home."
Grettir spurned the beam with his foot, saying, "I do not like the looks of it, little brother. Runes are cut on it, and they may betide us ill: who knows but this log may have been sent, hither for our destruction?"
Then they sent it adrift; and Grettir warned his brother not to bring it to their fire.
They returned in the evening to their hovel, and did not mention the matter before the thrall.
The next day they found the same beam washed up, not far from the foot of the ladder. Grettir thrust it out to sea again, saying that he hoped he had seen the last of it.
The weather began to break up; and several days of storm and rain succeeded each other, so that the three men remained in-doors till their stock of fire-wood was nearly expended.
Then they ordered Glaum to search the shore for fuel. The fellow started up with an angry murmur, and left the room, muttering that the weather was too bad for a dog to be sent out in it. Then he went to the rope-ladder, descended it, and found the same beam cast up at its very foot.
Rejoiced at having so soon obtained what he wanted, he threw it over his shoulder, strode with it to the hut, and flung it down by the door.
Grettir heard the sound; and, springing up, he exclaimed, "Glaum has got something at last! Let as see what he has found!"
Then, taking his axe, he went outside.
"Now," says Glaum, "you chop it up, as I have had all the trouble of bringing it."
Grettir was angry with the fellow; and, without paying much attention to the log itself, he brought his axe down on it with a sweep. The blade struck, glided off, and cut into Grettir's right leg, below the knee, with such force that it stuck in the bone.
Grettir looked at the beam, and, recognizing it at once. said, "The worst is at hand. Misfortunes never come singly. This is the very log which I have rejected twice. Glaum, you have done us two ill turns, — first in letting out the fire, secondly in bringing home this ac- cursed beam; and, if you commit a third, it will be the death of you."
Illugi bound up his brother's wound with a rag. There was but little flow of blood; but it was an ugly gash.
Grettir slept well that night. For three days and nights he was without pain; and the wound seemed to be healing nicely, and skin to be forming healthily over it.
"Well, brother," said Illugi, "I think that this cut will not trouble you long."
"I hope not," answered Grettir; "yet I have my fears."
On the fourth evening they laid them down to sleep as usual. Towards midnight the lad Illugi awoke, hearing Grettir tossing about in his bed as though in pain.
"Why are you so restless?" he asked.
Grettir replied that he felt great anguish in his leg, and that he thought some slight change must have taken place in the wound.
The boy blew the embers on the hearth into a flame, and by its light examined his brother's leg. He found that the foot was swollen and purple, and that the wound had reopened, and looked far more angry than when first made.
Intense pain followed, so that the poor outlaw could not remain quiet for one moment; and sleep no more visited his eyes.
Illugi remained by him, continually holding his brother's hand, or bringing him water to slake his unquenchable thirst.
"We must prepare for the worst," said Grettir. "This sickness is the result of sorcery. The hag is revenging on me that stone which I cast at her."
Illugi replied, "I ever thought evil would come of it."
"What is done cannot be undone," said Grettir; and then sitting up, supporting himself against his brother's breast, he sang, —
I fought with sword in bright old days, —
In days when I was young, —
When gladsome song and roundelay
From happy heart I flung.
I fought with sword in bright old days,
When earth to me was fair,
And, fresh as heart, the lightsome breeze
Did toss my yellow hair.
I fought with sword in bright old days,
I loved the merry clang,
When brand met brand, and shield met shield,
And axe on helmet rang.
As now I chant of youthful days
In fitful broken rhyme,
I seem to hear from my blue blade
A wild war-music chime.
I lowly laid the robber-band;
I rescued wife and maid:
My haft and hilt were purple-dipped,
And purple was my blade.
And, when my friends for fire did pray,
I sought it past the wave;
Though 'neath me gaped the fiord dark,
Dark as an open grave.
When I returned to seek old home,
I found my kinsmen dead;
I was a banished, outlawed man;
A price was on my head.
A hunted man by night and day,
On mountain, moor, and fen;
For eighteen years to shun and flee
The face of fellow-men! —
For eighteen bitter years to bear
Fasting and cold and pain,
And never know, when I lay down,
If I should wake again!
And now, coiled up with fevered blood.
A grim old wolf I die;
Whilst dripping skies above me spend
And winds sob sadly by.
O'er tired heart and drowsy head
Does welcome slumber creep,
As little babe on mother's knee
Will softly drop asleep.
With folded feet and closèd palms,
I will not stir nor wake,
But, bushed in happy dreaming, be
Till the last morning break.
And, if men ask who lieth thus,
Say, "'Tis a tired breast,
Now finding peace, finding calm,
"Let us be cautious now," said Grettir; "for Thorbjorn will make another venture. Glaum, do you watch the steps by day, and draw them up at dusk. Be a faithful servant to us; for much depends on your fulfilling your duty: and I forewarn you, that, if you betray your trust, it will cost you your life."
Glaum promised well.
The weather daily became worse; and a fierce, northeast wind blustered over the country, bearing with it cold and sleet, and powdering the highlands with snow. Grettir asked nightly whether the ladder had been drawn up. Glaum answered churlishly, "How can you expect people to come out in such a storm as this? Do you think that folk are so anxious to kill you, that they will be crazy enough to jeopardize their own lives in the attempt? No, no! You have lost all your pluck and manliness since you have been a little unwell. You are now scared and frightened at the merest trifles."
Grettir answered, "You have none of our pluck and manliness yourself! Go, now, and guard the ladder, as you have been bidden, instead of standing here reproaching us with cowardice!"
So Illugi and his brother drove the churl from the house every morning, notwithstanding all his angry remonstrances.
The pain became more acute, and the whole leg became inflamed and swollen. Signs of mortification appeared, and wounds opened in different parts of the limb, so that Grettir felt that the shadow of death was upon him. Illugi sat night and day with his brother's head on his shoulder, bathing his forehead, and doing his utmost to console the fleeting spirit. A week had elapsed since the wound had been made.
Thorbjorn Hook was at home, ill pleased at the failure of all his schemes for dispossessing Grettir of the island. One day his foster-mother came to him, and asked whether he were ready now to pay the outlaw his final visit. Thorbjorn replied that he had no wish to do so, as it would come to nothing; and asked his foster-mother whether she had any desire to seek out Grettir again, or whether she had been satisfied with the success of her former visit.
"I may not seek him myself," answered the hag; "but I have sent him my greeting, and by this time it has reached him. Speed now to Drángey as swiftly as you can row; for, if you delay, he will be beyond your reach."
The Hook had come off so ignominiously on every former occasion when he had visited the island, that he did not much relish the notion of making another attempt, especially on a day when it would be dangerous to venture on the water in a boat.
"You're a helpless fellow!" exclaimed his foster-mother when Thorbjorn told her his objections to her scheme. "Do you think that I, who have called up this storm, cannot refrain it from doing you injury?"
Well, in the end, the man allowed himself to be persuaded: so he beat up the neighboring farmers, asking then to assist him in manning a large boat. None of them would come with him: but the Hook brought twelve of his own men; his brother Hjalti lent him three more; Eirik of the Good-dale sent him one man: Tongue-stone furnished him with two; Halldorr let him have six of his house-churls; and these were all he could get. Of these, the only two whose names I need mention were Karr and Vikarr. Thorbjorn went with his party to Haganess, where he borrowed a large sailing-boat. None of the men were in good spirits, as the weather was so bad, and they had no confidence in their leader. By dusk they got the vessel afloat, and spread sail; and, with a lurch, she ran out to sea
As the wind was from the north-east, they were under the lee of the high cliffs, and were not exposed to the violence of the gale.
Heavy scuds of rain and sleet swept the fiord: the sky was overcast with dense whirling masses of vapor; and, beneath their shadow, the waters of the frith were black as ink. For one moment the clouds were parted by the storm, and the rowers looked up to see the heavens barred with the crimson rays of the northern light; then the vapors, dense as volcanic smoke, swept across the gap. A flame ran along the cordage, and finally settled on the masthead of the boat, swaying and rocking with the motion of the vessel. It was that electric spark which Mediterranean sailors call "St. Elmo's Light;" and Icelanders, "Hroevarelldr."
A line of white foam marked the base of Drángey; and now and then a great wave from the mouth of the fiord thundered against the crags, and shot in spouts of foam high into the air.
Along the western shore of the frith, which was exposed to the full brunt of the gale, the mighty billows were beaten into white, yeasty heaps of water rolling onwards and recoiling, shivering against the rocks, and falling back in lashing spray, booming down long caverns till they choked them, and then bursting out with a roar in steam-like jets. Upon the top of Drángey, one ruddy spark shone from the window of the hovel in which lay the dying outlaw; and it was reflected as a streak of fire on the tossing deep.
Gulls cried and wheeled around the smack as it ploughed its way through the water; and the stormy petrel fleeted past in the trough of the waves. The kittiwakes and tern wavered and dipped before the boat, uttering their melancholy scream, "Kreeah, kreeah!" The diver passed, dancing like a cork, or rushing through a wave to appear on the farther side with a fish in its beak. Seals rose out of the water, and watched the boat, floating with only their round black heads above the surface, — heads in the gloom appearing so fearfully like those of human beings, that it seemed to the shuddering rowers that the drowned men of the fiord had risen to greet them on their desperate errand.
Now let us return to Grettir.
He had been in less pain that day. Illugi had not left him, but remained faithful to his post.
The churl had been sent out as usual to watch the ladder, and draw it up at nightfall; but, instead of doing as he was bid, the fellow laid himself down at the head of the steps in a sheltered nook, and went to sleep. As dusk set in, the thrall partially awoke, and looked drowsily at the ladder. "Humph!" said he: "I see no use in taking the trouble of pulling this up to-night, when there is such a sea running that no boat; could venture out on it. I'll just take another snooze, then saunter home and say that all is safe." So he turned on his side, and was soon snoring.
When Thorbjorn and his party reached the shore, they found that the ladder still hung down.
"We are in luck's way!" exclaimed the Hook. "Now, my men, perhaps you will thick that our journey will not prove as bootless as you expected. Up the ladder with you; and let us all be of good courage!"
Then they ascended, one after the other; Thorbjorn taking the lead. On reaching the top, they noticed Glaum, asleep under a rock, snoring loudly. Thorbjorn recognized the man at once, and struck him over the shoulders with his sword-hilt, bidding him wake up, fool that he was, and tell them truly all that he knew about those whom he sought.
Glaum turned over on his side, rubbed his eyes, and growled forth, "Cannot you leave a poor wretch alone? Assuredly never was man so ill treated before: you won't even let me sleep out here in the cold!"
"Idiot!" exclaimed the Hook, "look up and see who are come! We are your foes, who purpose slaying every man of you!"
Glaum started up, and screamed with terror when he saw the black figures around him.
"Silence!" cried Thorbjorn. "I give you your choice of two things, — answer the questions I put to you, or die on the spot."
The churl was silenced, and stood trembling before the Hook, with great drops of perspiration rolling off his face.
"Are the brothers in the house?" asked Thorbjorn , "or shall we find them out of doors?"
"Oh!" cried Glaum, "they are both within, — Grettir sick to death, and Illugi watching and never leaving him!"
The Hook asked for particulars; and Glaum told him all the circumstances of Grettir's being wounded. Then the Hook burst out laughing, and said, "The proverbs come true, — 'Old friendships are the last to be broken;' and 'Woe to him who has a thrall for an only friend' especially if he be such a fellow as you, Glaum; for shamefully have you betrayed your master, bad though he be!"
Some of the men caught Glaum by the throat, and beat him till he was nearly senseless; then they flung him down, and pushed on towards the hovel.
In the mean time, Illugi had been sitting near the fire, with his brother's head on his lap; whilst Grettir lay on some sheepskins beside the hearth. All that evening the sick man's eyes had been wandering among the rafters, watching the light play among them as the firewood blazed up or smouldered away. Presently he turned his head towards his brother, saying that he thought he could sleep; and in a few moments he closed his eyes.
Illugi watched his face, kindled by the scarlet glow from the embers. It was more tranquil than he had seen it for many days: the muscles were relaxed; and the wrinkles furrowed on the brow by the intense pain which the poor outlaw had suffered were now smoothed quite away. Grettir's face was not handsome; but it was grave and earnest, tanned dark by continual exposure to the weather. His breath came evenly in sleep. One hand lay open, palm uppermost, on the floor: the other played with the tassel of his spear, which stood ever by his side. Suddenly there was a crash at the door, and the sleeper opened his eyes dreamily.
"It is only the old ram, brother: he wants to come in," said Illugi, "and is butting at the door."
"He butts hard; he butts hard!" muttered Grettir: and at that moment the door burst open. They saw faces looking in.
Illugi sprang to his feet, grasped a sword, flew to the doorway, and defended it valiantly, so that none could come within a spear's-length of it; for the lad brought down his weapon on their lances, and smote off the heads.
Then some of the men clambered up on the roof, and began to rip off its covering of turf. Grettir tried to rise to his feet, but could only stagger to his knees. He seized his spear, and drave it through the roof among those who were tearing it down. It struck Karr in the breast, and pierced him.
"Be, careful," cried the Hook, — "be careful, and no harm can happen to you!"
Then the men pulled at the gable-ends; heaved the ridge-piece aside, and broke it asunder, so that a shower of rafters and turfs fell into the chamber.
Grettir drew his Sword, and smote at the men as they leaped upon him from the wall. With one blow he struck Vikarr, the servant of Hjalti, over the left shoulder, as he was upon the point of springing down. The sword sliced through him, and came out below his right arm; and the corpse dropped upon Grettir. The blow was so violent, that Grettir fell forward; and, before he could raise himself, Thorbjorn Hook struck him between the shoulders, and made a fearful wound.
Then cried Grettir, "Bare is man's back without brother behind it!" and instantly Illugi threw his shield over him, planted a foot either side of him as he lay on the floor, and defended him gallantly; so that all were amazed at his courage.
"Who showed you the way to the island?" asked Grettir of the Hook.
"Christ showed us the way," answered Thorbjorn. "Nay, nay!" muttered Grettir. "It was that hag, your foster-mother, who directed you hither!"
The mist of death was in his eyes. He attempted to raise himself, but sank again on the sheepskins, which were now drenched in blood. No one could touch him; for the brave lad warded off every blow that was aimed at his brother. Then the Hook ordered his men to form a ring around them, and to close in on them with shields and beams. They did so; and Illugi was taken and bound, but not till he had wounded the majority of his opponents, and killed three of Thorbjorn's churls.
"You are a brave fellow!" said the Hook; "and never have I seen one of your age who fought so well."
Then they went up to Grettir, who lay in a state of unconsciousness, without being able to make any resistance.
They dealt him many a blow; but little blood flowed from the wounds. When all thought that he was dead, Thorbjorn tried to disengage the sword from his cold, damp fingers, saying that Grettir had wielded it long enough.
But the strong man's hand was clinched around the handle so firmly, that his enemy could not free the sword from his grasp.
Several of the men came up, and endeavored to unweave the fingers; but they were unable to do so. Then the Hook exclaimed, "Why should we spare this vile outlaw? Off with his hand!" And they held it down whilst he hewed it from the arm at the wrist. Then the muscles of the fingers relaxed; and the Hook was able to loosen them, and possess himself of the sword. Standing beside the body, and grasping the hilt with both hands, he smote at Grettir's head. The edge of the blade was notched with the blow. "See!" laughed Thorbjorn: "this mark will be famous in the history of my sword. I shall show the notch, and say, 'This was done by Grettir's skull!'" He smote twice and thrice at the outlaw's neck, till the head came off in his hands.
"Here have I slain a famous warrior!" exclaimed Thorbjorn. "This head shall come with me to land, that I may claim the price that has been set upon it, and that none may be able to deny that I slew the redoubted Grettir."
The rest of the party told him to do as he chose: but they did not think much of his act; for they believed Grettir to have been dead before Thorbjorn smote at his head, and they suspected that he had wrought his foe's sickness and death by unhallowed means.
Then the Hook turned to Illugi, saying, "It would be a pity that a brave lad like you should die because you have associated yourself with outlaws and evildoers."
Illugi answered, "At Al-thing you shall be summoned to give an account of this cursed deed, and answer to the charge of witchcraft, which I shall bring against you if I live."
"Listen to me, boy," said the Hook: "lay your hand to my hand, and take a vow never to revenge that which has taken place to-night, and I will give you life and liberty."
"And listen you to me, Thorbjorn," replied Illugi. "If I survive, but one thought shall occupy my heart night and day; and that will be, how I can best avenge my brother. Now that you know what to expect from me, choose whether I shall live or die."
Thorbjorn took his companions aside to ask their advice; but they shrugged their shoulders, and replied, that, as he had planned the expedition, he must carry it through as he thought best.
"Well," exclaimed the Hook, "I have no fancy for having the young viper ready to sting me wherever I tread. So he shall die!"
Now, when Illugi knew that they had determined on slaying him, he smiled, and said, "You have chosen that course which is most to my mind."
As the day began to dawn, they led him to the east side of the island, and slew him there. It is said that they neither bound his hands nor eyes; and that he looked fearlessly at them as they smote him, and neither winked nor changed color. Then they buried the brothers beneath a cairn; but they took the head of Grettir, and bore it with them to land.
As they rowed home, the thrall Glaum made such outcries, that they were tired of his noise; and, on reaching the mainland, they slew him.
One morning, Thorbjorn Hook rode with twenty men to Bjarg, in the middle frith, with Grettir's head hanging at his saddle-bow. On reaching the house he dismounted, and stalked into the hall, where Grettir's mother was seated with her servant. Thorbjorn flung her son's head at her feet, and sang, —
Flitted I from the island,
With me the head of Grettir, —
That yellow head which women
Weep: with it I am standing.
Look you I the peace-destroyer's
Head lieth on the pavement;
Look you! it cannot moulder
Now that it well is salted."
The lady sat proudly in her seat, and did not shed a tear; but, lifting her voice in reply, she sang, —
"Milksop I no less than sheep
Flee before the fox:
Would you have fled before
Grettir strong and hale!"
After this the Hook returned home; and folk wondered at Asdisa, saying that none but she could have borne such sons as those twain who slept in Drángey.
The next day (the 6th) we went back to Akureyri, and slept that night on board "The Curlew."
On the 7th we gave a "final feast" in honor of young Havisteen, for whom we had contracted a warm friendship. It was really hard to bid him good-by. He made us promise to visit him at Copenhagen the next spring; for we had already confided to him — what I now confide to the reader — our intention of visiting Europe during the approaching winter.
On the 8th we sailed for home, and on the 13th had our last glimpse of the Snæfel, — the same white knob low down on the horizon that we had first seen on the 9th of June.
Farewell to the land of ice and fire!
During the homeward voyage, I have been busied in writing out this humble account from the notes I made during our tour. "Would it were worthier!" as somebody says; but I can't help it now, reader. You must take it as it is, if you take it at all; which I respectfully leave with you to elect.
P. S. — Wash begs me to append the following Icelandic song, a great favorite of his. He has been singing it to us all the voyage. I hope his translation of it is not a plagiarism; though I strongly suspect it. Raed says he knows it is, and can show me where he stole it. I refused to look, and therefore cannot state.
SWEETLY SWANS ARE SINGING
Sweetly swans are singing
In the summer-time:
Let us lightly laugh and play,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"Redo my dream right, mother mine,
In the summer-time:
I will give thee golden shrine,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"First methought the moon did smile,
In the summer-time,
Softly over Skaney Isle,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"Then methought a rowan-tree
In the summer-time
Louted lowly unto me,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"Then a swan as silver-white,
In the summer-time,
Lay upon my bosom light,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"And I planets twain did see,
In the summer-time,
Lie a-rocking on my knee,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"Next I saw the tide rise fleet
In the summer-time,
Sweeping o'er my little feet,
Sweetly swans are singing."
"As thou saw'st the moon arise
In the summer-time,
Royal husband be thy prize,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"As the rowan bent, I trove,
In the summer-time,
Many folk to thee shall bow,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"As thou claspedst cygnet fair
In the summer-time,
Thou a princely son shalt bear,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"As thou saw'st two planets shine
In the summer-time,
Lovely daughters shall be thine,
Sweetly swans are singing.
"As around thee stole the flood
In the summer-time,
Shall thy lot be ever good.
Sweetly swans are singing.
"This thy dreaming, daughter mine,
In the summer-time:
Keep thyself, thy golden shrine,
Sweetly swans are singing."
1 Periphrasis for men.
2 Sea-flume=gold; and sea-flame branches=warriors.
3 Periphrasis for warriors.
4 Serpent's lair=gold; serpents-lair scatterers=men.