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Egill Skallagrímsson: A Viking laments his two sons

Inner_nryfjord_gudvangen_by_im_flic

The Irreparable Loss of Sons

My mouth strains
To move the tongue
To weigh and wing
The choice word:
Not easy to breathe
Odin's inspiration
In my heart's hinterland
Little hope there.

A leaden weight
Lies on my tongue,
I cannot sustain
The measure of a song
Odin has stolen
My heart's treasure;
I draw no succour
From the stores of my soul

Fallen_tree_by_bluechameleon_at_fli

The pride of my house
Is beaten to the ground
Like trees of the forest
Bowed before the storm.
How can a man rejoice
Who has borne to the grave
The bodies of his kin
From their earthly seats?

First I must tell
Of the death of my mother,
The loss of my father.
Breath of my praise shall
Rise from the temple
Where language lives,
Where words adorn
The structure with leaves.

Our family shield-wall
Is torn wide open;
Cruel waves broke
My father's firm line.
How vast is the breach,
How empty the place
Where the sea entered
And snatched away my son.

Shoreham_angry_waves_by_sarey_at_fl

Ran the fierce sea-god
Has ravaged all my land,
All those I loved
He seized as his spoils.
Broken are the bonds
That held us together,
The links I held firmly
Between my hands.

--

The pillaging sea
Has robbed me of my riches.
Hard it is to speak of
The loss of my kin.
He who was our shield
Has left us defenseless,
Lost to our sight
On the distant roads of death.

No shred of bad faith,
No falsity ever
Would have grown in my son -
I know that well,
If the young wood
Of his shield had hardened;
If he had not fallen
To the barbarous armies.

Ps_young_man_looking_into_the_futur

For him my word was law;
He stood by his father
Though all the people
Might hold a different view.
More than any other
He would sustain me;
He was ever
A stronghold sure.

--

What other comrade
Shall I find faithful
To stand at my side
In my hour of need?
When among traitors
My friends melt away
And I must flee, who then
Will cover my retreat?

--

What can make amends
For the loss of a son?
What compensation
Pays for such a death?
How could I beget
Another such boy
Who should be held
The equal of his brother?

Ps_karissa_does_not_explain_it_all_

I take no pleasure
In the company of men:
Though they are peacemakers,
Still I avoid them.
For now my son reaches
The god's dark palace;
Now my wife's darling
Has gone to join his kin.

--

The fire of a fever
Has burned up my son,
Hatefully ravished
Away from our world.
Wise, he's free forever
From threat of shame,
Never can touch him
The taint of disgrace.

--

To Odin, chief among gods
And friend of Mimir,
Henceforth I'll offer
No willing sacrifice,
Though he - I won it freely -
Gave for what I suffer
As recompense, a gift
I hold as unequalled.

Hand_sword_by_leo_reynolds_flickr

He - the wolf's enemy,
Veteran of battles -
He gave me this matchless
Gift, which is my art.
And with it, a nature,
Bane of my enemies
That drives me to root out
Their treacherous frauds.

Now all goes hard for me.
I see Hel, the goddess,
Foe to duplicity,
Waiting on the headland.
Nevertheless, joyfully,
With a jocund will
And a heart that fears nothing,
I await my death.   

    --Egil Skalla-Grimsson, poem from Egilssaga, one of the greatest Viking sagas. Poem translated by Anne Ridler (1912-1992), 1992.

Egil was almost certainly a real person who lived in the 900s. The masterly poetry in the saga is older than the saga itself, which was written in the eleventh century. The lament was composed late in Egil's life after the death of his two sons.

Sonatorrek

Mjök erum tregt
tungu at hrœra
með loptvætt
ljóðpundara;
esa nú vænligt
of Viðurs þýfi,
né hógdrœgt
ór hugar fylgsni.

Esa auðþeystr,
þvít ekki veldr
höfugligr,
ór hyggju stað
fagna fundr
Friggjar niðja
ár borinn
ór Jötunheimum.

Lastalauss,
es lifnaði
á nökkvers
nökkva bragi;
jötuns hals
undir þjóta
náins niðr
fyr naustdurum.

Þvít ætt mín
á enda stendr,
hreggbarnir
sem hlynir marka;
esa karskr maðr,
sás kögla berr
frænda hrørs
af fletjum niðr.

Þó munk mitt
ok móður hrør
föður fall
fyrst of telja;
þat berk út
ór orðhofi
mærðar timbr
máli laufgat.

Grimt vörum hlið,
þat's hrönn of braut
föður míns
á frændgarði;
veitk ófult
ok opit standa
sonar skarð,
es mér sær of vann.

Mjök hefr Rón
of rysktan mik;
emk ofsnauðr
at ástvinum;
sleit marr bönd
minnar ættar,
snaran þótt
af sjölfum mér.

Veizt ef sök
sverði of rækak,
vas ölsmið
allra tíma;
hroða vábrœðr
ef viða mættak,
fórk ægis
andvígr mani.

En ek ekki
eiga þóttumk
sakar afl
við sonar bana,
þvít alþjóð
fyr augum verðr
gamals þegns
gengileysi.

Mik hefr marr
miklu ræntan;
grimt es fall
frænda at telja,
síðan's minn
á munvega
ættar skjöldr
af lífi hvarf.

Veitk þat sjalfr,
at í syni mínum
vasa ills þegns
efni vaxit,
ef randviðr
røskvask næði,
uns hergauts
hendr of tœki.

Æ lét flest
þat's faðir mælti,
þótt öll þjóð
annat segði,
mér upp helt
of herbergi
ok mitt afl
mest of studdi.

Opt kømr mér
mána brúðar
í byrvind
brœðraleysi;
hyggjumk umb,
es hildr þróask,
nýsumk hins
ok hygg at því,

hverr mér hugaðr
á hlið standi
annarr þegn
við óðræði;
þarfk þess opt
við þrágörum;
verðk varfleygr,
es vinir þverra.

Mjök's torfyndr,
sás trúa knegum,
of alþjóð
elgjar galga,
þvít niflgóðr
niðja steypir
bróður hrør
við baugum selr.

Finnk þat opt
es féar beiðir - - -

Þat's ok mælt
at mangi getr
sonar iðgjöld
nema sjalfr ali,
né þann enn
es öðrum sé
borinn maðr
í bróður stað.

Erumka þekt
þjóða sinni,
þótt sér hverr
sótt of haldi;
burr's býskeiðs
í bœ kominn,
kvánar sonr,
kynnis leita.

En mér fens
í föstum þokk
hrosta höfundr
á hendi stendr;
máka upp
í aroar grímu
rýnnis reið
réttri halda.

Síz son minn
sóttar brími
heiptugligr
ór heimi nam,
þanns ek veit
at varnaði
vamma vanr
við námæli.

Þat mank enn,
es upp of hóf
í Goðheim
Gauta spjalli
ættar ask,
þanns óx af mér,
ok kynvið
kvánar minnar.

Áttak gótt
við geirs dróttin,
gerðumk tryggr
at trúa hónum,
áðr vinan
vagna rúni
sigrhöfundr
of sleit við mik.

Blœtka því
bróður Vílis,
goðjaðar,
at gjarn séak;
þó hefr Míms vinr
mér of fengnar
bölva bœtr,
es et betra telk.

Göfumk íþrótt
ulfs of bági
vígi vanr
vammi firða
ok þat geð,
es gerðak mér
vísa fjandr
af vélöndum.

Nú erum torvelt,
Tveggja bága
njörva nipt
á nesi stendr,
skalk þó glaðr
góðum vilja
ok ó-hryggr
heljar bíða.

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