Egils Improvisations

Besides the three great poems in old metre in Book iv, the Ditty No. 26 in Book vi, and the stray staves in Torf-Einar metre in Book vi, § 2, Nos. 3-6, the whole Saga of Egil is studded with verses in court-metre, which would naturally find their place here. But a close examination of these scattered verses leaves one with the firm conviction that most of them are spurious. That Egil made verses in an early form of court-metre is, we think, proved from the quotations by Snorri and Olaf; but If we look at the proportion their quotations from Egil's old-metre poems bear to the whole poems, viz., about one-twelfth (some thirty lines out of four hundred), and find that, in spite of their fondness for court-metre, they only cite five lines as Egil's in that metre, it will be at all events fair to suppose that they did not know more than ten or twelve stanzas in all—say fifty lines.

We can identify but a few of these, and as for the others (some fifty stanzas), we can only keep or reject them on grounds of internal evidence. A certain number bear the marks of thirteenth-century verse, and may, we believe, be credited to Lawman Sturla, who would naturally take an interest in Egil, and whose hand (or Snorri's) we trace in editing his Saga. They are not entirely valueless, for they contain echoes and imitations from Egil's undoubted compositions, such as Arinbiorn's Praise (e. g. Eromka leitt, and Svart-brfinum let si6num ...). Among the most striking proofs of the impossibility of these verses being genuine, is the weary sameness in which Kweldwolf, Skalla-Grim, and Egil are made to improvise; and the palpable fact that the staves on Brunan-burh battle are not the foundation for the prose, but, on the contrary, founded upon it.

Guided by these considerations we have picked out all those we have any grounds to suppose genuine; they are but few and in a mangled state, though one would not pledge oneself to the authenticity of even all these.

Edda and Skalda cite 11. 6, 25, 28-29. (45 not in the Saga.)

I have got me a name for man-slaying. May the fiends take me when I am no longer able to wield my sword ! Let men bear me into iny barrow then, the sooner the better.

Wali has been grazing his flocks in my land, he tries to tread me beneath his feet. I have often bristled up for less reason and reddened my sword. I am crippled by old age, and must sit under much ill-usage from others now. I care not though the Fates have decreed me a cold grave. Once I could dye the sword in battle ...

1. T3 ISTOM run d horni, riôôom spiaoll f dreyra

1 Jxiu vel-ek orô til eyma 60s d^rs viôar rôta ' drekkom veig sem viljom vel-gl£jaôra J>£ja vitom hve oss of eiri a>l t>atz Barrœôr signdi.

2. Knsotto hvarms af harmi hnup-gnipor mer drupa 5 nu fann-ek {jann-es ennis ôsléttor f>aer rétti :

gramr hefir gerôi-haomrom grundar upp um hrundit 'sa er ygr' af augom dr-sfma mer grfmor.

3. Okunni vensk ennis ungr J>orôag vel forôom hauka-hlifs at ' heyra' Hlin jiver-gnipor minar: 10 verô-ek i feld J)d es foldar faldr kœmr f hug skaldi Berg-Oneris bruna brdtt miô-stalli at hvatta.

4. Svd skyldi goô gialda (gram reki baond af laondom)

Sreiôr sé Raogn ok Ôôinn] ran mins fidr haonom ! olk-m/'gi Idt ftyja, Freyr ok Niaorôr, af ia>rôo! 15

leiôisk lofôa striôi Land-dss J>ann-es vé grandar.

5. Veiztu ef ek ferr meô fiora, faera-^u sex f)d-es vixli hlifa * hveiti-krupom ' hialdr-goôs viô mik roônom : enn ef ek em meô dtta, eroô \>e\r tolf es skelfi at sam-togi sverôa svart-brunom mer hiarta. 20

6. tel hœggr stôrt fyrir stdli stafn-kvigs d veg iafnan ut meô éla meitli and-aerr iaatunn vandar:

Let us cut the runes on the horn, let us paint the characters red with blood. These signs I choose for the root of the tree of the fierce beast's ear [the horn]. Let us drink as we will the draught the merry slave-girls serve. Let us see whether the cup that Barrod blessed will harm us.

His sorrows ended by King ALthelstaris kindness. The crags of my brows were drooping for sorrow, but now I have found him that was able to smooth the frowns of my face. The king . . . has thrown open the jutting rock-wall that covered my eyes.

His love-pain. 1 have become unsociable. When I was young I dared to carry the steep of my brow high, but now, when the lady's name comes into my mind, I hasten forthwith to hide the high place of my forehead under my cloak.

His curse on Eric Blood-axe. May the gods requite thee for the robbery of my goods! May the Powers drive thee from the land! May the Holy Ones and Woden be wroth with thee! O Frey and Niorth, let the oppressor of the people fly from the country! May the god of the land [Thor] loathe the tyrant who defiles the sanctuaries!

His prowess. If I have four men with me, there will not be found six men that will dare to redden swords with us. If I have eight with me, there are not twelve alive who can make the heart of the swarthy-browed one [myself] tremble.

Of the wind at sea. The sturdy giant of the forest, the wind, cuts a deep

4. BarÔr of, Cd. 5. harms, Cdd. 10. Read, hefja? hcyrna?

enn sval-buinn seljo sverfr eirar vanr J>eiri 'Gestils alfraftr gvstv* gandr yfir stdl ok brandi.

7. ^rungo'varrar Gungniss varrar lungs um stunginn. 25

8. Hvarfa-ek blindr of branda, 'biS-ek eirar Syn geira' J)ann ber-ek harm d hvarma hvit-vaollom * raer sitja.' . . .

9. 1 Vals' hefi-ek vdfor ' helsis vd;' faollomk rao skalla; blautr eromk bergis f6tar borr; enn hlust es porrin.

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