The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxxxii.

Grettir sings of his Great Deeds.

Now they lay them down that evening, but at midnight Grettir began to tumble about exceedingly. Illugi asked why he was so unquiet. Grettir said that his leg had taken to paining him, "And methinks it is like that some change of hue there be therein."

Then they kindled a light, and when the swathings were undone, the leg showed all swollen and coal-blue, and the wound had broken open, and was far more evil of aspect than at first; much pain there went therewith so that he might not abide at rest in any wise, and never came sleep on his eyes.

Then spake Grettir, "Let us make up our minds to it, that this sickness which I have gotten is not done for nought, for it is of sorcery, and the carline is minded to avenge her of that stone."

Illugi said, "Yea, I told thee that thou wouldst get no good from that hag."

"All will come to one end," said Grettir, and sang this song withal —

"Doubtful played the foredoomed fate

Round the sword in that debate,

When the bearserks' outlawed crew,

In the days of yore I slew.

Screamed the worm of clashing lands

When Hiarandi dropped his hands

Biorn and Gunnar cast away,

Hope of dwelling in the day.

"Home again then travelled I;

The broad-boarded ship must lie,

Under Door-holm, as I went,

Still with weapon play content,

Through the land; and there the thane

Called me to the iron rain,

Bade me make the spear-storm rise,

Torfi Vebrandson the wise.

"To such plight the Skald was brought,

Wounder of the walls of thought,

Howsoever many men

Stood, all armed, about us then,

That his hand that knew the oar,

Grip of sword might touch no more;

Yet to me the wound who gave

Did he give a horse to have.

"Thorbiorn Arnor's son, men said,

Of no great deed was afraid,

Folk spake of him far and wide;

He forbade me to abide

Longer on the lovely earth;

Yet his heart was little worth,

Not more safe alone was I,

Than when armed he drew anigh.

"From the sword's edge and the spears

From my many waylayers,

While might was, and my good day,

Often did I snatch away;

Now a hag, whose life outworn

Wicked craft and ill hath borne,

Meet for death lives long enow,

Grettir's might to overthrow."18

"Now must we take good heed to ourselves," said Grettir, "for Thorbiorn Angle must be minded that this hap shall not go alone; and I will, Noise, that thou watch the ladders every day from this time forth, but pull them up in the evening, and see thou do it well and truly, even as though much lay thereon, but if thou bewrayest us, short will be thy road to ill."

So Noise promised great things concerning this. Now the weather grew harder, and a north-east wind came on with great cold: every night Grettir asked if the ladders were drawn up.

Then said Noise, "Yea, certainly! men are above all things to be looked for now. Can any man have such a mind to take thy life, that he will do so much as to slay himself therefor? for this gale is far other than fair; lo now, methinks thy so great bravery and hardihood has come utterly to an end, if thou must needs think that all things soever will be thy bane."

"Worse wilt thou bear thyself than either of us," said Grettir, "when the need is on us; but now go watch the ladders, whatsoever will thou hast thereto."

So every morning they drave him out, and ill he bore it.

But Grettir's hurt waxed in such wise that all the leg swelled up, and the thigh began to gather matter both above and below, and the lips of the wound were all turned out, so that Grettir's death was looked for.

18 This song is obviously incomplete, and the second and third stanzas speak of matters that do not come into this story.

Illugi sat over him night and day, and took heed to nought else, and by then it was the second week since Grettir hurt himself.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/grettir-the-strong/chapter82.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07