Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


The Viking Code.

Now he floated around on the desolate sea, like a

prey-seeking falcon he rode,

To the champions on board he gave justice and law;

wilt thou hear now the sea-viking’s code?

“Make no tent on thy ship, never sleep in a house, for

a foe within doors you may view;

On his shield sleeps the viking; his sword in his hand,

and his tent is the heavenly blue.

See how short is the shaft of the hammer of Thor, but

an ell’s length the sword blade of Frey;

’Tis enough, for your weapon will ne’er be too short if

you dare near the enemy stay.

“When the storm rageth fierce, hoist the sail to the top, —

O how merry the storm-king appears;

Let her drive! let her drive! better founder than strike,

for who strikes is a slave to his fears.

“Never take on thy vessel the land-sheltered maid; were

she Freyja herself she’d ensnare;

For the dimples she wears are but pitfalls for men, and

a net is her free flowing hair.

“Wine is Allfather’s drink, and the cup is allowed if you

only can use it with sense;

He who falls on the land may arise, — who falls here he

to Ran, the sleep-giving, goes hence.

“If a merchant sail by, you must shelter his ship, but

the weak will not tribute withhold;

You are king of the waves, he a slave to his gains; and

your steel is as good as his gold.

“Let your goods he divided by lot or by dice, how it

falls you may never complain;

But the sea-king himself takes no part in the lots, — he

considers the honor his gain.

“If a viking-ship come, there is grappling and strife,

and the fight ‘neath the shields will rejoice;

If you yield but a pace you are parted from us; ’tis the

law, you may act by your choice.

“If you win, be content; he who praying for peace

yields his sword, is no longer a foe;

“Prayer’s a Valhalla-child, hear the suppliant voice; he’s

a coward who answereth no.

“Wounds are viking’s reward, and the pride of the man

on whose breast or whose forehead they stand;

Let them bleed on unbound till the close of the day, if

you wish to be one of our band.”

Thus his law was enrolled, — and his name, every day,

through all foreign coasts grew renowned;

For his like was not seen on the blue-rolling sea, nor the

valor his champions crowned.

Then he sat by the rudder and sullenly gazed in the

depths of the blue rocking tide;

“Thou art deep; in thy depths thriveth peace, it may

be, but it thriveth not here where we ride.

“Is the White God enraged? Let him take up his sword,

I will fall if it thus is designed;

But he sits in the skies, and the thoughts he sends

down which forever are clouding my mind.”

When the conflict came on, then his spirit arose like an

eagle refreshed for its flight;

And his brow it was clear, and his voice it rang high, —

like the thunderer first in the fight.

So from conquest to conquest unbroken he went, and

was safe o’er the high, foaming grave;

And he saw in the south many islands and rocks, till

he came to the calm Grecian wave.

When he saw the green groves that stand out from the

waves, and the temple before him uprose,

What he thought Freyja knows, and the poet knows too,

and the lover, he knows, ah! he knows!

“Here we ought to have dwelt, here’s the island and

grove, here the fane as my father set forth.

It was here, it was here I invited my love, but the cruel

one staid in the North.

“Surely peace has its home in those blissful green dales, —

in the colonnades, memory’s words;

Like the whisper of love are the murmuring founts, and

a bride-song the voice of the birds.

“Where is Ingeborg now? Hath forgotten me quite for

the gray-haired and withered old king?

I can never forget, but my life I would give, if one sight

of my love it would bring.

“Now three years have passed by since the land I beheld

where heroic achievement prevails;

Tower the honored mounts yet to the heavenly blue? is

it green in my forefathers’ dales?

“On the grave where my father is laid I once planted

a tree; can it be it lives now?

And who cares for the weakling? Thou earth give it

moisture, and dew, kindly heaven, give thou.

“But why linger I longer on far distant waves, taking

tribute and striking men down?

For my soul but despises the glittering gold, and I’ve

gained quite enough of renown.

“There’s a flag on the mast and it points to the North,

in the North is the land I hold dear;

I will follow the course of the heavenly winds, and back

to the Northland I’ll steer.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00