Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
Chapters - 46-50
46. When king Magnus had ruled the land nine winters, he fared away out of the land west across the sea and harried in Ireland, and was the winter in Connaught. But the summer after he fell in Ulster on Bartholomew's day. But when king Sigurd in the Orkneys heard of his father's fall, he fared at once to Norway, and was there taken to be king with his brothers Eystein and Olaf. Sigurd left behind him over the western sea the daughter of the Irish king. One winter or two after the fall of king Magnus, Hacon Paul's son came from the west across the sea, and the kings gave him the title of earl and such power, as was due to his birth. Then he fared west across the sea and took the realm under him in the Orkneys; he had always followed king Magnus while he lived. He was with him in his warfare east in Gothland, as is said in that lay which was made on Hacon Paul's son.
47. When earl Hacon had taken the rule in the Orkneys, Magnus earl Erlend's son came down from Scotland and asked to take his father's heritage. That pleased the freemen well, for he had very many friends. He had there many kinsmen and connexions who were glad to raise him to power. A worthy man named Sigurd then had his mother to wife; their son was Hacon churl; they kept house in Paplay. When earl Hacon heard that earl Magnus was come into the isles, he drew force to himself, and would not give up the Orkneys or share that realm which he had there. After that friends came between them and tried to settle matters. So it came about that they were made friends on those terms, that Hacon gave up half the realm if that were the award of the kings of Norway, and with that this strife was stayed. Magnus fared straightway in the spring to Norway to find king Eystein, for Sigurd had then fared out abroad to Jerusalem. King Eystein made him a hearty welcome, and gave him up his father's inheritance, half the Orkneys and the title of earl. Earl Magnus fared west over the sea to take up his power, and his kinsmen and friends and all the people were glad at that; then the kinship of Hacon and Magnus throve well when friends took part in it. There was then peace and plenty in the Orkneys so long as their friendship lasted.
48. Saint Magnus the isle earl was the most peerless of men, tall of growth, manly, and lively of look, virtuous in his ways, fortunate in fight, a sage in wit, ready-tongued and lordly-minded, lavish of money and high-spirited, quick of counsel and more beloved of his friends than any man; blithe and of kind speech to wise and good men, but hard and unsparing against robbers and sea-rovers; he let many men be slain who harried the freemen and landfolk; he made murderers and thieves be taken, and visited as well on the powerful as on the weak robberies and thieveries and all ill deeds. He was no favourer of his friends in his judgments, for he valued more godly justice than the distinctions of rank. He was open-handed to chiefs and powerful men, but still he showed most care for poor men. In all things he kept straitly God's commandments, and kept down his body in many things which in his praiseworthy life where bright before God, but hidden before men. He then showed his purpose when he asked the hand of a maiden of the most noble race of Scotland, and drank the bridal feast with her; he lived ten years with her so that he fulfilled neither of their lusts, but was pure and spotless of all carnal sins. And when he felt temptation coming over him, then he went into cold water, and asked support of God for himself. Many were those other things and noble virtues which he showed to God himself, but hid from men.
49. Those kinsmen Magnus and Hacon held the wardship of the land for some while, so that they were well agreed. So it is said in that song which is made of them, that they fought against that chief whose name was Duffnjal, and who was one step further off than the earl's brother's son, (2) and he fell before them. Thorbjorn was the name of a noble man whom they put to death in Burra-firth in Shetland; it is the story of many men that they took the house over his head and burnt him inside it. There are more tidings on which songs have been made which show that they must have been both together, though here it is not fully told about them. But when those kinsmen had ruled the land some time, then again happened, what often and always can happen, that many ill-willing men set about spoiling their kinship. Then unlucky men gathered more about Hacon, for that he was very envious of the friendships and lordliness of his kinsman Magnus.
50. Two men are they who are named, who were with earl Hacon, and who were the worst of all the tale-bearers between those kinsmen, Sigurd and Sighvat sock. This slander came so far with the gossip of wicked men, that those kinsmen again gathered forces together, and each earl fared against the other with a great company. Then both of them held on to Hrossey, where the place of meeting of those Orkneyingers was. But when they came there, then each drew up his men in array, and they made them ready to battle. There were then the earls and all the great men, and there too were many friends of both who did all they could to set them at one again. Many then came between them with manliness and goodwill. This meeting was in Lent, a little before Palm Sunday. But because many men of their well-wishers took a share in clearing up these difficulties between them, but would stand by neither to do harm to the other, then they bound their agreement with oaths and handsels. (3) And when some time had gone by after that, then earl Hacon, with falsehood and fair words, settled with the blessed earl Magnus to meet him on a certain day; so that their kinship and steadfast new-made peace should not be turned aside or set at naught. This meeting for a steadfast peace and thorough atonement between them was to be in Easter week that spring on Egil's isle. This pleased earl Magnus well, being, as he was, a thoroughly whole-hearted man, far from all doubt, guile, or greed; and each of them was to have two ships, and each just as many men; this both swore, to hold and keep those terms of peace which the wisest men made up their minds to declare between them. But when Eastertide was gone by, each made him ready for this meeting. Earl Magnus summoned to him all those men whom he knew to be kindest-hearted and likeliest to do a good turn to both those kinsmen. He had two longships and just as many men as was said. And when he was ready he held on his course to Egil's isle. And as they were rowing in calm over the smooth sea, there rose a billow against the ship which the earl steered and fell on the ship just where the earl sate. The earl's men wondered much at this token, that the billow fell on them in a calm where no man had ever known it to fall before, and where the water under was deep. Then the earl said: "It is not strange that ye wonder at this, but my thought is, that this is a foreboding of my life's end; may be that may happen which was before spaed about earl Hacon. We should so make up our minds about our undertaking, that I guess my kinsman Hacon must not mean to deal fairly by us at this meeting." The earl's men were afraid at these words, when he said he had so short hope as to his life's end, and bade him take heed for his life, and not fare farther trusting in earl Hacon. Earl Magnus answers: "We shall fare on still, and may all God's will be done as to our voyage."
2. That is, he was their second cousin. [Back]
3. The Danish Translation adds "and the wisest men were to decide between them." [Back]