Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
MAGNUS' SAGA THE LONGER.
1. Praise glory and splendour and honour be to Almighty God, our redeemer and
maker, for his manifold mercy and grace, which he bestows on us who dwell on
the uttermost edge of the world; so that after the saying of the masters who
so set it in their books, it seems to them as though we were come out of the
world. And yet all the same though it be so, God hath deigned to show us his
mercy, especially in that he hath let us come to the knowledge of his blessed
name; and therewith given us strong pillars, the most saintly forerunners of
holy Christianity, from whose holiness the whole North shines and beams near
and far. These are, the saint king Olaf, and the exalted Hallvard his kinsman,
who adorn Norway with their halidoms; the worshipful Magnus, the Isle-earl,
who brightens the Orkneys with his holiness, to whose honour the aftercoming
Saga is put together. Herewith are the blessed bishops John and Thorlak, who
have enlightened Iceland with the exalted shining of their bright worthiness.
By this it may be seen that we are not far off from God's mercy, though we be
far off from other peoples in our abode in the world; and therefore we are bound
to pay Him thanks, honour and reverence all the time of our life. Master Robert,
who hath collected and composed the Saga of the holy earl Magnus in Latin, so
begins his Prologue as may here be heard.
2. Each one bringeth such things as he hath means to bring into the tabernacle of God, as a help to mercy for himself. One gold, others silver, some gemstones, some goats hair and red buckskin; and such offerings are not to be contemptuously esteemed, for of such is made the covering over the tabernacle of God, to shield it and keep it from wet and sun heat. These words may be so glossed with few words. Let every christain man offer to God of the gifts and grants which He hath bestowed on him, what he hath best. That God's christianity is the tabernacle that Moses made for God's service, denotes its worth as a shelter and support against the onslaughts of his foes. Gold denotes wit and wisdom; silver chastity; gemstones the miracles of holy men; goatshair the repentance of sins; red buckskin martyrdom. Now the man who reads may so make up his mind, that all these offerings hath the holy Magnus offered to his Lord, as the story of his life witnesseth. Now though the praise of God be not seemly in sinful man's mouth, still it may be profitable and helpful to others; for we so read that the whole house was filled with the sweetest savour of the ointment and spices of that sinful woman, who in penitence fell down to wash and anoint the Lord's feet. But after the bad fashion of those men who cultivate others' lands, the neglect their own and let them lie dry, so we begin this story about the life of earl Magnus the saint all the more trustfully and lovingly, and we bestow our toil on such holy and sublime knowledge, because we trust on and thoroughly look for his help to stay and strengthen us to his worship and honour. Now for that he is a partaker in the kingdom of heaven, and hath entered into the power of the Lord, so is he mighty to obtain all that he willeth. But for that we are sinful, and for the sake of our wretched life are not able to set others good examples of ourselves, so we show saint Magnus with his fameful life, which all are bound to follow, and take holy patterns from. Now that we may not make trouble to our readers by this discourse, for the Lord made short discourses, so we make this story plain with clear words and pure telling, as God hath granted us to discern.
3. In the days of Harold Sigurd's son king of Norway there ruled as earls over the Orkneys two brothers, Paul and Erlend, sons of earl Thorfinn, who has been the mightiest of all the earls of the Orkneyingers. He was the son of earl Sigurd, whom king Olaf Tryggvi's son christened and all the folk in the Orkneys. This Sigurd fell in Brian's battle in Ireland. The mother of those two Paul and Erlend was Ingibjörg, who was called earlsmother, the daughter of earl Finn Arni's son; but Harold Sigurd's son had to wife Thora the daughter of Thorberg Arni's son, the mother of Olaf the quiet, and in that way they were second cousins, king Olaf and the aforesaid earls. Earl Erlend had to wife that woman whose name was Thora, she was Summerled's daughter, the son of Ospak. The mother of Ospak was Thordis the daughter of Hall of the Side. Egill was the name of a son of the aforenamed Hall; his daughter was Thorgerda, the mother of Saint John, bishop of Holar. The sons of earl Erlend and Thora were these, Saint Magnus and Erling, but their daughters were Gunnhilda and Cecilia. Kol Kali's son, a liegeman in Norway, afterwards had Gunnhilda to wife; their son was Rognvald-Kali, who became afterwards earl in the Orkneys; he is a thoroughly saintly man; Rognvald-Kali was a sister's son of earl Magnus the Saint. Earl Paul the brother of Erlend had to wife a daughter of earl Hacon Ivar's son and Ragnhilda the daughter of king Magnus the good, son of the saint-king Olaf. Paul's son's name was Hacon, who afterwards comes into the story.
4. Saint Magnus the earl was born in the Orkneys, the most noble of race and the most famous of kindred. His father Erlend was earl of the Orkneys, a worshipful lord and chief, honoured in power and esteem, as is the wont of those who live mightily on this earth. His mother Thora was sprung from the most noble chiefs of that land. But though to many good birth might turn to pride and spoiling of temper, this blessed youth was already in the first offshoot of his childhood bright and learned by the teaching of the Holy Spirit; for he held to and loved, valued and kept, the highest power of the mind, sweetness of temper and soberness of morals, and the steadiness of honourable habits. This youth showed himself old in good behaviour, shareless of childish life in his deeds, gladspoken and blithe, gentle in his loving words, and yielding and reasonable in his conduct and in all his doings. Well mature and self restrained, so that nothing was found in his dealings that might hurt or shock men who beheld him. He was soon put to school to learn holy writings, and all that other knowledge which men were then most wont to know. Magnus was docile and obedient, pliant and attentive to his father and mother and his masters; kind and pleasant to the whole people. He cared little for loose company and games like other young men, but rather showed himself of seemly conduct, though he were young in the tale of winters; because at once was revealed in him the evident gift of the Holy Spirit, which guided him to all good things.
5. When those brothers, Paul and Erlend, had taken the power in the Orkneys, king Harold Sigurd's son, came from the east from Norway with a mighty host to the Orkney's and left there behind him queen Elizabeth, and Maria and Ingigerda his daughters. The earls made them ready to go along with the king with a great host, and they held on south for England; and in that battle which they fought against king Harold Godwin's son, Harold Sigurd's son fell five nights after the feast of St. Matthew in the autumn. After this battle Olaf the quiet, Harold's son, sailed with the earls that autumn back to the Orkneys. And that same day and at that hour on which king Harold fell in England, his daughter Maria died a sudden death in the Orkneys; and it is the saying of men that they both had one life between them. Olaf the quiet was the winter over in the Orkneys, and he was the dearest friend of the earls his kinsmen, for they were brothers' daughters, Thora the mother of Olaf and Ingibjörg the mother of the earls. Olaf fared in the spring east to Norway, and there he was taken to be king with his (brother) Magnus.
6. Those brothers, Paul and Erlend, ruled the Orkneys a long while, and their agreement was a long time good. But when their sons began to grow up, then Hacon and Erling got to be very overbearing men, but Magnus was the quietest and best behaved of them in every way. All those kinsmen were tall and strong, and proper men in all things. Hacon, Paul's son, wished to be ruler over the sons of Erlend, because he thought himself greater by birth than they; for that he was the daughter's son of earl Hacon, Ivar's son, and Ragnhilda, the daughter of king Magnus the good, as was shown before, and Hacon would have the higher hand in all their dealings. Then it so fell out, that they could not agree peacefully together, for many men leaned towards the sons of Erlend, and would not let them bear the lower lot there in the isles; for they were better friends with all the people and more beloved of men; Hacon harboured many a grudge for this all his life long. So then there was risk with the earl's sons. Then their fathers took part in the matter with them, that they should make things up. Then a meeting was summoned; and it was soon found out that each of the earls leaned towards his sons, and they could not agree; thenceforth arose great discord between those brothers, and they parted as things stood. Then next after that men came between them to try to make peace, and then a meeting was summoned between them in Hrossey. At that meeting peace was agreed to between them on these terms, that the isles were shared into halves; then things stood so for a while. Hacon Paul's son pressed hard on those men who served Erlend and his sons, so that they thought things could not stand thus, and so it came about again that they became at variance, and marched against one another with a great force. Havard Gunni's son and other chiefs and friends of the earls then tried to bring about an atonement between them; but Erlend and his sons would not then take any terms, so that Hacon should be there in the isles. But for that their friends thought that there was much to answer for if they were at variance, then Hacon fared away out of the isles at once; and then an atonement was brought about between those brothers by the counsel of good men and true. Hacon fared first east to Norway to see king Olaf the quiet, that was toward the end of his days; there he stayed a short while. Thence he fared east to Sweden to see king Ingi Steinkel's son, and was with him some while well received. Then christianity was young in Sweden; there were many men there who went about with witchcraft, and so thought that they would become wiser as to many things which had not yet come to pass. King Ingi was a good christian, and took great pains in rooting out those bad customs which had long followed heathendom.
7. When Hacon Paul's son was in Sweden, he had heard say that there in the land was a man who went about with wisdom and spaedom, whether it were by witchcraft or other things. Hacon had a great longing to find out this man, and to know whether he could be made wise as to his future fate. Then he fared to look for that man, and found him at last in a woodland district; there he used to go about to feasts, and told the freemen about their crops and other things which they were curious to know. But when Hacon found that man, then he asked him how he might come to power or other good luck. The wizard asks him what manner of man he might be. He tells him his name and kin, that he was the daughter's son of earl Hacon Ivar's son. Then answers the wizard: "Why wilt thou get from me wisdom or sayings? Knowest thou not that those former kinsmen of thine have had little faith in such like men as I am. And it may serve thy turn that thou shouldest seek to know thy fate from Olaf the Stout, in Norway, thy kinsman, whom ye set all faith in. But I rather doubt that he would not have lowly mindedness enought to tell thee what thou art eager to know, or perhaps be not so powerful either as ye say he is." Hacon answers: "I will not blame him; I think it more likely that I may not have worthiness enough to get wisdom from him, than that he should not be able to make me wise, if he would. But this is why I have come to see thee, because it hath come into my mind that here neither of us twain will need to look down upon the other for the sake of matters of virtue or belief." That man answers: "It likes me well that I find that thou dost not think that thou hast all trust where thy kinsmen of yore had faith. Wonderful it is, too, that those men who strive after such things go about with fasts and wakes, and deem that therefore those things must be granted to them which they are eager to know. But though ye take such pains, yet are ye all the less wise the more curious ye are to know those things which it is worth your while to know; but we lay ourselves under no torments, and yet we are always wise as to those things of which our friends think it worth while to know. Now things will so go with us two that thou shalt get thyself better able to get the truth from me than from king Ingi's priestly teachers, whom he thinks he may put all trust in. Thou shalt come to me in three nights' space, and then we two will try if I can tell thee any of these things which thou art eager to know." After that they parted, and Hacon stayed there in those parts. And when three nights were gone by he fared to meet the wizard. He was then in a certain house all alone, and drew his breath heavily when he [Hacon] went in, and stroked his brow with his hand, and said it had cost him much ere he became wise of those things which he wished to know beforehand. Hacon said he was then willing to hear what he had to say. He then said: "If thou wilt know thy fate, then is it long to tell about, and about thy life; for that from thy voyage west to the Orkneys very great tidings will come to pass when everything hath been fulfilled which will follow from it. And it is my belief that thou wilt come to be sole chief over the Orkneys in the end; may be that thou wilt think it long. I trow also that thy offspring will dwell there. Thou wilt also in thy days let that wickedness be done, which thou must either make atonement for or not to that God in whom thou believest. But thy footsteps lie further out into the world than I can get to see; but still I think that thou wilt bring back thy bones here to the northern half of the world. Now have I told thee those things that I can at this time, but say thou how thou likest thy lot or errand." Hacon answers: "A great story is this thou tellest, if it be sooth; but I think it will go better with me, as it may well be that thou hast not seen all this of a truth." The spaeman bade him believe as much of it as he chose. And after that they parted. And when Hacon had been a short time with king Ingi, then he fared thence to Norway to see king Magnus barelegs his kinsman. There he learned those tidings from the Orkneys, that earl Erlend and his sons had most of the rule there, and were very much beloved, but earl Paul his father had very little share in the rule. He thought too that he made out that the Orkneyingers would long little for his coming thither west; then they had good peace, and feared, if Hacon came, that from him would arise strife and uproar; and Hacon thought it not unlikely that his kinsmen would hold the realm against him. He took that counsel to ask from his kinsman king Magnus, that he would put him into his realm in the Orkneys. Hacon egged king Magnus on much to lead a host to Scotland and Ireland, and after that to England, to avenge there king Harold Sigurd's son. The king answers: "That must thou bear in mind, Hacon, if I do this for the sake of thy words, to fare with a host across the sea west, that it shall not take thee unawares though I bore on with a bold claim to those lands which lie there west across the main, and make there no distinction of persons." But when Hacon heard that he grew cold, and said little more about it; but king Magnus then made them call out the levies in full numbers of men and ships over all Norway.