Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
12. Earl Hacon and his men ran up on the island in the morning, and first to the
church, and sought for earl Magnus and could not find him there. Then they looked
for him about the island. But when earl Magnus saw where they went, he called
out to them and said "Here I am." And when Hacon saw that, they ran
thither. Then he said, "Thou didst not well kinsmen when thou wentest back
on thy oaths; but I trow thou didst this more from others badness than thine own.
Now I will offer thee three choices. This is the first, that I will fare away
from the land to Rome, or all the way to Jerusalem, and seek holy places, and
have two ships and what we need, and so I will make amends for the soul of each
of us. I will also swear never to come back to the Orkneys while I live."
But Hacon refused this. Then earl Magnus said, "Now for that my life is in
your hand, and because I know that I have done many things against God's will,
and so need to do penance for that, and because I see it is unseemly in thee to
slay me: so send me to our friends and let me be kept close there, and two men
with me to amuse me, and see thou to that that I do not come out of their keeping
save with thy will." This earl Hacon refused quickly and his men with him,
and they found many reasons that this should not be. Then earl Magnus spoke again,
"Now there is but one thing left, and God knows that I have an eye more to
thy honour than to my health. Let me be maimed in my limbs or robbed of my eyes,
and throw me in that plight into a darksome dungeon." Earl Hacon answers,
"This agreement I accept, and I ask nothing further." Then the chiefs
sprang up and said, "We will now slay one or other of you twain, and ye two
shall not rule the land, both of you from this day forth." Then earl Hacon
answers, "If ye will be so stern in this matter, then will I far rather choose
to live and hold the realm." Thus hath spoken of their parley the man whose
name is Holdbodi, a truth telling man, who was then with earl Magnus with another
man. And this he said that earl Magnus behaved with great steadfastness of heart,
when his adversaries spoke such things as are now said, and that he spoke neither
with anger nor wrath. After that he fell to prayers, and hid his face in the palms
of his hands, and shed many tears before the face of God.
13. When earl Magnus was doomed to death, earl Hacon bade his standard-bearer, whose name was Ofeig, to hew off earl Magnus's head; then he refused that with mickle wrath. Then the earl forced his cook to do it, whose name was Lifolf; but then he began to weep with a loud voice. Then earl Magnus spoke and said, "Thou shalt not weep," says he, "that is unmanly, but it is fame to do such a deed. Be of steadfast heart, for thou shalt have my clothes and weapons, as is the custom and law of men of old time. Thou shalt not be afraid, for thou doest this against thy will, and he that forces thee to this is a greater misdoer than thou." After that he threw off his kirtle and gave it to him, and asked for leave to pray first, and that was granted him. Then he fell all his length along the earth and gave himself to God, and so offered himself up to him. And not alone prayed he for himself and his friends, but rather for his foes and murderers; and forgave them of his whole heart what they had misdone towards him, and confessed from his whole heart his misdeeds before God, and prayed they might be washed away by the out-shedding of his blood; and commended his soul into God's hand, and prayed him to send his angels to meet him, and bring it into the heavenly Paradise. But when he was led to be beheaded he said to Lifolf, "Stand thou before me and smite me on the head, for that it is not seeming to behead chieftains like thieves. Strengthen thyself, wretched man, and be not afraid, for I prayed God that he would have mercy on thee." After that he signed himself with the cross, and bowed him under the stroke, and was smitten in mid forehead with a single blow, and passed so from the world to God. That spot where earl Magnus was smitten was stony and mossy. But a little while after his worthiness before God was made bright, so that there was a fair field, and he won the fairness and greenness of Paradise, which is called the land of living men. There was afterwards built a church. Earl Hacon would not give leave that the body of earl Magnus should be carried to a church.
14. Learned men say that about spring in Lent, after the agreement in Hrossey, Thora, the mother of earl Magnus had bidden both earls to a feast as they came from Egelsha after the meeting. But after the death of earl Magnus earl Hacon went to the feast on the day fixed. Thora went herself to wait on the earl. And when drink began to take hold on him, then went Thora before him and said, "Now art thou come hither alone, but I looked for you both. Thou wilt now be willing to gladden me before the eyes of God and man; and be now to me instead of a son, but I will be to thee instead of a mother. I stand much in need of thy pity, by God's help, that thou wouldst suffer me that my son be brought to church. Be now with me so in my prayer as ye wish God to listen to you at doomsday." The earl held his peace and thought over his share in this business, and was now touched by those shocking deeds which weighed on him. Then he looked towards her and shed tears and said, "Bury thy son where thou likest." After that earl Magnus was borne and buried in Christchurch in Birsay, in that church where earl Thorfinn had caused to be built.
15. Soon after that a heavenly light was often seen at nights over the grave of earl Magnus. Later, men took to vowing to him in their needs, if they were placed in peril, and their business was granted as they asked. About the same time a heavenly fragrance was perceived over his grave, and thence men got back their health. Next after that men fared from Shetland and the Orkneys, who were past cure and watched at his tomb, and got healing for their hurts. But for all that men dared not make much stir about this so long as earl Hacon lived. It is so said that those men who were the greatest traitors against earl Magnus died most of them by ill and awful deaths. At this time William was bishop in the Orkneys. The bishop's see was then at Christchurch in Birsay, where earl Magnus the saint was buried. He doubted long about his holiness and kept down this new thing before the people.
16. After the death of earl Magnus, Hacon took the whole realm under himself. Then he made all men come and take an oath to be faithful to him who had before served earl Magnus. Then he became a great chieftain. He laid heavy burdens on those men whom he thought had been most against him in the quarrels of those kinsfolk. Some winters after he fared away out of the land to Rome, and there he got absolution of his case from the Pope. In that journey he fared out to Jerusalem, and sought the halidoms, and bathed in the river Jordan, as is palmers' wont. After that he came home to his realm. Then he became a good ruler and kept his realm well at peace. Then he laid down new laws, and with such things his friendships began to grow. Then it came about that the Orkneyingers cared for nothing else than to have earl Hacon as a chief over them, and his offspring after him. Bergfinn Starri's son [In the Orkn. Saga he is called Skati's son.] was the name of a freeman from the north in Shetland. He was sightless and fared south to the Orkneys and watched at the tomb of earl Magnus the saint. Along with him watched two men, one's name was Sigurd and the other's Thorbjorn, they were both cripples. Earl Magnus the saint appeared to them all and made them quite cured. Again twenty-four men watched at earl Magnus' tomb and all got healing for their hurts. Many men spoke of this before bishop William and egged him on to speak about it to Paul Hacon's son who then ruled over the isles after his father, and to ask him to give leave that the halidom (the relics) of earl Magnus might be taken up out of the earth; but the bishop took that heavily. Ofttimes was he reminded in dreams that he should come to a clear understanding as to the earl's holiness and yet he would not believe in it. After that it so came about that he was forced by divine chastisements to honour the tokens and holiness of earl Magnus.
17. It befell one summer that bishop William sailed east to Norway on some needful business and back again at once in the autumn, and about the first winter night he came to Shetland. Then foul winds came on and storms. But when for a long while in the winter there was no fair wind for the isles, then the bishop was in doubt whether he should get back to his see before spring. The captain asked whether he would agree to the holiness of earl Magnus if he sang mass the next Lord's day at home. The bishop gave his consent to this so to speak, but more because of his need than as a free vow. But when this was agreed, then the weather changed and a steady fair wind soon sprang up. And after that they sailed for the Orkneys and he got home before the next Lord's day, and all praised God and his holy martyr earl Magnus. Some men prove it as a truth that bishop William would not consent to take the halidom of earl Magnus out of the earth before this token happened there at home on day, that he could not walk out of the church. For he had become blind, and could not find the door until he repented him of his unbelief, and wept mightily and prayed God that he might find the tomb of earl Magnus. And when he came thither he fell down flat on the earth and vowed to take his halidom straightway out of the earth when he got back his sight. And when he had ended his prayer he got his eyesight again there at the tomb.
18. After that he gathered the wisest men together and the best born in the Orkneys and then a mighty crowd came to Christchurch in Birsay. Then the halidom of earl Magnus was taken out of the earth, and then the bones were already almost come out of the ground. He caused the bones to be washed and take a joint and tried it in hallowed fire thrice. But it burnt not, but rather became as silver purified in the fire. It it is the saying of some men, that it melted and ran into the shape of a cross. Then there were wrought many tokens by the halidom. After that learned clerks took the halidom and laid it in a shrine, and set it over the altar. That was on Lucia's mass before Yule, and then there had passed twenty years from the death of earl Magnus. The day of his death is kept in the spring on the xvi. of the kalends of May. Bishop William then bade them keep holy both days all over his bishoprick; and ever after he was in great love towards earl Magnus the saint. William was the first bishop in the Orkneys, and ruled the see sixty-six years. [He died in 1168. Cf. Isl. Ann. s.a.] Gunni was the name of a trustworthy yeoman in Westray. He dreamt that earl Magnus the saint came to him and said, "This shalt thou say to bishop William, that I will fare away out of Birsay east to Kirkwall, and I know that God will there grant me of his mercy that they shall become healed of their ailments who seek to meet me with true faith. Thou shalt tell thy dream boldly." But when he woke up, he dared not tell his dream, because he feared the wrath of earl Paul. The next night after earl Magnus appeared to him and bade him tell the dream when most men were by. "But if thou dost not so then shalt thou bring punishment on thyself in this world and more in the next world." And when he woke up he was full of fear; and fared to Hrossey to see the bishop, and tells the dream at the bishop's mass in a mighty crowd of men. Earl Paul was there then, and all the people bade the bishop to bear the halidom to Kirkwall, as earl Magnus had revealed. But earl Paul stood silent by, and turned as red as blood. After that bishop William fared east to Kirkwall with a worthy company and brought thither the halidom of earl Magnus. The shrine was set over the altar in the church that is there. The market town at Kirkwall had then few houses, but it has since spread out much. Thither after that fared many men and watched there in the church at the halidom and got cure for their ailments if they vowed to earl Magnus with true faith. Then fared Bergfin the second time from Shetland with his leprous son, and they watched at the halidom. Then Bergfinn gave much money to earl Magnus the saint. And on the third night of watching he showed himself to both father and son in their sleep and stroked the body of Halfdan the son, and gave him back his health. Bergfinn thought also that he put his hands on his eyes and said, "Thou shalt get thy sight again such as it was when thou wast most sharp-sighted, for thou has fared now hither in true faith and gavest much fee hither to God's glory, and didst not doubt of my holiness." Bergfinn was then a sharp-sighted man when he awoke. Thord Dragon-beak is a man's name, he was the hireling of Bergfinn the yeoman. He thrashed corn in the barn the next day before Magnus-mass in the winter, but as the day changed colour at dawn, Bergfinn went out and bade him stop work. Thord answereth, "It is not often thou thinkest I work too long." Bergfinnsaid, "This mass day which comes tomorrow we are bound to keep as we can best." Then the master went away but Thord worked on as hard as ever. But in a little while the master went out again, and spoke to Thord in wrath, "It mislikes me much that thou workest now, because this day was then laid down by law when the halidom of earl Magnus was tried and laid in the shrine. Leave off straightway on the spot." But Thord still worked on. And when men had eaten and were quite full, then in came Thord in work a day clothes, and drank at once. And when he had drunk, he got so mad that they had to throw him into bonds at once, and so it went on for six days. Then Bergfinn vowed for him to give half a mark of silver to the shrine of earl Magnus, and to make Thord watch there three nights, if he might be made whole. And Thord got back his health on the self-same night that the vow was made. There was a man named Ogmund, he was a sister's son of goodman Bergfinn. A cross-tree fell on his head, and crushed the skull much, but Bergfinn vowed for him and cast lots whether he should vow a pilgrimage to Rome or to set a slave free, or money for the shrine of earl Magnus. But the lot came up to give money for the shrine, and he got back his speech at once, and fared to earl Magnus the saint, and there he became whole. But goodman Bergfinn gave half a mark of silver to the shrine as he had vowed. Amundi was the name of a man, the son of Illugi. He had the worst leprosy. He fared to earl Magnus the saint and watched and prayed for his health. The holy earl Magnus appeared to him in sleep, and passed his hands over his body and gave him his health. --------- Sigurd was a man's name. He was mad so that he was sewn up in a hide; after that he was borne to earl Magnus the saint, and there he got his health. Thorbjorn was a man's name. He lost his wife and was borne to earl Magnus, and there he took his health again. Sigurd was a man's name from Fetlar, in the north; his hand was so cramped that the fingers lay in the palm. He fared to the holy earl Magnus, and there got quite whole. ------ Sigrid was the name of a woman, the daughter of Sigurd, who was blind from childhood and till she was twenty. Her father brought her to earl Magnus, and made her watch there, and gave much money for her cure, and there she got her eyesight. ----- There was another woman whose name was also Sigrid, who broke her leg in two bits; she too was borne to earl Magnus the saint, and there she got her cure. ----- Sigrid was the name of a third woman, she was with Thorlak, who dwelt at Baltastede. She sewed when other men made holiday on the day before Magnus-mass. Thorlak asked why she worked so long, but she said she was just about to stop. He came back again and asked why she did so ill. "Go away and work no longer here." She said she had only a little bit left unsewn, and went on working as before till it was dark. But when men busked them to supper, she lost her wits; and men threw her into bonds, but Thorlak vowed for her, and lots were cast whether she should vow a pilgrimage to Rome or to set a slave free, or to give money to the shrine of earl Magnus. But the lot came up to give the money. Thorlak bore her to earl Magnus, and she got her cure there and went a pilgrimage south afterwards. Thorkell was a man's name, who dwelt in the Orkneys, he fell from his barley-stack and crushed all one side. He was brought to the holy earl Magnus and got there his cure. ---- Groa was a woman's name, she got mad and was brought to earl Magnus and got her health there, and there she stayed all her life afterwards. Two men broke off gold from the shrine of earl Magnus the saint; one was a Caithness man, but the other was a Orkneyman. The Caithness man was lost in the Pentlandfirth, and his name was Gilli; but the other went mad, and said in his raving what they had done; and then a vow was vowed for him to go a pilgrimage south if he were made whole at the shrine of earl Magnus. After that he was led thither and there he got his cure. In England, were two men who laid great sums on casting dice, and when one of them had lost much, then he staked a barge and all that he owned. But the other threw first and threw two sixes. Then he thought that all hope was over, and vowed to earl Magnus the saint, that he might not lose, and threw; but the dice broke in sunder and two sixes and an ace turned up, and so he won all and gave afterwards much goods to earl Magnus. When earl Rognvald-Kali, the sister's son of earl Magnus the saint, had come to rule in the Orkneys, and was quietly seated, then he let be marked out the groundplan to Magnus' church in Kirkwall, and got smiths for it, and that work went on both well and swiftly, and it is a noble building and well furnished. After that the halidom of earl Magnus ws brought thither, and many tokens are wrought there at his halidom. There is now also a bishop's see, which was before at Christchurch in Birsay. There was a man named Eldjarn, who was the son of Vardi; he had a wife and many children, and abode north in Kelduhverf, [A place in the north of Iceland.] but in a great dearth he became poor and feeble, so that he could not take care of himself, and at last he had so little strength that he could not walk, and was driven about from farm to farm. It fell in the spring after Easter, that he had been driven Thursday and Friday and Saturday, and had no food. At nones on Saturday he came to where a priest dwelt, and was there the night over. And next morning, when men went to matins, he begged that he might be carried to church, and that was done. After matins men went indoors between the services, but he lay outside in the place where his bed was made. He was then so strengthless, that he thought he must die there and then. It came also into his heart what his condition had been before, when he had so much goods all together; and that prayer which he prayed touched him so much that he thought much on it. Then he took and vowed six days fasting, if God would give him any health; this fast he vowed both before Olaf's-mass and Magnus-mass. When he had uttered his vow, men fared to prayers and the priest sang mass. When the epistle was read he fell asleep, but those who were by thought he must be about to die. In his slumber a vision came over him, so that he thought he saw a great light in the choir, and that came outside to him. He saw with the light a fair man and he spoke to him. "Eldjarn" quoth he "hast thou little strength now?" He thought he answered "So methinks; but so it may be that it is not so. But who art thou?" He answers "Here is the saint earl Magnus Erlend's son, wilt thou be made whole?" He answers "I will." That man answers, "The saint king Olaf heard thy prayer and that vow which thou madest to both of us for thy healing. But he sent me hither to give thee health; for a woman made a vow to him away west in the Firths, and he fared thither to make her whole." Then earl Magnus began to pass his hands over him; but he woke up when the gospel was begun. He spoke to those men who were nearest that they should raise him up. But they answered, "Why should we raise thee up when thou hast no strength in thee." He answers, "I think I am now whole." Then they took him and raised him on his feet, and he stood all through the gospel, and so on thenceforth all through the mass. After the mass he went in to the priest and tells the miracle how God had given him his health. But all praised God for those mercies which he had granted him for the worthiness of earl Magnus. May he bestow on us mercy and remission of sins, before our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, for ever and ever. Amen.