The Northern Way

The Irreparable Loss of Sons

Egil Skalla-Grimsson

A leaden weight
Lies on my tongue,
I cannot sustain
The measure of a song.
Oðinn has stolen
My heart's treasure;
I draw no succour
From the stores of my soul.

The pride of my house
Is beaten to teh ground
Like trees of the forest
Bowed before the storm.
How can a man rejoice
Who has borne to the grave
The bodies of his kin
From their earthly seats?

First I must tell
Of the death of my mother,
The loss of my father.
Breath of my praise shall
Rise from the temple
Where language lives,
Where words adorn
The structure with leaves.

Our family shield-wall
Is torn wide open;
Cruel waves broke
My father´s firm line.
How vast is the breach,
How empty is the place
Where the sea entered
And snatched away my son.

Ran the fierce sea-goddess
Has ravaged my land,
All those I loved
She seized as her spoils.
Broken are the bonds
That held us together,
The links I held firmly
Between my hands.
The pillaging sea
Has robbed me of my riches.
Hard it is to speak of
The loss of my kin.
He who was our shield
Has left us defenseless,
Lost to our sight
On the distant roads of death.

No shred of bad faith,
No falsity ever
Would have grown in my son -
I know that well,
If the young wood
Of his shield had hardened;
If he had not fallen
To the barbarous armies.

For him my word was law:
He stood by his father
Though all the people
Might hold a different view.
More than any other
He would sustain me;
He was ever
A stronghold sure.
What other comrade
Shall I find faithful
To stand at my side
In my hour of need?
When among traitors
My friends melt away
And I must flee, who then
Will cover my retreat?
What can make amends
For the loss of a son?
What compensation
Pays for such a death?
How could I beget
Another such boy
Who should be held
The equal of his brother?

I take no pleasure
In the company of men:
Though they are peacemakers,
Still I avoid them.
For now my son reaches
The god´s dark palace;
Now my wife´s darling
Has gone to join his kin.
The fire of a fever
Has burned up my son,
Hatefully ravished
Away from our world.
Wise, he´s free forever
From threat of shame,
Never can touch him
The taint of disgrace.
To Oðinn, chief among gods
And friend of Mimir,
Henceforth I´ll offer
No willing sacrifice,
Though he - I won it freely -
Gave for what I suffer
As recompense, a gift
I hold as unequalled.

He - the wolf´s enemy,
Veteran of battles -
He gave this matchless
Gift, which is my art.
And with it, a nature,
Bane of my enemies
That drives me to root out
Their treacherous frauds.

Now all goes hard for me.
I see Hel, the goddess,
Foe to duplicity,
Waiting on the headland.
Nevertheless, joyfully,
With a jocund will
And a heart that fears nothing,
I await my death.

© 2000 Hringari Oðinssen

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