The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

THE BALLAD OF Ragnar       141

They hoisted up their silken sail
Before the wind to run,
And they heard the Dragon roaring
Ere half the way was done.
They heard the Dragon roaring
Or ever they came ashore;
But Ragnar bade his merry men
The foaming mead to pour.
" Now ward ye well my gallant ship,
And let your hearts be gay,
The while I wend this guest unkenned,
This land-fish foul, to slay! "
" Now nay, now nay, to follow thee
Thy merry men all are boun;
" Tis more than one man's work, I trow,
To strike the Dragon down! "
      ·       ·       ·
Oh; the Serpent slept in the grass-grown garth,
And fearsome and foul was he;
Long stood the King, a-marvelling,
That monstrous sight to see.
" Awake, awake, thou fierce Fire-drake,
Shalt reckon anon with me!
Fair Tora Borgarhjort shall learn
How little I reck of thee. "


" Who dares from dream to waken me
Must needs be bold of mood,
Yet he who fain that maid would wed
Hath greater hardihood! "
E'en yet the stroke that Ragnar struck
Do men account a wonder!
With mighty strength, in midmost length,
He hewed the Worm asunder.
Never, I wis, did warrior
More valiant victory win;
He tore away his spear-shaft,
But the head remained within.
Now he has doffed his base attire,
And donned the linen white,
While the maidens, all a-marvelling,
Gazed on that seemly sight.
Now he has donned the linen white
With the scarlet over all;
Never so gay a gallant
Was seen in kingly hall!
The maidens stand in the glass-window,
And pour the foaming mead,
But Ragnar the King to their wassailing (1)
He payeth but little heed.

1. wassail = celebrate noisily

THE BALLAD OF Ragnar       143

The maidens stand in the glass-window,
And pour the wine so red,
But down to his ship by the salt sea-shore
In haste hath Ragnar fled.
      ·       ·       ·
(1) He toiled, the thrall, till evenfall,
And prayed for rest in vain,
Ere since he saw at the mirk midnight
Where the loathly Worm lay slain.
He toiled, poor wight, from morn till night,
Wearied in every limb,
Yet scarce could brook his flesh should touch. (2)
That ghastly corse and grim.
So far did stretch the luckless wretch,
His belt asunder brast,
Till his fingers feel the point of steel
That sticketh firm and fast.
Then straightway Ragnar's spear-point
Unto the King he bore:
" 'Twas I that slew the Dragon,
And saved thee from peril sore! "
Adown before the high-seat
He hurled the broken spear:
" Now I that slew the Dragon
Shall wed thy daughter dear! "
      ·       ·       ·

1. This episode of the thrall trying to take credit for the slaying of the dragon is a peculiarity.
2. brook = endure, tolerate


Red shone the early morning
On moor and billowy main,
When Tora went in with the sunbeams
To greet her parents twain.
" Now maiden, take it not amiss
That I wed thee with a thrall!
To him that slew the Worm is due
The fairest prize of all. "
" Oh trust him not, oh trust him not,
So foully hath he lied!
Faster than all he fled, I ween,
Whenas the Dragon died.
" The warrior brave that thrust the glaive,
Goodsooth, no thrall was he,
But like the son of a mighty king
That ruleth some far countrie. "
      ·       ·       ·
The King doth call his counsel all,
And none shall say him nay;
His house must drink the blithe bridale
All on the self-same day.
The board was spread, the wine was red,
Was none that dared repine; (1)
By hundreds twelve the guests were bidden
From castles nine and nine.
      ·       ·       ·

1. repine = express discontent

THE BALLAD OF Ragnar       145

Now two-score dishes of silver fair
Are set upon the board,
With cups of silver like to them,
Worthy a monarch's hoard.
In he came, the little page,
To tell them tidings new:
" Behold a ship that skims the
Sound With sails o' the gold and blue! "
Up spake Tora Borgarhjort, (1)
And these were the words she said:
" Who sails the sea, that man is he
My weird would have me wed! "
Oh, he hath brought his gallant ship
So fairly in to land,
And cast therewith his anchor
All on the snow-white sand.
Softly the foam was seething,
All on the snow-white sand,
And it was brave King Ragnar
That first set foot on land.
Bold, I ween, was that warrior!
He entered in the hall:
" The weird is mine, fair Tora
To wed despite ye all! "

1. Borgarhjor = borghart

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