Romsdal part II

Submitted by Caleb on Sun, 02/04/2018 - 08:16

Grey-haired Ketil heard the murmur,
Heard the whispers of his neighbours,
But said nothing, thought in silence,
And did not lead out his servants.

One day Ketil, at the feast-board
Spoke to Thorstein sitting by him
At this time the fair-haired Thorstein
Eighteen years had lived in Romsdal.

‘These days young men choose the home-hearth
Where they sit in idle feasting,
Meat and ale are all they dream of
Never honour’s daring exploits.

As a young man I won honour,
Going raiding, facing danger,
I won wealth in hard-fought duels,
Courage called me, and I followed.

You’re not great in strength or stature,
And I think your deeds and daring
Will prove small and show your spirit
Small as well – as all men see you.

You’ve no heart to follow forebears,
Vikings who in long sea journeys
Got renown and riches also,
Wrote their names with bloody sword stroke.

They won treasure, rings and armour,
Clasps of fine wrought gold and garnets;
Not for sons the wealth was gathered
But in death to lay beside them.

Greater honor to my family
Would a gap be in our lineage,
Than that there be one like Thorstein
Who knows sword-play like a woman.’

Thorstein pushed away his ale cup,
And in anger Mjoll’s son answered:
‘If incitement ever moved man
This was provocation plenty.’

Standing up, he left the mead-bench,
And he could not mask his anger
As he left his father’s feast-hall,
Hung with Ketil’s battle trophies.

One thought in his breast was beating,
Beating with the blood of anger,
One thought in the heart of Thorstein,
Hammered with his father’s taunting:

‘I would liefer lie in darkness,
Lose my life in steel-sword fighting,
Never meet the hag of old-age,
Than again hear such reviling.

Now we’ll see if I inherit
Ketil’s luck that never failed him,
If my blade will feed the eagle,
Fix a feast for forest falcon.’

Thorstein then his steed up-mounted,
Pulled his cloak so blue about him;
On that day the old tree-breaker
Flew in cold from fjord and ocean.

Then from Romsdal’s grass-capped long-house,
Stable and stabbur, he steered his stallion,
Spurred him toward the grey-cliff’s shadow,
Sought the stony path to Oppland.


Here are links to pictures of Norwegian stabburs (which are food store-houses on a farm.) They might have looked somewhat different a thousand years before these pictures, when this story took place. (In the last stanza 'stable and stabbur' should be read quickly with two accents.)…

Author's age when written


I particularly enjoyed this verse;
Thorstein then his steed up-mounted,
Pulled his cloak so blue about him;
On that day the old tree-breaker
Flew in cold from fjord and ocean.
The rhythm and rhyme really satisfied me.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

It’s funny how a well-metered verse can make you forget (or never even realize) it doesn’t rhyme. I’ve also read - and know from experience - that trochaic meter can be tricky to handle so consistently. This is an exciting series, and the pictures are a nice touch. Is this based on something, or a tale of your own making?

I'm going to follow suit and comment on the meter, because it really is very nice. As for the story, it's very interesting; I like the usage of words. It's always so satisfying to read poetry and have the meter and the descriptions all perfectly done. There's not as much distraction from the content that way.
Or perhaps there is. It depends on how you look at it. :)
All that to say, I like this a lot.

Thanks, ladies.

Hannah, glad you liked the pictures. This story is from the Icelandic "Saga of the People of Vatnsdal” which, as Icelandic Sagas tend to do, begins in Norway. It was written around 1300, but this story takes place around 875.

I was thinking about this particular story one night when I started hearing the rhythm of this poem in the names — Romsdal, Thorstein, Oppland, Jamtland etc.

I don’t think this re-telling is a redundancy though; the sagas are matter of fact in tone — add to that modern translation style and you get something very different from this. Here’s an excerpt from the translation that I read it in "It was shortly after father and son had talked together that Thorstein left the drinking on his own. His uppermost thought was to put his father’s luck to the test, and no longer to endure his taunting but to place himself at some risk. He took his horse and rode off on his own to the forest.” I like it, but around a campfire I might choose my poem.

I think the main poetic techniques I'm using are alliteration, and “kennings” like calling the wind the “tree-breaker” which is an old kenning.

Libby, I hope this continues to please.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

"Fix a feast for forest falcon" and "Stable and stabbur, he steered his stallion"...these are particularly wonderful.

"Come, travel with me in dreams far, far beyond the range of the possible and the known." ~Charles Baudelaire