Skalds were the poets of the Vikings. During the 9th and 10th centuries, they composed and performed stories in old Norse associated with the kings, nobles and heroes of Iceland and Scandinavia. The poetry recorded historical deeds they performed or eulogies after their death. A popular skald held a high status at his sponsor’s table. Some kings and nobles wrote and performed themselves.
The sagas are epic tales in prose about Viking voyages and battles that took place during the voyages and legends of heroes and saints and bishops. Many of the stories relate toIcelandand the settlement ofIceland. The tales are generally true with some embroidery. Many of the sagas were preserved by the people of Iceland.
Snorri in his History of the Norwegian Kings in relates how, early at morn, before the fatal battle of Stiklastad in 1030 AD, King Ólaf the Saint asked his skald to recite a song. Below are the last two stanzas of Exhortation of the Housecarls which he recited to the army before it went to battle with defeat and death certain:
“Here by my chieftain’s head I shall sink now, by his feet thou shalt find thee a rest.
Booty-seekers on battle field shall bear me out, the great-souled king’s gifts even the dead forget not.”
“Soon greedy eagles will gorge on our bodies, ramping ravens will rend our limbs.
to high-minded, hardy hero it is seeming dying to dwell by his king rich in deeds.”
Tomorrow, Berserkers & Bones Rita Bay