Obrazy na stronie

taste and feeling, and a soul which, in better times, would have been capable of great things, in arts as well as in arms; but along with all those noble gifts he showed a tyrant's temper, in that he was fickle, hasty, and overbearing ; none could tell how long he would be of the same mind, and, while basking in the sunshine of his favour, none knew how soon his smile would turn into a frown.

Such was the man whom Providence had pitted against the great Norwegian chiefs, who at one and the same time were vassals of the Crown. They were a formidable array, even if taken chief by chief, and vassal by vassal; but there had also happened what will ever happen in such a state of things, all these chiefs were more or less bound together by ties of kinship or marriage, and a blow struck at one branch of the tree shook all the rest. Harold's difficulty was the same as that which met and overthrew King Olaf. He had to fight against the same local and personal interests with the old enemy with the old face; but he had one advantage which the Saint had not, while the heads of these great houses clung to the old system, a younger generation was springing up who felt that Norway was a whole, and not a mere gathering together of parts and provinces. The old system might be said to have held together the several atoms of the State by frost, which melted before any hot trial like that of Canute's invasion, and each atom was left to itself. Saint Olaf's system, as worked out by Harold, aimed at welding all the atoms together by repeated blows given by the strong arm of the crown, and when Harold died he left Norway quite annealed and amalgamated; one kingdom, and not a mere congeries of provinces. But besides this advantage arising out of the awaking of national consciousness, he had another in his personal power and craft. He had the end in view, and in his policy the means were hallowed by the end.

We have seen 1 First and foremost of these was Einar Paunchshaker, of whom we have so often heard. He was strong in the Drontheim district, and his wife, Bergliot, was sprung from the great Earl Hacon, so that their son Eindridi might boast of princely blood. Another great chief was the only earl in Norway Orm Eilif's son, of the Uplands, side by side with whom stood his kinsman, the young, fair, and gallant Hacon Ivar's son, whose father was the grandson of the same Earl Hacon. In Ringerike was Step-Thorir, the mightiest man in Gudbrands. dale. In the south-west was Aslak ; in the Sognefirth Brynjolf, Helgi's

In the north-west was the great House of the Arnmodlings. Eystein Orri or the Gorcock, at Giske, and Finn Arni's son, brother of that mighty Kalf, who fled from Norway at the reproaches of Magnus. He lived at Austratt on Yrje, at the mouth of the Drontheim Firth. In Helgeland to the north, in the strip of land between the skerries and the Fells, Einar the Fly of Thjotta, had rule. He was Harold's vassal or lendirman, and early in the reign is named as having the wardship of the Finnskatt or fur trade.


Harold's Second Marriage.


that he was already wedded to Elizabeth. She had borne him two daughters, Maria and Ingigerd, but no son. It does not appear that Harold was ever separated from Jaroslav's daughter, and we know that she was with him at his end; but however that may be, it does appear that he strove to break up the compact array of the great chiefs by marrying a kinswoman of the mightiest of them. He turned his eyes therefore on Thora Eystein Gorcock's sister, and so became still more closely related to the Arnmodlings. This step left him with two wives on his hands, for it is certain that he was formally married to Thora, who is constantly called Queen in the Sagas, while Elizabeth is never mentioned except at the beginning and end of his reign. But two wives or one this marriage was a most politic step, for the Arnmodlings were widely connected, and by this single stroke not only Eystein Gorcock, but also Finn Arni's son, Hacon Ivar's son, and Einar the Fly, were brought over to Harold's party, for a time at least, and the stiff-necked Einar Paunchshaker, Step-Thorir, and some other Upland chiefs were his only enemies. Einar was strong, as we know, about Drontheim the old heart and capital of the country; and now as a set-off and balance to his weight, Harold made his trusty friend and old brother-in-arms, Ulf Ospak's son from Iceland, a vassal of the crown, and gave him great fiefs in the Drontheim district. At the same time he made him his marshal or master of the horse, and to crown all gave him Thora's sister Jorunna to wife, and Ulf by his faithfulness well deserved this good treatment. So Harold began his reign strong in himself and in his second marriage. Of yielding an inch to the unruliness of the freemen there could be no question. All that had been left by Magnus of the Danish imposts and injustice hè rigidly maintained, and even added to. No king before or after him ever stood so stiffly for his rights, or so systematically neglected those of others. Einar, so long as he lived, often upbraided him for breaking the law, but the king, strong in his policy of setting chief against chief, turned a deaf ear to his reproaches, or if he gave way for a moment, it was only to return to his purpose with firmer will and greater force. Nor did he scorn, in his eagerness to add to his resources, to bring in a very common medieval financial operation. He struck coin so debased that scarce one half of it was silver, the rest being copper. These, almost the first coins in Norway, were known as Harold's bits. And now arined at all points, he made ready to fight it out with Sweyn.

This war with Sweyn lasted nearly twenty years, and we see at once why it lasted so long. Harold was never, as Magnus had been, chosen king by the Danes, who had now, for the most part, rallied round Sweyn, and who looked upon Harold VOL. XL.--NO. LXXIX.


as a merciless usurper. Nor did Harold make war as a conqueror, but rather as an old Viking rover. Every year he called out his hosts, manned his fleet, and sailed for Denmark; there he harried and wasted the coasts and islands, burning, slaying, and plundering as he went, but seldom going up the country in force. So it was every year so long as the summer lasted. He spent his time in seeking for Sweyn, and sometimes met him, but as soon as winter came, he went back to Norway. He had too much to do at home to render it possible for him to leave the land for a longer time, and every winter Sweyn repaired his losses, and was ready when the spring came to make war with renewed life. Nor, though success was mostly on Harold's side, was he always successful. More than once he was nearly caught by Sweyn at great disadvantage, and only got clear off by extraordinary shifts and efforts. A war so waged might have lasted for ever and ever.

Harold's stubborn nature was worn out at last, and he made peace with Sweyn. Nor was his fleet so large as those of the beloved Magnus. The freemen, headed by Einar, were not so willing to stand by him as they had been with their lost darling. Nor must we forget that Harold's policy at home tended to strengthen his foes abroad. Chief after chief fell or fled before him in Norway; but those who fled betook themselves to Sweyn, who welcomed them with open arms, and the friends and kinsmen of those who fell were not slow in following this example. So that Harold's successful efforts to strengthen the Crown in Norway, raised ever and anon new recruits for Sweyn, whose ranks were filled, and whose hosts were led by Norwegian exiles.

In the campaign of 1048, Harold took vengeance on his bitter enemy, Thorkell Geysa, whose daughters the winter before had mocked at Harold and his power, for they had carved anchors out of cheese, and said they were strong enough to hold Harold's fleet if he dared to show his face in Denmark. Now Harold steered straight for the firth at Randers in South Jutland. No long way from the strand lay Thorkell's house ; he was away from home, but his sharp-tongued daughters would not listen to the warning words

of the warder as he saw the hostile fleet far off upon the sea.

It was only when they were told it was running up the firth that they would believe their eyes. Then it was too late to fly, and when the warder asked them : “What say ye now, ye daughters of Geysi ? does Harold dare to come to Denmark or no ?” all they could answer was: “'Twas yesterday we said that.” Harold's men were at the gate. “Now let us show," he said, “Geysi's daughters that our anchors are not of cheese but of stouter stuff.” A ring of men was thrown round the house, and Harold bade

War with Sweyn and Feud with Einar.


them fire it. As it began to blaze the maidens begged to be allowed to leave it, and Harold said though they well deserved to burn along with it, still he was willing to see how Norse fetters would fit Danish legs. So they were driven down to the beach in chains. As soon as Thorkell heard what had happened he hastened to Harold, who being then in a good temper allowed him to ransom his daughters at a heavy price. That same summer Harold defeated Sweyn's fleet at Thiolarness, not far from Viborg, and when winter drew near after some other operations sailed north for Drontheim. The grudge between him and Einar's party had only slumbered during the summer to break out with fresh force in winter. Harold, who was always at work, had his hands full with building at Drontheim, where a new church in honour of the Virgin Mary was rising, but with his hands busy his mind was full of forethought and care for the behaviour of his foes. His hand was heavy on the freemen, and Einar was their champion. To such a length did their feud go, that Einar's houses both when at home in the country or in the town were filled with a little army of men. He had eight or nine war-ships, and about 600 warriors always with him. At the head of such a company he rescued a thief whom the king had ordered to be hanged, merely because the culprit had once had shelter under his roof and found favour in his eyes. On another occasion they had a worse quarrel. It happened once, as it often happened, says the Saga, that a ship came to Drontheim district and ran up to Nidaros. It was a ship from Iceland, and aboard was an Icelander of little goods. He had the watch by night on their ship, and when men were all fast asleep, he saw two men go stealthily up a hill hard by with spades and mattocks, and they fell a digging, and he knew they were seeking for hidden money. So he left the ship and came on them unawares, and he saw they had dug up a chest full of money. So he spoke to the man who was their chief, and whose name was Thorfinn,“ How much wilt thou give me to keep your secret as to finding this money ?” “How much dost thou ask ?” says Thorfinn.“No more than three marks weighed, but ever I am in need of inoney then thou shalt give me as much more.” Thorfinn agreed to these terms, and weighed him down the three marks, but when they opened the chest, there on the top close up lay a big ring and a heavy necklace. The Icelander saw runes scored on the chest, and the writing said that Earl Hacon had owned those goods. So they parted after that. The Icelander went back to his ship, but Thorfinn became a very wealthy man in a very short time. Then he was called Thorfinn the Chapman, for he had money out in almost every voyage and venture, and he dressed

himself most gorgeously in clothes, and got to be a famous man. But the Icelander was unlucky and lost all his goods, and so some summers after he went to see Thorfinn, and begged him to give him some money, but he made as though he knew him not, and said he had no claim to any money from him. Then the Icelander went to Einar Paunchshaker, and bade him for his countenance, and said he was without a penny, as was quite true. He meant to repay him for his kindness by telling him of the treasure-trove, for he thought it only right that Earl Hacon's heirs should have the money if they got their rights. But time went on, and he did not tell, and it slipped out of his mind, but he stayed with Einar that winter. But when summer began, and men were getting ready for their journeys, Einar asked what plans the Icelander had. He said he scarce knew what was best to do. He was without a penny in the world, but what he should like best would be to fare to Iceland. “That's best, after all," said Einar; "I will give thee food to last out the voyage, and, beside, a chest full of wares ; 'tis but little goods, but yet with them thou mayest buy thyself some needful things." So the Icelander thanked him for his kindness and went away, but he still said never a word about the treasure. He went down to Niđarós, and tarried there, and took a passage to Iceland. King Harold was then in the town, and one day when men came out of church the king said, “ Who is yon lordly-dressed man who is walking along the street ?" They told him it was Thorfinn the Chapman. Then the king went on : "Many strange things come about, and not the least wonderful is how such men get together such great wealth in so short a time, and are as rich as Jews in few years, though before they were well-nigh beggars.” So the king sent after him, and bade him come and see him; and when he came, the king asked whence all that money came which he had got together in a little while. He was loath to say, and made this and that excuse how he had saved it in trading voyages ; first of all by lending and borrowing, and from partnership with other men ; but at last the end was that he had to tell the truth. But when the king heard that, he made them take all his goods and money from Thorfinn, which he had with him, and which he had out at venture alike, and confiscated it to himself, and after all he said, he treated Thorfinn better than he was worth, in that he was neither slain nor hanged on a tree. A little money the king left him, and so Thorfinn went away out of the land. Now it came into the Icelander's mind that he had held his peace rather too long as to the finding of the treasure, but still he

went and found Einar, and told him the whole story. Then : Einar said, “ This matter would have taken a better turn

« PoprzedniaDalej »