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Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Sat September 3rd, 2011, 11:36 pm

Dammit! This has turned out to be another case where I go and ruin a good story by investigating its origins (pity- I really liked that scribe trotting along behind Harald, dodging the arrows), but I just can't help it - my curiosity gets the better of me every time :(

The poems Frank McLynn referred to, and which Adam Williams made into such an entertaining tale, are actually verses from the Heimskringla. Not only are they set just before the battle was joined at Stamford Bridge, rather than during the actual battle itself, but odds are that Harald never in fact made them up himself (just as well, as I would have suggested he stick to his day job - lopping off heads, amassing booty etc :) ). These verses are more likely to have been added to the chronicle as a way of illustrating the calm, insouciant resolution with which Harald Hardrada faced his fate, in a manner befitting a legendary Viking warrior. I guess the words, "It is said that...", are the giveaway. Another reminder not to take contemporary-ish historical chronicles too literally.

The verses from the Heimskringla

"It is said that Harald made these verses at this time: --

"Advance! advance!
No helmets glance,
But blue swords play
In our array.
Advance! advance!
No mail-coats glance,
But hearts are here
That ne'er knew fear."

His coat of mail was called Emma; and it was so long that it reached almost to the middle of his leg, and so strong that no weapon ever pierced it. Then said King Harald Sigurdson, "These verses are but ill composed; I must try to make better;" and he composed the following: --

"In battle storm we seek no lee,
With skulking head, and bending knee,
Behind the hollow shield.
With eye and hand we fend the head;
Courage and skill stand in the stead
Of panzer, helm, and shield,
In hild's bloody field."

I did learn something new, though - the word "panzer" originally just meant "armour".
Last edited by annis on Sun September 4th, 2011, 12:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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