Olav Trygvasson

Eric notes that Osprey Publishing is offering a limited edition of Angus McBride's print. Some of you may be interested:

The painting depicts the last moments of the battle aboard the Long Serpent, after the breaking of Einar Tambarskelver's bow, but before the King gives way and leaps overboard to his death. When Einar's bow broke, it made so loud a crack above the din of the fight that the king cried to him, "What burst there so loudly?" Einar answered: "Norway, king, from thy hand." The king broke out fresh swords from his sea chest before the final fight, but as he passed them out his men saw that blood was running down his arm.

Across the aft thwarts,
Olav's men must yield;
The hard-striking prince
Urged on his heated carls.
When warriors had locked
The bold king's ship-ways
The path of weapons
Turned against the Vendslayer.
There are many good poems surviving about Olav (also romanized "Olaf"). Most of them originate in his own court skalds. Here is one that has been anglicized in form -- the Old Norse poems do not rhyme, but alliterate.
Olaf's broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.
The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife's horses'1 prey.
She rides by night: at pools of blood.
Where Frisland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings lie.
The raven-friend in Odin's dress --
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel.
Not all of them do, however! One of the finest poems in Old English considers him. Olav Trygvasson was the Viking leader of the expedition that led to the Battle of Maldon.

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