A Drapa for Sigurd Syr

In a book I wrote, but never properly edited or published, there was a poet who wrote a drapa for the father of Harald Hardrada. Hardrada, at least, you will recognize from Wolf Time. That makes this week a good time to publish the poem in his father's honor. Unlike Hardrada, the Thunderbolt of the North, his father Sigurd Syr was a very peaceful man. It was difficult to praise such a man, in the old way; here is an imagined mode for doing so.

The references will be clearer if you have read the Heimskringla.  If you have not, the poem is probably impossibly opaque.  The second half of the drapa should nevertheless be clear enough.
Rare the good king not a killer,
wise sleeper in his stronghold.
Ox-slain Egil Yngling
the Thing-thrall put to fleeing:
A dead king never dreaded.
When Old Starkad came to Sweden
Haki then Hugleik's land claimed. --
Where now is the hall-holder...

Aun, always the weak-slayer,
his sired he'd Odhinn offer;
He ran before Upsala's chieftain.
But Yngvar's son, Anund the Breaker,
Took the war-shield only
slaying his father's slayer.
Rare few are remembered wiser --
...the kingdom-ruler of wisdom?

One remembered is Sigurd
stepfather to the Digre,
father of the Hardrada,
Old lord of the northhold.
Shade from his hat, that broad-brim,
we remember as rain without thunder. --
Where now is the hall-holder...

Nothing with him dragons wanted,
Nor warriors who disdained golden
Grain. Loved him thrall and bonder:
He cared for cattle, but battle
He found empty of the glory
That forever draws the fighter.
No man’s thralls were freer. --
The kingdom-ruler of wisdom.


Lars Walker said...

I like it. I wonder how peaceful his life was, in fact, though. He certainly went to war to support his stepson Olaf, and gave him good strategic advice that he didn't always follow.

Grim said...

You're right, of course, that he was probably not as peaceful as that -- it would have been hard to be, at that time. Your book gives readers a good sense of the state of Norway in those days.

I also wonder if, had someone really composed such a poem in that era, it wouldn't have been regarded as an insult.