The Biting Message by Jórunn Skáldmær

Red with blood of wretches
were royal prince’s weapons.
Hirdmen angered Haraldr.
Houses fell a-flaming.

O Hálfdan, Haraldr heard
of hard deeds, did Fairhair;
dastardly seemed your doings,
and dark, to kingly swordsman.

Highborn king of heroes,
his heart was stirred to action
when magnifiers of murder
dared mark their swords with bloodshed.
What more farflung fame
can be found among us
than bestowed by two bold princes
upon hearing hawk-eyed Gutþormr?

Hard-hearted kings repented.
Sindri’s skillful skaldcraft
softened stern dissension.

Strong ode from ring-destroyer
strife stopped for Haraldr.
Good pay from goodly king
Gutþormr got for skaldship.
Pair of lordly princes
poet moved to peacemake.
Spearmen planned for sword-storm;
saved they were from slaughter.

From: Anderson, Sarah M. and Swenson, Karen (eds.), Cold Counsel: Women in Old Norse Literature and Mythology, 2002, Routledge: New York and London, pp. 264-265.

Date: 10th century (original in Old Norse); 2002 (translation in English)

By: Jórunn Skáldmær (10th century)

Translated by: Sandra Ballif Straubhaar (19??- )

Note: This poem, thought to be the only surviving fragments of a longer work, refers to a conflict between Haraldr (known as Fine/Fairhair) (850-933), the first king of Norway, and his son, Hálfdan (known as the Black). Hirdmen acted as the personal guards of Viking nobility. Gutþormr Sindri was a noted court poet (a skald). Jórunn Skáldmær is notable for being one of the few known women skalds (skáldmær translates as skald/poet maiden).

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