Norse - Fiórir Jƒkull’s poem
Type of spiritual experience
As quoted in WHAT WAS VIKING POETRY FOR? By ANTHONY FAULKES PROFESSOR OF OLD ICELANDIC at the Inaugural lecture delivered on 27th April 1993 in the University of Birmingham
This short poem …. is reported, by an eyewitness, to have been spoken by one fiórir jƒkull (the surname seems to mean ‘Ice’) just before he died on the evening of 21st August 1238. He had been engaged in a battle of a kind that had become widespread in thirteenth-century Iceland, which was part of the continuing struggle for internal power that characterised the turbulent period in Iceland’s history now known as the Sturlung Age. It was the Battle of ¯rlygssta›ir, between two substantial groups of men. Large numbers had already been killed; many of those remaining alive who had sought sanctuary in the local church had been granted quarter, but there remained six in the church who had not been, and among these was fiórir jƒkull (these events took place in the fully Christian Iceland of the early thirteenth century).
When the calls of nature became irresistible, those inside the church, unwilling to desecrate it by performing natural functions inside, requested permission to go and perform them outside. Permission was granted. When they emerged, towards evening, they were apprehended and executed one by one. When his turn came, fiórir jƒkull recited his poem, and then they cut off his head
A description of the experience
Fiórir Jƒkull’s poem
Upp skaltu á kjƒl klífa,
kƒld er sævar drífa;
kosta›u hug flinn her›a,
hér skaltu lífit ver›a.
Skafl beygjattu skalli
flótt skúr á flik falli.
Ást haf›ir flú meyja;
eitt sinn skal hverr deyja.
You must climb up on to the keel,
cold is the sea-spray’s feel;
let not your courage bend:
here your life must end.
Old man, keep your upper lip firm
though your head be bowed by the storm.
You have had girls’ love in the past;
death comes to all at last.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: John Bryant