- Project Runeberg -  The History of the Swedes /

(1845) Author: Erik Gustaf Geijer Translator: John Hall Turner
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Full resolution (JPEG) - On this page / på denna sida - III. Establishment of Christianity. Contests of the Swedes and Goths for Supremacy. A.D. 800—1250

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sanguinary cruelty in England, where the long
continued ravages of the Danes had at last led to the
subjugation of the country, was little consonant
with such a purpose. He maintained, however,
a good understanding with the Swedes, of whom
several are mentioned as taking part in the wars
of England. When Swen’s son Canute undertook
his first expedition to England, Olave the lap-king
was his ally, and foreign chronicles speak of a
Swedish king who accompanied Canute, although
his name is unknown to our domestic records [1].

Hostilities with Norway, on the other hand, of
long duration, embittered Olave’s life and reign.
Olave Haraldson, afterwards so well known under
the name of the Saint, a descendant of Harald the
Fair-haired, had like northern princes in general
passed his youth in piratical expeditions. In the
course of his career as a sea-rover he was led to
Sweden; and on one occasion, being blockaded by
Olave the lap-king in the Mälar lake, he is said to
have made his escape by excavating a new channel
to the sea. After sharing in the English wars he
returned to his country, drew together a party,
assumed royalty, and put an end to the domination
of the Swedes and Danes in Norway. Olave of
Sweden, too proud to yield, yet took no measures
to secure his own frontiers, and the discontent of
the people, roused by this negligence, at length
broke out at the general diet in Upsala, where
Norwegian envoys were in attendance under the escort
of Ragwald, earl of the West Goths, to solicit
peace and obtain a bride for the king of Norway at
the Swedish court. We follow the chronicles of
Sturleson in our relation of the event.

In Sweden, says Snorro, it was the custom of
the land in the heathen times, that the great
sacrifice should be held at Upsala in the
horning-month (February) [2]. This is the Ting, or great
court of all the Swedes, when they sacrifice by
their king for peace and victory, and it is likewise
a fair and time of traffic. But after Christianity
had come into Sweden, and the kings removed
their seat from Upsala, a Ting and fair were still
held there at Candlemas. The dominion of the
Swedes embraces many provinces, and every one
has its own court and its own law in many
chapters, and every law has its judge (lagman), the
chief among the yeomen. He answers for all,
when the king, the earl, or the bishop holds a diet
with the people; him they all follow, so that the
great ones hardly dare to betake themselves to the
court without the consent of the judge and the
peasants. The chief justicer in Sweden is the lagman
of Tiundaland; he was now called Thorgny; a
name which, as well as the office itself, had long
remained in his family. He was reckoned the
wisest man in Sweden, and was foster-father of
earl Ragwald, wherefore the earl first repaired to
him with the Norse envoys. They came to his
estate, on which were large and pleasant mansions.
In the chamber sat an old man on the high seat,
whose like for tallness they had never seen; his
beard reached down so far that it lay on his knees.
This was Thorgny: the earl stepped before him
and greeted him, was well entertained, and after a
while mentioned the business on which he and the
envoys had come, at the same time expressing their
fears lest the king should receive them ungraciously,
seeing that Olave the lap-king would never hear
Olave the Norseman spoken of. Thorgny answered,
“Strangely ye comport yourselves, ye that
bear the Tignar name. Wherefore didst thou not
bethink thee ere thou camest on this journey, that
thou wert not strong enough to speak to our king
Olave? To me therefore it seemeth not less
honourable to belong to the peasants, and to have
freedom of speech even when the king is near.”
He accompanied the ambassadors to the great
folkmote at Upsala. The first day when the diet sat,
they saw there king Olave on his chair, and all his
court around him. Overagainst him on the other
side of the diet sat earl Ragwald and Thorgny on a
bench, surrounded by the followers of the earl and
Thorgny’s serving men; behind stood the common
sort in a ring, some upon the barrows that lay by,
to see and hear how all befel. Now, after the
king’s affairs, as the usage was, had first been
discussed in the mote, one of the Norse messengers
stood up and preferred his request with a loud
voice; but the king sprang from his seat in wrath,
and broke off his speech. Earl Ragwald declared,
in the name of the West Goths, the same desire for
a reconciliation with the Norsemen, but he met
with no better a reception. Thereupon was deep
silence for a while. At last Thorgny rose, and with
him rose all the peasants, and there was a great din
of arms and tumult in the crowd. When audience
was granted, Thorgny thus spoke: “The kings of
the Swedes are now otherwise minded than once
they were. Thorgny, my grandsire, well remembered
Eric Edmundson king in Upsala, and was
wont to tell of him, that while he was in his prime
he marched every summer to the war, and
subdued to his dominion Finland, Kyrialand,
Esthland, Kurland, and the eastern countries far and
wide, where are yet to be seen earthen walls and
other large works of his. Yet did he never deal so
haughtily, that he would not endure discourse from
those who had aught to propound to him. My
father Thorgny was near king Biörn a long time,
and therefore knew his manner well; in his time
things went prosperously with the realm, for there
was no dearth, and he was affable to his people. I
myself freshly remember king Eric the Victorious,
for I was with him in many of his enterprises. He
augmented the Swedish dominion, and warded it
stoutly, yet was it easy to come to speech with him.
But this king who is now, will let none speak with
him, and will hear nought but what is pleasing to
himself, which indeed he presses with all heat.
His tributary lands he lets slip from him by his
carelessness, and yet would he rule over Norway, a
thing that no king of the Swedes before him has
coveted, for which many must live in unpeace.
Wherefore we peasants will, that thou, king Olave,

[1] Ann. 1014. Svanus Tyrannus post innumerabilia et
crudelia mala quæ vel in Anglia vel in aliis terris gesserat,
miserabili morte vitam finivit. Simeon Dunelmensis, in
Twysden Hist. Ang. Script. Sveno tumulato Chnutus filius
magna cum classe, adductis secum Lachiman rege Suecorum
et Olao rege Noricorum, Thamisiam intravit. Leges
Edwardi, and the chronicle following, in Wilkins. This
Lachiman was perhaps a Swedish lagman.
[2] (Göje-manad, the month when the deer shed their horns,
corresponding to the hornung of the Germans. T.)

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