14. KING OLAF'S MIRACLE AND BLINDING THE GREEK EMPEROR.
When Harald drew near to the prison King Olaf the Saint stood before him and said he would assist him. On that spot of the street a chapel has since been built and consecrated to Saint Olaf and which chapel has stood there ever since. The prison was so constructed that there was a high tower open above, but a door below to go into it from the street. Through it Harald was thrust in, along with Haldor and Ulf. Next night a lady of distinction with two servants came, by the help of ladders, to the top of the tower, let down a rope into the prison and hauled them up. Saint Olaf had formerly cured this lady of a sickness and he had appeared to her in a vision and told her to deliver his brother. Harald went immediately to the Varings, who all rose from their seats when he came in and received him with joy. The men armed themselves forthwith and went to where the emperor slept. They took the emperor prisoner and put out both the eyes of him. So says Thorarin Skeggjason in his poem:—
"Of glowing gold that decks the hand The king got plenty in this land;
But it's great emperor in the strife Was made stone-blind for all his life."
So says Thiodolf, the skald, also:—
"He who the hungry wolf's wild yell
Quiets with prey, the stern, the fell, Midst the uproar of shriek and shout
Stung tho Greek emperor's eyes both out: The Norse king's mark will not adorn,
The Norse king's mark gives cause to mourn; His mark the Eastern king must bear, Groping his sightless way in fear."
In these two songs, and many others, it is told that Harald himself blinded the Greek emperor; and they would surely have named some duke, count, or other great man, if they had not known this to be the true account; and King Harald himself and other men who were with him spread the account.
15. HARALD'S JOURNEY FROM CONSTANTINOPLE.
The same night King Harald and his men went to the house where Maria slept and carried her away by force. Then they went down to where the galleys of the Varings lay, took two of them and rowed out into Sjavid sound. When they came to the place where the iron chain is drawn across the sound, Harald told his men to stretch out at their oars in both galleys; but the men who were not rowing to run all to the stern of the galley, each with his luggage in his hand. The galleys thus ran up and lay on the iron chain. As soon as they stood fast on it, and would advance no farther, Harald ordered all the men to run forward into the bow. Then the galley, in which Harald was, balanced forwards and swung down over the chain; but the other, which remained fast athwart the chain, split in two, by which many men were lost; but some were taken up out of the sound. Thus Harald escaped out of Constantinople and sailed thence into the Black Sea; but before he left the land he put the lady ashore and sent her back with a good escort to Constantinople and bade her tell her relation, the Empress Zoe, how little power she had over Harald, and how little the empress could have hindered him from taking the lady. Harald then sailed northwards in the Ellipalta and then all round the Eastern empire. On this voyage Harald composed sixteen songs for amusement and all ending with the same words. This is one of them:—
"Past Sicily's wide plains we flew,
A dauntless, never-wearied crew;
Our viking steed rushed through the sea, As viking-like fast, fast sailed we. Never, I think, along this shore
Did Norsemen ever sail before;
Yet to the Russian queen, I fear,
My gold-adorned, I am not dear."
With this he meant Ellisif, daughter of King Jarisleif in Novgorod.
16. OF KING HARALD.
When Harald came to Novgorod King Jarisleif received him in the most friendly way and he remained there all winter (A.D. 1045). Then he took into his own keeping all the gold and the many kinds of precious things which he had sent there from Constantinople and which together made up so vast a treasure that no man in the Northern lands ever saw the like of it in one man's possession. Harald had been three times in the poluta-svarf while he was in Constantinople. It is the custom, namely, there, that every time one of the Greek emperors dies, the Varings are allowed poluta-svarf; that is, they may go through all the emperor's palaces where his treasures are and each may take and keep what he can lay hold of while he is going through them.
17. KING HARALD'S MARRIAGE.
This winter King Jarisleif gave Harald his daughter Elisabeth in marriage. She is called by the Northmen Ellisif. This is related by Stuf the Blind, thus:—
"Agder's chief now got the queen Who long his secret love had been. Of gold, no doubt, a mighty store The princess to her husband bore."
In spring he began his journey from Novgorod and came to Aldeigjuborg, where he took shipping and sailed from the East in summer. He turned first to Svithjod and came to Sigtuna. So says Valgard o' Val:—
"The fairest cargo ship e'er bore,
From Russia's distant eastern shore
The gallant Harald homeward brings— Gold, and a fame that skald still sings. The ship through dashing foam he steers, Through the sea-rain to Svithjod veers, And at Sigtuna's grassy shores
His gallant vessel safely moors."
18. THE LEAGUE BETWEEN KING HARALD AND SVEIN ULFSON.
Harald found there before him Svein Ulfson, who the autumn before (A.D. 1045) had fled from King Magnus at Helganes; and when they met they were very friendly on both sides. The Swedish king, Olaf the Swede, was brother of the mother of Ellisif, Harald's wife; and Astrid, the mother of Svein, was King Olaf's sister. Harald and Svein entered into friendship with each other and confirmed it by oath. All the Swedes were friendly to Svein, because he belonged to the greatest family in the country; and thus all the Swedes were Harald's friends and helpers also, for many great men were connected with him by relationship. So says Thiodolf:
"Cross the East sea the vessel flew,— Her oak-keel a white furrow drew From Russia's coast to Swedish land. Where Harald can great help command. The heavy vessel's leeward side
Was hid beneath the rushing tide;
While the broad sail and gold-tipped mast Swung to and fro in the hard blast."
19. KING HARALD'S FORAY.
Then Harald and Svein fitted out ships and gathered together a great force; and when the troops were ready they sailed from the East towards Denmark. So says Valgard:—
"Brave Yngve! to the land decreed
To thee by fate, with tempest speed
The winds fly with thee o'er the sea—
To thy own udal land with thee.
As past the Scanlan plains they fly,
The gay ships glances 'twixt sea and sky,
And Scanian brides look out, and fear Some ill to those they hold most dear."
They landed first in Seeland with their men and herried and burned in the land far and wide. Then they went to Fyen, where they also landed and wasted. So says Valgard:—
"Harald! thou hast the isle laid waste, The Seeland men away hast chased,
And the wild wolf by daylight roams Through their deserted silent homes. Fiona too could not withstand
The fury of thy wasting hand.
Helms burst, shields broke,—Fiona's bounds. Were filled with death's terrific sounds.
"Red flashing in the southern sky,
The clear flame sweeping broad and high, From fair Roeskilde's lofty towers,
On lowly huts its fire-rain pours;
And shows the housemates' silent train
In terror scouring o'er the plain, Seeking the forest's deepest glen,
To house with wolves, and 'scape from men.
"Few were they of escape to tell, For, sorrow-worn, the people fell: The only captives form the fray Were lovely maidens led away.
And in wild terror to the strand,
Down to the ships, the linked band
Of fair-haired girls is roughly driven, Their soft skins by the irons riven."