What dreams be these, now? Me thought that ere daybreak
I got Valholl ready to make room for warriors;
I waked the Einherjar, asked them to rise up,
To put straw on benches, and to rinse the beer- jugs;
And the Valkyries, to deal wine out as though a warrior drew nigh.
Lords from man -home are to be looked for,
High born and hardy, which my heart gladdens.
What thunders, Bragi, as though thousands stirred,
Or whelming hosts?
Crack all boards of the benches as though Baldr were coming
Back to Odin`s beer hall.
Of witless words shalt beware, wise Bragi,
For full well thou wotst:
`T is Eric this heralds, who to us is wending,
The earl, into Odin`s hall.
Sigmund and Sinfiotli, leave your seats, ye heroes,
And go forth to greet the king!
Bid him enter in, if Eric it be:
Him I have hopes to see.
Why of Eric, rather than of another?
Because in many a liege-land this lord hath warred
And born a bloody sword.
Why, then, dist rob him of victory, since valiant thou thought`st him?
No one knoweth-
Looks the grey wolf grimly towards the god`s dwellings.
Hail to thee, Eric, here thou art welcome!
Wise war-lord, in hall
This fain would I know: who be following thee
Of athelings, from the edge-fight?
Kings five there are, them all I shall name thee:
The manuscript of Fagrskinna is the sole source for the fragmentary, but magnificent Lay of Eric, which, as legend has it, was written at the behest of Gunnhild, also known as the Witch Queen, wife of that most famous of all Viking warlords, Eric Bloodaxe; heir of Harald Fairhair, and the constituted heir to the Kingdom of Norway. But driven by his brother, Hakon the Good from his homeland because of his bloody deeds, Eric fled to England for battle glory and seized the Kingdom of Northumbria and it`s capital of York. From here he was also driven, and was slain in battle at a certain lonely spot called Stainmore, in northern England, around the year 954. A fierce and uncompromising warrior, he had few redeeming features other than an insatiable thirst for glory and fame. His wife, Gunnhild was known as The Witch Queen and Mother of Kings, because of her mastery of sadir, the Old Norse art of magic and prophecy, and because of her numerous sons becoming kings in the footsteps of their blood famed father.
The lay is generally considered a fragment of a greater whole, but this is disputed because of the clearness of it`s action and boldness of execution. Odin is ruminating on a dream of the arrival in Valhalla of a great king and the preparations made for his reception. But a great noise arises, and he asks Bragi, the god of Skaldic art for his opinion. Bragi ruminates: no less it seems than Baldr, the Fallen One himself is returning to take his place in the great hall of Valhalla. But Odin, less poetic of heart, recognizes the approaching shape of Eric, and bids the heroes of ancient times to rise up and greet him: Ragnarok, the Doom of the Gods is approaching, and strong men such as Eric will be needed to defend the Rainbow Bridge for the impending battle with the legions of destruction and darkness.
Great Eric draws near, and with him are no fewer than five Kings slain in battle – a worthy retinue for this mighty warrior`s apotheosis. A true Viking warrior needs must die in battle, sword or axe in hand: to die in bed was considered a straw death worthy only of weaklings and old women; fame after death ensured a warrior immortality, as his name was spoken of around camp fires for eternity. Eric`s name is still known and spoken: that was the point of poems and sagas; to perpetuate the memory of heroes into a future everlasting. Eric Bloodaxe would have died a happy man knowing he would live forever.