[Lord Hardiknute] paced to the east of the wall, he paced to the left. He had now lived for seventy years and only seven of those years had been years of peace. He lived when Britons’ betrayal of faith had caused much woe to Scotland, and his sword testified to the fact that he was their deadly enemy. [He had used it on them]
His castle stood high on a hill with halls and tall towers and beautiful chambers where many knights lived. His lady had no rival for modesty and beauty in Scotland except for Queen Eleanor.
His wife had born him thirteen sons, all very brave. Nine had been killed fighting by sword in battle; four sons were left, long may they live to protect their lord and land: they were famous, mighty and respected commanders.
The sons loved their dear sister Fairly Fair. Her sash emphasized her slender waist, and her hair shone golden. What sadness her beauty had caused, sad to young and old, to friends and family, as every story told.
In summertime, the King of Norway, full of ambition and might, landed in Scotland with many brave knights. The news was brought to our good King of Scotland as he sat at dinner with his noble chiefs finely dressed drinking the blood-red wine.
“Take to your horse, my noble lord, your enemies are on the beach. The King of Norway commands an army with 20,000 glittering spears.”
“Bring me my dapple grey steed,” our good king rose and cried, “there is no trustier beast in all the land.”
[The king of Scotland says,] “Go, little messenger, tell Hardiknute that lives on the high hill, to make ready his sword, that is the bane of many enemies and hurry and follow me.” The little messenger went as fast as a dart flung by his master’s arm, to Hardyknute and said, “Come down my lord Hardiknute and save your king from harm.”
Then Hardiknute’s dark-brown cheeks grew red and so did his dark-brown brow. He looked as fierce as he usually became in time of danger. He’s taken down a horn as green as glass, and given five shrill blows on it, that shook through the green wood and around every hill.
His sons, who had spent that summer’s morning engaged in manly and amusing sports, heard their father’s horn from down in a grassy valley. “That horn,” they said, is never blown in times of peace; we’ve got another job to do just now.” And they soon went up the hill to Hardiknute’s side.
[Hardiknute speaks.] Late last night I thought I’d end my life in peace; my age is a good excuse for not engaging in battle: But now that the King of Norway proudly boasts that he is going to enslave Scotland, let it not be said that Hardiknute feared to fight or die.
Robin of Rothsay [one of Hardiknute’s sons], bend your bow, your arrows always find their mark. They have made many faces turn pale. And trusty Thomas [another of Hardiknute’s sons], take up your lance. You don’t need any other weapons than that if you are able to fight with it as you once did against the Earl of Westmoreland’s fierce heir.
Malcolme [another of Hardiknute’s sons], as quick as a stag that runs in the wild forest: get together my 3,000 swordsmen. Bring me my horse and harness, my sword made of shining metal; if my enemies knew who it belonged to, they would run away in fear.
Farewell my excellent lady. Then he took her by the hand. You are fairer to me in your old age than young women who are famous for their beauty.
My youngest son shall stay here to protect you, as will forty brave me with their bows.
Then first she wet her fair cheeks with tears, and then her green bodice that was made with twisted silken cords of gold and braided with shining silver, and her apron decorated with small squares of delicate needlework woven by no hand, as you may guess, except that of Fairly Fair.
When they had ridden over moor and moss, over hills and many a valley, they spied a wounded knight moaning loudly. “Here must I lie, here must I die from Treachery’s false tricks. I was so thoughtless as to pay attention to wicked female smiles!
[Hardiknute says] Sir Knight, if you were in my dwelling leaning on my silken chairs, you would be able to experience my lady’s kindly care, she who never knew hate; she herself would watch over you throughout the day, and her maids would look after you at night; and Fairly Fair would cheer your heart when you looked at her.
Allan Ramsay’s addition:
[Hardiknute continues] “Arise, young Knight, and get on your horse, the day is moving on. Choose whoever you like from my retinue to lead you there. With a somber look and a pale face the wounded knight replied, “Kind Chieftain, go on your way, for I must stay here.”
“To me neither day nor night can ever be sweet or fair, because soon enough I shall die beneath some drooping tree.” No pleading could change his mind. Brave Hardiknute struggled in vain to change his mind.
Then they rode on making for beyond Lord Chattan’s extensive lands, that lord who was found worthy when enemies tested his courage. He is of Pictish race on his mother’s side, from the time when the Picts ruled Scotland [up to the 10th century]. [An earlier?] Lord Chattan claimed the Pictish princess as a wife when he helped save their crown.
Allan Ramsay’s edition:
Now with his fierce and brave company, [Hardiknute] reached higher ground where the King of Norway’s men were in sight as they lay encamped in the valley. “Yonder, my valiant sons and companion, the raging thieves wait to challenge us on the unconquered Scottish land.
Make prayers to him who saved our souls upon the cross; then bravely show your veins are filled with Scottish blood.” Then Hardiknute drew his sword forth while thousands around him drew their own swords forth and the bugles sounded.
To join his king down the hill he made ready while proper minstrels play martial tunes on the bagpipe marching before him. [The Scottish King says,] “You are thrice welcome, valiant support of war, your nation’s shield and pride; your king has nothing to fear with you by his side.”
When the bows were bent, and the light spears [darts] were cast, it was so crowded they could barely see; the darts split the arrows that they struck, the arrows went through the wood [of the darts]. They battled long and fiercely with few complaints [moaning] from anyone. But the field was completely bloody before the long day was over.
The King of Scots who was impatient to start the battle, drew his broad sword and threw away his bow, because to use bows just seemed like a stalling tactic. Rothsay said, “I’ll keep my bow, it has made dozens of people bleed.” “Hurry up, my good lads,” the King cried, as he rode on before [into the enemy lines].
He [the King of Scotland] tried to find the King of Norway in order to derive honor from the fight. But a sharp arrow landed on his forehead.
As he put up his hand to touch the wound, another arrow pinned his hand in between his eyes.
“Revenge, revenge,” cried Rothsay’s heir [Robin, to the person who shot the arrow that hit the king] “your chainmail shirt can’t withstand the strength and sharpness of my dart,” and he sent it through the man’s side. He shot another arrow and it pierced the man’s neck in two. This Norseman that he just hit then let go of his silver reins and fell to the earth.
Allan Ramsay’s additions:
“My lord is bleeding badly” [this is said about the king]. Rothsay [seeking further revenge] with dreaded gesture drew his bow again and the broad arrow flew. Woe to the knight he aimed at. Lament now Queen Elgreed [presumably the Norse Queen?]. High-born ladies, too, lament the downfall of your darling in his youth and excellence. [This is about the knight whom Rothsay has just killed.]
[Rothsay is speaking.] “Take of his costly jacket (entwined with gold, knit like the bird-catcher’s net through which his useless armour shone). Take, Norwegian soldier, this jacket as a gift from me, and bid whoever wants to avenge the blood on it [from the soldier Rothsay has killed]. Whoever faces my bent bow surely fears no weapon.
The King of Norway, a giant man with broad shoulders and strong arms, cried, “Where is Hardiknute who is so famous and feared by the British? Even though Britons tremble at his name, I shall soon make him cry out because my sword was made so sharp and his coat of mail was made so soft.
Hardiknute couldn’t resist that boast. It gave him youthful strength. “I’m Hardiknute here,” he cried, “I promised the King of Scotland that I would leave you in the dirt where horses tread,” and with that he turned his steed toward the King of Norway and with his sharp sword made him bleed.
The King of Norway’s eyes stared like a bird of prey’s. He sighed with shame and spite. My famous arm is disgraced because I left you able to hurt me so badly. Then the King of Norway gave Hardiknute’s head so hard a blow that it made him stoop as low as he used to when he was bowing to ladies at the court.
Soon enough Hardiknute raised up his bent body. He was amazed at his ability to use his bow. From then on blows hurt him no more than the touch of Fairly Fair. The King of Norway was amazed, too, to see Hardiknute’s stately look. As soon as Hardiknute stuck a foe, that foe died.
Allan Ramsay’s additions:
Thomas [one of Hardiknute’s sons] came forward like a fire in the heather. A foe came up to him. Thomas spurred his steed onward to vanquish the young man who stood still and did not move.
[A Norse soldier pokes fun on Thomas.] “That little spear so poorly trimmed looks just like the kind of gear that they’d use in Scotland. The point looks so scary!” And he laughed loudly jeering. [Thomas replies.] “Often Britons’ blood has made it less shiny; this point cut their lives short.” Then Thomas pierced the boaster’s cheek. He didn’t bother to jeer back.
The man he wounded swayed in the saddle a little while. His stirrup was no support, his unbent knew was so weak. He was fated to die for sure. Then he fell onto the hardened clay and the thud was heard a long way away. But Thomas didn’t even look at him as he lay weltering in his blood.
With careless gesture and mind unmoved, he rode on north of the plain. His look was always the same whether he was in the midst of winning a fierce battle or not. No woman’s dimpled cheek could affect him with love—until he met Ann and she scorned him—that made him lovesick.
In the throes of death and gasping on the field lay the body of [Norse] soldiers, never to rise again. Never to return to their native land, no more to happily boast of their victories and show their shining swords.
On Norway’s coast the widow may wash the rocks with her tears and may look in vain over the seas where no ships appear, but she will never see her husband. Cease, Emma [a Norse name here?], cease to hope in vain. Your lord lies in the clay. The valiant Scots would put up with no cattle thieves killing them.
There on a hill-side there is a cross set up as a monument to the thousands who died on that summer day, a result of black war. Let Scots, while they remain Scottish, praise Hardiknute. Let the Norse dread his name. Later ages will read both how barvely he fought and also how often he spared men’s life.
Now the western wind blew loud and chilly, the rain beat heavily. The night grew dark before Hardyknute came to his stately tower. His tower, that used to light up the night with torches, seemed now as black as mourning cloth, and it’s not surprising that he sighed heavily.
“There’s no light in my lady’s chamber, there’s no light in my hall. There’s no light shining around my Fairly Fair, no guard stands on my wall. What does this mean? Robert? Thomas, tell me. No answer is suitable to express their dread. “Stand back, my sons, I’ll be your guide.” But they had already gone past him.
Hardiknute says, “As quickly as I’ve overcome Scotland’s enemies—“ But he stopped his martial bragging. He was ashamed that he didn’t care for anything but his lady and Fairly Fair. He felt fear, but he didn’t even know what to be afraid of. His body and his limbs shook with fear, and he was no longer a warrior.