Sif’s Tale

Paul Fahrenheidt

Paul Fahrenheidt

Many a man thought himself wise, but what he wanted he did not know.

On a distant shore,
In an icy sea,
Three men sat by a fire.
A boat was near,
Turned on its head.

The men were Danes
Far from home.
Their axes touched by rust,
Their coats were damp,
Not yet dry.

Two men from Saxland:
Kin to the Danes.
As distant as fallen leaves
From foreign shores,
They sat nearby.

Not warm by the fire.
They stood a watch;
Like the Aesir’s sentinel,
Their eyes were open
From sleep not yet had.

A sixth man came;
He was called Sif.
His hair was blond,
And knotted like the Saxmen’s.
He came from the shore.

“Hail Danemen,
Draw not your knives.
I am called Sif,
Kin to you and the Saxmen,
Looking for rest.”

“Hail Sif,
May you come sit.
You two Saxmen,
Come share our fire,
None more will bother us.”

The Dane
who so honorably spoke,
was called Hjerebjörn.
Tall and dark was he,
Who led his kinsmen.

The Saxmen came over
Eager to warm their toes.
Standing a watch
Is too often thankless;
There’s none to be watched for.

The Saxmen,
they were called:
Wulfred and Meath.
Half-brothers from Saxland
And friend to the Jutes.

Sif was given a mug;
Ale from Bretland.
For the Danes were returning
From the rich lands held
By their Saxmen kin.

Sif was given a bowl:
Seared Herring held within.
Known well to the Geats,
And their kin across the seas.
He was merry with them.

“You two Danes called:
Fremki and Rolf,
Have done honor to your Hirdmann.
Your skill with axe, shield and sword
Is known in all lands.”

Said Sif,
Now warm by fire and Ale.
His cloak was open
For the heat to lick
His frost-tipped chest.

“Your hospitality pleases me,
The gods and the Allfather;
Whose ravens see all deeds,
Know all secrets,
And tell all acts to him.

And yet your weapons
Which won you your fame,
Bear the rust of an absence of oil.
For you have none,
I can see.

I live on this island
As do all my kin.
We have been here countless years,
But have not forgotten our cousins
Across the seas.

As a gift to my kin,
Two barrels of oil.
I shall give them
To Hjerebjörn the Dane’s band,
That I may do you honor.

Once more,
I shall give as a gift to my kin,
The stories we have kept
From before this land;
That you may be wise.

This shore,
Oh you Danes,
Was a mountain to our fathers.

This shore,
Oh you Saxmen,
Was a mountain to our kin.

In ages past,
When gods and men walked,
This land stood above the sea.

In ages past,
When gods and men walked,
This sea was all land.

This land,
Oh you Danes,
Was walked by your fathers.

This land,
Oh you Saxmen,
Was walked by your gods.

All that I can hope to tell,
Known to the gods but forgotten by men,
Can be found in Bergs of old.

Now you Danes,
Open your ears;
You may remember yourselves.

Now you Saxmen,
Open your ears;
You may remember yourselves.

This land between the mouth of the Rhine
The shores of Saxland, now sprayed with Brine
Was firm as dirt under you or me
Then swallowed into the swelling sea.
The gods in their wrath knew our time had passed
We forgot all their laws, shattered bonds like cheap glass,
N’er kneeled in prase, Nor sacrificed goats,
Nor preserve sacred trees in our building of boats.
For our cattle grew fat in abundance of grain
And not a single man sought a battle or fame.
Lest there was gold to be won, and wealth to be had
And the hearts of our enemies grew twisted and glad
And raids became trade, not with weapons but food
Listen well, you Danes, for we lost our Jutes.
Your father’s father’s fathers, sick with lust for gems;
Would sell wife, friend, kin, and children for them.
In one day and night the great deluge arose
Those lands south were swallowed, those lands north froze.
And our kin, like seeds, were thrown to the wind,
As is the fate for all who so greatly sin.

That is what I tell you,
You Saxmen and Danes.
May you always remember,
That you don’t forget again.