It is natural enough that history should be mixed with myth, to make it interesting to the populace. But it is uttery unnatural that history or myth should not be interesting to the populace. — G. K. Chesterton

Eric the Red - George Upton




Appendix B: Ballad of Finn the Fair

The ballad of Finn the Fair was written in ancient times by some one of the old bards of the Faroe Islands and the manuscript is preserved in the Royal Library at Copenhagen. It should be observed that in these islands it was commonly believed that Vineland was discovered from Ireland and that the Northmen gave the chiefs of the natives, with whom the Irish had many battles, the title of Kings. The ballad relates the tradition of Ulvur, a prince of Upland, who had two sons, Holdan the Strong and Finn the Fair. Finn, the younger of the two, sought the daughter of the Irish King in marriage, Ingeborg by name. He sailed to Ireland and demanded her hand of the King, and upon being denied made a furious attack upon the King's men-at-arms. Finally he was overpowered and thrown into the "donjon cell." Ingeborg was in despair and implored her father to allow her to marry Finn. The King, however, firmly refused, whereupon she sent a page to Holdan announcing his brother's plight. Holdan thereupon flew to Ireland and released Finn, and the two repaired to the palace and asked Ingeborg if she would accept the lover. The rest of the ballad is here given (as translated by Joshua Toulmin Smith from the original), as it makes frequent reference to Vineland:

Then Ingeborg doth answer make—

"This matter is most hard to do;

But if the Vinland King you'll take

An answer sure I'll give to you."

Then powerful Holdan thus replied—

"'Twill grief and sorrow bring to all;

For who shall reach the Vinland tide

Him perils dire shall sure befall."

Then Finn the Fair, with rapid stride

The palace quits, and seeks the shore;

"To Vinland straight my course I'll guide

Though Ingeborg I ne'er see more."

His silken sails he raises then,

On yards of gold extended wide;

His sails he never furls again,

Till Vinland from the helm he spied.

Then Finn, within the garden nigh

His costly robes he o'er him threw;

And so attired, with bearing high

Straight to the palace halls he drew.

Then entered Finn the palace hall,

And stood before them, face to face;

The Kings sat on their thrones, and all,

Unmoved and silent kept their place.

It was the morning of the day

Scarce yet Aurora's light appeared,

When there the Vinland Kings, they say,

Twelve hundred armed men prepared.

And there the Vinland Kings, they say,

Twelve hundred men prepared:

'Gainst these brave Finn the Fair, that day

To try his strength unaided, dared.

And in the midst Finn now is seen

Active in fight before them all;

Loud clang their arms that time, I ween,

Now two, now three, before him fall.

And in the midst Finn still is seen,

In strength he far surpasses all;

Loud clang their arms again, I ween

Now five, now six, before him fall.

For two whole days the fight did last;

From clashing swords the lightning played;

Nor on the earth his footstep passed,

His slaughtered foes his path he made.

And in the midst Finn still is seen,

Nor dares, for honor's sake, to flee;

And now, 't is said, that there remain

Of all that host but only three.

And in the midst Finn still is seen—

Full well his deeds are known to fame;

And Vinland King the first, I ween,

By his good sword is hewn in twain.

And in the midst Finn still is borne,

Nor dares, for honor's sake, to flee;

The second Vinland King that morn

His sword hath hewn in pieces three.

Just then a dragon, o'er his head

His fatal venom pouring flew,

And Finn himself at length lay dead,

Whom poison, and not arms, subdue.

When Finn, thus Holdan furious saw,

By poison and not arms subdued,

Then Vinland King the third straightway

With his good sword in twain he hewed.

Then fast and swiftly Holdan rides

All through the forest dark and green;

No hawk, nor hound, nor beast beside,

So swift and fast was ever seen.

His silken sails he raises then

On yards of gold extended wide;

His sails he never furls again

Till Ireland from the helm he spied.

Then Ingeborg, the royal maid,

Was sitting in her window bay:

"That is not Finn the Fair," she said,

"Who yonder guides his helm this way."

Then Ingeborg, the royal maid,

In wealth and beauty rich was she—

"That is not Finn the Fair," she said,

"Full well I know that is not he."

Above the beds of whitest sand

Her anchor cast, the vessel lay;

Holdan the Strong the first did stand,

Upon the Irish coast that day.

And then within the garden nigh

His gorgeous mantle o'er him threw,

And so attired with bearing high

Toward Princess Ingeborg he drew.

"Hail, Ingeborg! thou royal maid!

Both fair and beautiful art thou:

Wilt thou this prince elect," he said,

"And Ireland's King create him now?"

Then Ingeborg, the royal maid,

She clasped a wand of purest gold—

"None after Finn the Fair," she said,

"In love I ever more can hold."

Then Ingeborg, the royal maid,

Whom deepest grief did sore oppress—

"None now since Finn the Fair is dead

Can I as husband e'er address."

One night within the citadel

This royal maid she rested there;

But soon, o'ercome, a victim fell

To sorrow, grief, and black despair.

Then fast within the citadel

Full many a year lived Holdan Strong;

But heavy care, I ween, full well,

Through day and night oppressed him long.

Such was the sad fate of Finn the Fair, the doughty knight, who lost his Ingeborg, after slaying single-handed 1199 men, including two kings, a feat out doing even Samson's exploits with the jawbone. Was it not meet that heavy care should have oppressed Holdan who slew only one king, after witnessing the two days' combat of his brother, and then had the effrontery to claim the fair Ingeborg's hand?