The Song of Spears

From EastKingdomWiki

This is an adaptation of an old Norse poem (probably written in the 11th Century) by Grim the Skald. Grim also has performed a mixed language version

This is a tale of an Irish High King who met the Danish King of Dublin in battle. The Valkyries observing this battle chanted this song:

1. Far and wide with fall of the dead
The warp [1] is stretched and streams down blood
A spear-grey fabric forms on the loom
Woof of warriors we valkyries [2] fill
Binding and crossing with blood-red weft

2. The web is woven with warrior’s guts
Heads of the slain serve as its weights
Heddle-rods are spears, spattered with blood
The shed-rod is iron, arrows its pegs;
With swords we beat our battle web.

3. Hild [3] goes to weave, and Hjorðrimul
Sanngrid and Svipul, with swords brandished
Shields will shatter and shafts will break
Biter of helmets [4] harms the breastplates.

4. We wind, we wind the web of spears [5]
As young war-king has waged before
Forth shall we fare where fray lies thick
And friend and foe fix sword ’gainst sword

5. We wind, we wind the web of spears,
Follow our king to fierce battle
Men will see shields shattered and bloody
Where Gondul and Gunn guarded the thane

6. We wind, we wind the web of spears,
Where the banners fly of boldest men;
Our liege shall not lose his life in this place
Valkyries decide those slain on the field

7. Danes who were driven from Dublin’s lands
Have now returned to take their halls,
To claim this field, a kingdom make:
Seafarers will hold sway o’er the land

8. Brave Irish will see an evil time
As fate decrees they fall to strife
Doomed to die is their doughty king
Folk leader will fall in face of spears

9. Woven is the web, war-place reddened
We have finished our weaving here
Still is the loom all stained and scarred [6]
The skein garish with gore of men

10. Now it is gruesome to gaze around
As blood-red clouds cover the sky
Clamor wardens [7] keen their war-songs [8]
Far lands will hear of fall of men

11. Chanted we well the weird of the king
Anon we will sing songs of victory
They who listen may learn our words:
Speak this song to spear-men after

12. Swiftly we ride on saddle-less steeds
Hence from battle brandishing swords

© Dan Marsh


  1. This poem is likening the battle to a loom. Woof, warp, weft, web, rods, etc, are all parts of a loom and are used as metaphors.
  2. I simplified this line quite a bit. The original translated to “The women friends of Randver’s slayer.” Randver was killed indirectly by Odin, and his “women friends” are Valkyries.
  3. All the proper names in this poem are the valkyries.
  4. A kenning for “axe.” There seems to be some disagreement on how this line should be translated, a few of my translations had “hound of helmets,” while others just indicated a weapon.
  5. The latter part of this line 'vefr darraðar' is apparently difficult to translate. I went with one common to Hollander and Cook, as it fits my version best. Poole, who is the most rigorous translator, indicates “spear” as a possibility, but he favors “pennant” as the most likely.
  6. These two lines are added for clarity, and I moved the one beneath it from an earlier verse.
  7. A kenning for valkyries. Clamor is a heiti for battle.
  8. This is a very troublesome line, apparently it is quite corrupt. I decided to go with Hollander’s translation, taking a few hints from a transcription of the Old Norse.