Eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökul, April, 2010.
Eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökul, April, 2010.

With angered fire-might of Eldgjá rumbling,
Brithe and her clan-folk went running: molten
Rock flowing, suffocating ash cloud descend-
Ing, livestock panicked, pastures and sod-roof
Long-halls smoldering. Ground trembling,
Mountain lightning-might, fire exploding, no
Time to herd cattle and sheep, only minutes
To gather all Brithe and her family owned, to
Escape by five great longboats, sword and
Shield, death approaching, forced night-sail
To ocean safety, distant Greenland shores.

By full moonlight, Brithe and her tribe rowed,
Warriors hard-pulling, past harbor ice, raising
Sail at ocean’s edge, distant mountain fire
Falling, making course on windswept following
Seas. With mast firelight, they tracked each boat,
Steady sea-path, fifty souls, families and few
Possessions, escaping Eldgjá’s eruption, fear
Of hot ash burning longhouse and barns. Four
Warriors stayed behind, herding cattle, goats,
And sheep into fenced pins, to depart in two
Longboats as waning moon gave rise to perilous
Dawn, Eldgjá volcanic blight.

For Brithe and her tribe challenges were just
Beginning. With faint mountain glow astern,
Ocean paths between Iceland and Greenland,
Heavy winds and swells tormenting. Moon
And stars obscuring, opaque clouds ushered
Freezing rain, ice coating on mast, lines, and
Sails. Huddled under deck tents, round fire-
Pots warming, Viking families shivered cold,
Helmsman pushed east, first landfall far north
Of intended harbor, Brattahlið, lush steep-sloping
Fiord farmland, Greenland southwest shore.

For three days and nights, Brithe and her clan
Held course, skirting Arctic Circle latitudes,
Five worthy longboats surviving, sails torn-
Frozen. On dawning fourth day, warming sun
Illuminated snow-swept mountaintops, ancient
Glaciers gleaming, welcoming rugged-rock
Capes, ice-cluttered dark fiords. Two days they
Hunted, repairs made, resting along sweeping
Beaches, rock-strewn wander-land, besting
Icelandic sagas recounted round fires roaring,
Drinking ale, boar on spit roasting.

Majestic mountains to guide them, Brithe and
Her weary tribe sailed south on welling ocean
Depths searching livestock-carrying longboats.
Two days south, they found one boat, two
Warriors escaped with sheep and cattle, others
Lost to Eldgjá’s ash and flame. Six longboats
Strong, they ventured southeast, sight of coastal
Islands, seabirds swirling, favorable winds
Pushing round southern Greenland, they sailed
Together, one tribe persevering, new home fiord,
Brattahlið grasslands luring, life renewed, long-
House building, Brithe’s escape of Eldgjá.

For more information on Vikings, Iceland, and volcanoes, see these links:
http://www.mnh.si.edu/vikings/voyage/subset/iceland/archeo.html
http://www.iceland.is/the-big-picture/nature-environment/volcanoes/

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