"Ingeborg," Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1868, Wikimedia photo. In this poem, the narrator.
“Ingeborg,” Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1868, Wikimedia photo. In this poem, the narrator.

On that harsh night, we slept not, my duties
Keeping hearth-fires burning bright, warmth
Against Icelandic winter-wrath, fiords freezing,
For one of our Viking tribe was arrow-killed by
Neighboring warriors, once beloved brothers,
Snow-crested ridges distant, shields and flying
Pennants, bound fast by blood and battle.

By Althing mediation, warlords lowered brash
Voices and swords, decisions made without
Bloodshed, kristnitaka, taking Christ as lord,
Private homage of Æsir deities, shrines to
Norse gods, familiar protectors and providers,
Warring since Iceland’s early days redressed,
Thus was herald lawspeaker’s binding decree.

Similar were Christ’s cross and Thor’s hammer,
Worshipping upon winding heights, gods visited
Our stone-piled hörgr, dove-descending words
Of peace, gentle warming winds amongst high-
Sloped fiords, cloud-renting lightning bolts,
Odin’s presence felt on rocky shores, billowy
Meadowlands, Viking ancestral way of life.

For accepting Christ, our brothers attacked, not
For livestock or longboats, those in charity given.
Offended by my cross necklace, its sharp corners
Pressed into my breast marked Christ’s mortal
Crucifixion, crown of thorns, nail-hammered
Hands and feet, women weeping, mournful skies
Turned black-asunder.

Why their hate was forge-fire hot we do not under-
Stand, desiring no harm to allied brothers, angred
Threats of helmeted warlords. In quiet prayer,
Christ speaks to us, in circling eddies while
Paddling, invisible sail-filling winds, his strength
Wielding boats across heaving seas, waves
White-cresting in humble praise.

With each rock hand-placed at our simple altar,
We feel Christ’s presence, walking in His foot-
Steps, heavenly father, companion-savior, praise
Of high deities, tending flocks, fishers like us,
Disciples’ knowing ways of nets and sailing
Ships, in fealty and obedience to our lord’s
Bidding, we accepted and were baptized.

Tonight with swords at ready, our hearth fires
Crackling bright, we defend our tribe, whistling
Arrows, battle-scarred shields, we first present
Wooden crosses of God’s love and forgiveness,
For if another falls, banded armies of King Olaf
Await our beckoning calls, we pray for divine
Guidance that lawful mediation will prevail.

For more reading on Vikings adopting Christianity, see this BBC link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/religion_01.shtml

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