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The Story of Grettir the Strong   By: (1834-1896)

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THE STORY OF GRETTIR THE STRONG

TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC

BY EIRÍKR MAGNÚSSON AND WILLIAM MORRIS

1900

A life scarce worth the living, a poor fame Scarce worth the winning, in a wretched land, Where fear and pain go upon either hand, As toward the end men fare without an aim Unto the dull grey dark from whence they came: Let them alone, the unshadowed sheer rocks stand Over the twilight graves of that poor band, Who count so little in the great world's game!

Nay, with the dead I deal not; this man lives, And that which carried him through good and ill, Stern against fate while his voice echoed still From rock to rock, now he lies silent, strives With wasting time, and through its long lapse gives Another friend to me, life's void to fill.

WILLIAM MORRIS.

PREFACE.

We do not feel able to take in hand the wide subject of the Sagas of Iceland within the limits of a Preface; therefore we have only to say that we put forward this volume as the translation of an old story founded on facts, full of dramatic interest, and setting before people's eyes pictures of the life and manners of an interesting race of men near akin to ourselves.

Those to whom the subject is new, we must refer to the translations already made of some other of these works,[1] and to the notes which accompany them: a few notes at the end of this volume may be of use to students of Saga literature.

[Footnote 1: Such as 'Burnt Njal,' Edinburgh, 1861, 8vo, and 'Gisli the Outlaw,' Edinburgh, 1866, 4to, by Dasent; the 'Saga of Viga Glum,' London, 1866, 8vo, by Sir E. Head; the 'Heimskringla,' London, 1844, 8vo, by S. Laing; the 'Eddas,' Prose by Dasent, Stockholm, 1842; Poetic by A.S. Cottle, Bristol, 1797, and Thorpe, London and Halle, 1866; the 'Three Northern Love Stories,' translated by Magnússon and Morris, London, 1875, and 'The Volsunga Saga,' translated by the same, London, 1870.]

For the original tale we think little apology is due; that it holds a very high place among the Sagas of Iceland no student of that literature will deny; of these we think it yields only to the story of Njal and his sons, a work in our estimation to be placed beside the few great works of the world. Our Saga is fuller and more complete than the tale of the other great outlaw Gisli; less frightful than the wonderfully characteristic and strange history of Egil, the son of Skallagrim; as personal and dramatic as that of Gunnlaug the Worm tongue, if it lack the rare sentiment of that beautiful story; with more detail and consistency, if with less variety, than the history of Gudrun and her lovers in the Laxdaela; and more a work of art than that, or than the unstrung gems of Eyrbyggja, and the great compilation of Snorri Sturluson, the History of the Kings of Norway.

At any rate, we repeat, whatever place among the best Sagas may be given to Grettla[2] by readers of such things, it must of necessity be held to be one of the best in all ways; nor will those, we hope, of our readers who have not yet turned their attention to the works written in the Icelandic tongue, fail to be moved more or less by the dramatic power and eager interest in human character, shown by our story teller; we say, we hope, but we are sure that no one of insight will disappoint us in this, when he has once accustomed himself to the unusual, and, if he pleases, barbarous atmosphere of these ancient stories.

[Footnote 2: Such is the conversational title of this Saga; many of the other Sagas have their longer title abbreviated in a like manner: Egil's saga becomes Egla, Njal's saga Njála; Eyrbyggja saga, Laxdaela saga, Vatnsdaeela saga, Reykdaela saga, Svarfdaela saga, become Eyrbyggja, Laxdaela, Vatnsdaela, Reykdaela, Svarfdaela (gen. plur. masc. of daelir, dale dwellers, is forced into a fem. sing. regularly declined, saga being understood); furthermore, Landnáma bók (landnáma, gen... Continue reading book >>




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