"The stranger-warrior may inquire Of Harald's men, why in his ire On Heidaby his wrath he turns, And the fair town to ashes burns? Would that the day had never come When Harald's ships returned home From the East Sea, since now the town, Without his gain, is burned down!"
35. HARALD'S ESCAPE INTO THE JUTLAND SEA.
Then King Harald sailed north and had sixty ships and the most of them large and heavily laden with the booty taken in summer; and as they sailed north past Thioda King Svein came down from the land with a great force and he challenged King Harald to land and fight. King Harald had little more than half the force of King Svein and therefore he challenged Svein to fight at sea. So says Thorleik the Fair: --
"Svein, who of all men under heaven Has had the luckiest birth-hour given, Invites his foemen to the field, There to contest with blood-stained shield. The king, impatient of delay, Harald, will with his sea-hawks stay; On board will fight, and fate decide If Svein shall by his land abide."
After that King Harald sailed north along Vendilskage; and the wind then came against them, and they brought up under Hlesey, where they lay all night. A thick fog lay upon the sea; and when the morning came and the sun rose they saw upon the other side of the sea as if many lights were burning. This was told to King Harald; and he looked at it, and said immediately, "Strike the tilts down on the ships and take to the oars. The Danish forces are coming upon us, and the fog there where they are must have cleared off, and the sun shines upon the dragon-heads of their ships, which are gilded, and that is what we see." It was so as he had said. Svein had come there with a prodigious armed force. They rowed now on both sides all they could. The Danish ships flew lighter before the oars; for the Northmen's ships were both soaked with water and heavily laden, so that the Danes approached nearer and nearer. Then Harald, whose own dragon-ship was the last of the fleet, saw that he could not get away; so he ordered his men to throw overboard some wood, and lay upon it clothes and other good and valuable articles; and it was so perfectly calm that these drove about with the tide. Now when the Danes saw their own goods driving about on the sea, they who were in advance turned about to save them; for they thought it was easier to take what was floating freely about, than to go on board the Northmen to take it. They dropped rowing and lost ground. Now when King Svein came up to them with his ship, he urged them on, saying it would be a great shame if they, with so great a force, could not overtake and master so small a number. The Danes then began again to stretch out lustily at their oars. When King Harald saw that the Danish ships went faster he ordered his men to lighten their ships, and cast overboard malt, wheat, bacon, and to let their liquor run out, which helped a little. Then Harald ordered the bulwarkscreens, the empty casks and puncheons and the prisoners to be thrown overboard; and when all these were driving about on the sea, Svein ordered help to be given to save the men. This was done; but so much time was lost that they separated from each other. The Danes turned back and the Northmen proceeded on their way. So says Thorleik the Fair: --
"Svein drove his foes from Jutland's coast, -- The Norsemen's ships would have been lost, But Harald all his vessels saves, Throwing his booty on the waves. The Jutlanders saw, as he threw, Their own goods floating in their view; His lighten'd ships fly o'er the main While they pick up their own again."
King Svein returned southwards with his ships to Hlesey, where he found seven ships of the Northmen, with bondes and men of the levy. When King Svein came to them they begged for mercy, and offered ransom for themselves. So says Thorleik the Fair: --
"The stern king's men good offers make, If Svein will ransom for them take; Too few to fight, they boldly say Unequal force makes them give way. The hasty bondes for a word Would have betaken them to the sword, And have prolonged a bloody strife -- Such men can give no price for life."