So ended Frode, the most famous king in the whole world. The nobles, when he had been disembowelled, had his body kept embalmed for three years, for they feared the provinces would rise if the king’s end were published. They wished his death to be concealed above all from foreigners, so that by the pretence that he was alive they might preserve the boundaries of the empire, which had been extended for so long; and that, on the strength of the ancient authority of their general, they might exact the usual tribute from their subjects. So, the lifeless corpse was carried away by them in such a way that it seemed to be taken, not in a funeral bier, but in a royal carriage, as if it were a due and proper tribute from the soldiers to an infirm old man not in full possession of his forces. Such splendour did his friends bestow on him even in death. But when his limbs rotted, and were seized with extreme decay, and when the corruption could not be arrested, they buried his body with a royal funeral in a barrow near Waere, a bridge of Zealand; declaring that Frode had desired to die and be buried in what was thought the chief province of his kingdom.
After the death of Frode, the Danes wrongly supposed that Fridleif, who was being reared in Russia, had perished; and, thinking that the sovereignty halted for lack of an heir, and that it could no longer be kept on in the hands of the royal line, they considered that the sceptre would be best deserved by the man who should affix to the yet fresh grave of Frode a song of praise in his glorification, and commit the renown of the dead king to after ages by a splendid memorial. Then one Hiarn, very skilled in writing Danish poetry, wishing to give the fame of the hero some notable record of words, and tempted by the enormous prize, composed, after his own fashion, a barbarous stave. Its purport, expressed in four lines, I have transcribed as follows:
“Frode, whom the Danes would have wished to live long, they bore long through their lands when he was dead. The great chief’s body, with this turf heaped above it, bare earth covers under the lucid sky.”
When the composer of this song had uttered it, the Danes rewarded him with the crown. Thus they gave a kingdom for an epitaph, and the weight of a whole empire was presented to a little string of letters. Slender expense for so vast a guerdon! This huge payment for a little poem exceeded the glory of Caesar’s recompense; for it was enough for the divine Julius to pension with a township the writer and glorifier of those conquests which he had achieved over the whole world. But now the spendthrift kindness of the populace squandered a kingdom on a churl. Nay, not even Africanus, when he rewarded the records of his deed, rose to the munificence of the Danes. For there the wage of that laborious volume was in mere gold, while here a few callow verses won a sceptre for a peasant.