The Danish History, Books I-IX eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 487 pages of information about The Danish History, Books I-IX.

After these men there came to the throne, backed by the Skanians and Zealanders, Siward, surnamed ring.  He was the son, born long ago, of the chief of Norway who bore the same name, by Gotrik’s daughter.  Now Ring, cousin of Siward, and also a grandson of Gotrik, was master of Jutland.  Thus the power of the single kingdom was divided; and, as though its two parts were contemptible for their smallness, foreigners began not only to despise but to attack it.  These Siward assailed with greater hatred than he did his rival for the throne; and, preferring wars abroad to wars at home, he stubbornly defended his country against dangers for five years; for he chose to put up with a trouble at home that he might the more easily cure one which came from abroad.  Wherefore Ring (desiring his) command, seized the opportunity, tried to transfer the whole sovereignty to himself, and did not hesitate to injure in his own land the man who was watching over it without; for he attacked the provinces in the possession of Siward, which was an ungrateful requital for the defence of their common country.  Therefore, some of the Zealanders who were more zealous for Siward, in order to show him firmer loyalty in his absence, proclaimed his son Ragnar as king, when he was scarcely dragged out of his cradle.  Not but what they knew he was too young to govern; yet they hoped that such a gage would serve to rouse their sluggish allies against Ring.  But, when Ring heard that Siward had meantime returned from his expedition, he attacked the Zealanders with a large force, and proclaimed that they should perish by the sword if they did not surrender; but the Zealanders, who were bidden to choose between shame and peril, were so few that they distrusted their strength, and requested a truce to consider the matter.  It was granted; but, since it did not seem open to them to seek the favour of Siward, nor honourable to embrace that of Ring, they wavered long in perplexity between fear and shame.  In this plight even the old were at a loss for counsel; but Ragnar, who chanced to be present at the assembly, said:  “The short bow shoots its shaft suddenly.  Though it may seem the hardihood of a boy that I venture to forestall the speech of the elders, yet I pray you to pardon my errors, and be indulgent to my unripe words.  Yet the counsellor of wisdom is not to be spurned, though he seem contemptible; for the teaching of profitable things should be drunk in with an open mind.  Now it is shameful that we should be branded as deserters and runaways, but it is just as foolhardy to venture above our strength; and thus there is proved to be equal blame either way.  We must, then, pretend to go over to the enemy, but, when a chance comes in our way, we must desert him betimes.  It will thus be better to forestall the wrath of our foe by reigned obedience than, by refusing it, to give him a weapon wherewith to attack us yet more harshly; for if we decline the sway of the stronger, are we not simply turning his arms against our own throat?  Intricate devices are often the best nurse of craft.  You need cunning to trap a fox.”  By this sound counsel he dispelled the wavering of his countrymen, and strengthened the camp of the enemy to its own hurt.

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The Danish History, Books I-IX from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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