The teredo or shipworm was a serious peril in the days before the sheathing of ships. Even tar sheathing was not used until the sixteenth century.
In the days of jarl and hersir,
while yet the world was young,
And sagas of gods and heroes the grim-lipped minstrel sung,
With the beak of his open galley in the sunset’s scarlet flame,
Over the wild Atlantic the Norseland Viking came.
Life was a thing to play with,—oh,
then the world was wide,
With room for man and mammoth, and a goblin life beside.
Now we have slain the mammoths, and we have driven the ghosts away,
And we read the saga of Vinland in the light of a new-born day.
We have harnessed the deadly
lightnings; we have ridden the restless
We have chased the brood of the werewolf back to their noisome cave.
But far in the icy Northland, with weird witch-lights aglow,
Locked in the Greenland glaciers, is a tale we do not know.
Out of Brattahlid’s
portal, southward from Herjulfsness,
They came to their new-found kingdom, their Vinland to possess.
Armored with careless laughter, strong with a stubborn will,
The Vikings found it and lost it—it is undiscovered still!
Where did they beach their
galleys? How were their cabins planned?
Who were the fearful Skroelings? What was the Fuerduerstrand?
What were the grapes of Tyrker? For all that is written or said,
The Rune Stones hold the secret of the days of Eric the Red!
THE RUNES OF THE WIND-WIFE
Salt and scarred from the northern seas, the Taernan, deep-laden with herring, nosed in at the Hanse quay in Bergen. Thorolf Erlandsson looked grimly up at the huge warehouses. Since the Hanseatic League secured a foothold in Norway, in 1343, most Norwegian ports had been losing trade, and Bergen, or rather the Hanse merchants in Bergen, had been getting it. Between the Danes and the Germans it looked rather as if Norwegians were to be crowded out of their own country.
The Hanse traders not only received and sold fish for the Friday markets of northern Europe, but sold all kinds of manufactured goods. It was said that they had two sets of scales—one for buying and one for selling. Norwegians had either to adapt themselves to the new methods or give their sons to the ceaseless battle of the open sea. From the Baltic and Icelandic fisheries, the North Sea and the Lofoden Islands, their ships got the heaviest and the hardest of the sea-harvesting.
But it takes more than hardship to break a Norseman. In his four years at sea Thorolf had become tall, broad-shouldered and powerful, and at eighteen he looked a grown man. He did more than he promised, and listened oftener than he talked, and his only close friend was Nils Magnusson, who was now coming down to the wharf. They had known each other from boyhood.