A Song

What a crossing we had, that brave band of men
Who came cross the sea with Lord Gunnar.
The grey sea she took us and tossed us around
The widowmaker gnawed at our keel
She harried and chased us and she blew and she swore
Till we cried out for mercy and wept with our fear


One of our band went mad with all and leapt for her arms
And was lost.
For the rest, we kept faith and we prayed to God Thor
And we came at last to the land.


What a grand land it was, with its deer and its wolves
Its hunting dogs grey and so fast
And clear-eyed, tall women
Who fought with their men and died there with pride
Though we all tried our best not to kill.
But the blood it flowed red and the fires burnt so bright
And we swept our hard way through it all
For Gunnar had a plan and a fine place to go
And we followed his sword with our lives


We left our ship on the bone-strewn beach and we marched
Our way inland. We crossed heath and moor, deep vale and stream
Till we came to the foot of a hill
And here we stopped for a year and a day
To rest, lick our wounds and clean our dull knives
And grow fat with the meat of the land


A blacksmith came and set up a forge
And we welcomed his craft and his skill
He forged new blades and sharpened the old
And they gleamed in the sun and we sang
Of ancient wars and treacherous gods
And a maid with flaxen hair.


We paid him well with wine and gold then we held a council of men
It was time to go lest our swords taste blood
The people were wanting us gone
So on we marched through the mist and the rain
With joy in our hearts and our heads
For we knew that Gunnar would lead us true and
Find us the land of our dreams.


It would be green and sweet, with the hills above
And a river that foamed like the sea.
There’d be boar and deer for our spears to hunt
And horses so bold we’d be feared far and wide.


And axes would cry as trees hit the ground and
Our houses would rise strong and safe
And we’d hang up our helmets, our swords
And our shields and bend our backs to the plough.
And we’d turn the soil and smell its soul
And scatter the golden grain. We’d watch it grow
To a sea so green it would make a seawolf cry
Then we’d watch it turn till it was hard and dry
Then stretch our arms in the burning sun
To the toil of cutting it down.
We’d sing as we threshed the golden grain
That we’d brew into precious beer
And ready ourselves for the night ahead
When we’d feast and drink until dawn.


So for many a day we passed through the land
With our swords unsheathed and ready to hand
At every turn of the way
For welcome we were not save but for a few
To whom gold spoke the language of peace.
And at first we found one, and then we found more
As we marched on our foot weary way
By which I mean wives, as proud as could be
With their red golden hair and buttermilk skin
They lightened our hearts as we went on our way
For no farm was complete without stock and a wife
And we knew we must nearly be there


Did Gunnar prove true? Aye, surely he did
For look where we sit for this tale.
Look round at the house with its heather thatched roof
And great timbers that hold up the sky
And see by the fire, who stirs up the pot
But a redheaded maiden who smiles
And see where the fields spread golden and green
By a river that foams like the sea
And over us all are the hills dark and high
Where clouds dash like the breakers on shore.


So remember the ship that brought us to shore and the man
Who led us so brave
So raise up your horns full with ale to the brim
And drink to that ship and our lord, for Gunnar
Found us land when we hungered for more
And led us through fire and through smoke.
Let’s pray to our gods and sing our proud songs
Drinking silver-rimmed horns to their depths


For Gunnar is dead and lies in the ground
On the hill that stands dark and so high
His sword in his belt and his spear by his side
We laid him down wet with our tears
His ship was long gone, gone back to the sea
So we placed him alone in the earth
The good earth, the dark earth that he gave to us all
That now takes his blood and his bones
And from them will grow like a sea
On the land, green barley and flax,
Oats, beans and grass
So we thank him with honour and pray for his soul
This song is for him and our children will learn it and their offspring too
The farms they will prosper and the cattle grow fat
So we thank him for our children and all who’ll come after
To this glorious, bountiful land.