ENCOMIUM EMMAE REGINAE
1. After the death of his father, Knútr attempted to retain the sceptre of the kingdom, but he was quite unequal to so doing, for the number of his followers was insufficient. The English, being mindful that his father had unjustly invaded their country, collected all the forces of the kingdom in order to expel him, inasmuch as he was a youth. When this became known, the king, whose faithful friends had found a plan to preserve his honour, ordered a fleet to be got ready for him, not because he was fleeing afraid of the harsh outcome of war, but in order to consult his brother Haraldr, the king of the Danes, about so weighty a matter. Accordingly, having returned to his father's fleet arid re-manned it, he spread the royal sails to the wind and sea, but nevertheless he did not lead back with him the whole force which had entered the country with his father and himself. For Thorkell, whom we have already mentioned as a military commander, observed that the land was most excellent, and chose to take up his residence in so fertile a country, and make peace with the natives, rather than to return home like one who had, in the end, been expelled. And according to some, he did not do this because he despised his lord, but in order that when Knútr returned with renewed forces and his brother's help to subdue the kingdom, he might either incline the chief men of the kingdom to surrender by his counsel, or if this plan were not a success, attack the incautious enemy from behind as they fought against his lord. And the truth of this is apparent from the fact that he kept with him a very great part of the soldiers, and that the king did not let more than sixty ships depart in company with himself.
2. And so, after a prosperous voyage, the king (reached) his native land. When all the people, his father's former subjects, were wondering at his return, which was, for a king, unaccompanied, a swiftly-spreading rumour suddenly filled the palace of King Haraldr, saying that his elder brother, Knútr, had reached his shores. The king and also the whole army wondered, and though they did not yet know anything, they felt a presentiment that he had met with adverse fortune. Accordingly, chosen soldiers were sent from attendance on the king, and horses ready for use were dispatched to meet him, for brotherly love prompted the king to regard the dignity of his brother. When at length Knútr, exhibiting the respect due to a king, entered his brother's doors, his brother himself met him at the very entrance, and they, with their bodies mutually locked in an embrace, impressed tender kisses upon each other many times. Tears shed partly for love, and partly for their father's death moistened the neck of each, and when these were scarcely dry, the exchange of words brought on more. When each was describing his own fortune and asking about that of his brother, Knútr, who was the elder, addressed his brother thus: "I have come, oh brother, partly out of my love for you, and partly to avoid the unforeseen audacity of barbarous fury, not however because I feared war, which to my glory I will seek again, but in order that instructed by a pronouncement from you and supported by your protection I may go back certain of victory. But there is one thing which you will first do for me, if you begrudge me not the glory which is mine, that is to divide with me the kingdom of the Danes, my heritage, which you hold alone, and afterwards we will add the kingdom of the English to our heritage, if we can do so by our joint efforts. Keep one of these, whichever you choose, and enjoy your success; I similarly will keep the other. To the end that there may be sufficient time for you to take counsel, I will winter with you, and also in order that the ships and army may be renewed, as is expedient, so that our requirements may not be wanting when the hour of battle is upon us. Thorkell, our compatriot, deserting us as he did our father, has settled in the country, keeping with him a large part of our ships, and I believe that he will be against us, but nevertheless he will not prevail." King Haraldr, having heard these unwelcome remarks, answered his brother in these words: "I rejoice, brother, at your arrival, and I thank you for visiting me, but what you say about the division of the kingdom is a serious thing to hear. It is my part to rule the heritage which our father gave me with your approval; as for you, if you have lost a greater one, I regret it, but though prepared to help you, I will not endure that my kingdom be divided." When Knútr had heard this, and had silently weighed his brother's reasonable words, he said: " Let us be silent concerning this for the moment, for God alone may perchance arrange the matter more equitably." Communing in such words and in other discussions of various kinds, and feasting at kingly banquets, they remained together for some time, and while mending the ships, they re-established the army. They also, in fact, went to the land of the Slavs, and brought back their mother, who resided there.
3. The removal of Sveinn's body to Denmark . In the meantime, a certain English matron had a ship prepared for her, and taking the body of Sveinn, who had been buried in her country, and having embalmed it and covered it with palls, she went to the sea, and making a successful voyage, arrived at the ports of the Danes. Sending a messenger to the two brothers, she indicated that the body of their father was there, in order that they might hasten to receive it, and place it in the tomb which he had prepared for himself. They came gladly, and received the body with honour, and with yet more honour placed it in the monastery which the same king had built in honour of the Holy Trinity, in the sepulchre which he had prepared for himself.
When this had been done, the summer sun was drawing near, and Knútr, having restored the army, hastened to return and avenge his injuries. But as he was strolling round the beaches, he observed a small number of ships out at sea. For Thorkell, remembering what he had done to Sveinn, and that he had also unadvisedly remained in the country without the leave of Knútr, his lord, sought his lord with nine ships and their crews, in order to make it clear to him that he was not acting against his safety in remaining, when he went away. When he arrived, he did not presume to approach the shore unbidden, but casting anchor, he sent messengers, and asked leave to enter the ports. When this was granted, he landed and asked his lord's mercy, and having become with great difficulty reconciled to him, he gave an oath of fidelity, to the effect that he would serve him continuously and faithfully. He remained with him more than a whole month, and urged him to return to England , saying that he could easily overcome people whose country was known far and wide to both of them. In particular, he said that he had left thirty ships in England with a most faithful army, who would receive them with honour when they came, and would conduct them through the whole extent of the country.
4. Then the king said farewell to his mother and brother, and returned to the area of the winding coast, where he had already assembled the fair spectacle of two hundred ships. For here was so great a quantity of arms, that one of those ships would have very abundantly supplied weapons, if they had been lacking to all the rest. Furthermore, there were there so many kinds of shields, that you would have believed that troops of all nations were present. So great, also, was the ornamentation of the ships, that the eyes of the beholders were dazzled, and to those looking from afar they seemed of flame rather than of wood. For if at any time the sun cast the splendour of its rays among them, the flashing of arms shone in one place, in another the flame of suspended shields. Gold shone on the prows, silver also flashed on the variously shaped ships. So great, in fact, was the magnificence of the fleet, that if its lord had desired to conquer any people, the ships alone would have terrified the enemy, before the warriors whom they carried joined battle at all. For who could look upon the lions of the foe, terrible with the brightness of gold, who upon the men of metal, menacing with golden face, who upon the dragons burning with pure gold, who upon the bulls on the ships threatening death, their horns shining with gold, without feeling any fear for the king of such a force? Furthermore, in this great expedition there was present no slave, no man freed from slavery, no low-born man, no man weakened by age; for all were noble, all strong with the might of mature age, all sufficiently fit for any type of fighting, all of such great fleetness, that they scorned the speed of horsemen.
5. And so the force which has been described, having unfastened the anchors and ropes from the shore, boarded the lofty ships and put to sea, and swept the waves with such impetus, that you would have thought that they were flying over the water in winged ships, which hardly creaked, heavy as the sea was. To the royal ship, however, the rest did honour and paid attention, for the others had no freedom of action, except to extend the sway of their lord with all their zeal. And, so in good order and with a favourable wind they touched at Sandwich, which is the most famous of all the ports of the English, and after they had dropped anchor, scouts went ashore in boats, and having made a very rapid examination of the immediate neighbourhood, returned to the familiar ships, and reported to the king that thousands of opponents were present in readiness. For the natives, burning most fiercely to renew the war against the king and the Danes, had assembled squadrons which they believed to suffice them for the struggle, and gathered together and acting as one pressed on, doomed to die at the hands of the nobles.
6. Then Thorkell, observing the time to have come when he could demonstrate his fidelity to his lord, said: " I will undertake to win this fight for my lord with my troops, and will not permit my king to be involved in this battle, very eager to fight as he is, inasmuch as he is a youth. For if I be victorious, I will win on the king's own behalf; but if I fall or turn my back, it will not be to the glory of the English, for the reason that the king will be left, and he will give battle again, and perhaps as a victor will avenge my injuries." Since this seemed to all to be good reasoning, he disembarked with the king's approval, and directed his force against the army of the English, which was then assembled at the place called Sherston. The Danish army had disembarked from forty ships and more, but still this number was by no means equal to half the enemy. But the leader, relying on courage rather than numbers, sounded the trumpets without delay, and advancing in the forefront and ever praying in his heart for the help of God, laid low all that came in his way with the sword's point. The English, indeed, were the more bold at first, and cut down the Danes with terrible slaughter, to such an extent that they nearly won the victory and would have compelled their enemies to flee, if the latter, held back by their leader's words and being mindful of their own bravery, had not regarded flight with shame. For he mentioned that there was no place to which they might nee, that they were, of course, foes in the land, and that their ships were far from the shore, and that accordingly, if they should not conquer, they would necessarily fall together. After they had been rendered of better courage by this, they forthwith showed in battle how dangerous a thing is desperation. For despairing of a refuge to which to flee, they raged on against the enemy with such madness, that you would have seen not only the bodies of the dead falling, but also of the living, as they avoided the blows. Accordingly they ultimately gained the victory which they desired, and buried such of the remains of their comrades as they could find. After they had also seized the spoils from their foes, they returned and made themselves ready for an invasion of the adjacent country.
7. This was the first honour which Thorkell brought to the arms of Knútr, and for this he afterwards received a large part of the country. But then, returning to his lord, he told him and his followers what had happened, and rejoicing in booty and the success of victory, he rendered them more eager for battle by the spoils he carried. Roused by this example, one, Eiríkr, leader and prince of the province which is called Norway – for he also was one of Knútr's officials, had already been long subject to him, and was a man active in war, and worthy of all honour – having received leave, set out with his followers, fell upon a part of the country, seized booty, attacked and destroyed villages, overcame the enemies who met him, captured many of them, and at length returned to his comrades victorious with the spoil. When he returned, the king, sparing the country, forbade him to plunder it further, but ordered the city of London, the capital of the country, to be besieged, because the chief men and part of the army had fled into it, and also a very great number of common people, for it is a most populous place. And because infantry and cavalry could not accomplish this, for the city is surrounded on all sides by a river, which is in a sense equal to the sea, he caused it to be shut in with towered ships, and held it in a very strong circumvallation.
And so God, who wishes to save all men rather than to lose them, seeing these natives to be pressed by such great danger, took away from the body the prince who was in command of the city within, and gave him to everlasting rest, that at his decease free ingress might be open to Knútr, and that with the conclusion of peace the two peoples might have for a time an opportunity to recover. And this came. to pass. For the citizens, having given their prince honourable burial, and having adopted a sound plan, decided to send messengers and intimate their decision to the king, that is to say, that he should give them his pledge of friendship, and should take peaceful possession of the city. This occurred at a time when it seemed acceptable enough to Knútr, and a treaty was made, a day being arranged for his entry. But part of the garrison spurned the decision of the citizens, and in the night preceding the day on which the king made his entry, left the city secretly with the son of the deceased prince, in order to collect a very large force again, and try if they could perhaps expel the invading king from their country. And they did not rest till they had assembled nearly all the English who were still inclined to them rather than to Knútr. Knútr, however, entered the city and sat on the throne of the kingdom. But he, nevertheless, did not believe that the Londoners were yet true to him, and, accordingly, he had the equipment of his ships renewed that summer, lest if the army of his foes happened to besiege the city, he should be delivered by the foes within to those without and perish. Guarding against this, he again retired for the moment like a wise man, and having gone on board his ships, he left the city and went to the island called Sheppey with his followers, and wintered there, peacefully awaiting the outcome of the matter.
8. And so Eadrnund – for so the youth who had collected the army was called – when Knútr retired, came with an army not insignificant but immense, and entered the city in state. Soon all followed him, obeyed him, and bestowed their favour upon him, and urged him to be a bold man, declaring that he rather than the prince of the Danes was their choice. On his side, furthermore, Eadric was the chief supporter, a man skilful in counsel but treacherous in guile, and Eadmund afforded him hearing in all affairs. It is told, moreover, that the youth himself at that time offered single combat to Knútr, as the latter was retiring; but the king, being a wise man, is said to have answered thus: " I will await a time, when contest will be fitting, and when anticipating no misfortune, I shall be sure of victory; but as for you, who desire combat in the winter, beware lest you fail to appear even when the time is more appropriate." Thus the king, as has been narrated, wintered as well as he could in Sheppey, that is to say in Latin 'insula ovium'. Eadmund, however, dismissed his army, and passed his last winter in London .
9. Now when winter was drawing to an end, he assembled forces during the whole of Quadragesima, and soon after Eastertide attempted to expel the king and the Danes from the country of the English, and advancing with a great multitude, planned a sudden attack upon them. But a report of this did not fail to become known to the Danes, who left their ships and went ashore, preparing to receive whatever they should encounter. Now they had a banner of wonderfully strange nature, which though I believe that it may be incredible to the reader, yet since it is true, I will introduce the matter into my true history. For while it was woven of the plainest and whitest silk, and the representation of no figure was inserted into it, in time of war a raven was always seen as if embroidered on it, in the hour of its owners' victory opening its beak, flapping its wings, and restive on its feet, but very subdued and drooping with its whole body when they were defeated. Looking out for this, Thorkell, who had fought the first battle, said: "Let us fight manfully, comrades, for no danger threatens us: for to this the restive raven of the prophetic banner bears witness." When the Danes heard this, they were rendered bolder, and clad with suits of mail, encountered the enemy in the place called Ashingdon, a word which we Latinists can explain as 'mons fraxinorum'. And there, before battle was joined, Eadric, whom we have mentioned as Eadmund's chief supporter, addressed these remarks to his comrades: "Let us flee, oh comrades, and snatch our lives from imminent death, or else we will fall forthwith, for I know the hardihood of the Danes." And concealing the banner which he bore in his right hand, he turned his back on the enemy, and caused the withdrawal of a large part of the soldiers from the battle. And according to some, it was afterwards evident that he did this not out of fear but in guile; and what many assert is that he had promised this secretly to the Danes in return for some favour. Then Eadmund, observing what had occurred, and hard pressed on every side, said: "Oh Englishmen, to-day you will fight or surrender yourselves all together. Therefore, fight for your liberty and your country, men of understanding; truly, those who are in flight, inasmuch as they are afraid, if they were not withdrawing, would be a hindrance to the army." And as he said these things, he advanced into the midst of the enemy, cutting down the Danes on all sides, and by this example rendering his noble followers more inclined to fight.
10. Therefore a very severe infantry battle was joined, since the Danes, although the less numerous side, did not contemplate withdrawal, and chose death rather than the danger attending flight. And so they resisted manfully, and protracted the battle, which had been begun in the ninth hour of the day, until the evening, submitting themselves, though ill-content to do so, to the strokes of swords, and pressing upon the foe with a better will with the points of their own swords. Armed men fell on both sides, but more on the side which had superiority in numbers. But when evening was falling and night-time was at hand, longing for victory overcame the inconveniences of darkness, for since a graver consideration was pressing, they did not shrink from the darkness, and disdained to give way before the night, only burning to overcome the foe. And if the shining moon had not shown which was the enemy, every man would have cut down his comrade, thinking he was an adversary resisting him, and no man would have survived on either side, unless he had been saved by flight. Meanwhile the English began to be weary, and gradually to contemplate flight, as they observed the Danes to be of one mind either to conquer, or to perish all together to a man. For then they seemed to them more numerous, and to be the stronger in so protracted a struggle. For they deemed them stronger by a well-founded suspicion, because, being made mindful of their position by the goading of weapons, and distressed by the fall of their comrades, they seemed to rage rather than fight. Accordingly the English, turning their backs, fled without delay on all sides, ever falling before their foes, and added glory to the honour of Knútr and to his victory, while Eadmund, the fugitive prince, was disgraced. The latter, although he withdrew defeated, giving way to the stronger side, was not, however, yet entirely without hope, and betook himself to safe positions, in order that ultimately he might assemble a more powerful force, and try again if by chance any measure of good fortune could turn in his favour. The Danes, on the other hand, did not pursue the fugitives far, for they were unfamiliar with the locality, and were held back by the darkness of night. The English, being familiar with the locality, quickly escaped from the hands of their enemies, whom they left to seize the spoil, as they themselves withdrew to places of dishonourable refuge.
11. Then, when, it was already past midnight, the victors, rejoicing in their triumph, passed the remainder of the night among the bodies of the dead. They did not, however, divide the spoil in the night, but in the meantime sought their companions, and gathering together in order to be more secure, remained all together in one place. At the coming of the morning light they became aware that many of their men had fallen in the battle, and so far as they could, they buried their bodies. They also stripped the spoil from the limbs of their enemies, but left their bodies to the beasts and birds, and returning to London , went back to their ships and sought wiser counsels. In the same way, the English and their prince also consulted their own interests, and sought the help of God in this matter, in order that they, who had been so often conquered in battle, might at least be capable of deriving support from some plan of action.
12. Eadric, who had previously withdrawn in flight from the fighting, now returned to his lord and his companions, and was received for he was an able counsellor. This man arose amid the host, and addressed all as follows: "Although I am hateful to nearly all of you, because I withdrew from the fighting, nevertheless if it were in your minds to follow my advice, you would be empowered by my counsel to become more victorious, than if you resisted these men with the forces of the whole country. For having had sufficient experience of Danish success, I know that we resist utterly in vain, and I retired from the battle to benefit you afterwards by my advice, although I was not, as you think, shaken by any fear. For since I knew that I had to flee, which was the better, to withdraw wounded or whole? There is, admittedly, a measure of victory in escaping for the time being by flight from a stronger enemy, whom it is not possible to resist with arms. Alas, we, who are here, are all fugitives; but to avoid this again befalling you, let us establish friendship with the Danes, in order that having them as allies, we may thus at least avoid flight and the risks of fighting. But this cannot come to pass otherwise than through a partition of our kingdom. And I consider it better that our king should have half the kingdom in peace, than that he should in despite of himself lose the whole of it at the same time."
13. These words appealed to the chief men, and although unwilling, Eadmund also signified his approval, and having chosen intermediaries, dispatched them to the ships of Knútr to conclude mutual friendship with the Danes. When the Danes first saw these men coming, they suspected that they were scouts. But after they saw that they were coming nearer, they summoned them and began asking them what they wanted. When they learned from them that they came, in point of fact, to conclude peace, they gladly conducted them to the king's presence, for they were extremely desirous of the favours of peace, being by then tired of wars and protracted seafaring. Then the messengers saluted the king pacifically and said: "Our prince and a great number of our chiefs sent us to you, oh king, that you may come to an agreement with them about peace, and that having given us your friendship and hostages, you may receive the same from us together with half the kingdom. Rule in the north in tranquility, but on the contrary let our Eadmund be in the bounds of the southern area. It is to this end that we have been sent to you; act worthily yourself, and concur with what has been agreed; otherwise, although we have been confounded by you more than once in war, we will nevertheless be strengthened by yet greater ferocity, when we fight you in the future." The king did not answer them rashly, but sent them away and sought advice from his companions, and accordingly he afterwards came pacifically to agreement with them. For he had heard from his companions that many of their troops had been lost, and there were none to fill the place of the dead, because they were far distant from their own land. Furthermore, although many of the English had been killed, their number was not reduced by this, because on the side of those who were in their own country some one was always found to fill a dead man's place. And so, having recalled the intermediaries, the king said: "I concur, young men, with what you have communicated, and as you have said, the midlands shall be at my disposal; but nevertheless, your king, whoever he may be, shall in addition pay tribute to my army for his part of the kingdom. For I owe him this punishment, and accordingly I do not otherwise approve the settlement."
14. Thus a treaty was concluded, and hostages were given by both parties, and so the army, being released from the troubles of war, entered gladly upon the peace which they desired. But yet God, who remembered His own ancient teaching, according to which a kingdom divided against itself cannot long stand, soon after wards, pitying the realm of the English, took away Eadmund from the body, lest it should chance that if both survived neither should rule securely, and that the kingdom should be continually wasted by renewed conflict. The dead prince, however, was buried in a royal tomb, and was wept long and sorely by the native people; to him may God grant every joy in the heavenly kingdom. Soon there after it became evident to what end God commanded that he should die, for the entire country then chose Knútr as its king, and voluntarily submitted itself and all that was in it to the man whom previously it had resisted with every effort.
15. Accordingly, by the divine mercy, Knútr, that active man, assumed the absolute rule of the kingdom, gave splendid appointments to his commanders and followers, and held the kingdom of the English until his death peacefully and uninterruptedly. He was, however, as yet in the flower of youth, but was nevertheless master of indescribable wisdom. It was, accordingly, the case that he loved those whom he had heard to have fought previously for Eadmund faithfully without deceit, and that he so hated those whom he knew to have been deceitful, and to have hesitated between the two sides with fraudulent tergiversation, that on a certain day he ordered the execution of many chiefs for deceit of this kind. One of these was Eadric, who had fled from the war, and to whom, when he asked for a reward for this from the king, pretending to have done it to ensure his victory, the king said sadly: "Shall you, who have deceived your lord with guile, be capable of being true to me? I will return to you a worthy reward, but I will do so to the end that deception may not subsequently be your pleasure." And summoning Eiríkr, his commander, he said: "Pay this man what we owe him; that is to say, kill him, lest he play us false." He, indeed, raised his axe without delay, and cut off his head with a mighty blow, so that soldiers may learn from this example to be faithful, not faithless, to their kings.
16. Everything having been thus duly settled, the king lacked nothing except a most noble wife; such a one he ordered to be sought everywhere for him, in order to obtain her hand lawfully, when she was found, and to make her the partner of his rule, when she was won. Therefore journeys were undertaken through realms and cities and a royal bride was sought; but it was with difficulty that a worthy one was ultimately found, after being sought far and wide. This imperial bride was, in fact, found within the bounds of Gaul, and to be precise in the Norman area, a lady of the greatest nobility and wealth, but yet the most distinguished of the women of her time for delightful beauty and wisdom, inasmuch as she was a famous queen. In view of her distinguished qualities of this kind, she was much desired by the king, and especially because she derived her origin from a victorious people, who had appropriated for themselves part of Gaul , in despite of the French and their prince. Why should I make a long story of this? Wooers were sent to the lady, royal gifts were sent, furthermore precatory messages were sent. But she refused ever to become the bride of Knútr, unless he would affirm to her by oath, that he would never set up the son of any wife other than herself to rule after him, if it happened that God should give her a son by him. For she had information that the king had had sons by some other woman; so she, wisely providing for her offspring, knew in her wisdom how to make arrangements in advance, which were to be to their advantage. Accordingly the king found what the lady said acceptable, and when the oath had been taken, the lady found the will of the king acceptable, and so, thanks be to God, Emma noblest of women, became the wife of the very mighty King Knútr. Gaul rejoiced, the land of the English rejoiced likewise, when so great an ornament was conveyed over the seas. Gaul , I say, rejoiced to have brought forth so great a lady, and one worthy of so great a king, the country of the English indeed rejoiced to have received such a one into its towns. What an event, sought with a million prayers, and at length barely brought to pass under the Saviour's favouring grace! This was what the army had long eagerly desired on both sides, that is to say that so great a lady, bound by a matrimonial link to so great a man, worthy of her husband as he was worthy of her, should lay the disturbances of war to rest. What greater or more desirable thing could be wished than that the accursed and loathsome troubles of war should be ended by the gentle calm of peace, when equals were clashing with equals in might of body and boldness of heart, and when now the one side and now the other was victorious, though at great loss to itself, by the changing fortunes of war?
17. But when by the divine dispensation they at length after frequent and protracted interchange of emissaries decided to be joined by the marital link, it is hard to credit how vast a magnitude of delight in one another arose in them both. For the king rejoiced that he had unexpectedly entered upon a most noble marriage; the lady, on the other hand, was inspired both by the excellence of her husband, and by the delightful hope of future offspring. Both armies also rejoiced indescribably, looking forward to increasing their possessions by joining forces, which was how events afterwards turned out. For very many peoples were subdued in war, and very many nations extremely diverse in habits, customs and speech were permanently compelled to pay annual tribute to the king and to his royal issue. But what wonder if so great a king as we describe should conquer in war those resisting him, since he brought under his sway very many peoples of their own free will, partly by his munificent bounty, and partly because they desired his protection? None indeed, for the divine grace bestows its favour where the scale of justice and uprightness is evenly adjusted.
18. But why should I protract the matter? I have said that there was great joy at the union of such great persons; but I declare that there was much greater at the achievement of the advantage of a male offspring. For indeed soon afterwards it was granted by the Saviour's grace that the most noble queen bore a son. The two parents, happy in the most profound and, I might say, unparalleled love for this child, sent hi fact their other legitimate sons to Normandy to be brought up, while keeping this one with themselves, inasmuch as he was to be the heir to the kingdom. And so they washed this very dear child, as is the custom of all Christians, in the sacred baptismal font, and gave him a name which conveyed in a measure an indication of his future excellence. For indeed he was called Hörthaknútr, which reproduced his father's name with an addition, and if the etymology of this is investigated in Germanic, one truly discerns his identity and greatness. 'Harde', indeed, means 'swift' or 'strong', both of which qualities and much more could be recognised in him above all others, for he excelled all the men of Ms time by superiority in all high qualities. Therefore I cannot enumerate all his excellencies; accordingly, lest I wander too far from my theme, I will revert to where I was before and follow the course of my story.
19. When at last the boy to whom we refer grew up, his father, who was still living in the enjoyment of every happiness, pledged to him the whole realm which was subject to his command, and subsequently sent him with chosen troops to secure the rule of the kingdom of the Danes. When, however, King Knútr first obtained the absolute rule of the Danes, he was Emperor of five kingdoms, for he had established claim to the rule of Denmark , England , Wales , Scotland and Norway . He indeed became a friend and intimate of churchmen, to such a degree that he seemed to bishops to be a brother bishop for his maintenance of perfect religion, to monks also not a secular but a monk for the temperance of his life of most humble devotion. He diligently defended wards and widows, he supported orphans and strangers, he suppressed unjust laws and those who applied them, he exalted and cherished justice and equity, he built and dignified churches, he loaded priests and the clergy with dignities, he enjoined peace and unanimity upon his people, so that if it were not an infringement of the Catholic faith, that Virgilian saying might be quoted with reference to him:
It rains all night, but the public games duly take place in the morning;
You, Caesar, hold divided empire with Jove.
20. He gave his attention entirely to things pleasing to God, and therefore he did not abandon to neglect any good thing which he had found to require doing, but set it in train. Consequently what church does not still rejoice in his gifts? But to say nothing of what he did for those in his own kingdom, Italy blesses his soul every day, Gaul begs that it may enjoy benefits, and Flanders , above all, prays that it may rejoice in heaven with Christ. For he went to Rome by way of these countries, and as appears from many things, he displayed on this journey such great charitable activities, that if anyone should wish to describe them all, although he might make innumerable volumes out of these matters, at length he will admit in failure that he has not covered even the least ones. For I will not speak of what he did in separate places, but m order that what I assert may become more credible I will as an example tell what he did in the city of St. Omer alone, and I place on record that I saw this with my own eyes.
21. When he had entered the monasteries, and had been received with great honour, he advanced humbly, and with complete concentration prayed for the inter cession of the saints in a manner wonderfully reverent, fixing his eyes upon the ground, and freely pouring forth, so to speak, rivers of tears. But when the time came when he desired to heap the holy altars with royal offerings, how often did he first with tears press kisses on the pavement, how often did self-inflicted blows punish that revered breast, what signs he gave, how often did he pray that the heavenly mercy might not be displeased with him! At length, when he gave the sign, his offering was presented to him by his followers, not a mean one, nor such as might be shut in any bag, but a man brought it, huge as it was, in the ample fold of his cloak, and this the king himself placed on the altar with his own hand, a cheerful giver according to the apostolic exhortation. But why do I say on the altar, when I recall that I saw him going round every corner of the monasteries, and passing no altar, small though it might be, without giving gifts and pressing sweet kisses upon it? Then poor men came and were all forthwith given gifts one by one. These things and others more wonderful were seen done by the lord Knútr by me, who am your servant, St. Omer and St. Bertin, when they came to pass in your monasteries! And for these benefits, cause so great a king to live in the heavenly dwellings, as your inmates, both canons and monks, pray in their daily supplications.
22. Therefore let kings and princes learn to imitate the actions of this lord, who lowered himself to the depths that he might be able to climb the heights, and who cheerfully gave earthly things in order to be able to obtain heavenly ones. For he was not forgetful of the nature of his own condition, that he was to die in the world, and to leave whatever things can be desired in mortal life; and because of this while alive he distributed honourably to God and his holy places the wealth which he could not take with him at death, lest perhaps if he acted avariciously, he should live hateful to all, and there might be no man who would pray for any good thing for his soul, and another would succeed him, who would live prodigally in his kingdom, and be disgusted at his parsimony. Truly he took good care that this should not happen, and left his posterity a good example of munificence and all benevolence, which they also, thanks be to God, still follow, being in a high degree mighty in their management of the kingdom and by the grace of their virtues.
23. And so this great king, after he had returned from Rome , and had lingered in his own kingdom some little time, having well arranged all matters, passed to the Lord, to be crowned upon his right hand by God himself the creator of all. There fore all who had heard of his death were moved, and especially his own subjects, of whom the majority would have wished to die with him, if this would not have been at variance with the divine plan.
24. The Lady Emma, his queen, mourned together with the natives, poor and rich lamented together, the bishops and clerics wept with the monks and nuns; but let the rejoicing in the kingdom of heaven be as great as was the mourning in the world! These wept for what they had lost, but let those rejoice over his soul, which they take to themselves. These buried his lifeless body, but let those lead his spirit aloft to be rejoiced over in everlasting rest. Mortals alone wept for his departure, but for his spirit let the heavenly citizens as well as mortals intercede. Let us earnestly pray God that his glory may increase from day to day; and since he has deserved this by his benevolence, let us pray every day: 'May the soul of Knútr rest in peace. Amen.'