The following is a chapter of Frithjof, the Viking of Norway, by Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin.
The next morning, as Skinfax, the sun steed with the golden mane, emerged from the waves in the East, and the first rays of morn gilded the roof of the banquet hall, there was a knock at the gate. With careworn brow, but firm tread, Frithjof entered and approached the place where sat the king, thoughtful and silent, and Ingeborg, pale and agitated. The guest began his farewell speech in a voice unlike his own, it was so low and broken:
“The time has come. Wind and tide serve. I must go from my friends and the land of my love. Ingeborg, take back my arm ring, be it a sacred token to thee, never part with it. From my heart I forgive, but never on earth shalt thou see me again. Never again will I look at smoke that rises in the North. Home and grave I will find in the sea. King Ring! Never go with the women to walk on the beach! Especially not on starlit nights. Thou mightst behold, driven to land, Frithjof the outlawed Viking’s corpse.”
But the king would hear no more:
“It ill beseems a man to whimper like a love-sick girl. The death song is heard all over the world; I too have heard it — what of that? Must not all things that live go the way of death? What is decreed must be, and neither plaint avails, nor raving against fate. Frithjof, what I said to thee, I say again: I give thee wife and land; take care of them for my infant son. Nothing have I so loved, for nothing striven so, as peace — golden, happy peace; yet have I broken shields and lances with the best, on sea and land, and no one ever saw my cheek to blanch. But I would not willingly die the straw death, the first of Norseland’s rulers. It is not hard to part from life: far harder ’tis to live than die.”
It was considered inglorious for Norse warriors to die from old age or disease. Such a death, derisively called the straw death, in scornful allusion to the couch or deathbed, deprived them of the right to enter Valhalla and share the joys of the warriors slain in battle and brought to Odin’s hall by the Valkyries. Rather than forfeit this supreme privilege, aged warriors slew themselves with their own swords, when there was absolutely no prospect of their dying the honorable death of the battlefield.
He said, and with his sword firmly cut the death runes on his breast and arm; for a moment he watched the blood flowing warm and free, then called for a last horn of mead, Norseland’s national drink.
“To thee I drink, to thy glory, oh, peerless North!” he spoke with voice still strong and firm. “In the midst of wild, bloodthirsty comrades I sought for peace — she never stayed long with me! Now perchance I may find her in her heavenly home—— Hail, ye gods, sons of Valhalla!—— The earth goes from me—— Welcome, ye Asas, the willing guest!——”
Once more he pressed Ingeborg’s hands, his weeping friend’s, and his little son’s; then his eye broke, and in a sigh his spirit, freed, was wafted to All-Father’s throne.