39. Drangey (Drangey)

Collingwood painting of Drangey, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Color photo from top of Drangey, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Drangey by moonlight.

View from Drangey.



Tindastóll, grey and ghostly,
glimmers three leagues away.
Mælifell, towering mutely,
measures the darkening bay.

Drangey looms in the deep there,
dinning with seabird songs;
under its walls go wheeling
whales in clamorous throngs.

Grazing its grassy summit,
a grey ram wanders wide
where Illugi drinks the darkness
by his dying brother's side.

recording available

Tíbrá frá Tindastóli
titrar um rastir þrjár;
margt sér á miðjum firði
Mælifellshnjúkur blár.

Þar rís Drangey úr djúpi,
dunar af fuglasöng
bjargið, og báðum megin
beljandi hvalaþröng.

Einn gengur hrútur í eynni,
Illugi Bjargi frá
dapur situr daga langa
dauðvona bróður hjá.

Form:Three stanzas, each containing four three-stress lines with the rhyme scheme AbCb and the alliteration pattern 22.
Manuscript:KG 31 a II, which contains two copies: an untitled version (facsimile KJH276; image) and a version with the title "Drangey" (facsimile KJH289; image).
First published:1847 (A234-5; image).
Sound recording:Þorleifur Hauksson reads "Drangey." recording available [0:35]

Commentary:        Drangey (Pinnacle Island) is a high, flat-topped island in Skagafjörður, girt all round with sea-cliffs that are incredibly rich in bird life. It is overlooked to the west by the massif of Tindastóll ("Throne of Summits") and — a considerable distance to the south — by Mælifell ("Measuring Mountain"). Jónas himself never visited Drangey but was undoubtedly familiar with the detailed account of the island in Rev. Jón Reykjalín's parish description (dated 8 February 1840; SkSs23-4). The last two lines of Jónas's poem ("dapur situr daga langa / dauðvona bróður hjá") seem to contain a reminiscence of the dream-poem that was spoken to the sister of the Reynistaður brothers after their mysterious disappearance in 1780: "dægur þrjú yfir dauðum ná / dapur sat hann Bjarni" (see 1Íþs221-3).

Chapters 69-82 of Grettir's Saga (Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar), written around 1300, tell how the famous outlaw Grettir the Strong spent the last years of his life hiding out on Drangey, accompanied by his faithful younger brother Illugi from Bjarg.

Grettir's troubles had begun some years earlier when he fought and killed a monstrous revenant named Glámur, whose hauntings increased in intensity every fall but "diminished significantly when the spring arrived and the sun's path was highest." Glámur, in his death-throes, laid a curse on Grettir, and this caused him to become — for the rest of his life — "so frightened of the dark that he dared not go anywhere by himself once it started growing dim outside. He thought he saw all kinds of monsters then." Grettir seems to have been the favorite saga-hero of Jónas (as he was of many Icelanders), and in his last years Jónas — struggling against the depression caused by winter darkness and looking forward hopefully to the light of returning spring — may well have come to identify deeply with Grettir and his fate.

Drangey was an excellent hideout for Grettir and his brother Illugi. It was "grass-covered but surrounded by steep cliffs, so the top could only be reached with the help of ladders." Grettir and Illugi killed and ate all the sheep on the island except for a single ram:

He had a grey belly and enormous horns. He was a source of endless amusement, since he was so tame that he used to wait outside and scamper after them wherever they went. In the evenings he would come to their hut and rub his horns against the door.

When Grettir lay ill and dying, according to the saga, the faithful Illugi "sat by his side day and night, giving his attention to nothing else."

Color photo from top of Drangey, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Drangey. The view from the top.

In October 1031, Grettir's enemies managed to scale the cliffs and attack the two brothers by surprise. They announced their arrival by beating violently on the door of the hut.

Illugi spoke. "Greybelly is knocking at the door, brother," he said.

"He is knocking very hard," said Grettir. "And without mercy."

Copyright © 1996-8 Dick Ringler. All rights reserved.

Jonas' MS flourish for the end of a poem For technical assistance:
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