REH Word of the Week: berserk

Berserker Viking Warriors (pinterest.com)

noun

1. an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable

[origin: first known use 1851; Old Norse berserkr, probably from ber-bear + serkr shirt]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Eric Ranesen, the viking, son of the sword and spear,
Swept down the coast of England at the height of his wild career,
Swooped down on many a village with his berserk, wild wolf band,
Raged along the coast like a hurricane with fire and sword in his hand,
Harried the coast of England from Severn to the Forth,
Loaded his ships with plunder, then sailed back to the North.

Lord of the North was Eric, from Salten fiord to Skye,
Lord of the wide, wild northern sea and many a land thereby.
He had vanquished Saxon and Welshman; Swede and Finn and Dane
Fled when they saw the flashing of the sword of the son of Rane.
Only one man defied him from Salten fiord to Forth,
And that was Harald of Norway, a reiver of the North.
…..
Now Harald is a sea-king with ships, a full half-score,
Three long serpents, three galleys, and smaller vessels, four.
Thirty score men he numbered, thirty score men and ten,
Berserks, sailors, vikings, all fierce fighting men.

[from “Eric of Norway”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 536, Robert E Howard Selected Poems, p. 389 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 76]