Directory:EPIC & SAGA


SIGURD of yore,

Sought the dwelling of Giuki,

As he fared, the young Volsung,

After fight won;

Troth he took

From the two brethren;

Oath swore they betwixt them,

Those bold ones of deed.

A may they gave to him

And wealth manifold,

Gudrun the young,

Giuki's daughter:

They drank and gave doom

Many days together,

Sigurd the young,

And the sons of Giuki.

Until they wended

For Brynhild's wooing,

Sigurd a-riding

Amidst their rout;

The wise young Volsung

Who knew of all ways—

Ah! he had wed her,

Had fate so willed it.

Southlander Sigurd

A naked sword,

Bright, well grinded,

Laid betwixt them;

No kiss he won

From the fair woman,

Nor in arms of his

Did the Hun King hold her,

Since he gat the young maid

For the son of Giuki.

No lack in her life

She wotted of now,

And at her death-day

No dreadful thing

For a shame indeed

Or a shame in seeming;

But about and betwixt

Went baleful fate.

Alone, abroad,

She sat of an evening,

Of full many things

She fell a-talking:

“O for my Sigurd!

I shall have death,

Or my fair, my lovely,

Laid in mine arms.

“For the word once spoken,

I sorrow sorely—

His queen is Gudrun,

I am wed to Gunnar;

The dread Norns wrought for us

A long while of woe.”

Oft with heart deep

In dreadful thoughts,

O'er ice-fields and ice-hills

She fared a-night time,

When he and Gudrun

Were gone to their fair bed,

And Sigurd wrapped

The bed-gear round her.

“Ah! now the Hun King

His queen in arms holdeth,

While love I go lacking,

And all things longed for

With no delight

But in dreadful thought.”

These dreadful things

Thrust her toward murder:

—“Listen, Gunnar,

For thou shalt lose

My wide lands,

Yea, me myself!

Never love I my life,

With thee for my lord—

“I will fare back thither

From whence I came,

To my nighest kin

And those that know me

There shall I sit

Sleeping my life away,

Unless thou slayest

Sigurd the Hun King,

Making thy might more

E'en than his might was!

“Yea, let the son fare

After the father,

And no young wolf

A long while nourish!

For on each man lieth

Vengeance lighter,

And peace shall be surer

If the son live not.”

Adrad was Gunnar,

Heavy-hearted was he,

And in doubtful mood

Day-long he sat.

For naught he wotted,

Nor might see clearly

What was the seemliest

Of deeds to set hand to;

What of all deeds

Was best to be done:

For he minded the vows

Sworn to the Volsung,

And the sore wrong

To be wrought against Sigurd.

Wavered his mind

A weary while,

No wont it was

Of those days worn by,

That queens should flee

From the realms of their kings.

“Brynhild to me

Is better than all,

The child of Budli

Is the best of women.

Yea, and my life

Will I lay down,

Ere I am twinned

From that woman's treasure.”

He bade call Hogni

To the place where he bided;

With all the trust that might be,

Trowed he in him.

“Wilt thou bewray Sigurd

For his wealth's sake?

Good it is to rule

O'er the Rhine's metal;

And well content

Great wealth to wield,

Biding in peace

And blissful days.”

One thing alone Hogni

Had for an answer:

“Such doings for us

Are naught seemly to do;

To rend with sword

Oaths once sworn,

Oaths once sworn,

And troth once plighted.

“Nor know we on mould,

Men of happier days,

The while we four

Rule over the folk;

While the bold in battle,

The Hun King, bides living.

“And no nobler kin

Shall be known afield,

If our five sons

We long may foster;

Yea, a goodly stem

Shall surely wax.

—But I clearly see

In what wise it standeth,

Brynhild's sore urging

O'ermuch on thee beareth.

“Guttorm shall we

Get for the slaying,

Our younger brother

Bare of wisdom;

For he was out of

All the oaths sworn,

All the oaths sworn,

And the plighted troth.”

Easy to rouse him

Who of naught recketh!

—Deep stood the sword

In the heart of Sigurd.

There, in the hall,

Gat the high-hearted vengeance;

For he cast his sword

At the reckless slayer:

Out at Guttorm

Flew Gram the mighty,

The gleaming steel

From Sigurd's hand.

Down fell the slayer

Smitten asunder;

The heavy head

And the hands fell one way,

But the feet and such like

Aback where they stood.

Gudrun was sleeping

Soft in the bed,

Empty of sorrow

By the side of Sigurd:

When she awoke

With all pleasure gone,

Swimming in blood

Of Frey's beloved.

So sore her hands

She smote together,

That the great-hearted

Gat raised in bed;

—“O Gudrun, weep not

So woefully,

Sweet lovely bride,

For thy brethren live for thee!

“A young child have I

For heritor;

Too young to win forth

From the house of his foes.—

Black deeds and ill

Have they been a-doing,

Evil rede

Have they wrought at last.

“Late, late, rideth with them

Unto the Thing,

Such sister's son,

Though seven thou bear,—

—But well I wot

Which way all goeth;

Alone wrought Brynhild

This bale against us.

“That maiden loved me

Far before all men,

Yet wrong to Gunnar

I never wrought;

Brotherhood I heeded

And all bounden oaths,

That none should deem me

His queen's darling.”

Weary sighed Gudrun,

As the king gat ending,

And so sore her hands

She smote together,

That the cups arow

Rang out therewith

And the geese cried on high

That were in the homefield.

Then laughed Brynhild

Budli's daughter,

Once, once only,

From out her heart;

When to her bed

Was borne the sound

Of the sore greeting

Of Giuki's daughter.

Then, quoth Gunnar,

The king, the hawk-bearer,

“Whereas, thou laughest,

O hateful woman,

Glad on thy bed,

No good it betokeneth:

Why lackest thou else

Thy lovely hue?

Feeder of foul deeds,

Fey do I deem thee,

“Well worthy art thou

Before all women,

That thine eyes should see

Atli slain of us;

That thy brother's wounds

Thou shouldst see a-bleeding,

That his bloody hurts

Thine hands should bind.”

“No man blameth thee, Gunnar,

Thou hast fulfilled death's measure

But naught Atli feareth

All thine ill will;

Life shall he lay down

Later than ye,

And still bear more might

Aloft than thy might.

“I shall tell thee, Gunnar,

Though well the tale thou knowest,

In what early days

Ye dealt abroad your wrong:

Young was I then,

Worn with no woe,

Good wealth I had

In the house of my brother!

“No mind had I

That a man should have me,

Or ever ye Giukings,

Rode into our garth;

There ye sat on your steeds

Three kings of the people—

—Ah! that that faring

Had never befallen!

“Then spake Atli

To me apart,

And said that no wealth

He would give unto me,

Neither gold nor lands

If I would not be wedded;

Nay, and no part

Of the wealth apportioned,

Which in my first days

He gave me duly;

Which in my first days

He counted down.

“Wavered the mind

Within me then,

If to fight I should fall

And the felling of folk,

Bold in byrny

Because of my brother;

A deed of fame

Had that been to all folk,

But to many a man

Sorrow of mind.

“So I let all sink

Into peace at the last:

More grew I minded

For the mighty treasure,

The red-shining rings

Of Sigmund's son;

For no man's wealth else

Would I take unto me.

“For myself had I given

To that great king

Who sat amid gold

On the back of Grani;

Nought were his eyen

Like to your eyen,

Nor in any wise

Went his visage with yours;

Though ye might deem you

Due kings of men.

“One I loved,

One, and none other,

The gold-decked may

Had no doubtful mind;

Thereof shall Atli

Wot full surely,

When he getteth to know

I am gone to the dead.

“Far be it from me,

Feeble and wavering,

Ever to love

Another's love—

—Yet shall my woe

Be well avenged.”

Up rose Gunnar,

The great men's leader,

And cast his arms

About the queen's neck

And all went nigh

One after other,

With their whole hearts

Her heart to turn.

But then all these

From her neck she thrust,

Of her long journey

No man should let her.

Then called he Hogni

To have talk with him:

“Let all folk go

Forth into the hall,

Thine with mine—

—O need sore and mighty!—

To wot if we yet

My wife's parting may stay.

Till with time's wearing

Some hindrance wax.”

One answer Hogni

Had for all;

“Nay, let hard need

Have rule thereover,

And no man let her

Of her long journey!

Never born again,

May she come back thence.

“Luckless she came

To the lap of her mother,

Born into the world

For utter woe,

To many a man

For heart-whole mourning.”

Upraised he turned

From the talk and the trouble,

To where the gem-field

Dealt out goodly treasure;

As she looked and beheld

All the wealth that she had,

And the hungry bondmaids,

And maids of the hall.

With no good in her heart

She donned her gold byrny,

Ere she thrust the sword-point

Through the midst of her body:

On the bolster's far side

Sank she adown,

And, smitten with sword,

Still bethought her of redes.

“Let all come forth

Who are fain the red gold,

Or things less worthy

To win from my hands;

To each one I give

A necklace gilt over,

Wrought hangings and bed-gear

And bright woven weed.”

All they kept silence,

And thought what to speak,

Then all at once

Answer gave:

“Full enow are death-doomed

Fain are we to live yet,

Maids of the hall

All meet work winning.”

From her wise heart at last

The linen-clad damsel,

The one of few years

Gave forth the word:

“I will that none driven

By hand or by word,

For our sake should lose

Well-loved life.

“Thou on the bones of you

Surely shall burn,

Less dear treasure

At your departing

Nor with Menia's Meal〖“Menia's Meal—” periphrasis for gold.〗

Shall ye come to see me.”

“Sit thee down, Gunnar,

A word must I say to thee

Of the life's ruin

Of thy lightsome bride—

—Nor shall thy ship

Swim soft and sweetly

For all that I

Lay life adown.

“Sooner than ye might deem

Shall ye make peace with Gudrun,

For the wise woman

Shall lull in the young wife

The hard memory

Of her dead husband.

“There is a may born

Reared by her mother,

Whiter and brighter

Than is the bright day;

She shall be Swanhild,

She shall be Sunbeam.

“Thou shalt give Gudrun

Unto a great one,

Noble, well-praised

Of the world's folk;

Not with her goodwill,

Or love shalt thou give her;

Yet will Atli

Come to win her,

My very brother,

Born of Budli.

—“Ah! many a memory

Of how ye dealt with me,

How sorely, how evilly

Ye ever beguiled me,

How all pleasure left me

The while my life lasted!—

“Fain wilt thou be

Oddrun to win,

But thy good liking

Shall Atli let;

But in secret wise

Shall ye win together,

And she shall love thee

As I had loved thee,

If in such wise

Fate had willed it.

“But with all ill

Shall Atli sting thee,

Into the strait worm-close

Shall he cast thee.

“But no long space

Shall slip away

Ere Atli too

All life shall lose.

Yea, all his weal

With the life of his sons,

For a dreadful bed

Dights Gudrun for him,

From a heart sore laden,

With the sword's sharp edge.

“More seemly for Gudrun,

Your very sister,

In death to wend after

Her love first wed;

Had but good rede

To her been given,

Or if her heart

Had been like to my heart.

—“Faint my speech groweth—

But for our sake

Ne'er shall she lose

Her life beloved;

The sea shall have her,

High billows bear her

Forth unto Jonakr's

Fair land of his fathers.

“There shall she bear sons,

Stays of a heritage,

Stays of a heritage,

Jonakr's sons;

And Swanhild shall she

Send from the land,

That may born of her,

The may born of Sigurd.

“Her shall bite

The rede of Bikki,

Whereas for no good

Wins Jormunrek life;

And so is clean perished

All the kin of Sigurd,

Yea, and more greeting,

And more for Gudrun.

“And now one prayer

Yet pray I of thee—

The last word of mine

Here in the world—

So broad on the field

Be the burg of the dead

That fair space may be left

For us all to lie down,

All those that died

At Sigurd's death!

“Hang round that burg

Fair hangings and shields,

Web by Gauls woven,

And folk of the Gauls:

There burn the Hun King

Lying beside me.

“But on the other side

Burn by the Hun King

Those who served me

Strewn with treasure;

Two at the head,

And two at the feet,

Two hounds therewith,

And two hawks moreover:

Then is all dealt

With even dealing.

“Lay there amidst us

The ring-dight metal,

The sharp-edged steel,

That so lay erst;

When we both together

Into one bed went,

And were called by the name

Of man and wife.

“Never, then, belike

Shall clash behind him

Valhall's bright door

With rings bedight:

And if my fellowship

Followeth after,

In no wretched wise

Then shall we wend.

“For him shall follow

My five bondmaids,

My eight bondsmen,

No borel folk:

Yea, and my fosterer,

And my father's dower

That Budli of old days

Gave to his dear child.

“Much have I spoken,

More would I speak,

If the sword would give me

Space for speech;

But my words are waning,

My wounds are swelling—

Naught but truth have I told—

—And now make I ending.”

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