Directory:EPIC & SAGA


GREAT deeds of bale

In the garth began,

At the sad dawning

The tide of Elves' sorrow

When day is a-waxing

And man's grief awaketh,

And the sorrow of each one

The early day quickeneth.

Not now, not now,

Nor yesterday,

But long ago

Has that day worn by,

That ancientest time,

The first time to tell of,

Then, whenas Gudrun,

Born of Giuki,

Whetted her sons

To Swanhild's avenging.

“Your sister's name

Was naught but Swanhild,

Whom Jormunrek

With horses has trodden!—

White horses and black

On the war-beaten way,

Grey horses that go

On the roads of the Goths.

“All alone am I now

As in holt is the aspen;

As the fir-tree of boughs,

So of kin am I bare;

As bare of things longed for

As the willow of leaves

When the bough-breaking wind

The warm day endeth.

“Few, sad, are ye left,

O kings of my folk!

Yet alone living

Last shreds of my kin!

“Ah, naught are ye grown

As that Gunnar of old days;

Naught are your hearts

As the heart of Hogni!

Well would ye seek

Vengeance to win

If your hearts were in aught

As the hearts of my brethren!”

Then spake Hamdir

The high-hearted:

“Naught hadst thou to praise

The doings of Hogni,

When they woke up Sigurd

From out of slumber,

And in bed thou sat'st up

‘Mid the banes-men's laughter.

“Then when thy bed-gear,

Blue-white, well woven

By art of craftsmen

Ail swam with thy king's blood;

Then Sigurd died,

O'er his dead corpse thou sattest,

Not heeding aught gladsome,

Since Gunnar so willed it.

“Great grief for Atli

Gatst thou by Erp's murder,

And the end of thine Eitil,

But worse grief for thyself.

Good to use sword

For the slaying of others

In such wise that its edge

Shall not turn on ourselves!”

Then well spake Sorli

From a heart full of wisdom:

“No words will I

Make with my mother,

Though both ye twain

Need words belike—

What askest thou, Gudrun,

To let thee go greeting?

“Weep for thy brethren,

Weep for thy sweet sons,

And thy nighest kinsfolk

Laid by the fight-side!

Yea, and thou Gudrun,

May'st greet for us twain

Sitting fey on our steeds

Doomed in far lands to die.”

From the garth forth they went

With hearts full of fury,

Sorli and Hamdir,

The sons of Gudrun,

And they met on the way

The wise in all wiles:

“And thou little Erp,

What helping from thee?”

He of alien womb

Spake out in such wise:

“Good help for my kin,

Such as foot gives to foot,

Or flesh-covered hand

Gives unto hand!”

“What helping for foot

That help that foot giveth,

Or for flesh-covered hand

The helping of hand?”

Then spake Erp

Yet once again

Mock spake the prince

As he sat on his steed:

“Fool's deed to show

The way to a dastard!”

“Bold beyond measure,”

Quoth they, “is the base-born!”

Out from the sheath

Drew they the sheath-steel,

And the glaives' edges played

For the pleasure of hell;

By the third part they minished

The might that they had,

Their young kin they let lie

A-cold on the earth.

Then their fur-cloaks they shook

And bound fast their swords,

In webs goodly woven

Those great ones were clad;

Young they went o'er the fells

Where the dew was new-fallen

Swift, on steeds of the Huns,

Heavy vengeance to wreak.

Forth stretched the ways,

And an ill way they found,

Yea, their sister's son 〖Randver, the son of their sister's husband.〗

Hanging slain upon tree—

Wolf-trees by the wind made cold

At the town's westward

Loud with crane's clatter—

Ill abiding there long!

Din in the king's hall

Of men merry with drink,

And none might hearken

The horses' tramping

Or ever the warders

Their great horn winded.

Then men went forth

To Jormunrek

To tell of the heeding

Of men under helm:

“Give ye good counsel!

Great ones are come hither,

For the wrong of men mighty

Was the may to death trodden.”

Loud Jormunrek laughed,

And laid hand to his beard,

Nor bade bring his byrny,

But with the wine fighting,

Shook his red locks,

On his white shield sat staring,

And in his hand

Swung the gold cup on high.

“Sweet sight for me

Those twain to set eyes on,

Sorli and Hamdir,

Here in my hall!

Then with bowstrings

Would I bind them,

And hang the good Giukings

Aloft on the gallows!”

·    ·    ·    ·

·    ·    ·    ·

·    ·    ·    ·

Then spake Hrothglod

From off the high steps,

Spake the slim-fingered

Unto her son,—

—For a threat was cast forth

Of what ne'er should fall—

“Shall two men alone

Two hundred Gothfolk

Bind or bear down

In the midst of their burg?”

·    ·    ·    ·

·    ·    ·    ·

Strife and din in the hall,

Cups smitten asunder

Men lay low in blood

From the breasts of Goths flowing.

Then spake Hamdir,

The high-hearted:

“Thou cravedst, O king,

For the coming of us,

The sons of one mother,

Amidmost thine hall—

Look on these hands of thine,

Look on these feet of thine,

Cast by us, Jormunrek,

On to the flame!”

Then cried aloud

The high Gods' kinsman,〖Odin namely.〗

Bold under byrny,—

Roared he as bears roar;

“Stones to the stout ones

That the spears bite not,

Nor the edges of steel,

These sons of Jonakr!”

·    ·    ·    ·

·    ·    ·    ·


“Bale, brother, wroughtst thou

By that bag's 〖“Bag,” his mouth.〗 opening,

Oft from that bag

Rede of bale cometh!

Heart hast thou, Hamdir,

If thou hadst heart's wisdom

Great lack in a man

Who lacks wisdom and lore!”


“Yea, off were the head

If Erp were alive yet,

Our brother the bold

Whom we slew by the way;

The far-famed through the world.—

Ah, the fates drave me on,

And the man war made holy,

There must I slay!”


“Unmeet we should do

As the doings of wolves are,

Raising wrong each 'gainst other

As the dogs of the Norns,

The greedy ones nourished

In waste steads of the world.

“In strong wise have we fought,

On Goths' corpses we stand,

Beat down by our edges,

E'en as ernes on the bough.

Great fame our might winneth,

Die we now, or to-morrow,—

No man lives till eve

Whom the fates doom at morning.”

At the hall's gable-end

Fell Sorli to earth,

But Hamdir lay low

At the back of the houses.

Now this is called the Ancient Lay of Hamdir.

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