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  The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Certain Songs from the Elder Edda which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs
 
The Second or Ancient Lay of Gudrun
 
 
  THIODREK the King was in Atli’s house, and had lost there the more part of his men: so there Thiodrek and Gudrun bewailed their troubles one to the other, and she spake and said:—
        A may of all mays
My mother reared me
Bright in bower;
Well loved I my brethren,
Until that Giuki
With gold arrayed me,
With gold arrayed me,
And gave me to Sigurd.
 
Such was my Sigurd,
Among the sons of Giuki
As is the green leek
O’er the low grass waxen,
Or a hart high-limbed
Over hurrying deer,
Or glede-red gold
Over grey silver.
 
Till me they begrudged,
Those my brethren,
The fate to have him,
Who was first of all men;
Nor might they sleep,
Nor sit a-dooming,
Ere they let slay
My well-loved Sigurd.
 
Grani ran to the Thing,
There was clatter to hear,
But never came Sigurd
Himself thereunto;
All the saddle-girt beasts
With blood were besprinkled,
As faint with the way
Neath the slayers they went.
 
Then greeting I went
With Grani to talk,
And with tear-furrowed cheeks
I bade him tell all;
But drooping laid Grani,
His head in the grass,
For the steed well wotted
Of his master’s slaying.
 
A long while I wandered,
Long my mind wavered,
Ere the kings I might ask
Concerning my king.
 
Then Gunnar hung head,
But Hogni told
Of the cruel slaying
Of my Sigurd:
“On the water’s far side
Lies, smitten to death,
The bane of Guttorm
To the wolves given over.
 
“Go, look on Sigurd,
On the ways that go southward,
There shalt thou hear
The ernes high screaming,
The ravens a-croaking
As their meat they crave for;
Thou shalt hear the wolves howling
Over thine husband.”
 
“How hast thou, Hogni,
The heart to tell me,
Me of joy made empty,
Of such misery?
Thy wretched heart
May the ravens tear
Wide over the world,
With no men mayst thou wend.”
 
One thing Hogni
Had for answer,
Fallen from his high heart,
Full of all trouble:
“More greeting yet,
O Gudrun, for thee,
If my heart the ravens
Should rend asunder!”
 
Thence I turned
From the talk and the trouble
To go a leasing 1
What the wolves had left me;
No sigh I made
Nor smote hands together,
Nor did I wail
As other women
When I sat over
My Sigurd slain.
 
Night methought it,
And the moonless dark,
When I sat in sorrow
Over Sigurd:
Better than all things
I deemed it would be
If they would let me
Cast my life by,
Or burn me up
As they burn the birch-wood.
 
From the fell I wandered
Five days together,
Until the high hall
Of Half lay before me;
Seven seasons there
I sat with Thora,
The daughter of Hacon,
Up in Denmark.
 
My heart to gladden
With gold she wrought
Southland halls
And swans of the Dane-folk;
There had we painted
The chiefs a-playing;
Fair our hands wrought
Folk of the kings.
 
Red shields we did,
Doughty knights of the Huns,
Hosts spear-dight, hosts helm-dight,
All a high king’s fellows;
And the ships of Sigmund
From the land swift sailing;
Heads gilt over
And prows fair graven.
 
On the cloth we broidered
That tide of their battling,
Siggeir and Siggar,
South in Fion.
 
Then heard Grimhild,
The Queen of Gothland,
How I was abiding,
Weighed down with woe:
And she thrust the cloth from her
And called to her sons,
And oft and eagerly
Asked them thereof,
Who for her son
Would their sister atone,
Who for her lord slain
Would lay down weregild.
 
Fain was Gunnar
Gold to lay down
All wrongs to atone for,
And Hogni in likewise;
Then she asked who was fain
Of faring straightly,
The steed to saddle
To set forth the wain,
The horse to back,
And the hawk to fly,
To shoot forth the arrow
From out the yew-bow.
 
Valdarr the Dane-king
Came with Jarisleif
Eymod the third went
Then went Jarizskar;
In kingly wise
In they wended,
The hosts of the Longbeards;
Red cloaks had they,
Byrnies short-cut,
Helms strong hammered,
Girt with glaives,
And hair red-gleaming.
 
Each would give me
Gifts desired,
Gifts desired,
Speech dear to my heart,
If they might yet,
Despite my sorrow,
Win back my trust,
But in them nought I trusted.
 
Then brought me Grimhild
A beaker to drink of,
Cold and bitter,
Wrong’s memory to quench;
Made great was that drink
With the might of the earth,
With the death-cold sea
And the blood that Son 2 holdeth.
 
On that horn’s face were there
All the kin of letters
Cut aright and reddened,
How should I rede them rightly?
The ling-fish long
Of the land of Hadding,
Wheat-ears unshorn,
And wild thing’s inwards.
 
In that mead were mingled
Many ills together,
Blood of all the wood,
And brown-burnt acorns;
The black dew of the hearth, 3
And god-doomed dead beasts’ inwards,
And the swine’s liver sodden,
For wrongs late done that deadens.
 
Then waned my memory
When that was within me,
Of my lord ’mid the hall
By the iron laid low.
Three kings came
Before my knees
Ere she herself
Fell to speech with me.
 
“I will give to thee, Gudrun,
Gold to be glad with,
All the great wealth
Of thy father gone from us,
Rings of red gold
And the great hall of Lodver,
And all fair hangings left
By the king late fallen.
 
“Maids of the Huns
Woven pictures to make,
And work fair in gold
Till thou deem’st thyself glad.
Alone shalt thou rule
O’er the riches of Budli,
Shalt be made great with gold,
And be given to Atli.”
 
“Never will I
Wend to a husband,
Or wed the brother
Of Queen Brynhild;
Naught it beseems me
With the son of Budli
Kin to bring forth,
Or to live and be merry.”
 
“Nay, the high chiefs
Reward not with hatred,
For take heed that I
Was the first in this tale!
To thy heart shall it be
As if both these had life,
Sigurd and Sigmund,
When thou hast borne sons.”
 
“Naught may I, Grimhild,
Seek after gladness,
Nor deem aught hopeful
Of any high warrior,
Since wolf and raven
Were friends together,
The greedy, the cruel,
O’er great Sigurd’s heart-blood.”
 
“Of all men that can be
For the noblest of kin
This king have I found,
And the foremost of all;
Him shalt thou have
Till with eld thou art heavy—
Be thou ever unwed,
If thou wilt naught of him!”
 
“Nay, nay, bid me not
With thy words long abiding
To take unto me
That balefullest kin;
This king shall bid Gunnar
Be stung to his bane,
And shall cut the heart
From out of Hogni.
 
“Nor shall I leave life
Ere the keen lord,
The eager in sword-play,
My hand shall make end of.”
 
Grimhild a-weeping
Took up the word then,
When the sore bale she wotted
Awaiting her sons,
And the bane hanging over
Her offspring beloved.
 
“I will give thee, moreover,
Great lands, many men,
Wineberg and Valberg,
If thou wilt but have them;
Hold them lifelong,
And live happy, O daughter!”
 
“Then him must I take
From among kingly men,
‘Gainst my heart’s desire,
From the hands of my kinsfolk;
But no joy I look
To have from that lord:
Scarce may my brother’s bane
Be a shield to my sons.”
 
Soon was each warrior
Seen on his horse,
But the Gaulish women
Into wains were gotten;
Then seven days long
O’er a cold land we rode,
And for seven other
Clove we the sea-waves
But with the third seven
O’er dry land we wended.
 
There the gate-wardens
Of the burg, high and wide,
Unlocked the barriers
Ere the burg-garth we rode to.—
 
Atli woke me
When meseemed I was
Full evil of heart
For my kin dead slain.
 
“In such wise did the Norns
Wake me or now.”—
Fain was he to know
Of this ill foreshowing—
“That methought, O Gudrun,
Giuki’s daughter,
That thou setst in my heart
A sword wrought for guile.”
 
“For fires tokening I deem it
That dreaming of iron,
But for pride and for lust
The wrath of fair women
Against some bale
Belike, I shall burn thee
For thy solace and healing
Though hateful thou art.”
 
“In the fair garth methought
Had saplings fallen
E’en such as I would
Should have waxen ever;
Uprooted were these,
And reddened with blood,
And borne to the bench,
And folk bade me eat of them.
 
“Methought from my hand then
Went hawks a-flying
Lacking their meat
To the land of all ill;
Methought that their hearts
Mingled with honey,
Swollen with blood
I ate amid sorrow.
 
“Lo, next two whelps
From my hands I loosened,
Joyless were both,
And both a-howling;
And now their flesh
Became naught but corpses,
Whereof must I eat
But sore against my will.”
 
“O’er the prey of the fishers
Will folk give doom;
From the bright white fish
The heads will they take;
Within a few nights,
Fey as they are,
A little ere day
Of that draught will they eat.”
Ne’er since lay I down,
Ne’er since would I sleep,
Hard of heart, in my bed:—
That deed have I to do. 4
  1
 
Note 1. Gleaning. [back]
Note 2. Son was the vessel into which was poured the blood of Quasir, the God of Poetry. [back]
Note 3. This means soot. [back]
Note 4. The whole of this latter part is fragmentary and obscure; there seems wanting to two of the dreams some trivial interpretation by Gudrun, like those given by Hogni to Kostbera in the Saga, of which nature, of course, the interpretation contained in the last stanza but one is, as we have rendered it: another rendering, from the different reading of the earlier edition of Edda (Copenhagen, 1818) would make this refer much more directly to the slaying of her sons by Gudrun. [back]
 

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