THE STORY OF THE VOLSUNGS (VOLSUNGA SAGA)
APPENDIX: EXCERPTS FROM THE POETIC EDDA
THE SONG OF ATLI
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29
Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, avenger her brethren, as is told far and wide; first she slew the sons of Atli, and then Atli himself; and she burned the hall thereafter, and all the household with it: and about these matters is this song made: --In days long gone Sent Atli to Gunnar A crafty one riding, Knefrud men called him; To Giuki's garth came he, To the hall of Gunnar, To the benches gay-dight, And the gladsome drinking.
There drank the great folk 'Mid the guileful one's silence, Drank wine in their fair hall: The Huns' wrath they feared When Knefrud cried In his cold voice, As he sat on the high seat, That man of the Southland:
"Atli has sent me Riding swift on his errands On the bit-griping steed Through dark woodways unbeaten, To bid thee, King Gunnar, Come to his fair bench With helm well-adorned, To the house of King Atli.
"Shield shall ye have there And spears ashen-shafted, Helms ruddy with gold, And hosts of the Huns; Saddle-gear silver gilt, Shirts red as blood, The hedge of the warwife, And horses bit-griping.
"And he saith he will give you Gnitaheath widespread, And whistling spears And prows well-gilded, Might wealth With the stead of Danpi, And that noble wood Men name the Murkwood."
Then Gunnar turned head And spake unto Hogni: "What rede from thee, high one, Since such things we hear? No gold know I On Gnitaheath, That we for our parts Have not portion as great.
"Seven halls we have Fulfilled of swords, And hilts of gold Each sword there has; My horse is the best, My blade is the keenest; Fair my bow o'er the bench is, Gleams my byrny with gold; Brightest helm, brightest shield, From Kiar's dwelling ere brought -- Better all things I have Than all things of the Huns."
HOGNI SAID: "What mind has our sister That a ring she hath sent us In weed of wolves clad? Bids she not to be wary? For a wolf's hair I found The fair ring wreathed about; Wolf beset shall the way be If we wend on this errand."
No sons whetted Gunnar, Nor none of his kin, Nor learned men nor wise men, Nor such as were mighty. Then spake Gunnar E'en as a king should speak, Glorious in mead-hall From great heart and high:
"Rise up now, Fiornir, Forth down the benches Let the gold-cups of great ones Pass in hands of my good-men! Well shall we drink wine, Draughts dear to our hearts, Though the last of all feasts In our fair house this be!
"For the wolves shall rule O'er the wealth of the Niblungs, With the pine-woods' wardens In Gunnar perish: And the black-felled bears With fierce teeth shall bite For the glee of the dog kind, If again comes not Gunnar."
Then good men never shamed, Greeting aloud, Led the great king of men From the garth of his home; And cried the fair son Of Hogni the king: "Fare happy, O Lords, Whereso your hearts lead you!"
Then the bold knights Let their bit-griping steeds Wend swift o'er the fells, Tread the murk-wood unknown, All the Hunwood was shaking As the hardy ones fared there; O'er the green meads they urged Their steeds shy of the goad.
Then Atli's land saw they; Great towers and strong, And the bold men of Bikki, Aloft on the burg: The Southland folks' hall Set with benches about, Dight with bucklers well bounden, And bright white shining shields.
There drank Atli, The awful Hun king, Wine in his fair hall; Without were the warders, Gunnar's folk to have heed of, Lest they had fared thither With the whistling spear War to wake 'gainst the king.
But first came their sister As they came to the hall, Both her brethren she met, With beer little gladdened: "Bewrayed art thou, Gunnar! What dost thou great king To deal war to the Huns? Go thou swift from the hall!
Better, brother, hadst thou Fared here in thy byrny Than with helm gaily dight Looked on Atli's great house: Them hadst sat then in saddle Through days bright with the sun Fight to awaken And fair fields to redden:
"O'er the folk fate makes pale Should the Norn's tears have fallen, The shield mays of the Huns Should have known of all sorrow; And King Atli himself To worm-close should be brought; But now is the worm-close Kept but for thee."
Then spake Gunnar Great 'mid the people: "Over-late sister The Niblungs to summon; A long way to seek The helping of warriors, The high lord unshamed, From the hills of the Rhine!"
Seven Hogni beat down With his sword sharp-grinded, And the eighth man he thrust Amidst of the fire. Ever so shall famed warrior Fight with his foemen, As Hogni fought For the hand of Gunnar.
But on Gunnar they fell, And set him in fetters, And bound hard and fast That friend of Burgundians; Then the warrior they asked If he would buy life, But life with gold That king of the Goths.
Nobly spake Gunnar, Great lord of the Niblungs; "Hogni's bleeding heart first Shall lie in mine hand, Cut from the breast Of the bold-riding lord, With bitter-sharp knife From the son of the king."
With guile the great one Would they beguile, On the wailing thrall Laid they hand unwares, And cut the heart From out of Hjalli, Laid it bleeding on trencher And bare it to Gunnar.
"Here have I the heart Of Hjalli the trembler, Little like the heart Of Hogni the hardy: As much as it trembleth Laid on the trencher By the half more it trembled In the breast of him hidden."
Then laughed Hogni When they cut the heart from him, From the crest-smith yet quick, Little thought he to quail. The hard acorn of thought From the high king they took, Laid it bleeding on trencher And bare it Gunnar.
"Here have I the heart Of Hogni the hardy, Little like to the heart Of Hjalli the trembler. Howso little it quaketh Laid here on the dish, Yet far less it quaked In the breast of him laid.
"So far mayst thou bide From men's eyen, O Atli, As from that treasure Thou shalt abide!
"Behold in my heart Is hidden for ever That hoard of the Niblungs, Now Hogni is dead. Doubt threw me two ways While the twain of us lived, But all that is gone Now I live on alone.
"The great Rhine shall rule O'er the hate-raising treasure, That gold of the Niblungs, The seed of the gods: In the weltering water Shall that wealth lie a-gleaming, Or it shine on the hands Of the children of Huns!"
Then cried Atli, King of the Hun-folk, "Drive forth your wains now The slave is fast bounden." And straightly thence The bit-shaking steeds Drew the hoard-warden, The war-god to his death.
Atli the great king, Rode upon Glaum, With shields set round about, And sharp thorns of battle: Gudrun, bound by wedlock To these, victory made gods of, Held back her tears As the hall she ran into.
"Let it fare with thee, Atli, E'en after thine oaths sworn To Gunnar fell often; Yea, oaths sworn of old time, By the sun sloping southward, By the high burg of Sigry, By the fair bed of rest, By the red ring of Ull!"
Now a host of men Cast the high king alive Into a close Crept o'er within With most foul worms, Fulfilled of all venom, Ready grave to dig In his doughty heart.
Wrathful-hearted he smote The harp with his hand, Gunnar laid there alone; And loud rang the strings. -- In such wise ever Should hardy ring-scatterer Keep gold from all folk In the garth of his foeman.
Then Atli would wend About his wide land, On his steed brazen shod, Back from the murder. Din there was in the garth, All thronged with the horses; High the weapon-song rose From men come from the heath.
Out then went Gudrun, 'Gainst Atli returning, With a cup gilded over, To greet the land's ruler; "Come, then, and take it, King glad in thine hall, From Gudrun's hands, For the hell-farers groan not!"
Clashed the beakers of Atli, Wine-laden on bench, As in hall there a-gathered, The Huns fell a-talking, And the long-bearded eager ones Entered therein, From a murk den new-come, From the murder of Gunnar.
Then hastened the sweet-faced Delight of the shield-folk, Bright in the fair hall, Wine to bear to them: The dreadful woman Gave dainties withal To the lords pale with fate, Laid strange word upon Atli:
"The hearts of thy sons Hast thou eaten, sword-dealer, All bloody with death And drenched with honey: In most heavy mood Brood o'er venison of men! Drink rich draughts therewith, Down the high benches send it!
"Never callest thou now From henceforth to thy knee Fair Erp or fair Eiril, Bright-faced with the drink; Never seest thou them now Amidmost the seat, Scattering the gold, Or shafting of spears; Manes trimming duly, Or driving steeds forth!"
Din arose from the benches, Dread song of men was there, Noise 'mid the fair hangings, As all Hun's children wept; All saving Gudrun, Who never gat greeting, For her brethren bear-hardy For her sweet sons and bright, The young ones, the simple Once gotten with Atli.
The seed of gold Sowed the swan-bright woman, Rings of red gold She gave to the house-carls; Fate let she wax, Let the bright gold flow forth, In naught spared that woman The store-houses' wealth.
Atli unaware Was a-weary with drink; No weapon had he, No heeding of Gudrun -- Ah, the pity would be better, When in soft wise they twain Would full often embrace Before the great lords!
To the bed with sword-point Blood gave she to drink With a hand fain of death, And she let the dogs loose: Then in from the hall-door -- -- Up waked the house-carls -- Hot brands she cast, Gat revenge for her brethren.
To the flame gave she all Who therein might be found; Fell adown the old timbers, Reeked all treasure-houses; There the shield-mays were burnt, Their lives' span brought to naught; In the fierce fire sank down All the stead of the Budlungs.
Wide told of is this -- Ne'er sithence in the world, Thus fared bride clad in byrny For her brothers' avenging; For behold, this fair woman To three kings of the people, Hath brought very death Or ever she died!
Go to The Whetting of Gudrun