THE STORY OF THE VOLSUNGS
Of Brynhild's great Grief and Mourning
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29
After this talk Brynhild lay a-bed, and tidings were brought to King Gunnar that Brynhild was sick; he goes to see her thereon, and asks what ails her; but she answered him naught, but lay there as one dead: and when he was hard on her for an answer, she said --
"What didst thou with that ring that I gave thee, even the one which King Budli gave me at our last parting, when thou and King Giuki came to him and threatened fire and the sword, unless ye had me to wife? Yea, at that time he led me apart, and asked me which I had chosen of those who were come; but I prayed him that I might abide to ward the land and be chief over the third part of his men; then were there two choices for me to deal betwixt either that I should be wedded to him whom he would, or lose all my weal and friendship at his hands; and he said withal that his friendship would be better to me than his wrath: then I bethought me whether I should yield to his will, or slay many a man; and therewithal I deemed that it would avail little to strive with him, and so it fell out, that I promised to wed whomsoever should ride the horse Grani with Fafnir's Hoard, and ride through my flaming fire, and slay those men whom I called on him to slay, and now so it was, that none durst ride, save Sigurd only, because he lacked no heart thereto; yea, and the Worm he flew, and Regin, and five kings beside; but thou, Gunnar, durst do naught; as pale as a dead man didst thou wax, and no king thou art, and no champion; so whereas I made a vow unto my father, that him alone would I love who was the noblest man alive, and that this is none save Sigurd, lo, now have I broken my oath and brought it to naught, since he is none of mine, and for this cause shall I compass thy death; and a great reward of evil things have I wherewith to reward Grimhild; -- never, I wot, has woman lived eviler or of lesser heart than she."
Gunnar answered in such wise that few might hear him, "Many a vile word hast thou spoken, and an evil-hearted woman art thou, whereas thou revilest a woman far better than thou; never would she curse her life as thou dost; nay, nor has she tormented dead folk, or murdered any; but lives her life well praised of all."
Brynhild answered, "Never have I dwelt with evil things privily, or done loathsome deeds; -- yet most fain I am to slay thee."
And therewith would she slay King Gunnar, but Hogni laid her in fetters; but then Gunnar spake withal --
"Nay, I will not that she abide in fetters."
Then said she, "Heed it not! For never again seest thou me glad in thine hall, never drinking, never at the chess-play, never speaking the words of kindness, never over-laying the fair cloths with gold, never giving thee good counsel; -- ah, my sorrow of heart that I might not get Sigurd to me!"
Then she sat up and smote her needlework, and rent it asunder, and bade set open her bower doors, that far away might the wailings of her sorrow be heard; then great mourning and lamentation there was, so that folk heard far and wide through that abode.
Now Gudrun asked her bower-maidens why they sat so joyless and downcast. "What has come to you, that ye fare ye as witless women, or what unheard-of wonders have befallen you?"
Then answered a waiting lady, hight Swaflod, "An untimely, an evil day it is, and our hall is fulfilled of lamentation."
Then spake Gudrun to one of her handmaids, "Arise, for we have slept long; go, wake Brynhild, and let us fall to our needlework and be merry."
"Nay, nay," she says, "nowise may I wake her, or talk with her; for many days has she drunk neither mead nor wine; surely the wrath of the Gods has fallen upon her."
Then spake Gudrun to Gunnar, "Go and see her," she says, "and bid her know that I am grieved with her grief."
"Nay," says Gunnar, "I am forbid to go see her or to share her weal."
Nevertheless he went unto her, and strives in many wise to have speech of her, but gets no answer whatsoever; therefore he gets him gone and finds Hogni, and bids him go see her: he said he was loth thereto, but went, and gat no more of her.
Then they go and find Sigurd, and pray him to visit her; he answered naught thereto, and so matters abode for that night.
But the next day, when he came home from hunting, Sigurd went to Gudrun, and spake --
"In such wise do matters show to me, as though great and evil things will betide from this trouble and upheaving; and that Brynhild will surely die."
Gudrun answers, "O my lord, by great wonders is she encompassed, seven days and seven nights has she slept, and none has dared wake her."
"Nay, she sleeps not," said Sigurd, "her heart is dealing rather with dreadful intent against me."
Then said Gudrun, weeping, "Woe worth the while for thy death! Go and see her; and wot if her fury may not be abated; give her gold, and smother up her grief and anger therewith!"
Then Sigurd went out, and found the door of Brynhild's chamber open; he deemed she slept, and drew the clothes from off her, and said --
"Awake, Brynhild! The sun shineth now over all the house, and thou hast slept enough; cast off grief from thee, and take up gladness!"
She said, "And how then hast thou dared to come to me? In this treason none was worse to me than thou."
Said Sigurd, "Why wilt thou not speak to folk? For what cause sorrowest thou?"
Brynhild answers, "Ah, to thee will I tell of my wrath!"
Sigurd said, "As one under a spell art thou, if thou deemest that there is aught cruel in my heart against thee; but thou hast him for husband whom thou didst choose."
"Ah, nay," she said, "never did Gunnar ride through the fire to me, nor did he give me to dower the host of the slain: I wondered at the man who came into my hall; for I deemed indeed that I knew thine eyes; but I might not see clearly, or divide the good from the evil, because of the veil that lay heavy on my fortune."
Says Sigurd, "No nobler men are there than the sons of Giuki, they slew the king of the Danes, and that great chief, the brother of King Budli."
Brynhild answered, "Surely for many an ill-deed must I reward them; mind me not of my griefs against them! But thou, Sigurd, slewest the Worm, and rodest the fire through; yea, and for my sake, and not one of the sons of King Giuki."
Sigurd answers, "I am not thy husband, and thou art not my wife; yet did a farfamed king pay dower to thee."
Says Brynhild, "Never looked I at Gunnar in such a wise that my heart smiled on him; and hard and fell am I to him, though I hide it from others."
"A marvellous thing," says Sigurd, "not to love such a king; what angers thee most? For surely his love should be better to thee than gold."
"This is the sorest sorrow to me," she said, "that the bitter sword is not reddened in thy blood."
"Have no fear thereof!" says he, "no long while to wait or the bitter sword stand deep in my heart; and no worse needest thou to pray for thyself, for thou wilt not live when I am dead; the days of our two lives shall be few enough from henceforth."
Brynhild answers, "Enough and to spare of bale is in thy speech, since thou bewrayedst me, and didst twin (1) me and all bliss; -- naught do I heed my life or death."
Sigurd answers, "Ah, live, and love King Gunnar and me withal! And all my wealth will I give thee if thou die not."
Brynhild answers, "Thou knowest me not, nor the heart that is in me; for thou art the first and best of all men, and I am become the most loathsome of all woman to thee."
"This is truer," says Sigurd, "that I loved thee better than myself, though I fell into the wiles from whence our lives may not escape; for whenso my own heart and mind availed me, then I sorrowed sore that thou wert not my wife; but as I might I put my trouble from me, for in a king's dwelling was I; and withal and in spite of all I was well content that we were all together. Well may it be, that that shall come to pass which is foretold; neither shall I fear the fulfilment thereof."
Brynhild answered, and said, "Too late thou tellest me that my grief grieved thee: little pity shall I find now."
Sigurd said, "This my heart would, that thou and I should go into one bed together; even so wouldst thou be my wife."
Said Brynhild, "Such words may nowise be spoken, nor will I have two kings in one hall; I will lay my life down rather than beguile Gunnar the King."
And therewith she call to mind how they met, they two, on the mountain, and swore oath each to each.
"But now is all changed and I will not live."
"I might not call to mind thy name," said Sigurd, "or know time again, before the time of thy wedding; the greatest of all griefs is that."
Then said Brynhild, "I swore an oath to wed the man who should ride my flaming fire, and that oath will I hold to, or die."
"Rather than thou die, I will wed thee, and put away Gudrun." said Sigurd.
But therewithal so swelled the heart betwixt the sides of him, that the rings of his byrny burst asunder.
"I will not have thee," says Brynhild, "nay, nor any other!"
Then Sigurd got him gone.
So saith the song of Sigurd --"Out then went Sigurd, The great kings' well-loved, From the speech and the sorrow, Sore drooping, so grieving, That the shirt round about him Of iron tings woven, From the sides brake asunder Of the brave in the battle."So when Sigurd came into the hall, Gunnar asked if he had come to a knowledge of what great grief lay heavy on her, or if she had power of speech: and Sigurd said that she lacked it not. So now Gunnar goes to her again, and asked her, what wrought her woe, or if there were anything that might amend it.
"I will not live," says Brynhild, "for Sigurd has bewrayed me, yea, and thee no less, whereas thou didst suffer him to come into my bed: lo thou, two men in one dwelling I will not have; and this shall be Sigurd's death, or thy death, or my death; -- for now has he told Gudrun all, and she is mocking me even now!"
Go to Chapter XXX