THE STORY OF THE VOLSUNGS (VOLSUNGA SAGA)
APPENDIX: EXCERPTS FROM THE POETIC EDDA
THE SECOND OR
ANCIENT LAY OF GUDRUN
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29
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 No 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 host 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 things' 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, Unlooked 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)
Go to The Song of Atli
(1) The original has "a vid lesa". "Leasing" is the word still used for gleaning in many country sides in England.
(2) Son was the vessel into which was poured the blood of Quasir, the God of Poetry.
(3) This means soot.
(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.