The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer


THESE inadequate Translations do their best to be accurate, and to follow the variations of the original metreandmdash;which, be it borne in mind, are inseparable from the music and movement of the Dance. Everyone can perceive the pitfalls into which I have floundered, but no one without practical experience can realize the strength of the temptations which I have tried to resist. The best service this book can do for the student is the arousing of a Divine Discontent, which will lead him to acquire the Icelandic tongue, with its Faroëse offshoot, and read the Ballads as they ought to be read.

In the case of proper names, I have, with one exception, followed the Faroëse forms. That exception is the important case of Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer himself. 'Sjurð' is, to our eyes, unfamiliarandmdash;but, far more important, 'Sjurð' is a monosyllable; and our English ballad-vocabulary is only too largely monosyllabic. The Faroëse language, on the other hand, retains many Icelandic inflections. The difficulties of rendering the one into the other were already very great; had I not taken refuge in 'Sigurd,' I should have found them insuperable. This inaccuracy, then, sprang from deliberate choice. All others are unintentional.

The Danish Ballads have been added on the principle that one half-hour of comparison is worth many hours of hearsay. Even at second-hand, their differences from the Faroëse in scheme, tone, and diction


cannot fail to be perceived, and to throw some little light on subtle national variations, and the workings of men's mutable souls. Let scholars sift, trace, and compare as they will, the secret of why any given poet re-echoes an old story after his own fashion and none other, must always remain a secret hidden in the depths of human nature itself.

NOTE. My best thanks are due to Professor Arthur G. Brodeur, of Berkeley University, California, and to Mr. G. H. Helweg, Reader in Danish, University College, London, for much helpful advice and constructive criticism.


Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page