The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

98       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

49.
Up & spake Queen Gudrun
Whose garb with gold did shine:
" 'Tis my brethren Gunnar & Høgni,
That come to this house o' mine! "
50.
The Queen goes forth to a grassy garth
Under a wind-blown tree,
& she's risted a bough with evil runes, (1)
& cast it out to sea. (2)
51.
Ho, then waxed wind & weather,
& white the foam-wreaths flew!
The sand lay thick on the good ship's deck,
So broke the billows blue.
52.
So wildly waxed the storm-wind
A -blowing off the land,
That both the oars of iron
Were reft from Høgni's hand. (3)
53.
He's ta'en his runic girdle
To float it overboard;
Nor sea nor land could long withstand
The working of that Word.
54.
Oh, the spin-drift blown & the driving sand
Reeked up from shore & sea,
Yet safe they reached the Hunnish realm,.
A woeful weird to dree. (4)

1. rist = engrave

2. Cf. Grettis Saga, 81.

3. reft = past tense of reave = seize away, or deprive

4. dree = suffer, endure

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       99

55.
It was Gunnar Gjúkason
That first set foot on land,
'Twas Gislar & young Hjarnar
Stood next on snow-white sand.
56.
Netherward went those brethren,
(So have I heard the tale)
In from the sea-fowls' pasture,
Down to the grass-grown dale.
57.
Amid the garth they clad them
In costly armour all;
So fared the sons of Gjúki
To Gudrun's festival.
      ·       ·       ·
58.
It was Gunnar & Høgni
Did to the homestead fare,
& it was Gjúki's daughter
Went forth to meet them there.
59.
Artala, King of Hunland,
Blends wine & mead within,
While Gudrun stands by the gateway
To welcome home her kin.
60.
Up speaks Gjúki's daughter,
That well can smile at need:
" Now come to the hall, my brothers,
& drink the foaming mead! "

100       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

61.
It was Høgni Gjúkason
That heard her greeting kind,
But well he knew when he looked on her
That evil lurked behind.
62.
Up & spake Queen Gudrun:
" Now lay by shield & sword!
He thinks no more on battle
That drinks with Hunland's lord. "
63.
Up & spake Queen Gudrun
With courteous-seeming word:
" Now lay by brand & byrnie,
& seat ye at the board! "
64.
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason,
& fast he gripped his knife:
" Ne' er will I yield or sword or shield
While I draw breath of life! "
65.
Up & spake King Gunnar,
& gripped his brand so boun: (1)
" Behold, I will hide my weapon,
But yield it up to none. "
66.
But Queen Gudrun made answer
In sorrows manifold:
" A mightier .man was Sigurd
That ye laid on his shield of gold. "
67.
With woe in her heart a-burning,
Queen Gudrun up & said:
" & think ye not on young Sigurd
Ye laid in my bosom, dead?'

1. boun = ready, prepared

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       101

68.
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason,
Her golden ring that eyed:
" Small joy, I trow, hath the brent o' brow. (1)
Thinking how Sigurd died! "
69.
'Twas Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
That spake in sorrow sore:
" & mind ye not how Sigurd
Home to my bower ye bore? "
70.
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason
That saw the red ring shine:
" The blood-stained corse of Sigurd
Is ever before her eyne! "
      ·       ·       ·
71.
Early rose Gjúki's daughter,
Not yet was her anger cold;
The board was spread with silken cloth,
& ale in cups of gold.
72.
'Twas Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
Took cup of silver fine,
& hied her to the cellar
To seek for mead & wine.
73.
Wine & mead she mingled
All in the silver cup,
& ever with dim forgetfulness
She brimmed the potion up,
74.
Ever with dim forgetfulness
That layeth sorrow to sleep;
& she bore the cup to Høgni,
& bade him pledge her deep.

1. brent = without a wrinkle

102       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

75.
Now Høgni wore a ring of price,
& thereon gazed secretly,
& lo, a sweat broke out on it
Was red as blood to see.
76.
It was Høgni Gjúkason
Had little thought of thirst;
He prayed Gudrun his sister
To drink from the goblet first.
77.
Red as fire grew Gudrun,
That answered never a word;
She raised her hand to the goblet,
& struck it from the board.
78.
But now the King his place hath ta'en,
& none may stir nor chide;
Gunnar & Høgni & brethren all
He seated by his side.
      ·       ·       ·
79.
Long they dwelt in Hunland,
& merry at heart were they,
A-drinking out the darkness,
& drinking in the day.
80.
Deep they drank in Hunland
With merry hearts & free,
& sore it irked Queen Gudrun
That nought might mar their glee.
81.
She eggeth on her only son
By favour & by fear:
" Both gold & fee I'll give to thee,
Wilt thou spoil Høgni's cheer! "

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