The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       103

82.
Young is the lad & witless,
Thrall to his mother's word,
Straightway he fares to Høgni,
That sits beside the board.
83.
Young is the lad & witless
That fears his mother's might,
Yet fears not Høgni Gjúkason
Upon the face to smite!
84.
Oh, fast & sore the red, red gore
Ran down from Høgni's cheek;
Unwary was the warrior,
Nor wont for guile to seek.
85.
'Twas Høgni thrust the board away,
& started from his seat;
The blood-red wine & foaming mead
Were mingled at their feet.
86.
All into midmost hall he sprang
Across the rocking board-
Raging, he tumed upon the boy
& drew his doughty sword. "
87.
Raging, he turned upon the boy,
& drew his brand so bright;
Body from head he sundered,
So strongly did he smite.
88.
" I drink no more in Hunland
.My wine with right goodwill-
Shame on my mother's daughter
That nurtured her son so ill! "

104       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

89.
Unto the King went Gudrun,
& thus she spake & said:
" Now all by the fault of Høgni
Our only son lies dead.
90.
" No more, no more in Hunland,
Will I with thee abide,
If thou honour not thine own dear son,
That hath so foully died! "
91.
" Now lithe & listen, Gudrun my wife,
To deem I will not deign
That thou wouldst choose such guile to use,
& bring thy brethren bane.
92.
" For when they slew young Sigurd,
& all to work thee woe,
Gislar & Hjarnar were but babes
That never dealt a blow. "
93.
Up & spake Queen Gudrun:
" Little of that reck I!
Gislar & Hjarnar & brethren all
For that foul deed must die. "
94.
" Now rede me this, Gudrun my wife,
& waste not idle breath;
Say, how shall Høgni the mighty
Be made to taste of death? .
95.
" To deal with Høgni the mighty
Would cost the doughtiest dear;
Whene'er he comes from battle
A head adorns his spear. "

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       105

96.
" Now let three full-grown ox-hides
Be steeped in blood of men;
Bid Høgni leap athwart the hides,
& he shall not 'scape us then!
97.
" Take heed, & bid thy henchmen
To soak the hides in gore,
& nail them by the threshold,
& bar with iron the door. "
98.
It was King Artala .
Bade bar with iron the door,
&steep the hides in blood of men,
& nail them down before.
      ·       ·       ·
99.
" Tis Gudrun speaks a word of doom,
& stands the board beside;
" Now shall Gislar, brother mine,
Leap first athwart the hide. "
100.
'Twas Høgni straight from board uprose,
Nor spared he speech withal;
Alone he strove her heart to move
Amid those brethren all.
101.
In heavy mood rose Høgni,
& spake with earnest voice:
" Gislar & Hjarnar home shall fare
Their mother to rejoice.
102.
" For both were but guiltless bairns, I wis,
All at their mother's side,
When Gunnar & Høgni dealt the blow
Whereof young Sigurd died. "

106       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

103.
Up spake Gjúki's daughter:
" Little of that reck I!
Gislar & Hjarnar & brethren all
For that foul deed must die! "
104.
Now Gislar with young Hjamar
That perilous passage tries,
& well may all see how they fall,
But none may see,them rise.
105.
'Twas Gudrun stood beside the board
& spake a word of woe:
" Now shall Gunnar, brother mine,
Athwart the ox-hides go. "
106.
'Twas Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
Willed him that peril sore;
Yet Gjúki's son, he well-nigh won
His way thro' castle-door.
107.
Little of fear knew Gunnar,
Mighty in weapon-play;
He brast the bars of iron,
& reft the door away.
108.
Yet all in vain King Gunnar
That treacherous footing tries;
For all men well saw how he fell,
But no man saw him rise.
109.
'Twas Gudrun said a word of dread,
& stood the board beside:
" Now shall Høgni, brother mine,
Leap last athwart the hide. "

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       107

110.
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason
With ready brand ashine:
" Better it were in Gjúki's garth
To drink the blood-red wine! "
111.
It was Høgni Gjúkason
Thought on his mother dear;
So great as was his peril,
So little was his fear.
112.
He took his brand in stalwart hand
To stay his steps withal:
" Now will I leap athwart the hides,
& let what will befall!'
113.
Over the hides sprang Høgni
Like wild-bird on the wing;
No foot of his could slide, I wis,
So mighty was the spring.
114.
Over the hides sprang Høgni;
Not there his fate was sealed,
His stand he made in greenwood glade
To fight with sword & shield.
115.
Over the hides sprang Høgni,
But little peace he found,
For all Artala's men-at-arms
Stood boun on battle-ground. "
116.
His stand he made in greenwood glade,
& bound his helmet fast:
" Oh, we shall have blood for wine to drink
Or ever this day be past!'

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page