Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer
THE BALLAD OF HØGNI 113
Oh this do they tell of Tattnarson,
That in warlock's wise eftsoon
He vanished away from the greenwood vale,
& stood before Gudrun.
" Now welcome, Tidrik Tattnarson!
All in thy power I trust;
Great praise for valour shall be thine
When Høgni bites the dust. "
" Nay, toil & tene will be mine, oh Queen, (1)
And evil will be my plight!
Not swiftly is that warrior slain
On whom no sword will bite. "
" Great store of gold & silver
Shall by that wight be won,
Who severs head from body
Of Høgni Gjilkason! "
Up stood Tidrik Tattnarson,
& drew his sword, & cried:
" Now will I dare the upper air
& see what will betide! "
Oh, few like Tidrik Tattnarson
In warlock arts were wise;
Over the tops of the greenwood trees
He flew in dragon's guise.
It was Høgni Gjúkason
Right well his peril knew;
He cast aloft his biting brand
To pierce him thro' & thro'.
1. tene/teen = grief; sorrow; affliction; pain.
114 SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER
Venom he spued, the fire-drake fell, (1)
Like rain from a raging sky,
& the warrior that no sword could wound
By magic art must die.
A waesome weird full many a man (2)
On Middle Earth must dree!
The venom that filled his byrnie blue
Was a foe that none could flee.
He turned from fight who ne'er had turned,
Betrayed by magic art,
For the venom that filled his byrnie blue
Seeped into the hero's heart.
· · ·
It was Høgni Gjúkason
Home to the hall that hied,
& it was King Artala
That stood the gate beside.
" I pray not peace of thee, oh King
Nor wound nor scar have I,
But I ask of thee a Jarl's daughter
Within mine arms to lie. "
They gave to him a Jarl's daughter
(So ran the tale of yore)
& Høgni gat with her a son
Or ever the night was o'er.
1. fell = formidable, dangerous
2. waesome [Scotch] = sorrowful (woeful, harrowing)
THE BALLAD OF HØGNI 115
" Now harken, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
For soon will my days be done:
King Artala hath begotten
This self-same night a son.
" Take heed now, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
Or great will be thy blame;
If thou dost bear a boy to me,
Then call him by my name.
" Gudrun will seize upon thy babe
To work him dule & pine,
But take thou her own to thy cradle,
& lay him in place of thine.
" All guile is known to Gudrun,
Doth still for vengeance thirst!
She'll bid thee, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
Go thro' the doorway first.
" But she that wears the head-dress high
Must fitly go before,
& she whose coil is lower
Should follow thro' the door.
" And if a boy thou bear me,
Be it thus & so,
That he avenge his father's death,
Should he to manhood grow.
116 SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER
" Now take to thee this runic belt,
& round thy body bind;
Its power can loosen every lock,
& lighten every mind.
" And harken, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
Such power the belt doth wield,
Shalt give it to our own young son
When first he rides afield.
" Now here I give thee store of gold,
With many a ring so red;
& think thou well, my Jarl's daughter,
On vengeance for the dead! "
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason:
" No longer may I bide'-
For the venom swart was in his heart,
& thus the hero died.
'Twas Helvik told those tidings
In haste thro' bower & hall,
& the henchman heaped a lordly howe
For Høgni's burial.
· · ·
Full oft, I ween, have mortals seen
That after pain comes joy:
Helvik lay down in high-loft
& bore a goodly boy.
She wrapped him well in swaddling-bands
When to this earth he came,
A gallant child & fair to see,
& Høgni was his name.
THE BALLAD OF HØGNI 117
A boy she bore, Queen Gudrun,
All to her dule & pain;
She wrapped him well in swaddling-bands,
& bade them call him Sweyn.
In bower they dwelt, those fair ladyes,
Till full two months were o'er;
" Rise up, thou young Jarl's daughter!
I bid thee go before. "
Up spake Helvik Jarl's daughter:
" I may not have it so;
Who wears the highest head-gear
Should first thro' doorway go. "
Now Helvik hid her bonnie babe
When she was left alone,
& she took Gudrun's from his cradle
& laid him in her own.
'Twas Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
That did a deed of shame;
Forth from the bower she hastened,
& back to the bower she came.
" Tis Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
A deadly deed has done,
Head from neck she's sundered,
& slain her only son!
· · ·
Right well waxed young Høgni,
Stalwart of limb,
Artala, King in Hunland,
Fosterèd him. (1)