The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

THE BALLAD OF HØGNI       113

152.
Oh this do they tell of Tattnarson,
That in warlock's wise eftsoon
He vanished away from the greenwood vale,
& stood before Gudrun.
153.
" Now welcome, Tidrik Tattnarson!
All in thy power I trust;
Great praise for valour shall be thine
When Høgni bites the dust. "
154.
" 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. "
155.
" Great store of gold & silver
Shall by that wight be won,
Who severs head from body
Of Høgni Gjilkason! "
156.
Up stood Tidrik Tattnarson,
& drew his sword, & cried:
" Now will I dare the upper air
& see what will betide! "
157.
Oh, few like Tidrik Tattnarson
In warlock arts were wise;
Over the tops of the greenwood trees
He flew in dragon's guise.
158.
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

159.
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.
160.
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.
161.
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.
      ·       ·       ·

162.
It was Høgni Gjúkason
Home to the hall that hied,
& it was King Artala
That stood the gate beside.
163.
" 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. "
164.
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

165.
" Now harken, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
For soon will my days be done:
King Artala hath begotten
This self-same night a son.
166.
" 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.
167.
" 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.
168.
" All guile is known to Gudrun,
Doth still for vengeance thirst!
She'll bid thee, Helvik Jarl's daughter,
Go thro' the doorway first.
169.
" But she that wears the head-dress high
Must fitly go before,
& she whose coil is lower
Should follow thro' the door.
170.
" 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

171.
" Now take to thee this runic belt,
& round thy body bind;
Its power can loosen every lock,
& lighten every mind.
172.
" 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.
173.
" 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! "
174.
Up spake Høgni Gjúkason:
" No longer may I bide'-
For the venom swart was in his heart,
& thus the hero died.
175.
'Twas Helvik told those tidings
In haste thro' bower & hall,
& the henchman heaped a lordly howe
For Høgni's burial.
      ·       ·       ·
176.
Full oft, I ween, have mortals seen
That after pain comes joy:
Helvik lay down in high-loft
& bore a goodly boy.
177.
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

178.
A boy she bore, Queen Gudrun,
All to her dule & pain;
She wrapped him well in swaddling-bands,
& bade them call him Sweyn.
179.
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. "
180.
Up spake Helvik Jarl's daughter:
" I may not have it so;
Who wears the highest head-gear
Should first thro' doorway go. "
181.
Now Helvik hid her bonnie babe
When she was left alone,
& she took Gudrun's from his cradle
& laid him in her own.
182.
'Twas Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
That did a deed of shame;
Forth from the bower she hastened,
& back to the bower she came.
183.
" Tis Gudrun Gjúki's daughter
A deadly deed has done,
Head from neck she's sundered,
& slain her only son!
      ·       ·       ·
184.
Right well waxed young Høgni,
Stalwart of limb,
Artala, King in Hunland,
Fosterèd him. (1)

1. fostered

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