The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

THE RIME OF ÁSLA

THE story of Ásla (Aslaug) is really a widely- spread folk-tale which has crept into Volsunga Saga (52), and linked itself with the main legend. (Ballads on the same folk-theme are found in France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and the Slav countries.) The legend has localized itself (amongst other places) at Spangarheid in Norway. Torfoeus, visiting the place in 1664, met with an old woman who claimed to be a descendant of Ásla, and a visitor some fifty years later had a similar experience.

But for its association with the Sigurd-Cycle, the Ballad, a mere fragment, would have little significance.

162       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

BURDEN

A-DANCING,
All men shall marvel,
So featly I foot it on the floor a-dancing!
E' en might I lose my life among ye,
All men should marvel.

THE RIME OF ÁSLA

BURDEN(refrain):
A-DANCING,
All men shall marvel,
So featly I foot it on the floor a-dancing!
E' en might I lose my life among ye,
All men should marvel.
1.
DOWN by the river Gestur hied,
& he found a harp that lay beside.
2.
Gestur (1) bound him a burden sore,
The harp on his back away he bore.
3.
Gestur into a garth has gone,
To speak with the goodwife, a childless crone.
4.
'Bide, bide, 'tis eventide,
Till Háki comes home from greenwood wide! "
5.
Right willing, I ween, was he to bide;
The harp he set by the warm fireside.
6.
Thus Gestur abode with that evil dame
Till Háki home from the greenwood came.
7.
Up spake the woman to the wight:
" Gestur shalt slay this self-same night! "
8.
'Who slayeth a sackless man doth ill,
No cause is mine his blood to spill. "
9.
'And wilt thou not his slayer be,
I'll take him to husband in place o' thee! "

1. Gestur here is Heimir, the brother-in-law of Brynhild according to the Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok.

164       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

10.
The churl hath ta'en his hunting-knife,
& swiftly ended Gestur's life.
11.
Thus Háki sackless blood did spill, (1)
But 'twas the woman whose rede was ill.
12.
They broke his harp. when he was dead,
& therein found a maiden in scarlet red.
13.
'Now thou shalt dwell in dule & pine,
& I'll call thee Kráka, daughter mine. "
14.
'Well may I dwell in dule & pine,
But I am not Kráka, daughter thine! "
15.
'Now thou shalt dwell in cark & care, (2)
& a legless bairnie shalt thou bear.'
      ·       ·       ·
16.
'Whattho' I dwell in cark & care,
A legless bairnie I will not bear!' (3)
17.
King Ragnar sailed in o'er the salt sea-foam' .
& his swains they hied them to Háki's home.
18.
Bright & blue the billows.break,
While the swains go in with bread to bake.
19.
In came a maiden; with scorn she turned;
They stared on her till the bread was burned.

1. sackless=peaceful.
2. cark =worry,care
3. In fact she gives birth to Ivar the boneless who could not stand on his own legs

THE RIME OF ÁSLA       165

20.
With a cask the carline covered her in:
" Sit there, Kráka, & hold thy din! "
21.
Forth from the cask did the maiden win:
" Shame fall on her, would sit therein! "
22.
The carline lifted her hand to smite,
& the blood ran down on her bosom white. "
23.
'Thou crabbed old crone, art not afraid
To smite on the face so fair a maid? "
24.
'Oh fairer far was I than she!
Man's slaughter .& murder were done for me. "
25.
A knife they took, these bakers bold,
& cut a hair from her locks of gold.
26.
All in a clout they wrap the hair,
& down to the shore in haste they fare.
27.
Up spake the King in angry mood:
" Now wherefore, knaves, have ye marred our food? "
28.
'Oh in came a maiden so white & so red,
We stared on her till we burned the bread.
29.
'No such maiden e'er was seen,
Fairer to look on than Tora the Queen. "

166       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

30.
" Now, tell ye this tale in mockery,
Ye all shall hang on the gallows-tree!
31.
'Tell ye this tale in despite & sport,
Your shrift, ye swains, shall be wondrous short!' (1)
32.
Swiftly those swains the clout unfold,
Wherein lay the maiden's hair of gold.
33.
'Now bear to the maiden these words from me:
Ragnar the King would speak with thee! "
34.
Unto the maiden those words they bring:
" Haste thee & hie thee to Ragnar the King! "
      ·       ·       ·
35.
Ásla down thro' greenwood hied,
& called on her hound to run beside,
36.
Ásla hied her to salt sea-shore,
& sent on her hound to run before.
      ·       ·       ·
1. shrift = summary.

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