Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer
TWO versions of this ballad are given in Dg. F.[*Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser], together with A. S. Vedel's recension (1) , here translated. Grundtvig mentions receiving three versions from the Faroës, which, he says, presented nothing original. The versions he gives differ only in minor details, of which the most significant are the names of hero and heroine. Senild harks back to Signild; but Ellin (A version) is, needless to say, from the common stock of balladry, whilst neither Lenno (B) nor Lovmar smack of the original source. W. Grimm (2) was the first to see through the medieval disguise, and point out the heroine's true ancestress in the avenging Khriemhild.
In savagery, in terseness, and in dramatic effect, this Ballad bears comparison with the celebrated Hævnesverdet [sword of vengeance]. (3) Diction and metre are effective through, their very simplicity, suggestive of a nursery-rhyme such as an Ogress might sing to her children. The dialogue is admirable; while the incidents of Sir Lovmar's grisly laughter, and Senild's sewing of the. grave-clothes, are equal to anything in the Danish Ballad-world.
1. Vedel, Anders Sørensen (1542-1616), historian, Denmark. Translated Saxo to Danish.
2.'Altdänische Heldenlieder, Balladen, und Romanzen' (Heidelberg, 1811), p. 528.
3. The recension that has been translated is in Anders Sørensen Vedel's work, Hundredevisebog [Book of Hundred Ballads](1591), and is the poem entitled "Stolt Signild hielper sin Broder aff Døds Nød[Proud Signild helps her brothers to their Death's Throes]".
PROUD Senild's kinsmen did all agree
To wed her away in a far countrie.
(She wept such woeful tears.)
They sent her to a far-off land,
To her father's slayer they gave her hand.
Till eight long years were tined & told, (1)
Proud Senild saw not her brethren bold.
Wine she blended for festival,
& bade her brethren home to hall.
Sir Lovmar laughed with hearty cheer
As he ne'er had laughed for many a year.
To the loft proud Senild hied,
& looked forth far & wide.
Proud Senild from the tower looked forth
Till her brethren's voices she heard in the garth.
'What if, my lord, it should befall
That my brethren seven came home to hall?'
'So would I deal with brethren thine
As tho' they were all dear sons o' mine.'
1. tine = kindle, rage, smart
180 SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER
She seated her brethren at the board,
& wine from a costly cup she poured.
She plied Sir Lovmar with wine so clear,
But milk she gave to her brethren dear.
He feigned to drink when his cup she filled, .
But ever in secret the wine he spilled.
Their bed she made on the stone-paved floor;
She willed them to wake till the night was o'er.
When first proud Senild slumbered & slept,
Forth from her arms Sir Lovmar crept.
To her brethren's bed has .Sir Lovmar gone,
& he's slain the seven by one & by one.
He caught in a cup their red, red gore,
& the goblet to Senild's bower he bore.
He bore the goblet to Senild's bed,
& her cheeks grew white that erst were red.
" Dear my lord, now tell me aright,
Where hast thou been in the mirk midnight?'
DWARFIE KINSHIP'S VENGEANCE 181
'Forth to the heath I hied
To hear my hawks that cried.'
" Hast tarried long with those hawks o' thine-
May God the Lord keep brethren mine!'
" Drink now, drink now, thou sister good,
Drink of thy brethren's red hearts'-blood!'
" That thirst, methinks, were wondrous sore,
Should tempt me to drink of my brethren's gore!
" Oh come to thy bed, sweet lord, again;
Little reek I of my brethren's bane.'
Now eight long years did fade & flee,
& Sir Lovmar was fain his sons to see.
He bade her make ready both wine & mead,
& he sent for his sons to come with speed.
" Proud Senild, what an it should befall
That my seven sons came home to hall?'
" So would I deal with those sons o' thine
As tho' they were all dear brethren mine.'
She set his sons at the board to sup,
& wine she poured from a costly cup.
182 SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER
Deep did Sir Lovmar drink that e'en,
Little he warded his life, I ween!
The down for their bedding did Senild take,
She willed them to sleep, & not to wake.
Bolsters of blue on the bed laid she,
& sleep-runes she wrote where none might see.
When first Sir Lovmar slumbered & slept,
Forth from his arms proud Senild crept.
To the bed of his sons has proud Senild gone,
& she's slain the seven by one & by one.
She caught in a cup their blood so red,
& the goblet she bore to Sir Lovmar's bed.
" Drink now, drink now, thou father good,
Pledge thou thy wife in thy children's blood!'
" Sore indeed were the thirst, I wis,
Should tempt me to drink such a draught as this!'
Sir Lovmar was fain of his biting brand,
But Senild had bound him both foot & hand.
DWARFIE KINSHIP'S VENGEANCE 183
" Hold in, proud Senild, & spare thou me!
Never will I do wrong by thee.'
" Of yore thou didst me wrong enow
When thou slewest my father dear, I trow.
" Be sure that I will deal with thee
As thou hast dealt with the dead & me!'
" Wrong enow didst thou do me of old,
When thou slewest my seven brethren bold.
She seized him by his golden hair,
She slew Sir Lovmar & did not spare.
Up spake the babe in cradle lay:
'Vengeance I'll have for thy deed this day!'
So hard on the cradle her foot she set
That her heel in the bairnie's blood was wet.
" Thou that art come of thy father's blood,
Ill wouldst thou do me, & never good.'
She watched till morning light
A sewing their shrouds so white.
" Man for man have I shent & slain; (1)
I'll home to my father's land again.'
1. shent = to harm, spoil