The Northern Way

Atlakviða

The Lay of Atli.

Page 2

23. Then said Gunnar,
lord of men:
“Here have I the heart
of the timid Hialli,
unlike the heart
of the bold Högni;
for much it trembles
as in the dish it lies:
it trembled more by half,
while in his breast it lay.”

24. Högni laughed,
when to his heart they cut
the living crest-crasher;
no lament uttered he.
All bleeding on a dish they laid it,
and it to Gunnar bare.

25. Calmly said Gunnar,
the warrior Niflung:
“Here have I the heart
of the bold Högni,
unlike the heart
of the timid Hialli;
for it little trembles,
as in the dish it lies:
it trembled less,
while in his breast it lay.

26. So far shalt thou, Atli!
be from the eyes of men
as thou wilt
from the treasures be.
In my power alone
is all the hidden
Niflungs’ gold,
now that Högni lives not.

27. Ever was I wavering,
while we both lived;
now am I so no longer,
as I alone survive.
Rhine shall possess
men’s baleful metal,
the mighty stream, the As-known
Niflungs’ heritage.
In the rolling water
the choice rings shall glitter,
rather than on the hands
of the Huns’ children shine.

28. Drive your wheel-chariots,
the captive is now in bonds.”

29. Atli the mighty,
their sister’s husband,
rode with resounding steeds,
with strife-thorns surrounded.
Gudrún perceived
the heroes’ peril
she from tears refrained,
on entering the hall of tumult.

30. “So be it with thee, Atli!
as toward Gunnar thou hast held
the oft-sworn oaths,
formerly taken -
by the southward verging sun,
and by Sigtý’s hill,
the secluded bed of rest,
and by Ullr’s ring.”
Yet thence the more
did the bit-shaker
the treasure’s guardian,
the warrior chief,
drag to death.

31. The living prince
then did a host of men
into a pen cast down,
which was within
with serpents over-crawled.
But Gunnar there alone
a harp in wrathful mood
with his hand struck:
the strings resounded.
So should a daring chief,
a ring-dispenser,
gold from men withhold.

32. Atli turned
his brass-shod steed,
his home to re-visit,
back from the murder.
Din was in the court
with horses thronged,
men’s weapon-song,
from the heath they were come.

33. Out then went Gudrún,
Atli to meet,
with a golden cup to do
her duty to the king.
“Thou canst, o king!
joyful in thy hall
receive from Gudrún
the arms of the departed.”

34. The drinking-cups of Atli
groaned with wine heavy,
when in the hall together
the Huns were counted.
Long-bearded, bold,
the warriors entered.

35. Hastened the bright-faced dame
to bear their potions to them,
the wondrous lady to the chiefs;
and reluctantly to the pallid Atli
the festal dainties offered,
and uttered words of hate.

36. “Thou, swords’ dispenser! hast
thy two sons’ hearts,
slaughter-gory,
with honey eaten.
I resolved that thou, bold chief!
shouldst of a human dish
eat at thy feasting,
and to the place of honour send it.

37. Henceforth thou wilt not
to thy knees call
Erp and Eitil,
joyous with beer the two:
thou wilt not henceforth see them
from thy middle seat,
gold-dispersing,
javelins shafting,
manes clipping,
or horses urging.”

38. Uproar was on the benches,
portentous the cry of men,
noise beneath the costly hangings.
The children of the Huns wept,
all wept save Gudrún,
who never wept,
or for her bear-fierce brothers,
or her dear sons,
young, simple,
whom she had borne to Atli.

39. Gold scattered
the swan-fair dame;
with ruddy rings
the household gifted.
Fate she let ripen,
but the bright gold flow.
The woman spared not
the treasure-houses.

40. Atli incautious had
himself drunk weary;
weapon he had none,
nor was ‘gainst Gudrún guarded.
Oft had their sport been better,
when they lovingly
embraced each other
before the nobles.

41. With the sword’s point she gave
the bed of blood to drink
with death-bent hand,
and the dogs loosed,
out at the hall-door drove them,
and the lady wakened
the household with burning brand. -
That vengeance she for her brothers took.

42. To fire she then gave all
that were therein,
and from her brothers’ murder
were from the dark den returned.
The old structures fell,
the treasure-houses smoked,
the Budlungs’ dwelling.
Burnt too were the shield-maids
within, their lives cut short;
in the raging fire they sank.

43. Of this enough is said.
No such woman will henceforth
arms again bear,
to avenge her brothers.
That bright woman had
to three kings of men
the death-doom borne,
before she died.

        Yet more clearly is this told in ‘Atlamálum inum Groenlenzkum’ (the Groenland lay of Atli).

 

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