The Northern Way

Atlamál in Groenlenzku

The Groenland Lay of Atli.

Page 3

51. Then the fierce Atli spoke,
wroth though he was:
“ ‘Tis ill to look around;
this is long of you.
We were thirty
warlike thanes,
eleven survive:
the chasm is too great.
We were five brothers,
when Budli died;
now has Hel the half,
two lie slain.

52. “A great affinity I obtained,
that I cannot deny,
pernicious woman!
of which I have no benefit:
peace we have seldom had,
since thou among us camst.
Of kinsmen ye have bereft me,
of riches often wronged.
To Hel my sister ye have sent;
that is to me most bitter.”

Gudrún
53. “This thou callest to mind, Atli!
but thou so first didst act:
my mother thou didst take,
and for her treasures murder;
my gifted niece with hunger
thou didst cause to perish.
Laughable to me it seems,
when thou sorrows doest recount.
The gods are to be thanked,
that it goes ill with thee.”

Atli
54. “Jarls! I exhort you
the sorrow to augment
of that presumptuous woman:
I would fain see it.
Strive so to do,
that Gudrún may lament.
Might I but see
that in her lot she joys not!

55. Take ye Högni,
and with a knife hack him:
cut out his heart:
this ye shall do.
Gunnar the fierce of soul
to a gallows fasten;
do the work thoroughly,
lure up the serpents.”

Högni
56. Do as thou listest,
glad I will await it;
stout I shall prove myself:
I have ere now things much harder proved.
Ye had a hinderance
while unscathed we were:
now are we so wounded
that our fate thou mayest command.

57. Beiti spake,
- he was Atli’s steward -
Take we Hialli,
but Högni let us save.
Let us do half the work;
he is death-worthy.
As long as he lives
a slug he will ever be.

58. Terrified was the kettle-watcher
the place no longer held him:
he could be a whiner,
he clomb into every nook:
their conflict was his bane,
as he the penalty must pay;
and the day sad,
when he must from the swine die,
from all good things,
which he had enjoyed.

59. Budli’s cook they took,
and the knife brought towards him.
Howled the wretched thrall,
ere the point he felt;
declared that he had time
the gardens to manure,
the vilest offices to do,
if from death he might escape.
Joyful indeed was Hialli,
could he but save his life.

60. Högni all this observed -
few so act,
as for a slave to interceed,
that he may escape -
“Less ‘tis, I say, for me
to play this game myself.
Why shall we here desire
to listen to that screaming?”

61. Hands on the good prince they laid.
Then was no option
for the bold warriors,
the sentence longer to delay.
Then laughed Högni;
heard the sons of day
how he could hold out:
torment he well endured!

62. A harp Gunnar took,
with his foot-branches touched it.
He could so strike it,
that women wept,
and the men sobbed,
who best could hear it.
He the noble queen counseled:
the rafters burst asunder.

63. There died the noble,
at the dawn of day;
at the last they caused
their deeds to live.

64. Atli thought himself great:
over them both he strode,
to the sagacious woman told the evil,
and bitterly reproached her.
“It is now morning, Gudrún!
thy loved ones thou hast lost;
partly thou art the cause
that it has so befallen.”

Gudrún
65. Joyful art thou, Atli!
slaughter to announce:
repentance shall await thee,
when thou hast all proved.
That heritage shall be left thee
-that I can tell thee-
that ill shall never from thee go,
unless I also die.

Atli
66. That I can prevent;
another course I see,
easier by half:
the good we oft reject.
With slaved I will console thee,
with things most precious,
with snow-white silver,
as thou thyself mayest desire.

Gudrún
67. Of that there is no hope;
I will all reject;
atonement I have spurned
for smaller injuries.
Hard I was ever thought,
now will that be aggravated.
I every grudge concealed,
while Högni lived.

68. We were both nurtured
in one house;
many a play we played,
and in the wood grew up;
Grimhild us adorned
with gold and necklaces;
for my brothers’ death
never wilt thou indemnify me,
nor ever do
what shall to me seem good.

69. Mens’ too great power
women’s lot oppresses;
on the knee the hand sinks,
if the arms wither;
the tree inclines,
if its root-fibres are severed.
Now, Atli! thou mayest alone
over all here command.

70. Most unwise it was,
when to this the prince gave credit:
the guild was manifest,
had he been on his guard.
Dissembling then was Gudrún,
against her heart she could speak,
made herself gay appear,
with two shields she played.

71. A banquet she would prepare,
her brothers’ funeral feast;
the same would Atli also
for his own do.

72. With this they ended;
the banquet was prepared;
the feasting was
too luxurious.
The woman great of heart was stern,
she warred on Budli’s race;
on her spouse she would
cruel vengeance wreak.

73. The young ones she enticed,
and on a block laid them,
the fierce babes were terrified,
and wept not,
to their mother’s bosom crept,
asked was she was going to do.

74. “Ask no questions,
both I intend to kill;
long have I desired
to cut short your days.”

75. “Slay as thou wilt thy children,
no one hinders it;
thy rage will have short peace,
if thou destroyest us
in our blooming years,
thou desperate woman!”
It fell out accordingly:
she cut the throats of both.

 

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