The Northern Way

Guðrunarkviða Þriðja

The Third Lay of Gudrún.

Atli had a serving-woman named Herkia, who had been his concubine. She informed Atli that she had seen Thiodrek and Gudrún together; whereat Atli was much afflicted. Then Gudrún said:

1. What ails thee ever, Atli!
Budli’s son!
Hast thou sorrow in thy heart?
Why never laughest thou?
To thy jarls it would
seem more desirable,
that thou with men wouldst talk,
and on me wouldst look.

2. It grieves me, Gudrún!
Giuki’s daughter!
that in my palace here,
Herkia has said,
that thou and Thiodrek have
under one covering slept,
and wantonly
been in the linen wrapt.

3. For all this charge
I will give my oaths
by the white
sacred stone,
that with me and Thiodrek
nothing has passed,
which to man and wife
only belongs;

4. Save that I embraced
the prince of armies,
the honoured king,
a single time.
Other were
our cogitations,
when sorrowful we two
sat to converse.

5. Hither came Thiodrek,
with thirty warriors;
now there lives not one
of those thirty men.
Surround me with thy brothers,
and with mailed warriors;
surround me with all
thy noblest kinsmen.

6. Send to Saxi
the Southmen’s prince,
he can hallow
the boiling cauldron.”

7. Seven hundred men
entered the hall,
ere in the cauldron
the queen dipt her hand.

8. “Now Gunnar comes not,
nor call I Högni:
I shall not see again
my loved brothers:
with his sword would Högni
such wrong avenge:
now I must myself
purify from crime.”

9. She to the bottom plunged
her snow-white hand,
and up she drew
the precious stones.
“See now, ye men!
I am proved guiltless
in holy wise,
boil the vessel as it may.”

10. Laughed then Atli’s
heart within his breast,
when he unscathed beheld
the hands of Gudrún.
“Now must Herkia
to the cauldron go,
she who Gudrún
had hoped to injure.”
No one has misery seen
who saw not that,
how the hand there
of Herkia was burnt.
They then the woman led
to a foul slough.
So were Gudrún’s
wrongs avenged.

        (Editor’s note: Herkia, the Erka or Helche of the German tradition, who here appears as a slave or servant, is, according to that tradition, the queen of Etzel or Atli, who did not marry Kriemhilt (Gudrún) until after her death. The falsification of the story, the pitiful subordinate part acted by Thiodrek, the perfect silence of all the other poems on this event, and the ordeal of the cauldron, sufficiently show that the poem is a later composition. P.E. Müller (II. p. 319) ascribes it to Sæmund himself. )


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