The Northern Way


Gudrún’s Incitement.

Having slain Atli, Gudrún went to the sea-shore. She went out into the sea, and would destroy herself, but could not sink. She was borne across the firth to the land of King Jonakr, who married her. Their sons were Sörli, Erp, and Hamdir. There was reared up Svanhild, the daughter of Sigurd. She was given in marriage to Jörmunrek the Powerful. With him lived Bikki, who counseled Randver, the king´s son, to take her. Bikki told that to the king, who caused Randver to be hanged, and Svanhild trodden under horses’ feet. When Gudrún heard of this she said to her sons: -

1. Then heard I tell
of quarrels dire,
hard sayings uttered
from great affliction,
when her sons
the fierce-hearted Gudrún,
in deadly words,
to slaughter instigated.


2. “Why sit ye here?
why sleep life away?
why does it pain you not
joyous words to speak,
now Jörmunrek
your sister
young in years
has with horses trodden,
white and black,
in the public way,
with grey and way-wont
Gothic steeds?

3. Ye are not like
to Gunnar and the others,
nor of soul so valiant,
as Högni was.
Her ye should
seek to avenge,
if ye had the courage
of my brothers,
or the fierce spirit
of the Hunnish kings.”

4. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
“Little didst thou care
Högni’s deed to praise,
when Sigurd he
from sleep awaked.
They blue-white
bed-clothes were
red with thy husband’s gore,
with death-blood covered.

5. For thy brothers thou didst
o’er-hasty vengeance take,
dire and bitter,
when thou thy sons didst murder.
We young ones could
on Jörmunrek,
acting all together,
have avenged our sister.

6. Bring forth the arms
of the Hunnish kings:
thou hast us stimulated
to a sword-mote.”

7. Laughing Gudrún
to the storehouse turned,
the kings’ crested helms
from the coffers drew,
their ample corslets,
and to her sons them bore.
The young heroes loaded
their horses’ shoulders.

8. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
“So will no more come
his mother to see,
the warrior felled
in the Gothic land,
so that thou the funeral-beer
after us all my drink,
after Svanhild
and thy sons.”

9. Weeping Gudrún,
Giuki’s daughter,
sorrowing went,
to sit in the fore-court,
and to recount,
with tear-worn cheeks,
sad of soul, her calamities,
in many ways.

10. “Three fires I have known,
three hearths I have known,
of three consorts I have been
borne to the house.
Sigurd alone to me was
better than all,
of whom my brothers
were the murderers.

11. Of my painful wounds
I might not complain;
yet they even more
seemed to afflict me,
when those chieftains
to Atli gave me.

12. My bright boys
I called to speak with me;
for my injuries I could not
get revenge,
ere I had severed
the Hniflungs heads.

13. To the sea-shore I went,
against the Norns I was embittered;
I would cast off
their persecution;
bore, and submerged me not
the towering billows;
up on land I rose,
because I was to live.
14. To the nuptial couch I went -
as I thought better for me,
- for the third time,
with a mighty king.
I brought forth offspring,
guardians of the heritage,
guardians of the heritage,
Jonarkr’s sons.

15. But around Svanhild
bond-maidens sat;
of all my children her
I loved the best.
Svanhild was,
in my hall,
as was the sun-beam,
fair to behold.

16. I with gold adorned her,
and with fine raiment,
before I gave her
to the Gothic people.
That is to me the hardest
of all my woes,
that Svanhild’s
beauteous locks
should in the mire be trodden
under horses’ feet.

17. But that was yet more painful,
when my Sigurd they
slew in his bed;
though of all most cruel,
when of Gunnar
the glistening serpents
to the vitals crawled;
but the most agonizing,
which to my heart flew,
when the brave king’s heart
they while quick cut out.

18. Many griefs I call to memory,
many ills I call to memory.
Guide, Sigurd!
thy black steed,
thy swift courser,
hither let it run.
Here sits
no son’s wife, no daughter,
who to Gudrún
precious things may give.

19. Remember, Sigurd!
what we together said,
when on our bed
we both were sitting,
that thou, brave one,
wouldst come to me
from Hel’s abode,
but I from the world to thee.

20. Raise, ye Jarls!
an oaken pile;
let it under heaven
the highest be.
May it burn
a breast full of woes!
the fire round my heart
its sorrows melt!”

21. May all men’s lot
be bettered,
all women’s
sorrow lessened,
to whom this tale of woes
shall be recounted.


Index  |  atlamál in groenlenzku - the groenland lay of atli page 4  |  hamđismal - the lay of hamdir