The Northern Way

Gunnars Slagr

Gunnar's Melody.

1. It of old befell that Gunnar,
Giuki's son,
was doomed to die
In Grábak's halls.
The feet were free
of the king's son,
but his hands were bound
with hard bonds.

2. A harp he seized,
the warrior king
his skill displayed,
his foot_branches moved,
the harp_strings
sweetly touched:
that art had not been practised
save by the king's son.

3. Then sang Gunnar,
in these strains:
the harp got voice,
as it had been a man;
yet not a sweeter sound,
had it been a swan;
the hall of serpents echoed
to the golden strings:

4. "I my sister know
wedded to the worst of men,
and to the Niflungs'
base foe espoused.
To his home bade Atli
Högni and Gunnar,
his relations,
but murdered both.

5. Slaughter he made them
take for festivity,
and conflict for
convivial potations.
Ever will that survive
while men shall live:
so did relations never
any one delude.

6. Why, Atli! dost thou
so wreak thy anger?
Herself did Brynhild
cause to die,
and Sigurd's
cruel death.
Why wouldst thou Gudrún
cause to weep?

7. Long since the raven told,
from the high tree,
our calamities,
at our relation's death;
Brynhild told me,
Budli's daughter,
how Atli would
deceive us both.

8. This also Glaumvör said,
when we both reposed,
for the last time,
in the same bed,
_ my consort had
portentous dreams _
'Go not Gunnar!
Atli is now false to thee.

9. A lance I saw
red with thy blood,
a gallows ready
for Giuki's son:
I thought for thee the Dísir
prepared a feast;
I ween that for you brothers
treachery is at work.'

10. Said also Kostbera _
she was Högni's wife _
the runes were falsely graved,
and the dreams interpreted.
But the heart beat high
In the princes' breast,
neither knew fear
of a cruel death.

11. The Norns have for us,
Giuki's heirs,
a life_time appointed,
at Odin's will;
no one may
against fate provide,
nor, of luck bereft,
in his valour trust.

12. Atli! I laugh
that thou hast not
the red_gold rings
that Hreidmar owned;
I alone know where that treasure
hidden lies,
since that Högni
to the heart ye cut.

13. Atli! I laugh,
that ye Huns
the laughing Högni
to the heart cut.
The Hniflung shrank not
from the scooping wound,
nor flinched he from
a painful death.

14. Atli! I laugh,
that thou hast lost
many of thy men
that choicest were,
beneath our swords,
before thy own death.
Our noble sister has
thy brother maimed.

15. Yet shall not Gunnar,
Giuki's son,
fear express
in Grafvitnir's dwelling;
nor dejected go
to the sire of hosts:
Already is the prince
inured to suffering.

16. Sooner shall Góin
pierce me to the heart,
and Nidhögg
such my reins,
Linn and Lángbak
my liver tear,
than I will abandon
my steadfastness of heart.

17. Gudrún it will
grimly avenge,
that Atli us
has both deceived;
she to thee, king! will
give the hearts
of thy cubs,
hot at the evening meal;

18. And their blood
thou from cups shalt drink
formed of their skulls.
That mental anguish shall
bite thee most cruelly,
when Gudrún sets
such crimes before thee.

19. Short will be thy life
after the princes' death;
an ill end thou wilt have,
for breach of our affinity:
such is befitting thee,
through the deed
of our sister sorely impelled
thy treachery to requite.

20. Gudrún will thee
with a lance lay low,
and the Niflung
stand hard by;
in thy palace
will the red flame play;
then in Náströnd thou shalt
be to Nidhögg given.
21. Now is Grábak lulled,
and Grafvitnir,
Góin and Móin,
and Grafvöllud,
Ofnir and Svafnir,
with venom glistening,
Nad and Nidhögg,
and the serpents all,
Hring, Höggvard,
by the harp's sound.

22. Alone wakeful remains
Atli's mother,
she has pierced me
to the heart's roots,
my liver sucks,
and my lungs tears.

23. Cease now, my harp!
hence I will depart,
and in the vast
Valhall abide,
with the Æsir drink
of costly cups,
be with Sæhrimnir sated
at Odin's feast.

24. Now is Gunnar's melody
all sung out;
I have men delighted
for the last time.
Henceforth few princes will
with their foot_branches
the sweetly sounding
harp_strings strike."

 

Index  |  ham­ismal - the lay of hamdir  |  grˇttas÷ngr - the lay of grotti