The Northern Way

Hamðismal

The Lay of Hamdir.

1. In that court arose
woful deeds,
at the Alfar's
doleful lament;
at early morn,
men's afflictions,
troubles of various kinds;
sorrows were quickened.

2. It was not now,
nor yesterday,
a long time since
has passed away,
_ few things are more ancient,
it was by much earlier _
when Gudrún,
Giuki's daughter,
her young sons instigated
Svanhild to avenge.

3. "She was your sister,
her name Svanhild,
she whom Jormenrek
with horses trod to death,
on the public way,
with grey and way_wont
Gothic steeds.

4. Thenceforth all is sad to you,
kings of people!
Ye alone survive,

5. branches of my race.
Lonely I am become,
as the asp_tree in the forest,
of kindred bereft,
as the fir of branches;
of joy deprived,
as is the tree of foliage,
when the branch_spoiler
comes in the warm day."

6. Then spake Hamdir,
the great of soul,
"Little, Gudrún! didst thou care
Högni's deed to praise,
when Sigurd they
from sleep awaked.
On the bed thou satst,
and the murderers laughed.

7. Thy bed_clothes,
blue and white,
woven by cunning hands,
swam in thy husband's gore.
When Sigurd perished,
o'er the dead thou satst,
caredst not for mirth _
So Gunnar willed it.

8. Atli thou wouldst afflict
by Erp's murder,
and by Eitil's
life's destruction:
that proved for thyself the worse:
therefore should every one
so against others use,
a sharp_biting sword,
that he harm not himself."

9. Then said Sörli_
he had a prudent mind_
"I with my mother will not
speeches exchange:
though words to each of you
to me seem wanting.
What, Gudrún! dost thou desire,
which for tears thou canst not utter?

10. For thy brothers weep,
and thy dear sons,
thy nearest kin,
drawn to the strife:
for us both shalt thou, Gudrún!
also have to weep,
who here sit fated on our steeds,
far away to die."

11. From the court they went,
for conflict ready.
The young men journeyed
over humid fells,
on Hunnish steeds,
murder to avenge.

12. Then said Erp,
all at once
_ the noble youth was joking
on his horse's back _
"Ill 'tis to a timid man
to point out the ways."
They said the bastard
was over bold.

13. On their way they had found
the wily jester.
"How will the swarthy dwarf
afford us aid?"

14. He of another mother answered:
so he said aid he would
to his kin afford,
as one foot to the other
(or, grown to the body,
one hand the other.)

15. "What can a foot
to a foot give;
or, grown to the body,
one hand the other?"

16. From the sheath they drew
the iron blade,
the falchion's edges,
for Hel's delight.
They their strength diminished
by a third part,
they their young kinsman caused
to earth to sink.

17. Their mantles then they shook,
their weapons grasped;
the high_born were clad
in sumptous raiment.

18. Forward lay the ways,
a woful path they found,
and their sister's son
wounded on a gibbet,
wind_cold outlaw_trees,
on the town's west.
Ever vibrated the ravens' whet:
there to tarry was not good.

19. Uproar was in the hall,
men were with drink excited,
so that the horses' tramp
no one heard,
until a mindful man
winded his horn.

20. To announce they went
to Jörmunrek
that were seen
helm_decked warriors.
"Take ye counsel,
potent ones are come;
before mighty men ye have
on a damsel trampled."

21. Then laughed Jörmunrek,
with his hand stroked his beard,
asked not for his corslet;
with wine he struggled
shook his dark locks,
on his white shield looked,
and in his hand
swung the golden cup.

22. "Happy should I seem,
if I could see
Hamdir and Sörli
within my hall.
I would them then
With bowstrings bind,
The good sons of Giuki
on the gallows hang."
23. Then said Hródrglöd,
on the high steps standing;
"Prince," said she
to her son
_ for that was threatened
which ought not to happen _
"shall two men alone
bind or slay
ten hundred Goths
in this lofty burgh?"

24. Tumult was in the mansion,
the beer_cups flew in shivers,
men lay in blood
from the Goths' breasts flowing.

25. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
"Jörmunrek! thou didst
desire our coming,
brothers of one mother,
into thy burgh;
now seest thou thy feet,
seest thy hands
Jörmunrek! cast
into the glowing fire.

26. Then roared forth
a godlike
mail_clad warrior,
as a bear roars:
"On the men hurl stones,
since spears bite not,
nor edge of sword, nor point,
the sons of Jonakr."

27. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
"Harm didst thou, brother!
when thou that mouth didst ope.
Oft from that mouth
bad counsel comes."

28. "Courage hast thou, Hamdir!
if only thou hadst sense:
that man lacks much
who wisdom lacks.

29. Off would the head now be,
had but Erp lived,
our brother bold in fight,
whom on the way we slew,
that warrior brave
_ me the Dísir instigated _
that man sacred to us,
whom we resolved to slay.

30. I ween not that ours should be
the wolves' example,
that with ourselves we should contend,
like the Norns' dogs,
that voracious are
in the desert nurtured."

31. "Well have we fought,
on slaughtered Goths we stand,
on those fallen by the sword,
like eagles on a branch.
Great glory we have gained,
Though now or to morrow we shall die.
No one lives till eve
against the Norns' decree."

32. There fell Sörli,
at the mansion's front;
but Hamdir sank
at the house's back.

This is called the Old Lay of Hamdir.

 

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