The Northern Way

HelgakviÞa Hiörvarðs Sonar

The Lay of Helgi Hiörvard´s son.

Page 1

        There was a kind named Hiörvard, who had four wives, one of whom was named Alfhild, their son was named Hedin; the second was named Særeid, their son was Humlung; the third was named Sinriód, their son was Hymling. King Hiörvard made a vow that he would have to wife the most beautiful woman he knew of, and was told that King Svafnir had a daughter of incomparable beauty, named Sigrlinn. He had a jarl named Idmund, whose son Atli was sent to demand the hand of Sigrlinn for the king. He stayed throughout the winter with King Svafnir. There was a jarl there named Franmar, who was the foster-father of Sigrlinn, and had a daughter named Alöf. This jarl advised that the maiden should be refused, and Atli returned home. One day when the jarl´s son Atli was standing in a grove, there was a bird sitting in the boughs above him, which had heard that his men called the wives which King Hiörvard had the most beautiful. The bird talked, and Atli listened to what it said. The bird said:

1. Hast thou seen Sigrlinn,
Svafnir’s daughter,
of maidens fairest,
in her pleasant home?
though fair
the wives of Hiörvard
seem to men
in Glasis-lund.

2. With Atli,
Idmund’s son,
sagacious bird!
wilt thou further speak?

I will if the prince
will offer to me,
and I may choose what I will
from the king’s court.

3. Choose not Hiörvard
nor his sons,
nor the fair
daughters of that prince,
nor the wives
which the king has.
Let us together bargain;
that is the part of friends.

4. A fane I will chose,
offer-steads many,
gold-horned cows
from the chief’s land,
if Sigrlinn
sleep in his arms,
and unconstrained
with that prince shall live.

        This took place before Atli´s journey; but after his return, when the king asked his tidings, he said:

5. Labour we have had,
but errand none performed;
our horses failed us
in the vast fell;
we had afterwards
a swampy lake to ford;
then was denied us
Svafnir’s daughter
with rings adorned,
whom we would obtain.

        The king commanded them to go a second time, and also went himself. But when they had ascended a fell, and saw in Svavaland the country on fire, and a great reek from the horses of cavalry, the king rode down the fell into the country, and took up his night-quarters by a river. Atli kept watch, and crossed the river, and came to a house, on which sat a great bird to guard it, but was asleep. Atli shot the bird dead with an arrow. In the house he found the king’s daughter Sigrlinn, and Alöf daughter of Franmar, and brought them both away with him. The jarl Franmar had taken the form of an eagle, and protected them from a hostile army by sorcery. There was a king named Hrodmar, a wooer of Sigrlinn: he had slain the king of Svavaland, and ravaged and burnt the country. Hiörvard obtained Sigrlinn, and Atli Alöf. Hiörvard and Sigrlinn had a son tall and comely: he was taciturn and had no fixed name. As he was sitting on a mound he saw nine Valkyriur, one of whom was of most noble aspect. She said:

6. Late wilt thou, Helgi!
rings possess,
a potent warrior,
or Rödulsvellir,
- so at morn the eagle sang -
if thou art ever silent;
although thou, prince!
a fierce mood mayest show.

7. What wilt thou let accompany
the name of Helgi,
maid of aspect bright!
since that thou art please to give me?
Think well over
what thou art saying.
I will not accept it,
unless I have thee also.

8. Swords I know lying
in Sigarsholm,
fewer by four
than five times ten:
one of them is
of all the best,
of shields the bale,
with gold adorned.

9. A ring is on the hilt,
courage in the midst,
in the point terror
for his use who owns it:
along the edge
a blood-stained serpent lies,
and on the guard
the serpent casts its tail.

        There was a king named Eylimi; Svava was his daughter; she was a Valkyria and rode through air and water. It was she who gave Helgi that name, and afterwards often protected him in battle. Helgi said:

10. Hiörvard! thou art not
a king of wholesome counsel,
leader of people!
renowned though thou mayest be.
Thou has let fire devour
the homes of princes,
though harm to thee
they none have done.

11. But Hródmar shall
of the rings dispose,
which our relations
have possessed.
That chief recks little
of his life;
he thinks only to obtain
the heritage of the dead.

        Hiörvard answers, that he will supply Helgi with an army, if he will avenge his mother´s father. Helgi thereupon seeks the sword that Svava had indicated to him. Afterwards he and Atli went and slew Hródmar, and performed many deeds of valour. He killed the Jötun Hati, as he sat on a crag. Helgi and Atli lay with their ships in Hatafiörd. Atli kept watch in the first part of the night. Hrimgerd, Hati´s daughter, said:

12. Who are the chieftains
in Hatafiörd?
With shields are
your ships bedecked;
boldly ye bear yourselves,
few things ye fear, I ween:
tell me how
your king is named.

13. Helgi is his name;
but thou nowhere canst
to the chief do harm;
iron forts are
around the prince’s fleet;
giantesses may not assail us.

14. How art thou named?
most powerful champion!
How do men call thee?
Thy king confides in thee,
since in the ship’s fair prow
he grants thee place.

15. Atli I am named,
fierce I shall prove to thee;
towards giantesses I am most hostile.
The humid prow
I have oft occupied,
and the night-riders slain.
16. How art thou called?
corpse-greedy gigantess!
hag! name thy father.
Nine rasts shouldst thou
be underground,
and a forest grow on thy breast.

17. Hrímgerd I am called,
Hati was my father called,
whom I knew the mightiest Jötun.
He many women had
from their dwellings taken,
until him Helgi slew.

18. Thou wast, hag!
before the prince´s ships,
and layest before them in the fiörd´s mouth.
The chieftain´s warriors
thou wouldst to Rán consign,
had a bar not crossed thee.

19. Now, Atli! thou art wrong,
methinks thou art dreaming;
thy brows thou lettest over thy eyelids fall.
My mother lay
before the prince’s ships;
I Hlödvard’s sons drowned in the ocean.

20. Thou wouldst neigh, Atli!
if thou wert not a gelding.
See! Hrímgerd cocks her tail.
Thy heart, methinks, Atli!
is in thy hinder part,
although thy voice is clear.

21. I think I shall the stronger prove,
if thou desirest to try;
and I can step from the port to land.
Thou shalt be soundly cudgeled,
if I heartily begin,
and let thy tail fall, Hrímgerd!

22. Just come on shore, Atli!
if in thy strength thou trustest,
and let us meet in Varinsvik.
A rib-roasting
thou shalt get, brave boy!
if in my claws thou comest.

Index  |  völundarkviša - the lay of volund page 2  |  helgakviŽa hiörvaršs sonar - the lay of helgi hiovards son page 2