The Northern Way


Oddrún’s Lament.

There was a King named Heidrek, who had a daughter named Borgný. Her lover was named Vilmund. She could not give birth to a child until Oddrún, Atli’s sister, came. She had been the beloved of Gunnar, Giuki’s son. Of this story it is here sung:

1. I have heard tell,
in ancient storied
how a damsel came
to the eastern land:
no one was able,
on the face of earth,
help to afford
to Heidrek’s daughter.

2. When Oddrún,
Atli’s sister, heard
that the damsel
had great pains,
from the stall she led
her well-bridled steed,
and on the swart one
the saddle laid.

3. She the horse made run
on the smooth, dusty way,
until she came
to where a high hall stood.
She the saddle snatched
from the hungry steed,
and in she went
along the court,
and these words
first of all she uttered:

4. “What is most noteworthy
in this country?
or what most desirable
in the Hunnish land?”

5. Here lies Borgný
with pains o’erwhlemed,
thy friend, Oddrún!
See if thou canst help her.

6. What chieftain has on thee
brought this dishonour?
Why so acute
are Borgný’s pains?

7. Vilmund is named
the falcon-bearers’ friend:
he the damsel wrapt
in a warm coverlet
five whole winters,
so that from her father she was hidden.

8. They, I ween, spoke not
more than this:
kindly she went to sit
at the damsel’s knee.
Vehemently sang Oddrún,
fervently sand Oddrún
songs of power
over Borgný.

9. A girl and boy might then
tread the mould-way,
gentle babes,
born of Högni’s bane.
Then began to speak
the death-sick damsel,
who before had
no word uttered.

10. “So may thee help
the benignant genii,
Frigg and Freyja,
and other gods besides,
as thou hast from me
peril removed!”
11. “I was not inclined
to give thee help,
because thou never wast
of succour worthy:
I vowed, and have performed
what I then said -
when the princes
the heritage divided,
that I would ever
help afford.”

12. Mad art thou, Oddrún!
and hast lot thy wits,
when in hostile spirit
most of thy words thou utterest;
for I have been thy companion
upon the earth,
as if from brothers
we both were born.

13. I remember yet
what thou one evening saidst,
when I for Gunnar,
a compotation made.
Such a case, saidst thou,
would not thenceforth happen
to any maiden,
save to me alone.”

14. Then sat down
the sorrowing lady
to tell her woes,
for her great grief:

15. “I was nurtured
in the kingly hall,
I was the joy of many
in the council of men.
Life I enjoyed,
and my father’s wealth,
five winters only,
while my father lived.

16. These last words
the noble-hearted king
strove to utter,
ere he departed hence.

17. He bade me be endowed
with ruddy gold,
and in the south be given
to Grimhild’s son.
He said no maiden
could more excellent
in the world be born,
if fate willed it not otherwise.

18. Bynhild in her bower
was occupied to broidery:
she had people
and lands around her.
Earth slumbered,
and the heavens above,
when Fafnir’s bane
her burgh first saw.

19. Then was conflict waged
with the Walish sword,
and the burgh taken
which Brynhild owned.
It was not long -
which was not surprising -
ere she discovered
all those frauds.

20. These she caused
cruelly to be avenged,
so that we all have
great afflictions.
Know it will be
through every land of men,
that she caused herself to die
with Sigurd.

21. But I for Gunnar,
rings’ dispenser,
love conceived,
such as Brynhild should.-
But he Brynhild bade
a helmet take,
said she a Valkyria
should become.
22. They forthwith offered
ruddy rings
to my brother,
and indemnity not small.
He besides offered for me
fifteen vills,
and the load of Grani’s sides,
if he would accept them.

23. But Atli said
he never would
a marriage-gift receive
from Giuki’s son.
Still we could not
our loves withstand,
but I my head must lay
upon the ring-breaker.

24. Many things said
my relations;
declared they had surprised us
both together;
but Atli said,
that I would not
crime commit,
nor scandal perpetrate.
But such should no one
ever deny,
when love has part.

25. Atli sent
his emissaries
about the Murk-wood,
that he might prove me;
and they came to where
they ought not to have come,
to where we had
one couch prepared.

26. To the men we offered
red-gold rings,
that they it might not
to Atli tell;
but they forthwith
hastened home,
and it quickly
to Atli told.
27. But they from Gudrún
carefully concealed it,
yet rather by half
she should have known it.


28. A sound was heard
of gold-shod hoofs,
when into the court
rode Giuki’s heirs.


Of Högni they
the heart cut out,
and into a serpent-pen
the other cast.


29. I had gone
yet once again
to Geirmund,
to prepare a banquet.


The brave king began
the harp to sound;
for the prince of noble race
hoped that I
to his aid might come.

30. I it heard
from Hlesey,
how of trouble there
the harp-strings sang.

31. I my thralls bade
all be ready;
I the prince’s
life would save.
The vessel we let float
past the forest,
until I saw
all Atli’s courts.

32. Then came Atli’s
miserable mother
crawling forth: -
may she perish! -
she Gunnar
pierced to the heart;
so that the hero
I could not save.

33. Oftentimes I wonder,
woman gold-adorned!
how I after can
life retain;
for I seemed
the formidable
as myself to love:

34. Thou sitst and listenest,
while I recount to thee
many and evil fate,
my own and theirs.”
Each one lives
as he best may.
Now is ended
Oddrún’s lament.


Index  |  gušrunarkviša Žrišja - the third lay of gudrun  |  atlakviša - the lay of atli page 1