The Northern Way

Part II

Preface

In the preface to the first or mythological part of this translation of Sæmund´s Edda, I announced my intention of publishing the second or heroic portion, should that first part be not unfavourably received. That condition has been fulfilled, for not only has its reception here been favourable, but in the United States of America it has been noticed in terms highly gratifying to the translator. I now therefore do not hesitate to publish the second part.

The limits within which I deem it necessary to confine myself, from my desire to produce a small work at a moderate cost, admit only of a very brief notice of the poems contained in this portion of the Edda:

The Lay of Völund (Völundarkvida) celebrates the story of Völund´s doing and sufferings during his sojourn in the territory of the Swedish kin Nidud. (Ger. Wieland, Fr. Veland and Galans) is the Scandinavian and Germanic Vulcan (Hephaistos) and Dædalus. In England his story, as a skillful smith, is traceable to a very early period. In the Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf we find that hero desiring, in the event of his falling in conflict with Grendel, that his corslet may be sent to Hygelac, being, as he says, the work of Weland: and king Ælfred, in his translation of Boethius de Consolatione, renders the words fidelis ossa Fabricii, etc. by Hwæt (hwær) sint nu Þæs foremæran and Þæs wisan goldsmiðes ban Welondes? (Where are now the bones of the famous and wise goldsmith Weland?), evidently taking the proper name of Fabricius for an appellative equivalent to faber. In the Exeter Book, too, there is a poem in substance closely resembling the Eddaic lay. In his novel of Kenilworth, Walter Scott has been guilty of a woful perversion of the old tradition, travestied from the Berkshire legend of Wayland Smith. As a land-boundary we find Weland’s smithy in a charter of king Eadred a.d. 955. Ampler details concerning Weland are to be found in Mr. Price’s preface to Warton’s History of English poetry 8vo., edit.; Müller, Sagabibliothek, II. pp. 157 sqq.; Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, pp. 349 sqq. edit. 1844; Müller, Aldeutsche Religion, p. 311. Much interesting matter will also be found in Weber and Jamieson´s Illustrations of Northern Antiquities. Bishop Müller, derives the name from O. Nor. Vél, thinking that it is only according to the Norse pronunciation that it has a signification, viz. art, wile, guile, and lundr, mind, disposition, and is thence inclined to assign a Northern origin to the story. But may not the form Völundr be merely a Northern adaptation of the German Wieland or Anglo-Saxon Weland?

On the Lay of Helgi Hiörvard´s Son there is nothing to remark beyond what appears in the poem itself.

The Lays of Helgi Hundingcide form the first of the series of stories relating to the Völsung race, and the Giukungs, or Niflungs.

The connection of the several personages celebrated in these poems will appear plain from the following tables.


Sigi, king of Hunaland, said to be a son of Odin
   |
Rerir
   |
Völsung = a daughter of the giant Hrimnir
   |
Sigmund = Signi      =     Borghild = Hiördis
   |                   |                       |                    |
Hamund Sinflötli         Helgi = Sigrun   Sigurd = Gudrun
Sigmund, Svanhild
m Jörmunrek


                     Giuki = Grimhild
                                |
Gunnar = Gaumvör       Högni=Kostbera Guthorm Gudrun, = 1. Sigurd
                                                                                              2. Atli
                                                                                              3. Jonakr

                   Budli
                         |
Atli = Gudrun:         Brynhild = Gunnar Oddrun Beckhild = Heimr
                                                                       |
                                                                 Alsvid


                Jonakr = Gudrun
                    |                |
                 Erp        Hamdir Sörli

The Eddaic series of the Völsung and Niflung lays terminates with the Lay of Hamdir; the one entitled Gunnar’s Melody is no doubt a comparatively late composition; yet being written in the true ancient spirit of the North is well deserving of a place among the Eddaic poems. Nor, indeed, is the claim of the Lay of Grotti to rank among the poems collected by Sæmund, by any means clear, we know it only from its existence in the Skalda; yet on account of its antiquity, its intrinsic worth, and its reception in other editions of the Edda, both in original and translation, the present work would seem, and justly so, incomplete without it.

Had the limits, within which I am desirous to confine my humble attempt at a version of the Poetic Edda, permitted, I would have assigned a portion of this preface to some notice of the relation between the Northern poems relating to the Völsungs and Giukungs, or Niflungs, and the same subject as it appears in the Nibelunge Not; but as the latter is familiar to many readers and accessible to all, in the original old German, in modern German, and in more than one excellent English version, I omit all further mention of the subject.

In compliance with the expressed wish of the Publishers, I subscribe my name as the translator of Sæmund´s Edda.

                                                                Benjamin Thorpe

 

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