The Northern Way


The Lay of Sigrdrifa

Page 1

        Sigurd rode up the Hindarfiall, and directed his course southwards towards Frankland. In the fell he saw a great light, as if a fire were burning, which blazed up the sky. On approaching it, there stood a “skialdborg”, and over it a banner. Sigurd went into the skialdborg, and saw a warrior lying within it asleep, completely armed. He first took the helmet off the warrior’s head, and saw that it was a woman. Her corslet was a s fast as if it had grown to her body. With his sword Gram he ripped the corslet from the upper opening downwards, and then though both sleeves. He then took the corslet off from her, when she awoke, sat up and, on seeing Sigurd, said:

1. What has my corslet cut?
why from sleep have I started?
who hast cast from me
the fallow bands?

Sigmund’s son
hast just now ript
the raven’s perch,
with Sigurd’s sword.

2. Long have I slept,
long been with sleep oppressed,
long are mortals’ sufferings!
Odin is the cause
that I have been unable
to cast off torpor.

        Sigurd sat down and asked her name. She then took a horn filled with mead, and gave him the minnis-cup.

3. Hail to Day!
Hail to the sons of Day!
To Night and her daughter hail!
With placid eyes
behold us here,
and here sitting give us victory.
4. Hail to the Æsir!
Hail to the Asyniur!
Hail to the bounteous earth!
Words and wisdom
give to us noble twain,
and healing hands while we live.

        She was named Sigrdrífa, and was a Valkyria. She said that two kings had made war on each other, one of whom was named Hiálmgunnar; he was old and a great warrior, and Odin had promised him victory. The other was Agnar, a brother of Höda, whom no divinity would patronize. Sigrdrífa overcame Hiálmgunnar in battle; in revenge for which Odin pricked her with a sleep-thorn, and declared that thenceforth she should never have victory in battle, and should be given in marriage. “But I said to him, that I had bound myself by a vow not to espouse any man who could be made to fear.” Sigurd answers, and implores her to teach him wisdom, as she had intelligence from all regions:

5. Beer I bear to thee,
column of battle!
with might mingled,
and with bright glory:
‘tis full of song,
and salutary saws,
of potent incantations,
and joyous discourses.

6. Sig-runes thou must know,
if victory (sigr) thou wilt have,
and on thy sword’s hilt grave them;
some on the chapes,
some on the guard,
and twice the name of Tý.

7. Öl-(beer-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt not that another’s wife,
thy trust betray, if thou in her confide.
On the horn must they be graven,
and on the hand’s back,
and Naud on the nail be scored.

8. A cup must be blessed,
and against peril guarded,
and garlick in the liquor cast:
then I know
thou wilt never have
mead with treachery mingled.

9. Biarg-(help-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt help,
and loose the child from women.
In the palm they must be graven,
and round the joints be clasped,
and the Dísir prayed for aid.

10. Brim-(sea-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt have secure
afloat thy sailing steeds.
On the prow they must be graven,
and on the helm-blade,
and with fire to the oar applied.
No surge shall be so towering,
nor waves so dark,
but from the ocean thou safe shalt come.

11. Lim-(branch-) runes thou must know,
if thou a leech wouldst be,
and wounds know how to heal.
On the bark they must be graven,
and on the leaves of trees,
of those whose boughs bend eastward.

12. Mál-(speech-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt that no one
for injury with hate requite thee.
Those thou must wind,
those thou must wrap round,
those thou must altogether place
in the assembly,
where people have
into full court to go.

13. Hug-(thought-) runes thou must know,
if thou a wiser man wilt be
than every other.
Those interpreted,
those graved,
those devised Hropt,
from the fluid,
which had leaked
from Heiddraupnir’s head,
and from Hoddropnir’s horn.

14. On a rock he stood,
with edged sword,
a helm on his head he bore.
Then spake Mim’s head
its first wise word,
and true saying uttered.

15. They are, it said, on the shield graven,
which stands before the shining god,
or Arvakr’s ear,
and on Alsvid’s hoof,
on the wheel which rolls
under Rögnir’s ear,
on Sleipnir’s teeth,
and on the sledge’s bands.

16. On the bear’s paw,
and on Bragi’s tongue,
on the wolf’s claws,
and the eagle’s beak,
on bloody wings,
and on the bridge’s end,
on the releasing hand,
and on the healing’s track.

17. On glass and on gold,
on amulets of men,
in wine and in wort,
and in the welcome seat,
on Gúngnir’s point,
and on Grani’s breast,
on the Norn’s nail,
and the owl’s neb.

18. All were erased
that were inscribed,
and mingled with the sacred mead,
and sent on distant ways:
they are with the Æsir,
they are with the Alfar,
some with the wise Vanir,
some human beings have.

19. Those are bók-runes,
those are biarg-runes,
and all öl-(beer-) runes,
and precious megin-(power-) runes,
for those who can,
without confusion or corruption,
turn them to his welfare.
Use, if thou hast understood them,
until the powers perish.

20. Now thou shalt choose,
since a choice is offered thee,
keen armed warrior!
my speech, or silence:
think over it in thy mind.
All evils have their measure.


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