The Northern Way


The Lay of Sigrdrifa

Page 2

21. I will not flee,
though thou shouldst know me doomed.
I am not born a craven.
Thy friendly counsels all
I will receive,
as long as life is in me.

22. This I thee counsel first:
that towards thy kin
thou bear thee blameless.
Take not hasty vengeance,
although they raise up strife:
that, it is said, benefits the dead.

23. This I thee counsel secondly:
that no oath thou swear,
if it be not true.
Cruel bonds
follow broken faith:
accursed is the faith-breaker.

24. This I thee counsel thirdly:
that in the assembly thou
contend not with a fool;
for an unwise man
oft utters words
worse than he knows of.

25. All is vain,
if thou holdest silence;
then wilt thou seem a craven born,
or else truly accursed.
Doubtful is a servant’s testimony,
unless a good one thou gettest.
On the next day
let his life go forth,
and so men’s lies reward.

26. This I counsel thee fourthly:
if a wicked sorceress
dwells by the way,
to go on is better
than there to lodge,
though night may overtake thee.

27. Of searching eyes
the sons of men have need,
when fiercely they have to fight:
oft pernicious women
by the way-side sit,
who swords and valour deaden.

28. This I thee counsel fifthly:
although thou see fair women
on the benches sitting,
let not their kindred’s silver
over thy sleep have power.
To kiss thee entice no woman.

29. This I thee counsel sixthy:
although among men pass
offensive tipsy talk,
never while drunken quarrel
with men of war:
wine steals the wits of many.

30. Brawls and drink
to many men have been
a heart-felt sorrow;
to some their death,
to some calamity:
many are the griefs of men!

31. This I thee counsel seventhly:
if thou hast disputes
with a daring man,
better it is for men
to fight than to be burnt
within their dwelling.

32. This I thee counsel eighthly:
that thou guard thee against evil,
and eschew deceit.
Entice no maiden,
nor wife of man,
nor to wantoness incite.

33. This is thee counsel ninthly:
that thou corpses bury,
wherever on the earth thou findest them,
whether from sickness they have died,
or from the sea,
or are from weapons dead.

34. Let a mound be raised
for those departed;
let their hands and head be washed,
combed, and wiped dry,
ere in the coffin they are laid:
and pray for their happy sleep.

35. This I thee counsel tenthly:
that thou never trust
a foe’s kinsman’s promises,
whose brother thou hast slain,
or sire laid low:
there is a wolf
in a young son,
though he with gold be gladdened.

36. Strifes and fierce enmities
think not to be lulled,
no more than deadly injury.
Wisdom and fame in arms
a prince not easily acquires,
who shall of men be foremost.

37. This I counsel thee eleventhly:
that thou at evil look,
what course it may take.
A long life, it seems to me
the prince may (not) enjoy; -
fierce disputes will arise.

        Sigurd said: “A wiser mortal exists not, and I swear that I will possess thee, for thou art after my heart.” She answered: “Thee I will have before all others, though I have to choose among all men.” And this they confirmed with oaths to each other.


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