The Northern Way

Guthrunarkvitha I

Guthrun sat by the dead Sigurth; she did not weep as other women, but her heart was near to bursting with grief. The men and women came to her to console her, but that was not easy to do. It is told of men that Guthrun had eaten of Fafnir’s heart, and that she understood the speech of birds. This is a poem about Guthrun.

1. Then did Guthrun think to die,
When she by Sigurth sorrowing sat;
Tears she had not, nor wrung her hands,
Nor ever wailed, as other women.

To her the warriors wise there came,
Longing her heavy woe to lighten;
Grieving could not Guthrun weep,
So sad her heart, it seemed, would break.

Then the wives of the warriors came,
Gold-adorned, and Guthrun sought;
Each one then of her own grief spoke,
The bitterest pain she had ever borne.

Then spake Gjaflaug, Gjuki’s sister:
“Most joyless of all on earth am I;
Husbands five were from me taken,
(Two daughters then, and sisters three,)
Brothers eight, yet I have lived.

2. Grieving could not Guthrun weep,
Such grief she had for her husband dead,
And so grim her heart by the hero’s body.

3. Then Herborg spake, the queen of the Huns:
“I have a greater grief to tell;
My seven sons in the southern land,
And my husband, fell in fight all eight.
(Father and mother and brothers four
Amid the waves the wind once smote,
And the seas crashed through the sides of the ship.)

4. “The bodies all with my own hands then
I decked for the grave, and the dead I buried;
A half-year brought me this to bear;
And no one came to comfort me.

5. “Then bound I was, and taken in war,
A sorrow yet in the same half-year;
They bade me deck and bind the shoes
Of the wife of the monarch every morn.

6. “In jealous rage her wrath she spake,
And beat me oft with heavy blows;
Never a better lord I knew,
And never a woman worse I found.”

7. Grieving could not Guthrun weep,
Such grief she had for her husband dead,
And so grim her heart by the hero’s body.

8. Then spake Gollrond, Gjuki’s daughter:
“Thy wisdom finds not, my foster-mother,
The way to comfort the wife so young.”
She bade them uncover the warrior’s corpse.

9. The shroud she lifted from Sigurth, laying
His well-loved head on the knees of his wife:
“Look on thy loved one, and lay thy lips
To his as if yet the hero lived.”

10. Once alone did Guthrun look;
His hair all clotted with blood beheld,
The blinded eyes that once shone bright,
The hero’s breast that the blade had pierced.

11. Then Guthrun bent, on her pillow bowed,
Her hair was loosened, her cheek was hot,
And the tears like raindrops downward ran.

12. Then Guthrun, daughter of Gjuki, wept,
And through her tresses flowed the tears;
And from the court came the cry of geese,
The birds so fair of the hero’s bride.

Then Gollrond spake, the daughter of Gjuki:
13. “Never a greater love I knew
Than yours among all men on earth;
Nowhere wast happy, at home or abroad,
Sister mine, with Sigurth away.”

Guthrun spake:
14. “So was my Sigurth o’er Gjuki’s sons
As the spear-leek grown above the grass,
Or the jewel bright borne on the band,
The precious stone that princes wear.

15. “To the leader of men I loftier seemed
And higher than all of Herjan’s maids;
As little now as the leaf I am
On the willow hanging; my hero is dead.
(Ed. Herjan’s maids are Othinn’s valkyries.)

16. “In his seat, in his bed, I see no more
My heart’s true friend; the fault is theirs,
The sons of Gjuki, for all my grief,
That so their sister sorely weeps.

17. “So shall your land its people lose
As ye have kept your oaths of yore;
Gunnar, no joy the gold shall give thee,
(The rings shall soon thy slayers be,)
Who swarest oaths with Sigurth once.

18. “In the court was greater gladness then
The day my Sigurth Grani saddled,
And went forth Brynhild’s hand to win,
That woman ill, in an evil hour.”

Then Brynhild spake, the daughter of Buthli:
19. “May the witch now husband and children want
Who, Guthrun, loosed thy tears at last,
And with magic today hath made thee speak.”

Then Gollrond, daughter of Gjuki, spake:
20. “Speak not such words, thou hated woman;
Bane of the noble thou e’er hast been,
(Borne thou art on an evil wave,
Sorrow hast brought to seven kings,)
And many a woman hast loveless made.”

Then Brynhild, daughter of Buthli, spake:
21. “Atli is guilty of all the sorrow,
(Son of Buthli and brother of mine,)
When we saw in the hall of the Hunnish race
The flame of the snake’s bed flash round the hero;
(For the journey since full sore have I paid,
And ever I seek the sight to forget.”)

22. By the pillars she stood, and gathered her strength,
From the eyes of Brynhild, Buthli’s daughter,
Fire there burned, and venom she breathed,
When the wounds she saw on Sigurth then.

Guthrun went thence away to a forest in the waste, and journeyed all the way to Denmark, and was there seven half-years with Thora, daughter of Hakon. Brynhild would not live after Sigurth. She had eight of her thralls slain and five serving-women. Then she killed herself with a sword, as is told in the Short Lay of Sigurth.

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