The Northern Way

Guthrunarkvitha III

Herkja was the name of a serving-woman of Atli’s; she had been his concubine. She told Atli that she had seen Thjothrek and Guthrun both together. Atli was greatly angered thereby. Then Guthrun said:

1. “What thy sorrow, Atli, Buthli’s son?
Is thy heart heavy-laden? Why laughest thou never?
It would better befit the warrior far
To speak with men, and me to look on.”

Atli spake:
2. “It troubles me, Guthrun, Gjuki’s daughter,
What Herkja here in the hall hath told me,
That thou in the bed with Thjothrek liest,
Beneath the linen, in lovers’ guise.”

Guthrun spake:
3. “This shall I with oaths now swear,
Swear by the sacred stone so white,
That nought was there with Thjothmar’s son
That man or woman may not know.

4. “Nor ever once did my arms embrace
That hero brave, the leader of hosts;
In another manner our meeting was,
When our sorrows we in secret told.

5. “With thirty warriors Thjothrek came,
Nor of all his men doth one remain;
Thou hast murdered my brothers and mail-clad men,
Thou hast murdered all the men of my race.

6. “Gunnar comes not, Hogni I greet not,
No longer I see my brothers loved;
My sorrow would Hogni avenge with the sword,
Now myself for my woes I shall payment win.

7. “Summon Saxi, the southrons’ king,
For he the boiling kettle can hallow.”

8. Seven hundred there were in the hall,
Ere the queen her hand in the kettle thrust.

9. To the bottom she reached with hand so bright,
And forth she brought the flashing stone:
“Behold, ye warriors, well am I cleared
Of sin by the kettle’s sacred boiling.”

10. Then Atli’s heart in happiness laughed,
When Guthrun’s hand unhurt he saw;
“Now Herkja shall come the kettle to try,
She who grief for Guthrun planned.”

11. Ne’er saw man sight more sad than this,
How burned were the hands of Herkja then;
In a bog so foul the maid they flung,
And so was Guthrun’s grief requite

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