The Northern Way


1. Great the evils        once that grew,
With the dawning sad        of the sorrow of elves;
In early morn                awake for men
The evils that grief        to each shall bring.

2. Not now, nor yet        of yesterday was it,
Long the time        that since hath lapsed,
So that little there is        that is half as old,
Since Guthrun,daughter        of Gjuki, whetted
Her sons so young        to Svanhild's vengeance.

3. "The sister ye had        was Svanhild called,
And her did Jormunrek        trample with horses,
White and black        on the battle-way,
Gray, road-wonted,                the steeds of the Goths.

4. "Little the kings        of the folk are ye like,
For now ye are living        alone of my race.

5. "Lonely am I         as the forest aspen,
Of kindred bare        as the fir of its boughs,
My joys are all lost        as the leaves of the tree
When the scather of twigs        from the warm day turns."

6. Then Hamther spake forth,                the high of heart;
"Small praise didst thou, Guthrun,                to Hogni's deed give
When they wakened thy Sigurth        from out of his sleep,
Thou didst sit on the bed        while his slayers laughed.

7. "Thy bed-covers white        with blood were red
From his wounds, and with gore        of thy husband were wet;
So Sigurth was slain,        by his corpse didst thou sit,
And of gladness didst think not:         'twas Gunnar's doing.

8. "Thou wouldst strike at Atli                by the slaying of Erp
And the killing of Eitil;         thine own grief was worse;
So should each one weild        the wound-biting sword
That another it slays        but smites not himself."

9. Then did Sorli speak out,        for wise was he ever:
"With my mother I never        a quarrel will make;
Full little in speaking        methinks ye both lack;
What asketh thou, Guthrun,        that will give thee no tears?

10. "For thy brothers dost weep,        and thy boys so sweet,
Thy kinsmen in birth                on the battlefield slain;
Now, Guthrun, as well        for us both shalt thou weep,
We sit doomed on our steeds,        and far hence shall we die."

11. Then the fame-glad one -                 on the steps she was-
The slender-fingered,        spake with her son:
"Ye shall danger have        if counsel ye heed not;
By two heroes alone        shall two hundred of Goths
Be bound or be slain        in the lofty-walled burg."

12. From the courtyard they fared,        and fury they breathed;
The youths swiftly went        o'er the mountain wet,
On their Hunnish steeds,        death's vengeance to have.

13. On the way they found        the man so wise;
"What help from the weakling        brown may we have?"

14. So answered them        their half-brother then;
"So well may I        my kinsmen aid
As help one foot         from the other has."

15. "How may a foot        its fellow aid,
Or a flesh-grown hand        another help?"

16. Then Erp spake forth,         his words were few,
As haughty he sat        on his horse's back:
"To the timid 'tis ill        the way to tell."
A bastard they        the bold one called.

17. From their sheaths they drew        their shining swords,
Their blades, to the giantess        the might that was theirs,
The fighter young        to earth they felled.

20. Their cloaks they shook,        their swords they sheathed,
The high-born men        wrapped their mantles close.

21. On their road they fared        and an ill way found,
And their sister's son        on a tree they saw,
On the wind-cold wolf-tree        west of the hall,
And cranes'-bait crawled;        none would care to linger.

22. In the hall was din,        the men drank deep,
And the horses' hoofs        could no one hear,
Till the warrior hardy        sounded his horn.

23. Men came and the tale         to Jormunrek told
How warriors helmed        without they beheld:
"Take counsel wise,        for brave ones are come,
Of mighty men        thou the sister didst murder."

24. Then Jormunrek laughed,        his hand laid on his beard,
His arms, for with wine        he was warlike, he called for;
He shook his brown locks,        on his white shield he looked,
And raised high the cup        of gold in his hand.

25. "Happy, methinks,        were I to behold
Hamther and Sorli        here in my hall;
The men would I bind        with strings of bows,
And Gjuki's heirs        on the gallows hang."

26. In the hall was clamour,        the cups were shattered,
Men stood in blood        from the breasts of the Goths.

27. Then did Hamther speak forth,        the haughty of heart:
"Thou soughtest, Jormunrek,        us to see,
Sons of one mother        seeking thy dwelling;
Thou seest thy hands,        thy feet thou beholdest,
Jormunrek, flung        in the fire so hot."

28. Then roared the king,        of the race of the gods,
Bold in his armour,        as roars a bear:
"Stone ye the men        that steel will bite not,
Sword nor spear,         the sons of Jonak."

Sorli spake:
29. "Ill didst win, brother,        when the bag thou didst open,
Oft from that bag        came baleful counsel;
Heart hast thou, Hamther,        if knowledge thou hadst!
A man without wisdom        is lacking in much."

Hamther spake:
30. "His head were now off         if Erp were living,
The brother so keen                whom we killed on our road,
The warrior noble,-         'twas the Norns that drove me
The hero to slay        who in fight should be holy.

31. "In fashion of wolves        in befits us not
Amongst ourselves to strive,
Like the hounds of the Norns,        that nourished were
In greed mid wastes so grim.

32. "We have greatly fought,        o'er the Goths do we stand
By our blades laid low,        like eagles on branches;
Great our fame though we die        today or tomorrow;
None outlives the night        when the Norns have spoken."

33. Then Sorli beside         the gable sank,
And Hamther fell        at the back of the house.

This is called the old ballad of Hamther.

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