Fragment of a Sigurth Lay: Brot af Sigurþarkviðu

This is meant to follow “The Great Lacuna”.

“Both poems deal with the central theme of the Sigurth legend-in the main, the hero’s stay at Gjúki’s court, the winning and betrayal of Brynhild, her quarrel with Guthrún, Brynhild’s instigation of Sigurth’s death, and Guthrún’s lament-so that we have a parallel treatment, as in the cases of “Helgakviða” I and II and “Atlakviða” and “Atlamál.” As in most of the lays following, a knowledge of the story is assumed. The poet is interested chiefly in the emotions aroused (here, especially in Brynhild’s breast) by the tragic situation. In other words, these lays are dramatic lyrics with an epic frame.”

Hogni said:

“What hateful harm     hath he done thee,

that Sigmund’s son     thou slain would’st have?”


Gunnar said:

“To me hath Sigurth     oft sworn dear oaths,

hath sworn dear oaths     which all were false;

and then betrayed me     the trusted one-

he ought not have been-     in all these oaths.”


Hogni said:

“Envious Brynhild     to evil deed

in hate did whet thee,     much harm to do:

begrudges Guthrún     her goodly husband,

and also thee,     in her arms to lie.”


Some a wolf did steak,     some a worm did bake,

of the grim beast gave they     Guthorm to eat

ere, eager to evil,     the angry men

on highborn hero     their hands could lay.


Slain was Sigurth     south of the Rhine.

A raven on tree     had wrathfully cawed:

“Atli’s sword blade     your blood will redden,

your mainsworn oaths     will murder you.”


Without stood Guthrún,     Gjúki’s daughter.

These words the first     fell from her lips:

“Where lingers Sigurth,     the leader of men,

since all my kin     are come before him?”


To which Hogni only     did answer make:

“With our swords we sundered     Sigurth’s body;

now stands the grey steed     by stricken hero.”


Then quoth Brynhild,     Buthli’s daughter:

“May ye fearless now     hold folklands and arms:

would Sigurth alone     have had sway over all

if but little longer     his life he had held.


“Unseeming were it     if sway he had

over Gjúki’s gold     and Gothic hosts,

and to fend him from foes     five sons begat,

swordplay-eager     young athelings.”


Laughed then Brynhild-     her bower rang-

one time only,     out of inmost heart:

“Log may ye live     to rule lands and thanes,

ye twain who felled     the foremost hero.”


Then quoth Guthrún,     Gjúki’s daughter:

“With fey mouth say’st thou     foul words many:

let trolls Gunnar take     who betrayed Sigurth!

Thy thoughts bloodthirsty     crave threefold revenge.”


Deep the men drank-     the dark night came-

many welcome words     then warmed their hearts.

By sleep then summoned     all slept in their beds,

but Gunnar only     of all did wake.


Much gan mutter,     and move his feet,

gan bethink him,     the thanes’ leader,

what on greenwood tree     the twain had said,

raven and hawk,     when home they rode.


Awoke Brynhild,     Buthli’s daughter,

the queenly woman,     ere coming of day:

“Whet me or let me,     the harm is done now,

whether I say my sorrow     or cease therewith.”


Were silent all     when said these words

fair-browed Brynhild,     nor fathomed her speech,

when wailing wept     the woman the deeds

which laughing she     had led them to do.


Brynhild said:

“Me dreamed, Gunnar,     a gruesome dream,

that chill our chamber     and cheerless my bed;

but thou didst ride     bereft of joy,

fastened with fetters,     into foemen’s throng.


“Thus shall be stricken     the strength of the Niflungs,

the mainsworn kin     unmindful of oaths.


“Forgettest, Gunnar,     altogether

how your blood ye both     did blend under sward?

Him now hast thou     with hate requited,

and foully felled,     who foremost made thee.


“Was seen fully,     when Sigurth rode

through flickering flame     to fetch me thence,

how the high hero     had held before

the oaths he sware     to serve the king:


“His wand-of-wounds,     all wound with gold,

the trothful king     betwixt us laid;

in hot fire wholly     was hardened Gram,

its blade blazoned     with bitter poison.”


Of Sigurth’s Death

“In this lay we are told about Sigurth’s death, and that he was slain in such wise, as though they had slain him out of doors; but others say that they slew him while asleep in his bed. But German men have it that he was felled in the forest, and in “The Old Song of Guthrún” we are told that Sigurth was slain while on his way to the Thing with the sons of Gjúki; but all are at one in saying that they overcame him by treachery and killed him while lying down and unawares.”