The Lay of Skírnir: Skírnismál

 

 

Frey, the son of Njorth, one day had seated himself on Hlithskjalf and looked over all the worlds. Then saw he in the world of etins a fair maiden as she went from the hall of her father to her bower. And that sight made him heavy of heart. Skírnir (“The Resplendent”; possibly an epithet or hypostasis of Frey) was the name of Frey’s servitor. Njorth bade him to make Frey speak out.

 

Skathi said:

“Arise now, Skírnir,     and ready make thee

to summon my son,

and find out this     from the wise youth,

whom he doth hate.”

 

Skírnir said:

“For waspish words     I well may look,

if I summon thy son

to find out this     from the wise youth,

whom he doth hate.”

 

“Wilt tell me, Frey,     foremost among gods,

and answer me as I ask:

why sittest thou lonely,     my lord, all day

with heavy heart in thy hall?”

 

Frey said:

“How tell thee my yearning,     oh youth, as thou wishest-

why heavy my heart?

The alf’s beam (Kenning for “the sun”) shineth     all these long days,

but lighter groweth not my longing.”

 

Skírnir said:

“Thy heart’s not so heavy,     I hold, but thou mayst

open it to another;

for in days of yore     we young were together:

truly thou mightest trust me.”

 

Frey said:

“From on high I beheld     in the halls of Gymir (a giant)

a maiden to my mind;

her arms did gleam,     their glamor filled

all the sea and the air.

 

“This maiden is     to me more dear

than maiden to any man;

but Æsir and alfs     all will have it

that strangers ay we stay.

 

“In my behalf     her hand shalt ask,

and home bring her hither,

her father let     or allow it:

good shall thy guerdon be.”

 

Skírnir said:

“Thy steed then lend me     to lift me o’er weird

ring of flickering flame,

the sword also     that swings itself

against the tribe of trolls.”

 

Frey said:

“My steed I lend thee     to lift thee o’er weird

ring of flickering flame,

the sword also     which swings itself,

if wise he who wields it.”

 

Skírnir said to his steed:

“Night is it now,     now we shall fare

over moist mountains,

to the thurses’ throng;

scatheless we both     shall ‘scape their might,

or else both be o’erborne by the etins.”

 

Skírnir rode into etin-home and to Gymir’s court. There were savage dogs tied to the gate of the enclosure about Gerth’s bower.

 

Skírnir rode to where a shepherd sate on a mound, and greeted him:

“Say thou, shepherd,     sitting on hill,

who dost watch all ways:

how win I the welcome     of the winsome maid

through the grim hounds of Gymir?”

 

The shepherd said:

“Whether art thou doomed,     or dead already,

*in the stirrup who standest

Never shalt thou win     the welcome to have

of the good daughter of Gymir.”

 

*(That line was inserted with Grundtvig.)

 

Skírnir said:

“Ne’er a whit will whine,     whatso betide,

who is eager on errand bent;

my fate is foretold me     to the time of a day,

allotted is all my life.”

 

Gerth said:

“What outcry and uproar     within out courts (“We must assume that Skírnir has caused his steed to leap over the wall of flame.”)

hear I now, handmaid?

The earth doth shake     and all my father

Gymir’s high halls.”

 

The handmaid said:

“By his steed here stands     a stranger youth,

unbridles and baits him;

he wishes, I ween,     welcome to have

from the good daughter of Gymir.”

 

Gerth said:

“Bid to my bower     the bold-minded come,

to meet me and drink our mead;

though far from us,     I fear me, is not

my brother’s banesman (“Either Skírnir has slain the shepherd who was her brother, or else the allusion is to Frey’s (Skírnir’s) slaying of the giant Beli.”)

 

“Whether art of the alfs     or of Æsir come,

or art thou a wise Van?

Through furious fire     why farest alone

to behold out halls?”

 

Skírnir said:

“Neither alf am I,     nor of Æsir come

nor a wise Van;

through furious fire     yet fared I alone

to behold your halls.

 

“Apples eleven (may have been a mistranslation from “apples of everlasting youth” since there is no significance to the number eleven)     have I all golden;

to thee, Gerth, I shall give them,

to hear from thy lips     thou lovest Frey,

and deemest him dearest to thee.”

 

Gerth said:

“Thy apples eleven     not e’er shall I take

to do any wight’s will;

nor shall I ever     with Njorth’s son Frey

dwell while our lives do last.”

 

Skírnir said:

“Draupnir, the ring,     then thy dowry shall be,

which with Baldr was burned;

eight rings as dear     will drop from it

every ninth night.”

 

Gerth said:

“Draupnir*, the ring,     I do not want,

though it with Baldr was burned;

gold I lack not     in Gymir’s halls,

to deal out daily.”

 

*(“Dripper.” “This ring had been given Óthin by a dwarf… After Baldr was burned on the pyre, he returned the ring to Óthin from Hel.)

 

Skírnir said:

“This mottled blade,     dost, maiden, see it

which here I hold in my hand?

Thy haughty head     I hew from thy neck

but thou yield thy love to the youth.”

 

Gerth said:

“Nor gold nor sword     will gain it over me

any wight’s will to do;

if Gymir, my father,     did find thee here,

fearless warrior,     ye would fight to the death.”

 

Skírnir said:

“This mottled blade,     dost, maiden, see it,

which here I hold in my hand?

Before its edge     the etin falls,

and is thy father fey.

 

“With this magic wand     bewitch thee I shall,

my will, maiden, to do;

where the sons of men     will see thee no more,

thither shalt thou!

 

“On the eagle-hill (possibly Kenning for “mountain peak”)     shalt ever sit,

aloof from the world,     lolling toward Hel.

To thee men shall be     more loathsome far

than to mankind the slimy snake.

 

“An ugly sight,     when out thou comest,

even Hrímir (possibly “Frost Giant”) will stare at     and every hind glare at,

more widely known     than the warder of gods, (= Heimdall)

and shalt gape through the gate. (meaning she is to be kept prisoner of the giants)

 

“Shalt drivel and dote,     and drag through life,

with salt tears shalt sorrow;

shalt sit as I say,     with sadness heavy,

feel twofold torment

with heavy heart.

 

“Imps shall nip thee,     all the long days

thou art with the etins;

to frost-giants’ hall     shalt hobble all days,

cringe under curse,

cringe under care.

For play shall weeping     thy pastime be:

live a loathly life with tears!

 

“With three-headed thurs,     thwarted, thou shalt live,

or else unwedded be;

lust shall lash thee,

weakness waste thee:

be like the thistle     which is thrust under,

when the harvest is harbored.*

 

*(“In explanation of these lines, M. Olsen has called attention to the Esthonian harvest custom of laying a thistle weighted with a stone into a window opening to prevent damage from malicious grain demons.”)

 

“To the woods I wended,     to the wet forest,

a magic wand me to make,

and a magic wand I made me.

 

“Thou hast angered Óthin,     the uppermost god;

Frey will frown on thee,

thou wicked wench!     Woe betide thee,

thou hast the great gods’ wrath.

 

“Hear ye frost-giants,     hear ye etins,

ye sons of Suttung,     all ye sibs of the Æsir:

how I forbid,     how I debar

men’s mirth to the maid,

men’s love to the maid.

 

“Hrímgrimnir is hight     who shall have thee, a thurs,

Niflhel beneath:

there, slavering slaves     shall serve thee ‘neath tree roots

with staling of stinking goats.

No other drink     shalt ever get,

wench at thy will,

wench at my will!

 

“A ‘thurs’ rune for thee,     and three more I scratch:

lechery, loathing, and lust;

off I shall scratch them,     as on I did scratch them,

if of none there be need.”

 

Gerth said:

“Hail, rather, hero,     and hold to thy lips

this crystal cup with mead;

though hardly thought I     that hence I should fare,

to be a Van’s wife.”

 

Skírnir said:

“My errand I would     know altogether,

ere hence I ride home.

When art minded     to meet the strong one,

and welcome to wise son of Njorth?”

 

Gerth said:

“Barri is hight,     as both we know,

for true love a trysting glade.

After nights nine     to Njorth’s son there

will Gerth grant her love.”

 

Then rode Skírnir home. Frey stood without and greeted him and asked what tidings he brought:

“Say now, Skírnir,     ere thou unsaddle the steed

and set one foot forward:

what errand bringest thou     from etin-home,

of mark for thee or me?”

 

Skírnir said:

“Barri is hight,     as both we know,

for true love a trysting glade.

After nights nine     to Njorth’s son there

will Gerth grant her love.”

 

Frey said:

“Long is a night,     longer are two-

how shall I thole three?

Shorter to me     a month oft seemed,

than part of this night of pining.”*

 

*(“The last line is uncertain.”)

Segment of Odyssey Summary

I’ve never really been satisfied with any depictions of this in modern media. On the other hand, what do I like from modern media (excepting some mostly older Black Metal)? My point is: here’s part of Homer’s Odyssey. The chunk I have partially summarized below is from Book X. The copy of the book I have was translated by Robert Fitzgerald and its ISBN number is 0-679-72813-9. Some of the names in the book were written kind of phonetically and I have pretty much kept that below.


 

They had landed on a new island and were trying to decide whether to explore it. The men remembered the tragedies they’d already faced and their brothers-in-arms they’d already lost and began to weep. Odysseus saw they were losing time for action and counted off his Akhaians in two platoons, commanded by himself and his “godlike Eurýlokhos”. They shook lots in a soldier’s dogskin cap to decide which platoon was to go exploring inland. Thusly it happened that Odysseus and his platoon were fortunate enough to stay behind while Eurýlokhos and his twenty-two companions went further on. All wept – including those who stayed behind. The men who left found the hall of Kirkê (a smooth stone house) in an open glade. Wolves and mountain lions lay around the house, but rather than attacking they switched their tails like hounds and fawned on the men – also like hounds – as the men looked upon them in fear. When the men got to the entryway of the house, they stood and listened. They could hear the goddess Kirkê as she sang and weaved on her loom. The men said nothing for a while until Politês (“most faithful and likable of my officers”) calmed the other men, saying it was just a young weaver and that there was no need for stealth. Eurýlokhos was afraid it might be a trap, but the others cried out and were met by the occupant, who seated them on thrones and lounging chairs. She gave them food and wine, then “flew after them with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty”, at which point they had physically become pigs even though their minds remained unchanged. Eurýlokhos (remember: he stayed outside and so remained human) ran down to the ship to warn Odysseus and the platoon that had stayed behind. Odysseus, upon hearing his tale (no pun intended) requested that Eurýlokhos take him back the way he had come. The latter refused, so Odysseus went alone. Hermes met him part way through his trip inland in the form of a man so young that he barely had a mustache (it is typical for him to be described as appearing young, so this isn’t unusual at all), and warned Odysseus about what lay ahead and how to defeat Kirkê and her power. Hermes gave Odysseus a magic plant from the ground to keep his mind and senses clear of the magic (the plant is described as being a “fatigue and pain for mortals to uproot”, having a “black root and milky flower”, and being called “a molü in the language of the gods”, in case anyone is interested). Each went their separate ways; the god to his home Olympos and the godlike man straight into danger (which almost might as well have been his second home for how often he was in it). Odysseus arrived in Kirkê’s hall and was welcomed inside. Kirkê was quite surprised when her magic failed to work and invited Odysseus to bed while his sword was still against her throat (he had swung at her in retaliation to her swinging a stick at him in an attempt to turn him into a pig). He was not taken in by this pathetic display. She had turned his men into pigs under that very roof, after all, and he kept that in mind. Odysseus made her swear that she would not work any enchantment to his harm. “She swore at once, outright, as I demanded, / and after she had sworn, and bound herself, / I entered Kirkê’s flawless bed of love”. (The phrase “bound herself” refers to the oath she made.) Kirkê’s four nymph maids busied themselves in her hall, making the place look nice and bringing in savory loaves to tempt Odysseus, but he, having a heart, would neither eat nor drink as he thought of his lost men. Kirkê asked him why he still wouldn’t eat or drink even after the oath she had made. Odysseus explained that he wanted to see his men, so Kirkê opened up the sty and gave each one in turn a stroke from her staff, which turned them human again. They appeared younger, more handsome, and taller than before. They each took the hands of Odysseus and sobbed. Even Kirkê was moved by this.

The Lay of Vafthrúthnir: Vafþrúðnismál

Short-short pre-summary: Óthin hears of the wisdom of the giant Vafthrúthnir and goes to see him in his hall against his anxious wife’s wishes. The giant begins to test Óthin’s wisdom before realizing who he is, then urges him to occupy the high-seat to continue their contest with the loser’s head at stake. Óthin asks an unanswerable question and Vafthrúthnir then realizes who he is.


 

It starts with Óthin announcing to Frigg that he is about to leave to go see Vafthrúthnir. She asks him to stay, but he assures her that he will be alright. Frigg then allows him to leave while wishing for his safe return.

Óthin walks into Vafthrúthnir’s hall and is straightaway told he won’t be allowed to leave alive if his lore skills are lacking. Óthin introduces himself as Gagnráth (= “Giving Good Counsel”) and Vafthrúthnir invites him to sit down. Óthin declines and Vafthrúthnir begins asking him questions.

Vafthrúthnir first asks for the name of the horse that brings the dawn every day. Óthin correctly answers Skínfaxi and adds that the horse’s mane “glisters like gold”.

Óthin is then questioned as to the name of the horse that brings the night, which he correctly answers to be Hrímfaxi.

He is then asked for the name of the flood “which flows between the garth of the gods and the etins”. Óthin answers Ifing and adds that it never has ice on it.

Vafthrúthnir lastly asks for the name of the field where Surt (the god of fire) and the sacred gods will meet as foes. Óthin rightly states that it is called Vígríth, and further mentions that it is a hundred leagues long.

Vafthrúthnir is quite impressed at this point and again invites Óthin to sit on the bench, while their heads will be at stake and the one with the greater wisdom will be the victor.

Óthin then proceeds to ask eighteen questions (I’ll go over those briefly later), the last of which was what he whispered in his son’s ear “ere Baldr on bale was laid” (referring to himself in third person while asking the question).

Vafthrúthnir realizes at this point who his guest is and tells Óthin that no one on earth knows what he said in the ear of his son. He then admits that Óthin is the wisest being ever born. The lay ends here, but we can assume that Óthin cut off his host’s head since that was what was at stake.


 

Quick Q’s & A’s:

1: Where did the heavens and the earth come from?

From Ymir’s flesh, bones, skull and blood.

2: Where did the moon and sun come from?

Mundilferi is the father of the Moon and Sun. (Kind of…)

3: From where do the day and night come?

Day’s father is one named Delling (= “The Shining”) who was a god who engendered the son Dagr (= “Day”) with Nótt. The Night was born to Nor.

4: In the beginning for the gods, where did winter and summer come from?

Winter’s father is Vindsval (who was born to Vásuth) and Summer is the son of Svásuth. All are giants. Their names in order mean “Wind-Cold”, “the Wet and Cold One”, and “the Mild One”. So Wind-Cold was the offspring of the Wet and Cold One and Summer is the son of the Mild One.

5: In the world’s first days, who was the oldest etin of Ymir’s kin?

Bergelmir was around ages before the earth was made. That thurs’ father was Thrúthgelmir, but the oldest of them all was Aurgelmir.

6: From where did Aurgelmir and his “sib” come?

Élivágar (= “Stormy Rivers”, “imagined as ‘venom-cold’ rivers in the far North”) spurted venom drops which waxed until there was an etin.

7: How did the grim etin beget children when there was no misshapen she-thurs?

A girl and a boy grew under his arms, “one with the other”, and “the wise etin’s shanks begat a six-headed son.”

8: What is or was the oldest “the earth above”?

Bergelmir came to be ages before the earth was made.

9: From where does the wind come?

There is one named Hræsvelg (= “Corpse-Gulper”) which is an etin in the shape of an eagle that sits “at heaven’s end” and beats its wings, creating the wind.

10: From where came the wise Njorth (originally a fertility god, but rules over the wind and sea in Norse mythology, additionally: he “was not begot among gods”)?

Vanir begat him in Vanaheim (= “The Home of the Vanir”) and gave him to the gods as a hostage. The hostage sent in return by the Æsir was Mímir.

11: Where do slain men go to drain goblets together after being slain and faring from battle?

All the einherjar (= “Single Combatants”(?)) drain goblets in Óthin’s garth (open space / garden) after being slain in battle and being gathered by valkyries.

12: What is the fate of the sacred gods?

In short: death.

13: Who will be left after the fimbulvetr (= “Chief of Winters”, said to precede the end of the world and consisting of three winters with no summer between them)?

Líf (= “Life”(?)) and Lífthrásir (= “Longing for Life”(?)) will survive, hiding in the leaves of the tree Hoddmímir (which may be the world-tree Yggdrasil). Their meat will be the morning dews and they will rear the races of men.

14: How will the sun soar on the smooth heavens after being “snatched by Fenrir’s fangs”?

A daughter orb was born to Alfrothul (= “Alf-Beam”, a kenning for the sun) before the latter was snatched by Fenrir’s fangs, and that daughter sun will go on the path of the then-gone sun at the time of the fall of the gods.

15: What wise maidens swiftly fare over the wide sea?

There are three throngs of norns of etins’ kin who assist at childbirth who “throw themselves” over “Mogthrásir’s thorp” (“Mogthrásir” meaning “Desirous of Sons” being a symbolic designation for mankind, “Mogthrásir’s thorp” = the world).

16: “Who will wield the sway when Surt’s fire is slaked?”

Víthar and Váli. Mjolnir will be inherited by Thor’s sons Móthi and Magni (“the Courageous” and “the Strong” respectively). “Other divinities inhabit Itha Field.”

17: Who will kill Óthin?

The Fenris-Wolf (a.k.a. Fenrir) will swallow Óthin. He will be avenged by Víthar.

18: What did Óthin whisper in his son’s ear “ere Baldr on bale was laid”?

No one knows. I even checked the end of Hávamál just to be sure (unless this is like that time with the Norwegian record store when I somehow managed to miss the totally obvious answer to my own question… Never mind that, though. It was only one time. We’ll just assume no one knows). 🙂

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.”

The Great Lacuna

This piece is connected to the lays I have been posting recently, but unfortunately in “The Lay of Sigrdrífa” there is a part after Stanza 31, line 2 where eight pages are missing and I do not know whether or to what extent that may have affected “The Great Lacuna”. “The Lay of Sigrdrífa” itself was pieced together both from several paper manuscripts “of unknown source” and from the paraphrase of the Vǫlsunga saga.


 

(“Gunnar attempts vainly to ride through the wall of flames. Then Sigurth urges on his steed Grani…”)

 

The flickering flames     upflared to the skies,

the earth quivered     with awful fire;

but few then dared     of the fold-warders

to ride through the fire     unflinchingly.

 

His Grani Sigurth     with sword did urge:

the fire was quenched     before the king,

the flames bated     before the bold one,

the byrnie glistered,     by Regin given.

 

(“On the morrow after their quarrel Guthrún endeavors to reconcile Brynhild and to convince her that her husband Gunnar is second to no one; but Brynhild answers that it was Sigurth who slew the dragon and that this weighs more heavily with her than all of Gunnar’s power…”)

 

“Will not ever after     on earth be forgotten

how Sigurth slew     the grim serpent;

but thy brother     brooked in nowise

to ride through the fire     unflinchingly.”

 

(“Brynhild rejects all attempts on the part of Sigurth to console her…”)

 

From the talk turned him     the trusted thane,

the son of Sigmund,     sorrowing greatly

at his sides so that     his sark did rive,

of iron woven,     on the atheling.

The Lay of Sigrdrífa: Sigrdrífumál

Another continuation in the same vein as the last two… You’d think I’d look into these things ahead of time, and I usually do, but this time I didn’t. It’s okay though. I was thinking of posting a bunch of these anyway due to the fact that not everyone can find a copy of the Poetic Edda.

Oh, this post has more notes. They are italicized in parentheses.


 

Sigurth rode over Hindar Fell and made his way South to Frankland. On the fell he saw a bright light, as though a fire were burning there, and it shone to very heaven. When he drew near, he found there a wall of shields, and a banner loomed above it. He entered into this wall of shields ad saw that in it slept some one in full war weeds. Sigurth first lifted the helmet off the sleeper’s head, and then he saw that it was a woman. Her coat of mail was tight about her as though it were grown to the flesh. With his sword Gram he slit the byrnie, from the neck down, and also both sleeves, and took it off.

 

Then she awoke and sate up, and beheld Sigurth, and said:

“What slit my byrnie?     How was broken my sleep?

Who lifted from me     the leaden weight?”

 

He answered:

“‘Tis Sigmund’s bairn-     on Fáfnir’s body

ravens batten-     ’tis Sigurth’s brand.”

 

She said:

“Hail to thee, day!     Hail, ye day’s sons!

^^^Hail, night and daughter of night!

With blithe eyes look     on both of us:

^^^send to those sitting here speed!

 

“Hail to you, gods!     Hail, goddesses!

^^^Hail, earth that givest to all!

Goodly spells and speech     bespeak we from you,

^^^and healing hands, in this life.”

 

Sigurth sate him down and asked her name. She said her name was Sigrdrífa and that she was a valkyrie. She said that twain kings had fought.

 

“Was Hjalmgunnar hight     a hoary warrior;

had Valfather vowed     victory to him.

Was the other Agnar,     Autha’s brother,

to whom none ever     help had given.”

 

Sigrdrífa felled Hjalmgunnar in the battle, but Óthin in revenge pricked her with the sleep-thorn and said that she should never henceforth fight in battle, but be wedded. “But I too made a vow that I should never be wedded unto a man who knew fear.” (Then took she a horn full of mead and gave it to him, to bind him to her.)

 

She said:

“Long was my slumber,     asleep was I long,

^^^long to the luckless is life:

’tis Valfather’s will     that wake I could not,

^^^nor rid me of runes of sleep.”

 

Then Sigurth asked that she teach him wisdom, if so it be that she had knowledge from all the worlds.

 

Sigrdrífa said:

“Ale I bring thee,     thou oak-of-battle,

with strength i-blent     and brightest honor;

’tis mixed with magic     and mighty songs,

with goodly spells,     with-speeding runes.

 

“Learn victory runes     if thou victory wantest,

^^^and have them on thy sword’s hilt-

on thy sword’s hilt some,     on thy sword’s guard some,

^^^and call twice upon Týr.

 

“Learn ale runes eke,     lest other man’s wife

^^^betray thee who trusted in her:

on thy beer horn scratch it,     and the back of thy hand,

^^^and the Nauth rune on thy nails.

 

“Thy beaker bless     to banish fear,

^^^and cast a leek in thy cup:

then know I that never     thou needest fear

^^^that bale in thy beer there be.

 

“Learn help runes eke,     if help thou wilt

^^^a woman to bring forth her babe:

on thy palms wear them     and grasp her wrists,

^^^and ask the dísir’s aid.

 

“Learn sea runes eke     if save thou wilt

^^^the sail-steeds on the sea:

on the bow scratch them,     and on rudder blade,

^^^and etch them with fire in the oars:

howe’er beetling the billows     and black the deep,

^^^yet comest thou safe from the sea.

 

“Limb runes learn thou,     if a leech would’st be,

^^^and wishest wounds to heal:

on the bark scratch them     of bole in the woods

^^^whose boughs bend to the east.

 

“Speech runes learn thou,     to spite no one,

^^^lest out of hate he harm thee:

these wind thou,     these weave thou,

^^^and gather them all together

when men to moot     are met at the Thing,

^^^and all Thing-men are there.

 

“Mind runes learn thou     if among men thou wilt

^^^be wiser than any wight:

them did guess,     them did grave,

^^^them did hit upon Hrópt.

 

“… …. ..     ….. … ….

made of the sap     which seeped in drops

^^^out of Heithdraupnir’s head,

^^^out of Hoddrofnir’s horn.

 

“On the brink stood he     with Brímir, the sword;

^^^on his head he had a helm:

^^^then muttered Mímir’s head

^^^wisely first this word,

^^^and sooth said of this:

 

“Said on the shield graven     before the shining god which stands,

on Árvakr’s ear,     and on Alsvith’s hoof,

on the wheel which turns     ‘neath (Hrungnir’s bane’s) wain,

on Sleipnir’s teeth,     and on the sleigh’s strap bands,

 

“On the paw of the bear     and on Bragi’s tongue,

on the old wolf’s claw     and on the eagle’s beak,

on the bloody wings     and on the bridge’s head,

on the midwife’s hand     and on the healing spoor,

 

“On glass and on gold     and on good luck token,

in wine and in wort     and on wonted seat,

on Gungnir’s point     and on Grani’s breast,

on the norn-nail eke     and the night owl’s beak.

 

“Off were scraped all     which on were scratched,

^^^and mixed with the holy mead,

^^^and sent about and abroad.

The Æsir have them,     the alfs have them,

^^^and some the wise Vanir have

^^^and some, mortal men.

 

“These beech runes be,     and birth runes, too,

^^^and all ale runes,

^^^and mighty, magic runes:

for whoe’er unspoilt,     and unspilt, eke,

^^^for his help will have them:

^^^gain he who grasps them,

^^^till draws near the doom of the gods!

 

“Now shalt thou choose,     since choice thou hast,

^^^hero ‘neath shining helm,

to say or naught say:     with thyself rests it!

^^^Meted out is all evil.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Flee I shall not     though fey I know me:

^^^since a babe my breast knew no fear.

Thy loving counsel     I lief would have

^^^as long as my life doth last.”

 

(“Sigurth’s reply: he will not flee the early death which she has, in stanzas probably lost, foretold would result from their union. Vǫlsunga saga, Chap. 21, has kept the gist of at least two other stanzas: ” ‘Wiser woman liveth not in the world than thou art… and this swear I, that I shall wed thee, for thou art after my wish.’ She answered: ‘Thee would I have though I had choice among all men.’ And that pledged they each other with oaths.” These stanzas no doubt formed the conclusion of the original poem. Sigurth’s words seem to have suggested the later addition of the remaining gnomic stanzas.”)

 

Sigrdrífa said:

“This counsel I first:     of kinsmen of thine

^^^at no time fall thou foul:

curb thy revenge,     though cause there be:

^^^’twill boot thy dying day.

 

“This other I counsel,     that oath thou swear not

^^^but thou tell the truth:

for baleful doom     follows breach of truce;

^^^ill fares the breaker of oaths.

 

“This third I counsel,     that at Thing thou never

^^^bandy words with witless wight;

for unwise man     full often says

^^^worser words than he knows.

 

“‘This well nowise     if naught thou say’st:

^^^a craven thou’lt be called;

^^^{or taunted that true the charge.

^^^Fickle is homemade fame,

^^^but good it be gotten.}

make away with him     when he waiteth him not,

^^^and reward thus the wicked lie.

 

(“{or taunted… be gotten}” These bracketed lines may have been a later addition. “make away… wicked lie.” is accepting Gering’s emendation.)

 

“That fourth I counsel,     if foul witch live

^^^by the way thou wishest to fare:

to go on is better     than be her guest,

^^^though that the night be near.

 

“Foresight is needful     to the sons of men,

^^^where’er in the fray they fight;

oft harmful hags     do haunt the way,

^^^who dull both weapon and wit.

 

“That counsel I fifth:     though fair women,

^^^and brow-white, sit on bench:

let the silver-dight one     not steal thy sleep,

^^^nor lure thou women to love!

 

“That counsel I sixth:     though swaggering speech

^^^and unkind be made o’er the cups:

with drunken warriors     no words thou bandy,

^^^for wine steals many a one’s wits.

 

“Quarrels and ale     have often brought

^^^sorrow to sons of men-

foul death to some,     ill fate to others:

^^^much woe is wrought in the world.

 

“That counsel I seventh:     if for cause thou fight

^^^against stouthearted heroes:

’tis better to battle     than be burned alive

^^^within his own house and home.

 

“That counsel I eighth,     to keep thee from evil,

^^^nor dally with dastardly deeds;

no maiden mar thou,     nor married woman

^^^lure thou to love with thee.

 

“That counsel I ninth,     that corpses thou bury,

^^^wheresoe’er on earth thou find them-

whether sickness slew them,     or in the sea they drowned,

^^^or whether thy fell in fight.

 

(I have left out a stanza here that was a later interpolation added by Christians. However, I am including this note of them having added it to remind us all of how followers of Judeo-Christian religions *SPIT* damage and destroy the European religion and culture. They also destroy the European species, but that would be far too off-topic to discuss right now.)

 

“That counsel I tenth,     that thou trust never

^^^oath of an outlaw’s son;

whether art his brother’s bane,     or felled his father:

a wolf oft sleeps     in his son, though young,

^^^and glad of the gold though he be.

 

“Seldom sleepeth     the sense of wrong

^^^nor, either, hate and heartache.

Both his wits and weapons     a warrior needs

^^^who would fain be foremost among folk.

 

“That counsel I eleventh:     to keep thee from evil,

^^^whence’er it may threaten thee:

not long the lord’s     life, I ween me.

^^^Have fateful feuds arisen.”

The Lay of Fáfnir: Fáfnismál

It is believed that this lay is a continuation of the one I recently posted called “The Lay of Regin: Reginsmál”. I feel it would be appropriate to continue the storyline. I was originally thinking of posting something else, but I wanted to do this first. Some of you are having flashbacks to when I was posting those lists of Edda names. That is fair, but at least this should be more interesting. This will again be a transcription rather than a summary.

Also: I will again be using the “^^^” symbols to force certain lines to the right for accuracy.

 

By the bye, near the end where there are seven birds speaking, it has been suggested that there were originally only three birds and the lines were later split and given to seven distinct individuals instead.


Then fared Sigurth home to Hjálprek; but Regin egged on Sigurth to slay Fáfnir. Sigurth and Regin went up to the Gnita Heath and found there the tracks of Fáfnir where it was his wont to go for water. There Sigurth dug a great ditch and hid himself in it. Now when Fáfnir left his lair on the gold, he spewed poison, and it flowed from above on Sigurth’s head. But when Fáfnir crept over the ditch, Sigurth thrust his sword into the dragon’s heart. Fáfnir shook himself and beat (the ground) with his head and his tail. Sigurth leapt out of the ditch,  and then they saw one another.

 

Fáfnir said:

“Thou fellow bold,     what thy father’s kin?

^^^Youth, from what house dost hail?

With Fáfnir’s blood     thy brand is red;

^^^in my heart standeth thy steel.”

 

Sigurth withheld his name; for it was the belief in olden times that the words of a doomed man had great might, if he cursed his foe by name.

 

He said:

“Stag I am hight;     homeless I wandered;

^^^I am a motherless man;

no father had I     as folks do else:

^^^ever fare I unfriended.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“If a father thou had’st not     as folks do else,

^^^how wast thou, boy, then born?

(Not knowing thy name,     though now I die,

^^^I little doubt thou liest.)”

 

Sigurth said:

“My forefathers     to fame are known,

^^^of myself I say the same:

Sigurth thou see’st here,     was Sigmund my father;

^^^thou know’st now whose sword smote thee.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“Who whetted thee,     and why didst wish

^^^to seek, Sigurth, my life?

Thou keen-eyed boy,     thou had’st bold father,

^^^(such daring deed to do.)”

 

Sigurth said:

“My hands did help     as my heart did whet,

^^^and eke my bitter brand;

brisk will not be     as bearded man

^^^who was afraid when fledged.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“If haply ‘mong kinsmen     thou had’st grown up,

^^^thou bold in battle would’st be;

but unfree art,     nor thy own master,

^^^and ay are fearful the fettered.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Since far I am, Fáfnir, from my father’s kin

^^^thou scornfully scoffest at me:

no bondsman am I,     as babe though taken:

^^^unfettered thou feltest me now.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“But words of hate     to hear thou weenest;

^^^yet I tell thee this for truth:

the glistening gold     and the glow-red hoard,

^^^the rings thy bane will be.”

 

Sigurth said:

“For wealth doth wish     each wight that’s born,

^^^to have till the day of death;

sometime, forsooth,     shall each son of man

^^^fare hence to Hel.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“The norns’ doom     before the nesses threatens:

^^^a fool’s fate will be thine;

in the water will drown     in the wind who rows:

^^^all spells death to the doomed one.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Say now, Fáfnir,     for sage thou art,

^^^and much learned in lore:

which norns are near     when need there is

^^^to help mothers give birth to their babes?”

 

Fáfnir said:

“Of unlike issue     are the ilks of norns,

^^^nor of the same sib:

of Æsir kin some,     of alf kin others,

and some are Dvalin’s daughters.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Say now, Fáfnir,     for sage thou art,

^^^and much learned in lore:

how that holm is hight     where the holy gods

^^^and Surt will meet in swordplay?”

 

Fáfnir said:

“‘Tis Óskopnir hight;     there all the gods

^^^will unsheath their shining swords;

Bifrost will break,     on that bridge when they ride;

^^^their steeds will swim the stream.

 

“With the Helm of Fear     I affrighted men

^^^while I lay on the hated hoard;

for the might of all men     a match I weened me,

^^^nor e’er worthy foeman found.”

 

Sigurth said:

“The Helm of Fear     hideth no one,

^^^when bold men bare their swords;

when many are met     to match their strength,

^^^’twill be found that foremost is no one.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“I spewed venom     as I sprawled on the hoard

^^^of my father’s gleaming gold;

(by noon or night     no one neared me,

^^^no weapons nor wiles I feared).”

 

Sigurth said:

“Thou hateful worm,     great hissing thou madest,

^^^on thy gold grimly brooding;

but harder grow     the hearts of men

^^^if that helm they have.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“Hear thou, Sigurth,     and heed it well:

^^^ride thou home from hence:

the glistening gold     and the glow-red hoard,

^^^the rings thy bane will be.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Warning thou’st given;     now wot that I ride

^^^to the gold hoarded on heath;

but thou, Fáfnir,     shalt flounder in death

^^^till Hel harbor thee.”

 

Fáfnir said:

“Regin betrayed me,     will betray thee too,

^^^will be the bane of us both;

Fáfnir is doomed     to die full soon,

^^^greater thy might was than mine.”

 

Regin had taken himself off, the while Sigurth slew Fáfnir, and showed himself again when Sigurth was wiping the blood from his sword.

 

He said:

“Hail now, Sigurth,     thou hast slain Fáfnir:

^^^well hast thou won the day;

of all the men     on earth that walk

^^^I call thee bravest born.”

 

Sigurth said:

“When men are met     to match their thews,

^^^who knows who is bravest born?

Full many are brave     who brand never reddened

^^^in the blood from foeman’s breast.”

 

Regin said:

“Glad art, Sigurth,     hast slain thy foe,

^^^and driest now Gram on the grass;

my own brother     thy brand did slay,

^^^yet had I a hand in his death.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Afar thou wert     while in Fáfnir’s blood

^^^I reddened my slaughterous sword;

my strength I strained     to strive with the worm,

^^^whilst thou in the heather didst hide.”

 

Regin said:

“Long had lived     in his lair on heath

^^^that age-old etin,

if the sword thou had’st not     which myself did make,

^^^the blade which bites so sore.”

 

Sigurth said:

“Courage is better     than keenest steel,

^^^when bold men bare their brands;

oft beheld I     wholehearted swain

^^^with dull sword win his way.

 

“The fearless ay,     but the fearful nowise,

^^^will fare the better in fray;

to be glad is better     than of gloomy mind,

^^^whether fair or foul betide.

 

“Thy rede was it     that ride I should

^^^over high mountains hither;

Fáfnir still held     his hoard and life,

^^^had’st thou not egged me on.”

 

Then Regin went up to Fáfnir and cut out his heart with the sword which is hight Rithil; and then he drank the blood which flowed from the wound.

 

He said:

“Sit now, Sigurth-     I shall sleep the while-

^^^and hold Fáfnir’s heart o’er the fire;

for this morsel     I mean to eat

^^^after gulping this gory drink.”

 

Sigurth took Fáfnir’s heart and steaked it on a spit. When he thought it was done, and the blood ran foaming out of the heart, he touched it with his finger to see whether it were fully done; he burned himself and stuck his finger in his mouth. But when Fáfnir’s heartblood touched his tongue, he understood the speech of birds. He overheard some titmice speaking in the bushes.

 

One titmouse said:

“There sits Sigurth,     all smeared with blood,

and Fáfnir’s heart     he holds over the fire;

wise would be     the war leader

if the hated worm’s     bright heart he ate.”

 

A second said:

“There lies Regin,     and racks his brain,

would betray the boy     who trusts in him,

and take him to task     in tricky ways;

would the base one now     his brother avenge.”

 

A third said:

“Hew off the head     of the hoary wizard!

^^^let him fare to Hel from hence;

then lord art alone     of the lustrous gold,

^^^of the heapèd hoard of Fáfnir.”

 

A fourth said:

“Crafty were he     and keen of mind,

if ear he gave     to us sisters-

took heed for himself     and the hawks gladdened:

look out for the wolf     when his ears ye see!”

 

A fifth said:

“Crafty were not     the king’s offspring-

as ought to be     armed men’s leader-

if he let scot-free     escape the brother,

when he Fáfnir first     felled with the sword.”

 

A sixth said:

“Witless were then     the warlike hero

^^^if he spared his fell foeman;

Regin lies there     who has lied to him:

^^^let him guard against his guile!”

 

A seventh said:

“Cut off the head     of the cold etin,

^^^and take his red-gold rings;

of Fáfnir’s hoard then,     on the heath where it lies,

^^^the only owner wilt be.”

 

Sigurth said:

“‘Tis not written that Regin     shall wreak him on me,

^^^and ever be my bane;

for both brothers     shall by my hand

^^^full soon fare hence to Hel.”

 

Sigurth hewed off Regin’s head. Then he ate Fáfnir’s heart, and drank the blood of both Regin and Fáfnir.

 

Then heard Sigurth what the titmice said (further):

“Gather now, Sigurth,     the golden rings-

to flinch in fear     befits not a king:

a maiden I know,     of many most fair,

in golden weeds:     a wife for thee.

 

“Green are the paths     to Gjúki’s hall-

fate doth further     the fearless man;

that folk-king hath     a fair daughter:

with the gold, Sigurth,     mayst thou gain her hand.”

 

“A high hall standeth     on Hindar Fell,

all enfolded is it     by fire without;

cunning craftsmen     this castle builded

of the glistening     gold of rivers.

 

“A valkyrie rests     on the rock in sleep,

flickering fire     flames about her;

with the sleep-thorn Ygg     her erst did prick:

other heroes she felled     than he had willed.

 

“There mayst thou see     the maiden helm-decked

who steered from battle     the steed Vingskornir;

nor mayst Sigrdrífa     from sleep awaken,

that know thou, Skjoldung,     but by norns’ stern doom.”

 

Sigurth followed Fáfnir’s tracks till he came upon his lair, and found it open. The doors and doorposts were of iron. Of iron, too, were all posts in the house, and the whole was let into the ground. There found Sigurth a great hoard of gold, and filled two chests with it. He took from thence the Helm of Terror, and a gold byrnie, and the sword Hrotti, and many other things of great worth, and loaded Grani therewith; but the steed would not stir before Sigurth got on his back too.