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.”