THE FIRST LAY OF GUDRUN

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THE ELDER EDDAS OF SAEMUND SIGFUSSON.

Translated from the Original Old Norse Text into English BY BENJAMIN THORPE


THE FIRST LAY OF GUDRUN.



Gudrun sat over Sigurd dead; she wept not as other women, although ready to burst with sorrow. Both men and women, came to console her, but that was not easy. It is said by some that Gudrun had eaten of Fafnir's heart, and therefore understood the talk of birds. This is also sung of Gudrun:


1. Of old it was that Gudrun prepared to die, when she sorrowing over Sigurd sat. No sigh she uttered, nor with her hands beat, nor wailed, as other women.

2. Jarls came forward of great sagacity, from her sad state of mind to divert her. Gudrun could not shed a tear, such was her affliction; ready she was to burst.

3. Sat there noble wives of jarls, adorned with gold, before Gudrun; each of them told her sorrows, the bitterest she had known.

4. Then said Giaflaug, Giuki's sister: "I know myself to be on earth most joyless: of five consorts I the loss have suffered; of two daughters, sisters three, and brothers eight; I alone live."

5. Gudrun could not shed a tear, such was her affliction for her dead consort, and her soul's anguish for the king's fall.

6. Then said Herborg, Hunaland's queen: "I a more cruel grief have to recount: my seven sons, in the south land, my spouse the eighth, in conflict fell.

7. My father and my mother, my brothers four, on the sea the wind deluded; the waves struck on the ship's timbers.

8. Their last honours 'twas mine to pay, 'twas mine to see them tombed, their funeral rites to prepare was mine. All this I underwent in one half-year, and to me no one consolation offered.

9. Then I became a captive, taken in war, at the close of the same half-year. Then had I to adorn, and tie the shoes, of the hersir's wife, each morn.

10. From jealousy she threatened me, and with hard blows drove me: nowhere master found I a better, but mistress no where a worse."

11. Gudrun could not shed a tear, such was her affliction for her dead consort, and her soul's anguish for the king's fall.

12. Then said Gullrond, Giuki's daughter: "Little canst thou, my fosterer, wise as thou art, with a young wife fittingly talk." The king's body she forbade to be longer hidden.

13. She snatched the sheet from Sigurd's corpse, and turned his cheek towards his wife's knees: "Behold thy loved one, lay thy mouth to his lip, as if thou wouldst embrace the living prince."

14. Gudrun upon him cast one look: she saw the prince's locks dripping with blood, the chief's sparkling eyes closed in death, his kingly breast cleft by the sword.

15. Then sank down Gudrun back on her pillow, her head-gear was loosed, her cheeks grew red, and a flood of tears fell to her knees.

16. Then wept Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, so that the tears spontaneously flowed, and at the same time screamed the geese in the court, the noble birds, which the lady owned.

17. Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter: "Your loves I know were the most ardent among living beings upon earth: thou hadst delight nowhere, sister mine! save with Sigurd."

18. Then said Gudrun, Giuki's daughter: "Such was my Sigurd among Giuki's sons, as is the garlick out from the grass which grows, or a bright stone on a thread drawn, a precious gem on kings.

19. I also seemed to the prince's warriors higher than any of Herian's Disir; now I am as little as the leaf oft is in the storm-winds, after the chieftain's death.

20. Sitting I miss, and in my bed, my dearest friend. Giuki's sons have caused, Giuki's sons have caused my affliction, and their sister's tears of anguish.

21. So ye desolate the people's land, as ye have kept your sworn oaths. Gunnar! thou wilt not the gold enjoy; those rings will be thy bane, for the oaths thou to Sigurd gavest.

22. Oft in the mansion was the greater mirth, when my Sigurd Grani saddled, and Brynhild they went to woo, that which accursed, in an evil hour!"

23. Then said Brynhild, Budli's daughter: "May the hag lack spouse and children, who thee, Gudrun! has caused to weep, and this morning given thee runes of speech!"

24. Then said Gullrond, Giuki's daughter: "Cease, thou loathed of all! from those words. The evil destiny of princes thou hast ever been; thee every billow drives of an evil nature; thou sore affliction of seven kings, the greatest bane of friendship among women!"

25. Then said Brynhild, Budli's daughter: "Atli my brother, Budli's offspring, is the sole cause of all the evil;

26. When in the hall of the Hunnish folk, with the king we beheld the fire of the serpent's bed. Of that journey, I have paid the penalty, that sight I have ever rued."

27. She by a column stood, the wood violently clasped. From the eyes of Brynhild, Budli's daughter, fire gleamed forth; venom she snorted, when she beheld the wounds of Sigurd.

Gudrun then went away to the forest and deserts, and travelled to Denmark, where she stayed seven half-years with Thora, Hakon's daughter. Brynhild would not outlive Sigurd. She caused her eight thralls and five female slaves to be killed, and then slew herself with a sword, as it is related in the "Sigurdarkvida in Skemma" (the Short Lay of Sigurd).