THE FIRST LAY OF HELGI HUNDINGCIDE

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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 HELGI HUNDINGCIDE.


1. It was in times of yore, when the eagles screamed, holy waters fell from the heavenly hills; then to Helgi, the great of soul, Borghild gave birth in Bralund.

2. In the mansion it was night: the Norns came, who should the prince's life determine. They him decreed a prince most famed to be, and of leaders accounted best.

3. With all their might they span the fatal threads, when that [he] burghs should overthrow in Bralund. They stretched out the golden cord, and beneath the middle of the moon's mansion fixed it.

4. East and west they hid the ends, where the prince had lands between; towards the north Neri's sister cast a chain, which she bade last for ever.

5. One thing disquieted the Ylfing's offspring, and the woman who had the child brought forth. Sitting on a lofty tree, on prey intent, a raven to a raven said: "I know something.

6. Stands cased in mail Sigmund's son, one day old: now is our day come. His eyes are piercing as a warrior's; the wolf's friend is he: we shall rejoice!"

7. He to the folk appeared a noble chief to be; among men 'twas said that happy times were come; went the king himself from the din of war, noble garlic to bring to the young prince;

8. Gave him the name of Helgi, and Hringstadir, Solfioll, Snæfioll, and Sigarsvellir, Hringstad, Hatun, and Himinvangar, a sword ornate, to Sinfiotli's brother.

9. Then grew up, in his friends' bosom, the high-born youth, in joyous splendour. He paid and gave gold for deserts; nor spared the chief the blood-stained sword.

10. A short time only the leader let warfare cease. When the prince was fifteen winters old, he caused the fierce Hunding to fall, who long had ruled over lands and people.

11. The sons of Hunding afterwards demanded from Sigmund's son treasure and rings; because they had on the prince to avenge their great loss of wealth, and their father's death.

12. The prince would neither the blood-fine pay, nor for the slain indemnity would give. They might expect, he said, a terrific storm of grey arrows, and Odin's ire.

13. The warriors went to the trysting place of swords, which they had appointed at Logafioll. Broken was Frodi's peace between the foes: Vidrir's hounds went about the isle slaughter-greedy.

14. The leader sat under the Arastein, after he had slain Alf and Eyiolf, Hiorvard and Havard, sons of Hunding: he had destroyed all Geirmimir's race.

15. Then gleamed a ray from Logafioll, and from that ray lightnings issued; then appeared, in the field of air, a helmed band of Valkyriur: their corslets were with blood besprinkled, and from their spears shone beams of light.

16. Forthwith inquired the chieftain bold, from the wolf-congress of the southern Disir, whether they would, with the warriors, that night go home?—then was a clash of arms!

17. One from her horse, Hogni's daughter, stilled the crash of shields, and to the leader said: "We have, I ween, other objects than with princely warriors to drink beer.

18. My father has his daughter promised to the fierce son of Granmar; but I have, Helgi! declared Hodbrodd, the proud prince, like to a cat's son.

19. That chief will come in a few days, unless thou him call to a hostile meeting; or the maiden take from the prince."

Helgi.

20. Fear thou not Isung's slayer; there shall be first a clash of foes, unless I am dead.

21. Thence sent messengers the potent prince through air and over water, succours to demand, and abundance of ocean's gleam to men to offer, and to their sons.

22. "Bid them speedily to the ships to go, and those from Brandey to hold them ready." There the king abode, until thither came warriors in hundreds from Hedinsey.

23. From the strands also, and from Stafnsnes, a naval force went out, with gold adorned. Helgi then of Hiorleif asked: "Hast thou mustered the valiant people?"

24. But the young king the other answered: "Slowly" said he "are counted from Tronuey the long-beaked ships, under the seafarers, which sail without in the Oresund,—

25. Twelve hundred faithful men; though in Hatun there is more than half of the king's host—We are to war inured."

26. Then the steersman threw the ship's tents aside, that the princes' people might awake, and the noble chiefs the dawn might see; and the warriors hauled the sails up to the mast in Varinsfiord.

27. There was a dash of oars, and clash of iron, shield against shield resounded: the vikings rowed; roaring went, under the chieftains the royal fleet far from the land.

28. So might be heard, when together came the tempest's sister and the long keels, as when rock and surge on each other break.

29. Higher still bade Helgi the deep sail be hauled. No port gave shelter to the crews; when Oegir's terrific daughter the chieftains' vessels would o'erwhelm,

30. But from above Sigrun intrepid, saved them and their fleet also; from the hand of Ran powerfully was wrested the royal ship at Gnipalund.

31. At eve they halted in Unavagar; the splendid ships might into port have floated, but the crews, from Svarinshaug, in hostile mood, espied the host.

32. Then demanded the god-born Gudmund: "Who is the chieftain that commands the fleet, and that formidable force brings to our land?"

33. Sinfiotli said, slinging up on the yard a red-hued shield with golden rim;—He at the strait kept watch, and able was to answer, and with nobles words exchange—

34. "Tell it at eve, when you feed your pigs, and your dogs lead to their food, that the Ylfings from the east are come, ready to fight at Gnipalund.

35. Hodbrodd will Helgi find in the fleet's midst, a king hard to make flee, who has oft the eagles sated, while thou wast at the mills, kissing the thrall-wenches.

Gudmund.

36. Little dost thou remember of ancient saws, when of the noble thou falsehoods utterest. Thou hast been eating wolves' dainties, and of thy brother wast the slayer; wounds hast thou often sucked with cold mouth; every where loathed, thou hast crawled in caverns.

Sinfiotli.

37. Thou wast a Valacrone in Varinsey, cunning as a fox, a spreader of lies. Thou saidst thou no man wouldst ever marry, no corsleted warrior, save Sinfiotli.

38. A mischievous crone wast thou, a giantess, a Valkyria, insolent, monstrous, in Alfather's hall. All the Einheriar fought with each other, deceitful woman! for thy sake. Nine wolves we begat in Sagunes; I alone was father of them all.

Gudmund.

39. Father thou wast not of Fenriswolves, older than all, as far as I remember; since by Gnipalund, the Thurs-maidens thee emasculated upon Thorsnes.

40. Thou wast Siggeir's stepson, at home under the benches layest, accustomed to the wolf's howl out in the forests: calamity of every kind came over thee, when thou didst lacerate thy brother's breast. Notorious thou mad'st thyself by thy atrocious works.

Sinfiotli.

41. Thou wast Grani's bride at Bravollr, hadst a golden bit, ready for the course. Many a time have I ridden thee tired, hungry and saddled, through the fells, thou hag!

Gudmund.

42. A graceless lad thou wast thought to be, when Gulnir's goats thou didst milk. Another time thou wast a giantess's daughter, a tattered wretch. Wilt thou a longer chat?

Sinfiotli.

43. I rather would at Frekastein the ravens cram with thy carcase, than thy dogs lead to their meat, or thy hogs feed. May the fiend deal with thee!

Helgi.

44. "Much more seemly, Sinfiotli! would it be for you both in battle to engage, and the eagles gladden, than with useless words to contend, however princes may foster hate.

45. Not good to me appear Granmar's sons, yet 'tis right that princes should speak the truth: they have shown, at Moinsheimar, that they have courage to draw the sword."—

46. Rapidly they their horses made to run, Svipud and Svegiud, to Solheimar, over dewy dales, dark mountain-sides; trembled the sea of mist, where the men went.

47. The king they met at the burgh's gate, to the prince announced the hostile advent. Without stood Hodbrodd with helmet decked: he the speed noticed of his kinsmen. "Why have ye Hniflungs such wrathful countenances?"

48. "Hither to the shore are come rapid keels, towering masts, and long yards, shields many, and smooth-shaven oars, a king's noble host, joyous Ylfings.

49. Fifteen bands are come to land; but there are out at sea, before Gnipalund, seven thousand blue-black ocean-beasts with gold adorned; there is by far their greatest multitude. Now will Helgi not delay the conflict."

Hodbrodd.

50. "Let a bridled steed to the chief assembly run, but Sporvitnir to Sparinsheid; Melnir and Mylnir to Myrkvid; let no man stay behind of those who swords can brandish.

51. Summon to you Hogni, and the sons of Hring, Atli and Yngvi, Alf the old; they will gladly engage in conflict. We will let the Volsungs find resistance."

52. It was a whirlwind, when together came the fallow blades at Frekastein: ever was Helgi Hundingsbani foremost in the host, where men together fought: ardent for battle, disdaining flight; the chieftain had a valiant heart.

53. Then came a maid from heaven, helmed, from above—the clash of arms increased—for the king's protection. Then said Sigrun—well skilled to fly to the host of heroes from Hugin's grove—

54. "Unscathed shalt thou, prince! possess thy people, pillar of Yngvi's race! and life enjoy; thou hast laid low the slow of flight, the chief who caused the dread warrior's death. And thee, O king! well beseem both red-gold rings and a powerful maid: unscathed shalt thou, prince! both enjoy, Hogni's daughter, and Hringstadir, victory and lands: then is conflict ended."