THE LAY OF HAMDIR

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THE ELDER EDDAS OF SAEMUND SIGFUSSON.

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


THE LAY OF HAMDIR.



1. In that court arose woeful deeds, at the Alfar's doleful lament; at early morn, men's afflictions, troubles of various kinds; sorrows were quickened.

2. It was not now, nor yesterday, a long time since has passed away,—few things are more ancient, it was by much earlier—when Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, her young sons instigated Svanhild to avenge.

3. "She was your sister, her name Svanhild, she whom Jormunrek with horses trod to death, white and black, on the public way, with grey and way-wont Gothic steeds.

4. "Thenceforth all is sad to you, kings of people! Ye alone survive,

5. "Branches of my race. Lonely I am become, as the asp-tree in the forest, of kindred bereft, as the fir of branches; of joy deprived, as is the tree of foliage, when the branch-spoiler comes in the warm day."

6. Then spake Hamdir, the great of soul, "Little, Gudrun! didst thou care Hogni's deed to praise, when Sigurd they from sleep awaked On the bed thou satst, and the murderers laughed.

7. "Thy bed-clothes, blue and white, woven by cunning hands, swam in thy husband's gore. When Sigurd perished, o'er the dead thou satst, caredst not for mirth—so Gunnar willed it.

8. "Atli thou wouldst afflict by Erp's murder, and by Eitil's life's destruction: that proved for thyself the worse: therefore should every one so against others use, for life's destruction, a sharp-biting sword, that he harm not himself."

9. Then said Sorli—he had a prudent mind—"I with my mother will not speeches exchange: though words to each of you to me seem wanting. What, Gudrun! dost thou desire, which for tears thou canst not utter?

10. "For thy brothers weep, and thy dear sons, thy nearest kin, drawn to the strife: for us both shalt thou, Gudrun! also have to weep, who here sit fated on our steeds, far away to die."

11. From the court they went, for conflict ready. The young men journeyed over humid fells, on Hunnish steeds, murder to avenge.

12. Then said Erp, all at once—the noble youth was joking on his horse's back—"Ill 'tis to a timid man to [point out the ways." They said the bastard was over bold.

13. On their way they had found the wily jester. "How will the swarthy dwarf afford us aid?"

14. He of another mother answered: so he said aid he would to his kin afford, as one foot to the other [or, grown to the body, one hand the other].

15. "What can a foot to a foot give; or, grown to the body, one hand the other?"

16. From the sheath they drew the iron blade, the falchion's edges, for Hel's delight. They their strength diminished by a third part, they their young kinsman caused to earth to sink.

17. Their mantles then they shook, their weapons grasped; the high-born were clad in sumptuous raiment.

18. Forward lay the ways, a woeful path they found, and their sister's son wounded on a gibbet, wind-cold outlaw-trees, on the town's west. Ever vibrated the ravens' whet: there to tarry was not good.

19. Uproar was in the hall, men were with drink excited, so that the horses' tramp no one heard, until a mindful man winded his horn.

20. To announce they went to Jormunrek that were seen helm-decked warriors. "Take ye counsel, potent ones are come; before mighty men ye have on a damsel trampled."

21. Then laughed Jormunrek, with his hand stroked [Pg 254]his beard, asked not for his corslet; with wine he struggled, shook his dark locks, on his white shield looked, and in his hand swung the golden cup.

22. "Happy should I seem, if I could see Hamdir and Sorli within my hall. I would them then with bowstrings bind, the good sons of Giuki on the gallows hang."

23. Then said Hrodrglod, on the high steps standing; "Prince" said she to her son—for that was threatened which ought not to happen—"shall two men alone bind or slay ten hundred Goths in this lofty burgh?"

24. Tumult was in the mansion, the beer-cups flew in shivers, men lay in blood from the Goths' breasts flowing.

25. Then said Hamdir, the great of heart: "Jormunrek! thou didst desire our coming, brothers of one mother, into thy burgh: now seest thou thy feet, seest thy hands Jormunrek! cast into the glowing fire."

26. Then roared forth a godlike mail-clad warrior, as a bear roars: "On the men hurl stones, since spears bite not, nor edge of sword, nor point, the sons of Jonakr."

27. Then said Hamdir, the great of heart: "Harm didst thou, brother! when thou that mouth didst ope. Oft from that mouth bad counsel comes."

28. "Courage hast thou, Hamdir! if only thou hadst sense: that man lacks much who wisdom lacks.

29. "Off would the head now be, had but Erp lived, our brother bold in fight, whom on the way we slew, that warrior brave—me the Disir instigated—that man sacred to us, whom we resolved to slay.

30. "I ween not that ours should be the wolves' example, that with ourselves we should contend, like the Norns' dogs, that voracious are in the desert nurtured."

31. "Well have we fought, on slaughtered Goths we stand, on those fallen by the sword, like eagles on a branch. Great glory we have gained, though now or to-morrow we shall die. No one lives till eve against the Norns' decree."

33. There fell Sorli, at the mansion's front; but Hamdir sank at the house's back.

This is called the Old Lay of Hamdir.