THE SECOND LAY OF HELGI HUNDINGCIDE

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


THE SECOND LAY OF HELGI HUNDINGCIDE.


King Sigmund, son of Volsung, had to wife Borghild of Bralund. They named their son Helgi, after Helgi Hiorvard's son. Helgi was fostered by Hagal. There was a powerful king named Hunding, after whom the land was called Hundland. He was a great warrior, and had many sons, who were engaged in warfare. There was enmity, both open and concealed, between King Hunding and King Sigmund, and they slew each other's kinsmen. King Sigmund and his kindred were called Volsungs, and Ylfings. Helgi went forth and secretly explored the court of King Hunding. Heming, Hunding's son, was at home. On departing Helgi met a herdsman, and said:


1. "Say thou to Heming, that Helgi bears in mind who the mailed warrior was, whom the men laid low, when the grey wolf ye had within, and King Hunding thought it was Hamal."

Hamal was the son of Hagal. King Hunding sent men to Hagal in search of Helgi, and Helgi had no other way to save himself than by taking the clothes of a female slave and going to grind. They sought but did not find him. Then said Blind the Baleful:

2. Sharp are the eyes of Hagal's thrall-wench; of no churlish race is she who at the mill stands. The millstones are split, the receiver flies asunder. Now a hard fate has befallen the warrior, when a prince must barley grind: much more fitting to that hand is the falchion's hilt than a mill-handle.

Hagal answered and said:—

3. No wonder 'tis that the receiver rattles, when a royal damsel the handle turns. She hovered higher than the clouds, and, like the vikings, dared to fight, until Helgi made her captive. She is a sister of Sigar and Hogni; therefore has fierce eyes the Ylfing maid.

Helgi escaped and went on board a ship of war. He slew King Hunding, and was afterwards named Helgi Hundingsbani. He lay with his force in Brunavagar, and carried on "strand-hogg" and ate raw flesh. There was a king named Hogni, whose daughter was Sigrun: she was a Valkyria, and rode through the air and over the sea. She was Svava regenerated. Sigrun rode to Helgi, and said:—

4. What men cause a ship along the coasts to float? where do ye warriors a home possess? what await ye in Brunavagar? whither desire ye to explore a way?

Helgi.

5. Hamal causes a ship along the coasts to float; we have home in Hlesey; a fair wind we await in Brunavagar; eastward we desire to explore a way.

Sigrun.

6. Where, O prince! hast thou wakened war, or fed the birds of conflict's sisters? Why is thy corslet sprinkled with blood? Why beneath the helm eat ye raw flesh?

Helgi.

7. It was the Ylfings' son's last achievement,—if thou desirest to know—west of the ocean, that I took bears in Bragalund, and the eagles' race with our weapons sated. Now, maiden! I have said what the reasons were, why at sea we little cooked meat ate.

Sigrun.

8. To a battle thou alludest. Before Helgi has King Hunding been doomed to fall. In conflict ye have engaged, when your kindred ye avenged, and stained with blood the falchion's edge.

Helgi.

9. Why dost thou suppose, sagacious maiden! that it was they, who their kin avenged? Many a warrior's bold sons there are, and hostile to our kindred.

Sigrun.

10. I was not far, leader of people! eager, at many a chieftain's end: yet crafty I account Sigmund's son, when in val-runes the slaughter he announces.

11. A while ago I saw thee commanding the warships, when thou hadst station on the bloody prow, and the cold sea waves were playing. Now, prince! thou wilt from me conceal it, but Hogni's daughter recognizes thee.

Granmar was the name of a powerful prince who dwelt at Svarinshaug. He had many sons: one was called Hodbrodd, the second Gudmund, the third Starkadr. Hodbrodd was at the assembly of kings, and there betrothed himself to Sigrun, the daughter of Hogni. But when she was informed of it, she rode with the Valkyriur through the air and over the sea in quest of Helgi. Helgi was at that time at Logafioll, warring against the sons of Hunding, where he slew Alf and Eyiolf, Hiorvard and Hervard. Being over-fatigued with the conflict, he was sitting under the Arastein, where Sigrun found him, and running to him, threw her arms around his neck, and, kissing him, told him her errand so as it related in the first Volsungakvida.

12. Sigrun sought the joyous prince, Helgi's hand she forthwith grasped, kissed and addressed the helm-decked king.

13. Then was the chieftain's mind to the lady turned. She declared that she had loved, with her whole heart, Sigmund's son, before she had seen him.

14. "To Hodbrodd I was in th' assembly betrothed, but I another prince would have: yet, chieftain! I foresee my kindred's wrath: I have my father's promise broken."

15. Hogni's daughter spoke not at variance with her heart: she said that Helgi's affection she must possess.

Helgi.

16. Care thou not for Hogni's wrath, nor for the evil mind of thy kin. Thou shalt, young maiden! live with me: of a good race thou art, as I perceive.

Helgi then collected a large fleet and proceeded to Frekastein, and at sea experienced a perilous storm. Lightnings came over them, and the flashes entered the ships. They saw that nine Valkyriur were riding in the air, and recognized Sigrun among them. The storm then abated and they reached land in safety. The sons of Granmar were sitting on a hill as the ships were sailing towards the land. Gudmund leapt on a horse, and rode to explore on the hill by the haven. The Volsungs then lowered their sails, and Gudmund spoke as is before written in the Helgakvida:—

"Who is the leader that commands the fleet, and an appalling host leads to our land?"

This said Gudmund, Granmar's son:

17. Who is the warrior that commands the ships, and lets his golden banner wave o'er his prow? No peace seems to me in that ship's front; it casts a warlike glow around the vikings.

Sinfiotli, Sigmund's son, answered:

18. Here may Hodbrodd Helgi learn to know, the hard of flight, in the fleet's midst: he the possession holds of thy race; he the fishes' heritage has to him subjected.

[Pg 149]Gudmund.

19. Therefore ought we first, at Frekastein, to settle together, and decide our quarrels! Hodbrodd! 'tis time vengeance to take, if an inferior lot we long have borne.

Sinfiotli.

20. Rather shalt thou, Gudmund! tend goats, and steep mountain-tops shalt climb, have in thy hand a hazel staff, that will better please thee than judgments of the sword.

Gudmund rode home with intelligence of the hostile armament; whereupon the sons of Granmar collected a host, and many kings came thither. Among them were Hogni, the father of Sigrun, with his sons, Bragi and Dag. There was a great battle, and all the sons of Hogni, and all their chiefs were slain, except Dag, who obtained peace, and swore oaths to the Volsungs. Sigrun, going among the slain, found Hodbrodd at the point of death. She said:

23. Not will Sigrun of Sefafioll, King Hodbrodd! sink in thy arms: thy life is departed. Oft the axe's blade the head approaches of Granmar's sons.

She then met Helgi, and was overjoyed. He said:

24. Not to thee, all-wise maiden! are all things granted, though, I say, in somewhat are the Norns to blame. This morn have fallen at Frekastein Bragi and Hogni: I was their slayer.

25. But at Styrkleifar King Starkadr, and at Hlebiorg the son of Hrollaug. That prince I saw of all most fierce, whose trunk yet fought when the head was far.[Pg 150]

26. On the earth lie the greater number of thy kinsmen, to corpses turned. Thou hast not fought the battle, yet 'twas decreed, that thou, potent maiden! shouldst cause the strife.

Sigrun then wept. Helgi said:

27. Sigrun! console thyself; a Hild thou hast been to us. Kings cannot conquer fate: gladly would I have them living who are departed, if I might clasp thee to my breast.

Helgi obtained Sigrun, and they had sons. Helgi lived not to be old. Dag, the son of Hogni, sacrificed to Odin, for vengeance for his father. Odin lent Dag his spear. Dag met with his relation Helgi in a place called Fioturlund, and pierced him through with his spear. Helgi fell there, but Dag rode to the mountains and told Sigrun what had taken place.

28. Loath am I, sister! sad news to tell thee; for unwillingly I have my sister caused to weep. This morning fell, in Fioturlund, the prince who was on earth the best, and on the necks of warriors stood.

Sigrun.

29. Thee shall the oaths all gnaw, which to Helgi thou didst swear, at the limpid Leiptr's water, and at the cold dank wave-washed rock.

30. May the ship not move forward, which under thee should move, although the wished-for wind behind thee blow. May the horse not run, which under thee should run, although from enemies thou hast to flee!

31. May the sword not bite which thou drawest, unless it sing round thy own head. Then would Helgi's death be on thee avenged, if a wolf thou wert, out in the woods, of all good bereft, and every joy, have no sustenance, unless on corpses thou shouldst spring.

Dag.

32. Sister! thou ravest, and hast lost thy wits, when on thy brother thou callest down such miseries. Odin alone is cause of all the evil; for between relatives he brought the runes of strife.

33. Thy brother offers thee rings of red gold, all Vandilsve and Vigdalir: have half the land, thy grief to compensate, woman ring-adorned! thou and thy sons.

Sigrun.

34. So happy I shall not sit at Sefafioll, neither at morn nor night, as to feel joy in life, if o'er the people plays not the prince's beam of light; if his war-steed runs not under the chieftain hither, to the gold bit accustomed; if in the king I cannot rejoice.

35. So had Helgi struck with fear all his foes and their kindred, as before the wolf the goats run frantic from the fell, of terror full.

36. So himself Helgi among warriors bore, as the towering ash is among thorns, or as the fawn, moistened with dew, that more proudly stalks than all the other beasts, and its horns glisten against the sky.

A mound was raised for Helgi; but when he came to Valhall, Odin offered him the rule over all jointly with himself. Helgi said:

37. Thou, Hunding! shalt for every man a foot-bath get, and fire kindle; shalt bind the dogs, to the horses look, to the swine give wash, ere to sleep thou goest.

A female slave passing at evening by Helgi's mound, saw him riding towards it with many men:

38. Is it a delusion which methinks I see, or the powers' dissolution, that ye, dead men, ride, and your horses with spurs urge on, or to warriors is a home journey granted?

Helgi.

39. 'Tis no delusion which thou thinkst to see, nor of mankind the end, although thou seest us, although our horses we with spurs urge on, nor to warriors is a home-journey granted.

The slave went home and said to Sigrun:

40. Sigrun! go forth from Sefafioll, if the people's chief thou desirest to meet. The mound is opened, Helgi is come, his wounds still bleed; the prince prayed thee that thou wouldst still the trickling blood.

Sigrun entered the mound to Helgi and said:

41. Now am I as glad, at our meeting, as the voracious hawks of Odin, when they of slaughter know; of warm prey, or, dewy-feathered, see the peep of day.

43. I will kiss my lifeless king, ere thou thy bloody corslet layest aside. Thy hair is, Helgi! tumid with sweat of death; my prince is all bathed in slaughter-dew; cold, clammy are the hands of Hogni's son. How shall I, prince! for this make thee amends?

Helgi.

43. Thou art alone the cause, Sigrun of Sefafioll! that Helgi is with sorrow's dew suffused. Thou weepest, gold-adorned! cruel tears, sun-bright daughter of the south! ere to sleep thou goest; each one falls bloody on the prince's breast, wet, cold, and piercing, with sorrow big.

44. We shall surely drink delicious draughts, though we have lost life and lands. No one shall a song of mourning sing, though on my breast he wounds behold. Now are women in the mound enclosed, daughters of kings, with us the dead.

Sigrun prepares a bed in the mound.

35. Here, Helgi! have I for thee a peaceful couch prepared, for the Ylfings' son. On thy breast I will, chieftain! repose, as in my hero's lifetime I was wont.

Helgi.

46. Nothing I now declare unlooked for, at Sefafioll, late or early, since in a corpse's arms thou sleepest, Hogni's fair daughter! in a mound, and thou art living, daughter of kings!

47. Time 'tis for me to ride on the reddening ways: let the pale horse tread the aerial path. I towards the west must go over Vindhialm's bridge, ere Salgofnir awakens heroes.

Helgi and his attendants rode their way, but Sigrun and hers proceeded to their habitation. The following evening Sigrun ordered her serving-maid to hold watch at the mound; but at nightfall, when Sigrun came thither, she said:

48. Now would he come, if he to come intended, Sigmund's son, from Odin's halls. I think the hope lessens of the king's coming, since on the ash's boughs the eagles sit, and all the folk to the dreams' tryst are hastening.

Serving-maid.

49. Be not so rash alone to go, daughter of heroes! to the house of draugs: more powerful are, in the night-season, all dead warriors, than in the light of day.

Sigrun's life was shortened by grief and mourning. It was a belief in ancient times that men were regenerated, but that is now regarded as an old crone's fancy. Helgi and Sigrun are said to have been regenerated. He was then called Helgi Haddingiaskadi, and she Kara Halfdan's daughter, as it is said in the songs of Kara; and she also was a Valkyria.