THE SONG OF THE SUN

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THE ELDER EDDAS OF SAEMUND SIGFUSSON.

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


THE SONG OF THE SUN.


This singular poem, the authorship of which is, in some manuscripts, assigned to Sæmund himself, may be termed a Voice from the Dead, given under the form of a dream, in which a deceased father is supposed to address his son from another world. The first 7 strophes seem hardly connected with the following ones, which, as far as the 32nd consist chiefly in aphorisms with examples, some closely resembling those in the Havamal. In the remaining portion is given the recital of the last illness of the supposed speaker, his death, and the scenes his soul passed through on the way to its final home.


The composition exhibits a strange mixture of Christianity and Heathenism, whence it would seem that the poet's own religion was in a transition state. Of the allusions to Heathenism it is, however, to be observed that they are chiefly to persons and actions of which there is no trace in the Odinic mythology, as known to us, and are possibly the fruits of the poet's own imagination. The title of the poem is no doubt derived from the allusion to the Sun at the beginning of strophes 39-45.


For an elaborate and learned commentary, with an interlinear version of "the Song of the Sun," the reader may consult "Les Chants de Sol," by Professor Bergmann, Strasbourg & Paris, 1858.


1. Of life and property a fierce freebooter despoiled mankind; over the ways beset by him might no one living pass.

2. Alone he ate most frequently, no one invited he to his repast; until weary, and with failing strength, a wandering guest came from the way.

3. In need of drink that way-worn man, and hungry feigned to be: with trembling heart he seemed to trust him who had been so evil-minded.

4. Meat and drink to the weary one he gave, all with upright heart; on God he thought, the traveller's wants supplied; for he felt he was an evil-doer.

5. Up stood the guest, he evil meditated, he had not been kindly treated; his sin within him swelled, he while sleeping murdered his wary cautious host.

6. The God of heaven he prayed for help, when being struck he woke; but he was doomed the sins of him on himself to take, whom sackless he had slain.

7. Holy angels came from heaven above, and took to them his soul: in a life of purity it shall ever live with the almighty God.

8. Riches and health no one may command, though all go smoothly with him. To many that befalls which they least expect. No one may command his tranquillity.

9. Unnar and Sævaldi never imagined that happiness would fall from them, yet naked they became, and of all bereft, and, like wolves, ran to the forest.

10. The force of pleasure has many a one bewailed. Cares are often caused by women; pernicious they become, although the mighty God them pure created.

11. United were Svafud and Skarthedin, neither might without the other be, until to frenzy they were driven for a woman: she was destined for their perdition.

12. On account of that fair maid, neither of them cared for games or joyous days; no other thing could they in memory bear than that bright form.

13. Sad to them were the gloomy nights, no sweet sleep might they enjoy: but from that anguish rose hate intense between the faithful friends.

14. Hostile deeds are in most places fiercely avenged. To the holm they went, for that fair woman, and each one found his death.

15. Arrogance should no one entertain: I indeed have seen that those who follow her, for the most part, turn from God.

16. Rich were both, Radey and Vebogi, and thought only of their well-being; now they sit and turn their sores to various hearths.

17. They in themselves confided, and thought themselves alone to be above all people; but their lot Almighty God was pleased otherwise to appoint.

18. A life of luxury they led, in many ways, and had gold for sport. Now they are requited, so that they must walk between frost and fire.

19. To thy enemies trust thou never, although they speak thee fair: promise them good: 'tis good to have another's injury as a warning.

20. So it befell Sorli the upright, when he placed himself in Vigolf's power; he confidently trusted him, his brother's murderer, but he proved false.

21. Peace to them he granted, with heart sincere; they in return promised him gold, feigned themselves friends, while they together drank; but then came forth their guile.

22. Then afterwards, on the second day, when they in Rygiardal rode, they with swords wounded him who sackless was, and let his life go forth.

23. His corpse they dragged (on a lonely way, and cut up piecemeal) into a well, and would it hide; but the holy Lord beheld from heaven.

24. His soul summoned home the true God into his joy to come; but the evil doers will, I wean, late be from torments called.

25. Do thou pray the Disir of the Lord's words to be kind to thee in spirit: for a week after, all shall then go happily, according to thy will.

26. For a deed of ire that thou hast perpetrated, never atone with evil: the weeping thou shalt soothe with benefits: that is salutary to the soul.

27. On God a man shall for good things call, on him who has mankind created. Greatly sinful is every man who late finds the Father.

28. To be solicited, we opine, is with all earnestness for that which is lacking: of all things may be destitute he who for nothing asks: few heed the wants of the silent.

29. Late I came, though called betimes, to the supreme Judge's door; thitherward I yearn; for it was promised me, he who craves it shall of the feast partake.

30. Sins are the cause that sorrowing we depart from this world: no one stands in dread, if he does no evil: good it is to be blameless.

31. Like unto wolves all those seem who have a faithless mind: so he will prove who has to go through ways strewed with gleeds.

32. Friendly counsels, and wisely composed, seven I have imparted to thee: consider thou them well, and forget them never: they are all useful to learn.

33. Of that I will speak, how happy I was in the world, and secondly, how the sons of men reluctantly become corpses.

34. Pleasure and pride deceive the sons of men who after money crave; shining riches at last become a sorrow: many have riches driven to madness.

35. Steeped in joys I seemed to men; for little did I see before me: our worldly sojourn has the Lord created in delights abounding.

36. Bowed down I sat, long I tottered, of life was most desirous; but He prevailed who was all-powerful: onward are the ways of the doomed.

37. The cords of Hel were tightly bound round my sides; I would rend them, but they were strong. 'Tis easy free to go.

38. I alone knew, how on all sides my pains increased. The maids of Hel each eve with horror bade me to their home.

39. The sun I saw, true star of day, sink in its roaring home; but Hel's grated doors on the other side I heard heavily creaking.

40. The sun I saw with blood-red beams beset: (fast was I then from this world declining) mightier she appeared, in many ways, than she was before.

41. The sun I saw, and it seemed to me as if I saw a glorious god: I bowed before her, for the last time, in the world of men.

42. The sun I saw: she beamed forth so that I seemed nothing to know; but Gioll's streams roared from the other side mingled much with blood.

43. The sun I saw, with quivering eyes, appalled and shrinking; for my heart in great measure was dissolved in languor.

44. The sun I saw seldom sadder; I had then almost from the world declined: my tongue was as wood become, and all was cold without me.

45. The sun I saw never after, since that gloomy day; for the mountain-waters closed over me, and I went called from torments.

46. The star of hope, when I was born, fled from my breast away; high it flew, settled nowhere, so that it might find rest.

47. Longer than all was that one night, when stiff on my straw I lay; then becomes manifest the divine word: "Man is the same as earth."

48. The Creator God can it estimate and know, (He who made heaven and earth) how forsaken many go hence, although from kindred parted.

49. Of his works each has the reward: happy is he who does good. Of my wealth bereft, to me was destined a bed strewed with sand.

50. Bodily desires men oftentimes seduce, of them has many a one too much: water of baths was of all things to me most loathsome.

51. In the Norns' seat nine days I sat, thence I was mounted on a horse: there the giantess's sun shone grimly through the dripping clouds of heaven.

52. Without and within, I seemed to traverse all the seven nether worlds: up and down, I sought an easier way, where I might have the readiest paths.

53. Of that is to be told, which I first saw, when I to the worlds of torment came:—scorched birds, which were souls, flew numerous as flies.

54. From the west I saw Von's dragons fly, and Glæval's paths obscure: their wings they shook; wide around me seemed the earth and heaven to burst.

55. The sun's hart I saw from the south coming, he was by two together led: his feet stood on the earth, but his horns reached up to heaven.

56. From the north riding I saw the sons of Nidi, they were seven in all: from full horns, the pure mead they drank from the heaven-god's well.

57. The wind was silent, the waters stopped their course; then I heard a doleful sound: for their husbands false-faced women ground earth for food.

58. Gory stones those dark women turned sorrowfully; bleeding hearts hung out of their breasts, faint with much affliction.

59. Many a man I saw wounded go on those gleed-strewed paths; their faces seemed to me all reddened with reeking blood.

60. Many men I saw to earth gone down, who holy service might not have; heathen stars stood above their heads, painted with deadly characters.

61. I saw those men who much envy harbour at another's fortune; bloody runes were on their breasts graved painfully.

62. I there saw men many not joyful; they were all wandering wild: this he earns, who by this world's vices is infatuated.

63. I saw those men who had in various ways acquired other's property: in shoals they went to Castle-covetous, and burthens bore of lead.

64. I saw those men who many had of life and property bereft: through the breasts of those men passed strong venomous serpents.

65. I saw those men who the holy days would not observe: their hands were on hot stones firmly nailed.

66. I saw those men who from pride valued themselves too highly; their garments ludicrously were in fire enveloped.

67. I saw those men who had many false words of others uttered: Hel's ravens from their heads their eyes miserably tore.

68. All the horrors thou wilt not get to know which Hel's inmates suffer. Pleasant sins end in painful penalties: pains ever follow pleasure.

69. I saw those men who had much given for God's laws; pure lights were above their heads brightly burning.

70. I saw those men who from exalted mind helped the poor to aid: angels, read holy books above their heads.

71. I saw those men who with much fasting had their bodies wasted: God's angels bowed before them: that is the highest joy.

72. I saw those men who had put food into their mothers' mouth: their couches were on the rays of heaven pleasantly placed.

73. Holy virgins had cleanly washed the souls from sin of those men, who for a long time had themselves tormented.

74. Lofty cars I saw towards heaven going; they were on the way to God: men guided them who had been murdered wholly without crime.

75. Almighty Father! greatest Son! holy Spirit of heaven! Thee I pray, who hast us all created; free us all from miseries.

76. Biugvor and Iyistvor sit at Herdir's doors, on resounding seat; iron gore falls from their nostrils, which kindles hate among men.

77. Odin's wife rows in earth's ship, eager after pleasures; her sails are reefed late, which on the ropes of desire are hung.

78. Son! I thy father and Solkatla's sons have alone [Pg 120]obtained for thee that horn of hart, which from the grave-mound bore the wise Vigdvalin.

79. Here are runes which have engraven Niord's daughters nine, Radvor the eldest, and the youngest Kreppvor, and their seven sisters.

80. How much violence have they perpetrated Svaf and Svaflogi! bloodshed they have excited, and wounds have sucked, after an evil custom.

81. This lay, which I have taught thee, thou shalt before the living sing, the Sun-Song, which will appear in many parts no fiction.

82. Here we part, but again shall meet on the day of men's rejoicing. Oh Lord! unto the dead grant peace, and to the living comfort.

83. Wondrous lore has in dream to thee been sung, but thou hast seen the truth: no man has been so wise created that has before heard the Sun-song.