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


1. It was of old that Sigurd, the young Volsung, Giuki sought, after his conflict, received the pledge of friendship from the two brothers; oaths exchanged the bold of deed.

2. A maid they offered him, and treasures many, Gudrun, Giuki's youthful daughter. Drank and conversed, many days together, Sigurd the young and Giuki's sons.

3. Until they went to woo Brynhild, and with them Sigurd, the youthful Volsung, rode in company, who knew the way. He would have possessed her, if her possess he might.

4. Sigurd the southern laid a naked sword, a glittering falchion, between them; nor the damsel did he kiss, nor did the Hunnish king to his arm lift her. He the blooming maid to Giuki's son delivered.

5. She to herself of body was of no sin conscious, nor at her death-day, of any crime, that could be a stain, or thought to be: intervened therein the grisly fates.

6. Alone she sat without, at eve of day, began aloud with herself to speak: "Sigurd must be mine; I must die, or that blooming youth clasp in my arms."

7. "Of the words I have uttered I now repent; he is Gudrun's consort, and I am Gunnar's. The hateful Norns long suffering have decreed us."

8. Oftentimes she wandered, filled with evil thoughts, o'er ice and icebergs, every eve, when he and Gudrun had to their couch withdrawn, and Sigurd her in the coverings wrapt, the Hunnish king his wife caressed.

9. "Devoid I go of spouse and pleasure; I will beguile myself with vengeful thoughts."

10. By those fits of fury she was impelled to murder. "Thou, Gunnar! shalt wholly lose my land, and myself also. Never shall I be happy, king! with thee.

11. I will return thither from whence I came, to my near kindred, my relations; there will I remain, and slumber life away, unless thou Sigurd cause to be slain, and a king become than the other greater.

12. Let the son go together with the father, the young wolf may not longer be fostered. For whom will vengeance be the easier to appease, if the son lives?"

13. Wroth was Gunnar, and with grief borne down; in his mind revolved, sat the whole day; he knew not well, nor could devise, what were most desirable for him to do, or were most fitting to be done, when he should find himself of the Volsung bereft, and in Sigurd a great loss sustain.

14. Much he thought, and also long, that it did not often happen, that from their royal state women withdrew. Hogni he then to counsel summoned, in whom he placed the fullest trust.

15. "Of all to me Brynhild, Budli's daughter, is the dearest; she is the chief of women: rather will I my life lay down than that fair one's treasures lose.

16. "Wilt thou the prince for his wealth circumvent? good 'tis to command the ore of Rhine, and at ease over riches rule, and in tranquillity happiness enjoy."

17. This alone Hogni for answer gave: "It beseems us not so to do, by the sword to break sworn oaths, oaths sworn, and plighted faith.

18. "We know not on earth men more fortunate, while we four over the people rule, and the Hun lives, that warlike chief; nor on earth, a race more excellent, if we five sons long shall foster, and the good progeny can increase.

19. I know full well whence the causes spring: Brynhild's importunity is over-great.

20. We will Guthorm, our younger brother, and not over-wise, for the deed prepare: he is free from sworn oaths, sworn oaths, and plighted faith."

21. Easy it was to instigate the ferocious spirit: in the heart of Sigurd stood his sword.

22. On vengeance bent, the warrior in his chamber hurled his brand after the fierce assassin; to Guthorm flew dartlike Gram's gleaming steel from the king's hand.

23. Fell the murderer in two parts, arms and head flew far away, but his feet's part fell backwards on the place.

24. Sunk in sleep was Gudrun, in her bed, void of cares, by Sigurd's side: but she awoke of joys bereft, when in the blood of Frey's friend she swam.

25. So violently struck she her hands together, that the stout of heart rose in his bed. "Weep not, Gudrun! so cruelly, my blooming bride! thy brothers live.

26. An heir I have, alas! too young; he cannot flee from the hostile house; among themselves they recently have dark and evil counsels devised.

27. Never henceforth, although seven thou bear, will such a son to the trysting with them ride. Full well I know how this has befallen: Brynhild the sole cause is of all the evil.

28. Me the maiden loved more than any man; but towards Gunnar I sinned not; affinity I held sacred, and sworn oaths; thence forward I was called his consort's friend."

29. The woman gave forth sighs, and the king his life. So violently she struck her hands together, that the beakers on the wall responsive rang, and in the court the geese loudly screamed.

30. Laughed then Brynhild, Budli's daughter, once only, from her whole soul, when in her bed she listened to the loud lament of Giuki's daughter.

31. Then said Gunnar, the hawk-bearing prince: "Laugh not thereat, thou barbarous woman! glad on thy couch, as if good awaited thee. Why hast thou lost that beauteous colour? authoress of crime! Methinks to death thou art doomed.

32. Well dost thou deserve, above all women, that [Pg 198]before thy eyes, we should lay Atli low, that thou shouldst see thy brother's blood-streaming sore, his gory wounds shouldst have to bind."

33. Then said Brynhild, Budli's daughter: "No one provokes thee, Gunnar! complete is thy work of death. Little does Atli thy hatred fear; his life will outlast thine, and his might be ever greater.

34. Gunnar! will tell thee, though thou well knowest it, how early we resolved on crimes. I was o'er-young and unrestrained, with wealth endowed, in my brother's house.

35. Nor did I desire to marry any man, before ye Giukungs rode to our dwelling, three on horseback, powerful kings: would that journey had never been!

36. Then myself I promised to the great king, who with gold sat on Grani's back. In eyes he did not you resemble, nor was at all in aspect like: yet ye thought yourselves mighty kings.

37. And to me apart Atli said, that he would not have our heritage divided, nor gold nor lands, unless I let myself be married, nor grant me any part of the acquired gold, which he to me a girl had given to possess, and to me a child in moneys counted.

38. Then distracted was my mind thereon, whether I should engage in conflict, and death dispense, valiant in arms, for my brother's quarrel. That would then be world-widely known, and to many a one bring heartfelt anguish.

39. Our reconciliation we let follow: to me it had been more pleasing the treasures to accept, the red-gold [Pg 199]rings of Sigmund's son: nor did I another's gold desire; him alone I loved, none other. Menskogul[75] had not a changing mind.

40. All this will Atli hereafter find, when he shall hear of my funeral rites completed; for never shall the heavy-hearted woman with another's husband pass her life. Then will my wrongs be all avenged."

41. Up rose Gunnar, prince of warriors, and round his consort's neck laid his hands; all drew nigh, yet each one singly, through honest feeling, to dissuade her.

42. She from her neck those about her cast; she let no one stay her from her long journey.

43. He then called Hogni to consultation. "I will that all our folk to the hall be summoned, thine with, mine—now 'tis most needful—to see if we can hinder my consort's fatal course, till from our speech a hindrance may come: then let us leave necessity to rule."

44. To him Hogni answer gave: "Let no one hinder her from the long journey, whence may she never born again return. Unblest she came on her mother's lap, born in the world for ceaseless misery, for many a man's heartfelt sorrow."

45. Downcast he from the meeting turned to where the lady treasures distributed. She was viewing all she owned: hungry female thralls and chamber-women. She put on her golden corslet—no good meditated—ere herself she pierced, with the sword's point.

46. On the pillow she turned to> the other side, and, wounded with the glave, on her last counsels thought.

47. "Now let come those who desire gold, and aught less precious, to receive from me. To every one I give a gilded necklace, needle-work and coverlets, splendid weeds."

48. All were silent, thought on what to do, and all together answer gave: "Too many are there dead: we will yet live, still be hungry hall-servants, to do what fitting is."

49. At length after reflection, the lady linen-clad, young in years, words in answer uttered: "I desire that none, dead to entreaty, should by force, for our sake, lose their life.

50. Yet o'er your bones will burn fewer ornaments, Menia's good meal, when ye go hence me to seek.

51. Gunnar! sit down, I will tell to thee, that of life now hopeless is thy bright consort. Thy vessel will not be always afloat, though I shall have my life resigned.

52. With Gudrun thou wilt be reconciled, sooner than thou thinkest: that wise woman has by the king sad memorials, after her consort's death.

53. There is born a maid, which her mother rears; brighter far than the clear day, than the sun's beam, will Svanhild be.

54. Gudrun thou wilt give to an illustrious one, a warrior, the bane of many men: not to her wish will she be married; Atli will come her to espouse, Budli's son, my brother.

55. Much have I in memory how I was treated, when ye me so cruelly had deceived: robbed I was of happiness, while my life lasted.

56. Thou wilt desire Oddrun to possess, but Atli will permit it not; in secret ye will each other meet. She will love thee, as I had done, if us a better fate had been allotted.

57. Thee will Atli barbarously treat; in the narrow serpent-den wilt thou be cast.

58. It will too come to pass, not long after, that Atli will his soul resign, his prosperity, and cease to live; for Gudrun in her vengeance him in his bed will slay, through bitterness of spirit, with the sword's sharp edge.

59. More seemly would appear our sister Gudrun, had she in death her first consort followed, had but good counsel been to her given, or she a soul possessed resembling mine—

60. Faintly I now speak—but for our sake she will not lose her life. She will be borne on towering billows to King Jonakr's paternal soil. Doubts will be in the resolves of Jonakr's sons.

61. She will Svanhild send from the land, her daughter, and Sigurd's. Her will destroy Bikki's counsel; for Jormunrek for evil lives. Then will have passed away all Sigurd's race, and Gudrun's tears will be the more.

62. One prayer I have to thee yet to make, in this world 'twill be my last request: Let in the plain be raised a pile so spacious, that for us all like room may be, for those who shall have died with Sigurd.

63. Bedeck the pile about with shields and hangings, a variegated corpse-cloth, and multitude of slain. Let them burn the Hun on the one side of me;

64. Let them with the Hun burn on the other side, my household slaves, with collars splendid, two at our heads, and two hawks; then will all be equally distributed.

65. Let also lie between us both the sword with rings adorned, the keen-edged iron, so again be placed, as when we both one couch ascended, and were then called by the name of consorts.

66. Then will not clang against his heel the hall's bright gates, with splendid ring, if my train him hence shall follow. Then will our procession appear not mean.

67. For him will follow five female thralls, eight male slaves of gentle birth, fostered with me, and with my patrimony, which to his, daughter Budli gave.

68. Much I have said, and more would say, if the sword would grant me power of speech. My voice fails, my wounds swell: truth only I have uttered; so I will cease."