Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
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  The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Certain Songs from the Elder Edda which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs
 
Part of the Second Lay of Helgi Hunding’s-Bane
 
 
  HELGI 1 wedded Sigrun, and they begat sons together, but Helgi lived not to be old; for Dag, 2 the son of Hogni, sacrificed to Odin, praying that he might avenge his father. So Odin lent Dag his spear, and Dag met Helgi, his brother-in-law, at a place called Fetter-grove, and thrust him through with that spear, and there fell Helgi dead, but Dag rode to Sevafell, and told Sigrun of the news.
        Loth am I, sister,
Of sorrow to tell thee,
For by hard need driven
Have I drawn on thee greeting;
This morning fell
In Fetter-grove
The king well deemed
The best in the wide world,
Yea, he who stood
On the necks of the strong.
 
SIGRUN

All oaths once sworn
Shall bite thee sore,
The oaths that to Helgi
Once thou swarest
At the bright white
Water of Lightening, 3
And at the cold rock
That the sea runneth over.
 
May the ship sweep not on
That should sweep at its swiftest,
Though the wind desired
Behind thee driveth!
May the horse never run
That should run at his most might
When from thy foe’s face
Thou hast most need to flee!
 
May the sword never bite
That thou drawest from scabbard.
But if round thine head
In wrath it singeth!
 
Then should meet price be paid
For Helgi’s slaying
When a wolf thou wert
Out in the wild-wood,
Empty of good things,
Empty of gladness,
With no meat for thy mouth
But dead men’s corpses!
 
DAG

With mad words thou ravest,
Thy wits are gone from thee,
When thou for thy brother
Such ill fate biddest;
Odin alone
Let all this bale loose,
Casting the strife-runes
’Twixt friends and kindred.
 
Rings of red gold
Will thy brother give thee,
And the stead of Vandil
And the lands of Vigdale;
Have half of the land
For thy sorrow’s healing,
O ring-arrayed sweetling
For thee and thy sons!
 
SIGRUN

No more sit I happy
At Sevafell;
At day-dawn, at night
Naught love I my life
Till broad o’er the people
My lord’s light breaketh;
Till his war-horse runneth
Beneath him hither,
Well wont to the gold bit—
Till my king I welcome.
 
In such wise did Helgi
Deal fear around
To all his foes
And all their friends
As when the goat runneth
Before the wolf’s rage
Filled with mad fear
Down from the fell.
 
As high above all lords
Did Helgi bear him
As the ash-tree’s glory
From the thorn ariseth,
Or as the fawn
With the dew-fall sprinkled
Is far above
All other wild things,
As his horns go gleaming
’Gainst the very heavens.
  1
  A barrow was raised above Helgi, but when he came to Valhall, then Odin bade him be lord of all things there, even as he; so Helgi sang—
        Now shalt thou, Hunding,
For the help of each man
Get ready the foot-bath,
And kindle the fire;
The hounds shalt thou bind
And give heed to the horses,
Give wash to the swine
Ere to sleep thou goest.
  2
  A bondmaid of Sigrun went in the evening-tide by Helgi’s mound, and there she saw how Helgi rode toward it with a great company; then she sang—
        It is vain things’ beguiling
That methinks I behold
Or the ending of all things,
As ye ride, O ye dead men,
Smiting with spurs
Your horses’ sides?
Or may dead warriors
Wend their ways homeward?
 
THE DEAD

No vain things’ beguiling
Is that thou beholdest
Nor the ruin of all things;
Though thou lookest upon us,
Though we smite with spurs
Our horses’ sides;
Rather dead warriors
May wend their ways homeward.
  3
  Then went the bondmaid home, and told Sigrun, and sang—
        Go out, Sigrun
From Sevafell,
If thou listest to look on
The lord of thy people!
For the mound is uncovered
Thither is Helgi come,
And his wounds are bleeding,
But the king thee biddeth
To come and stay
That stream of sorrow.
  4
  So Sigrun went into the mound to Helgi, and sang—
        Now am I as fain
Of this fair meeting,
As are the hungry
Hawks of Odin,
When they wot of the slaying
Of the yet warm quarry,
Or bright with dew
See the day a-dawning.
 
Ah, I will kiss
My king laid lifeless,
Ere thou castest by
Thy blood-stained byrny.
O Helgi, thy hair
Is thick with death’s rime,
With the dew of the dead
Is my love all dripping;
Dead-cold are the hands
Of the son of Hogni!
How for thee, O my king,
May I win healing?
 
HELGI

Thou alone, Sigrun
Of Sevafell,
Hast so done that Helgi
With grief’s dew drippeth;
O clad in gold
Cruel tears thou weepest,
Bright May of the Southlands,
Or ever thou sleepest:
Each tear in blood falleth
On the breast of thy lord,
Cold-wet and bitter-sharp
Swollen with sorrow.
 
Ah, we shall drink
Dear draughts and lovely
Though we have lost
Both life and lands;
Neither shall any
Sing song of sorrow,
Though in my breast
Be wounds wide to behold:
For now are brides
In the mound abiding;
Kings’ daughters sit
By us departed.
  5
  Now Sigrun arrayed a bed in the mound, and sang:
        Here Helgi, for thee
A bed have I dight,
Kind without woe,
O kin of the Ylfings!
To thy bosom, O king,
Will I come and sleep soft,
As I was wont
When my lord was living.
 
HELGI

Now will I call
Naught not to be hoped for
Early or late
At Sevafell,
When thou in the arms
Of a dead man art laid,
White maiden of Hogni,
Here in the mound:
And thou yet quick,
O King’s daughter!
 
Now needs must I ride
On the reddening ways;
My pale horse must tread
The highway aloft:
West must I go
To Windhelm’s bridge
Ere the war-winning crowd
Hall-crower 4 waketh.
  6
  So Helgi rode his ways: and the others gat them gone home to the house. But the next night Sigrun bade the bondwoman have heed of the mound. So at nightfall, whenas Sigrun came to the mound, she sang:
        Here now would he come,
If to come he were minded;
Sigmund’s offspring
From the halls of Odin.
O me the hope waneth
Of Helgi’s coming;
For high on the ash-boughs
Are the ernes abiding,
And all folk drift
Toward the Thing of the dreamland.
 
THE BONDMAID

Be not foolish of heart,
And fare all alone
To the house of the dead,
O Hero’s daughter!
For more strong and dreadful
In the night season
Are all dead warriors
Than in the daylight.
  7
  But a little while lived Sigrun, because of her sorrow and trouble. But in old time folk trowed that men should be born again, though their troth be now deemed but an old wife’s doting. And so, as folk say, Helgi and Sigrun were born again, and at that tide was he called Helgi the Scathe of Hadding, and she Kara the daughter of Halfdan; and she was a Valkyria, even as is said in the Lay of Kara.  8
 
Note 1. Only that part of the song is given which completes the episode of Helgi Hunding’s-bane; the earlier part of the song differs little from the Saga. [back]
Note 2. Hogni, the father of Dag and Sigrun, had been slain by Helgi in battle and Helgi had given peace to, and taken oaths of Dag. [back]
Note 3. One of the rivers of the under-world. [back]
Note 4. Hall-crower, Salgofnir: lit. Hall-gaper, the cock of Valhall. [back]
 

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