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
 
The Whetting of Gudrun
 
 
  GUDRUN went down unto the sea whenas she had slain Atli, and she cast herself therein, for she was fain to end her life: but nowise might she drown. She drave over the firths to the land of King Jonakr, and he wedded her, and their sons were Sorli, and Erp, and Hamdir, and there was Swanhild, Sigurd’s daughter, nourished: and she was given to Jormunrek the Mighty. Now Bikki was a man of his, and gave such counsel to Randver, the king’s son, as that he should take her; and with that counsel were the young folk well content.  1
  Then Bikki told the king, and the king let hang Randver, but bade Swanhild be trodden under horses’ feet. But when Gudrun heard thereof, she spake to her sons—
        Words of strife heard I,
Huger than any,
Woeful words spoken,
Sprung from all sorrow,
When Gudrun fierce-hearted
With the grimmest of words
Whetted her sons
Unto the slaying.
 
“Why are ye sitting here?
Why sleep ye life away?
Why doth it grieve you nought?
Glad words to speak,
Now when your sister—
Young of years was she—
Has Jormunrek trodden
With the treading of horses?—
“Black horses and white
In the highway of warriors:
Grey horses that know
The roads of the Goths.—
 
“Little like are ye grown
To that Gunnar of old days!
Nought are your hearts
As the heart of Hogni!
Well would ye seek
Vengeance to win
If your mood were in aught
As the mood of my brethren,
Or the hardy hearts
Of the Kings of the Huns!”
 
Then spake Hamdir,
The high-hearted—
“Little didst thou
Praise Hogni’s doings,
When Sigurd woke
From out of sleep,
And the blue-white bed-gear
Upon thy bed
Grew red with man’s blood—
With the blood of thy mate!
 
“Too baleful vengeance
Wroughtest thou for thy brethren
Most sore and evil
When thy sons thou slewedst,
Else all we together
On Jormunrek
Had wrought sore vengeance
For that our sister.
 
“Come, bring forth quickly
The Hun kings’ bright gear,
Since thou hast urged us
Unto the sword-Thing!”
 
Laughing went Gudrun
To the bower of good gear,
Kings’ crested helms
From chests she drew,
And wide-wrought byrnies
Bore to her sons:
Then on their horses
Load laid the heroes.
 
Then spake Hamdir,
The high-hearted—
“Never cometh again
His mother to see
The spear-god laid low
In the land of the Goths.
That one arvel mayst thou
For all of us drink
For sister Swanhild,
And us thy sons.”
 
Greeted Gudrun,
Giuki’s daughter;
Sorrowing she went
In the forecourt to sit,
That she might tell,
With cheeks tear-furrowed,
Her weary wail
In many a wise.
 
“Three fires I knew,
Three hearths I knew,
To three husbands’ houses
Have I been carried;
And better than all
Had been Sigurd alone,
He whom my brethren
Brought to his bane.
 
“Such sore grief as that
Methought never should be,
Yet more indeed
Was left for my torment
Then, when the great ones
Gave me to Atli.
 
“My fair bright boys
I bade unto speech,
Nor yet might I win
Weregild for my bale,
Ere I had hewn off
Those Niblungs’ heads.
 
“To the sea-strand I went
With the Norns sorely wroth,
For I would thrust from me
The storm of their torment;
But the high billows
Would not drown, but bore me
Forth, till I stepped a-land
Longer to live.
 
“Then I went a-bed—
—Ah, better in the old days,
This was the third time!—
To a king of the people;
Offspring I brought forth,
Props of a fair house,
Props of a fair house,
Jonakr’s fair sons.
 
“But around Swanhild
Bond-maidens sat,
Her, that of all mine
Most to my heart was;
Such was my Swanhild,
In my hall’s midmost,
As is the sunbeam
Fair to behold.
 
“In gold I arrayed her,
And goodly raiment,
Or ever I gave her
To the folk of the Goths.
That was the hardest
Of my heavy woes,
When the bright hair,—
O the bright hair of Swanhild!—
In the mire was trodden
By the treading of horses.
 
“This was the sorest,
When my love, my Sigurd,
Reft of glory
In his bed gat ending:
But this the grimmest
When glittering worms
Tore their way
Through the heart of Gunnar.
 
“But this the keenest
When they cut to the quick
Of the hardy heart
Of the unfeared Hogni.
Of much of bale I mind me,
Of many griefs I mind me;
Why should I sit abiding
Yet more bale and more?
 
“Thy coal-black horse,
O Sigurd, bridle,
The swift on the highway!
O let him speed hither!
Here sitteth no longer
Son or daughter,
More good gifts
To give to Gudrun!
 
“Mindst thou not, Sigurd,
Of the speech betwixt us,
When on one bed
We both sat together,
O my great king—
That thou wouldst come to me
E’en from the hall of Hell,
I to thee from the fair earth?
 
“Pile high, O earls,
The oaken pile,
Let it be the highest
That ever queen had!
Let the fire burn swift,
My breast with woe laden,
And thaw all my heart,
Hard, heavy with sorrow!”
 
Now may all earls
Be bettered in mind,
May the grief of all maidens
Ever be minished,
For this tale of sorrow
So told to its ending.
  2
 

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