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 Lament of Oddrun
 
 
  THERE was a king hight Heidrik, and his daughter was called Borgny, and the name of her lover was Vilmund. Now she might nowise be made lighter of a child she travailed with, before Oddrun, Atli’s sister, came to her,—she who had been the love of Gunnar, Giuki’s son. But of their speech together has this been sung:
        I have heard tell
In ancient tales
How a may there came
To Morna-land,
Because no man
On mould abiding
For Heidrik’s daughter
Might win healing.
 
All that heard Oddrun,
Atli’s sister,
How that the damsel
Had heavy sickness,
So she led from stall
Her bridled steed,
And on the swart one
Laid the saddle.
 
She made her horse wend
O’er smooth ways of earth,
Until to a high-built
Hall she came;
Then the saddle she had
From the hungry horse,
And her ways wended
In along the wide hall,
And this word first
Spake forth therewith:
 
“What is most famed,
Afield in Hunland,
Or what may be
Blithest in Hunland?”
 
QUOTH THE HANDMAID

“Here lieth Borgny,
Borne down by trouble,
Thy sweet friend, O Oddrun,
See to her helping!”
 
ODDRUN SAID

“Who of the lords
Hath laid this grief on her,
Why is the anguish
Of Borgny so weary?”
 
THE HANDMAID SAID

“He is hight Vilmund,
Friend of hawk-bearers,
He wrapped the damsel
In the warm bed-gear
Five winters long
Without her father’s wotting.”
 
No more than this
They spake methinks;
Kind sat she down
By the damsel’s knee;
Mightily sang Oddrun,
Eagerly sang Oddrun,
Sharp piercing songs
By Borgny’s side:
 
Till a maid and a boy
Might tread on the world’s ways,
Blithe babes and sweet
Of Hogni’s bane:
Then the damsel forewearied
The word took up,
The first word of all
That had won from her:
 
“So may help thee
All helpful things,
Fey and Freyia,
And all the fair Gods,
As thou hast thrust
This torment from me!”
 
ODDRUN SAID

“Yet no heart had I
For thy helping,
Since never wert thou
Worthy of helping,
But my word I held to,
That of old was spoken
When the high lords
Dealt out the heritage,
That every soul
I would ever help.”
 
BORGNY SAID

“Right mad art thou, Oddrun,
And reft of thy wits,
Whereas thou speakest
Hard words to me
Thy fellow ever
Upon the earth
As of brothers twain,
We had been born.”
 
ODDRUN SAID

“Well I mind me yet,
What thou saidst that evening,
Whenas I bore forth
Fair drink for Gunnar;
Such a thing, saidst thou,
Should fall out never,
For any may
Save for me alone.”
 
Mind had the damsel
Of the weary day
Whenas the high lords
Dealt out the heritage,
And she sat her down,
The sorrowful woman,
To tell of the bale,
And the heavy trouble.
 
“Nourished was I
In the hall of kings—
Most folk were glad—
‘Mid the council of great ones:
In fair life lived I,
And the wealth of my father
For five winters only,
While yet he had life.
 
“Such were the last words
That ever he spake,
The king forewearied,
Ere his ways he went;
For he bade folk give me
The gold red-gleaming,
And give me in Southlands
To the son of Grimhild.
 
“But Brynhild he bade
To the helm to betake her,
And said that Death-chooser
She should become;
And that no better
Might ever be born
Into the world,
If fate would not spoil it.
 
“Brynhild in bower
Sewed at her broidery,
Folk she had
And fair lands about her;
Earth lay a-sleeping,
Slept the heavens aloft
When Fafnir’s-bane
The burg first saw.
 
“Then was war waged
With the Welsh-wrought sword
And the burg all broken
That Brynhild owned;
Nor wore long space,
E’en as well might be,
Ere all those wiles
Full well she knew.
 
“Hard and dreadful
Was the vengeance she drew down,
So that all we
Have woe enow.
Through all lands of the world
Shall that story fare forth
How she did her to death
For the death of Sigurd.
 
“But therewithal Gunnar
The gold-scatterer
Did I fall to loving
And she should have loved him.
Rings of red gold
Would they give to Atli,
Would give to my brother
Things goodly and great.
 
“Yea, fifteen steads
Would they give for me,
And the load of Grani
To have as a gift;
But then spake Atli,
That such was his will,
Never gift to take
From the sons of Giuki.
 
“But we in nowise
Might love withstand,
And mine head must I lay
On my love, the ring-breaker;
And many there were
Among my kin,
Who said that they
Had seen us together.
 
“Then Atli said
That I surely never
Would fall to crime
Or shameful folly:
But now let no one
For any other,
That shame deny
Where love has dealing.
 
“For Atli sent
His serving-folk
Wide through the murkwood
Proof to win of me,
And thither they came
Where they ne’er should have come,
Where one bed we twain
Had dight betwixt us.
 
“To those men had we given
Rings of red gold,
Naught to tell
Thereof to Atli,
But straight they hastened
Home to the house,
And all the tale
To Atli told.
 
“Whereas from Gudrun
Well they hid it,
Though better by half
Had she have known it.
“Din was there to hear
Of the hoofs gold-shod,
When into the garth
Rode the sons of Giuki.
 
“There from Hogni
The heart they cut,
But into the worm-close
Cast the other.
There the king, the wise-hearted,
Swept his harp-strings,
For the mighty king
Had ever mind
That I to his helping
Soon should come.
 
“But now was I gone
Yet once again
Unto Geirmund,
Good feast to make;
Yet had I hearing,
E’en out from Hlesey,
How of sore trouble
The harp-strings sang.
 
“So I bade the bondmaids
Be ready swiftly,
For I listed to save
The life of the king,
And we let our ship
Swim over the sound,
Till Atli’s dwelling
We saw all clearly.
 
“Then came the wretch 1
Crawling out,
E’en Atli’s mother,
All sorrow upon her!
A grave gat her sting
In the heart of Gunnar,
So that no helping
Was left for my hero.
 
“O gold-clad woman,
Full oft I wonder
How I my life
Still hold thereafter,
For methought I loved
That light in battle,
The swift with the sword,
As my very self.
 
“Thou hast sat and hearkened
As I have told thee
Of many an ill-fate,
Mine and theirs—
Each man liveth
E’en as he may live—
Now hath gone forth
The greeting of Oddrun.”
  1
 
Note 1. Atli’s mother took the form of the only adder that was not lulled to sleep by Gunnar’s harp-playing, and who slew him. [back]
 

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