Hamðismál – The Lay of Hamdir

11. Then the fame-glad one– | on the steps she was–
The slender-fingered, | spake with her son:
“Ye shall danger have | if counsel ye heed not;
By two heroes alone | shall two hundred of Goths
Be bound or be slain | in the lofty-walled burg.”

12. From the courtyard they fared, | and fury they breathed;
The youths swiftly went | o’er the mountain wet,
On their Hunnish steeds, | death’s vengeance to have.

13. On the way they found | the man so wise;
. . . . . . . . . .
“What help from the weakling | brown may we have?”

14. So answered them | their half-brother then:
“So well may I | my kinsmen aid
As help one foot | from the other has.”

15. “How may afoot | its fellow aid,
Or a flesh-grown hand | another help?”

16. Then Erp spake forth, | his words were few,
As haughty he sat | on his horse’s back:
“To the timid ’tis ill | the way to tell.”
A bastard they | the bold one called.

17. From their sheaths they drew | their shining swords,
Their blades, to the giantess | joy to give;
By a third they lessened | the might that was theirs,
The fighter young | to earth they felled.

18. Their cloaks they shook, | their swords they sheathed,
The high-born men | wrapped their mantles close.

19. On their road they fared | and an ill way found,
And their sister’s son | on a tree they saw,
On the wind-cold wolf-tree | west of the hall,
And cranes’-bait crawled; | none would care to linger.

20. In the hall was din, | the men drank deep,
And the horses’ hoofs | could no one hear,
Till the warrior hardy | sounded his horn


11. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 21, and some editors take the word here rendered “fame-glad one” (hróþrgoþ) to be a proper name (Jormunrek’s mother or his concubine). The Volsungasaga, however, indicates that Guthrun at this point “had so fashioned their war-gear that iron would not bite into it, and she bade them to have nought to do with stones or other heavy things, and told them that it would be ill for them if they did not do as she said.” The substance of this counsel may well have been conveyed in a passage lost after line 3, though the manuscript indicates no gap. It is by being stoned that Hamther and Sorli are killed (stanza 26). On the other hand, the second part of line 3 may possibly mean “if silent ye are not,” in which case the advice relates to Hamther’s speech to Jormunrek and Sorli’s reproach to him thereupon (stanzas 25 and 27). Steps: the word in the original is doubtful. Line 3 is thoroughly obscure. Some editors make a separate stanza of lines 3-5, while others question line 5.

12. Many editors assume the loss of a line after line 1. In several editions lines 2-3 are placed after line 2 of stanza 18. Hunnish: the word meant little more than “German”; cf. Guthrunarhvot, 3 and note.

13. In the manuscript these two lines follow stanza 16; some editors insert them in place of lines 2-3 of stanza 11. The manuscript indicates no gap. The man so wise: Erp, here represented as a son of Jonak but not of Guthrun, and hence a half-brother of Hamther and Sorli. There is nothing further to indicate whether or not he was born out of wedlock, as intimated in stanza 16. Some editors assign line 3 to Hamther, and some to Sorli.

14. The stanza is obviously defective. Many editors add Erp’s name in line 1, and insert between lines 2 and 1 a line based on stanza 15 and the Volsungasaga paraphrase: “As a flesh grown hand | another helps.” In the Volsungasaga, after Erp’s death, Hamther stumbles and saves himself from falling with his hand, whereupon he says: “Erp spake truly; I had fallen had I not braced myself with my hand.” Soon thereafter Sorli has a like experience, one foot slipping but the other saving him from a fall. “Then they said that they had done ill to Erp, their brother.”

15. Many editions attach these two lines to stanza 14, while a few assume the loss of two lines.

16. In the manuscript this stanza stands between stanzas 12 and 13. Some editors make line 4 a part of Erp’s speech.

17. The manuscript does not indicate line 1 as beginning a stanza. The giantess: presumably the reference is to Hel, goddess of the dead, but the phrase is doubtful.

18. In the manuscript these two lines are followed by stanza 19 with no indication of a break. Some editions insert here lines 2-3 of stanza 12, while others assume the loss of two or more lines.

19. Cf. note on stanza 18. Ill way: very likely the road leading through the gate of Jormunrek’s town at which Svanhild was trampled to death. Sister’s son: many editors change the text to read “stepson,” for the reference is certainly to Randver, son of Jormunrek, hanged by his father on Bikki’s advice (cf. Guthrunarhvot, introductory note). Wolf-tree: the gallows, the wolf being symbolical of outlaws. Cranes’-bait: presumably either snakes or worms, but the passage is doubtful.

20. Many editors assume the loss of a line after line 3. The warrior: presumably a warder or watchman, but the reference may be to Hamther himself.

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