Hamðismál – The Lay of Hamdir

21. Men came and the tale | to Jormunrek told
How warriors helmed | without they beheld:
“Take counsel wise, | for brave ones are come,
Of mighty men | thou the sister didst murder.”

22. Then Jormunrek laughed, | his hand laid on his beard,
His arms, for with wine | he was warlike, he called for;
He shook his brown locks, | on his white shield he looked,
And raised high the cup | of gold in his hand.

23. “Happy, methinks, | were I to behold
Hamther and Sorli | here in my hall;
The men would I bind | with strings of bows,
And Gjuki’s heirs | on the gallows hang.”

24. In the hall was clamor, | the cups were shattered,
Men stood in blood | from the breasts of the Goths,

25. Then did Hamther speak forth, | the haughty of heart:
“Thou soughtest, Jormunrek, | us to see,
Sons of one mother | seeking thy dwelling;
Thou seest thy hands, | thy feet thou beholdest,
Jormunrek, flung | in the fire so hot.”

26. Then roared the king, | of the race of the gods,
Bold in his armor, | as roars a bear:
“Stone ye the men | that steel will bite not,
Sword nor spear, | the sons of Jonak.”

Sorli spake:

27. “Ill didst win, brother, | when the bag thou didst open,
Oft from that bag | came baleful counsel;
Heart hast thou, Hamther, | if knowledge thou hadst!
A man without wisdom | is lacking in much.”

Hamther spake:

28. “His head were now off | if Erp were living,
The brother so keen | whom we killed on our road,
The warrior noble,– | ’twas the Norns that drove me
The hero to slay | who in fight should be holy.

29. “In fashion of wolves | it befits us not
Amongst ourselves to strive,
Like the hounds of the Norns, | that nourished were
In greed mid wastes so grim.

30. “We have greatly fought, | o’er the Goths do we stand
By our blades laid low, | like eagles on branches;
Great our fame though we die | today or tomorrow;
None outlives the night | when the Norris have spoken.”

31. Then Sorli beside | the gable sank,
And Hamther fell | at the back of the house.

This is called the old ballad of Hamther.

21. The word here rendered men (line 1) is missing in the original, involving a metrical error, and various words have been suggested.

22. Line 2 in the original is thoroughly obscure; some editors directly reverse the meaning here indicated by giving the line a negative force, while others completely alter the phrase rendered “his arms he called for” into one meaning “he stroked his cheeks.”

23. Gjuki’s heirs: the original has “the well-born of Gjuki,” and some editors have changed the proper name to Guthrun, but the phrase apparently refers to Hamther and Sorli as Gjuki’s grandsons. In the manuscript this stanza is followed by stanza 11, [fp. 553] and such editors as have retained this arrangement have had to resort to varied and complex explanations to account for it.

24. Editors have made various efforts to reconstruct a four line stanza out of these two lines, in some cases with the help of lines borrowed from the puzzling stanza 11 (cf. note on stanza 23). Line 2 in the original is doubtful.

25. Some editors mark line 1 as an interpolation. The manuscript marks line 4 as beginning a new stanza. As in the story told by Jordanes, Hamther and Sorli succeed in wounding Jormunrek (here they cut off his hands and feet), but do not kill him. 26. The manuscript marks line 3, and not line 1, as beginning a stanza. Of the race of the gods: the reference here is apparently to Jormunrek, but in the Volsungasaga the advice to kill Hamther and Sorli with stones, since iron will not wound them (cf. note on stanza 11), Comes from Othin, who enters the hall as an old man with one eye.

27. in the manuscript this stanza is introduced by the same line as stanza 25: “Then did Hamther speak forth, the haughty of heart,” but the speaker in this case must be Sorli and not Hamther. Some editors, however, give lines 1-2 to Hamther and lines 3-4 to Sorli. Bag: i.e., Hamther’s mouth; cf. note on stanza 11. The manuscript indicates line 3 as beginning a new stanza.

28. Most editors regard stanzas 28-30 as a speech by Hamther, but the manuscript does not indicate the speaker, and some editors assign one or two of the stanzas to Sorli. Lines 1-2 are quoted in the Volsungasaga. The manuscript does not indicate line I as beginning a stanza. Erp: Hamther means that while the two brothers had succeeded only in wounding Jormunrek, Erp, if he had been with them, would have killed him. Lines 3-4 may be a later interpolation. Norns: the fates; the word used in the original means the goddesses of ill fortune.”

29. This is almost certainly an interpolated Ljothahattr stanza, though some editors have tried to expand it into the Fornyrthislag form. Hounds of the Norns: wolves.

30, Some editors assume a gap after this stanza.

31. Apparently a fragment of a stanza from the “old” Hamthesmol to which the annotator’s concluding prose note refers. Some editors assume the loss of two lines after line 2.

Prose. Regarding the “old” Hamthesmol, cf. Guthrunarhvot, introductory note.


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