Atlakvitha – The Lay of Atli

Gunnar spake:

21. “First the heart of Hogni | shall ye lay in my hands,
All bloody from the breast | of the bold one cut
With ke-en-biting sword, | from the son of the king.”

22. . . . . . . . . . .
They cut out the heart | from the breast of Hjalli,
On a platter they bore it, | and brought it to Gunnar.

23. Then Gunnar spake forth, | the lord of the folk:
“Here have I the heart | of Hjalli the craven,
Unlike to the heart | of Hogni the valiant,
For it trembles still | as it stands on the platter;
Twice more did it tremble | in the breast of the man.

24. Then Hogni laughed | when they cut out the heart
Of the living helm-hammerer; | tears he had not.
. . . . . . . . . .
On a platter they bore it, | and brought it to Gunnar.

25. Then Gunnar spake forth, | the spear of the Niflungs:
“Here have I the heart | of Hogni the valiant,
Unlike to the heart | of Hjalli the craven,
Little it trembles | as it lies on the platter,
Still less did it tremble | when it lay in his breast.

26. “So distant, Atli, | from all men’s eyes,
Shalt thou be as thou | . . . . . from the gold.
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
“To no one save me | is the secret known
Of the Niflungs’ hoard, | now Hogni is dead;

27. Of old there were two, | while we twain were alive,
Now is none but I, | for I only am living.
“The swift Rhine shall hold | the strife-gold of heroes,
That once was the gods’, | the wealth of the Niflungs,
In the depths of the waters | the death-rings shall glitter,
And not shine on the hands | of the Hunnish men.”

Atli spake:

28. “Ye shall bring the wagon, | for now is he bound.”

* * * * * *

29. On the long-maned Glaum | rode Atli the great,
About him were warriors | . . . . .
But Guthrun, akin | to the gods of slaughter,
Yielded not to her tears | in the hall of tumult.

Guthrun spake:

30. “It shall go with thee, Atli, | as with Gunnar thou heldest
The oaths ofttimes sworn, | and of old made firm,
By the sun in the south, | by Sigtyr’s mountain,
By the horse of the rest-bed, | and the ring of Ull.”
Then the champer of bits | drew the chieftain great,
The gold-guarder, down | to the place of death.
. . . . . . . . . .

21. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker; perhaps a first line similar to line 1 of stanza 24 should appear here. Some editors, however, assume that a line is missing after line 3. Gunnar demands proof that Hogni is dead because, as stanza 27 shows, he is unwilling to die himself until he is assured that the secret of the treasure will perish with him. He did not, of course, intend that the heart should be cut from the living Hogni.

22. Most editions assume a gap (lines 1-2, 2-3 or 3-4). Hjalli: Atli’s cook, killed to deceive Gunnar, as Atli hoped to wring the secret of the hoard from Hogni if Gunnar remained silent. In the Atlamol (stanzas 59-60) Atli’s men prepare to kill Hjalli, but he is spared at Hogni’s intercession.

24. Helm-hammerer (literally “helmet-smith”): warrior, i.e., Hogni. No gap indicated in the manuscript.

25. Line 1 may belong elsewhere (stanzas 17 or 21).

*Note*: In the Bellows original translation stanzas 27 & lines 1 and 2 of stanza 28 are used to conform the new stanza 26 to the Old Norse. Stanzas 28 lines 3 & 4 and stanza 29 from the original Bellows translation is used to create the new stanza 27 that confroms to the Old Norse. Stanzas 32 and 33 in the Bellows original translation are used to create the new stanza 30 that conforms to the Old Norse.

26. Apparently the remains of two Fornyrthislag lines; the manuscript combines them with lines 1-2 of stanza 28 Bellows Original translation. Gunnar foretells Atli’s speedy death. Apparently in Fornyrthislag. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a stanza, and many editions combine lines 3-4 with stanza 28 Bellows Original translation. This stanza explains Gunnar’s demand for Hogni’s heart in stanza 21.

27. The manuscript marks line 3, and not line 1, as the beginning of a stanza. Rhine, etc.: the stanza shows the blending of three different traditions with regard to the treasure: the German tradition of the gold of the Rhine (cf. Völundarkvitha, 16, and Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 16), the tradition, likewise German, of the hoard of the Nibelungen (Niflungs), early blended with the first one, and finally the northern tradition of the theft of Andvari’s treasure by Othin, Hönir, and Loki (cf. Reginsmol, 1-9). 28. Apparently all that is left of a full stanza. The manuscript does not name Atli as the speaker, and Grundtvig inserts:

“Then Atli called, | the king of the Huns,”

as a first line. Some editors combine this line with the two lines of stanza 29. Wagon: in Brot, 16, Gunnar is led to his death in the serpents’ den on horseback, not in a wagon.

29. The stanza in the original is hopelessly confused. Glaum: this horse of Atli’s is mentioned by name elsewhere. Long-maned: uncertain. The manuscript indicates no gap, but something has evidently been lost. Gods of slaughter: perhaps the phrase, usually applied to Othin and the other gods, is here used simply to mean “heroes,” i.e., Atli, Gunnar, and Hogni. Line 4 suggests Guthrun’s tearlessness after Sigurth’s death (cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, 11).

30. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. Sigtyr (“Victory-God”): Othin; what particular mountain (if any) is meant is unknown. Horse of the rest-bed: probably this means “bedpost,” i.e., the support of the marriage-bed. Ull: the archer god, cf. Grimnismol, 5 and note. Nothing is known of his ring. Apparently the remains of a Fornyrthislag stanza. Some editors combine the two lines with the line here indicated as stanza 30. Champer of bits: horse. The manuscript indicates no gap.