Atlakvitha – The Lay of Atli

31. By the warriors’ host | was the living hero
Cast in the den | where crawling about
Within were serpents, | but soon did Gunnar
With his hand in wrath | on the harp-strings smite;
The strings resounded,– | so shall a hero,
A ring-breaker, gold | from his enemies guard.

32. Then Atli rode | on his earth-treading steed,
Seeking his home, | from the slaughter-place;
There was clatter of hoofs | of the steeds in the court,
And the clashing of arms | as they came from the field.

33. Out then came Guthrun | to meeting with Atli,
With a golden beaker | as gift to the monarch:
“Thou mayst eat now, chieftain, | within thy dwelling,
Blithely with Guthrun | young beasts fresh slaughtered.”

34. The wine-heavy ale-cups | of Atli resounded,
When there in the hall | the Hunnish youths clamored,
And the warriors bearded, | the brave ones, entered.

35. Then in came the shining one, | . . . . .
. . . . . | and drink she bore them;
Unwilling and bitter | brought she food to the warrior,
Till in scorn to the white-faced | Atli did she speak:

36. “Thou giver of swords, | of thy sons the hearts
All heavy with blood | in honey thou hast eaten;
Thou shalt stomach, thou hero, | the flesh of the slain,
To eat at thy feast, | and to send to thy followers.

37. “Thou shalt never call | to thy knees again
Erp or Eitil, | when merry with ale;
Thou shalt never see | in their seats again
The sharers of gold | their lances shaping,
(Clipping the manes | or minding their steeds.)”

38. There was clamor on the benches, | and the cry of men,
The clashing of weapons, | and weeping of the Huns,
Save for Guthrun only, | she wept not ever
For her bear-fierce brothers, | or the boys so dear,
So young and so unhappy, | whom with Atli she had.

39. Gold did she scatter, | the swan-white one,
And rings of red gold | to the followers gave she;
The fate she let grow, | and the shining wealth go,
Nor spared she the treasure | of the temple itself.

40. Unwise then was Atli, | he had drunk to wildness,
No weapon did he have, | and of Guthrun bewared not;
Oft their play was better | when both in gladness
Each other embraced | among princes all.


31. Six Fornyrthislag lines which editors have tried to reconstruct in all sorts of ways. The manuscript marks line 5 as the beginning of a new stanza, Regarding the serpents’ den, Gunnar’s harp-playing, and the manner of his death, cf. Drop Niflunga and Oddrunargratr, 27-30, and notes. In Atlamol, 62, Gunnar plays the harp with his feet, his hands being bound, and some editors change hand in line 4 to “foot.” Lines 5-6 may be interpolated, or, as Bugge maintains, lines 1-4 may have been expanded out of two lines.

32. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. Two (possibly three) of the lines appear to, be in Fornyrthislag. Field: so the manuscript, involving a metrical error; many editions have “wood.”

33. Young beasts: Guthrun means Atli’s sons, Erp and Eitil, but of course he thinks she refers to newly slaughtered beasts; cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, 41-45.

34. Youths: a conjectural addition. The brave ones is also conjectural, the manuscript having “each.” No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editions insert as line 3 or line 4 a slightly altered version of line 2 of stanza 42.

35. No gap indicated in the manuscript, but the two fragments cannot be fitted together as one line. The shining one: Guthrun.

36. Giver of swords: generous prince, i.e., Atli. Honey: cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, 42. To send to thy followers: literally, “to send from thy high seat.”

37. Apparently a Fornyrthislag stanza. Merry with ale: presumably this refers to Atli, but the manuscript reading makes it apply to the two boys. Sharers of gold: princes. Line 5 is either interpolated or all that is left of a separate stanza.

38. The text of the whole stanza has required a considerable amount of emendation. Lines 3-5 may have been expanded out of two lines, or line 5 may be an interpolation, possibly from stanza 12 of the Guthrunarhvot. Weapons: the word literally means “good-weaving,” and may refer to silken garments, but this hardly fits the noun here rendered “clashing.” Wept not: cf. stanza 29 and note.

39. Line 1 appears to be in Fornyrthislag. Guthrun distributes Atli’s treasures among his followers apparently to prevent their wrath at the slaying of Erp and Eitil from turning against her; Atli, as stanza 43 shows, is too drunk to realize or prevent what she is doing.

40. The second half of line 4 is apparently an error, but none of the editorial suggestions have improved it

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