Oddrúnarkviða – The Lament of Oddrun

Borgny spake:

11. “Wild art thou, Oddrun, | and witless now,
That so in hatred | to me thou speakest;
I followed thee | where thou didst fare,
As we had been born | of brothers twain.”

Oddrun spake:

12. “I remember the evil | one eve thou spakest,
When a draught I gave | to Gunnar then;
Thou didst say that never | such a deed
By maid was done | save by me alone.”

13. Then the sorrowing woman | sat her down
To tell the grief | of her troubles great.

14. “Happy I grew | in the hero’s hall
As the warriors wished, | and they loved me well;
Glad I was | of my father’s gifts,
For winters five, | while my father lived.

15. “These were the words | the weary king,
Ere he died, | spake last of all:
He bade me with red gold | dowered to be,
And to Grimhild’s son | in the South be wedded.

Oddrun spake:

16. “But Brynhild the helm | he bade to wear,
A wish-maid bright | he said she should be;
For a nobler maid | would never be born
On earth, he said, | if death should spare her.

17. “At her weaving Brynhild | sat in her bower,
Lands and folk | alike she had;
The earth and heaven | high resounded
When Fafnir’s slayer | the city saw.

18. “Then battle was fought | with the foreign swords,
And the city was broken | that Brynhild had;
Not long thereafter, | but all too soon,
Their evil wiles | full well she knew.

19. “Woeful for this | her vengeance was,
As so we learned | to our sorrow all;
In every land | shall all men hear
How herself at Sigurth’s | side she slew.

20. “Love to Gunnar | then I gave,
To the breaker of rings, | as Brynhild might;


11-21. In the manuscript the order is as follows: 13; 14; 15; 16, 3-4; 11; 12; 17; 18; 16; 20, 1-2; 20, 1-2; 20, 3-4; 21. The changes made here, following several of the editions, are: (a) the transposition of stanzas 11-12, which are clearly dialogue, out of the body of the lament to a position just before it; (b) the transposition of lines 1-2 of stanza 15 to their present position from the middle of stanza 19.

11. The manuscript does not name the speaker; cf. note on stanzas 11-21.

12. The manuscript does not name the speaker; cf. note on stanzas 11-21. The word rendered “evil” in line 1 is a conjectural addition. Apparently Borgny was present at Atli’s court while the love affair between Oddrun and Gunnar was in progress, and criticised Oddrun for her part in it. A draught, etc.: apparently in reference to a secret meeting of the lovers.

13. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 10; cf. note on stanzas 11-21. No gap is indicated, but something has presumably been lost. Grundtvig supplies as a first line: “The maid her evil days remembered,” and inserts as a second line line 5 of stanza 10.

14. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a new stanza; many editions combine lines 1-2 with stanza 13 and lines 3-4 with lines 1-2 of stanza 15. The hero: Buthli, father of Oddrun, Atli, and Brynhild.

15. The manuscript indicates line 3, but not line 1, as the beginning of a new stanza; some editions combine lines 3-4 with lines 3-4 of stanza 16. Making Buthli plan the marriage of Oddrun and Gunnar may be a sheer invention of the poet, or may point to an otherwise lost version of the legend.

16. Lines 1-2 have here been transposed from the middle of stanza 19; cf. note on stanzas 11-21. Wish-maid: a Valkyrie, so called because the Valkyries fullfilled Othin’s wish in choosing the slain heroes for Valhall. The reference to Brynhild as a Valkyrie by no means fits with the version of the story used in stanzas 16-17, and the poet seems to have attempted to combine the two contradictory traditions, cf. Fafnismol, note on stanza 44. In the manuscript stanzas 11-12 follow line 4 of stanza 16.

17. In stanzas 16-17 the underlying story seems to be the one used in Sigurtharkvitha en skamma (particularly stanzas 32-39), and referred to in Guthrunarkvitha I, 24, wherein Gunnar and Sigurth lay siege to Atli’s city (it here appears as Brynhild’s) and are bought off only by Atli’s giving Brynhild to Gunnar as wife, winning her consent thereto by falsely representing to her that Gunnar is Sigurth. This version is, of course, utterly at variance with the one in which Sigurth wins Brynhild for Gunnar by riding through the ring of flames, and is probably more closely akin to the early German traditions. In the Nibelungenlied Brynhild appears as a queen ruling over lands and peoples. Fafnir’s slayer: Sigurth.

18. Cf. note on preceding stanza.

20. Cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, stanzas 64-70.

20. In the manuscript lines 1-2 of stanza 15 follow line 2, resulting in various conjectural combinations. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. Rings, etc.: possibly, as Gering maintains, payment offered by Gunnar and Hogni for Brynhild’s death, but more probably, as in stanza 21, Gunnar’s proffered “marriage gold” for the hand of Oddrun.

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