Part of the second lay of Helgi Hunding-bane

Part of the second lay of Helgi Hunding-bane(1)

Helgi wedded Sigrun, and they begate sons together, but Helgi lived not to be old; for Dag, (2) the son of Hogni, sacrificed to Odin, praying that he might avenge his father. So Odin lent Dag his spear, and Dag met Helgi, his brother-in-law, at a place called Fetter-grove, and thrust him through with that spear, and there fell Helgi dead; but Dag rode to Sevafell, and told Sigrun of the news.

     Loth am I, sister
     Of sorrow to tell thee,
     For by hard need driven
     Have I drawn on the greeting;
     This morning fell
     In Fetter-grove
     The king well deemed
     The best in the wide world,
     Yea, he who stood
     On the necks of the strong."

     All oaths once sworn
     Shall bite thee sore,
     The oaths that to Helgi
     Once thou swarest
     At the bright white
     Water of Lightening, (3)
     And at the cold rock
     That the sea runneth over.

     May the ship sweep not on
     That should sweep at its swiftest,
     Though the wind desired
     Behind thee driveth!
     May the horse never run
     That should run at his most might
     When from thy foe's face
     Thou hast most need to flee!

     May the sword never bite
     That thou drawest from scabbard
     But and if round thine head
     In wrath it singeth!

     Then should meet price be paid
     For Helgi's slaying
     When a wolf thou wert
     Out in the wild-wood,
     Empty of good things
     Empty of gladness,
     With no meat for thy mouth
     But dead men's corpses!

     With mad words thou ravest,
     Thy wits are gone from thee,
     When thou for thy brother
     Such ill fate biddest;
     Odin alone
     Let all this bale loose,
     Casting the strife-runes
     'Twixt friends and kindred.

     Rings of red gold
     Will thy brother give thee,
     And the stead of Vandil
     And the lands of Vigdale;
     Have half of the land
     For thy sorrow's healing,
     O ring-arrayed sweetling
     For thee and thy sons!

     No more sit I happy
     At Sevafell;
     At day-dawn, at night
     Naught love I my life
     Till broad o'er the people
     My lord's light breaketh;
     Till his war-horse runneth
     Beneath him hither,
     Well wont to the gold bit—
     Till my king I welcome.

     In such wise did Helgi
     Deal fear around
     To all his foes
     And all their friends
     As when the goat runneth
     Before the wolf's rage
     Filled with mad fear
     Down from the fell.

     As high above all lords
     Did Helgi beat him
     As the ash-tree's glory
     From the thorn ariseth,
     Or as the fawn
     With the dew-fell sprinkled
     Is far above
     All other wild things,
     As his horns go gleaming
     'Gainst the very heavens.

A barrow was raised above Helgi, but when he came in Valhall, then Odin bade him be lord of all things there, even as he; so Helgi sang

     Now shalt thou, Hunding
     For the help of each man
     Get ready the foot-bath,
     And kindle the fire;
     The hounds shalt thou bind
     And give heed to the horses,
     Give wash to the swine
     Ere to sleep thou goest.

A bondmaid of Sigrun went in the evening-tide by Helgi’s mound, and there saw how Helgi rode toward it with a great company; then she sang

     It is vain things' beguilling
     That methinks I behold,
     Or the ending of all things,
     As ye ride, O ye dead men,
     Smiting with spurs
     Your horses' sides?
     Or may dead warriors
     Wend their ways homeward?

     THE DEAD:
     No vain things' beguiling
     Is that thou beholdest,
     Nor the ruin of all things;
     Though thou lookest upon us,
     Though we smite with spurs
     Our horses' sides;
     Rather dead warriors
     May wend their ways homeward.

Then went the bondmaid home, and told Sigrun, and sang

     Go out, Sigrun
     From Sevafell,
     If thou listest to look on
     The lord of thy people!
     For the mound is uncovered
     Thither is Helgi come,
     And his wounds are bleeding,
     But the king thee biddeth
     To come and stay
     That stream of sorrow.

So Sigrun went into the mound to Helgi, and sang

     Now am I as fain
     Of this fair meeting,
     As are the hungry
     Hawks of Odin,
     When they wot of the slaying
     Of the yet warm quarry,
     Or bright with dew
     See the day a-dawning.

     Ah, I will kiss
     My king laid lifeless,
     Ere thou castest by
     Thy blood-stained byrny.
     O Helgi, thy hair
     Is thick with death's rime,
     With the dew of the dead
     Is my love all dripping;
     Dead-cold are the hands
     Of the son of Hogni;
     How for thee, O my king,
     May I win healing?

     Thou alone, Sigrun
     Of Sevafell,
     Hast so done that Helgi
     With grief's dew drippeth;
     O clad in gold
     Cruel tears thou weepest,
     Bright May of the Southlands,
     Or ever thou sleepest;
     Each tear in blood falleth
     On the breast of thy lord,
     Cold wet and bitter-sharp
     Swollen with sorrow.

     Ah, we shall drink
     Dear draughts and lovely,
     Though, we have lost
     Both life and lands;
     Neither shall any
     Sing song of sorrow,
     Though in my breast
     Be wounds wide to behold:
     For now are brides
     In the mound abiding;
     Kings' daughters sit
     By us departed.

Bow Sigrun arrayed a bed in the mound, and sang

     Here, Helgi, for thee
     A bed have I dight,
     Kind without woe,
     O kin of the Ylfings!
     To thy bosom, O king,
     Will I come and sleep soft,
     As I was wont
     When my lord was living.

     Now will I call
     Naught not to be hoped for
     Early or late
     At Sevafell,
     When thou in the arms
     Of a dead man art laid,
     White maiden of Hogni,
     Here in the mound:
     And thou yet quick,
     O King's daughter!

     Now needs must I ride
     On the reddening ways;
     My pale horse must tread
     The highway aloft;
     West must I go
     To Windhelm's bridge
     Ere the war-winning crowd
     Hall-crower (4) waketh.

So Helgi rode his ways: and the others gat them gone home to the house. But the next night Sigrun bade the bondwoman have heed of the mound. So at nightfall, thenas Sigrun came to the mound, she sang:

     Here now would he come,
     If to come he were minded;
     Sigmund's offspring
     From the halls of Odin.
     O me the hope waneth
     Of Helgi's coming;
     For high on the ash-boughs
     Are the ernes abiding,
     And all folk drift
     Toward the Thing of the dreamland.

     Be not foolish of heart,
     And fare all alone
     To the house of the dead,
     O Hero's daughter!
     For more strong and dreadful
     In the night season
     Are all dead warriors
     Than in the daylight.

But a little while lived Sigrun, because of her sorrow and trouble. But in old time folk trowed that men should be born again, though their troth be now deemed but an old wife’s dotting. And so, as folk say, Helgi and Sigrun were born again, and at that tide was he called Helgi the Scathe of Hadding, and she Kara the daughter of Halfdan; and she was a Valkyrie, even as is said in the Lay of Kara.

(1) Only that part of the song is given which completes the episodes of Helgi Hunding’s-bane; the earlier part of the song differs little from the Saga.

(2) Hogni, the father of Dar and Sigrun, had been slain by Helgi in battle, and Helgi had given peace to, and taken oaths of Dag.

(3) One of the rivers of the under-world.

(4) Hall-crower, “Salgofnir”: lit. Hall-gaper, the cock of Valhall.


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