The lament of Oddrun.

There was a king hight Heidrik, and his daughter was called Borgny, and the name of her lover was Vilmund. Now she might nowise be made lighter of a child she travailed with, before Oddrun, Atil’s sister, came to her,—she who had been the love of Gunnar, Giuki’s son. But of their speech together has this been sung:

     I have hear tell
     In ancient tales
     How a may there came
     To Morna-land,
     Because no man
     On mould abiding
     For Heidrik's daughter
     Might win healing.

     All that heard Oddrun,
     Atil's sister,
     How that the damsel
     Had heavy sickness,
     So she led from stall
     Her bridled steed,
     And on the swart one
     Laid the saddle.

     She made her horse wend
     O'er smooth ways of earth,
     Until to a high-built
     Hall she came;
     Then the saddle she had
     From the hungry horse,
     And her ways wended
     In along the wide hall,
     And this word first
     Spake forth therewith:

     "What is most famed,
     Afield in Hunland,
     Or what may be
     Blithest in Hunland?"

     QUOTH THE HANDMAID:
     "Here lieth Borgny,
     Borne down by trouble,
     Thy sweet friend, O Oddrun,
     See to her helping!"

     ODDRUN SAID:
     "Who of the lords
     Hath laid this grief on her,
     Why is the anguish
     Of Borgny so weary?"

     THE HANDMAID SAID:
     "He is hight Vilmund,
     Friend of hawk-bearers,
     He wrapped the damsel
     In the warm bed-gear
     Five winters long
     Without her father's wotting."

     No more than this
     They spake methinks;
     Kind sat she down
     By the damsel's knee;
     Mightily sand Oddrun,
     Sharp piercing songs
     By Borgny's side:

     Till a maid and a boy
     Might tread on the world's ways,
     Blithe babes and sweet
     Of Hogni's bane:
     Then the damsel forewearied
     The word took up,
     The first word of all
     That had won from her:

     "So may help thee
     All helpful things,
     Fey and Freyia,
     And all the fair Gods,
     As thou hast thrust
     This torment from me!"

     ODDRUN SAID:
     "Yet no heart had I
     For thy helping,
     Since never wert thou
     Worthy of helping,
     But my word I held to,
     That of old was spoken
     When the high lords
     Dealt out the heritage,
     That every soul
     I would ever help."

     BORGNY SAID:
     "Right mad art thou, Oddrun,
     And reft of thy wits,
     Whereas thou speakest
     Hard words to me
     Thy fellow ever
     Upon the earth
     As of brothers twain,
     We had been born."

     ODDRUN SAID:
     "Well I mind me yet,
     What thou saidst that evening,
     Whenas I bore forth
     Fair drink for Gunnar;
     Such a thing, saidst thou,
     Should fall out never,
     For any may
     Save for me alone."

     Mind had the damsel
     Of the weary day
     Whenas the high lords
     Dealt out the heritage,
     And she sat her down,
     The sorrowful woman,
     To tell of the bale,
     And the heavy trouble.

     "Nourished was I
     In the hall of kings—
     Most folk were glad—
     'Mid the council of great ones:
     In fair life lived I,
     And the wealth of my father
     For five winters only,
     While yet he had life.

     "Such were the last words
     That ever he spake,
     The king forewearied,
     Ere his ways he went;
     For he bade folk give me
     The gold red-gleaming,
     And give me in Southlands
     To the son of Grimhild.

     "But Brynhild he bade
     To the helm to betake her,
     And said that Death-chooser
     She should become;
     And that no better
     Might ever be born
     Into the world,
     If fate would not spoil it.

     "Brynhild in bower
     Sewed at her broidery,
     Folk she had
     And fair lands about her;
     Earth lay a-sleeping,
     Slept the heavens aloft
     When Fafnir's-bane
     The burg first saw.

     "Then was war waged
     With the Welsh-wrought sword
     And the burg all broken
     That Brynhild owned;
     Nor wore long space,
     E'en as well might be,
     Ere all those wiles
     Full well she knew.

     "Hard and dreadful
     Was the vengeance she drew down,
     So that all we
     Have woe enow.
     Through all lands of the world
     Shall that story fare forth
     How she did her to death
     For the death of Sigurd.

     "But therewithal Gunnar
     The gold-scatterer
     Did I fall to loving
     And should have loved him.
     Rings of red gold
     Would they give to Atli,
     Would give to my brother
     Things goodly and great.

     "Yea, fifteen steads
     Would they give for me,
     And the load of Grani
     To have as a gift;
     But then spake Atli,
     That such was his will,
     Never gift to take
     From the sons of Giuki.

     "But we in nowise
     Might love withstand,
     And mine head must I lay
     On my love, the ring-breaker;
     And many there were
     Among my kin,
     Who said that they
     Had seen us together.

     "Then Atli said
     That I surely never
     Would fall to crime
     Or shameful folly:
     But now let no one
     For any other,
     That shame deny
     Where love has dealing.

     "For Atli sent
     His serving-folk
     Wide through the murkwood
     Proof to win of me,
     And thither they came
     Where they ne'er should have come,
     Where one bed we twain
     Had dight betwixt us.

     "To those men had we given
     Rings of red gold,
     Naught to tell
     Thereof to Atli,
     But straight they hastened
     Home to the house,
     And all the tale
     To Atli told.

     'Whereas from Gudrun
     Well they hid it,
     Though better by half
     Had she have known it.

    ................

     "Din was there to hear
     Of the hoofs gold-shod,
     When into the garth
     Rode the sons of Giuki.

     "There from Hogni
     The heart they cut,
     But into the worm-close
     Cast the other.
     There the king, the wise-hearted,
     Swept his harp-strings,
     For the might king
     Had ever mind
     That I to his helping
     Soon should come.

     "But now was I gone
     Yet once again
     Unto Geirmund,
     Good feast to make;
     Yet had I hearing,
     E'en out from Hlesey,
     How of sore trouble
     The harp-strings sang.

     "So I bade the bondmaids
     Be ready swiftly,
     For I listed to save
     The life of the king,
     And we let our ship
     Swim over the sound,
     Till Atli's dwelling
     We saw all clearly.

     Then came the wretch (1)
     Crawling out,
     E'en Atli's mother,
     All sorrow upon her!
     A grave gat her sting
     In the heart of Gunnar,
     So that no helping
     Was left for my hero.

     "O gold-clad woman,
     Full oft I wonder
     How I my life
     Still hold thereafter,
     For methought I loved
     That light in battle,
     The swift with the sword,
     As my very self.

     "Thou hast sat and hearkened
     As I have told thee
     Of many an ill-fate,
     Mine and theirs—
     Each man liveth
     E'en as he may live—
     Now hath gone forth
     The greeting of Oddrun."

(1) Atli’s mother took the form of the only adder that was no lulled to sleep by Gunnar’s harp-playing, and who slew him.

Source


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