The lay called the short lay of Sigurd

     Sigurd of yore,
     Sought the dwelling of Giuki,
     As he fared, the young Volsung,
     After fight won;
     Troth he took
     From the two brethren;
     Oath swore they betwixt them,
     Those bold ones of deed.

     A may they gave to him
     And wealth manifold,
     Gudrun the young,
     Giuki's daughter:
     They drank and gave doom
     Many days together,
     Sigurd the young,
     And the sons of Giuki.

     Until they wended
     For Brynhild's wooing,
     Sigurd a-riding
     Amidst their rout;
     The wise young Volsung
     Who knew of all ways—
     Ah!  He had wed her,
     Had fate so willed it.

     Southlander Sigurd
     A naked sword,
     Bright, well grinded,
     Laid betwixt them;
     No kiss he won
     From the fair woman,
     Nor in arms of his
     Did the Hun King hold her,
     Since he gat the young maid
     For the son of Giuki.

     No lack in her life
     She wotted of now,
     And at her death-day
     No dreadful thing
     For a shame indeed
     Or a shame in seeming;
     But about and betwixt
     Went baleful fate.

     Alone, abroad,
     She sat of an evening,
     Of full many things
     She fall a-talking:
     "O for my Sigurd!
     I shall have death,
     Or my fair, my lovely,
     Laid in mine arms.

     "For the word once spoken,
     I sorrow sorely—
     His queen is Gudrun,
     I am wed to Gunnar;
     The dread Norns wrought for us
     A long while of woe."

     Oft with heart deep
     In dreadful thoughts,
     O'er ice-fields and ice-hills
     She fared a-night time,
     When he and Gudrun
     Were gone to their fair bed,
     And Sigurd wrapped
     The bed-gear round her.

     "Ah!  Now the Hun King
     His queen in arms holdeth,
     While love I go lacking,
     And all things longed for
     With no delight
     But in dreadful thought."

     These dreadful things
     Thrust her toward murder:
     —"Listen, Gunnar,
     For thou shalt lose
     My wide lands,
     Yea, me myself!
     Never love I my life,
     With thee for my lord—

     "I will fare back thither
     From whence I came,
     To my nighest kin
     And those that know me
     There shall I sit
     Sleeping my life away,
     Unless thou slayest
     Sigurd the Hun King,
     Making thy might more
     E'en than his might was!

     "Yea, let the son fare
     After the father,
     And no young wolf
     A long while nourish!
     For on earth man lieth
     Vengeance lighter,
     And peace shall be surer
     If the son live not."

     Adrad was Gunnar,
     Heavy-hearted was he,
     And in doubtful mood
     Day-long he sat.
     For naught he wotted,
     Nor might see clearly
     What was the seemliest
     Of deeds to set hand to;
     What of all deeds
     Was best to be done:
     For he minded the vows
     Sworn to the Volsung,
     And the sore wrong
     To be wrought against Sigurd.

     Wavered his mind
     A weary while,
     No wont it was
     Of those days worn by,
     That queens should flee
     From the realms of their kings.

     "Brynhild to me
     Is better than all,
     The child of Budli
     Is the best of women.
     Yea, and my life
     Will I lay down,
     Ere I am twinned
     From that woman's treasure."

     He bade call Hogni
     To the place where he bided;
     With all the trust that might be,
     Trowed he in him.

     "Wilt thou bewray Sigurd
     For his wealth's sake?
     Good it is to rule
     O'er the Rhine's metal;
     And well content
     Great wealth to wield,
     Biding in peace
     And blissful days."

     One thing alone Hogni
     Had for an answer:
     "Such doings for us
     Are naught seemly to do;
     To rend with sword
     Oaths once sworn,
     Oaths once sworn,
     And troth once plighted.

     "Nor know we on mould,
     Men of happier days,
     The while we four
     Rule over the folk;
     While the bold in battle,
     The Hun King, bides living.

     "And no nobler kin
     Shall be known afield,
     If our five sons
     We long may foster;
     Yea, a goodly stem
     Shall surely wax.
     —But I clearly see
     In what wise it standeth,
     Brynhild's sore urging
     O'ermuch on thee beareth.

     "Guttorm shall we
     Get for the slaying,
     Our younger brother
     Bare of wisdom;
     For he was out of
     All the oaths sworn,
     All the oaths sworn,
     And the plighted troth."

     Easy to rouse him
     Who of naught recketh!
     —Deep stood the sword
     In the heart of Sigurd.

     There, in the hall,
     Gat the high-hearted vengeance;
     For he can his sword
     At the reckless slayer:
     Out at Guttorm
     Flew Gram the mighty,
     The gleaming steel
     From Sigurd's hand.

     Down fell the slayer
     Smitten asunder;
     The heavy head
     And the hands fell one way,
     But the feet and such like
     Aback where they stood.

     Gudrun was sleeping
     Soft in the bed,
     Empty of sorrow
     By the side of Sigurd:
     When she awoke
     With all pleasure gone,
     Swimming in blood
     Of Frey's beloved.

     So sore her hands
     She smote together,
     That the great-hearted
     Gat raised in bed;
     —"O Gudrun, weep not
     So woefully,
     Sweet lovely bride,
     For thy brethren live for thee!

     "A young child have I
     For heritor;
     Too young to win forth
     From the house of his foes.—
     Black deeds and ill
     Have they been a-doing,
     Evil rede
     Have they wrought at last.

     "Late, late, rideth with them
     Unto the Thing,
     Such sister's son,
     Though seven thou bear,—
     —But well I wot
     Which way all goeth;
     Alone wrought Brynhild
     This bale against us.

     "That maiden loved me
     Far before all men,
     Yet wrong to Gunnar
     I never wrought;
     Brotherhood I heeded
     And all bounden oaths,
     That none should deem me
     His queen's darling."

     Weary sighed Gudrun,
     As the king gat ending,
     And so sore her hands
     She smote together,
     That the cups arow
     Rang out therewith,
     And the geese cried on high
     That were in the homefield.

     Then laughed Brynhild
     Budli's daughter,
     Once, once only,
     From out her heart;
     When to her bed
     Was borne the sound
     Of the sore greeting
     Of Giuki's daughter.

     Then, quoth Gunnar,
     The king, the hawk-bearer,
     "Whereas, thou laughest,
     O hateful woman,
     Glad on thy bed,
     No good it betokeneth:
     Why lackest thou else
     Thy lovely hue?
     Feeder of foul deeds,
     Fey do I deem thee,

     "Well worthy art thou
     Before all women,
     That thine eyes should see
     Atli slain of us;
     That thy brother's wounds
     Thou shouldest see a-bleeding,
     That his bloody hurts
     Thine hands should bind."

     "No man blameth thee, Gunnar,
     Thou hast fulfilled death's measure
     But naught Atli feareth
     All thine ill will;
     Life shall he lay down
     Later than ye,
     And still bear more might
     Aloft than thy might.

     "I shall tell thee, Gunnar,
     Though well the tale thou knowest,
     In what early days
     Ye dealt abroad your wrong:
     Young was I then,
     Worn with no woe,
     Good wealth I had
     In the house of my brother!

     "No mind had I
     That a man should have me,
     Or ever ye Giukings,
     Rode into our garth;
     There ye sat on your steeds
     Three kings of the people—
     —Ah!  That that faring
     Had never befallen!

     "Then spake Atli
     To me apart,
     And said that no wealth
     He would give unto me,
     Neither gold nor lands
     If I would not be wedded;
     Nay, and no part
     Of the wealth apportioned,
     Which in my first days
     He gave me duly;
     Which in my first days
     He counted down.

     "Wavered the mind
     Within me then,
     If to fight I should fall
     And the felling of folk,
     Bold in Byrny
     Because of my brother;
     A deed of fame
     Had that been to all folk,
     But to many a man
     Sorrow of mind.

     "So I let all sink
     Into peace at the last:
     More grew I minded
     For the mighty treasure,
     The red-shining rings
     Of Sigmund's son;
     For no man's wealth else
     Would I take unto me.

     "For myself had I given
     To that great king
     Who sat amid gold
     On the back of Grani;
     Nought were his eyes
     Like to your eyen,
     Nor in any wise
     Went his visage with yours;
     Though ye might deem you
     Due kings of men.

     "One I loved,
     One, and none other,
     The gold-decked may
     Had no doubtful mind;
     Thereof shall Atli
     Wot full surely,
     When he getteth to know
     I am gone to the dead.

     "Far be it from me,
     Feeble and wavering,
     Ever to love
     Another's love—
     —Yes shall my woe
     Be well avenged."

     Up rose Gunnar,
     The great men's leader,
     And cast his arms
     About the queen's neck;
     And all went nigh
     One after other,
     With their whole hearts
     Her heart to turn.

     But then all these
     From her neck she thrust,
     Of her long journey
     No man should let her.

     Then called he Hogni
     To have talk with him;
     "Let all folk go
     Forth into the hall,
     Thine with mine—
     —O need sore and mighty!—
     To wot if we yet
     My wife's parting may stay.
     Till with time's wearing
     Some hindrance wax."

     One answer Hogni
     Had for all;
     "Nay, let hard need
     Have rule thereover,
     And no man let her
     Of her long journey!
     Never born again,
     May she come back thence!

     "Luckless she came
     To the lap of her mother,
     Born into the world
     For utter woe,
     TO many a man
     For heart-whole mourning."

     Upraised he turned
     From the talk and the trouble,
     To where the gem-field
     Dealt out goodly treasure;
     As she looked and beheld
     All the wealth that she had,
     And the hungry bondmaids,
     And maids of the hall.

     With no good in her heart
     She donned her gold byrny,
     Ere she thrust the sword point
     Through the midst of her body:
     On the boister's far side
     Sank she adown,
     And, smitten with sword,
     Still bethought her of redes.

     "Let all come forth
     Who are fain the red gold,
     Or things less worthy
     To win from my hands;
     To each one I give
     A necklace gilt over,
     Wrought hangings and bed=gear,
     And bright woven weed."

     All they kept silence,
     And thought what to speak,
     Then all at once
     Answer gave:
     "Full enow are death-doomed,
     Fain are we to live yet,
     Maids of the hall
     All meet work winning."

     "From her wise heart at last
     The linen-clad damsel,
     The one of few years
     Gave forth the word:
     "I will that none driven
     By hand or by word,
     For our sake should lose
     Well-loved life.

     "Thou on the bones of you
     Surely shall burn,
     Less dear treasure
     At your departing
     Nor with Menia's Meal (1)
     Shall ye come to see me."

     "Sit thee down, Gunnar,
     A word must I say to thee
     Of the life's ruin
     Of thy lightsome bride—
     —Nor shall thy ship
     Swim soft and sweetly
     For all that I
     Lay life adown.

     "Sooner than ye might deem
     Shall ye make peace with Gudrun,
     For the wise woman
     Shall full in the young wife
     The hard memory
     Of her dead husband.

     "There is a may born
     Reared by her mother,
     Whiter and brighter
     Than is the bright day;
     She shall be Swanhild,
     She shall be Sunbeam.

     "Thou shalt give Gudrun
     Unto a great one,
     Noble, well-praised
     Of the world's folk;
     Not with her goodwill,
     Or love shalt thou give her;
     Yet will Atli
     Come to win her,
     My very brother,
     Born of Budli.

     —"Ah!  Many a memory
     Of how ye dealt with me,
     How sorely, how evilly
     Ye ever beguiled me,
     How all pleasure left me
     The while my life lasted—!

     "Fain wilt thou be
     Oddrun to win,
     But thy good liking
     Shall Atli let;
     But in secret wise
     Shall ye win together,
     And she shall love thee
     As I had loved thee,
     If in such wise
     Fare had willed it.

     "But with all ill
     Shall Atli sting thee,
     Into the strait worm-close
     Shall he cast thee.

     "But no long space
     Shall slip away
     Ere Atli too
     All life shall lose,
     Yea, all his weal
     With the life of his sons,
     For a dreadful bed
     Dights Gudrun for him,
     From a heart sore laden,
     With the sword's sharp edge.

     "More seemly for Gudrun,
     Your very sister,
     In death to wend after
     Her love first wed;
     Had but good rede
     To her been given,
     Or if her heart
     Had been like to my heart.

     —"Faint my speech groweth—
     But for our sake
     Ne'er shall she lose
     Her life beloved;
     The sea shall have her,
     High billows bear her
     Forth unto Jonakr's
     Fair land of his fathers.

     "There shall she bear sons,
     Stays of a heritage,
     Stays of a heritage,
     Jonakr's sons;
     And Swanhild shall she
     Send from the land,
     That may born of her,
     The may born of Sigurd.

     "Her shall bite
     The rede of Bikki,
     Whereas for no good
     Wins Jormunrek life;
     And so is clean perished
     All the kin of Sigurd,
     Yea, and more greeting,
     And more for Gudrun.

     "And now one prayer
     Yet pray I of thee—
     That last word of mine
     Here in the world—
     So broad on the field
     Be the burg of the dead
     That fair space may be left
     For us all to lie down,
     All those that died
     At Sigurd's death!

     "Hang round that burg
     Fair hangings and shields,
     Web by Gauls woven,
     And folk of the Gauls:
     There burn the Hun King
     Lying beside me.

     "But on the other side
     Burn by the Hun King
     Those who served me
     Strewn with treasure;
     Two at the head,
     And two at the feet,
     Two hounds therewith,
     And two hawks moreover:
     Then is all dealt
     With even dealing.

     "Lay there amidst us
     The right-dight metal,
     The sharp-edged steel,
     That so lay erst;
     When we both together
     Into one bed went,
     And were called by the name
     Of man and wife.

     "Never, then, belike
     Shall clash behind him
     Valhall's bright door
     With rings bedight:
     And if my fellowship
     Followeth after,
     In no wretched wise
     Then shall we wend.

     "For him shall follow
     My five bondmaids,
     My eight bondsmen,
     No borel folk:
     Yea, and my fosterer,
     And my father's dower
     That Budli of old days
     Gave to his dear child.

     "Much have I spoken,
     More would I speak,
     If the sword would give me
     Space for speech;
     But my words are waning,
     My wounds are swelling—
     Naught but truth have I told—
     —And now make I ending."

(1) “Menia’s Maid”periphrasis for gold.

Source


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