The lay of Hamdir.

     Great deeds of bale
     In the garth began,
     At the sad dawning
     The tide of Elves' sorrow
     When day is a-waxing
     And man's grief awaketh,
     And the sorrow of each one
     The early day quickeneth.

     Not now, not now,
     Nor yesterday,
     But long ago
     Has that day worn by,
     That ancientest time,
     The first time to tell of,
     Then, whenas Gudrun,
     Born of Giuki,
     Whetter her sons
     To Swanhild's avenging.

     "Your sister's name
     Was naught but Swanhild,
     Whom Jormunrek
     With horses has trodden!—
     White horses and black
     On the war-beaten way,
     Grey horses that go
     On the roads of the Goths.

     "All alone am I now
     As in holt is the aspen;
     As the fir-tree of boughs,
     So of kin am I bare;
     As bare of things longed for
     As the willow of leaves
     When the bough-breaking wind
     The warm day endeth.

     "Few, sad, are ye left
     O kings of my folk!
     Yet alone living
     Last shreds of my kin!

     "Ah, naught are ye grown
     As that Gunnar of old days;
     Naught are your hearts
     As the heart of Hogni!
     Well would ye seek
     Vengeance to win
     If your hearts were in aught
     As the hearts of my brethren!"

     Then spake Hamdir
     The high-hearted:
     "Nought hadst thou to praise
     The doings of Hogni,
     When they woke up Sigurd
     From out of slumber,
     And in bed thou sat'st up
     'Mid the banes-men's laughter.

     "Then when thy bed=gear,
     Blue-white, well woven
     By art of craftsmen
     All swam with thy king's blood;
     The Sigurd died,
     O'er his dead corpse thou sattest,
     Not heeding aught gladsome,
     Since Gunnar so willed it.

     "Great grief for Atli
     Gatst thou by Erp's murder,
     And the end of thine Eitil,
     But worse grief for thyself.
     Good to use sword
     For the slaying of others
     In such wise that its edge
     Shall not turn on ourselves!"

     Then well spake Sorli
     From a heart full of wisdom:
     "No words will I
     Make with my mother,
     Though both ye twain
     Need words belike—
     What askest thou, Gudrun,
     To let thee go greeting?

     "Weep for thy brethren,
     Weep for thy sweet sons,
     And thy nighest kinsfolk
     Laid by the fight-side!
     Yea, and thou Gudrun,
     May'st greet for us twain
     Sitting fey on our steeds
     Doomed in far lands to die."

     From the garth forth they went
     With hearts full of fury,
     Sorli and Hamdir,
     The sons of Gudrun,
     And they met on the way
     The wise in all wiles:
     "And thou little Erp,
     What helping from thee?"

     He of alien womb
     Spake out in such wise:
     "Good help for my kin,
     Such as foot gives to foot,
     Or flesh-covered hand
     Gives unto hand!"

     "What helping for foot
     That help that foot giveth,
     Or for flesh-covered hand
     The helping of hand?"

     Then spake Erp
     Yet once again
     Mock spake the prince
     As he sat on his steed:
     "Fool's deed to show
     The way to a dastard!"
     "Bold beyond measure,"
     Quoth they, "is the base-born!"

     Out from the sheath
     Drew they the sheath-steel,
     And the glaives' edges played
     For the pleasure of hell;
     By the third part they minished
     The might that they had,
     Their young kin they let lie
     A-cold on the earth.

     Then their fur-cloaks they shook
     And bound fast their swords,
     In webs goodly woven
     Those great ones were clad;
     Young they went o'er the fells
     Where the dew was new-fallen
     Swift, on steeds of the Huns,
     Heavy vengeance to wreak.

     Forth stretched the ways,
     And an ill way they found,
     Yea, their sister's son (1)
     Hanging slain upon tree—
     Wolf-trees by the wind made cold
     At the town's westward
     Loud with cranes' clatter—
     Ill abiding there long!

     Din in the king's hall
     Of men merry with drink,
     And none might hearken
     The horses' tramping
     Or ever the warders
     Their great horn winded.

     Then men went forth
     To Jormunrek
     To tell of the heeding
     Of men under helm:
     "Give ye good counsel!
     Great ones are come hither,
     For the wrong of men mighty
     Was the may to death trodden."

     "Loud Jormunrek laughed,
     And laid hand to his beard,
     Nor bade bring his byrny,
     But with the wine fighting,
     Shook his red locks,
     On his white shield sat staring,
     And in his hand
     Swung the gold cup on high.

     "Sweet sight for me
     Those twain to set eyes on,
     Sorli and Hamdir,
     Here in my hall!
     Then with bowstrings
     Would I bind them,
     And hang the good Giukings
     Aloft on the gallows!"

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

     Then spake Hrothglod
     From off the high steps,
     Spake the slim-fingered
     Unto her son,—
     —For a threat was cast forth
     Of what ne'er should fall—
     "Shall two men alone
     Two hundred Gothfolk
     Bind or bear down
     In the midst of their burg?"

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

     Strife and din in the hall,
     Cups smitten asunder
     Men lay low in blood
     From the breasts of Goths flowing.

     Then spake Hamdir,
     The high-hearted:
     "Thou cravedst, O king,
     From the coming of us,
     The sons of one mother,
     Amidmost thine hall—
     Look on these hands of thine,
     Look on these feet of thine,
     Cast by us, Jormunrek,
     On to the flame!"

     Then cried aloud
     The high Gods' kinsman (2)
     Bold under byrny,—
     Roared he as bears roar;
     "Stones to the stout ones
     That the spears bite not,
     Nor the edges of steel,
     These sons of Jonakr!"

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

     QUOTH SORLI:
     "Bale, brother, wroughtst thou
     By that bag's (3) opening,
     Oft from that bag
     Rede of bale cometh!
     Heart hast thou, Hamdir,
     If thou hadst heart's wisdom
     Great lack in a man
     Who lacks wisdom and lore!"

     HAMDIR SAID:
     "Yes, off were the head
     If Erp were alive yet,
     Our brother the bold
     Whom we slew by the way;
     The far-famed through the world—
     Ah, the fares drave me on,
     And the man war made holy,
     There must I slay!"

     SORLI SAID:
       "Unmeet we should do
       As the doings of wolves are,
     Raising wrong each 'gainst other
       As the dogs of the Norns,
       The greedy ones nourished
     In waste steads of the world.

     In strong wise have we fought,
     On Goths' corpses we stand,
     Beat down by our edges,
     E'en as ernes on the bough.
     Great fame our might winneth,
     Die we now, or to-morrow,—
     No man lives till eve
     Whom the fates doom at morning."
     At the hall's gable-end
     Fell Sorli to earth,
     But Hamdir lay low
     At the back of the houses.

Now this is called the Ancient Lay of Hamdir.

(1) Randver, the son of their sister’s husband.

(2) Odin, namely.

(3) “Bag”, his mouth.

Source


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