The song of Atli

Gudrun, Giuki’s daughter, avenger her brethren, as is told far and wide; first she slew the sons of Atli, and then Atli himself; and she burned the hall thereafter, and all the household with it: and about these matters is this song made:

     In days long gone
     Sent Atli to Gunnar
     A crafty one riding,
     Knefrud men called him;
     To Giuki's garth came he,
     To the hall of Gunnar,
     To the benches gay-dight,
     And the gladsome drinking.

     There drank the great folk
     'Mid the guileful one's silence,
     Drank wine in their fair hall:
     The Huns' wrath they feared
     When Knefrud cried
     In his cold voice,
     As he sat on the high seat,
     That man of the Southland:

     "Atli has sent me
     Riding swift on his errands
     On the bit-griping steed
     Through dark woodways unbeaten,
     To bid thee, King Gunnar,
     Come to his fair bench
     With helm well-adorned,
     To the house of King Atli.

     "Shield shall ye have there
     And spears ashen-shafted,
     Helms ruddy with gold,
     And hosts of the Huns;
     Saddle-gear silver gilt,
     Shirts red as blood,
     The hedge of the warwife,
     And horses bit-griping.

     "And he saith he will give you
     Gnitaheath widespread,
     And whistling spears
     And prows well-gilded,
     Might wealth
     With the stead of Danpi,
     And that noble wood
     Men name the Murkwood."

     Then Gunnar turned head
     And spake unto Hogni:
     "What rede from thee, high one,
     Since such things we hear?
     No gold know I
     On Gnitaheath,
     That we for our parts
     Have not portion as great.

     "Seven halls we have
     Fulfilled of swords,
     And hilts of gold
     Each sword there has;
     My horse is the best,
     My blade is the keenest;
     Fair my bow o'er the bench is,
     Gleams my byrny with gold;
     Brightest helm, brightest shield,
     From Kiar's dwelling ere brought—
     Better all things I have
     Than all things of the Huns."

     HOGNI SAID:
     "What mind has our sister
     That a ring she hath sent us
     In weed of wolves clad?
     Bids she not to be wary?
     For a wolf's hair I found
     The fair ring wreathed about;
     Wolf beset shall the way be
     If we wend on this errand."

     No sons whetted Gunnar,
     Nor none of his kin,
     Nor learned men nor wise men,
     Nor such as were mighty.
     Then spake Gunnar
     E'en as a king should speak,
     Glorious in mead-hall
     From great heart and high:

     "Rise up now, Fiornir,
     Forth down the benches
     Let the gold-cups of great ones
     Pass in hands of my good-men!
     Well shall we drink wine,
     Draughts dear to our hearts,
     Though the last of all feasts
     In our fair house this be!

     "For the wolves shall rule
     O'er the wealth of the Niblungs,
     With the pine-woods' wardens
     In Gunnar perish:
     And the black-felled bears
     With fierce teeth shall bite
     For the glee of the dog kind,
     If again comes not Gunnar."

     Then good men never shamed,
     Greeting aloud,
     Led the great king of men
     From the garth of his home;
     And cried the fair son
     Of Hogni the king:
     "Fare happy, O Lords,
     Whereso your hearts lead you!"

     Then the bold knights
     Let their bit-griping steeds
     Wend swift o'er the fells,
     Tread the murk-wood unknown,
     All the Hunwood was shaking
     As the hardy ones fared there;
     O'er the green meads they urged
     Their steeds shy of the goad.

     Then Atli's land saw they;
     Great towers and strong,
     And the bold men of Bikki,
     Aloft on the burg:
     The Southland folks' hall
     Set with benches about,
     Dight with bucklers well bounden,
     And bright white shining shields.

     There drank Atli,
     The awful Hun king,
     Wine in his fair hall;
     Without were the warders,
     Gunnar's folk to have heed of,
     Lest they had fared thither
     With the whistling spear
     War to wake 'gainst the king.

     But first came their sister
     As they came to the hall,
     Both her brethren she met,
     With beer little gladdened:
     "Bewrayed art thou, Gunnar!
     What dost thou great king
     To deal war to the Huns?
     Go thou swift from the hall!

     Better, brother, hadst thou
     Fared here in thy byrny
     Than with helm gaily dight
     Looked on Atli's great house:
     Them hadst sat then in saddle
     Through days bright with the sun
     Fight to awaken
     And fair fields to redden:

     "O'er the folk fate makes pale
     Should the Norn's tears have fallen,
     The shield mays of the Huns
     Should have known of all sorrow;
     And King Atli himself
     To worm-close should be brought;
     But now is the worm-close
     Kept but for thee."

     Then spake Gunnar
     Great 'mid the people:
     "Over-late sister
     The Niblungs to summon;
     A long way to seek
     The helping of warriors,
     The high lord unshamed,
     From the hills of the Rhine!"

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

     Seven Hogni beat down
     With his sword sharp-grinded,
     And the eighth man he thrust
     Amidst of the fire.
     Ever so shall famed warrior
     Fight with his foemen,
     As Hogni fought
     For the hand of Gunnar.

     But on Gunnar they fell,
     And set him in fetters,
     And bound hard and fast
     That friend of Burgundians;
     Then the warrior they asked
     If he would buy life,
     But life with gold
     That king of the Goths.

     Nobly spake Gunnar,
     Great lord of the Niblungs;
     "Hogni's bleeding heart first
     Shall lie in mine hand,
     Cut from the breast
     Of the bold-riding lord,
     With bitter-sharp knife
     From the son of the king."

     With guile the great one
     Would they beguile,
     On the wailing thrall
     Laid they hand unwares,
     And cut the heart
     From out of Hjalli,
     Laid it bleeding on trencher
     And bare it to Gunnar.

     "Here have I the heart
     Of Hjalli the trembler,
     Little like the heart
     Of Hogni the hardy:
     As much as it trembleth
     Laid on the trencher
     By the half more it trembled
     In the breast of him hidden."

     Then laughed Hogni
     When they cut the heart from him,
     From the crest-smith yet quick,
     Little thought he to quail.
     The hard acorn of thought
     From the high king they took,
     Laid it bleeding on trencher
     And bare it Gunnar.

     "Here have I the heart
     Of Hogni the hardy,
     Little like to the heart
     Of Hjalli the trembler.
     Howso little it quaketh
     Laid here on the dish,
     Yet far less it quaked
     In the breast of him laid.

     "So far mayst thou bide
     From men's eyen, O Atli,
     As from that treasure
     Thou shalt abide!

     "Behold in my heart
     Is hidden for ever
     That hoard of the Niblungs,
     Now Hogni is dead.
     Doubt threw me two ways
     While the twain of us lived,
     But all that is gone
     Now I live on alone.

     "The great Rhine shall rule
     O'er the hate-raising treasure,
     That gold of the Niblungs,
     The seed of the gods:
     In the weltering water
     Shall that wealth lie a-gleaming,
     Or it shine on the hands
     Of the children of Huns!"

     Then cried Atli,
     King of the Hun-folk,
     "Drive forth your wains now
     The slave is fast bounden."
     And straightly thence
     The bit-shaking steeds
     Drew the hoard-warden,
     The war-god to his death.

     Atli the great king,
     Rode upon Glaum,
     With shields set round about,
     And sharp thorns of battle:
     Gudrun, bound by wedlock
     To these, victory made gods of,
     Held back her tears
     As the hall she ran into.

     "Let it fare with thee, Atli,
     E'en after thine oaths sworn
     To Gunnar fell often;
     Yea, oaths sworn of old time,
     By the sun sloping southward,
     By the high burg of Sigry,
     By the fair bed of rest,
     By the red ring of Ull!"

     Now a host of men
     Cast the high king alive
     Into a close
     Crept o'er within
     With most foul worms,
     Fulfilled of all venom,
     Ready grave to dig
     In his doughty heart.

     Wrathful-hearted he smote
     The harp with his hand,
     Gunnar laid there alone;
     And loud rang the strings.—
     In such wise ever
     Should hardy ring-scatterer
     Keep gold from all folk
     In the garth of his foeman.

     Then Atli would wend
     About his wide land,
     On his steed brazen shod,
     Back from the murder.
     Din there was in the garth,
     All thronged with the horses;
     High the weapon-song rose
     From men come from the heath.

     Out then went Gudrun,
     'Gainst Atli returning,
     With a cup gilded over,
     To greet the land's ruler;
     "Come, then, and take it,
     King glad in thine hall,
     From Gudrun's hands,
     For the hell-farers groan not!"

     Clashed the beakers of Atli,
     Wine-laden on bench,
     As in hall there a-gathered,
     The Huns fell a-talking,
     And the long-bearded eager ones
     Entered therein,
     From a murk den new-come,
     From the murder of Gunnar.

     Then hastened the sweet-faced
     Delight of the shield-folk,
     Bright in the fair hall,
     Wine to bear to them:
     The dreadful woman
     Gave dainties withal
     To the lords pale with fate,
     Laid strange word upon Atli:

     "The hearts of thy sons
     Hast thou eaten, sword-dealer,
     All bloody with death
     And drenched with honey:
     In most heavy mood
     Brood o'er venison of men!
     Drink rich draughts therewith,
     Down the high benches send it!

     "Never callest thou now
     From henceforth to thy knee
     Fair Erp or fair Eiril,
     Bright-faced with the drink;
     Never seest thou them now
     Amidmost the seat,
     Scattering the gold,
     Or shafting of spears;
     Manes trimming duly,
     Or driving steeds forth!"

     Din arose from the benches,
     Dread song of men was there,
     Noise 'mid the fair hangings,
     As all Hun's children wept;
     All saving Gudrun,
     Who never gat greeting,
     For her brethren bear-hardy
     For her sweet sons and bright,
     The young ones, the simple
     Once gotten with Atli.

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

     The seed of gold
     Sowed the swan-bright woman,
     Rings of red gold
     She gave to the house-carls;
     Fate let she wax,
     Let the bright gold flow forth,
     In naught spared that woman
     The store-houses' wealth.

     Atli unaware
     Was a-weary with drink;
     No weapon had he,
     No heeding of Gudrun—
     Ah, the pity would be better,
     When in soft wise they twain
     Would full often embrace
     Before the great lords!

     To the bed with sword-point
     Blood gave she to drink
     With a hand fain of death,
     And she let the dogs loose:
     Then in from the hall-door—
     —Up waked the house-carls—
     Hot brands she cast,
     Gat revenge for her brethren.

     To the flame gave she all
     Who therein might be found;
     Fell adown the old timbers,
     Reeked all treasure-houses;
     There the shield-mays were burnt,
     Their lives' span brought to naught;
     In the fierce fire sank down
     All the stead of the Budlungs.

     Wide told of is this—
     Ne'er sithence in the world,
     Thus fared bride clad in byrny
     For her brothers' avenging;
     For behold, this fair woman
     To three kings of the people,
     Hath brought very death
     Or ever she died!

Source


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