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Thjóthrek2 had been with Atli, and had there lost most of his men.3 Thjóthrek and Guthrún rehearsed their sorrows to one another. She spoke to him and said:
1. Me, fairest of maids, my mother reared;
In bower, happy, my brothers I loved,
Till that Gjúki with gold me dowered,
With gold me dowered and gave me to Sigurth.
2. Was my Sigurth ‘mongst the sons of Gjúki
Like the garlic grown the grass above,
Or the high-legged hart the hinds among,4
Or glow-red gold amidst grey silver.
3. Then Gjúki’s sons did grudge me this—
That my husband was mightier than they;
Nor could they sleep nor sit in judgment,
Before Sigurth was slain by them.
4. Back galloped Grani, his gait I knew,5
But still Sigurth himself came not;
With sweat were wet the saddle horses,
5. To Grani weeping went I to speak,
With tear-wet cheeks tried his tale to gather.
His head drooped Grani to the grass adown:
He knew, no longer lived his master.
6. Long I tarried, at a loss in my mind,
Ere after him I asked the king.
7. His head drooped Gunnar; but Hogni told me
Of my lord Sigurth’s sorrowful death:
“By the sword slain lies he who slew Guthorm,6
To the ravens given, beyond the Rhine.7
8. “In Southland seek thou Sigurth’s body,
There mayst thou hear the hoarse ravens,
The cry of eagles, eager for meat,
The howl of wolves thy husband about.”
9. “Thou art hardy, Hogni, thus hatefully
Sigurth’s widow this woe to tell:
Should ravens rive thy ruthless heart,
In faraway lands alone should’st die.”8
10. Answered Hogni only thuswise,
Grim in his mind, with gloomy words:
“But greater grew, Guthrún, thy woe
If ravens rived my ruthless heart.”9
11. Then turned I me from talk away,
In the woods to gather what wolves had left;
I whimpered not, nor my hands did wring,
As I sate sorrowing over Sigurth’s corse.
12. Dark night and moonless to me it seemed,
As in sorrow I sate over Sigurth’s corse.
(The wolves heard I howling about me,
And hungry ravens, hoarsely croaking.)10
13. Far better meseemed if my brothers had
Slain their sister after Sigurth,
And had burned me like birchen wood.
14. On the fells fared I five days together,
Till Hálf’s11 high-built hall I beheld.
I sate with Thóra seven half-years,
Hákon’s daughter, in Danish lands.
15. In gold she broidered, to gladden me,
Danish swans and Southern halls;
Kingly war play the cloths did show,
Our handiwork, and hero’s thanes;
Red shields of war eke, ready henchmen,
Helm-clad, sword-girt Hunnish war host;
16. Seaward sailing, King Sigmund’s ships,
With golden dragons and graven stems;
In the web we weaved the wars which fought
Sigar and Siggeir,12 south by Funen.13
17. Then heard Grímhild,14 the Gothic15 queen,
(that soothed I was somewhat in mind):16
Flung down her web and fetched her sons;
To ask gan she most eargerly,
If amends to me they meant to make
For Sigurth slain and his young son.17
18. Was Gunnar ready gold to offer,
Hogni also, to heal my sorrows.
Further asked she who to fare was ready,18
To hitch the horse to the wheeled chariot,
[To sit his horse and the hawk let fly,
To shoot from yew-bow the shafted arrow].19
19. [Eke Valdar the Dane, with Jarizleif,
Eymóth third, and Jarizkar,]
In then wended, athelingwise,
The folk-warden’s thanes;20 were their frieze coats red,
Their byrnies short, their helms blazoned,
Were they girt with swords and swart of hair.
20. Would all choose me their choicest gifts,
Their choicest gifts, and speak cheer to me
That of many sorrows I might in time
Win me a truce; but I trusted them not.
21. Gave me Grímhild a goblet to drink,
Cool and bitter, my cares to forget.
Was the mead mixed with the might of the earth,21
With ice-cold sea, and the sacred boar’s blood.
22. Runestaves full many stood on the horn
Stained and graven—I guessed them not:
A heath-fish long of the Haddings’22 land,
An uncut ear, the inwards of beasts.
23. Were brewed in this beer many baleful things:
All worts of the woods, wilted acorns,
Soot of the hearth, sacred entrails,
A swine’s boiled liver, my sorrow to deaden.
24. Then altogether forgot I him,
My Sigurth, slain by sword in hall:23
To my knees came then three kings from Hunland,24
Ere Grímhild herself did say to me:
25. “Gold I give thee, Guthrún, to have,
The fair folk-lands thy father had,
With their hangings eke Hlothvér’s25 castles,
And all the wealth the warrior26 owned;
26. “Hunnish maidens, handicraft-skilled
In gold to broider, to gladden thee;
Alone halt wield the wealth of Buthli,
Be with gold endowed, and given to Atli.”
27. “Nevermore I wish a mate to have,
Nor Brynhild’s brother’s his bed to share;
Not seeming is it with the son of Buthli
To beget children and a glad life live.”
28. “Harbor no more hateful counsels,
Though we have, truly, wrought wicked deeds;
Thy lot will be life, as though living still
Were Sigurth and Sigmund, if sons thou bear him.”
29. “Not may I, Grímhild, in gladness live,
Nor hold out hopes to the Hunnish king
Since Sigurth’s heartblood the hungry wolves
And greedy ravens drank together.”
30. “Among heroes he is highest of kin,
And foremost found where foes are met.
His wife shalt be till wanes thy life—
Or husbandless live save him thou choosest.”
31. “No longer lure me, nor lend thy words
Thus eagerly to that evil kin:
On Gunnar will he grimly wreak him,
And the heart tear out of Hogni’s breast.”
32. Weeping, Grímhild the word did hear
Which boded ill to both her sons,
To her offspring an awful fate:
“Land I give thee, and lieges eke,
Thy own forever, to ease thy heart.
[Wineburg, Walburg, if thou wilt have them.]”27
33. Then chose I him the chieftains among,
By Grímhild driven, against my will;
Though hardly can I this husband love,
Nor my brothers’ slaughter save my children:
34. (I shall slay full soon my sons by him—)
Thus grimly avenge the Gjúkungs’ fall;)28
Nor will I rest ere reft I have
The lusty life of the leader-in-war.29
35. Their steeds forthwith bestrode the thanes;
Were the Southron women upon wains lifted.
For other seven our oars we plied,
For still other seven dry steppes we rode.30
36. The castle wardens, ere we rode in
Undid the bars of the doorway’s gate,31
37. Atli waked me—but I weened to be
Grim in my mind for kinsmen murdered.
38. “Nightly norns me but now awakened —“
Was I to make out his evil dream —
“Meseemed, Guthrún, Gjúki’s daughter,
That with stealthy steel thou didst stab me through.”32
39. “A burning odes it, if of blades one dreams;
If of woman’s wrath, mere willfulness:33
Burn thee34 shall I „gainst bale and woe,
And as leech nurse thee, though loth to me.”
40. “Meseemed in my garth two saplings fell,
Though greatly wished I to let them grow,
By the roots uptorn, reddened with blood;
Which, borne to my bench, thou didst bid me eat.
41. “Meseemed from my hand two hawks did fly,
Famished for food, to the fateful house;
Their hearts, meseemed, with honey I ate
In sorry mood—were they swol’n with blood.
42. “Meseemed from my hand two whelps I loosed;
The young yearlings yelped bitterly:
Their flesh, meseemed, though foul become,
I was made to eat, all unwilling.”
43. “That means that swains of slaughter speak,
And hew off the heads of white-haired cattle:
They are fey to fall within few nights’ time—
Before daybreak—for folks to eat.”35
44. “Meseemed I lay, nor to sleep listed,
Upon my bed—I will bear it in mind.”36
1 By Lee Milton Hollander (1880-1972), 1962.
2 Historically, Theodoric, the King of the Ostrogoths, who reigned toward the end of the fifth century. His name corresponds to the MHG. Dietrich.
3 According to German tradition, as embodied in the Nibelungenlied, he lost them in battle against the Burgundians.
4 Conjectural. Similar figures are used in Guðrúnarkviða I, St.18 and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II, St.38.
5 Added ad sensum by the Translator.
6 See Sigurþarkviða hin skamma, St.23.
7 Literally, “beyond the flood.”
9 Because he is her brother.
10 Supplied, following Bugge‟s suggestion, after Vǫlsunga saga, Ch.32.
11 Sigurth‟s stepfather (see Frá dauða Sinfjǫtla). Thóra and Hákon probably are figures invented by the poet, since the whole episode is peculiar to this lay.
12 The names belong to the Siklings, a royal race of Denmark.
13 The large Danish island.
14 Guthrún‟s mother. See Grípisspá, St.33 and note.
15 Here merely an honorific epithet.
16 Supplied after Zupitza: the text is defective here.
17 See Sigurþarkviða hin skamma, St.12.
18 To fetch Guthrъn home?
19 These lines clearly do not belong here. They read as though they originally belonged to Rígsþula. In the manuscript there follow the lines [given in brackets], which are evidently also out of their context.
20 These are Atli‟s (Hunnish) emissaries, come to sue for Guthrún‟s hand—a plan contrived by Grímhild. At least one stanza seems to be missing in which their journey and Guthrún‟s return from Denmark to the court of the Gjúkungs was described.
21 See Vǫluspá hin skamma, St.10.
22 The Haddings were sea kings. Thus, in the skaldic manner “the Haddings‟ land” would be the sea; and “a long heath-fish of the Haddings‟ land,” a kenning for an eel; but, punctuated differently, the passage would mean “a serpent and an uncut ear (of grain) of the Haddings‟ land,” that is, “seaweed.”
23 The line is difficult.
24 Kings tributary to Atli.
25 See Vǫlundarkviða, Introductory Prose.
26 Sigurth (?).
27 This line (the poor alliteration exists in the original) is no doubt an interpolation, though already known to the author of the Vǫlsunga saga (Ch.32).
28 Supplied after Heusler‟s suggestion.
29 Atli. The remainder of the stanza transposed here (with Bugge) from its original position after St.31.
30 The stanza describes the journey of Guthrъn (and the Gjъkungs?) to the realm of Atli.
31 Several stanzas must be missing here, dealing with her marriage and the fall of the Gjúkungs. The Vǫlsunga saga affords no help.
32 See Atlakviða and Atlamál for the deeds here prognosticated in Atli‟s dreams.
33 Interpreted ad sensum.
34 Perhaps some cauterization is meant.
35 See Atlamál, St.19. The rendering of the stanza is doubtful; but no doubt there is an intentional ambiguity on the part of Gudrún. In the Vǫlsunga saga, Ch.33, Guthrún says, “Not good are these dreams but they will come true; thy sons are likely to be fey.”
36 As the poem breaks off here, a definite interpretation of the last line is impossible.