Скачать fb2
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún




    J.R.R. Tolkien

    Edited by Christopher Tolkien


    VÖLSUNGAKVIÐA EN NÝJA (‘The New Lay of the Völsungs’)
    V: REGIN
    GUÐRÚNARKVIÐA EN NÝJA (‘The New Lay of Gudrún’)
    APPENDIX A A short account of the ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND



    In his essay On Fairy-Stories (1947) my father wrote of books that he read in his childhood, and in the course of this he said:

    I had very little desire to look for buried treasure or fight pirates, and Treasure Island left me cool. Red Indians were better: there were bows and arrows (I had and have a wholly unsatisfied desire to shoot well with a bow), and strange languages, and glimpses of an archaic mode of life, and above all, forests in such stories. But the land of Merlin and Arthur were better than these, and best of all the nameless North of Sigurd and the Völsungs, and the prince of all dragons. Such lands were pre-eminently desirable.
    That the ancient poetry in the Old Norse language known by the names of the Elder Edda or the Poetic Edda remained a deep if submerged force in his later life’s work is no doubt recognised. It is at any rate well-known that he derived the names of the dwarves in The Hobbit from the first of the poems in the Edda, the Völuspá, ‘the Prophecy of the Sibyl’ – remarking in a lightly sardonic but not uncharacteristic tone to a friend in December 1937:

    I don’t much approve of The Hobbit myself, preferring my own mythology (which is just touched on) with its consistent nomenclature . . . to this rabble of Eddaic-named dwarves out of Völuspá, newfangled hobbits and gollums (invented in an idle hour) and Anglo-Saxon runes.
    But it is certainly not well-known, indeed scarcely known at all (though it can be discovered from existing publications), that he wrote two closely associated poems treating of the Völsung and Niflung (or Nibelung) legend, using modern English fitted to the Old Norse metre, amounting to more than five hundred stanzas: poems that have never been published until now, nor has any line been quoted from them. These poems bear the titles Völsungakviða en nýja, the New Lay of the Völsungs, and Guðrúnarkviða en nýja, the New Lay of Gudrún.
    My father’s erudition was by no means confined to ‘Anglo-Saxon’, but extended to an expert knowledge of the poems of the Elder Edda and the Old Norse language (a term that in general use is largely equivalent to Old Icelandic, since by far the greater part of Norse literature that survives is written in Icelandic). In fact, for many years after he became the professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford in 1925 he was the professor of Old Norse, though no such title existed; he gave lectures and classes on Norse language and literature in every year from 1926 until at least 1939. But despite his accomplishment in this field, which was recognized in Iceland, he never wrote anything specifically on a Norse subject for publication – except perhaps the ‘New Lays’, and for this, so far as I know, there is no evidence one way or the other, unless the existence of an amanuensis typescript, of unknown date and without other interest, suggests it. But there survive many pages of notes and draftings for his lectures, although these were for the most part written very rapidly and often on the brink of illegibility or beyond.
    The ‘New Lays’ arose from those studies and belong to that time. My inclination is to date them later rather than earlier in his years at Oxford before the Second War, perhaps to the earlier 1930s; but this is scarcely more than an unarguable intuition. The two poems, which I believe to have been closely related in time of composition, constitute a very substantial work, and it seems possible, as a mere guess, since there is no evidence whatsoever to confirm it, that my father turned to the Norse poems as a new poetic enterprise after he abandoned the Lay of Leithian (the legend of Beren and Lúthien) near the end of 1931 (The Lays of Beleriand, p.304).

    These poems stand in a complex relation to their ancient sources; they are in no sense translations. Those sources themselves, various in their nature, present obscurities, contradictions, and enigmas: and the existence of these problems underlay my father’s avowed purpose in writing the ‘New Lays’.
    He scarcely ever (to my knowledge) referred to them. For my part, I cannot recollect any conversation with him on the subject until very near the end of his life, when he spoke of them to me, and tried unsuccessfully to find them. But he briefly mentioned the work in two letters to W.H. Auden. In that of 29 March 1967 (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, no.295), thanking Auden for sending his translation of the Völuspá, he said that he hoped to send him in return ‘if I can lay my hands on it (I hope it isn’t lost), a thing I did many years ago when trying to learn the art of writing alliterative poetry: an attempt to unify the lays about the Völsungs from the Elder Edda, written in the old eight-line fornyrðislag stanza’ (that being the name given to the Norse alliterative stanzaic metre used in the greater number of the ‘Eddaic’ poems, the ‘Old Lore Metre’). And in the following year, on 29 January 1968, he wrote: ‘I believe I have lying about somewhere a long unpublished poem called Völsungakviða en nýja written in fornyrðislag 8-line stanzas in English: an attempt to organise the Edda material dealing with Sigurd and Gunnar.’
    To ‘unify’, to ‘organise’, the material of the lays of the Elder Edda: that was how he put it some forty years later. To speak only of Völsungakviða en nýja, his poem, as narrative, is essentially an ordering and clarification, a bringing out of comprehensible design or structure. But always to be borne in mind are these words of his: ‘The people who wrote each of these poems [of the Edda] – not the collectors who copied and excerpted them later – wrote them as distinct individual things to be heard isolated with only the general knowledge of the story in mind.’
    It may be said, as it seems to me, that he presented his interpretation of the sources in a mode that can be received independently of the doubts and debates of ‘Eddaic’ and ‘Nibelung’ scholarship. The ‘New Lays’ themselves, elaborate poems closely modelled in manner as in metre on the ‘Eddaic’ lays, are therefore paramount; and they are presented here in plain texts without any editorial interference; all else in the book is ancillary.
    That there should be, nonetheless, so much else in the book requires some explanation. It may be felt that some account should be given of the actual nature of my father’s distinctive treatment of the legend. To provide a comprehensive account of the much discussed problems that he sought to resolve would lead all too easily to the first appearance of the ‘New Lays’ after some eighty years with a great weight of scholarly discussion hung about their necks. This is not to be thought of. But it seems to me that the publication of his poems provides an opportunity to hear the author himself, through the medium of the notes with which he prepared for his lectures, speaking (as it were) in characteristic tones on those very elements of doubt and difficulty that are found in the old narratives.
    It must also be said that his poems are not at all points easy to follow, and this arises especially from the nature of the old poems that were his models. In one of his lectures he said: ‘In Old English breadth, fullness, reflection, elegiac effect, were aimed at. Old Norse poetry aims at seizing a situation, striking a blow that will be remembered, illuminating a moment with a flash of lightning – and tends to concision, weighty packing of the language in sense and form . . .’ That ‘seizing a situation’, ‘illuminating a moment’, without clear unfolding of narrative sequence or other matters with a bearing on the ‘moment’, will be found to be a marked characteristic of the ‘New Lays’; and here some guidance may be looked for in addition to the brief prose statements that he added to some of the sections of the Völsungakviða en nýja.
    After much deliberation I have therefore provided, at the end of each poem, a commentary, which is intended to clarify references, and passages that may seem obscure; and also to point out significant departures made by my father from the Old Norse sources or between variant narratives, in such cases indicating his views, where possible, by reference to what he said in his lectures. It must be emphasized that nothing in those notes suggests that he had written, or had it in mind to write, poems on the subject himself; on the other hand, as one might expect, congruence between the views expressed in his lecture notes and the treatment of the Norse sources in his poems can often be observed.
    As a general introduction in this book to the Elder Edda I have cited at length a more finished lecture with that title; and following this I have contributed brief statements on the text of the poems, the verse-form, and some other topics. At the end of the book I have given a brief account of the origins of the legend and cited some other related verses of my father’s.
    In thus making much use of my father’s notes and draft discussions on ‘the Matter of Old Norse’, and the tragedy of the Völsungs and the Niflungs, hastily set down and unfinished as they are, I have chosen to try to make this book, as a whole, as much his work as I could achieve. Of its nature it is not to be judged by views prevailing in contemporary scholarship. It is intended rather as a presentation and record of his perceptions, in his own day, of a literature that he greatly admired.
    In the commentaries I refer to the two poems as ‘the Lay of the Völsungs’ (Völsungakviða) and ‘the Lay of Gudrún’ (Guðrúnarkviða). But in the title of the book, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, I have taken up the subordinate title that my father gave to the Völsungakviða on the opening page of the manuscript, Sigurðarkviða en mesta, ‘the Longest Lay of Sigurd’, on which see p.234.

    The sections of this book are each preceded by drawings made by Mr Bill Sanderson. These are derived closely from wood carvings that adorn the wide door-posts of the twelfth century church of Hylestad in the south of Norway, which are now preserved in the Oldsaksamlingen of the University of Oslo.
    The scenes depict in continuous vertical series on each side of the doorway the story of Sigurd’s most famous deed, which in the Lay of the Völsungs is told in section V, Regin: the slaying of the dragon Fáfnir, which gave him the name Fáfnisbani. The carvings begin with the forging of swords by Regin the smith and their testing. Then follow the slaying of Fáfnir; Sigurd tasting his blood with his finger, which enabled him to understand the voices of the birds (stanza 41 in the Lay); the slaying of Regin (stanza 45); and Sigurd’s horse Grani, famous in legend, foal of Sleipnir, the mythical horse that Ódin rode: he is shown here laden with the treasure of the dragon, although not portrayed by that artist as so huge a burden as it is in the Völsunga Saga and in the Lay (stanza 48). The continuous carving ends with a different scene: Gunnar playing the harp in Atli’s snake-pit (the Lay of Gudrún, stanza 135): in this version playing it with his feet, his hands being bound (see p.330).

    It will be seen that there is no reference in this book to the operas of Richard Wagner that are known by the general title of Der Ring des Nibelungen, or The Ring.
    For his work Wagner drew primarily on Old Norse literature. His chief sources, known to him in translation, were the lays of the Poetic Edda and the Saga of the Völsungs, as they were my father’s also. The great epic poem Das Nibelungenlied, written about the beginning of the thirteenth century in Middle High German, was not a source for Wagner’s libretti in at all the same sense as were the Norse works, though this may be superficially disguised by his use of German name-forms (Siegfried, Siegmund, Gunther, Hagen, Brünnhilde).
    But Wagner’s treatment of the Old Norse forms of the legend was less an ‘interpretation’ of the ancient literature than a new and transformative impulse, taking up elements of the old Northern conception and placing them in new relations, adapting, altering and inventing on a grand scale, according to his own taste and creative intentions. Thus the libretti of Der Ring des Nibelungen, though raised indeed on old foundations, must be seen less as a continuation or development of the long-enduring heroic legend than as a new and independent work of art, to which in spirit and purpose Völsungakviða en nýja and Guðrúnarkviða en nýja bear little relation.



    Many years ago my father referred to the words of William Morris concerning what he called ‘the Great Story of the North’, which, he insisted, should be to us ‘what the Tale of Troy was to the Greeks’, and which far in the future ‘should be to those that come after us no less than the Tale of Troy has been to us.’ On this my father observed: ‘How far off and remote sound now the words of William Morris! The Tale of Troy has been falling into oblivion since that time with surprising rapidity. But the Völsungs have not taken its place.’
    It is obviously desirable that a theme and a mode become so exotic should be ‘introduced’ in some fashion; and for this first publication of my father’s ‘Norse’ poems I have thought that it would be both interesting and suitable if such an introduction could be provided by the author rather than the editor.
    Nowhere in his Norse papers is there any reference whatsoever to the New Lays, except for a collection of four small slips of paper of unknown date on which my father hastily wrote interpretative remarks about them (they are given on pages 51–55). While of great interest in themselves they do not constitute any large view of the mode and matter of his Norse lays in an historical context; and in the absence of any such writing I have ventured to include here a substantial part of the opening lecture (with the heading General Introduction) of a series in the English Faculty at Oxford titled The ‘Elder Edda’.
    It is to be borne in mind that this is the draft and record of a spoken lecture to a small audience. No thought of publication could be remotely present. His purpose was to communicate his vision in broad clear strokes. He set the Edda forcibly within a large temporal context, and eloquently conveyed his own conception of this poetry and its place in the history of the North. In other lectures, on particular poems or specific topics, he expressed himself, of course, with caution; but here he could be bold, or even extravagant, not hedging every statement with qualifications in a subject where disagreement over doubtful evidence dogs the steps. Indeed, ‘perhaps’ and ‘probably’, ‘some hold’ and ‘it may be thought’, are notably absent from this account as he wrote it.
    My impression is that this was a relatively early writing; and he added later a number of qualifications to his original statements. There survives also an earlier and much rougher draft lecture with the title Elder Edda. This was expressly delivered to a ‘club’, unnamed; but it was the basis of the much developed lecture of which a part is given here. My father treated that first text in a characteristic manner, retaining phrases amid much rewriting and addition, and produced a new manuscript. It can hardly be doubted that the lecture in its earlier form was what he read, with that title, to the Exeter College Essay Society on 17 November 1926. But how long a time elapsed between the two texts it is impossible to say.
    It is primarily in order to hear the voice of the author of the poems presented in this book, writing (in order to speak) personally and vitally of the Poetic Edda, on which he has never been heard since he last lectured on Old Norse at Oxford some seventy years ago, that I print it here, in its later form.
    The text is rapidly written and not at all points perfectly legible, and it is here slightly edited and somewhat shortened, with a few explanations added in square brackets and a few footnotes.


    The poetry that goes by this misleading and unfortunate title attracts occasionally from afar people of various sort – philologists, historians, folklorists, and others of that kidney, but also poets, critics, and connoisseurs of new literary sensations. The philologists (in a wide sense) have as usual done most of the work, and their ardour has not more than usual (probably less than in Beowulf ) been diverted from at least intelligent appreciation of the literary value of these documents.
    It is unusually true here that a real judgement and appreciation of these poems – whose obscurity and difficulty is such that only the devoted labour of many philologists has made them available – is dependent on personal possession of a knowledge of the critical, metrical, and linguistic problems. Without the philologist, of course, we should not know what many of the words meant, how the lines ran, or what the words sounded like: this last is in old Scandinavian verse of possibly more importance even than usual. The poets expended an unusual share of their ingenuity in securing at any rate that the noise of the verse should be fine.
    It remains true, all the same, that even robbed of their peculiar and excellent form, and their own tongue whose shape and peculiarities are intimately connected with the atmosphere and ideas of the poems themselves, they have a power: moving many even in school or pre-school days in filtered forms of translation and childish adaptation to a desire for more acquaintance.
    There remains too the impact of the first hearing of these things after the preliminary struggle with Old Norse is over and one first reads an Eddaic poem getting enough of the sense to go on with. Few who have been through this process can have missed the sudden recognition that they had unawares met something of tremendous force, something that in parts (for it has various parts) is still endowed with an almost demonic energy, in spite of the ruin of its form. The feeling of this impact is one of the greatest gifts that reading of the Elder Edda gives. If not felt early in the process it is unlikely to be captured by years of scholarly thraldom; once felt it can never be buried by mountains or molehills of research, and sustains long and weary labour.
    This is unlike Old English, whose surviving fragments (Beowulf especially) – such at any rate has been my experience – only reveal their mastery and excellence slowly and long after the first labour with the tongue and the first acquaintance with the verse are over. There is truth in this generalization. It must not be pressed. Detailed study will enhance one’s feeling for the Elder Edda, of course. Old English verse has an attraction in places that is immediate. But Old English verse does not attempt to hit you in the eye. To hit you in the eye was the deliberate intention of the Norse poet.
    And so it is that the best (especially the most forcible of the heroic Eddaic poems) seem to leap across the barrier of the difficult language, and grip one in the very act of deciphering line by line.

    Let none who listen to the poets of the Elder Edda go away imagining that he has listened to voices of the Primitive Germanic forest, or that in the heroic figures he has looked upon the lineaments of his noble if savage ancestors – such as fought by, with, or against the Romans. I say this with all possible emphasis – and yet so powerful is the notion of hoary and primeval antiquity which clings to the name (quite recent) Elder Edda in popular fancy (so far as popular fancy may be said to play with so remote and unprofitable a theme at all) that, though the tale ought to begin with the seventeenth century and a learned bishop, insensibly I find myself leading off with the Stone Age.
    The Scandinavian lands, archaeology says, have been inhabited since the Stone Age (not to go into niceties of palaeo and neo). The cultural continuity has never been broken: it has been several times modified and renewed, from the South and East in the main. One seems more justified in Scandinavia – more justified than usual – in saying that most of the people now living there have always been there.
    About 400 A.D. or earlier, our inscriptional (Runic) glimpses of the Northern tongue begin. But these people, though speaking a Germanic language – it would seem in a somewhat archaic form – did not take part in the great Germanic heroic age, except by ceasing to be Scandinavian. That is: the peoples whom later we call Swedes, Gautar, Danes, etc., are descendants of people who did not go off, as a whole, into the adventure, turmoil, and disasters of that period. Many of the peoples who did go came ultimately out of Scandinavia, but they lost all connexion with it: Burgundians, Goths, Lombards.
    Echoes in the form of ‘tidings’, of strange news, and new songs imported ready-made, or made at home from the raw material of news, these peoples did receive from those now obscured and confused events. The material of tale and verse came to them – and found very different conditions in Scandinavian lands to those which produced them: above all they found no wealthy courts in the Southern sense, nor headquarters of powerful warlike forces, no great captains of hosts or kings to encourage and pay for poetic composition. And more, they found a different local store of mythology and stories of local heroes and sea-captains. The local legends and the local myths were modified, but they remained Scandinavian, and they could not if we had them, and still less can the tattered fragments of later disjointed memories of them, be taken as a compensation for the loss of nearly all that belonged to more southerly Germania, least of all as the virtual equivalent of those vanished things. Related they were, but they were different.
    Then the matter became confused further by the development of a private Scandinavian heroic age – the so-called Viking age, after 700 A.D. The stay-at-homes took to ranging all over the earth – but without losing hold on their ancient lands and seas. Though courtly conditions then arose, epic poetry never developed in those lands. The reasons are little understood – the answers to most really pertinent questions are seldom given – and at any rate we must here rest content with the fact. The causes may be sought in the temper of the times and of the people, and of their language which was the reflexion of them. It was not until relatively late that ‘kings’ in the North were rich enough or powerful enough to hold splendid court, and when this did come about the development was different – verse developed its local brief, pithy, strophic [i.e. stanzaic], often dramatic form not into epic, but into the astonishing and euphonious but formal elaborations of Skaldic verse [see pp.34–37]. In the Eddaic verse it is seen ‘undeveloped’ (if ‘strophic’ verse could ever anywhere at any time ‘develop’ into epic by insensible gradations, without a break, a leap, a deliberate effort) – undeveloped that is on the formal side, though strengthened and pruned. But even here the ‘strophic’ form – the selection of the dramatic and forcible moment – is what we find, not the slow unfolding of an epic theme.
    The latter, so far as represented, was accomplished in prose. In Iceland, a Norwegian colony, there grew up the unique technique of the saga, the prose tale. This was chiefly a tale of everyday life; it was frequently the last word in sophisticated polish, and its natural field was not legend. This of course is due to the temper and taste of the audience rather than the actual meaning of the word – merely something said or told and not sung, and so ‘saga’ was also naturally applied to such things as the partly romanticized Völsunga Saga, which is quite unlike a typical Icelandic saga. To Norse use the Gospels or Acts of the Apostles are a ‘saga’.
    But in Norway at the time we are looking at Iceland was not founded, and there was no great king’s court at all. Then Harald Fairhair arose and subdued that proud land of many stubborn chiefs and independent householders – only to lose many of the best and proudest in the process, in war or in the exodus to Iceland. In the first sixty years or so of that colonization some 50,000 came to that island from Norway, either direct or from Ireland and the British Isles. Nonetheless in Harald Fairhair’s court began the flourishing time of Norse verse to which Eddaic poetry belongs.
    This Norwegian poetry, then, is founded on ancient indigenous mythology and religious beliefs, going back heaven knows how far, or where; legends and folk-tales and heroic stories of many centuries telescoped together, some local and prehistoric, some echoes of movements in the South, some local and of the Viking age or later – but the disentanglement of the various strata in it would require for success an understanding of the mystery of the North, so long hidden from view, and a knowledge of the history of its populations and culture, that we are never likely to possess.
    In form – and therefore probably also in some of its older content – it is related to other Germanic things. Of course it is in a Germanic language; but its older metres are closely connected with, say, Old English metre; more – it has formulas, half-lines, not to speak of names, and allusions to places and persons and legends, actually current independently in Old English: that is, it is a descendant of a common Germanic verse and tradition of verse which now escapes us: of neither the themes of this old Baltic verse nor its style have we anything left save the suggestions afforded by the comparison of Norse and English.
    But this form in the Edda remained simpler, more direct (compensating for length, fullness, richness by force), than that developed, say, in England. Of course, it is true that however much we emphasize the Norwegian character and atmosphere of these poems it is not free from importation. Actually imported themes – such as pre-eminently the Völsung and Burgundian and Hun stories – not only acquired a leading place in the Edda, but may even be said to have received in exile their finest treatment. But this is because they were so thoroughly naturalized and Norwegianized: the very uprooting had set the tales free for artistic handling unhampered by history or antiquarianism, for recolouring by Northern imagination, and association with the looming figures of the Northern gods.
    The only really important modification one must make is in favour of the Goths – difficult as it is to decipher the hints that survive the ages, it is clear that these people of Scandinavian origin but whom fate had marked out for a special history and tragedy were followed step by step by the people of the North, and became with their enemies the Huns the chief themes of poets – so much so that in later days gotar remained as a poetic word for ‘warriors’, when the old tales were overlaid and mingled with other matters. From the Goths came the runes, and from the Goths came (it would appear) Óðinn (Gautr), the god of runic wisdom, of kings, of sacrifice. And he is really important – for the astonishing fact that he is clearly un-Scandinavian in origin cannot alter the fact that he became the greatest of the Northern gods.
    This is a sort of picture of the development. This popular local verse of intricate origin was then suddenly lifted up by the tide of Viking wealth and glory to adorn the houses of kings and jarls. It was pruned and improved, doubtless, in style and manners, made more dignified (usually), but it retained in a unique fashion the simpler pithier temper, a nearness to the soil and to ordinary life, which are seldom found in so close a connexion with the graces of ‘court’ – that is the mastery of the deliberate and leisured artist, even occasionally the pedantry of the genealogist and philologist. But this is in keeping with what we know of the kings of that court and their men.
    It must be remembered that the time was a heathen one – still in possession of special, local pagan traditions which had long been isolated; of organized temples and priesthoods. But ‘belief’ was already failing, mythology and still more anything that could be more properly called ‘religion’ were already disintegrating without direct attack from outside – or perhaps better put, without conquest or conversion and without destruction of temples and pagan organization, for the influence of foreign ideas, and of the sudden rending of the veil over the North (rent by men from within) cannot be dismissed. This was a special transition-period – one of poise between old and new, and one inevitably brief and not long to be maintained.
    To a large extent the spirit of these poems which has been regarded as (a branch of) the common ‘Germanic spirit’ – in which there is some truth: Byrhtwold at Maldon would do well enough in Edda or Saga – is really the spirit of a special time. It might be called Godlessness – reliance upon self and upon indomitable will. Not without significance is the epithet applied to actual characters living at this moment of history – the epithet goðlauss, with the explanation that their creed was at trúa á mátt sín ok megin [‘to trust in one’s own might and main’]. [Author’s note, added later: Yet on the reverse it must be remembered that this was applied only to certain commanding and ruthless characters, and would not in any case have been worth saying if many (indeed the bulk of) men had not remained believers and practitioners of pagan worship.]
    This applies more to the heroic, of course, than the mythological. But it is not untrue of the mythological. Such tales of gods are of a kind that can well survive to a time when they are rather the themes of tales than the objects of cults, but yet to a time which has not replaced the gods by anything new, and is still familiar with them and interested in them. Nor of course was blót [heathen sacrificial feast] given up. Heathenism was still very strong, though in Sweden rather than in Norway. It had not suffered that uprooting from ancient fanes [temples] and local habitations that is so fatal to it – as it proved in England.
    The end of the period began with the violent apostolate of that great heathen figure and hero of the North – the christianizing king Ólaf Tryggvason. After his fall, and the fall of many of the greatest men through him or with him, there was a relapse into heathendom. But this was quickly ended by the no less vigorous but far wiser christianizing efforts of Ólaf the Holy, which at the time when Edward the Confessor was reigning in England left Norway completely christianized, and the heathen tradition destroyed.
    The tenacity and conservatism of the North, however, can be measured not only by the efforts which had to be made by such great figures as the Ólafs, but in other smaller ways: such as the survival of the runes, so closely if accidentally associated with pagan traditions, even after the North had learned to write in Latin fashion. This happened chiefly in Sweden, but all over Scandinavia runes remained in use (through direct tradition, not revival) for such things as memorial inscriptions down to the sixteenth century.
    Nonetheless, after 1050, certainly after 1100, poetry dependent on the heathen tradition was in old Scandinavia moribund or dead – and this means Skaldic verse whatever its subject, quite as much as lays actually dealing with myths, for the Skaldic verse and language depended upon a knowledge of these myths in writer and hearer, both of whom were normally what we should call aristocratic – nobles, kings and courtiers after the Northern fashion.
    In Iceland it survived for some time. There the change over (about the year 1000) had been rather more peaceful and less embittered (a fact probably not unconnected with removal and colonization). In fact poetry became a profitable export industry of Iceland for a while; and in Iceland alone was anything ever collected or written down. But the old knowledge swiftly decayed. The fragments, much disjointed, were again collected – but in an antiquarian and philological revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Perhaps it would be more true to say, not antiquarian revival, but kindly burial. This was a new piety which pieced the fragments together without completely understanding them: indeed we often feel we understand them better. Certainly the old religion and its attendant mythology as a connected whole or anything like a ‘system’ (if it ever possessed one, as is, within limits, probable) has not been preserved at all, and was certainly not within the reach of the great prose artist, metrical expert, antiquarian and ruthless politician Snorri Sturluson in the thirteenth century. How much is lost can be appreciated by anyone who reflects how little we know now of even the major details of the extremely important temples and their ‘cultus’ and the priestly organization in Sweden or in Norway.
    The ‘Younger Edda’ or ‘Prose Edda’ of Snorri Sturluson was a pious collection of fragments – to help in the understanding and making of verse which needed a knowledge of myths – when gentle, even tolerant and ironic, learning had supervened upon the struggle between religions.
    After that the gods and heroes go down into their Ragnarök,* vanquished, not by the World-girdling serpent or Fenris-wolf, or the fiery men of Múspellsheim, but by Marie de France, and sermons, medieval Latin and useful information, and the small change of French courtesy.

    Yet the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, at the darkest hour, saw a resurrection after Ragnarök, almost as if there were fulfilled in it the words which the Völva [the sibyl who prophesies in the Eddaic poem Völuspá] speaks concerning the rearising of a new earth, and the return of men and gods to find and marvel at the golden pieces in the grass where once were the halls in which the gods had played at chess [see the tenth verse of the poem The Prophecy of the Sibyl given in Appendix B].
    The discovery of the fallen pieces of the old splendour was often accidental, and the research which led to the recovery proceeded from various motives. In England theological zeal was powerfully blended with the historical and linguistic curiosity which it begot by accident. In the North this was not so. But whatever the motives the result was not only the rescue from the wreck of time of such fragments as we have, but swift recognition of their virtue, and regret for the loss of more. This was specially so with the ‘Edda’.
    The salvage from the ruins left by natural losses, accidents of time, the heedlessness and forgetfulness of men, and the ravages of war and fanaticism (whether theological or classical) was scanty. Nonetheless the eighteenth century seems to have marked its disapproval of these ‘Gothic’ bones dug from their graves by two fires which contrived to destroy some part of what had been saved, and narrowly missed destroying all the best. In 1728 in the fire at Copenhagen much of what had there been collected went up in smoke. Three years later the Cotton collection in London was partly burnt. Beowulf was scorched badly. But it escaped, just – for the embarrassment of later Schools of English. At Copenhagen the finder’s own parchment transcript of the manuscript of the Elder Edda seems to have been among the losses. Lost it is at any rate. But the manuscript itself survived. Yet the gods and heroes nearly found a final and fatal Ragnarök, which would have left our knowledge and estimate of northern literature in a totally different state.

    When the ‘Elder Edda’ is mentioned, we practically mean a single manuscript – no. 2365 4° in the Royal Collection in Copenhagen: now known as the Codex Regius (of the Elder Edda). It contains 29 poems. There are 45 leaves of it left. After leaf 32 a gathering, probably of eight pages, has been lost.* There appear to have been no losses at beginning and end – where losses frequently occur.

    This is all we know about this remarkable survivor of time, fire, and flood. In 1662 King Frederick III of Denmark sent the well-known Thormod Torfæus with an open letter to the celebrated Brynjólfr Sveinsson. Since 1639 Brynjólfr had been bishop of Skálaholt in Iceland, and had been a keen collector of manuscripts. Torfæus was commissioned to get his help in collecting for the king materials for ancient history, and any antiquities, curiosities, or rarities that could be found in Iceland. In 1663 the bishop sent the choicest of his collection to the king. Among these now priceless treasures was the Codex Regius. Where the bishop had found it, or what was its previous history is unknown, except that he had picked it up twenty years earlier: for on the front page he had written his monogram and a date (LL 1643, i.e. Lupus Loricatus = Brynjólfr), just as we should scrawl our name and a date on a new and interesting acquisition from a second-hand bookshop.
    Two hundred and fifty years have followed* – of examining, puzzling, construing, etymologizing, analysis, theorizing, arguing and sifting argument, of asserting and refuting, until, short as are its contents, Eddaic ‘literature’ has become a land and a desert in itself. From all this study, amidst a vast disagreement, certain things have reached, more or less, the stage of authoritative consensus of opinion.
    We now know, at any rate, that this collection of poems should not be called Edda at all. This is a perpetuation of an act of baptism on the part of the bishop in which he acted ultra vires. The collection had no comprehensive title at all so far as we know or the manuscript shows. Edda is the title of one of the works of Snorri Sturluson (died 1241), a work founded on these very poems, and others now lost like them, and it is the title of that work only, by rights; a work which is concerned primarily, even in the earlier parts which are cast in narrative or dialogue form, with the technicalities of Northern poetry, which for us it rescued from oblivion. The name is therefore quite inapplicable to a collection of actual antique poems, collected largely for their merits as verse, not as exemplars of a craft.
    Beyond this we can say little about the manuscript. It appears that the Codex Regius belongs palaeographically to say about 1270 (early in the latter half of the thirteenth century), and is itself apparently a copy of an original belonging to 1200 (some say earlier). It belongs in fact actually as we have it to a period thirty years after the death of Snorri; but even if it were not a fact that Snorri used these very poems substantially as we have them, it is clear enough internally that the matter, the manner, and the language of the poems entitles them to the name ‘Elder’.
    As for when they were written, we have no information other than an examination of the poems themselves will yield. Naturally the datings differ, especially in the case of individual poems. None of them, in point of original composition, are likely to be much older than 900 A.D. As a kind of central period which cannot possibly be extended in either direction we can say 850–1050 A.D. These limits cannot be stretched – least of all backwards. Nothing of them can have been cast into the form we know (or rather into the forms of which our manuscript offers us often a corrupt descendant), except for occasional lines, allusions, or phrases, before 800. Doubtless they were afterwards corrupted orally and scribally – and even altered: I mean that in addition to mere corruption producing either nonsense, or at least ill-scanning lines, there were actual variants current. But in the main these things were the products of individual authors, who, whatever they used of old tradition, even older poems, wrote new things which had not before existed.
    The antiquity and origin of the mythology and legends met in the poems is another matter. In general it is not really so important to criticism (however attractive to curiosity) to know what answers can be made to this sort of question, as it is to remember that wherever they got their material the authors lived in the last centuries of heathenism in Norway and Iceland, and treated their material in the style and spirit of those lands and times. Even formal etymology has seldom much to say, attractive though I personally find it. Even when, as often happens, we can equate a name with its form in other Germanic languages it does not tell us much. Thus Jörmunrekkr is Ermanaríks, and his name an echo of the history of the Goths, their power and ruin [see pp.322–23, note to stanza 86]; Gunnarr is Gundahari, and his story an echo of events in Germany in the fifth century [see Appendix A, pp.337–39]. But this does not tell us much of the state in which these tales first reached the North, or the paths (certainly various) they came by. And still less does it help us to unravel the literary problems concerning the various treatment of the Burgundian theme in Scandinavia.
    But intriguing as all this questioning is, we may end on the note we struck before: it is not of the first importance. Far more important than the names of the figures, or the origins of the details of the story (except where this helps us to understand what is unintelligible or to rescue a text from corruption) is the atmosphere, colouring, style. These are products only in a very small degree of the origin of the themes: they chiefly reflect the age and country in which the poems were composed. And we shall not be far wrong in taking the mountains and fjords of Norway, and the life of small communities in that disconnected land, as the physical and social background of these poems – a life of a special sort of agriculture, combined with adventurous sea-faring and fishery. And the time: days of the fading of a special, individual, pagan culture, not elaborate materially, but in many ways highly civilized, a culture which had possessed not only (in some degree) an organized religion, but a store of partly organized and systematized legends and poetry. Days of a fading of belief, when in a sudden changing of the world the South went up in flames, and its plunder enriched the wooden halls of the Norse chieftains till they shone with gold. Then came Harald Fairhair, and a great kingship, and a court, and the colonization of Iceland (as an incident in a vast series of adventures), and the ruinous wars of Ólaf Tryggvason, and the dying down of the flame, into the gentle smoulder of the Middle Ages, taxes and trade-regulations, and the jog-trot of pigs and herrings.

    It may be that it was with that characteristic flourish that my father ended this lecture; at any rate (though the manuscript text continues, and soon turns to a consideration of individual poems) it seems a good place to end it here.

    I append here a number of notes and brief statements on various topics that are best treated separately, as follows.
    §1 The ‘Prose Edda’ of Snorri Sturluson
    §2 The Saga of the Völsungs (Völsunga Saga)
    §3 The text of the poems
    §4 The spelling of Norse names
    §5 The verse-form of the poems
    §6 Notes on the poems by the author

    The name Edda properly belongs only to a celebrated work by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241). This is a treatise on the distinctive art of Icelandic poetry which in Snorri’s day was dying out: the old metrical rules disregarded, the old mythological knowledge essential to it attacked by a clergy hostile to any survival of heathendom. This book, in its three parts, is a retelling in prose narrative of ancient myths and legends; an account of, and explanation of, the strange diction of the old ‘court poetry’; and exemplification of its verse-forms.
    In my father’s lecture (p.29) he noted that the application of the name Edda by Bishop Brynjólf of Skálaholt to the poems of the great Codex that he acquired in 1643 was without historical justification. In Brynjólf’s time it had come to be supposed among Icelanders interested in the ancient literature that there must have been ‘an older Edda’ from which Snorri’s work was derived. Brynjólf himself wrote in a letter in 1641, before he knew of the existence of the Codex: ‘Where now are those huge treasuries of all human knowledge written by Sæmund the Wise, and above all that most noble Edda, of which we possess now, beyond the name, scarcely a thousandth part; and that indeed which we do possess would have been utterly lost, had not the epitome of Snorri Sturluson left to us rather the shadow and footprints than the true body of that ancient Edda.’
    Sæmund the Wise (1056–1133) was a priest whose prodigious learning became a legend, but for the title Sæmundar Edda that Brynjólf gave to the Codex there was no foundation. Thus arose the conception of the two Eddas, the Poetic or Elder Edda and the Prose or Younger Edda. Why Snorri’s work was named Edda is not known, but there have been several explanations: by some it is related to the word óðr in the sense ‘poem, poetry’, as if it meant ‘Poetics’, by others derived from the place Oddi in south-west Iceland, a centre of Icelandic learning where Snorri grew up.
    From the ‘Poetic Edda’ emerged the adjective Eddaic (and Eddic), used in contrast to Skaldic (a modern derivative from the Old Norse word skáld meaning ‘poet’). Of Skaldic verse my father wrote in his lecture on the Elder Edda (p.20): ‘It was not until relatively late that “kings” in the North were rich enough or powerful enough to hold splendid court, and when this did come about . . . verse developed its local brief, pithy, strophic, often dramatic form not into epic, but into the astonishing and euphonious but formal elaborations of Skaldic verse.’ This ‘court poetry’, as it may also be called, was an extraordinarily intricate and distinctive art, with extreme elaboration of verse-forms subject to rules of exacting strictness: ‘elaborations’, in my father’s words, ‘in which various kinds of internal and final full-rhyme and half-rhyme both vocalic and consonantal are interwoven with the principles of “weight” and stress and alliteration, with the deliberate object of utilizing to the full the vigour, force and rolling beat of the Norse tongue.’ To which must be added the huge poetic vocabulary, and the extraordinary cultivation (described below) of the device of the ‘kenning’.
    ‘To us,’ he wrote, ‘thinking of the Elder Edda, “Eddaic” means the simpler, more straightforward language of the heroic and mythological verse, in contrast to the artificial language of the Skalds. And usually this contrast is thought of as one of age as well: old simplicity of good old Germanic days, unhappily given up in a new taste for poetry become an elaborate riddle.
    ‘But the opposition between “Eddaic” and “Skaldic” verse is quite unreal as one of time, as between older and younger, as of a fine old popular manner being pushed out by a younger, newer fashion. They are related growths, branches on the same tree, essentially connected, even possibly sometimes by the same hands. Skalds can be found to write in fornyrðislag, the oldest of old metres; Skaldic kennings can be found in Eddaic lays.
    ‘All that remains true of this contrast of age is the fact that the simpler metres, e.g. fornyrðislag and the style that goes with it, are far older, much closer, for instance, to other Germanic things, to Old English verse, than the specially Skaldic verse and manner. The Eddaic poems we have belong to the same period as Skaldic, but the metrical traditions and style they employ carries on still, without fundamental alteration, something of the common Germanic tradition. Old and new in metre rubbed shoulders – it was as we have seen already a transition period, a period of poise between old and new, not maintainable for long [see p.23].’
    It is the highly artificial Skaldic poetry that is the subject of Snorri’s instruction in his Edda, and indeed by far the greater part of what survives of it owes its survival to him. In the second part of the book, Skáldskaparmál (‘Poetic Diction’), he treats above all of kennings, with a great number of exemplifying verses by named skalds: but very many of these kennings are wholly incomprehensible without a knowledge of the myths and legends to which they allude – and such themes are not characteristically the subject of the Skaldic poems themselves. In the first part of the Edda (the Gylfaginning) Snorri drew extensively on Eddaic poetry; and in the Skáldskaparmál also he told the stories on which certain kennings rest. The following is a single example.

    Hvernig skal kenna gull? How shall gold be named?
    Thus: by calling it the Fire of Ægir; the Pine-needles of Glasir; the Hair of Síf; the Head-band of Fulla; Freyja’s Tears; the Drop, or Rain, or Shower of Draupnir [Ódin’s gold ring, from which dropped other rings]; Otter’s Ransom; Forced Payment of the Æsir; . . .
    Following such a list as this, Snorri gave explanations of these locutions.

    Hver er sök til þess, at gull er kallat otrgjöld? What is the reason that gold is called Otter’s ransom?
    It is told that when the Æsir, Ódin and Loki and Hœnir, went out to explore the world they came to a certain river, and they went along the river to a waterfall; and by the waterfall was an otter . . .
    And thus it is that we have the story of Andvari’s Gold told both by the author of the Völsunga Saga and by Snorri Sturluson (see the Commentary on the Lay of the Völsungs, pp.188–91); but indeed Snorri here continued his narrative into a résumé of the whole history of the Völsungs.

    It remains to add that the celebrity of Snorri’s book in the centuries that followed, and most especially of the Skáldskaparmál, led, before the emergence of the Codex Regius, to the term Edda being widely used to mean, expressly, the technical rules of the old ‘court’ poetry, or ‘Skaldic’ verse. In those days poets complained of the tyranny of Edda, or offered apologies for their lack of proficiency in the art of Edda. In the words of Gudbrand Vigfússon: ‘An untaught poet who called a spade a spade, instead of describing it by a mythological circumlocution, would be scouted as “Eddaless”’ (Eddu-lauss, ‘having no Eddaic art’). Thus the term ‘Eddaic’, as now used, in opposition to ‘Skaldic’, is a perfect reversal of its former meaning.

    Völsunga Saga
    The Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda is a collection of poems of great diversity, composed by poets who lived centuries apart; but it was compiled and ordered with intelligent care. Most of the heroic poems are concerned with the story of the Völsungs and the Niflungs; and these the compiler of the collection arranged, so far as the diverse structure and scope of the individual lays allowed him, in a narrative sequence, adding explanatory passages in prose at the beginning and end of many of the lays, and narrative links in the course of them.
    But much of the material thus arranged is of the utmost difficulty. Poems are disordered or defective, or even patchworks of different origin altogether, and there are very many obscurities of detail; while worst of all, the fifth gathering of the Codex Regius disappeared long ago (see p.28), with the loss of all Eddaic poetry for the central part of the legend of Sigurd.

    In this situation, there is an essential aid to the understanding of the Northern legend. This is the Völsunga Saga, written, probably in Iceland, in the thirteenth century, though the oldest manuscript is much later: a prose tale of the fate of the whole Völsung race from the far ancestry of Sigmund, father of Sigurd, and continuing on to the fall of the Niflungs and the death of Atli (Attila) and beyond. It is founded both on Eddaic lays that survive and other sources now lost; and ‘it is solely from the lays that it has used,’ my father said in a lecture, ‘that it derives its power and the attraction that it has for all those who come to it,’ for he did not hold the author’s artistic capacity in high regard.
    This author was faced with wholly divergent traditions (seen in the preserved Eddaic lays) concerning Sigurd and Brynhild: stories that cannot be combined, for they are essentially contradictory. Yet he combined them; and in doing so produced a narrative that is certainly mysterious, but (in its central point) unsatisfying: as it were a puzzle that is presented as completed but in which the looked for design is incomprehensible and at odds with itself.
    In the commentary that follows each poem in this book I have noticed many features in which my father departed from the Völsunga Saga narrative, more especially in the case of his Lay of the Völsungs, where the Saga is of much greater importance as a source. He seems not to have set down any critical account of the Saga as a whole, or if he did it has not survived; but comments of his on the author’s work in individual passages will be found in the commentary (see pp.208–11, 221, 244–45).

    It is at once obvious that the manuscript of the two lays is a fair copy intended to be final, for my father’s handwriting is clear and uniform throughout, with scarcely any corrections made at the time of writing (and of very few of his manuscripts, however ‘final’ in intention, can that be said). While it cannot be shown to be the case, there is at any rate no indication that the two poems were not written out consecutively.
    It is a remarkable fact that no more than a few pages survive of work on the poems preceding the final text, and those pages relate exclusively to the opening (Upphaf, the Beginning) of Völsungakviða en nýja, to section I ‘Andvari’s Gold’, and to a small part of section II, ‘Signý’. Beyond this point there is no trace of any earlier drafting whatsoever; but the earlier manuscript material is interesting, and I have discussed it in a note on p.246–49.

    The final manuscript of the poems did however itself undergo correction at some later time. By a rough count there are some eighty to ninety emendations scattered through the two texts, from changes of a single word to (but rarely) the substitution of several half-lines; some lines are marked for alteration but without any replacement provided.
    The corrections are written rapidly and often indistinctly in pencil, and all are concerned with vocabulary and metre, not with the substance of the narrative. I have the impression that my father read through the text many years later (the fact that a couple of the corrections are in red ball-point pen points to a late date) and quickly emended points that struck him as he went – perhaps with a view to possible publication, though I know of no evidence that he ever actually proposed it.
    I have taken up virtually all these late corrections into the text given in this book.

    There are two notable differences in the presentation of Völsungakviða en nýja and Guðrúnarkviða en nýja in the manuscript. One concerns the actual organization of the poem. The Lay of the Völsungs following the opening section Upphaf (‘Beginning’) is divided into nine sections, to which my father gave titles in Norse without translation, as follows:

    Andvara-gull [Andvari’s gold]
    Dauði Sinfjötla [The Death of Sinfjötli]
    Fœddr Sigurðr [Sigurd born]
    Svikin Brynhildr [Brynhild Betrayed]
    Deild [Strife]
    I have retained these titles in the text, but added translations, as above, to those which are not simply proper names. In the Lay of Gudrún, on the other hand, there is no division into sections.
    To sections I, II, V, and VI in the Lay of the Völsungs, but not to the other five, explanatory prose head-notes are added (perhaps in imitation of the prose notes inserted by the compiler of the Codex Regius of the Edda).
    The marginal indications of the speakers in both poems are given exactly as they appear in the manuscript, as also are the indications of new ‘moments’ in the narrative.
    The second difference in presentation between the two poems concerns the line-divisions. In Upphaf, alone of the sections of the Lay of the Völsungs, but throughout the Lay of Gudrún, the stanzas are written in eight short lines: that is to say, the unit of the verse, the half-line or vísuorð, is written separately:

    Of old was an age

    when was emptiness
    (the opening of Upphaf ). But apart from Upphaf the whole of the Lay of the Völsungs is written in long lines (without a metrical space between the halves):

    Of old was an age when Ódin walked
    (the opening of Andvara-gull ). At the top of this page, however, my father wrote in pencil: ‘This should all be written in short line form, which looks better – as in Upphaf .’ I have therefore set out the text of the Lay of the Völsungs in this way.

    I have thought it best to follow closely my father’s usage in respect of the writing of Norse names in an English context. The most important features, which appear in his manuscript of the poems with great consistency, are these:
    The sound ð of voiced ‘th’ as in English ‘then’ is replaced by d: thus Guðrún becomes Gudrún, Hreiðmarr becomes Hreidmar, Buðli becomes Budli, Ásgarðr becomes Ásgard.
    As two of these examples show, the nominative ending -r is omitted: so also Frey, Völsung, Brynhild, Gunnar for Freyr, Völsungr, Brynhildr, Gunnarr.
    The letter j is retained, as in Sinfjötli, Gjúki, where it is pronounced like English ‘y’ in ‘you’ (Norse Jórk is ‘York’).

    The only case where I have imposed consistency is that of the name of the god who in Norse is Óðinn. In his lecture notes my father naturally used the Norse form (which I have retained in the text of his lecture on the ‘Elder Edda’, p.22). In the carefully written manuscript of the ‘New Lays’, on the other hand, he ‘anglicized’ it, changing ð to d, but (as generally in all such cases) retaining the acute accent indicating a long vowel. But he used two forms, favouring one or the other in different parts of the Lay of the Völsungs: Ódin and Ódinn. But in section VI, Brynhildr, where the name occurs frequently in the form Ódinn, he wrote (stanza 8) Ódinn bound me, Ódin’s chosen. This is because in the Norse genitive nn changes to ns: Óðins sonr, ‘son of Ódin’.
    Seeing that in section VIII, stanza 5, where the name is repeated, Ódin dooms it; Ódinn hearken!, my father later struck out the second n of Ódinn, and since it seems to me that inconsistency in the form of the name serves no purpose, I have settled for Ódin. In the case of the name that is in Norse Reginn my father wrote Regin throughout, and I have followed this.

    The metrical form of these Lays was very evidently a primary element in my father’s purpose. As he said in his letters to W.H. Auden, he wrote in ‘the old eight-line fornyrðislag stanza’, and I give here an abbreviated account of its nature.
    There are three metres found in the Eddaic poems, fornyrðislag, malaháttr, and ljóðaháttr (on this last see the note to the Lay of the Völsungs, section V, lines 42–44, pp.211–13); but here we need only consider the first, in which most of the narrative poems of the Edda are composed. The name fornyrðislag is believed to mean ‘Old Story Metre’ or ‘Old Lore Metre’ – a name which, my father observed, cannot have arisen until after later elaborations had been invented and made familiar; he favoured the view that the older name was kviðuháttr, meaning ‘the “manner” for poems named kviða’, since the old poems in fornyrðislag, when their names have any metrical import, are usually called ~kviða: hence his names Völsungakviða and Guðrúnarkviða.
    The ancient Germanic metre depended, in my father’s words, on ‘the utilization of the main factors of Germanic speech, length and stress’; and the same rhythmical structure as is found in Old English verse is found also in fornyrðislag. That structure was expounded by my father in a preface to the revised edition (1940) of the translation of Beowulf by J.R. Clark-Hall, and reprinted in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983). In that account he defined the nature of the Old English verse-structure in these words.

    The Old English line was composed of two opposed word-groups or ‘halves’. Each half was an example, or variation, of one of six basic patterns.
    The patterns were made of strong and weak elements, which may be called ‘lifts’ and ‘dips’. The standard lift was a long stressed syllable, (usually with a relatively high tone). The standard dip was an unstressed syllable, long or short, with a low tone.
    The following are examples in modern English of normal forms of the six patterns:


    A, B, C have equal feet, each containing a lift and dip. D and E have unequal feet: one consists of a single lift, the other has a subordinate stress (marked `) inserted.

    These are the normal patterns of four elements into which Old English words naturally fell, and into which modern English words still fall. They can be found in any passage of prose, ancient or modern. Verse of this kind differs from prose, not in re-arranging words to fit a special rhythm, repeated or varied in successive lines, but in choosing the simpler and more compact word-patterns and clearing away extraneous matter, so that these patterns stand opposed to one another.
    The selected patterns were all of approximately equal metrical weight* : the effect of loudness (combined with length and voice-pitch), as judged by the ear in conjunction with emotional and logical significance†. The line was thus essentially a balance of two equivalent blocks. These blocks might be, and usually were, of different pattern and rhythm. There was in consequence no common tune or rhythm shared by lines in virtue of being ‘in the same metre’. The ear should not listen for any such thing, but should attend to the shape and balance of the halves. Thus the róaring séa rólling lándward is not metrical because it contains an ‘iambic’ or a ‘trochaic’ rhythm, but because it is a balance of B + A.
    These patterns are found also in fornyrðislag, and can be readily identified in my father’s Norse lays: as for example in stanza 45 of the Lay of Gudrún (p.268), lines 2–6:

    rúnes of héaling
    D (
    wórds wéll-gràven
    on wóod to réad
    fást bìds us fáre
    to féast gládly
    In the variations on the ‘basic patterns’ (‘overweighting’, ‘extension’, etc.) described in my father’s account there are indeed differences in Old Norse from Old English, tending to greater brevity; but I will enter only into the most radical and important difference between the verse-forms, namely, that all Norse poetry is ‘strophic’, or ‘stanzaic’, that is, composed in strophes or stanzas. This is in the most marked contrast to Old English, where any such arrangements were altogether avoided; and my father wrote of it (see p.7): ‘In Old English breadth, fullness, reflection, elegiac effect, were aimed at. Old Norse aims at seizing a situation, striking a blow that will be remembered, illuminating a moment with a flash of lightning – and tends to concision, weighty packing of the language in sense and form, and gradually to greater regularity of form of verse.’
    ‘The norm of the strophe (for fornyrðislag),’ he said, ‘is four lines (eight half-lines) with a complete pause at the end, and also a pause (not necessarily so marked) at the end of the fourth half-line. But, at least as preserved, the texts in the manuscripts do not work out regularly on this plan, and great shufflement and lacuna-making has gone on among editors (so that one can never tell to a strophe or two what references refer to in different editions).’
    Noting that this variability in the length of the strophes occurs in some of the earlier and least corrupt texts, and that ‘Völundarkviða, undoubtedly an ancient poem, is particularly irregular and particularly plagued by editors (who are much more daring and wilful in Old Norse than in Old English)’, he accepted the view that, in the main, this freedom should be seen as an archaic feature. ‘The strict strophe had not fully developed, any more than the strict line limited syllabically’; in other words, the strophic form was a Norse innovation, and developed only gradually.
    In my father’s Lays the strophic form is entirely regular, and the half-line tends to brevity and limitation of syllables.

    Old Norse poetry follows precisely the same principles in the matter of ‘alliteration’ as does Old English poetry. Those principles were formulated thus by my father in his account of Old English metre cited earlier.
    One full lift in each half-line must alliterate. The ‘key alliteration’ was borne by the first lift in the second half. (This sound was called by Snorri Sturluson höfuðstafr, whence the term ‘head-stave’ used in English books.) With the head-stave the stronger lift in the first half-line must alliterate, and both lifts may do so. In the second half-line the second lift must not alliterate.
    Thus, in the opening section of the Lay of the Völsungs, Upphaf, in the thirteenth stanza, lines 5–6, the deep Dragon / shall be doom of Thór, the d of doom is the head-stave, while in Snorri’s terminology the d of deep and Dragon are the stuðlar, the props or supports. The Th of Thór, the second lift of the second half-line, does not alliterate. It will be seen that in Upphaf both lifts of the first half do in fact alliterate with the head-stave in the majority of cases.
    It is important to recognize that in Germanic verse ‘alliteration’ refers, not to letters, but to sounds; it is the agreement of the stressed elements beginning with the same consonant, or with no consonant: all vowels ‘alliterate’ with one another, as in the opening line of Upphaf, Of old was an age / when was emptiness. In English the phonetic agreement is often disguised to the eye by the spelling: thus in the same stanza, where lines 5–6 alliterate on ‘r’, unwrought was Earth, / unroofed was Heaven; or in stanza 8 of section IV of the Lay of the Völsungs, where lines 1–2 alliterate on the sound ‘w’: A warrior strange, / one-eyed, awful.
    The consonant-combinations sk, sp, and st will usually only alliterate with themselves; thus in the Lay of the Völsungs section IV, stanza 9, lines 3–4, the sword of Grímnir /singing splintered does not show alliteration on both lifts of the second half-line, nor does section V, stanza 24, line 3–4, was sired this horse, / swiftest, strongest.

    Together with the manuscript of the New Lays were placed some small slips of paper on which my father made some interpretative remarks about them. They were written very rapidly in ink or in pencil, and in the case of (iv) in pencil overwritten and added to in ink, clearly at the same time. It seems impossible to put any even relative date on them; a sense of distance and detachment may be artificial.


    After the mythical introduction and the account of the Hoard, the Lay turns to the Völsung-family, and traces the history of Völsung, Sigmund, and Sigurd. The chief part is the tragedy of Sigurd and Brynhild, which is of interest for itself; but the whole is given unity as a study of the way in which a wilful deed of Loki, the purposeless slaying of Otr, and his ruthless method of extricating Ódin and himself from the peril into which this deed has brought them sets in motion a curse that at the last brings Sigurd to his death.
    The full working of this curse is only hastened by Ódin’s own interventions – to provide Sigurd with horse and weapon fit for his task, and to provide him with a fit bride, the fairest of all Ódin’s Valkyries, Brynhild. (It appears that Ódin purposes through Sigurd to punish the family of Hreidmar (Fáfnir and Regin) for the exaction of the ransom of Otr.) In the story of Sigurd
    Here this text breaks off.


    Grímhild, wife of Gjúki King of the Burgundians (or Niflungs), is the chief agent of evil, not because of any farsighted plans of wickedness: she is rather an example of that wickedness that looks only to each situation as it occurs, and sticks at nothing to gain from it what seems immediately profitable. She is ‘grey with wisdom’ being a witch in lore and still more skilled in the reading of minds and hearts to use their weaknesses and follies. Her will dominates her daughter Gudrún and her oldest son Gunnar.
    Gudrún is a simple maiden, incapable of any great plans for profit or vengeance. She falls in love with Sigurd, and for herself has no further motive. A sensitive but weak character, she is capable of disastrous speech or action under provocation. The occasions of this that are described are her fatal retort to the taunting of Brynhild, which more than anything is the immediate cause of Sigurd’s murder, and in the sequel, the Slaying of the Niflungs, her terrible deeds at the end when driven to madness and despair.
    Gunnar is a hot impatient character, dominated by Grímhild. Though not too stupid to perceive prudence, in cases of doubt or difficulty he becomes fey and reckless, turning to violence.


    After Sigurd was slain, Brynhild took her own life, and they were both burned on one pyre. Gudrún did not take her own life, but for grief was for a time half-witless. She would not look upon her kinsmen nor upon her mother, and dwelt apart in a house in the woods. There after a while she began to weave in a tapestry the history of the Dragon-hoard and of Sigurd.
    Atli son of Budli became king of the Huns, ancient enemies of the Burgundians, who had before slain his father.* His power growing great becomes a threat to Gunnar, who is now king in his father Gjúki’s stead; and as Högni his brother had foretold they miss now the valour of King Sigurd their sworn-brother.


    This lay [i.e. Guðrúnarkviða en nýja] is a sequel to the Lay of Sigurd and assumes knowledge of it, though by the device of Gudrún’s tapestry the history of the accursed Hoard and of Sigurd is brought to mind and outlined at the beginning.
    In the former Lay it was told how the dominion of the Gods was from the first threatened with destruction. Ódin, Lord of Gods and Men, begets in the world many mighty men, whom he gathers in Valhöll to be his companions in the Last Battle. One family in especial he singles out, the Völsungs,* all of whom are his chosen warriors, and one, Sigurd son of Sigmund, is to be the chief of all, their leader in the Last Day; for Ódin hopes that by his hand the Serpent shall in the end be slain, and a new world made possible.
    None of the Gods can accomplish this, but only one who has lived on Earth first as a mortal, and died. (This motive of the special function of Sigurd is an invention of the present poet, or an interpretation of the Norse sources in which it is not explicit.)
    Evil is not, however, to be found only in the ever-watchful host of the Enemies of Gods and Men. It is found also in Ásgard itself in the person of Loki, by whose deeds, wilful, merely mischievous, or wholly malicious, the counsels and hopes of Ódin seem ever turned awry or defeated.
    Yet Loki is seen ever walking the world at the left hand of Ódin, who does not rebuke him, nor dismiss him, nor refuse the aid of his cunning. At Ódin’s right hand there walks another figure, a nameless shadow. It would seem that this poet (seeing that the Northern Gods represent but written large the ways of Men in the hostile world) has taken this old legend to symbolize Man’s prudence and wisdom and its ever present accompaniment of folly and malice that defeats it, only to bring forth greater heroism and deeper wisdom; while ever at the right hand walks the shadow that is neither Ódin nor Loki but in some aspect Fate, the real story that must be blended of both. Yet Ódin is master of the Three and the final outcome will resemble rather the hope of Ódin than the malice (shorter sighted) of Loki. Ódin at times gives expression to this, saying that his hope looks out beyond the seeming disasters of this world. Though Ódin’s chosen come all to an evil end or untimely death, that will only make them of greater worth for their ultimate purpose in the Last Battle. On this in many ways mysterious writing see the commentary on the Upphaf of the Lay of the Völsungs, and the commentary on the first section of the poem, Andvari’s Gold, stanza 1.

    In conclusion, this seems a suitable place to refer to remarks of my father’s that bear upon, but have no (at any rate overt) relation to, Guðrúnarkviða en nýja. In his introduction to lectures at Oxford on the Eddaic poem Guðrúnarkviða en forna, the Old Lay of Gudrún, he said that ‘curiously enough’ he was more interested in Gudrún, ‘who is usually slighted, and considered as of secondary interest’, than in Brynhild. By implication, he contrasted the long agony of Gudrún with the irruption of Brynhild, who soon departs, ‘and her passion and death remain only in the background of the tale, a brief and terrible storm beginning in fire and ending in it.’






    Of old was an age

    when was emptiness,

    there was sand nor sea

    nor surging waves;

    unwrought was Earth,

    unroofed was Heaven –

    an abyss yawning,

    and no blade of grass.

    The Great Gods then

    began their toil,

    the wondrous world

    they well builded.

    From the South the Sun

    from seas rising

    gleamed down on grass

    green at morning.

    They hall and hallow

    high uptowering,



    rock-hewn ramparts

    reared in splendour,

    forge and fortress

    framed immortal.

    Unmarred their mirth

    in many a court,

    where men they made

    of their minds’ cunning;

    under hills of Heaven

    on high builded

    they lived in laughter

    long years ago.

    Dread shapes arose

    from the dim spaces

    over sheer mountains

    by the Shoreless Sea,

    friends of darkness,

    foes immortal,

    old, unbegotten,

    out of ancient void.

    To the world came war:

    the walls of Gods

    giants beleaguered;

    joy was ended.

    The mountains were moved,

    mighty Ocean

    surged and thundered,

    the Sun trembled.

    The Gods gathered

    on golden thrones,

    of doom and death

    deeply pondered,

    how fate should be fended,

    their foes vanquished,

    their labour healed,

    light rekindled.

    In forge’s fire

    of flaming wrath

    was heaviest hammer

    hewn and wielded.

    Thunder and lightning

    Thór the mighty

    flung among them,

    felled and sundered.

    In fear then fled they,

    foes immortal,

    from the walls beaten

    watched unceasing;

    ringed Earth around

    with roaring sea

    and mountains of ice

    on the margin of the world.


    A seer long silent

    her song upraised –

    the halls hearkened –

    on high she stood.

    Of doom and death

    dark words she spake,

    of the last battle

    of the leaguered Gods.

    ‘The horn of Heimdal

    I hear ringing;

    the Blazing Bridge

    bends neath horsemen;

    the Ash is groaning,

    his arms trembling,

    the Wolf waking,

    warriors riding.

    The sword of Surt

    smoketh redly;

    the slumbering Serpent

    in the sea moveth;

    a shadowy ship

    from shores of Hell

    legions bringeth

    to the last battle.

    The wolf Fenrir

    waits for Ódin,

    for Frey the fair

    the flames of Surt;

    the deep Dragon

    shall be doom of Thór –

    shall all be ended,

    shall Earth perish?

    If in day of Doom

    one deathless stands,

    who death hath tasted

    and dies no more,

    the serpent-slayer,

    seed of Ódin,

    then all shall not end,

    nor Earth perish.

    On his head shall be helm,

    in his hand lightning,

    afire his spirit,

    in his face splendour.

    The Serpent shall shiver

    and Surt waver,

    the Wolf be vanquished

    and the world rescued.’


    The Gods were gathered

    on guarded heights,

    of doom and death

    deep they pondered.

    Sun they rekindled,

    and silver Moon

    they set to sail

    on seas of stars.

    Frey and Freyia

    fair things planted,

    trees and flowers,

    trembling grasses;

    Thór in chariot

    thundered o’er them

    through Heaven’s gateways

    to the hills of stone.

    Ever would Ódin

    on earth wander

    weighed with wisdom

    woe foreknowing,

    the Lord of lords

    and leaguered Gods,

    his seed sowing,

    sire of heroes.

    Valhöll he built

    vast and shining;

    shields the tiles were,

    shafts the rafters.

    Ravens flew thence

    over realms of Earth;

    at the doors an eagle

    darkly waited.

    The guests were many:

    grim their singing,

    boar’s-flesh eating,

    beakers draining;

    mighty ones of Earth

    mailclad sitting

    for one they waited,

    the World’s chosen.


    (Andvari’s Gold)

    Here first is told how Ódin and his companions were trapped in the house of the demon Hreidmar, and his sons. These dwelt now in the world in the likeness of men or of beasts.

    Of old was an age

    when Ódin walked

    by wide waters

    in the world’s beginning;

    lightfooted Loki

    at his left was running,

    at his right Hoenir

    roamed beside him.

    The falls of Andvari

    frothed and murmured

    with fish teeming

    in foaming pools.

    As a pike there plunged

    his prey hunting

    Dwarf Andvari

    from his dark cavern.

    There hunted hungry

    Hreidmar’s offspring:

    the silver salmon

    sweet he thought them.

    Otr in otter’s form

    there ate blinking,

    on the bank brooding

    of black waters.

    With stone struck him,

    stripped him naked,

    Loki lighthanded,

    loosing evil.

    The fell they flayed,

    fared then onward;

    in Hreidmar’s halls

    housing sought they.

    There wrought Regin

    by the red embers

    rune-written iron,

    rare, enchanted;

    of gold things gleaming,

    of grey silver,

    there Fáfnir lay

    by the fire dreaming.
    ‘Do fetters fret you,

    folk of Ásgard?

    Regin hath wrought them

    with runes binding.

    Redgolden rings,

    ransom costly,

    this fell must fill,

    this fur cover!’

    Lightshod Loki

    over land and waves

    to Rán came running

    in her realm of sea.

    The queen of Ægir

    his quest granted:

    a net she knotted

    noosed with evil.
    ‘What fish have I found

    in the flood leaping,

    rashly roaming?

    Ransom pay me!’


    ‘I am Andvari.

    Óin begot me

    to grievous fate.

    Gold I bid thee!’
    ‘What hides thy hand

    thus hollow bending?’


    ‘The ring is little –

    let it rest with me!’


    ‘All, Andvari,

    all shalt render,

    light rings and heavy,

    or life itself!’

    (The Dwarf spake darkly

    from his delvéd stone:)


    ‘My ring I will curse

    with ruth and woe!

    Bane it bringeth

    to brethren two;

    seven princes slays;

    swords it kindles –

    end untimely

    of Ódin’s hope.’

    In Hreidmar’s house

    they heaped the gold.

    ‘A hair unhidden

    I behold there yet!’

    Out drew Ódin

    Andvari’s ring,

    cursed he cast it

    on accurséd gold.
    ‘Ye gold have gained:

    a god’s ransom,

    for thyself and sons

    seed of evil.’


    ‘Gods seldom give

    gifts of healing;

    gold oft begrudgeth

    the greedy hand!’

    Words spake Loki

    worse thereafter:


    ‘Here deadly dwells

    the doom of kings!

    Here is fall of queens,

    fire and weeping,

    end untimely

    of Ódin’s hope!’
    ‘Whom Ódin chooseth

    ends not untimely,

    though ways of men

    he walk briefly.

    In wide Valhöll

    he may wait feasting –

    it is to ages after

    that Ódin looks.’
    ‘The hope of Ódin

    we heed little!

    Redgolden rings

    I will rule alone.

    Though Gods grudge it

    gold is healing.

    From Hreidmar’s house

    haste now swiftly!’




    Rerir was the son of the son of Ódin. After him reigned Völsung, to whom Ódin gave a Valkyrie as wife. Sigmund and Signý were their eldest children and twins. They had nine sons beside. Sigmund was of all men the most valiant, unless his sons be named. Signý was fair and wise and foresighted. She was given unwilling and against her foreboding to Siggeir king of Gautland, for the strengthening of the power of King Völsung. Here is told how hate grew between Gauts and Völsungs, and of the slaying of Völsung. The ten brothers of Signý were set in fetters in the forest and all perished save Sigmund. Long time he dwelt in a cave in the guise of a dwarvish smith. By Signý was a fierce vengeance devised and fulfilled.

    On the coasts of the North

    was king renowned

    Rerir sea-roving,

    the raven’s lord.

    Shield-hung his ships,

    unsheathed his sword;

    his sire of old

    was son of Ódin.

    Him Völsung followed


    child of longing,

    chosen of Ódin.

    Valkyrie fair

    did Völsung wed,

    Ódin’s maiden,

    Ódin’s chosen.

    Sigmund and Signý,

    a son and daughter,

    she bare at a birth

    in his builded halls.

    High rose their roofs,

    huge their timbers,

    and wide the walls

    of wood carven.

    A tree there towered

    tall and branching,

    that house upholding,

    the hall’s wonder;

    its leaves their hangings,

    its limbs rafters,

    its mighty bole

    in the midst standing.
    ‘What sails be these

    in the seas shining?

    What ships be those

    with shields golden?’


    ‘Gautland’s banners

    gilt and silver

    Gautland’s greeting

    grievous bearing.’
    ‘Wherefore grievous?

    Are guests hateful?

    Gautland’s master

    glorious reigneth.’


    ‘For Gautland’s master

    glory endeth;

    grief is fated

    for Gautland’s queen.’

    Birds sang blithely

    o’er board and hearth,

    bold men and brave

    on benches sitting.

    Mailclad, mighty,

    his message spake there

    a Gautish lord

    ‘Siggeir sent me

    swiftly steering:

    fame of Völsung

    far is rumoured.

    Signý’s beauty,

    Signý’s wisdom,

    to his bed he wooeth,

    bride most lovely.’
    ‘What saith Sigmund?

    Shall his sister go

    with lord so mighty

    league to bind us?’

    ‘With lord so mighty

    league and kinship

    let us bind, and grant him

    bride most lovely!’

    Ere summer faded

    sails came shining,

    ships came shoreward

    with shields gleaming.

    Many and mighty

    mailclad warriors

    to the seats of Völsung

    with Siggeir strode.

    Birds sang blissful

    over boards laden,

    over Signý pale,

    Siggeir eager.

    Dark wine they drank,

    doughty princes,

    Gautland’s chieftains;

    glad their voices.

    night cometh;

    wind ariseth;

    doors are opened,

    the din is silenced.

    A man there enters,

    mantled darkly,


    huge and ancient.

    A sword he sweeps

    from swathing cloak,

    into standing stem

    stabs it swiftly:


    ‘Who dares to draw,

    doom unfearing,

    the gift of Grímnir

    gleaming deadly?’

    Doors clanged backward;

    din was wakened;

    men leapt forward


    Gaut and Völsung

    glory seeking

    strove they starkly,

    straining vainly.

    Sigmund latest

    seized it lightly,

    the blade from bole

    brandished flaming.

    Siggeir yearning

    on that sword gazing

    red gold offered,

    ransom kingly.
    ‘Though seas of silver

    and sands of gold

    thou bade in barter,

    thy boon were vain!

    To my hand made,

    for me destined,

    I sell no sword

    to Siggeir ever.’
    ‘My heart is heavy

    my home leaving!

    Signý’s wisdom

    Signý burdens.

    From this wedding waketh

    woe and evil –

    break, sire, the bonds

    thou hast bound me in!’
    ‘Woe and evil

    are woman’s boding!

    Fate none can flee.

    Faith man can hold.

    Ships await thee!

    Shame to sunder

    the bridal bed,

    the bounden word.
    ‘Sigmund, farewell!

    Siggeir calls me.

    Weak might hath woman

    for wisdom’s load.

    Last night I lay

    where loath me was;

    with less liking

    I may lay me yet.’

    ‘Hail! toft and Tree,

    timbers carven!

    Maid here was once

    who is mournful queen.’

    Wild blew the wind

    waves white-crested.

    On land of Völsung

    she looked no more.

    A ship came shining

    to shores foaming,

    gloomy Gautland’s

    guarded havens.

    Sigmund lordly,

    sire and kindred,

    to fair feasting

    fearless journeyed.
    ‘Father Völsung,

    fairest kinsman!

    Back my brethren!

    This beach tread not!

    A bitter drinking,

    baleful meeting,

    swords hath Siggeir

    set to greet you.’

    With thousand thanes,

    thronging spearmen,

    his guests welcomed

    Gautland’s master.

    Ten times Völsung

    towering wrathful

    casque and corslet

    clove asunder.

    Through and through them

    thrice went Sigmund;

    as grass in Gautland

    grimly mowed them.

    His shield he shed:

    with shining sword

    smoking redly

    slew two-handed.

    Black the raven

    by the body croaketh,

    bare are Völsung’s

    bones once mighty.

    In bonds the brethren

    are bound living;

    Siggeir smileth,

    Signý weeps not.
    ‘Sweet still is sight

    while see one may!

    A boon, my husband –

    bid men linger!

    Slay not swiftly

    seed of Völsung!

    For death is lasting,

    though the doom tarry.’
    ‘Wild and witless

    words of Signý,

    that pain and torment

    plead for kindred!

    Glad will I grant it,

    grimly bind them

    in the forest fettered,

    faint and hungry.’

    In the forest fettered,

    faint and naked,

    her ten brethren

    torment suffered.

    There one by one

    a wolf rent them;

    by night after night

    another sought she.
    ‘What found ye in the forest,

    my fair servants?’


    ‘Nine brothers’ bones

    under night gleaming;

    yet were shackles broken,

    she-wolf lying

    torn and tongueless

    by the tree riven.’
    ‘Who hath deeply delved

    this dark cavern?

    Dwarvish master,

    thy doors open!’


    ‘Who knocks at night

    at nameless doors?

    In may enter

    elvish maiden!’

    Brother and sister

    in a bed lying,

    brief love, bitter,

    blent with loathing!

    Answer, earth-dweller –

    in thy arms who lies,

    chill, enchanted,

    changed, elfshapen?

    Back went Signý

    to Siggeir’s hall,

    nine months brooding

    no word speaking.

    Wolves were wailing,

    her women shuddering,

    Signý silent,

    when a son she bore.
    ‘Who calls so clear

    at cavern’s doorway,

    fords so fearless

    the foaming stream?

    Fair one, thy father

    thy face gave not!

    What bringest bound

    in bast folded?’
    ‘My face is Völsung’s,

    father of Signý.

    Signý sent me

    a sword bearing.

    Long years it lay

    on the lap of Siggeir;

    Sigmund drew it,

    since hath no man.’

    Thus son of Signý

    came Sinfjötli,

    to vengeance bred

    of Völsung slain.

    In the forest faring

    far in warfare

    long they laboured,

    long they waited.

    Wide they wandered


    men they murdered,

    men they plundered.

    Daylong slept they

    in dark cavern

    after dreadful deeds

    of death in Gautland.

    Moon was shining,

    men were singing,

    Siggeir sitting

    in his sounding hall.

    Völsung vanquished

    voices chanted;

    wolves came howling

    wild and dreadful.

    Doors were opened,

    din fell silent.


    ‘Eyes we see there

    like eager fire!

    wolves have entered,

    watchmen slaying!

    Flames are round us


    Sigmund stood there

    his sword wielding,

    and Signý’s son

    at his side laughing.

    Sigmund &Sinfjötli

    ‘Pass may no man,

    prince nor servant!

    In pain shall perish

    pride of Siggeir.’

    ‘Come forth, Signý,

    sister fairest!

    Gautland’s glory

    grimly endeth.

    Glad the greeting,

    grief is over;

    avenged is Völsung

    (Sigmund’s sister

    Signý answered:)

    ‘Son Sinfjötli,

    Sigmund father!

    Signý comes not,

    Siggeir calls her.

    Where I lay unwilling

    I now lay me glad;

    I lived in loathing,

    now lief I die.’

    (The Death of Sinfjötli)

    Ships they laded

    with shining gear,

    gems and jewels,

    joys of Gautland.

    Wild blew the winds,

    waves were foaming;

    they viewed afar

    the Völsung shore.

    Long ruled Sigmund,

    sire and uncle;

    Sinfjötli sat

    at his side proudly.

    There towered the tree,

    tall and ancient,

    birds in the branches

    were blithe again.

    Ever Grímnir’s gift

    gleamed in warfare;

    at Sigmund’s side

    Sinfjötli strode.

    Hard, handlinkéd,

    helm and corslet

    glasswhite glittered

    with grey silver.

    Seven kings they slew,

    their cities plundered;

    wide waxed their realm

    the world over.

    Of women fairest

    in war taken

    a wife took Sigmund;

    woe she brought him.

    Sinfjötli came

    sailing proudly

    ships goldladen

    to the shore steering.


    ‘Hail! Ódin’s son,


    War no longer!

    Wine is pouring.’

    In came the queen

    evil pondering –

    her sire was slain

    by Sinfjötli – :


    ‘Hail! Völsung fell,


    Weary art thou.

    Wine I bring thee.

    Steep stands the horn,

    Stepson thirsty!’


    ‘Dark seems the drink,

    deadly blended!’

    Sigmund seized it,

    swiftly drained it;

    no venom vanquished

    Völsung’s eldest.
    ‘Beer I bring thee

    brown and potent!’


    ‘Guile there gleameth

    grimly blended!’

    Sigmund seized it,

    swiftly drank it;

    that prince of men

    poison harmed not.
    ‘Ale I offer thee,

    eager Völsung!

    Völsungs valiant

    at venom blench not;

    heroes ask not

    help in drinking –

    if drink thou darest,

    drink Sinfjötli!’

    Dead Sinfjötli

    drinking stumbled.


    ‘Woe! thou witchwife


    Of the seed of Völsung

    in Signý’s child

    the fairest flower

    fades untimely!’

    There sorrowladen

    Sigmund raised him,

    in arms caught him;

    out he wandered.

    Over wood and wild

    to the waves foaming

    witless strayed he

    to the waves roaring.
    ‘Whither bringest thou

    thy burden heavy?

    My boat is ready

    to bear it hence.’

    A man there steered,

    mantled darkly,

    hooded and hoary,

    huge and awful.

    Alone was Sigmund

    by the land’s margin;

    in Valhöllu

    Völsung feasted:


    ‘Son’s son welcome,

    and son of daughter!

    But one yet await we,

    the World’s chosen.’

    (Sigurd Born)

    Alone dwelt Sigmund

    his land ruling;

    cold was his bower,

    queenless, childless.

    In songs he heard

    of sweetest maiden,

    of Sigrlinn’s beauty,

    Sváfnir’s daughter.

    Old was Sigmund,

    as an oak gnarléd;

    his beard was grey

    as bark of ash.

    Young was Sigrlinn

    and yellow-gleaming

    her locks hung long

    on lissom shoulder.

    Seven sons of kings

    sued the maiden:

    Sigmund took her;

    sails were hoisted.

    The Völsung land

    they viewed afar,

    the windy cliffs,

    the waves foaming.
    ‘Say me, Sigrlinn,

    sweeter were it

    young king to wed

    and yellow-bearded,

    or wife of a Völsung,

    the World’s chosen

    in my bed to bear,

    bride of Ódin?’
    ‘What sails be these

    in the seas shining? –

    the shields are scarlet,

    ships uncounted.’


    ‘Seven sons of kings

    seeking welcome!

    Grímnir’s gift shall

    gladly meet them!’

    High sang the horns,

    helms were gleaming,

    shafts were shaken,

    shields them answered.

    Vikings’ standards,

    Völsung’s banner

    on strand were streaming;

    stern the onslaught.

    Old was Sigmund

    as the oak gnarléd;

    his sword swung he

    smoking redly.

    Fate him fended

    fearless striding

    with dew of battle

    dyed to shoulder.

    A warrior strange,

    one-eyed, awful,

    strode and stayed him

    standing silent,

    huge and hoary

    and hooded darkly.

    The sword of Sigmund

    sang before him.

    His spear he raised:

    sprang asunder

    the sword of Grímnir,

    singing splintered.

    The king is fallen


    lords lie round him;

    the land darkens.

    Men were moaning,

    the moon sinking.

    Sigrlinn sought him,

    sadly raised him:


    ‘Hope of healing

    for thy hurts I bring,

    my lord beloved,

    last of Völsungs.’
    ‘From wanhope many

    have been won to life,

    yet healing I ask not.

    Hope is needless.

    Ódin calls me

    at the end of days.

    Here lies not lost

    the last Völsung!

    Thy womb shall wax

    with the World’s chosen,


    seed of Ódin.

    Till ages end

    all shall name him

    chief of chieftains,

    changeless glory.

    Of Grímnir’s gift

    guard the fragments;

    of the shards shall be shaped

    a shining blade.

    Too soon shall I see

    Sigurd bear it

    to glad Valhöll

    greeting Ódin.’

    Cold came morning

    o’er the king lifeless

    and woeful Sigrlinn

    her watch keeping.

    Ships came sailing

    to the shore crowding,

    rovers northern

    to the red beaches

    The bride of Sigmund

    as a bondwoman

    over sounding seas

    sadly journeyed.

    Wild blew the winds,

    waves them lifted;

    she viewed afar

    the Völsung land.

    Wind was wailing,

    waves were crying,

    Sigrlinn sorrowful,

    when a son she bore.

    Sigurd golden

    as a sun shining,

    forth came he fair

    in a far country.
    ‘O woman woeful

    in war taken,

    who was thy husband

    while his house lasted?

    What father begot

    such fair offspring? –

    grey steel glitters

    in his gleaming eyes.’
    ‘The sire of Sigurd

    Sigmund Völsung;

    Seed of Ódin

    songs shall call him.’


    ‘Fair shall be fostered

    that father’s child;

    his mother be mated

    to a mighty king.’


    The king of that land took Sigrlinn to wife. Sigurd was sent to be fostered by Regin, of whom it has been told above. Regin dwelt now in the forest and was deemed wise in many other matters than smithwork. Regin egged Sigurd to slay Fáfnir. With the sword Gram and the horse Grani, of which it is here spoken, he accomplished this, though Regin had concealed from him both the great power of Fáfnir and the nature of the hoard that the serpent guarded. Here also are given the dark words of Regin in which the undermeaning is that the real cause of the serpent’s death is Regin, who should therefore have the gold (though this he has promised, at least in large share, to Sigurd); but that Regin should slay the slayer of his brother. Sigurd deeming him only weighed with the thought of his guilt in brother-murder, dismisses his words with scorn. Nor does Sigurd heed the dragon’s words concerning the curse, thinking them merely the device of greed to protect the gold even though its guardian be slain. This indeed was the dragon’s chief purpose in revealing the curse at the hour of his death. Yet that curse began to work swiftly.

    The forge was smoking

    in the forest-darkness;

    there wrought Regin

    by the red embers.

    There was Sigurd sent,

    seed of Völsung,

    lore deep to learn;

    long his fostering.

    Runes of wisdom

    then Regin taught him,

    and weapons’ wielding,

    works of mastery;

    the language of lands,

    lore of kingship,

    wise words he spake

    in the wood’s fastness.
    ‘Full well couldst thou wield

    wealth and kingship,

    O son of Sigmund,

    a sire’s treasure.’


    ‘My father is fallen,

    his folk scattered,

    his wealth wasted,

    in war taken!’
    ‘A hoard have I heard

    on a heath lying,

    gold more glorious

    than greatest king’s.

    Wealth and worship

    would wait on thee,

    if thou durst to deal

    with its dragon master.’
    ‘Men sing of serpents

    ceaseless guarding

    gold and silver


    but fell Fáfnir

    folk all name him

    of dragons direst,

    dreaming evil.’
    ‘Dragons all are dire

    to the dull-hearted;

    yet venom feared not

    Völsung’s children.’


    ‘Eager thou urgest me,

    though of age untried –

    tell me now truly

    why thou tauntest me!’

    falls of Andvari

    frothed and spouted

    with fish teeming

    in foaming pools.

    There Otr sported,

    mine own brother;

    to snare salmon

    sweet he thought it.

    With stone smote him,

    stripped him naked,

    a robber roving


    at Hreidmar’s house

    hailed my father,

    that fairest fell

    for food offered.

    There wrought Regin

    by the red embers

    rough iron hewing

    and runes marking;

    there Fáfnir lay

    by the fire sleeping,

    fell-hearted son,

    fiercely dreaming.
    “Redgolden rings,

    ransom costly,

    this fell must fill,

    this fur cover.”

    From the foaming force

    as a fish netted

    was Dwarf Andvari

    dragged and plundered.

    must Andvari,

    all surrender,

    light rings and heavy,

    or life itself.

    In Hreidmar’s house

    heaped he laid them,

    gold ring on gold,

    a great weregild.
    (Regin & Fáfnir)
    “Shall not brethren share

    in brother’s ransom

    their grief to gladden? –

    gold is healing.”

    “The wreathéd rings

    I will rule alone,

    as long as life is

    they leave me never!”

    Then Fáfnir’s heart

    fiercely stung him;

    Hreidmar he hewed

    in his house asleep.

    Fáfnir’s heart

    as a fire burneth:

    part nor portion

    he pays to Regin.


    darkling lies he;

    deep his dungeons,

    and dread he knows not.

    A helm of horror

    his head weareth


    grimly creeping.’
    ‘With kin unkindly

    wert thou cursed Regin!

    His fire and venom

    affright me not!

    Yet why thou eggest me,

    I ask thee still –

    for father’s vengeance,

    or for Fáfnir’s gold?’
    ‘A sire avenged

    were sweet to Regin;

    the gold thy guerdon,

    the glory thine.

    A sword for Sigurd

    will the smith fashion,

    the blade most bitter

    ever borne to war.’

    The forge was smoking,

    the fire smouldered.

    Two swords there fashioned

    twice he broke them:

    hard the anvil

    hewed he mightily –

    sword was splintered,

    smith was angered.
    ‘Sigrlinn, say me,

    was sooth told me

    of gleaming shards

    of Grímnir’s sword?

    Sigmund’s son

    now seeks them from thee –

    now Gram shall Regin

    guileless weld me!’

    The forge was flaring,

    the fire blazing:

    a blade they brought him

    with blue edges;

    they flickered with flame,

    as it flashed singing –

    the cloven anvil

    clashed asunder.

    The Rhine river

    ran by swiftly;

    there tufts of wool

    on the tide he cast.

    Sharp it shore them

    in the sheer water:

    glad grew Sigurd,

    Gram there brandished.
    ‘Where lies the heath

    and hoard golden?

    Now rede me Regin

    of roads thither!’

    ‘Far lies Fáfnir

    in the fells hiding –

    a horse must thou have,

    high and sturdy.’

    In Busiltarn ran

    blue the waters,

    green grew the grass

    for grazing horse.

    A man them minded

    mantled darkly,


    huge and ancient.

    They drove the horses

    into deep currents;

    to the bank they backed

    from the bitter water.

    But grey Grani

    gladly swam there:

    Sigurd chose him,

    swift and flawless.
    ‘In the stud of Sleipnir,

    steed of Ódin,

    was sired this horse,

    swiftest, strongest.

    Ride now! ride now!

    rocks and mountains,

    horse and hero,

    hope of Ódin!’

    Gand rode Regin

    and Grani Sigurd;

    the waste lay withered,

    wide and empty.

    Fathoms thirty fell

    the fearful cliff

    whence the dragon bowed him

    drinking thirsty.

    In deep hollow

    on the dark hillside

    long there lurked he;

    the land trembled.

    Forth came Fáfnir,

    fire his breathing;

    down the mountain rushed

    mists of poison.

    The fire
    and fume

    over fearless head

    rushed by

    rocks were groaning.

    The black belly,

    bent and coiling,

    over hidden hollow

    hung and glided.

    Gram was brandished;

    grimly ringing

    to the hoary stone

    heart it sundered.

    In Fáfnir’s throe

    were threshed as flails

    his writhing limbs

    and reeking head.

    Black flowed the blood,

    belching drenched him;

    in the hollow hiding

    hard grew Sigurd.

    Swift now sprang he

    sword withdrawing:

    there each saw other

    with eyes of hate.
    ‘O man of mankind!

    What man begot thee?

    Who forged the flame

    for Fáfnir’s heart?’

    ‘As the wolf I walk

    wild and lonely,

    no father owning,

    a flame bearing.’
    ‘A wolf was thy sire –

    full well I know it!

    Who egged thee eager

    to mine undoing?’

    ‘My sire was Sigmund,

    seed of Völsung;

    my heart egged me,

    my hand answered.’
    ‘Nay! Regin wrought this,

    rogue and master!

    O son of Sigmund!

    sooth I tell thee:

    my guarded gold

    gleams with evil,

    bale it bringeth

    to both my foes.’
    ‘Life each must leave

    on his latest day,

    yet gold gladly

    will grasp living!’

    ‘Fools! saith Fáfnir –

    with fate of woe

    this gold is glamoured.

    Grasp not! Flee thou!’
    ‘A fool, saith Sigurd,

    could not fend himself

    with helm of horror –

    hell now seize him!’

    In the heather had hidden

    as a hare cowering

    the fear-daunted smith;

    forth now crept he.
    ‘Hail! O Völsung


    of mortal men

    mightiest hero!’

    ‘In the halls of Ódin

    more hard to choose!

    many brave are born

    who blades stain not.’
    ‘Yet glad is Sigurd,

    of gold thinking,

    as Gram on the grey

    grass he wipeth!

    ‘Twas blood of my brother

    that blade did spill,

    though somewhat the slaying

    I myself must share.’
    ‘Far enow thou fleddest,

    when Fáfnir came.

    This sword slew him,

    and Sigurd’s prowess.’

    ‘This sword I smithied.

    Yet would serpent live,

    had not Regin’s counsel

    wrought his ending!’
    ‘Nay, blame not thyself,

    backward helper!

    Stout heart is better

    than strongest sword.’

    ‘Yet the sword I smithied,

    the serpent’s bane!

    The bold oft are beaten

    who have blunt weapons.’

    Thus heavy spake Regin

    Ridil unsheathing,

    fell Fáfnir’s heart

    from the flesh cleaving.

    Dark blood drank he

    from the dragon welling;

    deep drowsing fell

    on dwarvish smith.
    ‘Sit now, Sigurd!

    Sleep o’ercomes me.

    Thou Fáfnir’s heart

    at the fire roast me.

    His dark thought’s dwelling

    after drink potent

    I fain would eat,

    feast of wisdom.’

    Sharp spit shaped he;

    at shining fire

    the fat of Fáfnir there frothed and hissed.

    To tongue he touched

    testing finger –

    beasts’ cry he knew,

    and birds’ voices
    first bird
    ‘A head shorter

    should hoary liar

    go hence to nether hell!

    The heart of Fáfnir

    I whole would eat

    if I myself were Sigurd.’
    second bird
    a foe lets free

    is fool indeed,

    when he was bane of

    I alone would be lord

    of linkéd gold,

    if my wielded sword had won it.’
    first bird
    ‘A head shorter

    should hiding dwarf

    deprived of gold perish!

    There Regin rouses

    in rustling heather;

    Vengeance he vows for brother.’

    Round turned Sigurd,

    and Regin saw he

    in the heath crawling

    with hate gleaming.

    Black spilled the blood

    as blade clove him,

    the head hewing

    of Hreidmar’s son.

    Dark red the drink

    and dire the meat

    whereon Sigurd feasted

    seeking wisdom.

    Dark hung the doors

    and dread the timbers

    in the earth under

    of iron builded.

    Gold piled on gold

    there glittered palely:

    that gold was glamoured

    with grim curses.

    The Helm of Horror

    on his head laid he:

    swart fell the shadow

    round Sigurd standing.

    Great and grievous

    was Grani’s burden,

    yet lightly leaped he

    down the long mountain.

    Ride now! ride now

    road and woodland,

    horse and hero,

    hope of Ódin!

    Ever wild and wide

    the wandering paths;

    long lay the shadow

    of lone rider.

    Birds in the branches

    blithe were singing:

    their words he heard,

    their wit he knew not.
    ‘High stands a hall

    on Hindarfell,

    fire it fenceth


    steep stands the path,

    stern the venture,

    where mountains beckon

    to mighty heart.’
    ‘A maid have I seen

    as morning fair,



    Green run the roads

    to Gjúki’s land;

    fate leads them on,

    who fare that way.’
    ‘Slumber bindeth

    the sun-maiden

    on mountain high,

    mail about her.

    Thorn of Ódin

    is thrust in bosom –

    to what shall she wake,

    woe or laughter?’
    ‘The Gjúkings proudly,

    Gunnar and Högni,

    there rule a realm

    by Rhine-water.

    Gudrún groweth


    as flower unfolded

    fair at morning.’
    ‘Too peerless proud

    her power wielding,

    victory swaying

    as Valkyrie,

    she heard nor heeded

    hests of Ódin,

    and Ódin smote

    whom Ódin loved.’


    Here is told of the awakening of Brynhild by Sigurd. Doomed by Ódin to go no longer to warfare but to wed, she has vowed to wed only the greatest of all warriors, the World’s chosen. Sigurd and Brynhild plight their troth, amid great joy, although of her wisdom she foresees that great perils beset Sigurd’s path. They depart together, but the pride of Brynhild causes her to bid Sigurd depart and come back to her only when he has won all men’s honour, and a kingdom.

    Ever wide and wild

    the wandering path;

    long lay the shadow

    of lone rider.

    Ever high and high

    stood Hindarfell,

    mountain mighty

    from mist rising.

    A fire at crown,

    fence of lightning,

    high to heavenward

    hissed and wavered.

    Greyfell Grani,

    glory seeking,

    leaped the lightning


    A wall saw Sigurd

    of woven shields,

    a standard streaming

    striped with silver;

    a man there war-clad,

    mailclad, lying,

    with sword beside him,

    sleeping deadly.

    The helm he lifted:

    hair fell shining,

    a woman lay there

    wound in slumber;

    fast her corslet

    as on flesh growing –

    the gleaming links,

    Gram there clave them.
    Brynhild awakening
    ‘Hail! O Daylight

    and Day’s children!

    Hail, Night and Noon

    and Northern Star!

    Hail, Kingly Gods,

    Queens of Ásgard!

    Hail, Earth’s bosom


    Hands of healing,

    hear and grant us,

    light in darkness,

    life and wisdom;

    to both give triumph,

    truth unfailing,

    to both in gladness

    glorious meeting!’
    ‘Brynhild greets thee,

    O brave and fair!

    What prince hath pierced

    my pale fetters?’


    ‘A man fatherless,

    yet man-begotten,

    here red from battle

    ‘Ódin bound me,

    Ódin’s chosen;

    no more to battle,

    to mate doomed me.

    An oath I uttered

    for ever lasting,

    to wed but one,

    the World’s chosen.’
    ‘In the halls of Ódin

    it were hard to choose

    man there mightiest,

    most renownéd.’


    ‘Yet one they wait for,

    in wide Valhöll,

    the serpent-slayer,

    seed of Ódin.’
    ‘Seed of Ódin

    is Sigmund’s child,

    and Sigurd’s sword

    is serpent’s bane.’


    ‘Hail, son of Sigmund,

    seed of Völsung!

    Warriors wait for thee

    in wide Valhöll.’
    ‘Hail, bright and splendid!

    Hail, battle-maiden,

    bride of Völsung

    Brynhild chosen!’

    Troth in triumph

    twain there plighted

    alone on mountain;

    light was round them.
    ‘A beaker I bring thee,

    O battle-wielder,


    mead of glory,

    brimmed with bounty,

    blessed with healing,

    and rimmed with runes

    of running laughter.’
    ‘I drink, all daring:

    doom or glory;

    drink of splendour

    dear the bearer!’


    ‘Dear the drinker!

    Doom and glory

    both me bodeth,

    thou bright and fair!’
    ‘I flee nor flinch,

    though fey standing,

    words of wisdom,

    woe, or gladness.’


    ‘Words of wisdom

    warning darkly

    hear thou and hold,

    hope of Ódin!

    Be slow to vengeance,

    seed of Völsung!

    In swearing soothfast,

    the sworn holding.

    Grim grow the boughs

    in guile rooted;

    fair flowers the tree

    in faith planted!

    Where the witch-hearted

    walks or houses

    linger not, lodge not,

    though lone the road!

    Though beauty blindeth

    bright as morning,

    let no daughter of kings

    thy dreams master!

    Hail, Sigmund’s son!

    Swift thy glory,

    yet a cloud meseems

    creepeth nigh thee.

    Long life, I fear,

    lies not before thee,

    but strife and storm

    stand there darkly.’

    ‘Hail, Brynhild wise!

    Bright thy splendour

    though fate be strong

    to find its end.

    Faith ever will I hold

    firm, unyielding,

    though strife and storm

    stand about me.’

    Faith then they vowed

    fast, unyielding,

    there each to each

    in oaths binding.

    Bliss there was born

    when Brynhild woke;

    yet fate is strong

    to find its end.

    Ever wild and wide

    the wandering paths;

    on roads shining

    went riders two.

    High towered the helm;

    hair flowed in wind;

    mail glinted bright

    on mountain dark.

    ‘Here, Sigmund’s son,

    swift and fearless,

    is our way’s parting,

    to woe or joy.

    Here, lord, I leave thee,

    to my land turning;

    hence Grani bears thee

    glory seeking.’

    ‘Why, Brynhild wise,

    bride of Völsung,

    when at one are the riders

    do our ways sunder?’


    ‘I was queen of yore,

    and a king shall wed.

    Lands lie before thee –

    thy lordship win!’

    To her land she turned

    lonely shining;

    green ran the roads

    that Grani strode.

    To her land she came,

    long the waiting;

    in Gjúki’s house

    glad the singing.


    ‘O mother, hear me!

    Mirth is darkened,

    dreams have troubled me,

    dreams of boding.’

    ‘Dreams come most oft

    in dwindling moon,

    or weather changing.

    Of woe think not!’
    ‘No wind, nor wraith

    of waking thought –

    a hart we hunted

    over hill and valley;

    all would take him,

    ’twas I caught him:

    his hide was golden,

    his horns towering.

    A woman wildly

    on the wind riding

    with a shaft stung him,

    shooting pierced him;

    at my knees he fell

    in night of woe,

    my heart too heavy

    might I hardly bear.

    A wolf they gave me

    for woe’s comfort;

    in my brethren’s blood

    he bathed me red.

    Dreams have vexed me,

    direst boding,

    not wind or weather

    or waning moon.’
    ‘Dreams oft token

    the dark by light,

    good by evil,

    Gudrún daughter!

    Lift up thine eyes

    eager shining!

    Green lie the lands

    round Gjúki’s house.’
    ‘The roads run green

    to the Rhine-water!

    Who rides here lone,

    arrayed for war?

    His helm is high,

    his horse fleeting,

    his shield is shining

    with sheen of gold!’

    Thus Gudrún gazed,

    Gjúki’s daughter,

    from wall and window

    in wonder looking.

    Thus Sigurd rode,

    seed of Völsung,

    into Gjúki’s courts


    There Gjúki dwelt

    his gold dealing

    in Niflung land,

    the Niflung lord.

    Gunnar and Högni

    were Gjúki’s sons,

    mighty princes;

    men them hearkened.

    There Grímhild dwelt,

    guileful in counsel,

    grimhearted queen

    grey with wisdom,

    with lore of leechcraft,

    lore of poison,

    with chill enchantment

    and with changing spells.

    As ravens dark

    were those raven-friends;

    fair their faces,

    fierce their glances.

    With Huns they waged

    hate and warfare,

    gold ever gathering

    in great dungeons.

    Silent they sat

    when Sigurd entered

    Gunnar greeting,

    Gjúki hailing.

    ‘Who comes unbidden

    in battle’s harness,

    helm and hauberk,

    to halls of mine?’
    ‘The son of Sigmund,

    Sigurd Völsung,

    a king’s son cometh

    to kingly house.

    Fame of Niflungs

    far is rumoured,

    not yet hath faded

    fame of Völsung.’

    There swift for Sigurd

    seat was ordered;

    the feast grew fair,

    folk were mirthful.

    There Gunnar grasped

    his golden harp;

    while songs he sang

    silence fell there.
         Of these

    things sang

    By mighty Mirkwood

    on the marches of the East

    the great Goth-kings

    in glory ruled.

    By Danpar-banks

    was dread warfare

    with the hosts of Hunland,

    horsemen countless.

    Horsemen countless

    hastened westward;

    the Borgund lords

    met Budli’s host.

    In Budli’s brother

    their blades reddened

    the glad Gjúkings,

    gold despoiling.
         Of these

    things sang

    Then Sigurd seized

    the sounding harp;

    hushed they hearkened

    in the hall listening.

    The waste lay withered

    wide and empty;

    forth came Fáfnir,

    fire around him.

    Dark hung the doors

    on deep timbers;

    gold piled on gold

    there glittered wanly.

    The hoard was plundered,

    helm was lifted,

    and Grani greyfell

    grievous burdened.

    High Hindarfell,

    hedged with lightning,

    mountain mighty

    from mists uprose.

    Brynhild wakened,

    bright her splendour –

    song fell silent,

    and Sigurd ended.

    By Gjúki’s chair

    Grímhild hearkened,

    of Gudrún thinking

    and the golden hoard.

    Gunnar and Högni

    gladly bade him

    in league and love

    long to dwell there.

    The Borgund lords

    their battle furnished;

    banners were broidered,

    blades were sharpened.

    White shone hauberks,

    helms were burnished;

    under horses’ hooves

    Hunland trembled.

    Grim was Gunnar

    on Goti riding;

    under haughty Högni

    Hölkvir strode;

    but fleeter was Grani,

    foal of Sleipnir;

    flamed all before

    the fire of Sigurd.

    Foes were vanquished,

    fields were wasted,

    grimly garnered

    Gram the harvest.

    Where Gjúkings rode

    glory won they,

    ever glory Sigurd

    greater conquered.

    Wide waxed their realm

    in world of old;

    Dane-king they slew,

    doughty princes.

    Dread fell on folk;

    doom they wielded;

    victory rode ever

    with the Völsung lord.

    High they honoured him,

    in heart loved him,

    Hun-gold gave him

    in the hall sitting.

    But his heart remembered

    house of Völsung,

    and Sigmund slain

    on sands afar.

    A host he gathered,

    help of Gjúkings;

    to the sea he rode

    and sails hoisted.

    His ship was shining

    with shields and mail;

    it was dragon-headed,

    dire and golden.

    As fire and tempest

    to his father’s land

    came Sigurd sailing;

    the sand was reddened.

    Clashed the cloven

    casque and hauberk;

    shields were splintered,

    shorn was corslet.

    Men learned there lived yet

    line of Völsung!

    Now of Völsung land

    was a Völsung lord.

    But the house once high

    was hollow, roofless;

    the limbs were rotten

    of their leafy tree.

    A man there walked

    mantled darkly,

    his beard was flowing,

    and blind his eye:

    ‘Grímnir hails thee,

    glorious Völsung!

    Far hence hath flown

    the fate of Sigurd.

    Where Sigmund drew

    sword of Grímnir,

    Gram shall shine not.

    Go thou, Völsung!

    Now king thou art

    of kings begotten,

    a bride calls thee

    over billowing seas.’

    His fleet went forth

    with flaming sails;

    goldladen ships

    came glad to shore.

    Steeds went striding,

    stonefire glinted,

    horns were sounded;

    home rode Sigurd.

    A feast they fashioned,

    far proclaimed it,

    their highroofed halls

    hung with splendour;

    boards and beakers,

    benches, gilded;

    mead poured and ale

    from morn to eve.

    A king sat Sigurd:

    carven silver,

    raiment gleaming,

    rings and goblets,

    dear things dealt he,


    his friends enriching,

    fame upraising.

    (There spake Grímhild

    to Gjúki’s ear:)

    ‘How long shall last

    league unbounden?

    Here is worthiest lord

    of world’s renown!

    Were a daughter offered,

    he would dwell for ever,

    our strength in strife,

    standing bulwark.’
    ‘The gifts of kings

    are gold and silver;

    their daughters fair

    are dearly wooed!’

    ‘Gifts oft are given

    to greedy hand;

    wives oft are wooed

    by worthless men!’

    Sigurd sat silent;

    the singing heard not

    but in heart Brynhild

    bright with splendour:

    ‘A queen was I once,

    and a king shall wed.’

    Soon, thought he, soon

    I will seek my own.

    Grímhild went forth

    to guarded bower;

    deep horn she filled

    that was darkly written.

    She drink of power

    dreadly blended;

    it had strength of stone,

    it was stained with blood.
    ‘Hail, guest and king!

    Good go with thee!

    Drink now deeply

    dear love’s token!

    A father hast thou found,

    and fond mother,

    brothers sit nigh thee.

    O bravest, hail!’

    Deep drank Sigurd,

    drained it laughing,

    then sat unsmiling,

    the singing heard not.

    In came Gudrún


    as moon uprising

    marvellous shining.

    In came Gudrún


    as flower unfolded

    fair at morning.

    Sigurd wondered,

    silent gazing;

    his mind was glamoured,

    mood confounded.

    (Brynhild Betrayed)

    Brynhild abode

    a blossomed summer,

    homing harvest,

    hoary winter.

    A year followed year;

    yearning seized her:

    the king came not;

    cold weighed her heart.
    Of her wealth and splendour

    wide spread the word;

    kings came riding,

    her courts thronging.

    Her mood was troubled,

    her mind darkened;

    fell greeting found they,

    and few returned.

    One armed and mantled

    as ancient king

    wild steed there rode

    than wind fleeter.

    Spear upholding

    spiked with lightning

    her hall he entered,

    hailed her darkly:
    ‘Bond unbroken

    shall be bounden oath,

    dreed and endured

    be doom appointed.

    Brynhild full soon

    shall bridal drink;

    choosing not the slain,

    shall choose the living.

    Brynhild must drink

    the bridal feast,

    ere winters two

    o’er the world be passed.

    A queen thou wert,

    a king shalt wed:

    Ódin dooms it;

    Ódin hearken!’

    Fire forth blossomed,

    flames were kindled,

    high up-leaping

    hissed and wavered.

    In hall standing

    hedged with lightning,

    ‘one only’, thought she

    ‘can enter now!’

    In Gjúki’s house

    glad the singing.

    A feast they fashioned,

    far men sought it.

    To blissful Gudrún

    the bridal drank

    there golden Sigurd

    glorious shining.

    Morning woke with mirth,

    merry came evening;

    harp-strings were plucked

    by hands of cunning;

    mead poured and ale,

    men were joyful,

    of peerless kings

    praise uplifting.

    Oaths swore Sigurd

    for ever lasting,

    a bond of brotherhood

    in blood mingled,

    help in venture,

    in hate and battle,

    in need and desire,

    nowhere failing.

    Gunnar and Högni

    gladly swore it,

    as Grímhild counselled

    grey with wisdom.

    Gunnar and Högni

    good they deemed it;

    glad was Gudrún


    Gudrún walked in joy,

    gladness round her;

    mornings came with mirth,

    mirth at sleeping.

    Sigurd dwelt as king

    sweet days and nights;

    high hope he had,

    yet in heart a shadow.


    Wide went the word

    of woman mighty,

    of Brynhild queen

    bright in splendour.

    Grímhild hearkened,

    grimly pondered,

    of Gunnar thinking

    and of Gjúki’s power.
    ‘Hail, Gjúki’s son!

    Good go with thee!

    Fair flowers thy state,

    thy fame riseth.

    Who could woo as he wills,

    a wife yet lacketh,

    though his might few match,

    or might of friends.’
    ‘Lo! Gjúkings’ mother

    grey in counsel,

    what wife shall Gunnar

    woo or look for?

    Fairest must be woman,

    of fame mightiest,

    that Gunnar seeketh

    his gold dealing.’

    ‘Of the one fairest

    fame is rumoured:

    Brynhild the queen

    bright in splendour.

    Wide walks the word

    of her wealth and might;

    though high nor humble

    her halls enter.’
    ‘Proud and peerless

    in peril woven,

    a queen would she be,

    our courts’ glory!

    Gunnar Gjúki’s son

    glory seeking

    at thy rede shall ride

    to her realm afar.’
    ‘The son of Sigmund

    thy sister holds,

    Sigurd the mighty

    is thy sworn brother.

    At right hand in aid

    he shall ride with thee;

    counsels potent

    shall my cunning find you.’

    Gunnar rode Goti,

    on Grani Sigurd,

    Högni Hölkvir,

    horse night-swarthy.

    Steeds were striding,

    stonefire glinting,

    high wind rushing

    over helm and mane.

    Over fell and lowland

    and forest gloomy,

    over rocks and rivers

    their roads led them.

    Golden gables

    gleaming saw they;

    a light was lifted

    o’er the land afar.

    Fire forth blossomed,

    flames up-leaping,

    trees of lightning

    twisted branching.

    Gunnar smote Goti:

    the ground spurning

    he reared him backward,

    nor rowel heeded.

    Sigurd unsmiling

    silent waited,

    in his shrouded heart

    a shadow deepened:


    ‘For what waits Gunnar,

    Gjúking fearless?

    Here the queen dwelleth

    that our quest seeketh!’
    ‘A boon grant me,

    O blood-brother!

    Goti will not bear me,

    now Grani lend me!’

    Gunnar smote Grani:

    on the ground moveless

    grey-hewn he stood

    as of graven stone.

    Gunnar rode not

    the glittering flame.

    Oaths swore Sigurd,

    all fulfilled them.

    In hope or hate

    help unfailing,

    he Grímhild’s counsel

    grim refused not.

    Counsels potent

    had her cunning furnished

    of chill enchantment

    and changing spell.

    In Gunnar’s likeness

    on Grani leaped he;

    gold spurs glinted,

    Gram was brandished.

    The earth shivered;

    angry roaring

    fire flaming-tongued

    flashed heavenward.

    With sword smitten

    snorting leaped he,

    Grani greyfell;

    the ground trembled.

    The fire flickered;

    flame wavered,

    sank to silence

    slaked and fading.

    Swart lay the shadow

    of Sigurd riding

    in helm of terror

    high and looming.

    Sigurd stood there

    on sword leaning;

    Brynhild waited

    a blade holding.

    There helméd maiden

    of helméd king

    name demanded:

    night fell round them.
    ‘Gunnar Gjúki’s son

    greets and hails thee.

    As my queen shalt thou ride

    my quest fulfilling.’

    As on swaying seas

    a swan glimmering

    sat she sore troubled

    seeking counsel:
    ‘What shall I answer

    in hour o’ershadowed,

    Gunnar, Gunnar,

    with gleaming eyes?’


    ‘Redgolden rings,

    Rhineland treasure,

    mighty brideprice

    shall be meted thee!’
    ‘Gunnar, speak not

    of golden rings!

    Swords were me dearer

    to slay my loves.

    Art thou all men’s master,

    all surpassing? –

    to only such

    will I answer give.’
    ‘Yea, swords hast thou reddened,

    swords yet shalt wield;

    and oaths hast thou sworn,

    and oaths shalt keep.

    Thy wall is ridden,

    thy wavering fire:

    thou art doomed him to wed

    who dared to pass.’

    In a bed them laid

    Brynhild, Sigurd;

    a sword them sundered

    set there naked.

    Gram lay between

    gleaming sheathless,

    fate lay between

    forged unyielding.

    Dawn came on earth,

    day grew round them.

    sleeping finger

    he slipped her

    and Andvari’s gold,

    old, enchanted,

    on Brynhild’s hand

    bound in token.
    ‘Wake thou! wake thou!

    Wide is daylight.

    I ride to my realm

    to array the feast.’


    ‘Gunnar, Gunnar,

    with gleaming eyes,

    on day appointed

    I shall drink with thee.’


    On day appointed

    dawn rose redly,

    sun sprang fiery

    southward hasting.

    Bridal to Brynhild

    blissful drank he,

    Gunnar Gjúki’s son,

    gold unsparing.

    All surpassing,

    proud and ardent,

    Brynhild sat there,

    a bride and queen.

    All men’s master,

    all surpassing,

    in came Sigurd

    as sun rising.


    Gjúki’s daughter,

    she saw him seated –

    a silence fell.

    As stone graven

    stared she palely,

    as cold and still

    as carven stone.

    shrouded heart

    the shadows parted;

    oaths were remembered

    all unfulfilled.

    As stone carven,

    stern, unbending,

    he sat unsmiling

    no sign making.

    Clamour rose again,

    clear the singing.

    Men were joyful –

    mirth they deemed it.

    In that hall beheld they

    heroes mightiest,

    and kings and queens

    crowned in splendour.


    Forth rode Sigurd,

    the forest seeking,

    to hunt the hart;

    horns were sounded.

    To the Rhine-river,

    to running water,

    queens went comely

    with combs of gold.

    Their locks they loosened.

    Long one waded

    to deeper pools

    darkly swirling:


    ‘The water that hath washed

    thy wan tresses

    shall not flow unfitting

    over fairer brow!’

    ‘More queenly I,

    more kingly wed! –

    fame all surpasses

    he that Fáfnir slew!’


    ‘Worth all surpasses

    who my wavering fire,

    flaming lightning

    fearless vanquished!’

    (Grim laughed

    Grímhild’s daughter:)


    ‘True spake the tongue

    of truth unwitting!

    Thy wavering fire

    wildly flaming

    he rode unrecking

    who that ring gave thee –

    did Gunnar get it

    on Gnitaheiði?


    old, enchanted,

    is on Brynhild’s hand

    bound in token.

    Gunnar give me

    the gleaming ring

    from thy hand he drew,

    now here on

    Coldhued as death

    the queen was stricken,

    strode swift from stream

    as stone silent;

    from Rhine-river,

    from running water,

    her bower sought she

    brooding darkly.

    Dim fell evening,

    dusk was starless;

    her mind was as night

    as she mourned alone;

    alone, lightless,

    made lamentation:


    ‘Fell! fell the fates

    that forged our days!

    Mine own must I have

    or anguish suffer,

    or suffer anguish

    Sigurd losing.

    Yet he is Gudrún’s

    and Gunnar’s I:

    foul wrought the fates

    that framed my life!’

    Daylong lay she

    drinking nor eating,

    as in dead slumber

    or dreadful thought.

    Her maidens marvelled –

    she minded not,

    Gunnar sought her;

    grim she heard him.

    Then spake Brynhild

    from bitter pondering:


    ‘Whence came the gold

    here gleaming pale?

    Who holds the ring

    from my hand taken?’

    Nought spake Gunnar,

    no word answered.

    ‘King men call thee!

    A coward rather,

    from fire flinching,

    fearful, quaking!

    From witch-woman’s

    womb thou camest.

    Woe to Grímhild,

    woe’s contriver!’

    ‘Vile words to use,

    thou Valkyrie,

    thou slayer of men,

    and sword-hearted!’


    ‘If sword I had,

    I would slay thee now,

    for thy secret treason,

    for thy sundered oaths!

    Him only loved I

    who all surpassed;

    an oath uttered,

    him only to wed,

    him only to wed

    who mine ardent fire

    vanquished valorous;

    I am vow-breaker.

    I am oath-breaker,

    dishonoured, humbled;

    I am love-bereaved

    and life-curséd.

    In thy halls shalt thou hear

    never happy voices,

    no queen in thy courts

    shall comely walk.’

    Long there lay she

    in lamentation;

    afar heard folk

    her fell mourning.

    Gudrún she spurned,

    Gunnar scorning,

    and Högni mocking;

    hate was kindled.


    From the hunt rode Sigurd

    home returning,

    found halls unlit

    and hearts darkened.

    They brought him to seek her

    for sorrow’s healing;

    his mood was loath,

    on the morrow went he.

    (He draws back the coverlet

    from Brynhild and wakes her,

    as before he had done.)
    ‘Hail, O sunlight

    and sun’s rising!

    Sleep no longer

    and sorrow cast thou!’


    ‘I slept on mountain,

    I sleep no more!

    Accursed be thy words,

    cruel forswearer!’

    ‘What grief ails thee

    amid good liking,

    who to glorious Gunnar

    wert gladly wed?’


    ‘Gladly! gladly!

    Grim thou mockest me.