The Story of the Volsungs

Chapter xvii.

Of Sigurd’s Avenging of Sigmund his Father.

Now Sigurd went to the kings, and spake thus —

“Here have I abode a space with you, and I owe you thanks and reward, for great love and many gifts and all due honour; but now will I away from the land and go meet the sons of Hunding, and do them to wit that the Volsungs are not all dead; and your might would I have to strengthen me therein.”

So the kings said that they would give him all things soever that he desired, and therewith was a great army got ready, and all things wrought in the most heedful wise, ships and all war-gear, so that his journey might be of the stateliest: but Sigurd himself steered the dragon-keel which was the greatest and noblest; richly wrought were their sails, and glorious to look on.

So they sail and have wind at will; but when a few days were overpast, there arose a great storm on the sea, and the waves were to behold even as the foam of men’s blood; but Sigurd bade take in no sail, howsoever they might be riven, but rather to lay on higher than heretofore. But as they sailed past the rocks of a ness, a certain man hailed the ships, and asked who was captain over that navy; then was it told him that the chief and lord was Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, the most famed of all the young men who now are.

Then said the man, “Naught but one thing, certes do all say of him, that none among the sons of kings may be likened unto him; now fain were I that ye would shorten sail on some of the ships, and take me aboard.”

Then they asked him of his name, and he sang —

“Hnikar I hight,

When I gladdened Huginn,

And went to battle,

Bright son of Volsung;

Now may ye call

The carl on the cliff top,

Feng or Fjolnir:

Fain would I with you.”

They made for land therewith, and took that man aboard.

Then quoth Sigurd,33 as the song says —

“Tell me this, O Hnikar,

Since full well thou knowest

Fate of Gods, good and ill of mankind,

What best our hap foresheweth,

When amid the battle

About us sweeps the sword edge.”

Quoth Hnikar —

“Good are many tokens

If thereof men wotted

When the swords are sweeping:

Fair fellow deem I

The dark-winged raven,

In war, to weapon-wielder.

“The second good thing:

When abroad thou goest

For the long road well arrayed,

Good if thou seest

Two men standing,

Fain of fame within the forecourt.

“A third thing:

Good hearing,

The wolf a howling

Abroad under ash boughs;

Good hap shalt thou have

Dealing with helm-staves,

If thou seest these fare before thee.

“No man in fight

His face shall turn

Against the moon’s sister

Low, late-shining,

For he winneth battle

Who best beholdeth

Through the midmost sword-play,

And the sloping ranks best shapeth.

“Great is the trouble

Of foot ill-tripping,

When arrayed for fight thou farest,

For on both sides about

Are the Disir 34 by thee,

Guileful, wishful of thy wounding.

“Fair-combed, well washen

Let each warrior be,

Nor lack meat in the morning,

For who can rule

The eve’s returning,

And base to fall before fate grovelling.”

Then the storm abated, and on they fared till they came aland in the realm of Hunding’s sons, and then Fjolnir vanished away.

Then they let loose fire and sword, and slew men and burnt their abodes, and did waste all before them: a great company of folk fled before the face of them to Lyngi the King, and tell him that men of war are in the land, and are faring with such rage and fury that the like has never been heard of; and that the sons of King Hunding had no great forecast in that they said they would never fear the Volsungs more, for here was come Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, as captain over this army.

So King Lyngi let send the war-message all throughout his realm, and has no will to flee, but summons to him all such as would give him aid. So he came against Sigurd with a great army, he and his brothers with him, and an exceeding fierce fight befell; many a spear and many an arrow might men see there raised aloft, axes hard driven, shields cleft and byrnies torn, helmets were shivered, skulls split atwain, and many a man felled to the cold earth.

And now when the fight has long dured in such wise, Sigurd goes forth before the banners, and has the good sword Gram in his hand, and smites down both men and horses, and goes through the thickest of the throng with both arms red with blood to the shoulder; and folk shrank aback before him wheresoever he went, nor would either helm or byrny hold before him, and no man deemed he had ever seen his like. So a long while the battle lasted, and many a man was slain, and furious was the onset; till at last it befell, even as seldom comes to hand, when a land army falls on, that, do whatso they might, naught was brought about; but so many men fell of the sons of Hunding that the tale of them may not be told; and now whenas Sigurd was among the foremost, came the sons of Hunding against him, and Sigurd smote therewith at Lyngi the king, and clave him down, both helm and head, and mail-clad body, and thereafter he smote Hjorward his brother atwain, and then slew all the other sons of Hunding who were yet alive, and the more part of their folk withal.

Now home goes Sigurd with fair victory won, and plenteous wealth and great honour, which he had gotten to him in this journey, and feasts were made for him against he came back to the realm.

But when Sigurd had been at home but a little, came Regin to talk with him, and said —

“Belike thou wilt now have good will to bow down Fafnir’s crest according to thy word plighted, since thou hast thus revenged thy father and the others of thy kin.”

Sigurd answered, “That will we hold to, even as we have promised, nor did it ever fall from our memory.”

33 This and verses following were inserted from the “Reginsmal” by the translators.

34 “Disir”, sing. “Dis”. These are the guardian beings who follow a man from his birth to his death. The word originally means sister, and is used throughout the Eddaic poems as a dignified synonym for woman, lady.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/volsungs/chapter17.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07