The Story of the Volsungs

Chapter xxxi.

Of the Lamentation of Gudrun over Sigurd’s dead, as it is told told in ancient Songs. 43

Gudrun of old days

Drew near to dying

As she sat in sorrow

Over Sigurd;

Yet she sighed not

Nor smote hand on hand,

Nor wailed she aught

As other women.

Then went earls to her.

Full of all wisdom,

Fain help to deal

To her dreadful heart:

Hushed was Gudrun

Of wail, or greeting,

But with a heavy woe

Was her heart a-breaking.

Bright and fair

Sat the great earls’ brides,

Gold arrayed

Before Gudrun;

Each told the tale

Of her great trouble,

The bitterest bale

She erst abode.

Then spake Giaflaug,

Giuki’s sister:

“Lo upon earth

I live most loveless

Who of five mates

Must see the ending,

Of daughters twain

And three sisters,

Of brethren eight,

And abide behind lonely.”

Naught gat Gudrun

Of wail and greeting,

So heavy was she

For her dead husband,

So dreadful-hearted

For the King laid dead there.

Then spake Herborg

Queen of Hunland —

“Crueller tale

Have I to tell of,

Of my seven sons

Down in the Southlands,

And the eighth man, my mate,

Felled in the death-mead.

“Father and mother,

And four brothers,

On the wide sea

The winds and death played with;

The billows beat

On the bulwark boards.

“Alone must I sing o’er them,

Alone must I array them,

Alone must my hands deal with

Their departing;

And all this was

In one season’s wearing,

And none was left

For love or solace.

“Then was I bound

A prey of the battle,

When that same season

Wore to its ending;

As a tiring may

Must I bind the shoon

Of the duke’s high dame,

Every day at dawning.

“From her jealous hate

Gat I heavy mocking,

Cruel lashes

She laid upon me,

Never met I

Better master

Or mistress worser

In all the wide world.”

Naught gat Gudrun

Of wail or greeting,

So heavy was she

For her dead husband,

So dreadful-hearted

For the King laid dead there.

Then spake Gullrond,

Giuki’s daughter —

“O foster-mother,

Wise as thou mayst be,

Naught canst thou better

The young wife’s bale.”

And she bade uncover

The dead King’s corpse.

She swept the sheet

Away from Sigurd,

And turned his cheek

Towards his wife’s knees —

“Look on thy loved one

Lay lips to his lips,

E’en as thou wert clinging

To thy king alive yet!”

Once looked Gudrun —

One look only,

And saw her lord’s locks

Lying all bloody,

The great man’s eyes

Glazed and deadly,

And his heart’s bulwark

Broken by sword-edge.

Back then sank Gudrun,

Back on the bolster,

Loosed was her head array,

Red did her cheeks grow,

And the rain-drops ran

Down over her knees.

Then wept Gudrun,

Giuki’s daughter,

So that the tears flowed

Through the pillow;

As the geese withal

That were in the homefield,

The fair fowls the may owned,

Fell a-screaming.

Then spake Gullrond,

Giuki’s daughter —

“Surely knew I

No love like your love

Among all men,

On the mould abiding;

Naught wouldst thou joy in

Without or within doors,

O my sister,

Save beside Sigurd.”

Then spake Gudrun,

Giuki’s daughter —

“Such was my Sigurd

Among the sons of Giuki,

As is the king leek

O’er the low grass waxing,

Or a bright stone

Strung on band,

Or a pearl of price

On a prince’s brow.

“Once was I counted

By the king’s warriors

Higher than any

Of Herjan’s mays;

Now am I as little

As the leaf may be,

Amid wind-swept wood

Now when dead he lieth.

I miss from my seat,

I miss from my bed,

My darling of sweet speech.

Wrought the sons of Giuki,

Wrought the sons of Giuki,

This sore sorrow,

Yea, for their sister,

Most sore sorrow.

“So may your lands

Lie waste on all sides,

As ye have broken

Your bounden oaths!

Ne’er shalt thou, Gunnar,

The gold have joy of;

The dear-bought rings

Shall drag thee to death,

Whereon thou swarest

Oath unto Sigurd.

Ah, in the days by-gone

Great mirth in the homefield

When my Sigurd

Set saddle on Grani,

And they went their ways

For the wooing of Brynhild!

An ill day, an ill woman,

And most ill hap!”

Then spake Brynhild,

Budli’s daughter —

“May the woman lack

Both love and children,

Who gained greeting

For thee, O Gudrun!

Who gave thee this morning

Many words!”

Then spake Gullrond,

Giuki’s daughter —

“Hold peace of such words

Thou hated of all folk!

The bane of brave men

Hast thou been ever,

All waves of ill

Wash over thy mind,

To seven great kings

Hast thou been a sore sorrow,

And the death of good will

To wives and women.”

Then spake Brynhild,

Budli’s daughter —

“None but Atli

Brought bale upon us,

My very brother

Born of Budli.

When we saw in the hall

Of the Hunnish people

The gold a-gleaming

On the kingly Giukings;

I have paid for that faring

Oft and Full,

And for the sight

That then I saw.”

By a pillar she stood

And strained its wood to her;

From the eyes of Brynhild,

Budli’s daughter,

Flashed out fire,

And she snorted forth venom,

As the sore wounds she gazed on

Of the dead-slain Sigurd.

43 This chapter is the Eddaic poem, called the first Lay of Gudrun, inserted here by the translators.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/volsungs/chapter31.html

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