Now this is the first book of the life and death of Sigurd the Volsung, and therein is told of the birth of him, and of his dealings with Regin the master of masters, and of his deeds in the waste places of the Earth.
Peace lay on the land of the Helper and the house of Elf his son;
There merry men went bedward when their tide of toil was done,
And glad was the dawn’s awakening, and the noon-tide fair and glad:
There no great store had the franklin, and enough the hireling had;
And a child might go unguarded the length and breadth of the land
With a purse of gold at his girdle and gold rings on his hand. ’Twas a country of cunning craftsmen, and many a thing they wrought,
That the lands of storm desired, and the homes of warfare sought.
But men deemed it o’er-well warded by more than its stems of fight,
And told how its earth-born watchers yet lived of plenteous might.
So hidden was that country, and few men sailed its sea,
And none came o’er its mountains of men-folk’s company.
But fair-fruited, many-peopled, it lies a goodly strip, ’Twixt the mountains cloudy-headed and the sea-flood’s surging lip,
And a perilous flood is its ocean, and its mountains, who shall tell
What things in their dales deserted and their wind-swept heaths may dwell.
Now a man of the Kings, called Gripir, in this land of peace abode:
The son of the Helper’s father, though never lay his load
In the womb of the mother of Kings that the Helper’s brethren bore;
But of Giant kin was his mother, of the folk that are seen no more;
Though whiles as ye ride some fell-road across the heath there comes
The voice of their lone lamenting o’er their changed and conquered homes.
A long way off from the sea-strand and beneath the mountains’ feet
Is the high-built hall of Gripir, where the waste and the tillage meet;
A noble and plentiful house, that a little men-folk fear.
But beloved of the crag-dwelling eagles and the kin of the woodland deer.
A man of few words was Gripir, but he knew of all deeds that had been,
And times there came upon him, when the deeds to be were seen:
No sword had he held in his hand since his father fell to field,
And against the life of the slayer he bore undinted shield:
Yet no fear in his heart abided, nor desired he aught at all,
But he noted the deeds that had been, and looked for what should befall.
Again, in the house of the Helper there dwelt a certain man
Beardless and low of stature, of visage pinched and wan:
So exceeding old was Regin, that no son of man could tell
In what year of the days passed over he came to that land to dwell:
But the youth of King Elf had he fostered, and the Helper’s youth thereto,
Yea and his father’s father’s: the lore of all men he knew,
And was deft in every cunning, save the dealings of the sword:
So sweet was his tongue-speech fashioned, that men trowed his every word;
His hand with the harp-strings blended was the mingler of delight
With the latter days of sorrow; all tales he told aright;
The Master of the Masters in the smithying craft was he;
And he dealt with the wind and the weather and the stilling of the sea;
Nor might any learn him leech-craft, for before that race was made,
And that man-folk’s generation, all their life-days had he weighed.
In this land abideth Hiordis amid all people’s praise
Till cometh the time appointed: in the fulness of the days
Through the dark and the dusk she travailed, till at last in the dawning hour
Have the deeds of the Volsungs blossomed, and born their latest flower;
In the bed there lieth a man-child, and his eyes look straight on the sun,
And lo, the hope of the people, and the days of a king are begun.
Men say of the serving-women, when they cried on the joy of the morn,
When they handled the linen raiment, and washed the king new-born,
When they bore him back unto Hiordis, and the weary and happy breast,
And bade her be glad to behold it, how the best was sprung from the best,
Yet they shrank in their rejoicing before the eyes of the child,
So bright and dreadful were they; yea though the spring morn smiled,
And a thousand birds were singing round the fair familiar home,
And still as on other mornings they saw folk go and come,
Yet the hour seemed awful to them, and the hearts within them burned
As though of fateful matters their souls were newly learned.
But Hiordis looked on the Volsung, on her grief and her fond desire,
And the hope of her heart was quickened, and her joy was a living fire;
And she said: “Now one of the earthly on the eyes of my child hath gazed
Nor shrunk before their glory, nor stayed her love amazed:
I behold thee as Sigmund beholdeth — and I was the home of thine heart —
Woe’s me for the day when thou wert not, and the hour when we shall part!”
Then she held him a little season on her weary and happy breast
And she told him of Sigmund and Volsung and the best sprung forth from the best:
She spake to the new-born baby as one who might understand,
And told him of Sigmund’s battle, and the dead by the sea-flood’s strand,
And of all the wars passed over, and the light with darkness blent.
So she spake, and the sun rose higher, and her speech at last was spent,
And she gave him back to the women to bear forth to the people’s kings,
That they too may rejoice in her glory and her day of happy things.
But there sat the Helper of Men with King Elf and his Earls in the hall,
And they spake of the deeds that had been, and told of the times to befall,
And they hearkened and heard sweet voices and the sound of harps draw nigh,
Till their hearts were exceeding merry and they knew not wherefore or why:
Then, lo, in the hall white raiment, as thither the damsels came,
And amid the hands of the foremost was the woven gold aflame.
“O daughters of earls,” said the Helper, “what tidings then do ye bear?
Is it grief in the merry morning, or joy or wonder or fear?”
Quoth the first: “It is grief for the foemen that the Masters of
God-home would grieve.”
Said the next: “’Tis a wonder of wonders, that the hearkening world shall believe.”
“A fear of all fears,” said the third, “for the sword is uplifted on men.”
“A joy of all joys,” said the fourth, “once come, and it comes not again!”
“Lo, son,” said the ancient Helper, “glad sit the earls and the lords!
Lookst thou not for a token of tidings to follow such-like words?”
Saith King Elf: “Great words of women! or great hath our dwelling become.”
Said the women: “Words shall be greater, when all folk shall praise our home.”
“What then hath betid,” said King Elf, “do the high Gods stand in our gate?”
“Nay,” said they, “else were we silent, and they should be telling of fate.”
“Is the bidding come,” said the Helper, “that we wend the Gods to see?”
“Many summers and winters,” they said, “ye shall live on the earth, it may be.”
Said a young man: “Will ye be telling that all we shall die no more?”
“Nay,” they answered, “nay, who knoweth but the change may be hard at the door?”
“Come ships from the sea,” said an elder, “with all gifts of the
“Was there less than enough,” said the women, “when last our treasure was told?”
“Speak then,” said the ancient Helper, “let the worst and the best be said.”
Quoth they: “’Tis the Queen of the Isle-folk, she is weary-sick on her bed.”
Said King Elf: “Yet ye come rejoicing; what more lieth under the tongue?”
They said: “The earth is weary: but the tender blade hath sprung,
That shall wax till beneath its branches fair bloom the meadows green;
For the Gods and they that were mighty were glad erewhile with the
Said King Elf: “How say ye, women? Of a King new-born do ye tell,
By a God of the Heavens begotten in our fathers’ house to dwell?”
“By a God of the Earth,” they answered; “but greater yet is the son,
Though long were the days of Sigmund, and great are the deeds he hath done.”
Then she with the golden burden to the kingly high-seat stepped
And away from the new-born baby the purple cloths she swept,
And cried: “O King of the people, long mayst thou live in bliss,
As our hearts today are happy! Queen Hiordis sends thee this,
And she saith that the world shall call it by the name that thou shalt name;
Now the gift to thee is given, and to thee is brought the fame.”
Then e’en as a man astonied King Elf the Volsung took,
While his feast-hall’s ancient timbers with the cry of the earl-folk shook;
For the eyes of the child gleamed on him till he was as one who sees
The very Gods arising mid their carven images:
To his ears there came a murmur of far seas beneath the wind
And the tramp of fierce-eyed warriors through the outland forest blind;
The sound of hosts of battle, cries round the hoisted shield,
Low talk of the gathered wise-ones in the Goth-folk’s holy field:
So the thought in a little moment through King Elf the mighty ran
Of the years and their building and burden, and toil of the sons of man,
The joy of folk and their sorrow, and the hope of deeds to do:
With the love of many peoples was the wise king smitten through,
As he hung o’er the new-born Volsung: but at last he raised his head,
And looked forth kind o’er his people, and spake aloud and said:
“O Sigmund King of Battle; O man of many days,
Whom I saw mid the shields of the fallen and the dead men’s silent praise,
Lo, how hath the dark tide perished and the dawn of day begun!
And now, O mighty Sigmund, wherewith shall we name thy son?”
But there rose up a man most ancient, and he cried: “Hail Dawn of the
Day! How many things shalt thou quicken, how many shalt thou slay!
How many things shalt thou waken, how many lull to sleep!
How many things shalt thou scatter, how many gather and keep!
O me, how thy love shall cherish, how thine hate shall wither and burn!
How the hope shall be sped from thy right hand, nor the fear to thy left return!
O thy deeds that men shall sing of! O thy deeds that the Gods shall see!
O SIGURD, Son of the Volsungs, O Victory yet to be!”
Men heard the name and they knew it, and they caught it up in the air,
And it went abroad by the windows and the doors of the feast-hall fair,
It went through street and market; o’er meadow and acre it went,
And over the wind-stirred forest and the dearth of the sea-beat bent,
And over the sea-flood’s welter, till the folk of the fishers heard,
And the hearts of the isle-abiders on the sun-scorched rocks were stirred.
But the Queen in her golden chamber, the name she hearkened and knew
And she heard the flock of the women, as back to the chamber they drew,
And the name of Sigurd entered, and the body of Sigurd was come,
And it was as if Sigmund were living and she still in her lovely home;
Of all folk of the world was she well, and a soul fulfilled of rest
As alone in the chamber she wakened and Sigurd cherished her breast.
But men feast in the merry noontide, and glad is the April green
That a Volsung looks on the sunlight and the night and the darkness have been.
Earls think of marvellous stories, and along the golden strings
Flit words of banded brethren and names of war-fain Kings:
All the days of the deeds of Sigmund who was born so long ago;
All deeds of the glorious Signy, and her tarrying-tide of woe;
Men tell of the years of Volsung, and how long agone it was
That he changed his life in battle, and brought the tale to pass:
Then goeth the word of the Giants, and the world seems waxen old
For the dimness of King Rerir and the tale of his warfare told:
Yet unhushed are the singers’ voices, nor yet the harp-strings cease
While yet is left a rumour of the mirk-wood’s broken peace,
And of Sigi the very ancient, and the unnamed Sons of God,
Of the days when the Lords of Heaven full oft the world-ways trod.
So stilleth the wind in the even and the sun sinks down in the sea,
And men abide the morrow and the Victory yet to be.
Now waxeth the son of Sigmund in might and goodliness,
And soft the days win over, and all men his beauty bless.
But amidst the summer season was the Isle-queen Hiordis wed
To King Elf the son of the Helper, and fair their life-days sped.
Peace lay on the land for ever, and the fields gave good increase,
And there was Sigurd waxing mid the plenty and the peace.
Now hath the child grown greater, and is keen and eager of wit
And full of understanding, and oft hath he joy to sit
Amid talk of weighty matters when the wise men meet for speech;
And joyous he is moreover and blithe and kind with each.
But Regin the wise craftsmaster heedeth the youngling well,
And before the Kings he cometh, and saith such words to tell.
“I have fostered thy youth, King Elf, and thine O Helper of men,
And ye wot that such a master no king shall see again;
And now would I foster Sigurd; for, though he be none of thy blood,
Mine heart of his days that shall be speaketh abundant good.”
Then spake the Helper of men-folk: “Yea, do herein thy will:
For thou art the Master of Masters, and hast learned me all my skill:
But think how bright is this youngling, and thy guile from him withhold;
For this craft of thine hath shown me that thy heart is grim and cold,
Though three men’s lives thrice over thy wisdom might not learn;
And I love this son of Sigmund, and mine heart to him doth yearn.”
Then Regin laughed, and answered: “I doled out cunning to thee;
But nought with him will I measure: yet no cold-heart shall he be,
Nor grim, nor evil-natured: for whate’er my will might frame,
Gone forth is the word of the Norns, that abideth ever the same.
And now, despite my cunning, how deem ye I shall die?”
And they said he would live as he listed, and at last in peace should lie
When he listed to live no longer; so mighty and wise he was.
But again he laughed and answered: “One day it shall come to pass,
That a beardless youth shall slay me: I know the fateful doom;
But nought may I withstand it, as it heaves up dim through the gloom.”
So is Sigurd now with Regin, and he learns him many things;
Yea, all save the craft of battle, that men learned the sons of kings:
The smithying sword and war-coat; the carving runes aright;
The tongues of many countries, and soft speech for men’s delight;
The dealing with the harp-strings, and the winding ways of song.
So wise of heart waxed Sigurd, and of body wondrous strong:
And he chased the deer of the forest, and many a wood-wolf slew,
And many a bull of the mountains: and the desert dales he knew,
And the heaths that the wind sweeps over; and seaward would he fare,
Far out from the outer skerries, and alone the sea-wights dare.
On a day he sat with Regin amidst the unfashioned gold,
And the silver grey from the furnace; and Regin spake and told
Sweet tales of the days that have been, and the Kings of the bold and wise;
Till the lad’s heart swelled with longing and lit his sunbright eyes.
Then Regin looked upon him: “Thou too shalt one day ride
As the Volsung Kings went faring through the noble world and wide.
For this land is nought and narrow, and Kings of the carles are these.
And their earls are acre-biders, and their hearts are dull with peace.”
But Sigurd knit his brows, and in wrathful wise he said:
“Ill words of those thou speakest that my youth have cherished.
And the friends that have made me merry, and the land that is fair and good.”
Then Regin laughed and answered: “Nay, well I see by thy mood
That wide wilt thou ride in the world like thy kin of the earlier days:
And wilt thou be wroth with thy master that he longs for thy winning the praise?
And now if the sooth thou sayest, that these King-folk cherish thee well,
Then let them give thee a gift whereof the world shall tell:
Yea hearken to this my counsel, and crave for a battle-steed.”
Yet wroth was the lad and answered: “I have many a horse to my need,
And all that the heart desireth, and what wouldst thou wish me more?”
Then Regin answered and said: “Thy kin of the Kings of yore
Were the noblest men of men-folk; and their hearts would never rest
Whatso of good they had gotten, if their hands held not the best.
Now do thou after my counsel, and crave of thy fosterers here
That thou choose of the horses of Gripir whichso thine heart holds dear.”
He spake and his harp was with him, and he smote the strings full sweet,
And sang of the host of the Valkyrs, how they ride the battle to meet,
And the dew from the dear manes drippeth as they ride in the first of the sun,
And the tree-boughs open to meet it when the wind of the dawning is done:
And the deep dales drink its sweetness and spring into blossoming grass,
And the earth groweth fruitful of men, and bringeth their glory to pass.
Then the wrath ran off from Sigurd, and he left the smithying stead
While the song yet rang in the doorway: and that eve to the Kings he said: “Will ye do so much for mine asking as to give me a horse to my will?
For belike the days shall come, that shall all my heart fulfill,
And teach me the deeds of a king.”
Then answered King Elf and spake:
“The stalls of the Kings are before thee to set aside or to take,
And nought we begrudge thee the best.”
Yet answered Sigurd again;
For his heart of the mountains aloft and the windy drift was fain:
“Fair seats for the knees of Kings! but now do I ask for a gift
Such as all the world shall be praising, the best of the strong and the swift
Ye shall give me a token for Gripir, and bid him to let me choose
From out of the noble stud-beasts that run in his meadow loose.
But if overmuch I have asked you, forget this prayer of mine,
And deem the word unspoken, and get ye to the wine.”
Then smiled King Elf, and answered: “A long way wilt thou ride,
To where unpeace and troubles and the griefs of the soul abide,
Yea unto the death at the last: yet surely shalt thou win
The praise of many a people: so have thy way herein.
Forsooth no more may we hold thee than the hazel copse may hold
The sun of the early dawning, that turneth it all unto gold.”
Then sweetly Sigurd thanked them; and through the night he lay
Mid dreams of many a matter till the dawn was on the way;
Then he shook the sleep from off him, and that dwelling of Kings he left
And wended his ways unto Gripir. On a crag from the mountain reft
Was the house of the old King builded; and a mighty house it was,
Though few were the sons of men that over its threshold would pass:
But the wild ernes cried about it, and the vultures toward it flew,
And the winds from the heart of the mountains searched every chamber through,
And about were meads wide-spreading; and many a beast thereon,
Yea some that are men-folk’s terror, their sport and pasture won.
So into the hall went Sigurd; and amidst was Gripir set
In a chair of the sea-beast’s tooth; and his sweeping beard nigh met
The floor that was green as the ocean, and his gown was of mountain-gold,
And the kingly staff in his hand was knobbed with the crystal cold.
Now the first of the twain spake Gripir: “Hail King with the eyen bright!
Nought needest thou show the token, for I know of thy life and thy light.
And no need to tell of thy message; it was wafted here on the wind,
That thou wouldst be coming today a horse in my meadow to find:
And strong must he be for the bearing of those deeds of thine that shall be.
Now choose thou of all the way-wearers that are running loose in my lea,
And be glad as thine heart will have thee and the fate that leadeth thee on,
And I bid thee again come hither when the sword of worth is won,
And thy loins are girt for thy going on the road that before thee lies;
For a glimmering over its darkness is come before mine eyes.”
Then again gat Sigurd outward, and adown the steep he ran
And unto the horse-fed meadow: but lo, a grey-clad man,
One-eyed and seeming-ancient, there met him by the way:
And he spake: “Thou hastest, Sigurd; yet tarry till I say
A word that shall well bestead thee: for I know of these mountains well
And all the lea of Gripir, and the beasts that thereon dwell.”
“Wouldst thou have red gold for thy tidings? art thou Gripir’s horse-herd then?
Nay sure, for thy face is shining like the battle-eager men
My master Regin tells of: and I love thy cloud-grey gown.
And thy visage gleams above it like a thing my dreams have known.”
“Nay whiles have I heeded the horse-kind,” then spake that elder of days, “And sooth do the sages say, when the beasts of my breeding they praise.
There is one thereof in the meadow, and, wouldst thou cull him out,
Thou shalt follow an elder’s counsel, who hath brought strange things about,
Who hath known thy father aforetime, and other kings of thy kin.”
So Sigurd said, “I am ready; and what is the deed to win?”
He said: “We shall drive the horses adown to the water-side,
That cometh forth from the mountains, and note what next shall betide.”
Then the twain sped on together, and they drave the horses on
Till they came to a rushing river, a water wide and wan;
And the white mews hovered o’er it; but none might hear their cry
For the rush and the rattle of waters, as the downlong flood swept by.
So the whole herd took the river and strove the stream to stem,
And many a brave steed was there; but the flood o’ermastered them:
And some, it swept them down-ward, and some won back to bank,
Some, caught by the net of the eddies, in the swirling hubbub sank;
But one of all swam over, and they saw his mane of grey
Toss over the flowery meadows, a bright thing far away:
Wide then he wheeled about them, then took the stream again
And with the waves’ white horses mingled his cloudy mane.
Then spake the elder of days: “Hearken now, Sigurd, and hear;
Time was when I gave thy father a gift thou shalt yet deem dear,
And this horse is a gift of my giving:— heed nought where thou mayst ride:
For I have seen thy fathers in a shining house abide,
And on earth they thought of its threshold, and the gifts I had to give;
Nor prayed for a little longer, and a little longer to live.”
Then forth he strode to the mountains, and fain was Sigurd now
To ask him many a matter: but dim did his bright shape grow,
As a man from the litten doorway fades into the dusk of night;
And the sun in the high-noon shone, and the world was exceeding bright.
So Sigurd turned to the river and stood by the wave-wet strand,
And the grey horse swims to his feet and lightly leaps aland,
And the youngling looks upon him, and deems none beside him good.
And indeed, as tells the story, he was come of Sleipnir’s blood,
The tireless horse of Odin: cloud-grey he was of hue,
And it seemed as Sigurd backed him that Sigmund’s son he knew,
So glad he went beneath him. Then the youngling’s song arose
As he brushed through the noon-tide blossoms of Gripir’s mighty close,
Then he singeth the song of Greyfell, the horse that Odin gave,
Who swam through the sweeping river, and back through the toppling wave.
Now yet the days pass over, and more than words may tell
Grows Sigurd strong and lovely, and all children love him well.
But oft he looks on the mountains and many a time is fain
To know of what lies beyond them, and learn of the wide world’s gain.
And he saith: “I dwell in a land that is ruled by none of my blood;
And my mother’s sons are waxing, and fair kings shall they be and good;
And their servant or their betrayer — not one of these will I be.
Yet needs must I wait for a little till Odin calls for me.”
Now again it happed on a day that he sat in Regin’s hall
And hearkened many tidings of what had chanced to fall,
And of kings that sought their kingdoms o’er many a waste and wild,
And at last saith the crafty master:
King Sigmund’s child:
Wilt thou wait till these kings of the carles shall die in a little land,
Or wilt thou serve their sons and carry the cup to their hand;
Or abide in vain for the day that never shall come about,
When their banners shall dance in the wind and shake to the war-gods’ shout?”
Then Sigurd answered and said: “Nought such do I look to be.
But thou, a deedless man, too much thou eggest me:
And these folk are good and trusty, and the land is lovely and sweet,
And in rest and in peace it lieth as the floor of Odin’s feet:
Yet I know that the world is wide, and filled with deeds unwrought;
And for e’en such work was I fashioned, lest the songcraft come to nought,
When the harps of God-home tinkle, and the Gods are at stretch to hearken:
Lest the hosts of the Gods be scanty when their day hath begun to darken,
When the bonds of the Wolf wax thin, and Loki fretteth his chain.
And sure for the house of my fathers full oft my heart is fain,
And meseemeth I hear them talking of the day when I shall come,
And of all the burden of deeds, that my hand shall bear them home.
And so when the deed is ready, nowise the man shall lack:
But the wary foot is the surest, and the hasty oft turns back.”
Then answered Regin the guileful: “The deed is ready to hand,
Yet holding my peace is the best, for well thou lovest the land;
And thou lovest thy life moreover, and the peace of thy youthful days,
And why should the full-fed feaster his hand to the rye-bread raise?
Yet they say that Sigmund begat thee and he looked to fashion a man.
Fear nought; he lieth quiet in his mound by the sea-waves wan.”
So shone the eyes of Sigurd, that the shield against him hung
Cast back their light as the sunbeams; but his voice to the roof-tree rung: “Tell me, thou
Master of Masters, what deed is the deed I shall do?
Nor mock thou the son of Sigmund lest the day of his birth thou rue.”
Then answered the Master of Sleight: “The deed is the righting of wrong,
And the quelling a bale and a sorrow that the world hath endured o’erlong,
And the winning a treasure untold, that shall make thee more than the kings;
Thereof is the Helm of Aweing, the wonder of earthly things,
And thereof is its very fellow, the War-coat all of gold,
That has not its like in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told.”
Then answered Sigurd the Volsung: “How long hereof hast thou known?
And what unto thee is this treasure, that thou seemest to give as thine own?”
“Alas!” quoth the smithying master, “it is mine, yet none of mine,
Since my heart herein avails not, and my hand is frail and fine —
It is long since I first came hither to seek a man for my need;
For I saw by a glimmering light that hence would spring the deed,
And many a deed of the world: but the generations passed,
And the first of the days was as near to the end that I sought as the last;
Till I looked on thine eyes in the cradle: and now I deem through thee,
That the end of my days of waiting, and the end of my woes shall be.”
Then Sigurd awhile was silent; but at last he answered and said:
“Thou shalt have thy will and the treasure, and shalt take the curse on thine head
If a curse the gold enwrappeth: but the deed will I surely do,
For today the dreams of my childhood hath bloomed in my heart anew:
And I long to look on the world and the glory of the earth
And to deal in the dealings of men, and garner the harvest of worth.
But tell me, thou Master of Masters, where lieth this measureless wealth;
Is it guarded by swords of the earl-folk, or kept by cunning and stealth?
Is it over the main sea’s darkness, or beyond the mountain wall?
Or e’en in these peaceful acres anigh to the hands of all?”
Then Regin answered sweetly: “Hereof must a tale be told:
Bide sitting, thou son of Sigmund, on the heap of unwrought gold,
And hearken of wondrous matters, and of things unheard, unsaid,
And deeds of my beholding ere the first of Kings was made.
“And first ye shall know of a sooth, that I never was born of the race
Which the masters of God-home have made to cover the fair earth’s face;
But I come of the Dwarfs departed; and fair was the earth whileome
Ere the short-lived thralls of the Gods amidst its dales were come:—
And how were we worse than the Gods, though maybe we lived not as long?
Yet no weight of memory maimed us; nor aught we knew of wrong.
What felt our souls of shaming, what knew our hearts of love?
We did and undid at pleasure, and repented nought thereof.
— Yea we were exceeding mighty — bear with me yet, my son;
For whiles can I scarcely think it that our days are wholly done.
And trust not thy life in my hands in the day when most I seem
Like the Dwarfs that are long departed, and most of my kindred I dream.
“So as we dwelt came tidings that the Gods amongst us were,
And the people came from Asgard: then rose up hope and fear,
And strange shapes of things went flitting betwixt the night and the eve,
And our sons waxed wild and wrathful, and our daughters learned to grieve.
Then we fell to the working of metal, and the deeps of the earth would know,
And we dealt with venom and leechcraft, and we fashioned spear and bow,
And we set the ribs to the oak-keel, and looked on the landless sea;
And the world began to be such-like as the Gods would have it to be.
In the womb of the woeful earth had they quickened the grief and the gold.
“It was Reidmar the Ancient begat me; and now was he waxen old,
And a covetous man and a king; and he bade, and I built him a hall,
And a golden glorious house; and thereto his sons did he call,
And he bade them be evil and wise, that his will through them might be wrought.
Then he gave unto Fafnir my brother the soul that feareth nought,
And the brow of the hardened iron, and the hand that may never fail,
And the greedy heart of a king, and the ear that hears no wail.
“But next unto Otter my brother he gave the snare and the net,
And the longing to wend through the wild-wood, and wade the highways wet:
And the foot that never resteth, while aught be left alive
That hath cunning to match man’s cunning or might with his might to strive.
“And to me, the least and the youngest, what gift for the slaying of ease?
Save the grief that remembers the past, and the fear that the future sees;
And the hammer and fashioning-iron, and the living coal of fire;
And the craft that createth a semblance, and fails of the heart’s desire;
And the toil that each dawning quickens and the task that is never done;
And the heart that longeth ever, nor will look to the deed that is won.
“Thus gave my father the gifts that might never be taken again;
Far worse were we now than the Gods, and but little better than men.
But yet of our ancient might one thing had we left us still:
We had craft to change our semblance, and could shift us at our will
Into bodies of the beast-kind, or fowl, or fishes cold;
For belike no fixèd semblance we had in the days of old,
Till the Gods were waxen busy, and all things their form must take
That knew of good and evil, and longed to gather and make.
“So dwelt we, brethren and father; and Fafnir my brother fared
As the scourge and compeller of all things, and left no wrong undared;
But for me, I toiled and I toiled; and fair grew my father’s house;
But writhen and foul were the hands that had made it glorious;
And the love of women left me, and the fame of sword and shield:
And the sun and the winds of heaven, and the fowl and the grass of the field
Were grown as the tools of my smithy; and all the world I knew,
And the glories that lie beyond it, and whitherward all things drew;
And myself a little fragment amidst it all I saw,
Grim, cold-heart, and unmighty as the tempest-driven straw.
— Let be. — For Otter my brother saw seldom field or fold,
And he oftenest used that custom, whereof e’en now I told,
And would shift his shape with the wood-beasts and the things of land and sea;
And he knew what joy their hearts had, and what they longed to be,
And their dim-eyed understanding, and his wood-craft waxed so great,
That he seemed the king of the creatures and their very mortal fate.
“Now as the years won over three folk of the heavenly halls
Grew aweary of sleepless sloth, and the day that nought befalls;
And they fain would look on the earth, and their latest handiwork,
And turn the fine gold over, lest a flaw therein should lurk.
And the three were the heart-wise Odin, the Father of the Slain,
And Loki, the World’s Begrudger, who maketh all labour vain,
And HÃ¦nir, the Utter–Blameless, who wrought the hope of man,
And his heart and inmost yearnings, when first the work began; —
— The God that was aforetime, and hereafter yet shall be,
When the new light yet undreamed of shall shine o’er earth and sea.
“Thus about the world they wended and deemed it fair and good,
And they loved their life-days dearly: so came they to the wood,
And the lea without a shepherd and the dwellings of the deer,
And unto a mighty water that ran from a fathomless mere.
Now that flood my brother Otter had haunted many a day
For its plenteous fruit of fishes; and there on the bank he lay
As the Gods came wandering thither; and he slept, and in his dreams
He saw the downlong river, and its fishy-peopled streams,
And the swift smooth heads of its forces, and its swirling wells and deep,
Where hang the poisèd fishes, and their watch in the rock-halls keep.
And so, as he thought of it all, and its deeds and its wanderings,
Whereby it ran to the sea down the road of scaly things,
His body was changed with his thought, as yet was the wont of our kind,
And he grew but an Otter indeed; and his eyes were sleeping and blind
The while he devoured the prey, a golden red-flecked trout.
Then passed by Odin and HÃ¦nir, nor cumbered their souls with doubt;
But Loki lingered a little, and guile in his heart arose,
And he saw through the shape of the Otter, and beheld a chief of his foes,
A king of the free and the careless: so he called up his baleful might,
And gathered his godhead together, and tore a shard outright
From the rock-wall of the river, and across its green wells cast;
And roaring over the waters that bolt of evil passed,
And smote my brother Otter that his heart’s life fled away,
And bore his man’s shape with it, and beast-like there he lay,
Stark dead on the sun-lit blossoms: but the Evil God rejoiced,
And because of the sound of his singing the wild grew many-voiced.
“Then the three Gods waded the river, and no word HÃ¦nir spake,
For his thoughts were set on God-home, and the day that is ever awake.
But Odin laughed in his wrath, and murmured: ’Ah, how long,
Till the iron shall ring on the anvil for the shackles of thy wrong!’
“Then Loki takes up the quarry, and is e’en as a man again;
And the three wend on through the wild-wood till they come to a grassy plain
Beneath the untrodden mountains; and lo a noble house,
And a hall with great craft fashioned, and made full glorious;
But night on the earth was falling; so scantly might they see
The wealth of its smooth-wrought stonework and its world of imagery:
Then Loki bade turn thither since day was at an end,
And into that noble dwelling the lords of God-home wend;
And the porch was fair and mighty, and so smooth-wrought was its gold,
That the mirrored stars of heaven therein might ye behold:
But the hall, what words shall tell it, how fair it rose aloft,
And the marvels of its windows, and its golden hangings soft,
And the forest of its pillars! and each like the wave’s heart shone,
And the mirrored boughs of the garden were dancing fair thereon.
— Long years agone was it builded, and where are its wonders now?
“Now the men of God-home marvelled, and gazed through the golden glow,
And a man like a covetous king amidst of the hall they saw;
And his chair was the tooth of the whale, wrought smooth with never a flaw;
And his gown was the sea-born purple, and he bore a crown on his head,
But never a sword was before him: kind-seeming words he said,
And bade rest to the weary feet that had worn the wild so long.
So they sat, and were men by seeming; and there rose up music and song,
And they ate and drank and were merry: but amidst the glee of the cup
They felt themselves tangled and caught, as when the net cometh up
Before the folk of the firth, and the main sea lieth far off;
And the laughter of lips they hearkened, and that hall-abider’s scoff,
As his face and his mocking eyes anigh to their faces drew,
And their godhead was caught in the net, and no shift of creation they knew
To escape from their man-like bodies; so great that day was the Earth.
“Then spake the hall-abider: ’Where then is thy guileful mirth,
And thy hall-glee gone, O Loki? Come, HÃ¦nir, fashion now
My heart for love and for hope, that the fear in my body may grow,
That I may grieve and be sorry, that the ruth may arise in me,
As thou dealtst with the first of men-folk, when a master-smith thou wouldst be.
And thou, Allfather Odin, hast thou come on a bastard brood?
Or hadst thou belike a brother, thy twin for evil and good,
That waked amidst thy slumber, and slumbered midst thy work?
Nay, Wise-one, art thou silent as a child amidst the mirk?
Ah, I know ye are called the Gods, and are mighty men at home,
But now with a guilt on your heads to no feeble folk are ye come,
To a folk that need you nothing: time was when we knew you not:
Yet e’en then fresh was the winter, and the summer sun was hot,
And the wood-meats stayed our hunger, and the water quenched our thirst,
Ere the good and the evil wedded and begat the best and the worst.
And how if today I undo it, that work of your fashioning,
If the web of the world run backward, and the high heavens lack a King?
— Woe’s me! for your ancient mastery shall help you at your need:
If ye fill up the gulf of my longing and my empty heart of greed,
And slake the flame ye have quickened, then may ye go your ways
And get ye back to your kingship and the driving on of the days
To the day of the gathered war-hosts, and the tide of your Fateful
Gloom. Now nought may ye gainsay it that my mouth must speak the doom,
For ye wot well I am Reidmar, and that there ye lie red-hand
From the slaughtering of my offspring, and the spoiling of my land;
For his death of my wold hath bereft me and every highway wet.
— Nay, Loki, naught avails it, well-fashioned is the net.
Come forth, my son, my war-god, and show the Gods their work,
And thou who mightst learn e’en Loki, if need were to lie or lurk!’
“And there was I, I Regin, the smithier of the snare,
And high up Fafnir towered with the brow that knew no fear,
With the wrathful and pitiless heart that was born of my father’s will,
And the greed that the Gods had fashioned the fate of the earth to fulfill.
“Then spake the Father of Men: ’We have wrought thee wrong indeed,
And, wouldst thou amend it with wrong, thine errand must we speed;
For I know of thine heart’s desire, and the gold thou shalt nowise lack,
— Nor all the works of the gold.
But best were thy word drawn back,
If indeed the doom of the Norns be not utterly now gone forth.’
“Then Reidmar laughed and answered: ’So much is thy word of worth!
And they call thee Odin for this, and stretch forth hands in vain,
And pray for the gifts of a God who giveth and taketh again!
It was better in times past over, when we prayed for nought at all,
When no love taught us beseeching, and we had no troth to recall.
Ye have changed the world, and it bindeth with the right and the wrong ye have made,
Nor may ye be Gods henceforward save the rightful ransom be paid.
But perchance ye are weary of kingship, and will deal no more with the earth?
Then curse the world, and depart, and sit in your changeless mirth;
And there shall be no more kings, and battle and murder shall fail,
And the world shall laugh and long not, nor weep, nor fashion the tale.’
“So spake Reidmar the Wise; but the wrath burned through his word,
And wasted his heart of wisdom; and there was Fafnir the Lord,
And there was Regin the Wright, and they raged at their father’s back:
And all these cried out together with the voice of the sea-storm’s wrack; ’O hearken,
Gods of the Goths! ye shall die, and we shall be Gods,
And rule your men belovèd with bitter-heavy rods,
And make them beasts beneath us, save today ye do our will,
And pay us the ransom of blood, and our hearts with the gold fulfill.’
“But Odin spake in answer, and his voice was awful and cold: ’Give righteous doom, O Reidmar! say what ye will of the
“Then Reidmar laughed in his heart, and his wrath and his wisdom fled,
And nought but his greed abided; and he spake from his throne and said:
“’Now hearken the doom I shall speak! Ye stranger-folk shall be free
When ye give me the Flame of the Waters, the gathered Gold of the Sea,
That Andvari hideth rejoicing in the wan realm pale as the grave;
And the Master of Sleight shall fetch it, and the hand that never gave,
And the heart that begrudgeth for ever shall gather and give and rue.
— Lo this is the doom of the wise, and no doom shall be spoken anew.’
“Then Odin spake: ’It is well; the Curser shall seek for the curse;
And the Greedy shall cherish the evil — and the seed of the Great they shall nurse.’
“No word spake Reidmar the great, for the eyes of his heart were turned
To the edge of the outer desert, so sore for the gold he yearned.
But Loki I loosed from the toils, and he goeth his way abroad;
And the heart of Odin he knoweth, and where he shall seek the Hoard.
“There is a desert of dread in the uttermost part of the world,
Where over a wall of mountains is a mighty water hurled,
Whose hidden head none knoweth, nor where it meeteth the sea;
And that force is the Force of Andvari, and an Elf of the Dark is he.
In the cloud and the desert he dwelleth amid that land alone;
And his work is the storing of treasure within his house of stone.
Time was when he knew of wisdom, and had many a tale to tell
Of the days before the Dwarf-age, and of what in that world befell:
And he knew of the stars and the sun, and the worlds that come and go
On the nether rim of heaven, and whence the wind doth blow,
And how the sea hangs balanced betwixt the curving lands,
And how all drew together for the first Gods’ fashioning hands.
But now is all gone from him, save the craft of gathering gold,
And he heedeth nought of the summer, nor knoweth the winter cold,
Nor looks to the sun nor the snowfall, nor ever dreams of the sea,
Nor hath heard of the making of men-folk, nor of where the high Gods be
But ever he gripeth and gathereth, and he toileth hour by hour,
Nor knoweth the noon from the midnight as he looks on his stony bower,
And saith: ’It is short, it is narrow for all I shall gather and get;
For the world is but newly fashioned, and long shall its years be yet.’
“There Loki fareth, and seeth in a land of nothing good,
Far off o’er the empty desert, the reek of the falling flood
Go up to the floor of heaven, and thither turn his feet
As he weaveth the unseen meshes and the snare of strong deceit;
So he cometh his ways to the water, where the glittering foam-bow glows,
And the huge flood leaps the rock-wall and a green arch over it throws.
There under the roof of water he treads the quivering floor,
And the hush of the desert is felt amid the water’s roar,
And the bleak sun lighteth the wave-vault, and tells of the fruitless plain,
And the showers that nourish nothing, and the summer come in vain.
“There did the great Guile-master his toils and his tangles set,
And as wide as was the water, so wide was woven the net;
And as dim as the Elf’s remembrance did the meshes of it show;
And he had no thought of sorrow, nor spared to come and go
On his errands of griping and getting till he felt himself tangled and caught:
Then back to his blinded soul was his ancient wisdom brought,
And he saw his fall and his ruin, as a man by the lightning’s flame
Sees the garth all flooded by foemen; and again he remembered his name;
And e’en as a book well written the tale of the Gods he knew,
And the tale of the making of men, and much of the deeds they should do.
“But Loki took his man-shape, and laughed aloud and cried: ’What fish of the ends of the earth is so strong and so feeble-eyed,
That he draweth the pouch of my net on his road to the dwelling of
Hell? What Elf that hath heard the gold growing, but hath heard not the light winds tell
That the Gods with the world have been dealing and have fashioned men for the earth?
Where is he that hath ridden the cloud-horse and measured the ocean’s girth,
But seen nought of the building of God-home nor the forging of the sword:
Where then is the maker of nothing, the earless and eyeless lord?
In the pouch of my net he lieth, with his head on the threshold of
“Then the Elf lamented, and said: ’Thou knowst of my name full well:
Andvari begotten of Oinn, whom the Dwarf-kind called the Wise,
By the worst of the Gods is taken, the forge and the father of lies.’
“Said Loki: ’How of the Elf-kind, do they love their latter life,
When their weal is all departed, and they lie alow in the strife?’
“Then Andvari groaned and answered: ’I know what thou wouldst have,
The wealth mine own hands gathered, the gold that no man gave.’
“’Come forth,’ said Loki, ’and give it, and dwell in peace henceforth —
Or die in the toils if thou listest, if thy life be nothing worth.’
“Full sore the Elf lamented, but he came before the God,
And the twain went into the rock-house and on fine gold they trod,
And the walls shone bright, and brighter than the sun of the upper air.
How great was that treasure of treasures: and the Helm of Dread was there;
The world but in dreams had seen it; and there was the hauberk of gold;
None other is in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told.
“Then Loki bade the Elf-king bring all to the upper day,
And he dight himself with his Godhead to bear the treasure away:
So there in the dim grey desert before the God of Guile,
Great heaps of the hid-world’s treasure the weary Elf must pile,
And Loki looked on laughing: but, when it all was done,
And the Elf was hurrying homeward, his finger gleamed in the sun:
Then Loki cried: ’Thou art guileful: thou hast not learned the tale
Of the wisdom that Gods hath gotten and their might of all avail.
Hither to me! that I learn thee of a many things to come;
Or despite of all wilt thou journey to the dead man’s deedless home.
Come hither again to thy master, and give the ring to me;
For meseems it is Loki’s portion, and the Bale of Men shall it be.’
“Then the Elf drew off the gold-ring and stood with empty hand
E’en where the flood fell over ’twixt the water and the land,
And he gazed on the great Guile-master, and huge and grim he grew;
And his anguish swelled within him, and the word of the Norns he knew;
How that gold was the seed of gold to the wise and the shapers of things,
The hoarders of hidden treasure, and the unseen glory of rings;
But the seed of woe to the world and the foolish wasters of men,
And grief to the generations that die and spring again:
Then he cried:
’There farest thou Loki, and might I load thee worse
Than with what thine ill heart beareth, then shouldst thou bear my curse:
But for men a curse thou bearest: entangled in my gold,
Amid my woe abideth another woe untold.
Two brethren and a father, eight kings my grief shall slay;
And the hearts of queens shall be broken, and their eyes shall loathe the day.
Lo, how the wilderness blossoms! Lo, how the lonely lands
Are waving with the harvest that fell from my gathering hands!’
“But Loki laughed in silence, and swift in Godhead went,
To the golden hall of Reidmar and the house of our content.
But when that world of treasure was laid within our hall ’Twas as if the sun were minded to live ’twixt wall and wall,
And all we stood by and panted. Then Odin spake and said:
“’O Kings, O folk of the Dwarf-kind, lo, the ransom duly paid!
Will ye have this sun of the ocean, and reap the fruitful field,
And garner up the harvest that earth therefrom shall yield?’
“So he spake; but a little season nought answered Reidmar the wise,
But turned his face from the Treasure, and peered with eager eyes
Endlong the hall and athwart it, as a man may chase about
A ray of the sun of the morning that a naked sword throws out;
And lo from Loki’s right-hand came the flash of the fruitful ring,
And at last spake Reidmar scowling:
’Ye wait for my yea-saying
That your feet may go free on the earth, and the fear of my toils may be done
That then ye may say in your laughter: The fools of the time agone!
The purblind eyes of the Dwarf-kind! they have gotten the garnered sheaf
And have let their Masters depart with the Seed of Gold and of Grief:
O Loki, friend of Allfather, cast down Andvari’s ring,
Or the world shall yet turn backward and the high heavens lack a king.’
“Then Loki drew off the Elf-ring and cast it down on the heap,
And forth as the gold met gold did the light of its glory leap:
But he spake: ’It rejoiceth my heart that no whit of all ye shall lack,
Lest the curse of the Elf-king cleave not, and ye ’scape the utter wrack.’
“Then laughed and answered Reidmar: ’I shall have it while I live,
And that shall be long, meseemeth: for who is there may strive
With my sword, the war-wise Fafnir, and my shield that is Regin the
Smith? But if indeed I should die, then let men-folk deal therewith,
And ride to the golden glitter through evil deeds and good.
I will have my heart’s desire, and do as the high Gods would.’
“Then I loosed the Gods from their shackles, and great they grew on the floor
And into the night they gat them; but Odin turned by the door,
And we looked not, little we heeded, for we grudged his mastery;
Then he spake, and his voice was waxen as the voice of the winter sea:
“’O Kings, O folk of the Dwarfs, why then will ye covet and rue?
I have seen your fathers’ fathers and the dust wherefrom they grew;
But who hath heard of my father or the land where first I sprung?
Who knoweth my day of repentance, or the year when I was young?
Who hath learned the names of the Wise-one or measured out his will?
Who hath gone before to teach him, and the doom of days fulfill?
Lo, I look on the Curse of the Gold, and wrong amended by wrong,
And love by love confounded, and the strong abased by the strong;
And I order it all and amend it, and the deeds that are done I see,
And none other beholdeth or knoweth; and who shall be wise unto me?
For myself to myself I offered, that all wisdom I might know,
And fruitful I waxed of works, and good and fair did they grow;
And I knew, and I wrought and fore-ordered; and evil sat by my side,
And myself by myself hath been doomed, and I look for the fateful tide;
And I deal with the generations, and the men mine hand hath made,
And myself by myself shall be grieved, lest the world and its fashioning fade.’
“They went and the Gold abided: but the words Allfather spake,
I call them back full often for that golden even’s sake,
Yet little that hour I heard them, save as wind across the lea;
For the gold shone up on Reidmar and on Fafnir’s face and on me.
And sore I loved that treasure: so I wrapped my heart in guile,
And sleeked my tongue with sweetness, and set my face in a smile,
And I bade my father keep it, the more part of the gold,
Yet give good store to Fafnir for his goodly help and bold,
And deal me a little handful for my smithying-help that day.
But no little I desired, though for little I might pray;
And prayed I for much or for little, he answered me no more
Than the shepherd answers the wood-wolf who howls at the yule-tide door:
But good he ever deemed it to sit on his ivory throne,
And stare on the red rings’ glory, and deem he was ever alone:
And never a word spake Fafnir, but his eyes waxed red and grim
As he looked upon our father, and noted the ways of him.
“The night waned into the morning, and still above the Hoard
Sat Reidmar clad in purple; but Fafnir took his sword,
And I took my smithying-hammer, and apart in the world we went;
But I came aback in the even, and my heart was heavy and spent;
And I longed, but fear was upon me and I durst not go to the Gold;
So I lay in the house of my toil mid the things I had fashioned of old;
And methought as I lay in my bed ’twixt waking and slumber of night
That I heard the tinkling metal and beheld the hall alight,
But I slept and dreamed of the Gods, and the things that never have slept,
Till I woke to a cry and a clashing and forth from the bed I leapt,
And there by the heaped-up Elf-gold my brother Fafnir stood,
And there at his feet lay Reidmar and reddened the Treasure with blood:
And e’en as I looked on his eyen they glazed and whitened with death,
And forth on the torch-litten hall he shed his latest breath.
“But I looked on Fafnir and trembled for he wore the Helm of Dread,
And his sword was bare in his hand, and the sword and the hand were red
With the blood of our father Reidmar, and his body was wrapped in gold,
With the ruddy-gleaming mailcoat of whose fellow hath nought been told,
And it seemed as I looked upon him that he grew beneath mine eyes:
And then in the mid-hall’s silence did his dreadful voice arise:
“’I have slain my father Reidmar, that I alone might keep
The Gold of the darksome places, the Candle of the Deep.
I am such as the Gods have made me, lest the Dwarf-kind people the earth,
Or mingle their ancient wisdom with its short-lived latest birth.
I shall dwell alone henceforward, and the Gold and its waxing curse,
I shall brood on them both together, let my life grow better or worse.
And I am a King henceforward and long shall be my life,
And the Gold shall grow with my longing, for I shall hide it from strife,
And hoard up the Ring of Andvari in the house thine hand hath built.
O thou, wilt thou tarry and tarry, till I cast thy blood on the guilt?
Lo, I am a King for ever, and alone on the Gold shall I dwell
And do no deed to repent of and leave no tale to tell.’
“More awful grew his visage as he spake the word of dread,
And no more durst I behold him, but with heart a-cold I fled;
I fled from the glorious house my hands had made so fair,
As poor as the new-born baby with nought of raiment or gear:
I fled from the heaps of gold, and my goods were the eager will,
And the heart that remembereth all, and the hand that may never be still.
“Then unto this land I came, and that was long ago
As men-folk count the years; and I taught them to reap and to sow,
And a famous man I became: but that generation died,
And they said that Frey had taught them, and a God my name did hide.
Then I taught them the craft of metals, and the sailing of the sea,
And the taming of the horse-kind, and the yoke-beasts’ husbandry,
And the building up of houses; and that race of men went by,
And they said that Thor had taught them; and a smithying-carle was I.
Then I gave their maidens the needle and I bade them hold the rock,
And the shuttle-race gaped for them as they sat at the weaving-stock.
But by then these were waxen crones to sit dim-eyed by the door,
It was Freyia had come among them to teach the weaving-lore.
Then I taught them the tales of old, and fair songs fashioned and true,
And their speech grew into music of measured time and due,
And they smote the harp to my bidding, and the land grew soft and sweet:
But ere the grass of their grave-mounds rose up above my feet,
It was Bragi had made them sweet-mouthed, and I was the wandering scald;
Yet green did my cunning flourish by whatso name I was called,
And I grew the master of masters — Think thou how strange it is
That the sword in the hands of a stripling shall one day end all this!
“Yet oft mid all my wisdom did I long for my brother’s part,
And Fafnir’s mighty kingship weighed heavy on my heart
When the Kings of the earthly kingdoms would give me golden gifts
From out of their scanty treasures, due pay for my cunning shifts.
And once — didst thou number the years thou wouldst think it long ago —
I wandered away to the country from whence our stem did grow.
There methought the fells grown greater, but waste did the meadows lie,
And the house was rent and ragged and open to the sky.
But lo, when I came to the doorway, great silence brooded there,
Nor bat nor owl would haunt it, nor the wood-wolves drew anear.
Then I went to the pillared hall-stead, and lo, huge heaps of gold,
And to and fro amidst them a mighty Serpent rolled:
Then my heart grew chill with terror, for I thought on the wont of our race,
And I, who had lost their cunning, was a man in a deadly place,
A feeble man and a swordless in the lone destroyer’s fold;
For I knew that the Worm was Fafnir, the Wallower on the Gold.
“So I gathered my strength and fled, and hid my shame again
Mid the foolish sons of men-folk; and the more my hope was vain,
The more I longed for the Treasure, and deliv’rance from the yoke:
And yet passed the generations, and I dwelt with the short-lived folk.
“Long years, and long years after, the tale of men-folk told
How up on the Glittering Heath was the house and the dwelling of gold,
And within that house was the Serpent, and the Lord of the Fearful
Face: Then I wondered sore of the desert; for I thought of the golden place
My hands of old had builded; for I knew by many a sign
That the Fearful Face was my brother, that the blood of the Worm was mine.
This was ages long ago, and yet in that desert he dwells,
Betwixt him and men death lieth, and no man of his semblance tells;
But the tale of the great Gold-wallower is never the more outworn.
Then came thy kin, O Sigurd, and thy father’s father was born,
And I fell to the dreaming of dreams, and I saw thine eyes therein,
And I looked and beheld thy glory and all that thy sword should win;
And I thought that thou shouldst be he, who should bring my heart its rest,
That of all the gifts of the Kings thy sword should give me the best.
“Ah, I fell to the dreaming of dreams; and oft the gold I saw,
And the golden-fashioned Hauberk, clean-wrought without a flaw,
And the Helm that aweth the world; and I knew of Fafnir’s heart
That his wisdom was greater than mine, because he had held him apart,
Nor spilt on the sons of men-folk our knowledge of ancient days,
Nor bartered one whit for their love, nor craved for the people’s praise.
“And some day I shall have it all, his gold and his craft and his heart
And the gathered and garnered wisdom he guards in the mountains apart
And then when my hand is upon it, my hand shall be as the spring
To thaw his winter away and the fruitful tide to bring.
It shall grow, it shall grow into summer, and I shall be he that wrought,
And my deeds shall be remembered, and my name that once was nought;
Yea I shall be Frey, and Thor, and Freyia, and Bragi in one:
Yea the God of all that is — and no deed in the wide world done,
But the deed that my heart would fashion: and the songs of the freed from the yoke
Shall bear to my house in the heavens the love and the longing of folk.
And there shall be no more dying, and the sea shall be as the land,
And the world for ever and ever shall be young beneath my hand.”
Then his eyelids fell, and he slumbered, and it seemed as Sigurd gazed
That the flames leapt up in the stithy and about the Master blazed,
And his hand in the harp-strings wandered and the sweetness from them poured.
Then unto his feet leapt Sigurd and drew his stripling’s sword,
And he cried: “Awake, O Master, for, lo, the day goes by,
And this too is an ancient story, that the sons of men-folk die,
And all save fame departeth. Awake! for the day grows late,
And deeds by the door are passing, nor the Norns will have them wait.”
Then Regin groaned and wakened, sad-eyed and heavy-browed,
And weary and worn was he waxen, as a man by a burden bowed:
And he spake: “Hast thou hearkened, Sigurd, wilt thou help a man that is old
To avenge him for his father? Wilt thou win that Treasure of Gold
And be more than the Kings of the earth? Wilt thou rid the earth of a wrong
And heal the woe and the sorrow my heart hath endured o’erlong?”
Then Sigurd looked upon him with steadfast eyes and clear,
And Regin drooped and trembled as he stood the doom to hear:
But the bright child spake as aforetime, and answered the Master and said: “Thou shalt have thy will, and the
Treasure, and take the curse on thine head.”
Now again came Sigurd to Regin, and said: “Thou hast taught me a task
Whereof none knoweth the ending: and a gift at thine hands I ask.”
Then answered Regin the Master: “The world must be wide indeed
If my hand may not reach across it for aught thine heart may need.”
“Yea wide is the world,” said Sigurd, “and soon spoken is thy word;
But this gift thou shalt nought gainsay me: for I bid thee forge me a sword.”
Then spake the Master of Masters, and his voice was sweet and soft:
“Look forth abroad, O Sigurd, and note in the heavens aloft
How the dim white moon of the daylight hangs round as the Goth–God’s shield,
Now for thee first rang mine anvil when she walked the heavenly field
A slim and lovely lady, and the old moon lay on her arm:
Lo, here is a sword I have wrought thee with many a spell and charm
And all the craft of the Dwarf-kind; be glad thereof and sure;
Mid many a storm of battle full well shall it endure.”
Then Sigurd looked on the slayer, and never a word would speak:
Gemmed were the hilts and golden, and the blade was blue and bleak,
And runes of the Dwarf-kind’s cunning each side the trench were scored:
But soft and sweet spake Regin: “How likest thou the sword?”
Then Sigurd laughed and answered: “The work is proved by the deed;
See now if this be a traitor to fail me in my need.”
Then Regin trembled and shrank, so bright his eyes outshone
As he turned about to the anvil, and smote the sword thereon;
But the shards fell shivering earthward, and Sigurd’s heart grew wroth
As the steel-flakes tinkled about him: “Lo, there the right-hand’s troth!
Lo, there the golden glitter, and the word that soon is spilt.”
And down amongst the ashes he cast the glittering hilt,
And turned his back on Regin and strode out through the door,
And for many a day of spring-tide came back again no more.
But at last he came to the stithy and again took up the word:
“What hast thou done, O Master, in the forging of the sword?”
Then sweetly Regin answered: “Hard task-master art thou,
But lo, a blade of battle that shall surely please thee now!
Two moons are clean departed since thou lookedst toward the sky
And sawest the dim white circle amid the cloud-flecks lie;
And night and day have I laboured; and the cunning of old days
Hath surely left my right-hand if this sword thou shalt not praise.”
And indeed the hilts gleamed glorious with many a dear-bought stone,
And down the fallow edges the light of battle shone;
Yet Sigurd’s eyes shone brighter, nor yet might Regin face
Those eyes of the heart of the Volsungs; but trembled in his place
As Sigurd cried: “O Regin, thy kin of the days of old
Were an evil and treacherous folk, and they lied and murdered for gold;
And now if thou wouldst betray me, of the ancient curse beware,
And set thy face as the flint the bale and the shame to bear:
For he that would win to the heavens, and be as the Gods on high,
Must tremble nought at the road, and the place where men-folk die.”
White leaps the blade in his hand and gleams in the gear of the wall,
And he smites, and the oft-smitten edges on the beaten anvil fall:
But the life of the sword departed, and dull and broken it lay
On the ashes and flaked-off iron, and no word did Sigurd say,
But strode off through the door of the stithy and went to the Hall of
Kings, And was merry and blithe that even mid all imaginings.
But when the morrow was come he went to his mother and spake:
“The shards, the shards of the sword, that thou gleanedst for my sake
In the night on the field of slaughter, in the tide when my father fell,
Hast thou kept them through sorrow and joyance? hast thou warded them trusty and well?
Where hast thou laid them, my mother?”
Then she looked upon him and said:
“Art thou wroth, O Sigurd my son, that such eyes are in thine head?
And wilt thou be wroth with thy mother? do I withstand thee at all?”
“Nay,” said he, “nought am I wrathful, but the days rise up like a wall
Betwixt my soul and the deeds, and I strive to rend them through.
And why wilt thou fear mine eyen? as the sword lies baleful and blue
E’en ’twixt the lips of lovers, when they swear their troth thereon,
So keen are the eyes ye have fashioned, ye folk of the days agone;
For therein is the light of battle, though whiles it lieth asleep.
Now give me the sword, my mother, that Sigmund gave thee to keep.”
She said: “I shall give it thee gladly, for fain shall I be of thy praise
When thou knowest my careful keeping of that hope of the earlier days.”
So she took his hand in her hand, and they went their ways, they twain;
Till they came to the treasure of queen-folk, the guarded chamber of gain:
They were all alone with its riches, and she turned the key in the gold,
And lifted the sea-born purple, and the silken web unrolled,
And lo, ’twixt her hands and her bosom the shards of Sigmund’s sword;
No rust-fleck stained its edges, and the gems of the ocean’s hoard
Were as bright in the hilts and glorious, as when in the Volsungs’ hall
It shone in the eyes of the earl-folk and flashed from the shielded wall.
But Sigurd smiled upon it, and he said: “O Mother of Kings,
Well hast thou warded the war-glaive for a mirror of many things,
And a hope of much fulfilment: well hast thou given to me
The message of my fathers, and the word of thing to be:
Trusty hath been thy warding, but its hour is over now:
These shards shall be knit together, and shall hear the war-wind blow.
They shall shine through the rain of Odin, as the sun come back to the world,
When the heaviest bolt of the thunder amidst the storm is hurled:
They shall shake the thrones of Kings, and shear the walls of war,
And undo the knot of treason when the world is darkening o’er.
They have shone in the dusk and the night-tide, they shall shine in the dawn and the day;
They have gathered the storm together, they shall chase the clouds away;
They have sheared red gold asunder, they shall gleam o’er the garnered gold
They have ended many a story, they shall fashion a tale to be told:
They have lived in the wrack of the people; they shall live in the glory of folk
They have stricken the Gods in battle, for the Gods shall they strike the stroke.”
Then she felt his hands about her as he took the fateful sword,
And he kissed her soft and sweetly; but she answered never a word:
So great and fair was he waxen, so glorious was his face,
So young, as the deathless Gods are, that long in the golden place
She stood when he was departed: as some for-travailed one
Comes over the dark fell-ridges on the birth-tide of the sun,
And his gathering sleep falls from him mid the glory and the blaze;
And he sees the world grow merry and looks on the lightened ways,
While the ruddy streaks are melting in the day-flood broad and white;
Then the morn-dusk he forgetteth, and the moon-lit waste of night,
And the hall whence he departed with its yellow candles’ flare:
So stood the Isle-king’s daughter in that treasure-chamber fair.
But swift on his ways went Sigurd, and to Regin’s house he came,
Where the Master stood in the doorway and behind him leapt the flame,
And dark he looked and little: no more his speech was sweet,
No words on his lip were gathered the Volsung child to greet,
Till he took the sword from Sigurd and the shards of the days of old;
Then he spake:
“Will nothing serve thee save this blue steel and cold,
The bane of thy father’s father, the fate of all his kin,
The baleful blade I fashioned, the Wrath that the Gods would win?”
Then answered the eye-bright Sigurd: “If thou thy craft wilt do
Nought save these battle-gleanings shall be my helper true:
And what if thou begrudgest, and my battle-blade be dull,
Yet the hand of the Norns is lifted and the cup is over-full.
Repentst thou ne’er so sorely that thy kin must lie alow,
How much soe’er thou longest the world to overthrow,
And, doubting the gold and the wisdom, wouldst even now appease
Blind hate and eyeless murder, and win the world with these;
O’er-late is the time for repenting the word thy lips have said:
Thou shalt have the Gold and the wisdom and take its curse on thine head.
I say that thy lips have spoken, and no more with thee it lies
To do the deed or leave it: since thou hast shown mine eyes
The world that was aforetime, I see the world to be;
And woe to the tangling thicket, or the wall that hindereth me!
And short is the space I will tarry; for how if the Worm should die
Ere the first of my strokes be stricken? Wilt thou get to thy mastery
And knit these shards together that once in the Branstock stood?
But if not and a smith’s hands fail me, a king’s hand yet shall be good;
And the Norns have doomed thy brother. And yet I deem this sword
Is the slayer of the Serpent, and the scatterer of the Hoard.”
Great waxed the gloom of Regin, and he said: “Thou sayest sooth,
For none may turn him backward: the sword of a very youth
Shall one day end my cunning, as the Gods my joyance slew,
When nought thereof they were deeming, and another thing would do.
But this sword shall slay the Serpent; and do another deed,
And many an one thereafter till it fail thee in thy need.
But as fair and great as thou standeth, yet get thee from mine house,
For in me too might ariseth, and the place is perilous
With the craft that was aforetime, and shall never be again,
When the hands that have taught thee cunning have failed from the world of men.
Thou art wroth; but thy wrath must slumber till fate its blossom bear;
Not thus were the eyes of Odin when I held him in the snare.
Depart! lest the end overtake us ere thy work and mine be done,
But come again in the night-tide and the slumber of the sun,
When the sharded moon of April hangs round in the undark May.”
Hither and thither a while did the heart of Sigurd sway;
For he feared no craft of the Dwarf-kind, nor heeded the ways of Fate,
But his hand wrought e’en as his heart would: and now was he weary with hate
Of the hatred and scorn of the Gods, and the greed of gold and of gain,
And the weaponless hands of the stripling of the wrath and the rending were fain.
But there stood Regin the Master, and his eyes were on Sigurd’s eyes,
Though nought belike they beheld him, and his brow was sad and wise;
And the greed died out of his visage and he stood like an image of old.
So the Norns drew Sigurd away, and the tide was an even of gold,
And sweet in the April even were the fowl-kind singing their best;
And the light of life smote Sigurd, and the joy that knows no rest,
And the fond unnamed desire, and the hope of hidden things;
And he wended fair and lovely to the house of the feasting Kings.
But now when the moon was at full and the undark May begun,
Went Sigurd unto Regin mid the slumber of the sun,
And amidst the fire-hall’s pavement the King of the Dwarf-kind stood
Like an image of deeds departed and days that once were good;
And he seemed but faint and weary, and his eyes were dim and dazed
As they met the glory of Sigurd where the fitful candles blazed.
Then he spake:
“Hail, Son of the Volsungs, the corner-stone is laid,
I have toiled and thou hast desired, and, lo, the fateful blade!”
Then Sigurd saw it lying on the ashes slaked and pale,
Like the sun and the lightning mingled mid the even’s cloudy bale,
For ruddy and great were the hilts, and the edges fine and wan,
And all adown to the blood-point a very flame there ran
That swallowed the runes of wisdom wherewith its sides were scored.
No sound did Sigurd utter as he stooped adown for his sword,
But it seemed as his lips were moving with speech of strong desire.
White leapt the blade o’er his head, and he stood in the ring of its fire
As hither and thither it played, till it fell on the anvil’s strength,
And he cried aloud in his glory, and held out the sword full length,
As one who would show it the world; for the edges were dulled no whit,
And the anvil was cleft to the pavement with the dreadful dint of it.
But Regin cried to his harp-strings: “Before the days of men
I smithied the Wrath of Sigurd, and now is it smithied again:
And my hand alone hath done it, and my heart alone hath dared
To bid that man to the mountain, and behold his glory bared.
Ah, if the son of Sigmund might wot of the thing I would,
Then how were the ages bettered, and the world all waxen good!
Then how were the past forgotten and the weary days of yore,
And the hope of man that dieth and the waste that never bore!
How should this one live through the winter and know of all increase!
How should that one spring to the sunlight and bear the blossom of peace!
No more should the long-lived wisdom o’er the waste of the wilderness stray;
Nor the clear-eyed hero hasten to the deedless ending of day.
And what if the hearts of the Volsungs for this deed of deeds were born,
How then were their life-days evil and the end of their lives forlorn?”
There stood Sigurd the Volsung, and heard how the harp-strings rang,
But of other things they told him than the hope that the Master sang;
And his world lay far away from the Dwarf-king’s eyeless realm
And the road that leadeth nowhere, and the ship without a helm:
But he spake: “How oft shall I say it, that I shall work thy will?
If my father hath made me mighty, thine heart shall I fulfill
With the wisdom and gold thou wouldest, before I wend on my ways;
For now hast thou failed me nought, and the sword is the wonder of days.”
No word for a while spake Regin; but he hung his head adown
As a man that pondereth sorely, and his voice once more was grown
As the voice of the smithying-master as he spake: “This Wrath of thine
Hath cleft the hard and the heavy; it shall shear the soft and the fine:
Come forth to the night and prove it.”
So they twain went forth abroad,
And the moon lay white on the river and lit the sleepless ford,
And down to its pools they wended, and the stream was swift and full;
Then Regin cast against it a lock of fine-spun wool,
And it whirled about on the eddy till it met the edges bared,
And as clean as the careless water the laboured fleece was sheared.
Then Regin spake: “It is good, what the smithying-carle hath wrought:
Now the work of the King beginneth, and the end that my soul hath sought.
Thou shalt toil and I shall desire, and the deed shall be surely done:
For thy Wrath is alive and awake and the story of bale is begun.”
Therewith was the Wrath of Sigurd laid soft in a golden sheath
And the peace-strings knit around it; for that blade was fain of death;
And ’tis ill to show such edges to the broad blue light of day,
Or to let the hall-glare light them, if ye list not play the play.
Now Sigurd backeth Greyfell on the first of the morrow morn,
And he rideth fair and softly through the acres of the corn;
The Wrath to his side is girded, but hid are the edges blue,
As he wendeth his ways to the mountains, and rideth the horse-mead through.
His wide grey eyes are happy, and his voice is sweet and soft,
As amid the mead-lark’s singing he casteth song aloft:
Lo, lo, the horse and the rider! So once maybe it was,
When over the Earth unpeopled the youngest God would pass;
But never again meseemeth shall such a sight betide,
Till over a world unwrongful new-born shall Baldur ride.
So he comes to that ness of the mountains, and Gripir’s garden steep,
That bravely Greyfell breasteth, and adown by the door doth he leap
And his war-gear rattleth upon him; there is none to ask or forbid
As he wendeth the house clear-lighted, where no mote of the dust is hid,
Though the sunlight hath not entered: the walls are clear and bright,
For they cast back each to other the golden Sigurd’s light;
Through the echoing ways of the house bright-eyed he wendeth along,
And the mountain-wind is with him, and the hovering eagles’ song;
But no sound of the children of men may the ears of the Volsung hear,
And no sign of their ways in the world, or their will, or their hope or their fear.
So he comes to the hall of Gripir, and gleaming-green is it built
As the house of under-ocean where the wealth of the greedy is spilt;
Gleaming and green as the sea, and rich as its rock-strewn floor,
And fresh as the autumn morning when the burning of summer is o’er.
There he looks and beholdeth the high-seat, and he sees it strangely wrought,
Of the tooth of the sea-beast fashioned ere the Dwarf-kind came to nought;
And he looks, and thereon is Gripir, the King exceeding old,
With the sword of his fathers girded, and his raiment wrought of gold;
With the ivory rod in his right-hand, with his left on the crystal laid,
That is round as the world of men-folk, and after its image made,
And clear is it wrought to the eyen that may read therein of Fate,
Though little indeed be its sea, and its earth not wondrous great.
There Sigurd stands in the hall, on the sheathèd Wrath doth he lean.
All his golden light is mirrored in the gleaming floor and green;
But the smile in his face upriseth as he looks on the ancient King,
And their glad eyes meet and their laughter, and sweet is the welcoming:
And Gripir saith: “Hail Sigurd! for my bidding hast thou done,
And here in the mountain-dwelling are two Kings of men alone.”
But Sigurd spake: “Hail father! I am girt with the fateful sword
And my face is set to the highway, and I come for thy latest word.”
Said Gripir: “What wouldst thou hearken ere we sit and drink the wine?”
“Thy word and the Norns’,” said Sigurd, “but never a word of mine.”
“What sights wouldst thou see,” said Gripir, “ere mine hand shall take thine hand?”
“As the Gods would I see,” said Sigurd, “though Death light up the land.”
“What hope wouldst thou hope, O Sigurd, ere we kiss, we twain, and depart?”
“Thy hope and the Gods’,” said Sigurd, “though the grief lie hard on my heart.”
Nought answered the ancient wise-one, and not a whit had he stirred
Since the clash of Sigurd’s raiment in his mountain-hall he heard;
But the ball that imaged the earth was set in his hand grown old;
And belike it was to his vision, as the wide-world’s ocean rolled,
And the forests waved with the wind, and the corn was gay with the lark,
And the gold in its nether places grew up in the dusk and the dark,
And its children built and departed, and its King-folk conquered and went,
As over the crystal image his all-wise face was bent:
For all his desire was dead, and he lived as a God shall live,
Whom the prayers of the world hath forgotten, and to whom no hand may give.
But there stood the mighty Volsung, and leaned on the hidden Wrath;
As the earliest sun’s uprising o’er the sea-plain draws a path
Whereby men sail to the Eastward and the dawn of another day,
So the image of King Sigurd on the gleaming pavement lay.
Then great in the hall fair-pillared the voice of Gripir arose,
And it ran through the glimmering house-ways, and forth to the sunny close;
There mid the birds’ rejoicing went the voice of an o’er-wise King
Like a wind of midmost winter come back to talk with spring.
But the voice cried: “Sigurd, Sigurd! O great, O early born!
O hope of the Kings first fashioned! O blossom of the morn!
Short day and long remembrance, fair summer of the North!
One day shall the worn world wonder how first thou wentest forth!
“Arise, O Sigurd, Sigurd! In the night arise and go,
Thou shalt smite when the day-dawn glimmers through the folds of
“There the child in the noon-tide smiteth; the young King rendeth apart,
The old guile by the guile encompassed, the heart made wise by the heart.
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd; bind up to cast abroad!
That the earth may laugh before thee rejoiced by the Waters’ Hoard.
“Ride on, O Sigurd, Sigurd! for God’s word goes forth on the wind,
And he speaketh not twice over; nor shall they loose that bind:
But the Day and the Day shall loosen, and the Day shall awake and arise,
And the Day shall rejoice with the Dawning, and the wise heart learn of the wise.
“O fair, O fearless, O mighty, how green are the garths of Kings,
How soft are the ways before thee to the heart of their war-farings!
“How green are the garths of King-folk, how fair is the lily and rose
In the house of the Cloudy People, ’neath the towers of kings and foes!
“Smite now, smite now in the noontide! ride on through the hosts of men!
Lest the dear remembrance perish, and today come not again.
“Is it day? — But the house is darkling — But the hand would gather and hold,
And the lips have kissed the cloud-wreath, and a cloud the arms enfold.
“In the dusk hath the Sower arisen; in the dark hath he cast the seed,
And the ear is the sorrow of Odin and the wrong, and the nameless need!
“Ah the hand hath gathered and garnered, and empty is the hand,
Though the day be full and fruitful mid the drift of the Cloudy Land!
“Look, look on the drift of the clouds, how the day and the even doth grow
As the long-forgotten dawning that was a while ago!
“Dawn, dawn, O mighty of men! and why wilt thou never awake,
When the holy field of the Goth-folk cries out for thy love and thy sake?
“Dawn, now; but the house is silent, and dark is the purple blood
On the breast of the Queen fair-fashioned; and it riseth up as a flood
Round the posts of the door belovèd; and a deed there lieth therein:
The last of the deeds of Sigurd; the worst of the Cloudy Kin —
The slayer slain by the slain within the door and without.
— O dawn as the eve of the birth-day! O dark world cumbered with doubt!
“Shall it never be day any more, nor the sun’s uprising and growth?
Shall the kings of earth lie sleeping and the war-dukes wander in sloth
Through the last of the winter twilight? is the word of the wise-ones said
Till the five-fold winter be ended and the trumpet waken the dead?
“Short day and long remembrance! great glory for the earth!
O deeds of the Day triumphant! O word of Sigurd’s worth!
It is done, and who shall undo it of all who were ever alive?
May the Gods or the high Gods’ masters ’gainst the tale of the righteous strive,
And the deeds to follow after, and all their deeds increase,
Till the uttermost field is foughten, and Baldur riseth in peace!
“Cry out, O waste, before him! O rocks of the wilderness, cry!
For tomorn shalt thou see the glory, and the man not made to die!
Cry out, O upper heavens! O clouds beneath the lift!
For the golden King shall be riding high-headed midst the drift:
The mountain waits and the fire; there waiteth the heart of the wise
Till the earthly toil is accomplished, and again shall the fire arise;
And none shall be nigh in the ending and none by his heart shall be laid,
Save the world that he cherished and quickened, and the Day that he wakened and made.”
So died the voice of Gripir from amidst the sunny close,
And the sound of hastening eagles from the mountain’s feet arose,
But the hall was silent a little, for still stood Sigmund’s son,
And he heard the words and remembered, and knew them one by one.
Then he turned on the ancient Gripir with eyes that knew no guile
And smiled on the wise of King-folk as the first of men might smile
On the God that hath fashioned him happy; and he spake:
“Hast thou spoken and known
How there standeth a child before thee and a stripling scarcely grown?
Or hast thou told of the Volsungs, and the gathered heart of these,
And their still unquenched desire for garnering fame’s increase?
E’en so do I hearken thy words: for I wot how they deem it long
Till a man from their seed be arisen to deal with the cumber and wrong.
Bid me therefore to sit by thy side, for behold I wend on my way,
And the gates swing-to behind me, and each day of mine is a day
With deeds in the eve and the morning, nor deeds shall the noontide lack;
To the right and the left none calleth, and no voice crieth aback.”
“Come, kin of the Gods,” said Gripir, “come up and sit by my side,
That we twain may be glad as the fearless, and they that have nothing to hide:
I have wrought out my will and abide it, and I sit ungrieved and alone,
I look upon men and I help not; to me are the deeds long done
As those of today and tomorrow: for these and for those am I glad;
But the Gods and men are the framers, and the days of my life I have had.”
Then Sigurd came unto Gripir, and he kissed the wise-one’s face,
And they sat in the high-seat together, the child and the elder of days;
And they drank of the wine of King-folk, and were joyful each of each,
And spake for a while of matters that are meet for King-folk’s speech;
The deeds of men that have been and Kin of the Kings of the earth;
And Gripir told of the outlands, and the mid-world’s billowy girth,
And tales of the upper heaven were mingled with his talk,
And the halls where the Sea–Queen’s kindred o’er the gem-strewn pavement walk,
And the innermost parts of the earth, where they lie, the green and the blue,
And the red and the glittering gem-stones that of old the Dwarf-kind knew.
Long Sigurd sat and marvelled at the mouth that might not lie,
And the eyes no God had blinded, and the lone heart raised on high,
Then he rose from the gleaming high-seat, and the rings of battle rang
And the sheathèd Wrath was hearkening and a song of war it sang,
But Sigurd spake unto Gripir:
“Long and lovely are thy days,
And thy years fulfilled of wisdom, and thy feet on the unhid ways,
And the guileless heart of the great that knoweth not anger nor pain:
So once hath a man been fashioned and shall not be again.
But for me hath been foaled the war-horse, the grey steed swift as the cloud,
And for me were the edges smithied, and the Wrath cries out aloud;
And a voice hath called from the darkness, and I ride to the
Glittering Heath; To smite on the door of Destruction, and waken the warder of Death.”
So they kissed, the wise and the wise, and the child from the elder turned;
And again in the glimmering house-ways the golden Sigurd burned;
He stood outside in the sunlight, and tarried never a deal,
But leapt on the cloudy Greyfell with the clank of gold and steel,
And he rode through the sinking day to the walls of the kingly stead,
And came to Regin’s dwelling when the wind was fallen dead,
And the great sun just departing: then blood-red grew the west,
And the fowl flew home from the sea-mead, and all things sank to rest.
Again on the morrow morning doth Sigurd the Volsung ride,
And Regin, the Master of Masters, is faring by his side,
And they leave the dwelling of kings and ride the summer land,
Until at the eve of the day the hills are on either hand:
Then they wend up higher and higher, and over the heaths they fare
Till the moon shines broad on the midnight, and they sleep ’neath the heavens bare;
And they waken and look behind them, and lo, the dawning of day
And the little land of the Helper and its valleys far away;
But the mountains rise before them, a wall exceeding great.
Then spake the Master of Masters: “We have come to the garth and the gate:
There is youth and rest behind thee and many a thing to do,
There is many a fond desire, and each day born anew;
And the land of the Volsungs to conquer, and many a people’s praise:
And for me there is rest it maybe, and the peaceful end of days.
We have come to the garth and the gate; to the hall-door now shall we win,
Shall we go to look on the high-seat and see what sitteth therein?”
“Yea, and what else?” said Sigurd, “was thy tale but mockeries,
And have I been drifted hither on a wind of empty lies?”
“It was sooth, it was sooth,” said Regin, “and more might I have told
Had I heart and space to remember the deeds of the days of old.”
And he hung down his head as he spake it, and was silent a little space;
And when it was lifted again there was fear in the Dwarf-king’s face.
And he said: “Thou knowest my thought, and wise-hearted art thou grown:
It were well if thine eyes were blinder, and we each were faring alone,
And I with my eld and my wisdom, and thou with thy youth and thy might;
Yet whiles I dream I have wrought thee, a beam of the morning bright,
A fatherless motherless glory, to work out my desire;
Then high my hope ariseth, and my heart is all afire
For the world I behold from afar, and the day that yet shall be;
Then I wake and all things I remember and a youth of the Kings I see —
— The child of the Wood-abider, the seed of a conquered King,
The sword that the Gods have fashioned, the fate that men shall sing:—
Ah might the world run backward to the days of the Dwarfs of old,
When I hewed out the pillars of crystal, and smoothed the walls of gold!”
Nought answered the Son of Sigmund; nay he heard him nought at all,
Save as though the wind were speaking in the bights of the mountain-hall:
But he leapt aback of Greyfell, and the glorious sun rose up,
And the heavens glowed above him like the bowl of Baldur’s cup,
And a golden man was he waxen; as the heart of the sun he seemed,
While over the feet of the mountains like blood the new light streamed;
Then Sigurd cried to Greyfell and swift for the pass he rode,
And Regin followed after as a man bowed down by a load.
Day-long they fared through the mountains, and that highway’s fashioner
Forsooth was a fearful craftsman, and his hands the waters were,
And the heaped-up ice was his mattock, and the fire-blast was his man,
And never a whit he heeded though his walls were waste and wan,
And the guest-halls of that wayside great heaps of the ashes spent
But, each as a man alone, through the sun-bright day they went,
And they rode till the moon rose upward, and the stars were small and fair,
Then they slept on the long-slaked ashes beneath the heavens bare;
And the cold dawn came and they wakened, and the King of the
Dwarf-kind seemed As a thing of that wan land fashioned; but Sigurd glowed and gleamed
Amid the shadowless twilight by Greyfell’s cloudy flank,
As a little space they abided while the latest star-world shrank;
On the backward road looked Regin and heard how Sigurd drew
The girths of Greyfell’s saddle, and the voice of his sword he knew,
And he feared to look on the Volsung, as thus he fell to speak:
“I have seen the Dwarf-folk mighty, I have seen the God-folk weak;
And now, though our might be minished, yet have we gifts to give.
When men desire and conquer, most sweet is their life to live;
When men are young and lovely there is many a thing to do.
And sweet is their fond desire and the dawn that springs anew.”
“This gift,” said the Son of Sigmund, “the Norns shall give me yet,
And no blossom slain by the sunshine while the leaves with dew are wet.”
Then Regin turned and beheld him: “Thou shalt deem it hard and strange,
When the hand hath encompassed it all, and yet thy life must change.
Ah, long were the lives of men-folk, if betwixt the Gods and them
Were mighty warders watching mid the earth’s and the heaven’s hem!
Is there any man so mighty he would cast this gift away —
The heart’s desire accomplished, and life so long a day,
That the dawn should be forgotten ere the even was begun?”
Then Sigurd laughed and answered: “Fare forth, O glorious sun;
Bright end from bright beginning, and the mid-way good to tell,
And death, and deeds accomplished, and all remembered well!
Shall the day go past and leave us, and we be left with night,
To tread the endless circle, and strive in vain to smite?
But thou — wilt thou still look backward? thou sayst I know thy thought:
Thou hast whetted the sword for the slaying, it shall turn aside for nought.
Fear not! with the Gold and the wisdom thou shalt deem thee God alone,
And mayst do and undo at pleasure, nor be bound by right nor wrong:
And then, if no God I be waxen, I shall be the weak with the strong.”
And his war-gear clanged and tinkled as he leapt to the saddle-stead:
And the sun rose up at their backs and the grey world changed to red,
And away to the west went Sigurd by the glory wreathed about,
But little and black was Regin as a fire that dieth out.
Day-long they rode the mountains by the crags exceeding old,
And the ash that the first of the Dwarf-kind found dull and quenched and cold.
Then the moon in the mid-sky swam, and the stars were fair and pale,
And beneath the naked heaven they slept in an ash-grey dale;
And again at the dawn-dusk’s ending they stood upon their feet,
And Sigurd donned his war-gear nor his eyes would Regin meet.
A clear streak widened in heaven low down above the earth;
And above it lay the cloud-flecks, and the sun, anigh its birth,
Unseen, their hosts was staining with the very hue of blood,
And ruddy by Greyfell’s shoulder the Son of Sigmund stood.
Then spake the Master of Masters: “What is thine hope this morn
That thou dightest thee, O Sigurd, to ride this world forlorn?”
“What needeth hope,” said Sigurd, “when the heart of the Volsungs turns
To the light of the Glittering Heath, and the house where the Waster burns?
I shall slay the Foe of the Gods, as thou badst me a while agone,
And then with the Gold and its wisdom shalt thou be left alone.”
“O Child,” said the King of the Dwarf-kind, “when the day at last comes round
For the dread and the Dusk of the Gods, and the kin of the Wolf is unbound,
When thy sword shall hew the fire, and the wildfire beateth thy shield,
Shalt thou praise the wages of hope and the Gods that pitched the field?”
“O Foe of the Gods,” said Sigurd, “wouldst thou hide the evil thing,
And the curse that is greater than thou, lest death end thy labouring,
Lest the night should come upon thee amidst thy toil for nought?
It is me, it is me that thou fearest, if indeed I know thy thought;
Yea me, who would utterly light the face of all good and ill,
If not with the fruitful beams that the summer shall fulfill,
Then at least with the world a-blazing, and the glare of the grinded sword.”
And he sprang aloft to the saddle as he spake the latest word,
And the Wrath sang loud in the sheath as it ne’er had sung before,
And the cloudy flecks were scattered like flames on the heaven’s floor,
And all was kindled at once, and that trench of the mountains grey
Was filled with the living light as the low sun lit the way:
But Regin turned from the glory with blinded eyes and dazed,
And lo, on the cloudy war-steed how another light there blazed,
And a great voice came from amidst it:
Regin, in good sooth,
I have hearkened not nor heeded the words of thy fear and thy ruth:
Thou hast told thy tale and thy longing, and thereto I hearkened well:—
Let it lead thee up to heaven, let it lead thee down to hell,
The deed shall be done tomorrow: thou shalt have that measureless Gold,
And devour the garnered wisdom that blessed thy realm of old,
That hath lain unspent and begrudged in the very heart of hate:
With the blood and the might of thy brother thine hunger shalt thou sate;
And this deed shall be mine and thine; but take heed for what followeth then!
Let each do after his kind! I shall do the deeds of men;
I shall harvest the field of their sowing, in the bed of their strewing shall sleep;
To them shall I give my life-days, to the Gods my glory to keep.
But thou with the wealth and the wisdom that the best of the Gods might praise,
If thou shalt indeed excel them and become the hope of the days,
Then me in turn hast thou conquered, and I shall be in turn
Thy fashioned brand of the battle through good and evil to burn,
Or the flame that sleeps in thy stithy for the gathered winds to blow,
When thou listest to do and undo and thine uttermost cunning to show.
But indeed I wot full surely that thou shalt follow thy kind;
And for all that cometh after, the Norns shall loose and bind.”
Then his bridle-reins rang sweetly, and the warding-walls of death,
And Regin drew up to him, and the Wrath sang loud in the sheath,
And forth from that trench in the mountains by the westward way they ride;
And little and black goes Regin by the golden Volsung’s side;
But no more his head is drooping, for he seeth the Elf-king’s Gold;
The garnered might and the wisdom e’en now his eyes behold.
So up and up they journeyed, and ever as they went
About the cold-slaked forges, o’er many a cloud-swept bent,
Betwixt the walls of blackness, by shores of the fishless meres,
And the fathomless desert waters, did Regin cast his fears,
And wrap him in desire; and all alone he seemed
As a God to his heirship wending, and forgotten and undreamed
Was all the tale of Sigurd, and the folk he had toiled among,
And the Volsungs, Odin’s children, and the men-folk fair and young.
So on they ride to the westward; and huge were the mountains grown
And the floor of heaven was mingled with that tossing world of stone:
And they rode till the noon was forgotten and the sun was waxen low,
And they tarried not, though he perished, and the world grew dark below.
Then they rode a mighty desert, a glimmering place and wide,
And into a narrow pass high-walled on either side
By the blackness of the mountains, and barred aback and in face
By the empty night of the shadow; a windless silent place:
But the white moon shone o’erhead mid the small sharp stars and pale,
And each as a man alone they rode on the highway of bale.
So ever they wended upward, and the midnight hour was o’er,
And the stars grew pale and paler, and failed from the heaven’s floor,
And the moon was a long while dead, but where was the promise of day?
No change came over the darkness, no streak of the dawning grey;
No sound of the wind’s uprising adown the night there ran:
It was blind as the Gaping Gulf ere the first of the worlds began.
Then athwart and athwart rode Sigurd and sought the walls of the pass,
But found no wall before him; and the road rang hard as brass
Beneath the hoofs of Greyfell, as up and up he trod:
— Was it the daylight of Hell, or the night of the doorway of God?
But lo, at the last a glimmer, and a light from the west there came,
And another and another, like points of far-off flame;
And they grew and brightened and gathered; and whiles together they ran
Like the moon wake over the waters; and whiles they were scant and wan,
Some greater and some lesser, like the boats of fishers laid
About the sea of midnight; and a dusky dawn they made,
A faint and glimmering twilight: So Sigurd strains his eyes,
And he sees how a land deserted all round about him lies
More changeless than mid-ocean, as fruitless as its floor:
Then the heart leaps up within him, for he knows that his journey is o’er.
And there he draweth bridle on the first of the Glittering Heath:
And the Wrath is waxen merry and sings in the golden sheath
As he leaps adown from Greyfell, and stands upon his feet,
And wends his ways through the twilight the Foe of the Gods to meet.
Nought Sigurd seeth of Regin, and nought he heeds of him,
As in watchful might and glory he strides the desert dim,
And behind him paceth Greyfell; but he deems the time o’erlong
Till he meet the great gold-warden, the over-lord of wrong.
So he wendeth midst the silence through the measureless desert place,
And beholds the countless glitter with wise and steadfast face,
Till him-seems in a little season that the flames grown somewhat wan,
And a grey thing glimmers before him, and becomes a mighty man.
One-eyed and ancient-seeming, in cloud-grey raiment clad;
A friendly man and glorious, and of visage smiling-glad:
Then content in Sigurd groweth because of his majesty,
And he heareth him speak in the desert as the wind of the winter sea:
“Hail Sigurd! Give me thy greeting ere thy ways alone thou wend!”
Said Sigurd: “Hail! I greet thee, my friend and my fathers’ friend.”
“Now whither away,” said the elder, “with the Steed and the ancient
“To the greedy house,” said Sigurd, “and the King of the Heavy Hoard.”
“Wilt thou smite, O Sigurd, Sigurd?” said the ancient mighty-one.
“Yea, yea, I shall smite,” said the Volsung, “save the Gods have slain the sun.”
“What wise wilt thou smite,” said the elder? “lest the dark devour thy day?”
“Thou hast praised the sword,” said the child, “and the sword shall find a way.”
“Be learned of me,” said the Wise-one, “for I was the first of thy folk.”
Said the child: “I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke.”
Spake the Wise-one: “Thus shalt thou do when thou wendest hence alone:
Thou shalt find a path in the desert, and a road in the world of stone;
It is smooth and deep and hollow, but the rain hath riven it not,
And the wild wind hath not worn it, for it is but Fafnir’s slot,
Whereby he wends to the water and the fathomless pool of old,
When his heart in the dawn is weary, and he loathes the ancient Gold:
There think of the great and the fathers, and bare the whetted Wrath,
And dig a pit in the highway, and a grave in the Serpent’s path:
Lie thou therein, O Sigurd, and thine hope from the glooming hide,
And be as the dead for a season, and the living light abide!
And so shall thine heart avail thee, and thy mighty fateful hand,
And the Light that lay in the Branstock, the well-belovèd brand.”
Said the child: “I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke;
For I love thee, friend of my fathers, Wise Heart of the holy folk.”
So spake the Son of Sigmund, and beheld no man anear,
And again was the night the midnight, and the twinkling flames shone clear
In the hush of the Glittering Heath; and alone went Sigmund’s son
Till he came to the road of Fafnir, and the highway worn by one,
By the drift of the rain unfurrowed, by the windy years unrent,
And forth from the dark it came, and into the dark it went.
Great then was the heart of Sigurd, for there in the midmost he stayed,
And thought of the ancient fathers, and bared the bright blue blade,
That shone as a fleck of the day-light, and the night was all around.
Fair then was the Son of Sigmund as he tolled and laboured the ground;
Great, mighty he was in his working, and the Glittering Heath he clave,
And the sword shone blue before him as he dug the pit and the grave:
There he hid his hope from the night-tide and lay like one of the dead,
And wise and wary he bided; and the heavens hung over his head.
Now the night wanes over Sigurd, and the ruddy rings he sees,
And his war-gear’s fair adornment, and the God-folk’s images;
But a voice in the desert ariseth, a sound in the waste has birth,
A changing tinkle and clatter, as of gold dragged over the earth:
O’er Sigurd widens the day-light, and the sound is drawing close,
And speedier than the trample of speedy feet it goes;
But ever deemeth Sigurd that the sun brings back the day,
For the grave grows lighter and lighter and heaven o’erhead is grey.
But now, how the rattling waxeth till he may not heed nor hark!
And the day and the heavens are hidden, and o’er Sigurd rolls the dark,
As the flood of a pitchy river, and heavy-thick is the air
With the venom of hate long hoarded, and lies once fashioned fair:
Then a wan face comes from the darkness, and is wrought in manlike wise,
And the lips are writhed with laughter and bleared are the blinded eyes;
And it wandereth hither and thither, and searcheth through the grave
And departeth, leaving nothing, save the dark, rolled wave on wave
O’er the golden head of Sigurd and the edges of the sword,
And the world weighs heavy on Sigurd, and the weary curse of the Hoard:
Him-seemed the grave grew straiter, and his hope of life grew chill,
And his heart by the Worm was enfolded, and the bonds of the
Then was Sigurd stirred by his glory, and he strove with the swaddling of
Death; He turned in the pit on the highway, and the grave of the Glittering
Heath; He laughed and smote with the laughter and thrust up over his head.
And smote the venom asunder, and clave the heart of Dread;
Then he leapt from the pit and the grave, and the rushing river of blood,
And fulfilled with the joy of the War–God on the face of earth he stood
With red sword high uplifted, with wrathful glittering eyes;
And he laughed at the heavens above him for he saw the sun arise,
And Sigurd gleamed on the desert, and shone in the new-born light,
And the wind in his raiment wavered, and all the world was bright.
But there was the ancient Fafnir, and the Face of Terror lay
On the huddled folds of the Serpent, that were black and ashen-grey
In the desert lit by the sun; and those twain looked each on each,
And forth from the Face of Terror went a sound of dreadful speech:
“Child, child, who art thou that hast smitten? bright child, of whence is thy birth?”
“I am called the Wild-thing Glorious, and alone I wend on the earth.”
“Fierce child, and who was thy father? — Thou hast cleft the heart of the
“Am I like to the sons of men-folk, that my father I should know?”
“Wert thou born of a nameless wonder? shall the lies to my death-day cling?”
“How lieth Sigurd the Volsung, and the Son of Sigmund the King?”
“O bitter father of Sigurd! — thou hast cleft mine heart atwain!”
“I arose, and I wondered and wended, and I smote, and I smote not in vain.”
“What master hath taught thee of murder? — Thou hast wasted Fafnir’s day.”
“I, Sigurd, knew and desired, and the bright sword learned the way.”
“Thee, thee shall the rattling Gold and the red rings bring to the bane.”
“Yet mine hand shall cast them abroad, and the earth shall gather again.”
“I see thee great in thine anger, and the Norns thou heedest not.”
“O Fafnir, speak of the Norns and the wisdom unforgot!”
“Let the death-doomed flee from the ocean, him the wind and the weather shall drown.”
“O Fafnir, tell of the Norns ere thy life thou layest adown!”
“O manifold is their kindred, and who shall tell them all?
There are they that rule o’er men-folk and the stars that rise and fall:
— I knew of the folk of the Dwarfs, and I knew their Norns of old;
And I fought, and I fell in the morning, and I die afar from the gold:
— I have seen the Gods of heaven, and their Norns withal I know:
They love and withhold their helping, they hate and refrain the blow;
They curse and they may not sunder, they bless and they shall not blend;
They have fashioned the good and the evil; they abide the change and the end.”
“O Fafnir, what of the Isle, and what hast thou known of its name,
Where the Gods shall mingle edges with Surt and the Sons of the Flame?”
“O child, O Strong Compeller! Unshapen is it hight;
There the fallow blades shall be shaken and the Dark and the Day shall smite,
When the Bridge of the Gods is broken, and their white steeds swim the sea,
And the uttermost field is stricken, last strife of thee and me.”
“What then shall endure, O Fafnir, the tale of the battle to tell?”
“I am blind, O Strong Compeller, in the bonds of Death and Hell.
But thee shall the rattling Gold and the red rings bring unto bane.”
“Yet the rings mine hand shall scatter, and the earth shall gather again.”
“Woe, woe! in the days passed over I bore the Helm of Dread,
I reared the Face of Terror, and the hoarded hate of the Dead:
I overcame and was mighty; I was wise and cherished my heart
In the waste where no man wandered, and the high house builded apart:
Till I met thine hand, O Sigurd, and thy might ordained from of old;
And I fought and fell in the morning, and I die far off from the Gold.”
Then Sigurd leaned on his sword, and a dreadful voice went by
Like the wail of a God departing and the War–God’s misery;
And strong words of ancient wisdom went by on the desert wind,
The words that mar and fashion, the words that loose and bind;
And sounds of a strange lamenting, and such strange things bewailed,
That words to tell their meaning the tongue of man hath failed.
Then all sank into silence, and the Son of Sigmund stood
On the torn and furrowed desert by the pool of Fafnir’s blood,
And the Serpent lay before him, dead, chilly, dull, and grey;
And over the Glittering Heath fair shone the sun and the day,
And a light wind followed the sun and breathed o’er the fateful place,
As fresh as it furrows the sea-plain or bows the acres’ face.
There standeth Sigurd the Volsung, and leaneth on his sword,
And beside him now is Greyfell and looks on his golden lord,
And the world is awake and living; and whither now shall they wend,
Who have come to the Glittering Heath, and wrought that deed to its end?
For hither comes Regin the Master from the skirts of the field of death,
And he shadeth his eyes from the sunlight as afoot he goeth and saith:
“Ah, let me live for a while! for a while and all shall be well,
When passed is the house of murder and I creep from the prison of hell.”
Afoot he went o’er the desert, and he came unto Sigurd and stared
At the golden gear of the man, and the Wrath yet bloody and bared,
And the light locks raised by the wind, and the eyes beginning to smile,
And the lovely lips of the Volsung, and the brow that knew no guile;
And he murmured under his breath while his eyes grew white with wrath:
“O who art thou, and wherefore, and why art thou in the path?”
Then he turned to the ash-grey Serpent, and grovelled low on the ground,
And he drank of that pool of the blood where the stones of the wild were drowned,
And long he lapped as a dog; but when he arose again,
Lo, a flock of the mountain-eagles that drew to the feastful plain;
And he turned and looked on Sigurd, as bright in the sun he stood,
A stripling fair and slender, and wiped the Wrath of the blood.
But Regin cried: “O Dwarf-kind, O many-shifting folk,
O shapes of might and wonder, am I too freed from the yoke,
That binds my soul to my body a withered thing forlorn,
While the short-lived fools of man-folk so fair and oft are born?
Now swift in the air shall I be, and young in the concourse of kings,
If my heart shall come to desire the gain of earthly things.”
And he looked and saw how Sigurd was sheathing the Flame of War,
And the eagles screamed in the wind, but their voice came faint from afar:
Then he scowled, and crouched and darkened, and came to Sigurd and spake: “O child, thou hast slain my brother, and the
Wrath is alive and awake.”
“Thou sayest sooth,” said Sigurd, “thy deed and mine is done:
But now our ways shall sunder, for here, meseemeth, the sun
Hath but little of deeds to do, and no love to win aback.”
Then Regin crouched before him, and he spake: “Fare on to the wrack!
Fare on to the murder of men, and the deeds of thy kindred of old!
And surely of thee as of them shall the tale be speedily told.
Thou hast slain thy Master’s brother, and what wouldst thou say thereto,
Were the judges met for the judging and the doom-ring hallowed due?”
Then Sigurd spake as aforetime: “Thy deed and mine it was,
And now our ways shall sunder, and into the world will I pass.”
But Regin darkened before him, and exceeding grim was he grown,
And he spake: “Thou hast slain my brother, and wherewith wilt thou atone?”
“Stand up, O Master,” said Sigurd, “O Singer of ancient days,
And take the wealth I have won thee, ere we wend on the sundering ways.
I have toiled and thou hast desired, and the Treasure is surely anear,
And thou hast wisdom to find it, and I have slain thy fear.”
But Regin crouched and darkened: “Thou hast slain my brother,” he said.
“Take thou the Gold,” quoth Sigurd, “for the ransom of my head!”
Then Regin crouched and darkened, and over the earth he hung;
And he said: “Thou hast slain my brother, and the Gods are yet but young.”
Bright Sigurd towered above him, and the Wrath cried out in the sheath,
And Regin writhed against it as the adder turns on death;
And he spake: “Thou hast slain my brother, and today shalt thou be my thrall:
Yea a King shall be my cook-boy and this heath my cooking-hall.”
Then he crept to the ash-grey coils where the life of his brother had lain.
And he drew a glaive from his side and smote the smitten and slain,
And tore the heart from Fafnir, while the eagles cried o’erhead.
And sharp and shrill was their voice o’er the entrails of the dead.
Then Regin spake to Sigurd: “Of this slaying wilt thou be free?
Then gather thou fire together and roast the heart for me,
That I may eat it and live, and be thy master and more;
For therein was might and wisdom, and the grudged and hoarded lore:—
— Or else, depart on thy ways afraid from the Glittering
Then he fell abackward and slept, nor set his sword in the sheath,
But his hand was red on the hilts and blue were the edges bared,
Ash-grey was his visage waxen, and with open eyes he stared
On the height of heaven above him, and a fearful thing he seemed,
As his soul went wide in the world, and of rule and kingship he dreamed.
But Sigurd took the Heart, and wood on the waste he found,
The wood that grew and died, as it crept on the niggard ground,
And grew and died again, and lay like whitened bones;
And the ernes cried over his head, as he builded his hearth of stones,
And kindled the fire for cooking, and sat and sang o’er the roast
The song of his fathers of old, and the Wolflings’ gathering host:
So there on the Glittering Heath rose up the little flame,
And the dry sticks crackled amidst it, and alow the eagles came,
And seven they were by tale, and they pitched all round about
The cooking-fire of Sigurd, and sent their song-speech out:
But nought he knoweth its wisdom, or the word that they would speak:
And hot grew the Heart of Fafnir and sang amid the reek.
Then Sigurd looketh on Regin, and he deemeth it overlong
That he dighteth the dear-bought morsel, and the might for the Master of wrong,
So he reacheth his hand to the roast to see if the cooking be o’er;
But the blood and the fat seethed from it and scalded his finger sore,
And he set his hand to his mouth to quench the fleshly smart,
And he tasted the flesh of the Serpent and the blood of Fafnir’s Heart:
Then there came a change upon him, for the speech of fowl he knew,
And wise in the ways of the beast-kind as the Dwarfs of old he grew;
And he knitted his brows and hearkened, and wrath in his heart arose;
For he felt beset of evil in a world of many foes.
But the hilts of the Wrath he handled, and Regin’s heart he saw,
And how that the Foe of the Gods the net of death would draw;
And his bright eyes flashed and sparkled, and his mouth grew set and stern
As he hearkened the voice of the eagles, and their song began to learn.
For the first cried out in the desert: “O mighty Sigmund’s son,
How long wilt thou sit and tarry now the dear-bought roast is done?”
And the second: “Volsung, arise! for the horns blow up to the hall,
And dight are the purple hangings, and the King to the feasting should fall.”
And the third: “How great is the feast if the eater eat aright
The Heart of the wisdom of old and the after-world’s delight!”
And the fourth: “Yea, what of Regin? shall he scatter wrack o’er the world?
Shall the father be slain by the son, and the brother ’gainst brother be hurled?”
And the fifth: “He hath taught a stripling the gifts of a God to give:
He hath reared up a King for the slaying, that he alone might live.”
And the sixth: “He shall waken mighty as a God that scorneth at truth;
He hath drunk of the blood of the Serpent, and drowned all hope and ruth.”
And the seventh: “Arise, O Sigurd, lest the hour be overlate!
For the sun in the mid-noon shineth, and swift is the hand of Fate:
Arise! lest the world run backward and the blind heart have its will,
And once again be tangled the sundered good and ill;
Lest love and hatred perish, lest the world forget its tale,
And the Gods sit deedless, dreaming, in the high-walled heavenly vale.”
Then swift ariseth Sigurd, and the Wrath in his hand is bare,
And he looketh, and Regin sleepeth, and his eyes wide-open glare;
But his lips smile false in his dreaming, and his hand is on the sword;
For he dreams himself the Master and the new world’s fashioning-lord.
And his dream hath forgotten Sigurd, and the King’s life lies in the pit;
He is nought; Death gnaweth upon him, while the Dwarfs in mastery sit.
But lo, how the eyes of Sigurd the heart of the guileful behold,
And great is Allfather Odin, and upriseth the Curse of the Gold,
And the Branstock bloometh to heaven from the ancient wondrous root;
The summer hath shone on its blossoms, and Sigurd’s Wrath is the fruit:
Dread then he cried in the desert: “Guile-master, lo thy deed!
Hast thou nurst my life for destruction, and my death to serve thy need?
Hast thou kept me here for the net and the death that tame things die?
Hast thou feared me overmuch, thou Foe of the Gods on high?
Lest the sword thine hand was wielding should turn about and cleave
The tangled web of nothing thou hadst wearied thyself to weave.
Lo here the sword and the stroke! judge the Norns betwixt us twain!
But for me, I will live and die not, nor shall all my hope be vain.”
Then his second stroke struck Sigurd, for the Wrath flashed thin and white,
And ’twixt head and trunk of Regin fierce ran the fateful light;
And there lay brother by brother a faded thing and wan.
But Sigurd cried in the desert: “So far have I wended on!
Dead are the foes of God-home that would blend the good and the ill;
And the World shall yet be famous, and the Gods shall have their will.
Nor shall I be dead and forgotten, while the earth grows worse and worse?
With the blind heart king o’er the people, and binding curse with curse.”
Now Sigurd eats of the heart that once in the Dwarf-king lay,
The hoard of the wisdom begrudged, the might of the earlier day.
Then wise of heart was he waxen, but longing in him grew
To sow the seed he had gotten, and till the field he knew.
So he leapeth aback of Greyfell, and rideth the desert bare.
And the hollow slot of Fafnir, that led to the Serpent’s lair.
Then long he rode adown it, and the ernes flew overhead,
And tidings great and glorious, of that Treasure of old they said.
So far o’er the waste he wended, and when the night was come
He saw the earth-old dwelling, the dread Gold-wallower’s home:
On the skirts of the Heath it was builded by a tumbled stony bent;
High went that house to the heavens, down ’neath the earth it went.
Of unwrought iron fashioned for the heart of a greedy king: ’Twas a mountain, blind without, and within was its plenishing
But the Hoard of Andvari the ancient, and the sleeping Curse unseen,
The Gold of the Gods that spared not and the greedy that have been.
Through the door strode Sigurd the Volsung, and the grey moon and the sword
Fell in on the tawny gold-heaps of the ancient hapless Hoard:
Gold gear of hosts unburied, and the coin of cities dead,
Great spoil of the ages of battle, lay there on the Serpent’s bed:
Huge blocks from mid-earth quarried, where none but the Dwarfs have mined,
Wide sands of the golden rivers no foot of man may find
Lay ’neath the spoils of the mighty and the ruddy rings of yore:
But amidst was the Helm of Aweing that the Fear of earth-folk bore,
And there gleamed a wonder beside it, the Hauberk all of gold,
Whose like is not in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told:
There Sigurd seeth moreover Andvari’s Ring of Gain,
The hope of Loki’s finger, the Ransom’s utmost grain;
For it shone on the midmost gold-heap like the first star set in the sky
In the yellow space of even when moon-rise draweth anigh.
Then laughed the Son of Sigmund, and stooped to the golden land,
And gathered that first of the harvest and set it on his hand;
And he did on the Helm of Aweing, and the Hauberk all of gold,
Whose like is not in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told:
Then he praised the day of the Volsungs amid the yellow light,
And he set his hand to the labour and put forth his kingly might;
He dragged forth gold to the moon, on the desert’s face he laid
The innermost earth’s adornment, and rings for the nameless made;
He toiled and loaded Greyfell, and the cloudy war-steed shone
And the gear of Sigurd rattled in the flood of moonlight wan;
There he toiled and loaded Greyfell, and the Volsung’s armour rang
Mid the yellow bed of the Serpent: but without the eagles sang:
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! let the gold shine free and clear!
For what hath the Son of the Volsungs the ancient Curse to fear?”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for thy tale is well begun,
And the world shall be good and gladdened by the Gold lit up by the sun.”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! and gladden all thine heart!
For the world shall make thee merry ere thou and she depart.”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for the ways go green below,
Go green to the dwelling of Kings, and the halls that the Queen-folk know.”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for what is there bides by the way,
Save the joy of folk to awaken, and the dawn of the merry day?”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! for the strife awaits thine hand,
And a plenteous war-field’s reaping, and the praise of many a land.”
“Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! But how shall storehouse hold
That glory of thy winning and the tidings to be told?”
Now the moon was dead, and the star-worlds were great on the heavenly plain,
When the steed was fully laden; then Sigurd taketh the rein
And turns to the ruined rock-wall that the lair was built beneath,
For there he deemed was the gate and the door of the Glittering Heath,
But not a whit moved Greyfell for aught that the King might do;
Then Sigurd pondered a while, till the heart of the beast he knew,
And clad in all his war-gear he leaped to the saddle-stead,
And with pride and mirth neighed Greyfell and tossed aloft his head,
And sprang unspurred o’er the waste, and light and swift he went,
And breasted the broken rampart, the stony tumbled bent;
And over the brow he clomb, and there beyond was the world,
A place of many mountains and great crags together hurled.
So down to the west he wendeth, and goeth swift and light,
And the stars are beginning to wane, and the day is mingled with night;
For full fain was the sun to arise and look on the Gold set free,
And the Dwarf-wrought rings of the Treasure and the gifts from the floor of the sea.
By long roads rideth Sigurd amidst that world of stone,
And somewhat south he turneth; for he would not be alone,
But longs for the dwellings of man-folk, and the kingly people’s speech,
And the days of the glee and the joyance, where men laugh each to each.
But still the desert endureth, and afar must Greyfell fare
From the wrack of the Glittering Heath, and Fafnir’s golden lair.
Long Sigurd rideth the waste, when, lo, on a morning of day
From out of the tangled crag-walls, amidst the cloud-land grey
Comes up a mighty mountain, and it is as though there burns
A torch amidst of its cloud-wreath; so thither Sigurd turns,
For he deems indeed from its topmost to look on the best of the earth;
And Greyfell neigheth beneath him, and his heart is full of mirth.
So he rideth higher and higher, and the light grows great and strange,
And forth from the clouds it flickers, till at noon they gather and change,
And settle thick on the mountain, and hide its head from sight;
But the winds in a while are awakened, and day bettereth ere the night,
And, lifted a measureless mass o’er the desert crag-walls high,
Cloudless the mountain riseth against the sunset sky,
The sea of the sun grown golden, as it ebbs from the day’s desire;
And the light that afar was a torch is grown a river of fire,
And the mountain is black above it, and below is it dark and dun;
And there is the head of Hindfell as an island in the sun.
Night falls, but yet rides Sigurd, and hath no thought of rest,
For he longs to climb that rock-world and behold the earth at its best;
But now mid the maze of the foot-hills he seeth the light no more,
And the stars are lovely and gleaming on the lightless heavenly floor.
So up and up he wendeth till the night is wearing thin;
And he rideth a rift of the mountain, and all is dark therein,
Till the stars are dimmed by dawning and the wakening world is cold;
Then afar in the upper rock-wall a breach doth he behold,
And a flood of light poured inward the doubtful dawning blinds:
So swift he rideth thither and the mouth of the breach he finds,
And sitteth awhile on Greyfell on the marvellous thing to gaze:
For lo, the side of Hindfell enwrapped by the fervent blaze,
And nought ’twixt earth and heaven save a world of flickering flame,
And a hurrying shifting tangle, where the dark rents went and came.
Great groweth the heart of Sigurd with uttermost desire,
And he crieth kind to Greyfell, and they hasten up, and nigher,
Till he draweth rein in the dawning on the face of Hindfell’s steep:
But who shall heed the dawning where the tongues of that wildfire leap?
For they weave a wavering wall, that driveth over the heaven
The wind that is born within it; nor ever aside is it driven
By the mightiest wind of the waste, and the rain-flood amidst it is nought;
And no wayfarer’s door and no window the hand of its builder hath wrought
But thereon is the Volsung smiling as its breath uplifteth his hair,
And his eyes shine bright with its image, and his mail gleams white and fair,
And his war-helm pictures the heavens and the waning stars behind:
But his neck is Greyfell stretching to snuff at the flame-wall blind.
And his cloudy flank upheaveth, and tinkleth the knitted mail,
And the gold of the uttermost waters is waxen wan and pale.
Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts,
And draws a girth the tighter; then the gathered reins he lifts,
And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire’s heart;
But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart,
And high o’er his head it riseth, and wide and wild is its roar
As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor:
But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye,
When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh
The white flame licks his raiment and sweeps through Greyfell’s mane,
And bathes both hands of Sigurd and the hilts of Fafnir’s bane,
And winds about his war-helm and mingles with his hair,
But nought his raiment dusketh or dims his glittering gear;
Then it fails and fades and darkens till all seems left behind,
And dawn and the blaze is swallowed in mid-mirk stark and blind.
But forth a little further and a little further on
And all is calm about him, and he sees the scorched earth wan
Beneath a glimmering twilight, and he turns his conquering eyes,
And a ring of pale slaked ashes on the side of Hindfell lies;
And the world of the waste is beyond it; and all is hushed and grey.
And the new-risen moon is a-paleing, and the stars grow faint with day.
Then Sigurd looked before him and a Shield-burg there he saw,
A wall of the tiles of Odin wrought clear without a flaw,
The gold by the silver gleaming, and the ruddy by the white;
And the blazonings of their glory were done upon them bright,
As of dear things wrought for the war-lords new come to Odin’s hall.
Piled high aloft to the heavens uprose that battle-wall,
And far o’er the topmost shield-rim for a banner of fame there hung
A glorious golden buckler; and against the staff it rang
As the earliest wind of dawning uprose on Hindfell’s face
And the light from the yellowing east beamed soft on the shielded place.
But the Wrath cried out in answer as Sigurd leapt adown
To the wasted soil of the desert by that rampart of renown;
He looked but little beneath it, and the dwelling of God it seemed,
As against its gleaming silence the eager Sigurd gleamed:
He draweth not sword from scabbard, as the wall he wendeth around,
And it is but the wind and Sigurd that wakeneth any sound:
But, lo, to the gate he cometh, and the doors are open wide,
And no warder the way withstandeth, and no earls by the threshold abide
So he stands awhile and marvels; then the baleful light of the Wrath
Gleams bare in his ready hand as he wendeth the inward path:
For he doubteth some guile of the Gods, or perchance some
Dwarf-king’s snare, Or a mock of the Giant people that shall fade in the morning air:
But he getteth him in and gazeth; and a wall doth he behold,
And the ruddy set by the white, and the silver by the gold;
But within the garth that it girdeth no work of man is set,
But the utmost head of Hindfell ariseth higher yet;
And below in the very midmost is a Giant-fashioned mound,
Piled high as the rims of the Shield-burg above the level ground;
And there, on that mound of the Giants, o’er the wilderness forlorn,
A pale grey image lieth, and gleameth in the morn.
So there was Sigurd alone; and he went from the shielded door.
And aloft in the desert of wonder the Light of the Branstock he bore;
And he set his face to the earth-mound, and beheld the image wan,
And the dawn was growing about it; and, lo, the shape of a man
Set forth to the eyeless desert on the tower-top of the world,
High over the cloud-wrought castle whence the windy bolts are hurled.
Now he comes to the mound and climbs it, and will see if the man be dead
Some King of the days forgotten laid there with crownèd head,
Or the frame of a God, it may be, that in heaven hath changed his life,
Or some glorious heart belovèd, God-rapt from the earthly strife:
Now over the body he standeth, and seeth it shapen fair,
And clad from head to foot-sole in pale grey-glittering gear,
In a hauberk wrought as straitly as though to the flesh it were grown:
But a great helm hideth the head and is girt with a glittering crown.
So thereby he stoopeth and kneeleth, for he deems it were good indeed
If the breath of life abide there and the speech to help at need;
And as sweet as the summer wind from a garden under the sun
Cometh forth on the topmost Hindfell the breath of that sleeping-one.
Then he saith he will look on the face, if it bear him love or hate,
Or the bonds for his life’s constraining, or the sundering doom of fate.
So he draweth the helm from the head, and, lo, the brow snow-white,
And the smooth unfurrowed cheeks, and the wise lips breathing light;
And the face of a woman it is, and the fairest that ever was born,
Shown forth to the empty heavens and the desert world forlorn:
But he looketh, and loveth her sore, and he longeth her spirit to move,
And awaken her heart to the world, that she may behold him and love.
And he toucheth her breast and her hands, and he loveth her passing sore;
And he saith; “Awake! I am Sigurd,” but she moveth never the more.
Then he looked on his bare bright blade, and he said: “Thou — what wilt thou do?
For indeed as I came by the war-garth thy voice of desire I knew.”
Bright burnt the pale blue edges for the sunrise drew anear,
And the rims of the Shield-burg glittered, and the east was exceeding clear:
So the eager edges he setteth to the Dwarf-wrought battle-coat
Where the hammered ring-knit collar constraineth the woman’s throat;
But the sharp Wrath biteth and rendeth, and before it fail the rings.
And, lo, the gleam of the linen, and the light of golden things:
Then he driveth the blue steel onward, and through the skirt, and out.
Till nought but the rippling linen is wrapping her about;
Then he deems her breath comes quicker and her breast begins to heave,
So he turns about the War–Flame and rends down either sleeve,
Till her arms lie white in her raiment, and a river of sun-bright hair
Flows free o’er bosom and shoulder and floods the desert bare.
Then a flush cometh over her visage and a sigh up-heaveth her breast,
And her eyelids quiver and open, and she wakeneth into rest;
Wide-eyed on the dawning she gazeth, too glad to change or smile,
And but little moveth her body, nor speaketh she yet for a while;
And yet kneels Sigurd moveless her wakening speech to heed,
While soft the waves of the daylight o’er the starless heavens speed,
And the gleaming rims of the Shield-burg yet bright and brighter grow,
And the thin moon hangeth her horns dead-white in the golden glow.
Then she turned and gazed on Sigurd, and her eyes met the Volsung’s eyes.
And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise,
For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved,
As she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved:
“O, what is the thing so mighty that my weary sleep hath torn,
And rent the fallow bondage, and the wan woe over-worn?”
He said: “The hand of Sigurd and the Sword of Sigmund’s son,
And the heart that the Volsungs fashioned this deed for thee have done.”
But she said: “Where then is Odin that laid me here alow?
Long lasteth the grief of the world, and manfolk’s tangled woe!”
“He dwelleth above,” said Sigurd, “but I on the earth abide,
And I came from the Glittering Heath the waves of thy fire to ride.”
But therewith the sun rose upward and lightened all the earth,
And the light flashed up to the heavens from the rims of the glorious girth;
But they twain arose together, and with both her palms outspread,
And bathed in the light returning, she cried aloud and said:
“All hail, O Day and thy Sons, and thy kin of the coloured things!
Hail, following Night, and thy Daughter that leadeth thy wavering wings!
Look down with unangry eyes on us today alive,
And give us the hearts victorious, and the gain for which we strive!
All hail, ye Lords of God-home, and ye Queens of the House of Gold!
Hail, thou dear Earth that bearest, and thou Wealth of field and fold!
Give us, your noble children, the glory of wisdom and speech,
And the hearts and the hands of healing, and the mouths and hands that teach!”
Then they turned and were knit together; and oft and o’er again
They craved, and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.
Then Sigurd looketh upon her, and the words from his heart arise:
“Thou art the fairest of earth, and the wisest of the wise;
O who art thou that lovest? I am Sigurd, e’en as I told;
I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and gotten the Ancient Gold;
And great were the gain of thy love, and the gift of mine earthly days,
If we twain should never sunder as we wend on the changing ways.
O who art thou that lovest, thou fairest of all things born?
And what meaneth thy sleep and thy slumber in the wilderness forlorn?”
She said: “I am she that loveth: I was born of the earthly folk,
But of old Allfather took me from the Kings and their wedding yoke:
And he called me the Victory–Wafter, and I went and came as he would,
And I chose the slain for his war-host, and the days were glorious and good,
Till the thoughts of my heart overcame me, and the pride of my wisdom and speech,
And I scorned the earth-folk’s Framer and the Lord of the world I must teach:
For the death-doomed I caught from the sword, and the fated life I slew,
And I deemed that my deeds were goodly, and that long I should do and undo.
But Allfather came against me and the God in his wrath arose;
And he cried: ’Thou hast thought in thy folly that the Gods have friends and foes,
That they wake, and the world wends onward, that they sleep, and the world slips back,
That they laugh, and the world’s weal waxeth, that they frown and fashion the wrack:
Thou hast cast up the curse against me; it shall fall aback on thine head;
Go back to the sons of repentance, with the children of sorrow wed!
For the Gods are great unholpen, and their grief is seldom seen,
And the wrong that they will and must be is soon as it had not been.’
“Yet I thought: ’Shall I wed in the world, shall I gather grief on the earth?
Then the fearless heart shall I wed, and bring the best to birth,
And fashion such tales for the telling, that Earth shall be holpen at least,
If the Gods think scorn of its fairness, as they sit at the changeless feast.’
“Then somewhat smiled Allfather; and he spake: ’So let it be!
The doom thereof abideth; the doom of me and thee.
Yet long shall the time pass over ere thy waking-day be born:
Fare forth, and forget and be weary ’neath the Sting of the Sleepful
“So I came to the head of Hindfell and the ruddy shields and white,
And the wall of the wildfire wavering around the isle of night;
And there the Sleep-thorn pierced me, and the slumber on me fell,
And the night of nameless sorrows that hath no tale to tell.
Now I am she that loveth; and the day is nigh at hand
When I, who have ridden the sea-realm and the regions of the land,
And dwelt in the measureless mountains and the forge of stormy days,
Shall dwell in the house of my fathers and the land of the people’s praise;
And there shall hand meet hand, and heart by heart shall beat,
And the lying-down shall be joyous, and the morn’s uprising sweet.
Lo now, I look on thine heart and behold of thine inmost will,
That thou of the days wouldst hearken that our portion shall fulfill;
But O, be wise of man-folk, and the hope of thine heart refrain!
As oft in the battle’s beginning ye vex the steed with the rein,
Lest at last in its latter ending, when the sword hath hushed the horn,
His limbs should be weary and fail, and his might be over-worn.
O be wise, lest thy love constrain me, and my vision wax o’er-clear,
And thou ask of the thing that thou shouldst not, and the thing that thou wouldst not hear.
“Know thou, most mighty of men, that the Norns shall order all,
And yet without thine helping shall no whit of their will befall;
Be wise! ’tis a marvel of words, and a mock for the fool and the blind,
But I saw it writ in the heavens, and its fashioning there did I find:
And the night of the Norns and their slumber, and the tide when the world runs back,
And the way of the sun is tangled, it is wrought of the dastard’s lack.
But the day when the fair earth blossoms, and the sun is bright above.
Of the daring deeds is it fashioned and the eager hearts of love.
“Be wise, and cherish thine hope in the freshness of the days,
And scatter its seed from thine hand in the field of the people’s praise;
Then fair shall it fall in the furrow, and some the earth shall speed,
And the sons of men shall marvel at the blossom of the deed:
But some the earth shall speed not: nay rather, the wind of the heaven
Shall waft it away from thy longing — and a gift to the Gods hast thou given,
And a tree for the roof and the wall in the house of the hope that shall be,
Though it seemeth our very sorrow, and the grief of thee and me.
“Strive not with the fools of man-folk: for belike thou shalt overcome;
And what then is the gain of thine hunting when thou bearest the quarry home?
Or else shall the fool overcome thee, and what deed thereof shall grow?
Nay, strive with the wise man rather, and increase thy woe and his woe;
Yet thereof a gain hast thou gotten; and the half of thine heart hast thou won
If thou may’st prevail against him, and his deeds are the deeds thou hast done:
Yea, and if thou fall before him, in him shalt thou live again,
And thy deeds in his hand shall blossom, and his heart of thine heart shall be fain.
“When thou hearest the fool rejoicing, and he saith, ’It is over and past,
And the wrong was better than right, and hate turns into love at the last,
And we strove for nothing at all, and the Gods are fallen asleep;
For so good is the world a growing that the evil good shall reap:’
Then loosen thy sword in the scabbard and settle the helm on thine head,
For men betrayed are mighty, and great are the wrongfully dead
“Wilt thou do the deed and repent it? thou hadst better never been born:
Wilt thou do the deed and exalt it? then thy fame shall be outworn:
Thou shalt do the deed and abide it, and sit on thy throne on high,
And look on today and tomorrow as those that never die.
“Love thou the Gods — and withstand them, lest thy fame should fail in the end,
And thou be but their thrall and their bondsmen, who wert born for their very friend:
For few things from the Gods are hidden, and the hearts of men they know,
And how that none rejoiceth to quail and crouch alow.
“I have spoken the words, belovèd, to thy matchless glory and worth;
But thy heart to my heart hath been speaking, though my tongue hath set it forth:
For I am she that loveth, and I know what thou wouldst teach
From the heart of thine unlearned wisdom, and I needs must speak thy speech.”
Then words were weary and silent, but oft and o’er again
They craved and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.
Then spake the Son of Sigmund: “Fairest, and most of worth,
Hast thou seen the ways of man-folk and the regions of the earth?
Then speak yet more of wisdom; for most meet meseems it is
That my soul to thy soul be shapen, and that I should know thy bliss.”
So she took his right hand meekly, nor any word would say,
Not e’en of love or praising, his longing to delay;
And they sat on the side of Hindfell, and their fain eyes looked and loved,
As she told of the hidden matters whereby the world is moved:
And she told of the framing of all things, and the houses of the heaven;
And she told of the star-worlds’ courses, and how the winds be driven;
And she told of the Norns and their names, and the fate that abideth the earth;
And she told of the ways of King-folk in their anger and their mirth;
And she spake of the love of women, and told of the flame that burns,
And the fall of mighty houses, and the friend that falters and turns,
And the lurking blinded vengeance, and the wrong that amendeth wrong,
And the hand that repenteth its stroke, and the grief that endureth for long:
And how man shall bear and forbear, and be master of all that is;
And how man shall measure it all, the wrath, and the grief, and the bliss.
“I saw the body of Wisdom, and of shifting guise was she wrought,
And I stretched out my hands to hold her, and a mote of the dust they caught;
And I prayed her to come for my teaching, and she came in the midnight dream —
And I woke and might not remember, nor betwixt her tangle deem:
She spake, and how might I hearken; I heard, and how might I know;
I knew, and how might I fashion, or her hidden glory show?
All things I have told thee of Wisdom are but fleeting images
Of her hosts that abide in the heavens, and her light that Allfather sees:
Yet wise is the sower that sows, and wise is the reaper that reaps,
And wise is the smith in his smiting, and wise is the warder that keeps:
And wise shalt thou be to deliver, and I shall be wise to desire;
— And lo, the tale that is told, and the sword and the wakening fire!
Lo now, I am she that loveth, and hark how Greyfell neighs,
And Fafnir’s Bed is gleaming, and green go the downward ways,
The road to the children of men and the deeds that thou shalt do
In the joy of thy life-days’ morning, when thine hope is fashioned anew.
Come now, O Bane of the Serpent, for now is the high-noon come,
And the sun hangeth over Hindfell and looks on the earth-folk’s home;
But the soul is so great within thee, and so glorious are thine eyes,
And me so love constraineth, and mine heart that was called the wise,
That we twain may see men’s dwellings and the house where we shall dwell,
And the place of our life’s beginning, where the tale shall be to tell.”
So they climb the burg of Hindfell, and hand in hand they fare,
Till all about and above them is nought but the sunlit air,
And there close they cling together rejoicing in their mirth;
For far away beneath them lie the kingdoms of the earth,
And the garths of men-folk’s dwellings and the streams that water them,
And the rich and plenteous acres, and the silver ocean’s hem,
And the woodland wastes and the mountains, and all that holdeth all;
The house and the ship and the island, the loom and the mine and the stall,
The beds of bane and healing, the crafts that slay and save,
The temple of God and the Doom-ring, the cradle and the grave.
Then spake the Victory–Wafter: “O King of the Earthly Age,
As a God thou beholdest the treasure and the joy of thine heritage,
And where on the wings of his hope is the spirit of Sigurd borne?
Yet I bid thee hover awhile as a lark alow on the corn;
Yet I bid thee look on the land ’twixt the wood and the silver sea
In the bight of the swirling river, and the house that cherished me!
There dwelleth mine earthly sister and the king that she hath wed;
There morn by morn aforetime I woke on the golden bed;
There eve by eve I tarried mid the speech and the lays of kings;
There noon by noon I wandered and plucked the blossoming things;
The little land of Lymdale by the swirling river’s side,
Where Brynhild once was I called in the days ere my father died;
The little land of Lymdale ’twixt the woodland and the sea,
Where on thee mine eyes shall brighten and thine eyes shall beam on me.”
“I shall seek thee there,” said Sigurd, “when the day-spring is begun,
Ere we wend the world together in the season of the sun.”
“I shall bide thee there,” said Brynhild, “till the fulness of the days,
And the time for the glory appointed, and the springing-tide of praise.”
From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari’s ancient Gold;
There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold,
The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end,
No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend:
Then Sigurd cries: “O Brynhild, now hearken while I swear,
That the sun shall die in the heavens and the day no more be fair,
If I seek not love in Lymdale and the house that fostered thee,
And the land where thou awakedst ’twixt the woodland and the sea!”
And she cried: “O Sigurd, Sigurd, now hearken while I swear
That the day shall die for ever and the sun to blackness wear,
Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, as I lie ’twixt wood and sea
In the little land of Lymdale and the house that fostered me!”
Then he set the ring on her finger and once, if ne’er again,
They kissed and clung together, and their hearts were full and fain.
So the day grew old about them and the joy of their desire,
And eve and the sunset came, and faint grew the sunset fire,
And the shadowless death of the day was sweet in the golden tide;
But the stars shone forth on the world, and the twilight changed and died;
And sure if the first of man-folk had been born to that starry night,
And had heard no tale of the sunrise, he had never longed for the light:
But Earth longed amidst her slumber, as ’neath the night she lay,
And fresh and all abundant abode the deeds of Day.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53