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At dusk, Sigrun’s bondwoman went by Helgi’s mound and saw Helgi riding into the mound with many men. The bondwoman said:

 

“Is this some deception it seems I see,

or the Ragnarok? Dead men riding,

where do you speed your horses with spurs,

or are you heroes given a longing for home?”

 

Helgi said:

 

“This is no deception you seem to see,

nor the opening of an age, though you perceive us.

Though we speed our horses with spurs,

now we heroes are given a longing for home.”

 

The bondwoman went home and told Sigrun:

 

“Out you go, Sigrun of Sefafell,

if you’d try to find the lord of troops.

The mound is opened—Helgi is here!

Sword-tracks bleed, and Dag’s own son

asks you to make well his bleeding wounds.”

 

Sigrun went into the mound to Helgi and said:

 

“Now I’m as glad at the gift of our meeting

as the greedy hawks of grim Odin

when they smell slaughter, the warm corpses,

or, dew-glinting, see daybreak.

 

“First, I would kiss the lifeless king

before you cast off that bloody byrnie.

Your hair, Helgi, is thick with rime,

the chief is all stricken with slaughter-dew.

Hogni’s kinsman has cold, damp hands.

Speak to me, prince: how I can help you?”

 

Helgi said:

 

“You alone are the cause, Sigrun of Sefafell,

that Helgi the stern is stricken with grief-dew.

You cry, gold-adorned, with your grim tears,

sun-bright south-maid, before you go to sleep.

They fall bloody on the warrior’s breast,

spray-cold, burning, filled with sorrow.

 

“Well, we should drink dear strong draughts,

though we’ve lost pleasures and lands.

No man alive should recite a sorrow-song,

though on my breast I bear these mortal wounds.

Now, this woman is immured in the mound,

a human woman with we who are passed.”

 

Sigrun prepared a bed in the mound.

 

“Here I’ve made ready a bed for you, Helgi.

Much freed of angst, son of Ylfings,

I long, my lord, to sleep in your embrace,

as I would with the prince when he was awake.”

 

Helgi said:

 

“Nothing at all could be less likely,

soon or late at Sefafell,

than you asleep in lifeless arms,

delicate in the mound, Hogni’s daughter—

and you, breathing and royally born.

 

“It’s time for me to ride the reddened paths,

to set the pale horse treading the skyway.

I have to west over windhelms bridge,

before Salgofnir wakes those who’ve won victory.”

 

Helgi and his men rode off, and the women went back home. The next evening Sigrun had her bondwoman keep watch at the mound. And at dusk, when Sigrun came to the mound, she said:

 

“He’d have come by now, if he meant to come,

Sigmund’s son from Odin’s halls.

Any hope the lord will come hither wanes.

Now on the ash-limbs the eagles sit,

and all folk flock to the dream-thing.”

 

The bondwoman said:

 

“Don’t be so bold as to go alone,

noble woman, into that ghost-house.

Stronger become all things at night,

dead enemies, by far, than by the light of day.”

 

Sigrun did not live long after that, on account of her sorrow and grief. There was a belief in the old days that people could be born again, which is now considered an old wives’ tale. Helgi and Sigrun were said to be born again. He was called Helgi Haddingjaskati, and she was Kara Halfdanardottir, as is told in the “Song of Kara,” and she was a valkyrie.



Original ↓

Ambótt Sigrúnar gekk um aftan hjá haugi Helga ok sá, at Helgi reið til haugsins með marga menn. Ambótt kvað:

 

"Hvárt eru þat svik ein,

er ek sjá þykkjumk,

eða ragnarök,

- ríða menn dauðir,

er jóa yðra

oddum keyrið -

eða er hildingum

heimför gefin?"

 

Helgi kvað:

 

"Er-a þat svik ein,

er þú sjá þykkisk,

né aldar rof,

þóttú oss lítir,

þótt vér jóa óra

oddum keyrim,

né er hildingum

heimför gefin."


Heim gekk ambátt ok sagði Sigrúnu:

 

"Út gakk þú, Sigrún

frá Sefafjöllum,

ef þik folks jaðar

finna lystir;

upp er haugr lokinn,

kominn er Helgi,

dolgspor dreyra,

döglingr bað þik,

at þú sárdropa

svefja skyldir."


Sigrún gekk í hauginn til Helga ok kvað:

 

"Nú em ek svá fegin

fundi okkrum

sem átfrekir

Óðins haukar,

er val vitu,

varmar bráðir,

eða dögglitir

dagsbrún sjá.

 

Fyrr vil ek kyssa

konung ólifðan

en þú blóðugri

brynju kastir;

hár er þitt, Helgi,

hélu þrungit,

allr er vísi

valdögg sleginn,

hendr úrsvalar

Högna mági;

hvé skal ek þér, buðlungr,

þess bót of vinna?"

 

Helgi kvað:

 

"Ein veldr þú, Sigrún

frá Sefafjöllum,

er Helgi er

harmdögg sleginn;

grætr þú, gullvarið,

grimmum tárum,

sólbjört, suðræn,

áðr þú sofa gangir;

hvert fellr blóðugt

á brjóst grami,

úrsvalt, innfjalgt,

ekka þrungit.

 

Vel skulum drekka

dýrar veigar,

þótt misst hafim

munar ok landa;

skal engi maðr

angrljóð kveða,

þótt mér á brjósti

benjar líti;

nú eru brúðir

byrgðar í haugi,

lofða dísir,

hjá oss liðnum."


Sigrún bjó sæing í hauginum.

 

"Hér hefi ek þér, Helgi,

hvílu görva

angrlausa mjök,

Ylfinga niðr,

vil ek þér í faðmi,

fylkir, sofna

sem ek lofðungi

lifnum myndak."

 

Helgi kvað:

 

"Nú kveð ek enskis

örvænt vera

síð né snimma

at Sefafjöllum,

er þú á armi

ólifðum sefr,

hvít, í haugi,

Högna dóttir,

ok ertu kvik,

in konungborna.

 

Mál er mér at ríða

roðnar brautir,

láta fölvan jó

flugstíg troða;

skal ek fyr vestan

vindhjalms brúar,

áðr Salgófnir

sigrþjóð veki."


Þeir Helgi riðu leið sína, en þær fóru heim til bæjar. Annan aftan lét Sigrún ambótt halda vörð á hauginum. En at dagsetri, er Sigrún kom til haugsins, hon kvað:

 

"Kominn væri nú,

ef koma hygði,

Sigmundar burr

frá sölum Óðins;

kveð ek grams þinig

grænask vánir,

er á asklimum

ernir sitja

ok drífr drótt öll

draumþinga til."

 

Ambótt kvað:

 

"Verðu eigi svá ær,

at ein farir,

dís skjöldunga,

draughúsa til;

verða öflgari

allir á nóttum

dauðir dolgar, mær,

en um daga ljósa."


Sigrún varð skammlíf af harmi ok trega. Þat var trúa í forneskju, at menn væri endrbornir, en þat er nú kölluð kerlingavilla. Helgi ok Sigrún, er kallat, at væri endrborin. Hét hann þá Helgi Haddingjaskati, en hon Kára Hálfdanardóttir, svá sem kveðit er í Káruljóðum, ok var hon valkyrja.

Translator's Note

When translating Old Norse verse, I attempt to follow the basic formal features of Old Norse meter and prosody, here in the Old Norse meter known as fornyrðislag—four main stresses to a line, relatively strong caesura, alliteration in every line, very close to the Old English alliterative long line. However, in order not to make the translation too far from idiomatic Modern English, I do not follow the precise rules to the letter. In the particular case of this kviða (what modern editors translate as lay), Ive smoothed out some lines more than I might otherwise, due to some knotty passages. But I also retain some of the denser phrasings, the kennings, since theyre so important for the prosody and allusiveness of Old Norse verse.

This poem from the Old Norse Elder Edda tells the story of Helgi, son of Sigmund the Völsung. Helgi killed Hunding, with whom his family had a feud. As he and his band rested from the fight, he met Sigrun, whom he married and with whom he had sons. After Helgis murder by Sigruns brother, he was buried in a barrow. . .

 


Jacob Riyeff

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