Poetic Edda/Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar

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Poetic Edda
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Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar

Hjorvard was a king named, he had four wives: one named Alfhild, their son was named Hedin; another was Sereid, their son was Humlung; the third was named Sinrjod, their son was Humling. Hjorvard made a vow that he would wife the fairest girl. He asked, that King Svafnis had a fair daughter named Sigrlinn. Idmund was his earl named; Atli, his son, was sent to demand the hand of Sigrlinn for the king. He stayed throughout the winter with King Svafnis. There was a earl there named Fránmar, who was the foster-father of Sigrlinn, and had a daughter named Alof. This earl advised that the maiden should be refused, and Atli returned home. One day when the earl's son Atli was standing in a grove, there was a bird sitting in the boughs above him, which had heard that his men called the wives which King Hjorvard had the most beautiful. The bird talked, and Atli listened to what it said. The bird said:

1. «Hast thou seen Sigrlinn,
Svafnis's daughter,
of maidens fairest,
in Munarhome?
though fair the wives
of Hjorvard
seem to men
in Crystalgrove.»

2. ATLI:
«With Atli,
Idmund's son,
sagacious bird!
Wilts thou further speak?»

BIRD:
«I will if the prince
will offer to me,
and I may choose
what I will from the king's court.»

4. ATLI:
«Choose not Hjorvard
nor his sons,
nor the fair
daughters of that prince,
nor the wives,
which the king has.
Let us together make a council;
that is the part of friends.»

4. BIRD:
«Hov I will have
and sanctuaries many,
gold-horned cows
from the chief's land,
if Sigrlinn
sleep in his arms,
and unconstrained
with that prince shall live.»

This took place before Atli's journey; but after his return, when the king asked his tidings,
he said:

5.« Labour we have had,
but errand none performed;
our horses failed us
in the vast fell;
we had afterwards
a swampy lake to ford;
then was denied us
Svafnis's daughter
with rings adorned,
whom we would obtain.»

The king commanded them to go a second time, and also went himself. But when they had 'ascended a fell, and saw in Svavaland the country on fire, and a great reek from the horses of cavalry, the king rode down the fell into the country, and took up his night-quarters by a river. Atli kept watch, and crossed the river, and came to a house, on which sat a great bird to guard it, but was asleep. Atli shot the bird dead with an arrow. In the house he found the king's daughter Sigrlinn, and Alof daughter of Fránmar, and brought them both away with him. The earl Fránmar had taken the form of an eagle, and protected them from a hostile army by sorcery. There was a king named Rodmar, a wooer of Sigrlinn: he had slain the king of Svavaland, and ravaged and burnt the country. Hjorvard obtained Sigrlinn, and Atli Alof.

II

Hjorvard and Sigrlinn had a son tall and comely: he was taciturn and had no fixed name. As he was sitting on a mound he saw nine valkyries, one of whom was of most noble aspect. She said:

6. «Late wilt thou, Helgi!
Rings possess,
a potent warrior,
or Radulsvollom,
so at morn the eagle sang
if thou art ever silent;
although thou, prince!
A fierce mood mayest show.»

7. HELGI:
«What wilt thou let accompany
the name of Helgi,
maid of aspect bright!
Since that thou art pleased to give me?
Think well over
what thou art saying.
I will not accept it,
unless I have thee also.»

8. VALKYRIE:
«Swords I know lying
in Sigarsholm,
fewer by four
than five times ten:
one of them
is of all the best,
of shields the bale,
with gold adorned.

9. A ring is on the hilt,
courage in the midst,
in the point terror
for his use that owns it:
along the edge
a bloodstained serpent lies,
and on the guard
the serpent casts its tail.»

There was a king named Eylimi; Svava was his daughter; she was a valkyrie and rode through air and water. It was she who gave Helgi that name, and afterwards often protected him in battle.

10. HELGI:
«Hjorvard!
Thou art not a king
of wholesome counsel,
leader of people!
Thou hast let fire
the homes of heroes eat,
who evil deed
had never done thee.

11. But Rodmar shall
of the rings dispose,
which our relations
have possessed.
That chief recks
little of his life;
he thinks only to obtain
the heritage of the dead.»

Hjorvard answers, that he will supply Helgi with an army, if he will avenge his mother's father. Helgi there upon seeks the sword that Svava had indicated to him. Afterwards he and Atli went and slew Rodmar, and performed many deeds of valour.

III

Helgi killed the jotun Hate, as he sat on a crag. Helgi and Atli lay with their ships in Hatefjord. Atli kept watch in the first part of the night. Rimegerd, Hate's daughter, said:

12. «Who are the chieftains
in Hatefjord?
With shields are your ships bedecked;
boldly ye bear yourselves,
few things ye fear, I ween:
tell me how your king is named.»

13. ATLI:
«Helgi is his name;
but thou nowhere canst
to the chief do harm;
iron forts
are around the prince's fleet;
knee-god may not assail us.»

14. RIMEGERD:
«How art thou named?
Most powerful cult!
How do men call thee?
Thy king confides in thee,
since in the ship's fair prow
he grants thee place.»

15. ATLI:
«Atli I am named,
fierce I shall prove to thee;
towards women I am most hostile.
The humid prow
I have oft occupied,
and the nightriders slain.

16. How art thou called?
Corpse-greedy troll! Hag!
Name thy father.
Nine rasts
shouldst thou be under ground,
and barley grow
on thy breast.»

17. RIMEGERD:
«Rimegerd I am called,
Hate was my father called,
whom I knew the mightiest jotun.
He many women had
from the farmer's taken,
until him Helgi slew.»

18. ATLI:
«Thou wast, hag!
Before the prince's ships,
and layest before them
in the fiord's mouth.
The chieftain's warriors
thou wouldst to Rán consign,
had a bar not crossed thee.»

19. RIMEGERD:
«Now, Atli!
Thou art wrong,
methinks thou art dreaming;
thy brows thou leitest over thy eyelids fall.
My mother lay before the prince's ships;
I Lodvar's sons drowned in the ocean.

20. Thou wouldst neigh, Atli!
If thou wert not a gelding.
See! Rimegerd cocks her tail.
Thy heart, me thinks, Atli!
Is in thy hinder part,
although thy voice is clear.»

21. ATLI:
«I think I shall
the stronger prove,
if thou desirest to try;
and I can step from the port to land.
Thou shalt be soundly cudgeled,
if I heartily begin,
and let thy tail fall, Rimegerd!»

22. RIMEGERD:
Just come on shore, Atli!
If in thy strength thou trustest,
and let us meet in Varinsbay.
A rib-roasting thou shalt get,
brave boy!
If in my claws thou comest.»

23. ATLI:
«I will not come
before the men awake,
and o'er the king hold watch.
It would not surprise me,
if from beneath
our ship some hag arose.»

24. RIMEGERD:
«Keep watch, Atli!
And to Rimegerd pay the blood-fine
for Hate's death.
If one night
she may sleep with the prince,
she for the slain will be indemnified.»

25. HELGI:
«Lodin is named he who shall thee possess,
thou to mankind art loathsome.
In Tollisle dwells that rime troll,
that dog wise Jotun,
of all rock dwellers the worst:
he is a fitting man for thee.»

26. RIMEGERD:
«Helgi would rather have her
who last night guarded
the port and men,
the goldbright maiden.
She methought had strength,
she stept from port to land,
and so secured your fleet.
She was alone the cause
that I could not
the king's men slay.»

27. HELGI:
«Hear now, Rimegerd!
If I may indemnify thee,
say fully to the king:
was it one being only,
that saved the prince's ships,
or went many together?»

28. RIMEGERD:
«Three troops of maidens;
though one maid fore most rode,
bright, with helmed head.
Their horses shook themselves,
and from their manes
there sprang dew into the deep dales,
hail on the lofty trees,
whence comes fruitfulness to man.
To me all that I saw was hateful.»

29. ATLI:
«Look eastward now, Rimegerd!
Whether Helgi has not stricken thee
with death-bearing words.
By land and water
the king's fleet is safe,
and the chief's men also.

30. It is now day, Rimegerd!
And Atli has thee de tained
to thy loss of life.
A ludicrous havenmark
'twill, indeed, be,
where thou a stoneimage standest.»

IV

King Helgi was a renowned warrior. He came to King Eylimi and demanded his daughter Svava. Helgi and Svava were united, and loved each other ardently. Svava remained at home with her father, but Helgi was engaged in warfare. Svava was a valkyrie as before. Hedin was at home with his father, King Hjorvard in Norway. Returning home alone from the forest on a Yule-eve, Hedin met a troll-wife riding on a wolf, with serpents for reins, who offered to attend him, but he declined her offer; whereupon she said: «Thou shalt pay for this at the council.» In the evening solemn vows were made, and the son-hog was led forth, on which the guests laid their hands, and then made solemn vows at the council. Hedin bound himself by a vow to possess Svava, the beloved of his brother Helgi; but repented it so bitterly that he left home and wandered through wild paths to the southern lands, and there found his brother Helgi.

31. HELGI:
«Welcome art thou, Hedin!
What new tidings
canst thou give
from Norway?
Why art thou, prince!
From the land driven,
and alone art
come to find us?»

32. HETHIN:
«Of a much greater crime
I am guilty.
I have chosen
a royal daughter,
thy bride,
at the council.»
 
33. HELGI:
«Accuse not thyself;
true will prove words
at drinking uttered
by us both.
Me a chieftain
has to the strand summoned;
within three nights
I must be there.
'Tis to me doubtful
whether I return;
then may well such befall,
if it so must be.»

34. HETHIN:
«Thou saidst, Helgi!
That Hedin well
deserved of thee,
and great gifts:
It would beseem thee better
thy sword to redden,
than to grant peace
to thy foes.»

35. HELGI:
«On a wolf rode,
at evening twilight,
a woman who him
offered to attend.
She well knew,
that the son of Sigrlinn
would be slain,
on Sigarsvollom's plain.»

Helgi so spoke, for he had seen that his death was at hand, and that she had accosted Hedin, when he saw the woman riding on a wolf. There was a king named Alf, a son of Rodmar, who had appointed a place of combat with Helgi in Sigarsvollom within three days. There' was a great conflict, in which Helgi got his death-wound.

36. Helgi sent
Sigar riding,
after Eylimi's
only daughter:
he bade her quickly
be in readi-ness,
if she would find
the king alive.

37. SIGAR:
«Helgi has me
hither sent,
with thee, Svava!
Thy self to speak.
Thee, said the king,
he fain would see,
ere the noble-born
breathes forth his last.»

38. SVAVA:
«What has befallen Helgi,
Hjorvard's son?
I am sorely
by afflictions stricken.
Has the sea him deluded,
or the sword wounded?
On that man
I will harm inflict.»

39. SIGAR:
«This morning fell,
at Frekastein,
the king
who beneath the sun
was of all the best.
Alf has complete victory,
though this time
it should not have been!»

40. HELGI:
«Hail to thee, Svava!
Thy love thou must divide:
this in this world,
methinks, is our last meeting.
They say the chieftain's
wounds are bleeding.
The sword came
too near my heart.

41. I pray thee, Svava!
Weep not, my wife!
If thou wilt
my voice obey,
that for Hedin
thou a couch prepare,
and the young prince
in thy arms clasp.»

42. SVAVA:
I had said,
in our Munarhome,
when for me
Helgi rings selected,
that I would not gladly,
after my king's departure,
an unknown prince
clasp in my arms.»

43. HETHIN:
«Kiss me, Svava!
I will not return,
Rogheim to behold,
nor Roduls mountain,
before I have avenged
Hjorvard's son,
who was of kings
under the sun the best.»

Helgi and Svava were, it is said, born again.