Poetic Edda/Helgakviða Hundingsbana II

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Poetic Edda
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Helgakviða Hundingsbana II

King Sigmund, son of Volsung, had to wife Borhild of Bralundi. They named their son Helgi, after Helgi Hjorvardsson. Helgi was fostered by Hagal. There was a powerful king named Hunding, after whom the land was called Hundland. He was a great warrior, and had many sons, who were engaged in warfare. There was enmity, both open and concealed, between king Hunding and king Sigmund, and they slew each other's kinsmen. King Sigmund and his kindred were called Volsungar, and Ylvingar. Helgi went forth and secretly explored the court of king Hunding. Heming, Hunding's son, was at home. On departing Helgi met a herds man, and said:

1. «Say thou, Heming,
that Helgi remember,
the mailed warrior
whom the men laid low,
the grey wolf
ye had within;
when Hamal was guest
of king Hunding.»

Hamal was the son of Hagal. King Hunding sent men to Hagal in search of Helgi, and Helgi had no other way to save himself than by taking the clothes of a female slave and going to grind. They sought but did not find him. Then said Blind the baleful:

2. «Sharp are the eyes
of Hagal's slave-wench;
of no churlish kind
is she who at the mill stands.
The millstones are split,
the receiver flies asunder.

3. Now a hard fate
has befallen the warrior,
when a prince
must barley grind:
much more fitting
to that hand
is the falchion's hilt
than a millhandle.»

4. Hagal answered and said:
«No wonder 'tis
that the receiver rattles,
when a royal damsel
the handle turns.
She hovered higher
than the clouds,
and, like the vikings,
dared to fight,
until Helgi
made her captive.
She is a sister
of Sigar and Hogni;
therefore has fierce eyes
the Ylvings maid.»

Helgi escaped and went on board a ship of war. He slew king Hunding, and was afterwards named Helgi Hundingabana. He lay with his force in Brunavagom, and went onshore; they ate raw flesh. There was a king named Hogni, whose daughter was Sigrun: she was a valkyrie, and rode through the air and over the sea. She was Svava regenerated. Sigrun rode to Helgi, and said:

5. «What men cause a ship
along the coasts to float?
Where do ye warriors
a home possess?
What await ye
in Brunavagom?
Whither desire ye
to explore a way?»

6. HELGI:
«Hamal causes a ship
along the coasts to float;
we have home
in Leseyio;
a fair wind we await
in Brunavagom;
eastward we desire
to explore a way.»

7. SIGRUN:
Where, O prince!
Hast thou wakened war,
or fed the birds
of conflict's sisters?
Why is thy corslet
sprinkled with blood?
Why beneath the helm
eat ye raw flesh?»

8. HELGI:
It was the Ylvings' son's
last achievement,
- if thou desirest to know -
west of the ocean,
that I took bears
in Brightgrove,
and the eagles' kin
with our weapons sated.

9. Now, maiden!
I have said what the reasons were,
why at sea
we little cooked meat ate.»

10. SIGRUN:
«To a battle thou alludest.
Before Helgi
has king Hunding
been doomed to fall.
In conflict ye have engaged,
when your kindred ye avenged,
and stained with blood
the falchion's edge.»

11. HELGI:
«Why dost thou suppose,
sagacious maiden!
That it was they,
who their kin avenged?
Many a warrior's bold
sons there are,
and hostile
to our kindred.»

12. SIGRUN:
«I was not far,
leader of people!
Crafty I account
Sigmund's son,
when in wordgames
the slaughter
he announces.

13. A while ago I saw
thee commanding
the war ships,
when thou hadst station
on the bloody prow,
and the cold sea waves
were playing.
Now, prince!
Thou wilt from me conceal it,
but Hogni's daughter
recognizes thee.»

Granmar was the name of a rich king in Svarinshaug; he had many sons: [one was called] Hodbrodd, another Gudmund, the third Starkad. Hodbrodd was at the assembly of kings, and there betrothed himself to Sigrun, the daughter of Hogni. But when she was informed of it, she rode with the valkyries through the air and over the sea in quest of Helgi. Helgi was at that time at Logafjelli, warring against the sons of Hunding, where he slew Alf and Eyiolf, Hjorvard and Hervard. Being over-fatigued with the conflict, he was sitting under the Arastein, where Sigrun found him, and running to him, threw her arms around his neck, and, kissing him, told him her errand so as it related in the first Volsvngaqviþo inni forno:

14. Sigrun sought
the joyous prince,
Helgi's hand
she forthwith grasped,
kissed and addressed
the helm-decked king.
Then was the chieftain's mind
to the lady turned.

15. She declared that she had loved,
with her whole heart,
Sigmund's son,
before she had seen him.

16. «To Hodbrodd I was
in th' assembly betrothed,
but I another
prince would have:
yet, chieftain!
I foresee my kindred's wrath:
I have my father's
promise broken.»

17. Hogni's daughter spoke
not at variance with her heart:
she said that Helgi's affection
she must possess.

18. HELGI:
«Care thou not
for Hogni's wrath,
nor for the evil mind
of thy kin.
Thou shalt, young maiden!
Live with me:
of a good kind thou art,
as I perceive.»

Helgi then collected a large fleet and proceeded to Frekastein, and at sea experienced a perilous storm. Lightning's came over them, and the flashes entered the ships. They saw that nine valkyries were riding in the air, and recognized Sigrun among them. The storm then abated and they reached land in safety. The sons of Granmar were sitting on a hill as the ships were sailing towards the land. Gudmund leapt on a horse, and rode to explore on the hill by the haven. The volsungs then lowered their sails, and Gudmund spoke:

19. «Who is the Skjoldung's leader
that commands the fleet,
and lets his golden banner
wave o'er his prow?
No peace seems to me
in that ship's front;
it casts a warlike glow
around the vikings.»

20. SINFJOTLE:
«Here may Hodbrodd
Helgi learn to know,
the hard of flight,
in the fleet's midst:
he the possession
holds of thy kin;
he the fishes' heritage
has to him subjected.»

21. GUDMUND:
«Therefore ought we first,
at Frekastein,
to settle together,
and decide our quarrels!
Hodbrodd!
'Tis time vengeance to take,
if an inferior lot
we long have borne.»

22. SINFJOTLE:
«Rather shalt thou, Gudmund!
Tend goats,
and steep mountaintops
shalt climb,
have in thy hand
a hazel staff,
that will better please thee
than judgments of the sword.»

23. HELGI:
«Much more seemly, Sinfjotle!
Would it be for you both
in battle to engage,
and the eagles gladden,
than with useless words
to contend,
even if hate
is in chieftain's hearth.

24. Not good to me
appear Granmar's sons,
But for heroes 'tis seemly
the truth to speak;
yet they have shown,
at Moinsheim,
that they have courage
to draw the sword.
And ever brave
the warriors are.»

Gudmund rode home with intelligence of the hostile armament; whereupon the sons of Granmar collected a host, and many kings came thither. Among them were Hogni, the father of Sigrun, with his sons, Bragi and Dag. There was a great battle, and all the sons of Hogni, and all their chiefs were slain, except Dag, who obtained peace, and swore oaths to the Volsungs. Sigrun, going among the slain, found Hodbrodd at the point of death.

25. SIGRUN:
«Not will Sigrun
of Sevafjelli,
king Hodbrodd!
Sink in thy arms:
thy life is departed.
Oft the axe's blade
the head approaches
of Granmar's sons.»

She then met Helgi, and was overjoyed.

26. HELGI:
«Not to thee, allwise maiden!
Are all things granted,
though, I say, in somewhat
are the norns to blame;
this morn have fallen
at Frekastein
Bragi and Hogni:
I was their slayer.

27. But at Styrkleivar
king Starkad,
and at Leborg
the sons of Rollaug.
That prince I saw
of all most fierce,
whose trunk yet fought
when the head was far.

28. On the earth lie
the greater number
of thy kin's men,
to corpses turned.
Thou hast not fought the battle,
yet 'twas decreed,
that thou, potent maiden!
Shouldst cause the strife.»

Sigrun then wept. Helgi said:

29. «Sigrun! Console thyself;
a war thou hast been to us,
one’s faith none escape.»

SIGRUN:
«Gladly would I have them
living who are departed,
if I might clasp thee to my breast.»

Helgi obtained Sigrun, and they had eight sons. Helgi lived not to be old. Dag, the son of Hogni, sacrificed to Odin, for vengeance for his father. Odin lent Dag his spear. Dag met with his relation Helgi in a place called Fjoturlund, and pierced him through with his spear. Helgi fell there, but Dag rode to Sevafjelli and told Sigrun what had taken place.

30. DAG:
«Loath am I sister!
Sad news to tell thee;
for unwillingly I have
my sister caused to weep.
This morning fell,
in Fjoturlund,
the prince who was
on earth the best,
and on the necks
of warriors stood.»

31. SIGRUN:
«Thee shall
the oaths all gnaw,
which to Helgi
thou didst swear,
at the limpid
Leiptrarvatnet,
and at the cold dank
wave-washed rock of Unn.

32. May the ship not move forward,
which under thee should move,
although the wished-for wind
behind thee blow.
May the horse not run,
which under thee should run,
although from enemies
thou hast to flee!

33. May the sword not bite
which thou drawest,
unless it sing round thy own head.
Then would Helgi's death
be on thee avenged,
if a wolf thou wert,
out in the woods,
of all good bereft,
and every joy,
have no sustenance,
unless on corpses
thou shouldst spring.»

34. DAG:
«Sister! Thou ravest,
and hast lost thy wits,
when on thy brother
thou callest down such miseries.
Odin alone is cause
of all the evil;
for between relatives
he brought the runes of strife.

35. Thy brother offers thee
the rings, covered with red gold,
all Vandilsve
and Vigdalar:
have half the land,
thy grief to compensate,
silver-adorned woman!
Thou and thy sons.»

36. SIGRUN:
«So happy I shall
not sit at Sevafjelli,
neither at morn nor night,
as to feel joy in life,
if o'er the people plays
not the prince's beam of light;
if his war-steed runs
not under the chieftain hither,
to the gold bit accustomed;
if in the king I cannot rejoice.

37. So had Helgi
struck with fear
all his foes
and their kindred,
as before the wolf
the goats run
frantic from the fell,
of terror full.

38. So himself Helgi
among warriors bore,
as the towering ash is
among thorns,
or as the fawn,
moistened with dew,
that more proudly stalks
than all the other beasts,
and its horns glisten
against heaven.»

A mound was raised for Helgi; but when he came to Valhall, Odin offered him the rule over all jointly with himself. Helgi said:

39. «Thou, Hunding!
Shalt for every man
a foot-bath get,
and fire kindle;
shalt bind the dogs,
to the horses look,
to the swine give wash,
ere to sleep thou goest.»

Ambatt Sigruns passing at evening by Helgi's mound saw him riding towards it with many men. Ambatt said:

40. «Is it a delusion which,
methinks I see,
or the powers' Ragnarok,
that ye, dead men, ride,
and your horses
with spurs urge on,
or to warriors is
a home journey granted?»

41. HELGI:
«'Tis no delusion
which thou thinkst to see,
nor of mankind the end,
although thou seest us,
although our horses
we with spurs urge on,
nor to warriors
is a home journey granted.»

Ambatt went home and said
to Sigrun:

42. «Sigrun!
Go forth from Sevafjelli,
if the people's chief
thou desirest to meet.
The mound is opened,
Helgi is come,
his wounds still bleed;
the prince prayed thee
that thou wouldst still
the trickling blood.»

Sigrun entered the mound to Helgi and said:

43. «Now am I as glad,
at our meeting,
as the voracious
hawks of Odin,
when they of slaughter know;
of warm prey,
or, dewy-feathered,
see the peep of day.

44. I will kiss my
lifeless king,
ere thou thy bloody corslet
layest aside.
Thy hair is, Helgi!
Tumid with sweat of death;
my prince is all
bathed in slaughter-dew;
cold, clammy are the hands
of Hogni's son.
How shall I, prince!
For this make thee amends?»

45. HELGI:
«Thou art alone the cause, Sigrun
of Sevafjelli!
That Helgi is
with sorrow's dew suffused.
Thou weepest, gold-adorned!
Cruel tears,
sun-bright daughter of the south!
Ere to sleep thou goest;
each one falls bloody
on the prince's breast,
wet, cold, and piercing,
with sorrow big.

46. We shall surely
drink delicious draughts,
though we have lost
life and lands.
No one shall a song
of mourning sing,
though on my breast
he wounds behold.
Now are women
in the mound enclosed,
daughters of kings,
with us the dead.»

Sigrun prepares a bed in the mound:

47. «Here, Helgi!
Have I for thee
a peaceful couch prepared,
for the Ylvings' son.
On thy breast I will,
chieftain! Repose,
as in my hero's lifetime
I was wont.»

48. HELGI:
«Nothing I now
declare unlocked for,
at Sevafjelli,
late or early,
since in a corpse's arms
thou sleepest,
Hogni's fair daughter!
In a mound,
and thou art living,
daughter of kings!

49. Time 'tis for me to ride
on the red mound:
let the yellow horse
tread the aerial path.
West of wind-helmet's
bridge I shall go,
before Salgovne
victory-god awaken.»

Helgi and his attendants rode their way, but Sigrun and hers proceeded to their habitation. The following evening Sigrun ordered Ambatt to hold watch at the mound; but at nightfall, when Sigrun came thither, she said:

50. Now would be come,
if he to come intended,
Sigmund's son,
from Odin's halls.
I think the hope lessens
of the king's coming,
since on the ash's boughs
the eagles sit,
and all the folk goes
to the dreamcouncils' tryst.

51. Mad thou wouldst seem
alone to seek,
daughter of heroes,
the house of the dead;
for mightier now
at night are all
the ghosts of the dead
than when day is bright.»

Sigrun's life was shortened by grief and mourning. It was a belief in ancient times that men were regenerated, but that is now regarded as an old crone's fancy. Helgi and Sigrun are said to have been regenerated. He was then called Helgi Haddingjaskate, and she Kara Halfdan's daughter, as it is said in the Karaljod; and she also was a valkyrie.