Poetic Edda/Atlakviða

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Gudrun, Gjuki's daughter, avenged her brothers, as is well known. She first killed Atli's sons, and after wards Atli himself, and burnt the palace with all the household. - On these events was this lay composed.

1. Atli sent riding
a messenger to Gunnar,
a crafty man,
Knefrod was his name.
To Gjuki's courts he came,
and to Gunnar's hall,
to the seats of state,
and the glad potation:

2. There drank the courtiers
wine in their Valhall
- but the guileful ones silence kept -
the dogs' wrath they feared.
Then said Knefrod,
with chilling voice:
- the southern warrior
on a high bench sat -

3. «Atli has sent me hither
on his errand riding
on a bit-griping steed,
through the unknown Darkwood,
to pray you, Gunnar!
That to his bench ye come,
with helms of state,
Atli's home to visit.

4. Shields ye there can choose,
and smooth-shaven spears,
gold-red helms,
and of dogs a multitude,
silver-gilt saddle-cloths,
sarks gory-red,
the dart's obstruction,
and bit-griping steeds.

5. The plain he will also give you,
the broad Gnitaheid,
epithet aringreypr is applied
both to benches and helmets,
vast treasures,
and Danpair's towns,
with that famed forest,
which men the Darkwood call.»

6. Gunnar his head then turned,
and to Hogni said:
«What counselest thou, bold warrior?
now suchlike we hear?
Of no gold I knew
on Gnitaheid,
to which we possess
not other equal.

7. Seven halls have we
filled with swords,
of each of which
the hilt is gold.
My horse I know the best,
and my sword the keenest;
my bow adorns my seat,
my corslets are of gold,
my helm and shield the brightest,
brought from the hall of Kjar:
mine alotie are better
than all the Hunnish ones.»

«What thinkest thou
the woman means,
by sending us a ring
in a wolf's clothing wrapt?
I think that she caution enjoins.
Wolf's hair I found
twined in the red-gold ring:
wolfish is the way
we on our errand ride.»

9. No sons pursuaded Gunnar,
nor other kinsman,
interpreters nor counsellors,
nor those who potent were.
Then spake Gunnar,
as beseemed a king,
great in his mead-hall,
from his large soul:

10. «Rise now up, Fjorni!
Let along the benches
pass the golden cups
of heroes, from,
the attendants, hands.

11. The wolf shall rule
the Nivlkins' heritage,
O bearded sages!
If Gunnar perish;
black-coated bears
earth's fruit tear
with their teeth,
to the dogs' delight,
if Gunnar come not back.»

12. Honoured men,
weeping led
the land's ruler
from the dogs' court.
Then said Hogni's
youthful heir:
«Go now, prudent and prosperous,
whither your wishes lead.»

13. The warriors made
their bit-griping steeds
over the mountains fly,
through the unknown Darkwood.
The whole Hunnish forest
trembled where'er the warriors rode;
over the shrubless,
all-green plains they sped.

14. Atli's land they saw,
and the high watch-towers;
Bicci's people stood
on that lofty fortress;
the south people's hall
was round with benches set,
with well-bound bucklers,
and white shields,
the javelin's obstruction.
There Atli drank wine
in his Valhall:
his guards sat without,
Gunnar and his men to watch,
lest they there should come
with yelling dart,
to excite their prince to conflict.

15. Their sister forthwith saw,
when the hall they had entered,
her brothers both
- beer had she little drunken -
«Betrayed art thou now, Gunnar!
Though strong,
how wilt thou contend
with the dogs' deadly wiles?
Go quickly from this hall!

16. Better hadst thou, Gunnar!
In corslet come,
than with helm of state,
to see the home of Atli;
thou in the saddle wouldst
have sat whole sun-bright days,
and o'er the pallid
dead let the norns weep,
the Hunnish shield-maids
misery suffer;
but Atli himself
thou shouldst into the Snakepit have cast;
but now the Snakepit
is for you two reserved.»

«Sister! 'Tis now too late
the Nivlkins to assemble,
long 'tis to' seek the aid of men,
of valiant heroes,
at Rosmohills over
the rugged fells of Rhine.»

18. Then the castlebliss' friends
Gunnar seized,
in fetters laid,
and him fast bound.

19. Hogni hewed down seven,
with the keen sword,
but the eighth
he thrust into the raging fire.
So should a valiant man
defend himself from foes.
Hogni had Gunnar's
hands protected.

20. - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - Gunnar;
the bold chief they asked,
if the Goths' lord
would with gold
his life redeem?

«Hogni's heart
in my hand shall lie,
cut bloody from the breast
of the valiant chief,
the king's son,
with a dull-edged knife.»

22. They the heart cut out
from Hjalle's breast;
on a dish bleeding laid it,
and it to Gunnar bare.

23. Then said Gunnar,
lord of men:
«Here have I the heart
of the timid Hjalle,
unlike the heart
of the bold Hogni;
for much it trembles
as in the dish it lies:
it trembled more by half,
while in his breast it lay.»

24. Hogni laughed,
when to his heart
they cut the living crest-crasher;
no lament uttered he.
All bleeding on a dish they laid it,
and it to Gunnar bare.

25. Calmly said Gunnar,
the warrior Niflkin:
«Here have I the heart
of the bold Hogni,
unlike the heart
of the timid Hjalle;
for it little trembles,
as in the dish it lies:
it trembled less,
while in his breast it lay.

26. So far shalt thou, Atli!
Be from the eyes of men
as thou wilt from
the treasures be.
In my power alone
is all the hidden
Nivlkins' gold,
now that Hogni lives not.

27. Ever was I wavering,
while we both lived;
now am I so no longer,
as I alone survive.
Rhine shall possess
men's baleful metal,
the mighty stream
the As-known Nivlkins' heritage.
In the rolling water
the choice rings shall glitter,
rather than on the hands
of the dogs' children shine.»

28. ATLI:
«Drive your wheel-chariots,
the captive is now in bonds.»
Yet thence the more did the bit-shaker
the treasure's guardian,
the warrior chief,
drag to death.

29. Atli the mighty,
their sister's husband,
rode with resounding steeds,
with strife-thorns surr-ounded.
- - - - - - - - -
Gudrun perceived,
she from tears refrained,
on entering the hall of tumult.

30. SHE:
«So' be it with thee, Atli!
As towards Gunnar thou hast
held the oft-sworn oaths,
formerly taken
- by the southward verging sun,
and by Sigty's hill,
the secluded bed of rest,
and by Ull's ring.»

31. The living prince
then did a host of men
into' a pen cast down,
which was within
with serpents over-crawled.
But Gunnar there alone
a harp in wrathful mood
with his hand struck:
the strings resounded.
So should a daring chief,
a ring-dispenser,
gold from men withhold.

32. Atli turned
his brass-shod steed,
his home to re visit,
back from the murder.
Din was in the court
with horses thronged,
men's weapon-song,
from the heath they were come.

33. Out then went Gudrun,
Atli to' meet,
with a golden cup
to do her duty to the king.
«Thou canst, O Spears. King!
Joyful in thy hall
receive from Gudrun
the arms of the departed.»

34. The drinking-cups
of Atli groaned with wine heavy,
when in the hall together
the dogs were counted.
Long-bearded, bold,
the warriors entered.

35. Then in came the shining one,
and drink she bore them;
unwilling and bitter
brought she food to the warrior,
Till in scorn to the white-faced
Atli did she speak:

36. «Thou, swords' dispenser!
Hast thy two' sons' hearts,
with honey eaten.
I resolved that thou, bold chief!
Shouldst of a human
dish eat at thy feasting,
and to the place of honour send it.

37. Hence forth thou wilt not
to thy knees call
Erp and Eitil,
joyous with beer the two':
thou wilt not henceforth,
see them from thy middle seat,
javelins shafting,
manes clipping,
or horses urging.»

38. Uproar was on the benches,
portentous the cry of men,
noise beneath the costly hangings.
The children of the dogs wept,
all wept save Gudrun,
who never wept,
or for her bear-fierce brothers,
or her dear sons,
young, simple,
whom she had borne to' Atli.

39. Gold scattered
the swan-fair dame;
with ruddy rings
the household gifted.
Pate she let ripen,
but the bright gold flow.
The woman spared not
the treasure-houses.

40. Atli incautious
had himself drunk weary;
weapon he had none,
nor was 'gainst Gudrun guarded.
Oft had their sport been better,
when they lovingly
embraced each other
before the nobles.

41. With the sword's point
she gave the bed of blood
to drink with death-bent hand,
and the dogs loosed,
out at the hall-door drove them,
and the lady wakened
the household with burning brand.
That vengeance she for her brothers took.

42. To fire she then gave all
that were therein,
and from: her brothers' murder
were from the dark den returned.
The timber-house fell,
the ancient pinewood-treasure smoked;
the Budlungs' dwelling.
Burnt too were the shield-maids within,
their lives cut short;
in the raging fire they sank.

43. Of this enough is said.
No such woman will henceforth
arms again bear,
to avenge her brothers.
That bright woman
had to three kings
of men the death-doom borne,
before she died.

Yet more clearly is this told in the Atlamál hin groenlenzku.