Poetic Edda/Sigrdrífumál

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Poetic Edda

Sigurd rode up the Hindarhill, and directed his course southwards towards Frankland. In the fell he saw a great light, as if a fire were burning, which blazed up to the sky. On approaching it they saw there a shield-fortress, and over it a symbol. Sigurd went into the castle, and saw a warrior lying within it asleep, completely armed. He first took the helmet off the warrior's head, and saw that it was a woman. Her corslet was as fast as if it had grown to her body. With his sword Gram he ripped the corslet from the upper opening downwards, and then through both sleeves. He then took the corslet off from her, when she awoke, sat up and, on seeing Sigurd, said:

1. «What has my corslet cut?
Why from sleep have I started?
Who has cast from me
the fallow bands?»

He answered:
«Sigmund's son
has just now ript
the raven's perch,
with Sigurd's sword.»

2. SHE:
«Long have I slept,
long been with sleep oppressed,
long are mortals' sufferings!
Odin is the cause
that I have been unable
to cast off torpor.»

Sigurd sat down and asked her name. She then took a horn filled with mead, and gave him the memory drink.

3. «Hail to Dag!
Hail to the sons of Dag!
And Nott and her daughter now!
Look on us here
with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

4. Hail to the esir!
Hail to their women!
Hail to the bounteous earth!
Words and wisdom
give to us noble twain,
and healing hands while we live.

She was named Sigrdrifa, and was a valkyrie. She said that two kings had made war on each other, one of whom was named Hialmgunnar; he was old and a great warrior, and Odin had promised him victory. The other was Agnar, a brother of Autho, whom no divinity would patronize. Sigrdrifa overcame Hialmgunnar in battle; in revenge for which Odin pricked her with a sleepthorn, and declared that henceforth she should never have victory in battle, and should be given in marriage. «But I said to him, that I had bound myself by a vow not to espouse any man who could be made to fear.» Sigurd answers, and implores her' to teach him wisdom, as she had intelligence from all regions:

«A drink I bear to thee,
column of battle!
With might mingled,
and with bright glory:
'tis full of song,
and salutary saws,
of potent incantations,
and joyous discourses.

6. Sigrunar thou must know,
if victory thou wilt have,
and on thy sword's hilt grave them;
some on the chapes,
some on the guard,
and name doubtful the name of Ty.

7. Alrunar thou must know,
if thou wilt not that another's wife
thy trust betray,
if thou in her con fide.
On the horn must they be graven,
and on the hand's back,
and on the nail Nath be scored.

8. A cup must be blessed,
and against peril guarded,
and garlick in the liquor cast:
then I know
thou wilt never have
mead with treachery mingled.

9. Biargrunar thou must know,
if thou wilt help,
and loose the child from women.
In the palm they must be graven,
and round the joints be clasped,
and the goddess prayed for aid.

10. Brimrunar thou must know,
if thou wilt have
secure afloat thy sailing steeds.
On the prow they must be graven,
and on the helm-blade,
and with fire to the oar applied.
No surge shall be so towering,
nor waves so' dark,
but from the ocean thou safe shalt come.

11. Limrunar thou must know,
if thou a leech wouldst be,
and wounds know how to heal.
On the bark they must be graven,
and on the leaves of trees,
of those whose boughs bent eastward.

12. Malrunar thou must know,
if thou wilt that no one for injury
with hate requite thee.
Those thou must wind,
those thou must wrap round,
those thou must altogether
place in the assembly,
where people have
into full court to go.

13. Hugrunar thou must know,
if thou a wiser man wilt be
than every other.
Those interpreted,
those graved,
those devised Hroptr,
from the fluid,
which had leaked
from Heiddrapniss head,
and from Hoddrofnis horn.

14. On a rock he stood,
with edged sword,
a helm on his head he bore.
Then spake Mims head
its first wise word,
and true sayings uttered.

15. They are, it said, on the shield graven,
which stands before the shining god,
on Árvacrs ear,
and on Alsvinns hoof,
on the wheel which rolls
under Hrungnis wagon,
on Sleipnis teeth,
and on the sledge's bands.

16. On the bear's paw,
and on Bragi's tongue,
on the wolf's claws,
and the eagle's beak,
on bloody wings,
and on the bridge's end,
on the releasing hand,
and on healing's track.

17. On glass and on gold,
on amulets of men,
in wine and in wort,
and in the welcome seat,
on Gungnis point,
and on Grana's breast,
on the norn's nail,
and the owl's neb.

18. All were erased
that were inscribed,
and mingled with the sacred mead,
and sent on distant ways:
they are with the esir,
they are with the elfs,
some with the wise vanir,
some have Manhome's men.

19. There are bokrunes,
those are biargrunes,
and all alrunes,
and precious powerrunes,
for those who can,
without confusion
or corruption, use,
if thou hast understood them,
until the powers perish.

20. Now thou shalt choose,
since a choice is offered thee,
keen armed warrior!
My speech, or silence:
think over it in thy mind.
All evils have their measure.»

«I will not flee,
though thou shouldst know me doomed.
I am not born a craven.
Thy friendly counsels
all I will receive,
as long as life is in me.»

«This I thee counsel first:
that towards thy kin
thou bear thee blameless.
Take not hasty vengeance,
although they raise up strife:
that, it is said, benefits the dead.

23. This I thee counsel secondly:
that no oath thou swear,
if it be not true.
Cruel bonds follow
broken faith:
accursed is the faith-breaker.

24. This I thee counsel thirdly:
that in the assembly
thou contend not with a fool;
for an unwise man
oft utters words
worse than he knows of.

25. All is vain,
if thou boldest silence;
then wilt thou seem
a craven bom,
or else truly accused.
Doubtful is a servant's testimony,
unless a good one thou gettest.
On the next day let his life go forth,
and so men's lies reward.

26. This I counsel thee fourthly:
if a wicked sorceress
dwells by the way,
to go on is better
than there to lodge,
though night may overtake thee.

27. Of searching eyes
the sons of men have need,
when fiercely they have to fight:
oft pernicious women
by the way-side sit,
who swords and valour deaden.

28. This I thee counsel fifthly:
although thou see fair women
on the benches sitting,
let not their kindred's silver
over thy sleep have power.
To kiss thee entice no woman.

29. This I thee counsel sixthly:
although among men
pass offensive tipsy talk,
never while drunken
quarrel with men of war:
wine steals the wits of many.

30. Brawls and drink
to many men have been
a heartfelt sorrow;
to some their death,
to some calamity:
many are the griefs of men!

31. This I thee counsel seventhly:
if thou hast dis putes
with a daring man,
better it is for men
to fight than to be burnt
within their dwelling.

32. This I thee counsel eighthly:
that thou guard thee against evil,
and eschew deceit.
Entice no maiden,
nor wife of man,
nor to wantonness incite.

33. This I thee counsel ninthly:
that thou corpses bury,
wherever on the earth thou findest them,
whether from sickness they have died,
or from the sea,
or are from weapons dead.

34. Let a mound be raised
for those departed;
let their hands and head be washed,
combed, and wiped dry,
ere in the coffin they are laid:
and pray for their happy sleep.

35. This I thee counsel tenthly:
that thou never trust
a foe's kinsman's promises,
whose brother thou hast slain,
or sire laid low.
There is a wolf in a young son,
though he with gold be gladdened.

36. Battle and hate
and harm, methinks,
Full seldom fall asleep;
Wits and weapons
the warrior needs
If boldest of men he would be.

37. Then eleventh I rede thee,
that wrath thou shun,
and treachery false with thy friends;
not long the leader's
life shall be,
for great are the foes he faces.»