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Medieval and Classical Library


Of the Lamentation of Gudrun over
Sigurd's dead, as it is told in ancient Songs

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29

     Gudrun of old days
     Drew near to dying
     As she sat in sorrow
     Over Sigurd;
     Yet she sighed not
     Nor smote hand on hand,
     Nor wailed she aught
     As other women.

Then went earls to her. Full of all wisdom, Fain help to deal To her dreadful heart: Hushed was Gudrun Of wail, or greeting, But with a heavy woe Was her heart a-breaking.
Bright and fair Sat the great earls' brides, Gold arrayed Before Gudrun; Each told the tale Of her great trouble, The bitterest bale She erst abode.
Then spake Giaflaug, Giuki's sister: "Lo upon earth I live most loveless Who of five mates Must see the ending, Of daughters twain And three sisters, Of brethren eight, And abide behind lonely."
Naught gat Gudrun Of wail and greeting, So heavy was she For her dead husband, So dreadful-hearted For the King laid dead there.
Then spake Herborg Queen of Hunland -- "Crueller tale Have I to tell of, Of my seven sons Down in the Southlands, And the eighth man, my mate, Felled in the death-mead.
"Father and mother, And four brothers, On the wide sea The winds and death played with; The billows beat On the bulwark boards.
"Alone must I sing o'er them, Alone must I array them, Alone must my hands deal with Their departing; And all this was In one season's wearing, And none was left For love or solace.
"Then was I bound A prey of the battle, When that same season Wore to its ending; As a tiring may Must I bind the shoon Of the duke's high dame, Every day at dawning.
"From her jealous hate Gat I heavy mocking, Cruel lashes She laid upon me, Never met I Better master Or mistress worser In all the wide world."
Naught gat Gudrun Of wail or greeting, So heavy was she For her dead husband, So dreadful-hearted For the King laid dead there.
Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "O foster-mother, Wise as thou mayst be, Naught canst thou better The young wife's bale." And she bade uncover The dead King's corpse.
She swept the sheet Away from Sigurd, And turned his cheek Towards his wife's knees -- "Look on thy loved one Lay lips to his lips, E'en as thou wert clinging To thy king alive yet!"
Once looked Gudrun -- One look only, And saw her lord's locks Lying all bloody, The great man's eyes Glazed and deadly, And his heart's bulwark Broken by sword-edge.
Back then sank Gudrun, Back on the bolster, Loosed was her head array, Red did her cheeks grow, And the rain-drops ran Down over her knees.
Then wept Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, So that the tears flowed Through the pillow; As the geese withal That were in the homefield, The fair fowls the may owned, Fell a-screaming.
Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "Surely knew I No love like your love Among all men, On the mould abiding; Naught wouldst thou joy in Without or within doors, O my sister, Save beside Sigurd."
Then spake Gudrun, Giuki's daughter -- "Such was my Sigurd Among the sons of Giuki, As is the king leek O'er the low grass waxing, Or a bright stone Strung on band, Or a pearl of price On a prince's brow.
"Once was I counted By the king's warriors Higher than any Of Herjan's mays; Now am I as little As the leaf may be, Amid wind-swept wood Now when dead he lieth.
I miss from my seat, I miss from my bed, My darling of sweet speech. Wrought the sons of Giuki, Wrought the sons of Giuki, This sore sorrow, Yea, for their sister, Most sore sorrow.
"So may your lands Lie waste on all sides, As ye have broken Your bounden oaths! Ne'er shalt thou, Gunnar, The gold have joy of; The dear-bought rings Shall drag thee to death, Whereon thou swarest Oath unto Sigurd.
Ah, in the days by-gone Great mirth in the homefield When my Sigurd Set saddle on Grani, And they went their ways For the wooing of Brynhild! An ill day, an ill woman, And most ill hap!"
Then spake Brynhild, Budli's daughter -- "May the woman lack Both love and children, Who gained greeting For thee, O Gudrun! Who gave thee this morning Many words!"
Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "Hold peace of such words Thou hated of all folk! The bane of brave men Hast thou been ever, All waves of ill Wash over thy mind, To seven great kings Hast thou been a sore sorrow, And the death of good will To wives and women."
Then spake Brynhild, Budli's daughter -- "None but Atli Brought bale upon us, My very brother Born of Budli.
When we saw in the hall Of the Hunnish people The gold a-gleaming On the kingly Giukings; I have paid for that faring Oft and Full, And for the sight That then I saw."
By a pillar she stood And strained its wood to her; From the eyes of Brynhild, Budli's daughter, Flashed out fire, And she snorted forth venom, As the sore wounds she gazed on Of the dead-slain Sigurd.

Go to Chapter XXXII


(1) This chapter is the Eddaic poem, called the first Lay of Gudrun, inserted here by the translators.