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Medieval and Classical Library



Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29

     Great deeds of bale
     In the garth began,
     At the sad dawning
     The tide of Elves' sorrow
     When day is a-waxing
     And man's grief awaketh,
     And the sorrow of each one
     The early day quickeneth.

Not now, not now, Nor yesterday, But long ago Has that day worn by, That ancientest time, The first time to tell of, Then, whenas Gudrun, Born of Giuki, Whetter her sons To Swanhild's avenging.
"Your sister's name Was naught but Swanhild, Whom Jormunrek With horses has trodden! -- White horses and black On the war-beaten way, Grey horses that go On the roads of the Goths.
"All alone am I now As in holt is the aspen; As the fir-tree of boughs, So of kin am I bare; As bare of things longed for As the willow of leaves When the bough-breaking wind The warm day endeth.
"Few, sad, are ye left O kings of my folk! Yet alone living Last shreds of my kin!
"Ah, naught are ye grown As that Gunnar of old days; Naught are your hearts As the heart of Hogni! Well would ye seek Vengeance to win If your hearts were in aught As the hearts of my brethren!"
Then spake Hamdir The high-hearted: "Nought hadst thou to praise The doings of Hogni, When they woke up Sigurd From out of slumber, And in bed thou sat'st up 'Mid the banes-men's laughter.
"Then when thy bed=gear, Blue-white, well woven By art of craftsmen All swam with thy king's blood; The Sigurd died, O'er his dead corpse thou sattest, Not heeding aught gladsome, Since Gunnar so willed it.
"Great grief for Atli Gatst thou by Erp's murder, And the end of thine Eitil, But worse grief for thyself. Good to use sword For the slaying of others In such wise that its edge Shall not turn on ourselves!"
Then well spake Sorli From a heart full of wisdom: "No words will I Make with my mother, Though both ye twain Need words belike -- What askest thou, Gudrun, To let thee go greeting?
"Weep for thy brethren, Weep for thy sweet sons, And thy nighest kinsfolk Laid by the fight-side! Yea, and thou Gudrun, May'st greet for us twain Sitting fey on our steeds Doomed in far lands to die."
From the garth forth they went With hearts full of fury, Sorli and Hamdir, The sons of Gudrun, And they met on the way The wise in all wiles: "And thou little Erp, What helping from thee?"
He of alien womb Spake out in such wise: "Good help for my kin, Such as foot gives to foot, Or flesh-covered hand Gives unto hand!"
"What helping for foot That help that foot giveth, Or for flesh-covered hand The helping of hand?"
Then spake Erp Yet once again Mock spake the prince As he sat on his steed: "Fool's deed to show The way to a dastard!" "Bold beyond measure," Quoth they, "is the base-born!"
Out from the sheath Drew they the sheath-steel, And the glaives' edges played For the pleasure of hell; By the third part they minished The might that they had, Their young kin they let lie A-cold on the earth.
Then their fur-cloaks they shook And bound fast their swords, In webs goodly woven Those great ones were clad; Young they went o'er the fells Where the dew was new-fallen Swift, on steeds of the Huns, Heavy vengeance to wreak.
Forth stretched the ways, And an ill way they found, Yea, their sister's son (1) Hanging slain upon tree -- Wolf-trees by the wind made cold At the town's westward Loud with cranes' clatter -- Ill abiding there long!
Din in the king's hall Of men merry with drink, And none might hearken The horses' tramping Or ever the warders Their great horn winded.
Then men went forth To Jormunrek To tell of the heeding Of men under helm: "Give ye good counsel! Great ones are come hither, For the wrong of men mighty Was the may to death trodden."
"Loud Jormunrek laughed, And laid hand to his beard, Nor bade bring his byrny, But with the wine fighting, Shook his red locks, On his white shield sat staring, And in his hand Swung the gold cup on high.
"Sweet sight for me Those twain to set eyes on, Sorli and Hamdir, Here in my hall! Then with bowstrings Would I bind them, And hang the good Giukings Aloft on the gallows!"
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Then spake Hrothglod From off the high steps, Spake the slim-fingered Unto her son, -- -- For a threat was cast forth Of what ne'er should fall -- "Shall two men alone Two hundred Gothfolk Bind or bear down In the midst of their burg?"
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Strife and din in the hall, Cups smitten asunder Men lay low in blood From the breasts of Goths flowing.
Then spake Hamdir, The high-hearted: "Thou cravedst, O king, From the coming of us, The sons of one mother, Amidmost thine hall -- Look on these hands of thine, Look on these feet of thine, Cast by us, Jormunrek, On to the flame!"
Then cried aloud The high Gods' kinsman (2) Bold under byrny, -- Roared he as bears roar; "Stones to the stout ones That the spears bite not, Nor the edges of steel, These sons of Jonakr!"
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QUOTH SORLI: "Bale, brother, wroughtst thou By that bag's (3) opening, Oft from that bag Rede of bale cometh! Heart hast thou, Hamdir, If thou hadst heart's wisdom Great lack in a man Who lacks wisdom and lore!"
HAMDIR SAID: "Yes, off were the head If Erp were alive yet, Our brother the bold Whom we slew by the way; The far-famed through the world -- Ah, the fares drave me on, And the man war made holy, There must I slay!"
SORLI SAID: "Unmeet we should do As the doings of wolves are, Raising wrong each 'gainst other As the dogs of the Norns, The greedy ones nourished In waste steads of the world.
In strong wise have we fought, On Goths' corpses we stand, Beat down by our edges, E'en as ernes on the bough. Great fame our might winneth, Die we now, or to-morrow, -- No man lives till eve Whom the fates doom at morning." At the hall's gable-end Fell Sorli to earth, But Hamdir lay low At the back of the houses.
Now this is called the Ancient Lay of Hamdir.

Go to The Lament of Oddrun


(1) Randver, the son of their sister's husband.

(2) Odin, namely.

(3) "Bag", his mouth.