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Medieval and Classical Library



Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #29

There was a king hight Heidrik, and his daughter was called Borgny, and the name of her lover was Vilmund. Now she might nowise be made lighter of a child she travailed with, before Oddrun, Atil's sister, came to her, -- she who had been the love of Gunnar, Giuki's son. But of their speech together has this been sung:

     I have hear tell
     In ancient tales
     How a may there came
     To Morna-land,
     Because no man
     On mould abiding
     For Heidrik's daughter
     Might win healing.

All that heard Oddrun, Atil's sister, How that the damsel Had heavy sickness, So she led from stall Her bridled steed, And on the swart one Laid the saddle.
She made her horse wend O'er smooth ways of earth, Until to a high-built Hall she came; Then the saddle she had From the hungry horse, And her ways wended In along the wide hall, And this word first Spake forth therewith:
"What is most famed, Afield in Hunland, Or what may be Blithest in Hunland?"
QUOTH THE HANDMAID: "Here lieth Borgny, Borne down by trouble, Thy sweet friend, O Oddrun, See to her helping!"
ODDRUN SAID: "Who of the lords Hath laid this grief on her, Why is the anguish Of Borgny so weary?"
THE HANDMAID SAID: "He is hight Vilmund, Friend of hawk-bearers, He wrapped the damsel In the warm bed-gear Five winters long Without her father's wotting."
No more than this They spake methinks; Kind sat she down By the damsel's knee; Mightily sand Oddrun, Sharp piercing songs By Borgny's side:
Till a maid and a boy Might tread on the world's ways, Blithe babes and sweet Of Hogni's bane: Then the damsel forewearied The word took up, The first word of all That had won from her:
"So may help thee All helpful things, Fey and Freyia, And all the fair Gods, As thou hast thrust This torment from me!"
ODDRUN SAID: "Yet no heart had I For thy helping, Since never wert thou Worthy of helping, But my word I held to, That of old was spoken When the high lords Dealt out the heritage, That every soul I would ever help."
BORGNY SAID: "Right mad art thou, Oddrun, And reft of thy wits, Whereas thou speakest Hard words to me Thy fellow ever Upon the earth As of brothers twain, We had been born."
ODDRUN SAID: "Well I mind me yet, What thou saidst that evening, Whenas I bore forth Fair drink for Gunnar; Such a thing, saidst thou, Should fall out never, For any may Save for me alone."
Mind had the damsel Of the weary day Whenas the high lords Dealt out the heritage, And she sat her down, The sorrowful woman, To tell of the bale, And the heavy trouble.
"Nourished was I In the hall of kings -- Most folk were glad -- 'Mid the council of great ones: In fair life lived I, And the wealth of my father For five winters only, While yet he had life.
"Such were the last words That ever he spake, The king forewearied, Ere his ways he went; For be bade folk give me The gold red-gleaming, And give me in Southlands To the son of Grimhild.
"But Brynhild he bade To the helm to betake her, And said that Death-chooser She should become; And that no better Might ever be born Into the world, If fate would not spoil it.
"Brynhild in bower Sewed at her broidery, Folk she had And fair lands about her; Earth lay a-sleeping, Slept the heavens aloft When Fafnir's-bane The burg first saw.
"Then was war waged With the Welsh-wrought sword And the burg all broken That Brynhild owned; Nor wore long space, E'en as well might be, Ere all those wiles Full well she knew.
"Hard and dreadful Was the vengeance she drew down, So that all we Have woe enow. Through all lands of the world Shall that story fare forth How she did her to death For the death of Sigurd.
"But therewithal Gunnar The gold-scatterer Did I fall to loving And should have loved him. Rings of red gold Would they give to Atli, Would give to my brother Things goodly and great.
"Yea, fifteen steads Would they give for me, And the load of Grani To have as a gift; But then spake Atli, That such was his will, Never gift to take From the sons of Giuki.
"But we in nowise Might love withstand, And mine head must I lay On my love, the ring-breaker; And many there were Among my kin, Who said that they Had seen us together.
"Then Atli said That I surely never Would fall to crime Or shameful folly: But now let no one For any other, That shame deny Where love has dealing.
"For Atli sent His serving-folk Wide through the murkwood Proof to win of me, And thither they came Where they ne'er should have come, Where one bed we twain Had dight betwixt us.
"To those men had we given Rings of red gold, Naught to tell Thereof to Atli, But straight they hastened Home to the house, And all the tale To Atli told.
'Whereas from Gudrun Well they hid it, Though better by half Had she have known it.
***** *****
"Din was there to hear Of the hoofs gold-shod, When into the garth Rode the sons of Giuki.
"There from Hogni The heart they cut, But into the worm-close Cast the other. There the king, the wise-hearted, Swept his harp-strings, For the might king Had ever mind That I to his helping Soon should come.
"But now was I gone Yet once again Unto Geirmund, Good feast to make; Yet had I hearing, E'en out from Hlesey, How of sore trouble The harp-strings sang.
"So I bade the bondmaids Be ready swiftly, For I listed to save The life of the king, And we let our ship Swim over the sound, Till Atli's dwelling We saw all clearly.
Then came the wretch (1) Crawling out, E'en Atli's mother, All sorrow upon her! A grave gat her sting In the heart of Gunnar, So that no helping Was left for my hero.
"O gold-clad woman, Full oft I wonder How I my life Still hold thereafter, For methought I loved That light in battle, The swift with the sword, As my very self.
"Thou hast sat and hearkened As I have told thee Of many an ill-fate, Mine and theirs -- Each man liveth E'en as he may live -- Now hath gone forth The greeting of Oddrun."
[End of "The Story of the Volsungs"]

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(1) Atli's mother took the form of the only adder that was not lulled to sleep by Gunnar's harp-playing, and who slew him.