Heroic Poems
The story of the Volsungs
     These poems are based on the Poetic Edda, a collection of poems divided between mythic and heroic poems.  The heroic poems make up the larger part of the work, and all deal with the exploits of the Volsung family, making one long, loosely connected story.  The poems below deal with the story, and as nearly as possible are in the eddaic manner.  They are all in fornyrdislag meter.  The one exception is four stanzas in "The Song of the Nuthatches," which are in ljodahattr  meter, but that poem is a translation, and follows the original in that variation.  Most of the Edda is in one or the other of these meters.  
     The Edda, for whatever reason, has no poems dealing with the early history of the Volsung family.  This we get from the Volsunga Saga, which fills in many of the gaps left by the poems.  This poem opens at the point at which Sigmund and his nephew and son by his sister, Sinfjotli, have piled wood around King Siggier's hall and set it afire.  He is seeking revenge for the betrayal and murder of his father, Volsung, and his nine brothers at the hands of Siggier.  His sister, Signy, is married to Siggier, but has helped Sigmund achieve his vengeance.  The saga tells us that, when the hall is ablaze, Sigmund calls his sister to come out, but she chooses instead to die with the husband whose death she has contributed to, just as she has already shared responsiblity for the death of her four sons by the king. The saga does not say why, and so this poem is an exploration of her likely motives.  The poem is mostly in dialogue, which is typical of eddaic poems.  In fact, dialogue is so pervasive an element in Norse poetry that the action between speeches is often handled with a short prose summary.  The prose passage at the beginning and end is also typical.

     After they had escaped from the pit in which King Siggeir had entombed them, Sigmund and Sinfjotli came by night to the hall of the king.  They piled wood around the walls, setting it alight, then stood on either side of the door with drawn swords that none might go out except by their will.

Come to the door    daughter of Volsung.
Bright are the flames,    roof beams glow;
Fire bees swarm    stinging the night;
Hungry on thatch    thurses are feeding.
Who do I hear    the hall without?
Is it my brother    back from the mound"

Sigmund I am,    and Sinfjotli, your son.
Come to the door,    daughter of kings.

Long were the days,    longer the nights,
Long have I waited    alone with my thoughts.
Loud are the cries,    louder my laugh.
Bane of branches    breaks down the walls.

Once to the woods    I went by night;
Never again    will I go that far.
A weary walk    it would be now
To bear a horn    the hall around.

Carven doorposts    cunningly wrought
Mark the bound    that both must keep.
I stand at the door;    stay here I must.
Reach not your hand,    or hence I will go.
Sons of Surt    circle the pyre;
Over the feast    fearsome they roar.
Life is outside,    the last of your kin;
None that you love    linger within.

Now have I brought    bane to my foe;
Now we are free    to fare as we will,
To live for ourselves    instead of the dead--
why are you cold    to closest of kin?

Go your way,    the world is yours;
Wives will you take,    and treasure gain;
Sons will you have,    a hall and ships.
The grass-grown howe    my home must be.
Foolish your words--    worthy is life;
Naught are the dead,    but dust underfoot.
Take a man,    if marry you would,
Or half of hall    my hand will win.

What name does a woman    wear in the world
That husband slays    and sons as well?
Even the bondmaids    bent to the quern
Will sing foul songs    to spread my name.

Four pretty sons    to Siggeir I bore,
And gave to death    this day to win.
For vengeance alone,    and love of the dead
So long have I lived;    my life is done.

A fifth you bore,    his blood the same,
But like in mold    his mother's kin,
Like Rerir's son,    remains to you,
A shield against    the shame of words.

As much as mine    his might is yours;
A cunning witch    lay with the king.
I took her form,    fared to the woods,
And made a child    ere moon could set.

Ill the deed    we did that night;
Had I known,    never I would.

If kin condemn,    what can I hope
When other tongues    my tale relate?

I do not wish    the deed undone.
Ungrafted fruit    is fair sometimes,
Nor did the Disir    desert his birth.
Let this one tale    untold remain.
Hide no truth,    but tell it all;
Though scorn I'd not    escape in life,
My death will earn    undying fame.
Farewell you both,    my brother and son.

Rafters break,    brands are falling,
Searing our bodies,    blistering flesh.
Here is your brother,    here is your son;
Wait no longer;    leave with us.

All I have done    that daughter can do.
No duty as wife    remains but to die.
Go with my love    to glorious lives.
In Hella's hall    my home must be.
     With these words Signy went back into the hall and the roof fell in, so that she was consumed by the fire with King Siggeir and all his people.  But Sigmund and Sinfjotli went out into the world and won great renown.
     The death of Sigmund's son, Sinfjotli is told briefly in the Volsunga Saga, and in the Edda, not as a poem, but as a short transitional piece of prose between the Helgi poems and the first poem dealing with Sigurd.  Whether there was once a poem, now lost, that covered this story, there is no way of knowing.  If there was, it may have been rather like this one.  One the other hand, it may have been a much longer poem dealing with other related matters as well.  Some of the Eddaic poems contain such a variety of material that one may suspect that at times fragments of several poems have been patched together.  The name, Farmaguth (cargo-god), is one of the many names for Odin, so that the reader should be able to guess the boatman's identity, even though Sigmund does not.

     Sinfjotli, the son of Sigmund, wooed the same woman as the brother of Borghild, Sigmund's wife, and killed him in battle.  Sigmund paid compensation to his wife for that death, but she remained unsatisfied, and poisoned Sinfjotli at a feast.  Sigmund carried his dead son from the hall and down to the seashore, whee he came upon an old man sitting beside a boat.

Hawks scream    high among crags;
Below, waves    wash against rocks;
Briers and grass     grow on the path.
No hall lies near,    nor hut of thrall.

Shortly in sea spray    Sunna will wet
Her horses' fetlocks,    the hubs of her cart.
When night falls,    need there is
Of food and fire,    a friend and beer.

Where do you wend?--    wolf-like you seem,
Though finely clothed,    kingly your garb.
Surely you flee    an ill-fated war,
Bearing some kinsman    killed by the foe.

I bear my son    slain in the hall
By woman's wile,    not weapon's stroke.
Long is my journey,    my load not light;
Ferry me, stranger,    the firth across.
Surely you do    shame to the dead,
Bearing his body    from bright-lit hall
Through nighted woods    and wolf-fells dark
Down to the surf,    the seal-loud shore.

Kinsmen call    to come to a feast;
Pile with gold    a glittering pyre;
Praise the deeds    done by his arm;
Lament his loss    with mournful words.

Few kin live    to come to a feast.
My people's line    now lies in dust,
Forgotten of gods,    forgotten of men--
Long have lived;    of life grown weary.

My father betrayed    by a faithless king,
A sister burned,    my brothers killed,
And Borghild my wife,    wicked of mind,
My sister's son,    has slain, and mine.
What mighty wrong    could rouse such wrath
That serpent-like    your son she stung,
A deed whose cost    her death could be,
But nothing less    than lasting shame?

Her brother wooed    a woman that
Sinfjotli too    had sought to wed.
Sword and sheild    settled their feud;
The brother fell    as fate decreed.

Such my might    for many slain,
Wergild no man    of me has had,
Yet freely I gave    red gold to her,
Peace to buy    for a brother's death.

Thrice in hall    the horn she bore;
Thrice my son    with scorn refused,
Knowing the woman    willed his death,
And twice myself,    I took the drink.
Twice unharmed    the horn I drained.
Sinfjotli's might,    to mine far less,
No poison blade,    or point could harm,
Though poison drunk    his death would be.

A third time thus;    by then grown drunk,
With fool's words    his woe I wrought,
Bade him lift    to lip the horn,
And moustache use,    the mead to strain.

And so he drank,    And dead he fell.
Seldom to man    is mead a friend,
As fools in sorrow    find next day,
Waking to woes    drunk words have wrought.

Little remains    for me to do,
But build a pyre    and burn my son,
And raise a mound    that men will see.
Then live or die,    I little care.
My dearest son    this day I've lost,
And Borghild too,    my bedmate once.
Little of worth    is left to me.
And I am old,    too old to wed.

Hot your haste    to hurry the end.
One battle yet    you have to fight,
Another wife    to wed remains,
Another son    to swell her womb.

A tree of battle    barbed with thorn,
Golden of leaf,    graceful in form
Yet must spring    from Sigmund's line--
The soil not turned,    the seed not sown.

Well-meaning words    their worth but small.
Much I've seen,    and suffered much
For many half-years,    too many by one.
Ferry me, stranger,    the firth across.
Well know I    that woman's art
Freya taught    the father of gods.
Far I see,    and farther still--
Much is yet    for you to do.

Farmaguth my name,    well known to men;
widely through all    the worlds I've gone.
Though strange to you    I seem to be,
Twice we've met,    and once more will.

But now the sun    sets in the west.
Ravens to Har    return with word
Of weal and woe    in worlds nine.
Too long in talk    we've lingered here.

My craft is small    to carry three,
And you are not    a youth half-grown.
Within the bow    the body lay,
But you must take    the trail around.
     Sigmund did as the other bade.  But when the boat had been pushed off from the shore it vanished, so that Sigmund know that it was Odin who had taken his son.
     "Sigrun and Helgi" is taken from the last episode of "The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbana."  This poem deals with the love between Helgi, a son of Sigmund, and a Valkyrie, Sigrun.  Both are said to be reincarnations of another Helgi and another Valkyrie.  Sigrun is betrothed, apparently unwillingly to another man.  Helgi wins her hand in battle, but in the process kills her father, and eight of his sons, sparing the one surviving brother, Dag, for his sister's sake.  Later Dag murders Helgi, and is cursed by Sigrun, who is inconsolable over the loss of her love, and curses her brother in memorably violent terms.  The story ends with this gothic little scene.
     The original poem must originally have been an effective and fairly unified work, but the loss of some stanzas, unclear transitions, and material imported from other poems have blurred its outlines, and caused it to be one of the less read poems of the collection.  I have done nothing innovative with the material except draw this compact little story out of its context so that it can appear to better advantage.  As nearly as possible I have followed the original text, including the prose, my only addition being a longer prose introduction to the beginning of the story.  The original is in fornyrdislag meter, which I have followed.

     Helgi was the son of Sigmund, and a great warrior.  To win Sigrun he defeated  in battle and killed her father, King Hogni and eight of his sons, sparing only Dag for his sister's sake.  Later Dag killed Helgi and was cursed by Sigrun, who wept continuously over the death of her husband.  One evening Sigrun's maid was passing Helgi's burial mound and saw Helgi with a large following ride into it.  The maid said: 
What sight is this    that seems a dream,
Dead men riding,    or Ragnarok?
Spurring your horses,    hastening by,
Or to their hearths    do heroes return?

Helgi said
No dream to make    you doubt your eyes,
Nor world's end,    though us you see,
Spurring our horses,    hastening by.
Nor to their hearths    may heroes return.

The maiden returned home and told Sigrun:
Come out, Sigrun    of Sevafioll
If you'd meet    the master of folk;
The hill is open;    Helgi has come,
With weeping wounds    waits you there
That you may staunch    the streaming blood.
Sigrun entered the mound and said to Helgi:
As glad I am    to greet you here
As Odin's hawks,    by hunger stirred
At slaughter's stench,    and still-warm flesh,
Or when, dew drenched,    the dawn they see.

Let me kiss    the dead king first
Ere bloody mail-coat    you cast aside.
Helgi, your hair    is heavy with frost;
With dew of the slain,    soaked you are,
Cold are the hands    of Hogni's son;
How is there, lord,    healing for that?

Helgi said:
By you, Sigrun    of Sevafioll
Is Helgi soaked    in sorrow-dew.
Gold-wearer,    your weeping is cruel;
Before you sleep,    bright southern maid,
Blood-tears wet    the breast of your lord
With ice and fire,    a festering grief.
Of this rare drink    a draught we'll share.
Though life and land    are lost to me,
Let no man sing    sad songs for that,
Though on my breast    are bleeding wounds,
For now our brides    to the barrow come,
Women admired    with we, the dead.

Sigrun prepared a bed in the mound:
Here I've made you,    Helgi, a bed,
Free from care,    kin of Ylfings,
There sleeping to lie,    lord, in your arms,
As once I lay    with the living king.
Helgi said:
Nothing, I say,    will now seem strange
Soon or late    at Sevafioll,
When you are clasped    in corpse's arms,
So white in the howe,    Hogni's child,
The quick with the dead,    daughter of kings.

Now I must ride    the reddening way
On a pale horse    through paths of sky,
Westward bound    to Windhelm bridge
Ere Salgofnir wakes    the warrior band.
     Then Helgi and his men rode away, and the women returned home.  The next evening Sigrun had the maid keep watch at the mound.  When Sigrun came at sunset she said:

Were he coming,   he would by now,
Sigmund's heir,    from Odin's hall.
Small hope remains    that he will come,
Now eagles roost    on ash's limbs,
And all are gone    to the gathering of dreams.

Mad you'd be    to make your way
King's daughter,    to a corpse's house.
The dead become    more dangerous far
When darkness falls    than in full day.
     Sigrun died soon after of sorrow and grief.  It was thought in olden times that people were reborn, but now we consider it "an old wive's tale" that people are born again.  It is said that Helgi and Sigrun were born again, he as Helgi Haddingsjaskati, and she as Kara, daughter of Halfdan, as is told in "The Lay of Kara," and she was a Valkyrie.

A few notes on the text:  When Helgi is called "Hogni's son," it means son-in-law.  The plural in references to the wives in the mounds makes no sense, since the story speaks only of Sigrun spending the night there.   "The Lay of Kara" is lost, though the basic story is known from another source.  According to the story, both Sigrun and Helgi have been reincarnated, and will be again.
     "The Song of the Nuthatches" is the last part of "The Lay of Fafnir" which tells of the slaying of the dragon, Fafnir by Sigurd, and of Sigurd roasting the dragon's heart at the request of Regin the smith.  This poem is a translation, and differs in only one respect from the poem as it appears in the Edda, though the difference is an important one.  In the Edda seven nuthatches speak, each speaking one stanza.  It was suggested as early as the 19th century that there might only be three nuthatches, a suggestion that Sophus Bugge at least partially confirmed by pointing out the woodcarving of the scene on the portals of the Hyllestad Church in Norway, in which there are only three birds.  Not only is three more typical of stories in general, it is far more dramatic here, and seems to be further confirmed by the verse form.  The first nuthatch points out Regin's murderous intentions in tones that are almost absurdly measured and qualified.  The second adds to the sentiment in the same calm, overly restrained manner.  The third speaks in violent and passionate terms, and in a different verse form, the quicker, ljodahattr meter.  Then the first two speak again in the same tone as before, and the third agains speaks in the same quick, bloody-minded terms, and again in a different meter than the other nuthatches use, or the rest of the poem for that matter.  A pattern seems to be developing, but it is broken at this point by the third nuthatch adding a second stanza to his speech.  Then Sigurd responds in the same violent tone as the third, and confirms his shift to a more bloody-minded attitude by also using ljodahattr meter.  Other than these four stanzas, three by the third nuthatch, and one by Sigurd, the rest of the poem is all in fornyrdislag meter.  The difference in dramatic effect more than the evidence of the panels convinces me that the Medieval editor of the Edda was mistaken in dividing the speeches among seven nuthatches. 

     Sigurd took Fafnir's heart and roasted it on a spit.  When he thought it was done and the juices were dripping, he poked it with a finger to test it.  He burned his finger and stuck it into his mouth.  But when Fafnir's heart's-blood touched his tongue, he understood the speech of the birds.  He overheard some nuthatches twittering in the bushes.  One nuthatch said:

"Blood soaked,    there Sigurd sits;
Fafnir's heart    with fire he roasts.
Wiser the ring-breaker    were I think,
The shining life-sinew    himself to eat."

A second spoke:
"There Regin lies,    and lays a plan
To trick the youth    that trusts in him.
Wrathful words    he wraps in guile,
This smith of vileness    to avenge his kin."
A third spoke:
"Cut off the head    of the hoary wretch,
And hie him off to Hel.
Then all the gold    get for himself,
The hoard that Fafnir had."

The first spoke:
"Wise were he    if heed he took
To sound advice    we sisters give:
Do right by self,    make ravens glad.
See the ears,    suspect the wolf."

The second spoke:
"Less wise to me    the warrior seems
Than battle-leader    ought to be,
If brother share not    brother's fate,
When he has been    the bane of one."
The third spoke:
"A fool is he    if he should spare
The foreman of the folk.
There Regin lies,    and wrong intends,
And he, unguarded from guile.

"The frost-cold jotun    free of his head,
And wrest from him the rings.
The fortune then    that Fafnir had,
One hand alone will hold."

Sigurd spoke:
"Regin's fate    so fair is not,
That he will be my bane.
These brothers I    mean both to slay,
And send them hence to Hel.
     Sigurd cut off Regin's head, then ate Fafnir's heart and drank his blood and Fafnir's.  Then Sigurd heard the words of the nuthatch:
"Gather, Sigurd,    the golden rings;
Unkingly it is    to cower in fear.
A maid I know,    and none more fair,
Decked in gold,    though get her you may.

Green is the track    to Giuki's hall,
And fate the way    to the wanderer shows.
That king, indeed,    one daughter has,
Whose hand, Sigurd,    your gold may buy."

Another spoke:
"There stands a hall    on Hindarfiall
That all around    is ringed with fire
That wise men made    once long ago
From golden light,    the glow of streams.
A valkyrie sleeps    on the summit there;
about her bright,    the bane of trees.
A sleep thorn, Ygg    has struck in her,
Because she felled    his favored one.

There will you find    the maiden helmed,
Who came from war    on Vingskornir.
Sigdrifa may    from dream be roused,
Skiolding, never    if Norns deny."
     Sigurd followed Fafnir's track to his lair and found it open.  The door and doorposts were iron, and all the posts inside the house which was partly underground.  There Sigurd found much gold.  He filled two chests and took the helm of terror, a gold mail shirt, the sword Hrotti, and many other priceless things.  He loaded them on Grani, but the horse would not move until he had climbed on his back as well.
Some notes on the text:  Ygg is another name for Odin, as is Har in The Lay of Farmaguth.  "Bane of trees" like "bane of branches" and "suns of Surt" earlier, is a kenning for fire.  What the "helm of terror" is is unknown.  Fafnir, though a dragon, is the brother of the smith, Regin.  Either his violent, greedy, and hoarding nature has manifested itself physically, or he has taken this form to guard the gold.  He and his brother are not humans, and here Fafnir is called a jotun (etin, or giant), though elsewhere Regin is called a dwarf.

Rune Poems I
Rune Poems I
Rune Poems I
Rune Poems II
     "Hogni and the Water Sprites" is a small story that does not appear in either the Edda or  The Volsunga Saga.  It is from the German Nibelungenlied, though I have given the characters their Icelandic names to keep this poem consistant with my other poems in the eddaic style.   I have also used the Icelandic  fornyrdislag meter, which works somewhat like the meter of the original poem, though the lines are shorter.  As for the incidents of the poem and the manner in which they are presented, I have followed the original poem fairly closely, though not so closely that this could be called a translation.  It is, rather, a retelling.      
     Gunnar and Hogni with a large following journied to Atli's hall in the land of the Huns.  When they came to the Rhine it was in full flood.  Gunnar wanted to ford the stream, but Hogni feared they would lose too many men, and so went looking for a ferry.
Hogni roamed    the river's side,
The current too swift    to swim against,
Seeking a boat    to bear him across,
But found no house,    nor ferry near.

Though loud the torrent,    tumbling down,
A second sound    he seemed to hear.
Then turning aside,    he saw a pool
Fed by a spring    from falls above.

And there in the water    women swam,
A pair of nixies,    naked and white
As ivory wands    or willow peeled,
As swan, or snow,    or silver coin.

Seeing a man,    they swam far out,
And taunted him     with teasing words,
Laughing with voices    light and sweet.
Little they feared    the force of his arm.

Hogni not long    their laughter endured,
But finding their clothes,    he caught them up,
And held them till one,    Hadeburg named,
Promised with tears    to tell him his fate.
"Companion of kings,    our clothing give back,
If you would know    the Norns' decree,
What good or ill    in Atli's hall.
All will I tell you    truly I swear."

Like water fowl    the women swam,
And Hogni knew    their nature from that--
Women famous    for wisdom and truth--
So eagerly listened    to all that she said.

"None wills you harm    in Hunnish lands,
And warm will be    your welcome there,
For Atli waits    with eager heart.
Long will be told    tales of this quest."

All this and more    the maiden said,
Whatever Hogni    hoped to hear,
And gladly he gave    their garments back,
Laid them on rocks    at river's edge.

But once they had donned    their dresses again,
Magic garments    that gave them power,
The second spoke,    Sigelinde named--
Less welcome the song    she sang to him. 
"My sister lied,    led you on,
Hoping her words    would win our clothes.
Beyond the water    waits your death.
Over Mirkwood    are massing your foes."

"Turn again    while time remains,
Or die at the hands    of Hunnish men."
But Hogni said,    "What whorish lie
Is this you tell,    what trick intend?"

"Who in this land    have we to fear?
What danger could face    a force so strong?"
"Danger enough    from Atli's hand.
A fawning wolf    the wise beware."

With hasty words    Hogni replied,
"Never will I take    such tidings back
To Gunnar the king,    the Giukings' lord.
Say where I can find    a ferry now."

Then Hadeburg said,    "My sister speaks truth.
Stop at the Rhine;    return to your homes,
Or long your wives    will wait for you,
Standing at windows,    watching the road."
"Your bane you'll have    of Budli's son.
To gain the gold    that Grani bore,
Sigurd's gold    that Gudrun's should be,
King Atli means    to murder you."

With angry words    the warrior replied,
"For better or worse,    my wyrd is mine;
None knows the day    his death will come.
Where is the ferry,    or ford at least?"

Swiftly then    Sigelinde spoke,
"Since I see    you're set on death,
The ferryman lives    not far downstream.
He has a house    high on the bank."

"Gunnar I know    the gold will hide
Deep in the Rhine    to darkly gleam
For eyes of frogs    and fish alone,
And none remain     to know the place.
     Gunnar and Hogni hid the gold just as the wise woman had said, and went on to Atli's court where both met their fate, and so the gold hoard cursed by Andvari the dwarf, the gold that had been the bane of all who held it, was lost forever to the eyes of men. 
1.  The Lay of Signy Volsungsdottir                                 8. The Lay of Regin
2.  Farmaguth                                                                        9.  Helgi's Birth
3.  Sigrun and Helgi                                                           10.  Sigrun's Curse
4.  The Song of the Nuthatches
5.  Hogni and the Water Sprites
6.  Brynhild's Final Request
7.  Brynhild's Hel Ride
     This poem is translated from "The Short Lay of Sigurd," which is actually quite a long poem.  This passage, which ends the poem, is the dying Brynhild's request that she be cremated at the side of Sigurd, though she was largely responsible for his murder at the hands of her husband Gunnar, and his brother Hogni.

A last request    allow me now,
And nothing else    I'll ask of you.
In the field prepare    a pyre for me,
Broad enough    for all of us,
All to be slain    for Sigurd's sake.

Hide its form    with hangings and shields,
Colored fabrics,    a crowd of slaves,
And at my side    let Sigurd lie.

On the other side,    with Sigurd burn,
Splendid in gold,    my serving maids,
Two at our heads,    a hawk with each,
A brace of hounds    beneath our feet,
So everything    will even seem.
Lay between us,    as before it did,
The sword, ring-hilted,    sharp-edged iron,
As when we shared    a single bed,
And men supposed us    man and wife.

Do not let shut    the shining hall door,
Ring-gripped,    against his heel;
If I am coming    close behind,
Our train should make    no modest show.

Five bondmaids    will follow him,
Thralls eight,    all well-born,
My playmate too,    my patrimony--
The dower that Budli    his daughter gave.

Much have I said,    and more would I
If death had spared    more space for it.
My voice grows weak,    my wounds swell;
I've spoken but truth--    my time is done.
     After Brynhild's death two pyres were raised, one for Sigurd, who was burnt first, and Brynhild after.  She was in a wagon decked with rich fabric, so it was said that Brynhild rode the wagon to Hel, and passed the place where a giantess lived.  The giantess spoke:
1. Here you may    not make your path,
Through my garth,    girt with stone.
Better it were    to work the loom,
Than chasing after    another's man.

2. Why this visit    from Valland come,
Here to my house,    whorish woman?
Gold-goddess,    to give the truth,
Hands you've bathed    in blood of men.

Brynhild spoke:
3. Blame not me,    bride of stone,
Though once I led    a warrior's life.
Better than yours    my birth will seem
To men, if they    our measure take.

The Giantess spoke:
4. You, Brynhild,    Budli's daughter,
Woman born    to worst of fates,
Grief you've brought    to Giuki's sons,
Laying waste    their lofty house.
Brynhild spoke:              
5. I in my wagon,    wiser than you,
Will tell you, fool,    if truth you'll hear,
How Giuki's heirs    through guile left me
Love barren,    breaker of oaths.

6. The worthy king    our feather-cloaks took
From sister's eight    under an oak.
Twelve I was,    if you wish to know,
When oaths I yielded    the youthful king.

7. 'Hild under helm'    in Hlymdale was
the name that I    was known by then.

8. Then after that    the aged Goth,
Hjalm-Gunnar    to Hel I sent,
And Auda's brother    the battle gave.
Odin for that    was angry with me.

9. Hemmed my with shields    in Hero's Grove,
Red ones and white,    rims o'erlapped,
And bade that none    should break my sleep,
But he that nothing    knew of fear.
10. Then circled my hall,    southward facing,
With branches' bane    blazing high,
Decreeing that none    should cross but he,
Who fetched the gold    from Fafnir's bed.

11. The gold-give    on Grani came
To my foster father's    folk-hall then.
And he of all     the host around,
The Viking-Dane,    most valiant seemed.

12. Happy, we slept    in a single bed,
As though he'd been    my brother born,
Eight full nights,    and never once
Either a hand    on the other lay.

13. Yet Gudrun charged,    Giuki's daughter,
That I had slept    in Sigurd's arms.
Secrets I learned,    I'd sooner forget,
That I'd been tricked    to take a mate.

14. To sorrows that last    too long to bear,
Women and men    in the world are born.
But we two now    shall never part,
Sigurd and I.    Giantess, Sink!
The Lay of Regin
     "The Lay of Regin" is quite possibly the most frustrating of all the eddaic poems to read.  Many of the poems have explanatory matter in prose at the beginning and end of the poem, and sometimes at points within the poem, but these are so long and so numerous in this poem that they make up half the total text, and destroy any sense of continuity between the various small groups of verses.  The longest single run is only seven verses, and those, unfortunately, are the least central or necessary section in the whole poem.  Further, the verse form is also inconsistant; sixteen stanzas are in ljodahattr meter, and ten are in fornyrdislag meter.  Traditionally the latter form is used more for dramatic material, and the former more for gnomic, wisdom, or aphoristic material, such as the seven stanzas dealing with advice for warriors.  Even here, however, for no obvious reason one of the stanzas is fornyrdislag.  Possibly the lay as we have it is made up of parts of two different poems.  
       On the positive side, this poem contains some of the most central and dynamic subject matter of the whole Volsung story.  In any case, here it is.  This is a straight translation, as true to the verse form and the content as I could make it.  
      Sigurd went to Hjalprek's stud and chose for himself a horse that was afterward named Grani.  At that time Regin, the son of Hreidmar, had come to Hjalprek and was most skillful of men, and a dwarf in stature.  He was wise, fierce, and skilled in magic.  Regin fostered and taught Sigurd and showed him great affection.  He told Sigurd of his parents, and of how it happened that Odin, Hoenir, and Loki came to Andvari's Falls.  And in the falls were many fish.  A dwarf named Andvari had lived for a long time there in the form of a pike, and in this manner he got food.  "Our brother was named Otter," Regin said. "and often went to the falls in otter form.  He had caught a salmon, and was sitting on the bank eating it with his eyes closed when Loki killed him with a stone.  The Aesir thought they were lucky in that, and skinned the otter.  That evening they asked to stay for the night at Hreidmar's house, and showed him what they had caught.  Then we captured them, and demanded this ransom for their lives, that they fill the otter's skin with gold and cover it completely with red gold.  Loki they sent to get the gold.  He went to Ran and got her net, and  then to Andvari's Falls, and cast the net before a pike, and it leaped into the net."  Loki spoke:     
1. "What fish is this    which in flood runs,
But cannot save itself from harm?
If your head from Hel    you hope to keep,
Find the water's fire for me."

Andvari spoke:
2. "Andvari am I;    Oinn is my father;
Many a rapids I've run.
A Norn of bad luck    once long ago
Condemned me in water to dwell."

Loki spoke:
3. "Tell me, Andvari,    if you value still
The life you live on earth,
What doom is set    for the sons of men
Who wage a war with words?"

Andvari spoke:
4. "Great suffering bear    the sons of men
Who wade Vadgelmir's water;
For all the lies    on others told,
Long will they linger there.
     Loki saw all the gold that Andvari owned, but when he had brought out the gold, he had kept back a single ring, which Loki also took.  The dwarf went into a rock and said:
5. "Now the gold    that Gust possessed
Shall be the bane    of brothers two,
And to eight princes    evil bring.
No good shall any    gain from my wealth."
     The Aesir gave the gold to Hreidmar, filled the otter skin,  then set it on its feet.  Then they had to heap the gold over it.  But when that was done, Hreidmar approached and spotted a single whisker, and demanded they cover it.  Then Odin took out the ring, Andvari's Jewel, and covered the whisker.  Loki said:
6. "The gold to you    is given now,
A heavy payment for my head.
No good your son    will gain by it;
It shall instead be bane to both.

Hreidmar spoke:
7. "Gifts you gave,    not gladly, though,
Nor with the whole of your heart.
Your lives you would    have lost ere now,
Had I this evil known."

Loki spoke:
8. "It's worse than that,    for this I think--
Kinsmen will come to strife.
Those princes may be    unborn as yet,
On whom that fate will fall."

Hreidmar spoke:
9. "Red gold    I've gotten now
As long as I'm alive.
Your threats are nothing    now to me,
So hie you to your homes."
     Fafnir an Regin asked Hreidmar for their share of the weregild that was paid for the killing of their brother Otter.  He refused, and Fafnir stabbed him with a sword while he slept.  Hreidmar called to his daughters:
10. "Lyngheid and Lofnheid!    My life is lost.
Now I need your aid."

Lyngheid spoke:
"Sisters few,    though a father be killed,
Will go against a brother."

Hreidmar spoke:
11. "A daughter is well,    wolf-hearted girl;
If by the king    you bear no son,
Your daughter married    may at last
Supply a son    to serve your need."
     Hreidmar then died, and Fafnir took all the gold.  Regin asked for his part of the patrimony, but was refused by Fafnir.  Regin then asked his sister, Lyngheid, how he could get his patrimony.  Lyngheid spoke:
12. "Fafnir ask    in friendly wise
Your half, and his good will.
Unseemly it were    to seek with the sword
The fortune that Fafnir holds."
     Regin told Sigurd all this.  One day when he came to Regin's house he was well received.  Regin spoke:
13. "Hither the son    of Sigmund comes;
The ready hero,    our hall draws near.
His courage is greater    than grown man's.
From a hungry wolf    hope for a fight."

14. "I will foster    the fearless prince,
Now that Yngvi's kin    is come to us.
Bravest of princes    beneath the sun,
His orlog threads    through every land."
     Sigurd remained thereafter with Regin, who told him how Fafnir lay on Gnitaheath in the likeness of a serpent.  He had a helm-of-terror of which all living things were terrified.  Regin forged a sword for Sigurd that was named Gram, and was so sharp that thrusting it into the Rhine, he let a piece of wool drift against it, and it cut through the wool like water.  With that sword Sigurd also cut in two Regin's anvil.  After that,Regin urged Sigurd to kill Fafnir.  Sigurd spoke:
15. "Heartily would laugh    King Hunding's sons,
They who the life    of Elylimi took,
If now the prince    appeared more eager
Red rings to find    than his father avenge." 
     Sigurd got ships and a crew from King Hjalprek to avenge his father.  A fierce storm came up, and as they were rounding a rocky headland, they saw a man standing on a cliff.  The man spoke:
16. "Who rides there    on Raevil's steeds,
Through towering waves    and troubled seas,
Their sail-horses    sweat-spattered?
The wave steeds won't    withstand the wind."

Regin spoke:
17. "Sigurd and I    on sea-trees here,
By blustering winds    are bourne to death.
The waves break    above the prow;
The roller horses plunge--    who wants to know?"

The man spoke:
18. "'Hnikar' I was    when Hugin was gladdened,
Volsung youth,    by victims of strife.
Man-of-the-cliff    you may call me now,
Feng or Fjolnir.    I'll fare with you."
     They put in to land, and the old man went on board the ship.  The storm died down.
Sigurd spoke:
19. "Tell me, Hnikar,    of two that you know,
Good omens for gods and men,
Which are fairest    for fighting men
When the swords are swinging?"

Hnikar spoke:
20. "Many are good    if a man just know
When swords are swinging.
Well it is    if a warrior meets
A dusky raven on his road."

21. "A second is this:    when setting out,
And ready to take the road,
You meet a pair    of praise-eager men
Waiting in your way."

22. "A third I have;    if you hear a wolf
Howl under and ash's bough
Your luck will be good    against helmed men,
If you should find them first."

23. "No man should fight    facing toward
moon's sister,    the setting sun;
In order to win,    first one must see,
And in wedge form    his forces array."  

24. "Ill fortune follows    if foot should stumble
When you fare out to fight.
Stealthy Disir    stand at your side,
And hope to see you harmed."

25. "Combed and washed    a warrior should be,
And take a good morning meal.
One never knows    what night will bring;
Don't lose what luck you have."
     Sigurd fought against Lyngvi, son of Hunding, and his brothers.  Lyngvi and his three brothers were killed.  Regin spoke:
26. "The blood-eagle now    with biting blade
Is sliced on the back    of Sigmund's bane.
None more worthy    of warriors ever
Reddened earth    or ravens gladdened."
     Sigurd went home to Hjalprek.  Then Regin again urged Sigurd to kill Fafnir.
                    HELGI'S BIRTH
                                 from " Helgakvitha Hundingsbana Fyrri"

In ancient days    when eagles screamed,
And holy waters    from Himinfell gushed,
Then was Helgi,    great of heart,
To Borghild    in Braland born.

Then came by night    Norns to the house,
Came to order    the atheling's fate.
They said great fame    his future held,
That he'd be called    of kings the best,

Mightily wove    the weave of fate,
Throughout the burgs    of Braland all.
Then gathering up    the golden thread,
Bound it to the middle    of Mani's hall.

East and west    the ends they stretched,
The prince's land    lying between.
Neri's sister    northward then
Hung one end    to hold forever.  
The Ylfing's son    one sorrow knew,
As did the bride    who bore the child.
Raven perching,    on prey intent,
To raven said,    "Something I know."

"There Sigmund's heir    in armor stands,
One day old--    our dawn has come.
As a warrior's ought,    his eyes are sharp--
The wolf's friend    is welcome to us."

A true prince he    to the people seemed,
Harbinger    of harvests rich.
From battle came    the king, himself,
To give his son    a goodly leek,

Called him Helgi,    Hringstad gave him,
Sofjoll, Snaefjoll,    and Sigarsvoll,
Hringstod, Hatun,    and Himinvangi,
And a blood snake for    Sinfjotli's brother.

There are two poems about Helgi Hundingsbane.  This passage is the opening of the one that appears first in the Codex Regius, not the same poem as the one from which "Sigrun and Helgi" was taken.

Line 12:  Mani is the moon, and so his hall would be the sky.

Line 15:  Neri's sister--unknown.

Line 17:  The Ylfing's son is Helgi's father, Sigmund.  The nature of the 
               sorrow is unknown.

Line 24:  Helgi is the wolf's friend because he will leave a lot of corpses to devour.

Line 28:  Leeks were viewed as medicinal, magical, and royal, as well as being a food 

Line 32:  Blood-snake--kenning for sword.
                   from the Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane

     To win the Valkyrie, Sigrun, Helgi killed her father, Hogni, in battle with all
his sons but one, named Dag.  Dag swore oaths not to harm Helgi, but was driven by desire for vengeance to sacrifice to Odin, who lent him his spear.  Dag met Helgi at a place called Fjoturnlund and ran him through with the spear.  Dag then rode to Sefafell to tell his sister, Sigrun.  Dag spoke:
"Sister, I'm sorry    to say what I must,
Sorry to make    my sister weep.
This morning fell    at Fjotunlund
That king who was    the world's best,
He that stepped    on heroes' necks."

Sigrun spoke:
"Now may all    your oaths bite,
Words to Helgi    once you swore
By light-embracing    Leiptr's water,
By Unn's icy    altar stone,

No ship you fare on    forward go,
Though keen the wind    you want then blows,
The horse you ride    not run for you,
Although your foes    come fast behind,

The blade you draw    not bite for you,
Or only sing    around your head,
Vengeance I'll have    for Helgi's death.
Were you a wolf    in the wood alone,
Lacking in all,    in every joy,
You'd gnaw the dead    or do without."
Dag spoke:
"Sister, you rave,    your senses lost,
To will a brother    such baneful fate.
This ill was worked    by Odin alone;
He wrought for kin    the runes of war.

Receive of your brother    red-gold rings,
Vandilsvi all,    and Vigdali too.
Take half your lands,    your loss to pay,
Ring-adorned woman,    as well your sons."

Sigrun spoke:
"Unhappy I'll sit    at Sefafell,
Not morn or eve    joy ever in life
Till gleams the light    on my lord's host,
Till Vigblaer come,    to the gold bit tamed,
Bearing him hence,    and Helgi I greet.
Helgi filled    with fear as great,
His foemen all,    and all their kin,
As fleeing goats    before the wolf,
Frightened, running    from the fells.

So among heroes    Helgi stood,
Majestic ash    among the thorns,
Or youthful deer,    dew-besprinkled,
Standing above    all other beasts,
With horns that gleam    against the sky."

     A burial mound was raised for Helgi.  And when he came to Valhalla, Odin
gave him equal rule with himself over everything.  

     This is not from the same poem as "Helgi's Birth," which is from the first Helgi Hundingsbane poem.  This is from the second, and immediately preceeds the events in "Sigrun and Helgi."  These poems and scenes from poems have been placed here as they were translated, rather than in logical order.