Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
  The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
XXXI. Of the Lamentation of Gudrun Over Sigurd Dead, as it is Told in the Ancient Songs
GUDRUN 1 of old days
Drew near to dying
As she sat in sorrow
Over Sigurd;
Yet she sighed not        5
Nor smote hand on hand,
Nor wailed she aught
As other women.
Then went earls to her,        10
Full of all wisdom,
Fain help to deal
To her dreadful heart:
Hushed was Gudrun
Of wail, or greeting,        15
But with a heavy woe
Was her heart a-breaking.
Bright and fair
Sat the great earls’ brides,        20
Gold arrayed
Before Gudrun;
Each told the tale
Of her great trouble,
The bitterest bale        25
She erst abode.
Then spake Giaflaug,
Guiki’s sister:
“Lo upon earth        30
I live most loveless
Who of five mates
Must see the ending,
Of daughters twain
And three sisters,        35
Of brethren eight,
And abide behind lonely.”
Naught gat Gudrun
Of wail and greeting,        40
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        50
Down in the Southlands,
And the eighth man, my mate,
Felled in the death-mead.
“Father and mother,        55
And four brothers,
On the wide sea
The winds and death played with;
The billows beat
On the bulwark boards.        60
“Alone must I sing o’er them,
Alone must I array them,
Alone must my hands deal with
Their departing;        65
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        75
Must I bind the shoon
Of the duke’s high dame,
Every day at dawning.
“From her jealous hate        80
Gat I heavy mocking,
Cruel lashes
She laid upon me,
Never met I
Better master        85
Or mistress worser
In all the wide world.”
Naught gat Gudrun
Of wail or greeting,        90
So heavy was she
For her dead husband,
So dreadful-hearted
For the King laid dead there.
Then spake Gullrond,
Guiki’s daughter—
“O foster-mother,
Wise as thou mayst be,
Naught canst thou better        100
The young wife’s bale.”
And she bade uncover
The dead King’s corpse.
She swept the sheet        105
Away from Sigurd,
And turned his cheek
Towards his wife’s knees—
“Look on thy loved one
Lay lips to his lips,        110
E’en as thou wert clinging
To thy king alive yet!”
Once looked Gudrun—
One look only,        115
And saw her lord’s locks
Lying all bloody,
The great man’s eyes
Glazed and deadly,
And his heart’s bulwark        120
Broken by sword-edge.
Back then sank Gudrun,
Back on the bolster,
Loosed was her head array,        125
Red did her cheeks grow,
And the rain-drops ran
Down over her knees.
Then wept Gudrun,        130
Giuki’s daughter,
So that the tears flowed
Through the pillow;
As the geese withal
That were in the homefield,        135
The fair fowls the may owned,
Fell a-screaming.
Then spake Gullrond,
Giuki’s daughter—        140
“Surely knew I
No love like your love
Among all men,
On the mould abiding;
Naught wouldst thou joy in        145
Without or within doors,
O my sister,
Save beside Sigurd.”
Then spake Gudrun,        150
Giuki’s daughter—
“Such was my Sigurd
Among the sons of Giuki,
As is the king leek
O’er the low grass waxing,        155
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        165
As the leaf may be,
Amid wind-swept wood
Now when dead he lieth.
“I miss from my seat,        170
I miss from my bed,
My darling of sweet speech.
Wrought the sons of Giuki,
Wrought the sons of Giuki,
This sore sorrow,        175
Yea, for their sister,
Most sore sorrow.
“So may your lands
Lie waste on all sides,        180
As ye have broken
Your bounden oaths!
Ne’er shalt thou, Gunnar,
The gold have joy of,
The dear-bought rings        185
Shall drag thee to death,
Whereon thou swarest
Oath unto Sigurd.
“Ah, in the days by-gone        190
Great mirth in the homefield
When my Sigurd
Set saddle on Grani,
And they went their ways
For the wooing of Brynhild!        195
An ill day, an ill woman,
And most ill hap!”
Then spake Brynhild,
Budli’s daughter—        200
“May the woman lack
Both love and children,
Who gained greeting
For thee, O Gudrun!
Who gave thee this morning        205
Many words!”
Then spake Gullrond,
Giuki’s daughter—
“Hold peace of such words        210
Thou hated of all folk!
The bane of brave men
Hast thou been ever,
All waves of ill
Wash over thy mind,        215
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        225
Born of Budli.
“When we saw in the hall
Of the Hunnish people
The gold a-gleaming
On the kingly Giukings;        230
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,        240
And she snorted forth venom,
As the sore wounds she gazed on
Of the dead-slain Sigurd.
Note 1. This chapter is the Eddaic poem, called the first Lay of Gudrun, inserted here by the translators. [back]


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