Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar I – The First Lay of Helgi the Hunding

Here begins the poem of Helgi Hundingsbane and and that of Hodbrodd*

1. In olden days, | when eagles screamed,
And holy streams | from heaven’s crags fell,
Was Helgi then, | the hero-hearted,
Borghild’s son, | in Bralund born.

2. ‘Twas night in the dwelling, | and Norns there came,
Who shaped the life | of the lofty one;
They bade him most famed | of fighters all
And best of princes | ever to be.

3. Mightily wove they | the web of fate,
While Bralund’s towns | were trembling all;
And there the golden | threads they wove,
And in the moon’s hall | fast they made them.

4. East and west | the ends they hid,
In the middle the hero | should have his land;
And Neri’s kinswoman | northward cast
A chain, and bade it | firm ever to be.

5. Once sorrow had | the Ylfings’ son,
And grief the bride | who the loved one had borne.
* * * * * *
Quoth raven to raven, | on treetop resting,
Seeking for food, | “There is something I know.

* Added to the Bellows translation; the “Höðbrodd” part is indeed illegible in the manuscript, as he says, only the h can be read; but the Völsunga Saga is not mentioned there.

1. The manuscript contains the superscription: “Here begins the lay of Helgi Hundingbane and h. (Hothbrodd?) The lay of the Volsungs.” Eagles, etc.: the screaming of eagles and water pouring from heaven were portents of the birth of a hero. Borghild: Sigmund’s first wife; Bralund was her home, not Sigmund’s.

2. Norns: cf. Voluspo, 20 and note. Here it is the Norns who preside over Helgi’s early destiny, and not a Valkyrie, as in Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar.

3. Line 2 is largely guesswork, the manuscript being obscure. Moon’s hall: the sky.

4. East, etc.: the Norris give Helgi fame in the East, West, and North; in the North his renown is particularly to endure. This suggests that the poet was aware of the spread of the Helgi story over many lands. Neri’s kinswoman: evidently one of the Norns, but nothing further is known of Neri, and the word may not be a proper name at all.

5. The manuscript indicates no gap, but it looks as though something had been lost after line 2. Ylfings’ son: Sigmund is evidently meant, though calling him an Ylfing (cf. Hyndluljoth, 11 and note) is a manifest error. Helgi, in the tradition as it came from Denmark, was undoubtedly an Ylfing, and the poet, in order to combine the two legends, has to treat the Ylfings and Volsungs as if they were the same family.