Guðrúnarkviða I – The First Lay of Gudrún

21. “So shall your land | its people lose
As ye have kept | your oaths of yore;
Gunnar, no joy | the gold shall give thee,
(The rings shall soon | thy slayers be,)
Who swarest oaths | with Sigurth once.

22. “In the court was greater | gladness then
The day my Sigurth | Grani saddled,
And went forth Brynhild’s | hand to win,
That woman ill, | in an evil hour.”

Guthrun spake:

23. Then Brynhild spake, | the daughter of Buthli:
“May the witch now husband | and children want
Who, Guthrun, loosed | thy tears at last,
And with magic today | hath made thee speak.”

24. Then Gollrond, daughter | of Gjuki, spake:
“Speak not such words, | thou hated woman;
Bane of the noble | thou e’er hast been,
(Borne thou art | on an evil wave,
Sorrow hast brought | to seven kings,)
And many a woman | hast loveless made.”

25. Then Brynhild, daughter | of Buthli, spake:
“Atli is guilty | of all the sorrow,
(Son of Buthli | and brother of mine)

26. When we saw in the hall | of the Hunnish race
The flame of the snake’s bed | flash round the hero;
(For the journey since | full sore have I paid,
And ever I seek | the sight to forget.)”

27. By the pillars she stood, | and gathered her strength,
From the eyes of Brynhild, | Buthli’s daughter,
Fire there burned, | and venom she breathed,
When the wounds she saw | on Sigurth then.

Guthrun went thence away to a forest in the waste, and journeyed all the way to Denmark, and was there seven half-years with Thora, daughter of Hokon. Brynhild would not live after Sigurth. She had eight of her thralls slain and five serving-women. Then she killed her self with a sword, as is told in the Short Lay of Sigurth.

21. Line 4 looks like an interpolation (cf. Fafnismol, 9, line 4), but some editors instead have queried line 5. How Guthrun’s curse is fulfilled is told in the subsequent poems. That desire for Sigurth’s treasure (the gold cursed by Andvari and Loki) was one of the motives for his murder is indicated in Sigurtharkvitha en skamma (stanza 16), and was clearly a part of the German tradition, as it appears in the Nibelungenlied.

22. Cf. Gripisspo, 35 and note.

23. Line 1 is abbreviated in the manuscript.

24. Editors are agreed that this stanza shows interpolations, but differ as to the lines to reject. Line 4 (literally “every wave of ill-doing drives thee”) is substantially a proverb, and line 5, with its apparently meaningless reference to “seven” kings, may easily have come from some other source.

25. The stanza is obviously in bad shape; perhaps it represents two separate stanzas, or perhaps three of the lines are later additions. Atli: Brynhild here blames her brother, following the frequent custom of transferring the responsibility for a murder (cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II, 33), because he compelled her to marry Gunnar against her will, an idea which the poet seems to have gained from Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 32-39. These stanzas represent an entirely different version of the story, wherein Atli, attacked by Gunnar and Sigurth, buys them off by giving Gunnar his sister, Brynhild, as wife. He seems to have induced the latter to marry Gunnar by falsely telling her that Gunnar was Sigurth (a rationalistic explanation of the interchange of forms described in the Volsungasaga and Gripisspo, 37-39). In the present stanza Atli is made to do this out of desire for Sigurth’s treasure. Hunnish race: this may be [fp. 419] merely an error (neither Gunnar nor Sigurth could properly have been connected in any way with Atli and his Huns), based on Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, wherein Sigurth appears more than once as the “Hunnish king.” The North was very much in the dark as to the differences between Germans, Burgundians, Franks, Goths, and Huns, and used the words without much discrimination. On the other hand, it may refer to Sigurth’s appearance when, adorned with gold, he came with Gunnar to besiege Atli, in the alternative version of the story just cited (cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 36). Flame of the snake’s bed: gold, so called because serpents and dragons were the’ traditional guardians of treasure, on which they lay. Renumbering change occurs again as half of the stanza is placed as stanza 26 to conform with the ON.

Prose. The manuscript has “Gunnar” in place of “Guthrun,” but this is an obvious mistake; the entire prose passage is based on Guthrunarkvitha II, 14. The Volsungasaga likewise merely paraphrases Guthrunarkvitha II, and nothing further is known of Thora or her father, Hokon, though many inconclusive attempts have been made to identify the latter. Brynhild: the story of her death is told in great detail in the latter part of Sigurtharkvitha en skamma.


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