jeudi 5 février 2015



The Lay of Sigrdrifa

Sigurd rode up the Hindarfiall, and directed his course southwards towards Frankland. In the fell he saw a great light, as if a fire were burning, which blazed up the sky. On approaching it, there stood a “skialdborg”, and over it a banner. Sigurd went into the skialdborg, and saw a warrior lying within it asleep, completely armed. He first took the helmet off the warrior’s head, and saw that it was a woman. Her corslet was a s fast as if it had grown to her body. With his sword Gram he ripped the corslet from the upper opening downwards, and then though both sleeves. He then took the corslet off from her, when she awoke, sat up and, on seeing Sigurd, said:

1. What has my corslet cut?
why from sleep have I started?
who hast cast from me
the fallow bands?

Sigmund’s son
hast just now ript
the raven’s perch,
with Sigurd’s sword.

2. Long have I slept,
long been with sleep oppressed,
long are mortals’ sufferings!
Odin is the cause
that I have been unable
to cast off torpor.

        Sigurd sat down and asked her name. She then took a horn filled with mead, and gave him the minnis-cup.

3. Hail to Day!
Hail to the sons of Day!
To Night and her daughter hail!
With placid eyes
behold us here,
and here sitting give us victory.
4. Hail to the Æsir!
Hail to the Asyniur!
Hail to the bounteous earth!
Words and wisdom
give to us noble twain,
and healing hands while we live.

        She was named Sigrdrífa, and was a Valkyria. She said that two kings had made war on each other, one of whom was named Hiálmgunnar; he was old and a great warrior, and Odin had promised him victory. The other was Agnar, a brother of Höda, whom no divinity would patronize. Sigrdrífa overcame Hiálmgunnar in battle; in revenge for which Odin pricked her with a sleep-thorn, and declared that thenceforth she should never have victory in battle, and should be given in marriage. “But I said to him, that I had bound myself by a vow not to espouse any man who could be made to fear.” Sigurd answers, and implores her to teach him wisdom, as she had intelligence from all regions:

5. Beer I bear to thee,
column of battle!
with might mingled,
and with bright glory:
‘tis full of song,
and salutary saws,
of potent incantations,
and joyous discourses.

6. Sig-runes thou must know,
if victory (sigr) thou wilt have,
and on thy sword’s hilt grave them;
some on the chapes,
some on the guard,
and twice the name of Tý.

7. Öl-(beer-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt not that another’s wife,
thy trust betray, if thou in her confide.
On the horn must they be graven,
and on the hand’s back,
and Naud on the nail be scored.

8. A cup must be blessed,
and against peril guarded,
and garlick in the liquor cast:
then I know
thou wilt never have
mead with treachery mingled.

9. Biarg-(help-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt help,
and loose the child from women.
In the palm they must be graven,
and round the joints be clasped,
and the Dísir prayed for aid.

10. Brim-(sea-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt have secure
afloat thy sailing steeds.
On the prow they must be graven,
and on the helm-blade,
and with fire to the oar applied.
No surge shall be so towering,
nor waves so dark,
but from the ocean thou safe shalt come.

11. Lim-(branch-) runes thou must know,
if thou a leech wouldst be,
and wounds know how to heal.
On the bark they must be graven,
and on the leaves of trees,
of those whose boughs bend eastward.

12. Mál-(speech-) runes thou must know,
if thou wilt that no one
for injury with hate requite thee.
Those thou must wind,
those thou must wrap round,
those thou must altogether place
in the assembly,
where people have
into full court to go.

13. Hug-(thought-) runes thou must know,
if thou a wiser man wilt be
than every other.
Those interpreted,
those graved,
those devised Hropt,
from the fluid,
which had leaked
from Heiddraupnir’s head,
and from Hoddropnir’s horn.

14. On a rock he stood,
with edged sword,
a helm on his head he bore.
Then spake Mim’s head
its first wise word,
and true saying uttered.

15. They are, it said, on the shield graven,
which stands before the shining god,
or Arvakr’s ear,
and on Alsvid’s hoof,
on the wheel which rolls
under Rögnir’s ear,
on Sleipnir’s teeth,
and on the sledge’s bands.

16. On the bear’s paw,
and on Bragi’s tongue,
on the wolf’s claws,
and the eagle’s beak,
on bloody wings,
and on the bridge’s end,
on the releasing hand,
and on the healing’s track.

17. On glass and on gold,
on amulets of men,
in wine and in wort,
and in the welcome seat,
on Gúngnir’s point,
and on Grani’s breast,
on the Norn’s nail,
and the owl’s neb.

18. All were erased
that were inscribed,
and mingled with the sacred mead,
and sent on distant ways:
they are with the Æsir,
they are with the Alfar,
some with the wise Vanir,
some human beings have.

19. Those are bók-runes,
those are biarg-runes,
and all öl-(beer-) runes,
and precious megin-(power-) runes,
for those who can,
without confusion or corruption,
turn them to his welfare.
Use, if thou hast understood them,
until the powers perish.

20. Now thou shalt choose,
since a choice is offered thee,
keen armed warrior!
my speech, or silence:
think over it in thy mind.
All evils have their measure.

21. I will not flee,
though thou shouldst know me doomed.
I am not born a craven.
Thy friendly counsels all 
I will receive,
as long as life is in me.

22. This I thee counsel first:
that towards thy kin
thou bear thee blameless.
Take not hasty vengeance,
although they raise up strife:
that, it is said, benefits the dead.

23. This I thee counsel secondly:
that no oath thou swear, 
if it be not true.
Cruel bonds
follow broken faith:
accursed is the faith-breaker.

24. This I thee counsel thirdly:
that in the assembly thou
contend not with a fool;
for an unwise man
oft utters words
worse than he knows of.

25. All is vain,
if thou holdest silence;
then wilt thou seem a craven born,
or else truly accursed.
Doubtful is a servant’s testimony,
unless a good one thou gettest.
On the next day
let his life go forth,
and so men’s lies reward.

26. This I counsel thee fourthly:
if a wicked sorceress
dwells by the way,
to go on is better
than there to lodge,
though night may overtake thee.

27. Of searching eyes
the sons of men have need,
when fiercely they have to fight:
oft pernicious women
by the way-side sit,
who swords and valour deaden.

28. This I thee counsel fifthly:
although thou see fair women
on the benches sitting,
let not their kindred’s silver
over thy sleep have power.
To kiss thee entice no woman.

29. This I thee counsel sixthy:
although among men pass
offensive tipsy talk,
never while drunken quarrel
with men of war:
wine steals the wits of many.

30. Brawls and drink 
to many men have been
a heart-felt sorrow;
to some their death,
to some calamity:
many are the griefs of men!

31. This I thee counsel seventhly:
if thou hast disputes
with a daring man,
better it is for men
to fight than to be burnt
within their dwelling.

32. This I thee counsel eighthly:
that thou guard thee against evil,
and eschew deceit.
Entice no maiden,
nor wife of man,
nor to wantoness incite.

33. This is thee counsel ninthly:
that thou corpses bury,
wherever on the earth thou findest them,
whether from sickness they have died,
or from the sea,
or are from weapons dead.

34. Let a mound be raised
for those departed;
let their hands and head be washed,
combed, and wiped dry,
ere in the coffin they are laid:
and pray for their happy sleep.

35. This I thee counsel tenthly:
that thou never trust
a foe’s kinsman’s promises,
whose brother thou hast slain,
or sire laid low:
there is a wolf
in a young son,
though he with gold be gladdened.

36. Strifes and fierce enmities
think not to be lulled,
no more than deadly injury.
Wisdom and fame in arms
a prince not easily acquires,
who shall of men be foremost.

37. This I counsel thee eleventhly:
that thou at evil look,
what course it may take.
A long life, it seems to me 
the prince may (not) enjoy; -
fierce disputes will arise.

        Sigurd said: “A wiser mortal exists not, and I swear that I will possess thee, for thou art after my heart.” She answered: “Thee I will have before all others, though I have to choose among all men.” And this they confirmed with oaths to each other.

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