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In the translation of
Lays of the
Brot af Sigurtharkvithu
Fragment of a Sigurth
Fragment of a Sigurth
LayThe gap of eight leaves in the Codex Regius (cf. introductory
note to the Sigrdrifumol) is followed by a passage of twenty
stanzas which is evidently the end of a longer poem, the greater part of
it having been contained in the lost section of the manuscript. There is
here little question of such a compilation as made up the so-called
Reginsmol, Fafnismol, and Sigrdrifumol; the extant
fragment shows every sign of being part of a poem which, as it stood in
the manuscript, was a complete and definite unit. The end is clearly
marked; the following poem, Guthrunarkvitha I, carries a specific
heading in the manuscript, so that there is no uncertainty as to where
the fragment closes.
It seems altogether
likely that the twenty stanzas thus remaining are the end of a poem
entitled Sigurtharkvitha (Lay of Sigurth), and, more
specifically, the "Long" Lay of Sigurth. The extant and complete Sigurth
lay, a relatively late work, is referred to by the annotator as the
"Short" Lay of Sigurth, which, of course, presupposes the existence of a
longer poem with the same title. As the "short" lay is one of the
longest poems in the whole collection (seventy stanzas), it follows that
the other one must have been considerably more extensive in order to
have been thus distinguished by its length. It may be guessed, then,
that not less than eighty or a hundred stanzas, and possibly more, of
the "Long" Lay of Sigurth have been lost with the missing pages of
The narrative, from the
point at which the so-called Sigrdrifumol breaks off to that at
which the Brot takes it up, is given with considerable detail in
the Volsungasaga. In this prose narrative four stanzas are quoted, and
one of them is specifically introduced with the phrase: "as is told in
the Lay of Sigurth." It is possible, but most unlikely, that the entire
passage paraphrases this poem alone; such an assumption would give the
Lay of Sigurth not less than two hundred and fifty stanzas (allowing
about fifteen stanzas to each of the missing pages), and moreover there
are inconsistencies in the Volsungasaga narrative suggesting that
different and more or less conflicting poems were used as sources. The
chances are that the "Long" Lay of Sigurth filled approximately the
latter half of the lost section of the manuscript, the first half
including poems of which the only trace is to be found in the
Volsungasaga prose paraphrase and in two of the stanzas therein
The course of the
Volsungasaga's story from the Sigrdrifumol to the Brot
is, briefly, as follows. After leaving the Valkyrie, Sigurth comes to
the dwelling of Heimir, Brynhild's brother-in-law, where he meets
Brynhild and they swear oaths of fidelity anew (the Volsungasaga
is no more lucid with regard to the Brynhild-Sigrdrifa confusion than
was the annotator of the poems). Then the scene shifts to the home of
the Gjukungs. Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, has a terrifying dream, and
visits Brynhild to have it explained, which the latter does by
foretelling pretty much everything that is going to happen; this episode
was presumably the subject of a separate poem in the lost section of the
manuscript. Guthrun returns home, and Sigurth soon arrives, to be made
enthusiastically welcome. Grimhild, mother of Gunnar and Guthrun, gives
him a magic draught which makes him forget all about Brynhild, and
shortly thereafter he marries Guthrun.
Then follows the episode
of the winning of Brynhild for Gunnar (cf. Gripisspo, 97 and
note). This was certainly the subject of a poem, possibly of the first
part of the "Long" Lay of Sigurth, although it seems more likely that
the episode was dealt with in a separate poem. The Volsungasaga
quotes two stanzas describing Sigurth's triumphant passing through the
flames after Gunnar has failed and the two have changed forms. They run
The fire raged, the
earth was rocked,
The flames leaped high to heaven itself;
Few were the hardy heroes would dare
To ride or leap the raging flames.
Sigurth urged Grani
then with his sword,
The fire slackened before the hero,
The flames sank low for the greedy of fame,
The armor flashed that Regin had fashioned.
After Sigurth has spent
three nights with Brynhild, laying his sword between them (cf.
Gripisspo, 41 and note), he and Gunnar return home, while Brynhild
goes to the dwelling of her brother-in-law, Heimir, and makes ready for
her marriage with Gunnar,
directing Heimir to care
for her daughter by Sigurth, Aslaug. The wedding takes place, to be
followed soon after by the quarrel between Guthrun and Brynhild, in
which the former betrays the fact that it was Sigurth, and not Gunnar,
who rode through the flames. Brynhild speaks with contempt of Guthrun
and her whole family, and the following stanza, which presumably be
longs to the same Sigurth lay as the Brot, is quoted at this point:
Sigurth the dragon
slew, and that
Will men recall while the world remains;
But little boldness thy brother had
To ride or leap the raging flames.
Gunnar and Sigurth alike
try to appease the angry Brynhild, but in vain. After Sigurth has talked
with her, his leaving her hall is described in the following stanza,
introduced by the specific phrase: "as is said in the Lay of Sigurth":
Forth went Sigurth,
and speech he sought not,
The friend of heroes, his head bowed down;
Such was his grief that asunder burst
His mail-coat all of iron wrought.
Brynhild then tells
Gunnar that she had given herself wholly to Sigurth before she had
become Gunnar's wife (the confusion between the two stories is commented
on in the note to Gripisspo, 47), and Gunnar discusses plans of
vengance with his brother, Hogni. It is at this point that the action of
the Brot begins. Beginning with this poem, and thence to the end
of the cycle, the German features of the narrative predominate (cf.
introductory note to Gripisspo).
Brot af Sigurtharkvithu -
Fragment of a Sigurth Lay
1. "(What evil deed has Sigurth) done,
That the hero's life thou fain wouldst have?"
2. "Sigurth oaths to me hath sworn,
Oaths hath sworn, and all hath broken;
He betrayed me there where truest all
His oaths, methinks, he ought to have kept."
3. "Thy heart hath Brynhild whetted to hate,
Evil to work and harm to win,
She grudges the honor that Guthrun has,
And that joy of herself thou still dost have."
4. They cooked a wolf,
they cut up a snake,
They gave to Gotthorm the greedy one's flesh,
Before the men, to murder minded,
Laid their hands on the hero bold.
5. Slain was Sigurth
south of the Rhine;
From a limb a raven called full loud:
Your blood shall redden Atli's blade,
And your oaths shall bind you both in chains."
6. Without stood
Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter,
Hear now the speech that first she spake:
"Where is Sigurth now, the noble king,
That my kinsmen riding before him come?"
7. Only this did Hogni
"Sigurth we with our swords have slain;
The gray horse mourns by his master dead."
8. Then Brynhild spake,
the daughter of Buthli:
"Well shall ye joy in weapons and lands;
Sigurth alone of all had been lord,
If a little longer his life had been.
9. "Right were it not
that so he should rule
O'er Gjuki's wealth and the race of the Goths;
Five are the sons for ruling the folk,
And greedy of fight, that he hath fathered."
10. Then Brynhild
laughed-- and the building echoed--
Only once, with all her heart;
"Long shall ye joy in lands and men,
Now ye have slain the hero noble."
11. Then Guthrun spake,
the daughter of Gjuki:
"Much thou speakest in evil speech;
Accursed be Gunnar, Sigurth's killer,
Vengeance shall come for his cruel heart."
12. Early came evening,
and ale was drunk,
And among them long and loud they talked.;
They slumbered all when their beds they sought,
But Gunnar alone was long awake.
13. His feet were
tossing, he talked to himself,
And the slayer of hosts began to heed
What the twain from the tree had told him then,
The raven and eagle, as home they rode.
14. Brynhild awoke,
the daughter of Buthli,
The warrior's daughter, ere dawn of day:
"Love me or hate me, the harm is done,
And my grief cries out, or else I die."
15. Silent were all
who heard her speak,
And nought of the heart of the queen they knew,
Who wept such tears the thing to tell
That laughing once of the men she had won.
16. "Gunnar, I dreamed a dream full grim:
In the hall were corpses; cold was my bed;
And, ruler, thou didst joyless ride,
With fetters bound in the foemen's throng.
". . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
Utterly now your Niflung race
All shall die; your oaths ye have broken.
18. "Thou hast, Gunnar,
the deed forgot,
When blood in your footprints both ye mingled;
All to him hast repaid with ill
Who fain had made thee the foremost of kings.
19. "Well did he prove,
when proud he rode
To win me then thy wife to be,
How true the host-slayer ever had held
The oaths he had made with the monarch young.
20. "The wound-staff
then, all wound with gold,
The hero let between us lie;
With fire the edge was forged full keen,
And with drops of venom the blade was damp."
Here it is told in this
poem about the death of Sigurth, and the story goes here that they slew
him out of doors, but some say that they slew him in the house, on his
bed while he was sleeping. But German men say that they killed him out
of doors in the forest; and so it is told in the old Guthrun lay, that
Sigurth and Gjuki's sons had ridden to the council-place, and that he
was slain there. But in this they are all agreed, that they deceived him
in his trust of them, and fell upon him when he was lying down and
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