La balada de Hámdir

1. Great the evils | once that grew,
With the dawning sad | of the sorrow of elves;
In early mom | awake for men
The evils that grief | to each shall bring.

2. Not now, nor yet | of yesterday was it,
Long the time | that since hath lapsed,
So that little there is | that is half as old,
Since Guthrun, daughter | of Gjuki, whetted
Her sons so young | to Svanhild’s vengeance.

3. «The sister ye had | was Svanhild called,
And her did Jormunrek | trample with horses,
White and black | on the battle-way,
Gray, road-wonted, | the steeds of the Goths.

4. «Little the kings | of the folk are ye like,
For now ye are living | alone of my race.

5. «Lonely am I | as the forest aspen,
Of kindred bare | as the fir of its boughs,
My joys are all lost | as the leaves of the tree
When the scather of twigs | from the warm day turns.»

6. Then Hamther spake forth, | the high of heart:
«Small praise didst thou, Guthrun, | to Hogni’s deed give
When they wakened thy Sigurth | from out of his sleep,
Thou didst sit on the bed | while his slayers laughed.

7. «Thy bed-covers white | with blood were red
From his wounds, and with gore | of thy husband were wet;
So Sigurth was slain, | by his corpse didst thou sit,
And of gladness didst think not: | ‘twas Gunnar’s doing.

8. «Thou wouldst strike at Atli | by the slaying of Erp
And the killing of Eitil; | thine own grief was worse;
So should each one wield | the wound-biting sword
That another it slays | but smites not himself.»

9. Then did Sorli speak out, | for wise was he ever:
«With my mother I never | a quarrel will make;
Full little in speaking | methinks ye both lack;
What askest thou, Guthrun, | that will give thee no tears?

10. «For thy brothers dost weep, | and thy boys so sweet,
Thy kinsmen in birth | on the battlefield slain;
Now, Guthrun, as; well | for us both shalt thou weep,
We sit doomed on our steeds, | and far hence shall we die.»

11. Then the fame-glad one– | on the steps she was–
The slender-fingered, | spake with her son:
«Ye shall danger have | if counsel ye heed not;
By two heroes alone | shall two hundred of Goths
Be bound or be slain | in the lofty-walled burg.»

12. From the courtyard they fared, | and fury they breathed;
The youths swiftly went | o’er the mountain wet,
On their Hunnish steeds, | death’s vengeance to have.

13. On the way they found | the man so wise;
. . . . . . . . . .
«What help from the weakling | brown may we have?»

14. So answered them | their half-brother then:
«So well may I | my kinsmen aid
As help one foot | from the other has.»

15. «How may afoot | its fellow aid,
Or a flesh-grown hand | another help?»

16. Then Erp spake forth, | his words were few,
As haughty he sat | on his horse’s back:
«To the timid ‘tis ill | the way to tell.»
A bastard they | the bold one called.

17. From their sheaths they drew | their shining swords,
Their blades, to the giantess | joy to give;
By a third they lessened | the might that was theirs,
The fighter young | to earth they felled.

18. Their cloaks they shook, | their swords they sheathed,
The high-born men | wrapped their mantles close.

19. On their road they fared | and an ill way found,
And their sister’s son | on a tree they saw,
On the wind-cold wolf-tree | west of the hall,
And cranes’-bait crawled; | none would care to linger.

20. In the hall was din, | the men drank deep,
And the horses’ hoofs | could no one hear,
Till the warrior hardy | sounded his horn.

21. Men came and the tale | to Jormunrek told
How warriors helmed | without they beheld:
«Take counsel wise, | for brave ones are come,
Of mighty men | thou the sister didst murder.»

22. Then Jormunrek laughed, | his hand laid on his beard,
His arms, for with wine | he was warlike, he called for;
He shook his brown locks, | on his white shield he looked,
And raised high the cup | of gold in his hand.

23. «Happy, methinks, | were I to behold
Hamther and Sorli | here in my hall;
The men would I bind | with strings of bows,
And Gjuki’s heirs | on the gallows hang.»

24. In the hall was clamor, | the cups were shattered,
Men stood in blood | from the breasts of the Goths,

25. Then did Hamther speak forth, | the haughty of heart:
«Thou soughtest, Jormunrek, | us to see,
Sons of one mother | seeking thy dwelling;
Thou seest thy hands, | thy feet thou beholdest,
Jormunrek, flung | in the fire so hot.»

26. Then roared the king, | of the race of the gods,
Bold in his armor, | as roars a bear:
«Stone ye the men | that steel will bite not,
Sword nor spear, | the sons of Jonak.»

Sorli spake:
27. «Ill didst win, brother, | when the bag thou didst open,
Oft from that bag | came baleful counsel;
Heart hast thou, Hamther, | if knowledge thou hadst!
A man without wisdom | is lacking in much.»

Hamther spake:
28. «His head were now off | if Erp were living,
The brother so keen | whom we killed on our road,
The warrior noble,– | ‘twas the Norns that drove me
The hero to slay | who in fight should be holy.

29. «In fashion of wolves | it befits us not
Amongst ourselves to strive,
Like the hounds of the Norns, | that nourished were
In greed mid wastes so grim.

30. «We have greatly fought, | o’er the Goths do we stand
By our blades laid low, | like eagles on branches;
Great our fame though we die | today or tomorrow;
None outlives the night | when the Norris have spoken.»

31. Then Sorli beside | the gable sank,
And Hamther fell | at the back of the house.

This is called the old ballad of Hamther.

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