Sigurd the Volsung

Book II, Pre-Kelmscott Edition, 1876, edited by Stuart Blersch

II.  Sigurd getteth to him the horse that is called Greyfell

2095

Now waxeth the son of Sigmund in might and goodliness,
And soft the days win over, and all men his beauty bless.
But amidst the summer season was the Isle-queen Hiordis wed
To King Elf the son of the Helper, and fair their life-days sped.
Peace lay on the land for ever, and the fields gave good increase,
2100
And there was Sigurd waxing mid the plenty and the peace.

Now hath the child grown greater, and is keen and eager of wit
And full of understanding, and oft hath he joy to sit
Amid talk of weighty matters when the wise men meet for speech;
And joyous he is moreover and blithe and kind with each.
2105
But Regin the wise craftsmaster heedeth the youngling well,
And before the Kings he cometh, and saith such words to tell.

"I have fostered thy youth, King Elf, and thine O Helper of men,
And ye wot that such a master no king shall see again;
And now would I foster Sigurd; for, though he be none of thy blood,
2110
Mine heart of his days that shall be speaketh abundant good."

Then spake the Helper of men-folk: "Yea, do herein thy will:
For thou art the Master of Masters, and hast learned me all my skill:
But think how bright is this youngling, and thy guile from him withhold;
For this craft of thine hath shown me that thy heart is grim and cold,
2115
Though three men's lives thrice over thy wisdom might not learn;
And I love this son of Sigmund, and mine heart to him doth yearn."

Then Regin laughed, and answered: "I doled out cunning to thee;
But nought with him will I measure: yet no cold-heart shall he be,
Nor grim, nor evil-natured: for whate'er my will might frame,
2120
Gone forth is the word of the Norns, that abideth ever the same.
And now, despite my cunning, how deem ye I shall die?"

And they said he would live as he listed, and at last in peace should lie
When he listed to live no longer; so mighty and wise he was.
But again he laughed and answered: "One day it shall come to pass,
2125
That a beardless youth shall slay me: I know the fateful doom;
But nought may I withstand it, as it heaves up dim through the gloom."

So is Sigurd now with Regin, and he learns him many things;
Yea, all save the craft of battle, that men learned the sons of kings:
The smithying sword and war-coat; the carving runes aright;
2130
The tongues of many countries, and soft speech for men's delight;
The dealing with the harp-strings, and the winding ways of song.
So wise of heart waxed Sigurd, and of body wondrous strong:
And he chased the deer of the forest, and many a wood-wolf slew,
And many a bull of the mountains: and the desert dales he knew,
2135
And the heaths that the wind sweeps over; and seaward would he fare,
Far out from the outer skerries, and alone the sea-wights dare.

On a day he sat with Regin amidst the unfashioned gold,
And the silver grey from the furnace; and Regin spake and told
Sweet tales of the days that have been, and the Kings of the bold and wise;
2140
Till the lad’s heart swelled with longing and lit his sunbright eyes.

Then Regin looked upon him: “Thou too shalt one day ride
As the Volsung Kings went faring through the noble world and wide.
For this land is nought and narrow, and Kings of the carles are these.
And their earls are acre-biders, and their hearts are dull with peace.”

2145

But Sigurd knit his brows, and in wrathful wise he said:
“Ill words of those thou speakest that my youth have cherished.
And the friends that have made me merry, and the land that is fair and good.”

Then Regin laughed and answered: “Nay, well I see by thy mood
That wide wilt thou ride in the world like thy kin of the earlier days:
2150
And wilt thou be wroth with thy master that he longs for thy winning the praise?
And now if the sooth thou sayest, that these King-folk cherish thee well,
Then let them give thee a gift whereof the world shall tell:
Yea hearken to this my counsel, and crave for a battle-steed.”

Yet wroth was the lad and answered: “I have many a horse to my need,
2155
And all that the heart desireth, and what wouldst thou wish me more?”

Then Regin answered and said: “Thy kin of the Kings of yore
Were the noblest men of men-folk; and their hearts would never rest
Whatso of good they had gotten, if their hands held not the best.
Now do thou after my counsel, and crave of thy fosterers here
2160
That thou choose of the horses of Gripir whichso thine heart holds dear.”

He spake and his harp was with him, and he smote the strings full sweet,
And sang of the host of the Valkyrs, how they ride the battle to meet,
And the dew from the dear manes drippeth as they ride in the first of the sun,
And the tree-boughs open to meet it when the wind of the dawning is done:
2165
And the deep dales drink its sweetness and spring into blossoming grass,
And the earth groweth fruitful of men, and bringeth their glory to pass.

Then the wrath ran off from Sigurd, and he left the smithying stead
While the song yet rang in the doorway: and that eve to the Kings he said:
“Will ye do so much for mine asking as to give me a horse to my will?
2170
For belike the days shall come, that shall all my heart fulfill,
And teach me the deeds of a king.”

Then answered King Elf and spake:
“The stalls of the Kings are before thee to set aside or to take,
And nought we begrudge thee the best.”

Yet answered Sigurd again;
2175
For his heart of the mountains aloft and the windy drift was fain:
“Fair seats for the knees of Kings! but now do I ask for a gift
Such as all the world shall be praising, the best of the strong and the swift
Ye shall give me a token for Gripir, and bid him to let me choose
From out of the noble stud-beasts that run in his meadow loose.
2180
But if overmuch I have asked you, forget this prayer of mine,
And deem the word unspoken, and get ye to the wine.”

Then smiled King Elf, and answered: "A long way wilt thou ride,
To where unpeace and troubles and the griefs of the soul abide,
Yea unto the death at the last: yet surely shall thou win
2185
The praise of many a people: so have thy way herein.
Forsooth no more may we hold thee than the hazel copse may hold
The sun of the early dawning, that turneth it all unto gold."

Then sweetly Sigurd thanked them; and through the night he lay
Mid dreams of many a matter till the dawn was on the way;
2190
Then he shook the sleep from off him, and that dwelling of Kings he lef
And wended his ways unto Gripir. On a crag from the mountain reft
Was the house of the old King builded; and a mighty house it was,
Though few were the sons of men that over its threshold would pass:
But the wild ernes cried about it, and the vultures toward it flew,
2195
And the winds from the heart of the mountains searched every chamber through,
And about were meads wide-spreading; and many a beast thereon,
Yea some that are men-folk's terror, their sport and pasture won.

So into the hall went Sigurd; and amidst was Gripir set
In a chair of the sea-beast's tooth; and his sweeping beard nigh met
2200
The floor that was green as the ocean, and his gown was of mountain-gold,
And the kingly staff in his hand was knobbed with the crystal cold.

Now the first of the twain spake Gripir: "Hail King with the eyen bright!
Nought needest thou show the token, for I know of thy life and thy light.
And no need to tell of thy message; it was wafted here on the wind,
2205
That thou wouldst be coming today a horse in my meadow to find:
And strong must he be for the bearing of those deeds of thine that shall be.
Now choose thou of all the way-wearers that are running loose in my lea,
And be glad as thine heart will have thee and the fate that leadeth thee on,
And I bid thee again come hither when the sword of worth is won,
2210
And thy loins are girt for thy going on the road that before thee lies;
For a glimmering over its darkness is come before mine eyes.”

Then again gat Sigurd outward, and adown the steep he ran
And unto the horse-fed meadow: but lo, a grey-clad man,
One-eyed and seeming ancient, there met him by the way:
2215
And he spake: "Thou hastest, Sigurd; yet tarry till I say
A word that shall well bestead thee: for I know of these mountains well
And all the lea of Gripir, and the beasts that thereon dwell."

"Wouldst thou have red gold for thy tidings? art thou Gripir's horse-herd then?
Nay sure, for thy face is shining like the battle-eager men
2220
My master Regin tells of: and I love thy cloud-grey gown,
And thy visage gleams above it like a thing my dreams have known."

"Nay whiles have I heeded the horse-kind," then spake that elder of days,
"And sooth do the sages say, when the beasts of my breeding they praise.
There is one thereof in the meadow, and, wouldst thou cull him out,
2225
Thou shalt follow an elder's counsel, who hath brought strange things about,
Who hath known thy father aforetime, and other kings of thy kin."

So Sigurd said, "I am ready; and what is the deed to win?"

He said: "We shall drive the horses adown to the water-side,
That cometh forth from the mountains, and note what next shall betide."

2230

Then the twain sped on together, and they drave the horses on
Till they came to a rushing river, a water wide and wan;
And the white mews hovered o'er it; but none might hear their cry
For the rush and the rattle of waters, as the downlong flood swept by.
So the whole herd took the river and strove the stream to stem,
2235
And many a brave steed was there; but the flood o'ermastered them:
And some, it swept them down-ward, and some won back to bank,
Some, caught by the net of the eddies, in the swirling hubbub sank;
But one of all swam over, and they saw his mane of grey
Toss over the flowery meadows, a bright thing far away:
2240
Wide then he wheeled about them, then took the stream again
And with the waves' white horses mingled his cloudy mane.

Then spake the elder of days: "Hearken now, Sigurd, and hear;
Time was when I gave thy father a gift thou shalt yet deem dear,
And this horse is a gift of my giving:-heed nought where thou mayst ride:
2245
For I have seen thy fathers in a shining house abide,
And on earth they thought of its threshold, and the gifts I had to give;
Nor prated for a little longer, and a little longer to live."

Then forth he strode to the mountains, and fain was Sigurd now.
To ask him many a matter: but dim did his bright shape grow,
2250
As a man from the litten doorway fades into the dusk of night;
And the sun in the high-noon shone, and the world was exceeding bright.

So Sigurd turned to the river and stood by the wave-wet strand,
And the grey horse swims to his feet and lightly leaps aland,
And the youngling looks upon him, and deems none beside him good.
2255
And indeed, as tells the story, he was come of Sleipnir's blood,
The tireless horse of Odin: cloud-grey he was of hue,
And it seemed as Sigurd backed him that Sigmund's son he knew,
So glad he went beneath him. Then the youngling's song arose
As he brushed through the noontide blossoms of Gripir's mighty close,
2260
Then he singeth the song of Greyfell, the horse that Odin gave,
Who swam through the sweeping river, and back through the toppling wave.

 

Back to top