Sigurd the Volsung

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

III. Regin telleth Sigurd of his kindred, and of the Gold that was accursed from ancient days

Now yet the days pass over, and more than words may tell
Grows Sigurd strong and lovely, and all children love him well.
But oft he looks on the mountains and many a time is fain
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To know of what lies beyond them, and learn of the wide world's gain.
And he saith: “I dwell in a land that is ruled by none of my blood;
And my mother’s sons are waxing, and fair kings shall they be and good;
And their servant or their betrayer — not one of these will I be.
Yet needs must I wait for a little till Odin calls for me.”

2270

Now again it happed on a day that he sat in Regin's hall
And hearkened many tidings of what had chanced to fall,
And of kings that sought their kingdoms o'er many a waste and wild,
And at last saith the crafty master:
                                                           "Thou art King Sigmund's child:
Wilt thou wait till these kings of the carles shall die in a little land,
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Or wilt thou serve their sons and carry the cup to their hand;
Or abide in vain for the day that never shall come about,
When their banners shall dance in the wind and shake to the war-gods' shout?"

Then Sigurd answered and said: "Nought such do I look to be.
But thou, a deedless man, too much thou eggest me:
2280
And these folk are good and trusty, and the land is lovely and sweet,
And in rest and in peace it lieth as the floor of Odin's feet:
Yet I know that the world is wide, and filled with deeds unwrought;
And for e'en such work was I fashioned, lest the songcraft come to nought,
When the harps of God-home tinkle, and the Gods are at stretch to hearken:
2285
Lest the hosts of the Gods be scanty when their day hath begun to darken,
When the bonds of the Wolf wax thin, and Loki fretteth his chain.
And sure for the house of my fathers full oft my heart is fain,
And meseemeth I hear them talking of the day when I shall come,
And of all the burden of deeds, that my hand shall bear them home.
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And so when the deed is ready, nowise the man shall lack:
But the wary foot is the surest, and the hasty oft turns back.”

Then answered Regin the guileful: "The deed is ready to hand,
Yet holding my peace is the best, for well thou lovest the land;
And thou lovest thy life moreover, and the peace of thy youthful days,
2295
And why should the full-fed feaster his hand to the rye-bread raise?
Yet they say that Sigmund begat thee and he looked to fashion a man.
Fear nought; he lieth quiet in his mound by the sea-waves wan."

So shone the eyes of Sigurd, that the shield against him hung
Cast back their light as the sunbeams; but his voice to the roof-tree rung:
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"Tell me, thou Master of Masters, what deed is the deed I shall do?
Nor mock thou the son of Sigmund lest the day of his birth thou rue."

Then answered the Master of Sleight: "The deed is the righting of wrong,
And the quelling a bale and a sorrow that the world hath endured o'erlong,
And the winning a treasure untold, that shall make thee more than the kings;
2305
Thereof is the Helm of Aweing, the wonder of earthly things,
And thereof is its very fellow, the War-Coat all of gold,
That has not its like in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told."

Then answered Sigurd the Volsung: "How long hereof hast thou known?
And what unto thee is this treasure, that thou seemest to give as thine own?"

2310

"Alas!" quoth the smithying master, "it is mine, yet none of mine,
Since my heart herein avails not, and my hand is frail and fine—
It is long since I first came hither to seek a man for my need;
For I saw by a glimmering light that hence would spring the deed,
And many a deed of the world: but the generations passed,
2315
And the first of the days was as near to the end that I sought as the last;
Till I looked on thine eyes in the cradle: and now I deem through thee,
That the end of my days of waiting, and the end of my woes shall be."

Then Sigurd awhile was silent; but at last he answered and said:
"Thou shalt have thy will and the treasure, and shalt take the curse on thine head
2320
If a curse the gold enwrappeth: but the deed will I surely do,
For today the dreams of my childhood hath bloomed in my heart anew:
And I long to look on the world and the glory of the earth
And to deal in the dealings of men, and garner the harvest of worth.
But tell me, thou Master of Masters, where lieth this measureless wealth;
2325
Is it guarded by swords of the earl-folk, or kept by cunning and stealth?
Is it over the main sea's darkness, or beyond the mountain wall?
Or e'en in these peaceful acres anigh to the hands of all?"

Then Regin answered sweetly: "Hereof must a tale be told:
Bide sitting, thou son of Sigmund, on the heap of unwrought gold,
2330
And hearken of wondrous matters, and of things unheard, unsaid,
And deeds of my beholding ere the first of Kings was made.

"And first ye shall know of a sooth, that I never was born of the race
Which the masters of God-home have made to cover the fair earth's face;
But I come of the Dwarfs departed; and fair was the earth whileome
2335
Ere the short-lived thralls of the Gods amidst its dales were come:--
And how were we worse than the Gods, though maybe we lived not as long?
Yet no weight of memory maimed us; nor aught we knew of wrong.
What felt our souls of shaming, what knew our hearts of love?
We did and undid at pleasure, and repented nought thereof.
2340
— Yea we were exceeding mighty — bear with me yet, my son;
For whiles can I scarcely think it that our days are wholly done.
And trust not thy life in my hands in the day when most I seem
Like the Dwarfs that are long departed, and most of my kindred I dream.

“So as we dwelt came tidings that the Gods amongst us were,
2345
And the people came from Asgard: then rose up hope and fear,2345
And strange shapes of things went flitting betwixt the night and the eve,
And our sons waxed wild and wrathful, and our daughters learned to grieve.
Then we fell to the working of metal, and the deeps of the earth would know,
And we dealt with venom and leechcraft, and we fashioned spear and bow,
2350
And we set the ribs to the oak-keel, and looked on the landless sea;
And the world began to be such-like as the Gods would have it to be.
In the womb of the woeful earth had they quickened the grief and the gold.

"It was Reidmar the Ancient begat me; and now was he waxen old,
And a covetous man and a king; and he bade, and I built him a hall,
2355
And a golden glorious house; and thereto his sons did he call,
And he bade them be evil and wise, that his will through them might be wrought.
Then he gave unto Fafnir my brother the soul that feareth nought,
And the brow of the hardened iron, and the hand that may never fail,
And the greedy heart of a king, and the ear that hears no wail.

2360

"But next unto Otter my brother he gave the snare and the net,
And the longing to wend through the wild-wood, and wade the highways wet:
And the foot that never resteth, while aught be left alive
That hath cunning to match man's cunning or might with his might to strive.

"And to me, the least and the youngest, what gift for the slaying of ease?
2365
Save the grief that remembers the past, and the fear that the future sees;
And the hammer and fashioning-iron, and the living coal of fire;
And the craft that createth a semblance, and fails of the heart's desire;
And the toil that each dawning quickens and the task that is never done;
And the heart that longeth ever, nor will look to the deed that is won.

2370

"Thus gave my father the gifts that might never be taken again;
Far worse were we now than the Gods, and but little better than men.
But yet of our ancient might one thing had we left us still:
We had craft to change our semblance, and could shift us at our will
Into bodies of the beast-kind, or fowl, or fishes cold;
2375
For belike no fixèd semblance we had in the days of old,
Till the Gods were waxen busy, and all things their form must take
That knew of good and evil, and longed to gather and make.

"So dwelt we, brethren and father; and Fafnir my brother fared
As the scourge and compeller of all things, and left no wrong undared;
2380
But for me, I toiled and I toiled; and fair grew my father's house;
But writhen and foul were the hands that had made it glorious;
And the love of women left me, and the fame of sword and shield:
And the sun and the winds of heaven, and the fowl and the grass of the field
Were grown as the tools of my smithy; and all the world I knew,
2385
And the glories that lie beyond it, and whitherward all things drew;
"And myself a little fragment amidst it all I saw,
Grim, cold-hearted, and unmighty as the tempest-driven straw.
—Let be.—For Otter my brother saw seldom field or fold,
And he oftenest used that custom, whereof e'en now I told,
2390
And would shift his shape with the wood-beasts and the things of land and sea;
And he knew what joy their hearts had, and what they longed to be,
And their dim-eyed understanding, and his wood-craft waxed so great,
That he seemed the king of the creatures and their very mortal fate.

"Now as the years won over three folk of the heavenly halls
2395
Grew aweary of sleepless sloth, and the day that nought befalls;
And they fain would look on the earth, and their latest handiwork,
And turn the fine gold over, lest a flaw therein should lurk.
And the three were the heart-wise Odin, the Father of the Slain,
And Loki, the World's Begrudger, who maketh all labour vain,
2400
And Hœnir, the Utter-Blameless, who wrought the hope of man,
And his heart and inmost yearnings, when first the work began;—"
-The God that was aforetime, and hereafter yet shall be
When the new light yet undreamed of shall shine o’er earth and sea.

“Thus about the world they wended and deemed it fair and good,
2405
And they loved their life-days dearly : so came they to the wood,
And the lea without a shepherd and the dwellings of the deer,
And unto a mighty water that ran from a fathomless mere.
Now that flood my brother Otter had haunted many a day
For its plenteous fruit of fishes; and there on the bank he lay
2410
As the Gods came wandering thither; and he slept, and in his dreams
He saw the downlong river, and its fishy-peopled streams,
And the swift smooth heads of its forces, and their watch in the rock-halls keep.
And so, as he thought of it all, and its deeds and its wanderings,
Whereby it ran to the sea down the road of scaly things,
2415
His body was changed with his thought, as yet was the wont of our kind,
And he grew but an Otter indeed; and his eyes were sleeping and blind
The while he devoured the prey, a golden red-flecked trout.
Then passed by Odin and Haenir, nor cumbered their souls with doubt;
But Loki lingered a little, and guile in his heart arose,
2420
And he saw through the shape of the Otter, and beheld a chief of his foes,
A king of the free and the careless : so he called up his baleful might,
And gathered his godhead together, and tore a shard outright
From the rock-wall of the river, and across its green wells cast;
And roaring over the waters that bolt of evil passed,
2425
And smote my brother Otter that his heart's life fled away,
And bore his man’s shape with it, and beast-like there he lay,
Stark dead on the sun-lit blossoms: but the Evil God rejoiced,
And because of the sound of his singing the wild grew many-voiced.

“Then the three Gods waded the river, and no word Haenir spake,
2430
For his thoughts were set on God-home, and the day that is ever awake.
But Odin laughed in his wrath, and murmured: ‘Ah, how long,
Till the iron shall ring on the anvil for the shackles of thy wrong!’

“Then Loki takes up the quarry, and is e’en as a man again’
And the three wend on through the wild-wood till they come to a grassy plain
2435
Beneath the untrodden mountains; and lo a noble house,
And a hall with great craft fashioned, and made full glorious;
But night on the earth was falling; so scantly might they see
The wealth of its smooth-wrought stonework and its world of imagery:
Then Loki bade turn thither since day was at an end,
2440
And into that noble dwelling the lords of God-home wend;
And the porch was fair and mighty, and so smooth-wrought was its gold,
That the mirrored stars of heaven therein might ye behold:
But the hall, what words shall tell it, how fair it rose aloft,
And the marvels of its windows, and its golden hangings soft,
2445
And the forest of its pillars! and each like the wave’s heart shone
And the mirrored boughs of the garden were dancing fair thereon.
-Long years agone was it builded, and where are its wonders now?

“Now the men of God-home marveled, and gazed through the golden glow,
And a man like a covetous king amidst of the hall they saw;
2450
And his chair was the tooth of the whale, wrought smooth with never a flaw;
And his gown was the sea-born purple, and he bore a crown on his head,
But never a sword was before him: kind-seeming words he said,
And bade rest to the weary feet that had worn the wild so long.
So they sat, and were men by seeming; and there rose up music and song,
2455
And they ate and drank and were merry: but amidst the glee of the cup
They felt themselves tangled and caught, as when the net cometh up
Before the folk of the firth, and the main sea lieth far off;
And the laughter of lips they hearkened, and that hall-abider’s scoff,
As his face and his mocking eyes anigh to their faces drew,
2460
And their godhead was caught in the net, and no shift of creation they knew
To escape from their man-like bodies; so great that day was the Earth.

“Then spake the hall-abider: ‘Where then is thy guileful mirth,
And thy hall-glee gone, O Loki? Come, Haenir, fashion now
My heart for love and for hope, that the fear in my body may grow,
2465
That I may grieve and be sorry, that the ruth may arise in me,
As thou dealest with the first of men-folk, when a master-smith thou wouldst be.
And thou, AllFather Odin, hast thou come on a bastard brood? 
Or hadst thou belike a brother, thy twin for evil and good,
That waked amidst thy slumber, and slumbered midst thy work?
2470
Nay, Wise-one, art thou silent as a child amidst the mirk?
Ah, I know ye are called the Gods, and are might men at home,
But now with a guilt on your heads to no feeble folk are ye come,
To a folk that need you nothing : time was when we knew you not :
Yet e’en then fresh was the winter, and the summer sun was hot,
2475
And the wood-meats stayed our hunger, and the water quenched out thirst,
Ere the good and the evil wedded and begat the best and the worst.
And how if today I undo it, that work of your fashioning.
If the web of the world run backward, and the high heaves lack a King?
--Woe’s me! for your ancient mastery shall help you at your need :
2480
If ye fill up the gulf of my longing and my empty heart of greed,
And slake the flame ye have quickened, then may ye go your ways
And get ye back to your kingship and the driving on of the days
To the day of the gathered war-hosts, and the tide of you Fateful Gloom.
Now nought may ye gainsay it that my mouth must speak the doom,
2485
For ye wot well I am Reidmar, and that there ye lie red-hand
From the slaughtering of my offspring, and the spoiling of my land;
For his death of my wold hath bereft me and every highway wet.
-Nay, Loki, naught avails it, well-fashioned is the net.
Come forth, my son, my war-god, and show the Gods their work,
2490
And thou who mightst learn e’en Loki, if need were to lie or lurk!’

“And there was I, I Regin, the smithier of the snare,
And high up Fafnir towered with the brow that knew no fear,
With the wrathful and pitiless heart that was born of my father’s will,
And the greed that the Gods had fashioned the fate of the earth to fulfill.

2495

“The spake the Father of Men : ‘We have wrought thee wrong indeed,
And, wouldst thou amend it with wrong, thine errand must we speed;
For I know of thine heart’s desire, and the gold thou shalt nowise lack,
-Nor all the works of the gold, but best were thy word drawn back,
If indeed the doom of the Norns be not utterly now gone forth.’

2500

“Then Reidmar laughed and answered: ‘So much is thy word of worth!
And they call thee Odin for this, and stretch forth hands in vain,
And pray for the gifts of a God who giveth and taketh again!
It was better in times past over, when we prayed for nought at all,
When no love taught us beseeching, and we had no troth to recall.
2505
Ye have changed the world, and it bindeth with the right and the wrong ye have made,
Nor may ye be Gods henceforward save the rightful ransom to be paid.
But perchance ye are weary of kingship, and will deal no more with the earth?
Then curse the world, and depart, and sit in your changeless mirth;
And there shall be no more kings, and battle and murder shall fail,
2510
And the world shall laugh and long not, nor weep, nor fashion the tale.’

“So spake Reidmar the Wise; but the wrath burned through his word,
And wasted his heart of wisdom; and there was Fafnir the Lord,
And there was Regin the Wright, and they raged at their father’s back:
And all these cried out together with the voice of the sea-storm’s wrack;

2515

"'O hearken Gods of the Goths! ye shall die, and we shall be Gods,
And rule your men belovèd with bitter-heavy rods,
And make them beasts beneath us, save today ye do our will,
And pay us the ransom of blood, and our hearts with the gold fulfill.'

"But Odin spake in answer, and his voice was awful and cold:
2520
'Give righteous doom, O Reidmar! say what ye will of the Gold!'

"Then Reidmar laughed in his heart, and his wrath and his wisdom fled,
And nought but his greed abided; and he spake from his throne and said:

"'Now hearken the doom I shall speak! Ye stranger-folk shall be free
When ye give me the Flame of the Waters, the gathered Gold of the Sea,
2525
That Andvari hideth rejoicing in the wan realm pale as the grave;
And the Master of Sleight shall fetch it, and the hand that never gave,
And the heart that begrudgeth for ever shall gather and give and rue.
—Lo this is the doom of the wise, and no doom shall be spoken anew.'

"Then Odin spake: 'It is well; the Curser shall seek for the curse;
2530
And the Greedy shall cherish the evil—and the seed of the Great they shall nurse.'

"No word spake Reidmar the great, for the eyes of his heart were turned
To the edge of the outer desert, so sore for the gold he yearned.
But Loki I loosed from the toils, and he goeth his way abroad;
And the heart of Odin he knoweth, and where he shall seek the Hoard.

2535

"There is a desert of dread in the uttermost part of the world,
Where over a wall of mountains is a mighty water hurled,
Whose hidden head none knoweth, nor where it meeteth the sea;
And that force is the Force of Andvari, and an Elf of the Dark is he.
In the cloud and the desert he dwelleth amid that land alone;
2540
And his work is the storing of treasure within his house of stone.
Time was when he knew of wisdom, and had many a tale to tell
Of the days before the Dwarf-age, and of what in that world befell:
And he knew of the stars and the sun, and the worlds that come and go
On the nether rim of heaven, and whence the wind doth blow,
2545
And how the sea hangs balanced betwixt the curving lands,
And how all drew together for the first Gods' fashioning hands.
But now is all gone from him, save the craft of gathering gold,
And he heedeth nought of the summer, nor knoweth the winter cold,
Nor looks to the sun nor the snowfall, nor ever dreams of the sea,
2550
Nor hath heard of the making of men-folk, nor of where the high Gods be;
But ever he gripeth and gathereth, and he toileth hour by hour,
Nor knoweth the noon from the midnight as he looks on his stony bower,
And saith: 'It is short, it is narrow for all I shall gather and get;
For the world is but newly fashioned, and long shall its years be yet.'

2555

"There Loki fareth, and seeth in a land of nothing good,
Far off o'er the empty desert, the reek of the falling flood
Go up to the floor of heaven, and thither turn his feet
As he weaveth the unseen meshes and the snare of strong deceit;
So he cometh his ways to the water, where the glittering foam-bow glows,
2560
And the huge flood leaps the rock-wall and a green arch over it throws.
There under the roof of water he treads the quivering floor,
And the hush of the desert is felt amid the water's roar,
And the bleak sun lighteth the wave-vault, and tells of the fruitless plain,
And the showers that nourish nothing, and the summer come in vain.

2565

"There did the great Guile-master his toils and his tangles set,
And as wide as was the water, so wide was woven the net;

And as dim as the Elf's remembrance did the meshes of it show;
And he had no thought of sorrow, nor spared to come and go
On his errands of griping and getting till he felt himself tangled and caught:
2570
Then back to his blinded soul was his ancient wisdom brought,
And he saw his fall and his ruin, as a man by the lightning's flame
Sees the garth all flooded by foemen; and again he remembered his name;
And e'en as a book well written the tale of the Gods he knew,
And the tale of the making of men, and much of the deeds they should do.

2575

"But Loki took his man-shape, and laughed aloud and cried:
'What fish of the ends of the earth is so strong and so feeble-eyed,
That he draweth the pouch of my net on his road to the dwelling of Hell?
What Elf that hath heard the gold growing, but hath heard not the light winds tell
That the Gods with the world have been dealing and have fashioned men for the earth?
2580
Where is he that hath ridden the cloud-horse and measured the ocean's girth,
But seen nought of the building of God-home nor the forging of the sword:
Where then is the maker of nothing, the earless and eyeless lord?
In the pouch of my net he lieth, with his head on the threshold of Hell!'

"Then the Elf lamented, and said: 'Thou knowst of my name full well:
2585
Andvari begotten of Oinn, whom the Dwarf-kind called the Wise,
By the worst of the Gods is taken, the forge and the father of lies.'

"Said Loki: 'How of the Elf-kind, do they love their latter life,
When their weal is all departed, and they lie alow in the strife?'

"Then Andvari groaned and answered: 'I know what thou wouldst have,
2590
The wealth mine own hands gathered, the gold that no man gave.'

"'Come forth,' said Loki, 'and give it, and dwell in peace henceforth—
Or die in the toils if thou listeth, if thy life be nothing worth.'

"Full sore the Elf lamented, but he came before the God,
And the twain went into the rock-house and on fine gold they trod,
2595
And the walls shone bright, and brighter than the sun of the upper air.
How great was that treasure of treasures: and the Helm of Dread was there;
The world but in dreams had seen it; and there was the hauberk of gold;
None other is in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told.

"Then Loki bade the Elf-king bring all to the upper day,
2600
And he dight himself with his Godhead to bear the treasure away:
So there in the dim grey desert before the God of Guile,
Great heaps of the hid-world's treasure the weary Elf must pile,
And Loki looked on laughing: but, when it all was done,
And the Elf was hurrying homeward, his finger gleamed in the sun:
2605
Then Loki cried: 'Thou art guileful: thou hast not learned the tale
Of the wisdom that Gods hath gotten and their might of all avail.
Hither to me! that I learn thee of a many things to come;
Or despite of all wilt thou journey to the dead man's deedless home.
Come hither again to thy master, and give the ring to me;
2610
For meseems it is Loki's portion, and the Bale of Men shall it be.'

"Then the Elf drew off the gold-ring and stood with empty hand
E'en where the flood fell over 'twixt the water and the land,
And he gazed on the great Guile-master, and huge and grim he grew;
And his anguish swelled within him, and the word of the Norns he knew;
2615
How that gold was the seed of gold to the wise and the shapers of things,
The hoarders of hidden treasure, and the unseen glory of rings;
But the seed of woe to the world and the foolish wasters of men,
And grief to the generations that die and spring again:
Then he cried:
                  'There farest thou Loki, and might I load thee worse
2620
Than with what thine ill heart beareth, then shouldst thou bear my curse:
But for men a curse thou bearest: entangled in my gold,
Amid my woe abideth another woe untold.
Two brethren and a father, eight kings my grief shall slay;
And the hearts of queens shall be broken, and their eyes shall loathe the day.'
2625
Lo, how the wilderness blossoms! Lo, how the lonely lands
Are waving with the harvest that fell from my gathering hands!'

"But Loki laughed in silence, and swift in Godhead went,
To the golden hall of Reidmar and the house of our content.
But when that world of treasure was laid within our hall
2630
'Twas as if the sun were minded to live 'twixt wall and wall,
And all we stood by and panted. Then Odin spake and said:

"'O Kings, O folk of the Dwarf-kind, lo, the ransom duly paid!
Will ye have this sun of the ocean, and reap the fruitful field,
And garner up the harvest that earth therefrom shall yield.'

2635

"So he spake; but a little season nought answered Reidmar the wise,
But turned his face from the Treasure, and peered with eager eyes
Endlong the hall and athwart it, as a man may chase about
A ray of the sun of the morning that a naked sword throws out;
And lo from Loki's right-hand came the flash of the fruitful ring,
And at last spake Reidmar scowling:
2640
                                                      'Ye wait for my yea-saying
That your feet may go free on the earth, and the fear of my toils may be done;
That then ye may say in your laughter: The fools of the time agone!
The purblind eyes of the Dwarf-kind! they have gotten the garnered sheaf
And have let their Masters depart with the Seed of Gold and of Grief:
2645
O Loki, friend of Allfather, cast down Andvari's ring,
Or the world shall yet turn backward and the high heavens lack a king.'

"Then Loki drew off the Elf-ring and cast it down on the heap,
And forth as the gold met gold did the light of its glory leap:
But he spake: 'It rejoiceth my heart that no whit of all ye shall lack.
2650
Lest the curse of the Elf-king cleave not, and ye 'scape the utter wrack.'

"Then laughed and answered Reidmar: 'I shall have it while I live,
And that shall be long, meseemeth: for who is there may strive
With my sword, the war-wise Fafnir, and my shield that is Regin the Smith?
But if indeed I should die, then let men folk deal therewith,
2655
And ride to the golden glitter through evil deeds and good.
I will have my heart's desire, and do as the high Gods would.'

"Then I loosed the Gods from their shackles, and great they grew on the floor
And into the night they gat them; but Odin turned by the door,
And we looked not, little we heeded, for we grudged his mastery;
2660
Then he spake, and his voice was waxen as the voice of the winter sea:

"O Kings, O folk of the Dwarfs, why then will ye covet and rue?
I have seen your fathers' fathers and the dust wherefrom they grew;
But who hath heard of my father or the land where first I sprung?
Who knoweth my day of repentance, or the year when I was young?
2665
Who hath learned the names of the Wise-one or measured out his will?
Who hath gone before to teach him, and the doom of the days fulfill?
Lo, I look on the Curse of the Gold, and wrong amended by wrong,
And love by love confounded, and the strong abased by the strong;
And I order it all and amend it, and the deeds that are done I see,
2670
And none other beholdeth or knoweth; and who shall be wise unto me?
For myself to myself I offered, that all wisdom I might know,
And fruitful I waxed of works, and good and fair did they grow;
And I knew, and I wrought and fore-orderd; and evil sat by my side,
And myself by myself hath been doomed, and I look for the fateful tide;
2675
And I deal with the generations, and the men mine hand hath made,
And myself by myself shall be grieved, lest the world and its fashioning fade.'

"They went and the Gold abided: but the words Allfather spake,
I call them back full often for that golden even's sake,
Yet little that hour I heard them, save as wind across the lea;
2680
For the gold shone up on Reidmar and on Fafnir's face and on me.
And sore I loved that treasure: so I wrapped my heart in guile,
And sleeked my tongue with sweetness, and set my face in a smile,
And I bade my father keep it, the more part of the gold,
Yet give good store to Fafnir for his goodly help and bold,
2685
And deal me a little handful for my smithying-help that day.
But no little I desired, though for little I might pray;
And prayed I for much or for little, he answered me no more
Than the shepherd answers the wood-wolf who howls at the yule-tide door:
But good he ever deemed it to sit on his ivory throne,
2690
And stare on the red rings' glory, and deem he was ever alone:
And never a word spake Fafnir, but his eyes waxed red and grim
As he looked upon our father, and noted the ways of him.

"The night waned into the morning, and still above the Hoard
Sat Reidmar clad in purple; but Fafnir took his sword,
2695
And I took my smithying-hammer, and apart in the world we went;
But I came aback in the even, and my heart was heavy and spent;
And I longed, but fear was upon me and I durst not go to the Gold;
So I lay in the house of my toil mid the things I had fashioned of old;
And methought as I lay in my bed 'twixt waking and slumber of night
2700
That I heard the tinkling metal and beheld the hall alight,
But I slept and dreamed of the Gods, and the things that never have slept,
Till I woke to a cry and a clashing and forth from the bed I leapt,
And there by the heaped-up Elf-gold my brother Fafnir stood,
And there at his feet lay Reidmar and reddened the Treasure with blood;
2705
And e'en as I looked on his eyen they glazed and whitened with death,
And forth on the torch-litten hall he shed his latest breath.

"But I looked on Fafnir and trembled for he wore the Helm of Dread,
And his sword was bare in his hand, and the sword and the hand were red
With the blood of our father Reidmar, and his body was wrapped in gold,
2710
With the ruddy-gleaming mailcoat of whose fellow hath nought been told,
And it seemed as I looked upon him that he grew beneath mine eyes:
And then in the mid-hall's silence did his dreadful voice arise:

"'I have slain my father Reidmar, that I alone might keep
The Gold of the darksome places, the Candle of the Deep.
2715
I am such as the Gods have made me, lest the Dwarf-kind people the earth,
Or mingle their ancient wisdom with its short-lived latest birth.
I shall dwell alone henceforward, and the Gold and its waxing curse,
I shall brood on them both together, let my life grow better or worse.
And I am a King henceforward and long shall be my life,
2720
And the Gold shall grow with my longing, for I shall hide it from strife,'
And hoard up the Ring of Andvari in the house thine hand hath built.
O thou, wilt thou tarry and tarry, till I cast thy blood on the guilt?
Lo, I am a King for ever, and alone on the Gold shall I dwell
And do no deed to repent of and leave no tale to tell.'

2725

"More awful grew his visage as he spake the word of dread,
And no more durst I behold him, but with heart a-cold I fled;
I fled from the glorious house my hands had made so fair,
As poor as the new-born baby with nought of raiment or gear:
I fled from the heaps of gold, and my goods were the eager will,
2730
And the heart that remembereth all, and the hand that may never be still.

"Then unto this land I came, and that was long ago.
As men-folk count the years; and I taught them to reap and to sow,
And a famous man I became : but that generation died,
And they said that Frey had taught them, and  God my name did hide.
2735
Then I taught them the craft of metals, and the sailing of the sea,
And the taming of the horse-kind, and the yoke-beasts’ husbandry,
And the building up of houses; and that race of men went by,
And they said that Thor had taught them; and a smithying-carle was I.
Then I gave their maidens the needle and I bade them hold the rock,
2740
And the shuttle-race gaped for them as they sat at the weaving-stock.
But by then these were waxen crones to sit dim-eyed by the door,
It was Feyia had come among them to teach the weaving-lore.
Then I taught them the tales of old, and fair songs fashioned and true,
And their speech grew into music of measured time and due,
2745
And they smote the harp to my bidding, and the land grew soft and sweet :
But ere the grass of their grave-mounds rose up above my feet,
It was Bragi had made them sweet-mouthed, and I was the wandering scald;
Yet green did my cunning flourish by whatso name I was called,
"And I grew the master of masters—Think thou how strange it is
2750
That the sword in the hands of a stripling shall one day end all this!

"Yet oft mid all my wisdom did I long for my brother's part,
And Fafnir's mighty kingship weighed heavy on my heart
When the Kings of the earthly kingdoms would give me golden gifts
From out of their scanty treasures, due pay for my cunning shifts.
2755
And once—didst thou number the years thou wouldst think it long ago—
I wandered away to the country from whence our stem did grow.
There methought the fells grown greater, but waste did the meadows lie
And the house was rent and ragged and open to the sky.
But lo, when I came to the doorway, great silence brooded there,
2760
Nor bat nor owl would haunt it, not the wood-wolves drew anear.
"Then I went to the pillared hall-stead, and lo, huge heaps of gold,
And to and fro amidst them a mighty Serpent rolled:
Then my heart grew chill with terror, for I thought on the wont of our race,
And I, who had lost their cunning, was a man in a deadly place,
2765
A feeble man and a swordless in the lone destroyer's fold;
For I knew that the Worm was Fafnir, the Wallower on the Gold.

"So I gathered my strength and fled, and hid my shame again
Mid the foolish sons of men-folk; and the more my hope was vain,
The more I longed for the Treasure, and deliv'rance from the yoke:
2770
And yet passed the generations, and I dwelt with the short-lived folk.

"Long years, and long years after, the tale of men-folk told
How up on the Glittering Heath was the house and the dwelling of gold,
And within that house was the Serpent, and the Lord of the Fearful Face:
Then I wondered sore of the desert; for I thought of the golden place
2775
My hands of old had builded; for I knew by many a sign
That the Fearful Face was my brother, that the blood of the Worm was mine.
This was ages long ago, and yet in that desert he dwells,
Betwixt him and men death lieth, and no man of his semblance tells;
But the tale of the great Gold-wallower is never the more outworn.
2780
Then came thy kin, O Sigurd, and thy father's father was born,
And I fell to the dreaming of dreams, and I saw thine eyes therein,
And I looked and beheld thy glory and all that thy sword should win;
And I thought that thou shouldst be he, who should bring my heart its rest,
That of all the gifts of the Kings thy sword should give me the best.

2785

"Ah, I fell to the dreaming of dreams; and oft the gold I saw,
And the golden-fashioned Hauberk, clean-wrought without a flaw,
And the Helm that aweth the world; and I knew of Fafnir's heart
That his wisdom was greater than mine, because he had held him apart,
Nor spilt on the sons of men-folk our knowledge of ancient days,
2790
Nor bartered one whit for their love, nor craved for the people's praise.

"And some day I shall have it all, his gold and his craft and his heart
And the gathered and garnered wisdom he guards in the mountains apart."
And then when my hand is upon it, my hand shall be as the spring
To thaw his winter away and the fruitful tide to bring.
2795
It shall grow, it shall grow into summer, and I shall be he that wrought,
And my deeds shall be remembered, and my name that once was nought;
Yea I shall be Frey, and Thor, and Freyia, and Bragi in one:
Yea the God of all that is,-and no deed in the wide world done,
But the deed that my heart would fashion: and the songs of the freed from the yoke
2800
Shall bear to my house in the heavens the love and the longing of folk;
And there shall be no more dying, and the sea shall be as the land,
And the world for ever and ever shall be young beneath my hand

Then his eyelids fell, and he slumbered, and it seemed as Sigurd gazed
That the flames leapt up in the stithy and about the Master blazed,
2805
And his hand in the harp-strings wandered and the sweetness from them poured.
Then unto his feet leapt Sigurd and drew his stripling's sword,
And he cried: "Awake, O Master, for, lo, the day goes by,
And this too is an ancient story, that the sons of men-folk die,
And all save fame departeth. Awake! for the day grows late,
2810
And deeds by the door are passing, nor the Norns will have them wait.”

Then Regin groaned and wakened, sad-eyed and heavy-browed,
And weary and worn was he waxen as a man by a burden bowed:
And he spake: "Hast thou hearkened, Sigurd, wilt thou help a man that is old
To avenge him for his father? Wilt thou win that Treasure of Gold
2815
And be more than the Kings of the earth? Wilt thou rid the earth of a wrong
And heal the woe and the sorrow my heart hath endured o'erlong?"

Then Sigurd looked upon him with steadfast eyes and clear,
And Regin drooped and trembled as he stood the doom to hear:
But the bright child spake as aforetime, and answered the Master and said:
2820
"Thou shalt have thy will, and the Treasure, and take the curse on thine head."

 

 

 

 

 

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