Sigurd the Volsung

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

VII. Sigurd slayeth Fafnir the Serpent


Nought Sigurd seeth of Regin, and nought he heeds of him,
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As in watchful might and glory he strides the desert dim,
And behind him paceth Greyfell; but he deems the time o'erlong
Till he meet the great gold-warden, the over-lord of wrong.

So he wendeth midst the silence through the measureless desert place,
And beholds the countless glitter with wise and steadfast face,
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Till him-seems in a little season that the flames grown somewhat wan,
And a grey thing glimmers before him, and becomes a mighty man,
One-eyed and ancient-seeming, in cloud-grey raiment clad;
A friendly man and glorious, and of visage smiling-glad:
Then content in Sigurd groweth because of his majesty,
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And he heareth him speak in the desert as the wind of the winter sea:

"Hail Sigurd! Give me thy greeting ere thy ways alone thou wend!"

Said Sigurd: "Hail! I greet thee, my friend and my fathers' friend."

"Now whither away," said the elder, "with the Steed and the ancient Sword?"

"To the greedy house," said Sigurd, "and the King of the Heavy Hoard."

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"Wilt thou smite, O Sigurd, Sigurd?" said the ancient mighty-one.

"Yea, yea, I shall smite," said the Volsung, "save the Gods have slain the sun."

"What wise wilt thou smite," said the elder, "lest the dark devour thy day?"

"Thou hast praised the sword," said the child, "and the sword shall find a way."

"Be learned of me," said the Wise-one, "for I was the first of thy folk."

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Said the child: "I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke."

Spake the Wise-one: "Thus shalt thou do when thou wendest hence alone:
Thou shalt find a path in the desert, and a road in the world of stone;
It is smooth and deep and hollow, but the rain hath riven it not,
And the wild wind hath not worn it, for it is but Fafnir's slot,
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Whereby he wends to the water and the fathomless pool of old,
When his heart in the dawn is weary, and he loathes the ancient Gold:
There think of the great and the fathers, and bare the whetted Wrath,
And dig a pit in the highway, and a grave in the Serpent's path:
Lie thou therein, O Sigurd, and thine hope from the glooming hide,
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And be as the dead for a season, and the living light abide!
And so shall thine heart avail thee, and thy mighty fateful hand,
And the Light that lay in the Branstock, the well-belovèd brand."

Said the child: "I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke;
For I love thee, friend of my fathers, Wise Heart of the holy folk."

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So spake the Son of Sigmund, and beheld no man anear,
And again was the night the midnight, and the twinkling flame shone clear
In the hush of the Glittering Heath; and alone went Sigmund's son
Till he came to the road of Fafnir, and the highway worn by one,
By the drift of the rain unfurrowed, by the windy years unrent,
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And forth from the dark it came, and into the dark it went.

Great then was the heart of Sigurd, for there in the midmost he stayed,
And thought of the ancient fathers, and bared the bright blue blade,
That shone as a fleck of the day-light, and the night was all around.
Fair then was the Son of Sigmund as he toiled and laboured the ground;
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Great, mighty he was in his working, and the Glittering Heath he clave,
And the sword shone blue before him as he dug the pit and the grave:
There he hid his hope from the night-tide and lay like one of the dead,
And wise and wary he bided; and the heavens hung over his head.

Now the night wanes over Sigurd, and the ruddy rings he sees,
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And his war-gear's fair adornment, and the God-folk's images;
But a voice in the desert ariseth, a sound in the waste has birth,
A changing tinkle and clatter, as of gold dragged over the earth:
O'er Sigurd widens the day-light, and the sound is drawing close,
And speedier than the trample of speedy feet it goes;
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But ever deemeth Sigurd that the sun brings back the day,
For the grave grows lighter and lighter and heaven o'erhead is grey.

But now, how the rattling waxeth till he may not heed nor hark!
And the day and the heavens are hidden, and o'er Sigurd rolls the dark,
As the flood of a pitchy river, and heavy-thick is the air
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With the venom of hate long hoarded, and lies once fashioned fair:
Then a wan face comes from the darkness, and is wrought in man-like wise,
And the lips are writhed with laughter and bleared are the blinded eyes;
And it wandereth hither and thither, and searcheth through the grave
And departeth, leaving nothing, save the dark, rolled wave on wave
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O'er the golden head of Sigurd and the edges of the sword,
And the world weighs heavy on Sigurd, and the weary curse of the Hoard;
Him-seemed the grave grew straiter, and his hope of life grew chill,
And his heart by the Worm was enfolded, and the bonds of the Ancient Ill.

Then was Sigurd stirred by his glory, and he strove with the swaddling of Death;
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He turned in the pit on the highway, and the grave of the Glittering Heath;
He laughed and smote with the laughter and thrust up over his head.
And smote the venom asunder and clave the heart of Dread;
Then he leapt from the pit and the grave, and the rushing river of blood,
And fulfilled with the joy of the War-God on the face of earth he stood
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With red sword high uplifted, with wrathful glittering eyes;
And he laughed at the heavens above him for he saw the sun arise,
And Sigurd gleamed on the desert, and shone in the new-born light,
And the wind in his raiment wavered, and all the world was bright.

But there was the ancient Fafnir, and the Face of Terror lay
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On the huddled folds of the Serpent, that were black and ashen-grey
In the desert lit by the sun; and those twain looked each on each,
And forth from the Face of Terror went a sound of dreadful speech:

"Child, child, who art thou that hast smitten? bright child, of whence is thy birth?"

"I am called the Wild-thing Glorious, and alone I wend on the earth."
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"Fierce child, and who was thy father?-Thou hast cleft the heart of the Foe"
"Am I like to the sons of men-folk, that my father I should know?"
"Wert thou born of a nameless wonder? shall the lies to my death-day cling?"
"How lieth Sigurd the Volsung, and the son of Sigmund the King?"
"O bitter father of Sigurd !-thou hast cleft imne heart atwain !"
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"What master hath taught thee of murder?—Thou hast wasted Fafnir's day."

"I, Sigurd, knew and desired, and the bright sword learned the way."
"Thee, thee shall the rattling Gold and the red rings bring to the bane."
"Yet mine hand shall cast them abroad, and the earth shall gather again."
"I se thee great in thine anger, and the Norns thou heedest not."
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"O Fafnit, speak of the Norns and the wisdom unforgot !"
"Let the death-doomed flee from the ocean, him the wind and the weather shall drown."
"O Fafnir, tell of the Norns ere thy life thou layes adown !"
"O manifold is their kindred, and who shall tell them all?
There are they that rule o’er men-folk and the stars that rise and fall:
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-I know of the folk of the Dwarfs, and I knew their Norns of old;
And I fought, and I fell in the morning, and I die afar from the gold:
-I have seen the Gods of heaven, and their Norns withal I know :
They love and withold their helping, they hate and refrain the blow;
They curse and they may not sunder, they bless and they shall not blend;
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They have fashioned the good and the evil; they abide the change and the end."
"O Fafnir, what of the Isle, and what hast thou known of its name,
Where the Gods shall mingle edges with Surt and the Sons of the Flame?"
"O child, O strong Compeller! Unshapen is it hight;
There the fallow blades shall be shaken and the Dark and the Day shall smite,
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When the Bridge of the Gods is broken, and their white steeds swim the sea,
And the uttermost field is stricken, last strife of thee and me."
"What then shall endure, O Fafnir, the tale of the battle to tell?"
"I am blind, O Strong Compeller, in the bonds of Death and Hell.
But thee shall the rattling Gold and the red rings bring unto bane."

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"Yet the rings mine hand shall scatter, and the earth shall gather again."

"Woe, woe! in the days passed over I bore the Helm of Dread,
I reared the Face of Terror, and the hoarded hate of the Dead:
I overcame and was mighty; I was wise and cherished my heart
In the waste where no man wandered, and the high house builded apart:
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Till I met thine hand, O Sigurd, and thy might ordained from of old;
And I fought and fell in the morning, and I die far off from the Gold."

Then Sigurd leaned on his sword, and a dreadful voice went by
Like the wail of a God departing and the War-God's misery ;
And strong words of ancient wisdom went by on the desert wind,
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The words that mar and fashion, the words that loose and bind;
And sounds of a strange lamenting, and such strange things bewailed,
That words to tell their meaning the tongue of man hath failed.

Then all sank into silence, and the Son of Sigmund stood
On the torn and furrowed desert by the pool of Fafnir's blood,
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And the Serpent lay before him, dead, chilly, dull, and grey;
And over the Glittering Heath fair shone the sun and the day,
And a light wind followed the sun and breathed o'er the fateful place,
As fresh as it furrows the sea-plain or bows the acres' face.

 

 

 

 

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