Sigurd the Volsung

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

 

II. How the folk of Lymdale met Sigurd the Volsung in the woodland

Full fair was the land of Lymdale, and great were the men thereof,
And Heimir the King of the people was held in marvellous love;
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And his wife was the sister of Brynhild, and the Queen of Queens was she;
And his sons were noble striplings, and his daughters sweet to see;
And all these lived on in joyance through the good days and the ill,
Nor would shun the war's awaking ; but now that the war was still
They looked to the wethers' fleeces and what the ewes would yield,
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And led their bulls from the straw-stall, and drave their kine afield;
And they dealt with mere and river and all waters of their land,
And cast the glittering angle, and drew the net to the strand,
And searched the rattling shallows, and many a rock-walled well,
Where the silver-scaled sea-farers, and the crook-lipped bull-trout dwell.
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But most when their hearts were merry 'twas the joy of carle and quean
To ride in the deeps of the oak-wood, and the thorny thicket green:
Forth go their hearts before them to the blast of the strenuous horn,
Where the level sun comes dancing down the oaks in the early morn:
There they strain and strive for the quarry, when the wind hath fallen dead
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In the odorous dusk of the pine-wood, and the noon is high o'erhead:
There oft with horns triumphant their rout by the lone tree turns,
When over the bison's lea-land the last of sunset burns;
Or by night and cloud all eager with shaft on string they fare,
When the wind from the elk-mead setteth, or the wood-boar's tangled lair :
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For the wood is their barn and their storehouse, and their bower and feasting-hall,
And many an one of their warriors in the woodland war shall fall.

So now in the sweet spring season, on a morn of the sunny tide
Abroad are the Lymdale people to the wood-deers' house to ride :
And they wend toward the sun's uprising, and over the boughs he comes,
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And the merry wind is with him, and stirs the woodland homes;
But their horns to his face cast clamour, and their hooves shake down the glades,
And the hearts of their hounds are eager, and oft they redden blades :
Till at last in the noon they tarry in a daisied wood-lawn green,
And good and gay is their raiment, and their spears are sharp and sheen,
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And they crown themselves with the oak-leaves, and sit, both most and least,
And there on the forest venison and the ancient wine they feast ;
Then they wattle the twigs of the thicket to bear their spoil away,
And the toughness of the beech-boughs with the woodbine overlay:
With the voice of their merry labour the hall of the oak wood rings,
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For fair they are and joyous as the first God-fashioned Kings.

Now they gather their steeds together, that ere the moon is born
The candles of King Heimir may shine on harp and horn :
But as they stand by the stirrup and hand on rein is laid.
All eyes are turned to beholding the eastward-lying glade,
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For thereby comes something glorious, as though an earthly sun
Were lit by the orb departing, lest the day should be wholly done ;
Lo now, as they stand astonied, a wonder they behold,
For a warrior cometh riding, and his gear is all of gold ;
And grey is the steed and mighty beneath that lord of war,
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And a treasure of gold he beareth, and the gems of the ocean's floor:
Now they deem the war-steed wondrous and the treasure strange they deem,
But so exceeding glorious doth the harnessed rider seem.
That men's hearts are all exalted as he draweth nigh and nigher
And there are they abiding in fear and great desire :
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For they look on the might of his limbs, and his waving locks they see.
And his glad eyes clear as the heavens, and the wreath of the summer tree
That girdeth the dread of his war-helm, and they wonder at his sword.
And the tinkling rings of his hauberk, and the rings of the ancient Hoard :
And they say : Are the Gods on the earth ? did the world change yesternight ?
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Are the sons of Odin coming, and the days of Baldur the bright?

But forth stood Heimir the ancient, and of Gods and men was he chief
Of all who have handled the harp; and he stood betwixt blossom and leaf,
And thrust his spear in the earth and cast abroad his hands :
"Hail thou that ridest hither from the North and the desert lands!
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Now thy face is turned to our hall-door and thereby must be thy way ;
And, unless the time so presseth that thou ridest night and day,
It were good that thou lie in my house, and hearken the clink of the horn,
Whether peace in thy hand thou bear us, or war on thy saddle be borne;
Whether wealth thou seek, or friends, or kin, or a maiden lost,
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Or hast heart for the building of cities nor wilt hold thee aback for the cost:
If fame thou wilt have among King-folk, to the land of the Kings art thou come,
Or wouldst thou adown to the sea-flood, thou must pass by the garth of our home.
Yea art thou a God from the heavens, who wilt deem me little of worth,
And art come for the wrack of my realm and wilt cast King Heimir forth,
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Thou knowest I fear thee nothing, and no worse shall thy welcome be :
Or art thou a wolf of the hearth, none here shall meddle with thee : —
Yet lo, as I look on thine eyen, and behold thy hope and thy mirth
Meseems thou art better than these, some son of the Kings of the Earth."

Then spake the treasure-bestrider, — for his horse e'en now had he reined
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By the King and the earls of the people where the boughs of the thicket waned: -
"Yea I am a son of the Kings ; but my kin have passed away,
And once were they called the Volsungs, and the sons of God were they :
I am young, but have learned me wisdom, I am lone, but deeds have I done ;
I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and the Bed of the Worm have I won.
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But meseems that the earth is lovely, and that each day springeth anew
And beareth the blossom of hope, and the fruit of deeds to do.
And herein thou sayest the sooth, that I seek the fame of Kings,
And with them would I do and undo and be heart of their warfarings :
And for this o'er the Glittering Heath to the kingdoms of earth am I come
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And over the head of Hindfell, and I seek the earl-folk's home
That is called the lea of Lymdale 'twixt the wood and the water-side ;
For men call it the gate of the world where the Kings of Men abide :
Nor the least of God-folk am I, nor the wolf of the Kings accursed,
But Sigurd the son of Sigmund in the land of the Helper nursed :
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And I thank thee, lord, for thy bidding, and tonight will I bide in thine hall,
And fare on the morrow to Lymdale and the deeds thenceforward to fall."

Then Sigurd leapt from Greyfell, and men were marvelling there
At the sound of his sweet-mouthed wisdom, and his body shapen fair.
But Heimir laughed and answered : "Now soon shall the deeds befall,
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And tonight shalt thou ride to Lymdale and tonight shalt thou bide in my hall
For I am the ancient Heimir, and my cunning is of the harp,
Though erst have I dealt in the sword-play while the edge of war was sharp."

Then Sigurd joyed to behold him, for a god-like King he was.
And amid the men of Lymdale did the Son of Sigmund pass ;
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And their hearts are high uplifted, for across the air there came
A breath of his tale half-spoken and the tidings of his fame ;
And their eyes are all unsatiate of gazing on his face.
For his like have they never looked on for goodliness and grace.

So they bear him the wine of welcome, and then to the saddle they leap
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And get them forth from the wood-ways to the lea-land of the sheep.
And the bull-fed Lymdale meadows ; and thereover Sigurd sees
The long white walls of Heimir amidst the blossomed trees :
Then the slim moon rises in heaven, and the stars in the tree-tops shine,
But the golden roof of Heimir looks down on the torch-lit wine.
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And the song of men goes roofward in praise of Sigmund's Son,
And a joy to the Lymdale people is his glory new-begun.

 

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