Sigurd the Volsung

Annotations to Book I



Section I

l. 2 Dukes:  The OED defines “duke” as “A leader; a leader of an army; a captain or general; a chief, ruler.”

l. 3 Earls:  The OED states that in Old English this term means “A man of noble rank, as distinguished from a ceorl, churl, or ordinary freeman,” and that in Old English poetry it is used for “A warrior, a brave man, a man generally.”

l. 4 strewed its floors:  Rushes were scattered on the floors as a covering.

l. 11 the midward time and the fading and the last of the latter days: This refers to the approach of the Day of Doom, which would be preceded by a time of decline and an ice age.

l.13 The Midworld's Mark: This probably refers to Midgard, which, in Norse mythology, is the part of the earth inhabited by humans.

l. 35 fillers of Odin's Hall: Odin, leader of the gods, fills Valhall with fallen warriors who will form his army against the forces of evil and chaos on the Day of Doom.

l. 76 field of the fishes: a kenning for the sea.

l. 78 bath of the swan: “pseudo-archaic for the water, the sea” (OED).

l. 82 gold-rings God-fashioned, and many a Dwarf-wrought sword: In the Prose Edda, Snorri states that the gods made all their household wares of gold. The dwarfs were unrivalled smiths.

l. 113 garth: an enclosed yard or garden.

l. 124 One-eyed: Odin forfeited one eye in order to gain wisdom by drinking the waters from the well at the root of the World Ash, Yggdrasil.

l. 127 bill: an ancient weapon usually consisting of a hook-shaped blade with a spike at the back, on a long, pointed shaft.

l. 128 flame of the sea: a kenning for gold, so called because Aegir, god of the sea, used chunks of gold to light his hall.

l. 138 the burg of heaven uprose for man-folk's weal: The Aesir, the race of gods led by Odin, built Asgard as their dwelling. One of the halls in Asgard was Valhall.

l. 158 Battle-Father:  a kenning for Odin.

l. 165 chance-hap:  This term, not listed in the OED, is apparently a Morris coinage for “accident,” as opposed to “fate,” which is directed by the Norns.

l. 172 high-seat:  This term for “throne,” while not in the OED, is also used by Arthur Brodeur in his translation of the Prose Edda (New York, 1916).

l. 185 homemen:  Not listed in the OED, this term apparently means “countrymen.”

l. 185 fell-abiding:  The OED  contains two definitions of “fell” that fit here:  “A hill, mountain,” and “A wild, elevated stretch of waste or pasture land; a moorland ridge, down.”

l. 193 trained:  “To draw by art or inducement; to draw on; to allure, entice, decoy; to lead astray, deceive, take in” (OED).

l. 196 hedge of battle:  a kenning for warriors in the front line. The OED lists “hedge” as “a barrier, limit, defence.”

l. 202 mid the host of Odin in the Day of Doom I stand:  On the Day of Doom the gods of Asgard, led by Odin, would clash with the forces of evil and chaos. Following this fierce battle, the universe would be destroyed by fire, which would be followed by the appearance of a new Golden Age, ruled by the surviving gods. Volsung, a great warrior, expects to be one of Odin's warriors on the Day of Doom.

l. 204 peace-strings: strings that hold the sword in its sheath.

l. 210 battle-breaker: a kenning for either Volsung's sword or his hand.

l. 215 God-home: Asgard, home of the gods.

l. 250-251 huge-wrought amber, that the southern men love sore, / When they sell me the woven wonder, the purple born of the sea: The Baltic coast of Germany, Lithuania, and Latvia is the chief source of the world's amber. Purple Tyrian dye was a famous product of Tyre, ancient maritime city of Phoenicia.

l. 261 bast: woody fiber used in making ropes, mats, etc.

l. 261 moulds: hollow forms for molten iron.

l. 285 golden dragons: a kenning for long-ships.

l. 286 fishy fields: a kenning for the sea.

l. 291 Ran: a sea goddess who uses a net to draw seafaring men down into the ocean.

Section II

l. 339 Norns: the three goddesses of fate in Norse mythology.

l. 350 dight: past participle of the verb “dight,” defined in the OED as “to prepare, make ready for use or for a purpose.”

l. 375 sooth: truth.

l. 378 trow: believe.

l. 384 spae-wrights:The OED defines “spae” as “prediction, prophecy” and cites this line from Sigurd as its example of the combination form “spae-wright,” which means “seer” or “prophet.”

l. 398 the Gods, mine own forefathers: Volsung is Odin's great-grandson.

l. 400 swan-bath:  a kenning for the sea.  See note for line 78.

l. 407  Aegir's Acre:  a kenning for the sea.  Aegir is a god of the sea and a sometime enemy of man, though not to the extent of his wife, Ran.

l. 419 dight: prepared.  See note for line 350.

l. 451 holt: a grove or wooded hill.

l. 455 wedge-array: Wedge, according to the OED, is “a formation of troops tapering to the front or van, in order to cleave a way through an opposing force.”

l. 476 Odin's door: a kenning for shield.  Casting down his shield would mean death for a warrior and, hence, entrance into Odin's Hall.

l. 508 changing: “The passing from life; death” (OED).

Section III

l. 577 hopples: hobbles, fetters.

l. 639 wot: know.

l. 671 golden harness: a kenning for either Sigmund’s sword or his armor.  The OED defines “harness” as “military equipment or accoutrement” and “defensive or body armour of a man-at-arms or foot soldier.”

675 Fenrir’s Wolf: a ravening creature, feared and kept chained by the gods, that will break loose on the Day of Doom.

l. 692 A wolf of the holy places: an outlaw.

l. 714 soothfast: truthful, honest.

l. 724 Baldur: Odin's son, a god of innocence and piety.

l. 742 horse-fed land: While this could mean land made fertile by horse manure, it is more likely that Morris uses “feed” in its intransitive sense, meaning “to graze.” Hence, “horse-fed land” means “horse-grazed land.”

Section IV

l. 776 benight: a variant form of “benighted,” meaning “overtaken by the night” (OED).

l. 778 Giants: an evil race of mountain-dwelling beings, enemies of humans and the gods.

l. 869 Aesir: the race of gods led by Odin.

l. 870 Vanir: a race of gods who were once rivals of the Aesir, but who were later reconciled.

l. 877 the world’s last fire: the fire that will destroy the universe on the Day of Doom.

l. 934 water-ouzels: a type of bird.

l. 990 eel-grig: a small eel.

l. 996 the tale of the elders: the Volsunga Saga.

l. 1006 wains: wagons.

l. 1007 bale-fires: bonfires.

l. 1008 blood-reeds: The OED lists “reed” as “poetical for an arrow.”

l. 1073 three-leaved herb: the wood-sorrel.

l. 1108 Flame of Strife: a kenning for Odin's sword.

Section V

l. 1128 dight: prepared. See note for line 350.

l. 1158 sackless: innocent.

l. 1159 dealing: “To deliver blows” or “to engage with in conflict (OED).

l. 1169 whittles: knives.

l. 1178  hoppled: fettered.

l. 1187 dight: prepared. See note for line 350.

l. 1250 Best unto babe is mother: Morris includes “Best to bairn is mother still” in his list of proverbial sayings that occur in Grettir the Strong (Collected Works, VII, 278.)

l. 1266 penfold: an enclosure for sheep or cattle.

Section VI

l. 1399 neat: animals of the ox family.

l. 1433 holm: a small island in a river or lake, near the mainland or a larger island.

l. 1459 weregild: a price paid by the family of a manslayer to the family of the person killed, to atone for the killing and avoid reprisals.












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