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Living with the Gods. Living for the Gods. Living through the Gods.

The Poetic Edda Online
In the translation of Bellows 

Lays of the Heroes

The Lay of Völund

There was a king in Sweden named Nithuth. He had two sons and one daughter; her name was Bothvild. There were three brothers, sons of a king of the Finns: one was called Slagfith, another Egil, the third Völund. They went on snowshoes and hunted wild beasts. They came into Ulfdalir and there they built themselves a house; there was a lake there which is called Ulfsjar. Early one morning they found on the shore of the lake three women, who were spinning flax. Near them were their swan garments, for they were Valkyries. Two of them were daughters of King Hlothver, Hlathguth the Swan-White and Hervor the All-Wise, and the third was Olrun, daughter of Kjar from Valland. These did they bring home to their hall with them. Egil took Olrun, and Slagfith Swan-White, and Völund All-Wise. There they dwelt seven winters; but then they flew away to find battles, and came back no more. Then Egil set forth on his snowshoes to follow Olrun, and Slagfith followed Swan White, but Völund stayed in Ulfdalir. He was a most skillful man, as men know from old tales. King Nithuth had him taken by force, as the poem here tells.

1. Maids from the south   through Myrkwood flew,
Fair and young,   their fate to follow;
On the shore of the sea   to rest them they sat,
The maids of the south,   and flax they spun.

2. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
Hlathguth and Hervor,   Hlothver's children,
And Olrun the Wise   Kjar's daughter was.

3. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
One in her arms   took Egil then
To her bosom white,   the woman fair.

4. Swan-White second,--   swan-feathers she wore,
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
And her arms the third   of the sisters threw
Next round Völund's   neck so white.

5. There did they sit   for seven winters,
In the eighth at last   came their longing again,
(And in the ninth   did need divide them).
The maidens yearned   for the murky wood,
The fair young maids,   their fate to follow.

6. Völund home   from his hunting came,
From a weary way,   the weather-wise bowman,
Slagfith and Egil   the hall found empty,
Out and in went they,   everywhere seeking.

7. East fared Egil   after Olrun,
And Slagfith south   to seek for Swan-White;
Völund alone   in Ulfdalir lay,
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

8. Red gold he fashioned   with fairest gems,
And rings he strung   on ropes of bast;
So for his wife   he waited long,
If the fair one home   might come to him.

9. This Nithuth learned,   the lord of the Njars,
That Völund alone   in Ulfdalir lay;
By night went his men,   their mail-coats were studded,
Their shields in the waning   moonlight shone.

10. From their saddles the gable   wall they sought,
And in they went   at the end of the hall;
Rings they saw there   on ropes of bast,
Seven hundred   the hero had.

11. Off they took them,   but all they left
Save one alone   which they bore away.
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

12. Völund home   from his hunting came,
From a weary way,   the weather-wise bowman;
A brown bear's flesh   would he roast with fire;
Soon the wood so dry   was burning well,
(The wind-dried wood   that Völund's was).

13. On the bearskin he rested,   and counted the rings,
The master of elves,   but one he missed;
That Hlothver's daughter   had it he thought,
And the all-wise maid   had come once more.

14. So long he sat   that he fell asleep,
His waking empty   of gladness was;
Heavy chains   he saw on his hands,
And fetters bound   his feet together.

Völund spake:
15. "What men are they   who thus have laid
Ropes of bast   to bind me now?"

Then Nithuth called,   the lord of the Njars:
"How gottest thou, Völund,   greatest of elves,
These treasures of ours   in Ulfdalir?"

Völund spake:
16. "The gold was not   on Grani's way,
Far, methinks, is our realm   from the hills of the Rhine;
I mind me that treasures   more we had
When happy together   at home we were."

17. Without stood the wife   of Nithuth wise,
And in she came   from the end of the hall;
On the floor she stood,   and softly spoke:
"Not kind does he look   who comes from the wood."

King Nithuth gave to his daughter Bothvild the gold ring that he had taken from the bast rope in Völund's house, and he himself wore the sword that Völund had had. The queen spake:

18. "The glow of his eyes   is like gleaming snakes,
His teeth he gnashes   if now is shown
The sword, or Bothvild's   ring he sees;
Let them straightway cut   his sinews of strength,
And set him then   in Sćvarstath."

So was it done: the sinews in his knee-joints were cut, and he was set in an island which was near the mainland, and was called Sćvarstath. There he smithied for the king all kinds of precious things. No man dared to go to him, save only the king himself. Völund spake:

19. "At Nithuth's girdle   gleams the sword
That I sharpened keen   with cunningest craft,
(And hardened the steel   with highest skill;)
The bright blade far   forever is borne,
(Nor back shall I see it   borne to my smithy;)
Now Bothvild gets   the golden ring
(That was once my bride's,--   ne'er well shall it be.)"

20. He sat, nor slept,   and smote with his hammer,
Fast for Nithuth   wonders he fashioned;
Two boys did go   in his door to gaze,
Nithuth's sons,   into Sćvarstath.

21. They came to the chest,   and they craved the keys,
The evil was open   when in they looked;
To the boys it seemed   that gems they saw,
Gold in plenty   and precious stones.

Völund spake:
22. "Come ye alone,   the next day come,
Gold to you both   shall then be given;
Tell not the maids   or the men of the hall,
To no one say   that me you have sought."

23. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
Early did brother   to brother call:
"Swift let us go   the rings to see."

24. They came to the chest,   and they craved the keys,
The evil was open   when in they looked;
He smote off their heads,   and their feet he hid
Under the sooty   straps of the bellows.

25. Their skulls, once hid   by their hair, he took,
Set them in silver   and sent them to Nithuth;
Gems full fair   from their eyes he fashioned,
To Nithuth's wife   so wise he gave them.

26. And from the teeth   of the twain he wrought
A brooch for the breast,   to Bothvild he sent it;
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

27. Bothvild then   of her ring did boast,
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

.    .    .    .    .   "The ring I have broken,
I dare not say it   save to thee."

Völund spake:
28. 'I shall weld the break   in the gold so well
That fairer than ever   thy father shall find it,
And better much   thy mother shall think it,
And thou no worse   than ever it was."

29. Beer he brought,   he was better in cunning,
Until in her seat   full soon she slept.

Völund spake:
"Now vengeance I have   for all my hurts,
Save one alone,   on the evil woman."

30. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
Quoth Völund: "Would   that well were the sinews
Maimed in my feet   by Nithuth's men."

31. Laughing Völund   rose aloft,
Weeping Bothvild   went from the isle,
For her lover's flight   and her father's wrath.

32. Without stood the wife   of Nithuth wise,
And in she came   from the end of the hall;
But he by the wall   in weariness sat:
"Wakest thou, Nithuth,   lord of the Njars?"

Nithuth spake:
33. "Always I wake,   and ever joyless,
Little I sleep   since my sons were slain;
Cold is my head,   cold was thy counsel,
One thing, with Völund   to speak, I wish.

34. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

"Answer me, Völund,   greatest of elves,
What happed with my boys   that hale once were?"

Völund spake:
35. "First shalt thou all   the oaths now swear,
By the rail of ship,   and the rim of shield,
By the shoulder of steed,   and the edge of sword,
That to Völund's wife   thou wilt work no ill,
Nor yet my bride   to her death wilt bring,
Though a wife I should have   that well thou knowest,
And a child I should have   within thy hall.

36. "Seek the smithy   that thou didst set,
Thou shalt find the bellows   sprinkled with blood;
I smote off the heads   of both thy sons,
And their feet 'neath the sooty   straps I hid.

37. "Their skulls, once hid   by their hair, I took,
Set them in silver   and sent them to Nithuth;
Gems full fair   from their eyes I fashioned,
To Nithuth's wife   so wise I gave them.

38. "And from the teeth   of the twain I wrought
A brooch for the breast,   to Bothvild I gave it;
Now big with child   does Bothvild go,
The only daughter   ye two had ever."

Nithuth spake:
39. "Never spakest thou word   that worse could hurt me,
Nor that made me, Völund,   more bitter for vengeance;
There is no man so high   from thy horse to take thee,
Or so doughty an archer   as down to shoot thee,
While high in the clouds   thy course thou takest."

40. Laughing Völund   rose aloft,
But left in sadness   Nithuth sat.
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

41. Then spake Nithuth,   lord of the Njars:
"Rise up, Thakkrath,   best of my thralls,
Bid Bothvild come,   the bright-browed maid,
Bedecked so fair,   with her father to speak."

42. .    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
"Is it true, Bothvild,   that which was told me;
Once in the isle   with Völund wert thou?"

Bothvild spake:
43. "True is it, Nithuth,   that which was told thee,
Once in the isle   with Völund was I,
An hour of lust,   alas it should be!
Nought was my might   with such a man,
Nor from his strength   could I save myself.

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