Old Norse Poems
OLD NORSE POEMS
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THE GROUP of poems offered in this volume comprises practically all the more considerable (non-Skaldic) verse material not in the Edda. Indeed, it has been subtitled the most important non-skaldic verse not included in the poetic edda. It is a supplement to the Edda and it shows, even better than that remarkable collection, the wealth of independent poetic inventions and forms that flourished in the Scandinavian North before and immediately after the introduction of Christianity, especially when we bear in mind that much has been irretrievably lost.
As to the contents of these poems, with respect to the first group of nine, range from the genuinely heroic, realistic, dialogic-dramatic, earlier lays (such as the Biarkamól) to the more romantic, legendary, monologic-elegiac, retrospective, later lays (like Hiálmars Death Song); though the lines of demarcation are by no means sharp and, in fact, nearly every poem represents an individual combination of these traits. A very different type of lay is seen in the three contemporary encomiastic poems which celebrate the life and deeds of the (historic) rulers of Norway the only non-Skaldic efforts of this genre so exceedingly numerous in Old Norse literature. There is no common denominator for the four poems at the end of the volume, except possibly their arch-heathen character. As a finale the Song of the Sun marks the transition from heathen to Christian spheres of thought.
Common to all of this material is its unliterary, that is, unbookish, character which is in marked contrast to virtually all of Anglo-Saxon epic literature, influenced as it is, to a greater or lesser degree, by Christian or classical models. That is to say, we deal here with the genuinely native expression of the North.
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Excerpt from OLD NORSE POEMS
HIÁLMARS DEATH SONG
1 What ails thee, Hiálmar? Thy hue is pale.
Great wounds, I ween, do weary thee;
thy helmet is hewn, thy hauberk eke:
at an end is now, atheling, thy life!
2 Wounds have I sixteen, is slit my byrnie,
dim grows my sight, I see no longer:
to my heart did hew, venom-hardened,
Angantýrs sword slashing sharply.
3 Shall fair ladies never learn that I,
from blows me shielding, backward turned me;
nor shall ever Ingibiorg taunt me,
in Sigtúna sitting, that from sword-blows I fled.
4 Unwilling nowise, from womens converse,
from their sweet songs I with Soti fared,
hastened to join the host to eastward,
went the last time forth from friends so dear.
5 Led me the white-browed lieges daughter
to the outmost endof Agnafit.
Is borne out thus that back I would not
wend from this war: so the wise maid said.
6 From Ingibiorgcame ill-hap swiftly
I fared forth, then, on fated day:
a lasting sorrow to the lady, this,
since not eer after each other well see.
7 To have and to hold I had five manors;
on that land to live misliked me, though.
Now, robbed of life, I lie here, spent,
by the sword wounded, on Sáms-isles shore.
8 Take with thee, Sotimy wish it is
my helm and hauberk to the hall of the king.
Will it wring the heart of the rulers daughter
when shattered she sees what shielded my breast.
9 The red-gold ring from my right arm draw,
to Ingibiorg bring it, in her bower sitting.
Will yearn for me the young maiden,
since not eer after each other well see.
10 I see sitting in Sigtúna hall
the women who warned me of wending thence.
Will not ever after ale nor warriors
Hiálmar gladden here in this life.
11 Quaff with the king the crowd of housecarls
their ale gladly in Uppsala;
doth the mead many men overcome,
but me overmaster here many wounds.
12 Flies from the South the famished raven,
flieth with him the fallow eagle;
on the flesh of the fallen I shall feed them no more:
on my body both.
Table of Contents for OLD NORSE POEMS
|THE OLD LAY OF BIARKI [BIARKAMÓL HIN FORNU]|
|THE LAY OF INGIALD|
|THE LAY OF VÍKAR [VÍKARSBÁLKR]|
|HIÁLMARS DEATH SONG|
|THE LAY OF HERVOR [HERVARARKVITRA]|
|THE LAY OF HLOTH AND ANGANTÝR [OR THE BATTLE OF THE HUNS]|
|THE LAY OF INNSTEIN|
|HILDIBRANDS DEATH SONG|
|THE LAY OF HAROLD [HARALDSKVÆTHI OR HRAFNSMÓL]|
|THE LAY OF ERIC [EIRÍKSMOL]|
|THE LAY OF HÁKON [HÁKONARMÓL]|
|THE SONG OF THE VALKYRIES [DARRA THARLIOTH]|
|THE CURSE OF BUSLA [BUSLUBN]|
|THE OATH OF TRUCE [TRYGGTHAMÓL]|
|THE RIDDLES OF KING HEITHREK [HEITHREKSGÁTUR]|
|THE SUN SONG [SÓLARLIÓTH]|
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