or The Ballad of Hamther
is the final piece in the Poetic Edda
and the worst preserved poem
. It is thought that there was an older poem of the same name that parts of the poem we call Hamthesmol
have been taken from.
Great the evils | once that grew,
With the dawning sad | of the sorrow of elves;
In early mom | awake for men
The evils that grief | to each shall bring.
Not now, nor yet | of yesterday was it,
Long the time | that since hath lapsed,
So that little there is | that is half as old,
Since Guthrun, daughter | of Gjuki, whetted
Her sons so young | to Svanhild's vengeance.
"The sister ye had | was Svanhild called,
And her did Jormunrek | trample with horses,
White and black | on the battle-way,
Gray, road-wonted, | the steeds of the Goths.
"Little the kings | of the folk are ye like,
For now ye are living | alone of my race.
"Lonely am I | as the forest aspen,
Of kindred bare | as the fir of its boughs,
My joys are all lost | as the leaves of the tree
When the scather of twigs | from the warm day turns."
Then Hamther spake forth, | the high of heart:
"Small praise didst thou, Guthrun, | to Hogni's deed give
When they wakened thy Sigurth | from out of his sleep,
Thou didst sit on the bed | while his slayers laughed.
"Thy bed-covers white | with blood were redv
From his wounds, and with gore | of thy husband were wet;
So Sigurth was slain, | by his corpse didst thou sit,
And of gladness didst think not: | 'twas Gunnar's doing.
"Thou wouldst strike at Atli | by the slaying of Erp
And the killing of Eitil; | thine own grief was worse;
So should each one wield | the wound-biting sword
That another it slays | but smites not himself."
Then did Sorli speak out, | for wise was he ever:
"With my mother I never | a quarrel will make;
Full little in speaking | methinks ye both lack;
What askest thou, Guthrun, | that will give thee no tears?
"For thy brothers dost weep, | and thy boys so sweet,
Thy kinsmen in birth | on the battlefield slain;
Now, Guthrun, as; well | for us both shalt thou weep,
We sit doomed on our steeds, | and far hence shall we die."
Then the fame-glad one-- | on the steps she was--
The slender-fingered, | spake with her son:
"Ye shall danger have | if counsel ye heed not;
By two heroes alone | shall two hundred of Goths
Be bound or be slain | in the lofty-walled burg."
From the courtyard they fared, | and fury they breathed;
The youths swiftly went | o'er the mountain wet,
On their Hunnish steeds, | death's vengeance to have.
. . . . . . . . . .
"What help from the weakling | brown may we have?"
So answered them | their half-brother then:
"So well may I | my kinsmen aid
As help one foot | from the other has."
"How may afoot | its fellow aid,
Or a flesh-grown hand | another help?"
Then Erp spake forth, | his words were few,
As haughty he sat | on his horse's back:
"To the timid 'tis ill | the way to tell."
A bastard they | the bold one called.
From their sheaths they drew | their shining swords,
Their blades, to the giantess | joy to give;
By a third they lessened | the might that was theirs,
The fighter young | to earth they felled.
Their cloaks they shook, | their swords they sheathed,
The high-born men | wrapped their mantles close.
On their road they fared | and an ill way found,
And their sister's son | on a tree they saw,
On the wind-cold wolf-tree | west of the hall,
And cranes'-bait crawled; | none would care to linger.
In the hall was din, | the men drank deep,
And the horses' hoofs | could no one hear,
Till the warrior hardy | sounded his horn.
Men came and the tale | to Jormunrek told
How warriors helmed | without they beheld:
"Take counsel wise, | for brave ones are come,
Of mighty men | thou the sister didst murder."
Then Jormunrek laughed, | his hand laid on his beard,
His arms, for with wine | he was warlike, he called for;
He shook his brown locks, | on his white shield he looked,
And raised high the cup | of gold in his hand.
"Happy, methinks, | were I to behold
Hamther and Sorli | here in my hall;
The men would I bind | with strings of bows,
And Gjuki's heirs | on the gallows hang."
In the hall was clamor, | the cups were shattered,
Men stood in blood | from the breasts of the Goths,
Then did Hamther speak forth, | the haughty of heart:
"Thou soughtest, Jormunrek, | us to see,
Sons of one mother | seeking thy dwelling;
Thou seest thy hands, | thy feet thou beholdest,
Jormunrek, flung | in the fire so hot."
Then roared the king, | of the race of the gods,
Bold in his armor, | as roars a bear:
"Stone ye the men | that steel will bite not,
Sword nor spear, | the sons of Jonak."
"Ill didst win, brother, | when the bag thou didst open,
Oft from that bag | came baleful counsel;
Heart hast thou, Hamther, | if knowledge thou hadst!
A man without wisdom | is lacking in much."
"His head were now off | if Erp were living,
The brother so keen | whom we killed on our road,
The warrior noble,-- | 'twas the Norns that drove me
The hero to slay | who in fight should be holy.
"In fashion of wolves | it befits us not
Amongst ourselves to strive,
Like the hounds of the Norns, | that nourished were
In greed mid wastes so grim.
"We have greatly fought, | o'er the Goths do we stand
By our blades laid low, | like eagles on branches;
Great our fame though we die | today or tomorrow;
None outlives the night | when the Norris have spoken."
Then Sorli beside | the gable sank,
And Hamther fell | at the back of the house.
This is called the old ballad of Hamther.
Translated by Henry Adams Bellows. It is in the public domain and this copy of the translation was taken from: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe37.htm