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Icelaandic saaga


“A Lament to My Sons”


‘Much doth it task me

My tongue to move,

Through my throat to utter

The breath of song.

Promise now I may not,

A draught drawn not lightly

From deep thought’s dwelling.


‘Forth it flows but hardly;

For within my breast

Heaving sobbing stifles

Hindered stream of song

Blessed boon to mortals

Brought from Odin’s kin,

Goodly treasure, stolen

From Giant-land of yore.


‘He, who so blameless

Bore him in life,

O’erborne by billows

With boat was whelmed.

Sea-wavesflood that whilom

Welled from giant’s wound

Smite upon the grave-gate

Of my sire and son.


‘Dwindling now my kindred

Draw near to their end,

Ev’n as forest-saplings

Felled or tempest-strown.

Not gay or gladsome

Goes he who beareth

Body of kinsman

On funeral bier.


‘Of father fallen

First I may tell;

Of much-loved mother

Must mourn the loss.

Sad store hath memory

For minstrel skill,

A wood to bloom leafy

With words of song.


‘Most woful the breach,

Where the wave in-brake

On the fenced hold

Of my father’s kin.

Unfilled, as I wot,

And open doth stand

The gap of son rent

By the greedy surge.


‘Me Ran, the sea-queen,

Roughly hath shaken:

I stand of beloved ones

Stript and all bare.

Cut hath the billow

The cord of my kin,

Strand of mine own twisting

So stout and strong.


‘Sure, if sword could venge

Such cruel wrong,

Evil times would wait

gir, ocean-god.

That wind-giant’s brother

Were I strong to slay,

‘Gainst him and his sea-brood

Battling would I go.


‘But I in no wise

Boast, as I ween,

Strength that may strive

With the stout ships’ Bane.

For to eyes of all

Easy now ’tis seen

How the old man’s lot

Helpless is and lone.


‘Me hath the main

Of much bereaved;

Dire is the tale,

The deaths of kin:

Since he the shelter

And shield of my house

Hied him from life

To heaven’s glad realm.


‘Full surely I know,

In my son was waxing

The stuff and the strength

Of a stout-limbed wight:

Had he reached but ripeness

To raise his shield,

And Odin laid hand

On his liegeman true.


‘Willing he followed

His father’s word,

Though all opposing

Should thwart my rede:

He in mine household

Mine honour upheld,

Of my power and rule

The prop and the stay.


‘Oft to my mind

My loss doth come,

How I brotherless bide

Bereaved and lone.

Thereon I bethink me,

When thickens the fight

Thereon with much searching

My soul doth muse:


‘Who staunch stands by me

In stress of fight,

Shoulder to shoulder,

Side by side?

Such want doth weaken

In war’s dread hour;

Weak-winged I fly,

Whom friends all fail.


‘Son’s place to his sire

(Saith a proverb true)

Another son born

Alone can fill.

Of kinsmen none

(Though ne’er so kind)

To brother can stand

In brother’s stead.


‘O’er all our ice-fields,

Our northern snows,

Few now I find

Faithful and true.

Dark deeds men love,

Doom death to their kin,

A brother’s body

Barter for gold.


‘Unpleasing to me

Our people’s mood,

Each seeking his own

In selfish peace.

To the happier bees’ home

Hath passed my son,

My good wife’s child

To his glorious kin.


‘Odin, mighty monarch,

Of minstrel mead the lord,

On me a heavy hand

Harmful doth lay.

Gloomy in unrest

Ever I grieve,

Sinks my drooping brow,

Seat of sight and thought.


‘Fierce fire of sickness

First from my home

Swept off a son

With savage blow:

One who was heedful,

Harmless, I wot,

In deeds unblemished,

In words unblamed.


‘Still do I mind me,

When the Friend of men

High uplifted

To the home of gods

That sapling stout

Of his father’s stem,

Of my true wife born

A branch so fair.


‘Once bare I goodwill

To the great spear-lord,

Him trusty and true

I trowed for friend:

Ere the giver of conquest,

The car-borne god,

Broke faith and friendship

False in my need.


‘Now victim and worship

To Vilir’s brother,

The god once honoured,

I give no more.

Yet the friend of Mimir

On me hath bestowed

Some boot for bale,

If all boons I tell.


‘Yea he, the wolf-tamer,

The war-god skilful,

Gave poesy faultless

To fill my soul:

Gave wit to know well

Each wily trickster,

And force him to face me

As foeman in fight.


‘Hard am I beset;

Whom Hela, the sister

Of Odin’s fell captive,

On Digra-ness waits.

Yet shall I gladly

With right good welcome

Dauntless in bearing

Her death-blow bide.’


Writing the dirge must have made my grief more acceptable. I fully exited the daze. I sent Thorgerd home with many rich gifts.

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