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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

 

Hogni and the Water Sprites

Gunnar and Hogni with a large following journeyed to Atli’s hall in the land of the Huns.
When they came to the Rhine it was in full flood. Gunnar wanted to ford the stream,
but Hogni feared they would lose too many men, and so went looking for a way across.

Hogni roamed the river’s side,
The current too swift to swim against,
Seeking a boat to bear him across,
But found no house, nor ferry near.

Though loud the torrent, tumbling down,
A second sound he seemed to hear.
Then turning aside, he saw a pool
Fed by a spring from falls above.

And there in the water women swam,
A pair of nixies, naked and white
As ivory wands or willow peeled,
As swan, or snow, or silver coin.

Seeing a man, they swam far out,
And taunted him with teasing words,
Laughing with voices light and sweet.
Little they feared the force of his arm.

Hogni not long their laughter endured,
But finding their clothes, he caught them up,
And held them till one, Hadeburg named,
Promised with tears to tell him his fate.

“Companion of kings, our clothing give back,
If you would know the Norns’ decree,
What good or ill in Atli’s hall.
All will I tell you, truly I swear.”

Like water fowl the women swam,
And Hogni knew their nature from that--
Women famous for wisdom and truth--
So eagerly listened to all that she said.

“None wills you harm in Hunnish lands,
And warm will be your welcome there,
For Atli waits with eager heart.
Long will be told tales of your quest.”

All this and more the maiden said,
Whatever Hogni hoped to hear,
And gladly he gave their garments back,
Laid them on rocks at river’s edge.

But once they had donned their dresses again,
Magic garments that gave them power,
The second spoke, Sigelinde named--
Less welcome the song she sang to him.

“My sister lied, led you on,
Hoping her words would win our clothes.
Beyond the water waits your death.
Over Mirkwood are massing your foes.”

“Turn again while time remains,
Or die at the hands of Hunnish men.”
But Hogni said, “What whorish lie
Is this you tell, what trick intend?”

“Who in this land have we to fear?
What danger could face a force so strong?”
“Danger enough from Atli’s hand.
A fawning wolf the wise beware.”

With hasty words Hogni spoke,
“Never will I take such tidings back
To Gunnar the king, the Giukings’ lord.
Say where I can find a ferry now.”

Then Hadeburg said, “My sister speaks truth.
Stop at the Rhine; return to your homes,
Or long your wives will wait for you,
Standing at windows, watching the road.”

“Your bane you’ll have of Budli’s son,
To gain the gold that Grani bore,
Sigurd’s gold that Gudrun’s should be.
King Atli means to murder you.”

With angry words the warrior replied,
“For better or worse, my wyrd is mine;
None knows the day his death will come.
Where is the ferry, or ford, at least?”

Swiftly then Sigelinde spoke,
“Since I see you’re set on death,
The ferryman lives not far downstream.
He has a house high on the bank.”

“Gunnar, I know, the gold will hide
Deep in the Rhine to darkly gleam
For eyes of frogs and fish alone,
And none remain to know the place.”

Gunnar and Hogni hid the gold just as the wise woman had said, and went on to Atli’s court
where both met their fate, and so the gold hoard cursed by Andvari the dwarf,
the gold that had been the bane of all who held it was lost forever to the eyes of men.

© Jack Hart

Poetic form: Fornyrðislag (Old Meter)

Meadhall: Asatru Jack´s site, including the medieval rune poems and modern rune poems by various authors.

Ship of Fools - Jack Hart´s Poetry Magazine. Submissions welcome.

Image: "Rhein maidens warn Siegfried", Arthur Rackham, 1912

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