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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

The Lay of Bileyg
(A rune poem)

Bileyg:

Blind was my father,      Bileyg am I.
Wide have I wandered  workers to find;
Ripe is the grain,            reapers I seek;
A wolf winter comes     with weather not kind.

Far to the west             lie fields and hall;
Fast you must work,     and finish today.
My horse needs shod,  eight shoes in all.
Dwarf, you are called    most cunning of smiths.

Dvalin:
No fool am I;             Odin you are;
No farmer's son         with flattened purse,
To scant the smith      of silver coin.
I know what pledge   you paid with your eye.

And more I know--           what magic you gained
When wounded you hung  on the windswept tree.
That magic you offered      to Ęsir and Vane,
The wisdom of runes          I want for myself.

Bileyg:
What use to Dvalin     who delves in the earth
Are gifts most suited   for gods to use?

Dvalin:
Most skilled of dwarves   who delve in the earth,
The wisest as well            I wish to be.

Bileyg:
Clever you are          to catch me in need,
And hard the terms   you hold me to.
Runes for shoes        I'm ready to give;
Listen, dwarf,           and learn them well.

Fehu (money, livestock)

Cattle and corn, coffers well filled;
Friends to the wealthy flock.
Like Frothi all men Fehu would have,
Though greed brings grief to kings.

Uruz (aurochs)

The Aurochs is strength, steadfast in fight,
But might to man must yield.
A hero needs wit as hand needs eye;
The weak have weapons as well.

Thurisaz (thorn, thurs)

Thurisaz is thorn that thrusts through flesh,
A grief to those who grasp it.
Thor in fury thruses slays;
Mjolnir is his might.

Ansuz (Odin)

Ansuz is Odin, of Ęsir first;
Wide through worlds he passes.
Warriors and poets his words must have;
Wisdom is greatest wealth.

Raidho (riding)

Riding seems pleasant to the poor afoot;
The horse must labor with legs.
But weary one thinks when ways are long;
No wealth is won at home.

Kenaz (torch)

A torch's brightness is blessing to man,
The happiness in Jarl's hall.
Keen as knife it cuts the dark;
Nothing may hide by night.

Gebo (gift)

Glad are men Gebo to find,
But a gift requires a gift.
Measure in giving make the rule;
As much as your means, not more.

Wunjo (joy)

Wunjo is joy, the wish of men;
To find it far they seek.
Yet wealth to one who wanders the fells
Is food, a roof, and fire.

Dvalin:
My work is done,     well I'm paid.
Shoes I promised,    shoes you have;
Nothing more           remains to do,
Unless you need       the nails as well.

Bileyg:
Clever you were to   catch me in need,
And hard the terms   you hold me to.
Another eight            for nails I'll give;
Listen, dwarf,           and learn them well.

Hagalaz (hail)

Unwelcome is hail, the hardest of grain,
A harvest none hopes to have,
A spear that shreds the shield of stems;
Little it loves the leaves.

Nauthiz (need)

Need is a friend that none seeks out,
Is frost to the unshod foot.
Too soon to come, too slow to leave;
The wise his warnings heed.

Isa (ice)

Ice to the gaze glitters like gems.
Branches it breaks from trees.
Roof of waves, and river's bridge;
Men must cross with care.

Jera (year)

Plow when there's frost, plant when it's warm;
Harvest is hope for the year.
Work at the start, wait at the end;
Luck needs labor to thrive.

Eihwaz (yew)

Not easy to bend, for building unfit,
The Yew is best for bows.
Not great among trees, but green in months,
When ash and beech are bare.

Pertho (lot cup)

Pertho men use to prove their luck,
And loudly laugh at play.
Known only to fate the fall of lots;
Labor needs luck to thrive.

Elhaz (elk)

The Elk, most fleet of forest kind
Fights when brought to bay.
With Beli's bane he braves his foe,
And bloodies hunter and hounds.

Sowilo (sun)

To sailors all the sun is friend,
Though little loved by ice.
What darkness hides to her is known,
A witness the wicked fear.

Dvalin:
My work is done,      well I'm paid.
Nails I promised,       nails you have.
Nothing more            remains to do,
Nails and shoes,        though unshod still.

Bileyg:
Cunning you were       to catch me in need,
And hard the terms     you hold me to.
For shoeing my horse  I'll share more runes;
Listen, dwarf,             and learn them well.

Tiwaz (Tyr)

Costly the pledge he paid the wolf,
But kept one hand to help.
Carve on hilt or haft of spear
Twice the name of Tyr.

Berkano (birch)

Birch is a tree barren of fruit,
Not large of limb or tall,
But joy ever to eyes of men,
For beauty of leaves and bark.

Ehwaz (horse)

The horse is strong, but still a thrall
To hands that hold the rein.
But whither goes, or whether returns,
None but Norns can know.

Mannaz (man)

Man with his kin finds mirth in the hall;
Man is joy to man.
A little light, then each lies down,
Loved or unloved, alone.

Laguz (water, lake)

Ocean is wide to wanderers lost
Far from haven or home,
When brine stallions rear unruly on waves,
And balk against the bit.

Ingwaz (Ing, Frey)

Peace bringer, Frey, Father of kings,
Whom light elves call their lord,
Giver of wealth, fair weather for ships,
And frith to feuding kin.

  Dagaz (day)

Day is to man dearest of sights,
But bane to baleful things;
It drives the wolf to wood and fell,
And turns the troll to stone.

Odala (ancestral property)

The man who owns his odal lands
To company is king,
Though small his house, his ceilings low,
Sterile and stony his ground.

Dvalin:
My work is done;        well I'm paid;
Nothing more              remains to do.
The magic of runes      is mine alone;
Dvalin alone                of dwarves is wise.

His kin will long hear     in halls of stone
How Dvalin has fooled  the father of gods.

Bileyg:
Long may they hear it     in halls of stone,
Dvalin with nose             in dirt always stuck.

The runes I have offered  to alfs of all kind;
Half your dull brothers    have heard them by now.
Nothing more quickly     than news grows stale;
In future for sweat          take silver as pay.

 

© Jack Hart 2005

Poetic form: Fornyršislag (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.

Images: Arthur Rackham, 1910-11, illustrations for "The Ring of the Niebelung"

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