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Lay of Signy Volsungsdottir
After they had escaped from the pit in which King Siggeir had entombed them, Sigmund and Sinfjotli came by night to the hall of the king. They piled wood around the walls, setting it alight, then stood on either side of the door with drawn swords that none might go out except by their will.
Come to the door, daughter of Volsung,
Bright are the flames, roof beams glow;
Fire bees swarm stinging the night;
Hungry, on thatch thurses are feeding.
Who do I hear the hall without?
Is it my brother back from the mound?
Sigmund I am, and Sinfjotli your son.
Come to the door, daughter of kings.
Long were the days, longer the nights
Long have I waited alone with my thoughts.
Loud are the cries, louder my laugh.
Bane of branches breaks down the walls.
Once to the woods I went by night;
Never again will I go that far.
A weary walk it would be now
To bear a horn the hall around.
Carven doorposts cunningly wrought
Mark the bound that both must keep.
I stand at the door; stay here I must.
Reach not your hand or hence I will go.
Sons of Surt circle the pyre;
Over the feast fearsome they roar.
Life is outside, the last of your kin;
None that you love linger within.
Now have I brought bane to my foe;
Now we are free to fare as we will,
To live for ourselves, instead of the dead--
Why are you cold to closest of kin?
Go your way, the world is yours;
Wives will you take, and treasure gain;
Sons will you have, a hall and ships.
The grass-grown howe my house must be.
Foolish your words-- worthy is life;
Naught are the dead, but dust underfoot.
Take a man, if marry you would,
Or half of all my hand has won.
What name does a woman wear in the world
That husband slays and sons as well?
Even the bondmaids bent to the quern
Will sing foul songs to spread my name.
Four pretty sons to Siggeir I bore,
And gave to death this day to win.
For vengeance alone, and love of the dead
So long have I lived; my life is done.
A fifth you bore, his blood the same,
But like in mold his mother’s kin,
Like Rerir’s son, remains to you,
A shield against the shame of words.
As much as mine his might is yours;
A cunning witch lay with the king.
I took her form, fared to the woods,
And made a child ere moon could set.
Ill the deed we did that night;
Had I known, never I would.
If kin condemn, what can I hope
When other tongues my tale relate?
I do not wish the deed undone.
Ungrafted fruit is fair sometimes,
Nor did the disir desert his birth.
Let this one tale untold remain.
Hide no truth, but tell it all:
Though scorn I’d not escape in life,
My death will earn undying fame.
Farewell you both, my brother and son.
Rafters break, brands are falling,
Searing our bodies, blistering flesh..
Here is your brother, here is your son;
Wait no longer, leave with us.
All I have done that daughter can do.
No duty as wife remains but to die.
Go with my love to glorious lives.
In Hella’s hall my home must be..
With those words Signy went back into the hall and the roof fell in, so that she was consumed by the fire with King Siggeir and all his people. But Sigmund and Sinfjotli went out into the world and won great renown.
2005 Jack Hart
Poetic form: Fornyršislag (Old Meter)
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