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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Grimhild´s Vengeance. Three Ballads

By anonymous, translated by George Henry Borrow (1803–1881),
edited by Thomas Wise 1913 with a foreword by Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)

The ballad of Grimhild’s Vengeance (Grimhilds Hevn) is given in three versions by Abrahamson, Nyerup and Rahbek. Borrow has closely followed the editors of 1812 and has translated each of the versions.

Song the First                                      Song the Second                    Song the Third

Song the First

It was the proud Dame Grimhild
   Prepares the mead and beer,
And unto her the valiant knights
   She bids from far and near.

She bade them come and not delay
   To tournament and strife;
It was the Hero Hogen
   Who lost his youthful life.

It was the Hero Hogen
   Along the shore went he,
And there he found upon the sand
   The maiden of the sea.

“Now hail, thou maiden of the sea,
   Of wisdom thou art rife;
Say, if I go to Hvenild’s land,
   Can I retain my life?”

“Of castles hast thou plenty, knight,
   And store of gold so red,
If thou shouldst go to Hvenild’s land
   Thou wilt be smitten dead.”

It was the Hero Hogen,
   He straight drew forth his blade,
And he struck off at a single blow
   The head of the ocean-maid.

Then out amid the Sound he cast
   The head all dropping gore;
The body rolled down after it,
   In the deep they joined once more.

It was the Hero Hogen,
   He further wandered on,
Until the Ferry-carl he spied
   The ocean beach upon.

“Now list to me, good Ferry-carl,
   Convey me o’er the Sound,
And I’ll give thee my good gold ring,
   It weighs full fifteen pound.”

“I will not take thee o’er the Sound
   For all thy gold so red,
If thou dost go to Hvenild’s land
   Thou wilt be smitten dead.”

It was the Hero Hogen
   His faulchion round did whirl,
And he struck off at a single blow
   The head of the Ferry-carl.

He gave the gold ring off his arm
   Unto the dead man’s wife:
“Take that as an atoning gift
   For the Ferryman’s young life.”

Sir Gunter and Sir Gernot {1}
   The vessel pushed from shore;
So wrathful was the weather then,
   So wild the waters’ roar.

So furious then the weather was,
   So wild the waters grew,
Asunder soon in Hogen’s hand
   The oar of iron flew.

The iron oar asunder flew
   In Hero Hogen’s hand,
Then with their broad and gilded shields
   The heroes steered to land.

They ’gan to scour their faulchions
   When they to land had won;
And there so proud a Damsel stood,
   And their employ looked on.

O she was slender at the waist,
   And just of proper height;
Swelling was her white bosom,
   And maidenlike her gait.

They went away to Nörborough,
   Where the gate was wont to stand:
“O where is now the porter
   Who here should be at hand?”

“O here am I the porter,
   To watch and ward I wait;
Did I but know whence ye were come
   I’d bear your message straight.”

“O’er many a league of land and sea
   We hither have repaired;
Dame Grimhild is our sister,
   The truth is now declared.”

In then went the porter,
   His stand by the board he took;
Quoth he: “Before our portal wait
   Two knights of noble look.

“Two men of birth illustrious
   Now wait before our gate;
The one he bears a fiddle,
   And a gilded helm his mate.”

“O he no fiddle bears, I trow,
   For any noble’s pay;
And whencesoever they are come
   A prince’s sons are they.”

It was the proud Dame Grimhild drew
   Her mantle o’er her head;
She hurried to the castle hall,
   And in her brothers bade.

“O will ye go to bower now
   And drink the mead and wine?
Or will ye sleep in beds of silk
   With two fair maids of mine?”

It was the proud Dame Grimhild drew
   Her mantle o’er her head,
And into the stone chamber
   To her warriors all she sped.

“Here sit ye all my valiant men
   And drink the mead and wine;
Now who will Hero Hogen slay,
   Though he be brother mine?

“Whoe’er will do the doughty deed
   Of striking Hogen dead,
Shall master of my castles be,
   And of my gold so red.”

Then answered her a warrior,
   A baron of that land:
“O I will earn the prize this day,
   Forsooth with this good hand.

“O I will do the doughty deed,
   Strike Hero Hogen dead;
Then I will o’er thy castles rule,
   And o’er thy gold so red.”

Then answered Folker Spillemand,
   With mighty iron spear:
“I’ll set my mark upon thee, knave,
   Before thou scap’st from here.”

And at the first blow he has laid
   Full fifteen warriors low:
“Ha bravely, Folker Spillemand,
   You touch your fiddle bow!”

He smote to death the warriors,
   A bridge of them he made;
And broad and long I ween it was,
   Full rough with them he play’d.

Above were laid the oxen hides,
   Below the pease so small;
That trick has vanquished Hogen,
   He fell down first of all.

It was the Hero Hogen
   Would have bounded up with speed:
“No, no, desist, my brother,
   Thou know’st what was agreed.

“No, no, desist, my brother,
   Prove true to what you swore,
If ever you should fall to earth
   You’d never rise up more.”

So brave was Hero Hogen
   To his word he true was found;
Upon his two knees stood he then,
   And got his mortal wound.

But still three warriors slaughtered he,
   They were not of the least,
Towards Hammeren went he then to find
   His father’s treasure-chest.

Fortune was yet to him so kind,
   The damsel proud he won;
And she was haughty Hvenild,
   He begot with her a son.

That gallant son, hight Ranke,
   Avenged his father well;
Grimhild entombed by Niflung’s gold
   Of hunger-pain did yell.

Then soon from out the land to Bern
   In Lombardy he strayed;
And there ’mongst Danish men he was,
   And prowess high displayed.

His mother she remained at home,
   From her got Hveen its name
’Mongst knights and warriors through the world,
   So widely goes its fame.

Song the First                                      Song the Second                    Song the Third