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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 Second

It was the proud Dame Grimhild
   The wine with spices blends;
And unto many a hero free
   She messengers outsends.

“Go bid them come to battle,
   Go bid them come to strife;
I reckon many a hero free
   Shall lose his youthful life.”

’Twas Hero Hogen’s mother
   She has dreamt a wondrous dream,
That the stately courser tumbled
   As they rode him o’er the stream.

“That dream, dear son, a meaning has,
   I rede thee cautious be;
Beware thee of thy sister,
   She deals in treachery.”

It was the Hero Hogen
   He rode along the strand:
The mermaid there he found at play
   Upon the yellow sand.

“Now tell me, pretty mermaid,
   The future thou dost know,
Shall I the prize in Hvenland win,
   And warriors overthrow?”

“Now listen, Hero Hogen,
   Thou art of kemps the flower,
Enough of land thou dost possess,
   Enough of fame and power.

“And thou both gold and silver hast,
   And castles fair to see,
If thou dost go to Hvenland,
   For thy best it will not be.

“Goods and dominion hast thou, knight,
   And store of gold so red,
If thou dost go to Hven this year
   Thou wilt be smitten dead.”

It was the Hero Hogen, he
   Grew wrathful at her speech;
He strook the wretched mermaid
   That she fell dead on the beach.

“There do thou lie and rest thee now,
   Thou foul and wicked fay;
I know well how to guard me
   And my enemies to slay.”

There rode up to the portal
   Of Dame Grimhilda’s home,
Two men of noble bearing,
   Their steeds were all in foam.

The blow they gave the portal
   Rang all the castle through:
“O where art thou the porter,
   Why dost thou not undo?”

Then up and spoke the porter,
   So ready to deceive:
“I dare admit no stranger, Sirs,
   Without my Lady’s leave.”

He hied him to Dame Grimhild,
   To her he said in haste:
“Two knights before our castle wait,
   Admittance they request.”

“O that is Folker Spillemand,”
   Dame Grimhild she did say;
“And that is Hero Hogen,
   My brothers both are they.”

Down went dames and maidens then
   To see the twain alight;
They all were slender in the waist,
   And just of proper height.

It was the proud Dame Grimhild
   Herself in scarlet clad;
Then out she hastened to the court,
   The heroes in she bade.

“’Tis custom of our castle none
   A faulchion shall unsheath,
I cannot bear the sight of one
   Since good King Sigfred’s death.”

“’Twas I that slew King Sigfred
   E’en with my own right hand,
’Twas I that slew King Ottelin
   And him could few withstand.

“’Twas then I lost my acton good,
   And trusty courser grey,
In yonder ice-cold winters
   When besieging Troy we lay.”

Then up the hall she led them
   To a hundred of her train;
With naked faulchions brandished, they
   Confront the heroes twain.

“If any knight among ye be
   Who eat here of my bread,
Will dare to slay my brother,
   I will give him gold so red.”

When heard that Folker Spillemand
   He would no longer wait;
His sword from out the sheath he drew,
   Down shivered fell the gate.

When he had bared the mighty blade
   He felt at heart so light;
He slew full fifteen warriors
   With blows of manly might.

“Ha, Ha,” said Folker Spillemand,
   “Right goes my fiddle now”—
And then the Hero Hogen slew
   Full twenty blow by blow.

It was the proud Dame Grimhild
   With wrath well nigh was wode:
“Much better had ye stayed at home
   Than come to our abode.

“Here will a hundred widows be
   ’Ere ye this fight have done.”
Then answered Hero Hogen:
   “’Twas by thyself begun.”

It was the Hero Hogen,
   His helmet lifted he:
“All under my cuirass of steel
   I burn so furiously.

“I’m weary, weary to the heart,
   And weak in verity;
O would to God in heaven is
   A horn of wine had I.”

He lifted up his vizor,
   Of human blood a draught
He took—“_In nomine Domini_”
   The Hero Hogen quaffed.

See, there the knights of Grimhild
   Lie slaughtered every one;
And that has Hero Hogen,
   And valiant Folker done.

“God bless thee, Folker Spillemand,
   Who here a corse dost lie,
Full well and without treachery
   Thy faulchion thou didst ply.

“Full four and twenty fell for one,
   Their death from him they found;
He slew them like a warrior,
   Ere sank he on the ground.

“Ah, brother, by my heart beloved,
   Thy coming cost me dear;
How woeful is my destiny
   That I should lose thee here.

“And if to me is granted
   To live another day,
My sister this shall expiate,
   I her will burn or slay.”

The evil fate’s o’ertaken her.
   She’s paid for all her ill;
King Hogen’s son caused Grimhild
   To starve within the hill.

Song the First                                      Song the Second                    Song the Third