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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 Third

O, where will ye find kempions
   So bold and strong of hand,
As Hogen and his brother dear,
   Sir Folker Spillemand?

Forward stepped she, Bodild,
   Hero Hogen’s mother, crying:
“Methought the gallant coursers all
   Were either dead or dying.

“And I possess full wit enow
   That vision to explain;
If to the Hvenish land ye go
   There’ll many a man be slain.”

Out rode the valiant brothers where
   The river rolled its tide,
There they the Mermaid found asleep
   Beneath a green hill’s side.

“Awake, awake, thou Mermaiden,
   Thou creature wondrous fair;
Say, will my life in danger be
   If I to Hven repair?”

“O turn thee, Hero Hogen, back,
   Thou art a knight so bold,
Thou dost in thy own land possess
   Full many a tower and hold.

“Return, return to thine own land,
   Seek not the warrior joust,
If thou dost to thy sister go
   Thy young life it will cost.”

It was the Hero Hogen then
   His sword he straight drew out;
It was the wretched Mermaiden
   From whom the head he smote.

“By thee I now am prophesied,
   And dead thou liest there;
I to the land of Hven will go,
   Soon as the wind is fair.”

Then forward went the heroes two,
   They found the ferry-house:
“Arise, arise, good ferryman,
   And come here out to us.

“Now listen what I say to thee,
   Convey us o’er the Sound,
And I will give thee this gold ring,
   It weighs full fifteen pound.”

“Thy bright gold ring keep thou thyself,
   I it will not possess,
I never to the town should come
   But ’twould bring me distress.

“I never should seek the town but I
   Should therefore sure be chidden;
I shall not bear thee o’er to-day,
   My Lady’s me forbidden.”

And Hero Hogen grew so wroth,
   So wroth grew he in mood;
The ferryman’s head hewed he off,
   So widely reeked the blood.

Then straight the bloody head he cast
   Mid Öresund’s swift water;
And, bidding them meet in the deep,
   He cast the body after.

Sir Gunter and Sir Gernot, they
   Their vessel steered from land;
But when they reached the middle Sound
   The tempest was at hand.

O then the oars asunder snapped
   In Folker’s hardy hand;
Here Hogen guided with his shield
   The ship with toil to land.

Then cast they out their anchors,
   All on the yellow sand;
It was the Hero Hogen,
   He stepped the first to land.

The others they did not delay,
   But each as he could best
Arrayed himself right manfully,
   And Folker ’bove the rest.

Abroad the warden standing was,
   He on the rampart strode:
“O, there are come our country to,
   Two Athelings so proud.

“O kemps are come our country to,
   And men so bold to see;
They all yclad in iron are,
   Their steeds come springing free.

“The one he bears a hawk in flight,
   Gold on his buckler gleams;
The other bears a fiddle, and
   A prince’s son he seems.”

Out came she, Dame Grimhild,
   She so fair to speak was able:
“He does not bear a fiddle
   For he serves a noble’s table.

“But they two gallant warriors are,
   Two sprouts of Dukely tree;
To know them I have cause enough,
   They brothers are to me.”

It was the Count Sir Gunselin,
   His warriors he bespake:
“O, hither Hero Hogen comes,
   A fray with him we’ll make.

“O, we will fight with them to-day,
   And we will slay them all;
Then his red gold and forest green
   Shall in our power fall.”

Then just within the portal
   Hero Hogen answer made:
“With you I’ll blythely hazard that,
   If ye be not afraid.”

Out then went the heroes all,
   So sorely fast they hied;
Then unto old as well as young
   Such evil did betide.

In hand of Folker Spillemand
   The sword asunder flew;
He seized a big steel spear, above
   The door that met his view.

And seven such gallant warriors
   He slew at the first blow:
“In Drotten’s holy name,” he said,
   “My fiddle be known now.

“Now merrily my fiddle goes,
   Ye dance and spring around;
I sweat with strong exertion
   In my acton narrow bound.”

It was the Count Sir Gunselin,
   At Grimhild’s feet he kneeled:
“O part us from those hardy knights,
   Or help against them yield.”


“Fight on, fight on, my good men all,
   On whom I bread bestow;
From fighting ye must not desist
   Till Folker lyeth low.”

“Now hear thou, Sister Grimhild,
   I am gored with many a wound;
Thou ne’er to me wert true or good,
   And that I now have found.

“Now I’ve not closed an eye, an eye
   For days and nights full seven;
I’ll avenge my murder certainly
   Ere life from me is riven.

“Gone is my sword so trusty,
   And my good steel spear’s in twain;
But all my care I would forget
   Could I a weapon gain.”

Then answered him young Hubba Yern,
   He stood by him so near:
“I’ll lend to thee the gallant sword,
   My brother loved so dear.

“Methink thou art a hero bold,
   And mighty strong beside;
And that maybe in verity
   On thy fiddle bow espied.”

“Ah, thanks to thee, young Hubba Yern!
   A true kemp thee I call;
I’ll serve thee faithful in return,
   So shall my brothers all.”

Then hewed he, Folker Spillemand,
   ’Twas heard up to the sky;
He’d rather perish like a man
   Than basely quit and fly.

{1}  Squires in attendance upon Hogen.

Song the First                                      Song the Second                    Song the Third