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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Ballad of Regin 

Original: "Regin Smiður" (Regin the Smith), Faroese ballad (124 stanzas).
Referring to myths from the 9th century, put to rhyme probably in the 14th century, 
it was written down 1851 by V. U. Hammershaimb in the New Faroese language (in FÆRÖISKE KVÆDER).

Live recording of group singing "Regin Smiður".

Svein Tunheim & Wyndreth Berginsdottir singing excerpts from "Regin Smiður".

The Ballad of Regin    
Translation from: Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer: A Faroëse Ballad-Cycle, E.M. Smith-Dampier, 1934.
Transkription by courtesy of Jack Hart, read his annotations at Meadhall.

Burden (refrain):
Grane bore the golden hoard,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword,
There he slew the Dragon grim,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword.

Now shall ye lithe & listen well
Unto this song I sing
Of warfare, & of warriors,
& many a mighty king.
Sigmund now name I,
Of Volsung the son;
& 'twas the youthful Hjørdis
That for his wife he won.
Drank they right gaily
Glad yule-tide in;
Mighty their men-at-arms
Tribute to win.
Swiftly came sorrow
To their high hall,
For many a foe was fain to see
That mighty monarch's fall.
One & all, the warriors
Weapon took in hand;
Wagèd was the warfare
In King Giur's land.
Wagèd was the warfare
In King Giur's land;
There did they join battle
All on the South sea-strand.
Many fared forth to battle,
But none returned again;
Queen Hjørdis sat a-waiting
In sorrow & in pain.
Forth fared Queen Hjørdis
In mantle of grey,
To seek for King Sigmund,
On battle-field lay.
‘ Lie soft, thou Sigmund,
Dearest to me!
All in this hour of sorrow
I come to seek for thee.
‘ Dearest of mine
In woe as in weal,
Is no green herb a-growing
Avails thy hurt to heal?
‘ Wide mayst thou wander
Ere leeches be found,
With store of salves availing
To heal my deadly wound.
‘ Hunding's sons in battle
Wrought my downfall;
Venom was on the sword-points
They pierced me withal.
‘ Or ever that venom
Brought me my bane,
My goodly brand was broken
Asunder in twain.
‘ Or ever my second wound
Touched me with smart,
The venom was seeping
Thro' to my heart.
‘ The fragments of my goodly sword
To weapon-smith shalt bear,
& bid him forge a weapon
that our young son may wear.
‘ For that thou bear'st within thee
Shall prove a gallant boy;
Sigurd shalt thou name him,
& foster him with joy.
‘ Lithe now & listen,
For scant is my breath,
Sigurd our son
Shall avenge me my death.
‘ The smith by the river
His dwelling hath made;
Bid him re-fashion
Sigmund's bright blade.
‘ Fávnir hight the Fire-drake
Of Glitter Heath is Lord;
Regin is a cunning smith,
Yet none can trust his word.
‘ No longer, my Hjørdis,
Talk I with thee!
Methinks 'tis now my dying hour
That cometh fast on me. ’
Weeping went Hjørdis
From the place where he lay,
The ladies of her household
Led her away.
The ladies of her household
Succoured her eftsoon,
Whenas she lay witless
In sweven & swoon.
Woe walketh still on Middle Earth,
& seeketh every wight!
The King must dree his death-pangs
All on the self-same night.
Little spared Queen Hjørdis
Of honour to the dead;
She bade them shape for Sigmund
A bier of the gold so red.
Under the howe their henchmen
Heaped all upon the wold,
'Twas there they laid his bright bodye
Down in the darksome mould.
Up spake in sorrow
The swains that stood by:
‘ Doleful it is on sunbright day
In darksome mould to lie!
Alone in lady's bower
Sat Hjørdis sorrowing;
The first that came to woo her
Was Hjálprek the King.
King Sigmund in warfare
Laid down his life;
Hjálprek the King
Took Hjødis to wife.
She went with child, that lady fair,
Till nine long months were run,
& at the hour appointed
She bore a beauteous son.
She wrapped him well in swaddling-bands
When to this earth he came,
A gallant boy, & fair to see,
& Sigurd was his name.
Right well was he fostered
By Hjálprek the King,
The sword could he wield,
The glaive could he fling.
Both swift & strong, nor slow of growth
No feats he left untried;
A heavier blow could he lay on
Than any swain beside.
When he went forth to weapon-field,
A blood-red shield he bare,
& all that hue would favour
Who chose a champion there.
Now so it chanced, in weapon-field
When Sigurd went to play,
That strife fell out among the swains,
& wroth with him were they.
All from an ancient oaken-tree
A mighty branch he tore,
& lammed those lads so lustily
That some rose up no more.
Then did those swains to Sigurd
Speak up in dule & ire:
‘ Rather than maul thy comrades,
'Twere best avenge thy sire! ’
Now when they named his father's death,
His brow grew mirk as mould;
He cast his blood-red shield adown
All on the darksome wold.
He cast down sword & harness
As from the field he sped,
& entered in his mother's bower,
With cheeks now white, now red.
‘ Now lithe & listen, my mother dear,
& look thou tell me plain,
By what name do men name him
That was my father's bane? ’
‘ Now sooth, son of Sigmund,
I speak thee so plain;
It was the sons of Hunding
That brought thy father's bane.
‘ They that slew thy father
Sprang from Hunding's stem:
But never while thou livest
Wilt thou conquer them! ’
'Twas Sigurd up & answered,
& spake as best he might:
’Oft, oft in mouth of wolf-cub
Wax teeth that well can bit. ’
'Twas Hjørdis hied her to the kist
With red, red gold laid o'er:
‘ Behold the warrior's harness
Which last thy father wore! ’
The lock thereof she's loosened
All with a golden key,
& she's cast the blood-stained byrnie
Adown before his knee.
Then she has ta'en the fragment twain
Of Sigmund's sword of pride:
These did thy father give me
All on the day he died!
‘ Regin the weapon-smith
Dwells by the ford;
From these shall he fashion
As goodly as sword.
‘ The shards shalt thou bear him
Of Sigmund's bright brand;
As goodly a blade
Shall he forge to thine hand.
‘ Fávnir hight the Fire-dreake
Of Glitter Heath is lord;
Regin is a cunning smith,
Yet lean not on his word!
‘ Go, cast a stone in the streamlet
By pasture-field doth glide,
& choose for thy need the steadfast steed
That starteth not aside. ’
Forth to the stream fared Sigurd,
& cast therein a stone,
& the steadfast steed that started not,
He took him for his own.
None was his like in all the land,
That courser good at need,
& the name he bore in days of yore
Was Grane, Sigurd's steed.
· · ·
Now Sigurd leapt on Grane's back
When yet the ways were blind,
& rode adown the river-bank
Regin the smith to find.
It was the gallant Sigurd
Rode down by lea & land,
& Regin ceased his smithying
& took a sword in hand.
‘ Now harken, doughty Sigurd,
A warrior bold enow,
Whence art thou come thus early,
& whither ridest thou?"
‘ To thee, to thee the errand
Whereon I ride abroad!
I bid thee, Regin weapon-smith,
To forge a goodly sword. ’
‘ Now welcome, welcome, Sigurd,
So true my love for thee!
Shalt enter in my dwelling,
& bide this night with me. ’
‘ Now nay, now nay, thou weapon-smith,
I may not her abide,
Lest Hjálprek the King should lack me
From the high-seat by his side.
‘ Now forge me a sword-blade
So sharp & so bright,
That stone & cold iron
Asunder 'twill bite!
‘ Now forge me a sword-blade,
Of temper & tone
That will server asunder
Cold iron & stone! ’
In furnace a-flaming
The fragments he laid,
All thro' three night-times
He fashioned the blade.
Three night-times he laboured
To fashion the sword,
Till once again young Sigurd
Came riding to the ford.
'Twas Sigurd leapt on Grane's back,
& rode along the stand,
& Regin ceased his smithying
& took the sword in hand.
‘ Behold, I have fashioned
A weapon so wight!
If thou spare not thy strokes
Shalt be foremost in fight.
‘ Behold, I have forged thee
A weapon so true!
Both steel & cold iron
Asunder 'twill hew. ’
Now Sigurd sought the anvil,
& smote thereon amain;
But the new brand was broken
Asunder in twain.
‘ Worthy art thou, weapon-smith,
To die by my hand,
For that thou wouldst betray me
In forging the brand! ’
Adown he flung the fragments
To fall at Regin's knee;
Wan grew the weapon-smith
As lily-flower to see.
The he has ta'en the fragments twain,
& thrust in Regin's hand;
& the arm of Regin trembled
Like any lily-wand.
‘ Now forge again a sword for me
By might of runic rhyme
& be thou ware, thou weapon-smith,
I spare not a second time!
‘ A sword shalt thou forge me
So sharp & so leal,
That 'twill sever asunder
Both iron & steel! ’
‘ Yea, I will forge a second sword,
But this I'll have of thee,
The heart o' the Worm on Glitter Heath
All for my forging-fee.
‘ Now swear me this, thou Sigurd,
& look thou hold it true;
The heart o' the Worm on Glitter Heath
To give me as my due! ’
Once more in the furnace
The fragments he laid;
All thro' three night-times
He fashioned the blade;
All thro' three night-times
‘ Mid roaring & reek,
Till Sigurd rode thither
His weapon to seek.
'Twas Sigurd sprang on Grane's back
When scarce the night was o'er,
& rode adown the river-bank,
& stayed at Regin's door.
It was the doughty Sigurd
That halted by the ford;
& Regin ceased his smithying,
& took in hand the sword.
‘ A sword have I forged thee
Of wonder & worth!
Never so wight a weapon
Was seen on Middle Earth. ’
Now Sigurd smote the anvil
That straight did rock & reel,
But never a dint could mar the glint
Of Regin's tempered steel.
Again he smote the anvil
With such a mighty blow,
The iron was cloven asunder,
& the earth-fast stone below.
Bright & clear the river
Welled upwards from the spring;
& Gramm they name the sword of fame
Of Regin's smithying.
‘ Go hence, go hence, thou Sigurd,
& woo thee a high-born wife!
For such a mighty warrior
Would I lay down my life. ’
Now lithe & listen, weapon-smith,
Thy words are fair & fine,
But a darker thought is hidden
Deep in that heart o' thine! ’
‘ Now Sigurd, doughty Sigurd,
This promise make to me;
When thou dost ride to Glitter Heath,
Thy comrade I may be! ’
‘ First with the sons of Hunding
I'll meet on foughten field;
Then will I hie to Glitter Heath
This biting brand to wield.
‘ Yea, first to fight with Hunding 's sons
On battle-field I fare,
& then I ride to Glitter Heath
To raid the Dragon's lair! ’
It was not Sigurd Sigmundarson
Made not that vow in vain;
With his own hand he slew the band
That brought his father bane.
Both one & all, he saw them fall
That did his sire to death,
Or ever he turned him homeward,
& hied him to Glitter Heath.
It was Sigurd Sigmundarson
Rode down by greenwood shaw;
And, sitting apart in secret,
An agèd man he saw.
A silken cap was on his head,
As down the glade he came,
& in his hand a Finnish bow,
& no man knew his name.
With buckled leggings, countrywise,
That ancient man drew near;
One burning eye was in his head,
& at his back a spear.
‘ And art thou Sigurd Sigmundarson,
A warrior bold, I trow,
Say, whence hast thou come to greenwood glade,
& whither ridest now?"
‘ Of late I fared to battle-field,
& Hunding's sons I slew;
But now I ride to Glitter Heath
A daring deed to do. ’
‘ Now harken, Sigurd Sigmundarson,
& look thou tell to me,
What name is his, the caitiff carle,
That followeth after thee? ’
‘ Regin the smith men name him;
A cunning smith is he,
& brother in blood to the loathly Worm,
& therefore he followeth me!"
‘ Now wherefore hath he bidden thee
To delve these ditches twain?
The man that bid thee delve them,
That man desired they bane. ’
‘ 'Twas Regin bid me grave them,
These grofts, by one, by two,
For that in this adventure
He is my comrade true. ’
‘ Did Regin bid thee grave them
With never a third thereby,
Then Regin is a traitor foul
That fain would see thee die.
‘ Grave thou yet another,
A little space below,
To catch the Dragon's deadly spume
That from his mouth will flow.
‘ A fourth shalt thou fashion,
Yet closer at hand;
‘ Then shalt thou, Sigurd,
Therein take thy stand. ’
The Worm slid forth from the red, red gold
All at the eventide,
& Sigurd sprang on Grane's back,
& swiftly did he ride.
Little deeming of danger,
The Dragon crept abroad;
& Sigurd sprang from saddle,
& drew his trusty sword.
The Worm slid forth from the Treasure,
Adown the dyke to creep,
His belly clave to the lower earth
Full thirty fathom deep,
But ever the back of the monster
Was high in the air aboon;
& Sigurd seized his biting brand,
& drew, & stuck eftsoon.
So stern was the sword-stroke,
So mighty the blow,
That all the girth of Middle Earth
Was shaken to & fro.
Shook every leaf on every tree
& earth the tree-roots under,
When Sigurd drew his trusty sword,
& clave the Worm asunder.
Up & spake the loathly Worm,
All broken where he lay:
‘ Who is the doughty warrior
Dares deal such blows to-day? ’
‘ Sigurd shalt thou name me,
Of Sigmund the son;
Hjørdis she that bore me
After his days were done. ’
‘ Lithe & listen, Sigurd,
To this I ask of thee;
What man was in thy following
The livelong way to me? ’
‘ With Regin thy brother
I came to the Heath,
Foulest of traitors,
Desiring thy death. ’
Up & spake the fierce Fire-drake,
A-floating in his gore:
‘ Regin the false weapon-smith
Must tread the earth no more.
‘ Of traitors worst is Regin,
Who fain thy bane would be;
Then deal thou with the weapon-smith
As thou hast dealt by me! ’
Up spake the wily weapon-smith:
‘ Where is that fee of mine,
The Dragon's heart that is my part,
As thou dist swear langsyne? ’
Oh, out he hewed the Dragon's heart,
Was three ells' length & more,
& he brandered it all on burning wood
Because of the oath he swore.
His hand, sore scorched with burning heat,
All on his lips he laid,
& the speech he knew of the birds that flew,
& the beasts in the greenwood glade.
Up & spake the little bird
That sat on oaken-tree:
‘ Eat of the heart, thou Sigurd,
And thou wouldst wiser be! ’
The heart doth he take from the wooden stake,
And all to eat is boun,
While Regin of the poisoned gore
To drink hath laid him down.
Regin hath laid him down to drink
Of the Dragon's poisoned blood,
& Sigurd dealt him his death-wound,
Nor stirred from where he stood.
It was the doughty Sigurd
That swung his sword amain;
Regin the smith he sundered
Apart in pieces twain.
Such treasure won Sigurd
As ne'er can be told,
When as he slew the loathly Worm
That lay upon the wold.
All in the red of morning
When dew bedecked the ground,
Twelve kists well-filled with the red, red gold
On Grane's back he bound,
Twelve kists well-filled with treasure,
& mounted there beside,
& swift the good steed Grane
Thro' holt & heathland hied.
Swift, swift they haste by wood & waste,
The homeward way unknown,
& they must lie the livelong night
With the cold rain dripping down.
Oh lightly trode Grane
On stone as in stall!
Never a steed so steadfast
Was known in kingly hall.
Now will I cease from song awhile,
& see that ye mind it well,
Ere once again I raise my strain
This three-fold tale to tell.