The Waking of Angantýr

[Translated by S.R. Hardy]

There came a maiden     to Munarvág.
The sun was falling;     she saw a herdsman.

The Herdsman spoke:

“Who comes alone     to this lonely isle?
You should go now     to get some rest.”

Hervor spoke:

“To do that is hard:     I have no lodgings;
on this island     I am a stranger.
Tell me swiftly     as soon as you can:
where are the Hjorvard     howes on this island?”

The Herdsman spoke:

“It is unwise     to ask for this
my Viking friend,     most foully led.
Let us fleetly go     as fast as we can;
tonight there are     nasty things roaming.”

Hervor spoke:

“I point you to     a path to riches;
do not waylay     the warriors’ friend.
I will have none     of needless metals,
and fairly wrought rings;     in full they are yours.”

The Herdsman spoke:

“It seems foolish     to search hither,
one man alone     in lengthening shadows.
Fires are guttering,     graves are opening;
field and marsh burn.     Follow me swiftly!”

Hervor spoke:

“We must not fear     such fell tidings,
though fully the island     in flames is covered!
Let us awake     dead warriors tonight
to ask of them     the answers I seek.”

Then the herdsman     hied to the forest,
Making to flee     the maiden’s words.
Hervor’s noble     heart and spirit
swelled within     her able breast.

She now saw fires and ghosts rising up from the graves and she walked among the graves but was not frightened.  She passed through the fires as if they were no more than smoke, until she came to the grave of the Hjorvards.  Then she said:

“Wake, Angantýr!     Awake to see
Your single daughter,     sired with Tofa.
Send from the grave     the grim weapon
smithed by the dwarves     for Svafrlama.

Hervor, Hjorvard,     Hrani, Angantýr!
I wake those resting,     with roots above them,
with helms and shields     and sharp swords,
byrnies and wrathful     red-tipped spears.

Much are you changed,     children of Arngrím,
violent kindred,     covered by earth.
Sons of Eyfur,     I say to you:
speak with me     on Munarvág.

I would see you all     sundered and torn,
as if by ants     in open graves.
Give up the sword     smithed by Dvalinn;
that mighty weapon     you wights have hidden.”

Then answered Angantýr:

“Hervor, my daughter,     why hail you so,
full of curses?     You flatter me not.
You are bewildered,     wanting your senses;
in your wailing     you wake the dead.

I was not buried     by brother or father.
Tyrfing was owned     by two who lived;
later it was owned     by one man less.”

Hervor spoke:

“Do not lie to me!     May dauntless gods
rend your corpses     if covered there lies
Tyrfing with you.     Unwilling you are
to give your daughter     your great hoard.”

Then Hervor saw a flame rise up and engulf the grave, which opened.

Then spoke Angantýr:

“The graves are open,     the gates of hell.
The island of Samsey     is all aflame;
everywhere one looks     is awful to see.
Go to your ship,     if go you can.”

Hervor said:

“You will yet fail     to frighten me
with burning fires     ablaze at night;
my maiden’s breast     will beat not more,
even if ghosts     from graves arise.”

Then spoke Angantýr:

“Hark me, Hervor.     Hear what I know,
prince’s daughter,     of deeds to come.
This sword Tyrfing,     if truth you believe,
will destroy, maiden,     the strength of your kin.

You shall beget     a great strong son
to bear Tyrfing,     and trust its power.
Then shall the folk     feast him as Heidrek,
a son born and raised,     roofed by the heavens.”

Hervor spoke:

“I cast a spell     to curse the dead,
and doom you all     down to lie,
rotting in a grave,     with ghosts of men.
Give me, Angantýr,     up from the soil,
dwarfed-smithed Tyrfing     you’ve tried to hide.”

Angantýr said:

“Young maiden you are     as men are not.
You walk at night     on noisome graves,
with graven spear     and Gothic metal,
with helm and birney,     to the hall’s door.”

Hervor said:

“You took me for a man,     until such time
As I thought to seek     your silent hall.
Give up from your grave     the gasher of birneys,
the breaker of shields,     the bane of Hjálmar.”

Angantýr spoke:

“It’s here under me,     Hjálmar’s bane,
ringed by fire,     reddened with heat.
There is no maiden,     anywhere on earth
who dares to bring     that blade to hand.”

Hervor said:

“I’ll take in hand     and try to keep
the edge-sharp blade     if I am able.
I do not fear     the fires that burn:
they fall at once      under my gaze.”

Angantýr spoke:

“It is foolish     but also daring
to enter the fire     with open eyes.
I will give you     the grave-housed sword,
my young maiden;     I must not refuse.”

Hervor spoke:

“It would be kind,     kinsman Viking,
if out of the grave     you gave me the sword.
I would prefer,     by far, to have it
than even to own     all of Norway.”

Angantýr spoke:

“Witless maiden,     your words are nonsense.
You know not well     for what to be glad.
This sword Tyrfing,     if truth you believe,
Will indeed destroy     the strength of your kin.”

She said:

“I shall fly now     to my fleet ship;
the prince’s maiden     in mind is glad.
I am little worried,     warrior kinsman,
whether my sons     shall waste their blood.”

Angantýr spoke:

“You shall have it     and hold it long,
but hold it sheathed,     Hjálmar’s bane.
Don’t touch its edges,      tipped with poison;
it is to men     a meter of fate.

Farewell, daughter!     Would that I could give
twelve mens’ lives,     if truth you believe.
The strength and will,     steady and good,
of Arngrím’s sons     sadly has left.”

Hervor spoke:

“I must away.     I wish you all
peace in your graves!     Gone must I be.
Now I am trapped     between the worlds,
as all around me     rage bright fires.”

A Note on the Translation. The source text used for this translation is that found in E.V. Gordon’s An Introduction to Old Norse, 2nd Ed. Oxford, 1956.  The original text is preserved in the Codex Regius 2845 quarto.

[S.R. Hardy is a poet, novelist and translator whose work has appeared in venues such as Northern TraditionsDeath Head GrinWidowmoon Press and the Eunoia Review.  He is currently at work on a variety of translations, poems and stories.  In addition, he blogs about words]

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