Skirnismál


The Lay of Skirnir


Skadi:
Arise, Skirnir, ride now
Swiftly to Frey, my son,
And ask him this: with whom is the wise one
So angry, so sad at heart?

2

Skirnir:
A grim answer I shall get, Skadi,
I fear, from Frey, your son,
If I ask him this: at whom is the wise one
So angry, so sad at heart?

3

Tell me, Frey, first of the gods,
That which I long to learn:
Why do you sit and sulk in your hall
Alone, my lord, all day?

4

Frey:
Why should I tell you what is the cause
Of the great grief that casts
Gloom on my mind, though the Glory of Elves
Lights up the daytime hours.

5

Skirnir:
No grief, Prince, is so great that you
May not tell it to me:
In the days of our youth we were young together,
Each can trust the other.

6

Frey:
I saw a girl in Gymir's courts,
A girl for whose love I long:
Air and water took on a radiance
From the light of her lovely arms.

7

As dear to no man in days past
Was maid as she is to me:
But no elf, no god, will grant my prayer
That I may lie with her.

8

Skirnir:
Give me a mare that will gallop through
The wall of flickering flame,
And the sword that slays by itself when battle
Is joined with the race of giants.

9

Frey:
I will give you a mare that will gallop through
The wall of flickering flame,
And the sword that slays by itself if brave
The warrior be who wields it.

10

Skirnir:
Night has fallen: now we must ride
Over the misty mountains,
The fells of the troll-folk;
We shall both arrive or both fall into
The hands of the horrible giant.

11

Hail, Herdsman, howe-watcher,
Looking this way and that!
By what means can I speak, despite his hounds,
With Gymir's daughter, Gerd.

12

Herdsman:
Are you doomed to death, or dead already?
Barred shall you ever be from speech
With Gymir's daughter, Gerd.

13

Skirnir:
To stake life on the luck of the dice
Is better than to be a coward:
The day of my death is
By Fate my time is fixed.

14

Gerd:
What is the noise which now I hear,
That din throughout our halls?
Earth trembles, everything shakes
In the wide garths of Gymir.

15

Herdsman:
A man on a mare: he dismounts and leads her
Unbridled to graze the grass.

16

Gerd:
Go, let him in; bid him enter our hall
And drink a draught of mead,
Though my heart forebodes that my brother's killer
Darkens the door with his shadow.

17

Are you one of the elves, are you one of the gods,
Or one of the wise Vanes?
Why have you ridden through wildfire
Hither to visit our halls?

18

Skirnir:
I am not an elf, I am not a god,
Nor one of the wise Vanes,
Though well I have ridden through wildfire
Hither to visit your halls.
Eleven apples, all of gold,
Lo, I will give them you, Gerd,
To look on Frey with friendly eyes,
Call him your dearest dear.

19

Gerd:
No, your apples I will never take
At any wooer's wish,
Nor look on Frey with friendly eyes,
Nor call him my dearest dear.

20

Skirnir:
This bracelet I'll give you, that was burned on the pyre
Of Baldur, Odin's boy:
It drops eight of equal thickness
Every ninth night.

21

Gerd:
I refuse the bracelet, though burned on the pyre
Of Baldur, Odin's boy:
I need no gold in Gymir's court;
His wealth is at my command.

22

Skirnir:
Do you see this sword, slender, inwrought,
This sword I hold in my hand?
I will hack your head from your haughty neck
Unless you pledge your love.

23

Gerd:
No threat of force shall frighten me
To yield to a wooer's wish:
If Gymir, my father, finds you here,
Short shrift you will get.

24

Skirnir:
Do you see this sword, slender, inwrought,
This sword I hold in my hand?
Beneath its edge will the old one kneel,
It dooms your father to die.

25

With a taming wand I shall teach you swiftly,
Make you, maiden, obey.

26

You shall be sent where no son of man
Or god shall see you again,
With earth behind you, on an eagle's mound,
Facing Hel, for ever sit. Fouler to you shall food look
Than the snake seems to warriors.
A sight you shall become ere you come out.

Hrimnir shall leer at you, everyone jeer at you,
A more famous figure you'll be
Than the god's watchman when you gape through the fence.

May error and terror, blotches and blains,
Grow on you, grief with tears.
Crouch low while the curse I pronounce,
Heavy torment and twofold grief.
Orcs shall pinch you the whole day long
In the grim garths of the giants,
Every day to the halls of Frost
You shall creep, crawl without choice,
Without any hope of choice

Lamentation not laughter know,
Dejection instead of joy.
With three-headed trolls shall your time be spent,
Never shall a man come near you,
May your senses be numbed, your sadness weep,
May you be as the thistle, thoughtlessly crushed
Underfoot at the gate of the garth.

To the woods I went, through the wet trees,
For a spell-binding branch,
And a fitting branch I found.
Odin is angry, angry is Thor,
All the gods shall hate you
Base maiden, you have brought on yourself
The anger of all the gods.

Hear me, giants, hear me frost-trolls,
Sons of Suttung, hear me,
What I forebode, what I forbid,
Joy of man to this maid,
Love of man to this maid.

Hrimgrimir shall have you, the hideous troll,
Beside the doors of the dead,
Under the tree-roots ugly scullions
Pour you the urine of goats;
Nothing else shall you ever drink,
Never what you wish,
Ever what I wish.
I score troll-runes, then I score three letters,
Filth, frenzy, lust:
I can score them off as I score them on,
If I find sufficient cause.

27

Gerd:
You have conquered, warrior.
This cup I pledge you,
Full of foaming mead,
Little did I dream my love would ever
Be vowed to a son of the Vanes.

28

Skirnir:
More must I know for the message I bear
When I ride from Gymir's garth.
Where will you meet, when will you give
Yourself to the Son of Njörd?

29

Gerd:
In the woods of Barn which we both know,
A peaceful, secluded place,
After nine nights to Njörd's Son
Gerd will give herself.

30

Frey:
Answer me, Skirnir, ere you dismount
Or step a foot further:
Is it joyful news from Gianthome
You bring with you or bad?

31

Skirnir: In the woods of Barri which we both know,
A peaceful, secluded place,
After nine nights to Njörd's Son
Gerd will give herself.

32

Frey:
Long is one night, longer are two,
Endless the thought of three.
Many a month has moved more swiftly
Than this half of a bridal eve.

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From Norse Poems,
Translated by W. H. Auden and P. B. Taylor
Faber and Faber Ltd.,
ISBN 0-571-13028-3
_________________________________________________________

Notes

4 The Glory of Elves is the sun.

19 The apple was the Icelandic symbol of fruitfulness.

21 Odin's arm-ring ('bracelet') Draupnir (dropper) was fabricated for him by the dwarves.

26 What we have rendered 'Orcs' is obscure. Some editors read 'vile things'.