Thursday, September 27, 2012

Valkyrjars Sǫng

This poem is intended as a companion piece to a tale told by Mistress Morgana Bro Morganwg of Jarl Haakon and his skald, Haukr. In the tale, the Valkyries, led by Orðtruðr (“word-trust”), spare the Jarl and his men, while destroying their foes. This happens because of the war-song Haukr sings. I've heard and admired the tale; it is one of my favorites. Since neither Hauk´s song nor the Valkyries' song appears in the tale, I have made bold to imagine them.

The form is a variant of togmælt [journey-spoken] with four-to-five syllables per line, alliteration, half-rhymes, and full-rhymes as in dróttkvætt. The shortness of the lines makes the rhythm and rhymes work together more completely. You can find an example from Snorri here.

A careful reader will note that three verses are different from the others in their rhyme scheme. I freely admit to having borrowed them from the Eddaic poem, Darraðarljóð, a poem quoted in Njals Saga, chapter 156. It describes the Valkyries as weavers of man's fate.

Now you can hear it:


Old Norse Verses Poetic Translation
Ríðum stríðum
strjúka á fljúgjask
Sigbragnum þegna
þáttu kvattú.

Gengr hildr vefa
ok hjǫrþrimul
sangríðr svipul
sverðum svipul
skapt mun gnesta
skjöldr mun bresta
mun hjálmgagarr
í hlíf koma.

Orðtruð herjarn
orrust hjǫrtu
til Freyja borit
með blóði gollin.
Rǫgnis valdrǫs
reið um leiðir
á býskips systr
skeiðbrimi fimmtandi

Ríðum stríðum
strjúka á fljúgjask
Sigbragnum þegna
þáttu kvattú.

Geðum heiðrs
Þungra hungrað -
skalt vera berþrek
blóðkorgr bǫðvar.
Hjálmtrjám dómsorð
hæfa hafstrandar.
fara til skera
framast malmrunnum

Reyfarar ríða
rafstráit of hafstrǫnd
veiðifúss at líkar
líflauss ok drífvit.
Haukr heyrðr
hrylling frýja
hildar hjaldr
hinkrask, blindandi.

Ríðum stríðum
strjúka á fljúgjask
Sigbragnum þegna
þáttu kvattú.

Vindum vindum
vef darraðar
þar er vé vaða
vígra manna
látum eigi
líf skalds britast
eigu valkyrjur
vals um kosti.

Svika þær tók
svartast hjartu
bálfjandar til helvítis
blak vatt gata!
Snefga gǫfgað
vítskáld Valmey -
hljómr líðinn
hollr ok gólligr.

Ríðum stríðum
strjúka á fljúgjask
Sigbragnum þegna
þáttu kvattú.
Ride to battle!
Join the blood-song!
Sing of Victory
Chieftain's thegns!

Go they weaving
with swords drawn
Hild and Hjorthrimul,
Sanngrid and Svipul.
Spears will shatter
shields will splinter,
Swords will gnaw
like wolves through armor.

Ortrudr warlike
warriors' hearts
with golden blood
to Freyja carries.
Slaughter goddess
rides the hawks' paths
on bee-ship's surf-steed
summons sisters.

Ride to battle!
Join the blood-song!
Sing of Victory
Chieftain's thegns!

Þungra hungers
for honor's souls -
shall be bear-bold
battle's blood-dregs.
To sea-strands helm-trees
doom-words mete we;
go to mow down
boldest sword-trees.

Above seastrand ambered
Ride the rievers
hunt for bodies
snow white lifeless.
Haukr hears she
horrors cursing
battle's Hildr
halts, she staring.

Ride to battle!
Join the blood-song!
Sing of Victory
Chieftain's thegns!

Wind we now
the web of war
where warrior banners
are forging forward.
Harvest we not
bright skalds' spirit
Valkyries only
choose the slain.

Took they then the
traitors black hearts
pyrefiends to Hel's
black gates hurled.
Blessed then Valmey
wit-skald swiftest
gliding song-voice
true and joyful.

Ride to battle!
Join the blood-song!
Sing of Victory
Chieftain's thegns!


Rǫgnis valdrǫs > Rǫgnir's [Óðin´s] slaughter woman > Valkyrie
býskips skeiðbrimi > bee-ship's surf-racer > air's horse > Valkyrie's horse
Þungra > Freyja
berþrek > bear-bold > warriors
blóðkorgr bǫðvar > blood-dregs of battle > the dead
Hjálmtrjám > helm-trees > warriors
dómsorð > doom-words > justice
malmrunnum > sword-trees > warriors
rafstráit > rievers > Valkyries
hildar hjaldr > battle's Hildr >Valkyrie
skalds britast > skald brightest > Haukr
bálfjandar > pyrefiends > traitors
vítskáld > wit-skald > Haukr


Do you like it? Hate it? Have questions? Plase let me know by commenting below or by e-mail

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old Poems

So, I was cleaning out my songbook recently, and I came upon a few poems that I wrote over 30 years ago. I tried one or two out on folks at Pennsic. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reception they received.

When I stop and think about what I was reading and being affected by half a lifetime ago, I realize that the Irish legends and myths I was reading then are a strong basis for the poetry I write today. So, I will share two of these Brian Boru and Cú Chulainn inspired poems with you today.


Brian's Lay

What man does rise to reign
but gods do cause to fall
do set snares but baited bold
so it haps today as fate foretold.

Bold Brian, man of blood and bone
to us sword singer, Saxon foe,
did stand on Eire's shore undaunted
by bastard Britons, foemen flaunted.

Bold Brian, he who harped and harmed
who sang his love, his lust, his gaudy greed
his wildest wanderings we did take
to field; we fought and fell for Brian's sake.

His foemen's blood he spilled, and gave rebirth
to Antient Brian's game, brave Boru's way.
The Saxons fell yet went not home as whole;
their faces grinned as Brian bared his soul.

They, at our feasts, our trophied heads stared down
and listened, blanching not at bloody tales --
Thus Brian inspired our souls to battle bold
of which our kindred's kin shall ere be told.

Yet gods do find no joy in joy unknown
to THEIR fine names and spirits' debt.
But rather envied Brian his foemen's fall:
they struck while beauteous Brian thus stood tall.

The greatest good in human heart has burst --
thus Brian passes to his fate unfair:
Sing out his tale, his fame, his bravest deeds
whose soul shall ere return at Eire's need.



Many wars I have seen, many battles fought
stood by my king, masterless slave;
knowing not why my songs have such meaning
knowing the sagas I only may save.

In Cuchulainn's war marches I too strode
Sharp-singer of tales to push on the wave.
My holder, he fell to the swords of the heathens
knowing his sory I only could save.

O'Donnell, he took me by force to the North.
The kin of my fathers he put in the grave.
He, too, fell silent, King of the Isle,
knowing his memory I only could save.

Now call me, o great one of white hands and red hair
as blood and sword your road to glory must pave.
Remember! You'll die but my harp will live always!
Know that your soul, I only may save!

Many wars I have seen, many deaths I have known,
mothers and children of Eire-men brave,
A voice with no master, bound to live always
knowing the sagas I only may save.


And there you have them. Like them? Hate them? Comment below or write me.