Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826

Song of the Valkyries

The Song of the Valkyries is a small part of a much longer piece, the Saga of Burnt Nial, one of the more famous of the Icelandic Sagas. It’s actually translated here by the frequently featured Lee Hollander quite differently than it appears in the translation of Nial’s Saga by George W. Dasent, who is best-known for his translation of Nial’s Saga. I highly recommend reviewing the song, which Dasent calls “The Woof of War,” in Chapter 156. Context within the saga isn’t necessary to enjoy this beautiful piece of poetry, though the chapter it’s contained in discusses the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland if you want to learn more.

The Song of the Valkyries

Widely is flung, warning of slaughter,
the weaver’s-beam’s-web: ’t is wet with blood;
is spread now, grey, the spear-thing before,
the woof-of-the-warriors which valkyries fill
with the red-warp-of- Randvér’s-banesman.

Is this web woven and wound of entrails,
and heavy weighted with heads of slain;
are blood-bespattered spears the treadles,
iron-bound the beams, the battens, arrows:
let us weave with our swords this web of victory!

Goes Hild to weave, and Hiorthrimul,
Sangrith and Svipul, with swords brandished:
shields will be shattered, shafts will be splintered,
will the hound-of-helmets the hauberks bite.

Wind we, wind we the-web-of-darts,
and follow the atheling after to war!
Will men behold shields hewn and bloody
where Gunn and Gondul have guarded the thane.

Wind we, wind we such web-of-darts
as the young war-worker waged afore-time!
Forth shall we fare where the fray is thickest,
where friends and fellows ’gainst foemen battle!

Wind we, wind we the web-of-darts
where float the flags of unflinching men!
Let not the liege’s life be taken:
valkyries award the wyrd of battle.

Will seafaring men hold sway over lands,
who erstwhile dwelled on outer nesses;
is doomed to die a doughty king,
lies slain an earl by swords e’en now

Will Irish men eke much ill abide:
’t will not ever after be out of men’s minds.
Now the web is woven, and weapons reddened—
in all lands will be heard the heroes’ fall.

Now awful is it to be without,
as blood-red rack races overhead;
is the welkin gory with warriors’ blood
as we valkyries war-songs chanted.

Well have we chanted charms full many
about the king’s son: may it bode him well!
Let him learn them who listens to us,
and speak these spells to spearmen after.

Start we swiftly with steeds unsaddled—
hence to battle with brandished swords!

"Valkyrien" by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1869
“Valkyrien” by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1869

2 comments on “Song of the Valkyries

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