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(Lay of Dorrud)

Also known as
Song of the Valkyries


Picture: Battle of Clontarf, oilpainting by Hugh Frazer, 1826
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%27Battle_of_Clontarf%27,_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Hugh_Frazer,_1826.jpg

In the thirteenth-century Icelandic saga “Njáls saga” other names: Njála and Brennu-Njáls saga) the Valkyries have their own say. They describe their activities in a rather horrible poem. In the song twelve Valkyries are busy weaving and discussing who should die in the Battle of Clontarf which took place near Dublin in the year 1014. The poem contains many ‘kennings and several translations in modern languages exist, all of which differ from each other. They all would have been not easy to understand, which is why in some translations most of the ‘kennings’ have been converted to their meanings.

When Dörrud left his house on Good Friday morning, he saw twelve figures riding to a dwelling in a hill. He walked over and looked through a window to see what was going on. He saw women there who had carefully stretched a loom. They used human skulls as weaving weights, and the threads on the loom and spool were made of human intestines. They used their swords as shuttle and arrows served as reels. During the work, the women declared the following poem below.

A first translation together with the text in Old Norse. Source: Chantepie, Pierre D. “Walkyries, Swan-Maidens, Norns” The Religion of the Teutons. Dallas: Ginn & Co. 1902. pp. 304-317.

Blood rains    from the cloudy web
On the broad loom    of slaughter.
The web of man    grey as armor
Is now being woven;    the Valkyries
Will cross it    with a crimson weft.
Vítt er orpit    fyri valfalli
rifs reiðiský    rignir blóði;
nú er fyri geirrum    grár upp kominn
vefr verþjóðar    er þær vinur fylla
rauðum vepti    Randvés bana.
The warp is made    of human entrails;
Human heads    are used as heddle-weights;
The heddle rods    are blood-wet spears;
The shafts are iron-bound    and arrows are the shuttles.
With swords we will weave    this web of battle.
Sjá er orpinn vefr    ýta þörmum
ok harðkléaðr    höfðum manna
eru dreyrrekin    dörr at sköptum
járnvarðr yllir    enn örum hrælat
skulum slá sverðum    sigrvef þenna.
The Valkyries go weaving    with drawn swords,
Hild and Hjorthrimul,    Sanngrid and Svipul.
Spears will shatter    shields will splinter,
Swords will gnaw    like wolves through armor.
Gengr hildr vefa    ok hjörþrimul
sangríðr svipul    sverðum svipul
skapt mun gnesta    skjöldr mun bresta
mun hjálmgagarr    í hlíf koma.
Let us now wind    the web of war
Which the young king    once waged.
Let us advance    and wade through the ranks,
Where friends of ours    are exchanging blows.
Vindum vindum    vef Darraðar
sá er ungr konungr    átti fyrri
fram skulum ganga    ok í fólk vaða
þar er vinir várir    vápnum skipta.
Let us now wind    the web of war
And then follow    the king to battle
Gunn and Gondul    can see there
The blood-spattered shields    that guarded the king.
Vindum vindum    vef Darraðar
ok siklingi    síðan fylgjum
þar sjá bragnar    blóðgar randir
Gunnr ok Göndul    þær er grami hlíðu.
Let us now wind    the web of war
Where the warrior banners    are forging forward
Let his life    not be taken;
Only the Valkyries    can choose the slain.
Vindum vindum    vef Darraðar
þar er vé vaða    vígra manna
látum eigi    líf hans faraz
eigu valkyrjur    vals um kosti.
Lands will be ruled    by new peoples
Who once inhabited    outlying headlands.
We pronounce a great king    destined to die;
Now an earl    is felled by spears.
Þeir munu lýðir    löndum ráða
er útskaga    áðr um byggðu
kveð ek ríkum gram    ráðinn dauða
nú er fyrir oddum    jarlmaðr hniginn.
The men of Ireland    will suffer a grief
That will never grow old    in the minds of men.
The web is now woven    and the battlefield reddened;
The news of disaster    will spread through lands.
Ok munu Írar    angr um bíða
þat er aldri mun    ýtum fyrnaz
nú er vefr roðinn    munu um lönd fara
læspjöll gota.    Nú er ógurligt   
It is horrible now    to look around
As a blood-red cloud    darkens the sky.
The heavens are stained    with the blood of men,
As the Valyries    sing their song.
um at litaz er deyrug ský   
dregr með himni
mun lopt litat    lýða blóði
er sóknvarðar    syngja kunnu.
We sang well    victory songs
For the young king;    hail to our singing!
Let him who listens    to our Valkyrie song
Learn it well    and tell it to others.
Vel keðu vér    um konung ungan
sigrhljóða fjöld    syngjum heilar
enn inn nemi    er heyrir á
geirfljóða hljóð    ok gumum segi.
Let us ride our horses    hard on bare backs,
With swords unsheathed    away from here!
Ríðum hestum    hart út berum
bregðum sverðum    á braut héðan.

Then the Valkyries tore the cloth from the loom, teared it to pieces and each of them took the piece she had in her hand, and six of them rode away to the North and the other six to the south.

Here is another translation taken from ″The Story of Burnt Njal″, by George W. DaSent, 1900.


See! warp is stretched
For warriors’ fall,
Lo! weft in loom
’Tis wet with blood;
Now fight foreboding,

’Neath friends’ swift fingers,
Our gray woof waxeth
With war’s alarms,
Our warp bloodred,
Our weft corseblue.

This woof is y-woven
With entrails of men,
This warp is hardweighted
With heads of the slain,

Spears blood-besprinkled
For spindles we use,
Our loom ironbound,
And arrows our reels;

With swords for our shuttles
This war-woof we work;
So weave we, weird sisters,
Our warwinning woof.

Now War-winner walketh
To weave in her turn.
Now Swordswinger steppeth,
Now Swiftstroke, now Storm;

When they speed the shuttle
How spear-heads shall flash!
Shields crash, and helmgnawerö
On harness bite hard!

Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof.
Woof erst for king youthful
Foredoomed as his own,

Forth now we will ride,
Then through the ranks rushing
Be busy where friends
Blows blithe give and take.

Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof,
After that let us steadfastly
Stand by the brave king;

Then men shall mark mournful
Their shields red with gore,
How Swordstroke and Spearthrust
Stood stout by the prince.

Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof;
When sword-bearing rovers
To banners rush on,

Mind, maidens, we spare not
One life in the fray!
We corse-choosing sisters
Have charge of the slain.

Now new-coming nations
That island shall rule.
Who on outlying headlands
Abode ere the fight;

I say that King mighty
To death now is done,
Now low before spearpoint
That Earl bows his head.

Soon over all Ersemen
Sharp sorrow shall fall,
That woe to those warriors
Shall wane nevermore;

Our woof now is woven.
Now battle-field waste,
O’er land and o’er water
War tidings shall leap.

Now surely ’tis gruesome
To gaze all around,
When bloodred through heaven
Drives cloudrack o’er head;
Air soon shall be deep hued

With dying men’s blood
When this our spaedom
Comes speedy to pass.
So cheerily chant we

Charms for the young king,
Come maidens lift loudly
His warwinning lay;
Let him who now listens
Learn well with his ears,

And gladden brave swordsmen
With bursts of war’s song.
Now mount we our horses,
Now bare we our brands,

Now haste we hard, maidens,
Hence far, far away.



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