Sigrdrífumál

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Brünnhilde wakes and greets the day and Siegfried, illustration of the scene of Wagner's Ring inspired by the Sigrdrífumál, by Arthur Rackham (1911).
Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from. Illustration by Jenny Nyström (1893).
Sigrdrífa giving Sigurd a drinking horn. Illustration on the Drävle Runestone.

Sigrdrífumál ("sayings of the victory-bringer", also known as Brynhildarljóð[1]) is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius.

It follows Fáfnismál without interruption, and it relates the meeting of Sigurðr with the valkyrie Brynhildr, here identified as Sigrdrífa ("victory-bringer"). Its content consists mostly of verses concerned with runic magic and general wisdom literature, presented as advice given by Sigrdrifa to Sigurd. The metre is fornyrðislag, except for the first stanza.

The end is in the lost part of the manuscript but it has been substituted from younger paper manuscripts. The Völsunga saga describes the scene and contains some of the poem.

Name[edit]

The name Sigrdrífa means "victory-urger" or "inciter to victory",[2][3]) and is in an epithet of the valkyrie Brynhildr. It occurs in Fafnismal (stanza 44), and the prose following stanza 4 of the Sigrdrifumal glosses it as the valkyrie's name. Early editors of the text have followed this lead and given the title of Sigrdrifumal to this section of the Codex Regius text.[4]

Contents[edit]

The Sigrdrifumal follows the Fafnismal without break, and editors are not unanimous in where they set the title. Its state of preservation is the most chaotic in the Eddaic collection. Its end has been lost in the Great Lacuna of the Codex Regius. The text is cut off after the first line of stanza 29, but this stanza has been completed, and eight others have been added, on the evidence of the much later testimony of paper manuscripts.

The poem appears to be a compilation of originally unrelated poems. However, this state of the poem appears to have been available to the author of the Volsungasaga, which cites from eighteen of its stanzas.

The basis of the text appears to be a poem dealing with Sigurth's finding of Brynhild, but only five stanzas (2-4, 20-21) deal with this narrative directly. Stanza 1 is probably taken from another poem about Sigurd and Brynhild. Many critics have argued that it is taken from the same original poem as stanzas 6-10 of Helreid Brynhildar.

In stanzas 6-12, Brynhild teaches Sigurth the magic use of the runes. To this has been added similar passages on rune-lore from unrelated sources, stanzas 5 and 13-19. This passage is the most prolific source about historical runic magic which has been preserved.

Finally, beginning with stanza 22 and running until the end of the preserved text is a set of counsels comparable to those in Loddfafnismal. This passage is probably an accretion unrelated to the Brynhild fragment, and it contains in turn a number of what are likely interpolations to the original text.

The valkyrie's drinking-speech[edit]

Stanzas 2-4 are spoken by Sigrdrifa after she has been awoken by Sigurd.

What is labelled as stanza 4 by Bellows (1936) is actually placed right after stanza 2, introduced only by Hon qvaþ ("she said"), marking it as the reply of the valkyrie to Sigmund's identification of himself in the second half of stanza 1.

The following two stanzas (stanzas 2-3 in Bellows) are introduced by the annotator as follows:

Sigurþr settiz niþr oc spurþi hana nafns. Hon toc þa horn fult miaþar oc gaf hanom minnisveig:
"Sigurth sat beside her and asked her name. She took a horn full of mead and gave him a memory-draught."

Depictions of valkyries offering drinking horns are known from a number of image stones.

Henry Adams Bellows stated in his commentary that stanzas 2-4 are "as fine as anything in Old Norse poetry" and these three stanzas constituted the basis of much of the third act in Richard Wagner's opera Siegfried. This fragment is the only direct invocation of the Norse gods which has been preserved, and it is sometimes dubbed a "pagan prayer".[5] Technically, it is an instance of minni "remembrance", a poetic utterance honouring the gods at the beginning of a sumbel (ritual drinking).

Heill dagr!
Heilir dags synir!
Heil nótt ok nift!
Óreiðum augum
lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr!
-
Heilir æsir!
Heilar ásynjur!
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold!
Mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum."[6]
2. Hail, day!
Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here
with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.
-
3. Hail to the gods!
Ye goddesses, hail,
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom
and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.[7]
-

Runic stanzas[edit]

Stanzas 5-18 concern runic magic, explaining the use of runes in various contexts.

In stanza 5, Sigrdrifa brings Sigurd ale which she has charmed with runes:

Biór fori ec þer /brynþings apaldr!
magni blandinn / oc megintíri;
fullr er hann lioþa / oc licnstafa,
godra galdra / oc gamanrvna.
"Beer I bring thee, tree of battle,
Mingled of strength and mighty fame;
Charms it holds and healing signs,
Spells full good, and gladness-runes."

Stanza 6 advises to carve "victory runes" on the sword hilt, presumably referring to the t rune named for Tyr:[8]

"Sigrúnar þú skalt kunna,
ef þú vilt sigr hafa,
ok rísta á hialti hiǫrs,
sumar á véttrimum,
sumar á valbǫstum,
ok nefna tysvar Tý"[9]
"Victory runes you must know
if you will have victory,
and carve the on the sword's hilt,
some on the grasp
and some on the inlay,
and name Tyr Twice.[9]

The following stanzas address Ølrunar "Ale-runes" (7), biargrunar "birth-runes" (8), brimrunar "wave-runes" (9), limrunar "branch-runes" (10), malrunar "speech-runes" (11), hugrunar "thought-runes" (12). Stanzas 13-14 appear to have been taken from a poem about the finding of the runes by Odin. Stanzas 15-17 are again from an unrelated poem, but still about the topic of runes. The same holds for stanzas 18-19, which return to the mythological acquisition of the runes, and the passing of their knowledge to the æsir, elves, vanir and mortal men.

Allar váro af scafnar / þer er váro a ristnar,
oc hverfðar viþ inn helga mioþ / oc sendar a viþa vega;
þer ’ro meþ asom / þer ’ro meþ alfom,
sumar meþ visom vanom / sumar hafa mennzkir menn.
Þat ero bocrunar / þat ero biargrunar
oc allar alrunar / oc metar meginrunar
hveim er þer kná oviltar / oc ospilltar
ser at heillom hafa;
niottu, ef þu namt,
unz riufaz regin.
18. Shaved off were the runes that of old were written,
And mixed with the holy mead, And sent on ways so wide;
So the gods had them, so the elves got them,
And some for the Wanes so wise, And some for mortal men.
19. Beech-runes are there, birth-runes are there,
And all the runes of ale. (And the magic runes of might;)
Who knows them rightly and reads them true,
Has them himself to help;
(Ever they aid, till the gods are gone.)[10]

Gnomic stanzas[edit]

Stanzas 20-21 are again in the setting of the frame narrative, with Brynhild asking Sigurd to make a choice. They serve as introduction for the remaining part of the text, stanzas 22-37 (of which, however, only 22-28 and the first line of 29 are preserved in Codex Regius), which are gnomic in nature. Like Loddfafnismal, the text consists of numbered counsels, running from one to eleven. The "unnumbered" stanzas 25, 27, 30, 34 and 36 are considered interpolations by Bellows (1936).

Editions and translations[edit]

Further information: Poetic Edda

References[edit]

  1. ^ The title Brynhildarljóð is used especially in reference to those parts of the Sigrdrífumál which are quoted in the Völsunga saga. See Pétursson (1998), I.460f.
  2. ^ Orchard (1997:194).
  3. ^ Simek (2007:284).
  4. ^ "Editors, until recently, have followed him in this error, failing to recognize that "sigrdrifa" was simply an epithet for Brynhild. It is from this blunder that the so-called Sigrdrifumol takes its name. Brynhild's dual personality as a Valkyrie and as the daughter of Buthli has made plenty of trouble, but the addition of a second Valkyrie in the person of the supposed "Sigrdrifa" has made still more." (Bellows 1936)
  5. ^ Steinsland & Meulengracht 1998:72
  6. ^ Sigrdrífumál at «Norrøne Tekster og Kvad», Norway.
  7. ^ Translation by Bellows.
  8. ^ Enoksen, Lars Magnar. Runor: Historia, tydning, tolkning (1998) ISBN 91-88930-32-7
  9. ^ a b Jansson; 1987: p.15
  10. ^ Bellows (1936). In brackets are the lines considered "spurious additions" to stanza 19 by this editor, who however cautions that "the whole stanza is chaotic."
  • Jansson, Sven B. F. (Foote, Peter; transl.)(1987). Runes in Sweden. ISBN 91-7844-067-X
  • Steinsland, G. & Meulengracht Sørensen, P. (1998): Människor och makter i vikingarnas värld. ISBN 91-7324-591-7
  • Einar G. Pétursson, Hvenær týndist kverið úr Konungsbók Eddukvæða? , Gripla 6 (1984), 265-291 [1]
  • Einar G. Pétursson, Eddurit Jóns Guðmundssonar lærða: Samantektir um skilning á Eddu og Að fornu í þeirri gömlu norrænu kölluðust rúnir bæði ristingar og skrifelsi: Þættir úr fræðasögu 17. aldar, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi, Rit 46 (1998), vol I, pp. 402–40: introduction to Jón's commentary on the poem Brynhildarljóð (Sígrdrífumál) in Völsunga saga; vol. II, 95-102: the text of the commentary.