HOME > Saga & Edda > Bugge's excursus on Groa's Spell & The Lay of Fjolsvith

(> Svipdagsmal Footnotes )

* Below is my attempted translation of Sophus Bugge's appended chapter on the vissidudes surrrounding the combining of two poems under the single title of Svípdagsmá. It is in his Edda Sæmundar (1867), pp. 352-355. To justify this combining, he quotes two variants of the ballad of young Sveidal.

The original e-text can be obtained from ⇒ Tor Gjerde's page under Svipdagsmál / Excurs.

Excursus on Grógaldr and Fjösvinnsmál.

The two ballads Grógaldr and Fjösvinnsmál are parts of one and the same poem, whose protagonist is Svipdag, Groa's son. I have therefore combined these under the name of Svipdagsmál ; Svend Grundtvig (Danm. gl. Folkev. [* Denmark's Old Folk-ballads] II, 668 a) has suggested «Svipdagsför» [* Svipdag's Journey]. The poem is available to us still un-split, in late form, as a Danish-Swedish folk-ballad about young Sveidal (Svedal, Svendal, Svedendal, Silfverdal): many (old and new) Danish examples printed by Svend Grundtvig, Danm. gl. Folkev. No. 70 (II, pp.239-254. III, pp. 841-843); two Swedish recensions: Geijer and Afzelius, Svenska Folkvisor No. 10 (I, pp. 57-59) and Arwidsson Svenska Fornsånger No. 143 (II, pp. 284-288) provide the ballad in a less-than-original form.

Svend Grundtvig first pointed out (Danm. gl. Folkev. II, 238) the traditional relationship between the ballad's first part and Grógaldr; I found thereafter (D. g. F. II, 667 f.), that the last part of the ballad corresponded to Fjölsvinnsmál, and established that the Danish-Swedish ballad preserved the original unity of the ballad, which is familiar in Iceland as two separate [pieces of] kvæder [* lays]. This has been further developed by Svend Grundtvig (D. g. F. II, pp.668-673) and by me in my treatise on the connection between Grógaldr and Fjölsvinnsmál (Forhandlinger i Videnskabs-Selskabet i Christiania Year 1860, pp. 123-140).

The ballad is of importance to the textual critique of Grógaldr and Fjölsvinnsmál, and I will therefore reprint here nearly the entirety of the eldest Danish example and most of another, which in several respects have the right myth-form (both [ballad examples which are] given here [are] in their plain unaltered wording and [will contain] occasional trivial discrepancies in the phrasing from other examples).
A.
(in a 16th century manuscript.)
1 It was the young Sveidal,
He was playing ball:
The ball drove into the Lady's bower,
It made his cheeks turn pale.
    And choose[?] your words well!
I translated the Jomfru (young woman) here as "Lady," to avoid confusion with the "maiden" who appears in strophe 3.
In the 26-verse version of Ungen Svejdal collected by Axel Olrik, it is hendes Kinder "her cheeks" that turn pale. (See Smith-Dampier's translation of Olrik → Young Svejdal).
2 The ball drove into the Lady's bower,
The swain went after it:
Before he came out of there again,
Great sorrow he got in his heart.
Bur "bower" is repeated from the previous strophe here, but in Olrik's version, we see the ball went to the Skjød(skød) "[from the Lady's] lap, bosom" in the first verse.
3 “ Don't you be banging your tossed
ball at me:
There sits a maiden in a foreign land,
She is yearning for you.

The Lady casts a magic spell over Sveidal so he has become lovesick with another woman ( "maiden") who lives in a foreign country.
"Thi «Jomfruen ” — hans Stivmoder — har runebundet ham for en fremmd Mø" (* Illustreret dansk Litteraturhistorie, Vol. i, p. 90)
4 Never shall you savor[?] rest
And never shall you gain it :
Leading you far astray, the rueful heart,
Like a long-sought Yearning
5 It was the young Sveidal,
He swathed his head in skin:
Thus he goes into the room,
All too many of his courtiers within.
hofmænd "person of the court" or courtier In the Axel Olrik version (op. cit.), it reads hovmænd, which E. M. Smith-Dampier construes as "head man" and translates as "captain".
6 “ Here you all sit, my men,
Drinking mead out of cups:
While I go to the mound,
With my dear mother to talk ”.
We see now that Sveidal's mother is dead and buried up in a mountain/mound (although her ghost is able to communicate "good advice" to her son and even impart gifts). The Lady mentioned earlier turns out to be the Stivmoder "stepmother" (see strophe 10).
7 It was the young Sveidal,
Off he went a-calling:
Riven were the wall and marble-stone [asunder],
And the mound came down tumbling.
8 “ Who is that, there calling,
And waking me so glumly?
May I not lie in peace
Up in the bowels of black Earth? ”
9 “ This is young Sveidal,
The darling son of yours:
He full wishes to have good rede,
From the dear mother of his.
10 I have been stuck with[?] a Stepmother,
She is turning harsh on me:
She has placed in my heart a Compulsion,
For one whom I have never seen. ”
11 “ Shall I now arise
From sleep and harsh agony:
Out the same way,
As you shall full well fare.
12 I shall give you a foal,
That shall well carry you forth:
He goes as well over salty fjord
As over the green land.
13 I shall give you cloth,
You can spread all 'round you:
When a meal is what you wish for,
It shall assuage your complaint[?] .
14 I shall give you a beast-horn,
And it is clasped with gold:
When a drink is what you wish for,
Then it shall stay replete.
15 I shall give you The Sword,
hardened in dragon-blood:
Whereever you ride through the Mirky Shaw,
It then burns like bonfire.
Similar to the mirky shaw (mørken Skov) here is the Mirkwood (myrkvið) mentioned several times in the Poetic Edda — the place where the three maiden descended, to be wed by Volund and his brothers(Lay of Volund 1), and the place where Muspilli's children shall ride forth (Lokasenna 42), etc. Of major significance in Viktor Rydberg's reconstruction of the tale of the Sword of Victory. Mirkwood famously occurs in the geography of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
16 I shall give you a longship,
She sits at the salty fjord:
All your foes, who you will sail up against,
She'll run them under in the river.».
17 They hoisted up their silken sails
So high on a gilded yard:
So they sailed for the very Land,
That the Maiden was on.
18 They throw off anchor
On the white sand:
It was the young Sveidal,
He trod there first on Land.
19 It was the young Sveidal,
He goes on the white sand:
The first man he met,
Was the Herdsman in that Land.
20 It was the good Herdsman,
And he was allowed to question first:
What troubles the young swain?
Why is his heart so thirsting? ”
21 “ His heart lies [rapt] in Compulsion
For one whom he has never seen:
The swain hight young Sveidal,
So goes The Legend of. ”
22 “ Here is also a Maiden on this Land,
She is taken by a strong Yearning:
For a swain hight Sveidal, [whom]
She has never with her own eyne seen. ”
23Hark ye good Herdsman
What I say to you:
Wist thou where the Maiden is,
Hide it not from me. ”
24Fare over by the greenwood,
There stands my Maiden's Courtyard:
The gates are [made] of white whale-bone
And the gates are laid with Steel.
25 Out of my Maiden's gate
There stands a Lion so wrathful:
But [if] you are the right Sveidal,
So freely may you go in. ”
26 “ Is that now the Truth,
All that you say to me?:
[If] I become King of this Land
A knight I will make you. ”
27 He went to the golden Gate,
And there did he see:
There were all these Locks,
They undid themselves [thereupon].
28 The Lion with the White Bears
They fell at the Gentleman's Foot:
The Linden with her Branches
She spread underneath to the Ground.
There is a parallel in the second Svipdag poem, Fjölsvinnsmál 20-21, where the world-ash (here called Mimameiðr but otherwise known as Yggdrassill or Læraðr) spreads its branches over the entire world.
29 Middle of the courtyard
There he
draped on his skin:
So he goes to the High Hall
For the heathen King inside.
Perhaps he is making sure he is he properly attired before he presents himself in the king's court; Smith-Dampier thus translates this as "vair" (type of costly fur thought to be gray squirrel).
30Hail sittest Thou, heathen King,
Over by thine own Table:
Wilt Thou give me Thine Daughter
And let me know thy Reply?
31 “ I have no Daughter besides the one,
She is bound by a strong Yearning:
To a swain hight young Sveidal, [whom]
She has never with her own Eyne seen. ”
32 He answered the little servant-boy,
Standing dressed in kirtle of white
Longing after her was Sveidal,
And now he has come hither. ”
33 So suddenly comes the herald to the High Hall
To the comely Maiden inside:
“ Now sits young Sveidal
Next to with the Father of yours. ”
brådt brådt is apparently a Norwegian word meaning "suddenly" (thanks to Tor Gjerde on this) and thus emended. I found the word in a line in "Hilla Lilla" performed by Garmarna. It is a version of Hillelilles Sorg collected by Olrik, translated by Smith-Dampier as "The Griefs of Hillelille"
34 “ Then you all take away the high yard
Also[?] the bier:
Follow me to the High Hall,
To my Heart's Desire. ”
35 She thus spoke the comely Maiden,
She stepped onto The Door :
“ Best of Welcome young Sveidal,
My Heart's Most-Beloved ! ”
In this example it [further] goes on to say that the Maiden asks her Father if he will let himself be baptized: otherwise she will go away with Sveidal; both father and daughter adopt the Christian Faith before The wedding is held; Sveidal dubs the Herdsman knight and sets him atop a pedestal. At the Closing it says that:
42 Now has young Sveidal
Recovered from all his grief:
And so has the proud Maiden,
Her there in his Arm asleep.
    And choose your words well!
C.
(In two 17th century transcriptions.)
The beginning of this example essentially agrees with A. Although Svendal says in verse 11: “ My sister and my stepmother have afflicted my heart with a Yearning ”, this is just merely a corruption.
13 “ I give you a steed
That shall be so good:
Ride him both day and night,
He will hardly ever be discouraged.
14 I shall give you a good Sword,
That they call Adelring*:
You will never come to Strife,
[Where] you shall [not] win sure Victory. ”
* So named also is a sword that King Diderik [*Þjóðrekr, Þiðrekr (ON.)] comes into the possession of. Adelring is a distortion of Nagelring, which is the name of Diderik's sword [*Dietrich von Bern (Ger.)] according to German sources. Also Beowulf's sword is called Nægeling.
15 It was the young Svendal,
He girt his sword at his side:
He sat himself on his good steed,
He meant to abide no longer.
16 It was the young Svendal,
He urged on his horse with the spur:
So he rode over the ocean wide
And through the green shaw.
17 He rode over the wild ocean
And through the murky forest:
He comes to the selfsame castle,
Where his betrothed doth sleep.
18Hark ye good Herdsman
What I say to you:
Is there a maid here in this castle?
Don't hide it from me. ”
19 Is there a maid here in this castle?
Don't hide it from me.:
[If] I become King of this Land
A Lord I will make you. ”
20 “ Planks are of hard iron,
And the gate is of steel:
It is well eighteen winters since
The maiden has seen the sun.
21 The lion and the savage Bear
They stay there at front:
There never comes anyone living inside,
Unless ['tis] the young Svendal. ”
22 It was the young Svendal,
He sat himself on his steed:
Thus he rode up to the selfsame Wall,
That he knew best of all.
23 It was the young Svendal,
He urged on his steed with the spur:
He sprang so stealthily
Right to the courtyard.
24 He sprang so stealthily
Out to the courtyard.
The lion and the savage Bear
They fell lowat his foot.
25 The lion and the savage bear
They fell at the master's foot:
The linden with its gilded leaves
Spread underneath to ground.
26 The linden spread underneath to ground
With its gilded leaves:
Up then stood the proud maiden,
Who had long lain in benumbed slumber.
We discover now that the maid is a "sleeping beauty", so that although she has been lying in wait for eighteen years (str. 20), we can presume she has not aged one bit in her state of animated suspension.
27 It was thus the proud maiden,
She heard the spurs clanging:
“ Help me God, Father of Heaven,
I must at last be released from this pain!
28 Help me God, Father of Heaven,
I must be released from this Compulsion:
And shame on my stepmother,
For doing this to me, such a long time! ”
29 It was the young Svendal,
He stepped inside The door:
Then it was the proud maiden,
She revived again for him.
30 In came young Svendal,
He was both fair and young:
It was then the young maiden,
Much embracing his Arrival.
31 “ Welcome, young Svendal
Noble lord of mine:
Thank God, Father in Heaven,
For releasing us both from our Pain! ”
32 Now has the young Svendal
Recovered from both anguish and grief:
Now he sleeps so gladly
In his maiden's arm.
33 Now has the proud maiden
Recovered from both anguish and distress:
Now she sleeps so gladly
At young Svendal's side.
    And choose your words well!
← Fjölsvinsmál | ↑ |                       →

HOME > Saga & Edda > Bugge's excurs on Groa's Spell & The Lay of Fjolsvith

(> Lævateinn )