SO now that summer glides by, and Gisli abides in his earth-house, and is wary of himself, and does not mean to go away any more. For he thinks that the earths are stopped all round about him, and now the years of his dreaming are all spent. It chanced one night that summer that Gisli suffered much in his sleep. But when he wakes up Auda asks what he had dreamt. He says that worse dream-wife had come to him again and said thus–
“Now will I utterly crush all that the better dream-wife hath said to thee; and if I may have my way, none of those things that she hath spoken shall be of any good to thee.”
Then Gisli chaunted:
“Spoke the Valkyr, stern beholding–
‘Ne’er shall ye twain woo and kiss,
Day by day your love unfolding,
All the gods forbid your bliss.
Woden, lord of worlds and ages,
Me hath sent to speak his will,
Far from where the battle rages,
Lo! his bidding I fulfil.’
“Again I dreamed,” says Gisli, “that yon wife came to me, and bound round my brow a bloody hood, and washed my head first in blood, and poured blood over me, so that I was all over gore.” And he chaunted a song:
“She, methought, her face all flushing,
Bathed my locks in reddest blood,
Flames of light 1 so rosy blushing,
Woden’s balm 1 so bright and good
Still I see her fingers glowing,
Bright with gems and blazing rings,
Steeped in blood so freely flowing,
Welling from the wounds of kings.
Again Gisli chaunted:
“Yes! that lady, dark as raven,
Bound my brow with gory hood;
All my hair was shorn and shaven–
Sad the plight in which I stood:
Still her hands were gore-bedabbled,
Still her fingers dropped with blood;
Something in my ear she babbled,
Then I woke–to find thee good.”
At last Gisli was so sore pressed with dreams that he grew quite afraid to be alone in the dark, and could not bear to be left by himself, for as soon as ever he shut his eyes the same wife appeared to him. One night it happened that Gisli struggled just a little in his sleep, and Auda asked what had happened.
“I dreamt,” says Gisli, “that men came on us, and Eyjolf was along with them and many others beside, and we met, and I knew that there was merry work between us. One of their band came first, grinning and gaping, and methought I cut him asunder in the middle; and methought too he bore a wolf’s head. Then many more fell on me, and methought I had my shield in my hand, and held my own a long while.”
Then Gisli chaunted:
“Methought that early on a morning
My foes within my dwelling stood;
Alone I met them, cravens scorning,
Alone I carved the ravens’ food.
Fast and thick they fell around me–
Woe is me! I was aware,
Though chains of death not yet had bound
My blood bedewed thy bosom fair.
And again he chaunted:
“Well my trusty shield stood by me,
Bold my heart with peril played
Not a man of them came nigh me,
Blithely sang my tuneful blade:
Till at last my doom was spoken,
Ten to one beat down my shield
Well my death was then ywroken,
Loud clashed swords on fated field.
And again he chaunted:
“Thick I spread the ravens’ table,
One I swept like wind away,
Ere those bitter foes were able
Once to wound me in the fray
Nay! my sword with temper eager
Shore a leg from off a wight;
Off he limped, so wan and meagre,
Mine the pledge he lost in fight.”
Now the autumn comes on and the dreams do not minish, but they rather go on waxing more and more. One night when Gisli struggled in his sleep Auda asked, as was her wont, what had happened. Gisli chaunted these verses:
“Methought, O wife, the blood was flowing
Down my sides in crimson rill;
’Tis but the debt of suffering owing,
The toilsome task I must fulfil.
Fairly won my wounds, no snarling,
Others’ wives for me must weep;–
Such my visions, Auda darling,
When my eyelids close in sleep.
“Methought, O wife, with weapons bloody
Both my close-set lips were scored;
Those twin-sisters fair and ruddy
Deeper blushed at kiss of sword.
Still fond hope was ever smiling,
Blooming like the fairest flower;
‘Thou shalt ’scape’–such words beguiling
Cheered me in that darksome hour.
“Methought my foemen, axes wielding
Both my arms at once lopped off;
Wound on wound, no buckler shielding,
Woe on woe, and bitter scoff.
Worse I dreamt–my forehead splitting,
Cleft in twain by force of hand,
O’er my brow, like goblin flitting,
Gaped and grinned the grisly brand.
“Methought that lady wise and witty,
Wearing crown of silver sheen;
O’er me bowed her head in pity,
Fast the pearls fell from her een.
Mistress she of hoards unbroken,
Bound my wounds with gentle skill;
What, my love, doth this betoken?–
Bodes it good or bodes it ill?”
From: The Story/Saga of Gisli the Outlaw
Translated From The Icelandic Sir George Webbe Dasent D.C.L. With Illustrations By C. E. St. John-Mildmay
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