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The grief of Gudrun

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Apparently, Tennyson’s poem “Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead” was inspired by a translation of the First Lay of Gudrun from the Poetic Edda. Here is the Tennyson poem:

HOME they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry:
All her maidens, watching, said,
‘She must weep or she will die.’

Then they praised him, soft and low
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stepped
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.

Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee—
Like summer tempest came her tears
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’

The Eddaic lay begins (Hollander trans.):

Erst Gjuki’s daughter     unto death was nigh
as o’er Sigurth she sate     sorrowfully;
she whimpered not,     nor her hands she wrung,
nor wept, either,     as do women else.

Went to the widow     wise earls kindly,
the heavy heart     of her to ease;
nor yet Guthrun     her grief could weep,
in her bosom through     her heart would burst.

Curiously, in the Norse lay, it is not the placing of her child on her knee that causes Gudrun to finally express her grief, but rather it is the uncovering of Sigurd’s corpse that causes her to burst into tears.


Written by uncudh

June 8, 2009 at 11:30 pm

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From Tennyson’s “Mariana”:

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.

She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
He cometh not,’ she said;
She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!’

Written by uncudh

December 20, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Posted in literature

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