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Lay of Volund Smith


Wyndreth Berginsdottir            


Three warmaids flew from Myrkvith north
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
Three Valkyries in search of war
So say those who know the forge
Beside Wolf Lake they sought their rest--
Three fair maidens spinning flax
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

CHORUS: Volund knew both gold and iron;
fire and water and air and coal
brought him fame and banishment cold,
but strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Egil, Slagfith and Volund--
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
these brothers found them resting there.
So say those who know the forge
Hlathguth, Olrun and Hervor,
their swancoats near them on the shore.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Seven winters the warmaids stayed
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
but in great yearning spent the eighth.
So say those who know the forge
The ninth, could bear the peace no more--
they left their lovers in search of war.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Egil went into the east--
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
Slagfith, north--their wives to seek.
So say those who know the forge
Volund stayed in the Dales alone
sure his love would come back home.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

With gold he rimmed the finest gems.
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
With ropes of bast he binded them.
So say those who know the forge
For Hervor Volund waited long,
sure his love would come back home.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Now, Nithoth was a mighty king,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
as greedy for gold as for his queen.
So say those who know the forge
When he heard Volund dwelled alone
they went to find him not at home.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

They found full seven hundred rings
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
bound with bast, all beautiful things.
So say those who know the forge
They stole away one single thing:
Volund's wife's own wedding ring.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

When Volund returned from hunting bear
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
he noticed Hervor's ring not there.
So say those who know the forge
His heart leapt in its cage of bone
in hopes his love had come back home.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

He waited so long he fell asleep
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
and woke with shackles on his feet.
So say those who know the forge
His hands were bound with ropes of bast.
He said, "What man has bound me fast?"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Nithoth answered, "Volund Smith,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
I see your work and wonder this:
So say those who know the forge
Where did you find so much red gold?
We both are far from Fafnir's Hoard."
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"At home we had more treasure than this!"
So say those who know the forge
Nithoth's queen, both cruel and dire,
said, "Hatred burns in him like fire!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

Volund spied Hervor's wedding ring
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
on the hand of the daughter of the king,
So say those who know the forge
and saw his own sword girded on
the hip of greedy King Nithoth.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Nithoth's queen cried out in fear,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"How like a snake's Volund's eyes appear
So say those who know the forge
when they behold sweet Bothvild's ring
and your new sword befitting a king!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

"He'll work us woe," she further said,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"Unless you bind him forever, instead!"
So say those who know the forge
So they hamstrung Volund one by one
till he could neither walk nor run.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

He could not work, but he could craft;
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
alone on an island, prisoned fast
So say those who know the forge
Volund crafted precious things,
a smith in thrall to a heartless king.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"My fine and flashing sword is gone
So say those who know the forge
and Bothvild wears my true love's ring.
I'll forge for Nithoth one last thing."
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

He did not sleep, he did not eat;
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
he worked the forge on crippled feet
So say those who know the forge
till one day two new guests arrived--
Nithoth's sons both young and bright.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

They asked to see the treasures he made;
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
they begged to see the gold he made.
So say those who know the forge
"Come back tomorrow," did Volund say,
"But tell no one you came to me!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

The brothers came back the very next day
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
and no one knew they'd stolen away.
So say those who know the forge
"Show us the gold!" Volund grinned
and hewed each son's head from him.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Their bodies he buried beneath the pit
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
and both lads' skulls with silver he set.
So say those who know the forge
Of their eyes he made bright beads
and sent them as gifts to the king and queen.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Brooches made he of their teeth
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
and sent them on to proud Bothvild.
So say those who know the forge
She went to him to praise her ring
and show him a break, a tiny thing.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

"I can fix it well as new--
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
let me work this boon for you."
So say those who know the forge
And Volund served her potent drink
till Bothvild fell down fast asleep.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

And when Volund had worked his will,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
Bothvild woke and wept her fill.
So say those who know the forge
She hastened home in shame and woe,
bewailing fate as she did go.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

"At last now near avenged am I!"
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
Volund forged wings that he might fly.
So say those who know the forge
Rose he up into the sky
and left his thralldom far behind.
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Said woeful Nithoth to his queen,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"I wish that smith I'd never seen!
So say those who know the forge
I would ask him if he were here
what of my missing sons so dear!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Strode Volund forth and did reply
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"First me ye oath to honor my bride!
So say those who know the forge
Work her no harm; you know her well--
she dwelleth here within your hall."
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Nithoth and his queen agreed.
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
"Now tell me where my sons might be!"
So say those who know the forge
"They lie beneath the bellows pit.
Their skulls with silver I did set!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

"Of their eyes I made those beads
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
that lie around your neck, cold queen!
So say those who know the forge
Brooches made I of their teeth
and sent them to your Bothvild sweet."
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

"Bothvild dear, your daughter fair,
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
sits weeping in her dark despair
So say those who know the forge
for goes the maid now big with child--
Volund's son both strong and wild!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Laughing Volund rose aloft
Strike ye when the iron is glowing
and left to sorrow cruel Nithoth.
So say those who know the forge
"Your name will live in dark renown:
A king whose greed outweighed his crown!"
Strongest is the hand that holds the hammer.

Volund knew both gold and iron;
fire and water and air and coal
brought him fame and banishment cold,
but strongest is the hand that holds the hammer!

lyrics: ©07-2006 Karen L. U. Kahan
music: "Nornagest Ríma" (Faeroese folk tune)





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