The Song of Spears
This is a tale of an Irish High King who met the Danish King of Dublin in battle. The Valkyries observing this battle chanted this song:
|1. Far and wide||with fall of the dead|
|The warp  is stretched||and streams down blood|
|A spear-grey fabric||forms on the loom|
|Woof of warriors||we valkyries  fill|
|Binding and crossing||with blood-red weft|
|2. The web is woven||with warrior’s guts|
|Heads of the slain||serve as its weights|
|Heddle-rods are spears,||spattered with blood|
|The shed-rod is iron,||arrows its pegs;|
|With swords we beat||our battle web.|
|3. Hild  goes to weave,||and Hjorðrimul|
|Sanngrid and Svipul,||with swords brandished|
|Shields will shatter||and shafts will break|
|Biter of helmets ||harms the breastplates.|
|4. We wind, we wind||the web of spears |
|As young war-king||has waged before|
|Forth shall we fare||where fray lies thick|
|And friend and foe||fix sword ’gainst sword|
|5. We wind, we wind||the web of spears,|
|Follow our king||to fierce battle|
|Men will see shields||shattered and bloody|
|Where Gondul and Gunn||guarded the thane|
|6. We wind, we wind||the web of spears,|
|Where the banners fly||of boldest men;|
|Our liege shall not lose||his life in this place|
|Valkyries decide||those slain on the field|
|7. Danes who were driven||from Dublin’s lands|
|Have now returned||to take their halls,|
|To claim this field,||a kingdom make:|
|Seafarers will hold||sway o’er the land|
|8. Brave Irish will see||an evil time|
|As fate decrees||they fall to strife|
|Doomed to die is||their doughty king|
|Folk leader will fall||in face of spears|
|9. Woven is the web,||war-place reddened|
|We have finished||our weaving here|
|Still is the loom||all stained and scarred |
|The skein garish||with gore of men|
|10. Now it is gruesome||to gaze around|
|As blood-red clouds||cover the sky|
|Clamor wardens ||keen their war-songs |
|Far lands will hear||of fall of men|
|11. Chanted we well||the weird of the king|
|Anon we will sing||songs of victory|
|They who listen||may learn our words:|
|Speak this song to||spear-men after|
© Dan Marsh
- This poem is likening the battle to a loom. Woof, warp, weft, web, rods, etc, are all parts of a loom and are used as metaphors.
- I simplified this line quite a bit. The original translated to “The women friends of Randver’s slayer.” Randver was killed indirectly by Odin, and his “women friends” are Valkyries.
- All the proper names in this poem are the valkyries.
- A kenning for “axe.” There seems to be some disagreement on how this line should be translated, a few of my translations had “hound of helmets,” while others just indicated a weapon.
- The latter part of this line 'vefr darraðar' is apparently difficult to translate. I went with one common to Hollander and Cook, as it fits my version best. Poole, who is the most rigorous translator, indicates “spear” as a possibility, but he favors “pennant” as the most likely.
- These two lines are added for clarity, and I moved the one beneath it from an earlier verse.
- A kenning for valkyries. Clamor is a heiti for battle.
- This is a very troublesome line, apparently it is quite corrupt. I decided to go with Hollander’s translation, taking a few hints from a transcription of the Old Norse.