Gæo ā wyrd swā hio scel – fate- wyrd-will take its course
Heorot – Hall of the Stag – the king’s great hall
Sleipner – Odin’s six-legged horse
Thane – A nobleman
Vidar son of Odin and god of vengeance
Wyrd – fate
‘Til we are called by Him//carolling our joy (a later Christian addition)
As we enter His Hall/of heavenly splendour (as opposed to Heorot’s earthly splendour)
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Helgha in Heorot
‘The boasting you have heard, the braggarts’ tales in Heorot.
How warriors, sword in hand wilfully come to blows,
Vie and settle slights with violence and anger.
For fame’s sake even slay friends of yesterday.
Nobles of the mead bench making merry while
Mean churls, lesser folk lead lives of want.
Thus declared Helgha daughter of Magan,
Iron bending smith, smiter of anvils,
Whose mighty muscles melded white hot steel
Into swords and arms for these self-styled heroes.
To that earthly hall of Heorot fame
Was Helgha sent to be skivvy, drudge
In scullery and kitchen and called upon
To serve maudlin thanes merry at mead bench,
Fuddled in their boasting full of vainglory.
There was Helga harassed serving at Heorot, Hall of the Stag
Lustfully eyed by the thane Unferth, leering in drink
Peepholes blazing bloodshot with desire,
Watched by lords who laughed unseemly
At the lust unloosed by Unferth who
Spread the maid across the board, breached her maidenhead
Amid laughing shouts and Helgha’s cries of anguish.
Magan, once mighty muscled smith, smiter of anvils
Father of Helgha, furious in anger and swift
As Odin’s Sliepnir, the god’s steel shod mount,
Magan stormed into Heorot, sought redress
To avenge dishonour for this deed of violence
On his daughter Helgha now heavy with child unborn.
At Heorot’s door of holm oak and mighty,
Stood the fond father, furnace eyed
Smithy fresh from the forge unslaked.
Spoke Magan, ‘Which is he, despoiler?
I’ll not call him man, this mauler of women.
He’s all mouth and bluster, with the manners of a rutting pig’.
Magan, fire tempered, furious for vengeance
Yelled his call charging cowardice on him
The violator of maidens, of manhood unworthy,
Unferth, craven, incapable sot he called him.
At this strutted out Unferth straight from the throng,
Arrogant, resentful at aspersions such as these
Cast on his manliness mouthed angry threats.
The lords watched for what might happen.
Without warning Unferth waiting no longer
Struck a middling blow straight to Magan’s head
With the flat of his sword, not deigning to fight a thrall.
His brain case buffeted Magan, bleeding, rose no more.
Now the might of his muscled sinews fled
Weakened by age as we all must be,
‘Til we are called by Him, carolling our joy
As we enter His Hall of heavenly splendour.’
At this time so answered Magan that summons divine.
Ðæt wæs gōd fæder. He was a good father.
So Helgha mourned, heavy with Unferth’s seed,
Plump with promise in her belly and poison in her mind.
She bore her son, swore silence on his parentage
The lineage of the boy Breca, bastard son of Unferth,
That bestial implanter of impious unwanted seed,
Wished Unferth’s potency to wither never a father to be again.
His punishment, her revenge to renew for all his lifetime.
Thus vowed Helgha by Vidar god of justice
Hard times lingered in the low dwelling
Of Magan’s widow, child minder of Breca
While Helgha worked wearily, full of care,
Became the butt of jests from braggart thanes.
Yet Helgha smiled within, kept her secret vow,
Fermenting in her mind a fearful bitter must,
More sweet than mead, to her sorrow more fitting.
After making merry at Heorot Unferth makes sheep’s eyes
At Helgha, looking fondly following her at fieldwork,
Some finer sense he awakened maybe of pride in fatherhood
A yearning to know the boy kin begotten by him.
Yet she disdains Unferth, denies advances abruptly,
Never weakening her intent to wreak vengeance upon him
Vowing by Vidar son of valiant Odin
There came the day Unferth could deny no longer
His urge to see the boy, to bear his body high,
Praise Odin in thanks, revel in paternal joy.
From the woods nearby warily he spied
Upon Breca, two years old at his boyish play.
Now did Unferth yearn and yielding to his heart
Squatted by Breca on the squaddy earth
Intent on tousling his hair and talking to the lad.
But not today was his wish, his dream, to be granted.
Helgha ran and seized her bairn snatching him
From Unferth’s embrace, unwilling to allow
His father, denying him the details of his parentage.
There came a day when Breca now a boy of five years,
Asked Helgha saying ‘Mother, who is my father?
Other boys I play with call me bastard of Unferth.
I have fought them fearlessly from shame.
Helgha wept at her helpless state
One day Unferth stormed into the Smithy, his eyes seething with purpose.
Intent to snatch the boy. he seizes Breca from Helgha’s arms.
Fierce as Grendel’s mother Helgha fought the fiendish lord,
Flailed her fists, howled like a banshee. Back she shoved ‘til he slipped
Unbalanced against the anvil his head pierced by the horn.
Thus his curses lighted on his own head
With the just hand of the god upon him
Vengeance like the wheel, like fate, Wird, tells us;
What goes around again will come around.
Gæo ā wyrd swā hio scel
He who kills by steel by steel will die.