Gróttasöngr

An English translation of The Lay of Grotti, or The Mill-Song, by Benjamin Thorpe



0. Skjöldr was a son of Odin from whom the Skjöldungs are descended. He had his residence in and ruled the land that is now called Denmark,
which was then called Gotland. Skjöldr's son was called Friðleifr,
who ruled the land after him. Friðleif's son was called Frodi. King Frodi succeeded to the kingdom of Denmark at the time when the emperor Augustus had proclaimed peace over all the world. At that time Christ was born. And as Frodi was the most powerful king in the North,
the peace was attributed to him and called Frodi's peace,
wherever the Danish tongue was spoken. No man injured another,
though he might have before him his father's killer or his brother's killer,
loose or bound. At that time there was also no thief or robber,
so that a gold ring would lie long unmolested on Jalangr Heath. When on a visit to king Fiolnir in Sweden,
he bought two female slaves,
whose names were Fenia and Menia,
both of great strength and stature. At this time two millstones were found in Denmark so large that no one could drag them. These stones possessed the property of grinding whatever the grinder asked for. The quern,
or mill,
was named Grotti. Hengikjöfr (Hangjaw) was the name of the man who gave it to King Frodi. Frodi set the two slaves to work at the quern and commanded them to grind gold,
peace,
and prosperity to Frodi;
but he allowed them not a moment's rest nor even sleep longer than while the cuckoo was silent,
or a song might be sung. It is said that they then sang the song called Grottasongr,
and ceased not before they had ground an army against Frodi,
so that in the night a sea-king,
named Mysing,
came,
slew Frodi,
and carried off great booty. Such was the end of Frodi's peace. Mysing took Grotti,
together with Fenia and Menia,
and ordered them to grind salt. He ordered them to grind more. They ground only a little while before the ship sank in Fentland Firth.1 There is ever since a vortex where the sea falls into Grotti's eye;
there the sea roars as it (Grotti) roars,
and then it was that the sea first became salt.2

1. Now are come to the king's house two prescient damsels,
Fenia and Menia;
they are with Frodi,
Fridleif's son,
the powerful maidens,
in thraldom held.

2. To the mill they both were led,
and the grey stone to set a going ordered;
he to both forbade rest and solace,
before he heard the maidens' voice.

3. They made resound the clattering quern,
with their arms swung the light stones. The maidens he commanded yet more to grind.

4. They sung and swung the whirling stone,
until Frodi's thralls nearly all slept. Then said Menia — to the meal'twas come—

5. "Riches we grind for Frodi,
all happiness we grind,
wealth in abundance,
in gladness' mill. On riches may he sit,
on down may be sleep,
to joy may he wake:
then 'tis well ground!

6. Here shall not one another harm,
evil machinate,
nor occasion death,
nor yet strike with the biting sword,
although a brother's slayer he find bound."

7. He had not yet said one word before:
"Sleep ye not longer than the gowks round the house,
or than while one song I sing."

8. "Thou wast not,
Frodi for thyself over-wise,
or a friend of men,
when thralls thou boughtest;
for strength thou chosest them,
and for their looks,
but of their race didst not inquire.

9. Stout was Hrungnir,
and his father,
yet was Thiassi stronger than they ;
Idi and Ornir our relations are,
brothers of the mountain-giants from whom we are born.

10. Grotti had not come from the grey fell,
nor yet the hard stone from the earth;
nor so had ground the giant maid,
if her race had aught of her known.

11. Nine winters we playmates were,
strong and nurtured beneath the earth. We maidens stood at mighty works;
ourselves we moved the fast rock from its place.

12. We rolled the stone o'er the giants' house,
so that earth thereby shrank trembling;
so hurled we the whirling rock,
that men could take it.

13. But afterwards,
in Sweden,
we prescient two among people went,
chased the bear,
and shattered shields;
went against a grey-sarked horse.

14. Aided one prince,
another overthrew,
afforded the good Guthorm help. Quiet I sat not ere we warriors felled.

15. Thus we went on all those winters,
so that in conflicts we were known;
there we carved,
with our sharp spears,
blood from wounds,
and reddened brands.

16. Now are we come to a king's house,
unpitied both,
and in thraldom held;
gravel gnaws our feet,
and above 'tis cold;
a foe's host we draw. Sad 'tis at Frodi's!

17. Hands must rest,
the stone shall stand still;
for me I have my portion ground. To hands will not rest be given,
until Frodi thinks enough is ground.

18. Hands shall hold falchions hard,
the weapon slaughter-gory. Wake thou,
Frodi! Wake thou,
Frodi! If thou wilt listen to our songs and sagas old.

19. Fire I see burning east of the burgh;
tidings of war are rife:
that should be a token;
a host will forthwith hither come,
and the town burn over the king.

20. Thou wilt not hold the throne of Lethra,
rings of red gold,
or mighty mill-stone. Let us ply the winch,
girl! yet more rapidly:
are we not grown up in deadly slaughter?

21. My father's daughter has stoutly ground,
because the fate of many men she saw. Huge fragments spring from the mill-stone into the Orneflord. Let us grind on!

22. Let us grind on! Yrsa's son,
Halfdan's kinsman,
will avenge Fr6di:
he will of her be called son and brother:
we both know that."

23. The maidens ground,
their might applied;
the damsels were in Jotun-mood,
the axes trembled;
the stone fell from above,
the ponderous rock was in shivers split.

24. But the mountain- giants' maiden said:
"Frodi! we have ground;
together we cease. the maidens have stood at the grinding long."