Iceland: The Poetic Edda
13th century, Old Norse, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Reykjavik.
A snake lies along the sword's edge and on the boss a serpent chases its tail.
The Poem of Helgi Hiorvardsson in the 13th century Icelandic Poetic Edda tells how King Hiorvard invades a land to seize a woman to be his fourth wife. She bears him a son. The child does not speak, has no name and sadly, if not enigmatically, sits upon a burial mound. From this vantage point the infant sees nine valkyries riding by.
One of the valkyries calls him by the name Helgi.
‘What naming-gift will you give me?’ replies the child. ‘And I won’t take it unless I can possess you as well!’
‘There are forty-six swords on an island, and one of them is finer than all the others,' she replies:
There’s a ring on the hilt, there’s courage in the middle,
‘and terror in its point, for him who manages to own it;
‘a blood-dyed snake lies along the edge
‘and on the boss a serpent chases its tail.