© Marie Lafrance

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Post haec Gram horrendae monstruosaeque vocis habitum trucioris soni modulis aemulatus silentiique diuturnioris impatiens talibus puellam dictis aggreditur:
“ne timeat rabidi germanum virgo gigantis
me neque contiguum palleat esse sibi.
a Grip missus enim numquam nisi compare voto
fulcra puellarum concubitumque peto.”
cui Gro:
“quae sensus exsors scortum velit esse gigantum?
aut quae monstriferum possit amare torum?
quae coniunx fore daemonum
possit monstrigeni conscia seminis
suumque giganti fero
consociare velit cubile?
quis spina digitos fovet?
quis sincera luto misceat oscula?
quis membra iungat hispida
levibus impariter locatis?
cum natura reclamitat,
haud plenum Veneris carpitur otium,
nec congruit monstris amor
femineo celebratus usu.”
Gram contra:
“regum colla potentium
victrici toties perdomui manu,
fastus eorum turgidos
exsuperans potiore dextra.
hinc aurum rutilans cape,
quo perpes maneat pactio munere
ac firma consistat fides
coniugiis adhibenda nostris.”
quo dicto discussis larvis, nativum oris decorem confessus tantum paene voluptatis vero sui aspectu puellae attulit, quantum adulterino terroris incussit; quam etiam formae suae luculentia ad concubitum provocatam amatoriis donis prosequi non omisit.
(Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danorum 1.4.8-10)

Then Gram, brooking silence no longer, rounded on the girl, and by giving a harsher timbre to his words imitated the hair-raising voice of a giant:
“Let not the maiden fear a savage ogre’s brother.
When I draw near, let her not grow pale.
Sent here by Grip, I shall not lie within the embrace
of any female, except with her consent.”
To which Gro replied:
“What woman in her senses wants to be a giant’s whore?
What girl could enjoy his gargantuan couch,
bear to be a demon’s wife,
knowing the monster-breeding seed,
wish to find a ferocious titan
sharing with her the nuptial bed?
Who would stroke her fingers on thorns?
Who would give warm kisses to mud?
Who would join her smooth body,
unjustly fitted, to bristly limbs?
When Nature wholly cries out against it,
you cannot crop true love’s repose.
Ill-framed to match with mammoth bulk
is the love that women are wont to feel.”
Gram retorted:
“Many times this conquering arm
has tamed the necks of mighty monarchs.
This overpowering right hand
has beaten down their swelling pride.
Take this red-glowing gold from me,
that by this gift a lasting pact
of firm faith may be struck between us,
helping to consolidate our marriage.”
At these words he threw off his disguise and revealed the natural grace of his countenance. His true appearance brought almost as much pleasure to the girl as his false trappings had instilled her with alarm. He did not forget to ply her with love-gifts and encourage the urge to mate which his beauty had provoked in her.
(tr. Peter Fisher)


© Richard Jenkins

This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

Contra sic Bessus:
“Gram regit agmen
Marte beatus,
quem metus aut vis
flectere nescit;
nec rogus ardens
nec ferus ensis
aut maris umquam
terruit aestus.
hoc duce belli
signa levamus
aurea, virgo.”
rursum Gro:
“hinc remeantes
vertite cursum,
ne proprio vos
opprimat omnes
agmine Sigtrug
inque feroci
stipite figat
guttura nexu
detque rigenti
corpora nodo
ac male torvus
trudat edaci
funera corvo.”
item Bessus:
“Gram prior illum
Manibus addet
ac dabit Orco,
quam sua fatis
lumina claudat,
inque pavenda
vertice plexum
Tartara mittet.
nulla Sueonum
castra timemus.
quid minitaris
tristia nobis
funera, virgo?”
ad quem Gro:
“en ferar istinc
nota revisens
tecta parentis,
ne venientis
conspicer audax
agmina fratris.
vos remeantes
ultima, quaeso,
fata morentur.”
ad quam Bessus:
“laeta revise
nata parentem,
nec cita nobis
fata precare,
nec tua bilis
pectora pulset.
namque petenti
aspera primum
saepe secundo
femina cedit.”
(Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danorum 1.4.5-7)

Gro answered him:
“Retrace your steps,
reverse your direction.
Otherwise Sigtrug
will crush you all
with his militia.
Fastening you tightly
to a terrible stake,
he would noose your throats,
consign your bodies
to the stiffening knot,
savagely staring
would thrust your corpses
to the greedy raven.”
Again Bess spoke.
“First, Gram will
put him in Hades,
add him to the shades,
before Death closes
his own eyelids,
will send him whirling
to the dread inferno.
We are not worried
by Swedish encampments.
Why then, mistress,
do you threaten us with
gloomy funerals?”
Gro replied:
“Again I shall ride
to visit the well-known
halls of my father,
lest I should rashly
view your brother’s
advancing columns.
But turn back now,
I beg you, and stave off
your final fate.”
To which Bess answered:
“Return joyfully,
daughter, to your father,
and do not pray
for our swift decease,
letting the choler
pound through your heart.
A stubborn woman,
harshly refusing
her wooer at first,
will often yield when
the plea is repeated.”
(tr. Peter Fisher)



This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Qui* cum forte Sueonum regis Sigtrugi filiam Gro gigantum cuidam desponsam cognosceret, tam indignam regio sanguine copulam exsecratus bellum Sueticum auspicatur, Herculeae virtutis exemplo monstrorum nisibus obstaturus. inita Gothia cum deturbandorum obviorum gratia caprinis tergoribus amictus incederet ac variis ferarum pellibus circumactus horrificumque dextra gestamen complexus giganteas simularet exuvias, ipsam Gro silvestres forte latices cum paucis admodum pedissequis lavandi gratia petentem equo obviam habuit. quae sponsum adesse rata simulque tam insoliti cultus horrore muliebriter territa succussis frenis maxima cum totius corporis trepidatione patrio carmine sic coepit:
“conspicor invisum regi venisse gigantem
et gressu medias obtenebrare vias,
aut oculis fallor; nam tegmine saepe ferino
contigit audaces delituisse viros.”
tum Bessus sic orsus:
“virgo, caballi
quae premis armos,
verba vicissim
mutua fundens,
quod tibi nomen,
qua fueris, dic,
gente creata!”
ad haec Gro:
“Gro mihi nomen,
rex pater exstat,
sanguine fulgens,
fulgidus armis.
tu quoque, quis sis
aut satus unde,
promito nobis!”
cui Bessus:
“Bessus ego sum,
fortis in armis,
trux inimicis,
gentibus horror,
atque alieno
saepe refundens
sanguine dextram.”
tum Gro:
“quis, rogo, vestrum
dirigit agmen?
quo duce signa
bellica fertis?
quis moderatur
proelia princeps?
quove paratur
praestite bellum?”

* i.e. Gram

(Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danorum 1.4.2-4)

When he chanced to learn that Gro, the daughter of Sigtrug, king of the Swedes, was betrothed to one of the giants, he cursed such an unwarranted connexion of royal blood and began a Swedish war, intending to oppose the exertions of monsters with a truly Herculean bravery. On entering Götaland he put on goat-skins to intimidate anyone who appeared in his path; accoutred thus in an assortment of animal hides, with a terrifying club in his right hand, he impersonated a giant. Gro met him as she happened to be riding to the forest-pools to bathe, a small group of handmaids attending her on foot. Thinking it was her betrothed, but at the same time experiencing a feminine consternation at his strange dress, she flung up her reins and, with her whole body trembling, began, in the words of our native poetry, like this:
“Can it be the giant, loathsome to the king,
shadowing with his steps the middle of the road?
Yet bold warriors have frequently concealed
themselves beneath the pelts of beasts.”
Then Bess spoke:
“You, maiden, who ride
upon the steed’s back,
exchanging words with me,
tell us your name,
and from what lineage
you take your birth.”
She replied:
“Gro is my name,
my father of royal
blood, resplendent,
dazzling in arms.
But you too disclose
what man you are,
or whence you are sprung.”
The other answered:
“Bess I am,
valiant in warfare,
ferocious and terrible
to enemy peoples,
often wetting
this right hand
with foreigners’ life-blood.”
Then said Gro:
“Tell me, what leader
draws up your battle-line?
For whom do you carry
the standards of war?
What chieftain
prepares you for action,
under whose eye
you wage your strife?”
(tr. Peter Fisher)