While still working on the prose translation Morris wrote to Charles Eliot Norton:
I had it in my head to write an epic of it, but though I still hanker after it, I see clearly it would be foolish, for no verse could render the best parts of it, and it would only be a flatter and tamer version of a thing already existing.
Morris visited Iceland in 1871 and 1873. Also in 1873 he was aware that Richard Wagner was writing Der Ring des Nibelungen, and wrote:
I look upon it as nothing short of desecration to bring such a tremendous and world-wide subject under the gaslights of an opera: the most rococo and degraded of all forms of art – the idea of a sandy-haired German tenor tweedledeeing over the unspeakable woes of Sigurd, which even the simplest words are not typical enough to express!
Morris began work on Sigurd the Volsung in October 1875, completing it the following year. In the end the poem extended to over 10,000 lines. He took both the Volsunga Saga and the corresponding poems of the Poetic Edda|Elder Edda as his basic sources, but felt free to alter them as he thought necessary. The poem is in rhyming hexameter couplets, often with anapaestic movement and a feminine caesura. In keeping with the Germanic theme Morris used kennings, a good deal of alliteration, and wherever possible words of Anglo-Saxon origin. This resulted in a difficult and archaic diction, involving such lines as:
The folk of the war-wand's forgers wrought never better steel Since first the burg of heaven uprose for man-folk's weal.
So they make the yoke-beasts ready, and dight the wains for the way.