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Title: The Lay of the Nibelung Men

Author: Anonymous

Release Date: June 28, 2019 [EBook #59831]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8





at the University Press



I. Of Kriemhild, and of her Dream

II. Of the Fostering and the Knighting of Siegfried

III. How Siegfried rode to the City of Worms

IV. How Siegfried warred against the Saxons

V. How Siegfried first saw Kriemhild

VI. How they voyaged on Love-quest to Isen-land

VII. How the Warrior-maid was won to be Gunther’s Bride

VIII. How Siegfried went to the Niblung Land for his Knights

IX. How Siegfried bare Tidings to the Royal City

X. Of the strange Bridal of Gunther and Brunhild

XI. How Siegfried and his Wife journeyed Home

XII. How Gunther bade Siegfried to a Festival

XIII. How they fared to the Feast-tide

XIV. How the Queens spake bitter Words each unto other

XV. How woven for Siegfried was the Net of Betrayal

XVI. How Siegfried was murdered

XVII. How Siegfried was mourned and buried

XVIII. How Kriemhild would not return to the Lowland with Siegmund

XIX. How the Hoard of the Niblungs came to Worms

XX. How Queen Kriemhild was wooed for the King of the Huns

XXI. Of Kriemhild’s journeying to the Land of the Huns

XXII. How King Etzel wedded Kriemhild

XXIII. How Kriemhild thought on Vengeance for her Wrongs

XXIV. How the Hun-king’s Minstrels bade the Burgundians to the Feast

XXV. How the Princes rode to the Land of the Huns

XXVI. How Foes fell on them as they journeyed by Night

XXVII. How they came to Bechlaren

XXVIII. How the Burgundians came to Etzel’s strong City

XXIX. How Hagen refused to rise up in presence of the Queen

XXX. How Hagen and Volker kept Watch while Men slept

XXXI. How they bore them at Mass and Tourney

XXXII. Of the Slaughter of the Squires and the Slaying of the Slayer

XXXIII. How the Fight began in Etzel’s Hall

XXXIV. How they cast forth the dead

XXXV. How Iring fought and died

XXXVI. How the Queen bade set fire to the Hall

XXXVII. How the Margrave Rüdiger was slain

XXXVIII. How Dietrich’s Men were all slain

XXXIX. How Gunther, Hagen, and Kriemhild were slain



{p. vii}

If we accept as our definition of an Epic:—(a) A long poem, (b) of an interest not less than national[1], describing (c) in noble language (d) a series of naturally and organically connected actions (e) of heroic actors, we shall find that, while we must deny the name to some so-called epics[2], we have to thank the spirit, the imagination, the genius, of the Middle Ages for two great epics. If some critics are inclined to place these on a lower plane, for the alleged reason that the language is lacking in nobility, we may reply that it is a rash literary judgment which appraises the language and style of a far-off time by the standards either of a later civilization and culture, or by those of a quite different race, as of Greece. That is entitled to be called noble language which stirred with heroic impulses, and lifted above themselves, the hearers to whom it was addressed, and this great essential was, we know, amply fulfilled by the Chanson de Roland and the Nibelungenlied. These are both Primitive Epics, as distinguished from the epics of the study. They are National Epics, in the same sense in which the Iliad is, and in a sense in which the Aeneid is not one. By a strange coincidence, the great national epics of the world are unfathered. Of the authorship of the epics of the study, as of Virgil, Milton, Tasso, in which the imagination of a poet bodied forth the life of a long-past age, the scenes of a far-off world, there has never been the shadow of a doubt; but those which paint in everlasting colours the life, the stir of action, the thrill of passion, of an age in which the poet lived and moved and had his being, these songs which pulsate with the very life-blood of the past—when we ask, “Who was the singer?” there comes back only a muffled voice from {p. viii} behind a veil. In India, in France, in Germany, stand thrones waiting for ever empty of the kings of song, and in Greece upon the most imperial of all sits only a featureless shadow, to whose very name is denied by some the attribute of personality.

For this obscurity of authorship there is, in the case of the Nibelungenlied, more reason than with the other epics. What is conjectural with respect to the Iliad and the Chanson, is indubitable with respect to the Lied, viz. that both in its origin and in its construction it was composite, that the elements of which it is a union are in date, perhaps in place of origin, widely remote from each other. The Saga of the Niblungs, of which the Nibelungenlied is the finished poetical development, is a union of mythical and historical elements.

1. The Mythical Element, The groundwork of this is the Saga of Siegfried, or Sigurd, as he is named in the Northern versions of the myth. In the old heroic age of the Teuton tribes, perhaps during the period of the Migrations of the Peoples, in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries, there took shape this legend of a demigod hero[3]. The supernatural pervades the whole atmosphere of this primitive form of the myth. The Gods still walk the earth, the hero is descended from a God, he woos a cloud-maiden, there is something more than earthly in his sword, in his horse, in the glance of his eyes. But as the Germanic tribes to whom this myth was a common inheritance broke up and wandered far apart, it came to pass that it was just with those who remained in the ancient home, the birth-land of the myth, that it became most modified, and that its supernatural elements were removed or toned down, as the result of admixture with more civilized peoples, and, still more, of the acceptance of Christianity by the Germans themselves. Christian teachers were too grimly in earnest to tolerate poems which assumed the existence of heathen deities, and glorified non-Christian virtues. Hence it came {p. ix} to pass that the tribes of Teutonic origin which longest preserved the original form of the myth were those which wandered farthest from the old home-land, and which were the last to abandon the old faith.

The Norse form of the legend, which is most fully preserved for us in the Eddas, or prose epics of Iceland, presents us with the original story, transfigured with all gleams of fancy and splendours of imagination which had gathered round it as it was handed down through generations of bards. There is no need here to tell the story of this Northern version of the Saga, since it has been told for all English lovers of noble poetry by William Morris in his Story of Sigurd, which has well been characterized as “the one great English epic of the nineteenth century,” and which is the most Homeric-spirited poem since Homer. It is an expanded verse-rendering of the Volsunga-saga of the prose Edda, a literal prose version of which is also accessible to all readers, executed by the same author[4].

We will confine ourselves to indicating the features which reappear, under some form or other, in the Nibelungenlied[5]. Sigurd, son of Sigmund, slays Fafnir, the man who had been transformed into a dragon, and takes the dragon-guarded treasure, three horse-loads of gold, with a magic ring, the begetter of gold. But to this Hoard cleaves the curse pronounced by the Dwarf Andvari, from whom it had been taken, that it should prove the destruction of every possessor. With this he rides away, and comes to a hill-top begirt with a wall of fire. He rides through the fire, and finds Brynhild, a Valkyr-maid, who had been cast into a trance-sleep by Odin for transgressing his behests. He awakens her; they love, and plight their troth. But Sigurd, to fulfil his destiny, has to ride on, and so comes to the realm of the Niblungs (people of Mistland), who dwell by the Rhine. Here Grimhild, mother of King Gunnar, gives him a drugged wine-cup which makes him forget Brynhild, and so he weds Gudrun, the sister of the King. He goes with Gunnar to help him to win Brynhild, who is again begirt with the wall of fire. Gunnar cannot ride through it; {p. x} so Sigurd, transformed by a spell into Gunnar’s semblance, does so, and, still in his shape, lies three nights by Brynhild, but lays his sword between them. Gunnar is wedded to Brynhild, who sees at his palace Sigurd wedded to Gudrun, while Sigurd at the same time recovers memory of the past, and knows how he has been beguiled into proving false to his first love. The queens in their jealousy quarrel, and Gudrun tells Brynhild the truth about her wooing. The latter insists upon having vengeance in Sigurd’s death, and he is murdered in his sleep. Brynhild, after brief exultation in her revenge, slays herself to be united in her death to the only man she has ever loved: her body is burnt with his, and together they enter Valhalla. After this, the story, though with many differences of detail, follows substantially the same broad lines as the Nibelungenlied, in the second marriage of Gudrun, and the great vengeance wreaked in the hall of the Hun-king.

Now this older version was a tale of a dateless past, when men lived who were near in birth to Gods, and when Gods came down to earth as freely as they do in Homer. It is suffused with a glamour of the supernatural, with a weird magnificence, both of nature and of man. Its actors are led on, or thrust on, by inevitable doom, their fates are foretold to them, and they go clear-eyed to the consummation of all. There is no pettiness about any of them, they are all moulded on the heroic scale, and the light about them is not the light of common day. But the poet of the Nibelungenlied, as we have it (however it may have been with the lost original form of the lay), essayed a practically impossible task, namely, to bring the essential characters of the old Saga into the scenes and social atmosphere of the twelfth century, with the supernatural elements left out. Hence he makes a different story of the early life of Siegfried, which has the effect of making his parents’ fears for his safety, on his departure for Burgundy, unreasonable in the light of his past exploits. He makes a different tale of the slaying of the dragon, and of the winning of the Hoard, the amount of which he enormously exaggerates, while omitting all mention of the curse attached to it, though it does work in the poem. He has to construct a different Brynhild, and a different wooing, while he leaves unexplained Siegfried’s previous acquaintance with her, and her antipathy to him from the beginning. These flaws in construction are not all; the characters also suffer. Deeds of violence and wrong, which are accepted in the old Saga much as we accept the incidents of a fairy-tale, {p. xi} especially as the actors are not masters of their own fate, are now transferred to men and women who are made as amenable to our judgment as, say, our early Norman Kings, and who, moreover, live in a Christian land of minsters, monasteries and priests. Hence they cannot but lose in moral dignity; and it needs a mediaevally constituted mind to admire or respect a man simply on the score of his unflinching courage and fidelity to a cause which he has made a tainted cause. This weakness of treatment, which we may fairly say was inevitable for any poet, however great, who undertook to transfer the original story into so alien a setting, is confined to the first half of the poem, which ends with the death of Siegfried and its immediate sequel. In this first part he redeems his work from failure, and (with its inevitable limitations) makes it a triumphant success, by his charm of description, his beauty of execution, his fertility in the invention of incident, and the unfailing vivacity and energy with which it is described, and by his command of pathos and power to stir the deepest springs of sympathy. In the second part, where the poet has no longer to mutilate an old-world giant, in order to fit him to a latter-day bed of Procrustes, he treads surely and strongly, and proceeds unfalteringly to his goal, steadily rising with his theme to its magnificent climax. It is in this second part that the mythical element is largely superseded by the historical.

2. The Historical Element. The Siegfried myth is supposed to have taken shape as a connected story, as a sort of primitive epic, somewhere about the fifth century, among that German tribe known as the Rhine Franks, who lived between the east of Belgium and the Rhine and Moselle, Cologne being about the middle of their territory. Their next neighbours up the Rhine were another Germanic tribe, the Burgundians, dwelling in a more mountainous district, of which Worms may have been the middle point. Among these the Niblungs of the original story seem to have been located; and it is curious that in ancient Burgundian records may be found the names of three kings, Gundahar, Godomer and Gislahar, the resemblance of whose names to those in the Lied is sufficiently suggestive. In the year 437 A.D. this Burgundian tribe, with its king, whose name (as latinized by the chronicler) was Gundicarius, was utterly defeated and practically annihilated by an invasion of the Huns in the reign of Attila. This disaster preceded, and perhaps gave the most powerful impulse to, that general break-up of the old {p. xii} Germanic settlements, and the period of stormy wanderings and wars, which lasted through nearly two hundred years, and is known as the Migration of the Peoples. The destruction of the Burgundians by Attila’s host became incorporated with the story as the destruction of the Niblungs by Atli. Its locality was shifted (perhaps for the honour of the race) from a German district invaded by Huns to the capital of Hunland into which the heroes are entrapped by treachery.

The story had reached this stage of development when the northward-wandering tribes carried it to Norway, and in due course to Iceland, where it underwent much less modification than it did among those who remained, or who finally settled down, in central Europe. What changes it underwent during the wanderings of the tribes, by what influences and by what steps a legend originally heathen and tribal was modified by Christianity and feudalism, till after some six hundred years it emerges to view in something approaching its present form—of all this we have no real knowledge, and no subject of literary criticism has been more fruitful of conjecture. We may assume that it was handed down by oral tradition until, with the development of chivalry, with its natural affinity for romance and poetry, there came in the 12th and 13th centuries a great revival of interest in the old heroic literature. Its cultivation became a passion with the nobility, who followed it on two main lines, leading to the production (or revival) of epic poetry of two classes:—(1) the Court Epic, which took for its subject the romance of knight-errantry, and (2) the National Epic, which took the old popular heroic tradition, and gave it permanence in a metrical form peculiar to itself. The Nibelungenlied is essentially, in its subject and spirit, a national epic; but, as it was remodelled by courtier-poets, their treatment of it made it approximate in some respects very closely to the court epic, especially in what we may call the veneer of chivalrous refinement laid over the more elemental characters of the original story. Hence it bears throughout, both in characters and incidents, evidences of the influence of feudalism and chivalry, on the one hand, and of Christianity on the other.

It is curious to note how the poet, having undertaken to shape a credible, intelligible story, the actors of which have a known geographical position, out of a tale of wonders wrought in some misty land the gate to which has been lost, is sometimes confused by the consequent contradictions, and sometimes triumphantly {p. xiii} surmounts them. Thus, the Nibelungs are, in the first part of the story, quite distinct from the Burgundians: they seem to be a tribe of warriors dwelling by themselves on some uncharted shore. But, after the Kings have got the Nibelung Hoard into their possession, and have set out with their followers for Hunland, with a contingent of these Nibelungs in their train, we find that the names Nibelung and Burgundian have become interchangeable. For this no reason is given: the possession of the Hoard does not of itself confer its name on the owner, for that title is never applied to Siegfried, nor is it applied to the Burgundians during all the years that it remains in their hands before they set out for Hunland. The real explanation may be, that there were still extant old folk-songs, familiar to all, which gave all the information required to fill gaps in the Nibelungenlied, and which also gave a full account of Siegfried’s early life and exploits[6], so that the poet felt himself emancipated from the necessity of “beginning at the beginning,” which has been a rock steadily avoided by great epic poets from Homer downwards.

In his treatment of the supernatural, which so dominates the action of the old Saga, but which was based wholly upon that faith in the old Gods which the Christian poet not merely rejected, but ignored, he was far more successful. As Carlyle expresses it:

“Yet neither is the Nibelungen without its wonders; for it is poetry and not prose; here too a supernatural world encompasses the natural, and, though at rare intervals and in calm manner, reveals itself there. It is truly wonderful with what skill our simple untaught poet deals with the marvellous, admitting it without reluctance or criticism, yet precisely in the degree and shape that will best avail him. Here, if in no other respect, we should say that he has a decided superiority to Homer himself. The whole story of the Nibelungen is fateful, mysterious, guided on by unseen influences; yet the actual marvels are few, and done in the far distance: those Dwarfs, and Cloaks of Darkness, and charmed Treasure-caves, are heard of rather than beheld; the tidings of them seem to issue from unknown space. Vain were it to inquire where that Nibelungen-land specially is: its very {p. xiv} name is Nebel-land or Nifl-land, the land of Darkness, of Invisibility. The Nibelungen Heroes, that muster in thousands and tens of thousands, though they march to the Rhine or Danube, and we see their strong limbs and shining armour, we could almost fancy to be children of the air. Far beyond the firm horizon, that wonder-bearing region swims on the infinite waters, unseen by bodily eye, or at most discerned as a faint streak, hanging in the blue depths, uncertain whether island or cloud. And thus the Nibelungen Song, though based on the bottomless foundations of Spirit, and not unvisited of skyey messengers, is a real, rounded, habitable earth, where we find firm footing, and the wondrous and the common live amicably together. Perhaps it would be difficult to find any poet, of ancient or modern times, who in this trying problem has steered his way with greater delicacy and success.”

As a drama of action and of destiny, the poem rises to real greatness. To quote Carlyle again:

“The Nibelungen has been called the Northern Epos; yet it has, in great part, a dramatic character: those thirty-nine Aventiuren (Adventures) which it consists of, might be so many scenes in a Tragedy. The catastrophe is dimly prophesied from the beginning; and, at every fresh step, rises more and more clearly into view. A shadow of coming Fate, as it were, a low inarticulate voice of Doom falls, from the first, out of that charmed Nibelungen-land: the discord of two women is as a little spark of evil passion, which ere long enlarges itself into a crime: foul murder is done; and now the Sin rolls on like a devouring fire, till the guilty and the innocent are alike encircled with it, and a whole land is ashes and a whole race is swept away.”

It is in the delineation of character that the poet is most embarrassed by the intractable nature of the old material which he must needs work up with the new. He had the same difficulty as Homer had in dealing with Achilles’ revenge on the body of Hector, or with Odysseus’ revenge on the faithless servants; and, if he made the best of a bad case, it must be admitted that in his best there is somewhat jarring. The poem has been called the Northern Iliad, but the all-round nobility of the heroes of Homer, and, indeed, of epics generally (in intention at least), is strangely lacking in the chief Nibelungs. Hagen is a treacherous murderer of his niece’s husband, whom he assassinates in expiation of an offence of which the {p. xv} victim has proved himself innocent; and he is a thief who robs the same helpless woman twice. Gunther is an accomplice and an ingrate. The other champions are fully conscious of the iniquity of those whose cause they support: their merit is that which in those times covered a multitude of sins—unflinching bravery and fidelity to their cause and to each other. Hagen shows a cynical disregard of righteousness and of honesty: he faces the consequences of his sin without a tremor: his callous contempt for the hearts he tramples on is matched by his reckless defiance of the retribution which involves a nation with himself. There is no word of repentance, no hint of remorse; and it is characteristic that none of his companions reproach him amid their ruin, and that even Rüdiger, the flower of chivalry, receives him as his most honoured guest, confers on him the most distinguished tokens of regard, and sympathizes with him to the end. The author shows less consideration for Kriemhild than for him in the final catastrophe; for, while the King and the stainless heroes lament his fall, no hand is raised to stay the vengeance upon Kriemhild that swiftly follows, no word of regret is uttered over her. This recalls to our mind certain characteristics of that period: first, the supreme importance of a great warrior and leader of men, whose life is held of more account, not merely to his party, but to the world, than that of many women. Secondly, we are reminded how thin was the veneer of courtesy to women in the so-called age of chivalry. It is significant that in the Volsunga-saga, which is instinct with the old unalloyed Teutonic spirit, no man thinks of taking vengeance on a woman: they may poison, betray, or assassinate, but they are always immune from the last penalty. The third characteristic here exemplified is well set forth by Dr. Arnold:

“Philip de Comines praises his master Louis XI as one of the best of princes, though he witnessed not only the crimes of his life, but the miserable fears and suspicions of his latter end, and has even faithfully recorded them. In this respect Philip de Comines is in no respect superior to Froissart, with whom the crimes committed by his knights and great lords never interfere with his general eulogies of them: the habit of deference and respect was too strong to be broken, and the facts which he himself relates to their discredit, appear to have produced on his mind no impression” (Lectures on Modern History, II).

In the historical characters which he introduced, the poet probably meant to {p. xvi} adhere to historic truth, as he apprehended it; but we have to make large allowances for the utterly uncritical historic lore of the time, and for the probability, we might say the certainty, that some of the history was based on popular tradition, which is fruitful in confusion of personalities and in anachronisms. These characters are three:—

1. Attila, called Etzel in the Lied. The Atli of the Volsunga-saga much more nearly resembles the Attila of the historians of Rome and Constantinople than does Etzel. He here appears as a just and generous king, whose court is a rendezvous of foreign knights from every land, proud to enlist in his service. Not only is he no party to the treacherous entrapping of the Nibelungs, but he is utterly ignorant of it; and is only driven to countenance hostilities against them by their slaughter of his child and the intolerable insults they hurl at himself. The reason for this presentment of him may be, that Attila really was just, generous, and merciful to his own subjects, and to the large numbers of foreign mercenaries, many of them Germans, who took service under him. Some of these, on their return home, would always speak of him as a great king and a good master, whose court was magnificent; and this character of him might well persist in tradition through the generations, and be an essential part of the popular lays which formed the groundwork of the finished epic.

2. Theodoric, called in the Lied Dietrich of Bern, where Bern has nothing to do with Switzerland, but is the German form of Verona. The poet no doubt meant the great Theodoric the Ostrogoth, conqueror of Italy. But he (born 455 A.D.) lived a generation after Attila (died 453). Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, was indeed a contemporary of Attila, but he was an enemy, and died fighting against him in the great battle of Châlons, in 451. In Carlyle’s words, “some commentators have fished out another Theodoric, eighty years prior to him of Verona, and who actually served in Attila’s hosts with a retinue of Goths and Germans.” If this last be really historical, or was even traditional, he might have been the original Dietrich of the old lays who in the Lied serves in proud independence in Attila’s palace-guard. But popular tradition and the poets knew as their only Dietrich the great Theodoric, and were serenely unconscious that for him it was, on every ground, as possible to have served under Attila, as for our Alfred the Great to have served under Charlemagne.

{p. xvii}

3. Bishop Pilgrim. His introduction is a gross anachronism indeed, for he lived more than 500 years after Attila’s time. He owes his inclusion, or intrusion, to the fact that he had the Saga rendered into Latin verse by his secretary, Konrad, as he heard it from the lips of bards, some two hundred years before the poem took shape as a German epic. No doubt this Latin poem was used by the composers of the epic; and, if they were conscious at all of the anachronism, it would have troubled them as little as Walter Scott was troubled by the anachronisms, of which he cheerfully makes confession, in Ivanhoe.

We have spoken of a “poet”; but in truth there was a long succession of them. While the names of the authors of several of those trivial romances, the Court Epics, have been carefully handed down, there is no record of the authorship of the great National Epic; and this is the more remarkable, as, during the period of the Literary Revival, successive remodellings of it by different hands were produced, each, we may presume, regarded as an improvement on its predecessor; yet no trustworthy clue survives to the name of the composer of any one of them.

The following would appear to have been the different stages through which the Nibelungenlied, as a distinct poem, passed:—

I. The original form, in alliterative verse. (Not extant.) If we could recover this, we might find it, both in metrical form and in literary style, more like our Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf than the existing versions of the Lied.

II. The first 12th century version, cir. 1140, by an Austrian court poet (the Kürnberg Knight for whom Bartsch argues), in four-line stanzas, or “strophes,” of iambic basis, with assonant endings. (Not extant.)

III. The second 12th century version, cir. 1170, in which rhyme was partially substituted for assonance. (Not extant.)

IV. The third 12th century versions, of two contemporaneous poets, cir. 1190-1200, in which assonances are almost entirely superseded by rhymes. Extant in several MSS. which fall under two heads:—

1. MS. A. The Munich manuscript, of which only one single copy exists; this perhaps represents the poem just as this rédacteur left it. It is based on a good and ancient original, but is very carelessly written, and omits (apparently through oversight) a number of strophes. This, the shortest version, was adopted by Lachmann as the basis of his edition.

{p. xviii}

2. MS. B. The St. Gall manuscript. This represents the text as modified by later hands in the 13th and 14th centuries. Of this there are numerous copies. It was adopted by Bartsch as the basis of his edition.

V. MS. C. The fourth 12th century version, of about the same date as the preceding. It presents the same metrical characteristics, but aims

1. In its matter, at reconciling contradictions and inconsistencies in the original Saga;

2. At establishing a connexion between the Lied and Lament for the Niblungs (a poetically inferior continuation), which it does by a reference in the concluding strophe, and more especially by the insertion of a series of strophes at various points in the text, the tendency of which is to excite and maintain sympathy with Kriemhild, and to present her in the light of a righteous avenger. The author also, in the last line of the poem, changes the title from the original Nibelungen-nôt to Nibelungen-lied. Extant in the Donaueschingen manuscript, the additional strophes of which are included in Simrock’s modern German version.

The poem, after the Revival of Learning, suffered the same eclipse through the fascination and superior literary finish of classical literature, as did the Chanson de Roland in France. Its rescue from oblivion dates from the year 1757, when the first imperfect edition of it was published from an old manuscript by Prof. Bodmer. The labours of later scholars and critics produced more and more perfect editions; and the interest of the German public in it was gradually awakened, till it grew to an enthusiasm for what was at last recognised as a great national epic. It was not only a subject for patriotic pride, but, from its memories of old-time greatness, from its heroic spirit, and, from that soul of loyalty to fatherland and king which pervades it, and which is a fundamental trait of the German character, it became an inspiration to great effort and noble sacrifice, coming just at the time when these were pre-eminently called for. It was when the old spirit of freedom awoke with tenfold strength, and all Germany rose as one man against the Titanic tyranny of Napoleon, that this book became for Germans what the Iliad was for Greeks. It helped to fan patriotism into a flame of heroism; it was a voice crying from the past, a great battle-call that blended with the voices of such soldier-singers as Körner. In the year of Waterloo a cheap edition for the use of soldiers {p. xix} was issued—which reminds us of the claim Aeschylus (in Aristophanes’ Frogs) puts forth for his two dramas of war, that they made every spectator long to be a warrior, and nerved him to resolve to conquer or die. And the national instinct which then recognised and claimed for its own that spirit of loyalty to king and country, through evil report and good report, which takes for its watchword, “My country!—may she always be in the right; but my country, right or wrong!” is fundamentally sound. It recognises that he who sets up his private conscience against that of his country in the hour of her need, must himself beware lest he make himself a traitor in sinning against those to whom he owes the greatest earthly debt a man can owe. It recognises that a man may be committing a far deeper wrong by refusing to help his country in a cause in which he thinks he detects some flaw, still more by striving with word or pen to paralyse the efforts of those who are fighting for her, than if he fought in a cause of which his conscience disapproves. Hence United Germany has been no congenial foster-mother for “the friends of every country save their own”; and her scholars are not wrong in claiming for their great epic its share in thus moulding the patriotic conscience.

This translation is based on the text of Bartsch (edit. 1886), but the strophes of MS. C have been incorporated with it, so that it thus corresponds with the widely read modern German version of Simrock. For the English reader it may be explained that a marginal C denotes that the four lines which follow are taken from that source, and he will note that their ethical tendency is designed to be cumulative, to excite and maintain sympathy for the murdered hero and his widow, and to supply what justification can be found for her revenge. They appeal to the modern reader’s sense of justice, and are in themselves poetically not unworthy of being included, as they often elaborate a picturesque or stirring scene, and add touches of beauty, tenderness, or pathos which we could not wish away.

The metre adopted is that on which William Morris fixed, with true poetic instinct, for his Story of Sigurd, the great sister-poem to the Nibelungenlied, from which, indeed, he really seems to have taken it, as it preserves the “ringing caesura” of that original, and, accentually, the same measure. It is not in essentials different from that of the Middle High German text, for the basis of that is accentual and not numerical, though other translators have thought that it was {p. xx} best reproduced by rigidly adhering to an iambic structure. This, in a long poem, is apt to have a somewhat heavy, monotonous effect, whereas the anapaestic-iambic measure not only secures something of the lightness of the movement of the original, but has for English readers a variety, freedom and swiftness, a “lilt,” which has made it of late years widely popular.

The old division into “strophes” has been discarded. It has always seemed to me a literary offence so to print an epic as to convey the suggestion that it is but a long ballad. I cannot help thinking that this device was one adopted for convenience’ sake by the mediaeval reciters or chanters of the Lied, as was the gap in the line after the caesura, to mark artificially the cadence of the line. These, however, have a somewhat pedantic, formal, and so irritating effect on the modern reader who wants to enter into the spirit of an epic. The literary argument against the division into strophes is well stated by Bartsch: “I do not think that, fine as the Nibelungen strophe is in itself, and admirably as it lends itself to lyric treatment, its employment for the epic was a happy inspiration. A division into regular strophes is altogether antagonistic to the Epic: the even flow of the epic narrative does indeed require pauses, not, however, at prescribed, but at free intervals. And this principle we see invariably adhered to wherever a true epic has developed itself, in India, in Greece, in France.”

In dropping the strophic arrangement, I have of course dropped the extra two syllables which lengthened the fourth line of each strophe. I incline to think that their presence is another indication that the Lied was originally intended, not for reading, but for chanting or recitative, like the older lays on which it was founded. It is a common device of singers thus to lengthen the last line of a verse; it helps to the satisfaction of the ear: but the effect is quite different in reading. As a reviewer in the Athenæum says: “No doubt it is theoretically proper to follow the original form with absolute fidelity, but unfortunately the line in English, or even, for that matter, in Modern German, is very different from the line in Middle High German. It drags grievously, and though it breaks the monotony to a certain extent, and occasionally produces a fine effect, yet more often it is merely irritating.” The adoption of the principle laid down by the only English translator who has preserved this peculiarity, that “the very essence of a poem is its exact metrical quality,” would at once condemn all translations of {p. xxi} Homer and Virgil into blank or heroic verse, or indeed, into anything but English hexameters, and all translations of the classical drama into anything but trimeter iambics and unrhymed choruses in the impossible metres of the originals—a theory which surely needs only to be stated to expose its untenability. The essence of a poem lies in its spirit more than its formal structure; and whatever jars on the reader, and puts a drag on the swift and easy movement of the verse, so far interferes with his entering into the spirit of that poem.

A. S. W.

October, 1911.


Of Kriemhild, and of her Dream

{p. 1}

Many a marvellous story have the ancient singers told

Of heroes and their glory and their travail manifold,

Of great feasts splendour-flashing that with weeping and wailing ended,

Of the thunder of war-waves clashing—in the Lay shall ye hear all blended.

In the Land Burgundian nurtured was a maiden princely of birth;

Though ye searched, ye should find none fairer to the uttermost ends of the earth;

And her name far-sung was Kriemhild, she was sweeter than speech may tell.

Ah, many a valiant champion in battle for her sake fell!

There was no man whose pride had warded his breast against love’s dart

Shot from the eyes victorious, from the snare of many a heart:

She was lovely beyond all measure that speech or thought may find,

Yea, queenly withal and gracious, a glory of womankind.

Three high-born Kings and wealthy guarded and held her dear;

Gunther and Gernot, heroes in prowess without a peer,

And Giselher the youngest, unmatched in foughten field:

Their sister was she and their glory, and her sword were they and her shield.

Lords were they of noble lineage, and of courtesy the crown,

And their aweless might was matchless, and limitless their renown;

And over the Land Burgundian they stretched the sceptred hand,

Ere the strange, grim end of their story was told in Etzel’s land.

{p. 2}

In the City of Worms by the Rhine-flood these Kings in their might abode,

And the best in the whole land served them, the proudest knights that rode,

With glory of homage served them through their life’s triumphant tide—

Till the day when in woeful battle through the Feud of the Queens they died.

And the mother that bare them was Uta, and the treasures of queens were hers,

And their father the old king Dankart, and he made them heritors

Of his realm in the hour of his dying, a champion mighty of old,

Who in days of his youth reaped harvest of glory manifold.

As the tale of their goodlihead telleth, such kings were they, these three,

Strong, fearless lords; and the vassals that bent before them the knee

Were the best of all of whose doings their songs have the minstrels made,

Stalwart and aweless of spirit, in battle unafraid.

For these were Hagen of Troneg, and Dankwart his brother withal

The battle-eager, and Ortwein the warder of Metz’s wall;

And with these stood Gere and Eckwart, lords of the marches twain,

And Volker the Knight Alsatian, the name without a stain;

And Rumold the feast-arrayer, a worship-worthy lord;

Sindold and Hunold, which ever kept heedful watch and ward

For the state of the palace royal, that all should be ordered well;

And with these were there knightly vassals whose tale no bard may tell.

Dankwart was their palace-marshal, and beside the feastful board

Waited his nephew Ortwein, of Metz was he overlord;

And Sindold bare them the wine-cup, a goodly baron he;

And Hunold was chamberlain, perfect in utterest courtesy.

But of all their palace-splendour, and their might renowned afar,

And the majesty of their worship, and their knightly deeds of war,

And the joy that the kingly heroes therein had all their days—

No minstrel hath wholly told it, no harp sung all their praise.

Now it fell, in the midst of their glory, that a dream unto Kriemhild appeared:

A strong, fair, tameless falcon in a bower of dreams she reared.

But before her eyes two eagles swooped upon him and slew—

Never a bitterer sorrow the heart of the maiden knew!

{p. 3}

So she told to her mother the vision; but from Lady Uta’s eyes

Was it hid, that she could not interpret the dream save in halting wise:

“The falcon reared in thy dream-bower, a princely husband is this—

Now God from evil defend him, else swift dark doom shall be his!”

“What is this that thou talkest of husbands, heart’s dearest, mother, to me?

In the net of love untangled will I for ever be.

Unto my death in the beauty of maidenhood I will abide,

That I taste not the manifold sorrows that from love of man betide.”

But she answered: “Not wholly renounce it, for thy vow hath been spoken amiss:

For if ever on earth thou knowest a heart full-brimmed with bliss,

Of the love of a man shall this come; and a fair and happy bride

Shalt thou be, if a noble baron by God’s grace stand by thy side.”

“Let be, let be vain talking, heart’s dearest, mother mine.

In many a wife’s repentance have I read the warning sign,

How love hath sorrow for guerdon when the end of its journey is won:—

I will none of love nor of sorrow, I abide in my bliss alone.”

So Kriemhild in pride of her spirit was a rebel to Lord Love’s sway;

And her heart-peace flowed as a river through many a sunlit day;

And she looked upon earls and champions, but none might the heart of her move:

Yet her hour drew near, and the breaking of the glory-dawn of love.

For in flight even now was the Falcon, the fulfilment drew nigh and nigher

Of the dream half read of her mother—but woe for the vengeance-hire

That she paid to the eagles that slew him, her own blood-brethren they!

Woe for the sons of women untold whom his death should slay!

Of the Fostering and the Knighting of Siegfried

Now grew unto man in the Low Land the child of a line world-famed.

For Siegmund the King begat him, his mother was Siegelind named,

In a tower-engirdled stronghold renowned through the earth afar,

Where the Rhine and the sea meet: Xanten men named that burg of war.

{p. 4}

Now telleth the tale of a hero, how fair and stately he grew,

How the shield of his heart was honour, nor taint of shame he knew,

How shone the star of his glory, how strong was that fearless lord:—

Ho for the harvest of honour that earth’s field gave to his sword!

And his far-sung name was Siegfried, the name of a noble Knight;

And he proved in his strength great-hearted full many a champion’s might,

And through many a strange land cleft he a path by his own right hand:—

Ho for the fiery warriors he found in Burgundia-land!

(C) Or ever this valiant champion to man was fully grown,

By deeds of such marvellous prowess had the might of his hands been shown

That the minstrel’s voice and the harpstrings rang ever with his praise:

Not a tithe thereof is remembered in these the latter days.

But the noontide of his glory, but the spring of his goodlihead—

How marvelled the world at his story, what things were of Siegfried said,

How bloomed as a bower his honour, how goodly he was to behold,

How dreamed of his love fair women, how their eyes the heart’s dream told!

As beseems that a hero be fostered was he nurtured with diligent heed;

But his own heart still was a wellspring of faith and of knightly deed,

That by him was the land of his father as with gold of a diadem crowned,

For in all the deeds of kingfolk all-kingly was he found.

And by this so great was he waxen that to halls of kings must he fare:

Glad-faced did the earls look on him, and dame and damsel there

Sore longed to behold him wending thitherward evermore,

And their eyes unto his shone welcome, and he knew the love they bore.

Ever that child of princes rode girt by a henchman-ring,

And in lovely-woven raiment of his mother’s fashioning;

And the wise and the lessoned in honour must teach him their lore, as one

For whom there waited a kingdom and a nation’s heart to be won.

So waxed he to strength of manhood, till sword and shield he swayed,

And in goodliest harness of battle were his mighty limbs arrayed.

Then his thoughts after fair dream-faces of maids flew questing wide—

And O for the bliss and the honour of her that should be his bride!

{p. 5}

Then sent King Siegmund the bidding-word to his vassals all,

And to all friends loyal-hearted, for a high-tide festival;

And the tale thereof into kingdoms of other lords they bare

With gifts for the friend and the stranger, even steeds and raiment fair.

Wheresoever a strong young warrior high-born longed sore for the day

That should bring to him knighthood’s golden spurs, all such bade they

To come to the land of Siegmund, to Siegfried’s festal tide,

To be girt with the sword of knighthood, standing by Siegfried’s side.

Long shall men sing of the wonder of that crown of festal days,

How Siegmund and Siegelind won them the treasure-giver’s praise

For the gifts of cost uncounted that they gave with stintless hand,

How the rumour thereof drew strangers from afar into Siegmund’s land.

Came thither squires four hundred in knighthood’s vesture to be

Arrayed with the young prince Siegfried; and maidens comely to see

Sat fashioning goodly raiment, and their love with the threads was enwound,

As they laid the priceless gemstones thereon with the gold set round,

As their broidery-work on the robe-hems gleamed fair in coil on coil

For the strong young knights high-hearted—they were worthy the love-sped toil.

And the King bade dight the high-seats for the guests, for the thanes of pride,

At the feast of the knighting of Siegfried in the heart of the summer-tide.

Then fared they on to the minster, young squires of high degree

And noble knights full many; and in proud humility

Did the elder serve the younger, by the law that from old time came.

On their lips was mirth and laughter, in their eyes the hope of fame.

When they chanted the Mass to the honour of God in the highest height,

The mighty throngs surged inward to gaze on that gallant sight,

When after the ancient custom those squires with spur and brand

Were arrayed, and with honour never since seen in any land.

Then hasted they where harnessed were the steeds abiding their lords:

Then rose in the lists of Siegmund the clash of spears and swords:

Then the halls of the palace re-echoed, as in joyous combat they crashed,

When the mighty-hearted champions forth to the onset flashed.

{p. 6}

From old knight and young warrior the clash and the clang rose high:

The splintered spear-shafts flying leapt up to the laughing sky,

The shards of the lances upsoaring to the roof of the palace-hall.

And the earls and the high-born ladies sat throned beholding all.

Then the King bade stay the combat, and they led the war-steeds thence,

From the field wide-strewn with the strong shields, the brave heart’s rifted fence,

Strewn with the costly gemstones wherewith was the grass bestarred

From the glittering shield-bands fallen in the grapple bitter-hard.

Then sat those guests in the feast-hall in their own ordained high-seats;

And the war-toil’s ache was banished like a dream by the goodly meats

And the wines of noble vintage that flowed as a fountain free.

There homeland guest and stranger had honour plenteously.

In gentle sports and joyous had they worn the long day out;

And now the song of the minstrels through the feast-hall went about;

And their singing had goodly guerdon of the ever-bounteous hand,

And their praise was a crown of glory upon all King Siegmund’s land.

Then the King bade Siegfried deliver in fee to his vassals true

Broad lands and stately castles, as himself had been wont to do.

And he gave with hand ungrudging to his fellows of the sword,

That their hearts were glad for his presence, for their coming thitherward.

So the feast sped on and the mirth-tide, till they saw the seventh sun rise;

And all in the olden fashion did the Queen give gifts of price;

Red gold for the love of Siegfried, and in Siegfried’s name she gave.

That to him as the giver of bounty the hearts of all men clave.

Not a wandering bard thereafter in need in the land abode:

Steeds, raiment on these were showered as though with gifts it snowed,

As though there should come no morrow, and men’s lives lack nothing more:

Never were palace-stewards that lavished so of their store.

So filled with the winning of honour that feast-tide fleeted by,

That whiles one heard the earl-folk each unto other cry:

“Well were we if but Prince Siegfried in his father’s stead were our lord!”

But a grief unto him was their longing, and his true heart loathed the word.

{p. 7}

While endured the days of Siegmund and Siegelind, their son

Siegfried, the loved and the loving, would in no wise sit on the throne.

But he yearned in his fearless spirit to break the oppressor’s yoke,

And to rid of the fear of the spoiler the hearth of the lowly folk.

(C) No man might make him a mocking: since first the sword he drew,

The praise of the brave was his lodestar; but little rest he knew:

Ever he wooed war-perils, and his battle-triumphant hand

Bare the banner of his glory through many a far-off land.

How Siegfried rode to the City of Worms

Not often the heart of the hero had ache or sorrow known,

Till the tidings came of a fair-one on a wind of rumour blown.

Fair past all heart’s desiring was the Star of Burgundy—

She was doomed to be joy and anguish unto him in the days to be!

With the fame of her glorious beauty there flew forth far and wide

The tale of the queenly spirit, of the heart of tameless pride;

And the souls of princely champions were set on fire of the word,

That from lands afar to the guest-hall of Gunther the King they spurred.

But for all the love of the wooers, and their burning words thereof,

No whit were Kriemhild’s heart-strings once swept by the finger of love,

That she deigned to take of them any for the love of her life and her king.

In a strange land yet was her Falcon with the victory in his wing.

When borne down love’s dream-river was the heart of Siegelind’s son,

As an idle wind was the wooing of all save him alone.

Above all men was Siegfried worthy the chosen of women to wed:—

Now soon to the fair shall the fearless by the hand of love be led.

Then his friends took thought for Siegfried, and the wise in council met,

When they knew the heart of the hero on the love of woman set.

{p. 8}

“Seek her for thy bride,” they counselled, “whose birth shall shame not thee.”

Answered the prince: “None other than Kriemhild this shall be!

Lo, she is a great king’s daughter, and the Star of Burgundia she is,

And she is the Queen of Beauty, and my heart knoweth certainly this—

Never Kaiser nor King is so mighty, but, if he would choose him a bride,

Kriemhild, the glory of women, for him were a crown of pride.”

Then was told the tale of his purpose unto Siegmund the ancient King,

For his people brought him the tidings, and so was he ware of the thing

Whereunto was his son’s mind steadfast; and the King was sore afraid

For the peril of Siegfried’s wooing of the haughty-hearted maid.

Yea also the selfsame rumour did the lady Siegelind hear;

And her heart was exceeding heavy with a burden of sorrow and fear;

For she wotted how grim was Gunther and the earls of his war-array:

And they laboured to turn Prince Siegfried from the perilous quest away.

Then answered the aweless Siegfried: “Heart’s dearest, father mine,

Never to love of woman shall the soul of me incline,

Except I may woo untrammelled where love leads forth mine heart!”

And never, for all their pleading, would he from the word depart.

“If thus thou abide unshaken,” the King made answer again,

“Know thou, of thine high-wrought purpose my soul is exceeding fain;

And with heart and hand will I aid thee to the uttermost of my might.

Yet mid King Gunther’s vassals is many a haughty knight:

Yea, had he none other than Hagen the stalwart to stand at his side,

That champion is so uplifted with overweening pride,

That I fear, I fear me sorely lest his malice bring us to bane

If we woo that high-born maiden, the Lady of Disdain.”

“Shall the pride of the haughty thwart us?” hot-hearted Siegfried cried.

“If they mock at the speech of friendship, if I be with scorn denied,

Then will I do my wooing with the strength of mine own right hand;

Yea, I will wrest from the proud ones their vassals and their land!”

Then answered and spake King Siegmund: “Woe’s me for this word of thine!

For if haply this thy defiance should be told by the waters of Rhine,

{p. 9}

Never couldst thou thereafter to the land of Gunther ride;—

Long time have I known them, Gunther and Gernot, the children of pride.

By violence may no man win her, that the maiden should stoop to his love,”

Spake Siegmund the King, “assurance most utter have I thereof.

Yet if thou with a host of warriors wouldst thitherward spur the steed,

Lo, all our battle-helpers shall with thee into Rhineland speed.”

“Now nay, it shall nowise please me,” the son of Siegmund said,

“That a host of knights into Rhineland by my banner should be led

Arrayed in the ranks of battle; for my sorrow should it be

To constrain that daughter of princes to yield her love unto me.

I will woo her alone, unholpen of aught but mine own right hand:

With none save with twelve companions will I unto Gunther’s land.

Thus far and no further, my father, mine emprise shall ye aid,

That my knights be in bright-hued vesture and grey furs costly arrayed.”

Unto Siegelind his mother were the tidings borne anon,

And the queen brake forth into weeping for her well-beloved son:

“If he meet the hosts of Gunther, he is lost unto me!” she said.

Then wept that daughter of princes as women weep for the dead.

But Siegfried the knight beheld her weeping, and came to her side

With speech of loving comfort, and blithe of heart he cried:

“Nought hast thou to do with weeping, dear lady and queen, for my sake.

Though a host should arise against me, mine heart should in no wise quake.

Nay, help me thou on my journey when to Burgundy I fare,

And for me and my war-fellows fashion such goodly raiment to wear

As shall be for the praise and the honour of knights so gallant as they;

And so shall mine heart go singing its thanks unto thee alway.”

“If in sooth thou abidest unshaken,” the lady Siegelind said,

“Then, O my child, my beloved, of me shall thy journey be sped;

For the costliest raiment and fairest that ever good knight wore

Shall ye have, even thou and thy war-thanes, an exceeding plenteous store.”

Then lowly in thanks he bent him, Siegfried the fair and young;

And he spake: “For my journeying-fellows shall I take no mighty throng,

{p. 10}

But only twelve of my champions: make ready their raiment thou;—

I am longing to learn, O mother, how fares it with Kriemhild now.”

Then nightlong, daylong toiling sat ladies lovely-eyed:

Was none that for rest or for pastime would lay her labour aside

Till the fingers of love had fashioned all Siegfried’s goodly gear:

For his heart was set on the journey, none other rede would he hear.

And his father bade make ready for the prince his knightly array

Wherein he should go forth riding from Siegmund’s land away;

And the warriors’ glittering hauberks withal were ready dight,

And their strong-knit helms and their war-shields broad and gleaming bright.

Now by this was the hour of their faring unto Burgundy drawn full near;

And the hearts of man and woman were heavy with boding fear

Lest never the cherished faces should be seen in the land again.

And they bade lade armour and raiment on the beasts of the sumpter-train.

Goodly to see were the horses in their trappings of ruddy gold.

Long should ye search and vainly more gallant sight to behold

Than Siegfried the knight and the warrior-henchmen ranged at his side.

Now for nought but the parting-blessing his feet for a space abide.

And the King and the Queen there mingled their blessing with many a tear;

But he spake to them words of comfort, and cried with loving cheer:

“Nought have ye to do with weeping for my peril in any strife:

Banish for aye foreboding as touching Siegfried’s life!”

Yet the earls were heavy-hearted, the maidens’ tears ran free;

Yea, the fear on their souls lay darkly that yet in the days to be

For the dear ones unreturning they should sorrow with hearts bowed low:—

Ah me, for their lamentation at the last was there cause enow!

So it fell on the seventh morning that to Worms by the Rhine-river shore

Those fearless knights came riding. What raiment soever they wore

Was all with the red gold broidered, and the harness glinted and shone

As their steeds went softly pacing as they followed Siegfried on.

{p. 11}

New-wrought were the knights’ broad bucklers, bright without fleck or stain,

And their helms were a flashing splendour, as rode that gallant train

After the aweless Siegfried through the heart of Burgundia-land;

Never therein did heroes so goodly-apparelled stand.

Low as the spurs all-golden their mighty sword-points hung;

Sharp battle-spears those champions in their strong hands lightly swung.

Of two full spans was the blue blade of the lance that Siegfried bare;

Keen were the long cold edges, and the lightning of death slept there.

Starred reins all gold-embroidered swung light in the rider’s hand,

And the steeds’ breast-bands were silken: so rode they through the land;

And with parted lips of wonder around them all folk pressed.

Then Gunther’s palace-marshals sped forth to meet the guest.

They ran, the earls high-hearted; they hasted, henchman and knight,

Toward these of the lordly presence, even as was meet and right;

And they gave those guests fair greeting unto their liege-lord’s land;

And they grasped the good steed’s bridle, and would take the shield from the hand.

And they made as to lead the horses to the crib and the stall for their rest:

Then stayed them the voice of Siegfried, that dauntless warrior-guest:

“Let be the steeds; for a season still harnessed shall they stand,

For yet am I girt for the journey, and I ride full soon from your land.

Now if any man certainly knoweth, let him nowise hide the thing,

For this would I have one tell me, where may I light on your King,

Even Gunther the treasure-wealthy, Burgundia’s mighty lord.”

Then one that thereof well wotted spake out the answering word:

“If ye fain would behold that war-king, the wish may be lightly won.

In the wide fair hall of his palace I marked him a little agone

Begirt with his hero-vassals: thither to him go ye.

There many a noble warrior beside him shall ye see.”

But by this within his palace had the tale to the King been told

How there waited without by the gateway strange warriors aweless-bold

All-armed in sunbright hauberks and in royal-rich array,

Whose names and whose kindred no man in Burgundy might say.

{p. 12}

Thereat was the King astonied, and he marvelled whence they came,

These lordly knights from whose raiment so shone the splendour-flame,

These wielders of goodly bucklers, broad shields and stainless-fair:

Yea, it misliked him that no man could say what folk they were.

Then to the King made answer Ortwein, Metz’s lord—

Stalwart he was, and a dauntless wielder of spear and sword:

“Forasmuch as in no wise we know them, bid one bring hither to thee

Mine uncle, even Hagen: let him look on their company.

Known unto him are kingdoms and strange lands far and wide.

Of him, if he know yon chieftains, shall we surely be certified.”

Then the King bade bring that baron and his knightly train therewithal.

Full soon was his lordly presence beheld in Gunther’s hall.

“For what cause,” then spake Hagen, “am I hitherward called of the King?”

“Lo, yonder unknown heroes to mine halls come journeying;

And no man knoweth to name them. Hast thou haply far away

In a strange land looked on their faces? I pray thee, Hagen, say.”

“That will I,” made answer Hagen. To the casement straight did he go,

And his glance like the swoop of an eagle flashed o’er those guests below.

With the warrior’s joy their war-gear and their goodly array he scanned;

Howbeit their faces he knew not: they were strangers in the land.

And he spake: “Whencesoever the warriors to Rhineflood hitherward fare,

Princes are they of a surety, or a message of princes they bear,

So goodly are their war-steeds, so royal is their array.

Sooth, whencesoe’er they have ridden, great-hearted heroes be they.”

Then a little pondered Hagen, and he spake: “It is sooth to say,

Upon Siegfried’s bodily presence have I looked not unto this day:

Yet indeed and in truth meseemeth, howsoever the thing may be,

That the knight who yonder beareth so princely a port, is he.

Great tales shall be told, if it be so, of his coming to this our land.

The lion-hearted Niblungs were slain by the hero’s hand,

Schilbung and Nibelung, scions of the King of the Golden Hoard;—

Marvels he wrought against them when his strong arm swung the sword!

{p. 13}

For it chanced, when the hero was riding alone with no helpers near,

That he found by a misty mountain, as the tale hath been told in mine ear,

Enringing the Hoard of King Niblung a throng of fierce-eyed men:

He had seen not those strange faces till he lighted on them then.

There lay King Niblung’s Gold-hoard, haled forth from the dark abyss

Of the rifted heart of the mountain—a strange, wild tale is this

How the Niblung men were wrangling o’er the treasure’s portioning!

So came Knight Siegfried upon them, and he marvelled at that strange thing.

So nigh he drew unhindered that he saw each battle-lord,

And on him looked they: to his fellow a prince spake straightway the word:

“‘Lo, here cometh Siegfried the stalwart, the Low Land’s hero renowned!’—

Good sooth, a weird adventure mid the Niblung men he found!

Then Schilbung and Nibelung greeted the hero with courteous speech;

And now do the high-born princes that stranger knight beseech

That himself would consent between them that mighty treasure to share;

And they hung so sore upon him that he yielded at last to their prayer.

Such wealth of precious gemstones he beheld, as telleth the tale,

That fivescore wains had sufficed not that treasure thence to hale:

There were heaps yet huger of red gold, the wealth of the Niblung land:

And all that hoard must be portioned by the aweless Siegfried’s hand.

And for hire did they give to the hero King Niblung’s dwarf-wrought sword—

But, ere all was done, for their guerdon they won them an evil reward;

Yea, enforced was Siegfried to deal them therewith great slaughter and grim;

For his sharing might nowise content them, and they turned their fury on him.

(C) So there in the midst that treasure yet all unportioned lay;

And fell on the hero the war-thanes of either king’s array.

But he thrust and he hewed with Balmung, their sire’s enchanted sword,

Nor stayed, till his might had wrested from the Niblung men the Hoard.

Twelve fearful battle-helpers ’gainst that lone warrior fought,

Strong men, and in stature giants; but their might availed them nought,

For the hand of Siegfried smote them in his fury of battle-lust.

Seven hundred knights of the Niblung land he laid in the dust

{p. 14}

With the Sword, the good sword Balmung of the world-renownèd name.

And the heart of many a champion for terror as water became,

Quelled by the lightning-flasher and its lord’s undaunted mood.

Yea, the Niblung land and her castles were under his might subdued.

Yea, those two kings in the battle he met, and he smote them dead;

Yet himself through the might of Albrich the Dwarf was sorely bestead;

For the vassal dwarf burned fiercely to avenge his liege-lords slain,

Till quelled by the might of Siegfried his purpose he needs must refrain.

That demon-dwarf all vainly strove with the hero’s might:

Like the grapple of raging lions round the mountain stormed their fight,

Till the Hood of Darkness was yielded by Albrich to this new lord,

And Siegfried the Terrible master was left of the Niblung Hoard,

For all which had dared to withstand him on that stricken field lay slain.

Then bade he bear that treasure to the mountain-fastness again

Whence the Niblung vassals had haled it forth as the dead kings bade;

And the warder of the treasure strong Alberich he made.

By an oath most mighty he bound him his thrall, to be faithful and true,

And ever in loyal service his uttermost bidding to do.”

So ended Hagen of Troneg—“All this hath the hero done:

Through the world in battle-prowess peer unto him is there none.

Men tell of another emprise—as I heard it, I tell it to you—

A Worm, a winged fen-dragon, the hand of the hero slew:

Then he bathed in the blood of the monster, and his skin became as horn,

That no weapon may wound him: witness thereof full many have borne.

Now wisely and well do I rede you—receive him in courteous wise,

That the fiery wrath of the hero by no deed of ours may arise.

Since utterly aweless his heart is, let no man do him despite.

Bethink you how many a marvel hath been wrought by his quenchless might.”

And the King of the land made answer: “Thy counsel is meet and right.

Mark ye how proudly he standeth, as defying peril of fight!

Dauntless they be, yon warrior and the vassals that follow him.

We will fare down unto the gateway, and greet yon champion grim.”

{p. 15}

“Yea, greet him with worship and honour,” spake Hagen answering;

“For he cometh of noble lineage, and is son of a mighty king;

And his port, meseemeth, is princely—yea, by Christ the Lord!

Great tales shall be told of the issues of his riding hitherward.”

Then the lord of the land made answer: “Right welcome to us be he!

Valiant he is and noble, as well may mine own eyes see.

Yea, Burgundy-land shall hold him for a guest of passing worth.”

Unto where Prince Siegfried tarried then Gunther the King passed forth.

And the lord of the land and his earlfolk bade the hero welcome there

With greeting exceeding gracious, with courtesy passing fair;

And before them the Knight all-peerless bowed him in courtly wise

In thanks for their lovingkindness, and the worship in their eyes.

Spake Gunther the king: “I marvel, and fain would be certified,

Whence, O most noble Siegfried, unto this our land ye ride,

And what thing come ye seeking at Worms by the waters of Rhine.”

And the guest to the King made answer: “I hide no purpose of mine.

Afar in the land of my fathers the tidings have I heard

How that here, O King, in thy palace—and fain would I prove the word—

Be the knights in the world most valiant—yea, oft have I hearkened their fame—

And the best that king gat ever: and for this cause hither I came.

Yea, and I hear men praise thee for the Star of Chivalry.

‘Never was king so valiant unto this day seen,’ they cry.

Through all my land thy glory is blown upon rumour’s wind.

No rest may my spirit give me till the truth hereof I find.

Lo, I withal am a warrior; a crown must I wear one day;

And fain am I that all men of me in that hour should say

That I take the folk and the kingdom of right for mine heritage.

Lo, mine head and mine honour, I lay them in the lists for battle’s gage.

Thou then, if thou be so valiant as is sung by the lips of fame—

I ask no man of my challenge, if he joy or chafe at the same—

I challenge thee here, do battle for all thou accountest thine!

Thy land and thy castles, I claim them for spoil of this sword of mine!”

{p. 16}

Then the King was exceeding astonied, amazed did the earl-folk stand,

As they hearkened to that strange challenge, to the champion’s haughty demand,

As he claimed for his victory-guerdon the people and land of their lord;

And as flame burst forth their anger to hear that arrogant word.

“Nay, how should it be for mine honour,” answered the King thereto,

“If I staked the realm that my father ruled nobly his whole life through

On a combat’s issue, to lose it or hold it by bodily might?

Sooth, this were a sorry maintaining of the name and the fame of a knight!”

“Nay, nought I abate of my challenge,” that aweless champion cried;

“If the peace of thy land safe warded by the strength of thine arm abide,

Now from thy grasp will I wrest it; and mine heritage withal,

If thou win it by battle-prowess, shall be held of thee in thrall.

Let thou and I stake straightway our land and throne and crown;

And whichsoever in combat shall strike the other down,

Unto him shall all be subject, the lands of twain and the folk.”

Then against it Hagen the mighty and Gernot the valiant spoke.

“Of a surety not so are we minded,” spake Gernot proudly and high,

“That for winning of new possessions should any good knights die

In the strife of warring heroes: lo, fair our heritage is,

And of right is it ours; and no man hath claim more righteous to this.”

In burning indignation there stood they, the friends of the King;

And the Lord of Metz, Knight Ortwein, stepped forth from the warrior-ring,

Crying, “Out upon these soft answers! My very heart have they wrung!

Lo, a causeless challenge Siegfried the strong at you all hath flung!

Though thou and thy brothers before him were standing with none to aid,

Though he brought a kingdom’s army against thee, my King, arrayed,

Yet would I maintain, I only, thy right against yon foe:

I would still his malapert vaunting, I would bring his high heart low!”

Outflamed the wrath of the hero, the lord of the Nether Land:

“Not against me may be measured the might of thy low-born hand!

I am the heir to a kingdom, a king’s mere vassal thou;

Yet twelve such as thou should vainly withstand me in battle, I trow!”

{p. 17}

Then the Lord of Metz, Knight Ortwein, cried hotly, “Bring me a sword!”—

True son was he of the sister of Hagen Troneg’s lord!—

Sore vexed was the King that Hagen so long should silent stand.

Then for peace yet again spake Gernot, bold-hearted and ready of hand:

“Now nay, rein in thine anger”—with Ortwein so did he plead—

“Not yet hath the noble Siegfried done us any despiteful deed.

For kindness and reconciling still all my counsel is,

And for winning of his friendship: yea, more for our honour were this.”

At the last spake Hagen the stalwart: “There were reason enow for our wrath

And the good knights’ indignation, if he rode on the Rhineward path

For nought but for this defiance—what ailed him to do this thing?

Never so evil-entreated had he been of our lord the King.”

Then Siegfried the mighty hero flashed out all scornfully:

“If that I have said, Lord Hagen, in aught misliketh thee,

I will let it be seen of all men how ready is this mine hand

To maintain my words to the utmost in the face of Burgundia-land.”

“Nay, this thing, I trust, shall I hinder,” spake Gernot yet again;

And he gave command to be silent unto all his mighty men,

Howsoever they chafed, from saying one word that should chafe their guest.

Mid the hush flew a peace-dove, a vision of Kriemhild, to Siegfried’s breast.

“For what cause should we battle against thee?” yet again did Gernot cry:

“Yea, though a host of the good knights in the grapple of fight should die,

Small honour were ours, small profit were thine, of such strife unmeet!”

Yet again did the son of Siegmund, Siegfried, his challenge repeat:

“Why linger they, Hagen and Ortwein?—why hang they yet aback,

They and their friends, their champions, from the storm of the battle-wrack?

And of all Burgundia’s chosen is none to the combat stirred?”

But they heeded Gernot’s counsel, and they answered him not a word.

“Our guest shalt thou be full welcome,” the young lad Giselher cried,

“Thou and thy valiant champions which wait hereby at thy side.

{p. 18}

We will joyfully do thee service, even all these friends of mine.”

Then they cried to the cupbearers, “Pour ye for the guests of King Gunther the wine!”

Spake the lord of the land yet further, “Lo, all that was ours hitherto,

Is yours, so in honour ye ask it; we will hold back nought from you.

Yea, ye shall with us be partners in our goods and our very blood!”

Then soft grew the eyes of Siegfried, and melted his angry mood.

Then they took from the warriors their war-gear, and heedfully laid it by;

And they sought for them stately chambers, and lodged them royally:

Yea, even Siegfried’s henchmen were housed in noble wise.

And in Burgundy nought met Siegfried thereafter save welcoming eyes.

All rendered to him high worship and honour day by day,

Yea, a thousandfold more richly than minstrel’s tongue may say.

All this was his valour’s guerdon—no marvel that so it should be,

For the hero was passing winsome, and sweet were his eyes to see.

Whensoever the kings and their vassals in knightly pastime strove,

Evermore was Siegfried the foremost, howsoever his strength they might prove.

There was none that with Siegfried could match him, so passing great was his might,

Or in hurling the massy rock-shard, or in speeding the lance’s flight.

In presence of high-born ladies full oft was their prowess tried,

And proved was the strength of the valiant before the lovely-eyed;

And the Netherland’s knight found favour still with the passing-fair:

But his love was set on the highest, his heart was otherwhere.

(C) Yea, lovely palace-ladies, as the knights rode flashing by,

Would ask of the warrior-stranger of bearing proud and high—

“How stately is his stature, how rich his arraying!” they cried.

“’Tis the hero of the Low Land!” full many a voice replied.

What deeds they essayed soever, still foremost Siegfried pressed:

But ever a lovely vision, a dream-face, haunted his breast;

And the eyes of his soul were yearning on an unbeholden face:

And she—her heart had received him, her lips low murmured his praise.

{p. 19}

What time in the lists of the palace the good knights ran the course,

And the squires, and shivered the spear-shafts, ever on rider and horse

Unseen from the casement gazing was the daughter of kings, Kriemhild:

She craved none other pastime, in this was her joy fulfilled.

Had he known, had he known that she watched him, whom shrined in his heart he bore,

Content in those lists enchanted had he ridden evermore;

But ah, had his eyes but beheld her!—I know of a surety this,

Nought else upon earth had he longed for, whose soul had won to its bliss.

Whensoe’er in the castle-courtyard he chanced mid the knights to stand,

As amidst of their gallant pastime they are wont in every land,

How winsome then and how graceful he stood, Queen Siegelind’s child!

Ah, the heart of many a maiden unwares was love-beguiled.

But he, he was thinking, thinking, “Shall the day-dawn ever arise

In mine heart?—shall the Queen of women be ever beheld of mine eyes,

The love of my soul, my darling, my dream of long agone?

She is far from me, far; and with anguish of spirit I muse thereon!”

Whensoe’er those mighty war-kings rode through Burgundia-land,

Still did their knights attend them arrayed on either hand;

Rode Siegfried with these: at his going that lovely lady sighed;

And his heart the while was aching for her through a weary tide.

So abode he with those three war-lords—true is it, how strange soe’er—

In the land of Gunther the royal through all the space of a year;

Yet in all that season his heart’s love not once did he behold,

Of whom he should yet have gladness and sorrow manifold.

How Siegfried warred against the Saxons

{p. 20}

Then came to the land of Gunther tidings strange and dread;

For out of a far, far country were heralds to Burgundy sped

With a tale of unknown warriors and the hate they bare to the king;

And in passing great disquiet the brethren heard that thing.

Now these were they that had sent them:—the lord of the Saxon land,

King Lüdiger mighty in war-hosts, mighty in strength of hand;

And Lüdegast for his helper, the lord of the land of the Dane;

And warriors marched unnumbered ’neath the banners of these twain.

So they came to the land of Gunther, those bearers of threats of war,

Even they whom his adversaries had sent forth from afar.

And men looked on the unknown faces, and asked, “What tale do ye bring?”

And they led the heralds of war-storm to the presence of the King.

And he gave to them courteous greeting: “Welcome to me be ye.

What man hath sent you hither not yet hath been told unto me:

Speak out and utter your message,” said the noble king war-wise.

Then sank their hearts, as they looked on the flame in Gunther’s eyes.

“If thou, O King, wilt suffer that we speak”—the heralds replied—

“Unhindered all our message, no word from thee will we hide.

So name we to you the princes who have laid on us this command:

Lo, Lüdegast hitherward marcheth with Lüdiger unto your land.

Ye twain have provoked their anger: in our ears was spoken the word,

How that ye in the hearts of our liege-lords deadliest hate have stirred;

And they purpose to lead their battles unto Worms beside the Rhine.

See ye that your war-thanes help you! Lo, this is the warning-sign.

Within twelve weeks shall the thunder of the tramp of their hosts draw near.

If then ye have loyal vassals, let their fealty now appear:

Let them ward the peace of the castle, let them keep unharried the field.

Ha, here shall be fearful hewing of many a helm and shield!

{p. 21}

Or if haply for peace ye will pray them, now let us be certified,

Or ever their ranks of battle across your marches ride,

Or ever your strong foes bow you in bitterness of soul.

Ha, many a champion shall perish when hither the war-waves roll!”

“Ye shall tarry a little season—my mind shall ye know ere long—

While I ponder upon this matter,” spake Gunther the valiant and strong.

“O yea, I have loyal vassals; to them will I bear this word,

And the tale of your war-defiance shall of all my friends be heard.”

Of a truth unto Gunther the mighty full heavy the tidings were,

And his innermost heart was burdened by the message that it bare;

And he bade to his presence Hagen and other his liegemen withal,

And he sent to summon Gernot in haste to his council-hall:

So gathered his best, all vassals unto whom came that command;

And he spake: “Lo, our foes be minded to march into Burgundy-land

With a mighty array—ye may well be indignation-stung

At the unprovoked defiance that these in our faces have flung!”

“From these shall our swords defend us!” Prince Gernot’s voice rang high.

“Men must die in the day of their dooming: in death e’en let them lie!

I will never forget mine honour for dread of what may befall!

We will welcome our adversaries to the War-god’s festival!”

Then answered Hagen of Troneg: “O’er-hasty, I trow, are thy words;

For the kings of the Danes and the Saxons be exceeding arrogant lords;

And so few days cannot suffice us for our war-host’s mustering.

It were good,” said the valiant warrior, “that we told unto Siegfried the thing.”

So they gave those war-denouncers for dwellings their city’s best,

How hateful they were soever, for such was the knightly hest

Of Gunther the noble-hearted—since thus fair honour bade—

Till the friends should be known who would fail not to bring their battle-aid.

Now the King in his heart was bearing a burden of sorrow and fear;

Then the hero, the swift war-helper, beheld him heavy of cheer,

And he marvelled thereat, for he knew not why he went ’neath a load of care.

And he spake, and he prayed King Gunther the cause thereof to declare.

{p. 22}

“Exceeding sorely I marvel,” the hero Siegfried said,

“Wherefore thine olden joyance this day is utterly fled,

The gracious cheer that aforetime made the hearts that love thee light.”

Answered and spake to him Gunther, that royal-goodly knight:

“In sooth may I suffer not all men in my sorrow of soul to have part:

I must keep my grief deep-hidden, I must bear it alone in mine heart:

Unto tried friends only and steadfast may a man unveil his pain.”

Then pale grew the face of Siegfried, and anon waxed crimson again.

He spake to the King, and he answered: “Have I ever denied thee aught?

I will help thee to cast the burden of thy spirit sorrow-fraught.

If ye seek for friends true-hearted, lo, such an one even am I:

I will cleave unto thee and aid thee in honour till I die.”

“Now God requite thee, Siegfried, for thy words as music ring!

Yea, though thy might and thy valour no help unto me could bring,

Even so should thy love’s assurance make glad mine heart this day.

If I live on yet for a season, of a surety I will repay.

Thou therefore shalt hear the trouble wherewith mine heart is stirred:

Mine adversaries’ heralds have brought unto me this word,

That their kings be marching to seek us here with their war-array;—

Such outrage never warriors have dealt to us unto this day!”

“Let this not disquiet thy spirit,” spake the hero in answer thereto;

“Speak peace to thine heart, and according to this my counsel do:

Suffer me, even me, to win thee honour and goodly gain

Or ever thy foes to the marches of this thy land attain.

Yea, had those thy mighty foemen of battle-helpers arrayed

So many as thrice ten thousand, by me should their onset be stayed,

Had I at my side but a thousand. Commit thy cause unto me.”

Then spake unto him King Gunther: “I am bounden for ever to thee!”

“Give charge that a thousand riders shall follow me forth to the fray,

Inasmuch as of mine own warriors no more can I set in array

Here, than my twelve war-fellows: so will I ward your land,

And loyal service ever shall be done you by Siegfried’s hand.

{p. 23}

Yea also let Hagen help us, and Ortwein fare to the fight,

Dankwart and Sindold, each man a well-belovèd knight,

Therewithal shall ride in our war-host Volker the aweless one,

And he shall be banner-bearer: better than he is none.

And let those war-denouncers to their own lords’ land ride back,

And cause them to bear this message, that we follow hard on their track:

So safe shall our castles be warded, and their peace no foe shall mar.”

Then the king bade summon the muster of his friends and his men of war.

So back to their lord went the bearers of Lüdiger’s command:

They were well content to be faring thence to their own home-land.

And Gunther the royal-hearted rich gifts on the men bestowed,

And therewithal safe-conduct; and with blithe hearts thence they rode.

“Say ye to my mighty foemen,” thus spake Burgundia’s Lord,

“Better for them unventured were their journey hitherward.

Howbeit, if here in mine own land to seek my face they be fain,

So my battle-helpers fail not, they shall find their bitter bane.”

Then goodly gifts to the heralds his treasure-warders bare;—

Good sooth, of the same had Gunther enow and withal to spare!—

Neither dared they refuse them, the bearers of Lüdiger’s command.

So took they their leave, and they journeyed with glad hearts forth of the land.

So then when the heralds to Denmark from Burgundy had passed,

And had spoken the tidings unlooked-for to their lord, King Lüdegast,

Had told him the word of the dwellers by Rhine, that message grim,

For that haughty-hearted defiance was the soul made bitter in him.

For they told him of many a valiant knight in the King’s war-band:—

“Yea, one we beheld with Gunther, and he stood at the king’s right hand,

And Siegfried they named him, a hero of Netherland.” Thus spake they.

Then Lüdegast’s heart at the tidings was filled with strange dismay.

So then when the tale of their message was heard all Denmark o’er,

They hasted to win war-helpers, yea, more than theretofore,

Till their lord, King Lüdegast, under his banner beheld enrolled

Warriors twice ten thousand, all war-thanes dauntless-souled.

{p. 24}

Then Lüdiger, lord of the Saxons, gathered his war-array,

Till his battle-muster was two-score thousand, yea, more than they,

Who should join them with Denmark’s war-host, unto Burgundy to ride.

But in that land also had Gunther the King sent far and wide;

To his kinsmen-friends and the war-host of his brethren he sent his hest

To the end they should follow his banner as battleward he pressed;

And with these came the knights of Hagen: yea, sore was their need that day;

And the shadow of death already over many a warrior lay.

They addressed them unto their journey; for nought was their march delayed;

And Volker was banner-bearer, Volker the unafraid,

On the day that they went forth riding from Worms by the waters of Rhine;

And Hagen of Troneg marshalled Burgundia’s battle-line.

There in the ranks rode Sindold and Hunold the dauntless-souled,

Such warriors as earn rich guerdon when war-kings lavish their gold;

Rode Dankwart the brother of Hagen, and with these was Ortwein found.

So they marched on the path of honour, they marched to be glory-crowned.

“Lord King,” spake Siegfried, “I pray thee, at home do thou abide,

While the good knights after my banner forth to the battle shall ride;

Stay thou, that the hearts of the weak ones may be strong in thy fearlessness;

And I will guard thine honour and thy wealth in the battle’s stress.

And they that were fain to seek thee at Worms by the waters of Rhine,

With them will I take such order, that nought shall they harm that is thine.

Yea, we into their own homeland so far will ride in our raid,

That soon shall the overweening be with sorrow sore dismayed.”

From Rhine through the land of Hesse rode on that hero-host,

And over the Saxon marches, where the fight should be won and lost;

And they drave the spoil, and they harried with flame the land of the foe:

Ha, bitter straits and anguish did the robber war-kings know!

So they came to the Saxon marches, and the vanguard pressed on still.

Then Siegfried the mighty champion asked of the chieftains’ will:

“Whom now shall we make our warder of camp and of sumpter-train?”

—Ha, never of war-raid the Saxons suffered deadlier bane!

{p. 25}

So they said, “Let the henchmen that follow the wielders of spear and brand

Be warded of Dankwart the valiant, of the swift death-dealing hand;

So shall our loss be the lesser from Lüdiger’s plundering horde.

Yea, leave with him Ortwein: our rear-guard shall these twain safely ward.”

“Then will myself ride onward,” spake Siegfried the knight straightway,

“To watch for the foe’s on-coming, and to spy out their array,

Until I shall know of a surety where now their warriors are.”

And with speed fair Siegelind’s scion stood sheathed in his harness of war.

So the host he committed to Hagen, or ever he rode on the quest,

Even to him and to Gernot, the knight of the dauntless breast.

So into the land of the Saxons rode he forward alone—

Yea, to fashion a tale for the minstrels, a tale of glory won!

Then spied he onward-surging o’er the plain a host of war,

So huge that Burgundia’s warriors by these were outnumbered far;

For their tale was two-score thousand, yea, more than this, I trow.

Then leapt his heart and lightened his eyes with the battle-glow.

Now afront of the host of the foemen there rode a goodly knight,

To watch for a battle-token, in shining harness dight.

And Siegfried the hero beheld him, and on him that champion gazed,

And the eyes of each upon other with the fury of battle blazed.

Now who was the keen war-eagle that on watching pinions hung?

A gleaming shield all-golden from his leftward shoulder was slung.

King Lüdegast was the warrior that thus o’er the host kept ward.

Lo, the noble stranger-hero against him is spurring hard!

And the wrath of the lord of the Danefolk by the battle-challenge is stirred,

And the mighty steeds to the onset are racing fierily spurred.

In their strong grip over the shield-rims they couched their lances low—

Ha, but the proud king knew not that he rode to his shame and his woe!

The war-steeds hearkened the spur-sting, and swift as arrows they leapt,

And the kings clashed like unto breakers by a tempest-blast on-swept;

And knightly they wheeled to the onset their reeling steeds with the rein,

And with swords they essayed the decision of strife, that terrible twain.

{p. 26}

At each stroke of the hero Siegfried far round the whole plain rung,

And the helmet was flashing and flaming as with fire from a torch outflung;

Even so were the red sparks leaping ’neath the sword in the hero’s hand.

Lions both were the Dane-king and the Lord of the Nether Land,

For with many a furious sword-stroke did the king of the Daneland smite;

Yea, this one and that at the bucklers hewed with his uttermost might.

Now their strife was beheld of thirty knights of the king’s war-band:

But or ever these might reach him victor did Siegfried stand.

For with three wide-gaping gashes he made that war-king reel;

They sundered the shining harness, the welded links of steel;

On the great sword’s cleaving lightning swift followed the rain of blood;

Then groaned the king of the Danefolk in bitterness of mood.

For his life must he make supplication: “I will pay for my ransoming,”

He cried, “the land of Denmark! I am Lüdegast the king!”

But by this full nigh were his war-band, the knights that from far had seen

Betwixt these two fore-scouters what deadly strife had been.

Then Siegfried would lead the vanquished away; but they fell forthright

Upon him, those thirty warriors, yet his hand by its single might

Aye guarded his princely captive with strokes that fell like hail;

And soon to that king’s defenders had he dealt yet deadlier bale.

For he smote, that captive-warder, the thirty, till dead they lay,

Save one that turned his horse-rein, and swiftly fled away,

And bare the bitter tidings of all to the host of the Danes,

And his shattered helmet witnessed thereto with its bloody stains.

Then were the knights of Daneland shame-stricken and bitter-souled,

When the tale how their king was a captive that day in their ears was told.

And they bare to his brother the tidings, and the storm of his wrath outbrake

In madness of fury and anguish for his captive brother’s sake.

Now by this had the king of the Danefolk been led from the field of fight

Back to the host of Gunther by Siegfried’s resistless might;

And to Hagen’s hand did he give him: glad were his friends for the word

That the King of the land of Denmark was the spoil of Siegfried’s sword!

{p. 27}

Then they cried through the host, “To the spear-staves bind ye the banners on!”

“Forward!” rang Siegfried’s war-cry: “great deeds this day shall be done

Ere the evenfall, if my sinews fail not, if I lose not life!

This day through the land of the Saxons shall be rued by many a wife!

Heroes of Rhineland, whither I press before, take heed!

To the heart of Lüdiger’s war-host cleaving your path will I lead:

Ye shall see brave hewing of helmets by many a hero’s hand!

Ere back from the battle we turn us, shall sorrow o’ercloud this land.”

Now on their steeds have Gernot and the men of his war-band sprung;

In the grasp of the warrior-minstrel is the battle-flag upflung;

Volker is bearing the banner afront of them all to the fray:—

Yea, the very hearts of the camp-folk leap to the onset to-day!

Now the host that they led to the war-shock in no more than a thousand was told,

Save for those twelve knights of Siegfried. In clouds was the dust uprolled

From the tramp of the mighty horse-hoofs as they charged across the field:

Ever gleamed through the eddying darkness the glint of many a shield.

Now nearer and nearer the Saxons drew, and the flashing was seen

Of the tossing sea of their broadswords—O, the edges thereof were keen!—

Swung up, as telleth the story, in many a champion’s hand.

They were fain to thrust back the aliens from castle and from land.

Onward the battle-marshals the ranks to the war-shock led,

Onward withal Prince Siegfried with those his twelve knights sped

Which companioning his journey afar from the Low Land went.

Many a hand in the war-storm that day saw blood-besprent.

Now Sindold and Hunold and Gernot in the forefront of battle smite,

And many a hero falleth before them dead in the fight;

Ere they could prove their valour they slept the iron sleep:—

Ah, for their fate must many a lovely lady weep!

Volker and Hagen and Ortwein with shattering strokes made dim

The splendour of many a helmet in the battle bitter-grim;

For the blood streamed over the morions where the aweless heroes fought:

Yea, many a marvel of prowess the hand of Dankwart wrought.

{p. 28}

Now the Danes are essaying how mighty are the broadswords that they wield:

Loud rang the clashing and clanging of shield that shocked on shield;

And the griding glaives keen-whetted made the hot blood spurt through the mail;

Nor for nought did the battle-fearless Saxons their foes assail.

Onward the fierce Burgundians through that war-thicket clave,

And many a wound wide-gaping they dealt with the deadly glaive.

All over the saddle-housings the blood ran streaming down:

So strove those dauntless champions for the winning of renown.

Far afront rang out the clashing of the helmet-sundering brand

In the grasp of the mightiest champions, where the knights of Netherland

Pressed after their lord on-charging through the heart of the battle-din:

Those Twelve in knightly fashion, where Siegfried led, burst in.

No man of the warriors of Rhineland could follow where these rode:

From far they beheld the blood-streams as in sudden crimson they flowed

Through the bright helms riven asunder by Siegfried’s smiting hand,

Till he found where Lüdiger battled afront of his own war-band.

Three times through their reeling squadrons did the Son of Siegmund ride

From end to end of their war-host—now Hagen fights at his side;

Yea, mightily now doth he help him to accomplish his will in the fight.

Borne down by their onset perished full many a valiant knight.

But face to face with Siegfried at last strong Lüdiger came,

And saw in his hand upleaping the great sword’s battle-flame,

Saw the edges of Balmung cleaving through his knights a death-strewn path.

Then the heart of the dauntless Saxon was swept by a storm of wrath.

Then hurled were the surges of battle together with clash of swords,

As the war-bands closed in the grapple of fight around their lords,

And the two kings sought each other with uttermost desire.

Reeled squadrons sundered before them till they met, for their hate was as fire.

To the Lord of the land of the Saxons long since the tidings came

How his brother was taken captive, and for this was his wrath aflame;

But he wotted not who had achieved it: nought knew he of Siegelind’s son,

For the deed had been told for Gernot’s—but of him was the truth soon known!

{p. 29}

Then rained from Lüdiger’s war-glaive such storm of blow on blow

That Siegfried’s steed ’neath the saddle sank on his haunches low;

But he sprang to his full height straightway, and the dauntless Siegfried’s might

Flashed forth in terrible lightnings through the tempest of that fight.

There beside him was Hagen smiting, and Gernot bare him well,

And Dankwart and Volker; before them the swaths of battle fell:

Hewed Sindold and Hunold and Ortwein, the war-triumphant lords:

Before them many a champion slept the sleep of swords.

In the battle’s heart close-grappling were Saxon and Lowland king,

And over their helm-crests ever did many a javelin sing;

Through glittering bucklers pierced they from the hands of heroes sped,

Till many a goodly shield-rim dripped with the life-stream red.

Mid the surges of battle-tempest sank many a good knight slain

From his steed to the earth: yet ever they clashed, those terrible twain

Hurling together, Siegfried and Lüdiger the king,

’Neath the splintered staves upsoaring and the javelins’ eager wing.

Lo, the sweep of the sword of Siegfried hath severed the King’s shield-band!

Now seeth the Netherland hero the victory hard at hand

Over the valiant Saxons—nigh these was the bitter end.

—Ha, how did the dauntless Dankwart the glittering mail-rings rend!—

Even then the King of the Saxons with sudden-cold despair

Beheld a crown emblazoned on the shield that Siegfried bare.

He saw it, he knew it—“None other than the Hero resistless is here!”

And he lifted his voice, through the clangour of battle his shout rang clear:

“Refrain you from fight, refrain you, all ye of my battle-aid!

Lo, here is the Son of Siegmund in the strife against us arrayed!

I have seen, I have known him, Siegfried, the all-resistless lord:

Of a truth hath the Foul Fiend sent him against us hitherward!

Let sink my battle-banners,” he cried, “the fight is done!”

For peace he made entreaty; peace was vouchsafed anon.

Yet himself must fare as hostage afar to Gunther’s land

Beneath the hard constraining of dauntless Siegfried’s hand.

{p. 30}

So ceased the weary warriors with one consent from the fight;

And many a shattered helmet and shield to left and to right

Did they cast from their hands; nor any of all on the field that lay,

But blood-besprent from the hewing of Burgundia’s swords were they.

From the field, by the right of the victor, what captives they would did they lead:

And the swift war-helpers, Gernot and Hagen, took order with heed

That the wounded men upon litters be borne: so led they away,

Captives unto the Rhine-flood, five hundred men from the fray.

All empty-handed of triumph home rode each Danish knight,

Nor yet had the Saxons borne them so stoutly in that fight

That their people should sing their praises: in sorrow and shame went they

Mid wailing for dear ones fallen in the slaughter of that day.

Now their needless armour Rhineward the sumpter-beasts might bear,

For Siegfried the strong and his helpers had rid the land of the fear

Of foes from border to border: so had he accomplished this

That all King Gunther’s war-host must acclaim the deed for his.

Straightway to Worms Prince Gernot hasted the messengers’ feet

To bear unto friends in the homeland the tidings passing sweet,

That tale of the might triumphant of the Kings and their war-array,

The tale of the deeds of the valiant, of the dawn of glory’s day.

Fast, fast those victory-heralds sped, and the tale was told.

How leap their hearts for gladness that of late were sorrowful-souled,

For all those joyful tidings through the jubilant land that ring!

How instant are high-born ladies with eager questioning

How had it fared with their dear lords in the King’s war-host who fought!

Yea, into the presence of Kriemhild was a messenger straightway brought:

Yet the thing was done as in secret, and she would not that folk should know,

For the Hero’s sake in whose keeping was her heart from long ago.

When stood that victory-bringer in her bower before her eyes,

Kriemhild the lovely bespake him in exceeding gracious wise:

{p. 31}

“Now tell me thy joyful tidings, and my gold shall thy guerdon be;

And, so nought of the truth be hidden, thou hast ever a friend in me.

Tell how hath my brother Gernot come forth of the battle-strife,

And other my friends and kinsmen. Be there many that lost their life?

Who in that day triumphant was in prowess chief?—say on!”

Spake the messenger true-hearted: “Sooth, battle-blencher was none;

But in that stern warrior-onset no champion rode so well,

O noble Daughter of Princes, if the truth my tongue must tell,

As the princely stranger-hero, which came from the Netherland;—

O the marvels of battle-prowess that were wrought by Siegfried’s hand!

What deeds soever the champions achieved in the battle-play,

Even Dankwart and Hagen, and other of Gunther’s war-array—

Their glory, their prowess, were even as an idle wind should sing,

Set by the deeds of Siegfried, the son of Siegmund the King.

O yea, in the storm of battle full many a hero they slew:

But whoso essayed could never tell all the marvels through

That were wrought by the arm of Siegfried as he rode the surges of fight—

Ah, many a lady for dear ones slain shall bewail his might!

Went down before his onset the beloved of many a bride;

His giant strokes on the helmets o’er the field rang far and wide,

And forth of the gaping gashes the blood flowed fast and free:—

O yea, in all achievement the glory of knighthood is he!

Sooth, many a deed of valour wrought Ortwein, Metz’s Lord;

Whosoever was touched in the war-storm by the lightning of his sword

Fell back from his face sore wounded—yea, for the more part slain:

And thy brother withal to the foemen dealt the deadliest bane

That ever in battle-tempest hath any champion wrought.

True witness were this of the chosen warriors there that fought,

That so mighty in war-achievement were our proud Burgundians found,

That shame shall touch them never: for aye are they glory-crowned.

For they smote, and they saw before them many a riderless selle:

O’er the echoing field their war-glaives rang many a foeman’s knell.

{p. 32}

O yea, the knights of Rhineland rode through that stormy day

In such wise that their foes repent them that ever they dared the fray.

And the valiant brethren of Troneg withal dealt deadly bane

When the war-hosts clashed, when the nations wrestled with desperate strain:

So many were then hurled earthward by dauntless Hagen’s hand,

That thereof might a goodly story be told in Burgundia-land.

Sindold withal and Hunold, ’neath Gernot’s banner who warred,

These wrought such deeds of prowess, with Rumold the dauntless lord,

That Lüdiger, king of the Saxons, to his latest hour shall repent

The folly of that war-challenge to the Lords of Rhineland sent.

Yet of all the mightiest war-deeds that ever on earth have been,

From the least even unto the greatest that ever eye hath seen,

Never were such as Siegfried hath wrought with resistless hand.

And he bringeth royal captives hither to Gunther’s land;

Even these with his might overmastering the warrior-prince subdued.

Of a truth his self-sought evils hath Lüdegast bitterly rued,

And Lüdiger his brother, the lord of the Saxons, withal!

O noble Daughter of Princes, not yet have I told thee all;

For behold, these twain were captive taken by Siegfried’s hand.

Never so many war-thralls have come into this our land

As now his valour haleth hitherward unto the Rhine.”

—More welcome words had she hearkened never, ye well may divine—

“Five hundred barons unwounded, nay more, be hitherward led,

O Queen, and of men sore stricken in fight, yea, well-nigh dead,

Full fourscore blood-stained litters come softly through the land;

And of these were the more part smitten by dauntless Siegfried’s hand.

They whose pride overweening challenged the Lords of Rhine to the war

Now captives of King Gunther by sore constraint they are.

With joy to thy land that goodly prey do our warriors hale.”

Then flushed into rose the lily at the telling of that tale.

Yea, over her lovely visage for rapture the roses burned

That out of the imminent peril alive and whole had returned

{p. 33}

Her knight, her winsome Siegfried, of the young, heart-conquering eyes—

Yea, she rejoiced for her kinsfolk withal in sisterly wise.

Then spake that Queen of Beauty: “Glad tidings to me hast thou brought.

I will give thee for thy guerdon bright raiment richly wrought;

And my treasurer shall count thee withal ten marks of gold.”

He is happy of whom such tidings unto noble dames be told!

They gave him for his guerdon the gold and the costly array.

Many a lovely maiden from her casement leaned that day,

And gazed o’er the city highway, and saw go riding by

Many a thane high-hearted of the land of Burgundy.

First rode the knights unwounded, then the train of the stricken came,—

Well might these hearken the greeting of friends with nought of shame!

And the King rode forth glad-hearted to meet them, kinsman and guest:

From all his care in rejoicing his soul had gotten rest.

Then greeted he well his kinsfolk, and hailed each stranger knight,

As for kings of men so mighty is ever meet and right

With thanks and with lovingkindness to meet men faring back

From plucking the flower of glory from the field of the battle-wrack.

Now touching his friends and his kinsmen King Gunther questioneth,

Even who in the highways of battle had been stricken unto death:

And behold, in heroes fourscore the tale of their slain is told!—

But the brave dead none bewaileth, and so hath it been from of old.

Yea, even the knights unwounded brought many a sword-hacked shield,

And many a rifted helmet, home from that stricken field.

And the riders sprang from their horses at the gates of the hall of the King;

And with shouts of salutation did the very heavens ring.

Fair harbourage unto the good knights they gave that city through;

And the King commanded to honour his guests with tendance due;

And they bound up the hurts of the wounded, and with diligent heed did they tend:

Yea, that knightly King was gracious unto foe no less than friend.

{p. 34}

Then unto Lüdegast spake he: “Welcome to me be thou!

Through thy misdeed to my kingdom hath mischief been wrought enow,

For the which thou must make atonement, if this may be compassed of me.

God look on my friends and reward them: right well have they holpen me!”

“Well mayst thou thank thine helpers,” spake Lüdiger answering:

“In sooth such high-born captives had never earthly king!

And now for knightly warding we tender thee goodly fee,

And pray thee for gracious dealing with them that were foes unto thee.”

“Unto both of you freedom from fetters,” he answered, “will I accord,

So all which have fought against me abide here still in ward:

And for this shall ye give me pledges that none shall leave my land,

Except as I give them licence.” To the covenant gave they the hand.

Then they led to their rest the weary, where all things ready were made.

Full soon upon easeful couches were the wounded warriors laid.

And they poured for the knights unwounded bright wine and mead good store:

Never in mirth and joyance were hearts uplifted more.

The bucklers battle-riven took they, and they laid them by,

And saddles blood-empurpled might one see plenteously;

But these caused they to be hidden, lest women should weep at the sight:—

Ah, the sun went down that even upon many a wayworn knight!

“Give kindliest entertainment to my guests,” did the King command:—

With the native-born and with strangers now thronged was all the land:—

He took thought for the heedful tendance of each sore-wounded foe:

Ha, how was their haughty defiance in humility brought low!

Whosoever were cunning in leechcraft, rich guerdon their skill repaid,

Bright gold unstinted and silver outlavished, yea, unweighed,

So they would but heal those heroes who had gotten hurt in the war.

And with gifts the King still loaded his guests that came from far.

And whoso of these was minded homeward to turn again,

As one should entreat a dear friend, so prayed they him to remain.

Nor forgat the King his liegemen, but devised for them rich reward,

Even all whose labour of glory had accomplished the will of their lord.

{p. 35}

Then spake Prince Gernot his counsel: “Let our guests depart as now:

And in forty days—proclaim it, and to all men publish it thou—

Unto a festal high-tide shall all return once more;

For healed by then shall be many that now lie wounded sore.”

Then made his request Prince Siegfried: “I pray you, let me depart.”

But when to the Rhine-lord Gernot was known the desire of his heart,

He besought him in loving fashion for a season to tarry still:—

Sooth, but for the love of his sister, he had swayed him not to his will!

To a prince so royal might no man for his measureless desert

Proffer reward; but his guerdon was the love of Gunther’s heart,

And of all his friends and kinsfolk; for alway in their sight

Fair shone the mighty achievements that his hand had wrought in fight.

He said to his heart: “I will linger for the sake of Beauty’s Queen,

If at last I may haply behold her.” And so was his heart’s dream seen

At the last: after long, long waiting he beheld her, his love and his star;

Then with heart all love-overflowing he rode to his home afar.

Now the King had given commandment for tourneys day by day,

And strong young knights rode gladly in the gentle and joyous fray.

And he bade make ready the high-seats in the city beside Rhine-strand

For the noble guests who were bidden to the feast in Burgundia-land.

Now as near drew the day and nearer when the guests from afar should be there,

Told was the tale of their coming unto Kriemhild the passing-fair,

And of that great festal high-tide with dear-loved friends she heard—

Lo, the heart of each winsome lady to beauty’s arraying is stirred;

And they seek out wimples to deck them, and the lovely robes unfold.

And now to the lady Uta the tidings moreover are told

Of the coming of those proud warriors which unto the feast are bidden.

Forth drawn is the costly raiment in the cedar caskets hidden;

And she bade for her sons’ sake fashion bright mantle and vest straightway

For the clothing of maid and matron in royal-rich array;

Yea, doublet and cloak for vesture of the knights of Burgundy,

And withal for many a stranger much goodly bravery.

How Siegfried first saw Kriemhild

{p. 36}

Now day by day the watchers saw heroes Rhineward ride,

Warriors fain of the joyance of that great festal-tide,

Knights that for love of the Rhine-lords into the Rhineland pressed;

And ever with gifts were they greeted, swift steed and goodly vest.

Fair-dight by this were the high-seats with purple and gleam of gold

For the noblest and the bravest, as the ancient tale hath told,

For the princes two-and-thirty that thronged to the festival.

And in rivalry of beauty fair women arrayed them withal.

There Giselher the stripling all-eager might ye see,

As he welcomed the homeland-dweller and the stranger courteously;

And with him stood Gernot his brother and all their knightly train:

With the honour of ancient custom they greeted each noble thane.

Through the Rhineland highways rode they on saddles with gold red-glowing;

Great shields all splendour-blazoned, rich mantles lordly-flowing

Went flashing up the city to that glorious festal-tide:—

Yea, men unhealed blithe-hearted looked forth on their knightly pride;

Ay, the battle-stricken tossing on beds of pain all day

Forgat how near to the shadow of bitter death they lay:

For the sick and the fever-blasted love’s lips forgot to sigh,

So glad were they all for the dawning of the festal days so nigh;

For they thought, “In such royal bounty shall we live and see good days!”

There were murmurs of mirth unmeasured through all the city’s ways;

There were overflowings of gladness—more bliss no man hath beheld:

High through the land of Gunther the tides of joyance swelled.

All on a merry morning of Whitsuntide rode they,

Those splendour-vestured chosen brave knights in long array,

{p. 37}

Five thousand men—nay, haply yet more, to the King’s feast bound:

To and fro were flashing the light jests, and the laughter echoed round.

Now on this was the King still musing—thereof had he long been ware—

How the heart of the Netherland hero lay tangled in love’s snare

Spell-drawn unto his sister, whom yet he had ne’er looked on,

The lady by whom all maidens were in loveliness outshone.

(C) And he spake: “Now all give counsel, both kinsman and vassal true,

What thing to make all-perfect this feast-tide shall we do,

That no man may chide us for failing in aught in the coming days;

For in sooth by our deeds men judge us at the last, to blame us or praise.”

Then the Lord of Metz, knight Ortwein, spake to that kingly host:

“If thy festival with honour shall be crowned to the uttermost,

Thou suffer thy guests to look on the maidens peerless-fair

Whose praise through the land Burgundian is rumoured everywhere.

Wherein is a man’s heart-pleasure, and his eyes’ most dear delight,

Save in loveliness of a maiden, in the beauty of lady bright?

Thou suffer then that thy sister before thy guests appear.”

Leapt the heart of many a hero that welcome word to hear.

“Full fain will I heed thy counsel,” was Gunther’s answering word,

And thereat were the hearts of all men exultation-stirred;

And he spake to the Lady Uta, and to Kriemhild the lovely-eyed,

To come with all their maidens to the King’s high festal-tide.

Then in the cedar-caskets for fair attire sought they,

And unfolded the flashing splendour of royal-rich array,

And the cloudy lace and the bracelets, whereof good store they had.

So with loveliest adorning were the winsome maidens clad.

There was many a young knight yearning that day in eager wise

That he might be found well-pleasing in the high-born ladies’ eyes.

That hope would he not have bartered, no, not for a kingdom’s fee.

The fair forms unbeholden ere this it was joy to see.

{p. 38}

Then the great King gave commandment that a guard of honour should go

With his sister and his mother, in their farings to and fro,

Of a hundred of his good knights, each man with sword in hand,

As was ever the royal custom in fair Burgundia-land.

Beside her princess-daughter Uta the queenly came,

And a bright train followed after of many a lovely dame,

Five score, yea more peradventure, in costly raiment arrayed;

And paced behind fair Kriemhild many a winsome maid.

From a stately tiring-bower those daintiest feet forth paced:

Then surged the great press forward of heroes eager-faced

Which had stood there long-expectant, if haply their lot might be

To look glad-eyed on the Fairest, on the Star of Burgundy.

Now forth of the doors the Loveliest came, as the morning-red

From lowering clouds forth breaketh;—lo, how his heart-ache fled,

His, who in his soul had shrined her through all that weary tide!

For he saw that glory of women stand there in her beauty’s pride.

Flashed many a priceless gemstone from the folds of her attire,

And the roses flushed through the lilies, a snare of hearts’ desire.

Howsoe’er ’gainst the spell of her beauty one strove, he needs must own

That nothing so passing lovely in the wide world yet had he known.

As the full moon in her glory swims on before the stars,

And the brightness of her splendour floats forth of the cloudy bars,

So before all other women shone out that Queen of Love.

Well might the hearts of the heroes be uplifted for joy thereof!

Paced onward before the maidens the stately chamberlains.

Now could they forbear no longer, those noble-hearted thanes,

But to gaze on her winsome sweetness forward still did they press.

Then was Siegfried’s heart joy-ravished, and anon in heaviness.

In his inmost soul was he musing: “How dared I dream such bliss

That I, I ever should woo thee?—an idle dream was this!

Yet must I for aye be a stranger? Better that I lay dead!”

And oft in his thoughts’ wild tumult he paled, and anon flushed red.

{p. 39}

There Siegelind’s son stood moveless, and so winsome did he seem

As though by the hand of a master were the angel of his dream

Limned on the missal-parchment: none looked on him, and forbore

To own that so comely a hero had none seen theretofore.

Then the knights that attended Kriemhild bade all to left and to right

Avoid from the path, and obedient to the word was many a knight.

What joy it was to behold them, that heart-uplifted throng,

As the gentle-nurtured ladies all queenlike swept along!

Then spake the Prince Burgundian, and Gernot uttered his rede:

“The hero who did thee service ungrudging in thy need,

Gunther, belovèd brother, thou guerdon him for the same

Before all these: of my counsel shall no man dare think shame.

Bid Siegfried unto my sister, that he meet her face to face,

That the maiden may greet him: of the honour shall we win us enduring grace.

If to him be accorded her greeting, who on knight smiled never before,

We have gotten this goodly war-thane to our friend for evermore.”

Hasted the kinsmen of Gunther unto where did Siegfried stand,

And they bare that courteous bidding to the knight of Netherland:

“This is the King’s good pleasure, that thou come where the seed-royal be,

To the end that his sister may greet thee for especial honour to thee.”

How thrilled the soul of Siegfried to hear that gracious word!

Passed as a dream his heart-ache, his spirit with rapture was stirred

That on Uta’s lovely daughter he should look with unhindered eyes:

And she, she received Prince Siegfried in courtly-winsome wise.

When she saw him stand before her, that hero-hearted lord,

Her cheeks were aflame with the love-light, her sweet lips spake the word:

“Welcome to thee, Lord Siegfried, to a good and noble knight!”

Then the wings of his soul at her greeting soared to the heaven’s height

Love-lowly he bent before her: she laid her hand in his;

And each moved on by other in a yearning trance of bliss.

From their eyes the soft love-lightning flashed those twain alway

Strong hero and fair maiden—yet stolen glances were they.

{p. 40}

Ask ye, were those white fingers by him pressed lovingly

For speech of the heart?—such knowledge is all too high for me;

Yet—yet I may nowise believe it, that he spared to do this thing.

Soon came sweet self-betrayal of the heart that had found its king.

It was all in the summer season, in the very glory of May.

Never his heart had tasted such bliss as on that glad day,

Never such soul-uplifting, as in that hour he knew

When walked that maiden beside him, whom the hero fain would woo.

Then many a knight was thinking: “Ah me, that my bliss it were

Even so to be pacing beside her, as he is pacing there!

And O in mine arms to clasp her!—how fain thereof had I been!”

Yet who might begrudge?—never hero was so worthy to win a queen.

From what far land soever those guests had come, each thane

Had eyes, in all that feast-tide, for nothing save these twain.

Then suffered was the maiden to kiss that goodly knight:

Never in all his life-days had he known such dear delight.

But the King of the Danefolk murmured under his breath straightway:

“Ah, many for this high greeting lie sorely hurt this day

By the hand of Siegfried stricken—for witness stand I here:—

God grant his face in Daneland may never more appear!”

Then the heralds cried that all folk should avoid to left and right

From the path of Kriemhild the lovely; and many a gallant knight

And warrior gently-nurtured in her train to the minster hied:

So for a space was parted the hero from her side.

So passed she into the minster with her maiden-company;

And the dim aisles shone with beauty so glorious to see,

That many a prayer dropped earthward that should to heaven aspire,

For of all those chosen champions was she the eyes’ desire.

Now scarce could Siegfried tarry till the mass was brought to an end,

And his heart still sang thanksgiving unto Fortune, unto the friend

Which had bowed unto him her favour whom shrined in his heart he bare:

Fast bound in loyal service was he to the Fairest Fair.

{p. 41}

When again forth out of the minster after the mass she came,

Again to her presence was bidden that hero of far-sung fame.

Then the winsome-lovely maiden her thanks unto him outpoured

That so bravely beyond all others he helped when her brethren warred:

“Lord Siegfried, now God reward thee,” that Queen of Beauty said:

“The good knights’ loyal homage this day hast thou merited;

All true hearts’ love-avowal right nobly hast thou earned!”

Then the love in the eyes of Siegfried on the eyes of Kriemhild burned.

“For ever and aye will I serve thee!” Siegfried the hero said:

“Never to rest or slumber will I lay down mine head

Till thine every wish be accomplished, while life shall endure in me!

And this do I, O Kriemhild, Kriemhild, for love of thee!”

So it fell that through twelve days, ever as dawned each new day’s light,

By the witchery-winsome maiden lingereth still the knight

Oft as in kingfolk’s presence her feet through the fair halls pace,

For mighty love hath constrained her to yield unto him this grace.

Glad noise of jubilation and the merry tourney’s clang,

Still as the days on-fleeted, round Gunther’s palace rang,

Within, without, as in feast-hall and in lists the valiant vied;

And by marvels of prowess were Ortwein and Hagen magnified.

In what manly sport soever men strove, these twain evermore,

These champions keen in the onset, their part to the uttermost bore.

In the eyes of the guests of the kingdom bright made they their renown:

Of the whole land of King Gunther the glory were they and the crown.

They which had long lain wounded now to the sun forth came:

They were fain with Gunther’s liegemen to share each knightly game,

Would wield the fence of the buckler and hurl the lance afar:

No lack had they of companions in the merry mimic war.

And ever in the feast-hall that kingly host took heed

That his guests should be served of the choicest, that no least word should proceed

Of blame from the lips of any, such as smircheth the name of a king;

And aye mid his guests was he passing with gracious welcoming.

{p. 42}

And he spake in the midst: “Ye good knights, or ever ye ride from my land,

Accept ye the gifts of my giving, for so doth mine heart’s wish stand,

And to you will I aye be beholden: then think not scorn thereof,

For with that which I share among you is given mine heart’s whole love.”

Then answered the lords of Daneland there as they stood in hall:

“Or ever aback to the homeland we ride delivered from thrall,

Assure to us peace abiding: thereof is our need full sore,

Seeing many our friends down-stricken by your friends shall rise no more.”

Now by this from his hurts recovered was Lüdegast the Dane,

And the Lord of the land of the Saxons was whole from the battle again,

Albeit some of their warriors must they leave in a strange land dead.

Then went King Gunther to Siegfried, and drew him apart, and he said:

“Now give me herein thy counsel”—thus spake he unto the knight—

“Our captive guests would ride hence with the first of the morrow’s light,

And petition for reconciling long-lasting with mine and me.

O valiant knight, give counsel how best it seemeth to thee.

Now what these two kings proffer, unto thee shall it now be told:

Five hundred horses’ burden they tender of red gold.

This willingly give they for ransom, so I will set them free.”

Spake Siegfried the strong: “For thine honour this thing shall nowise be.

Nay, freely, without all ransom, let them fare forth hence, these twain,

If so be that these noble war-lords will swear henceforth to refrain

From riding the raid of the foeman hitherward unto your land:

And for pledge hereunto be given a king’s unsullied hand.”

“I will do even after thy counsel,” he said. So parted they:

And unto their adversaries was answer made straightway

That the gold was desired of no man that was proffered of them at the first.

Ah, sick were their hearts with longing for dear ones, and home-athirst!

Shields many treasure-laden his henchmen thitherward bare,

And therefrom to his friends bright silver unweighed did the knight-king share,

Five hundred marks unto each one—unto many an one yet more:

So was Gunther advised of Gernot, that noble counsellor.

{p. 43}

Then prayed all, “Let us depart hence”; for now would they fain ride home;

And into the presence of Kriemhild did the guests for farewell come,

And unto the foot of the high-seat whereon sat Uta the Queen.

Ne’er in such gracious fashion were guests sped forth, I ween.

Now void were the city’s hostels, as forth of the gates they rode;

Yet still in the land Burgundian in royal state abode

The King with all his kinsfolk in the midst of a knightly train,

And each day in the presence of Kriemhild appeared each noble thane.

Then Siegfried the hero petitioned, “I pray you, let me depart”;

For his hope waxed faint of winning her who was queen of his heart:

And the King heard tell of his purpose, that thence he would fare straightway.

But the young lad Giselher pleaded, and wrought on him to delay:

“Whither away, O Siegfried, is thine heart on journeying set?

Nay, hearken to my petition, abide with the good knights yet;

Abide thou with King Gunther and his loyal liegemen still.

Lo, here be lovely ladies: thou mayst see them at thy will.”

Made answer Siegfried the mighty: “Nay then, let the steeds abide.

Lo, I have foregone my purpose, and hence not yet will I ride.

Bear hence the shields and uphang them—albeit I long for mine home,

Lord Giselher’s love true-hearted hath turned my mind therefrom.”

So tarried the valiant warrior there by a friend’s love won.

In all the rest of the wide world other place was there none

Wherein he had rested so gladly; and now none said him nay,

But he looked on the beauty of Kriemhild ever day by day;

For the sake of her measureless fairness he could not choose but stay.

In many a pleasant pastime they wore the hours away.

Only he felt love’s torment, he knew none other care.

—Ah me, but the days were coming when she should be his death-snare!

How they Voyaged on Love-quest to Isen-land

{p. 44}

Now over the Rhine came a story of none heard theretofore,

A tale of the marvellous beauty of maids on a far-away shore.

Then stirred was the spirit of Gunther to win such an one for his bride:

In the hope thereof uplifted was his heart in kingly pride.

There was a Queen of Beauty enthroned beyond the sea;

Through all the world’s wide compass was none so fair as she.

In loveliness was she peerless, and of measureless bodily might;

For she matched her with champions that wooed her in speeding the lance’s flight,

And in hurling the stone, and in leaping far as it flew through the air.

Whosoever to wife would win her, that terrible test must dare,

And in contests three overcome her, that champion-maid high-born.

Let him fail in but one of the trials, and his head from his shoulders was shorn.

Full oft that Daughter of Princes had done this ruthless thing:

But now by the Rhine her rumour came to a knightly king,

And he turned his whole heart’s longing to win that fair one to wife.

—Ah, many a knight thereafter for her sake lost his life!

(C) As once in the midst of his people the noble Gunther sat,

Much question arose, as the speech-tide flowed swiftly this way and that,

What queen among women was worthy that the King should choose her for bride,

Who should be Queen of Burgundia, and sit enthroned at his side.

Then spake the Lord of Rhineland: “I will take ship down to the sea,

And will sail to the Lady Brunhild, howsoever it fare with me.

For the love of that Queen of Women will I venture limb and life:

Yea, ready I stand to lose them, an I win her not to my wife.”

{p. 45}

“I give my counsel against it,” cried Siegfried with earnest mien;

“Such deadly-ruthless customs be practised of that dread queen,

That whoever is her love’s suitor, his head he imperilleth.

Well mayst thou advise thee rather to turn from this path of death.”

(C) Answered and spake King Gunther: “Never was woman born

So strong and so fierce of spirit, but her might were by mine outworn

Lightly, in any contest, by my single hand alone!”

“Ah hush!” made answer Siegfried, “unto thee is this woman unknown.

(C) Though four such as thou withstood her, the strength of them all were as nought

Against her terrible fury: thou therefore renounce that thought;

In loyal faith I advise thee. If with death thou be not in love,

Travail not thou to win her, for nought can come thereof.”

(C) “Be she as strong as she may be, on that journey I needs must fare

Hence unto Brunhild, befall me what may befall me there!

For the sake of her peerless beauty no peril will I decline.

Peradventure may God yet move her to follow us to the Rhine.”

“Then will I counsel,” made answer Hagen, “if this must be,

That thou make thy request unto Siegfried, that he will bear with thee

The burden of this sore travail: this rede remaineth the best,

Seeing he hath alone clear knowledge of Brunhild’s perilous test.”

Said the King, “O Siegfried belovèd, mine helper wilt thou fare

In my wooing of Brunhild the lovely? Do according to this my prayer,

And if for my bride I win her, and crown her my queenly wife,

For thee at all times will I venture honour and limb and life.”

Answered him Siegfried, the scion of Siegmund the Lowland’s lord:

“This will I do, if thou promise to give me for reward

The Lovely, the Queen of Women, Kriemhild thy sister, for bride:

For my toil for thee nor guerdon nor thank I desire beside.”

“Even this do I promise,” said Gunther, “O Siegfried, on thine hand;

And if Brunhild the lovely cometh hither to this my land,

Then will I give thee my sister to wife in requital for this;

So mayest thou with thy fair one for ever live in bliss.”

{p. 46}

Then by an oath did they pledge them, those noble warriors twain;

But thereof unto both was begotten exceeding toil and strain.

Or ever they brought into Rhineland that lady of princely blood,

In peril exceeding grievous those valiant heroes stood.

(C) Now concerning the tameless Earth-dwarfs this thing have I heard folk say,

That they dwell in the mountain-caverns, and about their heads they lay

For helmets the Hoods of Darkness, and a strange power floweth thence;

For who weareth such on his body, therein hath perfect defence

(C) From stroke of sword and from spear-thrust; while resteth on him this pall,

No man may in any wise see him, but he heareth and seeth all

So much as his soul desireth, yet himself may none behold;

And his strength to a giant’s waxeth, as the tale in our ears hath been told.

Now the Hood of Darkness Siegfried for their help at need hath ta’en,

Even that which the valiant warrior had wrested with toil and strain

From Alberich, Dwarf of the Mountain, in the stormy days gone by.

So these to their journey addressed them in their fearless chivalry.

Now whene’er the stalwart Siegfried had donned that Hood of Night,

He gat from its overscreening exceeding fulness of might;

In twelve men’s strength he clad him, as the runes of the old songs run.

So it fell, by the Dwarf-lords’ cunning that glorious bride was won.

Yea, and so wondrous-shapen was that strange cloudy Hood,

That a man overpalled by its shrouding might do even that which he would,

Yea, after his heart’s good pleasure, for of none was he espied:

Therewith did he win Queen Brunhild—and through her at the last he died.

“Now, ere we set forth on our journey, unto me, O Siegfried, declare

How best for our honour and glory over the sea we may fare.

Shall we lead ’neath our banners a war-host of knights unto Brunhild’s land?

Swiftly may thrice ten thousand be arrayed in our warrior-band.”

“How great soever the war-host that we take,” spake Siegfried to him,

“The might of that queen and her fury be so exceeding grim,

That all our array should be blasted ’neath the storm of her battle-mood.

I will give to you better counsel, O valiant thanes and good:

{p. 47}

In guise as of lone knights-errant let us sail adown the Rhine.

Touching who in our band shall be numbered, hear this counsel of mine:

With thee and with me two only let there go, none other beside,

That with these we may woo this lady, whatsoever thereafter betide.

Even I am one in the venture, the second must needs be thou,

And let the third be Hagen—fear not, we shall prosper now;—

For the fourth be chosen Dankwart, that lord of battle-might;

Then not a thousand aliens shall ever withstand us in fight.”

“Of this too,” spake King Gunther, “would I fain be certified—

For thereof should mine heart be gladdened—or ever forth we ride,

What manner of raiment in presence of Brunhild befits that we wear

Such as shall meetly beseem us: this, O Siegfried, declare.”

“In the richest of all rich vesture that is found in any land

Be arrayed evermore the people that in Brunhild’s presence stand.

Let us therefore appear before her in silk and in ermine and gold,

That none think scorn of our splendour when the tale thereafter is told.”

Answered the good thane Gunther: “Myself will go forthright

To my well-belovèd mother, if haply good in her sight

It shall be that her comely maidens may fashion attire so fair

As before that queenly lady with honour we may wear.”

Then out spake Hagen of Troneg, that lord of stately port:

“What boots it to trouble thy mother for service in such a sort?

Breathe but a word to thy sister of thy thought and thy desire,

And cunning fingers shall frame you exceeding rich attire.”

Then the King sent word to his sister that fain would he confer

With her, even he and Siegfried. But, or ever they came unto her,

That lovely one had adorned her in such royal-rich array

That with right scant heart-misgivings their coming did she stay.

Stood the ladies that waited upon her clad richly in their degree:

Then came to her bower the Princes: at their entering-in rose she

To meet them, from her high seat: ah, with what queenly grace

She greeted the noble stranger and her brother with radiant face!

{p. 48}

“Blithe welcome unto my brother, and welcome to his friend!

I am fain,” spake on that sweet one, “I am fain to know the end

Of your coming to this bower royal, what thing your hearts would crave.

I beseech you, let me hearken what the noble knights would have.”

Then spake King Gunther: “Lady, this will I tell:—we bear,

For all our knightly courage, the burden of a care.

We be minded to ride a-wooing to a strange land far away,

And fain would we have for our journey exceeding goodly array.”

“Now seat thee, belovèd brother,” that child of kings ’gan say,

“And of this thing first instruct me, what fairest of fair ones be they

Whom ye are so fain to be wooing in a strange king’s far-off land.”

And therewith those chosen chieftains did the maiden take by the hand,

And with these twain onward paced she, and seated them royally

On splendour-gleaming couches—nought passing the truth tell I—

With imagery fair-fashioned with the red gold threads entwined:

Of a truth, in that bower of ladies fair pleasure might they find!

Flashes of swift love-lightning and of yearning of the heart,

From the eyes of each unto other, well might they ofttimes dart!

For shrined in his soul he bare her; she was more unto him than life,

And ere long by noble service he won her to be his wife.

Then spake that goodly war-king: “Belovèd sister mine,

Our desire may be nowise accomplished saving with help of thine.

We would fare forth pleasure-questing to the Lady Brunhild’s land,

And knights need fair arrayal that in presence of ladies stand.”

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Belovèd brother mine,

If aught mine help may avail you to compass your design,

Hereof have utter assurance, I am ready to bear my part.

Yea, if another denied thee, it were pain unto Kriemhild’s heart.

O noble knight, it needs not that ye ask as in fear and doubt:

What best ye bring soever in lordly wise tell out.

Whatsoever may do you a pleasure, ready awaiteth mine aid,

And with all mine heart I do it.” So spake that winsome maid.

{p. 49}

“Our will is, sister belovèd, to array us in vesture fair,

And we pray that thine own white fingers may this our apparel prepare.

And let these thy maidens be heedful that each man be arrayed like a king;

For no gainsaying shall turn us from this our journeying.”

Answered and spake that Fair One: “To this my request give heed:

Silks have we beside us in plenty; command that one bring for our need

The gemstones that gleam on your bucklers; these on the silk will we lay.”

Thereunto Gunther and Siegfried glad-hearted answered yea.

“Now who be the journeying-fellows,” the Princess asked again,

“Who shall wend so goodly-apparelled unto where this queen doth reign?”

“Myself am the fourth: first Siegfried; two of my liegemen withal,

Dankwart and Hagen, shall journey with us to her palace-hall.

Heed well, O sister belovèd, what now unto thee we say:—

See to it, that we four comrades three several times a day

May through four days change our raiment, and still go gorgeously,

So that none, when we pass from her country, may scoff at our bravery.”

With outpouring of thanks, from her chamber then passed they in knightly wise.

Then to seek help of her women did Kriemhild the princess arise,

And of all her bower-maidens thirty summoned she

Which above all others were cunning in needle-mastery.

On white Arabian samite—as the snow was its pearly sheen—

And on far-fetched velvet of Orient, as the springtide clover green,

Laid they the flashing gemstones,—O rich was the vesture and rare,

For by hands of Kriemhild the lovely were the garments shapen fair.

Sea-otter furs and sealskins for lining thereof chose they,

A marvel to all beholders—was never such rich array!—

And with silk did they overlay them, and drew the seams with gold.

Sooth, many a marvellous story of the splendour thereof hath been told.

Out of the land of the Morians came the goodliest silk on earth,

And from sun-smitten plains of Libya: on children of royal birth

Was ne’er seen costlier vesture; and of these was enough and to spare.

And through all the threadwork woven was the love that Kriemhild bare.

{p. 50}

For the costly raiment craved for by those far-voyagers

She lavished with love ungrudging the ermine’s argent furs—

Soft whiteness gleaming whiter for its flecks of coal-black hue—

Such as valorous knights wear proudly in a great king’s retinue.

Out of bezels of gold of Arabia the glorious gemstones gleamed:

For those watchful eyes no smallest pearl too tiny seemed.

So fashioned they all that raiment ere seven weeks fleeted away:

And withal for the good knights ready by this was their war-array.

Now when all at the last lay ready, men saw by the Rhine-river strand

A galley of stout oak builded by the cunning craftsman’s hand,

Wherein down Rhine-flood the heroes on to the sea should be borne.

And by this were the noble maidens by their labour of love outworn.

Then they sent to the knights the message that ready all things were

In the which they would fain go bravely, that raiment passing-fair;

Accomplished was all they had prayed for, and the labour of love was done.

Now therefore beside Rhine-river no more would they linger on.

So then to those gallant comrades was a message from Kriemhild brought

To come and behold the apparel that her hands had newly wrought,

If perchance for the heroes’ wearing it were over short or long:

And behold, it was all just measure, and they thanked that maiden-throng.

Into whosesoever presence they came, all men must say

That never on earth had they looked on more passing-fair array.

Blithe-hearted might they wear it in the palace of proudest queen,

For of goodlier knights’ apparel had none or heard or seen.

So then to these noble maidens all-courteous thanks they gave.

And now must the bold knights-errant for leave of parting crave.

With courtesy right gentle they spake their last farewell:

Ah, then were there bright eyes troubled and dim as the tears fast fell.

She spake: “O brother belovèd, ’twere better that here ye stayed—

Yea, wiselier done I account it—and wooed some other maid

Where ye should not thus be enforcèd to hazard limb and life:

Ye should find in a land near-lying no less a high-born wife.”

{p. 51}

Already their hearts foreboded the trouble darkening near.

All needs must weep, whatsoever words were spoken of cheer:

The gold on their bosoms gleaming grew dim with the hot tears stained,

With the tears that aye fell earthward from sorrowing eyes down-rained.

Then spake she: “O Lord Siegfried, to thy love and thy loyalty

Hereby do I commit him, this brother belovèd of me,

That nothing of peril harm him afar in Brunhild’s land.”

And the hero pledged him, and swore it on the Lady Kriemhild’s hand.

And he spake, that noble war-thane: “So long as endure my days,

No shadow of trouble, Princess, shall fall across thy ways.

I will bring him back into Rhineland—I swear it by life and limb!—

By peril unscathed.” Low bowed she with soft eyes thanking him.

Their shields with the red gold gleaming down to the shore bare they;

And they laid withal in the galley their goodly war-array;

And aboard men led their horses: on the decks now stand their feet—

O me, what bitter weeping brake forth from maidens sweet!

Now thronged was many a casement with ladies lovely-eyed,

And a great wind lifted the galley as they shook the white sails wide.

So out on the Rhine they floated, those proud hearts, bound for the sea.

Then answered and spake King Gunther: “Our pilot, who shall he be?”

“Even that will I,” said Siegfried: “from hence on can I steer

Your ship on the flood, stout heroes; thereof have ye no fear;

For the printless paths of the waters unto me be throughly known.”

So are these from the land Burgundian with hearts exultant gone.

Then Siegfried set hand to a massy staff such as shipmen wield,

And the ship at his mighty thrusting out from the wharf-side reeled.

Gunther the dauntless hero on the tiller hath laid his hand:

So the glorious war-swift champions swung out clear from the land.

Of meats they bare rich plenty, and therewithal good wine,

The best that from foaming wine-fats was pressed beside the Rhine;

The while their horses rested each tethered safe in stall:

The keel slid onward so smoothly, no hurt might to these befall.

{p. 52}

The wind in the strong-twined sail-ropes drew with unresting might:

Twice ten miles onward they fleeted ere sank over earth the night;

Down stream so slid they seaward with a breeze that followed fast.

—Ah me, but their stalwart labour brought sorrow enow at the last!

And now with the twelfth day’s dawning, as singeth the ancient lay,

The wind in the white sails straining had borne them far on their way

Unto Isenstein the fortress, the hold in Brunhild’s land.

All strange, save only to Siegfried, it seemed to that warrior-band.

When its coronal of towers was beheld of Gunther the King,

And the land’s wide-sweeping marches, he spake sore marvelling:

“Make answer to me, friend Siegfried, dost thou know yonder strand?

Unto whom appertain these castles, unto whom that lordly land?

Never in all my life-days—this thing I needs must own—

Fortress so goodly-builded mine eyes unto me have shown,

No, not in any country, as this that here we see.

He which could rear it skyward, a mighty man was he!”

Answered and spake to him Siegfried: “Yea, well do I know all these:

The land and its diadem fortress, they be Brunhild’s seignories,

And Isenstein yon fortress, even that whereof I have told:

There many a lovely lady this day shall your eyes behold.

Now hearken my counsel, ye heroes: be ye one and all in a tale,

And with one accord affirm ye—this only, I trow, shall avail:

For if to the presence of Brunhild this day we go, I ween,

We must needs be exceeding wary who stand before that queen.

When we see that lovely lady amidst her knightly train,

One thing, O far-famed heroes, must ye for truth maintain,

How that Gunther is my liege-lord, and I his vassal alone:

So that which his heart hath longed for shall by this device be won[7].”

{p. 53}

Then the heroes all consented, even as he counselled, to do.

Was none so proud of spirit that he dared say nay thereto.

So they spake even after his bidding; and for them full well was it done,

When Gunther the King beheld her, Brunhild the lovely one.

“Thus I abase me,” said Siegfried, “not for thy love alone,

But to win thy sister, the fairest of maidens, for mine own.

She is unto me as mine own soul, she is dear unto me as my life.

Blithe am I to render service that shall get her to me for wife.”

How the Warrior-maid was won to be Gunther’s Bride

Now while thus they communed, their galley fled onward, and drew nigh

To that seaward-fronting castle; and now did the King espy

High up at the open casements full many a maiden fair,

And his spirit within him was troubled that he wist not who they were.

Then of his comrade Siegfried straightway questioned he:

“Look upon yonder maidens, and say, be they known unto thee,

Even they which be downward gazing o’er the sea as we draw anigh?

Whosoe’er be their lord, of a surety is their bearing proud and high.”

Then spake the valiant Siegfried: “Look keenly and closely now

On the faces of yonder maidens, and then confess to me thou

Which wouldst thou take, were the choosing accorded to thee as of right.”

“Yea, that will I,” answered Gunther, that keen and valiant knight.

“I mark, of all those fair ones, at yonder casement one;

It is she in the snow-white raiment: like unto her is there none.

She of mine eyes is the chosen: so sweet is her beauty’s pride,

That, an I might have the decision, it is she that should be my bride.”

“By the sight of the eyes hast thou chosen, and a fair choice have they found!

Even she is the noble Brunhild, of the beauty world-renowned,

{p. 54}

The Star of thine heart’s strong yearning, the choice of thy mind and thy will.”

King Gunther gazed, and he deemed her ever sweeter and fairer still.

Then that Daughter of Kings commanded that her winsome maidens should go

From the casements: she would not suffer that there they stand for a show

And a feast for the eyes of strangers. Was none dared disobey;

Yet that which they did thereafter is told in the ancient lay.

They arrayed them in fairest adorning for the stranger knights to see—

As fair maids have done ever, since time began to be;—

Thereafter through half-drawn curtains they peered, those dainty spies,

At the heroes, to feed fair woman’s immemorial desire of the eyes.

There were four, and none other heroes which came unto that land.

Bold Siegfried led a war-steed from the galley’s side to the strand.

And the lovely ladies peering through the casements saw that thing,

And they deemed that exceeding worship was rendered to the King.

There in their sight was he holding that gallant steed by the rein,

That stately battle-trampler, strong and of noble strain;

Yea, he held it till King Gunther firm in the saddle sat.

So served him Siegfried—service that thereafter he wholly forgat!

Then brought he forth of the galley his own good steed withal.

Never ere then had he rendered the service done by a thrall,

That he should stand by the stirrup while heroes mounted the selle!

And those fair ones from the casements that gazed saw all full well.

In the selfsame fashion accoutred were those princely heroes twain;

For white as snow were their horses, and their raiment white without stain.

As the one was, so was the other; and lovely the shield-rims shone

On the arms of the heroes hanging, flashing brightness like to the sun.

Gleaming with precious gemstones were saddle and breast-band strait.

So rode they in princely fashion before Brunhild’s palace-gate;

And a chiming of bells all-golden that hung from their trappings was heard

As they came into that far country by their princely hearts on-stirred.

{p. 55}

With spear-head newly-whetted, with goodly-fashioned sword

Which hung even down to the spur-tips, on rode each kingly lord.

Yea, the glaives of the mighty-hearted were broad of blade and keen.

And all was marked of Brunhild, that noble maiden-queen.

And with these two princes Dankwart and his brother Hagen came;

And these were arrayed, as telleth the tale of olden fame,

In raiment of raven blackness, with rich work broidered o’er.

New, long and broad and goodly withal were the shields that they bore.

From the far land of India came many a precious stone

From the which up and down their vesture was a starry splendour thrown.

Their galley all unwarded they left, in the surf as it swayed.

So they rode to the castle-porchway, those heroes unafraid.

They marked towers six and eighty that crowned that fortress-wall,

Three palaces wide-builded, and a goodly feasting-hall:

It was wrought of the lordly marble, as the lealand grass it was green;

And therein amidst of her people sat a child of kings, the Queen.

Bars clanged and bolts shot backward, the gates of the burg swung wide.

Forth running to meet the strangers the knights of Brunhild hied,

And received them as guests be welcomed, into their Lady’s land;

And they took in charge the war-steed, and received the shield from the hand.

And a chamberlain bespake them: “Yield up your swords unto us,

And withal your gleaming hauberks.” “We will nowise suffer it thus;

Ourselves be minded to bear them!” cried Hagen of Troneg the grim.

Then Siegfried turned, and the manner of the kingdom set forth unto him:

“In this burg is it ever the custom according to that I say,

That the Queen’s guests go unweaponed within her courts alway.

Hence from our hands let them bear them, so all shall be done aright.”

Grudging and loth was the yielding of Hagen, Gunther’s knight.

They poured them the wine of welcome, they led them to chambers fair.

Knights many swift in service in the halls of the palace there were

That to and fro were hasting clad all in goodly array;

Yet, for all their splendour, their glances to those goodlier four would stray.

{p. 56}

Now word is brought unto Brunhild, and the tale to her ears hath come

Of those unknown knights-errant which have fared to her island-home

Sailing over the sea-flood, and attired each man like a king.

Then the Maiden royal and lovely fell to questioning:

And thus spake the Maid-queen Brunhild: “Now shall ye tell unto me

Who the unknown knights-errant may peradventure be

Whom yonder I see in my castle, each man like a kingdom’s lord;

And for love of whom these heroes have journeyed hitherward.”

Then of her train one answered: “I needs must own, O Queen,

That of yonder company no man heretofore have I seen;

Yet amidst them is one man standing who beareth Siegfried’s guise;

And in loyal love I counsel, receive him in gracious wise.

And the second his comrade appeareth so worship-worthy to me,

That if haply he wield power royal, a king may he verily be

Over princely domains far-stretching, if he hold such sway indeed;

For he stands mid the rest, meseemeth, as one of royal seed.

For the third of these faring-fellows, he seemeth stern of mien,

Yet none the less of stateliest stature, O mighty Queen.

Swift, keen be his glances as lightning, and flash still to and fro:

Dour and quick unto anger his spirit shall be, I trow.

For the youngest, of all praise worthy he seemeth in mine eyes.

A gallant knight we account him, yet withal of such winsome guise

That the grace of a maiden shineth through all his mien high-born;

Yet verily might all tremble to deal to him scathe or scorn.

For all his gentle bearing and his goodlihead withal,

Yet many a comely woman should weep for her lover’s fall,

If his wrath to the battle were kindled: right sinewy-shapen is he,

In all manner of knightly virtues a flower of chivalry.”

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Bring royal raiment to me.

Now if yon mighty Siegfried to my country be come oversea

To seek my love in his wooing, he imperilleth his life.

Nowise I dread him so sorely as to stoop to be his wife!”

{p. 57}

So Brunhild the passing lovely full soon was splendour-arrayed;

And there in her train paced hallward many a winsome maid:

Five-score, nay more peradventure, all costly-vestured came:

And to look on the guests with Brunhild went many a noble dame.

To right and to left went marching strong thanes of Isenland,

Vassal-knights of Brunhild, each man with his sword in his hand,

Five hundred, yea more, it may be—for the guests an evil sight!

Then rose from their seats at her coming the Four, those men of might.

Now when that Daughter of Princes looked upon Siegfried’s face—

Would ye know of her greeting?—she bespake him with cold and stately grace:

“Now welcome be thou, O Siegfried, in thy coming to this my land.

What meaneth this your journey?—prithee, cause me to understand.”

“Exceeding thank do I render, O Daughter of Princes, to thee,

That thou deignest to greet me, Brunhild, Lady of Courtesy,

Before this knight hath been greeted, who standeth before me in place,

For that he is my liege-lord:—Siegfried could well have foregone such grace!

He is the King of Rhineland—what need I say of him more?

All for thy love have we voyaged far overseas to thy shore.

Fixed is his heart to woo thee, whatsoever thereof betide.

While yet there is time, bethink thee:—my lord turns never aside.

He hath to name King Gunther; wide is his royal domain.

For thy love he comes hitherward wooing; nought else he desireth to gain.

Forasmuch as he hath commanded, on this journey have I too come.

If so be he were not my liege-lord, sooth, I had forborne therefrom.”

She answered: “If thou be his vassal, and he thy suzerain,

Then must he abide the trial, the tests that I ever ordain.

If he stand at the end the victor, I yield myself his wife;

But if I overcome—bethink you, ye all have staked your life.”

Then out spake Hagen of Troneg: “Suffer us, Queen, to see

To what manner of play thou dost challenge. Ere Gunther my lord unto thee

Shall yield up the mastery, surely he shall strive with bitter strain.

A maiden so passing lovely full well to his wife might he gain.”

{p. 58}

“He shall cast the massy quoit-stone, and far as it flies shall he leap,

And shall hurl against me the javelin—hold not this trial cheap!

Ye may lose not honour only: your life and limb be at stake.

Therefore, I rede you, bethink you!” So that fair woman spake.

Then Siegfried the battle-helper drew the King apart,

And he prayed him to speak out boldly all that was in his heart

Unto the Queen replying—“Fear not for the end,” he said;

“By my cunning devices against her full well will I shield thine head.”

Then answered and spake King Gunther: “O child of a royal line,

Lay on me what task thou pleasest: were it harder than this of thine,

Yet for the sake of thy beauty I abide all willingly.

If thou be not won by my wooing, then smite mine head from me.”

So soon as the words had been spoken, straightway that Amazon-maid

Commanded, as meet she deemed it, that the trial be not delayed;

And she caused them to bring her armour, and array for the contest grim,

Even a golden hauberk and a shield of ample rim.

A silk-lined battle-tunic about her that maiden drew—

Nor point nor edge of weapon in fight might pierce it through—

Of fine-dressed fells of lions from the land of Libya brought,

With broidery round its borders flashing radiant-wrought.

Meanwhile her knights were galling those guests with threat and jeer:

And there stood Dankwart and Hagen exceeding heavy of cheer;

For their souls foreboded the issue that might to their lord betide;

And they said in their hearts: “This journey shall we knights dearly abide!”

But Siegfried the while, the resourceful, hath hasted swiftly away,

Ere any was ware of his going, unto where the galley lay;

And he found the Hood of Darkness in its secret hiding-place there,

And with speed he did it upon him, and none thereof was ware.

With speed he returned: of her warriors found he a great array

In the place by the Queen appointed for the wooer’s perilous play:

{p. 59}

But he passed through the midst of them stealthwise, and still was beheld of none

Of the multitude there thronging: by magic thus was it done.

For the lists a wide ring drew they where that grim sport should be

In the presence of knights of Brunhild, that the trial all might see,

Bold warriors full seven hundred; and their weapons of war all bare;

And whoso prevailed in the contest, the truth should these declare.

Now in the lists stood Brunhild, in her mail of the adamant rings,

As though she would straight do battle for the land of all earth’s kings.

And all her silken vesture was with gold bands lapped about;

But thereunder the lilies and roses of her lovely flesh shone out.

Now came to the lists her henchmen, and unto her hands they brought

A goodly shield of battle: of the ruddy gold was it wrought

With bands of steel hard-welded, a thing for a giant to sway:

And under that mighty heart-fence would the fair one play the play.

From left unto right within it did a goodly arm-brace pass

With emeralds set thereover, green as the lealand grass;

And their sight-bewildering sparklings flashed o’er the gold thereof.

Sooth, valour he needed and prowess who would win that maiden’s love!

Stood a boss out in front of the buckler, as the olden bard hath sung;

It was three whole spans in thickness, yet lightly its mass she swung.

With burnished steel and with gleaming gold full rich was the shield;

And scarce could her chamberlain, holpen of three, bear this to the field.

Now soon as Hagen the stalwart beheld that Targe of Dread,

Muttered the Lord of Troneg sorely disquieted:

“How is it with thee, King Gunther?—thou hazardest limb and life!

She whom thou fain wouldst be wooing were a very demon-wife!”

Now telleth the song of the raiment of that fair-clad Amazon.

With glistering silk of the Orient her battle-doublet shone—

Ah, it was costly and queenly!—flashed in beholders’ eyes

From the vest of that Daughter of Princes full many a stone of price.

{p. 60}

A mighty spear broad-headed then brought they unto the Queen,

Which she hurled evermore in the Contest of Wooers, a javelin keen,

Gigantic, stubborn-shafted, heavy and long, and wide

Were the fierce death-whetted edges thereof on either side.

Of the weight of that fearful javelin be marvellous stories told.

Of five-score pounds of iron was forged its massy mould:

Three of the warriors of Brunhild staggering bare that spear.

Then the heart of the noble Gunther grew heavy with his fear.

Under his breath he whispered: “What task have I now in hand?

Though the Foul Fiend rose out of Hell’s Pit, against her how should he stand?

Were I, with my life delivered, once more beside the Rhine,

Long should she bide untroubled by any wooing of mine!”

(C) Well may ye deem what burden of disquiet his spirit bare.

Then all his harness of battle they set before him there:

And soon the mighty Rhine-lord lapped in his war-mail stood.

But the spirit of Hagen was darkened, and he chafed in bitter mood.

Then out spake Hagen’s brother. Dankwart the valiant: “I rue—

Yea, my inmost soul repenteth that hither we came to woo!

Good knights, time was, men called us! Shall we tamely yield our breath?

Here in the land of the stranger shall a woman do us to death?

Sore vexed am I for our folly, that ever we came to her land!

Ha, if that my brother Hagen but grasped his sword in hand,

And I had also my war-glaive, soon these should abate their pride,

And should droop the eyes of scorning, yon vassals at Brunhild’s side!

I would teach them to go softly, full well I ween!—O yea,

Though oaths had I sworn a thousand to keep the peace this day!—

Ere I saw my belovèd liege-lord lie trapped in a foul death-snare,

Doomed to forsake life—quotha!—because this woman is fair!”

“Ay, and we would unshackled from this land win forth clear,”

Answered his brother Hagen, “had we but the armour here

That we lack for the clash of the onset, and the trusty battle-blade;

Then soon should the pride be humbled of yonder stalwart maid!”

{p. 61}

Full well overheard were his murmurs of the Lady royally born.

She cast back over her shoulder a smile of careless scorn:—

“And he deemeth himself so valiant?—e’en bring them hitherward

Their armour, and give to the heroes each his keen-edged sword!

(C) As little I reck of them whether their harness and swords they bear,”

Spake that Daughter of Princes, “or weaponless stand there.

I fear the strength of no man that is known of me unto this day;

Yea, and I look to o’ermaster yon king in the battle-play.”

When, after the Maid’s commandment, unto these were their weapons brought,

The face of the valiant Dankwart for very joy flushed hot.

“Play now what play ye be minded!” he cried, that goodly thane;

“Unfettered now is Gunther: we have our swords again!”

Once more of the might of Brunhild terrible proof is shown:

Men into the ring come bearing an exceeding massy stone,

Most huge, a quoit for a Titan, broad withal and round.

Scarce twelve of her thanes could bear it into love’s strange battle-ground.

Even this ever hurled she in contest, when the flight had been sped of the spear.

Thereat were the lords Burgundian thrilled with foreboding fear.

“Who is this that my lord would be wooing?—Beshrew her!” Hagen cried:

“In the nethermost hell might she fitly be plighted the Foul Fiend’s bride!”

On her snow-white arms the Maiden her tunic-sleeves uprolled,

And she stretched forth her hand to the arm-brace of the shield, and took fast hold:

She hath swung up on high the javelin—lo, the banners of battle unfold!—

Then the hearts of those two heroes at the fire in her eyes waxed cold.

And except in that moment Siegfried to his friend’s help had drawn nigh,

She had reft the life from Gunther the King right certainly:

But he stole to his side all viewless, and softly touched his hand;

Then, as at a spirit’s presence, well-nigh was the King unmanned;

For the bold knight thought: “Who touched me?—do I stand on enchanted ground?”

For, look as he would all round him, no man thereby he found.

{p. 62}

Then a whisper came—“It is Siegfried: I, thy companion, am here.

Thou therefore in yon Queen’s presence be wholly void of fear.

Yield up from thy grasp the buckler, and let me bear it for thee,

And lay up in thine heart the counsel which now thou hearest of me:—

Be thine all feigning of action, by me shall the work be done.”

Then leapt his heart for gladness, when he knew it was Siegmund’s son.

“Ever hide thou my cunning devices, speak word thereof unto none:

So by the proud King’s Daughter shall little enow be won,

Through thee and thine overthrowing, of the glory she thinketh to glean.

Behold her, how yonder she standeth with scornful-arrogant mien!”

Then, then that royal maiden hurled across the field

With her uttermost strength the javelin at the mighty and broad new shield

Which braced on his left arm firmly the son of Siegelind bore:

Leapt sparks from the steel, as the wind-blast sweepeth the chaff from a floor.

The fang of the mighty javelin through the shield’s whole thickness crashed;

And it glanced from the warrior’s armour, that the fire from the ring-mail flashed.

Back from the shock went reeling either stalwart thane:—

Except for the Hood of Darkness, of a surety had both been slain!

Yea, from the mouth of Siegfried the valiant burst forth blood;

But he sprang full-height in a moment; then gripped that war-thane good

The selfsame spear which the maiden through the rim of the shield had sped.

Then Siegfried’s strong hand backward swung it above his head.

But he said in his heart: “I will pierce not the maiden sweet to see.”

Backward therefore the deadly point of the lance turned he;

Then hurled he the spear butt-foremost full at the rings of her mail:

Loudly they rang at the smiting of the hand that was strong to prevail.

Flashed out the fire from her hauberk, as flies dust caught by the wind.

Ha, that was a cast most mighty of the son of Siegelind!

For all her strength, she prevailed not against that shock to stand.

In veriest truth, such spear-cast came never from Gunther’s hand!

{p. 63}

But the Fairest of fair ones, Brunhild, leapt to her feet forthright:—

“For thy good spear-cast I thank thee, O Gunther, noble knight!”

She cried; for she weened that the hero by his own strength this had done,

Nor dreamed she how that behind him had stolen a mightier one.

Sped she from that place swiftly, for her fury stung her as flame:

She grasped the stone, she upheaved it, that royal Amazon dame.

Far thence from her hand that boulder with her uttermost might she swung,

Then after the cast far leapt she, that her mail-rings clashed and rung.

Twelve fathoms away from the caster crashed that stone to the ground;

But farther yet than the quoit-flight did the high-born maiden bound.

Then strode that swift war-helper, Siegfried, where lay the stone:—

Men saw but the arm of Gunther, the speeder thereof saw none.

Mighty of limb was Siegfried, valiant and tall was he;

Farther than Brunhild he hurled it, he leapt yet farther than she;

And he added thereto a marvel, a deed of magic might,

That he bore in his leap King Gunther, by the power of the Hood of Night.

Lo, now is the great leap taken; behind on the earth lay the stone.

Gunther it was, the war-thane, whom men saw there alone.

Then the face of Brunhild the lovely with helpless anger burned.

—Lo, Siegfried from King Gunther the imminent death hath turned!

Then unto the host of her vassals Queen Brunhild looked, and she cried,

When she saw that hero standing safe on the lists’ far side:

“O ye my friends and liegemen, hitherward come straightway!

Ye be all unto this King Gunther vassals from this day.”

Down laid each valiant warrior his weapons from his hand,

And low at the feet they bowed them of the Lord of Burgundia-land;

Yea, unto Gunther the mighty bent many a valiant knight,

For they weened he had won that contest by his own unaided might.

With chivalrous grace and in loving wise he greeted the maid;

And now that Queen of Beauty her hand in his hath laid,

And to him all rule she yielded over all her wide domain.

Then glad in his heart was Hagen, that bold and knightly thane.

{p. 64}

She besought that noble chieftain to her palace builded wide

With her to return, and thither strode Gunther at her side.

There all men fearing before him in homage lowly bent.

So the brethren, Dankwart and Hagen, thereat were well content.

Now Siegfried, the swift war-helper, in all deep craft was wise:

Back bare he the Hood of Darkness, and hid it from all men’s eyes.

Then he passed to the hall, where fair ones sat in their bravery;

And he spake unto King Gunther, and cunningly dealt he:—

“Now why, Lord King, dost thou tarry, that the games not yet begin

Whereof this Queen made promise, and challenged thee herein?

Let us now full soon behold them, and know of the trial’s stress.”

—As nothing knowing of all things he spake in his wiliness.

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “How might this marvel befall

That thou of the games, Lord Siegfried, hast witnessed nought at all,

Wherein was the victory given unto this King Gunther’s hand?”

Out spake and answered Hagen, the knight of Burgundia-land:

“Thou, Queen,” he said, “didst trouble our spirit exceedingly:

Therefore was Siegfried the good knight abiding by ship and sea

In the hour when the Lord of Rhineland overcame in the wooer’s play;

So nought thereof he knoweth,” did Gunther’s liegeman say.

“Now welcome to me be the tidings,” Siegfried the hero replied,

“That here in such wise a wooer hath humbled thy tameless pride,

And that some one lives to be master at last over thee and thine!

Now shalt thou, noble maiden, fare with us to the Rhine.”

Made answer that high-born Lady: “Not yet may this thing be,

Ere I have summoned my kinsmen and them of my vassalry.

It is all unmeet that so lightly I depart from this my land:

Ere then must my nearest and dearest be bidden from every hand.”

Through the length and the breadth of her kingdom she made her messengers ride;

And all her friends and her vassals she gathered from every side.

{p. 65}

Wherefore in swift obedience unto Isenstein came they;

And to each and to all of them gave she most royal-rich array.

Yea, day after day came riding from far, came early and late,

The best of the folk of Brunhild in throngs to her fortress-gate.

“Beshrew our folly,” cried Hagen, “in consenting to this thing!

To our own undoing await we Queen Brunhild’s following.

If these with all their war-might throng into this land thus—

Queen Brunhild’s secret purpose is all unknown unto us,—

What if she be wroth against us? Then were our plight forlorn:

So were the noble maiden for our utter discomfiture born!”

Then answered Siegfried the mighty: “This will I countervail.

So will I deal, that the purpose that disquieteth you shall fail.

Them that shall help I will bring you hitherward unto this shore,

Even chosen knights, such a war-host as ye have not seen heretofore.

Ye shall ask not concerning mine absence: I will journey away from this place.

God have your honour in keeping, and guard it safe for a space!

Soon shall ye see me returning: a thousand men will I bring,

And these the mightiest war-thanes that ever followed king.”

“Only not long do thou linger,” the King made answer again,

“Forasmuch as we of thine helping be most exceeding fain.”

He said, “Ere ye see me returning of a truth shall the days be few:

And this shall ye tell Queen Brunhild, that hence I was sent of you.”

How Siegfried went to the Niblung Land for his Knights

So thence to the strand and the haven Siegfried hied him away

In the Hood of Darkness shrouded. Now a boat by the wharf-side lay,

And thereinto from men’s eyes hidden stepped Siegfried Siegmund’s son,

And he thrust it forth o’er the waters, as it were by a wind driven on.

{p. 66}

Now no one beheld that steersman, though swift was the barge’s flight

Sped on by the strength of Siegfried, so passing-great was his might.

Who marked it, deemed that it drifted before a strange strong wind:

None dreamed it was driven of Siegfried the child of Siegelind.

In the space of that day and the night-tide that followed was he brought

To a certain land, by the mighty strength wherewithal he wrought.

It was leagues full three-and-thirty, yea, more peradventure, away.

This was the Land of the Niblungs, where he won the Hoard for a prey.

Alone stepped forth the hero on to an eyot wide;

And he fastened, that knight resourceful, the boat to the river-side.

Then he passed unto where a castle stood on a craggy bent,

And therein sought harbourage, even as a wayfarer toil-forspent.

So he came before that burg-gate: fast locked and barred did it stand;

For jealous aye for their honour were the warders of that land.

On the massy door ’neath the gate-tower did the unknown one begin

Straightway to beat, and his smiting roused up therewithin

A mighty one and a giant, that there kept watch and ward,

And night and day beside him his armour lay and his sword:

And he spake: “Who knocketh so roughly on the burg-gate therewithout?”

In a feigned voice Siegfried the valiant sent back the answering shout:

“Up! I am a knight belated. Knave, open to me forthright,

Else I with strokes heavy-handed shall gall a laggard wight

Who loveth to keep his chamber and lie in the sluggard’s bed!”

Then exceeding wroth was the warder for the word that Siegfried said.

His armour hath that fierce giant in haste on his huge limbs done,

And his helmet hath he settled on his head, that mighty one.

In haste hath he snatched his buckler and the castle gate swung wide:

In a fury of rage against Siegfried forth did he swiftly stride.

“How dar’st thou wake,” he shouted, “all these of our gallant band?”

Then fell fast-raining buffets, dealt by his mighty hand:

From the shield of the noble stranger glanced fierce blows many and rude,

Yet the steel shards flew from his shield-rim as the giant warder hewed

{p. 67}

With a massy mace of iron, that the thane was hard-bestead.

Well-nigh began the hero the very death to dread

At the smiting of that huge porter, as the lightning vehement.

Yet was his liege-lord Siegfried with his faithfulness well content.

So furious was their battling, the keep rang echoing round,

And afar in the hall of King Niblung was heard the tempest-sound:

Yet at last he o’ermastered the warder, and bound him foot and hand.

—Ere long men laughed at the story through all the Niblung land.

As the thunder of that conflict through the mountain’s heart far rolled,

It was heard of the Dwarf, the dauntless Albrich, the tameless-souled.

In haste he armed him, and thither he ran, and behold, he found

That noble stranger-warrior, and the giant warder bound.

Of fiery mood was Albrich, and mighty strength he had:

In hauberk-rings and in helmet was his body for battle clad;

And a morning-star huge-headed of gold had he gripped in his hand.

With swift feet rushed he onward unto where did Siegfried stand.

Seven balls spike-studded and massy by chains from the mace-head swung,

Wherewith on the shield that the hero’s arm before him flung

He hailed down blows so bitter that in fragments all it flew,

So that somewhat adread that noble guest for his own life grew.

The shield by that flail of battle shattered he flung from his hand,

And he thrust back into the scabbard Balmung, the long keen brand:

He would smite not therewith, lest his faithful seneschal should die;

For aye was he noble-hearted, and the flower of chivalry.

But the hero leapt upon Albrich with his strong bare hands alone,

And fast by the beard he gripped him, that hoary-headed one,

And he mightily plucked, that the Earth-dwarf shrieked for very pain,

As the hero-knight tamed Albrich with his fingers’ bitter strain.

Loud cried the erstwhile aweless: “Ah, leave my life unto me!

Had I not to another hero sworn true fealty,

And bowed myself in homage to be vassal to him for aye,

Thee would I serve to my death-day,” did the crafty-wise one say.

{p. 68}

Then bound he Albrich, even as he bound that giant before:

Of a truth the prowess of Siegfried galled him exceeding sore!

Then asked the Dwarf of the hero: “I pray thee, how named art thou?”

And he answered: “My name is Siegfried: thou hast heard that name, I trow.”

Spake Albrich: “For these tidings of a truth mine heart is fain!

Of thy strength, the strength of a hero, hast thou given proof again,

Hast shown how well thou art worthy to be lord of the Niblung Land.

So thou spare me for that I withstood thee, will I do all thy command.”

Answered the good knight Siegfried: “Up then, and speedily

Bring thou unto me my bravest which here in the fortress be,

A thousand Niblungs: before me now would I see them brought.”

But the cause for the which he desired them thus, he told him not.

Then Albrich and the giant from their bonds the hero unbound;

And the Dwarf to the place ran swiftly where the Niblung knights slept sound;

And in eager haste he uproused them, the men of the Niblung array,

Crying, “Up, ye heroes! to Siegfried your lord must ye go straightway.”

Upsprang they from their couches, and they clad themselves with speed;

And a thousand eager warriors stood arrayed in battle-weed;

And he led them to where Prince Siegfried abode them in that great hall;

And they gave to him loving greeting by word and by deed withal.

They have kindled a hundred torches, they have poured the wine for their lord;

And for that their speedy coming he thanked them with gracious word;

And he said to them: “Now shall ye follow with me far hence oversea.”

And those valiant knights and loyal consented willingly.

Stout vassal-knights three thousand had gathered at his call,

And of these he chose a thousand, the goodliest of them all;

And their helmets were brought to the chosen, and all their harness of war,

Forasmuch as their lord would lead them unto Brunhild’s land afar.

And he spake: “O knights true-hearted, I would say unto you this thing:

Ye must take rich raiment for wearing in the presence of Queen and King;

{p. 69}

For there shall ye look upon many a maiden fair to see:

Therefore ye needs must adorn you with seemly bravery.”

(C) Now perchance might a simple-one chide me—“Not sooth is this thy song!

How might in the castle be gathered so vast a knightly throng?

Wherewithal should all these be nourished, and whence purvey them attire?

Though realms he had thirty, never had he brought to pass his desire.”

(C) Tush!—surely ye know this—Siegfried was a passing-wealthy lord:

He had that realm in possession, and his was the Niblung Hoard.

So he gave to his war-thanes freely so much as they lacked, nay, more.

How much he lavished soever, unminished still was his store.

Lo, in the dimness of dawning forth on the sea they fare:

—Ho for the eager warriors that Siegfried had gathered there!—

With goodly battle-horses and lordly attire sailed they:

So unto the land of Brunhild they came, a knightly array.

On her battlements many a fair one stood gazing over the sea.

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Knoweth any man who they be

Whom yonder I see far fleeting o’er the waters in gallant show?

How rich be the sails that waft them!—they be whiter than driven snow!”

Then spake the Lord of Rhineland: “My royal train be these

Whom I left as I journeyed hither not far behind overseas.

I have sent to speed them hither: lo, now be they come, O Queen.”

With wondering eyes the coming of those knightly guests was seen.

Men saw on a ship’s prow Siegfried standing foremost of all

In princely vesture: beside him was many a warrior tall.

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Lord King, I pray thee, declare:

Shall I greet these guests at their coming, or shall I from greeting forbear?”

He said: “Thou shalt go to meet them with welcome in thy face

Forth of thy palace-portals, that none may doubt of thy grace.”

So did that Daughter of Princes according as Gunther bade:

But cold and haughty greeting from Brunhild Siegfried had.

So they gave them lodging, and safely laid by their battle-gear.

And by this were guests so many there gathered from far and near,

{p. 70}

That for these too strait was the city as they thronged on every hand.

And now would the valiant heroes fare home to Burgundia-land.

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Unto him were I thankful-souled

Who for me would deal out my bounty of my silver and my gold

Unto my guests and King Gunther’s; for full is my treasury.”

Then Dankwart, Giselher’s liegeman, made answer gallantly:

“O noble Daughter of Princes, unto me commit the key,

And I will deal forth thy treasure,” said the valiant thane, “for thee.

If any cry out on the niggard, on me be all blame thrown!”

—That Dankwart was open-handed, full soon was to all men known.

When to Hagen’s brother committed was the key of her treasury,

The hand of the hero scattered rich gifts all lavishly.

Who craved but one mark only, on him was so much showered

That the poor of the land through their life-days might aye live gladness-dowered.

Pounds of silver uncounted by hundreds lavished he;

And forth of her halls passed many in goodly bravery

Who never before in their life-tide clad in such splendour went.

But when Queen Brunhild heard it, was she passing ill-content.

She arose and she spake unto Gunther the King: “I dare well say

That nought is like to be left me of all my fair array

Through your chamberlain’s reckless dealing: he squandereth all my gold!

Whosoever should bridle his folly, to him were I thankful-souled.

Yon thane, he dreameth, quotha!—such rich gifts doth he give—

I have sent unto Death to take me! Nay, still am I minded to live.

And as for the gold of my fathers, myself can waste it, I trow.

Steward so open-handed never had queen ere now!”

Then answered Hagen of Troneg: “Be it known, O Lady, to thee,

Gold hath the King of Rhineland and raiment fair to see

To bestow in such rich abundance, that in sooth he needeth not

Of all the treasure of Brunhild to carry hence one jot.”

{p. 71}

“Now nay, by your love I charge you,” that Queen to the Rhine-lords spake,

“With gold and with silken raiment coffers filled would I take

Twice ten with me for my journey: myself with mine own hand

Will bestow my royal bounty, when we come to Burgundia-land,”

For the Queen then stored they the coffers with many a precious gem;

And the chamberlains of Brunhild the while must be watching them:

She would suffer not Gunther’s liegeman in the storing thereof to partake;

And thereover Gunther and Hagen into merry laughter brake.

“Now to whom,” said that Daughter of Princes, “shall I commit my land

Ere we go? Be a warder appointed by mine and by thine hand.”

Made answer Gunther the noble: “Summon thou hitherward

Whomsoever thou pleasest: appoint him its governor and lord.”

Then the Lady looked on her kinsmen, and beheld one nigh at hand,

And the man was her mother’s brother; and to him gave she her command:

“Now let my land and my castles be given in charge from this day

Unto thee, till it please King Gunther to take them under his sway.”

Out of the train of her vassals two thousand men chose she

For them which should fare on the journey with her unto Burgundy

With the thousand knights of the Niblungs that with Siegfried voyaged o’er.

For the journey they made them ready: men saw them ride to the shore.

Four-score and six fair ladies did she lead with her overseas,

And withal a hundred maidens, and sweet to see were these.

Now forth and away would they hasten; they would linger there no more;

But of such as they took not with them many an one wept sore.

In fashion as well befitteth a queen, so left she the land:

She kissed her nearest and dearest at the last farewell by the strand.

And so with fair leave-taking they launched on the northern main;

And the ancient land of her fathers the maid saw never again.

Still as they voyaged, joyance made music through all the way:

With manifold merry pastime they whiled the hours away.

{p. 72}

They were wafted on to the outsea by a breeze that followed fast;

And so with mirth and laughter from land unto land they passed.

Yet not upon that voyage would she be King Gunther’s bride;

But his bliss awhile must tarry until the bridal-tide

In the Castle of Worms, at the stately marriage-festival,

When with joy they should come with their heroes unto Gunther’s royal hall.

How Siegfried bare Tidings to the Royal City

Now when they had so sailed onward for nine days over the sea,

Then out spake Hagen of Troneg: “I pray you, hearken to me:

Lo, here we tarry from sending the tidings to Worms on Rhine;

Yet by this in the land Burgundian should they be, those heralds of thine.”

Made answer to him King Gunther: “Of a truth good counsel is this;

And to send as our tidings-bearer were none so meet, I wis,

As thou thyself, friend Hagen; thou unto my land ride on.

Our royal journey may no man better than thou make known.”

“Now nay, Lord King, of heralds nowise the best should I be.

Let me as thy treasure-warder tarry still on the sea:

Here will I bide with the women, and guard their costly array

Till unto the land Burgundian we have brought them on their way.

Not so; pray rather Siegfried to bear this message for thee:

Well can he do thine errand with wisdom and courtesy.

If he haply be loth for the journey, in kingly-courteous wise

Entreat him in kindly fashion by the love in thy sister’s eyes.”

Then unto the knight sent Gunther, and he came before the King;

And he said to him: “Nigh are we gotten to my land in our journeying;

And now to my dear-loved sister would I send a messenger,

And withal to my mother, to tell them who to the land draw near.

{p. 73}

So then, Lord Siegfried, I pray thee that thou wouldst bear this word,

And so will I aye be beholden to thee,” said the Rhineland’s lord.

Yet loth was Siegfried the valiant, and fain would have said him nay,

Until the King besought him, and thus did Gunther pray:

He said unto him: “For my love’s sake thitherward shouldst thou ride,

And withal for the sake of Kriemhild, the maiden lovely-eyed,

To the end that the royal maiden with me may requite thy pain.”

When heard was her name of Siegfried, the knight was exceeding fain.

“Lay on me what charge thou pleasest,” he answered, “all shall be done:

With joy shall it be accomplished for the sake of that lovely one

Whom I bear in my heart enshrinèd!—who am I, to deny or defer?

Even all that thou requirest will I perform for her.”

“So then to my mother Uta the Queen of the land say thou

That with heart uplifted and joyous I am faring homeward now.

And how we have sped in our wooing do thou to my brethren unfold:

And to all our nearest and dearest withal be the story told.

Yea, from my sister, the fair one, nought shalt thou hide thereof:

Commend unto her Queen Brunhild and me in service of love.

And unto all my servants and to all my vassals say,

Whatsoever mine heart hath longed for, all have I gained this day.

And to Ortwein, my nephew belovèd, bear this hest of mine,

That he shall prepare us high-seats in the city beside the Rhine.

Tell also my vassals and kinsfolk this—be it known to them all

That I purpose for Brunhild’s bridal a high-tide festival.

And make my request to my sister, that now that she hath learned

How that I to the land Burgundian with these my guests have returned,

She receive with loving welcome this my belovèd bride:

So bound evermore unto Kriemhild shall my love and my service abide.”

Then of the Lady Brunhild and of all her following

Fair leave was taken of Siegfried, the child of Siegmund the King,

Even as was meet and seemly: then on to the Rhine rode he.

No better herald than Siegfried in all the world might be!

{p. 74}

With good knights four-and-twenty to the city of Worms he came.

“Without Gunther he cometh!”—the rumour through the city ran like flame.

Then all the thanes were troubled, and a wailing moaned all round.

They foreboded that in that far land his death the King had found.

But the knights with hearts uplifted sprang each from his gallant steed.

Then Giselher to meet them, the young Prince, hied him with speed:

Came Gernot beside him, his brother, and in eager haste he cried,

When he marked how no King Gunther was there by Siegfried’s side:

“Now welcome to thee, Lord Siegfried! I beseech thee, tell this thing,

Where left ye in your departing my brother, Gunther the King?

The mighty strength of Brunhild, I fear me, hath reft him from us;

So for us should his princely wooing have issue dolorous.”

“Cast to the winds your foreboding: to you and to all true friends

My noble comrade in emprise his loving service sends.

Whole and unharmed I left him: unto you was I sent of your Lord

That I should come with the tidings his messenger hitherward.

Now lend me your aid, to the end that this grace unto me may fall

That I may see Queen Uta, and the Lady your sister withal,

That now I may bear them the story that I was bidden to tell

Of Gunther and Lady Brunhild, that with these twain all is well.”

Then the young Prince Giselher answered: “Speak thou unto them thereof,

So shalt thou unto my sister render a service of love.

For the sake of my brother Gunther in exceeding sorrow she is.

Full gladly the maiden will see thee: lo, I will be surety for this.”

Spake Siegfried: “What service soever unto her may be rendered of me,

Faithfully will I perform it ever and willingly.

Now who beareth word of my coming to the noble Ladies twain?”

So Giselher was herald, that young and comely thane.

Blithely Giselher hasted, and the lad to his mother cried

And his sister, where in their bower these twain sat side by side:

“Siegfried the Netherland hero hither to us is come!

Gunther my brother hath sent him to us in our Rhineland home!

{p. 75}

Tidings to us he bringeth of the King your brother’s plight.

Now send him word of your pleasure that he come into your sight.

The story of all that in Iceland was done unto us he brings.”

—But he left to another to comfort those sorrowing Daughters of Kings.

They ran to their tiring-bower, they donned their richest array,

And they sent word praying Siegfried to come unto them straightway.

Full fain did he come at their summons, and he met them with joyful eyes.

Then spake Kriemhild the queenly to the hero in gracious wise:

“Now welcome, Lord Knight Siegfried, peer unto whom is none!

Where bideth my brother Gunther, that noble kingly one?

Through the might of Brunhild, I fear me, are we left of his love forlorn!

Woe for me, hapless maiden, that ever I was born!”

But the bold knight smiled in answer—“My good-news’ guerdon pay!

Ye be weeping, O lovely Ladies, without a cause this day.

Whole and unharmed I left him: this know ye in very deed.

Unto you twain by their bidding with tidings hither I speed.

With all heart’s love and kindness, O Lady of queenly pride,

In service to you he commends him, he and his new-won bride.

Now let your weeping have ending; soon will themselves be here.”

Long, long had it been ere she hearkened a tale to her heart so dear!

Then dried she the tears of her weeping with her vesture’s snow-white fold

From her lovely eyes, and she poured forth the thanks of the happy-souled

To the bearer of these glad tidings that made music in her ears.

Past was all her affliction, and banished were all her tears.

She prayed her herald to seat him; that did he willingly;

Then spake that winsome lady: “Exceeding glad were I

If I dared but give unto Siegfried my gold for his herald’s fee;

But for this art thou too exalted—I have left but love for thee.”

But he said, “Though thirty kingdoms were each and all named mine,

Gifts would I take glad-hearted from this fair hand of thine.”

Answered the high-born Lady, “My desire shall become my deed.”

And her chamberlain she commanded to bring her the herald’s meed.

{p. 76}

Four-and-twenty armlets that flashed with many a gem

Gave she to him for guerdon: for himself he kept not them;

Of his knightly and courteous spirit he dealt them in that same hour

To her comely maidens which waited on their Lady in her bower.

Then her most loving service graciously tendered the Queen.

“Lo, this of my message remaineth,” spake on that warrior keen,

“Touching that which the King desireth when he meets you by Rhine-flood’s side:

If herein ye will do his pleasure, in his love shall ye ever abide.

His noble guests receive ye—for this his petition is—

With loving and courteous welcome; and he earnestly asketh this,

That ye ride forth all to meet him from Worms by the Rhine-stream shore.

This is the kindness that Gunther by your love and your faith doth implore.”

“Even that will I do right gladly,” the Fair One made reply:

“Of all wherein I can serve him nothing will I deny.

In loyallest love and kindness shall his every wish be fulfilled.”

And the blood in her fair cheeks mantled from the heart with rapture thrilled.

Never had herald of princes more gracious welcome than he:

An she dared but have kissed him, kissed him with all her heart had she.

And so with sweet leave-taking from those ladies forth he went.

Now Burgundy’s thanes were fulfilling the commands by Siegfried sent.

There Sindold and Hunold bestirred them, and Rumold the noble thane;

With all their hearts they laboured, and in love they toiled amain

Making ready the festal high-seats in Worms beside the river:

Early and late those craftsmen of the King were toiling ever.

Ortwein withal and Gere were nowise slack of hand,

For they sent forth word unto kinsmen through the length and the breadth of the land

To bid those guests to the feast-tide that soon should be holden there;

And ready was made her adorning by many a maiden fair.

Splendour-arrayed was the palace, and with tapestries each wall

Was hung in the great guests’ honour: King Gunther’s royal hall

{p. 77}

Was adorned in princely fashion to greet the strangers’ eyes:

And thus did the stately feast-tide begin in gladsome wise.

Now did the three Kings’ kinsmen down many a highway ride

Through all the land to the city, which were summoned from every side

To the end that these with honour might welcome the bidden guests.

Then drawn from their cedar coffers were many costly vests.

Now heard are the tidings that watchers have spied the far-off gleam

Of the knights of the train of Brunhild. Lo, how the great throngs stream

As all the multitudes gather and flock through Burgundia-land!

What gallant knights went riding in either princely band!

Then spake she, Kriemhild the Lovely: “O my bower-maidens, ye

Which forth unto this guest-welcome this day will ride with me,

Out of the coffers take ye attire most glorious,

And so shall praise and honour by the guests be rendered to us.”

Then also hasted the good knights, and bade their squires bring out

Goodly saddles with red gold all richly set about.

Mounting-blocks gold-gleaming upon foot-cloths spread on the earth

They set for the feet of the ladies on that day of gladness and mirth.

There in the court stood waiting the palfreys richly dight,

Prepared, as the old song telleth, for many a lady bright.

On the breast of each horse gleaming was the dainty martingale

Of the richest silk threads woven ever sung in minstrel’s tale.

Fourscore-and-six fair ladies came pacing forth in state

With their bright hair wimple-hooded: gather now to the palace-gate

Kriemhild’s own bower-maidens in lovely vesture arrayed;

Decked with their jewels came they, many a winsome maid.

Fifty-and-four were her fair ones, the maids of Burgundia-land;

There were none of such high-born lineage as they of her queenly band:

The silken snoods fair-jewelled mid their golden tresses shone.

Sooth, all that the King had prayed for, with right good will was it done.

{p. 78}

All of the costliest loom-work and the best that earth bestowed

Was the vesture of their arrayal as to meet those guests they rode;

With the lily and rose of their faces it blended in harmony.

Whosoe’er had been ill-contented, a witless wight were he!

Mantles of ermine and sable over the housings flowed;

On lovely arm and white wrist many a bracelet glowed.

Clasps gathered the silk in many a softly-floating fold:—

But of all their splendour-devising the end can ne’er be told.

Full many a rich-wrought girdle with tassels swinging low

Over their shining raiment did hands of ladies throw,

Coiled round the silken loom-work far-fetched from Araby.

—O, the hearts of the noble maidens with joy and hope beat high!

There too did many a fair one over her bosom lace

The bodice clasped with jewels:—yet she whose lovely face

Outshone not all the splendour of her raiment might well be sad!

So fair a train of ladies never queen in the whole world had.

So when all those winsome ladies were arrayed in their bravery,

Then did the knights of their escort in eager haste draw nigh;

Yea, thither the thanes high-hearted came in a mighty throng

All bearing their shining bucklers and their ashen lances long.

Of the strange Bridal of Gunther and Brunhild

Then gazed they across the Rhine-stream, and beheld on the farther shore

The King with his guests around him, which had drawn nigh theretofore;

And they saw the good knights standing by the bridle of many a maid,

Even them that they looked to welcome, who now for their coming stayed.

So passed they down to the galleys, that host from the Northern Land,

They and the Niblung thousand, even Siegfried’s own war-band,

{p. 79}

And adown the bank they hasted: their toil the rowers plied,

Till all these friends of Gunther had won to the farther side.

Now list ye withal, how the story of the Queen of Burgundy

Telleth, how Uta the stately with her maiden-company

Went forth of the castle riding with that bright cavalcade:

Then were made known to each other many a knight and maid.

The Lord of the Marches, Gere, led Kriemhild’s steed by the rein

To the fortress-gate, no farther: Siegfried the noble thane

Should render her service thereafter—how queenly and lovely she shone!

Well was his service requited by the maiden’s love anon.

Ortwein the noble, the dauntless, led onward Uta the Queen,

And, each by a lady riding, was many a knight there seen.

Unto festal welcoming rode they, plain for all folk to see.

Never was seen of ladies so goodly a company!

In front of Kriemhild the lovely, through all the merry way

Those far-famed heroes jousted in gentle and joyous play:

’Twas the ancient and honoured custom. So when to the ships they came,

Then lifted they from their palfreys full many a noble dame.

Now the King had by this crossed over with many a stranger knight;

But in jousting still they shivered strong spears in ladies’ sight.

Ever the shields were ringing with echoing clash and clang;

In the press of the warriors charging rich bosses mightily rang.

So there these winsome ladies stood by the river-side;

And forth of the ships came Gunther with his guests, the folk of his bride;

And himself forth out of the galley by the hand led Brunhild the Queen.

As they met, bright raiment to raiment and stone unto stone flashed sheen.

Then stepped the Lady Kriemhild forward with queenly grace,

And she greeted the Lady Brunhild and her train with loving face.

Men saw white hands from their foreheads the coronals softly move,

As each fair queen kissed other in token of knitting of love.

Then sweet spake Kriemhild the maiden, the child of a royal line:

“Into this our land Burgundian welcome be thou and thine

{p. 80}

Unto me and to my mother, and to all this loyal crowd

Of liegemen and kinsfolk,” With stately grace Queen Brunhild bowed.

Ofttimes with arms enfolding those lovely ladies clung;—

Of such loving welcome aforetime hath never minstrel sung

As now to the bride was rendered of those noble ladies twain

Uta and Kriemhild: her sweet lips kissed they once and again.

Now as the ladies of Brunhild beside the river stand,

The goodly knights step forward, and they take them by the hand

In token of loving greeting to those fair ones lovely-eyed—

Ah, comely were they, the maidens at the Lady Brunhild’s side!

Ere all that greeting was ended, long time had fleeted by:

On rosebud lips full many fell kisses lovingly.

Long face to face communing those Daughters of Kings abode;

And the peerless knights looked on them with hearts that for gladness glowed.

With their own eyes then beheld they, who oft had heard it told

That so glorious beauty might no man in all the world behold

As the beauty of these two fair ones; and the rumour’s truth they learned;

For in all their lovely bodies might no blemish be discerned.

Of such as could weigh the fairness of form and winsome face,

Some to the bride of Gunther gave beauty’s chiefest praise;

But they that were more discerning, that wiselier looked thereon,

Said, “Nay, ye must own that Brunhild by Kriemhild is outshone.”

Now mingled they, home-abiders and strangers, matron and maid:

There many a comely woman was seen all costly-arrayed.

Rich tents and silken pavilions all round lay far and wide,

Wherewith were the green meads covered from Worms to the river-side.

Then nigher pressed to behold them King Gunther’s friends and kin.

Then prayed they the Lady Brunhild and Kriemhild to pass within,

And all their handmaids with them, ’neath the wavering silken shade.

Thither the knights Burgundian their noble guests conveyed.

Now by this upon their horses those knightly guests had sprung,

And with sport of the breaking of lances the shining bucklers rung.

{p. 81}

Over the field upsoaring was the dust, as though all the land

Were flame-devoured, as the heroes made proof of their might of hand.

To the eyes of the watching maidens those knights their prowess showed:

Right well with the host of his warriors Siegfried the valiant rode;

In tourney before the pavilion aye to and fro he wheeled:

With the hero a thousand Niblungs went sweeping across the field.

Then strode forth Hagen of Troneg at Gunther the King’s behest,

And courteously the hero bade the knights from their jousting rest,

That they should not o’erpall with the dust-cloud the maidens fair and sweet;

And the knightly guests blithe-hearted rendered obedience meet.

Then out spake Gernot the noble: “Awhile let the horses abide

Till the day on-draweth to coolness, and so shall our escort ride

Beside the lovely ladies to the wide-roofed palace-hall.

When the word of the King shall be given, ‘To horse!’ be ye ready all.”

Through the length and the breadth of the lealand stayed was the tournament;

Then the knights sought unto the ladies in many a stately tent

To while the hours in converse, and to make them merry of heart:

So fleeted fast the moments, till time was thence to depart.

Before the falling of even, when sank the light of the sun,

And came thereafter the coolness, no more would they linger on.

Then cityward knight and lady rode the summer ways,

And on many a form most winsome fell warrior’s loving gaze.

As they rode, were there tourney-courses; oft mantles with sudden hand[8]

Were twitched from the gallant riders, after the wont of the land,

Till afront of the gate of the palace the King his war-horse stayed:

So by the knights to the ladies was honour-service paid.

Then from the throng departed those Queens in their royal pride;

And the Lady Uta and Kriemhild straightway turned aside

{p. 82}

With all the train of their handmaids into a fair wide hall:

There did bright tides of laughter and of voices rise and fall.

Now set they in order the high-seats, and on King Gunther passed

Leading his guests to the banquet. Then saw they beside him at last

A Queen!—it was Brunhild the lovely. A crown on her brow she bare

As a queen in her king’s dominions—ah, stately she was and fair!

For the banquet were seats rich-carven, broad tables goodly to see

Laden with plenty, as singeth the ancient minstrelsy.

Of all the due of the feasters there lacked not anything.

Sat many a noble baron in the presence of the King.

Then entered the chamberlains bringing in basons golden-red

For the hands of the guests bright water—all vainly his labour were sped

Who would say that courtlier service was rendered ever on earth

At a prince’s feast—I would reckon his word as nothing-worth.

But or ever the Lord of the Rhineland set hand to the water clear,

Siegfried—unshamed might he do it—unto Gunther the King drew near:

“Bethink thee of that faith royal and the pledge thou gavest me,”

He said, “ere thou sawest Brunhild in Iceland far oversea.”

Yea, he added and said, “Remember how thou swarest by thy right hand,

In the day we should bring Queen Brunhild home unto this your land,

Thou wouldst give me to wife thy sister—doth the oath unbroken remain?

Thou knowest, for that thy journey I begrudged nor travail nor pain.”

The host to the guest made answer: “Well dost thou to call it to mind.

I will break not the oath that with hand-clasp close to my soul did I bind.

Lo, I help thee to its fulfilment—may blessing thereof befall!”

Then sent he his word unto Kriemhild to come to the King in the hall[9].

With the train of her lovely maidens on to the hall she swept;

Then from the dais of honour Giselher lightly stept:—

{p. 83}

“Now give ye command to the handmaids that backward they turn to their bower:

It befits that alone my sister commune with the King in this hour.”

Thither bring they the Lady Kriemhild where waiting doth Gunther stand,

And noble knights stood round him, and princes of many a land.

And now proclaimed they silence through the Hall of the Presence vast.

—In the midst of the hush Queen Brunhild to the feast-hall proudly passed.

(C) So entered the maid, nothing wotting of work whose fulfilment was nigh.

But first spake the son of Dankart to his knights that stood thereby:

“Help me at need, that my sister may take for her lord Siegfried.”

With one accord they answered: “In sooth ’twere a goodly deed!”

Then spake unto her King Gunther: “My sister, noble maid,

Let thy queenly blood and thine heart’s love for mine oath’s redemption aid.

I have pledged thine hand to a warrior; if thou take him for thy lord,

Then thou by thy loyal obedience hast redeemed my plighted word.”

Answered the noble maiden: “Heart’s dearest, brother mine,

Needs not that thou supplicate me: my will shall be even as thine.

What thing thou commandest soever, of a surety shall that be done:

Whom thou, Lord, appointest my bridegroom, I will wed that noble one.”

As a fire was the face of Siegfried, his eyes were rapture-ablaze

As the knight unto Kriemhild tendered love-service through all his days.

Then hand in hand they set them in the midst of the great hushed ring,

And they asked, “Wilt thou take this hero for thy lord and for thine heart’s king?”

A little she hung in the balance in maiden shamefastness;

But the Fortune of Siegfried whispered to her heart’s love, “Answer ‘Yes!’”

That she could not, and ah, she would not, deny unto him her hand;

And he plighted him her husband, the Hero of Netherland.

And so soon as his troth was spoken, and her troth unto his had replied,

Swiftly in arms enfolding he drew unto him his bride.

There in the arms of Siegfried that tender maiden lay,

And he kissed the noble princess in the midst of that knightly array.

{p. 84}

As parted the throngs asunder, and the banquet’s order was seen,

Lo, in the place of honour, facing the King and the Queen,

Was Siegfried by Kriemhild seated, with service of many a knight;

And there were the Niblung warriors beside him to left and to right.

Beside the King at the banquet sat Brunhild the maiden Queen:

Then Kriemhild she saw—no dagger to her heart had stabbed more keen—

By the side of Siegfried seated; and from weeping she could not refrain,

So that adown her fair cheeks fast did the hot tears rain.

Then spake the Lord of Rhineland: “What aileth thee, lady mine,

That thou drawest a cloud of grieving o’er the brightness of thine eyne?

Thou shouldst rather be heart-uplifted, for bowed in subjection to thee

This day are my land and my castles and all her chivalry.”

“Nay, I do well to be weeping,” unto him did the maid-queen say;

“My heart for the sake of thy sister is in bitterness this day,

That I see her beside one sitting who is nought but thy vassal, thy thrall!

Well may I weep unceasing that she unto this should fall.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “Thy peace as now do thou hold.

Unto thee at a fitting season shall all the tale be told,

For what cause unto this Siegfried I have given my sister to wife.

A blessing on them! With the hero be hers a happy life!”

She answered: “I cease not to pity her fairness, her royal birth.

Of a truth would I flee hence, knew I a place of refuge on earth!

—Never, I tell thee, never will I couch me by thy side,

Or ever I know cause wherefore is Kriemhild Siegfried’s bride!”

Answered and spake King Gunther to her: “Unto thee be it known,

He hath in possession castles and lands as wide as mine own.

Yea, I tell thee this of a surety, a mighty king is he,

And I give him my comely sister with a glad heart and free.”

Yet, how pleaded the King soever, she sat with lowering eyes.

But by this from the banquet-table doth many a good knight rise,

And they clash so hotly in tourney that the courts of the castle ring.

—But amidst of his guests for the host-king time traileth a broken wing.

{p. 85}

“By the side of my love, my fair one,” he thought, “how sweet to lie!”

His heart to the dream was captive, he could not thrust it by,

The dream of her lovingkindness, and all the joy thereof.

And ever on Lady Brunhild he glanced with eyes of love.

So they gave command to the good knights from tourney-sport to refrain,

For that now for the peace of the night-tide the King and his bride were fain.

And before the great hall-stairway face to face they met,

Kriemhild and Brunhild—nothing had sundered their love as yet.

Followed the train of the handmaids; they lingered there no more

As on to the bridal-chamber the torches led before.

Now came the Kings, and parted the knights of either’s train.

Then followed after Siegfried full many a noble thane.

Now over the bridal threshold are King and Hero gone,

And the heart of either was leaping at the thought of a winsome one,

And of Love the Overcomer—how glad were their souls for this!

And for Siegfried the arms of the loving were a haven of infinite bliss.

As Siegfried the hero gathered Kriemhild unto his breast,

And poured out his love upon her in the glory of love’s twin-rest,

As a knight all-courteous, his darling became unto him as his life.

Not for a thousand fair ones had he given his belovèd—his wife!

Now no more singeth the minstrel of his joy in that lady bright;

But thereafter the story telleth how Gunther fared that night

In the bride-bower of Queen Brunhild—O me, that gentle thane

By any other woman in easier plight had lain!

All folk were gone out from before him, maid and man were gone:

Fast shut was the door of the bridal bower; they twain were alone.

He looked that in arms fond-clasping he should fold her loveliness—

Ah, not but through weary waiting he won her and bitter stress!

Vestured in fair white linen to the couch that Lady passed;

And the noble knight to his heart cried—“Now all is mine at last,

Even all that mine heart hath longed for my life through unto this hour!”

Well might she to him be delightsome for her beauty’s priceless dower.

{p. 86}

Then the hand of the King in a darkling nook set the lamp aside;

And he turned him, the valiant warrior, to the bed of the maiden bride,

And he laid himself anear her, and the tide of his joy was at flood,

As he stretched arms fain of embracing to that glory of womanhood.

Upon nought but gentle dalliance the King in that sweet hour thought,

Had the noble lady but suffered the will of love to be wrought.

But she raged with exceeding fury, that the heart of the King was stung:

He looked but for lovingkindness, and hate in his face was flung.

For she said to him, “Noble warrior, I say unto thee, refrain!

That which thine heart desireth in no wise shalt thou attain.

I still will abide a maiden, Sir King, I do thee to wit,

Till I know truth touching Siegfried.” Then the flame of his wrath was lit.

By force he essayed to embrace her, that her fair white vesture was torn.

Then the proud maid caught at her girdle in her terrible anger and scorn,

Wherewithal was her waist encompassed—it was strong as an iron chain—

Therewith did she deal King Gunther exceeding bitter pain.

For she gripped him, she bound together his feet and his hands withal:

To a staple of iron she bare him, and hung him thence by the wall.

“Thy love shall not trouble my slumber!” she laughed with bitter breath.

Her terrible strength had thrust him well-nigh through the gates of death.

Then fell he to make supplication—he who should be her lord!—

“O noble Queen, I beseech thee, loose from the captive the cord!

Fair Lady, I pledge me never to essay thy will to constrain.

Long shall it be of a surety ere I couch me nigh thee again.”

She recked not how fared it with Gunther, so she all restfully lay.

There must he hang in torment through the weary night till the day,

Yea, until shot through the casement were the shafts of the dawning light.

—Had he ever been stalwart of body, now passing faint was his might!

“Make answer to me, Lord Gunther, wouldst haply be sore dismayed

If thy chamberlains entered and found thee,” spake that lovely maid,

“Hanging a shackled captive, by a woman’s hand so bound?”

But he answered, “Therein thy dishonour and thine own hurt should be found.

{p. 87}

Yea also, and little honour,” said the King, “were this for me.

By thy queenly heart and thy kindness, let me now draw nigh unto thee!

And if thou dost abhor my embraces, and my love dost wholly contemn,

This hand of mine shall touch not so much as thy vesture’s hem.”

Then loosed she the King, that hanging he should not longer abide;

And he went to the couch, and he laid him in sooth by that fair one’s side,

Yet so far off, and he bare him so fearful-reverent,

That he stirred not her fine-spun vesture; nor once did her heart relent.

Then came who waited upon them, which bare to them fresh attire

Whereof upon such a morning was more than heart could desire.

But, how blithe soe’er were his people, in bitter heaviness

Went the Lord of the land: on his forehead did the crown royal heavily press.

After the land’s old custom, whereunto bound are kings,

Gunther and Brunhild forbore not from observance of holy things.

So passed they on to the minster, and the mass-chant rolled along

The aisles: thither also Siegfried came, and a mighty throng.

As beseemeth the honour of kingfolk, ready were all things found

Which were meet for their arraying, wherein to be robed and crowned,

And the oil of consecration. Now all hath been done aright,

And they four, joy-triumphant, stand crowned in all men’s sight.

Unto squires was the accolade given in honour of the King,

To six hundred, yea, more it may be, as the olden minstrels sing.

High swelled the tides of joyance through all Burgundia-land

As the lances crashed and splintered in the sworded warrior’s hand.

There sat on high at the casements the lovely maidens arow;

Lightened before them ever the shield-flash to and fro.

But the King the while had sundered himself from his vassal-train:

What sport they devised soever, it could not salve his pain.

Far other than Gunther’s anguish was Siegfried’s happy mood;

Well he divined what ailed him, that noble knight and good.

So to the King hath he hied him, and questioneth lovingly:

“How fared with you twain the night-tide? I pray thee tell unto me.”

{p. 88}

And the host to the guest made answer: “My portion is scathe and shame!

To mine house a very demon have I brought for wedded dame!

When I thought to embrace her, swiftly my limbs into bonds she flung:

To an iron staple she bare me, and against the wall she hung.

There swung I sore in torment the long night through till the day

Or ever she deigned to unbind me—and she all restfully lay!

Lo, this is my bitter secret—O true friend, pity thou me!”

Made answer Siegfried the mighty: “Of a truth I sorrow for thee.

Yea, this will I prove, if for thy part thou count not the deed for despite.

I will bring to pass her submission to couch by thy side this night;

And she shall not spurn thine embraces from this time forth again.”

After all his anguish the war-king for the word was exceeding fain.

(C) “Look on mine hands, and mark them, how bruised and swollen are they:

Her grip thereon was so mighty, as a babe in her arms I lay:

From beneath my nails was bursting the blood, and earthward dripped.

No whit in that hour I doubted that my throat by death was gripped.”

Answered him Siegfried the stalwart: “Fear not, all yet shall be well.

Far other was my well-faring from thine when the darkness fell.

Unto me is Kriemhild thy sister dear as limb and life!

Yea, also to-night must Brunhild become in truth thy wife.

I will come when the daylight endeth unto thy bridal bower

So veiled in my Hood of Darkness, the screen of magic power,

That of these my cunning devices no man on earth may be ware.

First bid thou thy lords of the chamber that unto their lodging they fare.

The lights in the hands of the pages will I darken suddenly,

And that same manifest token shall then be a sign unto thee

That I have entered the chamber. I will surely tame thy wife:

’Neath the yoke of love shall she bow her—or forfeited be my life!”

“But not ’neath the yoke of thy love!” cried the King in sudden fear.

“Be all the rest as thou sayest; but she still is my wife most dear.

Yet—though in the grapple thou slay her, if it may not better be,

Even so could I hold thee guiltless, for a fearful bride is she!”

{p. 89}

“Thereunto I plight me,” said Siegfried; “be mine honour the pledge thereof.

For me shall she still be virgin. Thy sister hath all my love:

She far above all earth’s daughters that mine eyes have seen is preferred.”

Then with all his heart King Gunther gave credence to Siegfried’s word.

The rapture and travail of jousting went on without surcease,

Till over the clangour and clamour the marshal’s voice cried “Peace!”

For now would the ladies be passing to the hall where the feast was dight:

And the chamberlains bade all people avoid from their path forthright.

Cleared was the castle courtyard of armèd knight and steed.

Then each fair Queen to the feast-hall did the hand of a bishop lead,

As these passed in to the banquet before those war-kings twain:

And after them thronged to the high-seats many a chosen thane.

In high-wrought expectation by his wife’s side sat the King,

For aye did the promise of Siegfried within the heart of him sing.

Unto him that one day’s evening was as thirty days by seeming,

For still on the love of Brunhild his trancèd soul was dreaming.

Scarce could he tarry till ended was the banquet-festival;

But at last rose Brunhild the lovely, and passed forth out of the hall,

And forth of the feast went Kriemhild; for the slumber-tide was nigh.

What throngs of valiant barons stood up as the Queens swept by!

Now a little while thereafter, as, with Siegfried at her side,

In the joy and trust of the wedded sat Kriemhild his fair bride,

His hands she lovingly folded in her fingers snowy-fair;—

He was gone from her—how, she knew not; but she saw him no more there!

Even now his hand was she fondling—and now she saw him no more!

Then to the train of her handmaids the Queen spake wondering sore:

“Exceedingly do I marvel whither my lord is gone,

Who out of my clasping fingers his hands even now hath drawn!”

Then her wonder fell to silence. But he hasted to Gunther’s door,

And bearing the lamps the pages were standing therebefore.

{p. 90}

In their hands all suddenly quenched he the lights that the chamberlains bare;

And Gunther knew by the token that now was Siegfried there.

Well knew he what was his purpose: he sent forth thence each one,

Each handmaid and dame of the chamber: so soon as his hest was done,

That noble King with his own hand shut the bower-door fast,

And strong bolts twain right swiftly through the iron staples passed.

The hand of the King in a darkling nook set the lamp aside.

Now a trial of strength beginneth which of sore need must betide

Of strong hero and lovely maiden, a strife of bitter strain;

And the same was for King Gunther full fraught with joy and pain.

For now to the couch stole Siegfried, and laid him down by the Queen;

And she said, “Refrain thee, Gunther—ay, though thy longing be keen!—

Lest thou get to thyself sore anguish, even as yesternight.”

—Of a truth, ere all was ended, he was oft in desperate plight.

He locked his lips from speaking, he uttered never a word;

And, albeit he said nought, Gunther full keenly hearkened and heard

That by word or by deed in secret nothing by them was done.

—Good sooth, it was no soft lying that these on the bride-bed won!

He made as though he were Gunther, Burgundia’s mighty King;

And around that peerless maiden a sudden arm did he fling.

But forth of the couch she hurled him, and against a high-seat dashed,

That his brows against the footstool thereof full heavily crashed.

Then leapt to his feet the hero, and he summoned up all his might

To essay it with better fortune; and these twain closed in a fight

Wherein he strove to tame her, and bitter she made it for him.

—Never, I ween, of woman was made a defence so grim!

Forasmuch as he would not refrain him, the Maiden sprang full-height—

“How dar’st thou so much as ruffle the hem of my vesture white,

Thou insolent knave, thou ruffian? The deed shalt thou dearly abide!

Yea, now will I make thee to know it!” that warrior maiden cried.

{p. 91}

Arms like unto bands of iron she locked round the valiant thane.

She was minded in fetters to lay him even as the King had lain,

That still she might lie untroubled in the peace of her maiden sleep.

That he touched but her vesture, how fiercely did the flame of her fury upleap!

Despite his brawny sinews, in his magic power’s despite,

She gave dread proof to the hero of her matchless bodily might:

She bare him resistlessly backward with overmastering stress.

As in vice of steel she crushed him ’twixt the bed and an oaken press.

“Out on it!” his heart indignant cried; “if my limb and life

Be lost at the hands of a maiden, then every shrewish wife—

Who had dreamed not else of rebellion—against her lord shall upraise

Malapert brows of defiance through all earth’s coming days!”

Now the King heard all: for his champion with exceeding fear was he filled.

Then swift through the heart of Siegfried fierce shame and anger thrilled.

With the might of the Dwarfs and the Giants he hurled himself on his foe,

And strained his strength against Brunhild as in fury of madness-throe.

(C) Yea, even as she thrust him backward, it spurred his fury on,

So stinging each mighty sinew, that, spite of her vantage won,

He upwrithed himself against her: the flame of his rage outflashed,

And from wall unto wall of the chamber those wrestlers hurtled and crashed.

(C) Great fear and tribulation the King endured in that hour:

Oft must he flee before them to this side and that of the bower.

So furiously they grappled and strained, that a marvel it seemed

That out of the hands of each other their very lives were redeemed.

(C) In anguish of dread King Gunther trembled for each of twain;

But most was his spirit quaking lest Siegfried should be slain.

Oft thought he, “The life of the hero is well nigh reft by the maid!”

Had he but dared to essay it, he would fain have gone to his aid.

(C) Long, long between those wrestlers endured that desperate strife:

But he slowly at last bare backward to the couch that maiden-wife.

How grimly she fought soever, her strength waxed faint at the last:

But aye through the heart of Gunther a tumult of wild thoughts passed.

{p. 92}

Long, long it seemed unto Gunther ere Siegfried tamed her mood.

Her grip on his hands was so mighty that from ’neath his nails the blood

At her terrible crushing spirted, that his soul was wrung with pain:

Yet he wore her down by his stubborn endurance, and forced to refrain

From the fury of eager onset, from the erstwhile tiger-leap.

—Ware of all this was Gunther, though he hearkened in silence deep.

He crushed her against the bed-beam, that for pain aloud she cried;

For the strength of Siegfried the mighty tortured at last the bride.

In a desperate hope, at the girdle that around her sides she wore

She snatched, if she haply might bind him; but this from her grasp he tore.

Her joints are strained unto breaking, on the rack is her fainting frame—

Lo, now is the strife’s decision: wife to the King is the dame.

She moaned, “O king and hero, take not my life from me!

Atoned for in wifely duty shall be all scathe done unto thee!

Against thy noble embraces myself no more do I ward.

At last have I throughly proved it, that thou art master and lord.”

Uprose from the grapple Siegfried—while faint lay the panting bride—

Back drew he as though he were minded to put but his raiment aside:

Yet first did he draw from her finger a little golden ring;

But thereof the Queen outwearied knew not anything.

That silken marvel, her girdle, for a trophy withal took he:

I know not if haply he did it in pride of victory.

To his wife he gave them thereafter—his own bane came thereof!

He is gone; and the King and Brunhild are alone in the bed of love.

All in the old sweet fashion he gathered her unto his breast:

The erstwhile shame and the anger are for ever laid to rest.

As Love the Overcomer prevailed, her cheek waxed wan—

There is no more Brunhild the Maiden, and her might as a dream is gone!

O yea, she is now no stronger than any woman beside!

He poured out his love upon her, he cherished his winsome bride.

Ay, though she now should withstand him, what were her strength made frail?

Unto Gunther is victory given by Love who is strong to prevail.

{p. 93}

Ah, in what lovingkindness the knight and the lady lay

Through the glory-litten darkness till the shadows fled away!

But long since had the hero Siegfried from the Bower of Slain Hate hied

To the welcoming arms of the lovely, to the lips of a waiting bride.

Lightly he put by questions that trembled on her tongue;

And he kept those victory-trophies hidden from sight full long,

Until to his Queen in his kingdom he gave, afar and late,

The Gifts of Doom—how little availeth to strive with fate!

That King on the morrow’s dawning far blither was of cheer

Than yestermorn: through the marches of his kingdom far and near

High swelled the tides of joyance in stately homes and fair;

And the guests to the palace bidden rendered him homage there.

Through days twice seven lasted the joy of the bridal-feast,

So that in all that season never the music ceased

Of all manner of mirth and pastime that the wit of man may devise:

And all was at Gunther’s charges at his marriage-solemnities.

The noble Gunther’s kinsmen, according to his behest,

Gave gifts of gold in his honour, and many a rich-wrought vest.

Silver withal and horses on the wandering bard they bestowed:

All lovers of royal bounty from Worms glad-hearted rode.

Yea, also Siegfried the Hero, the Prince of the Nether Land,

Caused all the goodly raiment that was brought by his Niblung band,

His thousand, to Rhine, to be given to whosoever might crave,

Fair horses withal, and saddles: like kings his vassals gave.

Ere the giving of costly presents to an end had wholly come,

Long seemed the time to the sated guests that yearned for home.

Ne’er with such royal bounty were desires of guests fulfilled.

So ended the marriage high-tide, and all was as Gunther willed.

How Siegfried and his Wife journeyed Home

{p. 94}

Now so soon as the guests of Gunther had wended all away,

Then spake the Son of Siegmund unto them of his vassal-array:

“Time is it we made us ready to our fatherland to ride.”

Right glad to hear that saying was the heart of Kriemhild the bride.

Then spake she unto her husband: “How soon is thy mind to depart?

So hastily hence to be faring is nowise after mine heart,

Ere my brethren divide me my portion of the land of Burgundy.”

But vexed was the soul of Siegfried that such her desire should be.

Then came unto him the Princes, and with one voice spake all three:

“We do thee to wit, Lord Siegfried, that for aye are we bound unto thee

In loyalty of service, so long as life shall remain.”

Unto this their gracious tender low bowed that royal thane.

“We will give thee withal thy portion,” the young lord Giselher cried,

“Of all that we hold in possession, of our castles and manors wide,

And of all this mighty kingdom the rule whereof we claim.

Yea, thou receivest with Kriemhild thine own full share of the same.”

Made answer then to the Princes the son of Siegmund the King,

When he heard the speech of their kindness and their royal offering:

“God seal unto you by His blessing your heritage all your life,

And therewithal its people: but this my beloved wife,

No need hath she of the portion that ye so freely would give.

Where she shall reign a crowned queen—if to see that day we live—

There shall she be far richer than any the wide world through.

For all that beside ye have proffered I am ever beholden to you.”

Then answered the Lady Kriemhild: “Though lightly thou reck of my land,

As touching the thanes Burgundian not so doth the matter stand:

For the escort-royal homeward these may no king disdain.

Let my loving brethren give me of these for my princely train.”

{p. 95}

Answered and spake Lord Gernot: “Whomsoever thou wilt, take thou.

Thou shalt find here many that gladly will ride with thee, I trow.

There be good knights thirty hundred; take thee a thousand of these

For thy palace-retainers.” Kriemhild ’gan send forth messages

Unto Hagen of Troneg and Ortwein, and asked that mighty twain

If they and their kinsmen accepted Kriemhild for suzerain.

But an answer of scornful anger from Hagen her message won:

“Unto no one on earth can Gunther pass us as chattels on!

Let other escort-vassals with you on your journey go.

The Law of the Men of Troneg full well by this should ye know:

We be bound to abide with our liege-lord the King in hall and field,

And to them which have had our homage, our homage ever to yield.”

So they spake no more of the matter, but they dight them for the way;

And Kriemhild took for escort of her noble palace-array

Two-and-thirty maidens, and of knights five hundred men;

And Eckwart Lord of the Marches went forth with Kriemhild then.

All these took leave of their people, from the henchman unto the knight,

The stately dame and the handmaid, even as was meet and right:

With manifold clasping and kissing was wrought that sundering.

So fared they forth blithe-hearted from the land of Gunther the King.

Far on the way with them kinsfolk for friendship and honour fared.

Unto Burgundy’s uttermost marches for their resting was lodging prepared

Wheresoe’er in the land of Gunther they chose to abide for the night.

Therewithal to the old king Siegmund were messengers sent forthright,

To bear unto him the tidings and to Siegelind the Queen

That his son and the Daughter of Uta full soon at his gates should be seen,

Kriemhild the Fair, from the City of Worms, from the Rhine-stronghold.

Never could welcomer tidings in the ears of these be told.

“Happy am I,” cried Siegmund, “that I live to see the day

When in this land Kriemhild the Lovely shall be crowned for royal sway!

Henceforth shall my father’s kingdom yet higher in honour stand,

For now shall my son, my Siegfried, himself be king of the land.”

{p. 96}

Then Siegelind gave to the heralds for vesture the velvet red

And the massy gold and the silver, their guerdon for tidings sped.

She joyed beyond words for the story, she had gotten her heart’s desire.

And all her palace-maidens made ready their fairest attire.

Each told unto other what escort drew with Siegfried near;

And they gave command that the craftsmen should the ranks of the high-seats rear

Wherefrom all friends should behold him crowned their king ere long.

Then rode forth onward to meet them King Siegmund’s vassal-throng.

If ever was royaller welcome, thereof have I heard not yet

Than this wherewith were the heroes in the land of Siegmund met.

Forth to the meeting with Kriemhild did Siegfried’s mother ride

With many a lovely lady and valiant knight at her side.

A day’s march rode they, or ever those guests they might behold.

Home-dwellers and far-comers alike were restless-souled

Till they met at the last by a fortress with towers encompassed round,

Xanten its name, where Siegfried and Kriemhild ere long should be crowned.

With smiling lips King Siegmund and Siegelind greeted there

With kisses on loving kisses Queen Uta’s daughter fair

And Siegfried the Knight—for his safety had their hearts been long in pain;—

And they gave withal glad welcome unto all his escort-train.

Into the hall of Siegmund the long-desired led they;

And unto the winsome handmaids was many a hand straightway

Upreached, from the palfreys to lift them: knights many of high degree

Waited on those fair ladies with eager courtesy.

How splendid soever the bridal had been where Rhine-river flowed,

This day far goodlier raiment on the hero-guests they bestowed

For the marriage-feast, than ever had arrayed them in all their days.

Of the wealth of their kingdom marvels are sung in the minstrels’ praise.

So sat they high in honour amid all that heart desired.

In what gold-broidered vesture were the palace-pages attired!

{p. 97}

With needlework laid were their garments and the gemstone’s starry sheen

By the heedful care provided of Siegelind the Queen.

Then in his leal friends’ presence did Siegmund rise and say:

“Be it known unto all my lovers and all my folk this day

That from this hour forward Siegfried the crown of my lordship shall wear.”

And with joy that proclamation did the men of the Netherland hear.

Unto Siegfried his crown he committed, his land, and the power of the sword.

Henceforth was he lord and master: as he spake in judgment’s award,

As he visited for transgression, his word was the whole land’s law,

So that under the lord of Kriemhild all men bowed down in awe.

In the midst of such high honour he lived—this witness is true—

Doing crowned kings’ judgment and justice, till onward the tenth year drew.

And now to the fair Queen Kriemhild was born at the last a son

In whom for the kinsmen of Siegfried all hope and desire were won.

They bare to the font baptismal the babe, and they chose him a name,

The name of his uncle Gunther—thereof could he take no shame.

So he grew unto man like his kinsman, a valiant lord should he be.

And with watchful love, as behoved them, they nurtured him heedfully.

Now it came to pass that in those days did the Lady Siegelind die,

And to Uta’s noble daughter passed all her majesty,

As beseemed so royal a lady in the land where her lord bare sway:

Yet sorely for her they lamented whom death had taken away.

Now also beside Rhine-river, as the olden minstrels sing,

In that fair land Burgundian unto Gunther the mighty king

The Queen, even Brunhild the lovely, had also borne a son.

Siegfried, for love of the Hero, they named that little one.

Ah, with what care exceeding they watched his childhood-days!

Wise warders Gunther appointed to rear him in wisdom’s ways,

Even all that for noble manhood and knightly should stand him in stead.

—Ah me, what woes from his kinsfolk lighted on that child’s head!

{p. 98}

Through the golden years was the story aye published far and wide

In what fashion those valiant barons in princely pomp and pride

Lived in the land of Siegmund through the happy-fleeting days.

Yea, Gunther withal with his kinsfolk dwelt amid all men’s praise.

All the land of the Niblungs was bowed under Siegfried’s sway,

—Such wealth had none of his kinsfolk as gathered in that Hoard lay—

With all the knights of Schilbung and the slain kings’ treasure-store;

And for this cause heart-uplifted was the hero yet the more.

Yea, a Hoard, of treasures the hugest that ever hero won,

Save the lords that of old possessed it, had Siegfried gained for his own,

The which by the Misty Mountain his right hand took in fight,

When he dealt for its sake the death-stroke unto many a stalwart knight.

He was crowned with the fulness of honour—yea, had his portion been less,

Yet of that noble warrior all men must needs confess

That of all knights this was the chiefest that ever backed a steed.

Men dreaded his might—and reason had they in veriest deed!

How Gunther bade Siegfried to a Festival

Now through all these years ever Brunhild the Queen to her own heart said:

“How comes it that Lady Kriemhild beareth so proudly her head?

And yet is her husband Siegfried nought but our vassal, I trow;

Yet for long hath he rendered homage or service little enow!”

So bare she in secret a burden of brooding and heart’s unrest,

And that these in a far land tarried was ever a thorn in her breast,

Yea also, that none brought tribute to her out of Siegfried’s land;

How it befell she knew not, and she wearied to understand.

Then made she trial of Gunther, if haply she might attain

Her purpose, to meet Queen Kriemhild face to face again;

{p. 99}

And she took with him secret counsel for that whereon aye did she brood.

But the word of the Queen unto Gunther seemed in no wise good.

“How might we bring them hither?” that noble King replied,

“Even to this our kingdom? The thing can never betide.

Too far is their dwelling: I dare not ask that this might be!”

But Brunhild to him made answer with speech of subtlety:

“And be he never so mighty, who is vassal still to a King,

Whatsoever his liege-lord biddeth, of force must he do the thing.”

Smiled Gunther for this delusion that in her heart had place—

Little he thought on homage when he looked upon Siegfried’s face.

“Nay, dear my lord,” she made answer, “I pray thee, help me herein—

By my love I beseech thee—that Siegfried and thy sister Kriemhild the Queen

May come unto this thy kingdom, that we may behold them here.

In all this world could be given no joy to mine heart more dear.

That gracious mien of thy sister, and her queenly courtesy,

Still as I muse thereover, how sweet is the memory,

How we sat at the feast of my bridal side by side at the board!

In sooth hath she chosen with honour Siegfried the brave for her lord.”

She lay on him sore in entreaty, that at last King Gunther said:

“Now know, that no guests more welcome my feast-hall floor could tread.

Lightly is gained thy petition: swift messengers of mine

Shall be sent unto them, to bid them come unto us by Rhine.”

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “Now shalt thou tell unto me

When thou wilt send to bid them, and how many days shall it be

Ere come into this our kingdom the friends we love so well.

And whom thou wilt send to bid them unto me beforehand tell.”

“Yea,” answered the King, “that will I: There shall go of my knightly array

Thirty thitherward riding.” For these did he send straightway;

And with that message he charged them, to bear it to Siegfried’s land.

Rich raiment to gladden their spirits received they of Brunhild’s hand.

“My knights, ye shall take this message from me”; thus spake the King;

“And of all wherewith I have charged you withhold not anything.

{p. 100}

Say unto Siegfried the mighty, and unto my sister say,

That in all this world may no one be dearer to me than they.

And pray them to come to their kinsfolk here beside Rhine-river:

And for this unto them shall Brunhild and I be beholden ever.

Ere summer to autumn waneth full many shall he see here,

Even he and his men, that in honour hold him passing dear.

And bear ye to King Siegmund my service in courtesy,

And say that to him aye bounden my friends and I shall be:

And pray ye also my sister that she tarry not to ride

To her friends—she hath lighted never on so worthy a festal-tide.”

Brunhild withal, and Uta, yea, every high-born dame

Unto the land of Siegfried fair greeting sent by name

To their kinsfolk and their acquaintance, fair lady and valiant knight.

So, sped by King and Council, they hasted thence forthright;

For they stood all girt for the journey, seeing all things ready to hand

Had they, their horses, their raiment: so rode they forth of the land.

On to the goal they hasted whereunto their hearts were bent.

Strong escort on that wayfaring to guard them the King had sent.

So it was, on the twelfth day’s dawning they came to the Niblung land,

To the fencèd city, whither they were sent by the King’s command.

Afar on the marches of Norway that hero-thane found they:

And by this were steed and rider forwearied with all the way.

Unto Siegfried and unto Kriemhild were tidings borne with speed

That knights were come to their castle arrayed in suchlike weed

As folk in the land Burgundian were wont to wear alway.

Then leapt from the couch that lady, where resting yet she lay;

And a certain one of her handmaids she bade to the casement go,

Who beheld the valiant Gere in the court stand therebelow,

Even him and his fellow-farers which thither from far had sped.

All heart-ache of the exile like a dream at the tidings fled.

And she cried aloud unto Siegfried: “Behold how there they wait,

These that with Gere the stalwart have ridden through our gate,

{p. 101}

These whom my brother Gunther unto us down Rhine-flood sends!”

Made answer Siegfried the mighty, “Welcome to us be our friends!”

Straightway beholding them hasted to greet them squire and knight,

And this one and that with welcome hailed them, and, each as he might,

They paid to the heralds royal all loving courtesies.

Yea, also the old King Siegmund rejoiced for the coming of these.

So when they had given fair lodging to Gere and all his men,

And had stabled in stall their horses, they led those messengers then

To the place where sat King Siegfried with Kriemhild at his side,

Even the Hall of the Presence, when his pleasure was signified.

Then the King and the Queen from their high-seats rose up at their entering-in,

And they graciously greeted the envoys of their far Burgundian kin,

Even these and their fellow-farers, King Gunther’s liegemen all,

And entreated Gere the noble, “Sit thou with us in the hall.”

“Let us first of our message acquit us, ere we sit down to rest:

So long let him stand in thy presence, thy travel-weary guest;

And so shall the word be spoken which is sent unto you of the King,

Of Gunther, and of Queen Brunhild. In bliss be they prospering.

From the Lady Uta thy mother, O Queen, have we also a word,

And from Giselher the stripling, and from Gernot the royal lord,

And from all your nearest kinsfolk: hither have these sent us

From Burgundia-land with greetings exceeding courteous.”

“God guerdon them!” said Siegfried; “I put my trust alway

In their love and their faith true-hearted, as friend with friend doth aye:

This doth withal their sister. Now shall ye further tell

If our friends in their far-off homeland be merry, and all go well.

Since the day that we parted from them, hath any evil been done

By a foe to my Lady’s brethren? Concerning this say on.

In loyal faith will I help them aye to the uttermost.

Of my service to these shall foemen learn to their bitter cost.”

{p. 102}

Answered the Lord of the Marches, Gere, a right good knight:

“In chivalry and in joyance be all things going aright;

And they bid you now unto Rhineland to a glorious festal-tide.

Glad shall they be to behold you, hereof be ye certified.

They beseech my Lady Kriemhild withal that she come with thee

So soon as the feet of the winter from the face of the spring shall flee.

Or ever the summer waneth full fain would they look upon you.”

Answered Siegfried the mighty, “Not lightly this may I do!”

But Gere the earl Burgundian spake on furthermore:

“Nay also Uta your mother beseecheth you very sore,

And Giselher and Gernot: ye may not say them nay.

That ye dwell so far from their faces is their sorrow day by day.

Brunhild withal my Lady and her maidens in bower and hall

Rejoice over this my message; and if haply it might befall

That they look once more on your faces, heart-uplifted they were.”

Then exceeding glad for the tidings was Kriemhild the loving and fair.

Now the Queen’s near kinsman was Gere, and the King bade seat him on high,

And pour them the wine of welcome; no more might they put it by.

Thither withal came Siegmund, and rejoiced their faces to see;

And the old king lovingly greeted the heralds of Burgundy:

“Welcome to us, ye liegemen of Gunther, knight and thane!

Behold, forasmuch as Siegfried my son to wife hath ta’en

Kriemhild, the great King’s sister, more oft should we see you thus

Guests in our land, if closer ye would knit up friendship with us.”

And they cried, whensoe’er it should please him, with joyful hearts would they come.

From their limbs was weariness banished, by gladness stolen therefrom.

Then the horns blew up to the banquet, and they feasted with all good cheer,

For Siegfried had bidden lavish the best upon friends so dear.

{p. 103}

Till nine full days were accomplished, they constrained them there to abide,

Till the eager knights uplifted a voice of complaining, and cried:

“Will ye aye withhold us from riding back to our land at all?”

Then to a council did Siegfried his friends and his kinsmen call.

He prayed them to give their counsel, should he go to the Rhine or forbear:

“Gunther, my fair Queen’s brother, entreateth me to fare

To the land where he and his brethren a mighty feast will array;

And fain would I go, but his kingdom is exceeding far away.

And they make request that Kriemhild shall thitherward fare with me.

Give counsel, friends and kinsmen, shall this her journey be?

Were it but to lead through kingdoms thrice ten a warrior-band,

Glad help and willing service should they have of Siegfried’s hand.”

Unto him did the knights make answer: “If thy will and thy pleasure it is

To journey to this high feast-tide, our rede unto thee is this:

With good knights twice five hundred hence shalt thou ride to the Rhine,

So through all thy stay in Burgundia shall royal honour be thine.”

Then spake the old king Siegmund, erewhile the Netherland’s Lord:

“Wouldst thou to a feast-tide, and tellest to me thereof no word!

Even I will be your companion, if this content you well,

And thanes of my train a hundred your guard-array shall swell.”

“If thou, O father beloved, wilt ride in our company,”

Made answer Siegfried the dauntless, “a joy shall it be unto me.

Ere twelve days have passed over, I ride forth out of our land.”

Then gave they horses and raiment unto all that should be of their band.

When therefore set on the journey was the heart of that king of men,

They suffered the eager envoys to ride thence homeward again;

And he charged them to say to the brethren of Kriemhild, by Rhine-river side,

That Siegfried joyful-hearted would come to their festival-tide.

Siegfried the hero and Kriemhild, as telleth the minstrel’s tale,

So laded with presents the heralds, that their own steeds could not avail

To bear all the guerdon homeward, so wealthy a lord was he:

So they drove it on sumpter-horses, journeying joyfully.

{p. 104}

To their people was raiment given by Siegfried and Siegmund his sire;

And Eckwart, Lord of the Marches, bade seek out splendid attire

For the ladies of Kriemhild, the richest vesture that might be found

Or be won by diligent searching in all the land around.

Goodly saddles and bucklers they bade the craftsmen prepare

For the noble knights and ladies that with him were bidden to fare.

Nought lacked they; all that they asked for was given with open hand.

So brought he guests most princely to his friends in the far-off land.

Meanwhile are the envoys returning, and ever they speed on fast.

So cometh the proud thane Gere to Burgundia-land at last,

And with honour there is he welcomed. Down to the earth they spring

From saddle of steed and palfrey in front of the hall of the King.

Forth poured the youths and the elders, as folk be wont to do,

And asked of him touching his tidings. Made answer the knight thereto:

“When I speak to the King my message, unto you shall the same be known.”

So entered he in with his comrades where Gunther sat on his throne.

Upleapt the King from the high-seat, and bright for joy was his face.

Brunhild withal the lovely thanked them with queenly grace

For this their speedy returning, and the King to the messengers spake:

“How fareth Siegfried, who ofttimes hath ventured his life for my sake?”

Made answer Gere the valiant: “For joy was his face aflame,

Even his and thy sister’s. Message so gracious never came

From any man aforetime that would greet far-sundered friends,

As now unto you with his father the noble Siegfried sends.”

Then of the Lord of the Marches the King’s wife questioned and cried:

“Answer me, cometh Kriemhild? As of old is her beauty’s pride

And the grace of the queenly bearing that to her did of yore appertain?”

“O yea, of a surety she cometh,” made answer Gere the thane.

Then the herald at Uta’s bidding came before that Queen,

And now by her eager asking all in a moment was seen

Whereunto was her whole heart yearning—“How hath my child’s weal sped?”

And he said, “She is well, and she cometh ere many days be fled.”

{p. 105}

Then showed they the herald’s guerdon in the palace for all to behold,

The gifts of the hand of Siegfried, the raiment and the gold:

Nothing thereof was hidden from the three Kings’ vassalry.

All rendered the hero honour for his bounty and courtesy.

“Ha! well may the man,” cried Hagen, “with full hand give away.

Ne’er could he spend his treasure, not though he should live for aye.

The Hoard of the Niblungs lieth in the hollow of his hand!

—Ha, if the same came ever hither to Burgundy-land!”

Right glad in court and castle were all the thanes when they heard

Of the friends that should come; and a spirit of diligent toiling stirred

In all men late and early, yea, in all the Kings’ array.

Long ranks of stately high-seats afront of the burg reared they.

There toiling was Hunold the valiant, there toiling was Sindold the thane:

Full little rest they tasted, in their office as laboured the twain,

Steward and cupbearer-royal, as the seats rose rank on rank:

There daily was Ortwein helping; and Gunther rendered them thank.

Rumold the feast-arrayer, how urged he on at that tide

The vassalry of the kitchen!—full many a caldron wide,

Skillet and seething-vessel—how shone they in line on line

For the ordering of the feasting of the guests of the Land of Rhine!

(C) Toiled also the palace-maidens in many a fair device:

They broidered the costly loomwork, and many a gem of price

They set in the midst of the gold thread, that far its splendour shone.

Was none but thanked them and praised them as they cunningly laid them thereon.

How they Fared to the Feast-tide

{p. 106}

From the tale of their diligent toiling awhile refraineth the song,

And telleth how Lady Kriemhild and all her handmaid-throng

Set forth from the land of the Niblungs to the realms by Rhine to fare.

Never such wealth of royal vesture did horses bear:

For with many a casket and coffer they laded the sumpter-train.

Amidst of friends and kinsmen rode Siegfried the hero-thane;

And beside him the Daughter of Princes mid dreams of gladness rode:

—Ah me, sore grief lay ambushed by the path that their horses trode!

But the little child of Siegfried, but Kriemhild’s darling one,

Safe in the home-land left they; of need must it so be done.

Begotten for him of their journey was bitter affliction and sore.

Strong father and lovely mother that child saw never more!

Beside them went forth riding Siegmund the ancient king.

Ah, had his heart foreboded what sorrow was doomed to spring

For him of that festal high-tide, he had never looked thereon!

Never from wrongs of kindred such bitter grief had he won!

Forerunners to tell of their coming betimes far onward they sent:

Then riding forth to meet them all splendour-gleaming went

Many a friend of Uta and vassal of Gunther the King:

With looking for that guest-meeting his heart was hungering.

Then went he and spake unto Brunhild, where sat the Queen in her bower:—

“When hither thou camest, how welcomed my sister thee in that hour?

So will I the wife of Siegfried should be welcomed now of thee.”

“That will I gladly,” she answered, “of right is she dear unto me.”

Thereunto the great King answered: “To-morrow betimes come they.

If thou wilt fitly receive them, lay to thine hand straightway,

{p. 107}

Lest they peradventure prevent us ere we ride from our towered home;

For guests so well-belovèd never to me have come.”

Forthwith she gave to the maidens and palace-dames her behest

To search out goodly raiment, of all their attire the best,

Wherein her retinue-royal in the presence of guests might shine:

And the same did they blithe-hearted, lightly may one divine.

Forth to the welcoming hasted all Gunther’s liegemen withal;

Yea, to ride with him to the greeting each man of his knights did he call.

There rode that Daughter of Princes in royal pomp to meet

Those dear-loved guests far-travelled, and with gracious lips to greet.

What heaped-up measure of honour in their hands to their guests did they bring!

Men thought that the Lady Brunhild had scarce such welcoming

At the hands of the Princess Kriemhild when she came to Burgundia-land.

Friends became some, that were erstwhile strangers, by clasp of hand.

By this came the band of warriors that rode at Siegfried’s side.

Men saw those ranks of heroes hitherward, thitherward ride

Through all the breadth of the lealand, a warrior-host untold:

There was no space clear from their thronging, and the clouds of dust uprolled.

When the Lord of the Land Burgundian looked upon Siegfried’s face

And the eyes of the old king Siegmund, what courtly and loving grace

Was his as he cried, “Be welcome to me, to my friends and my kin!

Well may we be glad-hearted at this your entering-in!”

“God guerdon you!” cried Siegmund, the old king honour-athirst.

“Since the day that my dear son Siegfried was won to your friend at the first,

Ever mine heart hath whispered, ‘Their faces must thou too see’.”

Spake Gunther, “Mine heart rejoiceth for that day risen on me.”

Such was the welcome of Siegfried, right worthy of such a lord.

With the love thereof and the honour were all hearts in accord:

This Gernot and Giselher bettered with their knightly courtesy.

No guests were welcomed ever, I ween, so lovingly.

{p. 108}

Unto hand-clasp and embracing the wives of the two Kings came.

Now fast were the saddles emptied, for many a comely dame

By heroes’ hands down-holpen, stood on the meadow-green.

Who joyed in the service of ladies, had work enow, I ween.

To meet and to greet each other those winsome ladies stept,

And for joy of their lovely presence full many a knight’s heart leapt,

And for joy of the gracious greeting of the glory of either land;

For beside those comely maidens did many a good knight stand.

Then did the hands kind-clasping each unto other cling:

There was grace of courtly obeisance through that bright gathering,

Sweet salutations of kisses ’twixt ladies passing fair:

And the men of Gunther and Siegfried glad-hearted watched them there.

Then tarried they there no longer, but on to the city they rode.

And the folk of the Land Burgundian by command of their Lord forthshowed

To their guests their joy of the meeting by knightly courtesies;

And through all the way they jousted to gladden the ladies’ eyes.

Hagen of Troneg and Ortwein made manifest that day

To the eyes of all beholders what stalwart knights were they:

Marshals they were of the tourney, and all men obeyed their behests;

So of these much courtly service was rendered to those dear guests.

There might ye hear shields ringing afront of the castle-gate,

Spear-snapping and buckler-crashing: long time on his charger sate

The King mid his friends there watching, or ever within they passed.

In many a knightly pastime the bright hours fleeted fast.

Unto the gate of the guest-hall rode they all joyously.

Many a rich-wrought housing fashioned fair to see

From the saddles of lovely ladies swinging on either hand

Hung to the ground. There waiting did the palace-pages stand.

Unto their several chambers by these were the guests led on;

And men marked how the eyes of Brunhild glanced ever and anon

{p. 109}

Askance at the Lady Kriemhild;—sooth, passing-fair she showed,

As her bright cheeks’ lilies and roses against the red gold glowed.

All up through the streets of the city of Worms did the glad sounds ring

Of that merry company’s thronging. His hest gave Gunther the King

Unto his marshal Dankwart to provide for all their need;

And to fair-dight harbourage therefore those several guests did he lead.

Spread was the feast in the castle and all the city through.

Never were guests from a far land so ministered unto!

Whatsoever one haply craved for, with joy unto him was it brought:

So rich was the Lord of the kingdom that from none withheld they aught.

Lovingly all folk served them and ever ungrudgingly.

The King in the great hall feasted, and amidst of his guests sat he;

And to Siegfried the place of honour, even as of old, they gave,

And with him passed in to the banquet warriors many and brave.

Yea, noble knights twelve hundred in that mighty hall were seen

With him at the banquet seated. And ever Brunhild the Queen

Thought in her heart: “Never vassal hath been so wealthy as this!”

Yet still did she bear him a kindness, and she grudged him nought of his bliss.

Mid the mirth of the summer evening as sat the King mid his guests,

Dew-sprent with the ruddy wine-drops were many rich-wrought vests,

As the cupbearers brimming the goblets from table to table went

In ever-unfailing service tireless-diligent.

In the olden courteous fashion whensoe’er was the banquet arrayed,

From the board to their bowers of slumber escorted were matron and maid.

Whence came each guest soever, he seemed the King’s chief care.

In all lovingkindness and honour had each enough and to spare.

When ended now was the night-tide, and the light of the dayspring shone,

Out of the sumpter-caskets full many a precious stone

Came flashing on rich-wrought raiment, as forth fair fingers brought

Many a royal vesture, through the scented chests as they sought.

{p. 110}

Ere day had fully broken, to the court before the hall

Came knights and squires full many, and rang from wall to wall

The tourney-clash, ere matins before the King had been sung;

And he thanked for their gallant riding those valiant knights and young.

With strenuous blast the trumpets roared through the morning air,

With pipes and drums replying; so mighty was the blare

That Worms the wide-built fortress with clamorous echoes rang.

Then here, then there the bold knights upon their chargers sprang.

Then in the Land Burgundian a glorious tourney began

Where good knights thronged to the contest: was many a valiant man

Whose young heart with glad courage was thrilled and filled to the height:

Ha! there under shield beheld they many a gallant knight.

Adown from the casements gazing in fair adornings arrayed

Were many a noble lady and many a lovely maid:

They watched while the throngs of brave men played that knightly play.

Yea, the King himself with his kinsmen rode the lists that day.

So fleeted the summer morning, and the hours seemed all too short

Ere the chiming bells of the minster summoned them from the sport.

Palfreys they brought for the ladies, and a river of splendour flowed

Through the streets as the valiant warriors behind the proud Queens rode.

They lighted down on the greensward before the minster-gate.

Still to her guests did Brunhild harbour nought of hate.

Hosts, guests, passed crowned together beneath the wide-hung dome.

—Soon all that love was sundered; sprang bitter affliction therefrom.

When the chanting of mass was ended, forth of the doors again

Came they in splendour and honour. Passed that gladsome train

On to the banquet-royal: joy knew nor stint nor stay

In the flowing tide of pleasure—till dawned the eleventh day.

(C) Yet ever the Queen was musing: “Delay no longer will I!

In such fashion will I contrive it, that Kriemhild must needs reply

Wherefore is tribute denied us by her lord thus year after year—

Yet is the man but our vassal! From searching I cannot forbear!”

{p. 111}

(C) So she bided her time till the Devil whispered to her at the last

To wither the festal glory, and pleasure with pain to blast.

The serpent of jealousy coiling round her heart to the light must come;

And therefrom through many a kingdom spread desolation and doom.

How the Queens spake bitter Words Each unto Other

It befell, ere it rang unto vespers, that the clash of joyous sport

Came up through the palace-casements from many a knight in the court

As they fell to the gallant tourney to wing with mirth the hours.

From the hall men hasted to watch them, and maidens from their bowers.

There sat those Queens together, queens famous far and near,

And of two knights still were they thinking, two knights without a peer.

Then spake Kriemhild the lovely: “My lord is such a knight

That beneath him all these kingdoms might well be bowed as of right.”

Answered the Lady Brunhild: “Tush! how may such thing be?

If there lived on the earth no mortal save only thou and he,

Then haply might this kingdom be subject to Siegmund’s son;

But so long as Gunther liveth, may such thing never be done.”

Thereto made answer Kriemhild: “Dost mark how stands he there?

With the princely pride of his presence none other knight may compare,

As the full moon in her brightness doth all the stars outshine.

Wherefore for good cause ever glad heart and proud is mine.”

But again made answer Brunhild: “Be he goodly as ye will,

And stately and noble-hearted, one standeth above him still,

Gunther, the flower of knighthood, thine high-born brother: in sooth,

High stands he above all earth-kings, and this thou knowest for truth.”

But again made answer Kriemhild: “My lord is of such high worth,

That with fullest right have I praised him for the mightiest man on earth.

{p. 112}

In many a thing is he worthy of honour’s chiefest meed.

Doth thine heart not tell thee, Brunhild, he is Gunther’s peer indeed?”

“Now this my word, O Kriemhild, take not as said in despite,

In that I say that my boasting is made of fullest right.

This said they both—I heard it, when first these twain I beheld

In the day when in my contests my will by the King’s was quelled,

When he won my love, in fashion so knightly triumphing,

Siegfried himself said, ‘Vassal am I unto Gunther the King.’

Therefore I hold him his liegeman: of himself I heard it confessed.”

Made answer Kriemhild the lovely: “For me ’twere a bitter jest!

How like were my noble brethren so to have dealt with me

That they should abase me ever the bride of a vassal to be!

Therefore will I, O Brunhild, entreat thee even as a friend—

For courtesy’s sake, and my love’s sake, let this thy babble have end.”

Made answer the Queen: “I may not refrain me from this my claim.

Am I like to renounce the service of all these knights of fame

Which, even as thine, be bounden to homage unto my lord?”

Then the anger of Kriemhild the lovely leapt into flame at the word:

“This boast, thou must needs forego it, that my lord ever on earth

Hath rendered thee aught of homage! Mine hero is more of worth

Than thy lord, my brother Gunther, be he never so noble a king.

Thou therefore shalt spare me the hearing of thy fond imagining.

Yea, needs must I marvel ever, if he be thy vassal-thane,

And thou be exalted so highly in worship above us twain,

Wherefore so long all tribute to thee hath of him been denied!

Of right I demand to be pestered no more with thine arrogant pride.”

“Too high dost thou exalt thee,” Queen Brunhild made reply:

“Now will I prove of a surety if folk account thee as high

In royal esteem and honour as they hold the Queen, even me!”

By this was the two Queens’ anger kindled unquenchably.

{p. 113}

Flashed out her answer Kriemhild: “Soon shall the issue be shown,

Since thou darest to claim my Siegfried for a vassal of thy throne!

By all the two Kings’ barons this day shall it be seen

If I dare or dare not enter the minster before the Queen!

I will show unto thee right plainly that noble am I and free!

I will prove my lord more worthy than thine may ever be!

Yea I, even I, will brook not thy malapert insults!—know,

This day shalt thyself behold it, how thy vassal—quotha!—shall go

In royal procession leading her knights in Burgundy.

Mine head shall be higher than ever it hath happed unto any to see

The head of a Daughter of Princes—though a crown make the little great!”

By this betwixt those ladies exceeding stern was the hate.

Fiercely made answer Brunhild: “Wouldst not for a vassal be known?

Then of sore need must thou sever thyself with thy train from mine own,

When subject and Queen in procession on to the minster go.”

“Of a truth,” laughed scornfully Kriemhild, “doubt not but it shall be so!”

“Now array yourselves, my maidens,” to her damsels Kriemhild cried.

“Let see if unshamed I may not within this land abide!

Be it seen to-day if ye have not royal-rich attire.

Soon shall the lie be given to herself by Brunhild the liar!”

Small need was to urge them: raiment they sought out rich and rare.

Swiftly radiant in splendour stood matron and maiden there.

Now with the train of her handmaids paced to the minster the Queen—

But lo, cometh Kriemhild the lovely, a very glory-sheen,

With maidens three-and-forty, which had fared with her unto Rhine:

In loveliest loomwork, woven in Araby, did they shine.

So royally swept the maidens up to the minster-door;

And for her the vassals of Siegfried were waiting therebefore.

Then looked the people, and marvelled for what cause this befell

That they saw the Queens from each other sundered, and none could tell

Wherefore they walked not together side by side as of old.

—Thence came unto many a baron affliction manifold.

{p. 114}

Even as in front of the minster the wife of Gunther stood,

And the gallant knights Burgundian made sport in frolic mood

With them of the Queen’s train-royal, fair dame and winsome maid,

Came thither the Lady Kriemhild with her troop all splendour-arrayed.

What raiment soever the daughter of a noble knight might wear,

By the gorgeous attire of her maidens had all been as empty air.

Her wealth was so all-unmeasured that wives of kings thrice ten

Never had shown such splendour as was flaunted by Kriemhild then.

How much he desired soever, no man had dared to say

That in all his days he had gazed on such royal-rich array

As shone in that hour on her maidens magnifical-bedight.

Never Kriemhild had done it, but to render to Brunhild despite for despite.

Each face to face met other at that wide minster-gate;

And thereat the wife of Gunther in her jealousy and hate

Cried out, “Stand still, thou Kriemhild!”—her rage in her voice rang keen—

“It beseems not the wife of a vassal to pass before a Queen!”

Swift answer made Kriemhild the lovely in angry and scornful mood:

“Hadst had but the grace to be silent, for thee had it been right good.

Thou!—thou hast on thy fair body brought shame by wantoning!

How might another’s leman ever be wife of a King?”

“Whom hast thou here named leman?”—the cry from the Queen’s lips burst.

“That have I thee!” hissed Kriemhild; “for thy fair body first

Was embraced by none other than Siegfried, mine own belovèd lord.

Of a surety it was not my brother—nay, but by him wert thou whored!

How was thy wit so hoodwinked?—a cunning wile was it all!

How couldst thou let him embrace thee who is but thy vassal-thrall?

I hear thee,” scoffed on Kriemhild, “complain where no cause is!”

“In veriest deed,” cried Brunhild, “I will tell unto Gunther this!”

“Wherein unto me is the peril? Thyself hath thine arrogance snared!

To summon me to render homage to thee hast thou dared!

This one thing know of a surety—I grieve, but the cause art thou—

All trust and friendship is ended between us for ever now.”

{p. 115}

Brake Brunhild forth into weeping: but Kriemhild tarried no more,

And before the wife of Gunther she entered the minster-door,

She and her train. Most bitter hate did her words beget.

Therefrom bright eyes full many were grief-overclouded and wet.

For all the solemn service, and the holy chant and song,

That hour of worship to Brunhild lasted all too long;

She was heart-overclouded with anguish, and darkly did she brood;

And for this full penalty lighted on warriors brave and good.

In front of the gate of the minster with her maids did Brunhild stay;

And she said to her heart: “Now Kriemhild unto me shall the whole truth say

Of those loud-throated railings, who hath whetted her tongue like a sword.

If Siegfried thus hath vaunted, his life shall pay for the word!”

Now Kriemhild with bold knights many came forth of the holy place;

And sharply spake Queen Brunhild: “Abide thou there for a space!

Thou hast chosen to call me leman: the proof thereof will I see.

Thy word, know thou, is an evil and a loathly word to me.”

Spake Kriemhild the Fair: “It were better for thee hadst thou let me go!

With the golden ring I prove it on mine hand that glittereth—lo!

Unto me did Siegfried bring this what time by thy side he lay.”

Never had dawned on Brunhild such an utter-wretched day.

She cried: “This gold ring royal—even this was stolen from me!

It hath been for long years hidden by caitiff treachery!

I am now on the track of the felon, the thief that my jewel hath ta’en!”

Raging in reinless fury were now these ladies twain.

Spake Kriemhild again: “Of thy jewel the thief was nowise I.

Far better hadst thou kept silence, hadst thou held thine honour high!

Lo, I prove it again by the girdle which compasseth my waist.

Not I am the liar!—by Siegfried first was thy body embraced.”

Fair-plaited of silk of the Orient was the girdle that she ware,

With precious stones thick-studded, a marvel passing fair.

That Brunhild beheld, and she brake forth into stormy weeping then,

Crying, “This shall be known of Gunther and of all his mighty men!”

{p. 116}

Then spake the Queen of Rhineland: “Send unto me straightway

Gunther the Lord of the Kingdom, for he shall hear this day

How foully his sister hath slandered and spoken shame of the Queen.

She saith before all people that Siegfried’s wife have I been.”

The King came girt with his barons: he saw the grief-bowed head

And the tears of his dear wife Brunhild, and lovingly he said:

“Of whom, my wife, my belovèd, hath a hurt been done unto thee?”

And she spake to the King, and she answered: “Joyless for aye must I be!

Of all my wifely honour this thy sister is fain

To strip me by shameful accusing: unto thee I must needs complain.

She saith that with Siegfried her husband I have wantoned in shame and sin.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “She hath wickedly done herein!”

“She weareth here my girdle, which long time since I lost,

And withal my ring of the red gold—O me, to my bitter cost

Was I born, and I rue it ever! If thou clear not my name

From the stain of such utter abasement, my love never more shalt thou claim.”

Then spake to a lord King Gunther: “Summon him hither thou.

If he of such deed have boasted, he must make confession now,

Or must give to the lie denial, this hero of Netherland.”

So unto that presence Siegfried was called by the King’s command.

So then when the good knight Siegfried saw faces disquieted,

And the cause thereof divined not, straightway he spake and said:

“Now wherefore weep these ladies? This unto me make known;

And wherefore the King hath called me hither, be this too shown.”

Then spake King Gunther: “Sorrow I find here bitter as death.

The Lady Brunhild hath told me a tale of venomous breath,

Even this, that thou hast vaunted that thou in bridal bed

First didst embrace her. Of Kriemhild thy wife is this thing said.”

Made answer the hero Siegfried: “If Kriemhild hath said this thing,

I will take no rest or ever she rue her slandering!

Yea, and thereof will I clear me in presence of all thy lords

By the faith of my solemn oath-plight, that never I spake such words.”

{p. 117}

Answered the Lord of Rhineland: “Give that assurance thou.

Let the oath that thou hast tendered be spoken before these now.

So shalt thou of treacherous dealing be acquitted, and stand without stain.”

Then made they the proud Burgundians in a ring draw round these twain.

His hand stretched Siegfried the dauntless to the hand of the King to swear;

But Gunther spake: “Thine utter guiltlessness here I declare

Out of mine heart’s assurance. Thou goest of this charge free.

That whereof Kriemhild accused thee never was done of thee.”

Then yet again spake Siegfried: “And if ever my wife reap joy

Of her sowing for Lady Brunhild this seed of heart-annoy,

This unto me of a surety shall be nought but measureless grief.”

Then looked on each other the good knights with faces of glad relief.

“So must men’s wives be governed,” again spake Siegfried the thane,

“That from all such arrogant speeches they may for ever refrain.

Thou then to thy wife forbid them; this likewise to mine will I.

For such overweening railing I take shame verily.”

But by reason of words once spoken fair ladies held them apart.

And the Lady Brunhild sorrowed with such sore anguish of heart

That in all her affliction afflicted were Gunther’s vassal-train.

Then went in Hagen of Troneg to commune with the Queen of her pain.

And he asked of her what ailed her, that weeping he found her there;

And she told him the shameful story. A grim oath straightway he sware:

“For this shall the lord of Kriemhild to the uttermost atone,

Or never hereafter joyance by Hagen shall be known!”

Joined in their plotting were Gernot and Ortwein, Metz’s lord.

“Death unto Siegfried!” the heroes counselled with one accord.

Then Giselher, child of Uta, did these into council take;

But swiftly against their sentence the lad true-hearted spake:

“Alas, good knights, now wherefore would ye do so black a deed?

Never such ruthless hatred hath Siegfried earned for meed

{p. 118}

That e’er he should pay you forfeit of the precious life for this!

By very nothings enkindled is the wrath of a woman, I wis.”

“Shall men say that we rear his bastards?” cried Hagen savagely:

“It should bring right little honour unto good knights such as we!

The name of our Lady belovèd hath he blasted with arrogant breath!

If his life for the slander atone not, myself will die the death!”

Then the King’s self spake: “Nay, nothing hath he done to us unto this day

Save lovingkindness and honour: let him therefore live, I say.

What boots it that I should harbour hatred of this good knight?

Loyally aye hath he helped us, and hath had therein his delight.”

Then the Knight of Metz, Lord Ortwein, made answer passion-hot:

“Though passing-great be his prowess, it shall verily help him not:

I will wreak on him deadliest vengeance, so my Lord will but suffer me.”

So the heroes imagined mischief against him causelessly.

Yet further went none with the matter, save that Hagen ever and aye

In season and out of season, still unto Gunther would say:

“If but Siegfried live no longer, lordships many shall come

Under thine hand.” The spirit of the King was wrapped in gloom.

But awhile the matter rested. Men jousted even as before:

Strong spear-shafts many they shivered from afront of the minster-door

Up the broad green space to the palace, escorting Siegfried’s wife.

But of Gunther’s liegemen were many that lowered on the joyous strife.

Spake the King: “Put away for ever the murderous hate ye nurse.

He was born to be honour and profit to us, and nowise a curse;

Yea also, so battle-resistless is the marvellous hero’s hand,

That, if aught he divined of your purpose, before him should no man stand.”

“That shall he never,” said Hagen. “Beware thou reveal it not!

With secrecy so deadly will I handle the matter, I wot,

That to him shall the weeping of Brunhild be Ruin’s baleful breath.

Evermore unto him shall Hagen be Hate and the Shadow of Death!”

{p. 119}

But spake unto him King Gunther: “How then may ye compass the deed?”

Thereunto answered Hagen: “Hearken to this my rede:

There shall ride into this land heralds, as it were from a land afar,

Men known unto none in thy city, denouncing against us war.

Then say thou in these guests’ presence: ‘Lo, I must forth to the fight

With all my warrior vassals’—then is thy goal in sight.

He will offer himself for thine helping: thereby shall he spill his life,

If I win but his woundless secret from the fearless hero’s wife.”

Alas and alas! and he hearkened unto Hagen’s evil wile;

And these twain fell to devising of treachery and guile—

These two knights chivalrous-nurtured!—ere any divined their intent.

So through two women’s wrangling to their death many heroes were sent.

How woven for Siegfried was the Net of Betrayal

To the gates of the royal city men saw on the fourth day’s morn

Come two-and-thirty riders. Straightway was their message borne

Unto Gunther, to wit, a defiance unto war from a far-off foe.

—That lie unto wives and mothers was a fathomless wellspring of woe.

Unto these was licence given to appear before the King.

Then said they to him: “We be liegemen of Lüdeger’s following,

The King overcome in battle, time was, by Siegfried’s hand,

And by him led thence as a hostage into King Gunther’s land.”

Then Gunther greeted the heralds, and bade them sit at the meat.

But spake of them one, and answered: “Lord King, let us stand on our feet

Till we tell out all the tidings wherewith we be sent unto thee.

Of many children of women be ye holden in enmity.

King Lüdegast bids thee defiance, and with him King Lüdeger,

Because at thine hands aforetime despitefully used they were.

They will ride now into thy kingdom with a host for battle arrayed.”

Great semblance of indignation at their message Gunther made.

{p. 120}

Then lodged they those feigned heralds, as who would take counsel awhile.

How might it be that Siegfried should beware of such deep guile—

He, yea, or any other, when the snare for his feet was cast?

Ha, in the net they had hidden were their own feet taken at last!

To and fro the King with his kinsmen whispering ever went:

Ever Hagen of Troneg was pricking the sides of his intent.

In sooth, of Gunther’s liegemen was many a man for peace,

But never from dark devising of murder would Hagen cease.

Thus as they whispered, Siegfried found these thanes on a day;

And the Hero of Netherland marvelled, and questioning thus ’gan say:

“Why goeth the King with his liegemen in heaviness of heart?

In avenging your wrongs am I ever ready to bear my part.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “Good cause for trouble have I.

Me do the Dane and the Saxon again unto battle defy.

With their war-hosts now be they minded to ride into Burgundy-land.”

Answered the aweless Hero: “Their onset shall Siegfried’s hand,

As best befitteth your honour, meet in the battle’s strain.

That I did to the kings aforetime, shall now be done yet again:

I will ravage their land and their strongholds beneath the spoiler’s tread

Or ever from war I refrain me: hereon will I stake mine head.

As for thee, do thou and thy liegemen here in the homeland stay.

Let me ride forth against them with mine own war-array.

That I render you service gladly, shall ye and all men see.

Be ye sure, full evil entreated at mine hand shall your enemies be.”

“Now welcome to me is thy saying,” the King said joyful-voiced,

As though in the proffered helping indeed and in truth he rejoiced.

In his falseness lowly he bowed him, that King of the traitor-heart!

Yet again spake Siegfried the noble, “Let all your fears depart.”

Plotters and vassals prepared them, as it were for the war-march, then;

But all was done for a semblance unto Siegfried and his men.

And the hero bade his warriors of Netherland arm for the fray;

And straightway the knights of Siegfried sought out their war-array.

{p. 121}

To his sire spake Siegfried the mighty: “Here in the land remain,

Siegmund my father: returning soon shalt thou see us again,

So God but grant good fortune to us, to the land of the Rhine.

While thou with the King abidest fair days and glad shall be thine.”

Now all were at point of departing: banners to staves they bound.

Many of Gunther’s liegemen the while were standing round:

But that all was hollow semblance no man of these was ware.

Sooth, mighty was the war-host arrayed round Siegfried there.

The hauberks and the helmets on the horses laded they:

Knights many stalwart and fearless would forth of the land straightway.

Then stole thence Hagen of Troneg: to the presence of Kriemhild he came,

As who, ere they marched unto battle, would take his leave of the dame.

“Now happy am I,” said Kriemhild, “to have won to myself such a lord

Who unto my friends belovèd is so mighty a battle-ward

As Siegfried is to my brethren when he aideth them in fight;

And for this am I heart-uplifted,” said the Queen, “with abiding delight.

Hagen, friend well-belovèd, I pray thee, of this take thought—

I have joyed to do thee service, nor borne thee malice in aught:

Let this be requited in kindness to my belovèd lord.

Let him suffer not for my speaking to Brunhild a hasty word.

Thereof,” said the noble lady, “constrained have I been to repent:

He hath visited on my body in sorest chastisement

My folly of speech in stirring the Queen unto angry mood:

He hath verily well avenged her, that noble knight and good.”

“Yet a little while, and atonement shall she accept of thee,”

He said, “dear Lady Kriemhild: now I pray thee, tell unto me

In what wise I may do thee service through Siegfried thy lord and thy knight.

None living would I, O lady, for thy kindness so gladly requite.”

“For him were I wholly dreadless,” made answer Siegfried’s wife,

“Lest any in storm of battle should imperil mine hero’s life,

{p. 122}

Were it not for his reckless defying of danger in battle’s van;

Else would he aye go scatheless, that good and valiant man.”

“O Lady, if this thou fearest,” in his subtlety Hagen replied,

“Lest in battle he haply be wounded, then unto me confide

How best I may devise it, such peril to withstand;

Then for his warding ever will I ride full near at hand.”

She answered, “Thou art my kinsman, and of blood am I near unto thee.

I commit my lord, my belovèd, to thy faith and thy fealty,

That for my sake o’er my belovèd the shield of protection thou hold.”

Then to Hagen revealed she a story that had better been left untold.

For she said, “My lord is fearless, and the strongest man of men;

And he slew on a day mid the mountains the Dragon of the Fen;

Then bathed the hero his body in the blood of the monster worm,

Wherefore availeth to wound him no weapon that man may form.

Yet ever mine heart is fearful when in forefront of battle he stands,

And many a flying javelin is sped from warriors’ hands,

Lest I peradventure may lose him, mine hero of all loved best:—

Ah me, with what fears for Siegfried tosses mine heart in unrest!

O friend, dear friend and kinsman, on thy faithful love I lean

That thou wilt guard thy troth-plight given herein to a queen,

When I tell to thee where my belovèd may be wounded of the steel.

Now shalt thou hear: the secret to thine honour and love I reveal.

When from the wounds of the Dragon flowed the hot-reeking blood,

And when in the red pool bathed him that fearless knight and good,

There fell on him ’twixt the shoulders one broad lime-tree leaf

On that spot may he be wounded; and this is my sorrow and grief.”

Answered her Hagen of Troneg: “Thou then with thine own hand sew

On his vesture a little token that to me that spot may show

The which, when we stand in the war-storm, with heed evermore must I shield.”

She thought from peril to save him; but so unto death was he sealed.

She said, “I will sew on his garment with a silken thread spun fine

A faintly-visible crosslet: there that strong hand of thine,

{p. 123}

Hero, shall guard mine husband, as he presseth aye to the front,

And standeth begirt with foemen in the battle’s sternest brunt.”

“Even this will I do, dear Lady,” false Hagen made reply.

She thought in her wifely yearning to redeem him from death thereby:—

Ah me, thereby did Kriemhild her lord unto death betray!

Most courteous leave took Hagen, and with glad heart hasted away.

(C) Then asked of him King Gunther: “What secret hath Hagen learned?”

“King, we will ride forth hunting when back is the war-march turned.

Now have I gotten the knowledge whereby he shall surely die.

Thou, wilt thou appoint this hunting?” Said the King, “Yea, that will I!”

Now are the kinsmen of Gunther blithe, and their hearts are light!

Never, I ween, thereafter to the end of time shall knight

Devise such black betrayal as by these contrived hath been

From the trust in knighthood’s honour placed by a wife and a Queen!

On the morrow’s morning early Siegfried the knight rode forth

With a thousand men blithe-hearted, their faces set to the north.

He weened he should take a vengeance for his friends’ wrong fierce and fell.

So nigh unto him rode Hagen that he marked his surcoat well.

Then, when he spied the token, he sent all secretly

To be bearers of other tidings two men of his company

Which should say, “Let the great King’s country in peace unmarred abide,

For to make submission to Gunther hath Lüdeger bidden us ride.”

How passing loth was Siegfried to turn him back from the fight,

From avenging friends and kinsmen on these that had done them despite!

Scarce could the liegemen of Gunther persuade him to sheathe the sword.

Back rode he at last to the traitor, and the King his thanks outpoured:

“God guerdon thee, friend Siegfried, for thy good heart unto mine aid,

That thou offeredst thee so freely what time for thine help I prayed!

For this will I aye be beholden to thee, as well may I be.

Beyond all friends and kinsmen do I put chief trust in thee!

But seeing that now for a season war unto peace giveth place,

Go to, let us hunt the wild-boar and hold the bear in chase

{p. 124}

In the Odenwald, as ofttimes in days overpast have I done.”

—By Hagen was all this plotted, the utter-treacherous one.

“Each guest of mine by my message shall straightway be certified

That tomorn we go forth hunting: whoso with me will ride,

Let him hold him early ready: if any will bide here still

Fleeting careless hours with the ladies, that doth he with my good will.”

With knightly courtesy Siegfried made answer thereunto:

“If ye ride forth a-hunting, I will gladly go with you.

So ye will but lend me a huntsman who shall rouse the quarry for me,

And therewithal some sleuth-hounds, to the forest will I with thee.”

“One huntsman wilt thou only?” King Gunther straightway replied.

“I will lend thee four, an it please thee, which know from side to side

The forest and all the wood-ways, and every wild thing’s lair,

Lest thou err from the path unknowing when campward at even we fare.”

Then rode the hero to Kriemhild, and told to her everything,

The while that the tale of Hagen was told in the ears of the King,

Even all his deadly devising against that noble thane:—

God grant such treachery never may be wrought by man again!

(C) So when these royal hunters had woven the dark death-snare,

Then told they the plot to their fellows. Yet Gernot and Giselher

Would not with the rest go hunting. Wherefore from warning their friend

They hardened their hearts, I know not. Fully paid was the price in the end.

How Siegfried was Murdered

Now Gunther the King and Hagen, those knights of high-born blood,

Have contrived with treacherous purpose the hunt through the glades of the wood.

O yea, with their spears keen-whetted will they pierce the forest-bear

And the wild boar and the bison—what sport for the brave more fair?

{p. 125}

Forth rode with heart exultant Siegfried amidst of the rest.

All manner of meats followed after for the feasting of host and guest.

In the wood’s dark heart cool-welling is a spring—there left he his life

By the counselling of Brunhild, King Gunther’s ruthless wife.

But the bold knight, ere he departed, farewell to his wife would say.

Already on sumpters laden was his goodly hunting array,

And the gear of his woodland-fellows, for over the Rhine would they now.

But behold, she wept—ah, never had she more cause, I trow!

Soft on the lips he kissed her, his well-belovèd one:

“God grant me to see thee, belovèd, safe and sound anon,

And that thy sweet eyes may behold me!—with the friends thou boldest dear

Fleet thou the time all-careless: I may not tarry here.”

Then called she to mind the story—yet durst not tell him the tale—

Told erewhile unto Hagen: bitterly ’gan she bewail,

That noble Daughter of Princes, that ever she saw the light;

And brake into measureless weeping the bride of Siegfried the knight.

And she spake to her lord: “I beseech thee, O let this hunting be!

Last night was my dream a horror: two wild boars tracking thee

Held thee in chase o’er a moorland—then flowers grew suddenly red!

Cause have I for bitter weeping; for fear is mine heart as lead.

I fear—oh, I needs must shudder at the thought of a treacherous blow,

If haply offence hath been given to an unforgetting foe,

Unto some who might visit their hatred and malice on thee and me.

Stay here, dear lord: I beseech thee in love and in loyalty!”

But he said: “My wife, my belovèd, I shall be but a few days gone.

Is there any that here bears hatred to me?—I know not one.

Lo, one and all thy kinsmen unto me are gracious-willed,

And I, I have earned no guerdon save the love wherewith they be filled.”

“Ah no, but my lord, but my Siegfried, thy very death do I dread!

For I dreamed yet again for mine anguish: crashing down on thine head

Suddenly fell two mountains—and I saw thee never again!

If now from me thou departest, it shall be for mine uttermost pain.”

{p. 126}

Then cast he his arms about her, the utter-faithful and dear,

And essayed with loving kisses that fairest of women to cheer.

This was their last leave-taking: lo, he is gone from her bower.

Alas and alas, never living she beheld him from that hour!

So the King rode forth to the wood-lawns that the forest’s arms enfold,

Seeking the hunter’s pastime, and many a baron bold

With Gunther rode and his liegemen. Two only were lacking there,

Twain in the city that tarried, Gernot and Giselher.

Many a beast full-laden before them passed over Rhine

For those blithe hunting-fellows bearing the bread and the wine,

The flesh and withal the fishes, and abundance of everything

Which beseemeth the lord of a kingdom when he goeth journeying.

Then chose they a place for their camping on the skirts of the forest green

Or ever the game brake cover, those lordly hunters keen:

Thence would they slip the sleuth-hounds—’twas a river-mead wide-spread.

And now overtook them Siegfried, and this to the King one said.

Then set they their watch of the huntsmen all round on every side

At the outlets of the wild-wood: then Siegfried the mighty cried,

And spake the valiant hero: “Now who shall show us the way,

O valiant knights and stalwart, to the lairs of the woodland prey?”

“Let us sunder each from other,” spake Hagen unto the rest,

“Or ever in chase of the quarry thicket and glade we quest.

So shall I and my royal master make proof of you all, and say

Who hath most cunning in woodcraft of all this hunter-array.

Henchmen and hounds, we will part them, that each may take his share;

Then, whithersoe’er each listeth, alone let each man fare.

Who taketh the goodliest quarry, to him will we give the praise.”

Then short time tarried the heroes from tracking the wild-wood ways.

Again spake Siegfried the noble: “Unto hounds have I no will,

Save for one only setter so blooded by woodcraft-skill

That he tracketh the slot unerring through the tangled forest wide.

Now, ho for a fortunate hunting!” the lord of Kriemhild cried.

{p. 127}

Then a certain grey-haired hunter in the leash a sleuth-hound led,

And he brought those barons, or ever long time in seeking had fled,

Where they came on the wildwood’s children; whatsoe’er from covert burst

Was chased of those merry comrades, as huntsmen have done from the first.

Whatsoe’er his sleuth-hound started, that by the swift right hand

Was slain of Siegfried the valiant, the Hero of Netherland.

So fleet were the feet of his good steed, that nought might his speed outrun;

So the praise of cunning woodcraft before them all he won:

In all manner of hunter’s prowess he stood without a peer.

The first of the forest-children that fell before his spear

Was a strong young boar, and the javelin of Siegfried drank its blood.

Not long thereafter a lion fierce-eyed before him stood.

The hound gave tongue—forth leapt he—the hero shot with the bow

Speeding the keen-tipped arrow drawn on his woodland foe.

The shot struck home, and the lion thereafter leapt but thrice;

And the hero’s hunting-fellows acclaimed him with gladsome cries.

A bison he smote thereafter; a huge elk low hath he laid;

Four urochs strong, and a great stag, a giant of the glade.

So swiftly his good horse bare him, there was nought that his speed outsped.

Harts and hinds uncounted beneath his wood-spear bled.

And now, uproused by the sleuth-hound, a wild boar burst from his lair:

Even as to flight he turned him, behold, before him there

Was the fleet-foot Lord of the Woodland, and Siegfried barred his path.

Then charged on the gallant hero the monster foaming in wrath;

But the sword of the lord of Kriemhild with a swift thrust laid him low:

None other hunter living so featly had dealt the blow.

When dead he lay by the thicket, they leashed the hound again.

Now marvelled all Burgundians at the wealth of prey he had ta’en.

“If the thing may be asked offenceless,” his huntsman merrily said,

“Leave unto us, Lord Siegfried, of the wild things some few head.

Mountain and forest thou makest of tenants dispossessed!”

Sunnily smiled the hero at the old rough woodland jest.

{p. 128}

Then halloo of men and baying of dogs burst forth all round:

Uprose so mighty a clamour of voices of huntsman and hound

That the mountain-side and the forest rang and rang again,

For that four and twenty couples were unleashed by the hunters then.

From the hearts of many children of the wild the life was riven,

While hoped full many a hunter that unto him should be given

The chiefest prize of woodcraft; but such might ne’er have been

While yet beside the camp-fire Siegfried the mighty was seen.

By now came the hunt to an ending, but not so wholly so,

But that still were the hunters bringing to the light of the camp-fire’s glow

Fells full many of wild things, and of venison good store:—

How busy now were the henchmen as the flesh to the spits they bore!

Then gave the King commandment that the hunters princely-born

Unto the supper be bidden: one long blast on the horn

Pealed far through the aisles of the forest, telling to all their band

That now at the place of the trysting waited the lord of the land.

Then spake a hunter of Siegfried: “My lord, I hear the blast

Of a horn that giveth us token that now must all we haste

Back to the place of the trysting. Now will I answer thereto.”

Then long blasts crying “Where are ye?” to their fellow-hunters flew.

Made answer Siegfried the noble, “Now forth of the wood must we.”

Smoothly the good steed bare him, fast followed his company.

They roused with their crashing and clamour a forest-beast fierce-eyed,

A savage bear; and the hero unto them that followed cried:

“I will show to our hunting-fellows a sport of merry glee.

Yonder a bear have I sighted: the hound from the leash slip ye.

Sir Bear to the place of the camping shall ride with us this day.

O nay, he shall not escape us, flee he as fast as he may!”

They slipped from the leash the sleuth-hound; swift turned the bear and fled,

And Kriemhild’s lord hard after to ride him down on-sped.

But he won a ravine all-rocky, too rugged for hoof of steed;

And the strong beast thought: “From the hunters now am I verily freed!”

{p. 129}

But the good knight leapt exultant from the saddle, and so on foot

Rushed through the brake pursuing, and came unwares on the brute

As slowly he threaded the tangle: his strong hands gripped straightway

And cast it to earth unwounded, and swiftly bound the prey.

Fangs, claws were all unavailing against his masterful might:

Fast to the saddle he lashed it; then mounted the gallant knight,

And on to the place of the camp-fire he bare it triumphant-souled

To make sport for his hunting-fellows, that goodly thane and bold.

Ha, in what lordly splendour he rode amidst the throng,

With the mighty hunting-javelin, of the keen broad blade and long,

With the goodly battle-broadsword that low as his spur-tip hung,

With the ruddy golden bugle from the hero’s baldric slung!

Of goodlier hunting-raiment never hath story told.

His mighty frame did a doublet of the velvet black enfold:

With the sable’s fur dark-lustrous his golden hair was crowned;

And ah, what rich-wrought fringes bordered his quiver round!

A panther’s fell, by reason that ever about it clung

A strange sweet scent, encased it: from his shoulders a cross-bow swung

So mighty, that, save with a windlass, none but himself alone

Could bend its arch, yet lightly by his fingers was it done.

Sea-otter’s skin was his mantle, the fell from a far shore brought;

From shoulder to heel with white tufts was it richly overwrought;

And all throughout the fur-gloss shone flicker and glint of gold

That over-rippled the mantle of that forest-master bold.

Girt to his side was Balmung, that broad and sunbright brand,

Of such exceeding sharpness that none might its edge withstand

When lightened through battle’s tempest that helmet-sundering sword.

Well might he be heart-uplifted, that princely hunter-lord!

If I needs must tell the story from end to end all o’er,

I must sing of the goodly quiver and its plenteous arrow-store,

Whose shafts had gold bands clamping the handbreadth heads thereto.

Woe to the mark of that archer, for death on the points of them flew.

{p. 130}

On came that stately rider forth of the forest-glade,

And the liegemen of Gunther beheld him like a king of hunters arrayed;

And they ran to meet him coming, and his bridle held they for him:—

Lo, cast across his saddle a huge bear mighty of limb!

Soon as on earth he lighted, from muzzle and shaggy paw

Loosed he the bands that bound it, and all the bandogs saw

That bear in their midst, and straightway all furiously they bayed.

Then rushed for the forest the monster: ha, many were sore afraid;

For the beast, from the tumult fleeing, through their woodland cooking-hall

Burst—how from the fires did the henchmen leap, and asunder fall!

Overturned was many a caldron, the brands hurled every way—

Woe’s me for the goodly victual flung mid the ashes grey!

Up from their seats on the greensward did earl and henchman spring:

Fiercely the bear snarled fleeing: straightway commanded the King

To loose the hound-pack on him, for by this all leashed they lay.

Ah, the day had had blithe ending—had that been the end of the day!

With bows and with spears on rushed they, was none that tarried there.

Fast followed the swift pursuers on the track of the fleeing bear:

Yet no man dared loose arrow, so thronged the hounds at his heels.

So loud was the tumult, the forest rang with the echo-peals.

The brute from the host of the bandogs fled with his uttermost might:

None save the lord of Kriemhild could follow that headlong flight;

But he swooped on the maddened quarry, with his sword he smote him and slew;

And the shaggy spoil to the camp-fire back the henchmen drew.

Then cried they all which beheld it, “Sooth, here is a stalwart lord!”

Now bade they the princely hunters to the forest banquet-board.

There in a fair green wood-lawn they sat in a great wide ring.

Unto these lordly hunters what goodly meats did they bring!

But the cupbearers far off lingered: no man with wine drew near,

Else never had feasting heroes been served with nobler cheer.

{p. 131}

Had false hearts not thereunder been contriving treachery,

Those royal banquet-givers from reproach had been wholly free.

(C) By the wings of death overshadowed, nought knew he, the hero betrayed,

Neither dreamed of the snares of treason that round his feet were laid.

Yea, he was the flower of knighthood, deceit in him there was none.

—Ah, many that gat no profit thereof for his death must atone!

Then out spake Siegfried the noble: “In sooth, I marvel sore

That, seeing they bring from the camp-fires of meat such plenteous store,

The cupbearers bring not also therewithal the wine!

If this be your wont, ye are henceforth no hunting-fellows of mine.

Yet sure might I well deserve it, that ye fairly entreat your guest.”

Then spake from his place at the table the King with guileful breast:

“For this will we yet make atonement, this one day’s oversight.

Blameworthy is Hagen only, who would slay us with thirst outright.”

Made answer Hagen of Troneg: “My lord and master dear,

I weened that to-day our hunting should have been afar from here

In the forest of the Spessart, and thither the wine I sent.

If to-day ye be wineless, hereafter shall your hearts be well content.”

Made answer Siegfried the noble: “Small thank for thy promise have thou!

Of mead and of wine of the clearest seven sumpter-loads even now

Should have been in our midst unladen; or, if this too hard were found,

Nigher the good Rhine-water should have been our camping-ground.”

Made answer Hagen of Troneg: “My lords, and thou, O King,

I know where nigh to us lieth a cool-upwelling spring.

That ye be not indignant against me, I counsel that thither we go.”

—That rede unto many a hero was fraught with bitter woe!

Now by this was the good knight Siegfried with thirst-pangs sore distressed.

“Now thrust ye aside the table,” the hero cried to the rest;

“I will hence away to the hill-side, and drink thereby of the well.”

So all that counsel of treason as the false lords plotted befell.

{p. 132}

The woodland spoil they laded upon wains, and bore through the land,

Even all that in that day’s hunting had fallen to Siegfried’s hand.

What folk soever beheld it the praise of the hero spoke

Even in the hour when Hagen his faith with Siegfried broke.

When these to the broad lime shading the spring were at point to have sped,

Even then spake Hagen of Troneg: “Oft have I heard this said,

That none with the lord of Kriemhild in fleetness of foot may vie,

If he put forth his strength in running: lo now, the truth let us try.”

Then the noble thane and valiant, the Hero of Netherland, spake:

“Thereof may ye well make trial, if with me ye be minded to make

A running-match to the well-head. If this shall of us be done,

Whoso is first, account we him our fleetest one.”

“Good, let us thereof make trial,” made answer Hagen the thane.

Then again spake Siegfried the stalwart: “If ye pass me, either of twain,

Then on the grass my body before your feet will I fling.”

How blithe to hear that promise was Gunther the traitor king!

Then spake that fearless hero: “This too unto you will I say:

I will bear on my body my raiment and all my war-array,

My boar-spear, yea, and my buckler, and all mine hunter’s weed.”

Therewithal with his sword and his quiver he girded himself with speed.

Then these twain stripped all raiment from their limbs, and on earth they laid,

And in nought save thin white tunics men saw their bodies arrayed.

Bounding as two wild panthers they raced o’er the clover green;

But long ere they won to the fountain, there standing was Siegfried seen.

In all manner of prowess ever men gave him the chiefest renown.

Straightway he unbuckled his war-glaive, his quiver laid he down,

And he leaned the stubborn boar-spear on the linden-tree’s smooth shaft.

And the princely guest stood waiting where the dimpling ripples laughed:

Yea, Siegfried then, as ever, his knightly courtesy showed.

He laid on the earth his buckler hard by where the runnel flowed.

How sorely he thirsted soever, not yet the hero drank

Till first the King had drunken—he earned right evil thank!

{p. 133}

Clear was the spring as crystal, pure was the water and cool.

Down on the brink bowed Gunther, and stooped his lips to the pool;

And when to the full he had drunken, again to his feet did he rise,

While still looked Siegfried the fearless on the water with longing eyes.

For his courtesy heavily paid he!—his bow and his mighty sword

Were borne away by Hagen from their noble-hearted lord.

Back swiftly sprang the traitor; on the javelin his grasp he laid,

And glared in search of the token at the vest of the man betrayed.

Even as Siegfried the noble drank of the life-giving flood,

Fair through the crosslet he stabbed him. Sprang from the wound the blood,

His heart’s blood; and Hagen’s tunic was besprent with murder’s stain.

—Never may hand of warrior such villainy do again!

There in his heart deep-planted the murderer left the spear.

How swiftly thence did Hagen flee in his deadly fear!

Never on earth so fleetly from the face of man fled he

As when Siegfried’s limbs at the death-stab leapt convulsively.

Forthright did the maddened hero up from the well-brink spring:

Stood far out ’twixt his shoulders the long shaft quivering:

Swift glanced he around, as thinking to find there bow or sword—

Good sooth, he had dealt unto Hagen a richly-earned reward!

But now when the deadly-wounded might nowhere find his brand,

No weapon save only his buckler lay ready there to his hand:

That snatched he up from the well-side, and in chase of the murderer ran.

Full soon was the fleeing Hagen outrun by the dying man.

Albeit to death he was stricken, he smote with such mighty power

That out of the shield-face started and fell to earth in a shower

The costly gemstones: rifted was the very buckler’s rim—

Grim earnest of what stern vengeance he fain would have wreaked upon him!

By his hands’ resistless smiting was Hagen hurled to the ground:

With the clang of that mighty buffet the wood-lawn echoed round.

Had he gripped in his hand but his war-glaive, surely had Hagen been slain.

Maddened him now that death-wound, a very torment of pain.

{p. 134}

Now fled from his face all colour, he was reeling on tottering feet:

Fainted his strength from his body as when earth-spilt waters fleet:

Death set on his brow his token, his lips were ashen-grey.

—Ah, many a comely woman for this mourned many a day!

On flowers with red dew sprinkled the belovèd of Kriemhild fell,

With the blood from his wound outbursting as the streams from a spring outwell.

Then he brake into bitter upbraiding from the lips by anguish wrung

Against them which had compassed his murder by the snare of a lying tongue.

Loud cried the deadly-wounded: “Dastards, accursèd be ye!

Where now is my guerdon for service to you who have murdered me?

Your stay was I still and your helper: for all this death is my meed!

O caitiffs, that do unto kinsman and friend so evil a deed!

Accursèd for this your offspring, even all that shall see the light,

Shall be ever from this day onward! Your malice and your spite

Ruthlessly on my body have ye wreaked all causelessly!

By all good knights shunned ever for your villainy ye shall be!”

Now by this had the knights run thither, and saw where murdered he lay.

To many a man true-hearted was that a joyless day.

Who cherished faith and honour, they wailed for the glory slain:

Well of them all he deserved it, that battle-fearless thane!

The traitor king that consented to his death wept now for it:

But the death-stricken cried: “Thou needest not this, thou hypocrite!

What doth he to weep for the mischief, who the profit thereof hath won?

O’erlate the accursèd repenteth the deed best left undone!”

Spake Hagen then, the relentless: “I see not why ye should rue.

There is an end of the terror that hath haunted us hitherto.

Few now are the foes remaining that against our might shall stand.

Glad am I that this man’s lordship is brought to an end by mine hand.”

{p. 135}

“Lightly enow may ye vaunt you!” did the hero of Netherland cry:

“Had I known thy murderous purpose, thou serpent of treachery,

Full well against this thy plotting had Siegfried warded his life!

Ah, now is my chiefest sorrow for Kriemhild my widowed wife.

Now God forgive it, that ever to me hath a son been born

On whom shall be cast his life long the flouts of men and their scorn,

Because of the man whom his kinsfolk betrayed to his death with a kiss!

Had I but time—had I respite—well might I wail for this!

(C) Never was murder compassed so with villainy fraught,”

Unto the King said Siegfried, “as this that on me ye have wrought!

In the day of your dread I saved you, I helped you in bitterest need:

And for all my service rendered this is mine evil meed!”

Yet again that death-stricken hero spake with an anguished moan:

“If it be possible, Gunther, that to any on earth can be shown

By thee true faith hereafter, let one be commended now,

My dear-loved wife, to thine honour as a king: protect her thou.

May this for her profit avail her, that she is thy sister still.

By all the honour of princes, defend her thou from ill!

For me, for me shall my father and my liegemen tarry long.

Ne’er from her nearest and dearest hath woman received such wrong!”

(C) Then writhed he in mortal sufferance: he gasped with hard-drawn breath;

And he groaned from a heart sore anguished: “For this my murderous death

Through all your days hereafter shall ye bear the brand of Cain.

Know me herein true prophet—your own selves have ye slain!”

To right and to left were the flowers all drenched with the crimson flow.

Now hard with death is he wrestling, but short is the agony-throe,

For the wound that the blade death-dealing had stricken was all too sore.

Now the peerless knight and stainless shall never speak word more.

When they saw, those lords there standing, that the noble hero was dead,

They lifted him up, and they laid him on a golden buckler red.

{p. 136}

Then took they counsel together that the truth might be known unto none,

And how this thing should be hidden, that of Hagen the deed had been done.

Spake of them many: “Evil this day is, a day of bale!

Remaineth only concealment: ye needs must be all in a tale.

We must say, as alone he was riding, robbers beset and slew

The hero, the lord of Kriemhild, as he fared the wildwood through.”

Spake Hagen of Troneg: “To Rhineland will I bear him, even I.

No whit shall it trouble Hagen, though she know all certainly,

That woman who dared flout Brunhild, and fill her heart with woe!

Let her weep, let her do as she listeth—I shall reck of it little enow.”

(C) Now as touching that selfsame fountain—if ye peradventure be fain

To learn where welleth the water whereby was Siegfried slain—

On the Odenwald’s fringe a village, hight Odenheim, doth lie:

Still floweth the stream—of a surety Siegfried died thereby.

How Siegfried was Mourned and Buried

Till the even they waited; in darkness they crossed the Rhineflood then.

Never from eviller hunting came heroes home again!

That quarry was cause of lamenting unto many a noble wife:

For his sake must many a warrior forfeit a gallant life.

Of exceeding arrogant outrage now must the minstrel sing,

Yea, of revenge inhuman; for Hagen made them bring

The Netherland hero Siegfried, even his murdered kin,

Before a certain chamber—and Kriemhild lay therein!

Secretly there he laid him, before that door to lie,

That his wife might find his body when her feet came forth thereby

Unto mass in the grey dawn faring ere rising of the sun;

For thereof the Lady Kriemhild missed full seldom one.

{p. 137}

Then heard they the bells as aforetime peal from the minster-tower;

And Kriemhild the lovely wakened the maidens of her bower;

And she bade bring lights, and the raiment withal that she should wear;

And a chamberlain bringing them stumbled on Siegfried lying there.

He beheld one blood-empurpled, with all his vesture wet;

But that this was his own lord Siegfried in no wise knew he yet.

So bare he into the chamber the torch in his hand that burned;

And from him the Lady Kriemhild a tale of horror learned.

For, even as she with her maidens would forth to the holy place,

“O Lady,” the chamberlain stammered, “tarry a little space!

Behold, without the chamber a murdered knight doth lie!”

Rang out from the lips of Kriemhild an exceeding bitter cry.

Ere she had looked, ere the fearful truth was certainly known,

Back to that question of Hagen her thought had swiftly flown,

How he should shield him. Anguish she never had known till that day;

But now with his death all gladness from her life had fled away.

To the floor then sank she swooning; no word her lips could say.

There in the heavy silence the lovely and joyless lay.

Full was her cup of sorrow, sharp was her anguish-pang.

She came to herself with a wild shriek, that all the chamber rang.

Then faltered her bower-maidens, “A stranger it haply may be.”

But the blood from her mouth came bursting in her heart’s fierce agony—

“O nay, it is Siegfried, Siegfried, my lord, my belovèd one!

Brunhild hath plotted the murder, and Hagen the deed hath done!”

Then forth did her handmaids lead her, where lay the hero dead;

And the wife’s white hands uplifted the husband’s comely head.

Albeit with blood all crimsoned, he was known of love’s keen sight.

There lay the Niblung hero in lamentable plight.

Then the cry of a queen’s heart-anguish through the shadowy palace pealed

“Woe for my bitter affliction!—behold, how lieth thy shield

With swords unbacked! O Siegfried, thee did a murderer smite!

Him—knew I the doer—my vengeance to the uttermost should requite!”

{p. 138}

Brake forth into wailing her maidens with lamentation loud

With her, their belovèd Lady: they mourned all sorrow-bowed

For their noble King and their Master, lost unto them for aye.

Foully avenged by Hagen was Brunhild’s wrath that day!

Then spake the sorrow-stricken: “Let some one haste away,

And swiftly arouse from slumber my Siegfried’s vassal-array:

Let him tell withal unto Siegmund the tale of my bitter pain.

He must bear his part in the wailing o’er valiant Siegfried slain.”

Then ran a messenger, hasting where lay the warrior-band

Of the vassals of King Siegfried, the Lord of the Netherland.

That story of sore tribulation stripped bare their life of its joys.

They believed not, till came far-ringing that lamentable voice.

Hasted the messenger onward, where the old King lay on his bed;

Yet not on the eyes of Siegmund had the dews of slumber been shed,

For dimly his heart foreboded the sorrow hard by the door.

He was doomed to behold his belovèd, his son, in life no more!

“Wake thee, O wake, King Siegmund! Tidings to thee I bring

From the Lady Kriemhild my mistress—there hath happed a fearful thing.

Above all woes known or imagined she hath suffered grief and wrong.

Thou must bear thy part in the wailing, for to thee doth the sorrow belong.”

Uprose then Siegmund, and questioned: “For what lamenteth she,

My daughter, Kriemhild the lovely, as now thou sayest to me?”

“Sore cause hath she for lamenting,” weeping the messenger said:

“Murdered is Siegfried the valiant, her lord and her love lieth dead!”

Answered and spake King Siegmund: “Jest me no jests! Have done

With a tale of such evil tidings concerning Siegfried my son!

Unto no man say thou hereafter that slain he is!—O nay,

For then could I never with wailing have done to my latest day!”

“Nay then, if thou wilt not believe me, if thou wilt not receive my tale,

Thou shalt learn for thine own self—hearken! for that is Kriemhild’s wail

And the cry of all her maidens for Siegfried in death laid low!”

Sharp terror thrilled through Siegmund, and pangs of unfeignèd woe.

{p. 139}

He sprang from his bed: gathered round him a hundred men of his band.

Each man had caught up swiftly a sword keen-whetted in hand.

Forth ran they whither the woeful death-keen guided them on,

And after them knights a thousand, bold Siegfried’s vassals, are gone.

Was none that bethought him of vesture, till suddenly these drew nigh

Where the long wild wail of the women went shivering up to the sky.

In their anguish had none remembered; they knew not what they did;

All thought was buried with sorrow in the grave of their hearts deep hid.

So came King Siegmund where Kriemhild crouched by Siegfried’s side:

“Woe for our journey hither to this land accursèd!” he cried.

“Who hath reft from thee thine husband, hath torn this son most dear

From me by the hand of murder, when none but friends were near?”

“Ha, if I knew but the felon,” in fierce grief answered the Queen,

“Never mine heart should forgive him while memory’s edge is keen!

With such vengeance would I requite him, that all his friends and his kin.

Trust me, should weep for my weeping, should find their affliction therein!”

Then in his arms did Siegmund embrace that fallen chief;

Then rose from all his lovers so mighty a cry of grief

That with that wild lamentation did hall and palace ring,

And wailed up the streets of the city the shrieks wide-echoing.

Who then to the wife of Siegfried to speak of comfort dared?

They drew off the blood-stained raiment, and his goodly limbs they bared.

They washed his wounds dark-clotted, they laid him on the bier.

High swelled the tide of anguish in all that held him dear.

Then cried aloud his warriors that came from the Netherland:

“Ready and eager for vengeance waiteth ever our hand.

Here in this castle he lurketh of whom the deed was done!”

Then hasted the knights of Siegfried to gird their armour on.

With their shields those chosen heroes full-armed returned again,

Brave knights eleven hundred; they were all of the warrior-train

Now of the old King Siegmund: full fain for the death of his son

Would the father have taken vengeance; yea, honour spurred him on.

{p. 140}

But as yet these wronged ones knew not upon whom should their vengeance light,

Unless peradventure with Gunther and his vassals they closed in fight;

For these on that woeful hunting with Siegfried rode that day.

Then all-armed Kriemhild beheld them, and filled was her soul with dismay.

How wild was her grief soever, how tortured soever her breast,

Yet for the lives of the Niblungs she trembled terror-distressed,

Lest by the men of her brethren they be slain; and she earnestly spake,

And in love she warned them, as ever doth friend for a dear friend’s sake:

And she cried from the depths of her sorrow: “My lord, O Siegmund King,

What would ye essay? Ye know not how all too hard is the thing.

For the valiant men of Gunther be a passing great array:

Ye shall perish all of a surety, if ye fall on so many as they!”

But they clashed their uptossed bucklers, with the battle-lust were they mad.

But the noble Daughter of Princes now pleaded, and now forbade

Those knights all battle-eager to rush upon their doom;

And it troubled her very sorely that they would not be turned therefrom.

Then she turned to the King—“Lord Siegmund, for this time sheathed be the sword

Till there come a convenient season. Fear not, for my murdered lord

I will help you to wreak full vengeance. Who hath torn my love from mine hands

Shall drink of my vengeance deeply, when once convicted he stands.

But here by the Rhine so many of our haughty foes there are,

That I counsel you, I beseech you, rush not yet into war.

They can set in array full thirty where we can set but one.

May God so do to the traitors as they unto us have done!

Abide ye here in the palace, and mourn for my dead with your Queen,

Until the day beginneth, O heroes battle-keen:

Then help me to lay in a coffin the man beloved of me.”

Answered the thanes: “Dear Lady, as thou wilt, so shall it be.”

The marvel of that lamentation, no man can tell it o’er,

How the wail of the knights and the maidens, like the stormy tempest-roar,

{p. 141}

Shrieked through the shuddering city till all her people heard,

And thitherward hasted the burghers, a great throng terror-stirred.

They joined to the guests’ their wailing, they grieved for the glory gone.

Wherein had Siegfried offended, unto no man was it known:

Nay, none could divine cause wherefore the good knight lost his life.

So wept with the Queen’s handmaidens many a burgher’s wife.

Now for the silversmiths sent they, and bade them haste to mould

A great and strong-knit coffin of silver and ruddy gold;

And with burnished steel they bade them brace it in every part.

All folk were of sorrowful spirit, and exceeding heavy of heart.

By this was the night passed over: one said, “Lo, day is near.”

And the noble Queen commanded to the minster-door to bear

Her royal dead, her husband for ever well-beloved;

And with her all friends sore weeping in long procession moved.

So when to the minster they brought him, tolled forth many a bell,

And the chant of the priests rose upward, and the requiem’s solemn swell.

And thitherward King Gunther and all his liegemen came.

Yea, Hagen the grim mid the mourners stood—and had no shame!

And the King said: “Sister belovèd, alas for thy sore distress!

Alas for the heavy affliction that toucheth us no less!

We too for the death of Siegfried must evermore lament.”

“Wrongly ye do!” cried the Lady from a heart with anguish rent.

“If ye hereby were afflicted, it had never befallen so!

Nay, me had ye wholly forgotten, and this full well I know,

In the hour when thus I was severed from my lord, my love, my one!

Oh would to God in heaven that to me this deed had been done!”

But they held to their lying story. Then did Kriemhild say:

“He that affirmeth him guiltless may prove it now straightway.

Here in the presence of all men let him go and stand by the bier!

Forthright before all people shall the very truth appear.”

{p. 142}

A marvel it is past telling, oft have we known it betide:—

When the slayer murder-polluted is seen by the dead man’s side,

The wounds bleed in witness against him: so did it now befall,

And thereby was the guilt of Hagen made manifest unto all.

For the wound brake forth into bleeding, as freely as at the first.

Now they that before wept sorely into wilder weeping burst.

But answered and spake King Gunther: “Now hearken, the truth is this—

He was set on and slain of robbers: no deed of Hagen it is.”

But Kriemhild replied: “These robbers but all too well I know!

God give to the hands of his kinsmen vengeance on his foe!

Thou, Gunther, and thou, Hagen, of you was the foul deed done!”

Surged forward the vassals of Siegfried, fierce-eager to fall on.

But Kriemhild spake: “Unto mourning be this hour sacred, I pray!”

Then two beside of her kinsmen drew nigh where the dead man lay,

Even her brethren, Gernot and the stripling Giselher:

And in leal faith these bewailed him with all the true souls there.

Yea, from the heart they lamented for Kriemhild’s perished lord.

Now pealed the holy mass-chant: through the doors of the minster poured

On every hand young children no less than women and men.

Even they whom his death smote lightly, wept with the best for him then.

Spake Giselher and Gernot: “O sister, receive of us thou

For the death of thy lord consolation: it is past all healing now.

Thy loss by our love will we make good, so long as we both shall live.”

But no one on earth could console her, of none would she comfort receive.

By this was his coffin fashioned, when the sun in the mid-heaven shone.

Loving hands from the bier uplifted the corpse that lay thereon.

But the Queen said: “Nay, I beseech you, lay him not yet in the grave;

Ere then heavy tribute of mourning from all that love him I crave.”

In a pall most costly-woven that lifeless form they wound.

Of a surety none that wept not was in all that concourse found.

From her heart poured Uta the noble lamentation and mourning and woe;

Wailing were all her handmaids for the princely head brought low.

{p. 143}

When the folk heard how in the minster they sang the requiem,

And that Siegfried lay in his coffin, there came vast throngs of them

With their offerings—ah, how freely!—to buy his soul’s repose.

Good friends had he without number in the very house of his foes.

Kriemhild the hapless woman to her treasure-keeper spake:

“Now sorrow ye all in my sorrow, and suffer dole for my sake,

All ye whose hearts have loved him, all ye that be true unto me.

For the rest of the soul of Siegfried gold to the poor give ye.”

There was no child so little, so it had understanding at all,

But something it brought for the masses for him who lay stark under pall.

Yea, full one hundred masses on that one day did they sing.

Ah, there was a mighty concourse of lovers of that dead king!

When ended was all the mass-chant, the vast crowd melted away.

But again to her friends spake Kriemhild: “Leave me not this day

To keep vigil alone o’er the hero, the hope of the world and its pride;

Now all the joy of my life-days is buried by his side.

Three days, three nights unceasing will I keep vigil here

Till my soul is filled with lamenting for him, my lord most dear.

Peradventure His white Death-angel for me too God will send;

So the sorrow of Kriemhild the hapless should find a blessèd end.”

Now homeward the folk of the city were gone to their rest and their sleep:

But the priests and the monks aye chanting that vigil with her must keep;

And his vassals and leal retainers that served that gallant chief—

Ah, weariful nights were appointed to these, and days of grief.

Through the days of their mourning many drank not, nor tasted of bread:

But, for such as could not endure it, to these was it plainly said:

“Eat, drink, for we give to you freely.” King Siegmund cared therefor.

Then fell on the faithful Niblungs trouble and travail sore.

As telleth the olden story, through three days weary-long

Never an hour of respite from holy chant and song

{p. 144}

Had any singer of masses. What wealth of offerings

Poured in! Then even the poorest could give like very kings.

For they sought out the poor and needy, and into their hands was poured

By Kriemhild’s treasure-warders gold from the dead king’s hoard;

So brought they of their abundance—ay, now that he lived no more,

Thousands of marks for his soul’s rest were given from a fathomless store.

Lands and their revenues gave she through the whole land everywhere

Unto many a hallowed cloister, unto many a man of prayer.

Silver they gave unstinted, and raiment unto the poor.

So showed she before all people what love to the dead she bore.

When rang the bells unto high-mass on that third morning-tide,

There were seen all round the minster in the churchyard great and wide

The folk of the country weeping; they thronged it from end to end.

Yea, in death did they do him service, as unto a dear-loved friend.

In these four days of their mourning, as the old bards sang unto me,

Marks full thirty thousand, yea, more, it well may be,

To the poor were freely given, that all for his soul might pray,

Now that all his life and his beauty as a shadow had passed away.

The service of God was ended, into silence sank the song.

With a storm of weeping shaken was all that mighty throng.

Then out of the dim-lit minster forth to the grave was he borne—

Oh wail of the hungry-hearted, oh voice of them that mourn!

On moved that endless procession with cries of lamenting loud;

No face that was glad, or of woman or man, was in all that crowd.

Ere earth to earth they committed, once more did they pray and sing.

What countless holy fathers were seen at his burying!

Or ever the true and faithful, the wife, to the grave-side came,

With such fierce throes of anguish shaken was all her frame,

That they needs must with cool spring-water besprinkle her once and again,

So racked was her heart overmeasure with agonies of pain.

In sooth, ’twas a marvel exceeding that she died not there outright.

Weeping her women upbare her with their hands on the left and the right.

{p. 145}

“O ye true men of Siegfried,” thus did the sad Queen cry,

“I pray you of your compassion, and of your fealty,

Vouchsafe unto me in my sorrow this one little grace

That once more and for the last time I may look on his lovely face!”

So long in her anguish she pleaded, so earnestly she besought,

That they needs must at last wrench open the coffin richly wrought.

The Queen then thitherward led they, and she bowed her over her dead.

In her white hands she enfolded and lifted his comely head;

And she kissed that faded glory, that noble knight and good.

Her starry eyes for sorrow wept very tears of blood.

An exceeding pitiful parting saw all men in that hour.

Then softly thence they bare her in whose limbs was left no power.

Senseless and stirless lay she in their arms, that stricken wife.

It seemed that for very sorrow from her body would fleet her life.

When thus in his grave lay buried that noble and princely thane,

Then bowed in measureless sorrow sat all his warrior-train,

Even all from the land of the Niblungs that led of his banner had come.

Yea, and the old King Siegmund was whelmed in morningless gloom.

There was many a man among them that for three days long made moan,

And the tears of his bitter anguish were his meat and his drink alone,

Till their bodily frames no longer could so endure and live:

So they took up the burden of living, and a little they ceased to grieve.

(C) But lost unto all things Kriemhild in a deathlike swoon still lay

Through the hours of the day and the darkness, even till the second day.

Whatsoe’er in her ears they whispered, she knew not anything:

And no less stricken of sorrow lay grey-haired Siegmund the King.

(C) Scarce to the mind’s re-dawning he slowly won at the last:

From his limbs by reason of anguish all bodily strength had passed.

No marvel that weak was Siegmund! At last drew his liegemen near,

Saying: “Lord, let us fare hence homeward: boots not that we linger here!”

How Kriemhild would not return to the Lowland with Siegmund

{p. 146}

Then went the old King Siegmund where Kriemhild sat in her woe,

And he spake to the Queen: “To our own land homeward now let us go.

Guests are we all-unwelcome, I trow well, here by the Rhine.

Come with us, Kriemhild belovèd, to our country, thine and mine.

That thy kin in the land Burgundian have so evil entreated us

In slaying thy noble husband by murder most treacherous,

It shall not be remembered against thee: my love shall cherish thy life,

For the sake of my son and the noble child he hath left to his wife.

Thou, Lady, shalt have dominion, shalt have over all the control

That Siegfried gave to thee ever, that lord of the noble soul.

The crown shalt thou wear, and the kingdom shall bow beneath thy sway.

Thee shall the vassals of Siegfried with willing heart obey,”

Then the word to the squires was given, “Home ride we ere eventide!”

Out of the field they gathered in haste the steeds they should ride.

To dwell mid their deadly foemen was now to their souls as gall.

For the journey prepared was raiment of the dames and the handmaids all.

But now when the old King Siegmund was at point to ride away,

Drew nigh the kinsmen of Kriemhild to plead with her and to pray

That still she would stay with her mother in the land of Burgundy.

Made answer the joyless-hearted: “Now nay, it can never be!

How could I endure it, that ever I should look upon him with mine eyes

Who hath dealt with me, the hapless, in such despiteful wise?”

But the young Prince Giselher answered: “Sister belovèd, now

By a child’s true love I adjure thee, abide with thy mother thou!

For them which have darkened thy spirit, for them which have wounded thine heart,

No need hast thou of their service; in all that is mine thou hast part.”

{p. 147}

But she to the knight made answer: “How can it be? Ah no!

If I look on the face of Hagen, I must die for utter woe.”

“Now nay, O sister belovèd, from this will I guard thee well.

With Giselher thy brother here sheltered shalt thou dwell.

My love for the death of thy dear lord shall atone in very deed.”

And the joyless made answer: “Kriemhild thereof hath bitter need!”

Now when in such loving fashion pleaded with her the lad,

Their prayers unto his supplication did Uta and Gernot add.

Yea, all her loyal kinsfolk entreated her there to stay.

“Among all the people of Siegfried no kinsman thou hast,” said they.

“They be all unto thee as strangers, as aliens,” Gernot said.

“Though the living may love thee, the strongest must needs at the last lie dead.

Bethink thee thereof, dear sister: to thine heart speak comfortably.

Here tarry with thine own kinsfolk: so shall it be well with thee.”

So she gave to her brother the promise, to abide with them in the land.

Now by this were the horses gathered for the men of Siegmund’s band;

And all to the land of the Niblungs were ready to ride away,

And laden upon the horses was the good knights’ war-array.

Then unto the bower of Kriemhild went grey-haired Siegmund the King,

And he spake to the Lady: “The warriors of Siegfried’s following

Stand waiting beside their horses. Forth and away let us ride.

The hours unto me are bitter while with Burgundy’s folk I abide.”

But the Lady Kriemhild made answer: “My kinsmen have wrought on my will,

Even my nearest and dearest, here to abide with them still.

None in the land of the Niblungs, say they, of my blood can I find.”

Then sore aggrieved was Siegmund that such should be Kriemhild’s mind.

And answered and spake the old King: “Lest any deceive thee beware.

Thou before all my kinsfolk the royal crown shalt wear,

Yea, wear it by right of kingship, even as heretofore.

For this shalt thou nowise suffer, that thy lord is beside thee no more.

{p. 148}

Nay, forth with us do thou journey unto thine home and thy child;

Let him not be an orphan, his father dead, his mother exiled.

When thy son is grown unto manhood, thy comfort shall he be then:

Till then shalt thou have true service of many valiant men.”

But she answered: “My dear lord Siegmund, with thee I may not ride.

Nay, here with mine own must I tarry, what issue soever betide.

In my grief and my wrong to my kinsfolk for comfort and help must I look.”

When this was told them, the tidings ill could the good knights brook.

With one voice cried they against it: “Our plight may we surely deplore

That on us hath affliction lighted now as never before!

If here in the land Burgundian thou with our foes wilt abide,

Never have heroes ridden to an eviller festal-tide!”

But she answered: “In God’s good keeping shall ye fearlessly journey home.

I will get for you trusty escort for your warding until ye be come

Unto your own dear country. Good knights, farewell each one.

Unto your love and compassion I commend my little son.”

So when they knew of a surety that they could not in any wise shake

Her purpose, the men of Siegfried into bitter weeping brake.

Ah, with what deep heart-anguish King Siegmund took farewell

Of Kriemhild! Renewal of sorrow on the childless father fell.

“A curse on that festal high-day!” the King in bitterness cried:

“Never to king and his dear ones did such foul fortune betide

As here upon us hath fallen—and that at a feast, good sooth!

In Burgundy here shall they see us never again, of a truth!”

Then in fierce anger shouted the thanes of Siegfried’s band:

“Nay, once more yet may we journey unto this accursèd land,

If we find, if we prove of a surety who laid our dear lord low.

Amidst his friends have they won them deadly foes enow!”

For the last time kissed he Kriemhild. He spake in sorrow’s despair,

When he saw her steadfastly purposed to abide with her people there:

“Now ride we forth all joyless, as home to our people we go!

Now first my depth of affliction and all my sorrow I know!”

{p. 149}

So rode they without all escort from Worms on Rhine away.

Well might they go all-fearless: so stern of mood were they,

That if haply foemen in malice had set upon them then,

Their heads had their own hands warded, those aweless Niblung men.

No leave would they take of any: they shook off the dust of their feet.

Yet Giselher and Gernot full lovingly came to greet

The old king at his departing; for they sorrowed in his heart-pain,

And thereof did they give clear witness, those valiant heroes twain.

For to Siegmund spake Prince Gernot exceeding courteously:

“Now God in Heaven be witness, of the death of Siegfried am I

Wholly and utterly guiltless! Never I heard this said,

That any bare him malice. From mine heart do I mourn for thy dead.”

Then Giselher the young prince provided them escort fair.

So led he unvexed of any the hearts overburdened with care,

Even the King and his good knights, back to their Netherland home.

Ah, with how little rejoicing their kinsmen beheld them come!

Touching all that befell them thereafter the old song holdeth its peace:

But at Worms was the plaining of Kriemhild heard without surcease

That her heart and her wounded spirit had no comforter,

Save one, the loving and faithful, her brother Giselher.

But there sat Brunhild the lovely enthroned in her arrogant pride.

Little she recked of Kriemhild as from depths of despair she cried.

Never in kindness or pity she stooped to the stricken again.

But the years stole on, till Kriemhild wrung her heart too with pain.

How the Hoard of the Niblungs came to Worms

While sat the noble Kriemhild a watcher by Siegfried’s grave,

Eckwart, Lord of the Marches, unto her with his war-band clave,

In Burgundia-land abiding constrained by his fealty;

And aye for the dead with his mistress he mourned right bitterly.

{p. 150}

At Worms hard by the minster they reared her a palace-hall

Wide and stately-builded, and royally-dight withal:

And there with her handmaids round her that joyless one abode,

And oft she fared to the minster, for she loved the house of God.

There, where her belovèd was buried, full seldom her presence failed;

Day after day did she enter with spirit that inly wailed,

And prayed unto God the Almighty to take to his mercy his soul:

Ay, ever the faithful-hearted made for the knight great dole.

Came Uta and all her women to comfort her day by day;

But Kriemhild’s wounded spirit so crushed ’neath affliction lay,

That nothing availed consolation that the lips of the loving spake,

Forasmuch as with sharper anguish did her heart for her lost love ache

Than wife felt ever for husband, were her sorrow never so keen;

And the love of the true and faithful herein was of all men seen

That on to the end she mourned him, long as endured her life,

Till that great vengeance for Siegfried was wreaked at last by the wife.

So sat she sorrow-shrouded—truth is it the minstrel saith—

On till the fourth year’s dawning after her dear lord’s death;

And never a word unto Gunther her lips had uttered yet,

Never her eyes upon Hagen her mortal foe had she set.

Then Hagen spake unto Gunther: “If haply this might be done

That thou so couldst appease thy sister that again ye were set at one,

Then the gold of the Hoard of the Niblungs might unto thy kingdom be brought:

And how much might be thine, if Kriemhild unto lovingkindness were wrought!”

Said Gunther: “We will essay it. By my brethren may she be beguiled:

These shall beset her with pleading that now she be reconciled.

We may win her to bring that treasure—yea, share it willingly.”

“Nay, sooth I misdoubt me,” said Hagen, “that this may ever be.”

Then the King sent word unto Ortwein unto the palace to fare,

And the Lord of the Marches, Gere: when these were gotten there,

Gernot withal, and the young Prince Giselher, they brought.

And these with words of kindness on their lips unto Kriemhild sought.

{p. 151}

Then spake the Prince Burgundian Gernot the first, and he said:

“Behold, overlong thou mournest, Lady, for Siegfried dead.

Sure proof shall of Gunther be given that he had no part in his death.

Yet for him folk hear thee mourning evermore with passionate breath.”

She said: “Him no man accuseth: it was Hagen who struck the blow.

Where only my lord could be wounded through me, through me did he know!

Whence should I have had misgivings of the hate unto him that he bare?

Else,” cried the Queen, “I had guarded my lips with jealous care

From the horror of such betrayal of my lord’s beloved life,

And had had no cause for weeping—oh wretched, wretched wife!

Never will I forgive him who wrought that dastard deed!”

Then for the King his brother did Giselher intercede.

(C) “Yea,” said she, “I needs must greet him, ye urge me so cruelly:

Yet so do ye make you partakers in Gunther’s sin against me.

He hath wrung my soul with anguish, who never wronged him yet!

My lips may grant him forgiveness, mine heart will never forget.”

(C) “Yet hereafter shall this be bettered,” whispered her kinsmen then.

If only the King by kindness may win her to smile again,

“He may yet by his love,” said Gernot, “fill all that void in her breast.”

Then again said the sorrow-burdened: “Behold, I grant your request:

I will meet the King, I will greet him.” The word unto Gunther they bring,

And to her with the best of his kinsfolk straightway cometh the King.

But Hagen the murderer dared not in the presence of Kriemhild be seen:

Too well did he know his vileness, the wrong he had done to the Queen.

Yet, seeing her hatred of Gunther was in semblance so put by,

With the kiss of reconcilement might he too have drawn nigh;

Yea, but for the felon plotting, the inexpiable wrong,

Even he might have stood unshrinking mid that false courtier-throng.

Never was reconcilement ’twixt sundered friend and friend

Made with such weeping. Rankled the wound in her heart without end.

Yet unto all forgiveness she granted—save that one.

No man would have slain him, had Hagen the wicked deed not done.

{p. 152}

Not long thereafter the plotters brought to pass their intent

That Kriemhild the Daughter of Princes for the Hoard of the Treasure sent

To the land of the Niblungs: to Rhineland she caused them to bring the same.

’Twas her morning-gift, nor its warders might hold it against her claim.

So Giselher and Gernot to bring that Hoard must wend;

And armed men eighty hundred did the Lady Kriemhild send

To bring that hidden treasure from the caverns wherein it lay,

And Alberich the Dwarf-knight and his stout friends warded it aye.

When they saw these men from the Rhineland which had come for the Treasure’s sake,

Then Alberich the valiant to his mighty kinsmen spake:

“We may nowise refuse this treasure, to yield it to her desire;

’Tis her Gift of the Marriage-morning, and the Queen doth her own require.

Howbeit,” said Alberich, “never had this befallen thus,

Except by chance most evil this too had been lost unto us,

The potent Hood of Darkness, which vanished when Siegfried died,

Which the lord of Kriemhild the lovely had ever by his side.

In an evil hour for Siegfried did the Hero win that prey,

And pluck the Hood of Darkness from the hands of its keepers away,

And therewithal the lordship of all this land did he seize.”

Then the seneschal went to the chambers where lay that cavern’s keys.

There stood those sent of Kriemhild in front of the mountain’s door,

And divers withal of her kinsmen. So all that treasure-store

Brought they down to the sea-flood, and the ships therewith were fraught.

So over the rolling waters and on to the Rhine was it brought.

Now of the Hoard of the Niblungs shall ye hear the marvel told:

Twelve wains to the utmost laden down from that mountain-hold

Must bear that treasure seaward: four days and nights toiled they,

Each going and each returning three times each several day.

Therein was there nothing meaner than precious stones and gold,

And if one therewith had purchased all wealth that the world could hold,

{p. 153}

“By not one mark is it minished!” whoso had seen it had said.

Not without cause that treasure was of Hagen coveted!

In its midst was the Wishing-rod lying, a little golden wand.

Whoso divined its virtue could stretch his sovereign hand

Over all the wide earth’s compass and all the folk therein.

Back to the Rhine with Gernot went many of Albrich’s kin.

(C) So then when the strong knight Gernot and the young prince Giselher

Had gotten the Hoard in possession, lords thereby they were

Of the Niblung land and its castles, and of many a noble knight:

Unto these came all in subjection through fear and awe of their might.

When in the land of Gunther that Hoard at last was seen,

And thereof was all the lordship laid in the hands of the Queen,

Therewith unto overflowing were towers and chambers stored.

Never since have been told such marvels of any treasure-hoard.

Ah, but had that great Treasure been greater a thousand-fold,

In its stead might she have but regiven from the grave her Siegfried the bold,

O gladly empty-handed had Kriemhild stood by his side!

Never was wife unto hero in love so true and tried.

When now that Hoard was Kriemhild’s, as a lode-star it drew to the land

Knights many from alien kingdoms: so freely bestowed her hand

That never such bounteous giving was seen in the olden days.

Unto all was she open-handed, and all men spoke her praise.

So freely thereof did she lavish on rich alike and on poor,

That Hagen spake unto Gunther: “Lo now, if this woman endure

In life but a little longer, she shall win to her fealty

So great an array of champions, that in evil case shall we be.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “Her own is the treasure, I trow.

What have I to do to hinder? Let her hands as she will bestow.

Hardly I won her pardon for that first wrong that I wrought.

Let her share as she will her silver and her gold; unto me is it nought.”

To the King made answer Hagen: “Who suffers a woman to rule—

Be she who she may—such a treasure, of a surety he is but a fool.

{p. 154}

She shall bring with all this largess a day upon us at the last

When all we bold Burgundians shall rue deeds overpast.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “An oath unto her I swore

That sorrow or scathe would I visit upon her never more.

And thereunto will I hold me. My sister withal is she.”

Said Hagen: “Do thou nothing: be all the guilt upon me.”

So divers of her kinsmen were traitors again: they brake

Their oath; they robbed the widow, and her mighty wealth did they take.

Seized by the hand of Hagen were the keys that warded the same.

Wroth was her brother Gernot, when he knew that deed of shame.

Spake Giselher the young Prince: “Foul wrong hath been done herein

By Hagen unto my sister: I will none of the shame and the sin!

Yea, he, were he not my blood-kin, should forfeit for this his life!”

Brake forth afresh into weeping Siegfried’s unhappy wife.

Then spake again Prince Gernot: “Or ever such mischief befall

Unto us for the sake of the Treasure, it were well that we sank it all

In the waters of Rhine, to the end that the curse may cleave unto none!”

Unto Giselher came the forlorn one, and to him she made her moan.

She cried: “O brother belovèd, thou shouldst take thought for me:

A warder and protector of my life and my wealth shouldst thou be!”

He answered: “Yea, of a surety thy right shall of me be maintained

When we return—for a journey hath been for thy brethren ordained.”

Then Gunther the King and his kinsmen rode forth of Burgundia-land,

Even all that were best and noblest among them, a princely band.

But to work the will of his hatred Hagen tarried alone,

His undying hatred of Kriemhild: that he did, for her hurt was it done.

For ere that the great King Gunther homeward returned again,

In those days all that treasure Hagen by force had ta’en.

In the river-mere at Lochheim ’neath Rhine he sank it deep.

He sowed unto greed—but destruction was the fruit that his hands were to reap.

Now before that Hagen of Troneg thus hid the Treasure from sight,

Those kinsmen had sworn to each other an oath of awful might,

{p. 155}

That, while in the land of the living they were, it should hidden abide;

So these could not use it, nor give it to any other beside.

Thereafter returned those princes with many a noble thane.

Then Kriemhild came before them of her grievous wrong to complain:

With her ladies she came and her maidens. The wrath of the earls flamed high:

They arrayed them against the traitor, and said, “He shall surely die!”

With one voice cried they together: “A wicked deed hath he done!”

From their anger he needs must hide him for a space, till again he won

The princes’ pardon and favour, and they yielded to let him live.

But henceforth was he hated of Kriemhild with the hate that will never forgive.

For now with a new affliction her heart was wrung once more:—

First took they the life of her husband, and now these traitors tore

From her hands her possessions! Her mourning was never at a stay

Through all the space of her life-tide unto her latest day.

From the hour of the death of Siegfried—behold, this witness is true—

Wearily lived she thirteen years of sorrow through,

And ever the death of the Hero unto her spirit clung.

Unto him was she true and faithful, as many a bard hath sung.

(C) A wealthy and princely abbey had Uta builded high

After the death of Dankart with the wealth of her treasury,

And with revenues richly endowed it, which it draweth unto this day.

By Lorsch that cloister standeth in honour abiding aye.

(C) Unto this were given thereafter of Kriemhild unstinted doles

For the peace of the soul of Siegfried, and for all Christian souls.

Gold gave she with hand ungrudging, and many a precious stone.

More faithful wife hath never on earth unto us been known.

(C) Since Kriemhild had granted forgiveness to the King for her lord’s blood spilt,

And of that great hoard thereafter had been spoiled through Gunther’s guilt,

Then higher swelled than ever the tide of her anguish of heart,

And the noble lady and royal from his city was fain to depart.

(C) Now it was so, that Lady Uta had builded a mansion beside

That cloister of Lorsch, a palace goodly and great and wide.

{p. 156}

Thither went she leaving her children, and hid her from all men’s eyes;

And there to this day in her coffin the great queen buried lies.

(C) Then spake the old king’s widow: “Belovèd daughter, come;

No longer here shalt thou tarry; with me shall be thine home

At Lorsch in mine own palace: from weeping thou there shalt refrain.”

“Nay, where then,” answered Kriemhild, “shall I leave my lord who was slain?”

(C) “Even here,” said the Lady Uta, “by the minster in peace let him lie.”

“Now God in Heaven forbid it!” that true wife made reply.

“Nay, mother belovèd, never will I suffer it so to be.

Hence of a truth must mine husband be taken thither with me.”

(C) Therefore the sorrowful-hearted bade them unseal his grave.

To the noble bones of the Hero a resting-place they gave

At Lorsch beside the minster with honour manifold.

There still in a giant coffin lies the Hero chivalrous-souled.

(C) But it came to pass at the season when Kriemhild should have gone

To dwell with her mother, even as her will was to have done,

In Worms must she tarry, forbidden to rest by the hallowed shrine.

So was it by reason of tidings that came from afar over Rhine.

How Queen Kriemhild was Wooed for the King of the Huns

It befell in the selfsame season, when the Lady Helka had died,

And Etzel the King would be wooing another woman for bride,

That his kinsmen in council assembled spake unto him of the fame

Of a certain proud queen widowed, that Kriemhild had to name.

Since Helka the Queen, the lovely, was taken from him and from life,

They said: “If haply thou thinkest on another noble wife,

In blood and in virtue the highest that ever prince hath won,

Take Kriemhild: Siegfried the Hero was her lord in days bygone.”

{p. 157}

But the mighty King made answer: “Nay, how may this thing be?

A heathen am I; baptismal waters have touched not me;

And she is a Christian woman—the thing may never befall.

If ever she came, this surely a miracle might one call!”

But the valiant knights made answer: “Perchance may she do that same

For the sake of thy great dominions, for the sake of thy glorious name.

In any wise might one seek her to be thy noble queen.

She is worthy, O King, thy wooing; never lovelier woman was seen.”

And the noble King made answer: “Unto whom of you all be known

The people that dwell in Rhineland, and the realm their princes own?”

Answered the Lord of Bechlaren, the knightly Rüdiger:

“Known be its princely rulers unto me from my birth-tide year.

Lo, these be Gunther and Gernot, valiant knights and true,

And of these is Giselher youngest, and ever the Princes do

What sorteth wholly with honour and chivalry high-souled:

Yea, they walk in the steps of their fathers, the stainless heroes of old.”

Answered and spake King Etzel: “Friend, unto me declare

If indeed it well beseemeth that the crown at my side she wear.

If indeed she hath such beauty as flieth on rumour’s wing,

Mine high-born kinsmen shall never repent their counselling.”

“She is such as was once my Lady: in beauty is she no less

Than thy Queen the noble Helka; she is peerless in loveliness

Through all the wide world’s compass, a bride for a king to wed.

Who winneth her love, of a surety may his heart be comforted.”

Said the King: “By my love I charge thee, Rüdiger, win me this bride;

And if ever to me fair Kriemhild shall be joined at the marriage-tide,

To the uttermost of my power shalt thou have guerdon of me;

And thou shalt have fulfilled my pleasure in faith and in fealty.

I will bid my treasure-keepers freely to give unto thee

Horses and goodly raiment, whatsoever thy need shall be,

That thou and thy journeying-fellows in joyance ever may live.

Yea, as a great king giveth, for thine ambassage so will I give.”

{p. 158}

Answered the Lord of the Marches, the mighty Rüdiger:

“If I sought of thee aught of thy bounty, not for mine honour it were:

Blithe will I go unto Rhineland at my good Lord’s command,

Of mine own wealth full-furnished: I received it all of thine hand.”

Made answer the great King Etzel: “When think ye forth to fare

To the wooing of the winsome? God take you into his care,

And crown with honour mine envoys unto her, my wife that shall be,

Let fortune but aid us, and Kriemhild incline to us graciously.”

And Rüdiger made answer: “Ere we ride from thy land away,

We must needs provide us with armour and royal-rich array,

To stand in the presence of princes with honour worthy of thee.

I think to lead into Rhineland five hundred knights with me;

So when in the realm Burgundian men look on me and mine,

With one voice all the people shall cry in the land of Rhine:

‘Never so far from his kingdom was such a goodly band

Sent forth by a king, as Etzel hath sent to Burgundia-land!’

Know thou, O King most mighty,—let the thing not give thee pause—

The wife of the chiefest hero on earth, of Siegfried, she was,

Of Siegmund’s son: that champion aforetime here didst thou see.

Right worship-worthy might all men account him verily.”

Answered and spake King Etzel: “If she was his worthy mate,

That noble prince’s glory is so exceeding great

That wholly it were for mine honour to call her my queen, I trow.

So great is the fame of her beauty that mine heart goeth out to her now.”

Answered the Lord of the Marches: “This then remaineth to say—

Hence will we take our departing on the four-and-twentieth day.

Unto Gotlind the well-belovèd, my wife, will I send the word

That I for the wooing of Kriemhild am on ambassage sent of my Lord.”

To his wife at Bechlaren tidings sent that knightly thane.

Joyful at once and sorry was that high-born chatelaine

That her lord should be sent forth seeking another bride for his King;

For unto the dear dead Helka did the love of her heart still cling.

{p. 159}

So when the messengers’ tidings to the Margravine were told,

Unwelcome it came in a measure, and the Lady was sorrowful-souled;

For she feared she should see no mistress like her of the days of yore.

Ever she thought on Helka, and her heart within her was sore.

Seven days had passed, and the Margrave rode from the land of the Hun.

Greatly rejoiced King Etzel that his hest so swiftly was done.

In the city Vienna already was prepared their festal array,

And from setting forth on his journey would the knight no longer delay.

Gotlind his wife in Bechlaren for his coming eagerly stayed;

And the Margravine, Rüdiger’s daughter, a young and winsome maid,

Was fain to behold her father and them of his vassal-throng.

Sooth, that was a loving waiting of ladies fair and young.

Ere Rüdiger the noble forth of Vienna’s gate

Rode to Bechlaren, ready for him did all things wait

On the sumpter-beasts full laden, the raiment and warrior-gear.

So strongly guarded they journeyed, no spoiler dared draw near.

So when they were come to Bechlaren, and had passed through the gates thereof,

For all his warrior-fellows that knightly host of his love

Bade lodging fair be provided, and all was done as he willed.

And the Lady Gotlind hailed him with eyes with gladness filled,

Even she and her dear-loved daughter, the fair young Margravine.

No sweeter sight than the coming of her father had she seen.

When came out of Hunland the heroes, she saw them joyful-eyed,

And with smiling lips of greeting the high-born maiden cried:

“Welcome be now my father, and ye his vassal-train!”

Thereat to their lord’s young daughter many a gallant thane

In knightly courtesy bent him, and rendered thank unto her.

Well knew the Lady Gotlind the mind of Rüdiger;

For when in the hush of the night-tide by Rüdiger’s side she lay,

With loving speech she questioned, and the Margravine bade him say

{p. 160}

Whither away from Hunland by his lord the King he was sent.

“Gotlind my wife,” he answered, “I will tell to thee all his intent:

This charge my lord hath given, that I woo him another bride,

Inasmuch as Helka the lovely, the wife of his youth, hath died.

Therefore to win for him Kriemhild now to the Rhine ride I;

And she, if she will, mid the Hunfolk shall be throned in empery.”

“God grant it may fall,” said Gotlind, “according to this thy word!

A tale of such glory and honour of that lady have we heard,

She might comfort our hearts for Helka whom we lost in the days bygone:

We might well mid the Hunfolk gladly behold her set on the throne.”

Answered the Lord of the Marches: “Heart’s dearest, lady mine,

These friends that with me be riding from this land on to the Rhine—

I would have thee with hand all-bounteous on these of thy wealth bestow;

For when heroes be rich-appointed, with hearts uplifted they go.”

“No man of them all,” she answered, “so he at my request

Take all that I freely offer, but shall have what suiteth him best,

Ere thou from Bechlaren departest with all thy vassal-train.”

Answered the Lord of the Marches, “Of thy bounty am I full fain.”

O me, what costly loom-work from her treasures forth she bare!

Thereof had the noble warriors raiment enough and to spare.

With diligence did she array them wholly, from neck to spur.

What vesture soever pleased him was chosen of Rüdiger.

On the seventh morning thereafter rode from Bechlaren away

That host with his train of warriors: weapons of war had they

And store of costly raiment, through Bavaria-land as they pressed.

Such steel-clad strong wayfarers no spoiler dared molest.

So then on the twelfth day’s morning to the land of Rhine they came.

Swiftly the tale of their coming flew on the wings of fame.

Full soon to the King and his kinsmen did the city-warders show

That guests were come from a far land. And now would Gunther know—

“Doth any man know yon strangers? If it be so, let him declare.”

Men looked on the sumpter-horses, and the heavy loads they bare;

{p. 161}

How rich were the alien heroes might all discern thereby:

Then all through the wide-wayed city they lodged them royally.

So soon as men saw these strangers through the streets of the city ride,

They gazed on the long procession with wonder eager-eyed,

Sore marvelling whence these barons to the land of the Rhine had come.

“Know’st thou,” the King asked Hagen, “who these shall be, and wherefrom?”

Answered the Lord of Troneg: “Not yet have I looked on them well.

So soon as mine eyes have marked them, doubt not but I shall tell

From what far country hither hath ridden their knightly array.

They must needs be far-off dwellers if I know them not straightway.”

So when into many a hostel those guests of a king were brought,

King Etzel’s herald arrayed him in vesture richly wrought,

Even he and all his fellows, and they rode to the palace thus;

And the fashion of their raiment was exceeding glorious.

Then spake the valiant Hagen: “As I call up things long past,—

For in sooth many days have fleeted since I saw yon baron last,—

Such are they in semblance, methinketh, as Rüdiger now might be,

Out of the land of the Hunfolk, in port and in valiancy.”

“Meseems it is past believing,” the King made answer again,

“That unto this far country should journey Bechlaren’s thane!”

Yet scarce had the word of misgiving from the lips of Gunther flown,

Than by Hagen of a surety was the knightly Rüdiger known.

Then Troneg’s lord and his kinsmen to meet that stranger stept,

As valiant thanes five hundred down from the saddle leapt.

Courteous greeting and loving those Hunland envoys had.

Sooth, never a great king’s heralds had come so royally clad.

Then Hagen of Troneg lifted his voice, and he cried aloud:

“Now unto us be welcome these gallant thanes and proud!

Welcome the Lord of Bechlaren and all his valiant ones!”

Yea, hailed with abundant honour in truth were the warrior Huns.

King Gunther’s nearest kinsmen with welcoming hands drew nigh,

And to Rüdiger did Ortwein, fair Metz’s warder, cry:

{p. 162}

“No guests so passing welcome to our hearts for many a day

Have we looked upon in Rhineland: sheer truth is that I say.”

Then one and all for his greeting they thanked that princely thane;

And into the Hall of the Presence paced Rüdiger and his train.

There they beheld King Gunther begirt with barons bold;

And he rose from his throne to greet them, like a great king courteous-souled.

With welcome how royal-courteous those heralds did he meet!

How eagerly did Gunther and Gernot his brother greet

That stately guest and his good knights! Worthy thereof they were.

Then by the hand did Gunther the King lead Rüdiger:

He brought him unto the high-seat whence himself had risen but now;

And he bade pour out for his guest-friends—and with joy they obeyed, I trow—

The sparkling mead of welcome, and the choicest of all wine

That man might find by searching in the lands that fringe the Rhine.

Came Giselher and Gere to bid the guests all-hail;

Dankwart withal and Volker, for these too heard the tale

Of the strangers worship-worthy. Blithe were they all of mood

As they greeted in Gunther’s presence that noble knight and good.

And now to his liege-lord Gunther did Hagen of Troneg say:

“With loving service ever should these thine earls repay

The kindness the Lord of the Marches showed unto us of old.

Now let the husband of Gotlind be requited manifold.”

Then spake King Gunther: “From asking will I no more delay:—

How fare thy Lord and thy Lady tell unto me straightway,

Etzel and Queen Helka, which rule the Hunfolk’s land.”

Answered the Margrave: “Gladly will I do my Lord’s command.”

Then rose he up from the high-seat; uprose his vassals all;

And he answered and spake unto Gunther: “If this indeed may befall

That thou givest me, King, free licence, without more tarrying

With willing lips will I utter the message that I bring.”

{p. 163}

And the King said: “Whatsoever the charge of thy message be,

With friends do I take not counsel ere I grant thee liberty

To speak out all thy message unto me and my friends, O guest.

All honour shall be accorded thy petition and thy request.”

Spake that true-hearted herald: “Unto you by Rhine which dwell

In all manner of loyal service my King commendeth him well

And to all thy friends and kinsmen, the vassals of thy throne.

In faithfulness utter-loyal is this my message done.

The noble King requesteth that ye mourn his hapless lot;

For his people be sitting joyless: our Lady and Queen is not.

The wife of my good Lord, Helka the mighty, low is laid,

Whereby are young lives orphaned, even many a tender maid,

Children of noble princes, whom she fostered in bower and hall,

Whereby the whole land sitteth dark-shrouded in sorrow’s pall;

For now, ah me, have they no one whose love shall bless them and ward.

Long shall it be ere assuaging come to the grief of my Lord!”

“God guerdon him,” said Gunther, “that so graciously he commends

His loving and courteous service unto me and these my friends!

Gladly I hearken the greeting borne this day unto me,

And willing service I tender from me and mine by thee.”

Outspake a Prince Burgundian, and the good knight Gernot said:

“Well may the world sit mourning that Helka the fair is dead;

For in her did princely virtues and the law of kindness reign.”

“This witness is true: I have seen it,” said Hagen the high-born thane.

But again that noble herald, Lord Rüdiger, spake on:

“Lord King, now suffer me further: mine errand not yet is done.

I would utter the word of my dear Lord, the which by my mouth he saith.

He liveth in sorrow exceeding since the Lady Helka’s death.

They have told my Lord that Kriemhild sitteth a widow alone,

Now that Siegfried is dead. If it be so, if the truth unto him hath been shown,

Then if thou, O King, accord it, beneath the crown shall she stand

Before the knights of Etzel. I have spoken my Lord’s command.”

{p. 164}

Answered and spake King Gunther of his princely-courteous mind:

“She shall hear my will in the matter, if her heart be so inclined.

Thereof will I certify you in three days from this day.

Or ever I prove her heart’s wish, why should I say thee nay?”

Thereafter they gave fair lodging unto all their guests straightway.

So kindly were they entreated that Rüdiger needs must say

That amid King Gunther’s liegemen good friends had he found enow.

Glad service did Hagen render for his kindness of long ago.

There did the Lord of Bechlaren till the third day’s dawning abide;

And the King dealt prudently, calling his counsellors to his side;

And he asked of his friends and his kinsmen if good in their sight this thing

Seemed, that his sister Kriemhild should wed with Etzel the King.

“Yea, good in our eyes it seemeth,” said they with one accord

Save Hagen alone: unto Gunther he spake, that valiant lord:

“If thou be wise and prudent, hereof take thou good heed,

That, be she never so willing, thou never consent to the deed.”

“Wherefore,” made answer Gunther, “should I his wooing withstand?

What kindness soever or blessing the Queen may have of mine hand,

That will I grant her gladly. Sister she is unto me.

Yea, ourselves might seek such alliance, if such for her honour be.”

But again made answer Hagen: “Nay, put this counsel by!

Did ye but know this Etzel and his might so well as I—

If thou, as thou saidst in mine hearing, unto hers add thy consent,

Above all men thou most surely shalt have chief cause to repent.”

“Wherefore?” said Gunther. “Lightly may I ward me against this,

To come so nigh to his presence that through any malice of his

Hurt I should be or imperilled, although she be wedded to him.”

“Never will I approve it!” made answer Hagen the grim.

Then the King bade summon Gernot to his presence and Giselher,

And he asked of these two princes if good in their eyes it were

That the Lady Kriemhild be wedded to the mighty Lord of the Hun:

And of these, save Hagen only, there spake against it none.

{p. 165}

Then answered the Prince Burgundian, Giselher the knight:

“Now surely shouldst thou, friend Hagen, deal by her according to right.

Make good unto her that sorrow thou hast brought upon her ere now.

Whatsoever shall be for her profit, ungrudging suffer thou.

Yea, thou hast brought on my sister such passing bitter pain”—

So Giselher, peerless hero, unto Hagen spake again—

“That, how stern soe’er were her hatred, thy due hast thou but received.

Never by man hath woman of joy been so bereaved!”

“O yea, full well I know it: who knows it, nought care I!

But, if she take this Etzel, and see her hour draw nigh

Wherein she may compass her vengeance, she will do us what hurt she can:

And verily then in her service shall be many a mighty man!”

Made answer Gernot the dauntless, and unto Hagen he said:

“Nay then, long time may we tarry, yea, till these twain be dead,

Ere unto the land of Etzel the Hun-king journey we.

Let us deal with my sister truly: for our honour this shall be.”

Thereto made answer Hagen: “I say—gainsay it who dare—

If once the high-born Kriemhild the crown of Helka wear,

Whatsoever she may of mischief, that unto us will she do.

Ye knights, let be, I counsel: better shall this be for you.”

Then Giselher spake in his anger, the fair Queen Uta’s son:

“We be not in any wise minded to be traitors every one!

Whatsoe’er may befall her of honour, let us be glad thereof.

Whatsoever thou sayest, Hagen, I serve her in faith and love.”

When Hagen heard that saying, he was wroth and bitter of mood.

But Giselher and Gernot, the haughty knights and good,

And the King, the mighty Gunther—in one mind stood these three:

If this should be Kriemhild’s pleasure, they would grant it ungrudgingly.

Spake Gere, Lord of the Marches: “This word unto her will I bring

That none shall let her from yielding her love unto Etzel the King

Unto whom in fear and in homage many a good knight bends.

For all her past wrongs suffered unto her may he make amends.”

{p. 166}

Then into the presence of Kriemhild passed that gallant knight.

She gave to him gracious welcome, and he spake the word forthright:

“Well mayst thou blithely greet me, and give me the messenger’s meed

For tidings of good fortune and days from sorrow freed!

One seeketh thy love, O Lady: lo, here his heralds be.

He is noble among the noblest that in honour and majesty

Have ruled over royal dominions, or a knightly crown have worn.

Proud knights be his suitors. This message from thy brother to thee have I borne.”

Then answered the sorrow-burdened: “Now God forbid that ye,

Even thou and all my kinsmen, should make a mockery

Of me in mine affliction! How should I shadow the life

Of a man that hath known the heart’s love of a true and faithful wife?”

Earnestly she gainsaid it. Then came in twain unto her,

Gernot the knight her brother, and the young prince Giselher;

And lovingly did they pray her to be comforted from her woe,

And to take the King to her husband, for that this to her profit should grow.

Yet howsoever they pleaded, was none could turn aside

The heart of that Queen of Sorrow to be another’s bride.

So they ceased, but they prayed her, “Suffer in any wise this thing,

An thou wilt nought else, to look on the herald of Etzel the King.”

“Yea,” answered the noble Lady, “this thing will I not deny.

Upon Rüdiger the knightly, the flower of chivalry,

Will I look with heart ungrudging: had another the messenger been,

Yea, any save this man only, my face should he ne’er have seen.”

And she said: “Unto this my bower let the friend of the King draw near

At morning-tide to-morrow; mine answer then shall he hear:

Yea all that mine heart hath determined with mine own lips will I tell.”

Then she turned her again to her mourning, and the tears of her sorrow fell.

Now Rüdiger the noble desired none other grace

So much as this, to be suffered to see her face to face;

{p. 167}

For he knew the all-prevailing power of a wise man’s tongue;

And he thought, “If the thing may be compassed, the Queen shall consent ere long.”

At early morn scarce ended was holy prayer and song,

When the heralds drew near: around them pressed a mighty throng

To gaze on the knights to the palace which rode with Rüdiger there:

In the splendour of their raiment right gallant thanes they were.

Kriemhild the while, the high-born, in sorrow-stricken mood

For Rüdiger sat waiting, that noble knight and good,

Not decked as a queen, but in raiment that served her day by day;

But clad were her bower-maidens in royal-rich array.

At his coming she rose, and to meet him to the bower-door she went,

And with gracious greeting welcomed the herald of Etzel sent.

With none save comrades eleven he came before the Queen,

And with worshipful honour was welcomed: never princelier envoys were seen.

They bade them unto the high-seats, even him and his knightly train.

The while in the presence of Kriemhild stood the margraves twain,

The noble knights and valiant, Eckwart and Gere withal.

But by reason of Kriemhild’s sorrow heavy of cheer were they all.

Sat in their Lady’s presence many a comely maid;

But never the flood of the weeping and mourning of Kriemhild was stayed.

Her raiment over her bosom was wet with the hot tears’ flow.

And the noble Lord of the Marches beheld, and grieved in her woe.

Then spake that courteous herald: “O Daughter of Kings, I pray

For myself and my fellow-farers which have come from far away,

That thou of thy grace wilt suffer that now in thy presence we stand

And utter to thee the message that we bring from our fatherland.”

“This grace do I freely accord thee,” the sad Queen made reply;

“Speak whatsoe’er thou desirest, for purposed now am I

Gladly to hear that message: good herald and true thou art.”

Yet all through the courteous bidding discerned the reluctant heart.

{p. 168}

Then the Knight of Bechlaren, the Margrave Rüdiger, spake the word:

“Unto thee, O Lady, Etzel the mighty King my Lord

In love and in faith doth commend him; his greeting I bear to thy land;

And good knights many he sendeth, his suitors for thine hand.

He maketh thee faithful proffer of love that shall banish pain;

All constancy of affection from his true heart shalt thou gain,

Even such as had Helka, who nearest lay to his heart of old—

The heart that remembers her goodness in lone grief manifold.”

Then spake unto him Queen Kriemhild: “Lord Margrave Rüdiger,

If of mine heart’s affliction any man were ware,

He would counsel me never to hearken if another man should woo,

Who have lost the best and the dearest that ever woman knew.”

“Wherein is there comfort for sorrow,” answered the valiant thane,

“More than in love of a true heart? Whoso this treasure may gain,

And hath won whom his heart hath chosen, and filled the void thereof,

He proveth that for sorrow there is no salve like unto love.

And if thou to my noble master wilt yield thy love, and wed,

Twelve crowns of mighty kingdoms will he set upon thine head,

Yea, and of thirty princes my Lord shall give thee the lands;

Subject are they, overmastered by his all-conquering hands.

Thou shalt be withal liege-lady of many a warrior bold

Which were vassals to my mistress Helka in days of old,

And of many a high-born lady from princely lineage sprung

That to her once rendered service”—spake on that winning tongue—

“This also the King shall give thee, he bade me say unto thee,

So thou yield to wear beside him the crown of royalty,

Power, even the highest that ever in the hands of Helka lay;

All the warrior-vassals of Etzel thee also shall obey.”

“Ah me! how could I ever,” Queen Kriemhild mournfully cried,

“Incline mine heart hereafter to be any hero’s bride,

Even I, whom death hath stricken through one with such bitter grief

That unto my life’s end never from pain shall I find relief?”

{p. 169}

“O mighty Queen,” the Hunfolk unto Kriemhild made reply,

“Their life who dwell with Etzel so royally fleeteth by,

That a dream of delight shall thy days be, if thou hearken our counselling.

O, many a gallant baron doeth homage to Etzel the King.

And the bower-maidens of Helka and they that be here with thee

Shall wait upon thy pleasure in one bright company;

And many a knight beholding these shall be glad of heart.

For thy good shall it fall, O Lady, if thou choose the better part.”

Then she spake like a courteous lady: “Awhile from speech refrain

Till the morning-tide of to-morrow; then come ye to me again.

So touching this your petition will I tell you mine intent.”

And the valiant barons of Hunland thereto must needs consent.

So when in hall and hostel lodged and feasted they were,

That noble Lady commanded to send to her Giselher,

And withal her mother Uta; and to these twain did she say:

“No life save weeping and mourning remaineth to me for aye!”

Spake Giselher her brother: “Sister, mine heart foresees—

And I count it herein true prophet—that thy pangs and thy miseries

In King Etzel’s love shall vanish: if thou share his life and his throne,

Let who will speak against it, meseems it shall well be done.

For all thou hast lost,” said her brother, “can he make amends unto thee.

From the River Rhone to the Rhine-stream, from the Elbe to the uttermost sea,

There is no king so mighty that men have known or seen.

Well might thine heart be gladdened that he chooseth thee for his Queen.”

She answered: “O brother belovèd, counsel not this, I implore!

Meeter for me are weeping and wailing evermore.

What have I to do with a palace, in the presence of knights to shine?

Long since my beauty hath faded, if beauty ever was mine.”

Now speaketh the Lady Uta to the daughter she loveth, and saith:

“Nay, do thou, daughter belovèd, as thy brother counselleth.

Hearken the voice of thy kinsfolk, and good days so shalt thou know.

Too long have I seen thee sitting in lamentation and woe.”

{p. 170}

Unto God then earnestly prayed she the path of her feet to show;

For, albeit hers should be raiment and silver and gold to bestow,

As of yore when she dwelt with her husband, when his life within him was whole,

The glorious hours of the old time could no more gladden her soul.

Aye in her heart was she musing: “And can I link my life

With a husband that is a heathen—and I, a Christian wife?

Reproach must then be my portion through all the earth, and shame.

Though he gave the whole world’s riches, not so could I stain my name!”

So even there did she leave it. The livelong night till the day

With deep heart-searchings haunted on her bed that lady lay;

And her eyes, the starry-shining, from tears were never dry,

Till she rose, and passed to the mass-tide when the morning sun was high.

Now also unto the mass-tide were come those princes three;

And they took the hand of their sister, and spake to her lovingly,

Still counselling her unto marriage with the Lord of the Hunland folk:

But never the light of smiling o’er the face of sadness broke.

Then sent they for Etzel’s heralds once more to her presence to come—

For now from the land of Gunther would they fain be faring home

Bearing consent or denial, as Kriemhild’s mind might be.

Then Rüdiger came to the palace. Now his fellows instantly

Urged him to seek decision of the mind of the noble King,

And betimes to end their doubting: such was the counselling

Of all; for a weary journey to their land before them lay.

So into the presence of Kriemhild Rüdiger brought they.

With words exceeding courteous that gallant knight drew nigh

To the lady sorrow-stricken, and prayed her to make reply

For the message wherewith she would charge him, to bear to the land of the Hun.

But the herald with all his pleading nought but denial won:—

“Never man will I love hereafter, nor another husband wed!”

“Nay, Lady,” answered the Margrave, “is the word so wisely said?

Wherefore to sorrow’s blasting this glory of beauty ban,

When thou mayest become with honour the bride of a good true man?”

{p. 171}

Yet nothing availed their pleading, till Rüdiger drew near,

And murmured a word in secret in the Lady Kriemhild’s ear

That for all the wrongs she had suffered should requital be made unto her.

Now sinketh the storm of her sorrow as the new thoughts inly stir.

Yet again to the Queen he whispered: “Let be thy mourning and moan;

For, though thou hadst mid the Hunfolk none save me alone,

Even me and my loyal kinsmen, and my vassals stout and true,

Whosoever had wronged thee, Lady, we would make him bitterly rue.”

Then the face of the lady lightened, her eyes like steel flashed keen—

“Swear unto me,” she answered, “whatsoever my wrong hath been,

That, Rüdiger, thou wilt be foremost to avenge me with heart and hand.”

Made answer to her the Margrave: “Unto this, Queen, will I stand.”

For himself and for all his vassals Rüdiger sware to her then

To the death evermore to serve her, and that he and his mighty men

Would deny or delay her nothing afar in Etzel’s land,

Whatsoever her honour demanded; and to this he gave his hand.

Then thought the Faithful-hearted: “Since I thus lightly have won

Friends so many and steadfast, I will e’en let folk say on

What things they list of ‘the Heathen’! O sorrow-laden wife!—

What and if I at last win vengeance for my lost belovèd’s life?”

She thought: “Since this King Etzel is served of many a knight

Over whom shall I be mistress, I may do as seemeth me right.

He hath such stintless treasures, I may yet give bounteously:—

All that was mine hath Hagen the ruthless torn from me!”

Again unto Rüdiger spake she: “Except I had heard folk say

That the King is a heathen, gladly my feet should tread the way

Whither the great King biddeth, and him for my lord would I take.”

“Fret not thyself, O Lady,” he answered, “for such words’ sake.

(C) Not wholly is he a heathen; this know thou for very sooth.

For my belovèd master was indeed baptized in his youth,

Though haply he since have turned him unto ancient altar and fane.

But, Lady, if thou wilt wed him, his heart may be turned yet again.

{p. 172}

So many good knights serve him which be thanes of Christ the Lord,

That no ill may betide thee with the King, or in deed or word.

And what if thine holy converse thy lord to the font should bring?

Then proud wert thou and happy to be wife of Etzel the King!”

Then spake unto her her brethren: “Belovèd sister, consent,

And all thy tribulation shall be swallowed up in content.”

So long and so instantly prayed they, that the Queen of the Sorrowful Life

Pledged her at last to the heroes to be King Etzel’s wife.

She spake: “I needs must yield me, a crown of sorrow who wear,

With you to go to the Hunfolk when ye bid me thither to fare,

If I find friends trusty and loyal to lead me hence to your land.”

And thereto in the heroes’ presence fair Kriemhild gave her hand.

Answered the Lord of the Marches: “Though thou have but liegemen twain,

Thereto can I add full many. With all these in thy train

Of a surety in safety and honour shalt thou be brought over Rhine.

Lady, tarry no longer in the land that is no more thine!

Knights have I here five hundred, and kinsmen, a warrior-band.

Lo, these be all thy servants, both here and in Etzel’s land,

Sworn to do all thy bidding. I stand by my plighted troth.

I will shame mine honour never when thou biddest remember mine oath.

Prepare then journeying-raiment and the trappings of the steed.

As touching Rüdiger’s counsel, thou never shalt rue his rede.

And bid thy maidens who journey with thee that they swiftly prepare.

Many a chosen hero shall meet us as onward we fare.”

Still had they the trappings and housings wherewith they wont to ride

In Siegfried’s days, so that maidens many in pomp and pride

Might fare in the train of Kriemhild, what time she would be gone.

How goodly the jewelled saddles for those fair ladies shone!

What lovely raiment soever they had e’er worn theretofore,

Thereof for this wondrous journey they brought forth all their store.

{p. 173}

From casket and bolted coffer they drew forth vesture and gem—

Such marvels of the splendour of Etzel were told unto them.

Busy they were and eager till the eve of the fifth bright day.

Out of the presses sought they all things therein that lay.

And Kriemhild now bestirred her to unlock her treasury

Of purpose to load with riches all Rüdiger’s company.

Still had she somewhat remaining of the gold of the Niblung Land;

And this to the Hunnish heroes would she deal with lavish hand.

Scarce could a hundred horses bear thence that precious load.

But some talebearer to Hagen the purpose of Kriemhild showed.

“Never,” he said, “will Kriemhild forgive me that ancient wrong:

Therefore the gold of Siegfried must needs here bide full long.

Should I leave so mighty a treasure to my bitterest foes, and rue?

Right well do I know what Kriemhild with all this wealth would do!

If forth of the land she convey it, I know this certainly

That with champions she will but share it, to stir up foes against me:—

And she hath not so much as horses of number to bear it away!

Hagen for her will keep it: to Kriemhild thus let them say.”

When the thing was told unto Kriemhild, she was stung with indignant pain.

Of the tyrannous wrong of Hagen to the three Kings did she complain.

His will were they fain to have thwarted, but his purpose none could shake.

Then Rüdiger the noble lightly to Kriemhild spake:

“O high-born Daughter of Princes, wherefore lament for the gold?

Unto thee is my Lord King Etzel so loving and bounteous-souled,

That, soon as his eyes have beheld thee, he will give thee such rich store

That never thine hands may spend it: I pledge my faith therefor.”

Unto him the Queen made answer: “O noble Rüdiger,

Never had Daughter of Princes such treasure bequeathed unto her

As that whereof Hagen hath stripped me with neither ruth nor shame!”

Then to the treasury royal her brother Gernot came:

In the door did he set the great key with authority as of a king,

And all the treasure of Kriemhild forth of the place did they bring,

{p. 174}

Marks full thirty thousand—yea, more, it may haply be—

That the guests might take it; and Gunther rejoiced that deed to see.

But out spake he of Bechlaren, the fair Gotlinda’s lord:

“Nay, though ’neath the hand of Kriemhild lay all the treasure-hoard

That ever was brought aforetime out of the Niblungs’ land,

Nor I nor the Queen my Lady would touch the same with a hand.

Back let them take, let them keep it; for I thereof will naught.

Of mine own wealth out of my country such plenty have I brought,

That of this no whit for our journey shall we need, through the land as we fare.

Even we for our own wayfaring have gotten enough and to spare.”

Yet had her maidens already therefrom filled coffers twelve

Of gold the finest and purest that miner ever may delve.

And with these they bare from the city many a precious thing,

Even jewels and gems, that the maidens would wear in their journeying;

—Yet still by the dread overshadowed of Hagen’s might were they;—

And a thousand marks for masses yet by Kriemhild lay:

For the peace of the soul of Siegfried she gave them as love’s last due.

And Rüdiger thought: “This woman is faithful and loving and true.”

Then spake that Lady of Sorrows: “Who love me yet so well

That for me they be willing as strangers in a strange land to dwell?

Who now will companion my journey, unto Etzel’s land as I ride?

Let them take of my gold, and purvey them horses, and raiment provide.”

Then Eckwart, Lord of the Marches, drew nigh, and thus spake he:

“Since the day when I was appointed to wait, O Queen, upon thee,

Faithfully and truly have I served thee,” said that thane;

“Now also to my life’s ending in my fealty will I remain.

Good knights withal five hundred of mine own will I take with me,

And I tender to thee their service in faith and fealty.

We will ever abide unsundered, except death make an end.”

Low bowed her Kriemhild, and thanked him, that loving and loyal friend.

{p. 175}

Then led they out the horses, since forth of the land they must fare.

Then brake forth bitter weeping of dear friends gathered there.

There was the great Queen Uta, with many a comely maid;

And they showed what burden of sorrow upon their hearts was laid.

With a hundred high-born maidens she rode from the land away,

All as beseemed their station attired in costly array.

Ah then with tears upwelling were many bright eyes drowned:

Yet many a day of joyance in Etzel’s land they found.

Lord Giselher, and Gernot, with their vassal-company,

Came on that parting-morning, as bidden of courtesy,

To escort their belovèd sister to the uttermost part of the land,

And they led a thousand warriors in that their gallant band.

Came Gere the swift war-helper, came Ortwein therewithal,

Nor tarried behind them Rumold, arrayer of feasts in hall[10];

And of these was prepared night-lodging for the ladies all through the way:

And Volker was marshal, and hostels he found for the knights’ array.

(C) When they kissed at that last leave-taking, the hot tears fell like rain

Ere they won through the gates of the castle to the highway through the plain.

Unbidden did many escort them afar on Burgundia’s ways:

But beside them rode King Gunther from the town but a little space.

Ere from the Rhine they departed, they had sent on far before

Swift messengers unto Hunland that joyful tidings bore,

Even to tell King Etzel that Rüdiger would bring

The noble Lady Kriemhild, won to be wife to the King.

(C) Swiftly the heralds onward rode; ay, well was their need,

Alike for the winning of honour and the good-news’ bearer’s meed;

And when they came to the home-land, and that glad word was told,

Never, I ween, had Etzel been so joyful-souled.

(C) In guerdon for these fair tidings Etzel the King bade give

Such costly gifts to the heralds, that they might thereafter live

Through all their days in joyance, yea, to the hour of their death,

For afar had his trouble and anguish been driven upon love’s breath.

Of Kriemhild’s journeying to the Land of the Huns

{p. 176}

Let us suffer those heralds onward to ride:—let the minstrel sing

How rode that Daughter of Princes through the land far-journeying,

And where at the last she parted from Gernot and Giselher.

In loyalty and honour had these twain holpen her.

When they came where looks over Danube Bergen’s citadel,

Then at the last those heroes must bid the Queen farewell,

For that backward unto the Rhineland now must they turn the rein.

When the near and dear so parted could none from tears refrain.

Then Giselher to his sister spake one parting word:

“Sister, if ever thou needest help of my counsel or sword,

What peril soever threatens, send thou word unto me;

Into the land of Etzel will I straightway ride unto thee.”

Then kissed she the lips of her kinsfolk, and they parted in love and grief;

And with kindly word and with hand-clasp friend of friend took leave,

The valiant men of Burgundia and Rüdiger’s cavalcade.

Then with the Queen rode onward many a high-born maid,

Even four and a hundred fair ones: in bright hues rainbow-dyed

Glistened their lovely vesture: broad shields upon either side

Went flashing down the highways on the arms of the Hun-queen’s train.

Then turned, after fair leave-taking, Volker the valiant thane.

Into the land of Bavaria over the Danube they won,

And fast and far went the tidings of the long lines riding on,

And the many unknown faces. Where stand a cloister’s walls,

And where the broad Inn-river into the Danube falls,

There in the city of Passau a great prince-bishop abode.

From their homes, yea, forth from the palace the folk streamed out to the road

{p. 177}

Whereby those guests through Bavaria-land came riding in.

There met was Kriemhild the lovely by the bishop Pilgerin.

Glad were the knights Bavarian to look on that winsome sight,

That Queen of Beauty followed by many a maiden bright;

And with loving glances and longing those daughters of earls did they greet.

Fair harbourage full swiftly was found for guests so sweet.

(C) At Pledeling resting-places were prepared for the slumber-tide.

All people came forth riding to meet them from every side;

And they gave to them whatso they needed with willing hands and free

There and elsewhere, and they took it with princely courtesy.

Back rode the bishop to Passau with his niece the royal dame;

And so soon as unto the burghers of the city the tidings came,

That the child of their prince’s sister, Kriemhild the Queen, drew nigh,

The merchants greeted her entry with stately pageantry.

Now the bishop had looked that a little there should his guests stay on;

But Eckwart, Lord of the Marches, said: “Nay, it may nowise be done.

We needs must still ride onward to the land of Rüdiger:

Many knights unto whom our coming hath been heralded wait for us there.”

Now by this known too unto Gotlind the fair one the tidings were;

And with diligent haste did the lady and her high-born daughter prepare:

For a message had Rüdiger sent her that he held it a seemly thing

That to cheer the heart of Kriemhild she should ride to meet her, and bring

With her for a guard of honour all her vassal-array

So far as Ems the river. Then hasted she to obey;

And straightway thronged were the highways with folk that onward pressed,

Afoot, or riding, eager to meet that queenly guest.

Now was the Queen in her journey come unto Everding.

They had passed through the land Bavarian unvexed of the plundering

Of the robber barons which haunted the ways, as their wont was aye.

Well might they have done a mischief unto so rich a prey;

But Rüdiger the noble from peril warded them still:

With a thousand knights, yea, haply yet more, had he fenced them from ill.

{p. 178}

And now was the Lady Gotlind, Rüdiger’s wife, at hand,

And with her a host of good knights, a great and gallant band.

Now when they had crossed Traun-river by Ems, in the river-mead green,

There many a booth fair-builded and many a tent was seen

Wherein those guests through the night-tide sweet rest and slumber should win,

Ready-reared at the Margrave’s charges to honour his guests therein.

From the palace prepared for the lodging of those guests Gotlind the fair

Rode forward to meet her Lady: along the highways were

Long lines of goodly horses with jingling bridle-reins:—

Fair welcome! Fain was the Margrave of all their loving pains.

The knights that from eastward and westward along the highway rode

Spurred gallantly forth to the meeting: brave horsemanship they showed,

Those charging ranks of heroes of many a fair maid seen!

In sooth was the good knights’ service well-pleasing to the Queen.

When clashed Lord Rüdiger’s vassals with the guests in the mimic war,

Many a splintered lance-shaft went upward soaring far

From the hands of the gallant heroes as they tilted in knightly wise;

And ladies’ smiles were their guerdon, and the light in ladies’ eyes.

Now stayed is the tide of combat, and the laughing warriors greet

Right courteously the strangers; and forward riding, to meet

The Queen, the glorious Kriemhild, doth the Lady Gotlind go.

Now knights that in ladies’ service be perfect, have work enow.

To meet and to greet his lady rode on Bechlaren’s Lord:

Right glad was the noble Gotlind to hail the lost restored

Whole and unharmed from the Rhineland and from peril of the way.

Vanished her fear and her sorrow as a dream at the dawning of day.

So when she had given him welcome, “I pray thee light,” said he,

“On the grass with thy bower-maidens, all these which have followed thee.”

Then in knightly courtesy busy was many a high-born thane

Which waited with eager service on the ladies of her train.

{p. 179}

Then looked the Lady Kriemhild, and beheld the Margravine

Stand in the midst of her ladies. No further rode the Queen;

But she checked with bit and bridle the onward-pacing steed,

And she bade them from the saddle lift her to earth with speed.

Leading the child of his sister the princely bishop strode,

With Eckwart beside him, where Lady Gotlind their coming abode.

To right and to left all people fell back as onward they came;

And the stranger Queen kissed sweetly the lips of the noble dame.

With words all lowly-loving did the wife of Rüdiger say:

“Now happy am I, dear mistress, and a blessing on this day

That in this our land hath given to mine eyes thy face to see!

No sight so heart-rejoicing could now have appeared unto me.”

“O noble Gotlind,” said Kriemhild, “God guerdon thee for this!

If I with the son of Botlung see days of weal and bliss,

Well may it be for thee truly that I have been seen of thee.”

—Ah, neither of these foreboded the things that were yet to be!

Then met with courteous greeting the maidens of either land,

And around them tendering service did many a good knight stand;

And they sat down after the greeting on earth’s clover-mantled floor.

So were they made acquainted which were strangers theretofore,

As they poured the wine for the ladies. By this the sun was high,

Nor longer lingered thereafter that noble company.

On rode they, and came to pavilions broad and fair-arrayed

Wherein might perfect service to the noble guests be paid.

There till the new day’s dawning they rested through the night.

Now the folk of Bechlaren bestirred them that all should be ordered aright,

That guests so many and worthy should be welcomed with honour due:

Such heed had Rüdiger taken, that nothing lacked thereto.

There thrown wide open for welcome were the windows in the walls;

Through the castle of Bechlaren flung wide were the doors of her halls.

There amid welcoming faces the guests through the gateway rode,

And in many a fair-dight chamber by Rüdiger were they bestowed.

{p. 180}

The Margravine’s fair daughter drew with her maidens nigh

To the palace-portal, and welcomed the Queen right lovingly,

And there by her side did her mother, the wife of Rüdiger, stand;

And maidens to bower-maidens outstretched the welcoming hand,

And two by two they drew them with fingers that lovingly clung

To a wide hall stately-builded, with tapestries fair-hung.

Afront of the windows the Danube-river flowed below.

There sat they in merry converse, and felt the cool breeze blow.

Of all that befell as they tarried the minstrel may not sing:

Yet certes the knights of Kriemhild at such long tarrying

Murmured, for now were they chafing that so slowly the goal was won.

What gallant knights from Bechlaren thereafter escorted them on!

Service the Margrave tendered most loving and manifold.

Then gave that Daughter of Princes twelve armlets of red gold

Unto the daughter of Gotlind, and raiment lovely-wrought.

Into the land of Etzel none fairer had Kriemhild brought.

Albeit the gold of the Niblungs out of her hand had been reft,

Yet with the little treasure that still unto her was left

She won the hearts of all folk that looked upon her face.

Great gifts unto Rüdiger’s household she gave of her royal grace.

And for her part Lady Gotlind to the guests from Rhineland showed

Such high and bounteous honour in the gifts that she bestowed,

That hard had it been mid the strangers to find so much as one

Who had not of her hands fair-woven vesture or precious stone.

So when these guests had eaten, and would forth on their journey again,

Her loyal service commended that noble chatelaine

In speech most lowly-loving unto great Etzel’s Queen;

And Kriemhild embraced at parting the fair young Margravine.

Then spake unto Kriemhild the damsel: “If this my Queen content,

Well know I, my dear-loved father thereto would gladly consent

To send me to thee into Hunland, to wait on my Lady there.”

How loyal could be that maiden, full well was Kriemhild ware.

{p. 181}

All bridled waited the horses before the castle-port,

When the noble Queen had taken her leave in gracious sort

Of the wife of the Lord of the Marches and the fair young child at her side;

And with many a farewell spoken thence did the maidens ride.

Seldom indeed thereafter from that day forth met they!

Out of Medelick came the people, and stood beside the way

With many a golden goblet rich-wrought filled high with wine

That the guests might drink, and “Welcome!” they bade them by word and sign.

The Lord of the place in his castle dwelt there, Astolf hight:

On the road to the Easterlings’ country he set their feet aright:

Over against Mautaren by the Danube runs that road.

There worshipful observance to the great Queen all folk showed.

Of his sister’s daughter the bishop took loving farewell there.

That long she might live and prosper how earnest was his prayer,

And might for herself earn honour as Helka of yore had done!

Ha, what high honour and worship in the hearts of the Huns she won!

So they came in a little season unto the Traisem’s flow,

And still did the knights of the Margrave heedfully guarding them go,

Till far off riding to meet them was a host of the Hunfolk seen.

Ha, then was fulness of honour rendered unto the Queen!

On the Traisem’s bank did a castle of the Lord of the Hunfolk stand,

A passing-stately fortress, well known through all the land;

And the same hight Traisenmauer: there Helka dwelt of old,

A lady beyond all other exceeding bounteous-souled,

Except that other were Kriemhild, for her bounty withal was free.

Well might she be henceforth happy after all her misery,

For all the people of Etzel her kindness extolled and her grace;

Yea, in abundant measure she won the heroes’ praise.

Now the majesty of King Etzel was grown so world-renowned,

That at every time and season about his court were found

All knights on earth most valiant that ever man had known

Mid Christian nations and heathen: all gathered round his throne.

{p. 182}

Year in, year out, around him—such sight none now may see—

Were Christian knights and heathen dwelling in amity,

Each after his own land’s custom, even as such might fall.

So full and so free was his bounty, that aye it sufficed for all.

How King Etzel wedded Kriemhild

At Traisenmauer she tarried till four days were fulfilled;

And all that time on the highways for never an hour was stilled

The uprolling of dust on all sides like smoke from a forest aflame

As the riders of Etzel thither through the land of the Easterlings came.

For by this had the joyful tidings been told unto Etzel the King

How royally Lady Kriemhild through the land was journeying.

By that sweet expectation slain, was the old pain gone,

And arose the King, and hastened to meet that loveliest one.

Streamed far along the highways warriors of many a tongue.

To herald the coming of Etzel came knights in a valiant throng;

Christian knights and heathen, in one vast host came they,

And they saw their Queen, and forward they swept in a stately array.

Warriors many of Russia and many of Greece were there;

On flew they, Poles and Wallachs, swiftly as birds of the air;

Horsemen on goodly horses, kings of the saddle they rode;

Each after his own land’s fashion their knightly prowess they showed.

From the land of Kiev came riding thitherward many a thane:

On came the wild Petschnegers; the great bow did they strain

Against the fowl of the heaven as flickered their wings in the blue.

Up to the head the arrow with marvellous might they drew.

Hard by the Danube river in the land of the Easterlings lies

A burg that men name Tulna: there seen of Kriemhild’s eyes

{p. 183}

Was many an alien custom uncouth and marvel-fraught.

There was she welcomed of many whose doom at the last she wrought.

Forerunners of King Etzel rode a vassal-company

Blithe-hearted, splendour-vestured, courtly and goodly to see,

Four and twenty princes, mighty and men of renown,

To look on their Queen: her presence of their heart’s desire was the crown.

Ramung, the great war-captain from far Wallachia-land,

To meet her rode; seven hundred were the warriors of his band.

On sped they all together swiftly as birds on the wing.

Then Prince Gibèk dashed forward with a gallant following.

Forth did the swift knight Hornbog with a thousand vassals ride

From his place beside King Etzel, to greet that glorious bride.

As they rode, they upraised the war-cry of their land, that it rang afar.

On swept the princes of Hunland in magnifical pomp of war.

Forward spurring to meet her came Hawart the dauntless Dane,

And Iring the swift war-helper, of the honour without a stain.

Came Irnfried the lord of Thuringia, a goodly champion he.

Thus welcomed they Queen Kriemhild for her honour and majesty,

With warriors wight twelve hundred, a splendid chivalry.

Then came the war-lord Blödel followed by thousands three,

The brother of King Etzel, and a mighty Hunland thane.

On rode he in pomp of procession, and before the Queen drew rein.

Last came the great King Etzel, with Lord Dietrich at his side,

With all his heroes behind him: it was good to see them ride,

Rank upon rank of warriors noble and faithful and bold:

To behold them heart-uplifted was Kriemhild, and joyful-souled.

Then spake unto Queen Kriemhild the noble Rüdiger:

“Now to the King’s self welcome I give, O Lady, here.

Of whomso I say, ‘Him kiss thou,’ such an one with a kiss do thou greet.

For all the knights of Etzel like welcoming were not meet.”

Then lifted they from her palfrey that stately Queen and fair;

And Etzel the King, the mighty, no longer tarried there,

{p. 184}

But begirt with many a baron down from the selle he leapt,

And with eyes for gladness shining unto Lady Kriemhild stept.

As singeth the old-time minstrel, high-born princes twain

Followed the Lady Kriemhild, upbearing her garment’s train,

As strode the great King Etzel his Lady and Queen to meet,

And with gracious kiss of welcome that noble Prince did she greet.

She put back veil and headband; the roses and lilies shone

Forth from the gold that enclosed them: then murmured many an one

That fairer than she not even the Lady Helka had been.

Then the brother of King Etzel, Blödel, drew nigh to the Queen.

With the kiss of salutation, as the Margrave Rüdiger bade,

Blödel and King Gibeke, and Dietrich welcome were made.

Twelve kissed she, kinsmen of Etzel, and chiefs of kingly pride;

And she bowed her in gracious greeting unto many a baron beside.

Through all that time of the meeting of Kriemhild with Etzel the King,

All in the ancient fashion young knights were tourneying:

With gentle and joyous jousting right gallantly they rode,

As the Christian knights and heathen their countries’ customs showed.

With what knightly prowess the champions of Dietrich’s warrior-band

Were hurling the whizzing javelin from the strong unerring hand!

Forth through the air far-leaping over the shields did they skim.

By the guests from Germany shivered was many a broad shield-rim.

With the ceaseless clashing of spear-shafts splintered loud was the air;

For the mighty men of the Hunland all were gathered there;

And there were the guests of Etzel, an exceeding noble array.

Now passeth the King with Kriemhild from the place of their meeting away,

And they come where hard beside them doth a stately pavilion stand:

All round was the whole plain covered with tents on every hand;

There guests after toil of their travel unto sweet rest now might win;

And many a winsome maiden the heroes led therein

{p. 185}

Unto their Queen, where Kriemhild sat in splendour there

On a couch all costly-broidered; for the Margrave’s diligent care

Had ordered so its arraying that the tent was splendour-dight:

And the heart of the Hun-king Etzel was filled with deep delight.

What of their princely converse may a simple minstrel know

Save this?—in his right hand rested a hand like a flake of snow.

So sat they on love’s threshold; for the wise thane Rüdiger,

For the honour of Kriemhild, left not King Etzel alone with her.

Then stayed was the clash of tourney o’er all the echoing field.

Hushed as beseemed was the crashing of lance and the clang of shield.

Back to the tents went trooping King Etzel’s vassalage:

And to all was there given lodging and spacious harbourage.

So drew the day to an ending and the sleep of the summer night,

Till fled away the shadows and they saw the breaking of light.

Then many a gallant hero gat him again to horse,

And ho for the honour of Etzel and the gallant tourney-course!

For the King said: “See ye acquit you for yours and for my renown.”

Then rode they on from Tulna to Vienna the royal town:

There splendour-attired did ladies unnumbered their coming abide

To welcome with duteous worship King Etzel’s royal bride.

In plenty to overflowing were all things ready dight,

What things soever they needed; and many an eager knight

With joy looked on to the feast-tide. Fair lodging was given to them all.

Amid joyance began King Etzel’s bridal-festival.

So vast was the throng, in the city harboured they could not be;

And Rüdiger gave commandment—“Whosoever be not guests, ye

Without the walls find lodging in hamlet and homestead around.”

Well wot I that daily and hourly waiting on Kriemhild were found

The noble baron Dietrich and many a knight of his host;

In labour of love aye toiling they wrought to the uttermost

That the hearts of their guests should be gladdened in stintless plenty and peace,

So that Rüdiger and his kinsmen took now their disport and their ease.

{p. 186}

Then came that royal bridal on the Feast of Whitsuntide,

Whereon the Hun-king Etzel won Kriemhild to be his bride

In Vienna the royal city: such hosts of men, I wot,

In the days of her first lord Siegfried on her pleasure had waited not.

By her gifts unto many which never had seen her she made her known,

For which cause spake in his wonder to the guests full many an one:

“We weened that of all wealth Kriemhild was stripped bare—so had we heard:

And behold, she doth with her bounty marvels great beyond word!”

Seven days and ten it lasted, that marriage festival-tide.

Ne’er was it told to the minstrel that any king beside

A marriage-feast so glorious hath held—we have heard not his name.

In new bright raiment vestured were all to the feast that came.

Ne’er had she sat in the Low Land in the days of long ago

In the presence of knights so many: yea, this of a truth do I know.

How rich soever in treasure was Siegfried, never had he

So many knights as were bounden to Etzel in fealty.

Never have Kings, of a surety, at their marriage-festivals

Unto guests given mantles so ample, such splendour-woven palls,

Never such costly vesture as was freely lavished here.

It was all for the sake of Kriemhild, for the honour of one most dear.

In all—were they guests, were they home-folk—one mind in them all abode,

Nought to begrudge in their giving, not the dearest thing they owed:

Whatsoe’er was desired of any, given it was forthright,

So that stripped bare even of vesture stood many a generous knight.

When she thought on the days passed over, how she dwelt on the green Rhine-shore

With her noble murdered husband, her eyes with tears brimmed o’er.

Yet the ghost of the past aye banned she, that her sorrow none might know,

That she might not shadow the honour which had come after all her woe.

Whatsoe’er was the bounty of others, as an idle wind would it seem

By the lavish giving of Dietrich: all wealth bestowed upon him

{p. 187}

By the King, the son of Botlung, was as water spilt on the sand.

Withal were there marvels of bounty from Rüdiger’s open hand.

Yea, also the good knight Blödel, the Lord of Hungary,

Bade open his treasure-coffers, and empty them utterly

Of the gold therein and the silver—all, all was given away.

The heroes of King Etzel in joy lived day by day.

Yea, also Werbel and Schwemmel—King Etzel’s minstrels they—

Each of them with marks a thousand was guerdoned for harp and lay,

Yea, even with more peradventure, at the marriage-festival

When by Etzel Kriemhild the lovely sat crowned in the sight of all.

Forth on the eighteenth morning from Vienna rode their array.

Once more were the bucklers rifted in the gentle and joyous play

By the spears that were couched for the onset in many a good knight’s hand.

So came at the last King Etzel with joy to the Hunfolk’s land.

At Heimburg the ancient city did the wayfarers rest that night.

How vast was the tale of their army none could number aright,

Nor say with what countless legions on through the land they rode.

Ha, what fair dames in the home-land the coming of these abode!

At Misenburg the wealthy aboard of ships did they go.

’Neath the host of the men and the horses did the waters hidden flow;

It seemed as the dry land fleeted away in one long stream!

Now journeyed the way-worn women lulled in a restful dream.

Galley to goodly galley was lashed with hawsers taut

To the end that by wave and current might no disarray be wrought;

And awnings of costly loomwork were wide outstretched overhead,

That it seemed as if plain and meadow around them still were spread.

Now also in Etzel’s castle was the tale of their coming told,

And all therein, both women and men, were joyful-souled,

The household of Queen Helka, whom she graciously ruled of yore,

And for whom with Kriemhild were many happy days in store.

{p. 188}

In its hall did high-born maidens in hope her coming abide

Whose hearts had carried a burden of grief since Helka died.

Yea, seven kings’ daughters Kriemhild in the castle fostered found;

And all the land of Etzel through these was far-renowned.

Of all these Herrat the princess had overcharge and control,

Daughter of Helka’s sister, a maiden pure of soul,

Betrothed unto Dietrich: daughter of a noble prince was she,

The child of the great king Nantwein, high-honoured in days to be.

Expectant of their coming her heart was filled with delight,

And with goodly preparation was the palace richly dight.

How blissfully there King Etzel abode what tongue may tell?

Under no queen ever the Hunfolk thereafter fared so well.

When the King with his wife came riding up from the river-bank,

As maid after maid was presented, named was each, and her rank,

By Herrat, and Kriemhild greeted each as a friend long known.

In what might she sat and what honour soon upon Helka’s throne!

Duteous service and loyal waited upon her aye;

And ever the Queen was giving: gold, lovely-woven array,

Silver and costly gemstones—all goodly things soe’er

That she brought over Rhine into Hunland; for her bounty was free as air.

Vowed evermore to serve her, and proud withal to obey

Were the kinsmen of King Etzel and all that owned his sway,

So that never the Lady Helka ruled with such power and might;

For unto the death of Kriemhild were they bound by that troth-plight.

So exceeding great was the glory of the King, so famed his land,

That wherever knights were yearning with gallant heart and hand

In knightly sport to prove them, thither they flocked from far;

For the love of the King and the kindness of the Queen were their guiding star.

How Kriemhild thought on Vengeance for her Wrongs

{p. 189}

Amid all this honour and glory—herein doth the bard sing true—

Dwelt they in love together till the seventh year onward drew.

In the midst of the years unto Kriemhild was born a noble son.

In the life of Etzel never had a brighter dayspring shone.

Never she ceased from pleading till she won her love’s reward

That unto the font baptismal of the faith of Christ the Lord

Brought was the child of Etzel, and Ortlieb they named the boy.

Then all King Etzel’s kingdom rejoiced with exceeding joy.

In the selfsame paths of virtue that Helka had trodden erst

The feet of the Lady Kriemhild paced day by day from the first;

By Herrat, the stranger princess, in the ways of the land were they set,

While her secret heart for Helka bore a burden of long regret.

The son of the land and the stranger with one accord confessed

That never had any kingdom of any king possessed

More bounteous queen and gracious: true witness they held it of her.

Such was her praise mid the Hunfolk still till the thirteenth year.

Now when she marked how no man opposed him to her will—

Even so unto wives of princes knights wont to bear them still—

And that twelve kings stood in her presence aye as the years passed on,

On the pain and the wrong she brooded that was dealt to her years agone.

She thought withal on the honour that of yore in the Niblung land

Of right unto her was rendered, whereof had Hagen’s hand

Utterly despoiled her when Siegfried by him had been slain:

And she pondered how she might compass that his wrong should become his bane:—

{p. 190}

“Into this land could I but bring him, then might my vengeance betide!”

She dreamed a dream, how that walking anear her, close at her side,

Was Giselher her brother, and she kissed him again and again

In slumber—what meant that vision was thereafter all too plain!

The Foul Fiend was it surely that whispered Kriemhild’s heart

In outward-seeming friendship from Gunther the King to part,

And with kiss of feigned forgiveness, in Burgundia years ago.

Now the old pain woke, and her vesture was drenched with the hot tears’ flow.

On her heart lay morning by morning, and evening by evening lay

The thought, how they had constrained her the faith of her youth to betray

By taking to husband a heathen, when will thereto she had none.

This wrong unto her had Hagen and her brother Gunther done.

How she might wreak her vengeance still thought she day by day:—

“Now am I waxen so mighty, I have such far-reaching sway,

That I of them that have wronged me could exact the penalty.

Gladly with Hagen of Troneg would I deal as he dealt with me!

For my belovèd mourneth my spirit within me still.

Might I but draw them hither which have worked me all this ill,

Then, then might I have vengeance at last for my Siegfried’s death.

Scarce can I endure this waiting!” she moaned with passionate breath.

Well was she loved of all men of Etzel’s vassal-array

Which were named the Knights of Kriemhild: good cause in sooth had they.

Friends many were won by Eckwart her treasurer’s open hand.

The will of the Lady Kriemhild might none in the realm withstand.

Each day was she thinking, thinking: “I will make my request to the King

If so of his grace and his goodness he may haply grant this thing

That my friends be bidden to see me here in the Land of the Hun.”

But the guileful purpose of Kriemhild the while was divined of none.

One night, when the Lady Kriemhild beside King Etzel lay,

When he held her in arms enfolding, even as his wont was aye

{p. 191}

In his love for the noble lady who was dear as his life unto him,

Then on her enemies thought she, and her thoughts were guileful and grim.

She spake unto King Etzel: “My dearly-belovèd Lord,

I would make unto thee my petition, if this thy grace would accord,

That thou suffer mine heart to be gladdened, if my love hath deserved this meed,

By the proof of mine eyes that my kinsmen be dear unto thee indeed.”

Then spake the King, and, speaking, was guileless his heart within:

“Hereof will I certify thee: whatsoe’er to thine hero-kin

Is done for their honour and profit, for mine own joy shall it be done;

For never by love of woman nobler kin have I won.”

Unto him the Queen made answer: “Well known is this unto thee,

That indeed I have high-born kinsmen; but sorely it troubleth me

That, since I wedded thee, never their faces have I seen.

In sooth, of all thy people am I known for ‘the Kinless Queen’!”

Made answer and spake King Etzel: “O wife, heart’s dearest mine,

If not too great be the journey, I will bid them over Rhine

Hither to this my kingdom, the friends thou art fain to see.”

Then for the word that spake him her ally glad was she.

“If thou, my lord,” she made answer, “thy kindness to me wilt show,

Unto Worms, to the city of Rhineland, forth let thy messengers go;

So will I send mine heart’s wish to the friends in the far-away home;

And so knights noble and gentle full many to us shall come.”

He answered: “If this thou askest, thereto hast thou my consent.

Thyself in the sight of thy kinsmen shall be never so well content

As I, in beholding the faces of noble Uta’s sons.

I grieve that these have been strangers so long from the land of the Huns.

My wife, my well-belovèd, if this be thy pleasure,” he said,

“As messengers unto thy kinsmen straightway of me shall be sped

Unto Burgundy-land our minstrels, the lords of the viol-string.”

Into his presence the minstrels he bade them straightway bring.

Then came the King’s two servants to the presence of their lord

Where he sat by the Queen, and Etzel delivered to them his word

{p. 192}

That he would they should be his heralds unto far Burgundia-land.

And for their arraying in vesture right goodly he gave command.

For good knights four-and-twenty were provided mantle and vest;

For to these withal with the minstrels was given the King’s behest,

Even to bear his bidding unto Gunther and his men.

But the Lady Kriemhild set her to commune with them privily then.

Said the mighty King: “Now hearken, that mine hest ye may so fulfil:

I send unto those our kinsmen all love and all good will,

And I pray them to ride to my country unto them that love them here.

Never in all my life-days guests have I known so dear.

And if these peradventure be minded to grant the thing that I pray,

Even the kinsmen of Kriemhild, I beseech them not to delay,

But to come in the summer season of this year unto my feast:

So by these my marriage-kinsmen shall the joy of my life be increased.”

Made answer the viol-minstrel, and Schwemmel the knightly replied:

“When, O my Lord, in the Hunland shall fall thy festal tide,

To the end that unto thy kinsmen by Rhine we may certainly say?”

Made answer and spake King Etzel, “On next Midsummer Day.”

“We will do after thy commandment,” straight Werbel made reply.

Then Kriemhild caused the heralds to be summoned secretly

Unto the closet royal, and there she communed with the twain.

Thereof unto many a good knight was begotten ruinous bane.

She spake in her guile to the heralds: “Ye shall earn of me rich meed,

If ye keep in your hearts my counsel, and perform it with diligent heed,

And speak in mine ancient home-land the word of my desire;

Then rich in goods will I make you, and give to you royal attire.

When at Worms beside Rhine-river your messenger feet shall be brought

To the presence of those my kinsfolk, see ye confess this not

That here ye have ever beheld me in grief as of widowhood.

And bear ye my love-greeting to the heroes valiant and good,

And pray them to grant this favour, even my lord’s request,

And thereby to bring me riddance from the constant grief of my breast,

{p. 193}

Even this, that I seem ‘the Kinless’ here in the Hunfolk’s sight.

For me, full oft to the Rhineland would I come, were I but a knight!

Unto Gernot withal my brother, the noble prince, say ye

That none unto him more loving than I on earth can be;

And pray that he bring with him hither all our noblest kin

To greet us here in the Hunland: high honour so shall we win.

And to Giselher’s remembrance withal be this thing brought,

That never through him to Kriemhild hath wrong or despite been wrought:

Him therefore here in the Hunland gladly mine eyes would see;

Yea, sorely I long to greet him for his love and his faith unto me.

What glory here hath crowned me do ye to my mother say.

And, if haply Hagen of Troneg would fain hang back from the way,

Who then through those strange marches shall be guide to the mighty ones?

For hath not he known from childhood the paths to the land of the Huns?”

Now the messengers knew not wherefore so fixed it was in her mind

That they should not suffer Hagen of Troneg to tarry behind

Beside the Rhine. To their sorrow were they to learn it yet,

When with grim death many a hero face to face should be set.

Unto these were messages given and tokens from Etzel’s hand.

With wealth enriched they journeyed: they might bear them as lords of the land.

Fair leave of their liege-lord Etzel and his comely wife took they,

And they went forth splendour-vestured in royal-rich array.

How the Hun-King’s Minstrels bade the Burgundians to the Feast

When Etzel forth to the Rhineland had his viol-minstrels sped,

From land to land the story on the wings of rumour fled.

By messengers swift to his barons request and command he gave

To come to his festal high-tide; and they came—to the gates of the grave.

{p. 194}

Meanwhile forth rode the envoys, and afar from the Hunland went

To the folk Burgundian, whither of their lord the King they were sent

Unto those three noble Princes and to all their vassal-array,

To bid them to Etzel’s high-tide; and fast and far rode they.

To the castle of Bechlaren those messengers came with speed:

There blithe was their entertainment; and for this their hosts took heed

That Rüdiger and Gotlind and their daughter sent by these

Unto the knights of Rhineland all loving messages.

They loaded with gifts the envoys or ever they parted thence,

That Etzel’s servants might journey in the more magnificence;

And to Uta and to her children this greeting did Rüdiger send,

That never was living Margrave unto them so true a friend.

They commended also to Brunhild their service and ready will,

And in steadfast faith they pledged them her pleasure to fulfil.

So when they had heard that message, onward the envoys would ride.

Then prayed the Margravine Gotlind that God would guard them and guide.

Or ever the messengers wholly had traversed Bavarian ground,

Werbel the eager minstrel the holy bishop found.

What greetings he sent to his kinsmen, the dwellers beside the Rhine,

This have the old bards told not; but of ruddy gold and fine

He gave to the heralds freely. When now they would forth again,

Spake Pilgerin the bishop: “Mine heart were exceeding fain

If I might but see them before me, for my sister’s sons they are.

Right seldom indeed have I journeyed unto them by the Rhine afar!”

By what tracks fared they onward through the land on the Rhineward way,

Thereof no minstrel singeth. Of their silver and rich array

No spoiler dared to rob them, for the terror of Etzel lay

Heavy on all; so mighty was the high-born Hun-king’s sway.

So they came, even Werbel and Schwemmel, to the folk by Rhine-river side,

Unto Worms the fortress-city, ere the light of the twelfth day died.

{p. 195}

Unto Gunther then and his liegemen did the watchman tidings bring

Of the coming of stranger heralds; and straightway questioned the King,

And spake the warder of Rhineland: “Who maketh known unto us

From whence these guests and strangers to our land come riding thus?”

But none was able to answer, till Hagen, Troneg’s Lord,

Looked forth and beheld those envoys, and he spake unto Gunther the word:

“This day is a day of tidings: your surety for this am I;

For these be the men of Etzel, and the lords of his minstrelsy.

None other than your sister to the Rhine hath sped their feet.

For the sake of their noble master must we give them welcome meet.”

Even as he spake it, rode they into the castle court:

Never king’s viol-minstrels came in such gallant sort.

And the servants of King Gunther to welcome them in made speed,

And they gave unto them fair lodging, and looked to their gear with heed.

So rich were their travelling-garments, so goodly-fashioned withal,

Unshamed they might have worn them in the King’s own presence-hall;

Yet they scorned for one hour longer to wear them in courts of kings,

And they bade make inquisition whether any desired the things.

Good sooth, there lacked not people that were right well content

That their need be supplied so richly, and to these were the garments sent.

Then did the envoys array them in splendour of goodliest gear,

Such as fitteth heralds royal in the presence of kings which appear.

Then gat they leave and license, those servants of Etzel, to go

Where the King sat throned: right gladly men looked on their gallant show.

And Hagen sprang from his high-seat, and met them hard by the door,

And greeted with kindly welcome, and they gave him thank therefor.

Then asked he them of their tidings, and prayed the heralds say

Concerning the welfare of Etzel and of all that owned his sway.

“Never the land hath prospered more,” those bards replied;

“Never the folk were happier: hereof be ye certified.”

{p. 196}

To the presence of King Gunther they passed the thronged halls through;

And the guests with courteous welcome were received, as aye is it due

That envoys so be greeted in the land of another king.

There round King Gunther standing were knights in a stately ring.

Unto them the King gave greeting of princely courtesy:

“O servants of King Etzel, ye minstrels, welcome be ye,

Welcome your journeying-fellows! Wherefore hath Etzel your lord

Into the land Burgundian sent you hitherward?”

Before the King they bowed them, and Werbel answer made:

“My dearly belovèd master and Kriemhild your sister bade

That hither we fare to your kingdom, and commend their service to you.

Unto you, O knights, have they sent us in kindness loving and true.”

And the mighty King made answer: “Of thy tidings am I fain.

How fareth it now with Etzel?”—spake on that royal thane—

“And how with Kriemhild my sister in the Hunland hath it sped?”

“I will tell thee all their story,” the viol-harper said.

“Better in any kingdom never its lords have been,

Nor blither, know of a surety, than Hunland’s King and Queen,

And all their kinsmen and liegemen, and all their knightly train.

Right glad were they of our journey, when hither we fared, we twain.”

“Now thank we him for the message that he sendeth by your voice.

Thanks unto him and my sister: herein do I greatly rejoice

That your King and all his people in peace and in bliss abide;—

For indeed I feared in mine asking lest haply worse might betide.”

Now came the two young princes into the hall, and heard;

For touching those glad tidings had come to them yet no word.

Bright at beholding the envoys shone young Giselher’s eyes

For the love that he bare to his sister: and he spake in friendliest wise:

“Heralds twain, ye be welcome, right welcome to us this day!

An ye came but oftener riding upon the Rhineward way,

Here should ye find friends’ faces that ye should gladly see.

Small sorrow or scathe should betide you here in Burgundy!”

{p. 197}

“Yea, in all honour,” said Schwemmel, “we hail this greeting of thine!

Of a surety I cannot tell you by any words of mine

What loving greetings be sent you of Etzel the Lord of the land,

And your noble sister, who highest beside him in honour doth stand.

And the Queen unto thy remembrance calleth thy faith and thy love,

And the true heart’s tender kindness, and the steadfastness thereof.

Now first before all unto Gunther our King’s request we bear

That ye of your grace into Hunland would ride, to greet them there.

Etzel the King most mighty hath straitly commanded us

That by all his love we entreat you, and to each and to all say thus—

If haply the love of your sister avail not to draw you hence,

Yet fain would he know what trespass ye have found in him, or offence,

That ye hold you so far from his kingdom, and the land ye have never seen.

Yea, though unto you a stranger, and wholly unknown were the Queen,

Yet himself might surely merit that ye deigned to look on his face!

If to this ye consent, ye shall gladden his heart by this great grace.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “After the seventh night

Will I render to you mine answer, the thing that hath seemed me right

In council with friends and kinsmen. Depart ye; tarry the while

In the halls wherein we have lodged you, and find there rest from your toil!”

But spake the minstrel Werbel: “May this not also be,

That we come before Queen Uta, and the face of our Lady see

Or ever we pass from the presence royal unto our rest?”

And Giselher the courteous made answer to his request:

“That boon shall no man deny you: if ye to her presence would go,

After the will of my mother and her heart’s desire were it so.

For my sister’s sake your faces right gladly will she see.

For the sake of the Lady Kriemhild welcome to her shall ye be.”

Straightway to the presence of Uta leading the twain he went.

Glad was she to see the envoys from the land of the Hunfolk sent;

And she gave to them kindly welcome with queenly and gracious mien,

And the heralds courtly and loyal their message spake to the Queen:

{p. 198}

“My Lady,” said Schwemmel, “biddeth that I commend unto thee

Her constant love and her service; and if so it might haply be

That she might oftener see thee, this of a surety believe,

That in all the world no pleasure greater could she receive.”

Answered and spake Queen Uta: “That cannot now befall,

Though fain would I oftener see her, my best beloved of all:

Too far from us she dwelleth, that noble Queen, alas!

Evermore upon her and Etzel all blessing come to pass!

Send word to me—see that ye fail not—ere ye must hence away,

When ye will go. I have seen not for many and many a day

Messengers so welcome as now, when I look upon you.”

Then did the young men pledge them her heart’s desire to do.

So passed they unto their hostels, those knights from the land of the Huns;

And the King to a council summoned his kin and his mighty ones.

Then Gunther the noble questioned the heroes man by man

Touching their rede of the matter; and many an one began

Thus saying: “It were for thine honour unto Etzel’s land to ride.”

This was the rede of the chiefest of them that stood at his side,

Save Hagen alone; but hateful to him was the counsel of those.

To the King he whispered fiercely: “To your own lives are ye foes!

Surely thou hast not forgotten what deeds unto her we wrought!

For us are the wrongs of Kriemhild for ever peril-fraught.

I smote unto death her husband, even I with mine own hand.

How should we be so hardy as to ride into Etzel’s land?”

Made answer the King: “My sister of all wrath emptied her heart:

With kisses of lovingkindness, ere she turned from this land to depart,

She sealed her forgiveness of trespass, whatsoever to her we had done.

If she beareth a grudge, Lord Hagen, it shall be against thee alone.”

“Deceive not thyself,” said Hagen, “whatsoever honied speech

Fall from this woman’s envoys! Come within Kriemhild’s reach,

And thou well mayest lose thine honour; yea, and thou stakest thy life!

A memory long and relentless hath this King Etzel’s wife.”

{p. 199}

Before the council Gernot flung back his haughty reply:

“Albeit with too good reason thou haply fear to die

In the kingdom of the Hunfolk, shall we too show faint heart,

And cower away from our sister?—that were a sorry part!”

And scornfully Giselher answered the baron and bitterly:

“If conscience, O friend Hagen, maketh a coward of thee,

Here in the land abide thou, and guard thine health with care,

And let such as fear no dangers with us to my sister fare.”

At his scoffing the hero of Troneg brake into fierceness of wrath—

“I tell thee, that no man fareth with thee on the Hunward path

Who feareth so little as Hagen to Etzel’s palace to ride!

Ay, and by deeds will I prove it, since ye will not be turned aside.”

Then spake the feast-arrayer, Rumold the noble thane:

“The home-friend and the stranger at home can ye entertain

After your own good pleasure, for here nought lacketh to you.

I trow, the counsel of Hagen never yet had ye cause to rue.

If ye will not be counselled by Hagen, I Rumold give you my rede—

Unto you have I ever been faithful, I have served you with diligent heed—

Here in the land, if ye hearken my will, do ye still abide,

And leave King Etzel to tarry yonder by Kriemhild’s side.

Where can ye in all earth’s compass be in better case than here?

So safely here be ye shielded that no foe draweth near:

Here in the goodliest raiment may your bodies be arrayed:

Rich wine may ye drink, and for wooing is many a comely maid.

Here meats be set before you the best that in all the earth

Be arrayed for a great king’s feasting:—and were all this nothing-worth,

Yet in the land should ye tarry for the sake of your winsome wives,

Nor like little wanton children set at the hazard your lives.

(C) Yea, though all other victual utterly failed us, still

One dish could ye have of Rumold to eat thereof your fill”—

And he laughed—“good oil-fried collops! Rumold’s rede is this,

Forasmuch as, my lords, mid the Hunfolk a hidden peril is.

{p. 200}

(C) Never to you-ward in kindness will Kriemhild’s heart be turned.

Of a surety nor ye nor Hagen such grace at her hands have earned!

If ye will not tarry, who knoweth how sorely ye yet may rue?

Yea, ye shall yet acknowledge that this I have said was true.

Therefore I say to you, Go not! Rich is this your land:

Here shall ye better acquit you of duties that lie to your hand

Than yonder amid the Hunfolk. Who knows what waiteth us there?

Tarry ye here, my masters: saith Rumold, ‘Avoid the snare!’”

“Nay, now will we nowise tarry!” did Gernot eagerly cry.

“Seeing that thus my sister bids so lovingly,

And with her Etzel the mighty, why hold we back therefrom?

Who is loth with us to journey, e’en let him linger at home!”

(C) “In troth,” made answer Rumold, “I will be one at the least

Who never will cross Rhine-river unto Etzel’s high-tide feast.

The better part I have chosen shall I on the hazard fling?

So long as my strength availeth to my one life will I cling.”

(C) “So likewise am I minded,” spake to him Ortwein the thane;

“I will help thee to ward the kingdom, and the peace of the home to maintain.”

And so spake many another: of the journey would they none.

“Dear Lords, God have you in keeping,” said they, “in the land of the Hun!”

(C) Indignant was then King Gunther, when he saw how many were these

That were minded in Rhineland to tarry, and there to take their ease.

“We will not be turned from our purpose,” he said; “we will forth on the way.

Whoso is prudent of spirit can ward him in peril aye.”

Answered and spake to him Hagen: “Now in ill part take not ye

This last word of my counsel, whatsoever your fate may be,—

For in all true faith I give it:—if aught for your lives ye care,

Arrayed in harness of battle to the Hunland do ye fare.

Since ye will not be swayed from your purpose, summon your men of war,

The best ye may find in your war-band, or hear of near or far;

And out of them all will I choose us a thousand chiefest of might:

So shall ye not be defenceless against this Kriemhild’s spite.”

{p. 201}

“Yea, I will follow thy counsel,” answered the King straightway.

Then sent he all through his kingdom to summon his array.

Soon brought they back with them heroes three thousand, yea, haply more.

Little they thought of the death-snare, of the evil days in store!

So onward they rode high-hearted through King Gunther’s land.

Horses to all and raiment were given by the King’s command

Which were ready to fare with the princes forth to the land of the Huns.

Eager he found for the journey full many valiant ones.

Then at the bidding of Hagen Dankwart his brother rode

With fourscore knights of their war-band unto where Rhine-river flowed.

Gallantly rode they and proudly: war-harness the keen knights brought

Unto the land of Gunther, and raiment richly wrought.

There came the aweless Volker, the lord of the viol-string,

With thrice ten stalwart warriors, to ride where rode the King.

Lordly was all their vesture; it was meet for a king to wear.

“These also,” he said unto Gunther, “with thee to the Huns will fare.”

What manner of man was Volker, now be it told in the song.

Sooth, he was a noble baron, and in his vassal-throng

Was many a knight; none stouter were found in Burgundia-land:

“The Minstrel” they named him, for cunning upon the strings was his hand.

Of them all chose Hagen a thousand, men throughly tested of him:

What deeds had been done by their prowess in the storm of battle grim,

And in many a desperate emprise, oft had he seen and known:

Yea, and their peerless valour no man could choose but own.

Now the messengers of Kriemhild chafed that so long they should wait;

For their dread of the King their master was beyond all measure great,

And day by day were they longing to take fair leave and be gone.

Yet by Hagen still were they hindered; of his cunning this was done.

For he said to his lord King Gunther: “We needs must have a care

That we let them not ride homeward, ere ourselves be ready to fare

In seven days thereafter unto Etzel’s land afar:

So, if any mean us a mischief, the better forearmed we are.

{p. 202}

Then also shall Lady Kriemhild have scant time so to plot

That by her devising shall mischief to any of us be wrought;

Or, if she should haply essay it, evilly shall she speed:

So many chosen warriors to the land of the Huns do we lead.”

The saddles and the war-shields, and all the goodly gear

Wherewithal in the land of King Etzel they purposed to appear,

By this were fully ready for many a valiant thane.

Then at last to the presence of Gunther they summoned the minstrels twain.

When the messengers stood before him, Lord Gernot spake to them thus:

“The King unto that consenteth which Etzel asketh of us.

We will come, and that right gladly, unto his festal tide,

And to see the face of our sister: thereof be ye certified.”

Then spake unto them King Gunther: “This know ye so as to say,

When beginneth the high-tide, or to tell us on what day

The King will look for our coming?” Schwemmel made answer again:

“At the next Mid-summer season; without fail shall it be then.”

Then the King to the envoys granted what had not aforetime been,

That, if they would fain have audience of the Lady Brunhild the Queen,

Speech of her might be granted unto them by his consent.

But Volker set him to thwart them—for this was the Queen’s intent.

“As touching the Lady Brunhild, as yet it doth not please

The Queen,” that noble baron answered, “to look upon these.

Wait ye till the morrow morning: before her then shall ye come.”

Then trusted they to behold her, but again were they hindered therefrom.

Then commanded the King, of his favour to the envoys of Hunland’s king,

And of his royal bounty, that on broad shields men should bring

Gold from his treasure-chamber—sooth, great store lay therein:

Rich gifts moreover were given unto them by his friends and his kin.

With Gere and Ortwein, the Princes Gernot and Giselher

Showed unto all beholders how open of hand they were;

{p. 203}

For unto the herald-minstrels such rich gifts offered they

That for dread of their King they dared not but say the givers nay.

For the messenger-minstrel Werber unto Gunther the King replied:

“Lord King, e’en suffer thy presents here in thy land to abide.

We may not carry them with us, for my Lord hath forbidden us this,

Even accepting of presents—and little we need them, I wis.”

Then the Lord of the Rhine was angered, for he held it discourtesy

That these should reject the bounty of so great a King as he,

So that of force they accepted his gold and raiment at last,

And homeward they needs must bear them when to Etzel’s land they passed.

Fain were they to see Queen Uta, ere homeward they should fare;

Wherefore brought were the minstrels by the young prince Giselher

To the presence of his mother; and she charged them with this word:

“For the honour rendered my daughter mine heart is gladness-stirred.”

Then for the sake of Kriemhild and the love that to her she bare,

The old Queen gave commandment that gold and girdles fair

Be given to those two heralds, yea also for Etzel’s sake.

For the true heart of the giver those gifts they needs must take.

Now the messengers of Kriemhild of all, both dame and knight,

Courteous farewell had taken, and with merry hearts and light

On into Suabia rode they, and Gernot sent thus far

A warrior-band to escort them, that none their peace might mar.

When the knights of the Rhine had departed, who thus had warded their way,

By the power of the terror of Etzel were they shielded from that day.

No reiver there was so daring as to touch or vesture or steed.

So back to the land of the Hunfolk they rode with fiery speed.

Wheresoever they found friends dwelling, they told, as they passed, the tale

How the lords of the land Burgundian in few days would not fail

To come from the Rhineland riding unto the Hun-king’s home;

And to Pilgerin the bishop withal did the tidings come.

{p. 204}

When, riding adown the highways, they came to Bechlaren’s hold,

Unto Rüdiger were the tidings of those swift messengers told,

And withal to the Lady Gotlind, the noble Margravine.

With exceeding joy rejoiced they that these of their eyes should be seen.

Ever their foaming horses the minstrels twain spurred on,

Until to the presence of Etzel in his city of Gram they won.

As by greeting upon greeting unto the King they showed

The love of the far-off kinsfolk, for joy his visage glowed.

Now unto the Lady Kriemhild were the welcome tidings come

That her brethren had consented to fare to her Hunland home.

Then was she glad: of her bounty did the messengers receive

Rich gifts, such as are for the honour of so great a queen to give.

She said: “Now give ye answer, Werbel and Schwemmel, to me:

Who of my kinsmen be minded at my festal tide to be

Of their noblest whom we have bidden to ride to the land of the Hun?

When Hagen heard the tidings, what said that mighty one?”

They answered and said: “To their council he came with earliest day;

But little good of the high-tide would he be moved to say.

When others commended the journey hither with eager breath,

Hagen the grim withstood them, and named it the Ride unto Death.

Hitherward come thy brethren, the royal Princes three,

Uplifted in spirit: what other shall be of their company—

Of the rest can I speak not surely that thou shouldst be certified,

Save this, that the valiant minstrel Volker with these will ride.”

“I could well have foregone his presence,” answered Kriemhild the Queen:

“Small longing had I that Volker should here in our halls be seen.

But I joy for the coming of Hagen, for he is a hero good:

In the thought that we shall behold him, lightsome am I of mood.”

Then went that Daughter of Princes where sat the King in hall:

How lovingly did the accents from the lips of Kriemhild fall!

“How pleaseth thee the tidings, my lord, my belovèd?” she cried.

“The long desire of my spirit shall at last be satisfied!”

{p. 205}

“Thy will is my chiefest pleasure,” the King made answer to her.

“Were these mine own blood-kinsmen, less joyful my spirit were

For the tidings of their drawing nigh to my land this day.

For the love of these thy kinsmen my cares have vanished away.”

Then did the great King’s stewards send forth urgent behests

That palace and hall with high-seats should be adorned for the guests,

For the loved and long expected who were drawing near at last.

—Yet out of the life of Etzel by these all gladness was cast!

How the Princes rode to the Land of the Huns

So then of their doings in Hunland needeth no more to say:

But for them of Burgundia—never such high-souled heroes as they

Rode in such lordly fashion in the land of any king.

All had they, weapons and raiment, that they would for their wayfaring.

The Lord of the Rhine in vesture arrayed his warrior-throng,

Knights fourscore and a thousand, as sayeth the olden song;

Yea also, and squires nine thousand to that great feast-tide rode.

—They were sorely bewept thereafter by them that at home abode.

At Worms through the palace-courtyard armour they bare and attire.

As he watched, a word of boding spake the ancient bishop of Speyer

Unto Queen Uta the lovely: “Our friends be minded to fare

To be guests in a far-off country—God have them in his care!”

Then Uta the noble Lady spake to her sons in her fear:

“O heroes mighty-hearted, I pray you, tarry here!

Last night came a dream of anguish mid the visions of mine head;

For meseemed in the land Burgundian that all her birds were dead.”

Swiftly made answer Hagen: “Whoso regardeth a dream

Shall never wisely advise him; he shall never rightly deem

{p. 206}

In a matter that toucheth his honour, or choose the better part!

Now it behoveth my master to bid farewell and depart.

Blithely will we ride onward into King Etzel’s land;

There well to a king may service be done by a hero’s hand:

There what manner of high-tide Kriemhild holds shall we see.”

So Hagen counselled the journey—cause to rue it had he!

Nay, still had he spoken against it, were it not for the bitter jeer

That Gernot had flung at the hero, when he said with scornful sneer:

“The ghost of Siegfried standeth, of the Lady Kriemhild’s lord,

In the path, and frighteth Hagen from journeying thitherward!”

Spake Hagen of Troneg: “Never fear stirreth nor stayeth me!

Lo, ye have determined it, heroes: your hands to the work set ye.

Doubt not, I will ride with you blithely into King Etzel’s realm.”

—Soon hewn by him asunder was many a shield and helm.

To bear them over the Rhine-flood ready the galleys lay;

So the warriors set a-shipboard their goodly vesture-array:

With lading and unlading till eventide busy they were.

—O forth from their homes full blithely on the journey did they fare.

The warriors pitched in the meadow for themselves pavilion and tent

On the other side the Rhine-flood, where that last night was spent.

“Tarry, O Gunther!” did Brunhild, his lovely wife, implore,

As she clasped to her heart her husband that night, and never more.

Shrilled flutes and blared forth trumpets as the first of the dawn-light shone,

Bidding them forth on the journey, and all made haste to be gone.

Lover in arms of lover was strained close, close to the heart,

They whom with anguish unending would the wife of Etzel part.

Now the sons of the fair Queen Uta had of their vassals a man

Bold and withal true-hearted: even as the journey began,

The thoughts of his heart he uttered to the King, for he drew him aside,

And he said: “It grieveth me sorely that thou goest to this high-tide.”

And the name of the thane was Rumold, trusty of heart and hand.

“Whom wilt thou leave as warden,” he said, “of thy folk and thy land?

{p. 207}

Alas that none can turn you, O knights, from your enterprise!

Never the message of Kriemhild was good in thy servant’s eyes.”

“Unto thee be the land committed, and also my little son.

To our wives do loyal service: I will that so it be done.

Whomsoever thou seest weeping, speak to them words of cheer.

No hurt shall the wife of Etzel do us; have thou no fear.”

(C) Moreover the King took counsel, or ever they parted thence,

With all his chiefest liegemen: he left not bare of defence

His kingdom and his castles: to keep them safe in ward

He delivered them over to chosen barons, to watch and to guard.

All harnessed stood the horses for vassal and for king.

With loving kisses of parting did wives unto husbands cling

In whose bosoms were hearts high-leaping, in whose veins was lusty life,

Yet for whom there was soon sore weeping of many a widowed wife.

(C) Now all the air was thrilling with weeping and wailing wild.

To the King drew nigh Queen Brunhild; she bare in her arms their child:

“How canst thou endure to leave us desolate both in a day?

For love of us,” said the woeful Queen, “ah, stay with us, stay!”

(C) “My wife, it doth not beseem thee thus to be weeping for me;

Rather in queenly courage fearless here shouldst thou be.

With joy shall we soon be returning safe and sound again.”

In that same hour from their dear ones parted all his train.

Now did those valiant warriors their steeds at last bestride,

While many a loving woman stood watching tearful-eyed.

“Long, long shall be this parting!” their hearts were whispering still.

None can be blithe of spirit in the shadow of coming ill.

Forward set the Burgundians, a battle-eager band.

Thronged and pressed to behold them the people of the land.

To right and to left on the hill-sides men and women wept;

But, how sorrowed the people soever, for joy their own hearts leapt.

{p. 208}

Forth also with these went riding Niblung men of war,

A thousand heroes in hauberks: in the Niblung homes afar

Fair women they left full many whom they saw not from that day.

—Rankled the wounds of Siegfried in the heart of Kriemhild aye!

(C) Albeit the faith of Christians was weak in those far-off days,

Yet journeyed with these a chaplain for chanting of prayer and praise;

And, though out of desperate peril, alive this man came home;

But all the rest in the Hunland tarried, for death was their doom.

Onward their way they wended far up the stream of Main,

And upward through Eastern Frankland, that armour-glittering line.

By Hagen still were they guided, for all the land knew he.

And Dankwart was their marshal, the hero of Burgundy.

On through the land of the East-Franks, through Swanfeld are they gone.

It was like a procession of princes as the stately ranks swept on,

Kings and their high-born kinsmen, heroes of world-sung fame.

So at the twelfth day’s dawning the King to the Danube came.

There rode Hagen of Troneg afront of all the rest,

Right good at need as a helper, and a stay unto men distressed.

From the saddle that dauntless baron sprang by the river-side,

And the bridle of his charger straightway to a tree hath he tied.

In flood were the mighty waters, no boat might any see.

Then were the Niblung warriors in sore perplexity

How they should win thereover, so broad was the rolling flood.

Down lighted beside the river full many a warrior good.

“Evil may well befall thee,” said Hagen, “in this place.

See, Lord of Rhineland, the peril stareth thee in the face.

Over-bank are the great flood-waters: too strong is their rush to essay:

Many good knights, if we tempt it, I ween, shall we lose this day.”

“Wherefore essay to daunt me, Hagen?” the proud King said.

“For the sake of thy knightly honour no more speak counsels of dread!

{p. 209}

Seek thou for a ford for our crossing over to yonder land,

Whereby our gear and our horses may be brought from strand to strand.”

“Not yet of my life so weary am I waxen,” Hagen replied,

“That I were contented to drown me in yonder waters wide.

Full many a warrior smitten by mine hands shall perish first

In the land of this King Etzel—yea, I am battle-athirst.

Tarry ye here by the water, ye thanes of knightly pride.

Alone will I go, and for boatmen will I search by the river-side

Which unto the land of Gelfrat shall ferry us over the spate.”

Then took the aweless Hagen his strong shield, goodly and great.

Well was he armed against foemen: his shield from his shoulders was slung,

And he laced on his head his helmet, a splendour of fight far-flung:

Belted unto his corslet was a broad bright battle-glaive

Twin-edged, whose deadly keenness the shields of the mighty clave.

Up-stream and down-stream casting for a ferry-wight sought he.

Then heard he a plashing of water, and hearkened where it should be.

And lo, in a pool fair-welling did mermaids plunge and swim

To cool in the dimpling river each summer-fevered limb.

Then Hagen was ware of the wise-wives, and stealthily nearer he crept.

They saw him, and swiftly flashing far off through the ripples leapt.

Laughed they for glee, as fleers that mark a pursuer outrun.

Then seized he their raiment, but further scathe unto them did he none.

Then cried unto him a mermaiden, and Hadburg had she to name:

“Behold, we will tell thee, Hagen, thou knight of peerless fame,—

So thou wilt restore our apparel in guerdon for our rede,—

How thou and thy friends in thy journey to the land of the Huns shall speed.”

They swayed on the swaying water as birds that rock on the sea:

And he thought on their weird foreknowledge, on the eyes that pierce the To Be;

The gladlier therefore he trusted that their lips the truth would show;

And answer they made, when he questioned of the thing that he fain would know.

For Hadburg said: “Ye may safely to the land of Etzel ride.

I pledge thee my faith in surety for that I have prophesied.

{p. 210}

Never hath journey of heroes to an alien land been crowned

With such high honour and worship. True shall my words be found.”

Welcome and heart-uplifting did the word unto Hagen come:

He restored unto them their raiment, and tarried no more therefrom.

But when they had donned the vesture of the wondrous cloudy fold,

Of the journey to Etzel’s kingdom then first the truth they told.

For now the second mermaid, whose name was Sieglind, spake:

“Aldrian’s son, thou Hagen, from me this warning take:—

False is the thing my cousin but to win her raiment saith.

If thou to the Hunfolk goest, betrayed art thou to thy death.

While yet there is time, turn backward; wisely so should ye do,

Forasmuch as ye valiant heroes are but bidden thereto

To the end that ye all may perish in the Hunfolk’s land.

Yea, whoso rideth thither, Death rideth at his right hand.”

Answered and spake to her Hagen: “This your deceit is vain.

How should thy word be accomplished, that all we should be slain,

And so through any man’s malice dead at their high-tide stay?”

Then to the knight the story did they clearly and throughly say.

Moreover said one of the mermaids: “Thus is it doomed to betide,

That none shall alive fare homeward of all in your host that ride,

Save one, King Gunther’s chaplain. We verily know this thing,

That unharmed he only returneth to the land of Gunther the King.”

In scornful indignation made answer Hagen the bold:

“And a goodly tale to my masters in sooth were this to be told,

That doomed are we all mid the Hunfolk to pour out our lives in blood!

Nay, show us, thou wisest of women, how we may cross this flood.”

She said: “If thou wilt not be counselled, if thy journey needs must be,

Look yonder across the water; a hostel there shalt thou see.

Therein a ferry-wight dwelleth: there is none else far or near.”

Thither impatiently turned he, to ask yet more and to hear.

Yet after the wrathful warrior again the mermaid cried:

“Too hasty art thou, Lord Hagen: a little yet abide

{p. 211}

Till thou have received instruction how thou shalt reach yon strand.

Elsè named is the ruler of the marches of yonder land.

Gelfrat named is his brother, a mighty man in fight,

A prince in the land Bavarian. Count not the emprise light,

If ye think to press on through his marches: of peril must ye beware;

And for dealing with yonder boatman have ye need of heedful care.

So grim is he of his temper, he will do a mischief to thee,

If thou gain not the strong one’s goodwill, and bespeak him courteously.

To win him to ferry thee over, proffer him guerdon due.

He is warder of this land’s gateway, and to Gelfrat is faithful and true.

If he come not unto thee straightway, shout over the flood a name;

Thy name is Amelrich, say thou: a warrior good was the same

Who out of this land was driven by the malice of his foes.

Thou shalt so draw over the boatman by the lure of the name that he knows.”

Then bowed him Hagen the haughty to those weird women twain;

But he sought no more of their counsel, and from speech did he refrain.

Up-stream by the swirling waters close to the verge he hied,

Till he marked where a little hostel stood on the farther side.

Then Hagen his voice uplifted, and he shouted across the flood:

“Ho! ferry me over, thou boatman,” cried the thane in battle good,

“And I will give thee an armlet of red gold for thine hire.

Sore is my need of the crossing, and eager my desire.”

Now this ferryman nowise needed to ply, so rich was he.

Right seldom a hire he accepted from whosoe’er it might be.

And his servants were like to their master: haughty as he were they grown.

So there stood Hagen unheeded still by the river alone.

Once more so loudly he shouted, the whole stream rang again;

For like to the crashing thunder was the mighty voice of the thane:

“Me—Amelrich—ferry thou over! Elsè’s liegeman am I,

Who by reason of feud with foemen from thy land was enforced to fly.”

High on his sword he uplifted the armlet full in his sight—

Fair-wrought and golden-ruddy, and flashed therefrom the light—

{p. 212}

To tempt him to ferry him over into Gelfrat’s land.

Then gripped that haughty boatman himself the oar in hand.

Now this same ferry-boatman was a churlish wight and dour,

Yet greedy of gain; and ofttimes is greed destruction’s lure.

He weened he should earn full lightly Hagen’s gold for reward—

Ha, but he earned from the hero grim death by the edge of the sword!

With mighty strokes that boatman from bank to bank rowed o’er;

But him who was named he found not abiding him on the shore.

Then brake he forth into fury when Hagen alone he espied:

In the fierceness of his anger unto the hero he cried:

“Haply the name that thou bearest Amelrich may be;

But nothing thou hast of the favour of him I had looked to see.

My brother was he: one father begat us, one mother bare.

Since thou by a lie hast lured me across, e’en bide thou there!”

“Nay, in God’s name I charge thee!” Hagen answering cried.

“A knight am I, and a stranger, and to other thanes am I guide.

Take thou the gold that I proffer unto thee for thine hire as a friend,

And ferry us over the river: no hurt unto thee I intend.”

Swiftly the ferryman answered: “Never shall this be done!

My well-belovèd masters have enemies many an one;

Therefore I bear no strangers from this to the farther shore.

Thou then, if thy life thou lovest, step forth on the bank once more.”

“That will I not,” said Hagen, “for now am I bitter-souled.

Accept thou then as a friend’s gift the jewel of precious gold,

And bear us, a thousand horses and men, across the river,”

But that grim ferryman answered, “That will I do never!”

A mighty oar upswung he, massy and broad of blade,

And on Hagen’s head down dashed it—for the deed right dearly he paid!—

Back in the boat he staggered, and sank upon one knee.

So grim a ferryman never it befell to the hero to see!

To enkindle yet hotter the anger of the valiant stranger, he strake

With a huge boat-pole—so starkly, that wholly asunder it brake—

{p. 213}

On the head of Hagen the hero. A giant was he in might;

But thereof came his own destruction on Elsè’s ferry-wight.

In sternness of fury Hagen caught with sudden hand

At his side where hung the sword-sheath, and he flashed thereout the brand;

He smote his head from his shoulders, that adown the bank it rolled.

Soon mid the proud Burgundians the tale thereof was told.

But in that selfsame moment when he laid the ferryman low,

The barge slid down the current, which cost him travail enow:

Yea, ere he could right her, weary he was with labour sore.

In sooth, King Gunther’s liegeman mightily plied the oar.

He toiled, up-stream to turn her, with many a swift strong stroke,

Even till the stubborn oar-shank in his grasp asunder broke,

As he strove to steer to the waiting knights at the river-side.

Inasmuch as he had none other, swiftly around it he tied

His shield-strap, and firmly he spliced it with the narrow steel-strong band;

So hard by a certain coppice he guided the barge to the land.

There on the river-bank waiting his lords his coming abode,

And many a chosen warrior to meet him eagerly strode.

With gladsome greeting they hailed him, those noble knights and good;

And they looked, and they saw yet reeking on the planks of the barge the blood

That welled from the trunk made headless by that swift sweep of the sword;

And a torrent of eager questions anent it on Hagen poured.

Yea also, when King Gunther beheld the hot blood reek,

As within the barge it weltered, he could not choose but speak:

“Prithee, what now, Lord Hagen, hath chanced to the ferryman-wight?

His life, methinks, hath he yielded to thine overmastering might.”

But with lying lips he answered: “Nay, sooth, but the barge I found

By a river-mead, a waste land, and mine hand her hawser unbound.

But as touching ferry-boatmen, this day here saw I none.

Of a truth by mine hands unto no man this day hath scathe been done.”

{p. 214}

Straightway thereat did Gernot the Prince Burgundian say:

“Lest many a dear friend perish I needs must fear this day,

Inasmuch as on all the river we see no boatman here.

How we shall win thereover needs must I sorely fear.”

But cheerly and loud cried Hagen: “Down on the bank do ye cast,

O squires, the horses’ harness! I mind me that in time past

Myself was the deftest boatman that on all the Rhine men knew.

Into the land of Gelfrat even I will ferry you.”

To the end that over the river they might win with the better speed,

Thereinto drave they the horses: so well swam each good steed,

That never a one of their thousands did the rush of the strong flood drown,

Albeit were some forwearied, and won to the land far down.

Then into the barge they carried their gold and their vesture-store,

Forasmuch as now from the journey they could turn them back no more.

And Hagen steered them over, that, with his strong hand on the helm,

Came many a gallant warrior into the stranger’s realm.

At the first proud knights a thousand, and his own thanes threescore

Did Hagen ferry over: then came aye more and more,

Till squires had crossed nine thousand: all these he brought to land.

Small rest that day had the valiant Lord of Troneg’s hand!

(C) Now the barge was stoutly builded, wide and exceeding great;

Five hundred or more uncumbered it bare at a single freight

Over the waters, heroes with their victual and war-array.

Full many a stalwart warrior must strain at the oar that day.

When all these over the river Hagen had safely brought,

Thereafter the fierce-heart hero on that weird prophecy thought,

The boding the wild mermaiden so lately spake unto him.

And for this King Gunther’s chaplain well-nigh lost life and limb.

In the boat stood the priest with his vessels of holy sacrament;

His hand on the sacred relics and the hallowed things he leant.

But their sanctity nothing availed him when Hagen’s cruel eye

Fell on the priest, and doomed him to sore calamity.

{p. 215}

With sudden violence he seized him, he hurled him over the side

Of the barge, while “Hold! hold, Hagen!” many a warrior cried,

And brake into wrath indignant the young Prince Giselher.

Yet, till he had well-nigh drowned him, would Hagen not forbear.

Thereat did the princely Gernot, the lord Burgundian, cry:

“What profit to thee is it, Hagen, that Gunther’s chaplain should die?

Had another done such outrage, it had cost him his life, I trow!

What wrong had the poor priest done thee, that thou shouldst be his foe?”

Hard strained the priest in swimming: he had gotten aboard again,

If but any man had helped him; but his striving was all in vain,

By reason that Hagen the stalwart—savage was he of mood—

Back thrust him under the water: was none that deemed it good.

So when that hapless chaplain no human aid could see,

Back turned he, and swam shoreward: in bitter strait was he.

With failing strength was he sinking; but upborne by God’s own hand

Were his limbs, that at last in safety he won back unto the land.

There stood the priest all-hapless, and his streaming vesture wrung;

And by that sign known unto Hagen was the truth of the tale that the tongue

Of the wild mermaiden had uttered, of the doom no man might shun.

And he thought, “These knights of a surety be dead men every one!”

So soon as the barge was unladed, and men had borne ashore

The possessions of Gunther’s liegemen, and all the treasure-store,

Then Hagen shattered the planking, and thrust it forth on the flood

To founder: exceedingly marvelled the valiant knights and good.

“Why hast thou done this, brother?” did Dankwart wondering say.

“How shall we pass hereover on the homeward-faring way,

What time from the land of the Hunfolk back to the Rhine we ride?”

Thereafter did Hagen tell him that this should never betide;

But now said the Hero of Troneg: “Herein was this my thought,

That if haply any faint-heart thus far on the way have been brought,

Who might think in his fear to forsake us, and return by the way that he came,

He should know that in these wild waters there waited a death of shame.”

{p. 216}

There was one in their host who had journeyed forth of Burgundia-land,

And his name of renown was Volker, a hero mighty of hand.

The thoughts of his fearless spirit with a biting tongue would he tell.

Whatsoever was done of Hagen, it liked that minstrel well.

(C) Now when King Gunther’s chaplain saw the wreck drift down the tide,

He lifted his voice, and to Hagen across the water he cried:

“Thou murderer and faithless, what had I done unto thee

That thine heart should devise the drowning of a guiltless priest, even me?”

(C) Fierce answer flung back Hagen: “Shaveling, refrain thee from speech!

By my troth, ’tis for this I am sorry, that now thou art out of the reach

Of the hands that be fain to slay thee! No gibe, but the truth it is.”

Made answer the priest all-hapless: “I praise God ever for this!

(C) Full little now do I dread thee, know this for verity!

Now fare ye on into Hunland, and back over Rhine will I.

May God vouchsafe to thee never to come over Rhine again!

This is mine heart’s petition, for my life well-nigh hast thou ta’en.”

(C) Then cried aloud King Gunther to the priest there standing lone:

“Lo, I will fully requite thee for all that Hagen hath done

Unto thee in his evil anger, whensoever back to the Rhine

Alive thou shalt see me returning: no fear thereof be thine.

(C) Fare homeward unto thy country, for so it must needs be now,

And unto my wife, my belovèd, take my greetings thou.

And by thee do I greet my kinsfolk, as is meet and right for a king.

Bear thou unto them glad tidings of our prosperous wayfaring.”

Now harnessed the horses waited, and the sumpters each with its load

And as yet no scathe had befallen any as onward they rode,

Nor cause for fear or for grieving, save the priest, by a deed unmeet

Constrained to fare back Rhineward alone upon his feet.

How Foes fell on them as they journeyed by Night

{p. 217}

So when they were now all mustered upon the Danube strand,

Then spake to his men King Gunther: “Who through the unknown land

Shall now on the right path guide us, that our feet err not from the same?”

Out spake the valiant Volker: “This office for mine I claim.”

“Nay, halt ye a space,” said Hagen: “halt, both squire and knight!

His friends must a man needs follow, it seemeth me meet and right.

But a tale of evil tidings now at my mouth must ye learn—

Home to the land Burgundian not one of us all shall return.

Unto me this morning early was it told of mermaids two

That for us was no more returning: now counsel I what ye shall do:

Gird on your armour, ye heroes: ward you with heedful care.

Stark foemen await us: ride ye as men that battleward fare.

I had hoped to prove those mermaids false in their prophecy,

When they said unto me, that no man of all our array should see

Again the home in the Rhineland, except the chaplain alone:

Therefore would I so gladly have drowned him a little agone.”

From rank unto rank of their thousands the evil tidings flew.

Pale with a ghastly foreboding many a good knight grew,

As the hideous terror gripped them of the bitter death so near

At the end of this festival-faring, and their hearts were cold with fear.

That place was nigh unto Möring where they passed across the flood,

Where the ferryman of Elsè poured out his life in blood.

Again to the rest spake Hagen: “I have made for myself by the way

Foes, and our march shall shortly be beset by their array.

To-day have I slain their boatman while yet was the morning grey,

And by this have they heard the tidings. Haste ye, prepare for the fray,

{p. 218}

That, soon as Gelfrat and Elsè fall on our company,

They may fall on their own destruction, so stern shall their welcome be.

They will nowise fail to attack us, for I know how bold is the foe;

Wherefore let ye your horses all softly pacing go,

That none of them all may imagine that we flee before them in dread.”

“Yea, I will follow thy counsel,” the young Prince Giselher said.

“Now by whom to our host on-marching through the land shall the ways be shown?”

They answered: “Our guide shall be Volker, for unto him well-known

Be highways alike and byways, the lordly minstrel-knight.”

And lo, ere any could ask him, he was there, all-armed as for fight,

That valiant viol-minstrel: his helm on his head was laced;

With blazonry splendour-tinted was his armour overtraced:

On his spear was a crimson pennon, a fluttering tongue of flame.

—Ah, soon with his royal masters into terrible peril he came!

And by this of his certain knowledge unto Gelfrat had one brought word

Concerning the ferryman’s slaying; and another withal had heard

The tale, even Elsè the stalwart: they raged with wrathful pain,

And they summoned their vassals, and ready with speed was their warrior-train.

But a little while thereafter, as singeth still the Lay,

To their banner came riding champions, whose hands in many a fray

Had wrought wild havoc of carnage, a mighty chivalry;

Unto Gelfrat thronged seven hundred, yea, more it may haply be.

On the track of those grim foemen they set forth spurring in haste;

But their lords, their battle-leaders, afront of them all on-raced

Pursuing the fearless strangers: athirst for revenge they sped;

Yet on to their own destruction full many a friend they led.

Now Hagen the Lord of Troneg had ordered their marching so—

How could a hero better ward friends against a foe?—

That himself with the men of his war-band rode ever in the rear,

And with him Dankwart his brother: wise war-craft was verily here.

{p. 219}

Ran out the sands of the day-tide; all light faded away.

On the hero’s heart the peril of his comrades heavily lay.

With shield on arm still rode they on through Bavaria-land:

Well was it for them, for the onset of foes must they shortly withstand.

On either side of the highway and behind them thundering close

Heard they the sound of hoof-beats of reckless-riding foes.

Then cried the valiant Dankwart: “The foe be at point to set on!

Bind on your brows your helmets: I trow it were wisely done!”

Then, as needs must be, the riders drew rein, and rearward wheeled.

Gleamed dancing lights through the darkness, the glint of many a shield.

No longer might Hagen refrain him; he shouted his challenge-cry—

“Who followeth us on the highway?” From Gelfrat rang the reply,

And the lord of Bavarian marches flung fierce answer back:

“We are in search of our foemen, we follow fast on their track.

I know not who this morning my ferryman hath slain.

He was a valiant warrior, and mine heart is hot with pain!”

Made answer Hagen of Troneg: “And was that ferryman thine?

He refused to ferry us over: the guilt of his blood is mine;

I smote and I slew the strong one. Of a truth good cause had I,

For of this thy stalwart liegeman was mine own death brought full nigh.

I tendered to him fair guerdon, raiment and golden band,

And prayed him to ferry us over, hero, into thy land;

And thereat so flamed he with fury that he dealt me an evil blow

With his oar-blade strong and massy; and my wrath waxed grim enow.

Mine hand went unto my sword-hilt; from his wrath I warded mine head

With a wound that was past all healing, and lo, thine hero was dead.

For the deed am I ready to answer so soon as seemeth thee good.”

They addressed them straightway to battle, for exceeding fierce was their mood.

“Full well did I know,” cried Gelfrat, “that whene’er with his vassal-throng

Gunther passed over the river, to us would be wrought foul wrong

By the insolence of this Hagen! For this shall his heart’s blood pay!

Yea, for my ferryman’s murder his life shall atone straightway!”

{p. 220}

Then couched they over the bucklers for the onset-shock their spears,

Gelfrat and Hagen the mighty: their rage was exceeding fierce.

Dankwart the while and Elsè in fight clashed man against man.

Right well did they prove their prowess, and stern was the strife that began.

When was more gallant encounter of champions so renowned?

In the mighty shock of their clashing was Hagen borne to the ground,

Over his charger’s crupper by Gelfrat’s hand back-forced,

Since the breast-band had snapped asunder: then first was Hagen unhorsed.

With crashing of shivering lances then met their men withal.

Swift to his feet leapt Hagen, more terrible from that fall

Wherein by his enemy’s lance-thrust he was hurled from the selle to the sward.

As flaming fire against Gelfrat was the wrath of Troneg’s lord.

I know not in battle-travail who held each warrior’s steed,

For both had voided the saddle, and face to face on the mead

Stood they, Hagen and Gelfrat: then each at the other sprang.

Knights aided their lords: all round them the din of conflict rang.

How furiously soever Hagen on Gelfrat leapt,

Yet the sword of the noble Margrave from the hero’s buckler swept

A huge shard earthward-clanging; the sparks were as lightning-flame.

Then the champion of King Gunther even to death’s brink came.

He lifted his voice, and to Dankwart he cried for aid, and he said:

“Help me, O brother belovèd, for now am I hardly bestead

Of a mighty-handed hero; he putteth in peril my life!”

Answered him Dankwart the fearless, “Lo, I will part your strife!”

With a leap of his horse he was on them: so fierce and fell a blow

With the keen sword dealt he to Gelfrat, that in death he laid him low.

Then Elsè would fain take vengeance for the mighty champion slain;

But, so fast were they falling, backward borne were his vassal-train.

Slain was his hero-brother, himself had a grievous wound:

Full eighty of his war-thanes already were stretched on the ground

A prey unto death the relentless: of need must the princely knight

Flee from the men of Gunther in headlong-hasty flight.

{p. 221}

As the men of the land Bavarian fled from the face of their foes,

Ringing and clanging behind them ever echoed the dread death-blows,

As the vassals of Troneg’s hero held them close in chase.

Whoso would ’scape, small respite had he in that terrible race!

But amidst of pursuit and slaughter, to the rest cried Dankwart the thane:

“Halt! on the path of our journey backward turn we the rein.

Let us leave them riding in panic, while fast their gashes bleed.

Back to our friends let us hasten: of a truth ’tis the better rede.”

When back to the place of their conflict they came, where many had died,

Spake Hagen of Troneg: “Heroes, now let us be certified

Who from our ranks be missing, whom of our friends we have lost

Here, where the wrath of Gelfrat so many lives hath cost.”

So they numbered, and four were lacking; but for these they made short moan.

Well were they avenged of a surety! For the deaths of these to atone

There lay of Bavaria’s champions more than a hundred dead.

The shields of the men of Troneg with blood were bedimmed and red.

Fitfully out of the cloud-rack brake the clear moon’s light.

Then to the rest spake Hagen: “Let no man tell this night

To my well-belovèd liege-lords what hap hath befallen us here.

Till the morrow, as touching our welfare, no care let them know nor fear.”

When the rest of the host was o’ertaken by these which had come from the fray,

Behold, all men were complaining for weariness of the way.

“How long must we ride unresting?” many a warrior cried.

Spake Dankwart the brave: “No hostel is here wherein to abide.

Needs must ye still ride onward till breaketh the light of day.”

Then Volker the swift war-helper, which ordered their array,

Sent one to ask of the Marshal: “Where shall we halt to-morn,

Where the steeds and our well-loved masters may rest with toil outworn?”

But answered Dankwart the fearless: “I may not certainly say.

But we cannot and may not rest us till dawn in the sky is grey:

{p. 222}

Then, wheresoever we find us, on the grass must we lay us to rest.”

Heavily weighed the tidings on many a warrior’s breast.

Unbewrayed by the blood red-reeking through those dark hours they rode,

Till the sun shot forth, for a greeting to Morning’s feet, as they trode

The crests of the hills, his flame-shafts. Then straightway the King espied

The tokens of that grim conflict, and in indignation he cried:

“What meaneth this, friend Hagen? And thought ye scorn of our aid,

That I might not come to your helping when the rings of your mail were made

Red with the blood of battle? Who brought you unto this plight?”

He answered: “The deed was Elsè’s: he fell on us in the night.

To avenge his ferryman’s slaying his riders pursued us fast.

Dead by the hand of my brother Gelfrat to earth was cast.

Then Elsè fleeing outran us—of sore need surely he fled!

Of us but four, but a hundred of them, on the field lie dead.”

Where stayed they for rest and for slumber, no witness hath testified.

Swift ran the tale of their coming through all the country-side,

How the sons of Uta the noble unto Etzel’s feast would fare.

At the last they won unto Passau, and good was their welcome there.

The noble princes’ uncle, the bishop Pilgerin,

Was exceeding gladdened in spirit to behold his royal kin,

When into his land with comrades so many and knightly they rode.

How fain he was to behold them his deeds right speedily showed.

Friends thronged to meet them and greet them afar from the city-wall;

And, seeing that lodging in Passau could not be found for them all,

To the farther side of the river to a mead were the more part led

Wherein by the squires were pavilions and many a fair tent spread.

There were they constrained to tarry for the space of one whole day

And the night that followed thereafter: right well entreated were they.

Thence riding forth and onward, unto Rüdiger’s land they passed,

And to him the joyful tidings of their coming sped full fast.

Now when by the night’s rest strengthened those way-worn warriors were,

And by this were drawing nearer to the land of Rüdiger,

{p. 223}

There, hard by the marches sleeping, on a certain man did they light,

From whose side was stolen by Hagen a goodly glaive of fight.

Now the name of the sleeper was Eckwart, a good and noble knight;

And exceeding sorrowful-hearted was he for his swordless plight,

For the weapon lost through the passing of heroes the while he slept.

He was warder of Rüdiger’s marches, but for once ill guard had he kept.

“Ah, woe is me,” cried Eckwart, “that I wake to know this shame!

Alas for me, that ever the Burgundians hitherward came!

Siegfried’s death was the well-spring of all my calamity!

Alas for my betrayal of Rüdiger’s trust in me!”

Full well was heard by Hagen the sorrow of that good knight.

He restored him his sword, and he added six armlets of red gold bright:

“Take these for thy guerdon, hero, and be thou a friend to us now.

Though here unguarded thou liest, a valiant thane art thou.”

“God guerdon thee for thine armlets!” Eckwart the knight replied.

“Yet must I surely sorrow that ye to the Huns will ride.

Thou wast the slayer of Siegfried: here hate is undying still.

Look well to thyself!—I counsel in all faith and good-will.”

“Why then, may God protect us,” spake Hagen answering;

“But now these thanes be troubled concerning none other thing

Save for their harbourage only—my lords and their vassals withal—

Even where we shall rest and refresh us at this day’s evenfall:

For by this forspent be our horses with the weary way they have gone;

And consumed is all our victual”—Hagen the thane spake on—

“Neither see we where we may buy it. Some noble host would we meet

Whose open-handed bounty might give to us bread to eat.”

And to him made answer Eckwart: “Such a host unto you will I show,

That entertainment so goodly on you should none bestow

As here shall be your portion, in all lands far or near,

If ye, O valiant warriors, will seek unto Rüdiger.

Nigh to the highway he dwelleth: the noblest host is he

That ever hath dwelt in mansion: his heart with charity

{p. 224}

Blooms as the grass with flowers at the touch of May’s bright feet.

Blithe is he and thankful ever such heroes with service to greet.”

Then spake unto him King Gunther: “Mine herald wilt thou be

To my dear friend Rüdiger? Ask him if, for a grace unto me,

To me and to these my kinsmen and vassals he will be host.

So will I requite that service unto mine uttermost.”

“Gladly will I be thine herald,” answering Eckwart said.

Straightway forth on the errand with eager haste he sped

Unto Rüdiger, bearing the message told even now in his ear.

There had come no such glad tidings to his lord for many a year.

Men saw from the towers of Bechlaren a knight spur thitherward fast.

Well Rüdiger knew that rider, and he said: “In furious haste

Cometh Eckwart, vassal of Kriemhild, galloping hitherward.”

He weened that of foes some mischief had been done to that valiant lord.

To the castle-gateway he hied him, and there did the messenger stand

Who unclasped his sword from his girdle and laid at his feet the brand.

Spake Rüdiger unto the warrior: “What tidings hast thou brought

That so hath constrained thee to hasten? hath any spoiled us of aught?”

“No man hath done us a mischief,” straightway Eckwart replied,

“But to-day of three kings bidden unto thee have I hitherward hied,

Of the King of Burgundia, Gunther, of Gernot and Giselher:

And of these knights each commendeth unto thee his service fair.

The like do Hagen and Volker; and each man sayeth it

In loyal faith and hearty. Moreover I do thee to wit

Of the message that the marshal of Gunther hath charged me withal,

That the good knights pray thee to grant them lodging at evenfall.”

With smiling lips of kindness unto him did Rüdiger say:

“Welcome to me be the tidings that kings so noble as they

Now stand in need of my service: nothing to these I deny.

So they will but come to my dwelling, exceeding glad am I.”

“From Dankwart the marshal moreover a message to thee I bring,

How many unto thy castle this day be journeying.

{p. 225}

Threescore valiant champions and a thousand knights draw near,

And with these be squires nine thousand.” Blithe was the host of cheer.

“Welcome be these guests! Welcome the tidings,” did Rüdiger cry,

“That such noble and valiant heroes to my castle-halls draw nigh

Unto whom I have ne’er shown kindness for kindness shown unto me!

What ho, my kinsmen and vassals, ride forth to meet them ye!”

Then hasted they to their horses, and rode forth, squire and knight.

Whatsoever their lord commanded, that seemed them meet and right;

For so with swifter obedience they rendered him service due.

But still in her bower sat Gotlind, and nothing thereof she knew.

How they came to Bechlaren

Thence hasted him the Margrave to where in the Ladies’ Bower

Were sitting his wife and his daughter: unto these in the selfsame hour

Told he the joyful tidings that but now had gladdened his ear,

That the brethren of her Lady and Queen to their halls drew near.

“Now therefore, O my belovèd,” spake Rüdiger earnestly,

“Graciously shalt thou receive them, these noble princes three,

When they and their train come hither as they fare unto Etzel’s court.

And Hagen, Gunther’s liegeman, shalt thou greet in friendly sort.

With these cometh also another, and Dankwart he hath to name,

And another withal, named Volker, of knightly honour and fame.

Upon these six thou and my daughter shall the greeting-kiss bestow,

And the grace of courteous kindness unto all the knights shall ye show.”

All this did the ladies promise, and nothing loth were they.

Then sought they out of the coffers their goodliest array,

That so they might greet the warriors in worthy bravery.

So with eager haste they bestirred them, those ladies fair to see.

{p. 226}

Of false-feigned bloom of roses on their cheeks was little enow;

But shining golden chaplets they bare upon each white brow

Fashioned as rich-wrought garlands, that so their braided hair

By the wind might not be ruffled: all dainty and fresh they were.

In the labours of women busied those courtly dames leave we,

The while went swiftly riding far over the river-lea

Rüdiger’s friends and kinsmen, till they spied that princely band;

Then heartiest welcome they gave them into the Margrave’s land.

So when to the castle the Margrave beheld that company ride,

How blithely hailing their presence the eager Rüdiger cried,

“Welcome to me, ye princes, and all in your vassal-train!

Here in mine own fair country I behold you exceeding fain.”

Then bowed them to him the heroes in friendship and faith unfeigned.

Well proved he with what gladness by their host were they entertained.

Unto Hagen special greeting, as a friend known long agone,

He gave, and withal unto Volker, Burgundia’s hero-son.

Dankwart withal he greeted; then spake that valiant thane:

“If thou care for us here in thy castle, who then will see to our train,

Unto all the array which hath followed from Worms beyond the Rhine?”

Straightway answered the Margrave: “Put by this fear of thine;

For all thy vassal-companions, and what possessions soe’er

Ye have brought into this my country—steeds, silver, and raiment fair—

I will cause them to have such warding that nought therefrom shall be lost.

By a single spur no poorer shall be any man of your host.

Pitch the pavilions therefore, ye squires, on yonder lea.

Whatsoe’er from your store shall be missing shall be all made good by me.

Cast off the bit and bridle, and let the steeds range wide.”

Never had men such welcome from any host beside!

Glad were the guests when they heard it. So then when his bidding was done,

And the lords rode thence to the castle, the squires all one after one

Stretched them at ease on the greensward. Sweet rest at last had they:

Nought like it before nor after found they in all the way.

{p. 227}

To the front of the castle-gateway did the noble Margravine haste

With her beauteous daughter; and many a lady lovely-faced

Upon this side and that was standing, and many a winsome maid

In carcanet and bracelet and queenly apparel arrayed.

Gleamed many a precious gemstone casting afar its sheen

Forth of their costly vesture—ah, fair were they to be seen!

Forward the guests came riding; from selle sprang they to the earth,—

What knightly grace and courteous showed they of Burgundian birth!

There were six-and-thirty maidens, and many a dame beside.

Fair to all heart’s desiring were the women lovely-eyed

That with many a valiant warrior to meet the strangers came:

Yea, fairest greeting was tendered of noble damsel and dame.

Then the Margravine welcomed the princes with the kiss of courtesy,

The like did also her daughter. Now Hagen stood thereby,

And her father bade her kiss him: but the maiden looked upon him,

And fain would she have refrained her, for his favour was passing grim.

Yet as their host her father commanded needs must she do:

But came and went her colour, she was pale and red of hue.

Thereafter Dankwart kissed she, and the lord of the viol-string,

For his might and his valour won him the greeting due to a king.

Then, to usher him into the castle, the maiden stretched her hand

Unto Giselher the courteous, the Prince of Burgundia-land.

And the hand of the valiant Gunther the Margravine hath ta’en.

So blithely into the castle with the heroes passed these twain.

The host gave hand unto Gernot: to the great hall so they came.

There sat they down on the high-seats, brave knight and comely dame.

Then poured they the wine of welcome, and bare to the guests all round.

Never more gracious greeting have heroes-errant found!

With eyes of admiration looked many a warrior there

On the damsel, Rüdiger’s daughter, for the maiden was passing fair.

In his heart did many a good knight her loveliness embrace:

Well might they, her queenly spirit made a splendour of her face.

{p. 228}

Ah, they might dream as they listed!—’twas a dream no morn should fulfil!

Hither and thither the glances of the heroes wandered still

To the faces and forms of maidens and of dames that thronged the hall.

But the heart of the noble minstrel warmed to their host above all.

Then was the company sundered: the knights and the dames straightway

Passed into several feast-halls, as the wont of the land was aye.

In the great hall of the castle for the knights were the tables arrayed,

And there to the friends from a far land was eager service paid.

For a grace to her guests Burgundian the noble Margravine

Sat in their midst at the table; but there was her child not seen,

For apart she abode with the maidens, as the land’s wont was from of old;

And the brave knights sighed for the beauty they might no longer behold.

So when with the meats and the wine-cup the guests were satisfied,

Back to the feast-hall led they the ladies lovely-eyed.

Then a murmur of admiration and of worship from all men broke,

And chiefly the valiant Volker the praise of beauty spoke;

For that same viol-minstrel spake freely and openly:

“O noble Lord of the Marches, God hath bestowed upon thee

All gifts of his gracious bounty: he hath given to thee for wife

A lady exceeding lovely, he hath crowned with bliss thy life.

Now if I were the heir to a kingdom,” that viol-minstrel said,

“And if I bare crown and sceptre, then would I choose to wed

None other than thy fair daughter—in all sincerity

I speak:—she is lovely to look on, noble and good is she.”

But the Margrave spake in answer: “How might it befall, this thing,

That my daughter should be the chosen and the heart’s delight of a king?

Here I and my wife be homeless, nor demesne nor castle we own:

No lands can we give for her portion—what availeth beauty alone?”

Answered and spake to him Gernot, the royal-natured knight:

“Might I choose for my bride a maiden in whom my soul should delight,

Such wife as she should gladden ever mine heart and mine eyes.”

Spake Hagen withal and answered in knightly-courteous wise:

{p. 229}

“For my young lord Giselher’s spousals a fitting time were this:

And of such right noble lineage the child of the Margrave is,

That with joy would we render her homage, I and his liegemen all,

When crowned mid the folk Burgundian she paceth in purple and pall.”

Good in the eyes of the Margrave was the word of the princes found,

And sweet in the ears of Gotlind did the counsel of Hagen sound.

So of one accord were the heroes that the noble Giselher

Should take to wife that maiden—meet bride for a king she were!

Who may withstand the issue that is doomed by fate to befall?

They summoned the Margrave’s daughter to appear before them in hall:

Then sware the father to give him the lovely damsel to wife,

And the Prince for his part hath pledged him to cherish her all his life.

To the maiden the Kings for her portion allotted castles and land;

And with oaths of confirmation by the noble Gunther’s hand

Was it sealed unto her, and by Gernot, that all should so be done.

Then spake her father: “Albeit castles have I none,

And I can but loyally prove me your friend for evermore,

Yet shall my daughter’s dower be silver and gold good store

So much as a hundred sumpters fully laden may bear,

That his kin may with honour content them with the bride of Giselher.”

Into the midst of a circle led they the plighted twain

After the ancient custom. Full many a strong young thane

Stood there and gazed upon them with laughter-litten eyes,

Thinking such thoughts as ever in young hearts wont to rise.

So then when her kin put question unto the winsome maid—

“Wilt thou take this knight to thine husband?” awhile was she loth and afraid:

Yet her heart within her was pleading for him, that goodly one;

But for shame she hung on her answer, as many a maiden hath done.

Then Rüdiger her father spake saying, “Answer yea,

And gladly for husband take him.” How swiftly did he straightway

With loving white hands clasping to his heart his belovèd press;

Even Giselher the young prince!—how brief was their happiness!

{p. 230}

Then spake once more the Margrave: “O kings of lineage high,

What time to the realm Burgundian returning ye pass hereby,

Then will I give you my daughter, even as is meet and right,

To bear her with you to the home-land.” Unto this their troth did they plight.

The tumult of feasting and joyance at last must have an end;

And then did the new-wed maiden to her bridal-chamber wend,

And the guests through the castle rested and slept till the day shone clear.

Then brake they the bread of the morning, and the host made abundant cheer.

And now when the feasting was ended, they addressed them thence to go

Journeying on to the Hunland—“I pray you, do not so,”

Said the Margrave noble-hearted; “awhile yet tarry here.

Long is it since in my castle I have harboured guests so dear.”

Answered and spake to him Dankwart: “Now nay, this may not be.

Whence should provision of victual and of wine be gotten of thee

Enough to suffice for the feasting of so great a company?”

But the host made answer: “I pray you, put all such vain words by!

My lords and dearly beloved, ye may not say me nay.

With meat and drink can I feast you till endeth the fourteenth day,

And all that with you came hither, both lords and vassal-train.

Little enow of my substance King Etzel from me hath ta’en.”

How sorely soe’er they excused them, yet there perforce they abode

Till dawned the fourth day’s morning. Such lavish gifts were bestowed

Of their host’s free-handed bounty, that the fame thereof spread wide,

How he gave to his guests rich raiment and gallant steeds to ride.

No longer now might they tarry: they must needs press on to the goal.

But of all his mighty possessions would Rüdiger’s princely soul

Spare nought in his lavish bounty: whatsoever any might crave,

Unto none he denied or begrudged it; to the heroes gladly he gave.

Before the gate of the castle the squires brought harness-dight

Long lines of goodly horses: then came forth many a knight

Unto where the steeds stood waiting. Their shields on their arms they bare,

For thence would they now be riding unto Etzel’s land to fare.

{p. 231}

But, or ever the high-born strangers forth of the feast-hall strode,

Freely the host on the heroes the gifts of his love had bestowed.

He could live wealth-crowned with honour, how largely he gave soe’er.

His daughter, a gift all-priceless, had he given to Giselher;

But to Gunther the peerless hero Rüdiger gave a thing

That well might add new honour to the majesty of a king.

Right seldom the King took presents, but he bowed him courteously

As he took from the hand all-courteous the hauberk goodly to see.

And a sword, a light of battle, unto Gernot the princely he gave;

Ere long in the wild war-tempest mightily flashed that glaive.

Smiled on him the wife of the Margrave as he took that gift from his hand.

—Ah me, but her noble husband was to die by that same brand!

Then, as well beseemed such a lady, unto Hagen Gotlind brought

Gifts of her lovingkindness: since the King had refused them not,

She prayed he would fare not forward unto Etzel’s festal-tide

Unholpen of her bounty; but the hero refused, and replied:

“Of all things that ever,” said Hagen, “I have seen unto this day,

Nought I desire so sorely to bear with me hence away

As the shield that hangeth yonder against your palace-wall:

That same would I bear right gladly unto Etzel’s festival.”

When heard of the wife of the Margrave was the word that Hagen spake,

It wakened her sleeping sorrow: no marvel her tears outbrake!

With anguish she called to remembrance the death of Nudung, her son,

Whom Wittich had slain; and rekindled was the olden grief and moan.

To the thane made answer the mother: “O yea, the shield will I give.

Ah, would to God in Heaven that yet on the earth he might live

Who bare it of old! In battle he slept the iron sleep.

I must needs evermore lament him: sore cause have I to weep.”

Then the noble wife of the Margrave rose up from her carven chair,

And she took down the shield of the dear dead with her own white hands, and bare

And gave it, her gift unto Hagen: he received in his hands the same;

Ay, and he won for the buckler new glory of deathless fame!

{p. 232}

A cover of bright-hued loomwork enfolded its blazonries.

Never hath shone the daylight on better shield than this.

So richly with precious gemstones bordered was its device,

That, if any were fain to buy it, a thousand marks were its price.

His squires bare forth at his bidding that shield for the mighty thane.

Then came his brother Dankwart before the chatelaine,

And on him rich-broidered vesture did the Margrave’s daughter bestow

Which thereafter he wore glad-hearted in the halls of the Hunland foe.

But of all gifts Rüdiger gave them, how great soever of worth,

Unto none had the haughty princes stretched a finger forth,

Were it not for his courteous kindness, and the love it begat that day—

Yet ere long were they foes so bitter that they needs must smite him and slay!

Then Volker the battle-eager, with his viol in his hand,

Stepped forth with courtly bearing before Gotlind to stand;

And the sweet notes rang through the feast-hall as he chanted the lovely lay.

So took he leave of the Lady ere he passed from Bechlaren away.

Then the wife of the Margrave commanded that her maids unto her should bring

A casket—of gifts love-sweetened now shall the minstrel sing:—

Twelve armlets she took from the coffer, and she slid them over his hand:

“These bear thou, Volker, I pray thee, into King Etzel’s land;

And there for my sake shalt thou wear them in presence of King and thane,

That folk may tell me the story, when hither thou comest again,

Of the courtly service rendered unto me of Etzel’s guest.”

And the bold knight did thereafter according to all her request.

Then spake to his guests the Margrave: “For your safe journeying hence

Myself will be your escort: so strong shall be your defence,

That none shall set upon you to do you hurt by the way.”

Then was his sumpter-palfrey saddled without delay.

Arrayed he stood for the journey, and, furnished with raiment and steed

Good knights with him five hundred; and all these thence did he lead

{p. 233}

Bound for the Hunfolk’s high-tide with merry hearts and light—

There returned again to Bechlaren of them all no single knight!

Then did their host with kisses of love from his dear wife part;

With kisses was Giselher sundered from his bride; with yearning heart

They held in their arms fond-clasping their wives, the passing fair.

Ah, soon bewept full sorely by many a maiden they were!

All through that stately castle they flung the casements wide

To see the Lord of the Marches with all his men forth ride.

Their hearts with mournful boding whispered to them, I trow:

Wept many a winsome lady and maiden to see them go.

For beloved friends and for kinsmen all these were sorrowing sore

Whom the watchers should see returning to Bechlaren never more.

Yet rode that company blithely down to the river-strand,

And far through the Danube-valley away to the Hunfolk’s land.

Then to the thanes Burgundian the princely Margrave cried,

Even Rüdiger the noble: “We may now no longer hide

From the lords of the realm the tidings that to Hunland we draw near.

Sooth, never hath King Etzel heard aught to his heart so dear.”

Then rode swift heralds many to the land of the Easterling,

And so full soon did the tidings through all the country ring

That from Worms-over-Rhine the heroes were coming thitherward.

Welcomer news heard never the vassals of Hunland’s Lord.

(C) And when to the Daughter of Princes the tidings thereof was told,

From her stricken heart in a measure the burden of grief was rolled,

Since now from the land of her fathers came they which had done her a wrong—

Ay, they through whom King Etzel had sorrow enow ere long!

Fast, fast pressed onward the heralds as the tale to the King they bare

How that the Niblung chieftains nigh unto Hunland were.

Kriemhild the Queen from a casement watched with eager eye

For her kinsmen, as friends sore-yearning look forth as friends draw nigh.

At last she beheld those thousands from the ancient home that came;

And ware was the King of their coming, and he laughed with joy for the same:—

{p. 234}

“See to it, O dear wife, Kriemhild, thou receive them worthily.

To be crowned with exceeding honour thy brethren come unto thee.”

“Glad am I for these good tidings,” spake Kriemhild her heart within.

“Ha, many a bright new buckler they bring, my faithless kin,

And hauberks gleaming and glancing!—now whoso will take of my gold,

And think on my wrongs, such champion my friend for aye will I hold.”

(C) In her soul was she thinking—thinking—“The day of reckoning is this!

He who hath utterly emptied my life of all its bliss

Shall drink, if I may but contrive it, to the dregs the cup of pain

At this guest-greeting! Ready am I and exceeding fain.

(C) O yea, I will so devise it, that on this festal day

My vengeance shall stand triumphant, betide thereof what may,

Over his hateful body who bereaved me utterly

Of love, of the joy of living—but the hour of requital is nigh!”

How the Burgundians came to Etzel’s strong City

Now when the Burgundian Heroes came to the Hunfolk’s land,

Told was the thing to the warrior of Bern, old Hildebrand,

And he unto Dietrich told it; and his lord with grief and dismay

Heard; yet he bade him welcome that valiant knightly array.

Then were the horses saddled at the bidding of Wolfhart the strong.

With the Hero of Bern went riding knights in a lordly throng

To greet the friends far-travelled. On the river-plain they met

Where many a goodly pavilion the squires by this had set.

So soon as Hagen of Troneg beheld them from far away,

In knightly-courteous fashion unto his lords did he say:

“Now, warriors battle-eager, leap each man down from the selle,

And go ye forward to meet them which be come to greet you well.

A warrior company cometh; full well be they known unto me;

Thanes battle-eager and stalwart from the Amals’ land they be;

{p. 235}

And the Hero of Bern is their leader, and their courage is high in the fray.

Ye shall nowise scorn the service they proffer to you this day.”

Then sprang to the earth from the saddle, even as was meet and right,

Dietrich, and there with their captain were many a squire and knight.

Forward to that guest-greeting they strode to the hero-band,

And in kindliest wise they welcomed the men of Burgundia-land.

So now when the noble Dietrich beheld them drawing nigh,

Gladness and sorrow within him strove for the mastery[11].

Well knew he the deadly secret: a grief was their journey to him;

But he weened that Rüdiger knew it, and had told of the peril grim.

“Welcome, my lords! O Gunther and Giselher, welcome be ye!

Gernot and Hagen, welcome! Lord Volker, welcome to thee

And to Dankwart the battle-eager!—but hath no man told you the tale

How still for the Niblung Hero doth Kriemhild weep and wail?”

“Let her weep so long as she listeth!” scornfully Hagen replied.

“Many a year hath fleeted since her lord was smitten and died.

Ay, let her joy and her solace be the love of the Lord of the Hun!

Siegfried returneth never; he was buried long agone.”

“Enough of the slaying of Siegfried! His memory is not dead.

So long as Kriemhild liveth may the vengeance-snare be spread.”

—So spake the noble Dietrich, the Hero of Bern, his rede.—

“O hope of the Niblung Nation, of her vengeance take good heed!”

“Beware of my sister!—and wherefore?” proudly the King replied.

“Etzel hath sent to us heralds—what should I ask beside?—

Bidding us ride to meet him here in this land as a friend.

Yea, many a loving greeting did my sister Kriemhild send.”

“Hearken,” again spake Hagen, “and so will I counsel you.

Hear ye this story of Kriemhild, and let it be told all through

By Dietrich the Lord of the Amals, and his heroes valorous:

So shall the mind of Kriemhild be wholly revealed unto us.”

{p. 236}

Then drew them apart the Princes, and spake together the three,

Even Gunther the King and Gernot and Dietrich secretly:

“O Knight of Bern most noble and valiant, tell us now—

Of the inmost mind of Kriemhild the Queen what knowest thou?”

And the Prince of Bern made answer: “What other can be my tale

Save this, that morning by morning I hear her weep and wail—

This Etzel’s wife, Queen Kriemhild—with bitter and passionate breath

Appealing to God in Heaven to avenge strong Siegfried’s death?”

“O’erlate is it now for repenting as touching this thou hast told,”

Spake Volker the viol-minstrel, the warrior ever bold.

“Let us on to the court of the Hun-king, and let it there be seen

What deeds shall be done of the Hunfolk to the warriors battle-keen.”

So on to the court went riding that bold Burgundian band,

Bearing themselves right proudly after the wont of their land.

Then many a valiant warrior of the Huns watched eagerly

For the coming of Hagen of Troneg, what manner of man should he be.

Known long since was the story to all folk, how that his hand

Had dealt unto Siegfried the death-stab, to the King of the Nether Land,

Of all stark knights the strongest, the lord of Kriemhild the Queen:

Therefore the expectation of men to behold him was keen.

Mighty of mould was the hero, as the soothfast songs declare,

Exceeding broad in the shoulders and deep of chest, and his hair

By this was a sable silvered; sinewy, long of limb,

As a king was he stately in going, and his face as death was grim.

Then all the thanes Burgundian into hostels did they bring;

But the train of the squires of Gunther were sundered far from the King.

It was done by the Queen’s devising, for the hate that to him she bare.

Slain ere long in their hostels all those henchmen were.

Dankwart the brother of Hagen was marshal of all that train,

And to him did the King commit them, charging him once and again

To do his utmost endeavour for supplying of all their need;

And he laboured with willing spirit, and served with diligent heed.

{p. 237}

Forth came the fair Queen Kriemhild with a goodly company.

With falsely-feignèd kindness those Niblungs greeted she.

Then Giselher her brother did she kiss, and she clasped his hand:

When Hagen of Troneg saw it, he tightened his helmet-band.

“Good sooth, after such a welcome,” Hagen cried, “there is need

That the battle-eager warriors should take to themselves good heed!

The greeting of prince and of liegeman is here no whit the same.

I wot, on an evil journey to this high-tide we came!”

She answered, “To him be welcome who joyeth to see thy face!

For thy friendship’s sake is accorded here no greeting’s grace.

This tell to me, what dost thou bring me from Worms beyond the Rhine,

That unto me so welcome should be this presence of thine?”

“What new thing shall this be, quotha!” spake Hagen scornfully,

“That these good knights Burgundian should be bringers of gifts unto thee?

Had I known that thou wert so grasping—I am rich enow, I wot,—

A gift unto thee of my bounty to the Hunland had I brought.”

“Thy gifts!—thou answer the question I ask of thee this day:

The Hoard, the Niblung Treasure—where have ye thrust it away?

That at least was mine own possession, well dost thou understand!

That should ye have brought to its owner unto King Etzel’s land.”

“Of a truth, my lady Kriemhild, full many a day hath passed

Since the gold of the Niblung Treasure of me was beholden last.

Under the Rhine-river waters by command of my lords was it drowned:

There must it stay of a surety till the Trumpet of Doom shall sound.”

And the Queen made bitter answer: “I trowed that so it would be!

Of his spoil has the thief brought hither little enow unto me,

Though the gold was mine own possession, erewhile of me controlled!

For the gold and its lord have I suffered anguish manifold.”

“The Fiend a gift do I bring thee!” cried Hagen in savage scorn.

“’Tis enough for me that I carry the shield on mine arm that is borne,

And the harness about my body, and mine helm bright-glittering,

And the sword at my side—they suffice me: nothing to thee do I bring.”

{p. 238}

(C) “Nay, never think thou,” she answered, “that it is for the gold I care.

I need not to stint my bounty, enough have I and to spare.

But the murderer, twice a robber, who hath stol’n from my life its light,

The spoiler of helpless women, him would I fain requite!”

Then spake that Daughter of Princes to Burgundy’s warriors all:

“It fits not that ye bear weapons here in the royal hall.

Commit them to me, ye heroes, and well will I ward them for you.”

“Of a truth,” made answer Hagen, “that will we never do!

I crave not the honour, O gracious child of a princely line,

That thou to thy place of safety bear any weapon of mine,

Nor shield, nor battle-harness—queen, well I wot, thou art here.

Wisely my father taught me to ward mine own war-gear.”

“Ah, woe is me for the sorrows heaped on me!” Kriemhild cried.

“For what cause now of my brother and of Hagen is this denied

That I have their shields in my keeping? Of a surety, warned are they!

If I knew what man hath betrayed me, his head for his treason should pay!”

Then Dietrich flamed into anger, and swiftly answered he:

“Lo, I am he that hath warned them, these Princes of Burgundy,

And the King of the Rhineland’s liegemen, and Hagen the unafraid!

Make trial, thou child of the Devil, if the debt shall by me be paid!”

Then quailed before him Kriemhild, and darkly she flushed with shame:

For before the mighty Dietrich great fear on her spirit came.

Straightway she went from their presence: no word to her lips arose,

But one swift glance of hatred she flashed upon her foes.

Stood face to face these heroes with hand in right hand clasped:

Dietrich of Bern in friendship the hand of Hagen grasped.

Then spake to the knight of Troneg that battle-mighty chief:

“Of a truth your journey to Hunland is pain unto me and grief,

Forasmuch as yon Daughter of Princes hath so revealed her hate.”

Answered him Hagen of Troneg: “We will put to the test our fate.”

So did the dauntless heroes each unto other say.

King Etzel beheld them communing, and he questioned of them straightway:

{p. 239}

“Fain would I one should tell me,” so asked of his men the King,

“What knightly warrior yonder with such friendly welcoming

Is greeted by our lord Dietrich. A lofty spirit he bears:

What thane soe’er was his father, a goodly knight he appears.”

Spake of the train of Kriemhild to the King a certain knight:

“Troneg is the warrior’s birthplace, his father Aldrian hight.

How blithely soever he bear him, a grim stark foeman he is.

I trow, ere long shall I prove it, that utter truth is this.”

“Nay, how should I learn that the hero is in battle so grim?” he replied;

For as yet had the King no knowledge of the snares of death spread wide

Around the feet of her kinsmen by the Queen for revenge who yearned—

So wide, that back from the Hunland no man of them all returned.

“Well knew I Aldrian,” spake he: “my liegeman he was of old.

Praise at my court he won him and honour manifold:

Yea, and of me was he knighted, and I gave him gold and gear;

And my true and faithful Lady, Helka, held him dear.

Well known thereafter was Hagen unto me: in years long fled

As hostages high-born children twain to my land I led,

Even him and Walter the Spaniard. Here unto men grew they,

Till I sent home Hagen; but Walter with Hildegund fled away.”

So mused he on days passed over and deeds done long agone,

And his warrior-friend of Troneg whom there of old he had known,

Who in youth had rendered him service in many a strenuous day,

But now in his age was destined a host of his friends to slay.

How Hagen refused to rise up in Presence of the Queen

{p. 240}

Now did those thanes far-famous each from other turn,

Hagen the Lord of Troneg, and Dietrich the Hero of Bern.

Then over his shoulder glancing did Gunther’s liegeman gaze

Keenly around for a comrade, and he marked him in little space.

For anigh Prince Giselher standing Volker he straightway espied,

Volker the viol-minstrel; and he prayed him, “Stand by my side!”

For well had he proved his spirit, how grim he was in fight,

And in all that a knight beseemeth a fearless warrior wight.

The lords Burgundian left they standing amidst of the court;

But the twain in the sight of all men strode with lion-port

Alone across the bailey, and in front of a palace wide.

They cared not who should withstand them, they faced all dauntless-eyed.

They sat them down on a settle before the palace-wall

Over against the windows and the doors of the Queen’s own hall.

On their mighty limbs was gleaming their royal-rich array;

And many an one who beheld them much marvelled who were they.

Many an one of the Hunfolk, as on wild beasts of the wold,

Gazed open-mouthed upon them, on the heroes haughty-souled.

And Etzel’s Queen through a casement beheld that terrible twain,

And the heart of Kriemhild the comely was darkened afresh with pain.

She thought upon all her sorrows, and she wept for grief and shame.

Then on the thanes, the liegemen of Etzel, amazement came,

As they marvelled what should have troubled the royal heart of the Queen;

And she answered, “The deed was Hagen’s, O good knights battle-keen.”

Hotly they answered their Lady: “What deed hath of him been done?

Lo, of good cheer we beheld thee and blithe but a little agone.

{p. 241}

Whosoever hath done thee a mischief, be he never so valorous,

So thou but bid us avenge thee, with his life shall he answer to us.”

“Unto him for aye were I bounden who avenged me on my foe.

What boon he may ask soever ready am I to bestow.

I bow at your feet in suppliance!” cried King Etzel’s wife.

“Avenge me upon this Hagen! Let him forfeit limb and life!”

Then armed them the valiant champions; sixty by tale they were:

For love of their Lady Kriemhild forth of the hall would they fare

And fall upon Hagen and smite him, the battle-dauntless lord,

And with him the viol-minstrel: all they were of one accord.

But the Queen looked on her champions, and marked their slender array,

And in wrathful indignation to the heroes did she say:

“From such manner of desperate emprise, I counsel you, refrain!

Ye be all too few to grapple with Hagen in battle-strain.

How valiant and mighty soever the Hero of Troneg be,

The man that sitteth beside him is mightier far than he,

Volker the viol-minstrel: a very fiend he is.

Ye may nowise meet yon heroes with so scanty a band as this.”

So when they had heard that warning, four hundred warriors more

Clad them in battle-harness. With longing exceeding sore

Was the heart of the Queen a-hungered for vengeance for her wrong.

Therefrom were the valiant champions into grim straits brought ere long.

And so soon as armed for the onset she saw her vassal-train,

To the warriors battle-eager the Queen spake yet again:

“Now tarry ye here for a season; stand ye still for a space.

With my crown on mine head yon foemen will I first meet face to face.

Hearken as I reproach him for the wrongs he hath done unto me,

This Hagen of Troneg, vassal of Gunther of Burgundy.

I know him so high-hearted, that his crime he will scorn to deny.

What shall befall him thereafter from avengers nought care I.”

Then the valiant viol-minstrel, the lord of the strings, was ware

Of the high-born Daughter of Princes, as her feet came down the stair

{p. 242}

That led from the palace-portal. Soon as he saw that sight,

Unto his warrior-comrade spake Volker the dreadless knight:

“Behold now, O friend Hagen, and mark as she draweth nigh

Who as guests hath bidden us hither with purpose of treachery.

Never so many warriors saw I follow a queen

With sword in hand drawing nigh me, and with faces battle-keen.

Of this art thou ware, friend Hagen, that to thee are they foemen fell:

Wherefore I give thee counsel, take heed that thou guard well

Thy life and thy knightly honour. I trow such rede is good;

For in very deed meseemeth they come in angry mood.

There is many a man amongst them broad-chested and stalwart of frame.

Whoso would keep life scatheless, betimes let him see to the same!

I mark how under their vesture glittering hauberks they wear:

What deed thereby they purpose I know not, neither care.”

Made answer in scornful anger Hagen the aweless man:

“Well know I, for my destruction is all their plot and plan;

And for this are the gleaming weapons that yon men bear in hand.

But for all they may do, shall I yet ride back into Burgundy-land.

Now tell unto me, friend Volker, by me art thou minded to stand

If these be fain to beset me, yon men of Kriemhild’s band?

Lo, by thy love I adjure thee, tell me thy mind herein,

And my love and my loyal service for ever shalt thou win.”

“Yea, of a surety I help thee,” the minstrel made reply;

“And though I beheld against us a king of the earth draw nigh

With all his knights about him, so long as endureth my life,

Through fear will I ne’er draw backward one foot from thy side in the strife.”

“Now God in Heaven reward thee, Volker, thou peerless of worth!

Though all these rise up against us, what need I more on earth?

If thou but stand mine helper, as now thou hast said in mine ear,

These knights have need to be wary of coming a step more near.”

“Now,” said the viol-minstrel, “rise we up from our seat

In presence of this King’s Daughter, as before us pass her feet;

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So render we due honour unto a high-born queen,

And by courtesy do we honour unto ourselves, I ween.”

“Nay,” Hagen replied, “if thou love me, in no wise do this thing.

Yon knights will be puffed up haply with vain imagining

That I did it of failing courage, and were minded to flinch from her face.

But I,—for no soul among them will I rise up from my place.

From such honour to her refrain we; it better beseemeth us so.

What, should I render her homage who hath set her to be my foe?

No, that will I do never so long as endureth my life!

What reck I of the malice of this King Etzel’s wife?”

Across his knees did Hagen in haughty defiance lay

A flashing glaive of battle, and with restless splendour-ray

A jasper shone on the pommel—spring grass were not so green.

Full well did Kriemhild know it, for Siegfried’s sword had it been.

She saw the brand, and remembered, and anguish it was to see.

Of gold were the hilts, and the scabbard all crimson broidery.

The olden grief was rewakened, and fast did the hot tears flow.

In sooth, with none other purpose had Hagen done it, I trow.

Then close to his side on the settle Volker the unafraid

Drew a viol-bow strange-fashioned, a mighty and long steel blade:

Yea, as a sword was it shapen, and keen it was and broad.

Thus sat these knights in the presence of a throng of their foes unawed.

Of such high worth they accounted themselves, that fearless twain,

For dread of any foeman never a whit would they deign

To rise from the place of their session. Now stood before them there

That high-born Daughter of Princes, and a bitter greeting she bare;

For she spake: “Now say, Lord Hagen, who sent a bidding to thee

That thou darest hither to journey to my land thus hardily,

Albeit full well thou knewest what deeds unto me thou hast done?

Hadst thou been prudent of spirit, into peril thou hadst not run.”

“Me?—no man hath bidden me hither,” with careless scorn he replied.

“Hither to this thy kingdom were three knights bidden to ride,

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And these same knights be my liege-lords, and I am their liegeman true.

Whensoever they wend to a high-tide, my wont is to be there too.”

She said: “This also tell me—why diddest thou that deed

For the which the hatred I bear thee is but thy rightful meed?

Thou, thou didst murder Siegfried!—my lord and my love didst thou slay

For whom I must needs mourn ever unto my latest day.”

“Tush! this sufficeth,” he answered. “Why idly waste thy breath?

I still am the same—that Hagen who dealt unto Siegfried death,

To the mighty-handed hero. Dearly he paid at last

For the flouts that the Lady Kriemhild upon Brunhild the fair had cast.

Dream not, O Queen most mighty, that I will conceal or deny

That of all the scathe and the mischief done to thee guilty am I.

Let whoso dareth avenge it!—let woman or man essay!

I have heaped thee the measure of sorrow, if I be not a liar this day.”

“Ye hear him, knights! He confesseth all shamelessly,” she cried,

“This crime that was cause of mine anguish! What unto him may betide

In requital for this, I care not, O vassals of Etzel the King!”

But her thanes looked each upon other with glances wavering.

Had they closed that instant in conflict, those two companions, I trow,

Right soon had exacted homage to their prowess from the foe,

As oft in the days passed over they had proved in battle-storm.

The thing they had undertaken now feared those men to perform.

Then spake a knight to his fellows: “Why look ye so upon me?

The deed that erewhile I promised, fulfilled may it nowise be.

No mortal’s gifts shall beguile me to barter away my life.

To our own destruction hither were we lured by Etzel’s wife!”

Then spake and answered another: “As thou art, so am I.

If one would give to me towers with the ruddy gold heaped high,

Against yon viol-minstrel in battle I would not stand.

I have marked his eagle-glances, and I fear the might of his hand.

Yea, and I knew yon Hagen in his youth long years ago.

It needs not that any should tell me of the prowess that I know:

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In battles two-and-twenty have I seen him play his part.

Unto many a wife made widow hath he given sorrow of heart.

Yea, he and Walter the Spaniard upon many a foray fared;

And here under Etzel’s banner full many a deed they dared

For the King’s renown: they have proved them so oft in foughten field,

That men must needs unto Hagen the palm of honour yield.

Yet a child in years was the warrior what time he won such praise,

And now are they men grey-headed which were boys in those far days;

But now hath he gained war-cunning, and grimmer than he is none,

And he beareth the great sword Balmung by a deed of darkness won.”

So ended their vaunting, for no man dared battle with such stern foes.

In the heart of the Daughter of Princes the anguish-tide high rose,

As backward recoiled her champions: ay, death seemed all too near

At the hands of the viol-minstrel—good cause had they for fear!

How oft do men’s hearts fail them, that they shrink from an emprise aghast

When faced by friend that standeth at friend’s side loyal and fast!

Ay, intermeddlers in quarrels, if wisdom they have to refrain

And to take heed unto their goings, may deliver themselves from bane.

Then spake the dreadless Volker: “Now for ourselves have we found

The truth whereof we had warning, that here foes swarm all round.

Let us pass on then to the Princes, where in the palace they are,

That none may beset our masters unawares with array of war.”

“Good; lead thou on, I follow,” did Hagen answering say.

And thence went those two comrades; and there in the hall saw they

Those knights, and the Hunfolk greeting thronged them all about.

Then the voice of Volker the dreadless like a trumpet-blast rang out,

As he cried to his lords the Princes: “How long are ye minded to stay

To be thronged and pressed thus tamely? Ye should to the King straightway,

And hear in his presence-chamber what is his mood unto you.”

Then the good knights and valiant set forward two by two.

For the champion of Bern, Lord Dietrich, in fellowship took by the hand

The mighty ruler Gunther, the King of Burgundia-land;

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And with Gernot the valiant hero was Irnfried handed there;

And with Giselher to the palace went the noble Rüdiger.

But, howsoe’er companioned were the rest, to the hall as they hied,

Never did Volker and Hagen leave one another’s side,

Save only in one grim conflict, until on their death they came,

Which was cause of sorrow and weeping unto many a noble dame.

On passed to the hall of the presence with the Princes a gallant train,

A thousand of their vassals, each man a valiant thane.

There were threescore knights moreover of that royal company,

Warriors whom Hagen the dauntless had brought from his seignory.

Hawart and Iring, chieftains of Etzel’s own war-band,

Went with Burgundia’s Princes to the palace hand in hand.

Dankwart withal, and Wolfhart, an earl of high degree,

Bare them amidst of the concourse with knightly courtesy.

So now when the Lord of Rhineland passed through the palace-door,

Etzel the King wide-ruling would tarry no whit more:

He leapt adown from his high-seat when he saw him standing there.

Never was welcoming given by king unto king more fair.

“Welcome be thou, Lord Gunther! Lord Gernot, welcome to thee,

And to Giselher your brother! I bade you Princes three,

With greeting and all true service, from Worms beyond the Rhine.

Welcome to me, King Gunther, be all these vassals of thine.

Be ye twain also welcome, good knights, to my festival,

Volker the valiant champion, and thou, Lord Hagen withal.

Unto me and my wife be ye welcome here in the land of the Hun:

Messages unto Rhineland hath she sent you many an one.”

Made answer Hagen of Troneg: “Her words of love have I heard.

Had I not in my masters’ service hither to Hunland spurred,

O King, to render thee honour had I come unto thy land.”

Then the host right noble and royal took each dear guest by the hand;

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And he led them unto the high-seat, and set them at his own board.

For the guests the drink of welcome the cupbearers hasted and poured,

Mead, wine, and mulberry-brewis, into golden goblets wide;

So they hailed with gladsome welcome those thanes, Burgundia’s pride.

Then spake the great King Etzel: “O guests, I needs must avow

That nought on the earth more welcome to mine heart could befall me now

Than cometh, O knights, by your presence, for to see you here am I fain;

And thereby hath the Queen’s heart gotten relief from yearning pain.

Sooth, oftentimes had I marvelled wherein I had haply transgressed,

In that, though I had won to my feast-hall many a noble guest,

Yet ye, the chiefest, have never deigned to my land to ride:

But now at the last I behold you, and mine heart is satisfied.”

Answered a knight great-hearted, and Rüdiger made reply:

“Well may ye rejoice to behold them, for their knightly honour is high;

And this can my Mistress’ kinsmen in the face of the world maintain.

And they bring to thy palace-portals full many a hero-thane.”

On a fair Midsummer even they came, those guests renowned,

To the court of Etzel the mighty. Full seldom hath it been found

That the guests of a king had greeting so fair as the heroes won.

And by this was the hour of feasting, and the King to the board led on.

In the midst of his guests sat never a host more gracious-willed.

There were meats in abundant measure, and with wine were the cups aye filled.

Whatsoever a guest might crave for, straightway it lay at his side,

For honour to heroes whose prowess had been published far and wide.

(C) Ere this had the great King Etzel on a mansion spacious and fair

Spent measureless toil and trouble, and nought for the cost did he care.

Palace and tower rose stately, with chambers therein untold,

And a lordly-fashioned feast-hall, in the midst of a great stronghold.

(C) He had caused his wrights to uprear it long and wide and high,

To lodge the knights unnumbered that sought to him ceaselessly,

And all the host of his liegemen: for twelve kings mighty of sway,

And warriors worship-worthy, had he in his war-band aye,

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(C) Yea, more than king had ever whose name to the minstrel is known.

So lived he blithely with kinsmen and vassals about his throne;

And the good King’s halls with thronging and gladsome tumult were loud

That rose from his valiant warriors, and his heart was high and proud.

How Hagen and Volker kept Watch while Men slept

By this was the daylight ended, and nearer the night-tide drew.

But perplexed were the way-worn heroes, for as yet they nowise knew

Where they should find them couches for the rest of the slumber-tide.

Then Hagen put it to question, and by him were they certified.

For unto their host spake Gunther: “God prosper you of his grace!

We would fain go hence to our slumber: thou have us excused for a space.

Tomorn we return right early, if this to the King seem best.”

Then the host with blithe leave-taking let all depart to their rest.

But the Queen’s folk thronged and beset them, and pressed on every side.

Then out spake Volker the dreadless, and unto the Huns he cried:

“What mean ye to bar and to cumber our feet, discourteous crew?

If ye from our path avoid not, mischief shall light upon you!

Upon some this bow of my viol so heavily shall smite,

That whoso there be that love them shall weep for their woeful plight.

Hence from our path! Meseemeth it were best that ye block not our way!

Knights these name them—but little enow of the knight have they!”

The while that the viol-minstrel spake thus angerly,

Around him Hagen the dauntless cast a scornful eye;

And he said: “Ye have heard good counsel from the minstrel battle-keen.

Get you hence to your lodging, ye men of Kriemhild the Queen!

Whatsoe’er be your purpose of malice, now shall it nowise speed.

Come early to us to-morrow, if ye fain would essay some deed,

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And leave us way-worn warriors to rest in peace this night.

It was ever the wont of true men to do their deeds in the light.”

Then brought they the guests Burgundian to a hall both great and wide;

For all that throng of warriors was it dight for the slumber-tide

With couches exceeding splendid: long and broad they were.

—There trusted Kriemhild to tangle their feet in murder’s snare.

With tapestries of Arras were the couches overspread.

Wrought all of radiant loomwork, and strown was every bed

With glistering silks Arabian, the richest that eye hath seen,

And coverlets lay thereover that gleamed with lordly sheen.

And rich rugs, some of ermine fashioned, lay in sight,

And some of the dusky sable, whereunder through the night

They should rest them lying softly till shone the light of day.

Sooth, never a king with his vassals in state more lordly lay.

“Alas for the place of our resting!” the young Prince Giselher cried,

“And alas for our friends and our kinsmen that hither with us have hied!

With what fair words soever my sister hath bidden us come,

We have won, I sorely fear me, through her hate to the Net of Doom!”

“Nay then, put by misgivings,” said Hagen, “and rest you well.

Myself will to-night be your watchman and slumber-sentinel,

And faithfully will I guard you till morning bringeth the day.

Fear nought till then: thereafter let him keep his head who may.”

Low bowed them unto him all men, and thanked him courteously;

Then on their beds they cast them. Few moments fleeted by

Ere hero by goodly hero untroubled rest had won.

And now ’gan Hagen the dreadless his harness of battle to don.

Then answered the viol-minstrel, and the good thane Volker spake:

“If thou scorn my request not, Hagen, with thee will I undertake

This night the watching in armour, till the shadows flee away.”

Then heartily thanked he Volker, and thus did the warrior say:

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“Now God from his Heaven reward thee, Volker, of men most dear!

In all my sorest peril would I have none other near

Than thee alone, whensoever into hard straits I were brought.

Full well will I requite thee, so death forestall me not.”

Then did these twain array them in mail bright-glittering;

And over his arm his buckler did either warrior sling.

Forth of the great hall went they afront of the door to stand,

And they guarded the guests there lying with loyal heart and hand.

Then Volker the battle-eager unclasped his buckler good

From his arm, and upright set it, that propped by the wall it stood.

Then unto where was his viol he turned him back again,

And rendered his tired friends service worthy of such a thane.

For under the great hall’s doorway he sat on the threshold-stone—

More valiant viol-harper never hath mortal known.

When the strings thrilled under his fingers and the soul of the viol woke,

Low murmured their thanks unto Volker the proud, the homeless folk.

The walls and the rafters echoed as the chords pealed loud and clear—

In might and in music-cunning was the hero without a peer:—

Then sweeter and softer they whispered like the ripple of murmuring streams,

And so were the heavy-hearted lulled into happy dreams.

So when all slumbered, and Volker was ware that their cares were stilled,

Then over his arm the warrior drew once more his shield;

And forth he strode from the portal, and afront of the door he stood

To ward his friends and kinsmen from Kriemhild’s avengers of blood.

Now hard on the hour of midnight, or earlier perchance,

He marked, this Volker the dreadless, the gleam of a helmet glance

Far away through the darkness. The vassals of Kriemhild were there,

Full fain to have done some mischief to the sleepers unaware.

(C) Now ere these were sent of Kriemhild to take the prey in the snare,

She said: “If ye come on them sleeping, in God’s name have a care

That of all this company one man, and only he, be slain,

Hagen the faithless traitor: your hands from the rest refrain.”

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Then spake the viol-minstrel: “Friend Hagen, see to it now

That we bear this burden of peril together, I and thou.

Lo, in front of the hall in armour I see folk gathered near.

If I may divine their purpose, they come to fall on us here.”

“Hush!” answered Hagen: “suffer that they come unto us full close.

Ere they be ware of our presence, shall the helms of yonder foes

With these good swords be cloven that shall swing in the hands of twain.

In evil plight unto Kriemhild will we send them back again!”

Then ware was one of the warriors of the Hunfolk suddenly

How that the door was guarded. In haste to the rest spake he:

“The deed that we had purposed, now doth fate forestall.

I behold the viol-minstrel stand guard afront of the hall.

He wears on his head a helmet whose splendour flames through the dark,

As adamant hard and burnished, dintless withal and stark.

Bright glow the rings of his hauberk, as fire that flashes afar;

And beside him standeth Hagen. Well warded the strangers are!”

Then backward they faltered: when Volker marked how they turned to flee,

Straightway unto his comrade he spake full angerly:

“Now suffer me from the hall-way to go to yon men in mail:

I will speak with the vassals of Kriemhild, and ask of the night-tide’s tale.”

“Now nay, an thou lovest me,” Hagen answered, “thou shalt not so!

If once thou leave this portal, yon battle-eager foe

With onset of swords may bring thee right soon into such hard strait,

That I needs must help, though our kinsmen thereby met an evil fate.

For if we twain in battle were compassed by yon false crew,

Haply some two of their comrades, or four, or ever we knew,

Into the great hall rushing, therein might work such scathe

On our slumbering friends, that we surely should rue it unto our death.”

And again made answer Volker: “At the least let us do this then,

To cause them to know of a surety that we have espied yon men.

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Then they, those vassals of Kriemhild, can nowise lie unto us

That they sought not to do to the King’s guests a deed most treacherous.”

Then cried the viol-minstrel, and the throng of the Huns he hailed:

“How cometh it, valiant heroes, that ye come thus armour-mailed?

Be ye fain, O vassals of Kriemhild, to ride in quest of spoil?

Then take ye me and my comrade to help in your knightly toil.”

But no man rendered him answer. Then wrathful waxed his mood.

“Out on you, caitiff dastards!” cried that warrior good.

“To murder us in our slumber—for this be ye prowling nigh?

Never yet to such noble heroes was done such treachery!”

Right soon thereafter the story unto the Queen was told

How the men she had sent had failed her: then waxed she heavy-souled.

New plots she devised, for her hatred was cruel as the grave.

Destined thereby to perish was many a hero brave.

How they bore them at Mass and Tourney

“So chill now groweth mine harness,” said Volker unto his friend,

“That I trow in no long season will the night-tide draw to an end.

Yea, and I feel by the dawn-breeze that hard at hand is the day.”

Then waked they many a hero that still in slumber lay.

Now on the guests in the great hall the morning light shone fair,

And Hagen fell to question the good knights gathered there

If they would go to the minster the chanting of mass to hear;

For now after Christian custom the bells of prime rang clear.

The chanting was but a discord: sooth, marvel therein was none

That Christian men and heathen sang not in unison.

Yet minded to go to the minster were they of Gunther’s train;

And they rose up all from the couches whereon through the night they had lain.

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Then did the warriors clothe them in such royal-rich array

That to no king’s kingdom ever in any after-day

Brought heroes goodlier vesture. But wroth waxed Hagen thereat,

And he cried: “It were well ye arrayed you in other raiment than that!

Ye know too well of a surety how doth the matter stand.

Therefore instead of roses take ye weapons in hand,

And instead of caps bejewelled your helmets gleaming bright,

Forasmuch as we have full warning of wicked Kriemhild’s spite.

This day for our lives must we battle: this unto you I say.

Instead of silken tunics ye must wear steel hauberks to-day;

And instead of costly mantles must bear shields massy and broad,

That if any rage against you ye may nowise be overawed.

My well-belovèd masters, kinsmen and liegemen mine,

With hearts of sincere repentance draw nigh to the holy shrine,

And lay before God Almighty your burden of need and fear;

For know ye this of a surety, that death to us all is near.

Forget not past transgressions, the sins wherein ye had part,

And stand in your God’s presence with humble and contrite heart.

Yea, hearken ye all to the warning, every valiant thane—

If God in Heaven help not, ye shall hear no mass again.”

Onward then to the minster princes and liegemen passed.

In the holy outer precinct were they bidden all stand fast

By Hagen, that each from other might so be sundered by none;

For he said: “As yet none knoweth what by the Huns shall be done.

Set down, O ye my kinsmen, your shields before your feet;

And, if any in insolent fashion us stranger guests shall greet,

With deadly wounds requite it. Lo, Hagen’s rede is this;

And thereby shall ye prove by trial that so for your honour it is.”

Those comrades, Volker and Hagen, planted them side by side

In front of the wide-walled minster: there fixed did they abide;

For they did it of this set purpose, that the Queen might enter not

Unjostled by their shoulders—unto such stern mood were they wrought.

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Then came the Lord of the Hunland, and beside him his fair Queen paced.

With royal-rich apparel was Kriemhild’s beauty graced.

And valiant warriors many in the train of these drew nigh.

’Neath the tramp of the feet of the vassals of the Queen the dust rose high.

When the great King beheld them all mail-clad as for fight,

Those princes and their liegemen, he cried unto them forthright:

“What meaneth this?—behold I my friends in battle-gear?

By my troth, it should vex me sorely if any harmed them here!

All wrong, whatsoever atonement they asked, would I requite.

If to their heart and their spirit any have done despite,

I will show unto them and to all men what indignation have I.

What redress they demand soever, nothing do I deny.”

To the King made answer Hagen: “None doeth despite unto us.

It is ever the wont of my masters to go in armour thus,

Whose guests they be soever, till three full days have run.

We would make our complaint unto Etzel, if a wrong unto us had been done.”

Now the word that Hagen answered full well was heard of the Queen.

How flashed ’twixt her half-closed eyelids her hate’s glance bitter-keen!

But as touching her fatherland’s custom not she would utter the truth,

Albeit Burgundia’s daughter had known it full well from her youth.

How grim and stern soever was the Queen’s mood unto her foe,

Had any revealed her purpose unto Etzel the King, I trow,

He had verily prevented the thing that thereafter befell;

But their pride thought scorn of complaining, and nought unto him would they tell.

To the minster-door paced Kriemhild with a multitude in her train;

Yet to step aside at her coming they two would nowise deign

Two handbreadths: wroth were the Hunfolk, as men that chafe being wronged,

For in passing the stalwart heroes their Queen was jostled and thronged.

Wroth with their reckless defiance were Etzel’s chamberlains:

Full fain from the path had they thrust them, and angered those insolent thanes,

Had they but dared in the presence of the great King to do aught.

So then there was thronging and pressing, but more than this was there nought.

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When again they turned them homeward from holy chant and prayer,

High-borne upon goodly chargers hosts of the Hunfolk were.

In Kriemhild’s train moreover was many a winsome maid,

And warriors full seven thousand in the Queen’s war-band were arrayed.

Amidst of her ladies Kriemhild at the casement sat on high

At Etzel’s side: that pageant well-pleased he saw sweep by.

They would fain see the far-famed heroes ride in the tourney-ring.

What gallant Burgundian barons were in presence of the King!

Now came Burgundia’s marshal bringing the mighty steeds,

And came with Dankwart the valiant to minister unto their needs

The squires of the princes and barons, the lords of Burgundia-land;

And they brought out the good steeds saddled for the Niblung warrior-band.

So soon as they all were mounted, the Princes and their men,

Volker the fearless captain gave them his counsel then

After their own land’s fashion to close in the wild mellay.

Then into the lists the heroes rode in gallant array.

That which the minstrel counselled, was none that against it spake.

Then in the lists did the clashing and clanging of arms awake.

Into the spacious tilt-yard thronged many a thane to the strife:

And high over all sat gazing King Etzel and his wife.

Unto the place of the tourney six hundred warriors came—

Knights were they all of Dietrich—to meet those guests of fame.

They would clash in the mimic battle with the sons of Burgundy:

Had their lord but given them licence, they had done it joyfully.

Ha, they were goodly warriors that rode to the barriers!

But tidings of their purpose were borne unto Dietrich’s ears:

Forthright their clashing in tourney with Gunther’s men he forbade.

He feared for his vassals, lest mischief befall them—good cause he had!

And so, when the knights of Dietrich were thus withheld from the fray,

On came the men of Bechlaren, even Rüdiger’s array;

Five hundred in front of the palace rode under buckler-fence.

Well pleased had been the Margrave, afar had they tarried thence.

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On through the press fast riding he came to his retinue,

And he spake unto all his liegemen: “It must needs be known unto you

How chafed and ungentle of spirit the warriors of Rhineland be.

Ye therefore refrain from the tourney, and so shall ye pleasure me.”

So when these war-fain heroes had turned from the lists away,

Then came Thuringia’s champions, as telleth the ancient lay,

And valiant men from Daneland a thousand with these there were.

Then the shards of the shivered lances went leaping high through the air.

Into the ringing tourney Irnfried and Hawart rode,

But the champions of the Rhineland their onset proudly abode;

And they clashed with the knights Thuringian in the hero-sport of spears:

Full many a goodly shield-rim did the lightening lances pierce.

Then came the good knight Blödel, and followed him thousands three.

Etzel the King and Kriemhild watched full eagerly

The meeting of charging squadrons, the gallant glorious fray:

But in fierce joy Kriemhild waited till her hate should have its way.

(C) On a vision she dreamed, the fulfilment whereof ere long was seen—

“If haply any be wounded, then, ah then, I ween,

This sport may grow into earnest: then over my scornful foe

Should I stand in revenge triumphant—small were my grief, I trow!”

Then clashed Gibeke and Schrutan with the strangers front to front,

And with them Hornbog and Ramung, after the Hunnish wont:

Yet stayed by the knights Burgundian were the onsets of them all.

The splintered spear-shafts whirling flew over the palace-wall.

Yet, how featly they rode soever, it was nought but empty sound.

With clanging of smitten bucklers rang wide echoes round

From mansion and hall, as the champions of Gunther clashed with the Hun.

High praise and glorious honour by his mighty men were won.

So strenuous was their pastime as in grapple of giants they met,

That drenched were the saddle-housings with foam-flakes and with sweat

From the goodly chargers dripping, as in gentle and joyous sport

The heroes against the Hunfolk matched them in chivalrous sort.

{p. 257}

Then the noble viol-minstrel, Volker the aweless, said:

“I trow these knights be faint-hearts; to meet us fairly they dread.

Yet hear I talk of their hatred, how bitter against us it is.

Sooth, never a better season may they find to prove it than this!

Now once more unto the stables,” again Lord Volker cried,

“Let the squires lead back the horses. Peradventure again will we ride

When draweth the day unto even, if haply the time suffice.

Perchance to the knights Burgundian will the Queen give valour’s prize!”

Then into the lists came riding one of such lordly mien

That in all the host of the Hunfolk no goodlier man was seen.

Perchance from a casement a dear one gazed on his pomp and his pride:

Like a maid was he richly apparelled, yea, like a young knight’s bride.

Then again in his scorn spake Volker: “Who now can forbear to smite?

He must needs take a buffet, yon minion of women, yon carpet-knight.

He hath set his life on the hazard: not I will be turned from my path!

As for yon wife of King Etzel, nothing I reck of her wrath.”

“Now nay, by my love I charge thee,” said Gunther, “do not thus!

All folk will blame if the first blood be wantonly shed by us.

Let the Huns be the first wrong-doers: it were more for our honour, I ween.”

—And all this while King Etzel at the casement sat with the Queen.

“I make one more in the tourney,” cried Hagen instantly.

“We will let yon dames at their casements and the knights that throng us see

How knightly is our jousting: yea, it were right well done.

In any wise, from our foemen small praise shall by us be won.”

Volker the battle-eager again rode into the strife:

That onset to many a woman with sore heart-anguish was rife.

From breast to back his lance-head hath pierced that noble Hun.

That stroke wept many a maiden and matrons many an one.

Straightway returning Hagen came with his hero-train;

With his own threescore warriors he rode the lists again.

On pricked they to where the minstrel had shown them such grim sport.

—Etzel the while and Kriemhild gazed down on the stormy court.

{p. 258}

Now also Burgundia’s princes would leave not void of aid

In the midst of unnumbered foemen that minstrel unafraid.

With a thousand heroes behind them, the flower of chivalry,

They rode the lords of the tourney, and their hearts were proud and high.

Now when that knight of the Hunfolk in death had been thus laid low,

A cry brake forth from his kinsmen of lamentation and woe.

All through the throng were they shouting, “Now who hath done this thing?”

Men answered, “Volker the dauntless, the lord of the viol-string.”

They shouted, “Take ye the bucklers, and grip ye the sword in hand!”

Those friends of the slaughtered Margrave, the lords of the Hunfolk’s land.

Fain were they to smite the minstrel to death for that grim deed;

But down from the casement hasted the King with eager speed.

Then rose from the midst of the Hunfolk uproar that on all sides rang.

Down to the earth from their saddles the Kings with their liegemen sprang:

Behind them they put their horses, the men of Gunther’s array.

Now cometh in haste King Etzel, with intent to part the fray.

From a man of the slain Hun’s kinsmen, who chanced anigh him to stand,

He gat him a sword keen-whetted, yea, tore it out of his hand,

And therewith beat back his people, and he cried in exceeding wrath:

“May I not keep faith with the heroes? Must I break my plighted troth?

If ye had slain this minstrel in revenge for the deed he hath done,

On the word of a king, I had hanged you—I had hanged you every one!

As touching the spear-thrust given to the Hun—I marked him ride:—

It was not of his will, but his charger stumbled in his stride.

These be my guests: ye shall suffer that in peace they all go hence.”

So himself became their escort. Led were the horses thence

To the stalls, for squires there waited, and henchmen not a few,

With swift obedience ready to render them service due.

So back to the hall of the palace his guests did the host-king lead:

He suffered in his presence no wrathful word or deed.

They set the tables in order, the water the pages bare:

—Yet many a most stern foeman had the Rhineland warriors there.

{p. 259}

(C) Albeit it irked King Etzel, a great throng into the hall

Followed the lords Burgundian, and weapons had they all.

On the guests they scowled their hatred, as they passed to the feastful board;

For they burned to avenge their kinsman when time and place should accord.

(C) “That ye come to the banquet in armour clad and with sword on thigh,”

Spake the lord of the land to his people, “is foul discourtesy

Now whoso dareth to offer an insult to any guest

Shall atone with his head for the outrage. Huns, ye have heard mine hest.”

Long was it, ere at the banquet seated were all those chiefs,

The while the heart of Kriemhild was racked with manifold griefs.

“O Prince of Bern,” she pleaded, “this day must I of thee

Entreat both help and counsel in my sore perplexity.”

Then unto her the good knight Hildebrand answer made:

“Whosoever slayeth the Niblungs doth it without mine aid.

What treasures tempt him soever, he taketh his death with the gold.

Never yet have they been vanquished, those warriors aweless-bold.”

(C) “This toucheth none save Hagen, who hath done foul wrong unto me:

Siegfried, my lord, my belovèd, he murdered treacherously.

Who severeth him from his fellows, my gold shall guerdon him well.

My spirit should inly sorrow, if hurt to the rest befell.”

(C) But the old lord Hildebrand answered: “Nay, how might such thing be

That one should slay him only? Surely thyself mayst see

That if any beset him, his fellows with him will live or die.

Yea, small and great together, if he fell, in death would lie.”

Then added and spake Lord Dietrich with knightly courtesy:

“O mighty Queen, I pray thee, put all such pleading by.

Never to me have thy kinsmen done any deed of wrong

That I should defy to battle such valiant thanes and strong.

For thy prayer, O noble Lady, small honour to thee is therein

That so thou devisest mischief against the lives of thy kin.

They came under pledge of friendship hither to Etzel’s land.

It must needs be that Siegfried remaineth unavenged by Dietrich’s hand.”

{p. 260}

So when in the Bernese champions no treachery might be found,

Unto Blödel her faith she plighted, by oath and by handclasp bound

To give him a fair wide lordship, which Nudung possessed of yore—

But ere long, smitten of Dankwart, he remembered her gift no more.

She said: “O Blödel my brother, unto thee for help I call.

My deadliest foes be gathered in yonder palace-hall,

Even they which murdered Siegfried, my belovèd lord, time was.

Unto him were I bounden for ever who now would avenge my cause.”

Unto her made answer Blödel: “Know thou, O Lady and Queen,

In Etzel’s presence I dare not let this hatred be seen

So long as unto thy kinsmen he showeth his favour still.

Never the King would forgive me, if I wrought them aught of ill.”

“Nay, fear not thou, Lord Blödel; thy friend evermore will I stand,

And with guerdon of my silver and my gold will I fill thine hand,

And will give thee to wife that fair-one who was plighted Nudung’s bride,

And in cherishing her beauty shall thine heart be satisfied.

Her land withal and her castles will I give to be thine of right;

So shalt thou live in joyance evermore, O noble knight,

When thou shalt be lord of the marches that were Nudung’s in days gone by:

Yea, all that to-day I promise will I then do faithfully.”

Then seemed unto Blödel the castles and the gold a guerdon fair,

And the witchery of beauty to his heart became a snare.

Fain was he by battle-prowess to win that fair-one to wife:

But foredoomed thereby was the warrior to cast away his life.

He spake to the Queen: “To the feast-hall pass thou unto thy place.

Ere these be ware of the peril, a tumult will I upraise.

For the wrong he hath done thee shall Hagen make atonement at last,

When this King Gunther’s liegeman in bonds at thy feet I cast.

Now arm you all, my liegemen!” to his vassals did Blödel cry.

“We will forth against our foemen where in harbourage they lie.

My Lady, the wife of King Etzel, constrains me to this assay.

We must needs all set on the hazard life and limb this day!”

{p. 261}

So when from Blödel the warrior the Queen had wrung consent

To make beginning of conflict, to the feast-hall thence she went

Beside the great King Etzel, and their knights behind them pressed.

A terrible doom for the strangers she purposed within her breast.

(C) In what order they passed to the banquet unto you shall the song declare:

Men saw great kings and mighty the crown before her bear;

Yea, high-born princes many and thanes of high degree

Before the Queen did service in great humility.

(C) The King to his guests appointed their seats through the feast-hall wide,

And the chiefest and noblest among them were nearest set to his side.

For Christian knights and heathen were diverse meats prepared,

Yet all to the full were feasted, for all in his wisdom he cared.

(C) Apart in the place of their lodging for the squires was a feast arrayed,

And there before them the sewers all things in order laid

With diligent heed that nothing of all they lacked should fail:—

Too soon were revel and joyance turned into woe and wail!

Now since the flame of battle could be lit in none other way,—

For the old pain crying for vengeance in Kriemhild’s heart still lay,—

She caused that her child and Etzel’s to the banquet-board should be brought.

How by a vengeful woman could fearfuller deed be wrought?

Forth four men went from the feast-hall of Etzel’s following,

And returned with the young prince Ortlieb, the little child of the King;

And they set him before the princes—and Hagen sat thereby,

He through whose murderous hatred that child was doomed to die.

So then when the great King Etzel beheld his son brought in,

In faith and in lovingkindness he spake unto Kriemhild’s kin:

“Behold, my friends and my kinsmen, mine only son is this,

And the child of Kriemhild your sister: your friend that shall be he is.

If he favour his Rhineland kinsmen, a stalwart man shall he be,

Mighty withal and noble, valiant and comely to see.

{p. 262}

If I live, I will make him ruler of lordships twelve in my land:

So service fair shall be rendered to you of Ortlieb’s hand.

Therefore I fain would pray you, belovèd kinsmen mine,

Whensoe’er again ye be riding homeward unto the Rhine,

That ye take him, the child of your sister, in that day home with you,

And show all lovingkindness to my son as kinsmen true.

Train him in ways of honour, till unto man he shall grow;

Then, if to your land a mischief be done of any foe,

And he to his strength be waxen, his aid unto you shall he bring.”

—And all this speech heard Kriemhild, the wife of Etzel the King.

“Yea, well may all these warriors in his loyal faith confide,

If ever he grow unto manhood,” grimly Hagen replied;

“But the young king is but a weakling, I trow, in outward show.

Not oft to the court of Ortlieb shall folk behold me go.”

Then the King looked sharply at Hagen, for stung by the word was he,

Albeit he answered nothing, of his kingly courtesy;

Yet his soul was chafed and indignant, for he deemed it nowise good.

Yea, also was Hagen’s spirit nowise in jesting mood.

No less than the King were his servants indignant, a princely band,

That so evilly Hagen had spoken of the child of the lord of the land.

To sit and endure such insult as gall to their spirit seemed;

But of that which ere long by the warrior should be done, ah, little they dreamed!

(C) Full many that heard it, whose hatred of him already was hot,

Would fain have fallen upon him—yea, that would the King, I wot,

Had his honour permitted; the hero had then been in evil plight.

More cruelly soon did he wrong him, that he slew his child in his sight.

Of the Slaughter of the Squires and the Slaying of the Slayer

{p. 263}

Now the knights that Blödel gathered arrayed themselves forthright.

To the feast-hall they hied them, a thousand in hauberks harnessed for fight,

To the hall where ranged at the tables the squires with Dankwart sate.

Soon brake there forth between heroes the deadliest of all hate.

In strode the war-thane Blödel, and afront of the board stood grim.

But with friendly courtesy Dankwart the Marshal greeted him:

“With welcoming to our mansion, Lord Blödel, I hail thee now;

Yet I marvel at thy coming. What tidings bringest thou?”

“Thou hast nothing to do to greet me,” sternly Blödel spake;

“Seeing my coming hither an end of thee shall make,

For that Hagen thy brother murdered Siegfried years agone;

For the deed with heroes many shalt thou to the Huns atone.”

“Now nay, my good Lord Blödel,” peaceably Dankwart replied;

“Sooth, this were a sorry ending for us all unto this high-tide!

But a child was I when Siegfried departed from light and life.

No cause know I why hated I should be of Etzel’s wife.”

“For thee, I know not and care not how the truth of the story lies:

Thy kinsmen, Hagen and Gunther, did it in any wise.

Defend you, ye doomed and homeless! Ye live not another day!

Here, now, with your lives the forfeit unto Kriemhild must ye pay!”

“Ha, will ye forbear not?” cried Dankwart, “ye messengers of death!

I repent me of mine entreaty: I had better have spared my breath!”

That keen knight battle-eager leapt from his place at the board;

He swept from out the scabbard a mighty and long sharp sword:

Therewith hath he dealt unto Blödel a stroke that as lightning flashed;

And lo, his head in the helmet down at his feet was dashed.

{p. 264}

“That be thy morning bride-gift,” the war-fain warrior cried,

“To the widowed wife of Nudung, whom thou wert to win for bride!

Ay, let them wed her to-morrow to another traitor yet:

If he craveth a dower, that Blödel hath gotten shall he too get!”

So scoffed he touching the tidings that a Hun true-hearted had brought

Of the plot whereby Queen Kriemhild the destruction of all these sought.

Then saw the men of Blödel how their good lord lay slain,

And their hands from the guests Burgundian no longer would they refrain.

With swords for the onset uplifted they rushed in furious mood

On the squires—but this their emprise ere long full many rued.

With a great voice then to his henchmen all did Dankwart cry:

“Ye see well, squires brave-hearted, they have doomed us all to die!

Now, homeless men, defend you, for sore is your need, I ween,

—So then for this were we bidden guests of a gracious queen!”

Then, whoso were swordless, ’twixt table and seat good weapons they found,

For many a massy footstool swung they up from the ground.

O yea, those youths Burgundian would flinch no foot from the fray,

But with those ponderous maces the foes’ helms dinted they.

How grimly the friendless yeomen defended them in the fight!

Those armèd knights from the feast-hall they drave in huddled flight.

Five hundred—yea, more, it may be—fled not, for they lay there dead.

There yeomen and squires all blood-drenched stood and crimson-red.

In a little while thereafter these heavy tidings came

To the knights of King Etzel: with anguish and wrath were their souls aflame

That Blödel with all those warriors nought save death had won.

This had the brother of Hagen with his squires and his yeomen done.

Or ever the King might hear it, a host of the Hunfolk stood,

Two thousand—yea, more, it may be—mail-clad, in furious mood.

They fell on the squires—one ending alone could there be to the strife;—

And they left of all that concourse no single soul in life.

For a mighty host did the traitors lead to that hostelry,

And the homeless men unarmoured withstood them valiantly.

{p. 265}

What profited strength and valour? One doom of death did they find.

—But the feet of a terrible vengeance were treading close behind.

Now must ye hear a marvel and a horror hard to be said:

Burgundian squires nine thousand in the hall of blood lay dead,

And with these lay the knights of Dankwart, twelve battle-helpers good;

And alone at last and unholpen in the midst of his foes he stood.

The uproar fell to silence, the tumult was stilled for a space;

Then Dankwart glanced around him o’er the slaughter-reeking place:

“Alas for the dear friends,” cried he, “that here in death lie low!

And I—woe’s me!—I am standing alone in the midst of the foe!”

Upon that one man in fury did countless sword-strokes leap:

But the wife of many a hero for this had cause to weep.

Higher he lifted his buckler; the arm-brace lower he drew.

Then many a rifted harness was drenched with crimson dew.

Cried Aldrian’s son: “My torment is greater than man may bear!

Give way, ye knights of the Hunfolk; let me win forth to free air,

That over the warfare-weary the cooling breeze may play!”

To the door through blows down-hailing he gallantly hewed his way.

When the battle-weary champion forth of the portal sprang,

How many swords unblooded then on his helmet rang

Wielded by them who had seen not the marvels wrought by his hand!

Forth leapt to meet them the hero, the pride of Burgundia-land.

“Now would to God,” cried Dankwart, “that a messenger were but nigh,

Who should tell my brother Hagen of mine extremity,

Who am thus by armèd traitors beset before and behind!

Me from their midst would he rescue, or his own death here would he find.”

Answered the Hunfolk scoffing: “That messenger thou must be,

When into thy brother’s presence we drag a dead man—thee!

Then first shall the liegeman of Gunther gaze on his own heart’s woe.

Thou to the men of King Etzel hast here done mischief enow.”

“Have done with your threats!” he shouted. “Give back, ye traitor brood!

Else many a man’s war-harness will I drench with his own life-blood.

{p. 266}

I, even I, to the palace will bear these tidings of bane,

And there of the wrong and the outrage to my lords will I complain.”

Then he plunged in their midst, and such havoc he wrought in the Hunnish horde,

That they shrank before him, and dared not close in the strife of the sword;

But they hurled their spears, till so thickly did the shafts in his buckler stand

That the weight thereof constrained him to cast it away from his hand.

Then thought they to overbear him, that one man shieldless left.

Ha! but he hewed two-handed, and through helmet and brain he cleft.

Before him many a brave man went reeling and staggering back.

High praise and renown bold Dankwart won in the battle-wrack.

Then leapt his adversaries upon him to left and to right:—

Ha! but of these full many too hastily came to the fight!

Full on the foemen charged he, as chargeth a forest-boar

On the hounds in the wood—was valour like his seen ever before?

Ever gushing as streams from a fountain the hot blood reddened his way.

Did e’er knight single-handed more gallantly turn to bay

Facing such hosts of foemen as in that hour did he?

On pressed to the palace the brother of Hagen triumphantly.

The cupbearers heard and the stewards the bickering blades’ fierce clang,

And they caught at their swords, down casting the cups on the floor that rang:

Some clutched spears, dropping the bakemeats that they to the feast-hall bare;

So when Dankwart won to the palace, fresh foemen thronged the stair.

“How now, ye knightly sewers,” did the weary warrior say,

“Of a truth, to the guests of your master meet service should ye pay,

And should bear to the waiting princes the goodly meats through the hall,

And let me bear to my masters the tidings I come withal.”

Whosoe’er with presumptuous courage to bar his coming essayed,

Upon him with his swinging war-glaive such giant strokes he laid,

That the rest all terror-stricken fell back from his fierce onslaught.

Marvels exceeding mighty by his prowess had he wrought.

How the Fight began in Etzel’s Hall

{p. 267}

So then when the aweless Dankwart strode through the feast-hall door,

Shouting to Etzel’s servants, “Back! bar my path no more!”

Behold, with the blood of slaughter all his apparel dripped,

And a sword exceeding mighty unsheathed in his hand he gripped.

(C) In that instant it was, when Dankwart through the portal entered so,

That men were bearing Ortlieb through the feast-hall to and fro

From table unto table to the princes one after one—

And now through his evil tidings was the innocent undone!

For loud and clear cried Dankwart in the presence of all that throng:

“Thou sittest, O brother Hagen, here at thine ease too long!

Unto you and to God in Heaven of wrong unto us I complain.

Our knights and our squires together in the hostelry lie slain!”

Cried Hagen to him in answer: “Now who hath done this thing?”

“This was the deed of Blödel and of them of his following:

But dearly he paid for his treason, unto all men here be it said;

For with these mine hands from his shoulders have I hewn the traitor’s head.”

“He hath paid for his wrong too lightly,” Hagen the dauntless cried,

“If men may but say of the traitor as of any knight who hath died,

That stilled by the hands of a hero he hath slept the iron sleep;

Fair ladies for one so smitten shall have less cause to weep.

Make answer to me, dear brother, how art thou thus all red?

I trow thou hast been sore wounded, and full evilly hast sped.

If the villain be here in presence who did this deed contrive,

Except the Foul Fiend help him, he goeth not hence alive!”

“Nay, before you I stand unwounded; my raiment is wet with blood;

But it gushed from the deadly gashes of other war-thanes good

{p. 268}

Whereof this day so many beneath my sword-edge fell—

If I must make oath of their number, good sooth, I could not tell.”

“Brother Dankwart,” he cried, “our warder of yon door do thou be,

And let no man of the Hunfolk win forth of the hall by thee.

Now with these knights will I reason, as our wrong constraineth us.

Dead lie our fellows guiltless: it is they have entreated them thus!”

“Must I,” said the valiant hero, “be the chamber-sentinel?

In presence of kings so mighty the office liketh me well.

Dear as I cherish mine honour, I will faithfully guard yon stair.”

At his word on the knights of Kriemhild fell the shadow of despair.

“Now exceeding sorely I marvel,” rang Hagen’s bitter jeer,

“What secret the Hunfolk whisper each in his fellow’s ear.

I ween they would gladly spare him who watcheth yonder the door,

Who unto the men Burgundian such royal tidings bore!

Long time since, I bethink me, have I heard Queen Kriemhild say

That she would not endure her anguish of heart unavenged for aye.

A loving-cup to her vengeance! In Etzel’s wine be it poured!

And the first to spill the death-drink be the hope of the Hunfolk’s Lord!”

Then he lashed at the young child Ortlieb, Hagen the terrible thane,

That down o’er his hand from the sword-blade did the blood of the innocent rain,

And into the lap of his mother hurled was the head from the stroke.

Then mid the knights a murder grim and great awoke.

For next on the young child’s guardian, which tended him truly and well,

A mighty stroke two-handed swift as the lightning fell,

That afront of the foot of the table his head on the floor was cast.

A woeful guerdon he gave him for all his travail past!

He marked where at Etzel’s table was seated a minstrel-man:

Swiftly upon him Hagen in madness of fury ran;

He smote him where on his viol rested the bard’s right hand—

“That have thou for the message thou broughtest to Burgundy-land!”

{p. 269}

“Woe for mine hand!” cried Werbel the harper of Etzel the King.

“Wherein, Lord Hagen of Troneg, have I wronged thee in anything?

I came to the land of thy masters in faith and in loyalty.

How shall I waken my music who am maimed of mine hand by thee?”

Little enow recked Hagen, though never he harped again!

Then up and down the feast-hall he raged, till his hands had slain

Full many a knight of Etzel, to sate his murder-lust:

Many an earl in the palace through the gates of death he thrust.

Volker the battle-eager from his place at the table sprang;

His viol-bow now was his war-glaive, and loud in the hands it rang

Of that viol-minstrel of Gunther: a music of death did he wake:

Many a foe mid the Hunfolk for kinsmen slain did he make.

Leapt up withal from the table the noble Princes three:

They would fain have parted the fighters, ere wilder the work should be,

But all in vain was their prudence, and nothing availed their might;

For those twain, Volker and Hagen, were mad with the fury of fight.

Now ware was the Lord of Rhineland that he could not still the fray:

Then himself unsheathed his war-glaive, and fell on the foes’ array,

And he cleft their shining hauberks, and dealt wounds deep and wide.

What man of his hands was the hero that havoc testified.

Then also Gernot the stalwart plunged mid the surges of strife:

Out of many a valiant champion of the Huns he smote the life.

With the keen-edged brand of battle, the gift that Rüdiger gave,

For many a knight of Etzel did he open the gates of the grave.

Then the youngest son of Uta hurled into the tempest-roar:

His battle-brand victorious through many a morion shore

Of the warriors of King Etzel, the pride of the Hunfolk’s land.

Ay, marvels of hero-prowess were wrought by Giselher’s hand.

But, how brave were the rest soever, the kings and their vassal-train,

Yet no man like unto Volker might ye see, as he battled amain

Facing the starkest foemen—ha, ’twas a warrior good!

Many a champion before him fell wounded to death in his blood.

{p. 270}

Of a truth the liegemen of Etzel made stout defence that day:

But the guests—ye might see them hewing forth and back their way

Through the length and breadth of the feast-hall of the King with the lightening brand,

While scream and groan of the stricken went up on every hand.

Then they without right gladly would have holpen their friends within:

But when they would force that doorway, small honour could they win.

And they in the hall full gladly would have gotten to outer air,

But past that door-ward Dankwart might none set foot on the stair.

So gathered before that portal throngs upon throngs of foes,

And loud were the helmets ringing as the swords dealt crashing blows.

Then hardly bestead was the warder, Dankwart the unafraid;

But his brother marked his peril, as love and loyalty bade.

With a mighty voice unto Volker straightway did Hagen shout:

“Seest thou yonder, my comrade, how beset by a Hunnish rout

Alone my brother standeth, while down on him stark blows rain?

O friend, do thou help my brother, ere sped be the valiant thane.”

Made answer the viol-minstrel: “Yea verily will I so.”

Through the hall he strode to the music of that strange viol-bow,

That sword of the ice-brook’s temper, that rang in his grasp evermore;

And the Rhineland knights as they heard it gave hearty thanks therefor.

Then unto Dankwart Volker the aweless hero said:

“This day hast thou sorely travailed, and now art thou hardly bestead:

Wherefore to me for thine helping did Hagen thy brother appeal.

Them from without withstand thou, and with these from within will I deal.”

Now without is the door well warded, for Dankwart the keen stands there.

Whosoever would win the threshold back hurled he down the stair.

To the ringing music of sword-blades in many a hero’s hand

Within was the door well warded by Volker of Burgundy-land.

Then over the tossing tumult a cry did the minstrel send:

“Safe warded is the mansion, thou seest, Hagen my friend

{p. 271}

The door of Etzel’s palace is locked and bolted amain

Fast as with bars a thousand, by the hands of heroes twain!”

So then when Hagen of Troneg saw that the door was fast,

That battle-eager hero his shield behind him cast;

Then, then in grimmest earnest he began to avenge the wrong.

Then faint grew the hearts of the valiant, and palsied the might of the strong.

When the Prince of Bern, Lord Dietrich, saw the marvels that he wrought,

Saw Hagen the valiant cleaving the morions as he fought,

Then sprang the chief of the Amals on a bench amidst of the hall,

And he cried: “Here Hagen poureth a death-draught bitter as gall!”

Well might the Lord of the Hunfolk be stricken with sore affright.

—What hosts of his friends were falling down gulfs of death in his sight!—

Death’s wings overgloomed him, for round him was closing the foes’ stern ring.

In anguish he sat—what profit was it now unto him to be King?

Then cried in her fear unto Dietrich Kriemhild, a great king’s wife:

“Help me, O noble hero, O help me hence with life!

By the chivalrous honour I pray thee of the princes of Amelung-land!

For if yon Hagen reach me, death is at my right hand.”

“How may I avail to help thee,” Dietrich the princely said,

“O noble Daughter of Princes? For myself do I stand in dread,

So fiercely the wrath is kindled of yon King Gunther’s array,

That for no man’s life can I answer in this season of dismay.”

“Now nay, Lord Dietrich, noblest of all knights,” cried the Queen;

“Let the chivalry of thy spirit in this dark hour be seen.

Forth of this place do thou help me or ever I lie here dead!”

Of a surety the spirit of Kriemhild was anguished with mortal dread.

“Nay then, if perchance it avail you, your help will I essay,

Albeit have I seen never through many a perilous day

Aflame with such bitter fury such hosts of warriors good.

I see from the helmets spurting ’neath sword-strokes ever the blood!”

Then did that peerless warrior uplift a shattering shout:

Like the horn of a wild bull blaring his mighty voice rang out,

{p. 272}

That through all the wide-built fortress its thunder-echoes rolled;

So great was the strength of Dietrich, its measure may not be told.

Then heard that shout King Gunther, and he hearkened thereunto

As it pealed o’er the battle-tempest, and the voice of the hero he knew;

And he cried: “The voice of Dietrich!—it fell on mine ear but now.

Our knights in the battle have smitten a friend of his, I trow.

There on the table I see him: he beckoneth with his hand.

Ho ye, my friends and kinsmen, knights of Burgundia-land,

From the strife for a little refrain you, that so we may hear and see

What hurt hath been done unto Dietrich by them of my company.”

So the knights at the prayer of Gunther, at the warrior king’s behest,

Let sink their swords, and the fury of fight for a space had rest.

By that sudden peace did Gunther his power unto all men show:

Then straightway he asked of Dietrich wherefore he cried to him so.

He said: “O noble Dietrich, now who hath lifted a hand

Of any my friends against thee? Willing and ready I stand

To make unto thee atonement, and thy claim to satisfy.

If any had done thee a mischief, grieved to the heart were I.”

Made answer the noble Dietrich: “No wrong hath been wrought unto me.

But let me in peace and safety forth of the hall go free,

And take with me all my people out of the bitter strife;

So will I to thee of a surety be beholden all my life.”

“Wherefore so soon,” cried Wolfhart, “a grace of him dost implore?

Yon viol-minstrel hath barred not, I wot, so fast the door,

But that wide ourselves can set it, till we all therethrough have won.”

“Thou, hold thy peace!” said Dietrich, “no smallest deed hast thou done.”

Spake unto him King Gunther: “This I accord unto you.

Lead all forth of the palace, many be they or few,

So they be not my foemen: of these forth goeth none,

For of these foul wrong hath been done me here in the land of the Hun.”

When Dietrich the noble heard it, around the high-born Queen

Cast he an arm of protection—her fear was deadly-keen!—

{p. 273}

And forth of the hall King Etzel he drew with the other hand;

And after Dietrich followed six hundred knights of his band.

Then unto Gunther the Margrave, the noble Rüdiger, cried:

“If thou meanest that forth of the palace any shall win beside

Of such as be fain to serve thee, of this thing do me to wit;

So shall our bond of friendship and peace be abidingly knit.”

Then to his fair bride’s father Giselher straightway spake:

“Let peace and love between us be a bond that none shall break.

The troth-plight of friendship ever do thou and thine maintain.

Go fearless forth of the palace, thou and thy vassal-train.”

When Rüdiger, Lord of the Marches, passed free through the guarded door,

There went with him five hundred—yea, peradventure more—

Friends of the Lord of Bechlaren and his trusty vassal-throng:

But of that fair faith unto Gunther great scathe befell ere long.

Now it happed that a knight of the Hunfolk beheld King Etzel go

Safe under Dietrich’s shielding, and would fain ’scape even so;

But with a stroke so deadly the viol-minstrel swept

The head from the skulker’s shoulders, that to Etzel’s feet it leapt.

So when the Lord of Hunland came forth from the battle-wrack,

He turned him about, and at Volker he looked in amazement back—

“Woe’s me for the guests I have harboured! O day of sorrow and bane

Wherein beneath their prowess all these my knights fall slain!

Woe’s me for my festal high-tide!” that king of nations said:

“Within there fighteth a warrior, Volker, a name of dread.

Like some wild boar he rageth—and a minstrel him they name!

Thank Heaven that safe from the talons of this foul fiend I came!

Doom rings and sings in his measures, red are the strokes of his bow;

In his notes I hear the death-knell of many a knight laid low.

What hath the viol-minstrel against us know I not.

Never by guest such sorrow upon mine house was brought!”

{p. 274}

(C) Straight to their harbourage went they, those noble warriors twain,

Rüdiger, Lord of the Marches, and Dietrich, Bern’s great thane.

Themselves were steadfast-minded aloof from the quarrel to stay,

And they straitly commanded their vassals to have nought to do with the fray.

(C) Yet had those guests had foreknowledge of the mischief hard by the door,

To be wrought by those two heroes, which for them fate had in store,

Verily not so lightly had they won that hall-way through

Ere those grim portal-keepers with the sword had smitten them too.

All whom they would had they suffered by this to pass from within;

Then again brake forth in the feast-hall a yet more fearful din.

Grimly the guests avenged them for the broken troth and the wrong.

Ha, how were the helmets cloven by the arm of Volker the strong!

To the clash of that deadly music King Gunther turned him about—

“Hearst thou the tunes, O Hagen, that Volker beateth out

On the heads of the Huns, whosoever essay the door that he keeps?

Red are the strings of the viol whereover his swift bow leaps!”

“Sore is mine heart above measure for this thing,” Hagen replied,

“That in this hall-feast I am sundered afar from the good thane’s side

Ever was I his comrade, and he true comrade to me.

We will dwell, if we win home ever, in love and loyalty.

Behold, Lord King, is Volker to thee not faithful-souled?

Nobly he earneth guerdon of thy silver and thy gold!

His viol-bow goeth cleaving the adamant steel in twain,

And the gemmed helm-crests are shattered and scattered in flashing rain.

Never beheld I minstrel stand such a lord of the fray

As Volker the thane hath proved him on this his glory-day.

Hark, how through helm and shield-plate his measures clash and gride!

He shall yet wear kingly raiment, and goodly steeds bestride.”

So fought they on, till of Hunfolk that in that hall had been

Through all its mist of slaughter no living man was seen.

There was none to fight, and the uproar was hushed, the tumult died.

From their hands the aweless heroes laid now their swords aside.

How they cast forth the Dead

{p. 275}

Then sat them down the warriors to rest them toil-forspent.

But forth of the feast-hall doorway Volker and Hagen went;

And leaning upon their bucklers, as in scorn of foes without,

Spake they together, casting at the Hunfolk gibe and flout.

Then cried the Prince Burgundian, Giselher the thane:

“We may not, O friends belovèd, resting longer remain.

We must needs first hale the corpses forth of the palace-hall;

For our foes, I say of a surety, again upon us will fall.

Nowise it befitteth that longer clogging our feet they lie.

Ere the foe in the storm of battle from us wrest victory,

Deep wounds will we hew full many, and sweet is the thought unto me;

Yea, my heart is set on the war-feast,” said Giselher, “steadfastly.”

“Glad am I that such a war-lord I have!” cried Hagen the grim.

“This counsel well beseemeth no meaner knight than him,

But such an one as the young Prince hath proved him to-day in your sight:

And for this, O thanes Burgundian, blithe be your hearts and light!”

Then did they after his counsel, and out through the door they drew

Seven thousand slain men’s corpses, and forth of the palace threw.

Afront of the steps they hurled them adown to the court below.

Then wailed from the friends of the slaughtered lamentation and mourning and woe.

There was many a man among them whose hurts were not so sore,

But that soon, had he gentle tendance, he were whole again as before,

Who yet found death all swiftly, hurled from that cruel height.

Loudly their kin lamented who saw that pitiful sight.

Then shouted the viol-minstrel, the champion dauntless-souled:

“Now well do I see how truly the tale unto me was told

{p. 276}

That this is a land of cravens: like women they wail, these Huns,

They who should now be tending the battle-stricken ones!”

Then it seemed to a lord of the marches that he spake not in scoffing mood;

And that same lord had a kinsman there fallen in his blood;

And he thought from the carnage to bear him, and his arms around him he threw;

But the minstrel with a javelin hurled at him, and slew.

Then back from the stairway fled they who in hope had been drawing near,

Cursing the viol-minstrel in the impotent fury of fear.

Then caught up Volker a javelin, stubborn-shafted and keen:

Shot by one of the Hunfolk against himself had it been.

Across the court he sped it, putting his might to the cast,

That it flew o’er their heads fierce-singing; and Etzel’s men were aghast,

As he warned them to safer standing, from the hall-door far away.

At his matchless might all people were thrilled with sore dismay.

Before that hall with Etzel in thousands the Hunfolk stood.

And now did Volker and Hagen in scornful-reckless mood

Set them to gall the Hun-king, and with bitter taunts to defy.

Ere long grim retribution on the heroes came thereby.

“It were well,” cried Hagen, “to hearten the folk in the evil day,

That the lords of the land should battle in the forefront of the fray,

Even as this day battle those true men, even my lords:

They hew the helmets asunder, blood flieth to meet their swords.”

No battle-blencher was Etzel: he grasped in wrath and pride

His shield—“Risk not at their bidding thine own life!” Kriemhild cried.

“Nay, offer thy shield gold-brimming for a champion of thy war-band.

If thou close with yonder Hagen, death standeth at thy right hand.”

Yet the King was a knight so fearless that he would not refrain from the strife—

Sooth, now such mighty princes more dearly tender their life!—

Their lord from the fray by his shield-band his servants needs must hale.

Then with grim laughter Hagen again at the King ’gan rail:

{p. 277}

“Good sooth, ’tis a far-away kinship,” he cried with bitter jeer,

“That hath drawn this Etzel and Siegfried each unto other so near!

He wantoned with yonder Kriemhild or ever she looked on thee!

What ho, King Etzel the craven, what grudge hast thou against me?”

In the ears of the great Queen tingled the scoffer’s every word:

Black grew the heart of Kriemhild at the thought that his taunt was heard

Of all those vassals of Etzel, when he dared to make her a jest;

And she set her once more to enkindle her champions against that guest.

She cried: “Whosoever will smite me yon Hagen of Troneg dead,

And bring for a trophy hither and cast at my feet his head,

For him the shield of Etzel will I fill with gold to the brim,

Yea also, castles for guerdon and land will I give unto him.”

“I wot not why these falter,” the viol-minstrel said.

“Never have I seen heroes stand so sorely adread,

When offered in all men’s hearing is all that wealth of gold.

Of a truth, never more will Etzel unto these be gracious-souled.

These things of shame and scorning, on the bread of the King they feed,

And behold, they now forsake him in the stress of his sorest need!

Of such I behold full many: utterly cowed are they—

And they name them heroes!—branded are they with contempt for aye!”

(C) The heart of Etzel the mighty was shaken with grief and groan:

For his kin and his perished liegemen did he make bitter moan.

From many a land around him stood knights on every side,

And wept with the King for the sorrow of that heavy festal tide.

(C) Once more the aweless Volker set him to gibe and jeer:

“Warriors I see full many with false tears weeping here;

But little do they for the helping of their king in his evil case.

They eat the bread of their master to their shame and confusion of face!”

(C) And their best in their hearts acknowledged, “That Volker saith is truth.”

And of all that throng was no man more stung with shame and ruth

Than Iring, Lord of the Marches, a knight from the land of the Dane;

And in sooth in no long season he proved it in battle-strain.

How Iring fought and died

{p. 278}

Then shouted the Margrave Iring, the lord of the Danefolk’s land:

“Ever on quest of honour have I set mine heart and hand,

And have done my best endeavour where surges of fight tossed high.

Bring me mine harness! My prowess against yon Hagen I try.”

“Thou shalt do it to thy destruction!” did Hagen scornfully say.

“Thou shouldst better bid these Hunfolk to shrink yet farther away.

Though twain, yea, three of you rushing essay to win this hall,

Back grievously hurt will I send them; adown this stair shall they fall.”

“Not for thy threats I refrain me!” cried Iring with shining eyes.

“Full oft ere this have I ventured on as perilous emprise.

Alone will I withstand thee, and not with words, but the sword.

What care I for all thy vaunting, O thou tongue-valiant lord?”

Then with speed was the good thane Iring sheathed in knightly mail

And Irnfried of Thuringia, a heart unused to quail,

And Hawart the strong, with a thousand warriors in battle-array,

Stood eager to go where Iring the hero led the way.

Then looked the viol-minstrel, and beheld that huge war-band

That would press on after Iring, armed all with shield and brand,

And upon their heads had they settled and laced the helmets bright.

Then was the valiant Volker exceeding wroth at the sight.

“Seest thou, friend Hagen,” he shouted, “how Iring cometh on,

He that but now made proffer to meet thee in battle alone?

Is it seemly that heroes be liars? contempt upon such I pour.

Lo, armed at his side come onward a thousand knights or more!”

“Liar me thou no liars!” Hawart’s liegeman replied.

“Unto you did I give a promise, and by that will I abide.

{p. 279}

My word shall not be broken for any craven fear!

Be Hagen never so grimly, alone will I meet him here.”

Thereat did Iring bow him at his friends’ and liegemen’s feet:

“Suffer ye me unholpen,” he said, “yon knight to meet.”

Right sorely loth they consented, for known to them well was the might

Of Hagen the Burgundian, the overweening knight.

So long did he entreat them that at last they needs must yield.

When his friends and his faithful vassals beheld him steadfast-willed,

And marked how he thirsted for honour, at the last they let him go.

Then did begin a grapple most grim ’twixt foe and foe.

Iring the knight of Daneland a casting-spear upswung;

For a fence of his breast the hero his shield before him flung:

Swift to the meeting with Hagen to the door of the hall he sprang;

Then burst forth ’twixt those champions a mighty battle-clang.

The hands of the twain, ere they grappled, sped the javelins’ flight:

They pierced through the strong-knit bucklers, they rang on the hauberks bright,

That high above their helmets the splintered spear-staves flew;

And swiftly the two grim warriors their swords from the scabbards drew.

Measureless might had Hagen the dauntless above all men;

Yet starkly did Iring smite him, that the castle rang again:

Through the halls and the towers of the palace did their blows’ wild echoes thrill.

Yet the Dane with his uttermost striving might compass not his will.

So Iring turned him from Hagen, who was woundless yet of his blows,

And now with the viol-minstrel in conflict did he close.

He weened, as he hailed grim sword-strokes, he should smite his foeman down;

But of fence exceeding cunning was that champion of renown.

So starkly smote the minstrel, that the studs were whirled through the air

By Volker’s strong hand stricken from the shield that Iring bare.

So he left him standing unwounded, for a terrible foe was he:

Then turned he, and leapt upon Gunther, the Lord of Burgundy.

So champion clashed with champion, giants in battle-might,

Gunther and Iring, and starkly each the other they smite;

{p. 280}

Yet neither could redden the armour of other with gushing blood,

For the strong-knit links of the harness the edge of the steel withstood.

From Gunther he swiftly hath turned him, and now upon Gernot he springs;

He smiteth his mail, and he heweth flashes of flame from the rings.

But Gernot the lord Burgundian with such stark fury fought,

That to death’s sheer brink his prowess the valiant Iring brought.

But he sprang from the Prince—as a panther’s swift was the leap of the thane—

And four good knights Burgundian with four great strokes hath he slain;

In the noble host of the vassals from Worms over Rhine they came.

Never ere then so hotly did the wrath of Giselher flame.

“By the living God, Sir Iring,” the young prince Giselher cried,

“Unto me shalt thou make atonement for these that here have died

Even now by thy battle-brand stricken!” He leapt upon his foe,

And he lashed with a stroke so mighty that the Dane reeled back from the blow:

As hurled from the hands of the smiter, backward he fell in blood,

That it seemed unto all beholders that the warrior stalwart and good

Should never strike in battle another stroke of brand:

Yet Iring the while unwounded lay of Giselher’s hand.

In sooth, so rang his helmet, so clashed the sword on his head,

That stunned he lay, and his senses awhile were utterly fled;

And indeed for a space he knew not whether he yet lived on.

Even this unto him had the prowess of valiant Giselher done.

When he came to himself, and out of the darkness his soul awoke

From the swoon wherein it had sunken at the falling of that great stroke,

Then thought he: “Behold, I am living! Moreover, wound have I none.

Now know I Giselher’s prowess, the might of the valiant one!”

Around him the feet of the foemen he heard, as they moved to and fro.

Had they known that he lived, right swiftly had they ended him, I trow!

The voice of Giselher heard he withal as he stood hard by;

And he pondered how from the foemen that ringed him round he should fly.

{p. 281}

From the blood like a very madman upsprang to his feet the knight—

Well might he thank his fleetness for speeding thence his flight!

As out through the door he darted, lo, there did Hagen stand,

And the Dane hailed blows upon him with swift and sudden hand.

Then Hagen thought: “Thou art surely now in the clutches of death!

Except the Foul Fiend help thee, thou drawest thy latest breath!”

Yet indeed had he wounded Hagen with a stroke through his helm that clave:

That deed had he done with Waske, a mighty battle-glaive.

When Hagen the grim-hearted of the wound so dealt was ware,

In his grip with tenfold fury his war-glaive hissed through the air

In such wise that Hawart’s liegeman must needs give back from his face,

And Hagen, as down the stairway he fled, still held him in chase.

Over his head his buckler he swung up, Iring the strong,

To screen him: yet had the stairway been even thrice so long,

No time had Hagen left him to strike one stroke of sword.

Ha, how the red sparks streaming from his ringing helmet poured!

Yet back unto friends and kinsmen unwounded Iring returned;

And so soon as the Lady Kriemhild the wondrous tidings learned

How against Hagen of Troneg her champion had borne him in fight,

For this that Daughter of Princes poured forth her thanks to the knight:

“Now God reward thee, Iring, thou thane renowned and bold!

To mine heart hast thou brought comfort, and made me joyful-souled.

Lo, I see on the battle-harness of Hagen a bloody stain!”

And for joy took Kriemhild the buckler herself from the hand of the thane.

“Small cause wilt thou have to thank him,” cried Hagen in fierce disdain:

“Let but thy valorous champion essay the deed again;

If alive he win back ever, a hero indeed shall he be;

And as for the wound he hath dealt me, small joy shall it be unto thee!

For the little scratch I have gotten that mine harness reddeneth,

It hath but enkindled my fury unto many a warrior’s death:

Against the liegeman of Hawart mine anger it doth but whet.

Small scathe thy champion Iring hath done unto Hagen yet!”

{p. 282}

For a space in the breeze fresh-blowing stood Iring of Danish land:

He cooled his limbs in his harness, he loosed his helmet-band.

All round him the folk stood praising his might and his chivalry,

And the heart of the Lord of the Marches thereat beat proud and high.

Then once again spake Iring: “Good friends, I pray you go

And bring new arms: I am purposed again to essay yon foe,

If I haply may still the boaster, and abase the arrogant head.”

Sore hacked was his shield, but a better they gave him in its stead.

Soon stood the knight full-armoured in stronger warrior-gear:

He grasped in his battle-fury a stubborn-shafted spear,

And he set his face unto Hagen to defy him to fight once more;

Then leapt to meet him the hatred of that murder-wolf of war.

For Hagen the thane would wait not for the coming of Iring’s feet,

But hurling javelins before him he sprang his foe to meet

Down all the length of the stairway: his fury was passing great.

Ah, little did Iring’s prowess avail in the hour of fate!

As the swords hewed through the bucklers, it was as a fierce wind blew

The sparks of a burning forest. Then Hawart’s liegeman true

Gat from the sword of Hagen a wound that bit to the brain

Crashing through buckler and helmet—he was never whole again.

When ware was the good knight Iring of the bite of the sword-edge keen,

Higher he swung his buckler his rifted helm to screen.

He weened that in that grim sword-gash he had gotten scathe enow;

But Gunther’s liegeman dealt him a yet more deadly blow:

For Hagen caught at a javelin that lay at his feet on the ground;

At the Daneland hero he hurled it, and his shieldless face it found,

And lo, the quivering spear-shaft stood out from his head behind.

From the hand of Hagen the mighty a grim end did he find.

Back to the ranks of his people staggered the fainting Dane;

But ere they could raise the helmet from the piercèd head of the thane,

They must needs draw out the spear-shaft:—death’s hand upon him lay,

And his friends brake forth into weeping: good cause to weep had they!

{p. 283}

Then Kriemhild, Daughter of Princes, to the stricken man drew nigh,

And she cried over Iring the stalwart an exceeding bitter cry;

Over his wounds sore wept she: her heart was wrung with grief.

Then spake in his kinsmen’s presence that battle-fearless chief:

“Forbear thy lamentation, O Lady royal-born.

What now availeth thy weeping? My life from my limbs is torn:

Out through the wounds I have gotten it fleeteth fast away.

Death putteth an end to my service of Etzel and thee this day.”

Unto Dane he turned and Thuringian, and bespake that warrior-band:

“The gifts that the Queen hath proffered, take heed that no man’s hand

Be tempted to earn that guerdon of the shining gold and red;

For if ye encounter Hagen, ye shall look on the place of the dead.”

Bloodless-grey was his visage: the tokens of death showed plain

On the brow of the valiant Iring. Their hearts were wrung with pain

For Hawart’s hero-vassal, brave heart for ever stilled!

Then a sudden fury of battle the Danemark warriors thrilled.

On charged they, Irnfried and Hawart: they leapt to the guarded door,

And a thousand heroes followed. Then roar on shattering roar

Rang round in crashing echoes unearthly wild and high.

What hail of massy javelins did against the Burgundians fly!

Full on the viol-minstrel did Irnfried the dauntless run,

But bitter scathe his daring from the hand of Volker won;

For he dealt, that noble minstrel, the landgrave such a blow

That it cleft through the firm-knit helmet—in sooth was he grim enow!

Wounded to death, yet Irnfried smote one mighty stroke,

And the sword through the rings of the hauberk on the breast of the minstrel broke,

And over his mail fell flashing the links in a fiery rain:—

But now was he sped, and the landgrave fell, by the minstrel slain.

Man against man clashed Hagen and Hawart in grapple of fight;

A tale might he tell of wonders who had looked upon that sight.

{p. 284}

Like lashing rain fell swordstrokes from either hero’s hand,

Till slain was the death-doomed Hawart by him of Burgundia-land.

When Danefolk and Thuringians beheld how their lords were slain,

Maddened afront of the palace yet grimmer battle-strain,

As they struggled with mighty hand-strokes to win that portal through,

And through many a shield and helmet did the flashing steel-edge hew.

“Give back from the door,” cried Volker, “and let these enter in!

Ha, but the prize that they look for not a man of them all shall win!

One and all shall they perish—ay, and that full soon.

With death shall they earn their guerdon, Queen Kriemhild’s golden boon!”

Into the hall of slaughter those men high-hearted pressed,

But soon did many a warrior stoop to the earth his crest.

Fast, fast by the lightning sword-strokes of its warders were they slain.

Well fought the dauntless Gernot, well Giselher the thane.

Into the great hall thronged they, a thousand men and four;

Then flashed and flickered above them the dancing glaives of war,

Till at last by the grim guests slaughtered one and all they lay.

Well may bards sing the wonders of Burgundia’s vengeance-day!

Then suddenly died the tumult, there was silence in that hall,

Save the sound of the blood-streams pouring through the channels in the wall

And rushing without down the rain-shutes, the blood of knightly foes

Slain by the men of Rhineland with their swords’ resistless blows.

Then sat them down war-weary the sons of Burgundia-land:

Dropped was the massy buckler and the sword from the red right hand.

Yet standing before the doorway did the valiant minstrel stay,

And watched, if haply a foeman would yet draw near for the fray.

Sorely the King lamented, and the Queen, with bitter cry;

Sisters and wives were wailing in bereavement’s agony.

Ah, death, I ween, full surely against them an oath had sworn,

For many a warrior’s life-thread by the guests was yet to be shorn.

How the Queen bade set fire to the Hall

{p. 285}

“Unlace ye now your helmets,” spake Hagen Troneg’s lord.

“I and my comrade Volker will again keep watch and ward;

And if yon vassals of Etzel once more the onset essay,

Straightway will I warn my masters with all the speed I may.”

Then loosed was the band of his helmet by many a warrior good;

And they sat them down on the corpses that lay there in their blood,

Which had come by the hands Burgundian to their death, and cumbered the floor,

The while with bitter hatred the Hunfolk scowled at the door.

Ere the evening shadows had fallen, the King by hest and prayer,

With Kriemhild the Queen, had persuaded that with hope of fortune fair

The Huns should essay the onset again: in huge array

They stood, full twenty thousand in ordered ranks for the fray.

Then a wilder battle-tempest against the King’s guests swept.

Dankwart, the brother of Hagen, the mighty warrior, leapt

From beside his lords to the foemen to meet them afront of the hall.

They deemed him verily death-doomed, yet scatheless he won through all.

Long lasted that stubborn conflict till the shadows darkened down;

And the guests still stood unflinching like heroes of renown

Against the hosts of Etzel through that long summer day.

Ha, what unnumbered heroes in death before them lay!

In the fair midsummer season was that mighty murder wrought,

When Kriemhild for her heart’s anguish revenge so dearly bought

On her own nearest kinsfolk and on many guiltless men,

By reason whereof King Etzel knew never joy again.

(C) But so grim and great a murder had she purposed not at the first:

Nay, in the strife’s beginning one thought in her breast she nursed,

{p. 286}

That Hagen alone by her vengeance to a bloody end should come:—

But therein was the Foul Fiend working to fashion for all one doom.

The day was past: the heroes were now in evil strait.

Weary and famished, it seemed them swift death were a better fate

Than long to linger in torment of hunger and thirst and pain.

Wherefore the knights high-hearted for a truce with their foes were fain.

They asked that the King might meet them before the feast-hall door.

Then the heroes with armour-soilure blackened, and red with gore,

Strode forth of the hall, and amidst them stood the Princes three:

But their haggard eyes found nowhere one glance of sympathy.

And now stand Etzel and Kriemhild that place of death before—

Theirs is the whole land, therefore waxeth their host evermore—

Then spake the King to the King’s guests: “Say, what would ye of me?

Haply for peace ye petition? Hardly this may be

After the wrongs ye have done me, and your ruthless work of death.

Ye shall not in any wise win it so long as I draw breath.

My child whom ye have murdered, and all my friends laid low—

Look ye for peace and forgiveness for these? In sooth, not so!”

“Enforced,” made answer Gunther, “were we by a grievous wrong.

Within their lodging murdered were all mine henchman-throng,

Murdered by thine own heroes!—whereby had I earned such meed?

I came to thee trustful-hearted, I held thee a friend indeed!”

Then spake of the Princes Burgundian the youngest, Giselher:

“Ye warriors of King Etzel which be yet alive, give ear.

What have ye against me, heroes? What have I done unto you,

I, who to this land journeyed with loving heart and true?”

Thy love!” they replied: “our castles are filled by reason thereof

With mourning, and all our country! We well could have spared thy love,

Hadst thou never journeyed hither from Worms beyond the Rhine!

The whole land lieth orphaned through thee and those brethren of thine!”

{p. 287}

Then in mighty indignation Gunther the hero cried:

“Would ye suffer this deadly hatred even now to be laid aside

In peace with the homeless warriors, for us and for you it were well.

For no guilt of ours is the anger of Etzel the King so fell.”

The King to the guests gave answer: “Not yet made equal they are,

Your sufferings and Etzel’s—the bitter travail of war,

The scathe and the deadly insult that ye have loaded on me—

For these no man of you living cometh forth into liberty!”

To the King made answer Gernot the stalwart and valorous:

“At the least may God incline thee to do one grace unto us:

Slay us indeed, the homeless; but let us forth unto you

From this prison into the open: for your honour this should ye do.

Whatsoever then may betide us, be it quickly over and done.

Ye have hosts of men unwounded: if they dare one and all set on,

They shall give to the battle-weary death and a soon-won rest.

How long shall we knights linger thus grievously distressed?”

Now the warriors of King Etzel would lightly have done them the grace

That the heroes forth of the feast-hall should come to the open space.

But so soon as Kriemhild heard it, in anguish of wrath she cried

Against it; and unto the homeless was this last boon denied.

“Nay, noble knights,” she pleaded, “the thing ye incline unto

Ye never will grant, if ye hearken to faithful counsel and true,

To let these murder-lusters set foot forth of the hall!

If ye do it, many your kinsmen in the pit of death shall fall.

If only three were living, my brethren, Uta’s sons,

And to free air of heaven came forth those mighty ones,

To cool their scalding harness, ye were lost!—not lightly I warn;

For verily braver heroes on earth were never born.”

Spake Giselher the young Prince: “O fairest sister mine,

In an evil hour did I trust thee, at whose word I passed over Rhine

{p. 288}

A bidden guest to thy country—nay rather to this sore strait!

What have I done to the Hunfolk to earn me this evil fate?

Unto thee have I kept troth ever; never I wronged thee in aught.

Unto Etzel’s palace riding I came with this one thought

That to me thou wert loving-hearted, O sister cherished of me.

Now show unto us thy mercy: ah, surely so it must be!”

“I show unto you no mercy: no mercy to me was shown!

Unto me hath Hagen of Troneg foul wrong and ruthless done,

And for this is there no atonement, so long as I yet have life;

And for this must ye all pay forfeit!” So spake King Etzel’s wife.

“Yet—yet if Hagen only for hostage to me ye give,

Not utterly will I deny you, I will haply let you live,

Forasmuch as ye be my brethren; sons of my mother ye are:

So will I commune of pardon with these my men of war.”

“Now God in Heaven forbid it!” Gernot indignantly cried.

“Though yet we numbered a thousand, we would all die side by side—

We who are yet thy kinsmen!—ere one man of us all

Shall be rendered up for a hostage: that shame shall never befall.”

“So then we must needs all perish,” did the young Prince Giselher say;

“Yet none shall hinder our dying like knights in our war-array.

If any be fain to fight us, ready here we stand.

No friend I forsake, betraying the troth of my right hand!”

Then spake the valiant Dankwart; in the word was his true heart shown:

“Verily Hagen my brother standeth not here alone.

We asked of them peace: their denial thereof shall work them woe!

Yea, by my troth, to their sorrow they yet shall find it so.”

Then spake that Daughter of Princes: “O heroes valiant and strong

Go forward unto the stairway, and avenge us of our wrong;

And to you will I aye be beholden, even as is meet and right,

And the insolent outrage of Hagen will I to the full requite.

{p. 289}

Let none of all their warriors tarry without the door;

And I will cause yon feast-hall to be fired at its corners four:

So shall I have meet vengeance for all mine anguish of heart!”

Swiftly the warriors of Etzel set them to play their part.

Them that without were standing they drave back through the door

With swords and with hail of javelins: loud rang the battle-roar.

Yet in all that stress the princes and liegemen were sundered not:

From loyal faith to each other never they swerved one jot.

Then the wife of Etzel commanded to set the hall aflame.

Now on the heroes the torment of a fiery furnace came.

The house was enwrapped in the leaping flames by a great wind blown.

Never, I ween, such anguish by a leaguered host was known!

Within were there voices crying: “Woe’s me for this horror of pain!

Better that dead we were lying in the storm of battle slain!

God upon us have mercy!—how utterly are we lost!

Grimly the Queen is wreaking her vengeance on all this host!”

Cried a voice yet again through the hot reek: “Here must we meet our doom!

Unto such a festal high-tide did the false King bid us come?

Thirst in this flaming furnace so sore tormenteth me,

That fainteth my life and faileth in this mine agony!”

Then shouted Hagen of Troneg: “O noble knights and good,

Whoso by thirst is tormented, here let him drink of the blood.

In heat thus fiercely scorching better than wine it is:

In this our strait moreover may we find none better than this.”

Then a certain knight which heard him went unto one of the dead;

He bowed him down to the death-gash, he loosed the helm from his head;

He drank of the blood fresh-flowing, and deep and long he quaffed

Of a cup theretofore untasted, and sweet to his lips was the draught.

“God guerdon thee, Lord Hagen,” the weary warrior cried,

“For this good drink I have gotten, who took thy counsel for guide!

Never hath cupbearer poured me more soul-refreshing wine.

So long as I live am I bounden to thee for this rede of thine.”

{p. 290}

Now when his fellows heard it, that counsel seemed them good,

And behold, there was many another that likewise drank of the blood:

Therefrom in the frames of the warriors was strength and life renewed;

By many a wife on the morrow in the death of her lord was it rued.

From the roof great fragments flaming fell heavily all round;

But their heads with the shields they warded, and dashed the brands to the ground.

The rolling smoke and the scorching tormented them full sore:

Never, I ween, unto heroes befell such pain before.

Then again spake Hagen of Troneg: “Stand ye close to the wall:

Suffer ye not the firebrands on your helmet-bands to fall,

But beneath your feet do ye trample and quench in blood the flame.

Unto an evil high-tide at Kriemhild’s bidding we came!”

Amid such tribulation the night drew on to an end.

And ever the valiant minstrel kept guard with Hagen his friend,

Before the palace-portal on his shield-rim resting a hand,

Aye watching against new onslaughts from the men of Etzel’s land.

(C) Much it advantaged the heroes that the hall was vaulted o’er:

By reason thereof, in the morning there lived so many the more.

Albeit on them at the windows more hotly the flame-tongues played,

Unflinching did they withstand them as valour and honour bade.

Then spake the viol-minstrel: “Now go we into the hall.

These Huns shall deem peradventure that their enemies one and all

Be dead through the fiery torment wherewith we have been beset;

But I ween there be some that in grapple of fight shall close with them yet.”

Then of the Princes Burgundian the youngest, Giselher, spake:

“Lo now, a cold wind riseth: the day shall, I trow, soon break.

May God in Heaven vouchsafe us that a happier day may dawn!

To an ill high-tide by the bidding of my sister were we drawn!”

Spake after a space another: “Now I discern the day.

Then, seeing nought else remaineth, and for us there is but one way,

E’en make you ready, my masters, as needeth to be done.

At the least will we die with honour, seeing escape is none.”

{p. 291}

Now thought, as he well might, Etzel that the guests by this were dead,

Forspent with battle-travail and with flames encompassèd;

Yet there six hundred warriors still dauntless stood at bay.

No king on earth had ever better knights than they.

Now the watchers that spied on the strangers full well by this were ware

That many a guest was living, what grievous scathe soe’er

And torment had been suffered by the kings and their warrior-band.

They beheld in the blackened feast-hall a goodly company stand.

Then one brought word unto Kriemhild that yet lived many a foe.

“Nay,” cried the Queen in amazement, “never can this be so—

Never, that one man living through such a fire could come!

Nay, I must needs think rather that all have found one doom.”

Full fain would Princes and liegemen yet have been spared to live,

Had any been moved by mercy that boon at the last to give.

There was none: they could find no daysman in all the Hunfolk’s land:

Therefore did they for their slaying avenge them with willing hand.

A sudden greeting received they in the first of the morning-red,

Even a furious onslaught, that the heroes were hardly bestead.

With javelins flying before it rolled up that battle-flood;

Yet ever the knights unquailing with ranks unbroken stood.

Now were the hosts of Etzel high-wrought and eager-souled,

For they looked to win the guerdon of Kriemhild’s lavished gold;

And they burned to prove them loyal in fulfilling their King’s command—

But for many an one doom waited, swift death was hard at hand.

Of her gifts and her promises marvels now might the minstrel sing.

She bade men bear upon bucklers the gold bright-glittering;

And on all that desired and would take it freely did she bestow.

Never was wealth so lavished to spur men against a foe.

So a mighty array of warriors all-armed to the door drew near.

Then cried the viol-minstrel: “O yea, yet are we here!

{p. 292}

Never so gladly beheld I heroes come to the fight

As these which have taken the treasure of the King to do us despite.”

Then many a stern voice shouted: “Ye heroes, come more nigh!

Make ye an end of us quickly, seeing we needs must die!

Here shall ye find none waiting save them whom death is to win!”

Soon were the bucklers heavy with the spears that quivered therein.

What shall I more say?—hundreds twelve, with toil and strain

Of mightiest sword-strokes battled to break through once and again;

But with gaping wounds the defenders cooled their fiery mood.

By none could their strife be parted: rushed in torrents the blood

Out of the death-deep gashes: fast, fast men fell and died.

Lamentation for dear friends perished shrieked up on every side.

So fought they, till all those champions of Etzel the mighty fell,

And nought was heard but the wailing of them that loved them well.

How the Margrave Rüdiger was slain

That morn had the homeless heroes like battling giants warred.

And now came into the courtyard of the palace Gotlind’s lord;

And he saw what fearful havoc had been wrought unto Hun and to guest.

Wept Rüdiger the true-hearted with sorrow-burdened breast.

“Alas and alas,” cried the hero, “that I live this day to see!

And none can now put an ending to this calamity!

Fain would I make reconcilement, but now no word of peace

Will the King hear, seeing that ever doth the mischief done him increase.”

Then Rüdiger the noble sent unto Dietrich of Bern,

If perchance some little relenting he might win from Etzel the stern.

But the Lord of Bern sent answer: “The doom who now may stay?

No man will King Etzel suffer to stand between him and the prey.”

{p. 293}

Then a certain man of the Hunfolk saw Rüdiger making dole

With weeping eyes; for long time had he stood there bitter of soul.

And spake to the Queen that scorner: “Behold him idly stand

Whom Etzel and thou have exalted above all else in the land!

Lordships he hath and vassals; to him all minister.

Wherefore be castles so many committed to Rüdiger,

Those stately towers that he holdeth now of the King our Lord?

No knightly blow hath he stricken in this war-storm with his sword.

Meseemeth he recketh little what here unto us may betide,

So himself be full of substance and his greed be satisfied.

Men vaunt him a champion braver than any in all our array:

Little enow hath he proved it in this our evil day!”

In sorrow and wrath the hero, the man of the loyal heart,

Glared on the Hunnish mocker who hurled that slander-dart.

He thought: “For this thou payest! A craven am I, saidst thou?

In the presence of kings too loudly hast thou told thy story now!”

He clenched his fist in his anger; full on the scoffer he ran,

And with such might resistless he smote that Hunnish man,

That down to the earth he dashed him, and dead at his feet did he lie.

But the sorrow of King Etzel was made but the more thereby.

“Away with thee, vile caitiff!” did the good knight Rüdiger cry.

“Trouble enow and anguish of soul before had I!

What hast thou to do to taunt me that here I have struck no blow?

Of a truth to hate yon strangers reason have I enow.

Yea, now were I striving against them to the uttermost of my might,

Were it not that I was escort hither to prince and knight.

Yea, it was I that convoyed them to my lord Etzel’s land;

Therefore I may not against them uplift my wretched hand.”

Then to the Lord of the Marches did Etzel the great King say:

“Rüdiger, noble hero, how hast thou helped us to-day?

Good sooth, in the land have perished more than enough of my folk:

No more murders are needed! Thou hast stricken an evil stroke.”

{p. 294}

But the noble knight made answer: “He angered my spirit sore;

For he taunted me with mine honours and my wealth’s unstinted store,

With the gifts that with hand ungrudging thou hast heaped upon me, O King!

Of a truth to the reckless liar was his scoff an evil thing!”

Drew nigh that Daughter of Princes, which also had seen it done,

That deed which the hero’s anger had wrought on the hapless Hun.

Bitterly did she lament it, many a tear she shed;

And unto Rüdiger spake she: “Wherein have we merited

That to me and the King yet further thou shouldst multiply sorrow and pain?

Thou hast, O Rüdiger, promised unto us, yea, once and again,

That thou wouldst venture thine honour, yea, and thy life for us.

Oft have I heard knights yield thee the prize of the valorous.

Of the oath-plight now I remind thee that thou swarest by thy right hand,

When, chosen of knights, thou didst woo me to be queen of Etzel’s land,

That thou wouldst render me service even to our life’s end.

Never—ah me all-hapless!—had I such need of a friend!”

“O Queen, no whit I deny it, an oath unto thee did I take

That my life and my very honour I would venture for thy sake.

But to peril my soul’s salvation!—that have I never sworn.

It was I that brought to this high-tide those princes nobly-born.”

“Rüdiger,” said she, “bethink thee of that thy plighted troth,

How that in all mine affliction—thou didst promise and seal it by oath—

Aye wouldst thou be mine avenger, in my wrongs wouldst stand by my side.”

Made answer the Lord of the Marches: “Never yet hath my word been belied!”

Then did the great King Etzel set him withal to entreat;

And they knelt in supplication, they twain, at the hero’s feet.

Then was the noble Margrave ’neath a burden of sorrow bowed,

And the loyal knight in anguish of spirit cried aloud:

“Woe’s me, the God-forsaken, that I live to see this day!

All my manhood’s honour must I now cast away,

{p. 295}

All loyal faith God-given, and all my knightly renown!

Ah God in Heaven, why rather may death not smite me down?

Which deed soever I turn from, to take the other on me,

I play the part of a traitor, I act all evilly.

Though I take the part of neither, still will the world cry shame.

Oh that He now would guide me, from whose fashioning hands I came!”

They hung upon him so sorely, the King and Kriemhild his wife,

That doomed was many a warrior to cast away his life

By Rüdiger’s right hand smitten, yea, the hero’s self must die.

Now hearken ye to the story of the woe he won thereby.

Well knew he that scathe and sorrow unmixed should be all his gain.

Of a truth unto Etzel and Kriemhild had he denied full fain

Herein to fulfil their pleasure. A dark thought haunted his breast,

That the world would hold him accursèd if he slew one single guest.

Then spake once more unto Etzel that hero battle-bold:

“Lord King, take back, I pray thee, all things that of thee I hold,

My lordships and my castles—I will keep nor wealth nor lands.

Forth on my feet into exile will I fare with empty hands.

(C) Stripped bare of all my possessions thy land will I leave—to be free!

Only my wife and my daughter will I lead by the hand with me.

I choose this, rather than passing to meet death perjured-souled.

In an evil hour to thy service did I bind me to earn thy gold!”

But answer made King Etzel: “Who then shall mine helper be?

Behold, thy land and thy vassals, all these I committed to thee

To the end that thou mightest avenge me on whoso should do me despite.

Do this, and next unto Etzel shalt thou reign in kingly might.”

But Rüdiger made answer: “How can I do this thing?

Unto mine house I bade them with friendly welcoming,

With meats and with drinks love-lavished their feast did I array,

And I gave to them gifts at parting—shall I fall on them now and slay?

{p. 296}

What if the world misdeem me, and say that Rüdiger quailed?

At the least in all true service to them have I never failed.

If now I should fall upon them, that were a deed most vile.

I should sorely rue the friendship knit up with these erewhile.

I gave to wife my daughter unto Giselher the thane:

On earth no worthier bridegroom for my dear child could I gain,

Nor in knightly spirit nor honour, nor in faith, nor in this world’s good.

Never was prince thus youthful so chivalrous of mood.”

But again made answer Kriemhild: “O Rüdiger, noble chief,

Think also on us; have pity on all our wrongs and our grief,

Upon mine and my Lord King Etzel’s; yea, ponder well thereon.

No host in the wide world ever more pestilent guests hath won.”

Thereat unto Queen Kriemhild did the Lord of the Marches say:

“His life must be rendered in payment by Rüdiger this day

For all the kindness showed me of thee and my Lord the King.

For this must I die: remaineth no space for lingering.

This day I know of a surety my castles and my land

Shall be yielded up, shall be wrested from me by a foeman’s hand.

I commit to your lovingkindness my wife and my fatherless child,

And all mine household abiding in Bechlaren’s halls exiled.”

“Now God reward thee,” answered the King, “O Rüdiger!”—

Even he and the Lady Kriemhild, so glad at heart they were—

“The care of all thy people as a solemn trust we receive.

Yet, as I hope salvation, I look that thyself shalt live.”

So did he set on the hazard both soul and mortal life.

And now brake forth into weeping Kriemhild, Etzel’s wife.

But he said: “I must keep unbroken the oath that I sware unto thee.

Alas for you, friends! Sad-hearted I become your enemy!”

So from King Etzel’s presence he departed heavy of cheer;

And he looked, and behold, his warriors to their lord had now drawn near.

And he cried: “Ye must forthwith arm you, all ye my faithful ones.

Woe’s me, I must needs do battle with Burgundia’s valiant sons!”

{p. 297}

Straightway his warriors shouted, “Ho, bring my battle-gear!”

Then here might ye see a helmet, and a massy buckler here

Across the court borne swiftly by the squires for their lords to don.

Too soon were the evil tidings to the haughty strangers known!

Now Rüdiger stood full-armoured, with his five hundred men:

Twelve knights of Etzel’s war-band joined them withal to him then:

They thirsted to win them glory in the storm of the battle-strain—

But they knew not the end of the story, nor that death should be all their gain.

Strode forward under helmet the Lord of the Marches there.

Battle-glaives keen-whetted the knights of Rüdiger bare:

Each man gripped by the arm-brace a broad shield burnished bright;

And the viol-minstrel beheld them, and his heart sank down at the sight.

And behold, his fair bride’s father young Giselher saw come,

On his gallant head his helmet:—what should he divine therefrom

As touching the warrior’s purpose, but the help of a loyal ally?

And his soul went out to meet him, his heart with joy beat high.

“Thank God for such true friendship,” in gladness the young Prince cried,

“As we won for our help in trouble, when we rode unto this high-tide!

Now unto us deliverance for my young bride’s sake draws nigh.

By my faith, my heart rejoiceth that wedded to her am I!”

“On a broken reed thou leanest,” the viol-minstrel said.

“When sawest thou heroes so many with helmet laced on head

Draw near for reconcilement, and with swords made bare in the hand?

Against us he cometh, to render service for castles and land.”

Or ever the viol-minstrel had fully spoken the word,

In front of the great hall-portal men saw that noble lord.

He set his goodly buckler on the earth before his feet,

And he looked on the friends he could help not, on the faces he might not greet.

Then cried the noble Margrave to the hall, a cry of woe:

“O dauntless men of the Niblungs, now guard you against a foe!

{p. 298}

Ye ought to have had mine helping—that debt will never be paid!

We were friends close-knit by troth-plight—to my troth am I renegade!”

Then sorely aghast at his saying were the warriors hard-bestead.

Their joy for his coming withered, and hope at the birth fell dead.

This friend must battle against them, he whom they loved was their foe!

From their enemies had they suffered travail and hurt enow.

“Now God in Heaven forbid it,” Gunther the knightly cried,

“That this thy friendship to usward so utterly be belied,

And the trust wherewith we trusted in our own familiar friend!

Nay, but I will not believe it, that all this so shall end!”

“For me there is no returning,” the valiant warrior spake.

“With you I must needs do battle, even for mine oath’s sake.

Now stand on your guard, brave heroes, by all your love of life!

From mine oath will she not release me, this King Etzel’s wife.”

“Too late,” the King made answer, “thy love dost thou forswear.

Now God on high reward thee, thou noble Rüdiger,

For the faith and the lovingkindness that thou hast shown us still,

So thou to the end maintain it, and all thy pledge fulfil.

Unto thee will we aye be beholden for the gifts that thou didst give,

Even I and my friends, so thou leave us unharmed of thee to live,

For the sake of the gifts most princely whereby our trust was won

When to Etzel’s land thou didst bring us. O Rüdiger, think thereon!”

“How gladly this would I grant you,” the good thane Rüdiger said,

“How gladly lavish upon you the gifts of my bountihead,

So much as my soul desireth—how gladly do all this,

And no serpent-tongue of slander against my name should hiss!”

“Ah Rüdiger, refrain thee!” Prince Gernot pleaded yet.

“Never a host before thee with kindlier welcome met

Guests, nor with mien so gracious, as we were greeted of thee;

And for this, if we win hence living, requited shalt thou be.”

{p. 299}

“Would God, O noble Gernot,” in anguish Rüdiger said,

“That ye were again in Rhineland, and that I were lying dead

With mine honour still unsullied, since I cannot but fall on thee!

Never were heroes entreated of friends so evilly!”

“Lord Rüdiger, God reward thee,” again did Gernot reply,

“For the gifts of thy princely bounty! Distressed for thy death am I,

In that all that chivalrous spirit should be doomed to perish with thee.

Lo here that sword which thou gavest, O noble thane, unto me.

Not once this steel hath failed me through this distressful tide;

Beneath its undulled edges hath many a hero died:

A lordly blade and a goodly, stubborn it is and bright.

Of a truth, such royal bounty was never bestowed of knight.

Yet, if thou wilt nowise refrain thee, but wilt raise against us thine hand,

If thou slaughter these my kinsmen which here beside me stand,

Then with thine own good war-glaive I needs must take thy life.

Wherefore for thee I sorrow, and for thy noble wife.”

“May God vouchsafe it, Gernot, and may it so befall,

That in all things as thou desirest, so may it be, yea, in all,

And that thou and all thy kinsfolk in life may long endure!

In you should the trust of the widow and my fatherless child be sure.”

Spake Giselher, son of Uta, the Prince of Burgundy:

“How canst thou so, Lord Margrave? These which have come with me,

Unto thee are they all love-bounden. An ill deed dost thou essay!

Thy daughter by thee shall be widowed, who scarce is a bride this day.

If thou and thy battle-helpers beset me now in fight,

What treason unto friendship should this be in all men’s sight,

For that beyond all other in thee did I confide

In the hour wherein I won me thy daughter to be my bride!”

“Ah, think thou on thy troth-plight!” spake Rüdiger answering;

“And if God shall bring you safely forth hence, O noble king,

Requite not thou on my daughter the sin of Rüdiger.

By all thy princely honour, be gracious unto her!”

{p. 300}

“It were meet that I held to the troth-plight,” young Giselher replied;

“Yet, if mine high-born kinsmen who stand in the hall at my side,

If these by thy deed shall perish, snapped is the twofold chain,

The love ’twixt me and thy daughter, and the friendship ’twixt us twain.”

“Then God have mercy upon us!” so did the hero groan.

Then his men uplifted their bucklers, and now were at point to set on

Against those guests, to grapple in fight in Kriemhild’s hall:—

But suddenly from the stair-head aloud did Hagen call:

“For a little space yet tarry, O Rüdiger, noble heart!”

Said Hagen; “once more commune we, ere the links of friendship part,

With thee, even I and my masters, in our sore extremity.

What profit is this unto Etzel, that here the homeless die?

Myself am in grievous trouble,” furthermore Hagen spake:

“The shield that the Lady Gotlind gave me to bear for her sake,

Even this in the strife with the Hunfolk was in fragments hewn from mine hand;

A memorial of thy kindness I brought it to Etzel’s land.

Now would that God in Heaven would grant to me this one prayer,

That such a trusty buckler even I might also bear

As that which is on thy shoulder, O Rüdiger, noble knight!

Then, though I had not a hauberk, I were fenced in the storm of the fight.”

“How gladly to thee would I render my shield for thy battle-screen,

If I dared unto thine hand give it in presence of Kriemhild the Queen!—

Yet take it, O take it, Hagen, and grip it thou with thine hand.

Ah, that thou mightest but bear it back to Burgundia-land!”

When that warrior noble-hearted so freely gave his shield,

Red grew the eyes of heroes many, with hot tears filled.

That was his last gift—never again, till time shall end,

Will Rüdiger of Bechlaren give aught to guest or friend.

How stern soever was Hagen, and unused to the melting mood,

Yet thrilled with ruth was his spirit for the gift which the hero who stood

Now on the very grave-brink so freely gave unto him.

Mourned many a high-born warrior, and their eyes with tears were dim.

{p. 301}

“Now God in Heaven reward thee, Rüdiger, noblest of men!

In all the earth thy fellow shall never be seen again,

Who givest to friendless warriors the best of all thy store.

May God vouchsafe that the glory of thy goodness live evermore!

Woe’s me for the word thou bringest!” Hagen cried again:

“Already we bear a burden too heavy of grief and pain.

God pity us, if battle we must with a friend like this!”

Answered the Lord of the Marches, “As thine my heart’s grief is.”

“Now, Rüdiger noble-hearted, thee for thy gift I requite:

Whatsoever in battle betide thee from any prince or knight,

Not against thee uplifted in anger shall be mine hand,

Though thou slay till thou leave none living of the men of Burgundia-land.”

Bowed unto him in silence that noble-hearted thane;

And all men brake into weeping. That nought might make them refrain

From such sorrow-fraught contention, it was sore calamity.

In Rüdiger perished the father of all true chivalry!

Then Volker the viol-minstrel cried from the stairway’s height:

“Forasmuch as my comrade Hagen his peace unto thee doth plight,

That same shall be moreover assured thee from mine hand.

Of a surety well didst thou earn it at our coming into this land.

Take thou, O noble Margrave, the message I leave with thee:

These ruddy golden armlets Dame Gotlind gave unto me

To wear them at this great high-tide, a memorial of her love,

I do it, thyself beholdest: be thou my witness thereof.”

“Now would to God in Heaven,” earnestly Rüdiger cried,

“That the Margravine might give thee as many more beside!

Unto my wife, my belovèd, full fain will I tell the tale,

If so be that I live to behold her: doubt not my word shall fail.”

Soon as the promise was given, a shield the knight up-caught:

No whit more there would he linger: unto madness of fury wrought

He leapt on the guests Burgundian like a knightly battle-lord.

Fast, fast the strokes down-lightened from the mighty Margrave’s sword.

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Twain, even Volker and Hagen, aside from his path withdrew,

According as these two champions erewhile had pledged them to do.

Yet dauntless foes so many by the gate-tower fronted him

That the Margrave in that first onset knew well that his peril was grim.

Gunther and Gernot, for slaughter athirst, let him win his way

Into the hall: like heroes eager they were for the fray.

But Giselher shrank from his coming, for his heart was wrung with pain;

And he would not face him in battle, being loth to slay or be slain.

Now the men of Rüdiger’s war-band swarm up to meet their foes

After their lord undaunted; in the grapple of fight they close;

Keen armour-sundering weapons in mighty hands they wield;

Many a helmet cleave they, they hack through many a shield.

Then also the battle-weary flashed many a lightning stroke

Down on the men of Bechlaren: the unswerving edges broke

Deep through the strong-linked hauberks, yea, to the heart they won.

Of these in the storm of battle was many a marvel done.

Now in the hall were gathered all Rüdiger’s gallant array.

No longer hung back Volker and Hagen; they plunged mid the fray;

They thrust, and they spared not any, save one only man;

They smote, and from riven helmets the blood in torrents ran.

Wildly and sternly the clangour of the hailing sword-strokes rang:

Steel buckler-bands were shattered, the loosened shield-plates sprang:

The precious stones of their blazons to the blood-pools flashed like rain.

Never shall such grim battle be fought in the world again!

To right and to left death’s highway the Lord of Bechlaren hewed;

Sank roaring surges of battle before his fury subdued.

By deeds was approved the prowess that day of Rüdiger,

A lord of the ringing battle, without reproach or fear.

Unflinching there stood Gunther and Gernot side by side:

They lashed at the reeling war-ranks, and many a hero died.

{p. 303}

Smote Giselher and Dankwart, and of life and limb recked nought;

Many a stalwart champion to his latest day they brought.

Of his giant strength the Margrave gave tokens all too true:

Dreadless and mighty-weaponed, how many a foe he slew!

That saw a Prince Burgundian, and his grief and wrath ’gan swell:—

Then, then death’s imminent shadow o’er the noble Rüdiger fell:—

It was Gernot the strong; to the hero he shouted across the hall,

To the Margrave crying: “So many of my people before thee fall,

Thou wilt leave, O Rüdiger, living no man of my vassal-train!

I am stung into wrath above measure; from vengeance no more I refrain!

Now shall the gift thou gavest be turned into scathe for thee,

Since thou of my nearest and dearest hast reft so many from me.

Hitherward turn thee, face me, thou noble and dreadless man!

For thy gift will I give full payment, the uttermost that I can.”

Ere, cleaving the war-waves, the Margrave might win unto where he stood,

Bright rings of many a hauberk were crimson-sullied with blood;

But at last those glory-cravers in the deadly grapple clashed;

And they smote, and the death swift-leaping with the buckler aside they dashed.

Yet nought might withstand the keenness of their swords all-sundering;

And Rüdiger the Hero smote mightily Gernot the King,

Smote through the flint-hard helmet, that the blood rushed down the blade:

But swiftly the good knight dreadless that deadly stroke repaid.

In his hand was the gift of the Margrave; he swung on high that steel:

Though unto death he was wounded, yet one grim stroke did he deal:

It crashed through the hard-knit buckler, it shore through the helmet-band—

Alas, the doom went with it of the lord of the open hand!

Ah me! such rich gifts never so ill requited were.

Down fell they dead together, Gernot and Rüdiger.

In the war-storm each by other smitten on one doom came;

And Hagen saw, and his anger burst into sudden flame,

{p. 304}

And shouted the Hero of Troneg: “Evil hath come upon us!

Such grievous hurt have we suffered by these who have perished thus,

That for two lands and two peoples nor amends nor atonement there is.

To the homeless shall Rüdiger’s heroes now pay forfeit for this!”

(C) No mercy they showed thereafter, no foeman would they spare.

Many a man down-beaten not sorely hurt fell there,

Who might of his wounds have recovered, but overwhelmed by the flood

Of war, ’neath the trampling of fighters he was drowned in a lake of blood.

“Ah, woe is me for my brother,” cried Giselher, “here laid low!

Woe for the tale of sorrow that hour by hour doth grow!

Yea, for my young bride’s father for ever must I lament.

The bitter scathe is twofold, and the grief that mine heart hath rent.”

Giselher looked on the father of his bride, where dead he lay;

Then turned he from him to his vengeance on the last of the foes’ array.

Death stalked through the hall aye searching for the men of the Margrave slain,

Till of all Bechlaren’s vassals alive did none remain.

Thereafter Gunther and Hagen and Giselher the young,

And Dankwart and Volker the minstrel, the knights of fame far-sung,

Unto that place went together where those dead twain were found,

And sorely wept and lamented those heroes song-renowned.

“Evilly death hath robbed us!” cried the young Prince Giselher:

“Yet now refrain your weeping: let us forth to the outer air;

Let us cool these reeking hauberks, O battle-weary thanes.

Unto us, I ween, God willeth that but little of life remains.”

Sitting was one, one leaning against the stairway-wall;

But again their hands were idle, for Rüdiger’s liegemen all

Lay dead within: the tumult of war had fallen asleep.

Then Etzel’s heart misgave him, so long was the hush and so deep.

“Woe’s me for this treacherous service!” in anger cried the Queen:

“Too long be they holding parley! Our enemies therewithin

{p. 305}

Are like to be wholly scatheless of our champion Rüdiger’s hand!

He is plotting to send them safely back to Burgundia-land!

What boots it, O King Etzel, that on this man we have heaped

All wealth he desired soever? A foul return have we reaped!

He that was pledged to avenge us, a truce with our foes will he make!”

Unto her made answer Volker, and the knightly minstrel spake:

“Not so, alas, is the story, O Queen exalted high;

And—dared I unto such high-born lady to give the lie—

Thou dost lie in thy throat most foully of Rüdiger’s trust betrayed.

A sorry truce with the homeless he and his knights have made!

With such good will he accomplished the hest of the King his lord,

That he and all his liegemen be lying slain with the sword.

Look round thee now, Queen Kriemhild, for another whom thou mayst send,

For truly hath Rüdiger served thee unto the bitter end.

If haply thou wilt not believe me, let thine eyes bear witness to thee.”

Then, to her heart’s deep anguish, they gave proof plain to see;

For they brought that mangled hero unto where of the King was he seen.

Never the knights of Etzel knew grief so bitter-keen.

When they saw the corpse of the Margrave held forth in their sight, ah then

Utterly it passeth the power of tongue or pen

To tell of the wild lamentation that from women and men wailed high,

The voice of a people’s anguish, an exceeding bitter cry.

So passing great was the sorrow of Etzel the mighty King,

That, as when a wounded lion maketh the forest ring

With his roar, so loud he lamented, and the Queen shrieked forth her pain.

So wailed they in measureless dolour for noble Rüdiger slain.

How Dietrich’s Men were all slain

{p. 306}

So measureless-wide the wailing swelled in that dolorous hour,

That with cries of lamentation re-echoed palace and tower;

And the tumult was heard by a warrior of Bern, who was Dietrich’s man,

And bearing the heavy tidings to his lord in haste he ran.

He spake to the princely hero: “Lord Dietrich, hearken my tale:

Through all the years of my life-tide such agony of wail

Never I heard upshrieking, as that I have hearkened but now.

The King himself, even Etzel, hath come unto scathe, I trow.

For what cause else should the people with one voice all make dole?

Of the twain one, Etzel or Kriemhild, is no more a living soul.

By the wrath of the dauntless strangers have they slept the iron sleep,

And countless knightly heroes in measureless anguish weep.”

But the Lord of Bern made answer: “True liegemen mine, beware

Lest in judging ye be o’er-hasty: what desperate deed soe’er

Hath been done by the homeless heroes, sore need constraineth their will.

My peace with them I plighted—let this advantage them still.”

Then out spake Wolfhart the dreadless: “Lo, I will hence to the hall:

I will ask of sorrow her story, what woe hath chanced to befall,

And to thee will I bring the tidings, O well-belovèd chief,

So soon as I learn what meaneth that voice of a people’s grief,”

Spake Dietrich the noble: “When heroes in each face look for a foe,

And one cometh with rough sharp questions, where a word is like a blow,

Then all too quickly enkindled their smouldering anger is:

Therefore I will not, Wolfhart, that thou question touching this.”

Then he commanded Helfric to go swift-hastening,

And he bade him ask of the matter from the folk of Etzel the King,

{p. 307}

Or, as it might be, from the strangers, what hap had befallen there;

For never had such lamentation of a multitude thrilled the air.

So the messenger came, and he questioned: “What thing hath chanced this day?”

And a woeful voice made answer: “All joy hath fled away,

Yea, the last that was yet remaining to the Hunfolk’s stricken land!

Here lieth Rüdiger, slaughtered by some Burgundian hand;

Not one of his liegemen liveth, that with him went into the fight.”

Never could woefuller tidings on the ears of Helfrich smite;

Never so loth in spirit a tale to his lord he bore;

And he came back unto Dietrich weeping and mourning sore.

“What hast thou learnt?—thy tidings?” Dietrich spake forthright.

“Why weepest thou so sorely, O Helfrich, my good knight?”

“Good cause have I for lamenting,” answered the noble thane:

“The good Lord Rüdiger lieth by hands Burgundian slain!”

Cried the Hero of Bern: “Forbid it, God, that this should be!

This were a ghastly vengeance, ’twere the Fiend’s arch-mockery!

Rüdiger?—how should he ever such evil requital have earned?

True friend to the homeless strangers was he, long since I learned.”

Cried Wolfhart the lion-hearted: “If the righteous blood they have shed,

All these shall dearly abye it! Their lives be forfeited!

If we should endure such outrage, our shame and reproach it were!

How oft hath it rendered us service, the hand of Rüdiger!”

The Prince of the Amal people bade them inquire yet more.

He sat him down at a casement: heavy his heart was and sore.

Old Hildebrand he commanded to the warrior guests to speed,

And to hear from their lips the story of this most evil deed.

The good knight battle-fearless, old Master Hildebrand,

Took neither sword nor buckler; all weaponless was his hand:

He purposed to go to the strangers in knightly courtesy;

Thereat the son of his sister chode with him angerly.

{p. 308}

Spake the grim warrior Wolfhart: “And goest thou fenceless there?

Then flout and scoff for answer, be sure, they will not spare;

And so, like a hound well beaten, with shame wilt thou turn again!

But go, like a man, war-harnessed, and their malapert tongues will they rein.”

Thereat did the old knight arm him, after the young man’s rede;

And, or ever Hildebrand knew it, stood all in battle-weed

The eager warriors of Dietrich: sword in hand stood they.

And the hero was grieved, and had turned them, an he might, from their purposed way.

“Whither away?” he asked them. “Thither will we with thee;

And haply Hagen of Troneg less eager then shall be

With jeering speech to mock thee, as his cruel wont is still.”

And the hero hearkened and answered, “Be it then as ye will.”

Then looked forth Volker the valiant, and the knights of Bern he saw,

The liegemen of Lord Dietrich, full-harnessed thitherward draw,

Girded about with war-glaives, with bucklers gripped in hand;

And he told it unto his masters, the Lords of Burgundia-land;

And spake the viol-minstrel: “Yonder I see draw near

The vassal-throng of Dietrich, like foes in battle-gear

Harnessed, and under helmet, as who would beset us in fight.

I ween we homeless heroes shall now be in evil plight.”

Even as he spake his warning, thither came Hildebrand;

And there, with his great shield planted on the earth at his feet, did he stand;

And cried to the men of Gunther that sorrow-stricken one:

“Ah, noble knights, what evil unto you had Rüdiger done?

Me hath my good lord Dietrich unto you sent hitherward

To wot if a hand Burgundian it was that slew with the sword

The noble Lord of the Marches, as the tale unto us was told;

For then should our weeping be endless, our grief aye unconsoled.”

Made answer Hagen of Troneg: “That tale is all too true.

Right glad were I had the teller thereof but lied unto you

{p. 309}

For Rüdiger’s sake, that the hero might live to gladden our eyes—

He for whom wailing of women and men evermore shall rise.”

When they heard those heavy tidings that their friend was dead in truth,

Loud mourned the loyal-hearted, the good knights wept for ruth;

The tears ran down the faces of Dietrich’s valiant men,

And the drops on the beards of them glistened: sore grief was their portion then.

Siegstab the Bernese war-duke lamented over his friend:

“Woe’s me for the lovingkindness that here hath found an end,

The kindness that Rüdiger showed us in the days of our exile-pain!

The comfort of all the homeless lieth by you knights slain!”

Then did a man of the Amals, the war-thane Wolfwein, cry:

“Though I saw my very father here dead before me lie,

I were not more sorrow-stricken than for Rüdiger laid low.

Alas! who now shall comfort the Margravine in her woe?”

In wrathful indignation Wolfhart the dauntless cried:

“Who now shall lead the heroes, on the war-path when they ride,

As our knights have been led of the Margrave many a time ere now?

Woe, Rüdiger most noble, lost unto us art thou!”

Wolfbrand the strong and Helfrich, and Helmnot the thane withal,

With all their friends and kinsmen, wept for Rüdiger’s fall.

No further could Hildebrand question for sighing, but spake one word:

“Now grant to us that, O heroes, for the which we were sent of our lord.

Give forth of the hall the body unto us of the noble dead,

In whom is our sunny joyance into night of mourning fled.

Let our last sad service requite him for all that to us he hath done

In kindness passing loyal, and to many a homeless one.

We be here in a strange land strangers like Rüdiger the knight...

Why keep ye us here waiting? Let us bear him hence forthright,

And render the perished hero such honour as we may,

Such as we gladly had rendered, were he alive this day.”

Answered and spake King Gunther: “No service is worthier praise

Than that to a dead friend rendered by his friends of the olden days;

{p. 310}

Yea, when in your power it lieth, that call I friendship true.

It is meet ye should do him service for the love he hath shown unto you.”

“Words, words!—how long must we pray you?” cried Wolfhart with passionate breath.

“There lieth our chiefest comfort, by your hands done to death!

And we to our sorrow no longer may have our friend in our sight.

Let us bear him hence from his slayers, and lay in the grave forthright!”

Volker flung back his answer: “None giveth him up at thine hest!

He is here—e’en take him from us! The noblest knight and the best

Lieth amidst of a blood-pool with death-wounds stricken down.

Unto Rüdiger do this service: it shall be your friendship’s crown!”

Made answer Wolfhart the dreadless: “God knows, thou master of song,

Thou hast little to do to provoke us! Ye have done us enow of wrong!

But that awe of my lord constrains me, thou wert in sorry plight!

But now must we brook thine insults, since he hath forbidden the fight.”

Then sneered the viol-minstrel: “Who goeth in timorous doubt

Lest he haply transgress a commandment, shall brook full many a flout.

Small share of the spirit of heroes I find in a mood so mild!”

At the biting speech of his comrade Hagen grimly smiled.

“Thou shalt lack not proof of my spirit!” hotly Wolfhart cried.

“I will jangle thy viol-music so, that if ever thou ride

Homeward hence to the Rhineland, thou shalt croak a new song there!

Thy malapert tongue, thou scorner, with honour I may not bear!”

Answered the viol-minstrel: “An thou mar one faintest tone

Of the strings of my good viol, the sheen of thy morion

Shall be grievously dimmed and sullied with thy blood by my right hand,

Howsoever it fall with my riding back to Burgundia-land.”

Then Wolfhart had leapt on the minstrel, but in mid rush was he held,

By the giant strength of his uncle, old Hildebrand, compelled.

{p. 311}

“I see thou wouldst play the madman in thy foolish wrath!” did he cry.

“The favour of our Lord Dietrich thou wilt forfeit utterly!”

“Let loose thy lion, O keeper, so fiercely he chafes at the chain!

But and if to mine hands he cometh,” cried Volker the mighty thane,

“Although his wondrous prowess had smitten the whole world dead,

I will slay him: no more hot answers from that mad tongue shall be sped!”

In the eyes of the Bernese warriors blazed the onset’s light:

Upswung his buckler Wolfhart, that battle-eager knight:

With the leap of a desert lion against that taunter he leapt:

Like a torrent up to the stairway his friends behind him swept.

But with what great leaps soever to the door of the hall he sped,

Old Hildebrand before him sprang to the stairway-head:

He would suffer none to outpace him, nor to plunge mid the war-surge first

Ready the stern guests waited to quench their battle-thirst.

Full upon Hagen rushed he, old Master Hildebrand,

Loud rang the swords fierce-smiting in either hero’s hand.

The crash of their mighty meeting spake out their fury afar.

Flashed from their clashing war-glaives a fire-red wind of war.

Then suddenly were they sundered by the sweep of the tide of fight,

By the inrushing charge of the Bern-folk afire with fury and might.

And as Hildebrand from Hagen on the tempest of battle was whirled,

Wolfhart the strong in that moment against bold Volker hurled.

On the helm of the viol-minstrel so mightily clashed his glaive,

That the steel’s resistless keenness through the bands of the morion clave:

That stroke did the aweless minstrel so fiercely, so swiftly repay,

That the sword-smitten harness of Wolfhart was a fountain of fiery spray.

From the hauberks, as they hewed them, did the lightning-flashes flare:

Grim was the hate these foemen each unto other bare!

Yet these twain Wolfwein parted, and he fronted Volker alone:

Had he not been a very hero, such deed he had never done!

Gunther the valiant war-king, with never-resting hand

Faced the far-famous heroes, the knights of Amelung-land;

{p. 312}

And Giselher, princely champion, lashed at the helmets bright

Till crimson they showed and dripping with blood in the storm of fight.

Dankwart the brother of Hagen exceeding grimly fought;

All knightly deeds that in battle he theretofore had wrought

Against the knights of Etzel, as an idle wind seemed all:

Then first did the battle-frenzy on the son of Aldrian fall.

Right well did Ritschart and Gerbart, Helfrich and Wichart, in strife;

In many a battle-tempest had they spared nor limb nor life,

And they proved their ancient prowess on Gunther’s men that day.

There gallantly Wolfbrand breasted the surges of the fray.

There fought like a very madman the old knight Hildebrand;

There many a thane Burgundian ’neath stalwart Wolfhart’s hand,

His soul from his limbs sword-sundered, amidst the blood sank down.

So avenged were Rüdiger’s death-wounds by those warriors of renown!

There fought the war-duke Siegstab by the wind of his wrath swept on.

Ha, what strong-welded helmets by Dietrich’s sister’s son,

As he burst through the reeling war-ranks, were cleft on the heads of foes!

Never in battle-tempest did man deal knightlier blows.

Then drew nigh Volker the stalwart, and an evil sight he beheld,

Saw from cleft rings of hauberks how blood in torrents welled

’Neath the smiting of valiant Siegstab, and the hero’s wrath rose high,

And he leapt upon that slayer—and ended suddenly

By the hand of the viol-minstrel were the days of Siegstab the brave.

Such proof of his battle-cunning Volker the terrible gave

That his life from the sword-edge fleeted, and dead he lay in his blood

But hard by fury-kindled the avenger Hildebrand stood.

“Woe for my lord, my belovèd,” cried Master Hildebrand,

“He who to our sorrow lieth here slain by Volker’s hand!

Now surely this viol-minstrel hath stricken his own death-stroke!”

In Hildebrand the dreadless never grimlier wrath awoke.

So mightily smote he Volker, that he cleft his helm-band through:

Afar to the walls of the feast-hall the shards on all sides flew

{p. 313}

From his shivered helm and his buckler, as the fearless lord of song

Reeled earthward—so to his ending at last came Volker the strong.

Then the men of Dietrich’s war-band into the conflict hurled:

They smote, and the splintered mail-rings flashing afar were whirled,

And shards of the lashing war-glaives went flying high overhead:

Hot from the rifted helmets the torrent blood they shed.

Then marked grim Hagen of Troneg how Volker the knight lay slain.

That was in all this high-tide the deepest-piercing pain

That of any mischance unto kinsman or vassal or friend he had proved.

How sternly did Hagen set him to avenge his best-beloved!

“For this shall he not go scatheless, yon greybeard Hildebrand!

Low lieth my battle-helper, slain by the hero’s hand,

The truest and best war-fellow that ever stood by my side.”

He swung up his shield: fierce-hewing on the vengeance-quest he hied.

Then dealt Helfrich the stalwart unto Dankwart a deadly blow:

Unto Giselher and Gunther ’twas a grievous sight enow

When there they beheld him fallen in death’s strong agony;

Yet his own hands had avenged him, and not alone did he lie.

(C) For all that so many thousands had gathered from many a land,

With their princes mighty-armoured, against that little band,

Yet, had not the Christian warriors at the last against them fought,

Deliverance from the heathen their prowess, I trow, had wrought.

Wolfhart the while went cleaving a blood-path to and fro;

He lashed at the liegemen of Gunther, he laid their bravest low:

For the third time now was he hewing a death-way round the hall;

Before his mighty hand-strokes did many a good knight fall.

Then cried aloud unto Wolfhart the stalwart Giselher:

“Alas for me, who have gotten so grim a foeman there!

O valiant knight and noble, hither to meward turn!

I will end it—no more the destroying flame of thy wrath shall burn.”

{p. 314}

Then unto Giselher turned him Wolfhart amidst of the fight.

Many a wound wide-gaping did strong knight deal unto knight.

To meet the Prince with fury so eager Wolfhart flashed,

That over his head from the blood-pools by his feet were the red drops dashed.

With stern strokes swift as the lightning did the son of Uta the fair

Unto Wolfhart the dauntless champion give terrible welcome there.

How stark soe’er was the hero, death on his foe’s sword hung.

Never more dreadless valour was found in a prince so young!

He smote, and through Wolfhart’s hauberk that gallant heart he found,

So that forth of the wound outrushing his life-blood streamed to the ground;

Yea, unto death was stricken Dietrich’s vassal-knight:—

None save a battle-champion had wrought such a deed of might!

Wolfhart knew it his death-wound, but the hero undismayed

Cast from his arm his buckler; his adamant-tempered blade,

His sword of the edge all-cleaving, in both hands high did he swing,

And he smote the son of Uta through helm and through hauberk-ring.

Death-stricken each by other down fell they side by side;

By one grim doom that liegeman of Dietrich and Giselher died.

Hildebrand, that grey warrior, saw Wolfhart overthrown:

Of a truth, through all his life-days such pain had he never known.

By this were Gunther’s liegemen one and all laid low,

And all the men of Dietrich. Then did Hildebrand go

Unto where lay Wolfhart dying amidst of a pool of blood,

And in loving arms he clasped him, that gallant knight and good.

Forth of the hall to bear him he would fain have uplifted him;

But he needs must leave him lying, so huge he was of limb.

And the dying eyes of the hero from the blood looked up in his face,

And he knew how fain would his uncle have helped him forth that place.

“Nay, uncle well-belovèd,” the deadly-wounded saith,

“Nought may thine help avail me: it is the hour of death.

Nay, guard thee rather from Hagen—this rede, I wot, is good—

For in his heart he beareth a fell and murderous mood.

{p. 315}

And if friends and kinsmen be minded Wolfhart’s death to lament,

Unto my nearest and dearest this message by thee be sent:—

Let there be for my sake no weeping, forasmuch as need is none.

At the hands of a king in battle a glorious death I won.

Such vengeance withal have I taken for my death, in this hall who die,

That many wives of warriors shall wail with bitter cry.

And if any would know the story of my last fight, fearlessly say

That mine own hand, unholpen, did five-score foemen slay.”

Then on the viol-minstrel, his dead friend, Hagen thought,

Whose death by the grey-haired hero Hildebrand had been wrought;

And he cried to the old man dauntless: “Thou for my grief shalt pay!

Of valiant knights too many hast thou robbed us in this fray!”

Then upon Hildebrand rushed he, and smote, and the hall rang wide

With the clang of the great sword Balmung, the blade that from Siegfried’s side

Hagen the grim had taken, when he murdered the Hero of old.

But the grey-haired warded him deftly, the old knight fearless-bold.

With a battle-glaive broad-bladed Dietrich’s liegeman lashed

At Hagen the Lord of Troneg, and the edge through the mail-rings crashed;

Yet to wound the vassal of Gunther his strength might not prevail;

And again did Hagen smite him, and he shore through his strong-knit mail.

Now when that grey-haired champion the bite of the sword-edge felt,

He feared lest scathe yet greater by Hagen’s hand should be dealt.

Straightway the liegeman of Dietrich his shield on his back hath cast,

And the hero sorely wounded from Hagen’s face fled fast.

By this of the knights Burgundian was no man left unslain

Save only Gunther and Hagen, those noble warriors twain.

All blood-bedabbled hasted Hildebrand the old,

And he came to the presence of Dietrich, and his woeful story told.

There saw he his master sitting with dark forebodings stirred;

But tidings of bitterer sorrow that princely hero heard

When he saw his liegeman standing in crimson-clotted mail;

And with sudden fear heart-stricken he bade him tell his tale:

{p. 316}

“Ha, Master Hildebrand, tell me, how cometh this?—thou art wet

With thine own life-blood streaming! Of whom hast thou been beset?

I ween, with the guests Burgundian in yonder hall thou hast fought—

The thing I forbade so straitly! Thou hast set mine best at nought!”

Spake Hildebrand to his liege-lord: “Hagen’s was this deed:

In yonder hall he dealt me the wounds wherefrom I bleed.

When before the mighty warrior I turned me from the strife,

Hardly from that fiend’s fury escaped I with my life.”

But the Prince of Bern made answer: “Rightly served art thou!

Unto yonder guests in thine hearing I spake my friendship’s vow;

And lo, that peace thou hast broken which I sware unto them that day!

Were it not for the shame undying[12], thy life for this should pay!”

“Let not thine anger against me, Lord Dietrich, be over-hot,

Seeing mischief all too grievous unto me and my friends hath been wrought.

Forth of the hall the body of Rüdiger fain would we bear,

And yonder vassals of Gunther would hearken not to our prayer.”

“Woe for these sorrowful tidings! Is Rüdiger verily slain?

This shall to me be anguish beyond all former pain.

The noble Lady Gotlind is mine own dear cousin’s child!

Alas for the hapless orphans in Bechlaren’s halls exiled!”

With sorrow of heart and pity for that death wrung was his breast.

Then brake he forth into weeping, for the hero was sore distrest:

“Alas for the loyal helper that in him is lost unto me!

O good knight of King Etzel, evermore must I mourn for thee!

Canst, Master Hildebrand, tell me how died he, and cause me to know

How named was the knight Burgundian who dealt him that death-blow?”

He said: “By the battle-prowess of Gernot the strong was it done,

And death in the selfsame moment of Rüdiger’s hands he won.”

Unto Hildebrand spake Dietrich: “Say to my liegemen thou

To array them in armour straightway. Myself will go forth now.

{p. 317}

Let them bring me my shining harness withal: do thou so command.

Myself am minded to question the knights of Burgundia-land.”

But Master Hildebrand answered: “Who shall go forth with thee?

Thine only living liegeman in thy presence now dost thou see,

Even me, and there is none other. The rest, they be all dead men.”

Dismayed was he at the tidings—well might he be anguished then,

For in all the wide world never on him did such blow fall.

He cried: “What, all my liegemen?—and have they perished all?

So then—oh hapless Dietrich!—my God hath forgotten me!

And erewhile a king most mighty I reigned in majesty!”

But again in amaze spake Dietrich: “How could it so betide

That they, those goodly heroes, should one and all have died

Slain by men battle-weary and in sore extremity?

Mine evil star hath done it, else death must have passed them by!

Since then mine evil fortune hath spared me not this stroke,

Answer me—live yet any of those Burgundian folk?”

And Master Hildebrand answered: “God knoweth, there is none

Save Gunther the king high-hearted and Hagen—these alone,”

“Woe’s me, belovèd Wolfhart! Of thee am I left forlorn?

Well may I now repent me that ever I was born!

And Siegstab and Wolfwein have fallen, and dead is the good Wolfbrand!

Who then shall be mine helpers of the sons of Amelung-land?

Helfrich the valiant also, by death from me is he torn?

Perished have Gerbert and Wichart—when shall I cease to mourn?

This is of all the joyance of life my latest day!

Alas that the anguish-stricken sheer sorrow may not slay!”

How Gunther, Hagen, and Kriemhild were slain

{p. 318}

Now for his battle-harness Lord Dietrich’s self hath gone,

And Hildebrand the grey-haired helped him to gird it on.

So loud was the voice of the wailing of that most mighty man,

That through all the shuddering palace the shivering echoes ran.

But at last he refrained him, and hardened his hero-heart again,

And in sternest wrath he armed him, that good and gallant thane;

And a shield of the steel tough-welded he took in his sinewy hand,

And forth of the palace he hied him with Master Hildebrand.

Then out spake Hagen of Troneg: “I see draw nigh to the hall

Dietrich the great war-captain. Surely on us will he fall

To avenge the grievous evil that we unto him have done.

We will see of us two warriors which is the mightier one.

Ay, what though yonder champion, Dietrich the Lord of Bern,

Account him never so stalwart, a foeman never so stern,

If he think upon us to avenge him for that hath befallen him,

Even I am he shall withstand him.” Thus spake Hagen the grim.

That saying was heard of Dietrich and of Master Hildebrand,

As they came and beheld the heroes, the two yet living, stand

Without, and for weariness leaning on the stairway-parapet.

Then afront of his feet did Dietrich his goodly buckler set.

Then lifted his voice the hero, a voice of heart-sick woe:

“Wherefore hast thou, Lord Gunther, evil-entreated me so,

A homeless man? What evil have I ever done unto thee,

That thus of all life’s comfort wholly bereaved I should be?

That grievous hurt that ye did us, sufficed it not unto you,

That ye to our sorrow the hero Rüdiger smote and slew,

{p. 319}

But that therewithal ye must rob me of all my vassal-throng?

Of a truth unto you, O heroes, had I never wrought such wrong!

Of your own ill plight bethink you, and of all your grief and pain,

Of the death of your friends and kinsmen, of the travail of battle-strain—

Good knights, were your hearts not smitten with ruth by reason of this?

Ah me! unto me how bitter the death of Rüdiger is!

Such cruel wrong unto no man ever on earth was wrought!

Little enow on mine anguish and your own hard strait ye thought!

Whatsoever was mine of joyance, by you slain lieth here.

Never shall end my mourning for these I have held so dear!”

“Not wholly are we so guilty,” Hagen made reply;

“For against us to this hallway all thy thanes drew nigh,

Full-harnessed all as for battle, an exceeding great array.

Not truly, I trow, the story hath been told unto thee this day.”

“Not truly?—was this not true then, that was told of Hildebrand,

That of you my men petitioned, my knights of Amelung-land,

To give them forth of the feast-hall the body of Rüdiger,

And ye rendered them for answer nought but mock and jeer?”

Answered the Lord of Rhineland: “They fain would bear away

The body of Rüdiger, said they: thereunto I answered nay,

Not as to flout thy people, but to do unto Etzel despite.

Thereat brake forth into railing Wolfhart the haughty knight.”

The Hero of Bern made answer: “The finger of fate is here.

By thy knightly honour I pray thee, O Gunther, royal peer,

Requite thou me for the heart-pain that thou upon me didst wreak.

O brave knight, make the atonement: no further revenge will I seek.

Unto me do thou render thee captive, with Hagen thy vassal-thane;

And so to mine uttermost power will I defend you twain

From all despiteful usage that the Huns would do unto you.

Ye shall prove herein mine honour, ye shall find me faithful and true.”

“Forefend it, God in Heaven,” cried Hagen scornfully,

“That two such battle-champions should render them captive to thee,

{p. 320}

Who yet are strong to face thee with shield and helm and brand,

Who yet with limbs unfettered before all foes may stand!”

“Ill should ye do to deny me,” said Dietrich thereunto,

“King Gunther and thou Hagen; ye have done unto me, ye two,

Yea, to my heart and my spirit, such passing bitter despite,

That if now ye will make me atonement, it shall be but just and right.

I pledge unto you mine honour and the faith of my right hand,

That with you will I ride, your safeguard, back to your own home-land.

As befitteth kings and heroes will I lead you—else will I die;

And for your sakes all mine anguish in forgetfulness buried shall lie.”

“Require this thing no further!” his answer Hagen flung.

“Good sooth, ’twere a seemly story to be told of the mocker’s tongue

That two so valiant war-lords had yielded them unto thine hand!

What, man?—none standeth beside thee save only Hildebrand!”

But Master Hildebrand answered: “Lord Hagen, God doth know—

This peace, which my Lord Dietrich now offereth to bestow,

The hour may come upon you, ay, and perchance full soon,

When gladly ye would accept it, but may not grasp the boon.”

“So low as to such atonement would I stoop,” did Hagen cry,

“Ere I in such craven fashion forth of a hall would fly

As thou didst, O good Master, but a little while ago!

I weened that thou couldst bear thee more bravely before a foe!”

Then Master Hildebrand answered: “For that thing me dost thou mock?

Who was it that sat all deedless on his shield by the Wasken-rock,

When so many of his own kinsmen were killed by Walter of Spain?

Of a truth, upon thine own honour there lieth many a stain!”

“Peace!” cried the noble Dietrich, “such knights doth it misbeseem

With words to rail on each other, as when old shrews scold and scream

Hildebrand, I forbid it: speak thou here no more.

A homeless knight, with sorrow enow mine heart is sore!

{p. 321}

Answer me, Hero Hagen,” said Dietrich yet again;

“What spake ye knights together, ye battle-eager twain,

When a little agone in mine harness ye saw me hard at hand?

Thou saidst that alone in battle against me thou wouldst stand.”

“Ay, no man shall gainsay it!” cried Hagen the void of fear:

“I will prove it by mighty handstrokes upon thy body here,

If so be that the Sword of the Niblungs unshivered fail not me.

I am wroth that thou darest require us to yield us captive to thee!”

Forthright, when Dietrich heard it, the mind of Hagen the grim,

That battle-eager champion caught his shield unto him.

How swiftly adown that stairway to meet him Hagen sprang!

Loudly on Dietrich’s armour the sword of the Niblungs rang.

Full well in that hour knew Dietrich that his lion-hearted foe

Was passing grim of spirit: from many a deadly blow

With cunning of fence did he ward him, that noble Lord of Bern.

He proved what a knight was Hagen, to his mortal foe how stern.

He had need to beware of Balmung, stark sword renowned afar;

And but now and again smote Dietrich, with cunningest craft of war,

Till at last in a grapple of giants he wore down Hagen the strong,

And a grievous wound he dealt him, a gash both deep and long.

Then bethought him Dietrich the noble: “Long travail hath sapped thy might:

Small honour should it bring me, if the death-stroke now I should smite.

Nay, rather will I make trial if yet I may constrain

Even thee to become my captive.” With peril he did it and pain.

Mighty of thews was Dietrich: his shield from his arm he slipped;

He sprang upon Hagen of Troneg, and with sinewy hands he gripped.

And so at the last overmastered was the warrior aweless-bold;

And Gunther the noble beheld it exceeding sorrowful-souled.

Then Dietrich bound Sir Hagen, and he led that battle-thrall

Unto where was the high-born Kriemhild; and the bravest knight of all

{p. 322}

That ever with sword were girded, to her hands he rendered up.

She had drunken the dregs of affliction; at last joy brimmed her cup.

How glad was the wife of Etzel! Low to the thane did she bow:

“Blessèd in soul and in body evermore be thou!

For all my sore tribulation now hast thou recompensed me.

Except death’s coming prevent me, I will ever be bounden to thee!”

Made answer Dietrich the noble: “Let him live, and in no wise slay,

O noble Daughter of Princes! It may come to pass one day

That his good deeds may requite thee for the wrongs thou hast had at his hands.

Visit it not upon him that in bonds in thy presence he stands.”

Then to a dungeon-chamber she bade lead Hagen away

Where no man’s eye beheld him, and there close-barred he lay.

Then Gunther the noble uplifted his voice, and aloud he cried:

“The Hero of Bern hath wronged me!—from my vengeance where doth he hide?”

Hasted to meet him Dietrich the Lord of Bern forthright;

But Gunther’s battle-prowess was worthy of such a knight:

Not for his coming he tarried, but adown the stairway sprang.

Clashed their meeting war-glaives with a passing-deadly clang.

How proved soever was Dietrich in prowess of olden fame,

Such madness of battle-fury now upon Gunther came,

Unto such fell hate of his foeman was he stung by grief and pain,

That men yet count it a marvel that Dietrich escaped unslain.

So stalwart were these, so thrilled them the battle-spirit’s power,

That loud from their thunderous smiting re-echoed palace and tower.

Hewing the hard steel helmets did the great swords whirl and swing.

Ha, with right royal courage did he bear him, Gunther the King!

But at last by the might of Dietrich he too was overborne:

Men saw his blood fast flowing through the mail-rings shattered and shorn

By the all-resistless keenness of the blade that Dietrich bare.

Well had he warded him, Gunther, how weary he was soe’er!

{p. 323}

Then by the hand of Dietrich were the limbs of Gunther bound—

Though never should king with dishonour of bonds be compassed round;

Yet he weened, if he left unshackled Gunther and Hagen the knight,

They would verily slay all Hunfolk on whomsoe’er they should light.

The Prince of Bern, Lord Dietrich, hath grasped him by the hand:

In bonds to the hall hath he haled him where waiting doth Kriemhild stand.

At sight of his affliction light grew the load on her heart;

And she cried: “O King Burgundian, welcome to me thou art!”

“For thy greeting,” he said, “might I thank thee, O noble sister mine,

If aught of lovingkindness lurked in that welcome of thine.

But I know, O Queen, thine hatred and thy wrath-enkindled mood,

And how little to me and to Hagen thy greeting bodeth of good.”

But the Prince of Bern, the Hero, spake: “O noble Queen,

Never such peerless heroes made captive hath any seen,

As thou, O Daughter of Princes, from mine hand now dost take.

Deal gently with these, the homeless, for my lovingkindness’ sake.”

She answered: “That will I gladly.” So turned with weeping eyes

Dietrich away from the heroes, famed lords of high emprize.

But thereafter was ghastly vengeance taken by Etzel’s wife:

By her from the chosen heroes ruthlessly reft was the life.

She gave command, and to dungeons apart those twain they bore;

And these two friends were beholden of each other never more,

Until she bare unto Hagen the head of her brother slain.

Grim was the vengeance that Kriemhild wreaked upon these twain!

Then went the Queen unto Hagen, and she looked on him, and she spake—

And all the hoarded hatred of years in her voice outbrake:—

“If thou restore me the treasure that thy robber hand hath ta’en,

Peradventure thou mayest living see Burgundy-land again.”

Made answer the grim knight Hagen: “The word is wasted in air,

O noble Daughter of Princes. A certain oath I sware

To reveal the Hoard unto no man:—so long as liveth but one

Of the Princes Three, my masters, it is rendered up unto none.”

{p. 324}

“Of the oath will I make swift ending!” that high-born woman said.

To her brother she sent her servants, and she bade them smite him dead.

And they hewed his head from his body: she held it on high by the hair

In sight of the Hero of Troneg. With grief beyond compare

And with indignation of spirit he saw the head of his lord.

Grimly he turned on Kriemhild, and spake his latest word:

“Thou hast indeed made ending according to thy will.

Even as I had foreseen it, so now doth fate fulfil.

Dead now is the noble Gunther, the King of Burgundy,

Young Giselher, Lord Gernot—yea, dead be the Princes Three.

Now, now of the Hoard none knoweth save God and I alone—

Never, thou Child of the Devil, unto thee shall its place be known!”

She answered: “An evil requital hast thou rendered into mine hand!

This hold I at least in possession, Siegfried’s battle-brand.

He bare it, mine own, my belovèd, when I saw him for that last time,

Ere thou, to my grief everlasting, wroughtest that foul crime!”

She flashed it out of the scabbard—her hand he could not stay—

For now from the knight she purposed to rend the life away:

On high in her hands she swung it, from his body his head did she smite;

And King Etzel saw, and he deemed it an evil and bitter sight.

“Woe’s me!” cried the King in anguish; “how is he stricken down,—

Stricken by hands of a woman!—the hero of chiefest renown

That ever in battle’s forefront fighting his buckler bore!

Were he never so much my foeman, mine heart is for him full sore!”

Then Master Hildebrand shouted: “This thing shall profit her not

That she dared to slay him! What cometh to me I care no jot!—

Yea, though he brought me also into mortal peril and pain,

I will take in any wise vengeance for valiant Hagen slain!”

In wrathful indignation on Kriemhild Hildebrand leapt,

And the head of that Daughter of Princes from her shoulders his brand hath swept.

{p. 325}

With horror she saw him before her like the Spirit of Vengeance rise.

What availed her shriek of anguish as the death-flame flashed in her eyes?

Dead all round were they lying, the men foredoomed death’s prey:

Hewn in twain in the midmost of all a dead Queen lay!

Dietrich and King Etzel into sudden weeping broke,

And a bitter voice of wailing went up from all the folk.

There was the might and the glory of heroes in death laid low;

And the people had for their portion lamentation and mourning and woe.

This was the dolorous ending of a great king’s festival!

So ever is sorrow begotten of joy at the end of all.

What things befell thereafter in the land no minstrel hath sung[13],

Save that ever the voice of weeping from Christian and Heathen rung,

Weeping of knights and ladies, and of many a maiden fair:

Whelmed in abysses of sorrow for the loved and the lost they were.

(C) Ah no, no more can I tell you of a people’s misery.

There are the mighty fallen—in silence let them lie.

I can bring not from years forgotten that nation’s after-fate.

The Lay is ended—the Story of the Niblungs’ Bitter Strait.

[The End]


[1] The interest may be more than national, as in Paradise Lost.

[2] The Epic of Hades falls short of the requirements of this definition in (b) and (d); Bulwer Lytton’s King Arthur in (c); such poems as Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum in (a) and (d); Tennyson’s Idylls of the King was felt by its author to fall so far short of answering to condition (d), that he would not claim for it the title Epic of Arthur.

[3] For the origin of the conception of such a hero there are two theories. One is that of the nature-myth, according to which the hero is the personification of some natural force or phenomenon, as Achilles has been said to personify the Sun in his course. According to this, Sigurd represents the Day, or the Light, or the Spring. The other is that of an actual tribal chief, whose exploits are glorified and exaggerated in the folksongs of after days. According to this, the genesis of an epic poem proceeds somewhat thus:—(1) a warrior vaunts his own and his ancestors’ exploits as a preliminary to fight, as Glaucus does in Il. vi, and as savage chiefs have done in all ages and countries; (2) his followers sing the prowess of the chief and his ancestors; (3) the specially gifted bard chants them at a feast like the Highland sennachie, or before a battle, like Taillefer.

[4] The Story of the Volsungs, Camelot Series, Walter Scott, 1s.

[5] The differences in the names in the two stories are mainly due to the fact that in the Volsunga-saga they assume a Norse form, in the Nibelungenlied a German one. Thus, Sigurd becomes Siegfried; Gunnar becomes Gunther; Hogni, Gunnar’s brother, becomes Hagen, Gunther’s uncle; Gudrun, as a character, becomes Kriemhild, whose name, however, is taken from Grimhild, a very different personage from the kindly and pious mother of Kriemhild. The Hun-king, Atli, becomes Etzel; Andvari, the dwarf who was robbed of the Hoard, appears as Alberich.

[6] An example of such is the Gehörnte Siegfried (Horn-skinned Siegfried), which did this in detail, and (in Carlyle’s words) “under a rude prose dress, is to this day a real child’s book and people’s book among the Germans.”

[7] Siegfried’s reason, which critics and translators, from Carlyle downward, have left unexplained, seems to be this:—Siegfried was already known to Brunhild, and was the mightiest man she knew. Hence, if she saw him acting as a mere vassal to Gunther, she would infer that the latter was yet mightier, an impression to be confirmed by his apparent victory in the test; and so her reluctance to abide by the result, which, had she resisted, would have proved insuperable, would be more likely to be overcome.

[8] One rider dashing at full speed past another, would snatch his cloak from his shoulders: the latter then gave chase to recover his property. Opportunity for display of fine horsemanship, and much amusement to the spectators, were thus afforded.

[9] The scene which follows will be more intelligible if we understand that it took place in the Reception-hall or Presence-hall, through which Brunhild passes with her train while the king is waiting there for his sister.

[10] For the six lines which follow, Simrock’s reading is adopted.

[11] For this and the next line Simrock’s text is followed.

[12] Because Hildebrand had been Dietrich’s foster-father.

[13] Simrock’s arrangement is adopted in the last two strophes.

[End of Footnotes]


Alterations to the text:

A few puctuation corrections.

Change two instances (p. 83 & 155) of Dankrat to Dankart.

[p. 240] Change “Alone across the baily...” to bailey.

Note: the inconsistent spelling of Albrich/Alberich has been left as-is.

[End of Book]

End of Project Gutenberg's The Lay of the Nibelung Men, by Anonymous


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