Song and Legend From the Middle Ages
In Isenstein, far over the sea, lives Brunhild, the Amazon-queen, who is
pledged to wed only him who can conquer her in single combat.
Gunther, the brother of Kriemhild, desires her for his wife. Siegfried
promises to win her for him on condition that Gunther grant him
Kriemhild's hand in return. They proceed to Brunhild's land, where
Siegfried, by the aid of a magic cloak, which renders him invisible,
helps Gunther to overcome Brunhild.
There too was come fair Brunhild; arm'd might you see her stand,
As though resolv'd to champion all kings for all their land.
She bore on her silk surcoat gold spangies light and thin,
That quivering gave sweet glimpses of her fair snowy skin.
Then came on her followers, and forward to the field
Of ruddy gold far-sparkling bore a mighty shield,
Thick, and broad, and weighty, with studs of steel o'erlaid,
The which was wont in battle to wield the martial maid.
As thong to that huge buckler a gorgeous band there lay;
Precious stones beset it as green as grass in May;
With varying hues it glitter'd against the glittering gold.
Who would woo its wielder must be boldest of the bold.
Beneath its folds enormous three spans thick was the shield,
If all be true they tell us, that Brunhild bore in field.
Of steel and gold compacted all gorgeously it glow'd.
Four chamberlains, that bore it, stagger'd beneath the load.
Grimly smil'd Sir Hagan, Trony's champion strong,
And mutter'd, as he mark'd it trail'd heavily along,
"How now, my lord king Gunther? who thinks to scape with life?
This love of yours and lady---'faith she's the devil's wife."
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Then to the maid was carried heavily and slow
A strong well-sharpen'd jav'lin, which she ever us'd to throw,
Huge and of weight enormous, fit for so strong a queen,
Cutting deep and deadly with its edges keen.
To form the mighty spear-head a wondrous work was done;
Three weights of iron and better were welden into one;
The same three men of Brunhild's scarcely along could bring;
Whereast deeply ponder'd the stout Burgundian King.
To himself thus thought he, "what have I not to fear?
The devil himself could scarecly 'scape from such danger clear.
In sooth, if I were only in safety by the Rhine,
Long might remain this maiden free from all suit of mine."
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Then was the strength of Brunhild to each beholder shown.
Into the ring by th' effort of panting knights a stone
Was borne of weight enormous, massy and large and round.
It strain'd twelve brawny champions to heave it to the ground.
This would she cast at all times when she had hurl'd the spear;
The sight the bold Burgundians fill'd with care and fear.
Quoth Hagan, "she's a darling to lie by Gunther's side.
Better the foul fiend take her to serve him as a bride."
Her sleeve back turn'd the maiden, and bar'd her arm of snow,
Her heavy shield she handled, and brandished to and fro
High o'er her head the jav'lin; thus began the strife.
Bold as they were, the strangers each trembled for his life;
And had not then to help him come Siegfried to his side,
At once by that grim maiden had good king Gunther died.
Unseen up went he to him, unseen he touch'd his hand.
His trains bewilder'd Gunter was slow to understand.
"Who was it just now touch'd me?" thought he and star'd around
To see who could be near him; not a soul he found.
Said th' other, "I am Siegfried, thy trusty friend and true;
Be not in fear a moment for all the queen can do."
Said he, "off with the buckler and give it me to bear;
Now, what I shall advise thee, mark with thy closest care.
Be it thine to make the gestures, and mine the work to do."
Glad man was then king Gunther, when he his helpmate knew.
"But all my trains keep secret; thus for us both 'twere best;
Else this o'erweening maiden, be sure, will never rest,
Till her grudge against thee to full effect she bring.
See where she stands to face thee so sternly in the ring!"
With all her strength the jav'lin the forceful maiden threw.
It came upon the buckler massy, broad, and new,
That in his hand unshaken, the son of Sieglind bore.
Sparks from the steel came streaming, as if the breeze before.
Right through the groaning buckler the spear tempestuous broke;
Fire from the mail-links sparkled beneath the thund'ring stroke,
Those two mighty champions stagger'd from side to side;
But for the woundrous cloud-cloak both on the spot had died.
From the mouth of Siegfried burst the gushing blood;
Soon he again sprung forward; straight snatch'd the hero good
The spear that through his buckler she just had hurl'd amain,
And sent it at its mistress in thunder back again.
Thought he "'t were sure a pity so fair a maid to slay;"
So he revers'd the jav'lin, and turn'd the point away.
Yet, with the butt end foremost, so forceful the throw,
That the sore-smitten damsel totter'd to and fro.
From her mail fire sparkled as driven before the blast;
With such huge strength the jav'lin by Sieglind's son was cast,
That 'gainst the furious impulse she could no longer stand.
A stroke so sturdy never could come from Gunther's hand.