The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

German Literature

Page 4

Up in a trice she started, and straight her silence broke.

"Noble knight, Sir Gunther, 'thank thee for the stroke."

She thought 't was Gunther's manhood had laid her on the lea;

No! 't was not he had fell'd her, but a mightier far than he.

Then turn'd aside the maiden; angry was her mood;

On high the stone she lifted rugged and round and rude,

And brandish'd it with fury, and far before her flung,

Then bounded quick behind it, that loud her armour rung.

Twelve fathoms' length or better the mighty mass was thrown,

But the maiden bounded further than the stone.

To where the stone was lying Siegfried fleetly flew;

Gunther did but lift it, th' Unseen it was, who threw.

Bold, tall, and strong was Siegfried, the first all knights among;

He threw the stone far further, behind it further sprung.

His wondrous arts had made him so more than mortal strong.

That with him as he bounded, he bore the king along.

The leap was seen of all men, there lay as plain the stone,

But seen was no one near it, save Gunther all alone.

Brunhild was red with anger, quick came her panting breath;

Siegfried has rescued Gunther that day from certain death.

Then all aloud fair Brunhild bespake her courtier band,

Seeing in the ring at distance unharm'd her wooer stand,

"Hither, my men and kinsmen: low to my better bow;

I am no more your mistress; you're Gunther's liegemen now."

Down cast the noble warriors their weapons hastily,

And lowly kneel'd to Gunther the king of Burgundy.

To him as to their sovran was kingly homage done,

Whose manhood, as they fancied, the mighty match had won.

He fair the chiefs saluted bending with gracious look;

Then by the hand the maiden her conquering suitor took,

And granted him to govern the land with sovran sway;

Whereat the warlike nobles were joyous all and gay.

Upon the return to Worms the double marriage feast is celebrated----the

weddings of Gunther and Brunhild, of Siegfried and Kriemhild. A

second time is Gunther compelled to ask the help of Siegfried in con-

quering Brunhild, who again thinks that Gunther is the conqueror.

From this second struggle Siegfried carries away Brunhild's ring and

girdle, which he gives to Kriemhild.

Siegfried and Kriemhild depart to his country, and not until after ten

years do they visit again the court of Gunther. At the festival given

in honor of this visit, the two queens, looking on at the knightly games,

fall into a bitter quarrel concerning the prowess of their husbands.

Kriemhild boasts to Brunhild that it was Siegfried and not Gunther

who overcame her in both struggles. To prove her taunt she shows the

girdle and ring.

Brunhild is thrown into violent anger by the insult and desires only ven-

geance upon Siegfried and Kriemhild. Hagen, the most valiant of

Gunther's vassals, takes up her cause, and seeks opportunity to kill

Siegfried.

A war against the Saxons is declared, in which Siegfried offers to assist

Gunther. On the eve of the departure to battle, Hagen visits Kriem-

hild. She begs him to protect Siegfried, and tells him the story of her

husband's one vulnerable spot---when Siegfried had killed the dragon,

he bathed in its blood, and was rendered invulnerable, except in one

spot, where a lime leaf fell between his shoulders. This spot the dragon

blood did not touch.

Kriemhild promises to mark this spot with a silken cross, that Hagen

may the better protect her husband. The next morning the excursion

against the Saxons is withdrawn, and the heroes conclude to go on a

hunting party.

THE HUNTING AND THE DEATH OF SIEGFRIED

Stanzas 944-953.

Gunther and Hagan, the warriors fierce and bold,

To execute their treason, resolved to scour the wold.

The bear, the boar, the wild bull, by hill or dale or fen,

To hunt with keen-edg'd javelins; what fitter sport for valiant men?

In lordly pomp rode with them Siegfried the champion strong.

Good store of costly viands they brought with them along.

Anon by a cool runnel he lost his guiltless life.

'T was so devis'd by Brunhild, king Gunther's moody wife.

But first he sought the chamber where he his lady found.

He and his friends already had on the sumpters bound

Their gorgeous hunting rainment; they o'er the Rhine would go.

Never before was Kriemhild sunk so deep in woe.

On her mouth of roses he kiss'd his lady dear;

"God grant me, dame, returning in health to see thee here;

So may those eyes see me too; meanwhile be blithe and gay

Among thy gentle kinsmen; I must hence away."

Then thought she on the secret (the truth she durst not tell)

How she had told it Hagan; then the poor lady fell

To wailing and lamenting that ever she was born.

Then wept she without measure, sobbing and sorrow-worn.

She thus bespake her husband, "Give up that chace of thine.

I dreamt last night of evil, how two fierce forest swine

Over the heath pursued thee; the flowers turn'd bloody red.

I cannot help thus weeping; I'm chill'd with mortal dread.

I fear some secret treason, and cannot lose thee hence,

Lest malice should be borne thee from misconceiv'd offence.

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page