The Northern Way

Song and Legend From the Middle Ages

German Literature

Page 6

That the whirling buckler scatter'd wide a shower

Of the most precious jewels, then straight in shivers broke.

Full gladly had the warrior ta'en vengeance with that stroke.

E'en as it was, his manhood fierce Hagan level'd low.

Loud, all around, the meadow rang with the wondrous blow.

Had he in hand good Balmung, the murderer he had slain.

His wound was sore upon him; he writh'd in mortal pain;

His lively colour faded; a cloud came o'er his sight:

He could stand no longer; melted all his might;

In his paling visage the mark of death he bore.

Soon many a lovely lady sorrow'd for him sore.

So the lord of Kriemhild among the flowerets fell.

From the wound fresh gushing his heart's blood fast did well.

Then thus amidst his tortures, e'en with his failing breath,

The false friends he upbraided who had contriv'd his death.

Thus spake the deadly-wounded, "Ay! cowards false as hell!

To you I still was faithful; I serv'd you long and well;----

But what boots all?---for guerdon treason and death I've won.

By your friends, vile traitors! foully have you done.

Whoever shall hereafter from your loins be born,

Shall take from such vile fathers a heritage of scorn.

On me you have wreak'd malice where gratitude was due.

With shame shall you be banish'd by all good knights and true."

Thither ran all the warriors where in his blood he lay.

To many of that party sure 't was a joyless day.

Whoe'er were true and faithful, they sorrow'd for his fall.

So much the peerless champion had merited of all.

With them the false king Gunther bewept his timeless end.

Then spake the deadly-wonded; "little it boots your friend

Yourself to plot his murder, and then the deed deplore.

Such is a shameful sorrow; better at once 't were o'er."

Then spake the low'ring Hagan, "I know not why you moan.

Our cares all and suspicions are now for ever flown.

Who now are left, against us who'll dare to make defence?

Well's me, for all this weeping, that I have rid him hence."

"Small cause has thou," said Siegfried, "to glory in my fate.

Had I ween'd thy friendship cloak'd such murderous hate,

From such as thou full lightly could I have kept my life.

Now grieve I but for Kriemhild, my dear, my widow'd wife.

....... ........ ........ ..........

Then further spake the dying, and speaking sigh'd full deep,

"Oh king! if thou a promise with any one wilt keep,

Let me in this last moment thy grace and favour find

For my dear love and lady, the wife I leave behind.

Remember, she's thy sister, yield her a sister's right,

Guard her with faith and honour, as thou'rt a king and knight.

My father and my followers for me they long must wait.

Comrade ne'er found from comrade so sorrowful a fate."

In his mortal anguish he writh'd him to and fro,

And then said, deadly groaning, "this foul and murderous blow

Deep will ye rue hereafter; this for sure truth retain,

That in slaying Siegfried you yourselves have slain."

With blood were all bedabbled the flowerets of the field.

Some time with death he struggled, as though he scorn'd to yield

E'en to the foe, whose weapon strikes down the loftiest head.

At last prone in the meadow lay mighty Siegfried dead.

They carry the body of Siegfried back to Worms, and lay it at Kriemhild's

door. Here she finds it next morning. She has it carried to the church

and stands by it while the heroes come to view it, expecting to discover

the murderer.

KRIEMHILD'S TEST

Stanzas 1071-1078.

And now the night was over; forth peep'd the morning fair;

Straight bad the noble lady thence to the minster bear

The matchless champion Siegfried, her husband lov'd so dear.

All her friends close follow'd with many a sigh and tear.

When they the minister enter'd, how many a bell was rung!

How many a priest on all sides, the mournful requiem sung!

Then thither with his meiny came Dancrat's haughty son,

And thither too grim Hagan: it had been better left undone.

Then spoke the king, "dear sister, woe worth this loss of thine!

Alas that such misfortune has happ'd to me and mine!

For sure the death of Siegfried we ever both must rue."

"Nay," said the mournful lady, "so without cause you do."

For if you really rued it, never had it been.

I know, you have your sister forgotten quite and clean,

So I and my beloved were parted as you see.

Good God! would he had granted the stroke had fall'n on me!"

Firmly they made denial; Kriemhild at once replied,

"Whoe'er in this is guiltless, let him this proof abide.

In sight of all the people let him approach the bier,

And so to each beholder shall the plain truth appear."

It is a mighty marvel, which oft e'en now we spy,

That when the blood-stain'd murderer comes to the murder'd nigh,

The wounds break out a-bleeding; then too the same befell,

And thus could each beholder the guilt of Hagan tell.

The wounds at once burst streaming fast as they did before;

Those, who then sorrow'd deeply, now yet lamented more.

Then outspake king Gunther, "I give you here to know,

He was slain by robbers; Hagan struck ne'er a blow."

"Ay! well know I those robbers," his widow'd sister said;

"By the hands of his true comrades may God revenge the dead!

False Gunther, and false Hagan! 't was you, your friend that slew."

Thereat the knights of Siegfried grip'd to their swords anew.

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