"It was a distant kinship," / spake Hagen, dauntless knight, "That Etzel unto Siegfried / ever did unite, And husband he to Kriemhild / was ere thee she knew. Wherefore, O king faint-hearted, / seek'st thou such thing 'gainst me to do?"
Thereto eke must listen / the noble monarch's spouse, And grievously to hear it / did Kriemhild's wrath arouse. That he 'fore men of Etzel / durst herself upbraid; To urge them 'gainst the strangers / she once more her arts essayed.
Cried she: "Of Tronje Hagen / whoso for me will slay, And his head from body severed / here before me lay, For him the shield of Etzel / I'll fill with ruddy gold, Eke lands and lordly castles / I'll give him for his own to hold."
"I wot not why they tarry," / —thus the minstrel cried; "Ne'er saw I heroes any / so their courage hide, When to them was offered, / like this, reward so high. 'Tis cause henceforth that Etzel / for aye to them goodwill deny."
"Who in such craven manner / do eat their master's bread, And like caitiffs fail him / in time of greatest need, Here see I standing many / of courage all forlorn, Yet would be men of valor; / all time be they upheld to scorn."
How Iring was Slain
Cried then he of Denmark, / Iring the margrave: "Fixed on things of honor / my purpose long I have, And oft in storm of battle, / where heroes wrought, was I. Bring hither now my armor, / with Hagen I'll the combat try."
"I counsel thee against it," / Hagen then replied, "Or bring a goodly company / of Hun-men by thy side. If peradventure any / find entrance to the hall, I'll cause that nowise scatheless / down the steps again they fall."
"Such words may not dissuade me," / Iring spake once more; "A thing of equal peril / oft have I tried before. Yea, will I with my broadsword / confront thee all alone. Nor aught may here avail thee / thus to speak in haughty tone."
Soon the valiant Iring / armed and ready stood, And Irnfried of Thuringia / a youth of mettle good, And eke the doughty Hawart, / with thousand warriors tried. Whate'er his purpose, Iring / should find them faithful by his side.
Advancing then with Iring / did the Fiddler see All clad in shining armor / a mighty company, And each a well-made helmet / securely fastened wore. Thereat the gallant Volker / began to rail in anger sore.
"Seest thou, friend Hagen, / yonder Iring go, Who all alone to front thee / with his sword did vow? Doth lying sort with honor? / Scorned the thing must be. A thousand knights or over / here bear him armed company."
"Now make me not a liar," / cried Hawart's man aloud, "For firm is still my purpose / to do what now I vowed, Nor will I turn me from it / through any cause of fear. Alone I'll stand 'fore Hagen, / awful howsoe'er he were."
On ground did throw him Iring / before his warriors' feet, That they leave might grant him / alone the knight to meet. Loath they were to do it; / well known to them might be The haughty Hagen's prowess / of the land of Burgundy.
Yet so long besought he / that granted was their leave; When they that followed with him / did his firm mind perceive, And how 'twas bent on honor, / they not restrained him. Then closed the two chieftains / together in a combat grim.
Iring of Denmark / raised his spear on high, And with the shield he covered / himself full skilfully; He upward rushed on Hagen / unto the hall right close, When round the clashing fighters / soon a mighty din arose.
Each hurled upon the other / the spear with arm of might, That the firm shields were pierced / e'en to their mail-coats bright, And outward still projecting / the long spear-shafts were seen. In haste then snatched their broadswords / both the fighters grim and keen.
In might the doughty Hagen / and prowess did abound, As Iring smote upon him / the hall gave back the sound. The palace all and towers / re-echoed from their blows, Yet might that bold assailant / with victory ne'er the combat close.
On Hagen might not Iring / wreak aught of injury. Unto the doughty Fiddler / in haste then turned he. Him by his mighty sword-strokes / thought he to subdue, But well the thane full gallant / to keep him safe in combat knew.
Then smote the doughty Fiddler / so lustily his shield That from it flew its ornaments / where he the sword did wield. Iring must leave unconquered / there the dauntless man; Next upon King Gunther / of Burgundy in wrath he ran.
There did each in combat / show him man of might; Howe'er did Gunther and Iring / yet each the other smite, From wounds might never either / make the blood to flow, So sheltered each his armor, / well wrought that was and strong enow.
Gunther left he standing, / upon Gernot to dash, And when he smote ring-armor / the fire forth did flash. But soon had he of Burgundy, / Gernot the doughty thane, Well nigh his keen assailant / Iring of Denmark slain.
Yet from the prince he freed him, / for nimble was he too. Four of the men of Burgundy / the knight full sudden slew Of those that followed with them / from Worms across the Rhine. Thereupon might nothing / the wrath of Giselher confine.
"God wot well, Sir Iring," / young Giselher then cried, "Now must thou make requital / for them that here have died 'Neath thy hand so sudden." / He rushed upon him so And smote the knight of Denmark / that he might not withstand the blow.
Into the blood down fell he / staggering 'neath its might, That all who there beheld it / might deem the noble knight Sword again would never / wield amid the fray. Yet 'neath the stroke of Giselher / Iring all unwounded lay.
Bedazed by helmet's sounding / where ringing sword swung down, Full suddenly his senses / so from the knight were flown: That of his life no longer / harbored he a thought. That the doughty Giselher / by his mighty arm had wrought.
When somewhat was subsided / the din within his head From mighty blow so sudden / on him was visited, Thought he: "I still am living / and bear no mortal wound. How great the might of Giselher, / till now unwitting, have I found."
He hearkened how on all sides / his foes around did stand; Knew they what he did purpose, / they had not stayed their hand. He heard the voice of Giselher / eke in that company, As cunning he bethought him / how yet he from his foes might flee.
Up from the blood he started / with fierce and sudden bound; By grace alone of swiftness / he his freedom found. With speed he passed the portal / where Hagen yet did stand, And swift his sword he flourished / and smote him with his doughty hand.
To see such sight quoth Hagen: / "To death thou fall'st a prey; If not the Devil shield thee, / now is thy latest day." Yet Iring wounded Hagen / e'en through his helmet's crown. That did the knight with Waske, / a sword that was of far renown.
When thus Sir Hagen / the smart of wound did feel, Wrathfully he brandished / on high his blade of steel. Full soon must yield before him / Hawart's daring man, Adown the steps pursuing / Hagen swiftly after ran.
O'er his head bold Iring / his shield to guard him swung, And e'en had that same stairway / been full three times as long, Yet had he found no respite / from warding Hagen's blows. How plenteously the ruddy / sparks above his helm arose!
Unscathed at last came Iring / where waited him his own. Soon as was the story / unto Kriemhild known, How that in fight on Hagen / he had wrought injury, Therefor the Lady Kriemhild / him gan to thank full graciously.
"Now God requite thee, Iring, / thou valiant knight and good, For thou my heart hast comforted / and merry made my mood. Red with blood his armor, / see I yonder Hagen stand." For joy herself did Kriemhild / take his shield from out his hand.
"Small cause hast thou to thank him," / thus wrathful Hagen spake; "For gallant knight 'twere fitting / trial once more to make. If then returned he scatheless, / a valiant man he were. The wound doth boot thee little / that now from his hand I bear.
"That here from wound upon me / my mail-coat see'st thou red, Shall bring woful reprisal / on many a warrior's head. Now is my wrath aroused / in full 'gainst Hawart's thane. As yet in sooth hath Iring / wrought on me but little bane."
Iring then of Denmark / stood where fanned the wind. He cooled him in his armor / and did his helm unbind. Then praised him all the people / and spoke him man of might, Whereat the margrave's bosom / swelled full high with proud delight.
"Now hearken friends unto me," / Iring once more spake; "Make me straightway ready, / new trial now to make If I this knight so haughty / may yet perchance subdue." New shield they brought, for Hagen / did his erstwhile asunder hew.
Soon stood again the warrior / in armor all bedight. In hand a spear full massy / took the wrathful knight, Wherewith on yonder Hagen / he thought to vent his hate. With grim and fearful visage / on him the vengeful thane did wait.
Yet not abide his coming / might Hagen longer now. Adown he rushed upon him / with many a thrust and blow, Down where the stairway ended / for fierce did burn his ire. Soon the might of Iring / must 'neath his furious onset tire,
Their shields they smote asunder / that the sparks began To fly in ruddy showers. / Hawart's gallant man Was by sword of Hagen / wounded all so sore Through shield and shining cuirass, / that whole he found him never more.
When how great the wound was / Iring fully knew, Better to guard his helm-band / his shield he higher drew. The scathe he first received / he deemed sufficient quite, Yet injury far greater / soon had he from King Gunther's knight.
From where it lay before him / Hagen a spear did lift And hurled it upon Iring / with aim so sure and swift, It pierced his head, and firmly / fixed the shaft did stand; Full grim the end that met him / 'neath the doughty Hagen's hand.
Backward Iring yielded / unto his Danish men. Ere for the knight his helmet / they undid again, From his head they drew the spear-point; / to death he was anigh. Wept thereat his kinsmen, / and sore need had verily.
Came thereto Queen Kriemhild / and o'er the warrior bent, And for the doughty Iring / gan she there lament. She wept to see him wounded, / and sorely grieved the queen. Then spake unto his kinsmen / the warrior full brave and keen.
"I pray thee leave thy moaning, / royal high lady. What avails thy weeping? / Yea, soon must ended be My life from wounds outflowing / that here I did receive. To serve thyself and Etzel / will death not longer grant me leave."
Eke spake he to them of Thuringia / and to them of Danish land: "Of you shall never any / receive the gift in hand From your royal mistress / of shining gold full red. Whoe'er withstandeth Hagen / death calleth down upon his head."
From cheek the color faded, / death's sure token wore Iring the gallant warrior: / thereat they grieved full sore. Nor more in life might tarry / Hawart's valiant knight: Enraged the men of Denmark / again did arm them for the fight.
Irnfried and Hawart / before the hall then sprang Leading thousand warriors. / Full furious a clang Of weapons then on all sides / loud and great ye hear. Against the men of Burgundy / how hurled they many a mighty spear!
Straight the valiant Irnfried / the minstrel rushed upon, But naught but grievous injury / 'neath his hand he won: For the noble Fiddler / did the landgrave smite E'en through the well-wrought helmet; / yea, grim and savage was the knight.
Sir Irnfried then in answer / the valiant minstrel smote, That must fly asunder / the rings of his mailed coat Which showered o'er his cuirass / like sparks of fire red. Soon must yet the landgrave / fall before the Fiddler dead.
Eke were come together / Hawart and Hagen bold, And saw he deeds of wonder / who did the sight behold. Swift flew the sword and fiercely / swung by each hero's hand. But soon lay Hawart prostrate / before him of Burgundian land.
When Danish men and Thuringians / beheld their masters fall, Fearful was the turmoil / that rose before the hall As to the door they struggled, / on dire vengeance bent. Full many a shield and helmet / was there 'neath sword asunder rent.
"Now backward yield," cried Volker / "and let them pass within; Thus only are they thwarted / of what they think to win. When but they pass the portals / are they full quickly slain. With death shall they the bounty / of their royal mistress gain."
When thus with pride o'erweening / they did entrance find, The head of many a warrior / was so to earth inclined, That he must life surrender / 'neath blows that thickly fell. Well bore him valiant Gernot / and eke Sir Giselher as well.
Four knights beyond a thousand / were come into the house; The light from sword-blades glinted, / swift swung with mighty souse. Not one of all their number / soon might ye living see; Tell might ye mickle wonders / of the men of Burgundy.
Thereafter came a stillness, / and ceased the tumult loud. The blood in every quarter / through the leak-holes flowed, And out along the corbels / from men in death laid low. That had the men of Rhineland / wrought with many a doughty blow.
Then sat again to rest them / they of Burgundian land, Shield and mighty broadsword / they laid from out the hand. But yet the valiant Fiddler / stood waiting 'fore the door, If peradventure any / would seek to offer combat more.
Sorely did King Etzel / and eke his spouse lament, Maidens and fair ladies / did sorrow sore torment. Death long since upon them, / I ween, such ending swore. To fall before the strangers / was doomed full many a warrior more.
How the Queen bade set fire to the Hall
"Now lay ye off the helmets," / the words from Hagen fell: "I with a boon companion / will be your sentinel. And seek the men of Etzel / to work us further harm, For my royal masters / full quickly will I cry alarm."
Then freed his head of armor / many a warrior good. They sate them on the corses, / that round them in the blood Of wounds themselves had dealt them, / prostrate weltering lay. Now to his guests so lofty / scant courtesy did Etzel pay.
Ere yet was come the even, / King Etzel did persuade, And eke the Lady Kriemhild, / that once more essayed The Hunnish knights to storm them. / Before them might ye see Good twenty thousand warriors, / who soon for fight must ready be.
Then with a furious onset / the strangers they attacked. Dankwart, Hagen's brother, / who naught of courage lacked, Sprang out 'mid the besiegers / to ward them from the door. 'Twas deemed a deadly peril, / yet scatheless stood he there before.
Fierce the struggle lasted / till darkness brought an end. Themselves like goodly heroes / the strangers did defend Against the men of Etzel / all the long summer day. What host of valiant warriors / before them fell to death a prey!
At turn of sun in summer / that havoc sore was wrought, When the Lady Kriemhild / revenge so dire sought Upon her nearest kinsmen / and many a knight beside, Wherefore with royal Etzel / never more might joy abide.
As day at last was ending / sad they were of heart. They deemed from life 'twere better / in sudden death to part Than be thus long tormented / by great o'erhanging dread. That respite now be granted, / the knights so proud and gallant prayed.
They prayed to lead the monarch / hither to them there. As heroes blood-bespotted, / and stained from battle-gear, Forth from the hall emerged / the lofty monarchs three. They wist not to whom complained / might their full grievous sorrows be.
Etzel and Kriemhild / they soon before them found, And great was now their company / from all their lands around. Spake Etzel to the strangers: / "What will ye now of me? Ye hope for end of conflict, / but hardly may such favor be.
"This so mighty ruin / that ye on me have wrought, If death thwart not my purpose, / shall profit you in naught. For child that here ye slew me / and kinsmen dear to me, Shall peace and reconcilement / from you withheld forever be."
Thereto gave answer Gunther: / "To that drove sorest need. Lay all my train of squires / before thy warriors dead Where they for night assembled. / How bore I so great blame? Of friendly mind I deemed thee, / as trusting in thy faith I came."
Then spake eke of Burgundy / the youthful Giselher: "Ye knights that still are living / of Etzel, now declare Whereof ye may reproach me! / How hath you harmed my hand? For in right friendly manner / came I riding to this land."
Cried they: "Well is thy friendship / in burgh and country known By sorrow of thy making. / Gladly had we foregone The pleasure of thy coming / from Worms across the Rhine. Our country hast thou orphaned, / thou and brother eke of thine."
In angry mood King Gunther / unto them replied: "An ye this mighty hatred / appeased would lay aside, Borne 'gainst us knights here homeless, / to both a gain it were For Etzel's wrath against us / we in sooth no guilt do bear."
The host then to the strangers: / "Your sorrow here and mine Are things all unequal. / For now must I repine With honor all bespotted / and 'neath distress of woe. Of you shall never any / hence from my country living go."
Then did the doughty Gernot / unto King Etzel say: "God then in mercy move thee / to act in friendly way. Slay us knights here homeless, / yet grant us down to go To meet thee in the open: / thine honor biddeth thus to do.
"Whate'er shall be our portion, / let that straightway appear. Men hast thou yet so many / that, should they banish fear, Not one of us storm-weary / might keep his life secure. How long shall we here friendless / this woeful travail yet endure?"
By the warriors of Etzel / their wish nigh granted was, And leave well nigh was given / that from the hall they pass. When Kriemhild knew their purpose, / high her anger swelled, And straightway such a respite / was from the stranger knights withheld.
"But nay, ye Hunnish warriors! / what ye have mind to do, Therefrom now desist ye, / —such is my counsel true; Nor let foes so vengeful / pass without the hall, Else must in death before them / full many of your kinsmen fall.
"If of them lived none other / but Ute's sons alone, My three noble brothers, / and they the air had won Where breeze might cool their armor, / to death ye were a prey. In all this world were never / born more valiant thanes than they."
Then spake the youthful Giselher: / "Full beauteous sister mine, When to this land thou bad'st me / from far beside the Rhine, I little deemed such trouble / did here upon me wait. Whereby have I deserved / from the Huns such mortal hate?
"To thee I ever faithful / was, nor wronged thee e'er. In such faith confiding / did I hither fare, That thou to me wert gracious, / O noble sister mine. Show mercy now unto us, / we must to thee our lives resign."
"No mercy may I show you, / —unmerciful I'll be. By Hagen, knight of Tronje, / was wrought such woe to me, That ne'er is reconcilement / the while that I have life. That must ye all atone for," / —quoth the royal Etzel's wife.
"Will ye but Hagen only / to me as hostage give, Then will I not deny you / to let you longer live. Born are ye of one mother / and brothers unto me, So wish I that compounded / here with these warriors peace may be."
"God in heaven forfend it," / Gernot straightway said; "E'en though we were a thousand, / lay we all rather dead, We who are thy kinsmen, / ere that warrior one Here we gave for hostage. / Never may such thing be done."
"Die must we all," quoth Giselher, / "for such is mortal's end. Till then despite of any, / our knighthood we'll defend. Would any test our mettle, / here may he trial make. For ne'er, when help he needed, / did I a faithful friend forsake."
Then spake the valiant Dankwart, / a knight that knew no fear; "In sooth stands not unaided / my brother Hagen here. Who here have peace denied us / may yet have cause to rue. I would that this ye doubt not, / for verily I tell you true."
The queen to those around her: / "Ye gallant warriors, go Now nigher to the stairway / and straight avenge my woe. I'll ever make requital / therefor, as well I may. For his haughty humor / will I Hagen full repay.
"To pass without the portal / let not one at all, For at its four corners / I'll bid ignite the hall. So will I fullest vengeance / take for all my woe." Straightway the thanes of Etzel / ready stood her hest to do.
Who still without were standing / were driven soon within By sword and spear upon them, / that made a mighty din. Yet naught might those good warriors / from their masters take, By their faith would never / each the other's side forsake.
To burn the hall commanded / Etzel's wife in ire, And tortured they those warriors / there with flaming fire; Full soon with wind upon it / the house in flames was seen. To any folk did never / sadder plight befall, I ween.
Their cries within resounded: / "Alack for sorest need! How mickle rather lay we / in storm of battle dead. 'Fore God 'tis cause for pity, / for here we all must die! Now doth the queen upon us / vengeance wreak full grievously."
Among them spake another: / "Our lives we here must end. What now avails the greeting / the king to us did send? So sore this heat oppresseth / and parched with thirst my tongue, My life from very anguish / I ween I must resign ere long."
Then quoth of Tronje Hagen: / "Ye noble knights and good, Whoe'er by thirst is troubled, / here let him drink the blood. Than wine more potent is it / where such high heat doth rage, Nor may we at this season / find us a better beverage."
Where fallen knight was lying, / thither a warrior went. Aside he laid his helmet, / to gaping wound he bent, And soon was seen a-quaffing / therefrom the flowing blood. To him though all unwonted, / yet seemed he there such drinking good.
"Now God reward thee, Hagen," / the weary warrior said, "That I so well have drunken, / thus by thy teaching led. Better wine full seldom / hath been poured for me, And live I yet a season / I'll ever faithful prove to thee."
When there did hear the others / how to him it seemed good, Many more beheld ye / eke that drank the blood. Each thereby new vigor / for his body won, And eke for lover fallen / wept many a buxom dame anon.
The flaming brands fell thickly / upon them in the hall, With upraised shields they kept them / yet scatheless from their fall, Though smoke and heat together / wrought them anguish sore. Beset were heroes never, / I ween, by so great woe before.
Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / "Stand nigh unto the wall, Let not the brands all flaming / upon your helmets fall. Into the blood beneath you / tread them with your feet. In sooth in evil fashion / us doth our royal hostess greet."
In trials thus endured / ebbed the night away. Still without the portal / did the keen Fiddler stay And Hagen his good fellow, / o'er shield their bodies leant; They deemed the men of Etzel / still on further mischief bent.
Then was heard the Fiddler: / "Pass we into the hall, For so the Huns shall fondly / deem we are perished all Amid the mickle torture / we suffer at their hand. Natheless shall they behold us / boun for fight before them stand."
Spake then of Burgundy / the young Sir Giselher: "I ween 'twill soon be dawning, / for blows a cooler air. To live in fuller joyance / now grant us God in heaven. To us dire entertainment / my sister Kriemhild here hath given."
Spake again another: / "Lo! how I feel the day. For that no better fortune / here await us may, So don, ye knights, your armor, / and guard ye well your life. Full soon, in sooth, we suffer / again at hands of Etzel's wife."
Fondly Etzel fancied / the strangers all were dead, From sore stress of battle / and from the fire dread; Yet within were living / six hundred men so brave, That never thanes more worthy / a monarch for liegemen might have.
The watchers set to watch them / soon full well had seen How still lived the strangers, / spite what wrought had been Of harm and grievous evil, / on the monarchs and their band. Within the hall they saw them / still unscathed and dauntless stand.
Told 'twas then to Kriemhild / how they from harm were free. Whereat the royal lady / quoth, such thing ne'er might be That any still were living / from that fire dread. "Nay, believe I rather / that within they all lie dead."
Gladly yet the strangers / would a truce compound, Might any grace to offer / amid their foes be found. But such appeared not any / in them of Hunnish land. Well to avenge their dying / prepared they then with willing hand.
About the dawn of morning / greeted they were again With a vicious onslaught, / that paid full many a thane. There was flung upon them / many a mighty spear, While gallantly did guard them / the lofty thanes that knew not fear.
The warriors of Etzel / were all of eager mood, And Kriemhild's promised bounty / win for himself each would; To do the king's high bidding / did likewise urge their mind. 'Twas cause full soon that many / were doomed swift death in fight to find.
Of store of bounty promised / might wonders great be told, She bade on shields to carry / forth the ruddy gold, And gave to him that wished it / or would but take her store; In sooth a greater hire / ne'er tempted 'gainst the foe before.
A mickle host of warriors / went forth in battle-gear. Then quoth the valiant Volker: / "Still may ye find us here. Ne'er saw I move to battle / warriors more fain, That to work us evil / the bounty of the king have ta'en."
Then cried among them many: / "Hither, ye knights, more nigh! Since all at last must perish, / 'twere better instantly; And here no warrior falleth / but who fore-doomed hath been." With well-flung spears all bristling / full quickly then their shields were seen.
What need of further story? / Twelve hundred stalwart men, Repulsed in onset gory, / still returned again; But dealing wounds around them / the strangers cooled their mood, And there stood all unvanquished. / Flowing might ye see the blood
From deep wounds and mortal, / whereof were many slain. For friends in battle fallen / heard ye loud complain; Slain were all those warriors / that served the mighty king, Whereat from loving kinsmen / arose a mickle sorrowing.
How the Margrave Ruediger was Slain
At morning light the strangers / had wrought high deed of fame, When the spouse of Gotelinde / unto the courtyard came. To behold on both sides / such woe befallen there, Might not refrain from weeping / sorely the faithful Ruediger.
"O woe is me!" exclaimed he, / "that ever I was born. Alack that this great sorrow / no hand from us may turn! Though I be ne'er so willing, / the king no peace will know, For he beholds his sorrow / ever great and greater grow."
Then did the kindly Ruediger / unto Dietrich send, If to the lofty monarchs / they yet might truce extend. The knight of Bern gave message: / "How might such thing be? For ne'er the royal Etzel / granteth to end it peacefully."
When a Hunnish warrior / saw standing Ruediger As from eyes sore weeping / fell full many a tear, To his royal mistress spake he: / "Behold how stands he there With whom here by Etzel / none other may in might compare,
"And who commandeth service / of lands and people all. How many lordly castles / Ruediger his own doth call, That unto him hath given / the bounty of the king! Not yet in valorous conflict / saw'st thou here his sword to swing.
"Methinks, but little recks he, / what may here betide, Since now in fullest measure / his heart is satisfied. 'Tis told he is, surpassing / all men, forsooth, so keen, But in this time of trials / his valor ill-displayed hath been."
Stood there full of sorrow / the brave and faithful man, Yet whom he thus heard speaking / he cast his eyes upon. Thought he: "Thou mak'st atonement, / who deem'st my mettle cold. Thy thought here all too loudly / hast thou unto the people told."
His fist thereat he doubled / and upon him ran, And smote with blow so mighty / there King Etzel's man That prone before him straightway / fell that mocker dead. So came but greater sorrow / on the royal Etzel's head.
"Hence thou basest caitiff," / cried then Ruediger; "Here of pain and sorrow / enough I have to bear. Wherefore wilt thou taunt me / that I the combat shun? In sooth had I the utmost / of harm upon the strangers done,
"For that good reason have I / to bear them hate indeed, But that myself the warriors / as friends did hither lead. Yea, was I their safe escort / into my master's land; So may I, man most wretched, / ne'er raise against them hostile hand."
Then spake the lofty Etzel / unto the margrave: "What aid, O noble Ruediger, / here at thy hands we have! Our country hath so many / already doomed to die, We need not any other: / now hast thou wrought full wrongfully."
Returned the knight so noble: / "My heart he sore hath grieved, And reproached me for high honors / at thy hand received And eke for gifts unto me / by thee so freely made; Dearly for his slander / hath the base traducer paid."
When had the queen come hither / and had likewise seen How on the Hunnish warrior / his wrath had vented been, Incontinent she mourned it, / and tears bedimmed her sight. Spake she unto Ruediger: / "How dost thou now our love requite,
"That for me and thy master / thou bring'st increase of woe? Now hast thou, noble Ruediger, / ever told us so, How that thou life and honor / for our sake wouldst dare. Eke heard I thanes full many / proclaim thee knight beyond compare.
"Of the oath I now remind thee / that thou to me didst swear, When counsel first thou gavest / to Etzel's land to fare, That thou wouldst truly serve me / till one of us were dead: Of that I wretched woman / never stood so sore in need."
"Nor do I, royal mistress, / deny that so I sware That I for thy well-being / would life and honor dare: But eke my soul to forfeit, / —that sware I not indeed. 'Tis I thy royal brothers / hither to this land did lead."
Quoth she: "Bethink thee, Ruediger, / of thy fidelity And oath once firmly plighted / that aught of harm to me Should ever be avenged, / and righted every ill." Replied thereto the margrave: / "Ne'er have I failed to work thy will."
Etzel the mighty monarch / to implore him then began, And king and queen together / down knelt before their man, Whereat the good margrave / was seen in sorest plight, And gan to mourn his station / in piteous words the faithful knight.
"O woe is me most wretched," / he sorrow-stricken cried, "That forced I am my honor / thus to set aside, And bonds of faith and friendship / God hath imposed on me. O Thou that rul'st in heaven! / come death, I cannot yet be free.
"Whate'er it be my effort / to do or leave undone, I break both faith and honor / in doing either one; But leave I both, all people / will cry me worthy scorn. May He look down in mercy / who bade me wretched man be born!"
With many a prayer besought him / the king and eke his spouse, Wherefore was many a warrior / soon doomed his life to lose At hand of noble Ruediger, / when eke did die the thane. Now hear ye how he bore him, / though filled his heart with sorest pain.
He knew how scathe did wait him / and boundless sorrowing, And gladly had refused / to obey the king And eke his royal mistress. / Full sorely did he fear, That if one stranger slew he, / the scorn of all the world he'd bear.
Then spake unto the monarch / the full gallant thane: "O royal sire, whatever / thou gavest, take again, The land and every castle, / that naught remain to me. On foot a lonely pilgrim / I'll wander to a far country."
Thereto replied King Etzel: / "Who then gave help to me? My land and lordly castles / give I all to thee, If on my foes, O Ruediger, / revenge thou wilt provide. A mighty monarch seated, / shalt thou be by Etzel's side."
Again gave answer Ruediger: / "How may that ever be? At my own home shared they / my hospitality. Meat and drink I offered / to them in friendly way, And gave them of my bounty: / how shall I seek them here to slay ?
"The folk belike will fancy / that I a coward be. Ne'er hath faithful service / been refused by me Unto the noble princes / and their warriors too; That e'er I gained their friendship, / now 'tis cause for me to rue.
"For spouse unto Sir Giselher / gave I a daughter mine, Nor into fairer keeping / might I her resign, Where truth were sought and honor / and gentle courtesy: Ne'er saw I thane so youthful / virtuous in mind as he."
Again gave answer Kriemhild: / "O noble Ruediger, To me and royal Etzel / in mercy now give ear For sorrows that o'erwhelm us. / Bethink thee, I implore, That monarch never any / harbored so evil guests before."
Spake in turn the margrave / unto the monarch's wife: "Ruediger requital / must make to-day with life For that thou and my master / did me so true befriend. Therefore must I perish; / now must my service find an end.
"E'en this day, well know I, / my castles and my land Must surely lose their master / beneath a stranger's hand. To thee my wife and children / commend I for thy care, And with all the lorn ones / that wait by Bechelaren's towers fair."
"Now God reward thee, Ruediger," / thereat King Etzel quoth. He and the queen together, / right joyful were they both. "To us shall all thy people / full commended be; Eke trow I by my fortune / no harm shall here befall to thee."
For their sake he ventured / soul and life to lose. Thereat fell sore to weeping / the royal Etzel's spouse. He spake: "I must unto you / my plighted word fulfil. Alack! beloved strangers, / whom to assail forbids my will."
From the king there parting / ye saw him, sad of mood, And passed unto his warriors / who at small distance stood. "Don straightway now your armor, / my warriors all," quoth he. "Alas! must I to battle / with the valiant knights of Burgundy."
Then straightway for their armor / did the warriors call. A shining helm for this one, / for that a shield full tall Soon did the nimble squires / before them ready hold. Anon came saddest tidings / unto the stranger warriors bold.
With Ruediger there saw ye / five hundred men arrayed, And noble thanes a dozen / that came unto his aid, Thinking in storm of battle / to win them honor high. In sooth but little knew they / how death awaited them so nigh.
With helm on head advancing / saw ye Sir Ruediger. Swords that cut full keenly / the margrave's men did bear, And eke in hand each carried / a broad shield shining bright. Boundless was the Fiddler's / sorrow to behold the sight.
When saw the youthful Giselher / his bride's sire go Thus with fastened helmet, / how might he ever know What he therewith did purpose / if 'twere not only good? Thereat the noble monarchs / right joyous might ye see of mood.
"I joy for friends so faithful," / spake Giselher the thane, "As on our journey hither / we for ourselves did gain. Full great shall be our vantage / that I found spouse so dear, And high my heart rejoiceth / that plighted thus to wed we were."
"Small cause I see for comfort," / thereto the minstrel spake. "When saw ye thanes so many / come a truce to make With helmet firmly fastened / and bearing sword in hand? By scathe to us will Ruediger / service do for tower and land."
The while that thus the Fiddler / had spoken to the end, His way the noble Ruediger / unto the hall did wend. His trusty shield he rested / on the ground before his feet, Yet might he never offer / his friends in kindly way to greet.
Loudly the noble margrave / cried into the hall: "Now guard you well, ye valiant / Nibelungen all. From me ye should have profit: / now have ye harm from me. But late we plighted friendship: / broken now these vows must be."
Then quailed to hear such tidings / those knights in sore distress, For none there was among them / but did joy the less That he would battle with them / for whom great love they bore. At hand of foes already / had they suffered travail sore.
"Now God in heaven forfend it," / there King Gunther cried, "That from mercy to us / thou so wilt turn aside, And the faithful friendship / whereof hope had we. I trow in sooth that never / may such thing be done by thee."
"Desist therefrom I may not," / the keen knight made reply, "But now must battle with you, / for vow thereto gave I. "Now guard you, gallant warriors, / as fear ye life to lose: From plighted vow release me / will nevermore King Etzel's spouse."
"Too late thou turnst against us," / spake King Gunther there. "Now might God requite thee, / O noble Ruediger, For the faith and friendship / thou didst on us bestow, If thou a heart more kindly / even to the end wouldst show.
"We'd ever make requital / for all that thou didst give,— I and all my kinsmen, / wouldst thou but let us live,— For thy gifts full stately, / as faithfully thou here To Etzel's land didst lead us: / know that, O noble Ruediger."
"To me what pleasure were it," / Ruediger did say, "With full hand of my treasure / unto you to weigh And with a mind right willing / as was my hope to do! Thus might no man reproach me / with lack of courtesy to you."
"Turn yet, O noble Ruediger." / Gernot spake again, "For in so gracious manner / did never entertain Any host the stranger, / as we were served by thee; And live we yet a little, / shall thou well requited be."
"O would to God, full noble / Gernot," spake Ruediger, "That ye were at Rhine river / and that dead I were With somewhat saved of honor, / since I must be your foe! Upon good knights was never / wrought by friends more bitter woe."
"Now God requite thee, Ruediger," / Gernot gave reply, "For gifts so fair bestowed. / I rue to see thee die, For that in thee shall perish / knight of so gentle mind. Here thy sword I carry, / that gav'st thou me in friendship kind.
"It never yet hath failed me / in this our sorest need, And 'neath its cutting edges / many a knight lies dead. 'Tis strong and bright of lustre, / cunning wrought and well. I ween, whate'er was given / by knight it doth in worth excel.
"An wilt thou not give over / upon us here to fall, And if one friend thou slayest / here yet within this hall, With this same sword thou gavest, / I'll take from thee thy life. I sorrow for thee Ruediger, / and eke thy fair and stately wife."
"Would God but give, Sir Gernot, / that such thing might be, That thou thy will completely / here fulfilled mightst see, And of thy friends not any / here his life should lose! Yea, shalt thou live to comfort / both my daughter and my spouse."
Then out spake of Burgundy / the son of Ute fair: "How dost thou so, Sir Ruediger? / All that with me are To thee are well disposed. / Thou dost an evil thing, And wilt thine own fair daughter / to widowhood too early bring.
"If thou with armed warriors / wilt thus assail me here, In what unfriendly manner / thou makest to appear How that in thee I trusted / beyond all men beside, When thy fairest daughter / erstwhile I won to be my bride."
"Thy good faith remember, / O Prince of virtue rare, If God from hence do bring thee," / —so spake Ruediger: "Forsake thou not the maiden / when bereft of me, But rather grant thy goodness / be dealt to her more graciously."
"That would I do full fairly," / spake Giselher again. "But if my lofty kinsmen, / who yet do here remain, Beneath thy hand shall perish, / severed then must be The friendship true I cherish / eke for thy daughter and for thee."
"Then God to us give mercy," / the knight full valiant spake. Their shields in hand then took they, / as who perforce would make Their passage to the strangers / into Kriemhild's hall. Adown the stair full loudly / did Hagen, knight of Tronje, call:
"Tarry yet a little, / O noble Ruediger, For further would we parley," / —thus might ye Hagen hear— "I and my royal masters, / as presseth sorest need. What might it boot to Etzel / that we strangers all lay dead.
"Great is here my trouble," / Hagen did declare: "The shield that Lady Gotelinde / gave to me to bear Hath now been hewn asunder / by Hun-men in my hand. With friendly thought I bore it / hither into Etzel's land.
"Would that God in heaven / might grant in kindliness, That I a shield so trusty / did for my own possess As in thy hand thou bearest, / O noble Ruediger! In battle-storm then need I / never hauberk more to wear."
"Full glad I'd prove my friendship / to thee with mine own shield, Dared I the same to offer / before Lady Kriemhild. But take it, natheless, Hagen, / and bear it in thy hand. Would that thou mightst take it / again unto Burgundian land!"
When with mind so willing / he offered him his shield, Saw ye how eyes full many / with scalding tears were filled; For the last gift was it / that was offered e'er Unto any warrior / by Bechelaren's margrave, Ruediger.
How grim soe'er was Hagen / and stern soe'er of mind, That gift to pity moved him / that there the chieftain kind, So near his latest moment, / did on him bestow. From eyes of many another / began likewise the tears to flow.
"Now God in heaven requite thee, / O noble Ruediger! Like unto thee none other / warrior was there e'er, Unto knights all friendless / so bounteously to give. God grant in his mercy / thy virtue evermore to live.
"Woe's me to hear such tiding," / Hagen did declare. "Such load of grief abiding / already do we bear, If we with friends must struggle, / to God our plaint must be." Thereto replied the margrave: / "'Tis cause of sorrow sore to me."
"To pay thee for thy favor, / O noble Ruediger, Howe'er these lofty warriors / themselves against thee bear, Yet never thee in combat / here shall touch my hand, E'en though complete thou slayest / them from out Burgundian land."
Thereat the lofty Ruediger / 'fore him did courteous bend. On all sides was lamenting / that no man might end These so great heart-sorrows / that sorely they must bear. The father of all virtue / fell with noble Ruediger.
Then eke the minstrel Volker / from hall down glancing said: "Since Hagen thus, my comrade, / peace with thee hath made, Lasting truce thou likewise / receivest from my hand. Well hast thou deserved it / as fared we hither to this land.
"Thou, O noble margrave, / my messenger shalt be. These arm-bands ruddy golden / thy lady gave to me, That here at this high festival / I the same should wear. Now mayst thyself behold them / and of my faith a witness bear."
"Would God but grant," / spake Ruediger, "who ruleth high in heaven, That to thee by my lady / might further gift be given! I'll gladly tell thy tidings / to spouse full dear to me, An I but live to see her: / from doubt thereof thou mayst be free."
When thus his word was given, / his shield raised Ruediger. Nigh to madness driven / bode he no longer there, But ran upon the strangers / like to a valiant knight. Many a blow full rapid / smote the margrave in his might.
Volker and Hagen / made way before the thane, As before had promised / to him the warriors twain. Yet found he by the portal / so many a valiant man That Ruediger the combat / with mickle boding sore began.
Gunther and Gernot / with murderous intent Let him pass the portal, / as knights on victory bent. Backward yielded Giselher, / with sorrow all undone; He hoped to live yet longer, / and therefore Ruediger would shun.
Straight upon their enemies / the margrave's warriors sprung, And following their master / was seen a valiant throng. Swords with cutting edges / did they in strong arm wield, 'Neath which full many a helmet / was cleft, and many a fair wrought shield.
The weary strangers likewise / smote many a whirring slash, Wherefrom the men of Bechelaren / felt deep and long the gash Through the shining ring-mail / e'en to their life's core. In storm of battle wrought they / glorious deeds a many more.
All his trusty followers / now eke had gained the hall, On whom Volker and Hagen / did soon in fury fall, And mercy unto no man / save Ruediger they showed. The blood adown through helmets, / where smote their swords, full plenteous flowed.
How right furiously / were swords 'gainst armor driven! On shields the well-wrought mountings / from their wards were riven, And fell their jewelled facings / all scattered in the blood. Ne'er again might warriors / show in fight so grim a mood.
The lord of Bechelaren / through foemen cut his way, As doth each doughty warrior / in fight his might display. On that day did Ruediger / show full plain that he A hero was undaunted, / full bold and eke full praiseworthy.
Stood there two knights right gallant, / Gunther and Gernot, And in the storm of battle / to death full many smote. Eke Giselher and Dankwart, / never aught recked they How many a lusty fighter / saw 'neath their hand his latest day.
Full well did show him Ruediger / a knight of mettle true, Doughty in goodly armor. / What warriors there he slew! Beheld it a Burgundian, / and cause for wrath was there. Not longer now was distant / the death of noble Ruediger.
Gernot, knight full doughty, / addressed the margrave then, Thus speaking to the hero: / "Wilt thou of all my men Living leave not any, / O noble Ruediger? That gives me grief unmeasured; / the sight I may not longer bear.
"Now must thy gift unto me / prove thy sorest bane, Since of my friends so many / thou from me hast ta'en. Now hither turn to front me, / thou bold and noble knight: As far as might may bear me / I trust to pay thy gift aright."
Ere that full the margrave / might make his way to him, Must rings of glancing mail-coats / with flowing blood grow dim. Then sprang upon each other / those knights on honor bent, And each from wounds deep cutting / sought to keep him all unshent.
Their swords cut so keenly / that might withstand them naught. With mighty arm Sir Ruediger / Gernot then smote Through the flint-hard helmet, / that downward flowed the blood. Therefor repaid him quickly / the knight of keen and valiant mood.
The gift he had of Ruediger / high in hand he swung, And though to death was wounded / he smote with blow so strong That the good shield was cloven / and welded helmet through. The spouse of fair Gotelinde, / then his latest breath he drew.
In sooth so sad requital / found rich bounty ne'er. Slain fell they both together, / Gernot and Ruediger, Alike in storm of battle, / each by the other's hand. Sore was the wrath of Hagen / when he the harm did understand.
Cried there the lord of Tronje: / "Great is here our loss. In death of these two heroes / such scathe befalleth us, Wherefor land and people / shall repine for aye. The warriors of Ruediger / must now to us the forfeit pay."
"Alack for this my brother, / snatched by death this day! What host of woes unbidden / encompass me alway! Eke must I moan it ever / that noble Ruediger fell. Great is the scathe to both sides / and great the sorrowing as well."
When then beheld Sir Giselher / his lover's sire dead, Must all that with him followed / suffer direst need. There Death was busy seeking / to gather in his train, And of the men of Bechelaren / came forth not one alive again.
Gunther and Giselher / and with them Hagen too, Dankwart and Volker, / doughty thanes and true, Went where found they lying / the two warriors slain, Nor at the sight the heroes / might their grief and tears restrain.
"Death robbeth us right sorely," / spake young Sir Giselher: "Yet now give o'er your weeping / and let us seek the air, That the ringed mail grow cooler / on us storm-weary men. God in sooth will grant us / not longer here to live, I ween."
Here sitting, and there leaning / was seen full many a thane, Resting once more from combat, / the while that all lay slain The followers of Ruediger. / Hushed was the battle's din. At length grew angry Etzel, / that stillness was so long within.
"Alack for such a service!" / spake the monarch's wife; "For never 'tis so faithful / that our foes with life Must to us make payment / at Ruediger's hand. He thinks in sooth to lead them / again unto Burgundian land.
"What boots it, royal Etzel, / that we did ever share With him what he desired? / The knight doth evil there. He that should avenge us, / the same a truce doth make." Thereto the stately warrior / Volker in answer spake:
"Alas 'tis no such case here, / O high and royal dame. Dared I but give the lie to / one of thy lofty name, Thou hast in fiendish manner / Ruediger belied. He and all his warriors / have laid all thoughts of truce aside.
"With so good heart obeyed he / his royal master's will That he and all his followers / here in death lie still. Look now about thee, Kriemhild, / who may thy hests attend. Ruediger the hero / hath served thee faithful to the end.
"Wilt thou my words believe not, / to thee shall clear be shown." To cause her heart a sorrow, / there the thing was done. Wound-gashed they bore the hero / where him the king might see. Unto the thanes of Etzel / ne'er might so great sorrow be.
When did they the margrave / a corse on bier behold, By chronicler might never / written be nor told All the wild lamenting / of women and of men, As with grief all stricken / out-poured they their hearts' sorrow then.
Royal Etzel's sorrow / there did know no bound. Like to the voice of lion / echoing rang the sound Of the king's loud weeping, / wherein the queen had share. Unmeasured they lamented / the death of noble Ruediger.
How all Sir Dietrich's Knights were Slain
On all sides so great sorrow / heard ye there around, That palace and high tower / did from the wail resound. Of Bern a man of Dietrich / eke the same did hear, And speedily he hastened / the tidings to his lord to bear.
Spake he unto his master: / "Sir Dietrich give me ear. What yet hath been my fortune, / never did I hear Lamenting past all measure, / as at this hour hath been. Scathe unto King Etzel / himself hath happened, I ween.
"Else how might they ever / all show such dire need? The king himself or Kriemhild, / one of them lieth dead, By the doughty strangers / for sake of vengeance slain. Unmeasured is the weeping / of full many a stately thane."
Then spake of Bern Sir Dietrich: / "Ye men to me full dear, Now haste ye not unduly. / The deeds performed here By the stranger warriors / show sore necessity. That peace with them I blighted, / let it now their profit be."
Then spake the valiant Wolfhart: / "Thither will I run To make question of it / what they now have done, And straight will tidings bring thee, / master full dear to me, When yonder I inform me, / whence may so great lamenting be."
Answer gave Sir Dietrich: / "Fear they hostility, The while uncivil questioning / of their deed there be, Lightly are stirred to anger / good warriors o'er the thing. Yea, 'tis my pleasure, Wolfhart, / thou sparest them all such questioning.
Helfrich he then commanded / thither with speed to go That from men of Etzel / he might truly know, Or from the strangers straightway, / what thing there had been. As that, so sore lamenting / of people ne'er before was seen.
Questioned then the messenger: / "What hath here been wrought?" Answered one among them: / "Complete is come to naught What of joy we cherished / here in Hunnish land. Slain here lieth Ruediger, / fallen 'neath Burgundian hand.
"Of them that entered with him / not one doth longer live." Naught might ever happen / Helfrich more to grieve, Nor ever told he tidings / so ruefully before. Weeping sore the message / unto Dietrich then he bore.
"What the news thou bringst us?" / Dietrich spake once more; "Yet, O doughty Helfrich, / wherefore dost weep so sore?" Answered the noble warrior: / "With right may I complain: Yonder faithful Ruediger / lieth by the Burgundians slain."
The lord of Bern gave answer: / "God let not such thing be! That were a mighty vengeance, / and eke the Devil's glee. Whereby had ever Ruediger / from them deserved such ill? Well know I to the strangers / was ever well disposed his will."
Thereto gave answer Wolfhart: / "In sooth have they this done, Therefor their lives shall forfeit / surely, every one. And make we not requital, / our shame for aye it were; Full manifold our service / from hand of noble Ruediger."
Then bade the lord of Amelungen / the case more full to learn. He sat within a casement / and did full sadly mourn. He prayed then that Hildebrand / unto the strangers go, That he from their own telling / of the case complete might know.
The warrior keen in battle, / Master Hildebrand, Neither shield nor weapon / bore he in his hand, But would in chivalrous manner / unto the strangers go. His sister's son reviled him / that he would venture thus to do.
Spake in anger Wolfhart: / "Goest thou all weaponless, Must I of such action / free my thought confess: Thou shalt in shameful fashion / hither come again; Goest thou armed thither, / will all from harm to thee refrain."
So armed himself the old man / at counsel of the young. Ere he was ware of it, / into their armor sprung All of Dietrich's warriors / and stood with sword in hand. Grieved he was, and gladly / had turned them Master Hildebrand.
He asked them whither would they. / "Thee company we'll bear, So may, perchance, less willing / Hagen of Tronje dare, As so oft his custom, / to give thee mocking word." The thane his leave did grant them / at last when he their speech had heard.
Keen Volker saw approaching, / in armor all arrayed, Of Bern the gallant warriors / that Dietrich's word obeyed, With sword at girdle hanging / and bearing shield in hand. Straight he told the tidings / to his masters of Burgundian land.
Spake the doughty Fiddler: / "Yonder see I come near The warriors of Dietrich / all clad in battle gear And decked their heads with helmets, / as if our harm they mean. For us knights here homeless / approacheth evil end, I ween."
Meanwhile was come anigh them / Master Hildebrand. Before his foot he rested / the shield he bore in hand, And soon began to question / the men of Gunther there: "Alack, ye gallant warriors, / what harm hath wrought you Ruediger?
"Me did my master Dietrich / hither to you command: If now the noble margrave / hath fallen 'neath the hand Of any knight among you, / as word to us is borne, Such a mighty sorrow / might we never cease to mourn."
Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / "True is the tale ye hear. Though glad I were, if to you / had lied the messenger, And if the faithful Ruediger / still his life might keep, For whom both man and woman / must ever now in sorrow weep!"
When they for sooth the passing / of the hero knew, Those gallant knights bemoaned him / like faithful friends and true; On Dietrich's lusty warriors / saw ye fall the tear Adown the bearded visage, / for sad of heart in truth they were.
Of Bern then a chieftain, / Siegstab, further cried: "Of all the mickle comfort / now an end is made, That Ruediger erst prepared us / after our days of pain. The joy of exiled people / here lieth by you warriors slain."
Then spake of Amelungen / the thane Wolfwein: "If that this day beheld I / dead e'en sire of mine, No more might be my sorrow / than for this hero's life. Alack! who bringeth comfort / now to the noble margrave's wife?"
Spake eke in angry humor / Wolfhart a stalwart thane: "Who now shall lead our army / on the far campaign, As full oft the margrave / of old hath led our host? Alack! O noble Ruediger, / that in such manner thee we've lost!"
Wolfbrand and Helfrich / and Helmnot with warriors all Mourned there together / that he in death must fall. For sobbing might not further / question Hildebrand. He spake: "Now do, ye warriors, / according to my lord's command.
"Yield unto us Ruediger's / corse from out the hall, In whose death to sorrow / hath passed our pleasure all; And let us do him service / for friendship true of yore That e'er for us he cherished / and eke for many a stranger more.
"We too from home are exiles / like unto Ruediger. Why keep ye us here waiting? / Him grant us hence to bear, That e'en though death hath reft him / our service he receive, Though fairer had we paid it / the while the hero yet did live."
Thereto spake King Gunther: / "No service equal may That which, when death hath reft him, / to friend a friend doth pay. Him deem I friend right faithful, / whoe'er the same may do. Well make ye here requital / for many a service unto you."
"How long shall we beseech you," / spake Wolfhart the thane; "Since he that best consoled us / by you now lieth slain, And we, alas, no longer / his living aid may have, Grant us hence to bear him / and lay the hero in his grave."
Thereto answered Volker: / "Thy prayer shall all deny. From out the hall thou take him, / where doth the hero lie 'Neath deep wounds and mortal / in blood now smitten down. So may by thee best service / here to Ruediger be shown."
Answered Wolfhart boldly: / "Sir Fiddleman, God wot Thou shalt forbear to stir us, / for woe on us thou'st wrought. Durst I despite my master, / uncertain were thy life; Yet must we here keep silence, / for he did bid us shun the strife."
Then spake again the Fiddler: / "'Tis all too much of fear, For that a thing's forbidden, / meekly to forbear. Scarce may I deem it valor / worthy good knight to tell." What said his faithful comrade, / did please the doughty Hagen well.
"For proof be not o'er-eager," / Wolfhart quick replied, "Else so I'll tune thy fiddle / that when again ye ride Afar unto Rhine river, / sad tale thou tellest there. Thy haughty words no longer / may I now with honor bear."
Spake once more the Fiddler: / "If e'er the harmony Of my fiddle-strings thou breakest, / thy helmet's sheen shall be Made full dim of lustre / by stroke of this my hand, Howe'er fall out my journey / homeward to Burgundian land."
Then would he rush upon him / but that him did restrain Hildebrand his uncle / who seized him amain. "I ween thou would'st be witless, / by youthful rage misled. My master's favor had'st thou / evermore thus forfeited."
"Let loose the lion, Master, / that doth rage so sore. If but my sword may reach him," / spake Volker further more, "Though he the world entire / by his own might had slain, I'll smite him that an answer / never may he chant again."
Thereat with anger straightway / the men of Bern were filled. Wolfhart, thane right valiant, / grasped in haste his shield, And like to a wild lion / out before them sped. By friends a goodly number / full quickly was he followed.
Though by the hall went striding / ne'er so swift the thane, O'ertook him Master Hildebrand / ere he the steps might gain, For nowise would he let him / be foremost in the fray. In the stranger warriors / worthy foemen soon found they.
Straight saw ye upon Hagen / rush Master Hildebrand, And sword ye heard give music / in each foeman's hand. Sore they were enraged, / as ye soon were ware, For from their swinging broadswords / whirred the ruddy sparks in air.
Yet soon the twain were parted / in the raging fight: The men of Bern so turned it / by their dauntless might. Ere long then was Hildebrand / from Hagen turned away, While that the doughty Wolfhart / the valiant Volker sought to slay.
Upon the helm the Fiddler / he smote with blow so fierce That the sword's keen edges / unto the frame did pierce. With mighty stroke repaid him / the valiant minstrel too, And so belabored Wolfhart / that thick the sparks around him flew.
Hewing they made the fire / from mail-rings scintillate, For each unto the other / bore a deadly hate. Of Bern the thane Wolfwein / at length did part the two,— Which thing might none other / than man of mickle prowess do.
Gunther, knight full gallant, / received with ready hand There the stately warriors / of Amelungen land. Eke did young Giselher / of many a helmet bright, With blood all red and reeking, / cause to grow full dim the light.
Dankwart, Hagen's brother, / was a warrior grim. What erstwhile in combat / had been wrought by him Against the men of Etzel / seemed now as toying vain, As fought with flaming ire / the son of valiant Aldrian.
Ritschart and Gerbart, / Helfrich and Wichart Had oft in storm of battle / with valor borne their part, As now 'fore men of Gunther / they did clear display. Likewise saw ye Wolfbrand / glorious amid the fray.
There old Master Hildebrand / fought as he were wode. Many a doughty warrior / was stricken in the blood By the sword that swinging / in Wolfhart's hand was seen. Thus took dire vengeance / for Ruediger those knights full keen.
Havoc wrought Sir Siegstab / there with might and main. Ho! in the hurly-burly / what helms he cleft in twain Upon the crowns of foemen, / Dietrich's sister's son! Ne'er in storm of battle / had he more feats of valor done.
When the doughty Volker / there aright had seen How many a bloody rivulet / was hewn by Siegstab keen From out the well-wrought mail-rings, / the hero's ire arose. Quick he sprang toward him, / Siegstab then his life must lose.
Ere long time was over, / 'neath the Fiddler's hand, Who of his art did give him / such share to understand That beneath his broadsword / smitten to death he lay. Old Hildebrand avenged him / as bade his mighty arm alway.
"Alack that knight so loved," / spake Master Hildebrand, "Here should thus lie fallen / 'neath Volker's hand. Now lived his latest hour / in sooth this Fiddler hath." Filled was the hero Hildebrand / straightway with a mighty wrath.
With might smote he Volker / that severed flew the band E'en to the hall's wide limit / far on either hand From shield and eke from helmet / borne by the Fiddler keen; Therewith the doughty Volker / reft of life at last had been.
Pressed eager to the combat / Dietrich's warriors true, Smiting that the mail-rings / afar from harness flew, And that the broken sword-points / soaring aloft ye saw, The while that reeking blood-stains / did they from riven helmets draw.
There of Tronje Hagen / beheld Volker dead. In that so bloody carnage / 'twas far the sorest need Of all that did befall him / in death of friend and man. Alack! for him what vengeance / Hagen then to wreak began!
"Therefrom shall profit never / Master Hildebrand. Slain hath been here my helper / 'neath the warrior's hand, The best of feres in battle / that fortune ever sent." His shield upraised he higher / and hewing through the throng he went.
Next saw ye Dankwart / by doughty Helfrich slain, Gunther and Giselher / did full sorely plain, When they beheld him fallen / where fiercely raged the fray. For his death beforehand / dearly did his foemen pay.
The while coursed Wolfhart / thither and back again, Through Gunther's men before him / hewing wide a lane. Thrice in sooth returning / strode he down the hall, And many a lusty warrior / 'neath his doughty hand must fall.
Soon the young Sir Giselher / cried aloud to him: "Alack, that I should ever / find such foeman grim! Sir knight, so bold and noble, / now turn thee here to me. I trow to end thy coursing, / the which will I no longer see."
To Giselher then turned him / Wolfhart in the fight, And gaping wounds full many / did each the other smite. With such a mighty fury / he to the monarch sped That 'neath his feet went flying / the blood e'en high above his head.
With rapid blows and furious / the son of Ute fair Received the valiant Wolfhart / as came he to him there. How strong soe'er the thane was, / his life must ended be. Never king so youthful / might bear himself more valiantly.
Straight he smote Wolfhart / through well-made cuirass, That from the wound all gaping / the flowing blood did pass. Unto death he wounded / Dietrich's liegeman true, Which thing in sooth might never / any save knight full gallant do.
When the valiant Wolfhart / of the wound was ware, His shield flung he from him / and high with hand in air Raised he a mighty weapon / whose keen edge failed not. Through helmet and through mail-rings / Giselher with might he smote.
Grimly each the other / there to death had done. Of Dietrich's men no longer / lived there ever one. When old Master Hildebrand / Wolfhart's fall had seen, In all his life there never / such sorrow him befell, I ween.
Fallen now were Gunther's / warriors every one, And eke the men of Dietrich. / Hildebrand the while had gone Where Wolfhart had fallen / down in pool of blood. In his arms then clasped he / the warrior of dauntless mood.
Forth from the hall to bear him / vainly did he try: But all too great the burden / and there he still must lie. The dying knight looked upward / from his bloody bed And saw how that full gladly / him his uncle thence had led.
Spake he thus mortal wounded: / "Uncle full dear to me, Now mayst thou at such season / no longer helpful be. To guard thee well from Hagen / indeed me seemeth good, For bears he in his bosom / a heart in sooth of grimmest mood.
"And if for me my kinsmen / at my death would mourn, Unto the best and nearest / by thee be message borne That for me they weep not, / —of that no whit is need. At hand of valiant monarch / here lie I gloriously dead.
"Eke my life so dearly / within this hall I've sold, That have sore cause for weeping / the wives of warriors bold. If any make thee question, / then mayst thou freely say That my own hand nigh hundred / warriors hath slain to-day."
Now was Hagen mindful / of the minstrel slain, From whom the valiant Hildebrand / erstwhile his life had ta'en. Unto the Master spake he: / "My woes shalt thou repay. Full many a warrior gallant / thou hast ta'en from us hence away."
He smote upon Hildebrand / that loud was heard the tone Of Balmung resounding / that erst did Siegfried own, But Hagen bold did seize it / when he the hero slew. The old warrior did guard him, / as he was knight of mettle true.
Dietrich's doughty liegeman / with broadsword did smite That did cut full sorely, / upon Tronje's knight; Yet had the man of Gunther / never any harm. Through his cuirass well-jointed / Hagen smote with mighty arm.
Soon as his wound perceived / the aged Hildebrand, Feared he more of damage / to take from Hagen's hand; Across his back full deftly / his shield swung Dietrich's man, And wounded deep, the hero / in flight 'fore Hagen's fury ran.
Now longer lived not any / of all that goodly train Save Gunther and Hagen, / doughty warriors twain. With blood from wound down streaming / fled Master Hildebrand, Whom soon in Dietrich's presence, / saw ye with saddest tidings stand.
He found the chieftain sitting / with sorrow all distraught, Yet mickle more of sadness / unto him he brought. When Dietrich saw how Hildebrand / cuirass all blood-red wore, With fearful heart he questioned, / what the news to him he bore.
"Now tell me, Master Hildebrand, / how thus wet thou be From thy life-blood flowing, / or who so harmeth thee. In hall against the strangers / thou'st drawn thy sword, I ween. 'Twere well my straight denial / here by these had honored been."
Replied he to his master: / "From Hagen cometh all. This deep wound he smote me / there within the hall When I from his fury / thought to turn away. 'Tis marvel that I living / saved me from the fiend this day."
Then of Bern spake Dietrich: / "Aright hast thou thy share, For thou didst hear me friendship / unto these knights declare, And now the peace hast broken, / that I to them did give. If my disgrace it were not, / by this hand no longer shouldst thou live."
"Now be not, Master Dietrich, / so sorely stirred to wrath. On me and on my kinsmen / is wrought too great a scathe. Thence sought we Ruediger / to bear all peacefully, The which by men of Gunther / to us no whit would granted be."
"Ah, woe is me for sorrow! / Is Ruediger then dead, In all my need there never / such grief hath happened. The noble Gotelinde / is cousin fair to me. Alack for the poor orphans / that there in Bechelaren must be!"
Grief and anguish filled him / o'er Ruediger thus slain, Nor might at all the hero / the flowing tears restrain. "Alack for faithful helper / that death from me hath torn. King Etzel's trusty liegeman / never may I cease to mourn.
"Canst thou, Master Hildebrand, / true the tidings say, Who might be the warrior / that Ruediger did slay?" "That did the doughty Gernot / with mighty arm," he said: "Eke at hand of Ruediger / lieth the royal hero dead."
Spake he again to Hildebrand: / "Now let my warriors know, That straightway they shall arm them, / for thither will I go. And bid to fetch hither / my shining mail to me. Myself those knights will question / of the land of Burgundy."
"Who here shall do thee service?" / spake Master Hildebrand; "All that thou hast yet living, / thou seest before thee stand. Of all remain I only; / the others, they are dead." As was in sooth good reason, / filled the tale his soul with dread,
For in his life did never / such woe to him befall. He spake: "Hath death so reft me / of my warriors all, God hath forsaken Dietrich, / ah me, a wretched wight! Sometime a lofty monarch / I was, high throned in wealth and might."
"How might it ever happen?" / Dietrich spake again, "That so worthy heroes / here should all be slain By the battle-weary / strangers thus beset? Ill fortune me hath chosen, / else death had surely spared them yet.
"Since that fate not further / to me would respite give, Then tell me, of the strangers / doth any longer live?" Answered Master Hildebrand: / "God wot, never one Save Hagen, and beside him / Gunther lofty king alone."
"Alack, O faithful Wolfhart, / must I thy death now mourn, Soon have I cause to rue me / that ever I was born. Siegstab and Wolfwein / and eke Wolfbrand! Who now shall be my helpers / in the Amelungen land?
"Helfrich, thane full valiant, / and is he likewise slain? For Gerbart and Wichart / when shall I cease to plain? Of all my life's rejoicing / is this the latest day. Alack that die for sorrow / never yet a mortal may!"
How Gunther and Hagen and Kriemhild were Slain
Himself did then Sir Dietrich / his armor take in hand, To don the which did help him / Master Hildebrand. The doughty chieftain meanwhile / must make so loud complain That from high palace casement / oft came back the sound again.
Natheless his proper humor / soon he did regain, And armed full in anger / stood the worthy thane; A shield all wrought full firmly / took he straight in hand, And forth they strode together, / he and Master Hildebrand.
Spake then of Tronje Hagen: / "Lo, where doth hither wend In wrath his way Sir Dietrich. / 'Tis plain he doth intend On us to wreak sore vengeance / for harm befallen here. To-day be full decided / who may the prize for valor bear!
"Let ne'er of Bern Sir Dietrich / hold him so high of might Nor deem his arm so doughty / and terrible in fight That, will he wreak his anger / on us for sorest scathe,"— Such were the words of Hagen, / —"I dare not well withstand his wrath."
Upon these words defiant / left Dietrich Hildebrand, And to the warriors hither / came where both did stand Without before the palace, / and leaning respite found. His shield well proved in battle / Sir Dietrich lowered to the ground.
Addressed to them Sir Dietrich / these words of sorrowing: "Wherefore hast thou such evil, / Gunther mighty king, Wrought 'gainst me a stranger? / What had I done to thee, Of my every comfort / in such manner reft to be?
"Seemed then not sufficient / the havoc unto you When from us the hero / Ruediger ye slew, That now from me ye've taken / my warriors one and all? Through me did so great sorrow / ne'er to you good knights befall.
"Of your own selves bethink you / and what the scathe ye bore, The death of your companions / and all your travail sore, If not your hearts, good warriors, / thereat do heavy grow. That Ruediger hath fallen, / —ah me! how fills my heart with woe!
"In all this world to any / more sorrow ne'er befell, Yet have ye minded little / my loss and yours as well. Whate'er I most rejoiced in / beneath your hands lies slain; Yea, for my kinsmen fallen / never may I cease to plain."
"No guilt lies here upon us," / Hagen in answer spake. "Unto this hall hither / your knights their way did take, With goodly train of warriors / full armed for the fight. Meseemeth that the story / hath not been told to thee aright."
"What shall I else believe in? / To me told Hildebrand How, when the knights that serve me / of Amelungenland Did beg the corse of Ruediger / to give them from the hall, Nought offered ye but mockings / unto the valiant warriors all."
Then spake the King of Rhineland: / "Ruediger to bear away Came they in company hither; / whose corse to them deny I bade, despiting Etzel, / nor with aught malice more, Whereupon did Wolfhart / begin to rage thereat full sore."
Then spake of Bern the hero: / "'Twas fated so to be. Yet Gunther, noble monarch, / by thy kingly courtesy Amends make for the sorrow / thou here on me hast wrought, That so thy knightly honor / still unsullied be in aught.
"Then yield to me as hostage / thyself and eke thy man; So will I surely hinder, / as with best might I can, That any here in Hunland / harm unto thee shall do: Henceforward shalt thou find me / ever well disposed and true."
"God in heaven forfend it," / Hagen spake again, "That unto thee should yield them / ever warriors twain Who in their strength reliant / all armed before thee stand, And yet 'fore foes defiant / may freely swing a blade in hand."
"So shall ye not," spake Dietrich, / "proffered peace forswear, Gunther and Hagen. / Misfortune such I bear At both your hands, 'tis certain / ye did but do aright, Would ye for so great sorrow / now my heart in full requite.
"I give you my sure promise / and pledge thereto my hand That I will bear you escort / home unto your land; With honors fit I'll lead you, / thereon my life I set, And for your sake sore evil / suffered at your hands forget."
"Ask thou such thing no longer," / Hagen then replied. "For us 'twere little fitting / the tale be bruited wide, That twain of doughty warriors / did yield them 'neath thy hand. Beside thee is none other / now but only Hildebrand."
Then answered Master Hildebrand: / "The hour may come, God wot, Sir Hagen, when thus lightly / disdain it thou shalt not If any man such offer / of peace shall make to thee. Welcome might now my master's / reconciliation be."
"I'd take in sooth his friendship," / Hagen gave reply, "Ere that I so basely / forth from a hall would fly. As thou hast done but lately, / O Master Hildebrand. I weened with greater valor / couldst thou 'fore a foeman stand."
Thereto gave answer Hildebrand: / "From thee reproach like that? Who was then on shield so idle / 'fore the Waskenstein that sat, The while that Spanish Walter / friend after friend laid low? Such valor thou in plenty / hast in thine own self to show."
Outspake then Sir Dietrich: / "Ill fits it warriors bold That they one another / like old wives should scold. Thee forbid I, Hildebrand, / aught to parley more. Ah me, most sad misfortune / weigheth on my heart full sore.
"Let me hear, Sir Hagen," / Dietrich further spake, "What boast ye doughty warriors / did there together make, When that ye saw me hither / come with sword in hand? Thought ye then not singly / me in combat to withstand?"
"In sooth denieth no one," / bold Sir Hagen spake, "That of the same with sword-blow / I would trial make, An but the sword of Niblung / burst not within my hand. Yea, scorn I that to yield us / thus haughtily thou mak'st demand."
When Dietrich now perceived / how Hagen raged amain, Raise his shield full quickly / did the doughty thane. As quick upon him Hagen / adown the perron sprang, And the trusty sword of Niblung / full loud on Dietrich's armor rang.
Then knew full well Sir Dietrich / that the warrior keen Savage was of humor, / and best himself to screen Sought of Bern the hero / from many a murderous blow, Whereby the valiant Hagen / straightway came he well to know.
Eke fear he had of Balmung, / a strong and trusty blade. Each blow meanwhile Sir Dietrich / with cunning art repaid, Till that he dealt to Hagen / a wound both deep and long, Whereat give o'er the struggle / must the valiant knight and strong.
Bethought him then Sir Dietrich: / "Through toil thy strength has fled, And little honor had I / shouldst thou lie before me dead. So will I yet make trial / if I may not subdue Thee unto me as hostage." / Light task 'twas not the same to do.
His shield down cast he from him / and with what strength he found About the knight of Tronje / fast his arms he wound. In such wise was subdued / by him the doughty knight; Gunther the noble monarch / did weep to see his sorry plight.
Bind Hagen then did Dietrich, / and led him where did stand Kriemhild the royal lady, / and gave into her hand Of all the bravest warrior / that ever weapon bore. After her mickle sorrow / had she merry heart once more.
For joy before Sir Dietrich / bent royal Etzel's wife: "Blessed be thou ever / in heart while lasteth life. Through thee is now forgotten / all my dire need; An death do not prevent me, / from me shall ever be thy meed."
Then spake to her Sir Dietrich, / "Take not his life away, High and royal lady, / for full will he repay Thee for the mickle evil / on thee have wrought his hands. Be it not his misfortune / that bound before thee here he stands."
Then bade she forth lead Hagen / to dungeon keep near by, Wherein he lay fast bolted / and hid from every eye. Gunther, the noble monarch, / with loudest voice did say: "The knight of Bern who wrongs me, / whither hath he fled away?"
Meanwhile back towards him / the doughty Dietrich came, And found the royal Gunther / a knight of worthy name. Eke he might bide longer / but down to meet him sprang, And soon with angry clamor / their swords before the palace rang.
How famed soe'er Sir Dietrich / and great the name he bore, With wrath was filled King Gunther, / and eke did rage full sore At thought of grievous sorrow / suffered at his hand: Still tell they as high wonder / how Dietrich might his blows withstand.
In store of doughty valor / each did nothing lack. From palace and from tower / the din of blows came back As on well-fastened helmets / the lusty swords came down, And royal Gunther's valor / in the fight full clear was shown.
The knight of Bern yet tamed him / as Hagen erst befell, And oozing through his armor / the blood was seen to swell From cut of sharpest weapon / in Dietrich's arm that swung. Right worthily King Gunther / had borne him after labors long.
Bound was then the monarch / by Sir Dietrich's hand, Albeit bonds should suffer / ne'er king of any land. But deemed he, if King Gunther / and Hagen yet were free, Secure might never any / from their searching vengeance be.
When in such manner Dietrich / the king secure had bound By the hand he led him / where Kriemhild he found. At sight of his misfortune / did sorrow from her flee: Quoth she: "Welcome Gunther / from out the land of Burgundy."
He spake: "Then might I thank thee, / sister of high degree, When that some whit more gracious / might thy greeting be. So angry art thou minded / ever yet, O queen, Full spare shall be thy greeting / to Hagen and to me, I ween."
Then spake of Bern the hero: / "Ne'er till now, O queen, Given o'er as hostage / have knights so worthy been, As I, O lofty lady, / in these have given to thee: I pray thee higher evils / to spare them now for sake of me."
She vowed to do it gladly. / Then forth Sir Dietrich went With weeping eyes to see there / such knights' imprisonment. In grimmest ways thereafter / wreaked vengeance Etzel's wife: Beneath her hand those chosen / warriors twain must end their life.
She let them lie asunder / the less at ease to be, Nor did each the other / thenceforward ever see Till that unto Hagen / her brother's head she bore. In sooth did Kriemhild vengeance / wreak upon the twain full sore.
Forth where she should find Hagen / the queen her way did take, And in right angry manner / she to the warrior spake: "An thou wilt but restore me / that thou hast ta'en from me, So may'st thou come yet living / home to the land of Burgundy."
Answered thereto grim Hagen: / "'Twere well thy breath to save, Full high and royal lady. / Sworn by my troth I have That I the hoard will tell not; / the while that yet doth live Of my masters any, / the treasure unto none I'll give."
"Then ended be the story," / the noble lady spake. She bade them from her brother / straightway his life to take. His head they struck from off him, / which by the hair she bore Unto the thane of Tronje. / Thereat did grieve the knight full sore.
When that he in horror / his master's head had seen, Cried the doughty warrior / unto Kriemhild the queen: "Now is thy heart's desire / at length accomplished. And eke hath all befallen / as my foreboding heart hath said.
"Dead lieth now the noble / king of Burgundy, Also youthful Giselher / and Sir Gernot eke doth he. The treasure no one knoweth / but God and me alone, Nor e'er by thee, she-devil, / shall its hiding-place be known."
Quoth she: "But ill requital / hast thou made to me. Yet mine the sword of Siegfried / now henceforth shall be, The which when last I saw him, / my loved husband bore, In whom on me such sorrow / through guilt of thine doth weigh full sore."
She drew it from the scabbard, / nor might he say her nay, Though thought she from the warrior / his life to take away. With both hands high she raised it / and off his head struck she, Whereat did grieve King Etzel / full sore the sorry sight to see.
"To arms!" cried then the monarch: / "here lieth foully slain Beneath the hand of woman / of all the doughtiest thane That e'er was seen in battle / or ever good shield bore! Though foeman howsoever, / yet grieveth this my heart full sore."
Quoth then the aged Hildebrand: / "Reap no gain she shall, That thus she dared to slay him. / Whate'er to me befall, And though myself in direst / need through him have been, By me shall be avenged / the death of Tronje's knight full keen."
In wrathful mood then Hildebrand / unto Kriemhild sprung, And 'gainst the queen full swiftly / his massy blade he swung. Aloud she then in terror / 'fore Hildebrand did wail, Yet that she shrieked so loudly, / to save her what might that avail?
So all those warriors fated / by hand of death lay strewn, And e'en the queen full lofty / in pieces eke was hewn. Dietrich and royal Etzel / at length to weep began, And grievously they mourned / kinsmen slain and many a man.
Who late stood high in honor / now in death lay low, And fate of all the people / weeping was and woe. To mourning now the monarch's / festal tide had passed, As falls that joy to sorrow / turneth ever at the last.
Nor can I tell you further / what later did befall, But that good knights and ladies / saw ye mourning all, And many a noble squire, / for friends in death laid low. Here hath the story ending, / —that is the Nibelungen woe.