So into the hall went Sigurd; and amidst was Gripir set In a chair of the sea-beast's tooth; and his sweeping beard nigh met The floor that was green as the ocean, and his gown was of mountain-gold, And the kingly staff in his hand was knobbed with the crystal cold.
Now the first of the twain spake Gripir: "Hail King with the eyen bright! Nought needest thou show the token, for I know of thy life and thy light. And no need to tell of thy message; it was wafted here on the wind, That thou wouldst be coming today a horse in my meadow to find: And strong must he be for the bearing of those deeds of thine that shall be. Now choose thou of all the way-wearers that are running loose in my lea."
* * * * *
Then again gat Sigurd outward, and adown the steep he ran And unto the horse-fed meadow: but lo, a grey-clad man, One-eyed and seeming ancient, there met him by the way: And he spake: "Thou hastest, Sigurd; yet tarry till I say A word that shall well bestead thee: for I know of these mountains well And all the lea of Gripir, and the beasts that thereon dwell."
"Wouldst thou have red gold for thy tidings? art thou Gripir's horse-herd then? Nay sure, for thy face is shining like the battle-eager men My master Regin tells of: and I love thy cloud-grey gown, And thy visage gleams above it like a thing my dreams have known."
"Nay whiles have I heeded the horse-kind," then spake that elder of days, "And sooth do the sages say, when the beasts of my breeding they praise. There is one thereof in the meadow, and, wouldst thou cull him out, Thou shalt follow an elder's counsel, who hath brought strange things about, Who hath known thy father aforetime, and other kings of thy kin."
So Sigurd said, "I am ready; and what is the deed to win?" He said: "We shall drive the horses adown to the water-side, That cometh forth from the mountains, and note what next shall betide."
Then the twain sped on together, and they drave the horses on Till they came to a rushing river, a water wide and wan; And the white mews hovered o'er it; but none might hear their cry For the rush and the rattle of waters, as the downlong flood swept by. So the whole herd took the river and strove the stream to stem, And many a brave steed was there; but the flood o'ermastered them: And some, it swept them down-ward, and some won back to bank, Some, caught by the net of the eddies, in the swirling hubbub sank; But one of all swam over, and they saw his mane of grey Toss over the flowery meadows, a bright thing far away: Wide then he wheeled about them, then took the stream again And with the waves' white horses mingled his cloudy mane.
Then spake the elder of days: "Hearken now, Sigurd, and hear; Time was when I gave thy father a gift thou shalt yet deem dear, And this horse is a gift of my giving:—heed nought where thou mayst ride: For I have seen thy fathers in a shining house abide, And on earth they thought of its threshold, and the gifts I had to give; Nor prayed for a little longer, and a little longer to live."
Then forth he strode to the mountains, and fain was Sigurd now. To ask him many a matter: but dim did his bright shape grow, As a man from the litten doorway fades into the dusk of night; And the sun in the high-noon shone, and the world was exceeding bright.
So Sigurd turned to the river and stood by the wave-wet strand, And the grey horse swims to his feet and lightly leaps aland, And the youngling looks upon him, and deems none beside him good. And indeed, as tells the story, he was come of Sleipnir's blood, The tireless horse of Odin: cloud-grey he was of hue, And it seemed as Sigurd backed him that Sigmund's son he knew, So glad he went beneath him. Then the youngling's song arose As he brushed through the noontide blossoms of Gripir's mighty close, Then he singeth the song of Greyfell, the horse that Odin gave, Who swam through the sweeping river, and back through the toppling wave.
Regin telleth Sigurd of his kindred, and of the Gold that was accursed from ancient days.
Now yet the days pass over, and more than words may tell Grows Sigurd strong and lovely, and all children love him well. But oft he looks on the mountains and many a time is fain To know of what lies beyond them, and learn of the wide world's gain.
* * * * *
Now again it happed on a day that he sat in Regin's hall And hearkened many tidings of what had chanced to fall, And of kings that sought their kingdoms o'er many a waste and wild, And at last saith the crafty master: "Thou art King Sigmund's child: Wilt thou wait till these kings of the carles shall die in a little land, Or wilt thou serve their sons and carry the cup to their hand; Or abide in vain for the day that never shall come about, When their banners shall dance in the wind and shake to the war-gods' shout?"
Then Sigurd answered and said: "Nought such do I look to be. But thou, a deedless man, too much thou eggest me: And these folk are good and trusty, and the land is lovely and sweet, And in rest and in peace it lieth as the floor of Odin's feet: Yet I know that the world is wide, and filled with deeds unwrought; And for e'en such work was I fashioned, lest the songcraft come to nought."
* * * * *
Then answered Regin the guileful: "The deed is ready to hand, Yet holding my peace is the best, for well thou lovest the land; And thou lovest thy life moreover, and the peace of thy youthful days, And why should the full-fed feaster his hand to the rye-bread raise? Yet they say that Sigmund begat thee and he looked to fashion a man. Fear nought; he lieth quiet in his mound by the sea-waves wan."
So shone the eyes of Sigurd, that the shield against him hung Cast back their light as the sunbeams; but his voice to the roof-tree rung: "Tell me, thou Master of Masters, what deed is the deed I shall do? Nor mock thou the son of Sigmund lest the day of his birth thou rue."
Then answered the Master of Sleight: "The deed is the righting of wrong, And the quelling a bale and a sorrow that the world hath endured o'erlong, And the winning a treasure untold, that shall make thee more than the kings; Thereof is the Helm of Aweing, the wonder of earthly things, And thereof is its very fellow, the War-Coat all of gold, That has not its like in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told."
Then answered Sigurd the Volsung: "How long hereof hast thou known? And what unto thee is this treasure, that thou seemest to give as thine own?"
"Alas!" quoth the smithying master, "it is mine, yet none of mine, Since my heart herein avails not, and my hand is frail and fine— It is long since I first came hither to seek a man for my need; For I saw by a glimmering light that hence would spring the deed, And many a deed of the world: but the generations passed, And the first of the days was as near to the end that I sought as the last; Till I looked on thine eyes in the cradle: and now I deem through thee, That the end of my days of waiting, and the end of my woes shall be."
Then Sigurd awhile was silent; but at last he answered and said: "Thou shalt have thy will and the treasure, and shalt take the curse on thine head If a curse the gold enwrappeth: but the deed will I surely do, For today the dreams of my childhood hath bloomed in my heart anew: And I long to look on the world and the glory of the earth And to deal in the dealings of men, and garner the harvest of worth. But tell me, thou Master of Masters, where lieth this measureless wealth; Is it guarded by swords of the earl-folk, or kept by cunning and stealth? Is it over the main sea's darkness, or beyond the mountain wall? Or e'en in these peaceful acres anigh to the hands of all?"
Then Regin answered sweetly: "Hereof must a tale be told: Bide sitting, thou son of Sigmund, on the heap of unwrought gold, And hearken of wondrous matters, and of things unheard, unsaid, And deeds of my beholding ere the first of Kings was made.
"And first ye shall know of a sooth, that I never was born of the race Which the masters of God-home have made to cover the fair earth's face; But I come of the Dwarfs departed; and fair was the earth whileome Ere the short-lived thralls of the Gods amidst its dales were come.
* * * * *
"It was Reidmar the Ancient begat me; and now was he waxen old, And a covetous man and a king; and he bade, and I built him a hall, And a golden glorious house; and thereto his sons did he call, And he bade them be evil and wise, that his will through them might be wrought. Then he gave unto Fafnir my brother the soul that feareth nought, And the brow of the hardened iron, and the hand that may never fail, And the greedy heart of a king, and the ear that hears no wail.
"But next unto Otter my brother he gave the snare and the net, And the longing to wend through the wild-wood, and wade the highways wet: And the foot that never resteth, while aught be left alive That hath cunning to match man's cunning or might with his might to strive.
"And to me, the least and the youngest, what gift for the slaying of ease? Save the grief that remembers the past, and the fear that the future sees; And the hammer and fashioning-iron, and the living coal of fire; And the craft that createth a semblance, and fails of the heart's desire; And the toil that each dawning quickens and the task that is never done; And the heart that longeth ever, nor will look to the deed that is won.
"Thus gave my father the gifts that might never be taken again; Far worse were we now than the Gods, and but little better than men. But yet of our ancient might one thing had we left us still: We had craft to change our semblance, and could shift us at our will Into bodies of the beast-kind, or fowl, or fishes cold;
* * * * *
"So dwelt we, brethren and father; and Fafnir my brother fared As the scourge and compeller of all things, and left no wrong undared; But for me, I toiled and I toiled; and fair grew my father's house; But writhen and foul were the hands that had made it glorious;
* * * * *
"And myself a little fragment amidst it all I saw, Grim, cold-hearted, and unmighty as the tempest-driven straw. —Let be.—For Otter my brother saw seldom field or fold, And he oftenest used that custom, whereof e'en now I told, And would shift his shape with the wood-beasts and the things of land and sea; And he knew what joy their hearts had, and what they longed to be, And their dim-eyed understanding, and his wood-craft waxed so great, That he seemed the king of the creatures and their very mortal fate.
"Now as the years won over three folk of the heavenly halls Grew aweary of sleepless sloth, and the day that nought befalls; And they fain would look on the earth, and their latest handiwork, And turn the fine gold over, lest a flaw therein should lurk. And the three were the heart-wise Odin, the Father of the Slain, And Loki, the World's Begrudger, who maketh all labour vain, And Hoenir, the Utter-Blameless, who wrought the hope of man, And his heart and inmost yearnings, when first the work began;—"
The three wandered over the earth till they came to a mighty river, haunted for long by Otter, by reason of its great wealth of fish. There he lay on the bank, and as he watched the fish in the water his shape was changed to that of a true otter, and he began to devour a golden trout. Two of the gods would have passed without stay, but in the otter Loki saw an enemy, and straightway killed him, rejoicing over his dead body.
As night fell the three gods came to a great hall, wondrously wrought and carved, with golden hangings and forests of pillars. In the midst of the hall sat a king on an ivory throne, and his garments were made of purple from the sea. Kind welcome he gave to the wanderers, and there they feasted and delighted in music and song; but even as they drank and made merry they knew they were caught in the snare.
The king's welcome changed to scornful laughter, and thus he spoke: "Truly are ye gods, but ye are come to people who want you not. Before ye were known to us, still was the winter cold, and the summer warm, and still could we find meat and drink. I am Reidmar, and ye come straight from the slaying of Reidmar's son. Shall I not then take the vengeance I will? Unless, indeed, ye give me the treasure I covet, and then shall ye go your way. This is my sentence. Choose ye which ye will."
Then spake the wise Allfather and prayed Reidmar to unsay his word, and cease to desire the gold. But Reidmar the Wise, and Fafnir the Lord, and Regin the Worker cried aloud in their wrath:—
"'O hearken Gods of the Goths! ye shall die, and we shall be Gods, And rule your men beloved with bitter-heavy rods, And make them beasts beneath us, save today ye do our will, And pay us the ransom of blood, and our hearts with the gold fulfill.'
"But Odin spake in answer, and his voice was awful and cold: 'Give righteous doom, O Reidmar! say what ye will of the Gold!'
"Then Reidmar laughed in his heart, and his wrath and his wisdom fled, And nought but his greed abided; and he spake from his throne and said:
"'Now hearken the doom I shall speak! Ye stranger-folk shall be free When ye give me the Flame of the Waters, the gathered Gold of the Sea, That Andvari hideth rejoicing in the wan realm pale as the grave; And the Master of Sleight shall fetch it, and the hand that never gave, And the heart that begrudgeth for ever shall gather and give and rue. —Lo this is the doom of the wise, and no doom shall be spoken anew.'
"Then Odin spake: 'It is well; the Curser shall seek for the curse; And the Greedy shall cherish the evil—and the seed of the Great they shall nurse.'
"No word spake Reidmar the great, for the eyes of his heart were turned To the edge of the outer desert, so sore for the gold he yearned. But Loki I loosed from the toils, and he goeth his way abroad; And the heart of Odin he knoweth, and where he shall seek the Hoard.
"There is a desert of dread in the uttermost part of the world, Where over a wall of mountains is a mighty water hurled, Whose hidden head none knoweth, nor where it meeteth the sea; And that force is the Force of Andvari, and an Elf of the Dark is he. In the cloud and the desert he dwelleth amid that land alone; And his work is the storing of treasure within his house of stone. Time was when he knew of wisdom, and had many a tale to tell Of the days before the Dwarf-age, and of what in that world befell: And he knew of the stars and the sun, and the worlds that come and go On the nether rim of heaven, and whence the wind doth blow, And how the sea hangs balanced betwixt the curving lands, And how all drew together for the first Gods' fashioning hands. But now is all gone from him, save the craft of gathering gold, And he heedeth nought of the summer, nor knoweth the winter cold, Nor looks to the sun nor the snowfall, nor ever dreams of the sea, Nor hath heard of the making of men-folk, nor of where the high Gods be; But ever he gripeth and gathereth, and he toileth hour by hour, Nor knoweth the noon from the midnight as he looks on his stony bower, And saith: 'It is short, it is narrow for all I shall gather and get; For the world is but newly fashioned, and long shall its years be yet.'
"There Loki fareth, and seeth in a land of nothing good, Far off o'er the empty desert, the reek of the falling flood Go up to the floor of heaven, and thither turn his feet As he weaveth the unseen meshes and the snare of strong deceit; So he cometh his ways to the water, where the glittering foam-bow glows, And the huge flood leaps the rock-wall and a green arch over it throws. There under the roof of water he treads the quivering floor, And the hush of the desert is felt amid the water's roar, And the bleak sun lighteth the wave-vault, and tells of the fruitless plain, And the showers that nourish nothing, and the summer come in vain.
"There did the great Guile-master his toils and his tangles set, And as wide as was the water, so wide was woven the net; And as dim as the Elf's remembrance did the meshes of it show; And he had no thought of sorrow, nor spared to come and go On his errands of griping and getting till he felt himself tangled and caught: Then back to his blinded soul was his ancient wisdom brought, And he saw his fall and his ruin, as a man by the lightning's flame Sees the garth all flooded by foemen; and again he remembered his name; And e'en as a book well written the tale of the Gods he knew, And the tale of the making of men, and much of the deeds they should do.
* * * * *
"Then Andvari groaned and answered: 'I know what thou wouldst have, The wealth mine own hands gathered, the gold that no man gave.'
"'Come forth,' said Loki, 'and give it, and dwell in peace henceforth— Or die in the toils if thou listeth, if thy life be nothing worth.'
"Full sore the Elf lamented, but he came before the God, And the twain went into the rock-house and on fine gold they trod, And the walls shone bright, and brighter than the sun of the upper air. How great was that treasure of treasures: and the Helm of Dread was there; The world but in dreams had seen it; and there was the hauberk of gold; None other is in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told.
"Then Loki bade the Elf-king bring all to the upper day, And he dight himself with his Godhead to bear the treasure away: So there in the dim grey desert before the God of Guile, Great heaps of the hid-world's treasure the weary Elf must pile, And Loki looked on laughing: but, when it all was done, And the Elf was hurrying homeward, his finger gleamed in the sun: Then Loki cried: 'Thou art guileful: thou hast not learned the tale Of the wisdom that Gods hath gotten and their might of all avail.
* * * * *
"'Come hither again to thy master, and give the ring to me; For meseems it is Loki's portion, and the Bale of Men shall it be.'
"Then the Elf drew off the gold-ring and stood with empty hand E'en where the flood fell over 'twixt the water and the land, And he gazed on the great Guile-master, and huge and grim he grew; And his anguish swelled within him, and the word of the Norns he knew; How that gold was the seed of gold to the wise and the shapers of things, The hoarders of hidden treasure, and the unseen glory of rings; But the seed of woe to the world and the foolish wasters of men, And grief to the generations that die and spring again: Then he cried: 'There farest thou Loki, and might I load thee worse Than with what thine ill heart beareth, then shouldst thou bear my curse: But for men a curse thou bearest: entangled in my gold, Amid my woe abideth another woe untold. Two brethren and a father, eight kings my grief shall slay; And the hearts of queens shall be broken, and their eyes shall loathe the day.'
* * * * *
"But Loki laughed in silence, and swift in Godhead went, To the golden hall of Reidmar and the house of our content. But when that world of treasure was laid within our hall 'Twas as if the sun were minded to live 'twixt wall and wall, And all we stood by and panted. Then Odin spake and said:
"'O Kings, O folk of the Dwarf-kind, lo, the ransom duly paid! Will ye have this sun of the ocean, and reap the fruitful field, And garner up the harvest that earth therefrom shall yield.'
"So he spake; but a little season nought answered Reidmar the wise, But turned his face from the Treasure, and peered with eager eyes Endlong the hall and athwart it, as a man may chase about A ray of the sun of the morning that a naked sword throws out; And lo from Loki's right-hand came the flash of the fruitful ring, And at last spake Reidmar scowling: 'Ye wait for my yea-saying That your feet may go free on the earth, and the fear of my toils may be done; That then ye may say in your laughter: The fools of the time agone! The purblind eyes of the Dwarf-kind! they have gotten the garnered sheaf And have let their Masters depart with the Seed of Gold and of Grief: O Loki, friend of Allfather, cast down Andvari's ring, Or the world shall yet turn backward and the high heavens lack a king.'
"Then Loki drew off the Elf-ring and cast it down on the heap, And forth as the gold met gold did the light of its glory leap: But he spake: 'It rejoiceth my heart that no whit of all ye shall lack. Lest the curse of the Elf-king cleave not, and ye 'scape the utter wrack.'
Then Regin loosed the shackles of the gods and they departed into the night, but Odin stayed in the doorway and thus he spake: "Why do ye thus desire treasure and take sorrow to yourselves? Know ye not that I was before your fathers' fathers, and that I can foresee your fate, and the end of the gold ye covet? I am the Wise One who ordereth all."
Then they went, but Regin afterwards often recalled Odin's words and the evening filled with the gleam of the gold, but little cared he then, so well he loved the gold. And he prayed his father to keep the treasure, but give a little unto him and Fafnir for the help they had given him that day.
His father in no wise heeded his words, but sat ever on his ivory throne, staring moodily at the gold. But Fafnir grew fierce and grim as he watched him.
"The night waned into the morning, and still above the Hoard Sat Reidmar clad in purple; but Fafnir took his sword, And I took my smithying-hammer, and apart in the world we went; But I came aback in the even, and my heart was heavy and spent; And I longed, but fear was upon me and I durst not go to the Gold; So I lay in the house of my toil mid the things I had fashioned of old; And methought as I lay in my bed 'twixt waking and slumber of night That I heard the tinkling metal and beheld the hall alight, But I slept and dreamed of the Gods, and the things that never have slept, Till I woke to a cry and a clashing and forth from the bed I leapt, And there by the heaped-up Elf-gold my brother Fafnir stood, And there at his feet lay Reidmar and reddened the Treasure with blood; And e'en as I looked on his eyen they glazed and whitened with death, And forth on the torch-litten hall he shed his latest breath.
"But I looked on Fafnir and trembled for he wore the Helm of Dread, And his sword was bare in his hand, and the sword and the hand were red With the blood of our father Reidmar, and his body was wrapped in gold, With the ruddy-gleaming mailcoat of whose fellow hath nought been told, And it seemed as I looked upon him that he grew beneath mine eyes: And then in the mid-hall's silence did his dreadful voice arise:
"'I have slain my father Reidmar, that I alone might keep The Gold of the darksome places, the Candle of the Deep. I am such as the Gods have made me, lest the Dwarf-kind people the earth, Or mingle their ancient wisdom with its short-lived latest birth. I shall dwell alone henceforward, and the Gold and its waxing curse, I shall brood on them both together, let my life grow better or worse. And I am a King henceforward and long shall be my life, And the Gold shall grow with my longing, for I shall hide it from strife,' And hoard up the Ring of Andvari in the house thine hand hath built. O thou, wilt thou tarry and tarry, till I cast thy blood on the guilt? Lo, I am a King for ever, and alone on the Gold shall I dwell And do no deed to repent of and leave no tale to tell.'
"More awful grew his visage as he spake the word of dread, And no more durst I behold him, but with heart a-cold I fled; I fled from the glorious house my hands had made so fair, As poor as the new-born baby with nought of raiment or gear: I fled from the heaps of gold, and my goods were the eager will, And the heart that remembereth all, and the hand that may never be still.
"Then unto this land I came, and that was long ago. As men-folk count the years; and I taught them to reap and to sow,
* * * * *
"And I grew the master of masters—Think thou how strange it is That the sword in the hands of a stripling shall one day end all this!
"Yet oft mid all my wisdom did I long for my brother's part, And Fafnir's mighty kingship weighed heavy on my heart When the Kings of the earthly kingdoms would give me golden gifts From out of their scanty treasures, due pay for my cunning shifts. And once—didst thou number the years thou wouldst think it long ago— I wandered away to the country from whence our stem did grow.
* * * * *
"Then I went to the pillared hall-stead, and lo, huge heaps of gold, And to and fro amidst them a mighty Serpent rolled: Then my heart grew chill with terror, for I thought on the wont of our race, And I, who had lost their cunning, was a man in a deadly place, A feeble man and a swordless in the lone destroyer's fold; For I knew that the Worm was Fafnir, the Wallower on the Gold.
"So I gathered my strength and fled, and hid my shame again Mid the foolish sons of men-folk; and the more my hope was vain, The more I longed for the Treasure, and deliv'rance from the yoke: And yet passed the generations, and I dwelt with the short-lived folk.
"Long years, and long years after, the tale of men-folk told How up on the Glittering Heath was the house and the dwelling of gold, And within that house was the Serpent, and the Lord of the Fearful Face: Then I wondered sore of the desert; for I thought of the golden place My hands of old had builded; for I knew by many a sign That the Fearful Face was my brother, that the blood of the Worm was mine. This was ages long ago, and yet in that desert he dwells, Betwixt him and men death lieth, and no man of his semblance tells; But the tale of the great Gold-wallower is never the more outworn. Then came thy kin, O Sigurd, and thy father's father was born, And I fell to the dreaming of dreams, and I saw thine eyes therein, And I looked and beheld thy glory and all that thy sword should win; And I thought that thou shouldst be he, who should bring my heart its rest, That of all the gifts of the Kings thy sword should give me the best.
"Ah, I fell to the dreaming of dreams; and oft the gold I saw, And the golden-fashioned Hauberk, clean-wrought without a flaw, And the Helm that aweth the world; and I knew of Fafnir's heart That his wisdom was greater than mine, because he had held him apart, Nor spilt on the sons of men-folk our knowledge of ancient days, Nor bartered one whit for their love, nor craved for the people's praise.
"And some day I shall have it all, his gold and his craft and his heart And the gathered and garnered wisdom he guards in the mountains apart."
* * * * *
And he spake: "Hast thou hearkened, Sigurd, wilt thou help a man that is old To avenge him for his father? Wilt thou win that Treasure of Gold And be more than the Kings of the earth? Wilt thou rid the earth of a wrong And heal the woe and the sorrow my heart hath endured o'erlong?"
Then Sigurd looked upon him with steadfast eyes and clear, And Regin drooped and trembled as he stood the doom to hear: But the bright child spake as aforetime, and answered the Master and said: "Thou shalt have thy will, and the Treasure, and take the curse on thine head."
Of the forging of the Sword that is called The Wrath of Sigurd.
* * * * *
But when the morrow was come he went to his mother and spake: "The shards, the shards of the sword, that thou gleanedst for my sake In the night on the field of slaughter, in the tide when my father fell, Hast thou kept them through sorrow and joyance? hast thou warded them trusty and well? Where hast thou laid them, my mother?" Then she looked upon him and said: "Art thou wroth, O Sigurd my son, that such eyes are in thine head? And wilt thou be wroth with thy mother? do I withstand thee at all?"
"Nay," said he, "nought am I wrathful, but the days rise up like a wall Betwixt my soul and the deeds, and I strive to rend them through.
* * * * *
"Now give me the sword, my mother, that Sigmund gave thee to keep."
She said: "I shall give it thee gladly, for fain shall I be of thy praise When thou knowest my careful keeping of that hope of the earlier days."
So she took his hand in her hand, and they went their ways, they twain; Till they came to the treasure of queen-folk, the guarded chamber of gain: They were all alone with its riches, and she turned the key in the gold, And lifted the sea-born purple, and the silken web unrolled, And lo, 'twixt her hands and her bosom the shards of Sigmund's sword; No rust-fleck stained its edges, and the gems of the ocean's hoard Were as bright in the hilts and glorious, as when in the Volsungs' hall It shone in the eyes of the earl-folk and flashed from the shielded wall.
But Sigurd smiled upon it, and he said: "O Mother of Kings, Well hast thou warded the war-glaive for a mirror of many things, And a hope of much fulfilment: well hast thou given to me The message of my fathers, and the word of thing to be: Trusty hath been thy warding, but its hour is over now: These shards shall be knit together, and shall hear the war-wind blow."
* * * * *
Then she felt his hands about her as he took the fateful sword, And he kissed her soft and sweetly; but she answered never a word:
* * * * *
But swift on his ways went Sigurd, and to Regin's house he came, Where the Master stood in the doorway and behind him leapt the flame, And dark he looked and little: no more his speech was sweet, No words on his lip were gathered the Volsung child to greet, Till he took the sword from Sigurd and the shards of the days of old; Then he spake: "Will nothing serve thee save this blue steel and cold, The bane of thy father's father, the fate of all his kin, The baleful blade I fashioned, the Wrath that the Gods would win?"
Then answered the eye-bright Sigurd: "If thou thy craft wilt do, Nought save these battle-gleanings shall be my helper true:"
So Regin welded together the shards of Sigmund's sword, and wrought the Wrath of Sigurd, whose hilts were great and along whose edge ran a living flame so that men thought it like sunlight and lightning mingled. Then on Greyfell, with the Wrath girt by his side, Sigurd rode to the hall of Gripir, who told him of deeds to be and of the fate that would befall him. In no wise was Sigurd troubled, but smiled as a happy child, and together they talked of the deeds of the kings of the Earth, of the wonders of Heaven, and of the Queen of the Sea.
And Sigurd told Gripir that he indeed was wise above all men, but for himself had the Wrath been fashioned, and he was ready to ride to the Glittering Heath. So they took leave of one another, and as the sky grew blood-red in the West, and the birds were flying homeward, Sigurd drew near to Regin's dwelling.
Sigurd rideth to the Glittering Heath.
Again on the morrow morning doth Sigurd the Volsung ride, And Regin, the Master of Masters, is faring by his side, And they leave the dwelling of kings and ride the summer land, Until at the eve of the day the hills are on either hand; Then they wend up higher and higher, and over the heaths they fare Till the moon shines broad on the midnight, and they sleep 'neath the heavens bare; And they waken and look behind them, and lo, the dawning of day And the little land of the Helper and its valleys far away; But the mountains rise before them, a wall exceeding great.
Then spake the Master of Masters: "We have come to the garth and the gate; There is youth and rest behind thee and many a thing to do, There is many a fond desire, and each day born anew; And the land of the Volsungs to conquer, and many a people's praise: And for me there is rest it may be, and the peaceful end of days. We have come to the garth and the gate; to the hall-door now shall we win, Shall we go to look on the high-seat and see what sitteth therein?"
"Yea, and what else?" said Sigurd, "was thy tale but mockeries, And have I been drifted hither on a wind of empty lies?"
"It was sooth, it was sooth," said Regin, "and more might I have told Had I heart and space to remember the deeds of the days of old."
* * * * *
Day-long they fared through the mountains, and that highway's fashioner, Forsooth, was a fearful craftsman, and his hands the waters were, And the heaped-up ice was his mattock, and the fire-blast was his man, And never a whit he heeded though his walls were waste and wan, And the guest-halls of that wayside great heaps of the ashes spent. But, each as a man alone, through the sun-bright day they went, And they rode till the moon rose upward, and the stars were small and fair, Then they slept on the long-slaked ashes beneath the heavens bare; And the cold dawn came and they wakened, and the King of the Dwarf-kind seemed As a thing of that wan land fashioned; but Sigurd glowed and gleamed Amid a shadowless twilight by Greyfell's cloudy flank, As a little space they abided while the latest star-world shrank; On the backward road looked Regin and heard how Sigurd drew The girths of Greyfell's saddle, and the voice of his sword he knew,
* * * * *
And his war-gear clanged and tinkled as he leapt to the saddle-stead: And the sun rose up at their backs and the grey world changed to red, And away to the west went Sigurd by the glory wreathed about, But little and black was Regin as a fire that dieth out. Day-long they rode the mountains by the crags exceeding old, And the ash that the first of the Dwarf-kind found dull and quenched and cold. Then the moon in the mid-sky swam, and the stars were fair and pale, And beneath the naked heaven they slept in an ash-grey dale; And again at the dawn-dusk's ending they stood upon their feet, And Sigurd donned his war-gear nor his eyes would Regin meet.
A clear streak widened in heaven low down above the earth; And above it lay the cloud-flecks, and the sun, anigh its birth, Unseen, their hosts was staining with the very hue of blood, And ruddy by Greyfell's shoulder the Son of Sigmund stood.
Then spake the Master of Masters: "What is thine hope this morn That thou dightest thee, O Sigurd, to ride this world forlorn?"
"What needeth hope," said Sigurd, "when the heart of the Volsungs turns To the light of the Glittering Heath, and the house where the Waster burns? I shall slay the Foe of the Gods, as thou badst me a while agone, And then with the Gold and its wisdom shalt thou be left alone."
"O Child," said the King of the Dwarf-kind, "when the day at last comes round For the dread and the Dusk of the Gods, and the kin of the Wolf is unbound, When thy sword shall hew the fire, and the wildfire beateth thy shield, Shalt thou praise the wages of hope and the Gods that pitched the field?"
"O Foe of the Gods," said Sigurd, "wouldst thou hide the evil thing, And the curse that is greater than thou, lest death end thy labouring, Lest the night should come upon thee amidst thy toil for nought? It is me, it is me that thou fearest, if indeed I know thy thought; Yea me, who would utterly light the face of all good and ill, If not with the fruitful beams that the summer shall fulfill, Then at least with the world a-blazing, and the glare of the grinded sword.
* * * * *
"I have hearkened not nor heeded the words of thy fear and thy ruth: Thou hast told thy tale and thy longing, and thereto I hearkened well:— Let it lead thee up to heaven, let it lead thee down to hell, The deed shall be done tomorrow: thou shalt have that measureless Gold, And devour the garnered wisdom that blessed thy realm of old, That hath lain unspent and begrudged in the very heart of hate: With the blood and the might of thy brother thine hunger shalt thou sate; And this deed shall be mine and thine; but take heed for what followeth then! Let each do after his kind! I shall do the deeds of men; I shall harvest the field of their sowing, in the bed of their strewing shall sleep; To them shall I give my life-days, to the Gods my glory to keep. But them with the wealth and the wisdom that the best of the Gods might praise, If thou shall indeed excel them and become the hope of the days, Then me in turn hast thou conquered, and I shall be in turn Thy fashioned brand of the battle through good and evil to burn, Or the flame that sleeps in thy stithy for the gathered winds to blow, When thou listest to do and undo and thine uttermost cunning to show. But indeed I wot full surely that thou shalt follow thy kind; And for all that cometh after, the Norns shall loose and bind."
Then his bridle-reins rang sweetly, and the warding-walls of death, And Regin drew up to him, and the Wrath sang loud in the sheath, And forth from that trench in the mountains by the westward way they ride; And little and black goes Regin by the golden Volsung's side;
* * * * *
So ever they wended upward, and the midnight hour was o'er, And the stars grew pale and paler, and failed from the heaven's floor, And the moon was a long while dead, but where was the promise of day? No change came over the darkness, no streak of the dawning grey; No sound of the wind's uprising adown the night there ran: It was blind as the Gaping Gulf ere the first of the worlds began.
Then athwart and athwart rode Sigurd and sought the walls of the pass, But found no wall before him; and the road rang hard as brass Beneath the hoofs of Greyfell, as up and up he trod: —Was it the daylight of Hell, or the night of the doorway of God? But lo, at the last a glimmer, and a light from the west there came, And another and another, like points of far-off flame; And they grew and brightened and gathered; and whiles together they ran Like the moonwake over the waters; and whiles they were scant and wan, Some greater and some lesser, like the boats of fishers laid About the sea of midnight; and a dusky dawn they made, A faint and glimmering twilight: So Sigurd strains his eyes, And he sees how a land deserted all round about him lies More changeless than mid-ocean, as fruitless as its floor: Then the heart leaps up within him, for he knows that his journey is o'er, And there he draweth bridle on the first of the Glittering Heath: And the Wrath is waxen merry and sings in the golden sheath As he leaps adown from Greyfell, and stands upon his feet, And wends his ways through the twilight the Foe of the Gods to meet.
Sigurd slayeth Fafnir the Serpent.
Nought Sigurd seeth of Regin, and nought he heeds of him, As in watchful might and glory he strides the desert dim, And behind him paceth Greyfell; but he deems the time o'erlong Till he meet the great gold-warden, the over-lord of wrong.
So he wendeth midst the silence through the measureless desert place, And beholds the countless glitter with wise and steadfast face, Till him-seems in a little season that the flames grown somewhat wan, And a grey thing glimmers before him, and becomes a mighty man, One-eyed and ancient-seeming, in cloud-grey raiment clad; A friendly man and glorious, and of visage smiling-glad: Then content in Sigurd groweth because of his majesty, And he heareth him speak in the desert as the wind of the winter sea:
"Hail Sigurd! Give me thy greeting ere thy ways alone thou wend!"
Said Sigurd: "Hail! I greet thee, my friend and my fathers' friend."
"Now whither away," said the elder, "with the Steed and the ancient Sword?"
"To the greedy house," said Sigurd, "and the King of the Heavy Hoard."
"Wilt thou smite, O Sigurd, Sigurd?" said the ancient mighty-one.
"Yea, yea, I shall smite," said the Volsung, "save the Gods have slain the sun."
"What wise wilt thou smite," said the elder, "lest the dark devour thy day?"
"Thou hast praised the sword," said the child, "and the sword shall find a way."
"Be learned of me," said the Wise-one, "for I was the first of thy folk."
Said the child: "I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke."
Spake the Wise-one: "Thus shalt thou do when thou wendest hence alone: Thou shalt find a path in the desert, and a road in the world of stone; It is smooth and deep and hollow, but the rain hath riven it not, And the wild wind hath not worn it, for it is but Fafnir's slot, Whereby he wends to the water and the fathomless pool of old, When his heart in the dawn is weary, and he loathes the ancient Gold: There think of the great and the fathers, and bare the whetted Wrath, And dig a pit in the highway, and a grave in the Serpent's path: Lie thou therein, O Sigurd, and thine hope from the glooming hide, And be as the dead for a season, and the living light abide! And so shall thine heart avail thee, and thy mighty fateful hand, And the Light that lay in the Branstock, the well-beloved brand."
Said the child: "I shall do thy bidding, and for thee shall I strike the stroke; For I love thee, friend of my fathers, Wise Heart of the holy folk."
So spake the Son of Sigmund, and beheld no man anear, And again was the night the midnight, and the twinkling flame shone clear In the hush of the Glittering Heath; and alone went Sigmund's son Till he came to the road of Fafnir, and the highway worn by one, By the drift of the rain unfurrowed, by the windy years unrent, And forth from the dark it came, and into the dark it went.
Great then was the heart of Sigurd, for there in the midmost he stayed, And thought of the ancient fathers, and bared the bright blue blade, That shone as a fleck of the day-light, and the night was all around. Fair then was the Son of Sigmund as he toiled and laboured the ground; Great, mighty he was in his working, and the Glittering Heath he clave, And the sword shone blue before him as he dug the pit and the grave: There he hid his hope from the night-tide and lay like one of the dead, And wise and wary he bided; and the heavens hung over his head.
Now the night wanes over Sigurd, and the ruddy rings he sees, And his war-gear's fair adornment, and the God-folk's images; But a voice in the desert ariseth, a sound in the waste has birth, A changing tinkle and clatter, as of gold dragged over the earth: O'er Sigurd widens the day-light, and the sound is drawing close, And speedier than the trample of speedy feet it goes; But ever deemeth Sigurd that the sun brings back the day, For the grave grows lighter and lighter and heaven o'erhead is grey.
But now, how the rattling waxeth till he may not heed nor hark! And the day and the heavens are hidden, and o'er Sigurd rolls the dark, As the flood of a pitchy river, and heavy-thick is the air With the venom of hate long hoarded, and lies once fashioned fair: Then a wan face comes from the darkness, and is wrought in man-like wise, And the lips are writhed with laughter and bleared are the blinded eyes; And it wandereth hither and thither, and searcheth through the grave And departeth, leaving nothing, save the dark, rolled wave on wave O'er the golden head of Sigurd and the edges of the sword, And the world weighs heavy on Sigurd, and the weary curse of the Hoard; Him-seemed the grave grew straiter, and his hope of life grew chill, And his heart by the Worm was enfolded, and the bonds of the Ancient Ill.
Then was Sigurd stirred by his glory, and he strove with the swaddling of Death; He turned in the pit on the highway, and the grave of the Glittering Heath; He laughed and smote with the laughter and thrust up over his head. And smote the venom asunder and clave the heart of Dread; Then he leapt from the pit and the grave, and the rushing river of blood, And fulfilled with the joy of the War-God on the face of earth he stood With red sword high uplifted, with wrathful glittering eyes; And he laughed at the heavens above him for he saw the sun arise, And Sigurd gleamed on the desert, and shone in the new-born light, And the wind in his raiment wavered, and all the world was bright.
But there was the ancient Fafnir, and the Face of Terror lay On the huddled folds of the Serpent, that were black and ashen-grey In the desert lit by the sun; and those twain looked each on each, And forth from the Face of Terror went a sound of dreadful speech:
"Child, child, who art thou that hast smitten? bright child, of whence is thy birth?"
"I am called the Wild-thing Glorious, and alone I wend on the earth."
* * * * *
"What master hath taught thee of murder?—Thou hast wasted Fafnir's day."
"I, Sigurd, knew and desired, and the bright sword learned the way."
* * * * *
"I am blind, O Strong Compeller, in the bonds of Death and Hell. But thee shall the rattling Gold and the red rings bring unto bane."
"Yet the rings mine hand shall scatter, and the earth shall gather again."
"Woe, woe! in the days passed over I bore the Helm of Dread, I reared the Face of Terror, and the hoarded hate of the Dead: I overcame and was mighty; I was wise and cherished my heart In the waste where no man wandered, and the high house builded apart: Till I met thine hand, O Sigurd, and thy might ordained from of old; And I fought and fell in the morning, and I die far off from the Gold."
* * * * *
Then all sank into silence, and the Son of Sigmund stood On the torn and furrowed desert by the pool of Fafnir's blood, And the Serpent lay before him, dead, chilly, dull, and grey; And over the Glittering Heath fair shone the sun and the day, And a light wind followed the sun and breathed o'er the fateful place, As fresh as it furrows the sea-plain or bows the acres' face.
Sigurd slayeth Regin the Master of Masters on the Glittering Heath.
There standeth Sigurd the Volsung, and leaneth on his sword, And beside him now is Greyfell and looks on his golden lord, And the world is awake and living; and whither now shall they wend, Who have come to the Glittering Heath, and wrought that deed to its end? For hither comes Regin the Master from the skirts of the field of death.
* * * * *
Afoot he went o'er the desert, and he came unto Sigurd and stared At the golden gear of the man, and the Wrath yet bloody and bared, And the light locks raised by the wind, and the eyes beginning to smile, And the lovely lips of the Volsung, and the brow that knew no guile; And he murmured under his breath while his eyes grew white with wrath:
"O who art thou, and wherefore, and why art thou in the path?"
Then he turned to the ash-grey Serpent, and grovelled low on the ground, And he drank of that pool of the blood where the stones of the wild were drowned, And long he lapped as a dog; but when he arose again, Lo, a flock of the mountain-eagles that drew to the feastful plain; And he turned and looked on Sigurd, as bright in the sun he stood, A stripling fair and slender, and wiped the Wrath of the blood.
* * * * *
Then he scowled and crouched and darkened, and came to Sigurd and spake: "O child, thou hast slain my brother, and the Wrath is alive and awake."
"Thou sayest sooth," said Sigurd, "thy deed and mine is done: But now our ways shall sunder, for here, meseemeth, the sun Hath but little of deeds to do, and no love to win aback."
* * * * *
But Regin darkened before him, and exceeding grim was he grown, And he spake: "Thou hast slain my brother, and wherewith wilt thou atone?"
"Stand up, O Master," said Sigurd, "O Singer of ancient days, And take the wealth I have won thee, ere we wend on the sundering ways. I have toiled and thou hast desired, and the Treasure is surely anear, And thou hast wisdom to find it, and I have slain thy fear."
But Regin crouched and darkened: "Thou hast slain my brother," he said.
"Take thou the Gold," quoth Sigurd, "for the ransom of my head!"
Then Regin crouched and darkened, and over the earth he hung; And he said: "Thou hast slain my brother, and the Gods are yet but young."
* * * * *
And he spake: "Thou hast slain my brother, and today shall thou be my thrall: Yea, a King shall be my cook-boy and this heath my cooking-hall."
Then he crept to the ash-grey coils where the life of his brother had lain, And he drew a glaive from his side and smote the smitten and slain, And tore the heart from Fafnir, while the eagles cried o'erhead, And sharp and shrill was their voice o'er the entrails of the dead.
Then Regin spake to Sigurd: "Of this slaying wilt thou be free? Then gather thou fire together and roast the heart for me, That I may eat it and live, and be thy master and more; For therein was might and wisdom, and the grudged and hoarded lore:— —Or else, depart on thy ways afraid from the Glittering Heath."
Then he fell abackward and slept, nor set his sword in the sheath.
* * * * *
But Sigurd took the Heart, and wood on the waste he found, The wood that grew and died, as it crept on the niggard ground, And grew and died again, and lay like whitened bones; And the ernes cried over his head, as he builded his hearth of stones, And kindled the fire for cooking, and sat and sang o'er the roast The song of his fathers of old, and the Wolflings' gathering host: So there on the Glittering Heath rose up the little flame, And the dry sticks crackled amidst it, and alow the eagles came, And seven they were by tale, and they pitched all round about The cooking-fire of Sigurd, and sent their song-speech out: But nought he knoweth its wisdom, or the word that they would speak: And hot grew the Heart of Fafnir and sang amid the reek.
Then Sigurd looketh on Regin, and he deemeth it overlong That he dighteth the dear-bought morsel, and the might for the Master of wrong, So he reacheth his hand to the roast to see if the cooking be o'er; But the blood and the fat seethed from it and scalded his finger sore, And he set his hand to his mouth to quench the fleshly smart, And he tasted the flesh of the Serpent and the blood of Fafnir's Heart: Then there came a change upon him, for the speech of fowl he knew, And wise in the ways of the beast-kind as the Dwarfs of old he grew; And he knitted his brows and hearkened, and wrath in his heart arose For he felt beset of evil in a world of many foes. But the hilts of the Wrath he handled, and Regin's heart he saw, And how that the Foe of the Gods the net of death would draw; And his bright eyes flashed and sparkled, and his mouth grew set and stern As he hearkened the voice of the eagles, and their song began to learn.
And six of the eagles cried to Sigurd not to tarry before the feast, and they urged him to kill Regin, who had planned Fafnir's death that he alone might live and fashion the world after his evil will.
And the seventh: "Arise, O Sigurd, lest the hour be overlate! For the sun in the mid-noon shineth, and swift is the hand of Fate: Arise! lest the world run backward and the blind heart have its will, And once again be tangled the sundered good and ill; Lest love and hatred perish, lest the world forget its tale, And the Gods sit deedless, dreaming, in the high-walled heavenly vale."
Then swift ariseth Sigurd, and the Wrath in his hand is bare, And he looketh, and Regin sleepeth, and his eyes wide-open glare; But his lips smile false in his dreaming, and his hand is on the sword; For he dreams himself the Master and the new world's fashioning-lord, And his dream hath forgotten Sigurd, and the King's life lies in the pit; He is nought; Death gnaweth upon him, while the Dwarfs in mastery sit.
But lo, how the eyes of Sigurd the heart of the guileful behold, And great is Allfather Odin, and upriseth the Curse of the Gold, And the Branstock bloometh to heaven from the ancient wondrous root; The summer hath shone on its blossoms, and Sigurd's Wrath is the fruit.
* * * * *
Then his second stroke struck Sigurd, for the Wrath flashed thin and white, And 'twixt head and trunk of Regin fierce ran the fateful light; And there lay brother by brother a faded thing and wan. But Sigurd cried in the desert: "So far have I wended on! Dead are the foes of God-home that would blend the good and the ill; And the World shall yet be famous, and the Gods shall have their will. Nor shall I be dead and forgotten, while the earth grows worse and worse, With the blind heart king o'er the people, and binding curse with curse."
How Sigurd took to him the Treasure of the Elf Andvari.
So Sigurd ate of the heart of Fafnir, and as he ate the longing to be gone to mighty deeds grew great, and he leapt on Greyfell and sought the home of the Dweller amid the Gold on the edge of the heath. He strode through the doorway, and before him lay golden armour, golden coins, and golden sands from rivers that none but the Dwarfs could mine. But more wonderful than all other treasures were the Helm of Aweing, and the Hauberk all of gold, while on top of the midmost heap, gleaming like the brightest star in the sky, lay the ring of Andvari.
Sigurd put on the helm and the hauberk, and dragged out gold wherewith he loaded Greyfell till the cloud-grey horse shone, while the eagles ever bade him bring forth the treasure, and let the gold shine in the open. And as the stars paled and the dawn grew clearer, Sigurd and Greyfell passed swiftly and lightly towards the west.
How Sigurd awoke Brynhild upon Hindfell.
By long roads rideth Sigurd amidst that world of stone, And somewhat south he turneth; for he would not be alone, But longs for the dwellings of man-folk, and the kingly people's speech, And the days of the glee and the joyance, where men laugh each to each. But still the desert endureth, and afar must Greyfell fare From the wrack of the Glittering Heath, and Fafnir's golden lair. Long Sigurd rideth the waste, when, lo, on a morning of day From out of the tangled crag-walls, amidst the cloud-land grey Comes up a mighty mountain, and it is as though there burns A torch amidst of its cloud-wreath; so thither Sigurd turns, For he deems indeed from its topmost to look on the best of the earth; And Greyfell neigheth beneath him, and his heart is full of mirth.
* * * * *
Night falls, but yet rides Sigurd, and hath no thought of rest, For he longs to climb that rock-world and behold the earth at its best; But now mid the maze of the foot-hills he seeth the light no more, And the stars are lovely and gleaming on the lightless heavenly floor. So up and up he wendeth till the night is wearing thin; And he rideth a rift of the mountain, and all is dark therein, Till the stars are dimmed by dawning and the wakening world is cold; Then afar in the upper rock-wall a breach doth he behold, And a flood of light poured inward the doubtful dawning blinds: So swift he rideth thither and the mouth of the breach he finds, And sitteth awhile on Greyfell on the marvellous thing to gaze: For lo, the side of Hindfell enwrapped by the fervent blaze, And nought 'twixt earth and heaven save a world of flickering flame, And a hurrying shifting tangle, where the dark rents went and came.
Great groweth the heart of Sigurd with uttermost desire, And he crieth kind to Greyfell, and they hasten up, and nigher, Till he draweth rein in the dawning on the face of Hindfell's steep: But who shall heed the dawning where the tongues of that wildfire leap? For they weave a wavering wall, that driveth over the heaven The wind that is born within it; nor ever aside is it driven By the mightiest wind of the waste, and the rain-flood amidst it is nought; And no wayfarer's door and no window the hand of its builder hath wrought. But thereon is the Volsung smiling as its breath uplifteth his hair, And his eyes shine bright with its image, and his mail gleams white and fair, And his war-helm pictures the heavens and the waning stars behind: But his neck is Greyfell stretching to snuff at the flame-wall blind, And his cloudy flank upheaveth, and tinkleth the knitted mail, And the gold of the uttermost waters is waxen wan and pale.
Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts, And draws a girth the tighter; then the gathered reins he lifts, And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire's heart; But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart, And high o'er his head it riseth, and wide and wild is its roar As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor: But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye, When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh. The white flame licks his raiment and sweeps through Greyfell's mane, And bathes both hands of Sigurd and the hilts of Fafnir's bane, And winds about his war-helm and mingles with his hair, But nought his raiment dusketh or dims his glittering gear; Then it fails and fades and darkens till all seems left behind, And dawn and the blaze is swallowed in mid-mirk stark and blind.
But forth a little further and a little further on And all is calm about him, and he sees the scorched earth wan Beneath a glimmering twilight, and he turns his conquering eyes, And a ring of pale slaked ashes on the side of Hindfell lies; And the world of the waste is beyond it; and all is hushed and grey, And the new-risen moon is a-paleing, and the stars grow faint with day.
Then Sigurd looked before him and a Shield-burg there he saw, A wall of the tiles of Odin wrought clear without a flaw, The gold by the silver gleaming, and the ruddy by the white; And the blazonings of their glory were done upon them bright. As of dear things wrought for the war-lords new come to Odin's hall. Piled high aloft to the heavens uprose that battle-wall, And far o'er the topmost shield-rim for a banner of fame there hung A glorious golden buckler; and against the staff it rung As the earliest wind of dawning uprose on Hindfell's face And the light from the yellow east beamed soft on the shielded place.
But the Wrath cried out in answer as Sigurd leapt adown To the wasted soil of the desert by that rampart of renown; He looked but little beneath it, and the dwelling of God it seemed, As against its gleaming silence the eager Sigurd gleamed: He draweth not sword from scabbard, as the wall he wendeth around, And it is but the wind and Sigurd that wakeneth any sound: But, lo, to the gate he cometh, and the doors are open wide, And no warder the way withstandeth, and no earls by the threshold abide. So he stands awhile and marvels; then the baleful light of the Wrath Gleams bare in his ready hand as he wendeth the inward path: For he doubteth some guile of the Gods, or perchance some Dwarf-king's snare, Or a mock of the Giant people that shall fade in the morning air: But he getteth him in and gazeth; and a wall doth he behold, And the ruddy set by the white, and the silver by the gold; But within the garth that it girdeth no work of man is set, But the utmost head of Hindfell ariseth higher yet; And below in the very midmost is a Giant-fashioned mound, Piled high as the rims of the Shield-burg above the level ground; And there, on that mound of the Giants, o'er the wilderness forlorn, A pale grey image lieth, and gleameth in the morn.
So there was Sigurd alone; and he went from the shielded door, And aloft in the desert of wonder the Light of the Branstock he bore; And he set his face to the earth-mound, and beheld the image wan, And the dawn was growing about it; and, lo, the shape of a man Set forth to the eyeless desert on the tower-top of the world, High over the cloud-wrought castle whence the windy bolts are hurled.
* * * * *
Now over the body he standeth, and seeth it shapen fair, And clad from head to foot-sole in pale grey-glittering gear, In a hauberk wrought as straitly as though to the flesh it were grown: But a great helm hideth the head and is girt with a glittering crown.
So thereby he stoopeth and kneeleth, for he deems it were good indeed If the breath of life abide there and the speech to help at need; And as sweet as the summer wind from a garden under the sun Cometh forth on the topmost Hindfell the breath of that sleeping-one. Then he saith he will look on the face, if it bear him love or hate, Or the bonds for his life's constraining, or the sundering doom of fate. So he draweth the helm from the head, and, lo, the brow snow-white, And the smooth unfurrowed cheeks, and the wise lips breathing light; And the face of a woman it is, and the fairest that ever was born, Shown forth to the empty heavens and the desert world forlorn: But he looketh, and loveth her sore, and he longeth her spirit to move, And awaken her heart to the world, that she may behold him and love. And he toucheth her breast and her hands, and he loveth her passing sore. And he saith: "Awake! I am Sigurd;" but she moveth never the more. Then he looked on his bare bright blade, and he said: "Thou—what wilt thou do? For indeed as I came by the war-garth thy voice of desire I knew." Bright burnt the pale blue edges for the sunrise drew anear, And the rims of the Shield-burg glittered, and the east was exceeding clear: So the eager edges he setteth to the Dwarf-wrought battle-coat Where the hammered ring-knit collar constraineth the woman's throat; But the sharp Wrath biteth and rendeth, and before it fail the rings, And, lo, the gleam of the linen, and the light of golden things: Then he driveth the blue steel onward, and through the skirt, and out, Till nought but the rippling linen is wrapping her about; Then he deems her breath comes quicker and her breast begins to heave, So he turns about the War-Flame and rends down either sleeve, Till her arms lie white in her raiment, and a river of sun-bright hair Flows free o'er bosom and shoulder and floods the desert bare.
Then a flush cometh over her visage and a sigh up-heaveth her breast, And her eyelids quiver and open, and she wakeneth into rest; Wide-eyed on the dawning she gazeth, too glad to change or smile, And but little moveth her body, nor speaketh she yet for a while; And yet kneels Sigurd moveless her wakening speech to heed, While soft the waves of the daylight o'er the starless heavens speed, And the gleaming rims of the Shield-burg yet bright and brighter grow, And the thin moon hangeth her horns dead-white in the golden glow.
Then she turned and gazed on Sigurd, and her eyes met the Volsung's eyes. And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise, For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved, As she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved:
"O, what is the thing so mighty that my weary sleep hath torn, And rent the fallow bondage, and the wan woe over-worn?"
He said: "The hand of Sigurd and the Sword of Sigmund's son, And the heart that the Volsungs fashioned this deed for thee have done." But she said: "Where then is Odin that laid me here alow? Long lasteth the grief of the world, and manfolk's tangled woe!"
"He dwelleth above," said Sigurd, "but I on the earth abide, And I came from the Glittering Heath the waves of thy fire to ride."
* * * * *
Then Sigurd looketh upon her, and the words from his heart arise: "Thou art the fairest of earth, and the wisest of the wise; O who art thou that lovest? I am Sigurd, e'en as I told; I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and gotten the Ancient Gold; And great were the gain of thy love, and the gift of mine earthly days, If we twain should never sunder as we wend on the changing ways. O who art thou that lovest, thou fairest of all things born? And what meaneth thy sleep and thy slumber in the wilderness forlorn?"
Then the maiden told him that she had been the handmaid of the All-father, but that she grew too proud, and Odin had sent her to Hindfell, where the sleep thorn pierced her that she might sleep till she found the fearless heart she would wed. Such a one had she found now, and many were the words of prophetic wisdom and warning that fell from her lips on the ears of Sigurd.
But many though they were they were not enough for him, who prayed her to speak with him more of Wisdom.
So together they sat on the side of Hindfell and talked of all that is and can be, and then together they climbed the mountain, till beneath them they saw the kingdoms of the earth stretching far away, and Brynhild bade him look down on her home, saying:
"Yet I bid thee look on the land 'twixt the wood and the silver sea In the bight of the swirling river, and the house that cherished me! There dwelleth mine earthly sister and the king that she hath wed; There morn by morn aforetime I woke on the golden bed; There eve by eve I tarried mid the speech and the lays of kings; There noon by noon I wandered and plucked the blossoming things; The little land of Lymdale by the swirling river's side, Where Brynhild once was I called in the days ere my father died; The little land of Lymdale 'twixt the woodland and the sea, Where on thee mine eyes shall brighten and thine eyes shall beam on me."
"I shall seek thee there," said Sigurd, "when the day-spring is begun, Ere we wend the world together in the season of the sun."
"I shall bide thee there," said Brynhild, "till the fulness of the days, And the time for the glory appointed, and the springing-tide of praise."
From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari's ancient Gold; There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold, The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end, No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend: Then Sigurd cries: "O Brynhild, now hearken while I swear, That the sun shall die in the heavens and the day no more be fair, If I seek not love in Lymdale and the house that fostered thee, And the land where thou awakedst 'twixt the woodland and the sea!"
And she cried: "O Sigurd, Sigurd, now hearken while I swear That the day shall die for ever and the sun to blackness wear, Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, as I lie 'twixt wood and sea In the little land of Lymdale and the house that fostered me!"
Then he set the ring on her finger and once, if ne'er again, They kissed and clung together, and their hearts were full and fain.
* * * * *
Of Sigurd's riding to the Niblungs.
Now Brynhild and Sigurd left Hindfell, and Brynhild went to dwell in her sister's house, but Sigurd abode not long in the land of Lymdale, for his love urged him to great adventures wherein he might win glory befitting the man who should wed so noble a woman as Brynhild.
So it befell one day in summer that he dight himself in the Helm of Aweing and the Mail-coat all of gold, and girded the Wrath to his side to ride forth again. And on his saddle he bound the red rings of Fafnir's Treasure.
Then he kissed the ancient King Heimir, and hailed the folk of the land who came to give him god-speed.
And he gathered the reins together, and set his face to the road, And the glad steed neighed beneath him as they fared from the King's abode. And out past the dewy closes; but the shouts went up to the sky, Though some for very sorrow forbore the farewell cry, Nor was any man but heavy that the godlike guest should go; And they craved for that glad heart guileless, and that face without a foe.
* * * * *
But forth by dale and lealand doth the Son of Sigmund wend, Till far away lies Lymdale and the folk of the forest's end; And he rides a heath unpeopled and holds the westward way, Till a long way off before him come up the mountains grey; Grey, huge beyond all telling, and the host of the heaped clouds, The black and the white together, on that rock-wall's coping crowds.
* * * * *
So up and down he rideth, till at even of the day A hill's brow he o'ertoppeth that had hid the mountains grey; Huge, blacker they showed than aforetime, white hung the cloud-flecks there, But red was the cloudy crown, for the sun was sinking fair: A wide plain lay beneath him, and a river through it wound Betwixt the lea and the acres, and the misty orchard ground; But forth from the feet of the mountains a ridged hill there ran That upreared at its hithermost ending a builded burg of man; And Sigurd deemed in his heart as he looked on the burg from afar, That the high Gods scarce might win it, if thereon they fell with war; So many and great were the walls, so bore the towers on high The threat of guarded battle, and the tale of victory.
* * * * *
For as waves on the iron river of the days whereof nothing is told Stood up the many towers, so stark and sharp and cold; But dark-red and worn and ancient as the midmost mountain-sides Is the wall that goeth about them; and its mighty compass hides Full many a dwelling of man whence the reek now goeth aloft, And the voice of the house-abiders, the sharp sounds blent with the soft: But one house in the midst is unhidden and high up o'er the wall it goes; Aloft in the wind of the mountains its golden roof-ridge glows, And down mid its buttressed feet is the wind's voice never still; And the day and the night pass o'er it and it changes to their will, And whiles is it glassy and dark, and whiles is it white and dead, And whiles is it grey as the sea-mead, and whiles is it angry red; And it shimmers under the sunshine and grows black to the threat of the storm, And dusk its gold roof glimmers when the rain-clouds over it swarm, And bright in the first of the morning its flame doth it uplift, When the light clouds rend before it and along its furrows drift.
Then Sigurd's heart was glad as he beheld the city, and after a while he came to a gate-way set in the northern wall, and the gate was long and dark as a sea-cave. But no man stayed him as he rode through the dusk to the inner court-yard, and saw the lofty roof of the hall before him, cold now and grey like a very cloud, for the sun was fully set. But in the towers watch-men were calling one to another. To them he cried, saying:—
"Ho, men of this mighty burg, to what folk of the world am I come? And who is the King of battles who dwells in this lordly home? Or perchance are ye of the Elf-kin? are ye guest-fain, kind at the board, Or murder-churls and destroyers to gain and die by the sword?" Then the spears in the forecourt glittered and the swords shone over the wall, But the song of smitten harp-strings came faint from the cloudy hall. And he hearkened a voice and a crying: "The house of Giuki the King, And the Burg of the Niblung people and the heart of their warfaring." There were many men about him, and the wind in the wall-nook sang, And the spears of the Niblungs glittered, and the swords in the forecourt rang. But they looked on his face in the even, and they hushed their voices and gazed, For fear and great desire the hearts of men amazed.
Now cometh an earl to King Giuki as he sits in godlike wise With his sons, the Kings of battle, and his wife of the glittering eyes, And the King cries out at his coming to tell why the watch-horns blew; But the earl saith: "Lord of the people, choose now what thou wilt do; For here is a strange new-comer, and he saith, to thee alone Will he tell of his name and his kindred, and the deeds that his hand hath done."
* * * * *
Then uprose the King of the Niblungs, and was clad in purple and pall, And his sheathed sword lay in his hand, as he gat him adown the hall, And abroad through the Niblung doorway; and a mighty man he was, And wise and ancient of days: so there by the earls doth he pass, And beholdeth the King on the war-steed and looketh up in his face: But Sigurd smileth upon him in the Niblungs' fenced place, As the King saith: "Gold-bestrider, who into our garth wouldst ride, Wilt thou tell thy name to a King, who biddeth thee here abide And have all good at our hands? for unto the Niblungs' home And the heart of a war-fain people from the weary road are ye come; And I am Giuki the King: so now if thou nam'st thee a God, Look not to see me tremble; for I know of such that have trod Unfeared in the Burg of the Niblungs; nor worser, nor better at all May fare the folk of the Gods than the Kings in Giuki's hall; So I bid thee abide in my house, and when many days are o'er, Thou shalt tell us at last of thine errand, if thou bear us peace or war."
Then all rejoiced at his word till the swords on the bucklers rang, And adown from the red-gold Treasure the Son of Sigmund sprang, And he took the hand of Giuki, and kissed him soft and sweet, And spake: "Hail, ancient of days! for thou biddest me things most meet, And thou knowest the good from the evil: few days are over and gone Since my father was old in the world ere the deed of my making was won; But Sigmund the Volsung he was, full ripe of years and of fame; And I, who have never beheld him, am Sigurd called of name; Too young in the world am I waxen that a tale thereof should be told, And yet have I slain the Serpent, and gotten the Ancient Gold, And broken the bonds of the weary, and ridden the Wavering Fire. But short is mine errand to tell, and the end of my desire: For peace I bear unto thee, and to all the kings of the earth, Who bear the sword aright, and are crowned with the crown of worth; But unpeace to the lords of evil, and the battle and the death; And the edge of the sword to the traitor, and the flame to the slanderous breath: And I would that the loving were loved, and I would that the weary should sleep, And that man should hearken to man, and that he that soweth should reap. Now wide in the world would I fare, to seek the dwellings of Kings, For with them would I do and undo, and be heart of their warfarings; So I thank thee, lord, for thy bidding, and here in thine house will I bide, And learn of thine ancient wisdom till forth to the field we ride."
Glad then was the murmur of folk, for the tidings had gone forth, And its breath had been borne to the Niblungs, and the tale of Sigurd's worth.
But the King said: "Welcome, Sigurd, full fair of deed and of word! And here mayst thou win thee fellows for the days of the peace and the sword; For not lone in the world have I lived, but sons from my loins have sprung, Whose deeds with the rhyme are mingled, and their names with the people's tongue."
Then he took his hand in his hand, and into the hall they passed, And great shouts of salutation to the cloudy roof were cast; And they rang from the glassy pillars, and the Gods on the hangings stirred, And afar the clustering eagles on the golden roof-ridge heard, And cried out on the Sword of the Branstock as they cried in the other days: Then the harps rang out in the hall, and men sang in Sigurd's praise
* * * * *
But now on the dais he meeteth the kin of Giuki the wise: Lo, here is the crowned Grimhild, the queen of the glittering eyes; Lo, here is the goodly Gunnar with the face of a king's desire; Lo, here is Hogni that holdeth the wisdom tried in the fire; Lo, here is Guttorm the youngest, who longs for the meeting swords; Lo, here, as a rose in the oak-boughs, amid the Niblung lords Is the Maid of the Niblungs standing, the white-armed Giuki's child; And all these looked long on Sigurd and their hearts upon him smiled.
Then all gave him greeting as one who should be their fellow in mighty deeds, and the fair-armed Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, brought him a cup of welcome, and that night the Niblungs feasted in gladness of heart.
Of Sigurd's warfaring in the company of the Niblungs, and of his great fame and glory.
So Sigurd abode with the Niblungs all through summer and harvest time till with the stark midwinter came tidings of war. Then the earls of Giuki donned dusky hauberks and led forth their bands from the fortress, and the fair face and golden gear of Sigurd shone among those swart-haired warriors.
They fell on the cities of the plains, but none might resist the valour of Sigurd, and the Niblungs turned in triumph from the war, bringing rich spoil. So all that winter Sigurd fared to war with them and grew greater in glory and more beloved of all men, but ever the thoughts of his heart turned to Lymdale and to Brynhild who awaited him there.
Now sheathed is the Wrath of Sigurd; for as wax withstands the flame, So the Kings of the land withstood him and the glory of his fame. And before the grass is growing, or the kine have fared from the stall, The song of the fair-speech-masters goes up in the Niblung hall, And they sing of the golden Sigurd and the face without a foe, And the lowly man exalted and the mighty brought alow: And they say, when the sun of summer shall come aback to the land, It shall shine on the fields of the tiller that fears no heavy hand; That the sheaf shall be for the plougher, and the loaf for him that sowed, Through every furrowed acre where the son of Sigmund rode.
Full dear was Sigurd the Volsung to all men most and least, And now, as the spring drew onward, 'twas deemed a goodly feast For the acre-biders' children by the Niblung Burg to wait, If perchance the Son of Sigmund should ride abroad by the gate: For whosoever feared him, no little-one, forsooth, Would shrink from the shining eyes and the hand that clave out truth From the heart of the wrack and the battle: it was then, as his gold gear burned O'er the balks of the bridge and the river, that oft the mother turned, And spake to the laughing baby: "O little son, and dear, When I from the world am departed, and whiles a-nights ye hear The best of man-folk longing for the least of Sigurd's days, Thou shalt hearken to their story, till they tell forth all his praise, And become beloved and a wonder, as thou sayest when all is sung, 'And I too once beheld him in the days when I was young.'"
* * * * *
Yea, they sing the song of Sigurd and the face without a foe, And they sing of the prison's rending and the tyrant laid alow, And the golden thieves' abasement, and the stilling of the churl, And the mocking of the dastard where the chasing edges whirl; And they sing of the outland maidens that thronged round Sigurd's hand, And sung in the streets of the foemen of the war-delivered land; And they tell how the ships of the merchants come free and go at their will, And how wives in peace and safety may crop the vine-clad hill; How the maiden sits in her bower, and the weaver sings at his loom, And forget the kings of grasping and the greedy days of gloom; For by sea and hill and township hath the Son of Sigmund been, And looked on the folk unheeded, and the lowly people seen.
* * * * *
But he stood in the sight of the people, and sweet he was to see, And no foe and no betrayer, and no envier now hath he: But Gunnar the bright in the battle deems him his earthly friend, And Hogni is fain of his fellow, howso the day's work end, And Guttorm the young is joyous of the help and gifts he hath; And all these would shine beside him in the glory of his path; There is none to hate or hinder, or mar the golden day, And the light of love flows plenteous, as the sun-beams hide the way.
Of the Cup of evil drink that Grimhild the Wise-wife gave to Sigurd.
Now Gudrun the daughter of Giuki beheld Sigurd's glory and knew the kindness of his heart, and set her love on him, not knowing that all his thoughts were given to Brynhild. So Sigurd, seeing her sad and in no wise guessing the cause of her grief, strove to comfort her with kindly words, but her mood was still unchanged.
Then Grimhild the Queen, who was a witch-wife and a woman of crafty mind, marked the love of Gudrun for Sigurd, and marked moreover how his power and honour in the land would soon be greater than that of her own sons. Therefore she cast about for some shift that might bind Sigurd to serve with the Niblungs all his life-days.
Now it befell one night that Sigurd had returned from warring and sat on the high-seat to sup with the Niblung kings. His heart was merry with victory and ever he thought of Hindfell and of Lymdale and the love of Brynhild. The people waxed joyful, and the hangings whereon glowed figures of the gods were stirred with their song and shouting till Giuki called on Sigurd to take the harp and sing of deeds agone. Then all men hearkened, hushed and happy, while Sigurd struck the strings and sang of his mighty kin, of Volsung, of Signy, and of Sigmund, their deeds and noble deaths. At last the tale was ended and he fell silent thinking still of Brynhild.
Now came Grimhild bearing him a cup of wine and speaking fair words of praise, but in the wine she had mingled a fatal witch-drink. So she stood by Sigurd and said:—
"There is none of the kings of kingdoms that may match thy goodlihead: Lo now, thou hast sung of thy fathers; but men shall sing of thee, And therewith shall our house be remembered, and great shall our glory be. I beseech thee hearken a little to a faithful word of mine, When thou of this cup hast drunken; for my love is blent with the wine."
He laughed and took the cup: But therein with the blood of the earth Earth's hidden might was mingled, and deeds of the cold sea's birth, And things that the high Gods turn from, and a tangle of strange love, Deep guile and strong compelling, that whoso drank thereof Should remember not his longing, should cast his love away, Remembering dead desire but as night remembereth day.
So Sigurd looked on the horn, and he saw how fair it was scored With the cunning of the Dwarf-kind and the masters of the sword; And he drank and smiled on Grimhild above the beaker's rim, And she looked and laughed at his laughter; and the soul was changed in him. Men gazed and their hearts sank in them, and they knew not why it was, Why the fair-lit hall was darkling, nor what had come to pass: For they saw the sorrow of Sigurd, who had seen but his deeds erewhile, And the face of the mighty darkened, who had known but the light of its smile.
But Grimhild looked and was merry: and she deemed her life was great, And her hand a wonder of wonders to withstand the deeds of Fate: For she saw by the face of Sigurd and the token of his eyes That her will had abased the valiant, and filled the faithful with lies.
* * * * *
But the heart was changed in Sigurd; as though it ne'er had been His love of Brynhild perished as he gazed on the Niblung Queen: Brynhild's beloved body was e'en as a wasted hearth, No more for bale or blessing, for plenty or for dearth. —O ye that shall look hereafter, when the day of Sigurd is done, And the last of his deeds is accomplished, and his eyes are shut in the sun, When ye look and long for Sigurd, and the image of Sigurd behold, And his white sword still as the moon, and his strong hand heavy and cold, Then perchance shall ye think of this even, then perchance shall ye wonder and cry, "Twice over, King, are we smitten, and twice have we seen thee die."
* * * * *
Men say that a little after the evil of that night All waste is the burg of Brynhild, and there springeth a marvellous light On the desert hard by Lymdale, and few men know for why; But there are, who say that a wildfire thence roareth up to the sky Round a glorious golden dwelling, wherein there sitteth a Queen In remembrance of the wakening, and the slumber that hath been; Wherein a Maid there sitteth, who knows not hope nor rest For remembrance of the Mighty, and the Best come forth from the Best.