"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.
So the day grew old about them and the joy of their desire, And eve and the sunset came, and faint grew the sunset fire, And the shadowless death of the day was sweet in the golden tide; But the stars shone forth on the world, and the twilight changed and died; And sure if the first of man-folk had been born to that starry night, And had heard no tale of the sunrise, he had never longed for the light: But Earth longed amidst her slumber, as 'neath the night she lay, And fresh and all abundant abode the deeds of Day.
IN THIS BOOK IS TOLD OF THE DEEDS OF SIGURD, AND OF HIS SOJOURN WITH THE NIBLUNGS, AND IN THE END OF HOW HE DIED.
Of the Dream of Gudrun the Daughter of Giuki.
And now of the Niblung people the tale beginneth to tell, How they deal with the wind and the weather; in the cloudy drift they dwell When the war is awake in the mountains, and they drive the desert spoil, And their weaponed hosts unwearied through the misty hollows toil; But again in the eager sunshine they scour across the plain, And spear by spear is quivering, and rein is laid by rein, And the dust is about and behind them, and the fear speeds on before, As they shake the flowery meadows with the fleeting flood of war. Yea, when they come from the battle, and the land lies down in peace, No less in gear of warriors they gather earth's increase, And helmed as the Gods of battle they drive the team afield: These come to the council of elders with sword and spear and shield, And shout to their war-dukes' dooming of their uttermost desire: These never bow the helm-crest before the High-Gods' fire But show their swords to Odin, and cry on Vingi-Thor With the dancing of the ring-mail and the smitten shields of war: Yet though amid their high-tides of the deaths of men they sing, And of swords in the battle broken, and the fall of many a king, Yet they sing it wreathed with the flowers and they praise the gift and the gain Of the war-lord sped to Odin as he rends the battle atwain. And their days are young and glorious, and in hope exceeding great With sword and harp and beaker on the skirts of the Norns they wait.
Now the King of this folk is Giuki, and he sits in the Niblung hall When the song of men goes roofward and the shields shine out from the wall; And his queen in the high-seat sitteth, the woman overwise, Grimhild the kin of the God-folk, the wife of the glittering eyes: And his sons on each hand are sitting; there is Gunnar the great and fair, With the lovely face of a king 'twixt the night of his wavy hair: And there is the wise-heart Hogni; and his lips are close and thin, And grey and awful his eyen, and a many sights they win: And there is Guttorm the youngest, of the fierce and wandering glance, And the heart that never resteth till the swords in the war-wind dance: And there is Gudrun his daughter, and light she stands by the board, And fair are her arms in the hall as the beaker's flood is poured: She comes, and the earls keep silence; she smiles, and men rejoice; She speaks, and the harps unsmitten thrill faint to her queenly voice.
So blossom the days of the Niblungs, and great is their hope's increase 'Twixt the merry days of battle and the tide of their guarded peace: There is many a noon of joyance, and many an eve's delight, And many a deed for the doing 'twixt the morning and the night.
Now betimes on a morning of summer that Giuki's daughter arose, Alone went the fair-armed Gudrun to her flowery garden-close; And she went by the bower of women, and her damsels saw her thence, And her nurse went down to meet her as she came by the rose-hung fence, And she saw that her eyes were heavy as she trod with doubtful feet Betwixt the rose and the lily, nor blessed the blossoms sweet: And she spake: "What ails thee, daughter, as one asleep to tread O'er the grass of the merry summer and the daisies white and red? And to have no heart for the harp-play, or the needle's mastery, Where the gold and the silk are framing the Swans of the Goths on the sea, And helms and shields of warriors, and Kings on the hazelled isle? Why hast thou no more joyance on the damsels' glee to smile? Why biddest thou not to the wild-wood with horse and hawk and hound? Why biddest thou not to the heathland and the eagle-haunted ground To meet thy noble brethren as they ride from the mountain-road? Hast thou deemed the hall of the Niblungs a churlish poor abode? Wouldst thou wend away from thy kindred, and scorn thy fosterer's praise? —Or is this the beginning of love and the first of the troublous days?"
Then spake the fair-armed Gudrun: "Nay, nought I know of scorn For the noble kin of the Niblungs, or the house where I was born; No pain of love hath smit me, and no evil days begin, And I shall be fain tomorrow of the deeds that the maidens win: But if I wend the summer in dull unlovely seeming, It comes of the night, O mother, and the tide of last night's dreaming."
Then spake the ancient woman: "Thy dream to me shalt thou show; Such oft foretell but the weather, and the airts whence the wind shall blow."
Blood-red was waxen Gudrun, and she said: "But little it is: Meseems I sat by the door of the hall of the Niblungs' bliss, And from out of the north came a falcon, and a marvellous bird it was; For his feathers were all of gold, and his eyes as the sunlit glass, And hither and thither he flew about the kingdoms of Kings, And the fear of men went with him, and the war-blast under his wings: But I feared him never a deal, nay, hope came into my heart, And meseemed in his war-bold ways I also had a part; And my eyes still followed his wings as hither and thither he swept O'er the doors and the dwellings of King-folk; till the heart within me leapt, For over the hall of the Niblungs he hung a little space, Then stooped to my very knees, and cried out kind in my face: And fain and full was my heart, and I took him to my breast, And fair methought was the world and a home of infinite rest." Her speech dropped dead as she spake, and her eyes from the nurse she turned, But now and again thereafter the flush in her fair cheek burned, And her eyes were dreamy and great, as of one who looketh afar.
But the nurse laughed out and answered: "Such the dreams of maidens are; And if thou hast told me all 'tis a goodly dream, forsooth: For what should I call this falcon save a glorious kingly youth, Who shall fly full wide o'er the world in fame and victory, Till he hangs o'er the Niblung dwelling and stoops to thy very knee? And fain and full shall thine heart be, when his cheek shall cherish thy breast, And fair things shalt thou deem of the world as a place of infinite rest."
But cold grew the maiden's visage: "God wot thou hast plenteous lore In the reading of dreams, my mother; but thou lovest thy fosterling sore, And the good and the evil alike shall turn in thine heart to good; Wise too is my mother Grimhild, but I fear her guileful mood, Lest she love me overmuch, and fashion all dreams to ill. Now who is the wise of woman, who herein hath measureless skill? For her forthright would I find, how far soever I fare, Lest I wend like a fool in the world, and rejoice with my feet in the snare."
Quoth the nurse: "Though the dream be goodly and its reading easy and light, It is nought but a little matter if thy golden wain be dight, And thou ride to the land of Lymdale, the little land and green, And come to the hall of Brynhild, the maid and the shielded Queen, The Queen and the wise of women, who sees all haps to come: And 'twill be but light to bid her to seek thy dream-tale home; Though surely shall she arede it in e'en such wise as I; And so shall the day be merry and the summer cloud go by."
"Thou hast spoken well," said Gudrun, "let us tarry now no whit; For wise in the world is the woman, and knoweth the ways of it."
So they make the yoke-beasts ready, and dight the wains for the way, And the maidens gather together, and their bodies they array, And gird the laps of the linen, and do on the dark-blue gear, And bind with the leaves of summer the wandering of their hair: Then they drive by dale and acre, o'er heath and holt they wend, Till they come to the land of the waters, and the lea by the woodland's end; And there is the burg of Brynhild, the white-walled house and long, And the garth her fathers fashioned before the days of wrong. So fare their feet on the earth by the threshold of the Queen, And Brynhild's damsels abide them, for their goings had been seen; And the mint and the blossomed woodruff they strew before their feet, And their arms of welcome take them, and they kiss them soft and sweet, And they go forth into the feast-hall, the many-pillared house; Most goodly were its hangings and its webs were glorious With tales of ancient fathers, and the Swans of the Goths on the sea, And weaponed Kings on the island, and great deeds yet to be; And the host of Odin's Choosers, and the boughs of the fateful Oak, And the gush of Mimir's Fountain, and the Midworld-Serpent's yoke.
So therein the maidens enter, but Gudrun all out-goes, As over the leaves of the garden shines the many-folded rose: Amidst and alone she standeth; in the hall her arms shine white, And her hair falls down behind her like a cloak of the sweet-breathed night, As she casts her cloak to the earth, and the wind of the flowery tide Runs over her rippling raiment and stirs the gold at her side. But she stands and may scarce move forward, and a red flush lighteth her face As her eyes seek out Queen Brynhild in the height of the golden place.
But lo, as a swan on the sea spreads out her wings to arise From the face of the darksome ocean when the isle before her lies, So Brynhild arose from her throne and the fashioned cloths of blue When she saw the Maid of the Niblungs, and the face of Gudrun knew; And she gathers the laps of the linen, and they meet in the hall, they twain, And she taketh her hands in her hands and kisseth her sweet and fain: And she saith: "Hail, sister and queen! for we deem thy coming kind: Though forsooth the hall of Brynhild is no weary way to find: How fare the kin of the Niblungs? is thy mother happy and hale, And the ancient of days, thy father, the King of all avail?"
"It is well with my house," said Gudrun, "and my brethren's days are fair, And my mother's morns are joyous, and her eves have done with care; And my father's heart is happy, and the Niblung glory grows, And the land in peace is lying 'neath the lily and the rose: But love and the mirth of summer have moved my heart to come To look on thy measureless beauty, and seek thy glory home."
"O be thou welcome!" said Brynhild; "it is good when queen-folk meet. Come now, O goodly sister, and sit in my golden seat: There are lovely hours before us, and the half of the summer day; And what is the night of summer that eve should drive thee away?"
So they sat, they twain, in the high-seat; and the maidens bore them wine, And they handled Dwarf-wrought treasures with their fingers fair and fine, And lovely they were together, and they marvelled each at each: Yet oft was Gudrun silent, and she faltered in her speech, As they matched great Kings and their war-deeds, and told of times that were, And their fathers' fathers' doings, and the deaths of war-lords dear. And at last the twain sat silent, and spake no word at all, And the western sky waxed ruddy, for the sun drew near its fall; And the speech of the murmuring maidens, and the voice of the toil of folk, Died out in the hall of Brynhild as the garden-song awoke.
Then Brynhild took up the word, and her voice was soft as she said: "We have told of the best of King-folk, the living and the dead; But hast thou heard, my sister, how the world grows fair with the word Of a King from the mountains coming, a great and marvellous lord, Who hath slain the Foe of the Gods, and the King that was wise from of old; Who hath slain the great Gold-wallower, and gotten the ancient Gold; And the hand of victory hath he, and the overcoming speech, And the heart and the eyes triumphant, and the lips that win and teach?"
Then met the eyes of the women, and Brynhild's word died out, And bright flushed Gudrun's visage, and her lips were moved with doubt. But again spake Brynhild the wise: "He is come of a marvellous kin, And of men that never faltered, and goodly days shall he win: Yea now to this land is he coming, and great shall be his fame; He is born of the Volsung King-folk, and Sigurd is his name."
Then all the heart laughed in her, but the speech of her lips died out, And red and pale waxed Gudrun, and her lips were moved with doubt, Till she spake as a Queen of the Earth: "Sister, the day grows late, And meseemeth the watch of the earl-folk looks oft from the Niblung gate For the gleam of our golden wains and the dust-cloud thin and soft; But nought shall they now behold them till the moon-lamp blazeth aloft. Farewell, and have thanks for thy welcome and thy glory that I have seen, And I bid thee come to the Niblungs while the summer-ways are green, That we thine heart may gladden as thou gladdenedst ours today."
And she rose and kissed her sweetly as one that wendeth away: But Brynhild looked upon her and said: "Wilt thou depart, And leave the word unspoken that lieth on thine heart?"
Then Gudrun faltered and spake: "Yea, hither I came in sooth, With a dream for thine eyes of wisdom, and a prayer for thine heart of ruth: But young in the world am I waxen, and the scorn of folk I fear When I speak to the ears of the wise, and a maiden's dream they hear."
"I shall mock thee nought," said Brynhild; "yet who shall say indeed But my heart shall fear thee rather, nor help thee in thy need?"
Then spake the daughter of Giuki: "Lo, this was the dream I dreamed: For without by the door of the Niblungs I sat in the morn, as meseemed; Then I saw a falcon aloft, and a glorious bird he was, And his feathers glowed as the gold, and his eyes as the sunlit glass: Hither and thither he flew about the kingdoms of Kings, And fear was borne before him, and death went under his wings: Yet I feared him not, but loved him, and mine eyes must follow his ways, And the joy came into my heart, and hope of the happy days: Then over the hall of the Niblungs he hung a little space And stooped to my very knees, and cried out kind in my face; And fain and full was my heart, and I took him to my breast, And I cherished him soft and warm, for I deemed I had gotten the best."
So speaketh the Maid of the Niblungs, and speech her lips doth fail, And she gazeth on Brynhild's visage, and seeth her waxen pale, As she saith: "'Tis a dream full goodly, and nought hast thou to fear; Some glory of Kings shall love thee and thine heart shall hold him dear."
Again spake the daughter of Giuki: "Not yet hast thou hearkened all: For meseemed my breast was reddened, as oft by the purple and pall, But my heart was heavy within it, and I laid my hand thereon, And the purple of blood enwrapped me, and the falcon I loved was gone."
Yet pale was the visage of Brynhild, and she said: "Is it then so strange That the wedding-lords of the Niblungs their lives in the battle should change? Thou shalt wed a King and be merry, and then shall come the sword, And the edges of hate shall be whetted and shall slay thy love and thy lord, And dead on thy breast shall he fall: and where then is the measureless moan? From the first to the last shalt thou have him, and scarce shall he die alone. Rejoice, O daughter of Giuki! there is worse in the world than this: He shall die, and thou shalt remember the days of his glory and bliss."
"I woke, and I wept," said Gudrun, "for the dear thing I had loved: Then I slept, and again as aforetime were the gates of the dream-hall moved, And I went in the land of shadows; and lo I was crowned as a queen, And I sat in the summer-season amidst my garden green; And there came a hart from the forest, and in noble wise he went, And bold he was to look on, and of fashion excellent Before all beasts of the wild-wood; and fair gleamed that glorious-one, And upreared his shining antlers against the very sun. So he came unto me and I loved him, and his head lay kind on my knees, And fair methought the summer, and a time of utter peace. Then darkened all the heavens and dreary grew the tide, And medreamed that a queen I knew not was sitting by my side, And from out of the din and the darkness, a hand and an arm there came, And a golden sleeve was upon it, and red rings of the Queen-folk's fame: And the hand was the hand of a woman: and there came a sword and a thrust And the blood of the lovely wood-deer went wide about the dust. Then I cried aloud in my sorrow, and lo, in the wood I was, And all around and about me did the kin of the wild-wolves pass. And I called them friends and kindred, and upreared a battle-brand, And cried out in a tongue that I knew not, and red and wet was my hand. Lo now, the dream I have told thee, and nought have I held aback. O Brynhild, what wilt thou tell me of treason and murder and wrack?"
Long Brynhild stood and pondered and weary-wise was her face, And she gazed as one who sleepeth, till thus she spake in a space: "One dream in twain hast thou told, and I see what I saw e'en now, But beyond is nought but the darkness and the measureless midnight's flow: Thy dream is all areded; I may tell thee nothing more: Thou shalt live and love and lose, and mingle in murder and war. Is it strange, O child of the Niblungs, that thy glory and thy pain Must be blent with the battle's darkness and the unseen hurrying bane? Do ye, of all folk on the earth, pray God for the changeless peace, And not for the battle triumphant and the fruit of fame's increase? For the rest, thou mayst not be lonely in thy welfare or thy woe, But hearts with thine heart shall be tangled: but the queen and the hand thou shalt know. When we twain are wise together; thou shalt know of the sword and the wood, Thou shalt know of the wild-wolves' howling and thy right-hand wet with blood, When the day of the smith is ended, and the stithy's fire dies out, And the work of the master of masters through the feast-hall goeth about."
They stand apart by the high-seat, and each on each they gaze As though they forgat the summer, and the tide of the passing days, And abode the deeds unborn and the Kings' deaths yet to be, As the merchant bideth deedless the gold in his ships on the sea.
At last spake the wise-heart Brynhild: "O glorious Niblung child! The dreams and the word we have hearkened, and the dreams and the word have been wild. Thou hast thy life and thy summer, and the love is drawing anear; Take these to thine heart to cherish, and deem them good and dear, Lest the Norns should mock our knowledge and cast our fame aside, And our doom be empty of glory as the hopeless that have died. Farewell, O Niblung Maiden! for day on day shall come Whilst thou shalt live rejoicing mid the blossom of thine home. Now have thou thanks for thy greeting and thy glory that I have seen; And come thou again to Lymdale while the summer-ways are green."
So the hall-dusk deepens upon them till the candles come arow, And they drink the wine of departing and gird themselves to go; And they dight the dark-blue raiment and climb to the wains aloft While the horned moon hangs in the heaven and the summer wind blows soft. Then the yoke-beasts strained at the collar, and the dust in the moon arose, And they brushed the side of the acre and the blooming dewy close; Till at last, when the moon was sinking and the night was waxen late, The warders of the earl-folk looked forth from the Niblung gate, And saw the gold pale-gleaming, and heard the wain-wheels crush The weary dust of the summer amidst the midnight hush.
So came the daughter of Giuki from the hall of Brynhild the queen When the days of the Niblungs blossomed and their hope was springing green.
How the folk of Lymdale met Sigurd the Volsung in the woodland.
Full fair was the land of Lymdale, and great were the men thereof, And Heimir the King of the people was held in marvellous love; And his wife was the sister of Brynhild, and the Queen of Queens was she; And his sons were noble striplings, and his daughters sweet to see; And all these lived on in joyance through the good days and the ill, Nor would shun the war's awaking; but now that the war was still They looked to the wethers' fleeces and what the ewes would yield, And led their bulls from the straw-stall, and drave their kine afield; And they dealt with mere and river and all waters of their land, And cast the glittering angle, and drew the net to the strand, And searched the rattling shallows, and many a rock-walled well, Where the silver-scaled sea-farers, and the crook-lipped bull-trout dwell. But most when their hearts were merry 'twas the joy of carle and quean To ride in the deeps of the oak-wood, and the thorny thicket green: Forth go their hearts before them to the blast of the strenuous horn, Where the level sun comes dancing down the oaks in the early morn: There they strain and strive for the quarry, when the wind hath fallen dead In the odorous dusk of the pine-wood, and the noon is high o'erhead: There oft with horns triumphant their rout by the lone tree turns, When over the bison's lea-land the last of sunset burns; Or by night and cloud all eager with shaft on string they fare, When the wind from the elk-mead setteth, or the wood-boar's tangled lair: For the wood is their barn and their storehouse, and their bower and feasting-hall, And many an one of their warriors in the woodland war shall fall.
So now in the sweet spring season, on a morn of the sunny tide Abroad are the Lymdale people to the wood-deers' house to ride: And they wend towards the sun's uprising, and over the boughs he comes, And the merry wind is with him, and stirs the woodland homes; But their horns to his face cast clamour, and their hooves shake down the glades, And the hearts of their hounds are eager, and oft they redden blades; Till at last in the noon they tarry in a daisied wood-lawn green, And good and gay is their raiment, and their spears are sharp and sheen, And they crown themselves with the oak-leaves, and sit, both most and least, And there on the forest venison and the ancient wine they feast; Then they wattle the twigs of the thicket to bear their spoil away, And the toughness of the beech-boughs with the woodbine overlay: With the voice of their merry labour the hall of the oakwood rings, For fair they are and joyous as the first God-fashioned Kings.
Now they gather their steeds together, that ere the moon is born The candles of King Heimir may shine on harp and horn: But as they stand by the stirrup and hand on rein is laid, All eyes are turned to beholding the eastward-lying glade, For thereby comes something glorious, as though an earthly sun Were lit by the orb departing, lest the day should be wholly done; Lo now, as they stand astonied, a wonder they behold, For a warrior cometh riding, and his gear is all of gold; And grey is the steed and mighty beneath that lord of war, And a treasure of gold he beareth, and the gems of the ocean's floor: Now they deem the war-steed wondrous and the treasure strange they deem, But so exceeding glorious doth the harnessed rider seem, That men's hearts are all exalted as he draweth nigh and nigher, And there are they abiding in fear and great desire: For they look on the might of his limbs, and his waving locks they see, And his glad eyes clear as the heavens, and the wreath of the summer tree That girdeth the dread of his war-helm, and they wonder at his sword, And the tinkling rings of his hauberk, and the rings of the ancient Hoard: And they say: Are the Gods on the earth? did the world change yesternight? Are the sons of Odin coming, and the days of Baldur the bright?
But forth stood Heimir the ancient, and of Gods and men was he chief Of all who have handled the harp; and he stood betwixt blossom and leaf, And thrust his spear in the earth and cast abroad his hands: "Hail, thou that ridest hither from the North and the desert lands! Now thy face is turned to our hall-door and thereby must be thy way; And, unless the time so presseth that thou ridest night and day, It were good that thou lie in my house, and hearken the clink of the horn, Whether peace in thy hand thou bear us, or war on thy saddle be borne; Whether wealth thou seek, or friends, or kin, or a maiden lost, Or hast heart for the building of cities nor wilt hold thee aback for the cost; If fame thou wilt have among King-folk, to the land of the Kings art thou come, Or wouldst thou adown to the sea-flood, thou must pass by the garth of our home. Yea art thou a God from the heavens, who wilt deem me little of worth, And art come for the wrack of my realm and wilt cast King Heimir forth, Thou knowest I fear thee nothing, and no worse shall thy welcome be: Or art thou a wolf of the hearth, none here shall meddle with thee:— Yet lo, as I look on thine eyen, and behold thy hope and thy mirth, Meseems thou art better than these, some son of the Kings of the Earth."
Then spake the treasure-bestrider,—for his horse e'en now had he reined By the King and the earls of the people where the boughs of the thicket waned:— "Yea I am a son of the Kings; but my kin have passed away, And once were they called the Volsungs, and the sons of God were they: I am young, but have learned me wisdom; I am lone, but deeds have I done; I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and the Bed of the Worm have I won. But meseems that the earth is lovely, and that each day springeth anew And beareth the blossom of hope, and the fruit of deeds to do. And herein thou sayest the sooth, that I seek the fame of Kings, And with them would I do and undo and be heart of their warfarings: And for this o'er the Glittering Heath to the kingdoms of earth am I come, And over the head of Hindfell, and I seek the earl-folk's home That is called the lea of Lymdale 'twixt the wood and the water-side; For men call it the gate of the world where the Kings of Men abide: Nor the least of God-folk am I, nor the wolf of the Kings accursed, But Sigurd the son of Sigmund in the land of the Helper nursed: And I thank thee, lord, for thy bidding, and tonight will I bide in thine hall, And fare on the morrow to Lymdale and the deeds thenceforward to fall."
Then Sigurd leapt from Greyfell, and men were marvelling there At the sound of his sweet-mouthed wisdom, and his body shapen fair. But Heimir laughed and answered: "Now soon shall the deeds befall, And tonight shalt thou ride to Lymdale and tonight shalt thou bide in my hall: For I am the ancient Heimir, and my cunning is of the harp, Though erst have I dealt in the sword-play while the edge of war was sharp."
Then Sigurd joyed to behold him, for a god-like King he was, And amid the men of Lymdale did the Son of Sigmund pass; And their hearts are high uplifted, for across the air there came A breath of his tale half-spoken and the tidings of his fame; And their eyes are all unsatiate of gazing on his face, For his like have they never looked on for goodliness and grace.
So they bear him the wine of welcome, and then to the saddle they leap And get them forth from the wood-ways to the lea-land of the sheep, And the bull-fed Lymdale meadows; and thereover Sigurd sees The long white walls of Heimir amidst the blossomed trees: Then the slim moon rises in heaven, and the stars in the tree-tops shine, But the golden roof of Heimir looks down on the torch-lit wine, And the song of men goes roofward in praise of Sigmund's Son, And a joy to the Lymdale people is his glory new-begun.
How Sigurd met Brynhild in Lymdale.
So there abideth Sigurd with the Lymdale forest-lords In mighty honour holden, and in love beyond all words, And thence abroad through the people there goeth a rumour and breath Of the great Gold-wallower's slaying, and the tale of the Glittering Heath, And a word of the ancient Treasure and Greyfell's gleaming Load; And the hearts of men grew eager, and the coming deeds abode. But warily dealeth Sigurd, and he wends in the woodland fray As one whose heart is ready and abides a better day: In the woodland fray he fareth, and oft on a day doth ride Where the mighty forest wild-bulls and the lonely wolves abide; For as then no other warfare do the lords of Lymdale know, And the axe-age and the sword-age seem dead a while ago, And the age of the cleaving of shields, and of brother by brother slain, And the bitter days of the whoredom, and the hardened lust of gain; But man to man may hearken, and he that soweth reaps, And hushed is the heart of Fenrir in the wolf-den of the deeps.
Now is it the summer-season, and Sigurd rideth the land, And his hound runs light before him, and his hawk sits light on his hand, And all alone on a morning he rides the flowery sward Betwixt the woodland dwellings and the house of Lymdale's lord; And he hearkens Greyfell's going as he wends adown the lea, And his heart for love is craving, and the deeds he deems shall be; And he hears the Wrath's sheath tinkling as he rides the daisies down And he thinks of his love laid safely in the arms of his renown. But lo, as he rides the meadows, before him now he sees A builded burg arising amid the leafy trees, And a white-walled house on its topmost with a golden roof-ridge done, And thereon the clustering dove-kind in the brightness of the sun. So Sigurd stayed to behold it, for the heart within him laughed, But e'en then, as the arrow speedeth from the mighty archer's draught, Forth fled the falcon unhooded from the hand of Sigurd the King, And up, and over the tree-boughs he shot with steady wing: Then the Volsung followed his flight, for he looked to see him fall On the fluttering folk of the doves, and he cried the backward call Full oft and over again; but the falcon heeded it nought, Nor turned to his kingly wrist-perch, nor the folk of the pigeons sought, But flew up to a high-built tower, and sat in the window a space, Crying out like the fowl of Odin when the first of the morning they face, And then passed through the open casement as an erne to his eyrie goes.
Much marvelled the Son of Sigmund, and rode to the fruitful close: For he said: Here a great one dwelleth, though none have told me thereof, And he shall give me my falcon, and his fellowship and love. So he came to the gate of the garth, and forth to the hall-door rode, And leapt adown from Greyfell, and entered that fair abode; For full lovely was it fashioned, and great was the pillared hall, And fair in its hangings were woven the deeds that Kings befall, And the merry sun went through it and gleamed in gold and horn; But afield or a-fell are its carles, and none labour there that morn, And void it is of the maidens, and they weave in the bower aloft, Or they go in the outer gardens 'twixt the rose and the lily soft: So saith Sigurd the Volsung, and a door in the corner he spies With knots of gold fair-carven, and the graver's masteries: So he lifts the latch and it opens, and he comes to a marble stair, And aloft by the same he goeth through a tower wrought full fair. And he comes to a door at its topmost, and lo, a chamber of Kings, And his falcon there by the window with all unruffled wings.
But a woman sits on the high-seat with gold about her head, And ruddy rings on her arms, and the grace of her girdle-stead; And sunlit is her rippled linen, and the green leaves lie at her feet, And e'en as a swan on the billow where the firth and the out-sea meet. On the dark-blue cloths she sitteth, so fair and softly made Are her limbs by the linen hidden, and so white is she arrayed. But a web of gold is before her, and therein by her shuttle wrought The early days of the Volsungs and the war by the sea's rim fought, And the crowned queen over Sigmund, and the Helper's pillared hall, And the golden babe uplifted to the eyes of duke and thrall; And there was the slender stripling by the knees of the Dwarf-folk's lord, And the gift of the ancient Gripir, and the forging of the Sword; And there were the coils of Fafnir, and the hooded threat of death, And the King by the cooking-fire, and the fowl of the Glittering Heath; And there was the headless King-smith and the golden halls of the Worm, And the laden Greyfell faring through the land of perished storm; And there was the head of Hindfell, and the flames to the sky-floor driven; And there was the glittering shield-burg, and the fallow bondage riven; And there was the wakening woman and the golden Volsung done, And they twain o'er the earthly kingdoms in the lonely evening sun: And there were fells and forests, and towns and tossing seas, And the Wrath and the golden Sigurd for ever blent with these, In the midst of the battle triumphant, in the midst of the war-kings' fall, In the midst of the peace well-conquered, in the midst of the praising hall.
There Sigurd stood and marvelled, for he saw his deeds that had been, And his deeds of the days that should be, fair wrought in the golden sheen: And he looked in the face of the woman, and Brynhild's eyes he knew, But still in the door he tarried, and so glad and fair he grew, That the Gods laughed out in the heavens to see the Volsung's seed; And the breeze blew in from the summer and over Brynhild's weed, Till his heart so swelled with the sweetness that the fair word stayed in his mouth, And a marvel beloved he seemeth, as a ship new-come from the south: And still she longed and beheld him, nor foot nor hand she moved As she marvelled at her gladness, and her love so well beloved. But at last through the sounds of summer the voice of Sigurd came, And it seemed as a silver trumpet from the house of the fateful fame; And he spake: "Hail, lady and queen! hail, fairest of all the earth! Is it well with the hap of thy life-days, and thy kin and the house of thy birth?"
She said: "My kin is joyous, and my house is blooming fair, And dead, both root and branches, is the tree of their travail and care."
He spake: "I have longed, I have wondered if thy heart were well at ease, If the hope of thy days had blossomed and born thee fair increase."
"O have thou thanks," said Brynhild, "for thine heart that speaketh kind! Yea, the hope of my days is accomplished, and no more there is to find."
And again she spake in a space: "The road hath been weary and long, But well hast thou ridden it, Sigurd, and the sons of God are strong."
He said: "I have sought, O Brynhild, and found the heart of thine home; And no man hath asked or holpen, and all unbidden I come."
She said: "O welcome hither! for the heart of the King I knew, And thine hope that overcometh, and thy will that nought shall undo."
"Unbidden I came," he answered, "yet it is but a little space Since I heard thy voice on the mountain, and thy kind lips cherished my face."
She rose from the dark-blue raiment, and trembling there she stood, And no word her lips had gotten that her heart might deem it good: And his heart went forth to meet her, yet nought he moved for a while, Until the God-kin's laughter brake blooming from a smile And he cried: "It is good, O Brynhild, that we draw exceeding near, Lest Odin mock Kings' children that the doom of fate they fear."
Then forth she stepped from the high-seat, and forth from the threshold he came, Till both their bodies mingling seemed one glory and the same, And far o'er all fulfilment did the souls within them long, As at breast and at lips of the faithful the earthly love strained strong; And fresh from the deeps of the summer the breeze across them blew, But nought of the earth's desire, or the lapse of time they knew.
Then apart, but exceeding nigh, for a little while they stand, Till Brynhild toucheth her lord, and taketh his hand in her hand, And she leadeth him through the chamber, and sitteth down in her seat; And him she setteth beside her, and she saith: "It is right and meet That thou sit in this throne of my fathers, since thy gift today I have: Thou hast given it altogether, nor aught from me wouldst save; And thou knowest the tale of women, how oft it haps on a day That of such gifts men repent them, and their lives are cast away."
He said: "I have cast it away as the tiller casteth the seed, That the summer may better the spring-tide, and the autumn winter's need: For what were the fruit of our lives if apart they needs must pass, And men shall say hereafter: Woe worth the hope that was!"
She said: "That day shall dawn the best of all earthly days When we sit, we twain, in the high-seat in the hall of the people's praise: Or else, what fruit of our life-days, what fruit of our death shall be? What fruit, save men's remembrance of the grief of thee and me?"
He said: "It is sharper to bear than the bitter sword in the breast, O woe, to think of it now in the days of our gleaning of rest!"
Said Brynhild: "I bid thee remember the word that I have sworn, How the sun shall turn to blackness, and the last day be outworn, Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, and the kindness of thy face."
And they kissed and the day grew later and noon failed the golden place. But Sigurd said: "O Brynhild, remember how I swore That the sun should die in the heavens and day come back no more, Ere I forget thy wisdom and thine heart of inmost love. Lo now, shall I unsay it, though the Gods be great above, Though my life should last for ever, though I die tomorrow morn, Though I win the realm of the world, though I sink to the thrall-folk's scorn?"
She said: "Thou shalt never unsay it, and thy heart is mine indeed: Thou shalt bear my love in thy bosom as thou helpest the earth-folk's need: Thou shalt wake to it dawning by dawning; thou shalt sleep and it shall not be strange: There is none shall thrust between us till our earthly lives shall change. Ah, my love shall fare as a banner in the hand of thy renown, In the arms of thy fame accomplished shall it lie when we lay us adown. O deathless fame of Sigurd! O glory of my lord! O birth of the happy Brynhild to the measureless reward!"
So they sat as the day grew dimmer, and they looked on days to come, And the fair tale speeding onward, and the glories of their home; And they saw their crowned children and the kindred of the kings, And deeds in the world arising and the day of better things; All the earthly exaltation, till their pomp of life should be passed, And soft on the bosom of God their love should be laid at the last.
But when words have a long while failed them, and the night is nigh at hand, They arise in the golden glimmer, and apart and anigh they stand: Then Brynhild stooped to the Wrath, and touched the hilts of the sword, Ere she wound her arms round Sigurd and cherished the lips of her lord: Then sweet were the tears of Brynhild, and fast and fast they fell, And the love that Sigurd uttered, what speech of song may tell?
But he turned and departed from her, and her feet on the threshold abode As he went through the pillared feast-hall, and forth to the night he rode: So he turned toward the dwelling of Heimir and his love and his fame seemed one, And all full-well accomplished, what deeds soe'er were done: And the love that endureth for ever, and the endless hope he bore. As he faced the change of Heaven and the chance of worldly war.
Of Sigurd's riding to the Niblungs.
What aileth the men of Lymdale, that their house is all astir? Shall the hunt be up in the forest, or hath the shield-hung fir Brought war from the outer ocean to their fish-beloved stream? Or have the piping shepherds beheld the war-gear gleam Adown the flowery sheep-dales? or betwixt the poplars grey Have the neat-herds seen the banners of the drivers of the prey?
No, the forest shall be empty of the Lymdale men this morn, And the wells of the Lymdale river have heard no battle-horn, Nor the sheep in the flowery hollows seen any painted shield, And nought from the fear of warriors bide the neat-herds from the field; Yet full is the hall of Heimir with eager earls of war, And the long-locked happy shepherds are gathered round the door, And the smith has left his stithy, and the wife has left her rock, And the bright thrums hang unwinded by the maiden's weaving-stock: And there is the wife and the maiden, the elder and the boy; And scarce shall you tell what moves them, much sorrow or great joy.
But lo, as they gather and hearken by the door of Heimir's hall, The wave of a mighty music on the souls of men doth fall, And they bow their heads and hush them, because for a dear guest's sake Is Heimir's hand in the harp-strings and the ancient song is awake, And the words of the Gods' own fellow, and the hope of days gone by; Then deep is that song-speech laden with the deeds that draw anigh, And many a hope accomplished, and many an unhoped change, And things of all once spoken, now grown exceeding strange; Then keen as the battle-piercer the stringed speech arose, And the hearts of men went with it, as of them that meet the foes; Then soared the song triumphant as o'er the world well won, Till sweet and soft it ended as a rose falls 'neath the sun; But thereafter was there silence till the earls cast up the shout, And the whole house clashed and glittered as the tramp of men bore out, And folk fell back before them; then forth the earl-folk pour, And forth comes Heimir the Ancient and stands by his fathers' door: And then is the feast-hall empty and none therein abides: For forth on the cloudy Greyfell the Son of Sigmund rides, And the Helm of Awe he beareth, and the Mail-coat all of gold, That hath not its like in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told, And the Wrath to his side is girded, though the peace-strings wind it round, Yet oft and again it singeth, and strange is its sheathed sound: But beneath the King in his war-gear and beneath the wondrous Sword Are the red rings of the Treasure, and the gems of Andvari's Hoard, And light goes Greyfell beneath it, and oft and o'er again He neighs out hope of battle, for the heart of the beast is fain.
So there sitteth Sigurd the Volsung, and is dight to ride his ways, For the world lies fair before him and the field of the people's praise; And he kisseth the ancient Heimir, and haileth the folk of the land, And he crieth kind and joyous as the reins lie loose in his hand: "Farewell, O folk of Lymdale, and your joy of the summer-tide! For the acres whiten, meseemeth, and the harvest-field is wide: Who knows of the toil that shall be, when the reaping-hook gleams grey, And the knees of the strong are loosened in the afternoon of day? Who knows of the joy that shall be, when the reaper cometh again, And his sheaves are crowned with the blossoms, and the song goes up from the wain? But now let the Gods look to it, to hinder or to speed! But the love and the longing I know, and I know the hand and the deed."
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 Greyfell fareth onward, and back to the dusky hall Now goeth the ancient Heimir, and back to bower and stall, And back to hammer and shuttle go earl and carle and quean; And piping in the noontide adown the hollows green Go the yellow-headed shepherds amidst the scattered sheep; And all hearts a dear remembrance and a hope of Sigurd keep.
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; But whiles are rents athwart them, and the hot sun pierceth through, And there glow the angry cloud-caves 'gainst the everlasting blue, And the changeless snow amidst it; but down from that cloudy head The scars of fires that have been show grim and dusky-red; And lower yet are the hollows striped down by the scanty green, And lingering flecks of the cloud-host are tangled there-between, White, pillowy, lit by the sun, unchanged by the drift of the wind.
Long Sigurd looked and marvelled, and up-raised his heart and his mind; For he deemed that beyond that rock-wall bode his changed love and life On the further side of the battle, and the hope, and the shifting strife: 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. Then swift he hasteneth downward, lest day be wholly spent Ere he come to the gate well warded, and the walls' beleaguerment; For his heart is eager to hearken what men-folk therein dwell And the name of that noble dwelling, and the tale that it hath to tell. So he rides by the tilth of the acres, 'twixt the overhanging trees, And but seldom now and again a glimpse of the burg he sees, Till he comes to the flood of the river, and looks up from the balks of the bridge; Then how was the plain grown little 'neath that mighty burg of the ridge O'erhung by the cloudy mountains and the ash of another day, Whereto the slopes clomb upward till the green died out in the grey, And the grey in the awful cloud-land, where the red rents went and came Round the snows no summers minish and the far-off sunset flame: But lo, the burg at the ridge-end! have the Gods been building again Since they watched the aimless Giants pile up the wall of the plain, The house for none to dwell in? Or in what days lived the lord Who 'neath those thunder-forges upreared that battle's ward? Or was not the Smith at his work, and the blast of his forges awake, And the world's heart poured from the mountain for that ancient people's sake? 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.
Upriseth the heart of Sigurd, but ever he rideth forth Till he comes to the garth and the gateway built up in the face of the north: Then e'en as a wind from the mountains he heareth the warders' speech, As aloft in the mighty towers they clamour each to each: Then horn to horn blew token, and far and shrill they cried, And he heard, as the fishers hearken the cliff-fowl over the tide: But he rode in under the gate, that was long and dark as a cave Bored out in the isles of the northland by the beat of the restless wave; And the noise of the winds was within it, and the sound of swords unseen, As the night when the host is stirring and the hearts of Kings are keen. But no man stayed or hindered, and the dusk place knew his smile, And into the court of the warriors he came forth after a while, And looked aloft to the hall-roof, high up and grey as the cloud, For the sun was wholly perished; and there he crieth aloud:
"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 boards 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. But he beareth a Helm of Aweing and a Hauberk all of gold, That hath not its like in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told; And strange is all his raiment, and he beareth a Dwarf-wrought sword, And his war-steed beareth beneath him red rings of a mighty Hoard, And the ancient gems of the sea-floor: there he sits on his cloud-grey steed, And his eyes are bright in the even, and we deem him mighty indeed, And our hearts are upraised at his coming; but how shall I tell thee or say If he be a King of the Kings and a lord of the earthly day, Or if rather the Gods be abroad and he be one of these? But forsooth no battle he biddeth, nor craveth he our peace. So choose herein, King Giuki, wilt thou bid the man begone To his house of the earth or the heavens, lest a worser deed be won, Or wilt thou bid him abide in the Niblung peace and love? And meseems if thus thou doest, thou shalt never repent thee thereof."
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; And a flood of great remembrance, and the tales of the years gone by Swept over the soul of Sigurd, and his fathers seemed anigh; And he looked to the cloudy hall-roof, and anigh seemed Odin the Goth, And the Valkyrs holding the garland, and the crown of love and of troth; And his soul swells up exalted, and he deems that high above, In the glorious house of the heavens, are the outstretched hands of his love; And she stoops to the cloudy feast-hall, and the wavering wind is her voice, And her odorous breath floats round him, as she bids her King rejoice.
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.
So Grimhild greeted the guest, and she deemed him fair and sweet, And she deemed him mighty of men, and a king for the queen-folk meet. Then Gunnar the goodly war-king spake forth his greeting and speed, And deemed him noble and great, and a fellow for kings in their need: And Hogni gave him his greeting, and none his eyes might dim, And he smiled as the winter sun on the shipless ocean's rim. Then greeted him Guttorm the young, and cried out that his heart was glad That the Volsung lived in their house, that a King of the Kings they had. Then silent awhile the Maiden, the fair-armed Gudrun, stood, Yet might all men see by her visage that she deemed his coming good; But at last the gold she taketh, and before him doth she stand, And she poureth the wine of King-folk, and stretcheth forth her hand, And she saith: "Hail, Sigurd the Volsung! may I see thy joy increase, And thy shielded sons beside thee, and thy days grown old in peace!"
And he took the cup from her hand, and drank, while his heart rejoiced At the Niblung Maiden's beauty, and her blessing lovely-voiced; And he thanked her well for the greeting, and no guile in his heart was grown, But he thought of his love enfolded in the arms of his renown.
So the Niblungs feast glad-hearted through the undark night and kind, And the burden of all sorrow seems fallen far behind On the road their lives have wended ere that happiest night of nights, And the careless days and quiet seem but thieves of their delights; For their hearts go forth before them toward the better days to come, When all the world of glory shall be called the Niblungs' home: Yea, as oft in the merry season and the morning of the May The birds break out a-singing for the world's face waxen gay, And they flutter there in the blossoms, and run through the dewy grass, As they sing the joy of the spring-tide, that bringeth the summer to pass; And they deem that for them alone was the earth wrought long ago. And no hate and no repentance, and no fear to come they know; So fared the feast of the Niblungs on the eve that Sigurd came In the day of their deeds triumphant, and the blossom of their fame.
Of Sigurd's warfaring in the company of the Niblungs, and of his great fame and glory.
Now gone is the summer season and the harvest of the year, And amid the winter weather the deeds of the Niblungs wear; But nought is their joyance worsened, or their mirth-tide waxen less, Though the swooping mountain tempest howl round their ridgy ness, Though a house of the windy battle their streeted burg be grown, Though the heaped-up, huddled cloud-drift be their very hall-roofs crown, Though the rivers bear the burden, and the Rime-Gods grip and strive, And the snow in the mirky midnoon across the lealand drive.
But lo, in the stark midwinter how the war is smitten awake, And the blue-clad Niblung warriors the spears from the wall-nook take, And gird the dusky hauberk, and the ruddy fur-coat don, And draw the yellowing ermine o'er the steel from Welshland won. Then they show their tokened war-shields to the moon-dog and the stars, For the hurrying wind of the mountains has borne them tale of wars. Lo now, in the court of the warriors they gather for the fray, Before the sun's uprising, in the moonless morn of day; And the spears by the dusk gate glimmer, and the torches shine on the wall, And the murmuring voice of women comes faint from the cloudy hall: Then the grey dawn beats on the mountains mid a drift of frosty snow, And all men the face of Sigurd mid the swart-haired Niblungs know; And they see his gold gear glittering mid the red fur and the white, And high are the hearts uplifted by the hope of happy fight; And they see the sheathed Wrath shimmer mid the restless Welsh-wrought swords, And their hearts rejoice beforehand o'er the fall of conquered lords; And they see the Helm of Aweing and the awful eyes beneath, And they deem the victory glorious, and fair the warrior's death.
So forth through that cave of the gate from the Niblung Burg they fare, And they turn their backs on the plain, and the mountain-slopes they dare, And the place of the slaked earth-forges, as the eastering wind shall lead, And but few swords bide behind them the Niblung Burg to heed. But lo, in the jaws of the mountains how few and small they seem, As dusky-strange in the snow-drifts their knitted hauberks gleam: Lo, now at the mountains' outmost 'neath Sigurd's gleaming eyes How wide in the winter season the citied lealand lies: Lo, how the beacons are flaring, and the bell-swayed steeples rock, And the gates of cities are shaken with the back-swung door-leaves' shock: And, lo, the terror of towns, and the land that the winter wards, And over the streets snow-muffled the clash of the Niblung swords.
But the slaves of the Kings are gathered, and their host the battle abides, And forth in the front of the Niblungs the golden Sigurd rides; And Gunnar smites on his right hand, and Hogni smites on the left, And glad is the heart of Guttorm, and the Southland host is cleft As the grey bill reapeth the willows in the autumn of the year, When the fish lie still in the eddies, and the rain-flood draweth anear.
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.'"
Men say that the white-armed Gudrun, the lovely Giuki's child, Looked long on Sigurd's visage in the winter weather wild On the eve of the Kings' departure; and she bore him wine and spake: "Thou goest to the war, O Sigurd, for the Niblung brethren's sake; And so women send their kindred on many a doubtful tide, And dead full oft on the death-field shall the hope of their lives abide; Nor must they fear beforehand, nor weep when all is o'er; But thou, our guest and our stranger, thou goest to the war, And who knows but thine hand may carry the hope of all the earth; Now therefore if thou deemest that my prayer be aught of worth, Nor wilt scorn the child of a Niblung that prays for things to come, Pledge me for thy glad returning, and the sheaves of fame borne home!"
He laughed, for his heart was merry for the seed of battle sown, For the fruit of love's fulfilment, and the blossom of renown; And he said: "I look in the wine-cup and I see goodwill therein; Be merry, Maid of the Niblungs; for these are the prayers that win!"
He drank, and the soul within him to the love and the glory turned, And all unmoved was her visage, howso her heart-strings yearned.
But again when the bolt of battle on the sleeping kings had been hurled, And the gold-tipped cloud of the Niblungs had been sped on the winter world, And once more in that hall of the stories was dight triumphant feast, And in joy of soul past telling sat all men most and least, There stood the daughter of Giuki by the king-folk's happy board, And grave and stern was Gudrun as the wine of kings she poured: But Sigurd smiled upon her, and he said: "O maid, rejoice For thy pledge's fair redeeming, and the hope of thy kindly voice! Thou hast prayed for the guest and the stranger, and, lo, from the battle and wrack Is the hope of the Niblungs blossomed, and thy brethren's lives come back."
She turned and looked upon him, and the flush ran over her face, And died out as the summer lightning, that scarce endureth a space; But still was her visage troubled, as she said: "Hast thou called me kind Because I feared for earth's glory when point and edge are blind? But now is the night as the day, when thou bringest my brethren home, And back in the arms of thy glory the Niblung hope has come."
But his eyes look kind upon her, and the trouble passeth away, And there in the hall of the Niblungs is dark night as glorious day.
Now spring o'er the winter prevaileth, and the blossoms brighten the field; But lo, in the flowery lealands the gleam of spear and shield, For swift to the tidings of warfare speeds on the Niblung folk, And the Kings to the sea are riding, and the battle-laden oak. Now the isle-abiders tremble, and the dwellers by the sea And the nesses flare with the beacons, and the shepherds leave the lea, As the tale of the golden warrior speeds on from isle to isle. Now spread is the snare of treason, and cast is the net of guile, And the mirk-wood gleams with the ambush, and venom lurks at the board; And whiles and again for a little the fair fields gleam with the sword, And the host of the isle-folk gather, nigh numberless of tale: But how shall its bulk and its writhing the willow-log avail When the red flame lives amidst it? Lo now, the golden man In the towns from of old time famous, by the temples tall and wan; How he wends with the swart-haired Niblungs through the mazes of the streets, And the hosts of the conquered outlands and their uncouth praying meets. There he wonders at their life-days and their fond imaginings, As he bears the love of Brynhild through the houses of the kings, Where his word shall do and undo, and with crowns of kings shall he deal; And he laughs to scorn the treasure where thieves break through and steal, And the moth and the rust are corrupting: and he thinks the time is long Till the dawning of love's summer from the cloudy days of wrong.
So they raise and abase and alter, then turn about and ride, Mid the peace of the sword triumphant, to the shell-strown ocean's side; And they bear their glory away to the mouth of the fishy stream, And again in the Niblung lealand doth the Welsh-wrought war-gear gleam, And they come to the Burg of the Niblungs and the mighty gate of war, And betwixt the gathered maidens through its dusky depths they pour, And with war-helms done with blossoms round the Niblung hall they sing In the windless cloudless even and the ending of the spring; 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.
Then into the hall of the Niblungs go the battle-staying earls, And they cast the spoil in the midmost; the webs of the out-sea pearls, And the gold-enwoven purple that on hated kings was bright; Fair jewelled swords accursed that never flashed in fight; Crowns of old kings of battle that dastards dared to wear; Great golden shields dishonoured, and the traitors' battle-gear; Chains of the evil judges, and the false accusers' rings, And the cloud-wrought silken raiment of the cruel whores of kings. And they cried: "O King of the people, O Giuki old of years, Lo, the wealth that Sigurd brings thee from the fashioners of tears! Take thou the gift, O Niblung, that the Volsung seed hath brought! For we fought on the guarded fore-shore, in the guileful wood we fought; And we fought in the traitorous city, and the murder-halls of kings; And Sigurd showed us the treasure, and won us the ruddy rings From the jaws of the treason and death, and redeemed our lives from the snare, That the uttermost days might know it, and the day of the Niblungs be fair: And all this he giveth to thee, as the Gods give harvest and gain, And sit in their thrones of the heavens of the praise of the people fain."
Then Sigurd passed through the hall, and fair was the light of his eyes, And he came to King Giuki the ancient, and Grimhild the overwise, And stooped to the elder of days and kissed the war-wise head; And they loved him passing sore as a very son of their bed. 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.
Now there was the white-armed Gudrun, the lovely Giuki's child, And her eyes beheld his glory, but her heart was unbeguiled, And the dear hope fainted in her: I am frail and weak, she saith, And he so great and glorious with the eyes that look on death! Yet she comes, and speaks before him as she bears the golden horn: "The world is glad, O Sigurd, that ever thou wert born, And I with the world am rejoicing: drink now to the Niblung bliss, That I, a deedless maiden, may thank thee well for this!"
So he drank of the cup at her bidding and laughed, and said, "Forsooth, Good-will with the cup is blended, and the very heart of ruth: Yet meseems thy words are merrier than thine inmost soul this eve; Nay, cast away thy sorrow, lest the Kings of battle grieve!"
She smiled and departed from him, and there in the cloudy hall To the feast of their glad returning the Niblung children fall; And far o'er the flowery lealand the shepherds of the plain Behold the litten windows, and know that Kings are fain.
So fares the tale of Sigurd through all kingdoms of the earth, And the tale is told of his doings by the utmost ocean's girth; And fair feast the merchants deem it to warp their sea-beat ships High up the Niblung River, that their sons may hear his lips Shed fair words o'er their ladings and the opened southland bales; Then they get them aback to their countries, and tell how all men's tales Are nought, and vain and empty in setting forth his grace, And the unmatched words of his wisdom, and the glory of his face. Came the wise men too from the outlands, and the lords of singers' fame, That men might know hereafter the deeds that knew his name; And all these to their lands departed, and bore aback his love, And cherished the tree of his glory, and lived glad in the joy thereof.
But men say that howsoever all other folk of earth Loved Sigmund's son rejoicing, and were bettered of their mirth, Yet ever the white-armed Gudrun, the dark-haired Niblung Maid, From the barren heart of sorrow her love upon him laid: He rejoiceth, and she droopeth; he speaks and hushed is she; He beholds the world's days coming, nought but Sigurd may she see; He is wise and her wisdom falters; he is kind, and harsh and strange Comes the voice from her bosom laden, and her woman's mercies change. He longs, and she sees his longing, and her heart grows cold as a sword, And her heart is the ravening fire, and the fretting sorrows' hoard.
Ah, shall she not wander away to the wilds and the wastes of the deer, Or down to the measureless sea-flood, and the mountain marish drear? Nay, still shall she bide and behold him in the ancient happy place, And speak soft as the other women with wise and queenly face. Woe worth the while for her sorrow, and her hope of life forlorn! —Woe worth the while for her loving, and the day when she was born!
Of the Cup of evil drink that Grimhild the Wise-wife gave to Sigurd.
Now again in the latter summer do those Kings of the Niblungs ride To chase the sons of the plunder that curse the ocean-side: So over the oaken rollers they run the cutters down Till fair in the first of the deep are the glittering bows up-thrown; But, shining wet and steel-clad, men leap from the surfy shore, And hang their shields on the gunwale, and cast abroad the oar; Then full to the outer ocean swing round the golden beaks, And Sigurd sits by the tiller and the host of the spoilers seeks. But lo, by the rim of the out-sea where the masts of the Vikings sway, And their bows plunge down to the sea-floor as they ride the ridgy way, And show the slant decks covered with swords from stem to stern: Hark now, how the horns of battle for the clash of warriors yearn, And the mighty song of mocking goes up from the thousands of throats, As down the wind and landward the raven-banner floats: For they see thin streaks and shining o'er the waters' face draw nigh, And about each streak a foam-wake as the wet oars toss on high; And they shout; for the silent Niblungs round those great sea-castles throng, And the eager men unshielded swarm up the heights of wrong. Then from bulwark unto bulwark the Wrath's flame sings and leaps, And the unsteered manless dragons drift down the weltering deeps, And the waves toss up a shield-foam, and hushed are the clamorous throats And dead in the summer even the raven-banner floats, And the Niblung song goes upward, as the sea-burgs long accursed Are swept toward the field-folk's houses, and the shores they saddened erst: Lo there on the poop stands Sigurd mid the black-haired Niblung kings, And his heart goes forth before him toward the day of better things, And the burg in the land of Lymdale, and the hands that bide him there.
But now with the spoil of the spoilers mid the Niblungs doth he fare, When the Kings have dight the beacons and the warders of the coast, That fire may call to fire for the swift redeeming host. Then they fare to the Burg of the people, and leave that lealand free That a maid may wend untroubled by the edges of the sea; And glad in the autumn season they sit them down again By the shrines of the Gods of the Niblungs, and the hallowed hearths of men.
So there on an eve is Sigurd in the ancient Niblung hall, Where the cloudy hangings waver and the flickering shadows fall, And he sits by the Kings on the high-seat, and wise of men he seems, And of many a hidden marvel past thought of man he dreams: On the Head of Hindfell he thinketh, and how fair the woman was, And how that his love hath blossomed, and the fruit shall come to pass; And he thinks of the burg in Lymdale, and how hand met hand in love, Nor deems him aught too feeble the heart of the world to move; And more than a God he seemeth, and so steadfast and so great, That the sea of chance wide-weltering 'neath his will must needs abate.
High riseth the glee of the people, and the song and the clank of the cup Beat back from pillar to pillar, to the cloud-blue roof go up; And men's hearts rejoice in the battle, and the hope of coming days, Till scarce may they think of their fathers, and the kings of bygone praise.
But Giuki looketh on Sigurd and saith from heart grown fain: "To sit by the silent wise-one, how mighty is the gain! Yet we know this long while, Sigurd, that lovely is thy speech; Wilt thou tell us the tales of the ancient, and the words of masters teach? For the joy of our hearts is stormy with mighty battles won, And sweet shall be their lulling with thy tale of deeds agone."
Then they brought the harp to Sigurd, and he looked on the ancient man, As his hand sank into the strings, and a ripple over them ran, And he looked forth kind o'er the people, and all men on his glory gazed, And hearkened, hushed and happy, as the King his voice upraised; There he sang of the works of Odin, and the hails of the heavenly coast, And the sons of God uprising, and the Wolflings' gathering host; And he told of the birth of Rerir, and of Volsung yet unborn, All the deeds of his father's father, and his battles overworn; Then he told of Signy and Sigmund, and the changing of their lives; Tales of great kings' departing, and their kindred and their wives. But his song and his fond desire go up to the cloudy roof, And blend with the eagles' shrilling in the windy night aloof. So he made an end of his story, and he sat and longed full sore That the days of all his longing as a story might be o'er: But the wonder of the people, and their love of Sigurd grew, And green grew the tree of the Volsungs, as the Branstock blossomed anew.
Now up rose Grimhild the wise-wife, and 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, And blinded the God-born seer, and turned the steadfast athwart, And smitten the pride of the joyous, and the hope of the eager heart; The hush of the hall she hearkened, and the fear of men she knew, But all this was a token unto her, and great pride within her grew, As she saw the days that were coming from the well-spring of her blood; Goodly and glorious and great by the kings of her kindred she stood, And faced the sorrow of Sigurd, and her soul of that hour was fain; For she thought: I will heal the smitten, I will raise up the smitten and slain, And take heed where the Gods were heedless, and build on where they began, And frame hope for the unborn children and the coming days of man.
Then she spake aloud to the Volsung: "Hear this faithful word of mine! For the draught thou hast drunken, O Sigurd, and my love was blent with the wine: O Sigurd, son of the mighty, thy kin are passed away, But uplift thine heart and be merry, for new kin hast thou gotten today; Thy father is Giuki the King, and Grimhild thy mother is made, And thy brethren are Gunnar and Hogni and Guttorm the unafraid. Rejoice for a kingly kindred, and a hope undreamed before! For the folk shall be wax in the fire that withstandeth the Niblung war; The waste shall bloom as a garden in the Niblung glory and trust, And the wrack of the Niblung people shall burn the world to dust: Our peace shall still the world, our joy shall replenish the earth; And of thee it cometh, O Sigurd, the gold and the garland of worth!"
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."
As folk of the summer feasters, who have fallen to feast in the morn, And have wreathed their brows with roses ere the first of the clouds was born; Beneath the boughs were they sitting, and the long leaves twinkled about, And the wind with their laughter was mingled, nor held aback from their shout, Amidst of their harp it lingered, from the mouth of their horn went up, Round the reek of their roast was it breathing, o'er the flickering face of their cup— —Lo now, why sit they so heavy, and why is their joy-speech dead, Why are the long leaves drooping, and the fair wind hushed overhead?— Look out from the sunless boughs to the yellow-mirky east, How the clouds are woven together o'er that afternoon of feast; There are heavier clouds above them, and the sun is a hidden wonder, It rains in the nether heaven, and the world is afraid with the thunder: E'en so in the hall of the Niblungs, and the holy joyous place, Sat the earls on the marvel gazing, and the sorrow of Sigurd's face.
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.
But the hushed Kings sat in the feast-hall, till Grimhild cried on the harp, And the minstrels' fingers hastened, and the sound rang clear and sharp Beneath the cloudy roof-tree, but no joyance with it went, And no voice but the eagles' crying with the stringed song was blent; And as it began, it ended, and no soul had been moved by its voice, To lament o'er the days passed over, or in coming days to rejoice. Late groweth the night o'er the people, but no word hath Sigurd said, Since he laughed o'er the glittering Dwarf-gold and raised the cup to his head: No wrath in his eyes is arisen, no hope, nor wonder, nor fear; Yet is Sigurd's face as boding to folk that behold him anear, As the mountain that broodeth the fire o'er the town of man's delights, As the sky that is cursed nor thunders, as the God that is smitten nor smites.
So silent sitteth the Volsung o'er the blindness of the wrong, But night on the Niblungs waxeth, and their Kings for the morrow long, And the morrow of tomorrow that the light may be fair to their eyes, And their days as the days of the joyous: so now from the throne they arise, And their men depart from the feast-hall, their care in sleep to lay, But none durst speak with Sigurd, nor ask him, whither away, As he strideth dumb from amidst them; and all who see him deem That he heedeth the folk of the Niblungs but as people of a dream. So they fall away from about him, till he stands in the forecourt alone; Then he fares to the kingly stables, nor knoweth he his own, Nor backeth the cloudy Greyfell, but a steed of the Kings he bestrides And forth through the gate of the Niblungs and into the night he rides: —Yea he with no deed before him, and he in the raiment of peace; And the moon in the mid-sky wadeth, and is come to her most increase.
In the deedless dark he rideth, and all things he remembers save one, And nought else hath he care to remember of all the deeds he hath done: He hasteneth not nor stayeth; he lets the dark die out Ere he comes to the burg of Brynhild and rides it round about; And he lets the sun rise upward ere he rideth thence away, And wendeth he knoweth not whither, and he weareth down the day; Till lo, a plain and a river, and a ridge at the mountains' feet With a burg of people builded for the lords of God-home meet. O'er the bridge of the river he rideth, and unto the burg-gate comes In no lesser wise up-builded than the gate of the heavenly homes: Himseems that the gate-wards know him, for they cry out each to each, And as whispering winds in the mountains he hears their far-off speech. So he comes to the gate's huge hollow, and amidst its twilight goes, And his horse is glad and remembers, and that road of King-folk knows; And the winds are astir in its arches with the sound of swords unseen, And the cries of kings departed, and the battles that have been.
So into a garth of warriors from that dusk he rideth out And no man stayeth nor hindereth; there he gazeth round about, And seeth a glorious dwelling, a mighty far-famed place, As the last of the evening sunlight shines fair on his weary face; And there is a hall before him, and huge in the even it lies, A mountain grey and awful with the Dwarf-folk's masteries: And the houses of men cling round it, and low they seem and frail, Though the wise and the deft have built them for a long-enduring tale: There the wind sings loud in the wall-nook, and the spears are sparks on the wall, And the swords are flaming torches as the sun is hard on his fall: He falls, and the even dusketh o'er that sword-renowned close, But Sigurd bideth and broodeth for the Niblung house he knows, And he hath a thought within him that he rideth forth from shame, And that men have forgotten the greeting and are slow to remember his fame.