But forth from the hall came a shouting, and the voice of many men, And he deemed they cried "Hail, Sigurd! thou art welcome home again!" Then he looked to the door of the feast-hall and behold it seemed to him That its wealth of graven stories with more than the dusk was dim; With the waving of white raiment and the doubtful gleam of gold. Then there groweth a longing within him, nor his heart will he withhold; But he rideth straight to the doorway, and the stories of the door: And there sitteth Giuki the ancient, the King, the wise of war, And Grimhild the kin of the God-folk, the wife of the glittering eyes; And there is the goodly Gunnar, and Hogni the overwise, And Guttorm the young and the war-fain; and there in the door and the shade, With eyes to the earth cast downward, is the white-armed Niblung Maid. But all these give Sigurd greeting, and hail him fair and well; And King Giuki saith: "Hail, Sigurd! what tidings wilt thou tell Of thy deeds since yestereven? or whitherward wentst thou?"
Then unto the earth leapt the Volsung, and gazed with doubtful brow On the King and the Queen and the Brethren, and the white-armed Giuki's Child, Yet amidst all these in a measure of his heavy heart was beguiled: He spread out his hands before them, and he spake: "O, what be ye, Who ask of the deeds of Sigurd, and seek of the days to be? Are ye aught but the Niblung children? for meseems I would ask for a gift, But the thought of my heart is unstable, and my hope as the winter-drift; And the words may not be shapen.—But speak ye, men of the earth, Have ye any new-found tidings, or are deeds come nigh to the birth? Are there knots for my sword to sunder? are there thrones for my hand to shake? And to which of the Gods shall I give, and from which of the Kings shall I take? Or in which of the houses of man-folk henceforward shall I dwell? O speak, ye Niblung children, and the tale to Sigurd tell!"
None answered a word for a space; but Gudrun wept in the door, And the noise of men came outward and of feet that went on the floor. Then Grimhild stood before him, and took him by the hand, And she said: "In the hall are gathered the earls of the Niblung land. Come thou with the Mother of Kings and sit in thy place tonight, That the cheer of the earls may be bettered, nor the war-dukes lose delight."
"Come, brother and king," said Gunnar, "for here of all the earth Is the place that may not lack thee, and the folk that loves thy worth."
"Come, Sigurd the wise," said Hogni, "and so shall thy visage cheer The folk that is bold for tomorrow, and the hearts that know no fear."
"Come, Sigurd the keen," said Guttorm, "for thy sword lies light in the sheath, And oft shall we ride together to face the fateful death."
No word at all spake Gudrun, as she stood in the doorway dim, But turned her face from beholding as she reached her hand to him.
Then Sigurd nought gainsaid them, but into the hall he passed, And great shouts of salutation to the cloudy roof were cast, And rang back from the glassy pillars, and the woven God-folk 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 other days; And the harps rang out in the hall, and men sang in Sigurd's praise.
But he looked to the right and the left, and he knew there was ruin and lack, And the death of yestereven, and the days that should never come back; And he strove, but nought he remembered of the matters that he would, Save that great was the flood of sorrow that had drowned his days of good: Then he deemed that the sons of the earl-folk, e'en mid their praising word, Were looking on his trouble as a people sore afeard; And the gifts that the Gods had given the pride in his soul awoke, And kindled was Sigurd's kindness by the trouble of the folk; And he thought: I shall do and undo, as while agone I did, And abide the time of the dawning, when the night shall be no more hid! Then he lifted his head like a king, and his brow as a God's was clear, And the trouble fell from the people, and they cast aside their fear; And scarce was his glory abated as he sat in the seat of the Kings With the Niblung brethren about him, and they spake of famous things, And the dealings of lords of the earth; but he spake and answered again And thrust by the grief of forgetting, and his tangled thought and vain, And cast his care on the morrow, that the people might be glad. Yet no smile there came to Sigurd, and his lips no laughter had; But he seemeth a king o'er-mighty, who hath won the earthly crown, In whose hand the world is lying, who no more heedeth renown.
But now speaketh Grimhild the Queen: "Rise, daughter of my folk, For thou seest my son is weary with the weight of the careful yoke; Go, bear him the wine of the Kings, and hail him over the gold, And bless the King for his coming to the heart of the Niblung fold."
Upriseth the white-armed Gudrun, and taketh the cup in her hand; Dead-pale in the night of her tresses by Sigurd doth she stand, And strives with the thought within her, and finds no word to speak: For such is the strength of her anguish, as well might slay the weak; But her heart is a heart of the Queen-folk and of them that bear earth's kings, And her love of her lord seems lovely, though sore the torment wrings, —How fares it with words unspoken, when men are great enow, And forth from the good to the good the strong desires shall flow? Are they wasted e'en as the winds, the barren maids of the sky, Of whose birth there is no man wotteth, nor whitherward they fly?
Lo, Sigurd lifteth his eyes, and he sees her silent and pale, But fair as Odin's Choosers in the slain kings' wakening dale, But sweet as the mid-fell's dawning ere the grass beginneth to move; And he knows in an instant of time that she stands 'twixt death and love, And that no man, none of the Gods can help her, none of the days, If he turn his face from her sorrow, and wend on his lonely ways. But she sees the change in his eyen, and her queenly grief is stirred, And the shame in her bosom riseth at the long unspoken word, And again with the speech she striveth; but swift is the thought in his heart To slay her trouble for ever, and thrust her shame apart. And he saith: "O Maid of the Niblungs, thou art weary-faced this eve: Nay, put thy trouble from thee, lest the shielded warriors grieve! Or tell me what hath been done, or what deed have men forborne, That here mid the warriors' joyance thy life-joy lieth forlorn? For so may the high Gods help me, as nought so much I would, As that round thine head this even might flit unmingled good!"
He seeth the love in her eyen, and the life that is tangled in his, And the heart cries out within him, and man's hope of earthly bliss; And again would he spare her the speech, as she strives with her longing sore.
"Here are glad men about us, and a joyous folk of war. And they that have loved thee for long, and they that have cherished mine heart; But we twain alone are woeful, as sad folk sitting apart. Ah, if I thy soul might gladden! if thy lips might give me peace! Then belike were we gladdest of all; for I love thee more than these. The cup of goodwill that thou bearest, and the greeting thou wouldst say, Turn these to the cup of thy love, and the words of the troth-plighting day; The love that endureth for ever, and the never-dying troth, To face the Norns' undoing, and the Gods amid their wrath."
Then he taketh the cup and her hands, and she boweth meekly adown, Till she feels the arms of Sigurd round her trembling body thrown: A little while she doubteth in the mighty slayer's arms As Sigurd's love unhoped-for her barren bosom warms; A little while she struggleth with the fear of his mighty fame, That grows with her hope's fulfilment; ruth rises with wonder and shame; For the kindness grows in her soul, as forgotten anguish dies, And her heart feels Sigurd's sorrow in the breast whereon she lies; Then the fierce love overwhelms her, and as wax in the fervent fire All dies and is forgotten in the sweetness of desire; And close she clingeth to Sigurd, as one that hath gotten the best And fair things of the world she deemeth, as a place of infinite rest.
Of the Wedding of Sigurd the Volsung.
That night sleeps Sigurd the Volsung, and awakes on the morrow-morn, And wots at the first but dimly what thing in his life hath been born: But the sun cometh up in the autumn, and the eve he remembered, And the word he hath given to Gudrun to love her to the death; And he longs for the Niblung maiden, that her love may cherish his heart, Lest e'en as a Godhead banished he dwell in the world apart: The new sun smiteth his body as he leaps from the golden bed, And doeth on his raiment and is fair apparelled; Then he goes his ways through the chambers, and greeteth none at all Till he comes to the garth and the garden in the nook of the Niblung wall.
Now therein, mid the yellowing leafage, and the golden blossoms spent, Alone and lovely and eager the white-armed Gudrun went; Swift then he hasteneth toward her, and she bideth his drawing near, And now in the morn she trembleth; for her love is blent with fear; And wonder is all around her, for she deemed till yestereve, When she saw the earls astonied, and the golden Sigurd grieve, That on some most mighty woman his joyful love was set; And love hath made her humble, and her race doth she forget, And her noble and mighty heart from the best of the Niblungs sprung, The sons of the earthly War-Gods of the days when the world was young. Yea she feareth her love and his fame, but she feareth his sorrow most, Lest he spake from a heart o'erladen and counted not the cost. But lo, the love of his eyen, and the kindness of his face! And joy her body burdens, and she trembleth in her place, And sinks in the arms that cherish with a faint and eager cry, And again on the bosom of Sigurd doth the head of Gudrun lie.
Fairer than yestereven doth Sigurd deem his love, And more her tender wooing and her shame his soul doth move; And his words of peace and comfort come easier forth from him, And woman's love seems wondrous amidst his trouble dim; Strange, sweet, to cling together! as oft and o'er again They crave and kiss rejoicing, and their hearts are full and fain.
Then a little while they sunder, and apart and anigh they stand, And Sigurd's eyes grow awful as he stretcheth forth his hand, And his clear voice saith: "O Gudrun, now hearken while I swear That the sun shall die for ever and the day no more be fair. Ere I forget thy pity and thine inmost heart of love! Yea, though the Kings be mighty, and the Gods be great above, I will wade the flood and the fire, and the waste of war forlorn, To look on the Niblung dwelling, and the house where thou wert born."
Strange seemed the words to Sigurd that his gathering love compelled, And sweet and strange desire o'er his tangled trouble welled.
But bright flashed the eyes of Gudrun, and she said: "King, as for me, If thou sawest the heart in my bosom, what oath might better thee? Yet my words thy words shall cherish, as thy lips my lips have done. —Herewith I swear, O Sigurd, that the earth shall hate the sun, And the year desire but darkness, and the blossoms shrink from day, Ere my love shall fail, beloved, or my longing pass away!"
Now they go from the garth and the garden, and hand in hand they come To the hall of the kings of aforetime, and the heart of the Niblung home. There they go 'neath the cloudy roof-tree, and on to the high-seat fair, And there sitteth Giuki the ancient, and the guileful Grimhild is there, With the swart-haired Niblung brethren; and all these are exceeding fain, When they look on Sigurd and Gudrun, and the peace that enwrappeth the twain, For in her is all woe forgotten, sick longing little seen, And the shame that slayeth pity, and the self-scorn of a Queen; And all doubt in love is swallowed, and lovelier now is she Than a picture deftly painted by the craftsmen over sea; And her face is a rose of the morning by the night-tide framed about, And the long-stored love of her bosom from her eyes is leaping out. But how fair is Sigurd the King that beside her beauty goes! How lovely is he shapen, how great his stature shows! How kind is the clasping right-hand, that hath smitten the battle acold! How kind are the awful eyen that no foeman durst behold! How sweet are the lips unsmiling, and the brow as the open day! What man can behold and believe it, that his life shall pass away? So he standeth proud by the high-seat, and the sun through the vast hall pours And the Gods on the hangings waver as the wind goes by the doors, And abroad are the sounds of man-folk, and the eagles cry from the roof, And the ancient deeds of Sigmund seem fallen far aloof; And dead are the fierce days fallen, and the world is soft and sweet, As the Son of the Volsungs speaketh in noble words and meet:
"O hearken, King of the Niblungs, O ancient of the days! Time was, when alone I wandered, and went on the wasteland ways, And sore my soul desired the harvest of the sword: Then I slew the great Gold-wallower, and won the ancient Hoard, And I turned to the dwellings of men; for I longed for measureless fame, And to do and undo with the Kings, and the pride of the Kings to tame; And I longed for the love of the King-folk; but who desired my soul, Who stayed my feet in his dwelling, who showed the weary the goal, Who drew me forth from the wastes, and the bitter kinless dearth, Till I came to the house of Giuki and the hallowed Niblung hearth? Count up the deeds and forbearings, count up the words of the days That show forth the love of the Niblungs and the ancient people's praise. Nay, number the waves of the sea, and the grains of the yellow sand, And the drops of the rain in the April, and the blades of the grassy land! And what if one heart of the Niblungs had stored and treasured it all, And hushed, and moved but softly, lest one grain thereof should fall? If she feared the barren garden, and the sunless fallow field? How then should the spring-tide labour, and the summer toil to yield! And so may the high Gods help me, as I from this day forth Shall toil for her exalting to the height of worldly worth, If thou stretch thine hands forth, Giuki, and hail me for thy son: Then there as thou sitt'st in thy grave-mound when thine earthly day is done, Thou shalt hear of our children's children, and the crowned kin of kings, And the peace of the Niblung people in the day of better things; And then mayst thou be merry of the eve when Sigurd came, In the day of the deeds of the Niblungs and the blossom of their fame, Stretch forth thine hands to thy son: for I bid thy daughter to wife, And her life shall withhold my death-day, and her death shall stay my life."
Then spoke the ancient Giuki: "Hail, Sigurd, son of mine eld! And I bless the Gods for the day that mine ancient eyes have beheld: Now let me depart in peace, since I know for very sooth That waxen e'en as the God-folk shall the Niblungs blossom in youth. Come, take thy mother's greeting, and let thy brethren say How well they love thee, Sigurd, and how fair they deem the day."
Then lowly bendeth Sigurd 'neath the guileful Grimhild's hand, And he kisseth the Kings of the Niblungs, and about him there they stand, The war-fain, darkling kindred; and all their words are praise, And the love of the tide triumphant, and the hope of the latter days.
Hark now, on the morrow morning how the blast of the mighty horn From the builded Burg of the Niblungs goes over the acres shorn, And the roads are gay with the riders, and the bull in the stall is left, And the plough is alone in the furrow, and the wedge in the hole half-cleft; And late shall the ewes be folded, and the kine come home to the pail, And late shall the fires be litten in the outmost treeless dale: For men fare to the gate of Giuki and the ancient cloudy hall, And therein are the earls assembled and the kings wear purple and pall, And the flowers are spread beneath them, and the bench-cloths beaten with gold; And the walls are strange and wondrous with the noble stories told: For new-hung is the ancient dwelling with the golden spoils of the south, And men seem merry for ever, and the praise is in each man's mouth, And the name of Sigurd the Volsung, the King and the Serpent's Bane, Who exalteth the high this morning and blesseth the masters of gain: For men drink the bridal of Sigurd and the white-armed Niblung maid, And the best with the best shall be mingled, and the gold with the gold o'erlaid.
So, fair in the hall is the feasting and men's hearts are uplifted on high, And they deem that the best of their life-days are surely drawing anigh, As now, one after other, uprise the scalds renowned, And their well-beloved voices awake the hoped-for sound, In the midmost of the high-tide, and the joy of feasting lords. Then cometh a hush and a waiting, and the light of many swords Flows into the hall of Giuki by the doorway of the King, And amid those flames of battle the war-clad warriors bring The Cup of daring Promise and the hallowed Boar of Son, And men's hearts grow big with longing and great is the hope-tide grown; For bright the Son of Sigmund ariseth by the board, And unwinds the knitted peace-strings that hamper Regin's Sword: Then fierce is the light on the high-seat as men set down the Cup Anigh the hand of Sigurd, and the edges blue rise up, And fall on the hallowed Wood-beast: as a trump of the woeful war Rings the voice of the mighty Volsung as he speaks the words of yore:
"By the Earth that groweth and giveth, and by all the Earth's increase That is spent for Gods and man-folk; by the sun that shines on these; By the Salt-Sea-Flood that beareth the life and death of men; By the Heavens and Stars that change not, though earth die out again; By the wild things of the mountain, and the houseless waste and lone; By the prey of the Goths in the thicket and the holy Beast of Son, I hallow me to Odin for a leader of his host, To do the deeds of the highest, and never count the cost: And I swear, that whatso great-one shall show the day and the deed, I shall ask not why nor wherefore, but the sword's desire shall speed: And I swear to seek no quarrel, nor to swerve aside for aught, Though the right and the left be blooming, and the straight way wend to nought: And I swear to abide and hearken the prayer of any thrall, Though the war-torch be on the threshold and the foemen's feet in the hall: And I swear to sit on my throne in the guise of the kings of the earth, Though the anguish past amending, and the unheard woe have birth: And I swear to wend in my sorrow that none shall curse mine eyes For the scowl that quelleth beseeching, and the hate that scorneth the wise. So help me Earth and Heavens, and the Under-sky and Seas, And the Stars in their ordered houses, and the Norns that order these!"
And he drank of the Cup of the Promise, and fair as a star he shone, And all men rejoiced and wondered, and deemed Earth's glory won.
Then came the girded maidens, and the slim earls' daughters poured, And uprose the dark-haired Gunnar and bare was the Niblung sword; Blue it gleamed in the hand of the folk-king as he laid it low on the Beast, And took oath as the Goths of aforetime in the hush of the people's feast: "I will work for the craving of Kings, and accomplish the will of the great, Nor ask what God withstandeth, nor hearken the tales of fate; When a King my life hath exalted, and wrought for my hope and my gain, For every deed he hath done me, thereto shall I fashion twain. I shall bear forth the fame of the Niblungs through all that hindereth; In my life shall I win great glory, and be merry in my death."
So sweareth the lovely war-king and drinketh of the Cup, And the joy of the people waxeth and their glad cry goeth up. But again came the girded maidens: earls' daughters pour the wine, And bare is the blade of Hogni in the feast-hall over the Swine; Then he cries o'er the hallowed Wood-beast: "Earth, hearken, how I swear To beseech no man for his helping, and to vex no God with prayer; And to seek out the will of the Norns, and look in the eyes of the curse; And to laugh while the love aboundeth, lest the glad world grow into worse; Then if in the murder I laugh not, O Earth, remember my name, And oft tell it aloud to the people for the Niblungs' fated shame!"
Then he drank of the Cup of the Promise, and all men hearkened and deemed That his speech was great and valiant, and as one of the wise he seemed.
Then the linen-folded maidens of the earl-folk lift the gold But the earls look each on the other, and Guttorm's place behold, And empty it lieth before them; for the child hath wearied of peace, And he sits by the oars in the East-seas, and winneth fame's increase. Nor then, nor ever after, o'er the Holy Beast he spake, When mighty hearts were exalted for the golden Sigurd's sake.
But now crieth Giuki the Ancient: "O fair sons, well have ye sworn, And gladdened my latter-ending, and my kingly hours outworn; Full fain from the halls of Odin on the world's folk shall I gaze And behold all hearts rejoicing in the Niblungs' glorious days."
Glad cries of earls rose upward and beat on the cloudy roof, And went forth on the drift of the autumn to the mountains far aloof: Speech stirred in the hearts of the singers, and the harps might not refrain, And they called on the folk of aforetime of the Niblung joy to be fain.
But Sigurd sitteth by Gudrun, and his heart is soft and kind, And the pity swelleth within it for the days when he was blind; And with yet another pity, lest his sorrow seen o'erweigh Her fond desire's fulfilment, and her fair soul's blooming-day: And many a word he frameth his kingly fear to hide, And the tangle of his trouble, that her joy may well abide. But the joy so filleth Gudrun and the triumph of her bliss, That oft she sayeth within her: How durst I dream of this? How durst I hope for the days wherein I now shall dwell, And that assured joyance whereof no tongue may tell?
So fares the feast in glory till thin the night doth grow, And joy hath wearied the people, and to rest and sleep they go: Then dight is the fateful bride-bed, and the Norns will hinder nought That the feet of the Niblung Maiden to the chamber of Kings be brought, And the troth is pledged and wedded, and the Norns cast nought before The feet of Sigurd the Volsung and the bridal chamber-door. All hushed was the house of the Niblungs, and they two were left alone, And kind as a man made happy was the golden Sigurd grown, As there in the arms of the mighty he clasped the Niblung Maid; But her spirit fainted within her, and her very soul was afraid, And her mouth was empty of words when their lips were sundered a space, And in awe and utter wonder she gazed upon his face; As one who hath prayed for a God in the dwelling of man to abide, And he comes, and the face unfashioned his ruth and his mercy must hide. She trembled and wept before him, till at last amidst her tears The joy and the hope of women fell on her unawares, And she sought the hands that had held her, and the face that her face had blessed, And the bosom of Sigurd the Mighty, the hope of her earthly rest.
Then he spake as she hearkened and wondered: "With the Kings of men I rode, And none but the men of the war-fain our coming swords abode: O, dear was the day of the riding, and the hope of the clashing swords! O, dear were the deeds of battle, and the fall of Odin's lords, When I met the overcomers, and beheld them overcome, When we rent the spoil from the spoilers, and led the chasers home! O, sweet was the day of the summer when we won the ancient towns, And we stood in the golden bowers and took and gave the crowns! And sweet were the suppliant faces, and the gifts and the grace we gave, And the life and the wealth unhoped for, and the hope to heal and save: And sweet was the praise of the Niblungs, and dear was the song that arose O'er the deed assured, accomplished, and the death of the people's foes! O joyful deeds of the mighty! O wondrous life of a King! Unto thee alone will I tell it, and his fond imagining, That but few of the people wot of, as he sits with face unmoved In the place where kings have perished, in the seat of kings beloved!"
His kind arms clung about her, and her face to his face he drew; "The life of the kings have I conquered, but this is strange and new; And from out the heart of the striving a lovelier thing is born, And the love of my love is sweeter and these hours before the morn."
Again she trembled before him and knew not what she feared, And her heart alone, unhidden, deemed her love too greatly dared; But the very body of Sigurd, the wonder of all men, Cast cherishing arms about her, and kissed her mouth again, And in love her whole heart melted, and all thought passed away, Save the thought of joy's fulfilment and the hours before the day; She murmured words of loving as his kind lips cherished her breast, And the world waxed nought but lovely and a place of infinite rest.
But it was long thereafter ere the sun rose o'er their love, And lit the world of autumn and the pale sky hung above; And it stirred the Gods in the heavens, and the Kings of the Goths it stirred, Till the sound of the world awakening in their latter dreams they heard; And over the Burg of the Niblungs the day spread fair and fresh O'er the hopes of the ancient people and those twain become one flesh.
Sigurd rideth with the Niblungs, and wooeth Brynhild for King Gunnar.
Now it fell on a day of the spring-tide that followed on these things, That Sigurd fares to the meadows with Gunnar and Hogni the Kings; For afar is Guttorm the youngest, and he sails the Eastern Seas, And fares with war-shield hoisted to win him fame's increase. So come the Kings to the Doom-ring, and the people's Hallowed Field, And no dwelling of man is anigh it, and no acre forced to yield; There stay those Kings of the people alone in weed of war, And they cut a strip of the greensward on the meadow's daisied floor, And loosen it clean in the midst, while its ends in the earth abide; Then they heave its midmost aloft, and set on either side An ancient spear of battle writ round with words of worth; And these are the posts of the door, whose threshold is of the earth And the skin of the earth is its lintel: but with war-glaives gleaming bare The Niblung Kings and Sigurd beneath the earth-yoke fare; Then each an arm-vein openeth, and their blended blood falls down On Earth the fruitful Mother where they rent her turfy gown: And then, when the blood of the Volsungs hath run with the Niblung blood, They kneel with their hands upon it and swear the brotherhood: Each man at his brother's bidding to come with the blade in his hand, Though the fire and the flood should sunder, and the very Gods withstand: Each man to love and cherish his brother's hope and will; Each man to avenge his brother when the Norns his fate fulfill: And now are they foster-brethren, and in such wise have they sworn As the God-born Goths of aforetime, when the world was newly born. But among the folk of the Niblungs goes forth the tale of the same, And men deem the tidings a glory and the garland of their fame.
So is Sigurd yet with the Niblungs, and he loveth Gudrun his wife, And wendeth afield with the brethren to the days of the dooming of life; And nought his glory waneth, nor falleth the flood of praise: To every man he hearkeneth, nor gainsayeth any grace, And glad is the poor in the Doom-ring when he seeth his face mid the Kings, For the tangle straighteneth before him, and the maze of crooked things. But the smile is departed from him, and the laugh of Sigurd the young, And of few words now is he waxen, and his songs are seldom sung. Howbeit of all the sad-faced was Sigurd loved the best; And men say: Is the king's heart mighty beyond all hope of rest? Lo, how he beareth the people! how heavy their woes are grown! So oft were a God mid the Goth-folk, if he dwelt in the world alone.
Now Giuki the King of the Niblungs must change his life at the last, And they lay him down in the mountains and a great mound over him cast: For thus had he said in his life-days: "When my hand from the people shall fade, Up there on the side of the mountains shall the King of the Niblungs be laid, Whence one seeth the plain of the tillage and the fields where man-folk go; Then whiles in the dawn's awakening, when the day-wind riseth to blow, Shall I see the war-gates opening, and the joy of my shielded men As they look to the field of the dooming: and whiles in the even again Shall I see the spoil come homeward, and the host of the Niblungs pour Through the gates that the Dwarf-folk builded and the well-beloved door."
So there lieth Giuki the King, mid steel and the glimmer of gold, As the sound of the feastful Niblungs round his misty house is rolled: But Gunnar is King of the people, and the chief of the Niblung land; A man beloved for his mercy, and his might and his open hand; A glorious king in the battle, a hearkener at the doom, A singer to sing the sun up from the heart of the midnight gloom.
On a day sit the Kings in the high-seat when Grimhild saith to her son: "O Gunnar, King beloved, a fair life hast thou won; On the flood, in the field hast thou wrought, and hung the chambers with gold; Far abroad mid many a people are the tidings of thee told: Now do a deed for thy mother and the hallowed Niblung hearth, Lest the house of the mighty perish, and our tale grow wan with dearth. If thou do the deed that I bid thee, and wed a wife of the Kings, No less shalt thou cleave the war-helms and scatter the ruddy rings."
He said: "Meseemeth, mother, thou speaketh not in haste, But hast sought and found beforehand, lest thy fair words fall to waste."
She said: "Thou sayest the sooth; I have found the thing I sought: A Maid for thee is shapen, and a Queen for thee is wrought: In the waste land hard by Lymdale a marvellous hall is built, With its roof of the red gold beaten, and its wall-stones over-gilt: Afar o'er the heath men see it, but no man draweth nigher, For the garth that goeth about it is nought but the roaring fire, A white wall waving aloft; and no window nor wicket is there, Whereby the shielded earl-folk or the sons of the merchants may fare: But few things from me are hidden, and I know in that hall of gold Sits Brynhild, white as a wild-swan where the foamless seas are rolled; And the daughter of Kings of the world, and the sister of Queens is she, And wise, and Odin's Chooser, and the Breath of Victory: But for this cause sitteth she thus in the ring of the Wavering Flame, That no son of the Kings will she wed save the mightiest master of fame, And the man who knoweth not fear, and the man foredoomed of fate To ride through her Wavering Fire to the door of her golden gate: And for him she sitteth and waiteth, and him shall she cherish and love, Though the Kings of the world should withstand it, and the Gods that sit above. Speak thou, O mighty Gunnar!—nay rather, Sigurd my son, Say who but the lord of the Niblungs should wed with this glorious one?"
Long Sigurd gazeth upon her, and slow he sayeth again: "I know thy will, my mother; of all the sons of men, Of all the Kings unwedded, and the kindred of the great, It is meet that my brother Gunnar should ride to her golden gate."
Then laughed Gunnar and answered: "May a king of the people fear? May a king of the harp and the hall-glee hold such a maid but dear? Yet nought have I and my kindred to do with fateful deeds; Lo, how the fair earth bloometh, and the field fulfilleth our needs, And our swords rust not in our scabbards, and our steeds bide not in the stall, And oft are the shields of the Niblungs drawn clanking down from the wall; And I sit by my brother Sigurd, and no ill there is in our life, And the harp and the sword is beside me, and I joy in the peace and the strife. So I live, till at last in the sword-play midst the uttermost longing of fame I shall change my life and be merry, and leave no hated name. Yet nevertheless, my mother, since the word has thus gone forth, And I wot of thy great desire, I will reach at this garland of worth; And I bid you, Kings and Brethren, with the wooer of Queens to ride, That ye tell of the thing hereafter, and the deeds that shall betide."
"It were well, O Son," said Grimhild, "in such fellowship to fare; But not today nor tomorrow; the hearts of the Gods would I wear, And know of the will of the Norns; for a mighty matter is this, And a deed all lands shall tell of, and the hope of the Niblung bliss."
So apart for long dwelt Grimhild, and mingled the might of the earth With the deeds of the chilly sea, and the heart of the cloudland's dearth; And all these with the wine she mingled, and sore guile was set therein, Blindness, and strong compelling for such as dared to win: And she gave the drink to her sons; and withal unto Gunnar she spake, And told him tales of the King-folk, and smote desire awake; Till many a time he bethinks him of the Maiden sitting alone, And the Queen that was shapen for him; till a dream of the night is she grown, And a tale of the day's desire, and the crown of all his praise: And the net of the Norns was about him, and the snare was spread in his ways, And his mother's will was spurring adown the way they would; For she was the wise of women and the framer of evil and good.
In the May-morn riseth Gunnar with fair face and gleaming eyes, And he calleth on Sigurd his brother, and he calleth on Hogni the wise: "Today shall we fare to the wooing, for so doth our mother bid; We shall go to gaze on marvels, and things from the King-folk hid."
So they do on the best of their war-gear, and their steeds are dight for the road, And forth to the sun neigheth Greyfell as he neighed 'neath the Golden Load: But or ever they leap to the saddle, while yet in the door they stand, Thereto cometh Grimhild the wise-wife, and on each head layeth her hand, As she saith: "Be mighty and wise, as the kings that came before! For they knew of the ways of the Gods, and the craft of the Gods they bore: And they knew how the shapes of man-folk are the very images Of the hearts that abide within them, and they knew of the shaping of these. Be wise and mighty, O Kings, and look in mine heart and behold The craft that prevaileth o'er semblance, and the treasured wisdom of old! I hallow you thus for the day, and I hallow you thus for the night, And I hallow you thus for the dawning with my fathers' hidden might. Go now, for ye bear my will while I sit in the hall and spin; And tonight shall be the weaving, and tomorn the web shall ye win."
So they leap to the saddles aloft, and they ride and speak no word, But the hills and the dales are awakened by the clink of the sheathed sword: None looks in the face of the other, but the earth and the heavens gaze, And behold those kings of battle ride down the dusty ways.
So they come to the Waste of Lymdale when the afternoon is begun, And afar they see the flame-blink on the grey sky under the sun: And they spur and speak no word, and no man to his fellow will turn; But they see the hills draw upward and the earth beginning to burn: And they ride, and the eve is coming, and the sun hangs low o'er the earth, And the red flame roars up to it from the midst of the desert's dearth. None turns or speaks to his brother, but the Wrath gleams bare and red, And blood-red is the Helm of Aweing on the golden Sigurd's head, And bare is the blade of Gunnar, and the first of the three he rides, And the wavering wall is before him and the golden sun it hides.
Then the heart of a king's son failed not, but he tossed his sword on high And laughed as he spurred for the fire, and cried the Niblung cry; But the mare's son saw and imagined, and the battle-eager steed, That so oft had pierced the spear-hedge and never failed at need, Shrank back, and shrieked in his terror, and spite of spur and rein Fled fast as the foals unbitted on Odin's pasturing plain; Wide then he wheeled with Gunnar, but with hand and knee he dealt, And the voice of a lord beloved, till the steed his master felt, And bore him back to the brethren; by Greyfell Sigurd stood, And stared at the heart of the fire, and his helm was red as blood; But Hogni sat in his saddle, and watched the flames up-roll; And he said: "Thy steed has failed thee that was once the noblest foal In the pastures of King Giuki; but since thine heart fails not, And thou wouldst not get thee backward and say, The fire was hot, And the voices pent within it were singing nought but death, Let Sigurd lend thee his steed that wore the Glittering Heath, And carried the Bed of the Serpent, and the ancient ruddy rings. So perchance may the mocks be lesser when men tell of the Niblung Kings."
Then Sigurd looked on the twain, and he saw their swart hair wave In the wind of the waste and the flame-blast, and no answer awhile he gave. But at last he spake: "O brother, on Greyfell shalt thou ride, And do on the Helm of Aweing and gird the Wrath to thy side, And cover thy breast with the war-coat that is throughly woven of gold, That hath not its like in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told: For this is the raiment of Kings when they ride the Flickering Fire, And so sink the flames before them and the might of their desire."
Then Hogni laughed in his heart, and he said: "This changing were well If so might the deed be accomplished; but perchance there is more to tell: Thou shalt take the war-steed, Gunnar, and enough or nought it shall be: But the coal-blue gear of the Niblungs the golden hall shall see."
Then Sigurd looked on the speaker, as one who would answer again, But his words died out on the waste and the fire-blast made them vain. Then he casteth the reins to his brother, and Gunnar praiseth his gift, And springeth aloft to the saddle as the fair sun fails from the lift; And Sigurd looks on the burden that Greyfell doth uprear, The huge king towering upward in the dusky Niblung gear: There sits the eager Gunnar, and his heart desires the deed, And of nought he recketh and thinketh, but a fame-stirred warrior's need; But Greyfell trembleth nothing and nought of the fire doth reck: Then the spurs in his flank are smitten, and the reins lie loose on his neck, And the sharp cry springeth from Gunnar—no handbreadth stirred the beast; The dusk drew on and over and the light of the fire increased, And still as a shard on the mountain in the sandy dale alone Was the shape of the cloudy Greyfell, nor moved he more than the stone; But right through the heart of the fire for ever Sigurd stared, As he stood in the gold red-litten with the Wrath's thin edges bared.
No word for a while spake any, till Gunnar leaped to the earth, And the anger wrought within him, and the fierce words came to birth: "Who mocketh the King of the Niblungs in the desert land forlorn? Is it thou, O Sigurd the Stranger? is it thou, O younger-born? Dost thou laugh in the hall, O Mother? dost thou spin, and laugh at the tale That has drawn thy son and thine eldest to the sword and the blaze of the bale? Or thou, O God of the Goths, wilt thou hide and laugh thy fill, While the hands of the fosterbrethren the blood of brothers spill?"
But the awful voice of Sigurd across the wild went forth: "How changed are the words of Gunnar! where wend his ways of worth? I mock thee not in the desert, as I mocked thee not in the mead, When I swore beneath the turf-yoke to help thy fondest need: Nay, strengthen thine heart for the work, for the gift that thy manhood awaits; For I give thee a gift, O Niblung, that shall overload the Fates, And how may a King sustain it? but forbear with the dark to strive; For thy mother spinneth and worketh, and her craft is awake and alive."
Then Hogni spake from the saddle: "The time, and the time is come To gather the might of our mother, and of her that spinneth at home. Forbear all words, O Gunnar, and anigh to Sigurd stand, And face to face behold him, and take his hand in thine hand: Then be thy will as his will, that his heart may mingle with thine, And the love that he sware 'neath the earth-yoke with thine hope may intertwine."
Then the wrath from the Niblung slippeth and the shame that anger hath bred, And the heavy wings of the dreamtide flit over Gunnar's head: But he doth by his brother's bidding, and Sigurd's hand he takes, And he looks in the eyes of the Volsung, though scarce in the desert he wakes. There Hogni sits in the saddle aloof from the King's desire, And little his lips are moving, as he stares on the rolling fire, And mutters the spells of his mother, and the words she bade him say: But the craft of the kings of aforetime on those Kings of the battle lay; Dark night was spread behind them, and the fire flared up before, And unheard was the wind of the wasteland mid the white flame's wavering roar.
Long Sigurd gazeth on Gunnar, till he sees, as through a cloud, The long black locks of the Niblung, and the King's face set and proud: Then the face is alone on the dark, and the dusky Niblung mail Is nought but the night before him: then whiles will the visage fail, And grow again as he gazeth, black hair and gleaming eyes, And fade again into nothing, as for more of vision he tries: Then all is nought but the night, yea the waste of an emptier thing, And the fire-wall Sigurd forgetteth, nor feeleth the hand of the King: Nay, what is it now he remembereth? it is nought that aforetime he knew, And no world is there left him to live in, and no deed to rejoice in or rue; But frail and alone he fareth, and as one in the sphere-stream's drift, By the starless empty places that lie beyond the lift: Then at last is he stayed in his drifting, and he saith, It is blind and dark; Yet he feeleth the earth at his feet, and there cometh a change and a spark, And away in an instant of time is the mirk of the dreamland rolled, And there is the fire-lit midnight, and before him an image of gold, A man in the raiment of Gods, nor fashioned worser than they: Full sad he gazeth on Sigurd from the great wide eyes and grey; And the Helm that Aweth the people is set on the golden hair, And the Mail of Gold enwraps him, and the Wrath in his hand is bare.
Then Sigurd looks on his arm and his hand in his brother's hand, And thereon is the dark grey mail-gear well forged in the southern land; Then he looks on the sword that he beareth, and, lo, the eager blade That leaps in the hand of Gunnar when the kings are waxen afraid; And he turns his face o'er his shoulder, and the raven-locks hang down From the dark-blue helm of the Dwarf-folk, and the rings of the Niblung crown.
Then a red flush riseth against him in the face ne'er seen before, Save dimly in the mirror or the burnished targe of war, And the foster-brethren sunder, and the clasped hands fall apart; But a change cometh over Sigurd, and the fierce pride leaps in his heart; He knoweth the soul of Gunnar, and the shaping of his mind; He seeketh the words of Sigurd, and Gunnar's voice doth he find, As he cries: "I know thy bidding; let the world be lief or loth, The child is unborn that shall hearken how Sigurd rued his oath! Well fare thou brother Gunnar! what deed shall I do this eve That I shall never repent of, that thine heart shall never grieve? What deed shall I do this even that none else may bring to the birth, Nay, not the King of the Niblungs, and the lord of the best of the earth?"
The flames rolled up to the heavens, and the stars behind were bright, Dark Hogni sat on his war-steed, and stared out into the night, And there stood Gunnar the King in Sigurd's semblance wrapped, —As Sigurd walking in slumber, for in Grimhild's guile was he lapped, That his heart forgat his glory, and the ways of Odin's lords, And the thought was frozen within him, and the might of spoken words.
But Sigurd leapeth on Greyfell, and the sword in his hand is bare, And the gold spurs flame on his heels, and the fire-blast lifteth his hair; Forth Greyfell bounds rejoicing, and they see the grey wax red, As unheard the war-gear clasheth, and the flames meet over his head, Yet a while they see him riding, as through the rye men ride, When the word goes forth in the summer of the kings by the ocean-side; But the fires were slaked before him and the wild-fire burned no more Than the ford of the summer waters when the rainy time is o'er.
Not once turned Sigurd aback, nor looked o'er the ashy ring, To the midnight wilderness drear and the spell-drenched Niblung King: But he stayed and looked before him, and lo, a house high-built With its roof of the red gold beaten, and its wall-stones over-gilt: So he leapt adown from Greyfell, and came to that fair abode, And dark in the gear of the Niblungs through the gleaming door he strode: All light within was that dwelling, and a marvellous hall it was, But of gold were its hangings woven, and its pillars gleaming as glass, And Sigurd said in his heart, it was wrought erewhile for a God: But he looked athwart and endlong as alone its floor he trod, And lo, on the height of the dais is upreared a graven throne, And thereon a woman sitting in the golden place alone; Her face is fair and awful, and a gold crown girdeth her head; And a sword of the kings she beareth, and her sun-bright hair is shed O'er the laps of the snow-white linen that ripples adown to her feet: As a swan on the billow unbroken ere the firth and the ocean meet, On the dark-blue cloths she sitteth, in the height of the golden place, Nor breaketh the hush of the hall, though her eyes be set on his face.
Now he sees this is even the woman of whom the tale hath been told, E'en she that was wrought for the Niblungs, the bride ordained from of old, And hushed in the hall he standeth, and a long while looks in her eyes, And the word he hath shapen for Gunnar to his lips may never arise.
The man in Gunnar's semblance looked long and knew no deed; And she looked, and her eyes were dreadful, and none would help her need. Then the image of Gunnar trembled, and the flesh of the War-King shrank; For he heard her voice on the silence, and his heart of her anguish drank:
"King, King, who art thou that comest, thou lord of the cloudy gear? What deed for the weary-hearted shall thy strange hands fashion here?"
The speech of her lips pierced through him like the point of the bitter sword, And he deemed that death were better than another spoken word: But he clencheth his hand on the war-blade, and setteth his face as the brass, And the voice of his brother Gunnar from out his lips doth pass: "When thou lookest on me, O Goddess, thou seest Gunnar the King, The King and the lord of the Niblungs, and the chief of their warfaring. But art thou indeed that Brynhild of whom is the rumour and fame, That she bideth the coming of kings to ride her Wavering Flame, Lest she wed the little-hearted, and the world grow evil and vile? For if thou be none other I will speak again in a while."
She said: "Art thou Gunnar the Stranger? O art thou the man that I see? Yea, verily I am Brynhild: what other is like unto me? O men of the Earth behold me! hast thou seen, O labouring Earth, Such sorrow as my sorrow, or such evil as my birth?"
Then spake the Wildfire's Trampler that Gunnar's image bore: "O Brynhild, mighty of women, be thou glorious evermore! Thou seest Gunnar the Niblung, as he sits mid the Niblung lords, And rides with the gods of battle in the fore-front of the swords. Now therefore awaken to life! for this eve have I ridden thy Fire, When but few of the kings would outface it, to fulfil thine heart's desire. And such love is the love of the kings, and such token have women to know That they wed with God's beloved, and that fair from their bed shall outgrow The stem of the world's desire, and the tree that shall not be abased, Till the day of the uttermost trial when the war-shield of Odin is raised. So my word is the word of wooing, and I bid thee remember thine oath, That here in this hall fair-builded we twain may plight the troth; That here in the hall of thy waiting thou be made a wedded wife, And be called the Queen of the Niblungs, and awaken unto life."
Hard rang his voice in the hall, and a while she spake no word, And there stood the Image of Gunnar, and leaned on his bright blue sword: But at last she cried from the high-seat: "If I yet am alive and awake, I know no words for the speaking, nor what answer I may make."
She ceased and he answered nothing; and a hush on the hall there lay, And the moon slipped over the windows as he clomb the heavenly way; And no whit stirred the raiment of Brynhild: till she hearkened the Wooer's voice, As he said: "Thou art none of the women that swear and forswear and rejoice, Forgetting the sorrow of kings and the Gods and the labouring earth. Thou shalt wed with King Gunnar the Niblung and increase his worth with thy worth."
And again was there silence a while, and the War-King leaned on his sword In the shape of his foster-brother; then Brynhild took up the word: "Hail Gunnar, King of the Niblungs! tonight shalt thou lie by my side, For thou art the Gods' beloved, and for thee was I shapen a bride: For thee, for the King, have I waited, and the waiting now is done; I shall bear Earth's kings on my bosom and nourish the Niblung's son. Though women swear and forswear, and are glad no less in their life, Tonight shall I wed with the King-folk and be called King Gunnar's wife. Come Gunnar, Lord of the Niblungs, and sit in my fathers' seat! For for thee alone was it shapen, and the deed is due and meet."
Up she rose exceeding glorious, and it was as when in May The blossomed hawthorn stirreth with the dawning-wind of day; But the Wooer moved to meet her, and amid the golden place They met, and their garments mingled and face was close to face; And they turned again to the high-seat, and their very right hands met, And King Gunnar's bodily semblance beside her Brynhild set.
But over his knees and the mail-rings the high King laid his sword, And looked in the face of Brynhild and swore King Gunnar's word: He swore on the hand of Brynhild to be true to his wedded wife, And before all things to love her till all folk should praise her life. Unmoved did Brynhild hearken, and in steady voice she swore To be true to Gunnar the Niblung while her life-days should endure; So she swore on the hand of the Wooer: and they two were all alone, And they sat a while in the high-seat when the wedding-troth was done, But no while looked each on the other, and hand fell down from hand, And no speech there was betwixt them that their hearts might understand.
At last spake the all-wise Brynhild: "Now night is beginning to fade, Fair-hung is the chamber of Kings, and the bridal bed is arrayed."
He rose and looked upon her: as the moon at her utmost height, So pale was the visage of Brynhild, and her eyes as cold and bright: Yet he stayed, nor stirred from the high-seat, but strove with the words for a space, Till she took the hand of the King and led him down from his place, And forth from the hall she led him to the chamber wrought for her love; The fairest chamber of earth, gold-wrought below and above, And hung were the walls fair-builded with the Gods and the kings of the earth And the deeds that were done aforetime, and the coming deeds of worth. There they went in one bed together; but the foster-brother laid 'Twixt him and the body of Brynhild his bright blue battle-blade, And she looked and heeded it nothing; but e'en as the dead folk lie, With folded hands she lay there, and let the night go by: And as still lay that Image of Gunnar as the dead of life forlorn, And hand on hand he folded as he waited for the morn. So oft in the moonlit minster your fathers may ye see By the side of the ancient mothers await the day to be. Thus they lay as brother by sister—and e'en such had they been to behold, Had he borne the Volsung's semblance and the shape she knew of old.
Night hushed as the moon fell downward, and there came the leaden sleep And weighed down the head of the War-King, that he lay in slumber deep, And forgat today and tomorrow, and forgotten yesterday; Till he woke in the dawn and the daylight, and the sun on the gold floor lay, And Brynhild wakened beside him, and she lay with folded hands By the edges forged of Regin and the wonder of the lands, The Light that had lain in the Branstock, the hope of the Volsung Tree, The Sunderer, the Deliverer, the torch of days to be: Then he strove to remember the night and what deeds had come to pass, And what deeds he should do hereafter, and what manner of man he was; For there in the golden chamber lay the dark unwonted gear, And beside his cheek on the pillow were long locks of the raven hair: But at last he remembered the even and the deed he came to do, And he turned and spake to Brynhild as he rose from the bolster blue:
"I give thee thanks, fair woman, for the wedding-troth fulfilled; I have come where the Norns have led me, and done as the high Gods willed: But now give we the gifts of the morning, for I needs must depart to my men And look on the Niblung children, and rule o'er the people again. But I thank thee well for thy greeting, and thy glory that I have seen, For but little thereto are those tidings that folk have told of the Queen. Henceforth with the Niblung people anew beginneth thy life, And fair days of peace await thee, and fair days of glorious strife. And my heart shall be grieved at thy grief, and be glad of thy well-doing, And all men shall say thou hast wedded a true heart and a king."
So spake he in semblance of Gunnar, and from off his hand he drew A ring of the spoils of the Southland, a marvel seen but of few, And he set the ring on her finger, and she turned to her lord and spake: "I thank thee, King, for thy goodwill, and thy pledge of love I take. Depart with my troth to thy people: but ere full ten days are o'er I shall come to the Sons of the Niblungs, and then shall we part no more Till the day of the change of our life-days, when Odin and Freyia shall call. Lo, here, my gift of the morning! 'twas my dearest treasure of all; But thou art become its master, and for thee was it fore-ordained, Since thou art the man of mine oath and the best that the earth hath gained."
And lo, 'twas the Grief of Andvari, and the lack that made him loth, The last of the God-folk's ransom, the Ring of Hindfell's oath; Now on Sigurd's hand it shineth, and long he looketh thereon, But it gave him back no memories of the days that were bygone. Then in most exceeding sorrow rose Sigurd from the bed, And again lay Brynhild silent as an image of the dead. Then the King did on his war-gear and girt his sword to his side, And was e'en as an image of Gunnar when the Niblungs dight them to ride. And she on the bed of the bridal, remembering hope that was, Lay still, and hearkened his footsteps from the echoing chamber pass. So forth from the hall goes the Wooer, and slow and slow he goes, As a conquered king from his city fares forth to meet his foes; And he taketh the reins of Greyfell, nor yet will back him there, But afoot through the cold slaked ashes of yester-eve doth fare, With his eyes cast down to the earth; till he heareth the wind, and a cry, And raiseth a face brow-knitted and beholdeth men anigh, And beholdeth Hogni the King set grey on his coal-black steed, And beholdeth the image of Sigurd, the King in the golden weed: Then he stayeth and stareth astonished and setteth his hand to his sword; Till Hogni cries from his saddle, and his word is a kindly word:
"Hail, brother, and King of the people! hail, helper of my kin! Again from the death and the trouble great gifts hast thou set thee to win For thy friends and the Niblung children, and hast crowned thine earthly fame, And increased thine exceeding glory and the sound of thy loved name."
Nought Sigurd spake in answer but looked straight forth with a frown, And stretched out his hand to Gunnar, as one that claimeth his own. Then no word speaketh Gunnar, but taketh his hand in his hand, And they look in the eyes of each other, and a while in the desert they stand Till the might of Grimhild prevaileth, and the twain are as yester-morn; But sad was the golden Sigurd, though his eyes knew nought of scorn: And he spake: "It is finished, O Gunnar! and I will that our brotherhood May endure through the good and the evil as it sprang in the days of the good; But I bid thee look to the ending, that the deed I did yest'reve Bear nought for me to repent of, for thine heart of hearts to grieve. Thou art troth-plight, O King of the Niblungs, to Brynhild Queen of the earth, She hath sworn thine heart to cherish and increase thy worth with her worth: She shall come to the house of Gunnar ere ten days are past and o'er; And thenceforth the life of Brynhild shall part from thy life no more, Till the doom of our kind shall speed you, and Odin and Freyia shall call, And ye bide the Day of the Battle, and the uttermost changing of all."
The praise and thanks they gave him! the words of love they spake! The tale that the world should hear of, deeds done for Sigurd's sake! They were lovely might you hear them: but they lack; for in very deed Their sound was clean forgotten in the day of Sigurd's need.
But as yet are those King-folk lovely, and no guile of heart they know, And, in troth and love rejoicing, by Sigurd's side they go: O'er heath and holt they hie them, o'er hill and dale they ride, Till they come to the Burg of the Niblungs and the war-gate of their pride; And there is Grimhild the wise-wife, and she sits and spins in the hall.
"Rejoice, O mother," saith Gunnar, "for thy guest hath holpen all And this eve shall thy sons be merry: but ere ten days are o'er Here cometh the Maid, and the Queen, the Wise, and the Chooser of war; So wrought is the will of the Niblungs and their blossoming boughs increase, And joyous strife shall we dwell in, and merry days of peace."
So that night in the hall of the ancient they hold high-tide again, And the Gods on the Southland hangings smile out full fair and fain, And the song goes up of Sigurd, and the praise of his fame fulfilled, But his speech in the dead sleep lieth, and the words of his wisdom are chilled: And men say, the King is careful, for he thinks of the people's weal, And his heart is afraid for our trouble, lest the Gods our joyance steal.
But that night, when the feast was over, to Gudrun Sigurd came, And she noted the ring on his finger, and she knew it was nowise the same As the ring he was wont to carry; so she bade him tell thereof: Then he turned unto her kindly, and his words were words of love; Nor his life nor his death he heeded, but told her last night's tale: Yea he drew forth the sword for his slaying, and whetted the edges of bale; For he took that Gold of Andvari, that Curse of the uttermost land, And he spake as a king that loveth, and set it on her hand; But her heart was exceeding joyous, as he kissed her sweet and soft, And bade her bear it for ever, that she might remember him oft When his hand from the world was departed and he sat in Odin's home.
But no one of his words she forgat when the latter days were come, When the earth was hard for her footsteps, and the heavens were darkling above And but e'en as a tale that is told were waxen the years of her love, Yea thereof, from the Gold of Andvari, the sparks of the waters wan, Sprang a flame of bitter trouble, and the death of many a man, And the quenching of the kindreds, and the blood of the broken troth, And the Grievous Need of the Niblungs and the Sorrow of Odin the Goth.
How Brynhild was wedded to Gunnar the Niblung.
So wear the ten days over, and the morrow-morn is come, And the light-foot expectation flits through the Niblung home, And the girded hope is ready, and all people are astir, When the voice of the keen-eyed watchman from the topmost tower they hear: "Look forth from the Burg, O Niblungs, and the war-gate of renown! For the wind is up in the morning, and the may-blooms fall adown, And the sun on the earth is shining, and the clouds are small and high, And here is a goodly people and an army drawing anigh."
Then horsed are the sons of the earl-folk, and their robes are glittering-gay, And they ride o'er the bridge of the river adown the dusty way, Till they come on a lovely people, and the maids of war they meet, Whose cloaks are blue and broidered, and their girded linen sweet; And they ride on the roan and the grey, and the dapple-grey and the red, And many a bloom of the may-tide on their crispy locks is shed: Fair, young are the sons of the earl-folk, and they laugh for love and glee, As the lovely-wristed maidens on the summer ways they see.
But lo, mid the sweet-faced fellows there cometh a golden wain, Like the wain of the sea be-shielded with the signs of the war-god's gain: Snow-white are its harnessed yoke-beasts, and its bench-cloths are of blue, Inwrought with the written wonders that ancient women knew; But nought therein there sitteth save a crowned queen alone, Swan-white on the dark-blue bench-cloths and the carven ivory throne; Abashed are sons of the earl-folk of their laughter and their glee, When the glory of Queen Brynhild on the summer ways they see.
But they hear the voice of the woman, and her speech is soft and kind: "Are ye the sons of the Niblungs, and the folk I came to find, O young men fair and lovely? So may your days be long, And grow in gain and glory, and fail of grief and wrong!" Then they hailed her sweet and goodly, and back again they rode By the bridge o'er the rushing river to the gate of their abode; And high aloft, half-hearkened, rang the joyance of the horn, And the cry of the Ancient People from their walls of war was borne O'er the tilth of the plain, and the meadows, and the sheep-fed slopes that lead From the God-built wall of the mountains to the blossoms of the mead.
Then up in the wain stood Brynhild, and her voice was sweet as she said: "Is this the house of Gunnar, and the man I swore to wed?"
But she hearkened the cry from the gateway and the hollow of the door: "Yea this is the dwelling of Gunnar, and the house of the God of War: There is none of the world so mighty, be he outland King or Goth, Save Sigurd the mighty Volsung and the brother of his troth."
Then spake Brynhild and said: "Lo, a house of ancient Kings, Wrought for great deeds' fulfilment, and the birth of noble things! Be the bloom of the earth upon it, and the hope of the heavens above! May peace and joy abide there, and the full content of love! And when our days are done with, and we lie alow in rest, May its lords returning homeward still deem they see the best!"
She spake with voice unfaltering, and the golden wain moved on, And all men deemed who heard her that great gifts their home had won.
So she passed through the dusk of the doorway, and the cave of the war-fair folk, Wherein the echoing horse-hoofs as the sound of swords awoke, And the whispering wind of the may-tide from the cloudy wall smote back, And cried in the crown of the roof-arch of battle and the wrack; And the voice of maidens sounded as kings' cries in the day of the wrath, When the flame is on the threshold and the war-shields strew the path.
So fair in the sun of the forecourt doth Brynhild's wain shine bright, And the huge hall riseth before her, and the ernes cry out from its height, And there by the door of the Niblungs she sees huge warriors stand, Dark-clad, by the shoulders greater than the best of any land, And she knoweth the chiefs of the Niblungs, the dreaded dukes of war: But one in cloudy raiment stands a very midst the door, And ruddy and bright is his visage, and his black locks wave in the wind, And she knoweth the King of the Niblungs and the man she came to find: Then nought she lingered nor loitered, but stepped to the earth adown With right-hand reached to the War-God, the wearer of the crown; And she said: "I behold thee, Gunnar, the King of War that rode Through the waves of the Flickering Fire to the door of mine abode, To lie by my side in the even, and waken in the morn; And for this I needs must deem thee the best of all men born, The highest-hearted, the greatest, the staunchest of thy love: And that such the world yet holdeth, my heart is fain thereof: And for thee I deem was I fashioned, and for thee the oath I swore In the days of my glory and wisdom, ere the days of youth were o'er. May the bloom of the earth be upon thee, and the hope of the heavens above, May the blessing of days be upon thee, and the full content of love! Mayst thou see our children's children, and the crowned kin of kings! May no hope from thine eyes be hidden of the day of better things! May the fire ne'er stay thy glory, nor the ocean-flood thy fame! Through ages of all ages may the wide world praise thy name! Yea oft may the word be spoken when low we lie at rest, 'It befell in the days of Gunnar, the happiest and the best!' All this may the high Gods give thee, and thereto a gift I give, The body of Queen Brynhild so long as both we live."
With unmoved face, unfaltering, the blessing-words she said, But the joy sprang up in Gunnar and increased his goodlihead, And he cast his arms about her and kissed her on the mouth, And he said: "The gift is greater than all treasure of the south: As glad as my heart this moment, so glad may be thy life, And the world be never weary of the joy of Gunnar's wife!"
She spake no word, and smiled not, but she held his hand henceforth. And he said: "Now take the greetings of my men, the most of worth."
Then she turned her face to the war-dukes, and hearkened to their praise, And she spake in few words sweetly, and blessed their coming days. Then again spake Gunnar and said: "Lo, Hogni my brother is this; But Guttorm is far on the East-seas, and seeketh the warrior's bliss; A third there is of my brethren, and my house holds none so great; In the hall by the side of my sister thy face doth he await."
Then Brynhild turned unto Hogni, and he greeted her fair and well, And she prayed all blessings upon him, and a tale that the world should tell: Then again she spake unto Gunnar: "I had deemed ye had been but three Who sprang from the loins of Giuki; is this fourth akin unto thee, This hall-abider the mighty?" He said: "He is nought of our blood. But the Gods have sent him to usward to work us measureless good: It is even Sigurd the Volsung, the best man ever born, The man that the Gods withstand not, my friend, and my brother sworn."
She heard the name, and she changed not, but her feet went forth as he led, And under the cloudy roof-tree Queen Brynhild bowed her head. Then, were there a man so ancient as had lived beyond his peers On the earth, that beareth all things, a twice-told tale of years, He had heard no sound so mighty as the shout that shook the wall When Brynhild's feet unhearkened first trod the Niblung hall. No whit the clamour stirred her; but her godlike eyes she raised And betwixt the hedge of the earl-folk on the golden high-seat gazed, And the man that sat by Gudrun: but e'en as the rainless cloud Ere the first of the tempest ariseth the latter sun doth shroud, And men look round and shudder, so Grimhild came between The silent golden Sigurd and the eyes of the mighty Queen, And again heard Brynhild greeting, and again she spake and said:
"O Mother of the Niblungs, such hap be on thine head, As thy love for me, the stranger, was past the pain of words! Mayst thou see thy son's sons glorious in the meeting of the swords! Mayst thou sleep and doubt thee nothing of the fortunes of thy race! Mayst thou hear folk call yon high-seat the earth's most happy place!"
Then the Wise-wife hushed before her, and a little fell aside, And nought from the eyes of Brynhild the high-seat now did hide; And the face so long desired, unchanged from time agone, In the house of the Cloudy People from the Niblung high-seat shone: She stood with her hand in Gunnar's, and all about and around Were the unfamiliar faces, and the folk that day had found; But her heart ran back through the years, and yet her lips did move With the words she spake on Hindfell, when they plighted troth of love.
Lo, Sigurd fair on the high-seat by the white-armed Gudrun's side, In the midst of the Cloudy People, in the dwelling of their pride! His face is exceeding glorious and awful to behold; For of all his sorrow he knoweth and his hope smit dead and cold: The will of the Norns is accomplished, and, lo, they wend on their ways, And leave the mighty Sigurd to deal with the latter days: The Gods look down from heaven, and the lonely King they see, And sorrow over his sorrow, and rejoice in his majesty. For the will of the Norns is accomplished, and outworn is Grimhild's spell, And nought now shall blind or help him, and the tale shall be to tell: He hath seen the face of Brynhild, and he knows why she hath come, And that his is the hand that hath drawn her to the Cloudy People's home: He knows of the net of the days, and the deeds that the Gods have bid, And no whit of the sorrow that shall be from his wakened soul is hid: And his glory his heart restraineth, and restraineth the hand of the strong From the hope of the fools of desire and the wrong that amendeth wrong; And he seeth the ways of the burden till the last of the uttermost end. But for all the measureless anguish, and the woe that nought may amend, His heart speeds back to Hindfell, and the dawn of the wakening day; And the hours betwixt are as nothing, and their deeds are fallen away As he looks on the face of Brynhild; and nought is the Niblung folk, But they two are again together, and he speaketh the words he spoke, When he swore the love that endureth, and the truth that knoweth not change; And Brynhild's face drew near him with eyes grown stern and strange. —Lo, such is the high Gods' sorrow, and men know nought thereof, Who cry out o'er their undoing, and wail o'er broken love. Now she stands on the floor of the high-seat, and for e'en so little a space As men may note delaying, she looketh on Sigurd's face, Ere she saith: "I have greeted many in the Niblungs' house today, And for thee is the last of my greetings ere the feast shall wear away: Hail, Sigurd, son of the Volsungs! hail, lord of Odin's storm! Hail, rider of the wasteland and slayer of the Worm! If aught thy soul shall desire while yet thou livest on earth, I pray that thou mayst win it, nor forget its might and worth."
All grief, sharp scorn, sore longing, stark death in her voice he knew, But gone forth is the doom of the Norns, and what shall he answer thereto, While the death that amendeth lingers? and they twain shall dwell for awhile In the Niblung house together by the hearth that forged the guile; Yet amid the good and the guileless, and the love that thought no wrong, Shall they fashion the deeds to remember, and the fame that endureth for long: And oft shall he look on Brynhild, and oft her words shall he hear, And no hope and no beseeching in his inmost heart shall stir. So he spake as a King of the people in whom all fear is dead, And his anguish no man noted, as the greeting-words he said:
"Hail, fairest of all things fashioned! hail, thou desire of eyes! Hail, chooser of the mightiest, and teacher of the wise! Hail, wife of my brother Gunnar! in might may thy days endure, And in peace without a trouble that the world's weal may be sure!"
She heard and turned unto Gunnar as a queen that seeketh her place, But to Gudrun she gave no greeting, nor beheld the Niblung's face. Then up stood the wife of Sigurd and strove with the greeting-word, But the cold fear rose in her heart, and the hate within her stirred, And the greeting died on her lips, and she gazed for a moment or twain On the lovely face of Brynhild, and so sat in the high-seat again, And turned to her lord beside her with many a word of love.
But the song sprang up in the hall, and the eagles cried from above, And forth to the freshness of May went the joyance of the feast: And Sigurd sat with the Niblungs, and gave ear to most and to least, And showed no sign to the people of the grief that on him lay; Nor seemeth he worser to any than he was on the yesterday.
Of the Contention betwixt the Queens.
So there are all these abiding in the Burg of the ancient folk Mid the troth-plight sworn and broken, and the oaths of the earthly yoke. Then Guttorm comes from his sea-fare, and is waxen fierce and strong, A man in the wars delighting, blind-eyed through right and wrong: Still Sigurd rides with the Brethren, as oft in the other days, And never a whit abateth the sound of the people's praise; They drink in the hall together, they doom in the people's strife, And do every deed of the King-folk, that the world may rejoice in their life.
There now is Brynhild abiding as a Queen in the house of the Kings, And hither and thither she wendeth through the day of queenly things; And no man knoweth her sorrow; though whiles is the Niblung bed Too hot and weary a dwelling for the temples of her head, And she wends, as her wont was aforetime, when the moon is riding high, And the night on the earth is deepest; and she deemeth it good to lie In the trench of the windy mountains, and the track of the wandering sheep, While soft in the arms of Sigurd Queen Gudrun lieth asleep: There she cries on the lovely Sigurd, and she cries on the love and the oath, And she cries on the change and the vengeance, and the death to deliver them both. But her crying none shall hearken, and her sorrow nought shall know, Save the heart of the golden Sigurd, and the man fast bound in woe: So she wendeth her back in the dawning, toward the deeds and the dwellings of men, And she sits in the Niblung high-seat, and is fair and queenly again. Close now is her converse with Gudrun, and sore therein she strives Lest the barren stark contention should mingle in their lives; And she humbles her oft before her, as before the Queen of the earth, The mistress, the overcomer, the winner of all that is worth: And Gudrun beareth it all, and deemeth it little enow Though the wife of Sigurd be worshipped: and the scorn in her heart doth grow, Of every soul save Sigurd: for that tale of the night she bears Scarce hid 'twixt the lips and the bosom; and with evil eye she hears Songs sung of the deeds of Gunnar, and the rider of the fire, Who mocked at the bane of King-folk to win his heart's desire: But Sigurd's will constraineth, and with seeming words of peace She deals with the converse of Brynhild, and the days her load increase.
Men tell how the heart-wise Hogni grew wiser day by day; He knows of the craft of Grimhild, and how she looketh to sway The very council of God-home and the Norns' unchanging mind; And he saith that well-learned is his mother, but that e'en her feet are blind Down the path that she cannot escape from: nay oft is she nothing, he saith, Save a staff for the foredoomed staying, and a sword for the ordered death; And that he will be wiser than this, nor thrust his desire aside, Nor smother the flame of his hatred; but the steed of the Norns will he ride, Till he see great marvels and wonders, and leave great tales to be told: And measureless pride is in him, a stern heart, stubborn and cold.
But of Gunnar the Niblung they say it, that the bloom of his youth is o'er, And many are manhood's troubles, and they burden him oft and sore. He dwells with Brynhild his wife, with Grimhild his mother he dwells, And noble things of his greatness, of his joy, the rumour tells; Yet oft and oft of an even he thinks of that tale of the night, And the shame springs fresh in his heart at his brother Sigurd's might; And the wonder riseth within him, what deed did Sigurd there, What gift to the King hath he given: and he looks on Brynhild the fair, The fair face never smiling, and the eyes that know no change, And he deems in the bed of the Niblungs she is but cold and strange; And the Lie is laid between them, as the sword lay while agone. He hearkens to Grimhild moreover, and he deems she is driving him on, He knoweth not whither nor wherefore: but she tells of the measureless Gold, And the Flame of the uttermost Waters, and the Hoard of the kings of old: And she tells of kings' supplanters, and the leaders of the war, Who take the crown of song-craft, and the tale when all is o'er: She tells of kings' supplanters, and saith: Perchance 'twere well, Might some tongue of the wise of the earth of those deeds of the night-tide tell: She tells of kings' supplanters: I am wise, and the wise I know, And for nought is the sword-edge whetted, save the smiting of the blow: Old friends are last to sever, and twain are strong indeed, When one the King's shame knoweth, and the other knoweth his need.
So Gunnar hearkens and hearkens, and he saith, It is idle and worse: If the oath of my brother be broken, let the earth then see to the curse! But again he hearkens and hearkens, and when none may hear his thought He saith in the silent night-tide: Shall my brother bring me to nought? Must my stroke be a stroke of the guilty, though on sackless folk it fall? Shall a king sit joy-forsaken mid the riches of his hall? And measureless pride is in Gunnar, and it blends with doubt and shame, And the unseen blossom is envy and desire without a name.
But fair-faced, calm as a God who hath none to call his foes, Betwixt the Kings and the people the golden Sigurd goes; No knowledge of man he lacketh, and the lore he gained of old From the ancient heart of the Serpent and the Wallower on the Gold Springs fresh in the soul of Sigurd; the heart of Hogni he sees, And the heart of his brother Gunnar, and he grieveth sore for these. But he seeth the heart of Brynhild, and knoweth her lonely cry When the waste is all about her, and none but the Gods are anigh: And he knoweth her tale of the night-tide, when desire, that day doth dull, Is stirred by hope undying, and fills her bosom full Of the sighs she may not utter, and the prayers that none may heed; Though the Gods were once so mighty the smiling world to speed. And he knows of the day of her burden, and the measure of her toil, And the peerless pride of her heart, and her scorn of the fall and the foil. And the shadowy wings of the Lie, that with hand unwitting he led To the Burg of the ancient people, brood over board and bed; And the hand of the hero faileth, and seared is the sight of the wise, And good is at one with evil till the new-born death shall arise.
In the hall sitteth Sigurd by Brynhild, in the council of the Kings, And he hearkeneth her spoken wisdom, and her word of lovely things: In the field they meet, and the wild-wood; on the acre and the heath; And scarce may he tell if the meeting be worse than the coward's death, Or better than life of the righteous: but his love is a flaming fire, That hath burnt up all before it of the things that feed desire.
The heart of Gudrun he seeth, her heart of burning love, That knoweth of nought but Sigurd on the earth, in the heavens above, Save the foes that encompass his life, and the woman that wasteth away 'Neath the toil of a love like her love, and the unrewarded day: For hate her eyes hath quickened, and no more is Gudrun blind, And sure, though dim it may be, she seeth the days behind: And the shadowy wings of the Lie, that the hand unwitting led To the love and the heart of Gudrun, brood over board and bed; And for all the hand of the hero and the foresight of the wise, From the heart of a loving woman shall the death of men arise.
It was most in these latter days that his fame went far abroad, The helper, the overcomer, the righteous sundering sword; The loveliest King of the King-folk, the man of sweetest speech, Whose ear is dull to no man that his helping shall beseech; The eye-bright seer of all things, that wasteth every wrong, The straightener of the crooked, the hammer of the strong: Lo, such was the Son of Sigmund in the days whereof I tell, The dread of the doom and the battle; and all children loved him well.
Now it happed on a summer season mid the blossom of the year, When the clouds were high and little, and the sun exceeding clear, That Queen Brynhild arose in the morning, and longed for the eddying pool, And the Water of the Niblungs her summer sleep to cool: So she set her face to the river, where the hawthorn and the rose Hide the face of the sunlit water from the yellow-blossomed close And the house-built Burg of the Niblungs; for there by a grassy strand The shallow water floweth o'er white and stoneless sand And deepeneth up and outward; and the bank on the further side Goes high and shear and rocky the water's face to hide From the plain and the horse-fed meadow: there the wives of the Niblungs oft Would play in the wide-spread water when the summer days were soft; And thither now goes Brynhild, and the flowery screen doth pass, When lo, fair linen raiment falls before her on the grass, And she looks, and there is Gudrun, the white-armed Niblung child, All bare for the sunny river and the water undefiled. Round she turned with her face yet dreamy with the love of yesternight, Till the flush of anger changed it: but Brynhild's face grew white, Though soft she spake and queenly: "Hail, sister of my lord! Thou art fair in the summer morning 'twixt the river and the sward!"
Then she disarrayed her shoulders and cast her golden girth, And she said: "Thou art sister of Gunnar, and the kin of the best of the earth; So shalt thou go before me to meet the water cold."
Then, smiling nowise kindly, doth Gudrun her behold, And she saith: "Thou art wrong, Queen Brynhild, to give the place to me, For she that is wife of the greatest more than sister-kin shall be. —Nay, if here were the sister of Sigurd ne'er before me should she go, Though sister were she surely of the best that the earth-folk know: Yet I linger not, since thou biddest, for the courteous of women thou art; And the love of the night and the morning is heavy at my heart; For the best of the world was beside me, while thou layest with Gunnar the King."
She laughs and leaps, and about her the glittering waters spring: But Brynhild laugheth in answer, and her face is white and wan As swift she taketh the water; and the bed-gear of the swan Wreathes long folds round about her as she wadeth straight and swift Where the white-scaled slender fishes make head against the drift: Then she turned to the white-armed Gudrun, who stood far down the stream In the lapping of the west-wind and the rippling shallows' gleam, And her laugh went down the waters, as the war-horn on the wind, When the kings of war are seeking, and their foes are fain to find.
But Gudrun cried upon her, and said: "Why wadest thou so In the deeps and the upper waters, and wilt leave me here below?"
Then e'en as one transfigured loud Brynhild cried, and said: "So oft shall it be between us at hall and board and bed; E'en so in Freyia's garden shall the lilies cover me, While thou on the barren footways thy gown-hem folk shall see: E'en so shall the gold cloths lap me, when we sit in Odin's hall, While thou shiverest, little hidden, by thy lord, the Helper's thrall, By the serving-man of Gunnar, who all his bidding doth, And waits by the door of the bower while his master plighteth the troth: But my mate is the King of the King-folk who rode the Wavering Fire, And mocked at the ruddy death to win his heart's desire. Lo now, it is meet and righteous that ye of the happy days Should bow the heads and wonder at the wedding all men praise. O, is it not goodly and sweet with the best of the earth to dwell, And the man that all shall worship when the tale grows old to tell! For the woe and the anguish endure not, but the tale and the fame endure, And as wavering wind is the joyance, but the Gods' renown shall be sure: It is well, O ye troth-breakers! there was found a man to ride Through the waves of my Flickering Fire to lie by Brynhild's side."
Then no word answered Gudrun till she waded up the stream And stretched forth her hand to Brynhild, and thereon was a golden gleam, And she spake, and her voice was but little: "Thou mayst know by this token and sign If the best of the kings of man-folk and the master of masters is thine."
White waxed the face of Brynhild as she looked on the glittering thing: And she spake: "By all thou lovest, whence haddest thou the ring?"
Then Gudrun laughed in her glory the face of the Queen to see: "Thinkst thou that my brother Gunnar gave the Dwarf-wrought ring to me?"
Nought spake the glorious woman, but as one who clutcheth a knife She turned on the mocking Gudrun, and again spake Sigurd's wife:
"I had the ring, O Brynhild, on the night that followed the morn, When the semblance of Gunnar left thee in thy golden hall forlorn: And he, the giver that gave it, was the Helper's war-got thrall, And the babe King Elf uplifted to the war-dukes in the hall; And he rode with the heart-wise Regin, and rode the Glittering Heath, And gathered the Golden Harvest and smote the Worm to the death: And he rode with the sons of the Niblungs till the words of men must fail To tell of the deeds of Sigurd and the glory of his tale: Yet e'en as thou sayst, O Brynhild, the bidding of Gunnar he did, For he cloaked him in Gunnar's semblance and his shape in Gunnar's hid:— Thou all-wise Queen of the Niblungs, was this so hard a part For the learned in the lore of Regin, who ate of the Serpent's heart? —Thus he wooed the bride for Gunnar, and for Gunnar rode the fire; And he held thine hand for Gunnar, and lay by thy dead desire. We have known thee for long, O Brynhild, and great is thy renown; In this shalt thou joy henceforward and nought in thy wedding crown."
Now is Brynhild wan as the dead, and she openeth her mouth to speak, But no word cometh outward: then the green bank doth she seek, And casteth her raiment upon her, and flees o'er the meadow fair, As though flames were burning beneath it, and red gleeds the daisies were: But fair with face triumphant from the water Gudrun goes, And with many a thought of Sigurd the heart within her glows.
And yet as she walked the meadow a fear upon her came, What deeds are the deeds of women in their anguish and their shame; And many a heavy warning and many a word of fate By the lips of Sigurd spoken she remembereth overlate; Yet e'en to the heart within her she dissembleth all her dread. Daylong she sat in her bower in glee and goodlihead, But when the day was departing and the earl-folk drank in the hall She went alone in the garden by the nook of the Niblung wall; There she thought of that word in the river, and of how it were better unsaid, And she looked with kind words to hide it, as men bury their battle-dead With the spice and the sweet-smelling raiment: in the cool of the eve she went And murmured her speech of forgiveness and the words of her intent, While her heart was happy with love: then she lifted up her face, And lo, there was Brynhild the Queen hard by in the leafy place; Then the smile from her bright eyes faded and a flush came over her cheek And she said: "What dost thou, Brynhild? what matter dost thou seek?"