Morris, William - Sigurd the Volsung Book III – 008 Sigurd rideth with the Niblungs, and wooeth Brynhild for King Gunnar
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Sigurd the Volsung
Book III, Pre-Kelmscott Edition, 1876, edited by Stuart Blersch
VIII. 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 speakest 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 hath 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 of 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 leapt 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 I 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 fulfill 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, ray 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 heait of hearts to grieve.
Thou art troth-piight, 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 spark 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.