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Morris, William - Sigurd the Volsung Book III – 015 Of the passing away of Brynhild



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Sigurd the Volsung

Book III, Pre-Kelmscott Edition, 1876, edited by Stuart Blersch

XV. Of the passing away of Brynhild

Once more on the morrow-morning fair shineth the glorious sun,
And the Niblung children labour on a deed that shall be done.
For out in the people's meadows they raise a bale on high,
The oak and the ash together, and thereon shall the Mighty he;

Nor gold nor steel shall be lacking, nor savour of sweet spice,
Nor cloths in the Southlands woven, nor webs of untold price :
The work grows, toil is as nothing ; long blasts of the mighty horn
From the topmost tower out-wailing o'er the woeful world are borne.

But Brynhild lay in her chamber, and her women went and came,

And they feared and trembled before her, and none spake Sigurd's name;
But whiles they deemed her weeping, and whiles they deemed indeed
That she spake, if they might but hearken, but no words their ears might heed ;
Till at last she spake out clearly :
"I know not what ye would ;
For ye come and go in my chamber, and ye seem of wavering mood

To thrust me on, or to stay me ; to help my heart in woe,
Or to bid my days of sorrow midst nameless folly go."

None answered the word of Brynhild, none knew of her intent ;
But she spake : "Bid hither Gunnar, lest the sun sink o'er the bent,
And leave the words unspoken I yet have will to speak."

Then her maidens go from before her, and that lord of war they seek,
And he stands by the bed of Brynhild and strives to entreat and beseech,
But her eyes gaze awfully on him, and his lips may learn no speech.
And she saith :
" I slept in the morning, or I dreamed in the waking-hour.
And my dream was of thee, O Gunnar, and the bed in thy kingly bower,

And the house that I blessed in my sorrow, and cursed in ray sorrow and shame,
The gates of an ancient people, the towers of a mighty name :
King, cold was the hall I have dwelt in, and no brand burned on the hearth:
Dead-cold was thy bed, O Gunnar, and thy land was parched with dearth:
But I saw a great King riding, and a master of the harp,

And he rode amidst of the foemen, and the swords were bitter-sharp,
But his hand in the hand-gyves smote not, and his feet in the fetters were fast
While many a word of mocking at his speechless face was cast
Then I heard a voice in the world ; 'O woe for the broken troth,
And the heavy Need of the Niblungs, and the Sorrow of Odin the Goth !

Then I saw the halls of the strangers, and the hills, and the dark-blue sea.
Nor knew of their names and their nations, for earth was afar from me,
But brother rose up against brother, and blood swam over the board,
And women smote and spared not, and the fire was master and lord.
Then, then was the moonless mid-mirk, and I woke to the day and the deed

The deed that earth shall name not, the day of its bitterest need.
Many words have I said in my life-days, and little more shall I say :
Ye have heard the dream of a woman, deal with it as ye may :
For meseems the world-ways sunder, and the dusk and the dark is mine.
Till I come to the hall of Freyia, where the deeds of the mighty shall shine."

So hearkened Gunnar the Niblung, that her words he understood,
And he knew she was set on the death-stroke, and he deemed it nothing good
But he said : "I have hearkened, and heeded thy death and mine in thy words
I have done the deed and abide it, and my face shall laugh on the swords
But thee, woman, I bid thee abide here till thy grief of soul abate ;

Meseems nought lowly nor shameful shall be the Niblung fate ;
And here shalt thou rule and be mighty, and be queen of the measureless Gold
And abase the kings and upraise them; and anew shall thy fame be told.
And as fair shall thy glory blossom as the fresh fields under the spring."

Then he casteth his arms about her, and hot is the heart of the King

For the glory of Queen Brynhild and the hope of her days of gain,
And he clean forgetteth Sigurd and the foster-brother slain :
But she shrank aback from before him, and cried: "Woe worth the while
For the thoughts ye drive back on me, and the memory of your guile !
The Kings of earth were gathered, the wise of men were met ;

On the death of a woman's pleasure their glorious hearts were set,
And I was alone amidst them — Ah, hold thy peace hereof !
Lest the thought of the bitterest hours this little hour should move."

He rose abashed from before her, and yet he lingered there ;
Then she said : "O King of the Niblungs, what noise do I hearken and hear?

Why ring the axes and hammers, while feet of men go past,
And shields from the wall are shaken, and swords on the pavement cast,
And the door of the treasure is opened, and the horn cries loud and long,
And the feet of the Niblung children to the people's meadows throng?"

His face was troubled before her, and again she spake and said :

"Meseemeth this is the hour when men array the dead ;
Wilt thou tell me tidings, Gunnar, that the children of thy folk
Pile up the bale for Guttorm, and the hand that smote the stroke ?"

He said : "It is not so, Brynhild ; for that Giuki's son was burned
When the moon of the middle heaven last night toward dawning turned."

They looked on each other and spake not ; but Gunnar gat him gone,
And came to his brother Hogni, the wise-heart Giuki's son.
And spake : "Thou art wise, O Hogni ; go in to Brynhild the queen,
And stay her swift departing ; or the last of her days hath she seen."

" It is nought, thy word," said Hogni ; "wilt thou bring dead men aback,

Or the souls of kings departed midst the battle and the wrack ?
Yet this shall be easier to thee than the turning Brynhild's heart ;
She came to dwell among us, but in us she had no part ;
Let her go her ways from the Niblungs with her hand in Sigurd's hand.
Will the grass grow up henceforward where her feet have trodden the land?"

"O evil day," said Gunnar, "when my queen must perish and die !"

"Such oft betide," saith Hogni, "as the lives of men flit by ;
But the evil day is a day, and on each day groweth a deed,
And a thing that never dieth ; and the fateful tale shall speed.
Lo now, let us harden our hearts and set our brows as the brass,

Lest men say it, 'They loathed the evil and they brought the evil to pass.' "

So they spake, and their hearts were heavy, and they longed for the morrow morn,
And the morrow of tomorrow, and the new day yet to be born.

But Brynhild cried to her maidens : "Now open ark and chest,
And draw forth queenly raiment of the loveliest and the best.

Red rings that the Dwarf-lords fashioned, fair cloths that queens have sewed
To array the bride for the mighty, and the traveller for the road."

They wept as they wrought her bidding and did on her goodliest gear ;
But she laughed mid the dainty linen, and the gold-rings fashioned fair :
She arose from the bed of the Niblungs, and her face no more was wan ;

As a star in the dawn-tide heavens, mid the dusky house she shone :
And they that stood about her, their hearts were raised aloft
Amid their fear and wonder : then she spake them kind and soft :

"Now give me the sword, O maidens, wherewith I sheared the wind
When the Kings of Earth were gathered to know the Chooser's mind."

All sheathed the maidens brought it, and feared the hidden blade,
But the naked blue-white edges across her knees she laid,
And spake : "The heaped-up riches, the gear my fathers left,
All dear-bought woven wonders, all rings from battle reft,
All goods of men desired, now strew them on the floor.

And so share among you, maidens, the gifts of Brynhild's store,"

They brought them, mid their weeping, but none put forth a hand
To take that wealth desired, the spoils of many a land :
There they stand and weep before her, and some are moved to speech,
And they cast their arms about her and strive with her, and beseech

That she look on her loved-ones' sorrow and the glory of the day.
It was nought ; she scarce might see them, and she put their hands away
And she said : "Peace, ye that love me ! and take the gifts and the gold
In remembrance of my fathers and the faithful deeds of old."

Then she spake : "Where now is Gunnar, that I may speak with him ?

For new things are mine eyes beholding and the Niblung house grows dim.
And new sounds gather about me, that may hinder me to speak
When the breath is near to flitting, and the voice is waxen weak."

Then upright by the bed of the Niblungs for a moment doth she stand.
And the blade flasheth bright in the chamber, but no more they hinder her hand

Than if a God were smiting to rend the world in two :
Then dulled are the glittering edges, and the bitter point cleaves through
The breast of the all-wise Brynhild, and her feet from the pavement fail,
And the sigh of her heart is hearkened mid the hush of the maidens' wail.
Chill, deep is the fear upon them, but they bring her aback to the bed.

And her hand is yet on the hilts, and sidelong droopeth her head.

Then there cometh a cry from withoutward, and Gunnar's hurrying feet
Are swift on the kingly threshold, and Brynhild's blood they meet.
Low down o'er the bed he hangeth and hearkeneth for her word,
And her heavy lids are opened to look on the Niblung lord,
And she saith :

"I pray thee a prayer, the last word in the world I speak,
That ye bear me forth to Sigurd, and the hand my hand would seek ;
The bale for the dead is builded, it is wrought full wide on the plain.
It is raised for Earth's best Helper, and thereon is room for twain :
Ye have hung the shields about it, and the Southland hangings spread,

There lay me adown by Sigurd and my head beside his head :
But ere ye leave us sleeping, draw his Wrath from out the sheath,
And lay that Light of the Branstock, and the blade that frighted death
Betwixt my side and Sigurd's, as it lay that while agone,
When once in one bed together we twain were laid alone :

How then when the flames flare upward may I be left behind ?
How then may the road he wendeth be hard for my feet to find ?
How then in the gates of Valhall may the door of the gleaming ring
Clash to on the heel of Sigurd, as I follow on my king ? "

Then she raised herself on her elbow, but again her eyelids sank,

And the wound by the sword-edge whispered, as her heart from the iron shrank,
And she moaned : "O lives of man-folk, for unrest all overlong
By the Father were ye fashioned ; and what hope amendeth wrong?
Now at last, O my beloved, all is gone ; none else is near,
Through the ages of all ages, never sundered, shall we wear."

Scarce more than a sigh was the word, as back on the bed she fell,
Nor was there need in the chamber of the passing of Brynhild to tell ;
And no more their lamentation might the maidens hold aback.
But the sound of their bitter mourning was as if red-handed wrack
Ran wild in the Burg of the Niblungs, and the fire were master of all

Then the voice of Gunnar the war-king cried out o'er the weeping hall ;
"Wail on, O women forsaken, for the mightiest woman born !
Now the hearth is cold and joyless, and the waste bed lieth forlorn.
Wail on, but amid your weeping lay hand to the glorious dead.
That not alone for an hour may lie Queen Brynhild's head :

For here have been heavy tidings, and the Mightiest under shield
Is laid on the bale high-builded in the Niblungs' hallowed field.
Fare forth ! for he abideth, and we do Allfather wrong.
If the shining Valhall's pavement await their feet o'erlong."

Then they took the body of Brynhild in the raiment that she wore.

And out through the gate of the Niblungs the holy corpse they bore.
And thence forth to the mead of the people,and the high-built shielded bale
Then afresh in the open meadows breaks forth the women's wail
When they see the bed of Sigurd and the glittering of his gear;
And fresh is the wail of the people as Brynhild draweth anear,

And the tidings go before her that for twain the bale is built,
That for twain is the oak-wood shielded and the pleasant odours spilt.
There is peace on the bale of Sigurd, and the Gods look down from on high.
And they see the lids of the Volsung close shut against the sky.
As he lies with his shield beside him in the Hauberk all of gold,

That has not its like in the heavens, nor has earth of its fellow told ;
And forth from the Helm of Aweing are the sunbeams flashing wide.
And the sheathed Wrath of Sigurd lies still by his mighty side.
Then cometh an elder of days, a man of the ancient times,
Who is long past sorrow and joy, and the steep of the bale he climbs ;

And he kneeleth down by Sigurd, and bareth the Wrath to the sun
That the beams are gathered about it, and from hilt to blood-point run,
And wide o'er the plain of the Niblungs doth the Light of the Branstock glare,
Till the wondering mountain-shepherds on that star of noontide stare,
And fear for many an evil ; but the ancient man stands still

With the war-flame on his shoulder, nor thinks of good or of ill.
Till the feet of Brynhild's bearers on the topmost bale are laid,
And her bed is dight by Sigurd's ; then he sinks the pale white blade
And lays it 'twixt the sleepers, and leaves them there alone —
He, the last that shall ever behold them, — and his days are well nigh done.

Then is silence over the plain ; in the noon shine the torches pale
As the best of the Niblung Earl-folk bear fire to the builded bale :
Then a wind in the west ariseth, and the white flames leap on high.
And with one voice crieth the people a great and mighty cry,
And men cast up hands to the Heavens, and pray without a word.

As they that have seen God's visage, and the face of the Father have heard.

They are gone — the lovely, the mighty, the hope of the ancient Earth :
It shall labour and bear the burden as before that day of their birth :
It shall groan in its blind abiding for the day that Sigurd hath sped,
And the hour that Brynhild hath hastened, and the dawn that waketh the dead

It shall yearn, and be oft-times holpen, and forget their deeds no more,
Till the new sun beams on Baldur, and the happy sealess shore.

The source of the experience

Morris, William

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Activities and commonsteps