The Fall of the Niebelungs
Translated by Margaret Armour
First Adventure Concerning the Niebelungs Second Adventure Concerning Siegfried Third Adventure How Siegfried Came to Worms Fourth Adventure How Siegfried Fought with the Saxons Fifth Adventure How Siegfried First Saw Kriemhild Sixth Adventure How Gunther Went to Issland to Woo Brunhild Seventh Adventure How Gunther Won Brunhild Eighth Adventure How Siegfried Journeyed to the Nibelungs Ninth Adventure How Siegfried Was Sent to Worms Tenth Adventure How Brunhild Was Received at Worms Eleventh Adventure How Siegfried Brought his Wife Home Twelfth Adventure How Gunther Invited Siegfried to the Hightide Thirteenth Adventure How They Rode to the Hightide Fourteenth Adventure How the Queens Quarrelled Fifteenth Adventure How Siegfried Was Betrayed Sixteenth Adventure How Siegfried Was Slain Seventeenth Adventure How Siegfried Was Mourned and Buried Eighteenth Adventure How Siegmund Returned Home Nineteenth Adventure How the Nibelung Hoard Came to Worms
Twentieth Adventure How King Etzel Sent to Burgundy for Kriemhild Twenty-First Adventure How Kriemhild Journeyed to the Huns Twenty-Second Adventure How She Was Received Among the Huns Twenty-Third Adventure How Kriemhild Thought of Revenging Her Wrong Twenty-Fourth Adventure How Werbel and Schwemmel Brought the Message Twenty-Fifth Adventure How the Kings Journeyed to the Huns Twenty-Sixth Adventure How Dankwart Slew Gelfrat Twenty-Seventh Adventure How They Came to Bechlaren Twenty-Eighth Adventure How Kriemhild Received Hagen Twenty-Ninth Adventure How Hagen and Folker Sat Before Kriemhild's Hall Thirtieth Adventure How Hagen and Folker Kept Watch Thirty-First Adventure How the Burgundians Went to Church Thirty-Second Adventure How Bloedel Fought With Dankwart in the Hall Thirty-Third Adventure How Dankwart Brought the News to His Masters Thirty-Fourth Adventure How They Threw Down the Dead Thirty-Fifth Adventure How Iring Was Slain Thirty-Sixth Adventure How the Queen Bad Them Burn Down the Hall Thirty-Seventh Adventure How Rudeger Was Slain Thirty-Eighth Adventure How Dietrich's Knights Were All Slain Thirty-Ninth Adventure How Gunther, Hagen, and Kriemhild Were Slain
Concerning the Niebelungs
In old tales they tell us many wonders of heroes and of high courage, of glad feasting, of wine and of mourning; and herein ye shall read of the marvellous deeds and of the strife of brave men.
There grew up in Burgundy a noble maiden, in no land was a fairer. Kriemhild was her name. Well favoured was the damsel, and by reason of her died many warriors. Doughty knights in plenty wooed her, as was meet, for of her body she was exceeding comely, and her virtues were an adornment to all women.
Three kings noble and rich guarded her, Gunther and Gernot, warriors of fame, and Giselher the youth, a chosen knight. The damsel was their sister, and the care of her fell on them. These lords were courteous and of high lineage, bold and very strong, each of them the pick of knights. The name of their country was Burgundy, and they did great deeds, after, in Etzel's land. At Worms, by the Rhine, they dwelled in might with many a proud lord for vassal.
Their mother was a rich queen and hight Uta, and the name of their father was Dankrat, who, when his life was ended, left them his lands. A strong man was he in his time, and one that in his youth won great worship.
These three princes, as I have said, were valiant men, overlords of the best knights that folk have praised, strong and bold and undismayed in strife. There were Hagen of Trony, and also his brother Dankwart the swift; and Ortwin of Metz; the two Margraves, Gary and Eckewart; Volker of Alzeia, strong of body; Rumolt, the steward, a chosen knight; Sindolt and Hunolt. These last three served at court and pursued honour. And other knights were there, more than I can name. Dankwart was the marshal; the nephew of Ortwin of Metz carved at the board; Sindolt was the butler, a worthy warrior: each did his part as a good knight.
The splendour of this court and its might, the high valour and chivalry of its lords, were a tale without end.
Now it so fell that Kriemhild, the pure maid, dreamed a dream that she fondled a wild falcon, and eagles wrested it from her; the which to see grieved her more than any ill that had happened to her heretofore.
This dream she told to Uta, her mother, who interpreted it on this wise. "The falcon that thou sawest is a noble man; yet if God keep him not, he is a lost man to thee."
"What speakest thou to me of a man, mother mine? Without their love would I still abide, that I may remain fair till my death, nor suffer dole from any man's love."
Said her mother then, "Be not so sure; for wouldst thou ever on this earth have heart's gladness, it cometh from the love of a man. And a fair wife wilt thou be, if God but lead hither to thee a true and trust knight."
"Say not so, mother mine," answered the maiden, "for on many a woman, and oft hath it been proven, that the meed of love is sorrow. From both I will keep me, that evil betide not."
Long in such wise abode the high, pure maiden, nor thought to love any. Nevertheless, at the last, she wedded a brave man; that was the falcon she dreamed of erstwhile, as her mother foretold it. Yea, bitter was her vengeance on her kinsmen that slew him, and by reason of his death died many a mother's son.
There grew up in the Netherland a rich king's child, whose father hight Siegmund and his mother Sieglind, in a castle high and famous called Xanten, down by the Rhine's side. Goodly was this knight, by my troth, his body without blemish, a strong and valiant man of great worship; abroad, through the whole earth, went his fame. The hero hight Siegfried, and he rode boldly into many lands. Ha! in Burgundy, I trow, he found warriors to his liking. Or he was a man grown he had done marvels with his hand, as is said and sung, albeit now there is no time for more word thereof.
Of his best days there were many wonders to tell, how he waxed in goodliness and honour; his, too, was the love of women.
As was seemly for such an one, his breeding was well seen to, and of his nature, likewise, he was virtuous. His father's land was famed for his worth, for in all things he was right noble.
When he was of an age to ride to the court, the people saw him gladly, and wedded wives and maids were alike fain that he should tarry there. By order of Siegmund and Sieglind he was richly clad, and without guards he was suffered not to ride abroad. They that had him in charge were wise men versed in honour, to the end that he might win thereby liegemen and lands.
Now was he grown a stark youth, of stature and strength to bear weapons; he lacked nothing needful thereto, and inclined him already to the wooing of women. Nor did these find the fair youth amiss.
So Siegmund his father cried a hightide, and word thereof came to the kingdoms that were round about. To strangers and to friends alike he gave horses and apparel, and wheresoever they found one of knightly birth, that youth they bade to the hightide, to be dubbed a knight with Siegfried.
Many wonders might one tell of that hightide, and rightly Siegmund and Sieglind won glory from the gifts of their hand, by reason whereof a multitude rode into the land. To four hundred sworded knights and to Siegfried was given rich apparel. Full many a fair damsel ceased not from working with her needle for his sake. Precious stones without stint they set in gold, and embroidered them with silk on the vest of the proud youth. He was little loth thereto. And the king bade them set places for many a hero the mid-summer that Siegfried became a knight.
The rich squires and great knights drew to the minster. Meet is it that the old help the young, even as they in their day were holpen.
The time sped in merriment and sports. First, God to honour, they sang mass. Then the people pressed in hard to behold the youths dubbed knights with such pomp and high observance as we see not the like of nowadays.
Then they ran where they found saddled horses. And the noise of tourney was so great at Siegmund's court that palace and hall echoed therewith, for there was a mighty din of heroes. From old and young came the noise of hurtling and of broken shafts whizzing in the air; and from warring hands flew splintered lances as far as the castle; men and women looked on at the sport. Then the king bade stay the tilting. And they led off the horses. Many shields lay broken, and, strewed on the grass, were jewels from shining bucklers, fallen in the fray.
The guests went in and sat down as they were bidden, and over the choice meats and good wine, drunk to the full, they parted from their weariness. Friends and strangers were entreated with equal honour.
Albeit they ceased not from tilting all the day, the mummers and the minstrels took no rest, but sang for gold and got it; wherefore they praised the land of Siegmund. The king enfeoffed Siegfried with lands and castles, as in his youth his father had enfeoffed him, and to his sword-fellows he gave with full hand, that it rejoiced them to be come into that country.
The hightide endured seven days. Sieglind, the wealthy queen, did according to old custom. She divided red gold among her guests for love of her son, that she might win their hearts to him.
Among the minstrels none were needy. Horses and raiment were as free as if they that gave had but a day to live. Never company gave readier.
So the hightide ended with glory, and the rich lords were well minded to have Siegfried to their prince. While Siegmund and Sieglind lived, their son, that loved them, desired not to wear the crown, but only, as a brave man, to excel in strength and might. Greatly was he feared in the land; nor durst any chide him, for from the day he bare arms he rested not from strife. Yea, in far countries and for all time, his strong hand won him glory.
How Siegfried Came to Worms
Little recked Siegfried of heart's dole till that the news reached him of a fair maid of Burgundy, than whom none could wish a fairer; by reason of her, joy befell him, and sorrow.
Her beauty was rumoured far and wide, and the fame of her virtues, joined thereto, brought many strangers into Gunther's land. Yet, though many wooed her, Kriemhild was firm-minded to wed none.
Thereupon Siegmund's son yearned to her with true love. Weighed with him all other suitors were as wind, for he was meet to be chosen of fair women; and, or long, Kriemhild the high maiden was bold Sir Siegfried's bride.
His kinsmen and his liegemen counselled him to woo a fitting mate, if he meant to love in earnest, whereto Siegfried answered, "It shall be Kriemhild. So measureless fair is the maiden of Burgundy, that the greatest emperor, were he minded to wed, were none too good for her."
The tidings came to Siegmund's ear. His knights told him Siegfried's intent, and it irked him that his son should woo the royal maiden. To Sieglind, the king's wife, they told it also, and she feared for his life, for she knew Gunther and his men.
They would have turned him from his quest.
Spake bold Siegfried then, "Dearest father mine, either I will think no more on women at all, or I will woo where my heart's desire is." And for all they could say, he changed not his purpose.
Then said the king, "If thou wilt not yield in this, i'faith, I approve thy choice, and will further thee therein as I best can. Nevertheless, Gunther hath many mighty men, were it none other than Hagen, an arrogant and overweening knight. I fear both thou and I must rue that thou goest after this king's daughter."
"What harm can come thereof?" answered Siegfried. "What I win not for the friendly asking, I will take by the prowess of my hand. I doubt not but I shall strip him of both liegemen and lands."
But Siegmund said, "I am grieved at thy word. If it were heard at the Rhine, thou durst not ride at all into Gunther's country. Both Gunther and Gernot are known to me from aforetime, and by force shall none win the maiden. That have I often heard. But if thou wilt ride thither with warriors, I will summon my friends. They will follow thee nothing loth."
Siegfried answered, "I will not ride with an army of warriors to the Rhine; it would shame me so to win the maiden by force. I would win her with mine own hand. One of twelve I will forth to Gunther's land, and to this shalt thou help me, my father Siegmund."
They gave to his knights cloaks of fur, some grey and some striped.
Sieglind his mother heard it, and sorrowed for her dear son, for fear she might lose him by the hand of Gunther's men. The noble queen wept sore.
Siegfried went where she sat, and spake comfortably to her. "Weep not, mother, for my sake, for I shall be without scathe among foemen. Help me rather to the journey that I make into Burgundy, that I and my fellows may have raiment beseeming proud knights. For this shalt thou have much thanks."
"Since thou wilt not be turned," spake Sieglind, "I will give to thee, my only child, the best apparel that ever knight did on, and to thy companions, for thy journey. Thou shalt receive without stint."
The youth bowed before the queen and said, "Twelve strong we ride forth, no more. I would have raiment for so many; for I would see with mine eyes how it standeth with Kriemhild."
The women sat night and day, nor rested till Siegfried's mantle was ready; for none could dissuade him from his quest. His father let forge for him a coat of mail that might do honour to his land. Bright were the breastplates and the helmet, and the bucklers fair and massy.
Now the time was come to ride forth, and all the folk, men and women, made dole, lest they should return never more. The hero bade load the sumpters with the arms and apparel. The horses were goodly, and their equipment of ruddy gold. None had more cause for pride than Siegfried and his knights. He asked leave to set out for Burgundy, and the king and the queen gave it sorrowing. But he spake comfortably to both of them, and said, "Weep not for my sake; nor fear aught for my life."
The knights were downcast, and the maidens wept. Their hearts told them, I ween, that by reason of this day's doings, many a dear one would lie dead. Needs made they dole, for they were sorrowful.
On the seventh morning after this, the fearless band drew towards Worms on the Rhine. Their garments were woven of ruddy gold, and their riding-gear was to match. Smooth paced the horses, deftly managed by Siegfried's bold warriors. Their shields were new, bright and massy, and their helmets goodly, as Siegfried the hero and his following rode into Gunther's country to the court. Never knights were in seemlier trim. Their sword-points clanged on their spurs, and in their hands they bare sharp spears; the one that Siegfried carried was broad two spans or more, of the sort that maketh grim wounds. Gold-hued were their bridles, their poitrels of silk; so they rode through the land.
Everywhere the folk marvelled, gazing at them, and Gunther's men ran to meet them; proud warriors, knights and squires, went toward the strangers, as was meet, and welcomed the guests to the court of their king, taking horse and shield from their hands. They would have put the horses in the stalls, but Siegfried spake in haste, "Let our horses stand, for I am minded to depart again speedily. Where I may find Gunther, the great king of Burgundy, let whoso knoweth tell me."
One answered him that knew, "Thou mayest see the king if thou wilt. I saw him amidst of his men in yonder wide hall. Go in to him. Thou shalt find there many brave warriors."
They told the king that a valiant knight, fair equipped and apparelled, that knew none in Burgundy, was come thither. And the king marvelled where those proud knights in shining harness, with their shields new and massy, might hie from. It irked him that none knew it.
Ortwin of Metz, a goodly man of high courage, spake to the king then, "Since we know naught thereof, bid to thee Hagen mine uncle, and show them to him. For he hath knowledge of the mighty men of all lands; and what he knoweth he will tell us."
The king summoned Hagen with his vassals, and he drew night with proud step, and asked the king his will.
"Strange knights are come to my court that none knoweth. If thou hast ever seen them afore, tell me thereof truly."
"That will I," spake Hagen, and went to the window, and looked down on the strangers below. The show of them and their equipment pleased him, but he had not seen them afore in Burgundy. And he said, "From wheresoever they be come, they must be princes, or princes' envoys. Their horses are good, and wonderly rich their vesture. From whatso quarter they hie, they be seemly men. But for this I vouch, that, though I never saw Siegfried, yonder knight that goeth so proud is, of a surety, none but he. New adventures he bringeth hither. By this hero's hand fell the brave Nibelungs, Shilbung and Nibelung, the high princes. Wonders hath he wrought by his prowess. I have heard tell that on a day when he rode alone, he came to a mountain, and chanced on a company of brave men that guarded the Nibelung's hoard, whereof he knew naught. The Nibelung men had, at that moment, made an end of bringing it forth from a hole in the hill, and oddly enow, they were about to share it. Siegfried saw them and marvelled thereat. He drew so close that they were ware of him, and he of them. Whereupon one said, 'Here cometh Siegfried, the hero of the Netherland!' Strange adventure met he amidst of them. Shilbung and Nibelung welcomed him, and with one accord the princely youths asked him to divide the treasure atween them, and begged this so eagerly that he could not say them nay. The tale goeth that he saw there more precious stones than an hundred double waggons had sufficed to carry, and of the red Nibelung gold yet more. This must bold Siegfried divide. In guerdon therefor they gave him the sword of the Nibelungs, and were ill paid by Siegfried for the service. He strove vainly to end the task, whereat they were wroth. And when he could not bear it through, the kings, with their men, fell upon him. But with their father's sword, that hight Balmung, he wrested from them both hoard and land. The princes had twelve champions—stark giants, yet little it bested them. Siegfried slew them wrathfully with his hand, and, with Balmung, vanquished seven hundred knights; and many youths there, afraid of the man and his sword, did homage for castles and land. He smote the two kings dead. Then he, himself, came in scathe by Albric, that would have avenged the death of his masters then and there, till that he felt Siegfried's exceeding might. When the dwarf could not overcome him, they ran like lions to the mountain, where Siegfried won from Albric the cloud-cloak that hight Tarnkappe. Then was Siegfried, the terrible man, master of the hoard. They that had dared the combat lay slain; and he bade carry the treasure back whence the Nibelungs had brought it forth; and he made Albric the keeper thereof, after that he had sworn an oath to serve him as his man, and to do all that he commanded him."
"These are his deeds," said Hagen; "bolder knight there never was. Yet more I might tell of him. With his hand he slew a dragon, and bathed him in its blood, that his skin is as horn, and no weapon can cut him, as hath been proven on him ofttimes."
"Let us welcome the young lord, that we come not in his hate. So fair is he of his body that one may not look unfriendly thereon; with his strength he hath done great deeds."
Then spake the great king, "Belike thou sayest sooth. Knightly he standeth there as for the onset—he and his warriors with him. We will go down to him and greet him."
"Thou mayest do that with honour," answered Hagen; "for he is of high birth, even a great king's son. By Christ, there is somewhat in his bearing that showeth he hath ridden hither on no slight matter."
The king of the land said, "He is right welcome, for I perceive that he is brave and noble, the which shall profit him in Burgundy."
Gunther went out to Siegfried. The king and his men gave the strangers courteous welcome, and the valiant man bowed before them because they greeted him so fair.
"I would know," said the king, "whence noble Siegfried cometh, and what he seeketh at Worms by the Rhine."
The guest answered him, "I will tell thee that readily. Word hath reached me in the land of my father, that, hereby thee, dwell the prowest ever sworn to king. I have heard much of these, and would know them; for this I am come hither. Thy knightliness also I hear praised, and am told that nowhere is a better king. So say the folk throughout the land; and, till I have proven it, I will not depart hence. I also am a king that shall wear a crown, and I would have men say of me that the country and the people are rightly mine. Thereto I pledge both honour and life. If thou art valiant, as they say, I care not whom it liketh or irketh, I will take from thee all thou hast, land and castles, and they shall be mine."
The king and his men marvelled when they heard this strange saying, that he would take their land; when the warriors understood it they were wroth.
"Wherein have I wronged thee," said Gunther the knight, "that I should yield to the might of any man what my father ruled so long with honour? We will show thee to thy hurt that we also are brave knights."
"I will abide by my purpose," said the doughty man. "If thou canst not hold they land in peace, I will rule it. Also what I have in fee, if thou overcome, shall be thine. With thy country be it even as with mine. To the one of us twain that overcometh shall the whole belong, people and land."
But Hagen and Gernot answered him back straightway. "We desire not," said Gernot, "to win new kingdoms at the cost of dead heroes. Our land is rich, and we are the rightful lords. The folk desire none better."
Grim and angered stood Gunther's kinsmen. Amidst of them was Ortwin of Metz, who said, "This bargain pleaseth me little. Bold Siegfried hath challenged thee wrongfully. Were thou and thy brothers naked, and he with a whole king's army at his back, I would undertake to show the overweening man he did well to abate his pride."
Whereat the knight of the Netherland was wroth and said, "Not such as thou art shall raise a hand against me, for I am a great king; thou art but a king's man. Twelve of thy sort could not withstand me."
Then Ortwin of Metz, the sister's son of Hagen of Trony, cried aloud for his sword. It grieved the king that he had kept silence so long, but Gernot, a warrior bold and keen, came betwixt them.
He said to Ortwin, "Calm thyself. Siegfried hath done naught to us, that we should not end this matter peaceably. I counsel that we take him to friend. That were more to our honour."
Then said Hagen the stark man, "It may well irk thy knights that he rideth hither as a foeman. Better had he refrained. My masters had never done the like by him."
Brave Siegfried answered, "If thou like not my words, I will show thee here, in Burgundy, the deeds of my hand."
"That I will hinder," said Gernot, and he forbade to his knights their overweening words, for they irked him. Siegfried also thought on the noble maiden.
"Wherefore should we fight with thee?" said Gernot. "Though every knight lay dead thereby, small were our glory and little thine adventure."
Whereto Siegfried, King Siegmund's son, answered, "Why do Hagen and Ortwin hang back, and their friends, whereof they have enow in Burgundy?"
But these must needs hold their peace, as Gernot commanded them.
"Thou art welcome," said Uta's son; "thou and they comrades that are with thee. We will serve thee gladly, I and my kinsmen."
They let pour for them Gunther's wine, and the host of that land, even Gunther the king, said, "All that is ours, and whatsoever thou mayest with honour desire, is thine to share with us, body and goods."
Then Siegfried was milder of his mood.
What he and his men had with them was seen to; they gave Siegfried's knights good quarters and fair lodging; and they rejoiced to see the stranger in Burgundy.
They did him honour many days: more than I can tell. This he won, I trow, by his valour. Few looked on him sourly.
The king and his men busied them with sports, and in each undertaking Siegfried still approved him the best. Whether they threw the stone or shot with the shaft, none came near him by reason of his great strength. Held the doughty warriors tourney before the women, then looked these all with favour on the knight of the Netherland. But, as for him, he thought only on his high love. The fair women of the court demanded who the proud stranger was. "He is so goodly," they said, "and so rich his apparel."
And there answered them folk enow, "It is the king of the Netherland." Whatsoever sport they followed, he was ready. In his heart he bare the beautiful maiden that as yet he had not seen: the which spake in secret kind words also of him. When the youths tilted in the courtyard, Kriemhild, the high princess, looked down at them from her window; nor, at that time, desired she better pastime. Neither had he asked better, had he known that his heart's dear one gazed upon him: the fairest thing on earth had he deemed it to behold her eyes. When he stood there amidst of the heroes in the tilt-yard, as the custom is, to rest at the tourney, so graceful the son of Sieglind bare him, that the hearts of many maidens yearned toward him. And ofttimes would he think, "How shall I attain to behold the noble lady that I have loved long and dearly? She is still a stranger. For this reason I am downcast."
When the rich kings rode abroad, it behoved the knights to go with them, wherefore Siegfried also rode forth, the which irked the damsel sore; and likewise, for love of her, he was heavy enow of his cheer.
So in a year (I say sooth) he abode by these princes, nor in all that time had once seen his dear one, that afterward brought him so much gladness and dole.
How Siegfried Fought with the Saxons
Now there were brought into Gunther's land strange tidings by envoys sent from afar by foreign princes that hated him; and when they heard the message they were troubled. The kings were as I will tell you: Ludger of the Saxons, a high and might prince; and Ludgast of Denmark, and many bold warriors with them.
These envoys, sent by his foemen, came into Gunther's land, and the strangers were asked their business, and brought before the king.
The king greeted them fair, and said, "I know not who hath sent you hither, and would hear it." So spake the good king, and they greatly feared his wrath.
"If thou wilt have our message, O king, we will tell it plain, and name thee the princes that have sent us. They are Ludgast and Ludger, and will come against thee into they land. Thou are fallen in their displeasure, and we know that they bear thee bitter hate. They come hither with an armed force to Worms by the Rhine—they and their warriors. Wherefore be warned. Inside of twelve days they will ride. If thou hast truly friends, let it appear now; let them help thee to keep thy castles and they country, for, or long, there will be smiting of helmets and shields here. Or wouldst thou treat with them, then declare it straightway, that thy foemen come not night thee to thy hurt, and that goodly knights perish not thereby."
"Tarry a while—ye shall have answer betimes—that I may bethink me," said the good king. "If I have true liegemen, I will not hide it from them, but will take counsel with them on this hard matter."
Heavy enow of his cheer was Gunther. He pondered the message secretly in his heart, and summoned Hagen, and others of his men, and sent to the court in haste for Gernot. His best knights drew round him, and he said, "Without cause, and with a mighty army, foemen come hither against us into our land."
Thereto answered Gernot, a hardy and bold warrior, "We shall hinder that with our swords. They only perish that fate dooms. Let them die. They shall not turn from honour. Our foemen are welcome."
Spake Hagen of Trony then, "Methinketh that were unwise. Ludgast and Ludger are proud men withal, and we can hardly in so few days muster our men." Therefore the bold knight said, "Tell Siegfried."
They bade lodge the envoys in town. Albeit they were his foemen, Gunther, the great king, commanded the folk to entreat them well—rightly he did so—till that he knew the friends that would stand by him.
The king was heavy of his cheer, and Siegfried, the good knight, saw that he was downcast, but wist not the reason, and asked King Gunther what ailed him. "I marvel much," said Siegfried, "that thou takest no part in our sports as heretofore." And Gunther, the doughty knight, answered him, "Not to every man may I declare the secret heaviness of my heart; only unto true friends shall the heart tell its dole."
Siegfried changed colour, and grew red and white, and he said to the king, "I have denied thee naught, and now I would help thee. If thou seekest friends, I will be one of them, and stand to it truly to my life's end."
"Now God requite thee, Sir Siegfried, for I like thy word; and albeit thy might availed me nothing, I would rejoice none the less that thou art well-minded toward me; as much and more will I do to thee if I live. I will tell thee the cause of my trouble. Envoys from my foemen have brought a message that with an army they will come against me; such inroad of warriors hath not been aforetime in this country."
"Be not sorrowful for that," answered Siegfried; "be of good cheer, and do now as I say. I will win for thee honour and profit or ever thy foemen reach this land. Had they stark adversaries thirty thousand warriors at their back, and I but one thousand, I would withstand them—trust me for that."
King Gunther answered, "Thou shalt be well paid for this."
"Give me a thousand of thy knights, since of mine own I have but twelve here with me, and I will keep thy land for thee. The hand of Siegfried will serve thee truly. Hagen shall help us in this, and also Ortwin, Dankwart, and Sindolt, thy loving knights, and eke Folker, the bold man, who shall bear the standard: better knight thou wilt not find. Bid the envoys return to their country; tell them they shall see us there soon enow. So shall our castles go scatheless."
The king let summon his kinsmen and his liegemen, and Ludger's messengers went to the court. They were glad to be gone. Gunther, the good king, gave them gifts and an escort, whereat they were well content.
Spake Gunther, "Thou shalt say on this wise to my haughty foemen: They did wisely to turn from their journey, for if my friends fail me not, and they seek me here in my land, they will find work enow."
They brought out rich gifts for the envoys, whereof Gunther had to spare, and these said not "nay." Then they took their leave, and departed rejoicing.
When the messengers were come again to Denmark, and told Ludgast how that the Rhine-men would ride thither, he was wroth at their boldness. They made report to him of the many brave men Gunther had, and how that they had seen a knight there amidst of them that hight Siegfried, a hero from the Netherland, the which was heavy news for Ludgast.
When they of Denmark heard it, they hastened the more to summon their friends, till that Ludgast had ready for the onset twenty thousand warriors withal.
On like manner Ludger of Saxony summoned his men to the number of forty thousand, ready to march into Burgundy.
The same also did King Gunther to his liegemen, and to his brothers with their vassals, and to Hagen and his knights. These were sorry enow at the news; and by reason thereof many a knight looked on death.
They hasted and made ready for the journey. Brave Folker bare the standard. They purposed to cross the Rhine from Worms. Hagen of Trony led the force. Sindolt and bold Hunolt were there, that they might deserve King Gunther's gold; also Hagen's brother, Dankwart, and Ortwin, fit men and worthy for the undertaking.
"Sit thou at home, O King," spake Siegfried. "Since thy knights are willing to follow me, stay here by the women and be of good cheer; for, by my troth, I will guard for thee both goods and honour. I will see to it, that they that seek thee here at Worms by the Rhine bide where they are; we will pierce deep into their country, till their vaunting is turned to sorrow."
They passed from the Rhine through Hesse against Saxony, where the battle was fought afterward. With plunder and with fire they laid waste to the land, the which both the princes found to their cost.
When they were come to the marches, the warriors hasted forward, and Siegfried began to ask them, "Which of us shall guard the rest from surprise?" More to their hurt the Saxons never took the field.
They answered, "Let bold Dankwart guard the younger knights. He is a good warrior. So shall we come in less scathe by Ludger's men. He and Ortwin shall guard the rear."
"I will myself ride forward," said Siegfried, "and spy out the foe, that I may know rightly who the warriors be."
Fair Sieglind's son did on his armour in haste. He gave his knights in charge to Hagen and bold Gernot when he set out. He rode into Saxony all alone, and won honour by his quest. He perceived a great host encamped on a field, that loomed mightily against him, beyond the strength of one man: forty thousand or more. And the high heart of Siegfried rejoiced.
One of the enemy's knights kept watch warily, and perceived Siegfried, and Siegfried him, and they glared fiercely on each other. I will tell you who he was that kept watch. On his arm he bare a glittering shield of gold. It was King Ludgast that kept ward over his host.
The noble stranger pricked toward him fiercely. Ludgast dressed him also. They put spurs to their horses and smote with all their strength on the shields with their spears, that it was like to go hard with the king. On their horses, pricked forward with the spur, the princes bare down on each other like the wind. Then they wheeled round deftly—these two fierce men—and fell to hacking with their swords. Sir Siegfried smote, that the field rang therewith; the hero with his mighty blade struck sparks from Ludgast's helmet. Fiercely fought the prince of the Netherland, and Ludgast, likewise, dealt many a grim blow. Each drave with all his might at the other's shield. The combat was spied by thirty of Ludgast's men, but Siegfried, by means of three deep wounds and grisly that he dealt Ludgast through his white harness, overcame the king or these knights came up. His sword drew blood with each stroke, that King Ludgast came in evil plight, and begged for his life, offering his land as the price thereof, and said that his name was Ludgast.
His knights hastened to his rescue, for they had seen the encounter at the ward-post. Siegfried would have led him thence, but thirty of Ludgast's men rode at him. With mighty blows the stark warrior kept his rich captive; and soon his hands did even deadlier deeds. He smote the thirty men dead in his defence, save one that fled and told what happened, the truth whereof was proven by his bloody helmet.
They of Denmark were aghast when they heard their king was taken captive; they told it to his brother, who fell in a great fury by reason of the disaster.
So the mighty Ludgast was taken by Siegfried's prowess, and given in charge to Hagen. When that good knight heard that it was Ludgast he was not sorry.
They bade raise the standard of Burgundy. "Forward!" cried Siegfried, "More shall be done or the day end, if I lose not my life. The Saxon women shall rue it. Hearken now, ye men of the Rhine. I can lead you to Ludger's army. There ye will see helmets hewn by the good hands of heroes. They shall be in evil case or we turn again."
Then Gernot and his men sprang to horse. The banner was unfurled by Folker, the minstrel knight. He rode before the host, and they all made them ready for battle. They numbered not more than a thousand men, and thereto the twelve strangers. The dust rose from their path, and they rode through the land, their shields flashing.
The Saxons, also, were come up, bearing well-sharpened swords. So hath the story been told me. The swords in the heroes' hands dealt grim blows in defence of their castles and their lands.
The marshal led the army, and Siegfried was come forward with the twelve men that he had with him from the Netherland. Many a hand was bloody that day in the battle. Sindolt and Hunolt and eke Gernot smote many heroes dead in the fight, that were bold enow till they felt their prowess. For their sake sorrowed women not a few. Folker and Hagen and Ortwin, the fierce warriors, quenched the flash of many helmets with blood. Dankwart, also, did wonders. The Danes proved their mettle, and loud were heard the hurtling of shields and the clash of sharp swords swung mightily. The Saxons, bold in strife, made havoc enow. Wide were the wounds hewn by the men of Burgundy when they rushed to the encounter. Blood ran down the saddles. So was the honour wooed of these knights bold and swift. Loud rang the keen swords in the hands of the heroes of the Netherland, when they rode with their lord into the fray. They rode with Siegfried like good knights. None from the Rhine kept pace with him. By reason of Siegfried's hand streams of blood ran from bright helmets, till that he lit on Ludgast amidst of his men. Thrice he pierced through the army of the Saxons, and thrice returned. Hagen, by this time, was come up with him, that helped him in his quest. They slew many a brave knight.
When bold Ludger found Siegfried with Balmung, the good sword, swung aloft, wherewith he made a mighty slaughter, he was wroth, and of his mood full grim. With a fierce rush and clash of swords the warriors came together. So exceeding furious was their onset that the host gave way. Terrible was their hate. The Saxon king knew well that his brother was taken captive, and he was wroth thereat; but he knew it not for Siegfried's work till now. They had blamed Gernot. Now he found out the truth. Ludger smote so hard that Siegfried's horse reeled under him. But when he was come to, Siegfried was more terrible than afore. Hagen and Gernot, Dankwart and Folker, stood by him. The dead lay in heaps. Sindolt and Hunolt and Ortwin the knight slew many in the strife. The princes held together in the fray. Bright spears in the hands of heroes flashed above the helmets, that clave the shining bucklers in twain. Many a massy shield was red with blood. In the fierce encounter many men fell from their horses. Bold Siegfried and King Ludger strove together, and lances whizzed, and sharp spears. Ludger's shield-plate flew off through the strength of Siegfried's hand. Then the hero of the Netherland thought to have gotten the victory over the Saxons that were hard pressed. Ha! what polished bucklers doughty Dankwart brake!
Of a sudden Ludger espied a crown that was painted on Siegfried's shield, and he knew the mighty man, and cried aloud to his friends, "Forbear, my men all. I have seen the son of Siegmund, even bold Siegfried. The Devil hath sent him hither into Saxony." He bade lower the standard, and sued for peace. They granted this, yet he was compelled by Siegfried to go captive into Gunther's land.
With one accord they ceased from the strife. They threw down their shivered helmets and shields. Blood-red were they all by the hands of the Burgundians. They took captive whom they listed, for they had the power.
Gernot and Hagen gave order to convey the wounded on litters. They led five hundred noble knights as prisoners to the Rhine.
The vanquished warriors rode back to Denmark. Nor had the Saxons fought so as to win them honour, and they were downcast. The dead were mourned by their friends.
They sent the weapons to the Rhine on sumpters. So wondrously had Siegfried done, that all Gunther's men praised him.
Sir Gernot sent word to Worms, and throughout the whole land, to their friends, how it had sped with them; for as bold knights and honourable they had fought. The pages hasted and told it, and the glad news rejoiced the loving ones that had sorrowed. The noble women ceased not from questioning how it had fared with the great king's men.
Kriemhild bade a messenger to her in secret; publicly she durst not, for to one of them she bare dear heart's love.
When the messenger was come to her chamber, Kriemhild, the beautiful maiden, spake him fair. "Now tell me glad tidings; thou shalt have gold therefor; and, sayest thou sooth, I will ever be beholden to thee. How sped my brother Gernot in the battle, and the rest of my friends? Are there many dead? Who did most valiantly? Now tell me."
Whereto the messenger answered truthfully, "We had no coward among us. Yet since thou wilt hear it, noble princess, none rode in the thick of the fight like the knight of the Netherland. Marvellous was the work of Siegfried's hand. All that the knights did in battle—Dankwart and Hagen and the rest—though with honour fought they all, was but as a wind matched with the prowess of Siegfried, the son of Siegmund. Many heroes have they slain, yet of the deeds of Siegfried, done in battle, none shall tell to the end. By reason of him many maidens mourn for their kin. Low lieth the dear one of many a bride. Loud smote he on the helmets, that they ran blood. In all things he is a knight bold and good."
"Ortwin of Metz, also, won worship. Whoso came within range of his sword lieth wounded or dead. Thy brother, too, made fierce havoc in the battle. To his prowess must all testify. The proud Burgundians have so fought that none my question their honour. For many a saddle was emptied by them when the field rang loud with gleaming swords. On such wise fought the knights of the Rhine that their foemen had done better to flee. The brave men of Trony rode fiercely in the strife. Hagen with his hand slew many, whereof Burgundy shall hear. So valiantly fought Sindolt and Hunolt, Gernot's men, and eke Rumolt, that Ludger may well rue that he ever met thy kinsmen by the Rhine. But the mightiest deeds, first and last, were done by Siegfried. He bringeth rich captives into Gunther's land, that his strength hath conquered, by reason whereof King Ludgast and his brother, Ludger of Saxony, suffer dole. For list to the marvel, noble queen: both these princes hath Siegfried's hand taken. Never have so many captives been led into this land, as come hither now through his prowess."
The maiden was glad at the tale.
"Of unwounded men they bring five hundred or more, and eighty red biers (I say sooth) of the wounded, fallen, the most part, by Siegfried's might. They that arrogantly withstood the knights of the Rhine are now Gunther's captives. Our men lead them hither rejoicing."
When she had heard the news aright, her fair cheek reddened, and her lovely face was the colour of the rose, because it had gone well with young and noble Siegfried, and he was come with glory out of peril. She joyed for her kinsmen also, as in duty bound. And she said, "Thou hast spoken well; for guerdon thereof thou shalt have costly raiment, and ten golden marks, that I will bid them bear to thee." It is good to tell glad tidings to rich women.
He got his envoy's fee of gold and vesture, and the fair maids hasted to the window and looked down the road, where the high-hearted warriors rode home. They drew nigh, whole and wounded, and heard the greeting of friends unashamed. Light of heart Gunther rode to meet them, for now his grim care was turned to joy. He received his own men well and also the strangers. Not to have thanked them that were come to his court, for that they had done valiantly in battle, would have been unseemly in so great a king. And he asked tidings of his friends, and who was slain. None were lost to him save sixty only, and these were mourned as many a hero hath been mourned since.
They that were unhurt brought many battered shields and shivered helmets back to Gunther's land. The warriors sprang down from their horses before the place, and there was a joyful noise of welcome.
Order was given to lodge the knights in the town, and the king commanded that his guests should be courteously entreated, and that the wounded should be seen to and given good chambers. So he approved himself generous to his foes. He said to Ludger, "Thou are welcome! Much scathe have I suffered through thee; yet, if I prosper henceforth, I will consider myself well paid. God reward my warriors, for well have they served me!"
"Thou has cause to thank them," answered Ludger, "for nobler captives were never won for a king; and gold without stint shall be thine, if thou do well by me and my friends."
Said Gunther, "Ye shall both go free. Yet I must have a pledge that my foemen quit not my land till peace be sealed betwixt us." And they promised it, and gave their hand thereon. They led them to their quarters to rest, and saw the wounded men laid softly in their beds. They set before them that were whole meat and good wine, and never were men merrier. They are the battered shields away into safe keeping; and the bloody saddles, of which there were enow, they hid, that the women might not grieve thereat. Many a weary knight was there.
The king entreated his guests right royally, and the land was full of friends and of strangers. He bade see to the sore wounded ones whose pride was brought low. To them that were skilled in leech craft they offered a rich fee of unweighed sliver and yellow gold, that they might heal the heroes of their wounds gotten in battle; the king sent also precious gifts to his guests. They that thought to ride home were bidden stay as friends. And the king took counsel how he might reward his liegemen that had done valiantly for his sake.
Sir Gernot said, "Let them go hence for the present, and summon them after six weeks to a hightide. Many will then be whole that now lie sick of their wounds."
Siegfried of the Netherland would have taken leave also, but when King Gunther knew his intent, he besought him lovingly to tarry, the which Siegfried had not done but for Gunther's sister's sake. He was too rich to take money, albeit he well deserved it; the king loved him, and also the king's kinsmen that had seen the deeds wrought by his hand in battle. So, for love of the maiden, he agreed to tarry, that haply he might win to see her, the which, or long, came to pass; for he knew her to his heart's desire, and rode home joyfully afterward to his father's land.
The young knights obeyed the king's command willingly, and practised daily at the tourney. Seats were raised on the stand before Worms for the guests that were coming into Burgundy.
When it was time for them to arrive, fair Kriemhild heard the news, that they were about to hold a hightide with their friends. Then the beautiful women busied them with their kirtles and their headgear that they were to wear.
Uta, the great queen, heard of the proud knights that were coming, and gorgeous robes were taken from their wrapping-cloths. For love of her children she bade them bring forth the garments. Many women and maidens were adorned therewith, and, of the young knights of Burgundy, not a few. To many of the strangers, also, she gave goodly apparel.
How Siegfried First Saw Kriemhild
A vast multitude of them that would attend the hightide drew daily to the Rhine; and unto those that came for love of the king horses were given and goodly raiment, and to each his place, even unto two and thirty princes of the highest and the best. So they tell us.
And the women vied with one another in their attire. Giselher, the youth, and Gernot, and their two squires, rested not from welcoming both friends and strangers. They gave courtly greeting unto the warriors.
The guests brought with them to the Rhine, to the tourney, saddles worked in ruddy gold, and finely-wrought shields, and knightly apparel. And the sick rejoiced, and they that lay on their beds sore wounded forgot that death is an hard thing. When the rumour of the festival was noised abroad, no man took heed more of them that groaned, for each thought only how he might sojourn there as a guest. Joy without measure had all they that were found there, and gladness and rejoicing were in Gunther's land.
On Whitsun morning there drew toward the hightide a goodly company of brave men, fairly clad: five thousand or more, and they made merry far and wide, and strove with one another in friendly combat.
Now Gunther knew well how, truly and from his heart, the hero of the Netherland loved his sister whom he had not yet seen, and whose beauty the people praised before that of all other maidens.
And he said, "Now counsel me, my kinsmen and my lieges, how we may order this hightide, that none may blame us in aught; for only unto such deeds as are good, pertaineth lasting fame."
Then answered Ortwin, the knight, to the king, "If thou wilt win for thyself glory from the hightide, let now the maidens that dwell with honour in our midst appear before us. For what shall pleasure or glad a man more than to behold beautiful damsels and fair women? Bid thy sister come forth and show herself to thy guests."
And this word pleased the knights.
"That will I gladly do," said the king; and they that heard him rejoiced. He sent a messenger to Queen Uta, and besought her that she would come to the court with her daughter and her women-folk.
And these took from the presses rich apparel, and what lay therein in wrapping-cloths; they took also brooches, and their silken girdles worked with gold, and attired themselves in haste. Many a noble maiden adorned herself with care, and the youths longed exceedingly to find favour in their eyes, and had not taken a rich king's land in lieu thereof. And they that knew not one another before looked each upon each right gladly.
The rich king commanded an hundred men of his household, his kinsmen and hers, to escort his sister, their swords in their hand. Uta, with an hundred and more of her women, gorgeously attired, came forth from the female apartments, and many noble damsels followed after her daughter. The knights pressed in upon them, thinking thereby to behold the beautiful maidens.
And lo! the fair one appeared, like the dawn from out the dark clouds. And he that had borne her so long in his heart was no more aweary, for the beloved one, his sweet lady, stood before him in her beauty. Bright jewels sparkled on her garments, and bright was the rose-red of her hue, and all they that saw her proclaimed her peerless among maidens.
As the moon excelleth in light the stars shining clear from the clouds, so stood she, fair before the other women, and the hearts of the warriors were uplifted. The chamberlains made way for her through them that pressed in to behold her. And Siegfried joyed, and sorrowed likewise, for he said in his heart, "How should I woo such as thee? Surely it was a vain dream; yet I were liefer dead than a stranger to thee."
Thinking thus he waxed oft white and red; yea, graceful and proud stood the son of Sieglind, goodliest of heroes to behold, as he were drawn on parchment by the skill of a cunning master. And the knights fell back as the escort commanded, and made way for the high-hearted women, and gazed on them with glad eyes. Many a dame of high degree was there.
Said bold Sir Gernot, the Burgundian, then, "Gunther, dear brother, unto the gentle knight, that hath done thee service, show honour now before thy lieges. Of this counsel I shall never shame me. Bid Siegfried go before my sister, that the maiden greet him. Let her, that never greeted knight, go toward him. For this shall advantage us, and we shall win the good warrior for ours."
Then Gunther's kinsmen went to the knight of the Netherland, and said to him, "The king bids thee to the court that his sister may greet thee, for he would do thee honour."
It rejoiced Siegfried that he was to look upon Uta's fair child, and he forgot his sorrow.
She greeted him mild and maidenly, and her colour was kindled when she saw before her the high-minded man, and she said, "Welcome, Sir Siegfried, noble knight and good." His courage rose at her words, and graceful, as beseemed a knight, he bowed himself before her and thanked her. And love that is mighty constrained them, and they yearned with their eyes in secret. I know not whether, from his great love, the youth pressed her white hand, but two love-desirous hearts, I trow, had else done amiss.
Nevermore, in summer or in May, bore Siegfried in his heart such high joy, as when he went by the side of her whom he coveted for his dear one. And many a knight thought, "Had it been my hap to walk with her, as I have seen him do, or to lie by her side, certes, I had suffered it gladly! Yet never, truly, hath warrior served better to win a queen." From what land soever the guests came, they were ware only of these two. And she was bidden kiss the hero. He had never had like joy before in this world.
Said the King of Denmark then, "By reason of this high greeting many good men lie low, slain by the hand of Siegfried, the which hath been proven to my cost. God grant he return not to Denmark!"
Then they ordered to make way for fair Kriemhild. Valiant knights in stately array escorted her to the minster, where she was parted from Siegfried. She went thither followed by her maidens; and so rich was her apparel that the other women, for all their striving, were as naught beside her, for to glad the eyes of heroes she was born.
Scarce could Siegfried tarry till they had sung mass, he yearned so to thank her for his gladness, and that she whom he bore in his heart had inclined her desire toward him, even as his was to her, which was meet.
Now when Kriemhild was come forth to the front of the minster, they bade the warrior go to her again, and the damsel began to thank him, that before all others he had done valiantly. And she said, "Now, God requite thee, Sir Siegfried, for they tell me thou hast won praise and honour from all knights."
He looked on the maid right sweetly, and he said, "I will not cease to serve them. Never, while I live, will I lay head on pillow, till I have brought their desire to pass. For love of thee, dear lady, I will do this."
And every day of twelve, in the sight of all the people, the youth walked by the side of the maiden as she went to the court. So they showed their love to the knight.
And there was merriment and gladness and delight in the hall of Gunther, without and within, among the valiant men. Ortwin and Hagen did many wonderful deeds, and if any devised a sport, warriors, joyous in strife, welcomed it straightway. So were the knights proven before the guests, and they of Gunther's land won glory. The wounded also came forth to take part with their comrades, to skirmish with the buckler, and to shoot the shaft, and waxed strong thereby, and increased their might.
Gunther gave order that, for the term of the hightide, they should set before them meats of the daintiest, that he might fail in naught as a king, nor the people blame him.
And he came to his guests, and said, "Receive my gifts ere you go hence, and refuse not the treasure that I would share with you."
The Danes made answer, "Ere we turn again to our land, make thou a lasting peace with us. We have need of such, that have many dear friends dead, slain by thy warriors."
Ludgast and eke the Saxon were healed of their wounds gotten in battle, but many tarried behind, dead.
Then Gunther sought Siegfried and said, "Now counsel me in this. On the morrow our guests ride forth, and they desire of me and mine a lasting covenant. What they offer I will tell thee: as much gold as five hundred horses may carry, they will give me to go free."
And Siegfried answered, "That were ill done. Send them forth without ransom, that they ride no more hither as foemen. And they shall five thee the hand thereon for surety."
And they told it to his enemies; also that none desired their gold. They said it to the war-tired men, by reason of whom the dear ones of their own land sorrowed.
And the king took shields full of treasure, and divided it among them without weighing it, five hundred marks and more. Gernot, the brave knight, counselled him thereto. And they took their leave, for they were aweary for home. And they passed before Kriemhild and Queen Uta; never were knights dismissed more courteously.
The chambers were void when they left, nevertheless the king abode there still with his lieges and his vassals and knights. And these ceased not to go before Kriemhild.
Then Siegfried, the hero, had also taken leave, for he thought not to attain his desire. But the king heard of it, and Giselher the youth turned him back. "Whither ridest thou, Sir Siegfried? Prithee yield to me in this. Go not from among our knights, and Gunther, and his men. Here are fair maidens enow that thou mayest behold at will."
Said bold Sir Siegfried, "Let stand the horses, bear hence the shields. I would have ridden forth and turned again to my land, but Giselher hath changed my intent."
So he abode among them through love, nor in any land had it been sweeter for him. And Kriemhild, the fair maiden, he saw daily, by reason of whose beauty he tarried.
They passed the time in sports and feats of chivalry. But his heart was weary with love; yea, for love he sorrowed then, and, after, died miserably.
How Gunther Went to Issland to Woo Brunhild
A fresh rumour spread beyond the Rhine. It was reported that many maidens dwelt there; and Gunther was minded to woo one of them, whereat his knights and his liegemen were well pleased.
There was a queen high throned across the sea, that had not her like, beyond measure fair and of mickle strength, and her love was for that knight only that could pass her at the spear. She hurled the stone and leapt after it to the mark. Any that desired the noble damsel's love must first win boldly in these three games. If he failed but in one, he lost his head.
And oft had this happened already, when the rumour thereof reached the noble warrior by the Rhine, who fixed his desire upon the maiden, the which, or all was done, cost the life of many heroes.
On a day that the king sat with his men, and they cast to and fro whom their prince might best take to wife for his own comfort and the good of his land, the lord of Rhineland said, "I will hence across the sea to Brunhild, let what will betide. For her sake I will peril my body, for I lose it if I win her not to wife."
"Do so not," said Siegfried. "Cruel is the queen, and he that would woo her playeth too high a stake. Make not this journey."
But King Gunther answered, "Never yet was woman born so stark and bold, that, with this single hand, I could not vanquish her in strife."
But Siegfried said, "Peace! Thou knowest her not. Wert thou four men, thou wert no match for her grim wrath. In good faith I counsel thee to let the matter be. If thou lovest thy life, come not in such straits for her sake."
"Nay, now, I care not how stark she be; I will journey, even as I have said, to Brunhild, and take my chance. For her great beauty I must adventure this. What if God prosper me, and she follow me to the Rhine?"
"Then I counsel thee," said Hagen, "to ask Siegfried to share with thee this hard emprise. It were well, since he knoweth so much of Brunhild."
So the king spake, "Wilt thou help me, most noble Siegfried, to woo the damsel? Grant me this, and if I win the royal maiden for my dear one, I will adventure honour and life for thy sake."
Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, made answer, "Give me thy sister Kriemhild, the high princess, and I will do it. Other meed I ask not."
Said Gunther, "I swear it, Siegfried, on thy hand. If Brunhild come hither, I will give thee my sister to wife; and mayest thou live joyfully with her to thy life's end."
The noble warriors sware an oath; and travail enow they endured, or they led back the fair one to the Rhine; yea, ofttimes they were straightened sore.
I have heard tell of wild dwarfs: how that they dwell in hollow mountains, and wear wonderful cloaks called Tarnkappes. And whoso hath this on his body cometh not in scathe by blows or spear-thrusts; nor is he seen of any man so long as he weareth it, but may spy and hearken at his will. His strength also waxeth thereby; so runneth the tale.
Siegfried took the Tarnkappe with him that he had wrested from Albric the dwarf. And these high and noble knights made ready for the journey. When stark Siegfried did on the Tarnkappe, he was strong with the strength of twelve men, and with these cunning devices he won the royal maiden; for the cloak of cloud was fashioned on such wise, that who wore it did what him listed, none seeing; and he won Brunhild thereby, that after brought him dole.
"Now tell me, Siegfried, or we depart, how we may cross the sea with honour? Shall we take warriors with us to Brunhild's land? It were easy to summon thirty thousand knights."
But Siegfried answered, "Howsoever great a host we led thither, the cruelty of the queen is such, that every mother's son of them must perish. A better plan is mine, most noble king. Let us down to the Rhine as simple knights, even these friends that I name. Thou and I, and, further, only two. So shall we woo the damsel, let the issue be as it may. I shall be one, and thou shalt be another. Let the third be Hagen, and the fourth Dankwart, the doughty man. A thousand shall not prevail against us."
"Fain would I know," said the king then, "what manner of raiment we should wear before Brunhild. Prithee, counsel me in this matter, Siegfried."
"In the land of Brunhild they wear naught but the beast, wherefore let us appear before the women in goodly apparel, that none may cry shame on us hereafter."
Then said the knight, "I will go, myself, to my dear mother, and beseech her that she let her damsels make ready for us such garments as may bring us honour before the royal maiden."
But Hagen said courteously, "Wherefore beg this service of thy mother? Tell thy sister of thy intent. She is skilled, and will provide thee with goodly raiment."
And Gunther prayed his sister to receive him and Siegfried. The which she did after she had robed her in her best apparel. She was little grieved at the coming of the knights. Her attendants were fitly adorned, and the knights went in. When she saw them, she rose from her seat, and hasted, and received the noble guest and her brother courteously. She said, "Thou are welcome, my brother: thou and they friend. I would know what hath brought you to the court. Tell me, I pray you, noble knights, how it standeth with you."
The king answered, "Lady, I will tell thee. An hard adventure is before us, the which we must bear boldly through. We ride a-wooing into a far and a strange land, and have need of rich apparel."
"Now sit, dear brother," said the king's child, "and tell me plainly who the women are that ye would woo in other kings' lands." The maiden took both the chosen knights by the hand, and led them to the rich cushion whereon she had sat, and on the which were wrought (for this I know) fair pictures raised with gold. They wearied not, certes, among the women. Of kind glances and soft looks there was no stint. Siegfried bore her in his heart, and loved her as his life, and won her for his wife by noble service.
The great king said, "Dearest sister mine, we need thy help. We go to sojourn in the land of Brunhild, and must have rich apparel to wear before the women."
The princess answered, "If I can aid thee in any wise, believe me, I will do it; sad were Kriemhild if aught were denied thee. Ask of me, nothing doubting, noble knight, and, as a master, command me; all that thou desirest I will readily perform."
"We would have goodly raiment, dear sister, and therein thy white hand shall help us. Let thy maids bestir them, that we be fair equipped, since none shall turn us from this journey."
Said the damsel, "Now mark what I say. We have silk of our own; bid them bring us hither, on the shields, precious stones to work the robes withal, that unashamed ye may wear them before the royal maiden." The princess asked, "Who are they that shall follow thee in rich array to the court?"
And he answered, "We be four. My two liegemen, Dankwart and Hagen, ride with us. And what I tell thee, mark well. For each of four days thou shalt provide us with three changes of good raiment, that we be not scorned in Brunhild's land!"
She promised this to the knights, and they took their leave.
Then Princess Kriemhild summoned from their chambers thirty of her maidens that had great skill in such work.
Silk from Araby, white as snow, and from Zazamanc, green like clover, they embroidered with precious stones. The royal maiden cut them herself. In sooth, they were goodly robes. Linings finely fashioned from fishes' skins, rarely seen then, they covered, as many as they had, with silk, and wrought them with gold. Many a marvel could one tell of these garments. For they had, in plenty, the finest silks from Morocco and Libya that the children of kings ever wore. It was not hard to see that Kriemhild loved the warriors. And because they desired rich apparel, the black-spotted ermine was not spared, the which good knights covet still for hightides.
Precious stones sparkled on gold of Araby. Certes, the women were not idle. Inside of seven weeks the clothes were ready, and also weapons for the knights.
Now when all was done, a stout ship lay waiting on the Rhine to bear them down to the sea. Ill paid were the maidens, after, for their toil.
When they told the knights that the rich vesture they were to wear was ready, and that all they had asked was accomplished, they were eager to quit the Rhine. A messenger was sent to them, that they might try on their new apparel, lest haply it might be too short or too long for any. But the measure was exact, wherefore they thanked the maidens. All that saw it owned that, in the whole world, none was better. They wore it proudly at the court, and none were praised above them for their attire.
The maidens had sweet thanks, and the doughty warriors took their leave right courteously, and bright eyes were dim and wet with tears.
Kriemhild said, "Dear brother, thou didst better to stay here and woo other women without risk to thy body. It were easy to find, night at hand, a wife of as high lineage."
I ween her heart told her the dole that was to come. And they wept all together, and refused to be comforted, till the gold on their breasts was wet with the tears that rolled down from their eyes.
She spake further, "Sir Siegfried, to thy care and good faith I commend my dear brother, that no evil betide him in Brunhild's land." The knight gave his hand thereon, and promised it. He said, "Fear not, lady; if I live, I will bring him back safe to the Rhine. I swear it by mine own body."
And the fair maiden thanked him.
They carried down the shields of ruddy gold to the strand, and stowed their armour in the vessel, and let fetch their horses, for they were eager to be gone. The women made mickle dole. Fair damsels stood at the windows. The fresh wind caught the sail, and lo! the good knights sat on the Rhine.
Then said Gunther, "Who shall be steersman?"
"That will I be," answered Siegfried. "Trust me, ye heroes, and I will pilot you hence, for I know the currents." So with stout hearts they left Burgundy. Siegfried took hold of the pole and pushed from the strand. Gunther himself took an oar, and they fell away from the shore. They had rich meats with them, and Rhine wine of the best. Their horses stood easy and quiet; their boat flew light, and misadventure they had none. Their strong sails filled, and they made twenty miles or night fell, for the wind favoured them. But their high emprise brought many women dole. They say that by the twelfth morning the wind had blown them afar to Isenstein in Brunhild's land, the which none had seen before that, save Siegfried. When King Gunther beheld so many towers and broad marches, he cried out, "Now say, friend Siegfried; knowest thou whose are these castles and these fair lands? By my troth, I have never in my life seen castles so many and so goodly as stand there before us. A mighty man he must be that hath builded them."
Whereto Siegfried made answer, "Yea, I know well. They are all Brunhild's—towers and lands, and the castle of Isenstein. I say sooth; and many fair women shall ye behold this day. Now I counsel you, O knights, for so it seemeth good to me, that ye be all of one mind and one word; we must stand warily before Brunhild the queen. And when we see the fair one amidst of her folk, be sure that ye tell all the same story: that Gunther is my lord, and I his liegeman. So shall he win to his desire. Yet this I do less for love of thee than for the fair maid, thy sister, that is to me as my soul and mine own body, and for whom I gladly serve, that I may win her to wife."
They promised with one accord, and none gainsayed him through pride, the which stood them in good stead when the king came to stand before Brunhild.
How Gunther Won Brunhild
Meanwhile the ship was come nigh to the castle, and the king saw many fair maidens that stood above at the windows. It irked him that he knew them not, and he said to Siegfried, his friend, "Knowest thou aught of these maidens that look down at us on the sea? Howso their lord hight, they are, certes, right noble."
Bold Siegfried answered, "Spy secretly among them, and say which thou wouldst have chosen, if thou hadst had the choice." And Gunther said, "I will. I see one standing at yonder window in show-white robe. Goodly is she, and for her fair body's sake, mine eyes choose her. If I had the power, she should be my wife."
"Thine eyes have led thee aright. That is the noble Brunhild, the beautiful lady that thou desirest with thy heart and thy soul." Gunther found no fault in her.
The queen bade her damsels void the windows, nor stand in the gaze of the strangers. They obeyed; but what they did after hath been told us. They adorned them for the warriors, as is the manner of fair women; then they stole to the loopholes and looked curiously at the heroes.
These came only four strong into the land. Bold Siegfried held a horse on the strand, and, by reason thereof, the women that spied through the windows deemed King Gunther of the more worship. He held the good horse, by the bridle; stately it was and sleek, mickle and stark, and King Gunther sat in the saddle, and Siegfried served him; but Gunther forgot this afterward.
Then Siegfried took his own horse from the ship. Seldom before had he held the stirrup for a warrior to mount. And all this the fair women marked through the loopholes. The heroes were clad alike; both their horses and their apparel were snow-white, and the shields were goodly that shone in their hands. Their saddles were set with precious stones, their poitrels small, and hung with bells of burnished gold. So they rode proudly into Brunhild's courtyard, and came into the land as befitted their might, with new-sharpened spears, and finely-tempered swords, keen and massy, that reached to their spurs. All this Brunhild, the royal maiden, saw.
Dankwart rode with them, and Hagen. These knights, they say, wore clothes of raven-black, and their shields were mickle, broad and goodly. Stones from India shone on their apparel. They left the vessel unguarded on the beach, and rode up to the castle. There they saw eighty and six towers, three great palaces, and a stately hall of costly marble, green like grass, wherein the queen sat with her courtiers.
Brunhild's men unlocked the castle gate and threw it wide, and ran toward them, and welcomed the guests to their queen's land. They bade hold the horses, and take the shields from their hands. And the chamberlain said, "Do off your swords now, and your bright armour." "Not so," answered Hagen of Trony; "we will bear these ourselves."
But Siegfried told them the custom of the court. "It is the law here that no guest shall bear arms. Wherefore ye did well to give them up."
Gunther's men obeyed, much loth. They bade pour out the wine for the guests, and see that they were well lodged. Willing knights in princely attire ran to and fro to serve them, spying with many glances at the strangers.
They brought word to Brunhild that unknown warriors in rich apparel were come thither, sailing on the sea, and the beautiful maiden questioned them. "Tell me," said the queen, "who these strangers be that stand yonder so proudly, and for whose sake they be come." And one of the courtiers made answer. "In sooth, Lady, albeit I never yet set eyes on them, one among them much resembleth Siegfried, and him I counsel thee to welcome. The second of the company hath so lofty a mien that, if his power be equal thereto, he might well be a great king and a ruler of wide lands, for he standeth right proudly before the others. The third, O Queen, is grim, yet a goodly man withal. His glance is swift and dark; he is fierce-tempered, I ween. The youngest pleaseth me well. Maidenly and modest he standeth, yet it went hard, methinketh, with any that fashioned daintily, if his wrath were once kindled, many a woman might weep, for he is a bold and virtuous knight, and right worshipful."
The queen said, "Bring me my robe. If stark Siegfried be come into my land to woo me, he shall pay for it with his life. I fear him not so greatly that I should yield me to be his wife."
Then Brunhild attired her in haste. An hundred or more of her damsels went with her, richly adorned, whom the guests beheld gladly. Brunhild's knights of Issland gave them escort, to the number of five hundred or thereabout, their swords in their hands, the which irked the bold strangers. They stood up from their seats; and the queen spake courteously to them when she saw Siegfried. "Thou art welcome, Siegfried, to this land. To what end art thou come? I prithee tell me."
"I thank thee, O Brunhild, fair daughter of a king, that thou greetest me before this worshipful knight. Thou showest Siegfried too much honour, for he is my lord, and the king of the Rhineland. What boots it to say more? For thy sake we are come hither, for he would woo thee at all hazards. Weigh the matter betimes, for of a surety he will win thee. His name is Gunther; he is a great and mighty king, and he desireth naught save thy love. To this end I have followed him, nor had done it, but that he is my master."
She answered, "If he be thy lord, and thou be his man, let him withstand me at the games. If he have the mastery, then I am his wife, but let him fail in one of them, and ye be all dead men."
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Lady, show us the games that thou proposest. It will go hard with Gunther or he yield thee the mastery, for he troweth well to win so fair a maiden."
"He must put the stone, and leap after it, and throw the spear with me. Ye may easily forfeit honour and life; wherefore be not so confident, but bethink you well."
Then bold Siegfried went to the king, and bade him fear naught, but speak freely to the queen. "For," said he, "I will aid thee with cunning devices."
And King Gunther said, "Command me, great queen, and were it more yet, I would risk it for thy sake. I will lose my head, or win thee to wife."
When the queen heard this word, she bade haste to the sports, as was meet, and let them bring her harness, a golden buckler and a goodly shield. She did on a surcoat of silk from Libya, that had never been pierced in combat, cunningly fashioned and embroidered, and shining with precious stones. Her pride greatly angered the knights, and Dankwart and Hagen were downcast, for they feared for their lord, and thought, "Ill-starred was this journey."
Meanwhile, Siegfried, the cunning man, went, when none spied him, to the ship, where he found the Tarnkappe, and he did it on swiftly, that none knew. Then he hastened back to the crowd of knights, where the queen gave order for the sports, and, by his magic, he stole in among them, that no man was ware of him. The ring was marked out in the presence of armed knights to the number of seven hundred. These were the umpires, that should tell truly who won in the sports.
Then came Brunhild. She stood armed, as she had meant to do battle with all the kings of all the world. The silk was covered with gold spangles that showed her white skin. Her attendants brought her, for the strife, a shield of ruddy gold with iron studs, mickle and broad. The maid's thong was an embroidered band, whereon lay stones green like grass, that sparkled among the gold. The knight must, certes, be bold that won such a lady. They say the shield the maiden bore was three spans thick under the folds, rich with steel and gold, that four of her chamberlains scarce could carry it.
When stark Hagen saw them drag the shield forward, the hero of Trony was wroth, and cried, "How now, King Gunther? We be dead men, for thou wooest the Devil's wife!"
Yet more must ye hear of her vesture. Her coat of mail was covered with silk from Azagouc, costly and rich, and the stones thereof sparkled on the queen's body. They brought her the spear, heavy and big and sharp, that she was wont to throw. Stark and huge it was, mickle and broad, and made grim wounds with its edges. And hear, now, the marvel of its heaviness. Three weights and a half of iron were welded for it. Three of Brunhild's lords scarce could carry it. A woeful man was King Gunther, and he thought, "Lo! now not the Devil in Hell could escape her. Were I in Burgundy with my life, she might wait long enough for my wooing." He stood dismayed. Then they brought him his armour, and he did it on.
Hagen came nigh to lose his wits for sorrow, and Dankwart, his brother, said, "By my troth, I rue this adventure. Once we hight warriors, and shall we perish in this country by the hand of a woman? Alack! that we ever came hither! Had my brother Hagen but his sword, and I mine, Brunhild's men would abate their pride; I ween they would walk softer. If I had sworn peace with a thousand oaths, that maid should die sooner than that my lord should lose his life."
"It were easy to quit this land," said Hagen, his brother, "if we had our harness for the strife, and our good swords. This dame would be milder, I trow."
The noble maiden heard him plain, and, with smiling mouth, she looked over her shoulder. "Since he deemeth him so bold, bring his harness, and give to the heroes their sharp weapons. It is all one to me whether they be armed or naked. I never feared the might of any man, and doubt not but I shall overcome this king."
When they had brought the weapons, as the maid commanded, bold Dankwart grew red with joy. "Now let them drive what sport they like," he said; "Gunther is safe, since we have our swords."
Brunhild's great strength appeared. They brought her a stone into the circle, heavy and huge, round also, and broad. Twelve strong knights scarce sufficed thereto. And this she threw when she had hurled the spear. Whereat the Burgundians were sore troubled, and Hagen cried, "Who is this that Gunther wooeth? Would she were the Devil's bride in Hell!"
Then she turned back the sleeves from her white arms, and seized the shield, and brandished the spear above her head, and the contest began. Gunther was sore dismayed. If Siegfried had not helped him, certes he had lost his life; but Siegfried went up to him secretly, and touched his hand. Gunther fell in fear by reason of his magic, and he thought, "Who touched me?" He looked round and saw no man. But Siegfried said, "It is I, Siegfried, thy friend. Fear naught from the queen. Give me the shield from thy hands, and let me carry it, and give heed to what I say. Make thou the gestures, and I will do the work." And Gunther was glad when he knew him. "Guard well the secret of my magic, for all our sakes, lest the queen slay thee. See how boldly she challengeth thee."
Thereupon the royal maiden hurled her speak against the mickle and broad shield of Sieglind's child, that sparks flew from it, as before a wind. The stark spear pierced through the shield, and struck fire from the coat of mail below. And the mighty man fell, and had perished but for the Tarnkappe. The blood gushed from Siegfried's mouth. But he sprang up swiftly, and took the spear that she had shot through his buckler, and threw it back again with a great force. He thought, "I will not slay so fair a maiden," and he turned the spear, and hurled it wit the haft loud against her harness. From her mail, also, the sparks flew as on the wind, for Siegmund's child threw mightily; and her strength failed before the blow. King Gunther, I ween, had never done it alone.
Brunhild sprang to her feet again, and cried, "I thank thee, Gunther, for that blow." For she thought he had done it with his own strength, nor guessed that a far mightier man had felled her.
Then, greatly wroth, she hasted and lifted the stone on high; she flung it far from her, and leaped after it with loud-ringing armour. The stone landed twenty and four paces off; but the maid sprang further. Then Siegfried went swiftly where the stone lay. Gunther lifted it, but it was the man they saw not that threw it. Siegfried was mighty, bold and big. He hurled the stone further, and he leaped further; moreover, through his magic, he had strength enow to bear King Gunther with him. The spring was made, the stone lay on the ground, and none was seen there but Gunther, the knight. Fair Brunhild was red with anger.
So Siegfried saved Gunther from death.
Then Brunhild said aloud to her folk, when she saw the hero at the far end of the ring unhurt. "Come hither at once, my kinsmen and my lieges. Ye are subject henceforth to King Gunther."
The bold men laid the weapons from their hands at the feet of great Gunther of Burgundy. For they deemed he had won the game by his own strength.
He greeted them fair, for he was a courteous man, and he took the beautiful maiden by the hand. She gave him power in her kingdom, whereat bold Hagen rejoiced.
She bade the noble knight to the hall, where a multitude was assembled, that showed much observance through fear of his prowess. So, by Siegfried's might, they were delivered from all peril.
But Siegfried was wise, and stowed away his Tarnkappe with care; then he went back where the women sat, and said feigningly to Gunther, "Wherefore delayest thou to begin the sports that the queen proposed, let us now behold the issue thereof"—as if the cunning man knew naught of the matter.
The queen answered, "How cometh it to pass, Sir Siegfried, that thou sawest not the game whereat Gunther hath won?"
Said Hagen of Burgundy, "While we were downcast by reason of thee, O Queen, and afterward, when the king of Rhineland had beaten thee at the sports, Siegfried was at the ship, and knoweth naught of what hath passed."
"Right glad am I," said Siegfried, "that thy wooing hath prospered, and that none is thy master. Now must thou follow us, noble Lady, to the Rhine."
But Brunhild answered, "Not yet; I must first summon my friends and my liegemen. Not so lightly can I quit my land. Certes, I will send for my kinsfolk afore I go."
She dispatched envoys over all, and bade her friends and her lieges haste to Isenstein. She gave to each princely apparel.
All day long, late and early, troops of knights rode into Brunhild's castle, till Hagen said, "Alack! What have we done? Some hurt will befall us from Brunhild's men. We know not her real intent. What if she spurn us when her forces are gathered together? Then were we all dead men, and this maiden were born to our woe!"
But stark Siegfried said, "I will see to that, and hinder what thou fearest. I will bring to your help a body of chosen knights that thou knowest not yet. Ask me no further, for I will hence, and God guard you meanwhile. I will return shortly, and bring with me a thousand knights, than whom the world holdeth none better."
"Only tarry not too long," said the king, "for we are right glad of thy help."
He answered, "I will come again in a few days. Tell the queen I left by thy command."
How Siegfried Journeyed to the Nibelungs
Siegfried hasted thence in his Tarnkappe to the haven on the shore, where he found a ship, the which he boarded secretly, and rowed it swiftly, as it had been blown by the wind. None saw the boatman. He made it fly with his great strength. Any that marked it deemed it driven by a tempest, but it was by Siegfried, fair Sieglind's child.
A day and a night brought him to a great country that an hundred days' journey could not compass; this hight the Nibelung land, where he had his vast treasure.
The hero landed alone on a broad meadow, and moored the ship. Then he went to a mountain, whereon a castle stood, and asked for lodging, as he had been a way-weary man. He went up to the door, that stood locked before him. For folk guarded their honour then, even as now. The stranger began to knock at the bolted door, and encountered within a huge giant that kept watch, and that had his weapons ever by him. And this giant said, "Who knocketh so loud on that door?"
Siegfried answered with a feigned voice, "I am a knight. Open to me, else I will rouse some within that had willingly lain soft abed."
The porter was wroth at Siegfried's word. He did on his armour, and put his helmet on his head, and grasped his shield, and swung open the door. Then he ran grimly at Siegfried, saying, "How durst thou waken so many brave men?" And he smote him hard and swift. The noble stranger made wary fence, but the porter lifted an iron bar and brake his shield-band. Then the hero came in scathe, and began to fear grim death when the porter smote so hard. Yet his master loved him the more for his daring.
They strove so fiercely that the castle rang, and the din thereof was heard in the hall of the Nibelungs. But Siegfried overcame the porter at last, and bound him. And the news spread through the Nibelung land.
Albric, a bold and savage dwarf, heard their strife from far off through the mountain. He did on his armour straightway, and ran where he found the stranger, that had made an end of binding the giant. Now Albric was bold and stout, and on his body he had a helmet and coat of mail, and in his hand a heavy scourge of gold. He hasted and fell on Siegfried. The scourge had seven heavy knobs hanging from it, wherewith he smote so heavily to the left upon the shield that he well night brake it. Then the noble guest came in peril. He threw away the broken shield and stuck his long sword into the sheath, for he would not slay his chamberlain, but ever spared his own folk; wherein he did honourably. With his strong hands he ran at Albric, and grasped the age-hoary man by the beard, and shook him sore, that he yelled aloud. Certes, the young hero's handling was dolorous enow to Albric, who cried out, "Spare me. Had I not sworn fealty to a knight already, I would serve thee till I died." This he spake craftily. Siegfried bound Albric as he had done to the giant, and the dwarf was in evil case through Siegfried's strength, and asked, "What is thy name?"
Siegfried answered, "Siegfried is my name. Methought thou hadst known me."
"Right glad am I to hear it," said Albric the dwarf, "for now I know, by thy prowess, that thou art worthy to be the lord of this land, and I will do all thy behest, if thou spare my life."
Said Siegfried then, "Haste and bring me a thousand Nibelung knights, of the best we have. I would see them here before me. Thou hast naught to fear at my hand." He loosed the giant and Albric, and Albric ran to the knights, and waked them eagerly, and said, "Rouse ye, O heroes, and go to Siegfried."
They sprang from their beds and were ready on the instant, a thousand good knights and rich attired. They went where Siegfried stood, and he greeted them fair. They lit many tapers, and poured for him the spiced draught. And he thanked them that they had not lingered, and said, "Ye shall follow me hence across the sea;" whereto he found the good knights willing.
Full thirty thousand warriors were come at his bidding, and from these he chose a thousand of the best. And some brought them their helmets, and some their coats of mail, for they had to follow Siegfried into Brunhild's land. He said then, "Hearken, good knights; ye go to court, and must have rich apparel, for ye shall be seen of fair women. Wherefore array you in your best."
Now a fool might say, "Thou liest. How could so many knights dwell together? Where find the meat, and where the vesture? It were not possible, if Siegfried had thirty lands." But ye have heard that Siegfried was rich, for the kingdom and the hoard of the Nibelungs were his. Wherefore his knights had enow and to spare, for the hoard grew never less for all that he took from it.
They rose up early in the morning (doughty followers had Siegfried won!), and took good horses with them, and sumptuous apparel, and departed proudly for Brunhild's land.
Many beautiful maidens gazed from the windows there, and the queen said, "Do any of you know who they be, that I behold yonder, afar off on the waves? Their sails are rich and whiter than the snow."
The King of Rhineland answered, "They are my men, that I left some little way behind when I journeyed hither. I summoned them, and now, Queen, they are here."
They welcomed the noble guests courteously. Siegfried stood in the prow of the vessel, richly clad, and many warriors beside him.
The queen said, "Tell me, O King, shall I greet the guests, or no?"
He answered, "Go out now before the castle. So shall they see that they are welcome." And the queen did as he counselled her, and greeted Siegfried before any. And they lodged them, and took their arms in charge.
Now so many guests were in the land that they were pressed for room, and the Burgundians were eager to be home.
Then said the queen, "I would thank him that would distribute for me, among mine and the king's guests, the gold and silver that I have in plenty."
Dankwart, bold Giselher's man, answered, "Noble Queen, give me the key, and I will so divide it that, if there be any shame, it shall be mine only."
None could deny that he gave freely. When Hagen's brother held the key, he bestowed costly gifts without stint. Whoso desired a mark received so much that the poorest was rich his life long. Pounds, by the hundred, he gave uncounted, and many an one went forth from the hall richly dight, that never afore had worn so fair vesture.
They told it to the queen, who was wroth, and said, "I would know, King, wherefore thy chamberlain leaveth me naught of my apparel, and spendeth all my gold. I would thank him that stayed his hand. He giveth as he thought I had summoned Death hither. But I trust to live yet a while, and can spend for myself, I trow, what my father left me."
Never had queen so lavished a chamberlain.
But Hagen of Trony made answer, "Know, Lady, that the King of the Rhine hath gold and raiment to give in plenty, nor needeth to bear aught of Brunhild's hence."
"Nay, if thou lovest me," said the queen, "let me fill twenty travelling chests with gold and with silk, that my hand may have somewhat to bestow when we get home to the land of Burgundy."
They filled the chests with precious stones. Her own chamberlain saw to it, for she would not trust Giselher's man. And Gunther and Hagen began to laugh.
Then the queen said, "To whom shall I leave my kingdom? Thy hand and mine must establish that or we depart."