« السابقةمتابعة »
domitable Hagen, in al. the wild deeds and sufferings he passes through, but those swinden blicken of his come before us, with the restless, deep, dauntless spirit that looks through them.
for himself. Remarkable only is the evil eye with which queen Brunhild still continues to regard the noble Siegfried. She cannot understand how Gunther, the Landlord of the Rhine, should have bestowed his sister on a vassal: the assurance that Siegfried also is a prince and heir-apparent, the prince namely of Netherland, and little inferior to Burgundian majesty itself, yields no complete satisfaction; and Brunhild hints plainly that, unless the truth be told her, unpleasant consequences may follow. Thus is there ever a ravelled thread in the web of life! But for this little cloud of spleen, these bridal feasts had been all bright and balmy as the month of June. Unluckily, too, the cloud is an electric one; spreads itself in time into a general earthquake; nay, that very night becomes a thunder-storm, or tornado, unparalleled we may hope in the annals of connubial happiness.
Brunhild's reception of Siegfried is not without tartness; which, however, he, with polished courtesy, and the nimblest address, ever at his command, softens down, or hurries over: he is here, without will of his own, and so forth, only as attendant on his master, the renowned King Gunther, who comes to sue for her hand, as the summit and keystone of all earthly blessings. Brunhild, who had determined on fighting Siegfried himself, if he so willed it, makes small account of this King Gunther, or his prowess; and instantly clears the ground, and equips her for battle. The royal wooer must have looked a little blank when he saw a shield brought in for his fair one's handling, "three spans thick with gold and iron," which four chamberlains could hardly bear, and a spear or javelin she meant to shoot or hurl, which was a burden for three. Hagen, in angry apprehension for his king and nephew, exclaims that they shall all lose their life, (lip,) and that she is the tiuvels wip, or Devil's wife. Nevertheless Siegfried is already there in his Cloak of Darkness, twelve men strong, and privily whispers in the ear of royalty to be of comfort; takes the shield to himself, Gunther only affecting to hold it, and so fronts the edge of battle. Brunhild performs prodigies of spear-hurling, of leaping, and stone-pitching; but Gunther, or rather Siegfried, "who does the work, he only acting the gestures," nay, who even snatches him up into the air and leaps carrying him,-gains a decided victory, and the lovely Amazon must own with sur-tions of the royal breast, there as he vibrates prise and shame, that she is fairly won. suspended on his peg, and his inexorable bride Siegfried presently appears without Tarnkappe, sleeping sound in her bed below! Towards and asks with a grave face, When the games morning he capitulates; engaging to observe then are to begin? the prescribed line of conduct with utmost strictness, so he may but avoid becoming a laughing-stock to all men.
The Singer of the Nibelungen, unlike the Author of Roderick Random, cares little for intermeddling with "the chaste mysteries of hymen." Could we, in the corrupt, ambiguous, modern tongue, hope to exhibit any shadow of the old, simple, true-hearted, merely historical spirit, with which, in perfect purity of soul, he describes things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,-we could a tale unfold! Suffice it to say, King Gunther, Landlord of the Rhine, falling sheer down from the third heaven of hope, finds his spouse the most athletic and intractable of women; and himself, at the close of the adventure, nowise encircled in her arms, but tied hard and fast hand and foot, in her girdle, and hung thereby, at considerable elevation, on a nail in the wall. Let any reader of sensibility figure the emo
So far well; yet somewhat still remains to be done. Brunhild will not sail for Worms, to be wedded, till she have assembled a fit train of warriors: wherein the Burgundians, being here without retinue, see symptoms or possibilities of mischief. The deft Siegfried, ablest of men, again knows a resource. In his Tarnkappe he steps on board the bark, which, seen from the shore, appears to drift off of its own accord; and therein, stoutly steering towards Nibelungen-land, he reaches that mysterious country and the mountain where his Hoard lies, before the second morning; finds Dwarf Alberich and all his giant sentinels at their post, and faithful almost to the death; these soon rouse him thirty thousand Nibelungen Recken, from whom he has only to choose one thousand of the best; equip them splen-Siegfried withdraws, taking nothing with him didly enough; and therewith return to Gunther, but the luxury of doing good, and the proud simply as if they were that sovereign's own queen's Ring and Girdle gained from her in body-guard, that had been delayed a little by that struggle; which small trophies he, with stress of weather. the last infirmity of a noble mind, presents to his own fond wife, little dreaming that they would one day cost him and her, and all of
The final arrival at Worms; the bridal feasts, for there are two, Siegfried also receiving his reward; and the joyance and splendour of man and maid, at this lordliest of hightides; and the joustings, greater than those at Aspramont or Montauban-every reader can fancy
No wonder the dread king looked rather grave next morning, and received the congratulations of mankind in a cold manner. He confesses to Siegfried, who partly suspects how it may be, that he has brought the "evil devil" home to his house in the shape of wife, whereby he is wretched enough. However, there are remedies for all things but death. The ever-serviceable Siegfried undertakes even here to make the crooked straight. What may not an honest friend with Tarnkappe and twelve men's strength perform? Proud Brunhild, next night, after a fierce contest, owns herself again vanquished; Gunther is there to reap the fruits of another's victory; the noble
* Der Wirt vom Rine: singular enough the word Wirth,
often applied to royalty in that old dialect, is now also
the title of
To such base uses may wo
them, so dear. Such readers as take any in- | Netherlanders. Here for eleven days, amid terest in poor Gunther will be gratified to learn, infinite joustings, there is a true heaven on that from this hour Brunhild's preternatural earth: but the apple of Discord is already faculties quite left her, being all dependent on lying in the knightly ring, and two Women, her maidhood; so that any more spear-hurling, the proudest and keenest-tempered of the or other the like extraordinary work, is not to world, simultaneously stoop to lift it. Aventiure be apprehended from her. Fourteenth is entitled "How the two queens rated one another." Never was courtlier Billingsgate uttered, or which came more directly home to the business and bosoms of women. The subject is that old story of Precedence, which indeed, from the time of Cain and Abel downwards, has wrought such effusion of blood and bile both among men and women; lying at the bottom of all armaments and battle-fields, whether Blenheims and Waterloos, or any plate-displays, and tongue-and eye skirmishes, in the circle of domestic Tea: nay, the very animals have it; and horses, were they but the miserablest Shelties and Welsh ponies, will not graze together till it has been ascertained, by clear fight, who is master of whom, and a proper drawing-room etiquette established.
If we add that Siegfried formally made over to his dear Chriemhild the Nibelungen Hoard, by way of Morgengabe, (or, as we may say, Jointure;) and the high-tide, though not the honeymoon being past, returned to Netherland with his spouse, to be welcomed there with infinite rejoicings, we have gone through as it were the First Act of this Tragedy, and may here pause to look round us for a moment. The main characters are now introduced on the scene, the relations that bind them together are dimly sketched out: there is the prompt, cheerfully heroic, invulnerable, and invincible Siegfried, now happiest of men; the high Chriemhild, fitly-mated, and if a moon, revolving glorious round her sun, or Friedel (joy and darling); not without pride and female aspirings, yet not prouder than one so gifted and placed is pardonable for being. On the other hand, we have King Gunther, or rather let us say king'smantle Gunther, for never except in that one enterprise of courting Brunhild, in which too, without help, he would have cut so poor a figure, does the worthy sovereign show will of his own, or character other than that of good potter's clay; farther, the suspicious, forecasting, yet stout and reckless Hagen, him with the rapid glances, and these turned not too kindly on Siegfried, whose prowess he has used yet dreads, whose Nibelungen Hoard he perhaps already covets; lastly, the rigorous and vigorous Brunhild, of whom also more is to be feared than hoped. Considering the fierce nature of these now mingled ingredients, and how, except perhaps in the case of Gunther there is no menstruum of placid stupidity to soften them, except in Siegfried, no element of heroic truth to master them and bind them together, unquiet fermentation may readily be apprehended.
Meanwhile, for a season all is peace and sunshine. Siegfried reigns in Netherland, of which his father has surrendered him the crown; Chriemhild brings him a son, whom in honour of the uncle he christens Gunther, which courtesy the uncle and Brunhild repay in kind. The Nibelungen Hoard is still open and inexhaustible; Dwarf Alberich and all the Recken there still loyal; outward relations friendly, internal supremely prosperous: these are halcyon days. But, alas, they cannot last. Queen Brunhild, retaining with true female tenacity her first notion, right or wrong, reflects one day that Siegfried, who is and shall be nothing but her husband's vassal, has for a long while paid him no service; and, determined on a remedy, manages that Siegfried and his queen shall be invited to a high-tide at Worms, where opportunity may chance for enforcing that claim. Thither accordingly, after ten years' absence; we find these illustrious guests returning; Siegfried escorted by a thousand Nibelungen Ritters, and farther by his father Siegemund, who leads a train of
Brunhild and Chriemhild take to arguing about the merits of their husbands: the latter fondly expatiating on the pre-eminence of her Friedel, how he walks "like the moon among stars" before all other men, is reminded by her sister that one man at least must be excepted, the mighty king Gunther of Worms, to whom, by his own confession long ago at Isenstein, he is vassal and servant. Chriemhild will sooner admit that clay is above sunbeams, than any such proposition; which therefore she, in all politeness, requests of her sister never more to touch upon while she lives. The result may be foreseen: rejoinder follows reply, statement grows assertion; flint-sparks have fallen on the dry flax, which from smoke bursts into conflagration. The two queens part in hottest, though still clear-flaming anger. Not, however, to let their anger burn out, only to feed it with more solid fuel. Chriemhild dresses her forty maids in finer than royal apparel; orders out all her husband's Recken; and so attended, walks foremost to the Minster, where mass is to be said; thus practically asserting that she is not only a true queen, but the worthier of the two. Brunhild, quite outdone in splendour, and enraged beyond all patience, overtakes her at the door of the Minster, with peremptory order to stop: "before king's wife shall vassal's never go."
Then said the fair Chriemhilde, Right angry was ho
Thyself hast all polluted With shame thy fair bodye;
"Whom hast thou Concubined ?" The King's wif quickly spake ;
"That do I thee," said Chriemhilde; "For thy pride and
Who first had thy fair body Was Siegfried my beloved My brother was it not That thy maidhood from thee wan." In proof of which outrageous saying, she produces that Ring and Girdle; the innocent conquest of which, as we well know, had a far other
origin. Brunhild bursts into tears; "sadder | revenge. King Etzel sends from his far country day she never saw." Nay, perhaps a new light now rose on her over much that had been dark in her late history; "she rued full sore that ever she was born."
to solicit her hand: the embassy she hears at first, as a woman of ice might do; the good Rudiger, Etzel's spokesman, pleads in vain that his king is the richest of all earthly kings; that he is so lonely "since Frau Helke died;" that though a Heathen he has Christians about him, and may one day be converted: till, at length, when he hints distantly at the power of Etzel to avenge her injuries, she on a sudden becomes all attention. Hagen, foreseeing such possibilities, protests against the match; but is overruled: Chriemhild departs with Rudiger for the land of the Huns; taking cold leave of her relations; only two of whom, her brothers Gernot and Geiselher, innocent of that murder, does she admit near her as convoy to the Donau.
The Nibelungen Hoard has hitherto been fatal to all its possessors; to the two sons of Nibelung; to Siegfried its conqueror: neither does the Burgundian Royal House fare better with it. Already, discords threatening to arise, Hagen sees prudent to sink it in the Rhine; first taking oath of Gunther and his brothers, that none of them shall reveal the hiding-place, while any of the rest is alive. But the curse that clave to it could not be sunk there. The Nibelungen-land is now theirs: they themselves are henceforth called Nibelungen; and this history of their fate is the Nibelungen Song, or Nibelungen Noth, (Nibelungen's Need, extreme need, or final wreck and abolition.)
Here, then, is the black injury, which only blood will wash away. The evil fiend has begun his work; and the issue of it lies beyond man's control. Siegfried may protest his innocence of that calumny, and chastise his indiscreet spouse for uttering it even in the heat of anger: the female heart is wounded beyond healing; the old springs of bitterness against this hero unite into a fell flood of hate; while he sees the sunlight, she cannot know a joyful hour. Vengeance is soon offered her: Hagen, who lives only for his prince, undertakes this bad service; by treacherous professions of attachment, and anxiety to guard Siegfried's life, he gains from Chriemhild the secret of his vulnerability; Siegfried is carried out to hunt; and in the hour of frankest gayety is stabbed through the fatal spot; and, felling the murderer to the ground, dies upbraiding his false kindred, yet, with a touching simplicity, recommending his child and wife to their protection. "Let her feel that she is your sister; was there ever virtue in princes, be true to her for me my Father and my men shall long wait." "The flowers all round were wetted with blood, then he struggled with death; not long did he this, the weapon cut him too keen; so he could speak nought more, the Recke bold and noble."
At this point, we might say, ends the Third The Fifth Act of our strange eventful history Act of our Tragedy; the whole story hence- now draws on. Chriemhild has a kind husband, forth takes a darker character; it is as if a of hospitable disposition, who troubles himself tone of sorrow and fateful boding became more little about her secret feelings and intents. and more audible in its free, light music. Evil With his permission, she sends two minstrels, has produced new evil in fatal augmentation: inviting the Burgundian Court to a high-tide, injury is abolished; but in its stead there is at Etzel's: she has charged the messengers to guilt and despair. Chriemhild, an hour ago so say that she is happy, and to bring all Gunrich, is now robbed of all: her grief is bound-ther's champions with them. Her eye was on less as her love has been. No glad thought Hagen, but she could not single him from the can ever more dwell in her; darkness, utter rest. After seven days' deliberation, Gunther night, has come over her, as she looked into answers that he will come. Hagen has loudly the red of morning. The spoiler too walks dissuaded the journey, but again been overabroad unpunished; the bleeding corpse wit-ruled. "It is his fate," says a commentator, nesses against Hagen, nay he himself cares "like Cassandra's, ever to foresee the evil, not to hide the deed. But who is there to and ever to be disregarded. He himself shut avenge the friendless? Siegfried's father has his ear against the inward voice; and now his returned in haste to his own land; Chriemhild warnings are uttered to the deaf." He argues is now alone on the earth, her husband's grave long, but in vain: nay, young Gernot hints at is all that remains to her; there only can she last that this aversion originates in personal sit, as if waiting at the threshold of her own fear: dark home; and in prayers and tears, pour out the sorrow and love that have no end. Still farther injuries are heaped on her: by advice of the crafty Hagen, Gunther, who had not planned the murder, yet permitted and witnessed it, now comes with whining professions of repentance and good-will; persuades her to send for the Nibelungen Hoard to Worms: where no sooner is it arrived, than Hagen and the rest forcibly take it from her; and her last trust in affection or truth from mortal is rudely cut away. Bent to the earth, she weeps only for her lost Siegfried, knows no comfort, but will weep for ever.
Then spake Von Troneg Hagen: "Nowise is it through
One lurid gleam of hope, after long years of darkness, breaks in on her, in the prospect of
So you command it, Heroes, Then up, gird on your gear; I ride with you the foremost Into King Etzel's land.” Since then full many a helm Was shivered by his hand. Frau Ute's dreams and omens are now una vailing with him; "whoso heedeth dreams," said Hagen, "of the right story wotteth not:" he has computed the worst issue, and defied it.
Many a little touch of pathos, and even solemn beauty lies carelessly scattered in these rhymes, had we space to exhibit such here. As specimen of a strange, winding, diffuse, yet innocently graceful style of narrative, we had translated some considerable portion of this Twenty-fifth Aventiure, "How the Nibelun
Wo on't, will nought persuade ye, Brave Recken, from
gen marched (fared) to the Huns," into verses | He Rumold hight, the Sewer, Was known as hero true; as literal as might be; which now, alas, look He spake: "Whom shall his people And land be trusted mournfully different from the original; almost like Scriblerus's shield when the barbarian housemaid had scoured it. Nevertheless, to do for the reader what we can, let somewhat of that modernized ware, such as it is, be set before him. The brave Nibelungen are on the eve of departure; and about ferrying over the Rhine; and here it may be noted that Worms, with our old Singer, lies not in its true position, but at some distance from the river; a proof at least that he was never there, and probably sang and lived in some very distant region:
The boats were floating ready, And many men there
What clothes of price they had They took and stow'd
Brave tents and hutches You saw raised on the grass,
That night she saw him with her, And never more in life.
Trumpets and flutes spoke out, At dawning of the day,
Who loved one had in arms Did kiss that same, I ween;
Was never a rest from toiling Until the even tide,
Frau Ute's noble sons They had a serving man,
"The land to thee be trusted, And my fair boy also,
Whomso thou findest weeping Her heart give comfort to:
This City of Worms, had we a right imagination, ought to be as venerable to us Moderns, as any Thebes or Troy was to the Ancients. Whether founded by the Gods or not, it is of quite unknown antiquity, and has witnessed the most wonderful things. Within authentic times, the Romans were here, and if tradition may be credited, Attila also; it was the seat of the Austrasian kings; the frequent residence of Charlemagne himself; innumerable Festivals. Hightides, Tournaments, and Imperial Diets were held in it, of which latter, one at least, that where Luther appeared in 1521, will be for ever remembered by all mankind Nor is Worms more famous in history than, as indeed we may see here, it is in romance; whereof many monuments and vestiges remain to this day. "A pleasant meadow there," says Von der Hagen, "is still called Chriemhild's Rosengarten. The name Worms itself is derived (by Legendary Etymology) from the Dragon, or Worm, which Siegfried slew, the figure of which once formed the City Arms; in past times, there was also to be seen here an ancient strong Riesen-Haus, (Giant's house,) and many a memorial of Siegfried his Lance, C6 feet long, (almost 80 English feet,) in the Cathedral; his Statue, of gigantic size on the Neue Thurm (New Tower) on the Rhine;" &c. &c. "And lastly the Siegfried's Chapel, in primeval PreGothic architecture, not long since pulled down. In the time of the Meistersingers, too, the Stadtrath was bound to give every Master, who sang the Lay of Siegfried (Meisterlied von Siegfrieden, the purport of which is now unknown) without mistake, a certain gratuity." (Hossary to the Nibelungen, Worms.
One is sorry to learn that this famed Imperial City is no longer Imperial, but much fallen in every way from its palmy state; the 30,000 inhabitants (to be found there in Gustavus Adolphus's time) having now declined into some 6,800,-" who maintain themselves by wine-growing, Rhine-boats, tobacco-manufacture, and making sugar-of-lead." So hard has war, which respects nothing, pressed on Worms, ill-placed for safety, on the hostile border: Louvois, or Louis XIV., in 1689, had it utterly devastated; whereby in the interior, "spaces that were once covered with buildings are now gardens."-See Conv. Lexicon, è Worms.
The steeds were standing ready, For the Kings and for
their men ;
With kisses tenderest, Took leave full many then,
Them since that day bewaileth Many a noble wife and
But when the rapid Recken Took horse and prickt away,
Nathless the brisk Burgonden All on their way did go,
The Nibelungen Recken Did march with them as well, In a thousand glittering hauberks, Who at home had ta'en farewell
Of many a fair woman Should see them never more: The wound of her brave Siegfried Did grieve Chriemhilde sore.
Then 'gan they shape their journey Towards the River
Hagen he was their leader, Of old did know the way,
As they, from East-Franconia, The Salfield rode along,
The Princes and their vassals, All heroes of great fame:
There rode Von Troneg Hagen, The foremost of that
He was to the Nibelungen The guide they loved the most:
"Much scaith," Von Troneg said, "May lightly chance to thee,
King Gunther, by this tide, As thou with eyes mayst see:
"What counsel hast thou, brave Hagen," King Gunther
Of thy own wit and cunning? Dishearten me not I pray:
These are the Nibelungen proper who had come to Worms with Siegfried, on the famed bridal journey from Isenstein, long ago. Observe, at the same time, that ever since the Nibelungen Hoard was transferred to Rhineland, the whole subjects of King Gunther are often called Nibelungen, and their subsequent history is this Nibelungen Song.
To me I trow," spake Hagen, "Life hath not grown so cheap,
To go with will and drown me In riding these waters deep;
But first, of men some few By this hand of mine shall die,
In great King Etzel's country, As best good will have I. "But bide ye here by the River, Ye Ritters brisk and sound,
Myself will seek some boatman, If boatman, here be -found,
To row us at his ferry, Across to Gelfrat's land:"
He was full bravely harness'd, Himself the knightly bore,
With buckler and with helmet, Which bright enough he
And, bound above his hauberk, A weapon broad was
That cut with both its edges, Was never sword so keen.
He struck it down on Hagen, Did the hero mickle wrong,
The Troneger grasped his buckler, Fared forth along the Other such wrathful boatman Did never the Troneger
Then hither he and thither Search'd for the Ferryman,
It was the white Mer-women, That in a Fountain clear,
From these Mer-women, who "skimmed aloof like white cygnets, at sight of him," Hagen snatches up "their wondrous raiment;" on condition of returning which, they rede him his fortune; how this expedition is to speed. At first favourably:
For here I pledge my hand, Now kill me if I lie ;
"Now say not that," spake Hagen; "Right hard am 1 bested,
Take from me for good friendship This clasp of gold so red;
And row our thousand heroes And steeds across this river:"
Then spake the wrathful boatman, "That will I surely
Then one of his oars he lifted, Right broad it was and long,
Then spake Von Troneg Hagen, His wroth did fiercely swell:
She said: "To Etzel's country, Of a truth ye well may He wheel'd it back brave Hagen, With many a lusty hie,
The strong oar, with such rowing, In his hand asunder
Even as Von Troneg Hagen The wrathful boatmen slew,
But no sooner is the wondrous raiment No tackle now he had; Hei,* how deftly he spliced the restored them, than they change their tale; for in spite of that matchless honour, it appears, every one of the adventurous Recken is to perish.
Outspake the wild Mer-woman: "I tell thee it will ar-
Of all your gallant host No man shall be left alive,
With throng from off his buckler! It was a slender band;
Where Gunther's Recken waited, In crowds along the
Full many a goodly hero Moved down his boat to reach.
unknown land," like a right yare steersman; Hagen ferries them over himself "into the yet ever brooding fiercely on that prediction of the wild Mer-woman, which had outdone even his own dark forebodings. Seeing the Chaplain, who alone of them all was to return, standing in the boat beside his chappelsoume, (pyxes and other sacred furniture,) he deter
"Such tidings to my master I were right wroth to tell, That in king Etzel's country We all must lose our life:
Yet show me over the water, Thou wise all-knowing mines to belie at least this part of the prophecy, and on a sudden hurls the chaplain overboard. Nay, as the poor priest swims after the boat, he pushes him down, regardless of all remonstrance, resolved that he shall die. Nevertheless it proved not so: the chaplain made for the other side; when his strength failed, "then God's hand helped him," and at
Thereupon, seeing him bent on ruin, she gives directions how to find the ferry, but withal counsels him to deal warily: the ferryhouse stands on the other side of the river; the boatman, too, is not only the hottest-tempered of men, but rich and indolent; never-length he reached the shore. Thus does the theless, if nothing else will serve, let Hagen stern truth stand revealed to Hagen by the very call himself Amelrich, and that name will bring him. All happens as predicted: the boatman, heedless of all shouting and offers of gold clasps, bestirs himself lustily at the name of Amelrich; but the more indignant
These apparently insignificant circumstances, down even to mending the oar from his shield, are preserved with a singular fidelity, in the most distorted editions of Grimhild's Wrack (translated in the Northern Antiquithe tale: see, for example, the Danish ballad, Lady
is he, on taking in his fare, to find it a coun-ties, p. 275, by Mr. Jamieson.) This "Hei!" is a brisk terfeit. He orders Hagen, if he loves his life, interjection, whereby the worthy old Singer now and then introduces his own person, when any thing very to leap out. eminent is going forward.