V. Of the slaying of Siggeir the Goth-king
So there are those kings abiding, and they think of nought but the day
So now by a passage he wotted they gat them into the bower
Where lay the biggest wine-tuns, and there they abode the hour:
Anigh to the hall it was, but no man came thereto,
But now and again the cup-lord when King Siggeir's wine he drew:
When the cup-lord was departed with King Siggeir's dear-bought wine,
And they heard the glee of the people, and the horns and the beakers' din,
When the feast was dight in the hall and the earls were merry therein.
Calm was the face of Sigmund, and clear were his eyes and bright;
For he deemed the time full long, ere the fallow blades should leap
In the hush of the midnight feast-hall o'er King Siggeir's golden sleep.
Now it fell that two little children, Queen Signy's youngest-born,
And thus to that lurking-bower they drew exceeding near,
When there fell a ring from their toy, and swiftly rolled away
And into the place of the wine-tuns, and by Sigmund's feet made stay;
Then the little ones followed after, and came to the lurking-place
And fled, ere they might hold them, aback to the thronging hall.
Then leapt those twain to their feet lest the sword and the murder fall
And one of her last-born children she had on either hand;
For the children had cried: "We have seen them, those two among the wine,
And their hats are wide and white, and their garments tinkle and shine."
So while men ran to their weapons, those children Signy took,
On the face of his father's daughter, and kind of heart he grew,
As the clash of the coming battle anigh the doomed men drew:
But wan and fell was Signy; and she cried:
"The end is near!
And thou with the smile on thy face and the joyful eyes and clear!
For why should the fruit of my body outlive my soul to-night?"
But he cried in the front of the spear-hedge: "Nay this shall be far from me
So she stood aside and gazed: but Sinfiotli taketh them up
But the fallow blades leapt naked, and on the battle came,
Clear from the sword-blades' tangle, and often for a space
Amazed the garth of murder stared deedless on his face;
Nor back nor forward moved he: but fierce Sinfiotli went
Where the spears were set the thickest, and sword with sword was blent;
Then the shield-garth compassed Sigmund, and short is the tale to tell;
For they bore him down unwounded, and bonds about him cast:
Nor sore hurt is Sinfiotli, but is hoppled strait and fast.
Then the Goth-folk went to slumber when the hall was washed from blood:
And all the days of his kingship seemed nothing worth as then
While fared the son of Volsung as well as the worst of men,
While yet that son of Signy lay untormented there:
Yea the past days of his kingship seemed blossomless and bare
So when the first grey dawning a new day did begin,
Those vanquished thralls of battle therein should bide their hour,
That each might hear the tidings of the other's baleful bower,
Yet have no might to help him. So now the twain they brought,
And weary-dull was Sinfiotli, with eyes that looked at nought.
And the song arose within him as he sat within its wall;
Nor aught durst Siggeir mock him, as he had good will to do,
But went his ways when the bondmen brought the roofing turfs thereto.
And that was at eve of the day; and lo now, Signy the white
To the place where the builders built, and the thralls with lingering hands
Had roofed in the grave of Sigmund and hidden in the glory of lands,
But over the head of Sinfiotli for a space were the rafters bare.
Gold then to the thralls she gave, and promised them days full fair
And nothing they gainsayed it; so she drew forth something hid,
In wrappings of wheat-straw winded, and into Sinfiotli's place
She cast it all down swiftly; then she covereth up her face,
And beneath the winter starlight she wended swift away.
And depart, they too, to their slumber, now dight was the dwelling of death.
Then Sigmund hears Sinfiotli, how he cries through the stone and saith:
And again he held him silent of bitter words or of sweet;
O mother, O mother of kings! we shall live and our days shall be sweet!
I have loved thee well aforetime, I shall love thee more when we meet."
Then Sigmund heard the sword-point smite on the stone wall's side,
"It biteth, O my fosterer! it cleaves the earth-bone fast!
Now learn we the craft of the masons that another day may come
When we build a house for King Siggeir, a strait unlovely home."
Then in the grave-mound's darkness did Sigmund the king upstand,
And hard the gift of Odin home to their breasts they drew;
Sawed Sigmund, sawed Sinfiotli, till the stone was cleft atwo,
And they met and kissed together: then they hewed and heaved full hard
Till lo, through the bursten rafters the winter heavens bestarred!
A many words between them of whither was the way.
For they took the night-watch sleeping, and slew them one and all,
About the dwelling of Siggeir, and lay the torch therein.
Then they drew their swords and watched it till the flames began to win
Hard on to the mid-hall's rafters, and those feasters of the folk,
As the fire-flakes fell among them, to their last of days awoke.
Red-lit by the door of the women in the lane of blazing wood:
To death each doorway opened, and death was in the hall.
Then amid the gathered Goth-folk 'gan Siggeir the king to call:
Or half of my father's kingdom? O toilers at the oar,
O wasters of the sea-plain, now labour ye no more!
But take the gifts I bid you, and lie upon the gold,
And clothe your limbs in purple and the silken women hold!"
But a great voice cried o'er the fire: "Nay, no such men are we,
For now is the tree-bough blossomed that sprang from murder's seed;
And the death-doomed and the buried are they that do the deed;
Now when the dead shall ask thee by whom thy days were done,
Thou shall say by Sigmund the Volsung, and Sinfiotli, Signy's son."
Then stark fear fell on the earl-folk, and silent they abide
Forth came the white-faced women and passed Sinfiotli's sword,
Then the men of war surged outward to the twofold doors of bane,
Lo now to the woman's doorway, the steel-watched bower of flame,
And the hate, and the fire of longing: thou, son, and this day of the doom
Have long been as one to my heart; and now shall I leave you both,
And well ye may wot of the slumber my heart is nothing loth;
And all the more, as, meseemeth, thy day shall not be long
Yea, and I wot that the daylight thine eyes had never seen
Save for a great king's murder and the shame of a mighty queen.
But let thy soul, I charge thee, o'er all these things prevail
To make thy short day glorious and leave a goodly tale."
She kissed him and departed, and unto Sigmund went
Of all the days of my life-tide, that soon shall have an end.
I have come to greet thee, Sigmund, then back again must I wend,
For his bed the Goth-king dighteth: I have lain therein, time was,
And loathed the sleep I won there: but lo, how all things pass,
Yet fear not my forgetting: I shall see thee in my dreams
A mighty king of the world 'neath the boughs of the Branstock green,
With thine earls and thy lords about thee as the Volsung fashion hath been:
And there shall all ye remember how I loved the Volsung name,
For hear thou: that Sinfiotli, who hath wrought out our desire,
Who hath compassed about King Siggeir with this sea of a deadly fire,
Who brake thy grave asunder, my child and thine he is,
Begot in that house of the Dwarf-kind for no other end than this;
Look, look! might another helper this deed with thee have done?"
And indeed as the word she uttereth, high up the red flames flare
She said: "Farewell, my brother, for the earls my candles light,
And soft and sweet she kissed him, ere she turned about again,
Nor once did she turn her earthward from the reek and the whirling wrack,
But fair in the fashion of Queens passed on to the heart of the hall.
And then King Siggeir's roof-tree upheaved for its utmost fall,
A sign for many people on the land of the Goths it lay,
A lamp of the earth none needed, for the bright sun brought the day.