Sigurd the Volsung

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

VI. Sigurd rideth to the Glittering Heath

 

3215
Again on the morrow morning doth Sigurd the Volsung ride,
And Regin, the Master of Masters, is faring by his side,
And they leave the dwelling of kings and ride the summer land,
Until at the eve of the day the hills are on either hand;
Then they wend up higher and higher, and over the heaths they fare
3220
Till the moon shines broad on the midnight, and they sleep 'neath the heavens bare;
And they waken and look behind them, and lo, the dawning of day
And the little land of the Helper and its valleys far away;
But the mountains rise before them, a wall exceeding great.

Then spake the Master of Masters: "We have come to the garth and the gate;
3225
There is youth and rest behind thee and many a thing to do,
There is many a fond desire, and each day born anew;
And the land of the Volsungs to conquer, and many a people's praise:
And for me there is rest it may be, and the peaceful end of days.
We have come to the garth and the gate; to the hall-door now shall we win,
3230
Shall we go to look on the high-seat and see what sitteth therein?"

"Yea and what else?" said Sigurd, "was thy tale but mockeries,
And have I been drifted hither on a wind of empty lies?"

"It was sooth, it was sooth," said Regin, "and more might I have told
Had I heart and space to remember the deeds of the days of old."

3235
And he hung down his head as he spake it, and was silent a little space;
And when it was lifted again there was fear in the Dwarf-king's face.
And he said:"Thou knowest my thought, and wise-hearted art thou grown:
It were well if thine eyes were blinder, and we each were fairing alone,
And I with my eld and my wisdom, and thou with thy youth and thy might;
3240
Yet whiles I dream I have wrought thee, a beam of the morning bright,
A fatherless motherless glory, to work out my desire;
Then high my hope ariseth, and my heart is all afire
For the world I behold from afar, and the day that yet shall be;
Then I wake an dall things I remember and a youth of the Kings I see-
3245
-The child of the Wood-abider, the see of a conquered King,
The sword that the Gods have fashioned, the fate that men shall sing:-
Ah might the word run backward to the days of the Dwargs of old,
When I hewed out the pillars of crystal, and smoothed the walls of gold !"
Day-long they fared through the mountains, and that highway's fashioner,
3250
Forsooth, was a fearful craftsman, and his hands the waters were,
And the heaped-up ice was his mattock, and the fire-blast was his man,
And never a whit he heeded though his walls were waste and wan,
And the guest-halls of that wayside great heaps of the ashes spent.
But, each as a man alone, through the sun-bright day they went,
3255
And they rode till the moon rose upward, and the stars were small and fair,
Then they slept on the long-slaked ashes beneath the heavens bare;
And the cold dawn came and they wakened, and the King of the Dwarf-kind seemed
As a thing of that wan land fashioned; but Sigurd glowed and gleamed
Amid a shadowless twilight by Greyfell's cloudy flank,
3260
As a little space they abided while the latest star-world shrank;
On the backward road looked Regin and heard how Sigurd drew
The girths of Greyfell's saddle, and the voice of his sword he knew,
And he feared to look on the Volsung, as thus he fell to speak :

"I have seen the Dwarf-folk mighty, I have seen the God-folk weak;
3265
And now, though our might be minished, yet have we gifts to give.
When men desire and conquer, most weet is their life to live;
When men are young and lovely there is many a thing to do,
And sweet is their fond desire and the dawn that springs anew."

"This gift," said the Son of Sigmund, "the Norns shall give me yet,
3270
And no blossom slain by the sunshine while the leaves with dew are wet."

Then Regin turned and beheld him: "Thou shalt deem it hard and strange,
When the hand hath encompassed it all, and yet thy life must change.
Ah, long were the lives of men-folk, if betwixt the Gods and them
Were mighty warders watching mid the earth's and the heavn's hem !
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Is thre any man so mighty he would cast this gift away,-
The heart's desire accomplished, and life so long a day,
That the dawn should be forgotten ere the even was begun?

Then Sigurd laughed and answered: "Fare forth O glorious sun;
Bright end from bright beginning, and the mid-way good to tell,
3280
And death, and deeds accomplished, and all remembered well !
Shall the day go past and leave us, and we be left with night,
To tread the endless circle, and strive in vain to smite?
But thou-wilt thou still look backward? thou sayst I know thy thought:
Thou has whetted teh sword for the slaying, it shall turn aside for nought.
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Fear not ! with the Gold and the wisdom thou shalt deem thee God alone,
And mayst do and undo at pleasure, nor be bound by right nor wrong:
And then, if no God I be waxen, I shall be the weak with the strong."

And his war-gear clanged and tinkled as he leapt to the saddle-stead:
And the sun rose up at their backs and the grey world changed to red,
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And away to the west went Sigurd by the glory wreathed about,
But little and black was Regin as a fire that dieth out.
Day-long they rode the mountains by the crags exceeding old,
And the ash that the first of the Dwarf-kind found dull and quenched and cold.
Then the moon in the mid-sky swam, and the stars were fair and pale,
3295
And beneath the naked heaven they slept in an ash-grey dale;
And again at the dawn-dusk's ending they stood upon their feet,
And Sigurd donned his war-gear nor his eyes would Regin meet.

A clear streak widened in heaven low down above the earth;
And above it lay the cloud-flecks, and the sun, anigh its birth,
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Unseen, their hosts was staining with the very hue of blood,
And ruddy by Greyfell's shoulder the Son of Sigmund stood.

Then spake the Master of Masters: "What is thine hope this morn
That thou dightest thee, O Sigurd, to ride this world forlorn?"

"What needeth hope," said Sigurd, "when the heart of the Volsungs turns
3305
To the light of the Glittering Heath, and the house where the Waster burns?
I shall slay the Foe of the Gods, as thou badst me a while agone,
And then with the Gold and its wisdom shalt thou be left alone."

"O Child," said the King of the Dwarf-kind, "when the day at last comes round
For the dread and the Dusk of the Gods, and the kin of the Wolf is unbound,
3310
When thy sword shall hew the fire, and the wildfire beateth thy shield,
Shalt thou praise the wages of hope and the Gods that pitched the field?"

"O Foe of the Gods," said Sigurd, "wouldst thou hide the evil thing,
And the curse that is greater than thou, lest death end thy labouring,
Lest the night should come upon thee amidst thy toil for nought?
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It is me, it is me that thou fearest, if indeed I know thy thought;
Yea me, who would utterly light the face of all good and ill,
If not with the fruitful beams that the summer shall fulfill,
Then at least with the world a-blazing, and the glare of the grinded sword.

And he sprang aloft to the saddle as he spake the latest word,
3320
And the Wrath sang loud in the sheath as it ne’er had sung before,
And the cloudy flecks were scattered like flames on the heaven's floor,
And all was kindled at once, and that trench of the mountians grey
Was filled with the living light as the low sun lit the way:
But Regin turned from the glory with blinded eyes and dazed,
3325
And lo, on the cloudy war-steed how another light there blazed,
And a great voice came from amidst it:

"O Regin, in good sooth,
I have hearkened not nor heeded the words of thy fear and thy ruth:
Thou hast told thy tale and thy longing, and thereto I hearkened well:—
Let it lead thee up to heaven, let it lead thee down to hell,
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The deed shall be done tomorrow: thou shalt have that measureless Gold,
And devour the garnered wisdom that blessed thy realm of old,
That hath lain unspent and begrudged in the very heart of hate:
With the blood and the might of thy brother thine hunger shalt thou sate;
And this deed shall be mine and thine; but take heed for what followeth then!
3335
Let each do after his kind! I shall do the deeds of men;
I shall harvest the field of their sowing, in the bed of their strewing shall sleep;
To them shall I give my life-days, to the Gods my glory to keep.
But them with the wealth and the wisdom that the best of the Gods might praise,
If thou shall indeed excel them and become the hope of the days,
3340
Then me in turn hast thou conquered, and I shall be in turn
Thy fashioned brand of the battle through good and evil to burn,
Or the flame that sleeps in thy stithy for the gathered winds to blow,
When thou listest to do and undo and thine uttermost cunning to show.
But indeed I wot full surely that thou shalt follow thy kind;
3345
And for all that cometh after, the Norns shall loose and bind."

Then his bridle-reins rang sweetly, and the warding-walls of death,
And Regin drew up to him, and the Wrath sang loud in the sheath,
And forth from that trench in the mountains by the westward way they ride;
And little and black goes Regin by the golden Volsung's side;
3350
But no more his head is dropping, for he seeth the Elf-king's Gold;
The garnered might and the wisdom e’en now his eyes behold.

So up and up they journeyed, and ever as they went
About the cold-slaked forges, o’er many a could-swept bent,
Betwixt the walls of blackness, by shores of the fishless meres,
3355
And the fathomless desert waters, did Regin cast his fears,
And wrap him in desire; and all alone he seemed
As a God to his heirship wending, and forgotten and undreamed
Was all the tale of Sigurd, and the folk he had toiled among.
And the Volsungs, Odin's children, and the men-folk fair and young.

3360
So on they ride to the westward, and huge were the mountains grown
And the floor of heaven was mingled with that tossing world of stone:
And they rode till the noon was forgotten and the sun was waxen low,
And they tarried not, though he perished, and the world grew dark below.
Then they rode a mighty desert, a glimmering place and wide,
3365
And into a narrow pass high-walled on either side
By the blackness of the mountians, and barred aback and in face
By the empty night of the shadow; a windless sileny place :
But the white moon shone o’erhead mid the shall sharp stars and pale,
And each as a man alone they rode on the highway of bale.

3370
So ever they wended upward, and the midnight hour was o'er,
And the stars grew pale and paler, and failed from the heaven's floor,
And the moon was a long while dead, but where was the promise of day?
No change came over the darkness, no streak of the dawning grey;
No sound of the wind's uprising adown the night there ran:
3375
It was blind as the Gaping Gulf ere the first of the worlds began.

Then athwart and athwart rode Sigurd and sought the walls of the pass,
But found no wall before him; and the road rang hard as brass
Beneath the hoofs of Greyfell, as up and up he trod:
—Was it the daylight of Hell, or the night of the doorway of God?

3380
But lo, at the last a glimmer, and a light from the west there came,
And another and another, like points of far-off flame;
And they grew and brightened and gathered; and whiles together they ran
Like the moonwake over the waters; and whiles they were scant and wan,
Some greater and some lesser, like the boats of fishers laid
3385
About the sea of midnight; and a dusky dawn they made,
A faint and glimmering twilight: So Sigurd strains his eyes,
And he sees how a land deserted all round about him lies
More changeless than mid-ocean, as fruitless as its floor:
Then the heart leaps up within him, for he knows that his journey is o'er,
3390
And there he draweth bridle on the first of the Glittering Heath:
And the Wrath is waxen merry and sings in the golden sheath
As he leaps adown from Greyfell, and stands upon his feet,
And wends his ways through the twilight the Foe of the Gods to meet.

 

 

 

 

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