VI. Sigurd rideth to the Glittering Heath
Then spake the Master of Masters: "We have come to the garth and the gate;
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
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.
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,
"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."
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;
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-
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,
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,
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,
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;
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,
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 !
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,
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.
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,
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,
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,
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
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,
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?
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,
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,
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,
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!
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,
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;
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;
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,
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.
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,
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.
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:
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?
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
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,
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.