William Morris Archive

Sigurd the Volsung

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

X. How Sigurd awoke Brynhild upon Hindfell

3740
By long roads rideth Sigurd amidst that world of stone.
And somewhat south he tumeth ; for he would not be alone,
But longs for the dwellings of man-folk, and the kingly people's speech,
And the days of the glee and the joyance, where men laugh each to each.
But still the desert endureth, and afar must Greyfell fare
3745
From the wrack of the Glittering Heath, and Fafnir's golden kir.
Long Sigurd rideth the waste, when, lo, on a morning of day
From out of the tangled crag-walls, amidst the cloud-land grey
Comes up a mighty mountain, and it is as though there burns
A torch amidst of its cloud-wreath ; so thither Sigurd turns.
3750
For he deems indeed from its topmost to look on the best of the earth ;
And Greyfell neigheth beneath him, and his heart is full of mirth.

So he rideth higher and higher, and the light grows great and strange,
And forth from the clouds it flickers, till at noon they gather and change,
And settle thick on the mountain, and hide its head from sight ;
3755
But the winds in a while are awakened, and day bettereth ere the night.
And, lifted a measureless mass o'er the desert crag-walls high,
Cloudless the mountain riseth against the sunset sky,
The sea of the sun grown golden, as it ebbs from the day's desire ;
And the light that afar was a torch is grown a river of fire,
3760
And the mountain is black above it, and below is it dark and dun ;
And there is the head of Hindfell as an island in the sun.

Night falls, but yet rides Sigurd, and hath no thought of rest.
For he longs to climb that rock-world and behold the earth at its best ;
But now mid the maze of the foot-hills he seeth the light no more.
3765
And the stars are lovely and gleaming on the lightless heavenly floor.
So up and up he wendeth till the night is wearing thin ;
And he rideth a rift of the mountain, and all is dark therein,
Till the stars are dimmed by dawning and the wakening world is cold ;
Then afar in the upper rock-wall a breach doth he behold,
3770
And a flood of light poured inward the doubtful dawning blinds :
So swift he rideth thither and the mouth of the breach he finds,
And sitteth awhile on Greyfell on the marvellous thing to gaze :
For lo, the side of Hindfell enwrapped by the fervent blaze,
And nought 'twixt earth and heaven save a world of flickering flame,
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And a hurrying shifting tangle, where the dark rents went and came.

Great groweth the heart of Sigurd with uttermost desire,
And he crieth kind to Greyfell, and they hasten up, and nigher.
Till he draweth rein in the dawning on the face of Hindfell's steep :
But who shall heed the dawning where the tongues of that wildfire leap ?
3780
For they weave a wavering wall, that driveth over the heaven
The wind that is bom within it ; nor ever aside is it driven
By the mightiest wind of the waste, and the rain-flood amidst it is nought ;
And no wayfarer's door and no window the hand of its builder hath wrought.
But thereon is the Volsung smiling as its breath uplifleth his hair.
3785
And his eyes shine bright with its image, and his mail gleams white and fair,
And his war-helm pictures the heavens and the waning stars behind :
But his neck is Greyfell stretching to snufF at the flame-wall blind,
And his cloudy flank upheaveth, and tinkleth the knitted mail,
And the gold of the uttermost waters is waxen wan and pale.

3790

Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts,
And draws a girth the tighter ; then the gathered reins he lifts.
And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire's heart ;
But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart,
And high o'er his head it riseth, and wide and wild is its roar
3795
As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor :
But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye.
When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh ;
The white flame licks his raiment and sweeps through Greyfell's mane,
And bathes both hands of Sigurd and the hilts of Fafnir's bane,
3800
And winds about his war-helm and mingles with his hair,
But nought his raiment dusketh or dims his glittering gear ;
Then it fails and fades and darkens till all seems left behind,
And dawn and the blaze is swallowed in mid-mirk stark and blind.

But forth a little further and a little further on
3805
And all is calm about him, and he sees the scorched earth wan
Beneath a glimmering twilight, and he turns his conquering eyes,
And a ring of pale slaked ashes on the side of Hindfell lies ;
And the world of the waste is beyond it ; and all is hushed and grey,
And the new-risen moon is a-paleing, and the stars grow faint with day.
3810
Then Sigurd looked before him and a Shield-burg there he saw,
A wall of the tiles of Odin wrought clear without a flaw,
The gold by the silver gleaming, and the ruddy by the white ;
And the blazonings of their glory were done upon them bright.
As of dear things wrought for the war-lords new come to Odin's hall.
3815
Piled high aloft to the heavens uprose that battle-wall,
And far o'er the topmost shield-rim for a banner of fame there hung
A glorious golden buckler; and against the staff it rung
As the earliest wind of dawning uprose on Hindfell's face
And the light from the yellowing east beamed soft on the shielded place.

3820

But the Wrath cried out in answer as Sigurd leapt adown
To the wasted soil of the desert by that rampart of renown ;
He looked but little beneath it, and the dwelling of God it seemed.
As against its gleaming silence the eager Sigurd gleamed :
He draweth not sword from scabbard, as the wall he wendeth around,
3825
And it is but the wind and Sigurd that wakeneth any sound :
But, lo, to the gate he cometh, and the doors are open wide,
And no warder the way withstandeth, and no earls by the threshold abide;
So he stands awhile and marvels ; then the baleful light of the Wrath
Gleams bare in his ready hand as he wendeth the inward path :
3830
For he doubteth some guile of the Gods, or perchance some Dwarf-king's snare,
Or a mock of the Giant people that shall fade in the morning air :
But he getteth him in and gazeth; and a wall doth he behold.
And the ruddy set by the white, and the silver by the gold ;
But within the garth that it girdeth no work of man is set.
3835
But the utmost head of Hindfell ariseth higher yet ;
And below in the very midmost is a Giant-fashioned mound.
Piled high as the rims of the Shield-burg above the level ground ;
And there, on that mound of the Giants, o'er the wilderness forlorn,
A pale grey image lieth, and gleameth in the morn.

3840

So there was Sigurd alone ; and he went from the shielded door,
And aloft in the desert of wonder the Light of the Branstock he bore ;
And he set his face to the earth-mound, and beheld the image wan,
And the dawn was growing about it ; and, lo, the shape of a man
Set forth to the eyeless desert on the tower-top of the world.
3845
High over the cloud-wrought castle whence the windy bolts are hurled.

Now he comes to the mound and climbs it, and will see if the man be dead ;
Some King of the days forgotten laid there with crowned head.
Or the frame of a God, it may be, that in heaven hath changed his life.
Or some glorious heart beloved, God-rapt from the earthly strife:
3850
Now over the body he standeth, and seeth it shapen fair,
And clad from head to foot-sole in pale grey-glittering gear,
In a hauberk wrought as straitly as though to the flesh it were grown :
But a great helm hideth the head and is girt with a glittering crown.

So thereby he stoopeth and kneeleth, for he deems it were good indeed
3855
If the breath of life abide there and the speech to help at need ;
And as sweet as the summer wind from a garden under the sun
Cometh forth on the topmost Hindfell the breath of that sleeping-one.
Then he saith he will look on the face, if it bear him love or hate,
Or the bonds for his life's constraining, or the sundering doom of fate.
3860
So he draweth the helm from the head, and, lo, the brow snow-white.
And the smooth unfurrowed cheeks, and the wise lips breathing light;
And the face of a woman it is, and the fairest that ever was born.
Shown forth to the empty heavens and the desert world forlorn :
But he lookcth, and loveth her sore, and he longeth her spirit to move,
3865
And awaken her heart to the world, that she may behold him and love.
And he toucheth her breast and her hands, and he loveth her passing sore;
And he saith: "Awake I I am Sigurd;" but she moveth never the more.

Then he looked on his bare bright blade, and he said : "Thou — what wilt thou do?
For indeed as I came by the war-garth thy voice of desire I knew."
3870
Bright burnt the pale blue edges for the sunrise drew anear.
And the rims of the Shield-burg glittered, and the east was exceeding clear:
So the eager edges he setteth to the Dwarf-wrought battle-coat
Where the hammered ring-knit collar constraineth the woman's throat;
But the sharp Wrath biteth and rendeth, and before it fail the rings,
3875
And, lo, the gleam of the linen, and the light of golden things :
Then he driveth the blue steel onward, and through the skirt, and out,
Till nought but the rippling linen is wrapping her about ;
Then he deems her breath comes quicker and her breast begins to heave,
So he turns about the War-Flame and rends down either sleeve,
3880
Till her arms lie white in her raiment, and a river of sun-bright hair
Flows free o'er bosom and shoulder and floods the desert bare.

Then a flush cometh over her visage and a sigh up-heaveth her breast.
And her eyelids quiver and open, and she wakeneth into rest ;
Wide-eyed on the dawning she gazeth, too glad to change or smile.
3885
And but little moveth her body, nor speaketh she yet for a while ;
And yet kneels Sigurd moveless her wakening speech to heed,
While soft the waves of the daylight o'er the starless heavens speed,
And the gleaming rims of the Shield-burg yet bright and brighter grow,
And the thin moon hangeth her horns dead-white in the golden glow.
3890
Then she turned and gazed on Sigurd, and her eyes met the Volsung's eyes.
And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise,
For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved,
As she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved :

" O, what is the thing so mighty that my weary sleep hath torn,
3895
And rent the fallow bondage, and the wan woe over-worn ? "

He said : " The hand of Sigurd and the Sword of Sigmund's son,
And the heart that the Volsungs fashioned this deed for thee have done."

But she said : "Where then is Odin that laid me here alow?
Long lasteth the grief of the world, and man-folk's tangled woe! "

3900

" He dwelleth above," said Sigurd, " but I on the earth abide,
And I came from the Glittering Heath the waves of thy fire to ride."

But therewith the sun rose upward and lightened all the earth,
And the light flashed up to the heavens from the rims of the glorious girth;
But they twain arose together, and with both her palms outspread,
3905
And bathed in the light returning, she cried aloud and said :

"All hail O Day and thy Sons, and thy kin of the coloured things !
Hail, following Night, and thy Daughter that leadeth thy wavering wings!
Look down with unangry eyes on us today alive,
And give us the hearts victorious, and the gain for which we strive !
3910
All hail, ye Lords of God-home, and ye Queens of the House of Gold !
Hail thou dear Earth that bearest, and thou Wealth of field and fold !
Give us, your noble children, the glory of wisdom and speech,
And the hearts and the hands of healing, and the mouths and hands that teach !

Then they turned and were knit together ; and oft and o'er again
3915
They craved, and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.

Then Sigurd looketh upon her, and the words from his heart arise :
"Thou art the fairest of earth, and the wisest of the wise ;
O who art thou that lovest ? I am Sigurd, e'en as I told ;
I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and gotten the Ancient Gold;
3920
And great were the gain of thy love, and the gift of mine earthly days,
If we twain should never sunder as we wend on the changing ways.
O who art thou that lovest, thou fairest of all things born ?
And what meaneth thy sleep and thy slumber in the wilderness forlorn?"

She said : "I am she that loveth : I was born of the earthly folk,
3925
But of old Allfather took me from the Kings and their wedding yoke :
And he called me the Victory- Wafter, and I went and came as he would.
And I chose the slain for his war-host, and the days were glorious and good.
Till the thoughts of my heart overcame me, and the pride of my wisdom and speech,
And I scorned the earth-folk's Framer and the Lord of the world I must teach :
3930
For the death-doomed I caught from the sword, and the fated life I slew,
And I deemed that my deeds were goodly, and that long I should do and undo.
But Allfather came against me and the God in his wrath arose ;
And he cried : "Thou hast thought in thy folly that the Gods have friends and foes,
That they wake, and the world wends onward, that they sleep, and the world slips back,
3935
That they laugh, and the world's weal waxeth, that they frown and fashion the wrack :
Thou hast cast up the curse against me; it shall fall aback on thine head;
Go back to the sons of repentance, with the children of sorrow wed !
For the Gods are great unholpen, and their grief is seldom seen,
And the wrong that they will and must be is soon as it hath not been.'

3940

"Yet I thought: 'Shall I wed in the world, shall I gather grief on the earth?
Then the fearless heart shall I wed, and bring the best to birth,
And fashion such tales for the telling, that Earth shall be holpen at least,
If the Gods think scorn of its fairness, as they sit at the changeless feast'

" Then somewhat smiled Allfather ; and he spake : ' So let it be !
3945
The doom thereof abideth ; the doom of me and thee.
Yet long shall the time pass over ere thy waking-day be born :
Fare forth, and forget and be weary 'neath the Sting of the Sleepful Thorn ! '

" So I came to the head of Hindfell and the ruddy shields and white.
And the wall of the wildfire wavering around the isle of night ;
3950
And there the Sleep-thorn pierced me, and the slumber on me fell,
And the night of nameless sorrows that hath no tale to tell
Now I am she that loveth ; and the day is nigh at hand
When I, who have ridden the sea-realm and the regions of the land,
And dwelt in the measureless mountains and the forge of stormy days.
3955
Shall dwell in the house of my fathers and the land of the people's praise;
And there shall hand meet hand, and heart by heart shall beat,
And the lying-down shall be joyous, and the morn's uprising sweet.
Lo now, I look on thine heart and behold of thine inmost will,
That thou of the days wouldst hearken that our portion shall fulfill ;
3960
But O, be wise of man-folk, and the hope of thine heart refrain !
As oft in the battle's beginning ye vex the steed with the rein,
Lest at last in its latter ending, when the sword hath hushed the horn,
His limbs should be weary and fail, and his might be over-worn.
O be wise, lest thy love constrain me, and my vision wax o'er-clear,
3965
And thou ask of the thing that thou shouldst not, and the thing that thou wouldst not hear.

"Know thou, roost mighty of men, that the Norns shall order all,
And yet without thine helping shall no whit of their will befall ;
Be wise ! 'tis a marvel of words, and a mock for the fool and the blind ;
But I saw it writ in the heavens, and its fashioning there did I find :
3970
And the night of the Norns and their slumber, and the tide when the world runs back,
And the way of the sun is tangled, it is wrought of the dastard's lack.
But the day when the fair earth blossoms, and the sun is bright above,
Of the daring deeds is it fashioned and the eager hearts of love.

"Be wise, and cherish thine hope in the freshness of the days,
3975
And scatter its seed from thine hand in the field of the people's praise ;
Then fair shall it fa11 in the furrow, and some the earth shall speed,
And the sons of men shall marvel at the blossom of the deed :
But some the earth shall speed not; nay rather, the wind of the heaven
Shall waft it away from thy longing — and a gift to the Gods hast thou given.
3980
And a tree for the roof and the wall in the house of the hope that shall be.
Though it seemeth our very sorrow, and the grief of thee and me.

"Strive not with the fools of man-folk: for belike thou shalt overcome;
And what then is the gain of thine hunting when thou bearest the quarry home?
Or else shall the fool overcome thee, and what deed thereof shall grow ?
3985
Nay, strive with the wise man rather, and increase thy woe and his woe;
Yet thereof a gain hast thou gotten ; and the half of thine heart hast thou won
If thou mayst prevail against him, and his deeds are the deeds thou hast done:
Yea, and if thou fall before him, in him shalt thou live again,
And thy deeds in his hand shall blossom, and his heart of thine heart shall be fain.

3990

" When thou hearest the fool rejoicing, and he saith, 'It is over and past,
And the wrong was better than right, and hate turns into love at the last,
And we strove for nothing at all, and the Gods are fallen asleep ;
For so good is the world a growing that the evil good shall reap:'
Then loosen thy sword in the scabbard and settle the helm on thine head,
3995
For men betrayed are mighty, and great are the wrongfully dead.

" Wilt thou do the deed and repent it? thou hadst better never been born :
Wilt thou do the deed and exalt it? then thy fame shall be outworn :
Thou shalt do the deed and abide it, and sit on thy throne on high,
And look on today and tomorrow as those that never die.

4000

"Love thou the Gods — and withstand them, lest thy fame should fail in the end,
And thou be but their thrall and their bondsman, who wert born for their very friend :
For few things from the Gods are hidden, and the hearts of men they know,
And how that none rejoiceth to quail and crouch alow.

" I have spoken the words, beloved, to thy matchless glory and worth;
4005
But thy heart to my heart hath been speaking, though my tongue hath set it forth :
For I am she that loveth, and I know what thou wouldst teach
From the heart of thine unlearned wisdom, and I needs must speak thy speech."

Then words were weary and silent, but oft and o'er again
They craved and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.

4010

Then spake the Son of Sigmund: "Fairest, and most of worth,
Hast thou seen the ways of man-folk and the regions of the earth ?
Then speak yet more of wisdom; for most meet meseems it is
That my soul to thy soul be shapen, and that I should know thy bliss."

So she took his right hand meekly, nor any word would say,
4015
Not e'en of love or praising, his longing to delay;
And they sat on the side of Hindfell, and their fain eyes looked and loved,
As she told of the hidden matters whereby the world is moved :
And she told of the framing of all things, and the houses of the heaven;
And she told of the star-worlds' courses, and how the winds be driven;
4020
And she told of the Norns and their names, and the fate that abideth the earth ;
And she told of the ways of King-folk in their anger and their mirth;
And she spake of the love of women, and told of the flame that burns.
And the fall of mighty houses, and the friend that falters and turns.
And the lurking blinded vengeance, and the wrong that amendeth wrong.
4025
And the hand that repenteth its stroke, and the grief that endureth for long;
And how man shall bear and forbear, and be master of all that is ;
And how man shall measure it all, the wrath, and the grief, and the bliss.

" I saw the body of Wisdom, and of shifting guise was she wrought,
And I stretched out my hands to hold her, and a mote of the dust they caught;
4030
And I prayed her to come for my teaching, and she came in the midnight dream —
And I woke and might not remember, nor betwixt her tangle deem :
She spake, and how might I hearken ; I heard, and how might I know ;
I knew, and how might I fashion, or her hidden glory show?
All things I have told thee of Wisdom are but fleeting images
4035
> Of her hosts that abide in the Heavens, and her light that Allfather sees :
Yet wise is the sower that sows, and wise is the reaper that reaps.
And wise is the smith in his smiting, and wise is the warder that keeps :
And wise shalt thou be to deliver, and I shall be wise to desire;
— And lo, the tale that is told, and the sword and the wakening fire !
4040
Lo now, I am she that loveth, and hark how Greyfell neighs,
And Fafnir's Bed is gleaming, and green go the downward ways, -
The road to the children of men and the deeds that thou shalt do
In the joy of thy life-days' morning, when thiiie hope is fashioned anew.
Come now, O Bane of the Serpent, for now is the high-noon come.
4045
And the sun hangeth over Hindfell and looks on the earth-folk's home ;
But the soul is so great within thee, and so glorious are thine eyes,
And me so love constraineth, and mine heart that was called the wise,
That we twain may see men's dwellings and the house where we shall dwell.
And the place of our life's beginning, where the tale shall be to tell."

4050

So they climb the burg of Hindfell, and hand in hand they fare,
Till all about and above them is nought but the sunlit air,
And there close they cling together rejoicing in their mirth;
For far away beneath them lie the kingdoms of the earth,
And the garths of men-folk's dwellings and the streams that water them.
4055
And the rich and plenteous acres, and the silver ocean's hem,
And the woodland wastes and the mountains, and all that holdeth all ;
The house and the ship and the island, the loom and the mine and the stall,
The beds of bane and healing, the crafts that slay and save.
The temple of God and the Doom-ring, the cradle and the grave.

4060

Then spake the Victory- Wafter : "O King of the Earthly Age,
As a God thou beholdest the treasure and the joy of thine heritage,
And where on the wings of his hope is the spirit of Sigurd borne ?
Yet I bid thee hover awhile as a lark alow on the corn ;
Yet I bid thee look on the land 'twixt the wood and the silver sea
4065
In the bight of the swirling river, and the house that cherished me !
There dwelleth mine earthly sister and the king that she hath wed ;
There morn by morn aforetime I woke on the golden bed ;
There eve by eve I tarried mid the speech and the lays of kings ;
There noon by noon I wandered and plucked the blossoming things;
4070
The little land of Lymdale by the swirling river's side,
Where Brynhild once was I called in the days ere my father died;
The little land of Lymdale 'twixt the woodland and the sea,
Where on thee mine eyes shall brighten and thine eyes shall beam on me."

"I shall seek thee there," said Sigurd, "when the day-spring is begun.
4075
Ere we wend the world together in the season of the sun."

"I shall bide thee there," said Brynhild, "till the fullness of the days,
And the time for the glory appointed, and the springing-tide of praise."

From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari's ancient Gold ;
There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold,
4080
The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end,
No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend:
Then Sigurd cries: "O Brynhild, now hearken while I swear,
That the sun shall die in the heavens and the day no more be fair,
If I seek not love in Lymdale and the house that fostered thee,
4085
And the land where thou awakedst 'twixt the woodland and the sea !"

And she cried : "O Sigurd, Sigurd, now hearken while I swear
That the day shall die for ever and the sun to blackness wear,
Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, as I lie 'twixt wood and sea
In the little land of Lymdale and the house that fostered me ! "

4090

Then he set the ring on her finger and once, if ne'er again,
They kissed and clung together, and their hearts were full and fain.

So the day grew old about them and the joy of their desire,
And eve and the sunset came, and faint grew the sunset fire,
And the shadowless death of the day was sweet in the golden tide ;
4095
But the stars shone forth on the world, and the twilight changed and died;
And sure if the first of man-folk had been born to that starry night,
And had heard no tale of the sunrise, he had never longed for the light :
But Earth longed amidst her slumber, as 'neath the night she lay,
And fresh and all abundant abode the deeds of Day.

 

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