Sigurd the Volsung

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

 

 

III. How Sigurd met Brynhild in Lymdale

So there abideth Sigurd with the Lymdale forest-lords
In mighty honour holden, and in love beyond all words,
And thence abroad through the people there goeth a rumour and breath
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Of the great Gold-waliowefs slaying, and the tale of the Glittering Heath,
And a word of the ancient Treasure and Greyfell's gleaming Load ;
And the hearts of men grew eager, and the coming deeds abode.
But warily dealeth Sigurd, and he wends in the woodland fray
As one whose heart is ready and abides a better day :
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In the woodland fray he fareth, and oft on a day doth ride
Where the mighty forest wild-bulls and the lonely wolves abide ;
For as then no other warfare do the lords of Lymdale know,
And the axe-age and the sword-age seem dead a while ago,
And the age of the cleaving of shields, and of brother by brother slain,
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And the bitter days of the whoredom, and the hardened lust of gain ;
But man to man may hearken, and he that soweth reaps.
And hushed is the heart of Fenrir in the wolf-den of the deeps.

Now is it the summer-season, and Sigurd rideth the land,
And his hound runs light before him, and his hawk sits light on his hand,
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And all alone on a morning he rides the flowery sward
Betwixt the woodland dwellings and the house of Lymdale's lord ;
And he hearkens Greyfell's going as he wends adown the lea.
And his heart for love is craving, and the deeds he deems shall be ;
And he hears the Wrath's sheath tinkling as he rides the daisies down,
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And he thinks of his love laid safely in the arms of his renown.
But lo, as he rides the meadows, before him now he sees
A builded burg arising amid the leafy trees,
And a white-walled house on its topmost with a golden roof-ridge done,
And thereon the clustering dove-kind in the brightness of the sun.

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So Sigurd stayed to behold it, for the heart within him laughed.
But e'en then, as the arrow speedeth from the mighty archer's draught.
Forth fled the falcon unhooded from the hand of Sigurd the King,
And up, and over the tree-boughs he shot with steady wing :
Then the Volsung followed his flight, for he looked to see him fall
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On the fluttering folk of the doves, and he cried the backward call
Full oft and over again ; but the falcon heeded it nought,
Nor turned to his kingly wrist-perch, nor the folk of the pigeons sought.
But flew up to a high-built tower, and sat in the window a space,
Crying out like the fowl of Odin when the first of the morning they face,
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And then passed through the open casement as an erne to his eyrie goes.

Much marvelled the Son of Sigmund, and rode to the fruitful close :
For he said : Here a great one dwelleth, though none have told me thereof.
And he shall give me my falcon, and his fellowship and love.
So he came to the gate of the garth, and forth to the hall-door rode,
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And leapt adown from Greyfell, and entered that fair abode ;
For full lovely was it fashioned, and great was the pillared hall.
And fair in its hangings were woven the deeds that Kings befall.
And the merry sun went through it and gleamed in gold and horn ;
But afield or a-fell are its carles, and none labour there that morn,
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And void it is of the maidens, and they weave in the bower aloft,
Or they go in the outer gardens 'twixt the rose and the lily soft :
So saith Sigurd the Volsung, and a door in the comer he spies
With knots of gold fair-carven, and the graver's masteries :
So he lifts the latch and it opens, and he comes to a marble stair,
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And aloft by the same he goeth through a tower wrought full fair.
And he comes to a door at its topmost, and lo, a chamber of Kings,
And his falcon there by the window with all unruffled wings.

But a woman sits on the high-seat with gold about her head,
And ruddy rings on her arms, and the grace of her girdle-stead;
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And sunlit is her rippled linen, and the green leaves lie at her feet,
And e'en as a swan on the billow where the firth and the out-sea meet.
On the dark-blue cloths she sitteth, so fair and softly made
Are her limbs by the linen hidden, and so white is she arrayed.
But a web of gold is before her, and therein by her shuttle wrought
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The early days of the Volsungs and the war by the sea's rim fought.
And the crowned queen over Sigmund, and the Helper's pillared hall,
And the golden babe uplifted to the eyes of duke and thrall;
And there was the slender stripling by the knees of the Dwarf-folk's lord,
And the gift of the ancient Gripir, and the forging of the Sword;
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And there were the coils of Fafnir, and the hooded threat of death,
And the King by the cooking-fire, and the fowl of the Glittering Heath ;
And there was the headless King-smith and the golden halls of the Worm,
And the laden Greyfell faring through the land of perished storm;
And there was the head of Hindfell, and the flames to the sky-floor driven ;
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And there was the glittering shield-burg, and the fallow bondage riven ;
And there was the wakening woman and the golden Volsung done,
And they twain o'er the earthly kingdoms in the lonely evening sun :
And there were fells and forests, and towns and tossing seas,
And the Wrath and the golden Sigurd for ever blent with these,
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In the midst of the battle triumphant, in the midst of the war-kings' fall.
In the midst of the peace well-conquered, in the midst of the praising hall.

There Sigurd stood and marvelled, for he saw his deeds that had been,
And his deeds of the days that should be, fair-wrought in the golden sheen ;
And he looked in the face of the woman, and Brynhild's eyes he knew.
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But still in the door he tarried, and so glad and fair he grew,
That the Gods laughed out in the heavens to see the Volsung's seed ;
And the breeze blew in from the summer and over Brynhild's weed,
Till his heart so swelled with the sweetness that the fair word stayed in his mouth,
And a marvel beloved he seemeth, as a ship new-come from the south :
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And still she longed and beheld him, nor foot nor hand she moved
As she marvelled at her gladness, and her love so well beloved.

But at last through the sounds of summer the voice of Sigurd came,
And it seemed as a silver trumpet from the house of the fateful fame ;
And he spake : "Hail lady and queen ! hail, fairest of all the earth !
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Is it well with the hap of thy life-days, and thy kin and the house of thy birth?"

She said : "My kin is joyous, and my house is blooming fair.
And dead, both root and branches, is the tree of their travail and care."

He spake: "I have longed, I have wondered if thy heart were well at ease,
If the hope of thy days had blossomed and born thee fair increase."

4600

"O have thou thanks," said Brynhild, "for thine heart that speaketh kind !
Yea, the hope of my days is accomplished, and no more there is to find."

And again she spake in a space; "The road hath been weary and long,
But well hast thou ridden it, Sigurd, and the sons of God are strong."

He said: "I have sought, O Brynhild, and found the heart of thine home;
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And no man hath asked or holpen, and all unbidden I come."

She said : "O welcome hither ! for the heart of the King I knew,
And thine hope that overcometh, and thy will that nought shall undo."

"Unbidden I came," he answered, "yet it is but a little space
Since I heard thy voice on the mountain, and thy kind lips cherished my face"

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She rose from the dark-blue raiment, and trembling there she stood,
And no word her lips had gotten that her heart might deem it good :
And his heart went forth to meet her, yet nought he moved for a while,
Until the God-kin's laughter brake blooming from a smile
And he cried: "It is good, O Brynhild, that we draw exceeding near,
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Lest Odin mock Kings' children that the doom of fate they fear."

Then forth she stepped from the high-seat, and forth from the threshold he came,
Till both their bodies mingling seemed one glory and the same,
And far o'er all fulfillment did the souls within them long,
As at breast and at lips of the faithful the earthly love strained strong;
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And fresh from the deeps of the summer the breeze across them blew,
But nought of the earth's desire, or the lapse of time they knew.

Then apart, but exceeding nigh, for a little while they stand,
Till Brynhild toucheth her lord, and taketh his hand in her hand,
And she leadeth him through the chamber, and sitteth down in her seat;
And him she setteth beside her, and she saith:

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"It is right and meet
That thou sit in this throne of my fathers, since thy gift today I have :
Thou hast given it altogether, nor aught from me wouldst save ;
And thou knowest the tale of women, how oft it haps on a day
That of such gifts men repent them, and their lives are cast away."

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He said : "I have cast it away as the tiller casteth the seed,
That the summer may better the spring-tide, and the autumn winter's need
For what were the fruit of our lives if apart they needs must pass,
And men shall say hereafter : Woe worth the hope that was !"

She said : "That day shall dawn the best of all earthly days
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When we sit, we twain, in the high-seat in the hall of the people's praise :
Or else, what fruit of our life-days, what fruit of our death shall be ?
What fruit, save men's remembrance of the grief of thee and me?"

He said : "It is sharper to bear than the bitter sword in the breast.
O woe, to think of it now in the days of our gleaning of rest !"

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Said Brynhild : "I bid thee remember the word that I have sworn,
How the sun shall turn to blackness, and the last day be outworn
Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, and the kindness of thy face."

And they kissed and the day grew later and noon failed the golden place.
But Sigurd said : "O Brynhild, remember how I swore
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That the sun should die in the heavens and day come back no more,
Ere I forget thy wisdom and thine heart of inmost love,
Lo now, shall I unsay it, though the Gods be great above,
Though my life should last for ever, though I die tomorrow morn,
Though I win the realm of the world, though I sink to the thrall-folk's scorn ?"

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She said : "Thou shalt never unsay it, and thy heart is mine indeed :
Thou shalt bear my love in thy bosom as thou helpest the earth-folk's need :
Thou shalt wake to it dawning by dawning; thou shalt sleep and it shall not be strange :
There is none shall thrust between us till our earthly lives shall change.
Ah, my love shall fare as a banner in the hand of thy renown,
4655
In the arms of thy fame accomplished shall it lie when we lay us adown,
O deathless fame of Sigurd ! O glory of my lord !
O birth of the happy Brynhild to the measureless reward !"

So they sat as the day grew dimmer, and they looked on days to come,
And the fair tale speeding onward, and the glories of their home ;
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And they saw their crownfed children and the kindred of the kings,
And deeds in the world arising and the day of better things :
All the earthly exaltation, till their pomp of life should be passed.
And soft on the bosom of God their love should be laid at the last

But when words have a long while failed them, and the night is nigh at hand,
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They arise in the golden glimmer, and apart and anigh they stand :
Then Brynhild stooped to the Wrath, and touched the hilts of the sword,
Ere she wound her arms round Sigurd and cherished the lips of her lord :
Then sweet were the tears of Brynhild, and fast and fast they fell,
And the love that Sigurd uttered, what speech of song may tell ?

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But he turned and departed from her, and her feet on the threshold abode
As he went through the pillared feast-hall, and forth to the night he rode :
So he turned toward the dwelling of Heimir and his love and his fame seemed one,
And all full-well accomplished, what deeds soever were done ;
And the love that endureth for ever, and the endless hope he bore,
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As he faced the change of Heaven and the chance of worldly war.

 

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