IV. Of Sigurd's riding to the Niblungs
What aileth the men of Lymdale, that their house is all astir?
Have the neat-herds seen the banners of the drivers of the prey ?
No, the forest shall be empty of the Lymdale men this morn,
Yet full is the hall of Heimir with eager earls of war.
And the long-locked happy shepherds are gathered round the door.
And the smith has left his stithy, and the wife has left her rock.
And the bright thrums hang unwinded by the maiden's weaving-stock :
And scarce shall you tell what moves them, much sorrow or great joy.
But lo, as they gather and hearken by the door of Heimir's hall,
And the words of the Gods' own fellow, and the hope of days gone by ;
Then deep is that song-speech laden with the deeds that draw anigh,
And many a hope accomplished, and many an unhoped change,
And things of all once spoken, now grown exceeding strange ;
And the hearts of men went with it, as of them that meet the foes ;
Then soared the song triumphant as o'er the world well won,
Till sweet and soft it ended as a rose falls 'neath the sun;
But thereafter was there silence till the earls cast up the shout,
And folk fell back before them ; then forth the earl-folk pour,
And forth comes Heimir the Ancient and stands by his fathers' door :
And then is the feast-hall empty and none therein abides ;
For forth on the cloudy Greyfell the Son of Sigmund rides,
That hath not its like in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told,
And the Wrath to his side is girded, though the peace-strings wind it round.
Yet oft and again it singeth, and strange is its sheathed sound :
But beneath the King in his war-gear and beneath the wondrous Sword
And light goes Greyfell beneath it, and oft and o'er again
He neighs out hope of battle, for the heart of the beast is fain.
So there sitteth Sigurd the Volsung, and is dight to ride his ways.
And he crieth kind and joyous as the reins lie loose in his hand :
"Farewell, O folk of Lymdale, and your joy of the summer-tide !
For the acres whiten, meseemeth, and the harvest-field is wide :
"Who knows of the toil that shall be, when the reaping-hook gleams grey,
Who knows of the joy that shall be, when the reaper cometh again,
And his sheaves are crowned with the blossoms, and the song goes up from the wain ?
But now let the Gods look to it, to hinder or to speed !
But the love and the longing I know, and I know the hand and the deed."
And he gathered the reins together, and set his face to the road,
But Greyfell fareth onward, and back to the dusky hall
Now goeth the ancient Heimir, and back to bower and stall.
And back to hammer and shuttle go earl and carle and quean ;
And piping in the noon-tide adown the hollows green
And all hearts a dear remembrance and a hope of Sigurd keep.
But forth by dale and lealand doth the Son of Sigmund wend,
Grey, huge beyond all telling, and the host of the heaped clouds,
The black and the white together, on that rock-wall's coping crowds ;
But whiles are rents athwart them, and the hot sun pierceth through,
And there glow the angry cloud-caves 'gainst the everlasting blue,
The scars of fires that have been show grim and dusky-red ;
And lower yet are the hollows striped down by the scanty green,
And lingering flecks of the cloud-host are tangled there-between,
White, pillowy, lit by the sun, unchanged by the drift of the wind.
>Long Sigurd looked and marvelled, and up-raised his heart and his mind ;
But red was the cloudy crown, for the sun was sinking fair :
A wide plain lay beneath him, and a river through it wound
Betwixt the lea and the acres, and the misty orchard ground ;
But forth from the feet of the mountains a ridged hill there ran
And Sigurd deemed in his heart as he looked on the burg from afar,
That the high Gods scarce might win it, if thereon they fell with war ;
So many and great were the walls, so bore the towers on high
The threat of guarded battle, and the tale of victory.
Ere he come to the gate well warded, and the walls' beleaguerment ;
For his heart is eager to hearken what men-folk therein dwell
And the name of that noble dwelling, and the tale that it hath to tell.
So he rides by the tilth of the acres, 'twixt the overhanging trees,
Till he comes to the flood of the river, and looks up from the balks of the bridge;
Then how was the plain grown little 'neath that mighty burg of the ridge
O'erhung by the cloudy mountains and the ash of another day.
Whereto the slopes clomb upward till the green died out in the grey,
Round the snows no summers minish and the far-off sunset flame :
But lo, the burg at the ridge-end ! have the Gods been building again
Since they watched the aimless Giants pile up the wall of the plain,
The house for none to dwell in ? Or in what days lived the lord
Or was not the Smith at his work, and the blast of his forges awake,
And the world's heart poured from the mountain for that ancient people's sake ?
For as waves on the iron river of the days whereof nothing is told
Stood up the many towers, so stark and sharp and cold ;
Is the wall that goeth about them ; and its mighty compass hides
Full many a dwelling of man whence the reek now goeth aloft,
And the voice of the house-abiders, the sharp sounds blent with the soft :
But one house in the midst is unhidden and high up o'er the wall it goes ;
And down mid its buttressed feet is the wind's voice never still ;
And the day and the night pass o'er it and it changes to their will,
And whiles is it glassy and dark, and whiles is it white and dead,
And whiles is it grey as the sea-mead, and whiles is it angry red ;
And dusk its gold roof glimmers when the rain-clouds over it swarm,
And bright in the first of the morning its flame doth it uplift,
When the light clouds rend before it and along its furrows drift.
Upriseth the heart of Sigurd, but ever he rideth forth
Then e'en as a wind from the mountains he heareth the warders' speech.
As aloft in the mighty towers they clamour each to each :
Then horn to horn blew token, and far and shrill they cried,
And he heard, as the fishers hearken the cliff-fowl over the tide :
Bored out in the isles of the northland by the beat of the restless wave ;
And the noise of the winds was within it, and the sound of swords unseen,
As the night when the host is stirring and the hearts of Kings are keen.
But no man stayed or hindered, and the dusk place knew his smile,
And looked aloft to the hall-roof, high up and grey as the cloud,
For the sun was wholly perished ; and there he crieth aloud :
"Ho, men of this mighty burg, to what folk of the world am I come ?
Or murder-churls and destroyers to gain and die by the sword ?"
Then the spears in the forecourt glitteredand the swords shone over the wall,
There were many men about him, and the wind in the wall-nook sang,
And the spears of the Niblungs glittered, and the swords in the forecourt rang.
But they looked on his face in the even, and they hushed their voices and gazed,
For fear and great desire the hearts of men amazed.
Now cometh an earl to King Giuki as he sits in godlike wise
But he beareth a Helm of Aweing and a Hauberk all of gold,
That hath not its like in the heavens nor has earth of its fellow told ;
And strange is all his raiment, and he beareth a Dwarf-wrought sword,
And his war-steed beareth beneath him red rings of a mighty Hoard,
And his eyes are bright in the even, and we deem him mighty indeed,
And our hearts are upraised at his coming ; but how shall I tell thee or say
If he be a King of the Kings and a lord of the earthly day,
Or if rather the Gods be abroad and he be one of these ?
So choose herein, King Giuki, wilt thou bid the man begone
To his house of the earth or the heavens, lest a worser deed be won,
Or wilt thou bid him abide in the Niblung peace and love ?
And meseems if thus thou doest, thou shalt never repent thee thereof."
Then uprose the King of the Niblungs, and was clad in purple and pall,
As the King saith : "Gold-bestrider, who into our garth wouldst ride.
Wilt thou tell thy name to a King, who biddeth thee here abide
And have all good at our hands ? for unto the Niblungs' home
And the heart of a war-fain people from the weary road are ye come ;
Look not to see me tremble ; for I know of such that have trod
Unfeared in the Burg of the Niblungs ; nor worser, nor better at all
May fare the folk of the Gods than the Kings in Giuki's hall ;
So I bid thee abide in my house, and when many days are o'er,
Then all rejoiced at his word till the swords on the bucklers rang,
Since my father was old in the world ere the deed of my making was won ;
But Sigmund the Volsung he was, full ripe of years and of fame ;
And I, who have never beheld him, am Sigurd called of name ;
Too young in the world am I waxen that a tale thereof should be told,
And broken the bonds of the weary, and ridden the Wavering Fire.
But short is mine errand to tell, and the end of my desire :
For peace I bear unto thee, and to all the kings of the earth.
Who bear the sword aright, and are crowned with the crown of worth ;
And the edge of the sword to the traitor, and the flame to the slanderous breath :
And I would that the loving were loved, and I would that the weary should sleep,
And that man should hearken to man, and that he that soweth should reap.
Now wide in the world would I fare, to seek the dwellings of Kings,
So I thank thee, lord, for thy bidding, and here in thine house will I bide,
And learn of thine ancient wisdom till forth to the field we ride."
Glad then was the murmur of folk, for the tidings had gone forth,
And here mayst thou win thee fellows for the days of the peace and the sword ;
For not lone in the world have I lived, but sons from my loins have sprung,
Whose deeds with the rhyme are mingled, and their names with the people's tongue."
Then he took his hand in his hand, and into the hall they passed,
And they rang from the glassy pillars, and the Gods on the hangings stirred,
And afar the clustering eagles on the golden roof-ridge heard,
And cried out on the Sword of the Branstock as they cried in the other days :
Then the harps rang out in the hall, and men sang in Sigurd's praise ;
Swept over the soul of Sigurd, and his fathers seemed anigh ;
And he looked to the cloudy hall-roof, and anigh seemed Odin the Goth,
And the Valkyrs holding the garland, and the crown of love and of troth ;
And his soul swells up exalted, and he deems that high above,
And she stoops to the cloudy feast-hall, and the wavering wind is her voice,
And her odorous breath floats round him, as she bids her King rejoice.
But now on the dais he meeteth the kin of Giuki the wise :
Lo, here is Hogni that holdeth the wisdom tried in the fire ;
Lo, here is Guttorm the youngest, who longs for the meeting swords;
Lo, here, as a rose in the oak-boughs, amid the Niblung lords
Is the Maid of the Niblungs standing, the white-armed Giuki's child ;
So Grimhild greeted the guest, and she deemed him fair and sweet,
And he smiled as the winter sun on the shipless ocean's rim.
Then greeted him Guttorm the young, and cried out that his heart was glad
That the Volsung lived in their house, that a King of the Kings they had.
Then silent awhile the Maiden, the fair-armed Gudrun, stood,
But at last the gold she taketh, and before him doth she stand,
And she poureth the wine of King-folk, and stretcheth forth her hand,
And she saith : "Hail Sigurd the Volsung ! may I see thy joy increase,
And thy shielded sons beside thee, and thy days grown old in peace !"
And he took the cup from her hand, and drank, while his heart rejoiced
So the Niblungs feast glad-hearted through the undark night and kind,
On the road their lives have wended ere that happiest night of nights.
And the careless days and quiet seem but thieves of their delights;
For their hearts go forth before them toward the better days to come.
When all the world of glory shall be called the Niblungs' home :
The birds break out a-singing for the world's face waxen gay.
And they flutter there in the blossoms, and run through the dewy grass,
As they sing the joy of the spring-tide, that bringeth the summer to pass ;
And they deem that for them alone was the earth wrought long ago,
So fared the feast of the Niblungs on the eve that Sigurd came
In the day of their deeds triumphant, and the blossom of their fame.