IX. How Brynhild was wedded to Gunnar the Niblung
And the light-foot expectation flits through the Niblung home.
And the girded hope is ready, and all people are astir,
When the voice of the keen-eyed watchman from the topmost tower they hear
"Look forth from the Burg, O Niblungs, and the war-gate of renown !
And the sun on the earth is shining, and the clouds are small and high,
And here is a goodly people and an army drawing anigh."
Then horsed are the sons of the earl- folk, and their robes are glittering-gay,
Whose cloaks are blue and broidered, and their girded linen sweet ;
And they ride on the roan and the grey, and the dapple-grey and the red,
And many a bloom of the may-tide on their crispy locks is shed :
Fair, young are the sons of the earl-folk, and they laugh for love and glee.
But lo, mid the sweet-faced fellows there cometh a golden wain,
Swan-white on the dark-blue bench-cloths and the carven ivory throne ;
Abashed are sons of the earl-folk of their laughter and their glee.
When the glory of Queen Brynhild on the summer ways they see.
But they hear the voice of the woman, and her speech is soft and kind :
O young men fair and lovely ? So may your days be long.
And grow in gain and glory, and fail of grief and wrong !"
Then they hailed her sweet and goodly, and back again they rode
By the bridge o'er the rushing river to the gate of their abode ;
And the cry of the Ancient People from their walls of war was borne
O'er the tilth of the plain, and the meadows, and the sheep-fed slopes that lead
From the God-built wall of the mountains to the blossoms of the mead.
Then up in the wain stood Brynhild, and her voice was sweet as she said :
But she hearkened the cry from the gateway and the hollow of the door :
Then spake Brynhild and said : "Lo, a house of ancient Kings,
She spake with voice unfaltering, and the golden wain moved on.
So she passed through the dusk of the doorway, and the cave of the war-fain folk,
And cried in the crown of the roof- arch of battle and the wrack ;
And the voice of maidens sounded as kings' cries in the day of the wrath,
When the flame is on the threshold and the war-shields strew the path.
So fair in the sun of the forecourt doth Brynhild's wain shine bright,
And there by the door of the Niblungs she sees huge warriors stand,
Dark-clad, by the shoulders greater than the best of any land,
And she knoweth the chiefs of the Niblungs, the dreaded dukes of war :
But one in cloudy raiment stands a very midst the door.
And she knoweth the King of the Niblungs and the man she came to find :
Then nought she lingered nor loitered, but stepped to the earth adown
With right-hand reached to the War-God, the wearer of the crown ;
And she said :
"I behold thee, Gunnar, the King of War that rode
To lie by my side in the even, and waken in the morn ;
And for this I needs must deem thee the best of all men born,
The highest hearted, the greatest, the staunchest of thy love :
And that such the world yet holdeth, my heart is fain thereof:
In the days of my glory and wisdom, ere the days of youth were o'er.
May the bloom of the earth be upon thee, and the hope of the heavens above,
May the blessing of days be upon thee, and the full content of love !
Mayst thou see our children's children, and the crowned kin of kings !
May the fire ne'er stay thy glory, nor the ocean-flood thy fame !
Through ages of all ages may the wide world praise thy name !
Yea oft may the word be spoken when low we lie at rest ;
'It befell in the days of Gunnar, the happiest and the best !'
The body of Queen Brynhild so long as both we live."
With unmoved face, unfaltering, the blessing-words she said,
As glad as my heart this moment, so glad may be thy life.
And the world be never weary of the joy of Gunnar's wife ! "
She spake no word, and smiled not, but she held his hand henceforth.
Then she turned her face to the war-dukes, and hearkened to their praise,
Then Brynhild turned unto Hogni, and he greeted her fair and well,
He said : "He is nought of our blood.
But the Gods have sent him to usward to work us measureless good :
It is even Sigurd the Volsung, the best man ever born,
The man that the Gods withstand not, my friend, and my brother sworn."
She heard the name, and she changed not, but her feet went forth as he led.
No whit the clamour stirred her ; but her godlike eyes she raised
And betwixt the hedge of the earl-folk on the golden high-seat gazed.
And the man that sat by Gudrun : but e'en as the rainless cloud
Ere the first of the tempest ariseth the latter sun doth shroud.
The silent golden Sigurd and the eyes of the mighty Queen,
And again heard Brynhild greeting, and again she spake and said :
"O Mother of the Niblungs, such hap be on thine head,
Mayst thou sleep and doubt thee nothing of the fortunes of thy race !
Mayst thou hear folk call yon high-seat the earth's most happy place !"
Then the Wise-wife hushed before her, and a little fell aside,
In the house of the Cloudy People from the Niblung high-seat shone :
She stood with her hand in Gunnar's, and all about and around
Were the unfamiliar faces, and the folk that day had found;
But her heart ran back through the years, and yet her lips did move
Lo, Sigurd fair on the high-seat by the white-armed Gudrun's side,
And leave the mighty Sigurd to deal with the latter days :
The Gods look down from heaven, and the lonely King they see,
And sorrow over his sorrow, and rejoice in his majesty.
For the will of the Norns is accomplished, and outworn is Grimhild's spell,
He hath seen the face of Brynhild, and he knows why she hath come,
And that his is the hand that hath drawn her to the Cloudy People's home :
He knows of the net of the days, and the deeds that the Gods have bid,
And no whit of the sorrow that shall be from his wakened soul is hid :
From the hope of the fools of desire and the wrong that amendeth wrong;
And he seeth the ways of the burden till the last of the uttermost end.
But for all the measureless anguish, and the woe that nought may amend.
His heart speeds back to Hindfell, and the dawn of the wakening day ;
As he looks on the face of Brynhild ; and nought is the Niblung folk,
But they two are again together, and he speaketh the words he spoke.
When he swore the love that endureth, and the truth that knoweth not change;
And Brynhild's face drew near him with eyes grown stern and strange,
Who cry out o'er their undoing, and wail o'er broken love.
Now she stands on the floor of the high-seat, and for e'en so little a space
Hail, Sigurd, son of the Volsungs ! hail lord of Odin's storm !
Hail rider of the wasteland and slayer of the Worm !
If aught thy soul shall desire while yet thou livest on earth,
I pray that thou mayst win it, nor forget its might and worth."
All grief, sharp scorn, sore longing, stark death in her voice he knew,
And oft shall he look on Brynhild, and oft her words shall he hear,
And no hope and no beseeching in his inmost heart shall stir.
So he spake as a King of the people in whom all fear is dead.
And his anguish no man noted, as the greeting-words he said :
"Hail, fairest of all things fashioned ! hail thou desire of eyes !
She heard and turned unto Gunnar as a queen that seeketh her place.
Then up stood the wife of Sigurd and strove with the greeting-word,
But the cold fear rose in her heart, and the hate within her stirred,
And the greeting died on her lips, and she gazed for a moment or twain
On the lovely face of Brynhild, and so sat in the high-seat again.
But the song sprang up in the hall, and the eagles cried from above