Sigurd the Volsung

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

IX. How Brynhild was wedded to Gunnar the Niblung

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So wear the ten days over, and the morrow-morn is come.
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 !
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For the wind is up in the morning, and the may-blooms fall adown,
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,
And they ride o'er the bridge of the river adown the dusty way,
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Till they come on a lovely people, and the maids of war they meet.
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.
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As the lovely-wristed maidens on the summer ways they see.

But lo, mid the sweet-faced fellows there cometh a golden wain,
Like the wain of the sea be-shielded with the signs of the war-god's gain :
Snow-white are its harnessed yoke-beasts, and its bench-cloths are of blue
Inwrought with the written wonders that ancient women knew :
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But nought therein there sitteth save a crownfed queen alone.
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 :
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"Are ye the sons of the Niblungs, and the folk I came to find,
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 ;
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And high aloft, half-hearkened, rang the joyance of the horn,
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 :
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"Is this the house of Gunnar, and the man I swore to wed?"

But she hearkened the cry from the gateway and the hollow of the door :
"Yea this is the dwelling of Gunnar, and the house of the God of War :
There is none of the world so mighty, be he outland King or Goth,
Save Sigurd the mighty Volsung and the brother of his troth."

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Then spake Brynhild and said : "Lo, a house of ancient Kings,
Wrought for great deeds' fulfillment, and the birth of noble things !
Be the bloom of the earth upon it, and the hope of the heavens above !
May peace and joy abide there, and the full content of love !
And when our days are done with, and we lie alow in rest.
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May its lords returning homeward still deem they see the best !"

She spake with voice unfaltering, and the golden wain moved on.
And all men deemed who heard her that great gifts their home had won.

So she passed through the dusk of the doorway, and the cave of the war-fain folk,
Wherein the echoing horse-hoofs as the sound of swords awoke.
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And the whispering wind of the may-tide from the cloudy wall smote back,
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,
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And the huge hall riseth before her, and the ernes cry out from its height,
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.
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And ruddy and bright is his visage, and his black locks wave in the wind.
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
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Through the waves of the Flickering Fire to the door of mine abode,
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:
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And for thee I deem was I fashioned, and for thee the oath I swore
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 !
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May no hope from thine eyes be hidden of the day of better things !
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 !'
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All this may the high Gods give thee, and thereto a gift I give,
The body of Queen Brynhild so long as both we live."

With unmoved face, unfaltering, the blessing-words she said,
But the joy sprang up in Gunnar and increased his goodlihead,
And he cast his arms about her and kissed her on the mouth,
And he said :
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"The gift is greater than all treasure of the south :
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.
And he said : "Now take the greetings of my men, the most of worth."

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Then she turned her face to the war-dukes, and hearkened to their praise,
And she spake in few words sweetly, and blessed their coming days.
Then again spake Gunnar and said : "Lo, Hogni my brother is this ;
But Guttorm is far on the East-seas, and seeketh the warrior's bliss ;
A third there is of my brethren, and my house holds none so great ;
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In the hall by the side of my sister thy face doth he await"

Then Brynhild turned unto Hogni, and he greeted her fair and well,
And she prayed all blessings upon him, and a tale that the world should tell :
Then again she spake unto Gunnar: "I had deemed ye had been but three.
Who sprang from the loins of Giuki ; is this fourth akin unto thee,
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This hall-abider the mighty?"
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."

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She heard the name, and she changed not, but her feet went forth as he led.
And under the cloudy roof-tree Queen Brynhild bowed her head.
Then, were there a man so ancient as had lived beyond his peers
On the earth, that beareth all things, a twice-told tale of years,
He had heard no sound so mighty as the shout that shook the wall
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When Brynhild's feet unhearkened first trod the Niblung hall.
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.
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And men look round and shudder, so Grimhild came between
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,
As thy love for me, the stranger, was past the pain of words !
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Mayst thou see thy son's sons glorious in the meeting of the swords !
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,
And nought from the eyes of Brynhild the high-seat now did bide ;
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And the face so long desired, unchanged from time agone.
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
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With the words she spake on Hindfell, when they plighted troth of love.

Lo, Sigurd fair on the high-seat by the white-armed Gudrun's side,
In the midst of the Cloudy People, in the dwelling of their pride !
His face is exceeding glorious and awful to behold ;
For of all his sorrow he knoweth and his hope smit dead and cold :
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The will of the Norns is accomplished, and, lo, they wend on their ways,
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,
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And nought now shall blind or help him, and the tale shall be to tell :
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 :
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And his glory his heart restraineth, and restraineth the hand of the strong
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 ;
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And the hours betwixt are as nothing, and their deeds are fallen away
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,
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— Lo, such is the high Gods' sorrow, and men know nought thereof.
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
As men may note delaying, she looketh on Sigurd's face,
Ere she saith :
"I have greeted many in the Niblungs' house today,
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And for thee is the last of my greetings ere the feast shall wear away :
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."

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All grief, sharp scorn, sore longing, stark death in her voice he knew,
But gone forth is the doom of the Norns, and what shall he answer thereto,
While the death that amendeth lingers? and they twain shall dwell for awhile
In the Niblung house together by the hearth that forged the guile ;
Yet amid the good and the guileless, and the love that thought no wrong,
6430
Shall they fashion the deeds to remember, and the fame that endureth for long :
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 :

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"Hail, fairest of all things fashioned ! hail thou desire of eyes !
Hail chooser of the mightiest, and teacher of the wise !
Hail wife of my brother Gunnar ! in might may thy days endure,
And in peace without a trouble that the world's weal may be sure !"

She heard and turned unto Gunnar as a queen that seeketh her place.
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But to Gudrun she gave no greeting, nor beheld the Niblung's face.
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.
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And turned to her lord beside her with many a word of love.

But the song sprang up in the hall, and the eagles cried from above
And forth to the freshness of May went the joyance of the feast :
And Sigurd sat with the Niblungs, and gave ear to most and to least.
And showed no sign to the people of the grief that on him lay ;
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Nor seemeth he worser to any than he was on the yesterday.

 

 

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