V. Of Sigurd's warfaring in the company of the Niblungs, and of his great fame and glory
Now gone is the summer season and the harvest of the year,
Though the swooping mountain tempest howl round their ridgy ness,
Though a house of the windy battle their streeted burg be grown,
Though the heaped-up, huddled cloud-drift be their very hall-roofs crown,
Though the rivers bear the burden, and the Rime-Gods grip and strive,
But lo, in the stark midwinter how the war is smitten awake.
For the hurrying wind of the mountains has borne them tale of wars.
Lo now, in the court of the warriors they gather for the fray.
Before the sun's uprising, in the moonless morn of day;
And the spears by the dusk gate glimmer, and the torches shine on the wall,
Then the grey dawn beats on the mountains mid a drift of frosty snow,
And all men the face of Sigurd mid the swart-haired Niblungs know;
And they see his gold gear glittering mid the red fur and the white,
And high are the hearts uplifted by the hope of happy fight;
And their hearts rejoice beforehand o'er the fall of conquered lords :
And they see the Helm of Aweing and the awful eyes beneath,
And they deem the victory glorious, and fair the warrior's death.
So forth through that cave of the gate from the Niblung Burg they fare,
And the place of the slaked earth-forges, as the eastering wind shall lead,
And but few swords bide behind them the Niblung Burg to heed.
But lo, in the jaws of the mountains how few and small they seem.
As dusky-strange in the snow-drifts their knitted hauberks gleam:
How wide in the winter season the citied lealand lies :
Lo, how the beacons are flaring, and the bell-swayed steeples rock.
And the gates of cities are shaken with the back-swung door-leaves' shock :
And, lo, the terror of towns, and the land that the winter wards,
But the slaves of the Kings are gathered, and their host the battle abides,
When the fish lie still in the eddies, and the rain-flood draweth anear.
Now sheathed is the Wrath of Sigurd; for as wax withstands the flame,
And they sing of the golden Sigurd and the face without a foe,
And the lowly man exalted and the mighty brought alow:
And they say, when the sun of summer shall come aback to the land,
It shall shine on the fields of the tiller that fears no heavy hand;
Through every furrowed acre where the. Son of Sigmund rode.
Full dear was Sigurd the Volsung to all men most and least.
For whosoever feared him, no little-one, forsooth,
Would shrink from the shining eyes and the hand that clave out truth
From the heart of the wrack and the battle : it was then, as his gold gear burned
O'er the balks of the bridge and the river, that oft the mother turned,
When I from the world am departed, and whiles a-nights ye hear
The best of man-folk longing for the least of Sigurd's days,
Thou shalt hearken to their story, till they tell forth all his praise,
And become beloved and a wonder, as thou sayst when all is sung,
Men say that the white-armed Gudrun, the lovely Giuki's child,
And dead full oft on the death-field shall the hope of their lives abide ;
Nor must they fear beforehand, nor weep when all is o'er ;
But thou, our guest and our stranger, thou goest to the war,
And who knows but thine hand may carry the hope of all the earth ;
Nor wilt scorn the child of a Niblung that prays for things to come,
Pledge me for thy glad returning, and the sheaves of fame borne home !"
He laughed, for his heart was merry for the seed of battle sown.
Be merry. Maid of the Niblungs, for these are the prayers that win !"
He drank, and the soul within him to the love and the glory turned,
But again when the bolt of battle on the sleeping kings had been hurled,
And once more in that hall of the stories was dight triumphant feast,
And in joy of soul past telling sat all men most and least,
There stood the daughter of Giuki by the king-folk's happy board,
And grave and stem was Gudrun as the wine of kings she poured :
But Sigurd smiled upon her, and he said :
For thy pledge's fair redeeming, and the hope of thy kindly voice !
Thou hast prayed for the guest and the stranger, and, lo, from the battle and wrack
Is the hope of the Niblungs blossomed, and thy brethren's lives come back."
She turned and looked upon him, and the flush ran over her face,
But still was her visage troubled, as she said: "Hast thou called me kind
Because I feared for earth's glory when point and edge are blind ?
But now is the night as the day, when thou bringest my brethren home
And back in the arms of thy glory the Niblung hope has come."
But his eyes look kind upon her, and the trouble passeth away,
Now spring o'er the winter prevaileth, and the blossoms brighten the field;
Now the isle-abiders tremble, and the dwellers by the sea.
And the nesses flare with the beacons, and the shepherds leave the lea,
As the tale of the golden warrior speeds on from isle to isle.
Now spread is the snare of treason, and cast is the net of guile.
And whiles and again for a little the fair fields gleam with the sword.
And the host of the isle-folk gather, nigh numberless of tale :
But how shall its bulk and its writhing the willow-log avail
When the red flame lives amidst it ? Lo now, the golden man
How he wends with the swart-haired Niblungs through the mazes of the streets,
And the hosts of the conquered outlands and their uncouth praying meets.
There he wonders at their life-days and their fond imaginings,
As he bears the love of Brynhild through the houses of the kings,
And he laughs to scorn the treasure where thieves break through and steal,
And the moth and the rust are corrupting : and he thinks the time is long
Till the dawning of love's summer from the cloudy days of wrong.
So they raise and abase and alter, then turn about and ride,
And they bear their glory away to the mouth of the fishy stream,
And again in the Niblung lealand doth the Welsh-wrought war-gear gleam,
And they come to the Burg of the Niblungs and the mighty gate of war,
And betwixt the gathered maidens through its dusky depths they pour,
In the windless cloudless even and the ending of the spring ;
Yea, they sing the song of Sigurd and the face without a foe,
And they sing of the prison's rending and the tyrant laid alow.
And the golden thieves' abasement, and the stilling of the churl.
And they sing of the outland maidens that thronged round Sigurd's hand,
And sung in the streets of the foemen of the war-delivered land ;
And they tell how the ships of the merchants come free and go at their will,
And how wives in peace and safety may crop the vine-clad hill ;
And forget the kings of grasping and the greedy days of gloom ;
For by sea and hill and township hath the Son of Sigmimd been,
And looked on the folk unheeded, and the lowly people seen.
Then into the hall of the Niblungs go the battle-staying earls,
And the gold-enwoven purple that on hated kings was bright ;
Fair jewelled swords accursed that never flashed in fight;
Crowns of old kings of battle that dastards dared to wear ;
Great golden shields dishonoured, and the traitors' battle-gear ;
And the cloud-wrought silken raiment of the cruel whores of kings.
And they cried : "O King of the people, O Giuki old of years,
Lo, the wealth that Sigurd brings thee from the fashioners of tears !
Take thou the gift, O Niblung, that the Volsung seed hath brought !
And we fought in the traitorous city, and the murder-halls of kings ;
And Sigurd showed us the treasure, and won us the ruddy rings
From the jaws of the treason and death, and redeemed our lives from the snare,
That the uttermost days might know it, and the day of the Niblungs be fair:
And sit in their thrones of the heaven, of the praise of the people fain."
Then Sigurd passed through the hall, and fair was the light of his eyes.
But he stood in the sight of the people, and sweet he was to see,
And no foe and no betrayer, and no envier now hath he :
But Gunnar the bright in the battle deems him his earthly friend.
And Hogni is fain of his fellow, howso the day's work end.
And all these would shine beside him in the glory of his path ;
There is none to hate or hinder, or mar the golden day,
And the light of love flows plenteous, as the sun-beams hide the way.
Now there was the white-armed Gudrun, the lovely Giuki's child,
And the dear hope fainted in her : I am frail and weak, she saith,
And he so great and glorious with the eyes that look on death !
Yet she comes, and speaks before him as she bears the golden horn :
"The world is glad, O Sigurd, that ever thou wert born,
That I, a deedless maiden, may thank thee well for this !"
So he drank of the cup at her bidding and laughed, and said, "Forsooth,
She smiled and departed from him, and there in the cloudy hall
So fares the tale of Sigurd through all kingdoms of the earth.
Are nought, and vain and empty in setting forth his grace,
And the unmatched words of his wisdom, and the glory of his face.
Came the wise men too from the outlands, and the lords of singers' fame
That men might know hereafter the deeds that knew his name ;
And cherished the tree of his glory, and lived glad in the joy thereof.
But men say that howsoever all other folk of earth
He rejoiceth, and she droopeth ; he speaks and hushed is she ;
He beholds the world's days coming, nought but Sigurd may she see ;
He is wise and her wisdom falters ; he is kind, and harsh and strange
Comes the voice from her bosom laden, and her woman's mercies change.
And her heart is the ravening fire, and the fretting sorrows' hoard.
Ah, shall she not wander away to the wilds and the wastes of the deer,
Woe worth the while for her sorrow, and her hope of life forlorn !
— Woe worth the while for her loving, and the day when she was born !