VII. Of the Wedding of Sigurd the Volsung
That night sleeps Sigurd the Volsung, and awakes on the morrow-morn,
But the sun cometh up in the autumn, and the eve he remembereth,
And the word he hath given to Gudrun to love her to the death ;
And he longs for the Niblung maiden, that her love may cherish his heart,
Lest e'en as a Godhead banished he dwell in the world apart :
And doeth on his raiment and is fair apparelled ;
Then he goes his ways through the chambers, and greeteth none at all
Till he comes to the garth and the garden in the nook of the Niblung wall.
Now therein, mid the yellowing leafage, and the golden blossoms spent.
Swift then he hasteneth toward her, and she bideth his drawing near,
And now in the morn she trembleth ; for her love is blent with fear ;
And wonder is all around her, for she deemed till yestereve,
When she saw the earls astonied, and the golden Sigurd grieve,
And love hath made her humble, and her race doth she forget,
And her noble and mighty heart from the best of the Niblungs spung,
The sons of the earthly War-Gods of the days when the world was young.
Yea she feareth her love and his fame, but she feareth' his sorrow most,
But lo, the love of his eyen, and the kindness of his face !
And joy her body burdens, and she trembleth in her place,
And sinks in the arms that -cherish with a faint and eager cry.
And again on the bosom of Sigurd doth the head of Gudrun lie.
Fairer than yestereven doth Sigurd deem his love,
Then a little while they sunder, and apart and anigh they stand
Yea, though the Kings be mighty, and the Gods be great above,
I will wade the flood and the fire, and the waste of war forlorn
To look on the Niblung dwelling, and the house where thou wert born."
Strange seemed the words to Sigurd that his gathering love compelled,
But bright flashed the eyes of Gudrun, and she said : "King, as for me,
Ere my love shall fail, beloved, or my longing pass away !"
Now they go from the garth and the garden, and hand in hand they come
With the swart-haired Niblung brethren; and all these are exceeding fain,
When they look on Sigurd and Gudrun, and the peace that enwrappeth the twain.
For in her is all woe forgotten, sick longing little seen,
And the shame that slayeth pity, and the self-scorn of a Queen ;
Than a picture deftly painted by the craftsmen over sea ;
And her face is a rose of the morning by the night-tide framed about,
And the long-stored love of her bosom from her eyes is leaping out.
But how fair is Sigurd the King that beside her beauty goes !
How kind is the clasping right-hand, that hath smitten the battle acold !
How kind are the awful eyen that no foeman durst behold !
How sweet are the lips unsmiling, and the brow as the open day
What man can behold and believe it, that his life shall pass away ?
So he standeth proud by the high-seat, and the sun through the vast hall pours,
"O hearken, king of the Niblungs, O ancient of the days !
And to do and undo with the Kings, and the pride of the Kings to tame;
And I longed for the love of the King-folk ; but who desired my soul.
Who stayed my feet in his dwelling, who showed the weary the goal,
Who drew me forth from the wastes, and the bitter kinless dearth,
Count up the deeds and forbearings; count up the words of the days
That show forth the love of the Niblungs and the ancient people's praise
Nay, number the waves of the sea, and the grains of the yellow sand.
And the drops of the rain in the April, and the blades of the grassy land !
And hushed, and moved but softly lest one grain thereof should fall ?
If she feared the barren garden, and the sunless fallow field ?
How then should the spring-tide labour, and the summer toil to yield !
And so may the high Gods help me, as I from this day forth
If thou stretch thine hands forth, Giuki, and hail me for thy son :
Then there as thou sittst in thy grave-mound when thine earthly day is done,
Thou shalt hear of our children's children, and the crowned kin of kings,
And the peace of the Niblung people in the day of better things ;
In the day of the deeds of the Niblungs and the blossom of their fame.
Stretch forth thine hands to thy son : for I bid thy daughter to wife,
And her life shall withhold my death-day, and her death shall stay my life."
Then spoke the ancient Giuki : "Hail Sigurd, son of mine eld !
Now let me depart in peace, since I know for very sooth
That waxen e'en as the God-folk shall the Niblungs blossom in youth.
Come, take thy mother's greeting, and let thy brethren say
How well they love thee, Sigurd, and how fair they deem the day."
Then lowly bendeth Sigurd 'neath the guileful Grimhild's hand,
Hark now, on the morrow morning how the blast of the mighty horn
And the roads are gay with the riders, and the bull in the stall is left,
And the plough is alone in the'furrow,and the wedge in the bole half-cleft ;
And late shall the ewes be folded, and the kine come home to the pail.
And late shall the fires be litten in the outmost treeless dale :
And therein are the earls assembled and the kings wear purple and pall,
And the flowers are spread beneath them, and the bench-cloths beaten with gold ;
And the walls are strange and wondrous with the noble stories told :
For new-hung is the ancient dwelling with the golden spoils of the south,
And the name of Sigurd the Volsung, the King and the Serpent's Bane,
Who exalteth the high this morning and blesseth the masters of gain :
For men drink the bridal of Sigurd and the white-armed Niblung maid,
And the best with tlie best shall be mingled, and the gold with the gold o'erlaid.
So, fair in the hall is the feasting and men's hearts are uplifted on high,
Flows into the hall of Giuki by the doorway of the King,
And amid those flames of battle the war-clad warriors bring
The Cup of daring Promise and the hallowed Boar of Son,
And men's hearts grow big with longing and great is the hope-tide grown ;
And unwinds the knitted peace-strings that hamper Regin's Sword :
Then fierce is the light on the high-seat as men set down the Cup
Anigh the hand of Sigurd, and the edges blue rise up.
And fall on the hallowed Wood-beast : as a trump of the woeful war
"By the Earth that groweth and giveth, and by all the Earth's increase
By the prey of the Goths in the thicket and the holy Beast of Son,
I hallow me to Odin for a leader of his host,
To do the deeds of the Highest, and never count the cost :
And I swear, that whatso great-one shall show the day and the deed,
And I swear to seek no quarrel, nor to swerve aside for aught,
Though the right and the left be blooming, and the straight way wend to nought :
And I swear to abide and hearken the prayer of any thrall,
Though the war-torch be on the threshold and the foemen's feet in the hall :
Though the anguish past amending, and the unheard woe have birth :
And I swear to wend in my sorrow that none shall curse mine eyes
For the scowl that quelleth beseeching, and the hate that scometh the wise.
So help me Earth and Heavens, and the Under-sky and Seas,
And he drank of the Cup of the Promise, and fair as a star he shone,
Then came the girded maidens, and the slim earls' daughters poured.
And took oath as the Goths of aforetime in the hush of the people's feast :
"I will work for the craving of Kings, and accomplish the will of the great,
Nor ask what God withstandeth, nor hearken the tales of fate ;
When a King my life hath exalted, and wrought for my hope and my gain.
I shall bear forth the fame of the Niblungs through all that hindereth;
In my life shall I win great glory, and be merry in my death."
So sweareth the lovely war-king and drinketh of the Cup,
And bare is the blade of Hogni in the feast-hall over the Swine ;
Then he cries o'er the hallowed Wood-beast : "Earth, hearken, how I swear
Then if in the murder I laugh not, O Earth, remember my name.
And oft tell it aloud to the people for the Niblungs' fated shame !"
Then he drank of the Cup of the Promise, and all men hearkened and deemed
Then the linen-folded maidens of the earl-folk lift the gold ;
But now crieth Giuki the Ancient : "O fair sons, well have ye sworn,
Glad cries of earls rose upward and beat on the cloudy roof.
But Sigurd sitteth by Gudrun, and his heart is soft and kind,
And with yet another pity, lest his sorrow seen o'erweigh
Her fond desire's fulfillment, and her fair soul's blooming-day :
And many a word he frameth his kingly fear to hide,
And the tangle of his trouble, that her joy may well abide.
That oft she sayeth within her: How durst I dream of this?
How durst I hope for the days wherein I now shall dwell,
And that assurfed joyance whereof no tongue may tell ?
So fares the feast in glory till thin the night doth grow,
Then dight is the fateful bride-bed, and the Norns will hinder nought
That the feet of the Niblung Maiden to the chamber of Kings be brought.
And the troth is pledged and wedded, and the Norns cast nought before
The feet of Sigurd the Volsung and the bridal chamber-door.
All hushed was the house of the Niblungs, and they two were left alone
As one who hath prayed for a God in the dwelling of man to abide,
And he comes, and the face unfashioned his ruth and his mercy must hide.
She trembled and wept before him, till at last amidst her tears
The joy and the hope of women fell on her unawares,
And the bosom of Sigurd the Mighty, the hope of her earthly rest.
Then he spake as she hearkened and wondered : "With the Kings of men I rode,
When I met the overcomers, and beheld them overcome,
When we rent the spoil from the spoilers, and led the chasers home !
O, sweet was the day of the summer when we won the ancient towns,
And we stood in the golden bowers and took and gave the crowns !
And the life and the wealth unhoped for, and the hope to heal and save :
And sweet was the praise of the Niblungs, and dear was the song that arose
O'er the deed assured, accomplished, and the death of the people's foes !
O joyful deeds of the mighty ! O wondrous life of a King !
That but few of the people wot of, as he sits with face unmoved
In the place where kings have perished, in the seat of kings beloved !
His kind arms clung about her, and her face to his face he drew ;
And the love of my love is sweeter and these hours before the morn."
Again she trembled before him and knew not what she feared,
And in love her whole heart melted, and all thought passed away,
Save the thought of joy's fulfillment and the hours before the day ;
She murmured words of loving as his kind lips cherished her breast,
And the world waxed nought but lovely and a place of infinite rest.
But it was long thereafter ere the sun rose o'er their love,