XI. Gunnar talketh with Brynhild
On the morrow awakeneth Gudrun; and she speaketh with Sigurd and saith
"Yea," Sigurd said, "is it so ? as a great queen she goes upon earth,
"It was other than this," said Gudrun, "that I deemed her yesterday;
"Is it so?" saith Sigurd the Volsung, "Ah, I sore misdoubt me then,
"Why grieveth she so," said Gudrun, "a queen so mighty and wise,
"Where then in the world was Brynhild,"said he, "when she spake that word,
Then was Sigurd silent a little, and Gudrun spake no more ;
Till, lo, the voice of the Volsung, and the speech came forth from him.
"Hearken, Gudrun my wife ; the season is nigh at hand,
That Brynhild was my beloved in the tide and the season of youth ;
And as great as is thy true-love, e'en so was her love and her truth.
But for this cause thus have I spoken, that the tale of the night hast thou told,
And cast the word unto Brynhild, and shown her the token of gold.
Since I betrayed her unwitting. — Yet grieve not, Gudun my wife !
For cloudy of late were the heavens with many a woven lie,
And now is the clear of the twilight, when the slumber draweth anigh.
But call up the soul of the Niblungs, and harden thine heart to bear,
Yea, thou wottest it even as I ; but I see thine heart arise,
And the soul of the mighty Niblungs, and fair is the love in thine eyes"
Then forth went the King from the chamber to the council of the Kings
And his eyen were nothing dimmer than on many a joyous tide.
But abed lay Brynhild the Queen, as a woman dead she lay,
Then uprose Gunnar the Niblung, and he went to Brynhild his wife,
Of wise speech of his mother Grimhiid, and many a warning word :
But he spake :
"Art thou smitten of God, unto whom shall we cast the prayer?
Art thou wronged by one of the King-folk, for whom shall the blades be bare? "
Belike she never heard him ; she lay in her misery,
But ill thoughts arose in Gunnar, and remembrance of the speech
Erst spoken low by Grirmhild ; yet he turned his heart to beseech,
And he spake again :
"O Brynhild, if I ever made thee glad,
If the glory of the great-ones of my gift thine heart hath had,
Tell now of thy toil and thy trouble that we each of each may be fain ! "
Nought spake she, nothing she moved, and the tears were dried on her cheek;
How they bore no God's constraining, and rode through the wrong and the right
That the storm of their wrath might quicken, and their tempest carry the light.
The words of his mother he gathered and the wrath-flood over him rolled,
And with it came many a longing, that his heart had never told.
And the fame of the earth unquestioned and the mastery over kings.
And he sole King in the world-throne, unequalled, unconstrained ;
And with wordless wrath he fretted at the bonds that his glory had chained
And the bitter anger stirred him, and at last he spake and cried :
"How long, O all-wise Brynhild, like the dead wilt thou abide,
Like a serpent amidst of the treasure that the day makes glorious."
Yet never a word she answered, nor unto the great King turned,
"O who art thou, fearful woman? art thou one of the first of the dead?
Then she raised herself on her elbow and turned her eyes on the King :
And look in thy face at the chess-play, and drink of thy carven cup,
And whisper a word in season when the voice of the wise goes up.
And speak thee the speech of kindness by the hallowed Niblung hearth.
O swear it, King of the Niblungs, lest thine honour die of the dearth !
And I be but a wretch and a bondmaid for a year's embracing bought !"
Till his heart hath heard her meaning at the golden bed he stares.
So he turns from her face and the chamber with his glory so undone.
That he saith the Gods did evil when the mighty work they won,
And wrought the Burg of the Niblungs, and fashioned his fathers' days.
And led them on to the harvest of the deeds and the people's praise.
And the war without hope or honour, and the strife without reward.
So alone he goeth his ways, and the morn to the noontide falls.
Alone of the Kings in the Doom-ring, and the council of the wise.
By the street and the wharf and the burg-gate he shines in the people's eyes ;
Stately and lovely to look on he heareth of good and of ill.
And he knitteth up and divideth, with life and death at his will.