XV. Of the passing away of Brynhild
Once more on the morrow-morning fair shineth the glorious sun,
Nor cloths in the Southlands woven, nor webs of untold price :
The work grows, toil is as nothing ; long blasts of the mighty horn
From the topmost tower out-wailing o'er the woeful world are borne.
But Brynhild lay in her chamber, and her women went and came,
But whiles they deemed her weeping, and whiles they deemed indeed
That she spake, if they might but hearken, but no words their ears might heed ;
Till at last she spake out clearly :
"I know not what ye would ;
For ye come and go in my chamber, and ye seem of wavering mood
Or to bid my days of sorrow midst nameless folly go."
None answered the word of Brynhild, none knew of her intent ;
Then her maidens go from before her, and that lord of war they seek,
The gates of an ancient people, the towers of a mighty name :
King, cold was the hall I have dwelt in, and no brand burned on the hearth:
Dead-cold was thy bed, O Gunnar, and thy land was parched with dearth:
But I saw a great King riding, and a master of the harp,
But his hand in the hand-gyves smote not, and his feet in the fetters were fast
While many a word of mocking at his speechless face was cast
Then I heard a voice in the world ; 'O woe for the broken troth,
And the heavy Need of the Niblungs, and the Sorrow of Odin the Goth !
Nor knew of their names and their nations, for earth was afar from me,
But brother rose up against brother, and blood swam over the board,
And women smote and spared not, and the fire was master and lord.
Then, then was the moonless mid-mirk, and I woke to the day and the deed
Many words have I said in my life-days, and little more shall I say :
Ye have heard the dream of a woman, deal with it as ye may :
For meseems the world-ways sunder, and the dusk and the dark is mine.
Till I come to the hall of Freyia, where the deeds of the mighty shall shine."
So hearkened Gunnar the Niblung, that her words he understood,
And here shalt thou rule and be mighty, and be queen of the measureless Gold
And abase the kings and upraise them; and anew shall thy fame be told.
And as fair shall thy glory blossom as the fresh fields under the spring."
Then he casteth his arms about her, and hot is the heart of the King
And he clean forgetteth Sigurd and the foster-brother slain :
But she shrank aback from before him, and cried: "Woe worth the while
For the thoughts ye drive back on me, and the memory of your guile !
The Kings of earth were gathered, the wise of men were met ;
And I was alone amidst them — Ah, hold thy peace hereof !
Lest the thought of the bitterest hours this little hour should move."
He rose abashed from before her, and yet he lingered there ;
And shields from the wall are shaken, and swords on the pavement cast,
And the door of the treasure is opened, and the horn cries loud and long,
And the feet of the Niblung children to the people's meadows throng?"
His face was troubled before her, and again she spake and said :
Wilt thou tell me tidings, Gunnar, that the children of thy folk
Pile up the bale for Guttorm, and the hand that smote the stroke ?"
He said : "It is not so, Brynhild ; for that Giuki's son was burned
They looked on each other and spake not ; but Gunnar gat him gone,
" It is nought, thy word," said Hogni ; "wilt thou bring dead men aback,
Yet this shall be easier to thee than the turning Brynhild's heart ;
She came to dwell among us, but in us she had no part ;
Let her go her ways from the Niblungs with her hand in Sigurd's hand.
Will the grass grow up henceforward where her feet have trodden the land?"
"O evil day," said Gunnar, "when my queen must perish and die !"
"Such oft betide," saith Hogni, "as the lives of men flit by ;
So they spake, and their hearts were heavy, and they longed for the morrow morn,
But Brynhild cried to her maidens : "Now open ark and chest,
To array the bride for the mighty, and the traveller for the road."
They wept as they wrought her bidding and did on her goodliest gear ;
And they that stood about her, their hearts were raised aloft
Amid their fear and wonder : then she spake them kind and soft :
"Now give me the sword, O maidens, wherewith I sheared the wind
All sheathed the maidens brought it, and feared the hidden blade,
They brought them, mid their weeping, but none put forth a hand
It was nought ; she scarce might see them, and she put their hands away
And she said : "Peace, ye that love me ! and take the gifts and the gold
In remembrance of my fathers and the faithful deeds of old."
Then she spake : "Where now is Gunnar, that I may speak with him ?
And new sounds gather about me, that may hinder me to speak
When the breath is near to flitting, and the voice is waxen weak."
Then upright by the bed of the Niblungs for a moment doth she stand.
Then dulled are the glittering edges, and the bitter point cleaves through
The breast of the all-wise Brynhild, and her feet from the pavement fail,
And the sigh of her heart is hearkened mid the hush of the maidens' wail.
Chill, deep is the fear upon them, but they bring her aback to the bed.
Then there cometh a cry from withoutward, and Gunnar's hurrying feet
That ye bear me forth to Sigurd, and the hand my hand would seek ;
The bale for the dead is builded, it is wrought full wide on the plain.
It is raised for Earth's best Helper, and thereon is room for twain :
Ye have hung the shields about it, and the Southland hangings spread,
But ere ye leave us sleeping, draw his Wrath from out the sheath,
And lay that Light of the Branstock, and the blade that frighted death
Betwixt my side and Sigurd's, as it lay that while agone,
When once in one bed together we twain were laid alone :
How then may the road he wendeth be hard for my feet to find ?
How then in the gates of Valhall may the door of the gleaming ring
Clash to on the heel of Sigurd, as I follow on my king ? "
Then she raised herself on her elbow, but again her eyelids sank,
And she moaned : "O lives of man-folk, for unrest all overlong
By the Father were ye fashioned ; and what hope amendeth wrong?
Now at last, O my beloved, all is gone ; none else is near,
Through the ages of all ages, never sundered, shall we wear."
Scarce more than a sigh was the word, as back on the bed she fell,
Then the voice of Gunnar the war-king cried out o'er the weeping hall ;
Is laid on the bale high-builded in the Niblungs' hallowed field.
Fare forth ! for he abideth, and we do Allfather wrong.
If the shining Valhall's pavement await their feet o'erlong."
Then they took the body of Brynhild in the raiment that she wore.
And thence forth to the mead of the people,and the high-built shielded bale
Then afresh in the open meadows breaks forth the women's wail
When they see the bed of Sigurd and the glittering of his gear;
And fresh is the wail of the people as Brynhild draweth anear,
That for twain is the oak-wood shielded and the pleasant odours spilt.
There is peace on the bale of Sigurd, and the Gods look down from on high.
And they see the lids of the Volsung close shut against the sky.
As he lies with his shield beside him in the Hauberk all of gold,
And forth from the Helm of Aweing are the sunbeams flashing wide.
And the sheathed Wrath of Sigurd lies still by his mighty side.
Then cometh an elder of days, a man of the ancient times,
Who is long past sorrow and joy, and the steep of the bale he climbs ;
That the beams are gathered about it, and from hilt to blood-point run,
And wide o'er the plain of the Niblungs doth the Light of the Branstock glare,
Till the wondering mountain-shepherds on that star of noontide stare,
And fear for many an evil ; but the ancient man stands still
Till the feet of Brynhild's bearers on the topmost bale are laid,
And her bed is dight by Sigurd's ; then he sinks the pale white blade
And lays it 'twixt the sleepers, and leaves them there alone —
He, the last that shall ever behold them, — and his days are well nigh done.
Then is silence over the plain ; in the noon shine the torches pale
They are gone — the lovely, the mighty, the hope of the ancient Earth :
Till the new sun beams on Baldur, and the happy sealess shore.