VII. The ending of Gudrun
Men sleep in the dwelling of Atli through the latter hours of night
Though the comfortless women be wailing as they that love not light j
Men sleep in the dawning-hour, and bowed down is Atli's head
Amidst the gold and the purple, and the pillows of his bed :
But hark, ere the sun's uprising, when folk see colours again.
Is the trample of steeds in the forecourt, and the noise of steel and of men;
And Atli wakeneth and riseth, and is clad in purple and pall.
And he goeth forth from the chamber and meeteth his earls in the hall
A king full great and mighty, if a great king ever hath been ;
And over his head on the high-seat still sitteth Gudrun the Queen.
Then he said : " Whence come ye, children, whence come ye. Lords of the
They said : "Today shall be wailing for the foes of the Eastland kin;
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For we come from the land deserted, and the heath without a way,
Then King Atli turned unto Gudnin, and the new sun shone through the door,
But Gudrun rose from the high-seat, and her eyes on the King she turned ;
Then she spake : " Take, King, and drink it ! . for earth's mightiest men prevail,
And to thee is the praise and the glory, and the ending of the tale :
There are men to the dead land faring, but the dark o'er their heads is deep,
They cry not, they return not, and no more renown they reap ;
But we do our will without them, nor fear their speech or frown ;
And glad shall be our uprising, and light our lying-down."
She said : '^ A maid of maidens my mother reared me erst ;
386 THE STORY OF SIGURD THE VOLSUNG-
Joy rose with the sun's uprising, nor sank in the twilight hour ;
More she spake : ** O King command me ! for women's knees are weak.
Then drank the Eastland Atli as he looked in Gudrun's face.
And beheld no wrath against him, and no hate of the coming days ;
Then he spake : '' O mighty woman, this day the feast shall be
For the heritance of Atli, and the gain of mine and me :
For this day the Eastland people such great dominion win.
That a world to their will new-fashioned 'neath their glory shall begin.
Yet, since the mighty are fallen, and kings are gone from earth.
Let these at the feast be remembered, and their ancient deeds of worth.
So I bid thee, O King's Daughter, sit by Atli at the feast
To praise thy kin departed and Atli's weal increased ;
And the heirship-feast and the death-feast today shall be as one ;
And then shalt thou wake tomorrow with all thy mourning done,
And all thy will accomplished, and thy glory great and sure,
That for ever and for ever shall the tale thereof endure."
He spake in the sunny morning, and Gudrun answered and said :
BOOK IV. GUDRUN. 387
Therewith to the bbwer of queens the Niblung wendeth her way
And in all the glory of women the folk her body array ;
Forth she comes with the crown on her head and the ivory rod in her hand,
With queens for her waiting-women, and the hope of many a land :
There she goes in that wonder of houses when the high-tide of Atli is dight
And her face is as fair as the sea, and her eyen are glittering bright.
By Atli's side she sitteth, o'er the earls they twain are set,
And shields of the ancient wise-ones on the wall are hanging yet,
And the golden sun of the roof-sky, the sun of Atli's pride.
Through the beams where day but glimmers casts red light far and wide :
The beakers clash thereunder, the red wine murmureth speech.
And the eager long-beard warriors cast praises each to each
Of the blossoming tree of the Eastland : — ^and tomorrow shall be as today,
Yea even more abundant, and all foes have passed away.
It was then in the noon-tide moment ; o'er the earth high hung the sun.
388 THE STORY OF SIGURD THE VOLSUNG.
But the clouds hang high in the west as a sea of rippling fire.
That the face of the gazer is lighted, if unto the west ye gaze,
And white walls in the lonely meadows grow ruddy under the blaze ;
Vet brighter e'en than the cloud-sea, far-off and clear serene,
Mid puiple clouds unlitten the light lift lieth between ;
And who looks, save the lonely shepherd on the brow of the houseless hilK
Who hath many a day seen no man to tell him of good or of ill ?
Day dies, and the storm-threats perish, and the stars to the heaven are come.
And the white moon climbeth upward and hangs o'er the Eastland home ;
But no man in the hall of King Atli shall heed the heavens without,
For Atli's roof is their heaven, and thereto they cast the shout,
And this, the glory they builded,.is become their God to praise.
The hope of their generations, the giver of goodly days :
No more they hearken the harp-strings, no more they hearken the song ;
All the might of the deedful Niblungs is a tale forgotten long.
And yester-moming's murder is as though it ne'er had been ;
They heed not the white-armed Gudrun, the glorious Stranger-Queen,
They heed not Atli triumphant, for they also, they are Kings,
They are brethren of the God-folk and the fashioners of things ;
Nay, the Gods, — and the Gods have sorrow, and these shall rue no more,
These world-kings, these prevailers, these beaters-down of war :
What golden house shall hold them, what nightless shadowless heaven ?
— So they feast in the hall of Atli, and that eve is the first of the seven.
So they feast, and weary, and know not how weary they are grown,
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And blind stray their hands in the harp-strings and their mouths may tell
Yet a while ; — it was but an hour and the moon was hung so high.
As it seemed that the silent night-tide would never change and die ;
But lo, how the dawn comes stealing o'er the mountains of the east,
And dim grows Atli's roof-sun o'er yestereven's feast ;
Dim yet in the treasure-houses lie the ancient heaps of gold.
But slowly come the colours to the Dwarf-wrought rings of old :
Yet a while ; and the day-light lingers : yea, yea, is it darker than erst ?
Hath the day into night-tide drifted, the day by the twilight nursed ?
Are the clouds in the house of King Atli ? Or what shines brighter than morn,
In helms and shields of the ancient, and swords by dead kings borne ?
Have the heavens come down to Atli ? Hath his house been lifted on high, •
Lest the pride of the triumphing World-King should fade in the world and die ?
Lo, lo, in the hall of the Murder where the white-armed Gudrun stands,
Aloft by the kingly high-seat, and nought empty are her hands;
For the lilten brand she beareth, and the grinded war-sword bare :
Still she stands for a little season till day groweth white and fair
Without the garth of King Atli ; but within, a wavering cloud
Rolls, hiding the roof and the roof-sun ; then she stirreth and crieth aloud :
"Alone was I yestereven : and alone in the night I lay,
390 THE STORY OF SIGURD THE VOLSUNG.
And I thought on the ancient fathers, and longed for the dawning of day :
With the light that I loved aforetime, with the light that blessed mine eyes,
She spake ; and the sun clomb over the Eastland mountains' rim
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They cried, and their tongues were confounded, and none gave answer again :
There Gudrun stood o'er the turmoil ; there stood the Niblung child ;
" The brand for the flesh of the people, and the sword for the King of the
But she towered aloft before him, and cried in Atli's home :
" Lo, lo, the day-light, Atli, and the last foe overcome !"
And with all the might of the Niblungs she thrust him through and fled.
And the flame was fleet behind her and hung o'er the face of the dead.
There was none to hinder Gudrun, and the flre-blast scathed her nought,
392 THE STORY OF SIGURD THE VOLSUNG.
She stood on the edge of the steep, and no child of man was there :
Then Gudrun girded her raiment, on the edge of the steep she stood,
She looked o'er the shoreless water, and cried out o'er the measureless flood :
'' O Sea, I stand before thee ; and I who was Sigurd's wife !
By his brightness unforgotten I bid thee deliver my life [earth.
From the deeds and the longing of days, and the lack I have won of the
And the wrong amended by wrong, and the bitter wrong of my birth !"
Ye have heard of Sigurd aforetime, how the foes of God he slew ;
How forth from the darksome desert the Gold of the Waters he drew ;
How he wakened Love on the Mountain, and wakened Brynhild the Bright,
And dwelt upon Earth for a season, and shone in all men's sight.
Ye have heard of the Cloudy People, and the dimming of the day,
And the latter world's confusion, and Sigurd gone away ;
Now ye know of the Need of the Niblungs and the end of broken troth.
All the death of kings and of kindreds and the Sorrow of Odin the Goth.