The Story of Sigurd the Volsungand the Fall of the Niblungs, Book I, Kelmscott Edition

IX. How Queen Hiordis is known; and how she abideth in the house of Elf the son of the Helper

NOW asketh the king of those women where now in the world they will go,
And Hiordis speaks for the twain: "This is now but a land of the foe,
And our lady and Queen beseecheth that unto thine house we wend
And that there thou serve her kingly that her woes may have an end.”
Fain then was the heart of the folk-king, and he bade aboard forthright,
And they hoist the sails to the wind and sail by day and by night
Till they come to a land of the people, and a goodly land it is,
Where folk may dwell unharried and win abundant bliss,
The land of King Elf and the Helper; and there he bids them abide

In his house that is goodly shapen, and wrought full high and wide:
And he biddeth the Queen be merry, and set aside her woe,
And he doth by them better and better, as day on day doth go.
NOW there was the mother of Elf, and a woman wise was she,
And she spake to her son of a morning: “I have noted them heedfully,
Those women thou broughtst from the outlands, and fain now would I wot
Why the worser of the women the goodlier gear hath got."
He said: “She hath named her Hiordis, the wife of the mightiest king,
E’en Sigmund the son of Volsung with whose name the world doth ring."
THEN the old queen laughed and answered: “Is it not so, my son,
That the handmaid still gave counsel when aught of deeds was done?"
He said: “Yea, she spake mostly; and her words were exceeding wise,
And measureless sweet I deem her, and dear she is to mine eyes."
BUT she said: "Do after my counsel, and win thee a goodly queen:
Speak ye to the twain unwary, and the truth shall soon be seen,
And again shall they shift their raiment, if I am aught but a fool."
He said: "Thou sayst well, mother, and settest me well to school."
So he spake on a day to the women, and said to the gold-clad one:
"How wottest thou in the winter of the coming of the sun
When yet the world is darkling?" She said: "In the days of my youth
I dwelt in the house of my father, and fair was the tide forsooth,
And ever I woke at the dawning, for folk betimes must stir,
Be the meadows bright or darksome; and I drank of the whey-tub there
As much as the heart desired; and now, though changed be the days,
I wake athirst in the dawning, because of my wonted ways."
THEN laughed King Elf and answered: "A fashion strange enow,
That the feet of the fair queen's-daughter must forth to follow the plough,
Be the acres bright or darkling! But thou with the eyes of grey,
What sign hast thou to tell thee, that the night wears into day
When the heavens are mirk as the midnight?" Said she: "In the days that were
My father gave me this gold-ring ye see on my finger here,
And a marvel goeth with it: for when night waxeth old
I feel it on my finger grown most exceeding cold,
And I know day comes through the darkness; and such is my dawning sign."
THEN laughed King Elf and answered: "Thy father's house was fine;
There was gold enough meseemeth.  But come now, say the word
And tell me the speech thou spakest awrong mine ears have heard,
And that thou wert the wife of Sigmund, the wife of the mightiest King."
NO whit she smiled, but answered: "Indeed thou sayst the thing:
Such a wealth I had in my storehouse that I feared the Kings of men."
He said: "Yet for nought didst thou hide thee; had I known of the matter then,
As the daughter of my father had I held thee in good sooth,
For dear to mine eyes wert thou waxen, and my heart of thy woe was ruth.
But now shall I deal with thee better than thy dealings to me have been:
For my wife I will bid thee to be, and the people's very queen."
SHE said: "When the son of King Sigmund is brought forth to the light of day
And the world a man hath gotten, thy will shall I nought gainsay.
And I thank thee for thy goodness, and I know the love of thine heart;

And I see thy goodly kingdom, thy country set apart,
With the day of peace begirdled from the change and the battle's wrack:
‘Tis enough, and more than enough since none prayeth the past aback."
THEN the King is fain and merry, and he deems his errand sped,
And that night she sits on the high-seat with the crown on her shapely head;
And amidst the song and the joyance, and the sound of the people's praise,
She thinks of the days that have been, and she dreams of the coming days.
So passeth the summer season, and the harvest of the year,
And the latter days of the winter on toward the spring-tide wear.


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