Zénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) Ragozin.

Siegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons online

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hilde I trust she will, of her sisterly kind-
ness, receive my dear bride with all love
and courtesy, for which I shall be beholden
to her all the days of my life."

There was great wailing in Worms when
Siegfried was seen to enter the city with
four-and-twenty knights and nothing was
seen of Gunther. As they dismounted in
the castle yard, the King's brothers rushed
to meet them, and when Siegfried had laid
their fears at rest with his good news, they
at once escorted him to the Queen's apart-
ments, where he was eagerly admitted.
Kriemhilde scarcely took the time to greet
him.

" Welcome," she said, " Lord Siegfried,
peerless knight. But tell us, where is
King Gunther, my noble brother? How
is it with him ? I fear me much Brun-
hilde's strength overpowered him, and
now he is lost to us. Oh, woe is me, poor
maid ! why was I ever born ! '

Spoke Siegfried with smiling face :

" Fair ladies both, ye weep for no rea-
son that I know. With one word I will
make you glad : he is safe of limb and



58 Siegfried

happy in mind, and I am here to tell you,
with his most duteous love, that he and
his bride are within a short distance of
this city. He commends her to your
kindness and hopes you will both meet
them at the landing, whither all his friends
are bidden."

Queen Ute heard the tidings with com-
posed and dignified mien and gave thanks
for them in gracious but measured words.
But the maiden was too young to have
her feelings under such control ; the sud-
den passage from sorrow and fear to great
joy unmanned her, and she found no words
at first, but dried her streaming eyes with
her snow-white robe. At last she bade
the hero sit.

" I would not grudge all my gold in
payment for this news," she said. " But
you are too high-born for that. So I must
e'en be content to pay you with poor
thanks."

" Were thirty crowns mine," he cried,
" I would take a gift from your hand."

Castle and city now vied in busy pre-
paration. Both were thronged with guests



Betrothed 59

from as far as they could come on such
short notice. Kriemhilde bade her maids
take out of chests and closets their very
richest attire. Ermine and sable were
as plentiful as silks and velvets ; shapely
waists and arms were encircled with girdles
and bracelets of gold and rarest gems.
Such, too, were the trappings of the wo-
men's palfreys. And those who saw Kriem-
hilde of Burgundy ride forth that day from
the castle, down to the Rhine, with her
following of nigh on two hundred ladies
and maidens, the fairest and stateliest of
the land, beheld a sight which none for-
got to their dying day. Siegfried was
allowed the privilege of riding at her
bridle-rein, to do her knightly service,
while Ortewein, the Marshal of the Court,
had charge of the Queen-mother, Ute.

Many a lance was broken in play while
waiting for the ships. Then when they
approached the landing, and the warriors
from Iceland and Siegfried's Nibelungs
had landed and formed in line on the
shore, there was sky-rending shouting and
much clanking of shields as King Gunther



60 Siegfried

stepped on his own Burgundian soil, hand
in hand with his hardly won Queen.

Kriemhilde was the first to come for-
ward and meet the stranger ; she greeted
her with warm yet modest words ; the two
embraced and kissed in most sisterly fash-
ion ; then Queen Ute came up and wel-
comed her new daughter with a kiss upon
her rosy lips. It was some time before all
the greetings had been spoken, and as the
three royal ladies stood alone in the middle
of the wide space kept free around them,
all eyes were bent on them, and all the
thousands of men and women could gaze
on them at their leisure. Years after, men
recalled the picture they made ; but while
they would speak with praise of Queen
Brunhilde's beauty, they would, for maid-
enly loveliness and delicate bloom, award
the prize to their own home-grown flower,
the gentle Kriemhilde.



VIII

THE WEDDING

THAT evening in the castle, before
King Gunther entered the banquet-
hall, Siegfried came to him and summoned
him, in his usual blunt way, to redeem
the pledge he had given him before they
started for Iceland. The King took the
reminder with smiling face :

"What you ask for is but your right.
I have not forgotten the oath I swore
with lip and hand. I will help you to the
best of my power."

And he forthwith sent for his sister.
When she came, with many fair attendants,
young Giselher met her at the head of
the stairs and begged her to send them
away, as the King wished to speak to her
alone,

61



62 Siegfried

They led Kriemhilde to where Gunther
stood, and round him in a circle noble
knights from many lands. Brunhilde was
just passing, with her following, on to the
banquet-hall ; she stopped, to look and hear.

The King turned smilingly to those
around him.

" Friends and liegemen all," he said,
" will you help me entreat my sister that
she may take Siegfried for her wedded
lord?"

In one voice they replied, " That were
most meetly done ! '

Again the King spoke :

" Noble maiden, sister mine, I praythee,
of thy goodness and thy duty, redeem the
pledge I gave. I swore that thou shouldst
wed Siegfried the hero, and if thou dost
take him, thou wilt do me right sisterly



service.'



The maid replied with seemly modesty :
" Dearest brother mine, you have not
need to beg. Right willingly I will obey
you and wed the man you have chosen
for me ; I am in all things yours to com-
mand."



The Wedding 63

Siegfried's handsome face flushed with
joy and pride as he proffered his lifelong
service to the lady. She stood with down-
cast eyes, shy and blushing, as is maidens'
wont, but he took her in his arms and
gave her the kiss of betrothal before all
the court.

That evening at the banquet, King
Gunther sat by Brunhilde, but the place
of honour was given to Siegfried and his
lovely bride, and his Nibelung knights sat
to the right and to the left of them. This
was so sore a sight in Brunhilde's eyes
that she could not hide her vexation, and
tear after tear rolled down her cheek.
The King quickly took alarm :

" What is the trouble, lady mine, that
thus early bedews and dims my love's
bright eyes ? You should laugh and be
glad, for you are queen over all my broad
lands, my wealthy cities and strong castles,
and many thousands of brave men are
waiting on your will."

" Nay, but rather should you weep,"
she retorted pettishly. "My heart aches
for your sister, to see her sitting by a



64 Siegfried

common liegeman of yours. I must weep,
I cannot help myself, that she should be
thus lowered."

To this King Gunther replied some-
what sternly :

" Speak not of what you do not under-
stand. When time and leisure serve, I
will explain why my sister weds Siegfried.
May she live long with him in joy and
peace ! '

But she insisted :

" The pity of it ! Such beauty as hers,
such gentleness, thrown thus away ! Had
I my will, I could fly away from here.
But this I tell you, my lord King : not a
word will I speak to you in friendship or
in wifely duty till I know the reason why
Kriemhilde must be Siegfried's bride."

" Thus much," replied the King, " I may
tell you even now, and you may believe
my word : Siegfried is himself a king, has
lands and castles as many as I have my-
self ; therefore, peerless as I hold my
sister, I hold him her worthy mate."

But nothing that the King could say
availed to dispel the gloom which had



The Wedding 65

settled on Brunhilde ; she sat with lower-
ing brow and thoughts intent on mischief.

That night, when the feast was over
and the guests had gone to their rest, she
kept her word and met the King's most
loving attentions with the same sullen
silence. In vain he pleaded for a word, a
look ; all she answered was, " Not till I
know what I asked you." At last the
King grew angry and changed from ten-
derness to more masterful language. Then
Brunhilde, forgetting that she was no
longer the free maid of Iceland, gave way
to her temper and laid violent hands on
her lord. As it was not he who had con-
quered her, he could do nothing against
her, once she chose to put forth all her
strength, and she soon had him bound
hand and foot with her long silk girdle,
then tied him fast to a nail in the wall,
and so left him for the night, ordering him,
as she retired to her own room, not to
disturb her rest by moaning or speaking.
As for her, she slept soundly till morning.

It was quite early yet when she unbound
him and bade him with surly words take



66 Siegfried

a morning nap. She did not wish to dis-
grace him before his court, but would not

o

make friends with him herself. Poor
Gunther was naturally very crestfallen,
and could not quite command his face ;
so that everybody noticed the dejected
air which he wore at church, where both
the newly wedded pairs went in solemn
state to hear high mass, and afterwards at
the royal table, and at the games which
followed.

Siegfried saw it all and was much con-
cerned. He stole to the King's side at a
moment when no one looked, and asked
softly, " Is anything wrong ?"

Then Gunther told of his mishap.

" See," he ended, " see my hands, how
swollen they are. She squeezed them so,
the blood almost spurted from under the
nails. I was as a child in her hands ; I
surely thought my end had come. Truly,"
he cried, in bitterness of spirit, " I have
taken to my home with this woman shame
and disgrace."

" There must be an end of her pranks,"
Siegfried declared with determined mien.



The Wedding 67

" I will undertake to bring her to reason.
To-night, when you are escorted in state
to your apartments, I shall join the pro-
cession, but I shall wear my tarn-cape, so
no one will see me. I shall blow out the
light in the hand of one of your link-
bearers, as a token to you. You shall
have no more trouble with your wife."

" So you do not kill her," the King re-
plied, " I care not how severely you
punish her. She is a terrible woman."

That night, just as the King and Queen
were entering their apartments, the light
suddenly went out in the hands of one of
the attendants. By that token Gunther
knew Siegfried was there. He immedi-
ately dismissed everybody and bolted the
door. There was but one light, in a dis-
tant corner of the room, and that was
shaded, so it was quite dark. And now
began a strange performance.

Siegfried approached Brunhilde and,
without saying a word, took hold of her
arms. She, thinking of course it was
Gunther, shook him off, bidding him be-
ware how he angered her again, unless



68 Siegfried

he wanted to pass another night like the
last. Then he gradually began to put
forth more and more strength, and so did
she, and they wrestled. So evenly were
they matched that it was long before he
could gain the slightest advantage over
her. In their wrestling they upset chairs
and tables and stools, and swayed so
violently from side to side that Gunther
had more than once to run out of their
way and crouch in corners. Once Brun-
hildehad Siegfried pinned to the floor and
he was but just in time to snatch the
girdle out of her hand. After this he
gained steadily, for his endurance proved
greater than hers, and at last he had her
at his mercy and was just going to bind
her, when she began to plead with broken
voice :

" Noble King, forbear. Take not my
life. I will henceforth be thy dutiful wife,
nor again do aught to anger thee. I ac-
knowledge thee as my lord and master."

Then Siegfried quietly unbolted the
door and stole out, carrying away with
him Brunhilde's girdle and a little gold



The Wedding 69

ring which he had taken from her finger
without her noticing it.

The next day both Gunther and Brun-
hilde showed happy and loving faces.
She was to him ever after as kind a wife
as man need have ; and all might have
been well, had not Siegfried, in a freak of
boastful recklessness, given the girdle and
ring to Kriemhilde, whom he loved more
every day. A piece of thoughtlessness
which was to cost many and many a brave
man his life.

A fortnight longer lasted the bridal fes-
tivities. Then all the guests dispersed,
well pleased with their entertainment and
bearing away rich gifts. Siegfried and
his lovely wife also took an affectionate
leave of their friends and kinsfolk by the
Rhine, and, escorted by the thousand
Nibelungs, started on their way to Xante,
in the Netherlands, where they were anx-
iously expected.



IX



THE INVITATION

TEN years flew past. Both royal house-
holds prospered and lived happy.
Kriemhilde made herself greatly beloved
of King Siegmund and Queen Sieglinde,
and also of the people of the Netherlands.
Even the wild Nibelungs became devoted
to their gentle Queen. And soon after
Siegfried's return to his own land, when
Queen Sieglinde died, the old King sol-
emnly made over to him the crown and
government, declaring that he himself
had well earned some few years of happy
rest and would enjoy the freedom from
the care and toil of state and war. Sieg-
fried and Gunther never met in all these
years, but their friendship was kept up by
frequent kind messages and loving gifts.

70



The Invitation 71

And when a boy was born to each, each
named his own for his friend ; so Sieg-
fried's boy was Gunther and Gunther's
was Siegfried.

But Brunhilde had never forgotten the
grudge she had taken upon her wedding-
day, and moreover insisted on regarding
Siegfried as her husband's vassal and sub-

o

ject. And so, when she had been mar-
ried ten years, she began to think to
herself : " I wonder what makes Kriem-
hilde bear herself so arrogantly. Her
husband is nothing but a liegeman of ours,
yet he has done us no service in all these
years."

She did not speak her mind out openly,
but tried crooked ways to get round to
her ends. She began to talk to the King
of her great desire to see Kriemhilde
again, and at last asked if he would not
send for her and her husband.

" How can you talk so ?' the King re-
plied, reprovingly. " They live too far
away ; it were too much to ask of them."

" I don't see that," she retorted ; " no
matter how powerful a vassal may be, it



72 Siegfried

is his duty to wait on his liege lord's com-
mands."

Gunther could not but smile at his
wife's overbearing manner. He wished
in his heart to see Siegfried again, but
duty or service had little to do with the
wish. But she insisted ; only now she
coaxed.

" Dear my lord," she said, " if so be you
still have some little love for me, do find
some way to get your sister to come to
visit us. You could not do anything that
would give me more pleasure. She is so
gentle, of such sweet and noble bearing,
that the very thought of her does me good.
I mind me well how we used to sit to-
gether when you and I were first married.
And right noble was her choice when she
took the doughty Siegfried for her lord."

She begged and pleaded till the King
at last said :

'* Well, then, know there are no guests
I would rather see ; so you have an easy
task of it when you strive to win me over.
Be it so I will send messengers to them."

So thirty knights were chosen a goodly



The Invitation 73

embassy. They carried greetings and
most loving messages from Gimther and
Brunhilde, and Gernot and young Gisel-
her, and from their mother, Queen Ute,
with entreaties that Siegfried and Kriem-
hilde might come to Worms on a long
visit, to see their affectionate relations,
when a great court gathering and tourna-
ment should be held in their honour. To
make the invitation still more pressing
and pleasing, a kinsman of the Burgun-
dian royal house and Siegfried's warm
friend, Margrave Gere, was placed at the
head of the embassy.

Siegfried had, for the last few years,
been residing in Norway, the Land of the
Nibelungs, being fonder of it than of the
Netherlands, and thither his brother-in-
law's envoys travelled to seek him. It
was a long journey and took them three
weeks. They were very weary when they
arrived, but the welcome which they re-
ceived, the rest and good cheer, soon re-
stored their strength. It was some time
before they could tell the real object of
their coming, they had to answer so many



74 Siegfried

eager questions. But when at last Mar-
grave Gere proffered the invitation in due
form, it was joyfully accepted, one thou-
sand Nibelung warriors volunteering to
escort their King and Queen as a guard
of honour. Even old King Siegmund de-
clared his intention of going with them,
taking his own following of one hundred
knights, for he wished to become person-
ally acquainted with his son's Burgundian
relatives. Now that it was decided, they
were all impatient to get off, and when
they dismissed the envoys they promised
to follow in twelve days.

When Margrave Gere and his com-
panions arrived at Worms, they rode
straight to the palace, and, as they dis-
mounted, everybody ran to meet them,
deafening them with shouts of greeting
and with questions ; everybody wanted to
know how they had sped on their errand,
so that Gere had to chide : " When I have
told the King," he said, "you shall know
too," and passed on to the King's apart-
ments.

Gunther sprang from his chair when he



The Invitation 75

saw him enter ; Brunhilde rose to greet
him.

" How fares my noble Siegfried, my
loving friend?" asked the King.

" Tell me quick, is Kriemhilde com-
ing?' broke in the Queen. "And is her
beauty still as perfect as before she left
us?"

" Is my daughter in good health and
spirits ? ' Queen Ute inquired.

Gere managed to answer all these ques-
tions at once :

" They are both well. They are both
coming. And many knights with them."

Then he had to tell in detail all that be-
fel him and his companions on their jour-
ney and at Siegfried's court ; and all the
gifts were displayed which had gladdened
every one of the envoys.

"Well may he give with both hands,"
sullen Hagen was heard to mutter. " He
holds a treasure which he could never
spend, though he lived a thousand years.
Ah, would that the hoard could be brought
over here to Burgundy ! '



THE VISIT

QIEGFRIED and Kriemhilde were so
^ diligent in their preparations that
they were ready to start at the appointed
time. They had no thought but of pleas-
ure ; never did lighter hearts speed on
more fatal journey. The only thing that
damped their spirits at the last moment
was that they had to leave their little son
behind. But he was under good and
trusty care, and as he bade father and
mother good-bye, he never dreamed that
he was seeing the last of them for all time.
Messengers sent on betimes announced
their coming. As soon as King Gunther
heard that they were within a day's travel
from Worms, he sought Brunhilde in her
apartment, and, sitting down by her, said :

76



The Visit 77

" Do you remember how my sister re-
ceived you when you first came to this
country ? You will now, to please me,
so receive Siegfried's wife as she then
received my bride."

"That will I," she replied heartily,
" right gladly ; to please you, and to please
myself too, for I love her well."

"They will be here to-morrow morning,"
he went on ; "so do not loiter, that they
may not come upon us unawares. It has
not often been given me to welcome
guests so dear."

The meeting was most joyful and affec-
tionate. The queens, having embraced
and kissed, looked at each other long, and
walked away with their arms around each
other, while Gernot and young Giselher
took possession of Siegfried, and Gunther
gave respectful greeting to the aged Sieg-
mund, whose coming such a distance he
rightly took as a great compliment. H agen
of Tronje, too, and his nephew, Marshal
Ortewein of Metz, showed themselves
courtly hosts- -an unwonted effort for
Hagen.



78 Siegfried

The guests were hardly given time to
rest before the festivities began, so great
was the desire to see them. The days
were taken up with jousts, sham battles,
and all knightly exercises ; the evenings
with feasting and with dancing. Again
Siegfried sat in the seat of honour, with
his thousand Nibelungs to the right and
to the left of him. And again Brunhilde
wondered that one who was her husband's
liegeman should make such a display of
wealth and power and bear himself so inde-
pendently.

Each morning hosts and guests went
in to hear high mass in peace and harmony.
Gunther and Siegfried walked together
to the minster, when the bells called to
mass, and so did the two queens, under
a canopy, surmounted with a royal crown.
Then they walked out of church in the
same order and proceeded to the palace
and to the banquet-hall. Things went
on thus peacefully and pleasantly for ten
days, for Brunhilde as yet had no unkind
feelings towards her guests. She only
kept thinking to herself : " I cannot bear



The Visit



79



this much longer. In some way or other
I must get Kriemhilde to tell me how it
is that her husband, in all these years,
has neither done us any service nor paid
us any tribute : for, after all, he is our
vassal."

She bided her time, waiting for a chance.
And the evil enemy of mankind, who is
ever on the watch to do harm and mis-
chief among men, took care to bring
about the chance she looked for, though
not in the way she might have wished.





&/*^

^




j



XI

THE QUARREL

IT was afternoon on the eleventh day of
the visit. Tilting and lance-breaking
were going on in the castle yard just before
vespers, and many of the ladies, not a few
men also, were looking on from the win-

o

dows. The two queens sat together at
one of them, interested and amused, when
something, in an evil hour, prompted
Kriemhilde to remark :

" If everybody had their deserts, all
these lands should be my husband's."

" How could that be?' replied Brun-
hilde. " If no one else of the family were
alive but you and he, these lands might
be his ; but not so Ions: as Gunther lives."

o

" See there ! ' cried Kriemhilde, point-
ing down, 4i see where he moves about so

80



The Quarrel 81

lordly amidst all those knights, as the full
moon amidst the paling stars ! It glad-
dens my heart every time I see him thus."

" However lordly be your husband,"
Brunhilde again replied, " however hand-
some and stalwart, he is not the equal of
Gunther, your noble brother and my lord.
You must know that Gunther is greater
than all the kings that live."

" Nay, so worthy is my husband," re-
torted Kriemhilde, waxing warm, " that
what I say of him is far from idle praise.
In many ways has he achieved high hon-
ours. Believe me, Brunhilde, he is fully
Gunther's equal."

" Hardly that," replied Brunhilde, still
good-naturedly. " You must not take it
ill of me, because I am not speaking with-
out good reason. When I first saw them
both in Iceland, that time King Gunther
played against me and won my hand in
such heroic guise, I heard Siegfried him-
self call himself the King's liegeman. I
heard, I say, and therefore it is I have
always counted him our vassal."

41 If that were so," the fair Kriemhilde

6



82 Siegfried

retorted, " evil had been my plight. How
could my noble brothers have wooed so
ill for me, as to mate me with a subject ?
No, no, Brunhilde, if you love me, leave
such words unspoken in future."

To which the Queen made answer :

" I cannot and never will. Am I to
renounce our right to every knight whose
sword is pledged to our service ?'

Kriemhilde now was thoroughly an-
gered.

" You will have to renounce all claim
to one, anyhow," she said, " for he will do
you no service, take my word for it
never in the world. He is a hero worth-
ier than even my brother Gunther, that
blameless knight. So prithee, spare me
such unseemly words. And besides, how
comes it, if so be he is your liegeman and
you hold such great power over us both,
that he has withheld his duty from you so
long? Enough of this, I say. I am sick
of your overbearing ways."

"You forget yourself," said the Queen,
haughtily. " Enough words, say I too.
This very day shall show whether you



The Quarrel 83

are in truth held in as high honour as I
am myself."

Then Kriemhilde spoke again, and by
this time both the women were panting
with rage :

" Be it so. Since you have dared to
call my Siegfried your man, the knights
of both the kings shall see, when I walk
into the church, whether I am not entitled
to take precedence of the Queen of Bur-
gundy. I will let you see that I am nobly
born and free, and that my husband is
worthier far than yours. For I will not


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Online LibraryZénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) RagozinSiegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons → online text (page 4 of 14)