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

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brook the slur on my own name. This
very day shall you see your liegewoman
walk before you in the presence of all the
knights of Burgundy. I will take my
stand higher than any daughter of royal
blood that ever wore a crown. - Come,
ye maidens, 't is vesper time ; array your-
selves for church. And if any one of you
have some piece of rich and rare apparel
that she treasured against some great oc-
casion, let her don it now : this day shall
decide whether I may stay here any
longer, free from blame and shame."



84 Siegfried

Not many minutes passed before
Kriemhilde descended the stairs attended
by her forty-three maidens, in such rich
attire as would have befitted a coronation
feast. In the palace yard they found
Siegfried's men awaiting them. Brun-
hilde, with her women, also in their brav-
est finery, were joined by Gunther's
knights. Thus two separate processions
formed and advanced towards the minster
at which the townsfolk marvelled much,
as they stood gazing and agape.

The two queens met before the min-
ster's wide-open doors. Here Brunhilde,
with frowning mien, in angry tones, loudly
commanded Siegfried's wife to stop. " It
is not meet," she cried, " that a liege-
woman should pass before the Queen."

Kriemhilde's retort came quick and
bitter :

" It had been better for thee hadst thou
held thy peace. But since thou wilt have
it, I ask, Can she who has been a man's
bondswoman ever be a queen ? '

" Whom dost thou mean ? ' Brunhilde
cried, aghast.



The Quarrel 85

" I mean thee. Siegfried, my beloved
husband, wrestled with thee and mastered
thee, laying thee prostrate, at his mercy,
on the ground. By rights, that made thee
bond to him. My brother Gunther was
not the man to cope with thy untamed
strength. How, then, canst thou claim
Siegfried for thy liegeman ? '

Brunhilde was speechless with horror
and amazement. She could only mur-
mur, " I will ask Gunther," and broke into
tears. When Kriemhilde, with her fol-
lowing, swept before her into the church,
she did not attempt to hinder her. But
she did not follow. She stood all through
the service, outside on the porch, sur-
rounded by her own women and knights.
She did not speak a word, but kept turn-
ing thoughts of hatred and vengeance
over and over in her mind.

At last the service was over, and Kriem-
hilde, with all her following, came out of the
minster. Brunhilde met her face to face.

" Stay ! " she commanded, " one moment
more ! I have heard words now give me
proofs."



86 Siegfried

Kriemhilde showed the little gold ring
on her finger.

" This ring," she said, " Siegfried took
from you and brought to me. Again I
tell you, you had better let me pass."

" Oh ! " cried Brunhilde, " that ring was
stolen from me ; I have missed it for
years ; now I see who was the thief ! '

And she cast a withering look on Kriem-
hilde. But Kriemhilde had not yet done.

"You shall not call me thief," she said.
" You will not hold your peace : then take
the consequences. Do you see this gir-
dle that I have here, wound around my
waist ? That also Siegfried brought me
with the ring."

When she saw the girdle, Brunhilde
broke down, and, between tears and sobs,
sent for King Gunther in haste. He
came at once, and asked, with great con-
cern, what had happened to distress her
so. When she had told him, he frowned
heavily and sent for Siegfried.

Great was Siegfried's amazement at the
scene he found. He looked from one to
the other, and asked, wonderingly :



The Quarrel 87

" What are the women crying for, and
what is it all about ? '

Gunther eyed him gravely :

" I find much serious matter here.
Your wife, my sister Kriemhilde, has
grievously insulted the Lady Brunhilde,
my Queen : she has called her your bonds-
woman before all these witnesses. Did
you ever make such boast?'

" Never," said Siegfried ; " if she has
said any such thing, she shall be made to
rue it. And I will clear myself by oath,
with hand and lip, before your whole
army : I never made such boast."

Then the Burgundians were made to
stand in a circle and Siegfried stretched
out his right hand. Gunther declared
himself satisfied, and they parted seem-
ingly as good friends as ever.

But the mischief was done. Siegfried
could not have acted differently. For the
good of all concerned he had to clear
himself by oath when the matter came to
the test, but he bitterly repented in his
heart his weakness in letting so dread a
secret out of his own keeping and in giv-



88 Siegfried

ing the ring and girdle to his bride of a
day. Gunther, on the other hand, for
the same reasons, had to show himself
content and dismiss the whole matter
lightly, as a piece of gossip between two
angry women. But he knew right well
that Siegfried must have told his wife,
since she could not possibly have known
in any other way. Still, so strong was
the friendship between the two men, and
so deep Gunther's sense of Siegfried's
services, that even this cloud, heavy as it
was, would have passed away in time, but
for Brunhilde's vindictiveness and Hagen's
malicious promptings.

He had sought the Queen immediately
after the quarrel and vowed to avenge
her on Siegfried's person. Gernot and
Ortewein, the Marshal, came in also, and
straightway began to devise ways of put-
ting him to death. Only Giselher, the
youngest of the three brothers and Sieg-
fried's staunch friend always, tried to pour
oil on the angry spirits :

" Alas ! my friends, why nurse such evil
thoughts ? Siegfried has done nothing to



The Quarrel 89

deserve such hatred, nothing that should
make his life forfeit. And women, we all
know, will quarrel about many things."

The King himself spoke in this sense :

" He never did us aught but good.
Let him live in peace. Why should I
hate him ? He has been our willing, loyal
friend through all."

But all the others were set against
Siegfried, though with no reason at all.
Still no one dared to act directly against
the King's command. But Hagen kept
repeating to him day after day how that,
if Siegfried were no more, many a land
would become subject to him. Then
Gunther fell into a deep, brooding melan-
choly ; he resisted more feebly, till once
he said to Hagen :

" Oh, do cast off all such murderous
thoughts. He never did us harm, but al-
ways good. Besides, know you not that
he is of such wondrous might, that the
man is not born who could overcome him
in fair combat ? '

Now Hagen had Gunther where he
wanted him.



90 Siegfried

" Let not that trouble you," he said reas-
suringly. " Everything shall be carefully
prepared. But Brunhilde's tears shall be
brought home to him. When he slan-
dered the Queen, he did not count on
Hagen."

"But how can the thing be done?'
Gunther asked weakly.

" Nothing can be easier. We will get
sham messengers to come to Worms,
men whom nobody knows, and they shall
make us a declaration of war. As soon
as Siegfried hears of it, he will want to
help you and offer to take the field with
you. Then we shall have an easy task.
Only there is something I must find out
first from his wife."

So persistent was the evil counsellor
that the King at last gave way, and the
two now discussed together the unholy
plan.



XII

TREASON

EVERYTHING happened as Hagen
had planned. The sham messengers
came, pretending to be sent by Burgundy's
old foes, the kings of Saxony and Den-
mark, Ludeger and Ludegast.

Siegfried was noble and honest to the
core, and therefore easy to deceive. He
was so indignant when he was told that
the two kings intended to break the peace
they had solemnly sworn when he so
generously obtained their release free of
ransom, that he entreated Gunther to let
him make this quarrel his own and fight
it out with only his own men. He would
not hear of Gunther stirring from Worms,
only asking him to look after Kriemhilde
and keep his aged father Siegmund in

9*



92 Siegfried



good health and spirits. Things could
not have favoured the traitors more.
Many among the King's men knew of
what was going on and were ashamed,
but did not dare openly to disapprove.

While Siegfried was busy looking after
the horses, and arms, and supplies for
his troop, Hagen went to seek Kriemhilde,
as though to take his leave of her, and
was received by her with cousinly kind-
ness. She was bright and hopeful.

11 1 am proud to think," she said, "that
I have brought into the family a man
who can save my brothers so much trouble.
And now, friend Hagen, I hope you re-
member that I have always taken pleasure
in serving you where I could, and that
I never in any way offended you. Let
that plead for my dear husband : do not
bear him any ill-feeling for what I did to
Brunhilde. I have long regretted it.
Besides, he has punished me so severely
for having grieved the Queen, that my
body has borne the marks this many a
day, so she may surely be content."

" You ladies will make friends again in



Treason 93

a day or two," Hagen replied, lightly.
" And now, Kriemhilde, dear cousin and
lady mine, tell me how I may best serve
Siegfried your lord, and I will do so most
willingly."

"You are my kinsman," she said, "and
I will confide in you. You know that
when he slew the dreadful Linden-Dragon,
he bathed in the monster's blood, and
that made him proof against all weapons.
Yet when he is away from me, I am in
mortal fear, because I know there is one
spot on his body where he can be wounded,
and how can I say that a random spear
or arrow will not hit that spot ? For
while the blood was spurting hot from
the Dragon's wounds and he was bending
down to bathe in it, a leaf from the linden-
tree fluttered down and settled between
his shoulders. That spot was not touched
by the blood and therefore can be pierced.
I will sew a little cross with fine silk on
his coat just where the leaf fell, and,
Hagen, dear friend, you must promise
me always to be near him and cover him
with your shield, so that no foeman's



94 Siegfried

weapon can hit him from behind. I place
my dear lord in your loyal safeguard, and
thereby place in your hands more than
my life. Fail me not, and you may rest
assured that I will be your loving and
much beholden cousin as long as we both
live."

" Dear lady mine, I will do my best,"
was all Hagen said and forthwith sought
out Gunther, full of unholy joy :

" I know now what I went to learn. Let
us dispose of those messengers and order
the hunt."

Thus Siegfried's own devoted wife, out
of the fulness of her love, betrayed him to
his death !

Early the next morning the hero cheer-
ily rode forth, eager to do another good
service to his friends. Hagen rode behind
him, so close that he could plainly see on
his back the little cross in silk. Then he
fell back and secretly sent off two of his
men to court. They were to pretend that
they came from Ludegast and Ludeger,
who had changed their mind and wished to
remain on friendly terms with Burgundy.



Treason 95

As soon as the false embassy was re-
ceived, a messenger was despatched post-
haste to recall Siegfried, who was inclined
to grumble at having such brave sport
spoiled. But he regained his temper and
his spirits when Gunther proposed a great
hunting expedition into the mountains of
Odenwald, which teemed with bears and
boars, with deer and other big game. He
only staid to see his wife before they
started, for they were to be away several
days, perhaps weeks.

During his absence Hagen told the
King what he had learned and exactly
how he meant to manage. Never was
blacker plot hatched by blacker soul.
Gernot and Giselher refused to go ; they
would have no part in it. But they did
not warn the hero, and so shared the
guilt, and had to pay for it with the rest,
in due time.




XIII

SIEGFRIED'S DEATH

WHILE Hagen and Gunther gave
their orders for the chase in which
nobler game than bears and boars was to
be hunted down, and the pack-horses with
provisions and other necessaries were
starting for the forest, Siegfried was tar-
rying with Kriemhilde, whose heart was
heavy and boded evil. He soothed her
and talked to her, and many times kissed
her rosy lips.

" Dear heart," he said, " why these
tears ? God will grant that I find thee
safe and well, and keep me so for love of
thee. In the meantime, while away the
hours with good friends. I shall not be
long gone."

But she was thinking of what she had

9 6



Siegfried's Death 97

told Hagen, only did not dare to speak of
it. And she wept and wept, and would
not be comforted.

" Oh, let this hunt be," she begged. " I
had such a bad dream ! Two wild boars
were chasing thee across the heath, and
on their track the flowers were dyed red.
Ah me, but I am afraid ! treason may be
dogging thee. One never knows whom
one may have offended unawares, and
hatred is watchful and dangerous. Stay
here with me, dear my lord ; 't is love that
bids thee."

" Why, dear one," he said, " I shall be
back in a short time. I know of nobody
here who could bear me hatred or envy.
Thy friends are all well disposed towards
me, and surely I have well earned thy
brothers' love."

" Alas, my Siegfried," she still wailed,
" 1 fear some evil thing may befall thee.
And I had another dream : two mount-
ains fell on thee in a valley, and hid thee
from my sight. If thou goest from me, I
shall wear myself to death."

He took her in his arms, and kissed and



98 Siegfried

petted her, then left her quickly and was
gone. But she stood long just where he
left her and could not control her grief.
For she bethought her of still another
dream which she had dreamed years ago,
long before she ever saw him.

She dreamt she had reared a falcon.
It grew up handsome, strong, and wild,
and she loved the bird dearly. Then two
eagles attacked it and killed it before her
eyes. Nothing ever had grieved her so.
And when she awoke, she told her mother
of the dream. Queen Ute read it thus :
"The falcon," she said, "is a noble lover.
God pity and save him, or it will go ill
with him." She laughed lightly, and
boasted she never would love or wed as
maidens will. But now the dream came
home to her ; she knew her falcon had
gone from her and nothing could bring
him back.

Meanwhile the great chase had begun.
The hunters separated in many parties,
with their several packs of hounds, hav-
ing first agreed on the meeting-place,
where the attendants were to wait for



Siegfried's Death 99

them with tents and provisions. Soon
the mountains and the forest resounded
with the blast of horns and the baying of
hounds on the scent. Boughs broke
crackling and dry leaves rustled as the
scared game rushed wildly in all direc-
tions. And when, at a signal from the
King's horn, the noble hunters met at the
appointed place, a beautiful grassy glade
on a sunlit mountain-side, each had some-
thing to tell and something to show for
his morning's work. But Siegfried cast
down in the midst of the gathering a live
bound bear, which he had captured with
the help of his favourite dog and flung
across his horse. There was much shout-
ing and laughing at the joke ; but when
he cut the thongs that tied the bear's feet
and snout, and the furious beast made a
rush through the throng, to the rear,
where the meal was cooking, upsetting at-
tendants and kettles, scattering the fire,
and scaring the horses, the laughter
changed to shrieks of fright, until the
bear was seen to make, on a run, for the
wood, with the hounds after him in full



5601



ioo Siegfried

cry. Siegfried gave him a considerable
advance, then started in pursuit. Several
others started with him, but soon lagged
behind ; there was only one man fleet of
foot enough for such a race. All clapped
and shouted in wonder and praise when
the hero of the Netherlands, bounding up
to the fleeing beast, despatched him with
one thrust of the sword, then returned,
calm and smiling, with breath unspent, to
where his comrades stood.

It was no town-bred hunger with which
the hunters sat down to the ample feast
provided for them. Not less hearty was
their thirst. Great, therefore, was the
disappointment when it was found that
this part of the refreshments had been
forgotten ; not one cask of wine or mead
had been sent up. Gunther and Hagen
alone knew that the mishap was not due
to chance. Both played their parts well.
Gunther chid his cousin, and Hagen ex-
cused himself by saying that the drink
had, by mistake, been sent to the wrong
place.

" But," he said, " I know the loveliest,



Siegfried's Death 101

coolest spring, not far from here, at the
foot of a large linden-tree. Let us go there."

And when all arose, eager for the
water, he added, with wily intent :

" I have always heard it said that no
one can win a race from Kriemhilde's
lord, when he is in earnest. I wish we
could see one ! '

" So you shall," cried Siegfried, who
was in boyish spirits that day ; " let us race
to the spring ! And I shall wear all my
hunting-gear, while you may run in your
shirts."

He quickly belted on his sword, good
Balmung, took up his shield and spear
and bow, and threw his quiver over his
shoulder. Hagen and Gunther, instead,
cast off all their clothing, except only
their long white linen shirts, in which
they stood side by side as the signal was
given, when they started through the
clover like two wild panthers. But Sieg-
fried stood by the spring long before they
arrived.

They willingly confessed themselves
beaten, and he quickly threw off his



102 Siegfried

quiver, leaned his spear against the linden-
tree, and laid down on the grass Balmung,
his shield, and the panther skin which
hung down his back. Thus he stood
in his tight-fitting black hunting-coat, a
right royal, noble figure, beneath the
wide-spreading, shady tree, by the clear,
cool forest spring, and courteously signed
to Gunther to drink first. The King took
a long draught, and as he rose to his feet
Siegfried stepped up and prepared to do
likewise, looking neither to the right nor
to the left. At this instant Hagen, with
swift and stealthy motion, took away the
bow and sword, and grasping the spear,
drove it with all his strength between the
hero's shoulders as he bent over the water,
into the very spot marked by the little
silk cross, so that his warm heart's blood
spurted forth and crimsoned the murder-
er's white linen shirt. He did not stop to
draw out the spear, but ran ran as never
man ran before.

Siegfried bounded to his feet and
reached out for his sword or bow, but,
finding neither, picked up his shield and




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Siegfried's Death 103

ran in pursuit of Hagen. So great was
his strength that, hurt to death as he
was, he reached him, and closed with him,
and battered him with the shield till it
bent and nearly broke in twain, and the
precious stones with which it was studded
started out of their settings and rolled to
the ground.

A moment more and Hagen must have
fallen under the shower of mighty blows.
But the wounded man's strength suddenly
gave out : his cheek and lips blanched, he
swayed on his feet and sank down among
the wild flowers, and they were dyed red
in his blood.

" Oh, ye cravens ! ' -he spoke with voice
still strong and clear " is this the reward
for all my love and service ? This day's
work will shame many yet unborn, and as
for you, the living, it parts you from the
company of all good men forever ! '

The knights crowded around him where
he lay ; to many this was an accursed day.
Whoever knows what honour is, and truth,
has wept for him.

The King of the Burgundians also bent



104 Siegfried

over him, and began to wail and lament.
But the dying man chid him bitterly :

" Where is the sense of the doer bewail-
ing his own deed ? Better have left it
undone."

Hagen also chid the King in his own
brutal way :

" I know not what you should regret.
Let us rather rejoice that we are rid of
his excessive might. For there are not
many left now who could stand up against
us."

The dying hero heard, and once again
he spoke :

" You may well boast, as things have
turned out. Had I but suspected the
murderous blackness of your heart, you
should have little to boast of. Yet noth-
ing in the world grieves my soul, but only
the thought of Kriemhilde, my wife. She
is your sister, Gunther : let that plead for
her. And if you are still capable of loy-
alty to any human being, let me commend
my dearest love to your pity and favour."

He paused, and stirred uneasily in
cruel pain ; then, with his last breath,



Siegfried's Death 105

came, low and broken, the prophetic
words :

" The time is coming when you shall
rue this day's work. Believe me, I speak
the truth ; in dealing death to me, ye
have dealt it to yourselves."

The breath had fled, and still the flowers
drank the flowing blood.

There was a long silence. Then they
laid him on his golden shield, and began
to consult in whispers what they should
say, so it might not become known that
Hagen had done the deed. They agreed
upon a tale of Siegfried having ridden off
too far into the forest alone, and having
been attacked by outlaws. But Hagen
would not have it so.

" I shall take him home myself," he
said. " I care no whit if she hears the
truth, she who could so cruelly wound our
Queen's feelings. Whether she weeps or
not, or whatever she does, matters very
little to me."




XIV

SIEGFRIED'S FUNERAL

THEY waited till the evening, then
turned towards home and recrossed
the Rhine. Never was more disastrous
hunt. For the game that was slain that
day many a woman's tears were yet to
flow.

Hagen seemed possessed with a fiend
of wickedness and revenge. He had the
dead hero taken quietly to the palace and
laid before Kriemhilde's own door.

By daybreak the cathedral bells began
to ring, and Kriemhilde, who never missed
early mass, waked her maidens, and called
for a light. The chamberlain who brought
it stumbled against the body, saw the red,
blood-soaked clothing, and, without paus-
ing to look who it was, rushed into Kriem-
hilde's presence, crying :

106



Siegfried's Funeral 107

" Lady, stay within ! there is a knight
lying dead before your door."

Her heart misgave her at once. In a

o

flash she thought of what she had told
Hagen, and she knew the worst. She
sank to the floor without a word, in a
faint ; but when she was aroused, she
gave a cry so piercing, it was heard through
the palace.

Her attendants kept repeating, "It
may be a stranger."

" No," she replied, " it is Siegfried, my
beloved lord. Brunhilde planned the
deed, and Hagen did it."

She bade them take her where the hero
lay. She raised his head with her own
white hand.

" Oh, woe is me ! " she cried, " that thou
shouldst fall, not in the noble fray, but by
a vile assassin's hand ! Let me but know
the doer, and my whole life shall be given
to avenge thee."

Loud and bitterly the Queen's attend-
ants wept and wailed with her. But she
sent some to call Siegfried's men, and
others to wake King Siegmund.



io8 Siegfried

The aged King would not at first be-
lieve the tidings and chid the messengers
for making sport of him. They bade him
listen, and he would hear the women's
wailing. Then, trembling and dazed, he
hastened to Kriemhilde's room, followed
by all the Nibelungs. He took his dead
son in his arms, and cried over and over
again, " Oh ! accursed journey ! accursed
land ! ' So loud was the wailing of this
great crowd, that not only the palace re-
sounded with it, but the castle, and all
Worms, the city by the Rhine. And the
warriors from Nibelung swore a great
oath : to avenge him at any time or
place. Then they hurried away to arm
themselves as for war.

But Kriemhilde would not let them do
anything rash. She feared they all might
meet death at the hands of her brothers'
men. She rushed about among the naked,
uplifted swords, begging and command-
ing, reasoning and restraining. At last
she appealed to Siegmund's authority.

" My lord King," she said, " keep them
back till we know more. My husband



Siegfried's Funeral 109

shall be avenged, and I will help you.
Only let me have proofs, and the doer
shall get his deserts some time. But let
me advise you not to seek a quarrel, for
the people here by the Rhine are fierce
and violent, and there would be thirty of
them to every one of you. Stay here in
the house with me, and help me mourn
and bury my dead ; that is our first duty."

Siegmund and the warriors answered :


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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 5 of 14)