Zénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) Ragozin.

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

. (page 7 of 14)
Online LibraryZénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) RagozinSiegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons → online text (page 7 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" would you shed tears for the bit of gold ?
Let King Etzel but lay eyes on you, and
he will pour such wealth into your lap that
you could never spend it. Were all the
treasure still yours that ever was brought
from Nibelung, neither your hand nor mine
should touch it. Of mine own store I

King Etzel's Wooing 135

brought so much from home, that we have
more than enough for twice the journey."

The parting was not without many tears.
Mother and daughter well knew that they
were seeing the last of each other ; but her
sorest grief was parting from her favourite
brother, Giselher. Nor did she refuse a
sisterly kiss to Gunther and Gernot, and
when at last the well-mounted troop
wended its way eastward toward the
River Danube, there remained behind
many a heavy heart and many a tearful
eye. But Gernot and Giselher insisted
on escorting her part of the way with one
thousand of their bravest knights. Nor
did they take leave of her until they stood
on the very bank of the Danube, which
parts the German lands from those of the
Huns. She clung pitifully to her brother
Giselher, as he whispered to her : " Sister
mine, should you ever have need of me, or
should any danger threaten you, send me
word, and I will ride forthwith to help
you, straight to King Etzel's land."

Then the Burgundians rode away, back
to the Rhine.



FOR thirteen years Kriemhilde had been
Queen of the Huns. Never had
King Etzel loved Queen Helke as he now
loved his wife from Burgundy. Her
power over him was unlimited. And when
a son was born to them, she found no dif-
ficulty in getting the delighted father's
consent to have the child baptised and
brought up a Christian. She was not less
beloved by the country at large ; the
Huns all declared they never had had so
kind and gracious a queen. For she was
gracious by nature, and had made it her
special object to win her new people's
love. She appeared to be happy and
contented, and no one suspected that her
whole heart lived in the past with the


In Hunland 137

dead, that life in the strange land was
hateful to her, that her only thought and
hope, morning, noon, and night, was that
of revenge. She was homesick and longed
to see her brothers again, Gernot, and
especially Giselher, and her old true
friends, but she had not forgiven Gunther
even though she had given him the kiss
of peace, and as for Hagen, she could
scarcely wait until she should have him in
her power. She was sick with her long-
deferred hope and craving, but waited
patiently and made no move, until she felt
herself so firmly anchored in the love of
her husband and people that she could
carry through anything she set her mind
to. Thirteen years she waited ; then she
felt that her time had come. And so one
evening, when King Etzel had been par-
ticularly good-natured and affectionate,
Kriemhilde spoke at last of what had
never been out of her mind :

" My loving lord, if I have found favour
in your eyes, I would this day ask you for
a token. It grieves me that none of my
people have visited me in this long time.

138 Siegfried

Your people here must think I have no

King Etzel answered as she knew he
would :

" Sweet wife, if it is not too long a
journey for them, I would willingly ask
them all here, as many as you would like
to see. You will not be more glad to see
them than I shall. I have sorrowed more
than once that they should keep aloof
from us."

Two messengers, with a sufficient es-
cort, were quickly equipped. The King
himself gave them their instructions, to
which the Queen privately added some of
her own. They were never to betray to
anyone at her old home that she had ever
been seen sad or thoughtful ; they were to
let her mother, Queen Ute, know how
highly she was honoured among the
Huns ; her brother Giselher they were
to tell that her eyes ached for a sight of
him ; and they were especially to see that
Hagen did not stay behind, because, she
explained, he alone among the Burgund-
ians knew all the roads to Hunland and

In Hunland 139

was familiar with the country. Gifts and
greetings there were for all, even for

Great was the wonder and turmoil in
Burgundy as King Etzel's envoys rode
through the land. The rumour of their
coming reached Worms much before them
and the royal family was anxious to learn
what they brought. The invitation was
a great surprise to all. The brothers were
delighted to hear from their sister ; but
the question was a weighty one, and King
Gunther asked his friends' opinion singly,
one by one. Each advised him and his
brothers to go, until Hagen's turn came
to speak, which he did, angrily and
roughly :

" Have you all taken leave of your
senses ? Have you forgotten what we
once did to her? It behoves us to be-
ware of Kriemhilde as long as we live.
I slew her husband with this right hand
of mine how then can we go of our
own free will to King Etzel's land and put
ourselves in her power ? "

" Speak for yourself," retorted the King ;


" my sister is at peace with us ; in the lov-
ing kiss she gave us at parting all malice
was forgotten. How you, Hagen, stand
with her, you know best."

" Do not deceive yourselves," Hagen
warned again, " whatever these Huns
may say. If you trust yourselves to
Kriemhilde, you will rue it. She knows
how to nurse a grudge, King Etzel's noble
wife ! "

" You may have good cause to fear for
your own life among the Huns," Gernot
tauntingly put in his word ; "but that is
no reason why we should shun our sister."

" And since you feel so guilty, friend
Hagen," Giselher chimed in, " you had bet-
ter stay at home. Only those who feel
safe need go to Hunland."

"You know that fear will never keep
me at home," growled Hagen, angrily.
" If you will not be advised, I will show
you whether I am afraid."

Others now began to speak in the same
sense as Hagen ; some of the best men
roundly refused to go ; Hagen's nephew,
Ortewein of Metz, was of the number.

In Hunland 141

But all this only made Gunther more de-
termined, until Hagen yielded so far as to
say :

" Let not my words trouble you. Go
if you must. But let me give you this
one advice, out of my duty to you : go
well prepared."

" That we will ! " cried Gunther cheer-
ily, and forthwith sent out a call for three
thousand men, all picked and proven

Hagen and his brother Dankwart
brought a thousand of their own men ;
Folker, the noble minstrel-knight, also
came not unattended. But Marshal Orte-
wein, Hagen's nephew, and several others,
absolutely refused to go. They mis-
trusted Kriemhilde ; and as it was nec-
essary that some should stay to take care
of the country and to look after Gunther's
Queen and children, they were allowed to
have their way.

All this time, Etzel's messengers were
detained, under one pretence or another,
much against their will. But Hagen
would not give them more than seven

142 Siegfried

days' start, that Kriemhilde might not
have time for much dangerous preparation.
At last they were allowed to pay their
respects to the aged Queen-mother, after
which they were escorted with due hon-
our to the frontier of Burgundy and some
way beyond. Brunhilde would not see
them, excusing herself with ill health.

When Kriemhilde was told of the mes-
sengers' return, she sent for them at once,
and after generously rewarding them for
their trouble and good news, she asked
the names of those who were coming with
her brothers, and was especially curious to
know what Hagen had said.

" Not much that was pleasant," was the
answer ; " when they decided to undertake
the journey, he told them they were going
to their death."

Kriemhilde sought the King and spoke
to him with joyful face and smiling lip :

" Is my dear lord pleased at my news?
The only wish I had is now about to be

"Thy will is my pleasure," the King
replied affectionately ; " I would not so

In Hunland

rejoice in my heart if they were my own
best friends who came to visit us."

He hastened to give orders that every-
thing should be made ready for the guests'
honourable reception and greatest com-
fort. Little he knew that their coming
was to be the end of all his joys on earth.



JUST as the Burgundians were about
*J to start, something happened which
rather damped their spirits. Ute, the
aged Queen-mother, who had all the time
been anxious that her sons should visit
their sister, suddenly begged them to
change their minds on the very morning
appointed for their departure.

"It were best after all you stayed at
home," she said to them. " I had a dream
last night that bodes no good. I thought
all the birds in Burgundy were killed."

They were rather shaken at that. But
Hagen was not going to let them stay,
now they were all ready to go, on account
of an old woman's dream, after they had
made light of his sensible objections. He


The Journey 145

laughed at them and held them to their
word. And sorry enough he was for it

The journey went on smoothly and
merrily as far as the River Danube. They
found it swollen, angry, and overflowing
its banks and no ferry in sight. Hagen
started to explore the country and see if
he could not find one. As he rode about
rather aimlessly, he came on two maidens
bathing in a quiet creek. He stole up to
where their clothes lay on the bank and
hid them, for pure mischief, while they
swam quickly away.

They were water-maidens, wise in secret
lore. They stopped at a distance from
the bank and one of them spoke :

" Hagen, noble knight, if you will re-
turn our clothes, we will tell you how you
will fare on this your journey to the

This was just what he wanted most to
know, so he promised.

"You may ride on nothing daunted,"
the same water-maiden then said ; " never
did heroes ride to greater honours than

146 Siegfried

await you in King Etzel's land, of that
rest assured."

Nothing could have pleased him better,
so he at once brought back the clothes.
Then the other water-maiden spoke :

" Hear my warning, Hagen. My sister
spoke only half the truth. Turn back
while there is yet time, for death awaits
you all in Etzel's land."

"These are but idle threats," Hagen
retorted. " What can happen to us in a
friendly country, whither we go as invited
guests ? '

" And yet it is as I say," replied the
water-maiden ; " not one of you will see
his home again, except only the King's
chaplain, we know for certain. He will
return safe and sound to King Gunther's
land ; he, and no one else."

With this the maidens left him, sore
perplexed. He rode on and came to a
ferry, but the ferryman refused to take
the men across, although Hagen promised
him a generous reward, and offered him a
rich golden shoulder-clasp as a free gift.
The man said he would not take strangers,

The Journey 147

who might turn out to be foes and invade
his liege lord's lands, saying which he
seized his heavy oar, long and broad, and
hit Hagen a blow which brought him to
his knees. The next moment the ferry-
man's head flew into the river. Then
Hagen fastened a long strap to the boat
and towed it to where his friends were en-
camped, waiting for him. He himself
took them across in small parties, the
horses swimming alongside. Not one was
lost, either man or horse.

With the last party the King's chaplain
was preparing to cross ; he stood ready,
clasping the Sacrament. The moment
Hagen's eye fell on the priest, he attacked
him furiously, like one suddenly gone mad :
"Hold on, Hagen, stop!' a hundred
voices shouted at him, but he stayed not
his hand until he had forced the priest
overboard into the river.

" What makes you want to kill the
chaplain?" cried Gernot angrily. "Were
it anybody but yourself, he should rue it.
What has the man done to you that you
should treat him so ? "

148 Siegfried

Hagen answered never a word, but,
kept furiously hammering at the priest
with an oar, until the poor man, swim-
ming with all his might, succeeded in
reaching the bank, which he climbed, then
sank down exhausted. As he rose to his
feet, shaking the water from his robe,
Hagen saw that the water-maiden had
spoken the truth, and muttered, " We are
lost ! "

When all the men and all the luggage
had been carried safely to the other side,
he began, still silently, to hack the boat in
pieces and to throw the pieces into the

" Why, brother, what are you doing ? '
cried Dankwart ; "were it not better to
conceal the boat, so we can use it again
on the homeward journey ?'

" There will be no homeward journey,"
Hagen replied, gloomily ; " and if there
is any coward among us, who would fain
save his skin, he shall lose his life at my
hands right here, by this river."

The chaplain who had been looking on
from the opposite bank, now spoke in loud

The Journey 149

and threatening tones, before he turned
to start on his way home.

" You caitiff ! you dastardly murderer ! '
he shouted across the water. " What had
I done to you that you should want to
drown me, a poor harmless priest ? Go !
go your way to the Huns ! I will hie me
back to the Rhine which may you never
see again ! that is my hearty prayer."

So the Burgundians started on their
further journey laden with the good man's

They had fared well so far, and even
now nothing of note happened to them,
except a skirmish with the lord of the
country through which they rode. He
heard of the ferryman's death and, think-
ing that enemies had come to take his
land from him, he rode after them in
pursuit with some troops, but was slain
in the fight which followed, and his men
dispersed. No one molested the Burgun-
dians after that and they arrived safe and
sound at the boundary of Rudiger's mar-
graviate of Bechlaren. Here they found,
on guard, Siegfried's old and trusted friend,

150 Siegfried

Margrave Eckewart, who had followed
Kriemhilde into the land of the Huns.
From him they had their first warning.

" Alas, but I am sorely grieved to see
you here," he said, after the first greet-
ings ; "you best know, Hagen, what you
have done, and what welcome you may
look for here in the land of the Huns.
Keep good watch that is the best advice
I can give you now that you are here.
But come ; yourselves and your horses
must be spent with the long journey and
you cannot have many provisions left.
Come then ; I will take you to a host, the
most hospitable you have met in any
country. His heart bears kindness as
the lovely month of May bears grass and
flowers. I will take you to my friend

The good Margrave had not forgotten
the friendly reception which he had met
with at the Court of Burgundy when he
came thither to woo Kriemhilde for his
royal master. And now he could not do
enough for his guests, on whom he pre-
vailed to remain several days at his castle,

The Journey 151

until all trace of fatigue should be gone,
so they should present themselves before
King Etzel well rested and in perfect
trim. Their followers were requested to
make themselves at home on a vast field
near by, where hundreds of tents were
erected for their comfort, and all their
needs were amply provided for. Rudiger
himself, his wife, and his young daughter
devoted all their time to the royal brothers
and their immediate friends, with whom
they exchanged kindnesses and costly
gifts, so that a very close friendship had
grown up between host and guests and
indeed, Giselher and Rudiger's lovely
daughter had become engaged lovers,
when he at last announced that he had
sent off messengers to inform King Etzel
of their arrival and that it might be con-
sidered rude if they tarried any longer.



BEFORE they reached the royal resi-
dence, the Burgundians had one
more serious warning. Dietrich, King of
Bern, one of the most famous heroes of
the age, was at this time paying a visit to
the King of the Huns, who requested him,
in order to do them the greater honour,
to go himself to meet them, with a chosen
body of troops. He consented the more
willingly that he wished to caution them,
and this was the best chance.

The Burgundians, seeing him approach
and being told who he was, dismounted
to receive him, and so did he.

"Welcome !" he cried, shaking each by
the hand as he named him : " welcome,
royal Gunther, likewise Gernot, Giselher,


The Arrival 153

and Hagen, and you, my lords Folker
and Dankwart ! But are you not aware
that Kriemhilde has never, to this day,
ceased to weep and mourn for the hero of
the Nibelungs ? Let me bid you be-
ware ! '

" Let her," replied Hagen, carelessly ;
" he has been dead these many years, and
will stay so. She had better think more
of the King of the Huns."

" What should I beware of ? ' Gunther
joined in. " Etzel sent for us ; we have
come trusting to his royal word. And my
sister also sent many loving messages of
her own."

"What more can I say?" replied Diet-
rich. " All I know is that every morning
I hear her cry and moan, as though her
heart would break, and call to high
Heaven for vengeance on Siegfried's

" What is done cannot be undone,"
spoke Folker, the minstrel-knight. " As
things are, nothing is left us but to ride
on to court and see for ourselves."

And now they all rode on together ; the

154 Siegfried

Burgundians in closely serried ranks, with
proud and martial bearing, after their coun-
try's fashion. The roads were crowded as
they passed. The Huns were especially
anxious for a look at Hagen, whom they
knew to have slain the mightiest of all
famous heroes ; the curiosity to see him
was great as well at court as through the
country. And as they gazed their fill on
him, they beheld a middle-aged warrior,
powerfully built, broad of chest and shoul-
ders, with dark hair mixed with grey, tall
and erect of figure, grim and forbidding
of face.

When they arrived, the knights were
taken at once to rich and handsome quart-
ers, but not roomy enough to hold their
followers also, who were comfortably
housed elsewhere. That they were thus
separated was due to Kriemhilde's fore-

The moment she was informed of their
coming, she went to visit them with a few
attendants. She greeted her brothers, but
kissed only Giselher, and never gave a look
to Hagen. Seeing which, he made his

The Arrival 155

helmet faster on his head and spoke out
loud and roughly :

11 After such a reception, our friends may
well be in doubt. Greetings, I see, are
unlike for prince and subject. We might
have spared ourselves the journey."

" Let those welcome you," the Queen
retorted sternly, " to whom you are a
pleasant sight. As for me- -what precious
gifts have you brought me from the Rhine,
that / should give you such a warm
welcome ? '

"What foolish talk is this?" rudely
broke in Hagen. " Gifts ! why should we
bring you any ? Had I but thought of it,
I am not so poor but that I might have
presented you with some gewgaw or

" One thing only I would ask you,"
Kriemhilde said tauntingly : " what did
you do with the Nibelung treasure? that
was my own, as you know very well. It
was your plain duty to bring it to me

" Sooth to say, my lady Kriemhilde, it
is many and many a day since I am rid of


the nuisance. My lords, your brothers,
had it sunk in the Rhine, and there it shall
lie until Doomsday."

" Think not at least that I am longing
for the gold ; I have more of that than I
could ever spend. But I am the victim of
a murder and a felony, and for that my
heart craves satisfaction."

Then, turning to all the knights, the
Queen commanded :

11 The King's guests may not carry arms
in the King's mansion. Give yours to me,
ye warriors ; I will take care of them."

" That shall never be ! ' Hagen cried
quickly ; " you do us too much honour,
royal lady, we could not suffer your fair
hands to carry our heavy shields, and other
weapons. It is not your place : you are
the Queen. Besides, my father taught me
to take care of my arms myself."

The Queen frowned and bit her lip.

" They have been warned ! ' she mut-
tered. " Did I but know who dared to do
it, that man should lose his life."

" / did ! ' Dietrich declared defiantly ;
" I warned the noble princes and Hagen,

The Arrival 157

too, their liegeman. Do your worst, you
fiendish woman ; you dare not touch me."

And he gave her such a look that
she flushed with shame and anger, and
went without another word, only casting a
venomous glance at her foe.

So greatly had years of brooding over
one great wrong, and of unholy craving
for revenge changed Siegfried's gentle
wife !



TTHERE was an ominous silence after
Kriemhilde had gone. Then Hagen
and Dietrich joined hands, and the latter
spoke :

" It grieves me much, in truth, that you
and your friends should have taken this
journey, now the Queen has spoken such

11 Forewarned, forearmed," was all that
Hagen said. And they parted for the time.

The palace in which the Burgundians
were housed stood directly opposite the
royal palace ; there Kriemhilde stood at
a window and could not take her eyes off
the gate over the way, before which sat
the two friends, Folker and Hagen, mount-
ing guard. Hagen knew she was looking,


On Guard 159

and, the deeper to spite her, had laid Sieg-
fried's own good sword, Balmung, across
his knees. She burst into tears at the
sight, and told her great grievance to
those of Etzel's warriors who were in the
same room with her.

" I would be beholden to my dying
day," she concluded, amidst tears and sobs,
" to any man who would avenge me on
that man ; I must have his life."

King Etzel, in the meantime, who had
not the remotest idea of his wife's feel-
ings and evil schemings, was wondering
why his guests were so long in presenting
themselves before him. Then some of
his nearest friends went over to bring
them to court in state. Dietrich of Bern
took Gunther by the hand, Rudiger took
Giselher, others took the rest ; so all walked
in pairs, and, crossing the palace-yard, en-
tered the great audience-hall.

The moment Etzel saw King Gunther,
he sprang from his seat and, meeting him
half way, the two exchanged greetings the
most cordial that ever passed between
crowned heads.

160 Siegfried

" Welcome ! " he cried, " thrice welcome,
noble Gunther, and you Gernot, and you,
brother Giselher ! Welcome also all your
knights with you ! And you especially be
welcome to me and to my wife here, my
Queen, ye two worthies from the Rhine,
Hagen and Folker the bold. She sent


you many a kind message, I know."

"Which were duly given us," replied
Hagen, in his courtliest manner. " Had I
not come in my liege's following, as in duty
bound, I would have taken the journey on
purpose to pay my respects to my lord the

Once again the King took his dear
guests by the hand, and led them to their
seats, close by his own. And while the
cupbearers filled their wide golden bowls
with wine and mead, he once again bade
them welcome.

" I must confess," he said, " I often won-
dered wherein I had failed against you,
that, while so many noble guests graced
my hearth, you, my brothers, never took
the journey to my land. But now I see
you here, my joy at having you under

On Guard 161

my roof and at my board makes me for-
get the slight sting of former neglect.
Let us therefore rejoice and be happy

The banquet was splendid beyond words,
and would have lasted far into the night,
had not the guests pleaded fatigue and
asked to be taken to their night-quarters.
They found a vast hall lined with most
luxurious beds, wide and soft, decked with
costliest, daintiest furs, such as ermine and
black sable. But, tired as they were, they
did not dare to enjoy the rest on these
tempting couches. Yet it would have been
very unwise for them to meet the morrow's
dangers unrested and unrefreshed ; so
Hagen and Folker volunteered to keep
guard at the door of the hall, and bade
their comrades sleep.

Half an hour later not a man was up
but those two. Hagen sat leaning against
the door-post with Balmung lying bare
across his knees. But Folker took his
fiddle and bow and softly played some of
his sweetest tunes, with which he was wont
to shorten many a starlit evening at home,

1 62 Siegfried

by the Rhine. He played to sleep many
a careworn soul that night, their last night
of kindly rest.

Their fears had not been idle. The
night was not half spent when the two

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryZénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) RagozinSiegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons → online text (page 7 of 14)