Mary Elizabeth Burt.

The story of the German Iliad : a school reader for the sixth and seventh grades online

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Online LibraryMary Elizabeth BurtThe story of the German Iliad : a school reader for the sixth and seventh grades → online text (page 1 of 6)
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Stoey of the German Iliad.

Qi Sfljool IXcabcv

Foil THE




Member of the Chicago Board op Education ;

Author of "Literary Landmarks," "Browning's Women,"

"The World's Literature," etc., etc.


Maynaed, Merrill, & Co.,

43, 45 AND 47 East Tenth Street.

Copyrighted, 1893,






To THE Memory of

The First Woman who ever served on

The Chicago Board of Education.

AND to

The Men associated with her,

Those Members of the Board,

Who showed her so much Deference


Brotherly Kindness,

this little volvsie is inscribed.


HE story of the 'Horned Sieg-
fried/ *' says Carlyle, "is a
real cliild's-book and peo-
ple's-book among the Ger-
mans," and he commends
the zeal with which " learned
professors lecture on the
Nibelungen in public schools
with a praiseworthy view to
initiate the German youtli
into a love for their father-

If " Literature is the autobiography of mankind,"
and sympathy with mankind is real patriotism, and if
the Nibelungen Lied is "the embodiment of German
and hence English spirit," then it is truly patriotic
for German youths in America, and American youths
everywhere, to acquaint themselves with their Teu-
tonic legacy, the story which affords glimpses of the



manners and customs of tlieir Saxon forefathers.
It is almost as un-American for the chihlren of the
United States to grow up in ignorance of their
German birthright as it would he unpatriotic for a
German to deny the value of the interpretation of
German character as found in the " Northern Iliad/'

" The Nibelungen," says Carlyle, " is welcomed as a
precious national possession, recovered after six cen-
turies of neglect, and takes undisputed place among
the sacred hooks of German literature; . . . and to
look with natural eyes on that part of it wliieli
stands visibly above ground and record his own ex-
periences thereof is what any reasonable mortal can
do if he will take heed. It belongs to the English
Teutons as well as to the Germans. It is a firm
sunny island amid chaos, worth visiting.**

That Carlyle shows true teacherly instinct in plac-
ing the Nibelungen as a " real child's-book," no one
can doubt who has made a deep and careful study of
the natural development of child-mind. The child
is only the primitive man with all the development
before him which the human race has experienced.
" In poetry primitive man requires only to see ; man
of more development wishes to feel; truly enlight-
ened man desires to reflect.** As in nations so in
children, — in the first stages of mental development
we see them possessed of a rude eagerness for that
which is full of natural force, for the stories that are
simple and unmotived, for the poetry which is essen-


tially epic. It is through such reading that they
bridge over from their myth-making stage into the
period when their habits of thought have become
scientific. Through the Nibelungen Lied may young
people see their early Teutonic ancestors rise "like
phoenix and the eagle out of the ashes, renevi^ed with
fresh life." Although not real " history/^ the Nibe-
lungen is the truest history, since it has always been
a rallying-point of Northern patriotic feeling, and it
can hardly fail to awaken an enthusiasm in the later
and more realistic history of the nation whose child-
hood is so delightfully revealed in its pages.

In the year 1757 the Swiss Professor Bodmer
printed an ancient poetical manuscript under the
title of " Chriemhilda's Revenge and the Lament,"
and fifteen years later C. H. Miiller reprinted from
Bodmer the Nibelungen Lied as it now stands. Many
other early German poems, all of the German Heroic
Age, came to light soon after, but none of them so
fraught with meaning and interest. It was compiled,
however, many years before it was printed, sung long
before it was compiled, and believed long before it
took definite form in song. Many of the most schol-
arly men who have given great attention to the sub-
ject agree that it is altogether plausible to believe
that it embodies the earliest thoughts of men. That
at first a religious or philosophical myth, in later
years it incorporated itself with vague traditions of
real events, and was modified by Christian influences


until it passed from the mythological into historic

In 1130 Saxo Grammaticus was sent to Seeland
with a treacherous invitation from one Danish prince
to another, and being in sympathy with the prince
whom the invitation was intended to destroy, and not
daring to break his promise and betray the sender, he
sang as an indirect warning that part of the Lied in
which Cbriemhilda betrays her brother. This is
direct evidence that the poem was in a crystallized
form at that date. That it contains characters known
in the history of tlie fifth century is evidence that it
does not belong in its present poetic form to any
earlier date. It is probable that it belongs to the
sixth century. The historic personages in it are
Attila, or Etzel; Helka, or Erca, his wife; and

"In the year 453," says Auber Forestier in her
Echoes fro'iii Mist-Land, "Attila, King of the Iluns,
called the Scourge of God, died suddenly on the
night of his marriage with the fair Ildiko, the Ostro-
goths being shortly thereafter freed from the Hunnish
yoke. These events made a deep impression on the
people of South Germany, and busy tradition, ever
on the alert for poetic justice, attributing Attila's
death to his bride, assumed the murderous deed to
have been wrought by her to avenge the destruction
of the Burgundians, although it was historically
untrue that thev fell through Attila. Then following



its tendency to combine mjiliic and real personages
and facts, traditions blended these new materials with

[lTMi}(f{H |tIipl!i|| l|l| Jll»


previonsly existing stories, and thus was
created the character of King Etzel, who
will be seen to play a comparatively
tame part, merely the fruits of his past
deeds of greatness being visible," Die-
trich of Bern is identified with Theodoric the Great.


The story of Siegfried is considered pui-e myth,
" little room being left for doubt tluit it is the story
of the Greek Theseus in another dress; u repetition
of that great drama of the Greek mythology which
begins with the loss of the golden fleece, and ends
with the return of Herakles." In the second chap-
ter is introduced a part of Tennyson's poem The
Pay-dream, that the continuity of the story may not
be broken as seems to be the case in Lachman's
version. Otherwise tlie translation by Jonathan
Birch from Lachman's comjjilation has been followed,
keeping as close to the original text and style as
possible, paraphrasing except where the quaint verses
seemed simple enough to commend themselves more
incisively than a paraphrase could do to the imagina-
tion of the youthful reader.

M. E. B.

Chicago, 1891.




RESIDE a waterfall an otter
lay, devouring a salmon,
when the benignant Odin,
the malevolent Loki, and
the gladsome Honir passed
that way. Loki, the mis-
chief-loving god, threw a
stone at the harmless crea-
ture and killed it, boasting
of his deed. They stripped
the otter of its skin, and
taking it with them, sought shelter in the house of
Rodmar who dwelt in the valley hard by. Recog-
nizing the skin as that of his son Otter, who some-
times in sport took the form of the furry beast, Rod-
mar seized the three gods and bound them hand and



foot, demanding as mucli gold as was necessary to
cover the otter-skin, for tlieir ransom. The three
gods cast lots among tlieniselves to see wliich one of
their nnmber shoukl be released long enough to bring
the required treasure, and the lot falling on Loki, the
mischievous sprite sped with all haste to the ocean
queen, whom he bribed to lend him her net of en-
chantment in which she was wont to seize the unwary
seamen. In this net Loki caught the dwarf Andvari
in the shape of a pike, and threatening to take his
life, compelled him to redeem himself by making sur-
render of the great hoard of gold and precious stones
which the dwarfs had from time immemorial secreted
in mountain caverns near the source of the Rhine.

But the vast treasures of gold and jewels were not
sufficient to cover the skin of the otter, which had
lengthened and widened until it covered acres of
space. One hair remained visible, whereupon Loki
forced from the dwarf a gold-breeding ring in the
form of a coiled serpent. AYith this ring the last
hair of the otter-skin was hidden from sight, and the
three gods took their dej)arture. Rodmar looked
upon the vast wealth, so suddenly acquired, with
great satisfaction, and began to scheme for its safe-
keeping, not knowing that a curse had been left with
it by the dwarf, a curse which must follow it to the
last. His two sons, Fafnir and Regin, besought their
father to divide the wealth into three shares, each
to take an equal portion; but forgetting the father


in the miser, Rodinur sat down to gaze upon tliis
gold, and as he looked into the glittering eyes of the
serpent-ring, he became himself a serpent whose huge
folds coiled about and protected the treasure. Re-
turning from his work in the fields, Fafnir saw the
great snake coiled about the gold, and slaying the
monster, took possession of the hoard, and guarded it
on Glistenheath, himself having become a dragon.
Eegin, indignant that his brother had robbed him
of his share, called Siegfried to his aid, and for him
made the sword Gram, the sword whose sure edge
was so keen that it could with eqnal ease cut the
lightest down as well as the flinty rock. To Glisten-
heath went Eegin accompanied by Siegfried, who
killed the dragon; and being warned by Odin's birds
that Eegin cherished treacherous intentions toward
himself, Siegfried slew Eegin also, and rode away
with the hoard and its curse.





'alhalla is one of the lialls in
Odin's bright home at Glads-
heim. It is so large that all the
armies in the world might move
within it. It is covered outside
with gold and with shields, and
is as bright as the sun. An
eagle hovers over it, and a fierce
wolf stands before it as guard_
Inside, everything glitters like
polished silver. The rafters are made of spears, the
ceilings covered with shields, the walls adorned with
war-gear. Here Odin daily holds a feast for all
the heroes who have ever been slain in battle. They
are attended by Odin's servants who have prepared
for them the heavenly food, and they drink of the
celestial mead brought by Odin's handmaids, the Val-
kyries. These handmaids hover over the battle-
gi'ound when the conflict rages, and carry from the
bloody field the souls of the slain heroes to Valhalla.
The most beautiful of these maidens who chose the
war-host for Odin was named Brunhilda. But she


was willful and disobedient, and often snatched her

friends from the
doom of death or
helped her favorite
heroes to victory.
So Odin drove her
away from Glads-
heim, and she wan-
dered off to Isen-
land, where she
was gladly wel-
comed by the old
king and the peo-
.ple and made prin-
cess of the fair
realm. This caused
Odin to become still more angry, and
he gave commands that Brunhilda
should be stung with the thorn of
Sleep, and he placed around her
castle a magic circle of fire, through whose flames a
brave knight must ride before she could wake.

The Sleeping Palace.

The varying year with blade and sheaf
Clothes and rcclothes the happy plains

Here rests the sap within the leaf,

Here stays the blood along the veins.


Faint shadows, vapors lightly cairled,

Faint murmurs from the meadows speed,

Like hints and echoes of the world
To germs enfolded in the seed.


Soft luster bathes the range of urns

On every slanting terrace-lawn.
The fountain to his place returns

Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.
Here droops the banner on the tower,

On the hall-hearths the festal fires,
The peacock in his laurel bower,

The parrot in his gilded wires.


Eoof -haunting martins warm their eggs;

In these, in those the life is stayed.
The mantles from the golden pegs

Droop sleepily : no sound is made,
Not even of a gnat that sings.

More like a picture seemeth all
Than those old portraits of old kings.

That watch the sleepei-s from the wall.


Here sits the butler with a flask

Between his knees, half drained ; and there
The wrinkled steward at his task,

The maid-of-honor blooming fair ;
The page has caught her hand in his :

Her lips are severed as to speak :
His own are pouted to a kiss :

The blush is fixed upon her cheek.



Till all the hundred summers pass,

The beams, that through the oriel shine,
Make prisms in every carven glass,

And beaker brimmed with noble wine.
Each baron at the banquet sleeps,

Grave faces gathered in a ring.
His state the king reposing keeps.

He must have been a jovial king.


All round a hedge upshoots, and shows

At distance like a little wood :
Thorns, ivies, woodbine, mistletoes,

And grapes with bunches red as blood :
All creeping plants, a wall of green

Close-matted, burr and brake and brier,
And glimpsing over these, just seen

High up, the topmost palace-spire.


When will the hundred summers die.

And thought and time be born again,
And newer knowledge, drawing nigh.

Bring truth that sways the souls of men ?
Here all things in their place remain.

As all are ordered, ages since.
Come, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,

And bring the fated fairy Prince.

The Sleeping Beauty.
Year after year unto her feet,

She lying on her couch alone, ^

Across the purpled coverlet

The maiden's jet-black hair has grown,


On either side her tranced form

Forth streaming from a braid of pearl ;

The slumbrous light is rich and warm,
And moves not on the rounded curl.

The silk star-broidered coverlid

Unto her limbs itself doth mold
Languidly ever ; and, amid

Her full black ringlets downward rolled,
Glows forth each softly-shadowed arm

With bracelets of the diamond bright ;
Her constant beauty doth inform

Stillness with love, and day with light.

She sleeps ; her breathings are not heard

In palace chambers far apart.
The fragrant tresses are not stirred

That lie upon her charmed heart.
She sleeps : on either hand upswells

The gold-fringed pillow lightly pressed :
She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells

A perfect form in perfect rest.

The Arrival of Siegfried.
All precious things, discovered late,

To those that seek them issue forth ;
For love in sequel works with fate,

And draws the veil from hidden worth.
He travels far from other skies —

His mantle glitters in the rocks —
A fairy Prince with joyful eyes,

And lighter-footed than the fox.



The bodies and the bones of those

That strove in other days to pass
Are withered in the thorny close,

Or scattered blanching on the grass.
He gazes on the silent dead :

" They perished in their daring deeds."
This proverb flashes through his head,

' ' The many fail : the one succeeds. "
He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks :

He breaks the hedge ; he enters there :
The color flies into her cheeks :

He trusts to light on something fair ;
For all his life the charm did talk

About his path, and hover near
"With words or promise in his walk,

And whispered voices at his ear.


More close and close his footsteps wind :

The Magic Music in his heart
Beats quick and quicker, till he find

The quiet chamber far apart.
His spirit flutters like a lark.

He stoops — to kiss her — on his knee.
"Love, if those tresses be so dark,

How dark those hidden eyes must be 1"

Brunhilda Awakes.
A touch, a kiss ! the charm was snapt.

Then rose a noise of striking clocks.
And feet that ran, and doors that clapt.
And barking dogs, and crowing cocks.


A fuller light illumined all,

A breeze through all the garden swept,
A sudden hubbub shook the hall,

And sixty feet the fountain leapt.

The hedge broke in, the banner flew,

The butler drank, the steward scrawled,
The fire shot up, the martin flew,

The parrot screamed, the peacock squalled,
The maid and page renewed their strife,

The palace banged and buzzed and clackt,
And all the long-pent stream of life

Dashed downward in a cataract.


And last with these the king awoke.

And in his chair himself upreared.
And yawned and rubbed his face, and spoke :

"By holy rood, a royal beard !
How say you ? we have slept, my lords.

My beard has grown into my lap."
The barons swore, with many words,

'Twas but an after-dinner's nap.


" Pardy," returned the king, *' but still

My joints are somewhat stiff or so.
My lord, and shall we pass the bill

I mentioned half an hour ago ?"
The chancellor, sedate and vain.

In courteous words returned reply :
But dallied with his golden chain,

And, smiling, put the question by.


All the people in tlie palace felt grateful to Siegfried
for the service done them. The king and his chan-
cellor, the page, the waiting-maid, the brave men and
the fair ladies, and the princess Brnnhilda all united
in boundless praise to the hero, and besought him
to remain with them in Isenland. After much per-
suasion Siegfried yielded to their request, and the
most beautiful rooms in the palace were fitted up
for him. Brunhilda plighted her troth to Siegfried,
who loved her ardently, and he continued at her court
for many months. But he wearied of idleness, and
longed for a braver life and pined for his native
land. One day the two birds of Odin came to him
and counseled him to depart, and mounting his noble
steed, he r 'e forth on new quests.






N Burguiulie tliere lived and throve

a truly handsome maid :
Such as in all the countries round

was not, might well ha said.
Kriemhilda fair, the maiden hight,

— a beauteous dame was she ;
On her account did many a knight

lose life and high degree.

\rW '; '^1^? -Tn!' < " Three rich and nobly-meaning kings
hor kin and guardians were :
Gunther and Gemot twain were
named — both knights beyond
compai'c ;
The third one Giselher was called,— young, strong, and

versed in arms.
These brother-princes heeding watched an only sister's

These kings dwelt at Worms in Rhenish Burgundy,
and there they held their court, which was the resort
of lofty knights who came thither to pay homage
and frank-fees to their lords. Queen Utie, their mo-
ther, a wealthy dame, had outlived their royal father,
Dankrath, who in his early days had Avon chivalric
honors, and when he died had left his sons an ample


Kriemhilda, tlie fair and innocent, dreamed that
she cherished a noble falcon which, soaring, was
fiercely clutched by two wrathful eagles. Awaking,
she told the dream of ill-omen to her mother, who
interjireted it as a projihecy that the maid sliould
wed a noble knight doomed to die through treachery.
Kriemhilda, therefore, vowed never to wed, that no
husband should ever bring her such woe ; however
zealous the crowd of suifors •might be, her heart re-
mained ^^ntouched, Siegfried being yet unknown to

At the court of his father, good King Siegismund,
in the Netherland, Siegfried had heard praises of
the beauty, the lofty mind, and virtuous character of
this maiden, and being under an enchantment which
made him entirely forgetful of Brunhilda, whom he
had left in Isenland, he purposed to wed the high-
born damsel of Burgundy. The rumor of this heart-
affair soon reached King Siegismund's ears, and his
mind was filled with dire forebodings, for ho knew
the strength of rjunther's court, and he tried to turn
the mind of the young man from the wooing. But
finding his son resolved in his purpose, the monarch
thought ii. the wiser course to acquiesce and send the
knight forth in style becoming a great prince.

With eleven accomplished knights, in suits of
ruddy gold, Siegfried departed from the Netherland
and in seven days arrived before Worms. Advanc-
ing in a stately line, their helms flashing, their


swords reaching to the spur, they mude a dazzling
show, and tlie people of Guntlicr's land l)egan to stare
and peer, while his serving-men ran out to meet them.

" The stately men of Burgundie — esquire as well as knight —
Advanced to meet them as was fit ; moreo'er 'twas

courtly right
That they with promptitude should greet such visit to

their lord :
They eased the strangers of their steeds and shields witii

one accord."

They would have led the horses to the stalls, but
Siegfried checked them, saying that he was not sure
that they should care to remain in Gunther's realm,
and begged to be informed of that king's present resi-
dence; whereupon one of the Burgundians replied
with much civility that the sovereign sat at council
with his chiefs, and bade him enter in.

The tidings reached King Gunther's ears that
dauntless unknown knights had come to Worms, and
he marveled and was sorely vexed that none could
give any account of whence they came or why they
were so resplcndently armed and arrayed. Calling a
page, he bade him summon his uncle, llagen — a
traveled knight who had become acquainted with
almost every warrior of renown — that he might iden-
tify the strangers. Standing at the window, Ilagen
turned his keen eyes toward the spot where the
travelers stood.


" Said he, ' Come how or whence tliey may unto our
Rhenisli States,
They are forsooth true princes born, or royal delegates.
Stout are the horses they have rode, and their apparel's

good :
From whatsoever land they come, they are of gentle
blood !

" 'I'm fain to own, though traveled much, beyond our

It ne'er befell by any chance that I did Siegfried see :
Yet will I vouch on best belief — not doubting I am right.
That yonder stately striding chief is he, that valiant

knight !

" 'Therefore I counsel that the prince be courteously re-
ceived ;
And we deserve not such rebuke as he deals out when

Besides, his form of finest mold induces courtesy :
He has effected by his arm rare feats of potency,' "

Then royal Guntlier went forth to receive the
valorous knights, inquiring with kindly courtesy what
errand had brought them to the Ilhine-land; to which
Siegfried replied that, being a knight soon to inherit
a crown, he came to them to receive i)ublic recogni-
tion ; failing in which he should wrest from the kings
of Burgundy in mortal fight their lands and burghs.
Hagen was well aware of Siegfried's i^rowess, and
counseled them to acknowledge the rights of the
brave prince, sharing tlie best with him as if they
were all of one brotherhood. The servants of Sieg-


fried wore led away to dainty apai-tments, while the
l)riiice, as ^lest of King (Junllier, Ava.s royally enter-

During Siegfried's visit to Gunther messengers
arrived from the Saxons and Danes with a declara-
tion of war against the Bnrgnndians. The anxiety
of the king brought sorrow into his face; perceiving
which, Siegfried armed himself and Avent forth to the
conflict, and by his miraculous valor brought the war
to a speedy end, Never had so large a trophy-train
been seen as came to AYorms enthralled through
Siegfried's valiant hand. Two kings and many high-
l)orn captives were of the train, and (Junthcr's heart
l)eat high with love and gratitude to the hero who
had helped him to so great a conquest. Sir Sieg-
fried now bethought himself to return to his father's

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Online LibraryMary Elizabeth BurtThe story of the German Iliad : a school reader for the sixth and seventh grades → online text (page 1 of 6)