Copyright
Wilhelm Wagner.

Epics and romances of the middle ages; adapted from the work of Dr. W. Wägner online

. (page 1 of 31)
Online LibraryWilhelm WagnerEpics and romances of the middle ages; adapted from the work of Dr. W. Wägner → online text (page 1 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


FRONTISPIECE.



ptc0



Romances



tbe



ADAPTED FROM THE WORK OF

DR. W. WAGNER

BY

M. W. MACDOWALL

AND EDITED BY

W. S. W. ANSON

Kditor of Dr. Wagner's "Asgard and the Gods : the Tales and Traditions of
our NortJiern Ancestors"



WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS




LONDON
SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., LIM.

PATERNOSTER SQUARE, E.G.



FIRST EDITION, October, 1882 ; SECOND EDITION, October, 1883;
THIRD EDITION, March, 1886 ; FOURTH EDITION, February,
1887 ; FIFTH EDITION, 1889 ; SIXTH EDITION, July, 1890 ;
SEVENTH EDITION, July, 1892 ; EIGHTH EDITION, January,

1896, NINTH EDITION, November, 1903.




INTRODUCTION



T EGEND is not history; but in legend we find embodied
historical truths, manners and customs of past ages, beliefs
and superstitions otherwise long forgotten, of which history itself
takes no account. Legend has preserved for us, maybe in
romantic dress, maybe under altered names and circumstances,
stirring pictures of heroes and heroines, who once have lived and
suffered, fought and conquered, or have faced death with trustful
courage ; pictures, too, of men of equal prowess, as strong in evil
as in might, who, victorious for a time, have yet ever met a stronger
power than theirs, stronger in virtue, stronger in might.

As we write, the shadowy forms of terrific Alboin raising aloft
his goblet fashioned from royal skull ; the noble Siegfried with
his loved Chriemhild and the jealous Brunhild ; brave King
Dietrich ; the gentle, patient Gudrun and her beauteous mother
Hilde, all flit before the mind, framing themselves into a vivid
picture, such as must have lived in the imagination of our early
forefathers, stirring them on to noble actions, restraining them

280228



INTRODUCTION.



from evil working. Thus has good in all ages fought against ill.
and all races of men have sung its victory in strains but slightly
varying. And so will it ever fight, no matter how our more
elaborate ideas of what is good or evil may vary : the nation
always glorifies the great and noble according to its own un-
reasoning reason.

This volume contains the principal hero-lays of the six great
epic cycles of the Teutonic Middle Ages, and to them we have
added the great mythical Carolingian cycle, which centred round
the persons of Charlemagne and his heroes. The latter is mostly
of Romance origin, and was composed by court troubadours for
the delight of the royal palace, wherefore it never became the
true inheritance of the masses. Beside these French poems,
stand the Breton ones of King Arthur and his Knights of the
Round Table, which later on took up the legend of the Holy
Grail into their very heart, and at this period found their way to
Germany, where they met with a more romantic and poetic treat-
ment at the hands of the court minnesingers. But these foreign
importations never found a true home amongst the German
people ; they never became popular. The native hero-lays on
the other hand, even though less beautiful in conception and in
form, lived on through centuries, and even to this day exist,
though disguised and degraded. For in the market-places of
Germany, and at the few old English fairs that yet remain,
the pedlar bookseller gives in exchange for the farthing piece
printed versions of many of these old legendary tales : Siegfried's
battle with the Dragon, the Rose-garden, Alberic and Elbegast's
adventures, and other wondrous histories of Teutonic epical



INTRODUCTION



origin. But this literature is fast dying out, if, indeed, it may not
by this time be said to be already dead. In Iceland, however, and
in the Faroe Isles, tradition still holds her throne unconquered.
She yet sings to the listening greybeards, to the men and women,
and to the growing youth, of Odin and his mighty rule, of Honir
and the wicked Loki, of Thor and Frey, and Freya Queen of
Heaven, of the Fenris-wolf and the Midgard-serpent. In the
long winter nights she still tells of bold Sigurd's (Siegfried)
deeds and battles, of Gudrun's faithful love and dumb grief
beside the body of her lord, of Gunnar's marvellous harping in the
garden of snakes, and the listeners hold it all in their memory,
that they may sing and tell it to their children and their children's
children. And so do they cherish the time-old legends of their
fathers, that the ardent youth may still be heard to adjure his
bride to love him " with the love of Gudrun," the master revile his
dishonest workmen as " false as Regin " (the evil dwarf), and the
old men to shake their heads and say of the daring lad, that he is
" a true descendant of the Wolsings." At the dance, Sigurd-songs
are yet sung, at Christmastide a grotesque Fafnir takes his part
in the mummery. Thus old German tradition in her wane has
found an asylum, perhaps a last resting-place, in the far North,
driven from their first home by strangers, the myths of Greece and
Rome. Every schoolboy can tell of Zeus and Hera, of Achilles
and Odysseus, every schoolgirl of the golden apples of the
Hesperides, of Helen, of Penelope ; yet to how many of our older
folks, even, are the grand forms of Siegfried, Chriemhild, and
Brunhild more than mere names?

It is true that a tendency is now springing up in England and



io INTRODUCTION.



in Germany once more to enquire into these old tales, nay beliefs,
of our common ancestry. It is true that we have a Morris and
they a Wagner ; but we should wish to see the people of both
nations take a more general interest in a subject of such intrinsic
worth to them, their long-forgotten heritage. It is not the history
of class-books that they will find in it it is that of their fathers'
manners and customs, of their joys and sufferings, their games and
occupations, festivals and religious observances, battles, victories-
and defeats, their virtues and their crimes. Such is the golden
field that lies beneath our feet, which, unheeded, we have let lie
fallow, till it has almost faded from memory.

In a previous volume, Asgard and the Gods, the Tales and
Traditions of our Northern Ancestors ; we have endeavoured to
give an account of the religion of our ancient Norse parents. In
this volume we are occupied with their legendary lore.

To what extent these legends formed a part of their religion-
proper it is impossible for us now to say. Of later origin and
more poetic treatment, they stood in a similar position toward the
old Teutons as the later Greek heroic legend stood to the Greeks-
of history. Some say, and the learned Grimm amongst them,*
that the heroes were historical men raised to the dignity of gods,
others that they were humanized gods themselves ; but may be
neither theory is exactly true, though both contain a portion of
the truth. In the hero-legends we certainly find heroes possessed
of the distinctive attributes of certain gods, and we are tempted
to add others to their characters, but we consider that these divine

* "Teutonic Mythology," translated by J. S. Stallybrass. Vol. i. p. 315.



INTRODUCTION.



n



qualities were looked upon rather as divine gifts of the gods and
did not thereby exactly deify the recipients. It was similar with
the Greeks, and perhaps with all nations at a stage when their
heroes really formed an essential element in their belief. The
gods were never human heroes, the heroes never became gods,
though each approached the other so nearly that we are often
misled into assuming that they were identical.

W. S. W. ANSON.




CONTENTS,



PART FIRST

THE AMELUNG AND KINDRED LEGENDS.
I. LANGOBARDIAN LEGENDS.

PAGE

i. ALBOIN AND ROSAMUND ........ 19-27

z. KING ROTHER. 28-54

3. ORTNIT , ' . ..... 55~ 81

II. THE AMELUNGS.

1. HUGDIETER13H AND WOLFDIETERICH 82-114

2. KING SAMSON 115-124

3. DIETWART 125-135

III. DIETRICH OF BERN.

j. DIETRICH AND HILDEBRAND I 3S~ l S l

i. DIETRICH'S COMRADES 152-172

3. DIETRICH'S ADVENTURES i73~ l 9

4. DIETRICH THE FAITHFUL ALLY . . 191-198

5. ERMENRICH THE HARLUNGS 199-208

6. KING ETZEL WALTER OF WASGENSTEIN HILDEGUNDE. . 209-213



IA CONTENTS.



PAGE

7. ETZEL AND DIETRICH AGAINST THE REUSSEN .... 214-215

8. THE BATTLE OF RAVENNA . 216-221

9. GOING HOME ... 222-226



PART SECOND.

THE NIBELUNG AND KINDRED LEGENDS.

I. THE NIBELUNG HERO.

i. SIEGFRIED'S YOUTH 229-237

z. SIEGFRIED IN BURGUNDY 238-242

3. THE DRAGONSTONE 243-252

4.. THE WOOING OF BRUNHILD 253-260

5. TREASON AND DEATH ......... 261-273

II. THE NIBELUNGS' WOE.

1. KING ETZEL'S WOOING . 274-278

2. THE BURGUNDIANS VISIT HUNLAND 279-299

3. THE NIBELUNGS' LAMENT 300-306

III. THE HEGELING LEGEND.

1. HAGEN 307-314

2. HETTEL THE HEGELING AND HIS HEROES. .... 315-320

3. GUDRUN .. . 321-330

4. QUEEN GERLIND .... . . 331-339

5. BATTLE AND VICTORY ......... 340-346

IV. BEOWULF.

1. GRENDEL 347-348

2. BEOWULF, THE BOLD DIVER 349-354

3. THE SHE-WOLF OF THE SEA 354-357

4. BEOWULF is MADE KING 357-359

5. THE FIGHT WITH THE DRAGON , 359-364



CONTENTS.



PART THIRD.

1. THE CAROLINGIAN LEGENDS.

PAGE

f. THE CHILDREN OF HAYMON 367-396

2. ROLAND . . . 397-407

3. WILLIAM OF ORANGE . 408-418

II. LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND THE HOLY GRAIL.

1. TlTUREL 419-426

2. PERCIVAL 427-452

3. LOHENGRIN 453-462

.4- TRISTRAM AND ISOLD 463-474

///. TANNHAUSER.

LEGEND OF TANNHAUSER 475-4^2




PART FIRST.

THE AMELUNG AND KINDRED LEGENDS,



I. LANGOBARDIAN LEGENDS.
II. THE AMELUNGS.
III. DIETRICH OF BERN.




LANGOBARDIAN
LEGENDS.

I.
ALBOIN AND ROSAMUND.

ALBOIN.

NTROUBLED by the conscien-
tious scruples of the historian, the
poet throws the glamour of his genius over the events he
relates, when taking for his ther e the great deeds of the past,
he strives to make them live in the hearts of his hearers.
The story of Alboin and Rjsamund has a strictly historical



20 LANGOBARD1AN LEGENDS.

foundation, although many poetic liberties have been taken with
it. For instance, it is contrary to fact that the heroes of this and
the following tale were predecessors of Theoderic, for Alboin did
not march into Italy at the head of his Langobards until the year
568 A.D., whereas Theoderic died in 526, and his Gothic empire
was destroyed in 553. Nevertheless we give the stories in their
poetical order, as the natural connection between them is thus
kept up.

The Germanic Gepidae and Langobards and the Asiatic Avars
were inhabitants of Pannonia (i.e. Hungary and the neighbouring
provinces) at the time this story begins. War and hunting were
the occupations of the freemen, while the serfs tended the flocks
and herds, and cultivated the land.

Now it happened that Alboin, son of the Langobardian ruler
Audoin, conquered and slew a son of Thurisind, king of the
Gepidae, in fair fight. He then took possession of the armour
of his vanquished foe, and bore it in his arms to his father's hall,
just as the warriors of his race were assembling there to hold
high festival. He would have joined them, but his father forbade
him, saying that it had always been held by the sages of the olden
time, that no prince was worthy to sit at the table of heroes until
he had been given a suit of mail by some foreign king. The
young man snatched up his battle axe, but remembering in time
that it was his father who stood before him, turned and left the
hall. He mounted his charger, and set out with his train for the
land of the Gepidae. He arrived at the royal stronghold when
King Thurisind was feasting with the princes of his people.

Alboin approached the king, and placing himself under pro-
tection of the laws of hospitality, begged that he might be
furnished with a suit of armour forthwith. The Gepidae were
displeased with the boldness of his manner, but Thurisind re-
ceived him kindly, and gave him a seat at his side.



ALBOIN AND ROSAMUND. 21

Many beakers were drunk, and the conversation at table grew
more and more unfriendly, for Kiinemund, the king's eldest son,
was angry and jealous at a stranger being given his place beside
the king. To prevent further disagreement, Thurisind sent for the
minstrels to come and enliven the company.

They came. They sang the glorious deeds of their forefathers,
and especially those done by Aldarich, who destroyed the power
of the Huns. Lastly, they called upon the young men before
them to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, careless whether
Fortune rewarded their efforts or not.

" Yes," said Kiinemund when the song was ended, " Fortune is
blind and throws her favours at the feet of mean-spirited creatures
with white bands round their knees, that make them look for
all the world like white-legged hacks, and every one knows it takes
a deal of beating to make them go ! "

The Langobards always wore the white bands alluded to, so
they knew that the scornful words were directed against them.
Alboin's blood was up in a moment. He started to his feet and
told Kiinemund to go to the place where he had fought his
brother, and there he would see how shrewdly the " white-legged
hacks " could kick.

A tumult immediately arose, which was with difficulty calmed
by the old king, who then gave Alboin the armour he had craved,
and sent him away with his followers without loss of time, lest
worse should come of it, and the rights of hospitality be broken.

As Alboin rode away he passed Rosamund, Kiinemund's fair
little daughter, who was playing at shuttlecock with her maidens,
and as he passed he looked at her long and earnestly.

ROSAMUND.

Peace lasted between the Langobards and Gepidae while the
old kings Audoin and Thurisind lived, but after their death a



22 LANGOBARDIAN LEGENDS.

bloody feud broke out between the rival tribes. At length
Kiinemund and many of the noblest Gepidae fell under the axes
of Alboin and his people. Upon which the Langobardian king
had his enemy's skull set as a goblet in a silver rim, and used it
for drinking solemn toasts at the great feasts. Then he married
Rosamund, and she, poor soul, hated him as the murderer of
her father. She had to feign love, though she would willingly
have strangled her husband with her own hands. She bore her
lot as well as might be, all the while nursing the secret hope that
she might one day avenge her father's death.

Alboin had no idea of the thoughts that filled his wife's heart.
Intent on conquest, he crossed the Alps into Italy at the head
of his own people, of those Gepidae who had followed the
fortunes of their princess, and of other adventurers who had joined
his train. This he did in response to an invitation from the
Roman general N arses, victor over the Ostrogoths, who feeling
himself slighted by the imperial court, had determined on ven-
geance. Alboin carried all before him, and destroyed every town
and fortress that did not at once open its gates to receive him.
Pavia alone offered a long resistance. During his three years'
siege of that city, the Langobardian king made raids into the
neighbouring country and brought it under his rule. One warrior
alone was equal to him in prowess, and that was Peredeus, a giant,
who was said to possess the strength of twelve ordinary men. At
last the gates of Pavia opened, and Alboin, who had sworn to
put the inhabitants to fire and sword, rode in under the archway.
Just then his horse stumbled, and a priest exclaimed that this
was an omen that he should die a violent death if he kept his
word. The king believed the warning, forgave, and spared the
city.




ALBOIN FORCES ROSAMUND^TO DRINK OUT OF HER FATHER'S SKULL.



ALBOIN AND ROSAMUND. 25

THE REGICIDE.

Alboin gave a great feast to his warriors, at which much of the
fiery wine of the south was consumed. The talk of the guests
was of the great deeds of Wodan, the god of battles, and how
he and Frigga had led their fathers to victory ; then they spoke
of their own conquest of the Gepidae and their victories in Italy.

In the midst of this, Alboin, intoxicated with wine and pride,
commanded that the goblet made out of Kiinemund's skull should
be brought, and turning to queen Rosamund desired her to pledge
him it She hesitated. "Why," he cried, "know you not,
Rosamund, that I love you more than aught in the world besides ?
Show me now your love and obedience by doing what I bid you."
She looked at him in silent entreaty, but her hesitation aroused
his anger. He raised his hand to strike her and then she lifted
her murdered father's skull to her lips. None could tell whether
she drank or not, for, flinging the goblet on the table so violently
that the wine ran out, she said, " I have obeyed you, but you
have lost your wife." Having uttered these words, she rose and
left the room.

A hoarse murmur of indignation passed from mouth to mouth,
for no one approved of what the king had done. And he,
suddenly sobered by his wife's words and action, got up and
left the hall.

Alboin did not see Rosamund again until the following day,
when she went about her usual duties quietly. The insult seemed
to be forgiven and forgotten. But Rosamund could neither forgive
nor forget. She dreamed of vengeance. At last she persuaded
Helmigis, the king's shield-bearer, to murder his master ; but
when the moment for action came, he feared to do the deed.
So the queen turned to Peredeus for help, and by means of
flattery and sweet words brought him over to her side. One



26 LANGOBARDIAN LEGENDS.

evening he slipt into the king's room and slew him. Before
Alboin's death became known, the conspirators, of whom there
were many, got possession of the royal treasure, and hid it away
in a secret place. Soon after this, Rosamund announced her
betrothal to Helmigis, and named him as Alboin's successor in
royal power.

The nobles assembled to debate this point, and, after much
discussion, it was agreed by a large majority that the murderer
of the great Alboin was the last man who ought to succeed
him ; that he should rather be punished for his crime. Hearing
how matters were going on in the council, the conspirators fled.

THE RETRIBUTION.

Guarded by her faithful Gepidae, Rosamund and her accomplices
reached Ravenna in safety with the treasure they had carried
away with them. There they placed themselves under the pro-
tection of Longinus, exarch or viceroy of the Eastern emperor.
They had not been there long when Longinus, having fallen
desperately in love with the fair widow, or with the wealth of
which she was possessed, asked Rosamund to marry him, and
she at once consented on condition that the viceroy freed her
from Helmigis, to whom she was already bound. Longinus gave
her a cup of wine mixed with a deadly poison, telling her to give
it to Helmigis the next time he complained of thirst. This she
did. Her victim drained half the goblet at a draught. The
poison was so strong that he immediately felt he was doomed,,
and drawing his sword, forced her to finish what he had left.
Thus the murderers died, and their great treasure fell into the
hands of the Roman viceroy. But the story tells us that wealth
did not make him happy, and that it was the ultimate cause of
his death.

We have still to learn what became of Peredeus, the giant. Her



ALBOIN AND ROSAMUND. 27

was so used to deeds of violence that he thought the murder of
Alboin a mere nothing. Placing himself at the head of a band
of Gepidae, he set out for Constantinople and offered his services
to the emperor. His great strength gained him a high position
at court, and raised him in his master's favour. As time went on
he became discontented with the treatment he received, thinking
it hardly consistent with the gratitude he deserved for his manifold
services. Some of his angry words were repeated to his master,
who determined to make him powerless to hurt the throne. One
night, when Peredeus was snoring off the effects of a drunken
orgy, a number of men crept into his room, chained him hand
and foot, and put out his eyes. His howls of pain were so terrible
that they made all in the palace and neighbourhood tremble.

The blind giant showed himself quiet and obedient, so that his
guards ceased to fear him, but still they never took off his chains
until one evening he begged to be allowed to wrestle before the
emperor, maintaining that his strength was unabated. He was
led into the great hall, and there, amid the general applause,
proved himself as mighty an athlete as he had ever been. Sud-
denly he heard the emperor's voice, and dashing in that direction
plunged a knife he had concealed about his person into the hearts
of two great officials of the court, whom he mistook for the
emperor. A few minutes more and he had fallen under the spears
of the body-guard.

So, one by one, the murderers of Alboin all came to a violent
end, and the Langobards, for want of their leader, failed to gain
full possession of the fair southern land they had come to regard
as their own.

Occasionally their power was revived for a time by some able
king, such as Rotharis (636-52) the subject of the following
legend, till it was finally broken by Charlemagne the Frank (774)-



28



LANGOBARDIAN LEGENDS.



KING ROTHER PUTS THE SHOES ON
THE PRINCESS'S FEET.




KING ROTHER
(RUOTHER).

THE TWELVE MESSENGERS.

|ARI is the name of an Italian
town which, small and unim-
portant as it is now, was once a mighty sea-port. In those old
days the harbour was deep and large and full of ships, while in
the town itself were numerous palaces and houses surrounded
by gardens and orange-groves.

Here it was that the great and glorious King Rother, the
father of his people and the terror of his foes, held court amongst
the dukes, counts and nobles of the land. The race-course was
close to the sea, and there the young warriors were wont to



KING ROTHER.



29



congregate, to throw the spear and practise such sports as teach
agility, while the women and maidens looked on and distributed
prizes to the successful candidates for honour.

One day King Rother was seated on his throne surrounded
by his counsellors, watching now the people, now the sports, and
now the restless waves that were beating against the shore.
There was a troubled look upon his face. Turning to his old
and faithful banner-bearer, Duke Berchther of Meran, who sat
beside him, " Look," he said, " do you see how the waves raise
their foam-crowned heads high in the air, dash forward, and then
vanish without leaving a trace behind ? The kings of the earth
resemble them in this, so indeed do all men."

" What do you say ? " cried the duke. " Do you not hear how
many songs are sung in your praise ? Know you not that such
songs live on from generation to generation, and that your name
and deeds will therefore be spoken of with admiration till the
end of time ? "

"That is poor comfort," replied the king. " What is the future
to me, when the present is so tame and joyless ? A happy home
were better to me than the songs of which you speak. There
go your seven sons, bold Leupold at their head, their helmets
wreathed in token of victory. You live a second life in them,,
and their love will sustain you in your old age. What good
is my throne to me ? I have not wife nor child. I shall wither
Vke an old tree, or become the laughing-stock of children in my
age!"

" Then why do you not marry ? " asked the duke, laughing
heartily. "You are in your prime and a famous warrior. You
might pick and choose any one you liked for a wife, no one would
say you nay, from a simple maiden to a high-born princess."

"You say that I am free to choose," said Rother bitterly;
* kings are more fettered in their choice than other men. They



30 LANCrOBARDIAN LEGENDS.

must marry in their own degree, or their children cannot succeed
them, and may even live to curse them. I have travelled in many
lands, but I have never yet seen the princess I could have wished
to make my wife."

" Nay then, sire, if you are so hard to please," returned
Berchther after a ^eep and thoughtful silence ; " I think I know
of a lady who might suit you, if you are willing to risk your head
for her sake."

The king desiring further information, Berchther showed him
the portrait of a lovely girl, who, he said, was the daughter of
the Emperor of Constantinople. Rother could not take his eyes
off the picture, and exclaimed that she, and she alone, must be
his wife.

" Very good, my lord," said Berchther ; " but that is a more
difficult matter to bring about than you think. I must explain
what I mean. The Emperor Constantine is so devoted to his
daughter that he will not part with her ; and if any man be
he count, duke or king is bold enough to go and ask for her
hand, he at once orders his head to be cut off. And what is
the good of a headless wooer ? "



Online LibraryWilhelm WagnerEpics and romances of the middle ages; adapted from the work of Dr. W. Wägner → online text (page 1 of 31)