Part 6 out of 7
Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.
Under his slouched hat, left and right
He glanced: the old flag met his sight.
"Halt!"--the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
"Fire!"--out blazed the rifle-blast.
It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf;
She leaned far out on the window-sill.
And shook it forth with a royal will.
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word:
"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.
All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet:
All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.
Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;
And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.
Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the rebel rides on his raids no more.
Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.
Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of freedom and union, wave!
Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;
And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!
BEOWULF AND GRENDEL
NOTE.--The oldest poem in the English language is Beowulf, which
covers some six thousand lines. When it was written is not exactly
known, but the original is still in existence in the British Museum.
It was written in Anglo-Saxon and could not be read and understood by
us to-day. It has, however, been translated and turned into modern
English, and its quaintness of phrasing gives it a very peculiar charm
of its own.
An old Anglo-Saxon poem bears little resemblance to ours. There is no
rhyme, and the lines are not equal in length, and there does not seem
to be much music in it. One of its poetic characteristics is
alliteration; that is, several words in the same line begin with the
same or similar sounds. It is a noble old poem, however, and of great
interest, for it shows us what the old Saxon gleemen sang at their
feasts for the entertainment of their guests, as they sat about the
blazing fires in the huge, rude halls, drinking their mead.
The chief incident in the poem is Beowulf's battle with Grendel, and a
description of that, taken indirectly from the poem, is the story that
follows. After this combat Beowulf returned to his home, in time was
made king, and after a stormy life died from wounds received in combat
with a terrible fire fiend.
When the history of the Danes begins they had no kings and suffered
much at the hands of their neighbors. Then by way of the sea, from
some unknown land, came Scef, who subdued the neighboring tribes and
established the Danish throne on a firm foundation. His son and his
son's son followed him, but the latter sailed away as his grandfather
had come, and the race of ruler gods was ended.
Left to themselves, the Danes chose a king who ruled long and well and
left his son Hrothgar to make of them a wealthy and prosperous people.
After years of warfare, when the prosperity of Hrothgar was fully
established, it came into his mind to build a great hall where he and
his warriors and counselors could meet around one common banquet table
and where, as they drank their mead, they could discuss means for
increasing their power and making better the condition of their
peoples. High-arched and beautiful was the great mead-palace, with
towering pinnacles and marvelous walls, and the name that he gave to
the palace was Heorot, the HART or, as some say, the HEART. When the
noble building was finished, Hrothgar's heart was filled with joy, and
he gave to his counselors a noble feast, at which he presented them
with rings and ornaments and entertained them with music on the harps
and the inspiring songs of the Skalds.
Far away in the marshes, in the dark and solemn land where dwelt the
Jotuns, the giants who warred against God's people, lived the grim and
ferocious Grendel, more terrible than any of his brethren. From out of
the fastnesses of his gloomy home he saw the fair building of Hrothgar
and grew jealous of the Danish king, hating the united people, for
peace and harmony were evil in his sight.
The feast was long over, and the thanes and warriors slept in the
banquet hall, worn out by their rejoicing, but dreaming only of the
peaceful days to follow their long years of warfare. Into the midst of
the hall crept Grendel, and seized in his mighty arms full thirty of
the sleeping men and carried them away to his noisome home, where he
feasted at leisure upon their bodies.
The next morning there was grief and terror among the remaining Danes,
for they knew that no human being could have wrought such havoc and
that no human power could prevail against the monster who preyed upon
The next night Grendel came again and levied his second tribute, and
again there was mourning and desolation in the land. Thus for twelve
years the monster giant came at intervals and carried away many of the
noblest in the kingdom. Then were there empty homes everywhere in the
land, and sorrow and suffering came where joy and peace had rested.
Strange as it may seem, Hrothgar himself was never touched, though he
sat the night long watching his nobles as they slept in the mead-hall,
hoping himself to deliver them from the awful power that harassed
them. But night after night Grendel came, and while Hrothgar remained
unharmed he was equally powerless to stay the ravages of the giant.
Hrothgar bowed his head in sorrow and prayed to his gods to send help
before all his noble vassals perished.
Far to the westward, among strange people, lived a man, the strongest
and greatest of his race, Beowulf by name. To him came the news of
Grendel's deeds and of Hrothgar's sorrow, and his soul was filled with
a fiery ambition to free the Danes. From among his warriors he
selected fifteen of the boldest and strongest, and put out to sea in a
new ship, pitched within and without, to seek the land of the Danes
and to offer his help to Hrothgar. Over the white sea waves dashed the
noble vessel, flinging the foam aside from her swanlike prow until
before her showed the cliffs and wind-swept mountain sides of Denmark.
Giving thanks to God for their prosperous voyage, they landed, donned
their heavy armor and marched in silence to the palace Heorot.
Entering the hall with clanking armor they set their brazen shields
against the wall, piled their steel-headed spears in a heap by the
door, and bowed to Hrothgar, who, bowed with sorrow and years, sat
silently among his earls. When Beowulf rose among his warriors he
towered high above them, godlike in his glittering armor. Hrothgar
looked on him in wonder, but felt that he saw in the mighty man a
deliverer sent in answer to his prayer.
Before Hrothgar could recover from his surprise and delight, Beowulf
stretched forth his powerful arms and spoke: "Hail, Hrothgar, king of
the Danes. Many a time and oft have I fought with the Jotuns, evil and
powerful, and every time have I overcome, and now have I come unto the
land of the Danes to undertake battle with the fierce Grendel. No
human weapon hath power against a Jotun, so here in your mead-hall
leave I my weapons all, and empty-handed and alone will I pit my
strength against the horrid Grendel. Man to man, strength to strength,
will I fight, till victory is mine or death befalleth me.
"If I perish, give my companions my shroud and send it home by them in
my new ship across the sea. Let there be no mourning for me, for to
every man Fate cometh at last."
Hrothgar answered, "Noble you are, O Beowulf, and powerful, but
terrible indeed is Grendel. Many a time at eventide have my warriors
fearlessly vowed to await the coming of Grendel and to fight with him
as you propose; but when morning came, the floor of Heorot was deep
with their blood, but no other trace of them remained. Before,
however, we accept your valiant offer, sit this night at meat, where,
by our old and honored custom, we incite each other to heroic deeds
and valorous behavior, when night shall come and Grendel claim his
A royal feast it was that the old king gave that night, and the golden
mead flowed from the twisted cups in living streams, while the Skalds
sang the valorous deeds of heroic Danes of old.
Then rose Beowulf to speak. "To-night Grendel cometh again, expecting
no one to fight him for many a time hath he levied his toll and
escaped without harm. Here alone with myself will I keep vigil, and
alone will I fight the foul fiend. To-morrow morning the sun will
glorify my victory or I shall be a corpse in the dark and noisome home
of the ogre."
The eye of the gray-haired king grew bright again as he listened to
the brave words of Beowulf, and from her throne the queen in her
bejeweled garments stepped down to Beowulf and presented him the
loving-cup with words of gracious encouragement.
"No more shall Grendel feast upon the bodies of royal Danes, for to-
night his foul body shall feel the powerful grip of my mighty hands,"
To their proper resting places in the hall stepped the Danish
warriors, one by one, filing in a steady line past the great Beowulf,
to whom each gave kindly greeting. Last of all came Hrothgar, and as
he passed, he grasped the strong fingers of Beowulf and said, "To your
keeping I leave my great hall, Heorot. Never before have I passed the
duty on to any man. Be thou brave and valiant, and if victory cometh
to thee no reward shall be too great for thy service."
And so the king departed, and silence fell over Heorot.
Left alone, Beowulf laid aside his iron mail, took off his brazen
helmet and ungirded his trusty sword. Then unarmed and unprotected he
lay down upon his bed. All about the palace slept, but Beowulf could
find no rest upon his couch.
In the dim light of the early morn, forth from the pale mists of the
marshes, stalked Grendel, up to the door of the many-windowed Heorot.
Fire-strengthened were the iron bands with which the doors were bound,
but he tore them away like wisps of straw and walked across the
sounding tiles of the many-colored floor. Like strokes of vivid
lightning flashed the fire from his eyes, making before him all things
as clear as noonday. Beowulf, on his sleepless couch, held his breath
as the fierce ogre gloated savagely over the bountiful feast he saw
spread before him in the bodies of the sleeping Danes. With moistening
lips he trod among the silent braves, and Beowulf saw him choose the
strongest and noblest of them all. Quickly the monster stooped, seized
the sleeping earl, and with one fierce stroke of his massive jaw, tore
open the throat of the warrior and drank his steaming blood. Then he
tore the corpse limb from limb and with horrid glee crunched the bones
of his victim's hands.
[Illustration: GRENDEL COULD NOT BREAK THAT GRIP OF STEEL.]
Then spying the sleeping Beowulf he dropped his mangled prey and laid
his rough hands on his watchful enemy. Suddenly Beowulf raised himself
upon one elbow and fastened his strong grip on the astonished Jotun.
Never before had Grendel felt such a grip of steel. He straightened
his mighty back and flung the clinging Beowulf toward the door, but
never for a moment did the brave champion relax his fierce grip, and
the ogre was thrown back into the center of the hall. Together they
fell upon the beautiful pavement and rolled about in their mighty
struggles till the walls of the palace shook as in a hurricane and the
very pinnacles toppled from their secure foundations. The walls of
Heorot fell not, but the floor was strewn with broken benches whose
gold trappings were torn like paper, while the two struggled on the
floor in the wreck of drinking horns and costly vessels from the
tables, while over all slopped ale from the mammoth tankards. Backward
and forward they struggled, sometimes upon their feet and again upon
the floor; but with all his fearsome struggles, Grendel could not
break that grip of steel. At last, with one mighty wrench, Grendel
tore himself free, leaving in the tightly locked hands of Beowulf his
strong right arm and even his shoulder blade, torn raggedly from his
body. Roaring with pain from the gaping wound which extended from neck
to waist, the ogre fled to the marshes, into whose slimy depths he
fell; and there he slowly bled to death. Fair shone the sun on Heorot
the next morning when the warriors came from all directions to
celebrate the marvelous prowess of Beowulf, who stalked in triumph
through the hall with his bloody trophy held on high. Close by the
throne of the king he hung Grendel's shoulder, arm, and hand, where
all might see and test the strength of its mighty muscles and the
steel-like hardness of its nails, which no human sword of choicest
steel could mark or mar. With bursting heart, Hrothgar thanked God for
his deliverance and gave credit to Beowulf for his valorous deed.
First was the wreck of the savage encounter cleared away, then were
the iron bands refastened on the door and the tables spread for a
costly feast of general rejoicing. There amid the songs of the Skalds
and the shouts of the warriors, the queen poured forth the sacred mead
and handed it to Beowulf in the royal cup of massive gold. As the
rejoicing grew more general, the king showered gifts upon Beowulf, an
ensign and a helm, a breastplate and a sword, each covered with
twisted gold and set with precious stones. Eight splendid horses,
trapped in costly housings trimmed with golden thread and set with
jewels, were led before Beowulf, and their silken bridles were laid
within his hand. With her own hand the queen gave him a massive ring
of russet gold sparkling with diamonds, the finest in the land.
"May happiness and good fortune attend thee, Beowulf," she said, "and
ever may these well-earned gifts remind thee of those whom thou hast
succored from deadly peril; and as the years advance may fame roll in
upon thee as roll the billows upon the rocky shores of our beloved
When the feast was over Hrothgar and his queen departed from the hall,
and Beowulf retired to the When the feast was over Hrothgar and his
queen departed from the hall, and Beowulf retired to the house they
had prepared for him. But the warriors remained as was their custom,
and, girt in their coats of chained mail, with swords ready at hand,
they lay down upon the floor to sleep, prepared to answer on the
instant any call their lord should make. Dense darkness closed upon
the hall, and the Danes slept peacefully, unaware that danger
When midnight came, out of the cold waters of the reedy fastnesses in
the marsh came Grendel's mother, fierce and terrible in her wrath,
burning to avenge the death of her son. Like Grendel she wrenched the
door from its iron fastenings and trod across the figured floor of
Heorot. With bitter malice she seized the favorite counselor of
Hrothgar and rent his body limb from limb. Then seizing from the wall
the arm and shoulder of her son she ran quickly from the hall and hid
herself in her noisome lair.
The noise of her savage work aroused the sleeping Danes, and so loud
were their cries of anger and dismay that Hrothgar heard, and rushed
forth to Heorot, where Beowulf met him.
As soon as Hrothgar heard what had happened he turned to Beowulf and
cried, "O, mighty champion of the Danes, yet again has grief and
sorrow come upon me, for my favorite war companion and chief counselor
has been foully murdered by Grendel's mother, nor can we tell who next
will suffer from the foul fiend's wrath.
[Illustration: BEOWULF ON HIS NOBLE STEED]
"Scarcely a mile from this place, in the depths of a grove of moss-
covered trees, which are hoary with age, and whose interlacing
branches shut out the light of the sun, lies a stagnant pool. Around
the edges of its foul black water twine the snake-like roots of the
trees, and on its loathsome surface at night the magic fires burn
dimly. In the midst of the pond, shunned alike by man and beast, lives
the wolf-like mother of Grendel. Darest thou to enter its stagnant
depths to do battle with the monster and to deliver us from her
Straightening his massive form and throwing back his head in fierce
determination, Beowulf replied, "To avenge a friend is better than to
mourn for him. No man can hasten or delay by a single moment his death
hour. What fate awaiteth me I know not, but I dare anything to wreak
vengeance on the foul murderer, and in my efforts to bring justice I
take no thought of the future."
Then the king Hrothgar ordered a noble steed with arching neck and
tossing mane to be saddled and brought forth for the noble Beowulf to
ride. Shield bearers by the score accompanied him as he rode on the
narrow bridle path, between those dark-frowning cliffs whose rugged
trees dimmed the sun and made the journey seem as though it were in
twilight. In such a manner came they to the desolate lake in the
The sight that met the eyes of Beowulf was enough to chill the blood
of any man. On the shore among the tangled roots of the trees crawled
hideous poisonous snakes, while on the surface of the water rolled
great sea dragons, whose ugly crests were raised in anger and alarm.
From the turbid depths of the water, unholy animals of strange and
fearful shapes kept coming to the surface and swimming about with
Undaunted by these sickening sights, Beowulf blew a mighty blast upon
his terrible war-horn, at the sound of which the noisome animals slunk
back to the slimy depths of the dismal pond. Clad in his shirt of iron
mail, wearing the hooded helmet that had often protected his head from
the savage blows of his enemies, and clasping in his hand the handle
of his great knife, Hrunting, whose hardened blade had carried death
to many a strong foeman, Beowulf fronted the awful lake.
Thus armed and protected, he plunged into the thickened oily waters,
which closed quickly over him, leaving but a few great bubbles to show
where he had disappeared. Into the depths of the dark abyss he swam
until it seemed as though he were plunging straight into the jaws of
As his mighty strength neared exhaustion, Beowulf found the hall at
the depth of the abyss, and there saw Grendel's mother lying in wait
for him. With her fierce claws she grappled him and dragged him into
her dismal water palace whose dark walls oozed with the slime of ages.
Recovering his breath, and fierce at the assault, Beowulf swung his
heavy knife and brought it down on the sea wolf's head. Never before
had Hrunting failed him, but now the hard skull of Grendel's mother
turned the biting edge of the forged steel, and the blow twisted the
blade as though it were soft wire. Flinging aside his useless knife,
Beowulf clutched the sea woman with the mighty grip that had slain her
son, and the struggle for mastery began. More than once was Beowulf
pushed nigh to exhaustion, but every time he recovered himself and
escaped from the deadly grasp of the powerful fiend who strove to take
his life. As he grew weaker, Grendel's mother seized her russet-bladed
knife and with a mighty blow drove it straight at the heart of
Beowulf. Once again his trusty shirt of mail turned the blade, and by
a last convulsive effort he regained his feet.
As he rose from his dangerous position he saw glittering in his sight
as it hung in the walls of water, the hilt of a mighty sword, which
was made for giants, and which no man on earth but Beowulf could
wield. Little he knew of its magic power, but he seized it in both
hands, and swinging it about his head in mighty curves, struck full at
the head of the monster. Savage was the blow, more mighty than human
being ever struck before, and the keen edge of the sword crashed
through the brazen mail, cleft the neck of the sea wolf, and felled
her dead upon the floor. From her neck spurted hot blood which melted
the blade and burned it away as frost wreathes are melted by the sun.
In his hand remained only the carven hilt.
On the shore of the dark lake the Danes waited anxiously for the
reappearance of Beowulf, and when blood came welling up through the
dark waters they felt their champion had met his fate, and returning
to Heorot, they sat down to mourn in the great mead-hall.
Then among them strode Beowulf, carrying in one hand the great head of
the sea woman and in the other the blistered hilt of the sword, snake-
shaped, carven with the legend of its forging. Beowulf related the
story of his combat and added, "When I saw that Grendel's mother was
dead I seized her head and swam upward again through the heaving
waters, bearing the heavy burden with me; and as I landed on the shore
of the lake I saw its waters dry behind me, and bright meadows with
beautiful flowers take their place. The trees themselves put on new
robes of green, and peace and gladness settled over all. God and my
strong right hand prospered me, and here I show the sword with which
the giants of old defied the eternal God, The enemies of God are
overcome, and here in Heorot may Hrothgar and his counselors dwell in
The king and his counselors gathered round about Beowulf, and looked
with wonder and amazement on the head of the fierce sea monster and
read with strange thrills of awe the wondrous history of the sword and
the cunning work of its forgers.
Then to Beowulf, Hrothgar spoke in friendly wise, "Glorious is thy
victory, O Beowulf, and great and marvelous is the strength that God
hath given thee, but accept now in the hour of thy success a word of
kindly counsel. When a man rides on the high tide of success he may
think that his strength and glory are forever, but it is God alone who
giveth him courage and power over others, and in the end all must fall
before the arrows of death. God sent Grendel to punish me for my pride
when I had freed the Danes and built my pinnacled mead-hall. Then when
this despair was upon me he brought thee to my salvation. Bear then
thy honors meekly, and give thanks to God that made thee strong. Go
now into the feast and join thy happiness to that of my warriors."
That day the high walls of Heorot rang with the thunderous shouts of
the warriors and echoed the inspiring words of the Skalds who sang of
Beowulf's victory. When at last darkness settled o'er the towers and
pinnacles of the palace, the grateful Danes laid themselves down to
sleep in peace and safety, knowing that their slumber would never
again be disturbed by the old sea woman or her giant progeny.
CUPID AND PSYCHE
Adapted by ANNA MCCALEB
Once upon a time, in a far-off country whose exact location no man
knows, there lived a king whose chief glory and pride was in his three
beautiful daughters. The two elder sisters were sought in marriage by
princes, but Psyche, by far the most beautiful of the three, remained
at her father's home, unsought. The fact was, she was so lovely that
all the people worshiped her as a goddess, while no man felt that he
was worthy to ask for her hand.
"Shall a mere mortal," they said, "venture to seek the love of Venus,
queen of beauty?"
When Psyche learned of the name they had given her she was frightened,
for she knew well the jealous, vengeful nature of the goddess of
beauty. And she did well to fear; for Venus, jealous, angry, was even
then plotting her destruction.
"Go," she said to her son Cupid. "Wound that proud, impertinent girl
with your arrows, and see to it that she falls in love with some
wretched, depraved human being. She shall pay for attempting to rival
Off went the mischievous youth, pleased with his errand; but when he
bent over the sleeping Psyche and saw that she was far more beautiful
than any one whom he had ever looked upon, he started hastily back,
and wounded, not the maiden, but himself, with his arrow. Happy, and
yet wretched in his love (for he knew his mother too well to fancy
that she would relent toward the offending Psyche), he stole away; and
for days he did not go near his mother, knowing that she would demand
of him the outcome of his mission.
Meanwhile the old king, feeling that disgrace rested on his family
because no man had come to seek Psyche in marriage, sent messengers to
ask of the oracle [Footnote: An oracle was a place where some god
answered questions about future happenings. The same name was also
given to the answers made by the god. The most famous oracles were
that of Jupiter at Dodona and that of Apollo at Delphi, the latter
holding chief place. At Delphi there was a temple to Apollo built over
a chasm in the mountain side from which came sulphurous fumes. A
priestess took her seat on a tripod over this chasm, and the answers
she gave to inquiries were supposed to be dictated by the god. These
answers were almost always unintelligible, and even when interpreted
by the priests were ambiguous and of little use. Nevertheless, the
Greeks believed in oracles firmly, and never undertook any important
work without first consulting one or more of them.] of Apollo whether
he or his family had ignorantly offended any of the gods. Eagerly he
watched for the return of the messengers, but as they came back the
sight of their white faces told him that no favorable answer had been
"Pardon, O King," said the spokesman, "thy servants who bring thee ill
news. We can but speak the words of the gods, which were these:
"'For hear thy doom; a rugged rock there is
Set back a league from thine own palace fair;
There leave the maid, that she may wait the kiss
Of the fell monster that doth harbour there:
This is the mate for whom her yellow hair
And tender limbs have been so fashioned,
This is the pillow for her lovely head.
"'And if thou sparest now to do this thing,
I will destroy thee and thy land also,
And of dead corpses shalt thou be the king,
And stumbling through the dark land shalt thou go,
Howling for second death to end thy woe;
Live therefore as thou mayst and do my will,
And be a king that men may envy still.'"
[Footnote: From William Morris's Earthly Paradise.]
Imagine the grief of the loving father at these words! Had the oracle
but threatened punishment to him, he would have endured any torture
before subjecting his child to such a fate; but as a king, he dared
not bring ruin on all his people, who trusted him. Psyche, herself,
numb with horror, commanded quietly that preparations be made for the
procession which should accompany her to the rock described by the
oracle. Some days later, this procession set out, the priests in their
white robes preceding Psyche, who, in mourning garments, with bowed
head and clasped hands, walked between her father and mother. Her
parents bewailed their fate and clung to her, but she said only, "It
is the will of the gods, and therefore must be."
At last the mountain top was reached, the last heart-breaking
farewells were said, and the procession wound back toward the city,
leaving Psyche alone. All the horror of her fate burst upon her as she
stood on the bleak rock, and she raised her hands to heaven and cried.
Suddenly, however, it seemed to her that the breeze which blew past
her murmured in her ear "Do not fear"; and certainly she felt herself
being lifted gently and carried over mountain and valley and sea. At
last, she was placed on a grassy bank, in a pleasant, flower-bright
valley, and here she fell asleep, feeling quite safe after all her
On awaking, she strolled about the lovely garden in which she found
herself, wondering to see no one, though on all sides there were signs
of work and care and thought. At the door of a palace, more gorgeous
than any she had ever seen before, she paused, but soft voices called
"Enter, beautiful maiden," and gentle hands, which she saw not, drew
her within the door. While she gazed in wonder at the wrought golden
pillars, the ivory and gold furnishings, the mosaic of precious stones
which formed the floor, a voice said, close beside her:
"Sovereign lady, let not fear oppress thee:
All is thine on which thine eye doth rest.
We, whose voices greet thee, are thy servants--
Thou art mistress here, not passing guest.
In thy chamber, bed of down awaits thee;
Perfumed baths our skilled hands prepare."
As she had slept in the garden, Psyche felt no need of rest, but
passed at once to the refreshment of the bath. Then, for she had eaten
nothing since the oracle's decree, she seated herself at the table and
ate of the delicious dishes which the invisible hands presented to
her. Swiftly the remaining hours of daylight passed, while the amazed
and enraptured Psyche wandered about the palace and listened to the
exquisite music which invisible performers furnished for her.
With the coming of the darkness, the voice which had spoken to her at
her entrance said, "Our master comes!" And shortly after, he began to
speak to her himself. At the first tones of his gentle, loving voice,
Psyche forgot her fears, forgot the oracle; and when her unseen lover
said, "Canst thou love me somewhat in return for all the love I give
thee?" she answered, "Willingly!"
"Thou mayest have all the joys which earth and heaven afford; one
thing only I ask of thee in return. I shall come to thee with the
darkness, and never shalt thou try to see my face."
Psyche promised, and she kept her promise faithfully for a long time,
though her longing to see the husband who was so good to her was
great. During the hours when he was with her, she was perfectly happy,
but through the long days, when she had nothing but the voices that
had greeted her on her arrival, and her own thoughts for company, she
longed and longed to see her sisters, and to send to her parents news
of her happiness. One night when her husband came, she begged of him
that he would allow her sisters to visit her.
"Art thou not happy with me, Pysche?" he asked sorrowfully. "Do I not
fill thy heart as thou fillest mine?"
"I am happier with thee than ever happy girl was with seen lover,"
replied Psyche, "but my parents and my sisters are yet in sorrow over
my fate, and my heart tells me it is selfishness for me to be so happy
while they grieve for me."
At last, her husband gave a reluctant consent to her request, and on
the very next day, the West Wind, [Footnote: The winds, four in
number, were the sons of Aeolus, god of the storm and of winds. Their
names were Boreas, the north wind; Zephyrus, the west wind; Auster,
the south wind, and Eurus, the east wind.] who had brought Psyche to
this retreat, brought her two sisters and set them down at her door.
Joyfully Psyche led them in, and she commanded her invisible servants
to serve them with the finest foods and entertain them with the most
exquisite music. After the meal was over, the happy girl conducted
them about the palace and pointed out to them all its treasures. She
was not proud or boastful; she only wanted to show them how kind and
thoughtful her husband was. But the sights that met their eyes filled
them with envy, and when Psyche left the room to make some further
plans for their comfort, one said to the other:
"Is it not unendurable that this girl, who was left unsought in our
father's house for years, should be living in such splendor? I shall
hate the sight of my own palace when I return."
"Yes," sighed the other, "all the polished oaken furnishings of which
I was so proud will be worthless in my eyes after seeing Psyche's
magnificent ivory and gold. And she is our younger sister!"
"Do you notice," said the elder sister, "that while she says much
about what her husband does for her, she says nothing at all about
him? But wait--here she comes--say nothing, and I will question her."
Happy, innocent Psyche, never doubting that her sisters were as
pleased at her good fortune as she would have been at theirs, came to
lead them to another room, but her sister detained her.
"Stay," she said, "we have something to ask of you. About all the
splendors of your palace you have talked; you have told us at great
length about your husband's goodness to you. But not a word about his
looks or his age or his occupation have you said. See, sister! She
blushes! Shy girl, she has been unwilling to speak of him until we
"No doubt," said the other sister, "she has saved until the last her
description of him, since he is the best part of her life here."
Poor Psyche knew not what to say. How should she confess that, after
these many months, she had never seen her husband; that she knew not
at all what manner of man he was?
"Why, he's a young man," she replied hesitatingly, "a very young man,
and he spends much of his time hunting on the mountains."
"Has he blue eyes or brown?" asked the elder sister.
"I--why--O, blue eyes," said Psyche.
"And his hair," inquired the second sister, "is it straight or
curling, black or fair?"
"It's--it's straight and--and brown," faltered poor Psyche, who had
never before uttered a lie.
"Now, see here, my child," said the elder sister, "I can tell from
your answers that you've never seen this precious husband of yours. Is
not that the case?"
Psyche nodded, the tears running down her cheeks.
"But he's so good to me," she whispered. "And I promised I wouldn't
try to see him."
"Good to you! You deluded innocent, of course he's good to you! What
did the oracle say? It's plain to be seen that the prophecy has come
true and that you are wedded to some fearful monster, who is kind to
you now that he may kill and devour you by-and-by."
At length, for they were older than Psyche, and she had always been
accustomed to taking their advice, they convinced her that her only
safety lay in discovering at once what sort of a monster had her in
"Now mind," they counseled her, "this very night conceal a lamp and a
dagger where you can reach them easily, and as soon as he is asleep,
steal upon him. You shall see what you shall see. And if he's the
distorted monster we think him, plunge the knife into his heart."
Poor, timid Psyche! Left to herself, she scarce knew what to do. She
kindled the lamp, then extinguished it, ashamed of her lack of faith
in her kind husband.
But when she heard him coming, she again hastily lighted the lamp and
hid it, with a sharp dagger, behind a tapestry. When her husband
approached her she pretended weariness; she knew that if she allowed
him to talk with her, her fears would melt away.
"My visit with my sisters has tired me. Let me rest," she pleaded, and
her husband, always ready to humor any wish of hers, did not try to
coax her into conversation. He threw himself upon the couch, and when
his regular breathing told her that he really slept, Psyche arose
tremblingly, took up her lamp and dagger and stole to his side.
Lifting her lamp high she looked upon--the very god of Love, himself!
[Illustration: SHE LOOKED UPON THE GOD OF LOVE]
Long time uncertain, and at length turned round
And gazed upon my love. He lay asleep,
And ah, how fair he was! The flickering light
Fell on the fairest of the gods, stretched out
In happy slumber. Looking on his locks
Of gold, and faultless face and smile, and limbs
Made perfect, a great joy and trembling took me
Who was most blest of women, and in awe
And fear I stooped to kiss him. One warm drop
From the full lamp within my trembling hand,
Fell on his shoulder."
[Footnote: From Epic of Hades by Lewis Morris]
Cupid awoke, looked with startled eyes at his wife, and reading aright
the story of the lamp and the dagger, spread his wings and flew
through the open window, saying sadly:
"Farewell! There is no love except with Faith, And thine is dead!
Farewell! I come no more!"
Weeping and calling out to her husband, Psyche ran out of doors into
the black, stormy night. To the edge of the garden she ran, and then,
in her grief and terror she swooned. When she awakened, the palace and
garden had vanished, but Psyche cared little for that; henceforth her
only care was to seek her husband.
Encountering on her wanderings the kindly Ceres, Psyche implored her
help; but Ceres could give her no aid except advice.
"The gods must stand by each other," she said. "If Venus is angered at
thee, I can give thee no aid. This, though, thou mayst do: Go to
Venus, submit thyself unto her, and perhaps thou mayst win her favor."
At the temple of Venus, Psyche encountered that goddess, the cause of
all her misfortunes; and right glad was Venus to have the once proud
maiden for her humble slave.
"Many are the tasks thou canst perform for me," said the disdainful
goddess, "if them art not as stupid as thou art ugly. Here is a simple
little task to begin upon."
She led Psyche to the storehouse of the temple and pointed out to her
a great heap of grain--wheat, barley, poppy seeds, beans and millet.
"When I return at evening," she commanded, "have each sort of grain in
a heap by itself."
The luckless girl knew that the work could not be accomplished in the
time allowed her, and she made, therefore, no attempt to begin it. As
she sat with her head in her hands, she heard a faint sound, as if the
grain were being stirred about, and looking up, she saw that the ants
had come in vast numbers and were sorting it out. Fascinated, she
watched them, until long before evening the task was done.
"Thou couldst never have done this by thyself, lazy one," exclaimed
Venus, on her return. "To-morrow I will see whether thou art indeed
able to do anything. Beyond the river which flows past my temple are
golden-fleeced sheep, roaming without a shepherd. Do thou bring to me
a portion of their fleece."
In the morning Psyche set out, utterly discouraged, but afraid to
linger in the temple of the angry goddess. When she approached the
sheep, she trembled, for they were numerous, and very fierce. As she
stood concealed in the rushes by the river bank, the murmuring reeds
said to her:
"Wait! At noon the sheep will seek the shade. Then mayst thou gather
of their fleece from the bushes under which they have ranged,"
With a thankful heart Psyche followed the directions, and at evening
returned unharmed with the golden wool, which she presented to Venus.
Again the goddess upbraided her.
"Well I know that of thine own self thou couldst never have done
this," she cried wrathfully; nor did she stop to reflect that the fact
that Psyche thus received aid, unasked, in her difficulties, was a
proof that all things on earth loved and pitied her, Instead, she gave
her yet another task.
"Take this casket; go with it to the realms of the dead, and ask of
Proserpina that she loan me a little of her beauty. I have worried
about the undutiful conduct of my son until I have grown thin and
pale, and I would look my best at the assembly of the gods to-morrow
This was the most hopeless task of all. To go to the realms of the
dead--what did it mean but that she must die?
"As well soon as late," sighed the poor girl; and she climbed to the
top of a high tower, meaning to cast herself down. But even here,
where no living thing seemed to be, a voice came to her ears.
"Desist, rash girl, from thy plan! Thou art not yet to die. If thou
wilt observe carefully all the directions which I shall give thee,
thou shalt fulfill thy cruel mistress's stern behest. From a cave in
yonder hill there leads a path, straight into the earth. No man has
ever trodden it. Along this shalt thou journey, bearing in thy hand
sops for the three-headed dog of Pluto, and money for the grim
ferryman, Charon. It is written that thou shalt succeed; only, thou
shalt not open the box which hides the beauty of Proserpina."
[Illustration: PSYCHE AND CHARON]
The voice ceased, and Psyche climbed from her tower and set out on the
arduous journey. Through long, long hours she toiled over the rough
path in utter darkness. What was on either side of her, she knew not;
no sound came to her except the far-off drip of water slipping through
the rocks. At length, when she was ready to drop with fatigue and
fear, a faint light appeared before her. Somewhat cheered, she walked
on, and stepping from the vast tunnel in which she had been
journeying, she found herself on the bank of a river. It was not such
a river as she had seen gliding through the green fields and
glittering over the rocks of her native country; it was a sluggish,
inky-black stream, [Footnote: There were several great rivers in
Pluto's realm. Phlegethon, a river of fire, separated Tartarus, the
abode of the wicked, from the rest of Hades, while Cocytus, a salty
river, was composed of the tears of the dwellers in Tartarus. But the
most famous of the rivers were the Styx, by which the gods swore; the
Lethe, a draught from which made one forget all that had ever happened
and begin life anew; and the Acheron, a black, cold stream, over which
the spirits of the dead had to be ferried before they could enter
Pluto's realm. The ferryman was Charon; and since he would row no one
over the river unless he were paid for it, the ancients placed under
the tongue of the dead a small coin wherewith the fare might be paid.]
which slid on without ever a ripple. A strange, gray light filled all
the place, and showed to her a ferryboat, moored to the shore, and a
grim-looking, old, long-bearded ferryman.
"Will you take me over the river?" asked Psyche, in a faint voice. The
ferryman gave her no answer, but she ventured to step upon his craft,
upon which he instantly shoved off. Without a sound they moved across
the river, and when Psyche stepped off on the farther shore, she knew
she was really in Hades, the dreadful realm of Pluto. Tossing back
onto the boat the coin she had brought, she went on and on, until she
came to a great gloomy tower of black marble. On the threshold stood
Pluto's dog, three-headed Cerberus, and fiercely he barked at the poor
frightened girl. However, the sop which she threw to him quieted him,
and she passed on into the palace. There, on their black thrones, sat
Pluto and Proserpina, king and queen of this hopeless realm.
"Great queen," said Psyche, bowing humbly before Proserpina's throne,
"my mistress has sent me to borrow for her a little of thy beauty."
"Willingly will I lend it," said Proserpina, kindly, "not to please
thy proud mistress, but to help thee, poor girl." And taking the
little casket which Psyche had brought with her, she breathed into it,
closed it hurriedly, and handed it to the waiting girl.
Gladly did Psyche leave this gloomy abode and set out on her homeward
journey. The black path seemed not so long nor so frightful when she
knew she was moving toward the light of day; and O, how happy she was
when she saw the sunlight glimmering ahead of her! Out once more in
the free light and fresh air, she sat down for a time to rest, and a
great curiosity came upon her to know what the little casket in her
"My beauty must have been growing less through these weeks of trouble
and fright," she thought, "and perhaps if my husband saw me now he
would not love me. It can do no harm for me to borrow just a little of
the contents of this box."
She raised the lid, but from the box there came, with a rushing sound,
the spirit of sleep. This spirit seized upon Psyche and laid her by
the roadside in a sleep resembling death, and here she might have
slept for all time, had not Cupid, wandering by, spied her. Bending
over her, he kissed her; then he wrestled with the spirit of sleep
until he had forced it to release Psyche, and to enter again the
little casket from which her curiosity had loosed it.
[Illustration: CUPID SPIED PSYCHE SLEEPING]
"Psyche," he said, turning to his wife, who lay speechless with
happiness at beholding him again, "once through thy curiosity I was
lost to thee; this time thou wast almost lost to me. Never again must
I leave thee; never must thou be absent from my sight."
Together, then, they hastened to Olympus, the dwelling of the gods:
together they bowed before Jupiter's throne. The king of the gods,
looking upon Psyche and seeing that she was beautiful as a goddess,
listened favorably to their petition, and, calling for a cup of
ambrosia, presented it to her and said:
"Drink, Psyche; so shalt thou become immortal, and fit wife for a
Venus, touched by her son's happiness, forgave his bride, and the
young lovers, who had gone through so many griefs and hardships, lived
happily forever in the beautiful palace presented to them by the king
of the gods.
The myth of Cupid and Psyche is of much later date than most of the
other myths; in fact, it is met with first in a writer of the second
century of the Christian era. Many of the myths are material--that is,
they explain physical happenings, such as the rising of the sun, the
coming of winter, or the flashing of the lightning; but the myth of
Cupid and Psyche has nothing to do with the forces of nature--it is
wholly spiritual in its application.
Cupid is Love, while Psyche represents the soul; and thus the story,
in its descriptions of Psyche's sufferings, shows how the soul, loved
by heaven, and really loving heaven, is robbed of its joy through its
own folly. Only by striving and suffering, the story tells us, is the
soul purified and made fit for joy everlasting.
Psyche's descent into the regions of the dead signifies that it is
only after death that the soul realizes its true happiness. Even if we
did not know just when this myth originated, we might guess from this
teaching that the myth was a late one, for the earliest Greeks and
Romans did not believe in a real happiness after death. They believed
in existence after death, but it was a very shadowy existence, with
the most negative sort of pleasures. Later, the Romans, even before
they accepted Christianity, had their beliefs more or less modified by
their contact with Christians.
We may sum this myth up by saying that it is an allegory of
"the soul of man, the deathless soul,
Defeated, struggling, purified and blest."
As you read this story of Cupid and Psyche, some incidents in it
doubtless seemed familiar to you; you had come across them before in
various fairy tales. Thus the story of Psyche's arrival at the palace
and of the way in which she was waited upon by invisible beings will
remind you of certain parts of Beauty and the Beast, while the labors
set for Psyche by Venus will recall The Three Tasks. Now, while some
of the fairy stories are undoubtedly borrowed from this old, old tale,
it is a singular fact that there is an old Norse story which contains
some of the same incidents, and yet could not have been taken from
One of the most interesting things about the study of mythology is the
attempt to discover how widely separate nations came to have similar
stories. Many learned men have worked much over this question, and
some of them say that, having the same facts to explain, or the same
things to express in allegory, the various ancient peoples naturally
hit upon the same explanations. Others believe that this similarity of
myths shows that far, far back, the ancestors of these different
people must have had intercourse with each other. Probably there is
some truth in both theories, though most authorities believe that the
former theory covers more cases than does the latter.
We have said that this story is an allegory; do you understand just
what an allegory is? There are different types of allegories; in some,
each person that appears represents some quality or some influence; in
others, a general truth is set forth, but there is no attempt to make
every minor character fill a place in the allegory. To which type do
you think the story of Cupid and Psyche belongs? Do Psyche's sisters,
for instance, represent anything?
What was the real fault of Psyche--the folly that cost her her
The word "Psyche" means in Greek, the SOUL; it is also the word for
BUTTERFLY. Can you see any reason why the one name should be used for
There are still some very, very old pictures which show a man with a
butterfly just fluttering out from between his lips. Remembering that
the butterfly was the emblem of the soul, can you imagine what the
artists meant to show by this?
THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
By ROBERT BROWNING
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover City;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin was a pity.
They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats.
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
"'Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation,--shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing."
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.
[Illustration: PEOPLE CALL ME THE PIED PIPER]
An hour they sate in counsel,--
At length the Mayor broke silence:
For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell;
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain,--
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I've scratched it so, and all in vain,
O for a trap, a trap, a trap!"
Just as he said this, what could hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
"Bless us," cried the Mayor, "what's that?"
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous.)
"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
"Come in!"--the Mayor cried, looking bigger;
And in did come the strangest figure;
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red.
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin;
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: "It's as my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"
He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampire-bats;
And as for what your brain bewilders,--
If I can rid your town of rats,
Will you give me a thousand guilders?"
"One? fifty thousand!"--was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.
Into the street the piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling,
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers;
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives,--
Followed the piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished
Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary,
Which was: "At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press's gripe,--
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks;
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, 'O rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said, 'Come, bore me!'--
I found the Weser rolling o'er me."
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple;
"Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"--when suddenly, up the face
Of the piper perked in the market-place,
With a "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council-dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
"Beside," quoth the Mayor, with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Besides, our losses have made us thrifty;
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!"
The piper's face fell, and he cried,
"No trifling! I can't wait! beside,
I've promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdat, and accept the prime
Of the head cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor,--
With him I proved no bargain-driver;
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion."
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d'ye think I'll brook
Being worse treated than a cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"
Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling;
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering;
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running;
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,--
And could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However, he turned from south to west,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!"
When lo, as they reached the mountain's side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the piper advanced and the children followed;
And when all were in, to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,--
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the piper also promised me;
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagle's wings;
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
[Illustration: A WONDROUS PORTAL OPENED WIDE]
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!'
FRITHIOF THE BOLD
Adapted by GRACE E. SELLON
Ingeborg was the favored child of King Bele of Sognland--favored not
only by the king, but, it would seem, by the gods themselves; for
while she possessed great beauty and a disposition of rare loveliness,
her brothers, Helge and Halfdan, were endowed neither with comeliness
nor with the bravery and the gentler virtues of true princes. Indeed,
King Bele seemed to have good cause for regarding Frithiof, the
stalwart son of his loyal friend Thorsten, with greater affection than
he bestowed upon his own sons, for Frithiof was fearless in danger and
could surpass all other youths in feats of strength, yet was so mild-
mannered and noble-hearted that from the first he found great pleasure
in the companionship of the little princess Ingeborg.
With so much satisfaction did King Bele look upon this comradeship
that when Ingeborg was but a small child he gave her into the care of
her foster-father, Hilding, under whose guardianship Frithiof also had
been placed. Thus thrown constantly into each other's company, the
youth and his child playmate found delight in daily expeditions
through the forest and on the firth; [Footnote: Firth, an arm of the
sea.] and rare times they had.
"Her pilot soon he joyed to glide,
In Viking*-guise, o'er stream and tide:
Sure, hands so gentle, heart so gay,
Ne'er plauded rover's young essay!
"No beetling lair, no pine-rocked nest,
Might 'scape the love-urged spoiler's quest:
Oft ere an eaglet-wing had soared,
The eyry mourned its parted hoard.
"He sought each brook of rudest force,
To bear his Ing'borg o'er its source:
So thrilling, midst the wild alarm,
The tendril-twining of her arm."
[Footnote: From Longfellow's translation of portions of Tegner's
*[Footnote: Viking, the name of the Norse sea-pirates who coasted the
shores of Europe in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries. The name is
derived from wick, a kind of creek or inlet which these plunderers
used as harbors.]
As the years passed, and Ingeborg became lovelier and Frithiof more
brave and noble each day, their pleasure in each other's company grew
deeper and more absorbing. From this state of happy content, however,
Frithiof was to be rudely awakened by the faithful Hilding, who could
see a great disappointment looming in the path of his young charge.
Calling Frithiof to him one day, he said:
"Thou knowest the grief I would feel to see thee unhappy. For thy own
good I warn thee that it is not possible for Ingeborg ever to be
thine. Thou dost forget that she is the king's daughter, and can trace
her lineage even to All-father Odin, [Footnote: Odin, the father of
the Norse gods. From his lofty throne in Asgard, home of the gods, he
could survey and govern all heaven.] while thou art a mere subject in
"Ah, but strength and prowess, the gifts of Thor [Footnote: Thor, the
eldest son of Odin, superior in strength to all the other Norse gods.
He was renowned for the possession of a wonderful hammer, which, after
being cast at an object, came back of itself to the hand of him who
had thrown it, a magic belt that greatly increased his strength; and a
pair of iron gloves that gave him strength and skill in throwing his
hammer.] himself, must rank above the dignity of kings. Ingeborg, the
white lily, shall be mine," retorted Frithiof in angry pride, and took
himself off, apparently unheeding the counsel.
Nevertheless, when he thought later of Hilding's words and of the
hostile feelings that Halfdan and Helge bore him because of envy of
his prowess, he became troubled in mind.
It was not long after this that both Bele and his loyal Thorsten,
after impressing many a word of wisdom upon the hearts and minds of
their heirs, died peacefully and were placed so near each other that
in death, as in life, they seemed always together.
Helge and Halfdan now became the kings of Sogn and Frithiof went to
live on the estate of Framnas, left him by his father. Great indeed
was his inheritance, for he came into possession of the wonderful
sword Angurvadel, on the blade of which were mystic runes [Footnote:
Runes, letters or characters of ancient Scandinavian alphabets. The
literal meaning of rune, a secret or mystery, is explained by the fact
that at first these symbols could be read only by a few.] dull in
times of peace, but fiery red in war; the magic ring or armlet made by
Vaulund the smith, and the ship Ellida, built in the shape of a dragon
and swifter in its flight than any eagle.
[Illustration: THEY HAD BECOME BETROTHED]
These gifts of good fortune, however, failed to satisfy the new master
of Framnas. So greatly did he miss the presence of Ingeborg that he
could find content in no occupation and wandered about in
restlessness. At length he determined to dispel his loneliness by
filling his great house with guests and holding a feast that should
cause him to be remembered ever afterwards for boundless hospitality.
Just at this time came Helge and Halfdan with their sister Ingeborg to
visit him. Then indeed did Frithiof's gloom take flight as he sat by
Ingeborg's side or with her roamed the woods and fields, living over
again the days of their happy comradeship and building hopes for an
even happier reunion in the future. In renewing their love, they had
secretly become betrothed, and thus the hours of the visit sped all
After the departure of Ingeborg it seemed to Frithiof that all joy had
gone out of the world. His dark mood returned, and dismal fears began
to haunt him day and night. Unable longer to endure this desperate
state, he acted upon a sudden resolve, and set sail in his ship,
Ellida, for the home of the princess, determined to ask formally for
her hand in marriage. It was a daring project; but Frithiof was a
Having anchored his boat on the shore of the firth, he advanced at
once to where the two kings were "seated on Bele's tomb,"
administering law to the common people.
In a voice that reechoed round the valleys and peaks, Frithiof cried,
"Ye kings, my love is Ing'borg fair;
To ask her in marriage I here repair;
And what I require
I here maintain was King Bele's desire!"
[Footnote: Spalding's translation of Tegner's Frithiof Saga.]
The bold words and kingly bearing of the youth drew to him the
admiring gaze of all the great assembly. But Helge looked at him, at
first in astonishment; then, in deep scorn.
"The hand of my sister, the Princess Ingeborg, is for none of such
mean estate as thou. Wouldst thou enter our household? Accept then the
place of serving-man," the king at length replied disdainfully.
At these slighting words Frithiof was so moved by rage that he would
have slain the king then and there had not the place been hallowed by
Bele's tomb. As it was, he split the royal shield in two with his
mighty sword; then, drawing himself up to his full height, he turned
abruptly and strode back to his ship, with head held loftily and eyes
flashing with terrible anger.
Scarcely had he returned home when he was visited by his foster-father
Hilding who, strange as it may seem, had come to ask his aid in behalf
of Ingeborg and her brothers.
"The one whom thou lovest has given herself up to grief in the temple
of Balder, [Footnote: Balder, the much-loved god of spring.] where she
spends each day in tears," Hilding mournfully began. "Her fate is
sealed, as is that of the whole kingdom, if thou wilt not help us
resist King Ring of Ringland who, notwithstanding his great age, has
demanded Ingeborg's hand in marriage, and in anger is marching against
us because his request has been refused," continued the faithful old
Frithiof was playing at chess with his companion Bjorn, and to all
appearance did not hear nor heed the words of Hilding. His wounded
pride cried for revenge. However, by artful remarks concerning the
moves that were being made on the board, he let it be known that he
was aware of the king's peril but would allow himself to be concerned
only for the welfare of Ingeborg. When at length Hilding pressed for
an answer, Frithiof cried out:
"Haste! tell the sons of royal Bele
I wear not a retainer's steel;*
For wounded honor bids divide
The sacred bond it once revered."
[Footnote: Longfellow's translation.]
*[Footnote: Retainer's steel, the sword of a subject]
Filled with secret dismay by Hilding's unsuccessful mission, Helge and
Halfdan set forth at once to meet the invading King Ring. Scarcely had
they departed when Frithiof, impelled by pity for Ingeborg, went to
seek her in Balder's temple. Sympathy had indeed blinded Frithiof's
better judgment, for the spot on which the temple stood was held so
sacred that the law forbade it to be used for lover's trysts.
Regardless of peril, he approached Ingeborg, who, fearful for his
safety, implored him to return to Framnas; but the reckless youth,
defying Balder's wrath, remained to assure the unhappy princess of his
lasting devotion to her welfare.
"By the honor of my race, I swear that thou wilt ever be dearer to me
than all things else beside," declared Frithiof solemnly, with bowed
head. And then, giving Ingeborg the Vaulund ring, with her he made a
vow that their troth should never be broken.
Little did they know how soon their words were to be proved vain! Even
then were Helge and Halfdan coming back to Sogn to fulfill the promise
made King Ring that Ingeborg should become his bride; and even then
did Frithiof's violation of Balder's shrine cry out accusingly,
demanding grim punishment.
Immediately upon Helge's return he learned of Frithiof's misdeed.
Summoning the offender to him, he asked, in awful tones: "Hast thou
aught to say in denial of the grave charge that stands against thee
for defiling the sanctuary?"
"According to the law, the charge is just," calmly answered Frithiof.
"Then get thee hence at once," cried Helge. "Sail to the Orkney
Islands and there let us see if thy boldness will avail to secure from
Earl Angantyr the long-due tribute money. If thou succeed, return; but
if thou fail, let shame for thy empty boasts and overweening pride
keep thee from these shores forever."
The thought of parting seemed so cruel that Frithiof tried to persuade
Ingeborg to go with him to the sunny land of Greece. "There shalt thou
dwell in queenly fashion, and I myself will be thy most devoted
subject," he pleaded.
Ingeborg, faithful to duty, replied: "My brothers now take my father's
place in my life, and I cannot be happy unless I have their consent to
In deep dejection Frithiof then set sail in Ellida, Ingeborg watching
him from the shore with a heavy and foreboding heart. Hardly had the
ship got under way when there arose a terrible storm, caused by two
witches whom Helge had paid to use their evil power against his enemy.
For days the storm raged, until it seemed that the dragon-ship must be
"As made with defeat,
It blows more and more hard;
There is bursting of sheet,
There is splintering of yard.
O'er and o'er the half-gulfed side,
Flood succeeding flood is poured;
Fast as they expel the tide,
Faster still it rolls aboard.
Now e'en Frithiof's dauntless mind
Owned the triumph of his foe;
Louder yet than wave and wind
Thus his thundering accents flow!
'Haste and grasp the tiller,
Bjorn, with might of bear-paw!
Tempest so infuriate
Comes not from Valhalla.*
Witchcraft is a-going;
Sure, the coward Helge
Spells* the raging billows!
Mine the charge to explore.'"
[Footnote: Longfellow's translation]
*[Footnote: Valhalla, the palace of Odin, in Asgard, the home of the
*[Footnote: Spells, bewitches]
Had the prayers of Ingeborg at length availed? Even as he was gazing
out over the waters, Frithiof beheld the two witches floating before
him on the back of a great whale. Then it was that his ship Ellida,
intelligent and faithful as a human servant, saved him from the power
of the crafty Helge. Bearing down quickly upon the evil-workers, it
despatched one of them with its sharp prow, while Frithiof, with one
thrust of his weapon, destroyed the other. But the vessel was filled
with water, and the sailors were forced to bale continually. In this
desperate plight the Orkney Islands were reached, and the exhausted
crew were borne ashore. Frithiof, too, was worn with fatigue, yet he
carried eight of his men at one time from the ship to safety.
When Ellida put into harbor, Earl Angantyrand his warriors were in the
midst of a drinking-bout at the palace. The old attendant Halvar,
while refilling the Earl's horn [Footnote: Horn, a drinking vessel,
horn shaped, or made of horn.] with mead, [Footnote: Mead, a drink
made of honey and water.] called the attention of the party to the
"A ship that can weather such a sea must be no other than Ellida,
bearing the doughty son of my good friend Thorsten," exclaimed
Angantyr, rising to get a better view.
At these words of praise the keenest envy was aroused in Atle and
several of his companions who were most celebrated in that realm for
their skill and prowess as huntsmen and warriors; and in a body they
went down to the shore to challenge the far-famed youth of Norway.
Again did the magic Angurvadel stand its owner in good stead. Atle's
sword having been broken, Frithiof cast aside his own weapon, and the
two men wrestled until the latter threw his opponent and stood over
"Now had I my sword, thou should'st die," cried Frithiof. "Get thy
weapon," calmly replied Atle. "I give thee my word I will await thy
Frithiof recovered Angurvadel, but as he was about to plunge it into
Atle's body he was so moved by the fearlessness of the vanquished man
that he spared his life. Earl Angantyr then warmly welcomed the son of
his noble friend Thorsten, and because of the memory of this
friendship agreed to pay the required tribute.
[Illustration: FRITHIOF BEHELD THE TWO WITCHES]
Not until spring did Frithiof return to Sogn. When he arrived in his
native land he learned of two direful events. Helge had destroyed the
estate at Framnas, and had given Ingeborg as a bride to King Ring.
Into such a furious passion did the news put him, that he went at once
to seek out Helge. The two kings with their wives were worshipping in
Balder's temple. Unable to suppress his rage, Frithiof advanced toward
Helge and thrust Angantyr's tribute into the very face of the king.
Then, finding that Helge's wife was wearing the magic ring that
Ingeborg had been forced to give up, Frithiof tried to wrest this from
its wearer, and in doing so caused the queen to drop into the fire an
image of the god Balder. In the effort to avert this disaster
Halfdan's wife let fall a second image, and immediately the temple
burst into flames.
Had not Frithiof been the most dauntless of all the sons of Norway, he
would have been prostrated with fear for the consequences of this
terrible sacrilege. Could he longer escape the avenging anger of
Balder? Summoning all his courage, he ran to the shore and immediately
embarked in Ellida. Swiftly the dragon-ship skimmed the waves, while
Helge paced up and down the shore in helpless wrath, all of his
vessels having been destroyed by the companions of his fleeing enemy.
For three years thereafter Frithiof roved the seas as a viking,
overcoming the great sea-pirates, and taking from them their rich
spoils. At length, when he had become very wealthy, he tired of his
ceaseless roaming and came to feel that nothing would satisfy him but
to see Ingeborg again. Then, despite the protests of Bjorn, he set out
for Norway to visit the kingdom of Ringland.
Arrived at the king's palace he entered, disguised as an old man, and
humbly seated himself among the servants. Soon those about him began
to make fun of his forlorn appearance, whereupon he seized a youth
standing near, and raising him high above his head, twisted him about
as though he weighed no more than a mere babe. This surprising test of
strength drew the attention of the entire party, and the king
questioned: "Who art thou, and where didst thou pass the night just
"In Anguish was I nurtured, Want is my homestead bright.
Now come I from the Wolf's den, I slept with him last night"
[Footnote: Longfellow's translation]
came in a quavering voice from Frithiof.
But the king, intent upon further discovery, bade the stranger remove
his shaggy cloak. Then Frithiof knew that deception was no longer
possible, and, throwing off his cloak, he stood forth in all the might
of his manhood. Even had it not been otherwise possible to recognize
him, the Vaulund ring worn on his arm would have betrayed its owner.
At once his eyes traveled to Ingeborg, who blushed deeply, while the
king feigned ignorance.
So much favor did Frithiof find with the aged monarch, that he was
besought to remain at the court during the winter. On one occasion he
repaid this hospitality by saving the lives of the king and queen when
they were on their way to a feast. The ice over which they were
passing broke, and they would have sunk into the river below had not
Frithiof by main force pulled the pony and sleigh out of the water.
Somewhat later, while accompanying the royal party on a visit to the
woods and fields where the new beauty of the springtime could be fully
enjoyed, Frithiof was left alone with King Ring. Feeling weary, the
old man lay down upon a cloak spread for him by his companion, and
fell asleep with his head upon the younger man's knee. As he lay thus,
a coal-black raven from a near-by tree called in hoarse whispers to
Frithiof: "Take his life, now that he is in thy power." But from
another bough a bird, white as snow, admonished him: "Respect old age
and be true to the trust that has been placed in thee." Thereupon
Frithiof cast his sword from him as far as it could be thrown. Soon
the king aroused himself from the sleep that he had merely pretended,
and said in kindly tones:
"I know thee now to be a brave and loyal friend; and thy
trustworthiness shall be rewarded, Frithiof. Do not be surprised that
I speak thy name, for I have known thee from the first. Even now the
darkness of death is closing round me, and when the light of Midgard
[Footnote: Midgard, the name given in Norse mythology to earth, as
distinguished from Asgard (the home of the gods) and Hel (the lower
world).] fades from my sight, I shall die willing that thou marry
Ingeborg and rule my kingdom until my young son shall have grown to
Frithiof, whose noble nature had been deeply touched by the king's
generosity, would have departed from Ringland soon afterward, but with
great difficulty was prevailed upon to stay. And so it came about that
when in a little time the king died, the long years of trial endured
by Ingeborg and Frithiof were brought to an end, and their constancy
was rewarded. To fill the measure of their joy, Halfdan, who was now
reigning alone, Helge having died, became reconciled to them and
gladly agreed to their union. Indeed, it was he who led his sister to
the altar in the restored temple of Balder and gave her into the safe-
keeping of her faithful lover.
When you think how old your grandmother and grandfather seem, and then
remember that they have lived less than a hundred years, you feel that
a story which has been living for hundreds of years is indeed very
old. Such a story is the one that you have just been reading. Many
more children than you could possibly imagine, if you were trying to
picture them all in one place--especially children of Norway, Sweden
and Denmark--have delightedly read or listened to this same
The Frithiof saga,[Footnote: Saga, an ancient Scandinavian legend, or
mythical or historical tale.] as the story is called, did not appear
in its present form until the fourteenth century, though it is
believed to have existed, at least in part, in earlier ages. It has
been told and retold by writers of Norway and Sweden, translated into
many languages, and even made into a celebrated epic[Footnote: Epic, a
narrative poem concerned usually with historic deeds and characters,
and written in a style of marked dignity and grandeur.] poem by the
Swedish poet, Tegner.
Of course in the fourteenth century the people of northern Europe no
longer thought that Odin, Balder and the other gods mentioned in the
story lived in Valhalla and ruled the world. But at that time many did
believe in magic and in the evil power of witches; and it is
altogether probable that the wonderful ship Ellida, which possessed
human intelligence and could save its master from shipwreck; the
witches traveling about on the whale's back; the talking birds, and
the magical ring and sword would have seemed far less astonishing to
these people than would our great ocean steamships and men-of-war, our
railroad trains and trolley cars, our telephones and talking-machines,
and many other modern wonders in which we fully believe.
While we agree with the children of the long-ago in admiring
Frithiof's bravery and faithfulness and Ingeborg's amiability and
constancy, probably we are most interested in the story because of the
many adventures that it contains. How many of the bold deeds of
Frithiof can you recall without turning to the story? If you can
remember all of them you are surely doing well. Can you name these
deeds in just the order in which you have read them? Suppose you tell
this story some time when you are playing school with the younger
children in the family or in the neighborhood. It would be a good
thing for you to do just what a real teacher might do: go over the
story, picking out all of the principal events and writing these
briefly and clearly on a slip of paper, one under another, exactly in
the order in which they occur.
THE STORY OF SIEGFRIED
Adapted by GRACE E. SELLON
NOTE.--Near the beginning of the thirteenth century there was written
in Germany one of the greatest story-poems in the literature of the
world. This is the Nibelungenlied, a partly historical, partly
mythical tale containing more than two thousand stanzas composed by an
unknown poet, or perhaps by several poets. The first half of the poem
is made up mostly of the deeds of Siegfried, a warrior king claimed as
a national hero, not only by the Germans but by the Norse people, who
lived in northern Europe, in the countries of Iceland, Norway, Sweden
and Denmark. In the Norse stories, however, Siegfried is known as
It is not at all certain that Siegfried was an historical person.
Though there is some reason for thinking that he was Arminius, the
fearless leader of the Germans in the terrible revolt by which they
overthrew their Roman rulers in the year 9 A. D., yet of the warriors
with whom he has been identified, Siegfried seems most like Sigibert,
king of the Franks who lived in Austrasia, or ancient Germany. For
this king, like Siegfried, overcame the Saxons and Danes by his brave
fighting, he too discovered a hidden treasure, and he was at length
treacherously put to death by pages of his sister-in-law, Fredegunde,
with whom his wife, Brunhilde, had quarreled over some question of
After all, though, it does not make a great difference whether or not
Siegfried was any of the heroes to whom he has been likened or was all
of them put together; he really lives for us in the wonderful story of
his knightly bravery and good faith.
Some of the greatest poets and dramatists and composers, not only of
Germany, but of other countries as well, have made use of incidents
from the Nibelungenlied. Of all these works which have been produced
with this old poem as a basis, the Ring of the Nibelungen, a group of
four operas by Richard Wagner, is most famous. These operas, which are
among the finest works of this great composer, are not based
absolutely on the Nibelungenlied; many happenings in the life of the
hero, Siegfried, are different. But it is clear that Wagner drew his
inspiration from this thirteenth century epic, and his use of it has
opened other people's eyes to its beauties.
In the golden days of knightly adventure, when heroes famed for
marvelous daring went up and down the land in search of deeds in which
to display their skill, strength and courage in combat, and their
gallantry towards fair ladies, there lived in one of the countries on
the Rhine a prince named Siegfried who, though but a youth, was noted
far and wide for his unequaled valor and boldness. When he was a mere
boy he nobly served his country in putting to death the Dragon of the
Linden-tree, a monster so full of hate that it would cast its poison
out upon any one who came near it, and so strong that it could destroy
any one who tried to conquer it. Nevertheless the fearless Siegfried
not only slew this evil creature but bathed in its blood, thus making
his own skin so hard that it could never afterward be pierced by any
weapon. At another time, while traveling through the land of the
Nibelungers, he came upon the two princes of the country and a company
of their attendants gathered about the foot of a hill from which had
just been taken great quantities of gold and precious stones.
[Illustration: SIEGFRIED AND THE DRAGON]
"Ho, Siegfried," called one of the princes, advancing to meet him,
"come to our aid, for we are much in need of some one to divide
between my brother and myself this treasure left us by our father. For
such help we will prove to you our gratitude."
Siegfried, however, would have ridden on had not both princes and all
those about them urged him again and again to make the division. They
gave him, for reward, the mighty sword Balmung, that had belonged to
the dead king of the Nibelungers, and then in anxious expectation
stood around him as he began to count out and separate the pieces of
gold and the shining stones.
But Siegfried soon grew weary of his task, and glancing over the great
piles of treasure that would have filled more than a hundred wagons,
he turned impatiently away and would have departed had not twelve
powerful companions of the two princes blocked his path.
"Do you think to stay me thus?" cried Siegfried; and before they could
answer he attacked them one after another and put them all to death.
Then in fury rode against him seven hundred of the great warriors of
that land, but, secure in the possession of Balmung, and with a skin
like horn, Siegfried overcame every opponent. Last of all he slew the
two princes and subdued the dwarf Alberich, whom he made keeper of the
From this same dwarf he wrested a magic cloak or tarnkappe, that gave
its owner wonderful strength, made him proof against every blow dealt
him, and enabled him to become invisible. At length, when the
remaining nobles had sworn allegiance to him, Siegfried rode away,
lord of the Nibelunger's land and treasure.
At this time there dwelt in Burgundy, on the Rhine, a young princess
of such rare virtue and beauty that noble youths had come from every
land to win her as a bride. As yet, however, she had bestowed her
favor upon no one. What, then, were the surprise and foreboding felt
by King Siegmund and his queen, Siegelind, the parents of Siegfried,
when he made known to them that he was about to fare forth to
Burgundy, to sue for the hand of the princess Kriemhild. For they knew
that King Gunther, Kriemhild's brother, was a man of great might, and
that he and his powerful nobles might look with displeasure upon
Siegfried's proud bearing. Finding, however, that they could not
change the purpose of the young prince, they provided him and his
eleven companions with the finest of garments and with armor of
dazzling brightness, and allowed him to depart.
Siegfried was not in the least dismayed when, upon reaching the court
of Burgundy, he was taken into the presence of the king.
"It would please me much to know why you have journeyed hither, Prince
Siegfried," said Gunther, in kindly tones.
"That I shall tell you without delay," replied the youth. "I have
heard of your prowess, King Gunther, and I have come to prove who is
the better in arms, you or I. If in fair combat I am victor, let your
kingly authority and your lands be given over to me. If I am
vanquished, you may claim my rights and possessions as heir to the
throne of Netherland."
Upon hearing these bold words Gunther looked on the prince with much
surprise, yet with no ill will; but his nobles exchanged angry glances
and then broke out in threats of punishment for such overweening
pride. Not at all daunted, Siegfried would have challenged the whole
company had not the king addressed him with such generous courtesy and
offers of entertainment for himself and his companions that the large-
hearted knight could not refuse to be pacified.
Little did King Gunther know how greatly he was to profit by this
kindness. Before long his kingdom was threatened by the combined
armies of the Danes and the Saxons led by their kings, Ludegast and
Ludger. Learning of the great danger that had cast a gloom over
Gunther, Siegfried assured the king, "Do not let yourself be troubled.
I am your friend and for your sake will teach these upstarts to rue
the day when they foolishly defied the King of Burgundy." Well pleased
with this show of sincere friendship, Gunther entrusted his army to
Siegfried, and the young prince of Netherland set forth to meet his
As the Burgundians approached the camp of the enemy, Siegfried rode
far in advance to learn what were the numbers of their foes. Thus it
was that just without the camp he was challenged by a knight whom he
at once recognized as King Ludegast. Leveling their lances, the two
warriors rushed together, and each struck full against the other's
shield. Then drawing their swords they fought fiercely until Ludegast,
severely wounded, fell from his horse. Immediately, thirty of the
followers of the Danish king hurled themselves upon Siegfried, and all
but one, who begged for life, were slain by the mighty sword Balmung.
After leading the Burgundians into battle, Siegfried fought in the
thickest of the fray until almost unhorsed by the Saxon king, Ludger.
Stirred to keenest anger by this incident, the prince of Netherland
began to rain blows upon his opponent and doubtless would have
overcome him had not Ludger suddenly discovered with whom he was
fighting, and cried: "Hold! Stay your hand! Let the battle cease. I
will not fight against the terrible might of Siegfried, the
Netherlander. Let my men surrender, as I submit."
Thus was the day won for the Burgundians; and with mingled sorrow for
their fallen warriors and joy for the good tidings that they were
bearing King Gunther, they traveled back to the Rhine, accompanied by
the captive Danes and Saxons and the prisoner kings. Never was a
conquering army more gladly and fittingly received with merry-making
and pageants, kind gifts and unstinted praise than was the great host
that returned to Gunther's capital.
And, as he deserved, Siegfried was most honored of all. As if the
brothers knew what could reward the hero better than anything else in
the world, they arranged that Siegfried should at length be presented
to their lovely sister, Kriemhild. The plan was indeed no less
pleasing to the maiden than to the young prince, for although she
lived in seclusion, she had secretly observed him and had come to feel
deep admiration and affection for him.
On the day set for the meeting, Kriemhild and her mother, with many
attendants, advanced in state to the great room where Gunther held his
court. As the princess passed through the crowds that thronged the
way, her eyes were often downcast, and a vivid pink overspread the
pure whiteness of her cheeks as hundreds of eyes bent upon her their
admiring glances. For of all the fair ladies of that court, she was
indeed the fairest.
Noting her rare beauty and the modesty, gentleness and grace of her
bearing, Siegfried could only exclaim to himself, "She is too good and
beautiful for me to win; yet I must always be wretched if I go from
this land and never see her again."
Shortly afterward, with formal ceremony, he was presented to the
princess, and as he knelt and kissed her hand she murmured: "Welcome
again to Burgundy, Sir Siegfried, for surely you have been a brave
defender of the honor of our land."
As the last words fell from her lips she looked at Siegfried with such
kind interest and he returned her glance with so much ardor that words
were not needed to declare their love. For several days thereafter
great festivities were held by the King and his court, and whether at
tournament or feast Siegfried always held the envied place by
Meanwhile a great project had been forming in Gunther's mind, and one
day as he sat among his nobles he declared: "It is my purpose to set
forth soon to win a bride who lives in a far distant land. Though the
terms by which she is to be won are hard, I cannot be content until I
have tried my fate and have either made the fair Brunhilde my wife, or
have died in the effort."
At the mention of the name Brunhilde, Gunther's companions cried out
in dismay, and one of the lords exclaimed:
"Oh, give up, I pray you, this wild enterprise. A great and good king
should not be sacrificed to the strange caprice of the Queen of
Issland. You know that like all others who have contested against the
unmatched strength of Brunhild, you will die without honor."
Gunther, however, was unmoved by the warning, and turning to
Siegfried, he asked, "Will you not help me to carry out my plan? Queen
Brunhild, you know, is mightier in combat than any man that lives, yet
he who wins her must prove himself superior to her in strength and
skill. If he fail, he must die. My friends here think me rash and
would induce me to stay at home. In most things I would not oppose
them, but in this case I must do as my own heart bids me."
After some thought Siegfried replied, slowly and impressively: "There
is one condition on which I will aid you. I will win Brunhild for you
if in return you will give me the hand of your sister, Kriemhild."
"There is no other to whom I would more gladly trust her than to you,"
replied Gunther; and then with clasped hands the two friends sealed
After busy days of preparation, during which the most splendid raiment
that ever clad brave knights was made by Kriemhild and her maidens,
Gunther and Siegfried, with several companions, set sail upon the
river Rhine, thence to cross the sea to Issland, in the far north.
Slowly passed the days of the voyage, for it was a time of keen
suspense. "Will good King Gunther ever sail back again into the Rhine
country?" was the question that haunted his loyal friends. All but
Siegfried were doubtful.
At length, one day, they came into view of a great green castle
towering above cliffs. "Behold the home of Brunhild!" cried Siegfried;
and then as the eager watchers continued to gaze they could see people
hurrying about the castle, evidently excited by the approach of a
After anchoring the boat the company were taken at once into the
presence of Queen Brunhild, who, recognizing the young Netherlander,
exclaimed: "Welcome, Prince Siegfried. What brings you to our court?"
Then Siegfried, bowing low, made known their mission:
"Gracious queen, in the name of my lord, the King of Burgundy, I ask
for a favorable hearing for his suit. None knows better of his noble
qualities than do I, his subject; and none can say with more assurance
than I that a nobler husband for Queen Brunhild is nowhere to be
"Ah, if that be his quest," cried Brunhild, "he can win his bride, not
by gentle speeches and looks of love, but by a sterner test than any
mortal suitor has ever yet endured."
Notwithstanding the harsh warning, Gunther, assured by Siegfried,
declared: "In the presence of your great beauty, Queen Brunhild, even
the strange terms that you propose seem reasonable, and I must accept
them, though they bring me and my followers death."
[Illustration: A GREAT CASTLE TOWERED ABOVE THE CLIFFS]
Thereupon Brunhild began to make ready for the contest, and Siegfried,
unobserved, slipped down to the boat in the harbor. Soon three of the
Queen's attendants came staggering under the weight of an immense
javelin, and a little later twelve other men slowly and with great
difficulty pushed an enormous stone into the field. Then the Queen
herself appeared clad in massive armor. The King and his attendants
looked on, and when it seemed that surely all must die, they would
gladly have withdrawn; but from shame they strove to hide their fears
as best they could.
Meanwhile Siegfried had arrayed himself in his magic cloak, the
tarnkappe, and thus made invisible to all he returned to the company
and hastened to King Gunther's side.
"Never fear," whispered Siegfried; "if only you let me do the
fighting, while you pretend, by look and movement, to be the doer,
Brunhild can never withstand us."
No sooner had the words been spoken and Siegfried had taken Gunther's
shield in his hand, than the Queen hurled her mighty javelin straight
against the two knights. All the earth seemed to resound with the
death-dealing blow, and surely had it not been for the tarnkappe both
Siegfried and Gunther would have been killed as the great spear
pierced the King's massive shield. But Siegfried, alert for action,
seized the weapon and, with the point turned toward himself, returned
it with such terrific force that Brunhild was struck to the ground.
Hastily arising in confusion and anger, she seized the huge stone, and
twirling it about her head sent it flying through the air to a spot
more than seventy feet distant. Hardly had it alighted when the Queen,
springing up lightly, leapt to a mark beyond. Not at all daunted by
this awful show of strength, the invisible Siegfried, with Gunther
following, hastened to where the stone lay, and picking it up easily,
threw it a much greater distance than had the Queen. Then, carrying
Gunther with him, he jumped even farther than the stone had been
With unconcealed chagrin and disappointment, Brunhild advanced to
where Gunther stood and pointing to the King declared: "Behold your
lord and master, my subjects. Hereafter give to him your loyal
service. Brunhild is no longer your queen." Then in stately manner the
King with his fair companion returned to the castle.
Great indeed was the joy in Gunther's capital when Siegfried and his
attendants, riding in advance of the bridal party, made known the news
of the King's victory. Queen Uta, the mother of Gunther and Kriemhild,
gave orders that the most splendid preparation be made for receiving
Brunhild, and busily did her maidens ply their needles in making
garments more beautiful and costly than ever before had adorned fair
ladies. And no less industriously did the squires polish the armor of
the knights, while their masters tested their trusty blades, that they
might fittingly bear themselves in the jousts and tournaments with
which Gunther's triumph and home-coming would be celebrated.
Long and loud was the shout of welcome that arose from the crowds
gathered along the river bank as the ship bearing Gunther and his
bride came into view. Then Queen Uta, followed by a long line of
maidens, arrayed in many-colored garments that glittered with the most