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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IX by Various

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No!

[_He puts both hands into his pockets._]

But I will clear the way for her--she knows that! I have told her so.

SECRETARY (_horrified_).

You told her!--unhappy girl! Now for the first time I quite understand--

CARL (_rushes in_).

Father! Father! There is somebody lying in the well! If only it is not--

ANTONY.

The long ladder! Hooks! Ropes! Why do you delay? Quick! Even were it the
bailiff!

CARL.

Everything is already there! The neighbors arrived before me! If only it
is not Clara!--

ANTONY.

Clara?

[_He grasps the table._]

CARL.

She went to draw water, and they found her handkerchief!

SECRETARY.

Scoundrel, I know now why your bullet hit the mark! It is she!

ANTONY.

Go and find out!

[_He, sits down._]

I cannot!

[_Exit CARL._]

And yet--

[_Rises again._]

If [_to the SECRETARY_] I understood you correctly, everything is all
right!

CARL (_reenters_).

Clara! Dead! Her head terribly crushed on the edge of the well, as
she--Father, she did not fall in, she jumped in! A maid saw her!

ANTONY.

Let her think before she speaks! It is not light enough for her to have
distinguished things with certainty! SECRETARY. Do you doubt it? You
would like to, but you cannot! Think only of what you said to her! You
pointed out to her the road to death! I, I alone am to blame that she
did not turn back! When you suspected her misery, you thought only of
the tongues that would hiss at you, but not of the worthlessness of the
snakes to which they belonged! Then you uttered a word that drove her to
despair! And I, instead of catching her in my arms when her heart was
bursting with nameless anguish before me, thought only of the scoundrel
who could make light of it. And now I pay with my life for having made
myself so dependent upon a man who was worse than I! And you too, who
stand there so stolidly, you too will say one day: Daughter, I would to
God you had not spared me the head-shaking and shoulder-shrugging of the
Pharisees about me! It crushes me more deeply that you cannot sit by my
death-bed and wipe the sweat of anguish from my brow!

ANTONY.

She spared me nothing! People have seen it!

SECRETARY.

She did the best she could! You did not deserve to have her act succeed!

ANTONY.

Or she did not!

[_Tumult outside._]

CARL. They are coming with her!

[_Starts to go._]

ANTONY (_immovable, as to the end; calls after him_).

Into the back room, where your mother stood!

SECRETARY.

Away to meet her!

[_He attempts to rise, but falls back._]

Oh, Carl!

CARL (_helps him up and leads him away_).

ANTONY.

I no longer understand the world!

[_Stands brooding._]

* * * * *

SIEGFRIED'S DEATH

A TRAGEDY IN FIVE ACTS

By FRIEDRICH HEBBEL

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

KING GUNTHER

HAGEN TRONJE

DANK WART

VOLKER

GISELHER

GERENOT

WULF _Warrior_

TRUCES _Warrior_

RUMOLT

SIEGFRIED

UTE

KRIEMHILD

BRUNHILDA, _Queen of Iceland_

FRIGGA, _her nurse_

A CHAPLAIN

A CHAMBERLAIN

_Warriors, Populace, Maidens, Dwarfs_

SIEGFRIED'S DEATH (1862)

TRANSLATED BY KATHARINE ROYCE

ACT I

_Iceland, BRUNHILDA'S castle. Early morning._

SCENE I

_Enter BRUNHILDA and FRIGGA from opposite sides._

BRUNHILDA.

From whence so early? Dewy is thy hair
And blood-stained are thy garments.

FRIGGA.

I have made
A sacrifice unto the ancient gods,
Before the moon was gone.

BRUNHILDA.

The ancient gods!
The cross rules now, and Thor and Odin dwell
As devils in deep hell.

FRIGGA.

And dost thou fear
Them less for that? Their curses still may fall
Upon us, though their blessings are withheld,
And willingly I sacrificed the ram.
Oh, wouldst thou kill one too! Thy need is great
Above all others.

BRUNHILDA.

Mine?

FRIGGA.

Another time.
I long had meant to tell thee, and today
At last the hour has come.

BRUNHILDA.

I've always thought
That at thy death the hour would come to me,
So did not importune thee.

FRIGGA.

Mark me now!
From our volcano came there suddenly
An aged man and left with me a child,
A tablet, too, with runes.

[Illustration: Peter Cornelius Title Page of the Nibelungenlied]

BRUNHILDA.

'Twas in the night?

FRIGGA.

How dost thou know?

BRUNHILDA.

When on thee falls the moonlight--On
thy face, thou speakest oft aloud,
Betraying much.

FRIGGA.

And thou didst harken to me?
At midnight we were watching with our dead--Our
beauteous Queen. The old man's hair was white,
And longer than a woman's. Like a cloak
It hung about him, flowing softly down.

BRUNHILDA.

The spirit of the mountain!

FRIGGA.

Naught know I!--
No syllable he spoke. The little maid
Reached forth her hands and grasped the golden crown
That glittered brightly o'er the dead Queen's brow.
We marveled that it fitted her.

BRUNHILDA.

The child?

FRIGGA.

The little maid; and it was none too large,
Nor later did it bind her.

BRUNHILDA.

'Twas like mine!

FRIGGA.

Like thine it was! And, yet more wonderful.
The child was like the maid that lay there dead
Within the mother's arms and disappeared
As had it ne'er existed--yes, so like
That only by the breathing could we know
The living from the dead. It seemed to us
That nature must have formed one body twice,
With life for one child only.

BRUNHILDA.

Had the Queen
A new-born baby in her arms?

FRIGGA.

Her life
She gave to bear her child, and with her died
The little maid.

BRUNHILDA.

Thou didst not tell me that.
FRIGGA. I never thought to tell thee. Sorrow broke
The mother's heart that she could never show
Her baby to her lord. For many years
This priceless joy in vain he had desired,
And, just a month before the child was born,
A sudden death o'ertook him.

BRUNHILDA.

Tell me more!

FRIGGA.

We sought the aged man, but he was gone.
The glowing mountain that had been cleft through
As one might split an apple, slowly now
Was drawn together there before our eyes.

BRUNHILDA.

The old man came no more?

FRIGGA.

Now hark to me!
Next morning to the grave we bore our Queen;
But when the priest was ready to baptize
The little maid, his arm fell helpless down,
Nor could he touch her forehead with the dew
Of holy water, and his good right arm
He never lifted more.

BRUNHILDA.

What, never more!

FRIGGA.

The man was old, and so we marveled not.
We called another priest. The holy dew
He sprinkled on the child. The blessed words
Of benediction halted on his tongue,
Nor hath his speech returned.

BRUNHILDA.

And now the third?

FRIGGA.

For him we waited long. We had to seek
In other lands afar, where of the tale
None knew. At last this priest baptized the child.
His holy office ended, down he fell
Upon the ground and nevermore arose!

BRUNHILDA.

And did the baby live

FRIGGA.

She throve apace,
And strong she grew. Her playful ways to us
Were signs what we should do or leave undone.
They ne'er deceived us, for the runes had said
That we might trust them ever.

BRUNHILDA.

Frigga! Frigga!

FRIGGA.

Thou art indeed the maid! Now dost thou know
Not in the gloomy caverns of the dead,
In Hecla where the ancient gods still dwell,
Among the Norns, among the Valkyries,
Seek thou the mother that gave birth to thee!
Oh, that no drop of holy water e'er
Had touched thy brow! Then were we wiser far.

BRUNHILDA.

What dost thou murmur?

FRIGGA.

How then did it hap
That on this morning we were not in bed,
But fully robed had tarried in the hall?
Our teeth were chattering and our lips were blue.

BRUNHILDA.

A sudden sleep o'erwhelmed us, that was all.

FRIGGA.

But had it ever happened?

BRUNHILDA.

Not before.

FRIGGA.

Then hark! The old man came and tried to speak.
It almost seems as if I'd seen him stand
And grasp thy shoulder; and he threatened me,
But heavy was thy sleep. Thou should'st not hear
What fate awaits thee if thou dost persist.
So offer sacrifice and then be free.
Oh, had I paid no heed unto the priest,
Howe'er he urged me! But the sacred runes
I had not read aright.--Come, sacrifice,
For danger cometh nigh.

BRUNHILDA.

'Tis nigh?

FRIGGA.

Alas!
Thou knowest that the fiery sea is quenched
That flamed around thy castle.
BRUNHILDA. Yet the knight
Still lingers who should wield the magic sword
And on his war-horse gallop through the flames,
When he had won proud Fafner's ill-starred hoard.

FRIGGA.

I may have erred. But yet this second sign
Cannot deceive me, for I long have known
That when the fateful hour shall come to thee,
Clear vision doth await thee. Sacrifice!
Mayhap the ancient gods surround thee now
Invisibly, and they will straight appear
With the first blood-drops of thine offering.

BRUNHILDA.

I do not fear.

[_Trumpets are heard._]

FRIGGA.

The trumpets!

BRUNHILDA.

Hast thou ne'er
Heard them before.

FRIGGA.

Never before with dread.
The time for lopping thistle-heads is past,
And iron helms arise before thee now.

BRUNHILDA.

Come hither all! For I will let her see
Brunhilda still can conquer! While the sea
Of fire still flamed I hastened forth to meet ye,
And friendly, as a trusty dog will spring
To give his master room, my faithful fire
Drew back before me, sank on either hand;
The road stands open now, but not my heart.
[_She ascends her throne._]
Now fling the portals wide and let them in!
Whoever here may come, his head is mine!

SCENE II

_The gates are opened. Enter SIEGFRIED, GUNTHER, HAGEN and VOLKER_

BRUNHILDA.

Who cometh seeking death?

(_To SIEGFRIED._)

Ah! Is it thou?

SIEGFRIED.

I am not seeking death, nor will I sue.
And too much honor dost thou yield to me
In greeting Gunther's guide before himself,
For I am but his helper.

BRUNHILDA (_turning to GUNTHER_).

Then 'tis thou?
And know'st thou what is toward?

GUNTHER.

Full well I know!

SIEGFRIED.

The rumor of thy beauty spreads abroad,
But further still the fame of thy hard heart.
And who hath gazed but once in thy deep eyes
Will nevermore forget, e'en in his cups,
That dreadful death beside thee always stands.

BRUNHILDA.

Tis true! Who cannot conquer, he must die,
And all his servants with him. Smilest thou?
Be not so proud! For if thou cam'st to me
As thou could'st hold a beaker full of wine
On high above thy head and still could'st gaze
On me as on a picture, yet I swear
That thou shalt fall as any other falls.

(_TO GUNTHER._)

But thee I counsel, if thine ears can hear,
List to my maidens! Bid them tell the tale
Of heroes that my hand hath laid full low!
The chance may hap among them there is one
Hath tried his strength with thee. There may be one
Hath laid thee conquered at his very feet!

HAGEN.

Ne'er was King Gunther conquered. That I vow!

SIEGFRIED.

High stands his castle by the Rhine at Worms,
And rich are all the treasures of his land;
Yet o'er all heroes stands he higher still,
And richer far in honors is our King.

HAGEN.

Thy hand, thou lowlander! Thou speakest well!

VOLKER.

And would it be so hard to leave this land
Amidst the ocean's desert solitude--
Of thy free will to leave it, and the King
To follow forth to life from night and hell?
This land is like no other on the earth.--
A desert waste, a rockbound wilderness;
All living things have fled long since in fear,
And if thou lovest it, 'tis only this,
That thou wast born the last of all thy race.
Above, the storms rage ever, and the sea
Forever surgeth and the fiery mount
In labor moaneth, while the fearful light
That streameth ruddy from the firmament,
As streams the blood from sacrificial stone,
Is such as devils only may endure.--
To breathe the air is like to drinking blood!

BRUNHILDA.

What knowest thou of this my wilderness?
Naught have I lacked from that fair world of thine.
And if I longed for aught, that would I take.
Remember that! Brunhilda needs no gifts!

SIEGFRIED.

Did I not tell ye true? To arms! To arms!
By force must she be brought from her wild home!
And once 'tis done, then will she give thee thanks.

BRUNHILDA.

Perchance that is not true. And knowest thou
The sacrifice thou askest? Thou know'st not,
And no man knoweth. Harken now to me,
And ask yourselves how I'll defend my rights.
With us the time is motionless; we know
Nor spring nor summer nor the autumntide.
The visage of the year is e'er the same,
And we within the land are changeless too.
But although nothing grows and blooms with us,
As in the sunlight of your distant home,
Still in our darkness ripen precious fruits
That in your land ye neither sow nor reap.
In the fierce joy of battle I delight
To conquer every haughty foe that comes
To steal my freedom. And I have my youth,
My glorious youth, and all the joy of life,
Which still suffice me, and, ere these I lose,
The benediction of the fates will fall
Invisibly upon me. I shall be
Their consecrated priestess evermore.

FRIGGA.

Is't possible? My offering sufficed?

BRUNHILDA.

The solid earth shall open 'neath my feet
Revealing all that's hidden in its depths;
And I shall hear the singing of the stars,
And their celestial music understand.
And still another joy shall be my share,
A third one, all impossible to grasp.

FRIGGA.

'Tis thou, 'tis Odin, hast unsealed her eyes!
In the deep night her ear was closed to thee--
Yet now she sees the spinning of the Norns.

BRUNHILDA (_rising to her full height, with fixed and dreaming
eyes_).

There comes a morning when I do not go
To hunt for bears, or find the great sea-snake
That's frozen in the ice, and set him free,
So that his struggles may not smite the stars.
I leave the castle early, bravely mount
My faithful steed. He bears me joyfully,
But suddenly I halt. Before my feet
The earth has turned to air, and shuddering
I wheel about. Behind me 'tis the same!
All is transparent--glowing clouds beneath,
As overhead. My maidens prattle still.
I call them--Are ye blind? Do ye see naught?
We float in empty space! They are amazed,
They shake their heads in silence, while they press
About me closer. Frigga whispers me:
And has thine hour come? Ah, now I see!
The solid earth is crystal to my gaze,
And what I deemed were clouds were but the web
Of gold and silver threads that, glistening,
Lay tangled in the depths.

FRIGGA.

Thy triumph comes!

BRUNHILDA.

An evening comes. All's changed, and lingering
We sit here late together. Suddenly,
As they were dead, the maidens fall; their words
Are frozen on their lips. I needs must go
Upon the tower, for above me rings
The sep'rate music of each farthest star.
At first 'tis only music to mine ear,
But with the dawn I murmur as in sleep:
The King will die ere nightfall and his son
Will never see the daylight, for he dies
Within his mother's womb! The others say
That so I told my tale, but I know naught
Of how I learned it. Soon I understand,
And swift the rumor flies from pole to pole
And distant people flock as now to me,
But not with swords to battle with me here--
Nay, humbly come they, laying by their crowns,
To hear my dreams and strive to understand
The meaning of my murmurings. For my eyes
Can see the future, in my hands I hold
The key to all the treasures of this world.
Far above all I rule, untouched by fate,
And yet the fates I know. But I forget.
That even more is promised me. There roll
Whole centuries away--millenniums--
I feel them not! Yet finally I ask:
Where then is death? My tresses answer me--
I see them in the mirror--they are black,
The snow has never touched them, and I say:
This is the third gift. Death comes not to me.

[_She sinks back, and the maidens support
her_.]

FRIGGA.

Why fear I still? For were it[1] Balmung's lord,
She hath a shield that will protect her now.
He'll fall, e'en if she loves but yet resists,
And she will struggle, since her fate she knows.

BRUNHILDA (_rising again_).

I spoke! What said I?

FRIGGA.

Take thy bow, my child.
Thy dart will fly today as ne'er before,
All else may wait!

BRUNHILDA (_to the knights_).

Come on!

SIEGFRIED (_to_ BRUNHILDA).

Thou swear'st
To follow us if thou art overcome?

BRUNHILDA (_laughs_).

I swear!

SIEGFRIED.

'Tis well! And I'll prepare the ship!

BRUNHILDA (_while going away addresses_ FRIGGA).

Go now into the trophy hall and drive
The nail that will be needed.

(_To the knights_.)

Follow me!

[_Exeunt omnes_.]

ACT II

_Worms. Courtyard of the Castle_.

SCENE I

_Enter_ RUMOLT _and_ GISELHER, _meeting_.

GISELHER.

Now, Rumolt, will a single tree be left?
For weeks now thou hast brought whole forests in
And grimly thou provid'st the wedding feast,
As if men, dwarfs, and elves were all to come.

RUMOLT.

I make me ready, and if I should find
A single kettle that's not full enough,
I'll seize the lazy cook and throw him in
And use the scullion-boy to stir the stew.

GISELHER.

Art thou so certain what the end will be?

RUMOLT.

I am, for Siegfried woos. The man who takes
Two noble princes captive, sends them home
As though they were no more than frightened hares,
Will not be daunted by a witch-wife now.

GISELHER.

There thou art right! We have good hostages
Since we have Luedegast and Luedeger!
They meant to bring a host of armed men,
A greater than e'er Burgundy had seen.
Yet humbly here as prisoners they came,
Nor needed any guard upon their way.
So cook, my man, we shall not want for guests!

[GERENOT _enters_.]

And here's the hunter!

GERENOT.

But he brings no game!
I was upon the tower and saw the Rhine
All covered o'er with ships.

RUMOLT.

It is the bride!
I'll send my men to drive the beasts about,
That from the noisy turmoil in the court
The sound shall reach afar and prove to her
The welcome that awaits her!

[_Trumpets are heard_.]

GERENOT.

'Tis too late!

SCENE II

_Enter_ SIEGFRIED, _with retinue_.

SIEGFRIED.

Here am I once again!

GISELHER.

Without my brother?

SIEGFRIED.

Nay, fear not! As his messenger I come!--
And yet I bear the message not for thee!
'Tis for thy Lady Mother, and I hope
That I may see thy sister Kriemhild, too.

GISELHER.

Brave knight, that shalt thou, for we owe to thee
Our thanks for capturing the noble Danes.

SIEGFRIED.

I wish that I had never sent them here.

GISELHER.

Why so? Thou hadst no better way to prove
What we have gained in winning thy right arm,
For truly are the Princes stalwart men!

SIEGFRIED.

It may be! Yet had I not done the deed,
Perhaps some bird had flown and spread abroad
The rumor that the Danes had slain me there,
And I might ask how Kriemhild heard the tale.

GISELHER.

But as it is they help thy cause enough!
That one can take good metal and alloy
And beat them into trumpets smooth and round,
I long have known. But that one could shape men
In such a way I knew not, but these two
Show us the work of such a smith as thou.
They praised thee--If thou hadst been there to hear,
Thy cheeks would still flame scarlet! Yet 'twas not
With measured praise, as men will praise their foe,
Thinking to lessen thus the burning shame
Of their own downfall. No, 'twas heartfelt praise.
But you should hear Kriemhilda tell the tale.
Unweariedly she asked them o'er and o'er.--
She's coming now.

SCENE III

_Enter_ UTE _and_ KRIEMHILD.

SIEGFRIED.

I pray you!

GISELHER.

What's thy wish?

SIEGFRIED.

I never longed to have my father by,
That he might teach me how to bear my arms,
But ah! today I need my mother so,
That I might ask her how to use my tongue.

GISELHER.

Give me thy hand, since thou art shamefaced too.
They call me here "the child." Now let them see
A "child" may lead a lion!

[_He leads_ SIEGFRIED _to the women_.]

'Tis the knight
From Netherland!

SIEGFRIED.

Fair ladies, do not fear,
Because I've come alone.

UTE.

Brave Siegfried, no!
We do not fear, for thou art not the man
Who's left alone when all but he are dead,
To bear his tale, a messenger of woe.
Thou comest to announce a daughter dear,
And Kriemhild hath a sister.

SIEGFRIED.

So it is,
My Queen!

GISELHER.

So is it! Nothing more? And scarce
Those few words could he utter! Dost thou grudge
The king his bride? Or hast thou lamed thy tongue
In battle? That was never known before.
But no, for thou could'st use it fast enough
To tell me of Brunhilda's dark brown eyes
And raven tresses.

SIEGFRIED.

Prithee, say not so!

GISELHER.

How hotly he denies it! See him raise
On high three fingers, swearing that he loves
Blue eyes--light hair!

UTE.

This is an arrant rogue!
He is nor boy nor man, sapling nor tree.
And long hath he outgrown his mother's rod,
Nor ever hath he felt his father's whip.
Ungoverned is he as a yearling colt,
That's never known the bridle or the whip.
We must forgive or punish him!

SIEGFRIED.

'Twere not
So easy as you think! To break a colt
Is difficult, and many limp away
Ashamed, and cannot mount him!

UTE.

Then once more
He 'scapes his punishment!

GISELHER.

As a reward,
I'll tell a secret to thee.

KRIEMHILD.

Giselher!

GISELHER.

What hast thou to conceal? Be not afraid!
I do not know thy secret, nor will blow
The ashes from thy embers.--Never fear!

UTE.

What is it then?

GISELHER.

I have myself forgotten.
When a man's sister blushes rosy-red,
'Tis natural a brother is surprised
And seeks to know the reason.--Never mind!
The secret I'll recall before I die,
And then shall Siegfried learn it.

SIEGFRIED.

Thou may'st jeer,
For I forget my message utterly,
And ere I've given word that you should don
Your festal garments, do the trumpets blow,
And Gunther and his train bring in the bride!

GISELHER.

Dost thou not see the steward hastening?
Thy very coming told enough to him!
But I will help!

[_He goes to_ RUMOLT.]

KRIEMHILD.

A noble messenger
May not be paid with gifts!

SIEGFRIED.

Indeed he may!

KRIEMHILD (_fastens her bracelet and in so doing drops her
handkerchief)_.

SIEGFRIED (_snatches at the handkerchief)_.

This is my gift.

KRIEMHILD.

Pray, no! 'Twere all unworthy!

SIEGFRIED.

Jewels I value as another, dust.
And houses can I build of gold and silver,
Yet lack I such a kerchief!

KRIEMHILD.

Take it then!
It is my handiwork.

SIEGFRIED.

And thy free gift?

KRIEMHILD.

My noble Siegfried, yes, 'tis my free gift.

UTE.

I crave thy pardon--it is time to go!

[_Exit, with_ KRIEMHILD.]

SCENE IV

SIEGFRIED.

A Roland[2] would have stood as stood I here!
I wonder that the sparrows did not nest
Within my hair.

SCENE V

_Enter the_ CHAPLAIN.

CHAPLAIN (_advances_).

Your pardon, noble sir,
Has Brunhild been baptized?

SIEGFRIED.

She is baptized.

CHAPLAIN.

Then 'tis a Christian land from which she
comes?

SIEGFRIED.

They fear the cross.

CHAPLAIN (_steps back again_).

Perchance 'tis there as here!
Where men will place it next to Wotan's tree
Right gladly, for they do not surely know
If magic may not dwell there; as we see
Devoutest Christians hesitate to break
A heathen image, for some remnant still
Awakes within them of the olden fear
Before those staring eyes.

SCENE VI

_Flourish of trumpets_. BRUNHILDA, FRIGGA, GUNTHER, HAGEN, VOLKER,
_retainers_, KRIEMHILD _and_ UTE _approach them from the castle_.

GUNTHER.

And here's the castle!
My mother's coming now to welcome thee,
Kriemhilda too.

VOLKER (_to BRUNHILDA, _as the women approach each other_).

Are they no gain to thee?

HAGEN.

Siegfried, a word! Thy trick availed us naught.

SIEGFRIED.

Availed us naught? Was she not vanquished then?
Is she not here?

HAGEN.

What profit is in that?

SIEGFRIED.

Why, all!

HAGEN.

But nay! Who cannot take by force
Her first caress will master nevermore
This maid, and Gunther is not strong enough.

SIEGFRIED.

And has he tried?

HAGEN.

Why else should I complain?
In full sight of the castle! She at first
Resisted him, as it befits a maid,
And as our mothers may have done of old;
But when she saw that but the lightest touch
Sufficed to drive the ardent wooer forth,
She grew enraged, and, when he tarried still,
She seized and held him with her outstretched arm
Above the Rhine. A shame it was to him,
A shame to all of us.

SIEGFRIED.

She is a witch!

HAGEN.

Chide not, but help!

SIEGFRIED.

I think that if the priest
But married them--

HAGEN.

Were that old hag not there,
The woman that attends her! All day long
She spies and questions, and she sits by her
As the embodiment of wise old age.
I fear the nurse the most.

UTE (_to_ KRIEMHILD _and_ BRUNHILDA).

Now love each other,
And may the circlet that your arms have twined
In this first joyful moment widen out
Further and further to a perfect ring
Within which you may wander, side by side,
Sharing your joys in harmony complete!
Yours is a privilege that I had not,
For what I might not say unto my lord
I had to bear in silence; but at least
I could not speak complainingly of him.

KRIEMHILD.

Let us be like two sisters.

BRUNHILDA.

For your sake
Your son and brother may imprint the seal
Upon my lips that stamps me as his maid
Before the nightfall comes, for I am still
Unblemished and untouched like some young tree,
And were it not for your sweet gentleness
Forever would I hold this shame afar.

UTE.

Thou speak'st of shame?

BRUNHILDA.

Forgive me for that word;
I speak but as I feel. And I am strange
Here in your world, and as my rugged land
Would surely terrify you, were you there,
So does your land alarm me, for I feel
That here I could not have been born at all--Yet
must I live here!--Is the sky so blue
Forever?

KRIEMHILD.

Nearly all the time 'tis blue.

BRUNHILDA.

We know not blue, unless we see blue eyes,
And those we only have with ruddy hair
And milk-white faces! Is it always still,
And does the wind blow never?

KRIEMHILD.

Sometimes storms
O'erwhelm the land, and then the day is night
With thunderpeals and lightning.

BRUNHILDA.

Would it come
Today!--'Twould be a greeting from my home!
I cannot well endure the brilliant light;
It pains me and it makes me feel so bare,
As if no garment here were thick enough!
And are those flowers--red and gold and green?

KRIEMHILD. Thou ne'er hast seen them, yet thou know'st their hues?

BRUNHILDA. Of precious stones there is with us no lack--
Though never white or black ones; yet my hands
Have taught me white, and raven is my hair.

KRIEMHILD. Thou canst not know of fragrance!

[_She plucks a violet for her_.]

BRUNHILDA.

Oh how sweet!
And is't that tiny flower that breathes it forth--
The only one my eye did not observe?
I'd love to give the flower a pretty name--
But surely it is named.

KRIEMHILD.

The little flower
Is lowlier than all, and none thy foot
More easily had crushed, for it appears
To be ashamed that it is more than grass,
And so it hides its head; but yet it drew
A gentle word from thee, the first we've heard.
So let it be a token that within
Our land is much that's hidden from thy gaze
That will delight thee.

BRUNHILDA.

That I hope indeed--
For I need joy! Thou know'st not what it is
To be a woman, yet to overcome
A man in every combat and to gain
His strength that ebbs away as flows his blood,
And from the steaming blood breathe in new force--
To feel yourself grow stronger, braver yet,
And then, when victory is surer still--

[_Turning suddenly_]

Frigga, I ask again! What did I see--
Before that latest contest, what said I?

FRIGGA.

It seemed thy spirit must have seen this land.

BRUNHILDA.

This land!

FRIGGA.

Thou didst rejoice.

BRUNHILDA.

And I rejoiced!--
Thine eyes, however, flamed.

FRIGGA.

Because I saw
Thy happiness.

BRUNHILDA.

These warriors looked to me
As white as snow.

FRIGGA.

They had been ever so.

BRUNHILDA.

Wherefore didst thou conceal the dream so long?

FRIGGA.

It is but now that it is clear to me,
Now that I can compare.

BRUNHILDA.

If I rejoiced
When my prophetic vision saw this land,
I must rejoice again.

FRIGGA.

Thou surely shalt!

[Illustration: SIEGFRIED'S RETURN FROM THE SAXON WAR _From the
Painting by Schnorr von Carolsfeld_]

BRUNHILDA.

And yet it seems to me the vision dealt
With stars and metals too.

FRIGGA.

Yes, that is so.
Thou said'st the stars gleamed still more brightly here.
But yet that gold and silver were but dull.

BRUNHILDA.

Was't so?

FRIGGA (_to_ HAGEN).

Is't not the truth?

HAGEN.

I paid no heed.

BRUNHILDA.

I beg you all to treat me as a child;
Though I shall grow up faster than another.
Yet now I am no better.

(_To_ FRIGGA.)

That was all?

FRIGGA.

Yes, all!

BRUNHILDA.

Then all is well! Then all is well!

UTE (_to_ GUNTHER, _who has approached_).

My son, if she's too bitter toward thee now,
But give her time! The clamor of the crows
And ravens that she heard could never make
Her heart grow softer, but 'twill soften now
With the lark's song and with the nightingale.

HAGEN. So speaks the minstrel when he is in love,
And plays with foolish puppies. 'Tis enough!
The maiden must have time to find her heart,
But for the princess, hold her to her word;
By right of conquest she's already thine.--Then
claim thy rights!

(_He calls_.)

Chaplain!

(_And starts on_.)

GUNTHER.

I'll follow thee!

SIEGFRIED.

Wait, Gunther, wait! What didst thou promise me!

GUNTHER.

May I, my Kriemhild, choose a spouse for thee?

KRIEMHILD.

My lord and brother, be it as thou wilt!

GUNTHER (_to_ UTE).

I have no opposition then to fear?

UTE.

Thou art the king, thy handmaids, she and I.

GUNTHER.

I beg thee then amongst my kinsfolk here:
Redeem an oath for them and me, and give
Thy hand to noble Siegfried.

SIEGFRIED.

I've no power
To speak as I could wish to, when I gaze
Upon thy face, and of my stammering tongue
Perchance thou hast already heard enough.
And so I ask thee as the hunter asks,
But that I blow no feathers from my hat,
To hide my fear: O maiden, wilt thou me?
Yet lest thou err'st through my simplicity,
And unenlightened actest in the dark,
So let me tell thee, ere thou answer'st me,
How my own mother blames me oftentimes.
She says that I am surely strong enough
To conquer all the world, but yet to rule
The smallest molehill I'm too simple far.
And if I do not lose my very eyes
'Tis only that the thing's impossible.
Thou may'st believe the half of what she says,
The other half though, I can well disprove.
For if I once have won thee, I will show
The world how I can keep unharmed mine own.
Again I ask thee: Kriemhild, wilt thou me?

KRIEMHILD.

Why dost thou smile, my mother? I have not
Forgotten what I dreamed, the shudder still
Creeps over me and warns me more and more,
But still I say with dauntless courage: Yes!

BRUNHILDA (_steps between_ KRIEMHILD _and_ SIEGFRIED).

Kriemhild!

KRIEMHILD.

What wilt thou?

BRUNHILDA.

I will prove myself
Thy sister.

KRIEMHILD.

Now? Wherein?

BRUNHILDA (_to_ SIEGFRIED).

How dost thou dare
Aspire to her, the daughter of a king?
How dost thou dare, a vassal such as thou,
A serving man!

SIEGFRIED.

What?

BRUNHILDA.

Cam'st thou not as guide,
As messenger departed?

(_To_ GUNTHER.)

Canst thou suffer
And aid him in such boldness?

GUNTHER.

Siegfried is
The first of all our warriors.

BRUNHILDA.

Grant him then
The foremost seat beside thy very throne.

GUNTHER.

In treasure, he is richer far than I.

BRUNHILDA.

Is that his claim upon thy sister? Shame!

GUNTHER.

A thousand of my enemies he's slain.

BRUNHILDA.

The man who conquered me thanks him for that?

GUNTHER.

He is a king as I am.

BRUNHILDA.

Yet he ranks
Himself amongst thy servants?

GUNTHER.

I will solve
This riddle for thee when thou art mine own.

BRUNHILDA.

Ere I am thine thy secret will I know.

UTE.

Thou wilt refuse to call me mother then?
Oh tarry not too long, for I am old.
And worn with many sorrows!

BRUNHILDA.

As I swore,
I'll go with him to church, and I will be
Most willingly thy daughter--not his wife.

HAGEN (_to_ FRIGGA).

Pray quiet her!

FRIGGA.

What need is there of me?
For if he once has overcome Brunhild,
The second time he surely will not fail;
And self-defense is every maiden's right.

SIEGFRIED (_taking_ KRIEMHILD _by the hand_).

That all may know me henceforth as a king,
The Niblung's treasure do I give to thee.
And now thy duty and my right I claim.

[_He kisses her_.]

HAGEN.

To church!

FRIGGA.

Does Siegfried hold the Niblung's hoard?

HAGEN.

Thou heard'st! The trumpets!

FRIGGA.

And is Balmung[3] his?

HAGEN.

Why not? Musicians! Wedding music here!

[_Loud and joyful music. Exeunt omnes_.]

SCENE VII

_The great hall. Enter_ TRUCHS _and_ WULF. _Dwarfs bring treasures
across the stage._

TRUCHS.

I am for Kriemhild.

WULF.

And for Brunhild I.

TRUCHS.

And why, if thou wilt tell me?

WULF.

Where would be
The play of rival lances, if we all
Should wear one color?

TRUCHS.

Why, I grant thee that!
The reason is sufficient, otherwise
It were mere madness.

WULF.

Say it not so loud,
For many heroes swear by Brunhild now.

TRUCHS.

They are as different as day and night.

WULF.

Who says they're not? Yet many love the
night.

[_Points to the dwarfs_.]

What are they bringing?

TRUCHS.

It must be the hoard,
The treasure of the Niblungs Siegfried won.
He's called the dwarfs for escort duty here,
And bade them bring the treasure, and I'm told
It is the marriage portion for his bride.

WULF.

Uncanny are these dwarfs, with hollow backs!
But turn one over--there's a kneading trough!

TRUCHS.

And ever with the dragons is their home
Within the earth and in the mountain caves.--
First cousins to the moles they are.

WULF.

But strong!

TRUCHS.

And clever are they too! One need not seek
For mandrakes[4] if one has these dwarfs for
friends.

WULF (_pointing toward the treasure_).

He who owns that needs neither of the two.

TRUCHS.

I love it not. It is an ancient saw
That magic gold is thirstier for blood
Than ever was the driest sponge for water;
And, more than all, the Niblung heroes tell
The strangest tales!

WULF.

Of ravens was the talk.
What was it then? I heard it not aright.

TRUCHS.

A raven flew and lit upon the gold,
When it was carried to the ship, and there
He croaked till Siegfried, who could understand,
At first stopped up his ears and would not hear,
And whistled. Then the precious stones he threw
To drive the bird, and when it would not fly,
At last in desperation cast his spear.

WULF.

Why, that is strange! For Siegfried is at heart
As gentle as he's brave.

[_Horns are heard._]

They call for us!
They're gath'ring! Ho, Brunhilda!

TRUCHS.

Kriemhild, ho!

[_Exeunt. Other warriors, who meanwhile have assembled,
join them and repeat the cry. It grows dark gradually._]

SCENE VIII

_Enter HAGEN and SIEGFRIED._

SIEGFRIED.

But Hagen! Why didst thou make signs to me
To leave the banquet? I shall nevermore
Sit at this table as I sit today.
Pray grant me this one day, I only ask
A just reward.

HAGEN.

Your task is not yet done.

SIEGFRIED.

Let be till morning, for a minute's worth
A year today. I still can count the words
That I have spoken to my loving bride;
Then let me have one evening with my wife.

HAGEN.

Without good reason I will ne'er disturb
A lover or a drunkard. It avails
No longer to resist! What Brunhild said
Thou'st heard, and now her wedding gayety
Thou may'st behold, for at the feast she weeps!

SIEGFRIED.

And can I dry her tears?

HAGEN.

She'll keep her word,
The threat that she has sworn, there is no doubt;
That endless shame would follow may we doubt
Still less. Dost thou not understand me now?

SIEGFRIED.

What follows them

HAGEN.

That thou must conquer her.

[_GUNTHER approaches._]

SIEGFRIED.

What, I?

HAGEN.

Now listen! Gunther goes with her
Into the chamber.[5] In the Tarnhelm thou
Must follow. Quickly he demands a kiss
Ere she has raised her veil.--She grants it not.
He grapples with her.--She laughs mockingly.
He quenches, as by accident, the light--
Exclaims: So much is jest, 'tis earnest now.
It will not be on shore as on the ship!
Then shalt thou seize her and so master her
That she shall beg for mercy and for life.
And when thy part is done, then shall the king
Demand her oath to be his humblest maid,
And thou shalt vanish as thou cam'st.

GUNTHER.

Wilt thou
But do me this one service now, my friend,
I vow I'll never ask thee then for more.

HAGEN.

He must and will. The task he has begun,
How should he then not finish?

SIEGFRIED.

If I would!
For truly you demand a deed from me
That I might well refuse another time
Than on my wedding day to do for you--
How could I pray? What should I tell Kriemhild?
She has so much already to forgive,
The very ground is hot beneath my feet.
Should I repeat the misdeed once again
She never could forgive me in her life.

HAGEN.

When a young daughter from her mother parts
And leaves the room where once the cradle stood,
Into the bridal chamber she must pass,
The farewell is a long one, know my friend.
There's time enough for thee, and so--agreed!

(_As SIEGFRIED refuses his hand._)

Brunhilda now is like a wounded deer,
Who'd let it with the arrow run away?
A noble hunter sends the second shaft.
The lost is ever lost, nor may return.
The haughty heiress of the Valkyries
And Norns is dying. Give the final stroke!
A happy woman laughs tomorrow morn
And only says: I had a troubled dream!

SIEGFRIED.

I know not, something warns me.

HAGEN.

Will Frau Ute
Be ready ere thou art? Nay, there's no fear,
For three times yet will she call Kriemhild back
To bless her and embrace her.

SIEGFRIED.

I refuse.

HAGEN.

What? If this moment came a messenger
In haste announcing that thy father lay
Sick unto death, would'st thou not call at once
For thy good steed? And surely would thy bride
Speed thy departure! Yet a father may,
Though old, recover. Honor wounded once
By cruel wrong, nor mended speedily,
Will never from the dead be raised again.
The honor of the king's the guiding star
Which brings or light or darkness to the knights,
As to the king himself. O woe to him
Who hesitates and robs him of one ray.
Had I thy strength I'd sue to thee no more,
But do the deed myself with pride and joy.
And yet by magic was Brunhilda won,
And magic arts must finish now the task.
Then do it! Must I kneel?

SIEGFRIED.

I like it not!
Who would have dreamed of this! And yet it lay
So very near! O nature three times blest!
In all my life no deed I've shunned like this;
Yet what thou say'st is true. So let it be.

GUNTHER.

I'll go and give my mother but a hint--

HAGEN.

No, no! No woman! We're already three
And have, I hope, no tongue to tell the tale.
Let death the fourth one in our compact be!

[_Exeunt omnes._]

ACT III

_Morning. Courtyard of the castle. The cathedral is at one side._

SCENE I

_Enter_ RUMOLT _and_ DANKWART _armed._

RUMOLT.

Three dead!

DANKWART.

For yesterday it was enough,
For that was but the prelude! Now there'll be
Another tale to tell.

RUMOLT.

These Nibelungs
Are e'er prepared for death; they bring their shrouds
And each man wears both shroud and sword at once.

DANKWART.

The customs are so strange in northern lands!
For as the mountains grow more rugged still
And cheerful oaks make way for sombre firs,
Just so does man grow gloomy, till at last
He's wholly lost and but the brute remains!
First comes a race that cannot even sing,
And next another race that cannot laugh,
Then follows one that's dumb, and so it goes.

SCENE II

_Music. A great procession._ WULF _and_ TRUCHS _among the warriors._

RUMOLT (_joining_ DANKWART).

Will Hagen be content?

DANKWART.

I think he will.
This is a summons, as it were, to war!
Yet he is right, for this strange princess needs
Quite other morning serenades than sings
The lark that warbles in the linden tree.

[_They pass by._]

SCENE III

_Enter_ SIEGFRIED _with_ KRIEMHILD.

KRIEMHILD (_calling attention to her attire_).

Wilt thou not thank me?

SIEGFRIED.

Nay, what dost thou mean?

KRIEMHILD.

But look at me!

SIEGFRIED. That thou art living, smiling,
I give thee thanks, and that thine eyes are blue--
I love not black--

KRIEMHILD.

Thou dost but praise the Lord
In his handmaiden! Did I make myself,
Thou simple fellow? Did I choose the eyes
Thou dost admire?

SIEGFRIED.

Yet love, methinks, might dream
E'en such strange fancies! One fair morn in May
When all things glistened as they glisten now,
Two crystal dewdrops, clearer than the rest,
Were hanging on the harebells bluest spray;
And thou hast stolen them, and evermore
All heaven's in thine eyes.

KRIEMHILD.

Then rather give
Thy thanks to me that as a child I fell
So wisely. My blue eyes I might have lost
The day I only marked my temple here!

SIEGFRIED.

Oh, let me kiss the scar!

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