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

Part 4 out of 13

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KRIEMHILD.

Thy healing art
Would be but lost. No balsam craves the wound
That's long since healed. But tell me more!

SIEGFRIED.

I thank
Thy mouth--

KRIEMHILD.

With words?

SIEGFRIED (_about to embrace her_).

But may I thank thee so?

KRIEMHILD (_draws back_).

Dost think that I invite thee?

SIEGFRIED.

With words then
For thy words! No, for sweeter yet than words,
Thy murmuring of tender secret things
My ear finds precious, as my lips thy kiss.
I thank thee for thy secret gazing forth
To see us throwing weights to win the prize.
Oh, had I dreamed of it! And for thy scorn
And mockery--

KRIEMHILD.

A maiden's pride to soothe
For tarrying, thou thinkest? Cruel friend!
I told thee in the dark! But wilt thou see
My blushes now when in the light of day
Thou tellest me the tale? My foolish blood
Flushes and pales so fast, my mother says
That I am like a rose-bush that sends forth
Red buds and white upon a single stem--
Else hadst thou never found my secret out.
For I could feel the burning of my cheeks,
When yestermorn my brother teased me so.
I saw no way but to confess to thee.

SIEGFRIED.

Then may he start the noblest stag today!

KRIEMHILD.

And may he miss him! Yes, I wish it too.--
see thou art just like my uncle, Hagen,
Who, if one lays a garment by his bed,
That one has made in secret, will not heed
Unless perchance it is too tight.

SIEGFRIED.

And why?

KRIEMHILD.

Thou only see'st God's and nature's gifts
In all that's mine, but my own handiwork,
The raiment that adorns me, thou see'st not--
Not even the fair girdle that I wear.

SIEGFRIED.

The girdle's gay, and yet I'd rather wind
About thy waist the rainbow's lovely hue;
Methinks that ye would suit each other well.

KRIEMHILD.

But bring it me at night and I will change,
Yet do not throw it down like this I wear.
'Tis but by chance I did not lose thy gift.

SIEGFRIED.

What sayest thou?

KRIEMHILD.

But for the precious stones,
It might be underneath the table still,
But fire is a thing one cannot hide.

SIEGFRIED.

Is that my gift?

KRIEMHILD.

It is.

SIEGFRIED.

But thou art dreaming!

KRIEMHILD.

I found it in the room.

SIEGFRIED.

It is thy mother's!
She must have let it fall.

KRIEMHILD.

It is not hers!
For well I know her ornaments. I thought
It had been taken from the Niblung's hoard;
To give thee joy I put it on at once.

SIEGFRIED.

I thank thee, but the girdle I know not!

KRIEMHILD (_takes the girdle off_).

Then for my golden girdle make thou room
Which thou concealest! I was all attired,
And only put it on to honor thee,
My mother also, for this golden one
She gave to me.

SIEGFRIED.

But that is very strange!--
'Twas lying on the floor?

KRIEMHILD.

It was.

SIEGFRIED.

And crumpled?

KRIEMHILD.

I see you know it well! The second trick
Succeeded like the first, and now I have
My task twice over!

[_She starts to put the girdle on again._]

SIEGFRIED.

No! For God's sake, no!

KRIEMHILD.

Art thou in earnest?

SIEGFRIED (_to himself_).

'Twas with that she strove
To tie my hands.

KRIEMHILD.

Art laughing?

SIEGFRIED (_to himself_).

Then I raged,
And put forth all my strength.

KRIEMHILD.

Nay, thou art not?

SIEGFRIED (_to himself_).

I snatched at something.

KRIEMHILD.

That I'll soon believe.

SIEGFRIED (_to himself_).

I thrust it, when she grasped for it again,
Into my bosom, and--Now give it me!
No well is deep enough to hide it in;
With a great stone I'll sink it in the Rhine!

KRIEMHILD.

Siegfried!

SIEGFRIED.

I must have lost it--Give it me!

KRIEMHILD.

Where didst thou get this girdle?

SIEGFRIED.

Nay, this is
A dark and fearful secret; thou should'st seek
To learn no whit about it.

KRIEMHILD.

Yet thou hast
Confided one still greater, and I know
The place where Death may strike the fatal blow.

SIEGFRIED.

That I alone protect!

KRIEMHILD.

And there are two
To guard the other!

SIEGFRIED (_to himself_).

I was far too quick.

KRIEMHILD (_covers her face_).

Thou gav'st thy oath to me! Why didst thou that?
I had not even asked it.

SIEGFRIED.

Still I swear,
I ne'er have known a woman!

KRIEMHILD (_holds up the girdle_).

SIEGFRIED.

That was used
To bind me.

KRIEMHILD.

If a lion told the tale
'Twere less incredible!

SIEGFRIED.

And yet 'tis true.

KRIEMHILD.

This hurts me most! To such a man as thou,
The sin itself, however black it be,
Is more becoming than the cloak of lies
Wherewith he fain would hide it.

_Enter_ GUNTHER _and_ BRUNHILDA.

SIEGFRIED.

We must go!
They come!

KRIEMHILD.

But who! Does Brunhild know the girdle?

SIEGFRIED.

Pray hide it quickly!

KRIEMHILD.

No, I'll show it them!

SIEGFRIED.

I pray thee hide it. Then thou shalt know all.

KRIEMHILD (_hiding the girdle_).

So Brunhilda knows the girdle?

SIEGFRIED.

Listen then!

[_Both follow the procession._]

SCENE IV

BRUNHILDA.

Was that not Kriemhild?

GUNTHER.

Yes.

BRUNHILDA.

How long does she
Tarry beside the Rhine?

GUNTHER.

She'll soon depart,
For Siegfried must go home.

BRUNHILDA.

I'll grant him leave,
And willingly dispense with his farewell.

GUNTHER.

But dost thou hate him so?

BRUNHILDA.

I cannot bear
To see thy noble sister sink so low.

GUNTHER.

She does as thou dost.

BRUNHILDA.

Nay, thou art a man!
This name which was of old to me the call
To arms, now fills my heart with joy and pride!
Yes, Gunther, I am wonderfully changed.
Thou see'st it too? There's something I might ask,
But yet I do not!

GUNTHER.

Thou'rt my noble wife!

BRUNHILDA.

'Tis sweet to hear that word, and now it seems
As strange to me that once I used to ride
To battle on my horse and hurl my spear,
As it would seem to see thee turn the spit!
I cannot bear the sight of weapons now,
And my own shield I find too heavy far;
I tried to lay it by, but had to call
My maid. I'd rather watch the spiders spin
And see the little birds that build their nests,
Than go with thee!

GUNTHER.

Yet this time thou must go!

BRUNHILDA.

And I know why. Forgive me! What I thought
Was weakness was but magnanimity,
For thou would'st not disgrace me on the ship
When I defied thee! Naught of that there dwelt
Within my heart, and therefore has the strength
That some caprice of nature gave to me
Departed from me, and returned to thee!

GUNTHER.

Since thou art gentle, then be reconciled
With Siegfried too!

BRUNHILDA.

Oh, name him not to me!

GUNTHER.

There is no reason thou shouldst hate him so.

BRUNHILDA.

And if I have none? When a king descends
To fill the humble office of a guide
And carry messages, it is indeed
As strange as if a man should take the place
Of his own horse, the saddle on his back,
Or bay and hunt in service of his hound.
But if it pleases him, what's that to me!

GUNTHER.

It was not so.

BRUNHILDA.

Still stranger 't is to see
His noble stature tow'ring high above
All other men, so that it even seems
That he has gathered all the royal crowns
Of all the world to forge them into one,
And thus to show the world for the first time
A perfect picture of true majesty.
For it is true, while still upon the earth
More crowns than one are gleaming, none is round,
And for the sun's full circle even thou
Wearest a crescent pale upon thy head.

GUNTHER.

But see. Thou hast already viewed the man
With other eyes.

BRUNHILDA.

I greeted him ere thee.
Then slay him--challenge him--win my revenge!

GUNTHER.

Brunhilda! He's the husband of my sister,
And so his blood is mine.

BRUNHILDA.

Do battle then
With him and lay him low upon the ground,
And let me see thy rightful majesty
When he is as a footstool for thy feet!

GUNTHER.

Our custom is not so.
BRUNHILDA. I will not yield;
His downfall I must see. Thou hast the heart
Of life, and he the glitter and the show.
But blow away this magic which e'er holds
The gaze of fools upon him. If Kriemhild
Casts down those eyes in shame, that now she lifts
Almost too proudly when she's by his side,
'Twill do no damage, and I promise thee
Far richer love if thou wilt do the deed.

GUNTHER.

He too is strong.

BRUNHILDA.

That he the dragon slew
And conquered Alberich, does not compare
With thy great prowess. For in thee and me
Have man and woman for eternity
Fought the last battle for supremacy.
Thou art the victor, and I ask no more
Than still to see those honors deck thy brow
Of which I was so jealous. For thou art
The strongest man of all; so cast him down
From golden clouds to earth for my delight,
And leave him naked, destitute, and bare--
Then let him live a hundred years or more.

[_Exeunt._]

SCENE V

_Enter_ FRIGGA _and_ UTE.

UTE.

Brunhilda looks already happier
Than yesterday.

FRIGGA.

My Queen, she truly is.

UTE.

I thought it would be so.

FRIGGA.

But I did not!
Her mind is strangely altered, 'twould astound
Me not a whit now if her nature too
Should alter and her hair should change to blonde
Instead of raven tresses that of old
So richly waved beneath my golden comb.

UTE.

Thou dost not grieve, I trust?

FRIGGA.

I'm more amazed.
If this heroic woman thou hadst reared
As I have done, and knew all that I know,
Then would thy wonder be no less than mine.

UTE (_turning to go back into the castle_).

Do what thou canst!

FRIGGA.

I surely have done more
Than ever thou couldst dream of. How this came
I cannot tell, but if she's happy now
I am content, and of the olden time
She hath forgotten never will I tell.

SCENE VI

_Enter_ KRIEMHILD _and_ BRUNHILDA, _hand in hand. A large number of
warriors and people gather._

KRIEMHILD.

Wouldst thou not watch the combat from afar
Rather than join the fray?

BRUNHILDA.

Hast thou tried both,
That thus thou canst compare them?

KRIEMHILD.

I'd not bear
The heat of battle.

BRUNHILDA.

Then thou shouldst not try
To judge of it!--No insult I intend.
Nay, do not draw thy hand away from mine!
It may be so, and yet I thought this joy
Were but for me alone.

KRIEMHILD.

What dost thou mean?

BRUNHILDA. Surely no woman can rejoice to see
Her husband conquered.

KRIEMHILD.

Never!

BRUNHILDA. Nor deceive
Herself if in the fray he's not unhorsed,
Because his conqueror spares him.

KRIEMHILD. Surely not.

BRUNHILDA. What then!

KRIEMHILD. But I am quite secure from that?
Thou smilest?

BRUNHILDA. Over-confident art thou.

KRIEMHILD. It is my right!

BRUNHILDA. It may not come to proof,
And even a dream is sweet--so slumber on,
And I will never wake thee.

KRIEMHILD. What say'st thou?
My noble husband is too gentle far
To grieve the rulers of his royal realm,
Else had he made a sceptre long ago
Of his good sword and held it forth so far
That its great shadow covered all the earth.
For all the lands are subject unto him,
And should but one deny it, I would ask
That land from him to make a flower bed.

BRUNHILDA.

Kriemhild, what then would be my husband's place?

KRIEMHILD.
He is my brother, and the standard's his
Whereby one weighs all others. None weighs him.

BRUNHILDA.

No, for he is the standard of the world!
And as 'tis gold decides the worth of things,
So he the worth of heroes and of knights.
Thou must not contradict me, dearest child,
And in return I'll listen patiently
If thou wilt only teach me how to sew.

KRIEMHILD.

Brunhilda!

BRUNHILDA.

Nay, I did not speak in scorn;
I long to sew, and needle-work is not
My birthright like the throwing of the lance,
For which I never sought a master's aid,
More than I needed aid to stand or walk.

KRIEMHILD.

If 'tis thy wish, we can begin at once;
And since thou best enjoyest making wounds
We'll take the bodkin for embroidery.
I have a pattern!--

[_She is about to show the girdle._]
No, I have it not.

BRUNHILDA.

Thou lookest on thy sister coldly now.
But 'tis not friendly to withdraw thy hand
From my fond clasp before I give it up--
At least our custom is the contrary.
And canst thou not be reconciled to know
The sceptre of thy dreams is given now
Into thy brother's hands? Thou art his sister,
And that should comfort thee. A brother's fame
Is half thine own, so thou shouldst yield to me,
Before all other women, honor's crown
That once for all could never have been thine,
For no one could have paid for it as I.

KRIEMHILD.

'Tis thus perverted nature takes revenge.
Thou didst resist love's rule as no one else,
And now this blindness is thy penalty.

BRUNHILDA.

Thou speakest of thyself and not of me!
We need not quarrel, for the whole world knows
That ere my mother bore me, 'twas my fate
The strongest knight alone should conquer me.

KRIEMHILD.

I can believe it.

BRUNHILDA.

Well?

KRIEMHILD (_laughs_).

BRUNHILDA.

Then thou art mad!
Perchance thou fear'st that we shall be too harsh
With all the vassals? Yet thou need'st not fear!
I plant no flower beds in conquered lands,
And only once will I claim precedence
If thou art not too proud and obstinate,--
Here at the church today and nevermore.

KRIEMHILD.

Indeed I'd never have denied it thee,
But, since my husband's honor is at stake,
I will not yield one step.

BRUNHILDA.

He will command
That thou shalt yield.

KRIEMHILD.

How dare'st thou scorn him so!

BRUNHILDA.

He made way for thy brother in my hall,
As vassals for their lord, and he refused
My proffered greeting!--That did not seem strange
While I still thought him--as he called himself--
A serving-man, a messenger to me.
But now it all seems changed.

KRIEMHILD.

And how is that?

BRUNHILDA.

I've seen a wolf slip silently away
Before a bear, and then I've seen the bear
Flee from the mountain bull. Though he's not sworn,
Yet is he still a vassal.

KRIEMHILD.

Say no more!

BRUNHILDA.

Wilt threaten me? Do not forget thyself!
I have my senses--see that thou keep thine:
There must have been some cause beneath all this.

KRIEMHILD.

There was! And if thou shouldst suspect the cause,
How thou wouldst shudder.

BRUNHILDA.

Shudder!

KRIEMHILD.

Yes, indeed!
But do not fear! I love thee even now
Too fondly. Never can I hate thee so
That I will tell the cause. Had aught like that
Befallen me, today I'd dig my grave
With my own hands. Brunhilda, never fear!
I will not make thee the most wretched soul
That draws the breath of life upon the earth!
Then keep thy pride, for pity makes me dumb.

BRUNHILDA.

Thou boastest, Kriemhild! I despise thee now!

KRIEMHILD.

My husband's concubine despises me!

BRUNHILDA.

Put her in chains! She rages! Bind her then!

KRIEMHILD (_draws out the girdle_).

Know'st thou this girdle?

BRUNHILDA.

Well I do. 'Tis mine.
And since I see it in a stranger's hands
It must be that 'twas stolen in the night.

KRIEMHILD.

'Twas stolen! 'Twas no thief that gave it me!

BRUNHILDA.

Who then?

KRIEMHILD.

The man who overpowered thee!
But not my brother!

BRUNHILDA.

Kriemhild!

KRIEMHILD.

Thy fierce strength
Had surely strangled Gunther, then perchance
Thou would'st have loved the dead as punishment.
My husband gave it me!

BRUNHILDA.

'Tis false!

KRIEMHILD.

'Tis true!
Now scorn him if thou canst! Wilt now consent
That I may pass before thee through the door?

(_To her women._)

Now follow. She shall see me prove my rights!

[_They leave and enter the cathedral._]

[Illustration: "SCHNORR VON CAROLSFELD THE QUARREL OF THE QUEENS"]

SCENE VII

BRUNHILDA.

Where are the lords of Burgundy!--Oh Frigga!
Didst thou hear that?

FRIGGA.

I heard, and I believe it.

BRUNHILDA.

Oh this is death! 'Tis true?

FRIGGA.

She said too much,
Surely too much--but this is plain to me,
That thou hast been betrayed!

BRUNHILDA.

'Tis not a lie?

FRIGGA.

'Twas Balmung's master. On the shore he stood
When died the flames.

BRUNHILDA.

Then he rejected me.
For I was on the rampart and I know
He saw me. But his heart was full of her.

FRIGGA.

That thou mayst know what thou hast lost by fraud,
I too deceived thee!

BRUNHILDA (_without listening to her_).

Hence the haughty calm
With which he gazed upon me!

FRIGGA.

Not alone
This narrow country, but the whole wide earth
Was meant to be thy kingdom, and to thee
The stars should tell their message. Even death
Should lose his fell dominion over thee!

BRUNHILDA.

Speak not of that!

FRIGGA.

Why not? Thy glories lost
Thou'lt not regain, but yet thou canst avenge
Thy wrongs, my child!

BRUNHILDA.

And I will have revenge!
Despised and scorned! Oh, woman, in his arms
If thou hast mocked at me a single night,
Thou shalt weep bitterly for many years!
I will--Alas! I am as weak as she.

[_Throws herself on FRIGGA's bosom._]

SCENE VIII

_Enter_ GUNTHER, HAGEN, DANKWART, RUMOLT, GERENOT, GISELHER _and_
SIEGFRIED.

HAGEN.

What then is wrong?

BRUNHILDA (_drawing herself up to her full height, to
GUNTHER_).

Am I concubine?

GUNTHER.

A concubine?

BRUNHILDA.

Thy sister calls me so!

HAGEN (_to FRIGGA_).

What happened here?

FRIGGA.

Ye are discovered now!
We know the conqueror, and Kriemhild vows
That he was twice a victor.

HAGEN

(_to GUNTHER_).
He has told!

[_He speaks to him aside._]

SCENE IX

KRIEMHILD (_who has meanwhile come out of the cathedral_).

Forgive me, Siegfried, for the wrong I did!
Yet if thou knewest how she slandered thee--

GUNTHER (to SIEGFRIED).

Hast thou then boasted?

SIEGFRIED (_laying his hand on KRIEMHILD's head_).
By her life I swear,
I never did.

HAGEN.

No oath is needed here!
He only told the truth.

SIEGFRIED.

And even that
Upon compulsion!
HAGEN. That I do not doubt!
The tale can wait the telling. 'Tis our part
To separate the women, for we know
That serpents' crests may ever rise again
If they too soon gaze in each other's eyes.

SIEGFRIED.

I'm soon departing hence. Come, Kriemhild, come!

KRIEMHILD (_to BRUNHILDA_).

If thou couldst know how thou didst anger me,
Then even thou--

BRUNHILDA (_turns away_).

KRIEMHILD.

Since thou dost love my brother,
How canst thou hate the means that gave thee him
To be his bride?

BRUNHILDA.

Oh, Oh!

HAGEN.

Away! Away!

SIEGFRIED (_leading KRIEMHILD away_).

There's been no tattling here, as you shall see.

[_Exeunt._]

SCENE X

HAGEN.

Come, gather round and vote without delay
The doom of death.

GUNTHER.

Hagen, what sayest thou?

HAGEN.

Have we not cause enough? There stands the Queen
And burning tears are streaming from her eyes.
For shame she weeps!

(_To BRUNHILDA._)

Oh, thou heroic Queen,
To whom alone my homage I do yield,
The man who shamed thee so must surely die!

GUNTHER. Hagen!

HAGEN (_to BRUNHILDA_).

The man must die unless thou wilt
Forego revenge and plead for him thyself.

BRUNHILDA.

I'll touch no food till judgment is fulfilled.

HAGEN.

Forgive me that I spoke before my king!
I only strove to make the matter plain,
Yet free decision is thy royal right--
So make thy choice between thy bride and him.

GISELHER.

Thou canst not mean it! For a trifling fault,
Thou wouldst not slay the truest man on earth?
My King! My brother! Say it is not so!

HAGEN.

Will ye rear bastards here within your court?
I doubt me if the proud Burgundians
Will crown them! Yet thou art the master here!

GERENOT.

Brave Siegfried soon will quell all murmurings,
If we ourselves cannot perform the task.

HAGEN (_to_ GUNTHER).

Thou speakest not. 'Tis well. The rest is mine!

GISELHER.

In bloody counsels I will take no part!

[_Exit_.]

SCENE XI

BRUNHILDA.

Frigga, I tell thee he or I must die!

FRIGGA.

'Tis he must die!

BRUNHILDA.

I was not merely scorned,
But passed from hand to hand. They bartered
me!

FRIGGA.

They bartered thee!

BRUNHILDA.

Too mean to be his wife,
I was the price for which he bought him one.

FRIGGA.

The price, my child!

BRUNHILDA.

O this is worse than murder!
And I will have revenge, revenge, revenge!

[_Exeunt omnes_.]

ACT IV

_Worms._

SCENE I

_Great hall._ GUNTHER _with his warriors._ HAGEN _carries a spear._

HAGEN.

A blind man e'en can hit a linden leaf;
At fifty paces I will wager you
With this good spear to split a hazelnut.

GISELHER.

Why dost thou choose this day to show thy skill?
We've always known thy arms would never rust.

HAGEN.

He comes! Now show me you can wear dark looks
And altered bearing although none has lost
His father.

SCENE II

_Enter SIEGFRIED._

SIEGFRIED.

Ho, ye knights! And hear ye not
The hounds give tongue, and hark! Our youngest hunter
Impatient tries his horn! To horse! Away!

HAGEN.

The day is fair!

SIEGFRIED.

And have you not been told
That bears have ventured in the very stalls,
And that the eagles wait before the doors
And watch when they are opened for a child
That may stray out?

VOLKER.

Indeed that has been known.

SIEGFRIED.

While we were courting no one thought to hunt.
Then come, and we'll drive back the enemy,
And hack and hew him.

HAGEN. Friend, more need have we
To grind our swords and nail our spear-heads firm.

SIEGFRIED.

And why?

HAGEN.

Thou'st dallied all these last few days
With honeyed words, else hadst thou well known why.

SIEGFRIED.

I am about to say farewell, ye know!
Yet speak, what's toward?

HAGEN.

Danes and Saxons too
Again are coming.

SIEGFRIED.

Are the princes dead,
Who swore allegiance to us?

HAGEN.

Nay, not dead;
They're leading on the army.

SIEGFRIED.

Luedegast
And Luedeger, who were my prisoners,
Set free without a ransom?

GUNTHER.

Yesterday
Renounced they every oath.

SIEGFRIED.

Their messengers--
You surely must have hewn them limb from limb?
Has every vulture had his share of them?

HAGEN.

So speakest thou?

SIEGFRIED.

Such vipers' messengers
One tramples like a viper. Fiends of hell!
Now feel I my first anger! I believed
That often I knew hatred, but I erred;
'Twas but less love I felt. For I can hate
Nothing but broken vows and treachery,
Hypocrisy and all the coward's sins
That seek their victim as the spider crawls
Upon its hollow legs. How can it be
That such brave men (for surely they were brave),
Could so besmirch themselves? Oh, my dear friends,
Stand not so coldly by and gaze on me
As though you thought me mad, as though I knew
No longer great from small! We've never known
What outrage is till now. Our reckoning
May we strike calmly out to the last score.
Only these two are guilty.

GISELHER.

Shameful 'tis.
The way they praised thee echoes in my ear.
When came this messenger?

HAGEN.

'Twas even now.
Didst thou not see him. He made haste to leave
As soon as he had done his errand here,
Nor tarried for his messenger's reward.

SIEGFRIED.

Oh, shame that you did not chastise the man
For impudence! A raven would have come
And plucked his eyes out, and in very scorn
Have cast them forth again before his lord.
That was the only answer that was due.
This is no lawful feud, this is no war
That right and custom sanction--'tis the chase
Of evil beasts! Nay, Hagen, do not smile!
The headsman's ax should be our weapon now,
So that we should not soil our noble blades,
And, since the ax is iron like the sword,
It were a shame to use it till we find
No rope would be enough to hang the dogs.

HAGEN.

Thou say'st!

SIEGFRIED.

Thou mockest at me as it seems.
'Tis strange, for trifles used to anger thee!
I know thou art an older man than I,
But 'tis not youth that's speaking through me now,
Nor is it indignation that 'twas I
Who begged thy mercy for them. Nay, I stand
For the whole world. As calls a bell to prayer,
So calls my tongue to vengeance every one
Who stands as man amidst his fellow-men.

GUNTHER.

'Tis so.

SIEGFRIED (_to_ HAGEN).

Know'st thou betrayal? Treachery
Gaze on the traitor! Smile then if thou canst.
To open combat dost thou challenge him
And dost o'erthrow him. But thou art too proud,
If not too noble, to thrust home thy sword,
And so thou set'st him free, and givest him
His weapons once again that thou hadst won.
He does not rage at thee and thrust them back;
He gives thee humble thanks and praises sweet
And swears with thousand oaths to be thy man.
But when, the honeyed words still in thine ear,
Thou lay'st thy weary limbs upon thy couch,
Bare and defenseless as a helpless child,
Then creeps the traitor up and murders thee,
And even while thou diest spits on thee.

GUNTHER (_to_ HAGEN).

What dost thou say to that?

HAGEN (_to_ GUNTHER).

This noble wrath
Gives me such courage that I ask our friend
If he will grant us escort yet once more.

SIEGFRIED.

With my own Nib'lungs will I go alone,
For it is by my fault this trouble comes
To ye again! Howe'er I longed to show
My bride unto my mother and to win
For the first time her undivided praise,
It may not be while yet these hypocrites
Have ovens for their bread and flowing springs
To slake their thirst! I will at once put off
My homeward journey, and I promise you
That I will take them living, and henceforth
Before my castle shall they lie in chains
And bay like hounds whene'er I come or go,
Since, as it seems, they have the souls of dogs!

[_He hastens away_.]

SCENE III

HAGEN.

He'll surely rush to her in all his rage,
And when he leaves, then I will seek her out.

GUNTHER.

I'll move in this no further.

HAGEN.

What, my King?

GUNTHER.

Bid heralds come once more and let them say
That there is peace again.

HAGEN.

It shall be done
When I have talked with Kriemhild privately
And learned the secret from her.

GUNTHER.

Hast thou then
No bowels of compassion? Thy hard heart
No pity feeleth yet?

HAGEN.

Speak plainly, lord;
I cannot understand.

GUNTHER.

He shall not die.

HAGEN.

He lives while thou commandest. If I stood
Behind him in the woods and poised my spear,
But shake thy head, and for this traitor dies
A beast.

GUNTHER.

Not traitor, no! Was it his fault
That he brought back the girdle carelessly
And Kriemhild found it? It escaped him there,
As clings an arrow in a warrior's mail
If after battle 'tis not shaken off,
And only by its rattling is it marked.
I ask you one and all: was it his fault?

HAGEN.

No! No! Who says so? Nor was he to blame
For lacking clever wits to clear himself,
For doubtless he blushed crimson at th' attempt.

GUNTHER.

What then remains?

HAGEN.

Brunhilda's oath remains.

GISELHER.

Then let her slay him if she wants his blood.

HAGEN.

We're quarreling like children. May one not
Collect his weapons, though he knoweth not
When he may need to use them? One explores
An unknown land and finds its passes out.
Then why not, pray, a hero? I will try
My fortune now with Kriemhild, if it were
Only that this fine ruse that we have planned
Might not be all in vain. She'll not betray
The secret to me unless he hath told
The matter to her. Then you may decide
Whether to use the knowledge I may gain;
And you may really do, if so you please,
What I shall but pretend, and so in war
Protect the place where death may find him out.
But you must know where is his mortal spot.

[_Exit_.]

SCENE IV

GISELHER (_to_ GUNTHER).

Thou hast returned to thine own loyalty
And faithfulness, or else I'd say: this trick
Is far beneath a king!

VOLKER.

Thy angry mood
Is natural; thou wast thyself deceived.

GISELHER.

That was not why. Yet let us not dispute
When all is well again.

VOLKER.

When all is well?

GISELHER.

Is it not well?

VOLKER.

They tell me that the Queen
In mourning robes is clad, and food and drink
Refuses--even water.

GUNTHER.

True, alas!

VOLKER.

How then is't well? What Hagen said is true.
She's not like others; for the breath of time
Her wounds can never heal, nor give her peace.
And we must face the question: He or she!
Thou sayest truly, Siegfried's not to blame
That to him clung the girdle like a snake,
And was discovered. That is pure mischance;
But this mischance is deadly, and thou canst
Determine only whom it shall destroy.

GISELHER.

Let that one die who hath no will to live!

GUNTHER.

Oh, fearful choice!

VOLKER.

I warned thee long ago,
From starting on this course, but now at last
We see the end.

DANKWART.

And is it not our law,
That even blunders bring their penalty
He who runs through his bosom friend by night
Because he bore his lance too carelessly,
Can never free himself with all his tears,
However hot and bitter they may flow.--
The price is blood.

GUNTHER.

Now I will go to her.

[_Exit_.]

SCENE V

VOLKER.

There comes Kriemhild with Hagen. She's distressed,
As he predicted. Let us go.

[_Exeunt omnes_.]

SCENE VI

_Enter_ HAGEN _and_ KRIEMHILD.

HAGEN.

Thou com'st
So early to the hall?

KRIEMHILD.

I could not bear
To linger in my chamber.

HAGEN.

Saw I not
Thy husband parting from thee? He was flushed,
And angry were his looks. Is there not peace
Between yourself and Siegfried once again?
Is he not kind and gentle with his bride?
Tell me, and I will talk with him.

KRIEMHILD.

Oh, no!
Did nothing else remind me of that day,
That evil day, 'twould be a dream that's past.
My lord hath spared me every unkind word.

HAGEN.

I'm glad he is so gentle.

KRIEMHILD.

I could wish
That he would blame me, yet perchance he knows
I blame myself enough!

HAGEN.

Be not too harsh!

KRIEMHILD.

I know how bitterly I wounded her!
I'll not forgive myself. I'd rather far
Have felt the hurt myself than injured her.

HAGEN.

And this it is that drove thee from thy room?

KRIEMHILD.

Oh, no! 'twould make me hide myself away!
I am so anxious for him!

HAGEN.

Dost thou fear?

KRIEMHILD.

There is another war.

HAGEN.

Yes, that is true.

KRIEMHILD.

The lying scoundrels!

HAGEN.

Be not overwrought
Nor cease thy preparations for the voyage.
Work tranquilly and do not be disturbed,
For thou canst put away his armor last.
What am I saying! For he wears no mail,
Nor doth he need to wear it.

KRIEMHILD.

Thinkest thou

HAGEN.

I well might laugh. If any other wife
So sighed, I'd say: Out of a thousand darts
But one could touch him, and that one would break.
But thee I ridicule and must advise
Let thy stray fancy sing some wiser song.

KRIEMHILD.

Thou speak'st of arrows! Arrows are the thing
That most I dread. I know an arrow's point
Needs at the most the space of my thumb nail
To penetrate, and yet it kills a man.

HAGEN.

Especially if 'tis a poisoned dart.
These savages, who broke the bulwark down,
The bulwark of our life and of the state,
Which we hold sacred even in our wars,
Would do a deed like this as soon as that.

KRIEMHILD.

Thou see'st!

HAGEN.

How can thy Siegfried come to harm?
He is secure. And if there were such shafts
That straighter flew than fly the sun's own rays,
He'd shake them off as we shake off the snow;
And this he knows, and so his confidence
Abandons him no moment in the fray.
We were not born beneath an aspen tree,
Yet we nigh tremble at the deeds he dares.
And heartily he laughs at this sometimes,
And we laugh too. For iron you may thrust
Into the fire--it changes into steel.

KRIEMHILD.

I shudder!

HAGEN.

Child, thou art but newly wed,
Or I'd rejoice at thy timidity.

KRIEMHILD.

Hast thou forgotten, or hast thou not heard
What in the ballads hath oft times been sung,
That Siegfried may be wounded in one spot?

HAGEN.

I'd quite forgotten that, although 'tis true.
I recollect, he spoke of it himself.
It seems to me he told us of a leaf,
But what it signified I cannot say.

KRIEMHILD.

It was a linden leaf.

HAGEN.

Oh yes! But say,
How could a linden leaf have done him harm?
For that's a riddle like no other one.

KRIEMHILD.

It floated down upon him on the breeze
When he was bathing in the dragon's blood,
And he is vulnerable where it fell.
HAGEN. He would have seen it if it fell in front!--
What matters it? Thou see'st thy nearest kin,
Thy brothers even, who would shield him still
Were but the shadow of a danger nigh,
Know nothing of his vulnerable spot.
What dost thou fear? Thy anguish is for naught.

KRIEMHILD.

I fear the Valkyries, for I have heard
They always choose the noblest warriors;
If they direct the dart, it ne'er can miss.

HAGEN.

But then he only needs a trusty squire.
Who shall protect his back. Think'st thou not so?

KRIEMHILD.

I think I should sleep sounder.

HAGEN.

Mark my words!
If he--thou know'st it almost happened once--
Should fall from out his skiff and in the Rhine
Should sink because his weapons drew him down
To feed the greedy fishes, I would plunge
To save our Siegfried, or else I myself
Would die with him.

KRIEMHILD.

And is thy thought so noble?

HAGEN.

So I think! And if the red cock lit
In darkest night upon his castle roof,
And he, half smothered and but half awake,
Should fail to find the way that leads to life,
I'd bear him from the flames in my own arms,
And should I not succeed, with him I'd die.

KRIEMHILD (_turns about to embrace him_).

Then must I--

HAGEN (_refusing the caress_).

Do not! But I swear, I'd do it.
Though only lately had I sworn that oath.

KRIEMHILD.

Thy kinsman he became but recently!
And dost thou really mean it? That thou would'st
Thyself?--

HAGEN.

I mean it, for he'll fight for me,
And no least one of all the thousand wonders
His sword can do, has he refused to me;
And so I'll shelter him!

KRIEMHILD.

I had not dared
To hope for that!

HAGEN.

But I must know the spot,
And thou must show it to me.

KRIEMHILD.

That is true!
Between his shoulders is it, half across.

HAGEN.

'Tis target height!

KRIEMHILD.

Oh uncle, you will not
Avenge on him the crime that's mine alone?

HAGEN.

What dost thou dream of?

KRIEMHILD. It was jealousy
That blinded me, or else her boastfulness
Would not have roused my anger.

HAGEN.

Jealousy!

KRIEMHILD.

I am ashamed! But even if that night
The blows were all, and that I will believe,
I grudge Brunhilda even blows from him.

HAGEN.

Be patient! She'll forget it.

KRIEMHILD.

Is it true
That she'll not eat or drink?

HAGEN.

She always fasts
This time of year, for 'tis the Norns' own week,
And still in Iceland 'tis a sacred time.

KRIEMHILD.

Three days have now passed by!

HAGEN.

What's that to us?
But hush! They're coming.

KRIEMHILD.

Well

HAGEN.

Were it not wise
To broider on his tunic a small cross?
Forsooth our care is needless, and he would
Deride thee if thou shouldst but tell thy fear.
Yet since I now have made myself his guard
I would not aught neglect.

KRIEMHILD.

That will I do.

[_She goes to meet_ UTE _and the Chaplain_.]

SCENE VII

HAGEN (_following her_).

Thy hero now is as a stag to me.
Had he not broken silence, he were safe,
And yet I surely knew that could not be.
If one's transparent as an insect is,
That looks now red, now green, as is its food,
One must beware of any mysteries,
Lest e'en the vitals show the secret forth!

SCENE VIII

UTE _and the Chaplain come forward_.

CHAPLAIN.

There is no image of it in this world!
You strive to liken it and comprehend,
Yet here all signs and measures too must fail.
But kneel before the Lord in fervent prayer,
And when contrition and humility
Have made you lose yourself, you may be drawn,
A moment only, as the lightning flash
Does tarry upon earth, to heavenly heights.

UTE.

And can that happen?

CHAPLAIN.

Stephen, blessed saint,
Saw, when the furious horde of angry Jews
Were stoning him, the gates of paradise
Standing ajar, and he rejoiced and sang.
His suffering body only they destroyed,
But 'twas to him as if the murderous band
That thought to kill him in their fury blind
Could only rend the garment he had doffed.

UTE (_to_ KRIEMHILD _who has joined them_).

Take heed, Kriemhild!

KRIEMHILD.

I do.

CHAPLAIN.

That was the power
Of faith; And ye must also learn the curse
Of unbelief. Saint Peter, who has charge
Of sword and keys of our most holy church,
Loved and instructed in the faith a youth,
And brought him up. One day upon a rock
The youth was standing, and the stormy sea
Around him surged in fury. Then he thought
Of how his Lord and Master left the ship,
And trustingly obeyed the slightest sign
The Saviour gave, and walked upon the deep
That tossed and threatened him with certain death.
A dizziness came o'er him at the thought
Of such a trial, for the wonder seemed
Beyond the bounds of reason, then he caught
A corner of the rock and clung to it,
Crying aloud: All, all, yet spare me this!
Then breathed the Lord, and suddenly the stone
Began to melt away. He sank and sank,
And lost all hope, until for very fear
He sprang from off the rock into the flood.
The breath of the Eternal stilled the sea,
And made it solid and it bore him up,
As kindly earth bears up both ye and me.
Repentantly he said: Thy will be done!

UTE.

In all eternity!

KRIEMHILD.

My Father, pray
That He who changes water and firm rock,
Will shield my Siegfried. For each sep'rate year
Of happy life vouchsafed me by his side
An altar will I build unto a saint.

[_Exit_ KRIEMHILD.]

CHAPLAIN.

The miracle astounds thee. Let me tell
The tale of how I won my friar's cowl.
The Angles are my kin, a heathen folk,
And as a heathen was I born and reared,
And turbulent I was; at fifteen years
The sword was girded on me. Then appeared
The Lord's first messenger among my tribe.
They scorned him and despised him, and at last
They slew him. Queen, I stood and saw it all,
And, driven by the others, gave to him
With this right hand I nevermore shall use,
Although the arm's not helpless as you think,
The final blow. But then I heard him pray.
He prayed for me, and his pure soul expired
With the Amen. The heart within my breast
Was changed from that time forth. I threw my sword
Upon the ground, and put his garment on
And went to preach the Gospel of the Cross.

UTE.

Here comes my son! Oh, couldst thou bring again
To this distracted land the peace we've lost
So utterly!

[_Exeunt_.]

SCENE IX

_Enter_ GUNTHER _with_ HAGEN _and the others_.

GUNTHER.

It is as I have said,
She reckons on the deed as we believe
That autumn brings us apples. The old nurse
Has tried to rouse her, and has quietly
Bestrewn her chamber all with grains of wheat;
They lie there undisturbed.

GISELHER.

How can it be
That she should venture life for life to stake?

HAGEN.

I marvel at her also.

GUNTHER. And withal
She neither drives nor urges, as with things
Bound up with time and place and human will
'Twere natural to do. She questions not
Nor changes countenance, but sits amazed
That any man should speak and not announce--
The deed is done!

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