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sion by a she-wolf, — all but Sigmund, who through the wile of his sister Signy was rescued. He, driven to the life of an outlaw, sought means to avenge his father, and Signy, on her part, strove to aid him, — without avail, however, till Sinfiotli, the son of herself and Sigmund, was grown to manhood. This youth bore Sigmund company. For a season, as wolves, they scoured the woods; finally resuming the form of men, they slew the children of Siggeir, and burned him in his hall. Signy, having helped to avenge her father, died with her husband.
Sigmund, thereupon, became king, and took to himself a wife. But she, suffering injury at the hands of Sinfiotli, poisoned him with a horn of ale. Then Sigmund sorrowed nigh to death over his son, and drove away that queen, and soon after she died. He then married Hiordis the fair ; but before long, doing battle against Lyngi, the son of Hunding, - a chieftain who also had loved the fair Hiordis, — he got his death-wound:
For lo, through the hedge of the warshafts a mighty man there came, One-eyed and seeming ancient, but his visage shone like flame; Gleaming-gray was his kirtle, and his hood was cloudy-blue; And he bore a mighty twi-bill, as he waded the fight-sheaves through, And stood face to face with Sigmund, and upheaved the bill to smite. Once more round the head of the Volsung fierce glittered the Branstock's light, The sword that came from Odin; and Sigmund's cry once more Rang out to the very heavens above the din of war. Then clashed the meeting edges with Sigmund's latest stroke, And in shivering shards fell earthward that fear of worldly folk. But changed were the eyes of Sigmund, and the war-wrath left his face; For that gray-clad mighty helper was gone, and in his place Drave on the unbroken spear-wood 'gainst the Volsung's empty hands: And there they smote down Sigmund, the wonder of all lands, On the foemen, on the death-heap his deeds had piled that day.
To Hiordis, after Sigmund's death, was born Sigurd, like whom was never man for comeliness and valor and great-heartedness and might. He was the greatest of the Volsungs. His fosterfather was Regin, the son of Rodmar, a blacksmith, who taught him the lore of runes and many tongues ; and, by means of a
story of ancient wrongs, incited him to the destruction of the dragon Fafnir. For Regin told that the gods, Odin, Loki, and Hænir, wandering near his father Rodmar's house, Loki slew one of Rodmar's sons, Otter. Whereupon Rodmar demanded that the gods should fill the Otter-skin with gold, and cover it with gold. Now, Loki, being sent to procure the gold, caught Andvari the dwarf, and from him procured by force a hoard of the precious metal, and with it a magic ring, whose touch bred gold. But Andvari cursed the ring and the gold and all that might possess either. The gods, forthwith, filled Otter with the dwarf's gold, and surrendered both gold and ring to Rodmar. Immediately the curse began to work. Fafnir, brother of Regin and Otter, slew Rodmar and seized the treasure, and assuming a dragon's form, brooded upon the hoard. With this tale Regin egged on Sigurd to the undoing of Fafnir. He welded him, too, a resistless sword out of the shards of Sigmund's sword, Gram (the wrath). Then Sigurd swore that he would slay the dragon. But first, riding on his horse, Greyfell, of the blood of Odin's Sleipnir, he avenged upon the sons of Hunding the death of his father. This done, Sigurd rode to Glistenheath and slew Fafnir, the dragon, and eating of his heart, learned the language of the birds; and at their advice he slew Regin also, who plotted against him.
So, setting the ring of Andvari on his finger, and bearing the gold before him on his horse, Greyfell, Sigurd comes to the Hill of Hindfell.
And sitteth awhile on Greyfell on the marvellous thing to gaze: For lo, the side of Hindfell enwrapped by the fervent blaze, And naught 'twixt earth and heaven save a world of flickering flame, And a hurrying, shifting tangle, where the dark rents went and came ... ... Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts, And draws a girth the tighter; then the gathered reins he lifts, And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire's heart; But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart, And high o'er his head it riseth, and wide and wild is its roar As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor; But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye,
When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh;
Then before him Sigurd sees a shield-hung castle, surmounted by a golden buckler, instead of a banner, which rings against the flag-staff. And he enters and finds the form of one asleep - in armor cap-a-pie.
So he draweth the helm from the head, and, lo, the brow snow-white, And the smooth unfurrowed cheeks, and the wise lips breathing light; And the face of a woman it is, and the fairest that ever was born, Shown forth to the empty heavens and the desert world forlorn: But he looketh, and loveth her sore, and he longeth her spirit to move, And awaken her heart to the world, that she may behold him and love. And he toucheth her breast and her hands, and he loveth her passing sore; And he saith, " Awake! I am Sigurd,” but she moveth never the more....
Then with his bright blade Sigurd rends the ring-knit mail that encloses her, " till nought but the rippling linen is wrapping her about,” — Then a flush cometh over her visage and a sigh upheaveth her breast, And her eyelids quiver and open, and she wakeneth into rest; Wide-eyed on the dawning she gazeth, too glad to change or smile, And but little moveth her body, nor speaketh she yet for a while; And yet kneels Sigurd, moveless, her wakening speech to heed, While soft the waves of the daylight o'er the starless heavens speed, And the gleaming vines of the Shield-burg yet bright and brighter grow, And the thin moon hangeth her horns dead-white in the golden glow. Then she turned and gazed on Sigurd, and her eyes met the Volsung's eyes. And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise, For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved, As she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved.
Brynhild, it was, — the Valkyrie, — who long time had lain in that enchanted sleep that Odin, her father, had poured over her,
dooming her to mortal awakening and to mortal love, for the evil she had wrought of old when she espoused the cause in battle of those whom the Norns had predestined to death. Her might none but the fearless awaken; and her had Sigurd awakened ; and she loved him, for he was without fear and godlike. And she taught him many wise sayings; and they plighted troth, one to the other, both then and again ; and Sigurd gave her the ring of Andvari. But they were not destined to dwell together in wedlock; and Brynhild, foreseeing the future, knew even this.
Sigurd was to wed with another than Brynhild. And it befell in this wise. In the land of the Niblungs (Nibelungs, Nibelungen) dwelt Gudrun, daughter of Giuki, the Niblung king. And Gudrun dreamed a dream in which a fair hawk feathered with feathers of gold alighted upon her wrist. She went to Brynhild for the interpretation of the dream. “The hawk," said Brynhild, “is Sigurd.” And so it came to pass. Sigurd visiting the court of the Niblungs, was kindly entreated by King Giuki and his three sons, Gunnar, Hogni, and Guttorm; and he performed deeds of valor such that they honored him. But after many days, Grimhild, the mother of Gudrun, administered to Sigurd a magic potion that removed from him all memory of Brynhild. So Sigurd loved and wedded the fair Gudrun. Indeed he soon joined others in urging his wife's brother Gunnar, a doughty warrior, to sue for the hand of Brynhild herself. But Brynhild would have no one that could not ride through the flames drawn up around her hall. After Gunnar had made two unsuccessful attempts, Sigurd, assuming the form of King Gunnar, mounted Greyfell and rode for the second time through the flames of Hindfell. Then still wearing the semblance of Gunnar he gained the consent of Brynhild to the union, and exchanged rings with her, - she giving him none other than the ancient Ring of Andvari back again. But even this did not recall to Sigurd's memory his former ride and his former love. Returning to the land of the Niblungs, he announced the success of his undertaking; and told all things to Gudrun, giving her the fatal ring that he had regained from Brynhild.
In ten days came Brynhild by agreement to the Hall of the Niblungs, and, though she knew well the deceit that had been practised on her, she made no sign; nay, was wedded according to her promise to King Gunnar. But as they sat at the weddingfeast, the charm of Grimhild was outworn, - Sigurd looked upon Gunnar's bride, and knew the Brynhild of old, the Valkyrie, whom he had loved; “ And Byrnhild's face drew near him with eyes grown stern and strange.”
But, apparently, all went well till the young queens, one day, bathing in the Water of the Siblungs, fell into contention on a matter of privilege. Brynhild claimed precedence in entering the river on the ground that Gunnar was the liege lord of Sigurd. Gudrun, white with wrath, flashed out the true story of the ride through the flames, and thrust in Brynhild's face the Andvari ring. Consumed with jealousy, Brynhild plotted revenge. She loved Sigurd still, and he, since he had regained his memory, could not overcome his love for her. But the insult from Gudrun Brynhild would not brook. By her machinations, Guttorm, the brother of Gudrun, was incited to slay Sigurd. He, accordingly, stabbed the hero while asleep, but Sigurd, throwing Gram at the assassin, cut him in twain before he could escape.
Woe me! how the house of the Niblungs by another cry was rent,
well; Nought now is left to repent of, and the tale abides to tell. I have done many deeds in my life-days, and all these, and my love, they
lie In the hollow hand of Odin till the day of the world go by. I have done and I may not undo, I have given and I take not again; Art thou other than I, Allfather, wilt thou gather my glory in vain?”