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Chriemhild, however, persists in her determined course, so that henceforth
Guarded by her virtues high, which she fostered with care,
But with the powers of destiny,' as the inimitable Schiller says, 'no lasting compact there can be;' and the coy, proud, and fair princess, had, like every other mortal, to yield to fate, and become the wife of the very falcon she formerly dreamed of, and who was no other person than the noble, gay, and stalwart Siegfried, to whom we are introduced in the second Aventiure. He is the son of king Siegemund, and Siegelinde his queen, who dwelt at Santen, or Xanten, a castle on the Rhine, and where King Siegemund held his court. Little is said at first concerning his prowess and heroic deeds, because we are first of all to become acquainted with his personal beauty and gentle disposition, which won the heart of all men.
In consequence of his happy return from the adventurous trips (of which more anon), wherein he achieved the most daring exploits, King Siegemund gives a 'Hockgeziť (high-tide), when joustings, minstrelsy, and other warlike sports take place; all of which the poet describes in glowing colours, introducing us in an admirable manner to the iron age of those uncouth heroes, who flourished soon after Central Asia sent its hordes northward. In the course of his description he says: * And finding many steeds that saddled there did wait, They ran into King Siegemund's court. The buhurt* was so great, That the hall and palace loudly rang with the tumultuous poise ; The high-minded blades did, one and all, most mightily rejoice. • Full many a thrust was heard from young and old men's hands, And wildly did the welkin ring with the din of crashing brands : Spear-splinters wending to the palace from the heroic fight Were seen ; and all this was achieved with high chivalric might. • The host now craved that this might cease; the steeds were ta’en away, Many a stalwart frame was shaken seen on that joyous day : The glory of the burnished shield, full many a precious stone, Now scattered on the grass did lie; with thrusting this was done.'
But things cannot go on for ever in this way; for there is a time for everything, tilting and feasting not excepted. Hence, in the third Aventiure, our hero sets out on a journey to Worms. He has heard of the surpassing beauty of Chriemhild, and would fain become her successful suitor. In vain do his
• Jousting in large masses.
parents represent the danger of his enterprise, and the pride of the Burgundian princes. Siegfried, nothing dismayed, is not to be dissuaded from his purpose, and is as sturdy and resolved as men generally are under similar circumstances :“What scathe to us from this can hap?' was Siegfried's daring strain ; • Whate'er in friendship and in peace I may not there obtain, Against opposing danger I'll win with this strong hand; I venture to obtain by force both men and goodly land.”
To deal with such a spirit was no easy matter. So when his aged parents saw that he would not even listen to their wise counsel to take a trusty and goodly body-guard with him, they gave way with a bad grace, and proceeded to equip him and the twelve · Recken,' or heroes, who constituted his whole force. This equipping and making of clothes, we may observe by the way, is connected with every expedition and enterprise mentioned in the poem. When all is ready—and very brilliant and costly the whole is—well equipped and accompanied by his men, Siegfried sets out accordingly, and arrives at his place of destination on the break of the seventh day. King Gunther, on seeing the strangers enter the court-yard, was sore amazed, and inquired who they might be, and whence they came. Sir Hagen, who was near his royal kinsman, immediately proclaimed the chief of them to be the hero Siegfried, although he knew the hero by report only. He forthwith related the marvellous deeds which the illustrious visitor had achieved, and the king ordered the guests to be admitted.
The salutations prescribed by the courtly etiquette being over, Siegfried's conduct and language were such as befitted his character and times. Having heard, he said, of the valour of the kings and their men in these parts, he had come to try his strength and skill on them, and to do his best to deprive them of their lands and strongholds. Here was language fit for the ears of princes, uttered too, by a person, whose whole strength consisted of twelve adventurers like himself! The reader, therefore, may easily imagine how this modest announcement was received by the Burgundians, who, in a towering passion at the style of this address, uproariously called for swords, shields, and spears. The gentle Gernot, however, remembering all that Hagen had related concerning Siegfried's valour and intrepid spirit, endeavours to adjust the matter in an amicable manner; and as our hero regrets his precipitancy, and begins to think of fair Chriemhild, the sole object of his tedious journey, he too becomes more amicable. In the end, he and his men are entertained with much cordiality and friendship. Ere long he becomes a great favourite ; and in his knightly exercises, as well as at the court-festivals, and in the society of fair dames, he is greatly admired. Yet, Chriemhild, the image ever present to his mind, is the only person whom he has not vet seen.
Siegfried having now lived a year in the land of King Gunther, during which period he never so much as hinted at his errand, it happened about this time that Liudegar, king of the Saxons, and Liudegast, that of the Danes, declared war on the Burgundians. Siegfried, ever ready to display his prowess, and most willing to aid his royal host, took the field at the head of the king's men. And having beaten the army of King Liudegast, and made him prisoner, he set out to meet the Saxons, who fared no better :
Scattered then by Siegfried's arm, shield-buckles flew about ;
Full many a bright circlet, which was in ruin blent.
The evil fiend hath sent him here to this fair Saxon land !
The campaign thus gloriously terminated, the conquerors, headed by our hero, returned home, their approach being announced by messengers. At this news the noble Chriemhild greatly rejoices :• Unto her face so beauteous the blushing crimson ran,
Because the mighty hero-Siegfried, the dauntless man,
The heroes thus returned, were heartily welcomed by King Gunther. They were, moreover, richly rewarded for their good services, and obtained full permission to return to their homes, if they chose so to do, and dwell there for the space of six weeks; at the expiration of which they were to come back again, because it was the wish of the king to give a great
Hockgezit in honour of the stalwart men that had taken part in the last campaign :
When the heroes met at the banquet, which was attended, the poet tells us, by kings, princes, and other mighty personages :
* The hero Ortwein then spake the king, and to him thus did say:
* * And forward came the lovely one, as doth the morning sun Beam out in lustrous majesty from clouds so dark and dun : From cares long harboured in his breast many a hero now was free, For in her glory and her grace the fair one he did see.
* Like the bright moon, which star-begirt, from her ebon throne on high, Suffuses her mild lucency all downward from the sky, Like unto her amid her maids the lovely maiden stood;
This raised indeed the courage high of many a hero good. • Rich chamberlains preceded her in long extended train, Nor was there blade that idle would at distance far remain ; To mark her lovely features they all did eager throng: In cheerful and yet gloomy mood Sir Siegfried paced along. • The hero thought within himself, • Thy holy love to gain, What course must I pursue ?—this foolish is and vainShould I unkenned by thee remain, I rather would be dead.' Reflections such as these did make him pale and red. • The offspring of Queen Siegelind stood there so lovingly, As though he had been painted on the purest ivory By a skilful limner's hand; then all men witness bore, That hero beautiful as he had never been before. • Those who the women did escort in lofty voices bade Room everywhere for them to make; and every knight obeyed : And dames of the most noble blood, gladdened the heart and eye: And chastely and right modestly fair women did pass by. • Sir Gernot then, of Burgundie, unto the king did say, . Gunther, dearest brother, he who hath served thee many a day Right well and truly--him thou must thus and not elsewise treat, In the presence of the assembled blades :--this counsel is most meet.
"Thou must the gallant Siegfried bid unto my sister hie,
• Sir Siegfried then to join the court did willingly depart,
Because of this kind bidding he was truly glad at heart ;
• Whether her fairest hand by his was pressed all fervently,
* Unto the minster she did go, followed by many a maid ; In glory proud the youthful form of the princess was arrayed, That many a high and hearty wish all vainly then was told. She had been born to glad the eye of many a hero bold. • Until the chaunt was ended Seigfried was loath to wait, He might well be thankful to the stars that kindly swayed his fate; That she whom in his heart he bore, did truly love the knight; But he did also love her too, as was his bounden right. • When that the mass was ended, she stood the minster's gate before, That valiant man requested was to join the maid once more : Then was it that she first began to thank him for the might, Which he beyond all other men had shewed in the fight. "May God reward ye, Sir Siegfried,' that noble child did say, For, that all brave men should love ye well, ye have deserved to-day, And be in troth attached to you, as that they are, I hear.' On Chriemhild now he fixed his eye, replete with love most dear. “I shall never cease to serve them,' spoke Siegfried the blade, • And never unto soothing rest will I lay down my head, Until I shall have gained their wish; while life is mine, I swear,
At thy dear service it shall be, O Chriemhild, lady fair ! • During twelve days ceaselessly the high and noble maid,
Stood day by day untiringly at the right hand of the blade :
The high-tide being over, and the guests, after being presented with rich and costly gifts, having departed, Siegfried too,