« НазадПродовжити »
wished to return home. But Giselher, King Gunther's brother, entreated him to remain :*All for her matchless beauty the hero there did stay, And in full many a pastime blithe the moments flew away, Under her love's sway, which was the cause of sorrow deep and great, Which made the lofty hero bow to a melancholy fate.'
And now commences the solution of the whole, with which we are made acquainted in the sixth Aventiure, in which the reader is transferred from the fair lands of the Burgundians on the cheerful Rhine, to a northern and bleak country, called Isenland or Island, over which ruled a fair but most extraordinary personage, the Princess Brunihild. This formidable lady, King Gunther feels strongly disposed to woo. But when Siegfried, who happens to know this lady, hears of the king's intentions, he strongly advises him to abstain from his perilous attempt. The king, however, who is too much attached to this terrible woman, would not give ear to any advice, but carry his point, malgrè bongrè.
We have said that Siegfried happened to know the gigantic Venus, of Isenland. It will not be deemed improper, therefore, if we here recapitulate what has been said elsewhere concern. ing the manner in which he became acquainted with her.
After having killed the blacksmith, Mimer's brother, Regino, better known as the Dragon, Siegfried set out in search of new adventures, in the course of which, he reached the far distant country, Isenland, where there ruled the fair, but proud and powerful Queen Brunihild or Brunhild, who dwelt in a castle that stood in the midst of a lake of fire. Here, tradition says, Siegfried threw down the seven ponderous gates which admitted to its interior, and as if in defiance of the owner, he is said to have ridden off with her favourite steed Gana, or Grani, whence his cognomen, horse-subduer. That Brunihild was no idle spectator may be easily imagined. But what could the amazon do? Invincible as she was, what chance was there for subduing one who was invulnerable, and notoriously the stoutest and most valiant of men ? And yet, that they must have come to an encounter, and that something of an unfriendly character occurred between them, is evident from the manner in which he was received and treated by her, at a subsequent period, as will be seen presently.
The uncle of our amoroso, Troneg von Hagen, now advises King Gunther to solicit the assistance of Siegfried, to which the latter readily consents, provided Gunther would give him his sister, Chriemhild, in marriage. This material point being conceded, our hero undertakes the sole management of the affair, and proposes that the party should consist of as few per
sons as possible, and that the only attendants of the king should be himself, Hagen, and Dankwart, his brother, 'der vil snelle,' and that he (Siegfried), although the son of a king, should be treated for the time by the rest of them as one of the followers of King Gunther. This proposal, well meant as it was, on the part of Siegfried, gives rise at a later period to a world of misconceptions and troubles, which ultimately lead to the most melancholy consequences.
This arranged, the clothing and equipment forms next the point for consideration. Waited upon, therefore, by the travellers, Chriemhild is consulted on this momentous matter. Lovely beyond measure, we are told, was the graceful virgin as she received the heroes, and only in a few touches do we find described, how the lovers exchanged tender glances, and the happiness they experienced on beholding each other. Of Siegfried, in particular, it is said: 'He bore her in his heart, as the soul of his body,' and that many tears were shed as he afterwards took leave of her. The result of this consultation was a mighty fitting out, and the setting to work of thirty of Chriemhild's best needle-women, a process, which lasted no less than seven weeks, at the expiration of which, each of the adventurers obtained three suits of clothes of surpassing workmanship, and made of the most costly materials.
The poet now quickly passes from these points, and leads us rapidly along the Rhine to the castle of Isenstein, the home of the haughty Brunhild, which brings us to the seventh aventiure, wherein we are told how she received the heroes, and how Siegfried, who is treated by her with much coldness, woos her in the form of king Gunther, by virtue of his 'Tarnkappe,' the magic garment above alluded to, which renders him invisible, and endows him with the strength of twelve men; how the perilous and deadly war-like games commence, and king Gunther, by the aid of Siegfried, obtains a complete victory over the heroine, the result of which is, her surrender to him. However, on assembling her men, to make them acquainted with the issue of the trial, but more especially on her gathering an army of warriors fit to accompany her to her new home, our Burgundian heroes begin to show the white feather,' because they are apprehensive of some treacherous design; but Siegfried, nothing dismayed, knows how to act even in this emergency, and promises them the aid of chosen heroes. To this end, clad in his • Tarnkappe,' he sets out for the land of the Nibelungen, where he requires his faithful Elf Alberich to supply him with thirty hundred heroes, from the midst of whom he chooses an army of one thousand men, whom he equips richly and most magnificently by means of his endless treasure. With this army he now hastens back
to the castle of Isenstein, and accompanies thence king Gunther and his bride to Worms. Here the double marriage takes place, and the result of this happy occasion are great banquets and rejoicings. As for Queen Brunhild, this lady still continues to treat Siegfried with great coldness and disregard, and even looks upon him with an ill will, so as to make it appear as though she sought for an occasion to commence strife. But what adds to the flame already blazing up, is her unseemly wish to know why Chriemhild, herself a princess, had married a vassal in the person of Siegfried, — for in this light, as the reader knows, our hero had appeared at her court, that he might the better assist King Gunther in obtaining a victory and a wife. Gunther, however, was not taken unawares, but explains to her, that Siegfried is a king, or at least a prince, and the heir apparent to the crown of the Netherlands. This explanation fails to prove satisfactory, and only makes bad worse. For, she now begins to suspect her partner, who she thinks is bent on misleading her--a circumstance which greatly contributes to mar the happiness and enjoyment of the guests. Nor did the matter rest here. For, when this termagant saw that she could not attain her end in a friendly way, she had recourse to means for extorting the true facts of the case, such as would not be approved of now-a-days by men in general, and by newlymarried ones in particular. Considering her husband stubborn and intractable, this lady bound him during the wedding-night by means of her girdle, hand and foot, and hung him on a nail in the wall, at a considerable distance from the ground. What a predicament for a newly-married man—a king, too-to be in ! and in his own house, too! It were impossible to describe the feelings that pierced poor Gunther's heart, as he found himself in this elevated position, without having the means to remedy it. Awaiting patiently, therefore, the approach of the morn, he bore the evil as well as he could, or as men generally do under the sway of similar spirits. When released, he relates to Siegfried what had occurred; and how he had been dealt with by her whom, in an evil hour, he had brought to his house. Siegfried promises his aid in taming this evil fiend,' the result of which is a severe struggle between him and Brunhild on the following night, when the latter is over-awed at the immense power of her (supposed) husband. As a reward for his trouble, Siegfried takes her girdle and ring, which he presents to his lovely wife, little suspecting that they would involve a generation in ruin. The guest having departed, Siegemund's son said, “We, too, for a return to our countrie must prepare,' which pleased his lady much. We are, therefore, now left to follow the newly-wedded pair to the home of the young husband. Here, the old king gives up the crown and empire, and Chriemhild ere long confers on him the enviable title of father. One thing only casts a gloom over the otherwise serene domestic felicity of Siegfried, and this is the death of Siegelinde, his royal mother. However, he was not suffered long to enjoy his domestic bliss ; for troubles of a very gloomy nature awaited him.
Several years having passed since Siegfried left Worms, Brunhild one day reflected that he had for a long while paid her husband no service, and is determined that he should do so, cost what it may. This revolting feature in the character of this woman, who evidently meditates the destruction of our hero, is somewhat softened by the skill and delicacy with which the poet hints at a secret and uphallowed passion of Brunhild for this flower of knighthood, which is expressly mentioned in the eleventh Aventiure, where it is said :
• There on the Rhine (so legends run) in Burgundie the fair, Brunhilda, too, the beauteous one, a princely son did bear To King Gunther, the rich-Siegfried she did him name, From love unto the hero of high renown and fame. . This woman rests not until King Gunther has invited Siegfried and his queen to a 'Hockgezit,' to be given in their honour, at Worms, in order thus to enforce his duty. The invitation is accepted; and thither our loving couple come, accompanied by King Siegemund, and a magnificent retinue of one thousand Nibelungen heroes, and the followers of the king of the Netherlands.
Arrived in this place, Brunhild's ire is soon kindled, and the old question, why Chriemhild, herself a princess, had been married to a vassal? is broached once more. As she will not suffer precedence to be given to Chriemhild on her churching, an altercation takes place between the two queens, in the course of which Chriemhild asserts that her consort was not only a king, and the companion of Gunther, but that he was a paragon, and the most pre-eminent of men. This the other denies point blank, and maintains his being a .vassal, because she has seen him with her own eyes hold the stirrup of King Gunther, as he mounted on the beach, on his first visit to her at the castle of Isenstein,-nay, that he himself confessed it at that time. Chriemhild, indignant at the story,' declines any further conversation on the subject; but not so the lady of King Gunther. The consequence of which is a quarrel, such as does not often take place between crowned heads. Chriemhild forthwith dresses her maidens in regal apparel; and, attended by them and the brilliant army of her husband and her fatherin-law, she sets out for the minster, to hear mass, proving thus, de facto, her being a queen.
derman Shead the he, Place quence
In front of the sacred building she is overtaken by Brunhild, who bids her stop, and follow her, as behoves the wife of her consort's vassal,' an injunction which meets with a scornful laughter on the part of Chriemhild ; and, as the latter is thus publicly insulted, and, therefore, greatly excited, she now turns round upon her adversary, telling her in the plainest terms, that she was inferior to her (Chriemhild) not only in rank, but even in point of womanly virtues, accusing her at the same time of concubinage with her own Friedel (Siegfried), in corroboration of which she produces the ring and the girdle, which were presented to her once by the latter, and even suffers the secret to escape which he then confided to her,—that he, and not Gunther, had obtained the victory over her in that memorable night. At this news, but more especially at the sight of her property, Brunhild burst into tears, and, enraged beyond measure, brings forthwith the whole affair before King Gunther, who, as may be supposed, was not a little mortified, and strove hard to prevent any further inquiry on so delicate a subject.
A severe punishment, inflicted on the delicate form of Chriemhild, by her enraged lord, is the immediate result of this indiscreet act. But will his deadly foe be satisfied with it? Alas, no! An injury of so deep a hue, inflicted, too, on so proud and untractable a spirit, could not easily be forgiven. This insult, together with the dislike which Brunhild ever fostered towards Siegfried, now engendered a hatred, which would stop short of nothing less than his immediate ruin. His doom, indeed, was already decreed, and the shears of Atropos, the goddess of fate, only watched for a suitable occasion to sever the thread of his life. Nor was it long ere this took place. Troneg Hagen became the confidant of the queen ; and, though dissuaded by her royal consort, vowed the death of Siegfried. "Shall we retreat like fools ?' spake Hagen wrathfully,
Small honour that wculd bring, I trow, to blades as good as we; That he had conquered my dear queen, he vowed with scornful breath, So therefore must I lose my life unless he die the death.' • Then spake the king himself: “Save what is fair and good, Nought has he ever done to us—let us not shed his blood. What would it boot towards him my fostering any wrath ? He hath been faithful unto us—with right good will he hath.'
But no ear was to be given to the wise counsel of King Gunther. The evil design is persisted in. The fierce Hagen gives advices that sham messengers should arrive from Saxonland, declaring war against the king; Siegfried then would offer, no doubt, bis services, and whilst in the field, his life