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might be easily taken without even exciting suspicion of foul play. Gunther is for a while opposed to this treachery; but at length gives way, so that everything is planned according to the advice of Hagen. However, previous to their taking the field, Chriemhild, fearing lest any mishap might befall her husband, holds a conversation with Hagen, requesting him to guard Siegfried against misfortune, little suspecting his perfidy. Rage had prompted her, on a former occasion, to betray the secret confided to her, and now it is the love to her husband which induces her to divulge another momentous secret, that had been confided to her by Siegfried. He was invulnerable, save in one spot, and that her misjudging affection led her to divulge.
As soon as Hagen heard this, he changed his plan; and hastening to the king, said :-'The war is needed no longer; tell thy men, that matters have been settled with the Saxons amicably; but contrive thou a chase, and the enemy of thy house, I warrant thee, shall by my hand lose his life.' So it was. Siegfried was stabbed by the wily courtier, through the fatal spot pointed out to him, and his lifeless body was carried home from the forest. Thus ends the first part of the poem.
The grief and horror of Chriemhild, on hearing of the death of Siegfried, is indescribable; only a very short time ago so unspeakably happy, and now deprived of all that could make life endurable. The poetical treatment of this scene displays a truthfulness and power, such as few only of our greatest poets could have imparted. With the swiftness of lightning, the suspicion of Chriemhild is fixed on Hagen and Brunhild
Brunhild has counselled it, and Hagen has done it,' she exclaims; and when Gunther seeks to free himself and his accomplices from the charge, Chriemhild leads them to the body of the slain, and lo! the wounds of the murdered hero begin to bleed anew. Thus the ordeal proclaimed their guilt ; for this was the so-called St. Michael-miracle of ancient times, in which people of that and subsequent periods placed the most implicit faith. The guilt of Hagen, especially, was thus proved beyond doubt, and loudly she now exclaims :
• Now may God avenge it speedily on the persons of his foes !
The Nibelungen Recken, who had accompanied Siegfried to Worms, on hearing the awful news, prepared immediately for combat; but the prudent Chriemhild remembered that
* King Gunther has many a valiant knight,'
and suppressing, for the present, her feelings of revenge, gave herself up to bitter grief :
She lifted up his fair head in her hand all snowy white,
She had his remains committed to the grave; but would not associate with the murderers of her lord, nor be a party to any of the court festivities. Boundless as was her love for him, as boundless was her despair and misery. "Peace and gladness of heart forsook her, and gloom and utter darkness took their place, and shadowed henceforth her whole being; friendless and lonely, life is hardly worth living for, and the world, bereft of its charms, is a desert. Yet one spot, one lonely spot, has un. speakable charms for her, this is the grave of her murdered love. Thither she goes to appease her bitter grief, to give expression to her heartfelt sorrow, and to hold secret communion with the dead.
Her trials and injuries did not end here; she was doomed to still more hardship and ill-treatment from the hand of her nearest kinsmen. Gunther, advised by Hagen, induces Chriemhild to send to the Netherlands for the Nibelungen treasure, the whole of which had been bestowed on her by Siegfried as a jointure, on the morning after the wedding-night; but no sooner has it arrived, than it is forcibly taken from her, breaking thus the last link of sisterly affection.
In this state years pass on. But the evil demon of revenge, and the time for a terrible reckoning, are approaching. It is the flash of lightning that is striking the dangerous burningmaterials heaped up within her breast. The Hun king, Etzel, has lost his wife, Helke, and sends the Margrave Rüdiger, of Bechelaren, who is one of his vassals, to woo Chriemhild for him and to plead his cause. Chriemhild has little inclination towards any new matrimonial alliance, and, therefore, listens to Rüdiger's overtures with anything but a ready ear, so that the ambassador despairs of success; but on learning that Etzel would pledge himself to avenge her wrongs, things take a more favourable turn, and she forthwith consents to accompany Rüdiger to the far distant land of the Huns.
The journey to the Danube was a protracted and tedious one; but arrived at Tulna, she was received by King Etzel with much pomp and solemnity, who immediately set out with her for his castle at Vienna. Seven years she spent here, and found in Etzel a kind and loving husband, who endeavoured in every way to gratify her desires. In order, therefore, to gratify her pretended anxious wish to see her kinsmen, but in reality
Theer to the far and sheer
to take vengeance on them, he permits her to send two minstrels, Werbel and Swemmel, in the shape of messengers, to Worms, to invite her brother Gunther and his followers, Hagen among the rest, to a Hochgezeit. A deliberation takes place, which lasts for some days, the result of which is an acceptance of the invitation, although the fierce Hagen, who was fully sensible of his guilt, and had some misgivings, strongly advised the king to abstain from the journey.
We shall not dwell on their journey to King Etzel's court, nor record the wonderful occurrences and strange beings they met with on their way. We may, however, advert for a moment to the Nibelungenhort, and inquire into a peculiar feature connected with the ownership of it.
This talisman, as we have already seen, proved a source of trouble and calamity to all who owned it, or had anything to do with it. It involved the early death of King Nibelung, of Nibelungenland, of his two sons Schilbung and Nibelung, and of their followers; it also caused the untimely death of poor Siegfried, and now it was on the eve of causing the destruction of the Burgundians, their king included. How was that? Simply because a curse clave to it, or rather to the robbery of it; for it formerly belonged to gods, from whom it had been taken by force, an act, for which every future owner came under the influence of the evil powers; in other words, whoever was the possessor of it became the prey of sinister powers; henceforth he was a Nibelung, and belonged to the Nibelungenland, Nife or Nebelland. It is for this reason that the Burgundians are called Nibelungen in this part of the poem, and that their melancholy end as described therein is termed, der Nibelunge Nót, i. e. Nibelungen-Need, or trouble. This circumstance Troneg Hagen perceived, and as new discords threatened, he sunk the treasure in the Rhine. But although it is thus got rid of, they are still under its curse. And as the seed of their ruin is more and more unfolding itself, what human power will stay its course, or check its full development?
But to return to our subject. They arrive, and except by King Etzel who is ignorant of Chriemhild's design, their reception is neither the kindest, nor the most flattering in the world. Hagen, too, who has risen in the meanwhile in the estimation of the king of Worms, and who is naturally of a haughty temper, behaves in a froward and insulting manner, and even goes so far as to kill in the Buhurt, a noble and distinguished Hun. The result is a general uproar and fury, fostered on the one hand by Chriemhild, and on the other by Hagen, in the course of which the latter cuts off the head of Ortlieb, a son of Chriemhild and King Etzel. The Nibelungen are now attacked by the Huns, in the hall which they inhabit, and a murderous fray ensues, or as the poet hath it:
Then began among the Recken a murder grim and great,' which baffles all description, and in which unexampled valour was displayed by Hagen and the hero Volker. This personage, although a courtier and a noble, is a fiddler, and in his way a real prodigy, who is not only full of sweet melody, but also of marvellous strength. He has a strange sort of fiddle-bow made of steel ; it is a sword as well as a bow, with which he makes heavenly as well as deadly music, whenever it descends on the helmets or the coats of mail of his adversaries. He was inseparably connected with the stout Hagen, together with whom he achieved prodigious feats of valour.
Chriemhild now ordered the hall to be set on fire, and the anguish, heat, and pressure, arising from this was so great, that the fainting heroes, tormented by thirst, were compelled to quench it with the blood of the slain. Thus pressed hardly, Hagen then spake : * Range yourselves, my men, close up unto the wall, But have a care, lest on your helms the blazing brands should fall : Quick quenched in streaming blood let them be hidden. This faithless queen hath us to-day to an evil banquet bidden.'
Soon afterwards arrived Dietrich of Bern, who, being accompanied by his men, acted here as one of King Etzel's vassals. These, too, attack the Nibelungen, but share the fate of the Huns and others, and perish under the strokes of the redoubt. able Hagen and his companions. Sir Dietrich himself now takes up arms, wounds Hagen, and makes him and King Gunther prisoners. Both then are slain by Chriemhild, who cuts off their heads with Balmung, the goodly sword of Siegfried, which the fierce Hagen had appropriated to himself. This act of Chriemhild rouses the anger of King Etzel and the other heroes, and the Duke Hildebrand, one of Dietrich's followers, is so enraged, that he slays Chriemhild, ere King Etzel has time to prevent it. With her death ends the second part of the poem.
Mr. Carlyle, speaking of this last scene of the drama, says :We have heard of battles, and massacres, and deadly struggles in siege and storm; but seldom has even the poet's imagination pictured anything so fierce and terrible as this. Host after host, as they enter that huge vaulted hall, perish in conflict with the doomed Nibelungen; and ever after the terrific uproar, ensues a still more terrific silence. All night, and through morning it lasts. They throw the dead from the windows; blood runs like water; the hall is set fire to, they quench it with blood, their ever burning thirst they slake with blood. It is a tumult like the crack of doom, a thousand-voiced, wild-stunning hubbub; and frightful like a trump of doom, the sword-fiddlebow of Volker, who guards the door, makes music to that death-dance. Nor are traits of heroism wanting, and thrilling tones of pity and love.'
Appended to the foregoing, as we have said elsewhere, is the Klage' (Lamentation,) an epic poem of later origin, and differing from the Nibelungenlied to which it is related, as a sort of epilogue, in form as well as spirit; it is a summary of what has been said in the first two parts of the epos. But, although trifling in itself, it is important in so far as it contributes to elucidate and explain various points therein mentioned.
If we now carefully examine this poem in an aesthetical point of view, we shall discover-leaving age and form out of the question—so much internal beauty, as to justify its being termed the German Iliad. The internal similarity of the characters brought forward in both poems, is great and surprising. The womanly beauties, Helen and Chriemhild, are the source of all the stirring events, and in consequence, both poems display an equal share of mighty heroism. King Etzel forcibly reminds the reader of Priam, whilst Siegfried forms a side-piece to Achilles. Odysseus and Ajax are united in the person of Hagen, the stout, crafty, and haughty Recke. The greatest similarity exists in the description of the heroic life of both nations. Gunther may be compared with Agamemnon, Gernot with Menelaus, and Dietrich of Bern with Æneas. The mode of living and manners are similarly described, as, for example, the secluded state of the women, their skill in weaving and the sewing of garments; the high value which the heroes place upon the garments woven by the hand of women, the dwellings and presses filled with costly articles and store, the liberality with which they are given away, love of pomp, an eager desire for combat, etc.
With regard to the construction of the whole, it may be said to be so simple, the harmony and unity pervading it so rigidly correct and unaffected, and the keeping of the most varied figures so perfect, that the painter has only to copy the poet, in order to produce the most finished and most glorious work of art. Throughout the poem the main personalities, Chriemhild and Siegfried, Hagen, Gunther, Brunhild, and others, placed as they are in the foreground, shine above all the rest. It cannot certainly be denied, that the historical and traditional background might have been brought out into more light and with more force, in order to impart to the whole a