Nibelungs - George Upton

Siegfried Goes to Burgundy

Now for a whole year Siegfried abode at home with his parents, but such were the tales that reached him of the wondrous beauty and grace of Kriemhild that he determined to go to Burgundy and woo her for his wife. His father warned him that the Burgundians were insolent and haughty, and bade him be on his guard against King Gunther and his brethren, and most of all to beware of the fierce Hagen of Tronege (Treves), a near kinsman of the King. Whereupon Siegfried boldly declared he feared no man, neither the princes nor their kinsman, and would gladly meet them in combat, one or all. When Siegmund saw that his son's resolve was not to be shaken, he wished to send a thousand knights to accompany him, but this Siegfried refused, nor would he have more than twelve stout warriors, and those of his own choice.

Now when 't was told to Sieglind,

The Queen so fair and mild,

She sore distressed and troubled was

For her beloved child;

For well she knew King Gunther's court,

Likewise his stalwart men;

Wherefore she sought by tears to end

His wooing there and then.

But Siegfried's words at length prevailed over his mother's fears, and she too gave her consent, yet with a heavy heart. Soon all was ready, and Siegfried, with his trusty followers, well armed and equipped, bade a loving farewell to all and set forth upon his journey, followed by many tears and prayers.

The trappings of their prancing steeds

With ruddy gold did shine,

As Siegfried and his gallant knights

Behind them left the Rhine.

So gloriously attired and horsed

Was never martial band,

As they their stately progress made

Into King Gunther's land.

On the seventh day they came to Worms, where never before had such mighty heroes been seen. The people in the streets stood and stared to see them pass, and many ran after them; but Siegfried far surpassed them all in beauty and stature no less than in the splendor of his equipment. Before the King's castle they halted, whereupon serving-men hastened to assist the strangers to dismount, and provide for their steeds. But Siegfried said:

Let bide the steeds belonging to

Myself and my brave men!

It may be we depart anon

From Burgundy again.

To him who knows and will reply,

In truth will I be hound,

If he will say where now perchance

King Gunther may be found.

To this they replied that the King was in the great hall of the castle, and pointed thither. Meanwhile Gunther had perceived the well-armed stranger knights from the window, and, greatly wondering thereat, questioned his brothers concerning them; but none could say who they might be. Then outspoke one of his men:

"My Lord, were it not well to summon Hagen? He hath seen many lands, and perchance will have knowledge of these strangers."

When Hagen came he said: "Never before, forsooth, have I laid eyes on yon bold heroes; yet much have I heard of Siegfried, and it may well be he that towers above the rest."

And Gunther replied:

"Meseemeth thou art right.

Yon dauntless chief of princely air

Is he, that valiant knight!

That he is bold and high of mind

I long have understood,

Let us go forth to greet our guest—

Now is his coming good!"

Though there was none in all Gunther's court so haughty as Hagen, yet he did not gainsay this. And the King went out to welcome Siegfried, whereupon that hero challenged him forthwith to mortal combat, whosoever should be the victor to fall heir to the crown and lands of the vanquished. But Hagen feared for the issue of this; wherefore he spoke soft words to Siegfried, greeting him as friend, not foe, and conducted him to the castle hall, where he drank of the King's wine and was made welcome.

Thus did Siegfried become an honored guest at Gunther's court, and long he bided there, beguiling the time with tilting, casting the javelin, stone-throwing, and all manner of knightly sports; nor was there any that could surpass him in feats of skill and daring. But he saw naught of Kriemhild the fair, though her glances many a time fell upon him:

Full oft upon the tourney field,

Where met in knightly sport

The valorous knights or gallant squires

Of the Burgundian court,

Did Kriemhild from her window gaze,

To see how Siegfried bore

The honors from them all—for this

And naught else cared she more.

To know that on him thus she gazed,

Had rapture been, I ween;

And might his eyes but once behold

The face of her, his Queen,

Then could the earth no greater joy

Or happiness impart

To him who long had held so dear,

Her image in his heart.

Thus Siegfried dwelt in Gunther's court

Till full a year had flown,

Nor had these lords of Burgundy

E'er braver champion known;

And yet no sight was him vouchsafed

Of her he loved so well—

That love, wherefrom in after days

Such bliss and woe befell.