Nibelungs - George Upton

The Festival

At last Siegfried drew near with his victorious band, and right royally was he welcomed, for in truth he had saved the kingdom. They came laden with spoils of war, and with many a shattered helm, and cloven shield, and many a blood-stained saddle. The royal captives flung themselves on Gunther's mercy, but he could not have received them more kindly had they been honored guests instead of conquered foes.

Now, it was in the King's mind to celebrate the victory by a great festival, but his brother Gernot counselled him to delay yet awhile, till the wounds of the prisoners should be healed, so the time was fixed for six weeks thence. So Siegfried took his leave for that space and rode back to Santen, for he greatly longed to see his parents.

At last the six weeks were past and the festival was held with great splendor and rejoicing. The King, as a surprise to Siegfried, whose attachment for Kriemhild was well known to him, had bidden the ladies of the court to grace the festival with their presence. Accordingly, when the lords and knights had all assembled, making a glittering array of shining armor and gorgeous apparel, the train of damsels entered the hall; whereupon there arose a great pushing and crowding, so desirous were all to behold the beautiful Kriemhild. At last she came, walking at her mother's side and followed by richly dressed and bejewelled damsels and a hundred chosen knights. When Siegfried's eyes fell upon her it was as if the light of morning had broken through the clouds.

Full many a gem on her attire

Cast dazzling rays of light,

And on her rose and lily cheek

The glow of love was bright.

Whatever minstrel's mind might wish,

He must admit, I ween,

That on the earth there never yet

Was such pure beauty seen.

Like as the silver tinting-moon

Bedims the starry crowds,

When, with its clear and gentle light

It breaks through murky clouds,

E'en so, in truth, did she outshine

The best of womankind!

Such beauteous vision well might raise

Each hero's heart and mind.

Then Gernot said to the King: "Never yet hath our sister Kriemhild paid greeting to a hero. Methinks it were well she should now welcome Siegfried, for such an honor perchance may bind him to us henceforth."

These words pleased Gunther, and he forthwith sent a message to Siegfried, bidding him approach and receive his sister's thanks. Now, when Kriemhild saw the splendid young hero standing before her, her cheeks grew red as the dawn, but with a gracious gesture she gave him her hand and said:

"Thrice welcome, my lord Siegfried!

Thy praises wide resound,

For by thy might were victory

And peace and glory found.

Brave heroes do thee honor;

The people's love is thine;

Far more hast thou bestowed on them

Than gold or jewels fine.

Our tottering throne hast thou upheld

And aided by thy deed;

Now may our country's warmest thanks

And blessings be thy meed!"

They looked into each other's eyes, and therewith a great love sprang up in their hearts, and they knew that never henceforth could they live apart. Then indeed Siegfried's heart beat high with joy.

In Summer and that blithest time,

The genial month of May,

His heart had not so overflowed

As on that festal day,

With gladness and with earthly bliss;

For she stood by his side

Whom he with all the warmth of youth

Aspired to make his bride.

And now began the great tournament, wherein the conquered Kings and their knights took part, being quite healed of their wounds; and for twelve days the whole court was given over to feasting and rejoicing.

When all was over, Lendeger and Lendegast came before King Gunther, and besought him for their freedom, offering for ransom as much gold as might be borne by five hundred horses. Gunther declared this was the due of Siegfried who had vanquished them. But Siegfried cared naught for the gold, and said:

"Let them go hence in peace, so they will pledge themselves nevermore to make war upon thee!"

So Gunther bound the two Kings by this pledge, in token whereof they gave him their hands. Then he sent them with all their followers back to their own land, laden with gifts.