The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Seventh Adventure - How Gunther won Brunhild


The while they thus did parley / their ship did forward glide
So near unto the castle / that soon the king espied
Aloft within the casements / many a maiden fair to see.
That all to him were strangers / thought King Gunther mournfully.


He asked then of Siegfried, / who bare him company:
“Know’st thou aught of the maidens, / who the same may be,
Gazing yonder downward / upon us on the tide?
Howe’er is named their master, / minded are they high in pride.”


Then spake the valiant Siegfried: / “Now thither shalt thou spy
Unseen among the ladies, / then not to me deny
Which, wert thou free in choosing, / thou’dst take to be thy queen."
“That will I do,” then answered / Gunther the valiant knight and keen.


“I see there one among them / by yonder casement stand,
Clad in snow-white raiment: / ’tis she my eyes demand,
So buxom she in stature, / so fair she is to see.
An I were free in choosing, / she it is my wife must be.”


“Full well now in choosing / thine eyes have guided thee:
It is the stately Brunhild / the maiden fair to see,
That doth now unto her / thy heart and soul compel."
All the maiden’s bearing / pleased the royal Gunther well.


But soon the queen commanded / from casement all to go
Of those her beauteous maidens: / they should not stand there so
To be gazed at by the strangers. / They must obey her word.
What were the ladies doing, / of that moreover have we heard.


Unto the noble strangers / their beauty they would show,
A thing which lovely women / are ever wont to do.
Unto the narrow casements / came they crowding on,
When they spied the strangers: / that they might also see, ’twas done.


But four the strangers numbered, / who came unto that land.
Siegfried the doughty / the king’s steed led in hand:
They saw it from the casements, / many a lovely maid,
And saw the willing service / unto royal Gunther paid.


Then held he by the bridle / for him his gallant steed,
A good and fair-formed charger, / strong and of noble breed,
Until the royal Gunther / into the saddle sprung.
Thus did serve him Siegfried: / a service all forgot ere long.


Then his own steed he also / led forth upon the shore.
Such menial service had he / full seldom done before,
That he should hold the stirrup / for monarch whomsoe’er.
Down gazing from the casements / beheld it ladies high and fair.


At every point according, / the heroes well bedight
–Their dress and eke their chargers / of color snowy white–
Were like unto each other, / and well-wrought shield each one
Of the good knights bore with him, / that brightly glimmered in the sun.


Jewelled well was saddle / and narrow martingale
As they rode so stately / in front of Brunhild’s Hall,
And thereon bells were hanging / of red gold shining bright.
So came they to that country, / as fitting was for men of might,


With spears all newly polished, / with swords, well-made that were
And by the stately heroes / hung down unto the spur:
Such bore the valiant riders / of broad and cutting blade.
The noble show did witness / Brunhild the full stately maid.


With him came then Dankwart / and Hagen, doughty thane.
The story further telleth / how that the heroes twain
Of color black as raven / rich attire wore,
And each a broad and mighty / shield of rich adornment bore.


Rich stones from India’s country / every eye could see,
Impending on their tunics, / sparkle full brilliantly.
Their vessel by the river / they left without a guard,
As thus the valiant heroes / rode undaunted castleward.


Six and fourscore towers / without they saw rise tall,
Three spacious palaces / and moulded well a hall
All wrought of precious marble / green as blade of grass,
Wherein the royal Brunhild / with company of fair ladies was.


The castle doors unbolted / were flung open wide
As out toward them / the men of Brunhild hied
And received the strangers / into their Lady’s land.
Their steeds they bade take over, / and also shield from out the hand.


Then spake a man-in-waiting: / “Give o’er the sword each thane,
And eke the shining armor."– / “Good friend, thou ask’st in vain,"
Spake of Tronje Hagen; / “the same we’d rather wear."
Then gan straightway Siegfried / the country’s custom to declare.


“’Tis wont within this castle, / –of that be now aware–
That never any stranger / weapons here shall bear.
Now let them hence be carried: / well dost thou as I say."
In this did full unwilling / Hagen, Gunther’s man, obey.


They bade the strangers welcome / with drink and fitting rest.
Soon might you see on all sides / full many knights the best
In princely weeds apparelled / to their reception go:
Yet did they mickle gazing / who would the keen new-comers know.


Then unto Lady Brunhild / the tidings strange were brought
How that unknown warriors / now her land had sought,
In stately apparel / come sailing o’er the sea.
The maiden fair and stately / gave question how the same might be.


“Now shall ye straight inform me," / spake she presently,
“Who so unfamiliar / these warrior knights may be,
That within my castle / thus so lordly stand,
And for whose sake the heroes / have hither journeyed to my land.”


Then spake to her a servant: / “Lady, I well can say
Of them I’ve ne’er seen any / before this present day:
Be it not that one among them / is like unto Siegfried.
Him give a goodly welcome: / so is to thee my loyal rede.


“The next of the companions / he is a worthy knight:
If that were in his power / he well were king of might
O’er wide domains of princes, / the which might reach his hand.
Now see him by the others / so right majestically stand.


“The third of the companions, / that he’s a man of spleen,
–Withal of fair-formed body, / know thou, stately Queen,–
Do tell his rapid glances / that dart so free from him.
He is in all his thinking / a man, I ween, of mood full grim.


“The youngest one among them / he is a worthy knight:
As modest as a maiden, / I see the thane of might
Goodly in his bearing / standing so fair to see,
We all might fear if any / affront to him should offered be.


“How blithe soe’er his manner, / how fair soe’er is he,
Well could he cause of sorrow / to stately woman be,
If he gan show his anger. / In him may well be seen
He is in knightly virtues / a thane of valor bold and keen.”


Then spake the queen in answer: / “Bring now my robes to hand.
And is the mighty Siegfried / come unto this land,
For love of me brought thither, / he pays it with his life.
I fear him not so sorely / that I e’er become his wife.”


So was fair Brunhild / straightway well arrayed.
Then went with her thither / full many a beauteous maid,
A hundred good or over, / bedight right merrily.
The full beauteous maidens / would those stranger warriors see.


And with them went the warriors / there of Isenland,
The knights attending Brunhild, / who bore sword in hand,
Five hundred men or over. / Scarce heart the strangers kept
As those knights brave and seemly / down from out the saddle leapt.


When the royal lady / Siegfried espied,
Now mote ye willing listen / what there the maiden said.
“Welcome be thou, Siegfried, / hither unto this land.
What meaneth this thy journey, / gladly might I understand.”


“Full mickle do I thank thee, / my Lady, high Brunhild,
That thou art pleased to greet me, / noble Princess mild,
Before this knight so noble, / who stands before me here:
For he is my master, / whom first to honor fitting were.


“Born is he of Rhineland: / what need I say more?
For thee ’tis highest favor / that we do hither fare.
Thee will he gladly marry, / an bring that whatsoe’er.
Betimes shalt thou bethink thee: / my master will thee never spare.


“For his name is Gunther / and he a mighty king.
If he thy love hath won him, / more wants he not a thing.
In sooth the king so noble / hath bade me hither fare:
And gladly had I left it, / might I to thwart his wishes dare.”


She spake: “Is he thy master / and thou his vassal art,
Some games to him I offer, / and dare he there take part,
And comes he forth the victor, / so am I then his wife:
And be it I that conquer, / then shall ye forfeit each his life.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Lady, let us see
Thy games so fraught with peril. / Before should yield to thee
Gunther my master, / that well were something rare.
He trows he yet is able / to win a maid so passing fair.”


“Then shall ye try stone-putting / and follow up the cast,
And the spear hurl with me. / Do ye naught here in haste.
For well may ye pay forfeit / with honor eke and life:
Bethink ye thus full calmly," / spake she whom Gunther would for wife.


Siegfried the valiant / stepped unto the king,
And bade him speak out freely / his thoughts upon this thing
Unto the queen so wayward, / he might have fearless heart.
“For to well protect thee / from her do I know an art.”


Then spake the royal Gunther: / “Now offer, stately Queen,
What play soe’er thou mayest. / And harder had it been,
Yet would I all have ventured / for all thy beauty’s sake.
My head I’ll willing forfeit / or thyself my wife I’ll make.”


When therefore the Queen Brunhild / heard how the matter stood
The play she begged to hasten, / as indeed she should.
She bade her servants fetch her / therefor apparel trim,
A mail-coat ruddy golden / and shield well wrought from boss to rim.


A battle-tunic silken / the maid upon her drew,
That in ne’er a contest / weapon pierced through,
Of skins from land of Libya, / and structure rare and fine;
And brilliant bands embroidered / might you see upon it shine.


Meanwhile were the strangers / jibed with many a threat;
Dankwart and Hagen, / their hearts began to beat.
How here the king should prosper / were they of doubtful mood,
Thinking, “This our journey / shall bring us wanderers naught of good.”


The while did also Siegfried / the thane beyond compare,
Before ’twas marked by any, / unto the ship repair,
Where he found his sightless mantle[2] / that did hidden lie,
And slipped into ’t full deftly: / so was he veiled from every eye.

[2] See strophe 97, note.


Thither back he hied him / and found great company
About the queen who ordered / what the high play should be.
There went he all in secret; / so cunningly ’twas done,
Of all around were standing / perceived him never any one.


The ring it was appointed / wherein the play should be
’Fore many a keen warrior / who the same should see.
More than seven hundred / were seen their weapons bear,
That whoso were the victor / they might sure the same declare.


Thither was come Brunhild; / all armed she did stand
Like as she were to combat / for many a royal land;
Upon her silken tunic / were gold bars many a one,
And glowing ’mid the armor / her flesh of winsome color shone.


Then followed her attendants / and with them thither brought
At once a shield full stately, / of pure red gold ’twas wrought,
With steel-hard bands for facings, / full mickle ’twas and broad,
Wherewith in the contest / would guard herself the lovely maid.


To hold the shield securely / a well-wrought band there was,
Whereon lay precious jewels / green as blade of grass.
Full many a ray their lustre / shot round against the gold.
He were a man full valiant / whom this high dame should worthy hold.


The shield was ’neath the boss-point, / as to us is said,
Good three spans in thickness, / which should bear the maid.
Of steel ’twas wrought so richly / and had of gold such share,
That chamberlain and fellows / three the same scarce could bear.


When the doughty Hagen / the shield saw thither brought,
Spake the knight of Tronje, / and savage was his thought:
“Where art thou now, King Gunther? / Shall we thus lose our life!
Whom here thou seekst for lover, / she is the very Devil’s wife.”


List more of her apparel; / she had a goodly store.
Of silk of Azagang / a tunic made she wore,
All bedight full richly; / amid its color shone
Forth from the queen it covered, / full many a sparkling precious stone.


Then brought they for the lady, / large and heavy there,
As she was wont to hurl it, / a sharply-pointed spear;
Strong and massive was it, / huge and broad as well,
And at both its edges / it cut with devastation fell.


To know the spear was heavy / list ye wonders more:
Three spears of common measure / ’twould make, and something o’er.
Of Brunhild’s attendants / three scarce the same could bear.
The heart of noble Gunther / thereat began to fill with fear.


Within his soul he thought him: / “What pickle am I in?
Of hell the very Devil, / how might he save his skin?
Might I at home in Burgundy / safe and living be,
Should she for many a season / from proffered love of mine be free.”


Then spake Hagen’s brother / the valiant Dankwart:
“In truth this royal journey / doth sorely grieve my heart.
We passed for good knights one time: / what caitiff’s death, if we
Here in far-off country / a woman’s game are doomed to be!


“It rueth me full sorely / that I came to this land.
And had my brother Hagen / his good sword in hand,
And had I mine to help him, / a bit more gently then,
A little tame of spirit, / might show themselves all Brunhild’s men.


“And know it of a certain / to lord it thus they’d cease;
E’en though oaths a thousand / I’d sworn to keep the peace,
Before that I’d see perish / my dear lord shamefully,
Amid the souls departed / this fair maid herself should be.”


“Well should we unhampered / quit at last this land,"
Spake his brother Hagen, / “did we in armor stand,
Such as we need for battle, / and bore we broadswords good:
’Twould be a little softened, / this doughty lady’s haughty mood.”


Well heard the noble maiden / what the warriors spoke.
Back athwart her shoulder / she sent a smiling look:
“Now thinks he him so valiant, / so let them armed stand;
Their full keen-edged broadswords / give the warriors each in hand.”


When they their swords received, / as the maiden said,
The full valiant Dankwart / with joy his face grew red.
“Now play they what them pleaseth," / cried the warrior brave;
“Gunther is yet a freeman, / since now in hand good swords we have.”


The royal Brunhild’s prowess / with terror was it shown.
Into the ring they bore her / in sooth a ponderous stone,
Great and all unwieldy, / huge it was and round:
And scarce good knights a dozen / together raised it from the ground.


To put this was her custom / after trial with the spear.
Thereat the men of Burgundy / began to quake with fear.
“Alack! Alack!” quoth Hagen, / “what seeks the king for bride?
Beneath in hell ’twere better / the Devil had her by his side!”


On her white arms the flowing / sleeves she backward flung,
Then with grasp of power / the shield in hand she swung,
And spear poised high above her. / So did the contest start.
Gunther and Siegfried / saw Brunhild’s ire with falling heart.


And were it not that Siegfried / a ready help did bring,
Surely then had perished / beneath her hand the king.
There went he unperceived / and the king’s hand did touch.
Gunther at his cunning / artifice was troubled much.


“What is that hath touched me?" / thought the monarch keen.
Then gazed he all around him: / none was there to be seen.
A voice spake: “Siegfried is it, / a friend that holds thee dear.
Before this royal maiden / shall thy heart be free from fear.


“Thy shield in hand now give me / and leave it me to bear,
And do thou rightly mark thee / what thou now shalt hear.
Now make thyself the motions, / –the power leave to me."
When he did know him rightly, / the monarch’s heart was filled with glee.


“Now secret keep my cunning, / let none e’er know the same:
Then shall the royal maiden / here find but little game
Of glory to win from thee, / as most to her is dear.
Behold now how the lady / stands before thee void of fear.”


The spear the stately maiden / with might and main did wield,
And huge and broad she hurled it / upon the new-made shield,
That on his arm did carry / the son of Siegelind;
From the steel the sparks flew hissing / as if were blowing fierce the


The mighty spear sharp-pointed / full through the shield did crash,
That ye from off the mail-rings / might see the lightning flash.
Beneath its force they stumbled, / did both those men of might;
But for the sightless mantle / they both were killed there outright.


From mouth of the full doughty / Siegfried burst the blood.
Full soon he yet recovered; / then seized the warrior good
The spear that from her strong arm / thus his shield had rent,
And back with force as came it / the hand of doughty Siegfried sent.


He thought: “To pierce the maiden / were but small glory earned,"
And so the spear’s sharp edges / backward pointing turned;
Against her mail-clad body / he made the shaft to bound,
And with such might he sent it / full loud her armor did resound.


The sparks as if in stormwind / from mail-rings flew around.
So mightily did hurl it / the son of Siegmund
That she with all her power / could not the shaft withstand.
In sooth it ne’er was speeded / so swiftly by King Gunther’s hand.


But to her feet full sudden / had sprung Brunhild fair.
“A shot, O noble Gunther, / befitting hero rare."
She weened himself had done it, / and all unaided he,
Nor wot she one far mightier / was thither come so secretly.


Then did she go full sudden, / wrathful was her mood,
A stone full high she heaved / the noble maiden good,
And the same far from her / with might and main she swung:
Her armor’s mail-rings jingled / as she herself thereafter sprung.


The stone, when it had fallen, / lay fathoms twelve from there,
And yet did spring beyond it / herself the maiden fair.
Then where the stone was lying / thither Siegfried went:
Gunther feigned to move it, / but by another arm ’twas sent.


A valiant man was Siegfried / full powerful and tall.
The stone then cast he farther, / and farther sprang withal.
From those his arts so cunning / had he of strength such store
That as he leaped he likewise / the weight of royal Gunther bore.


And when the leap was ended / and fallen was the stone,
Then saw they ne’er another / but Gunther alone.
Brunhild the fair maiden, / red grew she in wrath:
Siegfried yet had warded / from royal Gunther surest death.


Unto her attendants / she spake in loud command,
When she saw ’cross the circle / the king unvanquished stand.
“Come hither quick, my kinsmen, / and ye that wait on me;
Henceforth unto Gunther / shall all be pledged faithfully.”


Then laid the knights full valiant / their swords from out the hand;
At feet ’fore mighty Gunther / from Burgundian land
Offered himself in service / full many a valiant knight.
They weened that he had conquered / in trial by his proper might.


He gave her loving greeting, / right courteous was he.
Then by the hand she took him, / the maiden praiseworthy,
In pledge that all around him / was his to have and hold.
Whereat rejoiced Hagen / the warrior valorous and bold.


Into the spacious palace / with her thence to go
Bade she the noble monarch. / When they had done so,
Then still greater honors / unto the knight were shown.
Dankwart and Hagen, / right willingly they saw it done.


Siegfried the valiant, / by no means was he slow,
His sightless mantle did he / away in safety stow.
Then went he again thither / where many a lady sat.
He spake unto the monarch– / full cunningly was done all that:


“Why bidest thus, my master? / Wilt not the play begin,
To which so oft hath challenged / thee the noble queen?
Let us soon have example / what may the trial be."
As knew he naught about it, / did the knight thus cunningly.


Then spake the queen unto him: / “How hath this ever been,
That of the play, Sir Siegfried, / nothing thou hast seen,
Wherein hath been the victor / Gunther with mighty hand?"
Thereto gave answer Hagen / a grim knight of Burgundian land.


Spake he: “There dost thou, Lady, / think ill without a cause:
By the ship down yonder / the noble Siegfried was,
The while the lord of Rhineland / in play did vanquish thee:
Thus knows he nothing of it," / spake Gunther’s warrior courteously.


“A joy to me these tidings," / the doughty Siegfried spoke,
“That so thy haughty spirit / is brought beneath the yoke,
And that yet one there liveth / master to be of thine.
Now shalt thou, noble maiden, / us follow thither to the Rhine.”


Then spake the maiden shapely: / “It may not yet be so.
All my men and kindred / first the same must know.
In sooth not all so lightly / can I quit my home.
First must I bid my trusty / warriors that they hither come.”


Then bade she messengers / quickly forth to ride,
And summoned in her kindred / and men from every side.
Without delay she prayed them / to come to Isenstein,
And bade them all be given / fit apparel rare and fine.


Then might ye see daily / ’twixt morn and eventide
Unto Brunhild’s castle / many a knight to ride.
“God wot, God wot,” quoth Hagen, / “we do an evil thing,
To tarry here while Brunhild / doth thus her men together bring.


“If now into this country / their good men they’ve brought
–What thing the queen intendeth / thereof know we naught:
Belike her wrath ariseth, / and we are men forlorn–
Then to be our ruin / were the noble maiden born.”


Then spake the doughty Siegfried: / “That matter leave to me.
Whereof thou now art fearful, / I’ll never let it be.
Ready help I’ll bring thee / hither unto this land,
Knights of whom thou wotst not / till now I’ll bring, a chosen band.


“Of me shalt thou ask not: / from hence will I fare.
May God of thy good honor / meanwhile have a care.
I come again right quickly / with a thousand men for thee,
The very best of warriors / hitherto are known to me.”


“Then tarry not unduly," / thus the monarch said.
“Glad we are full fairly / of this thy timely aid."
He spake: “Till I come to thee / full short shall be my stay.
That thou thyself hast sent me / shalt thou unto Brunhild say.”


Preface  •  I. The Nibelungen Saga  •  II. The Nibelungenlied  •  The Nibelungenlied - First Adventure - Kriemhild’s Dream  •  Second Adventure - Siegfried  •  Third Adventure - How Siegfried came to Worms  •  Fourth Adventure - How Siegfried fought with the Saxons  •  Fifth Adventure - How Siegfried first saw Kriemhild  •  Sixth Adventure - How Gunther fared to Isenland to Brunhild  •  Seventh Adventure - How Gunther won Brunhild  •  Eighth Adventure - How Siegfried fared to his Knights, the Nibelungen  •  Ninth Adventure - How Siegfried was sent to Worms  •  Tenth Adventure - How Brunhild was received at Worms  •  Eleventh Adventure - How Siegfried came home with his Wife  •  Twelfth Adventure - How Gunther bade Siegfried to the Feast  •  Thirteenth Adventure - How they fared to the Feast  •  Fourteenth Adventure - How the Queens Berated Each Other  •  Fifteenth Adventure - How Siegfried was Betrayed  •  Sixteenth Adventure - How Siegfried was slain  •  Seventeenth Adventure - How Kriemhild mourned for Siegfried, and How he was Buried  •  Eighteenth Adventure - How Siegmund fared Home Again  •  Nineteenth Adventure - How the Nibelungen Hoard was Brought to Worms  •  Twentieth Adventure - How King Etzel sent to Burgundy for Kriemhild  •  Twenty-First Adventure - How Kriemhild fared to the Huns  •  Twenty-Second Adventure - How Etzel kept the Wedding-feast with Kriemhild  •  Twenty-Third Adventure - How Kriemhild thought to avenge her Wrong  •  Twenty-Fourth Adventure - How Werbel and Schwemmel brought the Message  •  Twenty-Fifth Adventure - How the Knights all fared to the Huns  •  Twenty-Sixth Adventure - How Gelfrat was Slain by Dankwart  •  Twenty-Seventh Adventure - How they came to Bechelaren  •  Twenty-Eighth Adventure - How the Burgundians came to Etzel’s Castle  •  Twenty-Ninth Adventure - How He arose not before Her  •  Thirtieth Adventure - How they kept Guard  •  Thirty-First Adventure - How they went to Mass  •  Thirty-Second Adventure - How Bloedel was Slain  •  Thirty-Third Adventure - How the Burgundians fought with the Huns  •  Thirty-Fourth Adventure - How they cast out the Dead  •  Thirty-Fifth Adventure - How Iring was Slain  •  Thirty-Sixth Adventure - How the Queen bade set fire to the Hall  •  Thirty-Seventh Adventure - How the Margrave Ruediger was Slain  •  Thirty-Eighth Adventure - How all Sir Dietrich’s Knights were Slain  •  Thirty-Ninth Adventure - How Gunther and Hagen and Kriemhild were Slain