The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Sixteenth Adventure - How Siegfried was slain


Gunther and Hagen, / the knights full keen,
Proposed with evil forethought / a hunting in the green:
The boar within the forest / they’d chase with pointed spear,
And shaggy bear and bison. / –What sport to valiant men more dear?


With them rode also Siegfried / happy and light of heart:
Their load of rich refreshments / was made in goodly part.
Where a spring ran cooling / they took from him his life,
Whereto in chief had urged them / Brunhild, royal Gunther’s wife.


Then went the valiant Siegfried / where he Kriemhild found;
Rich hunting-dress was laden / and now stood ready bound
For him and his companions / across the Rhine to go.
Than this a sadder hour / nevermore could Kriemhild know.


The spouse he loved so dearly / upon the mouth he kissed.
“God grant that well I find thee / again, if so He list,
And thine own eyes to see me. / ’Mid kin that hold thee dear
May now the time go gently, / the while I am no longer near.”


Then thought she of the story / –but silence must she keep–
Whereof once Hagen asked her: / then began to weep
The princess high and noble / that ever she was born,
And wept with tears unceasing / the valiant Siegfried’s wife forlorn.


She spake unto her husband: / “Let now this hunting be.
I dreamt this night of evil, / how wild boars hunted thee,
Two wild boars o’er the meadow, / wherefrom the flowers grew red.
That I do weep so sorely / have I poor woman direst need.


“Yea, do I fear, Sir Siegfried, / something treacherous,
If perchance have any / of those been wronged by us
Who might yet be able / to vent their enmity.
Tarry thou here, Sir Siegfried: / let that my faithful counsel be.”


Quoth he: “I come, dear lady, / when some short days are flown.
Of foes who bear us hatred / here know I never one.
All of thine own kindred / are gracious unto me,
Nor know I aught of reason / why they should other-minded be.”


“But nay, beloved Siegfried, / thy death I fear ’twill prove.
This night I dreamt misfortune, / how o’er thee from above
Down there fell two mountains: / I never saw thee more.
And wilt thou now go from me, / that must grieve my heart full sore.”


The lady rich in virtue / within his arms he pressed,
And with loving kisses / her fair form caressed.
From her thence he parted / ere long time was o’er:
Alas for her, she saw him / alive thereafter nevermore.


Then rode from thence the hunters / deep within a wold
In search of pleasant pastime. / Full many a rider bold
Followed after Gunther / in his stately train.
Gernot and Giselher, / –at home the knights did both remain.


Went many a horse well laden / before them o’er the Rhine,
That for the huntsmen carried / store of bread and wine,
Meat along with fishes / and other victualling,
The which upon his table / were fitting for so high a king.


Then bade they make encampment / before the forest green
Where game was like to issue, / those hunters proud and keen,
Who there would join in hunting, / on a meadow wide that spread.
Thither also was come Siegfried: / the same unto the king was said.


By the merry huntsmen / soon were watched complete
At every point the runways. / The company then did greet
Siegfried the keen and doughty: / “Who now within the green
Unto the game shall guide us, / ye warriors so bold and keen?”


“Now part we from each other," / answered Hagen then,
“Ere that the hunting / we do here begin!
Thereby may be apparent / to my masters and to me
Who on this forest journey / of the hunters best may be.


“Let then hounds and huntsmen / be ta’en in equal share,
That wheresoever any / would go, there let him fare.
Who then is first in hunting / shall have our thanks this day."
Not longer there together / did the merry hunters stay.


Thereto quoth Sir Siegfried: / “Of dogs have I no need,
More than one hound only / of trusty hunting breed
For scenting well the runway / of wild beast through the brake.
And now the chase begin we!" / –so the spouse of Kriemhild spake.


Then took a practised hunter / a good tracking-hound,
That did bring them where they / game in plenty found,
Nor kept them long awaiting. / Whate’er did spring from lair
Pursued the merry huntsmen, / as still good hunters everywhere.


As many as the hound started / slew with mighty hand
Siegfried the full doughty / hero of Netherland.
So swiftly went his charger / that none could him outrun;
And praise before all others / soon he in the hunting won.


He was in every feature / a valiant knight and true.
The first within the forest / that with his hand he slew
Was a half-grown wild-boar / that he smote to ground;
Thereafter he full quickly / a wild and mighty lion found.


When it the hound had started, / with bow he shot it dead,
Wherewith a pointed arrow / he had so swiftly sped
That the lion after / could forward spring but thrice.
All they that hunted with him / cried Siegfried’s praise with merry


Soon fell a prey unto him / an elk and bison more,
A giant stag he slew him / and huge ure-oxen four.
His steed bore him so swiftly / that none could him outrun;
Of stag or hind encountered / scarce could there escape him one.


A boar full huge and bristling / soon was likewise found,
And when the same bethought him / to flee before the hound,
Came quick again the master / and stood athwart his path.
The boar upon the hero / full charged straightway in mickle wrath.


Then the spouse of Kriemhild, / with sword the boar he slew,
A thing that scarce another / hunter had dared to do.
When he thus had felled him / they lashed again the hound,
And soon his hunting prowess / was known to all the people round.


Then spake to him his huntsmen: / “If that the thing may be,
So let some part, Sir Siegfried, / of the forest game go free;
To-day thou makest empty / hillside and forest wild."
Thereat in merry humor / the thane so keen and valiant smiled.


Then they heard on all sides / the din, from many a hound
And huntsmen eke the clamor / so great was heard around
That back did come the answer / from hill and forest tree–
Of hounds had four-and-twenty / packs been set by hunter free.


Full many a forest denizen / from life was doomed to part.
Each of all the hunters / thereon had set his heart,
To win the prize in hunting. / But such could never be,
When they the doughty Siegfried / at the camping-place did see.


Now the chase was ended, / –and yet complete ’twas not.
All they to camp who wended / with them thither brought
Skin of full many an animal / and of game good store.
Heigho! unto the table / how much the king’s attendants bore!


Then bade the king the noble / hunters all to warn
That he would take refreshment, / and loud a hunting-horn
In one long blast was winded: / to all was known thereby
That the noble monarch / at camp did wait their company.


Spake one of Siegfried’s huntsmen: / “Master, I do know
By blast of horn resounding / that we now shall go
Unto the place of meeting; / thereto I’ll make reply."
Then for the merry hunters / blew the horn right lustily.


Then spake Sir Siegfried: / “Now leave we eke the green."
His charger bore him smoothly, / and followed huntsmen keen.
With their rout they started / a beast of savage kind,
That was a bear untamed. / Then spake the knight to those behind


“For our merry party / some sport will I devise.
Let slip the hound then straightway, / a bear now meets my eyes,
And with us shall he thither / unto the camp-fire fare.
Full rapid must his flight be / shall he our company forbear.”


From leash the hound was loosened, / the bear sprang through the brake,
When that the spouse of Kriemhild / did wish him to o’ertake.
He sought a pathless thicket, / but yet it could not be,
As bruin fondly hoped it, / that from the hunter he was free.


Then from his horse alighted / the knight of spirit high,
And gan a running after. / Bruin all unguardedly
Was ta’en, and could escape not. / Him caught straightway the knight,
And soon all unwounded / had him bound in fetters tight.


Nor claws nor teeth availed him / for aught of injury,
But bound he was to saddle. / Then mounted speedily
The knight, and to the camp-fire / in right merry way
For pastime led he bruin, / the hero valiant and gay.


In what manner stately / unto the camp he rode!
He bore a spear full mickle, / great of strength and broad.
A sword all ornamented / hung down unto his spur,
And wrought of gold all ruddy / at side a glittering horn he wore.


Of richer hunting-garments / heard I ne’er tell before.
Black was the silken tunic / that the rider wore,
And cap of costly sable / did crown the gallant knight.
Heigho, and how his quiver / with well-wrought hands was rich bedight!


A skin of gleaming panther / covered the quiver o’er,
Prized for its pleasant odor. / Eke a bow he bore,
The which to draw if ever / had wished another man,
A lever he had needed: / such power had Siegfried alone.


Of fur of costly otter / his mantle was complete,
With other skins embroidered / from head unto the feet.
And ’mid the fur all shining, / full many a golden seam
On both sides of the valiant / huntsman saw ye brightly gleam.


Balmung, a goodly weapon / broad, he also wore,
That was so sharp at edges / that it ne’er forbore
To cleave when swung on helmet: / blade it was full good.
Stately was the huntsman / as there with merry heart he rode.


If that complete the story / to you I shall unfold,
Full many a goodly arrow / did his rich quiver hold
Whereof were gold the sockets, / and heads a hand-breadth each.
In sooth was doomed to perish / whate’er in flight the same did reach.


Pricking like goodly huntsman / the noble knight did ride
When him the men of Gunther / coming thither spied.
They hasted out to meet him / and took from him his steed,
As bruin great and mighty / by the saddle he did lead.


When he from horse alighted / he loosed him every band
From foot and eke from muzzle. / Straight on every hand
Began the dogs a howling / when they beheld the bear.
Bruin would to the forest: / among the men was mickle stir.


Amid the clamor bruin / through the camp-fires sped:
Heigho, how the servants / away before him fled!
O’erturned was many a kettle / and flaming brands did fly:
Heigho, what goodly victuals / did scattered in the ashes lie!


Then sprang from out the saddle / knights and serving-men.
The bear was wild careering: / the king bade loosen then
All the dogs that fastened / within their leashes lay.
If this thing well had ended, / then had there passed a merry day.


Not longer then they waited / but with bow and eke with spear
Hasted the nimble hunters / to pursue the bear,
Yet none might shoot upon him / for all the dogs around.
Such clamor was of voices / that all the mountain did resound.


When by the dogs pursued / the bear away did run,
None there that could o’ertake him / but Siegfried alone.
With his sword he came upon him / and killed him at a blow,
And back unto the camp-fire / bearing bruin they did go.


Then spake who there had seen it, / he was a man of might.
Soon to the table bade they / come each noble knight,
And on a smiling meadow / the noble company sat.
Heigho, with what rare victuals / did they upon the huntsmen wait!


Ne’er appeared a butler / wine for them to pour.
Than they good knights were never / better served before,
And had there not in secret / been lurking treachery,
Then were the entertainers / from every cause of cavil free.


Then spake Sir Siegfried: / “A wonder ’tis to me,
Since that from the kitchen / so full supplied are we,
Why to us the butlers / of wine bring not like store:
If such the huntsman’s service / a huntsman reckon me no more.


“Meseems I yet did merit / some share of courtesy."
The king who sat at table / spake then in treachery:
“Gladly shall be amended / wherein we’re guilty so.
The fault it is of Hagen, / he’d willing see us thirsting go.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Good master, hear me say,
I weened for this our hunting / we did go to-day
Unto the Spessart forest: / the wine I thither sent.
Go we to-day a-thirsting, / I’ll later be more provident.”


Thereto replied Sir Siegfried: / “Small merit here is thine.
Good seven horses laden / with mead and sparkling wine
Should hither have been conducted. / If aught the same denied,
Then should our place of meeting / have nearer been the Rhine beside.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Ye noble knights and bold,
I know here nigh unto us / a spring that’s flowing cold.
Be then your wrath appeased, / and let us thither go."
Through that same wicked counsel / came many a thane to grievous woe.


Sore was the noble Siegfried / with the pangs of thirst:
To bid them rise from table / was he thus the first.
He would along the hillside / unto the fountain go:
In sooth they showed them traitors, / those knights who there did
      counsel so.


On wagons hence to carry / the game they gave command
Which had that day been slaughtered / by Siegfried’s doughty hand.
He’d carried off the honors, / all who had seen did say.
Hagen his faith with Siegfried / soon did break in grievous way.


When now they would go thither / to where the linden spread,
Spake of Tronje Hagen: / “To me hath oft been said,
That none could follow after / Kriemhild’s nimble knight
Or vie with him in running: / would that he’d prove it to our sight!”


Then spake of Netherland / bold Siegfried speedily:
“That may ye well have proof of, / will ye but run with me
In contest to the fountain. / When that the same be done,
To him be given honor / who the race hath fairly won.”


“Now surely make we trial," / quoth Hagen the thane.
Thereto the doughty Siegfried: / “I too will give you gain,
Afore your feet at starting / to lay me in the grass."
When that he had heard it, / thereat how joyous Gunther was!


And spake again the warrior: / “And ye shall further hear:
All my clothing likewise / will I upon me wear,
The spear and shield full heavy / and hunting-dress I’ll don."
His sword as well as quiver / had he full quickly girded on.


Doffed they their apparel / and aside they laid it then:
Clothed in white shirts only / saw you there the twain.
Like unto two wild panthers / they coursed across the green:
Yet first beside the fountain / was the valiant Siegfried seen.


No man in feats of valor / who with him had vied.
The sword he soon ungirded / and quiver laid aside,
The mighty spear he leaned / against the linden-tree:
Beside the running fountain / stood the knight stately to see.


To Siegfried naught was lacking / that doth good knight adorn.
Down the shield then laid he / where did flow the burn,
Yet howsoe’er he thirsted / no whit the hero drank
Before had drunk the monarch: / therefor he earned but evil thank.


There where ran clear the water / and cool from out the spring,
Down to it did bend him / Gunther the king.
And when his thirst was quenched / rose he from thence again:
Eke the valiant Siegfried, / how glad had he done likewise then.


For his courtesy he suffered. / Where bow and sword there lay,
Both did carry Hagen / from him thence away,
And again sprang quickly thither / where the spear did stand:
And for a cross the tunic / of the valiant knight he scanned.


As there the noble Siegfried / to drink o’er fountain bent,
Through the cross he pierced him, / that from the wound was sent
The blood nigh to bespatter / the tunic Hagen wore.
By hand of knight such evil / deed shall wrought be nevermore.


The spear he left projecting / where it had pierced the heart.
In terror as that moment / did Hagen never start
In flight from any warrior / he ever yet had found.
Soon as the noble Siegfried / within him felt the mighty wound,


Raging the knight full doughty / up from the fountain sprang,
The while from ’twixt his shoulders / stood out a spearshaft long.
The prince weened to find there / his bow or his sword:
Then in sooth had Hagen / found the traitor’s meet reward.


When from the sorely wounded / knight his sword was gone,
Then had he naught to ’venge him / but his shield alone.
This snatched he from the fountain / and Hagen rushed upon,
And not at all escape him / could the royal Gunther’s man.


Though he nigh to death was wounded / he yet such might did wield
That out in all directions / flew from off the shield
Precious stones a many: / the shield he clave in twain.
Thus vengeance fain had taken / upon his foe the stately thane.


Beneath his hand must Hagen / stagger and fall to ground.
So swift the blow he dealt him, / the meadow did resound.
Had sword in hand been swinging, / Hagen had had his meed,
So sorely raged he stricken: / to rage in sooth was mickle need.


Faded from cheek was color, / no longer could he stand,
And all his might of body / soon complete had waned,
As did a deathly pallor / over his visage creep.
Full many a fairest lady / for the knight anon must weep.


So sank amid the flowers / Kriemhild’s noble knight,
While from his wound flowed thickly / the blood before the sight.
Then gan he reviling / –for dire was his need–
Who had thus encompassed / his death by this same faithless deed.


Then spake the sorely wounded: / “O ye base cowards twain,
Doth then my service merit / that me ye thus have slain?
To you I e’er was faithful / and so am I repaid.
Alas, upon your kindred / now have ye shame eternal laid.


“By this deed dishonored / hereafter evermore
Are their generations. / Your anger all too sore
Have ye now thus vented / and vengeance ta’en on me.
With shame henceforth be parted / from all good knights’ company.”


All the hunters hastened / where he stricken lay,
It was in sooth for many / of them a joyless day.
Had any aught of honor, / he mourned that day, I ween,
And well the same did merit / the knight high-spirited and keen.


As there the king of Burgundy / mourned that he should die,
Spake the knight sore wounded: / “To weep o’er injury,
Who hath wrought the evil / hath smallest need, I trow.
Reviling doth he merit, / and weeping may he well forego.”


Thereto quoth grim Hagen: / “Ye mourn, I know not why:
This same day hath ended / all our anxiety.
Few shall we find henceforward / for fear will give us need,
And well is me that from his / mastery we thus are freed.”


“Light thing is now thy vaunting," / did Siegfried then reply.
“Had I e’er bethought me / of this thy infamy
Well had I preserved / ’gainst all thy hate my life.
Me rueth naught so sorely / as Lady Kriemhild my wife.


“Now may God have mercy / that to me a son was born,
That him alack!, the people / in times to come shall spurn,
That those he nameth kinsmen / have done the murderer’s deed.
An had I breath,” spake Siegfried, / “to mourn o’er this I well had


Then spake, in anguish praying, / the hero doomed to die:
“An wilt thou, king, to any / yet not good faith deny,
In all the world to any, / to thee commended be
And to thy loving mercy / the spouse erstwhile was wed to me.


“Let it be her good fortune / that she thy sister is:
By all the princely virtues, / I beg thee pledge me this.
For me long time my father / and men henceforth must wait:
Upon a spouse was never / wrought, as mine, a wrong so great.”


All around the flowers / were wetted with the blood
As there with death he struggled. / Yet not for long he could,
Because the deadly weapon / had cut him all too sore:
And soon the keen and noble / knight was doomed to speak no more.


When the lords perceived / how that the knight was dead,
Upon a shield they laid him / that was of gold full red,
And counsel took together / how of the thing should naught
Be known, but held in secret / that Hagen the deed had wrought.


Then spake of them a many: / “This is an evil day.
Now shall ye all conceal it / and all alike shall say,
When as Kriemhild’s husband / the dark forest through
Rode alone a-hunting, / him the hand of robber slew.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Myself will bring him home.
In sooth I reck but little / if to her ears it come,
Who my Lady Brunhild / herself hath grieved so sore.
It maketh me small worry, / an if she weep for evermore.”


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