The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Twenty-Fourth Adventure - How Werbel and Schwemmel brought the Message


When to the Rhine King Etzel / his messengers had sent,
With hasty flight fresh tidings / from land to land there went:
With messengers full quickly / to his high festival
He bade them, eke and summoned. / To many thereby did death befall.


The messengers o’er the borders / of Hunland thence did fare
Unto the land of Burgundy; / thither sent they were
Unto three lordly monarchs / and eke their mighty men.
To Etzel’s land to bid them / hastily they journeyed then.


Unto Bechelaren / rode they on their way,
Where found they willing service. / Nor did aught delay
Ruediger to commend him / and Gotelinde as well
And eke their fairest daughter / to them that by the Rhine did dwell.


They let them not unladen / with gifts from thence depart,
So did the men of Etzel / fare on with lighter heart.
To Ute and to her household / sent greeting Ruediger,
That never margrave any / to them more well disposed were.


Unto Brunhild also / did they themselves commend
With willing service offered / and steadfast to the end.
Bearing thus fair greeting / the messengers thence did fare,
And prayed the noble margravine / that God would have them in his care.


Ere the messengers had fully / passed o’er Bavarian ground,
Had the nimble Werbel / the goodly bishop found.
What greetings to his kinsmen / unto the Rhine he sent,
That I cannot tell you; / the messengers yet from him went


Laden with gold all ruddy, / to keep his memory.
Thus spake the Bishop Pilgrim: / “’Twere highest joy to me
Might I my sister’s children / here see in home of mine,
For that I may but seldom / go unto them to the Rhine.”


What were the ways they followed / as through the lands they fared,
That can I nowise tell you. / Yet never any dared
Rob them of wealth or raiment, / for fear of Etzel’s hand:
A lofty king and noble, / mighty in sooth was his command.


Before twelve days were over / came they unto the Rhine,
And rode into Worms city / Werbel and Schwemmelein.
Told were soon the tidings / to the kings and their good men,
How that were come strange messengers. / Gunther the king did question


And spake the monarch further: / “Who here may understand
Whence do come these strangers / riding unto our land?"
Yet was never any / might answer to him make,
Until of Tronje Hagen / thus unto King Gunther spake:


“To us hath come strange tidings / to hand this day, I ween,
For Etzel’s fiddlers riding / hither have I seen.
The same have by thy sister / unto the Rhine been sent:
For sake of their high master / now give we them fair compliment.”


E’en then did ride the messengers / unto the castle door,
And never royal minstrels / more stately went before.
By the monarch’s servants / well received they were:
They gave them fitting lodging / and for their raiment had a care.


Rich and wrought full deftly / was the travelling-dress they wore,
Wherein they well with honor / might go the king before;
Yet they at court no longer / would the same garments wear.
The messengers inquired / if any were might wish them there.


In sooth in such condition / many eke were found,
Who would receive them gladly; / to such they dealt around.
Then decked themselves the strangers / in garments richer far,
Such as royal messengers / beseemeth well at court to wear.


By royal leave came forward / to where the monarch sat
The men that came from Etzel, / and joy there was thereat.
Hagen then to meet them / in courteous manner went,
And heartily did greet them, / whereat they gave fair compliment.


To know what were the tidings, / to ask he then began
How did find him Etzel / and each valiant man.
Then answer gave the fiddler: / “Ne’er higher stood the land,
Nor the folk so joyous: / that shall ye surely understand.”


They went unto the monarch. / Crowded was the hall.
There were received the strangers / as of right men shall
Kindly greeting offer / in other monarch’s land.
Many a valiant warrior / saw Werbel by King Gunther stand.


Right courteously the monarch / began to greet them then:
“Now be ye both right welcome, / Hunland’s merry men,
And knights that give you escort. / Hither sent are ye
By Etzel mighty monarch / unto the land of Burgundy?”


They bowed before the monarch; / then spake Werbelein:
“My dear lord and master, / and Kriemhild, sister thine,
Hither to thy country / give fairest compliment.
In faith of kindly welcome / us unto you they now have sent.”


Then spake the lofty ruler: / “I joy o’er this ye bring.
How liveth royal Etzel," / further spake the king,
“And Kriemhild, my sister, / afar in Hunland?"
Then answered him the fiddler: / “That shalt thou straightway understand.


“That never any people / more lordly life might show
Than they both do joy in, / –that shalt thou surely know,–
Wherein do share their kinsmen / and all their doughty train.
When from them we parted, / of our journey were they fain.”


“My thanks for these high greetings / ye bring at his command
And from my royal sister. / That high in joy they stand,
The monarch and his kinsmen, / rejoiceth me to hear.
For, sooth to say, the tidings / asked I now in mickle fear.”


The twain of youthful princes / were eke come thitherward,
As soon as they the tidings / from afar had heard.
Right glad were seen the messengers / for his dear sister’s sake
By the young Giselher, / who in such friendly manner spake:


“Right hearty were your welcome / from me and brother mine,
Would ye but more frequent / ride hither to the Rhine;
Here found ye friends full many / whom glad ye were to see,
And naught but friendly favors / the while that in this land ye be.”


“To us how high thy favor," / spake Schwemmel, “know we well;
Nor with my best endeavor / might I ever tell
How kindly is the greeting / we bear from Etzel’s hand
And from your noble sister, / who doth in highest honor stand.


“Your sometime love and duty / recalleth Etzel’s queen,
And how to her devoted / in heart we’ve ever been,
But first to royal Gunther / do we a message bear,
And pray it be your pleasure / unto Etzel’s land to fare.


“To beg of you that favor / commanded o’er and o’er
Etzel mighty monarch / and bids you know the more,
An will ye not your sister / your faces give to see,
So would he know full gladly / wherein by him aggrieved ye be,


“That ye thus are strangers / to him and all his men.
If that his spouse so lofty / to you had ne’er been known,
Yet well he thought to merit / that him ye’d deign to see;
In sooth could naught rejoice him / more than that such thing might be.”


Then spake the royal Gunther: / “A sennight from this day
Shall ye have an answer, / whereon decide I may
With my friends in counsel. / The while shall ye repair
Unto your place of lodging, / and right goodly be your fare.”


Then spake in answer Werbel: / “And might such favor be
That we the royal mistress / should first have leave to see,
Ute, the lofty lady, / ere that we seek our rest?"
To him the noble Giselher / in courteous wise these words addressed.


“That grace shall none forbid you. / Will ye my mother greet,
Therein do ye most fully / her own desire meet.
For sake of my good sister / fain is she you to see,
For sake of Lady Kriemhild / ye shall to her full welcome be.”


Giselher then led him / unto the lofty dame,
Who fain beheld the messengers / from Hunland that came.
She greeted them full kindly / as lofty manner taught,
And in right courteous fashion / told they to her the tale they brought.


“Pledge of loyal friendship / sendeth unto thee
Now my lofty mistress," / spake Schwemmel. “Might it be,
That she should see thee often, / then shalt thou know full well,
In all the world there never / a greater joy to her befell.”


Replied the royal lady: / “Such thing may never be.
Gladly as would I oft-times / my dearest daughter see,
Too far, alas, is distant / the noble monarch’s wife.
May ever yet full happy / with King Etzel be her life.


“See that ye well advise me, / ere that ye hence are gone,
What time shall be your parting; / for messengers I none
Have seen for many seasons / as glad as greet I you."
The twain gave faithful promise / such courtesy full sure to do.


Forthwith to seek their lodgings / the men of Hunland went,
The while the mighty monarch / for trusted warriors sent,
Of whom did noble Gunther / straightway question make,
How thought they of the message. / Whereupon full many spake


That he might well with honor / to Etzel’s land be bound,
The which did eke advise him / the highest ’mongst them found,
All save Hagen only, / whom sorely grieved such rede.
Unto the king in secret / spake he: “Ill shall be thy meed.


“What deed we twain compounded / art thou full well aware,
Wherefor good cause we ever / shall have Kriemhild to fear,
For that her sometime husband / I slew by my own hand.
How dare we ever journey / then unto King Etzel’s land?”


Replied the king: “My sister / no hate doth harbor more.
As we in friendship kissed her, / vengeance she forswore
For evil that we wrought her, / ere that from hence she rode,–
Unless this message, Hagen, / ill for thee alone forebode.”


“Now be thou not deceived," / spake Hagen, “say what may
The messengers from Hunland. / If thither be thy way,
At Kriemhild’s hands thou losest / honor eke and life,
For full long-avenging / is the royal Etzel’s wife.”


Added then his counsel / the princely Gernot there:
“Though be it thou hast reason / thine own death to fear
Afar in Hunnish kingdom, / should we for that forego
To visit our high sister, / that were in sooth but ill to do.”


Unto that thane did likewise / Giselher then say:
“Since well thou know’st, friend Hagen, / what guilt on thee doth weigh,
Then tarry here behind us / and of thyself have care,
And let who dares the journey / with us unto my sister fare.”


Thereat did rage full sorely / Tronje’s doughty thane:
“So shall ye ne’er find any / that were to go more fain,
Nor who may better guide you / than I upon your way.
And will ye not give over, / know then my humor soon ye may.”


Then spake the Kitchen Master, / Rumold a lofty thane:
“Here might ye guests and kinsmen / in plenty long maintain
After your own pleasure, / for ye have goodly store.
I ween ye ne’er found Hagen / traitor to you heretofore.


“If heed ye will not Hagen, / still Rumold doth advise
–For ye have faithful service / from me in willing wise–
That here at home ye tarry / for the love of me,
And leave the royal Etzel / afar with Kriemhild to be.


“Where in the world might ever / ye more happy be
Than here where from danger / of every foeman free,
Where ye may go as likes you / in goodliest attire,
Drink wine the best, and stately / women meet your heart’s desire.


“And daily is your victual / the best that ever knew
A king of any country. / And were the thing not true,
At home ye yet should tarry / for sake of your fair wife
Ere that in childish fashion / ye thus at venture set your life.


“Thus rede I that ye go not. / Mighty are your lands,
And at home more easy may ye / be freed from hostile hands
Than if ye pine in Hunland. / How there it is, who knows?
O Master, go not thither, / –such is the rede that Rumold owes.”


“We’ll ne’er give o’er the journey," / Gernot then did say,
“When thus our sister bids us / in such friendly way
And Etzel, mighty monarch. / Wherefore should we refrain?
Who goes not gladly thither, / here at home may he remain.”


Thereto gave answer Hagen: / “Take not amiss, I pray,
These my words outspoken, / let befall what may.
Yet do I counsel truly, / as ye your safety prize,
That to the Huns ye journey / armed full well in warlike guise.


“Will ye then not give over, / your men together call,
The best that ye may gather / from districts one and all.
From out them all I’ll choose you / a thousand knights full good,
Then may ye reck but little / the vengeful Kriemhild’s angry mood.”


“I’ll gladly heed thy counsel," / straight the king replied,
And bade the couriers traverse / his kingdom far and wide.
Soon they brought together / three thousand men or more,
Who little weened what mickle / sorrow was for them in store.


Joyful came they riding / to King Gunther’s land.
Steeds and equipment for them / all he did command,
Who should make the journey / thence from Burgundy.
Warriors many were there / to serve the king right willingly.


Hagen then of Tronje / to Dankwart did assign
Of their warriors eighty / to lead unto the Rhine.
Equipped in knightly harness / were they soon at hand.
Riding in gallant fashion / unto royal Gunther’s land.


Came eke the doughty Volker, / a noble minstrel he,
With thirty goodly warriors / to join the company,
Who wore so rich attire / ’twould fit a monarch well.
That he would fare to Hunland, / bade he unto Gunther tell.


Who was this same Volker / that will I let you know:
He was a knight full noble, / to him did service owe
Many a goodly warrior / in the land of Burgundy.
For that he well could fiddle, / named the Minstrel eke was he.


Thousand men chose Hagen, / who well to him were known.
What things in storm of battle / their doughty arm had done,
Or what they wrought at all times, / that knew he full well.
Nor of them might e’er mortal / aught but deeds of valor tell.


The messengers of Kriemhild, / full loath they were to wait,
For of their master’s anger / stood they in terror great.
Each day for leave to journey / more great their yearning grew,
But daily to withhold it / crafty Hagen pretext knew.


He spake unto his master: / “Well shall we beware
Hence to let them journey / ere we ourselves prepare
In seven days thereafter / to ride to Etzel’s land:
If any mean us evil, / so may we better understand.


“Nor may the Lady Kriemhild / ready make thereto,
That any by her counsel / scathe to us may do.
Yet if such wish she cherish, / evil shall be her meed,
For many a chosen warrior / with us shall we thither lead.”


Shields well-wrought and saddles, / with all the mickle gear
That into Etzel’s country / the warriors should wear,
The same was now made ready / for many a knight full keen.
The messengers of Kriemhild / before King Gunther soon were seen.


When were come the messengers, / Gernot them addressed:
“King Gunther now is minded / to answer Etzel’s quest.
Full gladly go we thither / with him to make high-tide
And see our lofty sister, / –of that set ye all doubt aside.”


Thereto spake King Gunther: / “Can ye surely say
When shall be the high-tide, / or upon what day
We shall there assemble?" / Spake Schwemmel instantly:
“At turn of sun in summer / shall in sooth the meeting be.”


The monarch leave did grant them, / ere they should take their way,
If that to Lady Brunhild / they would their homage pay,
His high pleasure was it / they unto her should go.
Such thing prevented Volker, / and did his mistress’ pleasure so.


“In sooth, my Lady Brunhild / hath scarce such health to-day
As that she might receive you," / the gallant knight did say.
“Bide ye till the morrow, / may ye the lady see."
When thus they sought her presence, / might their wish not granted be.


To the messengers right gracious / was the mighty king,
And bade he from his treasure / on shields expansive bring
Shining gold in plenty / whereof he had great store.
Eke richest gifts received they / from his lofty kinsmen more.


Giselher and Gernot, / Gere and Ortwein,
That they were free in giving / soon full well was seen.
So costly gifts were offered / unto each messenger
That they dared not receive them, / for Etzel’s anger did they fear.


Then unto King Gunther / Werbel spake again:
Sire, let now thy presents / in thine own land remain.
The same we may not carry, / my master hath decreed
That we accept no bounty. / Of that in sooth we’ve little need.”


Thereat the lord of Rhineland / was seen in high displeasure,
That they should thus accept not / so mighty monarch’s treasure?
In their despite yet took they / rich dress and gold in store,
The which moreover with them / home to Etzel’s land they bore.


Ere that they thence departed / they Lady Ute sought,
Whereat the gallant Giselher / straight the minstrels brought
Unto his mother’s presence. / Kind greetings sent the dame,
And wish that high in honor / still might stand her daughter’s name.


Then bade the lofty lady / embroidered silks and gold
For the sake of Kriemhild, / whom loved she as of old,
And eke for sake of Etzel, / unto the minstrels give.
What thus so free was offered / might they in sooth right fain receive.


Soon now had ta’en departure / the messengers from thence,
From knight and fairest lady, / and joyous fared they hence
Unto Suabian country; / Gernot had given behest
Thus far for armed escort, / that none their journey might molest.


When these had parted from them, / safe still from harm were they,
For Etzel’s might did guard them / wherever led their way.
Nor ever came there any / that aught to take would dare,
As into Etzel’s country / they in mickle haste did fare.


Where’er they friends encountered, / to all they straight made known
How that they of Burgundy / should follow after soon
From Rhine upon their journey / unto the Huns’ country.
The message brought they likewise / unto Bishop Pilgrim’s see.


As down ’fore Bechelaren / they passed upon their way,
The tidings eke to Ruediger / failed they not to say,
And unto Gotelinde, / the margrave’s wife the same.
At thought so soon to see them / was filled with joy the lofty dame.


Hasting with the tidings / each minstrel’s courser ran,
Till found they royal Etzel / within his burgh at Gran.
Greeting upon greeting, / which they must all bestow,
They to the king delivered; / with joy his visage was aglow.


When that the lofty Kriemhild / did eke the tidings hear,
How that her royal brothers / unto the land would fare,
In sooth her heart was gladdened; / on the minstrels she bestowed
Richest gifts in plenty, / as she to her high station owed.


She spake: “Now shall ye, Werbel / and Schwemmel, tell to me
Who cometh of my kinsmen / to our festivity,
Who of all were bidden / this our land to seek?
Now tell me, when the message / heard he, what did Hagen speak?”


Answered: “He came to council / early upon a day,
But little was of pleasant / in what he there did say.
When learned he their intention, / in wrath did Hagen swear,
To death ’twere making journey, / to country of the Huns to fare.


“Hither all are coming, / thy royal brothers three,
And they right high in spirit. / Who more shall with them be,
The tale to tell entire / were more than I might do.
To journey with them plighted / Volker the valiant fiddler too.”


“’Twere little lost, full truly," / answered then the queen,
“If by my eyes never / Volker here were seen.
’Tis Hagen hath my favor, / a noble knight is he,
And mickle is my pleasure / that him full soon we here may see.”


Her way the Lady Kriemhild / then to the king did take,
And in right joyous manner / unto her consort spake:
“How liketh thee the tidings, / lord full dear to me?
What aye my heart hath yearned for, / that shall now accomplished be.”


“Thy will my joy was ever," / the lofty monarch said.
“In sooth for my own kinsmen / I ne’er have been so glad,
To hear that they come hither / unto my country.
To know thy friends are coming, / hath parted sadness far from me.”


Straight did the royal provosts / give everywhere decree
That hall and stately palace / well prepared should be
With seats, that unprovided / no worthy guest be left.
Anon by them the monarch / should be of mickle joy bereft.


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