The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Twenty-Fifth Adventure - How the Knights all fared to the Huns


Tell we now no further / how they here did fare.
Knights more high in spirit / saw ye journey ne’er
In so stately fashion / to the land of e’er a king.
Of arms and rich attire / lacked they never anything.


At Rhine the lordly monarch / equipped his warriors well,
A thousand knights and sixty, / as I did hear tell,
And eke nine thousand squires / toward the festivity.
Whom they did leave behind them / anon must mourn full grievously.


As at Worms across the courtyard / equipment full they bore
Spake there of Speyer / a bishop old and hoar
Unto Lady Ute: / “Our friends have mind to fare
Unto the festivity; / may God their honor have in care.”


Then spake unto her children / Ute the noble dame:
“At home ye here should tarry, / ye knights full high in fame.
Me dreamt but yester even / a case of direst need,
How that in this country / all the feathered fowl were dead.”


“Who recketh aught of dreamings," / Hagen then replied,
“Distraught is sure his counsel / when trouble doth betide,
Or he would of his honor / have a perfect care.
I counsel that my master / straight to take his leave prepare.


“Gladly shall we journey / into Etzel’s land;
There at their master’s service / may good knights ready stand,
For that we there shall witness / Kriemhild’s festivity."
That Hagen gave such counsel, / rue anon full sore did he.


Yet in sooth far other / than this had been his word,
Had not with bitter mocking / Gernot his anger stirred.
He spake to him of Siegfried / whom Kriemhild loved so,
And said: “Therefore the journey / would Hagen willingly forego.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Through fear I nothing do.
Whenever will ye, Masters, / set straight your hand thereto,
With you I’ll gladly journey / unto Etzel’s land."
Many a shield and helmet / there hewed anon his mighty hand.


The ships stood ready waiting, / whereunto ample store
Of clothing for the journey / men full many bore,
Nor had they time for resting / till shades of even fell.
Anon in mood full joyous / bade they friends at home farewell.


Tents full large and many / arose upon the green,
Yonder side Rhine river. / But yet the winsome queen
Caressed the doughty monarch / that night, and still did pray
That far from Etzel’s country / among his kinsmen might he stay.


When sound of flute and trumpet / arose at break of day,
A signal for their parting, / full soon they took their way.
Each lover to his bosom / did friend more fondly press:
King Etzel’s wife full many / did part anon in dire distress.


The sons of stately Ute, / a good knight had they,
A brave man and a faithful. / When they would thence away,
Apart unto the monarch / did he his mind reveal,
And spake: “That ye will journey, / may I naught but sorrow feel.”


Hight the same was Rumold, / a man of doughty hand.
He spake: “To whom now leave ye / people here and land?
O that never any / might alter your intent!
Small good, methinks, may follow / message e’er by Kriemhild sent.”


“The land to thee entrusted / and eke my child shall be,
And tender care of ladies, / –so hast command from me.
Whene’er thou seest weeping, / do there thy comfort give.
Yea, trust we free from sorrow / at hand of Etzel’s wife to live.”


For knight and royal master / the chargers ready were,
As with fond embracing / parted many there,
Who long in joy together / a merry life had led.
By winsome dame full many / therefor must bitter tear be shed.


As did those doughty warriors / into the saddle spring,
Might full many a lady / be seen there sorrowing;
For told them well their spirit / that thus so long to part
Did bode a dire peril, / the which must ever cloud the heart.


As mounted stood the valiant / thanes of Burgundy,
Might ye a mickle stirring / in that country see,
Both men and women weeping / on either riverside.
Yet pricked they gaily forward, / let what might their folk betide.


The Nibelungen warriors / in hauberks bright arrayed
Went with them, a thousand, / while at home behind them stayed
Full many a winsome lady, / whom saw they nevermore.
The wounds of doughty Siegfried / still grieved the Lady Kriemhild sore.


Their journey they directed / onward to the Main,
Up through East Frankish country, / the men of Gunther’s train
Thither led by Hagen, / who well that country knew;
Marshal to them was Dankwart, / a knight of Burgundy full true.


On from East Frankish country / to Schwanefeld they went,
A train of valiant warriors / of high accomplishment,
The monarchs and their kinsmen, / all knights full worthy fame.
Upon the twelfth morning / the king unto the Danube came.


The knight of Tronje, Hagen, / the very van did lead,
Ever to the Nibelungen / a surest help in need.
First the thane full valiant / down leapt upon the ground,
And straightway then his charger / fast unto a tree he bound.


Flooded were the waters / and ne’er a boat was near,
Whereat began the Nibelungen / all in dread to fear
They ne’er might cross the river, / so mighty was the flood.
Dismounted on the shore, / full many a stately knight then stood.


“Ill may it,” spake then Hagen, / “fare here with thee,
Lord of Rhine river. / Now thyself mayst see
How flooded are the waters, / and swift the current flows.
I ween, before the morrow / here many a goodly knight we lose.”


“How wilt reproach me, Hagen?" / the lofty monarch spake.
I pray thee yet all comfort / not from our hearts to take.
The ford shalt thou discover / whereby we may pass o’er,
Horse and equipment bringing / safely unto yonder shore.”


“In sooth, not I,” quoth Hagen, / “am yet so weary grown
Of life, that in these waters / wide I long to drown.
Ere that, shall warriors sicken / in Etzel’s far country
Beneath my own arm stricken: / –’tis my intent full certainly.


“Here tarry by the water, / ye gallant knights and good,
The while I seek the boatmen / myself along the flood,
Who will bring us over / into Gelfrat’s land."
With that the doughty Hagen / took his trusty shield in hand.


He cap-a-pie was armed, / as thus he strode away,
Upon his head a helmet / that gleamed with brilliant ray,
And o’er his warlike harness / a sword full broad there hung,
That on both its edges / did fiercely cut, in battle swung.


He sought to find the boatmen / if any might be near,
When sound of falling waters / full soon upon his ear.
Beside a rippling fountain, / where ran the waters cool,
A group of wise mermaidens / did bathe themselves within the pool.


Ware of them soon was Hagen / and stole in secret near,
But fast away they hurried / when they the sound did hear.
That they at all escaped him, / filled they were with glee.
The knight did take their clothing, / yet wrought none other injury.


Then spake the one mermaiden, / Hadburg that hight:
“Hagen, knight full noble, / tell will we thee aright,
An wilt thou, valiant warrior, / our garments but give o’er,
What fortune may this journey / to Hunland have for thee in store.”


They hovered there before him / like birds above the flood,
Wherefore did think the warrior / that tell strange things they could,
And all the more believed he / what they did feign to say,
As to his eager question / in ready manner answered they.


Spake one: “Well may ye journey / to Etzel’s country.
Thereto my troth I give thee / in full security
That ne’er in any kingdom / might high guests receive
Such honors as there wait you, / –this may ye in sooth believe.”


To hear such speech was Hagen / in sooth right glad of heart;
He gave to them their garments, / and straightway would depart.
But when in strange attire / they once more were dight,
Told they of the journey / into Etzel’s land aright.


Spake then the other mermaid, / Siegelind that hight:
“I warn thee, son of Aldrian, / Hagen valiant knight,
’Twas but to gain her clothing / my cousin falsely said,
For, comest thou to Hunland, / sorely shalt thou be betrayed.


“Yea, that thou turnest backward / is fitter far, I ween;
For but your death to compass / have all ye warriors keen
Received now the bidding / unto Etzel’s land.
Whose doth thither journey, / death leadeth surely by the hand.”


Thereto gave answer Hagen: / “False speech hath here no gain.
How might it ever happen / that we all were slain
Afar in Etzel’s country / through hate of any man?"
To tell the tale more fully / unto him she then began.


Spake again the other: / “The thing must surely be,
That of you never any / his home again shall see,
Save only the king’s chaplain; / well do we understand
That he unscathed returneth / unto royal Gunther’s land.”


Then spake the valiant Hagen / again in angry way:
“Unto my royal masters / ’twere little joy to say
That we our lives must forfeit / all in Hunland.
Now show us, wisest woman, / how pass we safe to yonder strand.”


She spake: “Since from thy purposed / journey thou wilt not turn,
Where upward by the water / a cabin stands, there learn
Within doth dwell a boatman, / nor other find thou mayst."
No more did Hagen question, / but strode away from there in haste.


As went he angry-minded / one from afar did say:
“Now tarry still, Sir Hagen; / why so dost haste away?
Give ear yet while we tell thee / how thou reachest yonder strand.
Master here is Else, / who doth rule this borderland.


“Hight is his brother Gelfrat, / and is a thane full rare,
Lord o’er Bavarian country. / Full ill with you ’twill fare,
Will ye pass his border. / Watchful must ye be,
And eke with the ferryman / ’twere well to walk right modestly.


“He is so angry-minded / that sure thy bane ’twill be,
Wilt thou not show the warrior / all civility.
Wilt thou that he transport thee, / give all the boatman’s due.
He guardeth well the border / and unto Gelfrat is full true.


“If he be slow to answer, / then call across the flood
That thy name is Amelrich. / That was a knight full good,
Who for a feud did sometime / go forth from out this land.
The ferryman will answer, / when he the name doth understand.


Hagen high of spirit / before those women bent,
Nor aught did say, but silent / upon his way he went.
Along the shore he wandered / till higher by the tide
On yonder side the river / a cabin standing he espied.


He straight began a calling / across the flood amain.
“Now fetch me over, boatman," / cried the doughty thane.
“A golden armband ruddy / I’ll give to thee for meed.
Know that to make this crossing / I in sooth have very need.”


Not fitting ’twas high ferryman / his service thus should give,
And recompense from any / seldom might he receive;
Eke were they that served him / full haughty men of mood.
Still alone stood Hagen / on the hither side the flood.


Then cried he with such power / the wave gave back the sound,
For in strength far-reaching / did the knight abound:
“Fetch me now, for Amelrich, / Else’s man, am I,
That for feud outbroken / erstwhile from this land did fly.”


Full high upon his sword-point / an armband did he hold,
Fair and shining was it / made of ruddy gold,
The which he offered to him / for fare to Gelfrat’s land.
The ferryman high-hearted / himself did take the oar in hand.


To do with that same boatman / was ne’er a pleasant thing;
The yearning after lucre / yet evil end doth bring.
Here where thought he Hagen’s / gold so red to gain,
Must he by the doughty / warrior’s fierce sword be slain.


With might across the river / his oar the boatman plied,
But he who there was named / might nowhere be espied.
His rage was all unbounded / when he did Hagen find,
And loud his voice resounded / as thus he spake his angry mind:


“Thou mayst forsooth be called / Amelrich by name:
Whom I here did look for, / no whit art thou the same.
By father and by mother / brother he was to me.
Since me thou thus hast cozened, / so yet this side the river be.”


“Nay, by highest Heaven," / Hagen did declare.
“Here am I a stranger / that have good knights in care.
Now take in friendly manner / here my offered pay,
And guide me o’er the ferry; / my favor hast thou thus alway.”


Whereat replied the boatman: / “The thing may never be.
There are that to my masters / do bear hostility;
Wherefore I never stranger / do lead into this land.
As now thy life thou prizest, / step straightway out upon the strand.”


“Deny me not,” quoth Hagen, / “for sad in sooth my mood.
Take now for remembrance / this my gold so good,
And carry men a thousand / and horses to yonder shore."
Quoth in rage the boatman: / “Such thing will happen nevermore.”


Aloft he raised an oar / that mickle was and strong,
And dealt such blow on Hagen, / (but rued he that ere long,)
That in the boat did stumble / that warrior to his knee.
In sooth so savage boatman / ne’er did the knight of Tronje see.


With thought the stranger’s anger / the more to rouse anew,
He swung a mighty boat-pole / that it in pieces flew
Upon the crown of Hagen;– / he was a man of might.
Thereby did Else’s boatman / come anon to sorry plight.


Full sore enraged was Hagen, / as quick his hand he laid
Upon his sword where hanging / he found the trusty blade.
His head he struck from off him / and flung into the tide.
Known was soon the story / to the knights of Burgundy beside.


While the time was passing / that he the boatman slew,
The waters bore him downward, / whereat he anxious grew.
Ere he the boat had righted / began his strength to wane,
So mightily was pulling / royal Gunther’s doughty thane.


Soon he yet had turned it, / so rapid was his stroke,
Until the mighty oar / beneath his vigor broke.
As strove he his companions / upon the bank to gain,
No second oar he found him. / Yet soon the same made fast again.


With quickly snatched shield-strap, / a fine and narrow band.
Downward where stood a forest / he sought again the land,
And there his master found he / standing upon the shore.
In haste came forth to meet him / many a stately warrior more.


The gallant knight they greeted / with right hearty mood.
When in the boat perceived they / reeking still the blood
That from the wound had issued / where Hagen’s sword did swing,
Scarce could his companions / bring to an end their questioning.


When that royal Gunther / the streaming blood did see
Within the boat there running, / straightway then spake he:
“Where is now the ferryman, / tell me, Hagen, pray?
By thy mighty prowess / his life, I ween, is ta’en away.”


Thereto replied he falsely: / “When the boat I found
Where slopeth a wild meadow, / I the same unbound.
Hereabout no ferryman / I to-day have seen,
Nor ever cause of sorrow / unto any have I been.”


The good knight then of Burgundy, / the gallant Gernot, spake:
“Dear friends full many, fear I, / the flood this day will take,
Since we of the boatmen / none ready here may find
To guide us o’er the current. / ’Tis mickle sorrow to my mind.”


Full loudly cried then Hagen: / “Lay down upon the grass,
Ye squires, the horse equipments. / I ween a time there was,
Myself was best of boatmen / that dwelt the Rhine beside.
To Gelfrat’s country trow I / to bring you safely o’er the tide.”


That they might come the sooner / across the running flood,
Drove they in the horses. / Their swimming, it was good,
For of them never any / beneath the waves did sink,
Though many farther downward / must struggle sore to gain the brink.


Their treasure and apparel / unto the boat they bore,
Since by no means the journey / thought they to give o’er.
Hagen was director, / and safely reached the strand
With many a stalwart warrior / bound unto the unknown land.


Gallant knights a thousand / first he ferried o’er,
Whereafter came his own men. / Of others still were more,
For squires full nine thousand / he led unto that land.
That day no whit was idle / that valiant knight of Tronje’s hand.


When he them all in safety / o’er the flood had brought,
Of that strange story / the valiant warrior thought,
Which erstwhile had told him / those women of the sea.
Lost thereby the chaplain’s / life well-nigh was doomed to be.


Beside his priestly baggage / he saw the chaplain stand,
Upon the holy vestments / resting with his hand.
No whit was that his safety; / when Hagen him did see,
Must the priest full wretched / suffer sorest injury.


From out the boat he flung him / ere might the thing be told,
Whereat they cried together: / “Hold, O Master, hold!"
Soon had the youthful Giselher / to rage thereat begun,
And mickle was his sorrow / that Hagen yet the thing had done.


Then outspake Sir Gernot, / knight of Burgundy:
“What boots it thee, Sir Hagen, / that thus the chaplain die?
Dared any else to do it, / thy wrath ’twould sorely stir.
Wherein the priest’s offending, / thus thy malice to incur?”


To swim the chaplain struggled. / He thought him yet to free,
If any but would help him. / Yet such might never be,
For that the doughty Hagen / full wrathful was of mood,
He sunk him to the bottom, / whereat aghast each warrior stood.


When that no help forthcoming / the wretched priest might see,
He sought the hither shore, / and fared full grievously.
Though failed his strength in swimming, / yet helped him God’s own hand,
That he came securely / back again unto the land.


Safe yonder stood the chaplain / and shook his dripping dress.
Thereby perceived Hagen / how true was none the less
The story that did tell him / the strange women of the sea.
Thought he: “Of these good warriors / soon the days must ended be.”


When that the boat was emptied, / and complete their store
All the monarch’s followers / had borne upon the shore,
Hagen smote it to pieces / and cast it on the flood,
Whereat in mickle wonder / the valiant knights around him stood.


“Wherefore dost this, brother," / then Sir Dankwart spake;
“How shall we cross the river / when again we make
Our journey back from Hunland, / riding to the Rhine?"
Behold how Hagen bade him / all such purpose to resign.


Quoth the knight of Tronje: / “This thing is done by me,
That if e’er coward rideth / in all our company,
Who for lack of courage / from us away would fly,
He beneath these billows / yet a shameful death must die.”


One there journeyed with them / from the land of Burgundy,
That was a knight of valor, / Volker by name was he.
He spake in cunning manner / whate’er might fill his mind,
And aught was done by Hagen / did the Fiddler fitting find.


Ready stood their chargers, / the carriers laden well;
At passage of the river / was there naught to tell
Of scathe to any happened, / save but the king’s chaplain.
Afoot must he now journey / back unto the Rhine again.


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