The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Twenty-Sixth Adventure - How Gelfrat was Slain by Dankwart


When now they all were gathered / upon the farther strand,
To wonder gan the monarch: / “Who shall through this land
On routes aright direct us, / that not astray we fare?"
Then spake the doughty Volker: / “Thereof will I alone have care.”


“Now hark ye all,” quoth Hagen, / “knight and squire too,
And list to friendly counsel, / as fitting is to do.
Full strange and dark the tidings / now ye shall hear from me:
Home nevermore return we / unto the land of Burgundy.


“Thus mermaids twain did tell me, / who spake to me this morn,
That back we come not hither. / You would I therefore warn
That armed well ye journey / and of all ills beware.
To meet with doughty foemen / well behooveth us prepare.


“I weened to turn to falsehood / what those wise mermaids spake,
Who said that safe this journey / none again should make
Home unto our country / save the chaplain alone:
Him therefore was I minded / to-day beneath the flood to drown.”


From company to company / quickly flew the tale,
Whereon grew many a doughty / warrior’s visage pale,
As gan he think in sorrow / how death should snatch away
All ere the journey ended; / and very need for grief had they.


By Moeringen was it / they had the river crossed,
Where also Else’s boatman / thus his life had lost.
There again spake Hagen: / “Since in such wise by me
Wrath hath been incurred, / assailed full surely shall we be.


“Myself that same ferryman / did this morning slay.
Far bruited are the tidings. / Now arm ye for the fray,
That if Gelfrat and Else / be minded to beset
Our train to-day, they surely / with sore discomfiture be met.


“So keen they are, well know I / the thing they’ll not forego.
Your horses therefore shall ye / make to pace more slow,
That never man imagine / we flee away in fear."
“That counsel will I follow," / spake the young knight Giselher.


“Who will guide our vanguard / through this hostile land?"
“Volker shall do it,” spake they, / “well doth he understand
Where leadeth path and highway, / a minstrel brave and keen."
Ere full the wish was spoken, / in armor well equipped was seen


Standing the doughty Fiddler. / His helmet fast he bound,
And from his stately armor / shot dazzling light around.
Eke to a staff he fastened / a banner, red of hue.
Anon with royal masters / came he to sorest sorrow too.


Unto Gelfrat meanwhile / had sure tidings flown,
How that was dead his boatman; / the story eke was known
Unto the doughty Else, / and both did mourn his fate.
Their warriors they summoned, / nor must long time for answer wait.


But little space it lasted / –that would I have you know–
Ere that to them hasted / who oft a mickle woe
Had wrought in stress of battle / and injury full sore;
To Gelfrat now came riding / seven hundred knights or more.


When they their foes to follow / so bitterly began,
Led them both their masters. / Yet all too fast they ran
After the valiant strangers / vengeance straight to wreak.
Ere long from those same leaders / did death full many a warrior take.


Hagen then of Tronje / the thing had ordered there,
–How of his friends might ever / knight have better care?–
That he did keep the rearguard / with warriors many a one,
And Dankwart eke, his brother; / full wisely the thing was done.


When now the day was over / and light they had no more,
Injury to his followers / gan he to dread full sore.
They shield in hand rode onward / through Bavarian land,
And ere they long had waited / beset they were by hostile band.


On either side the highway / and close upon their rear
Of hoofs was heard the clatter; / too keen the chasers were.
Then spake the valiant Dankwart: / “The foe is close at hand.
Now bind we on the helmet, / –wisdom doth the same command.”


Upon the way they halted, / nor else they safe had been.
Through the gloom perceived they / of gleaming shields the sheen.
Thereupon would Hagen / longer not delay:
“Who rideth on the highway?"– / That must Gelfrat tell straight-way.


Of Bavaria the margrave / thereupon replied:
“Our enemies now seek we, / and swift upon them ride.
Fain would I discover / who hath my boatman slain.
A knight he was of valor, / whose death doth cause me grievous pain.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “And was the boatman thine
That would not take us over? / The guilt herein is mine.
Myself did slay the warrior, / and had, in sooth, good need,
For that beneath his valor / I myself full nigh lay dead.


“For pay I rich attire / did bid, and gold a store,
Good knight, that to thy country / he should us ferry o’er.
Thereat he raged full sorely / and on me swung a blow
With a mighty boat-pole, / whereat I eke did angry grow.


“For my sword then reached I / and made his rage to close
With a wound all gaping: / so thou thy knight didst lose.
I’ll give thee satisfaction / as to thee seemeth good."
Straightway began the combat, / for high the twain in valor stood.


“Well know I,” spake Gelfrat, / “when Gunther with his train
Rode through this my country / that we should suffer bane
From Hagen, knight of Tronje. / No more shall he go free,
But for my boatman’s slaying / here a hostage must he be.”


Against their shields then lowered / for the charge the spear
Gelfrat and Hagen; / eager to close they were.
Else and Dankwart / spurred eke in stately way,
Scanning each the other; / then both did valorous arm display.


How might ever heroes / show doughty arm so well?
Backward from off his charger / from mighty tilt there fell
Hagen the valiant, / by Gelfrat’s hand borne down.
In twain was rent the breast-piece: / to Hagen thus a fall was known.


Where met in charge their followers, / did crash of shafts resound.
Risen eke was Hagen, / who erst unto the ground
Was borne by mighty lance-thrust, / prone upon the grass.
I ween that unto Gelfrat / nowise of gentle mood he was.


Who held their horses’ bridles / can I not recount,
But soon from out their saddles / did they all dismount.
Hagen and Gelfrat / straightway did fierce engage,
And all their men around them / did eke a furious combat wage.


Though with fierce onslaught Hagen / upon Gelfrat sprung,
On his shield the noble margrave / a sword so deftly swung
That a piece from off the border / ’mid flying sparks it clave.
Well-nigh beneath its fury / fell dead King Gunther’s warrior brave.


Unto Dankwart loudly / thereat he gan to cry:
“Help! ho! my good brother! / Encountered here have I
A knight of arm full doughty, / from whom I come not free."
Then spake the valiant Dankwart: / “Myself thereof the judge will be.”


Nearer sprang the hero / and smote him such a blow
With a keen-edged weapon / that he in death lay low.
For his slain brother Else / vengeance thought to take,
But soon with all his followers / ’mid havoc swift retreat must make.


Slain was now his brother, / wound himself did bear,
And of his followers eighty / eke had fallen there,
By grim death snatched sudden. / Then must the doughty knight,
From Gunther’s men to save him, / turn away in hasty flight.


When that they of Bavaria / did from the carnage flee,
The blows that followed after / resounded frightfully;
For close the knights of Tronje / upon their enemies chased,
Who to escape the fury / did quit the field in mickle haste.


Then spake upon their fleeing / Dankwart the doughty thane:
“Upon our way now let us / backward turn again,
And leave them hence to hasten / all wet with oozing blood.
Unto our friends return we, / this verily meseemeth good.”


When back they were returned / where did the scathe befall,
Outspake of Tronje Hagen: / “Now look ye, warriors all,
Who of our tale is lacking, / or who from us hath been
Here in battle riven / through the doughty Gelfrat’s spleen.”


Lament they must for warriors / four from them were ta’en.
But paid for were they dearly, / for roundabout lay slain
Of their Bavarian foemen / a hundred or more.
The men of Tronje’s bucklers / with blood were wet and tarnished o’er.


From out the clouds of heaven / a space the bright moon shone.
Then again spake Hagen: / “Bear report let none
To my beloved masters / how we here did fare.
Let them until the morrow / still be free from aught of care.”


When they were back returned / who bore the battle’s stress,
Sore troubled was their company / from very weariness.
“How long shall we keep saddle?" / was many a warrior’s quest.
Then spake the valiant Dankwart: / “Not yet may we find place of rest,


“But on ye all must journey / till day come back again."
Volker, knight of prowess, / who led the foremost train,
Bade to ask the marshal: / “This night where shall we be,
That rest them may our chargers, / and eke my royal masters three?”


Thereto spake valiant Dankwart: / “The same I ne’er can say,
Yet may we never rest us / before the break of day.
Where then we find it fitting / we’ll lay us on the grass."
When they did hear his answer, / what source of grief to all it was!


Still were they unbetrayed / by reeking blood and red,
Until the sun in heaven / its shining beams down shed
At morn across the hill-tops, / that then the king might see
How they had been in battle. / Spake he then full angrily:


“How may this be, friend Hagen? / Scorned ye have, I ween,
That I should be beside you, / where coats of mail have been
Thus wet with blood upon you. / Who this thing hath done?"
Quoth he: “The same did Else, / who hath this night us set upon.


“To avenge his boatman / did they attack our train.
By hand of my brother / hath Gelfrat been slain.
Then fled Else before us, / and mickle was his need.
Ours four, and theirs a thousand, / remained behind in battle dead.”


Now can we not inform you / where resting-place they found.
But cause to know their passing / had the country-folk around,
When there the sons of Ute / to court did fare in state.
At Passau fit reception / did presently the knights await.


The noble monarchs’ uncle, / Bishop Pilgrim that was,
Full joyous-hearted was he / that through the land did pass
With train of lusty warriors / his royal nephews three.
That willing was his service, / waited they not long to see.


To greet them on their journey / did friends lack no device,
Yet not to lodge them fully / might Passau’s bounds suffice.
They must across the water / where spreading sward they found,
And lodge and tent erected / soon were stretching o’er the ground.


Nor from that spot they onward / might journey all that day,
And eke till night was over, / for pleasant was their stay.
Next to the land of Ruediger / must they in sooth ride on,
To whom full soon the story / of their coming eke was known.


When fitting rest had taken / the knights with travel worn,
And of Etzel’s country / they had reached the bourn,
A knight they found there sleeping / that ne’er should aught but wake,
From whom of Tronje Hagen / in stealth a mighty sword did take.


Hight in sooth was Eckewart / that same valiant knight.
For what was there befallen / was he in sorry plight,
That by those heroes’ passing / he had lost his sword.
At Ruediger’s marches / found they meagre was the guard.


“O, woe is me dishonored," / Eckewart then cried;
“Yea, rueth me fully sorely, / this Burgundian ride.
What time was taken Siegfried, / did joy depart from me.
Alack, O Master Ruediger, / how ill my service unto thee!”


Hagen, full well perceiving / the noble warrior’s plight,
Gave him again his weapon / and armbands six full bright.
“These take, good knight, in token / that thou art still my friend.
A valiant warrior art thou, / though dost thou lone this border tend.”


“May God thy gifts repay thee," / Eckewart replied,
“Yet rueth me full sorely / that to the Huns ye ride.
Erstwhile slew ye Siegfried / and vengeance have to fear;
My rede to you is truly: / “Beware ye well of danger here.”


“Now must God preserve us," / answered Hagen there.
“In sooth for nothing further / have these thanes a care
Than for place of shelter, / the kings and all their band,
And where this night a refuge / we may find within this land.


“Done to death our horses / with the long journey are,
And food as well exhausted," / Hagen did declare.
“Nor find we aught for purchase; / a host we need instead,
Who would in kindness give us, / ere this evening, of his bread.”


Thereto gave answer Eckewart: / “I’ll show you such a one,
That so warm a welcome / find ye never none
In country whatsoever / as here your lot may be,
An if ye, thanes full gallant, / the noble Ruediger will see.


He dwelleth by the highway / and is most bounteous host
That house e’er had for master. / His heart may graces boast,
As in the lovely May-time / the flowrets deck the mead.
To do good thanes a service / is for his heart most joyous deed.”


Then spake the royal Gunther: / “Wilt thou my messenger be,
If will my dear friend Ruediger, / as favor done to me,
His hospitable shelter / with all my warriors share,
Therefor full to requite thee / shall e’er hereafter be my care.”


“Thy messenger am I gladly," / Eckewart replied,
And in right willing manner / straight away did ride,
The message thus received / to Ruediger to bear.
Nor did so joyous tidings / for many a season greet his ear.


Hasting to Bechelaren / was seen a noble thane.
The same perceived Ruediger, / and spake: “O’er yonder plain
Hither hastens Eckewart, / who Kriemhild’s might doth own."
He weened that by some foemen / to him had injury been done.


Then passed he forth the gateway / where the messenger did stand.
His sword he loosed from girdle / and laid from out his hand.
The message that he carried / might he not long withhold
From the master and his kinsmen; / full soon the same to them was told.


He spake unto the margrave: / “I come at high command
Of the lordly Gunther / of Burgundian land,
And Giselher and Gernot, / his royal brothers twain.
In service true commends him / unto thee each lofty thane.


“The like hath Hagen bidden / and Volker as well
With homage oft-times proffered. / And more have I to tell,
The which King Gunther’s marshal / to thee doth send by me:
How that the valiant warriors / do crave thy hospitality.”


With smiling visage Ruediger / made thereto reply:
“Now joyeth me the story / that the monarchs high
Do deign to seek my service, / that ne’er refused shall be.
Come they unto my castle, / ’tis joy and gladness unto me.”


“Dankwart the marshal / hath bidden let thee know
Who seek with them thy shelter / as through thy land they go:
Three score of valiant leaders / and thousand knights right good,
With squires eke nine thousand." / Thereat was he full glad of mood.


“To me ’tis mickle honor," / Ruediger then spake,
“That through my castle’s portals / such guests will entry make,
For ne’er hath been occasion / my service yet to lend.
Now ride ye, men and kinsmen, / and on these lofty knights attend.”


Then to horse did hasten / knight and willing squire,
For glad they were at all times / to do their lord’s desire,
And keen that thus their service / should not be rendered late.
Unwitting Lady Gotelinde / still within her chamber sate.


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