The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Thirtieth Adventure - How they kept Guard


And now the day was ended / and nearing was the night.
Came then the thought with longing / unto each way-worn knight,
When that they might rest them / and to their beds be shown.
’Twas mooted first by Hagen / and straight was answer then made known.


To Etzel spake then Gunther: / “Fair days may God thee give!
To bed we’ll now betake us, / an be it by thy leave;
We’ll come betimes at morning, / if so thy pleasure be."
From his guests the monarch / parted then full courteously.


Upon the guests on all sides / the Huns yet rudely pressed,
Whereat the valiant Volker / these words to them addressed:
“How dare ye ’fore these warriors / thus beset the way?
If that ye desist not, / rue such rashness soon ye may.


“Let fall will I on some one / such stroke of fiddle-bow,
That eyes shall fill with weeping / if he hath friend to show.
Why make not way before us, / as fitting were to do!
Knights by name ye all are, / but knighthood’s ways unknown to you.”


When outspake the Fiddler / thus so wrathfully
Backward glanced bold Hagen / to see what this might be.
Quoth he: “He redes you rightly, / this keen minstrel knight.
Ye followers of Kriemhild, / now pass to rest you for the night.


“The thing whereof ye’re minded / will none dare do, I ween.
If aught ye purpose ’gainst us, / on the morrow be that seen,
And let us weary strangers / the night in quiet pass;
I ween, with knights of honor / such evermore the custom was.”


Then were led the strangers / into a spacious hall
Where they found prepared / for the warriors one and all
Beds adorned full richly, / that were both wide and long.
Yet planned the Lady Kriemhild / to work on them the direst wrong.


Rich quilted mattress covers / of Arras saw ye there
Lustrous all and silken, / and spreading sheets there were
Wrought of silk of Araby, / the best might e’er be seen.
O’er them lay rich embroidered / stuffs that cast a brilliant sheen.


Coverlets of ermine / full many might ye see,
With sullen sable mingled, / whereunder peacefully
They should rest the night through / till came the shining day.
A king with all retinue / ne’er, I ween, so stately lay.


“Alack for these night-quarters!" / quoth young Giselher,
“Alack for my companions / who this our journey share!
How kind so e’er my sister’s / hospitality,
Dead by her devising, / I fear me, are we doomed to be.”


“Let now no fears disturb you," / Hagen gave reply;
“Through the hours of sleeping / keep the watch will I.
I trust full well to guard you / until return the day,
Thereof be never fearful; / let then preserve him well who may.”


Inclined they all before him / thereat to give him grace.
Then sought they straight their couches; / in sooth ’twas little space
Until was softly resting / every stately man.
But Hagen, valiant hero, / the while to don his armor gan.


Spake then to him the Fiddler, / Volker a doughty thane:
“I’ll be thy fellow, Hagen, / an wilt thou not disdain,
While watch this night thou keepest, / until do come the morn."
Right heartily the hero / to Volker then did thanks return.


“God in heaven requite thee, / Volker, trusty fere.
In all my time of trouble / wished I none other near,
None other but thee only, / when dangers round me throng.
I’ll well repay that favor, / if death withhold its hand so long.”


Arrayed in glittering armor / both soon did ready stand;
Each did take unto him / a mighty shield in hand,
And passed without the portal / there to keep the way.
Thus were the strangers guarded, / and trusty watchers eke had they.


Volker the valiant, / as he sat before the hall,
Leaned his trusty buckler / meanwhile against the wall,
Then took in hand his fiddle / as he was wont to do:
All times the thane would render / unto his friends a service true.


Beneath the hall’s wide portal / he sat on bench of stone;
Than he a bolder fiddler / was there never none.
As from his chords sweet echoes / resounded through the hall,
Thanks for glad refreshment / had Volker from the warriors all.


Then from the strings an echo / the wide hall did fill,
For in his fiddle-playing / the knight had strength and skill.
Softer then and sweeter / to fiddle he began
And wiled to peaceful slumber / many an anxious brooding man.


When they were wrapped in slumber / and he did understand,
Then took again the warrior / his trusty shield in hand
And passed without the portal / to guard the entrance tower,
And safe to keep his fellows / where Kriemhild’s crafty men did lower.


About the hour of midnight, / or earlier perchance,
The eye of valiant Volker / did catch a helmet’s glance
Afar from out the darkness: / the men of Kriemhild sought
How that upon the strangers / might grievous scathe in stealth be


Quoth thereat the Fiddler: / “Friend Hagen, ’tis full clear
That we do well together / here this watch to share.
I see before us yonder / men armed for the fight;
I ween they will attack us, / if I their purpose judge aright.”


“Be silent, then,” spake Hagen, / “and let them come more nigh.
Ere that they perceive us / shall helmets sit awry,
By good swords disjointed / that in our hands do swing.
Tale of vigorous greeting / shall they back to Kriemhild bring.”


Amid the Hunnish warriors / one full soon did see,
That well the door was guarded; / straightway then cried he:
“The thing we here did purpose / ’tis need we now give o’er,
For I behold the Fiddler / standing guard before the door.


“Upon his head a helmet / of glancing light is seen,
Welded strong and skilful, / dintless, of clearest sheen.
The mail-rings of his armor / do sparkle like the fire,
Beside him stands eke Hagen; / safe are the strangers from our ire.”


Straightway they back returned. / When Volker that did see,
Unto his companion / wrathfully spake he:
“Now let me to those caitiffs / across the court-yard go;
What mean they by such business, / from Kriemhild’s men I fain would


“No, as thou dost love me," / Hagen straight replied;
“If from this hall thou partest, / such ill may thee betide
At hands of these bold warriors / and from the swords they bear,
That I must haste to help thee, / though here our kinsmen’s bane it were.


“Soon as we two together / have joined with them in fight,
A pair or two among them / will surely hasten straight
Hither to this hall here, / and work such havoc sore
Upon our sleeping brethren, / as must be mourned evermore.”


Thereto gave answer Volker: / “So much natheless must be,
That they do learn full certain / how I the knaves did see,
That the men of Kriemhild / hereafter not deny
What they had wrought full gladly / here with foulest treachery.”


Straightway then unto them / aloud did Volker call:
“How go ye thus in armor, / ye valiant warriors all?
Or forth, perchance, a-robbing, / Kriemhild’s men, go ye?
Myself and my companion / shall ye then have for company.”


Thereto no man gave answer. / Wrathful grew his mood:
“Fie, ye caitiff villains," / spake the hero good,
“Would ye us so foully / have murdered while we slept?
With knights so high in honor / full seldom thus hath faith been kept.”


Then unto Queen Kriemhild / were the tidings borne,
How her men did fail their purpose: / ’twas cause for her to mourn.
Yet otherwise she wrought it, / for grim she was of mood:
Anon through her must perish / full many a valorous knight and good.


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