The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Thirty-First Adventure - How they went to Mass


“So cool doth grow my armor," / Volker made remark,
“I ween but little longer / will endure the dark.
By the air do I perceive it, / that soon will break the day."
Then waked they many a warrior / who still in deepest slumber lay.


When brake the light of morning / athwart the spacious hall,
Hagen gan awaken / the stranger warriors all,
If that they to the minster / would go to holy mass.
After the Christian custom, / of bells a mickle ringing was.


There sang they all uneven, / that plainly might ye see
How Christian men and heathen / did not full well agree.
Each one of Gunther’s warriors / would hear the service sung,
So were they all together / up from their night-couches sprung.


Then did the warriors lace them / in so goodly dress,
That never heroes any, / that king did e’er possess,
More richly stood attired; / that Hagen grieved to see.
Quoth he: “Ye knights, far other / here must your attire be.


“Yea, know among you many / how here the case doth stand.
Bear ye instead of roses / your good swords in hand,
For chaplets all bejewelled / your glancing helmets good,
Since we have well perceived / how is the angry Kriemhild’s mood.


“To-day must we do battle, / that will I now declare.
Instead of silken tunic / shall ye good hauberks wear,
And for embroidered mantle / a trusty shield and wide,
That ye may well defend you, / if ye must others’ anger bide.


“My masters well beloved, / knights and kinsmen true,
’Tis meet that ye betake you / unto the minster too,
That God do not forsake you / in peril and in need,
For certain now I make you / that death is nigh to us indeed.


“Forget ye not whatever / wrong ye e’er have done,
But there ’fore God right meekly / all your errors own;
Thereto would I advise you, / ye knights of high degree,
For God alone in heaven / may will that other mass ye see.”


Thus went they to the minster, / the princes and their men.
Within the holy churchyard / bade them Hagen then
Stand all still together / that they part not at all.
Quoth he: “Knows not any / what may at hands of Huns befall.


“Let stand, good friends, all ready, / your shields before your feet,
That if ever any / would you in malice greet,
With deep-cut wound ye pay him; / that is Hagen’s rede,
That from men may never / aught but praises be your meed.”


Volker and Hagen, / the twain thence did pass
Before the broad minster. / Therein their purpose was
That the royal Kriemhild / must meet them where they stood
There athwart her pathway. / In sooth full grim she was of mood.


Then came the royal Etzel / and eke his spouse full fair.
Attired were the warriors / all in raiment rare
That following full stately / with her ye might see;
The dust arose all densely / round Kriemhild’s mickle company.


When the lofty monarch / thus all armed did see
The kings and their followers, / straightway then cried he:
“How see I in this fashion / my friends with helm on head?
By my troth I sorrow / if ill to them have happened.


“I’ll gladly make atonement / as doth to them belong.
Hath any them affronted / or done them aught of wrong,
To me ’tis mickle sorrow, / well may they understand.
To serve them am I ready, / in whatsoever they command.”


Thereto gave answer Hagen: / “Here hath wronged us none.
’Tis custom of my masters / to keep their armor on
Till full three days be over, / when high festival they hold.
Did any here molest us, / to Etzel would the thing be told.”


Full well heard Kriemhild likewise / how Hagen gave reply.
Upon him what fierce glances / flashed furtively her eye!
Yet betray she would not / the custom of her country,
Though well she long had known it / in the land of Burgundy.


How grim soe’er and mighty / the hate to them she bore,
Had any told to Etzel / how stood the thing before,
Well had he prevented / what there anon befell.
So haughty were they minded / that none to him the same would tell.


With the queen came forward / there a mighty train,
But no two handbreadths yielded / yet those warriors twain
To make way before her. / The Huns did wrathful grow,
That their mistress passing / should by them be jostled so.


Etzel’s highborn pages / were sore displeased thereat,
And had upon the strangers / straightway spent their hate,
But that they durst not do it / their high lord before.
There was a mickle pressing, / yet naught of anger happened more.


When they thence were parting / from holy service done,
On horse came quickly prancing / full many a nimble Hun.
With the Lady Kriemhild / went many a maiden fair,
And eke to make her escort / seven thousand knights rode there.


Kriemhild with her ladies / within the casement sat
By Etzel, mighty monarch, / –full pleased he was thereat.
They wished to view the tourney / of knights beyond compare.
What host of strangers riding / thronged the court before them there!


The marshal with the squires / not in vain ye sought,
Dankwart the full valiant: / with him had he brought
His royal master’s followers / of the land of Burgundy.
For the valiant Nibelungen / the steeds well saddled might ye see.


When their steeds they mounted, / the kings and all their men,
Volker thane full doughty, / gave his counsel then,
That after their country’s fashion / they ride a mass mellay.
His rede the heroes followed / and tourneyed in full stately way.


The knight had counsel given / in sooth that pleased them well;
The clash of arms in mellay / soon full loud did swell.
Many a valiant warrior / did thereto resort,
As Etzel and Kriemhild / looked down upon the spacious court.


Came there unto the mellay / six hundred knights of those
That followed Dietrich’s bidding, / the strangers to oppose.
Pastime would they make them / with the men of Burgundy,
And if he leave had granted. / had done the same right willingly.


In their company rode there / how many a warrior bold!
When unto Sir Dietrich / then the thing was told,
Forbade he that ’gainst Gunther’s / men they join the play.
He feared lest harm befall them, / and well his counsel did he weigh.


When of Bern the warriors / thence departed were,
Came they of Bechelaren, / the men of Ruediger,
Bearing shield five hundred, / and rode before the hall;
Rather had the margrave / that they came there not at all.


Prudently then rode he / amid their company
And told unto his warriors / how they might plainly see,
That the men of Gunther / were in evil mood:
Did they forego the mellay, / please him better far it would.


When they were thence departed, / the stately knights and bold,
Came they of Thuringia, / as hath to us been told,
And of them of Denmark / a thousand warriors keen.
From crash of spear up-flying / full frequent were the splinters seen.


Irnfried and Hawart / rode into the mellay,
Whom the gallant men of Rhineland / received in knightly play:
Full oft the men of Thuringia / they met in tournament,
Whereby the piercing lance-point / through many a stately shield was


Eke with three thousand warriors / came Sir Bloedel there.
Etzel and Kriemhild / were of his coming ware,
As this play of chivalry / before them they did see.
Now hoped the queen that evil / befall the men of Burgundy.


Schrutan and Gibecke / rode into the mellay,
Eke Ramung and Hornbog / after the Hunnish way;
Yet must they come to standstill / ’fore the thanes of Burgundy.
High against the palace / wall the splintered shafts did fly.


How keen soe’er the contest, / ’twas naught but knightly sport.
With shock of shields and lances / heard ye the palace court
Loud give back the echo / where Gunther’s men rode on.
His followers in the jousting / on every side high honor won.


So long they held such pastime / and with so mickle heat
That through the broidered trappings / oozed clear drops of sweat
From the prancing chargers / whereon the knights did ride.
In full gallant manner / their skill against the Huns they tried.


Then outspake the Fiddler, / Volker deft of hand:
“These knights, I ween, too timid / are ’gainst us to stand.
Oft did I hear the story / what hate to us they bore;
Than this a fairer season / to vent it, find they nevermore.”


“Lead back unto the stables," / once more spake Volker then,
“Now our weary chargers; / we’ll ride perchance again
When comes the cool of evening, / if fitting time there be.
Mayhap the queen will honor / award to men of Burgundy.”


Beheld they then prick hither / one dressed in state so rare
That of the Huns none other / might with him compare.
Belike from castle tower / did watch his fair lady;
So gay was his apparel / as it some knight’s bride might be.


Then again quoth Volker: / “How may I stay my hand?
Yonder ladies’ darling / a knock shall understand.
Let no man here deter me, / I’ll give him sudden check.
How spouse of royal Etzel / thereat may rage, I little reck.”


“Nay, as thou dost love me," / straight King Gunther spake;
“All men will but reproach us / if such affront we make.
The Huns be first offenders, / for such would more befit."
Still did the royal Etzel / in casement by Queen Kriemhild sit.


“I’ll add unto the mellay," / Hagen did declare;
“Let now all these ladies / and knights be made aware
How we can ride a charger; / ’twere well we make it known,
For, come what may, small honor / shall here to Gunther’s men be shown.”


Once more the nimble Volker / into the mellay spurred,
Whereat full many a lady / soon to weep was heard.
His lance right through the body / of that gay Hun he sent:
’Twas cause that many a woman / and maiden fair must sore lament.


Straight dashed into the mellay / Hagen and his men.
With three score of his warriors / spurred he quickly then
Forward where the Fiddler / played so lustily.
Etzel and Kriemhild / full plainly might the passage see.


Then would the kings their minstrel / –that may ye fairly know–
Leave not all defenceless / there amid the foe.
With them a thousand heroes / rode forth full dexterously,
And soon had gained their purpose / with show of proudest chivalry.


When in such rude fashion / the stately Hun was slain,
Might ye hear his kinsmen / weeping loud complain.
Then all around did clamor: / “Who hath the slayer been?"
“None but the Fiddler was it, / Volker the minstrel keen.”


For swords and for shields then / called full speedily
That slain margrave’s kinsmen / of the Hun’s country.
To avenge him sought they / Volker in turn to slay.
In haste down from the casement / royal Etzel made his way.


Arose a mighty clamor / from the people all;
The kings and men of Burgundy / dismounted ’fore the hall,
And likewise their chargers / to the rear did send.
Came then the mighty Etzel / and sought to bring the strife to end.


From one of that Hun’s kinsmen / who near by him did stand
Snatched he a mighty weapon / quick from out his hand,
And therewith backward smote them, / for fierce his anger wrought.
“Shall thus my hospitality / unto these knights be brought to naught?”


“If ye the valiant minstrel / here ’fore me should slay,"
Spake the royal Etzel, / “it were an evil day.
When he the Hun impaled / I did observe full well,
That not through evil purpose / but by mishap it so befell.


“These my guests now must ye / ne’er disturb in aught."
Himself became their escort. / Away their steeds were brought
Unto the stables / by many a waiting squire,
Who ready at their bidding / stood to meet their least desire.


The host with the strangers / into the palace went,
Nor would he suffer any / further his wrath to vent.
Soon were the tables ready / and water for them did wait.
Many then had gladly / on them of Rhineland spent their hate.


Not yet the lords were seated / till some time was o’er.
For Kriemhild o’er her sorrow / meantime did trouble sore.
She spake: “Of Bern, O Master, / thy counsel grant to me,
Thy help and eke thy mercy, / for here in sorry plight I be.”


To her gave answer Hildebrand, / a thane right praiseworthy:
“Who harms the Nibelungen / shall ne’er have help of me,
How great soe’er the guerdon. / Such deed he well may rue,
For never yet did any / these gallant doughty knights subdue.”


Eke in courteous manner / Sir Dietrich her addressed:
“Vain, O lofty mistress, / unto me thy quest.
In sooth thy lofty kinsmen / have wronged me not at all,
That I on thanes so valorous / should thus with murderous purpose fall.


“Thy prayer doth thee small honor, / O high and royal dame,
That upon thy kinsmen / thou so dost counsel shame.
Thy grace to have they deemed / when came they to this land.
Nevermore shall Siegfried / avenged be by Dietrich’s hand.”


When she no guile discovered / in the knight of Bern,
Unto Bloedel straightway / did she hopeful turn
With promise of wide marches / that Nudung erst did own.
Slew him later Dankwart / that he forgot the gift full soon.


Spake she: “Do thou help me, / Sir Bloedel, I pray.
Yea, within the palace / are foes of mine this day,
Who erstwhile slew Siegfried, / spouse full dear to me.
Who helps me to avenge it, / to him I’ll e’er beholden be.”


Thereto gave answer Bloedel: / “Lady, be well aware,
Ne’er to do them evil / ’fore Etzel may I dare,
For to thy kinsmen, lady, / beareth he good will.
Ne’er might the king me pardon, / wrought I upon them aught of ill.”


“But nay, Sir Bloedel, my favor / shall thou have evermore.
Yea, give I thee for guerdon / silver and gold in store,
And eke a fairest lady, / that Nudung erst should wed:
By her fond embraces / may’st thou well be comforted.


“The land and eke the castles, / all to thee I’ll give;
Yea, may’st thou, knight full noble, / in joyance ever live,
Call’st thou thine the marches, / wherein did Nudung dwell.
Whate’er this day I promise, / fulfil it all I will full well.”


When understood Sir Bloedel / what gain should be his share,
And pleased him well the lady / for that she was so fair,
By force of arms then thought he / to win her for his wife.
Thereby the knight aspirant / was doomed anon to lose his life.


“Unto the hall betake thee," / quoth he unto the queen,
“Alarum I will make thee / ere any know, I ween.
Atone shall surely Hagen / where he hath done thee wrong:
To thee I’ll soon give over / King Gunther’s man in fetters strong.”


“To arms, to arms!” quoth Bloedel, / “my good warriors all:
In their followers’ quarters / upon the foe we’ll fall.
Herefrom will not release me / royal Etzel’s wife.
To win this venture therefore / fear not each one to lose his life.”


When at length Queen Kriemhild / found Bloedel well content
To fulfil her bidding, / she to table went
With the monarch Etzel / and eke a goodly band.
Dire was the treason / she against the guests had planned.


Since in none other manner / she knew the strife to start,
(Kriemhild’s ancient sorrow / still rankled in her heart),
Bade she bring to table / Etzel’s youthful son:
By woman bent on vengeance / how might more awful deed be done?


Went upon the instant / four of Etzel’s men,
And soon came bearing Ortlieb, / the royal scion, then
Unto the princes’ table, / where eke grim Hagen sate.
The child was doomed to perish / by reason of his deadly hate.


When the mighty monarch / then his child did see,
Unto his lady’s kinsmen / in manner kind spake he:
“Now, my good friends, behold ye / here my only son,
And child of your high sister: / may it bring you profit every one.


“Grow he but like his kindred, / a valiant man he’ll be,
A mighty king and noble, / doughty and fair to see.
Live I but yet a little, / twelve lands shall he command;
May ye have faithful service / from the youthful Ortlieb’s hand.


“Therefore grant me favor, / ye good friends of mine;
When to your country ride ye / again unto the Rhine,
Shall ye then take with you / this your sister’s son,
And at your hands may ever / by the child full fair be done.


“Bring him up in honor / until to manhood grown.
If then in any country / hath wrong to you been done,
He’ll help you by his valor / vengeance swift to wreak."
Eke heard the Lady Kriemhild / royal Etzel thus to speak.


“Well might these my masters / on his faith rely,
Grew he e’er to manhood," / Hagen made reply:
“Yet is the prince, I fear me, / more early doomed of fate.
’Twere strange did any see me / ever at court on Ortlieb wait.”


The monarch glanced at Hagen, / sore grieved at what he heard;
Although the king full gallant / thereto spake ne’er a word,
Natheless his heart was saddened / and heavy was his mind.
Nowise the mood of Hagen / was to merriment inclined.


It grieved all the princes / and the royal host
That of his child did Hagen / make such idle boast.
That they must likewise leave it / unanswered, liked they not:
They little weaned what havoc / should by the thane anon be wrought.


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