The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Thirty-Third Adventure - How the Burgundians fought with the Huns


Soon as the valiant Dankwart / stood beneath the door,
Bade he Etzel’s followers / all make way before.
With blood from armor streaming / did there the hero stand;
A sharp and mighty weapon / bore he naked in his hand.


Into the hall then Dankwart / cried with voice full strong:
“At table, brother Hagen, / thou sittest all too long.
To thee and God in heaven / must I sore complain:
Knights and squires also / lie within their lodging slain.”


Straight he cried in answer: / “Who hath done such deed?"
“That hath done Sir Bloedel / and knights that he did lead.
Eke made he meet atonement, / that may’st thou understand:
His head from off his body / have I struck with mine own hand.”


“’Tis little cause for sorrow," / Hagen spake again,
“When they tell the story / of a valiant thane,
That he to death was smitten / by knight of high degree.
The less a cause for weeping / to winsome women shall it be.


“Now tell me, brother Dankwart, / how thou so red may’st be;
From thy wounds thou sufferest, / I ween, full grievously.
Lives he within this country / who serves thee in such way,
Him must the devil shelter, / or for the deed his life shall pay.”


“Behold me here all scatheless. / My gear is wet with blood,
From wounds of others, natheless, / now hath flowed that flood,
Of whom this day so many / beneath my broadsword fell:
Must I make solemn witness, / ne’er knew I full the tale to tell.”


He answered: “Brother Dankwart, / now take thy stand before,
And Huns let never any / make passage by the door.
I’ll speak unto these warriors, / as needs must spoken be:
Dead lie all our followers, / slain by foulest treachery.”


“Must I here be chamberlain," / replied the warrior keen,
“Well know I such high monarchs / aright to serve, I ween.
So will I guard the stairway / as sorts with honor well."
Ne’er to the thanes of Kriemhild / so sorry case before befell.


“To me ’tis mickle wonder," / Hagen spake again,
“What thing unto his neighbor / whispers each Hunnish thane.
I ween they’d forego the service / of him who keeps the door,
And who such high court tidings / to his friends of Burgundy bore.


“Long since of Lady Kriemhild / the story I did hear,
How unavenged her sorrow / she might no longer bear.
A memory-cup now quaff we / and pay for royal cheer!
The youthful lord of Hunland / shall make the first instalment here.”


Thereat the child Ortlieb / doughty Hagen slew,
That from the sword downward / the blood to hand-grip flew,
And into lap of Kriemhild / the severed head down rolled.
Then might ye see ’mid warriors / a slaughter great and grim unfold.


By both hands swiftly wielded, / his blade then cut the air
And smote upon the tutor / who had the child in care,
That down before the table / his head that instant lay:
It was a sorry payment / wherewith he did the tutor pay.


His eye ’fore Etzel’s table / a minstrel espied:
To whom in hasty manner / did wrathful Hagen stride,
Where moved it on the fiddle / his right hand off smote he;
“Have that for thy message / unto the land of Burgundy.”


“Alack my hand!” did Werbel / that same minstrel moan;
“What, Sir Hagen of Tronje, / have I to thee done?
I bore a faithful message / unto thy master’s land.
How may I more make music / thus by thee bereft of hand?”


Little in sooth recked Hagen, / fiddled he nevermore.
Then in the hall all wrathful / wrought he havoc sore
Upon the thanes of Etzel / whereof he many slew;
Ere they might find exit, / to death then smote he not a few.


Volker the full valiant / up sprang from board also:
In his hand full clearly / rang out his fiddle-bow,
For mightily did fiddle / Gunther’s minstrel thane.
What host of foes he made him / because of Hunnish warriors slain!


Eke sprang from the table / the lofty monarchs three,
Who glad had stilled the combat / ere greater scathe might be.
Yet all their art availed not / their anger to assuage,
When Volker and Hagen / so mightily began to rage.


When the lord of Rhineland / saw how his toil was vain,
Gaping wounds full many / himself did smite amain
Through rings of shining mail-coats / there upon the foe.
He was a valiant hero, / as he full gallantly did show.


Strode eke into the combat / Gernot a doughty thane;
By whom of Hunnish warriors / full many a one was slain
With a sword sharp-edged / he had of Ruediger;
Oft sent to dire ruin / by him the knights of Etzel were.


The youthful son of Ute / eke to the combat sprang,
And merrily his broadsword / upon the helmets rang
Of many a Hunnish warrior / there in Etzel’s land;
Feasts of mickle wonder / wrought Giselher with dauntless hand.


How bold soe’er was any, / of kings and warrior band,
Saw ye yet the foremost / Giselher to stand
There against the foemen, / a knight of valor good;
Wounded deep full many / made he to fall in oozing blood.


Eke full well defend them / did Etzel’s warriors too.
There might ye see the strangers / their gory way to hew
With swords all brightly gleaming / adown that royal hall;
Heard ye there on all sides / loudly ring the battle-call.


Join friends within beleaguered / would they without full fain,
Yet might they at the portal / but little vantage gain.
Eke they within had gladly / gained the outer air;
Nor up nor down did Dankwart / suffer one to pass the stair.


There before the portal / surged a mighty throng,
And with a mickle clangor / on helm the broadsword rung.
Thus on the valiant Dankwart / his foes did sorely press,
And soon his trusty brother / was anxious grown o’er his distress.


Full loudly cried then Hagen / unto Volker:
“Trusty fere, behold’st thou / my brother standing there,
Where on him Hunnish warriors / their mighty blows do rain?
Good friend, save thou my brother / ere we do lose the valiant thane.”


“That will I do full surely," / thereat the minstrel spake.
Adown the hall he fiddling / gan his way to make;
In his hand full often / a trusty sword rang out,
While grateful knights of Rhineland / acclaimed him with a mickle shout.


Soon did the valiant Volker / Dankwart thus address:
“Hard this day upon thee / hath weighed the battle’s stress.
That I should come to help thee / thy brother gave command;
Keep thou without the portal, / I inward guarding here will stand.”


Dankwart, thane right valiant, / stood without the door
And guarded so the stairway / that none might pass before.
There heard ye broadswords ringing, / swung by warrior’s hand,
While inward in like manner / wrought Volker of Burgundian land.


There the valiant Fiddler / above the press did call:
“Securely now, friend Hagen, / closed is the hall.
Yea, so firmly bolted / is King Etzel’s door
By hands of two good warriors, / as thousand bars were set before,”


When Hagen thus of Tronje / the door did guarded find,
The warrior far renowned / swung his shield behind;
He first for harm received / revenge began to take,
Whereat all hope of living / did soon his enemies forsake.


When of Bern Sir Dietrich / rightly did perceive
How the doughty Hagen / did many a helmet cleave,
The king of Amelungen / upon a bench leaped up;
Quoth he: “Here poureth Hagen / for us exceeding bitter cup.”


Great fear fell eke on Etzel, / as well might be the case,
(What trusty followers snatched they / to death before his face!)
For well nigh did his enemies / on him destruction bring.
There sat he all confounded. / What booted him to be a king?


Cried then aloud to Dietrich / Kriemhild, the high lady:
“Now help me, knight so noble, / that hence with life I flee,
By princely worth, I pray thee, / thou lord of Amelung’s land;
If here do reach me Hagen, / straight find I death beneath his hand.”


“How may my help avail thee, / noble queen and high?"
Answered her Sir Dietrich, / “Fear for myself have I.
Too sorely is enraged / each knight in Gunther’s band,
To no one at this season / may I lend assisting hand.”


“But nay, but nay, Sir Dietrich, / full noble knight and keen,
What maketh thy bright chivalry, / let it this day be seen,
And bring me hence to safety, / else am I death’s sure prey."
Good cause was that on Kriemhild’s / bosom fear so heavy lay.


“So will I here endeavor / to help thee as I may;
Yet shalt thou well believe me, / hath passed full many a day
Since saw I goodly warriors / of so bitter mood.
’Neath swords behold I flowing / through helmets plenteously the blood.”


Lustily then cried he, / the warrior nobly born,
That his voice rang loudly / like blast from bison’s horn,
That all around the palace / gave back the lusty sound;
Unto the might of Dietrich / never limit yet was found.


When did hear King Gunther / how called the doughty man
Above the storm of combat, / to hearken he began.
Quoth he: “The voice of Dietrich / hath fallen upon mine ear;
I ween some of his followers / before our thanes have fallen here.


“High on the board I see him; / he beckons with the hand.
Now my good friends and kinsmen / of Burgundian land,
Stay ye your hands from conflict, / let us hear and see
If done upon the chieftain / aught by my men of scathe there be.”


When thus King Gunther / did beg and eke command,
With swords in stress of battle / stayed they all the hand.
’Twas token of his power / that straight the strife did pause.
Then him of Bern he questioned / what of his outcry were the cause.


He spake: “Full noble Dietrich, / what here on thee is wrought
By any of my warriors? / For truly is my thought
To make a full atonement / and amends to thee.
If here hath wronged thee any, / ’twere cause of mickle grief to me.”


Then answered him Sir Dietrich: / “Myself do nothing grieve.
Grant me with thy protection / but this hall to leave
And quit the dire conflict, / with them that me obey.
Then surely will I ever / seek thy favor to repay.”


“How plead’st thou thus so early?" / Wolfhart was heard;
“The Fiddler so securely / the door not yet hath barred,
But it so wide we’ll open / to pass it through, I trow."
“Now hold thy peace,” quoth Dietrich, / “wrought but little here hast


Then spake the royal Gunther: / “That grant I thee to do,
Forth from the hall lead many / or lead with thee few,
An if my foes it be not; / here stay they every one.
Upon me here in Hunland / hath grievous wrong by them been done.”


When heard he Gunther’s answer / he took beneath his arm
The noble Queen Kriemhild, / who dreaded mickle harm.
On the other side too led he / Etzel with him away;
Eke went thence with Dietrich / six hundred knights in fair array.


Then outspake the margrave, / the noble Ruediger:
“If leave to any others / be granted forth to fare,
Of those who glad would serve you, / give us the same to see.
Yea, peace that’s never broken / ’twixt friends ’tis meet should ever


Thereto gave answer Giselher / of the land of Burgundy:
“Peace and unbroken friendship / wish we e’er with thee,
With thee and all thy kinsmen, / as true thou ever art.
We grant thee all untroubled / with thy friends from hence to part.”


When thus Sir Ruediger / from the hall did pass,
A train of knights five hundred / or more with him there was,
Of them of Bechelaren, / kinsmen and warriors true,
Whose parting gave King Gunther / anon full mickle cause to rue.


When did a Hunnish warrior / Etzel’s passing see
’Neath the arm of Dietrich, / to profit him thought he.
Smote him yet the Fiddler / such a mighty blow,
That ’fore the feet of Etzel / sheer on the floor his head fell low.


When the country’s monarch / had gained the outer air,
Turned he looking backward / and gazed on Volker.
“Alack such guests to harbor! / Ah me discomfited!
That all the knights that serve me / shall before their might lie dead.


“Alack their coming hither!" / spake the king once more.
“Within, a warrior fighteth / like to wild forest boar;
Hight the same is Volker, / and a minstrel is also;
To pass the demon scatheless / I to fortune’s favor owe.


“Evil sound his melodies, / his strokes of bow are red,
Yea, beneath his music / full many a knight lies dead.
I know not what against us / hath stirred that player’s ire,
For guests ne’er had I any / whereby to suffer woe so dire.”


None other would they suffer / to pass the door than those.
Then ’neath the hall’s high roof-tree / a mighty din arose.
For evil wrought upon them / those guests sore vengeance take.
Volker the doughty Fiddler, / what shining helmets there he brake!


Gunther, lofty monarch, / thither turned his ear.
“Hear’st thou the music, Hagen, / that yonder Volker
Doth fiddle for the Hun-men, / when near the door they go?
The stroke is red of color, / where he doth draw the fiddle-bow.”


“Mickle doth it rue me," / Hagen spake again,
“That in the hall far severed / I am from that bold thane.
I was his boon companion / and he sworn friend to me:
Come we hence ever scatheless, / trusty feres we yet shall be.


“Behold now, lofty sire, / the faith of Volker bold!
With will he seeks to win him / thy silver and thy gold.
With fiddle-bow he cleaveth / e’en the steel so hard,
Bright-gleaming crests of helmets / are scattered by his mighty sword.


“Never saw I fiddler / so dauntless heart display,
As the doughty Volker / here hath done this day.
Through shield and shining helmet / his melodies ring clear;
Give him to ride good charger / and eke full stately raiment wear.”


Of all the Hunnish kindred / that in the hall had been,
None now of all their number / therein to fight was seen.
Hushed was the din of battle / and strife no more was made:
From out their hands aweary / their swords the dauntless warriors laid.


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