The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Thirty-Sixth Adventure - How the Queen bade set fire to the Hall


“Now lay ye off the helmets," / the words from Hagen fell:
“I with a boon companion / will be your sentinel.
And seek the men of Etzel / to work us further harm,
For my royal masters / full quickly will I cry alarm.”


Then freed his head of armor / many a warrior good.
They sate them on the corses, / that round them in the blood
Of wounds themselves had dealt them, / prostrate weltering lay.
Now to his guests so lofty / scant courtesy did Etzel pay.


Ere yet was come the even, / King Etzel did persuade,
And eke the Lady Kriemhild, / that once more essayed
The Hunnish knights to storm them. / Before them might ye see
Good twenty thousand warriors, / who soon for fight must ready be.


Then with a furious onset / the strangers they attacked.
Dankwart, Hagen’s brother, / who naught of courage lacked,
Sprang out ’mid the besiegers / to ward them from the door.
’Twas deemed a deadly peril, / yet scatheless stood he there before.


Fierce the struggle lasted / till darkness brought an end.
Themselves like goodly heroes / the strangers did defend
Against the men of Etzel / all the long summer day.
What host of valiant warriors / before them fell to death a prey!


At turn of sun in summer / that havoc sore was wrought,
When the Lady Kriemhild / revenge so dire sought
Upon her nearest kinsmen / and many a knight beside,
Wherefore with royal Etzel / never more might joy abide.


As day at last was ending / sad they were of heart.
They deemed from life ’twere better / in sudden death to part
Than be thus long tormented / by great o’erhanging dread.
That respite now be granted, / the knights so proud and gallant prayed.


They prayed to lead the monarch / hither to them there.
As heroes blood-bespotted, / and stained from battle-gear,
Forth from the hall emerged / the lofty monarchs three.
They wist not to whom complained / might their full grievous sorrows be.


Etzel and Kriemhild / they soon before them found,
And great was now their company / from all their lands around.
Spake Etzel to the strangers: / “What will ye now of me?
Ye hope for end of conflict, / but hardly may such favor be.


“This so mighty ruin / that ye on me have wrought,
If death thwart not my purpose, / shall profit you in naught.
For child that here ye slew me / and kinsmen dear to me,
Shall peace and reconcilement / from you withheld forever be.”


Thereto gave answer Gunther: / “To that drove sorest need.
Lay all my train of squires / before thy warriors dead
Where they for night assembled. / How bore I so great blame?
Of friendly mind I deemed thee, / as trusting in thy faith I came.”


Then spake eke of Burgundy / the youthful Giselher:
“Ye knights that still are living / of Etzel, now declare
Whereof ye may reproach me! / How hath you harmed my hand?
For in right friendly manner / came I riding to this land.”


Cried they: “Well is thy friendship / in burgh and country known
By sorrow of thy making. / Gladly had we foregone
The pleasure of thy coming / from Worms across the Rhine.
Our country hast thou orphaned, / thou and brother eke of thine.”


In angry mood King Gunther / unto them replied:
“An ye this mighty hatred / appeased would lay aside,
Borne ’gainst us knights here homeless, / to both a gain it were
For Etzel’s wrath against us / we in sooth no guilt do bear.”


The host then to the strangers: / “Your sorrow here and mine
Are things all unequal. / For now must I repine
With honor all bespotted / and ’neath distress of woe.
Of you shall never any / hence from my country living go.”


Then did the doughty Gernot / unto King Etzel say:
“God then in mercy move thee / to act in friendly way.
Slay us knights here homeless, / yet grant us down to go
To meet thee in the open: / thine honor biddeth thus to do.


“Whate’er shall be our portion, / let that straightway appear.
Men hast thou yet so many / that, should they banish fear,
Not one of us storm-weary / might keep his life secure.
How long shall we here friendless / this woeful travail yet endure?”


By the warriors of Etzel / their wish nigh granted was,
And leave well nigh was given / that from the hall they pass.
When Kriemhild knew their purpose, / high her anger swelled,
And straightway such a respite / was from the stranger knights withheld.


“But nay, ye Hunnish warriors! / what ye have mind to do,
Therefrom now desist ye, / –such is my counsel true;
Nor let foes so vengeful / pass without the hall,
Else must in death before them / full many of your kinsmen fall.


“If of them lived none other / but Ute’s sons alone,
My three noble brothers, / and they the air had won
Where breeze might cool their armor, / to death ye were a prey.
In all this world were never / born more valiant thanes than they.”


Then spake the youthful Giselher: / “Full beauteous sister mine,
When to this land thou bad’st me / from far beside the Rhine,
I little deemed such trouble / did here upon me wait.
Whereby have I deserved / from the Huns such mortal hate?


“To thee I ever faithful / was, nor wronged thee e’er.
In such faith confiding / did I hither fare,
That thou to me wert gracious, / O noble sister mine.
Show mercy now unto us, / we must to thee our lives resign.”


“No mercy may I show you, / –unmerciful I’ll be.
By Hagen, knight of Tronje, / was wrought such woe to me,
That ne’er is reconcilement / the while that I have life.
That must ye all atone for," / –quoth the royal Etzel’s wife.


“Will ye but Hagen only / to me as hostage give,
Then will I not deny you / to let you longer live.
Born are ye of one mother / and brothers unto me,
So wish I that compounded / here with these warriors peace may be.”


“God in heaven forfend it," / Gernot straightway said;
“E’en though we were a thousand, / lay we all rather dead,
We who are thy kinsmen, / ere that warrior one
Here we gave for hostage. / Never may such thing be done.”


“Die must we all,” quoth Giselher, / “for such is mortal’s end.
Till then despite of any, / our knighthood we’ll defend.
Would any test our mettle, / here may he trial make.
For ne’er, when help he needed, / did I a faithful friend forsake.”


Then spake the valiant Dankwart, / a knight that knew no fear;
“In sooth stands not unaided / my brother Hagen here.
Who here have peace denied us / may yet have cause to rue.
I would that this ye doubt not, / for verily I tell you true.”


The queen to those around her: / “Ye gallant warriors, go
Now nigher to the stairway / and straight avenge my woe.
I’ll ever make requital / therefor, as well I may.
For his haughty humor / will I Hagen full repay.


“To pass without the portal / let not one at all,
For at its four corners / I’ll bid ignite the hall.
So will I fullest vengeance / take for all my woe."
Straightway the thanes of Etzel / ready stood her hest to do.


Who still without were standing / were driven soon within
By sword and spear upon them, / that made a mighty din.
Yet naught might those good warriors / from their masters take,
By their faith would never / each the other’s side forsake.


To burn the hall commanded / Etzel’s wife in ire,
And tortured they those warriors / there with flaming fire;
Full soon with wind upon it / the house in flames was seen.
To any folk did never / sadder plight befall, I ween.


Their cries within resounded: / “Alack for sorest need!
How mickle rather lay we / in storm of battle dead.
’Fore God ’tis cause for pity, / for here we all must die!
Now doth the queen upon us / vengeance wreak full grievously.”


Among them spake another: / “Our lives we here must end.
What now avails the greeting / the king to us did send?
So sore this heat oppresseth / and parched with thirst my tongue,
My life from very anguish / I ween I must resign ere long.”


Then quoth of Tronje Hagen: / “Ye noble knights and good,
Whoe’er by thirst is troubled, / here let him drink the blood.
Than wine more potent is it / where such high heat doth rage,
Nor may we at this season / find us a better beverage.”


Where fallen knight was lying, / thither a warrior went.
Aside he laid his helmet, / to gaping wound he bent,
And soon was seen a-quaffing / therefrom the flowing blood.
To him though all unwonted, / yet seemed he there such drinking good.


“Now God reward thee, Hagen," / the weary warrior said,
“That I so well have drunken, / thus by thy teaching led.
Better wine full seldom / hath been poured for me,
And live I yet a season / I’ll ever faithful prove to thee.”


When there did hear the others / how to him it seemed good,
Many more beheld ye / eke that drank the blood.
Each thereby new vigor / for his body won,
And eke for lover fallen / wept many a buxom dame anon.


The flaming brands fell thickly / upon them in the hall,
With upraised shields they kept them / yet scatheless from their fall,
Though smoke and heat together / wrought them anguish sore.
Beset were heroes never, / I ween, by so great woe before.


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “Stand nigh unto the wall,
Let not the brands all flaming / upon your helmets fall.
Into the blood beneath you / tread them with your feet.
In sooth in evil fashion / us doth our royal hostess greet.”


In trials thus endured / ebbed the night away.
Still without the portal / did the keen Fiddler stay
And Hagen his good fellow, / o’er shield their bodies leant;
They deemed the men of Etzel / still on further mischief bent.


Then was heard the Fiddler: / “Pass we into the hall,
For so the Huns shall fondly / deem we are perished all
Amid the mickle torture / we suffer at their hand.
Natheless shall they behold us / boun for fight before them stand.”


Spake then of Burgundy / the young Sir Giselher:
“I ween ’twill soon be dawning, / for blows a cooler air.
To live in fuller joyance / now grant us God in heaven.
To us dire entertainment / my sister Kriemhild here hath given.”


Spake again another: / “Lo! how I feel the day.
For that no better fortune / here await us may,
So don, ye knights, your armor, / and guard ye well your life.
Full soon, in sooth, we suffer / again at hands of Etzel’s wife.”


Fondly Etzel fancied / the strangers all were dead,
From sore stress of battle / and from the fire dread;
Yet within were living / six hundred men so brave,
That never thanes more worthy / a monarch for liegemen might have.


The watchers set to watch them / soon full well had seen
How still lived the strangers, / spite what wrought had been
Of harm and grievous evil, / on the monarchs and their band.
Within the hall they saw them / still unscathed and dauntless stand.


Told ’twas then to Kriemhild / how they from harm were free.
Whereat the royal lady / quoth, such thing ne’er might be
That any still were living / from that fire dread.
“Nay, believe I rather / that within they all lie dead.”


Gladly yet the strangers / would a truce compound,
Might any grace to offer / amid their foes be found.
But such appeared not any / in them of Hunnish land.
Well to avenge their dying / prepared they then with willing hand.


About the dawn of morning / greeted they were again
With a vicious onslaught, / that paid full many a thane.
There was flung upon them / many a mighty spear,
While gallantly did guard them / the lofty thanes that knew not fear.


The warriors of Etzel / were all of eager mood,
And Kriemhild’s promised bounty / win for himself each would;
To do the king’s high bidding / did likewise urge their mind.
’Twas cause full soon that many / were doomed swift death in fight to


Of store of bounty promised / might wonders great be told,
She bade on shields to carry / forth the ruddy gold,
And gave to him that wished it / or would but take her store;
In sooth a greater hire / ne’er tempted ’gainst the foe before.


A mickle host of warriors / went forth in battle-gear.
Then quoth the valiant Volker: / “Still may ye find us here.
Ne’er saw I move to battle / warriors more fain,
That to work us evil / the bounty of the king have ta’en.”


Then cried among them many: / “Hither, ye knights, more nigh!
Since all at last must perish, / ’twere better instantly;
And here no warrior falleth / but who fore-doomed hath been."
With well-flung spears all bristling / full quickly then their shields
      were seen.


What need of further story? / Twelve hundred stalwart men,
Repulsed in onset gory, / still returned again;
But dealing wounds around them / the strangers cooled their mood,
And there stood all unvanquished. / Flowing might ye see the blood


From deep wounds and mortal, / whereof were many slain.
For friends in battle fallen / heard ye loud complain;
Slain were all those warriors / that served the mighty king,
Whereat from loving kinsmen / arose a mickle sorrowing.


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