The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Thirty-Eighth Adventure - How all Sir Dietrich’s Knights were Slain


On all sides so great sorrow / heard ye there around,
That palace and high tower / did from the wail resound.
Of Bern a man of Dietrich / eke the same did hear,
And speedily he hastened / the tidings to his lord to bear.


Spake he unto his master: / “Sir Dietrich give me ear.
What yet hath been my fortune, / never did I hear
Lamenting past all measure, / as at this hour hath been.
Scathe unto King Etzel / himself hath happened, I ween.


“Else how might they ever / all show such dire need?
The king himself or Kriemhild, / one of them lieth dead,
By the doughty strangers / for sake of vengeance slain.
Unmeasured is the weeping / of full many a stately thane.”


Then spake of Bern Sir Dietrich: / “Ye men to me full dear,
Now haste ye not unduly. / The deeds performed here
By the stranger warriors / show sore necessity.
That peace with them I blighted, / let it now their profit be.”


Then spake the valiant Wolfhart: / “Thither will I run
To make question of it / what they now have done,
And straight will tidings bring thee, / master full dear to me,
When yonder I inform me, / whence may so great lamenting be.”


Answer gave Sir Dietrich: / “Fear they hostility,
The while uncivil questioning / of their deed there be,
Lightly are stirred to anger / good warriors o’er the thing.
Yea, ’tis my pleasure, Wolfhart, / thou sparest them all such


Helfrich he then commanded / thither with speed to go
That from men of Etzel / he might truly know,
Or from the strangers straightway, / what thing there had been.
As that, so sore lamenting / of people ne’er before was seen.


Questioned then the messenger: / “What hath here been wrought?"
Answered one among them: / “Complete is come to naught
What of joy we cherished / here in Hunnish land.
Slain here lieth Ruediger, / fallen ’neath Burgundian hand.


“Of them that entered with him / not one doth longer live."
Naught might ever happen / Helfrich more to grieve,
Nor ever told he tidings / so ruefully before.
Weeping sore the message / unto Dietrich then he bore.


“What the news thou bringst us?" / Dietrich spake once more;
“Yet, O doughty Helfrich, / wherefore dost weep so sore?"
Answered the noble warrior: / “With right may I complain:
Yonder faithful Ruediger / lieth by the Burgundians slain.”


The lord of Bern gave answer: / “God let not such thing be!
That were a mighty vengeance, / and eke the Devil’s glee.
Whereby had ever Ruediger / from them deserved such ill?
Well know I to the strangers / was ever well disposed his will.”


Thereto gave answer Wolfhart: / “In sooth have they this done,
Therefor their lives shall forfeit / surely, every one.
And make we not requital, / our shame for aye it were;
Full manifold our service / from hand of noble Ruediger.”


Then bade the lord of Amelungen / the case more full to learn.
He sat within a casement / and did full sadly mourn.
He prayed then that Hildebrand / unto the strangers go,
That he from their own telling / of the case complete might know.


The warrior keen in battle, / Master Hildebrand,
Neither shield nor weapon / bore he in his hand,
But would in chivalrous manner / unto the strangers go.
His sister’s son reviled him / that he would venture thus to do.


Spake in anger Wolfhart: / “Goest thou all weaponless,
Must I of such action / free my thought confess:
Thou shalt in shameful fashion / hither come again;
Goest thou armed thither, / will all from harm to thee refrain.”


So armed himself the old man / at counsel of the young.
Ere he was ware of it, / into their armor sprung
All of Dietrich’s warriors / and stood with sword in hand.
Grieved he was, and gladly / had turned them Master Hildebrand.


He asked them whither would they. / “Thee company we’ll bear,
So may, perchance, less willing / Hagen of Tronje dare,
As so oft his custom, / to give thee mocking word."
The thane his leave did grant them / at last when he their speech had


Keen Volker saw approaching, / in armor all arrayed,
Of Bern the gallant warriors / that Dietrich’s word obeyed,
With sword at girdle hanging / and bearing shield in hand.
Straight he told the tidings / to his masters of Burgundian land.


Spake the doughty Fiddler: / “Yonder see I come near
The warriors of Dietrich / all clad in battle gear
And decked their heads with helmets, / as if our harm they mean.
For us knights here homeless / approacheth evil end, I ween.”


Meanwhile was come anigh them / Master Hildebrand.
Before his foot he rested / the shield he bore in hand,
And soon began to question / the men of Gunther there:
“Alack, ye gallant warriors, / what harm hath wrought you Ruediger?


“Me did my master Dietrich / hither to you command:
If now the noble margrave / hath fallen ’neath the hand
Of any knight among you, / as word to us is borne,
Such a mighty sorrow / might we never cease to mourn.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen: / “True is the tale ye hear.
Though glad I were, if to you / had lied the messenger,
And if the faithful Ruediger / still his life might keep,
For whom both man and woman / must ever now in sorrow weep!”


When they for sooth the passing / of the hero knew,
Those gallant knights bemoaned him / like faithful friends and true;
On Dietrich’s lusty warriors / saw ye fall the tear
Adown the bearded visage, / for sad of heart in truth they were.


Of Bern then a chieftain, / Siegstab, further cried:
“Of all the mickle comfort / now an end is made,
That Ruediger erst prepared us / after our days of pain.
The joy of exiled people / here lieth by you warriors slain.”


Then spake of Amelungen / the thane Wolfwein:
“If that this day beheld I / dead e’en sire of mine,
No more might be my sorrow / than for this hero’s life.
Alack! who bringeth comfort / now to the noble margrave’s wife?”


Spake eke in angry humor / Wolfhart a stalwart thane:
“Who now shall lead our army / on the far campaign,
As full oft the margrave / of old hath led our host?
Alack! O noble Ruediger, / that in such manner thee we’ve lost!”


Wolfbrand and Helfrich / and Helmnot with warriors all
Mourned there together / that he in death must fall.
For sobbing might not further / question Hildebrand.
He spake: “Now do, ye warriors, / according to my lord’s command.


“Yield unto us Ruediger’s / corse from out the hall,
In whose death to sorrow / hath passed our pleasure all;
And let us do him service / for friendship true of yore
That e’er for us he cherished / and eke for many a stranger more.


“We too from home are exiles / like unto Ruediger.
Why keep ye us here waiting? / Him grant us hence to bear,
That e’en though death hath reft him / our service he receive,
Though fairer had we paid it / the while the hero yet did live.”


Thereto spake King Gunther: / “No service equal may
That which, when death hath reft him, / to friend a friend doth pay.
Him deem I friend right faithful, / whoe’er the same may do.
Well make ye here requital / for many a service unto you.”


“How long shall we beseech you," / spake Wolfhart the thane;
“Since he that best consoled us / by you now lieth slain,
And we, alas, no longer / his living aid may have,
Grant us hence to bear him / and lay the hero in his grave.”


Thereto answered Volker: / “Thy prayer shall all deny.
From out the hall thou take him, / where doth the hero lie
’Neath deep wounds and mortal / in blood now smitten down.
So may by thee best service / here to Ruediger be shown.”


Answered Wolfhart boldly: / “Sir Fiddleman, God wot
Thou shalt forbear to stir us, / for woe on us thou’st wrought.
Durst I despite my master, / uncertain were thy life;
Yet must we here keep silence, / for he did bid us shun the strife.”


Then spake again the Fiddler: / “’Tis all too much of fear,
For that a thing’s forbidden, / meekly to forbear.
Scarce may I deem it valor / worthy good knight to tell."
What said his faithful comrade, / did please the doughty Hagen well.


“For proof be not o’er-eager," / Wolfhart quick replied,
“Else so I’ll tune thy fiddle / that when again ye ride
Afar unto Rhine river, / sad tale thou tellest there.
Thy haughty words no longer / may I now with honor bear.”


Spake once more the Fiddler: / “If e’er the harmony
Of my fiddle-strings thou breakest, / thy helmet’s sheen shall be
Made full dim of lustre / by stroke of this my hand,
Howe’er fall out my journey / homeward to Burgundian land.”


Then would he rush upon him / but that him did restrain
Hildebrand his uncle / who seized him amain.
“I ween thou would’st be witless, / by youthful rage misled.
My master’s favor had’st thou / evermore thus forfeited.”


“Let loose the lion, Master, / that doth rage so sore.
If but my sword may reach him," / spake Volker further more,
“Though he the world entire / by his own might had slain,
I’ll smite him that an answer / never may he chant again.”


Thereat with anger straightway / the men of Bern were filled.
Wolfhart, thane right valiant, / grasped in haste his shield,
And like to a wild lion / out before them sped.
By friends a goodly number / full quickly was he followed.


Though by the hall went striding / ne’er so swift the thane,
O’ertook him Master Hildebrand / ere he the steps might gain,
For nowise would he let him / be foremost in the fray.
In the stranger warriors / worthy foemen soon found they.


Straight saw ye upon Hagen / rush Master Hildebrand,
And sword ye heard give music / in each foeman’s hand.
Sore they were enraged, / as ye soon were ware,
For from their swinging broadswords / whirred the ruddy sparks in air.


Yet soon the twain were parted / in the raging fight:
The men of Bern so turned it / by their dauntless might.
Ere long then was Hildebrand / from Hagen turned away,
While that the doughty Wolfhart / the valiant Volker sought to slay.


Upon the helm the Fiddler / he smote with blow so fierce
That the sword’s keen edges / unto the frame did pierce.
With mighty stroke repaid him / the valiant minstrel too,
And so belabored Wolfhart / that thick the sparks around him flew.


Hewing they made the fire / from mail-rings scintillate,
For each unto the other / bore a deadly hate.
Of Bern the thane Wolfwein / at length did part the two,–
Which thing might none other / than man of mickle prowess do.


Gunther, knight full gallant, / received with ready hand
There the stately warriors / of Amelungen land.
Eke did young Giselher / of many a helmet bright,
With blood all red and reeking, / cause to grow full dim the light.


Dankwart, Hagen’s brother, / was a warrior grim.
What erstwhile in combat / had been wrought by him
Against the men of Etzel / seemed now as toying vain,
As fought with flaming ire / the son of valiant Aldrian.


Ritschart and Gerbart, / Helfrich and Wichart
Had oft in storm of battle / with valor borne their part,
As now ’fore men of Gunther / they did clear display.
Likewise saw ye Wolfbrand / glorious amid the fray.


There old Master Hildebrand / fought as he were wode.
Many a doughty warrior / was stricken in the blood
By the sword that swinging / in Wolfhart’s hand was seen.
Thus took dire vengeance / for Ruediger those knights full keen.


Havoc wrought Sir Siegstab / there with might and main.
Ho! in the hurly-burly / what helms he cleft in twain
Upon the crowns of foemen, / Dietrich’s sister’s son!
Ne’er in storm of battle / had he more feats of valor done.


When the doughty Volker / there aright had seen
How many a bloody rivulet / was hewn by Siegstab keen
From out the well-wrought mail-rings, / the hero’s ire arose.
Quick he sprang toward him, / Siegstab then his life must lose.


Ere long time was over, / ’neath the Fiddler’s hand,
Who of his art did give him / such share to understand
That beneath his broadsword / smitten to death he lay.
Old Hildebrand avenged him / as bade his mighty arm alway.


“Alack that knight so loved," / spake Master Hildebrand,
“Here should thus lie fallen / ’neath Volker’s hand.
Now lived his latest hour / in sooth this Fiddler hath."
Filled was the hero Hildebrand / straightway with a mighty wrath.


With might smote he Volker / that severed flew the band
E’en to the hall’s wide limit / far on either hand
From shield and eke from helmet / borne by the Fiddler keen;
Therewith the doughty Volker / reft of life at last had been.


Pressed eager to the combat / Dietrich’s warriors true,
Smiting that the mail-rings / afar from harness flew,
And that the broken sword-points / soaring aloft ye saw,
The while that reeking blood-stains / did they from riven helmets draw.


There of Tronje Hagen / beheld Volker dead.
In that so bloody carnage / ’twas far the sorest need
Of all that did befall him / in death of friend and man.
Alack! for him what vengeance / Hagen then to wreak began!


“Therefrom shall profit never / Master Hildebrand.
Slain hath been here my helper / ’neath the warrior’s hand,
The best of feres in battle / that fortune ever sent."
His shield upraised he higher / and hewing through the throng he went.


Next saw ye Dankwart / by doughty Helfrich slain,
Gunther and Giselher / did full sorely plain,
When they beheld him fallen / where fiercely raged the fray.
For his death beforehand / dearly did his foemen pay.


The while coursed Wolfhart / thither and back again,
Through Gunther’s men before him / hewing wide a lane.
Thrice in sooth returning / strode he down the hall,
And many a lusty warrior / ’neath his doughty hand must fall.


Soon the young Sir Giselher / cried aloud to him:
“Alack, that I should ever / find such foeman grim!
Sir knight, so bold and noble, / now turn thee here to me.
I trow to end thy coursing, / the which will I no longer see.”


To Giselher then turned him / Wolfhart in the fight,
And gaping wounds full many / did each the other smite.
With such a mighty fury / he to the monarch sped
That ’neath his feet went flying / the blood e’en high above his head.


With rapid blows and furious / the son of Ute fair
Received the valiant Wolfhart / as came he to him there.
How strong soe’er the thane was, / his life must ended be.
Never king so youthful / might bear himself more valiantly.


Straight he smote Wolfhart / through well-made cuirass,
That from the wound all gaping / the flowing blood did pass.
Unto death he wounded / Dietrich’s liegeman true,
Which thing in sooth might never / any save knight full gallant do.


When the valiant Wolfhart / of the wound was ware,
His shield flung he from him / and high with hand in air
Raised he a mighty weapon / whose keen edge failed not.
Through helmet and through mail-rings / Giselher with might he smote.


Grimly each the other / there to death had done.
Of Dietrich’s men no longer / lived there ever one.
When old Master Hildebrand / Wolfhart’s fall had seen,
In all his life there never / such sorrow him befell, I ween.


Fallen now were Gunther’s / warriors every one,
And eke the men of Dietrich. / Hildebrand the while had gone
Where Wolfhart had fallen / down in pool of blood.
In his arms then clasped he / the warrior of dauntless mood.


Forth from the hall to bear him / vainly did he try:
But all too great the burden / and there he still must lie.
The dying knight looked upward / from his bloody bed
And saw how that full gladly / him his uncle thence had led.


Spake he thus mortal wounded: / “Uncle full dear to me,
Now mayst thou at such season / no longer helpful be.
To guard thee well from Hagen / indeed me seemeth good,
For bears he in his bosom / a heart in sooth of grimmest mood.


“And if for me my kinsmen / at my death would mourn,
Unto the best and nearest / by thee be message borne
That for me they weep not, / –of that no whit is need.
At hand of valiant monarch / here lie I gloriously dead.


“Eke my life so dearly / within this hall I’ve sold,
That have sore cause for weeping / the wives of warriors bold.
If any make thee question, / then mayst thou freely say
That my own hand nigh hundred / warriors hath slain to-day.”


Now was Hagen mindful / of the minstrel slain,
From whom the valiant Hildebrand / erstwhile his life had ta’en.
Unto the Master spake he: / “My woes shalt thou repay.
Full many a warrior gallant / thou hast ta’en from us hence away.”


He smote upon Hildebrand / that loud was heard the tone
Of Balmung resounding / that erst did Siegfried own,
But Hagen bold did seize it / when he the hero slew.
The old warrior did guard him, / as he was knight of mettle true.


Dietrich’s doughty liegeman / with broadsword did smite
That did cut full sorely, / upon Tronje’s knight;
Yet had the man of Gunther / never any harm.
Through his cuirass well-jointed / Hagen smote with mighty arm.


Soon as his wound perceived / the aged Hildebrand,
Feared he more of damage / to take from Hagen’s hand;
Across his back full deftly / his shield swung Dietrich’s man,
And wounded deep, the hero / in flight ’fore Hagen’s fury ran.


Now longer lived not any / of all that goodly train
Save Gunther and Hagen, / doughty warriors twain.
With blood from wound down streaming / fled Master Hildebrand,
Whom soon in Dietrich’s presence, / saw ye with saddest tidings stand.


He found the chieftain sitting / with sorrow all distraught,
Yet mickle more of sadness / unto him he brought.
When Dietrich saw how Hildebrand / cuirass all blood-red wore,
With fearful heart he questioned, / what the news to him he bore.


“Now tell me, Master Hildebrand, / how thus wet thou be
From thy life-blood flowing, / or who so harmeth thee.
In hall against the strangers / thou’st drawn thy sword, I ween.
’Twere well my straight denial / here by these had honored been.”


Replied he to his master: / “From Hagen cometh all.
This deep wound he smote me / there within the hall
When I from his fury / thought to turn away.
’Tis marvel that I living / saved me from the fiend this day.”


Then of Bern spake Dietrich: / “Aright hast thou thy share,
For thou didst hear me friendship / unto these knights declare,
And now the peace hast broken, / that I to them did give.
If my disgrace it were not, / by this hand no longer shouldst thou live.”


“Now be not, Master Dietrich, / so sorely stirred to wrath.
On me and on my kinsmen / is wrought too great a scathe.
Thence sought we Ruediger / to bear all peacefully,
The which by men of Gunther / to us no whit would granted be.”


“Ah, woe is me for sorrow! / Is Ruediger then dead,
In all my need there never / such grief hath happened.
The noble Gotelinde / is cousin fair to me.
Alack for the poor orphans / that there in Bechelaren must be!”


Grief and anguish filled him / o’er Ruediger thus slain,
Nor might at all the hero / the flowing tears restrain.
“Alack for faithful helper / that death from me hath torn.
King Etzel’s trusty liegeman / never may I cease to mourn.


“Canst thou, Master Hildebrand, / true the tidings say,
Who might be the warrior / that Ruediger did slay?"
“That did the doughty Gernot / with mighty arm,” he said:
“Eke at hand of Ruediger / lieth the royal hero dead.”


Spake he again to Hildebrand: / “Now let my warriors know,
That straightway they shall arm them, / for thither will I go.
And bid to fetch hither / my shining mail to me.
Myself those knights will question / of the land of Burgundy.”


“Who here shall do thee service?" / spake Master Hildebrand;
“All that thou hast yet living, / thou seest before thee stand.
Of all remain I only; / the others, they are dead."
As was in sooth good reason, / filled the tale his soul with dread,


For in his life did never / such woe to him befall.
He spake: “Hath death so reft me / of my warriors all,
God hath forsaken Dietrich, / ah me, a wretched wight!
Sometime a lofty monarch / I was, high throned in wealth and might.”


“How might it ever happen?" / Dietrich spake again,
“That so worthy heroes / here should all be slain
By the battle-weary / strangers thus beset?
Ill fortune me hath chosen, / else death had surely spared them yet.


“Since that fate not further / to me would respite give,
Then tell me, of the strangers / doth any longer live?"
Answered Master Hildebrand: / “God wot, never one
Save Hagen, and beside him / Gunther lofty king alone.”


“Alack, O faithful Wolfhart, / must I thy death now mourn,
Soon have I cause to rue me / that ever I was born.
Siegstab and Wolfwein / and eke Wolfbrand!
Who now shall be my helpers / in the Amelungen land?


“Helfrich, thane full valiant, / and is he likewise slain?
For Gerbart and Wichart / when shall I cease to plain?
Of all my life’s rejoicing / is this the latest day.
Alack that die for sorrow / never yet a mortal may!”


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