The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Thirty-Ninth Adventure - How Gunther and Hagen and Kriemhild were Slain


Himself did then Sir Dietrich / his armor take in hand,
To don the which did help him / Master Hildebrand.
The doughty chieftain meanwhile / must make so loud complain
That from high palace casement / oft came back the sound again.


Natheless his proper humor / soon he did regain,
And armed full in anger / stood the worthy thane;
A shield all wrought full firmly / took he straight in hand,
And forth they strode together, / he and Master Hildebrand.


Spake then of Tronje Hagen: / “Lo, where doth hither wend
In wrath his way Sir Dietrich. / ’Tis plain he doth intend
On us to wreak sore vengeance / for harm befallen here.
To-day be full decided / who may the prize for valor bear!


“Let ne’er of Bern Sir Dietrich / hold him so high of might
Nor deem his arm so doughty / and terrible in fight
That, will he wreak his anger / on us for sorest scathe,"–
Such were the words of Hagen, / –"I dare not well withstand his wrath.”


Upon these words defiant / left Dietrich Hildebrand,
And to the warriors hither / came where both did stand
Without before the palace, / and leaning respite found.
His shield well proved in battle / Sir Dietrich lowered to the ground.


Addressed to them Sir Dietrich / these words of sorrowing:
“Wherefore hast thou such evil, / Gunther mighty king,
Wrought ’gainst me a stranger? / What had I done to thee,
Of my every comfort / in such manner reft to be?


“Seemed then not sufficient / the havoc unto you
When from us the hero / Ruediger ye slew,
That now from me ye’ve taken / my warriors one and all?
Through me did so great sorrow / ne’er to you good knights befall.


“Of your own selves bethink you / and what the scathe ye bore,
The death of your companions / and all your travail sore,
If not your hearts, good warriors, / thereat do heavy grow.
That Ruediger hath fallen, / –ah me! how fills my heart with woe!


“In all this world to any / more sorrow ne’er befell,
Yet have ye minded little / my loss and yours as well.
Whate’er I most rejoiced in / beneath your hands lies slain;
Yea, for my kinsmen fallen / never may I cease to plain.”


“No guilt lies here upon us," / Hagen in answer spake.
“Unto this hall hither / your knights their way did take,
With goodly train of warriors / full armed for the fight.
Meseemeth that the story / hath not been told to thee aright.”


“What shall I else believe in? / To me told Hildebrand
How, when the knights that serve me / of Amelungenland
Did beg the corse of Ruediger / to give them from the hall,
Nought offered ye but mockings / unto the valiant warriors all.”


Then spake the King of Rhineland: / “Ruediger to bear away
Came they in company hither; / whose corse to them deny
I bade, despiting Etzel, / nor with aught malice more,
Whereupon did Wolfhart / begin to rage thereat full sore.”


Then spake of Bern the hero: / “’Twas fated so to be.
Yet Gunther, noble monarch, / by thy kingly courtesy
Amends make for the sorrow / thou here on me hast wrought,
That so thy knightly honor / still unsullied be in aught.


“Then yield to me as hostage / thyself and eke thy man;
So will I surely hinder, / as with best might I can,
That any here in Hunland / harm unto thee shall do:
Henceforward shalt thou find me / ever well disposed and true.”


“God in heaven forfend it," / Hagen spake again,
“That unto thee should yield them / ever warriors twain
Who in their strength reliant / all armed before thee stand,
And yet ’fore foes defiant / may freely swing a blade in hand.”


“So shall ye not,” spake Dietrich, / “proffered peace forswear,
Gunther and Hagen. / Misfortune such I bear
At both your hands, ’tis certain / ye did but do aright,
Would ye for so great sorrow / now my heart in full requite.


“I give you my sure promise / and pledge thereto my hand
That I will bear you escort / home unto your land;
With honors fit I’ll lead you, / thereon my life I set,
And for your sake sore evil / suffered at your hands forget.”


“Ask thou such thing no longer," / Hagen then replied.
“For us ’twere little fitting / the tale be bruited wide,
That twain of doughty warriors / did yield them ’neath thy hand.
Beside thee is none other / now but only Hildebrand.”


Then answered Master Hildebrand: / “The hour may come, God wot,
Sir Hagen, when thus lightly / disdain it thou shalt not
If any man such offer / of peace shall make to thee.
Welcome might now my master’s / reconciliation be.”


“I’d take in sooth his friendship," / Hagen gave reply,
“Ere that I so basely / forth from a hall would fly.
As thou hast done but lately, / O Master Hildebrand.
I weened with greater valor / couldst thou ’fore a foeman stand.”


Thereto gave answer Hildebrand: / “From thee reproach like that?
Who was then on shield so idle / ’fore the Waskenstein that sat,
The while that Spanish Walter / friend after friend laid low?
Such valor thou in plenty / hast in thine own self to show.”


Outspake then Sir Dietrich: / “Ill fits it warriors bold
That they one another / like old wives should scold.
Thee forbid I, Hildebrand, / aught to parley more.
Ah me, most sad misfortune / weigheth on my heart full sore.


“Let me hear, Sir Hagen," / Dietrich further spake,
“What boast ye doughty warriors / did there together make,
When that ye saw me hither / come with sword in hand?
Thought ye then not singly / me in combat to withstand?”


“In sooth denieth no one," / bold Sir Hagen spake,
“That of the same with sword-blow / I would trial make,
An but the sword of Niblung / burst not within my hand.
Yea, scorn I that to yield us / thus haughtily thou mak’st demand.”


When Dietrich now perceived / how Hagen raged amain,
Raise his shield full quickly / did the doughty thane.
As quick upon him Hagen / adown the perron sprang,
And the trusty sword of Niblung / full loud on Dietrich’s armor rang.


Then knew full well Sir Dietrich / that the warrior keen
Savage was of humor, / and best himself to screen
Sought of Bern the hero / from many a murderous blow,
Whereby the valiant Hagen / straightway came he well to know.


Eke fear he had of Balmung, / a strong and trusty blade.
Each blow meanwhile Sir Dietrich / with cunning art repaid,
Till that he dealt to Hagen / a wound both deep and long,
Whereat give o’er the struggle / must the valiant knight and strong.


Bethought him then Sir Dietrich: / “Through toil thy strength has fled,
And little honor had I / shouldst thou lie before me dead.
So will I yet make trial / if I may not subdue
Thee unto me as hostage." / Light task ’twas not the same to do.


His shield down cast he from him / and with what strength he found
About the knight of Tronje / fast his arms he wound.
In such wise was subdued / by him the doughty knight;
Gunther the noble monarch / did weep to see his sorry plight.


Bind Hagen then did Dietrich, / and led him where did stand
Kriemhild the royal lady, / and gave into her hand
Of all the bravest warrior / that ever weapon bore.
After her mickle sorrow / had she merry heart once more.


For joy before Sir Dietrich / bent royal Etzel’s wife:
“Blessed be thou ever / in heart while lasteth life.
Through thee is now forgotten / all my dire need;
An death do not prevent me, / from me shall ever be thy meed.”


Then spake to her Sir Dietrich, / “Take not his life away,
High and royal lady, / for full will he repay
Thee for the mickle evil / on thee have wrought his hands.
Be it not his misfortune / that bound before thee here he stands.”


Then bade she forth lead Hagen / to dungeon keep near by,
Wherein he lay fast bolted / and hid from every eye.
Gunther, the noble monarch, / with loudest voice did say:
“The knight of Bern who wrongs me, / whither hath he fled away?”


Meanwhile back towards him / the doughty Dietrich came,
And found the royal Gunther / a knight of worthy name.
Eke he might bide longer / but down to meet him sprang,
And soon with angry clamor / their swords before the palace rang.


How famed soe’er Sir Dietrich / and great the name he bore,
With wrath was filled King Gunther, / and eke did rage full sore
At thought of grievous sorrow / suffered at his hand:
Still tell they as high wonder / how Dietrich might his blows withstand.


In store of doughty valor / each did nothing lack.
From palace and from tower / the din of blows came back
As on well-fastened helmets / the lusty swords came down,
And royal Gunther’s valor / in the fight full clear was shown.


The knight of Bern yet tamed him / as Hagen erst befell,
And oozing through his armor / the blood was seen to swell
From cut of sharpest weapon / in Dietrich’s arm that swung.
Right worthily King Gunther / had borne him after labors long.


Bound was then the monarch / by Sir Dietrich’s hand,
Albeit bonds should suffer / ne’er king of any land.
But deemed he, if King Gunther / and Hagen yet were free,
Secure might never any / from their searching vengeance be.


When in such manner Dietrich / the king secure had bound
By the hand he led him / where Kriemhild he found.
At sight of his misfortune / did sorrow from her flee:
Quoth she: “Welcome Gunther / from out the land of Burgundy.”


He spake: “Then might I thank thee, / sister of high degree,
When that some whit more gracious / might thy greeting be.
So angry art thou minded / ever yet, O queen,
Full spare shall be thy greeting / to Hagen and to me, I ween.”


Then spake of Bern the hero: / “Ne’er till now, O queen,
Given o’er as hostage / have knights so worthy been,
As I, O lofty lady, / in these have given to thee:
I pray thee higher evils / to spare them now for sake of me.”


She vowed to do it gladly. / Then forth Sir Dietrich went
With weeping eyes to see there / such knights’ imprisonment.
In grimmest ways thereafter / wreaked vengeance Etzel’s wife:
Beneath her hand those chosen / warriors twain must end their life.


She let them lie asunder / the less at ease to be,
Nor did each the other / thenceforward ever see
Till that unto Hagen / her brother’s head she bore.
In sooth did Kriemhild vengeance / wreak upon the twain full sore.


Forth where she should find Hagen / the queen her way did take,
And in right angry manner / she to the warrior spake:
“An thou wilt but restore me / that thou hast ta’en from me,
So may’st thou come yet living / home to the land of Burgundy.”


Answered thereto grim Hagen: / “’Twere well thy breath to save,
Full high and royal lady. / Sworn by my troth I have
That I the hoard will tell not; / the while that yet doth live
Of my masters any, / the treasure unto none I’ll give.”


“Then ended be the story," / the noble lady spake.
She bade them from her brother / straightway his life to take.
His head they struck from off him, / which by the hair she bore
Unto the thane of Tronje. / Thereat did grieve the knight full sore.


When that he in horror / his master’s head had seen,
Cried the doughty warrior / unto Kriemhild the queen:
“Now is thy heart’s desire / at length accomplished.
And eke hath all befallen / as my foreboding heart hath said.


“Dead lieth now the noble / king of Burgundy,
Also youthful Giselher / and Sir Gernot eke doth he.
The treasure no one knoweth / but God and me alone,
Nor e’er by thee, she-devil, / shall its hiding-place be known.”


Quoth she: “But ill requital / hast thou made to me.
Yet mine the sword of Siegfried / now henceforth shall be,
The which when last I saw him, / my loved husband bore,
In whom on me such sorrow / through guilt of thine doth weigh full sore.”


She drew it from the scabbard, / nor might he say her nay,
Though thought she from the warrior / his life to take away.
With both hands high she raised it / and off his head struck she,
Whereat did grieve King Etzel / full sore the sorry sight to see.


“To arms!” cried then the monarch: / “here lieth foully slain
Beneath the hand of woman / of all the doughtiest thane
That e’er was seen in battle / or ever good shield bore!
Though foeman howsoever, / yet grieveth this my heart full sore.”


Quoth then the aged Hildebrand: / “Reap no gain she shall,
That thus she dared to slay him. / Whate’er to me befall,
And though myself in direst / need through him have been,
By me shall be avenged / the death of Tronje’s knight full keen.”


In wrathful mood then Hildebrand / unto Kriemhild sprung,
And ’gainst the queen full swiftly / his massy blade he swung.
Aloud she then in terror / ’fore Hildebrand did wail,
Yet that she shrieked so loudly, / to save her what might that avail?


So all those warriors fated / by hand of death lay strewn,
And e’en the queen full lofty / in pieces eke was hewn.
Dietrich and royal Etzel / at length to weep began,
And grievously they mourned / kinsmen slain and many a man.


Who late stood high in honor / now in death lay low,
And fate of all the people / weeping was and woe.
To mourning now the monarch’s / festal tide had passed,
As falls that joy to sorrow / turneth ever at the last.


Nor can I tell you further / what later did befall,
But that good knights and ladies / saw ye mourning all,
And many a noble squire, / for friends in death laid low.
Here hath the story ending, / –that is the Nibelungen woe.


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  •