The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Third Adventure - How Siegfried came to Worms


Seldom in sooth, if ever, / the hero’s heart was sad.
He heard them tell the story, / how that a winsome maid
There lived afar in Burgundy, / surpassing fair to see:
Great joy she brought him later, / but eke she brought him misery.


Of her exceeding beauty / the fame spread far and near,
And of the thing, moreover, / were knights oft-times aware
How the maid’s high spirit / no mortal could command:
The thing lured many a stranger / from far unto King Gunther’s land.


Although to win her favor / were many wooers bent,
In her own heart would never / Kriemhild thereto consent
That any one amongst them / for lover she would have:
Still to her was he a stranger / to whom anon her troth she gave.


To true love turned his fancy / the son of Siegelind.
’Gainst his, all others’ wooing / was like an idle wind:
Full well did he merit / a lady fair to woo,
And soon the noble Kriemhild / to Siegfried bold was wedded true.


By friends he oft was counselled, / and many a faithful man,
Since to think of wooing / in earnest he began,
That he a wife should find him / of fitting high degree.
Then spoke the noble Siegfried: / “In sooth fair Kriemhild shall it be,


“The noble royal maiden / in Burgundy that dwells,
For sake of all her beauty. / Of her the story tells,
Ne’er monarch was so mighty / that, if for spouse he sighed,
’Twere not for him befitting / to take the princess for his bride.”


Unto King Siegmund also / the thing was soon made known.
His people talked about it, / whereby to him was shown
The Prince’s fixed purpose. / It grieved him sorely, too,
That his son intent was / the full stately maid to woo.


Siegelind asked and learned it, / the noble monarch’s wife.
For her loved son she sorrowed / lest he should lose his life,
For well she knew the humor / of Gunther and his men.
Then gan they from the wooing / strive to turn the noble thane.


Then said the doughty Siegfried: / “O father dear to me,
Without the love of woman / would I ever be,
Could I not woo in freedom / where’er my heart is set.
Whate’er be said by any, / I’ll keep the selfsame purpose yet.”


“Since thou wilt not give over," / the king in answer said,
“Am I of this thy purpose / inwardly full glad,
And straightway to fulfil it / I’ll help as best I can,
Yet in King Gunther’s service / is many a haughty-minded man.


“And were there yet none other / than Hagen, warrior-knight,
He with such haughty bearing / is wont to show his might,
That I do fear right sorely / that sad our end may be,
If we set out with purpose / to win the stately maid for thee.”


“Shall we by that be hindered?" / outspake Siegfried then;
“Whate’er in friendly fashion / I cannot obtain
I’ll yet in other manner / take that, with sword in hand.
I trow from them I’ll further / wrest both their vassals and their land.”


“I grieve to hear thy purpose," / said Siegmund the king;
“If any one this story / unto the Rhine should bring,
Then durst thou never after / within that land be seen.
Gunther and Gernot, / –well known to me they long have been.


“By force, however mighty, / no man can win the maid,"
Spake King Siegmund further, / “to me hath oft been said.
But if with knightly escort / thither thou wilt ride,
Good friends–an have we any– / shall soon be summoned to thy side.”


“No wish,” then answered Siegfried, / “it ever was of mine,
That warrior knights should follow / with me unto the Rhine
As if arrayed for battle: / ’twould make my heart full sad,
To force in hostile manner / to yield to me the stately maid.


“By my own hand–thus only– / trust I to win my bride;
With none but twelve in company / to Gunther’s land I’ll ride.
In this, O royal father, / thy present help I pray."
Gray and white fur raiment / had his companions for the way.


Siegelind his mother / then heard the story too,
And grieved she was on hearing / what her dear son would do,
For she did fear to lose him / at hands of Gunther’s men.
Thereat with heart full heavy / began to weep the noble queen.


Then came forth Sir Siegfried / where the queen he sought,
And to his weeping mother / thus gently spake his thought:
“No tear of grief thou shouldest / ever shed for me,
For I care not a tittle / for all the warriors that be.


“So help me on my journey / to the land of Burgundy,
And furnish such apparel / for all my knights and me,
As warriors of our station / might well with honor wear.
Then I in turn right truly / to thee my gratitude will swear.”


“Since thou wilt not give over," / Siegelind then replied,
“My only son, I’ll help thee / as fits thee forth to ride,
With the best apparel / that riders ever wore,
Thee and thy companions: / ye shall of all have goodly store.”


Then bowed the youthful Siegfried / the royal dame before,
And said: “Upon the journey / will I take no more,
But twelve good knights only: / for these rich dress provide,
For I would know full gladly / how ’t doth with Kriemhild betide.”


Then sat at work fair women / by night and eke by day,
And rest indeed but little / from busy toil had they,
Until they had made ready / the dress Siegfried should wear.
Firm bent upon the journey, / no other counsel would he hear.


His father bade a costly / garb for him prepare,
That leaving Siegmund’s country / he the same might wear.
For all their glittering breastplates / were soon prepared beside,
And helmets firmly welded, / and shining shields long and wide.


Then fast the day grew nearer / when they should thence depart.
Men and likewise women / went sorrowing in heart,
If that they should ever / see more their native land.
With full equipment laden / the sumpter horses there did stand.


Their steeds were stately, furnished / with trappings rich with gold;
It were a task all bootless / to seek for knights more bold
Than were the gallant Siegfried / and his chosen band.
He longed to take departure / straightway for Burgundian land.


Leave granted they with sadness, / both the king and queen,
The which to turn to gladness / sought the warrior keen,
And spake then: “Weep ye shall not / at all for sake of me,
Forever free from doubtings / about my safety may ye be.”


Stern warriors stood there sorrowing, / –in tears was many a maid.
I ween their hearts erred nothing, / as sad forebodings said
That ’mongst their friends so many / thereby were doomed to die.
Good cause had they to sorrow / at last o’er all their misery.


Upon the seventh morning / to Worms upon the strand
Did come the keen knights riding. / Bright shone many a band
Of gold from their apparel / and rich equipment then;
And gently went their chargers / with Siegfried and his chosen men.


New-made shields they carried / that were both strong and wide
And brightly shone their helmets / as thus to court did ride
Siegfried the keen warrior / into King Gunther’s land.
Of knights before was never / beheld so richly clad a band.


The points of their long scabbards / reached down unto the spur,
And spear full sharply pointed / bore each chosen warrior.
The one that Siegfried carried / in breadth was two good span,
And grimly cut its edges / when driven by the fearless man.


Reins with gold all gleaming / held they in the hand,
The saddle-bands were silken. / So came they to the land.
On every side the people / to gape at them began,
And also out to meet them / the men that served King Gunther ran.


Gallant men high-hearted, / knight and squire too,
Hastened to receive them, / for such respect was due,
And bade the guests be welcome / unto their master’s land.
They took from them their chargers, / and shields as well from out the


Then would they eke the chargers / lead forth unto their rest;
But straight the doughty Siegfried / to them these words addressed:
“Yet shall ye let our chargers / stand the while near by;
Soon take we hence our journey; / thereon resolved full well am I.


“If that be known to any, / let him not delay,
Where I your royal master / now shall find, to say,–
Gunther, king so mighty / o’er the land of Burgundy."
Then told him one amongst them / to whom was known where that might be:


“If that the king thou seekest, / right soon may he be found.
Within that wide hall yonder / with his good knights around
But now I saw him sitting. / Thither do thou repair,
And thou may’st find around him / many a stately warrior there.”


Now also to the monarch / were the tidings told,
That within his castle / were knights arrived full bold,
All clad in shining armor / and apparelled gorgeously;
But not a man did know them / within the land of Burgundy.


Thereat the king did wonder / whence were come to him
These knights adventure seeking / in dress so bright and trim,
And shields adorned so richly / that new and mighty were.
That none the thing could tell him / did grieve him sorely to hear.


Outspake a knight then straightway, / Ortwein by name was he,
Strong and keen as any / well was he known to be:
“Since we of them know nothing, / bid some one quickly go
And fetch my uncle Hagen: / to him thou shalt the strangers show.


“To him are known far kingdoms / and every foreign land,
And if he know these strangers / we soon shall understand."
The king then sent to fetch him: / with his train of men
Unto the king’s high presence / in stately gear went he then.


What were the king’s good pleasure, / asked Hagen grim in war.
“In the court within my castle / are warriors from afar,
And no one here doth know them: / if them thou e’er didst see
In any land far distant, / now shalt thou, Hagen, tell to me.”


“That will I do, ’tis certain."– / To a window then he went,
And on the unknown strangers / his keen eye he bent.
Well pleased him their equipment / and the rich dress they wore,
Yet ne’er had he beheld them / in land of Burgundy before.


He said that whencesoever / these knights come to the Rhine,
They bear a royal message, / or are of princely line.
“Their steeds are so bedizened, / and their apparel rare:
No matter whence they journey, / high-hearted men in truth they are.”


Further then spake Hagen: / “As far as goes my ken,
Though I the noble Siegfried / yet have never seen,
Yet will I say meseemeth, / howe’er the thing may be,
This knight who seeks adventure, / and yonder stands so proud, is he.


“’Tis some new thing he bringeth / hither to our land.
The valiant Nibelungen / fell by the hero’s hand,
Schilbung and Nibelung, / from royal sire sprung;
Deeds he wrought most wondrous / anon when his strong arm he swung.


“As once alone the hero / rode without company,
Found he before a mountain / –as hath been told to me–
With the hoard of Nibelung / full many stalwart men;
To him had they been strangers / until he chanced to find them then.


“The hoard of King Nibelung / entire did they bear
Forth from a mountain hollow. / And now the wonder hear,
How that they would share it, / these two Nibelung men.
This saw the fearless Siegfried, / and filled he was with wonder then.


“He came so near unto them / that he the knights espied,
And they in turn him also. / One amongst them said:
’Here comes the doughty Siegfried, / hero of Netherland.’
Since ’mongst the Nibelungen / strange wonders wrought his mighty hand.


“Right well did they receive him, / Schilbung and Nibelung,
And straight they both together, / these noble princes young,
Bade him mete out the treasure, / the full valorous man,
And so long time besought him / that he at last the task began.


“As we have heard in story, / he saw of gems such store
That they might not be laden / on wagons full five score;
More still of gold all shining / from Nibelungenland.
’Twas all to be divided / between them by keen Siegfried’s hand.


“Then gave they him for hire / King Nibelung’s sword.
And sooth to say, that service / brought them but small reward,
That for them there performed / Siegfried of dauntless mood.
His task he could not finish; / thereat they raged as were they wood.


“They had there of their followers / twelve warriors keen,
And strong they were as giants: / what booted giants e’en?
Them slew straightway in anger / Siegfried’s mighty hand,
And warriors seven hundred / he felled in Nibelungenland


“With the sword full trusty, / Balmung that hight.
Full many a youthful warrior / from terror at the sight
Of that deadly weapon / swung by his mighty hand
Did render up his castle / and pledge him fealty in the land.


“Thereto the kings so mighty, / them slew he both as well.
But into gravest danger / through Alberich he fell,
Who thought for his slain masters / vengeance to wreak straightway,
Until the mighty Siegfried / his wrath with strong arm did stay.


“Nor could prevail against him / the Dwarf, howe’er he tried.
E’en as two wild lions / they coursed the mountainside,
Where he the sightless mantle[1] / from Alberich soon won.
Then Siegfried, knight undaunted, / held the treasure for his own.

[1] This is the tarnkappe, a cloak that made the wearer invisible, and also gave him the strength of twelve men.


“Who then dared join the struggle, / all slain around they lay.
Then he bade the treasure / to draw and bear away
Thither whence ’twas taken / by the Nibelungen men.
Alberich for his valor / was then appointed Chamberlain.


“An oath he had to swear him, / he’d serve him as his slave;
To do all kinds of service / his willing pledge he gave"–
Thus spake of Tronje Hagen– / “That has the hero done;
Might as great before him / was never in a warrior known.


“Still know I more about him, / that has to me been told.
A dragon, wormlike monster, / slew once the hero bold.
Then in its blood he bathed him, / since when his skin hath been
So horn-hard, ne’er a weapon / can pierce it, as hath oft been seen.


“Let us the brave knight-errant / receive so courteously
That we in nought shall merit / his hate, for strong is he.
He is so keen of spirit / he must be treated fair:
He has by his own valor / done many a deed of prowess rare.”


The monarch spake in wonder: / “In sooth thou tellest right.
Now see how proudly yonder / he stands prepared for fight,
He and his thanes together, / the hero wondrous keen!
To greet him we’ll go thither, / and let our fair intent be seen.”


“That canst thou,” out spake Hagen, / “well in honor do.
He is of noble kindred, / a high king’s son thereto.
’Tis seen in all his bearing; / meseems in truth, God wot,
The tale is worth the hearing / that this bold knight has hither


Then spake the mighty monarch: / “Be he right welcome here.
Keen is he and noble, / of fame known far and near.
So shall he be fair treated / in the land of Burgundy."
Down then went King Gunther, / and Siegfried with his men found he.


The king and his knights with him / received so well the guest,
That the hearty greeting / did their good will attest.
Thereat in turn the stranger / in reverence bowed low,
That in their welcome to him / they did such courtesy bestow.


“To me it is a wonder," / straightway spake the host,
“From whence, O noble Siegfried, / come to our land thou dost,
Or what here thou seekest / at Worms upon the Rhine."
Him the stranger answered: / “Put thou away all doubts of thine.


“I oft have heard the tiding / within my sire’s domain,
How at thy court resided / –and know this would I fain–
Knights, of all the keenest, / –’tis often told me so–
That e’er a monarch boasted: / now come I hither this to know.


“Thyself have I heard also / high praised for knightly worth;
’Tis said a nobler monarch / ne’er lived in all the earth.
Thus speak of thee the people / in all the lands around.
Nor will I e’er give over / until in this the truth I’ve found.


“I too am warrior noble / and born to wear a crown;
So would I right gladly / that thou of me shouldst own
That I of right am master / o’er people and o’er land.
Of this shall now my honor / and eke my head as pledges stand.


“And art thou then so valiant / as hath to me been told,
I reck not, will he nill he / thy best warrior bold,
I’ll wrest from thee in combat / whatever thou may’st have;
Thy lands and all thy castles / shall naught from change of masters


The king was seized with wonder / and all his men beside,
To see the manner haughty / in which the knight replied
That he was fully minded / to take from him his land.
It chafed his thanes to hear it, / who soon in raging mood did stand.


“How could it be my fortune," / Gunther the king outspoke,
“What my sire long ruled over / in honor for his folk,
Now to lose so basely / through any vaunter’s might?
In sooth ’twere nobly showing / that we too merit name of knight!”


“Nowise will I give over," / was the keen reply.
“If peace through thine own valor / thy land cannot enjoy,
To me shall all be subject: / if heritage of mine
Through thy arm’s might thou winnest, / of right shall all hence-forth be


“Thy land and all that mine is, / at stake shall equal lie.
Whiche’er of us be victor / when now our strength we try,
To him shall all be subject, / the folk and eke the land."
But Hagen spake against it, / and Gernot too was quick at hand.


“Such purpose have we never," / Gernot then said,
“For lands to combat ever, / that any warrior dead
Should lie in bloody battle. / We’ve mighty lands and strong;
Of right they call us master, / and better they to none belong.”


There stood full grim and moody / Gernot’s friends around,
And there as well amongst them / was Ortwein to be found.
He spake: “This mild peace-making / doth grieve me sore at heart,
For by the doughty Siegfried / attacked all undeserved thou art.


“If thou and thy two brothers / yourselves to help had naught,
And if a mighty army / he too had hither brought,
I trow I’d soon be able / to make this man so keen
His manner now so haughty / of need replace by meeker mien.”


Thereat did rage full sorely / the hero of Netherland:
“Never shall be measured / ’gainst me in fight thy hand.
I am a mighty monarch, / thou a king’s serving-knight;
Of such as thou a dozen / dare not withstand me in the fight.”


For swords then called in anger / of Metz Sir Ortwein:
Son of Hagen’s sister / he was, of Tronje’s line.
That Hagen so long was silent / did grieve the king to see.
Gernot made peace between them: / a gallant knight and keen was he.


Spake he thus to Ortwein: / “Curb now thy wrathful tongue,
For here the noble Siegfried / hath done us no such wrong;
We yet can end the quarrel / in peace,–such is my rede–
And live with him in friendship; / that were for us a worthier deed.”


Then spake the mighty Hagen: / “Sad things do I forebode
For all thy train of warriors, / that this knight ever rode
Unto the Rhine thus armed. / ’Twere best he stayed at home;
For from my masters never / to him such wrong as this had come.”


But outspake Siegfried proudly, / whose heart was ne’er dismayed:
“An’t please thee not, Sir Hagen, / what I now have said,
This arm shall give example / whereby thou plain shall see
How stern anon its power / here in Burgundy will be.”


“Yet that myself will hinder," / said then Gernot.
All his men forbade he / henceforth to say aught
With such unbridled spirit / to stir the stranger’s ire.
Then Siegfried eke was mindful / of one most stately maid and fair.


“Such strife would ill befit us," / Gernot spake again;
“For though should die in battle / a host of valiant men
’Twould bring us little honor / and ye could profit none."
Thereto gave Siegfried answer, / good King Siegmund’s noble son:


“Wherefore bides thus grim Hagen, / and Ortwein tardy is
To begin the combat / with all those friends of his,
Of whom he hath so many / here in Burgundy?"
Answer him they durst not, / for such was Gernot’s stern decree.


“Thou shalt to us be welcome," / outspake young Giselher,
“And all thy brave companions / that hither with thee fare.
Full gladly we’ll attend thee, / I and all friends of mine."
For the guests then bade they / pour out in store of Gunther’s wine.


Then spake the stately monarch: / “But ask thou courteously,
And all that we call ours / stands at thy service free;
So with thee our fortune / we’ll share in ill and good."
Thereat the noble Siegfried / a little milder was of mood.


Then carefully was tended / all their knightly gear,
And housed in goodly manner / in sooth the strangers were,
All that followed Siegfried; / they found a welcome rest.
In Burgundy full gladly / anon was seen the noble guest.


They showed him mickle honor / thereafter many a day,
And more by times a thousand / than I to you could say.
His might respect did merit, / ye may full well know that.
Scarce a man e’er saw him / who bore him longer any hate.


And when they held their pastime, / the kings with many a man,
Then was he ever foremost; / whatever they began,
None there that was his equal, / –so mickle was his might–
If they the stone were putting, / or hurling shaft with rival knight.


As is the knightly custom, / before the ladies fair
To games they turned for pastime, / these knights of mettle rare;
Then ever saw they gladly / the hero of Netherland.
But he had fixed his fancy / to win one fairest maiden’s hand.


In all that they were doing / he’d take a ready part.
A winsome loving maiden / he bore within his heart;
Him only loved that lady, / whose face he ne’er had seen,
But she full oft in secret / of him spake fairest words, I ween.


And when before the castle / they sped in tournament,
The good knights and squires, / oft-times the maiden went
And gazed adown from casement, / Kriemhild the princess rare.
Pastime there was none other / for her that could with this compare.


And knew he she was gazing / whom in his heart he bore,
He joy enough had found him / in jousting evermore.
And might he only see her, / –that can I well believe–
On earth through sight none other / his eyes could such delight receive.


Whene’er with his companions / to castle court he went,
E’en as do now the people / whene’er on pleasure bent,
There stood ’fore all so graceful / Siegelind’s noble son,
For whom in love did languish / the hearts of ladies many a one.


Eke thought he full often: / “How shall it ever be,
That I the noble maiden / with my own eyes may see,
Whom I do love so dearly / and have for many a day?
To me is she a stranger, / which sorely grieves my heart to say.”


Whene’er the kings so mighty / rode o’er their broad domain,
Then of valiant warriors / they took a stately train.
With them abroad rode Siegfried, / which grieved those ladies sore:
–He too for one fair maiden / at heart a mickle burden bore.


Thus with his hosts he lingered / –’tis every tittle true–
In King Gunther’s country / a year completely through,
And never once the meanwhile / the lovely maid did see,
Through whom such joy thereafter / for him, and eke such grief should be.


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