The Nibelungenlied
By George Henry Needler, Translator

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Public Domain Books

Sixth Adventure - How Gunther fared to Isenland to Brunhild


Tidings unknown to any / from over Rhine now come,
How winsome maids a many / far yonder had their home.
Whereof the royal Gunther / bethought him one to win,
And o’er the thought the monarch / of full joyous mood was seen.


There was a queenly maiden / seated over sea,
Like her nowhere another / was ever known to be.
She was in beauty matchless, / full mickle was her might;
Her love the prize of contest, / she hurled the shaft with valiant


The stone she threw far distant, / wide sprang thereafter too.
Who turned to her his fancy / with intent to woo,
Three times perforce must vanquish / the lady of high degree;
Failed he in but one trial, / forfeited his head had he.


This same the lusty princess / times untold had done.
When to a warrior gallant / beside the Rhine ’twas known,
He thought to take unto him / the noble maid for wife:
Thereby must heroes many / since that moment lose their life.


Then spake of Rhine the master: / “I’ll down unto the sea
Unto Brunhild journey, / fare as ’twill with me.
For her unmeasured beauty / I’ll gladly risk my life,
Ready eke to lose it, / if she may not be my wife.”


“I counsel thee against it," / spake then Siegfried.
“So terrible in contest / the queen is indeed,
Who for her love is suitor / his zeal must dearly pay.
So shalt thou from the journey / truly be content to stay.”


“So will I give thee counsel," / outspake Hagen there,
“That thou beg of Siegfried / with thee to bear
The perils that await thee: / that is now my rede,
To him is known so fully / what with Brunhild will be thy need.”


He spake: “And wilt thou help me, / noble Siegfried,
To win the lovely maiden? / Do what now I plead;
And if in all her beauty / she be my wedded wife,
To meet thy fullest wishes / honor will I pledge and life.”


Thereto answered Siegfried, / the royal Siegmund’s son:
“Giv’st thou me thy sister, / so shall thy will be done,
–Kriemhild the noble princess, / in beauty all before.
For toils that I encounter / none other meed I ask thee more.”


“That pledge I,” spake then Gunther, / “Siegfried, in thy hand.
And comes the lovely Brunhild / thither to this land,
Thereunto thee my sister / for wife I’ll truly give,
That with the lovely maiden / thou may’st ever joyful live.”


Oaths the knight full noble / upon the compact swore,
Whereby to them came troubles / and dangers all the more,
Ere they the royal lady / brought unto the Rhine.
Still should the warriors valiant / in sorest need and sorrow pine.


With him carried Siegfried / that same mantle then,
The which with mickle trouble / had won the hero keen
From a dwarf in struggle, / Alberich by name.
They dressed them for the journey, / the valiant thanes of lofty fame.


And when the doughty Siegfried / the sightless mantle wore,
Had he within it / of strength as good a store
As other men a dozen / in himself alone.
The full stately princess / anon by cunning art he won.


Eke had that same mantle / such wondrous properties
That any man whatever / might work whate’er he please
When once he had it on him, / yet none could see or tell.
’Twas so that he won Brunhild; / whereby him evil since befell.


“Ere we begin our journey, / Siegfried, tell to me,
That we with fullest honor / come unto the sea,
Shall we lead warriors with us / down to Brunhild’s land?
Thanes a thirty thousand / straightway shall be called to hand.”


“Men bring we ne’er so many," / answered Siegfried then.
“So terrible in custom / ever is the queen,
That all would death encounter / from her angry mood.
I’ll give thee better counsel, / thane in valor keen and good.


“Like as knights-errant journey / down the Rhine shall we.
Those now will I name thee / who with us shall be;
But four in all the company / seaward shall we fare:
Thus shall we woo the lady, / what fortune later be our share.


“Myself one of the company, / a second thou shalt be,
Hagen be the third one / –so fare we happily;
The fourth let it be Dankwart, / warrior full keen.
Never thousand others / dare in fight withstand us then.”


“The tale I would know gladly," / the king then further said,
“Ere we have parted thither / –of that were I full glad–
What should we of apparel, / that would befit us well,
Wear in Brunhild’s presence: / that shalt thou now to Gunther tell.”


“Weeds the very finest / that ever might be found
They wear in every season / in Brunhild’s land:
So shall we rich apparel / before the lady wear,
That we have not dishonor / where men the tale hereafter hear.”


Then spake he to the other: / “Myself will go unto
My own loving mother, / if I from her may sue
That her fair tendant maidens / help that we be arrayed
As we may go in honor / before the high majestic maid.”


Then spake of Tronje Hagen / with noble courtliness:
“Why wilt thou of thy mother / beg such services?
Only let thy sister / hear our mind and mood:
So shall for this our journey / her good service be bestowed.”


Then sent he to his sister / that he her would see,
And with him also Siegfried. / Ere that such might be,
Herself had there the fair one / in rich apparel clad.
Sooth to tell, the visit / but little did displease the maid.


Then also were her women / decked as for them was meet.
The princes both were coming: / she rose from off her seat,
As doth a high-born lady / when that she did perceive,
And went the guest full noble / and eke her brother to receive.


“Welcome be my brother / and his companion too.
I’d know the story gladly," / spake the maiden so,
“What ye now are seeking / that ye are come to me:
I pray you straightway tell me / how ’t with you valiants twain may be.”


Then spake the royal Gunther: / “Lady, thou shall hear:
Spite of lofty spirits / have we yet a care.
To woo a maid we travel / afar to lands unknown;
We should against the journey / have rich apparel for our own.”


“Seat thee now, dear brother," / spake the princess fair;
“Let me hear the story, / who the ladies are
That ye will seek as suitors / in stranger princes’ land."
Both good knights the lady / took in greeting by the hand.


With the twain then went she / where she herself had sat,
To couches rich and costly, / in sooth believe ye that,
Wrought in design full cunning / of gold embroidery.
And with these fair ladies / did pass the time right pleasantly.


Many tender glances / and looks full many a one
Fondly knight and lady / each other cast upon.
Within his heart he bore her, / she was as his own life.
Anon the fairest Kriemhild / was the doughty Siegfried’s wife.


Then spake the mighty monarch: / “Full loving sister mine,
This may we ne’er accomplish / without help of thine.
Unto Brunhild’s country / as suitor now we fare:
’Tis fitting that ’fore ladies / we do rich apparel wear.”


Then spake the royal maiden: / “Brother dear to me,
In whatsoever manner / my help may given be,
Of that I well assure you, / ready thereto am I.
To Kriemhild ’twere a sorrow / if any should the same deny.


“Of me, O noble brother, / thou shalt not ask in vain:
Command in courteous manner / and I will serve thee fain.
Whatever be thy pleasure, / for that I’ll lend my aid
And willingly I’ll do it," / spake the fair and winsome maid.


“It is our wish, dear sister, / apparel good to wear;
That shall now directing / the royal hand prepare;
And let thy maids see to it / that all is done aright,
For we from this same journey / turn not aside for word of wight.”


Spake thereupon the maiden: / “Now mark ye what I say:
Myself have silks in plenty; / now send us rich supply
Of stones borne on bucklers, / so vesture we’ll prepare."
To do it royal Gunther / and Siegfried both right ready were.


“And who are your companions," / further questioned she,
“Who with you apparelled / now for court shall be?"
“I it is and Siegfried, / and of my men are two,
Dankwart and Hagen, / who with us to court shall go.


“Now rightly what we tell thee, / mark, O sister dear:
’Tis that we four companions / for four days may wear
Thrice daily change of raiment / so wrought with skilful hand
That we without dishonor / may take our leave of Brunhild’s land.”


After fair leave-taking / the knights departed so.
Then of her attendants / thirty maids to go
Forth from her apartments / Kriemhild the princess bade,
Of those that greatest cunning / in such skilful working had.


The silks that were of Araby / white as the snow in sheen,
And from the land of Zazamank / like unto grass so green,
With stones of price they broidered; / that made apparel rare.
Herself she cut them, Kriemhild / the royal maiden debonair.


Fur linings fashioned fairly / from dwellers in the sea
Beheld by people rarely, / the best that e’er might be,
With silken stuffs they covered / for the knights to wear.
Now shall ye of the shining / weeds full many a wonder hear.


From land of far Morocco / and eke from Libya
Of silks the very finest / that ever mortal saw
With any monarch’s kindred, / they had a goodly store.
Well showed the Lady Kriemhild / that unto them good will she bore.


Since they unto the journey / had wished that so it be,
Skins of costly ermine / used they lavishly,
Whereon were silken pieces / black as coal inlaid.
To-day were any nobles / in robes so fashioned well arrayed.


From the gold of Araby / many a stone there shone.
The women long were busy / before the work was done;
But all the robes were finished / ere seven weeks did pass,
When also trusty armor / for the warriors ready was.


When they at length were ready / adown the Rhine to fare,
A ship lay waiting for them / strong built with mickle care,
Which should bear them safely / far down unto the sea.
The maidens rich in beauty / plied their work laboriously.


Then ’twas told the warriors / for them was ready there
The finely wrought apparel / that they were to wear;
Just as they had wished it, / so it had been made;
After that the heroes / there by the Rhine no longer stayed.


To the knights departing / went soon a messenger:
Would they come in person / to view their new attire,
If it had been fitted / short and long aright.
’Twas found of proper measure, / and thanked those ladies fair each


And all who there beheld them / they must needs confess
That in the world they never / had gazed on fairer dress:
At court to wear th’ apparel / did therefore please them well.
Of warriors better furnished / never could a mortal tell.


Thanks oft-times repeated / were there not forgot.
Leave of parting from them / the noble knights then sought:
Like thanes of noble bearing / they went in courteous wise.
Then dim and wet with weeping / grew thereat two shining eyes.


She spake: “O dearest brother, / still here thou mightest stay,
And woo another woman– / that were the better way–
Where so sore endangered / stood not thus thy life.
Here nearer canst thou find thee / equally a high-born wife.”


I ween their hearts did tell them / what later came to pass.
They wept there all together, / whatever spoken was.
The gold upon their bosoms / was sullied ’neath the tears
That from their eyes in plenty / fell adown amid their fears.


She spake: “O noble Siegfried, / to thee commended be
Upon thy truth and goodness / the brother dear to me,
That he come unscathed / home from Brunhild’s land."
That plighted the full valiant / knight in Lady Kriemhild’s hand.


The mighty thane gave answer: / “If I my life retain,
Then shall thy cares, good Lady, / all have been in vain.
All safe I’ll bring him hither / again unto the Rhine,
Be that to thee full sicker." / To him did the fair maid incline.


Their shields of golden color / were borne unto the strand,
And all their trusty armor / was ready brought to hand.
They bade their horses bring them: / they would at last depart.
–Thereat did fairest women / weep with sad foreboding heart.


Down from lofty casement / looked many a winsome maid,
As ship and sail together / by stirring breeze were swayed.
Upon the Rhine they found them, / the warriors full of pride.
Then outspake King Gunther: / “Who now is here the ship to guide?”


“That will I,” spake Siegfried; / “I can upon the flood
Lead you on in safety, / that know ye, heroes good;
For all the water highways / are known right well to me."
With joy they then departed / from the land of Burgundy.


A mighty pole then grasped he, / Siegfried the doughty man,
And the ship from shore / forth to shove began.
Gunther the fearless also / himself took oar in hand.
The knights thus brave and worthy / took departure from the land.


They carried rich provisions, / thereto the best of wine
That might in any quarter / be found about the Rhine.
Their chargers stood in comfort / and rested by the way:
The ship it moved so lightly / that naught of injury had they.


Stretched before the breezes / were the great sail-ropes tight,
And twenty miles they journeyed / ere did come the night,
By fair breezes favored / down toward the sea.
Their toil repaid thereafter / the dauntless knights full grievously.


Upon the twelfth morning, / as we in story hear,
Had they by the breezes / thence been carried far,
Unto Castle Isenstein / and Brunhild’s country:
That to Siegfried only / was known of all the company.


As soon as saw King Gunther / so many towers rise
And eke the boundless marches / stretch before his eyes,
He spake: “Tell me, friend Siegfried, / is it known to thee
Whose they are, the castles / and the majestic broad country?”


Thereto gave answer Siegfried: / “That well to me is known:
Brunhild for their mistress / do land and people own
And Isenstein’s firm towers, / as ye have heard me say.
Ladies fair a many / shall ye here behold to-day.


“And I will give you counsel: / be it well understood
That all your words must tally / –so methinks ’twere good.
If ere to-day is over / our presence she command,
Must we leave pride behind us, / as before Brunhild we stand.


“When we the lovely lady / ’mid her retainers see,
Then shall ye, good companions, / in all your speech agree
That Gunther is my master / and I his serving-man:
’Tis thus that all he hopeth / shall we in the end attain.”


To do as he had bidden / consented straight each one,
And spite of proudest spirit / they left it not undone.
All that he wished they promised, / and good it proved to be
When anon King Gunther / the fair Brunhild came to see.


“Not all to meet thy wishes / do I such service swear,
But most ’tis for thy sister, / Kriemhild the maiden fair;
Just as my soul unto me / she is my very life,
And fain would I deserve it / that she in truth become my wife.”


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