Adventure V: How Siegfried First Saw Kriemhild
One saw daily riding to the Rhine those who would fain be at the feasting. Full many of these who for the king's sake were come into the land, were given steeds and lordly harness. Seats were prepared for all, for the highest and the best, as we are told, for two and thirty princes at the feast. For this, too, the fair ladies vied in their attire. Giselher, the youth, was aught but idle; he and Gernot and all their men received the friends and strangers. In truth, they gave the knights right courtly greetings. These brought into the land many a saddle of golden red, dainty shields and lordly armor to the feasting on the Rhine. Many a wounded man was seen full merry since. Even those who lay abed in stress of wounds, must needs forget the bitterness of death. Men ceased to mourn for the weak and sick and joyed in prospect of the festal day, and how well they would fare at the feasting of the king. Pleasure without stint and overabundance of joy pervaded all the folk which there were seen. Therefore great rejoicing arose throughout the whole of Gunther's land.
Upon a Whitsun morning five thousand or more brave men, clad in glad attire, were seen going forth to the high festal tide. On all sides they vied with each other in knightly sports. The host marked well, what he already wet, how from his very heart the hero of Netherland did love his sister, albeit he had never seen her, whose comeliness men praised above all maids. Then spake the knight Ortwin to the king: "Would ye have full honor at your feast, so should ye let be seen the charming maids, who live in such high honors here in Burgundy. What were the joy of man, what else could give him pleasure, but pretty maids and noble dames? Pray let your sister go forth before the guests." To the joy of many a hero was this counsel given.
"This will I gladly do," spake then the king, and all who heard it were merry at the thought. Then bade he say to the Lady Uta and her comely daughter, that with their maidens they should come to court. From the presses they took fair raiment and whatso of rich attire was laid away. Of rings and ribbons, too, enow they had. Thus each stately maiden decked herself with zeal. Full many a youthful knight upon that day was of the mind that he was so fair to look upon for ladies, that he would not exchange this chance for the lands of any mighty king. Gladly they gazed on those whom till now they had not known. Then bade the mighty king full a hundred of his men, who were his kin and hers, escort his sister and serve her thus. These were the court retainers of the Burgundian land and carried swords in hand. Soon one saw the noble Uta coming with her child. Full hundred or more fair ladies had she taken for her train, who wore rich robes. Likewise there followed her daughter many a stately maid. When from out a bower men saw them come, there rose a mighty press of knights who had the hope, if that might be, to gaze with joy upon the noble maid. Now came she forth, the lovely fair, as doth the red of dawn from out the lowering clouds. He then was reft of many woes who bore her in his heart so long a time, when he saw the lovely maid stand forth so glorious. How shone full many a precious stone upon her robes! In lovely wise her rose-red hue appeared. Whatever one might wish, he could not but confess that never in the world had he beheld a fairer maid. As the radiant moon, whose sheen is thrown so brightly on the clouds, doth stand before the stars, so stood she now before full many a stately dame. Therefore higher rose the spirits of the comely knights. Richly appareled chamberlains marched on in front, while the high-mettled warriors forsooth must press where they might see the lovely maid. At this Lord Siegfried felt both joy and dole. To himself he thought: "How could that chance, that I should love thee? That is a foolish dream. But if I now must lose thee, then were I better dead." At thought of this his color came and went. There stood the son of Siegmund in such dainty grace, as he were limned on parchment by skillful master's art. Indeed 'twas said of him that never had so fair a knight been seen. The escort of the ladies now bade everywhere give way and many a man obeyed. These high-born hearts rejoiced full many a wight, as thus so many a noble dame appeared in courtly bearing.
Then spake Lord Gernot of Burgundy: "Dear brother Gunther, him who offered service in such kindly wise, ye should in like manner requite before these knights; nor shall I ever rue this counsel. Bid Siegfried now approach my sister, that the maid may greet him; this will ever be our gain. She who never greeted warrior shall greet him fair, that by this means we now may win the stately knight."
Then went the kinsmen of the host to fetch the hero. To the champion from Netherland they spake: "You hath the king permitted to go to court; his sister is to greet you. This hath he decreed to do you honor."
At this the lord grew blithe of mood, for in his heart he bare joy without alloy, that he thus should see fair Uta's child. With lovely grace she greeted Siegfried then, but when she saw the haughty knight stand thus before her, her cheeks flamed bright. "Be welcome, Sir Siegfried, most good and noble knight," the fair maid spake, and at this greeting his spirits mounted high. Courteously he made obeisance; she took him by the hand. How gallantly he walked by the lady's side! Upon each other this lord and lady gazed with kindling eyes. Full secretly this happed. Was perchance a white hand there fervently pressed by heart-felt love? That know I not; yet I cannot believe that this was left undone, for soon had she betrayed to him her love. Nevermore in summertide nor in the days of May bare he within his heart such lofty joy as now he gained, when hand in hand he walked with her whom he fain would call his love.
Then thought full many a knight: "Had that but happed to me, to walk thus with her hand in hand, as now I see him do, or to lie beside her, I'd bear it willingly."
Never has warrior better served to gain a queen. From whatever land the guests were come, all gazed alike upon this pair alone. She then was bidden kiss the stately man, to whom no such delight had ever happened in this world.
Then spake the king of Denmark: "Because of this high greeting many a warrior lieth wounded (this wot I well), through Siegfried's hand. God grant that he may never come again to my kingly lands."
On all sides they bade make way for Kriemhild, as thus to church one saw her go with many a valiant knight in courtly wise. Then soon the stately knight was parted from her side. Thus went she to the minster, followed by many a dame. So full of graces was this queenly maid that many a daring wish must needs be lost. Born she was to be the eyes' delight of many a knight. Siegfried scarce could wait till mass was sung. Well might he think his fortune that she did favor him, whom thus he bare in heart. Cause enow he had to love the fair.
When she came forth from out the minster, they begged the gallant knight again to bear her company, as he had done afore. Then first the lovely maid began to thank him that he had fought so gloriously before so many knights. "Now God requite you, Sir Siegfried," spake the comely maid, "that ye have brought to pass with your service, that the warriors do love you with such fealty as I hear them say."
Then upon Dame Kriemhild he began to gaze in loving wise. "I will serve them ever," spake then the knight, "and while life shall last, never will I lay my head to rest till I have done their will; and this I do, my Lady Kriemhild, to win your love."
A twelfth-night long, on each and every day, one saw the winsome maid beside the knight, when she should go to court to meet her kin. This service was done from sheer delight. A great rout of joy and pleasure was daily seen in front of Gunther's hall, without and eke within, from many a daring man. Ortwin and Hagen began to do great marvels. Whatever any wished to play, these lusty knights were fully ready; thus they became well known to all the guests and so the whole of Gunther's land was decked with honor. Those who had lain wounded were now seen coming forth; they, too, would fain have pastime with the troop and guard themselves with bucklers and hurl the shaft. Enow there were to help them, for there was great store of men.
At the feasting the host bade purvey them with the best of cheer. He kept him free from every form of blame that might befall a king; men saw him move in friendly wise among his guests. He spake: "Ye worthy knights, ere ye go hence, pray take my gifts. I am minded to deserve it of you ever. Do not disdain my goods, the which I'll share with you, as I have great desire."
Then up spake they of Denmark: "Ere we ride homeward to our land, we crave a lasting peace; we knights have need thereof, for many a one of our kinsmen lieth dead at the hands of your men-at- arms."
Liudegast, the Saxon chief, was now cured of his wounds and had recovered from the fray, though many dead they left within this land. Then King Gunther went to find Sir Siegfried; to the knight he spake: "Now tell me what to do. Our foes would fain ride early and beg for lasting peace of me and of my men. Advise me now, Knight Siegfried, what thinketh thee good to do? What the lordings offer me will I tell thee; what of gold five hundred steeds can bear, that would they gladly give me, and I set them free again."
Then spake the mighty Siegfried: "That were done but ill. Let them ride hence unhindered, but make each of the lordings give surety with his hand, that their noble knights henceforth forbear all hostile riding hither to your land."
"This counsel will I follow." Herewith they parted, and to the king's foes was told that no one craved the gold they proffered. For their loved friends at home the battle-weary warriors longed. Many a shield full of treasure was then brought forth which the king dealt out unweighed to his many friends, to each five hundred marks of gold, and to a few, still more. Gernot, the brave, had counseled Gunther this. Then they all took leave, sith they would hence. One saw the guests draw nigh to Kriemhild and also to where Dame Uta sate. Never yet were knights dismissed in better wise. Lodgings grew empty as they rode away, but still there stayed at home the king and all his kin and many a noble liegeman. Daily they were seen as they went to Lady Kriemhild. The good knight Siegfried now would likewise take his leave; he weened not to win that on which his mind was set. The king heard said that he would hence, but Giselher, the youth, quite won him from the journey.
"Whither would ye ride now, noble Siegfried? Pray tarry with the knights, I beg you, with Gunther the king and with his men. Here, too, are many comely dames whom we shall gladly let you see."
Then spake the mighty Siegfried: "Let stand the steeds. I listed to ride hence, but now will I desist. The shields, too, bear away. To my land I craved to go, in truth, but Giselher with his great love hath turned me from it."
So the valiant knight stayed on to please his friends, nor could he have fared more gentilly in any land. This happed because he daily saw Kriemhild, the fair; for the sake of her unmeasured beauty the lording stayed. With many a pastime they whiled the hours away, but still her love constrained him and often gave him dole. Because of this same love in later days the valiant knight lay pitiful in death.