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Epos ; for thongh she is as gentle and Achilles, so the most significant desigmild as a Madonna till her love is nation for this mediæval Iliad of the wounded, after that she nourishes a Germans would be the revenge of desire of vengeance on the murderers Kriemhild. After naming these, and of her husband, as insatiate and in- other notable personages of the Burexorable as that which the son of gundian court at Worms, the poet Peleus, in the Iliad, nurses against makes use of a dream, as Æschylus the son of Atreus for the rape of in the Agamemnon uses an omen, to the lovely Briseis. In fact, as the open up, in a fitful glimpse of progreat work of Homer might be phecy, the general burden and fateful more fully designated the wrath of issue of his tale.
“A dream was dreamed by Kriemhild, the virtuous and the gay,
How a wild young falcon she trained for many a day,
That single death atoning died many a mother's son.” With these words ends the very two distinct parts or acts—the famous short first canto, or, in the phraseology SIEGFRIED, with the horny hide," of the bard, “ adventuro" of the poem. as the old German chap-book has it, The second introduces us to the most which any of our readers may have for prominent male character in the first a groschen or two in Leipzig, and not part of the poem--for it is divided into more, wesuppose, than a sixpence here.
“ In Netherland there flourished a prince of lofty kind,
(Whose father hight Siegmund, his mother Siegelind)
Men did call it Xanten; 'twas famous far and wide." This princely youth, who, like the ing employed his early days, like anSpanish Cid, is perfect even to the cient Hercules and Theseus, in atsmallest hair on his beard, after have tacking and overcoming every sort of lungen, which epithet, however, in the first part, is applied to certain distant Scandinavian vassals of Siegfried. The origin of this name has caused much dispute amongst the learned,
terrible monster, in bestial or human “second adventure." Like a dutiful guise, that came in his way, is dubbed son, as well as a fearless knight, he knight with the stroke of the chival- will accept no royal honours, or rous sword, in due form, and a festival share in the official dignities of governis held in honour of the event, the ment, so as long as his father and description of which occupies the mother live.
“ While Siegelind and Siegmund yet lived and flourished there,
Full little recked their offspring the royal crown to wear.
Won him renown eternal in every foreign strand.” But even the sturdy mail-clad he- other serious occupation, and that, of roes of mediæval knighthood some- course, was love. With the entrance times tired of “battles ;" and when on this new career, the third adventhey were thus aweary, they had one ture is occupied.
“ 'Twas seldom tear or sorrow the warrior's breast assayed ;
At length he heard a rumour how a lovely maid
For her he won much pleasure, but dash'd with toil and care." Siegfried opens his determination this rumour, and take to wife none to his parents to follow the fortune of other than
“ The bright Burgundian maiden, best gem of Gunther's throne,
Whose far-renowned beauty stands unapproached alone." This resolution, of course, as is the youth ; but with a calm and decided fortune of true love, meets with oppo- answer, such as true love knows how sition, at first, from the parents of the to give, the difficulty is overcome.
“Dearest father mine, The love of high-born women for ever I'll resign
Rather than play the wooer but where my heart is set.” Forthwith, therefore, he sets out on where—could not err. To make the an expedition to Worms, predeter- necessary impression on so mighty a mined, after the common fashion of king as Gunther, the Prince of the mediæval love-romances, to marry the Netherland is pranked out most gorwoman whom he had never seen; for geously with all that woman's needle in these matters, rumour, it was can produce of chivalrous embroidery; thought--that plays so falsely else- and, thus accoutred,
“On the seventh fair morning, by Worms along the strand,
In knightly guise were pricking the death-defying band;
Then follows the formal reception but specially of the gentle ladies, who, at the court of Worms, and, as on on occasions when propriety did not all great festival occasions in those allow them publicly to appear, enjoy days, a tournament is held, where the dear delight of gazing on bearded the stranger knight, of course, acquits swordsmen even more exquisitely himself like a god rather than a man, from behind a window. to the admiration of all beholders,
“At court the lovely ladies were asking evermore,
Then no other pleasure needed the gentle Queen." But though Kriemhild saw Sieg- remained with Gunther a whole fried through the window, Siegfried year,
“Nor all that weary season a single glimpse could gain
Of her who after brought him such pleasure and such pain." Like the disciples of Pythagoras, Ludeger the Bold, and leagued with the amorous knights of those days him King Ludegast of Denmark, to had first to serve a long apprentice. attack the realm of the Burgundians. ship of the severe discipline of absti- Coming home, like a Mars-subduing nence, before they were permitted to Diomede, from this fierce encounter, kiss the hand of beauty, or to meet the knight of the Netherland is at even its distant glance. The fourth length deemed worthy to be introadventure, therefore, goes on to tell duced to his destined fair. Another how Siegfried showed his prowess by tourney is held, at which Kriemhild fighting with the Saxons, who had publicly appears. come under the guidance of their king,
“Now went she forth the loveliest, as forth the morning goes,
Well might, at such a vision, many a bold heart beat high.” With not less of serene beauty, and ings of Siegfried on first coming within a quiet naturalness that is peculiar to the sweet atmosphere of woman's him, the old bard describes the feel- love.
* There stood he, the high-minded, beneath her star-bright eye,
His cheek as fire all glowing; then said she modestly,
He bowed with soft emotion, and thanked the blushing fair ;
None yet was champion who so deserved a queen.” Thus far well. But his probation of Iceland, “ far beyond the sea," who, was not yet finished. Before finally being of a masculine temper and joining hand and heart with the peer- strength, had deterinined to submit less sister of King Gunther, Siegfried herself to no male lord who had not must assist her brother in a yet more proved himself worthy to wield the difficult work than anything that he marital sceptre, by actually mastering had hitherto achieved—in gaining the his spouse in strong physical conlove of Brunhild, a doughty princess flict.
"There was a queen high-seated afar beyond the sea,
None wielded sceptre a mightier than she;
Thereby full many a hero thereafter lost his life.” Doubtful of his single strength to so awful a part; only with this difsnbdue so mettlesome a maid, Gunther ference, that in the Niebelungen, as in enters into a compact with Siegfried the Odyssey, the punishment overto assist him in his enterprise-by fair takes the offending parties, and not, means or foul, as it appears; and in as in the tragedians, their sons and this evil compact, and the underhand grandsons. But to proceed: Siegfried, work to which it gives rise, lies al- like Jack the Giant-killer, though ready visible before the unveiled eye commencing his career as a single of the reader, the little black spot mortal with no miraculous power, had on the fair blue of the epic sky, in the course of his chivalrous exploits, which is destined (and the bard is and as the reward of his extraordinary ever forward to hint this catas- prowess, got possession of certain trophe,) at a day though distant yet wonder-working instruments, that sure, to dilate into a wide-spreading rendered him, when he chose to use cloud, and to burst in a fearful deluge them, sure of victory against mere that shall sweep hundreds and thou- mortal strength. With the aid of sands of the guilty and the guiltless these, Siegfried, for the sake of the into destruction. This is neither more love of Kriemhild, had determined nor less than the dark old doctrine of (secretly and unfairly) to assist retribution, which in the Greek trage- Gunther in subduing the stout Brundians, and especially Æschylus, plays hild.
“I have heard strange stories of wild dwarfs, how they fare :
They dwell in hollow mountains ; and for protection wear
Thus Siegfried won fair Brunhild, which brought him bitterest woe." In order the more surely to afford live in an age when a Napoleon would his necessary aid, Siegfried appeared bave sought to make an impression on among the attendants of Gunther, in the vulgar by “wearing the plain the character of a subordinate vassal. dress of the Institute ; " nor has he Having thus arranged matters, they the slightest conception of the soul of set out for the far island of the sea. poetry beating in a breast of which And here, as in many other passages, the exterior vesture is the “hodden it is noticeable with what a childlike, grey," or the plain plaid of our Scotch almost girlish delight, the old bard Muse. We shall quote this one pasexpatiates on the gay dress of his sage to serve for many similar, with mighty men. He evidently did not which the poem is studded :
“So with kind dismissal away the warriors strode;