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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Nibelungenlied

Originally written in Middle High German by an unknown author, it is commonly dated sometime around 1200 CE. 
It recounts how the hero Siegfried of Xanten joins the kings of Burgundy, marries their fair sister Kriemhild, 
is killed by Hagen on the instigation of Brunhild; and how Kriemhild marries king Etzel 
to take terrible revenge on her brothers, which lead to the doom of both Burgundians and Huns.


First Adventure, stanza 1:

Uns ist in alten maeren / wunders vil geseit
von heleden lobebaeren, / von grozer arebeit,
von frouden, hochgeziten, / von weinen und von klagen,
von kuener recken striten / muget ir nu wunder hoeren sagen.

Translation by Alice Horton, 1898:


To us, in olden legends, / is many a marvel told
Of praise-deserving heroes, / of labours manifold,
Of weeping and of wailing, / of joy and festival;
Of bold knights’ battling shall you / now hear a wondrous tale.

First Adventure, stanzas 1-6, by G. H. Needler:

To us in olden story / are wonders many told
Of heroes rich in glory, / of trials manifold:
Of joy and festive greeting, / of weeping and of woe,
Of keenest warriors meeting, / shall ye now many a wonder know.

There once grew up in Burgundy / a maid of noble birth,
Nor might there be a fairer / than she in all the earth:
Kriemhild hight the maiden, / and grew a dame full fair,
Through whom high thanes a many / to lose their lives soon doomed were.

’Twould well become the highest / to love the winsome maid,
Keen knights did long to win her, / and none but homage paid.
Beauty without measure, / that in sooth had she,
And virtues wherewith many / ladies else adorned might be.

Three noble lords did guard her, / great as well in might,
Gunther and Gernot, / each one a worthy knight,
And Giselher their brother, / a hero young and rare.
The lady was their sister / and lived beneath the princes’ care.

These lords were free in giving, / and born of high degree;
Undaunted was the valor / of all the chosen three.
It was the land of Burgundy / o’er which they did command,
And mighty deeds of wonder / they wrought anon in Etzel’s land.

At Worms amid their warriors / they dwelt, the Rhine beside,
And in their lands did serve them / knights of mickle pride,
Who till their days were ended / maintained them high in state.
They later sadly perished / beneath two noble women’s hate.

(Translator George Henry Needler; full text is in the public domain.)

Image: Victor R. Lambdin, illustration to "Viking Tales" by Jennie Hall, 1902