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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Nibelungs

In the dusk they were sitting, around their lord
and round the hearth of the hall;
Hagen Tronje, upon the knee his sword,
and the kings were sitting there all.

Fair Kriemhild was crouching near the fire.
From her slender hands the glow
twitched alive like blood and gold
and ran up the walls from below.

King Gunter spoke, "My heart is sore
when I hear the east wind´s sighs !
Minstrel, take up your fiddle once more,
sing us of days that are blithe !"

A stroke of the bow flew up sublime
and fluttered up to the beam,
Lord Volker sang: "Once upon a time
of a noble falcon I´d dream…"

Blond Kriemhild, looking across the room
spoke softly and with a tear:
"Minstrel Volker, stop playing this tune
and sing us some different air !"

The chestnut fiddle then murmured and rang,
musing and lost in a dream.
"In the Odenwald", Lord Volker sang,
"springs forth a clear, cool stream…"

Blond Kriemhild writhed, again she said
with anxious tears before long:
"My heart beats loud and is afraid
and trembles at your song…"

And for the third time the fiddle began,
now weeping with sorrow and grief.
Lord Volker´s voice now seemed to them
like a bird at night on the heath:

"It smoulders in eternal night
hotter than any firestream,
yellow like the dwarves´ sight
that greedily do guard its gleam,-
  Woe to the lust that sired me !

"As in the forest rut calls rut,
as embers yearn to flame up bright,
so drives the greed for human blood
the hoard of darkness into light, -
  Woe to the womb that gave me birth !

"It calls to envy, calls to kill,
stirs up the dragons lie and guile,
stirs vengeance that devours revenge
and redder glows the hoard awhile, -
  Woe to the breast that suckled me !

"It´s floating in a purple source,
it drinks the source and still wants more,
a frothing flood, a rising force
like the Danube´s churning roar, -
  Woe to my love´s long-cherished worth !

"It foams and seethes, flinging spray,
it´s surging outside at the door,
it knocks and pounds, the bolt gives way,
a hot red stream upon the floor,-
  Woe unto you, woe unto me !"

All of a sudden, on the last chord
the strings screeched eerily.
Hagen of Tronje leaned forward
and balanced his sword on his knee.

The kings were sitting aghast and pale,
but beautiful Kriemhild laughed loud.
She spoke: "I never heard a tale
that made me more merry, no doubt."

She kneeled down and fuelled the fire.
From her slender hands the glow
twitched alive like blood and gold
and ran up the walls from below.

Agnes Miegel (1879-1964), German poetess. Read the original "Die Nibelungen" here.

Translation © by Michaela Macha, Common Domain.