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The Story of Sigurd the Volsung (excerpt)

Written by: William Morris | Biography
 | Quotes (6) |
 But therewith the sun rose upward and lightened all the earth,
And the light flashed up to the heavens from the rims of the glorious girth;
But they twain arose together, and with both her palms outspread,
And bathed in the light returning, she cried aloud and said:
"All hail, O Day and thy Sons, and thy kin of the coloured things!
Hail, following Night, and thy Daughter that leadeth thy wavering wings!
Look down With unangry eyes on us today alive,
And give us the hearts victorious, and the gain for which we strive!
All hail, ye Lords of God-home, and ye Queens of the House of Gold!
Hail, thou dear Earth that bearest, and thou Wealth of field and fold!
Give us, your noble children, the glory of wisdom and speech,
And the hearts and the hands of healing, and the mouths and hands that teach!"

Then they turned and were knit together; and oft and o'er again
They craved, and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.
Then Sigurd looketh upon her, and the words from his heart arise: "Thou art the fairest of earth, and the wisest of the wise; O who art thou that lovest? I am Sigurd, e'en as I told; I have slain the Foe of the Gods, and gotten the Ancient Gold; And great were the gain of thy love, and the gift of mine earthly days, If we twain should never sunder as we wend on the changing ways.
O who art thou that lovest, thou fairest of all things born? And what meanest thy sleep and thy slumber in the wilderness forlorn?" She said: "I am one that loveth: I was born of the earthly folk, But of old Allfather took me from the Kings and their wedding yoke: And he called me the Victory-Wafter, and I went and came as he would, And I chose the slain for his war-host, and the days were glorious and good, Till the thoughts of my heart overcame me, and the pride of my wisdom and speech, And I scorned the earth-folk's Framer and the Lord of the world I must teach: For the death-doomed I caught from the sword, and the fated life I slew, And I deemed that my deeds were goodly, and that long I should do and undo.
But Allfather came against me and the God in his wrath arose; And he cried: `Thou hast thought in thy folly that the Gods have friends and foes, That they wake, and the world wends onward, that they sleep, and the world slips back, That they laugh, and the world's weal waxeth, that they frown and fashion the the wrack: Thou hast cast up the curse against me; it shall fall aback on thine head; Go back to the sons of repentance, with the children of sorrow wed! For the Gods are great unholpen, and their grief is seldom seen, And the wrong that they will and must be is soon as it had not been.
' "Yet I thought: `Shall I wed in the world,shall I gather grief on the earth? Then the fearless heart shall I wed, and bring the best to birth, And fashion such tales for the telling, that Earth shall be holpen at least, If the Gods think scorn of its fairness, as they sit at the changeless feast.
' "Then somewhat smiled Allfather; and he spake: 'So let it be! The doom thereof abideth; the doom of me and thee.
Yet long shall the time pass over ere thy waking day be born: Fare forth, and forget and be weary 'neath the Sting of the Sleepful Thorn!' 'So I came to the head of Hindfell and the ruddy shields and white, And the wall of the wildfire wavering around the isle of night; And there the Sleep-thorn pierced me, and the slumber on me fell, And the night of nameless sorrows that hath no tale to tell.
Now I am she that loveth; and the day is nigh at hand When I, who have ridden the sea-realm and the regions of the land, And dwelt in the measureless mountains and the forge of stormy days, Shall dwell in the house of my fathers and the land of the people's praise; And there shall hand meet hand, and heart by heart shall beat, And the lying-down shall be joyous, and the morn's uprising sweet.
Lo now, I look on thine heart and behold of thine inmost will, That thou of the days wouldst hearken that our portion shall fulfil; But O, be wise of man-folk, and the hope of thine heart refrain! As oft in the battle's beginning ye vex the steed with the rein, Lest at last in the latter ending, when the sword hath hushed the horn, His limbs should be weary and fail, and his might be over-worn.
O be wise, lest thy love constrain me, and my vision wax o'er-clear, And thou ask of the thing that thou shouldst not, and the thing that thou wouldst not hear.
Know thou, most mighty of men, that the Norns shall order all, And yet without thine helping shall no whit of their will befall; Be wise! 'tis a marvel of words, and a mock for the fool and the blind; But I saw it writ in the heavens, and its fashioning there did I find: And the night of the Norns and their slumber, and the tide when the world runs back, And the way of the sun is tangled, it is wrought of the dastard's lack.
But the day when the fair earth blossoms, and the sun is bright above, Of the daring deeds is it fashioned and the eager hearts of love.
"Be wise, and cherish thine hope in the freshness of the days, And scatter its seed from thine hand in the field of the people's praise; Then fair shall it fall in the furrow, and some the earth shall speed, And the sons of men shall marvel at the blossom of the deed: But some the earth shall speed not: nay rather, the wind of the heaven Shall waft it away from thy longing--and a gift to the Gods hast thou given, And a tree for the roof and the wall in the house of the hope that shall be, Though it seemeth our very sorrow, and the grief of thee and me.
"Strive not with the fools of man-folk: for belike thou shalt overcome; And what then is the gain of thine hunting when thou bearest the quarry home? Or else shall the fool overcome thee, and what deed thereof shall grow? Nay, strive with the wise man rather, and increase thy woe and his woe; Yet thereof a gain hast thou gotten; and the half of thine heart hast thou won If thou mayst prevail against him, and his deeds are the deeds thou hast done; Yea, and if thou fall before him, in him shalt thou live again, And thy deeds in his hand shall blossom, and his heart of thine heart shall be fain.
"When thou hearest the fool rejoicing, and he saith, 'It is over and past, And the wrong was better than right, and hate turns into love at the last, And we strove for nothing at all, and the Gods are fallen asleep; For so good is the world a-growing that the evil good shall reap:' Then loosen thy sword in the scabbard and settle the helm on thine head, For men betrayed are mighty, and great are the wrongfully dead.
"Wilt thou do the deed and repent it? thou hadst better never been born: Wilt thou do the deed and exalt it? then thy fame shall be outworn: Thou shalt do the deed and abide it, and sit on thy throne on high, And look on today and tomorrow as those that never die.
"Love thou the Gods--and withstand them, lest thy fame should fail in the end, And thou be but their thrall and their bondsman, who wert born for their very friend: For few things from the Gods are hidden, and the hearts of men they know, And how that none rejoiceth to quail and crouch alow.
"I have spoken the words, belov{`e}d, to thy matchless glory and worth; But thy heart to my heart hath been speaking, though my tongue hath set it forth: For I am she that loveth, and I know what thou wouldst teach From the heart of thine unlearned wisdom, and I needs must speak thy speech.
" Then words were weary and silent, but oft and o'er again They craved and kissed rejoicing, and their hearts were full and fain.
Then spake the Son of Sigmund: "Fairest, and most of worth, Hast thou seen the ways of man-folk and the regions of the earth? Then speak yet more of wisdom; for most meet meseems it is That my soul to thy soul be shapen, and that I should know thy bliss.
" So she took his right hand meekly, nor any word would say, Not e'en of love or praising, his longing to delay; And they sat on the side of Hindfell, and their fain eyes looked and loved, As she told of the hidden matters whereby the world is moved: And she told of the framing of all things, and the houses of the heaven; And she told of the star-worlds' courses, and how the winds be driven; And she told of the Norns and their names, and the fate that abideth the earth; And she told of the ways of the King-folk in their anger and their mirth; And she spoke of the love of women, and told of the flame that burns, And the fall of mighty houses, and the friend that falters and turns, And the lurking blinded vengeance, and the wrong that amendeth wrong, And the hand that repenteth its stroke, and the grief that endureth for long: And how man shall bear and forbear, and be master of all that is; And how man shall measure it all, the wrath, and the grief, and the bliss.
"I saw the body of Wisdom, and of shifting guise was she wrought, And I stretched out my hands to hold her, and a mote of the dust they caught; And I prayed her to come for my teaching, and she came in the midnight dream-- And I woke and might not remember, nor betwixt her tangle deem: She spake, and how might I hearken; I heard, and how might I know; I knew, and how might I fashion, or her hidden glory show? All things I have told thee of Wisdom are but fleeting images Of her hosts that abide in the heavens, and her light that Allfather sees: Yet wise is the sower that sows, and wise is the reaper that reaps, And wise is the smith in his smiting, and wise is the warder that keeps: And wise shalt thou be to deliver, and I shall be wise to desire; --And lo, the tale that is told, and the sword and the wakening fire! Lo now, I am she that loveth, and hark how Greyfell neighs, And Fafnir's Bed is gleaming, and green go the downward ways, The road to the children of men and the deeds that thou shalt do In the joy of thy life-days' morning, when thine hope is fashioned anew.
Come now, O Bane of the Serpent, for now is the high-noon come, And the sun hangeth over Hindfell and looks on the earth-folk's home; But the soul is so great within thee, and so glorious are thine eyes, And me so love constraineth, and mine heart that was called the wise, That we twain may see men's dwellings and the house where we shall dwell, And the place of our life's beginning, where the tale shall be to tell.
" So they climb the burg of Hindfell, and hand in hand they fare, Till all about and above them is nought but the sunlit air, And there close they cling together rejoicing in their mirth; For far away beneath them lie the kingdoms of the earth, And the garths of men-folk's dwellings and the streams that water them, And the rich and plenteous acres, and the silver ocean's hem, And the woodland wastes and the mountains, and all that holdeth all; The house and the ship and the island, the loom and the mine and the stall, The beds of bane and healing, the crafts that slay and save, The temple of God and the Doom-ring, the cradle and the grave.
Then spake the Victory-Wafter: "O King of the Earthly Age, As a God thou beholdest the treasure and the joy of thine heritage, And where on the wings of his hope is the spirit of Sigurd borne? Yet I bid thee hover awhile as a lark alow on the corn; Yet I bid thee look on the land 'twixt the wood and the silver sea In the bight of the swirling river, and the house that cherished me! There dwelleth mine earthly sister and the king that she hath wed; There morn by morn aforetime I woke on the golden bed; There eve by eve I tarried mid the speech and the lays of kings; There noon by noon I wandered and plucked the blossoming things; The little land of Lymdale by the swirling river's side, Where Brynhild once was I called in the days ere my father died; The little land of Lymdale 'twixt the woodland and the sea, Where on thee mine eyes shall brighten and thine eyes shall beam on me.
" "I shall seek thee there," said Sigurd, "when the day-spring is begun, Ere we wend the world together in the season of the sun.
" "I shall bide thee there," said Brynhild, "till the fulness of the days, And the time for the glory appointed, and the springing-tide of praise.
" From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari's ancient Gold; There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold, The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end, No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend: Then Sigurd cries: "O Brynhild, now hearken while I swear, That the sun shall die in the heavens and the day no more be fair, If I seek not love in Lymdale and the house that fostered thee, And the land where thou awakedst 'twixt the woodland and the sea!" And she cried: "O Sigurd, Sigurd, now hearken while I swear That the day shall die for ever and the sun to blackness wear, Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, as I lie 'twixt wood and sea In the little land of Lymdale and the house that fostered me!" Then he set the ring on her finger and once, if ne'er again, They kissed and clung together, and their hearts were full and fain.
So the day grew old about them and the joy of their desire, And eve and the sunset came, and faint grew the sunset fire, And the shadowless death of the day was sweet in the golden tide; But the stars shone forth on the world, and the twilight changed and died; And sure if the first of man-folk had been born to that starry night, And had heard no tale of the sunrise, he had never longed for the light: But Earth longed amidst her slumber, as 'neath the night she lay, And fresh and all abundant abode the deeds of Day.



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