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Medieval and Classical Library


Of Siegfried.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #31

In the Netherlands there grew the child of a noble king (his father had for name Siegemund, (1) his mother Siegelind), (2) in a mighty castle, known far and wide, in the lowlands of the Rhine: Xanten, (3) men called it. Of this hero I sing, how fair he grew. Free he was of every blemish. Strong and famous he later became, this valiant man. Ho! What great worship he won in this world! Siegfried hight this good and doughty knight. Full many kingdoms did he put to the test through his warlike mood. Through his strength of body he rode into many lands. Ho! What bold warriors he after found in the Burgundian land! Mickle wonders might one tell of Siegfried in his prime, in youthful days; what honors he received and how fair of body he. The most stately women held him in their love; with the zeal which was his due men trained him. But of himself what virtues he attained! Truly his father's lands were honored, that he was found in all things of such right lordly mind. Now was he become of the age that he might ride to court. Gladly the people saw him, many a maid wished that his desire might ever bear him hither. Enow gazed on him with favor; of this the prince was well aware. Full seldom was the youth allowed to ride without a guard of knights. Siegmund and Siegelind bade deck him out in brave attire. The older knights who were acquaint with courtly custom, had him in their care. Well therefore might he win both folk and land.

Now he was of the strength that he bare weapons well. Whatever he needed thereto, of this he had enow. With purpose he began to woo fair ladies; these bold Siegfried courted well in proper wise. Then bade Siegmund have cried to all his men, that he would hold a feasting with his loving kindred. The tidings thereof men brought into the lands of other kings. To the strangers and the home-folk he gave steeds and armor. Wheresoever any was found who, because of his birth, should become a knight, these noble youths were summoned to the land for the feasting. Here with the youthful prince they gained the knightly sword. Wonders might one tell of this great feast; Siegmund and Siegelind wist well how to gain great worship with their gifts, of which their hands dealt out great store. Wherefore one beheld many strangers riding to their realm. Four hundred sword-thanes (4) were to put on knightly garb with Siegfried. Many a fair maid was aught but idle with the work, for he was beloved of them all. Many precious stones the ladies inlaid on the gold, which together with the edging they would work upon the dress of the proud young warriors, for this must needs be done.

The host bade make benches for the many valiant men, for the midsummer festival, (5) at which Siegfried should gain the name of knight. Then full many a noble knight and many a high-born squire did hie them to the minster. Right were the elders in that they served the young, as had been done to them afore. Pastimes they had and hope of much good cheer. To the honor of God a mass was sung; then there rose from the people full great a press, as the youths were made knights in courtly wise, with such great honors as might not ever lightly be again. Then they ran to where they found saddled many a steed. In Siegmund's court the hurtling (6) waxed so fierce that both palace (7) and hall were heard to ring; the high-mettled warriors clashed with mighty sound. From young and old one heard many a shock, so that the splintering of the shafts reechoed to the clouds. Truncheons (8) were seen flying out before the palace from the hand of many a knight. This was done with zeal. At length the host bade cease the tourney and the steeds were led away. Upon the turf one saw all to-shivered (9) many a mighty buckler and great store of precious stones from the bright spangles (10) of the shields. Through the hurtling this did hap.

Then the guests of the host betook them to where men bade them sit. With good cheer they refreshed them and with the very best of wine, of which one bare frill plenty. To the strangers and the home-folk was shown worship enow. Though much pastime they had throughout the day, many of the strolling folk forsware all rest. They served for the largess, which men found there richly, whereby Siegmund's whole land was decked with praise. Then bade the king enfeoff Siegfried, the youth, with land and castles, as he himself had done. Much his hand bestowed upon the sword- companions. The journey liked them well, that to this land they were come. The feasting lasted until the seventh day. Siegelind, the noble queen, for the love of her son, dealt out ruddy gold in time-honored wise. Full well she wot how to make him beloved of the folk. Scarce could a poor man be found among the strolling mimes. Steeds and raiment were scattered by their hand, as if they were to live not one more day. I trow that never did serving folk use such great bounty. With worshipful honors the company departed hence. Of the mighty barons the tale doth tell that they desired the youth unto their lord, but of this the stately knight, Sir Siegfried, listed naught. Forasmuch as both Siegmund and Siegelind were still alive, the dear child of them twain wished not to wear a crown, but fain would he become a lord against all the deeds of force within his lands, whereof the bold and daring knight was sore adread.

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(1)  "Siegmund" (M.H.G. "Sigemunt") was originally the hero of an
     independent saga.  See "Volsungasaga", chaps. 3-8.

(2)  "Siegelind" (M.H.G. "Sigelint") is the correct name of
     Siegfried's mother, as the alliteration shows.  The Early
     Norse version has "Hjordis", which has come from the "Helgi

(3)  "Xanten" (M.H.G. "Santen" from the Latin "ad sanctos") is at
     present a town in the Rhenish Prussian district of
     Dusseldorf.  It does not now lie on the Rhine, but did in
     the Middle Ages.

(4)  "Sword-thanes" (M.H.G. "swertdegene") were the young squires
     who were to be made knights.  It was the custom for a
     youthful prince to receive the accolade with a number of

(5)  "Midsummer festival".  The M.H.G. "sunewende" means
     literally the 'sun's turning', i.e., the summer solstice.
     This was one of the great Germanic festivals, which the
     church later turned into St. John's Eve.  The bonfires still
     burnt in Germany on this day are survivals of the old
     heathen custom.

(6)  "Hurtling" translates here M.H.G. "buhurt", a word borrowed
     from the French to denote a knightly sport in which many
     knights clashed together.  Hurtling was used in older
     English in the same significance.

(7)  "Palace" (M.H.G. "palas", Lat. "palatium") is a large
     building standing alone and largely used as a reception

(8)  "Truncheons" (M.H.G. "trunzune", O.F. "troncon", 'lance
     splinters', 'fragments of spears'.

(9)  "To-shivered", 'broken to pieces', in imitation of the older
     English to-beat, to-break, etc.

(10) "Spangles" (M.H.G. "spangen"), strips of metal radiating
     from the raised centre of the shield and often set, as here,
     with precious stones.