How Etzel Made Kriemhild His Bride.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #31
Until the fourth day she stayed at Zeisenmauer. The while the dust upon the highway never came to rest, but rose on every side, as if it were burning, where King Etzel's liegemen rode through Austria. Then the king was told aright how royally Kriemhild fared through the lands; at thought of this his sorrows vanished. He hasted to where he found the lovely Kriemhild. Men saw ride before King Etzel on the road many bold knights of many tongues and many mighty troops of Christians and of paynims. When they met the lady, they rode along in lordly wise. Of the Russians and the Greeks there rode there many a man. The right good steeds of the Poles and Wallachians were seen to gallop swiftly, as they rode with might and main. Each did show the customs of his land. From the land of Kiev (1) there rode many a warrior and the savage Petschenegers. (2) With the bow they often shot at the birds which flew there; to the very head they drew the arrows on the bows.
By the Danube there lieth in the Austrian land a town that men call Tulna. (3) There she became acquaint with many a foreign custom, the which size had never seen afore. She greeted there enow who later came through her to grief. Before Etzel there rode a retinue, merry and noble, courtly and lusty, full four and twenty princes, mighty and of lofty birth. They would fain behold their lady and craved naught more. Duke Ramung (4) of Wallachia, with seven hundred vassals, galloped up before her; like flying birds men saw them ride. Then came Prince Gibeek with lordly bands. The doughty Hornbog, (5) with full a thousand men, wheeled from the king away towards the queen. Loudly they shouted after the custom of their land. Madly too rode the kinsmen of the Huns. Then came brave Hawart (6) of Denmark and the doughty Iring, (7) free of guile was he, and Irnfried (8) of Thuringia, a stately man. With twelve hundred vassals, whom they had in their band, they greeted Kriemhild, so that she had therefrom great worship. Then came Sir Bloedel, (9) King Etzel's brother, from the Hunnish land, with three thousand men. In lordly wise he rode to where he found the queen. Then King Etzel came and Sir Dietrich, too, with all his fellowship. There stood many worshipful knights, noble, worthy, and good. At this Dame Kriemhild's spirits rose.
Then Sir Rudeger spake to the queen: "Lady, here will I receive the high-born king; whomso I bid you kiss, that must ye do. Forsooth ye may not greet alike King Etzel's men."
From the palfrey they helped the royal queen alight. Etzel, the mighty, bode no more, but dismounted from his steed with many a valiant man. Joyfully men saw them go towards Kriemhild. Two mighty princes, as we are told, walked by the lady and bore her train, when King Etzel went to meet her, where she greeted the noble lording with a kiss in gracious wise. She raised her veil and from out the gold beamed forth her rosy hue. Many a man stood there who vowed that Lady Helca could not have been more fair than she. Close by stood also Bloedel, the brother of the king. Him Rudeger, the mighty margrave, bade her kiss and King Gibeek, too. There also stood Sir Dietrich. Twelve of the warriors the king's bride kissed. She greeted many knights in other ways.
All the while that Etzel stood at Kriemhild's side, the youthful warriors did as people still are wont to do. One saw them riding many a royal joust. This Christian champions did and paynim, too, according to their custom. In what right knightly wise the men of Dietrich made truncheons from the shafts fly through the air, high above the shields, from the hands of doughty knights! Many a buckler's edge was pierced through and through by the German strangers. Great crashing of breaking shafts was heard. All the warriors from the land were come and the king's guests, too, many a noble man.
Then the mighty king betook him hence with Lady Kriemhild. Hard by them a royal tent was seen to stand; around about the plain was filled with booths, where they should rest them after their toils. Many a comely maid was shown to her place thereunder by the knights, where she then sate with the queen on richly covered chairs. The margrave had so well purveyed the seats for Kriemhild, that all found them passing good; at this King Etzel grew blithe of mood. What the king there spake, I know not. In his right lay her snow-white hand; thus they sate in lover's wise, since Rudeger would not let the king make love to Kriemhild secretly.
Then one bade the tourney cease on every side; in courtly wise the great rout ended. Etzel's men betook them to the booths; men gave them lodgings stretching far away on every side. The day had now an end; they lay at ease, till the bright morn was seen to dawn again, then many a man betook him to the steeds. Ho, what pastimes they gan ply in honor of the king! Etzel bade the Huns purvey all with fitting honors. Then they rode from Tulna to the town of Vienna, where they found many a dame adorned. With great worship these greeted King Etzel's bride. There was ready for them in great plenty whatever they should have. Many a lusty hero rejoiced at prospect of the rout.
The king's wedding feast commenced in merry wise. They began to lodge the guests, but quarters could not be found for all within the town. Rudeger therefore begged those that were not guests to take lodgings in the country round about. I ween men found all time by Lady Kriemhild, Sir Dietrich and many another knight. Their rest they had given over for toil, that they might purvey the guests good cheer. Rudeger and his friends had pastime good. The wedding feast fell on a Whitsuntide, when King Etzel lay by Kriemhild in the town of Vienna. With her first husband, I trow, she did not win so many men for service. Through presents she made her known to those who had never seen her. Full many among them spake to the guests: "We weened that Lady Kriemhild had naught of goods, now hath she wrought many wonders with her gifts."
The feasting lasted seventeen days. I trow men can no longer tell of any king whose wedding feast was greater. If so be, 'tis hidden from us. All that were present wore brand-new garments. I ween, she never dwelt before in Netherland with such retinue of knights. Though Siegfried was rich in goods, I trow, he never won so many noble men-at-arms, as she saw stand 'fore Etzel. Nor hath any ever given at his own wedding feast so many costly mantles, long and wide, nor such good clothes, of which all had here great store, given for Kriemhild's sake. Her friends and the strangers, too, were minded to spare no kind of goods. Whatever any craved, this they willingly gave, so that many of the knights through bounty stood bereft of clothes. Kriemhild thought of how she dwelt with her noble husband by the Rhine; her eyes grew moist, but she hid it full well, that none might see it. Great worship had been done her after many a grief. Whatever bounty any used, 'twas but a wind to that of Dietrich,. What Botelung's son had given him, was squandered quite. Rudeger's lavish hand did also many wonders. Prince Bleedel of Hungary bade empty many traveling chests of their silver and their gold; all this was given away. The king's champions were seen to live right merrily. Werbel and Swemmel, (10) the minstrels of the king, each gained at the wedding feast, I ween, full thousand marks, or even better, when fair Kriemhild sate crowned at Etzel's side.
On the eighteenth morning they rode forth from Vienna. Many shields were pierced in tilting by spears, which the warriors bare in hand. Thus King Etzel came down to the Hunnish land. They spent the night at ancient Heimburg. (11) No one might know the press of folk, or with what force they rode across the land. Ho, what fair women they found in Etzel's native land! At mighty Misenburg (12) they boarded ship. The water which men saw flowing there was covered with steeds and men, as if it were solid earth. The wayworn ladies had their ease and rest. Many good ships were lashed together, that neither waves nor flood might do them harm. Upon them many a goodly tent was spread, as if they still had both land and plain.
From thence tidings came to Etzelburg, (13) at which both men and wives therein were glad. Helca's meiny, that aforetime waited on their mistress, passed many a happy day thereafter at Kriemhild's side. There many a noble maid stood waiting, who had great grief through Helca's death. Kriemhild found still seven royal princesses there, through whom all Etzel's land was graced. For the meiny the high-born maiden Herrat (14) cared, the daughter of Helca's sister, beseen with many courtly virtues, the betrothed of Dietrich, a royal child, King Nentwin's (15) daughter; much worship she later had. Blithe of heart she was at the coming of the guests; for this, too, mighty treasures were prepared. Who might tell the tale of how the king held court? Never had men lived better among the Huns with any queen.
When that the king with his wife rode from the shore, the noble Kriemhild was told full well who each one was; she greeted them the better. Ho, how royally she ruled in Helca's stead! She became acquaint with much loyal service. Then the queen dealt out gold and vesture, silk and precious stones. Whatever she brought with her across the Rhine to Hungary must needs be given all away. All the king's kinsmen and all his liegemen then owned her service, so that Lady Helca never ruled so mightily as she, whom they now must serve till Kriemhild's death. The court and all the land lived in such high honors, that all time men found the pastimes which each heart desired, through the favor of the king and his good queen.
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(1) "Kiev" (M.H.G. "Kiew") is now a government in the southwestern part of Russia. Its capital of the same name, situated on the Dnieper, is the oldest of the better known cities of Russia, and in the latter Middle Ages was an important station of the Hanseatic league. (2) "Petschenegers", a Turkish tribe originally dwelling to the north of the Caspian. By conquest they acquired a kingdom extending from the Don to Transylvania. They were feared for their ferociousness and because they continually invaded the surrounding countries, especially Kiev. (3) "Tulna (M.H.G. "Tulne") is the modern Tulln, a walled town of Lower Austria, seventeen milos northwest of Vienna on the Danube. (4) "Ramung and Gibeck" (M.H.G. "Gibeche") appear only in our poem, nothing else is known of them. (5) "Hornbog" is frequently mentioned in the "Thidreksaga", but nothing otherwise is known of him. (6) "Hawart" is perhaps identical with the Saxon duke Hadugot, who is reputed to have played an important part in the conquest of Thuringia. He evidently comes from the Low German version. (7) "Iring" is considered by Wilmanns to have been originally an ancient deity, as the Milky Way is called "Iringe straze" or "Iringi". He occurs in a legend of the fall of the Thuringian kingdom, where he played such a prominent role that the Milky Way was named after him. See W. Grimm, "Heldensage", p. 394, who thinks, however, that the connection of Iring with the Milky Way is the result of a confusion. (8) "Irnfried" is considered to be Hermanfrid of Thuringia, who was overthrown and killed in A.D. 535 by Theuderich with the aid of the Saxons. See Felix Dahn, "Urgeschichte", iii, 73-79. He, too, comes from the Low German tradition. (9) "Bloedel" is Bleda, the brother of Attila, with whom he reigned conjointly from A.D. 433 to 445. In our poem the name appears frequently with the diminutive ending, as "Bloedelin". (10) "Werbel and Swemmel", who doubtless owe their introduction to some minstrel, enjoy special favor and are intrusted with the important mission of inviting the Burgundians to Etzel's court, an honor that would hardly be accorded to persons of their rank. Swemmel appears mostly in the diminutive form "Swemmelin". (11) "Heimburg" lies on the Danube near the Hungarian border. (12) "Misenburg" is the modern Wieselburg on the Danube, twenty-one miles southeast of Pressburg. (13) "Etzelburg" was later identified with the old part of Budapest, called in German "Ofen", through the influence of Hungarish legends, but, as G. Heinrich has shown, had no definite localization in the older M.H.G. epics. See Bleyer, PB. Belt. xxxi 433 and 506. The name occurs in documents as late as the fifteenth century. (14) "Herrat", the daughter of King "Nentwin" is frequently mentioned in the "Thidreksaga" as Dietrich's betrothed. She is spoken of as the exiled maid. (15) "Nentwin" is not found in any other saga, and nothing else is known of him. See W. Grimm, "Heldensage", 103.