Nibelungs - George Upton

Kriemhild's Grief

Hagen had bethought him of a plan to make his terrible revenge complete, by leaving Kriemhild to find the body of her lord before her door. And so it was, for, when at daybreak the bells for matins sounded from the minster spire and Kriemhild awakened her women to go with her to service as was their wont, the chamberlain coming to attend them saw the body without her chamber. Thereupon the door opened and the Queen would have come forth, but the chamberlain, raising his torch to light the passage, warned her to go back, till he should have borne the body thence. But Kriemhild straightway divining what had befallen, uttered a loud shriek and fell senseless to the ground. When she had come to herself again her women sought to calm her, saying the corpse was surely of some stranger knight, but Kriemhild, wringing her hands, cried out:

"Ah no! it is my lord, foully slain by Gunther, and Brunhild it was who urged him to the deed!"

Bending over the lifeless form, while the chamberlain lowered his torch, she gently lifted the head and laid it on her knee; and therewith, disfigured as the noble features were, she knew it for her husband.

"Woe is me!" she cried, "by no good sword stroke hath his shield been shattered. 'T was a murderer's hand that laid my Siegfried low!

Thereupon she caused the Nibelungs to be awakened and a messenger despatched to Siegmund. The aged King had passed a sleepless night so fearful was he for his son; yet this terrible news he could not credit, but hastened to Kriemhild only to find her in an agony of grief, surrounded by her weeping women. When the Nibelungs came and saw the lifeless body of their King, they cried aloud in bitter wrath and woe, and drawing their swords, would have avenged his death forthwith; but Kriemhild restrained them, and there before them all she took a solemn oath never to rest till she had found the murderer and wrought vengeance upon him for the bloody deed.

Then Siegfried's wounds were washed, his body clothed in costly garments and raised upon a bier, and thereafter borne to the cathedral amid tolling of bells and chanting of hymns, while all the people flocked to look upon the hero and join in bewailing his death. Thither too came Gunther and Hagen with a great show of grief and horror, to join the mourners. But Kriemhild bade her brother cease his lamentations, since but for him her husband then had been alive.

Gunther stoutly denied this, and swore that Siegfried had been slain by robbers in the forest; whereupon Kriemhild demanded that he and all his followers should singly approach the bier. Gunther and his two brothers strode past it in silence; then came Hagen, and when he stood beside the corpse, to! the wounds began to bleed afresh. Again Gunther maintained that they were innocent, but Kriemhild, fixing her gaze full on Hagen, cried aloud in grief and wrath:

"Now do I know his murderer!"

A great coffin, long and wide, of silver and gold embossed with knobs of steel, was made ready and therein, wrapped in a winding sheet of richest silk, Siegfried's body was laid. For three days and nights it rested in the minster, and Kriemhild watched beside it. She neither ate nor drank, but besought God to have pity on her and let her also die, that she might be laid with her husband in the tomb.

On the third day the funeral rites were held; and when they were ended, Kriemhild caused the coffin lid to be raised, and in an agony of grief embraced the corpse of her beloved and kissed the pale lips for the last time. Swooning she was borne away; and thereupon, amid tolling of bells and the sobs of the multitude, was the mighty hero laid to rest within the minster vault.

After some days had passed, Siegmund sought Kriemhild and said to her: "Now let us depart to our own land, my daughter; for here methinks we are but unwelcome guests."

But thereon came Gernot and Giselher, the King's two brothers, who were guiltless of the death of Siegfried, and with loving words besought her to abide with them.

For a time Kriemhild hesitated, but the thought of departing from the burial place of her beloved spouse cost her such pangs that at the last she yielded and promised her brothers to remain in Worms. Siegmund bade farewell to none but Kriemhild, and bowed with grief, the aged King and his faithful Nibelungs mounted their steeds and rode away from the land of the Burgundians, never to return.