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forward, and bends lovingly before the maiden. [ and this unmoistened part remains vulnerable. The longing impulse of love draws them one to- If the war spears come upon him in thick flights, wards another, and they gaze on each other with one might strike this place, therefore shield him stolen loving looks. But no word is exchanged, there, Hagen, protect him.' Good,' said the mauntil after the mass with which the feast com-licious one, in order to be better able, sew me, menced, when the maiden gives the hero thanks for the brave assistance which he has rendered her brothers. That was done in your service, fair Kriemhild,' replied Sigfrid; and now after the mouth has also ventured something,' Sigfrid remains for twelve days, the time of the duration of the feast, near the lovely maiden. Then the strange guests depart, and Sigfrid also prepares to set out for home, for he dared not woo as he wished.' Through the persuasion of young Giselher, however, he easily resolves to tary longer, where, as the lay truthfully says, he most loved to be, and where he daily saw the beautiful Kriemhild."

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But the scene now changes. Distant from the court of King Gunther dwells a queen of wonderful beauty and strength, to be won only by the hero who should conquer her in the use of martial weapons. Many suitors had fallen by her strong hand. Gunther resolves to hazard an encounter with this warlike maiden. Sigfrid, on condition of possessing Kriemhild, engages to assist the king in his perilous enterprise. Through the magic aid of Sigfrid, Gunther conquers the heroine. But a mortal hatred grows up in the mind of the vanquished queen, Brunhild, against Kriemhild and her hero husband. It is not, however, until two years have passed that she prevails on Gunther to require a visit from Sigfrid as his supposed vassal. The visit takes place, the queens again meet, and bitter strife ensues between them. Brunhild engages Hagen, a devoted vassal of her husband, to procure the death of Sigfrid in battle. Hagen finds a shorter road to his object. It is discovered that the hero is vulnerable at a certain point in the back, though otherwise ing a charmed life, and a chase is made to serve the wishes of the queen. How the discovery adverted to was made, and what followed is thus described:

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"The campaign is in full activity; Sigfrid equips. Then Hagen repairs to Kriemhild to take leave of her according to the custom. She has already half forgotten the dispute; not the slightest foreboding that she sees before her the known and eternal foe of her husband who had sworn his death enters her unsuspecting heart. Hagen, thou art my relation, I thine; to whom in the coming war can I better confide my Sigfrid, than unto thee? Protect my dear husband; I commend him to thy fidelity. He is certainly invulnerable; but as he bathed in the blood of the dragon, a broad linden leaf fell between the shoulder blades,

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royal lady, a mark upon this part of his garment, that I may know exactly how I am to protect him.' Unsuspectingly, in tender love for the lost husband, she embroiders with her own hand, in fine silk, a cross upon his garment-she herself works the bloody sign of death. The next day the campaign begins, and Hagen rides near Sigfrid to see if the wife, in her blind, boundless love, has placed the mark. Sigfrid really wears it, and now the expedition is no longer necessary. Hagen has secured what he wished from the hands of Kriemhild, even more than he expected. The followers are summoned to a great hunt instead of to war. Sigfrid once more sees his wife, she himfor the last time. Anxious forebodings, heavy dreams distress her soul, as at first, when bloomof the falcon and the eagles. Now she sees two ing from childhood to maidenhood, she dreamt mountains fall on Sigfrid and bury him beneath the crashing ruins. Sigfrid comforts her. No one can bear him hatred; he has shown kindness to all; in a few days he will return.' What she fears, who she fears, she does not know; Hagen, perhaps the only one she feared, she thinks wonbut she parts with the words, that thou wilt part from me, that gives me heartfelt pain.'

especially, who has slain most deer, are wearied "The chase is ended, and the heroes, Sigfrid and thirsty with running in the summer heat. But there is no more wine, neither is the Rhine stream at hand from whence to obtain the longedfor cool refreshment. But Hagen knows a spring near by in the wood, and thither he advises them dens amongst whose roots the cool spring rises, are They break up, and already the broad lin

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in sight, when Hagen began, No one, it has been said, can follow in running the swift Sigfrid, the husband of Kriemhild; let him now prove it.' Let us,' replied Sigfrid, run for a wager to the spring; I will retain my hunting dress and sword, my javelin and shield, whilst you shall take off your clothes.' The race commences; Hagen and Gunther spring like wild panthers through the wood clover, but Sigfrid is at the spot long before them. He then quietly laid down sword, bow and quiver, leant the javelin on a linden branch, and placed the shield near the spring, waiting until the king should come that he may let him drink first. For his adherence to this venerable custom he pays with his death. He might easily have drunk before Gunther and Hagen came up, then he would have been again standing with the arms in his hand, and what now happens would have been impossible. Gunther drinks, and after him Sigfrid stoops to the spring. Then Hagen springs, carrying aside in his hasty leap the weapons which were within reach, and retaining the javelin in his murderous hand, while Sigfrid swallows the last draught, he hurls the weapon, Sigfrid's own weapon, through the cross upon his back, so that the heart's blood of the glorious hero streams over the murderer's garments."

But the tragedy does not so end. Some | ing world. Very remote-very shadowy is years later Kriemhild gives her hand to an- the region in which the figures of this story other king, chiefly in the hope of being some fit before us. The life and the races of day avenged by his means for the king she which they were a part are gone, and their has lost. Her new lord is induced to in- own mysterious place in the world's story is vite her relations to his court, King Gun- upon the confines which separate between ther, and Hagen, as one of his vassals, make the known and the unknown. Rich, intheir appearance, with many besides. But deed, are these pictures in the truly poetic all things seems to forebode catastrophe. blending of the ideal with the real, of the Superstition is at work. Kriemhild would mythical with the historical. The action know why Hagen is of a party which was to of this poem, it will be perceived, is busy consist of her relations; charges him with and energetic; but it is observable that, the murder of her husband; and to be amidst all this motion and excitement, no avenged on him employs all her art and in- one thinks for a moment about the poet, fluence to stir up the Huns about the court every thought and emotion converges on against their Burgundian visitors, and thus the incidents and the characters. No atbecomes the occasion of a strife which ends tempt is made to paint over either the in a scene of blood and ruin so terrible, scenes or the actors. The descriptions are that it is difficult to conceive of an element direct, brief, simple-the apparent function of suffering or horror which is not included of the poet being, not as much to create, as in it. The hall of the feast is heaped, and to report in the most natural form the things its avenues choked up, with the dead. The on which his eyes rested, and to which his building itself is fired, the suffering heroes ears listened. He would almost seem as slake their burning thirst by drinking the though laid under prohibition by some terblood of their slaughtered foes. Dane and rible deity, not to add to, or take from, the Goth join the Hun in the fray. At length matters which came thus substantially before the Burgundians are all slain, the three him. It will be seen, however, that these incibrothers of Kriemhild, Hagen, Kriemhild dents and characters, though depicted thus herself, and her youthful son, all receive promptly, almost as by a single stroke, pretheir mortal stroke, and lie amidst friends sent a striking variety. As in the Iliad, and foes as part of the great havoc of death. the story may have its hero, but, at best, he So ends the Nibelungen lay! figures only as one hero among many. In some respects, and in some stages of the drama, he may stand forth as chief; but in other respects, and at other times, his place is subordinate. Hence the sympathy of the reader is made to diffuse itself largely through the whole. Even the deeds he disapproves spring from a a mistaken homage to fidelity, to which he is himself compelled to do a kind of reverence. Brunhild is not so masculine a person as to possess no womanly claim upon our interest; nor is Kriemhild so feminine as to fail in lofty and self-sustained feeling, or in resoluteness of purpose. Hagen, himself, much as we condemn his treachery in relation to Sigfiid and Kriemhild, exhibits, as he passes on to his fate, a power of self-devotion which rises to sublimity. Nothing can exceed the energy with which hero after hero commits himself to the perils that thicken about him, each joyously choosing death rather than be numbered with the faithless. Everywhere, it is not the existSuch is an imperfect outline of the Nibe- | ence of a high moral element that is wantlungen lay-a poem which seems to come ing, so much as the wiser culture and diforth upon us as a precious vestige from rection of a strong but untutored sense of amidst the cloud and disorder of a depart-right. Much as may be the harm that has

The word Nibelungen denotes sons of the mist, or of darkness. These children of night, according to a myth which lies at the bottom of this story, were in possession of a vast treasure. Sigfrid, as we have learnt, had conquered an enormous dragon, and bathed himself in the monster's blood, and is henceforth known as the horned or mailed Sigfrid, becoming invulnerable, except at the point where Hagen thrust the spear. Thus provided, he attacked the dwarfs who had the keeping of the famed treasure of the Nibelungen, and with his good sword Balmung, made the treasure his own. But it is an acquisition doomed to be fatal to all that possess it. It passes from Sigfrid to Kriemhild; from her it is wrested by her brothers, and all come to their tragic end as the consequence. Hagen is the last man who knows where the fatal charm is deposited, and dies rejoicing that he can madden Kriemhild by taking that secret away with him.

come to this precious relic in the jostling of ages, enough of its substance and form remain to enable us to judge of that bygone life, otherwise hardly known to history, to which it pertains.

After the mention of some smaller lays, all more or less connected with the heroes of the Nibelungen, follows the traditioncycle of the North Sea, which contains but one poem-the Lay of Gudrun. Next to the Nibelungen, it occupies the highest place in the German epic.

"Their children are Ortwin and Gudrun. Hartmut, the son of a Norman king, woos the latter, but ancient hostility between the families prevents the suit from being successful. Then Herwig, King of Zealand, appears, and, by fighting, wins the love of the beautiful Gudrun. They are betrothed, and shortly afterwards, Herwig and her father make a campaign into a distant land, and, during the absence of the protector, Hartmut, the rejected wooer, comes with his father, King Ludwig, before the castle, conquers it, and carries the first amongst whom is Wate, set out after the off Gudrun. Hettel and Herwig, with their heroes,

robbers, and overtake them at Wulpensande, an island in the North Sea. Here according to the "This poem contains the tradition of three gene-existing testimonies, a bloody battle was fought, rations of Hagen, the king of Iceland, and his which was celebrated in lays throughout Germany. youthful history; and of the wooing of the Fus- As, after the storm, avalanche on avalanche rolls land King Hettel, for his daughter, Hilde; and, at down the mountain, so fly the spears from their length, of Gudrun, the daughter of Hettel and hands; standing up to their arms in water, the Hilde. In the narrative of Hettel wooing for heroes fought furiously, till the sea-tide was Hilde, (as Hagen's history may here be passed stained with blood, and waved in crimson brightover), we meet, first, with the description of the ness upon the distant strand, far as spear could be singing of the Stormarn king, Horant, as a cele-thrown. Evening approaches; in the sinking sun, brated tradition often mentioned and described by Hettel, the father of Gudrun, is slain by the Northe northern tribes related to us, and also by our- man king, the father of the robber; as the evening selves. The messengers of King Hettel, Horant, red dies away in the sky, Wate, furious at the and his men, Frute and Wate, have obtained ad- death of the king, kindles anew an evening red mission to Hagen, king of Iceland, in order to win upon the helmets of his enemies with his rapid Hilde, the daughter so carefully guarded, for their sword-strokes; meanwhile, the darkness of night relation, Hettel. The two heroes, Frute and causes friend to fall on friend, and the battle ceases. Wate, have already won the confidence of the During the night, however, the Normans flee with king, and the latter, at least jestingly, the good their prey; the king's daughter is threatened with will also of the royal ladies. Wate, the giant, instantaneous death in the waves if she raise one broad, bearded, hero, establishes himself by the sound of lamentation or one cry for help. The ladies, who, as he sits gravely there, with colored remaining force is not sufficient to follow into the scarfs bound round his head, covered with thick land of the enemy, and Wate is compelled to return hair, asks him in jest which he preferred, to remain forsaken to the castle which he had so often en with beautiful ladies, or to fight in hard battles; tered with loud cries of rejoicing victory. Where and the mighty warrior, who rages like a wild is iny dear lord, and where are his friends?", deboar in the battle, answers, without considering, mands Queen Hilde, as in terror she sees Wate enthat to him it seemed indeed good to sit with beau- ter silently, and with cloven shield. I will not tiful ladies, but yet much gentler still to fight with deceive thee-they are all slain,' is the short anthe army in fierce war; then the queens laugh swer of the stern hero; when the young generaaloud, and ask if this man has a wife and children tion is grown up in the land, then will come the at home? In this manner some favor for the suit time for vengeance upon Ludwig and Hartmut.'" is already won. Then Horant raises his wondrously sweet song in the still evening, in the royal castle on the sea-shore; and the birds silence the echo of their evening lay before the lovely tones of the royal singer; and again in the early morning, at the rise of the sun, the wonderful melody sounds through the castle, so that the birds forget also their morning song. All the sleepers awaken, and the king, with his wife, steps out upon the battlements, and the royal maiden entreats her father, Dear father, bid him sing again. And, for the third time, in the evening, the Danish king raises his voice, so that the bells never rang so clearly as his song; the laborers thought they did not work, and the sick thought they were not ill; the beasts of the forest left their food, the worm that crawls in the grass, and the fishes that swim in the waves, stayed in their restless course. The singer wins the maiden for him who had sent him; she steals away, goes with him to the ship, and becomes Hettel's wife.

"In tears and sadness Gudrun sees the coast of the Norman land and the castles on the sea-shore. The old king addresses her kindly: If noble maiden, thou wilt love Hartmut, then all that thou seest is offered thee. At the side of Hartmut, joy and royal honors await thee.' But Gudrun replies: I would rather choose death than Hartmut. If it had happened thus during my father's life, it might have been so; but now, I would rather lose my life than break my faith.' The words were deep and serious. The wild chief, in wrath at the maiden's reply, seizes her by the hair, and hurls her into the sea; Hartmut springs after her, and can only just catch her fair braided tresses, by which he draws her back to the ship. Had a modern poet invented this situation, he would certainly have done so in order to use the merit of this rescue to Hartmut's advantage; causing the delicate position of the maiden arising out of it to form a chain of other situations, out of which to bring the constant fidelity of Gudrun more glow.

ingly forward. But here, in the epic, not even the | slightest intimation of such things ensues; it strides rapidly on without tarrying-following only the decisive events, leaving the coloring to the mind of the reader or hearer. I need scarcely observe, that the enjoyment of those who understand how to enjoy, is in this manner infinitely heightened. A romance of modern time is read out when it is read through; the true epic can, no more than fresh life itself, be read out and hastily used up in the service of idle entertainment. Gerlinde, the mother of Har mut, at first receives Gudrun kindly; but as she also uses her persuasive powers upon the faithful one in vain, she soon passes on in her wolfish' nature to cruelty and ill-treat

ment.

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She who should wear a crown must now perform the service of the lowest menial-heat the stove, and wash linen upon the sea-shore. But her heart remains patient and her soul true; patient and true through many a year of wrong and humiliation, ever repeated, ever heightened.

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clothes upon my body.' Then her brother Ortwin asks if a maiden, Gudrun, had not once been carried off and brought hither; and Herwig repeatedly compares the features of the poor serving-maid with those of the king's daughter, who was to be his bride; he also calls Ortwin by name. · Oh,' says Gudrun, if Herwig and Ortwin still lived, they would long since have come to rescue us; I also an one of those carried away, but the poor Gudrun is long since dead.' Then the King of Zealand stretches out his hand: If thou art one of those who were robbed, thou must know the gold which I wear on my finger; and with this ring was Gudrun betrothed to love me.' Then the eyes of the maiden sparkle with bright joy; and however she might wish to conceal the disgrace of her servitude, is now overpowered. 'The gold I well recognize, for it was mine before; I also still wear this gold which Herwig once sent to me.' But brother and betrothed cannot believe otherwise than that she has become the wife of Hartmut, and express their horror that, in spite of "The time at length arrives, when an army can it, she must perform so low a service. But when be equipped in Gudrun's fatherland for her deliver- they learned why she endured this humiliation so ance. After a long and dangerous voyage, the many years, Herwig will instantly take her with Frislandish heroes reach an island, from whose him. And does it so happen, we shall ask? No, lofty trees they see the distant Norman castles it does not so happen. The manners of the olden shining up out of the sea. Gudrun, as she has time were for that too firm, too strict, too noblebeen accustomed for years, goes daily to the the manners of a time which we too gladly look sea-shore to wash linen; there an angel is sent to upon as one of barbarism. That which is taken her in the form of a bird, to comfort her; and from men in the storms of war,' replies Ortwin, what comfort does she desire ?-her deliverance will I not secretly steal away? and rather than from disgraceful servitude-from the shameful steal what I must win by strife of weapon, had I ill-treatment and strokes of bondage? Does a hundred sisters, they might all die here.' The Hilde yet live, the mother of poor Gudrun? Does two princes return to their war-fleet, and prepaOntwin still live, my brother, and Herwig, my be- rations are made for storming the Norman castle. trothed, and Horant and Wate, my father's faithful Gudrun, however, in proud, awakened independones?' And no word of her deliverance? Through ence, and in the joyous expectation of an honorthe long day she converses with her companions able rescue by hero hands, throws the linen, inof the dear ones at home. But angry scolding stead of washing it, into the sea. She anticipates from the wicked Gerlinde awaits the comforted a wrathful reception, and shameful blows from the one on her return, because she has been the whole enraged Gerlinde; and in order to escape the evil day washing; and the next morning, early in the treatment, now pretends she is willing to marry year, before Easter, though a deep show had fallen Hartmut-in the perfect confidence that, by the overnight, at break of day she must wade bare-morrow's break, all will be quite otherwise at the footed through the snow down to the wild shore castle than it now is in the evening. When Herto complete her task. On this very morning, Ort-wig and Ortwin return to the army, and announce win and Herwig, to gain intelligence, come in a barque near the place where the king's daughter, trembling with cold, in her wet garments, washes linen by the tide streaming with ice, and in the stormy March winds, which throw her beautiful hair wildly round her neck and shoulders. The two warriors approach the maidens, who are already about to fly, and offer them the morning salutation, so long unheard; for with Frau Gerlinde good morning and good evening' are scarce. Gudrun they do not recognize in her disgraceful lowliness, dress, and servitude; they question respecting the people and land, hear that it is well-shields; and immediately the watchman also calls armed and strongly guarded; but that apprehension is entertained only of one enemy-the Frislanders (Hegilingen). During the long conversation, the maidens stand trembling in the bitter cold before the inquiring heroes, who compassionately offer their mantles to wrap them; but Gudrun replies, God forbid that any one should see man's

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the wrong which has been done to Gudrun through so many years, the heroes raise a loud cry of lamentation; but the old Wate tells them to serve the daughter of their king in another manner, and dye red the clothes which she has washed white. Now, in the night-the air is clear, the heavens far and wide, bright in the shining moonlight-the storm on the Norman castle shall be begun. The morning star is still high in the heavens; a companion of Gudrun looks through the window, and toward the sea; all the fields are illumined with the bright lustre of steel helmets and glittering

from the battlements-Up, ye proud heroes, to arms! lords, to arms! Ye Norman heroes, up!— ye have slept too long.' The strife commences; bravely fighting, the Norman King Ludwig falls beneath the strokes of Herwig; the evil Gerlinde wishes that Gudrun should be killed, in revenge; and the drawn sword is already above her head,

when Harmut, who from below had known his furious mother's murderous design, nobly averts the crime. Hartmut is taken prisoner, and the wrathful Wate forces his way into the apartments of the ladies, to take the merited revenge upon Gerlinde. As nobly as Hartmut had previously rescued Gudrun from death, she now denies the queen; but Wate knows how to find the right, and strikes off her head, together with that of a servant of Gudrun, who sought to win thanks from the cruel queen by becoming the tormentor of her own mistress; he knew,' said Wate, how to deal with women, therefore was he chamberlain.' Upon this follows the journey home, reconciliation, and three-fold marriages: between Herwig and Gudrun, between the Norman King Hartmut and Hildburg, one of the companions of Gudrun, and between Ortwin and Ortrun, the daughter of Ludwig the Norman king. The only one in the strange land who had felt compassion for Gudrun, and in her deep injury had stood comforting beside

her."

Among the productions of the art epic, at which we now arrive, those most celebrated are the legends of the Holy Gral, and Parcival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, the greatest poet of that period, and one of the greatest among German poets generally. He had his place with those poets and minstrels who, at the close of the twelfth century, assembled at the court of the Landgrave von Thüringen; but little of his personal history has been transmitted to us, and even the year of his death remains unknown. Parcival, brought up by his mother in a lonely forest, is inspired by the sudden appearance of three armed knights, with an uncontrollable desire to go forth into the world to Arthur's court, and as he disappears in the last deep forest shade, his mother falls to the ground never to rise. His first deed on arriving there is the rescue of the Princess Kouduiramur, whose castle is besieged by her suitors. He marries her, but is soon again driven forth by his restless disposition. In his wanderings he reaches the castle of the Holy Gral, and there meets with wonderful and interesting adventures, which the poem describes with great beauty. All, however, bear reference to the mysterious legend of the Gral. This Gral was a vessel of precious stone possessed by Joseph of Arimathea; from it our Lord distributed his body to his disciples on the night of his betrayal; in it was caught the blood which flowed from his side for the redemption of the world. It was endowed with many miraculous powers, and preserved in a superb temple under the guardianship of a chosen race of kings. The guardian of the Gral

could only be a man perfect in purity, humility and fidelity. Parcival is heir to the guardianship, but from his haughty, defiant spirit, and his rebellion against God, is unable to take possession of it until the purification of his soul has been accomplished, after which he enters the Gral Castle with his wife and two sons, whose histories are also included in the poem.

A few words respecting Wolfram's work may, perhaps, be quoted:

Wolfram's Parcival; it must be read not once, but "No lightly reaped enjoyment is offered us in many times, in order to be throughout loved and admired, though numerous details interest at the through their power and depth. At the first, or first glance, partly through their tenderness, partly superficial reading, we are disturbed by a mass of material apparently too vast, the number of persons and events which Wolfram has introduced into those pieces designed to represent the brilliancy of worldly chivalry, the adventures of Gaweins, and the length of these passages, will at first appear almost wear some. Upon a closer investigation of the plan and object of the poem, this earlier objection passes away. The aim of these passages was to set forth perfectly the gay variety, the throng and confusion, of worldly life; life, who see themselves hemmed in with difficulthe clear, conscious security of the heroes of this ties, and entangled anew at every step, but who still, through victory over these impediments, preserve their address and ability, directed indeed to the most immediate objects, but with a firm gaze and clear decision."

The ruling element of Wolfram's poetry is seen in the profound and earnest gravity with which he strove to stem the torrent of worldly desires and enjoyments then so prevalent in France and Italy, and also, though in a less degree, in Germany. The great contemporary poct of Wolfram, Gottfried von Strassburg, presents, in every respect, the most striking contrast to him to be found in the literature of the age:

"To a child of the world, in so eminent a sense as was Gottfried, the severe, almost holy, gravity, the proud dignity of thought, and the sublimity of a heavenly aim, as we find them in Wolfram, must have been unseasonable, even unendurable. He swims in full current with, even before, the world, its guide to desire and enjoyment; whilst Wolfram, resisting the stream of the world's of an instructor-of a prophet, into the universal course, hurls the strong, almost threatening, voice tumult."

His chief poem is Tristan and Isolt, a Celtic narrative marked, as are the majority of that cycle, by its recklessness as regards all custom and honor, faith and chas

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