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LAY OF THE LAST NIBELUNGERS.
Das Nibelungen Lied; or, Lay of the Last | their speech can be understood.
Here someNibelungers. Translated into English Verse, thing is wanted, in the nature of an interpretaafter Prof. Carl Lachmann's collated and tion of the very speech itself, which a mere corrected Text. By Jona. Birch. Berlin, transfer of words from one tongue into another Duncker; London, Williams & Norgate. will not afford,- which, indeed, is necessary
It seems that the translator of this remarka to those even who may fully understand the ble poem - the only known production of literal meaning of the original text. Indo-German origin that bears any real analogy
whole substance of the work belongs to a time to the Homeric epic — must have taken it for
in which the modes of life, the beliefs, the mogranted that all his readers have already been tives of every kind, in short, were totally difacquainted with what has been ascertained ferent from those of modern Europe ; and the concerning its origin and history, His version mere value of written or spoken symbols of appears without preface, notes, or other criti- these cannot be truly represented, without some cal or explanatory matter; and, therefore, can kind of mediation, in such equivalents as can scarcely be intended for those by whom such be found in expressions moulded on a differaids may be wanted for a proper understanding ent scale of ideas. In a case like this, thereof the poem. Now, as this “ Lay of the Last fore, the most essential part of the translator's Nibelungers" is a poem of very recent discov- office can scarcely be said to regard the verbal ery, and by no means so popularly current structure of the poem. It must always remain, in Europe that all, even of well-educated per- in a great measure, closed to the modern sense ; sons, may be supposed familiar with its
but in order to such an approximation as may eral character, — to send it forth in an English still be possible to a feeling of what the old dress, without a word to introduce or illustrate poet really meant to say or sing, we are to place its strange and almost savage rhapsodies, is ourselves, by such aids as we can get from a tantamount to declining the notice of all but study of the times and notions he represents, in very
few even among studious readers of some degree at least nearer to him. The antipoetry. Beyond that class, indeed, it could quarian must in this instance be the usher to hardly penetrate in the dress of a new language, the bard ; and to lend him our forms of speech, however well furnished with such notes as are without a syllable explaining what ideas he
тау indispensible to the most cursory view of any
have annexed to the words we thus render, is rude fragment of antiquiiy suddenly restored to no more to give an effectual translation of his the sight of a totally different world. In the naked work than would a display of his remains state in which Mr. Birch offers it to English read- (could the grave be tempted to give them up,) crs it can attract little notice, except from those dressed in the costume of our times, be a true who are already in some degree familiar with exhibition of the living person of the singer of the poem in the original or in modern German this rude but noble epic. versions, and who may be curious to compare A few words only we shall say concerning its appearance in these with the manner in its general history and features. The original, which Mr. Birch has presented it in a new
as we have received it from ancient times, is itlanguage. Such readers must, of course, be self no more than the recast, in Christian days, of acquainted with its native and proper aspect; materials belonging to an age when Europe was and they, of all others, are the least likely to still heathen. It was first restored to the light perfer to that any foreign version of a work from ita long sleep in monastic libraries, about depending so largely for its effect upon pecu- a century since, by Bodmer of Zurich, — who liarities of tone that no translation can hope to published, from the Hohenems MS.* (now in reproduce.
Munich,) considerable portions of the text of We cannot pretend to undertake the task the poem. Some time afterwards it was printed which we think Mr. Birch ought to have at- entire by John Von Müller in his collection of tempted, in order to give English readers any
* There exist, we believe, six complete MSS. of taste whatever of the long poem he has been the Lay, in various libraries, --- four in Germany. at the pains to translate. The matter in ques Munich ; one in Vienna ; another in the Wallenstein
The oldest belongs to St. Gallen ; there are two in tion here, we may observe in passing, is not a Ottingen Library. Of the whole number, two only, creation of poetry under those ordinary condi- if we remember right, are on parchment; the others tions that cnable it to speak for itself, as all
are transcripts on paper, - dating at various periods
between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. One true poems in general will sufficiently do where I is said to be still in Paris, and another in the Vatican.
Old German poems. The first critical edition Shortly after her arrival at the Ilungarian of the text by Van der Hagen, as well as his court, she induces Etzel to invite thither her first translation into modern German, dates in three brothers, with their liegemen ; and they the present century, - between 1810 and set forth on the ominous journey, in spite of 1820. Since that period it has been studied many warnings. Chriemhild secretly stirs up with improved attention; and we cannot here a bloody strife between the warriors of Etzel enumerate all the eminent names connected (amongst whom are bis allies the Amelungs) with the illustration of a poem which Germany and the Burgundians, — which ends, after a now claims, with some pride, as her national long and frightful carnage, in the destruction epic. Among these may be mentioned Zeune, of the whole Nibelung party. Cbriemhild is Simrock, Grimm, August Schlegel, and Lach- slain by Dietrich of Born* (Etzel's ally and mann, whose edition of the original (Ur- champion) after she has sated her revenge by text) Mr. Birch's translation professes to fol- giving the last blow to Hagen, — who dies
It will thus be seen that even in Ger- refusing to reveal the hiding-place of the fatal many itself the general appreciation of this dis- Hoard; which is thus lost to sight foreverinterred masterpiece of a rude age has been Such is a bare outline of the epic, in somewhat recent; and also that the Germans which some critics have discovered distinct themselves have very justly perceived that traces of historical fact, — and explain, in more than a simple version of the text into various ways, the indications of real events modern language is necessary in order to ap- supposed to lie in the names and places occurpreciate it.
iny in the poem. But it is pretty evident The burden of the poem is the tragical fate that in its present composition, at all events, (Noth) of the Nibelungs, or Niflings, a Bur- these are but doubtful fragments, - defying gundian race, according to tradition – whether all real connection, whatever they may have purely mythic or partly historical is still dis- been in the several materials from which the puted — at the Court of Etzel (or Attila) in last composer is conjectured to have framed it. Hungary, towards the middle of the fifth cen Of its poetical importance there can be no tury. The cause of their destruction is the doubt whatever. Comparatively modern as it vengeance of Chriemhild — sister of the Bur- appears in the recast we now possess which gundian King Gunther -- for the slaughter of is ascribed to some period between the thirher first husband, Siegfried, son of King Seig- teenth and fourteenth centuries it still bears mund, of Santen or Xanten (in Cleves,) on undoubted traces of a living vein of poetry the Rhine, by Von Troneg Hagen, one of Gun- descending, from whatever source, through at ther's liegemen.
least six centuries earlier ; and is instinct with The object of this treachery was to gain simple energy, various and rapid movement, possession of the fabulous Hoard (Hort) vivid description, and a fearful tragic sternwhich had been conquered by Siegfried's ness, in a style artless, but strongly impressive, valor from a Dragon, who guarded the treas across which there fall by fits some brief ure of the Nibelungs; but the instigator to dashes of tenderness and gleams of intense the act is Gunther's wife, Brunhilda, — who feeling, with traits of heroic valor and fidelity has conceived a violent hatred to Siegfried, on
to the death, that strike the sense more deeply a quarrel with Chriemhild for precedence, from the rugged ground by which they are rewhich discovers the means that champion bad flected. There is no other extant picture of the used to subdue Brunhilda — the possessor, in dawn of Modern Europe in its remotest heroic her virgin state, of superhuman powers — to age that can be compared to this for color, a marriage with Gunther. The first half of distinctness, compass, and true poetic energy. the epic is occupied with the wooing and wod The antiquity of the original poem or ding of the two princes — the early feats of poems, as also the authorship of the text which Siegfried — the quarrel between the rival has been handed down to us, have both been wives — and the assassination of Siegfried by a subject of learned disputes, - with which Hagen. The second records the plan and we do not presume to interfere. The Nibesuccess of Chriemhild's revenge, and rises lungens Noth, as we have it, is assigned, with by degrees to a strain of rugged grandeur, the pretty general consent, to some of the Meisterclimax of which is terribly impressive. The singers of the thirteenth or fourteenth centuwidow, brooding on her beloved hero's death, ry, of whom Wolfram von Eschenbach, accepts the hand of Etzel, in the hope of Klingsohr, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Konrad using his power to punish her enemies. von Würzburg, and Marner, have each found
their advocates. The so-called German origin * We would add the name of Schönhuth, whose convenient little edition (Leipzig, 1811) adopts the * Generally supposed to be meant for Theodoric of text of the Hohenems MS.
of its sources has been asserted and questioned however, the loss of which must wholly alter warmly. Opponents of the historical claim its poetical character. The Modern German of this poem as strictly Teutonic, maintain versions, although in a language akin to that that it can be shown to be made up of ele- of the old text, and more apt than ours to the ments nearly all of which are found in the old simple and homely in expression, are not Scandinavian lays, or saga
- those, namely, always successful in avoiding this defect. Mr. relative to Sigurd Fafnirsbane and his race; Birch, we fear, has done less than might have and “ that these Pagan fragments," as a late been achieved, even in our less flexible and critic in the Edinburgh Review sums up the more conventional idiom, in preserving the debate, are the foundation, or rather are the picturesque ærugo of his original. The litwhole, of the poem of the Nibelungens eral sense he presents, on the whole, with Noth,' only in a different form and dialect of sufficient accuracy ; but the color of the the Teutonic.” He adds, “Some writers strain, which determines its virtual expressuppose that these have existed in the Teu- sion, is not always that of the old poem : tonic as well as in the Scandinavian tongue; and he is apt to give it a purely modern air and that the saga of the latter have been by using words that sound affectedly in a lay taken from the former. But the existence of of old times, when a quicker feeling of its these
saga from Pagan times, in the Icelandic character might have discovered fitter lanor Scandinavian tongue, is a reality; their guage. Of his performance we shall give a existence at all, except in the Christianized specimen – from one of the passages in the form of the · Nibelungens Noth’ of the thir second part, that we have never been able to teenth century, is but a supposition.” On the road in the original without a certain creeping whole, this conclusion appears to be the most sense of supernatural awe. The Burgundian probable; and until certain evidence of earlier warriors have set forth on their fatal journey, Teutonic
shall be discovered, to over - and are stayed, on reaching the Danube, throw the claim of priority founded on what is by the want of a ferryman to put them across already known to exist in the Icelandic le the river. The destined chief of the party, gends, it may be assumed that the German Von Hagen, goes along the stream to seek for Veistersinger got his materials, either directly a boat, and falls in with a bevy of water-witches or through some intermediate tradition, from (Merwiper, Mere-women) playing in a founthose northern sources. To pursue the details tain near the stream. He seizes their clothes ; of this argument is not in our power. What and, by the law of such beings, they are thus we have thus briefly said of the significance compelled to answer his inquires : - but the and of the relation of the poem, as we know first answer turns out to be a terrible mockit, to subjects of great interest, in literary and ery, and the next is a fearful warning. In the ethnological points of view, may at least serve original, the episode is like the first glimpse to show the disadvantage with which it must behind the curtain that hides a terrible future ; appear without some notice of the circumstan- and the effect, grim and depressing, prepares ces that render it peculiar, or of the conditions us for the coming woe. In the version before by which its poetical character have been us, scarcely a trace of this character, we determined.
apprehend, will be found; and the passage Of the merits of Mr. Birch's version we will serve as a pretty fair instance of what has desire to speak with every allowance for the been done and omitted by the translator. We difficulty of his task. The object, in trans- italicize some of the words that might have lating a work like this, is not merely to convey been replaced by others better chosen, and in the substantial meaning, but to clothe it in which his choice has affected the tone of the language as nearly as may be repeating the piece. Otherwise, as we have said, its subtones of the original. This, in modern Eng- stance is rendered faithfully enough. — lish, is no easy matter, when the text to be
The river had o'erflowed its banks-no passage craft copied is of the rudest mould of the Old Ger saw they : man; and to accomplish it with any degree of The kings felt puzzled to get o'er, with their august success, the writer must have a thorough use
For tide run rapidly, I trow--the flood was very broad. of all the stores of our language of all times, Then from their horses' backs the men leaped off with from Chaucer downwards, as well as a nice
one accord. feeling of the particular word or phrase that "Now tarry here beside the stream,” said Hagen, will suit not only the sense, but the color of
“ whilst I seek the ancient lay. With all these aids, we say,
The ferryman more up the flood-and 'bout our
transport speak, it will be scarcely possible for a translator of By means of his stout passage-boat, into Gelpfrates our times to revive in English the naïveté and Hagen then took, with confidence, his trusty shield in simple vigor of such an original, — qualities,
He was well armed-besides his shield, which on his
Troneg Hagen. He, sorely wounded, is handed arm he placed, Ilis polished helm, which gleamed afar, he 'neath his
to the vengeful Chriembild, bound as a prisoner, tonsils braced,
by Dietrich of Born.And o'er his mail, in baldrick bore a weighty twoedged brand;
Then went the queen Chriemhild to where Sir Hagen Which through the very marrow cut, when wielded met her sight: by his hand.
I wot, full ruthless proved her speech unto the cap
tive knight! Secking the Danube ferryman a little up the stream, “ Will you return, without delay, that which you He heard a water-splashing play, and listened, as I from me ? deem,
Then may you reach with life your home, in distant It was occasioned by wise nymphs, disporting in a lake; Burgundie." -They came to cool themselves, I ween, and joyous bath partake.
Thereto replied the angered chief, “ Your prayer is
made in vain, Sir Hagen got a glimpse of them, and slily would ad Most noble daughter of a king! for I an oath have vance;
ta'en Apprised thereof, they quickly dived below the That I will ne'er divulge the place where lies the water's glance.
hoard concealed ; -That they so well escaped from him, produced So long as either king doth live, it will not be remuch merriment;
vealed!” He took their clothes and nothing more-the hero was content.
" Then will I make short work of it!" so said the
lofty wife: Then spake a mermaid to the knight-IIadburga was She gave behest that Gunther brave should forth with her name:
lose his life. “Renowned Sir Hagen, hero bold !-attentive ear we His head was hewn from off its trunk-which by the claim.
hair she took, If you 'll return again to us the raiment you have got, And bore it to the Tronyie chief, who mournfully did We'll tell you of your Hunnish trip, and what will look be your lot!"
Upon the ghastly, dripping head of this much honorThey floated, like aquatic birds, before him on the
ed king; flood.
Then to Chriemhilda he again severe remark did Their insight into things to come he thought both bring : keen and good;
“ Thou hast indeed thy will fulfilled-ending with And therefore was prepared, by faith, to credit what brother's blood! they said:
And, verily, in such a way, as I did fear you would. Forthwith, she gave him wise reply, to what was in his head.
Now is the noble Burgund king prepared for early Said she," With safety you may ride into King Et Eke Giselher, the young and good—and Gerenot the zel's land:
brave! I pledge thereon my truth and troth-and, in idea, Where the said hoard lies hid is, now, known but to my hand;
God and me! That never noble king's array obtained in foreign And shall from thee, accursed wife! forever hidden state,
be.” Such honor, and such lofty fame :-believe what I relate!”
Said she, “You've foul atonement made, in purpose,
deed, and word: The mermaid's words made Hagen's heart to palpitate Therefore will I possess myself of virtuous Siegfried's with joy;
sword, He gave them back the captured clothes—and left the That which he bore on stalwart thigh, when last I virgins coy:
saw the chief, No sooner had they hurried on their wondrous gar Whose death has ever been to me, a keen, heartmentry,
rending grief." Than they foretold, in truthful words, his fate in Hungarie.
She drew it from the well-known sheath-Hagen
could not prevent Loud spake another water-nymph-this one Sieglinda To take the warrior’s life, forthwith, was her unmaskhight
ed intent. “I warn you, Tronyie Hagen brave,-Sir Adrian's She swung it with both hands, and smote his head son of might?
from off its trunk : That to obtain the clothes, my aunt has said what is King Etzel saw the vengeful deed, and from its hor
ror shrunk ! For shouldst thou journey to the Huns, that journey thou wilt rue.
“ Alas!” the Hun king sighing said, “how does the
matter standTrust me, you should ride back again, there yet is That he, the boldest of all knights, should fall by time, I ween :
woman's hand ? For you bold knights of Burgundie have only bidden He, who in onslaught was the first-the bravest that been
bore shield! That you should miserably die in royal Etzel's land: Although he was mine enemy, I fain to sorrow yield.” Whoever rides to llungarie, has death within his hand!”
Then spake the ancient Hildebrand, “She shall no
Through A few of the closing stanzas may be added,
is same deed of deadly hate --whate'er
becomes of me! to show the manner in which the fatal story Although he brought myself unto a very gulp of comes to its end.
All the Burgundian knights I ne'ertheless will work revenge for valiant Hagen's have fallen, except King Gunther and Von death!”
not true :
Thereon did Master Hildebrand run at the fair | flaming ruin quenched in a sea of blood ; the
record of which, it may be felt, is too stern and Hun queen killed :
rude to admit of holiday phrases or to suit the Truly, she felt abounding fear, and dreadfully amazed composite terms of modern usage. These have - What helped that she loudly shrieked, when he his arm upraised?
been drawn upon by Mr. Birch more largely,
we think, than was at all necessary; and this -Where'er one looked, the dead were seen, lying in greatly injures the poetical effect of his transIn pieces hewn lay Chriemhild's corse, upon the dun- | lation. But we may add, that whoever may geon's floor.
here read the story told in this fierce old epic, Dietrich and Etzel now began to grieve and weep without going to the source-and can remember They inwardly bewailed the loss of friends and liege- to allow duly for the varnish of Mr. Birch's • men true.
style—will probably desire to know more of Thus were the mighty of the earth by hand of death the original poem. He will find, even in this
laid low ! The people all bemoaned aloud, and much of grief who was terribly in carnest, the outlines of a
rather too jaunty version of a Meistersinger, did know. Thus in keen sufforings end was made of Etzel's fes- huge Titanic past; and be invited to measure
tival : As joy and woe will ever be, the heritage of all!
with his own eyes the striking monument by
which its image has been in some measure preSo ends the “ Nibelungens Noth,” a vast served. — Athenæum.
FRANK FORESTER'S FIELD SPORTS IN THE UNITED STATES.
Mr. Forester is an Englishman, the son of and citizens, who encourage poachers and pota Dean of Manchester, who has resided for the hunters by purchasing their ill-gotten trophies last sixteen or seventeen years in America. in season and out of season ; they would direct Ardently addicted to field sports, he has pur- the public mind to the approaching extinction sued them in the new country with as much not only of vermin and beasts of prey, but of zest as in the old ; though his tastes have some of the noblest animals or handsomest induced him to prefer a class of sport anal birds with which the States once abounded ; ogous to our partridge, pheasant, and grouse- and the hold up to odium the rustic “savshooting, rather than water-fowling. Want of ages” who take advantage of the accidents opportunity, or of liking, has prevented him of the seasons to massacre entire masses of from engaging in the more perilous but less creatures for some wretchedly small gain, as scientific chase of the far West, or of the well as the unsystematic, unsportsmanlike remote forests of Canada and the Hudson's slaughter continually carried on by town loafBay territory : but he knows the theory of ev- ers and village idlers, with bad guns and lowery kind of sport pursued on the continent of bred curs. North America, from rail and plover-shooting In fact, “sporting” would seem to be in a up to the moose, the elk, and the grisly bear transition state in America ; the condition of of the Rocky Mountains; and he has examined nature past, and that of art not yet attained. both written and oral accounts with a critical It being understood that by sporting is not mind, so as to deduce the principles of the meant lying on your back or your belly in a sport from the practical facts. Mr. Forester punt, or some such contrivance, for an indefialso appears to have used his pen, in conjunc- nate number of hours, in the worst kind of tion with other sporting spirits of the Western weather, in order to massacre large numbers world, in periodical writings for the American of water-fowl, or the dangerous but exciting public, with objects something more than lite- chase of the wild or savage animals of the wilrary: The description of a fine week's sport, derness. In Mr. Forester's ideas, “sporting" or the dramatized account of an extraordinary embraces the enjoyment of air, exercise, and feat is all very well ; but some of the writers varying landscape ; the exhibition of animal inhave had higher aims. They would urge stinct, increased by breeding, cultivated by art, upon the State Legislatures the necessity of and displaying sagacity that looks like a high more stringent game-laws, and upon the public effort of mind, together with the exbibition of mind the propriety of observing such as do judgment, readiness, and gunner-like skill on exist; they denounce the gluttony of “snobs") the part of the sportsman. And these, it strikes