Sunday, October 5, 2008

Siegfried faces Liudegast

After much disappointment over the Saga of the Volsungs, post pending, I'm giddy again as I read The Nibelungenlied (trans. Hatto). I'm a sucker for a well-written fight and there are few better than that one in The Nibelungenlied between Siegfried and King Liudegast. A taste:

Towards him the noble intruder galloped in fine style, and now lord Liudegast had marked him down, so that the two of them set their spurs to their chargers' flanks and vehemently levelled their spears at each other's shield, with the result that the King was soon in jeopardy. In the train of these thrusts. these princes' mounts bore them past each other at such a pace that they might have been wafted by the wind; whereupon, wheeling with splendid horsemanship, this fierce pair tried their fortunes with their swords. Then lord Siegfried struck blows that filled the plain with their sound and sent fiery sparks flying from his enemy's helmet as though from huge torches. Each met his match in the other, since lord Liudegast struck many cruel blows in answer, and the strength of each was brought mightily to bear on the other's shield.

Heart-pounding. Here's the same scene in rhymed verse (online trans. Needler). Both versions are fantastic. Thrilling, irrespective of the translation, when the original is of such quality!

Who he was I'll tell you / that rode his men before,—
A shield of gold all shining / upon his arm he bore—
In sooth it was King Luedegast / who there the van did guard.
Straightway the noble Siegfried / full eagerly against him spurred.

Now singled out for combat / him, too, had Luedegast.
Then full upon each other / they spurred their chargers fast,
As on their shields they lowered / their lances firm and tight,
Whereat the lordly monarch / soon found himself in sorry plight.

After the shock their chargers / bore the knights so fast
Onward past each other / as flew they on the blast.
Then turned they deftly backward / obedient to the rein,
As with their swords contested / the grim and doughty fighters twain.

When Siegfried struck in anger / far off was heard the blow,
And flew from off the helmet, / as if 'twere all aglow,
The fiery sparks all crackling / beneath his hand around.
Each warrior in the other / a foeman worth his mettle found.

Full many a stroke with vigor / dealt eke King Luedegast,
And on each other's buckler / the blows fell thick and fast.
Then thirty men discovered / their master's sorry plight:
But ere they came to help him / had doughty Siegfried won the fight.

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