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more womanhood, of the same indomitable persistence of purpose, the same inflexibility of passion, beside which the swift loves and hates of Celt or Latin heroism read but as the fitful loves, the changeful hates, the uncertain vengeances of children at play with life.
Between the stories of Helen and the Brynhild of the Saga there are some crude facts of common elementary episode. It is the fate both of the Greek and of the Northern woman to be held successively by two men as their own. The love of either woman brings destruction with it to the men by whom they are most loved. The love of Paris for the wife of Menelaus brings about the slaying of Paris and lays low the walls of Ilion. The love of Gunnar the Guiking for Brynhild results in even more dire catastrophes, death to Sigurd the Volsung, Brynhild's lover by right, Gudrun's husband by fraud-death to Gunnar the king and to all his house-ruin and wide-spreading misery to Gudrun and to the house of Atli. But, far beyond minor coincidences of circumstance and the general drift towards calamity of the two love stories, they have one deeply grounded point of abstract similarity. Both are, in antithesis to stories of will, essentially stories of fate. They are equally stories of lives foredoomed by an irresistible destiny to actions and catastrophes no foresight can avert, no uttermost striving of human endeavour or human wisdom can in any wise alter. True, the gods in the Greek legend play their parts before our very eyes, overpowering the intentions and ordering the deeds and affections of heroes, men and women, as the marionette master the puppets of his theatre, whereas in the Scandinavian saga the unimaged gods * of idol-less temples are shrouded from human sight. And though it would seem in other stories of the North, blue-cloaked, oneeyed, Odin Allfather walks betimes the earth in mystery, here he too has with his fellow gods withdrawn into invisibility. The veil of Olympus is freely lifted; the gods feast and drink in our presence, and their speech is plainly heard. Valhalla lies in mist, of its gods no speech is audible; in Brynhild's day they strike with long arms and very silently. Men feel the turn of the wheel, but the spinner sits in the dark. Who are the Norns, who rule the
lot of all?' is a question which elicits but a dim response, significant in its vagueness. Many there be and far apart.'
Men feel Who are the Noradim response,
* The religion was too spiritual, the people too inartistic for graven images of the invisible.'—Corpus Poeticum Boreale, vol. i. p. 426, note. Yet in no other story is the sense of doom so insistently felt. It shadows every page, inflexible, remorseless, giving to the future the immutability of the past, and to the deed undone the irrevocableness of the deed accomplished. Nor, although critics in this will differ according to their several standards of opinion, can the long-drawn portrayal of the heroine of the Nibelungenlied,'Chriemhild (the Germanised and medievalised Gudrun of the Saga), in the stanzas of the great Teutonic epic, rival the conception of the Volsung Saga. The slow ripening of Chriemhild's vengeance against Siegfried's slayer during thirteen years of widowhood and seven years of remarriage, the very fact of that remarriage with Etzel, reluctant, but unenforced, her subsequent not unkindly relationship to Etzel, which contrasts sharply with Brynhild's fierce revolt against her wedded life with Gunnar (and indeed likewise with the hatred borne by Gudrun to Atli in the Saga version of her story), has shorn Chriemhild's sorrow and revenge of the dignity of passion. The epic has lost in some indefinite manner, until the last scenes, the breadth, strength, and sombre impressiveness of the Northern version. With Brynhild moreover the antagonist is life itself. With Chriemhild hatred is narrowed to a single point; it is not life but Hagen who is her enemy.
The chronicle of Brynhild's love and death in the brief condensation of the prose version, compiled, we are told, from fragmentary songs and floating traditions, occupies but twelve out of the twenty-three chapters into which the Saga is divided. Setting aside the plot as made known to most by Richard Wagner's adaptation of it to the exigencies of the opera stage and his own appreciations of the myth, its episodes are few, and in parts not wholly decipherable. Brynhild's divine descent from the father of the gods, her pre-existence as one of the Walkurie, is barely hinted at in her gifts of knowledge and foreknowledge. The cause of her condemnation by Odin, the slumber spell worked by the sleep thorn, the fire wall which shields her from all men save the hero whom she is doomed to follow, are incidents but lightly touched upon. We are told briefly that Brynhild is one of two sisters, daughters of Budli. One, Bekkhild, is a home-abider, skilful in all handiwork. Brynhild is a battle-lover, a forthfarer upon earth, armoured and helmed, a warrior maid of a type far removed from the toy amazons of Renascence romance-from Clorinda, dying gently at Tancred's hands, from Armida, accepting meekly
the succour of her sometime lover Rinaldo, from chivalrous Britomart, with her courtly valour and feminine grace. One brother Brynhild has, Atli, Gudrun's husband in far days to come, and a foster-father, Heimi. At the first meeting between Sigurd and Brynhild, in her hall, she teaches him wisdom. And no wiser woman can be find in all the world. • Thereby swear I,' so Sigurd spake to her, that thee will • I have as my own.' "Thee would I choose though I had all 'men's sons to choose amongst,' Brynhild answers him, and their troth is plighted. Again he comes to her. At a high window in the topmost chamber of her foster-father's dwelling she sits working in threads of gold the deeds of Sigurd, those deeds which were past and those which were to come. There Sigurd sees her. 'I will get from her love • like my love, and give her a gold ring in token thereof,' said Sigurd, unmindful that already it has been foretold to him · Heimi's foster-daughter, fair to see, shall rob thee of all • happiness.'* And he goes to that high chamber, and she, who never before has welcomed any man, gives him welcome. Then Sigurd cast his arms about her, and he kissed her, saying, Thou art the fairest ever born.' Word by word the prophecy is fulfilling itself. Thou shalt not sleep or slumber,' the seer had foreseen, nor care for any man, except thou look on that maid.' But Brynhild is not only the fairest, not only is she a woman unblamed, she knew
no guilt in her life,' but likewise, as Sigurd has said, amongst women the wisest. Fated she is, as was Helen, but with her fate fares differently. She is no blind, passive victim; the blood of the Asir runs in her veins, and what the blood of Zeus never wrought for Leda's daughter the blood of Odin works mightily in Brynhild. No veil of mortal passion can dim her sight; her eyes are clear to see, and the truth is not hidden from her mind. It is not fated ' that we abide with each other.' Even in that first moment of union she speaks her joy's death-sentence. But Sigurd questions, 'What fruit of our lives shall be if we live not 'together?' Again her speech is as relentless as her knowledge is perfect. I shall gaze on the hosts of the war • kings, but thou shalt wed Gudrun, the daughter of Guiki.' So seeing and so knowing—knowing that he whom I have • chosen for my well beloved shall go to another'-she takes his love, and renders love to him again. Not with the reckless surrender of an Iseult, nor with the latent repent
* Lay of Gripir, "Corpus Poeticum Boreale.'
ance of a Guenevere, the dice-thrower's passion of a Cleopatra, or the acquiescent yielding of a fearful Helen, but with slow scorn of sorrow to be, and with a double security of strength to endure and strength to revenge her wrongs. So each sware oaths to one another, oaths the breaking whereof she beholds in the years to come, and with her own hands she takes part in the welding of her life, grasping undismayed the moment's joy despite all certainty of its swift undoing. What comfort is there set for Sigurd ?' Thus had Sigurd questioned the old prophet seer, Gripir, in the saga which prefaces the actual events of the tragedy. • Tell me this, if thou knowest it. Shall I buy the maid with • dowry—that fair king's daughter ?' Gripir : “Ye shall • swear all oaths faithfully, but ye shall hold few.
So the short season when Brynhild rejoiced closes. No love pledge save those she holds—a ring of gold and Aslauga, the child born to her of Sigurd's love—will she ever again receive at the hands of the Volsung hero, hers by right of ring and child and oath. No joy shall ever again be hers as from the house of Heimi Sigurd rides forth from her presence upon the road fate has paved with Aints for the wounding of the hearts that pass.
In the House of Guiki, the home of Gunnar the king and of Gudrun the king's sister, the magic cup of forgetfulness plays its familiar and well accustomed part. Here-as in the majority, it would seem, of such stories, and it is, if so, a curious consideration—it is the man and not the woman from whose remembrance love is by virtue of enchantment effaced. Possibly the witch potion was not brewed which would have soothed Brynhild's passion into oblivion, or masked, even for an hour, the memories of the days of her love-joy from her heart's consciousness. Be this as it may, and whatever may be the significance we attach to such incidents, Sigurd drinks of the cup the mother of Gudrun has mixed for him. When thou hast been Guiki's guest one night thou shalt remember no more the brave foster-daughter of Heimi.' Sigurd : 'How is it? tell it to me. Seest thou any lack of honour in my mind that I should break my word ' to the maiden whom I loved with my whole heart ?' Gripir :
Thou shalt be the victim of another's treason.' And so it in truth falls out, and all remembrance of Brynhild departs from him, and he beholds Gudrun and sees that she is fair, and he takes her for his wife, and to him her brothers swear brotherhood. Then follows swiftly the betrayal of Brynhild. For the sake of that sworn brotherhood, in Gunnar's sem
he truth oth plichere she de those
blance and for Gunnar's sake, Sigurd sets forth to woo for Gunnar his own troth-plighted love. Treacherously, it is foredoomed, he must ensnare her whom he honours most.' And he rides once more the flames to Brynhild's dwelling. And Brynhild asks, 'What man is this? Gunnar, son of "Guiki, Sigurd makes reply. And the treason is accomplished. Bound by vows she may in no wise break, Brynhild submits herself to that semblance of Gunnar. Yet if a mist is on her eyes a doubt is at her heart. To ride those fires was a feat none but Sigurd might achieve, she cries in angered suspicion, and he is my troth plight and my well • beloved. But doom holds the truth secret, and Brynhild is wedded to Gunnar and Sigurd to Gudrun, and the feast • being brought to an end once more has Sigurd memory of
all that has been. Remembers—yet remembering is silent.
Thus Brynhild, as Helen, must pass from one lover to another. But her heart holds its old fealty unstained in all the undeviating truth of an untamed world. Helen, as we seem to see her, vacillates between old loves and newhere kind to Paris, there beset by memories of Menelaus, upbraiding her lover with bitter words, yet, fearful of the goddess, conceding all he demands. Her pre-eminence of beauty is shadowed with flickering lights, with shames, regrets, remorses, till once more, Paris slain, she reigns in peace queen, if not of love, of Sparta. Brynhild, cast in another mould, has neither the capacity for repentance nor any harbourage for those transitional affections which demand contrition. It is not so much that love with her is enduring as that change is impossible. Because of Sigurd's great worth, because he is of all men the noblest, because he is of all men the most fearless, because the words of the soothsayer, • Comfort thee with this, my prince, that this blessing shall rest • upon thy life, that no better man shall ever come upon earth • under the seat of the sun than thou, Sigurd, shall be held,' were words of very truth, she has elected him for her love. He is ber soul's ideal as he is her body's worship, and, while honour is his, he is enduringly her love and her lord.
Where I find worth,
And then I follow it.'