페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

as Sigurd remained unspotted and undegraded, could drive her heart from its anchorage in his love.

• Never loved I Gunnar in such wise that my heart smiled on him. Why may she not love her life? Gudrun in her own bridal happiness enqnires-Gudrun, who has yet to learn in Atli's halls the sharpness of loss and the fierceness of love mismated. But Sigurd, wiser than Guiki's child, divines in his lost love one of life's irreconcileables, and knows that, for her, sorrow will sign no armistice with fate. Betrayed doubly, robbed of the hero she loved, wedded to the king she despises, no alternative is hers but grief. " What redress shall she get? 'is Sigurd's mournful acceptance of the indelible injury done, since we beguiled her,

she having my sworn words, none fulfilled, and no happi'ness P' And Brynhild, true in hate as she has been true in love, speaks openly with Gunnar. “Never again seest thou me 'glad in thine hall, never drinking, never at the chess play, never speaking the words of kindness, never overlaying

the fair cloths with gold, never giving thee good counsel "-ah, sorrow of heart that I might not get Sigurd to me.' Then again, as the days pass, Gudrun in her folly would propitiate the queen's grief. “Give her gold, and smother

her grief and anger therewith. And again Sigurd, watching, knows surely that no gift but one shall avail to appease her wrath or solace her bitter distress. And that gift he offers. "I loved thee better than myself,' said the Volsung.

I sorrowed sore that thou wert not my wife; but as I might • I put my trouble from me, for in a king's dwelling was I. And withal and in spite of all I was well content that we were all together. ... Brynhild answered, "Too late * tellest thou me that my grief grieved thee; little pity

shall I find now. Then Sigurd said, “ This my heart would, • that thou and I should go together; even so wouldst thou • be my wife.' Said Brynhild, ‘Such words may not be

spoken, nor will I have two kings in one hall; I will lay down my life rather than beguile Gunnar the king.' ... Rather than thou die I will wed thee and put away • Gudrun,' said Sigurd. “I will not have thee,' said Brynhild; 'nay, nor any other.' No compromise exists for her. All things were loathsome to her, both land and lordship, so she might not have Sigurd she will walk loveless, husbandless, sonless. But the having of him is at a price she will not pay. "I will not set my love on another ' woman's husband'—though that woman be Gudrun, whom she hates—lo, two men in one dwelling I will not have,' though the man to be deceived is Gunnar, who won her by deceit. So runs her unswerving, reiterated denial. And

this shall be Sigurd's death,' so she cries to Gunnar, or • thy death or my death.

Her passion, her truth, her hatred march in absolute unity of purpose. Love never stays her wrath, wrath never slackens her love. Gunnar the hated must slay Sigurd the well-beloved. Her image is wrought in bronze; all men may gaze on her and see her face scarred with its heart wounds. Good or ill her deeds, her thoughts are lived in sight of all; she has no secret hiding-place, no shame; no place for repentance will it be ever hers to seek. Gunnar knows her purpose; the women of Guiki's house know it; Sigurd himself—though the sword that pierces his breast is held by Guttorm, the youngest of the Guikings-knows who is the doer of the deed. Lo! this has Brynhild • brought to pass,' are Sigurd's words as life leaves him, even she who loves me before all men.'

Thus the story draws to its end. Sigurd is dead. The wrongs of Brynhild are avenged; she must bewail with . weeping what she had prayed for with laughter.' Nor may any comfort her; her time is come when she must depart hence, nor might any stay her from her long journey. • Ever was I joyless so long as I lived,' she laments as, clad once more in mail, she bids those around, Take the gold

and be glad thereof.' And the sword is in her hand and her blood is on the white linen of the bed. •Bury me on

one side of the king of the Huns and on the other those 'men of mine, two at the head and two at the feet, and two

hawks withal, and even so all is shared equally; and there lay • between us a drawn sword, as in the other days, and there 'may we have the name of man and wife, nor shall the * door swing to at the heel of him as I follow behind.' • Men and women shall now, as always, be born to • live in woe. We two, Sigurd and I, shall never part

again. The wounds open, her breath Aits; she has said sooth.

And so Brynhild passes away from earth and the scenes of earth, bequeathing to Gudrun a legacy of hate, for sake of Sigurd, slain in the house of the Guiking, for sake of the oath of brotherhood betrayed, for sake of her own exceeding loss. Nor is her vengeance fulfilled till in the house of Atli, the brother of Brynhild, to whom Gunnar has rewedded her, Gunnar is slaughtered in the hall, and Hogni stung to death in the pit of serpents, and till to the slaying of her children and to the death of Atli Gudrun herself has set her hand.

The Homeric legend leaves Helen, sometime divided from Menelaus, reconciled with her husband, reigning in her old home at peace with life. The Northern saga leaves Brynhild, severed upon earth from Sigurd, reunited, man and wife, all severance ended in the enfranchisement of death. It is left, strangely enough, to the Indian epic to present us with the conception of a final tragedy for which neither life nor yet death can supply a remedy, a tragedy of which the completeness is unrivalled in European literature.

It is a far cry indeed from the heroines of Troy Town and the · Völsunga Saga' to the heroine of the Rāmāyana, one of the two great Indian epics recently translated and condensed into English verse by Mr. Romish Chandra Dutt. But the claim of Sita, the wife of Rama, to stand as a representative race-ideal of womanhood rests upon an even surer basis than the claim of a Helen or a Brynhild. In a deeper sense than Villon intended it may truly be said that death seized the Homeric lovers, and Brynhild, no less than Helen and Paris, has gone the way of the dead. They are, one and all, except where poets sing their praises or literary traditions transmit their fame, forgotten and out of mind. The Greek worship of beauty, from which the Helen heroine first sprang, the Northern valuation of courage as the crown of all excellence—the groundwork of Brynhild's creation-are things of a far past. But the imaginative conception of Sita, the wife of faith, is the outcome of a national creed which has survived the first commandment of the Saga—Be brave'-and the law and the prophets of the Greek— Be beautiful and which has conferred upon her name the rare gift of a remembrance not dead but living, and upon the ideal she embodies a vital actuality. She holds a place in the hearts of women in • India which no other creation of a poet's imagination

holds among any other nation on earth. There is not a • Hindu woman whose earliest and tenderest recollections

do not cling round the story of Sita's sufferings and Sita's ' faithfulness told in the nursery, taught in the family circle, remembered and cherished through life.'

The race conceived the ideal, and doubtless the ideal has reacted upon the race. “In no other country has the love of the wife for the husband equalled the Hindu.'* The

* Shoshee Chunder Dutt, ' India Past and Present,'

conception is simple and absolute. It is for every woman the total denial of selfhood, the complete abandonment of everything upon earth which conflicts with her devotion to the husband. Her home is her cloister, and he is her cloister's god. She fulfils in a literal sense the commandment of the law. Thou shalt have but one God, and Him

only shalt thou serve. And—the man being dead—when that service, devotion, and love could find no further expression, the sacrificial rite of suttee, which English dominion strove long in vain to suppress, symbolised in its terrible dramatic actuality the finality for the woman of any remaining motive for existence. Greater love hath no man than this,' so the Gospel warrant runs, “than to lay down his life for his 'friend.' But that love-seldom, if ever, indeed, required of man by human custom or social law-was exacted, and not from unwilling victims, from every widowed wife of a whole nation, and the ideal found its tragic response in the flames of thousands of funeral pyres. In this, as in most things, the levels of East and West are on wholly different planes of thought. Where the West would see nothing but the exceptional extravagance, the disquieting exaggeration of some exotic passion, which in its overplus of self-surrender forfeits for the woman its patent of nobility, which—when translated from romance to real life—is an indignity and a descent from the self-reverence Western imagination demands of love, the East has a widely different standpoint. It regards such passion as the natural outcome of a woman's truest and deepest nature; it is her ladder of ascent, by it she attains to her highest praise and profoundest honour. It is no rare accident of temperament or circumstance. It is the daily bread, as it were, of common life, the habitual affection of every innocent woman for the man to whom custom, religion, and the marriage tie have bound her. Her very devotion to the gods is drawn within the circle; her piety is a vicarious piety; her offerings are-to borrow a phrase of European Christianity-always for his intention. Like the girl page who serves her rival in the old play, each wife might fitly address the god she worships, I but serve you to do him service.' Children at heart, children at play, when leisure and wealth allow of play, the Indian wife may remain, and does remain in most cases, a child in mind and in intelligence long after childhood, according to Western creed, is ended and playtime passed. But there are qualities in that childhood the womanhood of the West too often lacks, it is a lamp with a

hidden flame. In its ideals the East dreams while the West acts--but the dreams of the East have fire at their heart.

From such levels of living Sita, the heroine of the Rāmāyana, has become the Madonna of India. Her heroism lies not in deeds, but in thoughts, in her stainless purity, her invulnerable truth. The faithless wife has little or no place amongst the heroines of Indian imagination. The character of the wife of many lovers, dear in various guises and in all ages to Western fiction and romance, would seem to attract neither the interest nor, whatever the extenuating circumstances, the sympathy of the Hindu, and the primitive morality of innumerable storytellers relegates her in most instances to the ranks of the Rakshas.

The ideal of life was joy and beauty and gladness in ancient Greece; the ideal of life was piety and endurance ' and devotion in ancient India'; and whatever may have been the theoretical, theological, or social conception of womanhood in the laws and creeds of Hinda prophet and Hindu moralist, as expressed in sacred books or embodied in national customs and conventions, that ideal of life--with its limitations perhaps only equalled by the limitations of the monastic discipline, with its avenues into moral infinities only perhaps paralleled by those of cloistral aspiration-has century after century become a reality in the great multitude of Indian homes, and has fulfilled itself in myriads of lives, despised and rejected by European educationalists for their ignorance, incompleteness, and servitude.

There is, it is true, a rival epic and a rival heroine in Aryan literature. Draupadi, the central woman's figure of the Mahabharata, is cited by Mr. R. W. Frazer in his · Literary History of India' as typifying the Indian ideal • of womanhood and as showing from the manner in which • her sufferings were respected the high place she had ac'quired.' And Draupadi may indeed stand, as Gudrun by Brynhild, side by side with the wife of Rama. But she never will in like degree impress the reader with a sense of her complete apartness from the heroines of other nationalities, nor, in the same manner, does the epic in which she plays her part produce, in spite of wider variances of custom and episode from Western use and sympathy, the impression of the Rāmāyana as a race product. As deeds are more easily effaced than thoughts, action--the outward life-would seem usually to be antagonistic to the preservation of individualism, to the especial singularities characteristic of a man or a race, whereas thought and emotion-the

has deeds are

seem

usually thoughts, action

« 이전계속 »