Friday, October 25, 2013

Yseult and the Werewolf: A Tale of Saxon England

 A Werewolf's Tale

In the reign of Egbert the Saxon there dwelt in Britain a maiden named Yseult, who was beloved of all, both for her goodness and for her beauty. But, though many a youth came wooing her, she loved Harold only, and to him she plighted her troth.

Among the other youth of whom Yseult was beloved was Alfred, and he was sore angered that Yseult showed favor to Harold, so that one day Alfred said to Harold: "Is it right that old Siegfried should come from his grave and have Yseult to wife?" Then added he, "Prithee, good sir, why do you turn so white when I speak your grandsire's name?"

Then Harold asked, "What know you of Siegfried that you taunt me? What memory of him should vex me now?"

"We know and we know," retorted Alfred. "There are some tales told us by our grandmas we have not forgot."

So ever after that Alfred's words and Alfred's bitter smile haunted Harold by day and night.
Harold's grandsire, Siegfried the Teuton, had been a man of cruel violence. The legend said that a curse rested upon him, and that at certain times he was possessed of an evil spirit that wreaked its fury on mankind. But Siegfried had been dead full many years, and there was naught to mind the world of him save the legend and a cunning-wrought spear which he had from Brunehilde, the witch. This spear was such a weapon that it never lost its brightness, nor had its point been blunted. It hung in Harold's chamber, and it was the marvel among weapons of that time.

Yseult knew that Alfred loved her, but she did not know of the bitter words which Alfred had spoken to Harold. Her love for Harold was perfect in its trust and gentleness. But Alfred had hit the truth: the curse of old Siegfried was upon Harold—slumbering a century, it had awakened in the blood of the grandson, and Harold knew the curse that was upon him, and it was this that seemed to stand between him and Yseult. But love is stronger than all else, and Harold loved.

Harold did not tell Yseult of the curse that was upon him, for he feared that she would not love him if she knew. Whensoever he felt the fire of the curse burning in his veins he would say to her, "To-morrow I hunt the wild boar in the uttermost forest," or, "Next week I go stag-stalking among the distant northern hills." Even so it was that he ever made good excuse for his absence, and Yseult thought no evil things, for she was trustful; ay, though he went many times away and was long gone, Yseult suspected no wrong. So none beheld Harold when the curse was upon him in its violence.
Alfred alone bethought himself of evil things. "'T is passing strange," quoth he, "that ever and anon this gallant lover should quit our company and betake himself whither none knoweth. In sooth 't will be well to have an eye on old Siegfried's grandson."

Harold knew that Alfred watched him zealously, and he was tormented by a constant fear that Alfred would discover the curse that was on him; but what gave him greater anguish was the fear that mayhap at some moment when he was in Yseult's presence, the curse would seize upon him and cause him to do great evil unto her, whereby she would be destroyed or her love for him would be undone forever. So Harold lived in terror, feeling that his love was hopeless, yet knowing not how to combat it.

Now, it befell in those times that the country round about was ravaged of a werewolf, a creature that was feared by all men howe'er so valorous. This werewolf was by day a man, but by night a wolf given to ravage and to slaughter, and having a charmed life against which no human agency availed aught. Wheresoever he went he attacked and devoured mankind, spreading terror and desolation round about, and the dream-readers said that the earth would not be freed from the werewolf until some man offered himself a voluntary sacrifice to the monster's rage.

Now, although Harold was known far and wide as a mighty huntsman, he had never set forth to hunt the werewolf, and, strange enow, the werewolf never ravaged the domain while Harold was therein. Whereat Alfred marvelled much, and oftentimes he said: "Our Harold is a wondrous huntsman. Who is like unto him in stalking the timid doe and in crippling the fleeing boar? But how passing well doth he time his absence from the haunts of the werewolf. Such valor beseemeth our young Siegfried."
Which being brought to Harold his heart flamed with anger, but he made no answer, lest he should betray the truth he feared.

It happened so about that time that Yseult said to Harold, "Wilt thou go with me to-morrow even to the feast in the sacred grove?"

"That can I not do," answered Harold. "I am privily summoned hence to Normandy upon a mission of which I shall some time tell thee. And I pray thee, on thy love for me, go not to the feast in the sacred grove without me."

"What say'st thou?" cried Yseult. "Shall I not go to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda? My father would be sore displeased were I not there with the other maidens. 'T were greatest pity that I should despite his love thus."

"But do not, I beseech thee," Harold implored. "Go not to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda in the sacred grove! And thou would thus love me, go not—see, thou my life, on my two knees I ask it!"
"How pale thou art," said Yseult, "and trembling."

"Go not to the sacred grove upon the morrow night," he begged.
Yseult marvelled at his acts and at his speech. Then, for the first time, she thought him to be jealous—whereat she secretly rejoiced (being a woman).

"Ah," quoth she, "thou dost doubt my love," but when she saw a look of pain come on his face she added—as if she repented of the words she had spoken—"or dost thou fear the werewolf?"

Then Harold answered, fixing his eyes on hers, "Thou hast said it; it is the werewolf that I fear."
"Why dost thou look at me so strangely, Harold?" cried Yseult. "By the cruel light in thine eyes one might almost take thee to be the werewolf!"

"Come hither, sit beside me," said Harold tremblingly, "and I will tell thee why I fear to have thee go to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda to-morrow evening. Hear what I dreamed last night. I dreamed I was the werewolf—do not shudder, dear love, for 't was only a dream.

"A grizzled old man stood at my bedside and strove to pluck my soul from my bosom.
"'What would'st thou?' I cried.

"'Thy soul is mine,' he said, 'thou shalt live out my curse. Give me thy soul—hold back thy hands—give me thy soul, I say.'

"'Thy curse shall not be upon me,' I cried. 'What have I done that thy curse should rest upon me? Thou shalt not have my soul.'

"'For my offence shalt thou suffer, and in my curse thou shalt endure hell—it is so decreed.'
"So spake the old man, and he strove with me, and he prevailed against me, and he plucked my soul from my bosom, and he said, 'Go, search and kill'—and—and lo, I was a wolf upon the moor.
"The dry grass crackled beneath my tread. The darkness of the night was heavy and it oppressed me. Strange horrors tortured my soul, and it groaned and groaned, gaoled in that wolfish body. The wind whispered to me; with its myriad voices it spake to me and said, 'Go, search and kill.' And above these voices sounded the hideous laughter of an old man. I fled the moor—whither I knew not, nor knew I what motive lashed me on.

"I came to a river and I plunged in. A burning thirst consumed me, and I lapped the waters of the river—they were waves of flame, and they flashed around me and hissed, and what they said was, 'Go, search and kill,' and I heard the old man's laughter again.

"A forest lay before me with its gloomy thickets and its sombre shadows—with its ravens, its vampires, its serpents, its reptiles, and all its hideous brood of night. I darted among its thorns and crouched amid the leaves, the nettles, and the brambles. The owls hooted at me and the thorns pierced my flesh. 'Go, search and kill,' said everything. The hares sprang from my pathway; the other beasts ran bellowing away; every form of life shrieked in my ears—the curse was on me—I was the werewolf.

"On, on I went with the fleetness of the wind, and my soul groaned in its wolfish prison, and the winds and the waters and the trees bade me, 'Go, search and kill, thou accursed brute; go, search and kill.'

"Nowhere was there pity for the wolf; what mercy, thus, should I, the werewolf, show? The curse was on me and it filled me with a hunger and a thirst for blood. Skulking on my way within myself I cried, 'Let me have blood, oh, let me have human blood, that this wrath may be appeased, that this curse may be removed.'

"At last I came to the sacred grove. Sombre loomed the poplars, the oaks frowned upon me. Before me stood an old man—'twas he, grizzled and taunting, whose curse I bore. He feared me not. All other living things fled before me, but the old man feared me not. A maiden stood beside him. She did not see me, for she was blind.

"Kill, kill,' cried the old man, and he pointed at the girl beside him.

"Hell raged within me—the curse impelled me—I sprang at her throat. I heard the old man's laughter once more, and then—then I awoke, trembling, cold, horrified."

Scarce was this dream told when Alfred strode that way.

"Now, by'r Lady," quoth he, "I bethink me never to have seen a sorrier twain."

Then Yseult told him of Harold's going away and how that Harold had besought her not to venture to the feast of Ste. Aelfreda in the sacred grove.

"These fears are childish," cried Alfred boastfully. "And thou sufferest me, sweet lady, I will bear thee company to the feast, and a score of my lusty yeomen with their good yew-bows and honest spears, they shall attend me. There be no werewolf, I trow, will chance about with us."

Whereat Yseult laughed merrily, and Harold said: "'T is well; thou shalt go to the sacred grove, and may my love and Heaven's grace forefend all evil."

Then Harold went to his abode, and he fetched old Siegfried's spear back unto Yseult, and he gave it into her two hands, saying, "Take this spear with thee to the feast to-morrow night. It is old Siegfried's spear, possessing mighty virtue and marvellous."

And Harold took Yseult to his heart and blessed her, and he kissed her upon her brow and upon her lips, saying, "Farewell, oh, my beloved. How wilt thou love me when thou know'st my sacrifice. Farewell, farewell forever, oh, alder-liefest mine."

So Harold went his way, and Yseult was lost in wonderment.

On the morrow night came Yseult to the sacred grove wherein the feast was spread, and she bore old Siegfried's spear with her in her girdle. Alfred attended her, and a score of lusty yeomen were with him. In the grove there was great merriment, and with singing and dancing and games withal did the honest folk celebrate the feast of the fair Ste. Aelfreda.

But suddenly a mighty tumult arose, and there were cries of "The werewolf!" "The werewolf!" Terror seized upon all—stout hearts were frozen with fear. Out from the further forest rushed the werewolf, wood wroth, bellowing hoarsely, gnashing his fangs and tossing hither and thither the yellow foam from his snapping jaws. He sought Yseult straight, as if an evil power drew him to the spot where she stood. But Yseult was not afeared; like a marble statue she stood and saw the werewolf's coming. The yeomen, dropping their torches and casting aside their bows, had fled; Alfred alone abided there to do the monster battle.

At the approaching wolf he hurled his heavy lance, but as it struck the werewolf's bristling back the weapon was all to-shivered.

Then the werewolf, fixing his eyes upon Yseult, skulked for a moment in the shadow of the yews and thinking then of Harold's words, Yseult plucked old Siegfried's spear from her girdle, raised it on high, and with the strength of despair sent it hurtling through the air.

The werewolf saw the shining weapon, and a cry burst from his gaping throat—a cry of human agony. And Yseult saw in the werewolf's eyes the eyes of some one she had seen and known, but 't was for an instant only, and then the eyes were no longer human, but wolfish in their ferocity. A supernatural force seemed to speed the spear in its flight. With fearful precision the weapon smote home and buried itself by half its length in the werewolf's shaggy breast just above the heart, and then, with a monstrous sigh—as if he yielded up his life without regret—the werewolf fell dead in the shadow of the yews.

Then, ah, then in very truth there was great joy, and loud were the acclaims, while, beautiful in her trembling pallor, Yseult was led unto her home, where the people set about to give great feast to do her homage, for the werewolf was dead, and she it was that had slain him.

But Yseult cried out: "Go, search for Harold—go, bring him to me. Nor eat, nor sleep till he be found."

"Good my lady," quoth Alfred, "how can that be, since he hath betaken himself to Normandy?"

"I care not where he be," she cried. "My heart stands still until I look into his eyes again."

"Surely he hath not gone to Normandy," outspake Hubert. "This very eventide I saw him enter his abode."

They hastened thither—a vast company. His chamber door was barred.

"Harold, Harold, come forth!" they cried, as they beat upon the door, but no answer came to their calls and knockings. Afeared, they battered down the door, and when it fell they saw that Harold lay upon his bed.

"He sleeps," said one. "See, he holds a portrait in his hand—and it is her portrait. How fair he is and how tranquilly he sleeps."

But no, Harold was not asleep. His face was calm and beautiful, as if he dreamed of his beloved, but his raiment was red with the blood that streamed from a wound in his breast—a gaping, ghastly spear wound just above his heart.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

For an unusual modern interpretation of the legend of the Werewolf, read my historical, paranormal romance Shadows In A Timeless Myth.

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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Blast: A YA Heroine Adventure The Lost Dacome Files by Alexandra May

Dark FutureThe Battle for Arcanon Major

“As daughter of our ruler I grew up in the crossfire of an ongoing war… All I’d ever wanted to be was a great warrior and ultimately lead my people into victorious battles.”

With only a small army at her command Halíka Dacomé, a skilled warrior and daughter of the Elemental King, is ready to lead one final battle to save her planet. A battle against the savage, bloodthirsty Primords who want to extinguish the diminished race of Elementals once and for all.

But before battle commences her father is given an ultimatum from the enemy leader, Arfron Uhnok. If the king agrees, Halíka Dacomé must marry Arfron Uhnok to prevent further bloodshed. If the king disagrees they, as a race, will all perish.

Horrified by her fathers decision Halíka Dacomé leads her army onward regardless of the consequences. Because her heart belongs to another. A love that blossomed many years ago. A love that her father has forbidden.
alexandraHalíka faces her toughest battle yet and learns that not all battles are those fought with a sword…

The Battle for Arcanon Major is an epic love story set against the backdrop of war and is the first Prequel to Elemental: The First.

Alexandra May

Alexandra May is an English author of three books, bringing together the epic saga of Halíka Dacomé and her modern day equivalent, Rose Frost.

Elemental: The First, Elemental: Origin and The Battle for Arcanon Major draw in Alexandra’s love of strong women characters, sci-fi, history, romance and a little warmongering on the side!

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Monday, October 14, 2013

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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Deadly Rivalry of Brurnehaut Queen of the Austrasian Franks and Fredegonde Queen of Neustria

Brunehaut A. D. 534-613.

Brunehaut, or Brunehild, was the daughter of Athanagilde, king of the Visigoths of Spain. In A. D. 565, she wed Sigebert, king of the Franks of Austrasia. Contrary to the custom of the times, Sigebert had resolved to have but one wife, and to choose her from a royal family; his choice fell on Brunehaut--beautiful, of regal bearing, modest, dignified, agreeably conversant and wise. Sigebert quickly became very much attached to his new bride and eventually loved her so much that he was willing to go to war against his own brother to please her.

Why to war? Now that is a soap-opera of historic proportions!

Fredegonde was the daughter of poor peasants in the neighborhood of Montdidier in Picardy, and at an early age joined the train of Queen Audovere, the first wife of King Chilperic. She was beautiful, dexterous, ambitious, and bold; and she attracted the attention, and before long awakened the passion of the king. She pursued with ardor and without scruple her unexpected good fortune. Queen Audovere was her first obstacle and her first victim.  On the pretext of a spiritual relationship which rendered her marriage with Chilperic illegal, Queen Audovere was repudiated and banished to a convent. But Fredegonde's hour had not yet come; for Chilperic married instead Galsuinthe, daughter of the Visigothic king, Athanagild, whose youngest daughter, Brunehaut, had just married Chilperic's brother, Sigebert, king of Austrasia. Chilperic, king of Neustria, brother of Sigebert, had married Galsuinda, daughter of Athanagilde, sister of Brunehaut; but before long Galsuinthe was found strangled in her bed, and that Chilperic wed Fredegonde making her his queen. An undying hatred arose between Fredegonde and Brunehaut, who, to avenge her sister's death, persuaded Sigebert to make war upon his brother.

A war, incessantly renewed, between the kings of Austrasia and Neustria followed. Sigebert succeeded in beating Chilperic, but, in 575, but, while besieging Tournayin,  the midst of his victory, he was assassinated in his tent by two emissaries of Fredegonde. As soon as Brunehaut heard of this tragedy, she hastened to save her little son Childebert, heir to the kingdom of Austrasia. She hid him in a basket, which was let down from a window of the palace she occupied in Paris, and gave him to a servant of the Austrasian duke Gondebald, who carried him on horseback to Meaux, where he was proclaimed king on Christmas day, 575.

When Chilperic and Fredegonda arrived at Paris, they found only Brunehaut, with her two daughters and the royal treasure. The right of asylum belonging to the cathedral of Paris saved her life, but she was sent away to Rouen. Her property was taken from her, her daughters were exiled to Meaux, and she was sent to Rouen. During the few days that Brunehaut had remained in Paris, she had inspired Meroveus, Chilperic' s second son, with a violent passion, so that soon after she reached Rouen, he abandoned the troops his father had placed under his charge, and hastened to join her. They were married by the Bishop of Rouen, although it was contrary to the canons of the church to unite a nephew and aunt.

Chilperic, furious at this step, came with great haste to separate them; but they took refuge in a little church, and the king, not daring to violate this asylum, was at last obliged to promise with an oath that he would leave them together.

Reassured by this solemn promise, Meroveus and Brunehaut left their asylum and surrendered to Chilperic. Fredegonde was determined to persecute her rival and destroy her step-son, heir to the throne of Chilperic but the Austrasians, who had preserved the child Childebert, son of their murdered king, demanded with threats the return of Queen Brunehaut. She was surrendered to them; but Fredegonde was still determined to have her revenge and refused to release Merovice. First imprisoned, then shorn and shut up in a monastery, afterwards a fugitive and secretly urged on to attempt a rising against his father, he was so tormented by his perils, that he some say he had a faithful servant to strike him dead, that he might not fall into the hands of his hostile step-mother. Others, of course believe that Fredegonde herself had him murdered.

Fredegonde's depredations did not stop there however. Chilperic had remaining another son, Clovis, issue, as Merovee was, of Queen Audovere. He was accused of having caused by his sorceries the death of the three children lost about this time by Fredegonde; and was, in his turn, imprisoned and before long poniarded. His mother Audovere was strangled in her convent. Fredegonde sought in these deaths, advantageous for her own children, some sort of horrible consolation for her sorrows as a mother. But the sum of her crimes was not yet complete. In 584 King Chilperic, on returning from the chase and in the act of dismounting, was struck two mortal blows by a man who took to rapid flight, and a cry was raised all around of "Treason! 'tis the hand of the Austrasian Childebert against our lord the king!"

The care taken to have the cry raised was proof of its falsity; it was the hand of Fredegonde herself, anxious lest Chilperic should discover the guilty connection existing between her and an officer of her household, Landry, who became subsequently mayor of the palace of Neustria. Chilperic left a son, a few months old, named. Clotaire, of whom his mother Fredegonde became the sovereign guardian. She employed, at one time in defending him against his enemies, at another in endangering him by her plots, her hatreds and her assaults, the last thirteen years of her life. She was a true type of the strong-willed, artful, and perverse woman in barbarous times; she started low down in the scale and rose very high without a corresponding elevation of soul; she was audacious and perfidious, as perfect in deception as in effrontery, proceeding to atrocities either from cool calculation or a spirit of revenge, abandoned to all kinds of passion, and, for gratification of them, shrinking from no sort of crime. However, she died quietly at Paris, in 597 or 598, powerful and dreaded, and leaving on the throne of Neustria her son Clotaire II., who, fifteen years later, was to become sole king of all the Frankish dominions.

Brunehaut had no occasion for crimes to become a queen, and, in spite of those she committed, and in spite of her out-bursts and the moral irregularities of her long life, she bore, amidst her passion and her power, a stamp of courageous frankness and intellectual greatness which places her far above the savage who was her rival.
Brunehaut was a princess of that race of Gothic kings who, in Southern Gaul and in Spain, had understood and admired the Roman civilization, and had striven to transfer the remains of it to the newly-formed fabric of their own dominions. She, transplanted to a home amongst the Franks of Austrasia, the least Roman of all the barbarians, preserved there the ideas and tastes of the Visigoths of Spain, who had become almost Gallo-Romans; she clung stoutly to the efficacious exercise of the royal authority; she took a practical interest in the public works, highways, bridges, monuments, and the progress of material civilization; the Roman roads in a short time received and for a long while kept in Anstrasia the name of Brunehaut's causeways; there used to he shown, in a forest near Bourges, Brunehaut's castle, Brunehaut's tower at Etampes, Brunehaut's stone near Tournay, and Brunehaut's fort near Cahors.

In the royal domains and wheresoever she went she showed abundant charity to the poor, and many ages after her death the people of those districts still spoke of Brunehaut's alms. She liked and protected men of letters, rare and mediocre indeed at that time, but the only beings, such as they were, with a notion of seeking and giving any kind of intellectual enjoyment; and they in turn took pleasure in celebrating her name and her deserts. Unfortunately, Brunehaut was detested by the majority of the Austrasian chiefs, those Lords, landowners and warriors, whose independence she was continually fighting against.

Brunehaut's safely returned to her son's court, commenced her struggle against the nobles of Austrasia.  Once, when her own sympathizers and those of the opposing faction were drawn up in battle array, she, seeing that the combat would be a bloody one, and that her own side was the weaker, boldly rushed between them and demanded that they desist. "'Stay, warriors; refrain from this wicked deed; persecute not the innocent; engage not, for a single man's sake, in a battle which will desolate the country!' 'Back, woman,' said Ursion to her; 'let it suffice thee to have ruled under thy husband's sway; now 'tis thy son who reigns, and his kingdom is under our protection, not thine. Back! if thou wouldest not that the hoofs of our horses trample thee under as the dust of the ground!' After the dispute had lasted some time in this strain, the queen, by her address, at last prevented the battle from taking place." But the fearless Brunehaut, unmoved by this savage address, persisted and at last succeeded in preventing the combat. It was but a momentary success for Brunehaut; and the last words of Ursion contained a sad presage of the death awaiting her.

Although obliged to yield to her subjects for a short time, Brunehaut soon regained her authority, which she used with great cruelty.  Intoxicated with power, pride, hate, and revenge, she entered more violently every day into strife not only with the Austrasian laic chieftains, but with some of the principal bishops of Austrasia and Burgundy, among the rest with St. Didier, bishop of Vienne, who, at her instigation, was brutally murdered, and with the Irish missionary St. Columba, who would not sanction by his blessing the fruits of the royal irregularities. In 614, after thirty-nine years of wars, plots, murders, and political and personal vicissitudes, from the death of her husband Sigebert I., and under the reigns of her son Theodebert, and her grandsons Theodebert II. and Thierry II., Queen Brunehaut, at the age of eighty years, fell into the hands of her mortal enemy, Clotaire II., son of Fredegonde, now sole king of the Franks. After having grossly insulted her, he had her paraded, seated on a camel, in front of his whole army, and then ordered her to be tied by the hair, one foot, and one arm to the tail of an unbroken horse, that carried her away, and dashed her in pieces as he galloped and kicked, beneath the eyes of the ferocious spectators.

After the execution of Brunehaut and the death of Clotaire II., the
      history of the Franks becomes a little less dark and less bloody. 

Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brunhilde and the Twilight of the Gods

The Norns, or Northern goddesses of fate, are seen in the dim light before dawn, busily weaving the web of destiny on the rocky hillside where the Walkyries formerly held their tryst. As they twist their rope, which is stretched from north to south, they sing of the age of gold. Then they sat beneath the great world-ash, near the limpid well, where Wotan had left an eye in pledge to win a daily draught of wisdom.

They also sing how the god tore from the mighty ash a limb which he fashioned into an invincible spear. This caused the death of the tree, which withered and died in spite of all their care. The third Norn then continues the tale her sisters have begun, and tells how Wotan came home with a shivered spear one day, and bade the gods cut down the tree. Its limbs were piled like fuel all around Walhalla, the castle which the giants had built, and since then Wotan has sat there in moody silence, awaiting the predicted end, which can no longer be far distant.

While they are singing, the barrier of flame in the background burns brightly, and its light grows pale only as dawn breaks slowly over the scene. The rope which the Norns are weaving then suddenly parts beneath their fingers; so they bind the fragments about them and sink slowly into the ground, to join their mother Erda, wailing a prophecy concerning the end of the old heathen world:—
‘Away now is our knowledge! The world meets From wisdom no more; Below to Mother, below!’
As they vanish, the day slowly breaks, and Siegfried and Brunhilde come out of the cave. The former is in full armour and bears a jewelled shield, the latter leads her horse, Grane, by the bridle. Tenderly Brunhilde bids her lover farewell, telling him that she will not restrain his ardour, for she knows it is a hero's part to journey out into the world and perform the noble tasks which await him. But her strength and martial fury have entirely departed since she has learned to love, and she repeatedly adjures him not to forget her, promising to await his homecoming behind her flickering barrier of flame, and to think constantly of him while he is away. Siegfried reminds her that she need not fear he will forget her as long as she wears the Nibelung ring, the seal of their troth, and gladly accepts from her in exchange the steed Grane. Although it can no longer scurry along the paths of air, this horse is afraid of nothing, and is ready to rush through water and fire at his command.

As Siegfried goes down the hill leading his steed, Brunhilde watches him out of sight, and it is only when the last echoes of his hunting horn die away in the distance that the curtain falls.

The next scene is played at Worms on the Rhine. Gunther and his sister Gutrune are sitting in their ancestral hall, with their half-brother Hagen. He is the son of Alberich, and has been begotten with the sole hope that he will once help his father to recover the Nibelung ring. Hagen advises Gunther to remember the duty he owes his race, and to marry as soon as possible, and recommends as suitable mate the fair Brunhilde, who is fenced in by a huge barrier of living flame.

Gunther is not at all averse to matrimony, and is anxious to secure the peerless bride proposed, yet he knows he can never pass through the flames, and asks how Brunhilde is to be won. Hagen, who as a Nibelung knows the future, foretells that Siegfried, the dauntless hero, will soon be there, and adds that, if they can only efface from his memory all recollection of past love by means of a magic potion, they can soon induce him to promise his aid in exchange for the hand of Gutrune.

As he speaks, the sound of a horn is heard, and Hagen, looking out, sees Siegfried crossing the river in a boat, and goes down to the landing with Gunther to bid the hero welcome. Hagen leads the horse away, but soon returns, while Gunther ushers Siegfried into the hall of the Gibichungs, and enters into conversation with him. As Siegfried's curiosity has been roused by the strangers calling him by name, he soon inquires how they knew him, and Hagen declares that the mere sight of the tarn-cap had been enough. He then reveals to Siegfried its magical properties, and asks him what he has done with the hoard, and especially with the ring, which he vainly seeks on his hand. Siegfried carelessly replies that the gold is still in the Neidhole, guarded by the body of the dragon, while the ring now adorns a woman's fair hand. As he finishes this statement, Gutrune timidly draws near, and offers him a drinking horn, the draught of welcome, in which, however, the magic potion of forgetfulness has been mixed.

Siegfried drains it eagerly, remarking to himself that he drinks to Brunhilde alone. But no sooner has he partaken of it than her memory leaves him, and he finds himself gazing admiringly upon Gutrune. Gunther then proceeds to tell Siegfried the story of Brunhilde, whom he would fain woo to wife. Although the hero dreamily repeats his words, and seems to be struggling hard to recall some past memory, he does not succeed in doing so. Finally he shakes off his abstraction, and ardently proposes to pass through the fire and win Brunhilde for Gunther in exchange for Gutrune's hand:—
‘Me frights not her fire; I'll woo for thee the maid; For with might and mind Am I thy man— A wife in Gutrun' to win.’
The two heroes now decide upon swearing blood brotherhood according to Northern custom,—an inviolable oath,—and, charging Hagen to guard the hall of the Gibichungs, they immediately sally forth on their quest.

Brunhilde, in the mean while, has remained on the Walkürenfels anxiously watching for Siegfried's return, and spending long hours in contemplating the magic ring, her lover husband's last gift. Her solitude is, however, soon invaded by Waltraute, one of her sister Walkyries. She informs her that Wotan has been plunged in melancholy thought ever since he returned home from his wanderings with a shattered spear, and bade the gods pile the wood of the withered world-ash all around Walhalla. This he has decided shall be his funeral pyre, when the predicted doom of the gods overtakes him.

Waltraute adds also that she alone has found the clue to his sorrow, for she has overheard him mutter that, if the ring were given back to the Rhine-daughters, the curse spoken by Alberich would be annulled, and the gods could yet be saved from their doom:—
‘The day the River's daughters Find from her finger the ring, Will the curse's weight Be cast from the god and the world.’
Brunhilde pays but indifferent attention to all this account, and it is only when Waltraute informs her that it is in her power to avert the gods' doom by restoring the ring she wears to the mourning Rhine-daughters, that she starts angrily from her abstraction, swearing she will never part with Siegfried's gift, the emblem and seal of their plighted troth.

Waltraute, seeing no prayers will avail to win the ring, then rides sadly away, while the twilight gradually settles down, and the barrier of flames burns on with a redder glow. At the sound of a hunting horn, Brunhilde rushes joyously to the back of the scene, with a rapturous cry of ‘Siegfried!’ but shrinks suddenly back in fear and dismay when, instead of the bright beloved form, a dark man appears through the flickering flames. It is Siegfried, who, by virtue of the tarn-helmet, has assumed Gunther's form and voice, and boldly claims Brunhilde as his bride, in reward for having made his way through the barrier of fire. Brunhilde indignantly refuses to recognize him as her master. Passionately kissing her ring, she loudly declares that as long as it graces her finger she will have the strength to repulse every attack and keep her troth to the giver. This declaration so incenses Siegfried—who, owing to the magic potion, has entirely forgotten her and her love—that he rushes towards her, and after a violent struggle wrenches the ring from her finger, and places it upon his own.

Cowed by the violence of this rude wooer, and deprived of her ring, Brunhilde no longer resists, but tacitly yields when he claims her as wife, and both soon disappear in the cave. There Siegfried, mindful of his oath to marry her by proxy only, lays his unsheathed sword between him and his friend's bride:—
‘Now, Nothung, witness well That faithfully I wooed; Lest I wane in truth to my brother, Bar me away from his bride!’
Hagen, left alone at Worms to guard the hall of the Gibichungs, is favored in his sleep by a visit from his father, Alberich. The dwarf informs him that ever since the gods touched the fatal ring their power has waned, and that he must do all in his power to recover it from Siegfried, who again holds it, and who little suspects its magic power. As Alberich disappears, carrying with him Hagen's promise to do all he can, the latter awakens just in time to welcome the returning Siegfried. The young hero joyfully announces the success of their expedition, and rapturously claims Gutrune as his bride. After hearing her lover's account of his night's adventures, the maiden leads him into the hall in search of rest and refreshment, while Hagen, summoning the people with repeated blasts of his horn, admonishes them to deck the altars of Wotan, Freya, and Donner, and to prepare to receive their master and mistress with every demonstration of joy. The festive preparations are barely completed, when Gunther and Brunhilde arrive. The bride is pale and reluctant, and advances with downcast eyes, which she raises only when she stands opposite Gutrune and Siegfried, and hears the latter's name. Dropping Gunther's hand, she rushes forward impetuously to throw herself in Siegfried's arms, but, arrested by his cold unrecognising glance, she tremblingly inquires how he came there, and why he stands by Gutrune's side? Calmly then Siegfried announces his coming marriage:—
‘Gunther's winsome sister She that I wed As Gunther thee.’
Brunhilde indignantly denies her marriage to Gunther, and almost swoons, but Siegfried supports her, and, although Brunhilde softly and passionately asks him if he does not know her, the young hero indifferently hands her over to Gunther, bidding him look after his wife.

At a motion of his hand, Brunhilde's attention is attracted to the ring, and she angrily demands how he dare wear the token which Gunther wrested from her hand.

Bewildered by this question, Siegfried denies ever having received the ring from Gunther, and declares he won it from the dragon in the Neidhole; but Hagen, anxious to stir up strife, interferes, and elicits from Brunhilde an assurance that the hero can have won the ring only by guile.
A misunderstanding now ensues, for while Brunhilde in speaking refers to their first meeting, and swears that Siegfried had wooed and treated her as his wife, he, recollecting only the second encounter, during which he acted only as Gunther's proxy, denies her assertions.

Both solemnly swear to the truth of their statement upon Hagen's spear, calling the vengeance of Heaven down upon them in case of perjury. Then the interrupted wedding festivities are resumed, for Gunther knows only too well by what fraud his bride was obtained, and thinks the transformation has not been complete enough to blind the wise Brunhilde.

As Siegfried gently leads Gutrune away into the hall, whither all but Hagen, Gunther, and Brunhilde follow him, the latter gives way to her extravagant grief. Hagen approaches her, offering to avenge all her wrongs, and even slay Siegfried if nothing else will satisfy her, and wipe away the foul stain upon her honour. But Brunhilde tells him it is quite useless to challenge the hero, for she herself had made him invulnerable to every blow by blessing every part of his body except his back. This she deemed useless to protect, as Siegfried, the bravest of men, never fled from any foe:—
So wounds him nowhere a weapon?

In battle none:—but still Bare to the stroke is his back Never—I felt— In flight he would find A foe to be harmful behind him, So spared I his back from the blessing.’
Her resentment against Siegfried has reached such a pitch, however, that she finally hails with fierce joy Hagen's proposal to slay him in the forest on the morrow. Even Gunther acquiesces in this crime, which will leave his sister a widow, and they soon agree that it shall be explained to Gutrune as a hunting casualty.

At noon on the next day Siegfried arrives alone on the banks of the Rhine, in search of a quarry which has escaped him. The Rhine daughters, who concealed it purposely in hopes of recovering their ring, rise up out of the water, and swimming gracefully around promise to help him recover his game if he will only give them his ring. Siegfried, who attaches no value whatever to the trinket, but wishes to tease them, refuses it at first; but when they change their bantering into a prophetic tone and try to frighten him by telling him the ring will prove his bane unless he intrust it to their care, he proudly answers that he has never yet learned to fear, and declares he will keep it, and see whether their prediction will be fulfilled:—
‘My sword once splintered a spear;— The endless coil Of counsel of old, Wove they with wasting Curses its web; Norns shall not cover from Nothung! One warned me beware Of the curse a Worm; But he failed to make me to fear,— The World's riches I won with a ring, That for love's delight Swiftly I'd leave; I'll yield it for sweetness to you; But for safety of limbs and of life,— Were it not worth Of a finger's weight,— No ring from me you will reach!’
The Rhine maidens then bid him farewell, and swim away repeating their ominous prophecy. After they have gone, the hunting party appear, heralded by the merry music of their horns. All sit down to partake of the refreshments that have been brought, and as Siegfried has provided no game, he tries to do his share by entertaining them with tales of his early youth.

After telling them of his childhood spent in Mime's forge, of the welding of Nothung and the slaying of Fafnir, he describes how a mere taste of the dragon's blood enabled him to understand the songs of the birds. Encouraged by Hagen, he next relates the capture of the tarn-helm and ring, and then, draining his horn in which Hagen has secretly poured an antidote to the draught of forgetfulness administered by Gutrune, he describes his departure in quest of the sleeping Walkyrie and his first meeting with Brunhilde. At the mere mention of her name, all the past returns to his mind. He suddenly remembers all her beauty and love, and starts wildly to his feet, but only to be pierced by the spear of the treacherous Hagen, who had stolen behind him to drive it into his heart.

The dying hero makes one last vain effort to avenge himself, then sinks feebly to the earth, while Hagen slips away, declaring that the perjurer had fully deserved to be slain by the weapon upon which he had sworn his false oath. Gunther, sorry now that it is too late, bends sadly over the prostrate hero, who, released from the fatal effects of Gutrune's draught, speaks once more of his beloved Brunhilde, and fancies he is once more clasped in her arms as of old.

Then, when he has breathed his last, the hunters place his body upon a shield and bear it away in the rapidly falling dusk, to the slow, mournful accompaniment of a funeral march, whose muffled notes fall like a knell on the listener's ear.

Gutrune, who has found the day very long indeed without her beloved Siegfried, comes out of her room at nightfall, and listens intently for the sound of the hunting horn which will proclaim his welcome return. She is not the only watcher, however, for Brunhilde has stolen down to the river, and her apartment is quite empty.

Suddenly Hagen comes in, and Gutrune, terrified at his unexpected appearance, anxiously inquires why she has not heard her husband's horn. Without any preparation, roughly, brutally, Hagen informs her the hero is dead, just as the bearers enter and deposit his lifeless body at her feet.

Gutrune faints, but when she recovers consciousness she indignantly refuses to credit Hagen's story, that her husband was slain by a boar. She wildly accuses Gunther, who frees himself from suspicion by denouncing Hagen. Without showing the least sign of remorse, the dark son of Alberich then acknowledges the deed, and, seeing that Gunther is about to appropriate the fatal ring, draws his sword and slays him also. Wildly now Hagen snatches at the ring, that long coveted treasure; but he starts back in dismay without having secured it, for the dead hand is threateningly raised, to the horror of all the spectators.

Next Brunhilde comes upon the scene, singing a song of vengeance; and when Gutrune wildly accuses her of being the cause of her husband's murder, she declares that she alone was Siegfried's lawful wife, and that he would always have been true to her had not Gutrune won him by the ruse of a magic draught. Sadly Gutrune acknowledges the truth of this statement, and, feeling that she has no right to mourn over the husband of another woman, she creeps over to Gunther's corpse and bends motionless over him.

Brunhilde's anger is all forgotten now that the hero is dead, and, after caressing him tenderly for a while, she directs the bystanders to erect a huge funeral pyre. While they are thus occupied she sings the hero's dirge, and draws the ring unhindered from his dead hand. Then she announces her decision to perish in the flames beside him, and declares the Rhine maidens can come and reclaim their stolen treasure from their mingled ashes:—
‘Thou guilty ring! Running gold! My hand gathers, And gives thee again. You wisely seeing Water sisters, The Rhine's unresting daughters, I deem your word was of weight! All that you ask Now is your own; Here from my ashes' Heap you may have it!— The flame as it clasps me round Free from the curse of the ring!— Back to its gold Unbind it again, And far in the flood Withhold its fire, The Rhine's unslumbering sun, That for harm from him was reft.’
The curse of the ring is at an end. The ravens of Wotan, perching aloft, fly heavily off to announce the tidings in Walhalla, while Brunhilde, after seeing Siegfried's body carefully deposited on the pyre with all his weapons, kindles the fire with her own hand. Then, springing upon Grane, she rides into the very midst of the flames, which soon rise so high that they swallow her up and entirely hide her from the spectators' sight.

After a short time the flames die down, the bright light fades, the stage darkens, and the river rises and overflows its banks, until its waves come dashing over the funeral pyre. They bear upon their swelling crests the Rhine maidens who have come to recover their ring, Hagen, standing gloomily in the background, becomes suddenly aware of their intention, wildly flings his weapons aside, and rushes forward, crying, ‘Unhand the ring!’ But he is caught in the twining arms of two of the Rhine maidens, who draw him down under the water, and drown him, while the third, having secured the Nibelung ring, returns in triumph on the ebbing waves to her native depths, chanting the Rhinegold strain. As she disappears, a reddish glow like the Aurora Borealis appears in the sky. It grows brighter and brighter, until one can discern the shining abode of Walhalla, enveloped in lurid flames from the burning world-ash, and in the centre the assembled gods calmly seated upon their thrones, to submit to their long predicted doom, the ‘Götterdämmerung."

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Friday, October 4, 2013

$100.00 Book Blast for the Glister Journals: Bronze

The Glister Journals: Bronze

BBAllison Anderson knows she’s a little different, but it hadn’t bothered her too much-until now. Moving away from everything she’s ever known to a new house, new neighborhood, and new school is bad enough, but it’s her first year of high school too, making it even more intimidating. She’s more aware of her social and physical limitations than ever before. And then there are the new people she meets: the tough-looking girl in her home room; the cute but dangerous-looking boy she first saw before school even started; the quiet, older girl who keeps to herself; the sullen-looking, seemingly isolated junior that doesn’t seem to trust or like her at all. Can she trust them? While the peaceful situation of her new home only amplifies the sound of her own doubts, she begins to learn that things are not always what they seem, and her world is turned upside-down by these new friends, two-legged and otherwise. Life soon becomes more complicated, and much more interesting!

Author B.B. Shepherd
I grew up in California, graduating from Cal Poly and doing graduate work through Chapman University and UC Santa Cruz. I continue my education in many areas; I don’t think I’ll ever be done completely. Horses, literature, music, and art have been my passions as long as I can remember.

“Bronze” is my first novel, but I feel I’ve been working on it all my life. It is the first volume of a four book series called “The Glister Journals.”

In writing, I seem to enjoy exploring emotions and analyzing motivation. I also like trying to find the funny side of things. I admit to being a hopeless romantic and often get in trouble for my sense of humor.

Smiles & Good Fortune,
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Walkyrie of of Wagner


Wotan—made secretly uneasy by Erda's dark prediction that
‘Nothing that is ends not; A day of gloom Dawns for the gods;— Be ruled and waive from the ring’—
relinquishes the ring which he had wrested from Alberich, as has been seen. His restlessness however daily increases, until at last he penetrates in disguise into the dark underground world and woos the fair earth goddess. So successfully does he plead his cause, that she receives him as her spouse and bears him eight lovely daughters. She also reveals to him the secrets of the future, when Walhalla's strong walls shall fall, and the gods shall perish, because they have resorted to fraud and lent a willing ear to Loge, prince of evil.

Notwithstanding this fatal prediction Wotan remains undismayed. Instead of yielding passively to whatever fate may befall him, he resolves to prepare for a future conflict, and to defend Walhalla against every foe. As the gods are few in number, he soon decides to summon mortals to his abode, and in order to have men trained to every hardship and accustomed to war, he flings his spear over the world, and kindles unending strife between all the nations. His eight daughters, the Walkyries, are next deputed to ride down to earth every day and bear away the bravest among the slain. These warriors are entertained at his table with heavenly mead, and encouraged to keep up their strength and skill by cutting and hewing each other, their wounds healing magically as soon as made.

But, in spite of these preparations, Wotan is not yet satisfied. He still remembers the all-powerful ring which he has given to the giants, and which is still in the keeping of Fafnir. In case this ring again falls into the hands of the revengeful Alberich, he knows the gods cannot hope to escape from his wrath. He himself cannot snatch back a gift once given, so he decides to beget a son, who will unconsciously be his emissary, and who will, moreover, oppose the offspring which Erda has predicted that Alberich will raise merely to help him avenge his wrongs. Disguised as a mortal named Wälse, or Volsung, Wotan takes up his abode upon earth, and marries a mortal woman, who bears him twin children, Siegmund and Sieglinde. These children are still very young when Hunding, a hunter and lover of strife, comes upon their hut in the woods, and burns it to the ground, after slaying the elder woman and carrying off the younger as his captive.

On their return from the forest, Wälse and Siegmund behold with dismay the destruction of their dwelling, and vow constant warfare against their foes. This vow they faithfully keep until Siegmund grows up and his father suddenly and mysteriously disappears, leaving behind him nothing but the wolf-skin garment to which he owes his name.

Hunding, in the mean while, has carried Sieglinde off to his dwelling, which is built around the stem of a mighty oak, and when she attains a marriageable age he compels her to become his wife, although she very reluctantly submits to his wish. The opening scene of this opera represents Hunding's hall,—in the midst of which stands the mighty oak whose branches overshadow the whole house,—which is dimly illumined by the fire burning on the hearth. Suddenly the door is flung wide open, and a stranger rushes in. He is dusty and dishevelled, and examines the apartment with a wild glance. When he has ascertained that it is quite empty, he comes in, closes the door behind him, and sinks exhausted in front of the fire, where he soon falls asleep. A moment later Sieglinde, Hunding's forced wife, appears. When she sees a stranger in front of the fire, instead of her expected lord and master, she starts back in sudden fear. But, reassured by the motionless attitude of the stranger, she soon draws near, and, bending over him, discovers that he has fallen asleep:—
‘His heart still heaves, Though his lids be lowered, Warlike and manful I deem him Though wearied down he sunk.’
As she has only a very dim recollection of her past, she fails to recognise her brother in the sleeper. He soon stirs uneasily, and, wakening, tries to utter a few words, which his parched lips almost refuse to articulate, until she compassionately gives him a drink.

Gazing at Sieglinde as if fascinated by some celestial vision, Siegmund, in answer to her questions, informs her that he is an unhappy wight, whose footsteps misfortune constantly dogs. He then goes on to inform her that even now he has escaped from his enemies with nothing but his life, and makes a movement to leave her for fear lest he should bring ill-luck upon her too. Sieglinde, however, implores him to remain and await the return of her husband. Almost as she speaks Hunding enters the house, and, allowing her to divest him of his weapons, seems dumbly to inquire the reason of the stranger's presence at his hearth.

Sieglinde rapidly explains how she found him faint and weary before the fire, and Hunding, mindful of the laws of hospitality, bids the stranger welcome, and invites him to partake of the food which Sieglinde now sets before them. As Siegmund takes his place at the rude board, Hunding first becomes aware of the strange resemblance he bears to his wife, and after commenting upon it sotto voce, he inquires his guest's name and antecedents. Siegmund then mournfully relates his happy youth, the tragic loss of his mother and sister, his roaming life with his father, and the latter's mysterious disappearance. Only then does Hunding recognize in him the foe whom he has long been seeking to slay.

Unconscious of all this, Siegmund goes on to relate how on that very day he had fought single-handed against countless foes to defend a helpless maiden, running away only when his weapons had failed him and the maiden had been slain at his feet. Sieglinde listens breathless to the story of his sad life and of his brave defence of helpless virtue, while Hunding suddenly declares that, were it not that the sacred rights of hospitality restrained him, he would then and there slay the man who had made so many of his kinsmen bite the dust. He however contents himself with making an appointment for a hostile encounter early on the morrow, promising to supply Siegmund with a good sword, since he has no weapons of his own:—
‘My doors ward thee, Wölfing, to-day; Till the dawn shelter they show; A flawless sword Will befit thee at sunrise, By day be ready for fight, And pay thy debt for the dead.’
Then Hunding angrily withdraws with his wife, taking his weapons with him, and muttering dark threats, which fill his guest's heart with nameless fear. Left alone, Siegmund bitterly mourns his lack of weapons, for he fears lest he may be treacherously attacked by his foe, and in his sorrow he reproaches his father, who had repeatedly told him that he would find a sword ready to his hand in case of direst need.
‘A sword,—so promised my father— In sorest need I should find— Weaponless falling In the house of the foe, Here in pledge To his wrath I am held.’
While he is brooding thus over his misfortunes, the flames on the hearth flicker and burn brighter. Suddenly their light glints upon the hilt of a sword driven deep in the bole of the mighty oak, and, reassured by the thought that he has a weapon within reach, Siegmund disposes himself to sleep.
The night wears on. The fire flickers and dies out. The deep silence is broken only by Siegmund's peaceful breathing, when the door noiselessly opens, and Sieglinde, all dressed in white, steals into the room. She glides up to the sleeping guest and gently rouses him, bidding him escape while her husband is still sound asleep under the influence of an opiate which she has secretly administered:—
‘It is I; behold what I say! In heedless sleep is Hunding, I set him a drink for his dreams, The night for thy safety thou needest.’
Leading him to the oak, she then points out the sword, telling him it was driven into the very heart of the tree by a one-eyed stranger. He had come into the hall on her wedding day, and had declared that none but the mortal for whom the gods intended the weapon would ever be able to pull it out. She then goes on to describe how many strong men have tried to withdraw it, and warmly declares it must have been intended for him who had so generously striven to protect a helpless maiden. Her tender solicitude fills the poor outcast's famished heart with such love and joy that he clasps her to his breast, and, the door swinging noiselessly open to admit a flood of silvery moonbeams, they join in the marvellous duet known as the ‘Spring Song.’

As they gaze enraptured upon each other, they too perceive the strong resemblance which has so struck Hunding, but still fail to recognize each other as near of kin. To save Sieglinde from her distasteful compulsory marriage, Siegmund now consents to fly, providing she will accompany him, vowing to protect her till death with the sword which he easily draws from the oak, and which he declares he knows his father must have placed there, as he recognizes him in the description which Sieglinde had given of the stranger:—
‘Siegmund the Volsung, Seest thou beside thee! For bridal gift He brings thee this sword. He woos with the blade The blissfullest wife. From the house of the foe He hies with thee. Forth from here Follow him far, Hence to the laughing House of the Spring, Where Nothung the sword defends thee, Where Siegmund infolds thee in love!’
This passionate appeal entirely sweeps away Sieglinde's last scruples; she yields rapturously to his wooing, and they steal away softly, hand in hand, to go and seek their happiness out in the wide world. Hunding, upon awaking on the morrow, discovers the treachery of his guest and the desertion of his wife. Almost beside himself with fury, he prepares to overtake and punish the guilty pair.
As a fight is now imminent between Siegmund, his mortal son, and Hunding, Wotan, who is up on a rocky mountain overlooking the earth, summons Brunhilde the Walkyrie to his side, bidding her saddle her steed and so direct the battle that Siegmund may remain victor and Hunding only fall. Chanting her Walkyrie war-cry, Brunhilde departs, laughingly calling out to Wotan that he had best be prepared for a call from his wife, who is hastening toward him as fast as her rams can draw her brazen chariot. Brunhilde has scarcely passed out of sight when Fricka comes upon the scene. After upbraiding Wotan for forsaking her to woo the goddess Erda and a mortal maiden, she says that, as father of the gods and ruler of the world, he is bound to uphold religion and morality. She then dwells angrily upon the immorality of the just consummated union between Siegmund and Sieglinde, who are brother and sister, and finally forces her husband, much against his will, to promise he will revoke his decree, give the victory to the injured husband, Hunding, and punish Siegmund, the seducer, by immediate death.

Wotan therefore summons Brunhilde once more, and sadly bids her to shield Hunding in the coming fight. Brunhilde, who realizes that the second command has been dictated by Fricka, implores him to confide his troubles to her. She then hears with dismay an account of the way in which Wotan has been beguiled into wrongdoing by Loge, of his attempts to gather an army large enough to oppose to his foes when the last day should come, and of his long cherished hope that Siegmund would recover the fatal ring which he feared would again fall into the revengeful Alberich's hands. Finally, however, Wotan repeats his order to her to befriend Hunding, and Brunhilde, awed by his despair, slowly departs to fulfil his commands.

The god has just vanished amid the mutterings of thunder, expressive of his wrath if any one dare to disobey his behests, when Siegmund and Sieglinde suddenly appear upon the mountain side. They are fleeing from Hunding, and Sieglinde, who has discovered when too late that Siegmund is her brother, is so torn by remorse, love, and fear that she soon sinks fainting to the ground. Siegmund, alarmed, bends over her, but, having ascertained that she has only fainted, makes no effort to revive her, deeming it better that she should remain unconscious during the encounter which must soon take place, for the horn of the pursuing Hunding is already heard in the distance.

Siegmund has just pressed a tender kiss upon Sieglinde's fair forehead, when Brunhilde, the Walkyrie, suddenly appears before him, and solemnly warns him of his coming defeat and death. He proudly tells her of his matchless sword, but she informs him that his reliance upon it is quite misplaced, for it will be wrenched from his grasp when his need is greatest. Then she tries to comfort him by describing the glory which awaits him in Walhalla, whither she will convey him after death.
Siegmund eagerly questions her, but, learning that Sieglinde can never be admitted within its shining portals, passionately declares he cannot leave her. He next proposes to kill her and himself, so that they may be together in Hela's dark abode, for he will accept no joys which she cannot share:—
‘Then greet for me Valhall, Greet for me Wotan; Hail unto Wälse, And all the heroes! Greet, too, the graceful Warlike mist-maidens: For now I follow thee not.’
Brunhilde's heart is so touched by his love for and utter devotion to Sieglinde, and she is so anxious at the same time to fulfil Wotan's real wish, in defiance of his orders, that she finally allows compassion to get the better of her reason, and impulsively promises Siegmund that she will protect him in the coming fray. At the same moment Hunding's horn is heard, and Brunhilde disappears, while the scene darkens with the rapid approach of a thunderstorm. Such is the darkness that Siegmund, who has sprung down the path in his eagerness to meet his foe, misses his way, while Sieglinde slowly rouses from her swoon, muttering of the days of her happy childhood when she dwelt with her family in the great wood. Suddenly, the lightning flashes, and Hunding and Siegmund, meeting upon a ridge, begin fighting, in spite of Sieglinde's frantic cries.

As the struggle begins, Brunhilde, true to her promise, hovers over the combatants, holding her shield over Siegmund and warding off every dangerous blow, while Sieglinde gazes in speechless terror upon the combatants.

But in the very midst of the fray, when Siegmund is about to pierce Hunding's heart with his glittering sword, Wotan suddenly appears, and, extending his sacred spear to parry the blow, he shivers the sword Nothung to pieces. Hunding basely takes advantage of this accident to slay his defenceless foe, while Brunhilde, fearing Wotan's wrath and Hunding's cruelty, catches up the fainting Sieglinde and bears her rapidly away upon her fleet-footed steed.

After gazing for a moment in speechless sorrow at his lifeless favourite, Wotan turns a wrathful glance upon the treacherous Hunding, who, unable to endure the divine accusation of his unflinching gaze, falls lifeless to the ground. Then the god mounts his steed, and rides off on the wings of the storm in pursuit of the disobedient Walkyrie, whom he is obliged to punish severely for his oath's sake.

The next scene represents an elevated plateau, the trysting spot of the eight Walkyries, on Hindarfiall, or Walkürenfels, whither they all come hastening, bearing the bodies of the slain across their fleet steeds. Brunhilde appears last of all, carrying Sieglinde. She breathlessly pours out the story of the day's adventures, and implores her sisters to devise some means of hiding Sieglinde, and to protect her from Wotan's dreaded wrath:—
‘The raging hunter Behind me who rides, He nears, he nears from the North! Save me, sisters! Ward this woman.’
The sound of the tempest has been growing louder and louder while she is speaking, and as she ends her narrative Sieglinde recovers consciousness, but only to upbraid her for having saved her life. She wildly proposes suicide, until Brunhilde bids her live for the sake of Siegmund's son whom she will bring into the world, and tells her to treasure the fragments of the sword Nothung, which she had carried away. Sieglinde, anxious now to live for her child's sake, hides the broken fragments in her bosom, and, in obedience to Brunhilde's advice, speeds into the dense forest where Fafnir has his lair, and where Wotan will never venture lest the curse of the ring should fall upon him.
‘Save for thy son The broken sword! Where his father fell On the field I found it. Who welds it anew And waves it again, His name he gains from me now— “Siegfried” the hero be hailed.’
The noise of the storm and rushing wind has become greater and greater, the Walkyries have anxiously been noting Wotan's approach. As Sieglinde* vanishes in the dim recesses of the primeval forest, the wrathful god comes striding upon the stage in search of Brunhilde, who cowers tremblingly behind her sisters. After a scathing rebuke to the Walkyries, who would fain shelter a culprit from his all-seeing eye, Wotan bids Brunhilde step forth. Solemnly he then pronounces her sentence, declaring she shall serve him as Walkyrie no longer, but shall be banished to earth, where she will have to live as a mere mortal, and, marrying, to know naught beyond the joys and sorrows of other women:—
‘Heard you not how Her fate I have fixed? Far from your side Shall the faithless sister be sundered; Her horse no more In your midst through the breezes shall haste her; Her flower of maidenhood Will falter and fade; A husband will win Her womanly heart, She meekly will bend To the mastering man The hearth she'll heed, as she spins, And to laughers is left for their sport.’
Brunhilde, hearing this terrible decree, which degrades her from the rank of a goddess to that of a mere mortal, sinks to her knees and utters a great cry of despair. This is echoed by the Walkyries, who, however, depart at Wotan's command, leaving their unhappy sister alone with him.
Passionately now Brunhilde pleads with her father, declaring she had meant to serve him best by disobeying his commands, and imploring him not to banish her forever from his beloved presence. But, although Wotan still loves her dearly, he cannot revoke his decree, and repeats to her that he will leave her on the mountain, bound in the fetters of sleep, a prey to the first man who comes to awaken her and claim her as his bride.

All Brunhilde's tears and passionate pleadings only wring from him a promise that she will be hedged in by a barrier of living flames, so that none but the very bravest among men can ever come near her to claim her as his own.

Wotan, holding his beloved daughter in a close embrace, then gently seals her eyes in slumber with tender kisses, lays her softly down upon the green mound, and draws down the visor of her helmet. Then, after covering her with her shield to protect her from all harm, he begins a powerful incantation, summoning Loge to surround her with an impassable barrier of flames. As this incantation proceeds, small flickering tongues of fire start forth on every side; they soon rise higher and higher, roaring and crackling until, as Wotan disappears, they form a fiery barrier all around the sleeping Walkyrie:—
‘Loge, hear! Hitherward listen! As I found thee at first— In arrowy flame As thereafter thou fleddest— In fluttering fire; As I dealt with thee once, I wield thee to-day! Arise, billowing blaze, And fold in thy fire the rock! Loge! Loge! Aloft! Who fears the spike Of my spear to face, He will pierce not the planted fire.’
*Sieglinde, having dragged herself into the depths of the great untrodden forest, dwelt there in utter solitude until the time came for her son Siegfried to come into the world. Sick and alone, the poor woman went about in search of aid, and finally came to Mime's cavern, where, after giving birth to her child and intrusting him to the care of the dwarf, she gently breathed her last.

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915