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  The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
 
A Prologue in Verse
 
 
O HEARKEN, ye who speak the English Tongue,
  How in a waste land ages long ago,
The very heart of the North bloomed into song
  After long brooding o’er this tale of woe!
  Hearken, and marvel how it might be so,        5
That such a sweetness so well crowned could be
Betwixt the ice-hills and the cold grey sea.
 
Or rather marvel not, that those should cling
  Unto the thoughts of great lives passed away,
Whom God has stripped so bare of everything,        10
  Save the one longing to wear through their day,
  In fearless wise; the hope the Gods to stay,
When at that last tide gathered wrong and hate
Shall meet blind yearning on the Fields of Fate.
 
Yea, in the first grey dawning of our race,        15
  This ruth-crowned tangle to sad hearts was dear.
Then rose a seeming sun, the lift gave place
  Unto a seeming heaven, far off, but clear;
  But that passed too, and afternoon is here;
Nor was the morn so fruitful or so long        20
But we may hearken when ghosts moan of wrong.
 
For as amid the clatter of the town
  When eve comes on with unabated noise,
The soaring wind will sometimes drop adown
  And bear unto our chamber the sweet voice        25
  Of bells that ’mid the swallows do rejoice,
Half-heard, to make us sad, so we awhile
With echoed grief life’s dull pain may beguile.
 
Naught vague, naught base our tale, that seems to say,—
  ‘Be wide-eyed, kind; curse not the hand that smites;        30
Curse not the kindness of a past good day,
  Or hope of love; cast by all earth’s delights,
  For very love: through weary days and nights,
Abide thou, striving howsoe’er in vain,
The inmost love of one more heart to gain!’        35
 
So draw ye round and hearken, English Folk,
  Unto the best tale pity ever wrought!
Of how from dark to dark bright Sigurd broke,
  Of Brynhild’s glorious soul with love distraught,
  Of Gudrun’s weary wandering unto naught,        40
Of utter love defeated utterly,
Of grief too strong to give Love time to die!
WILLIAM MORRIS.
 

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