Hildebrand's Song

Thus I have heard the legend told of two warriors on the field
One was Hildebrand, Heribrand's son
The other was Hadubrand, Hildebrand's son.
Father and son donned their armor, polished their weapons, cleaned their swords
Each was a hero within his camp
Each rode off to the battlefield.

Now Hildebrand, he was the older man, wise in years and experienced in life.
A man of few words, he asked his opponent who his father was
"From what tribe do you descend, for surely I know all the great men of your land?"
Thus said Hadubrand, Hildebrand's son:
"The old and wise among my people say my father's name was Hildebrand.
I am Hadubrand, his son.

"A long time ago my father rode to the East
He fled from Ottocar's wrath.
There he camped with Dietrich and his warriors.
He abandoned his wife and left his infant son without a birthright.
He went to the East for Dietrich had suffered many losses
At that time Dietrich was a friendless man.
O, my father, how he hated Ottocar. He was Dietrich's favorite warrior
He was always at the front of the horde, spoiling for a fight.
I don't think he's still alive. He was widely known among the valiant."

Thus spoke Hildebrand, Heribrand's son
"As God is my witness, young warrior
Do you know how closely now you stand to your father?"
Hildebrand uncoiled a bracelet from his arm and offered it to his son.
The bracelet was made of princely gold, given to him by the king of the Huns
"I give this to you in token of friendship," said Hildebrand, Heribrand's son.
"A man takes gifts with the point of his lance," said Hadubrand, Hildebrand's son.
"What a clever old Hun you must be. Charm me with your words then impale me with your spear."

"Is that how you have survived to grow old? Do you rely on deceit?
The seafaring men tell me my father died in battle to the West, across the maelstrom.
Dead is Hildebrand, Heribrand's son!
Thus responded Hildebrand, Heribrand's son.
"I see from your armor that you serve a good lord
But in the field of battle you are untested.
Very well, young warrior. Let God be the judge. Let destiny decide!
For sixty summers and winters I have walked this earth
I have been consigned to one cohort or another
And no one has been able to slay me
Now my own child may make me taste his sword
Or perhaps I will kill him."

"You will defeat me only if your courage holds
Then no man will doubt your right to my armor
Know well that the fiercest warrior of the Eastern folk
Will not deprive you of your passage to manhood, if that is truly your wish."
Thus the two met in battle, Hildebrand and Hildebrand's son
Oblivious to the price of victory and defeat, they charged
They imbedded their ashen lances in each other's shields.
Then face to face they drew their swords
And shattered each other's shields...


Translator's note:
This epic poem fragment, 68 lines long in Old High German, comes from the inner cover plates of a prayerbook. According to Daten deutscher Dichtung by H.A. and E. Frenzel (a must-have 2 volume set outlining the history of German Literature), this fragment dates back to 850 A.D. and was transcribed by 2 monks from the monastery in Fulda. The saga itself goes back at least one century prior. The name Dietrich refers to Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths, who lived from circa 454 A.D. to 526 A.D. Ottocar refers to Odoacer, the usurper. Some texts also refer to him as Attila. Some histories record that Theodoric defeated Odoacer in 493, promised him his freedom, but murdered him for fear that he may stage another revolt.