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Beowulf XV..................................................................................

translated by Francis B. Gummere
1910 XVIII...............................................................................86
published in 1999 by Orange Street Press XX..................................................................................94
Author of Beowulf is Anonymous. The text was probably XXI.................................................................................98
written around 900 AD. XXI...............................................................................104
This text is based upon the edition prepared in July, 1997 XXIII.............................................................................109
[E-text #981] by Robin Katsuya- XXIV.............................................................................115
NOTE that gaps exist in this text, due to the fact that the 4
only extant manuscript was fire BEOWULF
damaged and is incomplete. This explains the broken XXV..............................................................................121
sequence of chapter numbers. XXVI.............................................................................126
3 XXVII............................................................................131
BEOWULF XXVIII...........................................................................136
Contents XXXI.............................................................................147
I ...................................................................................... 9 XXXII............................................................................152
II.....................................................................................14 XXXIII...........................................................................158
III....................................................................................19 XXXIV...........................................................................163
IV....................................................................................24 XXXV............................................................................168
V.....................................................................................28 XXXVI...........................................................................177
VI....................................................................................31 XXXVII..........................................................................183
VII...................................................................................37 XXXVIII.........................................................................187
VIII..................................................................................40 XXXIX...........................................................................191
IX....................................................................................44 XL.................................................................................196
X.....................................................................................50 XLI................................................................................200
XI....................................................................................53 XLII...............................................................................207
XII...................................................................................58 XLIII..............................................................................212
XIII..................................................................................61 5
XIV.................................................................................67 BEOWULF
PRELUDE OF THE FOUNDER OF THE DANISH Then they bore him over to ocean's billow,
HOUSE loving clansmen, as late he charged them,
LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings while wielded words the winsome Scyld,
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped, the leader beloved who long had ruled....
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won! In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, ice-flecked, outbound, atheling's barge:
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore, there laid they down their darling lord
awing the earls. Since erst he lay 7
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him: BEOWULF
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve, on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,2
till before him the folk, both far and near, by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate, fetched from far was freighted with him.
gave him gifts: a good king he! No ship have I known so nobly dight
To him an heir was afterward born, with weapons of war and weeds of battle,
a son in his halls, whom heaven sent with breastplate and blade: on his bosom lay
to favor the folk, feeling their woe a heaped hoard that hence should go
that erst they had lacked an earl for leader far o'er the flood with him floating away.
so long a while; the Lord endowed him, No less these loaded the lordly gifts,
the Wielder of Wonder, with world's renown. thanes' huge treasure, than those had done
6 who in former time forth had sent him
BEOWULF sole on the seas, a suckling child.
Famed was this Beowulf:1 far flew the boast of him, High o'er his head they hoist the standard,
son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands. a gold-wove banner; let billows take him,
So becomes it a youth to quit him well gave him to ocean. Grave were their spirits,
with his father's friends, by fee and gift, mournful their mood. No man is able
that to aid him, aged, in after days, to say in sooth, no son of the halls,
come warriors willing, should war draw nigh, no hero 'neath heaven, -- who harbored that freight!
liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds 8
shall an earl have honor in every clan. BEOWULF
Forth he fared at the fated moment, 1 Not, of course, Beowulf the Great, hero of the epic.
sturdy Scyld to the shelter of God.
2Kenning for king or chieftain of a comitatus: he breaks Wide, I heard, was the work commanded,
off gold from the spiral for many a tribe this mid-earth round,
rings - often worn on the arm -- and so rewards his to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered,
followers. in rapid achievement that ready it stood there,
9 of halls the noblest: Heorot1 he named it
BEOWULF whose message had might in many a land.
I Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt,
Now Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings, treasure at banquet: there towered the hall,
leader beloved, and long he ruled high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting
in fame with all folk, since his father had gone of furious flame.2 Nor far was that day
away from the world, till awoke an heir, when father and son-in-law stood in feud
haughty Healfdene, who held through life, for warfare and hatred that woke again.3
sage and sturdy, the Scyldings glad. With envy and anger an evil spirit
Then, one after one, there woke to him, endured the dole in his dark abode,
to the chieftain of clansmen, children four: I
Heorogar, then Hrothgar, then Halga brave; 11
and I heard that -- was -- 's queen, BEOWULF
the Heathoscylfing's helpmate dear. that he heard each day the din of revel
To Hrothgar was given such glory of war, high in the hall: there harps rang out,
such honor of combat, that all his kin clear song of the singer. He sang who knew4
obeyed him gladly till great grew his band tales of the early time of man,
of youthful comrades. It came in his mind how the Almighty made the earth,
to bid his henchmen a hall uprear, fairest fields enfolded by water,
a master mead-house, mightier far set, triumphant, sun and moon
I for a light to lighten the land-dwellers,
10 and braided bright the breast of earth
BEOWULF with limbs and leaves, made life for all
than ever was seen by the sons of earth, of mortal beings that breathe and move.
and within it, then, to old and young So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel
he would all allot that the Lord had sent him, a winsome life, till one began
save only the land and the lives of his men. to fashion evils, that field of hell.
Grendel this monster grim was called, "board" of later English literature -- formed the tables just
march-riever5 mighty, in moorland living, in front of the long rows of seats, and were taken away
in fen and fastness; fief of the giants after banquets, when the retainers were ready to stretch
the hapless wight a while had kept them- selves out for sleep on the benches.
I 2 Fire was the usual end of these halls. See v. 781 below.
12 One thinks of the splendid scene at the end of the
BEOWULF Nibelungen, of the Nialssaga, of Saxo's story of
since the Creator his exile doomed. Amlethus, and many a less famous instance.
On kin of Cain was the killing avenged 3 It is to be supposed that all hearers of this poem knew
by sovran God for slaughtered Abel. how Hrothgar's hall was burnt, -- perhaps in the
Ill fared his feud,6 and far was he driven, unsuccessful attack made on him by his son-in-law
for the slaughter's sake, from sight of men. Ingeld.
Of Cain awoke all that woeful breed, I
Etins7 and elves and evil-spirits, 13
as well as the giants that warred with God BEOWULF
weary while: but their wage was paid them! 4 A skilled minstrel. The Danes are heathens, as one is
1 That is, "The Hart," or "Stag," so called from told presently; but this lay of beginnings is taken from
decorations in the gables that resembled the antlers of a Genesis.
deer. This hall has been carefully described in a pamphlet 5 A disturber of the border, one who sallies from his haunt
by Heyne. The building was rectangular, with opposite in the fen and roams over the country near by. This
doors – mainly west and east -- and a hearth in the probably pagan nuisance is now furnished with biblical
middle of the single room. A row of pillars down each credentials as a fiend or devil in good standing, so that all
side, at some distance from the walls, made a space Christian Englishmen might read about him. "Grendel"
which was raised a little above the main floor, and was may mean one who grinds and crushes.
furnished with two rows of seats. On one side, usually 6 Cain's.
south, was the high-seat midway between the doors. 7 Giants.
Opposite this, on the other raised space, was another I
seat of honor. At the banquet soon to be described, 14
Hrothgar sat in the south or chief high-seat, and Beowulf BEOWULF
opposite to him. The scene for a flying (see below, v.499) II
was thus very effectively set. Planks on trestles -- the WENT he forth to find at fall of night
that haughty house, and heed wherever Thus ruled unrighteous and raged his fill
the Ring-Danes, outrevelled, to rest had gone. one against all; until empty stood
Found within it the atheling band that lordly building, and long it bode so.
asleep after feasting and fearless of sorrow, Twelve years' tide the trouble he bore,
of human hardship. Unhallowed wight, sovereign of Scyldings, sorrows in plenty,
grim and greedy, he grasped betimes, boundless cares. There came unhidden
wrathful, reckless, from resting-places, II
thirty of the thanes, and thence he rushed 16
fain of his fell spoil, faring homeward, BEOWULF
laden with slaughter, his lair to seek. tidings true to the tribes of men,
Then at the dawning, as day was breaking, in sorrowful songs, how ceaselessly Grendel
the might of Grendel to men was known; harassed Hrothgar, what hate he bore him,
then after wassail was wail uplifted, what murder and massacre, many a year,
loud moan in the morn. The mighty chief, feud unfading, -- refused consent
atheling excellent, unblithe sat, to deal with any of Daneland's earls,
labored in woe for the loss of his thanes, make pact of peace, or compound for gold:
II still less did the wise men ween to get
15 great fee for the feud from his fiendish hands.
BEOWULF But the evil one ambushed old and young
when once had been traced the trail of the fiend, death-shadow dark, and dogged them still,
spirit accurst: too cruel that sorrow, lured, or lurked in the livelong night
too long, too loathsome. Not late the respite; of misty moorlands: men may say not
with night returning, anew began where the haunts of these Hell-Runes3 be.
ruthless murder; he recked no whit, Such heaping of horrors the hater of men,
firm in his guilt, of the feud and crime. lonely roamer, wrought unceasing,
They were easy to find who elsewhere sought harassings heavy. O'er Heorot he lorded,
in room remote their rest at night, gold-bright hall, in gloomy nights;
bed in the bowers,1 when that bale was shown, II
was seen in sooth, with surest token, -- 17
the hall-thane's2 hate. Such held themselves BEOWULF
far and fast who the fiend outran! and ne'er could the prince4 approach his throne,
-- 'twas judgment of God, -- or have joy in his hall. BEOWULF
Sore was the sorrow to Scyldings'-friend, III
heart-rending misery. Many nobles THUS seethed unceasing the son of Healfdene
sat assembled, and searched out counsel with the woe of these days; not wisest men
how it were best for bold-hearted men assuaged his sorrow; too sore the anguish,
against harassing terror to try their hand. loathly and long, that lay on his folk,
Whiles they vowed in their heathen fanes most baneful of burdens and bales of the night.
altar-offerings, asked with words5 This heard in his home Hygelac's thane,
that the slayer-of-souls would succor give them great among Geats, of Grendel's doings.
for the pain of their people. Their practice this, He was the mightiest man of valor
their heathen hope; 'twas Hell they thought of in that same day of this our life,
in mood of their mind. Almighty they knew not, stalwart and stately. A stout wave-walker
Doomsman of Deeds and dreadful Lord, he bade make ready. Yon battle-king, said he,
nor Heaven's-Helmet heeded they ever, far o'er the swan-road he fain would seek,
Wielder-of-Wonder. -- Woe for that man the noble monarch who needed men!
who in harm and hatred hales his soul The prince's journey by prudent folk
to fiery embraces; -- nor favor nor change was little blamed, though they loved him dear;
II they whetted the hero, and hailed good omens.
18 III
awaits he ever. But well for him BEOWULF
that after death-day may draw to his Lord, And now the bold one from bands of Geats
and friendship find in the Father's arms! comrades chose, the keenest of warriors
1 The smaller buildings within the main enclosure but e'er he could find; with fourteen men
separate from the hall. the sea-wood1 he sought, and, sailor proved,
2 Grendel. led them on to the land's confines.
3 "Sorcerers-of-hell." Time had now flown;2 afloat was the ship,
4Hrothgar, who is the "Scyldings'-friend" of 170. boat under bluff. On board they climbed,
5 That is, in formal or prescribed phrase. warriors ready; waves were churning
II sea with sand; the sailors bore
19 on the breast of the bark their bright array,
their mail and weapons: the men pushed off, BEOWULF
on its willing way, the well-braced craft. sentinel set o'er the sea-march here,
Then moved o'er the waters by might of the wind lest any foe to the folk of Danes
that bark like a bird with breast of foam, with harrying fleet should harm the land.
till in season due, on the second day, No aliens ever at ease thus bore them,
the curved prow such course had run linden-wielders:4 yet word-of-leave
that sailors now could see the land, clearly ye lack from clansmen here,
sea-cliffs shining, steep high hills, my folk's agreement. -- A greater ne'er saw I
III of warriors in world than is one of you, --
21 yon hero in harness! No henchman he
BEOWULF worthied by weapons, if witness his features,
headlands broad. Their haven was found, his peerless presence! I pray you, though, tell
their journey ended. Up then quickly your folk and home, lest hence ye fare
the Weders'3 clansmen climbed ashore, suspect to wander your way as spies
anchored their sea-wood, with armor clashing in Danish land. Now, dwellers afar,
and gear of battle: God they thanked ocean-travellers, take from me
or passing in peace o'er the paths of the sea. simple advice: the sooner the better
Now saw from the cliff a Scylding clansman, I hear of the country whence ye came."
a warden that watched the water-side, III
how they bore o'er the gangway glittering shields, 23
war-gear in readiness; wonder seized him BEOWULF
to know what manner of men they were. 1 Ship.
Straight to the strand his steed he rode, 2 That is, since Beowulf selected his ship and led his
Hrothgar's henchman; with hand of might men to the harbor.
he shook his spear, and spake in parley. 3 One of the auxiliary names of the Geats.
"Who are ye, then, ye armed men, 4 Or: Not thus openly ever came warriors hither; yet...
mailed folk, that yon mighty vessel III
have urged thus over the ocean ways, 24
here o'er the waters? A warden I, BEOWULF
22 To him the stateliest spake in answer;
the warriors' leader his word-hoard unlocked: -- clansman unquailing: "The keen-souled thane
"We are by kin of the clan of Geats, must be skilled to sever and sunder duly
and Hygelac's own hearth-fellows we. words and works, if he well intends.
To folk afar was my father known, I gather, this band is graciously bent
noble atheling, Ecgtheow named. to the Scyldings' master. March, then, bearing
Full of winters, he fared away weapons and weeds the way I show you.
aged from earth; he is honored still IV
through width of the world by wise men all. 26
To thy lord and liege in loyal mood BEOWULF
we hasten hither, to Healfdene's son, I will bid my men your boat meanwhile
people-protector: be pleased to advise us! to guard for fear lest foemen come, --
To that mighty-one come we on mickle errand, your new-tarred ship by shore of ocean
to the lord of the Danes; nor deem I right faithfully watching till once again
that aught be hidden. We hear -- thou knowest it waft o'er the waters those well-loved thanes,
if sooth it is -- the saying of men, -- winding-neck'd wood, -- to Weders' bounds,
that amid the Scyldings a scathing monster, heroes such as the hest of fate
IV shall succor and save from the shock of war."
25 They bent them to march, -- the boat lay still,
BEOWULF fettered by cable and fast at anchor,
dark ill-doer, in dusky nights broad-bosomed ship. -- Then shone the boars2
shows terrific his rage unmatched, over the cheek-guard; chased with gold,
hatred and murder. To Hrothgar I keen and gleaming, guard it kept
in greatness of soul would succor bring, o'er the man of war, as marched along
so the Wise-and-Brave1 may worst his foes, -- heroes in haste, till the hall they saw,
if ever the end of ills is fated, broad of gable and bright with gold:
of cruel contest, if cure shall follow, that was the fairest, 'mid folk of earth,
and the boiling care-waves cooler grow; of houses 'neath heaven, where Hrothgar lived,
else ever afterward anguish-days IV
he shall suffer in sorrow while stands in place 27
high on its hill that house unpeered!" BEOWULF
Astride his steed, the strand-ward answered, and the gleam of it lightened o'er lands afar.
The sturdy shieldsman showed that bright was worthily weaponed! -- A warrior proud
burg-of-the-boldest; bade them go asked of the heroes their home and kin.
straightway thither; his steed then turned, "Whence, now, bear ye burnished shields,
hardy hero, and hailed them thus: -- harness gray and helmets grim,
"Tis time that I fare from you. Father Almighty spears in multitude? Messenger, I,
in grace and mercy guard you well, Hrothgar's herald! Heroes so many
safe in your seekings. Seaward I go, V
'gainst hostile warriors hold my watch." 29
1 Hrothgar. BEOWULF
2 Beowulf's helmet has several boar-images on it; he is ne'er met I as strangers of mood so strong.
the "man of war"; and the boar-helmet guards him as 'Tis plain that for prowess, not plunged into exile,
typical representative of the marching party as a whole. for high-hearted valor, Hrothgar ye seek!"
The boar was sacred to Freyr, who was the favorite god Him the sturdy-in-war bespake with words,
of the Germanic tribes about the North Sea and the proud earl of the Weders answer made,
Baltic. Rude representations of warriors show the boar on hardy 'neath helmet: -- "Hygelac's, we,
the helmet quite as large as the helmet itself. fellows at board; I am Beowulf named.
IV I am seeking to say to the son of Healfdene
28 this mission of mine, to thy master-lord,
BEOWULF the doughty prince, if he deign at all
V grace that we greet him, the good one, now."
STONE-BRIGHT the street:1 it showed the way Wulfgar spake, the Wendles' chieftain,
to the crowd of clansmen. Corselets glistened whose might of mind to many was known,
hand-forged, hard; on their harness bright his courage and counsel: "The king of Danes,
the steel ring sang, as they strode along the Scyldings' friend, I fain will tell,
in mail of battle, and marched to the hall. the Breaker-of-Rings, as the boon thou askest,
There, weary of ocean, the wall along the famed prince, of thy faring hither,
they set their bucklers, their broad shields, down, and, swiftly after, such answer bring
and bowed them to bench: the breastplates clanged, V
war-gear of men; their weapons stacked, 30
spears of the seafarers stood together, BEOWULF
gray-tipped ash: that iron band as the doughty monarch may deign to give."
Hied then in haste to where Hrothgar sat thither for thanks, -- he has thirty men's
white-haired and old, his earls about him, heft of grasp in the gripe of his hand,
till the stout thane stood at the shoulder there the bold-in-battle. Blessed God
of the Danish king: good courtier he! out of his mercy this man hath sent
Wulfgar spake to his winsome lord: -- to Danes of the West, as I ween indeed,
"Hither have fared to thee far-come men against horror of Grendel. I hope to give
o'er the paths of ocean, people of Geatland; the good youth gold for his gallant thought.
and the stateliest there by his sturdy band Be thou in haste, and bid them hither,
is Beowulf named. This boon they seek, clan of kinsmen, to come before me;
that they, my master, may with thee VI
have speech at will: nor spurn their prayer 32
to give them hearing, gracious Hrothgar! BEOWULF
In weeds of the warrior worthy they, and add this word, -- they are welcome guests
methinks, of our liking; their leader most surely, to folk of the Danes."
a hero that hither his henchmen has led." [To the door of the hall
1 Either merely paved, the strata via of the Romans, or Wulfgar went] and the word declared: --
else thought of as a sort of mosaic, an extravagant touch "To you this message my master sends,
like the reckless waste of gold on the walls and roofs of a East-Danes' king, that your kin he knows,
hall. hardy heroes, and hails you all
V welcome hither o'er waves of the sea!
31 Ye may wend your way in war-attire,
BEOWULF and under helmets Hrothgar greet;
VI but let here the battle-shields bide your parley,
HROTHGAR answered, helmet of Scyldings: -- and wooden war-shafts wait its end."
"I knew him of yore in his youthful days; Uprose the mighty one, ringed with his men,
his aged father was Ecgtheow named, brave band of thanes: some bode without,
to whom, at home, gave Hrethel the Geat battle-gear guarding, as bade the chief.
his only daughter. Their offspring bold Then hied that troop where the herald led them,
fares hither to seek the steadfast friend. under Heorot's roof: [the hero strode,]
And seamen, too, have said me this, -- hardy 'neath helm, till the hearth he neared.
who carried my gifts to the Geatish court, VI
33 that I alone with my liegemen here,
BEOWULF this hardy band, may Heorot purge!
Beowulf spake, -- his breastplate gleamed, More I hear, that the monster dire,
war-net woven by wit of the smith: -- in his wanton mood, of weapons recks not;
"Thou Hrothgar, hail! Hygelac's I, hence shall I scorn -- so Hygelac stay,
kinsman and follower. Fame a plenty king of my kindred, kind to me! --
have I gained in youth! These Grendel-deeds brand or buckler to bear in the fight,
I heard in my home-land heralded clear. gold-colored targe: but with gripe alone
Seafarers say how stands this hall, must I front the fiend and fight for life,
of buildings best, for your band of thanes foe against foe. Then faith be his
empty and idle, when evening sun VI
in the harbor of heaven is hidden away. 35
So my vassals advised me well, -- BEOWULF
brave and wise, the best of men, -- in the doom of the Lord whom death shall take.
O sovran Hrothgar, to seek thee here, Fain, I ween, if the fight he win,
for my nerve and my might they knew full well. in this hall of gold my Geatish band
Themselves had seen me from slaughter come will he fearless eat, -- as oft before, --
blood-flecked from foes, where five I bound, my noblest thanes. Nor need'st thou then
and that wild brood worsted. I' the waves I slew to hide my head;3 for his shall I be,
nicors1 by night, in need and peril dyed in gore, if death must take me;
VI and my blood-covered body he'll bear as prey,
34 ruthless devour it, the roamer-lonely,
BEOWULF with my life-blood redden his lair in the fen:
avenging the Weders,2 whose woe they sought, -- no further for me need'st food prepare!
crushing the grim ones. Grendel now, To Hygelac send, if Hild4 should take me,
monster cruel, be mine to quell best of war-weeds, warding my breast,
in single battle! So, from thee, armor excellent, heirloom of Hrethel
thou sovran of the Shining-Danes, and work of Wayland.5 Fares Wyrd6 as she must."
Scyldings'-bulwark, a boon I seek, -- 1 The nicor, says Bugge, is a hippopotamus; a walrus,
and, Friend-of-the-folk, refuse it not, says ten Brink. But that water-goblin who covers the
O Warriors'-shield, now I've wandered far, -- space from Old Nick of jest to the Neckan and Nix of
poetry and tale, is all one needs, and Nicor is a good to the Wylfings sent, o'er watery ridges,
name for him. treasures olden: oaths he3 swore me.
2 His own people, the Geats. VII
VI 38
BEOWULF Sore is my soul to say to any
3 That is, cover it as with a face-cloth. "There will be no of the race of man what ruth for me
need of funeral rites." in Heorot Grendel with hate hath wrought,
4 Personification of Battle. what sudden harryings. Hall-folk fail me,
5 The Germanic Vulcan. my warriors wane; for Wyrd hath swept them
6 This mighty power, whom the Christian poet can still into Grendel's grasp. But God is able
revere, has here the general force of "Destiny." this deadly foe from his deeds to turn!
VI Boasted full oft, as my beer they drank,
37 earls o'er the ale-cup, armed men,
BEOWULF that they would bide in the beer-hall here,
VII Grendel's attack with terror of blades.
HROTHGAR spake, the Scyldings'-helmet: -- Then was this mead-house at morning tide
"For fight defensive, Friend my Beowulf, dyed with gore, when the daylight broke,
to succor and save, thou hast sought us here. all the boards of the benches blood-besprinkled,
Thy father's combat1 a feud enkindled gory the hall: I had heroes the less,
when Heatholaf with hand he slew doughty dear-ones that death had reft.
among the Wylfings; his Weder kin -- But sit to the banquet, unbind thy words,
for horror of fighting feared to hold him. hardy hero, as heart shall prompt thee."
Fleeing, he sought our South-Dane folk, VII
over surge of ocean the Honor-Scyldings, 39
when first I was ruling the folk of Danes, BEOWULF
wielded, youthful, this widespread realm, Gathered together, the Geatish men
this hoard-hold of heroes. Heorogar was dead, in the banquet-hall on bench assigned,
my elder brother, had breathed his last, sturdy-spirited, sat them down,
Healfdene's bairn: he was better than I! hardy-hearted. A henchman attended,
Straightway the feud with fee2 I settled, carried the carven cup in hand,
served the clear mead. Oft minstrels sang 41
blithe in Heorot. Heroes revelled, BEOWULF
no dearth of warriors, Weder and Dane. rolled the rough waves. In realm of sea
1 There is no irrelevance here. Hrothgar sees in a sennight strove ye. In swimming he topped thee,
Beowulf's mission a heritage of duty, a return of the good had more of main! Him at morning-tide
offices which the Danish king rendered to Beowulf's billows bore to the Battling Reamas,
father in time of dire need. whence he hied to his home so dear
2 Money, for wergild, or man-price. beloved of his liegemen, to land of Brondings,
3 Ecgtheow, Beowulf's sire. fastness fair, where his folk he ruled,
VII town and treasure. In triumph o'er thee
40 Beanstan's bairn2 his boast achieved.
BEOWULF So ween I for thee a worse adventure
VIII -- though in buffet of battle thou brave hast been,
UNFERTH spake, the son of Ecglaf, in struggle grim, -- if Grendel's approach
who sat at the feet of the Scyldings' lord, thou durst await through the watch of night!"
unbound the battle-runes.1 -- Beowulf's quest, Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: --
sturdy seafarer's, sorely galled him; "What a deal hast uttered, dear my Unferth,
ever he envied that other men drunken with beer, of Breca now,
should more achieve in middle-earth told of his triumph! Truth I claim it,
of fame under heaven than he himself. -- VIII
"Art thou that Beowulf, Breca's rival, 42
who emulous swam on the open sea, BEOWULF
when for pride the pair of you proved the floods, that I had more of might in the sea
and wantonly dared in waters deep than any man else, more ocean-endurance.
to risk your lives? No living man, We twain had talked, in time of youth,
or lief or loath, from your labor dire and made our boast, -- we were merely boys,
could you dissuade, from swimming the main. striplings still, -- to stake our lives
Ocean-tides with your arms ye covered, far at sea: and so we performed it.
with strenuous hands the sea-streets measured, Naked swords, as we swam along,
swam o'er the waters. Winter's storm we held in hand, with hope to guard us
VIII against the whales. Not a whit from me
could he float afar o'er the flood of waves, seated to banquet at bottom of sea;
haste o'er the billows; nor him I abandoned. but at break of day, by my brand sore hurt,
Together we twain on the tides abode on the edge of ocean up they lay,
five nights full till the flood divided us, put to sleep by the sword. And since, by them
churning waves and chilliest weather, on the fathomless sea-ways sailor-folk
darkling night, and the northern wind are never molested. -- Light from east,
ruthless rushed on us: rough was the surge. came bright God's beacon; the billows sank,
Now the wrath of the sea-fish rose apace; so that I saw the sea-cliffs high,
yet me 'gainst the monsters my mailed coat, windy walls. For Wyrd oft saveth
VIII earl undoomed if he doughty be!
43 And so it came that I killed with my sword
BEOWULF nine of the nicors. Of night-fought battles
hard and hand-linked, help afforded, -- IX
battle-sark braided my breast to ward, 45
garnished with gold. There grasped me firm BEOWULF
and haled me to bottom the hated foe, ne'er heard I a harder 'neath heaven's dome,
with grimmest gripe. 'Twas granted me, though, nor adrift on the deep a more desolate man!
to pierce the monster with point of sword, Yet I came unharmed from that hostile clutch,
with blade of battle: huge beast of the sea though spent with swimming. The sea upbore me,
was whelmed by the hurly through hand of mine. flood of the tide, on Finnish land,
1 "Began the fight." the welling waters. No wise of thee
2 Breca. have I heard men tell such terror of falchions,
VIII bitter battle. Breca ne'er yet,
44 not one of you pair, in the play of war
BEOWULF such daring deed has done at all
IX with bloody brand, -- I boast not of it! --
ME thus often the evil monsters though thou wast the bane1 of thy brethren dear,
thronging threatened. With thrust of my sword, thy closest kin, whence curse of hell
the darling, I dealt them due return! awaits thee, well as thy wit may serve!
Nowise had they bliss from their booty then For I say in sooth, thou son of Ecglaf,
to devour their victim, vengeful creatures, never had Grendel these grim deeds wrought,
monster dire, on thy master dear, bade him be blithe at the beer-carouse,
in Heorot such havoc, if heart of thine the land's beloved one. Lustily took he
IX banquet and beaker, battle-famed king.
46 Through the hall then went the Helmings' Lady,
BEOWULF to younger and older everywhere
were as battle-bold as thy boast is loud! carried the cup, till come the moment
But he has found no feud will happen; when the ring-graced queen, the royal-hearted,
from sword-clash dread of your Danish clan to Beowulf bore the beaker of mead.
he vaunts him safe, from the Victor-Scyldings. She greeted the Geats' lord, God she thanked,
He forces pledges, favors none in wisdom's words, that her will was granted,
of the land of Danes, but lustily murders, that at last on a hero her hope could lean
fights and feasts, nor feud he dreads for comfort in terrors. The cup he took,
from Spear-Dane men. But speedily now IX
shall I prove him the prowess and pride of the Geats, 48
shall bid him battle. Blithe to mead BEOWULF
go he that listeth, when light of dawn hardy-in-war, from Wealhtheow's hand,
this morrow morning o'er men of earth, and answer uttered the eager-for-combat.
ether-robed sun from the south shall beam!" Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: --
Joyous then was the Jewel-giver, "This was my thought, when my thanes and I
hoar-haired, war-brave; help awaited bent to the ocean and entered our boat,
the Bright-Danes' prince, from Beowulf hearing, that I would work the will of your people
folk's good shepherd, such firm resolve. fully, or fighting fall in death,
Then was laughter of liegemen loud resounding in fiend's gripe fast. I am firm to do
IX an earl's brave deed, or end the days
47 of this life of mine in the mead-hall here."
BEOWULF Well these words to the woman seemed,
with winsome words. Came Wealhtheow forth, Beowulf's battle-boast. -- Bright with gold
queen of Hrothgar, heedful of courtesy, the stately dame by her spouse sat down.
gold-decked, greeting the guests in hall; Again, as erst, began in hall
and the high-born lady handed the cup warriors' wassail and words of power,
first to the East-Danes' heir and warden, the proud-band's revel, till presently
the son of Healfdene hastened to seek who warded the monarch and watched for the monster.
rest for the night; he knew there waited In truth, the Geats' prince gladly trusted
IX his mettle, his might, the mercy of God!
49 Cast off then his corselet of iron,
BEOWULF helmet from head; to his henchman gave, --
fight for the fiend in that festal hall, choicest of weapons, -- the well-chased sword,
when the sheen of the sun they saw no more, bidding him guard the gear of battle.
and dusk of night sank darkling nigh, Spake then his Vaunt the valiant man,
and shadowy shapes came striding on, Beowulf Geat, ere the bed be sought: --
wan under welkin. The warriors rose. "Of force in fight no feebler I count me,
Man to man, he made harangue, in grim war-deeds, than Grendel deems him.
Hrothgar to Beowulf, bade him hail, X
let him wield the wine hall: a word he added: -- 51
"Never to any man erst I trusted, BEOWULF
since I could heave up hand and shield, Not with the sword, then, to sleep of death
this noble Dane-Hall, till now to thee. his life will I give, though it lie in my power.
Have now and hold this house unpeered; No skill is his to strike against me,
remember thy glory; thy might declare; my shield to hew though he hardy be,
watch for the foe! No wish shall fail thee bold in battle; we both, this night,
if thou bidest the battle with bold-won life." shall spurn the sword, if he seek me here,
1 Murder. unweaponed, for war. Let wisest God,
IX sacred Lord, on which side soever
50 doom decree as he deemeth right."
BEOWULF Reclined then the chieftain, and cheek-pillows held
X the head of the earl, while all about him
THEN Hrothgar went with his hero-train, seamen hardy on hall-beds sank.
defence-of-Scyldings, forth from hall; None of them thought that thence their steps
fain would the war-lord Wealhtheow seek, to the folk and fastness that fostered them,
couch of his queen. The King-of-Glory to the land they loved, would lead them back!
against this Grendel a guard had set, Full well they wist that on warriors many
so heroes heard, a hall-defender, battle-death seized, in the banquet-hall,
of Danish clan. But comfort and help, such hardy heroes, such hall-thanes, found!
X To the house the warrior walked apace,
52 parted from peace;1 the portal opened,
BEOWULF though with forged bolts fast, when his fists had
war-weal weaving, to Weder folk struck it,
the Master gave, that, by might of one, and baleful he burst in his blatant rage,
over their enemy all prevailed, the house's mouth. All hastily, then,
by single strength. In sooth 'tis told o'er fair-paved floor the fiend trod on,
that highest God o'er human kind XI
hath wielded ever! -- Thro' wan night striding, 54
came the walker-in-shadow. Warriors slept BEOWULF
whose hest was to guard the gabled hall, -- ireful he strode; there streamed from his eyes
all save one. 'Twas widely known fearful flashes, like flame to see.
that against God's will the ghostly ravager He spied in hall the hero-band,
him1 could not hurl to haunts of darkness; kin and clansmen clustered asleep,
wakeful, ready, with warrior's wrath, hardy liegemen. Then laughed his heart;
bold he bided the battle's issue. for the monster was minded, ere morn should dawn,
1 Beowulf, -- the "one." savage, to sever the soul of each,
X life from body, since lusty banquet
53 waited his will! But Wyrd forbade him
BEOWULF to seize any more of men on earth
XI after that evening. Eagerly watched
THEN from the moorland, by misty crags, Hygelac's kinsman his cursed foe,
with God's wrath laden, Grendel came. how he would fare in fell attack.
The monster was minded of mankind now Not that the monster was minded to pause!
sundry to seize in the stately house. Straightway he seized a sleeping warrior
Under welkin he walked, till the wine-palace there, for the first, and tore him fiercely asunder,
gold-hall of men, he gladly discerned, the bone-frame bit, drank blood in streams,
flashing with fretwork. Not first time, this, XI
that he the home of Hrothgar sought, -- 55
yet ne'er in his life-day, late or early, BEOWULF
swallowed him piecemeal: swiftly thus Wonder it was the wine-hall firm
the lifeless corpse was clear devoured, in the strain of their struggle stood, to earth
e'en feet and hands. Then farther he hied; the fair house fell not; too fast it was
for the hardy hero with hand he grasped, within and without by its iron bands
felt for the foe with fiendish claw, craftily clamped; though there crashed from sill
for the hero reclining, -- who clutched it boldly, many a mead-bench -- men have told me --
prompt to answer, propped on his arm. gay with gold, where the grim foes wrestled.
Soon then saw that shepherd-of-evils So well had weened the wisest Scyldings
that never he met in this middle-world, XI
in the ways of earth, another wight 57
with heavier hand-gripe; at heart he feared, BEOWULF
sorrowed in soul, -- none the sooner escaped! that not ever at all might any man
Fain would he flee, his fastness seek, that bone-decked, brave house break asunder,
the den of devils: no doings now crush by craft, -- unless clasp of fire
such as oft he had done in days of old! in smoke engulfed it. -- Again uprose
Then bethought him the hardy Hygelac-thane din redoubled. Danes of the North
of his boast at evening: up he bounded, with fear and frenzy were filled, each one,
grasped firm his foe, whose fingers cracked. who from the wall that wailing heard,
XI God's foe sounding his grisly song,
56 cry of the conquered, clamorous pain
BEOWULF from captive of hell. Too closely held him
The fiend made off, but the earl close followed. he who of men in might was strongest
The monster meant -- if he might at all -- in that same day of this our life.
to fling himself free, and far away 1 That is, he was a "lost soul," doomed to hell.
fly to the fens, -- knew his fingers' power XI
in the gripe of the grim one. Gruesome march 58
to Heorot this monster of harm had made! BEOWULF
Din filled the room; the Danes were bereft, XII
castle-dwellers and clansmen all, NOT in any wise would the earls'-defence1
earls, of their ale. Angry were both suffer that slaughterous stranger to live,
those savage hall-guards: the house resounded. useless deeming his days and years
to men on earth. Now many an earl that here was the last of life, an end
of Beowulf brandished blade ancestral, of his days on earth. -- To all the Danes
fain the life of their lord to shield, by that bloody battle the boon had come.
their praised prince, if power were theirs; From ravage had rescued the roving stranger
never they knew, -- as they neared the foe, XII
hardy-hearted heroes of war, 60
aiming their swords on every side BEOWULF
the accursed to kill, -- no keenest blade, Hrothgar's hall; the hardy and wise one
no fairest of falchions fashioned on earth, had purged it anew. His night-work pleased him,
could harm or hurt that hideous fiend! his deed and its honor. To Eastern Danes
He was safe, by his spells, from sword of battle, had the valiant Geat his vaunt made good,
from edge of iron. Yet his end and parting all their sorrow and ills assuaged,
on that same day of this our life their bale of battle borne so long,
woeful should be, and his wandering soul and all the dole they erst endured
XII pain a-plenty. -- 'Twas proof of this,
59 when the hardy-in-fight a hand laid down,
BEOWULF arm and shoulder, -- all, indeed,
far off flit to the fiends' domain. of Grendel's gripe, -- 'neath the gabled roof.
Soon he found, who in former days, 1 Kenning for Beowulf.
harmful in heart and hated of God, XII
on many a man such murder wrought, 61
that the frame of his body failed him now. BEOWULF
For him the keen-souled kinsman of Hygelac XIII
held in hand; hateful alive MANY at morning, as men have told me,
was each to other. The outlaw dire warriors gathered the gift-hall round,
took mortal hurt; a mighty wound folk-leaders faring from far and near,
showed on his shoulder, and sinews cracked, o'er wide-stretched ways, the wonder to view,
and the bone-frame burst. To Beowulf now trace of the traitor. Not troublous seemed
the glory was given, and Grendel thence the enemy's end to any man
death-sick his den in the dark moor sought, who saw by the gait of the graceless foe
noisome abode: he knew too well how the weary-hearted, away from thence,
baffled in battle and banned, his steps 63
death-marked dragged to the devils' mere. BEOWULF
Bloody the billows were boiling there, of Beowulf's quest right cleverly sang,
turbid the tide of tumbling waves and artfully added an excellent tale,
horribly seething, with sword-blood hot, in well-ranged words, of the warlike deeds
by that doomed one dyed, who in den of the moor he had heard in saga of Sigemund.
laid forlorn his life adown, Strange the story: he said it all, --
his heathen soul, and hell received it. the Waelsing's wanderings wide, his struggles,
Home then rode the hoary clansmen which never were told to tribes of men,
XIII the feuds and the frauds, save to Fitela only,
62 when of these doings he deigned to speak,
BEOWULF uncle to nephew; as ever the twain
from that merry journey, and many a youth, stood side by side in stress of war,
on horses white, the hardy warriors, and multitude of the monster kind
back from the mere. Then Beowulf's glory they had felled with their swords. Of Sigemund grew,
eager they echoed, and all averred when he passed from life, no little praise;
that from sea to sea, or south or north, for the doughty-in-combat a dragon killed
there was no other in earth's domain, that herded the hoard:1 under hoary rock
under vault of heaven, more valiant found, the atheling dared the deed alone
of warriors none more worthy to rule! fearful quest, nor was Fitela there.
(On their lord beloved they laid no slight, XIII
gracious Hrothgar: a good king he!) 64
From time to time, the tried-in-battle BEOWULF
their gray steeds set to gallop amain, Yet so it befell, his falchion pierced
and ran a race when the road seemed fair. that wondrous worm, -- on the wall it struck,
From time to time, a thane of the king, best blade; the dragon died in its blood.
who had made many vaunts, and was mindful of verses, Thus had the dread-one by daring achieved
stored with sagas and songs of old, over the ring-hoard to rule at will,
bound word to word in well-knit rime, himself to pleasure; a sea-boat he loaded,
welded his lay; this warrior soon and bore on its bosom the beaming gold,
XIII son of Waels; the worm was consumed.
He had of all heroes the highest renown 66
among races of men, this refuge-of-warriors, BEOWULF
for deeds of daring that decked his name 1 "Guarded the treasure."
since the hand and heart of Heremod 2 Sc. Heremod.
grew slack in battle. He, swiftly banished 3The singer has sung his lays, and the epic resumes its
to mingle with monsters at mercy of foes, story. The time-relations are not altogether good in this
to death was betrayed; for torrents of sorrow long passage which describes the rejoicings of "the day
had lamed him too long; a load of care after"; but the present shift from the riders on the road to
to earls and athelings all he proved. the folk at the hall is not very violent, and is of a piece
Oft indeed, in earlier days, with the general style.
65 67
for the warrior's wayfaring wise men mourned, XIV
who had hoped of him help from harm and bale, HROTHGAR spake, -- to the hall he went,
and had thought their sovran's son would thrive, stood by the steps, the steep roof saw,
follow his father, his folk protect, garnished with gold, and Grendel's hand: --
the hoard and the stronghold, heroes' land, "For the sight I see to the Sovran Ruler
home of Scyldings. -- But here, thanes said, be speedy thanks! A throng of sorrows
the kinsman of Hygelac kinder seemed I have borne from Grendel; but God still works
to all: the other2 was urged to crime! wonder on wonder, the Warden-of-Glory.
And afresh to the race,3 the fallow roads It was but now that I never more
by swift steeds measured! The morning sun for woes that weighed on me waited help
was climbing higher. Clansmen hastened long as I lived, when, laved in blood,
to the high-built hall, those hardy-minded, stood sword-gore-stained this stateliest house, --
the wonder to witness. Warden of treasure, widespread woe for wise men all,
crowned with glory, the king himself, who had no hope to hinder ever
with stately band from the bride-bower strode; foes infernal and fiendish sprites
and with him the queen and her crowd of maidens from havoc in hall. This hero now,
measured the path to the mead-house fair. by the Wielder's might, a work has done
XIII that not all of us erst could ever do
XIV Him I might not -- the Maker willed not --
68 hinder from flight, and firm enough hold
BEOWULF the life-destroyer: too sturdy was he,
by wile and wisdom. Lo, well can she say the ruthless, in running! For rescue, however,
whoso of women this warrior bore he left behind him his hand in pledge,
among sons of men, if still she liveth, arm and shoulder; nor aught of help
that the God of the ages was good to her could the cursed one thus procure at all.
in the birth of her bairn. Now, Beowulf, thee, None the longer liveth he, loathsome fiend,
of heroes best, I shall heartily love sunk in his sins, but sorrow holds him
as mine own, my son; preserve thou ever tightly grasped in gripe of anguish,
this kinship new: thou shalt never lack in baleful bonds, where bide he must,
wealth of the world that I wield as mine! XIV
Full oft for less have I largess showered, 70
my precious hoard, on a punier man, BEOWULF
less stout in struggle. Thyself hast now evil outlaw, such awful doom
fulfilled such deeds, that thy fame shall endure as the Mighty Maker shall mete him out."
through all the ages. As ever he did, More silent seemed the son of Ecglaf1
well may the Wielder reward thee still!" in boastful speech of his battle-deeds,
Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -- since athelings all, through the earl's great prowess,
"This work of war most willingly beheld that hand, on the high roof gazing,
we have fought, this fight, and fearlessly dared foeman's fingers, -- the forepart of each
XIV of the sturdy nails to steel was likest, --
69 heathen's "hand-spear," hostile warrior's
BEOWULF claw uncanny. 'Twas clear, they said,
force of the foe. Fain, too, were I that him no blade of the brave could touch,
hadst thou but seen himself, what time how keen soever, or cut away
the fiend in his trappings tottered to fall! that battle-hand bloody from baneful foe.
Swiftly, I thought, in strongest gripe 1 Unferth, Beowulf's sometime opponent in the flyting.
on his bed of death to bind him down, XIV
that he in the hent of this hand of mine 71
should breathe his last: but he broke away. BEOWULF
XV Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot now
THERE was hurry and hest in Heorot now was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings
for hands to bedeck it, and dense was the throng ne'er yet had tried the traitor's deed.
of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse, To Beowulf gave the bairn of Healfdene
the guest-room to garnish. Gold-gay shone the hangings a gold-wove banner, guerdon of triumph,
that were wove on the wall, and wonders many broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet;
to delight each mortal that looks upon them. and a splendid sword was seen of many
Though braced within by iron bands, borne to the brave one. Beowulf took
that building bright was broken sorely;1 XV
rent were its hinges; the roof alone 73
held safe and sound, when, seared with crime, BEOWULF
the fiendish foe his flight essayed, cup in hall:2 for such costly gifts
of life despairing. -- No light thing that, he suffered no shame in that soldier throng.
the flight for safety, -- essay it who will! For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,
Forced of fate, he shall find his way with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,
to the refuge ready for race of man, on the ale-bench honoring others thus!
for soul-possessors, and sons of earth; O'er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge,
and there his body on bed of death wound with wires, kept ward o'er the head,
XV lest the relict-of-files3 should fierce invade,
72 sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero
BEOWULF should go to grapple against his foes.
shall rest after revel. Then the earls'-defence4 on the floor5 bade lead
Arrived was the hour coursers eight, with carven head-gear,
when to hall proceeded Healfdene's son: adown the hall: one horse was decked
the king himself would sit to banquet. with a saddle all shining and set in jewels;
Ne'er heard I of host in haughtier throng 'twas the battle-seat of the best of kings,
more graciously gathered round giver-of-rings! when to play of swords the son of Healfdene
Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory, was fain to fare. Ne'er failed his valor
fain of the feasting. Featly received in the crush of combat when corpses fell.
many a mead-cup the mighty-in-spirit, XV
kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall, 74
BEOWULF precious gift; and the price1 bade pay
To Beowulf over them both then gave in gold for him whom Grendel erst
the refuge-of-Ingwines right and power, murdered, -- and fain of them more had killed,
o'er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy of them. had not wisest God their Wyrd averted,
Manfully thus the mighty prince, and the man's2 brave mood. The Maker then
hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid ruled human kind, as here and now.
with steeds and treasures contemned by none Therefore is insight always best,
who is willing to say the sooth aright. and forethought of mind. How much awaits him
1 There is no horrible inconsistency here such as the of lief and of loath, who long time here,
critics strive and cry about. In spite of the ruin that through days of warfare this world endures!
Grendel and Beowulf had made within the hall, the Then song and music mingled sounds
framework and roof held firm, and swift repairs made the in the presence of Healfdene's head-of-armies3
interior habitable. Tapestries were hung on the walls, and and harping was heard with the hero-lay
willing hands prepared the banquet. XVI
2 From its formal use in other places, this phrase, to take 76
cup in hall, or "on the floor," would seem to mean that BEOWULF
Beowulf stood up to receive his gifts, drink to the donor, as Hrothgar's singer the hall-joy woke
and say thanks. along the mead-seats, making his song
3 Kenning for sword. of that sudden raid on the sons of Finn.4
4 Hrothgar. He is also the "refuge of the friends of Ing," Healfdene's hero, Hnaef the Scylding,
below. Ing belongs to myth. was fated to fall in the Frisian slaughter.5
5Horses are frequently led or ridden into the hall where Hildeburh needed not hold in value
folk sit at banquet: so in Chaucer's Squire's tale, in the her enemies' honor!6 Innocent both
ballad of King Estmere, and in the romances. were the loved ones she lost at the linden-play,
XV bairn and brother, they bowed to fate,
75 stricken by spears; 'twas a sorrowful woman!
BEOWULF None doubted why the daughter of Hoc
XVI bewailed her doom when dawning came,
AND the lord of earls, to each that came and under the sky she saw them lying,
with Beowulf over the briny ways, kinsmen murdered, where most she had kenned
an heirloom there at the ale-bench gave, of the sweets of the world! By war were swept, too,
Finn's own liegemen, and few were left; then edge of the sword must seal his doom.
in the parleying-place7 he could ply no longer Oaths were given, and ancient gold
weapon, nor war could he wage on Hengest, heaped from hoard. -- The hardy Scylding,
XVI battle-thane best,9 on his balefire lay.
77 All on the pyre were plain to see
BEOWULF the gory sark, the gilded swine-crest,
and rescue his remnant by right of arms boar of hard iron, and athelings many
from the prince's thane. A pact he offered: slain by the sword: at the slaughter they fell.
another dwelling the Danes should have, It was Hildeburh's hest, at Hnaef's own pyre
hall and high-seat, and half the power the bairn of her body on brands to lay,
should fall to them in Frisian land; his bones to burn, on the balefire placed,
and at the fee-gifts, Folcwald's son at his uncle's side. In sorrowful dirges
day by day the Danes should honor, bewept them the woman: great wailing ascended.
the folk of Hengest favor with rings, XVI
even as truly, with treasure and jewels, 79
with fretted gold, as his Frisian kin BEOWULF
he meant to honor in ale-hall there. Then wound up to welkin the wildest of death-fires,
Pact of peace they plighted further roared o'er the hillock:10 heads all were melted,
on both sides firmly. Finn to Hengest gashes burst, and blood gushed out
with oath, upon honor, openly promised from bites11 of the body. Balefire devoured,
that woeful remnant, with wise-men's aid, greediest spirit, those spared not by war
nobly to govern, so none of the guests out of either folk: their flower was gone.
by word or work should warp the treaty,8 1 Man-price, wergild.
or with malice of mind bemoan themselves 2 Beowulf's.
XVI 3 Hrothgar.
78 4 There is no need to assume a gap in the Ms. As before
BEOWULF about Sigemund and Heremod, so now, though at greater
as forced to follow their fee-giver's slayer, length, about Finn and his feud, a lay is chanted or
lordless men, as their lot ordained. recited; and the epic poet, counting on his readers'
Should Frisian, moreover, with foeman's taunt, familiarity with the story, -- a fragment of it still exists, --
that murderous hatred to mind recall, simply gives the headings.
5 The exact story to which this episode refers in summary 10 The high place chosen for the funeral: see description
is not to be determined, but the following account of it is of Beowulf's funeral-pile at the end of the poem.
reasonable and has good support among scholars. Finn, 11 Wounds.
a Frisian chieftain, who nevertheless has a "castle" XVI
outside the Frisian border, marries Hildeburh, a Danish 81
princess; and her brother, Hnaef, with many other Danes, BEOWULF
pays Finn a visit. Relations between the two peoples XVII
have been strained before. Something starts the old feud THEN hastened those heroes their home to see,
anew; and the visitors are attacked in their quarters. friendless, to find the Frisian land,
Hnaef is killed; so is a son of Hildeburh. Many fall on both houses and high burg. Hengest still
sides. Peace is patched up; a stately funeral is held; and through the death-dyed winter dwelt with Finn,
the surviving visitors become in a way vassals or holding pact, yet of home he minded,
liegemen of Finn, going back with him to Frisia. So though powerless his ring-decked prow to drive
matters rest a while. Hengest is now leader of the Danes; over the waters, now waves rolled fierce
but he is set upon revenge for his former lord, Hnaef. lashed by the winds, or winter locked them
Probably he is killed in feud; but his clansmen, Guthlaf in icy fetters. Then fared another
and Oslaf, gather at their home a force of sturdy Danes, year to men's dwellings, as yet they do,
come back to Frisia, storm Finn's stronghold, kill him, and the sunbright skies, that their season ever
carry back their kinswoman, Hildeburh. duly await. Far off winter was driven;
6 The "enemies" must be the Frisians. fair lay earth's breast; and fain was the rover,
7Battlefield. -- Hengest is the "prince's thane," companion the guest, to depart, though more gladly he pondered
of Hnaef. "Folcwald's son" is Finn. on wreaking his vengeance than roaming the deep,
XVI and how to hasten the hot encounter
80 where sons of the Frisians were sure to be.
8 That is, Finn would govern in all honor the few Danish 82
warriors who were left, provided, of course, that none of BEOWULF
them tried to renew the quarrel or avenge Hnaef, their So he escaped not the common doom,
fallen lord. If, again, one of Finn's Frisians began a when Hun with "Lafing," the light-of-battle,
quarrel, he should die by the sword. best of blades, his bosom pierced:
9 Hnaef. its edge was famed with the Frisian earls.
On fierce-heart Finn there fell likewise, Be glad with thy Geats; of those gifts be mindful,
on himself at home, the horrid sword-death; or near or far, which now thou hast.
for Guthlaf and Oslaf of grim attack Men say to me, as son thou wishest
had sorrowing told, from sea-ways landed, XVII
mourning their woes.1 Finn's wavering spirit 84
bode not in breast. The burg was reddened BEOWULF
with blood of foemen, and Finn was slain, yon hero to hold. Thy Heorot purged,
king amid clansmen; the queen was taken. jewel-hall brightest, enjoy while thou canst,
To their ship the Scylding warriors bore with many a largess; and leave to thy kin
all the chattels the chieftain owned, folk and realm when forth thou goest
whatever they found in Finn's domain to greet thy doom. For gracious I deem
of gems and jewels. The gentle wife my Hrothulf,2 willing to hold and rule
o'er paths of the deep to the Danes they bore, nobly our youths, if thou yield up first,
led to her land. prince of Scyldings, thy part in the world.
XVII I ween with good he will well requite
83 offspring of ours, when all he minds
BEOWULF that for him we did in his helpless days
The lay was finished, of gift and grace to gain him honor!"
the gleeman's song. Then glad rose the revel; Then she turned to the seat where her sons were placed,
bench-joy brightened. Bearers draw Hrethric and Hrothmund, with heroes' bairns,
from their "wonder-vats" wine. Comes Wealhtheow forth, young men together: the Geat, too, sat there,
under gold-crown goes where the good pair sit, Beowulf brave, the brothers between.
uncle and nephew, true each to the other one, 1 That is, these two Danes, escaping home, had told the
kindred in amity. Unferth the spokesman story of the attack on Hnaef, the slaying of Hengest, and
at the Scylding lord's feet sat: men had faith in his spirit, all the Danish woes. Collecting a force, they return to
his keenness of courage, though kinsmen had found him Frisia and kill Finn in his home.
unsure at the sword-play. The Scylding queen spoke: XVII
"Quaff of this cup, my king and lord, 85
breaker of rings, and blithe be thou, BEOWULF
gold-friend of men; to the Geats here speak 2 Nephew to Hrothgar, with whom he subsequently
such words of mildness as man should use. quarrels, and elder cousin to the two young sons of
Hrothgar and Wealhtheow, -- their natural guardian in the XVIII
event of the king's death. There is something finely 87
feminine in this speech of Wealhtheow's, apart from its BEOWULF
somewhat irregular and irrelevant sequence of topics. sovran strong: under shield he died.
Both she and her lord probably distrust Hrothulf; but she Fell the corpse of the king into keeping of Franks,
bids the king to be of good cheer, and, turning to the gear of the breast, and that gorgeous ring;
suspect, heaps affectionate assurances on his probity. weaker warriors won the spoil,
"My own Hrothulf" will surely not forget these favors and after gripe of battle, from Geatland's lord,
benefits of the past, but will repay them to the orphaned and held the death-field.
boy. Din rose in hall.
XVII Wealhtheow spake amid warriors, and said: --
86 "This jewel enjoy in thy jocund youth,
BEOWULF Beowulf lov'd, these battle-weeds wear,
XVIII a royal treasure, and richly thrive!
A CUP she gave him, with kindly greeting Preserve thy strength, and these striplings here
and winsome words. Of wounden gold, counsel in kindness: requital be mine.
she offered, to honor him, arm-jewels twain, Hast done such deeds, that for days to come
corselet and rings, and of collars the noblest thou art famed among folk both far and near,
that ever I knew the earth around. so wide as washeth the wave of Ocean
Ne'er heard I so mighty, 'neath heaven's dome, his windy walls. Through the ways of life
a hoard-gem of heroes, since Hama bore prosper, O prince! I pray for thee
to his bright-built burg the Brisings' necklace, XVIII
jewel and gem casket. -- Jealousy fled he, 88
Eormanric's hate: chose help eternal. BEOWULF
Hygelac Geat, grandson of Swerting, rich possessions. To son of mine
on the last of his raids this ring bore with him, be helpful in deed and uphold his joys!
under his banner the booty defending, Here every earl to the other is true,
the war-spoil warding; but Wyrd o'erwhelmed him mild of mood, to the master loyal!
what time, in his daring, dangers he sought, Thanes are friendly, the throng obedient,
feud with Frisians. Fairest of gems liegemen are revelling: list and obey!"
he bore with him over the beaker-of-waves, Went then to her place. -- That was proudest of feasts;
flowed wine for the warriors. Wyrd they knew not, as was learned afar. The livelong time
destiny dire, and the doom to be seen after that grim fight, Grendel's mother,
by many an earl when eve should come, monster of women, mourned her woe.
and Hrothgar homeward hasten away, She was doomed to dwell in the dreary waters,
royal, to rest. The room was guarded cold sea-courses, since Cain cut down
by an army of earls, as erst was done. with edge of the sword his only brother,
They bared the bench-boards; abroad they spread his father's offspring: outlawed he fled,
beds and bolsters. -- One beer-carouser marked with murder, from men's delights
in danger of doom lay down in the hall. -- warded the wilds. -- There woke from him
At their heads they set their shields of war, such fate-sent ghosts as Grendel, who,
XVIII war-wolf horrid, at Heorot found
89 XIX
bucklers bright; on the bench were there BEOWULF
over each atheling, easy to see, a warrior watching and waiting the fray,
the high battle-helmet, the haughty spear, with whom the grisly one grappled amain.
the corselet of rings. 'Twas their custom so But the man remembered his mighty power,
ever to be for battle prepared, the glorious gift that God had sent him,
at home, or harrying, which it were, in his Maker's mercy put his trust
even as oft as evil threatened for comfort and help: so he conquered the foe,
their sovran king. -- They were clansmen good. felled the fiend, who fled abject,
XVIII reft of joy, to the realms of death,
90 mankind's foe. And his mother now,
BEOWULF gloomy and grim, would go that quest
XIX of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge.
THEN sank they to sleep. With sorrow one bought To Heorot came she, where helmeted Danes
his rest of the evening, -- as ofttime had happened slept in the hall. Too soon came back
when Grendel guarded that golden hall, old ills of the earls, when in she burst,
evil wrought, till his end drew nigh, the mother of Grendel. Less grim, though, that terror,
slaughter for sins. 'Twas seen and told e'en as terror of woman in war is less,
how an avenger survived the fiend, might of maid, than of men in arms
when, hammer-forged, the falchion hard, To his bower was Beowulf brought in haste,
XIX dauntless victor. As daylight broke,
92 along with his earls the atheling lord,
BEOWULF with his clansmen, came where the king abode
sword gore-stained, through swine of the helm, waiting to see if the Wielder-of-All
crested, with keen blade carves amain. would turn this tale of trouble and woe.
Then was in hall the hard-edge drawn, Strode o'er floor the famed-in-strife,
the swords on the settles,1 and shields a-many with his hand-companions, -- the hall resounded, --
firm held in hand: nor helmet minded wishing to greet the wise old king,
nor harness of mail, whom that horror seized. Ingwines' lord; he asked if the night
Haste was hers; she would hie afar had passed in peace to the prince's mind.
and save her life when the liegemen saw her. 1 They had laid their arms on the benches near where
Yet a single atheling up she seized they slept.
fast and firm, as she fled to the moor. XIX
He was for Hrothgar of heroes the dearest, 94
of trusty vassals betwixt the seas, BEOWULF
whom she killed on his couch, a clansman famous, XX
in battle brave. -- Nor was Beowulf there; HROTHGAR spake, helmet-of-Scyldings: --
another house had been held apart, "Ask not of pleasure! Pain is renewed
after giving of gold, for the Geat renowned. -- to Danish folk. Dead is Aeschere,
Uproar filled Heorot; the hand all had viewed, of Yrmenlaf the elder brother,
blood-flecked, she bore with her; bale was returned, my sage adviser and stay in council,
XIX shoulder-comrade in stress of fight
93 when warriors clashed and we warded our heads,
BEOWULF hewed the helm-boars; hero famed
dole in the dwellings: 'twas dire exchange should be every earl as Aeschere was!
where Dane and Geat were doomed to give But here in Heorot a hand hath slain him
the lives of loved ones. Long-tried king, of wandering death-sprite. I wot not whither,1
the hoary hero, at heart was sad proud of the prey, her path she took,
when he knew his noble no more lived, fain of her fill. The feud she avenged
and dead indeed was his dearest thane. that yesternight, unyieldingly,
Grendel in grimmest grasp thou killedst, -- from mountains gliding to gloom of the rocks,
seeing how long these liegemen mine underground flood. Not far is it hence
he ruined and ravaged. Reft of life, in measure of miles that the mere expands,
XX and o'er it the frost-bound forest hanging,
95 sturdily rooted, shadows the wave.
BEOWULF By night is a wonder weird to see,
in arms he fell. Now another comes, fire on the waters. So wise lived none
keen and cruel, her kin to avenge, of the sons of men, to search those depths!
faring far in feud of blood: Nay, though the heath-rover, harried by dogs,
so that many a thane shall think, who e'er the horn-proud hart, this holt should seek,
sorrows in soul for that sharer of rings, long distance driven, his dear life first
this is hardest of heart-bales. The hand lies low on the brink he yields ere he brave the plunge
that once was willing each wish to please. to hide his head: 'tis no happy place!
Land-dwellers here2 and liegemen mine, Thence the welter of waters washes up
who house by those parts, I have heard relate XX
that such a pair they have sometimes seen, 97
march-stalkers mighty the moorland haunting, BEOWULF
wandering spirits: one of them seemed, wan to welkin when winds bestir
so far as my folk could fairly judge, evil storms, and air grows dusk,
of womankind; and one, accursed, and the heavens weep. Now is help once more
in man's guise trod the misery-track with thee alone! The land thou knowst not,
of exile, though huger than human bulk. place of fear, where thou findest out
Grendel in days long gone they named him, that sin-flecked being. Seek if thou dare!
folk of the land; his father they knew not, I will reward thee, for waging this fight,
XX with ancient treasure, as erst I did,
96 with winding gold, if thou winnest back."
BEOWULF 1 He surmises presently where she is.
nor any brood that was born to him 2 The connection is not difficult. The words of mourning,
of treacherous spirits. Untrod is their home; of acute grief, are said; and according to Germanic
by wolf-cliffs haunt they and windy headlands, sequence of thought, inexorable here, the next and only
fenways fearful, where flows the stream topic is revenge. But is it possible? Hrothgar leads up to
his appeal and promise with a skillful and often effective a path o'er the plain, where she passed, and trod
description of the horrors which surround the monster's the murky moor; of men-at-arms
home and await the attempt of an avenging foe. she bore the bravest and best one, dead,
XX him who with Hrothgar the homestead ruled.
98 On then went the atheling-born
BEOWULF o'er stone-cliffs steep and strait defiles,
XXI narrow passes and unknown ways,
BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: headlands sheer, and the haunts of the Nicors.
"Sorrow not, sage! It beseems us better Foremost he1 fared, a few at his side
friends to avenge than fruitlessly mourn them. of the wiser men, the ways to scan,
Each of us all must his end abide till he found in a flash the forested hill
in the ways of the world; so win who may hanging over the hoary rock,
glory ere death! When his days are told, a woeful wood: the waves below
that is the warrior's worthiest doom. were dyed in blood. The Danish men
Rise, O realm-warder! Ride we anon, XXI
and mark the trail of the mother of Grendel. 100
No harbor shall hide her -- heed my promise! -- BEOWULF
enfolding of field or forested mountain had sorrow of soul, and for Scyldings all,
or floor of the flood, let her flee where she will! for many a hero, 'twas hard to bear,
But thou this day endure in patience, ill for earls, when Aeschere's head
as I ween thou wilt, thy woes each one." they found by the flood on the foreland there.
Leaped up the graybeard: God he thanked, Waves were welling, the warriors saw,
mighty Lord, for the man's brave words. hot with blood; but the horn sang oft
For Hrothgar soon a horse was saddled battle-song bold. The band sat down,
XXI and watched on the water worm-like things,
99 sea-dragons strange that sounded the deep,
BEOWULF and nicors that lay on the ledge of the ness --
wave-maned steed. The sovran wise such as oft essay at hour of morn
stately rode on; his shield-armed men on the road-of-sails their ruthless quest, --
followed in force. The footprints led and sea-snakes and monsters. These started away,
along the woodland, widely seen, swollen and savage that song to hear,
that war-horn's blast. The warden of Geats, which Hrothgar's orator offered at need:
with bolt from bow, then balked of life, "Hrunting" they named the hilted sword,
of wave-work, one monster, amid its heart of old-time heirlooms easily first;
went the keen war-shaft; in water it seemed iron was its edge, all etched with poison,
XXI with battle-blood hardened, nor blenched it at fight
101 in hero's hand who held it ever,
BEOWULF on paths of peril prepared to go
less doughty in swimming whom death had seized. to folkstead2 of foes. Not first time this
Swift on the billows, with boar-spears well it was destined to do a daring task.
hooked and barbed, it was hard beset, For he bore not in mind, the bairn of Ecglaf
done to death and dragged on the headland, sturdy and strong, that speech he had made,
wave-roamer wondrous. Warriors viewed drunk with wine, now this weapon he lent
the grisly guest. to a stouter swordsman. Himself, though, durst not
Then girt him Beowulf under welter of waters wager his life
in martial mail, nor mourned for his life. as loyal liegeman. So lost he his glory,
His breastplate broad and bright of hues, XXI
woven by hand, should the waters try; 103
well could it ward the warrior's body BEOWULF
that battle should break on his breast in vain honor of earls. With the other not so,
nor harm his heart by the hand of a foe. who girded him now for the grim encounter.
And the helmet white that his head protected 1 Hrothgar is probably meant.
was destined to dare the deeps of the flood, 2 Meeting place.
through wave-whirl win: 'twas wound with chains, XXI
decked with gold, as in days of yore 104
the weapon-smith worked it wondrously, BEOWULF
102 BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: --
BEOWULF "Have mind, thou honored offspring of Healfdene
with swine-forms set it, that swords nowise, gold-friend of men, now I go on this quest,
brandished in battle, could bite that helm. sovran wise, what once was said:
Nor was that the meanest of mighty helps if in thy cause it came that I
should lose my life, thou wouldst loyal bide XXI
to me, though fallen, in father's place! 106
Be guardian, thou, to this group of my thanes, BEOWULF
my warrior-friends, if War should seize me; Then bore this brine-wolf, when bottom she touched,
and the goodly gifts thou gavest me, the lord of rings to the lair she haunted
Hrothgar beloved, to Hygelac send! whiles vainly he strove, though his valor held,
Geatland's king may ken by the gold, weapon to wield against wondrous monsters
Hrethel's son see, when he stares at the treasure, that sore beset him; sea-beasts many
that I got me a friend for goodness famed, tried with fierce tusks to tear his mail,
and joyed while I could in my jewel-bestower. and swarmed on the stranger. But soon he marked
And let Unferth wield this wondrous sword, he was now in some hall, he knew not which,
earl far-honored, this heirloom precious, where water never could work him harm,
XXI nor through the roof could reach him ever
105 fangs of the flood. Firelight he saw,
BEOWULF beams of a blaze that brightly shone.
hard of edge: with Hrunting I Then the warrior was ware of that wolf-of-the-deep,
seek doom of glory, or Death shall take me." mere-wife monstrous. For mighty stroke
After these words the Weder-Geat lord he swung his blade, and the blow withheld not.
boldly hastened, biding never Then sang on her head that seemly blade
answer at all: the ocean floods its war-song wild. But the warrior found
closed o'er the hero. Long while of the day the light-of-battle1 was loath to bite,
fled ere he felt the floor of the sea. XXI
Soon found the fiend who the flood-domain 107
sword-hungry held these hundred winters, BEOWULF
greedy and grim, that some guest from above, to harm the heart: its hard edge failed
some man, was raiding her monster-realm. the noble at need, yet had known of old
She grasped out for him with grisly claws, strife hand to hand, and had helmets cloven,
and the warrior seized; yet scathed she not doomed men's fighting-gear. First time, this,
his body hale; the breastplate hindered, for the gleaming blade that its glory fell.
as she strove to shatter the sark of war, Firm still stood, nor failed in valor,
the linked harness, with loathsome hand. heedful of high deeds, Hygelac's kinsman;
flung away fretted sword, featly jewelled, 1 Kenning for "sword." Hrunting is bewitched, laid under a
the angry earl; on earth it lay spell of uselessness,
steel-edged and stiff. His strength he trusted, along with all other swords.
hand-gripe of might. So man shall do 2 This brown of swords, evidently meaning burnished,
whenever in war he weens to earn him bright, continues to be a
lasting fame, nor fears for his life! favorite adjective in the popular ballads.
Seized then by shoulder, shrank not from combat, XXI
the Geatish war-prince Grendel's mother. 109
Flung then the fierce one, filled with wrath, BEOWULF
his deadly foe, that she fell to ground. XXIII
Swift on her part she paid him back 'MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,
XXI old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,
108 warriors' heirloom, weapon unmatched,
BEOWULF -- save only 'twas more than other men
with grisly grasp, and grappled with him. to bandy-of-battle could bear at all --
Spent with struggle, stumbled the warrior, as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.
fiercest of fighting-men, fell adown. Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings' chieftain,
On the hall-guest she hurled herself, hent her short bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,
sword, reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote
broad and brown-edged,2 the bairn to avenge, that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,
the sole-born son. -- On his shoulder lay her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through
braided breast-mail, barring death, that fated-one's flesh: to floor she sank.
withstanding entrance of edge or blade. Bloody the blade: he was blithe of his deed.
Life would have ended for Ecgtheow's son, Then blazed forth light. 'Twas bright within
under wide earth for that earl of Geats, as when from the sky there shines unclouded
had his armor of war not aided him, heaven's candle. The hall he scanned.
battle-net hard, and holy God By the wall then went he; his weapon raised
wielded the victory, wisest Maker. XXIII
The Lord of Heaven allowed his cause; 110
and easily rose the earl erect. BEOWULF
high by its hilts the Hygelac-thane,
angry and eager. That edge was not useless stared at the surges, sick in heart,
to the warrior now. He wished with speed and wished, yet weened not, their winsome lord
Grendel to guerdon for grim raids many, again to see.
for the war he waged on Western-Danes Now that sword began,
oftener far than an only time, from blood of the fight, in battle-droppings,3
when of Hrothgar's hearth-companions war-blade, to wane: 'twas a wondrous thing
he slew in slumber, in sleep devoured, XXIII
fifteen men of the folk of Danes, 112
and as many others outward bore, BEOWULF
his horrible prey. Well paid for that that all of it melted as ice is wont
the wrathful prince! For now prone he saw when frosty fetters the Father loosens,
Grendel stretched there, spent with war, unwinds the wave-bonds, wielding all
spoiled of life, so scathed had left him seasons and times: the true God he!
Heorot's battle. The body sprang far Nor took from that dwelling the duke of the Geats
when after death it endured the blow, save only the head and that hilt withal
sword-stroke savage, that severed its head. blazoned with jewels: the blade had melted,
Soon,1 then, saw the sage companions burned was the bright sword, her blood was so hot,
XXIII so poisoned the hell-sprite who perished within there.
111 Soon he was swimming who safe saw in combat
BEOWULF downfall of demons; up-dove through the flood.
who waited with Hrothgar, watching the flood, The clashing waters were cleansed now,
that the tossing waters turbid grew, waste of waves, where the wandering fiend
blood-stained the mere. Old men together, her life-days left and this lapsing world.
hoary-haired, of the hero spake; Swam then to strand the sailors'-refuge,
the warrior would not, they weened, again, sturdy-in-spirit, of sea-booty glad,
proud of conquest, come to seek of burden brave he bore with him.
their mighty master. To many it seemed Went then to greet him, and God they thanked,
the wolf-of-the-waves had won his life. XXIII
The ninth hour came. The noble Scyldings 113
left the headland; homeward went BEOWULF
the gold-friend of men.2 But the guests sat on, the thane-band choice of their chieftain blithe,
that safe and sound they could see him again. 4 Spear.
Soon from the hardy one helmet and armor XXIII
deftly they doffed: now drowsed the mere, 115
water 'neath welkin, with war-blood stained. BEOWULF
Forth they fared by the footpaths thence, XXIV
merry at heart the highways measured, BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: --
well-known roads. Courageous men "Lo, now, this sea-booty, son of Healfdene,
carried the head from the cliff by the sea, Lord of Scyldings, we've lustily brought thee,
an arduous task for all the band, sign of glory; thou seest it here.
the firm in fight, since four were needed Not lightly did I with my life escape!
on the shaft-of-slaughter4 strenuously In war under water this work I essayed
to bear to the gold-hall Grendel's head. with endless effort; and even so
So presently to the palace there my strength had been lost had the Lord not shielded me.
foemen fearless, fourteen Geats, Not a whit could I with Hrunting do
marching came. Their master-of-clan in work of war, though the weapon is good;
mighty amid them the meadow-ways trod. yet a sword the Sovran of Men vouchsafed me
Strode then within the sovran thane to spy on the wall there, in splendor hanging,
XXIII old, gigantic, -- how oft He guides
114 the friendless wight! -- and I fought with that brand,
BEOWULF felling in fight, since fate was with me,
fearless in fight, of fame renowned, the house's wardens. That war-sword then
hardy hero, Hrothgar to greet. all burned, bright blade, when the blood gushed o'er it,
And next by the hair into hall was borne XXIV
Grendel's head, where the henchmen were drinking, 116
an awe to clan and queen alike, BEOWULF
a monster of marvel: the men looked on. battle-sweat hot; but the hilt I brought back
1 After the killing of the monster and Grendel's from my foes. So avenged I their fiendish deeds
decapitation. death-fall of Danes, as was due and right.
2 Hrothgar. And this is my hest, that in Heorot now
3 The blade slowly dissolves in blood-stained drops like safe thou canst sleep with thy soldier band,
icicles. and every thane of all thy folk
both old and young; no evil fear, a land-warden old,1 that this earl belongs
Scyldings' lord, from that side again, to the better breed! So, borne aloft,
aught ill for thy earls, as erst thou must!" XXIV
Then the golden hilt, for that gray-haired leader, 118
hoary hero, in hand was laid, BEOWULF
giant-wrought, old. So owned and enjoyed it thy fame must fly, O friend my Beowulf,
after downfall of devils, the Danish lord, far and wide o'er folksteads many. Firmly thou
wonder-smiths' work, since the world was rid shalt all maintain,
of that grim-souled fiend, the foe of God, mighty strength with mood of wisdom. Love of
murder-marked, and his mother as well. mine will I assure thee,
Now it passed into power of the people's king, as, awhile ago, I promised; thou shalt prove a stay
best of all that the oceans bound in future,
XXIV in far-off years, to folk of thine,
117 to the heroes a help. Was not Heremod thus
BEOWULF to offspring of Ecgwela, Honor-Scyldings,
who have scattered their gold o'er Scandia's isle. nor grew for their grace, but for grisly slaughter,
Hrothgar spake -- the hilt he viewed, for doom of death to the Danishmen.
heirloom old, where was etched the rise He slew, wrath-swollen, his shoulder-comrades,
of that far-off fight when the floods o'erwhelmed, companions at board! So he passed alone,
raging waves, the race of giants chieftain haughty, from human cheer.
(fearful their fate!), a folk estranged Though him the Maker with might endowed,
from God Eternal: whence guerdon due delights of power, and uplifted high
in that waste of waters the Wielder paid them. XXIV
So on the guard of shining gold 119
in runic staves it was rightly said BEOWULF
for whom the serpent-traced sword was wrought, above all men, yet blood-fierce his mind,
best of blades, in bygone days, his breast-hoard, grew, no bracelets gave he
and the hilt well wound. -- The wise-one spake, to Danes as was due; he endured all joyless
son of Healfdene; silent were all: -- strain of struggle and stress of woe,
"Lo, so may he say who sooth and right long feud with his folk. Here find thy lesson!
follows 'mid folk, of far times mindful, Of virtue advise thee! This verse I have said for thee,
wise from lapsed winters. Wondrous seems XXV
how to sons of men Almighty God "UNDER harness his heart then is hit indeed
in the strength of His spirit sendeth wisdom, by sharpest shafts; and no shelter avails
estate, high station: He swayeth all things. from foul behest of the hellish fiend.1
Whiles He letteth right lustily fare Him seems too little what long he possessed.
the heart of the hero of high-born race, -- Greedy and grim, no golden rings
in seat ancestral assigns him bliss, he gives for his pride; the promised future
his folk's sure fortress in fee to hold, forgets he and spurns, with all God has sent him,
puts in his power great parts of the earth, Wonder-Wielder, of wealth and fame.
empire so ample, that end of it Yet in the end it ever comes
this wanter-of-wisdom weeneth none. that the frame of the body fragile yields,
So he waxes in wealth, nowise can harm him fated falls; and there follows another
XXIV who joyously the jewels divides,
120 the royal riches, nor recks of his forebear.
BEOWULF Ban, then, such baleful thoughts, Beowulf dearest,
illness or age; no evil cares best of men, and the better part choose,
shadow his spirit; no sword-hate threatens profit eternal; and temper thy pride,
from ever an enemy: all the world warrior famous! The flower of thy might
wends at his will, no worse he knoweth, XXV
till all within him obstinate pride 122
waxes and wakes while the warden slumbers, BEOWULF
the spirit's sentry; sleep is too fast lasts now a while: but erelong it shall be
which masters his might, and the murderer nears, that sickness or sword thy strength shall minish,
stealthily shooting the shafts from his bow! or fang of fire, or flooding billow,
1 That is, "whoever has as wide authority as I have and or bite of blade, or brandished spear,
can remember so far back so many instances of heroism, or odious age; or the eyes' clear beam
may well say, as I say, that no better hero ever lived than wax dull and darken: Death even thee
Beowulf." in haste shall o'erwhelm, thou hero of war!
XXIV So the Ring-Danes these half-years a hundred I ruled,
121 wielded 'neath welkin, and warded them bravely
BEOWULF from mighty-ones many o'er middle-earth,
from spear and sword, till it seemed for me BEOWULF
no foe could be found under fold of the sky. needs of a thane as in those old days
Lo, sudden the shift! To me seated secure warrior-wanderers wont to have.
came grief for joy when Grendel began So slumbered the stout-heart. Stately the hall
to harry my home, the hellish foe; rose gabled and gilt where the guest slept on
for those ruthless raids, unresting I suffered till a raven black the rapture-of-heaven2
heart-sorrow heavy. Heaven be thanked, blithe-heart boded. Bright came flying
Lord Eternal, for life extended shine after shadow. The swordsmen hastened,
XXV athelings all were eager homeward
123 forth to fare; and far from thence
BEOWULF the great-hearted guest would guide his keel.
that I on this head all hewn and bloody, Bade then the hardy-one Hrunting be brought
after long evil, with eyes may gaze! to the son of Ecglaf, the sword bade him take,
-- Go to the bench now! Be glad at banquet, excellent iron, and uttered his thanks for it,
warrior worthy! A wealth of treasure quoth that he counted it keen in battle,
at dawn of day, be dealt between us!" "war-friend" winsome: with words he slandered not
Glad was the Geats' lord, going betimes edge of the blade: 'twas a big-hearted man!
to seek his seat, as the Sage commanded. Now eager for parting and armed at point
Afresh, as before, for the famed-in-battle, warriors waited, while went to his host
for the band of the hall, was a banquet dight XXV
nobly anew. The Night-Helm darkened 125
dusk o'er the drinkers. BEOWULF
The doughty ones rose: that Darling of Danes. The doughty atheling
for the hoary-headed would hasten to rest, to high-seat hastened and Hrothgar greeted.
aged Scylding; and eager the Geat, 1 That is, he is now undefended by conscience from the
shield-fighter sturdy, for sleeping yearned. temptations (shafts) of the devil.
Him wander-weary, warrior-guest 2 Kenning for the sun. -- This is a strange role for the
from far, a hall-thane heralded forth, raven. He is the warrior's bird of battle, exults in slaughter
who by custom courtly cared for all and carnage; his joy here is a compliment to the sunrise.
124 126
BEOWULF from so young in years e'er yet have I heard.
XXVI Thou art strong of main and in mind art wary,
BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -- art wise in words! I ween indeed
"Lo, we seafarers say our will, if ever it hap that Hrethel's heir
far-come men, that we fain would seek by spear be seized, by sword-grim battle,
Hygelac now. We here have found by illness or iron, thine elder and lord,
hosts to our heart: thou hast harbored us well. people's leader, -- and life be thine, --
If ever on earth I am able to win me no seemlier man will the Sea-Geats find
more of thy love, O lord of men, at all to choose for their chief and king,
aught anew, than I now have done, XXVI
for work of war I am willing still! 128
If it come to me ever across the seas BEOWULF
that neighbor foemen annoy and fright thee, -- for hoard-guard of heroes, if hold thou wilt
as they that hate thee erewhile have used, -- thy kinsman's kingdom! Thy keen mind pleases me
thousands then of thanes I shall bring, the longer the better, Beowulf loved!
heroes to help thee. Of Hygelac I know, Thou hast brought it about that both our peoples,
ward of his folk, that, though few his years, sons of the Geat and Spear-Dane folk,
the lord of the Geats will give me aid shall have mutual peace, and from murderous strife,
by word and by work, that well I may serve thee, such as once they waged, from war refrain.
XXVI Long as I rule this realm so wide,
127 let our hoards be common, let heroes with gold
BEOWULF each other greet o'er the gannet's-bath,
wielding the war-wood to win thy triumph and the ringed-prow bear o'er rolling waves
and lending thee might when thou lackest men. tokens of love. I trow my landfolk
If thy Hrethric should come to court of Geats, towards friend and foe are firmly joined,
a sovran's son, he will surely there and honor they keep in the olden way."
find his friends. A far-off land To him in the hall, then, Healfdene's son
each man should visit who vaunts him brave." gave treasures twelve, and the trust-of-earls
Him then answering, Hrothgar spake: -- bade him fare with the gifts to his folk beloved,
"These words of thine the wisest God XXVI
sent to thy soul! No sager counsel 129
BEOWULF CAME now to ocean the ever-courageous
hale to his home, and in haste return. hardy henchmen, their harness bearing,
Then kissed the king of kin renowned, woven war-sarks. The warden marked,
Scyldings' chieftain, that choicest thane, trusty as ever, the earl's return.
and fell on his neck. Fast flowed the tears From the height of the hill no hostile words
of the hoary-headed. Heavy with winters, reached the guests as he rode to greet them;
he had chances twain, but he clung to this,1 -- but "Welcome!" he called to that Weder clan
that each should look on the other again, as the sheen-mailed spoilers to ship marched on.
and hear him in hall. Was this hero so dear to him. Then on the strand, with steeds and treasure
his breast's wild billows he banned in vain; and armor their roomy and ring-dight ship
safe in his soul a secret longing, was heavily laden: high its mast
locked in his mind, for that loved man rose over Hrothgar's hoarded gems.
burned in his blood. Then Beowulf strode, A sword to the boat-guard Beowulf gave,
glad of his gold-gifts, the grass-plot o'er, mounted with gold; on the mead-bench since
warrior blithe. The wave-roamer bode he was better esteemed, that blade possessing,
riding at anchor, its owner awaiting. heirloom old. -- Their ocean-keel boarding,
As they hastened onward, Hrothgar's gift they drove through the deep, and Daneland left.
they lauded at length. -- 'Twas a lord unpeered, XXVII
every way blameless, till age had broken 132
130 A sea-cloth was set, a sail with ropes,
BEOWULF firm to the mast; the flood-timbers moaned;1
-- it spareth no mortal -- his splendid might. nor did wind over billows that wave-swimmer blow
1 That is, he might or might not see Beowulf again. Old across from her course. The craft sped on,
as he was, the latter chance was likely; but he clung to foam-necked it floated forth o'er the waves,
the former, hoping to see his young friend again "and keel firm-bound over briny currents,
exchange brave words in the hall." till they got them sight of the Geatish cliffs,
XXVI home-known headlands. High the boat,
131 stirred by winds, on the strand updrove.
BEOWULF Helpful at haven the harbor-guard stood,
XXVII who long already for loved companions
by the water had waited and watched afar. for woman to practise, though peerless she,
He bound to the beach the broad-bosomed ship that the weaver-of-peace3 from warrior dear
with anchor-bands, lest ocean-billows by wrath and lying his life should reave!
that trusty timber should tear away. But Hemming's kinsman hindered this. --
Then Beowulf bade them bear the treasure, For over their ale men also told
gold and jewels; no journey far that of these folk-horrors fewer she wrought,
was it thence to go to the giver of rings, onslaughts of evil, after she went,
XXVII gold-decked bride, to the brave young prince,
133 atheling haughty, and Offa's hall
BEOWULF o'er the fallow flood at her father's bidding
Hygelac Hrethling: at home he dwelt safely sought, where since she prospered,
by the sea-wall close, himself and clan. royal, throned, rich in goods,
Haughty that house, a hero the king, fain of the fair life fate had sent her,
high the hall, and Hygd2 right young, and leal in love to the lord of warriors.
wise and wary, though winters few He, of all heroes I heard of ever
in those fortress walls she had found a home, from sea to sea, of the sons of earth,
Haereth's daughter. Nor humble her ways, most excellent seemed. Hence Offa was praised
nor grudged she gifts to the Geatish men, for his fighting and feeing by far-off men,
of precious treasure. Not Thryth's pride showed she, XXVII
folk-queen famed, or that fell deceit. 135
Was none so daring that durst make bold BEOWULF
(save her lord alone) of the liegemen dear the spear-bold warrior; wisely he ruled
that lady full in the face to look, over his empire. Eomer woke to him,
but forged fetters he found his lot, help of heroes, Hemming's kinsman,
bonds of death! And brief the respite; Grandson of Garmund, grim in war.
soon as they seized him, his sword-doom was spoken, 1 With the speed of the boat.
and the burnished blade a baleful murder 2 Queen to Hygelac. She is praised by contrast with the
proclaimed and closed. No queenly way antitype, Thryth, just as Beowulf was praised by contrast
XXVII with Heremod.
134 3 Kenning for "wife."
136 when thy yearnings suddenly swept thee yonder
BEOWULF battle to seek o'er the briny sea,
XXVIII combat in Heorot? Hrothgar couldst thou
HASTENED the hardy one, henchmen with him, aid at all, the honored chief,
sandy strand of the sea to tread in his wide-known woes? With waves of care
and widespread ways. The world's great candle, my sad heart seethed; I sore mistrusted
sun shone from south. They strode along my loved one's venture: long I begged thee
with sturdy steps to the spot they knew by no means to seek that slaughtering monster,
where the battle-king young, his burg within, but suffer the South-Danes to settle their feud
slayer of Ongentheow, shared the rings, themselves with Grendel. Now God be thanked
shelter-of-heroes. To Hygelac XXVIII
Beowulf's coming was quickly told, -- 138
that there in the court the clansmen's refuge, BEOWULF
the shield-companion sound and alive, that safe and sound I can see thee now!"
hale from the hero-play homeward strode. Beowulf spake, the bairn of Ecgtheow: --
With haste in the hall, by highest order, "'Tis known and unhidden, Hygelac Lord,
room for the rovers was readily made. to many men, that meeting of ours,
By his sovran he sat, come safe from battle, struggle grim between Grendel and me,
kinsman by kinsman. His kindly lord which we fought on the field where full too many
he first had greeted in gracious form, sorrows he wrought for the Scylding-Victors,
XXVIII evils unending. These all I avenged.
137 No boast can be from breed of Grendel,
BEOWULF any on earth, for that uproar at dawn,
with manly words. The mead dispensing, from the longest-lived of the loathsome race
came through the high hall Haereth's daughter, in fleshly fold! -- But first I went
winsome to warriors, wine-cup bore Hrothgar to greet in the hall of gifts,
to the hands of the heroes. Hygelac then where Healfdene's kinsman high-renowned,
his comrade fairly with question plied soon as my purpose was plain to him,
in the lofty hall, sore longing to know assigned me a seat by his son and heir.
what manner of sojourn the Sea-Geats made. The liegemen were lusty; my life-days never
"What came of thy quest, my kinsman Beowulf, such merry men over mead in hall
XXVIII Then, over the ale, on this heirloom gazing,
139 some ash-wielder old who has all in mind
BEOWULF that spear-death of men,3 -- he is stern of mood,
have I heard under heaven! The high-born queen, heavy at heart, -- in the hero young
people's peace-bringer, passed through the hall, tests the temper and tries the soul
cheered the young clansmen, clasps of gold, and war-hate wakens, with words like these: --
ere she sought her seat, to sundry gave. Canst thou not, comrade, ken that sword
Oft to the heroes Hrothgar's daughter, which to the fray thy father carried
to earls in turn, the ale-cup tendered, -- in his final feud, 'neath the fighting-mask,
she whom I heard these hall-companions dearest of blades, when the Danish slew him
Freawaru name, when fretted gold and wielded the war-place on Withergild's fall,
she proffered the warriors. Promised is she, XXVIII
gold-decked maid, to the glad son of Froda. 141
Sage this seems to the Scylding's-friend, BEOWULF
kingdom's-keeper: he counts it wise after havoc of heroes, those hardy Scyldings?
the woman to wed so and ward off feud, Now, the son of a certain slaughtering Dane,
store of slaughter. But seldom ever proud of his treasure, paces this hall,
when men are slain, does the murder-spear sink joys in the killing, and carries the jewel4
but briefest while, though the bride be fair!1 that rightfully ought to be owned by thee!_
"Nor haply will like it the Heathobard lord, Thus he urges and eggs him all the time
and as little each of his liegemen all, with keenest words, till occasion offers
XXVIII that Freawaru's thane, for his father's deed,
140 after bite of brand in his blood must slumber,
BEOWULF losing his life; but that liegeman flies
when a thane of the Danes, in that doughty throng, living away, for the land he kens.
goes with the lady along their hall, And thus be broken on both their sides
and on him the old-time heirlooms glisten oaths of the earls, when Ingeld's breast
hard and ring-decked, Heathobard's treasure, wells with war-hate, and wife-love now
weapons that once they wielded fair after the care-billows cooler grows.
until they lost at the linden-play2 "So5 I hold not high the Heathobards' faith
liegeman leal and their lives as well. due to the Danes, or their during love
and pact of peace. -- But I pass from that, I paid in kind for his cruel deeds;
XXVIII yet there, my prince, this people of thine
142 got fame by my fighting. He fled away,
BEOWULF and a little space his life preserved;
turning to Grendel, O giver-of-treasure, but there staid behind him his stronger hand
and saying in full how the fight resulted, left in Heorot; heartsick thence
hand-fray of heroes. When heaven's jewel on the floor of the ocean that outcast fell.
had fled o'er far fields, that fierce sprite came, Me for this struggle the Scyldings'-friend
night-foe savage, to seek us out paid in plenty with plates of gold,
where safe and sound we sentried the hall. with many a treasure, when morn had come
To Hondscio then was that harassing deadly, and we all at the banquet-board sat down.
his fall there was fated. He first was slain, Then was song and glee. The gray-haired Scylding,
girded warrior. Grendel on him XXVIII
turned murderous mouth, on our mighty kinsman, 144
and all of the brave man's body devoured. BEOWULF
Yet none the earlier, empty-handed, much tested, told of the times of yore.
would the bloody-toothed murderer, mindful of bale, Whiles the hero his harp bestirred,
outward go from the gold-decked hall: wood-of-delight; now lays he chanted
but me he attacked in his terror of might, of sooth and sadness, or said aright
with greedy hand grasped me. A glove hung by him6 legends of wonder, the wide-hearted king;
wide and wondrous, wound with bands; or for years of his youth he would yearn at times,
and in artful wise it all was wrought, for strength of old struggles, now stricken with age,
XXVIII hoary hero: his heart surged full
143 when, wise with winters, he wailed their flight.
BEOWULF Thus in the hall the whole of that day
by devilish craft, of dragon-skins. at ease we feasted, till fell o'er earth
Me therein, an innocent man, another night. Anon full ready
the fiendish foe was fain to thrust in greed of vengeance, Grendel's mother
with many another. He might not so, set forth all doleful. Dead was her son
when I all angrily upright stood. through war-hate of Weders; now, woman monstrous
'Twere long to relate how that land-destroyer with fury fell a foeman she slew,
avenged her offspring. From Aeschere old, here is absurd. As both Beowulf and Hygelac know, --
loyal councilor, life was gone; and the folk for whom the Beowulf was put together also
XXVIII knew, -- Froda was king of the Heathobards (probably the
145 Langobards, once near neighbors of Angle and Saxon
BEOWULF tribes on the continent), and had fallen in fight with the
nor might they e'en, when morning broke, Danes. Hrothgar will set aside this feud by giving his
those Danish people, their death-done comrade daughter as "peace-weaver" and wife to the young king
burn with brands, on balefire lay Ingeld, son of the slain Froda. But Beowulf, on general
the man they mourned. Under mountain stream principles and from his observation of the particular case,
she had carried the corpse with cruel hands. foretells trouble.
For Hrothgar that was the heaviest sorrow 2 Play of shields, battle. A Danish warrior cuts down
of all that had laden the lord of his folk. Froda in the fight, and takes his sword and armor, leaving
The leader then, by thy life, besought me them to a son. This son is selected to accompany his
(sad was his soul) in the sea-waves' coil mistress, the young princess Freawaru, to her new home
to play the hero and hazard my being when she is Ingeld's queen. Heedlessly he wears the
for glory of prowess: my guerdon he pledged. sword of Froda in hall. An old warrior points it out to
I then in the waters -- 'tis widely known -- Ingeld, and eggs him on to vengeance. At his instigation
that sea-floor-guardian savage found. the Dane is killed; but the murderer, afraid of results, and
Hand-to-hand there a while we struggled; knowing the land, escapes. So the old feud must break
billows welled blood; in the briny hall out again.
her head I hewed with a hardy blade 3 That is, their disastrous battle and the slaying of their
from Grendel's mother, -- and gained my life, king.
though not without danger. My doom was not yet. 4 The sword.
XXVIII 5 Beowulf returns to his forecast. Things might well go
146 somewhat as follows, he says; sketches a little tragic
BEOWULF story; and with this prophecy by illustration returns to the
Then the haven-of-heroes, Healfdene's son, tale of his adventure.
gave me in guerdon great gifts of price. 6 Not an actual glove, but a sort of bag.
1 Beowulf gives his uncle the king not mere gossip of his XXVIII
journey, but a statesmanlike forecast of the outcome of 147
certain policies at the Danish court. Talk of interpolation BEOWULF
XXXI by hardy Hygelac held full dear,
"So held this king to the customs old, and each kept watch o'er the other's weal.
that I wanted for nought in the wage I gained, I heard, too, the necklace to Hygd he presented,
the meed of my might; he made me gifts, wonder-wrought treasure, which Wealhtheow gave him
Healfdene's heir, for my own disposal. sovran's daughter: three steeds he added,
Now to thee, my prince, I proffer them all, slender and saddle-gay. Since such gift
gladly give them. Thy grace alone the gem gleamed bright on the breast of the queen.
can find me favor. Few indeed Thus showed his strain the son of Ecgtheow
have I of kinsmen, save, Hygelac, thee!" as a man remarked for mighty deeds
Then he bade them bear him the boar-head standard, XXXI
the battle-helm high, and breastplate gray, 149
the splendid sword; then spake in form: -- BEOWULF
"Me this war-gear the wise old prince, and acts of honor. At ale he slew not
Hrothgar, gave, and his hest he added, comrade or kin; nor cruel his mood,
that its story be straightway said to thee. -- though of sons of earth his strength was greatest,
A while it was held by Heorogar king, a glorious gift that God had sent
for long time lord of the land of Scyldings; the splendid leader. Long was he spurned,
yet not to his son the sovran left it, and worthless by Geatish warriors held;
XXXI him at mead the master-of-clans
148 failed full oft to favor at all.
BEOWULF Slack and shiftless the strong men deemed him,
to daring Heoroweard, -- dear as he was to him, profitless prince; but payment came,
his harness of battle. -- Well hold thou it all!" to the warrior honored, for all his woes. --
And I heard that soon passed o'er the path of this Then the bulwark-of-earls1 bade bring within,
treasure, hardy chieftain, Hrethel's heirloom
all apple-fallow, four good steeds, garnished with gold: no Geat e'er knew
each like the others, arms and horses in shape of a sword a statelier prize.
he gave to the king. So should kinsmen be, The brand he laid in Beowulf's lap;
not weave one another the net of wiles, and of hides assigned him seven thousand,2
or with deep-hid treachery death contrive with house and high-seat. They held in common
for neighbor and comrade. His nephew was ever XXXI
150 2 This is generally assumed to mean hides, though the
BEOWULF text simply says "seven thousand." A hide in England
land alike by their line of birth, meant about 120 acres, though "the size of the acre
inheritance, home: but higher the king varied."
because of his rule o'er the realm itself. 3 On the historical raid into Frankish territory between
Now further it fell with the flight of years, 512 and 520 A.D. The subsequent course of events, as
with harryings horrid, that Hygelac perished,3 gathered from hints of this epic, is partly told in
and Heardred, too, by hewing of swords Scandinavian legend.
under the shield-wall slaughtered lay, 4 The chronology of this epic, as scholars have worked it
when him at the van of his victor-folk out, would make Beowulf well over ninety years of age
sought hardy heroes, Heatho-Scilfings, when he fights the dragon. But the fifty years of his reign
in arms o'erwhelming Hereric's nephew. need not be taken as historical fact.
Then Beowulf came as king this broad 5 The text is here hopelessly illegible, and only the
realm to wield; and he ruled it well general drift of the meaning can be rescued. For one
fifty winters,4 a wise old prince, thing, we have the old myth of a dragon who guards
warding his land, until One began hidden treasure. But with this runs the story of some
in the dark of night, a Dragon, to rage. noble, last of his race, who hides all his wealth within this
In the grave on the hill a hoard it guarded, barrow and there chants his farewell to life's glories. After
in the stone-barrow steep. A strait path reached it, his death the dragon takes possession of the hoard and
XXXI watches over it. A condemned or banished man,
151 desperate, hides in the barrow, discovers the treasure,
BEOWULF and while the dragon sleeps, makes off with a golden
unknown to mortals. Some man, however, beaker or the like, and carries it for propitiation to his
came by chance that cave within master. The dragon discovers the loss and exacts fearful
to the heathen hoard.5 In hand he took penalty from the people round about.
a golden goblet, nor gave he it back, XXXI
stole with it away, while the watcher slept, 152
by thievish wiles: for the warden's wrath BEOWULF
prince and people must pay betimes! XXXII
1 Hygelac. THAT way he went with no will of his own,
in danger of life, to the dragon's hoard,
but for pressure of peril, some prince's thane. robbed them of life and a liegeman's joys.
He fled in fear the fatal scourge, None have I left to lift the sword,
seeking shelter, a sinful man, or to cleanse the carven cup of price,
and entered in. At the awful sight beaker bright. My brave are gone.
tottered that guest, and terror seized him; And the helmet hard, all haughty with gold,
yet the wretched fugitive rallied anon XXXII
from fright and fear ere he fled away, 154
and took the cup from that treasure-hoard. BEOWULF
Of such besides there was store enough, shall part from its plating. Polishers sleep
heirlooms old, the earth below, who could brighten and burnish the battle-mask;
which some earl forgotten, in ancient years, and those weeds of war that were wont to brave
left the last of his lofty race, over bicker of shields the bite of steel
heedfully there had hidden away, rust with their bearer. The ringed mail
dearest treasure. For death of yore fares not far with famous chieftain,
had hurried all hence; and he alone at side of hero! No harp's delight,
XXXII no glee-wood's gladness! No good hawk now
153 flies through the hall! Nor horses fleet
BEOWULF stamp in the burgstead! Battle and death
left to live, the last of the clan, the flower of my race have reft away."
weeping his friends, yet wished to bide Mournful of mood, thus he moaned his woe,
warding the treasure, his one delight, alone, for them all, and unblithe wept
though brief his respite. The barrow, new-ready, by day and by night, till death's fell wave
to strand and sea-waves stood anear, o'erwhelmed his heart. His hoard-of-bliss
hard by the headland, hidden and closed; that old ill-doer open found,
there laid within it his lordly heirlooms who, blazing at twilight the barrows haunteth,
and heaped hoard of heavy gold naked foe-dragon flying by night
that warden of rings. Few words he spake: XXXII
"Now hold thou, earth, since heroes may not, 155
what earls have owned! Lo, erst from thee BEOWULF
brave men brought it! But battle-death seized folded in fire: the folk of earth
and cruel killing my clansmen all, dread him sore. 'Tis his doom to seek
hoard in the graves, and heathen gold boiling with wrath was the barrow's keeper,
to watch, many-wintered: nor wins he thereby! and fain with flame the foe to pay
Powerful this plague-of-the-people thus for the dear cup's loss. -- Now day was fled
held the house of the hoard in earth as the worm had wished. By its wall no more
three hundred winters; till One aroused was it glad to bide, but burning flew
wrath in his breast, to the ruler bearing folded in flame: a fearful beginning
that costly cup, and the king implored XXXII
for bond of peace. So the barrow was plundered, 157
borne off was booty. His boon was granted BEOWULF
that wretched man; and his ruler saw for sons of the soil; and soon it came,
first time what was fashioned in far-off days. in the doom of their lord, to a dreadful end.
When the dragon awoke, new woe was kindled. XXXII
O'er the stone he snuffed. The stark-heart found 158
footprint of foe who so far had gone BEOWULF
in his hidden craft by the creature's head. -- XXXIII
So may the undoomed easily flee THEN the baleful fiend its fire belched out,
XXXII and bright homes burned. The blaze stood high
156 all landsfolk frighting. No living thing
BEOWULF would that loathly one leave as aloft it flew.
evils and exile, if only he gain Wide was the dragon's warring seen,
the grace of The Wielder! -- That warden of gold its fiendish fury far and near,
o'er the ground went seeking, greedy to find as the grim destroyer those Geatish people
the man who wrought him such wrong in sleep. hated and hounded. To hidden lair,
Savage and burning, the barrow he circled to its hoard it hastened at hint of dawn.
all without; nor was any there, Folk of the land it had lapped in flame,
none in the waste.... Yet war he desired, with bale and brand. In its barrow it trusted,
was eager for battle. The barrow he entered, its battling and bulwarks: that boast was vain!
sought the cup, and discovered soon To Beowulf then the bale was told
that some one of mortals had searched his treasure, quickly and truly: the king's own home,
his lordly gold. The guardian waited of buildings the best, in brand-waves melted,
ill-enduring till evening came; that gift-throne of Geats. To the good old man
XXXIII and in grapple had killed the kin of Grendel,
159 loathsome breed! Not least was that
BEOWULF of hand-to-hand fights where Hygelac fell,
sad in heart, 'twas heaviest sorrow. when the ruler of Geats in rush of battle,
The sage assumed that his sovran God lord of his folk, in the Frisian land,
he had angered, breaking ancient law, son of Hrethel, by sword-draughts died,
and embittered the Lord. His breast within by brands down-beaten. Thence Beowulf fled
with black thoughts welled, as his wont was never. through strength of himself and his swimming power,
The folk's own fastness that fiery dragon though alone, and his arms were laden with thirty
with flame had destroyed, and the stronghold all coats of mail, when he came to the sea!
washed by waves; but the warlike king, Nor yet might Hetwaras2 haughtily boast
prince of the Weders, plotted vengeance. XXXIII
Warriors'-bulwark, he bade them work 161
all of iron -- the earl's commander -- BEOWULF
a war-shield wondrous: well he knew their craft of contest, who carried against him
that forest-wood against fire were worthless, shields to the fight: but few escaped
linden could aid not. -- Atheling brave, from strife with the hero to seek their homes!
he was fated to finish this fleeting life,1 Then swam over ocean Ecgtheow's son
his days on earth, and the dragon with him, lonely and sorrowful, seeking his land,
though long it had watched o'er the wealth of the hoard! - where Hygd made him offer of hoard and realm,
Shame he reckoned it, sharer-of-rings, rings and royal-seat, reckoning naught
XXXIII the strength of her son to save their kingdom
160 from hostile hordes, after Hygelac's death.
BEOWULF No sooner for this could the stricken ones
to follow the flyer-afar with a host, in any wise move that atheling's mind
a broad-flung band; nor the battle feared he, over young Heardred's head as lord
nor deemed he dreadful the dragon's warring, and ruler of all the realm to be:
its vigor and valor: ventures desperate yet the hero upheld him with helpful words,
he had passed a-plenty, and perils of war, aided in honor, till, older grown,
contest-crash, since, conqueror proud, he wielded the Weder-Geats. -- Wandering exiles
Hrothgar's hall he had wholly purged, sought him o'er seas, the sons of Ohtere,
who had spurned the sway of the Scylfings'-helmet, had passed a plenty, through perils dire,
XXXIII with daring deeds, till this day was come
162 that doomed him now with the dragon to strive.
BEOWULF With comrades eleven the lord of Geats
the bravest and best that broke the rings, swollen in rage went seeking the dragon.
in Swedish land, of the sea-kings' line, He had heard whence all the harm arose
haughty hero.3 Hence Heardred's end. and the killing of clansmen; that cup of price
For shelter he gave them, sword-death came, on the lap of the lord had been laid by the finder.
the blade's fell blow, to bairn of Hygelac; In the throng was this one thirteenth man,
but the son of Ongentheow sought again starter of all the strife and ill,
house and home when Heardred fell, XXXIV
leaving Beowulf lord of Geats 164
and gift-seat's master. -- A good king he! BEOWULF
1 Literally "loan-days," days loaned to man. care-laden captive; cringing thence
2 Chattuarii, a tribe that dwelt along the Rhine, and took forced and reluctant, he led them on
part in repelling the raid of (Hygelac) Chocilaicus. till he came in ken of that cavern-hall,
3 Onla, son of Ongentheow, who pursues his two the barrow delved near billowy surges,
nephews Eanmund and Eadgils to Heardred's court, flood of ocean. Within 'twas full
where they have taken refuge after their unsuccessful of wire-gold and jewels; a jealous warden,
rebellion. In the fighting Heardred is killed. warrior trusty, the treasures held,
XXXIII lurked in his lair. Not light the task
163 of entrance for any of earth-born men!
BEOWULF Sat on the headland the hero king,
XXXIV spake words of hail to his hearth-companions,
THE fall of his lord he was fain to requite gold-friend of Geats. All gloomy his soul,
in after days; and to Eadgils he proved wavering, death-bound. Wyrd full nigh
friend to the friendless, and forces sent stood ready to greet the gray-haired man,
over the sea to the son of Ohtere, to seize his soul-hoard, sunder apart
weapons and warriors: well repaid he life and body. Not long would be
those care-paths cold when the king he slew.1 the warrior's spirit enwound with flesh.
Thus safe through struggles the son of Ecgtheow Beowulf spake, the bairn of Ecgtheow: --
XXXIV of the heir gone elsewhere;3 another he hopes not
165 he will bide to see his burg within
BEOWULF as ward for his wealth, now the one has found
"Through store of struggles I strove in youth, doom of death that the deed incurred.
mighty feuds; I mind them all. Forlorn he looks on the lodge of his son,
I was seven years old when the sovran of rings, wine-hall waste and wind-swept chambers
friend-of-his-folk, from my father took me, reft of revel. The rider sleepeth,
had me, and held me, Hrethel the king, the hero, far-hidden;4 no harp resounds,
with food and fee, faithful in kinship. in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.
Ne'er, while I lived there, he loathlier found me, 1 That is, Beowulf supports Eadgils against Onela, who is
bairn in the burg, than his birthright sons, slain by Eadgils in revenge for the "care-paths" of exile
Herebeald and Haethcyn and Hygelac mine. into which Onela forced him.
For the eldest of these, by unmeet chance, XXXIV
by kinsman's deed, was the death-bed strewn, 167
when Haethcyn killed him with horny bow, BEOWULF
his own dear liege laid low with an arrow, 2 That is, the king could claim no wergild, or man-price,
missed the mark and his mate shot down, from one son for the
one brother the other, with bloody shaft. killing of the other.
A feeless fight,2 and a fearful sin, 3 Usual euphemism for death.
horror to Hrethel; yet, hard as it was, 4 Sc. in the grave.
unavenged must the atheling die! XXXIV
Too awful it is for an aged man "THEN he goes to his chamber, a grief-song chants
to bide and bear, that his bairn so young alone for his lost. Too large all seems,
rides on the gallows. A rime he makes, homestead and house. So the helmet-of-Weders
sorrow-song for his son there hanging hid in his heart for Herebeald
as rapture of ravens; no rescue now waves of woe. No way could he take
can come from the old, disabled man! to avenge on the slayer slaughter so foul;
Still is he minded, as morning breaks, nor e'en could he harass that hero at all
with loathing deed, though he loved him not. XXXV
And so for the sorrow his soul endured, 170
men's gladness he gave up and God's light chose. BEOWULF
Lands and cities he left his sons or from men of the Gifths, to get him help, --
(as the wealthy do) when he went from earth. some warrior worse for wage to buy!
There was strife and struggle 'twixt Swede and Geat Ever I fought in the front of all,
o'er the width of waters; war arose, sole to the fore; and so shall I fight
hard battle-horror, when Hrethel died, while I bide in life and this blade shall last
and Ongentheow's offspring grew that early and late hath loyal proved
strife-keen, bold, nor brooked o'er the seas since for my doughtiness Daeghrefn fell,
XXXV slain by my hand, the Hugas' champion.
169 Nor fared he thence to the Frisian king
BEOWULF with the booty back, and breast-adornments;
pact of peace, but pushed their hosts but, slain in struggle, that standard-bearer
to harass in hatred by Hreosnabeorh. fell, atheling brave. Not with blade was he slain,
Men of my folk for that feud had vengeance, but his bones were broken by brawny gripe,
for woeful war ('tis widely known), his heart-waves stilled. -- The sword-edge now,
though one of them bought it with blood of his heart, hard blade and my hand, for the hoard shall strive."
a bargain hard: for Haethcyn proved Beowulf spake, and a battle-vow made
fatal that fray, for the first-of-Geats. his last of all: "I have lived through many
At morn, I heard, was the murderer killed wars in my youth; now once again,
by kinsman for kinsman,1 with clash of sword, XXXV
when Ongentheow met Eofor there. 171
Wide split the war-helm: wan he fell, BEOWULF
hoary Scylfing; the hand that smote him old folk-defender, feud will I seek,
of feud was mindful, nor flinched from the death-blow. do doughty deeds, if the dark destroyer
-- "For all that he2 gave me, my gleaming sword forth from his cavern come to fight me!"
repaid him at war, -- such power I wielded, -- Then hailed he the helmeted heroes all,
for lordly treasure: with land he entrusted me, for the last time greeting his liegemen dear,
homestead and house. He had no need comrades of war: "I should carry no weapon,
from Swedish realm, or from Spear-Dane folk, no sword to the serpent, if sure I knew
how, with such enemy, else my vows he never could hope unharmed to near,
I could gain as I did in Grendel's day. XXXV
But fire in this fight I must fear me now, 173
and poisonous breath; so I bring with me BEOWULF
breastplate and board.3 From the barrow's keeper or endure those deeps,4 for the dragon's flame.
no footbreadth flee I. One fight shall end Then let from his breast, for he burst with rage,
our war by the wall, as Wyrd allots, the Weder-Geat prince a word outgo;
all mankind's master. My mood is bold stormed the stark-heart; stern went ringing
but forbears to boast o'er this battling-flyer. and clear his cry 'neath the cliff-rocks gray.
-- Now abide by the barrow, ye breastplate-mailed, The hoard-guard heard a human voice;
ye heroes in harness, which of us twain his rage was enkindled. No respite now
XXXV for pact of peace! The poison-breath
172 of that foul worm first came forth from the cave,
BEOWULF hot reek-of-fight: the rocks resounded.
better from battle-rush bear his wounds. Stout by the stone-way his shield he raised,
Wait ye the finish. The fight is not yours, lord of the Geats, against the loathed-one;
nor meet for any but me alone while with courage keen that coiled foe
to measure might with this monster here came seeking strife. The sturdy king
and play the hero. Hardily I had drawn his sword, not dull of edge,
shall win that wealth, or war shall seize, heirloom old; and each of the two
cruel killing, your king and lord!" felt fear of his foe, though fierce their mood.
Up stood then with shield the sturdy champion, Stoutly stood with his shield high-raised
stayed by the strength of his single manhood, XXXV
and hardy 'neath helmet his harness bore 174
under cleft of the cliffs: no coward's path! BEOWULF
Soon spied by the wall that warrior chief, the warrior king, as the worm now coiled
survivor of many a victory-field together amain: the mailed-one waited.
where foemen fought with furious clashings, Now, spire by spire, fast sped and glided
an arch of stone; and within, a stream that blazing serpent. The shield protected,
that broke from the barrow. The brooklet's wave soul and body a shorter while
was hot with fire. The hoard that way for the hero-king than his heart desired,
could his will have wielded the welcome respite can never be marred in a noble mind!
but once in his life! But Wyrd denied it, XXXV
and victory's honors. -- His arm he lifted 176
lord of the Geats, the grim foe smote BEOWULF
with atheling's heirloom. Its edge was turned 1 Eofor for Wulf. -- The immediate provocation for Eofor
brown blade, on the bone, and bit more feebly in killing "the hoary Scylfing," Ongentheow, is that the
than its noble master had need of then latter has just struck Wulf down; but the king, Haethcyn,
in his baleful stress. -- Then the barrow's keeper is also avenged by the blow. See the detailed description
waxed full wild for that weighty blow, below.
cast deadly flames; wide drove and far 2 Hygelac.
those vicious fires. No victor's glory 3 Shield.
the Geats' lord boasted; his brand had failed, 4 The hollow passage.
175 177
naked in battle, as never it should, XXXVI
excellent iron! -- 'Twas no easy path WIGLAF his name was, Weohstan's son,
that Ecgtheow's honored heir must tread linden-thane loved, the lord of Scylfings,
over the plain to the place of the foe; Aelfhere's kinsman. His king he now saw
for against his will he must win a home with heat under helmet hard oppressed.
elsewhere far, as must all men, leaving He minded the prizes his prince had given him,
this lapsing life! -- Not long it was wealthy seat of the Waegmunding line,
ere those champions grimly closed again. and folk-rights that his father owned
The hoard-guard was heartened; high heaved his breast Not long he lingered. The linden yellow,
once more; and by peril was pressed again, his shield, he seized; the old sword he drew: --
enfolded in flames, the folk-commander! as heirloom of Eanmund earth-dwellers knew it,
Nor yet about him his band of comrades, who was slain by the sword-edge, son of Ohtere,
sons of athelings, armed stood friendless exile, erst in fray
with warlike front: to the woods they bent them, killed by Weohstan, who won for his kin
their lives to save. But the soul of one brown-bright helmet, breastplate ringed,
with care was cumbered. Kinship true old sword of Eotens, Onela's gift,
weeds of war of the warrior-thane, and hardy 'neath helm, though this hero-work
battle-gear brave: though a brother's child our leader hoped unhelped and alone
XXXVI to finish for us, -- folk-defender
178 who hath got him glory greater than all men
BEOWULF for daring deeds! Now the day is come
had been felled, the feud was unfelt by Onela.1 that our noble master has need of the might
For winters this war-gear Weohstan kept, of warriors stout. Let us stride along
breastplate and board, till his bairn had grown the hero to help while the heat is about him
earlship to earn as the old sire did: glowing and grim! For God is my witness
then he gave him, mid Geats, the gear of battle, I am far more fain the fire should seize
portion huge, when he passed from life, along with my lord these limbs of mine!3
fared aged forth. For the first time now Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear
with his leader-lord the liegeman young homeward hence, save here we essay
was bidden to share the shock of battle. XXXVI
Neither softened his soul, nor the sire's bequest 180
weakened in war.2 So the worm found out BEOWULF
when once in fight the foes had met! to fell the foe and defend the life
Wiglaf spake, -- and his words were sage; of the Weders' lord. I wot 'twere shame
sad in spirit, he said to his comrades: -- on the law of our land if alone the king
"I remember the time, when mead we took, out of Geatish warriors woe endured
what promise we made to this prince of ours and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,
in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings, breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!"
for gear of combat to give him requital, Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,
XXXVI his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake: --
179 "Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,
BEOWULF as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst
for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise
stress of this sort! Himself who chose us thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,
from all his army to aid him now, atheling steadfast, with all thy strength
urged us to glory, and gave these treasures, shield thy life! I will stand to help thee."
because he counted us keen with the spear At the words the worm came once again,
murderous monster mad with rage, 1 That is, although Eanmund was brother's son to Onela,
with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek, the slaying of the former by Weohstan is not felt as cause
the hated men. In heat-waves burned of feud, and is rewarded by gift of the slain man's
XXXVI weapons.
181 2 Both Wiglaf and the sword did their duty. -- The
BEOWULF following is one of the classic passages for illustrating the
that board4 to the boss, and the breastplate failed comitatus as the most conspicuous Germanic institution,
to shelter at all the spear-thane young. and its underlying sense of duty, based partly on the idea
Yet quickly under his kinsman's shield of loyalty and partly on the practical basis of benefits
went eager the earl, since his own was now received and repaid.
all burned by the blaze. The bold king again 3 Sc. "than to bide safely here," -- a common figure of
had mind of his glory: with might his glaive incomplete comparison.
was driven into the dragon's head, -- 4 Wiglaf's wooden shield.
blow nerved by hate. But Naegling5 was shivered, 5 Gering would translate "kinsman of the nail," as both
broken in battle was Beowulf's sword, are made of iron.
old and gray. 'Twas granted him not XXXVI
that ever the edge of iron at all 183
could help him at strife: too strong was his hand, BEOWULF
so the tale is told, and he tried too far XXXVII
with strength of stroke all swords he wielded, 'TWAS now, men say, in his sovran's need
though sturdy their steel: they steadied him nought. that the earl made known his noble strain,
Then for the third time thought on its feud craft and keenness and courage enduring.
that folk-destroyer, fire-dread dragon, Heedless of harm, though his hand was burned,
and rushed on the hero, where room allowed, hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman.
XXXVI A little lower the loathsome beast
182 he smote with sword; his steel drove in
BEOWULF bright and burnished; that blaze began
battle-grim, burning; its bitter teeth to lose and lessen. At last the king
closed on his neck, and covered him wielded his wits again, war-knife drew,
with waves of blood from his breast that welled. a biting blade by his breastplate hanging,
and the Weders'-helm smote that worm asunder,
felled the foe, flung forth its life. that any heir should after me come
So had they killed it, kinsmen both, of my proper blood. This people I ruled
athelings twain: thus an earl should be fifty winters. No folk-king was there,
in danger's day! -- Of deeds of valor none at all, of the neighboring clans
this conqueror's-hour of the king was last, who war would wage me with 'warriors'-friends'1
XXXVII and threat me with horrors. At home I bided
184 what fate might come, and I cared for mine own;
BEOWULF feuds I sought not, nor falsely swore
of his work in the world. The wound began, ever on oath. For all these things,
which that dragon-of-earth had erst inflicted, though fatally wounded, fain am I!
to swell and smart; and soon he found From the Ruler-of-Man no wrath shall seize me,
in his breast was boiling, baleful and deep, when life from my frame must flee away,
pain of poison. The prince walked on, for killing of kinsmen! Now quickly go
wise in his thought, to the wall of rock; and gaze on that hoard 'neath the hoary rock,
then sat, and stared at the structure of giants, Wiglaf loved, now the worm lies low,
where arch of stone and steadfast column sleeps, heart-sore, of his spoil bereaved.
upheld forever that hall in earth. XXXVII
Yet here must the hand of the henchman peerless 186
lave with water his winsome lord, BEOWULF
the king and conqueror covered with blood, And fare in haste. I would fain behold
with struggle spent, and unspan his helmet. the gorgeous heirlooms, golden store,
Beowulf spake in spite of his hurt, have joy in the jewels and gems, lay down
his mortal wound; full well he knew softlier for sight of this splendid hoard
his portion now was past and gone my life and the lordship I long have held."
of earthly bliss, and all had fled 1 That is, swords.
of his file of days, and death was near: XXXVII
"I would fain bestow on son of mine I HAVE heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan
this gear of war, were given me now at wish and word of his wounded king, --
war-sick warrior, -- woven mail-coat, at midnight hour, till it met its doom.
battle-sark, bore 'neath the barrow's roof. Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him
Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud, his track to retrace; he was troubled by doubt,
passing the seat,1 saw store of jewels high-souled hero, if haply he'd find
and glistening gold the ground along; alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,
by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel XXXVIII
in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old: 189
unburnished bowls of bygone men BEOWULF
reft of richness; rusty helms weakening fast by the wall of the cave.
of the olden age; and arm-rings many So he carried the load. His lord and king
wondrously woven. -- Such wealth of gold, he found all bleeding, famous chief
booty from barrow, can burden with pride at the lapse of life. The liegeman again
each human wight: let him hide it who will! -- plashed him with water, till point of word
His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,
high o'er the hoard, of handiwork noblest, sage and sad, as he stared at the gold. --
XXXVIII "For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,
188 to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,
BEOWULF for what I behold, to Heaven's Lord,
brilliantly broidered; so bright its gleam, for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk
all the earth-floor he easily saw or ever the day of my death be run!
and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now Now I've bartered here for booty of treasure
was seen of the serpent: the sword had ta'en him. the last of my life, so look ye well
Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft, to the needs of my land! No longer I tarry.
old work of giants, by one alone; A barrow bid ye the battle-fanned raise
he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate for my ashes. 'Twill shine by the shore of the flood,
at his own good will, and the ensign took, to folk of mine memorial fair
brightest of beacons. -- The blade of his lord XXXVIII
-- its edge was iron -- had injured deep 190
one that guarded the golden hoard BEOWULF
many a year and its murder-fire on Hrones Headland high uplifted,
spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows that ocean-wanderers oft may hail
Beowulf's Barrow, as back from far at midnight, making its merriment seen,
they drive their keels o'er the darkling wave." proud of its prizes: prone it sank
From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold, by the handiwork of the hero-king.
valorous king, to his vassal gave it Forsooth among folk but few achieve,
with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring, -- though sturdy and strong, as stories tell me,
to the youthful thane: bade him use them in joy. XXXIX
"Thou art end and remnant of all our race 192
the Waegmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them, BEOWULF
all my line, to the land of doom, and never so daring in deed of valor, --
earls in their glory: I after them go." the perilous breath of a poison-foe
This word was the last which the wise old man to brave, and to rush on the ring-board hall,
harbored in heart ere hot death-waves whenever his watch the warden keeps
of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled bold in the barrow. Beowulf paid
his soul to seek the saints' reward. the price of death for that precious hoard;
1 Where Beowulf lay. and each of the foes had found the end
XXXVIII of this fleeting life.
191 Befell erelong
BEOWULF that the laggards in war the wood had left,
XXXIX trothbreakers, cowards, ten together,
IT was heavy hap for that hero young fearing before to flourish a spear
on his lord beloved to look and find him in the sore distress of their sovran lord.
lying on earth with life at end, Now in their shame their shields they carried,
sorrowful sight. But the slayer too, armor of fight, where the old man lay;
awful earth-dragon, empty of breath, and they gazed on Wiglaf. Wearied he sat
lay felled in fight, nor, fain of its treasure, at his sovran's shoulder, shieldsman good,
could the writhing monster rule it more. to wake him with water.2 Nowise it availed.
For edges of iron had ended its days, XXXIX
hard and battle-sharp, hammers' leaving;1 193
and that flier-afar had fallen to ground BEOWULF
hushed by its hurt, its hoard all near, Though well he wished it, in world no more
no longer lusty aloft to whirl could he barrier life for that leader-of-battles
nor baffle the will of all-wielding God. joy of the house and home-delight
Doom of the Lord was law o'er the deeds shall fail your folk; his freehold-land
of every man, as it is to-day. every clansman within your kin
Grim was the answer, easy to get, shall lose and leave, when lords highborn
from the youth for those that had yielded to fear! hear afar of that flight of yours,
Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan, -- a fameless deed. Yea, death is better
mournful he looked on those men unloved: -- XXXIX
"Who sooth will speak, can say indeed 195
that the ruler who gave you golden rings BEOWULF
and the harness of war in which ye stand for liegemen all than a life of shame!"
-- for he at ale-bench often-times 1 What had been left or made by the hammer; well-
bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate, forged.
lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear 2Trying to revive him.
which near of far he could find to give, -- XXXIX
threw away and wasted these weeds of battle, 196
on men who failed when the foemen came! BEOWULF
194 THAT battle-toil bade he at burg to announce,
BEOWULF at the fort on the cliff, where, full of sorrow,
Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms all the morning earls had sat,
venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder, daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain:
God, gave him grace that he got revenge would they wail as dead, or welcome home,
sole with his sword in stress and need. their lord beloved? Little1 kept back
To rescue his life, 'twas little that I of the tidings new, but told them all,
could serve him in struggle; yet shift I made the herald that up the headland rode. --
(hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman. "Now the willing-giver to Weder folk
Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck in death-bed lies; the Lord of Geats
that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly on the slaughter-bed sleeps by the serpent's deed!
flowed from its head. -- Too few the heroes And beside him is stretched that slayer-of-men
in throe of contest that thronged to our king! with knife-wounds sick:2 no sword availed
Now gift of treasure and girding of sword, on the awesome thing in any wise
to work a wound. There Wiglaf sitteth, his good wife rescued, though robbed of her gold,
Weohstan's bairn, by Beowulf's side, mother of Ohtere and Onela.
the living earl by the other dead, Then he followed his foes, who fled before him
XL sore beset and stole their way,
197 bereft of a ruler, to Ravenswood.
BEOWULF With his host he besieged there what swords had left,
and heavy of heart a head-watch3 keeps the weary and wounded; woes he threatened
o'er friend and foe. -- Now our folk may look the whole night through to that hard-pressed throng:
for waging of war when once unhidden some with the morrow his sword should kill,
to Frisian and Frank the fall of the king some should go to the gallows-tree
is spread afar. -- The strife began for rapture of ravens. But rescue came
when hot on the Hugas4 Hygelac fell with dawn of day for those desperate men
and fared with his fleet to the Frisian land. when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,
Him there the Hetwaras humbled in war, XL
plied with such prowess their power o'erwhelming 199
that the bold-in-battle bowed beneath it BEOWULF
and fell in fight. To his friends no wise tones of his trumpet; the trusty king
could that earl give treasure! And ever since had followed their trail with faithful band.
the Merowings' favor has failed us wholly. 1 Nothing.
Nor aught expect I of peace and faith 2 Dead.
from Swedish folk. 'Twas spread afar 3 Death-watch, guard of honor, "lyke-wake."
how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood 4 A name for the Franks.
Haethcyn Hrethling of hope and life, 5 Ongentheow.
when the folk of Geats for the first time sought 6Haethcyn.
198 200
in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings. XLI
Soon the sage old sire5 of Ohtere, "THE bloody swath of Swedes and Geats
ancient and awful, gave answering blow; and the storm of their strife, were seen afar,
the sea-king6 he slew, and his spouse redeemed, how folk against folk the fight had wakened.
The ancient king with his atheling band Then the hardy Hygelac-thane,2
sought his citadel, sorrowing much: when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,
Ongentheow earl went up to his burg. giants' sword crashing through giants'-helm
He had tested Hygelac's hardihood, across the shield-wall: sank the king,
the proud one's prowess, would prove it no longer, XLI
defied no more those fighting-wanderers 202
nor hoped from the seamen to save his hoard, BEOWULF
his bairn and his bride: so he bent him again, his folk's old herdsman, fatally hurt.
old, to his earth-walls. Yet after him came There were many to bind the brother's wounds
with slaughter for Swedes the standards of Hygelac and lift him, fast as fate allowed
o'er peaceful plains in pride advancing, his people to wield the place-of-war.
till Hrethelings fought in the fenced town.1 But Eofor took from Ongentheow,
Then Ongentheow with edge of sword, earl from other, the iron-breastplate,
the hoary-bearded, was held at bay, hard sword hilted, and helmet too,
XLI and the hoar-chief's harness to Hygelac carried,
201 who took the trappings, and truly promised
BEOWULF rich fee 'mid folk, -- and fulfilled it so.
and the folk-king there was forced to suffer For that grim strife gave the Geatish lord,
Eofor's anger. In ire, at the king Hrethel's offspring, when home he came,
Wulf Wonreding with weapon struck; to Eofor and Wulf a wealth of treasure,
and the chieftain's blood, for that blow, in streams Each of them had a hundred thousand3
flowed 'neath his hair. No fear felt he, in land and linked rings; nor at less price reckoned
stout old Scylfing, but straightway repaid mid-earth men such mighty deeds!
in better bargain that bitter stroke And to Eofor he gave his only daughter
and faced his foe with fell intent. in pledge of grace, the pride of his home.
Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred XLI
answer to render the aged chief; 203
too soon on his head the helm was cloven; BEOWULF
blood-bedecked he bowed to earth, "Such is the feud, the foeman's rage,
and fell adown; not doomed was he yet, death-hate of men: so I deem it sure
and well he waxed, though the wound was sore. that the Swedish folk will seek us home
for this fall of their friends, the fighting-Scylfings, of word or of work. The warriors rose;
when once they learn that our warrior leader sad, they climbed to the Cliff-of-Eagles,
lifeless lies, who land and hoard went, welling with tears, the wonder to view.
ever defended from all his foes, XLI
furthered his folk's weal, finished his course 205
a hardy hero. -- Now haste is best, BEOWULF
that we go to gaze on our Geatish lord, Found on the sand there, stretched at rest,
and bear the bountiful breaker-of-rings their lifeless lord, who had lavished rings
to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely of old upon them. Ending-day
shall burn with the warrior. Wealth of jewels, had dawned on the doughty-one; death had seized
gold untold and gained in terror, in woeful slaughter the Weders' king.
treasure at last with his life obtained, There saw they, besides, the strangest being,
all of that booty the brands shall take, loathsome, lying their leader near,
fire shall eat it. No earl must carry prone on the field. The fiery dragon,
XLI fearful fiend, with flame was scorched.
204 Reckoned by feet, it was fifty measures
BEOWULF in length as it lay. Aloft erewhile
memorial jewel. No maiden fair it had revelled by night, and anon come back,
shall wreathe her neck with noble ring: seeking its den; now in death's sure clutch
nay, sad in spirit and shorn of her gold, it had come to the end of its earth-hall joys.
oft shall she pass o'er paths of exile By it there stood the stoups and jars;
now our lord all laughter has laid aside, dishes lay there, and dear-decked swords
all mirth and revel. Many a spear eaten with rust, as, on earth's lap resting,
morning-cold shall be clasped amain, a thousand winters they waited there.
lifted aloft; nor shall lilt of harp XLI
those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven, 206
fain o'er the fallen, his feast shall praise BEOWULF
and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate For all that heritage huge, that gold
when he and the wolf were wasting the slain." of bygone men, was bound by a spell,5
So he told his sorrowful tidings, so the treasure-hall could be touched by none
and little4 he lied, the loyal man of human kind, -- save that Heaven's King,
God himself, might give whom he would, racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.
Helper of Heroes, the hoard to open, -- Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,
even such a man as seemed to him meet. XLII
1 The line may mean: till Hrethelings stormed on the 208
hedged shields, -- i.e. the shield-wall or hedge of BEOWULF
defensive war -- Hrethelings, of course, are Geats. ever the king had kept in view.4
2 Eofor, brother to Wulf Wonreding. Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan: --
3 Sc. "value in" hides and the weight of the gold. "At the mandate of one, oft warriors many
4 Not at all. sorrow must suffer; and so must we.
5 Laid on it when it was put in the barrow. This spell, or in The people's-shepherd showed not aught
our days the "curse," either prevented discovery or of care for our counsel, king beloved!
brought dire ills on the finder and taker. That guardian of gold he should grapple not, urged we,
XLI but let him lie where he long had been
207 in his earth-hall waiting the end of the world,
BEOWULF the hest of heaven. -- This hoard is ours
XLII but grievously gotten; too grim the fate
A PERILOUS path, it proved, he1 trod which thither carried our king and lord.
who heinously hid, that hall within, I was within there, and all I viewed,
wealth under wall! Its watcher had killed the chambered treasure, when chance allowed me
one of a few,2 and the feud was avenged (and my path was made in no pleasant wise)
in woeful fashion. Wondrous seems it, under the earth-wall. Eager, I seized
what manner a man of might and valor such heap from the hoard as hands could bear
oft ends his life, when the earl no longer and hurriedly carried it hither back
in mead-hall may live with loving friends. XLII
So Beowulf, when that barrow's warden 209
he sought, and the struggle; himself knew not BEOWULF
in what wise he should wend from the world at last. to my liege and lord. Alive was he still,
For3 princes potent, who placed the gold, still wielding his wits. The wise old man
with a curse to doomsday covered it deep, spake much in his sorrow, and sent you greetings
so that marked with sin the man should be, and bade that ye build, when he breathed no more,
hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast, on the place of his balefire a barrow high,
memorial mighty. Of men was he No lots they cast for keeping the hoard
worthiest warrior wide earth o'er when once the warriors saw it in hall,
the while he had joy of his jewels and burg. altogether without a guardian,
Let us set out in haste now, the second time XLII
to see and search this store of treasure, 211
these wall-hid wonders, -- the way I show you, -- BEOWULF
where, gathered near, ye may gaze your fill lying there lost. And little they mourned
at broad-gold and rings. Let the bier, soon made, when they had hastily haled it out,
be all in order when out we come, dear-bought treasure! The dragon they cast,
our king and captain to carry thither the worm, o'er the wall for the wave to take,
-- man beloved -- where long he shall bide and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.
safe in the shelter of sovran God." Then the woven gold on a wain was laden --
Then the bairn of Weohstan bade command, countless quite! -- and the king was borne,
XLII hoary hero, to Hrones-Ness.
210 1 Probably the fugitive is meant who discovered the
BEOWULF hoard. Ten Brink and Gering assume that the dragon is
hardy chief, to heroes many meant. "Hid" may well mean here "took while in hiding."
that owned their homesteads, hither to bring 2 That is "one and a few others." But Beowulf seems to
firewood from far -- o'er the folk they ruled -- be indicated.
for the famed-one's funeral. " Fire shall devour 3 Ten Brink points out the strongly heathen character of
and wan flames feed on the fearless warrior this part of the epic. Beowulf's end came, so the old
who oft stood stout in the iron-shower, tradition ran, from his unwitting interference with spell-
when, sped from the string, a storm of arrows bound treasure.
shot o'er the shield-wall: the shaft held firm, 4 A hard saying, variously interpreted. In any case, it is
featly feathered, followed the barb." the somewhat clumsy effort of the Christian poet to tone
And now the sage young son of Weohstan down the heathenism of his material by an edifying
seven chose of the chieftain's thanes, observation.
the best he found that band within, XLII
and went with these warriors, one of eight, 212
under hostile roof. In hand one bore BEOWULF
a lighted torch and led the way. XLIII
THEN fashioned for him the folk of Geats hardy heroes, from hoard in cave, --
firm on the earth a funeral-pile, trusting the ground with treasure of earls,
and hung it with helmets and harness of war gold in the earth, where ever it lies
and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked; useless to men as of yore it was.
and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain, Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,
heroes mourning their master dear. atheling-born, a band of twelve,
Then on the hill that hugest of balefires lament to make, to mourn their king,
the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose XLIII
black over blaze, and blent was the roar BEOWULF
of flame with weeping (the wind was still), chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.
till the fire had broken the frame of bones, They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess
hot at the heart. In heavy mood worthily witnessed: and well it is
their misery moaned they, their master's death. that men their master-friend mightily laud,
Wailing her woe, the widow1 old, heartily love, when hence he goes
her hair upbound, for Beowulf's death from life in the body forlorn away.
sung in her sorrow, and said full oft Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,
she dreaded the doleful days to come, for their hero's passing his hearth-companions:
XLIII quoth that of all the kings of earth,
213 of men he was mildest and most beloved,
BEOWULF to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.
deaths enow, and doom of battle, The end
and shame. -- The smoke by the sky was devoured. 1 Nothing is said of Beowulf's wife in the poem, but
The folk of the Weders fashioned there Bugge surmises that Beowulf finally accepted Hygd's
on the headland a barrow broad and high, offer of kingdom and hoard, and, as was usual, took her
by ocean-farers far descried: into the bargain.
in ten days' time their toil had raised it,
the battle-brave's beacon. Round brands of the pyre
a wall they built, the worthiest ever
that wit could prompt in their wisest men.
They placed in the barrow that precious booty,
the rounds and the rings they had reft erewhile,