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Beowulf, anonymous (translated by Gummere), XV-XVII

XV-XVII

XV

THERE was hurry and hest in Heorot now

for hands to bedeck it, and dense was the throng

of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse,

the guest-room to garnish. Gold-gay shone the hangings

that were wove on the wall, and wonders many

to delight each mortal that looks upon them.

Though braced within by iron bands,

that building bright was broken sorely;

rent were its hinges; the roof alone

held safe and sound, when, seared with crime,

the fiendish foe his flight essayed,

of life despairing. -- No light thing that,

the flight for safety, -- essay it who will!

Forced of fate, he shall find his way

to the refuge ready for race of man,

for soul-possessors, and sons of earth;

and there his body on bed of death

shall rest after revel.

Arrived was the hour

when to hall proceeded Healfdene's son: the king himself would sit to banquet.

Ne'er heard I of host in haughtier throng more graciously gathered round giver-of-rings!

Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory,

fain of the feasting. Featly received

many a mead-cup the mighty-in-spirit,

kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall,

Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot now

was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings

ne'er yet had tried the traitor's deed. To Beowulf gave the bairn of Healfdene

a gold-wove banner, guerdon of triumph,

broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet;

and a splendid sword was seen of many

borne to the brave one. Beowulf took

cup in hall: for such costly gifts

he suffered no shame in that soldier throng.

For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,

with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,

on the ale-bench honoring others thus!

O'er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge, wound with wires, kept ward o'er the head, lest the relict-of-files should fierce invade,

sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero

should go to grapple against his foes.

Then the earls'-defence on the floor bade lead coursers eight, with carven head-gear,

adown the hall: one horse was decked

with a saddle all shining and set in jewels;

'twas the battle-seat of the best of kings, when to play of swords the son of Healfdene

was fain to fare. Ne'er failed his valor in the crush of combat when corpses fell.

To Beowulf over them both then gave

the refuge-of-Ingwines right and power,

o'er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy of them. Manfully thus the mighty prince,

hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid

with steeds and treasures contemned by none

who is willing to say the sooth aright.

XVI

AND the lord of earls, to each that came

with Beowulf over the briny ways,

an heirloom there at the ale-bench gave,

precious gift; and the price bade pay

in gold for him whom Grendel erst

murdered, -- and fain of them more had killed,

had not wisest God their Wyrd averted,

and the man's brave mood. The Maker then

ruled human kind, as here and now.

Therefore is insight always best,

and forethought of mind. How much awaits him

of lief and of loath, who long time here,

through days of warfare this world endures!

Then song and music mingled sounds

in the presence of Healfdene's head-of-armies and harping was heard with the hero-lay

as Hrothgar's singer the hall-joy woke along the mead-seats, making his song

of that sudden raid on the sons of Finn.

Healfdene's hero, Hnaef the Scylding, was fated to fall in the Frisian slaughter.

Hildeburh needed not hold in value

her enemies' honor! Innocent both

were the loved ones she lost at the linden-play,

bairn and brother, they bowed to fate,

stricken by spears; 'twas a sorrowful woman! None doubted why the daughter of Hoc

bewailed her doom when dawning came,

and under the sky she saw them lying,

kinsmen murdered, where most she had kenned

of the sweets of the world! By war were swept, too,

Finn's own liegemen, and few were left; in the parleying-place he could ply no longer

weapon, nor war could he wage on Hengest,

and rescue his remnant by right of arms

from the prince's thane. A pact he offered:

another dwelling the Danes should have,

hall and high-seat, and half the power

should fall to them in Frisian land;

and at the fee-gifts, Folcwald's son day by day the Danes should honor,

the folk of Hengest favor with rings,

even as truly, with treasure and jewels,

with fretted gold, as his Frisian kin

he meant to honor in ale-hall there.

Pact of peace they plighted further

on both sides firmly. Finn to Hengest

with oath, upon honor, openly promised

that woful remnant, with wise-men's aid, nobly to govern, so none of the guests

by word or work should warp the treaty, {16h}

or with malice of mind bemoan themselves

as forced to follow their fee-giver's slayer, lordless men, as their lot ordained.

Should Frisian, moreover, with foeman's taunt, that murderous hatred to mind recall,

then edge of the sword must seal his doom.

Oaths were given, and ancient gold

heaped from hoard. -- The hardy Scylding,

battle-thane best, on his balefire lay.

All on the pyre were plain to see

the gory sark, the gilded swine-crest,

boar of hard iron, and athelings many

slain by the sword: at the slaughter they fell.

It was Hildeburh's hest, at Hnaef's own pyre the bairn of her body on brands to lay,

his bones to burn, on the balefire placed,

at his uncle's side. In sorrowful dirges

bewept them the woman: great wailing ascended.

Then wound up to welkin the wildest of death-fires,

roared o'er the hillock: {16j} heads all were melted, gashes burst, and blood gushed out

from bites {16k} of the body. Balefire devoured,

greediest spirit, those spared not by war

out of either folk: their flower was gone.

XVII

THEN hastened those heroes their home to see,

friendless, to find the Frisian land,

houses and high burg. Hengest still

through the death-dyed winter dwelt with Finn,

holding pact, yet of home he minded,

though powerless his ring-decked prow to drive

over the waters, now waves rolled fierce

lashed by the winds, or winter locked them

in icy fetters. Then fared another

year to men's dwellings, as yet they do, the sunbright skies, that their season ever

duly await. Far off winter was driven;

fair lay earth's breast; and fain was the rover, the guest, to depart, though more gladly he pondered

on wreaking his vengeance than roaming the deep,

and how to hasten the hot encounter

where sons of the Frisians were sure to be.

So he escaped not the common doom,

when Hun with “Lafing,” the light-of-battle,

best of blades, his bosom pierced:

its edge was famed with the Frisian earls.

On fierce-heart Finn there fell likewise,

on himself at home, the horrid sword-death;

for Guthlaf and Oslaf of grim attack

had sorrowing told, from sea-ways landed,

mourning their woes. Finn's wavering spirit bode not in breast. The burg was reddened

with blood of foemen, and Finn was slain,

king amid clansmen; the queen was taken.

To their ship the Scylding warriors bore

all the chattels the chieftain owned,

whatever they found in Finn's domain of gems and jewels. The gentle wife

o'er paths of the deep to the Danes they bore, led to her land.

The lay was finished,

the gleeman's song. Then glad rose the revel;

bench-joy brightened. Bearers draw

from their “wonder-vats” wine. Comes Wealhtheow forth,

under gold-crown goes where the good pair sit,

uncle and nephew, true each to the other one,

kindred in amity. Unferth the spokesman

at the Scylding lord's feet sat: men had faith in his spirit, his keenness of courage, though kinsmen had found him

unsure at the sword-play. The Scylding queen spoke:

“Quaff of this cup, my king and lord,

breaker of rings, and blithe be thou,

gold-friend of men; to the Geats here speak

such words of mildness as man should use.

Be glad with thy Geats; of those gifts be mindful,

or near or far, which now thou hast.

Men say to me, as son thou wishest

yon hero to hold. Thy Heorot purged,

jewel-hall brightest, enjoy while thou canst,

with many a largess; and leave to thy kin

folk and realm when forth thou goest

to greet thy doom. For gracious I deem

my Hrothulf, willing to hold and rule

nobly our youths, if thou yield up first,

prince of Scyldings, thy part in the world.

I ween with good he will well requite

offspring of ours, when all he minds

that for him we did in his helpless days

of gift and grace to gain him honor!”

Then she turned to the seat where her sons wereplaced,

Hrethric and Hrothmund, with heroes' bairns, young men together: the Geat, too, sat there,

Beowulf brave, the brothers between.


XV-XVII

XV

THERE was hurry and hest in Heorot now

for hands to bedeck it, and dense was the throng

of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse,

the guest-room to garnish. Gold-gay shone the hangings

that were wove on the wall, and wonders many

to delight each mortal that looks upon them.

Though braced within by iron bands,

that building bright was broken sorely;

rent were its hinges; the roof alone

held safe and sound, when, seared with crime,

the fiendish foe his flight essayed,

of life despairing. -- No light thing that,

the flight for safety, -- essay it who will!

Forced of fate, he shall find his way

to the refuge ready for race of man,

for soul-possessors, and sons of earth;

and there his body on bed of death

shall rest after revel.

Arrived was the hour

when to hall proceeded Healfdene's son: the king himself would sit to banquet.

Ne'er heard I of host in haughtier throng more graciously gathered round giver-of-rings!

Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory,

fain of the feasting. Featly received

many a mead-cup the mighty-in-spirit,

kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall,

Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot now

was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings

ne'er yet had tried the traitor's deed. To Beowulf gave the bairn of Healfdene

a gold-wove banner, guerdon of triumph,

broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet;

and a splendid sword was seen of many

borne to the brave one. Beowulf took

cup in hall: for such costly gifts

he suffered no shame in that soldier throng.

For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,

with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,

on the ale-bench honoring others thus!

O'er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge, wound with wires, kept ward o'er the head, lest the relict-of-files should fierce invade,

sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero

should go to grapple against his foes.

Then the earls'-defence on the floor bade lead coursers eight, with carven head-gear,

adown the hall: one horse was decked

with a saddle all shining and set in jewels;

'twas the battle-seat of the best of kings, when to play of swords the son of Healfdene

was fain to fare. Ne'er failed his valor in the crush of combat when corpses fell.

To Beowulf over them both then gave

the refuge-of-Ingwines right and power,

o'er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy of them. Manfully thus the mighty prince,

hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid

with steeds and treasures contemned by none

who is willing to say the sooth aright.

XVI

AND the lord of earls, to each that came

with Beowulf over the briny ways,

an heirloom there at the ale-bench gave,

precious gift; and the price bade pay

in gold for him whom Grendel erst

murdered, -- and fain of them more had killed,

had not wisest God their Wyrd averted,

and the man's brave mood. The Maker then

ruled human kind, as here and now.

Therefore is insight always best,

and forethought of mind. How much awaits him

of lief and of loath, who long time here,

through days of warfare this world endures!

Then song and music mingled sounds

in the presence of Healfdene's head-of-armies and harping was heard with the hero-lay

as Hrothgar's singer the hall-joy woke along the mead-seats, making his song

of that sudden raid on the sons of Finn.

Healfdene's hero, Hnaef the Scylding, was fated to fall in the Frisian slaughter.

Hildeburh needed not hold in value

her enemies' honor! Innocent both

were the loved ones she lost at the linden-play,

bairn and brother, they bowed to fate,

stricken by spears; 'twas a sorrowful woman! None doubted why the daughter of Hoc

bewailed her doom when dawning came,

and under the sky she saw them lying,

kinsmen murdered, where most she had kenned

of the sweets of the world! By war were swept, too,

Finn's own liegemen, and few were left; in the parleying-place he could ply no longer

weapon, nor war could he wage on Hengest,

and rescue his remnant by right of arms

from the prince's thane. A pact he offered:

another dwelling the Danes should have,

hall and high-seat, and half the power

should fall to them in Frisian land;

and at the fee-gifts, Folcwald's son day by day the Danes should honor,

the folk of Hengest favor with rings,

even as truly, with treasure and jewels,

with fretted gold, as his Frisian kin

he meant to honor in ale-hall there.

Pact of peace they plighted further

on both sides firmly. Finn to Hengest

with oath, upon honor, openly promised

that woful remnant, with wise-men's aid, nobly to govern, so none of the guests

by word or work should warp the treaty, {16h}

or with malice of mind bemoan themselves

as forced to follow their fee-giver's slayer, lordless men, as their lot ordained.

Should Frisian, moreover, with foeman's taunt, that murderous hatred to mind recall,

then edge of the sword must seal his doom.

Oaths were given, and ancient gold

heaped from hoard. -- The hardy Scylding,

battle-thane best, on his balefire lay.

All on the pyre were plain to see

the gory sark, the gilded swine-crest,

boar of hard iron, and athelings many

slain by the sword: at the slaughter they fell.

It was Hildeburh's hest, at Hnaef's own pyre the bairn of her body on brands to lay,

his bones to burn, on the balefire placed,

at his uncle's side. In sorrowful dirges

bewept them the woman: great wailing ascended.

Then wound up to welkin the wildest of death-fires,

roared o'er the hillock: {16j} heads all were melted, gashes burst, and blood gushed out

from bites {16k} of the body. Balefire devoured,

greediest spirit, those spared not by war

out of either folk: their flower was gone.

XVII

THEN hastened those heroes their home to see,

friendless, to find the Frisian land,

houses and high burg. Hengest still

through the death-dyed winter dwelt with Finn,

holding pact, yet of home he minded,

though powerless his ring-decked prow to drive

over the waters, now waves rolled fierce

lashed by the winds, or winter locked them

in icy fetters. Then fared another

year to men's dwellings, as yet they do, the sunbright skies, that their season ever

duly await. Far off winter was driven;

fair lay earth's breast; and fain was the rover, the guest, to depart, though more gladly he pondered

on wreaking his vengeance than roaming the deep,

and how to hasten the hot encounter

where sons of the Frisians were sure to be.

So he escaped not the common doom,

when Hun with “Lafing,” the light-of-battle,

best of blades, his bosom pierced:

its edge was famed with the Frisian earls.

On fierce-heart Finn there fell likewise,

on himself at home, the horrid sword-death;

for Guthlaf and Oslaf of grim attack

had sorrowing told, from sea-ways landed,

mourning their woes. Finn's wavering spirit bode not in breast. The burg was reddened

with blood of foemen, and Finn was slain,

king amid clansmen; the queen was taken.

To their ship the Scylding warriors bore

all the chattels the chieftain owned,

whatever they found in Finn's domain of gems and jewels. The gentle wife

o'er paths of the deep to the Danes they bore, led to her land.

The lay was finished,

the gleeman's song. Then glad rose the revel;

bench-joy brightened. Bearers draw

from their “wonder-vats” wine. Comes Wealhtheow forth,

under gold-crown goes where the good pair sit,

uncle and nephew, true each to the other one,

kindred in amity. Unferth the spokesman

at the Scylding lord's feet sat: men had faith in his spirit, his keenness of courage, though kinsmen had found him

unsure at the sword-play. The Scylding queen spoke:

“Quaff of this cup, my king and lord,

breaker of rings, and blithe be thou,

gold-friend of men; to the Geats here speak

such words of mildness as man should use.

Be glad with thy Geats; of those gifts be mindful,

or near or far, which now thou hast.

Men say to me, as son thou wishest

yon hero to hold. Thy Heorot purged,

jewel-hall brightest, enjoy while thou canst,

with many a largess; and leave to thy kin

folk and realm when forth thou goest

to greet thy doom. For gracious I deem

my Hrothulf, willing to hold and rule

nobly our youths, if thou yield up first,

prince of Scyldings, thy part in the world.

I ween with good he will well requite

offspring of ours, when all he minds

that for him we did in his helpless days

of gift and grace to gain him honor!”

Then she turned to the seat where her sons wereplaced,

Hrethric and Hrothmund, with heroes' bairns, young men together: the Geat, too, sat there,

Beowulf brave, the brothers between.