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Beowulf, anonymous (translated by Gummere), XXXIX-XLI

XXXIX-XLI

XXXIX

“THE bloody swath of Swedes and Geats

and the storm of their strife, were seen afar,

how folk against folk the fight had wakened.

The ancient king with his atheling band

sought his citadel, sorrowing much:

Ongentheow earl went up to his burg.

He had tested Hygelac's hardihood, the proud one's prowess, would prove it no longer, defied no more those fighting-wanderers

nor hoped from the seamen to save his hoard,

his bairn and his bride: so he bent him again,

old, to his earth-walls. Yet after him came

with slaughter for Swedes the standards of Hygelac

o'er peaceful plains in pride advancing, till Hrethelings fought in the fenced town. {39a}

Then Ongentheow with edge of sword,

the hoary-bearded, was held at bay,

and the folk-king there was forced to suffer

Eofor's anger. In ire, at the king

Wulf Wonreding with weapon struck;

and the chieftain's blood, for that blow, in streams flowed 'neath his hair. No fear felt he,

stout old Scylfing, but straightway repaid

in better bargain that bitter stroke

and faced his foe with fell intent.

Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred

answer to render the aged chief;

too soon on his head the helm was cloven;

blood-bedecked he bowed to earth,

and fell adown; not doomed was he yet,

and well he waxed, though the wound was sore.

Then the hardy Hygelac-thane, {39b}

when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,

giants' sword crashing through giants'-helm across the shield-wall: sank the king,

his folk's old herdsman, fatally hurt. There were many to bind the brother's wounds and lift him, fast as fate allowed

his people to wield the place-of-war.

But Eofor took from Ongentheow,

earl from other, the iron-breastplate,

hard sword hilted, and helmet too,

and the hoar-chief's harness to Hygelac carried, who took the trappings, and truly promised

rich fee 'mid folk, -- and fulfilled it so. For that grim strife gave the Geatish lord,

Hrethel's offspring, when home he came, to Eofor and Wulf a wealth of treasure,

Each of them had a hundred thousand {39c}

in land and linked rings; nor at less price reckoned

mid-earth men such mighty deeds!

And to Eofor he gave his only daughter

in pledge of grace, the pride of his home.

“Such is the feud, the foeman's rage, death-hate of men: so I deem it sure

that the Swedish folk will seek us home

for this fall of their friends, the fighting-Scylfings,

when once they learn that our warrior leader

lifeless lies, who land and hoard

ever defended from all his foes,

furthered his folk's weal, finished his course a hardy hero. -- Now haste is best,

that we go to gaze on our Geatish lord,

and bear the bountiful breaker-of-rings

to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely

shall burn with the warrior. Wealth of jewels,

gold untold and gained in terror,

treasure at last with his life obtained,

all of that booty the brands shall take,

fire shall eat it. No earl must carry

memorial jewel. No maiden fair

shall wreathe her neck with noble ring:

nay, sad in spirit and shorn of her gold,

oft shall she pass o'er paths of exile now our lord all laughter has laid aside,

all mirth and revel. Many a spear

morning-cold shall be clasped amain,

lifted aloft; nor shall lilt of harp

those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven,

fain o'er the fallen, his feast shall praise and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate

when he and the wolf were wasting the slain.”

So he told his sorrowful tidings,

and little {39d} he lied, the loyal man

of word or of work. The warriors rose;

sad, they climbed to the Cliff-of-Eagles,

went, welling with tears, the wonder to view.

Found on the sand there, stretched at rest,

their lifeless lord, who had lavished rings

of old upon them. Ending-day

had dawned on the doughty-one; death had seized

in woful slaughter the Weders' king. There saw they, besides, the strangest being,

loathsome, lying their leader near,

prone on the field. The fiery dragon,

fearful fiend, with flame was scorched.

Reckoned by feet, it was fifty measures

in length as it lay. Aloft erewhile

it had revelled by night, and anon come back,

seeking its den; now in death's sure clutch it had come to the end of its earth-hall joys.

By it there stood the stoups and jars;

dishes lay there, and dear-decked swords

eaten with rust, as, on earth's lap resting, a thousand winters they waited there.

For all that heritage huge, that gold

of bygone men, was bound by a spell, {39e}

so the treasure-hall could be touched by none

of human kind, -- save that Heaven's King, God himself, might give whom he would,

Helper of Heroes, the hoard to open, --

even such a man as seemed to him meet.

XL

A PERILOUS path, it proved, he {40a} trod

who heinously hid, that hall within,

wealth under wall! Its watcher had killed

one of a few, {40b} and the feud was avenged

in woful fashion. Wondrous seems it,

what manner a man of might and valor

oft ends his life, when the earl no longer

in mead-hall may live with loving friends.

So Beowulf, when that barrow's warden he sought, and the struggle; himself knew not

in what wise he should wend from the world at last.

For {40c} princes potent, who placed the gold,

with a curse to doomsday covered it deep,

so that marked with sin the man should be,

hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast,

racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.

Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,

ever the king had kept in view. {40d}

Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan: --

“At the mandate of one, oft warriors many

sorrow must suffer; and so must we.

The people's-shepherd showed not aught of care for our counsel, king beloved!

That guardian of gold he should grapple not, urged we,

but let him lie where he long had been

in his earth-hall waiting the end of the world,

the hest of heaven. -- This hoard is ours

but grievously gotten; too grim the fate

which thither carried our king and lord.

I was within there, and all I viewed,

the chambered treasure, when chance allowed me

(and my path was made in no pleasant wise)

under the earth-wall. Eager, I seized

such heap from the hoard as hands could bear

and hurriedly carried it hither back

to my liege and lord. Alive was he still,

still wielding his wits. The wise old man

spake much in his sorrow, and sent you greetings

and bade that ye build, when he breathed no more,

on the place of his balefire a barrow high,

memorial mighty. Of men was he

worthiest warrior wide earth o'er the while he had joy of his jewels and burg.

Let us set out in haste now, the second time

to see and search this store of treasure,

these wall-hid wonders, -- the way I show you, --

where, gathered near, ye may gaze your fill

at broad-gold and rings. Let the bier, soon made,

be all in order when out we come,

our king and captain to carry thither

-- man beloved -- where long he shall bide

safe in the shelter of sovran God.”

Then the bairn of Weohstan bade command,

hardy chief, to heroes many

that owned their homesteads, hither to bring

firewood from far -- o'er the folk they ruled -- for the famed-one's funeral. “ Fire shall devour

and wan flames feed on the fearless warrior

who oft stood stout in the iron-shower,

when, sped from the string, a storm of arrows

shot o'er the shield-wall: the shaft held firm, featly feathered, followed the barb.”

And now the sage young son of Weohstan

seven chose of the chieftain's thanes, the best he found that band within,

and went with these warriors, one of eight,

under hostile roof. In hand one bore

a lighted torch and led the way.

No lots they cast for keeping the hoard

when once the warriors saw it in hall,

altogether without a guardian,

lying there lost. And little they mourned

when they had hastily haled it out,

dear-bought treasure! The dragon they cast,

the worm, o'er the wall for the wave to take, and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.

Then the woven gold on a wain was laden --

countless quite! -- and the king was borne,

hoary hero, to Hrones-Ness.

XLI

THEN fashioned for him the folk of Geats

firm on the earth a funeral-pile,

and hung it with helmets and harness of war

and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked;

and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain,

heroes mourning their master dear.

Then on the hill that hugest of balefires

the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose

black over blaze, and blent was the roar

of flame with weeping (the wind was still),

till the fire had broken the frame of bones,

hot at the heart. In heavy mood

their misery moaned they, their master's death. Wailing her woe, the widow {41a} old,

her hair upbound, for Beowulf's death sung in her sorrow, and said full oft

she dreaded the doleful days to come,

deaths enow, and doom of battle,

and shame. -- The smoke by the sky was devoured.

The folk of the Weders fashioned there

on the headland a barrow broad and high,

by ocean-farers far descried:

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,

hardy heroes, from hoard in cave, --

trusting the ground with treasure of earls,

gold in the earth, where ever it lies

useless to men as of yore it was.

Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,

atheling-born, a band of twelve,

lament to make, to mourn their king,

chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.

They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess

worthily witnessed: and well it is

that men their master-friend mightily laud,

heartily love, when hence he goes

from life in the body forlorn away.

Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,

for their hero's passing his hearth-companions: quoth that of all the kings of earth,

of men he was mildest and most beloved,

to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.



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XXXIX-XLI

XXXIX

“THE bloody swath of Swedes and Geats

and the storm of their strife, were seen afar,

how folk against folk the fight had wakened.

The ancient king with his atheling band

sought his citadel, sorrowing much:

Ongentheow earl went up to his burg.

He had tested Hygelac's hardihood, the proud one's prowess, would prove it no longer, defied no more those fighting-wanderers

nor hoped from the seamen to save his hoard,

his bairn and his bride: so he bent him again,

old, to his earth-walls. Yet after him came

with slaughter for Swedes the standards of Hygelac

o'er peaceful plains in pride advancing, till Hrethelings fought in the fenced town. {39a}

Then Ongentheow with edge of sword,

the hoary-bearded, was held at bay,

and the folk-king there was forced to suffer

Eofor's anger. In ire, at the king

Wulf Wonreding with weapon struck;

and the chieftain's blood, for that blow, in streams flowed 'neath his hair. No fear felt he,

stout old Scylfing, but straightway repaid

in better bargain that bitter stroke

and faced his foe with fell intent.

Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred

answer to render the aged chief;

too soon on his head the helm was cloven;

blood-bedecked he bowed to earth,

and fell adown; not doomed was he yet,

and well he waxed, though the wound was sore.

Then the hardy Hygelac-thane, {39b}

when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,

giants' sword crashing through giants'-helm across the shield-wall: sank the king,

his folk's old herdsman, fatally hurt. There were many to bind the brother's wounds and lift him, fast as fate allowed

his people to wield the place-of-war.

But Eofor took from Ongentheow,

earl from other, the iron-breastplate,

hard sword hilted, and helmet too,

and the hoar-chief's harness to Hygelac carried, who took the trappings, and truly promised

rich fee 'mid folk, -- and fulfilled it so. For that grim strife gave the Geatish lord,

Hrethel's offspring, when home he came, to Eofor and Wulf a wealth of treasure,

Each of them had a hundred thousand {39c}

in land and linked rings; nor at less price reckoned

mid-earth men such mighty deeds!

And to Eofor he gave his only daughter

in pledge of grace, the pride of his home.

“Such is the feud, the foeman's rage, death-hate of men: so I deem it sure

that the Swedish folk will seek us home

for this fall of their friends, the fighting-Scylfings,

when once they learn that our warrior leader

lifeless lies, who land and hoard

ever defended from all his foes,

furthered his folk's weal, finished his course a hardy hero. -- Now haste is best,

that we go to gaze on our Geatish lord,

and bear the bountiful breaker-of-rings

to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely

shall burn with the warrior. Wealth of jewels,

gold untold and gained in terror,

treasure at last with his life obtained,

all of that booty the brands shall take,

fire shall eat it. No earl must carry

memorial jewel. No maiden fair

shall wreathe her neck with noble ring:

nay, sad in spirit and shorn of her gold,

oft shall she pass o'er paths of exile now our lord all laughter has laid aside,

all mirth and revel. Many a spear

morning-cold shall be clasped amain,

lifted aloft; nor shall lilt of harp

those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven,

fain o'er the fallen, his feast shall praise and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate

when he and the wolf were wasting the slain.”

So he told his sorrowful tidings,

and little {39d} he lied, the loyal man

of word or of work. The warriors rose;

sad, they climbed to the Cliff-of-Eagles,

went, welling with tears, the wonder to view.

Found on the sand there, stretched at rest,

their lifeless lord, who had lavished rings

of old upon them. Ending-day

had dawned on the doughty-one; death had seized

in woful slaughter the Weders' king. There saw they, besides, the strangest being,

loathsome, lying their leader near,

prone on the field. The fiery dragon,

fearful fiend, with flame was scorched.

Reckoned by feet, it was fifty measures

in length as it lay. Aloft erewhile

it had revelled by night, and anon come back,

seeking its den; now in death's sure clutch it had come to the end of its earth-hall joys.

By it there stood the stoups and jars;

dishes lay there, and dear-decked swords

eaten with rust, as, on earth's lap resting, a thousand winters they waited there.

For all that heritage huge, that gold

of bygone men, was bound by a spell, {39e}

so the treasure-hall could be touched by none

of human kind, -- save that Heaven's King, God himself, might give whom he would,

Helper of Heroes, the hoard to open, --

even such a man as seemed to him meet.

XL

A PERILOUS path, it proved, he {40a} trod

who heinously hid, that hall within,

wealth under wall! Its watcher had killed

one of a few, {40b} and the feud was avenged

in woful fashion. Wondrous seems it,

what manner a man of might and valor

oft ends his life, when the earl no longer

in mead-hall may live with loving friends.

So Beowulf, when that barrow's warden he sought, and the struggle; himself knew not

in what wise he should wend from the world at last.

For {40c} princes potent, who placed the gold,

with a curse to doomsday covered it deep,

so that marked with sin the man should be,

hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast,

racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.

Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,

ever the king had kept in view. {40d}

Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan: --

“At the mandate of one, oft warriors many

sorrow must suffer; and so must we.

The people's-shepherd showed not aught of care for our counsel, king beloved!

That guardian of gold he should grapple not, urged we,

but let him lie where he long had been

in his earth-hall waiting the end of the world,

the hest of heaven. -- This hoard is ours

but grievously gotten; too grim the fate

which thither carried our king and lord.

I was within there, and all I viewed,

the chambered treasure, when chance allowed me

(and my path was made in no pleasant wise)

under the earth-wall. Eager, I seized

such heap from the hoard as hands could bear

and hurriedly carried it hither back

to my liege and lord. Alive was he still,

still wielding his wits. The wise old man

spake much in his sorrow, and sent you greetings

and bade that ye build, when he breathed no more,

on the place of his balefire a barrow high,

memorial mighty. Of men was he

worthiest warrior wide earth o'er the while he had joy of his jewels and burg.

Let us set out in haste now, the second time

to see and search this store of treasure,

these wall-hid wonders, -- the way I show you, --

where, gathered near, ye may gaze your fill

at broad-gold and rings. Let the bier, soon made,

be all in order when out we come,

our king and captain to carry thither

-- man beloved -- where long he shall bide

safe in the shelter of sovran God.”

Then the bairn of Weohstan bade command,

hardy chief, to heroes many

that owned their homesteads, hither to bring

firewood from far -- o'er the folk they ruled -- for the famed-one's funeral. “ Fire shall devour

and wan flames feed on the fearless warrior

who oft stood stout in the iron-shower,

when, sped from the string, a storm of arrows

shot o'er the shield-wall: the shaft held firm, featly feathered, followed the barb.”

And now the sage young son of Weohstan

seven chose of the chieftain's thanes, the best he found that band within,

and went with these warriors, one of eight,

under hostile roof. In hand one bore

a lighted torch and led the way.

No lots they cast for keeping the hoard

when once the warriors saw it in hall,

altogether without a guardian,

lying there lost. And little they mourned

when they had hastily haled it out,

dear-bought treasure! The dragon they cast,

the worm, o'er the wall for the wave to take, and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.

Then the woven gold on a wain was laden --

countless quite! -- and the king was borne,

hoary hero, to Hrones-Ness.

XLI

THEN fashioned for him the folk of Geats

firm on the earth a funeral-pile,

and hung it with helmets and harness of war

and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked;

and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain,

heroes mourning their master dear.

Then on the hill that hugest of balefires

the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose

black over blaze, and blent was the roar

of flame with weeping (the wind was still),

till the fire had broken the frame of bones,

hot at the heart. In heavy mood

their misery moaned they, their master's death. Wailing her woe, the widow {41a} old,

her hair upbound, for Beowulf's death sung in her sorrow, and said full oft

she dreaded the doleful days to come,

deaths enow, and doom of battle,

and shame. -- The smoke by the sky was devoured.

The folk of the Weders fashioned there

on the headland a barrow broad and high,

by ocean-farers far descried:

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,

hardy heroes, from hoard in cave, --

trusting the ground with treasure of earls,

gold in the earth, where ever it lies

useless to men as of yore it was.

Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,

atheling-born, a band of twelve,

lament to make, to mourn their king,

chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.

They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess

worthily witnessed: and well it is

that men their master-friend mightily laud,

heartily love, when hence he goes

from life in the body forlorn away.

Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,

for their hero's passing his hearth-companions: quoth that of all the kings of earth,

of men he was mildest and most beloved,

to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.

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