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Beowulf, anonymous (translated by Gummere), XXXVI-XXXVIII

XXXVI-XXXVIII

XXXVI

I HAVE heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan

at wish and word of his wounded king, --

war-sick warrior, -- woven mail-coat,

battle-sark, bore 'neath the barrow's roof.

Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud,

passing the seat, {36a} saw store of jewels

and glistening gold the ground along;

by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel

in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old:

unburnished bowls of bygone men

reft of richness; rusty helms

of the olden age; and arm-rings many

wondrously woven. -- Such wealth of gold,

booty from barrow, can burden with pride

each human wight: let him hide it who will! --

His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner

high o'er the hoard, of handiwork noblest,

brilliantly broidered; so bright its gleam,

all the earth-floor he easily saw

and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now

was seen of the serpent: the sword had ta'en him.

Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft,

old work of giants, by one alone;

he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate

at his own good will, and the ensign took,

brightest of beacons. -- The blade of his lord

-- its edge was iron -- had injured deep

one that guarded the golden hoard

many a year and its murder-fire

spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows

at midnight hour, till it met its doom.

Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him

his track to retrace; he was troubled by doubt,

high-souled hero, if haply he'd find

alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,

weakening fast by the wall of the cave.

So he carried the load. His lord and king

he found all bleeding, famous chief

at the lapse of life. The liegeman again

plashed him with water, till point of word

broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,

sage and sad, as he stared at the gold. --

“For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,

to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,

for what I behold, to Heaven's Lord,

for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk

or ever the day of my death be run!

Now I've bartered here for booty of treasure

the last of my life, so look ye well

to the needs of my land! No longer I tarry.

A barrow bid ye the battle-fanned raise

for my ashes. 'Twill shine by the shore of the flood,

to folk of mine memorial fair

on Hrones Headland high uplifted,

that ocean-wanderers oft may hail

Beowulf's Barrow, as back from far

they drive their keels o'er the darkling wave.”

From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,

valorous king, to his vassal gave it

with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring,

to the youthful thane: bade him use them in joy.

“Thou art end and remnant of all our race

the Waegmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them,

all my line, to the land of doom,

earls in their glory: I after them go.”

This word was the last which the wise old man

harbored in heart ere hot death-waves

of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled

his soul to seek the saints' reward.

XXXVII

IT was heavy hap for that hero young

on his lord beloved to look and find him

lying on earth with life at end,

sorrowful sight. But the slayer too,

awful earth-dragon, empty of breath,

lay felled in fight, nor, fain of its treasure,

could the writhing monster rule it more.

For edges of iron had ended its days,

hard and battle-sharp, hammers' leaving; {37a}

and that flier-afar had fallen to ground

hushed by its hurt, its hoard all near,

no longer lusty aloft to whirl

at midnight, making its merriment seen,

proud of its prizes: prone it sank

by the handiwork of the hero-king.

Forsooth among folk but few achieve,

-- though sturdy and strong, as stories tell me,

and never so daring in deed of valor, --

the perilous breath of a poison-foe

to brave, and to rush on the ring-board hall,

whenever his watch the warden keeps

bold in the barrow. Beowulf paid

the price of death for that precious hoard;

and each of the foes had found the end

of this fleeting life.

Befell erelong

that the laggards in war the wood had left,

trothbreakers, cowards, ten together,

fearing before to flourish a spear

in the sore distress of their sovran lord.

Now in their shame their shields they carried,

armor of fight, where the old man lay;

and they gazed on Wiglaf. Wearied he sat

at his sovran's shoulder, shieldsman good,

to wake him with water. {37b} Nowise it availed.

Though well he wished it, in world no more

could he barrier life for that leader-of-battles

nor baffle the will of all-wielding God.

Doom of the Lord was law o'er the deeds

of every man, as it is to-day.

Grim was the answer, easy to get,

from the youth for those that had yielded to fear!

Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan, --

mournful he looked on those men unloved: --

“Who sooth will speak, can say indeed

that the ruler who gave you golden rings

and the harness of war in which ye stand

-- for he at ale-bench often-times

bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate,

lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear

which near of far he could find to give, --

threw away and wasted these weeds of battle,

on men who failed when the foemen came!

Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms

venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder,

God, gave him grace that he got revenge

sole with his sword in stress and need.

To rescue his life, 'twas little that I

could serve him in struggle; yet shift I made

(hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman.

Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck

that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly

flowed from its head. -- Too few the heroes

in throe of contest that thronged to our king!

Now gift of treasure and girding of sword,

joy of the house and home-delight

shall fail your folk; his freehold-land

every clansman within your kin

shall lose and leave, when lords high-born

hear afar of that flight of yours,

a fameless deed. Yea, death is better

for liegemen all than a life of shame!”

XXXVIII

THAT battle-toil bade he at burg to announce,

at the fort on the cliff, where, full of sorrow,

all the morning earls had sat,

daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain:

would they wail as dead, or welcome home,

their lord beloved? Little {38a} kept back

of the tidings new, but told them all,

the herald that up the headland rode. --

“Now the willing-giver to Weder folk

in death-bed lies; the Lord of Geats

on the slaughter-bed sleeps by the serpent's deed!

And beside him is stretched that slayer-of-men

with knife-wounds sick: {38b} no sword availed

on the awesome thing in any wise

to work a wound. There Wiglaf sitteth,

Weohstan's bairn, by Beowulf's side,

the living earl by the other dead,

and heavy of heart a head-watch {38c} keeps

o'er friend and foe. -- Now our folk may look

for waging of war when once unhidden

to Frisian and Frank the fall of the king

is spread afar. -- The strife began

when hot on the Hugas {38d} Hygelac fell

and fared with his fleet to the Frisian land.

Him there the Hetwaras humbled in war,

plied with such prowess their power o'erwhelming

that the bold-in-battle bowed beneath it

and fell in fight. To his friends no wise

could that earl give treasure! And ever since

the Merowings' favor has failed us wholly.

Nor aught expect I of peace and faith

from Swedish folk. 'Twas spread afar

how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood

Haethcyn Hrethling of hope and life,

when the folk of Geats for the first time sought

in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings.

Soon the sage old sire {38e} of Ohtere,

ancient and awful, gave answering blow;

the sea-king {38f} he slew, and his spouse redeemed,

his good wife rescued, though robbed of her gold,

mother of Ohtere and Onela.

Then he followed his foes, who fled before him

sore beset and stole their way,

bereft of a ruler, to Ravenswood.

With his host he besieged there what swords had left,

the weary and wounded; woes he threatened

the whole night through to that hard-pressed throng:

some with the morrow his sword should kill,

some should go to the gallows-tree

for rapture of ravens. But rescue came

with dawn of day for those desperate men

when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,

tones of his trumpet; the trusty king

had followed their trail with faithful band.



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XXXVI-XXXVIII

XXXVI

I HAVE heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan

at wish and word of his wounded king, --

war-sick warrior, -- woven mail-coat,

battle-sark, bore 'neath the barrow's roof.

Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud,

passing the seat, {36a} saw store of jewels

and glistening gold the ground along;

by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel

in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old:

unburnished bowls of bygone men

reft of richness; rusty helms

of the olden age; and arm-rings many

wondrously woven. -- Such wealth of gold,

booty from barrow, can burden with pride

each human wight: let him hide it who will! --

His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner

high o'er the hoard, of handiwork noblest,

brilliantly broidered; so bright its gleam,

all the earth-floor he easily saw

and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now

was seen of the serpent: the sword had ta'en him.

Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft,

old work of giants, by one alone;

he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate

at his own good will, and the ensign took,

brightest of beacons. -- The blade of his lord

-- its edge was iron -- had injured deep

one that guarded the golden hoard

many a year and its murder-fire

spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows

at midnight hour, till it met its doom.

Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him

his track to retrace; he was troubled by doubt,

high-souled hero, if haply he'd find

alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,

weakening fast by the wall of the cave.

So he carried the load. His lord and king

he found all bleeding, famous chief

at the lapse of life. The liegeman again

plashed him with water, till point of word

broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,

sage and sad, as he stared at the gold. --

“For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,

to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,

for what I behold, to Heaven's Lord,

for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk

or ever the day of my death be run!

Now I've bartered here for booty of treasure

the last of my life, so look ye well

to the needs of my land! No longer I tarry.

A barrow bid ye the battle-fanned raise

for my ashes. 'Twill shine by the shore of the flood,

to folk of mine memorial fair

on Hrones Headland high uplifted,

that ocean-wanderers oft may hail

Beowulf's Barrow, as back from far

they drive their keels o'er the darkling wave.”

From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,

valorous king, to his vassal gave it

with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring,

to the youthful thane: bade him use them in joy.

“Thou art end and remnant of all our race

the Waegmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them,

all my line, to the land of doom,

earls in their glory: I after them go.”

This word was the last which the wise old man

harbored in heart ere hot death-waves

of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled

his soul to seek the saints' reward.

XXXVII

IT was heavy hap for that hero young

on his lord beloved to look and find him

lying on earth with life at end,

sorrowful sight. But the slayer too,

awful earth-dragon, empty of breath,

lay felled in fight, nor, fain of its treasure,

could the writhing monster rule it more.

For edges of iron had ended its days,

hard and battle-sharp, hammers' leaving; {37a}

and that flier-afar had fallen to ground

hushed by its hurt, its hoard all near,

no longer lusty aloft to whirl

at midnight, making its merriment seen,

proud of its prizes: prone it sank

by the handiwork of the hero-king.

Forsooth among folk but few achieve,

-- though sturdy and strong, as stories tell me,

and never so daring in deed of valor, --

the perilous breath of a poison-foe

to brave, and to rush on the ring-board hall,

whenever his watch the warden keeps

bold in the barrow. Beowulf paid

the price of death for that precious hoard;

and each of the foes had found the end

of this fleeting life.

Befell erelong

that the laggards in war the wood had left,

trothbreakers, cowards, ten together,

fearing before to flourish a spear

in the sore distress of their sovran lord.

Now in their shame their shields they carried,

armor of fight, where the old man lay;

and they gazed on Wiglaf. Wearied he sat

at his sovran's shoulder, shieldsman good,

to wake him with water. {37b} Nowise it availed.

Though well he wished it, in world no more

could he barrier life for that leader-of-battles

nor baffle the will of all-wielding God.

Doom of the Lord was law o'er the deeds

of every man, as it is to-day.

Grim was the answer, easy to get,

from the youth for those that had yielded to fear!

Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan, --

mournful he looked on those men unloved: --

“Who sooth will speak, can say indeed

that the ruler who gave you golden rings

and the harness of war in which ye stand

-- for he at ale-bench often-times

bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate,

lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear

which near of far he could find to give, --

threw away and wasted these weeds of battle,

on men who failed when the foemen came!

Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms

venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder,

God, gave him grace that he got revenge

sole with his sword in stress and need.

To rescue his life, 'twas little that I

could serve him in struggle; yet shift I made

(hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman.

Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck

that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly

flowed from its head. -- Too few the heroes

in throe of contest that thronged to our king!

Now gift of treasure and girding of sword,

joy of the house and home-delight

shall fail your folk; his freehold-land

every clansman within your kin

shall lose and leave, when lords high-born

hear afar of that flight of yours,

a fameless deed. Yea, death is better

for liegemen all than a life of shame!”

XXXVIII

THAT battle-toil bade he at burg to announce,

at the fort on the cliff, where, full of sorrow,

all the morning earls had sat,

daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain:

would they wail as dead, or welcome home,

their lord beloved? Little {38a} kept back

of the tidings new, but told them all,

the herald that up the headland rode. --

“Now the willing-giver to Weder folk

in death-bed lies; the Lord of Geats

on the slaughter-bed sleeps by the serpent's deed!

And beside him is stretched that slayer-of-men

with knife-wounds sick: {38b} no sword availed

on the awesome thing in any wise

to work a wound. There Wiglaf sitteth,

Weohstan's bairn, by Beowulf's side,

the living earl by the other dead,

and heavy of heart a head-watch {38c} keeps

o'er friend and foe. -- Now our folk may look

for waging of war when once unhidden

to Frisian and Frank the fall of the king

is spread afar. -- The strife began

when hot on the Hugas {38d} Hygelac fell

and fared with his fleet to the Frisian land.

Him there the Hetwaras humbled in war,

plied with such prowess their power o'erwhelming

that the bold-in-battle bowed beneath it

and fell in fight. To his friends no wise

could that earl give treasure! And ever since

the Merowings' favor has failed us wholly.

Nor aught expect I of peace and faith

from Swedish folk. 'Twas spread afar

how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood

Haethcyn Hrethling of hope and life,

when the folk of Geats for the first time sought

in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings.

Soon the sage old sire {38e} of Ohtere,

ancient and awful, gave answering blow;

the sea-king {38f} he slew, and his spouse redeemed,

his good wife rescued, though robbed of her gold,

mother of Ohtere and Onela.

Then he followed his foes, who fled before him

sore beset and stole their way,

bereft of a ruler, to Ravenswood.

With his host he besieged there what swords had left,

the weary and wounded; woes he threatened

the whole night through to that hard-pressed throng:

some with the morrow his sword should kill,

some should go to the gallows-tree

for rapture of ravens. But rescue came

with dawn of day for those desperate men

when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,

tones of his trumpet; the trusty king

had followed their trail with faithful band.

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