Lines 1251-1649


THEN sank they to sleep. With sorrow one bought

his rest of the evening, - as ofttime had happened

when Grendel guarded that golden hall,

evil wrought, till his end drew nigh,

slaughter for sins. 'Twas seen and told

how an avenger survived the fiend,

as was learned afar. The livelong time

after that grim fight, Grendel's mother,

monster of women, mourned her woe.

She was doomed to dwell in the dreary waters,

cold sea-courses, since Cain cut down

with edge of the sword his only brother,

his father's offspring: outlawed he fled,

marked with murder, from men's delights

warded the wilds. - There woke from him

such fate-sent ghosts as Grendel, who,

war-wolf horrid, at Heorot found

a warrior watching and waiting the fray,

with whom the grisly one grappled amain.

But the man remembered his mighty power,

the glorious gift that God had sent him,

in his Maker's mercy put his trust

for comfort and help: so he conquered the foe,

felled the fiend, who fled abject,

reft of joy, to the realms of death,

mankind's foe. And his mother now,

gloomy and grim, would go that quest

of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge.

To Heorot came she, where helmeted Danes

slept in the hall. Too soon came back

old ills of the earls, when in she burst,

the mother of Grendel. Less grim, though, that terror,

e'en as terror of woman in war is less,

might of maid, than of men in arms

when, hammer-forged, the falchion hard,

sword gore-stained, through swine of the helm,

crested, with keen blade carves amain.

Then was in hall the hard-edge drawn,

the swords on the settles, {19a} and shields a-many

firm held in hand: nor helmet minded

nor harness of mail, whom that horror seized.

Haste was hers; she would hie afar

and save her life when the liegemen saw her.

Yet a single atheling up she seized

fast and firm, as she fled to the moor.

He was for Hrothgar of heroes the dearest,

of trusty vassals betwixt the seas,

whom she killed on his couch, a clansman famous,

in battle brave. - Nor was Beowulf there;

another house had been held apart,

after giving of gold, for the Geat renowned. -

Uproar filled Heorot; the hand all had viewed,

blood-flecked, she bore with her; bale was returned,

dole in the dwellings: 'twas dire exchange

where Dane and Geat were doomed to give

the lives of loved ones. Long-tried king,

the hoary hero, at heart was sad

when he knew his noble no more lived,

and dead indeed was his dearest thane.

To his bower was Beowulf brought in haste,

dauntless victor. As daylight broke,

along with his earls the atheling lord,

with his clansmen, came where the king abode

waiting to see if the Wielder-of-All

would turn this tale of trouble and woe.

Strode o'er floor the famed-in-strife,

with his hand-companions, - the hall resounded, -

wishing to greet the wise old king,

Ingwines' lord; he asked if the night

had passed in peace to the prince's mind.


HROTHGAR spake, helmet-of-Scyldings: -

"Ask not of pleasure! Pain is renewed

to Danish folk. Dead is Aeschere,

of Yrmenlaf the elder brother,

my sage adviser and stay in council,

shoulder-comrade in stress of fight

when warriors clashed and we warded our heads,

hewed the helm-boars; hero famed

should be every earl as Aeschere was!

But here in Heorot a hand hath slain him

of wandering death-sprite. I wot not whither, {20a}

proud of the prey, her path she took,

fain of her fill. The feud she avenged

that yesternight, unyieldingly,

Grendel in grimmest grasp thou killedst, -

seeing how long these liegemen mine

he ruined and ravaged. Reft of life,

in arms he fell. Now another comes,

keen and cruel, her kin to avenge,

faring far in feud of blood:

so that many a thane shall think, who e'er

sorrows in soul for that sharer of rings,

this is hardest of heart-bales. The hand lies low

that once was willing each wish to please.

Land-dwellers here {20b} and liegemen mine,

who house by those parts, I have heard relate

that such a pair they have sometimes seen,

march-stalkers mighty the moorland haunting,

wandering spirits: one of them seemed,

so far as my folk could fairly judge,

of womankind; and one, accursed,

in man's guise trod the misery-track

of exile, though huger than human bulk.

Grendel in days long gone they named him,

folk of the land; his father they knew not,

nor any brood that was born to him

of treacherous spirits. Untrod is their home;

by wolf-cliffs haunt they and windy headlands,

fenways fearful, where flows the stream

from mountains gliding to gloom of the rocks,

underground flood. Not far is it hence

in measure of miles that the mere expands,

and o'er it the frost-bound forest hanging,

sturdily rooted, shadows the wave.

By night is a wonder weird to see,

fire on the waters. So wise lived none

of the sons of men, to search those depths!

Nay, though the heath-rover, harried by dogs,

the horn-proud hart, this holt should seek,

long distance driven, his dear life first

on the brink he yields ere he brave the plunge

to hide his head: 'tis no happy place!

Thence the welter of waters washes up

wan to welkin when winds bestir

evil storms, and air grows dusk,

and the heavens weep. Now is help once more

with thee alone! The land thou knowst not,

place of fear, where thou findest out

that sin-flecked being. Seek if thou dare!

I will reward thee, for waging this fight,

with ancient treasure, as erst I did,

with winding gold, if thou winnest back."


BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:

"Sorrow not, sage! It beseems us better

friends to avenge than fruitlessly mourn them.

Each of us all must his end abide

in the ways of the world; so win who may

glory ere death! When his days are told,

that is the warrior's worthiest doom.

Rise, O realm-warder! Ride we anon,

and mark the trail of the mother of Grendel.

No harbor shall hide her - heed my promise! -

enfolding of field or forested mountain

or floor of the flood, let her flee where she will!

But thou this day endure in patience,

as I ween thou wilt, thy woes each one."

Leaped up the graybeard: God he thanked,

mighty Lord, for the man's brave words.

For Hrothgar soon a horse was saddled

wave-maned steed. The sovran wise

stately rode on; his shield-armed men

followed in force. The footprints led

along the woodland, widely seen,

a path o'er the plain, where she passed, and trod

the murky moor; of men-at-arms

she bore the bravest and best one, dead,

him who with Hrothgar the homestead ruled.

On then went the atheling-born

o'er stone-cliffs steep and strait defiles,

narrow passes and unknown ways,

headlands sheer, and the haunts of the Nicors.

Foremost he {21a} fared, a few at his side

of the wiser men, the ways to scan,

till he found in a flash the forested hill

hanging over the hoary rock,

a woful wood: the waves below

were dyed in blood. The Danish men

had sorrow of soul, and for Scyldings all,

for many a hero, 'twas hard to bear,

ill for earls, when Aeschere's head

they found by the flood on the foreland there.

Waves were welling, the warriors saw,

hot with blood; but the horn sang oft

battle-song bold. The band sat down,

and watched on the water worm-like things,

sea-dragons strange that sounded the deep,

and nicors that lay on the ledge of the ness -

such as oft essay at hour of morn

on the road-of-sails their ruthless quest, -

and sea-snakes and monsters. These started away,

swollen and savage that song to hear,

that war-horn's blast. The warden of Geats,

with bolt from bow, then balked of life,

of wave-work, one monster, amid its heart

went the keen war-shaft; in water it seemed

less doughty in swimming whom death had seized.

Swift on the billows, with boar-spears well

hooked and barbed, it was hard beset,

done to death and dragged on the headland,

wave-roamer wondrous. Warriors viewed

the grisly guest.

Then girt him Beowulf

in martial mail, nor mourned for his life.

His breastplate broad and bright of hues,

woven by hand, should the waters try;

well could it ward the warrior's body

that battle should break on his breast in vain

nor harm his heart by the hand of a foe.

And the helmet white that his head protected

was destined to dare the deeps of the flood,

through wave-whirl win: 'twas wound with chains,

decked with gold, as in days of yore

the weapon-smith worked it wondrously,

with swine-forms set it, that swords nowise,

brandished in battle, could bite that helm.

Nor was that the meanest of mighty helps

which Hrothgar's orator offered at need:

"Hrunting" they named the hilted sword,

of old-time heirlooms easily first;

iron was its edge, all etched with poison,

with battle-blood hardened, nor blenched it at fight

in hero's hand who held it ever,

on paths of peril prepared to go

to folkstead {21b} of foes. Not first time this

it was destined to do a daring task.

For he bore not in mind, the bairn of Ecglaf

sturdy and strong, that speech he had made,

drunk with wine, now this weapon he lent

to a stouter swordsman. Himself, though, durst not

under welter of waters wager his life

as loyal liegeman. So lost he his glory,

honor of earls. With the other not so,

who girded him now for the grim encounter.


BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"Have mind, thou honored offspring of Healfdene

gold-friend of men, now I go on this quest,

sovran wise, what once was said:

if in thy cause it came that I

should lose my life, thou wouldst loyal bide

to me, though fallen, in father's place!

Be guardian, thou, to this group of my thanes,

my warrior-friends, if War should seize me;

and the goodly gifts thou gavest me,

Hrothgar beloved, to Hygelac send!

Geatland's king may ken by the gold,

Hrethel's son see, when he stares at the treasure,

that I got me a friend for goodness famed,

and joyed while I could in my jewel-bestower.

And let Unferth wield this wondrous sword,

earl far-honored, this heirloom precious,

hard of edge: with Hrunting I

seek doom of glory, or Death shall take me."

After these words the Weder-Geat lord

boldly hastened, biding never

answer at all: the ocean floods

closed o'er the hero. Long while of the day

fled ere he felt the floor of the sea.

Soon found the fiend who the flood-domain

sword-hungry held these hundred winters,

greedy and grim, that some guest from above,

some man, was raiding her monster-realm.

She grasped out for him with grisly claws,

and the warrior seized; yet scathed she not

his body hale; the breastplate hindered,

as she strove to shatter the sark of war,

the linked harness, with loathsome hand.

Then bore this brine-wolf, when bottom she touched,

the lord of rings to the lair she haunted

whiles vainly he strove, though his valor held,

weapon to wield against wondrous monsters

that sore beset him; sea-beasts many

tried with fierce tusks to tear his mail,

and swarmed on the stranger. But soon he marked

he was now in some hall, he knew not which,

where water never could work him harm,

nor through the roof could reach him ever

fangs of the flood. Firelight he saw,

beams of a blaze that brightly shone.

Then the warrior was ware of that wolf-of-the-deep,

mere-wife monstrous. For mighty stroke

he swung his blade, and the blow withheld not.

Then sang on her head that seemly blade

its war-song wild. But the warrior found

the light-of-battle {22a} was loath to bite,

to harm the heart: its hard edge failed

the noble at need, yet had known of old

strife hand to hand, and had helmets cloven,

doomed men's fighting-gear. First time, this,

for the gleaming blade that its glory fell.

Firm still stood, nor failed in valor,

heedful of high deeds, Hygelac's kinsman;

flung away fretted sword, featly jewelled,

the angry earl; on earth it lay

steel-edged and stiff. His strength he trusted,

hand-gripe of might. So man shall do

whenever in war he weens to earn him

lasting fame, nor fears for his life!

Seized then by shoulder, shrank not from combat,

the Geatish war-prince Grendel's mother.

Flung then the fierce one, filled with wrath,

his deadly foe, that she fell to ground.

Swift on her part she paid him back

with grisly grasp, and grappled with him.

Spent with struggle, stumbled the warrior,

fiercest of fighting-men, fell adown.

On the hall-guest she hurled herself, hent her short sword,

broad and brown-edged, {22b} the bairn to avenge,

the sole-born son. - On his shoulder lay

braided breast-mail, barring death,

withstanding entrance of edge or blade.

Life would have ended for Ecgtheow's son,

under wide earth for that earl of Geats,

had his armor of war not aided him,

battle-net hard, and holy God

wielded the victory, wisest Maker.

The Lord of Heaven allowed his cause;

and easily rose the earl erect.


'MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,

old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,

warriors' heirloom, weapon unmatched,

- save only 'twas more than other men

to bandy-of-battle could bear at all -

as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.

Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings' chieftain,

bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,

reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote

that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,

her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through

that fated-one's flesh: to floor she sank.

Bloody the blade: he was blithe of his deed.

Then blazed forth light. 'Twas bright within

as when from the sky there shines unclouded

heaven's candle. The hall he scanned.

By the wall then went he; his weapon raised

high by its hilts the Hygelac-thane,

angry and eager. That edge was not useless

to the warrior now. He wished with speed

Grendel to guerdon for grim raids many,

for the war he waged on Western-Danes

oftener far than an only time,

when of Hrothgar's hearth-companions

he slew in slumber, in sleep devoured,

fifteen men of the folk of Danes,

and as many others outward bore,

his horrible prey. Well paid for that

the wrathful prince! For now prone he saw

Grendel stretched there, spent with war,

spoiled of life, so scathed had left him

Heorot's battle. The body sprang far

when after death it endured the blow,

sword-stroke savage, that severed its head.

Soon, {23a} then, saw the sage companions

who waited with Hrothgar, watching the flood,

that the tossing waters turbid grew,

blood-stained the mere. Old men together,

hoary-haired, of the hero spake;

the warrior would not, they weened, again,

proud of conquest, come to seek

their mighty master. To many it seemed

the wolf-of-the-waves had won his life.

The ninth hour came. The noble Scyldings

left the headland; homeward went

the gold-friend of men. {23b} But the guests sat on,

stared at the surges, sick in heart,

and wished, yet weened not, their winsome lord

again to see.

Now that sword began,

from blood of the fight, in battle-droppings, {23c}

war-blade, to wane: 'twas a wondrous thing

that all of it melted as ice is wont

when frosty fetters the Father loosens,

unwinds the wave-bonds, wielding all

seasons and times: the true God he!

Nor took from that dwelling the duke of the Geats

save only the head and that hilt withal

blazoned with jewels: the blade had melted,

burned was the bright sword, her blood was so hot,

so poisoned the hell-sprite who perished within there.

Soon he was swimming who safe saw in combat

downfall of demons; up-dove through the flood.

The clashing waters were cleansed now,

waste of waves, where the wandering fiend

her life-days left and this lapsing world.

Swam then to strand the sailors'-refuge,

sturdy-in-spirit, of sea-booty glad,

of burden brave he bore with him.

Went then to greet him, and God they thanked,

the thane-band choice of their chieftain blithe,

that safe and sound they could see him again.

Soon from the hardy one helmet and armor

deftly they doffed: now drowsed the mere,

water 'neath welkin, with war-blood stained.

Forth they fared by the footpaths thence,

merry at heart the highways measured,

well-known roads. Courageous men

carried the head from the cliff by the sea,

an arduous task for all the band,

the firm in fight, since four were needed

on the shaft-of-slaughter {23d} strenuously

to bear to the gold-hall Grendel's head.

So presently to the palace there

foemen fearless, fourteen Geats,

marching came. Their master-of-clan

mighty amid them the meadow-ways trod.

Strode then within the sovran thane

fearless in fight, of fame renowned,

hardy hero, Hrothgar to greet.

And next by the hair into hall was borne

Grendel's head, where the henchmen were drinking,

an awe to clan and queen alike,

a monster of marvel: the men looked on.