Lines 2538-2819


"THEN he goes to his chamber, a grief-song chants

alone for his lost. Too large all seems,

homestead and house. So the helmet-of-Weders

hid in his heart for Herebeald

waves of woe. No way could he take

to avenge on the slayer slaughter so foul;

nor e'en could he harass that hero at all

with loathing deed, though he loved him not.

And so for the sorrow his soul endured,

men's gladness he gave up and God's light chose.

Lands and cities he left his sons

(as the wealthy do) when he went from earth.

There was strife and struggle 'twixt Swede and Geat

o'er the width of waters; war arose,

hard battle-horror, when Hrethel died,

and Ongentheow's offspring grew

strife-keen, bold, nor brooked o'er the seas

pact of peace, but pushed their hosts

to harass in hatred by Hreosnabeorh.

Men of my folk for that feud had vengeance,

for woful war ('tis widely known),

though one of them bought it with blood of his heart,

a bargain hard: for Haethcyn proved

fatal that fray, for the first-of-Geats.

At morn, I heard, was the murderer killed

by kinsman for kinsman, {33a} with clash of sword,

when Ongentheow met Eofor there.

Wide split the war-helm: wan he fell,

hoary Scylfing; the hand that smote him

of feud was mindful, nor flinched from the death-blow.

- "For all that he {33b} gave me, my gleaming sword

repaid him at war, - such power I wielded, -

for lordly treasure: with land he entrusted me,

homestead and house. He had no need

from Swedish realm, or from Spear-Dane folk,

or from men of the Gifths, to get him help, -

some warrior worse for wage to buy!

Ever I fought in the front of all,

sole to the fore; and so shall I fight

while I bide in life and this blade shall last

that early and late hath loyal proved

since for my doughtiness Daeghrefn fell,

slain by my hand, the Hugas' champion.

Nor fared he thence to the Frisian king

with the booty back, and breast-adornments;

but, slain in struggle, that standard-bearer

fell, atheling brave. Not with blade was he slain,

but his bones were broken by brawny gripe,

his heart-waves stilled. - The sword-edge now,

hard blade and my hand, for the hoard shall strive."

Beowulf spake, and a battle-vow made

his last of all: "I have lived through many

wars in my youth; now once again,

old folk-defender, feud will I seek,

do doughty deeds, if the dark destroyer

forth from his cavern come to fight me!"

Then hailed he the helmeted heroes all,

for the last time greeting his liegemen dear,

comrades of war: "I should carry no weapon,

no sword to the serpent, if sure I knew

how, with such enemy, else my vows

I could gain as I did in Grendel's day.

But fire in this fight I must fear me now,

and poisonous breath; so I bring with me

breastplate and board. {33c} From the barrow's keeper

no footbreadth flee I. One fight shall end

our war by the wall, as Wyrd allots,

all mankind's master. My mood is bold

but forbears to boast o'er this battling-flyer.

- Now abide by the barrow, ye breastplate-mailed,

ye heroes in harness, which of us twain

better from battle-rush bear his wounds.

Wait ye the finish. The fight is not yours,

nor meet for any but me alone

to measure might with this monster here

and play the hero. Hardily I

shall win that wealth, or war shall seize,

cruel killing, your king and lord!"

Up stood then with shield the sturdy champion,

stayed by the strength of his single manhood,

and hardy 'neath helmet his harness bore

under cleft of the cliffs: no coward's path!

Soon spied by the wall that warrior chief,

survivor of many a victory-field

where foemen fought with furious clashings,

an arch of stone; and within, a stream

that broke from the barrow. The brooklet's wave

was hot with fire. The hoard that way

he never could hope unharmed to near,

or endure those deeps, {33d} for the dragon's flame.

Then let from his breast, for he burst with rage,

the Weder-Geat prince a word outgo;

stormed the stark-heart; stern went ringing

and clear his cry 'neath the cliff-rocks gray.

The hoard-guard heard a human voice;

his rage was enkindled. No respite now

for pact of peace! The poison-breath

of that foul worm first came forth from the cave,

hot reek-of-fight: the rocks resounded.

Stout by the stone-way his shield he raised,

lord of the Geats, against the loathed-one;

while with courage keen that coiled foe

came seeking strife. The sturdy king

had drawn his sword, not dull of edge,

heirloom old; and each of the two

felt fear of his foe, though fierce their mood.

Stoutly stood with his shield high-raised

the warrior king, as the worm now coiled

together amain: the mailed-one waited.

Now, spire by spire, fast sped and glided

that blazing serpent. The shield protected,

soul and body a shorter while

for the hero-king than his heart desired,

could his will have wielded the welcome respite

but once in his life! But Wyrd denied it,

and victory's honors. - His arm he lifted

lord of the Geats, the grim foe smote

with atheling's heirloom. Its edge was turned

brown blade, on the bone, and bit more feebly

than its noble master had need of then

in his baleful stress. - Then the barrow's keeper

waxed full wild for that weighty blow,

cast deadly flames; wide drove and far

those vicious fires. No victor's glory

the Geats' lord boasted; his brand had failed,

naked in battle, as never it should,

excellent iron! - 'Twas no easy path

that Ecgtheow's honored heir must tread

over the plain to the place of the foe;

for against his will he must win a home

elsewhere far, as must all men, leaving

this lapsing life! - Not long it was

ere those champions grimly closed again.

The hoard-guard was heartened; high heaved his breast

once more; and by peril was pressed again,

enfolded in flames, the folk-commander!

Nor yet about him his band of comrades,

sons of athelings, armed stood

with warlike front: to the woods they bent them,

their lives to save. But the soul of one

with care was cumbered. Kinship true

can never be marred in a noble mind!


WIGLAF his name was, Weohstan's son,

linden-thane loved, the lord of Scylfings,

Aelfhere's kinsman. His king he now saw

with heat under helmet hard oppressed.

He minded the prizes his prince had given him,

wealthy seat of the Waegmunding line,

and folk-rights that his father owned

Not long he lingered. The linden yellow,

his shield, he seized; the old sword he drew: -

as heirloom of Eanmund earth-dwellers knew it,

who was slain by the sword-edge, son of Ohtere,

friendless exile, erst in fray

killed by Weohstan, who won for his kin

brown-bright helmet, breastplate ringed,

old sword of Eotens, Onela's gift,

weeds of war of the warrior-thane,

battle-gear brave: though a brother's child

had been felled, the feud was unfelt by Onela. {34a}

For winters this war-gear Weohstan kept,

breastplate and board, till his bairn had grown

earlship to earn as the old sire did:

then he gave him, mid Geats, the gear of battle,

portion huge, when he passed from life,

fared aged forth. For the first time now

with his leader-lord the liegeman young

was bidden to share the shock of battle.

Neither softened his soul, nor the sire's bequest

weakened in war. {34b} So the worm found out

when once in fight the foes had met!

Wiglaf spake, - and his words were sage;

sad in spirit, he said to his comrades: -

"I remember the time, when mead we took,

what promise we made to this prince of ours

in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings,

for gear of combat to give him requital,

for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring

stress of this sort! Himself who chose us

from all his army to aid him now,

urged us to glory, and gave these treasures,

because he counted us keen with the spear

and hardy 'neath helm, though this hero-work

our leader hoped unhelped and alone

to finish for us, - folk-defender

who hath got him glory greater than all men

for daring deeds! Now the day is come

that our noble master has need of the might

of warriors stout. Let us stride along

the hero to help while the heat is about him

glowing and grim! For God is my witness

I am far more fain the fire should seize

along with my lord these limbs of mine! {34c}

Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear

homeward hence, save here we essay

to fell the foe and defend the life

of the Weders' lord. I wot 'twere shame

on the law of our land if alone the king

out of Geatish warriors woe endured

and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,

breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!"

Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,

his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake: -

"Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,

as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst

that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise

thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,

atheling steadfast, with all thy strength

shield thy life! I will stand to help thee."

At the words the worm came once again,

murderous monster mad with rage,

with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek,

the hated men. In heat-waves burned

that board {34d} to the boss, and the breastplate failed

to shelter at all the spear-thane young.

Yet quickly under his kinsman's shield

went eager the earl, since his own was now

all burned by the blaze. The bold king again

had mind of his glory: with might his glaive

was driven into the dragon's head, -

blow nerved by hate. But Naegling {34e} was shivered,

broken in battle was Beowulf's sword,

old and gray. 'Twas granted him not

that ever the edge of iron at all

could help him at strife: too strong was his hand,

so the tale is told, and he tried too far

with strength of stroke all swords he wielded,

though sturdy their steel: they steaded him nought.

Then for the third time thought on its feud

that folk-destroyer, fire-dread dragon,

and rushed on the hero, where room allowed,

battle-grim, burning; its bitter teeth

closed on his neck, and covered him

with waves of blood from his breast that welled.


'TWAS now, men say, in his sovran's need

that the earl made known his noble strain,

craft and keenness and courage enduring.

Heedless of harm, though his hand was burned,

hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman.

A little lower the loathsome beast

he smote with sword; his steel drove in

bright and burnished; that blaze began

to lose and lessen. At last the king

wielded his wits again, war-knife drew,

a biting blade by his breastplate hanging,

and the Weders'-helm smote that worm asunder,

felled the foe, flung forth its life.

So had they killed it, kinsmen both,

athelings twain: thus an earl should be

in danger's day! - Of deeds of valor

this conqueror's-hour of the king was last,

of his work in the world. The wound began,

which that dragon-of-earth had erst inflicted,

to swell and smart; and soon he found

in his breast was boiling, baleful and deep,

pain of poison. The prince walked on,

wise in his thought, to the wall of rock;

then sat, and stared at the structure of giants,

where arch of stone and steadfast column

upheld forever that hall in earth.

Yet here must the hand of the henchman peerless

lave with water his winsome lord,

the king and conqueror covered with blood,

with struggle spent, and unspan his helmet.

Beowulf spake in spite of his hurt,

his mortal wound; full well he knew

his portion now was past and gone

of earthly bliss, and all had fled

of his file of days, and death was near:

"I would fain bestow on son of mine

this gear of war, were given me now

that any heir should after me come

of my proper blood. This people I ruled

fifty winters. No folk-king was there,

none at all, of the neighboring clans

who war would wage me with 'warriors'-friends' {35a}

and threat me with horrors. At home I bided

what fate might come, and I cared for mine own;

feuds I sought not, nor falsely swore

ever on oath. For all these things,

though fatally wounded, fain am I!

From the Ruler-of-Man no wrath shall seize me,

when life from my frame must flee away,

for killing of kinsmen! Now quickly go

and gaze on that hoard 'neath the hoary rock,

Wiglaf loved, now the worm lies low,

sleeps, heart-sore, of his spoil bereaved.

And fare in haste. I would fain behold

the gorgeous heirlooms, golden store,

have joy in the jewels and gems, lay down

softlier for sight of this splendid hoard

my life and the lordship I long have held."