Lines 1650-1887


BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"Lo, now, this sea-booty, son of Healfdene,

Lord of Scyldings, we've lustily brought thee,

sign of glory; thou seest it here.

Not lightly did I with my life escape!

In war under water this work I essayed

with endless effort; and even so

my strength had been lost had the Lord not shielded me.

Not a whit could I with Hrunting do

in work of war, though the weapon is good;

yet a sword the Sovran of Men vouchsafed me

to spy on the wall there, in splendor hanging,

old, gigantic, - how oft He guides

the friendless wight! - and I fought with that brand,

felling in fight, since fate was with me,

the house's wardens. That war-sword then

all burned, bright blade, when the blood gushed o'er it,

battle-sweat hot; but the hilt I brought back

from my foes. So avenged I their fiendish deeds

death-fall of Danes, as was due and right.

And this is my hest, that in Heorot now

safe thou canst sleep with thy soldier band,

and every thane of all thy folk

both old and young; no evil fear,

Scyldings' lord, from that side again,

aught ill for thy earls, as erst thou must!"

Then the golden hilt, for that gray-haired leader,

hoary hero, in hand was laid,

giant-wrought, old. So owned and enjoyed it

after downfall of devils, the Danish lord,

wonder-smiths' work, since the world was rid

of that grim-souled fiend, the foe of God,

murder-marked, and his mother as well.

Now it passed into power of the people's king,

best of all that the oceans bound

who have scattered their gold o'er Scandia's isle.

Hrothgar spake - the hilt he viewed,

heirloom old, where was etched the rise

of that far-off fight when the floods o'erwhelmed,

raging waves, the race of giants

(fearful their fate!), a folk estranged

from God Eternal: whence guerdon due

in that waste of waters the Wielder paid them.

So on the guard of shining gold

in runic staves it was rightly said

for whom the serpent-traced sword was wrought,

best of blades, in bygone days,

and the hilt well wound. - The wise-one spake,

son of Healfdene; silent were all: -

"Lo, so may he say who sooth and right

follows 'mid folk, of far times mindful,

a land-warden old, {24a} that this earl belongs

to the better breed! So, borne aloft,

thy fame must fly, O friend my Beowulf,

far and wide o'er folksteads many. Firmly thou

shalt all maintain,

mighty strength with mood of wisdom. Love of

mine will I assure thee,

as, awhile ago, I promised; thou shalt prove a stay

in future,

in far-off years, to folk of thine,

to the heroes a help. Was not Heremod thus

to offspring of Ecgwela, Honor-Scyldings,

nor grew for their grace, but for grisly slaughter,

for doom of death to the Danishmen.

He slew, wrath-swollen, his shoulder-comrades,

companions at board! So he passed alone,

chieftain haughty, from human cheer.

Though him the Maker with might endowed,

delights of power, and uplifted high

above all men, yet blood-fierce his mind,

his breast-hoard, grew, no bracelets gave he

to Danes as was due; he endured all joyless

strain of struggle and stress of woe,

long feud with his folk. Here find thy lesson!

Of virtue advise thee! This verse I have said for thee,

wise from lapsed winters. Wondrous seems

how to sons of men Almighty God

in the strength of His spirit sendeth wisdom,

estate, high station: He swayeth all things.

Whiles He letteth right lustily fare

the heart of the hero of high-born race, -

in seat ancestral assigns him bliss,

his folk's sure fortress in fee to hold,

puts in his power great parts of the earth,

empire so ample, that end of it

this wanter-of-wisdom weeneth none.

So he waxes in wealth, nowise can harm him

illness or age; no evil cares

shadow his spirit; no sword-hate threatens

from ever an enemy: all the world

wends at his will, no worse he knoweth,

till all within him obstinate pride

waxes and wakes while the warden slumbers,

the spirit's sentry; sleep is too fast

which masters his might, and the murderer nears,

stealthily shooting the shafts from his bow!


"UNDER harness his heart then is hit indeed

by sharpest shafts; and no shelter avails

from foul behest of the hellish fiend. {25a}

Him seems too little what long he possessed.

Greedy and grim, no golden rings

he gives for his pride; the promised future

forgets he and spurns, with all God has sent him,

Wonder-Wielder, of wealth and fame.

Yet in the end it ever comes

that the frame of the body fragile yields,

fated falls; and there follows another

who joyously the jewels divides,

the royal riches, nor recks of his forebear.

Ban, then, such baleful thoughts, Beowulf dearest,

best of men, and the better part choose,

profit eternal; and temper thy pride,

warrior famous! The flower of thy might

lasts now a while: but erelong it shall be

that sickness or sword thy strength shall minish,

or fang of fire, or flooding billow,

or bite of blade, or brandished spear,

or odious age; or the eyes' clear beam

wax dull and darken: Death even thee

in haste shall o'erwhelm, thou hero of war!

So the Ring-Danes these half-years a hundred I ruled,

wielded 'neath welkin, and warded them bravely

from mighty-ones many o'er middle-earth,

from spear and sword, till it seemed for me

no foe could be found under fold of the sky.

Lo, sudden the shift! To me seated secure

came grief for joy when Grendel began

to harry my home, the hellish foe;

for those ruthless raids, unresting I suffered

heart-sorrow heavy. Heaven be thanked,

Lord Eternal, for life extended

that I on this head all hewn and bloody,

after long evil, with eyes may gaze!

- Go to the bench now! Be glad at banquet,

warrior worthy! A wealth of treasure

at dawn of day, be dealt between us!"

Glad was the Geats' lord, going betimes

to seek his seat, as the Sage commanded.

Afresh, as before, for the famed-in-battle,

for the band of the hall, was a banquet dight

nobly anew. The Night-Helm darkened

dusk o'er the drinkers.

The doughty ones rose:

for the hoary-headed would hasten to rest,

aged Scylding; and eager the Geat,

shield-fighter sturdy, for sleeping yearned.

Him wander-weary, warrior-guest

from far, a hall-thane heralded forth,

who by custom courtly cared for all

needs of a thane as in those old days

warrior-wanderers wont to have.

So slumbered the stout-heart. Stately the hall

rose gabled and gilt where the guest slept on

till a raven black the rapture-of-heaven {25b}

blithe-heart boded. Bright came flying

shine after shadow. The swordsmen hastened,

athelings all were eager homeward

forth to fare; and far from thence

the great-hearted guest would guide his keel.

Bade then the hardy-one Hrunting be brought

to the son of Ecglaf, the sword bade him take,

excellent iron, and uttered his thanks for it,

quoth that he counted it keen in battle,

"war-friend" winsome: with words he slandered not

edge of the blade: 'twas a big-hearted man!

Now eager for parting and armed at point

warriors waited, while went to his host

that Darling of Danes. The doughty atheling

to high-seat hastened and Hrothgar greeted.


BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"Lo, we seafarers say our will,

far-come men, that we fain would seek

Hygelac now. We here have found

hosts to our heart: thou hast harbored us well.

If ever on earth I am able to win me

more of thy love, O lord of men,

aught anew, than I now have done,

for work of war I am willing still!

If it come to me ever across the seas

that neighbor foemen annoy and fright thee, -

as they that hate thee erewhile have used, -

thousands then of thanes I shall bring,

heroes to help thee. Of Hygelac I know,

ward of his folk, that, though few his years,

the lord of the Geats will give me aid

by word and by work, that well I may serve thee,

wielding the war-wood to win thy triumph

and lending thee might when thou lackest men.

If thy Hrethric should come to court of Geats,

a sovran's son, he will surely there

find his friends. A far-off land

each man should visit who vaunts him brave."

Him then answering, Hrothgar spake: -

"These words of thine the wisest God

sent to thy soul! No sager counsel

from so young in years e'er yet have I heard.

Thou art strong of main and in mind art wary,

art wise in words! I ween indeed

if ever it hap that Hrethel's heir

by spear be seized, by sword-grim battle,

by illness or iron, thine elder and lord,

people's leader, - and life be thine, -

no seemlier man will the Sea-Geats find

at all to choose for their chief and king,

for hoard-guard of heroes, if hold thou wilt

thy kinsman's kingdom! Thy keen mind pleases me

the longer the better, Beowulf loved!

Thou hast brought it about that both our peoples,

sons of the Geat and Spear-Dane folk,

shall have mutual peace, and from murderous strife,

such as once they waged, from war refrain.

Long as I rule this realm so wide,

let our hoards be common, let heroes with gold

each other greet o'er the gannet's-bath,

and the ringed-prow bear o'er rolling waves

tokens of love. I trow my landfolk

towards friend and foe are firmly joined,

and honor they keep in the olden way."

To him in the hall, then, Healfdene's son

gave treasures twelve, and the trust-of-earls

bade him fare with the gifts to his folk beloved,

hale to his home, and in haste return.

Then kissed the king of kin renowned,

Scyldings' chieftain, that choicest thane,

and fell on his neck. Fast flowed the tears

of the hoary-headed. Heavy with winters,

he had chances twain, but he clung to this, {26a} -

that each should look on the other again,

and hear him in hall. Was this hero so dear to him.

his breast's wild billows he banned in vain;

safe in his soul a secret longing,

locked in his mind, for that loved man

burned in his blood. Then Beowulf strode,

glad of his gold-gifts, the grass-plot o'er,

warrior blithe. The wave-roamer bode

riding at anchor, its owner awaiting.

As they hastened onward, Hrothgar's gift

they lauded at length. - 'Twas a lord unpeered,

every way blameless, till age had broken

- it spareth no mortal - his splendid might.