Lines 194-709


THUS seethed unceasing the son of Healfdene

with the woe of these days; not wisest men

assuaged his sorrow; too sore the anguish,

loathly and long, that lay on his folk,

most baneful of burdens and bales of the night.

This heard in his home Hygelac's thane,

great among Geats, of Grendel's doings.

He was the mightiest man of valor

in that same day of this our life,

stalwart and stately. A stout wave-walker

he bade make ready. Yon battle-king, said he,

far o'er the swan-road he fain would seek,

the noble monarch who needed men!

The prince's journey by prudent folk

was little blamed, though they loved him dear;

they whetted the hero, and hailed good omens.

And now the bold one from bands of Geats

comrades chose, the keenest of warriors

e'er he could find; with fourteen men

the sea-wood {3a} he sought, and, sailor proved,

led them on to the land's confines.

Time had now flown; {3b} afloat was the ship,

boat under bluff. On board they climbed,

warriors ready; waves were churning

sea with sand; the sailors bore

on the breast of the bark their bright array,

their mail and weapons: the men pushed off,

on its willing way, the well-braced craft.

Then moved o'er the waters by might of the wind

that bark like a bird with breast of foam,

till in season due, on the second day,

the curved prow such course had run

that sailors now could see the land,

sea-cliffs shining, steep high hills,

headlands broad. Their haven was found,

their journey ended. Up then quickly

the Weders' {3c} clansmen climbed ashore,

anchored their sea-wood, with armor clashing

and gear of battle: God they thanked

or passing in peace o'er the paths of the sea.

Now saw from the cliff a Scylding clansman,

a warden that watched the water-side,

how they bore o'er the gangway glittering shields,

war-gear in readiness; wonder seized him

to know what manner of men they were.

Straight to the strand his steed he rode,

Hrothgar's henchman; with hand of might

he shook his spear, and spake in parley.

"Who are ye, then, ye armed men,

mailed folk, that yon mighty vessel

have urged thus over the ocean ways,

here o'er the waters? A warden I,

sentinel set o'er the sea-march here,

lest any foe to the folk of Danes

with harrying fleet should harm the land.

No aliens ever at ease thus bore them,

linden-wielders: {3d} yet word-of-leave

clearly ye lack from clansmen here,

my folk's agreement. - A greater ne'er saw I

of warriors in world than is one of you, -

yon hero in harness! No henchman he

worthied by weapons, if witness his features,

his peerless presence! I pray you, though, tell

your folk and home, lest hence ye fare

suspect to wander your way as spies

in Danish land. Now, dwellers afar,

ocean-travellers, take from me

simple advice: the sooner the better

I hear of the country whence ye came."


To him the stateliest spake in answer;

the warriors' leader his word-hoard unlocked: -

"We are by kin of the clan of Geats,

and Hygelac's own hearth-fellows we.

To folk afar was my father known,

noble atheling, Ecgtheow named.

Full of winters, he fared away

aged from earth; he is honored still

through width of the world by wise men all.

To thy lord and liege in loyal mood

we hasten hither, to Healfdene's son,

people-protector: be pleased to advise us!

To that mighty-one come we on mickle errand,

to the lord of the Danes; nor deem I right

that aught be hidden. We hear - thou knowest

if sooth it is - the saying of men,

that amid the Scyldings a scathing monster,

dark ill-doer, in dusky nights

shows terrific his rage unmatched,

hatred and murder. To Hrothgar I

in greatness of soul would succor bring,

so the Wise-and-Brave {4a} may worst his foes, -

if ever the end of ills is fated,

of cruel contest, if cure shall follow,

and the boiling care-waves cooler grow;

else ever afterward anguish-days

he shall suffer in sorrow while stands in place

high on its hill that house unpeered!"

Astride his steed, the strand-ward answered,

clansman unquailing: "The keen-souled thane

must be skilled to sever and sunder duly

words and works, if he well intends.

I gather, this band is graciously bent

to the Scyldings' master. March, then, bearing

weapons and weeds the way I show you.

I will bid my men your boat meanwhile

to guard for fear lest foemen come, -

your new-tarred ship by shore of ocean

faithfully watching till once again

it waft o'er the waters those well-loved thanes,

- winding-neck'd wood, - to Weders' bounds,

heroes such as the hest of fate

shall succor and save from the shock of war."

They bent them to march, - the boat lay still,

fettered by cable and fast at anchor,

broad-bosomed ship. - Then shone the boars {4b}

over the cheek-guard; chased with gold,

keen and gleaming, guard it kept

o'er the man of war, as marched along

heroes in haste, till the hall they saw,

broad of gable and bright with gold:

that was the fairest, 'mid folk of earth,

of houses 'neath heaven, where Hrothgar lived,

and the gleam of it lightened o'er lands afar.

The sturdy shieldsman showed that bright

burg-of-the-boldest; bade them go

straightway thither; his steed then turned,

hardy hero, and hailed them thus: -

"'Tis time that I fare from you. Father Almighty

in grace and mercy guard you well,

safe in your seekings. Seaward I go,

'gainst hostile warriors hold my watch."


STONE-BRIGHT the street: {5a} it showed the way

to the crowd of clansmen. Corselets glistened

hand-forged, hard; on their harness bright

the steel ring sang, as they strode along

in mail of battle, and marched to the hall.

There, weary of ocean, the wall along

they set their bucklers, their broad shields, down,

and bowed them to bench: the breastplates clanged,

war-gear of men; their weapons stacked,

spears of the seafarers stood together,

gray-tipped ash: that iron band

was worthily weaponed! - A warrior proud

asked of the heroes their home and kin.

"Whence, now, bear ye burnished shields,

harness gray and helmets grim,

spears in multitude? Messenger, I,

Hrothgar's herald! Heroes so many

ne'er met I as strangers of mood so strong.

'Tis plain that for prowess, not plunged into exile,

for high-hearted valor, Hrothgar ye seek!"

Him the sturdy-in-war bespake with words,

proud earl of the Weders answer made,

hardy 'neath helmet: - "Hygelac's, we,

fellows at board; I am Beowulf named.

I am seeking to say to the son of Healfdene

this mission of mine, to thy master-lord,

the doughty prince, if he deign at all

grace that we greet him, the good one, now."

Wulfgar spake, the Wendles' chieftain,

whose might of mind to many was known,

his courage and counsel: "The king of Danes,

the Scyldings' friend, I fain will tell,

the Breaker-of-Rings, as the boon thou askest,

the famed prince, of thy faring hither,

and, swiftly after, such answer bring

as the doughty monarch may deign to give."

Hied then in haste to where Hrothgar sat

white-haired and old, his earls about him,

till the stout thane stood at the shoulder there

of the Danish king: good courtier he!

Wulfgar spake to his winsome lord: -

"Hither have fared to thee far-come men

o'er the paths of ocean, people of Geatland;

and the stateliest there by his sturdy band

is Beowulf named. This boon they seek,

that they, my master, may with thee

have speech at will: nor spurn their prayer

to give them hearing, gracious Hrothgar!

In weeds of the warrior worthy they,

methinks, of our liking; their leader most surely,

a hero that hither his henchmen has led."


HROTHGAR answered, helmet of Scyldings: -

"I knew him of yore in his youthful days;

his aged father was Ecgtheow named,

to whom, at home, gave Hrethel the Geat

his only daughter. Their offspring bold

fares hither to seek the steadfast friend.

And seamen, too, have said me this, -

who carried my gifts to the Geatish court,

thither for thanks, - he has thirty men's

heft of grasp in the gripe of his hand,

the bold-in-battle. Blessed God

out of his mercy this man hath sent

to Danes of the West, as I ween indeed,

against horror of Grendel. I hope to give

the good youth gold for his gallant thought.

Be thou in haste, and bid them hither,

clan of kinsmen, to come before me;

and add this word, - they are welcome guests

to folk of the Danes."

[To the door of the hall

Wulfgar went] and the word declared: -

"To you this message my master sends,

East-Danes' king, that your kin he knows,

hardy heroes, and hails you all

welcome hither o'er waves of the sea!

Ye may wend your way in war-attire,

and under helmets Hrothgar greet;

but let here the battle-shields bide your parley,

and wooden war-shafts wait its end."

Uprose the mighty one, ringed with his men,

brave band of thanes: some bode without,

battle-gear guarding, as bade the chief.

Then hied that troop where the herald led them,

under Heorot's roof: [the hero strode,]

hardy 'neath helm, till the hearth he neared.

Beowulf spake, - his breastplate gleamed,

war-net woven by wit of the smith: -

"Thou Hrothgar, hail! Hygelac's I,

kinsman and follower. Fame a plenty

have I gained in youth! These Grendel-deeds

I heard in my home-land heralded clear.

Seafarers say how stands this hall,

of buildings best, for your band of thanes

empty and idle, when evening sun

in the harbor of heaven is hidden away.

So my vassals advised me well, -

brave and wise, the best of men, -

O sovran Hrothgar, to seek thee here,

for my nerve and my might they knew full well.

Themselves had seen me from slaughter come

blood-flecked from foes, where five I bound,

and that wild brood worsted. I' the waves I slew

nicors {6a} by night, in need and peril

avenging the Weders, {6b} whose woe they sought, -

crushing the grim ones. Grendel now,

monster cruel, be mine to quell

in single battle! So, from thee,

thou sovran of the Shining-Danes,

Scyldings'-bulwark, a boon I seek, -

and, Friend-of-the-folk, refuse it not,

O Warriors'-shield, now I've wandered far, -

that I alone with my liegemen here,

this hardy band, may Heorot purge!

More I hear, that the monster dire,

in his wanton mood, of weapons recks not;

hence shall I scorn - so Hygelac stay,

king of my kindred, kind to me! -

brand or buckler to bear in the fight,

gold-colored targe: but with gripe alone

must I front the fiend and fight for life,

foe against foe. Then faith be his

in the doom of the Lord whom death shall take.

Fain, I ween, if the fight he win,

in this hall of gold my Geatish band

will he fearless eat, - as oft before, -

my noblest thanes. Nor need'st thou then

to hide my head; {6c} for his shall I be,

dyed in gore, if death must take me;

and my blood-covered body he'll bear as prey,

ruthless devour it, the roamer-lonely,

with my life-blood redden his lair in the fen:

no further for me need'st food prepare!

To Hygelac send, if Hild {6d} should take me,

best of war-weeds, warding my breast,

armor excellent, heirloom of Hrethel

and work of Wayland. {6e} Fares Wyrd {6f} as she must."


HROTHGAR spake, the Scyldings'-helmet: -

"For fight defensive, Friend my Beowulf,

to succor and save, thou hast sought us here.

Thy father's combat {7a} a feud enkindled

when Heatholaf with hand he slew

among the Wylfings; his Weder kin

for horror of fighting feared to hold him.

Fleeing, he sought our South-Dane folk,

over surge of ocean the Honor-Scyldings,

when first I was ruling the folk of Danes,

wielded, youthful, this widespread realm,

this hoard-hold of heroes. Heorogar was dead,

my elder brother, had breathed his last,

Healfdene's bairn: he was better than I!

Straightway the feud with fee {7b} I settled,

to the Wylfings sent, o'er watery ridges,

treasures olden: oaths he {7c} swore me.

Sore is my soul to say to any

of the race of man what ruth for me

in Heorot Grendel with hate hath wrought,

what sudden harryings. Hall-folk fail me,

my warriors wane; for Wyrd hath swept them

into Grendel's grasp. But God is able

this deadly foe from his deeds to turn!

Boasted full oft, as my beer they drank,

earls o'er the ale-cup, armed men,

that they would bide in the beer-hall here,

Grendel's attack with terror of blades.

Then was this mead-house at morning tide

dyed with gore, when the daylight broke,

all the boards of the benches blood-besprinkled,

gory the hall: I had heroes the less,

doughty dear-ones that death had reft.

- But sit to the banquet, unbind thy words,

hardy hero, as heart shall prompt thee."

Gathered together, the Geatish men

in the banquet-hall on bench assigned,

sturdy-spirited, sat them down,

hardy-hearted. A henchman attended,

carried the carven cup in hand,

served the clear mead. Oft minstrels sang

blithe in Heorot. Heroes revelled,

no dearth of warriors, Weder and Dane.


UNFERTH spake, the son of Ecglaf,

who sat at the feet of the Scyldings' lord,

unbound the battle-runes. {8a} - Beowulf's quest,

sturdy seafarer's, sorely galled him;

ever he envied that other men

should more achieve in middle-earth

of fame under heaven than he himself. -

"Art thou that Beowulf, Breca's rival,

who emulous swam on the open sea,

when for pride the pair of you proved the floods,

and wantonly dared in waters deep

to risk your lives? No living man,

or lief or loath, from your labor dire

could you dissuade, from swimming the main.

Ocean-tides with your arms ye covered,

with strenuous hands the sea-streets measured,

swam o'er the waters. Winter's storm

rolled the rough waves. In realm of sea

a sennight strove ye. In swimming he topped thee,

had more of main! Him at morning-tide

billows bore to the Battling Reamas,

whence he hied to his home so dear

beloved of his liegemen, to land of Brondings,

fastness fair, where his folk he ruled,

town and treasure. In triumph o'er thee

Beanstan's bairn {8b} his boast achieved.

So ween I for thee a worse adventure

- though in buffet of battle thou brave hast been,

in struggle grim, - if Grendel's approach

thou darst await through the watch of night!"

Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"What a deal hast uttered, dear my Unferth,

drunken with beer, of Breca now,

told of his triumph! Truth I claim it,

that I had more of might in the sea

than any man else, more ocean-endurance.

We twain had talked, in time of youth,

and made our boast, - we were merely boys,

striplings still, - to stake our lives

far at sea: and so we performed it.

Naked swords, as we swam along,

we held in hand, with hope to guard us

against the whales. Not a whit from me

could he float afar o'er the flood of waves,

haste o'er the billows; nor him I abandoned.

Together we twain on the tides abode

five nights full till the flood divided us,

churning waves and chillest weather,

darkling night, and the northern wind

ruthless rushed on us: rough was the surge.

Now the wrath of the sea-fish rose apace;

yet me 'gainst the monsters my mailed coat,

hard and hand-linked, help afforded, -

battle-sark braided my breast to ward,

garnished with gold. There grasped me firm

and haled me to bottom the hated foe,

with grimmest gripe. 'Twas granted me, though,

to pierce the monster with point of sword,

with blade of battle: huge beast of the sea

was whelmed by the hurly through hand of mine.


ME thus often the evil monsters

thronging threatened. With thrust of my sword,

the darling, I dealt them due return!

Nowise had they bliss from their booty then

to devour their victim, vengeful creatures,

seated to banquet at bottom of sea;

but at break of day, by my brand sore hurt,

on the edge of ocean up they lay,

put to sleep by the sword. And since, by them

on the fathomless sea-ways sailor-folk

are never molested. - Light from east,

came bright God's beacon; the billows sank,

so that I saw the sea-cliffs high,

windy walls. For Wyrd oft saveth

earl undoomed if he doughty be!

And so it came that I killed with my sword

nine of the nicors. Of night-fought battles

ne'er heard I a harder 'neath heaven's dome,

nor adrift on the deep a more desolate man!

Yet I came unharmed from that hostile clutch,

though spent with swimming. The sea upbore me,

flood of the tide, on Finnish land,

the welling waters. No wise of thee

have I heard men tell such terror of falchions,

bitter battle. Breca ne'er yet,

not one of you pair, in the play of war

such daring deed has done at all

with bloody brand, - I boast not of it! -

though thou wast the bane {9a} of thy brethren dear,

thy closest kin, whence curse of hell

awaits thee, well as thy wit may serve!

For I say in sooth, thou son of Ecglaf,

never had Grendel these grim deeds wrought,

monster dire, on thy master dear,

in Heorot such havoc, if heart of thine

were as battle-bold as thy boast is loud!

But he has found no feud will happen;

from sword-clash dread of your Danish clan

he vaunts him safe, from the Victor-Scyldings.

He forces pledges, favors none

of the land of Danes, but lustily murders,

fights and feasts, nor feud he dreads

from Spear-Dane men. But speedily now

shall I prove him the prowess and pride of the Geats,

shall bid him battle. Blithe to mead

go he that listeth, when light of dawn

this morrow morning o'er men of earth,

ether-robed sun from the south shall beam!"

Joyous then was the Jewel-giver,

hoar-haired, war-brave; help awaited

the Bright-Danes' prince, from Beowulf hearing,

folk's good shepherd, such firm resolve.

Then was laughter of liegemen loud resounding

with winsome words. Came Wealhtheow forth,

queen of Hrothgar, heedful of courtesy,

gold-decked, greeting the guests in hall;

and the high-born lady handed the cup

first to the East-Danes' heir and warden,

bade him be blithe at the beer-carouse,

the land's beloved one. Lustily took he

banquet and beaker, battle-famed king.

Through the hall then went the Helmings' Lady,

to younger and older everywhere

carried the cup, till come the moment

when the ring-graced queen, the royal-hearted,

to Beowulf bore the beaker of mead.

She greeted the Geats' lord, God she thanked,

in wisdom's words, that her will was granted,

that at last on a hero her hope could lean

for comfort in terrors. The cup he took,

hardy-in-war, from Wealhtheow's hand,

and answer uttered the eager-for-combat.

Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"This was my thought, when my thanes and I

bent to the ocean and entered our boat,

that I would work the will of your people

fully, or fighting fall in death,

in fiend's gripe fast. I am firm to do

an earl's brave deed, or end the days

of this life of mine in the mead-hall here."

Well these words to the woman seemed,

Beowulf's battle-boast. - Bright with gold

the stately dame by her spouse sat down.

Again, as erst, began in hall

warriors' wassail and words of power,

the proud-band's revel, till presently

the son of Healfdene hastened to seek

rest for the night; he knew there waited

fight for the fiend in that festal hall,

when the sheen of the sun they saw no more,

and dusk of night sank darkling nigh,

and shadowy shapes came striding on,

wan under welkin. The warriors rose.

Man to man, he made harangue,

Hrothgar to Beowulf, bade him hail,

let him wield the wine hall: a word he added: -

"Never to any man erst I trusted,

since I could heave up hand and shield,

this noble Dane-Hall, till now to thee.

Have now and hold this house unpeered;

remember thy glory; thy might declare;

watch for the foe! No wish shall fail thee

if thou bidest the battle with bold-won life."


THEN Hrothgar went with his hero-train,

defence-of-Scyldings, forth from hall;

fain would the war-lord Wealhtheow seek,

couch of his queen. The King-of-Glory

against this Grendel a guard had set,

so heroes heard, a hall-defender,

who warded the monarch and watched for the monster.

In truth, the Geats' prince gladly trusted

his mettle, his might, the mercy of God!

Cast off then his corselet of iron,

helmet from head; to his henchman gave, -

choicest of weapons, - the well-chased sword,

bidding him guard the gear of battle.

Spake then his Vaunt the valiant man,

Beowulf Geat, ere the bed be sought: -

"Of force in fight no feebler I count me,

in grim war-deeds, than Grendel deems him.

Not with the sword, then, to sleep of death

his life will I give, though it lie in my power.

No skill is his to strike against me,

my shield to hew though he hardy be,

bold in battle; we both, this night,

shall spurn the sword, if he seek me here,

unweaponed, for war. Let wisest God,

sacred Lord, on which side soever

doom decree as he deemeth right."

Reclined then the chieftain, and cheek-pillows held

the head of the earl, while all about him

seamen hardy on hall-beds sank.

None of them thought that thence their steps

to the folk and fastness that fostered them,

to the land they loved, would lead them back!

Full well they wist that on warriors many

battle-death seized, in the banquet-hall,

of Danish clan. But comfort and help,

war-weal weaving, to Weder folk

the Master gave, that, by might of one,

over their enemy all prevailed,

by single strength. In sooth 'tis told

that highest God o'er human kind

hath wielded ever! - Thro' wan night striding,

came the walker-in-shadow. Warriors slept

whose hest was to guard the gabled hall, -

all save one. 'Twas widely known

that against God's will the ghostly ravager

him {10a} could not hurl to haunts of darkness;

wakeful, ready, with warrior's wrath,

bold he bided the battle's issue.