Lines 2200-2537


"So held this king to the customs old,

that I wanted for nought in the wage I gained,

the meed of my might; he made me gifts,

Healfdene's heir, for my own disposal.

Now to thee, my prince, I proffer them all,

gladly give them. Thy grace alone

can find me favor. Few indeed

have I of kinsmen, save, Hygelac, thee!"

Then he bade them bear him the boar-head standard,

the battle-helm high, and breastplate gray,

the splendid sword; then spake in form: -

"Me this war-gear the wise old prince,

Hrothgar, gave, and his hest he added,

that its story be straightway said to thee. -

A while it was held by Heorogar king,

for long time lord of the land of Scyldings;

yet not to his son the sovran left it,

to daring Heoroweard, - dear as he was to him,

his harness of battle. - Well hold thou it all!"

And I heard that soon passed o'er the path of this treasure,

all apple-fallow, four good steeds,

each like the others, arms and horses

he gave to the king. So should kinsmen be,

not weave one another the net of wiles,

or with deep-hid treachery death contrive

for neighbor and comrade. His nephew was ever

by hardy Hygelac held full dear,

and each kept watch o'er the other's weal.

I heard, too, the necklace to Hygd he presented,

wonder-wrought treasure, which Wealhtheow gave him

sovran's daughter: three steeds he added,

slender and saddle-gay. Since such gift

the gem gleamed bright on the breast of the queen.

Thus showed his strain the son of Ecgtheow

as a man remarked for mighty deeds

and acts of honor. At ale he slew not

comrade or kin; nor cruel his mood,

though of sons of earth his strength was greatest,

a glorious gift that God had sent

the splendid leader. Long was he spurned,

and worthless by Geatish warriors held;

him at mead the master-of-clans

failed full oft to favor at all.

Slack and shiftless the strong men deemed him,

profitless prince; but payment came,

to the warrior honored, for all his woes. -

Then the bulwark-of-earls {29a} bade bring within,

hardy chieftain, Hrethel's heirloom

garnished with gold: no Geat e'er knew

in shape of a sword a statelier prize.

The brand he laid in Beowulf's lap;

and of hides assigned him seven thousand, {29b}

with house and high-seat. They held in common

land alike by their line of birth,

inheritance, home: but higher the king

because of his rule o'er the realm itself.

Now further it fell with the flight of years,

with harryings horrid, that Hygelac perished, {29c}

and Heardred, too, by hewing of swords

under the shield-wall slaughtered lay,

when him at the van of his victor-folk

sought hardy heroes, Heatho-Scilfings,

in arms o'erwhelming Hereric's nephew.

Then Beowulf came as king this broad

realm to wield; and he ruled it well

fifty winters, {29d} a wise old prince,

warding his land, until One began

in the dark of night, a Dragon, to rage.

In the grave on the hill a hoard it guarded,

in the stone-barrow steep. A strait path reached it,

unknown to mortals. Some man, however,

came by chance that cave within

to the heathen hoard. {29e} In hand he took

a golden goblet, nor gave he it back,

stole with it away, while the watcher slept,

by thievish wiles: for the warden's wrath

prince and people must pay betimes!


THAT way he went with no will of his own,

in danger of life, to the dragon's hoard,

but for pressure of peril, some prince's thane.

He fled in fear the fatal scourge,

seeking shelter, a sinful man,

and entered in. At the awful sight

tottered that guest, and terror seized him;

yet the wretched fugitive rallied anon

from fright and fear ere he fled away,

and took the cup from that treasure-hoard.

Of such besides there was store enough,

heirlooms old, the earth below,

which some earl forgotten, in ancient years,

left the last of his lofty race,

heedfully there had hidden away,

dearest treasure. For death of yore

had hurried all hence; and he alone

left to live, the last of the clan,

weeping his friends, yet wished to bide

warding the treasure, his one delight,

though brief his respite. The barrow, new-ready,

to strand and sea-waves stood anear,

hard by the headland, hidden and closed;

there laid within it his lordly heirlooms

and heaped hoard of heavy gold

that warden of rings. Few words he spake:

"Now hold thou, earth, since heroes may not,

what earls have owned! Lo, erst from thee

brave men brought it! But battle-death seized

and cruel killing my clansmen all,

robbed them of life and a liegeman's joys.

None have I left to lift the sword,

or to cleanse the carven cup of price,

beaker bright. My brave are gone.

And the helmet hard, all haughty with gold,

shall part from its plating. Polishers sleep

who could brighten and burnish the battle-mask;

and those weeds of war that were wont to brave

over bicker of shields the bite of steel

rust with their bearer. The ringed mail

fares not far with famous chieftain,

at side of hero! No harp's delight,

no glee-wood's gladness! No good hawk now

flies through the hall! Nor horses fleet

stamp in the burgstead! Battle and death

the flower of my race have reft away."

Mournful of mood, thus he moaned his woe,

alone, for them all, and unblithe wept

by day and by night, till death's fell wave

o'erwhelmed his heart. His hoard-of-bliss

that old ill-doer open found,

who, blazing at twilight the barrows haunteth,

naked foe-dragon flying by night

folded in fire: the folk of earth

dread him sore. 'Tis his doom to seek

hoard in the graves, and heathen gold

to watch, many-wintered: nor wins he thereby!

Powerful this plague-of-the-people thus

held the house of the hoard in earth

three hundred winters; till One aroused

wrath in his breast, to the ruler bearing

that costly cup, and the king implored

for bond of peace. So the barrow was plundered,

borne off was booty. His boon was granted

that wretched man; and his ruler saw

first time what was fashioned in far-off days.

When the dragon awoke, new woe was kindled.

O'er the stone he snuffed. The stark-heart found

footprint of foe who so far had gone

in his hidden craft by the creature's head. -

So may the undoomed easily flee

evils and exile, if only he gain

the grace of The Wielder! - That warden of gold

o'er the ground went seeking, greedy to find

the man who wrought him such wrong in sleep.

Savage and burning, the barrow he circled

all without; nor was any there,

none in the waste.... Yet war he desired,

was eager for battle. The barrow he entered,

sought the cup, and discovered soon

that some one of mortals had searched his treasure,

his lordly gold. The guardian waited

ill-enduring till evening came;

boiling with wrath was the barrow's keeper,

and fain with flame the foe to pay

for the dear cup's loss. - Now day was fled

as the worm had wished. By its wall no more

was it glad to bide, but burning flew

folded in flame: a fearful beginning

for sons of the soil; and soon it came,

in the doom of their lord, to a dreadful end.


THEN the baleful fiend its fire belched out,

and bright homes burned. The blaze stood high

all landsfolk frighting. No living thing

would that loathly one leave as aloft it flew.

Wide was the dragon's warring seen,

its fiendish fury far and near,

as the grim destroyer those Geatish people

hated and hounded. To hidden lair,

to its hoard it hastened at hint of dawn.

Folk of the land it had lapped in flame,

with bale and brand. In its barrow it trusted,

its battling and bulwarks: that boast was vain!

To Beowulf then the bale was told

quickly and truly: the king's own home,

of buildings the best, in brand-waves melted,

that gift-throne of Geats. To the good old man

sad in heart, 'twas heaviest sorrow.

The sage assumed that his sovran God

he had angered, breaking ancient law,

and embittered the Lord. His breast within

with black thoughts welled, as his wont was never.

The folk's own fastness that fiery dragon

with flame had destroyed, and the stronghold all

washed by waves; but the warlike king,

prince of the Weders, plotted vengeance.

Warriors'-bulwark, he bade them work

all of iron - the earl's commander -

a war-shield wondrous: well he knew

that forest-wood against fire were worthless,

linden could aid not. - Atheling brave,

he was fated to finish this fleeting life, {31a}

his days on earth, and the dragon with him,

though long it had watched o'er the wealth of the hoard! -

Shame he reckoned it, sharer-of-rings,

to follow the flyer-afar with a host,

a broad-flung band; nor the battle feared he,

nor deemed he dreadful the dragon's warring,

its vigor and valor: ventures desperate

he had passed a-plenty, and perils of war,

contest-crash, since, conqueror proud,

Hrothgar's hall he had wholly purged,

and in grapple had killed the kin of Grendel,

loathsome breed! Not least was that

of hand-to-hand fights where Hygelac fell,

when the ruler of Geats in rush of battle,

lord of his folk, in the Frisian land,

son of Hrethel, by sword-draughts died,

by brands down-beaten. Thence Beowulf fled

through strength of himself and his swimming power,

though alone, and his arms were laden with thirty

coats of mail, when he came to the sea!

Nor yet might Hetwaras {31b} haughtily boast

their craft of contest, who carried against him

shields to the fight: but few escaped

from strife with the hero to seek their homes!

Then swam over ocean Ecgtheow's son

lonely and sorrowful, seeking his land,

where Hygd made him offer of hoard and realm,

rings and royal-seat, reckoning naught

the strength of her son to save their kingdom

from hostile hordes, after Hygelac's death.

No sooner for this could the stricken ones

in any wise move that atheling's mind

over young Heardred's head as lord

and ruler of all the realm to be:

yet the hero upheld him with helpful words,

aided in honor, till, older grown,

he wielded the Weder-Geats. - Wandering exiles

sought him o'er seas, the sons of Ohtere,

who had spurned the sway of the Scylfings'-helmet,

the bravest and best that broke the rings,

in Swedish land, of the sea-kings' line,

haughty hero. {31c} Hence Heardred's end.

For shelter he gave them, sword-death came,

the blade's fell blow, to bairn of Hygelac;

but the son of Ongentheow sought again

house and home when Heardred fell,

leaving Beowulf lord of Geats

and gift-seat's master. - A good king he!


THE fall of his lord he was fain to requite

in after days; and to Eadgils he proved

friend to the friendless, and forces sent

over the sea to the son of Ohtere,

weapons and warriors: well repaid he

those care-paths cold when the king he slew. {32a}

Thus safe through struggles the son of Ecgtheow

had passed a plenty, through perils dire,

with daring deeds, till this day was come

that doomed him now with the dragon to strive.

With comrades eleven the lord of Geats

swollen in rage went seeking the dragon.

He had heard whence all the harm arose

and the killing of clansmen; that cup of price

on the lap of the lord had been laid by the finder.

In the throng was this one thirteenth man,

starter of all the strife and ill,

care-laden captive; cringing thence

forced and reluctant, he led them on

till he came in ken of that cavern-hall,

the barrow delved near billowy surges,

flood of ocean. Within 'twas full

of wire-gold and jewels; a jealous warden,

warrior trusty, the treasures held,

lurked in his lair. Not light the task

of entrance for any of earth-born men!

Sat on the headland the hero king,

spake words of hail to his hearth-companions,

gold-friend of Geats. All gloomy his soul,

wavering, death-bound. Wyrd full nigh

stood ready to greet the gray-haired man,

to seize his soul-hoard, sunder apart

life and body. Not long would be

the warrior's spirit enwound with flesh.

Beowulf spake, the bairn of Ecgtheow: -

"Through store of struggles I strove in youth,

mighty feuds; I mind them all.

I was seven years old when the sovran of rings,

friend-of-his-folk, from my father took me,

had me, and held me, Hrethel the king,

with food and fee, faithful in kinship.

Ne'er, while I lived there, he loathlier found me,

bairn in the burg, than his birthright sons,

Herebeald and Haethcyn and Hygelac mine.

For the eldest of these, by unmeet chance,

by kinsman's deed, was the death-bed strewn,

when Haethcyn killed him with horny bow,

his own dear liege laid low with an arrow,

missed the mark and his mate shot down,

one brother the other, with bloody shaft.

A feeless fight, {32b} and a fearful sin,

horror to Hrethel; yet, hard as it was,

unavenged must the atheling die!

Too awful it is for an aged man

to bide and bear, that his bairn so young

rides on the gallows. A rime he makes,

sorrow-song for his son there hanging

as rapture of ravens; no rescue now

can come from the old, disabled man!

Still is he minded, as morning breaks,

of the heir gone elsewhere; {32c} another he hopes not

he will bide to see his burg within

as ward for his wealth, now the one has found

doom of death that the deed incurred.

Forlorn he looks on the lodge of his son,

wine-hall waste and wind-swept chambers

reft of revel. The rider sleepeth,

the hero, far-hidden; {32d} no harp resounds,

in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.