Beowulf (2 of 3)

Uploaded by The16thCavern on 11.11.2012

Section 4
THERE was hurry and hest in Heorot now for hands to bedeck it, and dense was the
throng of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse,
the guest-room to garnish. Gold-gay shone the hangings
that were wove on the wall, and wonders many to delight each mortal that looks upon them.
Though braced within by iron bands, that building bright was broken sorely; {15a}
rent were its hinges; the roof alone held safe and sound, when, seared with crime,
the fiendish foe his flight essayed, of life despairing. — No light thing that,
the flight for safety, — essay it who will! Forced of fate, he shall find his way
to the refuge ready for race of man, for soul-possessors, and sons of earth;
and there his body on bed of death shall rest after revel.
Arrived was the hour when to hall proceeded Healfdene's son:
the king himself would sit to banquet. Ne'er heard I of host in haughtier throng
more graciously gathered round giver-of-rings! Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory,
fain of the feasting. Featly received many a mead-cup the mighty-in-spirit,
kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall, Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot now
was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings ne'er yet had tried the traitor's deed.
To Beowulf gave the bairn of Healfdene a gold-wove banner, guerdon of triumph,
broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet; and a splendid sword was seen of many
borne to the brave one. Beowulf took cup in hall: {15b} for such costly gifts
he suffered no shame in that soldier throng. For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,
with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold, on the ale-bench honoring others thus!
O'er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge, wound with wires, kept ward o'er the head,
lest the relict-of-files {15c} should fierce invade,
sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero should go to grapple against his foes.
Then the earls'-defence {15d} on the floor {15e} bade lead
coursers eight, with carven head-gear, adown the hall: one horse was decked
with a saddle all shining and set in jewels; 'twas the battle-seat of the best of kings,
when to play of swords the son of Healfdene was fain to fare. Ne'er failed his valor
in the crush of combat when corpses fell. To Beowulf over them both then gave
the refuge-of-Ingwines right and power, o'er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy
of them. Manfully thus the mighty prince,
hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid with steeds and treasures contemned by none
who is willing to say the sooth aright.
AND the lord of earls, to each that came with Beowulf over the briny ways,
an heirloom there at the ale-bench gave, precious gift; and the price {16a} bade pay
in gold for him whom Grendel erst murdered, — and fain of them more had killed,
had not wisest God their Wyrd averted, and the man's {16b} brave mood. The Maker
then ruled human kind, as here and now.
Therefore is insight always best, and forethought of mind. How much awaits him
of lief and of loath, who long time here, through days of warfare this world endures!
Then song and music mingled sounds in the presence of Healfdene's head-of-armies
{16c} and harping was heard with the hero-lay
as Hrothgar's singer the hall-joy woke along the mead-seats, making his song
of that sudden raid on the sons of Finn. {16d} Healfdene's hero, Hnaef the Scylding,
was fated to fall in the Frisian slaughter. {16e}
Hildeburh needed not hold in value her enemies' honor! {16f} Innocent both
were the loved ones she lost at the linden-play, bairn and brother, they bowed to fate,
stricken by spears; 'twas a sorrowful woman! None doubted why the daughter of Hoc
bewailed her doom when dawning came, and under the sky she saw them lying,
kinsmen murdered, where most she had kenned of the sweets of the world! By war were swept,
too, Finn's own liegemen, and few were left;
in the parleying-place {16g} he could ply no longer
weapon, nor war could he wage on Hengest, and rescue his remnant by right of arms
from the prince's thane. A pact he offered: another dwelling the Danes should have,
hall and high-seat, and half the power should fall to them in Frisian land;
and at the fee-gifts, Folcwald's son day by day the Danes should honor,
the folk of Hengest favor with rings, even as truly, with treasure and jewels,
with fretted gold, as his Frisian kin he meant to honor in ale-hall there.
Pact of peace they plighted further on both sides firmly. Finn to Hengest
with oath, upon honor, openly promised that woful remnant, with wise-men's aid,
nobly to govern, so none of the guests by word or work should warp the treaty, {16h}
or with malice of mind bemoan themselves as forced to follow their fee-giver's slayer,
lordless men, as their lot ordained. Should Frisian, moreover, with foeman's taunt,
that murderous hatred to mind recall, then edge of the sword must seal his doom.
Oaths were given, and ancient gold heaped from hoard. — The hardy Scylding,
battle-thane best, {16i} on his balefire lay. All on the pyre were plain to see
the gory sark, the gilded swine-crest, boar of hard iron, and athelings many
slain by the sword: at the slaughter they fell.
It was Hildeburh's hest, at Hnaef's own pyre the bairn of her body on brands to lay,
his bones to burn, on the balefire placed, at his uncle's side. In sorrowful dirges
bewept them the woman: great wailing ascended. Then wound up to welkin the wildest of death-fires,
roared o'er the hillock: {16j} heads all were melted,
gashes burst, and blood gushed out from bites {16k} of the body. Balefire devoured,
greediest spirit, those spared not by war out of either folk: their flower was gone.
THEN hastened those heroes their home to see, friendless, to find the Frisian land,
houses and high burg. Hengest still through the death-dyed winter dwelt with Finn,
holding pact, yet of home he minded, though powerless his ring-decked prow to drive
over the waters, now waves rolled fierce lashed by the winds, or winter locked them
in icy fetters. Then fared another year to men's dwellings, as yet they do,
the sunbright skies, that their season ever duly await. Far off winter was driven;
fair lay earth's breast; and fain was the rover,
the guest, to depart, though more gladly he pondered
on wreaking his vengeance than roaming the deep,
and how to hasten the hot encounter where sons of the Frisians were sure to be.
So he escaped not the common doom, when Hun with "Lafing," the light-of-battle,
best of blades, his bosom pierced: its edge was famed with the Frisian earls.
On fierce-heart Finn there fell likewise, on himself at home, the horrid sword-death;
for Guthlaf and Oslaf of grim attack had sorrowing told, from sea-ways landed,
mourning their woes. {17a} Finn's wavering spirit
bode not in breast. The burg was reddened with blood of foemen, and Finn was slain,
king amid clansmen; the queen was taken. To their ship the Scylding warriors bore
all the chattels the chieftain owned, whatever they found in Finn's domain
of gems and jewels. The gentle wife o'er paths of the deep to the Danes they bore,
led to her land. The lay was finished,
the gleeman's song. Then glad rose the revel; bench-joy brightened. Bearers draw
from their "wonder-vats" wine. Comes Wealhtheow forth,
under gold-crown goes where the good pair sit,
uncle and nephew, true each to the other one, kindred in amity. Unferth the spokesman
at the Scylding lord's feet sat: men had faith in his spirit,
his keenness of courage, though kinsmen had found him
unsure at the sword-play. The Scylding queen spoke:
"Quaff of this cup, my king and lord, breaker of rings, and blithe be thou,
gold-friend of men; to the Geats here speak such words of mildness as man should use.
Be glad with thy Geats; of those gifts be mindful,
or near or far, which now thou hast.
Men say to me, as son thou wishest yon hero to hold. Thy Heorot purged,
jewel-hall brightest, enjoy while thou canst, with many a largess; and leave to thy kin
folk and realm when forth thou goest to greet thy doom. For gracious I deem
my Hrothulf, {17b} willing to hold and rule nobly our youths, if thou yield up first,
prince of Scyldings, thy part in the world. I ween with good he will well requite
offspring of ours, when all he minds that for him we did in his helpless days
of gift and grace to gain him honor!" Then she turned to the seat where her sons
wereplaced, Hrethric and Hrothmund, with heroes' bairns,
young men together: the Geat, too, sat there, Beowulf brave, the brothers between.
A CUP she gave him, with kindly greeting and winsome words. Of wounden gold,
she offered, to honor him, arm-jewels twain, corselet and rings, and of collars the noblest
that ever I knew the earth around. Ne'er heard I so mighty, 'neath heaven's dome,
a hoard-gem of heroes, since Hama bore to his bright-built burg the Brisings' necklace,
jewel and gem casket. — Jealousy fled he, Eormenric's hate: chose help eternal.
Hygelac Geat, grandson of Swerting, on the last of his raids this ring bore with
him, under his banner the booty defending,
the war-spoil warding; but Wyrd o'erwhelmed him
what time, in his daring, dangers he sought, feud with Frisians. Fairest of gems
he bore with him over the beaker-of-waves, sovran strong: under shield he died.
Fell the corpse of the king into keeping of Franks,
gear of the breast, and that gorgeous ring; weaker warriors won the spoil,
after gripe of battle, from Geatland's lord, and held the death-field.
Din rose in hall. Wealhtheow spake amid warriors, and said:
— "This jewel enjoy in thy jocund youth,
Beowulf lov'd, these battle-weeds wear, a royal treasure, and richly thrive!
Preserve thy strength, and these striplings here
counsel in kindness: requital be mine. Hast done such deeds, that for days to come
thou art famed among folk both far and near, so wide as washeth the wave of Ocean
his windy walls. Through the ways of life prosper, O prince! I pray for thee
rich possessions. To son of mine be helpful in deed and uphold his joys!
Here every earl to the other is true, mild of mood, to the master loyal!
Thanes are friendly, the throng obedient, liegemen are revelling: list and obey!"
Went then to her place. — That was proudest of feasts;
flowed wine for the warriors. Wyrd they knew not,
destiny dire, and the doom to be seen by many an earl when eve should come,
and Hrothgar homeward hasten away, royal, to rest. The room was guarded
by an army of earls, as erst was done. They bared the bench-boards; abroad they spread
beds and bolsters. — One beer-carouser in danger of doom lay down in the hall. —
At their heads they set their shields of war, bucklers bright; on the bench were there
over each atheling, easy to see, the high battle-helmet, the haughty spear,
the corselet of rings. 'Twas their custom so
ever to be for battle prepared, at home, or harrying, which it were,
even as oft as evil threatened their sovran king. — They were clansmen
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.
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!
End of Section 4 of Beowulf �