This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Use of information or material from these pages for educational purposes is both acceptable and encouraged.  If you are teaching Beowulf and find this page useful in your class, please email me at to let me know.


Translated by Francis B. Gummere (The Harvard Classics, Vol. 49. P.F. Collier & Son., 1910)

This text, including accompanying numbered notes, is from the Internet Medieval Source Book, a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history, and is intended for educational purposes and personal use only. This HTML edition, including line numbers,  section divisions, and notes indicated by asterisks, is by Brian T. Murphy and is also intended for educational purposes and personal use only.

Prologue (ll. 1-85):
Prelude (1-52); I (53-85);

Part 1A: Grendel (86-1250):
I cont. (86-114);    II (115-188);    III (189-257);    IV (258-319);    V (320-370);    VI (371-456);    VII (457-499);    VIII (500-559);    IX (560-662);    X (663-710);    XI (711-791);    XII (792-837);    XIII (838-925);    XIV (926-991);    XV (992-1051);    XVI (1052-1126);    XVII (1127-1194);    XVIII (1195-1254);

Part 1B: Grendel’s Mum (1255-2208):
XIX (1255-1324);    XX (1325-1386);    XXI (1387-1477);    XXII (1478-1561);    XXIII (1562-1656);    XXIV (1657-1752);    XXV (1753-1825);    XXVI (1826-1896);    XXVII (1897-1971);    XXVIII (1972-2007);    XXIX (2008-2040);    XXX (2041-2152);    XXXI (2153-2229);

Part 2: The Dragon (2209-3192):
XXXII (2230-2320);    XXXIII (2321-2399);    XXXIV (2400-2468);    XXXV (2469-2610);    XXXVI (2611-2702);    XXXVII (2703-2760);    XXXVIII (2761-2829);    XXXIX (2830-2901);    XL (2902-2955);    XLI (2956-3067);    XLII (3068-3146);    XLIII (3147-3192)

Prologue (ll. 1-85):


1.      LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings

2.      of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,

3.      we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

4.      Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,

5.      from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,

6.      awing the earls. Since erst he lay

7.      friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:

8.      for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,

9.      till before him the folk, both far and near,

10.    who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,

11.    gave him gifts: a good king he!

12.    To him an heir was afterward born,

13.    a son in his halls, whom heaven sent

14.    to favor the folk, feeling their woe

15.    that erst they had lacked an earl for leader

16.    so long a while; the Lord endowed him,

17.    the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.

18.    Famed was this Beowulf 1 [Beow]*: far flew the boast of him,

19.     son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.

20.     So becomes it a youth to quit him well

21.     with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,

22.     that to aid him, aged, in after days,

23.     come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,

24.     liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds

25.     shall an earl have honor in every clan.

26.     Forth he fared at the fated moment,

27.     sturdy Scyld to the shelter of God.

28.     Then they bore him over to ocean’s billow,

29.     loving clansmen, as late he charged them,

30.     while wielded words the winsome Scyld,

31.     the leader beloved who long had ruled....

32.     In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,

33.     ice-flecked, outbound, atheling’s barge:

34.     there laid they down their darling lord

35.     on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,2

36.     by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure

37.     fetched from far was freighted with him.

38.     No ship have I known so nobly dight

39.     with weapons of war and weeds of battle,

40.     with breastplate and blade: on his bosom lay

41.     a heaped hoard that hence should go

42.     far o’er the flood with him floating away.

43.     No less these loaded the lordly gifts,

44.     thanes’ huge treasure, than those had done

45.     who in former time forth had sent him

46.     sole on the seas, a suckling child.

47.     High o’er his head they hoist the standard,

48.     a gold-wove banner; let billows take him,

49.     gave him to ocean. Grave were their spirits,

50.     mournful their mood. No man is able

51.     to say in sooth, no son of the halls,

52.     no hero ’neath heaven,—who harbored that freight!


Back to Top




53.     Now Beowulf [Beow]* bode in the burg of the Scyldings,

54.     leader beloved, and long he ruled

55.     in fame with all folk, since his father had gone

56.     away from the world, till awoke an heir,

57.     haughty Healfdene, who held through life,

58.     sage and sturdy, the Scyldings glad.

59.     Then, one after one, there woke to him,

60.     to the chieftain of clansmen, children four:

61.     Heorogar, then Hrothgar, then Halga brave;

62.     and I heard that—was—’s queen,

63.     the Heathoscylfing’s helpmate dear.

64.     To Hrothgar was given such glory of war,

65.     such honor of combat, that all his kin

66.     obeyed him gladly till great grew his band

67.     of youthful comrades. It came in his mind

68.     to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,

69.     a master mead-house, mightier far

70.     than ever was seen by the sons of earth,

71.     and within it, then, to old and young

72.     he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,

73.     save only the land and the lives of his men.

74.     Wide, I heard, was the work commanded,

75.     for many a tribe this mid-earth round,

76.     to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered,

77.     in rapid achievement that ready it stood there,

78.     of halls the noblest: Heorot1 he named it

79.     whose message had might in many a land.

80.     Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt,

81.     treasure at banquet: there towered the hall,

82.     high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting

83.     of furious flame.2 Nor far was that day

84.     when father and son-in-law stood in feud

85.     for warfare and hatred that woke again.3


Part 1A: Grendel (86-1250):


86.     With envy and anger an evil spirit

87.     endured the dole in his dark abode,

88.     that he heard each day the din of revel

89.     high in the hall: there harps rang out,

90.     clear song of the singer. He sang who knew4

91.     tales of the early time of man,

92.     how the Almighty made the earth,

93.     fairest fields enfolded by water,

94.     set, triumphant, sun and moon

95.     for a light to lighten the land-dwellers,

96.     and braided bright the breast of earth

97.     with limbs and leaves, made life for all

98.     of mortal beings that breathe and move.


99.     So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel

100.     a winsome life, till one began

101.     to fashion evils, that field of hell.

102.     Grendel this monster grim was called,

103.     march-riever5 mighty, in moorland living,

104.     in fen and fastness; fief of the giants

105.     the hapless wight a while had kept

106.     since the Creator his exile doomed.

107.     On kin of Cain was the killing avenged

108.     by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.

109.     Ill fared his feud,6 and far was he driven,

110.     for the slaughter’s sake, from sight of men.

111.     Of Cain awoke all that woful breed,

112.     Etins7 and elves and evil-spirits,

113.     as well as the giants that warred with God

114.     weary while: but their wage was paid them!

Back to Top




115.     WENT he forth to find at fall of night

116.     that haughty house, and heed wherever

117.     the Ring-Danes, outrevelled, to rest had gone.

118.     Found within it the atheling band

119.     asleep after feasting and fearless of sorrow,

120.     of human hardship. Unhallowed wight,

121.     grim and greedy, he grasped betimes,

122.     wrathful, reckless, from resting-places,

123.     thirty of the thanes, and thence he rushed

124.     fain of his fell spoil, faring homeward,

125.     laden with slaughter, his lair to seek.

126.     Then at the dawning, as day was breaking,

127.     the might of Grendel to men was known;

128.     then after wassail was wail uplifted,

129.     loud moan in the morn. The mighty chief,

130.     atheling excellent, unblithe sat,

131.     labored in woe for the loss of his thanes,

132.     when once had been traced the trail of the fiend,

133.     spirit accurst: too cruel that sorrow,

134.     too long, too loathsome. Not late the respite;

135.     with night returning, anew began

136.     ruthless murder; he recked no whit,

137.     firm in his guilt, of the feud and crime.

138.     They were easy to find who elsewhere sought

139.     in room remote their rest at night,

140.     bed in the bowers,1 when that bale was shown,

141.     was seen in sooth, with surest token,—

142.     the hall-thane’s2 hate. Such held themselves

143.     far and fast who the fiend outran!

144.     Thus ruled unrighteous and raged his fill

145.     one against all; until empty stood

146.     that lordly building, and long it bode so.

147.     Twelve years’ tide the trouble he bore,

148.     sovran of Scyldings, sorrows in plenty,

149.     boundless cares. There came unhidden

150.     tidings true to the tribes of men,

151.     in sorrowful songs, how ceaselessly Grendel

152.     harassed Hrothgar, what hate he bore him,

153.     what murder and massacre, many a year,

154.     feud unfading,—refused consent

155.     to deal with any of Daneland’s earls,

156.     make pact of peace, or compound for gold:

157.     still less did the wise men ween to get

158.     great fee for the feud from his fiendish hands.

159.     But the evil one ambushed old and young

160.     death-shadow dark, and dogged them still,

161.     lured, or lurked in the livelong night

162.     of misty moorlands: men may say not

163.     where the haunts of these Hell-Runes3 be.

164.     Such heaping of horrors the hater of men,

165.     lonely roamer, wrought unceasing,

166.     harassings heavy. O’er Heorot he lorded,

167.     gold-bright hall, in gloomy nights;

168.     and ne’er could the prince4 approach his throne,

169.     —’twas judgment of God,—or have joy in his hall.

170.     Sore was the sorrow to Scyldings’-friend,

171.     heart-rending misery. Many nobles

172.     sat assembled, and searched out counsel

173.     how it were best for bold-hearted men

174.     against harassing terror to try their hand.

175.     Whiles they vowed in their heathen fanes

176.     altar-offerings, asked with words5

177.     that the slayer-of-souls would succor give them

178.     for the pain of their people. Their practice this,

179.     their heathen hope; ’twas Hell they thought of

180.     in mood of their mind. Almighty they knew not,

181.     Doomsman of Deeds and dreadful Lord,

182.     nor Heaven’s-Helmet heeded they ever,

183.     Wielder-of-Wonder.—Woe for that man

184.     who in harm and hatred hales his soul

185.     to fiery embraces;—nor favor nor change

186.     awaits he ever. But well for him

187.     that after death-day may draw to his Lord,

188.     and friendship find in the Father’s arms!

Back to Top




189.     THUS seethed unceasing the son of Healfdene

190.     with the woe of these days; not wisest men

191.     assuaged his sorrow; too sore the anguish,

192.     loathly and long, that lay on his folk,

193.     most baneful of burdens and bales of the night.


194.     This heard in his home Hygelac’s thane,

195.     great among Geats, of Grendel’s doings.

196.     He was the mightiest man of valor

197.     in that same day of this our life,

198.     stalwart and stately. A stout wave-walker

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

200.     far o’er the swan-road he fain would seek,

201.     the noble monarch who needed men!

202.     The prince’s journey by prudent folk

203.     was little blamed, though they loved him dear;

204.     they whetted the hero, and hailed good omens.

205.     And now the bold one from bands of Geats

206.     comrades chose, the keenest of warriors

207.     e’er he could find; with fourteen men

208.     the sea-wood1 he sought, and, sailor proved,

209.     led them on to the land’s confines.


210.     Time had now flown;2 afloat was the ship,

211.     boat under bluff. On board they climbed,

212.     warriors ready; waves were churning

213.     sea with sand; the sailors bore

214.     on the breast of the bark their bright array,

215.     their mail and weapons: the men pushed off,

216.     on its willing way, the well-braced craft.

217.     Then moved o’er the waters by might of the wind

218.     that bark like a bird with breast of foam,

219.     till in season due, on the second day,

220.     the curved prow such course had run

221.     that sailors now could see the land,

222.     sea-cliffs shining, steep high hills,

223.     headlands broad. Their haven was found,

224.     their journey ended. Up then quickly

225.     the Weders’3 clansmen climbed ashore,

226.     anchored their sea-wood, with armor clashing

227.     and gear of battle: God they thanked

228.     for passing in peace o’er the paths of the sea.


229.     Now saw from the cliff a Scylding clansman,

230.     a warden that watched the water-side,

231.     how they bore o’er the gangway glittering shields,

232.     war-gear in readiness; wonder seized him

233.     to know what manner of men they were.

234.     Straight to the strand his steed he rode,

235.     Hrothgar’s henchman; with hand of might

236.     he shook his spear, and spake in parley.

237.     "Who are ye, then, ye armed men,

238.     mailed folk, that yon mighty vessel

239.     have urged thus over the ocean ways,

240.     here o’er the waters? A warden I,

241.     sentinel set o’er the sea-march here,

242.     lest any foe to the folk of Danes

243.     with harrying fleet should harm the land.

244.     No aliens ever at ease thus bore them,

245.     linden-wielders:4 yet word-of-leave

246.     clearly ye lack from clansmen here,

247.     my folk’s agreement.—A greater ne’er saw I

248.     of warriors in world than is one of you,—

249.     yon hero in harness! No henchman he

250.     worthied by weapons, if witness his features,

251.     his peerless presence! I pray you, though, tell

252.     your folk and home, lest hence ye fare

253.     suspect to wander your way as spies

254.     in Danish land. Now, dwellers afar,

255.     ocean-travellers, take from me

256.     simple advice: the sooner the better

257.     I hear of the country whence ye came."

Back to Top




258.     To him the stateliest spake in answer;

259.     the warriors’ leader his word-hoard unlocked:—

260.     "We are by kin of the clan of Geats,

261.     and Hygelac’s own hearth-fellows we.

262.     To folk afar was my father known,

263.     noble atheling, Ecgtheow named.

264.     Full of winters, he fared away

265.     aged from earth; he is honored still

266.     through width of the world by wise men all.

267.     To thy lord and liege in loyal mood

268.     we hasten hither, to Healfdene’s son,

269.     people-protector: be pleased to advise us!

270.     To that mighty-one come we on mickle errand,

271.     to the lord of the Danes; nor deem I right

272.     that aught be hidden. We hear—thou knowest

273.     if sooth it is—the saying of men,

274.     that amid the Scyldings a scathing monster,

275.     dark ill-doer, in dusky nights

276.     shows terrific his rage unmatched,

277.     hatred and murder. To Hrothgar I

278.     in greatness of soul would succor bring,

279.     so the Wise-and-Brave1 may worst his foes,—

280.     if ever the end of ills is fated,

281.     of cruel contest, if cure shall follow,

282.     and the boiling care-waves cooler grow;

283.     else ever afterward anguish-days

284.     he shall suffer in sorrow while stands in place

285.     high on its hill that house unpeered!"

286.     Astride his steed, the strand-ward answered,

287.     clansman unquailing: "The keen-souled thane

288.     must be skilled to sever and sunder duly

289.     words and works, if he well intends.

290.     I gather, this band is graciously bent

291.     to the Scyldings’ master. March, then, bearing

292.     weapons and weeds the way I show you.

293.     I will bid my men your boat meanwhile

294.     to guard for fear lest foemen come,—

295.     your new-tarred ship by shore of ocean

296.     faithfully watching till once again

297.     it waft o’er the waters those well-loved thanes,

298.     —winding-neck’d wood,—to Weders’ bounds,

299.     heroes such as the hest of fate

300.     shall succor and save from the shock of war."

301.     They bent them to march,—the boat lay still,

302.     fettered by cable and fast at anchor,

303.     broad-bosomed ship.—Then shone the boars2

304.     over the cheek-guard; chased with gold,

305.     keen and gleaming, guard it kept

306.     o’er the man of war, as marched along

307.     heroes in haste, till the hall they saw,

308.     broad of gable and bright with gold:

309.     that was the fairest, ’mid folk of earth,

310.     of houses ’neath heaven, where Hrothgar lived,

311.     and the gleam of it lightened o’er lands afar.

312.     The sturdy shieldsman showed that bright

313.     burg-of-the-boldest; bade them go

314.     straightway thither; his steed then turned,

315.     hardy hero, and hailed them thus:—

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

317.     in grace and mercy guard you well,

318.     safe in your seekings. Seaward I go,

319.     ’gainst hostile warriors hold my watch."

Back to Top




320.     STONE-BRIGHT the street:1 it showed the way

321.     to the crowd of clansmen. Corselets glistened

322.     hand-forged, hard; on their harness bright

323.     the steel ring sang, as they strode along

324.     in mail of battle, and marched to the hall.

325.     There, weary of ocean, the wall along

326.     they set their bucklers, their broad shields, down,

327.     and bowed them to bench: the breastplates clanged,

328.     war-gear of men; their weapons stacked,

329.     spears of the seafarers stood together,

330.     gray-tipped ash: that iron band

331.     was worthily weaponed!—A warrior proud

332.     asked of the heroes their home and kin.

333.     "Whence, now, bear ye burnished shields,

334.     harness gray and helmets grim,

335.     spears in multitude? Messenger, I,

336.     Hrothgar’s herald! Heroes so many

337.     ne’er met I as strangers of mood so strong.

338.     ’Tis plain that for prowess, not plunged into exile,

339.     for high-hearted valor, Hrothgar ye seek!"

340.     Him the sturdy-in-war bespake with words,

341.     proud earl of the Weders answer made,

342.     hardy ’neath helmet:—"Hygelac’s, we,

343.     fellows at board; I am Beowulf named.

344.     I am seeking to say to the son of Healfdene

345.     this mission of mine, to thy master-lord,

346.     the doughty prince, if he deign at all

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

348.     Wulfgar spake, the Wendles’ chieftain,

349.     whose might of mind to many was known,

350.     his courage and counsel: "The king of Danes,

351.     the Scyldings’ friend, I fain will tell,

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

353.     the famed prince, of thy faring hither,

354.     and, swiftly after, such answer bring

355.     as the doughty monarch may deign to give."

356.     Hied then in haste to where Hrothgar sat

357.     white-haired and old, his earls about him,

358.     till the stout thane stood at the shoulder there

359.     of the Danish king: good courtier he!

360.     Wulfgar spake to his winsome lord:—

361.     "Hither have fared to thee far-come men

362.     o’er the paths of ocean, people of Geatland;

363.     and the stateliest there by his sturdy band

364.     is Beowulf named. This boon they seek,

365.     that they, my master, may with thee

366.     have speech at will: nor spurn their prayer

367.     to give them hearing, gracious Hrothgar!

368.     In weeds of the warrior worthy they,

369.     methinks, of our liking; their leader most surely,

370.     a hero that hither his henchmen has led."

Back to Top




371.     HROTHGAR answered, helmet of Scyldings:—

372.     "I knew him of yore in his youthful days;

373.     his aged father was Ecgtheow named,

374.     to whom, at home, gave Hrethel the Geat

375.     his only daughter. Their offspring bold

376.     fares hither to seek the steadfast friend.

377.     And seamen, too, have said me this,—

378.     who carried my gifts to the Geatish court,

379.     thither for thanks,—he has thirty men’s

380.     heft of grasp in the gripe of his hand,

381.     the bold-in-battle. Blessed God

382.     out of his mercy this man hath sent

383.     to Danes of the West, as I ween indeed,

384.     against horror of Grendel. I hope to give

385.     the good youth gold for his gallant thought.

386.     Be thou in haste, and bid them hither,

387.     clan of kinsmen, to come before me;

388.     and add this word,—they are welcome guests

389.     to folk of the Danes."

390.     [To the door of the hall

391.     Wulfgar went] and the word declared:—

392.     "To you this message my master sends,

393.     East-Danes’ king, that your kin he knows,

394.     hardy heroes, and hails you all

395.     welcome hither o’er waves of the sea!

396.     Ye may wend your way in war-attire,

397.     and under helmets Hrothgar greet;

398.     but let here the battle-shields bide your parley,

399.     and wooden war-shafts wait its end."


400.     Uprose the mighty one, ringed with his men,

401.     brave band of thanes: some bode without,

402.     battle-gear guarding, as bade the chief.

403.     Then hied that troop where the herald led them,

404.     under Heorot’s roof: [the hero strode,]

405.     hardy ’neath helm, till the hearth he neared.

406.     Beowulf spake,—his breastplate gleamed,

407.     war-net woven by wit of the smith:—

408.     "Thou Hrothgar, hail! Hygelac’s I,

409.     kinsman and follower. Fame a plenty

410.     have I gained in youth! These Grendel-deeds

411.     I heard in my home-land heralded clear.

412.     Seafarers say how stands this hall,

413.     of buildings best, for your band of thanes

414.     empty and idle, when evening sun

415.     in the harbor of heaven is hidden away.

416.     So my vassals advised me well,—

417.     brave and wise, the best of men,—

418.     O sovran Hrothgar, to seek thee here,

419.     for my nerve and my might they knew full well.

420.     Themselves had seen me from slaughter come

421.     blood-flecked from foes, where five I bound,

422.     and that wild brood worsted. I’ the waves I slew

423.     nicors1 by night, in need and peril

424.     avenging the Weders,2 whose woe they sought,—

425.     crushing the grim ones. Grendel now,

426.     monster cruel, be mine to quell

427.     in single battle! So, from thee,

428.     thou sovran of the Shining-Danes,

429.     Scyldings’-bulwark, a boon I seek,—

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

431.     O Warriors’-shield, now I’ve wandered far,—

432.     that I alone with my liegemen here,

433.     this hardy band, may Heorot purge!

434.     More I hear, that the monster dire,

435.     in his wanton mood, of weapons recks not;

436.     hence shall I scorn—so Hygelac stay,

437.     king of my kindred, kind to me!—

438.     brand or buckler to bear in the fight,

439.     gold-colored targe: but with gripe alone

440.     must I front the fiend and fight for life,

441.     foe against foe. Then faith be his

442.     in the doom of the Lord whom death shall take.

443.     Fain, I ween, if the fight he win,

444.     in this hall of gold my Geatish band

445.     will he fearless eat,—as oft before,—

446.     my noblest thanes. Nor need’st thou then

447.     to hide my head;3 for his shall I be,

448.     dyed in gore, if death must take me;

449.     and my blood-covered body he’ll bear as prey,

450.     ruthless devour it, the roamer-lonely,

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

452.     no further for me need’st food prepare!

453.     To Hygelac send, if Hild4 should take me,

454.     best of war-weeds, warding my breast,

455.     armor excellent, heirloom of Hrethel

456.     and work of Wayland.5 Fares Wyrd6 as she must."

Back to Top




457.     HROTHGAR spake, the Scyldings’-helmet:—

458.     "For fight defensive, Friend my Beowulf,

459.     to succor and save, thou hast sought us here.

460.     Thy father’s combat1 a feud enkindled

461.     when Heatholaf with hand he slew

462.     among the Wylfings; his Weder kin

463.     for horror of fighting feared to hold him.

464.     Fleeing, he sought our South-Dane folk,

465.     over surge of ocean the Honor-Scyldings,

466.     when first I was ruling the folk of Danes,

467.     wielded, youthful, this widespread realm,

468.     this hoard-hold of heroes. Heorogar was dead,

469.     my elder brother, had breathed his last,

470.     Healfdene’s bairn: he was better than I!

471.     Straightway the feud with fee2 I settled,

472.     to the Wylfings sent, o’er watery ridges,

473.     treasures olden: oaths he3 swore me.


474.     Sore is my soul to say to any

475.     of the race of man what ruth for me

476.     in Heorot Grendel with hate hath wrought,

477.     what sudden harryings. Hall-folk fail me,

478.     my warriors wane; for Wyrd hath swept them

479.     into Grendel’s grasp. But God is able

480.     this deadly foe from his deeds to turn!

481.     Boasted full oft, as my beer they drank,

482.     earls o’er the ale-cup, armed men,

483.     that they would bide in the beer-hall here,

484.     Grendel’s attack with terror of blades.

485.     Then was this mead-house at morning tide

486.     dyed with gore, when the daylight broke,

487.     all the boards of the benches blood-besprinkled,

488.     gory the hall: I had heroes the less,

489.     doughty dear-ones that death had reft.

490.     —But sit to the banquet, unbind thy words,

491.     hardy hero, as heart shall prompt thee."


492.     Gathered together, the Geatish men

493.     in the banquet-hall on bench assigned,

494.     sturdy-spirited, sat them down,

495.     hardy-hearted. A henchman attended,

496.     carried the carven cup in hand,

497.     served the clear mead. Oft minstrels sang

498.     blithe in Heorot. Heroes revelled,

499.     no dearth of warriors, Weder and Dane.

Back to Top




500.     UNFERTH spake, the son of Ecglaf,

501.     who sat at the feet of the Scyldings’ lord,

502.     unbound the battle-runes.1  —Beowulf’s quest,

503.     sturdy seafarer’s, sorely galled him;

504.     ever he envied that other men

505.     should more achieve in middle-earth

506.     of fame under heaven than he himself.—

507.     "Art thou that Beowulf, Breca’s rival,

508.     who emulous swam on the open sea,

509.     when for pride the pair of you proved the floods,

510.     and wantonly dared in waters deep

511.     to risk your lives? No living man,

512.     or lief or loath, from your labor dire

513.     could you dissuade, from swimming the main.

514.     Ocean-tides with your arms ye covered,

515.     with strenuous hands the sea-streets measured,

516.     swam o’er the waters. Winter’s storm

517.     rolled the rough waves. In realm of sea

518.     a sennight strove ye. In swimming he topped thee,

519.     had more of main! Him at morning-tide

520.     billows bore to the Battling Reamas,

521.     whence he hied to his home so dear

522.     beloved of his liegemen, to land of Brondings,

523.     fastness fair, where his folk he ruled,

524.     town and treasure. In triumph o’er thee

525.     Beanstan’s bairn2 his boast achieved.

526.     So ween I for thee a worse adventure

527.     —though in buffet of battle thou brave hast been,

528.     in struggle grim,—if Grendel’s approach

529.     thou darst await through the watch of night!"


530.     Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

531.     "What a deal hast uttered, dear my Unferth,

532.     drunken with beer, of Breca now,

533.     told of his triumph! Truth I claim it,

534.     that I had more of might in the sea

535.     than any man else, more ocean-endurance.

536.     We twain had talked, in time of youth,

537.     and made our boast,—we were merely boys,

538.     striplings still,—to stake our lives

539.     far at sea: and so we performed it.

540.     Naked swords, as we swam along,

541.     we held in hand, with hope to guard us

542.     against the whales. Not a whit from me

543.     could he float afar o’er the flood of waves,

544.     haste o’er the billows; nor him I abandoned.

545.     Together we twain on the tides abode

546.     five nights full till the flood divided us,

547.     churning waves and chillest weather,

548.     darkling night, and the northern wind

549.     ruthless rushed on us: rough was the surge.

550.     Now the wrath of the sea-fish rose apace;

551.     yet me ’gainst the monsters my mailed coat,

552.     hard and hand-linked, help afforded,—

553.     battle-sark braided my breast to ward,

554.     garnished with gold. There grasped me firm

555.     and haled me to bottom the hated foe,

556.     with grimmest gripe. ’Twas granted me, though,

557.     to pierce the monster with point of sword,

558.     with blade of battle: huge beast of the sea

559.     was whelmed by the hurly through hand of mine.


Back to Top




560.     ME thus often the evil monsters

561.     thronging threatened. With thrust of my sword,

562.     the darling, I dealt them due return!

563.     Nowise had they bliss from their booty then

564.     to devour their victim, vengeful creatures,

565.     seated to banquet at bottom of sea;

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

567.     on the edge of ocean up they lay,

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

569.     on the fathomless sea-ways sailor-folk

570.     are never molested.—Light from east,

571.     came bright God’s beacon; the billows sank,

572.     so that I saw the sea-cliffs high,

573.     windy walls. For Wyrd oft saveth

574.     earl undoomed if he doughty be!

575.     And so it came that I killed with my sword

576.     nine of the nicors. Of night-fought battles

577.     ne’er heard I a harder ’neath heaven’s dome,

578.     nor adrift on the deep a more desolate man!

579.     Yet I came unharmed from that hostile clutch,

580.     though spent with swimming. The sea upbore me,

581.     flood of the tide, on Finnish land,

582.     the welling waters. No wise of thee

583.     have I heard men tell such terror of falchions,

584.     bitter battle. Breca ne’er yet,

585.     not one of you pair, in the play of war

586.     such daring deed has done at all

587.     with bloody brand,—I boast not of it!—

588.     though thou wast the bane1 of thy brethren dear,

589.     thy closest kin, whence curse of hell

590.     awaits thee, well as thy wit may serve!

591.     For I say in sooth, thou son of Ecglaf,

592.     never had Grendel these grim deeds wrought,

593.     monster dire, on thy master dear,

594.     in Heorot such havoc, if heart of thine

595.     were as battle-bold as thy boast is loud!

596.     But he has found no feud will happen;

597.     from sword-clash dread of your Danish clan

598.     he vaunts him safe, from the Victor-Scyldings.

599.     He forces pledges, favors none

600.     of the land of Danes, but lustily murders,

601.     fights and feasts, nor feud he dreads

602.     from Spear-Dane men. But speedily now

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

604.     shall bid him battle. Blithe to mead

605.     go he that listeth, when light of dawn

606.     this morrow morning o’er men of earth,

607.     ether-robed sun from the south shall beam!"


608.     Joyous then was the Jewel-giver,

609.     hoar-haired, war-brave; help awaited

610.     the Bright-Danes’ prince, from Beowulf hearing,

611.     folk’s good shepherd, such firm resolve.

612.     Then was laughter of liegemen loud resounding

613.     with winsome words. Came Wealhtheow forth,

614.     queen of Hrothgar, heedful of courtesy,

615.     gold-decked, greeting the guests in hall;

616.     and the high-born lady handed the cup

617.     first to the East-Danes’ heir and warden,

618.     bade him be blithe at the beer-carouse,

619.     the land’s beloved one. Lustily took he

620.     banquet and beaker, battle-famed king.

621.     Through the hall then went the Helmings’ Lady,

622.     to younger and older everywhere

623.     carried the cup, till come the moment

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

625.     to Beowulf bore the beaker of mead.

626.     She greeted the Geats’ lord, God she thanked,

627.     in wisdom’s words, that her will was granted,

628.     that at last on a hero her hope could lean

629.     for comfort in terrors. The cup he took,

630.     hardy-in-war, from Wealhtheow’s hand,

631.     and answer uttered the eager-for-combat.

632.     Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

633.     "This was my thought, when my thanes and I

634.     bent to the ocean and entered our boat,

635.     that I would work the will of your people

636.     fully, or fighting fall in death,

637.     in fiend’s gripe fast. I am firm to do

638.     an earl’s brave deed, or end the days

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

640.     Well these words to the woman seemed,

641.     Beowulf’s battle-boast.—Bright with gold

642.     the stately dame by her spouse sat down.

643.     Again, as erst, began in hall

644.     warriors’ wassail and words of power,

645.     the proud-band’s revel, till presently

646.     the son of Healfdene hastened to seek

647.     rest for the night; he knew there waited

648.     fight for the fiend in that festal hall,

649.     when the sheen of the sun they saw no more,

650.     and dusk of night sank darkling nigh,

651.     and shadowy shapes came striding on,

652.     wan under welkin. The warriors rose.

653.     Man to man, he made harangue,

654.     Hrothgar to Beowulf, bade him hail,

655.     let him wield the wine hall: a word he added:—

656.     "Never to any man erst I trusted,

657.     since I could heave up hand and shield,

658.     this noble Dane-Hall, till now to thee.

659.     Have now and hold this house unpeered;

660.     remember thy glory; thy might declare;

661.     watch for the foe! No wish shall fail thee

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


Back to Top




663.     THEN Hrothgar went with his hero-train,

664.     defence-of-Scyldings, forth from hall;

665.     fain would the war-lord Wealhtheow seek,

666.     couch of his queen. The King-of-Glory

667.     against this Grendel a guard had set,

668.     so heroes heard, a hall-defender,

669.     who warded the monarch and watched for the monster.

670.     In truth, the Geats’ prince gladly trusted

671.     his mettle, his might, the mercy of God!

672.     Cast off then his corselet of iron,

673.     helmet from head; to his henchman gave,—

674.     choicest of weapons,—the well-chased sword,

675.     bidding him guard the gear of battle.

676.     Spake then his Vaunt the valiant man,

677.     Beowulf Geat, ere the bed be sought:—

678.     "Of force in fight no feebler I count me,

679.     in grim war-deeds, than Grendel deems him.

680.     Not with the sword, then, to sleep of death

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

682.     No skill is his to strike against me,

683.     my shield to hew though he hardy be,

684.     bold in battle; we both, this night,

685.     shall spurn the sword, if he seek me here,

686.     unweaponed, for war. Let wisest God,

687.     sacred Lord, on which side soever

688.     doom decree as he deemeth right."

689.     Reclined then the chieftain, and cheek-pillows held

690.     the head of the earl, while all about him

691.     seamen hardy on hall-beds sank.

692.     None of them thought that thence their steps

693.     to the folk and fastness that fostered them,

694.     to the land they loved, would lead them back!

695.     Full well they wist that on warriors many

696.     battle-death seized, in the banquet-hall,

697.     of Danish clan. But comfort and help,

698.     war-weal weaving, to Weder folk

699.     the Master gave, that, by might of one,

700.     over their enemy all prevailed,

701.     by single strength. In sooth ’tis told

702.     that highest God o’er human kind

703.     hath wielded ever!—Thro’ wan night striding,

704.     came the walker-in-shadow. Warriors slept

705.     whose hest was to guard the gabled hall,—

706.     all save one. ’Twas widely known

707.     that against God’s will the ghostly ravager

708.     him1 could not hurl to haunts of darkness;

709.     wakeful, ready, with warrior’s wrath,

710.     bold he bided the battle’s issue.


Back to Top




711.     THEN from the moorland, by misty crags,

712.     with God’s wrath laden, Grendel came.

713.     The monster was minded of mankind now

714.     sundry to seize in the stately house.

715.     Under welkin he walked, till the wine-palace there,

716.     gold-hall of men, he gladly discerned,

717.     flashing with fretwork. Not first time, this,

718.     that he the home of Hrothgar sought,—

719.     yet ne’er in his life-day, late or early,

720.     such hardy heroes, such hall-thanes, found!

721.     To the house the warrior walked apace,

722.     parted from peace;1 the portal opened,

723.     though with forged bolts fast, when his fists had struck it,

724.     and baleful he burst in his blatant rage,

725.     the house’s mouth. All hastily, then,

726.     o’er fair-paved floor the fiend trod on,

727.     ireful he strode; there streamed from his eyes

728.     fearful flashes, like flame to see.

729.     He spied in hall the hero-band,

730.     kin and clansmen clustered asleep,

731.     hardy liegemen. Then laughed his heart;

732.     for the monster was minded, ere morn should dawn,

733.     savage, to sever the soul of each,

734.     life from body, since lusty banquet

735.     waited his will! But Wyrd forbade him

736.     to seize any more of men on earth

737.     after that evening. Eagerly watched

738.     Hygelac’s kinsman his cursed foe,

739.     how he would fare in fell attack.

740.     Not that the monster was minded to pause!

741.     Straightway he seized a sleeping warrior

742.     for the first, and tore him fiercely asunder,

743.     the bone-frame bit, drank blood in streams,

744.     swallowed him piecemeal: swiftly thus

745.     the lifeless corse was clear devoured,

746.     e’en feet and hands. Then farther he hied;

747.     for the hardy hero with hand he grasped,

748.     felt for the foe with fiendish claw,

749.     for the hero reclining,—who clutched it boldly,

750.     prompt to answer, propped on his arm.

751.     Soon then saw that shepherd-of-evils

752.     that never he met in this middle-world,

753.     in the ways of earth, another wight

754.     with heavier hand-gripe; at heart he feared,

755.     sorrowed in soul,—none the sooner escaped!

756.     Fain would he flee, his fastness seek,

757.     the den of devils: no doings now

758.     such as oft he had done in days of old!


759.     Then bethought him the hardy Hygelac-thane

760.     of his boast at evening: up he bounded,

761.     grasped firm his foe, whose fingers cracked.

762.     The fiend made off, but the earl close followed.

763.     The monster meant—if he might at all—

764.     to fling himself free, and far away

765.     fly to the fens,—knew his fingers’ power

766.     in the gripe of the grim one. Gruesome march

767.     to Heorot this monster of harm had made!

768.     Din filled the room; the Danes were bereft,

769.     castle-dwellers and clansmen all,

770.     earls, of their ale. Angry were both

771.     those savage hall-guards: the house resounded.

772.     Wonder it was the wine-hall firm

773.     in the strain of their struggle stood, to earth

774.     the fair house fell not; too fast it was

775.     within and without by its iron bands

776.     craftily clamped; though there crashed from sill

777.     many a mead-bench—men have told me—

778.     gay with gold, where the grim foes wrestled.

779.     So well had weened the wisest Scyldings

780.     that not ever at all might any man

781.     that bone-decked, brave house break asunder,

782.     crush by craft,—unless clasp of fire

783.     in smoke engulfed it.—Again uprose

784.     din redoubled. Danes of the North

785.     with fear and frenzy were filled, each one,

786.     who from the wall that wailing heard,

787.     God’s foe sounding his grisly song,

788.     cry of the conquered, clamorous pain

789.     from captive of hell. Too closely held him

790.     he who of men in might was strongest

791.     in that same day of this our life.


Back to Top




792.     NOT in any wise would the earls’-defence1

793.     suffer that slaughterous stranger to live,

794.     useless deeming his days and years

795.     to men on earth. Now many an earl

796.     of Beowulf brandished blade ancestral,

797.     fain the life of their lord to shield,

798.     their praised prince, if power were theirs;

799.     never they knew,—as they neared the foe,

800.     hardy-hearted heroes of war,

801.     aiming their swords on every side

802.     the accursed to kill,—no keenest blade,

803.     no farest of falchions fashioned on earth,

804.     could harm or hurt that hideous fiend!

805.     He was safe, by his spells, from sword of battle,

806.     from edge of iron. Yet his end and parting

807.     on that same day of this our life

808.     woful should be, and his wandering soul

809.     far off flit to the fiends’ domain.

810.     Soon he found, who in former days,

811.     harmful in heart and hated of God,

812.     on many a man such murder wrought,

813.     that the frame of his body failed him now.

814.     For him the keen-souled kinsman of Hygelac

815.     held in hand; hateful alive

816.     was each to other. The outlaw dire

817.     took mortal hurt; a mighty wound

818.     showed on his shoulder, and sinews cracked,

819.     and the bone-frame burst. To Beowulf now

820.     the glory was given, and Grendel thence

821.     death-sick his den in the dark moor sought,

822.     noisome abode: he knew too well

823.     that here was the last of life, an end

824.     of his days on earth.—To all the Danes

825.     by that bloody battle the boon had come.

826.     From ravage had rescued the roving stranger

827.     Hrothgar’s hall; the hardy and wise one

828.     had purged it anew. His night-work pleased him,

829.     his deed and its honor. To Eastern Danes

830.     had the valiant Geat his vaunt made good,

831.     all their sorrow and ills assuaged,

832.     their bale of battle borne so long,

833.     and all the dole they erst endured

834.     pain a-plenty.—’Twas proof of this,

835.     when the hardy-in-fight a hand laid down,

836.     arm and shoulder,—all, indeed,

837.     of Grendel’s gripe,—’neath the gabled roof·


Back to Top




838.     MANY at morning, as men have told me,

839.     warriors gathered the gift-hall round,

840.     folk-leaders faring from far and near,

841.     o’er wide-stretched ways, the wonder to view,

842.     trace of the traitor. Not troublous seemed

843.     the enemy’s end to any man

844.     who saw by the gait of the graceless foe

845.     how the weary-hearted, away from thence,

846.     baffled in battle and banned, his steps

847.     death-marked dragged to the devils’ mere.

848.     Bloody the billows were boiling there,

849.     turbid the tide of tumbling waves

850.     horribly seething, with sword-blood hot,

851.     by that doomed one dyed, who in den of the moor

852.     laid forlorn his life adown,

853.     his heathen soul,-and hell received it.


854.     Home then rode the hoary clansmen

855.     from that merry journey, and many a youth,

856.     on horses white, the hardy warriors,

857.     back from the mere. Then Beowulf’s glory

858.     eager they echoed, and all averred

859.     that from sea to sea, or south or north,

860.     there was no other in earth’s domain,

861.     under vault of heaven, more valiant found,

862.     of warriors none more worthy to rule!

863.     (On their lord beloved they laid no slight,

864.     gracious Hrothgar: a good king he!)


865.     From time to time, the tried-in-battle

866.     their gray steeds set to gallop amain,

867.     and ran a race when the road seemed fair.

868.     From time to time, a thane of the king,

869.     who had made many vaunts, and was mindful of verses,

870.     stored with sagas and songs of old,

871.     bound word to word in well-knit rime,

872.     welded his lay; this warrior soon

873.     of Beowulf’s quest right cleverly sang,

874.     and artfully added an excellent tale,

875.     in well-ranged words, of the warlike deeds

876.     he had heard in saga of Sigemund.

877.     Strange the story: he said it all,—

878.     the Waelsing’s wanderings wide, his struggles,

879.     which never were told to tribes of men,

880.     the feuds and the frauds, save to Fitela only,

881.     when of these doings he deigned to speak,

882.     uncle to nephew; as ever the twain

883.     stood side by side in stress of war,

884.     and multitude of the monster kind

885.     they had felled with their swords. Of Sigemund grew,

886.     when he passed from life, no little praise;

887.     for the doughty-in-combat a dragon killed

888.     that herded the hoard:1 under hoary rock

889.     the atheling dared the deed alone

890.     fearful quest, nor was Fitela there.

891.     Yet so it befell, his falchion pierced

892.     that wondrous worm,—on the wall it struck,

893.     best blade; the dragon died in its blood.

894.     Thus had the dread-one by daring achieved

895.     over the ring-hoard to rule at will,

896.     himself to pleasure; a sea-boat he loaded,

897.     and bore on its bosom the beaming gold,

898.     son of Waels; the worm was consumed.

899.     He had of all heroes the highest renown

900.     among races of men, this refuge-of-warriors,

901.     for deeds of daring that decked his name

902.     since the hand and heart of Heremod

903.     grew slack in battle. He, swiftly banished

904.     to mingle with monsters at mercy of foes,

905.     to death was betrayed; for torrents of sorrow

906.     had lamed him too long; a load of care

907.     to earls and athelings all he proved.

908.     Oft indeed, in earlier days,

909.     for the warrior’s wayfaring wise men mourned,

910.     who had hoped of him help from harm and bale,

911.     and had thought their sovran’s son would thrive,

912.     follow his father, his folk protect,

913.     the hoard and the stronghold, heroes’ land,

914.     home of Scyldings.—But here, thanes said,

915.     the kinsman of Hygelac kinder seemed

916.     to all: the other2 was urged to crime!


917.     And afresh to the race,3 the fallow roads

918.     by swift steeds measured! The morning sun

919.     was climbing higher. Clansmen hastened

920.     to the high-built hall, those hardy-minded,

921.     the wonder to witness. Warden of treasure,

922.     crowned with glory, the king himself,

923.     with stately band from the bride-bower strode;

924.     and with him the queen and her crowd of maidens

925.     measured the path to the mead-house fair.


Back to Top




926.     HROTHGAR spake,—to the hall he went,

927.     stood by the steps, the steep roof saw,

928.     garnished with gold, and Grendel’s hand:—

929.     "For the sight I see to the Sovran Ruler

930.     be speedy thanks! A throng of sorrows

931.     I have borne from Grendel; but God still works

932.     wonder on wonder, the Warden-of-Glory.

933.     It was but now that I never more

934.     for woes that weighed on me waited help

935.     long as I lived, when, laved in blood,

936.     stood sword-gore-stained this stateliest house,—

937.     widespread woe for wise men all,

938.     who had no hope to hinder ever

939.     foes infernal and fiendish sprites

940.     from havoc in hall. This hero now,

941.     by the Wielder’s might, a work has done

942.     that not all of us erst could ever do

943.     by wile and wisdom. Lo, well can she say

944.     whoso of women this warrior bore

945.     among sons of men, if still she liveth,

946.     that the God of the ages was good to her

947.     in the birth of her bairn. Now, Beowulf, thee,

948.     of heroes best, I shall heartily love

949.     as mine own, my son; preserve thou ever

950.     this kinship new: thou shalt never lack

951.     wealth of the world that I wield as mine!

952.     Full oft for less have I largess showered,

953.     my precious hoard, on a punier man,

954.     less stout in struggle. Thyself hast now

955.     fulfilled such deeds, that thy fame shall endure

956.     through all the ages. As ever he did,

957.     well may the Wielder reward thee still!"

958.     Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

959.     "This work of war most willingly

960.     we have fought, this fight, and fearlessly dared

961.     force of the foe. Fain, too, were I

962.     hadst thou but seen himself, what time

963.     the fiend in his trappings tottered to fall!

964.     Swiftly, I thought, in strongest gripe

965.     on his bed of death to bind him down,

966.     that he in the hent of this hand of mine

967.     should breathe his last: but he broke away.

968.     Him I might not—the Maker willed not—

969.     hinder from flight, and firm enough hold

970.     the life-destroyer: too sturdy was he,

971.     the ruthless, in running! For rescue, however,

972.     he left behind him his hand in pledge,

973.     arm and shoulder; nor aught of help

974.     could the cursed one thus procure at all.

975.     None the longer liveth he, loathsome fiend,

976.     sunk in his sins, but sorrow holds him

977.     tightly grasped in gripe of anguish,

978.     in baleful bonds, where bide he must,

979.     evil outlaw, such awful doom

980.     as the Mighty Maker shall mete him out."


981.     More silent seemed the son of Ecglaf1

982.     in boastful speech of his battle-deeds,

983.     since athelings all, through the earl’s great prowess,

984.     beheld that hand, on the high roof gazing,

985.     foeman’s fingers,—the forepart of each

986.     of the sturdy nails to steel was likest,—

987.     heathen’s "hand-spear," hostile warrior’s

988.     claw uncanny. ’Twas clear, they said,

989.     that him no blade of the brave could touch,

990.     how keen soever, or cut away

991.     that battle-hand bloody from baneful foe.


Back to Top




992.     THERE was hurry and hest in Heorot now

993.     for hands to bedeck it, and dense was the throng

994.     of men and women the wine-hall to cleanse,

995.     the guest-room to garnish. Gold-gay shone the hangings

996.     that were wove on the wall, and wonders many

997.     to delight each mortal that looks upon them.

998.     Though braced within by iron bands,

999.     that building bright was broken sorely;1

1000.     rent were its hinges; the roof alone

1001.     held safe and sound, when, seared with crime,

1002.     the fiendish foe his flight essayed,

1003.     of life despairing.—No light thing that,

1004.     the flight for safety,—essay it who will!

1005.     Forced of fate, he shall find his way

1006.     to the refuge ready for race of man,

1007.     for soul-possessors, and sons of earth;

1008.     and there his body on bed of death

1009.     shall rest after revel.


1010.     Arrived was the hour

1011.     when to hall proceeded Healfdene’s son:

1012.     the king himself would sit to banquet.

1013.     Ne’er heard I of host in haughtier throng

1014.     more graciously gathered round giver-of-rings!

1015.     Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory,

1016.     fain of the feasting. Featly received

1017.     many a mead-cup the mighty-in-spirit,

1018.     kinsmen who sat in the sumptuous hall,

1019.     Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot now

1020.     was filled with friends; the folk of Scyldings

1021.     ne’er yet had tried the traitor’s deed.


1022.     To Beowulf gave the bairn of Healfdene

1023.     a gold-wove banner, guerdon of triumph,

1024.     broidered battle-flag, breastplate and helmet;

1025.     and a splendid sword was seen of many

1026.     borne to the brave one. Beowulf took

1027.     cup in hall:2 for such costly gifts

1028.     he suffered no shame in that soldier throng.

1029.     For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,

1030.     with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,

1031.     on the ale-bench honoring others thus!

1032.     O’er the roof of the helmet high, a ridge,

1033.     wound with wires, kept ward o’er the head,

1034.     lest the relict-of-files3 should fierce invade,

1035.     sharp in the strife, when that shielded hero

1036.     should go to grapple against his foes.

1037.     Then the earls’-defence4 on the floor5 bade lead

1038.     coursers eight, with carven head-gear,

1039.     adown the hall: one horse was decked

1040.     with a saddle all shining and set in jewels;

1041.     ’twas the battle-seat of the best of kings,

1042.     when to play of swords the son of Healfdene

1043.     was fain to fare. Ne’er failed his valor

1044.     in the crush of combat when corpses fell.

1045.     To Beowulf over them both then gave

1046.     the refuge-of-Ingwines right and power,

1047.     o’er war-steeds and weapons: wished him joy of them.

1048.     Manfully thus the mighty prince,

1049.     hoard-guard for heroes, that hard fight repaid

1050.     with steeds and treasures contemned by none

1051.     who is willing to say the sooth aright.


Back to Top




1052.     AND the lord of earls, to each that came

1053.     with Beowulf over the briny ways,

1054.     an heirloom there at the ale-bench gave,

1055.     precious gift; and the price1 bade pay

1056.     in gold for him whom Grendel erst

1057.     murdered,—and fain of them more had killed,

1058.     had not wisest God their Wyrd averted,

1059.     and the man’s2 brave mood. The Maker then

1060.     ruled human kind, as here and now.

1061.     Therefore is insight always best,

1062.     and forethought of mind. How much awaits him

1063.     of lief and of loath, who long time here,

1064.     through days of warfare this world endures!


1065.     Then song and music mingled sounds

1066.     in the presence of Healfdene’s head-of-armies3

1067.     and harping was heard with the hero-lay

1068.     as Hrothgar’s singer the hall-joy woke

1069.     along the mead-seats, making his song

1070.     of that sudden raid on the sons of Finn.4


1071.     Healfdene’s hero, Hnaef the Scylding,

1072.     was fated to fall in the Frisian slaughter.5

1073.     Hildeburh needed not hold in value

1074.     her enemies’ honor!6 Innocent both

1075.     were the loved ones she lost at the linden-play,

1076.     bairn and brother, they bowed to fate,

1077.     stricken by spears; ’twas a sorrowful woman!

1078.     None doubted why the daughter of Hoc

1079.     bewailed her doom when dawning came,

1080.     and under the sky she saw them lying,

1081.     kinsmen murdered, where most she had kenned

1082.     of the sweets of the world! By war were swept, too,

1083.     Finn’s own liegemen, and few were left;

1084.     in the parleying-place7 he could ply no longer

1085.     weapon, nor war could he wage on Hengest,

1086.     and rescue his remnant by right of arms

1087.     from the prince’s thane. A pact he offered:

1088.     another dwelling the Danes should have,

1089.     hall and high-seat, and half the power

1090.     should fall to them in Frisian land;

1091.     and at the fee-gifts, Folcwald’s son

1092.     day by day the Danes should honor,

1093.     the folk of Hengest favor with rings,

1094.     even as truly, with treasure and jewels,

1095.     with fretted gold, as his Frisian kin

1096.     he meant to honor in ale-hall there.

1097.     Pact of peace they plighted further

1098.     on both sides firmly. Finn to Hengest

1099.     with oath, upon honor, openly promised

1100.     that woful remnant, with wise-men’s aid,

1101.     nobly to govern, so none of the guests

1102.     by word or work should warp the treaty,8

1103.     or with malice of mind bemoan themselves

1104.     as forced to follow their fee-giver’s slayer,

1105.     lordless men, as their lot ordained.

1106.     Should Frisian, moreover, with foeman’s taunt,

1107.     that murderous hatred to mind recall,

1108.     then edge of the sword must seal his doom.

1109.     Oaths were given, and ancient gold

1110.     heaped from hoard.—The hardy Scylding,

1111.     battle-thane best,9 on his balefire lay.

1112.     All on the pyre were plain to see

1113.     the gory sark, the gilded swine-crest,

1114.     boar of hard iron, and athelings many

1115.     slain by the sword: at the slaughter they fell.

1116.     It was Hildeburh’s hest, at Hnaef’s own pyre

1117.     the bairn of her body on brands to lay,

1118.     his bones to burn, on the balefire placed,

1119.     at his uncle’s side. In sorrowful dirges

1120.     bewept them the woman: great wailing ascended.

1121.     Then wound up to welkin the wildest of death-fires,

1122.     roared o’er the hillock:10 heads all were melted,

1123.     gashes burst, and blood gushed out

1124.     from bites11 of the body. Balefire devoured,

1125.     greediest spirit, those spared not by war

1126.     out of either folk: their flower was gone.


Back to Top




1127.     THEN hastened those heroes their home to see,

1128.     friendless, to find the Frisian land,

1129.     houses and high burg. Hengest still

1130.     through the death-dyed winter dwelt with Finn,

1131.     holding pact, yet of home he minded,

1132.     though powerless his ring-decked prow to drive

1133.     over the waters, now waves rolled fierce

1134.     lashed by the winds, or winter locked them

1135.     in icy fetters. Then fared another

1136.     year to men’s dwellings, as yet they do,

1137.     the sunbright skies, that their season ever

1138.     duly await. Far off winter was driven;

1139.     fair lay earth’s breast; and fain was the rover,

1140.     the guest, to depart, though more gladly he pondered

1141.     on wreaking his vengeance than roaming the deep,

1142.     and how to hasten the hot encounter

1143.     where sons of the Frisians were sure to be.

1144.     So he escaped not the common doom,

1145.     when Hun with "Lafing," the light-of-battle,

1146.     best of blades, his bosom pierced:

1147.     its edge was famed with the Frisian earls.

1148.     On fierce-heart Finn there fell likewise,

1149.     on himself at home, the horrid sword-death;

1150.     for Guthlaf and Oslaf of grim attack

1151.     had sorrowing told, from sea-ways landed,

1152.     mourning their woes.1 Finn’s wavering spirit

1153.     bode not in breast. The burg was reddened

1154.     with blood of foemen, and Finn was slain,

1155.     king amid clansmen; the queen was taken.

1156.     To their ship the Scylding warriors bore

1157.     all the chattels the chieftain owned,

1158.     whatever they found in Finn’s domain

1159.     of gems and jewels. The gentle wife

1160.     o’er paths of the deep to the Danes they bore,

1161.     led to her land.


1162.     The lay was finished,

1163.     the gleeman’s song. Then glad rose the revel;

1164.     bench-joy brightened. Bearers draw

1165.     from their "wonder-vats" wine. Comes Wealhtheow forth,

1166.     under gold-crown goes where the good pair sit,

1167.     uncle and nephew, true each to the other one,

1168.     kindred in amity. Unferth the spokesman

1169.     at the Scylding lord’s feet sat: men had faith in his spirit,

1170.     his keenness of courage, though kinsmen had found him

1171.     unsure at the sword-play. The Scylding queen spoke:

1172.     "Quaff of this cup, my king and lord,

1173.     breaker of rings, and blithe be thou,

1174.     gold-friend of men; to the Geats here speak

1175.     such words of mildness as man should use.

1176.     Be glad with thy Geats; of those gifts be mindful,

1177.     or near or far, which now thou hast.

1178.     Men say to me, as son thou wishest

1179.     yon hero to hold. Thy Heorot purged,

1180.     jewel-hall brightest, enjoy while thou canst,

1181.     with many a largess; and leave to thy kin

1182.     folk and realm when forth thou goest

1183.     to greet thy doom. For gracious I deem

1184.     my Hrothulf,2 willing to hold and rule

1185.     nobly our youths, if thou yield up first,

1186.     prince of Scyldings, thy part in the world.

1187.     I ween with good he will well requite

1188.     offspring of ours, when all he minds

1189.     that for him we did in his helpless days

1190.     of gift and grace to gain him honor!"

1191.     Then she turned to the seat where her sons were placed,

1192.     Hrethric and Hrothmund, with heroes’ bairns,

1193.     young men together: the Geat, too, sat there,

1194.     Beowulf brave, the brothers between.


Back to Top




1195.     A CUP she gave him, with kindly greeting

1196.     and winsome words. Of wounden gold,

1197.     she offered, to honor him, arm-jewels twain,

1198.     corselet and rings, and of collars the noblest

1199.     that ever I knew the earth around.

1200.     Ne’er heard I so mighty, ’neath heaven’s dome,

1201.     a hoard-gem of heroes, since Hama bore

1202.     to his bright-built burg the Brisings’ necklace,

1203.     jewel and gem casket.—Jealousy fled he,

1204.     Eormenric’s hate: chose help eternal.

1205.     Hygelac Geat, grandson of Swerting,

1206.     on the last of his raids this ring bore with him,

1207.     under his banner the booty defending,

1208.     the war-spoil warding; but Wyrd o’erwhelmed him

1209.     what time, in his daring, dangers he sought,

1210.     feud with Frisians. Fairest of gems

1211.     he bore with him over the beaker-of-waves,

1212.     sovran strong: under shield he died.

1213.     Fell the corpse of the king into keeping of Franks,

1214.     gear of the breast, and that gorgeous ring;

1215.     weaker warriors won the spoil,

1216.     after gripe of battle, from Geatland’s lord,

1217.     and held the death-field.

1218.     Din rose in hall.

1219.     Wealhtheow spake amid warriors, and said:—

1220.     "This jewel enjoy in thy jocund youth,

1221.     Beowulf lov’d, these battle-weeds wear,

1222.     a royal treasure, and richly thrive!

1223.     Preserve thy strength, and these striplings here

1224.     counsel in kindness: requital be mine.

1225.     Hast done such deeds, that for days to come

1226.     thou art famed among folk both far and near,

1227.     so wide as washeth the wave of Ocean

1228.     his windy walls. Through the ways of life

1229.     prosper, O prince! I pray for thee

1230.     rich possessions. To son of mine

1231.     be helpful in deed and uphold his joys!

1232.     Here every earl to the other is true,

1233.     mild of mood, to the master loyal!

1234.     Thanes are friendly, the throng obedient,

1235.     liegemen are revelling: list and obey!"


1236.     Went then to her place.—That was proudest of feasts;

1237.     flowed wine for the warriors. Wyrd they knew not,

1238.     destiny dire, and the doom to be seen

1239.     by many an earl when eve should come,

1240.     and Hrothgar homeward hasten away,

1241.     royal, to rest. The room was guarded

1242.     by an army of earls, as erst was done.

1243.     They bared the bench-boards; abroad they spread

1244.     beds and bolsters.—One beer-carouser

1245.     in danger of doom lay down in the hall.—

1246.     At their heads they set their shields of war,

1247.     bucklers bright; on the bench were there

1248.     over each atheling, easy to see,

1249.     the high battle-helmet, the haughty spear,

1250.     the corselet of rings. ’Twas their custom so

1251.     ever to be for battle prepared,

1252.     at home, or harrying, which it were,

1253.     even as oft as evil threatened

1254.     their sovran king.—They were clansmen good.

Back to Top

Part 1B: Grendel’s Mum (1255-2209):



1255.     THEN sank they to sleep. With sorrow one bought

1256.     his rest of the evening,—as ofttime had happened

1257.     when Grendel guarded that golden hall,

1258.     evil wrought, till his end drew nigh,

1259.     slaughter for sins. ’Twas seen and told

1260.     how an avenger survived the fiend,

1261.     as was learned afar. The livelong time

1262.     after that grim fight, Grendel’s mother,

1263.     monster of women, mourned her woe.

1264.     She was doomed to dwell in the dreary waters,

1265.     cold sea-courses, since Cain cut down

1266.     with edge of the sword his only brother,

1267.     his father’s offspring: outlawed he fled,

1268.     marked with murder, from men’s delights

1269.     warded the wilds.—There woke from him

1270.     such fate-sent ghosts as Grendel, who,

1271.     war-wolf horrid, at Heorot found

1272.     a warrior watching and waiting the fray,

1273.     with whom the grisly one grappled amain.

1274.     But the man remembered his mighty power,

1275.     the glorious gift that God had sent him,

1276.     in his Maker’s mercy put his trust

1277.     for comfort and help: so he conquered the foe,

1278.     felled the fiend, who fled abject,

1279.     reft of joy, to the realms of death,

1280.     mankind’s foe. And his mother now,

1281.     gloomy and grim, would go that quest

1282.     of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge.

1283.     To Heorot came she, where helmeted Danes

1284.     slept in the hall. Too soon came back

1285.     old ills of the earls, when in she burst,

1286.     the mother of Grendel. Less grim, though, that terror,

1287.     e’en as terror of woman in war is less,

1288.     might of maid, than of men in arms

1289.     when, hammer-forged, the falchion hard,

1290.     sword gore-stained, through swine of the helm,

1291.     crested, with keen blade carves amain.

1292.     Then was in hall the hard-edge drawn,

1293.     the swords on the settles,1 and shields a-many

1294.     firm held in hand: nor helmet minded

1295.     nor harness of mail, whom that horror seized.


1296.     Haste was hers; she would hie afar

1297.     and save her life when the liegemen saw her.

1298.     Yet a single atheling up she seized

1299.     fast and firm, as she fled to the moor.

1300.     He was for Hrothgar of heroes the dearest,

1301.     of trusty vassals betwixt the seas,

1302.     whom she killed on his couch, a clansman famous,

1303.     in battle brave.—Nor was Beowulf there;

1304.     another house had been held apart,

1305.     after giving of gold, for the Geat renowned.—

1306.     Uproar filled Heorot; the hand all had viewed,

1307.     blood-flecked, she bore with her; bale was returned,

1308.     dole in the dwellings: ’twas dire exchange

1309.     where Dane and Geat were doomed to give

1310.     the lives of loved ones. Long-tried king,

1311.     the hoary hero, at heart was sad

1312.     when he knew his noble no more lived,

1313.     and dead indeed was his dearest thane.

1314.     To his bower was Beowulf brought in haste,

1315.     dauntless victor. As daylight broke,

1316.     along with his earls the atheling lord,

1317.     with his clansmen, came where the king abode

1318.     waiting to see if the Wielder-of-All

1319.     would turn this tale of trouble and woe.

1320.     Strode o’er floor the famed-in-strife,

1321.     with his hand-companions,—the hall resounded,—

1322.     wishing to greet the wise old king,

1323.     Ingwines’ lord; he asked if the night

1324.     had passed in peace to the prince’s mind.


Back to Top




1325.     HROTHGAR spake, helmet-of-Scyldings:—

1326.     "Ask not of pleasure! Pain is renewed

1327.     to Danish folk. Dead is Aeschere,

1328.     of Yrmenlaf the elder brother,

1329.     my sage adviser and stay in council,

1330.     shoulder-comrade in stress of fight

1331.     when warriors clashed and we warded our heads,

1332.     hewed the helm-boars; hero famed

1333.     should be every earl as Aeschere was!

1334.     But here in Heorot a hand hath slain him

1335.     of wandering death-sprite. I wot not whither,1

1336.     proud of the prey, her path she took,

1337.     fain of her fill. The feud she avenged

1338.     that yesternight, unyieldingly,

1339.     Grendel in grimmest grasp thou killedst,—

1340.     seeing how long these liegemen mine

1341.     he ruined and ravaged. Reft of life,

1342.     in arms he fell. Now another comes,

1343.     keen and cruel, her kin to avenge,

1344.     faring far in feud of blood:

1345.     so that many a thane shall think, who e’er

1346.     sorrows in soul for that sharer of rings,

1347.     this is hardest of heart-bales. The hand lies low

1348.     that once was willing each wish to please.

1349.     Land-dwellers here2 and liegemen mine,

1350.     who house by those parts, I have heard relate

1351.     that such a pair they have sometimes seen,

1352.     march-stalkers mighty the moorland haunting,

1353.     wandering spirits: one of them seemed,

1354.     so far as my folk could fairly judge,

1355.     of womankind; and one, accursed,

1356.     in man’s guise trod the misery-track

1357.     of exile, though huger than human bulk.

1358.     Grendel in days long gone they named him,

1359.     folk of the land; his father they knew not,

1360.     nor any brood that was born to him

1361.     of treacherous spirits. Untrod is their home;

1362.     by wolf-cliffs haunt they and windy headlands,

1363.     fenways fearful, where flows the stream

1364.     from mountains gliding to gloom of the rocks,

1365.     underground flood. Not far is it hence

1366.     in measure of miles that the mere expands,

1367.     and o’er it the frost-bound forest hanging,

1368.     sturdily rooted, shadows the wave.

1369.     By night is a wonder weird to see,

1370.     fire on the waters. So wise lived none

1371.     of the sons of men, to search those depths!

1372.     Nay, though the heath-rover, harried by dogs,

1373.     the horn-proud hart, this holt should seek,

1374.     long distance driven, his dear life first

1375.     on the brink he yields ere he brave the plunge

1376.     to hide his head: ’tis no happy place!

1377.     Thence the welter of waters washes up

1378.     wan to welkin when winds bestir

1379.     evil storms, and air grows dusk,

1380.     and the heavens weep. Now is help once more

1381.     with thee alone! The land thou knowst not,

1382.     place of fear, where thou findest out

1383.     that sin-flecked being. Seek if thou dare!

1384.     I will reward thee, for waging this fight,

1385.     with ancient treasure, as erst I did,

1386.     with winding gold, if thou winnest back."


Back to Top




1387.     BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:

1388.     "Sorrow not, sage! It beseems us better

1389.     friends to avenge than fruitlessly mourn them.

1390.     Each of us all must his end abide

1391.     in the ways of the world; so win who may

1392.     glory ere death! When his days are told,

1393.     that is the warrior’s worthiest doom.

1394.     Rise, O realm-warder! Ride we anon,

1395.     and mark the trail of the mother of Grendel.

1396.     No harbor shall hide her—heed my promise!—

1397.     enfolding of field or forested mountain

1398.     or floor of the flood, let her flee where she will!

1399.     But thou this day endure in patience,

1400.     as I ween thou wilt, thy woes each one."

1401.     Leaped up the graybeard: God he thanked,

1402.     mighty Lord, for the man’s brave words.

1403.     For Hrothgar soon a horse was saddled

1404.     wave-maned steed. The sovran wise

1405.     stately rode on; his shield-armed men

1406.     followed in force. The footprints led

1407.     along the woodland, widely seen,

1408.     a path o’er the plain, where she passed, and trod

1409.     the murky moor; of men-at-arms

1410.     she bore the bravest and best one, dead,

1411.     him who with Hrothgar the homestead ruled.


1412.     On then went the atheling-born

1413.     o’er stone-cliffs steep and strait defiles,

1414.     narrow passes and unknown ways,

1415.     headlands sheer, and the haunts of the Nicors.

1416.     Foremost he1 fared, a few at his side

1417.     of the wiser men, the ways to scan,

1418.     till he found in a flash the forested hill

1419.     hanging over the hoary rock,

1420.     a woful wood: the waves below

1421.     were dyed in blood. The Danish men

1422.     had sorrow of soul, and for Scyldings all,

1423.     for many a hero, ’twas hard to bear,

1424.     ill for earls, when Aeschere’s head

1425.     they found by the flood on the foreland there.

1426.     Waves were welling, the warriors saw,

1427.     hot with blood; but the horn sang oft

1428.     battle-song bold. The band sat down,

1429.     and watched on the water worm-like things,

1430.     sea-dragons strange that sounded the deep,

1431.     and nicors that lay on the ledge of the ness—

1432.     such as oft essay at hour of morn

1433.     on the road-of-sails their ruthless quest,—

1434.     and sea-snakes and monsters. These started away,

1435.     swollen and savage that song to hear,

1436.     that war-horn’s blast. The warden of Geats,

1437.     with bolt from bow, then balked of life,

1438.     of wave-work, one monster, amid its heart

1439.     went the keen war-shaft; in water it seemed

1440.     less doughty in swimming whom death had seized.

1441.     Swift on the billows, with boar-spears well

1442.     hooked and barbed, it was hard beset,

1443.     done to death and dragged on the headland,

1444.     wave-roamer wondrous. Warriors viewed

1445.     the grisly guest.


1446.     Then girt him Beowulf

1447.     in martial mail, nor mourned for his life.

1448.     His breastplate broad and bright of hues,

1449.     woven by hand, should the waters try;

1450.     well could it ward the warrior’s body

1451.     that battle should break on his breast in vain

1452.     nor harm his heart by the hand of a foe.

1453.     And the helmet white that his head protected

1454.     was destined to dare the deeps of the flood,

1455.     through wave-whirl win: ’twas wound with chains,

1456.     decked with gold, as in days of yore

1457.     the weapon-smith worked it wondrously,

1458.     with swine-forms set it, that swords nowise,

1459.     brandished in battle, could bite that helm.

1460.     Nor was that the meanest of mighty helps

1461.     which Hrothgar’s orator offered at need:

1462.     "Hrunting" they named the hilted sword,

1463.     of old-time heirlooms easily first;

1464.     iron was its edge, all etched with poison,

1465.     with battle-blood hardened, nor blenched it at fight

1466.     in hero’s hand who held it ever,

1467.     on paths of peril prepared to go

1468.     to folkstead2 of foes. Not first time this

1469.     it was destined to do a daring task.

1470.     For he bore not in mind, the bairn of Ecglaf

1471.     sturdy and strong, that speech he had made,

1472.     drunk with wine, now this weapon he lent

1473.     to a stouter swordsman. Himself, though, durst not

1474.     under welter of waters wager his life

1475.     as loyal liegeman. So lost he his glory,

1476.     honor of earls. With the other not so,

1477.     who girded him now for the grim encounter.


Back to Top




1478.     BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

1479.     "Have mind, thou honored offspring of Healfdene

1480.     gold-friend of men, now I go on this quest,

1481.     sovran wise, what once was said:

1482.     if in thy cause it came that I

1483.     should lose my life, thou wouldst loyal bide

1484.     to me, though fallen, in father’s place!

1485.     Be guardian, thou, to this group of my thanes,

1486.     my warrior-friends, if War should seize me;

1487.     and the goodly gifts thou gavest me,

1488.     Hrothgar beloved, to Hygelac send!

1489.     Geatland’s king may ken by the gold,

1490.     Hrethel’s son see, when he stares at the treasure,

1491.     that I got me a friend for goodness famed,

1492.     and joyed while I could in my jewel-bestower.

1493.     And let Unferth wield this wondrous sword,

1494.     earl far-honored, this heirloom precious,

1495.     hard of edge: with Hrunting I

1496.     seek doom of glory, or Death shall take me."


1497.     After these words the Weder-Geat lord

1498.     boldly hastened, biding never

1499.     answer at all: the ocean floods

1500.     closed o’er the hero. Long while of the day

1501.     fled ere he felt the floor of the sea.

1502.     Soon found the fiend who the flood-domain

1503.     sword-hungry held these hundred winters,

1504.     greedy and grim, that some guest from above,

1505.     some man, was raiding her monster-realm.

1506.     She grasped out for him with grisly claws,

1507.     and the warrior seized; yet scathed she not

1508.     his body hale; the breastplate hindered,

1509.     as she strove to shatter the sark of war,

1510.     the linked harness, with loathsome hand.

1511.     Then bore this brine-wolf, when bottom she touched,

1512.     the lord of rings to the lair she haunted

1513.     whiles vainly he strove, though his valor held,

1514.     weapon to wield against wondrous monsters

1515.     that sore beset him; sea-beasts many

1516.     tried with fierce tusks to tear his mail,

1517.     and swarmed on the stranger. But soon he marked

1518.     he was now in some hall, he knew not which,

1519.     where water never could work him harm,

1520.     nor through the roof could reach him ever

1521.     fangs of the flood. Firelight he saw,

1522.     beams of a blaze that brightly shone.

1523.     Then the warrior was ware of that wolf-of-the-deep,

1524.     mere-wife monstrous. For mighty stroke

1525.     he swung his blade, and the blow withheld not.

1526.     Then sang on her head that seemly blade

1527.     its war-song wild. But the warrior found

1528.     the light-of-battle1 was loath to bite,

1529.     to harm the heart: its hard edge failed

1530.     the noble at need, yet had known of old

1531.     strife hand to hand, and had helmets cloven,

1532.     doomed men’s fighting-gear. First time, this,

1533.     for the gleaming blade that its glory fell.


1534.     Firm still stood, nor failed in valor,

1535.     heedful of high deeds, Hygelac’s kinsman;

1536.     flung away fretted sword, featly jewelled,

1537.     the angry earl; on earth it lay

1538.     steel-edged and stiff. His strength he trusted,

1539.     hand-gripe of might. So man shall do

1540.     whenever in war he weens to earn him

1541.     lasting fame, nor fears for his life!

1542.     Seized then by shoulder, shrank not from combat,

1543.     the Geatish war-prince Grendel’s mother.

1544.     Flung then the fierce one, filled with wrath,

1545.     his deadly foe, that she fell to ground.

1546.     Swift on her part she paid him back

1547.     with grisly grasp, and grappled with him.

1548.     Spent with struggle, stumbled the warrior,

1549.     fiercest of fighting-men, fell adown.

1550.     On the hall-guest she hurled herself, hent her short sword,

1551.     broad and brown-edged,2 the bairn to avenge,

1552.     the sole-born son.—On his shoulder lay

1553.     braided breast-mail, barring death,

1554.     withstanding entrance of edge or blade.

1555.     Life would have ended for Ecgtheow’s son,

1556.     under wide earth for that earl of Geats,

1557.     had his armor of war not aided him,

1558.     battle-net hard, and holy God

1559.     wielded the victory, wisest Maker.

1560.     The Lord of Heaven allowed his cause;

1561.     and easily rose the earl erect.


Back to Top




1562.     ’MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,

1563.     old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,

1564.     warriors’ heirloom, weapon unmatched,

1565.     —save only ’twas more than other men

1566.     to bandy-of-battle could bear at all—

1567.     as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.

1568.     Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings’ chieftain,

1569.     bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,

1570.     reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote

1571.     that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,

1572.     her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through

1573.     that fated-one’s flesh: to floor she sank.

1574.     Bloody the blade: he was blithe of his deed.

1575.     Then blazed forth light. ’Twas bright within

1576.     as when from the sky there shines unclouded

1577.     heaven’s candle. The hall he scanned.

1578.     By the wall then went he; his weapon raised

1579.     high by its hilts the Hygelac-thane,

1580.     angry and eager. That edge was not useless

1581.     to the warrior now. He wished with speed

1582.     Grendel to guerdon for grim raids many,

1583.     for the war he waged on Western-Danes

1584.     oftener far than an only time,

1585.     when of Hrothgar’s hearth-companions

1586.     he slew in slumber, in sleep devoured,

1587.     fifteen men of the folk of Danes,

1588.     and as many others outward bore,

1589.     his horrible prey. Well paid for that

1590.     the wrathful prince! For now prone he saw

1591.     Grendel stretched there, spent with war,

1592.     spoiled of life, so scathed had left him

1593.     Heorot’s battle. The body sprang far

1594.     when after death it endured the blow,

1595.     sword-stroke savage, that severed its head.

1596.     Soon,1 then, saw the sage companions

1597.     who waited with Hrothgar, watching the flood,

1598.     that the tossing waters turbid grew,

1599.     blood-stained the mere. Old men together,

1600.     hoary-haired, of the hero spake;

1601.     the warrior would not, they weened, again,

1602.     proud of conquest, come to seek

1603.     their mighty master. To many it seemed

1604.     the wolf-of-the-waves had won his life.

1605.     The ninth hour came. The noble Scyldings

1606.     left the headland; homeward went

1607.     the gold-friend of men.2 But the guests sat on,

1608.     stared at the surges, sick in heart,

1609.     and wished, yet weened not, their winsome lord

1610.     again to see.


1611.     Now that sword began,

1612.     from blood of the fight, in battle-droppings,3

1613.     war-blade, to wane: ’twas a wondrous thing

1614.     that all of it melted as ice is wont

1615.     when frosty fetters the Father loosens,

1616.     unwinds the wave-bonds, wielding all

1617.     seasons and times: the true God he!


1618.     Nor took from that dwelling the duke of the Geats

1619.     precious things, though a plenty he saw,

1620.     save only the head and that hilt withal

1621.     blazoned with jewels: the blade had melted,

1622.     burned was the bright sword, her blood was so hot,

1623.     so poisoned the hell-sprite who perished within there.

1624.     Soon he was swimming who safe saw in combat

1625.     downfall of demons; up-dove through the flood.

1626.     The clashing waters were cleansed now,

1627.     waste of waves, where the wandering fiend

1628.     her life-days left and this lapsing world.

1629.     Swam then to strand the sailors’-refuge,

1630.     sturdy-in-spirit, of sea-booty glad,

1631.     of burden brave he bore with him.

1632.     Went then to greet him, and God they thanked,

1633.     the thane-band choice of their chieftain blithe,

1634.     that safe and sound they could see him again.

1635.     Soon from the hardy one helmet and armor

1636.     deftly they doffed: now drowsed the mere,

1637.     water ’neath welkin, with war-blood stained.


1638.     Forth they fared by the footpaths thence,

1639.     merry at heart the highways measured,

1640.     well-known roads. Courageous men

1641.     carried the head from the cliff by the sea,

1642.     an arduous task for all the band,

1643.     the firm in fight, since four were needed

1644.     on the shaft-of-slaughter4 strenuously

1645.     to bear to the gold-hall Grendel’s head.

1646.     So presently to the palace there

1647.     foemen fearless, fourteen Geats,

1648.     marching came. Their master-of-clan

1649.     mighty amid them the meadow-ways trod.

1650.     Strode then within the sovran thane

1651.     fearless in fight, of fame renowned,

1652.     hardy hero, Hrothgar to greet.

1653.     And next by the hair into hall was borne

1654.     Grendel’s head, where the henchmen were drinking,

1655.     an awe to clan and queen alike,

1656.     a monster of marvel: the men looked on.


Back to Top




1657.     BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

1658.     "Lo, now, this sea-booty, son of Healfdene,

1659.     Lord of Scyldings, we’ve lustily brought thee,

1660.     sign of glory; thou seest it here.

1661.     Not lightly did I with my life escape!

1662.     In war under water this work I essayed

1663.     with endless effort; and even so

1664.     my strength had been lost had the Lord not shielded me.

1665.     Not a whit could I with Hrunting do

1666.     in work of war, though the weapon is good;

1667.     yet a sword the Sovran of Men vouchsafed me

1668.     to spy on the wall there, in splendor hanging,

1669.     old, gigantic,—how oft He guides

1670.     the friendless wight!—and I fought with that brand,

1671.     felling in fight, since fate was with me,

1672.     the house’s wardens. That war-sword then

1673.     all burned, bright blade, when the blood gushed o’er it,

1674.     battle-sweat hot; but the hilt I brought back

1675.     from my foes. So avenged I their fiendish deeds

1676.     death-fall of Danes, as was due and right.

1677.     And this is my hest, that in Heorot now

1678.     safe thou canst sleep with thy soldier band,

1679.     and every thane of all thy folk

1680.     both old and young; no evil fear,

1681.     Scyldings’ lord, from that side again,

1682.     aught ill for thy earls, as erst thou must!"

1683.     Then the golden hilt, for that gray-haired leader,

1684.     hoary hero, in hand was laid,

1685.     giant-wrought, old. So owned and enjoyed it

1686.     after downfall of devils, the Danish lord,

1687.     wonder-smiths’ work, since the world was rid

1688.     of that grim-souled fiend, the foe of God,

1689.     murder-marked, and his mother as well.

1690.     Now it passed into power of the people’s king,

1691.     best of all that the oceans bound

1692.     who have scattered their gold o’er Scandia’s isle.

1693.     Hrothgar spake—the hilt he viewed,

1694.     heirloom old, where was etched the rise

1695.     of that far-off fight when the floods o’erwhelmed,

1696.     raging waves, the race of giants

1697.     (fearful their fate!), a folk estranged

1698.     from God Eternal: whence guerdon due

1699.     in that waste of waters the Wielder paid them.

1700.     So on the guard of shining gold

1701.     in runic staves it was rightly said

1702.     for whom the serpent-traced sword was wrought,

1703.     best of blades, in bygone days,

1704.     and the hilt well wound.—The wise-one spake,

1705.     son of Healfdene; silent were all:—


1706.     "Lo, so may he say who sooth and right

1707.     follows ’mid folk, of far times mindful,

1708.     a land-warden old,1 that this earl belongs

1709.     to the better breed! So, borne aloft,

1710.     thy fame must fly, O friend my Beowulf,

1711.     far and wide o’er folksteads many. Firmly thou

1712.     shalt all maintain,

1713.     mighty strength with mood of wisdom. Love of

1714.     mine will I assure thee,

1715.     as, awhile ago, I promised; thou shalt prove a stay in future,

1716.     in far-off years, to folk of thine,

1717.     to the heroes a help. Was not Heremod thus

1718.     to offspring of Ecgwela, Honor-Scyldings,

1719.     nor grew for their grace, but for grisly slaughter,

1720.     for doom of death to the Danishmen.

1721.     He slew, wrath-swollen, his shoulder-comrades,

1722.     companions at board! So he passed alone,

1723.     chieftain haughty, from human cheer.

1724.     Though him the Maker with might endowed,

1725.     delights of power, and uplifted high

1726.     above all men, yet blood-fierce his mind,

1727.     his breast-hoard, grew, no bracelets gave he

1728.     to Danes as was due; he endured all joyless

1729.     strain of struggle and stress of woe,

1730.     long feud with his folk. Here find thy lesson!

1731.     Of virtue advise thee! This verse I have said for thee,

1732.     wise from lapsed winters. Wondrous seems

1733.     how to sons of men Almighty God

1734.     in the strength of His spirit sendeth wisdom,

1735.     estate, high station: He swayeth all things.

1736.     Whiles He letteth right lustily fare

1737.     the heart of the hero of high-born race,—

1738.     in seat ancestral assigns him bliss,

1739.     his folk’s sure fortress in fee to hold,

1740.     puts in his power great parts of the earth,

1741.     empire so ample, that end of it

1742.     this wanter-of-wisdom weeneth none.

1743.     So he waxes in wealth, nowise can harm him

1744.     illness or age; no evil cares

1745.     shadow his spirit; no sword-hate threatens

1746.     from ever an enemy: all the world

1747.     wends at his will, no worse he knoweth,

1748.     till all within him obstinate pride

1749.     waxes and wakes while the warden slumbers,

1750.     the spirit’s sentry; sleep is too fast

1751.     which masters his might, and the murderer nears,

1752.     stealthily shooting the shafts from his bow!


Back to Top




1753.     "UNDER harness his heart then is hit indeed

1754.     by sharpest shafts; and no shelter avails

1755.     from foul behest of the hellish fiend.1

1756.     Him seems too little what long he possessed.

1757.     Greedy and grim, no golden rings

1758.     he gives for his pride; the promised future

1759.     forgets he and spurns, with all God has sent him,

1760.     Wonder-Wielder, of wealth and fame.

1761.     Yet in the end it ever comes

1762.     that the frame of the body fragile yields,

1763.     fated falls; and there follows another

1764.     who joyously the jewels divides,

1765.     the royal riches, nor recks of his forebear.

1766.     Ban, then, such baleful thoughts, Beowulf dearest,

1767.     best of men, and the better part choose,

1768.     profit eternal; and temper thy pride,

1769.     warrior famous! The flower of thy might

1770.     lasts now a while: but erelong it shall be

1771.     that sickness or sword thy strength shall minish,

1772.     or fang of fire, or flooding billow,

1773.     or bite of blade, or brandished spear,

1774.     or odious age; or the eyes’ clear beam

1775.     wax dull and darken: Death even thee

1776.     in haste shall o’erwhelm, thou hero of war!

1777.     So the Ring-Danes these half-years a hundred I ruled,

1778.     wielded ’neath welkin, and warded them bravely

1779.     from mighty-ones many o’er middle-earth,

1780.     from spear and sword, till it seemed for me

1781.     no foe could be found under fold of the sky.

1782.     Lo, sudden the shift! To me seated secure

1783.     came grief for joy when Grendel began

1784.     to harry my home, the hellish foe;

1785.     for those ruthless raids, unresting I suffered

1786.     heart-sorrow heavy. Heaven be thanked,

1787.     Lord Eternal, for life extended

1788.     that I on this head all hewn and bloody,

1789.     after long evil, with eyes may gaze!

1790.     —Go to the bench now! Be glad at banquet,

1791.     warrior worthy! A wealth of treasure

1792.     at dawn of day, be dealt between us!"


1793.     Glad was the Geats’ lord, going betimes

1794.     to seek his seat, as the Sage commanded.

1795.     Afresh, as before, for the famed-in-battle,

1796.     for the band of the hall, was a banquet dight

1797.     nobly anew. The Night-Helm darkened

1798.     dusk o’er the drinkers.


1799.     The doughty ones rose:

1800.     for the hoary-headed would hasten to rest,

1801.     aged Scylding; and eager the Geat,

1802.     shield-fighter sturdy, for sleeping yearned.

1803.     Him wander-weary, warrior-guest

1804.     from far, a hall-thane heralded forth,

1805.     who by custom courtly cared for all

1806.     needs of a thane as in those old days

1807.     warrior-wanderers wont to have.

1808.     So slumbered the stout-heart. Stately the hall

1809.     rose gabled and gilt where the guest slept on

1810.     till a raven black the rapture-of-heaven2

1811.     blithe-heart boded. Bright came flying

1812.     shine after shadow. The swordsmen hastened,

1813.     athelings all were eager homeward

1814.     forth to fare; and far from thence

1815.     the great-hearted guest would guide his keel.


1816.     Bade then the hardy-one Hrunting be brought

1817.     to the son of Ecglaf, the sword bade him take,

1818.     excellent iron, and uttered his thanks for it,

1819.     quoth that he counted it keen in battle,

1820.     "war-friend" winsome: with words he slandered not

1821.     edge of the blade: ’twas a big-hearted man!

1822.     Now eager for parting and armed at point

1823.     warriors waited, while went to his host

1824.     that Darling of Danes. The doughty atheling

1825.     to high-seat hastened and Hrothgar greeted.


Back to Top




1826.     BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:—

1827.     "Lo, we seafarers say our will,

1828.     far-come men, that we fain would seek

1829.     Hygelac now. We here have found

1830.     hosts to our heart: thou hast harbored us well.

1831.     If ever on earth I am able to win me

1832.     more of thy love, O lord of men,

1833.     aught anew, than I now have done,

1834.     for work of war I am willing still!

1835.     If it come to me ever across the seas

1836.     that neighbor foemen annoy and fright thee,—

1837.     as they that hate thee erewhile have used,—

1838.     thousands then of thanes I shall bring,

1839.     heroes to help thee. Of Hygelac I know,

1840.     ward of his folk, that, though few his years,

1841.     the lord of the Geats will give me aid

1842.     by word and by work, that well I may serve thee,

1843.     wielding the war-wood to win thy triumph

1844.     and lending thee might when thou lackest men.

1845.     If thy Hrethric should come to court of Geats,

1846.     a sovran’s son, he will surely there

1847.     find his friends. A far-off land

1848.     each man should visit who vaunts him brave."


1849.     Him then answering, Hrothgar spake:—

1850.     "These words of thine the wisest God

1851.     sent to thy soul! No sager counsel

1852.     from so young in years e’er yet have I heard.

1853.     Thou art strong of main and in mind art wary,

1854.     art wise in words! I ween indeed

1855.     if ever it hap that Hrethel’s heir

1856.     by spear be seized, by sword-grim battle,

1857.     by illness or iron, thine elder and lord,

1858.     people’s leader,—and life be thine,—

1859.     no seemlier man will the Sea-Geats find

1860.     at all to choose for their chief and king,

1861.     for hoard-guard of heroes, if hold thou wilt

1862.     thy kinsman’s kingdom! Thy keen mind pleases me

1863.     the longer the better, Beowulf loved!

1864.     Thou hast brought it about that both our peoples,

1865.     sons of the Geat and Spear-Dane folk,

1866.     shall have mutual peace, and from murderous strife,

1867.     such as once they waged, from war refrain.

1868.     Long as I rule this realm so wide,

1869.     let our hoards be common, let heroes with gold

1870.     each other greet o’er the gannet’s-bath,

1871.     and the ringed-prow bear o’er rolling waves

1872.     tokens of love. I trow my landfolk

1873.     towards friend and foe are firmly joined,

1874.     and honor they keep in the olden way."


1875.     To him in the hall, then, Healfdene’s son

1876.     gave treasures twelve, and the trust-of-earls

1877.     bade him fare with the gifts to his folk beloved,

1878.     hale to his home, and in haste return.

1879.     Then kissed the king of kin renowned,

1880.     Scyldings’ chieftain, that choicest thane,

1881.     and fell on his neck. Fast flowed the tears

1882.     of the hoary-headed. Heavy with winters,

1883.     he had chances twain, but he clung to this,1

1884.     that each should look on the other again,

1885.     and hear him in hall. Was this hero so dear to him.

1886.     his breast’s wild billows he banned in vain;

1887.     safe in his soul a secret longing,

1888.     locked in his mind, for that loved man

1889.     burned in his blood. Then Beowulf strode,

1890.     glad of his gold-gifts, the grass-plot o’er,

1891.     warrior blithe. The wave-roamer bode

1892.     riding at anchor, its owner awaiting.

1893.     As they hastened onward, Hrothgar’s gift

1894.     they lauded at length.—’Twas a lord unpeered,

1895.     every way blameless, till age had broken

1896.     —it spareth no mortal—his splendid might.


Back to Top




1897.     CAME now to ocean the ever-courageous

1898.     hardy henchmen, their harness bearing,

1899.     woven war-sarks. The warden marked,

1900.     trusty as ever, the earl’s return.

1901.     From the height of the hill no hostile words

1902.     reached the guests as he rode to greet them;

1903.     but "Welcome!" he called to that Weder clan

1904.     as the sheen-mailed spoilers to ship marched on.

1905.     Then on the strand, with steeds and treasure

1906.     and armor their roomy and ring-dight ship

1907.     was heavily laden: high its mast

1908.     rose over Hrothgar’s hoarded gems.

1909.     A sword to the boat-guard Beowulf gave,

1910.     mounted with gold; on the mead-bench since

1911.     he was better esteemed, that blade possessing,

1912.     heirloom old.—Their ocean-keel boarding,

1913.     they drove through the deep, and Daneland left.

1914.     A sea-cloth was set, a sail with ropes,

1915.     firm to the mast; the flood-timbers moaned;1

1916.     nor did wind over billows that wave-swimmer blow

1917.     across from her course. The craft sped on,

1918.     foam-necked it floated forth o’er the waves,

1919.     keel firm-bound over briny currents,

1920.     till they got them sight of the Geatish cliffs,

1921.     home-known headlands. High the boat,

1922.     stirred by winds, on the strand updrove.

1923.     Helpful at haven the harbor-guard stood,

1924.     who long already for loved companions

1925.     by the water had waited and watched afar.

1926.     He bound to the beach the broad-bosomed ship

1927.     with anchor-bands, lest ocean-billows

1928.     that trusty timber should tear away.

1929.     Then Beowulf bade them bear the treasure,

1930.     gold and jewels; no journey far

1931.     was it thence to go to the giver of rings,

1932.     Hygelac Hrethling: at home he dwelt

1933.     by the sea-wall close, himself and clan.

1934.     Haughty that house, a hero the king,

1935.     high the hall, and Hygd2 right young,

1936.     wise and wary, though winters few

1937.     in those fortress walls she had found a home,

1938.     Haereth’s daughter. Nor humble her ways,

1939.     nor grudged she gifts to the Geatish men,

1940.     of precious treasure. Not Thryth’s pride showed she,

1941.     folk-queen famed, or that fell deceit.

1942.     Was none so daring that durst make bold

1943.     (save her lord alone) of the liegemen dear

1944.     that lady full in the face to look,

1945.     but forged fetters he found his lot,

1946.     bonds of death! And brief the respite;

1947.     soon as they seized him, his sword-doom was spoken,

1948.     and the burnished blade a baleful murder

1949.     proclaimed and closed. No queenly way

1950.     for woman to practise, though peerless she,

1951.     that the weaver-of-peace3 from warrior dear

1952.     by wrath and lying his life should reave!

1953.     But Hemming’s kinsman hindered this.—


1954.     For over their ale men also told

1955.     that of these folk-horrors fewer she wrought,

1956.     onslaughts of evil, after she went,

1957.     gold-decked bride, to the brave young prince,

1958.     atheling haughty, and Offa’s hall

1959.     o’er the fallow flood at her father’s bidding

1960.     safely sought, where since she prospered,

1961.     royal, throned, rich in goods,

1962.     fain of the fair life fate had sent her,

1963.     and leal in love to the lord of warriors.

1964.     He, of all heroes I heard of ever

1965.     from sea to sea, of the sons of earth,

1966.     most excellent seemed. Hence Offa was praised

1967.     for his fighting and feeing by far-off men,

1968.     the spear-bold warrior; wisely he ruled

1969.     over his empire. Eomer woke to him,

1970.     help of heroes, Hemming’s kinsman,

1971.     Grandson of Garmund, grim in war.


Back to Top




1972.     HASTENED the hardy one, henchmen with him,

1973.     sandy strand of the sea to tread

1974.     and widespread ways. The world’s great candle,

1975.     sun shone from south. They strode along

1976.     with sturdy steps to the spot they knew

1977.     where the battle-king young, his burg within,

1978.     slayer of Ongentheow, shared the rings,

1979.     shelter-of-heroes. To Hygelac

1980.     Beowulf’s coming was quickly told,—

1981.     that there in the court the clansmen’s refuge,

1982.     the shield-companion sound and alive,

1983.     hale from the hero-play homeward strode.

1984.     With haste in the hall, by highest order,

1985.     room for the rovers was readily made.

1986.     By his sovran he sat, come safe from battle,

1987.     kinsman by kinsman. His kindly lord

1988.     he first had greeted in gracious form,

1989.     with manly words. The mead dispensing,

1990.     came through the high hall Haereth’s daughter,

1991.     winsome to warriors, wine-cup bore

1992.     to the hands of the heroes. Hygelac then

1993.     his comrade fairly with question plied

1994.     in the lofty hall, sore longing to know

1995.     what manner of sojourn the Sea-Geats made.

1996.     "What came of thy quest, my kinsman Beowulf,

1997.     when thy yearnings suddenly swept thee yonder

1998.     battle to seek o’er the briny sea,

1999.     combat in Heorot? Hrothgar couldst thou

2000.     aid at all, the honored chief,

2001.     in his wide-known woes? With waves of care

2002.     my sad heart seethed; I sore mistrusted

2003.     my loved one’s venture: long I begged thee

2004.     by no means to seek that slaughtering monster,

2005.     but suffer the South-Danes to settle their feud

2006.     themselves with Grendel. Now God be thanked

2007.     that safe and sound I can see thee now!"

Back to Top




2008.     Beowulf spake, the bairn of Ecgtheow:—

2009.     "’Tis known and unhidden, Hygelac Lord,

2010.     to many men, that meeting of ours,

2011.     struggle grim between Grendel and me,

2012.     which we fought on the field where full too many

2013.     sorrows he wrought for the Scylding-Victors,

2014.     evils unending. These all I avenged.

2015.     No boast can be from breed of Grendel,

2016.     any on earth, for that uproar at dawn,

2017.     from the longest-lived of the loathsome race

2018.     in fleshly fold!—But first I went

2019.     Hrothgar to greet in the hall of gifts,

2020.     where Healfdene’s kinsman high-renowned,

2021.     soon as my purpose was plain to him,

2022.     assigned me a seat by his son and heir.

2023.     The liegemen were lusty; my life-days never

2024.     such merry men over mead in hall

2025.     have I heard under heaven! The high-born queen,

2026.     people’s peace-bringer, passed through the hall,

2027.     cheered the young clansmen, clasps of gold,

2028.     ere she sought her seat, to sundry gave.

2029.     Oft to the heroes Hrothgar’s daughter,

2030.     to earls in turn, the ale-cup tendered,—

2031.     she whom I heard these hall-companions

2032.     Freawaru name, when fretted gold

2033.     she proffered the warriors. Promised is she,

2034.     gold-decked maid, to the glad son of Froda.

2035.     Sage this seems to the Scylding’s-friend,

2036.     kingdom’s-keeper: he counts it wise

2037.     the woman to wed so and ward off feud,

2038.     store of slaughter. But seldom ever

2039.     when men are slain, does the murder-spear sink

2040.     but briefest while, though the bride be fair!1

Back to Top




2041.     "Nor haply will like it the Heathobard lord,

2042.     and as little each of his liegemen all,

2043.     when a thane of the Danes, in that doughty throng,

2044.     goes with the lady along their hall,

2045.     and on him the old-time heirlooms glisten

2046.     hard and ring-decked, Heathobard’s treasure,

2047.     weapons that once they wielded fair

2048.     until they lost at the linden-play2

2049.     liegeman leal and their lives as well.

2050.     Then, over the ale, on this heirloom gazing,

2051.     some ash-wielder old who has all in mind

2052.     that spear-death of men,3—he is stern of mood,

2053.     heavy at heart,—in the hero young

2054.     tests the temper and tries the soul

2055.     and war-hate wakens, with words like these:—

2056.     _Canst thou not, comrade, ken that sword

2057.     which to the fray thy father carried

2058.     in his final feud, ’neath the fighting-mask,

2059.     dearest of blades, when the Danish slew him

2060.     and wielded the war-place on Withergild’s fall,

2061.     after havoc of heroes, those hardy Scyldings?

2062.     Now, the son of a certain slaughtering Dane,

2063.     proud of his treasure, paces this hall,

2064.     joys in the killing, and carries the jewel4

2065.     that rightfully ought to be owned by thee!_

2066.     Thus he urges and eggs him all the time

2067.     with keenest words, till occasion offers

2068.     that Freawaru’s thane, for his father’s deed,

2069.     after bite of brand in his blood must slumber,

2070.     losing his life; but that liegeman flies

2071.     living away, for the land he kens.

2072.     And thus be broken on both their sides

2073.     oaths of the earls, when Ingeld’s breast

2074.     wells with war-hate, and wife-love now

2075.     after the care-billows cooler grows.

2076.     "So5 I hold not high the Heathobards’ faith

2077.     due to the Danes, or their during love

2078.     and pact of peace.—But I pass from that,

2079.     turning to Grendel, O giver-of-treasure,

2080.     and saying in full how the fight resulted,

2081.     hand-fray of heroes. When heaven’s jewel

2082.     had fled o’er far fields, that fierce sprite came,

2083.     night-foe savage, to seek us out

2084.     where safe and sound we sentried the hall.

2085.     To Hondscio then was that harassing deadly,

2086.     his fall there was fated. He first was slain,

2087.     girded warrior. Grendel on him

2088.     turned murderous mouth, on our mighty kinsman,

2089.     and all of the brave man’s body devoured.

2090.     Yet none the earlier, empty-handed,

2091.     would the bloody-toothed murderer, mindful of bale,

2092.     outward go from the gold-decked hall:

2093.     but me he attacked in his terror of might,

2094.     with greedy hand grasped me. A glove hung by him6

2095.     wide and wondrous, wound with bands;

2096.     and in artful wise it all was wrought,

2097.     by devilish craft, of dragon-skins.

2098.     Me therein, an innocent man,

2099.     the fiendish foe was fain to thrust

2100.     with many another. He might not so,

2101.     when I all angrily upright stood.

2102.     ’Twere long to relate how that land-destroyer

2103.     I paid in kind for his cruel deeds;

2104.     yet there, my prince, this people of thine

2105.     got fame by my fighting. He fled away,

2106.     and a little space his life preserved;

2107.     but there staid behind him his stronger hand

2108.     left in Heorot; heartsick thence

2109.     on the floor of the ocean that outcast fell.

2110.     Me for this struggle the Scyldings’-friend

2111.     paid in plenty with plates of gold,

2112.     with many a treasure, when morn had come

2113.     and we all at the banquet-board sat down.

2114.     Then was song and glee. The gray-haired Scylding,

2115.     much tested, told of the times of yore.

2116.     Whiles the hero his harp bestirred,

2117.     wood-of-delight; now lays he chanted

2118.     of sooth and sadness, or said aright

2119.     legends of wonder, the wide-hearted king;

2120.     or for years of his youth he would yearn at times,

2121.     for strength of old struggles, now stricken with age,

2122.     hoary hero: his heart surged full

2123.     when, wise with winters, he wailed their flight.

2124.     Thus in the hall the whole of that day

2125.     at ease we feasted, till fell o’er earth

2126.     another night. Anon full ready

2127.     in greed of vengeance, Grendel’s mother

2128.     set forth all doleful. Dead was her son

2129.     through war-hate of Weders; now, woman monstrous

2130.     with fury fell a foeman she slew,

2131.     avenged her offspring. From Aeschere old,

2132.     loyal councillor, life was gone;

2133.     nor might they e’en, when morning broke,

2134.     those Danish people, their death-done comrade

2135.     burn with brands, on balefire lay

2136.     the man they mourned. Under mountain stream

2137.     she had carried the corpse with cruel hands.

2138.     For Hrothgar that was the heaviest sorrow

2139.     of all that had laden the lord of his folk.

2140.     The leader then, by thy life, besought me

2141.     (sad was his soul) in the sea-waves’ coil

2142.     to play the hero and hazard my being

2143.     for glory of prowess: my guerdon he pledged.

2144.     I then in the waters—’tis widely known—

2145.     that sea-floor-guardian savage found.

2146.     Hand-to-hand there a while we struggled;

2147.     billows welled blood; in the briny hall

2148.     her head I hewed with a hardy blade

2149.     from Grendel’s mother,—and gained my life,

2150.     though not without danger. My doom was not yet.

2151.     Then the haven-of-heroes, Healfdene’s son,

2152.     gave me in guerdon great gifts of price.


Back to Top




2153.     "So held this king to the customs old,

2154.     that I wanted for nought in the wage I gained,

2155.     the meed of my might; he made me gifts,

2156.     Healfdene’s heir, for my own disposal.

2157.     Now to thee, my prince, I proffer them all,

2158.     gladly give them. Thy grace alone

2159.     can find me favor. Few indeed

2160.     have I of kinsmen, save, Hygelac, thee!"

2161.     Then he bade them bear him the boar-head standard,

2162.     the battle-helm high, and breastplate gray,

2163.     the splendid sword; then spake in form:—

2164.     "Me this war-gear the wise old prince,

2165.     Hrothgar, gave, and his hest he added,

2166.     that its story be straightway said to thee.—

2167.     A while it was held by Heorogar king,

2168.     for long time lord of the land of Scyldings;

2169.     yet not to his son the sovran left it,

2170.     to daring Heoroweard,—dear as he was to him,

2171.     his harness of battle.—Well hold thou it all!"


2172.     And I heard that soon passed o’er the path of this treasure,

2173.     all apple-fallow, four good steeds,

2174.     each like the others, arms and horses

2175.     he gave to the king. So should kinsmen be,

2176.     not weave one another the net of wiles,

2177.     or with deep-hid treachery death contrive

2178.     for neighbor and comrade. His nephew was ever

2179.     by hardy Hygelac held full dear,

2180.     and each kept watch o’er the other’s weal.

2181.     I heard, too, the necklace to Hygd he presented,

2182.     wonder-wrought treasure, which Wealhtheow gave him

2183.     sovran’s daughter: three steeds he added,

2184.     slender and saddle-gay. Since such gift

2185.     the gem gleamed bright on the breast of the queen.


2186.     Thus showed his strain the son of Ecgtheow

2187.     as a man remarked for mighty deeds

2188.     and acts of honor. At ale he slew not

2189.     comrade or kin; nor cruel his mood,

2190.     though of sons of earth his strength was greatest,

2191.     a glorious gift that God had sent

2192.     the splendid leader. Long was he spurned,

2193.     and worthless by Geatish warriors held;

2194.     him at mead the master-of-clans

2195.     failed full oft to favor at all.

2196.     Slack and shiftless the strong men deemed him,

2197.     profitless prince; but payment came,

2198.     to the warrior honored, for all his woes.—


2199.     Then the bulwark-of-earls1 bade bring within,

2200.     hardy chieftain, Hrethel’s heirloom

2201.     garnished with gold: no Geat e’er knew

2202.     in shape of a sword a statelier prize.

2203.     The brand he laid in Beowulf’s lap;

2204.     and of hides assigned him seven thousand,2

2205.     with house and high-seat. They held in common

2206.     land alike by their line of birth,

2207.     inheritance, home: but higher the king

2208.     because of his rule o’er the realm itself.


Part 2: The Dragon (2209-3192):

2209.     Now further it fell with the flight of years,

2210.     with harryings horrid, that Hygelac perished,3

2211.     and Heardred, too, by hewing of swords

2212.     under the shield-wall slaughtered lay,

2213.     when him at the van of his victor-folk

2214.     sought hardy heroes, Heatho-Scilfings,

2215.     in arms o’erwhelming Hereric’s nephew.

2216.     Then Beowulf came as king this broad

2217.     realm to wield; and he ruled it well

2218.     fifty winters,4 a wise old prince,

2219.     warding his land, until One began

2220.     in the dark of night, a Dragon, to rage.

2221.     In the grave on the hill a hoard it guarded,

2222.     in the stone-barrow steep. A strait path reached it,

2223.     unknown to mortals. Some man, however,

2224.     came by chance that cave within

2225.     to the heathen hoard.5 In hand he took

2226.     a golden goblet, nor gave he it back,

2227.     stole with it away, while the watcher slept,

2228.     by thievish wiles: for the warden’s wrath

2229.     prince and people must pay betimes!


Back to Top




2230.     THAT way he went with no will of his own,

2231.     in danger of life, to the dragon’s hoard,

2232.     but for pressure of peril, some prince’s thane.

2233.     He fled in fear the fatal scourge,

2234.     seeking shelter, a sinful man,

2235.     and entered in. At the awful sight

2236.     tottered that guest, and terror seized him;

2237.     yet the wretched fugitive rallied anon

2238.     from fright and fear ere he fled away,

2239.     and took the cup from that treasure-hoard.

2240.     Of such besides there was store enough,

2241.     heirlooms old, the earth below,

2242.     which some earl forgotten, in ancient years,

2243.     left the last of his lofty race,

2244.     heedfully there had hidden away,

2245.     dearest treasure. For death of yore

2246.     had hurried all hence; and he alone

2247.     left to live, the last of the clan,

2248.     weeping his friends, yet wished to bide

2249.     warding the treasure, his one delight,

2250.     though brief his respite. The barrow, new-ready,

2251.     to strand and sea-waves stood anear,

2252.     hard by the headland, hidden and closed;

2253.     there laid within it his lordly heirlooms

2254.     and heaped hoard of heavy gold

2255.     that warden of rings. Few words he spake:


2256.     "Now hold thou, earth, since heroes may not,

2257.     what earls have owned! Lo, erst from thee

2258.     brave men brought it! But battle-death seized

2259.     and cruel killing my clansmen all,

2260.     robbed them of life and a liegeman’s joys.

2261.     None have I left to lift the sword,

2262.     or to cleanse the carven cup of price,

2263.     beaker bright. My brave are gone.

2264.     And the helmet hard, all haughty with gold,

2265.     shall part from its plating. Polishers sleep

2266.     who could brighten and burnish the battle-mask;

2267.     and those weeds of war that were wont to brave

2268.     over bicker of shields the bite of steel

2269.     rust with their bearer. The ringed mail

2270.     fares not far with famous chieftain,

2271.     at side of hero! No harp’s delight,

2272.     no glee-wood’s gladness! No good hawk now

2273.     flies through the hall! Nor horses fleet

2274.     stamp in the burgstead! Battle and death

2275.     the flower of my race have reft away."

2276.     Mournful of mood, thus he moaned his woe,

2277.     alone, for them all, and unblithe wept

2278.     by day and by night, till death’s fell wave

2279.     o’erwhelmed his heart. His hoard-of-bliss

2280.     that old ill-doer open found,

2281.     who, blazing at twilight the barrows haunteth,

2282.     naked foe-dragon flying by night

2283.     folded in fire: the folk of earth

2284.     dread him sore. ’Tis his doom to seek

2285.     hoard in the graves, and heathen gold

2286.     to watch, many-wintered: nor wins he thereby!


2287.     Powerful this plague-of-the-people thus

2288.     held the house of the hoard in earth

2289.     three hundred winters; till One aroused

2290.     wrath in his breast, to the ruler bearing

2291.     that costly cup, and the king implored

2292.     for bond of peace. So the barrow was plundered,

2293.     borne off was booty. His boon was granted

2294.     that wretched man; and his ruler saw

2295.     first time what was fashioned in far-off days.


2296.     When the dragon awoke, new woe was kindled.

2297.     O’er the stone he snuffed. The stark-heart found

2298.     footprint of foe who so far had gone

2299.     in his hidden craft by the creature’s head.—

2300.     So may the undoomed easily flee

2301.     evils and exile, if only he gain

2302.     the grace of The Wielder!—That warden of gold

2303.     o’er the ground went seeking, greedy to find

2304.     the man who wrought him such wrong in sleep.

2305.     Savage and burning, the barrow he circled

2306.     all without; nor was any there,

2307.     none in the waste.... Yet war he desired,

2308.     was eager for battle. The barrow he entered,

2309.     sought the cup, and discovered soon

2310.     that some one of mortals had searched his treasure,

2311.     his lordly gold. The guardian waited

2312.     ill-enduring till evening came;

2313.     boiling with wrath was the barrow’s keeper,

2314.     and fain with flame the foe to pay

2315.     for the dear cup’s loss.—Now day was fled

2316.     as the worm had wished. By its wall no more

2317.     was it glad to bide, but burning flew

2318.     folded in flame: a fearful beginning

2319.     for sons of the soil; and soon it came,

2320.     in the doom of their lord, to a dreadful end.

Back to Top




2321.     THEN the baleful fiend its fire belched out,

2322.     and bright homes burned. The blaze stood high

2323.     all landsfolk frighting. No living thing

2324.     would that loathly one leave as aloft it flew.

2325.     Wide was the dragon’s warring seen,

2326.     its fiendish fury far and near,

2327.     as the grim destroyer those Geatish people

2328.     hated and hounded. To hidden lair,

2329.     to its hoard it hastened at hint of dawn.

2330.     Folk of the land it had lapped in flame,

2331.     with bale and brand. In its barrow it trusted,

2332.     its battling and bulwarks: that boast was vain!


2333.     To Beowulf then the bale was told

2334.     quickly and truly: the king’s own home,

2335.     of buildings the best, in brand-waves melted,

2336.     that gift-throne of Geats. To the good old man

2337.     sad in heart, ’twas heaviest sorrow.

2338.     The sage assumed that his sovran God

2339.     he had angered, breaking ancient law,

2340.     and embittered the Lord. His breast within

2341.     with black thoughts welled, as his wont was never.

2342.     The folk’s own fastness that fiery dragon

2343.     with flame had destroyed, and the stronghold all

2344.     washed by waves; but the warlike king,

2345.     prince of the Weders, plotted vengeance.

2346.     Warriors’-bulwark, he bade them work

2347.     all of iron—the earl’s commander—

2348.     a war-shield wondrous: well he knew

2349.     that forest-wood against fire were worthless,

2350.     linden could aid not.—Atheling brave,

2351.     he was fated to finish this fleeting life,1

2352.     his days on earth, and the dragon with him,

2353.     though long it had watched o’er the wealth of the hoard!—

2354.     Shame he reckoned it, sharer-of-rings,

2355.     to follow the flyer-afar with a host,

2356.     a broad-flung band; nor the battle feared he,

2357.     nor deemed he dreadful the dragon’s warring,

2358.     its vigor and valor: ventures desperate

2359.     he had passed a-plenty, and perils of war,

2360.     contest-crash, since, conqueror proud,

2361.     Hrothgar’s hall he had wholly purged,

2362.     and in grapple had killed the kin of Grendel,

2363.     loathsome breed! Not least was that

2364.     of hand-to-hand fights where Hygelac fell,

2365.     when the ruler of Geats in rush of battle,

2366.     lord of his folk, in the Frisian land,

2367.     son of Hrethel, by sword-draughts died,

2368.     by brands down-beaten. Thence Beowulf fled

2369.     through strength of himself and his swimming power,

2370.     though alone, and his arms were laden with thirty

2371.     coats of mail, when he came to the sea!

2372.     Nor yet might Hetwaras2 haughtily boast

2373.     their craft of contest, who carried against him

2374.     shields to the fight: but few escaped

2375.     from strife with the hero to seek their homes!

2376.     Then swam over ocean Ecgtheow’s son

2377.     lonely and sorrowful, seeking his land,

2378.     where Hygd made him offer of hoard and realm,

2379.     rings and royal-seat, reckoning naught

2380.     the strength of her son to save their kingdom

2381.     from hostile hordes, after Hygelac’s death.

2382.     No sooner for this could the stricken ones

2383.     in any wise move that atheling’s mind

2384.     over young Heardred’s head as lord

2385.     and ruler of all the realm to be:

2386.     yet the hero upheld him with helpful words,

2387.     aided in honor, till, older grown,

2388.     he wielded the Weder-Geats.—Wandering exiles

2389.     sought him o’er seas, the sons of Ohtere,

2390.     who had spurned the sway of the Scylfings’-helmet,

2391.     the bravest and best that broke the rings,

2392.     in Swedish land, of the sea-kings’ line,

2393.     haughty hero.3 Hence Heardred’s end.

2394.     For shelter he gave them, sword-death came,

2395.     the blade’s fell blow, to bairn of Hygelac;

2396.     but the son of Ongentheow sought again

2397.     house and home when Heardred fell,

2398.     leaving Beowulf lord of Geats

2399.     and gift-seat’s master.—A good king he!


Back to Top




2400.     THE fall of his lord he was fain to requite

2401.     in after days; and to Eadgils he proved

2402.     friend to the friendless, and forces sent

2403.     over the sea to the son of Ohtere,

2404.     weapons and warriors: well repaid he

2405.     those care-paths cold when the king he slew.1

2406.     Thus safe through struggles the son of Ecgtheow

2407.     had passed a plenty, through perils dire,

2408.     with daring deeds, till this day was come

2409.     that doomed him now with the dragon to strive.


2410.     With comrades eleven the lord of Geats

2411.     swollen in rage went seeking the dragon.

2412.     He had heard whence all the harm arose

2413.     and the killing of clansmen; that cup of price

2414.     on the lap of the lord had been laid by the finder.

2415.     In the throng was this one thirteenth man,

2416.     starter of all the strife and ill,

2417.     care-laden captive; cringing thence

2418.     forced and reluctant, he led them on

2419.     till he came in ken of that cavern-hall,

2420.     the barrow delved near billowy surges,

2421.     flood of ocean. Within ’twas full

2422.     of wire-gold and jewels; a jealous warden,

2423.     warrior trusty, the treasures held,

2424.     lurked in his lair. Not light the task

2425.     of entrance for any of earth-born men!


2426.     Sat on the headland the hero king,

2427.     spake words of hail to his hearth-companions,

2428.     gold-friend of Geats. All gloomy his soul,

2429.     wavering, death-bound. Wyrd full nigh

2430.     stood ready to greet the gray-haired man,

2431.     to seize his soul-hoard, sunder apart

2432.     life and body. Not long would be

2433.     the warrior’s spirit enwound with flesh.


2434.     Beowulf spake, the bairn of Ecgtheow:—

2435.     "Through store of struggles I strove in youth,

2436.     mighty feuds; I mind them all.

2437.     I was seven years old when the sovran of rings,

2438.     friend-of-his-folk, from my father took me,

2439.     had me, and held me, Hrethel the king,

2440.     with food and fee, faithful in kinship.

2441.     Ne’er, while I lived there, he loathlier found me,

2442.     bairn in the burg, than his birthright sons,

2443.     Herebeald and Haethcyn and Hygelac mine.

2444.     For the eldest of these, by unmeet chance,

2445.     by kinsman’s deed, was the death-bed strewn,

2446.     when Haethcyn killed him with horny bow,

2447.     his own dear liege laid low with an arrow,

2448.     missed the mark and his mate shot down,

2449.     one brother the other, with bloody shaft.

2450.     A feeless fight,2 and a fearful sin,

2451.     horror to Hrethel; yet, hard as it was,

2452.     unavenged must the atheling die!

2453.     Too awful it is for an aged man

2454.     to bide and bear, that his bairn so young

2455.     rides on the gallows. A rime he makes,

2456.     sorrow-song for his son there hanging

2457.     as rapture of ravens; no rescue now

2458.     can come from the old, disabled man!

2459.     Still is he minded, as morning breaks,

2460.     of the heir gone elsewhere;3 another he hopes not

2461.     he will bide to see his burg within

2462.     as ward for his wealth, now the one has found

2463.     doom of death that the deed incurred.

2464.     Forlorn he looks on the lodge of his son,

2465.     wine-hall waste and wind-swept chambers

2466.     reft of revel. The rider sleepeth,

2467.     the hero, far-hidden;4 no harp resounds,

2468.     in the courts no wassail, as once was heard.


Back to Top




2469.     "THEN he goes to his chamber, a grief-song chants

2470.     alone for his lost. Too large all seems,

2471.     homestead and house. So the helmet-of-Weders

2472.     hid in his heart for Herebeald

2473.     waves of woe. No way could he take

2474.     to avenge on the slayer slaughter so foul;

2475.     nor e’en could he harass that hero at all

2476.     with loathing deed, though he loved him not.

2477.     And so for the sorrow his soul endured,

2478.     men’s gladness he gave up and God’s light chose.

2479.     Lands and cities he left his sons

2480.     (as the wealthy do) when he went from earth.

2481.     There was strife and struggle ’twixt Swede and Geat

2482.     o’er the width of waters; war arose,

2483.     hard battle-horror, when Hrethel died,

2484.     and Ongentheow’s offspring grew

2485.     strife-keen, bold, nor brooked o’er the seas

2486.     pact of peace, but pushed their hosts

2487.     to harass in hatred by Hreosnabeorh.

2488.     Men of my folk for that feud had vengeance,

2489.     for woful war (’tis widely known),

2490.     though one of them bought it with blood of his heart,

2491.     a bargain hard: for Haethcyn proved

2492.     fatal that fray, for the first-of-Geats.

2493.     At morn, I heard, was the murderer killed

2494.     by kinsman for kinsman,1 with clash of sword,

2495.     when Ongentheow met Eofor there.

2496.     Wide split the war-helm: wan he fell,

2497.     hoary Scylfing; the hand that smote him

2498.     of feud was mindful, nor flinched from the death-blow.


2499.     —"For all that he2 gave me, my gleaming sword

2500.     repaid him at war,—such power I wielded,—

2501.     for lordly treasure: with land he entrusted me,

2502.     homestead and house. He had no need

2503.     from Swedish realm, or from Spear-Dane folk,

2504.     or from men of the Gifths, to get him help,—

2505.     some warrior worse for wage to buy!

2506.     Ever I fought in the front of all,

2507.     sole to the fore; and so shall I fight

2508.     while I bide in life and this blade shall last

2509.     that early and late hath loyal proved

2510.     since for my doughtiness Daeghrefn fell,

2511.     slain by my hand, the Hugas’ champion.

2512.     Nor fared he thence to the Frisian king

2513.     with the booty back, and breast-adornments;

2514.     but, slain in struggle, that standard-bearer

2515.     fell, atheling brave. Not with blade was he slain,

2516.     but his bones were broken by brawny gripe,

2517.     his heart-waves stilled.—The sword-edge now,

2518.     hard blade and my hand, for the hoard shall strive."


2519.     Beowulf spake, and a battle-vow made

2520.     his last of all: "I have lived through many

2521.     wars in my youth; now once again,

2522.     old folk-defender, feud will I seek,

2523.     do doughty deeds, if the dark destroyer

2524.     forth from his cavern come to fight me!"

2525.     Then hailed he the helmeted heroes all,

2526.     for the last time greeting his liegemen dear,

2527.     comrades of war: "I should carry no weapon,

2528.     no sword to the serpent, if sure I knew

2529.     how, with such enemy, else my vows

2530.     I could gain as I did in Grendel’s day.

2531.     But fire in this fight I must fear me now,

2532.     and poisonous breath; so I bring with me

2533.     breastplate and board.3 From the barrow’s keeper

2534.     no footbreadth flee I. One fight shall end

2535.     our war by the wall, as Wyrd allots,

2536.     all mankind’s master. My mood is bold

2537.     but forbears to boast o’er this battling-flyer.

2538.     —Now abide by the barrow, ye breastplate-mailed,

2539.     ye heroes in harness, which of us twain

2540.     better from battle-rush bear his wounds.

2541.     Wait ye the finish. The fight is not yours,

2542.     nor meet for any but me alone

2543.     to measure might with this monster here

2544.     and play the hero. Hardily I

2545.     shall win that wealth, or war shall seize,

2546.     cruel killing, your king and lord!"


2547.     Up stood then with shield the sturdy champion,

2548.     stayed by the strength of his single manhood,

2549.     and hardy ’neath helmet his harness bore

2550.     under cleft of the cliffs: no coward’s path!

2551.     Soon spied by the wall that warrior chief,

2552.     survivor of many a victory-field

2553.     where foemen fought with furious clashings,

2554.     an arch of stone; and within, a stream

2555.     that broke from the barrow. The brooklet’s wave

2556.     was hot with fire. The hoard that way

2557.     he never could hope unharmed to near,

2558.     or endure those deeps,4 for the dragon’s flame.

2559.     Then let from his breast, for he burst with rage,

2560.     the Weder-Geat prince a word outgo;

2561.     stormed the stark-heart; stern went ringing

2562.     and clear his cry ’neath the cliff-rocks gray.

2563.     The hoard-guard heard a human voice;

2564.     his rage was enkindled. No respite now

2565.     for pact of peace! The poison-breath

2566.     of that foul worm first came forth from the cave,

2567.     hot reek-of-fight: the rocks resounded.

2568.     Stout by the stone-way his shield he raised,

2569.     lord of the Geats, against the loathed-one;

2570.     while with courage keen that coiled foe

2571.     came seeking strife. The sturdy king

2572.     had drawn his sword, not dull of edge,

2573.     heirloom old; and each of the two

2574.     felt fear of his foe, though fierce their mood.

2575.     Stoutly stood with his shield high-raised

2576.     the warrior king, as the worm now coiled

2577.     together amain: the mailed-one waited.

2578.     Now, spire by spire, fast sped and glided

2579.     that blazing serpent. The shield protected,

2580.     soul and body a shorter while

2581.     for the hero-king than his heart desired,

2582.     could his will have wielded the welcome respite

2583.     but once in his life! But Wyrd denied it,

2584.     and victory’s honors.—His arm he lifted

2585.     lord of the Geats, the grim foe smote

2586.     with atheling’s heirloom. Its edge was turned

2587.     brown blade, on the bone, and bit more feebly

2588.     than its noble master had need of then

2589.     in his baleful stress.—Then the barrow’s keeper

2590.     waxed full wild for that weighty blow,

2591.     cast deadly flames; wide drove and far

2592.     those vicious fires. No victor’s glory

2593.     the Geats’ lord boasted; his brand had failed,

2594.     naked in battle, as never it should,

2595.     excellent iron!—’Twas no easy path

2596.     that Ecgtheow’s honored heir must tread

2597.     over the plain to the place of the foe;

2598.     for against his will he must win a home

2599.     elsewhere far, as must all men, leaving

2600.     this lapsing life!—Not long it was

2601.     ere those champions grimly closed again.

2602.     The hoard-guard was heartened; high heaved his breast

2603.     once more; and by peril was pressed again,

2604.     enfolded in flames, the folk-commander!

2605.     Nor yet about him his band of comrades,

2606.     sons of athelings, armed stood

2607.     with warlike front: to the woods they bent them,

2608.     their lives to save. But the soul of one

2609.     with care was cumbered. Kinship true

2610.     can never be marred in a noble mind!


Back to Top




2611.     WIGLAF his name was, Weohstan’s son,

2612.     linden-thane loved, the lord of Scylfings,

2613.     Aelfhere’s kinsman. His king he now saw

2614.     with heat under helmet hard oppressed.

2615.     He minded the prizes his prince had given him,

2616.     wealthy seat of the Waegmunding line,

2617.     and folk-rights that his father owned

2618.     Not long he lingered. The linden yellow,

2619.     his shield, he seized; the old sword he drew:—

2620.     as heirloom of Eanmund earth-dwellers knew it,

2621.     who was slain by the sword-edge, son of Ohtere,

2622.     friendless exile, erst in fray

2623.     killed by Weohstan, who won for his kin

2624.     brown-bright helmet, breastplate ringed,

2625.     old sword of Eotens, Onela’s gift,

2626.     weeds of war of the warrior-thane,

2627.     battle-gear brave: though a brother’s child

2628.     had been felled, the feud was unfelt by Onela.1

2629.     For winters this war-gear Weohstan kept,

2630.     breastplate and board, till his bairn had grown

2631.     earlship to earn as the old sire did:

2632.     then he gave him, mid Geats, the gear of battle,

2633.     portion huge, when he passed from life,

2634.     fared aged forth. For the first time now

2635.     with his leader-lord the liegeman young

2636.     was bidden to share the shock of battle.

2637.     Neither softened his soul, nor the sire’s bequest

2638.     weakened in war.2 So the worm found out

2639.     when once in fight the foes had met!

2640.     Wiglaf spake,—and his words were sage;

2641.     sad in spirit, he said to his comrades:—

2642.     "I remember the time, when mead we took,

2643.     what promise we made to this prince of ours

2644.     in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings,

2645.     for gear of combat to give him requital,

2646.     for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring

2647.     stress of this sort! Himself who chose us

2648.     from all his army to aid him now,

2649.     urged us to glory, and gave these treasures,

2650.     because he counted us keen with the spear

2651.     and hardy ’neath helm, though this hero-work

2652.     our leader hoped unhelped and alone

2653.     to finish for us,—folk-defender

2654.     who hath got him glory greater than all men

2655.     for daring deeds! Now the day is come

2656.     that our noble master has need of the might

2657.     of warriors stout. Let us stride along

2658.     the hero to help while the heat is about him

2659.     glowing and grim! For God is my witness

2660.     I am far more fain the fire should seize

2661.     along with my lord these limbs of mine!3

2662.     Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear

2663.     homeward hence, save here we essay

2664.     to fell the foe and defend the life

2665.     of the Weders’ lord. I wot ’twere shame

2666.     on the law of our land if alone the king

2667.     out of Geatish warriors woe endured

2668.     and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,

2669.     breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!"

2670.     Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,

2671.     his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake:—

2672.     "Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,

2673.     as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst

2674.     that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise

2675.     thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,

2676.     atheling steadfast, with all thy strength

2677.     shield thy life! I will stand to help thee."


2678.     At the words the worm came once again,

2679.     murderous monster mad with rage,

2680.     with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek,

2681.     the hated men. In heat-waves burned

2682.     that board4 to the boss, and the breastplate failed

2683.     to shelter at all the spear-thane young.

2684.     Yet quickly under his kinsman’s shield

2685.     went eager the earl, since his own was now

2686.     all burned by the blaze. The bold king again

2687.     had mind of his glory: with might his glaive

2688.     was driven into the dragon’s head,—

2689.     blow nerved by hate. But Naegling5 was shivered,

2690.     broken in battle was Beowulf’s sword,

2691.     old and gray. ’Twas granted him not

2692.     that ever the edge of iron at all

2693.     could help him at strife: too strong was his hand,

2694.     so the tale is told, and he tried too far

2695.     with strength of stroke all swords he wielded,

2696.     though sturdy their steel: they steaded him nought.

2697.     Then for the third time thought on its feud

2698.     that folk-destroyer, fire-dread dragon,

2699.     and rushed on the hero, where room allowed,

2700.     battle-grim, burning; its bitter teeth

2701.     closed on his neck, and covered him

2702.     with waves of blood from his breast that welled.


Back to Top




2703.     ’TWAS now, men say, in his sovran’s need

2704.     that the earl made known his noble strain,

2705.     craft and keenness and courage enduring.

2706.     Heedless of harm, though his hand was burned,

2707.     hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman.

2708.     A little lower the loathsome beast

2709.     he smote with sword; his steel drove in

2710.     bright and burnished; that blaze began

2711.     to lose and lessen. At last the king

2712.     wielded his wits again, war-knife drew,

2713.     a biting blade by his breastplate hanging,

2714.     and the Weders’-helm smote that worm asunder,

2715.     felled the foe, flung forth its life.


2716.     So had they killed it, kinsmen both,

2717.     athelings twain: thus an earl should be

2718.     in danger’s day!—Of deeds of valor

2719.     this conqueror’s-hour of the king was last,

2720.     of his work in the world. The wound began,

2721.     which that dragon-of-earth had erst inflicted,

2722.     to swell and smart; and soon he found

2723.     in his breast was boiling, baleful and deep,

2724.     pain of poison. The prince walked on,

2725.     wise in his thought, to the wall of rock;

2726.     then sat, and stared at the structure of giants,

2727.     where arch of stone and steadfast column

2728.     upheld forever that hall in earth.

2729.     Yet here must the hand of the henchman peerless

2730.     lave with water his winsome lord,

2731.     the king and conqueror covered with blood,

2732.     with struggle spent, and unspan his helmet.

2733.     Beowulf spake in spite of his hurt,

2734.     his mortal wound; full well he knew

2735.     his portion now was past and gone

2736.     of earthly bliss, and all had fled

2737.     of his file of days, and death was near:

2738.     "I would fain bestow on son of mine

2739.     this gear of war, were given me now

2740.     that any heir should after me come

2741.     of my proper blood. This people I ruled

2742.     fifty winters. No folk-king was there,

2743.     none at all, of the neighboring clans

2744.     who war would wage me with ’warriors’-friends’1

2745.     and threat me with horrors. At home I bided

2746.     what fate might come, and I cared for mine own;

2747.     feuds I sought not, nor falsely swore

2748.     ever on oath. For all these things,

2749.     though fatally wounded, fain am I!

2750.     From the Ruler-of-Man no wrath shall seize me,

2751.     when life from my frame must flee away,

2752.     for killing of kinsmen! Now quickly go

2753.     and gaze on that hoard ’neath the hoary rock,

2754.     Wiglaf loved, now the worm lies low,

2755.     sleeps, heart-sore, of his spoil bereaved.

2756.     And fare in haste. I would fain behold

2757.     the gorgeous heirlooms, golden store,

2758.     have joy in the jewels and gems, lay down

2759.     softlier for sight of this splendid hoard

2760.     my life and the lordship I long have held."


Back to Top




2761.     I HAVE heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan

2762.     at wish and word of his wounded king,—

2763.     war-sick warrior,—woven mail-coat,

2764.     battle-sark, bore ’neath the barrow’s roof.

2765.     Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud,

2766.     passing the seat,1 saw store of jewels

2767.     and glistening gold the ground along;

2768.     by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel

2769.     in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old:

2770.     unburnished bowls of bygone men

2771.     reft of richness; rusty helms

2772.     of the olden age; and arm-rings many

2773.     wondrously woven.—Such wealth of gold,

2774.     booty from barrow, can burden with pride

2775.     each human wight: let him hide it who will!—

2776.     His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner

2777.     high o’er the hoard, of handiwork noblest,

2778.     brilliantly broidered; so bright its gleam,

2779.     all the earth-floor he easily saw

2780.     and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now

2781.     was seen of the serpent: the sword had ta’en him.


2782.     Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft,

2783.     old work of giants, by one alone;

2784.     he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate

2785.     at his own good will, and the ensign took,

2786.     brightest of beacons.—The blade of his lord

2787.     —its edge was iron—had injured deep

2788.     one that guarded the golden hoard

2789.     many a year and its murder-fire

2790.     spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows

2791.     at midnight hour, till it met its doom.

2792.     Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him

2793.     his track to retrace; he was troubled by doubt,

2794.     high-souled hero, if haply he’d find

2795.     alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,

2796.     weakening fast by the wall of the cave.

2797.     So he carried the load. His lord and king

2798.     he found all bleeding, famous chief

2799.     at the lapse of life. The liegeman again

2800.     plashed him with water, till point of word

2801.     broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,

2802.     sage and sad, as he stared at the gold.—

2803.     "For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,

2804.     to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,

2805.     for what I behold, to Heaven’s Lord,

2806.     for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk

2807.     or ever the day of my death be run!

2808.     Now I’ve bartered here for booty of treasure

2809.     the last of my life, so look ye well

2810.     to the needs of my land! No longer I tarry.

2811.     A barrow bid ye the battle-fanned raise

2812.     for my ashes. ’Twill shine by the shore of the flood,

2813.     to folk of mine memorial fair

2814.     on Hrones Headland high uplifted,

2815.     that ocean-wanderers oft may hail

2816.     Beowulf’s Barrow, as back from far

2817.     they drive their keels o’er the darkling wave."


2818.     From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,

2819.     valorous king, to his vassal gave it

2820.     with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring,

2821.     to the youthful thane: bade him use them in joy.


2822.     "Thou art end and remnant of all our race

2823.     the Waegmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them,

2824.     all my line, to the land of doom,

2825.     earls in their glory: I after them go."


2826.     This word was the last which the wise old man

2827.     harbored in heart ere hot death-waves

2828.     of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled

2829.     his soul to seek the saints’ reward.


Back to Top




2830.     IT was heavy hap for that hero young

2831.     on his lord beloved to look and find him

2832.     lying on earth with life at end,

2833.     sorrowful sight. But the slayer too,

2834.     awful earth-dragon, empty of breath,

2835.     lay felled in fight, nor, fain of its treasure,

2836.     could the writhing monster rule it more.

2837.     For edges of iron had ended its days,

2838.     hard and battle-sharp, hammers’ leaving;1

2839.     and that flier-afar had fallen to ground

2840.     hushed by its hurt, its hoard all near,

2841.     no longer lusty aloft to whirl

2842.     at midnight, making its merriment seen,

2843.     proud of its prizes: prone it sank

2844.     by the handiwork of the hero-king.

2845.     Forsooth among folk but few achieve,

2846.     —though sturdy and strong, as stories tell me,

2847.     and never so daring in deed of valor,—

2848.     the perilous breath of a poison-foe

2849.     to brave, and to rush on the ring-board hall,

2850.     whenever his watch the warden keeps

2851.     bold in the barrow. Beowulf paid

2852.     the price of death for that precious hoard;

2853.     and each of the foes had found the end

2854.     of this fleeting life.


2855.     Befell erelong

2856.     that the laggards in war the wood had left,

2857.     trothbreakers, cowards, ten together,

2858.     fearing before to flourish a spear

2859.     in the sore distress of their sovran lord.

2860.     Now in their shame their shields they carried,

2861.     armor of fight, where the old man lay;

2862.     and they gazed on Wiglaf. Wearied he sat

2863.     at his sovran’s shoulder, shieldsman good,

2864.     to wake him with water.2 Nowise it availed.

2865.     Though well he wished it, in world no more

2866.     could he barrier life for that leader-of-battles

2867.     nor baffle the will of all-wielding God.

2868.     Doom of the Lord was law o’er the deeds

2869.     of every man, as it is to-day.

2870.     Grim was the answer, easy to get,

2871.     from the youth for those that had yielded to fear!

2872.     Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan,—

2873.     mournful he looked on those men unloved:—

2874.     "Who sooth will speak, can say indeed

2875.     that the ruler who gave you golden rings

2876.     and the harness of war in which ye stand

2877.     —for he at ale-bench often-times

2878.     bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate,

2879.     lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear

2880.     which near of far he could find to give,—

2881.     threw away and wasted these weeds of battle,

2882.     on men who failed when the foemen came!

2883.     Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms

2884.     venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder,

2885.     God, gave him grace that he got revenge

2886.     sole with his sword in stress and need.

2887.     To rescue his life, ’twas little that I

2888.     could serve him in struggle; yet shift I made

2889.     (hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman.

2890.     Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck

2891.     that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly

2892.     flowed from its head.—Too few the heroes

2893.     in throe of contest that thronged to our king!

2894.     Now gift of treasure and girding of sword,

2895.     joy of the house and home-delight

2896.     shall fail your folk; his freehold-land

2897.     every clansman within your kin

2898.     shall lose and leave, when lords highborn

2899.     hear afar of that flight of yours,

2900.     a fameless deed. Yea, death is better

2901.     for liegemen all than a life of shame!"


Back to Top




2902.     THAT battle-toil bade he at burg to announce,

2903.     at the fort on the cliff, where, full of sorrow,

2904.     all the morning earls had sat,

2905.     daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain:

2906.     would they wail as dead, or welcome home,

2907.     their lord beloved? Little1 kept back

2908.     of the tidings new, but told them all,

2909.     the herald that up the headland rode.—

2910.     "Now the willing-giver to Weder folk

2911.     in death-bed lies; the Lord of Geats

2912.     on the slaughter-bed sleeps by the serpent’s deed!

2913.     And beside him is stretched that slayer-of-men

2914.     with knife-wounds sick:2 no sword availed

2915.     on the awesome thing in any wise

2916.     to work a wound. There Wiglaf sitteth,

2917.     Weohstan’s bairn, by Beowulf’s side,

2918.     the living earl by the other dead,

2919.     and heavy of heart a head-watch3 keeps

2920.     o’er friend and foe.—Now our folk may look

2921.     for waging of war when once unhidden

2922.     to Frisian and Frank the fall of the king

2923.     is spread afar.—The strife began

2924.     when hot on the Hugas4 Hygelac fell

2925.     and fared with his fleet to the Frisian land.

2926.     Him there the Hetwaras humbled in war,

2927.     plied with such prowess their power o’erwhelming

2928.     that the bold-in-battle bowed beneath it

2929.     and fell in fight. To his friends no wise

2930.     could that earl give treasure! And ever since

2931.     the Merowings’ favor has failed us wholly.

2932.     Nor aught expect I of peace and faith

2933.     from Swedish folk. ’Twas spread afar

2934.     how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood

2935.     Haethcyn Hrethling of hope and life,

2936.     when the folk of Geats for the first time sought

2937.     in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings.

2938.     Soon the sage old sire5 of Ohtere,

2939.     ancient and awful, gave answering blow;

2940.     the sea-king6 he slew, and his spouse redeemed,

2941.     his good wife rescued, though robbed of her gold,

2942.     mother of Ohtere and Onela.

2943.     Then he followed his foes, who fled before him

2944.     sore beset and stole their way,

2945.     bereft of a ruler, to Ravenswood.

2946.     With his host he besieged there what swords had left,

2947.     the weary and wounded; woes he threatened

2948.     the whole night through to that hard-pressed throng:

2949.     some with the morrow his sword should kill,

2950.     some should go to the gallows-tree

2951.     for rapture of ravens. But rescue came

2952.     with dawn of day for those desperate men

2953.     when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,

2954.     tones of his trumpet; the trusty king

2955.     had followed their trail with faithful band.


Back to Top




2956.     "THE bloody swath of Swedes and Geats

2957.     and the storm of their strife, were seen afar,

2958.     how folk against folk the fight had wakened.

2959.     The ancient king with his atheling band

2960.     sought his citadel, sorrowing much:

2961.     Ongentheow earl went up to his burg.

2962.     He had tested Hygelac’s hardihood,

2963.     the proud one’s prowess, would prove it no longer,

2964.     defied no more those fighting-wanderers

2965.     nor hoped from the seamen to save his hoard,

2966.     his bairn and his bride: so he bent him again,

2967.     old, to his earth-walls. Yet after him came

2968.     with slaughter for Swedes the standards of Hygelac

2969.     o’er peaceful plains in pride advancing,

2970.     till Hrethelings fought in the fenced town.1

2971.     Then Ongentheow with edge of sword,

2972.     the hoary-bearded, was held at bay,

2973.     and the folk-king there was forced to suffer

2974.     Eofor’s anger. In ire, at the king

2975.     Wulf Wonreding with weapon struck;

2976.     and the chieftain’s blood, for that blow, in streams

2977.     flowed ’neath his hair. No fear felt he,

2978.     stout old Scylfing, but straightway repaid

2979.     in better bargain that bitter stroke

2980.     and faced his foe with fell intent.

2981.     Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred

2982.     answer to render the aged chief;

2983.     too soon on his head the helm was cloven;

2984.     blood-bedecked he bowed to earth,

2985.     and fell adown; not doomed was he yet,

2986.     and well he waxed, though the wound was sore.

2987.     Then the hardy Hygelac-thane,2

2988.     when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,

2989.     giants’ sword crashing through giants’-helm

2990.     across the shield-wall: sank the king,

2991.     his folk’s old herdsman, fatally hurt.

2992.     There were many to bind the brother’s wounds

2993.     and lift him, fast as fate allowed

2994.     his people to wield the place-of-war.

2995.     But Eofor took from Ongentheow,

2996.     earl from other, the iron-breastplate,

2997.     hard sword hilted, and helmet too,

2998.     and the hoar-chief’s harness to Hygelac carried,

2999.     who took the trappings, and truly promised

3000.     rich fee ’mid folk,—and fulfilled it so.

3001.     For that grim strife gave the Geatish lord,

3002.     Hrethel’s offspring, when home he came,

3003.     to Eofor and Wulf a wealth of treasure,

3004.     Each of them had a hundred thousand3

3005.     in land and linked rings; nor at less price reckoned

3006.     mid-earth men such mighty deeds!

3007.     And to Eofor he gave his only daughter

3008.     in pledge of grace, the pride of his home.


3009.     "Such is the feud, the foeman’s rage,

3010.     death-hate of men: so I deem it sure

3011.     that the Swedish folk will seek us home

3012.     for this fall of their friends, the fighting-Scylfings,

3013.     when once they learn that our warrior leader

3014.     lifeless lies, who land and hoard

3015.     ever defended from all his foes,

3016.     furthered his folk’s weal, finished his course

3017.     a hardy hero.—Now haste is best,

3018.     that we go to gaze on our Geatish lord,

3019.     and bear the bountiful breaker-of-rings

3020.     to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely

3021.     shall burn with the warrior. Wealth of jewels,

3022.     gold untold and gained in terror,

3023.     treasure at last with his life obtained,

3024.     all of that booty the brands shall take,

3025.     fire shall eat it. No earl must carry

3026.     memorial jewel. No maiden fair

3027.     shall wreathe her neck with noble ring:

3028.     nay, sad in spirit and shorn of her gold,

3029.     oft shall she pass o’er paths of exile

3030.     now our lord all laughter has laid aside,

3031.     all mirth and revel. Many a spear

3032.     morning-cold shall be clasped amain,

3033.     lifted aloft; nor shall lilt of harp

3034.     those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven,

3035.     fain o’er the fallen, his feast shall praise

3036.     and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate

3037.     when he and the wolf were wasting the slain."


3038.     So he told his sorrowful tidings,

3039.     and little4 he lied, the loyal man

3040.     of word or of work. The warriors rose;

3041.     sad, they climbed to the Cliff-of-Eagles,

3042.     went, welling with tears, the wonder to view.

3043.     Found on the sand there, stretched at rest,

3044.     their lifeless lord, who had lavished rings

3045.     of old upon them. Ending-day

3046.     had dawned on the doughty-one; death had seized

3047.     in woful slaughter the Weders’ king.

3048.     There saw they, besides, the strangest being,

3049.     loathsome, lying their leader near,

3050.     prone on the field. The fiery dragon,

3051.     fearful fiend, with flame was scorched.

3052.     Reckoned by feet, it was fifty measures

3053.     in length as it lay. Aloft erewhile

3054.     it had revelled by night, and anon come back,

3055.     seeking its den; now in death’s sure clutch

3056.     it had come to the end of its earth-hall joys.

3057.     By it there stood the stoups and jars;

3058.     dishes lay there, and dear-decked swords

3059.     eaten with rust, as, on earth’s lap resting,

3060.     a thousand winters they waited there.

3061.     For all that heritage huge, that gold

3062.     of bygone men, was bound by a spell,5

3063.     so the treasure-hall could be touched by none

3064.     of human kind,—save that Heaven’s King,

3065.     God himself, might give whom he would,

3066.     Helper of Heroes, the hoard to open,—

3067.     even such a man as seemed to him meet.


Back to Top




3068.     A PERILOUS path, it proved, he1 trod

3069.     who heinously hid, that hall within,

3070.     wealth under wall! Its watcher had killed

3071.     one of a few,2 and the feud was avenged

3072.     in woful fashion. Wondrous seems it,

3073.     what manner a man of might and valor

3074.     oft ends his life, when the earl no longer

3075.     in mead-hall may live with loving friends.

3076.     So Beowulf, when that barrow’s warden

3077.     he sought, and the struggle; himself knew not

3078.     in what wise he should wend from the world at last.

3079.     For3 princes potent, who placed the gold,

3080.     with a curse to doomsday covered it deep,

3081.     so that marked with sin the man should be,

3082.     hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast,

3083.     racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.

3084.     Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,

3085.     ever the king had kept in view.4


3086.     Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan:—

3087.     "At the mandate of one, oft warriors many

3088.     sorrow must suffer; and so must we.

3089.     The people’s-shepherd showed not aught

3090.     of care for our counsel, king beloved!

3091.     That guardian of gold he should grapple not, urged we,

3092.     but let him lie where he long had been

3093.     in his earth-hall waiting the end of the world,

3094.     the hest of heaven.—This hoard is ours

3095.     but grievously gotten; too grim the fate

3096.     which thither carried our king and lord.

3097.     I was within there, and all I viewed,

3098.     the chambered treasure, when chance allowed me

3099.     (and my path was made in no pleasant wise)

3100.     under the earth-wall. Eager, I seized

3101.     such heap from the hoard as hands could bear

3102.     and hurriedly carried it hither back

3103.     to my liege and lord. Alive was he still,

3104.     still wielding his wits. The wise old man

3105.     spake much in his sorrow, and sent you greetings

3106.     and bade that ye build, when he breathed no more,

3107.     on the place of his balefire a barrow high,

3108.     memorial mighty. Of men was he

3109.     worthiest warrior wide earth o’er

3110.     the while he had joy of his jewels and burg.

3111.     Let us set out in haste now, the second time

3112.     to see and search this store of treasure,

3113.     these wall-hid wonders,—the way I show you,—

3114.     where, gathered near, ye may gaze your fill

3115.     at broad-gold and rings. Let the bier, soon made,

3116.     be all in order when out we come,

3117.     our king and captain to carry thither

3118.     —man beloved—where long he shall bide

3119.     safe in the shelter of sovran God."

3120.     Then the bairn of Weohstan bade command,

3121.     hardy chief, to heroes many

3122.     that owned their homesteads, hither to bring

3123.     firewood from far—o’er the folk they ruled—

3124.     for the famed-one’s funeral. " Fire shall devour

3125.     and wan flames feed on the fearless warrior

3126.     who oft stood stout in the iron-shower,

3127.     when, sped from the string, a storm of arrows

3128.     shot o’er the shield-wall: the shaft held firm,

3129.     featly feathered, followed the barb."

3130.     And now the sage young son of Weohstan

3131.     seven chose of the chieftain’s thanes,

3132.     the best he found that band within,

3133.     and went with these warriors, one of eight,

3134.     under hostile roof. In hand one bore

3135.     a lighted torch and led the way.

3136.     No lots they cast for keeping the hoard

3137.     when once the warriors saw it in hall,

3138.     altogether without a guardian,

3139.     lying there lost. And little they mourned

3140.     when they had hastily haled it out,

3141.     dear-bought treasure! The dragon they cast,

3142.     the worm, o’er the wall for the wave to take,

3143.     and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.

3144.     Then the woven gold on a wain was laden—

3145.     countless quite!—and the king was borne,

3146.     hoary hero, to Hrones-Ness.


Back to Top




3147.     THEN fashioned for him the folk of Geats

3148.     firm on the earth a funeral-pile,

3149.     and hung it with helmets and harness of war

3150.     and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked;

3151.     and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain,

3152.     heroes mourning their master dear.

3153.     Then on the hill that hugest of balefires

3154.     the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose

3155.     black over blaze, and blent was the roar

3156.     of flame with weeping (the wind was still),

3157.     till the fire had broken the frame of bones,

3158.     hot at the heart. In heavy mood

3159.     their misery moaned they, their master’s death.

3160.     Wailing her woe, the widow1 old,

3161.     her hair upbound, for Beowulf’s death

3162.     sung in her sorrow, and said full oft

3163.     she dreaded the doleful days to come,

3164.     deaths enow, and doom of battle,

3165.     and shame.—The smoke by the sky was devoured.


3166.     The folk of the Weders fashioned there

3167.     on the headland a barrow broad and high,

3168.     by ocean-farers far descried:

3169.     in ten days’ time their toil had raised it,

3170.     the battle-brave’s beacon. Round brands of the pyre

3171.     a wall they built, the worthiest ever

3172.     that wit could prompt in their wisest men.

3173.     They placed in the barrow that precious booty,

3174.     the rounds and the rings they had reft erewhile,

3175.     hardy heroes, from hoard in cave,—

3176.     trusting the ground with treasure of earls,

3177.     gold in the earth, where ever it lies

3178.     useless to men as of yore it was.


3179.     Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,

3180.     atheling-born, a band of twelve,

3181.     lament to make, to mourn their king,

3182.     chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.

3183.     They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess

3184.     worthily witnessed: and well it is

3185.     that men their master-friend mightily laud,

3186.     heartily love, when hence he goes

3187.     from life in the body forlorn away.


3188.     Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,

3189.     for their hero’s passing his hearth-companions:

3190.     quoth that of all the kings of earth,

3191.     of men he was mildest and most beloved,

3192.     to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.



Back to Top

Last Revised: Friday, 19 September 2007
Site maintained by Brian T. Murphy
Main page:

Legal Notice and Disclaimer