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Full text of "The song of Beowulf, rendered into English prose by R.K. Gordon"

V 




The KINGS TR£ASUR!ES 

OF LITER.ATURE 




GENERAL EDITOR 

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THE SONG OF 

BEOWULF 



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RENDERED INTO 
ENGLISH PROSE 
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JMDENT & SONS • LTD • LONDON & TORONTO 



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PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Introduction. ....... 7 

Genealogies . . . . . • • .12 

The Song of Beowulf . . . . . -13 

Questions . . • • • • • • 1^9 

Appendix ....... 



121 



One of the precious things in the British Museum is 
an old manuscript book containing the poem Beowulf. 
It is the only Old Enghsh poem of heroic exploits 
that has come down to us complete. It has survived 
not because it was necessarily the best, but simply 
because it was luckier than other poems which have 
been whoUy lost, or of which only fragments remain. 
The stories of Walter of Aquitaine and of Finn were 
as good or better than Beowulf, but only a few Unes 
are left — just enough to make us wish for more. 
Beowulf, then, is not only a good thing in itself, but 
is also the only thing of its kind. It is the best thing 
English poetry has to show before the Norman 
Conquest and for long after. 

Yet this English poem is not about Englishmen or 
England. The men and women in the story are 
mostly Danes and Geats, and the adventures take 
place in the home of the Geats in the South of Sweden, 
and in Hrothgar's haU in the island of Seeland. At 
first sight this seems strcuige, and some have thought 
that the poem is merely a translation of a Scandina- 
vian original, and therefore only English in a partial 
sense. But another explanation is probably nearer 
the truth. When the English were still on the Con- 
tinent- they and their neighbours knew and told 

7 



8 INTRODUCTION 

a great many stories of heroic deeds. These stories 
and their heroes did not belong to any one people; 
the Scandinavians knew them as well as the Angles 
and Saxons. They were a common possession of the 
Germanic tribes. When the Angles and Saxons came 
to England they brought these tales with them along 
with their other possessions, and out of some of them 
made poems such as Beowulf. 

We do not know the author of the poem, nor can 
we be sure of its date. Probably it was made a little 
before or after 700. In this poem, written twelve 
hundred years ago, we are shown a way of living 
very different from the one we know. It is not even 
the world of the year 700, for, even if the poem was 
made then, it refers back to an earlier time. Hygelac, 
King of the Geats, for instance, was an historical 
prince, and he was killed early in the sixth century. 

In some ways, then, the poem seems very remote 
from us. A summary of the plot sounds hke a nursery 
tale of marvels. The three exploits of Beowulf — 
the kOling of Grendel and Grendel's mother and the 
fight with the fire-breathing dragon — belong to the 
same family as the adventures of Jack the Giant 
Killer. Yet the poem is very different from such 
stories. Some of the adventures are fantastic, but 
the men and women seem real, substantial persons. 
Several of them are actually historical. They are 
not like the people in fairy tales. For one thing, 
they speak differently. "I shall achieve a mighty 
deed fit for an earl, or suffer my death in this mead- 



INTRODUCTION 9 

hall," says Beowulf. The heroes of the fairy tales 
do not speak with this heroic dignity. The persons 
in Beowulf belong to an old heroic age which came 
to an end about the middle of the sixth century — 
they have the same reality and dignity as the men 
and women of the still older heroic age of Greece, 
reflected in the poetry of Homer. 

One feature of the age constantly referred to in 
Beowulf is the frequency of feuds. The Danes have 
a feud with Finn of the Frisians and with Ingeld 
of the Heathobards; Hygelac loses his life in a 
raid on the Hetware, and the wars between Geats 
and Swedes are mentioned several times. In such 
a world a chief naturally prized the loyalty of his 
men, and it is a quality singled out for praise in the 
poem. Beowulf is a proud and devoted follower of 
his kinsman Hygelac. He is glad that his exploits 
will bring fame to his prince as well as to himself. 
After Hygelac's death, instead of seizing the throne 
himself, he protects the young heir Heardred. The 
prince is expected to repay such loyalty with 
generosity. Hrothgar is called the Giver of Rings; 
one of the charges against the bad king, Heremod, 
is that he did not give presents to the Danes. But 
the hero undertakes an adventure such as cleansing 
Heorot of monsters not merely for rewards. What 
he cares most about is fame: "Each must lose 
his life in this world; let him who can achieve 
glory ere death! When life has gone that will be 
best for a noble warrior." 



10 INTRODUCTION 

These old heroic stories are fond of showing a man 
fighting against odds — Beowulf waiting in Heorot 
for Grendel and disdaining to use sword or armour — 
this is the sort of situation the old poets hked. The 
heroic creed is finely given in the Old EngUsh poem on 
the Battle of Maldon: "Thought shall be the braver, 
heart the bolder, courage the greater, as our strength 
grows less." This spirit can be found in our poetry and 
in our race in later days. Tennyson's Ulysses has the 
same proud fortitude as Beowulf: 

One equal temper of heroic hearts, 

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

The hfe described in Beowulf has its own nobility 
and splendour. One of the best scenes is that where 
Hrothgar's queen, Wealtheow, goes, goid-adomed, 
through the great hall among the old and young 
warriors, bearing the mead-cup and giving courteous 
greeting to the Danes and to the visiting Geats. Or 
a minstrel sings clear-voiced in Heorot of heroic 
deeds to the music of the harp. In such scenes 
Beowtdf shows the same sort of dignity as we find 
in Homer. The difference is one of degree, not 
of kind. 

In this poem are many references to Christianity. 
Some of these seem strangely incongruous. Hrothgar's 
minstrel sings a religious poem about the Creation, 
and yet Beowulf is cremated with pagan ceremonies. 
This mixture of pagan and Christian usages and 



INTRODUCTION li 

beliefs has been explained in several ways. Some 
think that the Christian passages were not in the 
poem at first but were added by a later hand. We 
cannot be certain, but it is possible that they were 
the work of the original poet. Christianity did not 
at once drive out the older faith and ideas. The 
Christian King Alfred loved to listen to the old 
Saxon songs. For a time the old and the new existed 
side by side in England, as they do in this English 
poem. A httle later Old Enghsh poetry dealt almost 
entirely with Christian subjects, and the monk in 
his cell turned poet and replaced the minstrel in haU. 
The EngUsh of Beowulf is practically a foreign 
language to us. Twelve hundred years have brought 
great changes in vocabulary, inflexions, pronuncia- 
tion, and system of gender. The kind of verse is 
also old-fashioned. Rhjone is not used, but each 
line is broken in the middle and the two halves are 
joined by alliteration. For example: 

Sweord waes swatig; secg weorce gefeh 

(Sword was bloody; The man in the work rejoiced). 

This old verse was replaced by the rhyming metres 
which the Norman French brought with them, but 
somehow the secret was not forgotten. In the 
fourteenth century, when England had at last in 
Chaucer a great master of the new metres, the old 
alliterative fashion reappeared and made a glorious 
end in Piers Plowman and other poems. 



GENEALOGIES 

DANISH ROYAL FAMILY 
Scyld Scefing 





Beowulf L 

Healtdene 
1 






Heorogar 
Heoroweard 


Hrothgar 
m. Wealtheow 




Halga 
Hrothulf 


Hrethric 


Hrothmund 


m. 


1 
Freawaru 
, Ingeld, son of Froda 



GEAT ROYAL FAMILY 
Swerting 
Hrethel 



Herebeald 



Hsethcyn 



a daughter 
who m. Eofor 



Hygelac 
m. Hygd 



a daughter 
»i. Ecgtheow 

I 
Beowulf II. 



Heardred 



SWEDISH ROYAL FAMILY 
Scylf 
Ongentheow 



Onela 



Ohtere 



Eanmund 



Eadgils 



12 



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THE 

SONG OF BEOWULF 



i^TJ'O 



Lo! we have heard the glory of the kings of the 
Spear-Danes in days gone by, how the chieftains 
wrought mighty deeds. Often Scyld-Scefiing wrested 
the mead-benches from troops of foes, from many 
tribes; he made fear fall upon the earls. After he 
was first found in misery (he received solace for that), 
he grew up under the heavens, lived in high honoiu:, 
until each of his neighbours over the whale-road 
must needs obey him and render tribute. That was 
a good king! Later a yoimg son was born to him in 
the court, God sent him for a comfort to the people; 
He had marked the misery of that earUer time when 
they suffered long space, lacking a leader. WTiere- 
fore the Lord of Ufe, the Ruler of glory, gave him 
honour in the world. 

Beowulf was renowned; the repute of Scyld's son 
spread far and wide in Scandinavian lands. Thus 
shall a yoimg man bring good to pass in his father's 
house with splendid gifts, so that when war comes 
willing comrades shall stand by him again in his 
old age, the people follow him. In every tribe a 
man shall prosper by deeds of love. 

Beowulf was renowned. This Beowulf must not be confused 
with the hero of the poem. 

13 



14 THE SONG 

Then at the fated hour Scyld, very brave, passed 
hence into the Lord's protection. Then did they, 
his dear comrades, bear him out to the shore of the 
sea, as he himself had besought them, whilst as friend 
of the Scyldings, loved lord of the land, he held sway 
with speech. There at the haven stood the ring- 
prowed ship radiant and ready, the chieftain's vessel. 
Then they laid down the loved lord, the bestowers of 
rings on the bosom of the barge, the famous man by 
the mast. Many treasures and ornaments were there, 
brought from afar. I never heard of a sightlier ship 
adorned with weapons of war and garments of battle, 
swords and corslets. Many treasures lay on his 
bosom that were to pass far with him into the power 
of the flood. No whit less did they furnish him with 
gifts, with great costly stores than did those who sent 
him forth in the beginning while he was still a child 
alone over the waves. Further they set a golden 
banner high over his head ; they let the ocean 
bear him; they surrendered him to the sea. Sad 
was their mind, mournful their mood. Men cannot 
tell for a truth, counsellors in hall, heroes under the 
heavens, who received that burden. 



II 

Then Beowulf of the Scyldings, beloved king of the 
people, was famed among warriors long time in the 
strongholds — his father had passed hence, the prince 



OF BEOWULF 15 

from his home — until noble Healfdene was bom to 
him; aged and fierce in fight, he ruled the Scyldings 
graciously while he lived. Four children sprang from 
him in succession. Heorogar, prince of troops, and 
Hrothgar, and Halga the good; I heard that Sigeneow 
was Saewela's queen, consort of the war-Scylfing. 
Then good fortime in war was granted to Hrothgar, 
glory in battle, so that his kinsmen gladly obeyed 
him, xmtil the younger warriors grew to be a 
mighty band. 

It came into his mind that he would order men 
to make a hall-building, a mighty mead-dwelling, 
greater than ever the children of men had heard, 
of; and therein that he should part among yotmg 
and old aU which God gave unto him except the 
nation and the hves of men. Then I heard far and 
wide of work laid upon many a tribe throughout 
this world, the task of adorning the place of assembly. 
Quickly it came to pass among men that it was perfect ; 
the greatest of hall-dwellings; he whose word had 
wide sway gave it the name of Heorot. He broke 
not his pledge, he bestowed bracelets and treasure 
at the banquet. The hall towered up, lofty and wide- 
gabled; it endured the surges of battle, of hostile 
fire. The time was not yet come when the feud. 

Heorot. The site of Heorot or Hart-Hall was probably 
that of the modem village of Leire on the Island of 
Seeland. 

The time was not yet come, etc. This refers to the feud 
between Hrothgar and his son-in-law Ingeld mentioned, 
later in the poem. 



i6 THE SONG 

between son-in-law and father-in-law was fated to 
flare out after deadly hostility. 

Then the mighty spirit who dwelt in darkness 
angrily endured the torment of hearing each day 
high revel in the hall. There was the sound of the 
harp, the clear song of the minstrel. He who could 
tell of men's beginning from olden times spoke of 
how the Almighty wrought the world, the earth 
bright in its beauty as far as the water surrounds it; 
the Victorious One estabhshed the brightness of 
sun and moon for a hght to dwellers in the land, 
and adorned the face of the earth with branches and 
leaves; He also created hfe of all kinds which move 
and live. Thus the noble warriors lived in pleasure 
and plenty, until a fiend in hell began to contrive 
mahce. The grim spirit was called Grendel, a famous 
march-stepper, who held the moors, the fen and the 
fastness. The hapless creature sojourned for a space 
in the sea-monsters' home after the Creator had con- 
demned him. The eternal Lord avenged the murder 
on the race of Cain, because he slew Abel. He did 
not rejoice in that feud. He, the Lord, drove him 
far from mankind for that crime. Thence sprang all 
-evil spawn, ogres and elves and sea-monsters, giants 
too, who struggled long time against God. He paid 
them requital for that. 

Deadly hostility. See Sections xxix. and xxx. 



OF BEOWULF I7 



III 

He went then when night fell to visit the high house, 
to see how the Ring-Danes had disposed themselves 
in it after the beer-banquet. Then he found therein 
the band of chieftains slumbering after the feast; 
they knew not sorrow, the misery of men, aught of 
misfortune. Straightway he was ready, grim and 
ravenous, savage and raging; and seized thirty 
thanes on their couches. Thence he departed home- 
wards again, exulting in booty, to find out his dwelling 
with his fill of slaughter. 

Then at dawn with the breaking of day the war- 
might of Grendel was made manifest to men; then 
after the feasting arose lamentation, a loud cry in 
the morning. The renowned ruler, the prince long 
famous, sat empty of joy; bitterly he suffered, 
sorrowed for his men when they saw the track of the 
hateful monster, the evil spirit. That struggle was 
too hard, too hateful, and lasting. After no longer 
lapse than one night again he wrought still more 
murders, violence and mahce, and mourned not for 
it; he was too bent on that. Then that man was 
easy to find who sought elsewhere for himself a more 
remote resting-place, a bed after the banquet, when 
the hate of the hall- visitant was shown to him, truly 
declared by a plain token; after that he kept himself 
further off, and more securely. He escaped the fiend. 

Thus one against all prevailed and pitted himself 



i8 THE SONG 

against right until the peerless house stood unpeopled. 
That was a weary while. For the space of twelve 
winters the friend of the Scyldings bitteriy suffered 
every woe, deep sorrows; wherefore it came to be 
known to people, to the children of men, sadly in 
songs, that Grendel waged long war with Hrothgar; 
many years he bore bitter hatred, violence and mahce, 
an luiflagging feud; peace he would not have with 
any man of Danish race, nor lay aside murderous 
death, nor consent to be bought off. Nor did any 
of the coimcillors make bold to expect fairer con- 
ditions from the hands of the slayer ; but the monster, 
the deadly creature, was hostile to warriors yoimg 
and old; he plotted and planned. Many nights he 
held the misty moors. Men do not know whither the 
demons go in their wanderings. 

Thus the foe of men, the dread lone visitant, 
oftentimes wrought many works of maUce, sore 
injuries; in the dark nights he dwelt in Heorot, 
the treasure-decked haU. He might not approach 
the throne, the precious thing for fear of the Lord, 
nor did he know his piupose. 

That was heavy sorrow, misery of mind for the 
friend of the Scyldings. Many a mighty one sat 
often in council; they held debate what was best 
for bold-minded men to do against sudden terrors. 
Sometimes in their temples they vowed sacrifices. 

He might . . . purpose. An obscure passage, admitting 
many interpretations, none of them very satisfactory. 

Friend of the Scyldings. Scyldings is a name for the Danes. 
The friend of the Scyldings is Hrothgar. 



OF BEOWULF 19 

they petitioned with prayers that the slayer of souls 
should succour them for the people's distress. Such 
was their wont, the hope of the heathen. Their 
thoughts turned to hell; they knew not the Lord, 
the Judge of deeds; they wist not the Lord God; 
nor in truth could they praise the Protector of the 
heavens, the Ruler of glory. Woe is it for him who 
must needs send forth his soul in unhoUness and fear 
into the embrace of the fire, hope for no solace, suffer 
no change! Well is it for him who may after the 
day of death seek the Lord, and crave shelter in 
the Father's embrace! 



IV 

Thus the son of Healfdene was ever troubled with 
care; nor could the sage hero sweep aside his sorrows. 
That struggle was too hard, too hateful and lasting, 
which fell on the people, — fierce hostile oppression, 
greatest of night-woes. 

Hygelac's thane, a valiant man among the Geats, 
heard of that at home, of the deeds of Grendel. He 
was the greatest in might among men at that time, 
noble and powerful. He bade a good ship to be built 
for him; he said that he was set on seeking the war- 
like king, the famous prince over the swan-road, 
since he had need of men. No whit did wise men 
blame him for the venture, though he was dear to 
them; they urged on the staunch-minded man, they 



20 THE SONG 

sought out good omens. The vahant man had chosen 
warriors of the men of the Geats, the boldest he could 
find; with fourteen others he sought the ship. A 
man cunning in knowledge of the sea showed the 
way along the edge of the land. 

Time passed on; the ship was on the waves, the 
boat beneath the cUff . The warriors eagerly embarked. 
The ciuxents turned the sea against the sand. Men 
bore bright ornaments, splendid war-trappings to the 
bosom of the ship. The men, the heroes on their 
willing venture, shoved out the well-timbered ship. 
The foamy-necked floater hke a bird went then over 
the wave-fiUed sea, sped by the wind, till after due 
time on the next day the boat with twisted prow had 
gone so far that the voyagers saw land, the sea-cHffs 
shining, the steep headlands, the broad sea-capes. 
Then the sea was traversed, the journey at an end. 
The men of the Weders mounted thence quickly to 
the land; they made fast the ship. The armour 
rattled, the garments of battle. They thanked God 
that the sea voyage had been easy for them. 

Then the watchman of the Scyldings whose duty 
it was to guard the sea-cliffs saw from the height 
bright shields and battle-equipment ready for use 
borne over the gangway. A desire to know who the 
men were pressed on his thoughts. The Thane of 
Hrothgar went to the shore riding his steed; mightily 
he brandished his spear in his hands, spoke forth a 
question: "What warriors are ye, clad in corslets. 
Men of the Weders. Weders is another name for the Geats. 



OF BEOWULF 21 

who have come thus bringing the high ship over the 
way of waters, hither over the floods? Lo! for a 
time I have been guardian of our coasts, I have kept 
watch by the sea lest any of the Danes' enemies 
should make ravage with their sea-raiders. No 
shield-bearing warriors have ventured here more 
openly; nor do ye know at all that ye have the 
I)ermission of warriors, the consent of kinsmen. I 
never saw in the world a greater earl than one of 
your band is, a hero in his harness. He is no stay- 
at-home decked out with weapons; unless his face 
belies him, his excellent front. Now I must know 
your race rather than ye should go further hence as 
spies in the land of the Danes. Now, ye far-dwellers, 
travellers of the sea, hearken but to my thought. It 
is best to tell forth quickly whence ye are come." 



The eldest answered him; the leader of the troop 
unlocked his word-hoard: "We are men of the race 
of the Geats and hearth-companions of Hygelac. 
My father was famed among the peoples, a noble 
high prince called Ecgtheow; he sojourned many 
winters ere he passed away, the old man from his 
dwelling. Far and wide throughout the earth every 
wise man remembers him well. We have come with 
gracious intent to seek out thy lord, the son of 



22 THE SONG 

Healfdene, the protector of his people. Be kindly to 
us in counsel. We have a great errand to the famous 
man, to the prince of the Danes. Nor shall anything 
be hidden there, I hope. Thou knowest if the truth 
is as indeed we heard tell, that some sort of foe, a 
secret pursuer, works on the dark nights evil, hatred, 
injury and slaughter, spreading terror. I can give 
Hrothgar counsel from a generous mind, how he 
may overcome the enemy wisely and well, if for him 
the torment of ills should ever cease, relief come again, 
and the siirges of care grow cooler; or if he shall 
ever after suffer a time of misery and pain while the 
best of houses stands there in its lofty station." 

The watchman spoke, the fearless servant, where 
he sat his steed — a bold shield-warrior who ponders 
well shall pass judgment on both words and deeds: 
"I hear that this is a troop friendly to the prince of 
the Scyldings. Go forth and bear weapons and 
trappings; I will guide you. Likewise I will bid my 
henchmen honourably guard your vessel against all 
enemies, your newly-tarred ship on the sand, imtil 
once more the boat with twisted prow shall bear the 
beloved man to the coast of the Weders, those of the 
vaUant ones to whom it shall be vouchsafed to escape 
unscathed from the rush of battle." 

They went on their way then. The ship remained at 
rest ; the broad-bosomed vessel was bound by a rope, 
fast at anchor. The boar-images shone over the cheek 

The boar-images shone. Images of boars on the tops of 
the helmets. 



OF BEOWULF 23 

armour, decked with gold; gay with colour and har- 
dened by fire they gave protection to the brave men. 
The warriors hastened, went up together, until they 
could see the well-built hall, splendid and gold- 
adomed. That was foremost of buildings under the 
heavens for men of the earth, in which the mighty 
one dwelt ; the light shone over many lands. 

The man bold in battle pointed out to them the 
abode of brave men, as it gleamed, so that they could 
go thither. One of the warriors turned his horse, then 
spoke a word. " It is time for me to go. The Almighty 
Father guard you by His grace safe in your ventiire. 
I will to the sea to keep watch for a hostile horde." 



VI 

The street was paved with stones of various colours, 
the road kept the warriors together. The war corslet 
shone, firmly hand-locked, the gleaming iron rings 
sang in the armour as they came on their way in 
their trappings of war even to the hall. Weary from 
the sea, they set down their broad shields, their 
stout targes against the wall of the building; they 
sat down on the bench then. The corslets rang out, 
the warriors' armour. The spears, the weapons of 
seamen, of ash wood grey at the tip, stood all together. 
The armed band was adorned with war-gear. Then a 
haughty hero asked the men of battle as to their 
lineage: "Whence bear ye plated shields, grey 



24 THE SONG 

corslets and masking helmets, this pile of spears? 
I am Hrothgar's messenger and herald. I have not 
seen so many men of strange race more brave in 
bearing. I suppose ye have 'sought Hrothgar from 
pride, by no means as exiles but with high minds." 

The bold man, proud prince of the Weders, answered 
him, spoke a word in reply, stem under his helmet: 
"We are Hygelac's table-oompanions ; Beowulf is 
my name. I wish to tell my errand to the son of 
Healfdene, the famous prince, thy lord, if he will 
grant that we may greet him who is so gracious." 
Wulfgar spoke — he was a man of the Wendels; his 
courage, his bravery and his wisdom had been made 
known to many: "I will ask the friend of the Danes, 
the prince of the Scyldings, the giver of rings, the 
renowned ruler about thy venture as thou desirest, 
and speedOy make known to thee the answer which 
the gracious one thinks fit to give me." He turned 
quickly then to where Hrothgar sat, aged and grey- 
haired, amid the band of earls; the bold man went 
tUl he stood before the shoulders of the Danish 
prince; he knew courtly custom. Wulfgar spoke to 
his gracious master: "Men of the Geats, come from 
afar, have been brought here over the stretch of the 
ocean. The warriors call the eldest one Beowulf. 
They request, my lord, that they may exchange 
words with thee. Refuse them not thy answer, 
gracious Hrothgar. They seem in their war-gear 
worthy of respect from the noble-bom. Of a truth 
the leader is valiant who guided the heroes hither." 



OF BEOWULF 25 



VII 



Hrothgar spoke, the protector of the Scyldings: 
" I knew him when he was a youth. His aged father 
was called Ecgtheow; to him Hrethel of the Geats 
gave his only daughter in marriage. His son has now 
come here boldly, has sought a gracious friend. Then 
seafaring men, who brought precious gifts of the 
Geats hither as a present, said that he, mighty in 
battle, had the strength of thirty men in the grip of 
his hand. May Holy God in His graciousness send 
him to us, to the West-Danes, as I hope, against the 
terror of Grendel. I shall offer treasures to the 
valiant one for his courage. Do thou hasten, bid 
them enter to see the friendly band all together; 
teU them also with words that they are welcome 
arrivals to the people of the Danes." Then Wulfgar 
went toward the door of the hall, spoke a word in 
the door- way: "My victorious lord, prince of the 
East-Danes, bade me tell you that he knows your 
lineage, and that ye, bold in mind, are welcome 
arrivals hither over the sea-surges. Now ye may go 
in your war-gear under battle-helmets to see Hroth- 
gar; let your battle-shields, spears, deadly shafts, 
await here the issue of the speaking." 

The mighty one rose then, aroimd him many a 
warrior, excellent troop of thcines. Some waited 
there, kept watch over their trappings, as the bold 



26 THE SONG 

man bade them. They hastened together, as the 
warrior guided, under the roof of Heorot; the man, 
resolute in mind, stem under his helmet, went till 
he stood within the hall. Beowulf spoke — on him 
his corslet shone, the shirt of mail sewn by the art 
of the smith. " Hail to thee Hrothgar ! lamHygelac's 
kinsman and thane. I have in my youth imdertaken 
many heroic deeds. The ravages of Grendel were 
made known to me in my native land. Sea-farers 
say that this hall, the noblest building, stands un- 
peopled and profitless to all warriors, after the Ught 
of evening is hidden under cover of heaven. Then 
my people counselled me, the best of men in their 
wisdom, that I should seek thee, Prince Hrothgar: 
because they knew the power of my strength, they 
saw it themselves, when I came out of battles, 
blood-stained from my foes, where I bound five, 
ruined the race of the monsters and slew by night 
the sea beasts mid the waves, suffered sore need, 
avenged the wrong of the Weders, killed the foes — 
they embarked on an unlucky venture. And now 
alone I shall achieve the exploit against Grendel, 
the monster, the giant. I wish now at this time to 
ask thee one boon, prince of the Bright -Danes, 
protector of the Scyl dings: that thou, defence of 
warriors, friendly prince of the people, wilt not 
refuse me, now I have come thus far, that I and my 
band of earls, this bold troop, may cleanse Heorot 
unaided. I have also heard that the monster in his 
madness cares naught for weapons; wherefore I 



OF BEOWULF 27 

scorn to bear sword or broad shield, yellow targe to 
the battle, so may Hygelac my lord be gracious in 
mind to me ; but with my grip I shall seize the fiend 
and strive for his life, foe against foe. There he whom 
death takes must needs trust to the judging of the 
Lord. I think that he is minded, if he can bring it 
to pass, to devour fearlessly in the battle-hall the 
people of the Geats, the flower of men, as he often 
has done. Not at all dost thou need to protect my 
head, but if death takes me he wiU have me drenched 
in blood; he will carry off the bloody corpse, will 
think to hide it; the lone-goer will feed without 
mourning, he will stain the moor-refuges. No longer 
needst thou sorrow for the keeping of my body. 
Send to Hygelac, if battle takes me off, the best of 
battle-garments that arms my breast, the finest of 
corslets. That is a heritage from Hrethel, the work 
of Weland. Fate ever goes as it must." 



VIII 

Hrothgar spoke, the protector of the Scyldings: 
"Thou hast sought us, my friend Beowulf, for battle 
and from graciousness. Thy father brought about 
by fight the greatest of feuds; he became the slayer 

The work of Weland. Weland, the maker of Beowulf's coat 
of mail, is a famous smith in Germanic legend. Cf. Wayland 
Smith in Scott's Kenilworih. 



28 THE SONG 

of Heatholai among the Wulfings; then the race 
of the Weders would not receive him because of 
threatening war. Thence he sought the people of 
the South-Danes, the honourable Scyldings, over 
the surging of the waves. Then I had just begun to 
rule the Danish people and in youth held a wide- 
stretched kingdom, a stronghold of heroes. Then 
Heregar was dead, my elder kinsman, the son of 
Healfdene had ceased to live; he was better than I. 
Afterwards I ended the feud with money; I sent old 
treasures to the Wulfings over the back of the water; 
he swore oaths to me. It is sorrow for me in my mind 
to tell any man what malice and sudden onslaughts 
Grendel has wrought on Heorot with his hostile 
thoughts. Thinned is my troop in hall, my war- 
band. Fate swept them away to the dread Grendel. 
God may easily part the bold enemy from his deeds. 

"Full often did warriors drunken with beer boast 
over the ale-cup that they would await Grendel's 
attack with dread blades in the beer-haU. Then in 
the morning, when day dawned, this mead-hall, the 
troop-haU, was stained with blood ; all the ale-benches 
drenched with gore, the hall with blood shed in 
battle. I had so many the less trusty men, dear 
veterans, since death had carried off these. Sit down 
now at the banquet, and at a fitting season secure 
fame of victory for the thanes as thy mind prompts." 

Then a bench was cleared in the beer-hall for the 
men of the Geats together; there the bold-minded 
ones went and sat down, exceeding proud. A thane 



OF BEOWULF 29 

who bore in his hands the decked ale-cup performed 
the of&ce, poured out the gleaming beer. At times 
the minstrel sang clearly in Heorot; there was joy 
of heroes, a great band of warriors, Danes and Weders. 



IX 

Unferth spoke, son of Ecglaf, who sat at the feet 
of the prince of the Scyldings. He began dispute — 
the joxuTiey of Beowulf, the brave sea-farer, was a 
great bitterness to him, because he did not grant 
that any other man in the world accomplished 
greater exploits under heaven than he himself: 
"Art thou that Beowulf who strove with Breca, 
contended on the wide sea for the prize in swimming, 
where ye two tried the floods in your pride, and 
risked your lives in the deep water from presump- 
tion? Nor could any man, friend or foe, prevent the 
sorrowful joiuney; then ye two swam on the sea, 
where ye plied the ocean-streams with your arms, 
measured the sea-paths, threw aside the sea with 
your hands, glided over the surge; the deep raged 
with its waves, with its wintry flood. Seven nights 
ye toiled in the power of the water; he outstripped 
thee in swimming, had greater strength. Then in 
the morning the sea bore him to the land of the 
Heathoremes. Thence, dear to his people, he sought 
his loved countr5% the land of the Brondings, the 



30 THE SONG 

fair stronghold, where he ruled over people, castle 
and rings. The son of Beanstan in truth fulfilled 
all his pledge to thee. Wherefore I expect a worse 
fate for thee, though everywhere thou hast withstood 
battle-rushes, grim war, if thou durst await Grendel 
throughout the night near at hand." 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "Lo! thou hast 
spoken a great deal, friend Unferth, about Breca, 
drunken as thou art with beer; thou hast told of 
his journey. I count it as truth that I had greater 
might in the sea, hardships mid the waves, than any 
other man. 

"We arranged that and made bold, while we were 
youths — we were both then still in our boyhood — 
that we two should risk our Uves out on the sea; 
and thus we accomplished that. We held naked 
swords boldly in our hands when we swam in the 
ocean; we thought to protect ourselves against the 
whales. In no wise could he swim far from me on 
the waves of the flood, more quickly on the sea; 
I would not consent to leave him. Then we were 
together on the sea for the space of five nights till 
the flood forced us apart, the surging sea, coldest of 
storms, darkening night, and a wind from the north, 
battle-grim, came against us. Wild were the waves; 
the temper of the sea-monsters was stirred. There 
did my shirt of mail hard-locked by hand stand me 
in good stead against foes; the woven battle-garment, 
adorned with gold, lay on my breast. A spotted 
deadly foe drew me to the depths, had me firmly 



OF BEOWULF 31 

and fiercely in his grip; yet it was granted to me 
that I pierced the monster with my point, my battle 
spear. The rush of battle carried off the mighty 
sea-monster by my hand." 



X 

"Thus oftentimes malicious foes pressed me hard. 

I served them with my good sword, as was fitting. 

They had not joy of their feasting, the evil doers, 

when they seized me. They sat round the banquet 

near the bottom of the sea; but in the morning 

they lay cast up on the shore, wounded with swords, 

laid low by blades, so that no longer they hindered 

sea-farers on their voyage over the high flood. Light 

came from the east, bright beacon of God. The surges 

sank down, so that I could behold the sea-capes, 

the windy headlands. Fate often succours the 

imdoomed warrior when HTi^valour is strong. 

""Yet it was my fortune to slay with the sword 

nine sea-monsters. I have not heard under the 

arching sky of heaven of harder fighting by night, 

nor of a more hapless man in the streams of ocean. 

Yet I escaped with my life from the grasp of foes, 

weary of travel. Then the sea, the flood, the raging 

surges bore me to the shore in the land of the Finns. 

" I have not heard such exploits told of thee, 

dread deeds, terror of swords; never yet did Breca 



32 THE SONG 

or either of you two in the play of battle perform 
so bold a deed with gleaming blades — I do not 
boast of the struggle — though thou camest to be 
the murderer of thy brother, thy near kinsman. 
For that thou must needs suffer damnation in hell, 
though thy wit is strong. ' Forsooth, I tell thee, son 
of Ecglaf, that Grendel, the fearful monster, had 
never achieved so many dread deeds against thy 
prince, malice on Heorot, if thy thoughts and mind 
had been as daring as thou thyself sayest. But he 
has found out that he need not sorely dread the 
feud, the terrible sword-battle of your people, the 
victorious Scyldings; he takes pledges by force, he 
spares none of the Danish people, but he Uves in 
pleasure, sleeps and feasts; he looks for no fight 
from the Spear-Danes. But soon now I shall show 
him battle, the might and coiu-age of the Geats. 
He who may will go afterwards, brave to the mead, 
when the morning Ught of another day, the sun 
clothed with sky-Uke brightness, shines from the 
south over the children of men." 

Then glad was the giver of treasure, grey-haired 
and famed in battle; the prince of the Bright-Danes 
trusted in aid; the protector of the people heard in 
Beowulf a resolute purpose. There was laughter of 
heroes; talk was heard; words were winsome. 

Wealtheow went forth, Hrothgar's queen, mindful 
of what was fitting; gold-adorned, she greeted the 
warriors in hall; and the free-bom woman first 
offered the goblet to the guardian of the East-Danes ; 



OF BEOWULF 33 

bade him be of good cheer at the beer-banquet, be 
dear to his people. He gladly took part in the banquet 
and received the hall-goblet, the king mighty in 
victory. Then the woman of the Helmings went 
about everywhere among old and young warriors, 
proffered the precious cup, till the time came that 
she, the ring-decked queen, excellent in mind, bore 
the mead-flagon to Beowulf. She greeted the prince 
of the Geats, thanked God with words of sober wisdom 
that her wish had been fulfilled, that she might trust 
to some earl as a comfort in trouble. He, the warrior 
fierce in fight, took that goblet from Wealtheow, and 
then, ready for battle, spoke in measures. 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "That was my 
purpose when I laimched on the ocean, embarked on 
the sea-boat with the band of my warriors, that I 
should work the will of your people to the full, or 
fall a corpse fast in the foe's grip. I shall accomplish 
deeds of heroic might, or endure my last day in the 
mead-haU." 

Those words, the boasting speech of the Geat, 
pleased the woman well. Decked with gold, the free- 
bom queen of the people went to sit by her prince. 
Then again as before there was excellent converse 
in hall, the warriors in happiness, the sound of 
victorious people, till all at once Healfdene's son 
was minded to seek his evening's rest. He knew 
that war was destined to the high hall by the monster 
after they could no longer see the light of the sun, 
and when, night growing dark over all, the shadowy 



34 THE SONG 

creatures came stalking, black beneath the clouds. 
The troop all rose. 

Then one warrior greeted the other, Hrothgar 
Beowulf, and wished him success, power over the 
wine-hall, and spoke these words: "Never before 
did I trust to any men, since I was able to lift hand 
and shield, the excellent hall of the Danes, except 
to thee now. Have now and hold the best of houses. 
Be mindful of fame, show a mighty courage, watch 
against foes. Nor shalt thou lack what thou desirest, 
if with thy life thou comest out from that heroic task." 



XI 



Then Hrothgar went his way with his band of 
heroes, the protector of Scyldings out of the hall; 
the warhke king was minded to seek Wealtheow 
the queen for his bedfellow. The glorious king had, 
as men learned, set a hall-guardian against Grendel; 
he performed a special service for the prince of the 
Danes, kept watch against monsters. Triily the 
prince of the Geats relied firmly on his fearless 
might, and the grace of the Lord. Then he laid 
aside his iron corslet, the helmet from his head, gave 
his ornamented sword, best of blades, to his servant 
and bade him keep his war-gear. 
Then the valiant one, Beowulf of the Geats, spoke 



OF BEOWULF 35 

some words of boasting ere he mounted his bed: 
"I do not count myself less in war-strength, in battle- 
deeds, than Grendel does himself; wherefore I will 
not slay him, spoil him of life by sword, although 
I might. He knows not the use of weapons so as to 
strike at me, hew my shield, though he may be 
mighty in works of malice; but we two shall do 
without swords in the night, if he dare to seek war 
without weapons, and afterwards the wise God, the 
holy Lord, shall award fame to whatever side seems 
good to Him." The bold warrior lay down, the earl's 
face touched the bolster; and round him many a 
mighty sea-hero bent to his couch in the hall. None 
of them thought that he should go thence and seek 
again the loved land, the people or stronghold where 
he was fostered; but they had heard that murderous 
death had ere now carried off far too many of Danish 
people in the wine-hall. But the Lord gave them 
success in war, support and succour to the men of 
the Weders, so that through the strength of one, 
his own might, they all overcame their foe. The truth 
has been made loiown, that mighty Ck)d has ever 
ruled over mankind. 

The shadowy visitant came stedking in the dark 
night. The warriors slept, who were to keep the 
antlered building, aU save one. That was known 
to men that the ghostly enemy might not sweep 

The antlered building. The gables of the hall were adorned 
wit±i antlers, from which it probably derived its name, 
Heorot, i.e. Hart. 



36 THE SONG 

them off among the shadows, for the Lord willed it 
not; but he, watching in anger against foes, awaited 
in wrathful mood the issue of the battle. 



XII 

Then from the moor under the misty cliffs came 
Grendel, he bore God's anger. The foul foe purposed 
to trap with cunning one of the men in the high hall; 
he went under the clouds till he might see most 
clearly the wine-building, the gold-hall of warriors, 
gleaming with plates of gold. That was not the first 
time he had sought Hrothgar's home; never in his 
life-days before or since did he find bolder heroes 
and hall-thanes. The creature came, bereft of joys, 
making his way to the building. Straightway the 
door, firm clasped by fire-hardened fetters, opened, 
when he touched it with his hands; then, pondering 
evil, he tore open the entry of the hall when he was 
enraged. Quickly after that the fiend trod the gleam- 
ing floor, moved angry in mood. A baleful light, 
like flame, flared from his eyes. He saw in the 
building many heroes, the troop of kinsmen sleeping 
together, the band of young warriors. Then his 
mind exulted. The dread monster purposed ere day 
came to part the hfe of each one from the body, 
for the hope of a great feasting filled him. No longer 
did fate will that after that night he might seize 



OF BEOWULF 37 

more of mankind. The kinsman of Hygelac, exceed- 
ing strong, beheld how the foul foe was minded to 
act with his sudden grips. 

Nor did the monster think to delay, but first he 
quickly seized a sleeping warrior; suddenly tore 
him asunder, devoured his body, drank the blood 
from his veins, swallowed him with large bites. 
Straightway he had consumed all the body, even the 
feet and hands. He stepped forward nearer, laid 
hold with his hands of the resolute warrior on his 
couch; the fiend stretched his hand towards him. 
Beowulf met the attack quickly and sat on the arm. 
Forthwith the upholder of crime found that he had 
not met in the world, on the face of the earth among 
other men, a mightier hand-grip. Fear grew in his 
mind and heart; yet in spite of that he could not 
make off. He sought to move out; he was minded 
to flee to his refuge, to seek the troop of devils. 
His task there was not such as he had found in 
former days. 

Then the brave kinsman of Hygelac remembered 
his speech in the evening; he stood upright and 
seized him firmly. The fingers biurst, the monster 
was moving out; the earl stepped forward. The 
famous one purposed to flee further, if only he might, 
and win away thence to the fen strongholds; he 
knew the might of his fingers was in the grip of his 
foe. That was an ill journey that the ravager took 
to Heorot. The warrior's hall resounded. Terror 
fell on aU the Danes, on the castle-dwellers, on each 



38 THE SONG 

of the bold men, on the earls. Wroth were they 
both, angry contestants for the house. The building 
rang aloud. 

Then was it great wonder that the \\dne-hall with- 
stood the bold fighters; that it fell not to the ground, 
the fair earth-dwelling; but it was so firmly braced 
within and without with iron bands of skilled work- 
manship. There many a mead-bench decked with 
gold bent away from the post, as I have heard, where 
the foemen fought. The wise men of the Scyldings 
looked not for that before, that any man could ever 
shatter it, rend it with malice in any way, excellent 
and bone-adorned as it was, unless the embrace of 
fire could swallow it in smoke. A sound arose, passing 
strange. Dread fear came upon each of the North- 
Danes who heard the cry from the wall, the lament 
of God's foe rise, the song of defeat; the hell-bound 
creature, crying out in his pain. He who was strongest 
in might among men at that time held him too closely. 



XHI 

The protector of earls was minded in no wise to 
release the deadly visitant ahve, nor did he count 
his life as useful to any men. 

There most eagerly this one and that of Beowulf's 
men brandished the old swords, wished to save their 



OF BEOWULF 39 

leader's life, the famous prince, if only they could. 
They did not know, when they were in the midst 
of the struggle, the stem warriors, and wished to 
strike on all sides, how to seek Grendel's life. No 
choicest of swords on the earth, no war-spear, would 
pierce the evil monster; but Beowulf had given up 
victorious weapons, all swords. His parting from life 
at that time was doomed to be wretched, and the 
alien spirit was to travel far into the power of 
the fiends. 

Then he who erstwhile wrought much hurt to the 
mind of men and malice — he was hostile to God — 
found that his body would not follow him, for the 
brave kinsmen of Hygelac held him by the hand. 
Each was hateful to the other while he Uved. The 
foul monster suffered pain in his body. A great 
wound was seen in his shoulder, the sinews sprang 
apart, the body burst open. Fame in war was granted 
to Beowulf. Grendel must needs flee thence under 
the fen-cliffs mortally wounded, seek out his joyless 
dwelling. He knew but too well the end of his life 
was come, the full count of his days. The desire of all 
the Danes was fulfilled after the storm of battle. 

Then he who erstwhile came from afar, shrewd 
and staunch, had cleansed the hall of Hrothgar, 
freed it from battle. He rejoiced in the night-work, 
in heroic deeds. The prince of the Geat warriors 
had fulfilled his boast to the East-Danes; likewise 
he cured all their sorrows, sufferings from maUcious 
foes, which they endured before and were forced to 



40 THE SONG 

bear in distress, no slight wrong. That was a clear 
token when the bold warrior laid down the hand, 
the arm and shoulder under the wide roof — it was 
all there together — the claw of Grendel. 



XIV 

Then in the morning, as I have heard, around the 
gift-haU was many a warrior; leaders came from 
far and near throughout the wide ways to behold 
the wonder, the tracks of the monster. His going 
from life did not seem grievous to any man who saw 
the course of the inglorious one, how, weary in mind, 
beaten in battle, fated and fugitive, he left behind 
him on his way thence to the mere of the monster 
marks of his hfe-blood. Then the water was surging 
with blood, the foul welter of waves all mingled with 
hot gore; it boLled with the blood of battle. The 
death-doomed one dived in, then bereft of joy in 
his fen-refuge he laid down his life, his heathen soul, 
when hell received him. Thence again old comrades 
went, also many a young man, in merry companion- 
ship, the brave men riding on horses from the mere, 
warriors on bay steeds. There Beowulf's fame was 
proclaimed. Oftentimes many a one said that neither 
south nor north between the seas, over the wide 
earth, under the vault of the sky, was there any 
better among warriors, more worthy of a kingdom. 






OF BEOWULF 41 

Nor in truth did they blame their friendly lord, 
gracious Hrothgar, for that was a good king. 

At times the men doughty in battle let their sorrel 
horses run, race against one another, where the land- 
ways seemed fair to them, known for their good 
quahties; at times the king's thane, a man with 
many tales of exploits, mindful of measures, he 
who remembered a great number of the old legends, 
found other words which failed not in truth. The 
man began again wisely to frame Beowulf's exploit 
and skilfully to make deft measures, to deal in 
words. He spoke all that he had heard told of 
Sigemund's mighty deeds, much that was unknown, 
the warfare of the son of Waels, the far journeys, 
the hostility and maUce of which the children of 
men knew not at all, except Fitela who was with 
him when he was minded to say somewhat of such 
things, the uncle to his nephew; for they were always 
in every struggle bound together by kinship. They 
had felled with their swords very many of the race 
of giants. There sprang up for Sigemund after his 
death no little fame when the man bold in battle 
killed the dragon, the guardian of the treasure. Under 
the grey stone he ventured alone, the son of a chief- 
tain, on the daring deed; Fitela was not with him. 
Yet it was granted to him that that sword pierced 
the monstrous dragon, so that it stood in the wall, 

Sigemund's mighty deeds. Sigemund, son of Waels and uncle 
of Fitela, to whom Beovsoilf is compared here, is a famous 
Scandinavian hero. 



42 THE SONG 

the noble blade. The dragon died violently. The 
hero had succeeded so well that he could use the 
treasure-heap of rings for his own glory. The son 
of Waels loaded the sea-boat, bore to the ship's 
bosom the bright ornaments. The dragon melted 
in heat. 

He was by far the most famous of adventurers 
among men, protector of warriors by mighty deeds; 
he prospered by that earlier, when the boldness, 
the strength and the courage of Heremod lessened. 
He was betrayed among the Eotens into the power 
of his enemies, quickly driven out. Surges of sorrow 
pressed him too long; he became a deadly grief to 
his people, to all his chieftains. So also many a wise 
man who trusted to him as a remedy for evils lamented 
in former times the valiant one's journey, that the 
prince's son was destined to prosper, inherit his 
father's rank, rule over the people, the treasure and 
the prince's fortress, the kingdom of heroes, the 
land of the Scyldings. There did he, the kinsman of 
Hygelac, become dearer to aU men and to his friends 
than he. Treachery came upon him. 

At times in rivalry they measured the yellow 
streets with their horses. Then the Ught of morning 

The boldness . . . Heremod. Heremod, a Danish king, 
mentioned here and later in the poem as a type of cruel bad 
ruler — the very opposite of a hero like Beowulf. 

Treachery came upon him. A difficult passage. Heremod, 
so unexpectedly introduced as a contrast to Sigemund, is 
apparently an old Danish king who, because of his cruelty' 
and tyranny, is exiled by his people. He is referred to again 
in Section xxv. 



OF BEOWULF 43 

had quickly mounted up. Many a retainer went 
bold-minded to the high hall to behold the battle- 
wonder; the king himself also, the keeper of ring- 
treasures, came glorious from his wife's chamber, 
famed for his virtues, with a great troop, and his 
queen with him measured the path to the mead-hall 
with a band of maidens. 



XV 

Hrothgar spoke — he went to the hall, stood by the 
pillar, looked on the lofty gold-plated roof and 
Grendel's hand — "For this sight thanks be straight- 
way rendered to the Almighty. I suffered much 
that was hatefiil, sorrows at the hands of Grendel; 
ever may God, the glorious Protector, perform wonder 
after wonder. 

"That was not long since when I looked not ever 
to find solace for any of my woes, when the best of 
houses stood blood-stained, gory from battle; woe 
wide-spread among all councillors who had no hope 
of ever protecting the fortress of warriors against 
foes, against demons and evil spirits. Now the 
warrior has performed the deed through the Lord's 
might which formerly all of us could not contrive 
with our cunning. Lo! a woman who has borne 
such a son among the peoples, if she yet lives, may 
say that the ancient Lord was gracious to her in 



44 THE SONG 

the birth of her son. Now I will love thee in my heart 
as my son, Beowulf, best of men; keep well the new 
kinship. Thou shalt lack none of the things thou 
desirest in the world, which I can command. Full 
often have I for less cause bestowed reward on a 
slighter warrior, a weaker in combat, to honour him 
with treasures. Thou hast brought it to pass for 
thyself by deeds that thy glory shaU live forever. 
The All-Ruler reward thee with good things as He 
has done till now." 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "We accom- 
pUshed that heroic deed, that battle, through great 
favour. We risked ourselves boldly against the might 
of the monster. I had rather that thou couldst have 
seen him, the fiend in his trappings, weary unto 
death. I thought to bind him speedily with strong 
clasps on his death-bed, so that he must needs he 
in his death-agony by my hand-grip, unless his 
body should slip away. I could not, since the Lord 
willed it not, prevent his passing out. I did not hold 
him closely enough, the deadly enemy; the foe was 
too mighty in going. Nevertheless he left his hand, 
arm and shoulder, to serve as a token of his flight. 
Yet the wretched creature won no solace there; no 
longer lives the malicious foe pressed by sins, but 
pain has embraced him closely with hostile grasp, 
with ruinous bonds. There the creature stained 
with sin must needs await the great doom, what 
judgment the bright Lord wiU award him." 

Then the son of Ecglaf was a more silent man in 



OF BEOWULF 45 

boasting of war deeds, when the chieftains beheld by 
the strength of the earl the hand, the fingers of the 
monster, stretching up to the high roof; each at its 
tip, each place where the nails were, was hke steel, 
the heathen's claw, the monstrous spike of the 
fighter. Everyone said that no well-tried sword of 
brave man would wound him, would shorten the 
monster's bloody battle-fist. 



XVI 

Then it was quickly commanded that Heorot should 
be decked within with the claws. There were many 
there, men and women, who made ready the wine- 
building, the guest-hall. Woven hangings gleamed, 
gold-adorned, on the walls, many wondrous sights 
for all men who look on such things. That bright 
building was all sorely shattered, though firm within 
with its iron clasps; its door-hinges burst. The roof 
alone survived all scatheless, when the monster 
stained with evil deeds turned in flight, despairing 
of life. That is not easy to avoid — let him do it who 
will — but he must needs strive against the place 
forced on him by necessity, prepared for all who 
bear souls, for the children of men, for the dwellers 
on earth, where his body sleeps after the banquet 
fast in its narrow bed. 

That is not easy to avoid. That is, death comes to all men. 



46 THE SONG 

Then was the time convenient and fitting that 
Healf dene's son should go to the hall; the king 
himself wished to join in the banquet. I have not 
heard of a people who showed a nobler bearing with 
a greater troop about their giver of treasure. The 
famous ones then sat down on the bench, rejoiced 
in the feast; in seemly fashion they took many a 
mead-goblet; brave-minded kinsmen were in the 
high hall, Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot within 
was filled with friends. Not yet at this time had the 
Scyldings practised treachery. 

The son of Healfdene gave then to Beowulf a 
golden ensign as a reward for victory, an ornamented 
banner with a handle, a helmet and corslet, a famous 
precious sword. Many saw them borne before the 
warrior. Beowulf took the goblet in hall; he needed 
not to be ashamed in front of the warriors of the 
bestowing of gifts. 

I have not heard of many men giving to others on 

the ale-bench in more friendly fashion four treasures 

decked with gold. Around the top of the helmet a 

jutting ridge twisted with wires held guard over the 

head, so that many an old sword, proved hard in 

battle, could not injure the bold man, when the 

shield-bearing warrior was destined to go against 

foes. Then the protector of earls commanded eight 

horses with gold-plated bridles to be led into the 

Not yet . . . treachery. Wealtheow hopes that her nephew 
Hrothulf will protect her sons if he survives Hrothgar. We 
know from Scandinavian books that Hrothulf turned traitor, 
killed Hrethric, and was finally slain by Heoroweard. 



OF BEOWULF 47 

hall, into the house; on one of them lay a saddle 
artfully adorned with gold, decked with costly orna- 
ment. That was the war-seat of the noble king, when 
the son of Healfdene was minded to practise sword- 
play. Never did the bravery of the far-famed man 
fail in the van when corpses were falling. Then the 
protector of the friends of Ing gave power over both 
to Beowulf, over horses and weapons; he bade him 
use them well. Thus manfully did the famous prince, 
the treasure-keeper of heroes, reward the rushes of 
battle with steeds and rich stores, so that he who 
wishes to speak truth in seemly fashion will never 
scoff at them. 



XVII 

Further the lord of earls bestowed treasure on the 
mead-bench, ancient blades to each of those who 
travelled the ocean path with Beowulf; and he bade 
recompense to be made with gold for the one whom 
Grendel before murderously killed. So he was minded 
to do with more of them, if wise God and the man's 
courage had not turned aside such a fate from them. 
The Lord ruled over all mankind as He still does. 
Wherefore understanding, forethought of soul, is 
ever57where best. He who sojourns long in the world 

The friends of Ing. The Danes are called the friends of 
Ing, the first King of the East-Danes. 



48 THE SONG 

in these days of sorrow must needs suffer much of 
weal and woe. 

There was song and music mingled before Healf- 
dene's chieftain; the harp was touched; a measure 
often recited at such times as it fell to Hrothgax's 
minstrel to proclaim joy in haU along the mead- 
bench. Hnaef of the Scyldings, a hero of the Half- 
Danes, was fated to fall in the Frisian battle-field 
when the sudden onslaught came upon them, the 
sons of Finn. "Nor in truth had Hildeburh cause 
to praise the faith of the Eotens; sinless, she was 
spoiled of her dear ones at the shield-play, a son 
and a brother; wounded with the spear, they fell 
in succession. She was a sorrowing woman. Not 
without cause did the daughter of Hoc lament her 
fate, when morning came when she might see the 
slaughter of kinsmen under the sky, where erst- 
while she possessed greatest joy in the world. War 

Hncej. Finn, King of the North Frisians (Eotens) carries 
oflE Hildeburh of the Danes. Her son and brother (Hnaef) 
are slain in an attack on the Frisians at Finnsburg. Finn and 
Hengest, who now commands the Danes, agree to a peace. 
Frisians and Danes are to live peacefully together; old feuds 
are not to be recalled. The funeral rites of the slain are 
held. The winter passes : Hengest still lingers at Finnsburg. 
More Danes arrive, led by Guthlaf and Oslaf. The peace is 
broken, Finn slain and Hildeburh carried back to her people. 

The sons of Finn. There was an Old EngUsh poem about 
Finn, but only a few lines have been preserved. From this 
fragment and from the passage in Beowulf it is not easy to 
make out all the details of the story. Finn is king of the 
Frisians. He quarrels with Hnaef (the son of Hoc), the 
brother of his wife Hildeburh. Hnaef, who is a Dane or partly 
Danish, is killed, but finally his death is revenged upon Finn. 



OF BEOWULF 49 

carried off all the thanes of Finn except a very few, 
so that in no wise could he offer fight to Hengest in 
the battle-field, nor protect by war the sad survivors 
from the prince's thane; but they offered him con- 
ditions, that they would give up to them entirely 
another building, the hall and high seat; that they 
might have power over half of it with the men of 
the Eotens, and that the son of Folcwalda would 
honour the Danes each day with gifts at the bestowal 
of presents, would pay respect to Hengest 's troop 
with rings, just as much as he would encourage the 
race of the Frisians in the beer-hall mth ornaments 
of plated gold. Then on both sides they had faith 
in firm-knit peace. Finn swore to Hengest deeply, 
inviolably with oaths, that he would treat the sad 
survivors honom-ably according to the judgment of 
the coimcillors, on condition that no man there should 
break the bond by word or deed, nor should they 
ever mention it in maUce, although they had followed 
the slayer of their giver of rings after they had lost 
their leader, since the necessity was laid upon them; 
if then any one of the Frisians should recall to mind 
by dangerous speech the deadly hostility, then it 
must needs recall also the edge of the sword. 

" The oath was sworn and rich gold taken from the 
treasure. The best of the heroes of the warlike 
Scyldings was ready on the funeral fire. On that pyre 
the blood-stained shirt of mail was plain to see, the 
swine-image all gold, the boar hard as iron, many a 
chieftain slain with wounds. Many had fallen in 

D 



50 THE SONG 

the fight. Then Hildeburh bade her own son to be 
given over to the flames at Hnasf s pyre, his body 
to be burned and placed on the funeral fire. The 
woman wept, sorrowing by his side; she lamented 
in measures. The warrior mounted up. The greatest 
of funeral fires wound up to the clouds, it roared in 
front of the mound. Heads melted, wounds burst 
open, deadly bites in the body; then the blood gushed 
forth. The fire, greediest of spirits, consumed all those 
of both peoples whom war carried of£ there. Their 
mightiest men had departed," 



XVHI 

"The warriors went then, bereft of friends, to visit 
the dwellings, to see the land of the Frisians, the homes 
and the stronghold. Then Hengest dwelt yet in 
peace with Finn for a winter stained with the blood 
of the slain; he thought of his land though he could 
not drive the ring-prowed ship on the sea (the ocean 
surged with storm, rose up against the wind; winter 
bound the waves with fetters of ice), till another year 
came into the dwellings; as those still do now who 
ever await an opportunity, the bright clear weather. 
Then winter was past; the bosom of the earth was 
fair; the exile purposed to depart, the guest out of 
the castle; he thought rather of vengeance for sorrow 
than of the sea journey, if he could bring the battle 



OF BEOWULF 51 

to pass in which he thought to take vengeance on 
the children of the Eotens; as long as he broke not 
his oaths. Then Hunlafing laid in his bosom the 
gleaming sword, best of blades. Its edges were famed 
among the Eotens. Even so did dread sword-evil 
come upon brave Finn in his own home. Afterwards 
Guthlaf and Oslaf made known the grim attack, the 
sorrow after their sea journey; they were wroth at 
their share of woes; their restless spirit could not 
be niled in their breast. Then was the hall covered 
with corpses of foes, Finn slain Ukewise, the king 
mid his troop, and the queen taken. The warriors 
of the Scyldings bore to the ships all the house- 
treasure of the king of the land, whatever they could 
find at Finn's home of ornaments and jewels. They 
bore away on the sea voyage the noble woman to 
the Danes, led her to her people." 

The song was sung, the glee-man's measure. Joy 
rose again, bench-music rang out clear, servants gave 
out wine from wondrous goblets. Then Wealtheow, 
imder her golden circlet, came forth where the two 
valiant ones were sitting, uncle and nephew. At 

Then Hunlafing, etc. The meaning of this sentence is very 
obscure. Several interpretations are possible — Hunlafing, 
a servant of Finn, brings a sword as a goodwill offering to 
Hengest; or, Hunlafing plunged into Hengest's breast the 
gleaming sword; or, Hun may be the man's name, and 
Lafing the name of the sword. 

Led her to her people. The story of Finn formed the subject 
of an independent poem in Old English. A fragment remains, 
and apparently dezls with the first or second of the battles 
between the Danes and Frisians. 



52 THE SONG 

that time there was peace yet between them, each 
true to the other. Likev\'ise Unferth sat there as a 
sqviire at the feet of the prince of the Scyldings. 
Each of them trusted his heart, that he had a noble 
mind, though he had not been faithful to his kinsmen 
at the play of swords. Then spoke the queen of the 
Scyldings: "Receive this goblet, my prince, giver 
of treasure. Mayest thou prosper, gold-friend of 
warriors, and speak to the Geats with kindly words, 
as it is fitting to do. Be gracious to the Geats, mind- 
ful of gifts; far and near now thou hast peace. They 
said that thou wast minded to take the warrior for 
son. Heorot is cleansed, the bright ring-hall; be 
generous with many rewards while thou mayst, and 
leave to thy kinsmen subjects and kingdom, when 
thou must needs go forth to face thy destin3^ I know 
my gracious HrothuLf, that he will treat the young 
men honourably, if thou, friend of the Scyldings, pass 
from the world before him. I think that he will 
richly reward our children, if he forgets not all the 
favours we formerly showed him for his pleasure and 
honour, while he was still a child." 

She turned then towards the bench where her sons 
were, Hrethric and Hrothmund, and the sons of 
heroes, the young men together ; there the valiant one, 
Beowulf of the Geats, sat by the two brothers. 



OF BEOWULF 53 



XIX 

To him was the flagon borne and a friendly invita- 
tion offered with words and the twisted gold vessel 
graciously presented; two bracelets, a corslet and 
rings, greatest of necklaces, of those which I have 
heard of on earth. 

I have not heard of a better treasure-hoard of 
heroes under the sky since Hama carried off to the 
gleaming castle the necklace of the Brosings, the 
trinket and treasure; he fled the mahcious hostility 
of Eormenric; he chose everlasting gain. Hygelac 
of the Geats, grandson of Swerting, had the ring on 
his last expedition, when beneath his banner he 
defended the treasure, guarded the booty of battle. 
Fate took him off, when in his pride he suffered 
misfortune in fight against the Frisians; the mighty 
prince bore the ornament, the precious stones over 
the wave-goblet; he fell under his shield. Then the 
king's body passed into the power of the Franks, 
his breast-garments and the ring also; less noble 
warriors stripped the bodies of the men of the 
Geats after the carnage of war; their bodies 

Since Hama carried off, etc. Eormenric or Ermanaric is 
an historical king who died about 375 a.d. He became a 
famous figure in romance and legend. The necklace of the 
Brisings is celebrated in Scandinavian literature. Hama, 
like Eormanric, appears in many books, but may not be 
historical . 



54 THE SONG 

covered the battle - field. . . . The hall rang with 
shouts of approval. 

Wealtheow spoke, she uttered words before the 
troop: "Enjoy this ring happily, dear young Beo- 
wulf; and use this corslet, the great treasures and 
prosper exceedingly; make thyself known mightily, 
and be to these youths kindly in counsel. I will not 
forget thy reward for that. Thou hast brought it 
about that far and near men ever praise thee, even 
as far as the sea hems in the home of the winds, the 
headlands. Blessed be thou while thou livest, nobly- 
born man. I will grant thee many treasures. Be thou 
gracious in deeds to my son, thou who art now in 
happiness. Here each earl is true to the other, gentle 
in mind, loyal to the lord. The thanes are willing, 
the people all ready, noble warriors after drinking. 
Do as I bid." 

She went then to the seat. There was the choicest 
of banquets; the men drank wine; they knew not 
fate, dread destiny, as it had been dealt out to many 
of the earls. Afterwards came evening, and Hrothgar 

Covered the battlefield. Hygelac's expedition against the 
Frisians, here referred to, belongs to authentic history. 
Gregory of Tours {d. 594) tells how the Danes under their 
king Chlochilaicus invaded the kingdom and carried many 
captives and much plunder to their ships. Chlochilaicus, 
delaying on shore, was killed by the Franks, who defeated 
the Danes in a naval battle and recovered the booty. Chlo- 
chilaicus of the Danes is the same person as Hygelac of the 
Geats. These events took place between 512 and 520. There 
are three other references in Beowulf to the expedition — 
Sections xxxiii., xxxv., and xl. 



OF BEOWULF 55 

went to his chamber, the mighty one to his couch. 
A great band of earls occupied the hall, as they often 
did before; they cleared away bench-boards; it was 
spread over with beds and bolsters. One of the 
revellers, ready and fated, sank to his couch in the 
hall. At their heads they placed the war-shields, 
the bright bucklers. There on the bench was plainly 
seen above the chieftains the helmet rising high 
in battle, the ringed corslet, the mighty spear. It 
was their custom that often both at home and in 
the field, they should be ready for war, and equally 
in both positions at all such times as distress came 
upon their lord. Those people were good. 



XX 

They sank then to sleep. One sorely paid for his 
evening rest, as had full often come to pass for them, 
when Grendel held the gold-hall, and did wickedness 
until the end came, death after sins. That was seen, 
widely known among men, that an avenger, Grendel's 
mother, a she-monster, yet survived the hateful one, 
a long while after the misery of war. She who was 
doomed to dwell in the dread water, the cold streams, 
after Cain killed his only brother, his father's son, 
forgot not her misery. He departed then fated, 
marked with murder, to flee from the joys of men; 
he dwelt in the wilderness. Thence sprang many 



56 THE SONG 

ancient spirits; Grendel was one of them, warring 
and hated; he found at Heorot a man keeping 
watch, waiting for war. There the monster came to 
grips with him: yet he remembered the power of 
his strength, the precious gift which God gave him, 
and he trusted for support, for succour and help, 
to Him who rules over all. By that he overcame the 
fiend, laid low the spirit of hell. Then he departed, 
the foe of mankind, in misery, reft of joy, to seek 
his death-dwelling. And his mother then still pur- 
posed to go on the sorrowful journey, greedy and 
darkly-minded, to avenge her son's death. 

She came then to Heorot where the Ring-Danes 
slept throughout that hall. Then straightway the 
old fear fell on the earls, when Grendel's mother 
forced her way in. The dread was less by just so 
much as the strength of women, the war-terror of 
a woman, is less than a man, when the bound sword 
shaped by the hammer, the blood-stained blade 
strong in its edges, cuts off the boar-image on the 
foeman's helmet. Then in the hall was the strong 
blade drawn, the sword over the seats; many a 
broad buckler raised firmly in hand. He thought 
not of helmet nor of broad corslet, when the terror 
seized him. 

She was in haste, was minded to go thence and save 
her life when she was discovered. Quickly she had 
seized one of the chieftains \vith firm grip; then she 
went to the fen. That was the dearest of heroes to 
Hrothgar among his followers between the seas, a 



OF BEOWULF '" ' 57 

mighty shield-warrior, whom she slew on his couch, 
a noble man of great fame. Beowulf was not there, 
but another lodging had been set apart for him 
earlier, after the giving of treasure to the famous 
Geat. There was clamour in Heorot. She had carried 
off the famous blood-stained hand. Care was created 
anew; it had come into the dwellings. That was no 
good bargain which they had to pay for in double 
measure with lives of friends. Then the wise king, 
the grey battle-warrior, was troubled in heart, when 
he knew that the noble thane was lifeless, that the 
dearest one was dead. 

Beowulf was quickly brought to the castle, the 
victorious warrior. At da%\Ti that earl, the noble 
hero himself with his comrades, went to where the 
wise man (Hrothgar) was waiting to see whether the 
All-ruler would ever bring to pass a change after 
the time of woe. Then the man famous in fight 
went with his nearest followers along the floor — 
(the hall-wood resounded) — till he greeted the wise 
one with words, the prince of the friends of Ing; 
he asked if, as he hoped, he had had a peaceful night. 



XXI 

Hrotkgar spoke, protector of the Scyldings: "Ask 
thou not after happiness. Sorrow is made anew for 
the Danish people. ^Eschere is dead, Yrmenlaf's 
elder brother, my counsellor and my adviser, trusted 



58 THE SONG 

friend, in such times as we fended our heads in war, 
when the foot-warriors crashed together and hewed 
the helms. Such should an earl be, a trusty chieftain, 
as ^schere was. 

" That unjust slaughterous spirit slew him v^dth her 
hands in Heorot. I know not whether the monster, 
made known by her feasting, journeyed back exulting 
in the corpse. She avenged the fight in which last 
night thou didst violently kill Grendel with hard 
grips because too long he lessened and slew my 
people. He fell in combat, guilty of murder, and now 
another mighty evil foe has come; she was minded 
to make requital for her son, and she has overmuch 
avenged the hostile deed, as it may seem to many a 
thane who grieves in mind for the giver of treasure 
A\ith heavy heart-sorrow. Now low hes the hand 
which was ready for all your desires. 

" I heard dwellers in the land, my people, counsellors 
in hall, say that they saw two such great march- 
steppers, alien spirits, hold the moors. One of them 
was, as far they could certainly know, the hkeness 
of a woman; the other wretched creature trod the 
paths of exile in man's shape, except that he was 
greater than any other man. Him in days past the 
dwellers in the land named Grendel; his father they 
know not ; nor whether there were bom to him earlier 
any dark spirits. 

"They possess unknown land, wolf-cliffs, windy 
crags, a dangerous fen-path, where the mountain 
stream falls down under the darkness of the rocks, 



OF BEOWULF 59 

a flood under the earth. That is not a mile hence 
where the mere stands; over it hang rime-covered 
groves ; the wood firm-rooted overshadows the water. 
There each night a baleful wonder may be seen, a 
fire on the flood. There is none so wise of the children 
of men who knows those depths. Though the heath- 
stepper hard pressed by the hounds, the hart strong 
in antlers, should seek the forest after a long chase, 
rather does he yield up his life, his spirit on the 
shore than hide his head there. That is an eerie place. 
Thence the surge of waves mounts up dark to the 
clouds, when the wind stirs up hostile storms till the 
air darkens, the skies weep. 

" Now once more help must come from thee alone. 
Thou dost not yet know the lair, the dangerous place 
where thou mayest find the sinful creature; seek if 
thou darest. If thou comest away alive, I will reward 
thee for that onslaught, as erstwhile I did, with 
treasures, old precious things, twisted gold." 



XXII 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "Sorrow not, 
wise warrior. It is better for each to avenge his 
friend than greatly to mourn. Each of us must needs 
await the end of life in the world; let him who can 
achieve fame ere death. That is best for a noble 
warrior when life is over. Rise up, guardian of the 



6o THE SONG 

realm; let us go quickly hence to behold the track 
of Grendel's kinswoman. I promise thee she shall 
not escape under covering darkness, nor in the earth's 
embrace, nor in the mountain forest, nor in the water's 
depths — go where she will. Have thou, as I expect 
from thee, patience for all thy woes this day." 

The aged one leaped up then; thanked God, the 
mighty Lord, for what the man spoke. Then Hroth- 
gar's horse was bitted, the steed with twisted mane. 
The wise prince went forth in splendour; the foot- 
troop of shield-bearing warriors stepped forward. 
The tracks were widely seen along the forest paths, 
the course over the fields. Away over the dark moor 
she went; she bore the best of thanes, reft of life, 
who with Hrothgar ruled the land. Then the son of 
princes strode over the high rocky cliffs, the narrow 
paths, the straitened tracks, the unknown road, the 
steep crags, many a monster's abode. He with a few 
other wise men went ahead to spy out the land, until 
suddenly he found the mountain trees hanging above 
the grey rock. The water beneath lay blood-stained 
and troubled. All the Danes, the friends of the 
Scyl dings, were mournful in mood; many a thane 
had to suffer; there was sorrow for many of the 
earls, when they found .^schere's head on the cliff 
by the mere. 

The flood surged with blood, with hot gore; the 
people beheld it. At times the horn sang its eager 
war-song. The troop all sat down; then they saw 
along the water many of the dragon kind, strange 



OF BEOWULF 6i 

sea-dragons moving over the mere, also monsters 
lying on the rocky headlands; then at midday the 
1 dragons and wild beasts often go on a sorrowful 
journey on the sail-road. They fell away bitter and 
angered; they heard the clang, the war-horn sound- 
ing. The prince of the Geats with his bow parted 
one of them from Hfe, from the struggle of the waves, 
so that the stout war-shaft stood in his heart. He 
was the more sluggish at swimming in the water, 
because death carried him off. Speedily the wondrous 
wave-dweller was hard pressed in the waves wdth 
boar-spears of deadly barbs, beset by hostile attacks 
and drawn out on the headland. The men beheld 
the dread creature. 

Beowulf clad himself in warrior's armour; he 
lamented not his life. The war-corslet, hand-woven, 
broad, cunningly adorned, must needs try the water; 
it knew how to guard his body so that the grip of 
war might not wound his heart, the malicious clutch 
of an angry foe his life. And the gleaming helmet, 
which was to mingle with the depths of the mere, 
to seek the welter of the waves, decked with treasure, 
circled with diadems, as the smith of weapons wrought 
it in days long past, wondrously adorned it, set it 
round with boar-images ; it guarded his head so that 
no sword or battle-blades could pierce it. That was 
not the least then of mighty helps that Hrothgar'; 
squire lent him in his need. That hilted sword was 
called Hrunting; it was an excellent old treasures 
the brand was iron, stained with poisonous twigs. 



62 THE SONG 

hardened in the blood of battle. It never failed any 
men in war who seized it with their hands, who 
ventured to go on dire journeys, to the meeting-place 
of foes. That was not the first time that it was to 
accomplish a mighty deed. 

In truth the son of Ecglaf mighty in strength did 
not remember what erstwhile he spoke when dnmken 
with wine, when he lent the weapon to a better 
sword-warrior. He himself durst not risk his life 
beneath the tossing of the waves, accomplish heroic 
deeds. There he forfeited fame, repute for might. 
Not so was it with the other when he had clad 
himself for war. 



XXIII 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "Consider now, 
famous son of HeaLfdene, wise prince, gold-friend of 
warriors, now I am ready for the venture, what we 
spoke of a while since; if I should depart from life 
in thy cause, that thou shouldst ever be in the place 
of a father when I am gone. Be thou a guardian to 
my followers, my comrades, if war takes me. Like- 
wise, dear Hrothgar, do thou send the treasures thou 
hast given me to Hygelac. The lord of the Geats 
may perceive by that gold, the son of Hrethel may 
see when he looks upon that treasure, that I found 
an excellent good giver of rings, that I took joy 



OF BEOWULF 63 

while I could. And do thou let Unferth have the 
ancient blade, the far-famed man have the precious 
sword with wavy pattern and sharp edge; I shall 
achieve fame for myself with Hrunting, or death 
will carry me off." 

After those words the prince of the Weder-Geats 
hastened exceedingly; he would in no wise wait 
for an answer. The surge of waters received the war- 
hero. Then there was a spell of time ere he might 
behold the bottom of the mere. 

She who had held for fifty years the domain of the 
floods, eager for battle, grim and greedy, discovered 
straightway that a man was seeking from above the 
dwelling of monsters. She reached out against him 
then, seized the warrior with dread claws; never- 
theless she injured not the sound body; the ring- 
mail guarded it round about so that she could not 
pierce the corslet, the locked mail-shirt, with hostile 
fingers. When she came to the bottom, the sea-wolf 
bore the prince of rings to her lair. Since he could 
not use weapons — he burned to do so — many monsters 
set upon him in the water, many a sea-beast rent his 
war-corslet with battle-tusks ; they pursued the hero. 
Then the earl noticed he was in some kind of hostile 
hall, where no water in any way touched him, nor 
could the sudden clutch of the flood come near him 
because of the roofed hall; he saw the light of fire, 
a gleaming radiance shining brightly. 

Then the valiant one perceived the she-wolf of 
the depths, the mighty mere-woman; he repaid the 



64 THE SONG 

mighty rush with the battle-sword; the hand drew 
not back from the stroke, so that the sword, adorned 
with rings, sang a greedy war-chant on her head. 
Then the stranger found that the sword would not 
bite or injure life, but the edge failed the prince in 
his need. It had endured in times past many battles, 
often had cut through the helmet, the mail of a 
■doomed man. That was the first time for the costly 
treasure that its repute failed. 

Once again the kinsman of Hygelac was resolute, 
:mindful of heroic deeds, no whit lax in courage. 
Then the angry warrior cast down the sword with 
its twisted ornaments, set round with decorations, 
•so that it lay on the ground, strong and steel-edged. 
He trusted in his strength, his mighty hand-grip. 
Thus a man must needs do when he is minded to 
gain lasting praise in war, nor cares for his life. 

Then the prince of the War-Geats seized Grendel's 
mother by the hair; he feared not the fight. Then 
stem in strife he swimg the monster in his wrath so 
that she bent to the ground. She quickly gave him 
requital again with savage grips, and grasped out 
towards him. Weary in mood then she overthrew 
the strongest of fighters, the foot-warrior, so that 
he fell down. Then she sat on the visitor to her hall, 
and drew her knife, broad and bright-edged ; she was 
minded to avenge her child, her only son. The woven 
breast-net lay on his shoulder; that guarded his life; 
it opposed the entrance of point and edge. Then the 
son of Ecgtheow, the hero of the Geats, would have 



OF BEOWULF 65 

found death under the wide waters if the war-corslet, 
the stout battle-net, had not afforded him help, and 
if holy God, the wise Lord, had not achieved victory 
in war; the Ruler of the heavens brought about a 
right issue, when once more he stood up with ease. 



XXIV 

He saw then among weapons a victorious blade, an 
old sword of giants, strong in its edges, the glory 
of warriors. That was the choicest of weapons; 
save only it was greater than any other man could 
bear to the battle-play, trusty and splendid, the 
work of giants. The hero of the Scyldings, angered 
and grim in battle, seized the belted hilt, wheeled the 
ring -marked sword, despairing of life; he struck 
furiously, so that it gripped her hard against the 
neck. It broke the bone-rings; the blade went 
straight through the doomed body. She fell on the 
floor. The brand was bloody; the man rejoiced in 
his work. - 

The gleam was bright, the light stood within, just 
as the candle of the sky shines serenely from heaven. 
He went along the dwelling; then he turned to the 
waU; Hygelac's thane, raging and resolute, raised 
the weapon firmly by its hilts. The sword was not 
useless to the warrior, but he was minded quickly to 
requite Grendel for the many onslaughts which far 



66 THE SONG 

more than once he made on the West-Danes, when 
he slew Hrothgar's hearth-companions in their sleep, 
devoured fifteen men of the Danish people while they 
slumbered, and bore away as many more, a hatefiil 
sacrifice. He, the furious hero, avenged that upon 
him there where he saw Grendel lying, weary of war, 
reft of life, as erstwhile the battle at Heorot des- 
patched him. The body gaped wide, when after 
death it suffered a stroke, a hard battle-blow: and 
then he hewed off its head. 

Straightway the wise men who gazed on the mere 
with Hrothgar saw that the surge of waves was all 
troubled, the water stained with blood. Grey-haired 
old men spoke together of the valiant man, that they 
did not expect to see the chieftain again, or that he 
should come as a conqueror to seek the famous 
prince. Then it seemed to many that the sea-wolf 
had slain him. Then came the ninth hour of the day. 
The bold Scyldings forsook the headland; thence 
the gold-friend of men departed homewards. The 
strangers sat sick at heart, and stared at the mere; 
they felt desire and despair of seeing their friendly 
lord himself. 

Then that sword, the battle-brand, began to vanish 
in drops of gore after the blood shed in fight. That 
was a great wonder, that it all melted like ice when 
the Father loosens the bond of the frost, unbinds the 
fetters of the floods; He has power over times and 
seasons. That is the true Lord. 

The prince of the Weder-Geats took no more of the 



OF BEOWULF 67 

precious hoardings in those haunts, though he saw 
many there, save the head and with it the treasure- 
decked hilts. The sword had melted before, the 
inlaid brand had burned away, so hot was that blood 
and so poisonous the alien spirit who died in it. 
Straightway he fell to swimming; he, who before in 
the struggle endured the fall of foes, dived up through 
the water. The wave surges were all cleansed, the 
great haunts where the aUen spirit gave up his hfe 
and this fleeting state. 

Then the protector of sea-men, brave-minded, 
came swimming to land; he took pleasure in the 
sea-booty, in the mighty burden which he bore 
with him. They went to meet him, the excellent 
troop of thanes; they thanked God; they rejoiced 
in the prince, that they could behold him safe and 
sound. Then helm and corslet were loosed with speed 
from off the brave men; the lake lay still, the water 
under the clouds, stained with the blood of battle. 

They set out thence on the foot-tracks, joyous at 
heart; they paced the path, the well-known street. 
Men nobly bold bore the head from the cliff with 
toil for each of the very brave ones. Four men with 
difficulty had to carry Grendel's head to the gold- 
hall on the battle-spear, until of a sudden the fourteen 
brave warhke Geats came to the hall ; their lord trod 
the fields about the mead-hall with them, fearless 
among his followers. 

Then the prince of thanes, the man bold in deeds, 
made glorious with fame, the hero terrible in battle. 



68 THE SONG 

came in to greet Hrothgar. Then Grendel's head 
was bome by the hair into the hall where the 
men were drinking — a dread object for the earls 
and the queen with them; the men looked at the 
wondrous sight. 



XXV 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "Lo! son of 
Healfdene, prince of the Scyldings, we have brought 
thee with pleasure, as a token of glory, this sea- 
booty which thou beholdest here. Scarcely did I 
survive that with my life, the struggle beneath the 
water, barely did I accomplish the task, the fight 
was all but ended, if God had not protected me. 

"I could do nought with Hrunting in the fight, 
though that weapon is worthy, but the Ruler of men 
vouchsafed that I should see a huge old sword hang 
gleaming on the wall — most often he has guided 
those bereft of friends— so that I swung the weapon. 
Then in the struggle I slew the guardians of the house 
when the chance was given me. Then that battle- 
brand, the inlaid sword, burned away as soon as the 
blood spurted out, hottest battle-gore. Thence from 
the foes I carried off that hilt; I avenged, as was 
fitting, the deeds of malice, the massacre of the Danes. 

"So I promise thee that thou mayest sleep in 
Heorot, free from sorrow with the band of thy 
warriors and all the thanes among thy people, the 



OF BEOWULF 69 

youths and veterans; that thou, prince of the 
Scyldings, dost not need to dread death for the 
earls from the quarter thou didst formerly." 

Then the gold hilt, the ancient work of giants, 
was given into the hands of the old warrior, to the 
grey-haired leader. It came into the possession of 
the prince of the Danes, the work of cunning smiths, 
after the death of the monsters, and after the creature 
of hostile heart. God's foe, guilty of murder, and his 
mother also had left this world. It came into the 
power of the best of mighty kings between the seas 
who dealt out money in Scandinavia. 

Hrothgar spoke; he beheld the hilt, the old heir- 
loom. On it was written the beginning of a battle 
of long ago, when a flood, a rushing sea, slew the 
race of giants; they had lived boldly; that race 
was estranged from the Eternal Lord. The Ruler 
gave them final requital for that in the surge of the 
water. Thus on the plates of bright gold it was 
clearly marked, set down and expressed in runic 
letters, for whom that sword, the best of blades, was 
first wrought with its twisted haft and snake images. 

Then the wise man spoke, the son of Healfdene. 
All were silent. "Lo! he who achieves truth and 
right among the people may say that this earl was 
bom excellent (the old ruler of the realm recalls aU 
things from the pcist). Thy renown is raised up 
throughout the wide ways, my friend Beowulf, among 
all peoples. Thou preservest all steadfastly, thy 
might with wisdom of mind, I shall show thee my 



70 THE SONG 

favour, as before we agreed. Thou shall be granted 
for long years as a solace to thy people, as a help 
to heroes. 

" Not so did Heremod prove to the sons of Ecgwela, 
the honourable Scyldings; his way was not as 
they wished, but to the slaughter and butchery of 
the people of the Danes. Savage in mood he killed 
his table-companions, his trusty counsellors, until he, 
the famous prince, departed alone from the joys of 
men, although mighty God had made him great by 
the joys of power and by strength, had raised him 
above all men. Yet there grew in his heart a blood- 
thirsty brood of thoughts. He gave out no rings to 
the Dane<5 according to custom; joyless he dwelt, so 
that he reaped the reward of his hostility, the long 
evil to his people. Learn thou by this; lay hold on 
virtue. I have spoken this for thy good from the 
wisdom of many years. 

"It is wonderful to tell how mighty God with his 
generous thought bestows on mankind wisdom, land 
and rank. He has dominion over all things. At times 
He allows man's thoughts to turn to love of famous 
lineage; He gives him in his land the joys of domain, 
the stronghold of men to keep. He puts the parts 
of the world, a wide kingdom, in such subjection to 
him that he cannot in his folly conceive an end to 
that. He lives in plenty; nothing afflicts him, 
neither sickness nor age; nor does sorrow darken 
his mind, nor does strife any\vhere show forth sword- 
hatred, but all the world meets his desire." 



OF BEOWULF 71 



XXVI 

" He knows nothing worse till within him his pride 
grows and springs up. Then the guardian slumbers, 
the keeper of the soul. The sleep is too heavy, pressed 
roimd with sorrows; the murderer very near who 
shoots maliciously from his bow. Then he is stricken 
in the breast imder the helmet by a sharp shaft — 
he knows not how to guard himself — by the crafty 
evil commands of the ill spirit. That which he had 
long held seems to him too paltry, he covets fiercely, 
he bestows no golden rings in generous pride, and 
he forgets and neglects the destiny which God, the 
Ruler of glory, formerly gave him, his share of 
honours. At the end it comes to pass that the 
mortal body sinks into ruin, falls doomed; another 
comes to power who bestows treasures gladly, old 
wealth of the earl; he takes joy in it. Keep thyself 
from such passions, dear Beowulf, best of warriors, 
and choose for thyself that better part, lasting profit. 
Care not for pride, famous hero. Now the repute of 
thy might endures for a space; straightway again 
shall age, or edge of the sword, part thee from thy 
strength, or the embrace of fire, or the surge of the 
flood, or the grip of the blade, or the flight of the 
spear, or hateful old age, or the gleam of eyes shall 
pass away and be darkened ; on a sudden it shall come 
to pass that death shall vanquish thee, noble warrior. 
" Thus have I ruled over the Ring-Danes under the 



72 THE SONG 

heavens for fifty years, and guarded them by my 
war-power from many tribes throughout this world, 
from spears and swords, so that I thought I had no 
foe under the stretch of the sky. Lo ! a reverse came 
upon me in my land, sorrow after joy, when Grendel 
grew to be a foe of many years, my visitant. I 
suffered great sorrow of heart continually from that 
persecution. Thanks be to God, the eternal Lord, 
that I have survived with my life, that I behold 
with my eyes that blood-stained head after the old 
struggle. Go now to the seat, enjoy the banquet, 
thou who art made illustrious by war; very 
many treasures shall be parted between us when 
morning comes." 

The Geat was glad in mind; straightway he went 
to seek out his seat as the wise man bade him. Then 
again as before the meal was fairly spread once more 
for the men famed for strength, for the hall-dwellers. 
The covering night grew dark over the noble warriors. 
The veterans all rose up; the grey-haired aged 
Scylding was minded to seek his bed. It pleased the 
Geat, the mighty shield-warrior exceeding well to 
rest. Forthwith a hall-thane, who ministered in 
fitting fashion to all the needs of a thane which the 
warhke sea-farers should have that day, guided him 
forth, weary as he was from his journey, come from 
afar. The great-hearted man took his rest: the 
building towered up wide-gabled and gold-plated; 
the guest slumbered within till the black raven 
merrily proclaimed the joy of heaven. 



OF BEOWULF yz 

Then came the bright Hght gUding after the shadow. 
The warriors hastened, the chieftains were ready to 
go again to their people, the stout-hearted sojourner 
was minded to seek the boat far thence. Then the 
brave man, the son of Ecglaf , bade him bear Hrunting, 
take his sword, his dear blade; he thanked him for 
the gift ; said that he counted him a good friend in 
battle, mighty in war; in no wise did he belittle the 
sword's edge: that was a brave warrior. And the 
men of war then, ready in war-trappings, were about 
to depart; the chieftain, dear to the Danes, went to 
the throne where the other was, the hero dreaded in 
battle ; he greeted Hrothgar. 



XXVII 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "Now we sea- 
farers, come from afar, wish to say that we purpose 
to seek Hygelac. We have been as kindly treated 
here as we could wish; thou hast been good unto 
us. If I can in any way on earth win a greater love 
from thee, lord of men, for warlike deeds than I 
have yet done, I am ready forthwith. If beyond the 
compass of the floods I hear that thy neighbours 
press upon thee with dread war, as at times foes 
have done to thee, I shall bring to thy help a thousand 
thanes and heroes. I know that Hygelac, the lord 
of the Geats, protector of the people, though he is 



74 THE SONG 

young, will aid me in words and deeds to support 
thee well and bear a spear to thy aid, mighty succour, 
if thou hast need of men. If Hrethric, a prince's son, 
make an agreement at the court of the Geats, he may 
find many friends there. For him who trusts his own 
merit it is better to visit distant lands." 

Hrothgar spoke to him in answer: " The wise Lord 
has sent those speeches into thy mind. I have not 
heard a man of such young age discourse more 
wisely. Thou art strong in might and wise in mind, 
prudent in speeches. It is my expectation, if it comes 
to pass that the spear, grim war, sickness, or steel 
should carry off the son of Hrethel, thy prince, the 
protector of the people, and thou art still alive, that 
the Sea-Geats will have no better king to choose, 
treasure-guardian of heroes, if thou wilt rule the 
kingdom of thy kinsmen. Thy mind pleases me the 
better as time goes on, dear Beowulf. Thou hast 
brought it to pass that there shall be peace between 
the peoples, the men of the Geats and the Spear- 
Danes, and that strife shall cease, the treacherous 
hostility they formerly suffered; while I rule over 
the wide realm treasures shall be in common; many 
a man shall greet another with gifts across the gannet's 
bath; the ring-prowed ship shall bear offerings and 
love-tokens over the sea. I know the people from old 
tradition to be wholly blameless towards friend and 
foe when they are of one mind." 

Then moreover the protector of earls, the son of 
Healfdene, gave in the house twelve treasures; he 



OF BEOWULF 75 

bade him seek his dear people in safety with those 
offerings, come again speedily. Then the king of 
noble race, the prince of the Scyldings, kissed the 
best of thanes, and fell upon his neck: tears fell 
from him, the grey-haired man. There was the chance 
of two things for him, the old man full of years, but 
more of one, that they should not see one another 
again, brave men in talk together. That man was so 
dear to him, that he could not stifle the trouble in 
his heart, but, fast bound in the thoughts of his heart, 
the secret longing for the loved man burned in his 
blood. Thence Beowulf strode over the grass meadow, 
the warrior proud of his gold, glorying in treasure. 
The sea-goer riding at anchor awaited its lord. Then 
Hrothgar's gift was often praised on the voyage. 
That was a king blameless in all ways, till old 
age, which has done hurt to many, robbed him of 
the joys of strength. 



XXVIII 

Then the troop of exceeding brave warriors came to 
the flood; they bore ring-woven corslets, locked 
shirts of mail. The watchman spied the return of 
the earls as erstwhile he did. 

He did not salute the strangers from the edge of 
the cliff with insult, but rode towards them; he 
told the peopl^ of the Weders that the warriors 



76 THE SONG 

with gleaming armour went welcome to the ship. 
Then the spacious ship laden with war garments 
was on the sand, the ring-prowed vessel with horses 
and treasures; the mast towered aloft above 
Hrothgar's precious hoardings. 

He gave to the guardian of the ship a sword bound 
with gold, so that afterwards on the mead-bench he 
was the more esteemed for the treasure, the ancient 
sword. He embarked on the ship, to plough the deep 
water; left the land of the Danes. Then by the mast 
was a sea-cloth, a sail bound by a rope. The timbers 
creaked ; the wind over the billows did not force the 
wave-floater from her course. The sea-goer went on 
her way, the foamy-necked one floated forth over 
the waves, the boat with bound prow over the ocean- 
streams, till they could see the cliffs of the Geats, 
the well-known headlands. The boat drove ashore; 
urged by the wind it rested on the land. 

Quickly the haven-watchman, who for a long time 
had gazed out afar at the waters expecting the dear 
men, was ready by the sea. He bound the broad- 
bosomed ship to the sand firmly with anchor-bonds, 
lest the might of the waves should drive away the 
winsome vessel. Then he bade the treasure of chief- 
tains, adornments and beaten gold, to be carried up. 
He had not far to go thence to seek the giver of 
treasure, Hygelac, son of Hrethel, where he dwells at 
home, himself with his comrades near the sea-wall. 

The house was splendid, the ruler a mighty king 
in the high hall, Hygd very young, wise, high-minded. 



OF BEOWULF 77 

although she, the daughter of Haereth, had Hved few 
years in the stronghold. Yet was she not petty, nor 
too grudging in gifts and treasures to the people of 
the Geats. She, the splendid queen of the people, 
had not the pride or the dread hostility of Thryth. 
No brave one of the dear comrades, except the 
mighty prince, durst venture to look upon her openly 
with his eyes; but he might count upon deadly 
bonds hand-woven made ready for him. Quickly 
after that the wrong-doer was destined to the sword, 
so that the inlaid brand might give judgment, might 
proclaim the deadly evil. Such is not queenly 
usage for a woman to practise, though she is 
splendid; that she who was meant to establish 
peace should seek the life of a dear subject be- 
cause of fancied wrong. In truth the kinsmen of 
Hemming detested that. 

Men at their ale-drinking told another tale, that 
she brought less evils on the people, crafty acts of 
malice, as soon as she was given, gold-adorned, to 
the young warrior, to the brave chieftain, when by 
her father's counsel she sought in her journey the 
hall of Offa over the yeUow flood, where afterwards 
on the throne she well employed while she lived 
what was granted her in life, a good famous woman. 
She kept a noble love towards the prince of heroes, 
the best, as I have heard, of all mankind, of the race 

Dread hostility of Thryth. Thrytho was queen of Offa, 
king of the Angles in the fourth century. Her fierce cruelty 
is contrasted with Hygd's gracious kindness. 



78 THE SONG 

of men between the seas. For Offa was a skilled 
spearman, widely honoured for gifts and victories; 
he ruled his realm with wisdom. From him sprang 
Eomaer for a help to heroes, kinsman of Hemming, 
grandson of Garmund, mighty in onslaught. 



XXIX 

Then the bold man went himself with his troop to 
tread the meadow by the sea, the wide shores. The 
world-candle shone, the sun bright from the south. 
They went on their way; quickly they marched till 
they heard that the protector of earls, the slayer of 
Ongentheow, the worthy yoimg war-king, was be- 
stowing rings in the court. Beowulf's arrival was 
quickly proclaimed to Hygelac, that the defender 
of warriors, the shield-comrade, was come alive to 
the palace there, to the comt, unscathed from the 
battle-play. 

With speed, as the mighty one ordered, a space 
was cleared within the hall for the new-comers.^ Then 
he who survived the combat sat down opposite him, 
kinsman opposite kinsman, when in solemn speech 
with chosen words he greeted his gracious lord. The 
daughter of Haereth went about throughout that 
hall-building with mead- vessels; she loved the 
people, bore the flagon to the hands of the Heath- 
dwellers. Hygelac began graciously to question his 



OF BEOWULF 7^ 

companion in the high hall; desire to know the 
exploits of the Sea-Geats was strong upon him. 

" How fared ye on the voyage, dear Beowulf, when 
on a sudden thou hadst desire to seek combat afar 
over the salt water, warfare at Heorot? Surely thou 
hast somewhat mended for Hrothgar, the famous 
prince, his wide-known sorrow? In my heart's grief 
for that I was troubled with surgings of sorrow; I 
put no trust in my loved man's venture; long while 
I besought thee that thou shouldst have nought to. 
do with the murderous monster, let the South-Danes 
themselves fight out the struggle with Grendel. 
I utter thanks to God, that it is granted me to 
behold thee unscathed." 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: " That is known,, 
my lord Hygelac, to many men, the famous encounter; 
what struggle there was between Grendel and me in 
that place, where he brought very many sorrows upon 
the victorious Scyldings, lasting oppression. I avenged 
all that. Thus none of Grendel's kin upon earth has 
cause to boast of that uproar at dawn, not he wha 
Hves longest of the loathly race, snared in sin. 

" Even there did I come to that ring-hall to greet 
Hrothgar. Straightway the famous son of Healfdene,. 
when he knew my purpose, assigned me a seat beside 
his own son. His troop was making merry; I have 
never seen under the vault of heaven greater mead-joy 
of men sitting in hall. At times the famous queen, she 
who estabHshes peace among the peoples, moved, 
throughout the hall, encouraged the yoimg men; 



8o THE SONG 

often she gave a ring to a warrior ere she went to 
her seat. At times Hrothgar's daughter bore the ale- 
flagon before the veterans, to the earls in the high 
places; then I heard men sitting in haU name 
Freawaru, where she bestowed the nail-studded 
vessel on the heroes; she, young, gold-adorned, 
is promised to the gracious son of Froda. The 
friend of the Scyldings, the ruler of the realm has 
brought that about, and counts it a gain that he 
should settle with the woman a part of his deadly 
feuds and struggles. It is always a rare thing, when a 
little while after the fall of the prince the murderous 
spear sinks to rest, even though the bride is of worth. 

She. young, gold-adorned. Beowulf foretells here the feud 
between Hrothgar and his son-in-law Ingeld, the Heathobard. 
A previous quarrel between the Danes and the Heathobards, 
in which Ingeld's father, Froda, had been killed, has been 
ended by Hrothgar's daughter marrying Ingeld. But some 
young Dane, Beowulf foresees, will proudly wear in Ingeld's 
hall treasures won from the Heathobards in the former fight. 
Some old unforgiving warrior will urge Ingeld to revenge 
such insult; the young Dane will be killed, and the feud 
will break out again. 

Son of Froda. Froda, prince of the Heathobards, is killed 
in fight against the Danes. To heal the feud Hrothgar gives 
his daughter Freawaru in marriage to Froda's son, Ingeld, 
■who for a space forgets his father's death. Incited by 
an old warrior. Ingeld attacks the Danes. This renewal of 
the feud is referred to in Section ii., and also in the Old 
English poem, Widsith. 



OF BEOWULF 8i 



XXX 

"That may rankle with the prince of the Heatho- 
bards and each thane among the people, when he 
goes in hall with the bride, that a noble scion of the 
Danes should tend the warriors. On him gleams the 
armour of his forefathers, hard and ringmarked, 
the treasure of the Heathobards, whilst they were able 
to wield those weapons, until they led their dear 
comrades and themselves to ruin at the shield-play. 

" Then an old spear- warrior who gazes on the trea- 
sure, who bears in mind all the slaughter of men, 
speaks at the beer-drinking — grim is his heart — he 
begins in mournful mood to test the thoughts of the 
young warrior by the musings of his mind, to stir up 
evil strife — and he utters these words: 

" ' Canst thou, my friend, recognise the sword, the 
precious blade, thy father bore to battle, where the 
Danes slew him when under his helmet for the last 
time; the bold Scyldings held the field when 
Withergyld lay low, after the fall of heroes. Now 
some youth or other of those murderers exulting in 
his adornments walks here in the hall; boasts of 
the slaughter and wears the treasure, which thou 
shouldst rightfully own.' 

"Thus at all times he admonishes and stirs up 
memories with baneful words till the season comes 
when the bride's thane slumbers, stained with blood 

F 



82 THE SONG 

after the sword-stroke, his life forfeited because of 
her father's deeds. The other escapes with his Ufe, 
he knows the country well. Then on both sides are 
broken the solemn oaths of earls. Afterwards deadly 
hatreds surge up against Ingeld, and his love for his 
wife grows cooler from his anguish of mind. Where- 
fore I look not for the good-will of the Heathobards, 
nor for much loyalty, void of malice, to the Danes, 
nor firm friendship. 

" I shall speak on once again about Grendel, that 
thou, the giver of treasure, mayest know well what 
was later the issue of the hand-struggle of heroes. 

" After the jewel of the sky glided over the fields, 
the monster came raging, the dread night -foe, to 
seek us out, where safe and sound we held the hall. 
There was war fatal to Hondscioh, a violent death 
to the doomed man. He was the first to fall, the girded 
warrior. Grendel devoured him, the famous Hege- 
man; he swallowed the whole body of the loved 
man. Nevertheless the bloody-toothed slayer, his 
thought set on evil, was not minded to go out again 
from the gold-hall, empty-handed; but, strong in 
his might, he pitted himself against me, laid hold 
with ready hand. A pouch himg wide and wondrous, 
made firm with artful clasps; it was all cunningly 
devised by the power of the devil and with dragon 
I skins. He, the savage worker of deeds, purposed 
I to put me into it, though guiltless, with many 
'others: it could not come to pass thus when I 
stood upright in my wrath. 



OF BEOWULF 83 

" It is too long to tell how I gave requital to the 
people's foe for every ill deed. There, my prince, did 
I bring honour on thy people by my deeds. He escaped 
forth; for a short space he enjoyed the pleasures of 
life; yet his right hand remained in Heorot for a 
token of him; and he, departing thence wretched, 
sank down, sad in mind, to the bottom of the mere. 

" When morning came and we had sat down to the 
banquet, the friend of the Scyldings rewarded me 
richly for the deadly onslaught with beaten gold, 
with many treasures. There was singing and merri- 
ment. An aged Scylding of great experience told 
tales of long ago. At times one bold in battle drew 
sweetness from the harp, the joy- wood; at times 
wrought a measure true and sad; at times the large- 
hearted king told a wondrous story in fitting fashion. 
At times again an old warrior bowed down with age 
began to speak to the youths of prowess in fight; 
his heart swelled within him, when, old in years, he 
brought to mind many things. 

" Thus we took our pleasure there the livelong day, 
till another night came to men. Then forthwith again 
Grendel's mother was ready to avenge her grief; 
sorrowful, she journeyed. Death, the hostility of the 
Weders, had carried off her son. The monstrous 
woman avenged her child, she slew a warrior in her 
might. There life went out from ^Eschere, a wise 
councillor through many years Nor, when morning 
came, might they, the men of the Danes, consume 
with fire him who had been made powerless by death; 



84 THE SONG 

nor lay the loved man on the pyre. She bore off that 
body in a fiend's embrace under the mountain stream. 
That was to Hrothgar the heaviest of the sorrows, 
which for a long while had laid hold on the prince 
of the people. Then the prince, lamenting, entreated 
me by thy life, that, in the press of the floods, I 
should perform a deed of prowess, should hazard my 
life, should achieve an heroic exploit. He promised 
me reward. Then I found the grim, terrible guardian 
of the depths of the surging water, who is known far 
and wide. There for a space was hand-to-hand 
grappling; the water welled with blood, and in that 
hall in the depths I cut off the head of Grendel's 
mother with a gigantic sword; with violence I tore 
her life from her; I was not yet doomed to death, 
but the protector of earls, the son of Healfdene, 
gave me again many a treasure. 



XXXI 

"Thus did the king of the people live as was fitting; 
in no way did I lose the rewards, the guerdon of my 
strength; but he, the son of Healfdene, gave me 
treasures into my own keeping. Them I will bring 
and gladly proffer to thee, king of warriors. Once 
more all favours come from thee. I have few close 
kinsmen save thee, Hygelac." 



OF BEOWULF 85 

Then he commanded to be brought in the boar- 
image, the banner, the helmet riding high in battle, 
the grey corslet, the splendid war-sword. Afterwards 
he spoke a measure: 

"Hrothgar, the wise prince, gave me this battle 
garment ; he expressly bade that I should first declare 
his good- will to thee. He said that king Heorogar, 
prince of the Scyldings, had it, the breast-armour, 
for a long space; that nevertheless he would not 
give it to his son, the bold Heoroweard, though he 
was loyal to him. Use all things well." 

I heard that four horses, reddish yellow, every 
whit alike, came next in order; he gave him posses- 
sion of steeds and stores; thus must a kinsman do, 
and not weave a cunning net for another, prepare 
death for a comrade with secret guile. To Hygelac, 
stout in fight, his nephew was very loyal, and each 
was mindful of the other's pleasure. 

I heard that he presented to Hygd that neck-band, 
the precious, wondrous treasure, which Wealtheow, 
the prince's daughter, gave him, together with three 
steeds full of grace and furnished with gleaming 
saddles. When she had taken the ring her breast 
was made fair. 

Thus the son of Ecgtheow, a man famous in battle, 
was bold in brave deeds; he lived honourably; never 
did he slay his hearth-companions in his drunken- 
ness; his was not a savage mind, but, fearless in 
fight, he guarded the precious gift which God had 
given him with the greatest strength among men. 



86 THE SONG 

Long was he despised, for the men of the Geats 
accounted him worthless; nor was the lord of troops 
minded to do him much honour on the mead-bench; 
they thought indeed that he was slothful, an unfit 
chieftain. A recompense came to the famous man for 
every slight. 

Then the protector of earls, the king mighty in 
battle, bade them bring in the sword of Hrethel, 
decked \vith gold; there was not at that time with 
the Geats a better treasure among swords; he laid 
that in Beowulf's bosom, and gave him seven thou- 
sand measures of land, a house and princely rank. 
To them both in that country land, domain, ancestral 
claims, had come by natural right, but more to 
Hygelac, a wide realm, in that he was the more 
illustrious. 

^ That came to pass in later days among the warriors, 
when Hygelac was laid low and battle-swords slew 
Heardred imder cover of his shield, after the bold 
battle-heroes, the warlike Scylfings, sought him mid 
his victorious troop, pressed hard in fight the nephew 
of Hereric. After\vards the wdde realm came under 
Beowulf's sway; well did he rule for fifty years. He 
was then an aged king, an old guardian of the land, 
till a dragon which guarded treasure in a burial 
mound, a steep rock, began to show his might on the 
dark nights. A pathway lay beneath, unknown to 
men; some man entered there, greedily seized the 

The warlike Scylfings. The Scylfings are the Swedes who 
lived just north of the Geats. 



OF BEOWULF 87 

pagan hoard . . . tricked the keeper of the treasure 
with thievish cunning while he slept ... so that 
he was enraged. 



XXXII 

He who did himself sore hurt did not violate the 
dragon's hoard eagerly of his own free wiU; but 
some thane of the sons of heroes was fleeing in great 
distress from hostile blows, and pressed down by 
his guUt, lacking a shelter, the man took hiding 
there. Straightway he looked in . . . dread of the 
monster lay upon him, yet in his misery . . . then 
the sudden attack seized him. . . . 

There were in the cave many such cmcient treasures, 
which in days gone by some men carefully hid there, 
great relics of a noble race, precious store. 

Death took them aU off in past times, and still 
that one veteran of the people who tarried there 
longest, a watchman wearying for his friends, looked 
toward the Hke fate, that but for a short space he 
might have sway over the long-gathered treasures. 
The barrow stood all ready on open ground, hard by 
the waves, newly-raised near the headland, strong 
in artful barriers. Therein the guardian of the rings 
bore the precious heap of the treasures of earls, of 
beaten gold. Few words he spoke. 



88 THE SONG 

" Now, earth, do thou hold, now that heroes cannot, 
the wealth of earls! Lo! valiant men erstwhile took 
it from thee. Death in war, a sweeping slaughter, 
took off each of the men, each of my people, who gave 
up this life; they had seen joy in hall. I have no one 
who can wield the sword or polish the golden vessel, 
the precious flagon; the old warriors have departed. 
The stout helmet adorned with gold must be reft of 
its beaten plates. The polishers slumber who should 
make splendid the battle-masks; and the corslet 
likewise, which endured the stroke of swords in war 
mid the cracking of shields, follows the warrior to 
decay. The coat of mail cannot journey afar by the 
side of heroes after the passing of the warrior. There 
is no joy of the harp, delight of the timbrel, nor does 
the good hawk sweep through the hall, nor the swift 
steed stamp in the court. Violent death has caused 
to pass many generations of men." 

Thus, sad in mind, the latest left of all lamented his 
sorrow; day and night he wept joyless, till the surge 
of death touched his heart. The old twilight-foe, the 
naked hostile dragon, who seeks out barrows, flaming 
as he goes, who flies by night compassed with fire, 
found the costly treasure. Him the dwellers in the 
land greatly fear. He must needs seek the hoard in 
the earth, where, old in years, he holds possession of 
the pagan gold; nor shall he profit one whit by that. 
- Thus did the people's foe guard that mighty 
treasure-house in the earth for three hundred years, 
till a man angered him in mind. He bore the plated 



OF BEOWULF 89 

goblet to his master, begged his lord for protection. 
Then the treasure was found, the hoard of rings was 
lessened; the boon was granted to the unhappy man. 
For the first time the prince beheld the ancient work 
of men. 

Then the dragon awoke, wrath was rekindled; he 
sprang along the rock ; brave in heart, he came upon 
the enemy's foot-track; he had stepped with stealthy 
craft near the dragon's head. Thus may a man, not 
destined to fall, who relies on the Almighty's protec- 
tion, easily survive sorrow and exile. 

The treasure-guardian, sore and savage in mind, 
made eager search along the ground; was set on 
finding the man, him who had done him scathe while 
he slept; often he made a whole circuit of the mound 
outside. There was no man in that waste place. Yet 
he was keen for the conflict, the work of war; at 
times he turned to the barrow, sought the treasure. 
Forthwith he found that some man had ransacked 
the gold, the rich stores. With difficulty did the 
treasure-guardian delay till evening came; then 
wrathful was the warden of the barrow, the foul 
creature was determined to avenge with fire the 
precious flagon. 

Then day had departed, as the dragon desired; no 
longer woidd he wait on the wall, but went forth with 
fire, furnished with flame. The first onslaught was 
terrifying to the people in the land, even as it was 
speedily ended with sorrow for their giver of treasure. 

Then the monster began to belch forth flames, to 



90 THE SONG 

bum the bright dwellings. The flare of the fire 
brought fear upon men. The loathly air-flier wished 
not to leave aught living there. The warring of the 
dragon was widely seen, the onslaught of the cruel 
foe far and near, how the enemy of the people of the 
Geats wrought despite and devastation. He hastened 
back to the hoard, to his hidden haU ere it was day. 
He had compassed the dwellers in the land with fire, 
with flames and with burning; he trusted in the 
barrow, in bravery and the rampart. His hope 
deceived him. 



xxxni 

Then quickly the terror was made known to Beowulf 
according to the truth, that his own abode, the best 
of buildings, the gift-throne of the Geats, was melting 
in the surges of flame. That was sorrow to the good 
man's soul, greatest of griefs to the heart. The wise 
man thought that, breaking estabUshed law, he had 
bitterly angered God, the Lord everlasting. His 
breast was troubled within by dark thoughts, as 
was not his wont. 

The fire-dragon had destroyed with flames the 
stronghold of his subjects, the land by the sea from 
without, the country-side. The warlike king, the 
prince of the Weders, gave him requital for that. 
Then the protector of warriors, the lord of earls, 



OF BEOWULF 91 

bade an iron shield, a splendid war-targe, to be 
wrought for him. Full well he knew that wood could 
not help him ; linden wood against fire. The chieftain 
long famous was fated to endure the end of fleeting 
days, of life in the world, and the dragon with him, 
though for long space he had held the treasure-store. 

Then the prince of rings scorned to seek the far- 
flier with a troop of men, with a great host. He feared 
not the fight, nor did he accoimt as aught the valour 
of the dragon, his power and prowess; because ere 
this, defying danger, he had come through many 
onslaughts, wild attacks, when he, the man of vic- 
tory, purged Hrothgar's hall, and in war killed with 
his grip the kin of Grendel, the hateful race. 

That was not the most paltry of hand-to-hand 
struggles, where they slew Hygelac, when the king 
of the Geats, the friendly prince of the peoples, the 
son of Hrethel, died in the rushes of battle in the 
land of the Frisians, his blood shed by the sword, 
beaten down by the brand. Beowulf came thence by 
his own strength ; swam over the sea. Alone he held 
on his arm thirty suits of armoiu" when he set out on 
the sea. The Hetware, who bore the linden shields 
forward against him, had no cause to boast of the 
battle on foot. Few escaped from that battle-hero to 
seek their home. The son of Ecgtheow swam over 
the stretch of the gulfs, the hapless solitary man 

That was not the most paltry. This expedition of Hygelac 
was historical and occurred between 512 and 520 a.d. The 
scene of the fighting was the Netherlands. 



92 THE SONG 

back to his people, where Hygd tendered him treasure 
and kingdom, rings and the throne; she did not 
trust her son, that he could hold his fatherland 
against hostile hosts, now that Hygelac was dead. 

Yet the unhappy men could in no way win the 
chieftain's consent that he would be lord over 
Heardred, or that he would elect to rule the realm. 
Nevertheless he upheld him among the people with 
friendly counsel, graciously with support, until 
Heardred grew older; he ruled the Weder-Geats. 
Exiles, the sons of Ohtere, sought him over the sea. 
They had risen against the protector of the Scylfings, 
the best of sea-kings who gave out treasure in Sweden, 
a famous prince. That ended his life. Deadly wounds 
from sword-slashes he, the son of Hygelac, gained 
there for his hospitality; and the son of Ongentheow 
departed again to seek his home when Heardred was 
laid low; he let Beowulf hold the throne, rule over 
the Geats. That was a good king. 

Sought him over the sea. Eanmund and Eadgils rebel against 
their uncle Onela, King of Sweden; and flee to the Geats, 
where Heardred shelters them. Onela follows with an army, 
attacks and kills Heardred. It is in this battle that Weohstan 
kills Eanmund (Section xxxvi.). Onela returns to Sweden, 
leaving Beowulf undisturbed as Heardred's successor. Later 
Beowulf befriends Eadgils, who, after conquering and kilhng 
Onela, becomes King of Sweden. 



OF BEOWULF ^ 93 



XXXIV 

In after days he forgot not requital for the prince's 
fall; he became a friend to the wretched Eadgils. 
He aided the son of Ohtere overseas with a troop, 
with warriors and weapons. He took vengeance 
afterwards with cold, sad marches; he deprived the 
king of life. 

Thus he, the son of Ecgtheow, had survived every 
onslaught, dread battles, mighty ventures, until that 
day when he was to encounter the dragon. The lord 
of the Geats went then with eleven others, raging 
with anger, to behold the dragon. He had heard then 
whence the feud arose, the hostility of warriors; the 
famous costly vessel came into his possession through 
the hand of the finder. 

He who brought about the beginning of that strife, 
fettered, sad in mind, was the thirteenth man in the 
troop; he was forced, though in misery, to show the 
way. He went against his will, till he could, spy that 
cave, the barrow under the ground, hard by the surge 
of the waters, the struggle of the waves. Within it 
was full of jewels and v^ire ornaments. The monstrous 
guardian, the ready fighter, grown old beneath the 
earth, held the treasures. That was no easy matter 
for any man to enter there. 

The king, mighty in onslaught, sat down then on 
the headland; whilst the gold-friend of the Geats 



94 ^ THE SONG 

wished good fortune to his hearth-companions. His 
mind was sad, restless, brooding on death. Fate 
exceeding near which was destined to come on the 
old man, to seek the treasure of his soul, to part 
asunder life from the body. Not for long after that 
was the chieftain's spirit clothed in flesh. 

Beowulf spoke, son of Ecgtheow: "In my youth 
I came through many rushes of war, times of combat. 
I remember all that. I was seven years old when the 
prince of treasures, the friendly ruler of the peoples, 
took me from my father; King Hrethel brought me 
up and fostered me, bestowed on me treasure and 
banqueting, bore in mind our kinship; in his life 
I was no less loved by him, a child in the court, than 
any of his children, Herebeald and Haethcyn, or my 
Hygelac. For the eldest a bed of death was made 
ready by deeds not fit for a kinsman, when Haethcyn 
smote him with curved bow, his friendly prince with 
an arrow; he missed his mark and shot his kinsman, 
one brother the other with bloody shaft. That was 
a violent deed not to be atoned for by gifts, cunningly- 
wrought, weighing sore on the heart. Yet in spite 
of that the chieftain must needs pass from life 
unavenged. 

" Thus it is sad for an aged man to endure, that 
his son in his youth should swing from the gallows. 
Then he makes a measure, a song of sorrow, when 
his son hangs, a delight for the raven, and he, aged 
and full of years, can in no way bring him help. He 
is ever reminded each morning of his son's death; he 



OF BEOWULF 95 

cares not to awciit the birth of another son in his 
court after the one has made acquaintance with evil 
deeds by the agony of death. Sorrowful he gazes on 
his son's room, the deserted wine-hall, a resting- 
place for the winds, reft of noise. The horsemen 
slumber, the heroes in their graves; there is no 
music of the harp, joy in the palace, as there 
was of yore." 



XXXV 

"He goes then to his sleeping-place, sings a song of 
sorrow, one man for another; his lands and dwelling 
seemed all too spacious for him. Thus did the pro- 
tector of the Weders bear siurging sorrow in his heart 
for Herebeald; he could no whit avenge the mur- 
derous deed on the slayer. Nor could he work hurt 
to the warrior, though he was not dear to him. Then 
with that grief which came sorely upon him, he 
forsook joy of men, chose God's light; left to his 
sons, as a worthy man does, land and cities, when he 
/ departed from life. 

/ " Then guilt and strife came to be the portion of 
Swedes and Geats over the wide water, a bitter hos- 
tihty after Hrethel died, and Ongentheow's sons 
were brave and bold in fight. They did not wish to 

Swedes and Geats. For the wars of Swedes and Geats 
see Section xl. 



96 THE SONG 

keep up friendship across the sea, but often they 
cunningly contrived dread slaughter near Hreos- 
naburh. That did my friendly kinsmen avenge, the 
feud and the outrage, as was well known, though one 
of them paid for it at a dear price with his life. To 
Hsethcyn, lord of the Geats, war proved fatal. Then 
I heard that in the morning one brother avenged the 
other on the slayer with the sword-edge. There 
Ongentheow seeks out Eofor. The war-helmet was 
shattered, the aged Scylfing fell mortally stricken; 
the hand forgot not the feud; it drew not back from 
the deadly blow. 

"With gleaming sword I repaid in war, as chance 
was given me, the treasures he bestowed on me. He 
gave me land, domain, an ancestral seat. There was i 
no need for him to seek among the Gepidae, or the ! 
Spear-Danes, or in the kingdom of the Swedes for " 
less worthy warriors, to buy them with treasure. 
Ever I wished to be before him on foot, alone in 
the van, and so shall I do battle while my life lasts, 
while this sword endures that early and late has 
often followed me. Afterwards I slew Daeghrefn, 
the champion of the Hugas, in the presence of the ' 
veterans. He was not able at all to bring adornmentsl \\ 
breast ornaments, to the king of the Frisians, but] 
the keeper of the banner, the chieftain in his might-i 
fell amid the warriors. The sword was not the slayer, I 
but my battle-grip crushed the surges of his heart 
and his body. Now the edge of the sword, the hand 
and the keen blade, shall wage war for the treasure." 



OF BEOWULF 97 

Beowulf spoke, he uttered pledges for the last 
time : " In my youth I passed through many battles ; 
yet I, aged protector of the people, wish to seek the 
fight, to achieve the heroic deed, if the foul foe comes 
out of his cave to face me." 

Then for the last time he greeted each of the men, 
brave bearers of helmets, dear comrades: " I was not 
minded to bear a sword, a weapon against the dragon, 
if I knew how else I could make good my boast against 
the monster, as erstwhile I did against Grendel; but 
here I expect hot battle-flame, a blast of breath, and 
poison. Wherefore I bear shield and corslet. I will 
not give back the space of a foot before the keeper of 
the barrow, but the fight shall be between us at the 
wall, as Fate, the master of every man, shall decide 
for us. I am brave in mind, so that I can keep from 
boasting against the winged fighter. Do ye, clad in 
corslets, warriors in battle-array, bide on the barrow 
to see which of us two can better survive wounds 
after the deadly onslaught. This is not your venture, 
nor is it in any man's power, except mine alone, to 
strive with his strength against the monster, to 
perform heroic deeds. With my might I shall gain 
the gold; or war, a perilous violent death, shall carry 
off your prince." 

Then by his shield the strong warrior arose, stem 
under his helmet; he bore the battle-corslet under 
the rocky cliffs; he trusted in the strength of a single 
man. Such is no coward's ventiue. 

Then he, excellent in virtues, who had survived 

G 



98 THE SONG 

very many combats, wild attacks, when foot-warriors 
crashed together, saw a stone arch standing by the 
wall, a stream gushing out thence from the barrow. 
The surge of the spring was hot with battle-fires ; by 
reason of the dragon's flame he could not endure for 
any time vmbumt the recess near the treasure. The 
prince of the Weder-Geats, when he was angered, 
let a word go out from his breast ; the strong-hearted 
man was wrathful; his voice loud in battle went in 
resounding under the grey stone. 

Hate was roused, the treasure-guardian heard the 
speech of a man; there was no longer time to seek 
friendship; first the monster's breath, hot sweat of 
battle, issued out from the stone ; the earth resounded. 
The warrior, lord of the Geats, swung his shield under 
the barrow against the dread creature. Then the 
heart of the coiling dragon was ready to seek strife. 
The valiant warlike king first brandished the sword, 
the ancient blade, not dull in its edges. Each of the 
two hostile-minded ones felt fear of the other. The 
ruler of friends stood staunchly against his high 
shield, when the dragon quickly coiled together; he 
waited in his war-gear. Then striding amid flames, 
contorted he went, hastening to his fate. The shield 
guarded life and body well for the famous prince less 
time than he wished. There then for the first time he 
had to show his strength without Fate allotting him 
fame in battle. The lord of the Geats raised up his 
hand, he struck the dread gleaming monster with the 
precious sword, so that the bright edge turned on the 



OF BEOWULF 99 

bone ; it bit less keenly than its king, hard pressed by 
trouble, had need. Then after the battle-stroke the 
guardian of the treasure was in savage mood; he 
cast forth deadly fire; far leaped the war-flames. 
The gold-friend of the Geats boasted not of famous 
victories; the naked battle-blade failed at need, as 
it should not have done, the long-famous brand. 
That was no easy step for the famous son of Ecgtheow 
to consent to yield that ground; against his will he 
must needs inhabit a dwelling elsewhere; thus must 
every man forsake fleeting days. 

It was not long till the fighters closed again. The 
treasure - guardian took heart anew. His breast 
laboured with breathing. He who before held sway 
over the people suffered anguish, ringed round with 
fire. 

No whit did his comrades, sons of chieftains, stand 
him in a band with valour, but they took to the wood, 
they hid for their lives. In one of them the mind 
was roused to face sorrows. In him who well considers 
nothing can ever stifle kinship. 



XXXVI 

He wa^ called Wiglaf, son of Weohstan, a valued 
shield-warrior, prince of the Scylfings, kinsman of 
iElfhere; he saw his lord suffering the heat under 
his war-helm. Then he called to mind the favour 



100 THE ^ONG 

which formerly he had bestowed on him, the rich 
dwelling-place of the Wsegmundings, all the rights 
his father possessed. He could not then hold back; 
his hand seized the shield, the yellow linden wood, 
drew the ancient sword, that was among men a relic 
of Eanmund, son of Ohtere. Weohstan slew him in 
battle with the edge of the sword, a friendless exile, 
and bore off from his kin the bright gleaming helm, 
the ringed corslet, the gigantic old sword that Onela 
gave him, his kinsman's war-trappings, ready battle- 
equipment. He spoke not of the feud, though he had 
killed his brother's child. Many years he held the 
adornments, brand and corslet until his son could 
achieve mighty deeds like his old father. Then when 
he departed from life, old in his passing hence, he 
gave among the Geats an exceeding number of 
battle-garments. 

That was the first time that the yoimg warrior was 
to stand the rush of battle with his prince. His spirit 
did not weaken, nor did his kinsman's relic fail in 
the fight. The dragon discovered that when they had 
come together. Wiglaf spoke, uttered many fitting 
words to his comrades; his mind was sad: "I 
remember that time when we were drinking mead, 
when in the beer-hall we promised our lord who gave 
us these rings, that we would requite him for the war- 
gear, the helms and sharp swords, if need such as this 
came upon him. He chose us among the host of his 
own will for this venture, he reminded us of famous 
deeds and gave me these treasmres, the more because 



OF BEOWULF loi 

he counted us good spear-warriors, bold bearers of 
helmets, though our lord, the protector of the people, 
purposed to achieve this mighty task unaided, 
because among men he had wrought most famous 
deeds, daring ventures. Now the day has come 
when our lord needs the strength of valiant warriors. 
Let us go to help our warlike prince, while the fierce 
dread flame yet flares. God knows that, as for me, 
I had much rather the flame should embrace my body 
with my gold-giver. It does not seem fitting to me, 
that we should bear shields back to our dwelling, if 
we cannot first fell the foe, guard the life of the 
prince of the Weders. I know well that, from his 
former deeds, he deserves not to suffer affliction alone 
among the warriors of the Geats, to fall in fight; 
sword and helmet, corslet and shirt of mail shall be 
shared by us both." 

He went then through the deadly reek, bore his 
helmet to the aid of the prince, few words he spoke: 
" Dear Beowulf, achieve all things well, as thou saidst 
long ago in thy youth, that thou wouldst not let thy 
repute fail, while Ufe lasted; now, resolute chieftain, 
mighty in deeds, thou must guard thy life with all 
thy strength; I will help thee." 

After these words the dragon came raging once 
more, the dread evil creature, flashing with surges 
of flame, to seek out his foes, the hated men. The 
shield was burnt away to the rim by waves of fire. 
The corslet could not give help to the young shield- 
warrior; but the youth fought mightily beneath his 



102 THE SONG 

kinsman's buckler, when his own was consumed by 
the flames. Then again the wariike king was mindful 
of fame ; he struck with his battle-sword with mighty 
strength, so that, urged by the force of hate, it stuck 
in his head. Naegling burst apart; Beowulf's sword, 
ancient and grey, failed in fight. It was not granted 
to him that the edges of swords might aid him in the 
struggle, when he bore to battle the weapon hardened 
by blood of wounds ; his hand was too strong, he who, 
as I have heard, tried every sword beyond its strength. 
He was in evil plight. 

Then for the third time the enemy of the people, 
the bold fire-dragon, was mindful of fighting; he 
rushed on the mighty man, when a chance offered, 
hot and fierce in fight; he clutched his whole neck 
with sharp teeth ; Beowulf grew stained with his life- 
blood; the gore weUed out in surges. 



XXXVH 

Then I heard that, in the peril of the people's prince, 
the exalted earl showed courage, strength and daring, 
as was his nature. He guarded not his head, but the 
brave man's hand burned when he helped his kinsman, 
so that he, the man in his armour, beat down a httle 
the hostile creature ; and the sword sank in, gleaming 
and plated ; and the fire after began to abate. Then 



OF BEOWULF 103 

once more the king himself was master of his thoughts; 
he brandished the battle-knife, keen and sharp for 
the fray, which he wore on his corslet ; the protector 
of the Weders cut through the dragon in the midst. 
They feUed the foe; force drove out his life; and 
then they both had slain him, the noble kinsman. 
Such should a man be, a thane in time of need. 

That was the last victory for the prince by his own 
deeds, the end of his work in the world. Then the 
wound which erstwhile the earth-dragon dealt him 
began to bum and swell. He found forthwith that 
the poison was working with pestilent force within 
his breast. Then the chieftain went till, taking wise 
thought, he sat down on a seat by the wall ; he gazed 
on the work of giants, saw how the eternal earth- 
building held within stone arches, firm fixed by 
pillars. Then with his hands the exceeding good 
thane bathed him with water, the blood-stained 
famous prince, his friendly lord, wearied with battle ; 
and loosed his helm. 

Beowulf spoke, he talked of his wound, of the hurt 
sore imto death; he knew well that he had ended 
his days, his joy on earth. Then all his length of days 
was passed away, death was exceeding close: "Now 
I would give armour to my son, if it had been so 
granted that any heir, spnmg from my body, should 
succeed me. I have ruled this people for fifty years. 
There was no people's king among the nations about 
who durst come against me with swords, or oppress 
me with dread. I have lived the appointed span in 



104 THE SONG 

my land, guarded well my portion, contrived no 
crafty attacks, nor sworn many oaths unjustly. 
Stricken with mortal wounds, I can rejoice in aU 
this; wherefore the Ruler of men has no cause to 
blame me with the slaughter of kinsmen, when my 
life passes out from my body. Now, dear Wiglaf, do 
thou go quickly to behold the hoard under the grey 
stone, now that the dragon lies low, sleeps sorely 
wounded, spoiled of the treasure. Haste now that I 
may see the old riches, the golden treasure, may 
eagerly gaze on the bright gems of artful work, so 
that after winning the great store of jewels, I may 
the more easily leave life and land, which long I 
have guarded." 



xxxvni 

Then I heard that the son of Weohstan after the 
speeches quickly obeyed his wounded lord, stricken 
in battle, bore his ringed corslet, his woven shirt of 
mail, under the roof of the barrow. Then, exulting 
in victory, the brave kinsman-thane, as he went by 
the seat, beheld many costly ornaments, gold gleam- 
ing along the ground, wondrous work on the waU, 
and the lair of the dragon, the old flier at twiMght; 
vessels standing, goblets of olden time, lacking a 
furbisher, reft of their ornaments. There was many 



OF BEOWULF 105 

a helm, ancient and rusty, many bracelets cunningly 
bound. Treasure, gold on the ground, may easily 
madden any man; conceal it who will! 

Likewise he saw a banner all gilt lying high above 
the hoard, greatest of wonders wrought by hand, 
cunningly woven in stitches. A gleam shone forth 
from it so that he might see the floor, behold the 
jewels. There was no trace of the dragon there, for 
the sword had carried him off. Then I heard that 
one man rifled the hoard, the old work of giants in 
the mound, laid in his bosom flagons and dishes at 
his own wiU; took also the banner, brightest of 
beacons. The sword of the old chieftain — its edge 
was iron — had earlier laid low him who long while 
was guardian of the treasures; he bore with him 
to guard the treasure a dread hot flame, blazing out 
in battle at midnight, till violently he perished. The 
messenger was in haste, eager to retmn, urged on by 
the treasures. Desire was strong on him to know 
whether he, the courageous one, should find the 
mortally-wounded prince of the Weders alive in that 
place where erstwhile he left him. 

Then with the treasures he found the famous 
prince, his lord bleeding, at the end of his life. 
Again he began to dash water upon him, until the 
beginning of a word escaped from his breast-hoard. 
Then the warrior spoke, the aged man in his pain; 
he gazed on the gold. 

" I give thanks in words to the Prince, the King of 
glory, the eternal Lord for all the adornments which 



io6 THE SONG 

I behold here, that I have been able to win such for 
my people before my death-day. Now have I sold 
my old life for the hoard of treasures; attend ye 
now to the need of my people. No longer may I 
tarry here. Bid the men famed in battle raise at 
the sea-headland a gleaming moimd after the burning. 
It shall tower high on Hronesness, a reminder to my 
people, so that sea-farers may afterwards call it 
Beowulf's barrow when from afar the ships drive 
over the dark sea." 

The prince of brave mind took from his neck a 
golden ring, gave to the thane, the young spear- 
warrior, his helm bright with gold, his ring and 
corslet; bade him use them well: "Thou art the 
last of our race, of the Waegmundings. Fate has 
swept all my kinsmen away to their destiny, earls 
in their might; I must needs follow them." 

That was the last word from the old man's thoughts, 
before he sought the pyre, the hot, fierce surges of 
flame. His soul passed from his breast to seek the 
splendour of the saints. 



XXXIX 

Then was it sorrow for the young man to see on 
the earth the man he loved best, his life closed, lying 
there helpless. The slayer also lay low, the dread 
earth-dragon, reft of hfe, vanquished by violence. 



OF BEOWULF 107 

No longer could the coiled dragon keep guard over 
the treasure-stores, but iron blades, sharp battle- 
notched swords, forged by hammers, had carried 
him off, so that the wide-flier sank to the ground 
near the treasure-house, still from his wounds. No 
more did he wheel in his flight through the air at r . 
midnight, no more made his appearance exulting in y 
costly possessions; but he fell to the earth because f 
of the warrior's handiwork. Few of a truth among 
men, among those of might in the land, as I have 
heard, though they were eager for all exploits, have 
succeeded in rushing against the blast of the venomous 
foe, or seizing with hands the hall of rings, if they 
found the guardian on watch dwelling in the barrow, 
Beowulf had paid with his death for the many costly 
treasures; each had gone to the end of fleeting life. 

It was not long then till the cowards left the wood, 
weak failers in loyalty, the ten together, who durst 
not before wield spears in their lord's great need; 
but shamefully they bore their shields, the war-gear, 
where the old man lay; they looked at Wiglaf. 
He, the foot-warrior, sat wearied, hard by the 
prince's shoulders, tried to recall him with water. 
No whit did he succeed; he could not, though dearly 
he wished, keep life in the prince on earth; nor alter 
the will of the Almighty. The might of God was 
pleased to show its power over all men by its deeds, 
as He yet does now. 

Then a grim speech came readily from the youth to 
those who erstwhile had lost their courage. Wiglaf 



io8 THE SONG 

spoke, son of Weohstan, a man sad at heart; he 
looked at the hated men: "Lo! he, who wishes to 
tell the truth, can say that the lord who gave you 
treasures, warlike adornments, wherein ye stand there, 
when on the ale-bench he often bestowed on men sit- 
ting in hall, a prince to his thanes, helmet and corslet, 
the most excellent he could anywhere find far or near, 
that doubtless he miserably cast away the garments 
of war, when battle beset him. The people's king 
had indeed no cause to boast of his comrades in 
fight; yet God, the Disposer of victories, granted 
that he alone with his sword avenged himself, when 
he had need of might. Small protection to his life 
could I afford him in the fight, and yet I tried to aid 
my kinsman beyond my power. When with the 
sword I smote the deadly foe, he grew ever weaker, 
his fire surged out less strongly from his breast. Too 
few protectors pressed round the prince, when the 
time came upon him. Now the receiving of jewels, 
giving of swords, all the splendid heritage, and life's 
necessities, shall pass away from your race. Every 
man of the people shall wander, stripped of his rights 
in the land, when chieftains from afar hear of your 
flight, the inglorious act. Death is better for all 
earls than a shameful life." 



OF BEOWULF 109 



XL 

He bade then the battle be proclaimed in the en- 
trenchment, up over the sea-cliff, where that troop 
of earls, bearing their shields, sat sad in mind the 
whole morning, expecting both issues, the death and 
the return of the loved man. He who rode on the 
headland held back little of the late tidings, but 
truthfully he told them all: 

" Now is the giver of delights among the people of 
the Weders, the lord of the Geats, fast in his death- 
bed, he bides in his slaughterous couch by the deeds 
of the dragon. By his side lies the deadly foe stricken 
with knife wounds; he could not in any way deal a 
wound to the monster with a sword. Wiglaf, son of 
Weohstan, sits over Beowulf, the earl over the other 
lifeless one; reverently he keeps watch over friend 
and foe. 

"Now there is prospect of a time of strife for the 
people, when the fall of the king becomes widely 
known to Franks and Frisians. The harsh strife 
with the Hugas was brought about when Hygelac 
went to the land of the Frisians with a navy, 
where the Hetware laid him low in battle; they did 
mightily with their greater numbers, so that the 
corslet- warrior was forced to yield; he fell mid 
his troops; the prince gave no adornments to his 
veterans. To us ever since the good will of Mere- 
woing has been denied. 



/ 



no THE SONG 

"Nor do I expect any peace or good faith from the 
people of Sweden; for it was widely known that 
Ongentheow robbed Haethcyn, son of Hrethel, of 
life near Ravenswood, when the warlike Scylfings 
first sought in their pride the people of the Geats. 
Straightway the aged father of Ohtere, old and 
terrible, dealt him a blow in return, killed the sea- 
guide, the old man freed the bride, the wife reft of 
her gold, the mother of Onela and Ohtere ; and then 
he followed his deadly foes till with difficulty they 
escaped, leaderless, to Ravenswood. Then he be- 
sieged with a mighty host those who had escaped 
the sword, wearied from wounds; often through the 
livelong night he threatened the wretched band with 
misery; he said that in the morning he would do them 
hurt with the edge of the sword ; some on the gallows- 
tree for the sport of the birds. With dawn came 
relief again to the woeful, when they heard Hygelac's 
horn and the blare of the trumpet, when the vahant 
one came on the track of the warriors of the people." 

The warlike . . . Geats. The narrative of the battle is 
somewhat hard to follow. Ongentheow^, the Swedish king, 
attacks Haethcyn, king of the Geats, and slays him. The 
leaderless Geats retreat to Ravenswood, where they are 
rescued by Hygelac. Ongentheow now retires to some sort 
of fortification, where he is attacked by the Geats. He is 
assailed by the brothers Eofor and Wulf: he deals Wulf a 
heavy stroke, but Eofor strikes Ongentheow down. 



OF BEOWULF iii 



XLI 

"The blood trail of Swedes and Geats, the deadly 
attack of men, was widely noted, how the men roused 
strife between one another. Then the valiant one 
departed with his kinsmen, the old man very sad, 
to seek his stronghold. The eaii Ongentheow went 
on further; he had heard of Hygelac's skill in battle, 
of the proud man's war-strength; he relied not on 
resistance to check the sea-men, to defend treasure, 
children and wife against the sea-raiders; the aged 
man turned thence once more behind a rampart. 
Then chase was given to the men of the Swedes, the 
banner to Hygelac. Upon that they overran the 
stronghold after the people of Hrethel had pene- 
trated the fastnesses. There the grey-haired Ongen- 
theow was constrained to tarry by the edge of the 
sword, so that the people's king had to suffer the 
might of Eofor alone. Wulf, son of \\^onred, struck 
him with the sword, so that after the blow the blood 
gushed from the veins under his hair. Yet was he 
not daimted, the aged Scylfing, but quickly repaid 
that deadly stroke with a worse in exchange, as soon 
as he, the people's king, turned thither. The strong 
son of Wonred could not give a blow in return to 
the old man, for he first clove his helmet on his head, 
so that, stained with blood, he had to give back: he 
fell on the ground: he was not doomed yet, but he 



112 THE SONG 

revived, though a wound had stricken him. The 
bold thane of Hygelac, when his brother was laid 
low, caused his broad sword, old gigantic brand, to 
crash the massive helmet over the wall of shields; 
then the king sank down, the protector of the people ; 
he was stricken unto death. Then were there many 
who bound up his kinsman ; they lifted him speedily 
when space was cleared for them, so that they might 
hold possession of the battle-field. Then one warrior 
spoiled another, took from Ongentheow his iron 
corslet, his sharp hilted sword, and his helm also; 
bore the trappings of the old man to Hygelac. He 
received the adornments, and graciously promised 
him rewards amid the people, and thus did he fulfil 
it; the lord of the Geats, the son of Hrethel, when 
he came to his home, rewarded Eofor and Wulf with 
exceeding rich treasures for that onslaught; to each 
of them he gave a hundred thousand measures of 
land and twisted rings; men on earth had no cause 
to blame him for the gifts, when they fought heroi- 
cally; and then to Eofor he gave his only daughter, 
to adorn his dwelling, as a pledge of good-will. 

"That is the feud and the hostihty, the deadly 
hatred of man, which I look for, of Swedish men who 
will come upon us, when they learn that our prince 
is dead, who erstwhile guarded treasure and king- 
dom against foes, the bold Scyldings after the fall 
of heroes, did what was best for the people, and 
performed heroic deeds more and more. 

" Now haste is best, that we should gaze there upon 



OF BEOWULF 113 

the people's king, and bring him, who gave us rings, 
on his way to the pyre. No soHtary thing shall be 
consumed with the brave man, but there is store of 
treasures, untold gold dearly gained, and now, at 
the last, rings bought with his o\\ti life; the flame 
shall devour them; the earl shall not wear the 
treasures as a memorial, nor shall the fair maid bear 
on her neck the adornment of a circlet, but sad in 
mind, reft of gold, shall walk in a strange land, not 
once but oftentimes, now that the leader of the host 
has done with laughter, joy and merriment. Where- 
fore many a spear, cold in the morning, shall be 
grasped with fingers, raised aloft with hands; the 
sound of the harp shall not rouse the warriors, but 
the dark raven, ready above the fallen, shall speak 
many things, shall tell the eagle how he sped at the 
feasting, when with the wolf he spoiled the slain." 

Thus the bold man told evil tidings; he lied not at 
all in his forecasts and words. The troop all rose up, 
sadly they went under Eamanaess, with tears welling 
up, to behold the wonder. Then they found him 
hfeless on the sand, keeping his helpless couch, 
him who in former times gave them rings. Then the 
last^of days had come to the valiant one, on which 
the warhke king, the prince of the Weders, perished a 
wondrous death. First they saw there a stranger 
creatm-e, the hateful dragon lying opposite on the 
grotmd there: the fire-dragon, the grim dread 
monster, was scorched with flames; he measured 
fifty feet long as he lay; often he had taken his 

H 



114 THE SONG 

pleasure in the air at night; he had come down 
again to visit his lair; and now he was firm bound 
by death; he had taken his last deUght in the earth- 
caves. By him stood goblets and flagons, dishes lay 
there and costly swords eaten through by rust, as if 
they had remained there a thousand years in the 
earth's embrace. lAt that time that mighty heritage, 
gold of men of olden time, had a curse laid upon it, 
so that none among men might touch that ring- 
hall, unless God Himself, the true King of victories 
— He is the helper of heroes — granted to whom 
He would to lay open the hoard; even to that man 
who seemed good unto Him. 



XLH 

Then it was clear that the way of them, who had 
wrongfully hidden the jewels under the wall, had not 
prospered. Long ago the guardian slew some few; 
then the feud was fiercely revenged. It is unknown 
where an earl, mighty in valour, may come to the 
end of life, when he may no longer sit on the mead- 
bench with his kinsmen. Thus was it with Beowulf, 
when he sought out the guardian of the barrow and 
battle; he knew not himself in what way his passing 
from the world should come about. 

Thus did the famous princes, who stored that 



OF BEOWULF 115 

there, lay a heavy ban upon it till doomsday, so that 
the man who should plunder the place should be 
guilty of sins, confined in cursed places, fast in bonds 
of hell, smitten \vith plagues. He would rather not 
have beheld the gold-treasure, the owner's might. 

Wiglaf spoke, son of Weohstan: "Often must 
many an earl suffer sorrow through the will of one, 
as has come upon us. We could not counsel the dear 
prince, the protector of the kingdom, not to approach 
the guardian of the gold, but to let him lie there, 
where long he had been; bide in his dwelling tiU the 
end of the world. We have suffered sore fortune; 
the hoard is seen, grimly won ; that fate was too hard ^ 
which drew the people's king thither. I was withhi 
and beheld all that, the stores of the building, when | 
the chance was granted me; in no pleasant way was '. 
a passage opened to me in under the earth-wall. In \ 
haste I seized a mighty burden of precious treasures 
in my hands; bore them out hither to my king; he 
was still living then, wise and clear in mind; the old 
man in his agony spoke many things, and bade me 
greet you; ordered that ye should raise on the site 
of the pyre a high barrow, great and famous, befitting 
his exploits, even as he was among men the most * 
renowned warrior far and wide throughout the earth, 
whilst he could enjoy wealth in his castle. Let us now 
hasten to behold and seek once more the heap of 
rare gems, the wondrous sight beneath the wall. 
I will guide you, so that ye may see the rings and 
broad gold near at hand. Let the bier be made ready, 



ii6 THE SONG 

speedily wrought, when we come out and bear them 
our prince, the loved man, where long he shall wait 
in the Almighty's keeping." 

Then the son of Weohstan, the hero bold in battle, 
bade orders be given to many of the men who were 
owners of dwellings, that they, the leaders of bands, 
should bring from afar wood for the funeral-fire to 
where the valiant man lay: "Now shall the fire 
consume — the dark flame shall tower up — the ruler 
of warriors, him who often endured the iron shower 
when the storm of arrows, urged with might, darted 
over the shield- wall, when the shaft did its office; 
fitted with feathers, it followed the arrow," 

In truth the wise son of Weohstan called out the 
king's thanes from the troop, the best seven together; 
he went with the seven under the hostile roof of the 
foemen; one who went in front bore in his hand a 
torch. It was not settled by lot then who plundered 
that hoard when the men saw any part unguarded 
remaining in the hall, lying there perishing; little 
did any of them mourn that they bore out quickly 
the precious treasures; also they shoved the dragon, 
the monster, over the cUff; they let the wave take 
him, the flood embrace the guardian of the treasures. 
There was twisted gold beyond measm^e loaded on 
the waggon; the chieftain, the grey-haired warrior, 
was borne to Hronesness. 



OF BEOWULF 117 



XLIII 

Then the people of the Geats made ready for him a 
pyre firm on the ground, hung round with helmets, 
battle-targes, bright corslets, as he had craved; then 
the sorrowing men laid in the midst the famous 
prince, their loved lord. The warriors began to rouse 
on the barrow the greatest of funeral fires ; the wood- 
reek mounted up dark above the smoking glow, the 
crackling flame, mingled with the cry of weeping — 
the tumult of the winds ceased — until it had consumed 
the body, hot to the heart. Sad in heart, they 
lamented the sorrow of their souls, the sla5mig of 
their lord; likewise the woman with bound tresses 
sang a dirge . . . the sky swallowed up the smoke. ' 

Then the people of the Weders wrought a mound, 
which was lofty and broad, at the edge of the head- 
land, visible far and wide to seafarers; and in ten 
days they finished the beacon of the man mighty in 
battle; the remnant of the pyre they compassed 
round with a wall, as exceeding wise men might 
most worthily devise it. They laid on the barrow 
rings and ornaments, all such adornments as men, 
eager for combat, had erstwhile taken from the 
hoard; they let the earth keep the treasure of earls, 
the gold in the ground, where it yet lies, as useless to 
men as it was before. Then men bold in battle, sons 
of chieftains, twelve in all, rode about the mound; 



ii8 THE SONG 

they were minded to utter their grief, to lament the 
king, to make a chant and to speak of the man ; they 
exalted his heroic life and praised his valorous deed 
with all their strength. 

Thus it is fitting that a man should extol his 
friendly lord in words, should heartily love him, 
when he must needs depart from his body and pass 
away. Thus did the men of the Geats, his hearth- 
companions, bewail the fall of their lord; they said 
that among the kings of the world he was the mildest 
of men and most kindly, most gentle to his people 
and most eager for praise. 




OF BEOWULF 119 



QUESTIONS 

1. "What are some of the differences between Grendel 
and the dragon? 

2. Which is the most interesting of Beowulf's three 
fights? 

3. In his youth Beowulf was apparently Ughtly 
esteemed. What other stories do you know where the 
hero is at first held in contempt? 

4. What qualities in a king or a leader are praised 
in the poem? 

5. What does the poem tell us of Beowulf's life before 
he went to Heorot ? 

6. What impression do you get of Wealtheow's 
character ? 

7. Describe a feast in Heorot. 

8. What do you learn from Beowulf ahout the weapons 
and armour of the Danes and Geats ? 



APPENDIX 

A.— THE FIRST ENGLISH POET 
B.— THE BATTLE OF BRUNANBURH 



[The following extracts may be found interesting by 
readers of The SoiJg of Beowulf.] 

A.— THE FIRST ENGLISH POET 

This passage is taken from the " Ecclesiastical History of the 
English Nation," by the Venerable Bede (673-735). It will 
remind the reader of Hrothgar's minstrel who sang a religious 
poem aboiU the Creation. 

There was in the monastery of the abbess (Hilda of 
Whitby) a certain brother specially endowed and hon- 
oured with the grace of God, who was wont to make 
pious and religious verses: and whatever was inter- 
preted to him out of Scripture he soon afterwards put 
the same into poetical expressions of much sweetness 
and humility in EngUsh, which was his native language. 
By his verses the minds of many were often excited to 
despise the world, and to aspire to heaven. 

Others in the Enghsh nation attempted, after him, to 
compose rehgious poems: but none could ever compare 
with him, for he did not learn the art of poetry from 
men, but from God: for which reason he never could 
compose any trivial or vain poem, but only those which 
related to reUgion suited his rehgious tongue. 

Having hved in a secular habit till he was well 
advanced in years, he had never learned anything 
of versifying; for which reason, being sometimes at 
entertainments when it was agreed for the sake of mirth 
that all present should sing in their turns, seeing the 

123 



T24 APPENDIX 

instrument come towards him, he rose up from table 
and went to his house. 

Having done so at a certain time, and gone out of 
the house where the entertainment was, he went to the 
cattle-sheds where he had to take care of the cattle 
that night. He there composed himself to rest at the 
proper time, when a certain one appeared to him in his 
sleep, and saluting him by his name, said: "Csedmon, 
sing me something." He answered, "I cannot sing; for 
that was the reason why I left the feast and retired to 
this place, because I could not sing." The other who 
talked to him repUed: "However, you shall sing for 
me." "What shall I sing ?" asked he. "Sing the begin- 
ning of created things," said the other. Hereupon 
Csedmon presently began to sing verses to the praise 
of God which he had never heard. The purport thereof 
was this: 



Now ought we to praise 
The Guardian of the heavenly 

kingdom. 
The might of the Maker 
And the purpose of His mind. 
The work of the Father of 

Glory, 
How He of all wondrous things, 
The Everlasting Lord, 
Created the beginning. 



He first created 
For the sons of earth 
The heaven as a roof. 
The Holy Creator. 
Then the earth 
The Guardian of Mankind, 
The eternal King, 
Afterwards made, 
A dwelUng for men. 
The Almighty Lord. 



Then he arose from his sleep and remembered all that 
he had sung in his dream, and soon added much more 
to the same effect in verse worthy of God. 

In the morning he came to the steward, his superior, 
and having acquainted him with the gift he had received, 
was conducted to the abbess, by whom he was ordered, 



APPENDIX 125 

in the presence of many learned men, to tell his dream 
and repeat the verses, that they might all give their 
judgment what it was, and whence his verse proceeded. 
They all concluded that heavenly grace had been 
conferred on him by our Lord. 

They then expounded to him a passage in holy writ, 
ordering him, if he could, to put the same into verse. 
Having undertaken it, he went away, and returning 
the next morning, gave it to them composed in most 
excellent verse; whereupon the abbess, embracing the 
grace of God in the man, instructed him to quit the 
secular habit, and take upon him the monastic Ufe, 
which, being accordingly done, she sent him among the 
rest of the brethren in her monastery, and ordered that 
he should be taught the whole series of sacred history. 
Thus Caedmon, keeping in mind all he heard, converted 
the same into most harmonious verse, and sweetly 
repeating the same, made his masters in their turn 
his hearers. 

He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man, 
and all the history of Genesis, and made many verses 
on the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, 
and their entering into the Land of Promise, with many 
other histories from holy writ. 



126 APPENDIX 



B.— THE BATTLE OF BRUNANBURH 

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, under the date 937 a.d., 
the following verses are inserted instead of the usual record. 
Each line is divided as in the original Old English poem. And 
this gives some general idea of the structure of ' ' The Song 
of Beowulf." 

937. This year King Athelstan and Edmund his 
brother led a force to Brumby, and there fought against 
Anlaf.i and, Christ helping, had the victory; and they 
there slew five kings and seven earls. 

Here Athelstan, king, of earls the lord, 

of heroes the ring-giver, and his brother eke, 

Edmund athehng, life-long glory 

in battle won with edges of swords 

near Brumby ' the board-walls they clove, 

they hewed the war-lindens, with leavings of hammers,' 

oflEspring of Edward such was their noble nature 

from their ancestors, that they in battle oft 

against every foe the land defended, 

hoards and homes. Their foes they crushed, 

the Scottish people and the shipmen 

fated fell : the field did flow 

with warrior's blood, since the sun up 

at morning tide, mighty planet, 

* King of the Danes in Ireland, who was allied with Constantine, 
King of the Scots, and Owen, King of Cumbria. Athelstan led the 
English of Mercia and Wessex. 

* Brumby, or Bnmanbiurh, is supposed to have been somewhere 
in Lancashire. 

* I.e., with swords. 



APPENDIX 127 

glided o'er ground, God's candle bright, 
the eternal Lord's, till the noble creature 
sank to her resting. There lay many a warrior 
by spears strawn, men of the north 
over shield shot; so the Scots eke, 
weary, war-sad. West-Saxons onwards 
the whole day long, in bands, 
pursued the footsteps of the loathed nations ; 
they hewed the fugitives behind, severely, 
with swords mill-sharp. Mercians refused not 
the hard hand-play to any heroes, 
who with Anlaf over the ocean, 
in the ship's bosom, sought this land, 
fated to the fight. Five lay 
on the battle-field, youthful kings, 
by swords in slumber laid, so seven eke 
of Anlaf 's earls, of the army countless, 
shipmen and Scots. There was made flee 
the North-men's chieftain,* by need constrained, 
to the ship's prow with a little band : 
the bark drove afloat ; the king departed 
on the fallow flood, his life preserved. 
So there eke the sage came by flight 
to his northern home, Constantine, 
hoary warrior; he had no cause to boast 
the joining of swords; he was of kindred bereft, 
of friends bereaved, on the folk-stead 
in battle slain ; and his son he left 
on the slaughter-place mangled with wounds, 
young in the fight. He had no cause to boeist, 
hero grizzly-haired, of the bill-clashing, 
the old deceiver; nor Anlaf the more, 

with the remnant of their armies ; they had no cause for mirth 
1 Anlaf, who went back to Ireland with a mere remnant of 
bis force. 



128 APPENDIX 

that they in war's works the better men were 

in the battle-place, at the conflict of banners, 

clashing of spears, meeting of men, 

traffic of weapons, that they on the slaughter-field 

with Edward's offspring played. 

The North-men departed in their nailed barks, 

bloody relic of spears, on roaring ocean, 

o'er the deep water Dublin to seek, 

Ireland once more, shamed in mind. 

So too the brothers, both together, 

king and atheling, their country sought, 

"West-Saxons' land, in the war exulting. 

They left behind them, the corse to devour, 

the sallowy kite, the swarthy raven 

"with homed neb, and the dusky one, 

eagle white-tailed, his meal to enjoy, 

greedy war-hawk; and the gray beast, 

wolf of the weald. Slaughter greater ne'er was 

in this island ever yet 

of people slain before this, 

by edges of swords, as books us tell, 

old writers, since from eastward hither. 

Angles and Saxons came to land, 

o'er the broad seas, Britain sought, 

mighty war-smiths the Welsh o'ercame, 

earls eager for glory this land obtained. 



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The song of Beowulf, 



m 



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