Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 02

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II

WENT he forth to find,     at fall of night,

that haughty house,     and heed wherever,

the Ring-Danes outrevelled,     to rest had gone.

Found within it,     the atheling band,

asleep after feasting,     and fearless of sorrow,

of human hardship.     Unhallowed wight,

grim and greedy,     he grasped betimes,

wrathful reckless,     from resting-places,

thirty of the thanes,     and thence he rushed,

fain of his fell spoil,     faring homeward,

laden with slaughter,     his lair to seek.

Then at the dawning,     as day was breaking,

the might of Grendel,     to men was known;

then after wassail,     was wail uplifted,

loud moan in the morn.     The mighty chief,

atheling excellent,     unblithe sat,

labored in woe,     for the loss of his thanes,

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

spirit accurst:      too cruel that sorrow,

too long too loathsome.     Not late the respite;

with night returning,     anew began,

ruthless murder;      he recked no whit,

firm in his guilt,     of the feud and crime.

They were easy to find,     who elsewhere sought,

in room remote,     their rest at night,

bed in the bowers,[1]     when that evil was shown,

was seen in sooth,     with surest token,

the hall-thane’s[2] hate.     Such held themselves,

far and fast,     who the fiend outran!

Thus ruled unrighteous,     and raged his fill,

one against all;      until empty stood,

that lordly building,     and long it bode so.

Twelve years’ tide,     the trouble he bore,

sovran of Scyldings,     sorrows in plenty,

boundless cares.      There came unhidden,

tidings true,     to the tribes of men,

in sorrowful songs,     how ceaselessly Grendel,

harassed Hrothgar,     what hate he bore him,

what murder and massacre,     many a year,

feud unfading,     refused consent,

to deal with any,     of Daneland’s earls,

make pact of peace,     or compound for gold:

still less did the wise men,     expect to get,

great fee for the feud,     from his fiendish hands.

But the evil one ambushed,     old and young,

death-shadow dark,     and dogged them still,

lured or lurked,     in the livelong night,

of misty moorlands:      men may say not,

where the haunts,     of these Hell-Runes[3] be.

Such heaping of horrors,     the hater of men,

lonely roamer,     wrought unceasing,

harassings heavy.     O’er Heorot he lorded,

gold-bright hall,     in gloomy nights;

and Never could the prince,[4]     approach his throne,

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

Sore was the sorrow,     to Scyldings’-friend,

heart-rending misery.     Many nobles,

sat assembled,     and searched out counsel,

how it were best,     for bold-hearted men,

against harassing terror,     to try their hand.

Whiles they vowed,     in their heathen fanes,

altar-offerings,     asked with words,[5]

that the slayer-of-souls,     would succor give them,

for the pain of their people.     Their practice this,

their heathen hope;      it was Hell they thought of,

in mood of their mind.     Almighty they knew not,

Doomsman of Deeds,     and dreadful Lord,

nor Heaven’s-Helmet,     heeded they ever,

Wielder-of-Wonder.     Woe for that man,

who in harm and hatred,     hales his soul,

to fiery embraces;      nor favor nor change,

awaits he ever.     But well for him,

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

and friendship find,     in the Father’s arms!

[1] The smaller buildings within the main enclosure but separate from the hall.

[2] Grendel.

[3] “Sorcerers-of-hell.”

[4] Hrothgar, who is the “Scyldings’-friend” of 170.

[5] That is, in formal or prescribed phrase.

 

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