Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 04

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To him the stateliest,     spake in answer;

the warriors’ leader,     his word-hoard unlocked:

“We are by kin,     of the clan of Geats,

and Hygelac’s own,     hearth-fellows we.

To folk afar,     was my father known,

noble atheling,     Ecgtheow named.

Full of winters,     he fared away,

aged from earth;      he is honored still,

through width of the world,     by wise men all.

To thy lord and liege,     in loyal mood,

we hasten hither,     to Healfdene’s son,

people-protector:      be pleased to advise us!

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

to the lord of the Danes;      nor deem I right,

that aught be hidden.     We hear thou knowest,

if sooth it is,     the saying of men,

that amid the Scyldings,     a scathing monster,

dark ill-doer,     in dusky nights,

shows terrific,     his rage unmatched,

hatred and murder.     To Hrothgar I,

in greatness of soul,     would succor bring,

so the Wise-and-Brave,[1]     may worst his foes,

if ever the end,     of ills is fated,

of cruel contest,     if cure shall follow,

and the boiling care-waves,     cooler grow;

else ever afterward,     anguish-days,

he shall suffer in sorrow,     while stands in place,

high on its hill,     that house unpeered!”

Astride his steed,     the strand-ward answered,

clansman unquailing:      “The keen-souled thane,

must be skilled to sever,     and sunder duly,

words and works,     if he well intends.

I gather this band,     is graciously bent,

to the Scyldings’ master.     March then bearing,

weapons and weeds,     the way I show you.

I will bid my men,     your boat meanwhile,

to guard for fear,     lest foemen come,

your new-tarred ship,     by shore of ocean,

faithfully watching,     till once again,

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

winding-neck’d wood,     to Weders’ bounds,

heroes such,     as the promise of fate,

shall succor and save,     from the shock of war.”

They bent them to march,     the boat lay still,

fettered by cable,     and fast at anchor,

broad-bosomed ship.     Then shone the boars,[2]

over the cheek-guard;      chased with gold:

keen and gleaming,     guard it kept,

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

heroes in haste,     till the hall they saw,

broad of gable,     and bright with gold,

that was the fairest,     ’mid folk of earth,

of houses beneath heaven,     where Hrothgar lived,

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

The sturdy shieldsman,     showed that bright,

burg-of-the-boldest;      bade them go,

straightway thither;      his steed then turned,

hardy hero,     and hailed them thus:

“‘Tis time that I fare from you.     Father Almighty,

in grace and mercy,     guard you well,

safe in your seekings.     Seaward I go,

‘gainst hostile warriors,     hold my watch.”

[1] Hrothgar.

[2] Beowulf’s helmet has several boar-images on it, he is the “man of war”, and the boar-helmet guards him as typical representative of the marching party as a whole. The boar was sacred to Freyr, who was the favorite god of the Germanic tribes about the North Sea and the Baltic. Rude representations of warriors show the boar on the helmet quite as large as the helmet itself.

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