Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 06

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VI

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HROTHGAR answered,     helmet of Scyldings:

“I knew him of yore,     in his youthful days;

his aged father,     was Ecgtheow named,

to whom at home,     gave Hrethel the Geat,

his only daughter.     Their offspring bold,

fares hither to seek,     the steadfast friend.

And seamen too,     have said me this,

who carried my gifts,     to the Geatish court,

thither for thanks,     he has thirty men’s,

heft of grasp,     in the grip of his hand,

the bold-in-battle.     Blessed God,

out of his mercy,     this man hath sent,

to Danes of the West,     as I expect indeed,

against horror of Grendel,     I hope to give,

the good youth gold,     for his gallant thought,

Be thou in haste,     and bid them hither,

clan of kinsmen,     to come before me;

and add this word,     they are welcome guests,

to folk of the Danes.”

[To the door of the hall,

Wulfgar went],     and the word declared:

“To you this message,     my master sends,

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

hardy heroes,     and hails you all,

welcome hither,     o’er waves of the sea!

Ye may wend your way,     in war-attire,

and under helmets,     Hrothgar greet;

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

and wooden war-shafts,     wait its end.”

Uprose the mighty one,     ringed with his men,

brave band of thanes:      some bode without,

battle-gear guarding,     as bade the chief.

Then hied that troop,     where the herald led them,

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

hardy beneath helm,     till the hearth he neared.

Beowulf spake,     his breastplate gleamed,

war-net woven,     by wit of the smith:

“Thou Hrothgar hail!     Hygelac’s I,

kinsman and follower,     Fame a plenty,

have I gained in youth!     These Grendel-deeds,

I heard in my home-land,     heralded clear.

Seafarers say,     how stands this hall,

of buildings best,     for your band of thanes,

empty and idle,     when evening sun,

in the harbor of heaven,     is hidden away.

So my vassals,     advised me well,

brave and wise,     the best of men.

O sovran Hrothgar,     to seek thee here,

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

Themselves had seen me,     from slaughter come,

blood-flecked from foes,     where five I bound,

and that wild brood worsted.     In the waves I slew,

nicors[1] by night,     in need and peril,

avenging the Weders,[2]     whose woe they sought,

crushing the grim ones.     Grendel now,

monster cruel,     be mine to quell,

in single battle!     So from thee,

thou sovran of,     the Shining-Danes,

Scyldings’-bulwark,     a boon I seek,

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

O Warriors’-shield,     now I’ve wandered far,

that I alone,     with my liegemen here,

this hardy band,     may Heorot purge!

More I hear,     that the monster dire,

in his wanton mood,     of weapons recks not;

hence shall I scorn,     so Hygelac stay,

king of my kindred,     kind to me,

brand or buckler,     to bear in the fight,

gold-colored targe:      but with grip alone,

must I front the fiend,     and fight for life,

foe against foe.     Then faith be his,

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

Fain I expect,     if the fight he win,

in this hall of gold,     my Geatish band,

will he fearless eat,     as oft before,

my noblest thanes.     Nor need’st thou then,

to hide my head; [3]     for his shall I be,

dyed in gore,     if death must take me;

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

ruthless devour it,     the roamer-lonely,

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

no further for me,     need’st food prepare!

To Hygelac send,     if Hild[4] should take me,

best of war-weeds,     warding my breast,

armor excellent,     heirloom of Hrethel,

and work of Wayland.[5]     Fares Wyrd[6] as she must.”

[1] The nicor, says Bugge, is a hippopotamus, a walrus, says ten Brink. But that water-goblin who covers the space from Old Nick of jest to the Neckan and Nix of poetry and tale, is all one needs, and Nicor is a good name for him.

[2] His own people, the Geats.

[3] That is, cover it as with a face-cloth. “There will be no need of funeral rites.”

[4] Personification of Battle.

[5] The Germanic Vulcan.

[6] This mighty power, whom the Christian poet can still revere, has here the general force of “Destiny.”

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