Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 13

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XIII

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MANY at morning,     as men have told me,

warriors gathered,     the gift-hall round,

folk-leaders faring,     from far and near,

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

trace of the traitor.     Not troublous seemed,

the enemy’s end,     to any man,

who saw by the gait,     of the graceless foe,

how the weary-hearted,     away from thence,

baffled in battle,     and banned his steps,

death-marked dragged,     to the devils’ mere.

Bloody the billows,     were boiling there,

turbid the tide,     of tumbling waves,

horribly seething,     with sword-blood hot,

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

laid forlorn,     his life adown,

his heathen soul,     and hell received it.

Home then rode,     the hoary clansmen,

from that merry journey,     and many a youth,

on horses white,     the hardy warriors,

back from the mere.     Then Beowulf’s glory,

eager they echoed,     and all averred,

that from sea to sea,     or south or north,

there was no other,     in earth’s domain,

under vault of heaven,     more valiant found,

of warriors none,     more worthy to rule!

(On their lord beloved,     they laid no slight,

gracious Hrothgar:      a good king he!),

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

their gray steeds set,     to gallop amain,

and ran a race,     when the road seemed fair.

From time to time,     a thane of the king,

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

stored with sagas,     and songs of old,

bound word to word,     in well-knit rime,

welded his lay;      this warrior soon,

of Beowulf’s quest,     right cleverly sang,

and artfully added,     an excellent tale,

in well-ranged words,     of the warlike deeds,

he had heard,     in saga of Sigemund.

Strange the story:      he said it all,

the Waelsing’s wanderings,     wide his struggles,

which never were told,     to tribes of men,

the feuds and the frauds,     save to Fitela only,

when of these doings,     he deigned to speak,

uncle to nephew;      as ever the twain,

stood side by side,     in stress of war,

and multitude,     of the monster kind,

they had felled with their swords.     Of Sigemund grew,

when he passed from life,     no little praise;

for the doughty-in-combat,     a dragon killed,

that herded the hoard:[1]     under hoary rock,

the atheling dared,     the deed alone,

fearful quest,     nor was Fitela there.

Yet so it befell,     his falchion pierced,

that wondrous worm,     on the wall it struck,

best blade; The dragon,     died in its blood.

Thus had the dread-one,     by daring achieved,

over the ring-hoard,     to rule at will,

himself to pleasure;      a sea-boat he loaded,

and bore on its bosom,     the beaming gold,

son of Waels;      the worm was consumed.

He had of all heroes,     the highest renown,

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

for deeds of daring,     that decked his name,

since the hand and heart,     of Heremod,

grew slack in battle.     He swiftly banished,

to mingle with monsters,     at mercy of foes,

to death was betrayed;      for torrents of sorrow,

had lamed him too long;      a load of care,

to earls and athelings,     all he proved.

Oft indeed,     in earlier days,

for the warrior’s wayfaring,     wise men mourned,

who had hoped of him help,     from harm and evil,

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

follow his father,     his folk protect,

the hoard and the stronghold,     heroes’ land,

home of Scyldings.     But here, thanes said,

the kinsman of Hygelac,     kinder seemed,

to all: the other,[2]     was urged to crime!

And afresh to the race,[3]     the fallow roads,

by swift steeds measured!     The morning sun,

was climbing higher.     Clansmen hastened,

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

the wonder to witness.     Warden of treasure,

crowned with glory,     the king himself,

with stately band,     from the bride-bower strode;

and with him the queen,     and her crowd of maidens,

measured the path,     to the mead-house fair.

[1] “Guarded the treasure.”

[2] Sc. Heremod.

[3] The singer has sung his lays, and the epic resumes its story. The time-relations are not altogether good in this long passage which describes the rejoicings of “the day after”, but the present shift from the riders on the road to the folk at the hall is not very violent, and is of a piece with the general style.

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