Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 21

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XXI

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BEOWULF spake,     bairn of Ecgtheow:

“Sorrow not sage!     It beseems us better,

friends to avenge,     than fruitlessly mourn them.

Each of us all,     must his end abide,

in the ways of the world;     so win who may,

glory ere death!     When his days are told,

that is the warrior’s,     worthiest doom.

Rise O realm-warder!     Ride we anon,

and mark the trail,     of the mother of Grendel.

No harbor shall hide her,     heed my promise,

enfolding of field,     or forested mountain,

or floor of the flood,     let her flee where she will!

But thou this day,     endure in patience,

as I expect thou wilt,     thy woes each one.”

Leaped up the graybeard:      God he thanked,

mighty Lord,     for the man’s brave words.

For Hrothgar soon,     a horse was saddled,

wave-maned steed.     The sovran wise,

stately rode on;     his shield-armed men,

followed in force.     The footprints led,

along the woodland,     widely seen,

a path o’er the plain,     where she passed and trod,

the murky moor;     of men-at-arms,

she bore the bravest,     and best one dead,

him who with Hrothgar,     the homestead ruled.

On then went,     the atheling-born,

o’er stone-cliffs steep,     and strait defiles,

narrow passes,     and unknown ways,

headlands sheer,     and the haunts of the Nicors.

Foremost he[1] fared,     a few at his side,

of the wiser men,     the ways to scan,

till he found in a flash,     the forested hill,

hanging over,     the hoary rock,

a woful wood:      the waves below,

were dyed in blood.     The Danish men,

had sorrow of soul,     and for Scyldings all,

for many a hero,     it was hard to bear,

ill for earls,     when Aeschere’s head,

they found by the flood,     on the foreland there.

Waves were welling,     the warriors saw,

hot with blood;     but the horn sang oft,

battle-song bold.     The band sat down,

and watched on the water,     worm-like things,

sea-dragons strange,     that sounded the deep,

and nicors that lay,     on the ledge of the ness,

such as oft essay,     at hour of morn,

on the road-of-sails,     their ruthless quest,

and sea-snakes and monsters.     These started away,

swollen and savage,     that song to hear,

that war-horn’s blast.     The warden of Geats,

with bolt from bow,     then balked of life,

of wave-work one monster,     amid its heart,

went the keen war-shaft;     in water it seemed,

less doughty in swimming,     whom death had seized.

Swift on the billows,     with boar-spears well,

hooked and barbed,     it was hard beset,

done to death,     and dragged on the headland,

wave-roamer wondrous.     Warriors viewed,

the grisly guest.

Then girt him Beowulf,

in martial mail,     nor mourned for his life.

His breastplate broad,     and bright of hues,

woven by hand,     should the waters try;

well could it ward,     the warrior’s body,

that battle should break,     on his breast in vain,

nor harm his heart,     by the hand of a foe.

And the helmet white,     that his head protected,

was destined to dare,     the deeps of the flood,

through wave-whirl win:      it was wound with chains,

decked with gold,     as in days of yore,

the weapon-smith,     worked it wondrously,

with swine-forms set it,     that swords nowise,

brandished in battle,     could bite that helm.

Nor was that the meanest,     of mighty helps,

which Hrothgar’s orator,     offered at need:

“Hrunting” they named,     the hilted sword,

of old-time heirlooms,     easily first;

iron was its edge,     all etched with poison,

with battle-blood hardened,     nor blenched it at fight,

in hero’s hand,     who held it ever,

on paths of peril,     prepared to go,

to folkstead[2] of foes.     Not first time this,

it was destined to do,     a daring task.

For he bore not in mind,     the bairn of Ecglaf,

sturdy and strong,     that speech he had made,

drunk with wine,     now this weapon he lent,

to a stouter swordsman.     Himself though durst not,

under welter of waters,     wager his life,

as loyal liegeman.     So lost he his glory,

honor of earls.     With the other not so,

who girded him now,     for the grim encounter.

[1] Hrothgar is probably meant.

[2] Meeting place.

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