Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 22

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XXII

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BEOWULF spake,     bairn of Ecgtheow:

“Have mind thou honored,     offspring of Healfdene,

gold-friend of men,     now I go on this quest,

sovran wise,     what once was said:

if in thy cause,     it came that I,

should lose my life,     thou wouldst loyal bide,

to me though fallen,     in father’s place!

Be guardian thou,     to this group of my thanes,

my warrior-friends,     if War should seize me;

and the goodly gifts,     thou gavest me,

Hrothgar beloved,     to Hygelac send!

Geatland’s king,     may ken by the gold,

Hrethel’s son see,     when he stares at the treasure,

that I got me a friend,     for goodness famed,

and joyed while I could,     in my jewel-bestower.

And let Unferth wield,     this wondrous sword,

earl far-honored,     this heirloom precious,

hard of edge:      with Hrunting I,

seek doom of glory,     or Death shall take me.”

After these words,     the Weder-Geat lord,

boldly hastened,     biding never,

answer at all:      the ocean floods,

closed o’er the hero.     Long while of the day,

fled ere he felt,     the floor of the sea.

Soon found the fiend,     who the flood-domain,

sword-hungry held,     these hundred winters,

greedy and grim,     that some guest from above,

some man was raiding,     her monster-realm.

She grasped out for him,     with grisly claws,

and the warrior seized;     yet scathed she not,

his body hale;     the breastplate hindered,

as she strove to shatter,     the sark of war,

the linked harness,     with loathsome hand.

Then bore this brine-wolf,     when bottom she touched,

the lord of rings,     to the lair she haunted,

whiles vainly he strove,     though his valor held,

weapon to wield,     against wondrous monsters,

that sore beset him;     sea-beasts many,

tried with fierce tusks,     to tear his mail,

and swarmed on the stranger.     But soon he marked,

he was now in some hall,     he knew not which,

where water never,     could work him harm,

nor through the roof,     could reach him ever,

fangs of the flood.     Firelight he saw,

beams of a blaze,     that brightly shone.

Then the warrior was ware,     of that wolf-of-the-deep,

mere-wife monstrous.     For mighty stroke,

he swung his blade,     and the blow withheld not.

Then sang on her head,     that seemly blade,

its war-song wild.     But the warrior found,

the light-of-battle,[1]     was loath to bite,

to harm the heart:      its hard edge failed,

the noble at need,     yet had known of old,

strife hand to hand,     and had helmets cloven,

doomed men’s fighting-gear.     First time this,

for the gleaming blade,     that its glory fell.

Firm still stood,     nor failed in valor,

heedful of high deeds,     Hygelac’s kinsman;

flung away fretted sword,     featly jewelled,

the angry earl;     on earth it lay,

steel-edged and stiff.     His strength he trusted,

hand-grip of might.     So man shall do,

whenever in war,     he expects to earn him,

lasting fame,     nor fears for his life!

Seized then by shoulder,     shrank not from combat,

the Geatish war-prince,     Grendel’s mother.

Flung then the fierce one,     filled with wrath,

his deadly foe,     that she fell to ground.

Swift on her part,     she paid him back,

with grisly grasp,     and grappled with him.

Spent with struggle,     stumbled the warrior,

fiercest of fighting-men,     fell adown.

On the hall-guest she hurled herself,     seized her short sword,

broad and brown-edged,[2]     the bairn to avenge,

the sole-born son.     On his shoulder lay,

braided breast-mail,     barring death,

withstanding entrance,     of edge or blade.

Life would have ended,     for Ecgtheow’s son,

under wide earth,     for that earl of Geats,

had his armor of war,     not aided him,

battle-net hard,     and holy God,

wielded the victory,     wisest Maker.

The Lord of Heaven,     allowed his cause;

and easily rose,     the earl erect.

[1] Kenning for “sword.” Hrunting is bewitched, laid under a spell of uselessness, along with all other swords.

[2] This brown of swords, evidently meaning burnished, bright, continues to be a favorite adjective in the popular ballads.

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