Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 23

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XXIII

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‘MID the battle-gear,     saw he a blade triumphant,

old-sword of Eotens,     with edge of proof,

warriors’ heirloom,     weapon unmatched,

save only it was more,     than other men,

to bandy-of-battle,     could bear at all,

as the giants had wrought it,     ready and keen.

Seized then its chain-hilt,     the Scyldings’ chieftain,

bold and battle-grim,     brandished the sword,

reckless of life,     and so wrathfully smote,

that it gripped her neck,     and grasped her hard,

her bone-rings breaking:      the blade pierced through,

that fated-one’s flesh:      to floor she sank.

Bloody the blade:      he was blithe of his deed.

Then blazed forth light,     it was bright within,

as when from the sky,     there shines unclouded,

heaven’s candle.     The hall he scanned.

By the wall then went he;     his weapon raised,

high by its hilts,     the Hygelac-thane,

angry and eager.     That edge was not useless,

to the warrior now.     He wished with speed,

Grendel to guerdon,     for grim raids many,

for the war he waged,     on Western-Danes,

oftener far,     than an only time,

when of Hrothgar’s,     hearth-companions,

he slew in slumber,     in sleep devoured,

fifteen men,     of the folk of Danes,

and as many others,     outward bore,

his horrible prey.     Well paid for that,

the wrathful prince!     For now prone he saw,

Grendel stretched there,     spent with war,

spoiled of life,     so scathed had left him,

Heorot’s battle,     The body sprang far,

when after death,     it endured the blow,

sword-stroke savage,     that severed its head.

Soon[1] then saw,     the sage companions,

who waited with Hrothgar,      watching the flood,

that the tossing waters,     turbid grew,

blood-stained the mere.     Old men together,

hoary-haired,     of the hero spake;

the warrior would not,     they expected again,

proud of conquest,     come to seek,

their mighty master.     To many it seemed,

the wolf-of-the-waves,     had won his life.

The ninth hour came.     The noble Scyldings,

left the headland;     homeward went,

the gold-friend of men.[2]     But the guests sat on,

stared at the surges,     sick in heart,

and wished yet expected not,     their winsome lord,

again to see.

Now that sword began,

from blood of the fight,     in battle-droppings,[3]

war-blade to wane:      it was a wondrous thing,

that all of it melted,     as ice is wont,

when frosty fetters,     the Father loosens,

unwinds the wave-bonds,     wielding all,

seasons and times:      the true God he!

Nor took from that dwelling,     the duke of the Geats,

precious things,     though a plenty he saw,

save only the head,     and that hilt withal,

blazoned with jewels:      the blade had melted,

burned was the bright sword,     her blood was so hot,

so poisoned the hell-sprite,     who perished within there.

Soon he was swimming,     who safe saw in combat,

downfall of demons;     up-dove through the flood.

The clashing waters,     were cleansed now,

waste of waves,     where the wandering fiend,

her life-days left,     and this lapsing world.

Swam then to strand,     the sailors’-refuge,

sturdy-in-spirit,     of sea-booty glad,

of burden brave,     he bore with him.

Went then to greet him,     and God they thanked,

the thane-band choice,     of their chieftain blithe,

that safe and sound,     they could see him again.

Soon from the hardy,     one helmet and armor,

deftly they doffed:      now drowsed the mere,

water beneath welkin,     with war-blood stained.

Forth they fared,     by the footpaths thence,

merry at heart,     the highways measured,

well-known roads.     Courageous men,

carried the head,     from the cliff by the sea,

an arduous task,     for all the band,

the firm in fight,     since four were needed,

on the shaft-of-slaughter,[4]     strenuously,

to bear to the gold-hall,     Grendel’s head.

So presently,     to the palace there,

foemen fearless,     fourteen Geats,

marching came.     Their master-of-clan,

mighty amid them,     the meadow-ways trod.

Strode then within,     the sovran thane,

fearless in fight,     of fame renowned,

hardy hero,     Hrothgar to greet.

And next by the hair,     into hall was borne,

Grendel’s head,     where the henchmen were drinking,

an awe to clan,     and queen alike,

a monster of marvel:      the men looked on.

[1] After the killing of the monster and Grendel’s decapitation.

[2] Hrothgar.

[3] The blade slowly dissolves in blood-stained drops like icicles.

[4] Spear.

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