Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 24

Table of Contents

XXIV>

Download  Listen as you read along.

BEOWULF spake,     bairn of Ecgtheow:

“Lo, now this sea-booty,     son of Healfdene,

Lord of Scyldings,     we’ve lustily brought thee,

sign of glory;     thou seest it here.

Not lightly did I,     with my life escape!

In war under water,     this work I essayed,

with endless effort;     and even so,

my strength had been lost,     had the Lord not shielded me.

Not a whit could I,     with Hrunting do,

in work of war,     though the weapon is good;

yet a sword the Sovran,     of Men vouchsafed me,

to spy on the wall there,     in splendor hanging,

old gigantic,     how oft He guides,

the friendless wight!     And I fought with that brand,

felling in fight,     since fate was with me,

the house’s wardens.     That war-sword then,

all burned bright blade,     when the blood gushed o’er it,

battle-sweat hot;     but the hilt I brought back,

from my foes.      So avenged I their fiendish deeds,

death-fall of Danes,     as was due and right.

And this is my promise,     that in Heorot now,

safe thou canst sleep,     with thy soldier band,

and every thane,     of all thy folk,

both old and young;     no evil fear,

Scyldings’ lord,     from that side again,

aught ill for thy earls,     as before thou must!”

Then the golden hilt,     for that gray-haired leader,

hoary hero,     in hand was laid,

giant-wrought old.     So owned and enjoyed it,

after downfall of devils,     the Danish lord,

wonder-smiths’ work,     since the world was rid,

of that grim-souled fiend,     the foe of God,

murder-marked,     and his mother as well.

Now it passed into power,     of the people’s king,

best of all that,     the oceans bound,

who have scattered their gold,     o’er Scandia’s isle.

Hrothgar spake,     the hilt he viewed,

heirloom old where,     was etched the rise,

of that far-off fight,     when the floods o’erwhelmed,

raging waves,     the race of giants,

(fearful their fate!)     a folk estranged,

from God Eternal:      whence guerdon due,

in that waste of waters,     the Wielder paid them.

So on the guard,     of shining gold,

in runic staves,     it was rightly said,

for whom the serpent-traced,     sword was wrought,

best of blades,     in bygone days,

and the hilt well wound.     The wise-one spake,

son of Healfdene;     silent were all:

“Lo, so may he say,     who sooth and right,

follows ‘mid folk,     of far times mindful,

a land-warden old,[1]     that this earl belongs,

to the better breed!     So, borne aloft,

thy fame must fly.     O friend my Beowulf,

far and wide,     o’er folksteads many,

firmly thou,     shalt all maintain,

mighty strength,      with mood of wisdom.

Love of mine,     will I assure thee,

as awhile ago,      I promised;

thou shalt prove,     a stay in future,

in far-off years,     to folk of thine,

to the heroes a help.     Was not Heremod thus,

to offspring of Ecgwela,     Honor-Scyldings,

nor grew for their grace,     but for grisly slaughter,

for doom of death,     to the Danishmen.

He slew wrath-swollen,     his shoulder-comrades,

companions at board!     So he passed alone,

chieftain haughty,     from human cheer.

Though him the Maker,     with might endowed,

delights of power,     and uplifted high,

above all men,     yet blood-fierce his mind,

his breast-hoard grew,     no bracelets gave he,

to Danes as was due;     he endured all joyless,

strain of struggle,     and stress of woe,

long feud with his folk.     Here find thy lesson!

Of virtue advise thee!     This verse I have said for thee,

wise from lapsed winters.     Wondrous seems,

how to sons of men,     Almighty God,

in the strength of His spirit,     sendeth wisdom,

estate high station:      He swayeth all things.

While He letteth,     right lustily fare,

the heart of the hero,     of high-born race,

in seat ancestral,     assigns him bliss,

his folk’s sure fortress,     in fee to hold,

puts in his power,     great parts of the earth,

empire so ample,     that end of it,

this wanter-of-wisdom,     expecteth none.

So he waxes in wealth,     nowise can harm him,

illness or age;     no evil cares,

shadow his spirit;     no sword-hate threatens,

from ever an enemy:     all the world,

wends at his will,     no worse he knoweth,

till all within,     him obstinate pride,

waxes and wakes,     while the warden slumbers,

the spirit’s sentry;     sleep is too fast,

which masters his might,     and the murderer nears,

stealthily shooting,     the shafts from his bow!

[1] That is, “whoever has as wide authority as I have and can remember so far back so many instances of heroism, may well say, as I say, that no better hero ever lived than Beowulf.”

Table of Contents