Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 25

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XXV

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“UNDER harness his heart,     then is hit indeed,

by sharpest shafts;     and no shelter avails,

from foul behest,     of the hellish fiend.[1]

Him seems too little,     what long he possessed.

Greedy and grim,     no golden rings,

he gives for his pride;     the promised future,

forgets he and spurns,     with all God has sent him,

Wonder-Wielder,     of wealth and fame.

Yet in the end,     it ever comes,

that the frame of the body,     fragile yields,

fated falls;     and there follows another,

who joyously,     the jewels divides,

the royal riches,     nor takes heed of his forebear.

Ban then such evil thoughts,     Beowulf dearest,

best of men,     and the better part choose,

profit eternal;     and temper thy pride,

warrior famous!     The flower of thy might,

lasts now a while:      but erelong it shall be,

that sickness or sword,     thy strength shall diminish,

or fang of fire,     or flooding billow,

or bite of blade,     or brandished spear,

or odious age;     or the eyes’ clear beam,

wax dull and darken:      Death even thee,

in haste shall o’erwhelm,     thou hero of war!

So the Ring-Danes these,     half-years a hundred I ruled,

wielded beneath welkin,     and warded them bravely,

from mighty-ones many,     o’er middle-earth,

from spear and sword,     till it seemed for me,

no foe could be found,     under fold of the sky.

Lo, sudden the shift!     To me seated secure,

came grief for joy,     when Grendel began,

to harry my home,     the hellish foe;

for those ruthless raids,     unresting I suffered,

heart-sorrow heavy.     Heaven be thanked,

Lord Eternal,     for life extended,

that I on this head,     all hewn and bloody,

after long evil,     with eyes may gaze!

Go to the bench now!     Be glad at banquet,

warrior worthy!     A wealth of treasure,

at dawn of day,     be dealt between us!”

Glad was the Geats’ lord,     going betimes,

to seek his seat,     as the Sage commanded.

Afresh as before,     for the famed-in-battle,

for the band of the hall,     was a banquet prepared,

nobly anew.     The Night-Helm darkened,

dusk o’er the drinkers.     The doughty ones rose:

for the hoary-headed,     would hasten to rest,

aged Scylding;     and eager the Geat,

shield-fighter sturdy,     for sleeping yearned.

Him wander-weary,     warrior-guest,

from far a hall-thane,     heralded forth,

who by custom courtly,     cared for all,

needs of a thane,     as in those old days,

warrior-wanderers,     wont to have.

So slumbered the stout-heart.     Stately the hall,

rose gabled and gilt,     where the guest slept on,

till a raven black,     the rapture-of-heaven,[2]

blithe-heart boded.     Bright came flying,

shine after shadow.     The swordsmen hastened,

athelings all,     were eager homeward,

forth to fare;     and far from thence,

the great-hearted guest,     would guide his keel.

Bade then the hardy-one,     Hrunting be brought,

to the son of Ecglaf,     the sword bade him take,

excellent iron,     and uttered his thanks for it,

quoth that he counted it,     keen in battle,

“war-friend” winsome:      with words he slandered not,

edge of the blade:      it was a big-hearted man!

Now eager for parting,     and armed at point,

warriors waited,     while went to his host,

that Darling of Danes.     The doughty atheling,

to high-seat hastened,     and Hrothgar greeted.

[1] That is, he is now undefended by conscience from the temptations (shafts) of the devil.

[2] Kenning for the sun. — This is a strange role for the raven. He is the warrior’s bird of battle, exults in slaughter and carnage, his joy here is a compliment to the sunrise.

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