Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 28

Table of Contents

XXVIII

Download  Listen as you read along.

HASTENED the hardy one,     henchmen with him,

sandy strand,     of the sea to tread,

and widespread ways.     The world’s great candle,

sun shone from south.     They strode along,

with sturdy steps,     to the spot they knew,

where the battle-king young,     his burg within,

slayer of Ongentheow,     shared the rings,

shelter-of-heroes.     To Hygelac,

Beowulf’s coming,     was quickly told,

that there in the court,     the clansmen’s refuge,

the shield-companion,     sound and alive,

hale from the hero-play,     homeward strode.

With haste in the hall,     by highest order,

room for the rovers,     was readily made.

By his sovran he sat,     come safe from battle,

kinsman by kinsman.     His kindly lord,

he first had greeted,     in gracious form,

with manly words.     The mead dispensing,

came through the high hall.     Haereth’s daughter,

winsome to warriors,     wine-cup bore,

to the hands of the heroes.     Hygelac then,

his comrade fairly,     with question plied,

in the lofty hall,     sore longing to know,

what manner of sojourn,     the Sea-Geats made,

“What came of thy quest,     my kinsman Beowulf,

when thy yearnings suddenly,     swept thee yonder,

battle to seek,     o’er the briny sea,

combat in Heorot?     Hrothgar couldst thou,

aid at all,     the honored chief,

in his wide-known woes?     With waves of care,

my sad heart seethed;     I sore mistrusted,

my loved one’s venture:      long I begged thee,

by no means to seek,     that slaughtering monster,

but suffer the South-Danes,     to settle their feud,

themselves with Grendel.     Now God be thanked,

that safe and sound,     I can see thee now!”

Beowulf spake,     the bairn of Ecgtheow:

“It is known and unhidden,     Hygelac Lord,

to many men,     that meeting of ours,

struggle grim,     between Grendel and me,

which we fought on the field,     where full too many,

sorrows he wrought,     for the Scylding-Victors,

evils unending.     These all I avenged.

No boast can be,     from breed of Grendel,

any on earth,     for that uproar at dawn,

from the longest-lived,     of the loathsome race,

in fleshly fold!     But first I went,

Hrothgar to greet,     in the hall of gifts,

where Healfdene’s kinsman,     high-renowned,

soon as my purpose,     was plain to him,

assigned me a seat,     by his son and heir.

The liegemen were lusty;     my life-days never,

such merry men,     over mead in hall,

have I heard under heaven!     The high-born queen,

people’s peace-bringer,     passed through the hall,

cheered the young clansmen,     clasps of gold,

ere she sought her seat,     to sundry gave.

Oft to the heroes,     Hrothgar’s daughter,

to earls in turn,     the ale-cup tendered,

she whom I heard,     these hall-companions,

Freawaru name,     when fretted gold,

she proffered the warriors.     Promised is she,

gold-decked maid,     to the glad son of Froda.

Sage this seems,     to the Scylding’s-friend,

kingdom’s-keeper:      he counts it wise,

the woman to wed,     so and ward off feud,

store of slaughter.     But seldom ever,

when men are slain,     does the murder-spear sink,

but briefest while,     though the bride be fair![1]

“Nor haply will like it,     the Heathobard lord,

and as little each,     of his liegemen all,

when a thane of the Danes,     in that doughty throng,

goes with the lady,     along their hall,

and on him the old-time,     heirlooms glisten,

hard and ring-decked,     Heathobard’s treasure,

weapons that once,     they wielded fair,

until they lost,     at the linden-play,[2]

liegeman loyal,     and their lives as well.

Then over the ale,     on this heirloom gazing,

some ash-wielder old,     who has all in mind,

that spear-death of men,[3]     he is stern of mood,

heavy at heart,     in the hero young,

tests the temper,     and tries the soul,

and war-hate wakens,     with words like these,

Canst thou not comrade,     ken that sword,

which to the fray,     thy father carried,

in his final feud,     beneath the fighting-mask,

dearest of blades,     when the Danish slew him,

and wielded the war-place,      on Withergild’s fall,

after havoc of heroes,     those hardy Scyldings?

Now the son of a certain,      slaughtering Dane,

proud of his treasure,      paces this hall,

joys in the killing,      and carries the jewel,[4]

that rightfully ought,     to be owned by thee!

Thus he urges and eggs him,      all the time,

with keenest words,     till occasion offers,

that Freawaru’s thane,      for his father’s deed,

after bite of brand,      in his blood must slumber,

losing his life;      but that liegeman flies,

living away,      for the land he kens.

And thus be broken,      on both their sides,

oaths of the earls,      when Ingeld’s breast,

wells with war-hate,     and wife-love now,

after the care-billows,      cooler grows.

“So[5] I hold not high,     the Heathobards’ faith,

due to the Danes,     or their during love,

and pact of peace.     But I pass from that,

turning to Grendel,      O giver-of-treasure,

and saying in full,      how the fight resulted,

hand-fray of heroes.     When heaven’s jewel,

had fled o’er far fields,      that fierce sprite came,

night-foe savage,      to seek us out,

where safe and sound      we sentried the hall.

To Hondscio then,      was that harassing deadly,

his fall there was fated.     He first was slain,

girded warrior,      Grendel on him,

turned murderous mouth,      on our mighty kinsman,

and all of the brave man’s,      body devoured.

Yet none the earlier,     empty-handed,

would the bloody-toothed murderer,     mindful of evil,

outward go,      from the gold-decked hall:

but me he attacked,      in his terror of might,

with greedy hand grasped me.     A glove hung by him,[6]

wide and wondrous,     wound with bands;

and in artful wise,     it all was wrought,

by devilish craft,      of dragon-skins.

Me therein,      an innocent man,

the fiendish foe,      was fain to thrust,

with many another.      He might not so,

when I all angrily,     upright stood.

‘Twere long to relate,      how that land-destroyer,

I paid in kind,      for his cruel deeds;

yet there my prince,     this people of thine,

got fame by my fighting.      He fled away,

and a little space,     his life preserved;

but there staid behind him,     his stronger hand,

left in Heorot;      heartsick thence,

on the floor of the ocean,      that outcast fell.

Me for this struggle,     the Scyldings’-friend,

paid in plenty,      with plates of gold,

with many a treasure,     when morn had come,

and we all at the banquet-board,     sat down.

Then was song and glee.     The gray-haired Scylding,

much tested told,     of the times of yore.

Whiles the hero,      his harp bestirred,

wood-of-delight;     now lays he chanted,

of sooth and sadness,     or said aright,

legends of wonder,      the wide-hearted king;

or for years of his youth,     he would yearn at times,

for strength of old struggles,     now stricken with age,

hoary hero:      his heart surged full,

when wise with winters,     he wailed their flight.

Thus in the hall,     the whole of that day,

at ease we feasted,     till fell o’er earth,

another night.     Anon full ready,

in greed of vengeance,     Grendel’s mother,

set forth all sorrowful.     Dead was her son,

through war-hate of Weders;     now woman monstrous,

with fury fell,     a foeman she slew,

avenged her offspring.     From Aeschere old,

loyal councillor,     life was gone;

nor might they even,     when morning broke,

those Danish people,     their death-done comrade,

burn with brands,     on evilfire lay,

the man they mourned.     Under mountain stream,

she had carried the corpse,     with cruel hands.

For Hrothgar that,     was the heaviest sorrow,

of all that had laden,     the lord of his folk.

The leader then,     by thy life besought me,

(sad was his soul),     in the sea-waves’ coil,

to play the hero,     and hazard my being,

for glory of prowess:      my guerdon he pledged.

I then in the waters,     it is widely known,

that sea-floor-guardian,     savage found.

Hand-to-hand there,     a while we struggled;

billows welled blood;     in the briny hall,

her head I hewed,     with a hardy blade,

from Grendel’s mother,     and gained my life,

though not without danger.     My doom was not yet.

Then the haven-of-heroes,     Healfdene’s son,

gave me in guerdon,     great gifts of price.

[1] Beowulf gives his uncle the king not mere gossip of his journey, but a statesmanlike forecast of the outcome of certain policies at the Danish court. Talk of interpolation here is absurd. As both Beowulf and Hygelac know, — and the folk for whom the Beowulf was put together also knew, — Froda was king of the Heathobards (probably the Langobards, once near neighbors of Angle and Saxon tribes on the continent), and had fallen in fight with the Danes. Hrothgar will set aside this feud by giving his daughter as “peace-weaver” and wife to the young king Ingeld, son of the slain Froda. But Beowulf, on general principles and from his observation of the particular case, foretells trouble.

[2] Play of shields, battle. A Danish warrior cuts down Froda in the fight, and takes his sword and armor, leaving them to a son. This son is selected to accompany his mistress, the young princess Freawaru, to her new home when she is Ingeld’s queen. Heedlessly he wears the sword of Froda in hall. An old warrior points it out to Ingeld, and eggs him on to vengeance. At his instigation the Dane is killed, but the murderer, afraid of results, and knowing the land, escapes. So the old feud must break out again.

[3] That is, their disastrous battle and the slaying of their king.

[4] The sword.

[5] Beowulf returns to his forecast. Things might well go somewhat as follows, he says, sketches a little tragic story, and with this prophecy by illustration returns to the tale of his adventure.

[6] Not an actual glove, but a sort of bag.

Table of Contents