Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 30

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THAT way he went,     with no will of his own,

in danger of life,     to the dragon’s hoard,

but for pressure of peril,     some prince’s thane.

He fled in fear,     the fatal scourge,

seeking shelter,     a sinful man,

and entered in.     At the awful sight,

tottered that guest,     and terror seized him;

yet the wretched fugitive,     rallied anon,

from fright and fear,     ere he fled away,

and took the cup from,     that treasure-hoard.

Of such besides,     there was store enough,

heirlooms old,     the earth below,

which some earl forgotten,     in ancient years,

left the last,     of his lofty race,

heedfully there,     had hidden away,

dearest treasure.     For death of yore,

had hurried all hence;     and he alone,

left to live,     the last of the clan,

weeping his friends,     yet wished to bide,

warding the treasure,     his one delight,

though brief his respite.     The barrow new-ready,

to strand and sea-waves,     stood they near,

hard by the headland,     hidden and closed;

there laid within it,     his lordly heirlooms,

and heaped hoard,     of heavy gold,

that warden of rings.     Few words he spake:

“Now hold thou earth,     since heroes may not,

what earls have owned!     Lo, before from thee,

brave men brought it!     But battle-death seized,

and cruel killing,     my clansmen all,

robbed them of life,     and a liegeman’s joys.

None have I left,     to lift the sword,

or to cleanse the carven,     cup of price,

beaker bright.     My brave are gone.

And the helmet hard,     all haughty with gold,

shall part from its plating.     Polishers sleep,

who could brighten and burnish,     the battle-mask;

and those weeds of war,     that were wont to brave,

over bicker of shields,     the bite of steel,

rust with their bearer.     The ringed mail,

fares not far,     with famous chieftain,

at side of hero!     No harp’s delight,

no glee-wood’s gladness!     No good hawk now,

flies through the hall!     Nor horses fleet,

stamp in the burgstead!     Battle and death,

the flower of my race,     have bereft away.”

Mournful of mood,     thus he moaned his woe,

alone for them all,     and unblithe wept,

by day and by night,     till death’s fell wave,

o’erwhelmed his heart.     His hoard-of-bliss,

that old ill-doer,     open found,

who blazing at twilight,     the barrows haunteth,

naked foe-dragon,     flying by night,

folded in fire:      the folk of earth,

dread him sore,     it is his doom to seek,

hoard in the graves,     and heathen gold,

to watch many-wintered:      nor wins he thereby!

Powerful this,     plague-of-the-people thus,

held the house,     of the hoard in earth,

three hundred winters;     till One aroused,

wrath in his breast,     to the ruler bearing,

that costly cup,     and the king implored,

for bond of peace.     So the barrow was plundered,

borne off was booty.     His boon was granted,

that wretched man;     and his ruler saw,

first time what was fashioned,     in far-off days.

When the dragon awoke,     new woe was kindled.

O’er the stone he snuffed.     The stark-heart found,

footprint of foe,     who so far had gone,

in his hidden craft,     by the creature’s head.

So may the undoomed,     easily flee,

evils and exile,     if only he gain,

the grace of The Wielder!     That warden of gold,

o’er the ground went seeking,     greedy to find,

the man who wrought him,     such wrong in sleep.

Savage and burning,     the barrow he circled,

all without;     nor was any there,

none in the waste.     Yet war he desired,

was eager for battle,     The barrow he entered,

sought the cup,     and discovered soon,

that some one of mortals,     had searched his treasure,

his lordly gold.     The guardian waited,

ill-enduring,     till evening came;

boiling with wrath,     was the barrow’s keeper,

and fain with flame,     the foe to pay,

for the dear cup’s loss.     Now day was fled,

as the worm had wished.     By its wall no more,

was it glad to bide,     but burning flew,

folded in flame:      a fearful beginning,

for sons of the soil;     and soon it came,

in the doom of their lord,     to a dreadful end.

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