Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 32

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XXXII

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 THE fall of his lord,     he was fain to requite,

in after days;     and to Eadgils he proved,

friend to the friendless,     and forces sent,

over the sea,     to the son of Ohtere,

weapons and warriors:      well repaid he,

those care-paths cold,     when the king he slew.[1]

Thus safe through struggles,     the son of Ecgtheow,

had passed a plenty,     through perils dire,

with daring deeds,     till this day was come,

that doomed him now,     with the dragon to strive.

With comrades eleven,     the lord of Geats,

swollen in rage,     went seeking the dragon.

He had heard whence all,     the harm arose,

and the killing of clansmen;     that cup of price,

on the lap of the lord,     had been laid by the finder.

In the throng was this,     one thirteenth man,

starter of all,     the strife and ill,

care-laden captive;     cringing thence,

forced and reluctant,     he led them on,

till he came in ken,     of that cavern-hall,

the barrow delved,     near billowy surges,

flood of ocean.     Within it was full,

of wire-gold and jewels;     a jealous warden,

warrior trusty,     the treasures held,

lurked in his lair.     Not light the task,

of entrance for any,     of earth-born men!

Sat on the headland,     the hero king,

spake words of hail,     to his hearth-companions,

gold-friend of Geats.     All gloomy his soul,

wavering death-bound.     Wyrd full nigh,

stood ready to greet,     the gray-haired man,

to seize his soul-hoard,     sunder apart,

life and body.     Not long would be,

the warrior’s spirit,     enwound with flesh.

Beowulf spake,     the bairn of Ecgtheow:

“Through store of struggles,     I strove in youth,

mighty feuds;     I mind them all.

I was seven years old,     when the sovran of rings,

friend-of-his-folk,     from my father took me,

had me and held me,     Hrethel the king,

with food and fee,     faithful in kinship.

Never while I lived there,     he loathlier found me,

bairn in the burg,     than his birthright sons,

Herebeald and Haethcyn,     and Hygelac mine.

For the eldest of these,     by unmeet chance,

by kinsman’s deed,     was the death-bed strewn,

when Haethcyn killed him,     with horny bow,

his own dear liege,     laid low with an arrow,

missed the mark,     and his mate shot down,

one brother the other,     with bloody shaft.

A feeless fight,[2]     and a fearful sin,

horror to Hrethel;     yet hard as it was,

unavenged must,     the atheling die!

Too awful it is,     for an aged man,

to bide and bear,     that his bairn so young,

rides on the gallows.     A rime he makes,

sorrow-song,     for his son there hanging,

as rapture of ravens;     no rescue now,

can come from the old,     disabled man!

Still is he minded,     as morning breaks,

of the heir gone elsewhere;[3]     another he hopes not,

he will bide to see,     his burg within,

as ward for his wealth,     now the one has found,

doom of death,     that the deed incurred.

Forlorn he looks,     on the lodge of his son,

wine-hall waste,     and wind-swept chambers,

bereft of revel.     The rider sleepeth,

the hero far-hidden;[4]     no harp resounds,

in the courts no wassail,     as once was heard.

[1] That is, Beowulf supports Eadgils against Onela, who is slain by Eadgilsin revenge for the “care-paths” of exile into which Onela forced him.

[2] That is, the king could claim no wergild, or man-price, from one son for the killing of the other.

[3] Usual euphemism for death.

[4] Sc. in the grave.

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