Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 37

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XXXVII

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IT was heavy hap,     for that hero young,

on his lord beloved,     to look and find him,

lying on earth,     with life at end,

sorrowful sight.     But the slayer too,

awful earth-dragon,     empty of breath,

lay felled in fight,     nor fain of its treasure,

could the writhing monster,     rule it more.

For edges of iron,     had ended its days,

hard and battle-sharp,     hammers’ leaving;[1]

and that flier-afar,     had fallen to ground,

hushed by its hurt,     its hoard all near,

no longer lusty,     aloft to whirl,

at midnight making,     its merriment seen,

proud of its prizes:      prone it sank,

by the handiwork,     of the hero-king.

Forsooth among folk,     but few achieve,

though sturdy and strong,     as stories tell me,

and never so daring,     in deed of valor,

the perilous breath,     of a poison-foe,

to brave and to rush,     on the ring-board hall,

whenever his watch,     the warden keeps,

bold in the barrow.     Beowulf paid,

the price of death,     for that precious hoard;

and each of the foes,     had found the end,

of this fleeting life.     Befell erelong,

that the laggards in war,     the wood had left,

trothbreakers, cowards,     ten together,

fearing before,     to flourish a spear,

in the sore distress,     of their sovran lord.

Now in their shame,     their shields they carried,

armor of fight,     where the old man lay;

and they gazed on Wiglaf.     Wearied he sat,

at his sovran’s shoulder,     shieldsman good,

to wake him with water.[2]     Nowise it availed.

Though well he wished it,     in world no more,

could he barrier life,     for that leader-of-battles,

nor baffle the will,     of all-wielding God.

Doom of the Lord,     was law o’er the deeds,

of every man,     as it is to-day.

Grim was the answer,     easy to get,

from the youth for those,     that had yielded to fear!

Wiglaf spake,     the son of Weohstan,

mournful he looked,     on those men unloved:

“Who sooth will speak,     can say indeed,

that the ruler who gave,     you golden rings,

and the harness of war,     in which ye stand,

for he at ale-bench,     often-times,

bestowed on hall-folk,     helm and breastplate,

lord to liegemen,     the likeliest gear,

which near of far,     he could find to give,

threw away and wasted,     these weeds of battle,

on men who failed,     when the foemen came!

Not at all could the king,     of his comrades-in-arms,

venture to vaunt,     though the Victory-Wielder.

God gave him grace,     that he got revenge,

sole with his sword,     in stress and need.

To rescue his life,     it was little that I,

could serve him in struggle;     yet shift I made,

(hopeless it seemed),     to help my kinsman.

Its strength ever waned,     when with weapon I struck,

that fatal foe,     and the fire less strongly,

flowed from its head.     Too few the heroes,

in throe of contest,     that thronged to our king!

Now gift of treasure,     and girding of sword,

joy of the house,     and home-delight,

shall fail your folk;     his freehold-land,

every clansman,     within your kin,

shall lose and leave,     when lords highborn,

hear afar of,     that flight of yours,

a fameless deed.     Yea death is better,

for liegemen all,     than a life of shame!”

[1] What had been left or made by the hammer, well-forged.

[2] Trying to revive him.

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