Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 38

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XXXVIII

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THAT battle-toil bade he,     at burg to announce,

at the fort on the cliff,     where full of sorrow,

all the morning,     earls had sat,

daring shieldsmen,     in doubt of twain:

would they wail as dead,     or welcome home,

their lord beloved?     Little[1] kept back,

of the tidings new,     but told them all,

the herald that up,     the headland rode,

“Now the willing-giver,     to Weder folk,

in death-bed lies;     the Lord of Geats,

on the slaughter-bed sleeps,     by the serpent’s deed!

And beside him is stretched,     that slayer-of-men,

with knife-wounds sick:[2]     no sword availed,

on the awesome thing,     in any wise,

to work a wound.     There Wiglaf sitteth,

Weohstan’s bairn,     by Beowulf’s side,

the living earl,     by the other dead,

and heavy of heart,     a head-watch[3] keeps,

o’er friend and foe.     Now our folk may look,

for waging of war,     when once unhidden,

to Frisian and Frank,     the fall of the king,

is spread afar.     The strife began,

when hot on the Hugas,[4]     Hygelac fell,

and fared with his fleet,     to the Frisian land.

Him there the Hetwaras,     humbled in war,

plied with such prowess,     their power o’erwhelming,

that the bold-in-battle,     bowed beneath it,

and fell in fight.     To his friends no wise,

could that earl give treasure!     And ever since,

the Merowings’ favor,     has failed us wholly.

Nor aught expect I,     of peace and faith,

from Swedish folk,     it was spread afar,

how Ongentheow bereft,     at Ravenswood,

Haethcyn Hrethling,     of hope and life,

when the folk of Geats,     for the first time sought,

in wanton pride,     the Warlike-Scylfings.

Soon the sage old sire,[5]     of Ohtere,

ancient and awful,     gave answering blow;

the sea-king[6] he slew,     and his spouse redeemed,

his good wife rescued,     though robbed of her gold,

mother of Ohtere,     and Onela.

Then he followed his foes,     who fled before him,

sore beset,     and stole their way,

bebereft of a ruler,     to Ravenswood.

With his host he besieged there,     what swords had left,

the weary and wounded;     woes he threatened,

the whole night through,     to that hard-pressed throng:

some with the morrow,     his sword should kill,

some should go,     to the gallows-tree,

for rapture of ravens.     But rescue came,

with dawn of day,     for those desperate men,

when they heard the horn,     of Hygelac sound,

tones of his trumpet;     the trusty king,

had followed their trail,     with faithful band.

[1] Nothing.

[2] Dead.

[3] Death-watch, guard of honor, “lyke-wake.”

[4] A name for the Franks.

[5] Ongentheow.

[6] Haethcyn.

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