Beowulf: Hall Chapter 23

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XXIII. BEOWULF’S FIGHT WITH GRENDEL’S MOTHER.

{Beowulf makes a parting speech to Hrothgar.}

Beowulf spake,       Ecgtheow’s son:
“Recall now, oh,       famous kinsman of Healfdene,
Prince very prudent,       now to part I am ready,
Gold-friend of earlmen,       what erst we agreed on, — 1550.

{If I fail, act as a kind liegelord to my thanes.}

Should I lay down my life,       in lending thee assistance, — 5.
When my earth-joys were over,       thou wouldst evermore serve me,
In stead of a father;       my faithful thanemen,
My trusty retainers,       protect thou and care for,
Fall I in battle: and,       Hrothgar belovèd,

{and send Higelac the jewels thou hast given me.}

Send unto Higelac,       the high-valued jewels, — 10.
Thou to me hast allotted.       The lord of the Geatmen,
May perceive from the gold,       the Hrethling may see it,

{I should like my king to know how generous a lord I found thee to be.}

When he looks on the jewels,       that a gem-giver found I,
Good over-measure,       enjoyed him while able. — 1560.
And the ancient heirloom,       Unferth permit thou, — 15.
The famed one to have,       the heavy-sword splendid,[1.]
The hard-edgèd weapon;       with Hrunting to aid me,
I shall gain me glory,       or grim-death shall take me.”

{Beowulf is eager for the fray.}

The atheling of Geatmen,       uttered these words and,
Heroic did hasten,       not any rejoinder, — 20.
Was willing to wait for;       the wave-current swallowed,

{He is a whole day reaching the bottom of the sea.}

The doughty-in-battle.       Then a day’s-length elapsed ere,
He was able to see,       the sea at its bottom.
Early she found then,       who fifty of winters, — 1570.
The course of the currents,       kept in her fury, — 25.
Grisly and greedy,       that the grim one’s dominion,

{Grendel’s mother knows that some one has reached her domains.}

Some one of men,       from above was exploring.
Forth did she grab them,       grappled the warrior,
With horrible clutches;       yet no sooner she injured,
His body unscathèd:       the burnie out-guarded, — 30.
That she proved but powerless,       to pierce through the armor,
The limb-mail locked,       with loath-grabbing fingers.
The sea-wolf bare then,       when bottomward came she,

{She grabs him, and bears him to her den.}

The ring-prince homeward,       that he after was powerless, — 1580.
(He had daring to do it),       to deal with his weapons, — 35.
But many a mere-beast,       tormented him swimming,

{Sea-monsters bite and strike him.}

Flood-beasts no few,       with fierce-biting tusks did,
Break through his burnie,       the brave one pursued they.
The earl then discovered,       he was down in some cavern,
Where no water whatever,       anywise harmed him, — 40.
And the clutch of the current,       could come not anear him,
Since the roofed-hall prevented;       brightness a-gleaming,
Fire-light he saw,       flashing resplendent.
The good one saw then,       the sea-bottom’s monster, — 1590.

{Beowulf attacks the mother of Grendel.}

The mighty mere-woman;       he made a great onset, — 45.
With weapon-of-battle,       his hand not desisted,
From striking, that war-blade,       struck on her head then,
A battle-song greedy.       The stranger perceived then,

{The sword will not bite.}

The sword would not bite,       her life would not injure,
But the falchion failed,       the folk-prince when straitened: — 50.
Erst had it often,       onsets encountered,
Oft cloven the helmet,       the fated one’s armor:
‘Twas the first time that ever,       the excellent jewel,
Had failed of its fame.       Firm-mooded after, — 1600.
Not heedless of valor,       but mindful of glory, — 55.
Was Higelac’s kinsman;       the hero-chief angry,
Cast then his carved-sword,       covered with jewels,
That it lay on the earth,       hard and steel-pointed;

{The hero throws down all weapons, and again trusts to his hand-grip.}

He hoped in his strength,       his hand-grapple sturdy.
So any must act,       whenever he thinketh, — 60.
To gain him in battle,       glory unending,
And is reckless of living.       The lord of the War-Geats,
(He shrank not from battle),       seized by the shoulder,[2.]
The mother of Grendel;       then mighty in struggle, — 1610.
Swung he his enemy,       since his anger was kindled, — 65.
That she fell to the floor.       With furious grapple,

{Beowulf falls.}

She gave him requital,[3.]       early thereafter,
And stretched out to grab him;       the strongest of warriors,
Faint-mooded stumbled,       till he fell in his traces,

{The monster sits on him with drawn sword.}

Foot-going champion.       Then she sat on the hall-guest, — 70.
And wielded her war-knife,       wide-bladed, flashing,
For her son would take vengeance,       her one only bairn.

{His armor saves his life.}

His breast-armor woven,       bode on his shoulder;
It guarded his life,       the entrance defended, — 1620.
‘Gainst sword-point and edges.       Ecgtheow’s son there, — 75.
Had fatally journeyed,       champion of Geatmen,
In the arms of the ocean,       had the armor not given,
Close-woven corslet,       comfort and succor,

{God arranged for his escape.}

And had God most holy,       not awarded the victory,
All-knowing Lord;       easily did heaven’s, — 80.
Ruler most righteous,       arrange it with justice;[4.]
Uprose he erect,       ready for battle.

— NOTES —

[1.] Kl. emends ‘wæl-sweord.’ The half-line would then read, ‘the battle-sword splendid.’–For ‘heard-ecg’ in next half-verse, see note to 2039 above.
[2.] Sw., R., and t.B. suggest ‘feaxe’ for ‘eaxle’ (1538) and render: Seized by the hair.
[3.] If ‘hand-léan’ be accepted (as the MS. has it), the line will read: She hand-reward gave him early thereafter.
[4.] Sw. and S. change H.-So.’s semicolon (v. 1557) to a comma, and translate: The Ruler of Heaven arranged it in justice easily, after he arose again.

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