Beowulf: Hall Chapter 24


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{Beowulf grasps a giant-sword.}

Then he saw mid the war-gems,       a weapon of victory,
An ancient giant-sword,       of edges a-doughty, — 1630.
Glory of warriors:       of weapons ’twas choicest,
Only ’twas larger,       than any man else was,
Able to bear,       to the battle-encounter, — 5.
The good and splendid,       work of the giants.
He grasped then the sword-hilt,       knight of the Scyldings,
Bold and battle-grim,       brandished his ring-sword,
Hopeless of living,       hotly he smote her,
That the fiend-woman’s,       neck firmly it grappled, — 10.

{and fells the female monster.}

Broke through her bone-joints,       the bill fully pierced her,
Fate-cursèd body,       she fell to the ground then: — 1640.
The hand-sword was bloody,       the hero exulted.
The brand was brilliant,       brightly it glimmered,
Just as from heaven,       gemlike shineth, — 15.
The torch of the firmament.       He glanced ‘long the building,
And turned by the wall then,       Higelac’s vassal,
Raging and wrathful,       raised his battle-sword,
Strong by the handle.       The edge was not useless,
To the hero-in-battle,       but he speedily wished to, — 20.
Give Grendel requital,       for the many assaults he,
Had worked on the West-Danes,       not once, but often, — 1650.
When he slew in slumber,       the subjects of Hrothgar,
Swallowed down fifteen,       sleeping retainers,
Of the folk of the Danemen,       and fully as many, — 25.
Carried away,       a horrible prey.
He gave him requital,       grim-raging champion,

{Beowulf sees the body of Grendel, and cuts off his head.}

When he saw on his rest-place,       weary of conflict,
Grendel lying,       of life-joys bereavèd,
As the battle at Heorot,       erstwhile had scathed him; — 30.
His body far bounded,       a blow when he suffered,
Death having seized him,       sword-smiting heavy, — 1660.
And he cut off his head then.       Early this noticed,
The clever carles who,       as comrades of Hrothgar,

{The waters are gory.}

Gazed on the sea-deeps,       that the surging wave-currents, — 35.
Were mightily mingled,       the mere-flood was gory:
Of the good one the gray-haired,       together held converse,

{Beowulf is given up for dead.}

The hoary of head,       that they hoped not to see again,
The atheling ever,       that exulting in victory,
He’d return there to visit,       the distinguished folk-ruler: — 40.
Then many concluded,       the mere-wolf had killed him.[1.]
The ninth hour came then.       From the ness-edge departed, — 1670.
The bold-mooded Scyldings;       the gold-friend of heroes,
Homeward betook him.       The strangers sat down then,
Soul-sick, sorrowful,       the sea-waves regarding: — 45.
They wished and yet weened not,       their well-loved friend-lord,

{The giant-sword melts.}

To see any more.       The sword-blade began then,
The blood having touched it,       contracting and shriveling,
With battle-icicles;       ’twas a wonderful marvel,
That it melted entirely,       likest to ice when, — 50.
The Father unbindeth,       the bond of the frost and,
Unwindeth the wave-bands,       He who wieldeth dominion, — 1680.
Of times and of tides:       a truth-firm Creator.
Nor took he of jewels,       more in the dwelling,
Lord of the Weders,       though they lay all around him, — 55.
Than the head and the handle,       handsome with jewels;
The brand early melted,       burnt was the weapon:[2.]
So hot was the blood,       the strange-spirit poisonous,

{The hero swims back to the realms of day.}

That in it did perish.       He early swam off then,
Who had bided in combat,       the carnage of haters, — 60.
Went up through the ocean;       the eddies were cleansèd,
The spacious expanses,       when the spirit from farland, — 1690.
His life put aside,       and this short-lived existence.
The seamen’s defender,       came swimming to land then,
Doughty of spirit,       rejoiced in his sea-gift, — 65.
The bulky burden,       which he bore in his keeping.
The excellent vassals,       advanced then to meet him,
To God they were grateful,       were glad in their chieftain,
That to see him safe and sound,       was granted them.
From the high-minded hero,       then, helmet and burnie, — 70.
Were speedily loosened:       the ocean was putrid,
The water ‘neath welkin,       weltered with gore. — .
Forth did they fare, then,       their footsteps retracing,
Merry and mirthful,       measured the earth-way,
The highway familiar:       men very daring,[3.] — 75.
Bare then the head,       from the sea-cliff, burdening,
Each of the earlmen,       excellent-valiant.

{It takes four men to carry Grendel’s head on a spear.}

Four of them had,       to carry with labor,
The head of Grendel,       to the high towering gold-hall,
Upstuck on the spear,       till fourteen most-valiant, — 80.
And battle-brave Geatmen,       came there going,
Straight to the palace:       the prince of the people, — 1700.
Measured the mead-ways,       their mood-brave companion.
The atheling of earlmen,       entered the building,
Deed-valiant man,       adorned with distinction, — 85.
Doughty shield-warrior,       to address King Hrothgar:
Then hung by the hair,       the head of Grendel,
Was borne to the building,       where beer-thanes were drinking,
Loth before earlmen,       and eke ‘fore the lady:
The warriors beheld then,       a wonderful sight. — 90.


[1.] ‘Þæs monige gewearð’ (1599) and ‘hafað þæs geworden’ (2027).–In a paper published some years ago in one of the Johns Hopkins University circulars, I tried to throw upon these two long-doubtful passages some light derived from a study of like passages in Alfred’s prose.–The impersonal verb ‘geweorðan,’ with an accus. of the person, and a þæt-clause is used several times with the meaning ‘agree.’ See Orosius (Sweet’s ed.) 1787; 20434; 20828; 21015; 28020. In the two Beowulf passages, the þæt-clause is anticipated by ‘þæs,’ which is clearly a gen. of the thing agreed on. The first passage (v. 1599 (b)-1600) I translate literally: Then many agreed upon this (namely), that the sea-wolf had killed him. The second passage (v. 2025 (b)-2027): She is promised …; to this the friend of the Scyldings has agreed, etc. By emending ‘is’ instead of ‘wæs’ (2025), the tenses will be brought into perfect harmony. In v. 1997 ff. this same idiom occurs, and was noticed in B.’s great article on Beowulf, which appeared about the time I published my reading of 1599 and 2027. Translate 1997 then: Wouldst let the South-Danes themselves decide about their struggle with Grendel. Here ‘Súð-Dene’ is accus. of person, and ‘gúðe’ is gen. of thing agreed on. With such collateral support as that afforded by B. (P. and B. XII. 97), I have no hesitation in departing from H.-So., my usual guide. The idiom above treated runs through A.-S., Old Saxon, and other Teutonic languages, and should be noticed in the lexicons.
[2.] ‘Bróden-mæl’ is regarded by most scholars as meaning a damaskeened sword. Translate: The damaskeened sword burned up. Cf. 2516 and note.
[3.] ‘Cyning-balde’ (1635) is the much-disputed reading of K. and Th. To render this, “nobly bold,” “excellently bold,” have been suggested. B. would read ‘cyning-holde’ (cf. 290), and render: Men well-disposed towards the king carried the head, etc. ‘Cynebealde,’ says t.B., endorsing Gr.