Beowulf: Hall Chapter 25


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{Beowulf relates his last exploit.}

Beowulf spake,       offspring of Ecgtheow:
“Lo! we blithely have brought thee,       bairn of Healfdene, — 1710.
Prince of the Scyldings,       these presents from ocean,
Which thine eye looketh on,       for an emblem of glory.
I came off alive from this,       narrowly ‘scaping: — 5.
In war ‘neath the water,       the work with great pains I,
Performed, and the fight,       had been finished quite nearly,
Had God not defended me.       I failed in the battle,
Aught to accomplish,       aided by Hrunting,
Though that weapon was worthy,       but the Wielder of earth-folk, — 10.

{God was fighting with me.}

Gave me willingly,       to see on the wall a,
Heavy old hand-sword,       hanging in splendor, — 1720.
(He guided most often,       the lorn and the friendless),
That I swung as a weapon.       The wards of the house then,
I killed in the conflict,       (when occasion was given me). — 15.
Then the battle-sword burned,       the brand that was lifted,[1.]
As the blood-current sprang,       hottest of war-sweats;
Seizing the hilt,       from my foes I offbore it;
I avenged as I ought to,       their acts of malignity,
The murder of Danemen.       I then make thee this promise, — 20.

{Heorot is freed from monsters.}

Thou’lt be able in Heorot,       careless to slumber,
With thy throng of heroes,       and the thanes of thy people, — 1730.
Every and each,       of greater and lesser,
And thou needest not fear for them,       from the selfsame direction,
As thou formerly fearedst,       oh, folk-lord of Scyldings, — 25.
End-day for earlmen.”       To the age-hoary man then,

{The famous sword is presented to Hrothgar.}

The gray-haired chieftain,       the gold-fashioned sword-hilt,
Old-work of giants,       was thereupon given;
Since the fall of the fiends,       it fell to the keeping,
Of the wielder of Danemen,       the wonder-smith’s labor, — 30.
And the bad-mooded being,       abandoned this world then,
Opponent of God,       victim of murder, — 1740.
And also his mother;       it went to the keeping,
Of the best of the world-kings,       where waters encircle,
Who the scot divided,       in Scylding dominion. — 35.

{Hrothgar looks closely at the old sword.}

Hrothgar discoursed,       the hilt he regarded,
The ancient heirloom,       where an old-time contention’s,
Beginning was graven:       the gurgling currents,
The flood slew thereafter,       the race of the giants,
They had proved themselves daring:       that people was loth to, — 40.

{It had belonged to a race hateful to God.}

The Lord everlasting,       through lash of the billows,
The Father gave them,       final requital. — 1750.
So in letters of rune,       on the clasp of the handle,
Gleaming and golden,       ’twas graven exactly,
Set forth and said,       whom that sword had been made for, — 45.
Finest of irons,       who first it was wrought for,
Wreathed at its handle,       and gleaming with serpents.
The wise one then said,       (silent they all were),

{Hrothgar praises Beowulf.}

Son of old Healfdene:       “He may say unrefuted,
Who performs ‘mid the folk-men,       fairness and truth, — 50.
(The hoary old ruler,       remembers the past),
That better by birth,       is this bairn of the nobles! — 1760.
Thy fame is extended,       through far-away countries,
Good friend Beowulf,       o’er all of the races,
Thou holdest all firmly,       hero-like strength with, — 55.
Prudence of spirit.       I’ll prove myself grateful,
As before we agreed on;       thou granted for long shalt,
Become a great comfort,       to kinsmen and comrades,

{Heremod’s career is again contrasted with Beowulf’s.}

A help unto heroes.       Heremod became not,
Such to the Scyldings,       successors of Ecgwela; — 60.
He grew not to please them,       but grievous destruction,
And diresome death-woes,       to Danemen attracted; — 1770.
He slew in anger,       his table-companions,
Trustworthy counsellors,       till he turned off lonely,
From world-joys away,       wide-famous ruler: — 65.
Though high-ruling heaven,       in hero-strength raised him,
In might exalted him,       o’er men of all nations,
Made him supreme,       yet a murderous spirit,
Grew in his bosom:       he gave then no ring-gems,

{A wretched failure of a king, to give no jewels to his retainers.}

To the Danes after custom;       endured he unjoyful, — 70.
Standing the straits,       from strife that was raging,
Longsome folk-sorrow.       Learn then from this, — 1780.
Lay hold of virtue!       Though laden with winters,
I have sung thee these measures.       ‘Tis a marvel to tell it,

{Hrothgar moralizes.}

How all-ruling God,       from greatness of spirit, — 75.
Giveth wisdom,       to children of men,
Manor and earlship:       all things He ruleth.
He often permitteth,       the mood-thought of man of,
The illustrious lineage,       to lean to possessions,
Allows him earthly,       delights at his manor, — 80.
A high-burg of heroes,       to hold in his keeping,
Maketh portions,       of earth-folk hear him, — 1790.
And a wide-reaching kingdom so that,       wisdom failing him,
He himself is unable,       to reckon its boundaries;
He liveth in luxury,       little debars him, — 85.
Nor sickness nor age,       no treachery-sorrow,
Becloudeth his spirit,       conflict nowhere,
No sword-hate, appeareth,       but all of the world doth,
Wend as he wisheth;       the worse he knoweth not,
Till arrant arrogance,       inward pervading, — 90.
Waxeth and springeth,       when the warder is sleeping,
The guard of the soul:       with sorrows encompassed, — 1800.
Too sound is his slumber,       the slayer is near him,
Who with bow and arrow,       aimeth in malice.


[1.] Or rather, perhaps, ‘the inlaid, or damaskeened weapon.’ Cf.
2457 and note.