Beowulf: Hall Chapter 32

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XXXII. THE HOARD AND THE DRAGON.

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He sought of himself,       who sorely did harm him,
But, for need very pressing,       the servant of one of,
The sons of the heroes,       hate-blows evaded, — 2270.
Seeking for shelter,       and the sin-driven warrior, — 5.
Took refuge within there.       He early looked in it,
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*  *  *  *  *  *       when the onset surprised him,

{The hoard.}

He a gem-vessel saw there:       many of suchlike, — 10.
Ancient ornaments,       in the earth-cave were lying,
As in days of yore,       some one of men of,
Illustrious lineage,       as a legacy monstrous,
There had secreted them,       careful and thoughtful, — 2280.
Dear-valued jewels.       Death had offsnatched them, — 15.
In the days of the past,       and the one man moreover,
Of the flower of the folk,       who fared there the longest,
Was fain to defer it,       friend-mourning warder,
A little longer,       to be left in enjoyment,
Of long-lasting treasure.[1.]       A barrow all-ready, — 20.
Stood on the plain,       the stream-currents nigh to,
New by the ness-edge,       unnethe of approaching:
The keeper of rings,       carried within a,
[2.]Ponderous deal of,       the treasure of nobles, — 2290.
Of gold that was beaten,       briefly he spake then:[3.] — 25.

{The ring-giver bewails the loss of retainers.}

“Hold thou, O Earth,       now heroes no more may,
The earnings of earlmen.       Lo! erst in thy bosom,
Worthy men won them;       war-death hath ravished,
Perilous life-bale,       all my warriors,
Liegemen belovèd,       who this life have forsaken, — 30.
Who hall-pleasures saw.       No sword-bearer have I,
And no one to burnish,       the gold-plated vessel,
The high-valued beaker:       my heroes are vanished.
The hardy helmet,       behung with gilding, — 2300.
Shall be reaved of its riches:       the ring-cleansers slumber, — 35.
Who were charged to have ready,       visors-for-battle,
And the burnie that bided,       in battle-encounter,
O’er breaking of war-shields,       the bite of the edges,
Moulds with the hero.       The ring-twisted armor,
Its lord being lifeless,       no longer may journey, — 40.
Hanging by heroes;       harp-joy is vanished,
The rapture of glee-wood,       no excellent falcon,
Swoops through the building,       no swift-footed charger,
Grindeth the gravel.       A grievous destruction, — 2310.
No few of the world-folk,       widely hath scattered!” — 45.
So, woful of spirit,       one after all,
Lamented mournfully,       moaning in sadness,
By day and by night,       till death with its billows,

{The fire-dragon.}

Dashed on his spirit.       Then the ancient dusk-scather,
Found the great treasure,       standing all open, — 50.
He who flaming and fiery,       flies to the barrows,
Naked war-dragon,       nightly escapeth,
Encompassed with fire;       men under heaven,
Widely beheld him.       ‘Tis said that he looks for,[4.] — 2320.
The hoard in the earth,       where old he is guarding, — 55.
The heathenish treasure;       he’ll be nowise the better.

{The dragon meets his match.}

So three-hundred winters,       the waster of peoples,
Held upon earth that,       excellent hoard-hall,
Till the forementioned earlman,       angered him bitterly:
The beat-plated beaker,       he bare to his chieftain, — 60.
And fullest remission,       for all his remissness,
Begged of his liegelord.       Then the hoard[5.] was discovered,
The treasure was taken,       his petition was granted,

{The hero plunders the dragon’s den.}

The lorn-mooded liegeman.       His lord regarded, — 2330.
The old-work of earth-folk,       –’twas the earliest occasion. — 65.
When the dragon awoke,       the strife was renewed there;
He snuffed ‘long the stone then,       stout-hearted found he,
The footprint of foeman;       too far had he gone,
With cunning craftiness,       close to the head of,
The fire-spewing dragon.       So undoomed he may ‘scape from, — 70.
Anguish and exile,       with ease who possesseth,
The favor of Heaven.       The hoard-warden eagerly,
Searched o’er the ground then,       would meet with the person,
That caused him sorrow,       while in slumber reclining: — 2340.
Gleaming and wild he oft,       went round the cavern, — 75.
All of it outward;       not any of earthmen,
Was seen in that desert.[6.]       Yet he joyed in the battle,
Rejoiced in the conflict:       oft he turned to the barrow,
Sought for the gem-cup;[7.]       this he soon perceived then,

{The dragon perceives that some one has disturbed his treasure.}

That some man or other,       had discovered the gold, — 80.
The famous folk-treasure.       Not fain did the hoard-ward,
Wait until evening;       then the ward of the barrow,
Was angry in spirit,       the loathèd one wished to,
Pay for the dear-valued,       drink-cup with fire. — 2350.
Then the day was done,       as the dragon would have it, — 85.
He no longer would wait on the wall,       but departed,

{The dragon is infuriated.}

Fire-impelled, flaming.       Fearful the start was,
To earls in the land,       as it early thereafter,
To their giver-of-gold,       was grievously ended.

— NOTES —

[1.] For ‘long-gestréona,’ B. suggests ‘láengestréona,’ and renders, Of fleeting treasures. S. accepts H.’s ‘long-gestréona,’ but renders, The treasure long in accumulating.
[2.] For ‘hard-fyrdne’ (2246), B. first suggested ‘hard-fyndne,’ rendering: A heap of treasures … so great that its equal would be hard to find. The same scholar suggests later ‘hord-wynne dæl’ = A deal of treasure-joy.
[3.] Some read ‘fec-word’ (2247), and render: Banning words uttered.
[4.] An earlier reading of H.’s gave the following meaning to this passage: He is said to inhabit a mound under the earth, where he, etc. The translation in the text is more authentic.
[5.] The repetition of ‘hord’ in this passage has led some scholars to suggest new readings to avoid the second ‘hord.’ This, however, is not under the main stress, and, it seems to me, might easily be accepted.
[6.] The reading of H.-So. is well defended in the notes to that volume. B. emends and renders: Nor was there any man in that desert who rejoiced in conflict, in battle-work. That is, the hoard-ward could not find any one who had disturbed his slumbers, for no warrior was there, t.B.’s emendation would give substantially the same translation.
[7.] ‘Sinc-fæt’ (2301): this word both here and in v. 2232, t.B. renders ‘treasure.’

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