Beowulf: Hall Chapter 33

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XXXIII. BRAVE THOUGH AGED.–REMINISCENCES.

{The dragon spits fire.}

The stranger began then,       to vomit forth fire,
To burn the great manor;       the blaze then glimmered,
For anguish to earlmen,       not anything living,
Was the hateful air-goer,       willing to leave there.
The war of the worm,       widely was noticed, — 5. — 2360.
The feud of the foeman,       afar and anear,
How the enemy injured,       the earls of the Geatmen,
Harried with hatred:       back he hied to the treasure,
To the well-hidden cavern,       ere the coming of daylight.
He had circled with fire,       the folk of those regions, — 10.
With brand and burning;       in the barrow he trusted,
In the wall and his war-might:       the weening deceived him.

{Beowulf hears of the havoc wrought by the dragon.}

Then straight was the horror,       to Beowulf published,
Early forsooth,       that his own native homestead,[1.]
The best of buildings,       was burning and melting, — 15. — 2370.
Gift-seat of Geatmen.       ‘Twas a grief to the spirit,
Of the good-mooded hero,       the greatest of sorrows:

{He fears that Heaven is punishing him for some crime.}

The wise one weened then,       that wielding his kingdom,
‘Gainst the ancient commandments,       he had bitterly angered,
The Lord everlasting:       with lorn meditations, — 20.
His bosom welled inward,       as was nowise his custom.
The fire-spewing dragon,       fully had wasted,
The fastness of warriors,       the water-land outward,
The manor with fire.       The folk-ruling hero,
Prince of the Weders,       was planning to wreak him. — 25. — 2380.
The warmen’s defender,       bade them to make him,
Earlmen’s atheling,       an excellent war-shield,

{He orders an iron shield to be made from him, wood is useless.}

Wholly of iron:       fully he knew then
That wood from the forest,       was helpless to aid him,
Shield against fire.       The long-worthy ruler, — 30.
Must live the last,       of his limited earth-days,
Of life in the world,       and the worm along with him,
Though he long had been holding,       hoard-wealth in plenty.

{He determines to fight alone.}

Then the ring-prince disdained,       to seek with a war-band,
With army extensive,       the air-going ranger; — 35. — 2390.
He felt no fear,       of the foeman’s assaults and,
He counted for little,       the might of the dragon,
His power and prowess:       for previously dared he,

{Beowulf’s early triumphs referred to.}

A heap of hostility,       hazarded dangers,
War-thane, when Hrothgar’s,       palace he cleansèd, — 40.
Conquering combatant,       clutched in the battle,
The kinsmen of Grendel,       of kindred detested.[2.]

{Higelac’s death recalled.}

‘Twas of hand-fights not least,       where Higelac was slaughtered,
When the king of the Geatmen,       with clashings of battle,
Friend-lord of folks,       in Frisian dominions, — 45. — 2400.
Offspring of Hrethrel,       perished through sword-drink,
With battle-swords beaten;       thence Beowulf came then,
On self-help relying,       swam through the waters;
He bare on his arm,       lone-going, thirty,
Outfits of armor,       when the ocean he mounted. — 50.
The Hetwars by no means,       had need to be boastful,
Of their fighting afoot,       who forward to meet him,
Carried their war-shields:       not many returned from,
The brave-mooded battle-knight,       back to their homesteads.
Ecgtheow’s bairn,       o’er the bight-courses swam then, — 55. — 2410.
Lone-goer lorn to his,       land-folk returning,
Where Hygd to him tendered,       treasure and kingdom,

{Heardred’s lack of capacity to rule.}

Rings and dominion:       her son she not trusted,
To be able to keep,       the kingdom devised him,
‘Gainst alien races,       on the death of King Higelac. — 60.

{Beowulf’s tact and delicacy recalled.}

Yet the sad ones succeeded not,       in persuading the atheling,
In any way ever,       to act as a suzerain,
To Heardred, or promise,       to govern the kingdom;
Yet with friendly counsel,       in the folk he sustained him,
Gracious, with honor,       till he grew to be older, — 65. — 2420.

{Reference is here made to a visit which Beowulf receives from Eanmund and Eadgils, why they come is not known.}

Wielded the Weders.       Wide-fleeing outlaws,
Ohthere’s sons, sought him,       o’er the waters:
They had stirred a revolt ‘gainst,       the helm of the Scylfings,
The best of the sea-kings,       who in Swedish dominions,
Distributed treasure,       distinguished folk-leader. — 70.
‘Twas the end of his earth-days;       injury fatal,[3.]
By swing of the sword,       he received as a greeting,
Offspring of Higelac;       Ongentheow’s bairn,
Later departed,       to visit his homestead,
When Heardred was dead;       let Beowulf rule them, — 75. — 2430.
Govern the Geatmen:       good was that folk-king.

— NOTES —

[1.] ‘Hám’ (2326), the suggestion of B. is accepted by t.B. and other scholars.
[2.] For ‘láðan cynnes’ (2355), t.B. suggests ‘láðan cynne,’ apposition to ‘mægum.’ From syntactical and other considerations, this is a most excellent emendation.
[3.] Gr. read ‘on feorme’ (2386), rendering: He there at the banquet a fatal wound received by blows of the sword.

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