Beowulf: Hall Chapter 36

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XXXVI. WIGLAF THE TRUSTY.–BEOWULF IS DESERTED BY FRIENDS AND BY SWORD.

{Wiglaf remains true–the ideal Teutonic liegeman.}

The son of Weohstan,       was Wiglaf entitled,
Shield-warrior precious,       prince of the Scylfings,
Ælfhere’s kinsman:       he saw his dear liegelord,
Enduring the heat,       ‘neath helmet and visor.
Then he minded the holding,       that erst he had given him, — 5.

{Wiglaf recalls Beowulf’s generosity.}

The Wægmunding warriors’,       wealth-blessèd homestead,
Each of the folk-rights,       his father had wielded;
He was hot for the battle,       his hand seized the target, — 2640.
The yellow-bark shield,       he unsheathed his old weapon,
Which was known among earthmen,       as the relic of Eanmund, — 10.
Ohthere’s offspring,       whom, exiled and friendless,
Weohstan did slay,       with sword-edge in battle,
And carried his kinsman,       the clear-shining helmet,
The ring-made burnie,       the old giant-weapon,
That Onela gave him,       his boon-fellow’s armor, — 15.
Ready war-trappings:       he the feud did not mention,
Though he’d fatally smitten,       the son of his brother.
Many a half-year,       held he the treasures, — 2650.
The bill and the burnie,       till his bairn became able,
Like his father before him,       fame-deeds to ‘complish; — 20.
Then he gave him ‘mong Geatmen,       a goodly array of,
Weeds for his warfare;       he went from life then,
Old on his journey.       ‘Twas the earliest time then,

{This is Wiglaf’s first battle as liegeman of Beowulf.}

That the youthful champion,       might charge in the battle,
Aiding his liegelord;       his spirit was dauntless. — 25.
Nor did kinsman’s bequest,       quail at the battle:
This the dragon discovered,       on their coming together.
Wiglaf uttered many,       a right-saying, — 2660.
Said to his fellows,       sad was his spirit:

{Wiglaf appeals to the pride of the cowards.}

“I remember the time when,       tasting the mead-cup, — 30.
We promised in the hall,       the lord of us all,
Who gave us these ring-treasures,       that this battle-equipment,
Swords and helmets,       we’d certainly quite him,
Should need of such aid,       ever befall him:

{How we have forfeited our liegelord’s confidence!}

In the war-band he chose us,       for this journey spontaneously, — 35.
Stirred us to glory,       and gave me these jewels,
Since he held and esteemed us,       trust-worthy spearmen,
Hardy helm-bearers,       though this hero-achievement, — 2670.
Our lord intended,       alone to accomplish,
Ward of his people,       for most of achievements, — 40.
Doings audacious,       he did among earth-folk.

{Our lord is in sore need of us.}

The day is now come,       when the ruler of earthmen,
Needeth the vigor,       of valiant heroes:
Let us wend us towards him,       the war-prince to succor,
While the heat yet rageth,       horrible fire-fight. — 45.

{I would rather die than go home with out my suzerain.}

God wot in me,       ’tis mickle the liefer,
The blaze should embrace,       my body and eat it,
With my treasure-bestower.       Meseemeth not proper, — 2680.
To bear our battle-shields,       back to our country,
‘Less first we are able,       to fell and destroy the, — 50.
Long-hating foeman,       to defend the life of,

{Surely he does not deserve to die alone.}

The prince of the Weders.       Well do I know ’tisn’t,
Earned by his exploits,       he only of Geatmen,
Sorrow should suffer,       sink in the battle:
Brand and helmet to us,       both shall be common, — 55.
[1.]Shield-cover, burnie.”       Through the bale-smoke he stalked then,
Went under helmet,       to the help of his chieftain,

{Wiglaf reminds Beowulf of his youthful boasts.}

Briefly discoursing:       “Beowulf dear, — 2690.
Perform thou all fully,       as thou formerly saidst,
In thy youthful years,       that while yet thou livedst, — 60.
Thou wouldst let thine honor,       not ever be lessened.
Thy life thou shalt save,       mighty in actions,
Atheling undaunted,       with all of thy vigor;

{The monster advances on them.}

I’ll give thee assistance.”       The dragon came raging,
Wild-mooded stranger,       when these words had been uttered, — 65.
(‘Twas the second occasion),       seeking his enemies,
Men that were hated,       with hot-gleaming fire-waves;
With blaze-billows burned,       the board to its edges: — 2700.
The fight-armor failed then,       to furnish assistance,
To the youthful spear-hero:       but the young-agèd stripling, — 70.
Quickly advanced ‘neath,       his kinsman’s war-target,
Since his own had been ground,       in the grip of the fire.

{Beowulf strikes at the dragon.}

Then the warrior-king,       was careful of glory,
He soundly smote with,       sword-for-the-battle,
That it stood in the head,       by hatred driven; — 75.
Nægling was shivered,       the old and iron-made,

{His sword fails him.}

Brand of Beowulf,       in battle deceived him.
‘Twas denied him that edges,       of irons were able, — 2710.
To help in the battle;       the hand was too mighty,
[2.]Which every weapon,       as I heard on inquiry, — 80.
Outstruck in its stroke,       when to struggle he carried,
The wonderful war-sword:       it waxed him no better.

{The dragon advances on Beowulf again.}

Then the people-despoiler,       –third of his onsets,–
Fierce-raging fire-drake,       of feud-hate was mindful,
Charged on the strong one,       when chance was afforded, — 85.
Heated and war-grim,       seized on his neck,
With teeth that were bitter;       he bloody did wax with,
Soul-gore seething;       sword-blood in waves boiled. — 2720.

— NOTES —

[1.] The passage ‘Brand … burnie,’ is much disputed. In the first place, some eminent critics assume a gap of at least two half-verses.–‘Úrum’ (2660), being a peculiar form, has been much discussed. ‘Byrdu-scrúd’ is also a crux. B. suggests ‘býwdu-scrúd’ = splendid vestments. Nor is ‘bám’ accepted by all, ‘béon’ being suggested. Whatever the individual words, the passage must mean, “I intend to share with him my equipments of defence.”
[2.] B. would render: Which, as I heard, excelled in stroke every sword that he carried to the strife, even the strongest (sword). For ‘Þonne’ he reads ‘Þone,’ rel. pr.

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