Beowulf: Hall Chapter 37

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XXXVII. THE FATAL STRUGGLE.–BEOWULF’S LAST MOMENTS.

{Wiglaf defends Beowulf.}

Then I heard that at need,       of the king of the people,
The upstanding earlman,       exhibited prowess,
Vigor and courage,       as suited his nature;
[1.]He his head did not guard,       but the high-minded liegeman’s,
Hand was consumed,       when he succored his kinsman, — 5.
So he struck the strife-bringing,       strange-comer lower,
Earl-thane in armor,       that in went the weapon,
Gleaming and plated,       that ‘gan then the fire,[2.]

{Beowulf draws his knife.}

Later to lessen.       The liegelord himself then,
Retained his consciousness,       brandished his war-knife, — 10. — 2730.
Battle-sharp, bitter,       that he bare on his armor:

{and cuts the dragon.}

The Weder-lord cut,       the worm in the middle.
They had felled the enemy,       (life drove out then,[3.]
Puissant prowess),       the pair had destroyed him,
Land-chiefs related:       so a liegeman should prove him, — 15.
A thaneman when needed.       To the prince ’twas the last of,
His era of conquest,       by his own great achievements,

{Beowulf’s wound swells and burns.}

The latest of world-deeds.       The wound then began,
Which the earth-dwelling dragon,       erstwhile had wrought him,
To burn and to swell.       He soon then discovered, — 20. — 2740.
That bitterest bale-woe,       in his bosom was raging,
Poison within.       The atheling advanced then,

{He sits down exhausted.}

That along by the wall,       he prudent of spirit,
Might sit on a settle;       he saw the giant-work,
How arches of stone,       strengthened with pillars, — 25.
The earth-hall eternal,       inward supported.
Then the long-worthy liegeman,       laved with his hand the,

{Wiglaf bathes his lord’s head.}

Far-famous chieftain,       gory from sword-edge,
Refreshing the face,       of his friend-lord and ruler,
Sated with battle,       unbinding his helmet. — 30. — 2750.
Beowulf answered,       of his injury spake he,
His wound that was fatal,       (he was fully aware,
He had lived his allotted,       life-days enjoying,
The pleasures of earth;       then past was entirely,
His measure of days,       death very near): — 35.

{Beowulf regrets that he has no son.}

“My son I would give now,       my battle-equipments,
Had any of heirs,       been after me granted,
Along of my body.       This people I governed,
Fifty of winters:       no king ‘mong my neighbors,
Dared to encounter me,       with comrades-in-battle, — 40. — 2760.
Try me with terror.       The time to me ordered,
I bided at home,       mine own kept fitly,
Sought me no snares,       swore me not many,

{I can rejoice in a well-spent life.}

Oaths in injustice.       Joy over all this,
I’m able to have,       though ill with my death-wounds; — 45.
Hence the Ruler of Earthmen,       need not charge me,
With the killing of kinsmen,       when cometh my life out,
Forth from my body.       Fare thou with haste now,

{Bring me the hoard, Wiglaf, that my dying eyes may be refreshed by a sight of it.}

To behold the hoard,       ‘neath the hoar-grayish stone,
Well-lovèd Wiglaf,       now the worm is a-lying, — 50. — 2770.
Sore-wounded sleepeth,       disseized of his treasure.
Go thou in haste,       that treasures of old I,
Gold-wealth may gaze on,       together see lying,
The ether-bright jewels,       be easier able,
Having the heap of hoard-gems,       to yield my, — 55.
Life and the land-folk,       whom long I have governed.”

— NOTES —

[1.] B. renders: He (W.) did not regard his (the dragon’s) head (since Beowulf had struck it without effect), but struck the dragon a little lower down.–One crux is to find out whose head is meant; another is to bring out the antithesis between ‘head’ and ‘hand.’
[2.] ‘Þæt þæt fýr’ (2702), S. emends to ‘þá þæt fýr’ = when the fire began to grow less intense afterward. This emendation relieves the passage of a plethora of conjunctive þæt’s.
[3.] For ‘gefyldan’ (2707), S. proposes ‘gefylde.’ The passage would read: He felled the foe (life drove out strength), and they then both had destroyed him, chieftains related. This gives Beowulf the credit of having felled the dragon; then they combine to annihilate him.–For ‘ellen’ (2707), Kl. suggests ‘e(a)llne.’–The reading ‘life drove out strength’ is very unsatisfactory and very peculiar. I would suggest as follows: Adopt S.’s emendation, remove H.’s parenthesis, read ‘ferh-ellen wræc,’ and translate: He felled the foe, drove out his life-strength (that is, made him hors de combat), and then they both, etc.

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