Beowulf: Hall Chapter 39

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XXXIX. THE DEAD FOES.–WIGLAF’S BITTER TAUNTS.

{Wiglaf is sorely grieved to see his lord look so un-warlike.}

It had wofully chanced then,       the youthful retainer,
To behold on earth,       the most ardent-belovèd,
At his life-days’ limit,       lying there helpless.
The slayer too lay there,       of life all bereavèd,
Horrible earth-drake,       harassed with sorrow: — 5.

{The dragon has plundered his last hoard.}

The round-twisted monster,       was permitted no longer,
To govern the ring-hoards,       but edges of war-swords, — 2840.
Mightily seized him,       battle-sharp, sturdy,
Leavings of hammers,       that still from his wounds,
The flier-from-farland,       fell to the earth, — 10.
Hard by his hoard-house,       hopped he at midnight,
Not e’er through the air,       nor exulting in jewels,
Suffered them to see him:       but he sank then to earthward,
Through the hero-chief’s handwork.       I heard sure it throve then,

{Few warriors dared to face the monster.}

But few in the land,       of liegemen of valor, — 15.
Though of every achievement,       bold he had proved him,
To run ‘gainst the breath,       of the venomous scather, — 2850.
Or the hall of the treasure,       to trouble with hand-blows,
If he watching had found,       the ward of the hoard-hall,
On the barrow abiding.       Beowulf’s part of, — 20.
The treasure of jewels,       was paid for with death;
Each of the twain had,       attained to the end of,
Life so unlasting.       Not long was the time till,

{The cowardly thanes come out of the thicket.}

The tardy-at-battle,       returned from the thicket,
The timid truce-breakers,       ten all together, — 25.
Who durst not before,       play with the lances,
In the prince of the people’s,       pressing emergency; — 2860.

{They are ashamed of their desertion.}

But blushing with shame,       with shields they betook them,
With arms and armor,       where the old one was lying:
They gazed upon Wiglaf.       He was sitting exhausted, — 30.
Foot-going fighter,       not far from the shoulders,
Of the lord of the people,       would rouse him with water;
No whit did it help him;       though he hoped for it keenly,
He was able on earth,       not at all in the leader,
Life to retain,       and nowise to alter, — 35.
The will of the Wielder;       the World-Ruler’s power,[1.]
Would govern the actions,       of each one of heroes, — 2870.

{Wiglaf is ready to excoriate them.}

As yet He is doing.       From the young one forthwith then,
Could grim-worded greeting,       be got for him quickly,
Whose courage had failed him.       Wiglaf discoursed then, — 40.
Weohstan his son,       sad-mooded hero,

{He begins to taunt them.}

Looked on the hated:       “He who soothness will utter,
Can say that the liegelord,       who gave you the jewels,
The ornament-armor,       wherein ye are standing,
When on ale-bench often,       he offered to hall-men, — 45.
Helmet and burnie,       the prince to his liegemen,
As best upon earth,       he was able to find him,– — 2880.

{Surely our lord wasted his armor on poltroons.}

That he wildly wasted,       his war-gear undoubtedly,
When battle o’ertook him.[2.]       The troop-king no need had,
To glory in comrades;       yet God permitted him, — 50.

{He, however, got along without you.}

Victory-Wielder,       with weapon unaided,
Himself to avenge,       when vigor was needed.
I life-protection,       but little was able,
To give him in battle,       and I ‘gan, notwithstanding,

{With some aid, I could have saved our liegelord.}

Helping my kinsman,       (my strength overtaxing): — 55.
He waxed the weaker,       when with weapon I smote on,
My mortal opponent,       the fire less strongly, — 2890.
Flamed from his bosom.       Too few of protectors,
Came round the king,       at the critical moment.

{Gift-giving is over with your people: the ring-lord is dead.}

Now must ornament-taking,       and weapon-bestowing, — 60.
Home-joyance all,       cease for your kindred,
Food for the people;       each of your warriors,
Must needs be bereavèd,       of rights that he holdeth,
In landed possessions,       when faraway nobles,
Shall learn of your,       leaving your lord so basely, — 65.

{What is life without honor?}

The dastardly deed.       Death is more pleasant,
To every earlman,       than infamous life is!” — 2900.

— NOTES —

[1.] For ‘dædum rædan’ (2859) B. suggests ‘déað árædan,’ and renders: The might (or judgment) of God would determine death for every man, as he still does.
[2.] Some critics, H. himself in earlier editions, put the clause, ‘When … him’ (A.-S. ‘þá … beget’) with the following sentence; that is, they make it dependent upon ‘þorfte’ (2875) instead of upon ‘forwurpe’ (2873).

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