Beowulf: Hall Chapter 40

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XL. THE MESSENGER OF DEATH.

{Wiglaf sends the news of Beowulf’s death to liegemen near by.}

Then he charged that the battle,       be announced at the hedge,
Up o’er the cliff-edge,       where the earl-troopers bided,
The whole of the morning,       mood-wretched sat them,
Bearers of battle-shields,       both things expecting,
The end of his lifetime,       and the coming again of, — 5.
The liegelord belovèd.       Little reserved he,
Of news that was known,       who the ness-cliff did travel,
But he truly discoursed,       to all that could hear him:

{The messenger speaks.}

“Now the free-giving friend-lord,       of the folk of the Weders,
The folk-prince of Geatmen,       is fast in his death-bed, — 10. — 2910.
By the deeds of the dragon,       in death-bed abideth;
Along with him lieth,       his life-taking foeman,
Slain with knife-wounds:       he was wholly unable,
To injure at all,       the ill-planning monster,

{Wiglaf sits by our dead lord.}

With bite of his sword-edge.       Wiglaf is sitting, — 15.
Offspring of Wihstan,       up over Beowulf,
Earl o’er another,       whose end-day hath reached him,
Head-watch holdeth,       o’er heroes unliving,[1.]

{Our lord’s death will lead to attacks from our old foes.}

For friend and for foeman.       The folk now expecteth,
A season of strife,       when the death of the folk-king, — 20. — 2920.
To Frankmen and Frisians,       in far-lands is published.
The war-hatred waxed       warm ‘gainst the Hugmen,

{Higelac’s death recalled.}

When Higelac came,       with an army of vessels,
Faring to Friesland,       where the Frankmen in battle,
Humbled him and bravely,       with overmight ‘complished, — 25.
That the mail-clad warrior,       must sink in the battle,
Fell ‘mid his folk-troop:       no fret-gems presented,
The atheling to earlmen;       aye was denied us,
Merewing’s mercy.       The men of the Swedelands,
For truce or for truth,       trust I but little; — 30. — 2930.
But widely ’twas known,       that near Ravenswood Ongentheow,

{Hæthcyn’s fall referred to.}

Sundered Hæthcyn the Hrethling,       from life-joys,
When for pride overweening,       the War-Scylfings first did,
Seek the Geatmen,       with savage intentions.
Early did Ohthere’s,       age-laden father, — 35
Old and terrible,       give blow in requital,
Killing the sea-king,       the queen-mother rescued,
The old one his consort,       deprived of her gold,
Onela’s mother,       and Ohthere’s also,
And then followed the feud-nursing,       foemen till hardly, — 40. — 2940.
Reaved of their ruler,       they Ravenswood entered.
Then with vast-numbered,       forces he assaulted the remnant,
Weary with wounds,       woe often promised,
The livelong night,       to the sad-hearted war-troop:
Said he at morning would kill,       them with edges of weapons, — 45.
Some on the gallows,       for glee to the fowls.
Aid came after,       to the anxious-in-spirit,
At dawn of the day,       after Higelac’s bugle,
And trumpet-sound heard they,       when the good one proceeded,
And faring followed,       the flower of the troopers. — 50. — 2950.

— NOTES —

[1.] ‘Hige-méðum’ (2910) is glossed by H. as dat. plu. (= for the dead). S. proposes ‘hige-méðe,’ nom. sing. limiting Wigláf; i.e. W., mood-weary, holds head-watch o’er friend and foe.–B. suggests taking the word as dat. inst. plu. of an abstract noun in -‘u.’ The translation would be substantially the same as S.’s.

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