Beowulf: Hall Chapter 42

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XLII. WIGLAF’S SAD STORY.–THE HOARD CARRIED OFF.

Then ’twas seen that the journey,       prospered him little,
Who wrongly within,       had the ornaments hidden,[1.]
Down ‘neath the wall.       The warden erst slaughtered,
Some few of the folk-troop:       the feud then thereafter,
Was hotly avengèd.       ‘Tis a wonder where,[2.] — 5.
When the strength-famous trooper,       has attained to the end of,
Life-days allotted,       then no longer the man may,
Remain with his kinsmen,       where mead-cups are flowing. — 3070.
So to Beowulf happened,       when the ward of the barrow,
Assaults, he sought for:       himself had no knowledge, — 10.
How his leaving this life,       was likely to happen.
So to doomsday,       famous folk-leaders down did,
Call it with curses,       –who ‘complished it there,–
That that man should be ever,       of ill-deeds convicted,
Confined in foul-places,       fastened in hell-bonds, — 15.
Punished with plagues,       who this place should e’er ravage.[3.]
He cared not for gold:       rather the Wielder’s,
Favor preferred he,       first to get sight of.[4.] — .

{Wiglaf addresses his comrades.}

Wiglaf discoursed then,       Wihstan his son:
“Oft many an earlman,       on one man’s account must, — 20.
Sorrow endure,       as to us it hath happened.
The liegelord belovèd,       we could little prevail on,
Kingdom’s keeper,       counsel to follow,
Not to go to the guardian,       of the gold-hoard, but let him,
Lie where he long was,       live in his dwelling, — 25.
Till the end of the world.       Met we a destiny,
Hard to endure:       the hoard has been looked at,
Been gained very grimly;       too grievous the fate that,[5.] — 3080.
The prince of the people,       pricked to come thither.
I was therein,       and all of it looked at, — 30.
The building’s equipments,       since access was given me,
Not kindly at all,       entrance permitted,

{He tells them of Beowulf’s last moments.}

Within under earth-wall.       Hastily seized I,
And held in my hands,       a huge-weighing burden,
Of hoard-treasures costly,       hither out bare them, — 35.
To my liegelord belovèd:       life was yet in him,
And consciousness also;       the old one discoursed then,
Much and mournfully,       commanded to greet you, — 3090.

{Beowulf’s dying request.}

Bade that remembering,       the deeds of your friend-lord,
Ye build on the fire-hill,       of corpses a lofty, — 40.
Burial-barrow,       broad and far-famous,
As ‘mid world-dwelling warriors,       he was widely most honored,
While he reveled in riches.       Let us rouse us and hasten,
Again to see,       and seek for the treasure,
The wonder ‘neath wall.       The way I will show you, — 45.
That close ye may look,       at ring-gems sufficient,
And gold in abundance.       Let the bier with promptness,
Fully be fashioned,       when forth we shall come, — 3100.
And lift we our lord, then,       where long he shall tarry,
Well-beloved warrior,       ‘neath the Wielder’s protection.” — 50.

{Wiglaf charges them to build a funeral-pyre.}

Then the son of Wihstan,       bade orders be given,
Mood-valiant man,       to many of heroes,
Holders of homesteads,       that they hither from far,
[6.]Leaders of liegemen,       should look for the good one,
With wood for his pyre:       “The flame shall now swallow, — 55.
(The wan fire shall wax[7.]),       the warriors’ leader,
Who the rain of the iron,       often abided,
When, sturdily hurled,       the storm of the arrows, — 3110.
Leapt o’er linden-wall,       the lance rendered service,
Furnished with feathers,       followed the arrow.” — 60.
Now the wise-mooded son,       of Wihstan did summon,
The best of the braves,       from the band of the ruler,

{He takes seven thanes, and enters the den.}

Seven together;       ‘neath the enemy’s roof he,
Went with the seven;       one of the heroes,
Who fared at the front,       a fire-blazing torch-light, — 65.
Bare in his hand.       No lot then decided,
Who that hoard should havoc,       when hero-earls saw it,
Lying in the cavern,       uncared-for entirely, — 3120.
Rusting to ruin:       they rued then but little,
That they hastily hence,       hauled out the treasure, — 70.

{They push the dragon over the wall.}

The dear-valued jewels;       the dragon eke pushed they,
The worm o’er the wall,       let the wave-currents take him,
The waters enwind,       the ward of the treasures.

{The hoard is laid on a wain.}

There wounden gold,       on a wain was uploaded,
A mass unmeasured,       the men-leader off then, — 75.
The hero hoary,       to Whale’s-Ness was carried.

— NOTES —

[1.] For ‘gehýdde,’ B. suggests ‘gehýðde’: the passage would stand as above except the change of ‘hidden’ (v. 2) to ‘plundered.’ The reference, however, would be to the thief, not to the dragon.
[2.] The passage ‘Wundur … búan’ (3063-3066), M. took to be a question asking whether it was strange that a man should die when his appointed time had come.–B. sees a corruption, and makes emendations introducing the idea that a brave man should not die from sickness or from old age, but should find death in the performance of some deed of daring.–S. sees an indirect question introduced by ‘hwár’ and dependent upon ‘wundur’: A secret is it when the hero is to die, etc.–Why may the two clauses not be parallel, and the whole passage an Old English cry of ‘How wonderful is death!’?–S.’s is the best yet offered, if ‘wundor’ means ‘mystery.’
[3.] For ‘strude’ in H.-So., S. suggests ‘stride.’ This would require ‘ravage’ (v. 16) to be changed to ‘tread.’
[4.] ‘He cared … sight of’ (17, 18), S. emends so as to read as follows: He (Beowulf) had not before seen the favor of the avaricious possessor.
[5.] B. renders: That which drew the king thither (i.e. the treasure) was granted us, but in such a way that it overcomes us.
[6.] ‘Folc-ágende’ (3114) B. takes as dat. sing. with ‘gódum,’ and refers it to Beowulf; that is, Should bring fire-wood to the place where the good folk-ruler lay.
[7.] C. proposes to take ‘weaxan’ = L. ‘vescor,’ and translate devour. This gives a parallel to ‘fretan’ above. The parenthesis would be discarded and the passage read: Now shall the fire consume, the wan-flame devour, the prince of warriors, etc.

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