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XXI. HROTHGAR LAMENTS THE SLAYING OF AESCHERE, AND TELLS OF GRENDEL’S MOTHER AND HER DEN.
Spake out then Hrothgar &emsp the helm of the Scyldings,
Ask no more after bliss; for new-made now is sorrow,
For the folk of the Danes; for Aeschere is dead,
He who was Yrmenlaf’s &emsp elder of brethren,
My wise man of runes, my bearer of redes,
Mine own shoulder-fellow, when we in the war-tide,
Warded our heads, and the host on the host fell,
And the boars were a-crashing; e’en such should an earl be,
An atheling exceeding good, e’en as was Aeschere.
Now in Hart hath befallen, for a hand-bane unto him,
A slaughter-ghost wandering; naught wot I whither,
The fell one, the carrion-proud, far’d hath her back-fare,
By her fill made all famous. That feud hath she wreaked,
Wherein yesternight gone, by Grendel thou quelledst,
Through thy hardihood fierce, with grips hard enow.
For that he over-long, the lief people of me,
Made to wane and undid. In the war then he cringed,
Being forfeit of life. But now came another,
An ill-scather mighty, her son to awreak;
And further hath she now, the feud set on foot,
As may well be deemed, of many a thane,
Who after the wealth-giver, weepeth in mind,
A hard bale of heart. Now the hand lieth low,
Which well-nigh for every joy, once did avail you.
The dwellers in land here, my people indeed,
The wise-of-rede hall-folk, have I heard say e’en this:
That they have set eyes on, two such-like erewhile,
Two mickle mark-striders, the moorland a-holding,
Ghosts come from elsewhere, but of them one there was,
As full certainly might they, then know it to be,
In the likeness of woman; and the other shap’d loathly,
All after man’s image trod, the tracks of the exile,
Save that more was he shapen, than any man other;
And in days gone away now, they named him Grendel,
The dwellers in fold; they wot not if a father,
Unto him was born ever, in the days of erewhile,
Of dark ghosts. They dwell, in a dim hidden land,
The wolf-bents they bide in, on the nesses the windy,
The perilous fen-paths where, the stream of the fell-side,
Midst the mists of the nesses, wends netherward ever,
The flood under earth. Naught far away hence,
But a mile-mark forsooth, there standeth the mere,
And over it ever, hang groves all berimed,
The wood fast by the roots, over-helmeth the water.
But each night may one, a dread wonder there see,
A fire in the flood. But none liveth so wise,
Of the bairns of mankind, that the bottom may know.
Although the heath-stepper, beswinked by hounds,
The hart strong of horns, that holt-wood should seek to,
Driven fleeing from far, he shall sooner leave life,
Leave life-breath on the bank, or ever will he,
Therein hide his head. No hallow’d stead is it:
Thence the blending of water-waves, ever upriseth,
Wan up to the welkin, whenso the wind stirreth,
Weather-storms loathly, until the lift darkens,
And weepeth the heavens. Now along the rede wendeth,
Of thee again only. Of that earth yet thou know’st not,
The fearful of steads, wherein thou mayst find,
That much-sinning wight; seek then if thou dare,
And thee for that feud, will I guerdon with fee,
The treasures of old time, as erst did I do,
With the gold all-bewounden, if away thence thou get thee.