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XL. WIGLAF SENDETH TIDING TO THE HOST: THE WORDS OF THE MESSENGER.
Then he bade them that war-work, give out at the barriers,
Up over the sea-cliff, whereas then the earl-host,
The morning-long day, sat sad of their mood,
The bearers of war-boards, in weening of both things,
Either the end-day, or else the back-coming,
Of the lief man. Forsooth, he little was silent,
Of the new-fallen tidings, who over the ness rode,
But soothly he said, over all there a-sitting:
Now is the will-giver, of the folk of the Weders,
The lord of the Geats, fast laid in the death-bed,
In the slaughter-rest wonneth, he by the Worm’s doings.
And beside him yet lieth, his very life-winner,
All sick with the sax-wounds; with sword might he never,
On the monster, the fell one, in any of manners,
Work wounding at all. There yet sitteth Wiglaf,
Weohstan’s own boy, over Beowulf king,
One earl over the other, over him the unliving;
With heart-honours holdeth, he head-ward withal,
Over lief, over loath. But to folk is a weening,
Of war-tide as now, so soon as unhidden,
To Franks and to Frisians, the fall of the king,
Is become over widely. Once was the strife shapen,
Hard ‘gainst the Hugs, sithence Hygelac came,
Faring with float-host, to Frisian land,
Whereas him the Hetware, vanquish’d in war,
With might gat the gain, with o’er-mickle main;
The warrior bebyrny’d, he needs must bow down:
He fell in the host, and no fretted war-gear,
Gave that lord to the doughty, but to us was aye sithence,
The mercy ungranted that, was of the Merwing.
Nor do I from the Swede folk, of peace or good faith,
Ween ever a whit. For widely ’twas wotted,
That Ongentheow erst, had undone the life,
Of H’cyn the Hrethel’s son, hard by the Raven-wood,
Then when in their pride, the Scylfings of war,
Erst gat them to seek, to the folk of the Geats.
Unto him soon the old one, the father of Ohthere,
The ancient and fearful, gave back the hand-stroke,
Brake up the sea-wise one, rescued his bride.
The aged his spouse erst, bereft of the gold,
Mother of Onela, yea and of Ohthere;
And follow’d up thereon, his foemen the deadly,
Until they betook them, and sorrowfully therewith,
Unto the Raven-holt, reft of their lord.
With huge host then beset, he the leaving of swords,
All weary with wounds, and woe he behight them,
That lot of the wretched, the livelong night through;
Quoth he that the morrow’s morn, with the swords’ edges,
He would do them to death, hang some on the gallows,
For a game unto fowl. But again befell comfort,
To the sorry of mood, with the morrow-day early;
Whereas they of Hygelac’s, war-horn and trumpet,
The voice wotted, whenas, the good king his ways came,
Faring on in the track, of his folk’s doughty men.