Kirtlan Chapter 16

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XVI

Then the Lord of earls as he sat on the mead-bench gave glorious gifts to each one of those who had fared with Beowulf over the ocean-ways,

and heirlooms they were;

and he bade them atone for that one with gold whom formerly Grendel had wickedly killed as he would have done more of them unless Almighty God and the spirit of Beowulf had withstood Weird.

The Creator ruleth all of human kind,

as still He is doing.

And good understanding is always the best thing,

and forethought of mind.

And he who long enjoys here the world in these strife-days,

shall be biding both pleasant and loathsome fate.

Then was there clamour and singing together

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in the presence of the battle-prince of Healfdene,

and the harp was sounded and a song often sung,

when Hrothgar’s scop would tell forth the hall-mirth as he sat on the mead-bench.

‘When Fear was befalling the heirs of Finn,

21 the hero of the Half-Danes,

and Hnaef of the Danes must fall in the slaughter of the Frisian People.

Not in the least did Hildeburh need to be praising the troth of the Jutes.

For sinlessly was she deprived of her dear ones in the play of swords of children and brothers.

By fate they fell,

wounded by arrows.

And she was a sad woman.

Nor without reason did the daughter of Hoc22 mourn their doom.

When morning light came,

and she could see under the sky the murder of her kinsmen where she before in the world had the greatest of joy.

For warfare took away all the thanes of Finn except a mere remnant,

so that he could not in the place where they met fight any warfare at all with Hengest,

nor

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seize from the Prince’s thane the woful leavings by fighting.

But they offered him terms,

so that they all made other room for them on the floor,

and gave them halls and a high seat that they might have half the power with the children of the Jutes;

and the son of Folcwalda23 honoured the Danes every day with fee-givings,

and bestowed rings on the troop of Hengest,

yea,

even great treasures plated with gold,

so that he would be making the kin of the Frisians bold in the beer-hall.

Then they swore on both sides a treaty of peace.

Finn swore with Hengest and all without strife that he held in honour the woful remnant by the doom of the wise men,

and that no man there by word or work should break the treaty,

or ever annul it through treacherous cunning,

though they followed the slayers of their Ring-giver,

all bereft of their lord as was needful for them.

But if any one of the Frisians by daring speech should bring to mind the murderous hate between them,

then should

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the edge of the sword avenge it.

Then sworn was that oath,

and massive gold was lifted up from the hoard.

Then was Hnaef,

the best of the warriors,

of the bold Danes,

ready on the funeral pyre.

And the blood-stained shirt of mail was easily seen,

the golden boar,

in the midst of the flame,

the iron-hard boar,

24 and many an Atheling destroyed by wounds.

Some fell on the field of death.

Then Hildeburh commanded her very own son to be thrust in the flames of the pyre of Hnaef,

his body to be burned and be put in the fire.

And great was the moaning of the mother for her son,

and dirge-like lamenting as the warrior ascended.

And the greatest of slaughter-fires wound its way upwards towards the welkin and roared before the cavern.

Heads were melting,

wounds burst asunder.

Then blood sprang forth from the wounds of the body.

Flame swallowed all,

that most cruel of ghosts,

of both of those folk whom battle destroyed.

Their life was shaken out.

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