Kirtlan Chapter 31

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XXXI

‘So in good customs lived the King of the people.

Nor had I lost the rewards,

the meed of strength,

for the son of Healfdene bestowed upon me treasures according to my choice,

which I will bring to thee,

O my warrior-King,

and graciously

[132]

will I proffer them.

Again all favour depends on thee,

for few chief kinsmen have I save thee,

O Hygelac.

’ He commanded them to bring in the boar,

the head-sign,

the battle-steep helmet,

the hoary byrny,

the splendid war-sword,

and then he chanted this song:

‘It was Hrothgar,

that proud prince,

who bestowed upon me all this battle-gear.

And a certain word he uttered to me,

that I should first give thee his kindly greeting.

56 He said that Hrothgar the King of the Danes possessed it a long while.

Nor formerly would he be giving the breast-weeds to his son the brave Heoroward,

though dear he was to him.

Do thou enjoy all well.

’

Then I heard that four horses,

of reddish yellow hue,

followed the armour.

And thus he did him honour with horses and gifts.

So should a kinsman do.

By no means should they weave cunning nets for each other,

or with secret craft devise death to a comrade.

His nephew was very gracious to Hygelac,

the brave in strife,

and each was striving

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to bestow favours on the other.

And I heard that he gave to Hygd the neck-ring so curiously and wondrously wrought,

which Wealtheow a daughter of royal birth had given him,

and three horses also slender and saddle-bright.

And her breast was adorned with the ring she had received.

And Beowulf,

son of Ecgtheow,

so famous in warfare and in good deeds,

bore himself boldly and fulfilled his fate,

nor did he slay the drunken hearth-comrades.

He was not sad-minded,

but he,

the battle-dear one,

by the greatest of craft known to man held fast the lasting and generous gift which God gave him.

For long had he been despised,

so that the warriors of the Geats looked not upon him as a good man,

nor did the lord of troops esteem him as of much worth on the mead-bench.

Besides,

they thought him slack and by no means a warlike Atheling.

Then came a change from all his distresses to this glorious man.

Then the Prince of Earls,

the battle-brave King,

commanded that the heirloom of Hrethel

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all decked out in gold should be brought in.

For of swords there was no more glorious treasure among the Geats.

And he laid it on the bosom of Beowulf,

and gave him seven thousand men and a building and a throne.

And both of them held the land,

the earth,

the rights in the land as an hereditary possession;

but the other who was the better man had more especially a wide kingdom.

And in after-days it happened that there were battle-crashings,

and Hygelac lay dead,

57 and swords under shields became a death-bane to Heardred,

58 when the brave battle-wolves,

the Swedes,

sought him out among the victorious ones and assailed with strife the nephew of Hereric,

and it was then that the broad kingdom came into the possession of Beowulf.

And he held sway therein fifty winters (and a wise King was he,

that old guardian of his country) until on dark nights a dragon

[135]

began to make raids,

he that watched over the hoard in the lofty cavern,

the steep rocky cave.

And the path thereto lay under the cliffs unknown to men.

And what man it was who went therein I know not,

but he took from the heathen hoard a hall-bowl decked with treasure.

Nor did he give it back again,

though he had beguiled the guardian of the hoard when he was sleeping,

by the craft of a thief.

And Beowulf found out that the dragon was angry.

59

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