Kirtlan Chapter 34

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XXXIV

He was minded in after-days to be requiting the fall of the prince.

He was a friend to the wretched Eadgils,

and helped Eadgils the son of Ohthere with an army with warriors and with weapons,

over the wide seas.

And then he wrought vengeance with cold and painful journeyings and deprived the king (Onela) of life.

64 Thus the son of Ecgtheow had escaped all the malice and the hurtful contests and the courageous encounters,

until the day on which he was to wage war with the dragon.

And so it came to pass that the Lord of the Geats went forth with twelve others and inflamed with fury,

to spy out the dragon.

For he had heard tell of the malice and

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hatred he had shown to men,

whence arose that feud.

And by the hand of the informer,

65 famous treasure came into their possession;

he was the thirteenth man in the troop who set on foot the beginning of the conflict.

And the sorrowful captive must show the way thither.

He against his will went to the earth-hall,

for he alone knew the barrow under the ground near to the sea-surge,

where it was seething,

the cavern that was full of ornaments and filagree.

And the uncanny guardian thereof,

the panting war-wolf,

held possession of the treasures,

and an ancient was he under the earth.

And it was no easy bargain to be gaining for any living man.

So the battle-hardened King sat down on the cliff,

and took leave of his hearth-comrades,

he the gold-friend of the Geats.

And his heart was sad,

wavering,

and ready for death,

and Weird came very near to him who would be greeting the venerable warrior and be seeking his soul-treasure,

to divide

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asunder his life from his body.

And not long after that was the soul of the Atheling imprisoned in the flesh.

Beowulf spake,

the son of Ecgtheow:

‘Many a war-rush I escaped from in my youth,

in times of conflict.

And well I call it all to mind.

I was seven years old when the Lord of Treasures,

the friendly lord of the folk,

took me away from my father—and King Hrethel had me in thrall,

and gave me treasure and feasted me and kept the peace.

Nor was I a whit less dear a child to him than any of his own kin,

Herebald and H?cyn or my own dear Hygelac.

And for the eldest was a murder-bed most unhappily made up by the deeds of a kinsman,

66 when H?cyn his lordly friend brought him low with an arrow from out of his horn-bow,

and missing the mark he shot through his brother with a bloody javelin.

And that was a fight not to be atoned for by gifts of money;

and a crime it was,

and wearying to the soul in his breast.

Nevertheless the Atheling must

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unavenged be losing his life.

For so is it a sorrowful thing for a venerable man to see his son riding the gallows-tree when he singeth a dirge a sorrowful song,

as his son hangeth,

a joy to the ravens.

And he,

very old,

may not give him any help.

And every morning at the feasting he is reminded of his son’s journey else-whither.

And he careth not to await another heir within the cities,

when he alone through the fatality of death hath found out the deeds.

‘Heartbroken he looks on the bower of his son,

on the wasted wine-hall,

become the hiding-place for the winds and bereft of the revels.

The riders are sleeping,

the heroes in the tomb.

Nor is any sound of harping,

or games in the courts as erewhile there were.

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