Kirtlan Chapter 36

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XXXVI

Wiglaf was he called,

he who was the son of Weohstan,

the beloved shield-warrior,

the Prince of the Danes and the kinsman of Aelfhere.

He saw his lord suffering burning pain under his visor.

Then he called to mind the favour that he (Beowulf) had bestowed upon him in days of yore,

the costly dwelling of the Waegmundings68 and all the folk-rights which his father had possessed.

Then he could not restrain himself,

but gripped the shield with his hand,

the yellow wood,

and drew forth the old sword which was known among men as the heirloom of Eanmund,

the son of Ohthere,

and in the striving Weohstan was banesman by the edge of the sword to that friendless exile and bore away

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to his kinsman the brown-hued helmet,

the ringed byrny

and the old giant’s sword that Onela69 had given him,

the war-weeds of his comrade,

and the well-wrought armour for fighting.

Nor did he speak of the feud,

though he slew his brother’s son.

And he held possession of the treasures many years,

both the sword and the byrny,

until such time as his son should hold the earlship as his father had done.

And he gave to the Geats a countless number of each kind of war-weeds,

when he in old age passed away from this life,

on the outward journey.

That was the first time for the young champion that he went into the war-rush with his noble lord.

Nor did his mind melt within him,

nor did the heirloom of his kinsman at the war-tide.

And the dragon discovered it when they two came together.

Wiglaf spake many fitting words,

and said to his comrades (for his mind was sad within him):

‘I remember the time when we partook of the mead,

and promised our liege-lord in the beer-hall,

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he who gave to us rings,

that we would yield to him war-trappings both helmets and a hand-sword,

if such need befell him.

And he chose us for this warfare,

and for this journey,

of his own free will,

and reminded us of glory;

and to me he gave these gifts when he counted us good spear-warriors and brave helmet-bearers,

although our lord,

this guardian of the people had it in his mind all alone to do this brave work for us,

for he most of all men could do glorious things and desperate deeds of war.

And now is the day come that our lord hath need of our prowess and of goodly warriors.

Let us then go to the help of our battle-lord while it lasts,

the grim terror of fire.

God knows well of me that I would much rather that the flame should embrace my body together with that of my lord the giver of gold.

Nor does it seem to me to be fitting that we should carry shields back to the homestead except we have first laid low the foe and protected the life of the Prince of the Weders.

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And well I know that his old deserts were not that he alone of the youth of the Geats should suffer grief and sink in the fighting.

So both sword and helmet,

byrny and shield shall be common to both of us together.

’

Then he waded through the slaughter-reek,

and bore the war-helmet to the help of his lord,

and uttered a few words:

‘Beloved Beowulf,

do thou be doing all things,

as thou of yore in the days of thy youth wast saying that thou wouldst not allow thy glory to be dimmed whilst thou wast living.

Now shalt thou,

the brave in deeds and the resolute noble,

save thy life with all thy might.

I am come to help thee.

’ After these words came the angry dragon,

the terrible and hostile sprite yet once again,

and decked in his various hues of whelmings of fire,

against his enemies,

the men that he hated.

And the wood of the shield was burnt up with the waves of flame,

and his byrny could not help the young spear-warrior;

yet did the youth bravely advance under the shield of his kinsman when his own had been

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destroyed by the flames.

Then again the war-king bethought him of glory,

and struck a mighty blow with his battle-sword so that it fixed itself in his head,

forced in by violence.

And Naegling,

Beowulf’s sword old and grey,

broke in pieces,

and failed in the contest.

It was not given to him that sharp edges of swords should help him in battle.

His hand was too strong,

so that it overtaxed every sword,

as I have been told,

by the force of its swing,

whenever he carried into battle a wondrous hand-weapon.

And he was nowise the better for a sword.

Then for the third time,

the scather of the people,

the terrible Fire-dragon,

was mindful of feuds,

and he rushed on the brave man when he saw that he had room,

all hot and battle-grim,

and surrounded his neck with bitter bones.

And he was all be-bloodied over with life-blood,

and the sweat welled up in waves.

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