Kirtlan Chapter 38

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XXXVIII

Then straightway I heard tell how the son of Weohstan,

after these words had been spoken,

obeyed the behest of his lord,

who was sick of his wounds,

and carried the ring-net and the coat of mail adorned,

under the roof of the barrow.

And as Wiglaf,

exulting in victory,

came by the seat,

he saw many gems shining and shaped like the sun72 and gleaming gold all lying on the ground,

and wondrous decorations on the wall,

and he saw too the den of the dragon,

the ancient twilight-flier,

and flagons standing there and vessels of men of days

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long gone by,

no longer polished but shorn of adornment.

And there also was many a helmet,

ancient and rusty,

and many arm-rings cunningly twisted.

The possession of treasure and of gold on the earth may easily make proud all of mankind,

let him hide it who will.

Likewise he saw the all-gilded banner lying high over the hoard,

that greatest of wondrous handiwork and all woven by the skill of human hands.

And therefrom went forth a ray of light,

so that he could see the floor of the cave,

and look carefully at the jewels.

And there was no sign of the dragon,

for the sword-edge had carried him off.

Then I heard tell how in that barrow one at his own doom73 plundered the hoard,

that old work of giants,

and bore away on his arms both cups and dishes.

And the banner also he took,

that brightest of beacons.

Beowulf’s sword,

with its iron edge,

had formerly injured him who had been the protector of these treasures for a long time,

and had waged fierce flame-terror,

because of the hoard fiercely

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welling in the midnight hour until he was killed.

The messenger74 was in haste,

and eager for the return journey,

and laden with jewels,

and curiosity tormented him as to whether he would find the bold-minded Prince of the Geats alive on the battle-field,

and bereft of strength where before he had left him.

Then he with the treasures found the glorious lord,

his own dear master,

at the last gasp,

and all stained with blood.

And he began to throw water upon him,

until the power of speech brake through his mind,

and Beowulf spake,

and with sorrow he looked upon the hoard.

‘I would utter words of thanks to the Lord and wondrous King,

to the eternal God,

for the treasures which now I am looking upon that I have managed to obtain them for my dear people before my death-day.

Now that I have in exchange for this hoard of treasure sold my life in my old age,

and laid it down,

do thou still be helping the people in their need,

for I may no longer be lingering

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here.

Do thou bid the famous warriors erect a burial-mound,

after the burning of the funeral pyre,

at the edge of the sea,

which shall tower aloft on Whale’s Ness,

as a memorial for my people,

and so the sea-farers shall call it the Hill of Beowulf,

even those who drive the high ships from afar through the mists of the flood.

’

Then he the bold Prince doffed from his neck the golden ring.

And he gave it to his thane,

to the young spear-warrior,

the gold-adorned helmet,

the ring,

and the byrny,

and bade him enjoy it well.

‘Thou,

O Wiglaf,

’ he said,

‘art the last heir of our race,

of that of the Waegmundings.

Weird has swept away all my kinsmen to their fated doom,

all the earls in their strength,

and I shall follow after them.

’

Now that was the very last word of the old warrior’s breast thoughts,

ere he chose the funeral pyre the hot wave-whelmings.

And his soul went forth from his breast to be seeking the doom of the truth-fast ones.

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