Kirtlan Chapter 39

.

Table of Contents

Download  : MP3 of the text. Listen while you read.

XXXIX

Then had it sorrowfully come to pass for the young warrior that he saw his most beloved in a miserable plight on the earth at his life’s end.

Likewise the terrible dragon,

his slayer,

lay there bereft of life and pressed sore by ruin.

And the coiled dragon could no longer wield the hoard of rings,

but the iron edges of the sword,

well tempered and battle-gashed;

the hammer’s leavings75,

had carried him off,

so that the wide-flier,

stilled because of his wounds,

fell to the earth near to the hoard-hall.

And no more in playful wise at the midnight hour,

did he drift through the air;

this dragon,

proud in his gainings of treasure,

showed not his face,

but was fallen to the earth because of the handiwork of the battle-warrior.

And as I have heard,

it would have

[169]

profited but few of the mighty men,

even though they were doughty in deeds of all kinds,

though they should rush forth against the flaming breath of the poisonous scather,

even to the very disturbing of the Ring-Hall with their hands,

if they should have found the guardian thereof awake,

and dwelling in the cliff-cave.

Then Beowulf’s share of lordly treasure was paid for by his death.

And both he and the dragon had come to an end of their fleeting days.

And not long after that,

the laggards in battle,

those cowardly treaty-breakers,

ten of them together,

came back from the woodlands,

they who erewhile had dreaded the play of javelins when their lord had sore need of their help.

But they were filled with shame,

and carried their shields,

and battle-weeds,

to where the old prince was lying.

And they looked on Wiglaf;

he the foot-warrior sat aweary near to the shoulders of his lord,

and sought to rouse him by sprinkling water upon him,

but he succeeded not at all.

Nor could he,

though he wished it ever so much,

keep

[170]

life in the chieftain or avert a whit the will of the Wielder of all things.

Every man’s fate was decided by the act of God,

as is still the case.

Then was a grim answer easily given by the young man to these who erewhile had lost their courage.

Wiglaf spake,

he the son of Weohstan,

the sad-hearted.

‘He who will speak truth may say that the lord and master who gave you gifts,

and warlike trappings,

in which ye are now standing,

when he very often gave on the ale-bench to them who sat in the hall,

both helmet and byrny,

the Prince to his thanes,

as he could find any of you most noble far or near,

that he wholly wrongly bestowed upon you war-trappings when war befell him.

The King of the folk needed not indeed to boast of his army comrades,

yet God,

the Wielder of Victory,

granted to him that alone he avenged himself with the edge of the sword when he had need of strength.

And but a little life-protection could I give him in the battle,

yet I sought to help him beyond my strength.

The

[171]

dragon was by so much the weaker when I struck with my sword that deadly foe.

And less fiercely the fire surged forth from his head.

Too few were the defenders thronged around their lord when his fated hour came.

And now shall the receiving of treasure,

and the gift of swords,

and all joy of home and hope cease for ever to men of your kin.

And every man of you of the tribe must wander empty of land-rights,

since noble men will learn far and wide of your flight and inglorious deed.

Death would be better for earls than a life of reproach.

.

Table of Contents