Beowulf

Part III

Sections: X-XV

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.


Contents


X:Lines:662-709: Beowulf Waits For Grendel

Then Hrothgar, Defence of the Shieldings,

Left the hall, with his crowd of warriors,

He went to seek Wealhtheow, to bed

His queen. But the Lord in his Glory,

As men learned, left in place that guard

Against Grendel; he now awaited the ogre,

Kept special watch for the Danish leader.

And the Geat himself trusted utterly

In his Maker’s favour, the Almighty’s power.

So he removed his iron breast-plate,

Took the helm from his head, and gave

His chased blade of true iron, to his man,

And told him to guard his battle-gear.

Beowulf of the Geats, that virtuous man,

Before resting, spoke these proud words:

‘I count myself no weaker in stature,

When it comes to a fight, than Grendel,

So I’ll not take his life, not destroy him,

With my sword, though I surely can.

Even if he’s known for working evil,

He is not skilful enough to strike me,

Or hew my shield-rim. Let there be

No swords this night if he dares seek

Battle unarmed. Then the Holy God,

The Wise Lord, will grant the glory

To whichever seems fitting to Him.’

So the brave warrior lay down, bolster

Under his head, and all around him

His brave crew sank down to rest.

Not one thought he would ever see

His place of birth, or his burgh,

His dear home, or folk ever again,

They knew dire Death had already

Taken far too many of the Danes

In that wine-hall. But the Lord wove

A fortunate fate, gave solace, support,

To the men of the Wedermark, through

The strength of one; by his own might;

Overcoming the foe. So truth is known,

That Almighty God, rules over mankind

Forever. Thus, in the darkest night, came

The wanderer-in-shadow. The warriors,

Guarding the horned hall, all slept –

Men knew they could not be drawn,

By that ill-doer, down into shadow,

If the Maker willed it not – all but one.

He, who watched, riled and indignant,

Awaited, anger rising, the battle’s outcome.

XI:Lines:710-790: The Fight

Then from the moor, beneath misty crags,

Bearing God’s wrath, Grendel came loping.

The foul creature meant to try a sample

Of mankind; of those in the high hall.

He crept under cloud, till he could see

The wine-hall, that gilded hall of men,

Shining bright. It wasn’t the first time

He’d sought out Hrothgar’s homestead.

And never in his day, nor before or since,

Have hall-thanes found worse fortune.

Barren of joy, that assailant travelled,

Towards the dwelling. The door, braced

With iron bands, sprang free at his touch,

Enraged now, planning evil, he tore out

The mouth of the building, then swiftly

That fiend trod over the patterned floor,

Advancing wrathfully; strange lights

Most akin to flames shot from his eyes.

In the house, he saw many a spearman,

A crowd of kinsmen, sleeping, as one,

A wondrous heap. Then his heart leapt,

That cruel creature, determined to tear

The life from each body, before the dawn:

He’d chanced on a feast. But such is fate,

He would nevermore feed on human flesh

After that night. For that man of might,

Hygelac’s kinsman, saw how the vicious

Killer would try for a sudden onslaught.

The monster had no thoughts of delay,

But swiftly seized the chance given,

Grabbed a sleeper, and tore him apart,

Bit to the bone, drank the heart’s blood,

Swallowing swathes; soon he’d eaten

That dead man, consumed him utterly,

Head to foot. Pressing in closer, then,

He thought to drag the steadfast hero,

His enemy, from sleep; reaching out

His talon towards him, but he quickly

Saw the dark intent, gripped the arm.

Now that herdsman of horrors found

He had never met, in all middle-earth,

In the whole wide world, a tighter grip

From another creature. In his heart

He feared for his life, couldn’t wait

For a chance to run, ready to flee

To his devil’s nest. This was nothing

He’d ever met with in this life before.

Then the virtuous man, Hygelac’s kin,

Recalling his evening vow, rose up

And held on tight, fingers bursting;

The troll retreating, the man advancing.

The evil one meant to escape if he could,

And flee from there, any way he might,

To his fen-haunt. He felt fingers fail

In his foe’s grasp. A bitter journey

That worker of harm had made to Heorot.

Great din in the hall, all of the Danes,

That citadel’s host, every brave earl

Was sobered. The fierce foes in conflict,

Were full of ire. The walls resounded.

It was a wonder the wine-hall withstood

Those opponents; that the fair fold

Fell not to the ground, but held fast,

Inward and outward bound with iron

Skilfully forged. Many a bench

Decked with gold broke loose,

I hear, where the pair wrestled.

No sage of the Shieldings ever thought

That any creature by any means

Could shatter that high horned hall,

Destroy it, unless a net of fire might

Swallow it swiftly. Then a strange

Sound rose, and the North-Danes

Stood, dread horror in every man,

Who heard that wail from the walls,

The ghastly scream of God’s enemy,

Hell’s prisoner, howling out defeat,

Lamenting his wound. He who was

The mightiest of men, in those days,

In this life of ours, gripped him fast.

XII:Lines:791-836: Beowulf’s Victory

The earls’ defender had no desire

To leave that murderous guest alive,

Nor counted that life worth aught

To any. And Beowulf’s warriors,

Brandished their ancestral swords,

Seeking to protect, as they wished,

Their renowned prince and lord.

Though, when they joined the fight

Those brave warriors could not know,

As they struck out, from every side,

Seeking his life, that bringer of hurt,

That not even the finest blade on earth,

No weapon of any kind could harm him,

For he was proof against every sword,

Every knife-edge. Yet the severance

From this life would be anguish to him,

On that day of pain, and his alien spirit

Would journey far into fiends’ keeping.

Now he, who had many times before

With joy in his heart, inflicted misery

On mankind, who had fought with God,

Found his body would not obey him,

That Hygelac’s courageous kinsman,

Had him in his grip. Each loathed

The other alive. The foul ogre felt

Bodily pain, a great rent appeared

In his shoulder, the sinews split,

And the muscles tore. To Beowulf

Was glory given. Grendel, dying,

Was forced to flee, under the fen-side,

Finding his joyless lair. He knew,

For sure, his life’s end was on him,

His day-count done. All that the Danes

Had wished that deadly clash achieved.

The hero from afar, strong and shrewd,

Had cleansed Hrothgar’s great hall,

Saved it from ruin. He joyed in his

Night’s work, his brave deed. His oath

To the East-Danes the Geat had fulfilled,

And he had relieved their anguish, too,

All the deep sorrows they had suffered,

The harsh distress they had endured,

No small matter. And as a clear token,

The brave warrior nailed Grendel’s arm,

With its hand and shoulder – the whole

Reach of his grasp – to the gaping roof.

XIII:Lines:837-924 The Bard’s Praise

Then, in the morning, as I heard tell,

A host of clansmen, with their leaders,

Gathered to the gift-hall, from near and far,

Crossing wide lands, to see the wonder,

The enemy’s spoor. To those who traced

That path without glory, how in defeat

Weary, he had fled to the demons’ mere,

Beaten and doomed, leaving blood-trails,

His passing from life brought no sadness.

There the water seethed with his gore,

A swirl of waves, all intermingled

With his dark flux, wound-fluids.

Death-marked, he died. Joylessly,

In his fen-lair, he gave up his life,

His heathen ghost; Hell claimed him.

Then on horseback they returned,

Warriors on fair steeds, young men

In high spirits, and aged retainers,

Back from the hunt in the mere: loud

They proclaimed Beowulf’s glory.

Never, they said, to north or south,

Between the two seas, under the sky,

Or on the wide earth, was there ever

A better shield-man of finer kingdom.

Yet they laid no blame on Hrothgar,

Friend and lord. He was a good king.

At times, when the track-way suited,

And was sound, the warriors raced,

Galloping their red-haired horses,

In contest. At times, the king’s thane

Full of eloquence, a bearer of song,

Who knew many tales out of ancient

Tradition, composed fresh words,

In a true metre. And the man began

To recite with skill, Beowulf’s deeds;

With art, to utter a well-made song,

Weaving words. He spoke all he knew

Of Sigemund, that son of Wael,

All things redounding to his glory,

Uncanny events and far journeys,

Feuds and feats, things unknown

To the sons of men, except to Fitela,

To whom he’d talk, uncle to nephew,

Dear friends in need in every conflict.

Their swords laid many a giant low,

After his death Sigemund achieved

No small fame, for the fierce warrior

Had put an end to the great dragon,

The guard of the hoard: the king’s son

Had gone down under the grey stone,

Attempting that dangerous deed, alone,

For no Fitela was with him that day.

However it chanced that his sword

Pierced and killed the wondrous worm,

So his iron blade stuck fast in the wall.

By his act of courage he had ensured

He might do with that treasure-hoard

As he wished. So Wael’s son weighted

His boat, filled her hold with gleaming

Metal, all the dragon’s heat had melted.

He was the most famed for valour,

Of all the heroes among the nations,

A shield for warriors, so he prospered,

When Heremod’s campaigning waned

In strength and courage; he, betrayed

Into enemy hands, amongst the Jutes,

Was promptly killed. A tide of sadness

Had long drowned him; he had become

A source of deep sorrow to his nobles;

They often bemoaned, did wiser men,

The loss of their former king, for they

Had trusted him to redress all wrong,

Believing a king’s son should take

His father’s place, and rule the people,

The hoard and hold, the heroes’ land,

The Shieldings’ home. Hygelac’s kin,

Beowulf, was more valued by all alike.

While violence had undone Heremod.

So the Danes meanwhile kept racing

Along sandy lanes. The morning light,

Grew and brightened. Hosts of retainers

Were set on going down to the high hall

To view the fresh wonder. The king too,

Guard of the ring-hoard, famed for virtue,

Stepped with his queen from her chamber,

She with her handmaids, and a vast crowd,

Walked, in splendour, to the mead-hall.

XIV:Lines:925-990; The King Speaks

When he reached the hall, Hrothgar spoke

From the steps, as he viewed the steep roof,

All gilded, adorned with Grendel’s arm:

‘For this sight let all readily give thanks

To the Almighty! I suffered many a hurt,

And grief from Grendel. God may work,

Our Shepherd of Glory, wonder on wonder.

Not long since had I despaired of finding

Any relief, in my lifetime, from these woes;

The splendid house was stained with blood.

Worry was widespread among the wise,

Who lost all hope of defending the citadel

Of our nation, in their day from its enemies,

Wights and wraiths. Yet, by God’s might,

A great warrior, has performed the deed

That we could not achieve before, despite

All our schemes. Now: whoever she was

Among women, who produced this man,

If she still lives, she can say, that in labour

Fate’s measure graced her. For, Beowulf,

Noblest of men, I will love you all my life,

Like a son. Hold hard to this new kinship,

In future. You shall not lack for worldly

Possessions, while I still hold the power.

I’ve often dowered lesser men with riches,

I’ve showered my gifts on worse fighters,

For far humbler things. You have ensured,

By your own deeds, that your fame will live

For ever and ever. And may the Almighty

Do good too you, as he has done but now!’

Beowulf, the son of Ecgtheow, replied:

‘It was our pleasure to dare in the fight

A brave task, and risk, with courage,

The power of an unknown foe. Yet I

Could wish you had seen him there,

That fiend of the fight full wearied.

I thought to hold him clasped hard,

To pin him down on his death-bed,

In fear of his life, lest it slip away,

Caught in that hand-grip of mine.

But Fate’s measure stopped me

Hindering his going, and not easily

Could I grasp the foe, so fierce was

The fiend to flee. But he forfeited

His arm to save his life, his shoulder

And hand he left behind, although

The vile creature gained little by it;

Small length of days has that spoiler,

Punished for sin; his wound holds him

In its harsh grip, he’s narrowly caught

In its baleful bond, there the creature,

Black with crime, bides the judgement

That mighty Fate in its wisdom decrees.’

Less then of Unferth, the son of Ecglaf,

Less of his boastful speech, was heard,

When the Eorlingas gazed at that hand,

Its fiendish fingers, up by the high roof,

The hero’s doing, no fingernails there

At their tips, but heathenish hand-spurs,

More like steel, were that fierce creature’s

Harsh talons. All said there was nothing,

No hardened blade, no well-forged iron,

That could strike hard enough to wound

That demon’s blood-stained battle-claw.

XV:Lines:991-1049 The King’s Gifts

Then the order was promptly given,

To set their hands to repairing Heorot;

A host of men and women set straight

The wine-hall, for guests. Weft shone

Gold on the walls, a wondrous woven

Sight for whoever gazed there by night.

Though bound fast with iron, that bright

Building was badly battered and broken,

Door-hinges shattered. The roof alone

Was left wholly sound, when that ogre,

The weight of wickedness, turned to flee

In despair of his life. But death is not easy

To escape – attempt that though we may –

And we who bear souls, the sons of men,

Earth-dwellers, driven hard by necessity,

Must gain with effort the place prepared,

Where the body, set fast on its deathbed,

Rests from the feast. Then came the time

When the son of Halfdane, went to the hall;

The king himself wished to join the throng.

I do not know when a greater or finer force

Gathered round their tribe’s treasure-giver.

Then the fame-bearers sank to the benches,

To savour the banquet, accepting graciously

Cups full of mead, with their high-hearted

Kin, Hrothgar and Hrothulf, in the great hall.

Heorot was friendly, for the Folk-Shieldings

As yet made no baleful or treacherous runes.

Then Beowulf was handed Halfdane’s sword:

A finely-wrought standard, a golden banner

In token of victory, a helmet and breastplate,

Were brought to the hero. Beowulf took up

The full flagon; unashamed to acknowledge

The gifts as payment, as reward for his deed.

I have not heard of four gold-decked treasures,

Given more graciously by so noble a race,

To strangers seated together on the ale-bench.

On the roof of the helmet, a strengthened ridge

Wound with wire, made additional head-guard,

So no well-ground blade wielded with savagery

Could damage the tempered helm, when shield

Was raised up against the onslaught of enemies.

Then the king, defender of warriors, ordered

Eight horses brought from rampart to hall,

With brave head-gear; the saddle of one made

Skilfully, adorned, decked out with jewels.

When the son of Halfdane wished to fight

That saddle was the high king’s battle-seat;

In war, his famed skill never failed at the fore.

That protector of the Children of Ing, gave to

Beowulf all those treasures; granted possession

Of arms and horses, urging good use of them.

So, the high leader, guard of the heroes’ hoard,

Paid for Beowulf’s victory, in robust manner,

In weapons and treasure; so that he who wishes

To tell the truth can find fault with neither man.