Beowulf

Part VI

Sections: XXVII-XXXI

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


XXVII:Lines:1817-1887:Beowulf Departs

Then Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow spoke:

‘Now, we seafarers from afar must say

That we are keen to return to Hygelac.

Here we have been treated courteously,

And achieved our desire. Lord of men,

If there is aught I might do to merit

More of your favour, than I have done

With weapon-work, I shall be ready.

If I should hear, from over the flood,

That some tribe has risen against you,

As your enemies have done before,

I’ll bring a thousand heroic thanes

To your aid. I know that Hygelac,

Lord of the Geats, Ward of the People,

Is young, yet I know he would help,

In word and deed, if I honoured you,

And came in strength, with a forest

Of spears, when you needed men.

And if Hrethric, as the king’s son,

Travels to the court of the Geats,

He will find friends. Far-off lands

Are best sought by the powerful.’

Hrothgar then spoke to him in reply:

‘The Wise Lord placed these words

In your mind. I have heard no better

A speech from a man of your years.

You are strong, and sound at heart,

A wise word-speaker. If it chances

That Hrethel’s heir, Ward of the Folk,

Your great king, is taken from you,

By the spear, in some dreadful battle,

By sword or sickness, and you live,

I think the Sea-Geats could choose

No better a king, bulwark of heroes,

Than you, if you should wish to rule,

Your kinsman’s kingdom. Your spirit

Pleases me more the longer I know it,

My dear Beowulf. You have ensured

That the Geats and the Spear-Danes,

Shall live as folk at peace, and end

The mutual strife and those hostilities

Which both nations suffered before.

While I shall rule this broad kingdom,

Exchange of gifts, many a good thing,

Shall travel over the gannet’s pool;

The scrolled prows shall cross the sea,

Bringing tokens of love and friendship.

I know, towards friend and foe, both

Will stand fast, beyond fault, as ever.’

The Earls’ Defender, Halfdane’s son,

Then gave the hero twelve treasures,

Told him to seek his dear homeland,

To journey in safety, and soon return.

Then that noble and virtuous king,

Silver-haired Lord of the Shieldings

Kissed Beowulf, and clasped his neck:

The tears ran. Old, wise, those hopes

Were in him, the second one deeper:

That they might meet again, bravely,

In conference. Such the love he held

For the hero, that his heart welled up,

And a deep longing for that dear man

Now tied so tightly to him in thought,

Burned in his blood. Thence, Beowulf

The proud warrior, glorious with gold,

Trod the green turf. Riding at anchor,

The ship awaited its lord and master.

Hrothgar’s gifts were often praised

On the long passage. There was a king,

Peerless in all, until age sapped him

Of strength’s joy, as it does the many.

XXVIII:Lines:1888-1962:He Sails Home

Down to the flood, then, full of spirit,

Went the young men, wearing ring-mail,

Linked armour on limbs. The sea-guard,

Ever-watchful, spied the heroes returning.

He now no longer challenged the guests,

From the cliff-top as he had once before,

But rode towards them, with a welcome

For the warriors of the Wederas, as they,

Helms shining went down to their boat.

The curved sea-going ship, by the shore,

Was then loaded with war-gear, horses

And treasure. The mast towered high

Over Hrothgar’s hoard of rich gifts.

Beowulf gave the watchman a sword,

Its hilt bound with gold, an heirloom

That marked him the worthier there

On the mead-bench. Then he set out,

On deep water, leaving the Danes’ land.

Then a mighty sail was raised to the mast,

Ropes hauled tight. The timbers thrummed.

No adverse wind threatened that sea-bird,

Over the waves, the voyagers sailed on.

The foam-necked fared forth on the ocean,

The banded prow over the brimming tide,

Till the Geats sighted their own headlands,

Their own cliffs. The weather-beaten keel

Sprang up, and rested once more on shore.

The harbour-guard, alert to their coming,

Who had long watched for his dear friends,

Gazed far on the waves, was soon by them.

The solid ship was moored to the sands,

Anchored fast, lest the force of the waves

Might carry away the wind-lashed timbers.

Then he had them carry the prince’s riches,

Freight and fine gold, it was no far distance,

To where Hygelac, the Giver of Treasure,

Hrethel’s son, had his house by the sea-wall,

Lived surrounded there by his companions,

A brave building, the king bold in valour,

In his high hall. Hygd, his queen, full young

But wise, well-mannered, had lived there,

At court for no more than a few winters.

Haereth’s daughter, she was generous,

Grudged no gift to the men of the Geats,

No rich treasure, while Thryth, the queen

Of Offa’s people, wrought violence, evil.

Not even the boldest of his dear friends,

None but her lord dared risk a look at her,

In the light of day, without knowing his end,

The woven death-ropes bound about him,

As ordained. As soon as the man was seized,

The shadow-marked blade was appointed,

To make death known. However peerless,

A queen should not behave in such manner,

No weaver of peace should deprive a man

Of life, for no more than imagined injury.

But Hemming’s kinsman put a stop to that:

Ale-drinkers at table told another tale of her,

That she showed less enmity and malice

To the people, after she was given, decked

In gold, to this young hero of fine ancestry,

Sent by her wise father, over the dark flood,

To journey to Offa’s hall, where afterwards,

Famed for goodness she graced the throne,

Using her life well, in the days left to her,

Holding high love for that king of heroes,

The finest lord, I have heard, of that race,

That mighty nation, between the two seas.

Offa, sharp as a spear, was widely honoured,

For gift-giving, fighting, and ruling his land

With wisdom. From thence sprang Eomer,

A bulwark for heroes, kinsman of Hemming,

And grandson of Garmund, powerful in war.

XXIX:Lines:1963-2038:The Tale

Then the hard man, and his hand-picked crew,

Himself trod the shore, over the sea-barrens,

The wide sand-ways; the sun, the world-candle,

Shone sharp from the south. After the journey,

They strode swiftly, to where, they had heard,

Their virtuous young king, Ongentheow’s bane,

The shield for heroes, within his stronghold,

Was handing out rings. Beowulf’s return

Was soon proclaimed to Hygelac, news

That the warriors’ defence, shield-companion,

Was back alive from his distant adventures,

Unharmed, and on his way to the homestead.

The floor in the hall was quickly cleared,

At the king’s command, for the men on foot.

After his liege-lord, with gracious speech,

Had greeted the survivor, in clear words,

Beowulf sat down, kinsman with kinsman,

And Haereth’s daughter, dear to the people,

Sent draughts of mead through the wide room,

To noble hands. Then Hygelac began to ask

Courteous questions, in that high hall, of his

Companion, eager to hear the Sea-Geat’s tale.

‘How did you fare on the way, dear Beowulf,

After you chose to seek far-off adventure,

Sailed to fight that feud, over the salt-water

Help in Heorot? Did you lessen the woes,

Which were widely known, of that great king,

Hrothgar? My heart filled with anxious care,

Seething wells of sadness, not trusting to fate,

Dear friend. How I pleaded with you, then,

Not to challenge him, that spirit of slaughter,

And let the South Danes settle their feud,

With Grendel themselves. God be thanked

That I see you here again, safe and sound.’

Then Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow replied:

‘That fierce conflict is no great secret,

Lord Hygelac, to be kept from people,

That long struggle I had with Grendel,

In that land where he brought sorrow

And endless misery to the great mass

Of Victory-Shieldings. I took vengeance

For it all. Grendel’s kin, evil on earth,

Will never boast of our clash at dawn,

However long that vile race might last,

Shrouded in malice. Once I arrived,

I went to the ring-hall, to greet Hrothgar.

When that son of the Halfdane knew

My purpose, he found me a place at once

On the bench where his own sons sat.

The throng were joyful. In my whole life

I never saw such mead-revelry amongst

Hall-guests. At times the great queen,

She the peace-pledge between nations,

Walked round encouraging the young,

Gave out torques then took her place.

Sometimes Hrothgar’s daughter bore

The ale-flagons to the ranks of nobles,

I heard the benches name her as Freawaru,

As she brought us the gem-studded cup,

Young and gold-adorned she is promised

To Ingeld the Gracious, son of Froda.

The Friend of the Shieldings, Shepherd

Of the People, has brought this about,

With hopes marriage with her will settle

Old conflicts. Though however lovely

The bride may be, the savage spear

Is seldom still, after a leader falls.

It may well displease Ingeld the king,

And every thane of his Heathobards,

When he and the woman join the feast,

To see the noble Danes seated there,

The veterans, ancient armour gleaming,

Steel and ring-mail, Heathobard treasure,

When they could still wield their weapons.’

XXX:Lines:2039-2143:Of His Deeds

‘But they, along with their dear companions,

Went down to disaster in that clash of shields.

Then, while they drink, some old spearman

Some grim-hearted man, who remembers it all,

Seeing some precious ring, all the spear-deaths,

Sad in spirit, and musing deep in his mind,

Will start to provoke some young champion,

Waken war-thoughts, with words like these:

“Surely you know that weapon, my friend,

That precious blade your father once bore,

When he took the field in his masked-helm,

On the last campaign, when Danes slew him,

When Wethergeld died, and the heroes fell,

And the Shieldings commanded the ground?

Now here’s the son of one or other of them,

Proud in his gear, treading the boards there,

Boasting of killing, and wearing a weapon

That you, by every right, should possess.”

So he will go on, inciting and prompting,

With lethal words, until one of the thanes

The lady’s servant, lies stained in blood

From the blade’s bite, for his father’s sake,

Forfeiting life. While knowing the terrain

His killer can escape, and goes scot-free.

Then oaths sworn by nobles, are broken

On both sides. Then Ingeld will feel hatred

Welling, and the surge of grief, so his love

For the woman will cool, and grow less.

So is suspect all the Heathobards’ loyalty,

Their dealing in treaties, claims of enduring

Friendship towards the Danes. But I must say

More of Grendel, so that you might know,

Giver of Treasure, what happened there

In the hand-to-hand fight. When the sun,

Heaven’s gem, had glided to earth, the guest,

Full of ire, dark horror of twilight, appeared,

Where we, unharmed, yet guarded the hall.

There for Handscio came the losing struggle,

Foully foredoomed, he fell first, the armed

Champion. That famed, magnificent warrior

Grendel took in his maw, and swallowed

Our dear friend’s body, devouring it whole.

Baleful-minded, the bloody-toothed killer

Was not yet ready to leave the gold-hall,

Loathe he was to depart empty-handed,

But, famed for his might, he tested me,

Gripping eagerly. His pouch hung down,

Strange and roomy, held fast by clasps

All cunningly-wrought, cleverly devised,

Devilishly crafted out of dragon’s skin.

That dread demon wanted to cram me,

And many another innocent, inside,

But was bound to fail when I rose up,

Sudden with anger, and faced him there.

It would take too long to recount how he

Paid with his hand for his every evil,

How I honoured your people, my lord,

By my deeds. He fled for a little while,

He escaped with his life for the moment,

Leaving his right hand behind in Heorot,

And the wretch, with gloom in his heart,

Vanishing from there, sank into the mere.

The Friend of the Shieldings gifted me

With beaten gold for that bloody fight,

Many a treasure, when morning came,

And we sat down to the banquet table,

Gladness and glee. The aged Hrothgar,

That daring warrior, a generous king,

One knowing the tales of long-ago,

Now strummed on his ancient harp,

Made its wood quiver, for our pleasure;

Now sang out a lay, both true and tragic;

Now rightly related some strange story,

At times he began to mourn his youth,

That veteran soldier, bound by the years,

And his battle-strength, his heart grieved,

A winter-wise man, remembering much.

So there within we took our pleasure,

The whole day long, till another night

Came to mankind. Then Grendel’s dam,

Mourning her dead son, Wederas’ bane,

Eager for revenge, swiftly appeared,

And retaliating for her son’s death,

Savagely slew a warrior, thus life left

Aeschere, old lore-wise counsellor.

Nor could the Danes, weary of death,

Lay the dear man on the funeral pyre,

And burn his body, when morning came.

The fiend had clasped his corpse and fled;

Taken him under the mountain stream.

That was the bitterest grief that Hrothgar,

The leader of the folk, had ever known.

Then that chieftain, his mind troubled,

Asked, in your name, for a noble deed,

That I risk my life in the water’s surge,

And gain glory there. He promised gifts.

In that whelm of water, as is known,

I met the grim ireful guard of the lake.

There we fought a while, hand to hand,

The pool seethed with gore, I beheaded

Grendel’s mother, in those deep halls,

With a mighty blade. I barely chanced

To come out alive. It was not yet fated;

And Halfdane’s son, bulwark of heroes,

Gave me once more a wealth of treasure.

XXXI:Lines:2144-2220:He Becomes King

‘Thus that nation’s king, did what was due,

I forwent none of the gifts he had promised,

No reward for my might: Halfdane’s son

Granted me riches, to my greater glory.

These, warrior-king, I bring to you, offer

Them graciously, for all depends on your

Favour. Hygelac, I’ve no near kin but you.’

They brought in the boar-head standard,

The battle-steep helm, the hoar-silver mail,

The beauteous blade. His tale continued:

Hrothgar, wise ruler, gave me this war-gear,

With words instructing me first to tell you

Of its provenance. He said that Heorogar,

King of the Shieldings, his elder brother,

Long owned it, but though Heoroweard,

His brave son was loyal, he did not choose

To grant him the armour. Now, use it well.’

Four russet mares, like in speed, I hear,

Followed the treasure. Beowulf offered,

As gifts to the king, both the bay horses

And the hoard of riches. So kin should do.

Not weave nets of malice for others,

Bringing friends to death by secret arts,

Beowulf was loyal to his uncle, Hygelac

In battle: each minded the other’s cause.

He gave Hygd a necklace, a wondrous

Jewelled work Wealhtheow gave him,

That king’s daughter; and three horses,

Supple with shining saddles: her breast

Was adorned with the treasure so given.

Bold he was, Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow,

A man known for great deeds in battle.

He lived for glory. Slew no companions,

In drink. Bore him a heart untroubled.

And held to man’s God-given strength,

That generous gift, courage in conflict.

The sons of the Geats had long held him

In little regard, thought him worthless,

Nor had the commander of their troop

Showed him honour on the mead benches.

They said he was, above all, a weakling,

Lacking in daring. But blessed with glory,

He saw a recompense for such troubles.

Then Hygelac, brave in battle, a bulwark

For heroes, had Hrethel’s heirloom brought;

Garnished with gold, no finer a treasure,

By way of a blade, came from the hoard,

Than that sword he laid in Beowulf’s lap.

And he granted him seven thousand hides,

Half a country; with a hall; and joint rule.

Both owned ancestral land in that nation,

Part of the earth that was theirs by right,

Though more of that land was to the elder.

Afterwards, in later days, it so happened

When Hygelac was dead, that Heardred

His son fell to the swords, in fierce battle,

That sought him, baneful, under his shield,

When the Battle-Shieldings, eager for war,

Fought Hereric’s nephew, and conquered.

Thereupon that wide kingdom passed

Into Beowulf’s hands; and he ruled well

For fifty winters, grown old and wise,

Warden of the nation, till one dark night

A dragon began to prowl that guarded

A hoard in its high house, a stone barrow,

Set stark, the path below unknown to men.

Someone, I know not whom, had entered,

And groped around in the heathen hoard.

His hands had wrapped themselves about

Some fine goblet, he had later removed,

Though by outwitting the sleeping dragon

With a thief’s guile. It angered the creature,

As the neighbouring folk soon discovered.