Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved
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- XXXVI:Lines:2602-2693:Beowulf Wounded
- XXXVII:Lines:2694-2751:The Request
- XXXVIII:Lines:2752-2820:Last Words
There was one Wiglaf, son of Weohstan,
A noble shield-man of the Scylfings.
A kinsman of Aelfhere. Seeing his lord
Scorched by heat under his war-mask,
He recalled honour done him before,
The fine holdings of the Waegmundings,
Each his by right, his father had owned.
He could not hold back, his hand seized
The lime-wood shield. He drew sword,
An ancient blade, Eanmund’s legacy,
Son of Ohthere. Weohstan, the exile,
Slew him, with sword-edge, in battle,
Brought, to the man’s kin, bright helm,
Ring-mail, giants’ blade; while Onela
Returned him his kinsman’s weapons,
Eanmund’s war-gear, desired no feud,
Though Eanmund was his brother’s son.
Weohstan held them for many a season,
Blade and ring-mail, till it was his son’s
Time to do noble deeds like his father’s.
Then he gave him war-gear, amongst
The Geats, a vast heap, and left this life,
Wise on his way. Then for the first time
Came onset of war, the young champion
There with his lord, to meet the challenge.
His courage stood firm, nor did the blade
Fail in the fight. This the worm found,
Now that they came together in conflict.
This Wiglaf – his heart being saddened –
Spoke many a fitting word to his friends:
‘I remember a time when we drank mead,
Making a promise there in the mead-hall,
To our lord, to the Ring-Giver, that we
Would repay him his gift of war-gear,
If ever the time of need came upon him,
With sword and helm. He singled us out
From the army himself, for this venture,
Thought us worthy, and gave these gifts,
Because he thought us spearmen of note,
Brave helm-bearers, though our leader,
The Ward of the Folk, wished to perform
This act alone for us, being the warrior
Who has most won glory, carried through
The bravest of deeds. Now the day comes
When our leader has need of the strength
Of fine fighting-men. Let us go to the aid
Of our battle-king, through the hot flame,
And the fire-dread. As God is my witness
I’d rather my body was shrouded in fire
Along with my Gold-Giver’s: it cannot
Be right for us to bear shields back home,
And not fell the foe, or defend the life,
Of the King of the Wederas. And I know,
Given his deeds of old, that of all us Geats
He alone does not deserve to suffer pain,
Or fall in combat. He and I shall share
Sword and helm, ring-mail and war-coat.’
Then, wading through the battle-fumes,
He went to his lord’s aid; saying simply:
‘Dear Beowulf, go on, carry this through,
As, when young, you claimed you would,
While you lived, saying you would never
Let glory fade. Defend yourself bravely,
Strong in mind, and with all your might,
Act boldly now, and I shall stand by you.’
After these words, the wrathful worm came,
The cruel dread guest, for a second time,
With a flood of fire, to seek his enemies,
The humans it hated. A wave of flames
Charred his shield to the boss, chain-mail
Scarcely protected the young spearman,
Yet he charged bravely, behind the shield
Of his kinsman, after his own was burnt.
Then the war-king gathered his strength,
And struck a mighty blow with his blade,
Drove it with all his power, to lodge there
In the serpent’s skull. Beowulf’s sword,
Naegling, ancient and steel-grey, shattered.
Its edge had failed. Nor was it given him,
To be aided in battle, by a blade of iron.
So strong was his arm, or so I have heard:
However hardened and blooded the sword,
He wielded in battle, his blow destroyed it.
Then the fire-drake, the scourge of the folk,
Full of enmity, hot and battle-mad, attacked
For a third time, as the hero gave ground,
Gripping Beowulf’s neck in its sharp fangs.
He was drenched in blood, a wave of gore.
Then I hear that, seeing the king’s need,
Wiglaf, at his side, proved bold, strong,
And skilful, and showed his true quality.
He avoided the fangs, though his hand
Was burned, and using his strength well,
The warrior in war-gear, struck lower,
So that his rich sword, inlaid with gold,
Sank into the dragon, and the flames
Grew weaker. Then Beowulf the king
Gathered his wits, and drew the dagger,
Bitter, battle-sharp, he wore at his side;
The Helm of the Wederas cut the worm
Deeply. For each of them was, as a man
Should be, a thane in need; together they
Felled the foe, courage quenched its life,
But that was the king’s last glorious deed,
In this world. The wound the earth-drake
Had dealt him, now sweltered and swelled,
Beowulf soon knew that baleful venom,
That poison within, welled in his breast.
Full of sober thoughts, that noble man
Sat himself down in a place by the wall,
Saw the giants’ work, the barrow-mound,
Held fast by stone arches, on pillars, inside.
Then the best of thanes laved the wound,
With his own hands, cleansed the blood
From his lord and friend, his great leader,
Wearied by conflict, unloosing his helm.
Beowulf spoke then, scorning his injury,
The battle-black wound – knowing now
That he had done with his length of days,
Joy on this earth was gone, all was over,
His span of time, and that death was near –
‘Now I would wish to have given my son
My war-gear, had I been granted an heir,
To live after me. I have ruled the people
For fifty winters. No neighbouring king,
Not one, dared to face me with an army,
Threatening terror. I awaited my destiny
On earth, ruled my own kingdom well,
Sought out no quarrels, swore no oaths
In unjust causes. Though doomed now
By mortal injury, I can rejoice at it all,
Since the Ruler of Mankind has no need
To reproach me with the murder of kin,
When life leaves me. Now go swiftly,
Dear Wiglaf, now the worm lies there,
Dormant, sorely wounded, deprived
Of its treasure; be in haste, so that I
Glimpse the gold hoard, ancient riches,
Gleaming cut gems, so I more readily
With wealth around me, might leave
This life and the land I’ve long ruled.’
Then, so I heard, the son of Weohstan,
After listening to the battle-torn one,
His wounded lord, at that command,
Swiftly went down, in his battle-gear,
His ring-mail, under the barrow’s roof.
Once he had passed the seat, victorious,
The brave warrior saw a heap of gems,
In the worm’s den, that flier by twilight’s,
He saw gold glittering over the ground,
Wonders on walls, stands of goblets,
Made by men of old, bereft of ornament,
Dull with neglect, with piles of helmets,
Old and rusted, with a host of arm-rings,
Cunningly clasped – how readily treasure,
Gold in the ground, may escape from
Any man’s hold, however well hidden –
Also a standard, all of gold, hanging there,
High over the hoard, a most marvellous
Hand-wrought masterwork, shedding light,
So he could see that wealth on the ground,
Examine the treasures. There was no sign
Of the worm. The blade had finished him.
Then the warrior, alone, as I have heard,
Plundered the hoard, all the giants’-work,
Filled his arms with the flagons and plate,
As he wished, and took the standard too,
The bright banner, for the old king’s blade
– With its edge of iron – had already ended
The one-time guardian of the treasure-vault,
The dragon that waged terror by fire; welled
Forth, of a midnight; till in violence he died.
Wiglaf was in haste, now, keen to return,
Spurred on by riches, anxiety weighed on
The brave warrior: would he find him alive,
The King of the Wederas, all strength lost,
In the place where he had left him earlier?
Bearing the treasure to his great chieftain,
He found his lord bleeding, his life ending.
He began to lave him with water once more,
Until a word’s blade-tip broke through the
Breast-hoard, as the old man saw gold.
‘To the Master of All, to the King of Glory,
To the Eternal Lord, I give words of thanks,
For all the treasures that I see before me,
And that I was able to gain such wealth
For the folk, before death could take me.
I have paid with my life for this hoard,
Now you must look to the nation’s needs;
I can hold on no longer. Tell those men
Famous in war, to build me a bright mound
On a cape by the sea’s edge, after the fire.
It will tower high, on the whales’ headland,
And serve there to remind my people of me,
So that those on the sea will call it by name,
Beowulf’s Barrow, as they steer their ships
Through ocean mist, when they voyage afar.’
Then the valiant warrior took from his neck
The golden torque, and gave it to the thane,
Telling the young spearman, to use it well,
And the shirt of mail, and his gilded helm.
‘You are the last of us, last of all our race,
The Waegmundings. Fate has swept away
All my kin, sent the earls in their strength,
To their destined end; I must follow them.’
That was the old king’s final word, of all
Those in his breast, before the funeral fire,
The pyre’s hot seething. Though his soul,
Yet went seeking the true, steadfast power.