Chapter 39: The Dead Foes – Wiglaf’s Bitter Taunts

Beowulf

Chapter 39: The Dead Foes – Wiglaf’s Bitter Taunts By Beowulf

It had wofully chanced then the youthful retainer
To behold on earth the most ardent-belovèd
At his life-days’ limit, lying there helpless.
The slayer too lay there, of life all bereavèd,
Horrible earth-drake, harassed with sorrow:

The round-twisted monster was permitted no longer
To govern the ring-hoards, but edges of war-swords
Mightily seized him, battle-sharp, sturdy
Leavings of hammers, that still from his wounds
The flier-from-farland fell to the earth

Hard by his hoard-house, hopped he at midnight
Not e’er through the air, nor exulting in jewels
Suffered them to see him: but he sank then to earthward
Through the hero-chief’s handwork. I heard sure it throve then
But few in the land of liegemen of valor,

Though of every achievement bold he had proved him,
To run ’gainst the breath of the venomous scather,
Or the hall of the treasure to trouble with hand-blows,
If he watching had found the ward of the hoard-hall
On the barrow abiding. Beowulf’s part of

The treasure of jewels was paid for with death;
Each of the twain had attained to the end of
Life so unlasting. Not long was the time till
The tardy-at-battle returned from the thicket,
The timid truce-breakers ten all together,

Who durst not before play with the lances
In the prince of the people’s pressing emergency;
But blushing with shame, with shields they betook them,
With arms and armor where the old one was lying:
They gazed upon Wiglaf. He was sitting exhausted,

Foot-going fighter, not far from the shoulders
Of the lord of the people, would rouse him with water;
No whit did it help him; though he hoped for it keenly,
He was able on earth not at all in the leader
Life to retain, and nowise to alter

The will of the Wielder; the World-Ruler’s power
Would govern the actions of each one of heroes,
As yet He is doing. From the young one forthwith then
Could grim-worded greeting be got for him quickly
Whose courage had failed him. Wiglaf discoursed then,

Weohstan his son, sad-mooded hero,
Looked on the hated: “He who soothness will utter
Can say that the liegelord who gave you the jewels,
The ornament-armor wherein ye are standing,
When on ale-bench often he offered to hall-men

Helmet and burnie, the prince to his liegemen,
As best upon earth he was able to find him,—
That he wildly wasted his war-gear undoubtedly
When battle o’ertook him. The troop-king no need had
To glory in comrades; yet God permitted him,

Victory-Wielder, with weapon unaided
Himself to avenge, when vigor was needed.
I life-protection but little was able
To give him in battle, and I ’gan, notwithstanding,
Helping my kinsman :

He waxed the weaker when with weapon I smote on
My mortal opponent, the fire less strongly
Flamed from his bosom. Too few of protectors
Came round the king at the critical moment.
Now must ornament-taking and weapon-bestowing,

Home-joyance all, cease for your kindred,
Food for the people; each of your warriors
Must needs be bereavèd of rights that he holdeth
In landed possessions, when faraway nobles
Shall learn of your leaving your lord so basely,

The dastardly deed. Death is more pleasant
To every earlman than infamous life is!”



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