Chapter 41: The Messenger’s Retrospect

Beowulf

Chapter 41: The Messenger’s Retrospect By Beowulf

“The blood-stainèd trace of Swedes and Geatmen,
The death-rush of warmen, widely was noticed,
How the folks with each other feud did awaken.
The worthy one went then with well-beloved comrades,
Old and dejected to go to the fastness,

Ongentheo earl upward then turned him;
Of Higelac’s battle he’d heard on inquiry,
The exultant one’s prowess, despaired of resistance,
With earls of the ocean to be able to struggle,
’Gainst sea-going sailors to save the hoard-treasure,

His wife and his children; he fled after thenceward
Old ’neath the earth-wall. Then was offered pursuance
To the braves of the Swedemen, the banner to Higelac.
They fared then forth o’er the field-of-protection,
When the Hrethling heroes hedgeward had thronged them.

Then with edges of irons was Ongentheow driven,
The gray-haired to tarry, that the troop-ruler had to
Suffer the power solely of Eofor:
Wulf then wildly with weapon assaulted him,
Wonred his son, that for swinge of the edges

The blood from his body burst out in currents,
Forth ’neath his hair. He feared not however,
Gray-headed Scylfing, but speedily quited
The wasting wound-stroke with worse exchange,
When the king of the thane-troop thither did turn him:

The wise-mooded son of Wonred was powerless
To give a return-blow to the age-hoary man,
But his head-shielding helmet first hewed he to pieces,
That flecked with gore perforce he did totter,
Fell to the earth; not fey was he yet then,

But up did he spring though an edge-wound had reached him.
Then Higelac’s vassal, valiant and dauntless,
When his brother lay dead, made his broad-bladed weapon,
Giant-sword ancient, defence of the giants,
Bound o’er the shield-wall; the folk-prince succ*mbed then,

Shepherd of people, was pierced to the vitals.
There were many attendants who bound up his kinsman,
Carried him quickly when occasion was granted
That the place of the slain they were suffered to manage.
This pending, one hero plundered the other,

His armor of iron from Ongentheow ravished,
His hard-sword hilted and helmet together;
The old one’s equipments he carried to Higelac.
He the jewels received, and rewards ’mid the troopers
Graciously promised, and so did accomplish:

The king of the Weders requited the war-rush,
Hrethel’s descendant, when home he repaired him,
To Eofor and Wulf with wide-lavished treasures,
To each of them granted a hundred of thousands
In land and rings wrought out of wire:

None upon mid-earth needed to twit him
With the gifts he gave them, when glory they conquered;
And to Eofor then gave he his one only daughter,
The honor of home, as an earnest of favor.
That’s the feud and hatred—as ween I ’twill happen—

The anger of earthmen, that earls of the Swedemen
Will visit on us, when they hear that our leader
Lifeless is lying, he who longtime protected
His hoard and kingdom ’gainst hating assailers,
Who on the fall of the heroes defended of yore

The deed-mighty Scyldings, did for the troopers
What best did avail them, and further moreover
Hero-deeds ’complished. Now is haste most fitting,
That the lord of liegemen we look upon yonder,
And that one carry on journey to death-pyre

Who ring-presents gave us. Not aught of it all
Shall melt with the brave one—there’s a mass of bright jewels,
Gold beyond measure, grewsomely purchased
And ending it all ornament-rings too
Bought with his life; these fire shall devour,

Flame shall cover, no earlman shall wear
A jewel-memento, nor beautiful virgin
Have on her neck rings to adorn her,
But wretched in spirit bereavèd of gold-gems
She shall oft with others be exiled and banished,

Since the leader of liegemen hath laughter forsaken,
Mirth and merriment. Hence many a war-spear
Cold from the morning shall be clutched in the fingers,
Heaved in the hand, no harp-music’s sound shall
Waken the warriors, but the wan-coated raven

Fain over fey ones freely shall gabble,
Shall say to the eagle how he sped in the eating,
When, the wolf his companion, he plundered the slain.”
So the high-minded hero was rehearsing these stories
Loathsome to hear; he lied as to few of

Weirds and of words. All the war-troop arose then,
’Neath the Eagle’s Cape sadly betook them,
Weeping and woful, the wonder to look at.
They saw on the sand then soulless a-lying,
His slaughter-bed holding, him who rings had given them

In days that were done; then the death-bringing moment
Was come to the good one, that the king very warlike,
Wielder of Weders, with wonder-death perished.
First they beheld there a creature more wondrous,
The worm on the field, in front of them lying,

The foeman before them: the fire-spewing dragon,
Ghostly and grisly guest in his terrors,
Was scorched in the fire; as he lay there he measured
Fifty of feet; came forth in the night-time
To rejoice in the air, thereafter departing

To visit his den; he in death was then fastened,
He would joy in no other earth-hollowed caverns.
There stood round about him beakers and vessels,
Dishes were lying and dear-valued weapons,
With iron-rust eaten, as in earth’s mighty bosom

A thousand of winters there they had rested:
That mighty bequest then with magic was guarded,
Gold of the ancients, that earlman not any
The ring-hall could touch, save Ruling-God only,
Sooth-king of Vict’ries gave whom He wished to

God alone could give access to it.
to open the treasure,
E’en to such among mortals as seemed to Him proper.



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