by Anonymous

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XLI - The Messenger's Retrospect

{The messenger continues, and refers to the feuds of Swedes and Geats.}

          "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[1] with well-beloved comrades,
        5 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,
       10 '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[2] to Higelac.
[100]     They fared then forth o'er the field-of-protection,
       15 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 wounds Ongentheow.}

          Wulf then wildly with weapon assaulted him,
       20 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

{Ongentheow gives a stout blow in return.}

          The wasting wound-stroke with worse exchange,
       25 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,
       30 Fell to the earth; not fey was he yet then,
          But up did he spring though an edge-wound had reached him.

{Eofor smites Ongentheow fiercely.}

          Then Higelac's vassal, valiant and dauntless,
          When his brother lay dead, made his broad-bladed weapon,
          Giant-sword ancient, defence of the giants,
       35 Bound o'er the shield-wall; the folk-prince succumbed then,

{Ongentheow is slain.}

          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.
       40 This pending, one hero plundered the other,
          His armor of iron from Ongentheow ravished,
          His hard-sword hilted and helmet together;

{Eofor takes the old king's war-gear to Higelac.}

          The old one's equipments he carried to Higelac.
          He the jewels received, and rewards 'mid the troopers
       45 Graciously promised, and so did accomplish:
          The king of the Weders requited the war-rush,
          Hrethel's descendant, when home he repaired him,

{Higelac rewards the brothers.}

          To Eofor and Wulf with wide-lavished treasures,
          To each of them granted a hundred of thousands
[101]  50 In land and rings wrought out of wire:

{His gifts were beyond cavil.}

          None upon mid-earth needed to twit him[3]
          With the gifts he gave them, when glory they conquered;

{To Eofor he also gives his only daughter in marriage.}

          And to Eofor then gave he his one only daughter,
          The honor of home, as an earnest of favor.
       55 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,
       60 Who on the fall of the heroes defended of yore
          The deed-mighty Scyldings,[4] did for the troopers
          What best did avail them, and further moreover

{It is time for us to pay the last marks of respect to our lord.}

          Hero-deeds 'complished. Now is haste most fitting,
          That the lord of liegemen we look upon yonder,
       65 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
       70 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
       75 She shall oft with others be exiled and banished,
          Since the leader of liegemen hath laughter forsaken,
[102]     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
       80 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
       85 Loathsome to hear; he lied as to few of

{The warriors go sadly to look at Beowulf's lifeless body.}

          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,
       90 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,

{They also see the dragon.}

       95 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[5]
      100 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,
      105 With iron-rust eaten, as in earth's mighty bosom
          A thousand of winters there they had rested:

{The hoard was under a magic spell.}

          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,
[103] 110 Sooth-king of Vict'ries gave whom He wished to

{God alone could give access to it.}

          [6](He is earth-folk's protector) to open the treasure,
          E'en to such among mortals as seemed to Him proper.

    [1] For 'góda,' which seems a surprising epithet for a Geat to apply
    to the "terrible" Ongentheow, B. suggests 'gomela.' The passage would
    then stand: '_The old one went then,' etc._

    [2] For 'segn Higeláce,' K., Th., and B. propose 'segn Higeláces,'
    meaning: _Higelac's banner followed the Swedes (in pursuit)._--S.
    suggests 'sæcc Higeláces,' and renders: _Higelac's pursuit._--The
    H.-So. reading, as translated in our text, means that the banner of
    the enemy was captured and brought to Higelac as a trophy.

    [3] The rendering given in this translation represents the king as
    being generous beyond the possibility of reproach; but some
    authorities construe 'him' (2996) as plu., and understand the passage
    to mean that no one reproached the two brothers with having received
    more reward than they were entitled to.

    [4] The name 'Scyldingas' here (3006) has caused much discussion, and
    given rise to several theories, the most important of which are as
    follows: (1) After the downfall of Hrothgar's family, Beowulf was king
    of the Danes, or Scyldings. (2) For 'Scyldingas' read
    'Scylfingas'--that is, after killing Eadgils, the Scylfing prince,
    Beowulf conquered his land, and held it in subjection. (3) M.
    considers 3006 a thoughtless repetition of 2053. (Cf. H.-So.)

    [5] B. takes 'nihtes' and 'hwílum' (3045) as separate adverbial cases,
    and renders: _Joy in the air had he of yore by night, etc_. He thinks
    that the idea of vanished time ought to be expressed.

    [6] The parenthesis is by some emended so as to read: (1) (_He_ (i.e.
    _God_) _is the hope of men_); (2) (_he is the hope of heroes_). Gr.'s
    reading has no parenthesis, but says: ... _could touch, unless God
    himself, true king of victories, gave to whom he would to open the
    treasure, the secret place of enchanters, etc_. The last is rejected
    on many grounds.

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