by Anonymous

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

XLII - Wiglaf's Sad Story - The Hoard Carried Off

Then 'twas seen that the journey prospered him little
          Who wrongly within had the ornaments hidden[1]
          Down 'neath the wall. The warden erst slaughtered
          Some few of the folk-troop: the feud then thereafter
        5 Was hotly avengèd. 'Tis a wonder where,[2]
          When the strength-famous trooper has attained to the end of
          Life-days allotted, then no longer the man may
          Remain with his kinsmen where mead-cups are flowing.
          So to Beowulf happened when the ward of the barrow,
       10 Assaults, he sought for: himself had no knowledge
          How his leaving this life was likely to happen.
          So to doomsday, famous folk-leaders down did
          Call it with curses--who 'complished it there--
[104]     That that man should be ever of ill-deeds convicted,
       15 Confined in foul-places, fastened in hell-bonds,
          Punished with plagues, who this place should e'er ravage.[3]
          He cared not for gold: rather the Wielder's
          Favor preferred he first to get sight of.[4]

{Wiglaf addresses his comrades.}

          Wiglaf discoursed then, Wihstan his son:
       20 "Oft many an earlman on one man's account must
          Sorrow endure, as to us it hath happened.
          The liegelord belovèd we could little prevail on,
          Kingdom's keeper, counsel to follow,
          Not to go to the guardian of the gold-hoard, but let him
       25 Lie where he long was, live in his dwelling
          Till the end of the world. Met we a destiny
          Hard to endure: the hoard has been looked at,
          Been gained very grimly; too grievous the fate that[5]
          The prince of the people pricked to come thither.
       30 _I_ was therein and all of it looked at,
          The building's equipments, since access was given me,
          Not kindly at all entrance permitted

{He tells them of Beowulf's last moments.}

          Within under earth-wall. Hastily seized I
          And held in my hands a huge-weighing burden
       35 Of hoard-treasures costly, hither out bare them
          To my liegelord belovèd: life was yet in him,
          And consciousness also; the old one discoursed then
          Much and mournfully, commanded to greet you,

{Beowulf's dying request.}

          Bade that remembering the deeds of your friend-lord
       40 Ye build on the fire-hill of corpses a lofty
          Burial-barrow, broad and far-famous,
          As 'mid world-dwelling warriors he was widely most honored
          While he reveled in riches. Let us rouse us and hasten
[105]     Again to see and seek for the treasure,
       45 The wonder 'neath wall. The way I will show you,
          That close ye may look at ring-gems sufficient
          And gold in abundance. Let the bier with promptness
          Fully be fashioned, when forth we shall come,
          And lift we our lord, then, where long he shall tarry,
       50 Well-beloved warrior, 'neath the Wielder's protection."

{Wiglaf charges them to build a funeral-pyre.}

          Then the son of Wihstan bade orders be given,
          Mood-valiant man, to many of heroes,
          Holders of homesteads, that they hither from far,
          [6]Leaders of liegemen, should look for the good one
       55 With wood for his pyre: "The flame shall now swallow
          (The wan fire shall wax[7]) the warriors' leader
          Who the rain of the iron often abided,
          When, sturdily hurled, the storm of the arrows
          Leapt o'er linden-wall, the lance rendered service,
       60 Furnished with feathers followed the arrow."
          Now the wise-mooded son of Wihstan did summon
          The best of the braves from the band of the ruler

{He takes seven thanes, and enters the den.}

          Seven together; 'neath the enemy's roof he
          Went with the seven; one of the heroes
       65 Who fared at the front, a fire-blazing torch-light
          Bare in his hand. No lot then decided
          Who that hoard should havoc, when hero-earls saw it
          Lying in the cavern uncared-for entirely,
          Rusting to ruin: they rued then but little
       70 That they hastily hence hauled out the treasure,

{They push the dragon over the wall.}

          The dear-valued jewels; the dragon eke pushed they,
          The worm o'er the wall, let the wave-currents take him,
[106]     The waters enwind the ward of the treasures.

{The hoard is laid on a wain.}

          There wounden gold on a wain was uploaded,
       75 A mass unmeasured, the men-leader off then,
          The hero hoary, to Whale's-Ness was carried.

    [1] For 'gehýdde,' B. suggests 'gehýðde': the passage would stand as
    above except the change of 'hidden' (v. 2) to 'plundered.' The
    reference, however, would be to the thief, not to the dragon.

    [2] The passage 'Wundur ... búan' (3063-3066), M. took to be a
    question asking whether it was strange that a man should die when his
    appointed time had come.--B. sees a corruption, and makes emendations
    introducing the idea that a brave man should not die from sickness or
    from old age, but should find death in the performance of some deed of
    daring.--S. sees an indirect question introduced by 'hwár' and
    dependent upon 'wundur': _A secret is it when the hero is to die,
    etc_.--Why may the two clauses not be parallel, and the whole passage
    an Old English cry of '_How wonderful is death!'?_--S.'s is the best
    yet offered, if 'wundor' means 'mystery.'

    [3] For 'strude' in H.-So., S. suggests 'stride.' This would require
    'ravage' (v. 16) to be changed to 'tread.'

    [4] 'He cared ... sight of' (17, 18), S. emends so as to read as
    follows: _He (Beowulf) had not before seen the favor of the avaricious

    [5] B. renders: _That which drew the king thither_ (i.e. _the
    treasure_) _was granted us, but in such a way that it overcomes us._

    [6] 'Folc-ágende' (3114) B. takes as dat. sing. with 'gódum,' and
    refers it to Beowulf; that is, _Should bring fire-wood to the place
    where the good folk-ruler lay_.

    [7] C. proposes to take 'weaxan' = L. 'vescor,' and translate
    _devour_. This gives a parallel to 'fretan' above. The parenthesis
    would be discarded and the passage read: _Now shall the fire consume,
    the wan-flame devour, the prince of warriors, etc.

Return to the Beowulf Summary Return to the Anonymous Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson