by Anonymous

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XXIII - Beowulf's Fight With Grendel's Mother

{Beowulf makes a parting speech to Hrothgar.}

          Beowulf spake, Ecgtheow's son:
          "Recall now, oh, famous kinsman of Healfdene,
          Prince very prudent, now to part I am ready,
          Gold-friend of earlmen, what erst we agreed on,

{If I fail, act as a kind liegelord to my thanes,}

        5 Should I lay down my life in lending thee assistance,
          When my earth-joys were over, thou wouldst evermore serve me
          In stead of a father; my faithful thanemen,
          My trusty retainers, protect thou and care for,
          Fall I in battle: and, Hrothgar belovèd,

{and send Higelac the jewels thou hast given me}

       10 Send unto Higelac the high-valued jewels
          Thou to me hast allotted. The lord of the Geatmen
          May perceive from the gold, the Hrethling may see it

{I should like my king to know how generous a lord I found thee to be.}

          When he looks on the jewels, that a gem-giver found I
          Good over-measure, enjoyed him while able.
       15 And the ancient heirloom Unferth permit thou,
          The famed one to have, the heavy-sword splendid[1]
          The hard-edgèd weapon; with Hrunting to aid me,
          I shall gain me glory, or grim-death shall take me."

{Beowulf is eager for the fray.}

          The atheling of Geatmen uttered these words and
       20 Heroic did hasten, not any rejoinder
          Was willing to wait for; the wave-current swallowed

{He is a whole day reaching the bottom of the sea.}

          The doughty-in-battle. Then a day's-length elapsed ere
          He was able to see the sea at its bottom.
          Early she found then who fifty of winters
       25 The course of the currents kept in her fury,
          Grisly and greedy, that the grim one's dominion


{Grendel's mother knows that some one has reached her domains.}

          Some one of men from above was exploring.
          Forth did she grab them, grappled the warrior
          With horrible clutches; yet no sooner she injured
       30 His body unscathèd: the burnie out-guarded,
          That she proved but powerless to pierce through the armor,
          The limb-mail locked, with loath-grabbing fingers.
          The sea-wolf bare then, when bottomward came she,

{She grabs him, and bears him to her den.}

          The ring-prince homeward, that he after was powerless
       35 (He had daring to do it) to deal with his weapons,
          But many a mere-beast tormented him swimming,

{Sea-monsters bite and strike him.}

          Flood-beasts no few with fierce-biting tusks did
          Break through his burnie, the brave one pursued they.
          The earl then discovered he was down in some cavern
       40 Where no water whatever anywise harmed him,
          And the clutch of the current could come not anear him,
          Since the roofed-hall prevented; brightness a-gleaming
          Fire-light he saw, flashing resplendent.
          The good one saw then the sea-bottom's monster,

{Beowulf attacks the mother of Grendel.}

       45 The mighty mere-woman; he made a great onset
          With weapon-of-battle, his hand not desisted
          From striking, that war-blade struck on her head then
          A battle-song greedy. The stranger perceived then

{The sword will not bite.}

          The sword would not bite, her life would not injure,
       50 But the falchion failed the folk-prince when straitened:
          Erst had it often onsets encountered,
          Oft cloven the helmet, the fated one's armor:
          'Twas the first time that ever the excellent jewel
          Had failed of its fame. Firm-mooded after,
       55 Not heedless of valor, but mindful of glory,
          Was Higelac's kinsman; the hero-chief angry
          Cast then his carved-sword covered with jewels
          That it lay on the earth, hard and steel-pointed;

{The hero throws down all weapons, and again trusts to his hand-grip.}

          He hoped in his strength, his hand-grapple sturdy.
       60 So any must act whenever he thinketh
          To gain him in battle glory unending,
          And is reckless of living. The lord of the War-Geats
[53]      (He shrank not from battle) seized by the shoulder[2]
          The mother of Grendel; then mighty in struggle
       65 Swung he his enemy, since his anger was kindled,
          That she fell to the floor. With furious grapple

{Beowulf falls.}

          She gave him requital[3] early thereafter,
          And stretched out to grab him; the strongest of warriors
          Faint-mooded stumbled, till he fell in his traces,

{The monster sits on him with drawn sword.}

       70 Foot-going champion. Then she sat on the hall-guest
          And wielded her war-knife wide-bladed, flashing,
          For her son would take vengeance, her one only bairn.

{His armor saves his life.}

          His breast-armor woven bode on his shoulder;
          It guarded his life, the entrance defended
       75 'Gainst sword-point and edges. Ecgtheow's son there
          Had fatally journeyed, champion of Geatmen,
          In the arms of the ocean, had the armor not given,
          Close-woven corslet, comfort and succor,

{God arranged for his escape.}

          And had God most holy not awarded the victory,
       80 All-knowing Lord; easily did heaven's
          Ruler most righteous arrange it with justice;[4]
          Uprose he erect ready for battle.

    [1] Kl. emends 'wæl-sweord.' The half-line would then read, '_the
    battle-sword splendid_.'--For 'heard-ecg' in next half-verse, see note
    to 20_39 above.

    [2] Sw., R., and t.B. suggest 'feaxe' for 'eaxle' (1538) and render:
    _Seized by the hair_.

    [3] If 'hand-léan' be accepted (as the MS. has it), the line will
    read: _She hand-reward gave him early thereafter_.

    [4] Sw. and S. change H.-So.'s semicolon (v. 1557) to a comma, and
    translate: _The Ruler of Heaven arranged it in justice easily, after
    he arose again.

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