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XXVIII - The Homeward Journey - The Two Queens

Then the band of very valiant retainers
          Came to the current; they were clad all in armor,

{The coast-guard again.}

          In link-woven burnies. The land-warder noticed
          The return of the earlmen, as he erstwhile had seen them;
        5 Nowise with insult he greeted the strangers
          From the naze of the cliff, but rode on to meet them;
          Said the bright-armored visitors[1] vesselward traveled
[65]      Welcome to Weders. The wide-bosomed craft then
          Lay on the sand, laden with armor,
       10 With horses and jewels, the ring-stemmèd sailer:
          The mast uptowered o'er the treasure of Hrothgar.

{Beowulf gives the guard a handsome sword.}

          To the boat-ward a gold-bound brand he presented,
          That he was afterwards honored on the ale-bench more highly
          As the heirloom's owner. [2]Set he out on his vessel,
       15 To drive on the deep, Dane-country left he.
          Along by the mast then a sea-garment fluttered,
          A rope-fastened sail. The sea-boat resounded,
          The wind o'er the waters the wave-floater nowise
          Kept from its journey; the sea-goer traveled,
       20 The foamy-necked floated forth o'er the currents,
          The well-fashioned vessel o'er the ways of the ocean,

{The Geats see their own land again.}

          Till they came within sight of the cliffs of the Geatmen,
          The well-known headlands. The wave-goer hastened
          Driven by breezes, stood on the shore.

{The port-warden is anxiously looking for them.}

       25 Prompt at the ocean, the port-ward was ready,
          Who long in the past outlooked in the distance,[3]
          At water's-edge waiting well-lovèd heroes;
          He bound to the bank then the broad-bosomed vessel
          Fast in its fetters, lest the force of the waters
       30 Should be able to injure the ocean-wood winsome.
          Bade he up then take the treasure of princes,
          Plate-gold and fretwork; not far was it thence
          To go off in search of the giver of jewels:
[66]      Hrethel's son Higelac at home there remaineth,[4]
       35 Himself with his comrades close to the sea-coast.
          The building was splendid, the king heroic,
          Great in his hall, Hygd very young was,

{Hygd, the noble queen of Higelac, lavish of gifts.}

          Fine-mooded, clever, though few were the winters
          That the daughter of Hæreth had dwelt in the borough;
       40 But she nowise was cringing nor niggard of presents,
          Of ornaments rare, to the race of the Geatmen.

{Offa's consort, Thrytho, is contrasted with Hygd.}

          Thrytho nursed anger, excellent[5] folk-queen,
          Hot-burning hatred: no hero whatever
          'Mong household companions, her husband excepted

{She is a terror to all save her husband.}

       45 Dared to adventure to look at the woman
          With eyes in the daytime;[6] but he knew that death-chains
          Hand-wreathed were wrought him: early thereafter,
          When the hand-strife was over, edges were ready,
          That fierce-raging sword-point had to force a decision,
       50 Murder-bale show. Such no womanly custom
          For a lady to practise, though lovely her person,
          That a weaver-of-peace, on pretence of anger
          A belovèd liegeman of life should deprive.
          Soothly this hindered Heming's kinsman;
       55 Other ale-drinking earlmen asserted
          That fearful folk-sorrows fewer she wrought them,
          Treacherous doings, since first she was given
          Adorned with gold to the war-hero youthful,
          For her origin honored, when Offa's great palace
       60 O'er the fallow flood by her father's instructions
          She sought on her journey, where she afterwards fully,
          Famed for her virtue, her fate on the king's-seat
[67]      Enjoyed in her lifetime, love did she hold with
          The ruler of heroes, the best, it is told me,
       65 Of all of the earthmen that oceans encompass,
          Of earl-kindreds endless; hence Offa was famous
          Far and widely, by gifts and by battles,
          Spear-valiant hero; the home of his fathers
          He governed with wisdom, whence Eomær did issue
       70 For help unto heroes, Heming's kinsman,
          Grandson of Garmund, great in encounters.

    [1] For 'scawan' (1896), 'scaðan' has been proposed. Accepting this,
    we may render: _He said the bright-armored warriors were going to
    their vessel, welcome, etc_. (Cf. 1804.)

    [2] R. suggests, 'Gewát him on naca,' and renders: _The vessel set
    out, to drive on the sea, the Dane-country left_. 'On' bears the
    alliteration; cf. 'on hafu' (2524). This has some advantages over the
    H.-So. reading; viz. (1) It adds nothing to the text; (2) it makes
    'naca' the subject, and thus brings the passage into keeping with the
    context, where the poet has exhausted his vocabulary in detailing the
    actions of the vessel.--B.'s emendation (cf. P. and B. XII. 97) is

    [3] B. translates: _Who for a long time, ready at the coast, had
    looked out into the distance eagerly for the dear men_. This changes
    the syntax of 'léofra manna.'

    [4] For 'wunað' (v. 1924) several eminent critics suggest 'wunade'
    (=remained). This makes the passage much clearer.

    [5] Why should such a woman be described as an 'excellent' queen? C.
    suggests 'frécnu' = dangerous, bold.

    [6] For 'an dæges' various readings have been offered. If 'and-éges'
    be accepted, the sentence will read: _No hero ... dared look upon her,
    eye to eye_. If 'án-dæges' be adopted, translate: _Dared look upon her
    the whole day.

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