by Anonymous

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XXXIII - Brave Though Aged - Reminiscences

{The dragon spits fire.}

          The stranger began then to vomit forth fire,
          To burn the great manor; the blaze then glimmered
          For anguish to earlmen, not anything living
[79]      Was the hateful air-goer willing to leave there.
        5 The war of the worm widely was noticed,
          The feud of the foeman afar and anear,
          How the enemy injured the earls of the Geatmen,
          Harried with hatred: back he hied to the treasure,
          To the well-hidden cavern ere the coming of daylight.
       10 He had circled with fire the folk of those regions,
          With brand and burning; in the barrow he trusted,
          In the wall and his war-might: the weening deceived him.

{Beowulf hears of the havoc wrought by the dragon.}

          Then straight was the horror to Beowulf published,
          Early forsooth, that his own native homestead,[1]
       15 The best of buildings, was burning and melting,
          Gift-seat of Geatmen. 'Twas a grief to the spirit
          Of the good-mooded hero, the greatest of sorrows:

{He fears that Heaven is punishing him for some crime.}

          The wise one weened then that wielding his kingdom
          'Gainst the ancient commandments, he had bitterly angered
       20 The Lord everlasting: with lorn meditations
          His bosom welled inward, as was nowise his custom.
          The fire-spewing dragon fully had wasted
          The fastness of warriors, the water-land outward,
          The manor with fire. The folk-ruling hero,
       25 Prince of the Weders, was planning to wreak him.
          The warmen's defender bade them to make him,
          Earlmen's atheling, an excellent war-shield

{He orders an iron shield to be made from him, wood is useless.}

          Wholly of iron: fully he knew then
          That wood from the forest was helpless to aid him,
       30 Shield against fire. The long-worthy ruler
          Must live the last of his limited earth-days,
          Of life in the world and the worm along with him,
          Though he long had been holding hoard-wealth in plenty.

{He determines to fight alone.}

          Then the ring-prince disdained to seek with a war-band,
       35 With army extensive, the air-going ranger;
          He felt no fear of the foeman's assaults and
          He counted for little the might of the dragon,
[80]      His power and prowess: for previously dared he

{Beowulf's early triumphs referred to}

          A heap of hostility, hazarded dangers,
       40 War-thane, when Hrothgar's palace he cleansèd,
          Conquering combatant, clutched in the battle
          The kinsmen of Grendel, of kindred detested.[2]

{Higelac's death recalled.}

          'Twas of hand-fights not least where Higelac was slaughtered,
          When the king of the Geatmen with clashings of battle,
       45 Friend-lord of folks in Frisian dominions,
          Offspring of Hrethrel perished through sword-drink,
          With battle-swords beaten; thence Beowulf came then
          On self-help relying, swam through the waters;
          He bare on his arm, lone-going, thirty
       50 Outfits of armor, when the ocean he mounted.
          The Hetwars by no means had need to be boastful
          Of their fighting afoot, who forward to meet him
          Carried their war-shields: not many returned from
          The brave-mooded battle-knight back to their homesteads.
       55 Ecgtheow's bairn o'er the bight-courses swam then,
          Lone-goer lorn to his land-folk returning,
          Where Hygd to him tendered treasure and kingdom,

{Heardred's lack of capacity to rule.}

          Rings and dominion: her son she not trusted,
          To be able to keep the kingdom devised him
       60 'Gainst alien races, on the death of King Higelac.

{Beowulf's tact and delicacy recalled.}

          Yet the sad ones succeeded not in persuading the atheling
          In any way ever, to act as a suzerain
          To Heardred, or promise to govern the kingdom;
          Yet with friendly counsel in the folk he sustained him,
       65 Gracious, with honor, till he grew to be older,

{Reference is here made to a visit which Beowulf receives from Eanmund and
Eadgils, why they come is not known.}

          Wielded the Weders. Wide-fleeing outlaws,
          Ohthere's sons, sought him o'er the waters:
          They had stirred a revolt 'gainst the helm of the Scylfings,
          The best of the sea-kings, who in Swedish dominions
       70 Distributed treasure, distinguished folk-leader.
[81]      'Twas the end of his earth-days; injury fatal[3]
          By swing of the sword he received as a greeting,
          Offspring of Higelac; Ongentheow's bairn
          Later departed to visit his homestead,
       75 When Heardred was dead; let Beowulf rule them,
          Govern the Geatmen: good was that folk-king.

    [1] 'Hám' (2326), the suggestion of B. is accepted by t.B. and other

    [2] For 'láðan cynnes' (2355), t.B. suggests 'láðan cynne,' apposition
    to 'mægum.' From syntactical and other considerations, this is a most
    excellent emendation.

    [3] Gr. read 'on feorme' (2386), rendering: _He there at the banquet a
    fatal wound received by blows of the sword.

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