by Anonymous

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XXXIX - The Dead Foes - Wiglaf's Bitter Taunts

{Wiglaf is sorely grieved to see his lord look so un-warlike.}

          It had wofully chanced then the youthful retainer
          To behold on earth the most ardent-belovèd
          At his life-days' limit, lying there helpless.
          The slayer too lay there, of life all bereavèd,
        5 Horrible earth-drake, harassed with sorrow:

{The dragon has plundered his last hoard.}

          The round-twisted monster was permitted no longer
          To govern the ring-hoards, but edges of war-swords
          Mightily seized him, battle-sharp, sturdy
          Leavings of hammers, that still from his wounds
       10 The flier-from-farland fell to the earth
          Hard by his hoard-house, hopped he at midnight
          Not e'er through the air, nor exulting in jewels
          Suffered them to see him: but he sank then to earthward
          Through the hero-chief's handwork. I heard sure it throve then


{Few warriors dared to face the monster.}

       15 But few in the land of liegemen of valor,
          Though of every achievement bold he had proved him,
          To run 'gainst the breath of the venomous scather,
          Or the hall of the treasure to trouble with hand-blows,
          If he watching had found the ward of the hoard-hall
       20 On the barrow abiding. Beowulf's part of
          The treasure of jewels was paid for with death;
          Each of the twain had attained to the end of
          Life so unlasting. Not long was the time till

{The cowardly thanes come out of the thicket.}

          The tardy-at-battle returned from the thicket,
       25 The timid truce-breakers ten all together,
          Who durst not before play with the lances
          In the prince of the people's pressing emergency;

{They are ashamed of their desertion.}

          But blushing with shame, with shields they betook them,
          With arms and armor where the old one was lying:
       30 They gazed upon Wiglaf. He was sitting exhausted,
          Foot-going fighter, not far from the shoulders
          Of the lord of the people, would rouse him with water;
          No whit did it help him; though he hoped for it keenly,
          He was able on earth not at all in the leader
       35 Life to retain, and nowise to alter
          The will of the Wielder; the World-Ruler's power[1]
          Would govern the actions of each one of heroes,

{Wiglaf is ready to excoriate them.}

          As yet He is doing. From the young one forthwith then
          Could grim-worded greeting be got for him quickly
       40 Whose courage had failed him. Wiglaf discoursed then,
          Weohstan his son, sad-mooded hero,

{He begins to taunt them.}

          Looked on the hated: "He who soothness will utter
          Can say that the liegelord who gave you the jewels,
          The ornament-armor wherein ye are standing,
       45 When on ale-bench often he offered to hall-men
          Helmet and burnie, the prince to his liegemen,
          As best upon earth he was able to find him,--


{Surely our lord wasted his armor on poltroons.}

          That he wildly wasted his war-gear undoubtedly
          When battle o'ertook him.[2] The troop-king no need had
       50 To glory in comrades; yet God permitted him,

{He, however, got along without you}

          Victory-Wielder, with weapon unaided
          Himself to avenge, when vigor was needed.
          I life-protection but little was able
          To give him in battle, and I 'gan, notwithstanding,

{With some aid, I could have saved our liegelord}

       55 Helping my kinsman (my strength overtaxing):
          He waxed the weaker when with weapon I smote on
          My mortal opponent, the fire less strongly
          Flamed from his bosom. Too few of protectors
          Came round the king at the critical moment.

{Gift-giving is over with your people: the ring-lord is dead.}

       60 Now must ornament-taking and weapon-bestowing,
          Home-joyance all, cease for your kindred,
          Food for the people; each of your warriors
          Must needs be bereavèd of rights that he holdeth
          In landed possessions, when faraway nobles
       65 Shall learn of your leaving your lord so basely,

{What is life without honor?}

          The dastardly deed. Death is more pleasant
          To every earlman than infamous life is!"

    [1] For 'dædum rædan' (2859) B. suggests 'déað árædan,' and renders:
    _The might (or judgment) of God would determine death for every man,
    as he still does._

    [2] Some critics, H. himself in earlier editions, put the clause,
    'When ... him' (A.-S. 'þá ... beget') with the following sentence;
    that is, they make it dependent upon 'þorfte' (2875) instead of upon
    'forwurpe' (2873).

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