by Anonymous

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XXXVI - Wiglaf the Trusty - Beowulf Is Deserted by Friends and By Sword

A picture for the book Beowulf

{Wiglaf remains true--the ideal Teutonic liegeman.}

          The son of Weohstan was Wiglaf entitled,
          Shield-warrior precious, prince of the Scylfings,
          Ælfhere's kinsman: he saw his dear liegelord
          Enduring the heat 'neath helmet and visor.
        5 Then he minded the holding that erst he had given him,

{Wiglaf recalls Beowulf's generosity.}

          The Wægmunding warriors' wealth-blessèd homestead,
          Each of the folk-rights his father had wielded;
          He was hot for the battle, his hand seized the target,
          The yellow-bark shield, he unsheathed his old weapon,
       10 Which was known among earthmen as the relic of Eanmund,
          Ohthere's offspring, whom, exiled and friendless,
          Weohstan did slay with sword-edge in battle,
          And carried his kinsman the clear-shining helmet,
          The ring-made burnie, the old giant-weapon
       15 That Onela gave him, his boon-fellow's armor,
          Ready war-trappings: he the feud did not mention,
          Though he'd fatally smitten the son of his brother.
          Many a half-year held he the treasures,
          The bill and the burnie, till his bairn became able,
       20 Like his father before him, fame-deeds to 'complish;
          Then he gave him 'mong Geatmen a goodly array of
          Weeds for his warfare; he went from life then
          Old on his journey. 'Twas the earliest time then

{This is Wiglaf's first battle as liegeman of Beowulf.}

          That the youthful champion might charge in the battle
       25 Aiding his liegelord; his spirit was dauntless.
          Nor did kinsman's bequest quail at the battle:
          This the dragon discovered on their coming together.
          Wiglaf uttered many a right-saying,
          Said to his fellows, sad was his spirit:

{Wiglaf appeals to the pride of the cowards.}

       30 "I remember the time when, tasting the mead-cup,
          We promised in the hall the lord of us all
[89]      Who gave us these ring-treasures, that this battle-equipment,
          Swords and helmets, we'd certainly quite him,
          Should need of such aid ever befall him:

{How we have forfeited our liegelord's confidence!}

       35 In the war-band he chose us for this journey spontaneously,
          Stirred us to glory and gave me these jewels,
          Since he held and esteemed us trust-worthy spearmen,
          Hardy helm-bearers, though this hero-achievement
          Our lord intended alone to accomplish,
       40 Ward of his people, for most of achievements,
          Doings audacious, he did among earth-folk.

{Our lord is in sore need of us.}

          The day is now come when the ruler of earthmen
          Needeth the vigor of valiant heroes:
          Let us wend us towards him, the war-prince to succor,
       45 While the heat yet rageth, horrible fire-fight.

{I would rather die than go home with out my suzerain.}

          God wot in me, 'tis mickle the liefer
          The blaze should embrace my body and eat it
          With my treasure-bestower. Meseemeth not proper
          To bear our battle-shields back to our country,
       50 'Less first we are able to fell and destroy the
          Long-hating foeman, to defend the life of

{Surely he does not deserve to die alone.}

          The prince of the Weders. Well do I know 'tisn't
          Earned by his exploits, he only of Geatmen
          Sorrow should suffer, sink in the battle:
       55 Brand and helmet to us both shall be common,
          [1]Shield-cover, burnie." Through the bale-smoke he stalked then,
          Went under helmet to the help of his chieftain,

{Wiglaf reminds Beowulf of his youthful boasts.}

          Briefly discoursing: "Beowulf dear,
          Perform thou all fully, as thou formerly saidst,
       60 In thy youthful years, that while yet thou livedst
[90]      Thou wouldst let thine honor not ever be lessened.
          Thy life thou shalt save, mighty in actions,
          Atheling undaunted, with all of thy vigor;

{The monster advances on them.}

          I'll give thee assistance." The dragon came raging,
       65 Wild-mooded stranger, when these words had been uttered
          ('Twas the second occasion), seeking his enemies,
          Men that were hated, with hot-gleaming fire-waves;
          With blaze-billows burned the board to its edges:
          The fight-armor failed then to furnish assistance
       70 To the youthful spear-hero: but the young-agèd stripling
          Quickly advanced 'neath his kinsman's war-target,
          Since his own had been ground in the grip of the fire.

{Beowulf strikes at the dragon.}

          Then the warrior-king was careful of glory,
          He soundly smote with sword-for-the-battle,
       75 That it stood in the head by hatred driven;
          Nægling was shivered, the old and iron-made

{His sword fails him.}

          Brand of Beowulf in battle deceived him.
          'Twas denied him that edges of irons were able
          To help in the battle; the hand was too mighty
       80 [2]Which every weapon, as I heard on inquiry,
          Outstruck in its stroke, when to struggle he carried
          The wonderful war-sword: it waxed him no better.

{The dragon advances on Beowulf again.}

          Then the people-despoiler--third of his onsets--
          Fierce-raging fire-drake, of feud-hate was mindful,
       85 Charged on the strong one, when chance was afforded,
          Heated and war-grim, seized on his neck
          With teeth that were bitter; he bloody did wax with
          Soul-gore seething; sword-blood in waves boiled.

    [1] The passage '_Brand ... burnie_,' is much disputed. In the first
    place, some eminent critics assume a gap of at least two
    half-verses.--'Úrum' (2660), being a peculiar form, has been much
    discussed. 'Byrdu-scrúd' is also a crux. B. suggests 'býwdu-scrúd' =
    _splendid vestments_. Nor is 'bám' accepted by all, 'béon' being
    suggested. Whatever the individual words, the passage must mean, "_I
    intend to share with him my equipments of defence_."

    [2] B. would render: _Which, as I heard, excelled in stroke every
    sword that he carried to the strife, even the strongest (sword)._ For
    'Þonne' he reads 'Þone,' rel. pr.

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