by Anonymous

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XXXVII - The Fatal Struggle - Beowulf's Last Moments

{Wiglaf defends Beowulf.}

          Then I heard that at need of the king of the people
          The upstanding earlman exhibited prowess,
          Vigor and courage, as suited his nature;
          [1]He his head did not guard, but the high-minded liegeman's
        5 Hand was consumed, when he succored his kinsman,
          So he struck the strife-bringing strange-comer lower,
          Earl-thane in armor, that _in_ went the weapon
          Gleaming and plated, that 'gan then the fire[2]

{Beowulf draws his knife,}

          Later to lessen. The liegelord himself then
       10 Retained his consciousness, brandished his war-knife,
          Battle-sharp, bitter, that he bare on his armor:

{and cuts the dragon.}

          The Weder-lord cut the worm in the middle.
          They had felled the enemy (life drove out then[3]
          Puissant prowess), the pair had destroyed him,
       15 Land-chiefs related: so a liegeman should prove him,
          A thaneman when needed. To the prince 'twas the last of
          His era of conquest by his own great achievements,


{Beowulf's wound swells and burns.}

          The latest of world-deeds. The wound then began
          Which the earth-dwelling dragon erstwhile had wrought him
       20 To burn and to swell. He soon then discovered
          That bitterest bale-woe in his bosom was raging,
          Poison within. The atheling advanced then,

{He sits down exhausted.}

          That along by the wall, he prudent of spirit
          Might sit on a settle; he saw the giant-work,
       25 How arches of stone strengthened with pillars
          The earth-hall eternal inward supported.
          Then the long-worthy liegeman laved with his hand the

{Wiglaf bathes his lord's head.}

          Far-famous chieftain, gory from sword-edge,
          Refreshing the face of his friend-lord and ruler,
       30 Sated with battle, unbinding his helmet.
          Beowulf answered, of his injury spake he,
          His wound that was fatal (he was fully aware
          He had lived his allotted life-days enjoying
          The pleasures of earth; then past was entirely
       35 His measure of days, death very near):

{Beowulf regrets that he has no son.}

          "My son I would give now my battle-equipments,
          Had any of heirs been after me granted,
          Along of my body. This people I governed
          Fifty of winters: no king 'mong my neighbors
       40 Dared to encounter me with comrades-in-battle,
          Try me with terror. The time to me ordered
          I bided at home, mine own kept fitly,
          Sought me no snares, swore me not many

{I can rejoice in a well-spent life.}

          Oaths in injustice. Joy over all this
       45 I'm able to have, though ill with my death-wounds;
          Hence the Ruler of Earthmen need not charge me
          With the killing of kinsmen, when cometh my life out
          Forth from my body. Fare thou with haste now

{Bring me the hoard, Wiglaf, that my dying eyes may be refreshed by a
sight of it.}

          To behold the hoard 'neath the hoar-grayish stone,
       50 Well-lovèd Wiglaf, now the worm is a-lying,
          Sore-wounded sleepeth, disseized of his treasure.
          Go thou in haste that treasures of old I,
          Gold-wealth may gaze on, together see lying
[93]      The ether-bright jewels, be easier able,
       55 Having the heap of hoard-gems, to yield my
          Life and the land-folk whom long I have governed."

    [1] B. renders: _He_ (_W_.) did not regard his (_the dragon's_) _head_
    (since Beowulf had struck it without effect), _but struck the dragon a
    little lower down.--_One crux is to find out _whose head_ is meant;
    another is to bring out the antithesis between 'head' and 'hand.'

    [2] 'Þæt þæt fýr' (2702), S. emends to 'þá þæt fýr' = _when the fire
    began to grow less intense afterward_. This emendation relieves the
    passage of a plethora of conjunctive _þæt_'s.

    [3] For 'gefyldan' (2707), S. proposes 'gefylde.' The passage would
    read: _He felled the foe (life drove out strength), and they then both
    had destroyed him, chieftains related_. This gives Beowulf the credit
    of having felled the dragon; then they combine to annihilate him.--For
    'ellen' (2707), Kl. suggests 'e(a)llne.'--The reading '_life drove out
    strength_' is very unsatisfactory and very peculiar. I would suggest
    as follows: Adopt S.'s emendation, remove H.'s parenthesis, read
    'ferh-ellen wræc,' and translate: _He felled the foe, drove out his
    life-strength_ (that is, made him _hors de combat_), _and then they
    both, etc.

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