Beowulf on Everything
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HROTHGAR spake, helmet-of-Scyldings: --
"Ask not of pleasure! Pain is renewed
to Danish folk. Dead is Aeschere,
of Yrmenlaf the elder brother,
my sage adviser and stay in council,
shoulder-comrade in stress of fight
when warriors clashed and we warded our heads,
hewed the helm-boars; hero famed
should be every earl as Aeschere was!
But here in Heorot
a hand hath slain him
of wandering death-sprite. I wot not whither, (1)
proud of the prey, her path she took,
fain of her fill. The feud
in grimmest grasp thou killedst, --
seeing how long these liegemen mine
he ruined and ravaged. Reft of life,
in arms he fell. Now another comes,
keen and cruel, her kin to avenge,
faring far in feud of blood
so that many a thane shall think, who e'er
sorrows in soul for that sharer of rings,
this is hardest of heart
. The hand lies low
that once was willing each wish to please.
Land-dwellers here (2) and liegemen
who house by those parts, I have heard relate
that such a pair they have sometimes seen,
the moorland haunting
wandering spirits: one of them seemed,
so far as my folk could fairly judge,
of womankind; and one, accursed,
in man's guise trod the misery
of exile, though huger than human bulk
in days long gone they named him,
folk of the land; his father they knew not,
nor any brood that was born to him
is their home;
they and windy headlands,
fearful, where flows the stream
gliding to gloom of the rocks,
underground flood. Not far is it hence
in measure of miles that the mere expands,
and o'er it the frost-bound forest hanging,
sturdily rooted, shadows the wave.
By night is a wonder weird to see,
fire on the waters. So wise lived none
of the sons of men, to search those depths!
Nay, though the heath-rover, harried by dogs,
, this holt
long distance driven, his dear life first
on the brink he yields ere he brave the plunge
to hide his head: 'tis no happy place!
Thence the welter of waters washes up
wan to welkin when winds bestir
, and air grows dusk,
and the heavens weep. Now is help once more
with thee alone! The land thou knowst not,
place of fear, where thou findest out
being. Seek if thou dare!
I will reward thee, for waging this fight,
with ancient treasure, as erst I did,
with winding gold, if thou winnest back."
(1) He surmises presently where she is.
(2) The connection is not difficult. The words of mourning, of acute grief, are said; and according to Germanic sequence
, inexorable here, the next and only topic is revenge
. But is it possible? Hrothgar
leads up to his appeal and promise with a skillful and often effective description of the horrors which surround the monster's home and await the attempt of an avenging foe.