Beowulf on Everything
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spake, bairn of Ecgtheow
"Have mind, thou honored offspring of Healfdene
gold-friend of men, now I go on this quest,
wise, what once was said:
if in thy cause it came that I
should lose my life, thou wouldst loyal bide
to me, though fallen, in father's place!
, thou, to this group of my thanes,
my warrior-friends, if War should seize me;
and the goodly gifts thou gavest me,
beloved, to Hygelac
's king may ken by the gold,
Hrethel's son see, when he stares at the treasure,
that I got me a friend for goodness famed,
and joyed while I could in my jewel
And let Unferth
wield this wondrous sword,
earl far-honored, this heirloom precious,
hard of edge: with Hrunting I
seek doom of glory, or Death shall take me."
After these words the Weder
boldly hastened, biding never
answer at all: the ocean floods
closed o'er the hero. Long while of the day
fled ere he felt the floor of the sea.
Soon found the fiend
who the flood-domain
held these hundred winters,
greedy and grim, that some guest from above,
some man, was raiding her monster
She grasped out for him with grisly claws
and the warrior seized
; yet scathed she not
his body hale; the breastplate hindered,
as she strove to shatter the sark of war,
the linked harness, with loathsome
Then bore this brine-wolf, when bottom she touched,
the lord of rings to the lair she haunted
he strove, though his valor held,
to wield against wondrous monsters
that sore beset him; sea-beasts many
tried with fierce
tusks to tear his mail,
on the stranger
. But soon he marked
he was now in some hall, he knew not which,
where water never could work him harm,
nor through the roof could reach him ever
fangs of the flood. Firelight he saw,
beams of a blaze that brightly shone.
Then the warrior was ware of that wolf-of-the-deep,
mere-wife monstrous. For mighty stroke
, and the blow withheld not.
Then sang on her head that seemly blade
wild. But the warrior found
(1) was loath to bite,
to harm the heart: its hard edge failed
the noble at need, yet had known of old
strife hand to hand, and had helmets cloven,
doomed men's fighting
. First time, this,
for the gleaming blade that its glory fell.
Firm still stood, nor failed in valor,
heedful of high deeds, Hygelac
flung away fretted sword, featly jewelled
the angry earl; on earth it lay
steel-edged and stiff. His strength he trusted,
hand-gripe of might. So man shall do
whenever in war he weens to earn him
lasting fame, nor fears for his life
Seized then by shoulder, shrank not from combat,
the Geatish war-prince Grendel
Flung then the fierce one, filled with wrath,
his deadly foe, that she fell to ground.
Swift on her part she paid him back
with grisly grasp, and grappled with him.
Spent with struggle, stumbled the warrior,
, fell adown.
On the hall-guest she hurled herself, hent her short sword,
broad and brown-edged, (2) the bairn
the sole-born son. -- On his shoulder lay
braided breast-mail, barring death,
withstanding entrance of edge or blade
Life would have ended for Ecgtheow
under wide earth for that earl of Geats
had his armor
not aided him,
battle-net hard, and holy God
wielded the victory, wisest Maker
allowed his cause;
and easily rose the earl erect.
is bewitched, laid under a spell of uselessness, along with all other swords.
(2) This brown of swords, evidently meaning burnished, bright, continues to be a favorite adjective in the popular ballads.