Chapter XXVII

NOW THE STALWART and ever-courageous thanes came to the ocean; they wore ringmail, those woven war-vests. The watchman, trustworthy as ever, noted the prince's return. No words of suspicion came from the cliff-peaks when he rode forth to greet them. He called “Welcome!” to the Geats, as the warriors in shining armor marched toward their ship. Then from the beach was their spacious, ring-prowed ship loaded to the brim with steeds, treasure, and armor; its mast rose high over the wealth from Hrothgar's hoard.

Beowulf presented to the boat-warden a sword bound with gold, and ever after was he more respected on the mead-bench for owning that blade, the ancient heirloom. After boarding their ocean-keel, they drove through the deep and left Daneland. Then a sea-cloth was set up—a sail was made firm to the mast with ropes—and the sea-timbers creaked. The wind rushing over the waves did not lead the wave-swimmer off her course, but the craft sped on; with foaméd neck did it float forth over the waves. Their elegant prow sailed over the briny currents until they sighted the Geatish cliffs, those familiar headlands. Driven by the winds, the boat rode up high upon the beach. The harbor-guard stood ready to help at the haven; he had already spied the craft from afar long before and awaited those beloved men there. He bound the broad-bosomed boat fast with anchor-cables, lest the ocean's billows tear away that trustworthy timber. Then Beowulf had them unload the treasure, the gold and jewels; it was no great journey from there to the ring-giver, Hygelac son of Hrethel. That majestic king and his clan dwelt close by the sea-wall; the building was lofty, with the king in his high hall.

Hygd was quite young, but wise and discreet. Although the daughter of Hæreth had spent only a few winters in the fortress, she had found a home; she was neither mean-spirited nor grudging in giving gifts to the Geatish thanes. She did not show the pride of Thyrth, that famous queen of the people whose savagery was terrible. None of the dear liegemen (save her lord alone) were so bold that they would dare to look the lady full in the face, lest they find that iron chains of death be their lot! And, shortly after he had been seized, his doom would be decreed—a burnished blade would make an evil murder. This is no way for a queen to be, for a lady to practice. Although she is without peer, no wife should, upon false pretense of injury, take the life of a warrior thane! But Hemming's kinsman put this in check; men then told over their cups of ale that she wrought fewer thane-deaths and acts of vengeance after she was sent as a gold-adorned bride to the young champion who was noble and brave, that vaunted prince Offa. Sent to his hall over the fallow sea-fields at her father's bidding, there she has ever since been known for her kindness as she, throned in royalty and rich in wealth, used her fate well and was well-loved by the king of warriors. He, among all the heroes I have ever heard tell of, from sea to sea, seemed most excellent among the sons of men. Hence Offa was praised by far-off men for his feats of war and grace, and that warrior bold with his spear ruled wisely over his home kingdom. Eomær, the aid to the heroes, was born to him. He was Hemming's kinsman, grandson of Garmund, and skilled at war.