XXIV

BEOWULF IS DOUBLE-CONQUEROR

          Then he saw mid the war-gems a weapon of victory,
          An ancient giant-sword, of edges a-doughty,
          Glory of warriors: of weapons 'twas choicest,
          Only 'twas larger than any man else was
5       Able to bear to the battle-encounter,
          The good and splendid work of the giants.
          He grasped then the sword-hilt, knight of the Scyldings,
          Bold and battle-grim, brandished his ring-sword,
          Hopeless of living, hotly he smote her,
10      That the fiend-woman's neck firmly it grappled,
          Broke through her bone-joints, the bill fully pierced her
          Fate-cursèd body, she fell to the ground then:
          The hand-sword was bloody, the hero exulted.
          The brand was brilliant, brightly it glimmered,
15      Just as from heaven gemlike shineth
          The torch of the firmament. He glanced 'long the building,
          And turned by the wall then, Higelac's vassal
          Raging and wrathful raised his battle-sword
          Strong by the handle. The edge was not useless
20      To the hero-in-battle, but he speedily wished to
          Give Grendel requital for the many assaults he
          Had worked on the West-Danes not once, but often,
          When he slew in slumber the subjects of Hrothgar,
          Swallowed down fifteen sleeping retainers
25      Of the folk of the Danemen, and fully as many
          Carried away, a horrible prey.
          He gave him requital, grim-raging champion,
          When he saw on his rest-place weary of conflict
          Grendel lying, of life-joys bereavèd,
30      As the battle at Heorot erstwhile had scathed him;
          His body far bounded, a blow when he suffered,
          Death having seized him, sword-smiting heavy,
          And he cut off his head then. Early this noticed
          The clever carles who as comrades of Hrothgar
35      Gazed on the sea-deeps, that the surging wave-currents
          Were mightily mingled, the mere-flood was gory:
          Of the good one the gray-haired together held converse,
          The hoary of head, that they hoped not to see again
          The atheling ever, that exulting in victory
40      He'd return there to visit the distinguished folk-ruler:
          Then many concluded the mere-wolf had killed him.
          The ninth hour came then. From the ness-edge departed
          The bold-mooded Scyldings; the gold-friend of heroes
          Homeward betook him. The strangers sat down then
45      Soul-sick, sorrowful, the sea-waves regarding:
          They wished and yet weened not their well-loved friend-lord
          To see any more. The sword-blade began then,
          The blood having touched it, contracting and shriveling
          With battle-icicles; 'twas a wonderful marvel
50      That it melted entirely, likest to ice when
          The Father unbindeth the bond of the frost and
          Unwindeth the wave-bands, He who wieldeth dominion
          Of times and of tides: a truth-firm Creator.
          Nor took he of jewels more in the dwelling,
55      Lord of the Weders, though they lay all around him,
          Than the head and the handle handsome with jewels;
          The brand early melted, burnt was the weapon:
          So hot was the blood, the strange-spirit poisonous
          That in it did perish. He early swam off then
60      Who had bided in combat the carnage of haters,
          Went up through the ocean; the eddies were cleansèd,
          The spacious expanses, when the spirit from farland
          His life put aside and this short-lived existence.
          The seamen's defender came swimming to land then
65      Doughty of spirit, rejoiced in his sea-gift,
          The bulky burden which he bore in his keeping.
          The excellent vassals advanced then to meet him,
          To God they were grateful, were glad in their chieftain,
          That to see him safe and sound was granted them.
70      From the high-minded hero, then, helmet and burnie
          Were speedily loosened: the ocean was putrid,
          The water 'neath welkin weltered with gore.
          Forth did they fare, then, their footsteps retracing,
          Merry and mirthful, measured the earth-way,
75      The highway familiar: men very daring
          Bare then the head from the sea-cliff, burdening
          Each of the earlmen, excellent-valiant.
          Four of them had to carry with labor
          The head of Grendel to the high towering gold-hall
80      Upstuck on the spear, till fourteen most-valiant
          And battle-brave Geatmen came there going
          Straight to the palace: the prince of the people
          Measured the mead-ways, their mood-brave companion.
          The atheling of earlmen entered the building,
85      Deed-valiant man, adorned with distinction,
          Doughty shield-warrior, to address King Hrothgar:
          Then hung by the hair, the head of Grendel
          Was borne to the building, where beer-thanes were drinking,
          Loth before earlmen and eke 'fore the lady:
90      The warriors beheld then a wonderful sight.