XXIX

BEOWULF AND HIGELAC

          Then the brave one departed, his band along with him,
          Seeking the sea-shore, the sea-marches treading,
          The wide-stretching shores. The world-candle glimmered,
          The sun from the southward; they proceeded then onward,
5       Early arriving where they heard that the troop-lord,
          Ongentheow's slayer, excellent, youthful
          Folk-prince and warrior was distributing jewels,
          Close in his castle. The coming of Beowulf
          Was announced in a message quickly to Higelac,
10      That the folk-troop's defender forth to the palace
          The linden-companion alive was advancing,
          Secure from the combat courtward a-going.
          The building was early inward made ready
          For the foot-going guests as the good one had ordered.
15      He sat by the man then who had lived through the struggle,
          Kinsman by kinsman, when the king of the people
          Had in lordly language saluted the dear one,
          In words that were formal. The daughter of Hæreth
          Coursed through the building, carrying mead-cups:
20      She loved the retainers, tendered the beakers
          To the high-minded Geatmen. Higelac 'gan then
          Pleasantly plying his companion with questions
          In the high-towering palace. A curious interest
          Tormented his spirit, what meaning to see in
25      The Sea-Geats' adventures: "Beowulf worthy,
          How throve your journeying, when thou thoughtest suddenly
          Far o'er the salt-streams to seek an encounter,
          A battle at Heorot? Hast bettered for Hrothgar,
          The famous folk-leader, his far-published sorrows
30      Any at all? In agony-billows
          I mused upon torture, distrusted the journey
          Of the belovèd liegeman; I long time did pray thee
          By no means to seek out the murderous spirit,
          To suffer the South-Danes themselves to decide on
35      Grappling with Grendel. To God I am thankful
          To be suffered to see thee safe from thy journey."
          Beowulf answered, bairn of old Ecgtheow:
          "'Tis hidden by no means, Higelac chieftain,
          From many of men, the meeting so famous,
40      What mournful moments of me and of Grendel
          Were passed in the place where he pressing affliction
          On the Victory-Scyldings scathefully brought,
          Anguish forever; that all I avengèd,
          So that any under heaven of the kinsmen of Grendel
45      Needeth not boast of that cry-in-the-morning,
          Who longest liveth of the loth-going kindred,
          Encompassed by moorland. I came in my journey
          To the royal ring-hall, Hrothgar to greet there:
          Soon did the famous scion of Healfdene,
50      When he understood fully the spirit that led me,
          Assign me a seat with the son of his bosom.
          The troop was in joyance; mead-glee greater
          'Neath arch of the ether not ever beheld I
          'Mid hall-building holders. The highly-famed queen,
55      Peace-tie of peoples, oft passed through the building,
          Cheered the young troopers; she oft tendered a hero
          A beautiful ring-band, ere she went to her sitting.
          Oft the daughter of Hrothgar in view of the courtiers
          To the earls at the end the ale-vessel carried,
60      Whom Freaware I heard then hall-sitters title,
          When nail-adorned jewels she gave to the heroes:
          Gold-bedecked, youthful, to the glad son of Froda
          Her faith has been plighted; the friend of the Scyldings,
          The guard of the kingdom, hath given his sanction,
65      And counts it a vantage, for a part of the quarrels,
          A portion of hatred, to pay with the woman.
          Somewhere not rarely, when the ruler has fallen,
          The life-taking lance relaxeth its fury
          For a brief breathing-spell, though the bride be charming!