XXV

BEOWULF BRINGS HIS TROPHIES—HROTHGAR'S GRATITUDE

          Beowulf spake, offspring of Ecgtheow:
          "Lo! we blithely have brought thee, bairn of Healfdene,
          Prince of the Scyldings, these presents from ocean
          Which thine eye looketh on, for an emblem of glory.
5       I came off alive from this, narrowly 'scaping:
          In war 'neath the water the work with great pains I
          Performed, and the fight had been finished quite nearly,
          Had God not defended me. I failed in the battle
          Aught to accomplish, aided by Hrunting,
10      Though that weapon was worthy, but the Wielder of earth-folk
          Gave me willingly to see on the wall a
          Heavy old hand-sword hanging in splendor
          (He guided most often the lorn and the friendless),
          That I swung as a weapon. The wards of the house then
15      I killed in the conflict (when occasion was given me).
          Then the battle-sword burned, the brand that was lifted,
          As the blood-current sprang, hottest of war-sweats;
          Seizing the hilt, from my foes I offbore it;
          I avenged as I ought to their acts of malignity,
20      The murder of Danemen. I then make thee this promise,
          Thou'lt be able in Heorot careless to slumber
          With thy throng of heroes and the thanes of thy people
          Every and each, of greater and lesser,
          And thou needest not fear for them from the selfsame direction
25      As thou formerly fearedst, oh, folk-lord of Scyldings,
          End-day for earlmen." To the age-hoary man then,
          The gray-haired chieftain, the gold-fashioned sword-hilt,
          Old-work of giants, was thereupon given;
          Since the fall of the fiends, it fell to the keeping
30      Of the wielder of Danemen, the wonder-smith's labor,
          And the bad-mooded being abandoned this world then,
          Opponent of God, victim of murder,
          And also his mother; it went to the keeping
          Of the best of the world-kings, where waters encircle,
35      Who the scot divided in Scylding dominion.
          Hrothgar discoursed, the hilt he regarded,
          The ancient heirloom where an old-time contention's
          Beginning was graven: the gurgling currents,
          The flood slew thereafter the race of the giants,
40      They had proved themselves daring: that people was loth to
          The Lord everlasting, through lash of the billows
          The Father gave them final requital.
          So in letters of rune on the clasp of the handle
          Gleaming and golden, 'twas graven exactly,
45      Set forth and said, whom that sword had been made for,
          Finest of irons, who first it was wrought for,
          Wreathed at its handle and gleaming with serpents.
          The wise one then said (silent they all were)
          Son of old Healfdene: "He may say unrefuted
50      Who performs 'mid the folk-men fairness and truth
          (The hoary old ruler remembers the past),
          That better by birth is this bairn of the nobles!
          Thy fame is extended through far-away countries,
          Good friend Beowulf, o'er all of the races,
55      Thou holdest all firmly, hero-like strength with
          Prudence of spirit. I'll prove myself grateful
          As before we agreed on; thou granted for long shalt
          Become a great comfort to kinsmen and comrades,
          A help unto heroes. Heremod became not
60      Such to the Scyldings, successors of Ecgwela;
          He grew not to please them, but grievous destruction,
          And diresome death-woes to Danemen attracted;
          He slew in anger his table-companions,
          Trustworthy counsellors, till he turned off lonely
65      From world-joys away, wide-famous ruler:
          Though high-ruling heaven in hero-strength raised him,
          In might exalted him, o'er men of all nations
          Made him supreme, yet a murderous spirit
          Grew in his bosom: he gave then no ring-gems
70      To the Danes after custom; endured he unjoyful
          Standing the straits from strife that was raging,
          Longsome folk-sorrow. Learn then from this,
          Lay hold of virtue! Though laden with winters,
          I have sung thee these measures. 'Tis a marvel to tell it,
75      How all-ruling God from greatness of spirit
          Giveth wisdom to children of men,
          Manor and earlship: all things He ruleth.
          He often permitteth the mood-thought of man of
          The illustrious lineage to lean to possessions,
80      Allows him earthly delights at his manor,
          A high-burg of heroes to hold in his keeping,
          Maketh portions of earth-folk hear him,
          And a wide-reaching kingdom so that, wisdom failing him,
          He himself is unable to reckon its boundaries;
85      He liveth in luxury, little debars him,
          Nor sickness nor age, no treachery-sorrow
          Becloudeth his spirit, conflict nowhere,
          No sword-hate, appeareth, but all of the world doth
          Wend as he wisheth; the worse he knoweth not,
90      Till arrant arrogance inward pervading,
          Waxeth and springeth, when the warder is sleeping,
          The guard of the soul: with sorrows encompassed,
          Too sound is his slumber, the slayer is near him,
          Who with bow and arrow aimeth in malice.