XXXII

THE HOARD AND THE DRAGON

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          He sought of himself who sorely did harm him,
          But, for need very pressing, the servant of one of
          The sons of the heroes hate-blows evaded,
5       Seeking for shelter and the sin-driven warrior
          Took refuge within there. He early looked in it,
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          *  *  *  *  *  * when the onset surprised him,
10      He a gem-vessel saw there: many of suchlike
          Ancient ornaments in the earth-cave were lying,
          As in days of yore some one of men of
          Illustrious lineage, as a legacy monstrous,
          There had secreted them, careful and thoughtful,
15      Dear-valued jewels. Death had offsnatched them,
          In the days of the past, and the one man moreover
          Of the flower of the folk who fared there the longest,
          Was fain to defer it, friend-mourning warder,
          A little longer to be left in enjoyment
20      Of long-lasting treasure. A barrow all-ready
          Stood on the plain the stream-currents nigh to,
          New by the ness-edge, unnethe of approaching:
          The keeper of rings carried within a
          Ponderous deal of the treasure of nobles,
25      Of gold that was beaten, briefly he spake then:
          "Hold thou, O Earth, now heroes no more may,
          The earnings of earlmen. Lo! erst in thy bosom
          Worthy men won them; war-death hath ravished,
          Perilous life-bale, all my warriors,
30      Liegemen belovèd, who this life have forsaken,
          Who hall-pleasures saw. No sword-bearer have I,
          And no one to burnish the gold-plated vessel,
          The high-valued beaker: my heroes are vanished.
          The hardy helmet behung with gilding
35      Shall be reaved of its riches: the ring-cleansers slumber
          Who were charged to have ready visors-for-battle,
          And the burnie that bided in battle-encounter
          O'er breaking of war-shields the bite of the edges
          Moulds with the hero. The ring-twisted armor,
40      Its lord being lifeless, no longer may journey
          Hanging by heroes; harp-joy is vanished,
          The rapture of glee-wood, no excellent falcon
          Swoops through the building, no swift-footed charger
          Grindeth the gravel. A grievous destruction
45      No few of the world-folk widely hath scattered!"
          So, woful of spirit one after all
          Lamented mournfully, moaning in sadness
          By day and by night, till death with its billows
          Dashed on his spirit. Then the ancient dusk-scather
50      Found the great treasure standing all open,
          He who flaming and fiery flies to the barrows,
          Naked war-dragon, nightly escapeth
          Encompassed with fire; men under heaven
          Widely beheld him. 'Tis said that he looks for
55      The hoard in the earth, where old he is guarding
          The heathenish treasure; he'll be nowise the better.
          So three-hundred winters the waster of peoples
          Held upon earth that excellent hoard-hall,
          Till the forementioned earlman angered him bitterly:
60      The beat-plated beaker he bare to his chieftain
          And fullest remission for all his remissness
          Begged of his liegelord. Then the hoard was discovered,
          The treasure was taken, his petition was granted
          The lorn-mooded liegeman. His lord regarded
65      The old-work of earth-folk--'twas the earliest occasion.
          When the dragon awoke, the strife was renewed there;
          He snuffed 'long the stone then, stout-hearted found he
          The footprint of foeman; too far had he gone
          With cunning craftiness close to the head of
70      The fire-spewing dragon. So undoomed he may 'scape from
          Anguish and exile with ease who possesseth
          The favor of Heaven. The hoard-warden eagerly
          Searched o'er the ground then, would meet with the person
          That caused him sorrow while in slumber reclining:
75      Gleaming and wild he oft went round the cavern,
          All of it outward; not any of earthmen
          Was seen in that desert. Yet he joyed in the battle,
          Rejoiced in the conflict: oft he turned to the barrow,
          Sought for the gem-cup; this he soon perceived then
80      That some man or other had discovered the gold,
          The famous folk-treasure. Not fain did the hoard-ward
          Wait until evening; then the ward of the barrow
          Was angry in spirit, the loathèd one wished to
          Pay for the dear-valued drink-cup with fire.
85      Then the day was done as the dragon would have it,
          He no longer would wait on the wall, but departed
          Fire-impelled, flaming. Fearful the start was
          To earls in the land, as it early thereafter
          To their giver-of-gold was grievously ended.