XXXIV

BEOWULF SEEKS THE DRAGON—BEOWULF'S REMINISCENCES

          He planned requital for the folk-leader's ruin
          In days thereafter, to Eadgils the wretched
          Becoming an enemy. Ohthere's son then
          Went with a war-troop o'er the wide-stretching currents
5       With warriors and weapons: with woe-journeys cold he
          After avenged him, the king's life he took.
          So he came off uninjured from all of his battles,
          Perilous fights, offspring of Ecgtheow,
          From his deeds of daring, till that day most momentous
10      When he fate-driven fared to fight with the dragon.
          With eleven companions the prince of the Geatmen
          Went lowering with fury to look at the fire-drake:
          Inquiring he'd found how the feud had arisen,
          Hate to his heroes; the highly-famed gem-vessel
15      Was brought to his keeping through the hand of th' informer.
          That in the throng was thirteenth of heroes,
          That caused the beginning of conflict so bitter,
          Captive and wretched, must sad-mooded thenceward
          Point out the place: he passed then unwillingly
20      To the spot where he knew of the notable cavern,
          The cave under earth, not far from the ocean,
          The anger of eddies, which inward was full of
          Jewels and wires: a warden uncanny,
          Warrior weaponed, wardered the treasure,
25      Old under earth; no easy possession
          For any of earth-folk access to get to.
          Then the battle-brave atheling sat on the naze-edge,
          While the gold-friend of Geatmen gracious saluted
          His fireside-companions: woe was his spirit,
30      Death-boding, wav'ring; Weird very near him,
          Who must seize the old hero, his soul-treasure look for,
          Dragging aloof his life from his body:
          Not flesh-hidden long was the folk-leader's spirit.
          Beowulf spake, Ecgtheow's son:
35      "I survived in my youth-days many a conflict,
          Hours of onset: that all I remember.
          I was seven-winters old when the jewel-prince took me,
          High-lord of heroes, at the hands of my father,
          Hrethel the hero-king had me in keeping,
40      Gave me treasure and feasting, our kinship remembered;
          Not ever was I any less dear to him
          Knight in the boroughs, than the bairns of his household,
          Herebald and Hæthcyn and Higelac mine.
          To the eldest unjustly by acts of a kinsman
45      Was murder-bed strewn, since him Hæthcyn from horn-bow
          His sheltering chieftain shot with an arrow,
          Erred in his aim and injured his kinsman,
          One brother the other, with blood-sprinkled spear:
          'Twas a feeless fight, finished in malice,
50      Sad to his spirit; the folk-prince however
          Had to part from existence with vengeance untaken.
          So to hoar-headed hero 'tis heavily crushing
          To live to see his son as he rideth
          Young on the gallows: then measures he chanteth,
55      A song of sorrow, when his son is hanging
          For the raven's delight, and aged and hoary
          He is unable to offer any assistance.
          Every morning his offspring's departure
          Is constant recalled: he cares not to wait for
60      The birth of an heir in his borough-enclosures,
          Since that one through death-pain the deeds hath experienced.
          He heart-grieved beholds in the house of his son the
          Wine-building wasted, the wind-lodging places
          Reaved of their roaring; the riders are sleeping,
65      The knights in the grave; there's no sound of the harp-wood,
          Joy in the yards, as of yore were familiar.