XXXIX

THE DEAD FOES—WIGLAF'S BITTER TAUNTS

          It had wofully chanced then the youthful retainer
          To behold on earth the most ardent-belovèd
          At his life-days' limit, lying there helpless.
          The slayer too lay there, of life all bereavèd,
5       Horrible earth-drake, harassed with sorrow:
          The round-twisted monster was permitted no longer
          To govern the ring-hoards, but edges of war-swords
          Mightily seized him, battle-sharp, sturdy
          Leavings of hammers, that still from his wounds
10      The flier-from-farland fell to the earth
          Hard by his hoard-house, hopped he at midnight
          Not e'er through the air, nor exulting in jewels
          Suffered them to see him: but he sank then to earthward
          Through the hero-chief's handwork. I heard sure it throve then
15      But few in the land of liegemen of valor,
          Though of every achievement bold he had proved him,
          To run 'gainst the breath of the venomous scather,
          Or the hall of the treasure to trouble with hand-blows,
          If he watching had found the ward of the hoard-hall
20      On the barrow abiding. Beowulf's part of
          The treasure of jewels was paid for with death;
          Each of the twain had attained to the end of
          Life so unlasting. Not long was the time till
          The tardy-at-battle returned from the thicket,
25      The timid truce-breakers ten all together,
          Who durst not before play with the lances
          In the prince of the people's pressing emergency;
          But blushing with shame, with shields they betook them,
          With arms and armor where the old one was lying:
30      They gazed upon Wiglaf. He was sitting exhausted,
          Foot-going fighter, not far from the shoulders
          Of the lord of the people, would rouse him with water;
          No whit did it help him; though he hoped for it keenly,
          He was able on earth not at all in the leader
35      Life to retain, and nowise to alter
          The will of the Wielder; the World-Ruler's power
          Would govern the actions of each one of heroes,
          As yet He is doing. From the young one forthwith then
          Could grim-worded greeting be got for him quickly
40      Whose courage had failed him. Wiglaf discoursed then,
          Weohstan his son, sad-mooded hero,
          Looked on the hated: "He who soothness will utter
          Can say that the liegelord who gave you the jewels,
          The ornament-armor wherein ye are standing,
45      When on ale-bench often he offered to hall-men
          Helmet and burnie, the prince to his liegemen,
          As best upon earth he was able to find him,--
          That he wildly wasted his war-gear undoubtedly
          When battle o'ertook him. The troop-king no need had
50      To glory in comrades; yet God permitted him,
          Victory-Wielder, with weapon unaided
          Himself to avenge, when vigor was needed.
          I life-protection but little was able
          To give him in battle, and I 'gan, notwithstanding,
55      Helping my kinsman (my strength overtaxing):
          He waxed the weaker when with weapon I smote on
          My mortal opponent, the fire less strongly
          Flamed from his bosom. Too few of protectors
          Came round the king at the critical moment.
60      Now must ornament-taking and weapon-bestowing,
          Home-joyance all, cease for your kindred,
          Food for the people; each of your warriors
          Must needs be bereavèd of rights that he holdeth
          In landed possessions, when faraway nobles
65      Shall learn of your leaving your lord so basely,
          The dastardly deed. Death is more pleasant
          To every earlman than infamous life is!"