XXXVI

WIGLAF THE TRUSTY—BEOWULF IS DESERTED BY FRIENDS AND BY SWORD

          The son of Weohstan was Wiglaf entitled,
          Shield-warrior precious, prince of the Scylfings,
          Ælfhere's kinsman: he saw his dear liegelord
          Enduring the heat 'neath helmet and visor.
5       Then he minded the holding that erst he had given him,
          The Wægmunding warriors' wealth-blessèd homestead,
          Each of the folk-rights his father had wielded;
          He was hot for the battle, his hand seized the target,
          The yellow-bark shield, he unsheathed his old weapon,
10      Which was known among earthmen as the relic of Eanmund,
          Ohthere's offspring, whom, exiled and friendless,
          Weohstan did slay with sword-edge in battle,
          And carried his kinsman the clear-shining helmet,
          The ring-made burnie, the old giant-weapon
15      That Onela gave him, his boon-fellow's armor,
          Ready war-trappings: he the feud did not mention,
          Though he'd fatally smitten the son of his brother.
          Many a half-year held he the treasures,
          The bill and the burnie, till his bairn became able,
20      Like his father before him, fame-deeds to 'complish;
          Then he gave him 'mong Geatmen a goodly array of
          Weeds for his warfare; he went from life then
          Old on his journey. 'Twas the earliest time then
          That the youthful champion might charge in the battle
25      Aiding his liegelord; his spirit was dauntless.
          Nor did kinsman's bequest quail at the battle:
          This the dragon discovered on their coming together.
          Wiglaf uttered many a right-saying,
          Said to his fellows, sad was his spirit:
30      "I remember the time when, tasting the mead-cup,
          We promised in the hall the lord of us all
          Who gave us these ring-treasures, that this battle-equipment,
          Swords and helmets, we'd certainly quite him,
          Should need of such aid ever befall him:
35      In the war-band he chose us for this journey spontaneously,
          Stirred us to glory and gave me these jewels,
          Since he held and esteemed us trust-worthy spearmen,
          Hardy helm-bearers, though this hero-achievement
          Our lord intended alone to accomplish,
40      Ward of his people, for most of achievements,
          Doings audacious, he did among earth-folk.
          The day is now come when the ruler of earthmen
          Needeth the vigor of valiant heroes:
          Let us wend us towards him, the war-prince to succor,
45      While the heat yet rageth, horrible fire-fight.
          God wot in me, 'tis mickle the liefer
          The blaze should embrace my body and eat it
          With my treasure-bestower. Meseemeth not proper
          To bear our battle-shields back to our country,
50      'Less first we are able to fell and destroy the
          Long-hating foeman, to defend the life of
          The prince of the Weders. Well do I know 'tisn't
          Earned by his exploits, he only of Geatmen
          Sorrow should suffer, sink in the battle:
55      Brand and helmet to us both shall be common,
          Shield-cover, burnie." Through the bale-smoke he stalked then,
          Went under helmet to the help of his chieftain,
          Briefly discoursing: "Beowulf dear,
          Perform thou all fully, as thou formerly saidst,
60      In thy youthful years, that while yet thou livedst
          Thou wouldst let thine honor not ever be lessened.
          Thy life thou shalt save, mighty in actions,
          Atheling undaunted, with all of thy vigor;
          I'll give thee assistance." The dragon came raging,
65      Wild-mooded stranger, when these words had been uttered
          ('Twas the second occasion), seeking his enemies,
          Men that were hated, with hot-gleaming fire-waves;
          With blaze-billows burned the board to its edges:
          The fight-armor failed then to furnish assistance
70      To the youthful spear-hero: but the young-agèd stripling
          Quickly advanced 'neath his kinsman's war-target,
          Since his own had been ground in the grip of the fire.
          Then the warrior-king was careful of glory,
          He soundly smote with sword-for-the-battle,
75      That it stood in the head by hatred driven;
          Nægling was shivered, the old and iron-made
          Brand of Beowulf in battle deceived him.
          'Twas denied him that edges of irons were able
          To help in the battle; the hand was too mighty
80      Which every weapon, as I heard on inquiry,
          Outstruck in its stroke, when to struggle he carried
          The wonderful war-sword: it waxed him no better.
          Then the people-despoiler--third of his onsets--
          Fierce-raging fire-drake, of feud-hate was mindful,
85      Charged on the strong one, when chance was afforded,
          Heated and war-grim, seized on his neck
          With teeth that were bitter; he bloody did wax with
          Soul-gore seething; sword-blood in waves boiled.