XXXVII

THE FATAL STRUGGLE—BEOWULF'S LAST MOMENTS

          Then I heard that at need of the king of the people
          The upstanding earlman exhibited prowess,
          Vigor and courage, as suited his nature;
          He his head did not guard, but the high-minded liegeman's
5       Hand was consumed, when he succored his kinsman,
          So he struck the strife-bringing strange-comer lower,
          Earl-thane in armor, that in went the weapon
          Gleaming and plated, that 'gan then the fire
          Later to lessen. The liegelord himself then
10      Retained his consciousness, brandished his war-knife,
          Battle-sharp, bitter, that he bare on his armor:
          The Weder-lord cut the worm in the middle.
          They had felled the enemy (life drove out then
          Puissant prowess), the pair had destroyed him,
15      Land-chiefs related: so a liegeman should prove him,
          A thaneman when needed. To the prince 'twas the last of
          His era of conquest by his own great achievements,
          The latest of world-deeds. The wound then began
          Which the earth-dwelling dragon erstwhile had wrought him
20      To burn and to swell. He soon then discovered
          That bitterest bale-woe in his bosom was raging,
          Poison within. The atheling advanced then,
          That along by the wall, he prudent of spirit
          Might sit on a settle; he saw the giant-work,
25      How arches of stone strengthened with pillars
          The earth-hall eternal inward supported.
          Then the long-worthy liegeman laved with his hand the
          Far-famous chieftain, gory from sword-edge,
          Refreshing the face of his friend-lord and ruler,
30      Sated with battle, unbinding his helmet.
          Beowulf answered, of his injury spake he,
          His wound that was fatal (he was fully aware
          He had lived his allotted life-days enjoying
          The pleasures of earth; then past was entirely
35      His measure of days, death very near):
          "My son I would give now my battle-equipments,
          Had any of heirs been after me granted,
          Along of my body. This people I governed
          Fifty of winters: no king 'mong my neighbors
40      Dared to encounter me with comrades-in-battle,
          Try me with terror. The time to me ordered
          I bided at home, mine own kept fitly,
          Sought me no snares, swore me not many
          Oaths in injustice. Joy over all this
45      I'm able to have, though ill with my death-wounds;
          Hence the Ruler of Earthmen need not charge me
          With the killing of kinsmen, when cometh my life out
          Forth from my body. Fare thou with haste now
          To behold the hoard 'neath the hoar-grayish stone,
50      Well-lovèd Wiglaf, now the worm is a-lying,
          Sore-wounded sleepeth, disseized of his treasure.
          Go thou in haste that treasures of old I,
          Gold-wealth may gaze on, together see lying
          The ether-bright jewels, be easier able,
55      Having the heap of hoard-gems, to yield my
          Life and the land-folk whom long I have governed."