Beowulf: Chapter 11

Had little cause
To credit the Jutes:
Son and brother,
She lost them both
On the battlefield.
She, bereft
And blameless, they
Foredoomed, cut down
And spear-gored. She,
The woman in shock,
Waylaid by grief,
Hoc’s daughter–
How could she not
Lament her fate
When morning came
And the light broke
On her murdered dears?
And so farewell
Delight on earth,
War carried away
Finn’s troop of thanes,
All but a few.
How then could Finn
Hold the line
Or fight on
To the end with Hengest,
How save
The rump of his force
From that enemy chief?
So a truce was offered
As follows: first
Separate quarters
To be cleared for the Danes,
Hall and throne
To be shared with the Frisians.
Then, second ;
Every day
At the dole-out of gifts
Finn, son of Focwald,
Should honor the Danes,
Bestow with an even
Hand to Hengest
And Hengest’s men
The wrought-gold rings,
Bounty to match
The measure he gave
His own Frisians–
To keep morale
In the beer-hall high.
Both sides then
Sealed their agreement.
With oaths to Hengest
Finn swore
Openly, solemnly,
That the battle survivors
Would be guaranteed
Honor and status.
No infringement
By word or deed,
No provocation
Would be permitted.
Their own ring-giver
After all
Was dead and gone,
They were leaderless
In forced allegiance
To his murderer.
So if any Frisian
Stirred up bad blood
With insinuations
Or taunts about this,
The blade of the sword
Will arbitrate it.
A funeral pyre
Was then prepared,
Effulgent gold
Brought out from the hoard.
The pride and prince
Of the Shieldings lay
Awaiting the flame.
There were blood-plastered
Coats of mail.
The pyre was heaped
With boar-shaped helmets
Forged in gold,
With the gashed corpses
Of well-born Danes–
Many had fallen.
Then Hildeburh
Ordered her own
Son’s body
Be burnt with Hnaef’s,
The flesh on his bones
To sputter and blaze
Beside his uncle’s.
The woman wailed
And sang keens,
The warrior went up.
Carcass flame
Swirled and fumed,
They stood round the burial
Mound and howled
As heads melted,
Crusted gashes
Spattered and ran
Bloody matter.
The glutton element
Flamed and consumed
The dead of both sides.
Their great days were gone.
Warriors scattered
To homes and forts
All over Friesland,
Fewer now, feeling
Loss of friends.
Hengest stayed,
Lived out that whole
Resentful, blood-sullen
Winter with Finn,
Homesick and helpless.
No ring-whorled prow
Could up then
And away on the sea.
Wind and water
Raged with storms,
Wave and shingle
Were shackled on ice
Until another year
Appeared in the yard
As it does to this day,
The seasons constant,
The wonder of light
Coming over us.
Then winter was gone,
Earth’s lap grew lovely,
Longing woke
In the cooped-up exile
For a voyage home–
But more for vengeance,
Some way of bringing
Things to a head:
His sword arm hankered
To greet the Jutes.
So he did not balk
Once Hunlafing
Placed on his lap
Dazle-the -Duel,
The best sword of all,
Whose edges Jutes
Knew only too well.
Thus blood was spilled,
The gallant Finn
Slain in his home
After Guthlaf and Oslaf
Back from their voyage
Made old accusation:
The brutal ambush,
The fate they had suffered,
All blamed on Finn.
The wildness in them
Had to brim over.
The hall ran red
With blood of enemies.
Finn was cut down,
The queen brought away
And everything
The Shieldings could find
Inside Finn’s walls–
The Frisian king’s
Gold collars and gemstones–
Swept off to the ship.
Over sea-lanes then
Back to Daneland
The warrior troop
Bore that lady home.