Beowulf: Chapter 12

The poem was over,
The poet had performed, a pleasant murmur
Started on the benches, stewards did the rounds
With wine in splendid jugs, and Wilhtheow came to sit
In her gold crown between two good men,
Uncle and nephew, each of whom
Still trusted the other; and the forthright Unferth,
Admired by all for his mind and courage
Although under a cloud for killing his brothers,
Reclined near the king.
The queen spoke:
“Enjoy this drink, my most generous lord;;
Raise up your goblet, entertain the Geats
Duly and gently, discourse with them,
Be open-handed, happy and fond.
Relish their company, but recollect as well
All of the boons that have been bestowed upon you.
The bright court of Heorot has been cleansed
And now the word is that you want to adopt
This warrior as a son. So, while you may,
Bask in your fortune, then bequeath
Kingdom and nation to your kith and kin,
Before your decease. I am certain of Hrothulf.
He is noble and will use the young ones well.
He will not let you down. Should you die before him,
He will treat our children truly and fairly.
He will honor, I am sure, our two sons,
Repay them in kind when he recollects
All the good things we gave him once,
The favor and respect he found in childhood.”
She turned then to the bench where her boys sat,
Hrethric and Hrothmond, with other nobles’ sons,
All the youth together; and that good man,
Beowulf the Geat, sat between the brothers.
The cup was carried to him, kind words
Spoken in welcome and wealth of wrought gold
Graciously bestowed; two arm bangles,
A mail shirt and rings, and the most resplendent
Torque of gold I have ever heard tell of
Anywhere on earth or under heaven.
There was no hoard like it since Hama snatched
The Brosings’ neck-chain and bore it away
With its gems and settings to his shinning fort,
Away from Eormenric’s wiles and hatred,
And thereby ensured his eternal reward.
Hygelac the Geat, grandson of Swerting,
Wore this neck-ring on his last raid;
At bay under his banner, he defended the booty,
Treasure he had won. Fate swept him away
Because of his proud need to provoke
A feud with the Frisians. He fell beneath his shield,
In the same gem-crusted , kingly gear
He had worn when he crossed the frothing wave-vat.
So the dead king fell into Frankish hands.
Hey took his breast-mail, also his neck-torque,
And punier warriors plundered the slain
When the carnage ended; Geat corpses
Covered the field.
Applause filled the hall.
Then Wealhtheow pronounce in the presence of the company:
“Take delight in this torque, dear Beowulf,
Wear it for luck and also wear this mail
From our people’s armory: may you prosper in them!
Be acclaimed or strength, for kindly guidance
To these two boys, and your bounty will be sure.
You have won renown: you are known to all men
Far and near, now and forever.
Your sway is wide and the wind’s home,
As the sea around cliffs. So, my prince,
I wish you a lifetime’s luck and blessings
To enjoy this treasure. Treat my sons
With tender care, be strong and kind.
Here each comrade is true to the other,
Loyal to lord, loving in spirit.
The thanes have one purpose, the people are ready:
Having drunk and pledged, the ranks do as I bid.”
She moved then to her place. Men were drinking wine
At that rare feast; how could they know fate,
The grim shape of things to come,
The threat looming over many thanes
As night approached and king Hrothgar prepared
To retire to his quarters? Retainers in great numbers
Were posted on guard as so often in the past.
Benches were pushed back, bedding gear and bolsters
Spread across the floor, and one man
Lay down to his rest, already marked for death.
At their heads they placed their polished timber
Battle-shields; and on the bench above them,
Each man’s kit was kept to hand:
A towering war-helmet, webbed mail-shirt
And great-shafted spear. It was their habit
Always and everywhere to be ready for action,
At home or in the camp, in whatever case
And at whatever time the need arose
To rally round their lord. They were a right people.