Beowulf: Chapter 13

They went to sleep. And one paid dearly
For his night’s ease, as had happened to them often,
Ever since Grendel occupied the gold-hall,
Committing evil until the end came,
Death after his crimes. Then it became clear,
Obvious to everyone once the fight was over,
That an avenger lurked and was still alive,
Grimly biding time. Grendel’s mother,
Monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs.
She had been forced down into fearful waters,
The cold depths, after Cain had killed
His father’s son, felled his own
Brother with the sword. Banished an outlaw,
Marked by having murdered, he moved into the wilds,
Shunning company and joy. And from Cain there sprang
Misbegotten spirits, among them Grendel,
The banished and accursed, due to come to grips
With that watcher in Heorot waiting to do battle.
The monster wrenched and wrestled with him
Bu Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength,
The wondrous gifts God had showered on him:
He relied for help on the Lord of All,
On His care and favor. So he overcame the foe,
Brought down the hell-brute. Broken and bowed,
Outcast from all sweetness, the enemy of mankind
Made for his death-den. But now his mother
Had sallied forth on a savage journey,
Grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge.
She came to Heorot. There, inside the hall,
Danes lay asleep, earls who would soon endure
A great reversal once Grendel’s mother
Attacked and entered. Her onslaught was less
Only by as much as an Amazon warrior’s
In less than an armored man’s
When the hefted sword, its hammered edge
And gleaming blade slathered in blood,
Razes the sturdy boar-ridge off a helmet.
Then in the hall, hard-honed swords
Were grabbed from the bench, many a broad shield
Lifted and braced; there was little thought of helmets
Or woven mail when they woke in terror.
The hell-dam was in panic, desperate to get out,
In mortal terror the moment she was found.
She had pounced and taken one of the retainers
In a tight hold, then headed for the fen.
To Hrothgar, this man was the most beloved
Of the friends he trusted between the two seas.
She had done away with a great warrior,
Ambushed him at rest.
Beowulf was elsewhere.
Earlier, after the reward of the treasure,
The Geat had been given another lodging.
There was an uproar in Heorot. She had snatched their trophy,
Grendel’s bloodied hand. It was a fresh blow
To the afflicted bawn. The bargain was hard,
Both parties having to pay
With the lives of friends. And the old lord,
The gray-haired warrior, was heartsore and weary
When he heard the news: his highest-placed advisor,
His dearest companion, was dead and gone.
Beowulf was quickly brought to the chamber:
The winner of fights, the arch-warrior,
Came first-footing in with his fellow troops
To where the king in his wisdom waited,
Still wondering whether Almighty God
Would even turn the tide of his misfortunes.
So Beowulf entered with his band in attendance
And the wooden floor-boards banged and rang
As he advance, hurrying to address
The prince of the Ingwins, asking if he’d rested
Since the urgent summons had come as a surprise.
Then Hrothgar, the Shieldings’ helmet, spoke:
“Rest? What is rest? Sorrow has returned.
Alas for the Danes! Aeschere is dead.
He was Yrmenlaf’s elder brother
And a soul mate to me, a true mentor,
My right-hand man when the ranks clashed
And our boar-crests had to take a battering
In the line of action. Aechere was everything
The world admires in a wise man and a friend.
Then this roaming killer came in a fury
And slaughtered him in Heorot. Where she is hiding,
Glutting on the corpse and glorying in her escape,
I cannot tell; she has taken up the feud
Because of last night, when you killed Grendel,
Wrestled and racked him in ruinous combat
Since for too long he had terrorized us
With his depredations. He died in battle,
Paid with his life; and now this powerful
Other one arrives, this force for evil
Driven to avenge her kinsman’s death.
Or so it seems to thanes in their grief,
In the anguish every thane endures
At the loss of a ring-giver, now that the hand
That bestowed so richly has been stilled in death.
“I have heard it said by my people in hall,
Counselors who live in the upland country,
That they have seen two such creatures
Prowling the moors, huge marauders
From some other world. One of these things,
As far as anyone ever can discern,
Looks like a woman; the other, warped
In the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale
Bigger than any man, an unnatural birth
Called Grendel by country people
In former days. They are fatherless creatures,
And their whole ancestry is hidden in a past
Of demons and ghosts. They dwell apart
Among wolves on hills, on windswept crags
And treacherous keshes, where cold streams
Pour down the mountain and disappear
Under mist and moorland.