Beowulf: Chapter 18

The Geat was elated and gladly obeyed
The old man’s bidding; he sat on the bench.
And soon all was restored, the same as before.
Happiness came back, the hall was thronged,
And a banquet set forth; black night fell
And covered them in darkness.
Then the company rose
For the old campaigner: the gray-haired prince
Was ready for bed. And a need for rest
Came over the brave shield-bearing Geat.
He was a weary sea-farer, far from home,
So immediately a house-guard guided him out,
One whose office entailed looking after
Whatever a thane on the road in those days
Might need or require. It was noble courtesy.
That great heart rested. The hall towered,
Gold-shingled and gabled, and the guest slept in it
Until the black raven with raucous glee
Announced heaven’s joy, and a hurry of brightness
Overran the shadows. Warriors rose quickly,
Impatient to be off: their own country
Was beckoning the nobles; and the bold voyager
Longed to be aboard his distant boat.
Then that stalwart fighter ordered Hrunting
To be brought to Unferth, and bade Unferth
Take the sword and thanked him for lending it.
He said he had found it a friend in battle
And a powerful help; he put no blame
On the blade’s cutting edge. He was a considerate man.
And there the warriors stood in their war-gear,
Eager to go, while their honored lord
Approached the platform where the other sat.
The undaunted hero addressed Hrothgar.
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
“Now we who crossed the wide sea
Have to inform you that we feel a desire
To return to Hygelac. Here we have been welcomed
And thoroughly entertain. You have treated us well.
If there is any favor on earth I can perform
Beyond deeds of arms I have done already,
Anything that would merit your affections more,
I shall act, my lord, with alacrity.
If ever I hear from across the ocean
That people on your borders are threatening battle
As attackers have done from time to time,
I shall land with a thousand thanes at my back
To help your cause. Hygelac may be young
To rule a nation, but this much I know
About the king of the Geats: he will come to my aid
And want to support me by word and action
In your hour of need, when honor dictates
That I raise a hedge of spears around you.
Then if Hrethric should think about traveling
As a king’s son to the court of the Geats,
He will find many friend. Foreign places
Yield more to one who is himself worth meeting.”
Hrothgar spoke and answered him:
“The Lord in his wisdom sent you those words
And they came from the heart. I have never heard
So young a man make truer observations.
You are strong in body and mature in mind,
Impressive in speech. If it should come to pass
That Hrethel’s descendant dies beneath a spear,
If deadly battle or the sword blade or disease
Fells the prince who guards your people
And you are still alive, I firmly believe
The seafaring Geats won’t find a man
Worthier of acclaim as their king and defender
Than you, if only you would undertake
The lordship of your homeland. My liking for you
Deepens with time, dear Beowulf.
What you have done is to draw two peoples,
The Geat nation and us neighboring Danes,
Into shared peace and a pact of friendship
In spite of hatreds we have harbored in the past.
For as long as I rule this far-flung land
Treasures will change hands and each side will treat
The other with gifts;; across the gannet’s bath,
Over the broad sea, whorled prows will bring
Presents and tokens. I know your people
Are beyond reproach in every respect,
Steadfast in the old way with friend or foe.”
Then the earl’s defender furnished the hero
With twelve treasures and told him to set out,
Sail with those gifts safely home
To the people he loved, but to return promptly.
And so the good and gray-haired Dane,
That high-born king, kissed Beowulf
And embraced his neck, then broke down
In sudden tears. Two forebodings
Disturbed him in his wisdom, but one was stronger:
Nevermore would they meet each other
Face to face. And such was his affection
That he could not help being overcome:
His fondness for the man was so deep-founded,
It warmed his heart and wound the heartstrings
Tight in his breast.
The embrace ended
And Beowulf, glorious in his gold regalia,
Stepped on the green earth. Straining at anchor
And ready for boarding, his boat awaited him.
So they went on their journey, and Hrothgar’s generosity
Was praised repeatedly. He was a peerless king
Until old age sapped his strength and did him
Mortal harm, as it has done so many.
Down to the waves then, dressed in the web
Of their chain-mail and war-shirts the young men marched
In high spirits. The coast-guard spied them,
Thanes setting forth, the same as before.
His salute this time from the top of the cliff
Was far from unmannerly; he galloped to meet them
And as they took ship in their shinning gear,
He said how welcome they would be in Geatland.
Then the broad hull was beached on the sand
To be cargoed with treasure, horses and war-gear.
The curved prow motioned; the mast stood high
Above Hrothgar’s riches in the loaded hold.