Beowulf: Chapter 9

At times the war-band broke into a gallop,
Letting their chestnut horses race
Wherever they found the going good
On those well-known tracks. Meanwhile, a thane
Of the king’s household, a carrier of tales,
A traditional singer deeply schooled
In the lore of the past, linked a new theme
To a strict metre. The man started
To recite with skill, rehearsing Beowulf’s
Triumphs and feats in well-fashioned lines,
Entwining his words.
He told what he’d heard
Repeated in songs of Sigemund’s exploits,
All of those many feats and marvels,
The struggles and wanderings of Wael’s son,
Things unknown to anyone,
Except Fitela, feuds and foul doings
Confided from uncle to nephew when he felt
The urge to speak of them: always had they been
Partners in the fight, friends in need.
They killed giants, their conquering swords
Had brought them down.
After his death
Sigemund’s glory grew and grew
Because of his courage when he killed the dragon,
The guardian of the hoard. Under gray stone
He had dared to enter all by himself
To face the worst without Fitela.
But nit came to pass that his sword plunged
Right through those radiant scales
And drove into the wall. The dragon died of it.
His daring had given him total possession
Of the treasure hoard , his to dispose of
However he liked. He loaded a boat:
Wael’s son weighted her hold
With dazzling spoils. The hot dragon melted.
Sigemund’s name was known everywhere.
He was utterly valiant and venturesome,
A fence round his fighters and flourished therefore
After King Heremond’s prowess declined
And his campaigns slowed down. The king was betrayed,
Ambushed in Jutland, overpowered
And done away with. The waves of his grief
Had beaten him down, made him a burden,
A source of anxiety to his own nobles:
That expedition was often condemned
To those earlier times by experienced men,
Men who relied on his lordship for redress,
Who presumed that the part of a prince was to thrive
On his father’s throne and protect the nation,
The Shielding land where they lived and belonged,
Its holdings and strongholds. Such was Beowulf
In the affection of his friends and of everyone alive.
But evil entered into Heremod.
Meanwhile, the Dane kept racing their mounts
Down sandy lanes. The light of day
Broke and kept brightening. Bands of retainers
Galloped in excitement to the gabled hall
To see the marvel; and the king himself,
Guardian of the ring-hoard, goodness in person,
Walked in majesty from the women’s quarters
With a numerous train, attended by his queen
And her crowd of maidens, across the mead-hall.
When Hrothgar arrived at the hall, he spoke,
Standing on the steps, under the steep eaves,
Gazing at the roofwork and Grendel’s talon:
“First and foremost, let the Almighty Father
Be thanked for this sight. I suffered a long
Harrowing by Grendel. But the Heavenly Shepherd
Can work his wonders always and everywhere.
Not long since, it seemed I would never
Be granted the slightest solace or relief
From any of my burdens: the best of houses
Glittered and reeked and ran with blood.
This one worry outweighed all others—
A constant distress to counselors entrusted
With defending the people’s forts from assault
By monsters and demons. But now a man,
With the Lord’s assistance, has accomplished something
None of us could manage before now
For all our efforts. Whoever she was
Who brought forth this flower of manhood,
If she is still alive, that woman can say
That in her labor the Lord of Ages
Bestowed a grace on her. So now, Beowulf,
adopt you in my heart as a dear son.
Nourish and maintain this new connection,
You noblest of men;; there’ll be nothing you want for,
No worldly good that won’t be yours.
I have often honored smaller achievements,
Recognized warriors not nearly as worthy,
Lavished rewards on the less deserving.
But you have made yourself immortal
By your glorious action. May the Lord of Ages
Continue to keep and requite you well.”
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
“We have gone through a glorious endeavor
And been much favored in this fight we dared
Against the unknown. Nevertheless,
If you could have seen the monster himself
Where he lay beaten, I would have been better pleased.
My plan was to pounce, pin him down
In a tight grip and grapple him to death—
Have him panting for life, powerless and clasped
In my bare hands, his body in thrall.
But I couldn’t stop him from slipping my hold.
The Lord allowed it, my lock on him
Wasn’t strong enough, he struggled fiercely
And broke and ran. Yet he bought his freedom
At a high price, for he left his hand
And arm and shoulder to show he had been here,
A cold comfort for having come among us.
And now he won’t be long for this world.
He has done his worst but the wound will end him.
He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain,
Limped and looped in it. Like a man outlawed
For wickedness, he mush await
The mighty judgment of God in majesty.”