Beowulf

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II

WENT he forth to find at fall of night that haughty house, and heed wherever the Ring-Danes, outrevelled, to rest had gone. Found within it the atheling band asleep after feasting and fearless of sorrow, of human hardship. Unhallowed wight, grim and greedy, he grasped betimes, wrathful, reckless, from resting-places, thirty of the thanes, and thence he rushed fain of his fell spoil, faring homeward, laden with slaughter, his lair to seek. Then at the dawning, as day was breaking, the might of Grendel to men was known; then after wassail was wail uplifted, loud moan in the morn. The mighty chief, atheling excellent, unblithe sat, labored in woe for the loss of his thanes, when once had been traced the trail of the fiend, spirit accurst: too cruel that sorrow, too long, too loathsome. Not late the respite; with night returning, anew began ruthless murder; he recked no whit, firm in his guilt, of the feud and crime. They were easy to find who elsewhere sought in room remote their rest at night, bed in the bowers, {2a} when that bale was shown, was seen in sooth, with surest token, -- the hall-thane's {2b} hate. Such held themselves far and fast who the fiend outran! Thus ruled unrighteous and raged his fill one against all; until empty stood that lordly building, and long it bode so. Twelve years' tide the trouble he bore, sovran of Scyldings, sorrows in plenty, boundless cares. There came unhidden tidings true to the tribes of men, in sorrowful songs, how ceaselessly Grendel harassed Hrothgar, what hate he bore him, what murder and massacre, many a year, feud unfading, -- refused consent to deal with any of Daneland's earls, make pact of peace, or compound for gold: still less did the wise men ween to get great fee for the feud from his fiendish hands. But the evil one ambushed old and young death-shadow dark, and dogged them still, lured, or lurked in the livelong night of misty moorlands: men may say not where the haunts of these Hell-Runes {2c} be. Such heaping of horrors the hater of men, lonely roamer, wrought unceasing, harassings heavy. O'er Heorot he lorded, gold-bright hall, in gloomy nights; and ne'er could the prince {2d} approach his throne, -- 'twas judgment of God, -- or have joy in his hall. Sore was the sorrow to Scyldings'-friend, heart-rending misery. Many nobles sat assembled, and searched out counsel how it were best for bold-hearted men against harassing terror to try their hand. Whiles they vowed in their heathen fanes altar-offerings, asked with words {2e} that the slayer-of-souls would succor give them for the pain of their people. Their practice this, their heathen hope; 'twas Hell they thought of in mood of their mind. Almighty they knew not, Doomsman of Deeds and dreadful Lord, nor Heaven's-Helmet heeded they ever, Wielder-of-Wonder. -- Woe for that man who in harm and hatred hales his soul to fiery embraces; -- nor favor nor change awaits he ever. But well for him that after death-day may draw to his Lord, and friendship find in the Father's arms!

III

THUS seethed unceasing the son of Healfdene with the woe of these days; not wisest men assuaged his sorrow; too sore the anguish, loathly and long, that lay on his folk, most baneful of burdens and bales of the night.

This heard in his home Hygelac's thane, great among Geats, of Grendel's doings. He was the mightiest man of valor in that same day of this our life, stalwart and stately. A stout wave-walker he bade make ready. Yon battle-king, said he, far o'er the swan-road he fain would seek, the noble monarch who needed men! The prince's journey by prudent folk was little blamed, though they loved him dear; they whetted the hero, and hailed good omens. And now the bold one from bands of Geats comrades chose, the keenest of warriors e'er he could find; with fourteen men the sea-wood {3a} he sought, and, sailor proved, led them on to the land's confines. Time had now flown; {3b} afloat was the ship, boat under bluff. On board they climbed, warriors ready; waves were churning sea with sand; the sailors bore on the breast of the bark their bright array, their mail and weapons: the men pushed off, on its willing way, the well-braced craft. Then moved o'er the waters by might of the wind that bark like a bird with breast of foam, till in season due, on the second day, the curved prow such course had run that sailors now could see the land, sea-cliffs shining, steep high hills, headlands broad. Their haven was found, their journey ended. Up then quickly the Weders' {3c} clansmen climbed ashore, anchored their sea-wood, with armor clashing and gear of battle: God they thanked or passing in peace o'er the paths of the sea. Now saw from the cliff a Scylding clansman, a warden that watched the water-side, how they bore o'er the gangway glittering shields, war-gear in readiness; wonder seized him to know what manner of men they were. Straight to the strand his steed he rode, Hrothgar's henchman; with hand of might he shook his spear, and spake in parley. "Who are ye, then, ye armed men, mailed folk, that yon mighty vessel have urged thus over the ocean ways, here o'er the waters? A warden I, sentinel set o'er the sea-march here, lest any foe to the folk of Danes with harrying fleet should harm the land. No aliens ever at ease thus bore them, linden-wielders: {3d} yet word-of-leave clearly ye lack from clansmen here, my folk's agreement. -- A greater ne'er saw I of warriors in world than is one of you, -- yon hero in harness! No henchman he worthied by weapons, if witness his features, his peerless presence! I pray you, though, tell your folk and home, lest hence ye fare suspect to wander your way as spies in Danish land. Now, dwellers afar, ocean-travellers, take from me simple advice: the sooner the better I hear of the country whence ye came."

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