Beowulf

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Gathered together, the Geatish men in the banquet-hall on bench assigned, sturdy-spirited, sat them down, hardy-hearted. A henchman attended, carried the carven cup in hand, served the clear mead. Oft minstrels sang blithe in Heorot. Heroes revelled, no dearth of warriors, Weder and Dane.

VIII

UNFERTH spake, the son of Ecglaf, who sat at the feet of the Scyldings' lord, unbound the battle-runes. {8a} -- Beowulf's quest, sturdy seafarer's, sorely galled him; ever he envied that other men should more achieve in middle-earth of fame under heaven than he himself. -- "Art thou that Beowulf, Breca's rival, who emulous swam on the open sea, when for pride the pair of you proved the floods, and wantonly dared in waters deep to risk your lives? No living man, or lief or loath, from your labor dire could you dissuade, from swimming the main. Ocean-tides with your arms ye covered, with strenuous hands the sea-streets measured, swam o'er the waters. Winter's storm rolled the rough waves. In realm of sea a sennight strove ye. In swimming he topped thee, had more of main! Him at morning-tide billows bore to the Battling Reamas, whence he hied to his home so dear beloved of his liegemen, to land of Brondings, fastness fair, where his folk he ruled, town and treasure. In triumph o'er thee Beanstan's bairn {8b} his boast achieved. So ween I for thee a worse adventure -- though in buffet of battle thou brave hast been, in struggle grim, -- if Grendel's approach thou darst await through the watch of night!"

Beowulf spake, bairn of Ecgtheow: -- "What a deal hast uttered, dear my Unferth, drunken with beer, of Breca now, told of his triumph! Truth I claim it, that I had more of might in the sea than any man else, more ocean-endurance. We twain had talked, in time of youth, and made our boast, -- we were merely boys, striplings still, -- to stake our lives far at sea: and so we performed it. Naked swords, as we swam along, we held in hand, with hope to guard us against the whales. Not a whit from me could he float afar o'er the flood of waves, haste o'er the billows; nor him I abandoned. Together we twain on the tides abode five nights full till the flood divided us, churning waves and chillest weather, darkling night, and the northern wind ruthless rushed on us: rough was the surge. Now the wrath of the sea-fish rose apace; yet me 'gainst the monsters my mailed coat, hard and hand-linked, help afforded, -- battle-sark braided my breast to ward, garnished with gold. There grasped me firm and haled me to bottom the hated foe, with grimmest gripe. 'Twas granted me, though, to pierce the monster with point of sword, with blade of battle: huge beast of the sea was whelmed by the hurly through hand of mine.

IX

ME thus often the evil monsters thronging threatened. With thrust of my sword, the darling, I dealt them due return! Nowise had they bliss from their booty then to devour their victim, vengeful creatures, seated to banquet at bottom of sea; but at break of day, by my brand sore hurt, on the edge of ocean up they lay, put to sleep by the sword. And since, by them on the fathomless sea-ways sailor-folk are never molested. -- Light from east, came bright God's beacon; the billows sank, so that I saw the sea-cliffs high, windy walls. For Wyrd oft saveth earl undoomed if he doughty be! And so it came that I killed with my sword nine of the nicors. Of night-fought battles ne'er heard I a harder 'neath heaven's dome, nor adrift on the deep a more desolate man! Yet I came unharmed from that hostile clutch, though spent with swimming. The sea upbore me, flood of the tide, on Finnish land, the welling waters. No wise of thee have I heard men tell such terror of falchions, bitter battle. Breca ne'er yet, not one of you pair, in the play of war such daring deed has done at all with bloody brand, -- I boast not of it! -- though thou wast the bane {9a} of thy brethren dear, thy closest kin, whence curse of hell awaits thee, well as thy wit may serve! For I say in sooth, thou son of Ecglaf, never had Grendel these grim deeds wrought, monster dire, on thy master dear, in Heorot such havoc, if heart of thine were as battle-bold as thy boast is loud! But he has found no feud will happen; from sword-clash dread of your Danish clan he vaunts him safe, from the Victor-Scyldings. He forces pledges, favors none of the land of Danes, but lustily murders, fights and feasts, nor feud he dreads from Spear-Dane men. But speedily now shall I prove him the prowess and pride of the Geats, shall bid him battle. Blithe to mead go he that listeth, when light of dawn this morrow morning o'er men of earth, ether-robed sun from the south shall beam!" Joyous then was the Jewel-giver, hoar-haired, war-brave; help awaited the Bright-Danes' prince, from Beowulf hearing, folk's good shepherd, such firm resolve. Then was laughter of liegemen loud resounding with winsome words. Came Wealhtheow forth, queen of Hrothgar, heedful of courtesy, gold-decked, greeting the guests in hall; and the high-born lady handed the cup first to the East-Danes' heir and warden, bade him be blithe at the beer-carouse, the land's beloved one. Lustily took he banquet and beaker, battle-famed king.

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