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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.
The wisest men could offer no real help to Hrothgar, who suffered unimaginable sorrow. His people struggled to endure the horrors 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 he sought, and, sailor proved,
led them on to the land’s confines.
Time had now flown; 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’ 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: 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.”
Grendel’s attacks were talked about in the nearby kingdom of the Geats. Hygelac, the ruler of the Geats, had a great warrior in his command, a nobleman who was the bravest man alive. No one compared to him. When he heard of Grendel’s deeds, this man ordered that his warship be made ready to sail. He announced that he would sail to the aid of Hrothgar. Though the Geats loved him greatly, they did not stop him from going. They praised him and looked for good omens that fortold success. And the brave man gathered the fourteen best warriors of the Geats and prepared to sail. The boat was ready in the harbor. The men carried their shining weapons and armor on board, while the waves slapped the side of the ship. They pushed off and caught the wind. The boat was like a bird skimming the surface of the sea. On the second day, they saw tall cliffs ahead and knew their journey was over. They anchored their boat and lept ashore, their weapons and armor clanging. They thanked God for a safe voyage. Up on the cliff, one of Hrothgar’s guards saw the men unloading their shields and weapons. He raced down to the shore on his horse and confronted the men, shaking his spear while he spoke: “Who are you? Why have you sailed here fully armed? You don’t have permission from my people to land here with weapons out. I’ve never seen anything like this in all my days as a guard. And what a mighty warrior your leader is! An honest-to-goodness hero. But you better tell me where you’re from and what you’re doing here, unless you want people to think you are spies. The sooner you tell me, the better.”

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