Skip over navigation

Original Text

Modern Text

WIGLAF his name was, Weohstan’s son,
linden-thane loved, the lord of Scylfings,
Aelfhere’s kinsman. His king he now saw
with heat under helmet hard oppressed.
He minded the prizes his prince had given him,
wealthy seat of the Waegmunding line,
and folk-rights that his father owned
Not long he lingered. The linden yellow,
his shield, he seized; the old sword he drew:—
as heirloom of Eanmund earth-dwellers knew it,
who was slain by the sword-edge, son of Ohtere,
friendless exile, erst in fray
killed by Weohstan, who won for his kin
brown-bright helmet, breastplate ringed,
old sword of Eotens, Onela’s gift,
weeds of war of the warrior-thane,
battle-gear brave: though a brother’s child
had been felled, the feud was unfelt by Onela.
For winters this war-gear Weohstan kept,
breastplate and board, till his bairn had grown
earlship to earn as the old sire did:
then he gave him, mid Geats, the gear of battle,
portion huge, when he passed from life,
fared aged forth. For the first time now
with his leader-lord the liegeman young
was bidden to share the shock of battle.
Neither softened his soul, nor the sire’s bequest
weakened in war. So the worm found out
when once in fight the foes had met!
Wiglaf spake,—and his words were sage;
sad in spirit, he said to his comrades:—
“I remember the time, when mead we took,
what promise we made to this prince of ours
in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings,
for gear of combat to give him requital,
for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring
stress of this sort! Himself who chose us
from all his army to aid him now,
urged us to glory, and gave these treasures,
because he counted us keen with the spear
and hardy ’neath helm, though this hero-work
our leader hoped unhelped and alone
to finish for us,—folk-defender
who hath got him glory greater than all men
for daring deeds! Now the day is come
that our noble master has need of the might
of warriors stout. Let us stride along
the hero to help while the heat is about him
glowing and grim! For God is my witness
I am far more fain the fire should seize
along with my lord these limbs of mine!
Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear
homeward hence, save here we essay
to fell the foe and defend the life
of the Weders’ lord. I wot ’twere shame
on the law of our land if alone the king
out of Geatish warriors woe endured
and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,
breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!”
Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,
his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake:—
“Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,
as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst
that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise
thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,
atheling steadfast, with all thy strength
shield thy life! I will stand to help thee.”
At the words the worm came once again,
murderous monster mad with rage,
with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek,
the hated men. In heat-waves burned
that board to the boss, and the breastplate failed
to shelter at all the spear-thane young.
Yet quickly under his kinsman’s shield
went eager the earl, since his own was now
all burned by the blaze. The bold king again
had mind of his glory: with might his glaive
was driven into the dragon’s head,—
blow nerved by hate. But Naegling was shivered,
broken in battle was Beowulf’s sword,
old and gray. ’Twas granted him not
that ever the edge of iron at all
could help him at strife: too strong was his hand,
so the tale is told, and he tried too far
with strength of stroke all swords he wielded,
though sturdy their steel: they steaded him nought.
Then for the third time thought on its feud
that folk-destroyer, fire-dread dragon,
and rushed on the hero, where room allowed,
battle-grim, burning; its bitter teeth
closed on his neck, and covered him
with waves of blood from his breast that welled.
That man’s name was Wiglaf. He saw that Beowulf was surrounded by flames, and he remembered all of the good things his king had done for him. Wiglaf carried an ancient sword, supposedly inherited from ancient Eanmund. The sword was given to Wiglaf’s father, Weohstan, after he slayed the son of Ohtere in the battle with the Swedes. Wiglaf charged into battle, and that great sword did not break, as the dragon soon discovered. Wiglaf called out to his comrades. “I remember when we were in the mead hall and we promised to bring Beowulf swords and armor if he needed them. He picked us to join him out of all his soldiers because he believed we were good with our swords. Though he told us to let him fight the dragon himself, he needs us now. Let’s help him! With God as my witness, I’d rather die in the fire than go back home still carrying my weapons. It would be a terrible shame if we let our king died and we all survived. My sword and armor will be enough for the both of us.” Wiglaf approached Beowulf and said, “Be brave, dear Beowulf, as you were in your youth. Defend yourself, great warrior! I will stand by your side.” The dragon heard Wiglaf and came roaring forward, its breath flaming. Wiglaf’s shield burned away and his armor was almost useless, but he managed to get behind Beowulf’s shield. Beowulf was spurred to action by the thoughts of glory that Wiglaf had inspired. He swung the sword with all his might and drove it into the dragon’s head. The sword shattered. It is said that Beowulf could not use swords in battle, because he was too strong and broke them all. The dragon lunged forward and bit Beowulf on the neck, sending his blood pouring forth.

More Help

Previous Next