“THE bloody swath of Swedes and Geats
and the storm of their strife, were seen afar,
how folk against folk the fight had wakened.
The ancient king with his atheling band
sought his citadel, sorrowing much:
Ongentheow earl went up to his burg.
He had tested Hygelac’s hardihood,
the proud one’s prowess, would prove it no longer,
defied no more those fighting-wanderers
nor hoped from the seamen to save his hoard,
his bairn and his bride: so he bent him again,
old, to his earth-walls. Yet after him came
with slaughter for Swedes the standards of Hygelac
o’er peaceful plains in pride advancing,
till Hrethelings fought in the fenced town.
Then Ongentheow with edge of sword,
the hoary-bearded, was held at bay,
and the folk-king there was forced to suffer
Eofor’s anger. In ire, at the king
Wulf Wonreding with weapon struck;
and the chieftain’s blood, for that blow, in streams
flowed ’neath his hair. No fear felt he,
stout old Scylfing, but straightway repaid
in better bargain that bitter stroke
and faced his foe with fell intent.
Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred
answer to render the aged chief;
too soon on his head the helm was cloven;
blood-bedecked he bowed to earth,
and fell adown; not doomed was he yet,
and well he waxed, though the wound was sore.
Then the hardy Hygelac-thane,
when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,
giants’ sword crashing through giants’-helm
across the shield-wall: sank the king,
his folk’s old herdsman, fatally hurt.
There were many to bind the brother’s wounds
and lift him, fast as fate allowed
his people to wield the place-of-war.
But Eofor took from Ongentheow,
earl from other, the iron-breastplate,
hard sword hilted, and helmet too,
and the hoar-chief’s harness to Hygelac carried,
who took the trappings, and truly promised
rich fee ’mid folk,—and fulfilled it so.
For that grim strife gave the Geatish lord,
Hrethel’s offspring, when home he came,
to Eofor and Wulf a wealth of treasure,
Each of them had a hundred thousand
in land and linked rings; nor at less price reckoned
mid-earth men such mighty deeds!
And to Eofor he gave his only daughter
in pledge of grace, the pride of his home.
|“The blood from the battles between the Geats and the Swedes ran throughout the land,” Wiglaf continued. “Everyone saw it. Eventually Ongentheow and his men retreated to high ground. Ongentheow knew what a great warrior Hygelac was and that he could not outlast the mighty Geats. Hygelac led his men into battle, preparing to deliver the final blow. Geatish soldiers soon surrounded Ongentheow. Two brothers, Eofor and Wulf, came at him. Wulf cracked the king’s head open, causing blood to run under his hair. But the Swedish king returned the blow and blocked Wulf’s sword. So Eofor attacked, breaking through Ongentheow’s shield and helmet and killing him. The Geats took Ongentheow’s armor and gave it to their leader. Hygelac promised them a great reward, and when they returned home, he delivered. He even gave Eofor his only daughter.|
“Such is the feud, the foeman’s rage,
death-hate of men: so I deem it sure
that the Swedish folk will seek us home
for this fall of their friends, the fighting-Scylfings,
when once they learn that our warrior leader
lifeless lies, who land and hoard
ever defended from all his foes,
furthered his folk’s weal, finished his course
a hardy hero.—Now haste is best,
that we go to gaze on our Geatish lord,
and bear the bountiful breaker-of-rings
to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely
shall burn with the warrior. Wealth of jewels,
gold untold and gained in terror,
treasure at last with his life obtained,
all of that booty the brands shall take,
fire shall eat it. No earl must carry
memorial jewel. No maiden fair
shall wreathe her neck with noble ring:
nay, sad in spirit and shorn of her gold,
oft shall she pass o’er paths of exile
now our lord all laughter has laid aside,
all mirth and revel. Many a spear
morning-cold shall be clasped amain,
lifted aloft; nor shall lilt of harp
those warriors wake; but the wan-hued raven,
fain o’er the fallen, his feast shall praise
and boast to the eagle how bravely he ate
when he and the wolf were wasting the slain.”
|“Now the Swedes will seek revenge for the death of Ongentheow. They will come to our lands and attack us, I imagine. Beowulf kept us safe, but now he is gone. Now, let us go back to look at Beowulf’s body one last time and carry him to the funeral pyre. We will burn all of the treasure with it. No one should carry any of those jewels as relics or memorials. No maiden will wear these jewels around her neck. No harp will sound to lift our spirits. But the raven will fly to the eagle and tell of how he saw the dead bodies and how he and the wolf made short work of the corpses.”|
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