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Modern Text

THAT battle-toil bade he at burg to announce,
at the fort on the cliff, where, full of sorrow,
all the morning earls had sat,
daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain:
would they wail as dead, or welcome home,
their lord beloved? Little kept back
of the tidings new, but told them all,
the herald that up the headland rode.—
“Now the willing-giver to Weder folk
in death-bed lies; the Lord of Geats
on the slaughter-bed sleeps by the serpent’s deed!
And beside him is stretched that slayer-of-men
with knife-wounds sick: no sword availed
on the awesome thing in any wise
to work a wound. There Wiglaf sitteth,
Weohstan’s bairn, by Beowulf’s side,
the living earl by the other dead,
and heavy of heart a head-watch keeps
o’er friend and foe.—Now our folk may look
for waging of war when once unhidden
to Frisian and Frank the fall of the king
is spread afar.—The strife began
when hot on the Hugas Hygelac fell
and fared with his fleet to the Frisian land.
Him there the Hetwaras humbled in war,
plied with such prowess their power o’erwhelming
that the bold-in-battle bowed beneath it
and fell in fight. To his friends no wise
could that earl give treasure! And ever since
the Merowings’ favor has failed us wholly.
Nor aught expect I of peace and faith
from Swedish folk. ’Twas spread afar
how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood
Haethcyn Hrethling of hope and life,
when the folk of Geats for the first time sought
in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings.
Soon the sage old sire of Ohtere,
ancient and awful, gave answering blow;
the sea-king he slew, and his spouse redeemed,
his good wife rescued, though robbed of her gold,
mother of Ohtere and Onela.
Then he followed his foes, who fled before him
sore beset and stole their way,
bereft of a ruler, to Ravenswood.
Wiglaf ordered that news of the battle be spread to the men who had camped nearby, so they wouldn’t be left wondering what had happened. The messenger told everything. “The king of the Geats is dead. His body rests beside that of the dragon he killed. Wiglaf sits beside Beowulf’s body with a heavy heart. Our people can expect war to come now that our great protector is dead. The same thing happened when Hygelac was killed. The Franks, Frisians, and Swedes will all likely come for a fight. The Franks have been eager to fight us ever since Hygelac invaded Friesland. There the Frankish tribe of Hetware killed him and defeated his army. The Franks have been the Geats’ enemy ever since. We should not expect the Swedes to honor their promises of peace either. Remember that the Geats attacked them out of arrogance and kidnapped their queen. The Swedes struck back. King Ongentheow rescued his wife and killed Haethcyn, who was Hrethel’s son and king of the Geats. Ongentheow routed the Geats at Ravenswood.
With his host he besieged there what swords had left,
the weary and wounded; woes he threatened
the whole night through to that hard-pressed throng:
some with the morrow his sword should kill,
some should go to the gallows-tree
for rapture of ravens. But rescue came
with dawn of day for those desperate men
when they heard the horn of Hygelac sound,
tones of his trumpet; the trusty king
had followed their trail with faithful band.
Ongentheow’s men surrounded the Geats and taunted them, vowing to feed their bodies to the birds. But as dawn broke, Hygelac and his men arrived to save their kinsmen.”