The Oldest English Epic/Chapter 1/Beowulf 19

The Oldest English Epic by Unknown, translated by Francis Barton Gummere
Beowulf: XIX

XIX

Then sank they to sleep. With sorrow one bought
his rest of the evening,—as ofttime had happened
when Grendel guarded that golden hall,
evil wrought, till his end drew nigh,
1255slaughter for sins. ’Twas seen and told
how an avenger survived the fiend,
as was learned afar. The livelong time[1]
after that grim fight, Grendel’s mother,
monster of women, mourned her woe.
1260She was doomed to dwell in the dreary waters,
cold sea-courses, since Cain cut down
with edge of the sword his only brother,
his father’s offspring: outlawed he fled,
marked with murder, from men’s delights,
1265warded the wilds.—There woke from him[2]
such fate-sent ghosts as Grendel, who,
war-wolf horrid, at Heorot found
a warrior watching and waiting the fray,
with whom the grisly one grappled amain.
1270But the man remembered his mighty power,
the glorious gift that God had sent him.
in his Maker’s mercy put his trust
for comfort and help: so he conquered the foe,
felled the fiend, who fled abject,
1275reft of joy, to the realms of death,
mankind’s foe. And his mother now,
gloomy and grim, would go that quest
of sorrow, the death of her son to avenge.
To Heorot came she, where helmeted Danes
1280slept in the hall. Too soon came back
old ills of the earls, when in she burst,
the mother of Grendel. Less grim, though, that terror,
e’en as terror of woman in war is less,
might of maid, than of men in arms
1285when, hammer-forgéd, the falchion hard,
sword gore-stained, through swine of the helm,
crested, with keen blade carves amain.
Then was in hall the hard-edge drawn,
the swords on the settles,[3] and shields a-many
1290firm held in hand: nor helmet minded
nor harness of mail, whom that horror seized.
Haste was hers; she would hie afar
and save her life when the liegemen saw her.
Yet a single atheling up she seized
1295fast and firm, as she fled to the moor.
He was for Hrothgar of heroes the dearest,
of trusty vassals betwixt the seas,
whom she killed on his couch, a clansman famous,
in battle brave.—Nor was Beowulf there;
1300another house had been held apart,
after giving of gold, for the Geat renowned.—
Uproar filled Heorot; the hand all had viewed,
blood-flecked, she bore with her; bale was returned,
dole in the dwellings: ’twas dire exchange
1305where Dane and Geat were doomed to give
the lives of loved ones. Long-tried king,
the hoary hero, at heart was sad
when he knew his noble no more lived,
and dead indeed was his dearest thane.
1310To his bower was Beowulf brought in haste,
dauntless victor. As daylight broke,
along with his earls the atheling lord,
with his clansmen, came, where the king abode
waiting to see if the Wielder-of-All
1315would turn this tale of trouble and woe.
Strode o’er floor the famed-in-strife,
with his hand-companions,—the hall resounded,—
wishing to greet the wise old king,
Ingwines’ lord; he asked if the night
1320had passed in peace to the prince’s mind.

  1. Müllenhoff so punctuates, and explains that though only twenty-four hours had passed from the time of Grendel’s discomfiture to her quest of revenge, the interval seemed interminable to the waiting monster. Moreover, by this reading no gap in the Ms. is assumed.
  2. See v. 107, above.—“From him are descended,” etc. This repetition certainly seems vain, and this way of narrative is not our way.
  3. They had laid their arms on the benches near where they slept; v. 1242.