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  Beowulf.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XXIII
 
 
’MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,
old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,
warriors’ heirloom, weapon unmatched,
—save only ’twas more than other men
to bandy-of-battle could bear at all—        5
as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.
Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings’ chieftain,
bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,
reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote
that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,        10
her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through
that fated-one’s flesh: to floor she sank.
Bloody the blade: he was blithe of his deed.
Then blazed forth light. ’Twas bright within
as when from the sky there shines unclouded        15
heaven’s candle. The hall he scanned.
By the wall then went he; his weapon raised
high by its hilt the Hygelac-thane,
angry and eager. That edge was not useless
to the warrior now. He wished with speed        20
Grendel to guerdon for grim raids many,
for the war he waged on Western-Danes
oftener far than an only time,
when of Hrothgar’s hearth-companions
he slew in slumber, in sleep devoured,        25
fifteen men of the folk of Danes,
and as many others outward bore,
his horrible prey. Well paid for that
the wrathful prince! For now prone he saw
Grendel stretched there, spent with war,        30
spoiled of life, so scathed had left him
Heorot’s battle. The body sprang far
when after death it endured the blow,
sword-stroke savage, that severed its head.
  Soon, 1 then, saw the sage companions        35
who waited with Hrothgar, watching the flood,
that the tossing waters turbid grew,
blood-stained the mere. Old men together,
hoary-haired, of the hero spake;
the warrior would not, they weened, again,        40
proud of conquest, come to seek
their mighty master. To many it seemed
the wolf-of-the-waves had won his life.
The ninth hour came. The noble Scyldings
left the headland; homeward went        45
the gold-friend of men. 2 But the guests sat on,
stared at the surges, sick in heart,
and wished, yet weened not, their winsome lord
again to see.
        Now that sword began,        50
from blood of the fight, in battle-droppings, 3
war-blade, to wane: ’twas a wondrous thing
that all of it melted as ice is wont
when frosty fetters the Father loosens,
unwinds the wave-bonds, wielding all        55
seasons and times: the true God he!
  Nor took from that dwelling the duke of the Geats
precious things, though a plenty he saw,
save only the head and that hilt withal
blazoned with jewels: the blade had melted,        60
burned was the bright sword, her blood was so hot,
so poisoned the hell-sprite who perished within there.
Soon he was swimming who safe saw in combat
downfall of demons; up-dove through the flood.
The clashing waters were cleanséd now,        65
waste of waves, where the wandering fiend
her life-days left and this lapsing world.
Swam then to strand the sailors’-refuge,
sturdy-in-spirit, of sea-booty glad,
of burden brave he bore with him.        70
Went then to greet him, and God they thanked,
the thane-band choice of their chieftain blithe,
that safe and sound they could see him again.
Soon from the hardy one helmet and armor
deftly they doffed: now drowsed the mere,        75
water ’neath welkin, with war-blood stained.
  Forth they fared by the footpaths thence,
merry at heart the highways measured,
well-known roads. Courageous men
carried the head from the cliff by the sea,        80
an arduous task for all the band,
the firm in fight, since four were needed
on the shaft-of-slaughter 4 strenuously
to bear to the gold-hall Grendel’s head.
So presently to the palace there        85
foemen fearless, fourteen Geats,
marching came. Their master-of-clan
mighty amid them the meadow-ways trod.
Strode then within the sovran thane
fearless in fight, of fame renowned,        90
hardy hero, Hrothgar to greet.
And next by the hair into hall was borne
Grendel’s head, where the henchmen were drinking,
an awe to clan and queen alike,
a monster of marvel: the men looked on.        95
 
Note 1. After the killing of the monster and Grendel’s decapitation. [back]
Note 2. Hrothgar. [back]
Note 3. The blade slowly dissolves in blood-stained drops like icicles. [back]
Note 4. Spear. [back]
 

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