From The Oldest English Epic : Beowulf, Finnsburg, Waldere, Deor, Widsith, and the German Hildebrand, Translated in the Original Metres with Introduction and Notes by Francis B. Gummere, New York : The Macmillan Company, 1923 ; pp. 139-158.
’Twas now, men say, in his sovran’s need
2695that the earl made known his noble strain,
craft and keenness and courage enduring.
Heedless of harm,1 though his hand was burned,
hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman.
A little lower2 the loathsome beast
140 2700he smote with sword ; his steel drove in
bright and burnished ; that blaze began
to lose and lessen. At last the king
wielded his wits again, war-knife drew,
a biting blade by his breastplate hanging.3
2705and the Weders’-helm smote that worm asunder,
felled the foe, flung forth its life.4
So had they killed it, kinsmen both,
athelings twain : thus an earl should be
in danger’s day ! — Of deeds of valor
2710this conqueror’s-hour of the king was last,
of his work in the world. The wound began,
which that dragon-of-earth had erst inflicted,
to swell and smart ; and soon he found
in his breast was boiling, baleful and deep,
2715pain of poison. The prince walked on,
wise in his thought, to the wall of rock ;
then sat, and stared at the structure of giants,
where arch of stone and steadfast column
upheld forever that hall in earth.
2720Yet here must the hand of the henchman peerless
lave with water his winsome lord,
the king and conqueror covered with blood,
with struggle spent, and unspan his helmet.
Beowulf spake in spite of his hurt,
141 2725his mortal wound : full well he knew
his portion now was past and gone
of earthly bliss, and all had fled
of his file of days, and death was near :
“I would fain bestow on son of mine
2730this gear of war, were given me now
that any heir should after me come
of my proper blood. This people I ruled
fifty winters. No folk-king was there,
none at all, of the neighboring clans
2735who war would wage me with ‘warriors’-friends’5
and threat me with horrors. At home I bided
what fate might come, and I cared for mine own ;
feuds I sought not, nor falsely swore
ever on oath. For all these things
2740though fatally wounded, fain am I !6
From the Ruler-of-Mean no wrath shall seize me,
when life from my frame must flee away,
for killing of kinsmen ! Now quickly go
142 and gaze on that hoard ’neath the hoary rock,
2745Wiglaf loved, now the worm lies low,
sleeps, heart-sore, of his spoil bereaved.
And fare in haste. I would fain behold
the gorgeous heirlooms, golden store,
have joy in the jewels and gems, lay down
2750softlier for sight of this splendid hoard
my life and the lordship I long have held.”
I have heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan
at wish and word of his wounded king, —
war-sick warrior, — woven mail-coat,
2755battle-sark, bore ’neath the barrow’s roof.7
Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud,
passing the seat,8 saw store of jewels
and glistening gold the ground along ;
by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel
2760in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old :
unburnished bowls of bygone men
reft of richness ; rusty helms
of the olden age ; and arm-rings many
wondrously woven. — Such wealth of gold,
2765booty from barrow, can burden with pride
each human wight : let him hide it who will ! —
His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner
143 high o’er the hoard, of handiwork noblest,
brilliantly broidered ; so bright its gleam,
2770all the earth-floor he easily saw
and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now
was seen of the serpent : the sword had ta’en him.
Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft,
old work of giants, by one alone ;
2775he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate
at his own good will, and the ensign took,
brightest of beacons. — The blade of his lord
— its edge was iron9 — had injured deep
one that guarded the golden hoard
2780many a year and its murder-fire
spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows
at midnight hour, till it met its doom.
Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him
his track to retrace ; he was troubled by doubt,
2785high-souled hero, if haply he’d find
alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,
weakening fast by the wall of the cave.
So he carried the load. His lord and king
he found all bleeding, famous chief,
2790at the lapse of life. The liegeman again
plashed him with water, till point of word
broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,
sage and sad, as he stared at the gold : —
“For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,
2795to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,
for what I behold, to Heaven’s Lord,
144 for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk
or ever the day of my death be run !
Now I’ve bartered here for booty of treasure
2800the last of my life, so look ye well
to the needs of my land ! No longer I tarry.
A barrow bid ye the battle-famed raise
for my ashes. ’Twill shine by the shore of the flood,
to folk of mine memorial fair
2805on Hronës Headland high uplifted,
that ocean-wanderers oft may hail
Beowulf’s Barrow, as back from far10
they drive their keels o’er the darkling wave.”
From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,
2810valorous king, to his vassal gave it
with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring,
to the youthful thane : bade him use them in joy.
”Thou art end and remnant of all our race,
the Wægmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them,
2815all my line, to the land of doom,
earls in their glory : I after them go.”
This word was the last which the wise old man
harbored in heart ere hot death-waves
of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled
2820his soul to seek the saints reward.11
It was heavy hap for that hero young
on his lord beloved to look and find him
lying on earth with life at end,
sorrowful sight. But the slayer too,
2825awful earth-dragon, empty of breath,
lay felled in fight, nor, fain of its treasure,
could the writhing monster rule it more.
For edges of iron had ended its days,
hard and battle-sharp, hammers’ leaving ;12
2830and that flier-afar had fallen to ground
hushed by its hurt, its hoard all near,
no longer lusty aloft to whirl
at midnight, making its merriment seen,
proud of its prizes : prone it sank
2835by the handiwork of the hero-king.
Forsooth among folk but few13 achieve,
— though sturdy and strong, as stories tell me,
and never so daring in deed of valor, —
the perilous breath of a poison-foe
2840to brave, and to rush on the ring-hoard hall,
whenever his watch the warden keeps
bold in the barrow. Beowulf paid
the price of death for that precious hoard ;
and each of the foes had found the end
2845of this fleeting life.
that the laggards in war the wood had left,
146 trothbreakers, cowards,14 ten together,
fearing before to flourish a spear
in the sore distress of their sovran lord.
2850Now in their shame their shields they carried,
armor of fight, where the old man lay ;
and they gazed on Wiglaf. Wearied he sat
at his sovran’s shoulder, shieldsman good,
to wake him with water.15 Nowise it availed.
2855Though well he wished it, in world no more
could he barrier life for that leader-of-battles
nor baffle the will of all-wielding God.
Doom of the Lord was law o’er the deeds
of every man, as it is to-day.
2860Grim was the answer, easy to get,
from the youth for those that had yielded to fear !
Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan, —
mournful he looked on those men unloved : —
“Who sooth will speak, can say indeed
2865that the ruler who gave you golden rings
and the harness of war in which ye stand
— for he at ale-bench often-times
bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate,
lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear
2870which near or far he could find to give, —
threw away and wasted these weeds of battle,
on men who failed when the foemen came !
147 Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms
venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder,
2875God, gave him grace that he got revenge
sole with his sword in stress and need.
To rescue his life, ’twas little that I
could serve him in struggle ; yet shift I made
(hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman.
2880Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck
that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly
flowed from its head. — Too few the heroes
in throe of contest that thronged to our king !
Now gift of treasure and girding of sword,
2885joy of the house and home-delight
shall fail your folk ; his freehold-land
every clansman within your kin
shall lose and leave, when lords highborn
hear afar of that flight of yours,
2890a fameless deed. Yea, death is better
for liegemen all than a life of shame !”
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,
28daring shieldsmen, in doubt of twain :
would they wail as dead, or welcome home,
their lord belovéd ? Little16 kept back
of the tidings new, but told them all,
the herald that up the headland rode. —
2900“Now the willing-giver to the Weder folk
148 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:17 no sword availed
2905on 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-watch18 keeps
2910o’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 Hugas19 Hygelac fell
2915and 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
2920could that earl give treasure ! And ever since
the Merowings’ favor has failed us wholly.20
Nor aught expect I of peace and faith
from Swedish folk. ’Twas spread afar
how Ongentheow reft at Ravenswood
2925Hæthcyn Hrethling of hope and life,
149 when the folk of Geats for the first time sought
in wanton pride the Warlike-Scylfings.
Soon the sage old sire21 of Ohtere,
ancient and awful, gave answering blow ;
2930the sea-king22 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,
2935bereft of a ruler, to 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,
2940some 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
2945had followed their rail with faithful band.
“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
2950sought 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,
150 defied no more these fighting-wanderers
2955nor 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,
2960till Hrethelings fought in the fencéd town.23
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
2965Wulf 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
2970and faced his foe with fell intent.
Nor swift enough was the son of Wonred
answer to render the agéd chief ;
too soon on his head the helm was cloven ;
blood-bedecked he bowed to earth,
2975and fell adown : not doomed was he yet,
and well he waxed, though the wound was sore.
Then the hardy Hygelac-thane,24
when his brother fell, with broad brand smote,
giants’-sword crashing through giants’-helm
151 2980across 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.
2985But 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
2990rich fee ’mid folk,25 — 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 thousand26
2995in 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.
“Such is the feud, the foeman’s rage,
3000death-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,27
when once they learn that our warrior leader
lifeless lies, who land and hoard
3005ever defended from all his foes,
152 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
3010to the funeral pyre. No fragments merely
shall burn with the warrior.28 Wealth of jewels,
gold untold and gained in terror,
treasure at last with his life obtained,
all of that booty the brands shall take,
3015fire 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
3020now 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,29
3025fain 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.”
So he told his sorrowful tidings,
And little30 he lied, the loyal man
of word or of work. The warriors rose ;
153 sad, they climbed to the Cliff-of-Eagles,
went, welling with tears, the wonder to view.
Found on the sand there, stretched at rest,
their lifeless lord, who had lavished rings
3035of old upon them. Ending-day
had dawned on the doughty-one ; death had seized
in woful slaughter the Weders’ king.
There saw they, besides, the strangest being,
loathsome, lying their leader near,
3040prone on the field. The fiery dragon,
fearful fiend, with flame was scorched.
Reckoned by feet, it was fifty measures
in length as it lay. Aloft erewhile
it had revelled by night, and anon came back,
3045seeking its den ; now in death’s sure clutch
it had come to the end of its earth-hall joys.
By it there stood the stoups and jars ;
dishes lay there, and dear-decked swords
eaten with rust, as, on earth’s lap resting,
3050a thousand winters they waited there.
For all that heritage huge, that gold
of bygone men, was bound by a spell,31
so the treasure-hall could be touched by none
of human-kind, — save32 that Heaven’s King,
3055God himself, might give whom he would,
Helper of heroes, the hoard to open, —
even such a man as seemed to him meet.
A perilous path, it proved, he33 trod
who heinously hid, that hall within,
3060wealth under wall ! Its watcher had killed
one of a few,34 and the feud was avenged
in woful fashion. Wondrous seems it,
what manner a man of might and valor
oft ends his life, when the earl no longer
3065in mead-hall may live with loving friends.
So Beowulf, when that barrow’s warden
he sought, and the struggle ; himself knew not
in what wise he should wend from the world at last.
For35 princes potent, who placed the gold,
3070with a curse to doomsday covered it deep,
so that marked with sin the man should be,
hedged with horrors, in hell-bonds fast,
racked with plagues, who should rob their hoard.
Yet no greed for gold, but the grace of heaven,
3075ever the king had kept in view.36
Wiglaf spake, the son of Weohstan : —
“At the mandate of one, oft warriors many
sorrow must suffer ; and so must we.
The people’s-shepherd showed not aught
155 3080of care for our counsel, king belovéd !
That guardian of gold he should grapple not, urged we,
but let him lie where he long had been
in his earth-hall waiting the end of the world,
the hest of heaven. — This hoard is ours
3085but grievously gotten ; too grim the fate
which thither carried our king and lord.
I was within there, and all I viewed,
the chambered treasure, when chance allowed me
(and my path was made in no pleasant wise)
3090under the earth-wall. Eager, I seized
such heap from the hoard as hands could bear
and hurriedly carried it hither back
to my liege and lord. Alive was he still,
still wielding his wits. The wise old man
3095spake much in his sorrow, and sent you greetings
and bade that ye build, when he breathed no more,
on the place of his balefire a barrow high,
memorial mighty. Of men was he
worthiest warrior wide earth o’er
3100the while he had joy of his jewels and burg.
Let us set out in haste now, the second time
to see and search this store of treasure,
these wall-hid wonders, — the way I show you, —
where, gathered near, ye may gaze your fill
3105at broad-gold and rings. Let the bier, soon made
be all in order when out we come,
our king and captain to carry thither
— man beloved — where long he shall bide
safe in the shelter of sovran God.”
3110Then the bairn of Weohstan bade command,
hardy chief, to heroes many
156 that owned their homestead, hither to bring
firewood from far — o’er the folk they ruled —
for the famed-one’s funeral. “Fire shall devour
3115and wan flames feed on the fearless warrior
who oft stood stout in the iron-shower,
when, sped from the string, a storm of arrows
shot o’er the shield-wall : the shaft held firm,
featly feathered, followed the barb.”37
3120And now the sage young son of Weohstan
seven chose of the chieftain’s thanes,
the best he found that band within,
and went with these warriors, one of eight,
under hostile roof. In hand one bore
3125a lighted torch and led the way.
No lots they cast for keeping the hoard
when once the warriors saw it in hall,
altogether without a guardian,
lying there lost. And little they mourned
3130when they had hastily haled it out,
dear-bought treasure ! The dragon they cast,
the worm, o’er the wall for the wave to take,
and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.
Then the woven gold on a wain was laden —
3135countless quite ! — and the king was borne,
hoary hero, to Hronës-Ness.
Then38 fashioned for him the folk of Geats
firm on the earth a funeral-pile,
157 and hung it with helmets and harness of war
3140and breastplates bright, as the boon he asked ;
and they laid amid it the mighty chieftain,
heroes mourning their master dear.
Then on the hill that hugest of balefires
the warriors wakened. Wood-smoke rose
3145black over blaze, and blent was the roar
of flame with weeping (the wind was still),
till the fire had broken the frame of bones,
hot at the heart. In heavy mood
their misery moaned they, their master’s death.
3150Wailing her woe, the widow39 old,
her hair upbound, for Beowulf’s death
sung in her sorrow, and said full oft
she dreaded the doleful days to come,
deaths enow, and doom of battle,
3155and shame. — The smoke by the sky was devoured.
The folk of the Weders fashioned there
on the headland a barrow broad and high,
by ocean-farers far descried :
in ten days’ time their toil had raised it,
3160the battle-brave’s beacon. Round brands of the pyre
a wall they built, the worthiest ever
that wit could prompt in their wisest men.
They placed in the barrow that precious booty,
the rounds and the rings they had reft erewhile,
158 3165hardy heroes, from hoard in cave, —
trusting the ground with treasure of earls,
gold in the earth, where ever it lies
useless to men as of yore it was.
Then about that barrow the battle-keen rode,40
3170atheling-born, a band of twelve,
lament to make, to mourn their king,
chant their dirge, and their chieftain honor.
They praised his earlship, his acts of prowess
worthily witnessed : and well it is
3175that men their master-friend mightily laud,
heartily love, when hence he goes
from life in the body forlorn away.
Thus made their mourning the men of Geatland,
for their hero’s passing his hearth-companions :
3180quoth that of all the kings of earth,
of men he was mildest and most belovéd
to his kin the kindest, keenest for praise.
1 Literally, “heeded not head,” — either his own (“heedless of head and limbs” translates Gering), or else the dragon’s : “nor feared the flame from the beast’s jaws,” — which is less likely.
2 As in other fights with a dragon, the monster is killed by a blow underneath its body where no scales protect it. Saxo’s Frotho, succeeding to a depleted treasury, is told by a “native” about a dragon (serpens) who guards a mount (montis possessor) full of treasure. Its poison is deadly. Frotho must not seek to pierce its scales, but “there is a place under its belly” where his sword can thrust and kill. — Saxo, Bk. II (Holder, p. 38). Much the same is told of another king who slays the serpent that guards an “underground room.” Bk. VI (Holder, p. 181).
3 In the ballads this useful dagger or short sword is often a “wee penknife that hangs low down by the gare”; but the wee penknife now and then is described as “three-quarters [of a yard] long.”
4 As in all the adventures described by our poet, the actual climax and decisive part of the fight is told in the briefest fashion.
5 That is, swords. See v. 1810, above. “Friend-of-war” would be a more exact translation of the kenning.
6 “With a joyful spirit, I Sir Richard Grenville, die.” “I am no sinner,” says Beowulf, “and die a glad man.” this mood of the happy warrior in death has had less clerical correction than occurred in a similar situation in The Fight at Maldon. Byrhtnoth, dying on the field, looks up to heaven and says: —
“I praise and thank thee, Prince of Nations,
for all the bliss this earth has brought me !
now, Merciful Maker, is most my need
that thou good speed to my spirit give,
and let my soul to thee safely come,
pass in peace to thy power and keeping,
Prince of Angels ! I pray thee well
that it get no harm from hell’s destroyers.”
For the unmixed note of exultation we turn to the pagan Norsemen.
7 It is a common feature of Anglo-Saxon poetical style that the movements of prominent persons are described in this way. So v. 405, “Beowulf spake, — on him the breastplate glittered,” etc. Hence, instead of the word “to go,” the poet takes phrases like “bore his armor,” “bore sword and shield.” In translations such as “went protected by his armor” (Gering), the stylistic feature is lost.
8 Where Beowulf lay.
9 The formula doubtless had come down from days when, as Tacitus says, metals were rare among the Germans and iron had to be imported. The whole passage is a variant of vv. 2771 (b) f. Wiglaf took all this treasure without fear of interruption, for the warden of it was killed.
10 Besides the Germanic Yngwar, who was buried by the sea, there are famous classical cases. Achilles had his tomb “high on a jutting headland over wide Hellespont, that it might be seen from far off the sea by men that now are and by those that shall be hereafter.” So the Odyssey, in Butcher and Lang’s translation of the last book. In Book XI, Elpenor asks for such a tomb. According to Vergil, Æn. VI, 232, Misenus was buried by Æneas on a huge mound on a cliff by the sea.
11 A Christian term, — “the splendid state of the redeemed, of the martyrs,” — heaven.
12 What had been left or made by the hammer; well-forged.
13 As usual, litotes for “none at all.”
14 In Maldon the antitype of cowardice and false thaneship is furnished by the three sons of Odda, — Godric, who mounts his lord’s own horse when the chieftain falls, and flies to the woods and the fastness, Godwine, and Godwig. They will not stay to fall about their lord’s body, faithful in death, as do the rest.
15 Trying to revive him. In the Anglo-Saxon Genesis, water “wakes” land into fertility.
18 Death-watch, guard of honor, “lyke-wake.”
19 A name for the Franks. — “The fleet” (literally “fleet-army”) marks a viking’s raid; but does not make necessarily for the argument that Geats were Swedes. An expedition by boat from Jutland, using the large rivers for quick piratical assaults and plunderings, is likely enough.
20 The Hetwaras (see v. 2363, above) were subordinate to the Frankish or Merovingian line founded by Chlodowech (Clovis), whose grandson Theudebert was in command of the forces which routed Hygelac’s army.
21 Ongenheow. — This episode has been explained above, note to v. 2477.
23 The line may mean : till Hrethelings stormed on the hedgéd shields, — i.e. the shield-wall or hedge of defensive war. — Hrethelings, of course, are Geats.
24 Eofor, brother to Wulf Wonreding. As was noted above, this Homeric account of the fight is not difficult to follow. Wulf wounds Ongentheow, who replies with a terrific stroke, felling Wulf to earth, but not killing him. Eofor, the brother, avenges Wulf speedily, and gets his reward for killing the old hero-king.
25 Conjectural but obvious reading, with the general sense of “open” — public, prominent.
26 Sc. “value in” hides and the weight of the gold. See note on v. 2195, above.
27 Transposed from its place as v. 3005, and reading “Scylfings” for the “Scyldings” of the Ms. Then no gap need be assumed.
28 Beowulf was glad he had won such treasure for his folk, v. 2794, above. Earls and maids should be glad for it. But the herald, who foresees for earl and maid another fate — exile for one, and death in battle after surprise at dawn (or is it that the spear shall be found clasped by a cold, dead hand?) for the other — will heap all the treasure in the tomb. Compare the treasures for Scyld’s ship-burial.
29 See Finnsburg, vv. 6, 36.
30 Not at all.
31 Laid on it when it was put in the barrow. This spell, or in our days the “curse,” either prevented discovery or brought dire ills on the finder and taker. The Nibelungs’ gold is cited by Holthausen as a case in point. — See below, v. 3069.
32 One of our poet’s mild “riders” to correct obvious remains of gentilism.
33 Probably the fugitive is meant who discovered the hoard. Ten Brink and Gering assume that the dragon is meant. “Hid” (the Ms. reading) may well mean here “took while in hiding.”
34 That is, “one and a few others.” But Beowulf seems to be indicated.
35 Ten Brink points out the strongly heathen character of this part of the epic. Beowulf’s end came, so the old tradition ran, from his unwitting interference with spell-bound treasure.
36 A hard saying, variously interpreted. In any case, it is the somewhat clumsy effort of the Christian poet to tone down the heathenism of his material by an edifying observation.
37 Professor Garnett’s translation.
38 The construction of the poem is certainly strengthened by this dignified close, which corresponds in theme to the opening lines.
39 Compare the account of Hildeburh at her brother’s funeral, above, vv. 1114 ff. Nothing is said of Beowulf’s wife in the poem, but Bugge — whose restoration of the text is followed here — surmises that Beowulf finally accepted Hygd’s offer of kingdom and hoard, and, as was usual, took her into the bargain. In any case a praefica (with differences) belonged to the Germanic funeral, and chanted her vocero. Specimens of these laments, which often, as here, expressed forebodings for the future, may be found in the present writer’s Beginnings of Poetry
40 The close resemblance of these funeral rites to the ceremonies at Attila’s burial has often been noted. Jordanis, reporting them briefly — pauca de multis dicere — tells how the corpse was placed under a “silken tent,” and how horsemen rode round it, in masterly fashion, and chanted Attila’s great deeds. At the burial of Achilles “heroes of the Achaeans moved mail-clad round the pyre . . . both footmen and horse, and great was the noise that arose.”