Beowulf eText - Chapter XIV

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Chapter XIV

HROTHGAR SPOKE WHEN he went to the hall and stood on the steps. He looked at the steep roof decorated with gold and saw Grendel's hand: “For this sight we must make thanksgiving to the Sovereign Ruler without delay! I have endured a host of sorrows from Grendel, but God, the Lord of Glory, works wonder upon wonder! Earlier, I thought I would never see help for my woes as long as I lived, with this noble house standing soaked in blood and stained with sword-gore. The travail had scattered all my counselors, who had no hope of ever rescuing this people's hall from the spiteful demons and beasts.

“Now has this hero, through God's might, done a deed which we for all this time were unable to do with our wisdom and cunning. Lo! Well can she among women who bore this warrior among all the sons of man say, if she still lives, that the God of ages was good to her in the birth of her son.

“Now, Beowulf, best of heroes, I shall heartily love you as if you were mine own son. Preserve this new friendship from this time forth. Nothing in the world that you desire will you lack, so long as it is within my power. Often have I promised recompense for lesser deeds and given my precious hoard to a hero less famed who was less ready to fight.

“By your deeds, you have ensured that your fame shall endure through all the ages. May the Almighty ever reward you with good, just as He has now done!”

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke: “We have fought this work of war most willingly and fearlessly dared the unknown. I would that you had seen it yourself, the fiend in all his gear, tottering to fall! I thought to bind him down on his deathbed swiftly with my strong grip, that he should breathe his last in my grasp, but he broke away and I could not, as the Maker did not will it, halt his flight. The life-destroyer was too overpowering in his escape. However, he left his hand, arm, and shoulder in payment for his rescue. He has not, however, bought reprieve with this, nor will he live the longer for it, the loathsome fiend steeped in sins. The wound has him bound closely in the grip of agony, in baleful bonds, where the crime-stained wretch must await such awful doom as the Ancient One may allot him.”

The son of Ecglaf was more silent in the boasting of his battle-deeds, as all the thanes beheld that hand because of the great prowess of the prince. Gazing at the high roof, the foe's fingers were spread, and each nail was likened unto steel; the heathen warrior's claw was uncanny, having horrific spikes as a hand-spear. It was clear, they said, that no blade of ancient design, however keen, could sever that bloody hand of battle from the evil foe.