Beowulf eText - Chapter XXV

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Chapter XXV

“UNTIL AT LAST, overweening pride grows and develops within him, and the soul-warden slumbers; that which controls his might sleeps too strongly, and the assassin draws nigh, secretly shooting shafts from his bow! Then is he, the helmeted man, struck in his heart by the sharpest arrow; he cannot defend himself from the wiles of the hellish spirit. He fancies that what he has long possessed is too little. Covetous and hateful, he sees no glory in the giving of rings for his fame. He forgets and spurns what the consequences would be, and lightly esteems all that God, the Wielder of Wonder, has given him of wealth and glory. Yet in the end, it happens, as always, that the fragile body yields and falls to its fate, and another comes—one who joyously distributes treasure of the king's old hoard with no thought of his forbearer's ways.

“Drive such evil thoughts from you, dear Beowulf, most excellent youth! Choose for yourself a better course of eternal profit, and do not tend toward arrogance, famed warrior! Your might is in bloom for only a while, but before long sickness or sword shall diminish your strength, either by the fire's fangs or the waves of a flood; by the bite of a blade or a wielded spear; by age or by the darkening of your eyes' clear beam. Death will suddenly take even you, oh hero of war!

“Just so did I rule the Ring-Danes during half a hundred years, holding sway beneath the heavens, and bravely did I shield them from many mighty nations of the whole earth until it seemed to me that I could find no foe under the expanse of the sky. Lo, then came a sudden shift! On my secure throne was joy traded for grief when Grendel, that infernal foe, began to raid my home; those ruthless raids made me heavy in heart, and I suffered much unrest. Praise be to God, the Eternal Lord, that I have lived so long that, after evil has lasted so long, my eyes could gaze upon his hewn and bloody head!

“Go now to the mead-bench! Be glad at the banquet, worthy warrior! At the morrow's dawn a wealth of treasure will be dealt between us.”

The Geats' lord was glad, seeking quickly to take his seat as the wise king commanded him. Then, as before, a fair banquet was served afresh to the company in the hall, those famous warriors.

The helm of night grew dark over the band of drinkers. The mighty ones rose, for the white-haired one, the aged Scylding, wanted to hasten to his rest. The Geat, that stalwart shield-fighter, also yearned for sleep. Now weary of wandering, the honored warrior from afar was led forth by a chamberlain, a thane who by custom would care for all such needs as adventuring warriors were likely to have in those days of yore.

And so the stout-hearted hero rested. The hall's royal golden gables rose high in the air. The guest slept on until a black raven heralded heaven's glory with a merry heart. Then bright light came streaming over the shadows. The swordsmen hastened, and all the princes were eager to go forth to their homes; the great-hearted guest would guide his keel on a voyage far from there.

The stalwart one then bid that Hrunting be brought to the son of Ecglaf and then had him take that excellent weapon. He gave thanks for the use of it and said that he reckoned it a great help in battle, a war-friend most beloved. He did not speak ill of the blade's edge—he was a noble-hearted man!

Now eager to depart and equipped in arms, the warriors waited while he who was honored by the Danes went to his host. The mighty prince hastened to the throne and greeted Hrothgar.