Study Guide

Beowulf

by Anonymous, Unknown

Beowulf eText - Chapter XXVI

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Chapter XXVI

BEOWULF, SON OF Ecgtheow, spoke: “Lo, we seafarers who have come from afar would say that we now want to go to Hygelac. We have here been hosted to our heart's content; you have been very generous to us. If I am able to win more of your love and gratitude, oh lord of men, through works of war upon the earth beyond what I have done, I am still quite ready! If word comes to me from across the seas that your neighbors raid and alarm you, as those who hated you have previously done, then I will bring a thousand thanes, all heroes, to help you. I know that Hygelac, defender of his folk, though his years be few, will give me aid by word and deed to serve you, wielding a forest of spears to win your triumph and lend you strength when you lack men. If your Hrethric, son of a king, should come to the Geats' court, he will surely find his friends there. Each man who thinks himself brave should visit a far-off land.”

In answer, Hrothgar spoke: “The wisest God has sent these words of yours to your soul! Never have I heard such sage counsel from one so young in years. You are strong in might, wise in understanding, and careful in speech. I deem it likely that if ever Hrethel's heir, your elder and lord, be taken by a spear and the grim sword of battle, or the people's leader by illness or iron—and if your life remains—the Sea-Geats will find no more fitting man to choose as their chieftain and king, as a guardian of the heroes' hoard, if you want to keep your kinsman's kingdom! Your disposition is more and more pleasing to me, beloved Beowulf! You have brought about mutual peace between both our peoples, the Geats and the Spear-Danes, so that we will refrain from murderous strife and war such as we once waged. As long as I rule this wide realm, let our treasure troves be as one. Let heroes greet one another with gold over the seas where fishes bathe, and let the ringéd prow bear tokens of affection over the ocean's waves. I know my people are constant in mind towards both friend and foe, and they keep honor such as it was kept in olden days.”

That shelterer of warriors, Healfdene's son, give into his trust twelve more treasures, and bid him go with those gifts to visit his beloved people, arriving well and returning soon. The renowned king of kin, the Scyldings' chieftain, then kissed that peerless thane and clasped him by the neck. The white-haired one's tears flowed quickly. Two paths did he who was heavy with winters foresee, but one seemed more likely: that they should never look upon one another again, and he would never hear him in the hall. This hero was so dear to him that he sought to stifle his breast's sobs in vain, and the deep affections of his soul were lodged in his thoughts as they flowed in his blood.

Then Beowulf, a happy warrior glad of his golden gifts, went over the grassy plain. The wave-wanderer was riding at anchor as it awaited its owner. As they hastened onward, they praised Hrothgar's generosity—he was a king without peer, blameless in every way until age, which spares no mortal, had broken his glorious might.