Beowulf eText - Chapter XXXVII

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Chapter XXXVII

IT IS NOW, men tell, that the young noble made known his nature—his enduring courage and his prowess—in his sovereign's need. Heedless of harm, he helped his kinsman with a stout heart though his hand was burned. He struck the loathsome monster a little lower; his bright and burnished sword penetrated; the beast's blaze began to dwindle.

The king at last recovered his wits and drew his war-knife, a biting blade hanging by his breastplate. The Geats' crown split that worm asunder, felling the foe. They had defeated the foe together, the two kinsmen—twin princes; so should a liegeman be in days of danger! This hour of conquest was the last of the king's valorous deeds, of his work in the world.

The wound which the earth-dragon had inflicted began to swell and flare up, and he soon found his chest boiling, as venom worked itself in deeply with evil. The prince, wise in his thoughts, walked on to the rock wall and sat staring at the structure of giants where the stone arch and the sturdy column stood forever in that earthen hall. There did the hand of the peerless liegeman wash his winsome lord with water. Covered with blood, the king and conqueror undid his helmet; the battle had wearied him. Despite his pain and mortal wound, Beowulf spoke; he knew full well that his portion of earthly bliss was done and gone, that the tale of his days had fled, and that death was near: “I would have given this armor to my son, if any heir would have come after me of my rightful blood. I ruled this people for fifty winters. There was no king of the neighboring clans, none at all, who would bring war-mates against me and threaten me with horrors. I observed social custom in my home, and cared for my own with justice. I did not seek feuds, nor have I falsely sworn any oath. Though I am fatally wounded, I am comforted by these, for the Ruler-of-Men will not seize me in wrath when my life must flee far from this mortal frame, for I did not kill my kinsmen!

“Now go quickly and gaze upon the hoard beneath the white rocks, beloved Wiglaf, now that the worm lies low in sleep—heartsick at his stolen spoil. And go in haste. I would behold the magnificent treasures, the store of gold, and have joy in the jewels and gems; I would resign the life and lordship I have long held with more ease when I look upon this splendid hoard.”