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READINGS IN ENGLISH

LITERATURE

THE OLD ENGLISH EPIC

Wealhtheow's Address to Beowulf. — The Warriors Retire

(From Beowulf 1)

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Wealhtheow spake amid warriors, and said:
“ This jewel enjoy in thy jocund youth,
Beowulf lov'd, these battle-weeds wear,
a royal treasure, and richly thrive!
Preserve thy strength, and these striplings here
counsel in kindness : requital be mine.
Hast done such deeds, that for days to come
thou art famed among folk both far and near,
so wide as washeth the wave of Ocean
his windy walls. Through the ways of life
prosper, O prince! I pray for thee
rich possessions. To son of mine
be helpful in deed and uphold his joys!
Here every earl to the other is true,
mild of mood, to the master loyal !
Thanes are friendly, the throng obedient,
liegemen are revelling : list and obey !

Went then to her place. - That was proudest of feasts;
flowed wine for the warriors. Wyrd they knew not,
destiny dire, and the doom to be seen
by many an earl when eve should come,
and Hrothgar homeward hasten away,

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1 From the translation by Professor F. B. Gummere. Used by special permission of the translator and of the publishers. Copyright, 1904, The Macmillan Company.

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royal, to rest. The room was guarded
by an army of earls, as erst was done.
They bared the bench-boards; abroad they spread
beds and bolsters. - One beer-carouser
in danger of doom lay down in the hall.
At their heads they set their shields of war,
bucklers bright; on the bench were there
over each atheling, easy to see,
the high battle-helmet, the haughty spear,
the corselet of rings. 'Twas their custom so
ever to be for battle prepared,
at home, or harrying, which it were,
even as oft as evil threatened
their sovran king. — They were clansmen good.

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5

The Fight with Grendel's Mother

(From Beowulf) After these words the Weder-Geat lord boldly hastened, biding never answer at all: and ocean floods closed o'er the hero. Long while of the day fled ere he felt the floor of the sea. Soon found the fiend who the flood-domain sword-hungry held these hundred winters, greedy and grim, that some guest from above, some man, was raiding her monster-realm. She grasped out for him with grisly claws, and the warrior seized; yet scathed she not his body hale; the breastplate hindered, as she strove to shatter the sark of war, the linked harness, with loathsome hand. On the hall-guest she hurled herself, hent her short sword, broad and brown-edged, the bairn to avenge, the sole-born son. - On his shoulder lay braided breast-mail, barring death, withstanding entrance of edge or blade.

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Life would have ended for Ecgtheow's son,
under wide earth for that earl of Geats,
had his armor of war not aided him,
battle-net hard, and holy God
wielded the victory, wisest Maker.
The Lord of Heaven allowed his cause;
and easily rose the earl erect.
'Mid the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,
old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,
warriors' heirloom weapon unmatched,

save only 'twas more than other men
to bandy-of-battle could bear at all
as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.
Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings' chieftain,
bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,
reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote
that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,
her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through
that fated-one's flesh: to floor she sank.
Bloody the blade: he was blithe of his deed.
Then blazed forth light. 'Twas bright within
as when from the sky there shines unclouded
heaven's candle. The hall he scanned.
By the wall then went he; his weapon

raised high by its hilts the Hygelac-thane, angry and eager. That edge was not useless to the warrior now. He wished with speed Grendel to guerdon for grim raids many, for the war he waged on Western-Danes oftener far than an only time, when of Hrothgar's hearth-companions he slew in slumber, in sleep devoured, fifteen men of the folk of Danes, and as many others outward bore, his horrible prey. Well paid for that the wrathful prince! For now prone Grendel stretched there, spent with war,

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he saw

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