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Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 18

In the morning many a warrior came to Heorot to learn the events of the night, and all saw the grisly trophy, praised Beowulf’s might and courage, and followed with eager curiosity the blood-stained track of the fleeing demon till it came to the brink of the gloomy lake, where it disappeared, though the waters were stained with gore, and boiled and surged with endless commotion. There on the shore the Danes rejoiced over the death of their enemy, and returned to Heorot care-free and glad at heart. Meanwhile Beowulf and his Geats stayed in Heorot, for Hrothgar had not yet come to receive an account of their night-watch. Throughout the day there was feasting and rejoicing, with horse-races, and wrestling, and manly contests of skill and endurance; or the Danes collected around the bard as he chanted the glory of Sigmund and his son Fitela. Then came King Hrothgar himself, with his queen and her maiden train, and they paused to gaze with horror on the dreadful trophy, and to turn with gratitude to the hero who had delivered them from this evil spirit. Hrothgar said: “Thanks be to the All-Father for this happy sight! Much sorrow have I endured at the hands of Grendel, many warriors have I lost, many uncounted years of misery have I lived, but now my woe has an end! Now a youth has performed, with his unaided strength, what all we could not compass with our craft! Well might thy father, O Beowulf, rejoice in thy fame! Well may thy mother, if she yet lives, praise the All-Father for [Pg 19] the noble son she bore! A son indeed shalt thou be to me in love, and nothing thou desirest shalt thou lack, that I can give thee. Often have I rewarded less heroic deeds with great gifts, and to thee I can deny nothing.”

Beowulf answered: “We have performed our boast, O King, and have driven away the enemy. I intended to force him down on one of the beds, and to deprive him of his life by mere strength of my hand-grip, but in this I did not succeed, for Grendel escaped from the hall. Yet he left here with me his hand, his arm, and shoulder as a token of his presence, and as the ransom with which he bought off the rest of his loathsome body; yet none the longer will he live thereby, since he bears with him so deadly a wound.”

Then the hall was cleared of the traces of the conflict and hasty preparation was made for a splendid banquet. There was joy in Heorot. The Danes assembled once again free from fear in their splendid hall, the walls were hung with gold-wrought embroideries and hangings of costly stuffs, while richly chased goblets shone on the long tables, and men’s tongues waxed loud as they discussed and described the heroic struggle of the night before. Beowulf and King Hrothgar sat on the high seats opposite to each other, and their men, Danes and Geats, sitting side by side, shouted and cheered and drank deeply to the fame of Beowulf. The minstrels sang of the Fight in Finnsburg and the deeds of Finn and Hnæf, of Hengest and Queen Hildeburh. Long was the chant, and it roused the national pride of the Danes to hear of the victory of their Danish forefathers over Finn of the Frisians; and merrily the banquet went forward, gladdened still more by the presence of Queen Wealhtheow. Now Hrothgar [Pg 20] showed his lavish generosity and his thankfulness by the gifts with which he loaded the Geat chief; and not only Beowulf, but every man of the little troop. Beowulf received a gold-embroidered banner, a magnificent sword, helmet, and corslet, a goblet of gold, and eight fleet steeds. On the back of the best was strapped a cunningly wrought saddle, Hrothgar’s own, with gold ornaments. When the Geat hero had thanked the king fittingly, Queen Wealhtheow arose from her seat, and, lifting the great drinking-cup, offered it to her lord, saying:


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