Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 12

“What are ye warlike men wielding bright weapons,
Wearing grey corslets and boar-adorned helmets,
Who o’er the water-paths come with your foaming keel
Ploughing the ocean surge? I was appointed
Warden of Denmark’s shores; watch hold I by the wave
That on this Danish coast no deadly enemy
Leading troops over sea should land to injure.
None have here landed yet more frankly coming
Than this fair company: and yet ye answer not
The password of warriors, and customs of kinsmen.
Ne’er have mine eyes beheld a mightier warrior,
An earl more lordly, than is he, the chief of you;
He is no common man; if looks belie him not,
He is a hero bold, worthily weaponed.
Anon must I know of you kindred and country,
Lest ye as spies should go free on our Danish soil.
Now ye men from afar, sailing the surging sea,
Have heard my earnest thought: best is a quick reply,
That I may swiftly know whence ye have hither come.”

So the aged Warden sat on his horse, gazing attentively on the faces of the fifteen strangers, but watching most carefully the countenance of the leader; for the mighty stature, the clear glance of command, the goodly armour, and the lordly air of Beowulf left no doubt as to who was the chieftain of that little band. When the questions had been asked the leader of the new-comers moved forward till his mighty figure stood beside the Warden’s horse, and as he gazed up into the old man’s eyes he answered: “We are warriors of the Geats, members of King Hygelac’s bodyguard. My father, well [Pg 8] known among men of wisdom, was named Ecgtheow, a wise counsellor who died full of years and famous for his wisdom, leaving a memory dear to all good men.”

“We come to seek thy king Healfdene’s glorious son,
Thy nation’s noble lord, with friendly mind.
Be thou a guardian good to us strangers here!
We have an errand grave to the great Danish king,
Nor will I hidden hold what I intend!
Thou canst tell if it is truth (as we lately heard)
That some dire enemy, deadly in evil deed,
Cometh in dark of night, sateth his secret hate,
Worketh through fearsome awe, slaughter and shame.
I can give Hrothgar bold counsel to conquer him,
How he with valiant mind Grendel may vanquish,
If he would ever lose torment of burning care,
If bliss shall bloom again and woe shall vanish.”

The aged Warden replied: “Every bold warrior of noble mind must recognise the distinction between words and deeds. I judge by thy speech that you are all friends to our Danish king; therefore I bid you go forward, in warlike array, and I myself will guide you to King Hrothgar; I will also bid my men draw your vessel up the beach, and make her fast with a barricade of oars against any high tide. Safe she shall be until again she bears you to your own land. May your expedition prove successful.”