Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 23

King Hrothgar the hideous head of his dead foe, and Beowulf, raising his voice that all might hear above the buzz and hum of the great banquet-hall, thus addressed the king:

“Lo! we this sea-booty, O wise son of Healfdene,
Lord of the Scyldings, have brought for thy pleasure,
In token of triumph, as thou here seest.
From harm have I hardly escaped with my life,
The war under water sustained I with trouble,
The conflict was almost decided against me,
If God had not guarded me! Nought could I conquer
With Hrunting in battle, though ’tis a doughty blade.
But the gods granted me that I saw suddenly
Hanging high in the hall a bright brand gigantic:
So seized I and swung it that in the strife I slew
The lords of the dwelling. The mighty blade melted fast
In the hot boiling blood, the poisonous battle-gore;
But the hilt have I here borne from the hostile hall.
I have avenged the crime, the death of the Danish folk,
As it behovèd me. Now can I promise thee
That thou in Heorot care-free mayest slumber
With all thy warrior-troop and all thy kindred thanes,
The young and the aged: thou needst not fear for them
Death from these mortal foes, as thou of yore hast done.”

King Hrothgar was now more delighted than ever at the return of his friend and the slaughter of his foes. He gazed in delight and wonder at the gory head of the monster, and the gigantic hilt of the weapon which struck it off. Then, taking the glorious hilt, and scanning eagerly the runes which showed its history, as the [Pg 28] tumult stilled in the hall, and all men listened for his speech, he broke out: “Lo! this may any man say, who maintains truth and right among his people, that good though he may be this hero is even better! Thy glory is widespread, Beowulf my friend, among thine own and many other nations, for thou hast fulfilled all things by patience and prudence. I will surely perform what I promised thee, as we agreed before; and I foretell of thee that thou wilt be long a help and protection to thy people.”

King Hrothgar spoke long and eloquently while all men listened, for he reminded them of mighty warriors of old who had not won such glorious fame, and warned them against pride and lack of generosity and self-seeking; and then, ending with thanks and fresh gifts to Beowulf, he bade the feast continue with increased jubilation. The tumultuous rejoicing lasted till darkness settled on the land, and when it ended all retired to rest free from fear, since no more fiendish monsters would break in upon their slumbers; gladly and peacefully the night passed, and with the morn came