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BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:
“Sorrow not, sage! It beseems us better
friends to avenge than fruitlessly mourn them.
Each of us all must his end abide
in the ways of the world; so win who may
glory ere death! When his days are told,
that is the warrior’s worthiest doom.
Rise, O realm-warder! Ride we anon,
and mark the trail of the mother of Grendel.
No harbor shall hide her—heed my promise!—
enfolding of field or forested mountain
or floor of the flood, let her flee where she will!
But thou this day endure in patience,
as I ween thou wilt, thy woes each one.”
Leaped up the graybeard: God he thanked,
mighty Lord, for the man’s brave words.
For Hrothgar soon a horse was saddled
wave-maned steed. The sovran wise
stately rode on; his shield-armed men
followed in force. The footprints led
along the woodland, widely seen,
a path o’er the plain, where she passed, and trod
the murky moor; of men-at-arms
she bore the bravest and best one, dead,
him who with Hrothgar the homestead ruled.
On then went the atheling-born
o’er stone-cliffs steep and strait defiles,
narrow passes and unknown ways,
headlands sheer, and the haunts of the Nicors.
Foremost he fared, a few at his side
of the wiser men, the ways to scan,
till he found in a flash the forested hill
hanging over the hoary rock,
a woful wood: the waves below
were dyed in blood. The Danish men
had sorrow of soul, and for Scyldings all,
for many a hero, ’twas hard to bear,
ill for earls, when Aeschere’s head
they found by the flood on the foreland there.
Waves were welling, the warriors saw,
hot with blood; but the horn sang oft
battle-song bold. The band sat down,
and watched on the water worm-like things,
sea-dragons strange that sounded the deep,
and nicors that lay on the ledge of the ness—
such as oft essay at hour of morn
on the road-of-sails their ruthless quest,—
and sea-snakes and monsters. These started away,
swollen and savage that song to hear,
that war-horn’s blast. The warden of Geats,
with bolt from bow, then balked of life,
of wave-work, one monster, amid its heart
went the keen war-shaft; in water it seemed
less doughty in swimming whom death had seized.
Swift on the billows, with boar-spears well
hooked and barbed, it was hard beset,
done to death and dragged on the headland,
wave-roamer wondrous. Warriors viewed
the grisly guest.
Beowulf replied, “Don’t despair. It is better to avenge our friends than mourn them. We’re all going to die some day, so it is better for us to achieve glory before that happens. We will ride out and track down Grendel’s mother. Let her run! She can’t hide from us. But today, I know you will patiently endure your sorrows.” Hrothgar thanked God for Beowulf’s bravery and called for his horse. He took the lead, his men following closely behind. They tracked the demon’s footprints through the woods and across a plain, following the path she took when she carried their friend back to her lair. Her tracks led them along narrow cliffs, high above waters full of sea monsters. Hrothgar went in front with a few of his best trackers. Looking down, they saw that the water was full of blood. They made their way down the cliff. At the bottom they were heartbroken to discover Aeschere’s head washed up on the shore. The waves were tossing and churning with blood. Monsters were everywhere in the water and on the rocky ledges. The men blew their battle horn and monsters began scurrying away and diving for cover. One briefly surfaced and the leader of the Geats shot it with an arrow. It thrashed around in the shallows, where the men speared it to death and dragged it to shore. It was an incredible sight.