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I HAVE heard that swiftly the son of Weohstan
at wish and word of his wounded king,—
war-sick warrior,—woven mail-coat,
battle-sark, bore ’neath the barrow’s roof.
Then the clansman keen, of conquest proud,
passing the seat, saw store of jewels
and glistening gold the ground along;
by the wall were marvels, and many a vessel
in the den of the dragon, the dawn-flier old:
unburnished bowls of bygone men
reft of richness; rusty helms
of the olden age; and arm-rings many
wondrously woven.—Such wealth of gold,
booty from barrow, can burden with pride
each human wight: let him hide it who will!—
His glance too fell on a gold-wove banner
high o’er the hoard, of handiwork noblest,
brilliantly broidered; so bright its gleam,
all the earth-floor he easily saw
and viewed all these vessels. No vestige now
was seen of the serpent: the sword had ta’en him.
Then, I heard, the hill of its hoard was reft,
old work of giants, by one alone;
he burdened his bosom with beakers and plate
at his own good will, and the ensign took,
brightest of beacons.—The blade of his lord
—its edge was iron—had injured deep
one that guarded the golden hoard
many a year and its murder-fire
spread hot round the barrow in horror-billows
at midnight hour, till it met its doom.
Hasted the herald, the hoard so spurred him
his track to retrace; he was troubled by doubt,
high-souled hero, if haply he’d find
alive, where he left him, the lord of Weders,
weakening fast by the wall of the cave.
So he carried the load. His lord and king
he found all bleeding, famous chief
at the lapse of life. The liegeman again
plashed him with water, till point of word
broke through the breast-hoard. Beowulf spake,
sage and sad, as he stared at the gold.—
“For the gold and treasure, to God my thanks,
to the Wielder-of-Wonders, with words I say,
for what I behold, to Heaven’s Lord,
for the grace that I give such gifts to my folk
or ever the day of my death be run!
Now I’ve bartered here for booty of treasure
the last of my life, so look ye well
to the needs of my land! No longer I tarry.
A barrow bid ye the battle-fanned raise
for my ashes. ’Twill shine by the shore of the flood,
to folk of mine memorial fair
on Hrones Headland high uplifted,
that ocean-wanderers oft may hail
Beowulf’s Barrow, as back from far
they drive their keels o’er the darkling wave.”
From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,
valorous king, to his vassal gave it
with bright-gold helmet, breastplate, and ring,
to the youthful thane: bade him use them in joy.
“Thou art end and remnant of all our race
the Waegmunding name. For Wyrd hath swept them,
all my line, to the land of doom,
earls in their glory: I after them go.”
This word was the last which the wise old man
harbored in heart ere hot death-waves
of balefire he chose. From his bosom fled
his soul to seek the saints’ reward.
Wiglaf went into the lair. He saw jewels and gold shining all over the place. There were ancient goblets and helmets, as well as beautiful jewelry of all kinds. Any man can lose great treasure, no matter how well he hides it. Wiglaf saw a beautiful banner hanging on one wall. It was so bright that it allowed him to see all around inside the lair. The dragon was dead. Wiglaf filled his arms with treasure and ran back out to Beowulf, hoping that his king would be alive. Beowulf was bleeding to death. Wiglaf splashed him with water to revive him. “I thank God for being able to see such treasure,” Beowulf said, “and for being able to give it to my people when I die. I’ve traded my life for this treasure. Look after the needs of my people. I will not be here much longer. After my funeral pyre has burned, build a mound in my name so that people will pass under it and remember me. They will call it Beowulf’s Barrow.” Beowulf removed his necklace, helmet, breastplate, and ring, and gave them to Wiglaf. “You are the last of the Waegmunding family. Fate has taken all of my line to the land of doom, and now I join them.” Those were the last words he said. His soul left his body to seek its reward.