Beowulf Gets Ready for the Battle
Then Hrothgar, the Shieldings’ helmet, spoke:
“Rest? What is rest? Sorrow has returned.
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:
“Wise sir, do not grieve. It is Always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For everyone of us, living in this world
Means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
Win glory before Death. When a warrior is gone
That will be his best and only bulwark.
So arise, my lord, and let us immediately
so forth on the rail of this troll-dam. […]
Beowulf got ready,
Donned his war gear, indifferent to death;
His mighty hand-forged, fine-webbed mail
Would soon meet with menace under water.
It would keep the bone cage of his body safe:
No enemy’s clasp would crush him in it,
no vicious armlock choke his life out.
To guard his head he had a glittering helmet
That was due to be muddied on the mere-bottom
And blurred in the upswirl. It was of beaten gold,
princely headgear hooped and hasped
by a weapon smith who had worked wonders
in days gone by and embellished it with boar shapes;
since then it had resisted every sword.
The Geat people build a pyre for Beowulf,
stacked and decked it until it stood foursquare,
hung with helmets, heavy war-shields
and shining armour, just as he ordered.
Then his warriors laid him in the middle of it,
Mourning a lord far-famed and beloved.
On a height they kindled the hugest of all
funeral fires: fumes of woodsmoke
billowed darkly up, the blaze roared
and drowned out their weeping, wind died down
and flames wrought havoc in the hot bone-house,
burning it to the core. They were disconsolate
and wailed aloud for their lord’s decease.
A Geat woman too sang out in grief;
with hair bound up, she unburdened herself
of her worst fears, a wild litany
of nightmare and lament: her nation invaded,
enemies on the rampage, bodies in piles,
slavery and abasement. Heaven swallowed the smoke. […]
Then twelve warriors rode around the tomb,
Chieftains’ sons, champions in battle,
All of them distraught, chanting in dirges
Mourning his loss as a man and a king.
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