Beowulf Fights The Dragon

He saw by the cave,<br>
he who had many virtues,<br>
he who had survived many times<br>
the battle flashes<br>
when troops rush together,<br>
a stream running<br>
from the stone arch–<br>
a stream of fire.<br>
<br>
He could not enter<br>
for the dragon’s flame.<br>
Beowulf was angry,<br>
the lord of the Geats,<br>
he who stormed in battle.<br>
He yelled into the cave.<br>
<br>
The hoard-keeper perceived<br>
a man’s voice and <br>
didn’t plan to ask <br>
for friendship.<br>
Flames shot out<br>
from among the stones,<br>
hot battle-sweat.<br>
The ground dinned.<br>
<br>
The hero raised his shield<br>
against the dreadful stranger.<br>
Then the coiled thing<br>
sought battle.<br>
The war king drew his sword,<br>
an ancient heirloom<br>
with edges unblunt.<br>
Each of them intended<br>
horror to the other.<br>
<br>
Stouthearted stood that war-prince<br>
with his shield upraised,<br>
waited in his war-gear.<br>
The dragon coiled together,<br>
went forth burning,<br>
gliding toward his fate.<br>
<br>
His shield protected<br>
life and body<br>
for a shorter time<br>
than the prince had hoped.<br>
That was the first day<br>
he was not granted<br>
glory in battle.<br>
The lord of the Geats<br>
raised his arm,<br>
struck the horrible thing<br>
with his ancestral sword,<br>
but the edge gave way:<br>
that bright sword<br>
bit less on the bone<br>
than the war-king needed.<br>
<br>
After that stroke<br>
the cave-guardian<br>
was in a savage mood.<br>
He threw death-fire–<br>
widely sprayed<br>
battle flashes.<br>
The gold-friend of the Geats<br>
wasn’t boasting of victory.<br>
His war-sword had failed,<br>
not bitten home<br>
as it should have,<br>
that iron which had<br>
always been trustworthy.<br>
This wasn’t a pleasant trip:<br>
that famous king, Beowulf,<br>
would have to leave this earth,<br>
would have, against his will,<br>
to move elsewhere.<br>
(So must every man<br>
give up<br>
these transitory days.)<br>
<br>
It wasn’t long before<br>
the terrible ones<br>
met again–<br>
The hoard-keeper took heart,<br>
heaved his fire anew.<br>
He who once ruled a nation<br>
was encircled by fire;<br>
no troop of friends,<br>
strong princes,<br>
stood around him:<br>
they ran to the woods<br>
to save their lives.<br>
<br>
Yet in one of them<br>
welled a sorrowful heart.<br>
That true-minded one<br>
didn’t forget kinship.<br>
Wiglaf he was called,<br>
the son of Woehstan,<br>
a beloved shield-warrior,<br>
a lord of the Scylfings,<br>
a kinsman of Aelthere.<br>
He saw his lord<br>
suffering from heat<br>
under his helmet.<br>
He remembered the gifts,<br>
a rich home among<br>
the Waegmundings,<br>
the rich inheritance,<br>
that his father had had.<br>
<br>
Wiglaf could not refrain,<br>
but grabbed his shield,<br>
drew his ancient sword<br>
that among men was known<br>
as the heirloom of Eanmund,<br>
the son of Othere.<br>
(Eanmund, after a quarrel,<br>
was killed by Weohstan<br>
with the sword’s edge.<br>
Weohstan became<br>
a friendless exile.<br>
To Eanmund’s own kinsmen<br>
he bore the burnished helmet,<br>
the ring-locked mail,<br>
the old sword made by giants.<br>
Onela had given Eanmund that,<br>
the war-equipment,<br>
and did not mention<br>
the feud, though his<br>
brother’s child was killed.<br>
Weohstan held the treasure<br>
many years,<br>
the sword and mail,<br>
until his son could<br>
do heroic deeds<br>
as his father had done.<br>
He gave the war-dress to Wiglaf<br>
and a great many treasures,<br>
then departed this earth<br>
old on his journey.<br>
But this was the first time<br>
the young champion<br>
had gone into the war-storm.)<br>
<br>
His spirit did not fail,<br>
nor his heirloom: that<br>
the dragon discovered<br>
when they met in battle.<br>
<br>
Wiglaf spoke words about duty,<br>
said in sorrow to his companions:<br>
“I remember the times<br>
we drank mead and how<br>
we promised our lord<br>
there in the beer-hall,<br>
he who gave us gifts,<br>
that we would repay<br>
all his largess,<br>
the helmets and hard swords,<br>
if the need<br>
should ever befall.<br>
He chose his best men<br>
for this expedition,<br>
gave us honor and<br>
these treasures because<br>
he considered us best<br>
among spear fighters,<br>
though he proposed to<br>
do the job alone because <br>
he had performed the most <br>
famous deeds among men.<br>
Now has the day come<br>
that our lord<br>
is in need of fighters,<br>
of good warriors.<br>
Let us go to him,<br>
help the war-chief<br>
in this fire-horror.<br>
God knows, to me,<br>
my lord means more<br>
than my skin.<br>
With him I will<br>
embrace the fire.<br>
It isn’t proper <br>
that we bare shields<br>
back to our homes<br>
before we can<br>
defend our lord<br>
and kill the enemy.<br>
He doesn’t deserve<br>
to suffer alone.<br>
We two shall share<br>
the sword and helmet,<br>
the mail and war-garment.”<br>
&nbsp;<br>
Then Wiglaf advanced<br>
through the death-fumes,<br>
wore his helmet<br>
to help his lord.<br>
&nbsp;<br>
He spoke these words:<br>
“Dear Beowulf, may you<br>
accomplish all well,<br>
as you did in youth,<br>
as I have heard tell.<br>
Don’t surrender the glory <br>
of your life. Defend now,<br>
with all your strength,<br>
your brave deeds.<br>
I will help.”<br>
&nbsp;<br>
After these words<br>
the dragon angrily came;<br>
the terrible spirit<br>
another time attacked<br>
with surging fire.<br>
Fire waves burned<br>
Wiglaf’s shield<br>
down to the handle,<br>
his mail could not<br>
protect the young<br>
spear-warrior.<br>
He ducked behind<br>
his kinsman’s shield.<br>
&nbsp;<br>
Then the war-king<br>
remembered past deeds,<br>
struck mightily with his sword<br>
so that it stuck<br>
in the dragon’s head;<br>
Naegling, the great sword of Beowulf, <br>
ancient and shining,<br>
broke, failed in battle.<br>
Fate had not granted that <br>
the iron sword would help.<br>
&nbsp;<br>
(I’ve heard that Beowulf’s<br>
swing was too strong<br>
for any sword,<br>
overstrained any blade,<br>
anytime he carried<br>
a blood-hardened sword<br>
into battle.)<br>
&nbsp;<br>
Then the terrible dragon<br>
a third time rushed,<br>
hot and battle-grim.<br>
He bit Beowulf’s neck<br>
with sharp tusks–Beowulf<br>
was wet with life’s blood;<br>
blood gushed in waves.<br>
<br>
Then, I’ve heard,<br>
Wiglaf showed courage,<br>
craft and bravery,<br>
as was his nature–he went <br>
not for the thought-seat,<br>
but struck a little lower,<br>
helped his kinsman<br>
though his hand was burned.<br>
The sword, shining<br>
and ornamented,<br>
drove in so that<br>
the fire abated.<br>
<br>
Then the king controlled <br>
his senses, drew his <br>
battle knife, bitter <br>
and battle sharp, which <br>
he carried on his mail,<br>
and cut the dragon<br>
through the middle.<br>
The enemy fell–strength<br>
had driven out life;<br>
the two kinsmen, together,<br>
had cut down the enemy.<br>
So should a warrior do.<br>
<br>
That was Beowulf’s last victory;<br>
his last work in this world.<br>