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Ringler, Dick / Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (May 2005)

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XXXVII

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We have heard that then,
in the high-king's need,
faithful Wiglaf
put forth the strength
and huge courage
that were his by nature.
He was ardent and eager
when he aided his king;
ignoring the dragon's
enormous head,
he smote its soft
smooth underside,
singeing his hand
when he swung the sword,
but driving it deep
in the dragon's gut,
damping its fires.
Dazed but conscious,
Beowulf pulled
a bright dagger,
his sharp war-knife,
from the sheath on his belt
and sliced the smooth-skinned
serpent in half.
Working together
as one, the two
kinsmen had conquered
their common enemy,
Wiglaf fighting
as a warrior should
by his lord's side
in the illustrious king's
last battle,
the last triumph
of his work in the world;
for the wound the ancient
grave-dwelling worm
had given him started
to swell and swelter
and soon he felt
inside his body
surges of venom
boiling and seething.
Beowulf staggered
to a slab in the wall
and sat heavily.
He stared at the earth-hall,
saw the stone arches
supported on pillars
that propped it within,
this broad barrow
built by giants.
Meanwhile Wiglaf,
moved by pity,
hurriedly splashed
handfuls of water
on his king, injured
and covered with blood.
When the kindly youth
had unclasped his helmet,
Beowulf spoke,
braving the pain;
he was well aware
that the wound had brought him
to the end of his life
and all enjoyment
of earth's riches,
to the end of his long
days and doings;
now death was waiting.
"How gladly," he said,
"I would give this war-gear
to my heir, if only
I had ever been blessed
with a son who might reign
in succession to me
in the realm of the Geats.
I ruled this people
for fifty years.
No foreign king,
none of the princes
of neighboring lands,
dared attack me
with deadly force
or wage warfare.
I waited, in my homeland,
for the harvest of fate;
I held what was mine
but sought no quarrels
nor swore many
oaths unjustly.
For all these things
my soul is grateful
though I am sick to death.
The Lord of heaven
will have little cause
to accuse me of killing
kinsmen, when life
has flown from my body.
Faithful Wiglaf!
Go now, and enter
these grey stone walls
to see the treasure!
The serpent lies here
robbed of its riches,
rigid in death.
Do not delay, Wiglaf,
if I am to look on those heaps
of gems and jewels
and enjoy a glimpse
of the golden hoard,
so that after gazing my fill
on its immense wealth
I may with more ease
relinquish both life
and this land I have ruled."

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