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

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XXXVIII

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I have heard that at once,
hearing these words,
the son of Weohstan
was swift to obey
his lord and master's
last wishes.
As he entered the mound
in his iron mail,
he passed the place
where the prince was sitting
and saw beyond it
the serpent's lair,
its home and hoard
with their huge riches:
gold was glittering
on the ground nearby
and on all the walls;
ancient goblets
stood there moldering,
stripped of ornaments,
unpolished for ages;
proud mask-helmets,
old, rust-eaten,
arm-rings galore.
The hoard had been opened,
for heathen gold
easily thwarts
efforts by men
to hide it forever,
hard though they try.
Good Wiglaf
saw a great standard
blazing in the gloom
above the ring-hoard,
its gold streamers
gleaming brilliantly;
its light let him
look at the treasure
untroubled by fear
of the terrible worm,
asleep from sword-wounds
outside the barrow.
At last, I have heard,
this lone warrior
rifled the contents
of that rich grave-mound,
grabbing up all
the golden trophies
his soul could desire
and seizing the standard,
brightest of banners.
A blow from the sharp
iron dagger
of his old king
had killed the creature
who kept those treasures
for a span of years,
spewing out flame
and fire at midnight
in defense of its gold
until the destined day
when death took it.
Worried and anxious,
Wiglaf went back
outside, eager
to see if perhaps,
on the slab of stone
beside the entrance
where he had left
his beloved chief,
he would still find him
strong and conscious.
As he approached the king
with the precious spoils
he saw Beowulf
swimming in blood
and near death.
He renewed his efforts
to waken him with water
until, weak and faint,
there burst from his breast
some broken words
as he gazed at the gold
in grief and agony:
"I am grateful
to God almighty,
the Keeper of heaven
and King of glory,
for the lordly goods
I look on here,
and the grace to gain
such gifts for my people
before the day
of my death arrived.
I have paid the price
for these priceless things,
life itself.
Look faithfully
to the people's needs;
my part is finished.
Bid my thanes,
after burning my corpse,
build a barrow
on a bluff near the sea,
wide-walled and high
on Whale Headland,
as a remembrance of me
among my people;
in centuries to come
sailors will call it
Beowulf's barrow
when their boats come home
from far journeys
on the fog-grey sea."
The king carefully
unclasped from his throat
his great neck-ring
and gave it to Wiglaf;
he handed his helmet
and hard mailcoat
to the young thane
and told him to use them well:
"My loyal Wiglaf,
you are the last of our race,
the WƦgmundings.
War and ruin
have swept my kinsmen away
at the decree of fate,
awesome warriors,
and I must follow them."
These labored words
were the last to issue
from Beowulf's breast
before he embraced the pyre
and its searing flames;
his soul left his body
and went to obtain
the reward of the just.

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