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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


From the Anglo-Saxon. Beowulf’s Expedition to Heort

THUS then, much care-worn,

The son of Healfden

Sorrowed evermore,

Nor might the prudent hero

His woes avert.

The war was too hard,

Too loath and longsome,

That on the people came,

Dire wrath and grim,

Of night-woes the worst.

This from home heard

Higelac’s Thane,

Good among the Goths,

Grendel’s deeds.

He was of mankind

In might the strongest,

At that day

Of this life,

Noble and stalwart.

He bade him a sea-ship,

A goodly one, prepare.

Quoth he, the war-king,

Over the swan’s road,

Seek he would

The mighty monarch,

Since he wanted men.

For him that journey

His prudent fellows

Straight made ready,

Those that loved him.

They excited their souls,

The omen they beheld.

Had the good-man

Of the Gothic people

Champions chosen,

Of those that keenest

He might find,

Some fifteen men.

The sea-wood sought he.

The warrior showed,

Sea-crafty man!

The land-marks,

And first went forth.

The ship was on the waves,

Boat under the cliffs.

The barons ready

To the prow mounted.

The streams they whirled

The sea against the sands.

The chieftains bore

On the naked breast

Bright ornaments,

War-gear, Goth-like.

The men shoved off,

Men on their willing way,

The bounden wood.

Then went over the sea-waves,

Hurried by the wind,

The ship with foamy neck,

Most like a sea-fowl,

Till about one hour

Of the second day

The curved prow

Had passed onward

So that the sailors

The land saw,

The shore-cliffs shining,

Mountains steep,

And broad sea-noses.

Then was the sea-sailing

Of the Earl at an end.

Then up speedily

The Weather people

On the land went,

The sea-bark moored,

Their mail-sarks shook,

Their war-weeds.

God thanked they,

That to them the sea-journey

Easy had been.

Then from the wall beheld

The warden of the Scyldings,

He who the sea-cliffs

Had in his keeping,

Bear o’er the balks

The bright shields,

The war-weapons speedily.

Him the doubt disturbed

In his mind’s thought,

What these men might be.

Went then to the shore,

On his steed riding,

The Thane of Hrothgar.

Before the host he shook

His warden’s-staff in hand,

In measured words demanded:

“What men are ye

War-gear wearing,

Host in harness,

Who thus the brown keel

Over the water-street

Leading come

Hither over the sea?

I these boundaries

As shore-warden hold,

That in the Land of the Danes

Nothing loathsome

With a ship-crew

Scathe us might….

Ne’er saw I mightier

Earl upon earth

Than is your own,

Hero in harness.

Not seldom this warrior

Is in weapons distinguished;

Never his beauty belies him,

His peerless countenance!

Now would I fain

Your origin know,

Ere ye forth

As false spies

Into the Land of the Danes

Farther fare.

Now, ye dwellers afar-off!

Ye sailors of the sea:

Listen to my

One-fold thought.

Quickest is best

To make known

Whence your coming may be.”