Page:A book of myths.djvu/305

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251
BEOWULF

little time the valiant warden watched them from afar, and then, one man against fifteen, he rode quickly down and challenged the warriors.

"What are ye warlike men wielding bright weapons.
"Wearing grey corselets and boar-adorned helmets.
"Who o'er the water-paths come with your foaming keel
"Ploughing the ocean surge? I was appointed
"Warden of Denmark's shores; watch hold I by the wave
"That on this Danish coast no deadly enemy
"Leading troops over sea should land to injure.
"None have here landed yet more frankly coming
"Than this fair company: and yet ye answer not
"The password of warriors, and customs of kinsmen.
"Ne'er have mine eyes beheld a mightier warrior,
"An earl more lordly than is he the chief of you;
"He is no common man; if looks belie him not.
"He is a hero bold, worthily weaponed.
"Anon must I know of you kindred and country.
"Lest ye of spies should go free on our Danish soil.
"Now ye men from afar, sailing the surging sea.
"Have heard my earnest thought: best is a quick reply.
"That I may swiftly know whence ye have hither come."

Then Beowulf, with fearless eyes, gazed in the face of the warden and told him simply and unboastfully who he was, from whence he came, and what was his errand. He had come as the nation's deliverer, to slay the thing that

"Cometh in dark of night, sateth his secret hate,
"Worketh through fearsome awe, slaughter and shame."

With joy the warden heard his noble words.

"My men shall beach your ship," he said, "and make her fast with a barrier of oars against the greedy tide. Come with me to the king."

It was a gallant band that strode into Heorot, where