Page:A book of myths.djvu/311

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
257
BEOWULF

tions for the disposal of all that he valued should he never return from his quest. To the King, who feared greatly that he was going forth on a forlorn hope, he said:

"Grieve not! … Each man must undergo death at the end of life.
"Let him win, while he may, warlike fame in the world!
"That is best after death for the slain warrior."

His own men, and Hrothgar, and a great company of Danes went with him when he set out to trace the blood-stained tracks of the Grendel's mother. Near the edge of a gloomy mere they found the head of Aschere. And when they looked at the fiord itself, it seemed to be blood-stained—stained with blood that ever welled upwards, and in which revelled with a fierce sort of joy—the rapture of bestial cruelty—water-monsters without number.

Beowulf, his face white and grim like that of an image of Thor cast in silver, watched a little while, then drew his bow and drove a bolt into the heart of one of them, and when they had drawn the slain carcase to shore, the thanes of Hrothgar marvelled at the horror of it.

Then Beowulf took leave of Hrothgar and told him that if in two days he did not return, certain it would be that he would return no more. The hearts of all who said farewell to him were heavy, but Beowulf laughed, and bade them be of good cheer. Then into the black waters he dived, sword in hand, clad in ring-armour, and the dark pool closed over him as the river of Death closes over the head of a man when his day is done.

r