Page:Gummere (1909) The Oldest English Epic.djvu/154

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138
THE OLDEST ENGLISH EPIC


homeward hence, save here we essay
2655to fell the foe and defend the life
of the Weders’ lord. I wot ’twere shame
on the law of our land[1] if alone the king
out of Geatish warriors woe endured
and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,
2660breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!”
Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,
his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake:—
“Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,
as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst
2665that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise
thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,
atheling steadfast, with all thy strength
shield thy life! I will stand to help thee.”
 At the words the worm came once again,
2670murderous monster mad with rage,
with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek,
the hated men. In heat-waves burned
that board[2] to the boss, and the breastplate failed
to shelter at all the spear-thane young.
2675Yet quickly under his kinsman’s shield
went eager the earl, since his own was now
all burned by the blaze. The bold king again
had mind of his glory: with might his glaive
was driven into the dragon’s head,—
2680blow nerved by hate. But Nægling[3] was shivered,

  1. Custom, tradition,—one of the boni mores which, Tacitus says, counts for so much more than law.
  2. Wiglaf’s wooden shield.
  3. Gering would translate “kinsman of the nail,” as both are made of iron.—What is said here of Beowulf’s excessive strength, like the former mention of his early slackness, is a legendary trait of Offa