Page:A book of myths.djvu/301

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

Now, in the dark fens of that land there dwelt a monster—fierce, noisome, and cruel, a thing that loved evil and hated all that was joyous and good. To its ears came the ring of the laughter and the shouts of King Hrothgar's revellers, and the sweet song of the gleemen and the melody of harps filled it with fierce hatred. From its wallow in the marshes, where the pestilent grey fog hung round its dwelling, the monster, known to all men as the Grendel, came forth, to kill and to devour. Through the dark night, across the lonely moorland, it made its way, and the birds of the moor flew screaming in terror before it, and the wild creatures of the desolate country over which it padded clapped down in their coverts and trembled as it passed. It came at length to the great hall where

"A fair troop of warrior thanes guarding it found he;
"Heedlessly sleeping, they recked not of sorrow."

Never a thought did they give to the Grendel,—

"A haunter of marshes, a holder of moors,
"The land he inhabits; dark, wolf-haunted ways
"Of the windy hillside, by the treacherous tarn;
"Or where, covered up in its mist, the hill stream
"Downward flows."

Soundly slept Hrothgar, nor opened eye until, in the bright light of the morning, he was roused by terrified servants, forgetful of his august royalty, impelled by terror, crying aloud their terrible tale. They had come, they said, to lay on the floor of the banqueting-hall, sweet, fresh rushes from the meadows, and to clear away all trace of the feasting overnight. But the two-and-thirty knights who, in full armour, had lain down