WIGLAF his name was, Weohstan's son,
linden-thane loved, the lord of Scylfings,
Aelfhere's kinsman. His king he now saw
with heat under helmet hard oppressed.
He minded the prizes his prince had given him,
wealthy seat of the Waegmunding line,
and folk-rights that his father owned
Not long he lingered. The linden yellow,
his shield, he seized; the old sword he drew: --
as heirloom of Eanmund earth-dwellers knew it,
who was slain by the sword-edge, son of Ohtere,
friendless exile, erst in fray
killed by Weohstan, who won for his kin
brown-bright helmet, breastplate ringed,
old sword of Eotens, Onela's gift,
weeds of war of the warrior-thane,
battle-gear brave: though a brother's child
had been felled, the feud was unfelt by Onela.1
For winters this war-gear Weohstan kept,
breastplate and board, till his bairn had grown
earlship to earn as the old sire did:
then he gave him, mid Geats, the gear of battle,
portion huge, when he passed from life,
fared aged forth. For the first time now
with his leader-lord the liegeman young
was bidden to share the shock of battle.
Neither softened his soul, nor the sire's bequest
weakened in war.2 So the worm found out
when once in fight the foes had met!
Wiglaf spake, -- and his words were sage;
sad in spirit, he said to his comrades:--
"I remember the time, when mead we took,
what promise we made to this prince of ours
in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings,
for gear of combat to give him requital,
for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring
stress of this sort! Himself who chose us
from all his army to aid him now,
urged us to glory, and gave these treasures,
because he counted us keen with the spear
and hardy 'neath helm, though this hero-work
our leader hoped unhelped and alone
to finish for us, -- folk-defender
who hath got him glory greater than all men
for daring deeds! Now the day is come
that our noble master has need of the might
of warriors stout. Let us stride along
the hero to help while the heat is about him
glowing and grim! For God is my witness
I am far more fain the fire should seize
along with my lord these limbs of mine!3
Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear
homeward hence, save here we essay
to fell the foe and defend the life
of the Weders' lord. I wot 'twere shame
on the law of our land if alone the king
out of Geatish warriors woe endured
and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,
breastplate 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
that 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,
murderous monster mad with rage,
with fire-billows flaming, its foes to seek,
the hated men. In heat-waves burned
that board4 to the boss, and the breastplate failed
to shelter at all the spear-thane young.
Yet 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, --
blow nerved by hate. But Naegling5 was shivered,
broken in battle was Beowulf's sword,
old and gray. 'Twas granted him not
that ever the edge of iron at all
could help him at strife: too strong was his hand,
so the tale is told, and he tried too far
with strength of stroke all swords he wielded,
though sturdy their steel: they steaded him nought.
Then for the third time thought on its feud
that folk-destroyer, fire-dread dragon,
and rushed on the hero, where room allowed,
battle-grim, burning; its bitter teeth
closed on his neck, and covered him
with waves of blood from his breast that welled.
*Wiglaf, son of *Weohstan, a *Scylfling and kinsman to *Aelfhere. He saw his king oppressed by the fire, and recalled all of the gifts he and the *Waegmunding family had recieved for loyalty to him. He took up his wooden shield and his sword -- given to *Weohstan by *Onela, for slaying *Eanmund, son of *Othere; the old sword of *Eotens. His first battle alongside his lord, *Wiglaf was brave, so the dragon was to learn.
*Wiglaf spoke of the mead hall where thier lord had distibuted hard swords and helmets. He had chosen them to assist him in battle, and though the hero might win the day by himself, this is the day when he requires the help of his kinsmen. If *Beowulf should fall, his follower will fall with him. It was not fit to retreat but to remain and defend the life of their lord. To the shame of the *Geats if they allowed thier leader to fall alone. His sword and shield must then serve both himself and his lord.
Entering the smoke, *Wiglaf called out to *Beowulf to fight for his life, for he had arrived to help.
Hearing the words, the dragon was again enraged and he let fly his breath of fire. The flames quickly consumed *Wiglaf's wooden shield and his mail shirt would serve no protection. He quickly entered to cover of the iron shield. *Beowulf, aware of assistance, stuck out with *Naegling and struck the dragon on the head, but the sword broke. *Beowulf had simply been too strong for swords to be of great use to him.
For the third time the dragon struck at *Beowulf and succeded in biting him about the neck and the blood welled about his breast.
Select Bibliography :
Anonymous. Beowulf - Verse Intermediate Saxon. Transcribed by Altman, R.I. Public Domain etext obtained via the Online Book Initiative.
Anonymous. Beowulf Gummere, F.B. trans., Eliot, C.W. ed.. Harvard Classics, Vol. 49.: PF Collier & Sons, New York. 1910. Public Domain etext obtained via the Online Book Initiative.