Greened to gnaw the broken bones Of his last human supper. Human Eyes were watching his evil steps, Waiting to see his swift hard claws. Greened snatched at the first Seat He came to, ripped him apart, cut His body to bits with powerful jaws, Drank the blood from his veins, and bolted Him down, hands and feet; death And Grenade’s great teeth came together, Snapping life shut. Then he stepped to another Still body, clutched at Beowulf with his claws, Grasped at a stouthearted wakeful sleeper And was instantly seized himself, claws Bent back as Beowulf leaned up on one arm.
That shepherd of evil, guardian of crime, Knew at once that nowhere on earth Had he met a man whose hands Were harder; His mind was flooded with fear?but nothing Could take his talons and himself from that tight Hard grip. Grenade’s one thought was to run From Beowulf, flee back to his marsh and hide there: This was a different Hero than the hall he had emptied. But Haggles follower remembered his final Boast and, standing erect, stopped The monster’s flight, fastened those claws In his fists till they cracked, clutched Greened Closer. The infamous killer fought
For his freedom, wanting no flesh but retreat, Desiring nothing but escape; his claws Had been caught, he was trapped. That trip to Hero Was a miserable journey for the writhing monster! The high hall rang, its roof boards swayed, And Danes shook with terror. Down The aisles the battle swept, angry And wild. Hero trembled, wonderfully Built to withstand the blows, the struggling Great bodies beating at its beautiful walls; Shaped and fastened with iron, inside And out, artfully worked, the building 460 465 470 475 480 485 490 495 Stood firm. Its benches rattled, fell TO the floor, goldbricked boards grating
As Greened and Beowulf battled across them. Hoarder’s wise men had fashioned Hero To stand forever; only fire, They had planned, could shatter what such skill had put Together, swallow in hot flames such splendor Of ivory and iron and wood. Suddenly The sounds changed, the Danes started In new terror, cowering in their beds as the terrible Screams of the Almighty enemy sang In the darkness, the horrible shrieks of pain And defeat, the tears torn out of Grenade’s Taut throat, hell’s captive caught in the arms Of him who of all the men on earth 9 That mighty protector of men
Meant to hold the monster till its life Was the strongest. Leaped out, knowing the fiend was no use TO anyone in Denmark. All of Beowulf Band had jumped from their beds, ancestral Swords raised and ready, determined To protect their prince if they could. Their courage Was great but all wasted: They could hack at Greened From every side, trying to open A path for his evil soul, but their points Could not hurt him, the sharpest and hardest iron Could not scratch at his skin, for that assassinated demon Had bewitched all men’s weapons, laid spells That blunted every mortal man’s blade.
And yet his time had come, his days Were over, his death near; down To hell he would go, swept groaning and helpless To the waiting hands of still worse fiends. Now he discovered?once the afflicted Of men, tormentor of their days?what it meant To feud with Almighty God: Greened Saw that his strength was deserting him, his claws Bound fast, Highball’s brave follower tearing at His hands. The monsters hatred rose higher, But his power had gone. He insisted in pain, And the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder 500 505 510 515 10 520 525 530 535 Snapped, muscle and bone split And broke.
The battle was over, Beowulf Had been granted new glory: Greened escaped, But wounded as he was could flee to his den, His miserable hole at the bottom of the marsh, Only to die, to wait for the end Of all his days. And after that bloody Combat the Danes laughed with delight. He who had come to them from across the sea, Bold and strengthened, had driven affliction Off, purged Hero clean. He was happy, Now, with that night’s fierce work; the Danes Had been served as he’d boasted he’d serve them; Beowulf, A prince of the Seats, had killed Greened, Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering
Forced on Hoarder’s helpless people By a bloodthirsty fiend. No Dane doubted The victory, for the proof, hanging high From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monsters Arm, claw and shoulder and all. And then, in the morning crowds surrounded Hereto warriors coming to that hall From faraway lands, princes and leaders Of men hurrying to behold the monsters Great staggering tracks. They gaped with no sense Of sorrow, felt no regret for his suffering, Went tracing his bloody footprints, his beaten And lonely flight, to the edge of the lake Where he’d dragged his acropolises way, doomed
And already weary of his vanishing life. The water was bloody, steaming and boiling In horrible pounding waves, heat Sucked from his magic veins; but the swirling Surf had covered his death, hidden Deep in murky darkness his miserable End, as hell opened to receive him. Then old and young rejoiced, turned back From that happy pilgrimage, mounted their hardheaded 540 545 550 555 560 565 Horses, highlighted stallions, and rode them Slowly toward Hero again, retelling Beowulf bravery as they jogged along. And over and over they swore that nowhere On earth or under the spreading sky
Or between the seas, neither south nor north, Was there a warrior worthier to rule over men. (But no one meant Beowulf praise to belittle Warthogs, their kind and gracious king! ) . . ‘They live in secret places, windy Cliffs, wolfhounds where water pours 11 From the rocks, then runs underground, where mist Steams like black clouds, and the groves of trees Growing out over their lake are all covered With frozen spray, and wind down snakelike Roots that reach as far as the water And help keep it dark. At night that lake Burns like a torch. No one knows its bottom, No wisdom reaches such depths.