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ENGLISH PROSE AND VERSE

I. FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST

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A CHARM FOR BEWITCHED LAND

Be thou shot in the fell, a

Be thou shot in the flesh, (From the translation by J. D. SPAETH)

Be thou shot in the blood, Erce,? Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth,

Be thou shot in the bone, May the Almighty, Lord Everlasting,

Be thou shot in the limb, Grant thee fields, green and fertile,

Thy life shall be shielded. Grant thee fields, fruitful and growing,

Be it shot of Esė, 3 Hosts of Spear-shafts, shining harvests,

Be it shot of Elves, Harvest of Barley the broad,

Be it shot of Hags, Harvest of Wheat the white,

I help thee surely. All the heaping harvests of earth!

This for cure of Esa -shot, May the Almighty Lord Everlasting,

This for cure of Elf-shot, And his holy saints in heaven above,

This for cure of Hag-shot, From fiend and foe defend this land,

I help thee surely. Keep it from blight and coming of harm,

Witch fly away to the woods and the mounFrom spell of witches wickedly spread!

tains.

34 Now I pray the Almighty who made this world, Healed be thy hurt! So help thee the Lord. That malice of man, or mouth of woman Never may weaken the words I have spoken. Hail to thee Earth, Mother of men!

BEOWULF Grow and be great in God's embrace,

THE FIGHT WITH GRENDEL'S MOTHER Filled with fruit for the food of men!

(Translated by J. D. SPAETH) CHARM FOR A SUDDEN STITCH 1

(The Hero Beowulf grew up at the Court of (Translated by J. D. SPAETH)

his uncle Hygėlac, King of the Geats or Jutes.

Hearing how Heorot, the great Hall of the Take feverfew, and plantain, and the red Danish King Hrothgar, was ravaged by a nightnettle that grows, into the house. Boil in but

prowling monster named Grendel, Beowulf ter. Say :

sailed with a chosen band to Hrothgar's Loud was their cry as they came o'er the

kingdom, and offered to rid the Danes of their hill;

enemy. Alone and weaponless he fought with Fierce was their rage as they rode o'er the

and killed Grendel in Heorot, and it was supland.

posed that the Hall was again safe. But Take heed and be healed of the hurt they have

Grendel's mother, a wolfish water-wife, bent on done thee.

revenge, broke into the Hall and carried off Out little spear if in there thou be! the King's best Thane. The next morning My shield I lífted, my linden-wood shining, Beowulf, who had slept elsewhere, heard what When the mighty women mustered their had happened, and asked if he might undertake force,

a second and more perilous adventure. Before And sent their spear-points spinning toward

going, the King describes to him the haunts of

the monster.) I'll give them back the bolt they sent,

“I have heard my people, the peasant folk 1345 A flying arrow full in the face.

Who house by the border and hold the fens,
Out little spear if in there thou be!

Say they have seen two creatures strange,
Sat a smith,

Huge march-stalkers,' haunting the moorland,
A hard blade hammered.

Wanderers outcast. One of the two
Out little spear if in there thou be!

Seemed to their sight to resemble a woman; 1350
Six smiths sat,

The other manlike, a monster misshapen,
Fighting spears forged they.

But huger in bulk than human kind,
Out spear, out!

Trod an exile's track of woe.
No longer stay in!

The folk of the fen in former days
If any iron be found herein,

Named him Grendel. Unknown his father, 1355 The work of witches, away it must melt. Or what his descent from demons obscure.

· The original charm includes directions (of which Lonely and waste is the land they inhabit, the selection given is one) for restoring fertility to land that was supposed to have been bewitched. The Charms

Wolf-cliffs wild and windy headlands, are one of the characteristic types of old English verse, Ledges of mist, where mountain torrents and are of great antiquity.

Downward plunge to dark abysses, 2 Name of an ancient goddess of fertility, perhaps analogous to the Roman goddess Demeter.

And flow unseen. Not far from here

2 Skin. Stitch, or rheumatism, was supposed to be caused by

3 The gods.

4 Of the gods. little spears or darts, shot by a god, elf, or hag.

1 Creatures that stalk along the Marches, or Borders.

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They leaned and watched the waters boil
With bloody froth. The band sat down,
While the war-horn sang its summons to battle.
They saw in the water sea-snakes a many, 1425
Wave-monsters weird, that wallowed about.
At the base of the cliff lay basking the nicors,
Who oft at sunrise ply seaward their journey,
To hunt on the ship-trails and scour the main,
Sea-beasts and serpents. Sudden they fled, 1430
Wrathful and grim, aroused by the hail
Of the battle-horn shrill. The chief of the Jutes,
With a bolt from his bow a beast did sunder
From life and sea-frolic; sent the keen shaft
Straight to his vitals. Slow he floated,
Upturned and dead at the top of the waves.
Eager they boarded their ocean-quarry;
With barb-hooked boar-spears the beast they

gaffed, Savagely broached him and brought him to

shore, Wave-plunger weird. The warriors viewed The grisly stranger. But straightway Beowulf Donned his corslet nor cared for his life. . . . 1442

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O'er the moorland in miles, a mere expands: Spray-frosted trees o'erspread it, and hang O’er the water with roots fast wedged in the

rocks. There nightly is seen, beneath the flood, A marvellous light. There lives not the man Has fathomed the depth of the dismal mere. Though the heather-stepper, the strong-horned

stag, Seek this cover, forspent with the chase, Tracked by the hounds, he will turn at bay, 1370 To die on the brink ere he brave the plunge, Hide his head in the haunted pool. Wan from its depths the waves are dashed, When wicked storms are stirred by the wind, And from sullen skies descends the rain. In thee is our hope of help once more. Not yet thou hast learned where leads the way To the lurking-hole of this hatcher of outrage. Seek, if thou dare, the dreaded spot! Richly I pay thee for risking this fight, With heirlooms golden and ancient rings, As I paid thee before, if thou come back alive.”

Beowulf spoke, the son of Ecgtheow: “Sorrow not gray-beard, nor grieve o'er thy

friend! Vengeance is better than bootless mourning. To each of us here the end must come Of life upon earth: let him who may Win glory ere death. I deem that best, The lot of the brave, when life is over. Rise, O realm-ward, ride we in haste, To track the hag that whelped this Grendel. I tell thee in truth, she may turn where she will, No cave of ocean nor cover of wood, No hole in the ground shall hide her from me. But one day more thy woe endure, And nurse thy hope as I know thou wilt.” Sprang to his feet the sage old king, Gave praise to God for the promise spoken. And now for Hrothgar a horse was bridled, A curly-maned steed. The king rode on, Bold on his charger. A band of shield-men Followed on foot. Afar they saw Footprints leading along the forest. They followed the tracks, and found she had

crossed Over the dark moor, dragging the body Of the goodliest thane that guarded with

Hrothgar Heorot Hall, and the home of the king. The well-born hero held the trail; Up rugged paths, o'er perilous ridges, Through passes narrow, an unknown way. 1410 By beetling crags, and caves of the nicors.? He went before with a chosen few, Warriors skilled, to scan the way. Sudden they came on a cluster of trees Overhanging a hoary rock, A gloomy grove; and gurgling below, A stir of waters all stained with blood. Sick at heart were the Scylding chiefs, Many a thane was thrilled with woe, For there they beheld the head of Æscherė 1420 Far beneath at the foot of the cliff.

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To Hrothgar spoke the son of Ecgtheow: 1473
“Remember O honored heir of Heälfdenė,
Now that I go, thou noble king,
Warriors' gold-friend, what we agreed on,
If I my life should lose in thy cause,
That thou wouldst stand in stead of my father,
Fulfil his office when I was gone.
Be guardian thou, to my thanes and kinsmen,
My faithful friends, if I fail to return. 1481
To Hygėlac gend, Hrothgar beloved,
The goodly gifts thou gavest to me.
May the Lord of the Jutes, when he looks on

this treasure,
May Hrethel's son, when he sees these gifts,
Know that I found a noble giver,
And joyed while I lived, in a generous lord.
This ancient heirloom to Unferth give,
To the far-famed warrior, my wondrous sword
Of matchless metal, I must with Hrunting : 1490
Glory gain, or go to my death."
After these words the Weder-Jute lord
Sprang to his task, nor staid for an answer.
Swiftly he sank 'neath the swirling flood;
'Twas an hour's time ere he touched the bot-
tom.

1495 Soon the sea-hag, savage and wild, Who had roamed through her watery realms at

will, For winters a hundred, was 'ware from below An earthling had entered her ocean domain. Quickly she reached and caught the hero; 1500 Grappled him grimly with gruesome claws. Yet he got no scratch, his skin was whole; His battle-sark shielded his body from harm. In vain she tried, with her crooked fingers, To tear the links of his close-locked mail. 1505 Away to her den the wolf-slut dragged Beowulf the bold, o'er the bottom ooze. Though eager to smite her, his arm was helpless.

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2 Sea-monsters, water-goblins.

3 The name of Beowulf's sword.

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