| Stories of Beowulf Told to the Children|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|The Anglo-Saxon saga retold in excellent English prose, with the heroic qualities emphasized. Relates how Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons, came to Daneland and how he overcame Grendel, the ogre, and the waterwitch; also how the fire dragon warred with the Goth folk and how Beowulf fought his last fight. Ages 8-10 |
BEOWULF'S LAST REST
 Then was the heart of Wiglaf sad when he saw upon the
earth his dearest king lie still. His slayer, the
frightful Fire-Dragon, lay there too. No more would he
fly through the midnight air working deadly harm, no
more would he guard his treasure. Beowulf had conquered
him, but his victory was repaid in death.
Sorrowing, Wiglaf knelt beside his lord. He bathed his
face with water, he called to him to awake. But it was
of no avail. He could not, however much he longed, call
back his king to earth. No prayers could turn back the
doom which God the ruler had sent forth.
Now that the fight was over, it was not
 long before the
cowards, who during all the combat had forsaken their
king and sheltered in the wood, came forth. Dastard
faith breakers, ten of them together now came to the
place where Wiglaf knelt beside his king. They durst not
draw the sword to aid at this their liege lord's need.
But now ashamed, they came bearing their shields,
wearing their war-garments now that all need of them was
Then Wiglaf, sorrowful in soul, looked with anger at the
cowards. No soft words had he for the craven-hearted
"Lo," he cried, "he that would speak truth may well say
that the liege lord who gave you these war-garments in
which ye stand utterly castaway his gifts. Helmets and
coats of mail he gave to those he deemed most worthy.
But when war came upon him truly the king had little
cause to boast of his warriors. Yet the
 Lord of All, the
Ruler of Victories, granted him valour so that he
avenged himself alone with his sword. I could give him
in the combat little protection and aid. Yet I undertook
above my means to help my kinsman. Weak I am, yet when I
struck with my sword the Dragon's fire flamed less
fiercely. When I smote the destroyer, fire gushed less
violently forth from him.
"Too few defenders thronged round their prince when need
came. And now for you there shall be no more sharing of
treasure, no more giving of swords, no more joy in your
homes. Houseless and beggared shall ye wander when far
and wide the nobles shall hear of your flight, of your
base deed. Death is better for every warrior than a life
Then Wiglaf turned from the cowards in scorn. Up over
the sea cliff a troop of warriors had sat all day from
 awaiting the return of their king. To them
Wiglaf commanded that the issue of the fight should now
So a messenger rode to the cliff. Loud he spake so that
all might hear his baleful news. "Now is the kind Lord
of the Goth folk fast on his deathbed. He resteth on his
fatal couch through the Dragon's deed. By him lieth his
deadly foe done to death with sword-wounds. Beside
Beowulf, Wiglaf sits. One warrior over another lifeless
holdeth sorrowful ward 'gainst friend or foe.
"Now may the people of the Danes expect a time of war.
For as soon as the fall of the king be known among the
Franks and Frisians they will make battle-ready. Yea,
such is the deadly hate of men, that I ween from all
around they will attack us when they shall learn our
lord is lifeless. For he it was who
 defended our land
against the foe. He it was who kept safe both treasure
and realm with his wisdom and valour.
"Now it were best that with all speed we brought the
great king to the funeral pile. It is not meet that
treasure of little value be buried with the bold king.
For here lieth a house of treasure, of gold uncounted,
sadly bought with his life's blood. These the fire must
devour, the flame must enwrap. No warrior shall wear
bracelet or collar for remembrance. No fair maiden shall
deck her neck with the gold's sheen. Nay rather, sad of
mood, with golden ornaments laid aside, often shall they
tread a strange land now that our war leader has ceased
from laughter, from sport, and from song of joy. No
longer now shall sound of harp awaken the warriors; but
the hand that held the sword shall lie cold. The dark
 over the dead shall croak, he shall tell the eagle
how he sped with his meal, while the wolf spoiled the
carcasses of the slain."
Thus spake the bold warrior, bringer of evil tidings.
And now the troop all arose. Sadly and with welling
tears they went under the cliff-ways to behold the
They found upon the sand, lifeless and soulless, him who
before time had given them gifts. So was the end, and
the good chief was gone. He in death heroic had
There too they saw a more strange thing. Near the king
lay the Dragon all loathly along the plain. Fifty feet
long he lay scorched with his own fires, grim and
ghastly to look upon. He who of old joyed to fly through
the air in the night-time now lay fast in death. Never
more would he fly through the air, never more
 gloat in
his cave. By him stood cups and vessels, dishes and
precious swords, rusty and eaten away. They seemed as if
they had lain a thousand years in the earth.
Then Wiglaf lifted up his voice and spake. "Often must a
brave man endure sorrow for another, as it hath happened
with us. We could in no wise hold our king back from
this combat. The hoard here hath been dearly bought. I
have been within and beheld all the treasures of the
cave. As much as I could carry I bore out to my lord who
was yet living. Then many things spake he, the wise
king. He bade me greet you, prayed that ye would make a
lofty cairn, great and glorious, upon the coast here,
for he was a warrior most famous throughout all the
earth. Come now, let us hasten a second time to see and
seek the wonders within the cave. I will be your guide,
 ye shall see rings and piled gold such as ye have
gazed upon never before.
"Let the bier be made ready against our return. Then let
us bear our lord to the place where he shall long rest
in the peace of the All-Powerful."
Then did Wiglaf send commandment to all those who
possessed land, houses, and slaves, that they should
bring wood for the pile for the funeral of the good
"Now," he said, "shall the flame devour, the wan fire
and the flame shall grow strong, and shall destroy the
prince of warriors. He who so often in the thickest of
the fight awaited the storm of darts shall now depart
hence for evermore."
Then having given commandment that the people should
build the funeral pile, Wiglaf called seven of the best
of the king's thanes to him. With them he went into the
 Before them marched a warrior bearing in his hand a
flaming torch. And when they saw the treasure lying
around, gold and jewels in countless numbers, the thanes
marvelled greatly. Quickly they gathered of the hoard
and carried it forth. A great wagon they loaded with
twisted gold and all manner of precious stuffs, and
brought it to the funeral pile.
As for the winged beast which lay dead upon the plain,
they thrust it over the cliff into the sea below. There
he sank, and the waves closed over the dead guardian of
the treasure of which the cave was now all despoiled.
And now the aged warrior was laid upon a bier. Then with
bowed heads and lagging steps his thanes bore him to the
cliff where high above the sea the funeral pile was
Roundabout it was hung with helmets
 and with shields and
with bright coats of mail. And in the midst was laid the
great king, while the warriors mourned and wept for
their beloved lord.
Then the funeral pyre was lit. Great flames sprang
upward, dark clouds of smoke rolled up to the sky. The
roar of the flame was mingled with the weeping of the
Goth people, as with heavy hearts in woful mood they
mourned the death of their liege lord.
Then a dirge of sorrow was sung by an aged dame in
honour of Beowulf. Again and again she wailed forth her
sore dread of evil days to come. Much blood-shed, shame,
and captivity would come upon the land, she cried, now
that its lord was dead.
And as she wailed the fire flamed and roared until the
wood was all burned away. Then the great pyre sank
 in ashes: the body of the great king was all
consumed in flame.
Then did the Goth people build a high cairn upon the
hill where the fire had been. It was high and broad, and
might be seen for many miles by the travellers upon the
sea. For ten days they built up the beacon of the
war-renowned, famous king. They surrounded it with a
wall in the most honourable manner that wise men could
devise. Within the cairn they placed the rings and
bright jewels and all manner of precious ornaments which
they had taken from the Dragon's hoard. And thus they
left the great treasure to the earth to hold. Gold they
laid in the dust, where it yet remains to men as useless
as of old. Then round the cairn twelve war-chiefs slowly
rode. And as they rode they spoke and sang of their
They praised his valour, they sang of
 his manhood and
his courtesy. Even so it is fitting that a man should
praise his liege lord and love him.
Thus the Goth people wept for their fallen lord. His
comrades said that he was of all the kings of the earth
the best. Of men he was the mildest and the kindest, and
to his people the gentlest. Of all rulers he was most
worthy of praise.
Thus went the great king to his last rest.
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