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Anonymous 13  Anonymous The Fire-Drake, from Beowulf Lines 2510–2709 Now Beowulf spoke his last battle-boast: “In boyhood I braved bitter clashes; still in old age I would seek out strife and gain glory guarding my folk if the man-bane comes from his cave to meet me.” Then he turned to his troop for the final time, bidding farewell to bold helmet-bearers, fast in friendship: “No sword would I wear, no weapon at all to ward off the worm if I knew how to fight this fiendish foe as I grappled with Grendel one bygone night. But here I shall find fierce battle-fire and breath envenomed, therefore I bear this mail-coat and shield. I shall not shy from standing my ground when I greet the hoard-guard, follow what will at the foot of his wall. I shall face the fiend with a firm heart. Let every man’s Ruler reckon my fate: words are worthless against the war-flyer. Bide by the barrow, safe in your byrnies, and watch, my warriors, which of us two will better bear the brunt of our clash. This war is not yours; it is meted to me, matching my strength, man against monster. I shall do this deed undaunted by death and shall get you gold or else get my ending, borne off in battle, the bane of your lord.” 14 Old English The hero arose, helmed and hardy, a war-king clad in shield and corslet. He strode strongly under the stone-cliff: no faint-hearted man, to face it unflinching! Stalwart soldier of so many marches, unshaken when shields were crushed in the clash, he saw between stiles an archway where steam burst like a boiling tide from the barrow, woeful for one close to the worm-hoard. He would not linger long unburned by the lurker or safely slip through the searing lair. Then a battle-cry broke from Beowulf’s breast as his rightful rage was roused for the reckoning. His challenge sounded under stark stone where the hateful hoard-guard heard in his hollow the clear-voiced call of a man coming. No quarter was claimed; no quarter given. First the beast’s breath blew hot from the barrow as battle-bellows boomed underground. The stone-house stormer swung up his shield at the ghastly guardian. Then the dragon’s grim heart kindled for conflict. Uncoiling, he came seeking the Stalwart; but the swordsman had drawn the keen-edged blade bequeathed him for combat, and each foe confronted the other with fear. His will unbroken, the warlord waited behind his tall shield, helm and hauberk. With fitful twistings the fire-drake hastened fatefully forward. His fender held high, Beowulf felt the blaze blister through hotter and sooner than he had foreseen. So for the first time fortune was failing the mighty man in the midst of a struggle. Anonymous 15  Wielding his sword he struck at the worm and his fabled blade bit to the bone through blazoned hide: bit and bounced back, no match for the foe in this moment of need. The peerless prince was hard-pressed in response, for his bootless blow had maddened the monster and fatal flames shot further than ever, lighting the land. No praise for the warlord’s prowess in battle: the blade he brandished had failed in the fray though forged from iron. No easy end for the son of Ecgetheow: against his will he would leave this world to dwell elsewhere, as every man must when his days are done. Swiftly the death-dealer moved to meet him. From the murderous breast bellows of breath belched fresh flames. Enfolded in fire, he who formerly ruled a whole realm had no one to help him hold off the heat, for his hand-picked band of princelings had fled, fearing to face the foe with their lord. Loving honor less than their lives, they hid in the holt. But one among them grieved for the Geats and balked at quitting his kinsman, the king. This one was Wiglaf, son of Weostan, beloved shield-bearer born in Scylf-land. Seeing his liege-lord suffering sorely with war-mask scorched by the searing onslaught, the thankful thane thought of the boons his kinsman bestowed: the splendid homestead and folk-rights his father formerly held. No shirker could stop him from seizing his shield 16 Old English of yellow linden and lifting the blade Weostan won when he...


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