Beowulf, lines 1308-1382. Now in the Longmans Anthology of British Literature. This excerpt was published on this site in 1999 by permission of the authors
It was grim for the king, gray with age,to learn his old thane · was no longer living.Swiftly he sent · servants to fetchbattle-blessed · Beowulf early from bedtogether with all · the great-hearted Geats.He marched in their midst, went where wisdomwas wondering whether · the All-Wielderever would alter · this spell of ill-fortune.That war-worthy soldier · strode up the floorand timbers dinned · with the tread of his troop.He spoke soberly · after the summons,asking how soundly · the sovereign had slept.
Hrothgar answered, head of his house."Ask not of ease! Anguish has wakenedagain for the Danes. Aeschere is dead.He was Yrmenlaf's · elder brother,my rune-reader · and keeper of counsel,my shoulder's shielder, warder in warwhen swordsmen struck · at boar-headed helms.Whatever an honored · earl ought to be,such was Aeschere. A sleepless evilhas slipped into Heorot, seized and strangled.No one knows where · she will wander now,glad of the gory · trophy she takes,her fine fodder. So she requitesher kinsman's killer · for yesterday's deed:you grabbed Grendel · hard in your hand-grip.He plagued and plundered · my people too long.His life forfeit, he fell in the fray;but now a second · mighty man-scathercomes to carry · the feud further,as many a thane · must mournfully thinkseeing his sovereign · stricken with griefat the slaying of one · who served so well.
"I have heard spokesmen · speak in my hall,country-folk saying · they sometimes spotteda pair of prodigies · prowling the moors,evil outcasts, walkers of wastelands.One, they descried, had the semblance of woman;the other, ill-shapen, an aspect of mantrudging his track, ever an exile,though superhuman · in stature and strength.In bygone days · the border-dwellerscalled him 'Grendel.' What creature begot him,what nameless spirit, no one could say.The two of them trek · untraveled country:wolf-haunted heights · and windy headlands,the frightful fen-path · where falling torrentsdive into darkness · stream beneath stoneamid folded mountains. That mere is not far,as miles are measured. About it there broodsa forest of fir trees · frosted with mist.Hedges of wood-roots · hem in the waterwhere each evening · fireglow flickersforth on the flood, a sinister sight.That pool is unplumbed · by wits of the wise;but the heath-striding hart · hunted by hounds,the strong-antlered stag · seeking a thicket,running for cover, would rather be killedthan bed on its bank. It is no pleasant placewhere water-struck waves · are whipped into clouds,surging and storming, swept by the winds,until Heaven is hidden · and the skies weep.Now you alone · can relieve our anguish:look, if you will, at the lay of the land;and seek, if you dare, that dreadful dalewhere the she-demon dwells. Finish this feud,and I shall reward you · with the wealth of ages,twisted-gold treasures, if you return."