Beowulf, lines 702-836. Now in the Longmans Anthology of British Literature. This excerpt was published on this site in 1999 by permission of the authors
Cunningly creeping, · a spectral stalkerslunk through the night · The spearmen were sleepingwho ought to have held · the high-horned house,all except one, for the Lord's willnow became known · no more would the murdererdrag under darkness · whomever he wished.Wrath was wakeful, watching in hatred;hot-hearted Beowulf · was bent upon battle.
Girt with God's anger, Grendel came glidingover the moors beneath misty mounds.The man-scather sought · someone to snatchfrom the high hall. He crept under clouduntil he caught sight · of the king's courtwhose gilded gables · he knew at a glance.He had often haunted · Hrothgar's house;but he never found · before or after,hardier hall-thanes · or harder luck.The joyless giant · drew near the door,which swiftly swung back · at a fingertip's touchthough bound and fastened · with fire-forged bars.The building's mouth · had been broken-open,and Grendel entered · with ill intent.Swollen with fury, he stalked over flagstonesand looked round the manse · where many men lay.An unlovely light · most like a flameflashed from his eyes, flaring through the hallat young soldiers dozing · shoulder to shoulder,comradely kindred. The cruel creature laughedin his murderous mind, thinking how manynow living would die · before the day dawned,how glutted with gore · he would guzzle his fill.It was not his fate · to finish the feasthe foresaw that night.
Soon the Stalwart,Hygelac's kinsman, · beheld how the horror,not one to be idle, went about evil.For his first feat · he suddenly seizeda sleeping soldier, slashed at the flesh,bit through bones · and lapped up the blood,greedily gorging · on gigantic gobbets.Swiftly he swallowed · those lifeless limbs,hands and feet whole; then he headed forwardwith open palm · to plunder the prone.One man angled · up on his elbow;the fiend soon found · he was facing a foewhose hand-grip was harder · than any otherhe ever had met · in all Middle-Earth.Cravenly cringing, coward at heart,he longed for a swift · escape to his lair,his bevy of devils. He never had knownfrom his earliest days · such awful anguish.
The captain, recalling · his speech to the king,straightaway stood · and hardened his hold.Fingers fractured. The fiend spun round;the soldier stepped closer. Grendel soughtsomehow to slip · that grasp and escape,flee to the fens; but his fingers were caughtin too fierce a grip. His foray had failed;he harm-wreaker rued · his raid on Heorot.From the hall of the Danes · a hellish dinbeset every stalwart · outside the stronghold,louder than laughter · of ale-sharing earls.A wonder it was · the wine-hall withstoodthis forceful affray · without falling to earth.That beautiful building · was firmly bondedby iron bands · forged with forethoughtinside and out. As some have told it,the struggle swept on · and slammed to the floormany mead-benches · massive with gold.No Scylding elders · ever imaginedthat any would harm · their elk-horned hall,raze what they wrought, · unless flames aroseto smother and swallow it. Awful new noisesburst from the building, unnerved the North Danes,each one and all · who heard those outcriesoutside the walls. Wailing in anguish,the hellish horror, hateful to God,sang his dismay, seized the gripof a man more mighty · than any then living.
That shielder of men · meant by no meansto let the death-dealer · leave with his life,a life worthless · to anyone elsewhere.Then the young soldiers · swung their old swordsagain and again · to save their guardian,their kingly comrade · however they could.Engaging with Grendel · and hoping to hew himfrom every side, they scarcely suspectedthat blades wielded · by worthy warriorsnever would cut · to the criminal's quick.The spell was spun · so strongly about himthat the finest iron · of any on earth,the sharpest sword-edge · left him unscathed.Still he was soon · to be stripped of his lifeand sent on a sore · sojourn to Hell.The strength of his sinews · would serve him no more;no more would he menace · mankind with his crimes,his grudge against God, for the high-hearted kinsmanof King Hygelac · had hold of his hand.Each found the other · loathsome while living;but the murderous man-bane · got a great woundas tendons were torn, shoulder shorn open,and bone-locks broken. Beowulf gainedglory in war; and Grendel went offbloody and bent · to the boggy hills,sorrowfully seeking · his dreary dwelling.Surely he sensed · his life-span was spent,his days upon days; but the Danes rejoiced:the wish was fulfilled · after fearsome warfare.
Wise and strong-willed, the one from afarhad cleansed Heorot, hall of Hrothgar.Great among Geats, he was glad of the workhe had done in darkness, his fame-winning feat,fulfilling his oath · to aid the East Danes,easing their anguish, healing the horrorthey suffered so long, no small distress.As token of triumph, the troop-leader hungthe shorn-off shoulder · and arm by its hand:the grip of Grendel · swung from the gable!