Beowulf, ll. 2864-2891

He who values truth can justly say
that the lord who granted you treasure,
gave you the war-dress which you yet wear --
when he bestowed helmet and mail-coat
to his men-at-arms gathered in the mead-hall --
the most splendid equipage a prince could give
and a soldier receive in any dominion --
I say that lord threw helmet and sword
away, wasted gold as if it were dirt.
Our king had little reason to boast
of his comrades at war; nonetheless the Lord God,
Wielder of Victories, allowed him vengeance,
alone with his sword, when he had need of courage.
I had but feeble means to shield
his life at battle, and so I strived
beyond my power to help my kinsman.
I struck repeatedly with my sword,
and the venomous thing weakened, fire streamed
less fiercely from its mouth. Yet few were the defenders
thronging the prince in his great peril.
Now your kindred shall forego all ceremony --
the granting of sword and cup relinquish,
all hope of joy; each man of your line
shall forfeit his title to inherited lands
when the extent of your cowardice --
the dishonor of your deeds -- is fully revealed
to high-ranking men. A true warrior
prefers death to a life of disgrace.


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