Herein To the Mead-Wench Words are Writ
My lady list, from my word-hoard hear
Of the spear-armed Dane, Scyld Scefing’s son,
Of Scandian shores the savior strong,
Swinger of swords whose shield shall not shatter,
The breast of my boat beats the whale-road white,
The tale of my triumphs the storm riders sing:
How the Wyrd Wielder Wise has clothed me with strength,
The Slinger of Seas that enfold the fair fields
Has hallowed my heart and my sword stained with gore.
A Wielder of Wonders, a Welkin-warrior,
A ring-giver great, weregild winner:
My enemies mighty my arm has hewn down,
My flag home a haven, my borders unbattled,
My mead freely flows and well-roasted the meat
In the hall of my fathers. There grow faithful sons;
Liegemen are loyal, the bane of my foes,
But bane of the sea wyrm, bane of the land wyrm,
The sky wyrm’s bane is the blessed Bear.
Bone cage of demons my sword split assunder
And heart of Hrothgar by my battle-boast hoisted:
That Heorothealed would be of the kin of Cain,
That house wild wight haunted, high on the hill.
Night walker was wary, dread death-dealer doughty,
Wan under welkin was the whelp of Cain.
Lief was he my liege to kill, my thane he lifted his maw unto,
Rent his bone-cage, blood ran rivers,
Swallowed him whole, even head and hands.
But my hand grasped him grim, my fingers fast held him—
No battle brand bore I, no war weapon wielded,
Yet still his soul stole I, his blood did I spill,
But deeds of might were far from finished.
Grendel’s arm I hoisted high, his hand on Heorot
A welcome sign was made. But he was naught to what was next;
The viler, viscious dam, the water wight, the elfin evil.
Beneath the abyss she dwelt, deep under the depths,
But swam I swift to her home, the hell-born hoard,
And fought her with a sword that there I found,
A mighty blade that hacked her hide, her life blood freed,
And with her perished, the greatest of its deeds done at death.
So now I stand here, and what ask you of me,
A slayer of demons, of dragons death-dealer?
Mightiest of men, king over coasts?
Full twenty men’s might in each of my hands,
And this is the task you are asking of me?
“Tell you what I’ve learned in class this semester?”
Where be the brood of Cain?
Where the enemies that plague thee?
Where the house that’s haunted? Where the demon spawn?
Is there no dragon in this domain? No hell-born beast?
No task worthy of my prowess? No death walking in darkness?
Ask not of my aid in this trifling task,
This womanish work, this infant’s assignment.
My lady noble: my flagon fill, my mead let flow—
A dearth of beasts must be in this land
For my platter’s bottom I now perceive—
Mayhap another cow to his maker and our meat-board
Might be sent. And I? My sword I shall sharpen
And of the sea-born serpents that slew I Nine—Nine!
Of the tally of ten my tale lacks but one—
Of the sea-born serpents that slew I nine
In the years bygone shall I speak to thee.