“Now let me make no more vaunting speech. Ready to fight am I. Let me forth against the winged beast. Await ye here on the mount, clad in your coats of mail, your arms ready. Abide ye here until ye see which of us twain in safety cometh forth from the clash of battle.
“It is no enterprise for you, or for any common man. It is mine alone. Alone I needs must go against the wretch and prove myself a warrior. I must with courage win the gold, or else deadly, baleful war shall fiercely snatch me, your lord, from life.”
Then Beowulf arose. He was all clad in shining armor, his gold-decked helmet was upon his head, and taking his shield in hand he strode under the stony cliffs towards the cavern’s mouth. In the strength of his single arm he trusted against the fiery dragon.
No enterprise this for a coward.
HOW BEOWULF OVERCAME THE DRAGON
Beowulf left his comrades upon the rocky point jutting out into the sea, and alone he strode onward until he spied a great stone arch. From beneath the arch, from out the hillside, flowed a stream seething with fierce, hot fire. In this way the dragon guarded his lair, for it was impossible to pass such a barrier unhurt.
So upon the edge of this burning river Beowulf stood and called aloud in anger. Stout of heart and wroth against the winged beast was he.
The King’s voice echoed like a war-cry through the cavern. The dragon heard it and was aroused to fresh hate of man. For the guardian of the treasure-hoard knew well the sound of mortal voice. Now was there no long pause ere battle raged.
First from out the cavern flamed forth the breath of the winged beast. Hot sweat of battle rose from out the rock. The earth shook and growling thunder trembled through the air.
The dragon, ringed around with many-colored scales, was now hot for battle, and, as the hideous beast crept forth, Beowulf raised his mighty shield and rushed against him.
Already the King had drawn his sword. It was an ancient heirloom, keen of edge and bright. Many a time it had been dyed in blood; many a time it had won glory and victory.
But ere they closed, the mighty foes paused. Each knew the hate and deadly power of the other.
The mighty Prince, firm and watchful, stood guarded by his shield. The dragon, crouching as in ambush, awaited him.
Then suddenly like a flaming arch the dragon bent and towered, and dashed upon the Lord of the Goths. Up swung the arm of the hero, and dealt a mighty blow to the grisly, many-colored beast. But the famous sword was all too weak against such a foe. The edge turned and bit less strongly than its great king had need, for he was sore pressed. His shield, too, proved no strong shelter from the wrathful dragon.
The warlike blow made greater still the anger of the fiery foe. Now he belched forth flaming fire. All around fierce lightnings darted.