Then again the warlike King called to mind his ancient glories, again he struck with main strength with his good sword upon the monstrous head. Hate sped the blow.
But alas! as it descended the famous sword Naegling snapped asunder. Beowulf’s sword had failed him in the conflict, although it was an old and well-wrought blade. To him it was not granted that weapons should help him in battle. The hand that swung the sword was too strong. His might overtaxed every blade however wondrously the smith had welded it.
And now a third time the fell fire-dragon was roused to wrath. He rushed upon the King. Hot, and fiercely grim the great beast seized Beowulf’s neck in his horrid teeth. The hero’s life-blood gushed forth, the crimson stream darkly dyed his bright armor.
Then in the great King’s need his warrior showed skill and courage. Heeding not the flames from the awful mouth, Wiglaf struck the dragon below the neck. His hand was burned with the fire, but his sword dived deep into the monster’s body and from that moment the flames began to abate.
The horrid teeth relaxed their hold, and Beowulf, quickly recovering himself, drew his deadly knife. Battle-sharp and keen it was, and with it the hero gashed the dragon right in the middle.
The foe was conquered. Glowing in death he fell. They twain had destroyed the winged beast. Such should a warrior be, such a thane in need.
To the King it was a victorious moment. It was the crown of all his deeds.
Then began the wound which the fire-dragon had wrought him to burn and to swell. Beowulf soon found that baleful poison boiled in his heart. Well knew he that the end was nigh. Lost in deep thought he sat upon the mound and gazed wondering at the cave. Pillared and arched with stone-work it was within, wrought by giants and dwarfs of old time.
And to him came Wiglaf his dear warrior and tenderly bathed his wound with water.
Then spake Beowulf, in spite of his deadly wound he spake, and all his words were of the ending of his life, for he knew that his days of joy upon this earth were past.
“Had a son been granted to me, to him I should have left my war-garments. Fifty years have I ruled this people, and there has been no king of all the nations round who durst meet me in battle. I have known joys and sorrows, but no man have I betrayed, nor many false oaths have I sworn. For all this may I rejoice, though I be now sick with mortal wounds. The Ruler of Men may not upbraid me with treachery or murder of kinsmen when my soul shall depart from its body.
“But now, dear Wiglaf, go thou quickly to the hoard of gold which lieth under the hoary rock. The dragon lieth dead; now sleepeth he for ever, sorely wounded and bereft of his treasure. Then haste thee, Wiglaf, for I would see the ancient wealth, the gold treasure, the jewels, the curious gems. Haste thee to bring it hither; then after that I have seen it, I shall the more contentedly give up my life and the kingship that I so long have held.”