An Anglo Saxon Hoard (From Beowulf, trans Seamus Heaney)


The Geat captain saw treasure in abundance [Line - 1612]
but carried no spoils from those quarters
except for the head [of Grendal] and the inlaid sword-hilt
embossed with jewels; its blade had melted
and scroll work on it burnt, so scalding was the blood
of the poisonous fiend who perished there. [1617]

Then the golden hilt was handed over [1677]
to the old lord, a relic from long ago
for the venerable ruler. [1679]

There were many other heirlooms heaped inside the earth-house [2231]
because long ago, with deliberate care,
some forgotten person had deposited the whole
rich inheritance of a high-born race
in this ancient cache. Death had come
and taken them all in times gone by
and the one surviving witness of their fate,
the last veteran, could envisage only
the same fate for himself: he foresaw that his joy
in the treasure would be brief. [2241]

The hard helmet, hasped in with gold [2255]
will be stripped of its hoops......... [2256]

.....a treasure trove of astounding richness, [2757]
wall-hangings that were a wonder to behold,
glittering gold spread across the ground,
the dawn-scorching serpent's den
packed with goblets and vessels from the past,
tarnished and corroding. Rusty helmets
all eaten away. Artfully wrought
armbands everywhere. How easily can treasure
buried in the ground, gold hidden
however skilfully, escape any man!
And he saw too a standard, entirely of gold,
hanging high above the hoard,
A masterpiece of filigree; [2769]

One warrior stripped the other, [2985]
looted Ongentheow's iron mail-coat,
his hard sword-hilt, his helmet too,
and carried graith to King Hygelac;
he accepted the prize, promised fairly
that reward would come, and kept his word. [2990]
(Note, not his sword, but his sword-hilt) - Kevin Leahy

They let the ground keep that ancestral treasure, [3166]
gold under gravel, gone to earth,
as useless to men now as it ever was. [3168]

'Beowulf' trans. by Seamus Heaney, 1999, Faber and Faber ISBN 0-751-20113-X.