Beowulf: Line2821-3182

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It is hard for Wiglaf to watch his king die. The poet says that few warriors could have held out and killed the dragon as Beowulf had done. The warriors who had fled now return, ashamed. Wiglaf tries to revive Beowulf with water, but he can do nothing because God has decreed that Beowulf should die.  

Wiglaf rebukes the other warriors. He says that when Beowulf gave them gifts and the best armor he had, he was just throwing weapons away, because these men were of no use when a battle broke out. Wiglaf says that when he went to help Beowulf, he felt new strength welling up in him. He then predicts a grim future for the Geats. They will lose everything as soon as princes from other lands learn what cowards they are.  

A messenger takes the news of Beowulf's death to the crowd of retainers that are waiting at the top of the cliff. He also tells them that soon there will be war with the Franks and the Frisians, who have been enemies of the Geats since the Geat king Hygelac raided their lands. Nor, says the messenger, with there be any peace with the Swedes, with whom the Geats have a history of enmity. The Swede Ongentheow once cornered a Geat force and threatened to annihilate it, until Hygelac arrived with a relief force. In the ensuing battle, Ongentheow was struck by Wulf, and then killed by Wulf's brother, Eofor. The Geats were victorious. When they returned home, Hygelac gave Wulf and Eofor gifts worth a fortune, as well as land.  

The messenger is convinced that the feud with the Swedes will continue when the Swedes hear of Beowulf's death. He then says they must go to prepare the royal funeral pyre, burning the body of Beowulf with much treasure.  

Going to the scene of the battle, they find the dragon lying on the ground facing Beowulf. The dragon is fifty feet long. The riches he guarded are piled up beside him.  

Wiglaf ponders Beowulf's fate. Nothing had been able to stop Beowulf meeting his destiny. The treasure has been retrieved, but the price paid is high. Wiglaf then reports on Beowulf's last wishes, that a barrow be built in a commanding position, as a memorial to him.  

Wiglaf says they are to look once more on the hoard of treasure and then make a bier for Beowulf. He gives orders for the funeral pyre, and selects seven warriors to go with him to collect the remainder of the treasure. They throw the dragon over the cliff-top.  

The Geats build a funeral pyre for Beowulf and place his body in the middle of it. The pyre is lit. A Geat woman sings out in grief for Beowulf. She fears the disasters that may happen to the Geats now that Beowulf is gone.  

The Geats construct a mound on a headland. In ten days the work is done. They bury in the barrow much of the treasure they found. Twelve warriors ride around the tomb, chanting dirges. They praise Beowulf's heroic nature and his exploits. The Geats mourn for Beowulf, the most gracious and kind of all the kings on earth, and the most eager to win fame.  

Beowulf ends on an ominous note. There is a sense that an era has passed for the Geats, and that the future is grim and uncertain: "So it is goodbye now to all you know and love" (line 2884), says Wiglaf to the other warriors.  

The end of the epic mirrors the beginning, in that it deals with the death of a revered king and describes burial rites. There are some marked differences, however. The body of Shield Sheafson was put out to sea in a boat, while Beowulf was cremated and his ashes buried under a barrow. Perhaps the Geats had different funeral rites than the Danes, or perhaps customs had changed in the four generations that separated the two heroes. But in death, the two kings did at least have one thing in common: they were both dispatched with their treasure.  

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