34 BEOWULF, GBENDEL AND HIS MOTHER
of enormous strength and size ; for we read later in the story that it required four men to carry his head when he was dead. He lived an evil life, and wandered about, a lone dweller in moors, marshes, and in the wilderness. Savage and fierce as he was, nothing exasperated him more than that the King and his people should ba so happy; the sound of joy and revelry within the Palace was to him as gall and wormwood. That very night, therefore, when the skald recited his ominous poem, Grendel left his fens and marshes, and came silently to the Palace, where he found the Danes all asleep. Thirty of them he killed, devouring fifteen in the hall itself, and carrying off the rest to the marshes. Despair there was and lamentation in the morning when the other Danes arose from sleep ; but none knew, or could even suggest, what was best to be done. For twelve years were the people grievously afflicted by the cruel Grendel, ' the grim stranger, the mighty haunter of the marshes, the dwelling of this monster race.' He persecuted them right sorely, nor would he have peace with any man of the Danish power. A dark, deadly shadow, he attacked alike tried warriors and youths, he ambushed and plotted, roaming the night long over the misty moors, contriving evil in his heart continually.
Matters, then, were at this pass, when a neighboui'ing King called Hygelac heard of the Danes' misfortunes. Hygelac reigned over the Jutes in Gotland, and he had a nephew called Beowulf, who, in common with the King and the rest of the people, was distressed to think of Hrothgar's troubles. So Beowulf made him ready a good sea-boat, took fourteen of the bravest men-at-arms as his comrades, and set sail to help Hrothgar and the Danes. When the Danish King was told of Beowulf's arrival, he was, as you may well suppose, only too delighted, and hailed him as a heaven-sent champion, for he already knew all about him, how valiant he was, and how strong; ' for,' said Hrothgar to his people,' it used to