JUDITH

[Unfortunately only the closing sections of this poem have survived. It is a work of remarkable power and beauty. The exultation with which the poet describes the overthrow of Holofernes and his host may have been inspired by the struggle of the English against the Danes.]

. . . She did not lose faith in his gifts on this far-spreading earth; then truly she found protection there in the famous Prince when she most needed the favour of the highest Judge, that He, the Lord of creation, should guard her against the greatest danger. The glorious Father in heaven bestowed that boon on her because she never failed in firm faith in the Almighty. Then Holofernes, as I heard, eagerly sent forth a bidding to wine, and dressed up dainties wondrously sumptuous. The prince of men bade all the eldest thanes come; the shieldbearing warriors attended in great haste; the chiefs of the people came to the mighty leader. It was on the fourth day that Judith, wise in thought, a woman of fairy beauty, first sought him.


X

Then they went to sit down at the banquet, exulting to carousal, all his companions in evil, bold corslet warriors. Often down the benches there deep bowls were borne, brimming beakers, too, and goblets for the guests. Daring shieldwarriors, doomed to death, laid hold on them, though the leader, the dread master of men, had no thought of his fate. Then Holofernes, gold-friend of men, grew merry with the pouring out of wine; he laughed and called aloud, clamoured and made outcries, so that the children of men could hear from afar how he of stern mood stormed and shouted; proud and fevered by mead, he often urged the guests on the benches to bear themselves bravely. Thus the wicked one, the stem giver of treasure, drenched his officers all day in wine, till they lay swooning; he vanquished all his veterans with drink as if they were stricken by death, void of all virtue. Thus did the prince

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry
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