In their earlier religion there had been little to inspire cheerful hope, and the cloud of the earlier time seems still to throw its shadow upon them. All were under the law of an inexorable fate [footnotes Guthlac, 1350-1351]; every man, to use a phrase not yet dead, must ‘dree his weird.’ ‘Strive as he will,’ says one of their poems, ‘the weary-minded cannot withstand fate [Wanderer, 14b-15]; and with this feeling Beowulf enters upon his adventures, ‘Fate goes ever as it must’ [455b], he says, when about to encounter Grendel; and before his last, mortal encounter with the fire-drake, it is again the same: ‘it must be to us as fate shall decree’ [2526]. In Christian times the deity was ‘wyrda waldend,’ [‘ruler of fates’] but the sense of the inevitable doom is still alive. The old word yet remains which was applied to the man whose death-day had come. He was fæg, and says the poet:

wyrd ne meahte in fægum leng feorg gehealdan deore frætwe þonne him gedemed wæs.