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{The famous race of Spear-Danes.}
Lo! the Spear-Danes' glory through splendid achievements
The folk-kings' former fame we have heard of,
How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle.
{Scyld, their mighty king, in honor of whom they are often called
Scyldings. He is the great-grandfather of Hrothgar, so prominent in the
Oft Scyld the Scefing from scathers in numbers
5 From many a people their mead-benches tore.
Since first he found him friendless and wretched,
The earl had had terror: comfort he got for it,
Waxed 'neath the welkin, world-honor gained,
Till all his neighbors o'er sea were compelled to
10 Bow to his bidding and bring him their tribute:
An excellent atheling! After was borne him
{A son is born to him, who receives the name of Beowulf--a name afterwards
made so famous by the hero of the poem.}
A son and heir, young in his dwelling,
Whom God-Father sent to solace the people.
He had marked the misery malice had caused them,
15 [1]That reaved of their rulers they wretched had erstwhile[2]
Long been afflicted. The Lord, in requital,
Wielder of Glory, with world-honor blessed him.
Famed was Beowulf, far spread the glory
Of Scyld's great son in the lands of the Danemen.
{The ideal Teutonic king lavishes gifts on his vassals.}
20 So the carle that is young, by kindnesses rendered
The friends of his father, with fees in abundance
Must be able to earn that when age approacheth
Eager companions aid him requitingly,
When war assaults him serve him as liegemen:
25 By praise-worthy actions must honor be got
'Mong all of the races. At the hour that was fated
{Scyld dies at the hour appointed by Fate.}
Scyld then departed to the All-Father's keeping
Warlike to wend him; away then they bare him
To the flood of the current, his fond-loving comrades,
30 As himself he had bidden, while the friend of the Scyldings
Word-sway wielded, and the well-lovèd land-prince
Long did rule them.[3] The ring-stemmèd vessel,
Bark of the atheling, lay there at anchor,
Icy in glimmer and eager for sailing;
{By his own request, his body is laid on a vessel and wafted seaward.}
35 The belovèd leader laid they down there,
Giver of rings, on the breast of the vessel,
The famed by the mainmast. A many of jewels,
Of fretted embossings, from far-lands brought over,
Was placed near at hand then; and heard I not ever
40 That a folk ever furnished a float more superbly
With weapons of warfare, weeds for the battle,
Bills and burnies; on his bosom sparkled
Many a jewel that with him must travel
On the flush of the flood afar on the current.
45 And favors no fewer they furnished him soothly,
Excellent folk-gems, than others had given him
{He leaves Daneland on the breast of a bark.}
Who when first he was born outward did send him
Lone on the main, the merest of infants:
And a gold-fashioned standard they stretched under heaven
[3] 50 High o'er his head, let the holm-currents bear him,
Seaward consigned him: sad was their spirit,
Their mood very mournful. Men are not able
{No one knows whither the boat drifted.}
Soothly to tell us, they in halls who reside,[4]
Heroes under heaven, to what haven he hied.
[1] For the 'Þæt' of verse 15, Sievers suggests 'Þá' (= which). If
this be accepted, the sentence 'He had ... afflicted' will read: _He_
(_i.e._ God) _had perceived the malice-caused sorrow which they,
lordless, had formerly long endured_.
[2] For 'aldor-léase' (15) Gr. suggested 'aldor-ceare': _He perceived
their distress, that they formerly had suffered life-sorrow a long
[3] A very difficult passage. 'Áhte' (31) has no object. H. supplies
'geweald' from the context; and our translation is based upon this
assumption, though it is far from satisfactory. Kl. suggests
'lændagas' for 'lange': _And the beloved land-prince enjoyed (had) his
transitory days (i.e. lived)_. B. suggests a dislocation; but this is
a dangerous doctrine, pushed rather far by that eminent scholar.
[4] The reading of the H.-So. text has been quite closely followed;
but some eminent scholars read 'séle-rædenne' for 'sele-rædende.' If
that be adopted, the passage will read: _Men cannot tell us, indeed,
the order of Fate, etc._ 'Sele-rædende' has two things to support it:
(1) v. 1347; (2) it affords a parallel to 'men' in v. 50.
{Beowulf succeeds his father Scyld}
In the boroughs then Beowulf, bairn of the Scyldings,
Belovèd land-prince, for long-lasting season
Was famed mid the folk (his father departed,
The prince from his dwelling), till afterward sprang
5 Great-minded Healfdene; the Danes in his lifetime
He graciously governed, grim-mooded, agèd.
{Healfdene's birth.}
Four bairns of his body born in succession
Woke in the world, war-troopers' leader
Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halga the good;
10 Heard I that Elan was Ongentheow's consort,
{He has three sons--one of them, Hrothgar--and a daughter named Elan.
Hrothgar becomes a mighty king.}
The well-beloved bedmate of the War-Scylfing leader.
Then glory in battle to Hrothgar was given,
Waxing of war-fame, that willingly kinsmen
Obeyed his bidding, till the boys grew to manhood,
15 A numerous band. It burned in his spirit
To urge his folk to found a great building,
A mead-hall grander than men of the era
{He is eager to build a great hall in which he may feast his retainers}
Ever had heard of, and in it to share
With young and old all of the blessings
20 The Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers.
Then the work I find afar was assigned
[4] To many races in middle-earth's regions,
To adorn the great folk-hall. In due time it happened
Early 'mong men, that 'twas finished entirely,
25 The greatest of hall-buildings; Heorot he named it
{The hall is completed, and is called Heort, or Heorot.}
Who wide-reaching word-sway wielded 'mong earlmen.
His promise he brake not, rings he lavished,
Treasure at banquet. Towered the hall up
High and horn-crested, huge between antlers:
30 It battle-waves bided, the blasting fire-demon;
Ere long then from hottest hatred must sword-wrath
Arise for a woman's husband and father.
Then the mighty war-spirit[1] endured for a season,
{The Monster Grendel is madly envious of the Danemen's joy.}
Bore it bitterly, he who bided in darkness,
35 That light-hearted laughter loud in the building
Greeted him daily; there was dulcet harp-music,
Clear song of the singer. He said that was able
{[The course of the story is interrupted by a short reference to some old
account of the creation.]}
To tell from of old earthmen's beginnings,
That Father Almighty earth had created,
40 The winsome wold that the water encircleth,
Set exultingly the sun's and the moon's beams
To lavish their lustre on land-folk and races,
And earth He embellished in all her regions
With limbs and leaves; life He bestowed too
45 On all the kindreds that live under heaven.
{The glee of the warriors is overcast by a horrible dread.}
So blessed with abundance, brimming with joyance,
The warriors abided, till a certain one gan to
Dog them with deeds of direfullest malice,
A foe in the hall-building: this horrible stranger[2]
50 Was Grendel entitled, the march-stepper famous
Who[3] dwelt in the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness;
The wan-mooded being abode for a season
[5] In the land of the giants, when the Lord and Creator
Had banned him and branded. For that bitter murder,
55 The killing of Abel, all-ruling Father
{Cain is referred to as a progenitor of Grendel, and of monsters in
The kindred of Cain crushed with His vengeance;
In the feud He rejoiced not, but far away drove him
From kindred and kind, that crime to atone for,
Meter of Justice. Thence ill-favored creatures,
60 Elves and giants, monsters of ocean,
Came into being, and the giants that longtime
Grappled with God; He gave them requital.
[1] R. and t. B. prefer 'ellor-gæst' to 'ellen-gæst' (86): _Then the
stranger from afar endured, etc._
[2] Some authorities would translate '_demon_' instead of
[3] Some authorities arrange differently, and render: _Who dwelt in
the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness, the land of the
{Grendel attacks the sleeping heroes}
When the sun was sunken, he set out to visit
The lofty hall-building, how the Ring-Danes had used it
For beds and benches when the banquet was over.
Then he found there reposing many a noble
5 Asleep after supper; sorrow the heroes,[1]
Misery knew not. The monster of evil
Greedy and cruel tarried but little,
{He drags off thirty of them, and devours them}
Fell and frantic, and forced from their slumbers
Thirty of thanemen; thence he departed
10 Leaping and laughing, his lair to return to,
With surfeit of slaughter sallying homeward.
In the dusk of the dawning, as the day was just breaking,
Was Grendel's prowess revealed to the warriors:
{A cry of agony goes up, when Grendel's horrible deed is fully realized.}
Then, his meal-taking finished, a moan was uplifted,
15 Morning-cry mighty. The man-ruler famous,
The long-worthy atheling, sat very woful,
Suffered great sorrow, sighed for his liegemen,
[6] When they had seen the track of the hateful pursuer,
The spirit accursèd: too crushing that sorrow,
{The monster returns the next night.}
20 Too loathsome and lasting. Not longer he tarried,
But one night after continued his slaughter
Shameless and shocking, shrinking but little
From malice and murder; they mastered him fully.
He was easy to find then who otherwhere looked for
25 A pleasanter place of repose in the lodges,
A bed in the bowers. Then was brought to his notice
Told him truly by token apparent
The hall-thane's hatred: he held himself after
Further and faster who the foeman did baffle.
30 [2]So ruled he and strongly strove against justice
Lone against all men, till empty uptowered
{King Hrothgar's agony and suspense last twelve years.}
The choicest of houses. Long was the season:
Twelve-winters' time torture suffered
The friend of the Scyldings, every affliction,
35 Endless agony; hence it after[3] became
Certainly known to the children of men
Sadly in measures, that long against Hrothgar
Grendel struggled:--his grudges he cherished,
Murderous malice, many a winter,
40 Strife unremitting, and peacefully wished he
[4]Life-woe to lift from no liegeman at all of
The men of the Dane-folk, for money to settle,
No counsellor needed count for a moment
[7] On handsome amends at the hands of the murderer;
{Grendel is unremitting in his persecutions.}
45 The monster of evil fiercely did harass,
The ill-planning death-shade, both elder and younger,
Trapping and tricking them. He trod every night then
The mist-covered moor-fens; men do not know where
Witches and wizards wander and ramble.
50 So the foe of mankind many of evils
Grievous injuries, often accomplished,
Horrible hermit; Heort he frequented,
Gem-bedecked palace, when night-shades had fallen
{God is against the monster.}
(Since God did oppose him, not the throne could he touch,[5]
55 The light-flashing jewel, love of Him knew not).
'Twas a fearful affliction to the friend of the Scyldings
{The king and his council deliberate in vain.}
Soul-crushing sorrow. Not seldom in private
Sat the king in his council; conference held they
What the braves should determine 'gainst terrors unlooked for.
{They invoke the aid of their gods.}
60 At the shrines of their idols often they promised
Gifts and offerings, earnestly prayed they
The devil from hell would help them to lighten
Their people's oppression. Such practice they used then,
Hope of the heathen; hell they remembered
65 In innermost spirit, God they knew not,
{The true God they do not know.}
Judge of their actions, All-wielding Ruler,
No praise could they give the Guardian of Heaven,
The Wielder of Glory. Woe will be his who
Through furious hatred his spirit shall drive to
70 The clutch of the fire, no comfort shall look for,
Wax no wiser; well for the man who,
Living his life-days, his Lord may face
And find defence in his Father's embrace!
[1] The translation is based on 'weras,' adopted by H.-So.--K. and Th.
read 'wera' and, arranging differently, render 119(2)-120: _They knew
not sorrow, the wretchedness of man, aught of misfortune_.--For
'unhælo' (120) R. suggests 'unfælo': _The uncanny creature, greedy and
cruel, etc_.
[2] S. rearranges and translates: _So he ruled and struggled unjustly,
one against all, till the noblest of buildings stood useless (it was a
long while) twelve years' time: the friend of the Scyldings suffered
distress, every woe, great sorrows, etc_.
[3] For 'syððan,' B. suggests 'sárcwidum': _Hence in mournful words it
became well known, etc_. Various other words beginning with 's' have
been conjectured.
[4] The H.-So. glossary is very inconsistent in referring to this
passage.--'Sibbe' (154), which H.-So. regards as an instr., B. takes
as accus., obj. of 'wolde.' Putting a comma after Deniga, he renders:
_He did not desire peace with any of the Danes, nor did he wish to
remove their life-woe, nor to settle for money_.
[5] Of this difficult passage the following interpretations among
others are given: (1) Though Grendel has frequented Heorot as a demon,
he could not become ruler of the Danes, on account of his hostility to
God. (2) Hrothgar was much grieved that Grendel had not appeared
before his throne to receive presents. (3) He was not permitted to
devastate the hall, on account of the Creator; _i.e._ God wished to
make his visit fatal to him.--Ne ... wisse (169) W. renders: _Nor had
he any desire to do so_; 'his' being obj. gen. = danach.
{Hrothgar sees no way of escape from the persecutions of Grendel.}
So Healfdene's kinsman constantly mused on
His long-lasting sorrow; the battle-thane clever
Was not anywise able evils to 'scape from:
Too crushing the sorrow that came to the people,
5 Loathsome and lasting the life-grinding torture,
{Beowulf, the Geat, hero of the poem, hears of Hrothgar's sorrow, and
resolves to go to his assistance.}
Greatest of night-woes. So Higelac's liegeman,
Good amid Geatmen, of Grendel's achievements
Heard in his home:[1] of heroes then living
He was stoutest and strongest, sturdy and noble.
10 He bade them prepare him a bark that was trusty;
He said he the war-king would seek o'er the ocean,
The folk-leader noble, since he needed retainers.
For the perilous project prudent companions
Chided him little, though loving him dearly;
15 They egged the brave atheling, augured him glory.
{With fourteen carefully chosen companions, he sets out for Dane-land.}
The excellent knight from the folk of the Geatmen
Had liegemen selected, likest to prove them
Trustworthy warriors; with fourteen companions
The vessel he looked for; a liegeman then showed them,
20 A sea-crafty man, the bounds of the country.
Fast the days fleeted; the float was a-water,
The craft by the cliff. Clomb to the prow then
Well-equipped warriors: the wave-currents twisted
The sea on the sand; soldiers then carried
25 On the breast of the vessel bright-shining jewels,
Handsome war-armor; heroes outshoved then,
Warmen the wood-ship, on its wished-for adventure.
{The vessel sails like a bird}
The foamy-necked floater fanned by the breeze,
Likest a bird, glided the waters,
{In twenty four hours they reach the shores of Hrothgar's dominions}
30 Till twenty and four hours thereafter
The twist-stemmed vessel had traveled such distance
That the sailing-men saw the sloping embankments,
The sea cliffs gleaming, precipitous mountains,
Nesses enormous: they were nearing the limits
35 At the end of the ocean.[2] Up thence quickly
The men of the Weders clomb to the mainland,
Fastened their vessel (battle weeds rattled,
War burnies clattered), the Wielder they thanked
That the ways o'er the waters had waxen so gentle.
{They are hailed by the Danish coast guard}
40 Then well from the cliff edge the guard of the Scyldings
Who the sea-cliffs should see to, saw o'er the gangway
Brave ones bearing beauteous targets,
Armor all ready, anxiously thought he,
Musing and wondering what men were approaching.
45 High on his horse then Hrothgar's retainer
Turned him to coastward, mightily brandished
His lance in his hands, questioned with boldness.
{His challenge}
"Who are ye men here, mail-covered warriors
Clad in your corslets, come thus a-driving
50 A high riding ship o'er the shoals of the waters,
[3]And hither 'neath helmets have hied o'er the ocean?
[10] I have been strand-guard, standing as warden,
Lest enemies ever anywise ravage
Danish dominions with army of war-ships.
55 More boldly never have warriors ventured
Hither to come; of kinsmen's approval,
Word-leave of warriors, I ween that ye surely
{He is struck by Beowulf's appearance.}
Nothing have known. Never a greater one
Of earls o'er the earth have _I_ had a sight of
60 Than is one of your number, a hero in armor;
No low-ranking fellow[4] adorned with his weapons,
But launching them little, unless looks are deceiving,
And striking appearance. Ere ye pass on your journey
As treacherous spies to the land of the Scyldings
65 And farther fare, I fully must know now
What race ye belong to. Ye far-away dwellers,
Sea-faring sailors, my simple opinion
Hear ye and hearken: haste is most fitting
Plainly to tell me what place ye are come from."
[1] 'From hám' (194) is much disputed. One rendering is: _Beowulf,
being away from home, heard of Hrothgar's troubles, etc_. Another,
that adopted by S. and endorsed in the H.-So. notes, is: _B. heard
from his neighborhood (neighbors),_ i.e. _in his home, etc_. A third
is: _B., being at home, heard this as occurring away from home_. The
H.-So. glossary and notes conflict.
[2] 'Eoletes' (224) is marked with a (?) by H.-So.; our rendering
simply follows his conjecture.--Other conjectures as to 'eolet' are:
(1) _voyage_, (2) _toil_, _labor_, (3) _hasty journey_.
[3] The lacuna of the MS at this point has been supplied by various
conjectures. The reading adopted by H.-So. has been rendered in the
above translation. W., like H.-So., makes 'ic' the beginning of a new
sentence, but, for 'helmas bæron,' he reads 'hringed stefnan.' This
has the advantage of giving a parallel to 'brontne ceol' instead of a
kenning for 'go.'--B puts the (?) after 'holmas', and begins a new
sentence at the middle of the line. Translate: _What warriors are ye,
clad in armor, who have thus come bringing the foaming vessel over the
water way, hither over the seas? For some time on the wall I have been
coast guard, etc_. S. endorses most of what B. says, but leaves out
'on the wall' in the last sentence. If W.'s 'hringed stefnan' be
accepted, change line 51 above to, _A ring-stemmed vessel hither
[4] 'Seld-guma' (249) is variously rendered: (1) _housecarle_; (2)
_home-stayer_; (3) _common man_. Dr. H. Wood suggests _a man-at-arms
in another's house_.
{Beowulf courteously replies.}
The chief of the strangers rendered him answer,
War-troopers' leader, and word-treasure opened:
{We are Geats.}
"We are sprung from the lineage of the people of Geatland,
And Higelac's hearth-friends. To heroes unnumbered
{My father Ecgtheow was well-known in his day.}
5 My father was known, a noble head-warrior
Ecgtheow titled; many a winter
He lived with the people, ere he passed on his journey,
Old from his dwelling; each of the counsellors
Widely mid world-folk well remembers him.
{Our intentions towards King Hrothgar are of the kindest.}
10 We, kindly of spirit, the lord of thy people,
The son of King Healfdene, have come here to visit,
[11] Folk-troop's defender: be free in thy counsels!
To the noble one bear we a weighty commission,
The helm of the Danemen; we shall hide, I ween,
{Is it true that a monster is slaying Danish heroes?}
15 Naught of our message. Thou know'st if it happen,
As we soothly heard say, that some savage despoiler,
Some hidden pursuer, on nights that are murky
By deeds very direful 'mid the Danemen exhibits
Hatred unheard of, horrid destruction
20 And the falling of dead. From feelings least selfish
{I can help your king to free himself from this horrible creature.}
I am able to render counsel to Hrothgar,
How he, wise and worthy, may worst the destroyer,
If the anguish of sorrow should ever be lessened,[1]
Comfort come to him, and care-waves grow cooler,
25 Or ever hereafter he agony suffer
And troublous distress, while towereth upward
The handsomest of houses high on the summit."
{The coast-guard reminds Beowulf that it is easier to say than to do.}
Bestriding his stallion, the strand-watchman answered,
The doughty retainer: "The difference surely
30 'Twixt words and works, the warlike shield-bearer
Who judgeth wisely well shall determine.
This band, I hear, beareth no malice
{I am satisfied of your good intentions, and shall lead you to the
To the prince of the Scyldings. Pass ye then onward
With weapons and armor. I shall lead you in person;
35 To my war-trusty vassals command I shall issue
To keep from all injury your excellent vessel,
{Your boat shall be well cared for during your stay here.}
Your fresh-tarred craft, 'gainst every opposer
Close by the sea-shore, till the curved-neckèd bark shall
Waft back again the well-beloved hero
40 O'er the way of the water to Weder dominions.
{He again compliments Beowulf.}
To warrior so great 'twill be granted sure
In the storm of strife to stand secure."
Onward they fared then (the vessel lay quiet,
The broad-bosomed bark was bound by its cable,
[12] 45 Firmly at anchor); the boar-signs glistened[2]
Bright on the visors vivid with gilding,
Blaze-hardened, brilliant; the boar acted warden.
The heroes hastened, hurried the liegemen,
{The land is perhaps rolling.}
Descended together, till they saw the great palace,
50 The well-fashioned wassail-hall wondrous and gleaming:
{Heorot flashes on their view.}
'Mid world-folk and kindreds that was widest reputed
Of halls under heaven which the hero abode in;
Its lustre enlightened lands without number.
Then the battle-brave hero showed them the glittering
55 Court of the bold ones, that they easily thither
Might fare on their journey; the aforementioned warrior
Turning his courser, quoth as he left them:
{The coast-guard, having discharged his duty, bids them God-speed.}
"'Tis time I were faring; Father Almighty
Grant you His grace, and give you to journey
60 Safe on your mission! To the sea I will get me
'Gainst hostile warriors as warden to stand."
[1] 'Edwendan' (280) B. takes to be the subs. 'edwenden' (cf. 1775);
and 'bisigu' he takes as gen. sing., limiting 'edwenden': _If
reparation for sorrows is ever to come_. This is supported by t.B.
[2] Combining the emendations of B. and t.B., we may read: _The
boar-images glistened ... brilliant, protected the life of the
war-mooded man_. They read 'ferh-wearde' (305) and 'gúðmódgum men'
The highway glistened with many-hued pebble,
A by-path led the liegemen together.
[1]Firm and hand-locked the war-burnie glistened,
The ring-sword radiant rang 'mid the armor
5 As the party was approaching the palace together
{They set their arms and armor against the wall.}
In warlike equipments. 'Gainst the wall of the building
Their wide-fashioned war-shields they weary did set then,
[13] Battle-shields sturdy; benchward they turned then;
Their battle-sarks rattled, the gear of the heroes;
10 The lances stood up then, all in a cluster,
The arms of the seamen, ashen-shafts mounted
With edges of iron: the armor-clad troopers
{A Danish hero asks them whence and why they are come.}
Were decked with weapons. Then a proud-mooded hero
Asked of the champions questions of lineage:
15 "From what borders bear ye your battle-shields plated,
Gilded and gleaming, your gray-colored burnies,
Helmets with visors and heap of war-lances?--
To Hrothgar the king I am servant and liegeman.
'Mong folk from far-lands found I have never
{He expresses no little admiration for the strangers.}
20 Men so many of mien more courageous.
I ween that from valor, nowise as outlaws,
But from greatness of soul ye sought for King Hrothgar."
{Beowulf replies.}
Then the strength-famous earlman answer rendered,
The proud-mooded Wederchief replied to his question,
{We are Higelac's table-companions, and bear an important commission to
your prince.}
25 Hardy 'neath helmet: "Higelac's mates are we;
Beowulf hight I. To the bairn of Healfdene,
The famous folk-leader, I freely will tell
To thy prince my commission, if pleasantly hearing
He'll grant we may greet him so gracious to all men."
30 Wulfgar replied then (he was prince of the Wendels,
His boldness of spirit was known unto many,
His prowess and prudence): "The prince of the Scyldings,
{Wulfgar, the thane, says that he will go and ask Hrothgar whether he will
see the strangers.}
The friend-lord of Danemen, I will ask of thy journey,
The giver of rings, as thou urgest me do it,
35 The folk-chief famous, and inform thee early
What answer the good one mindeth to render me."
He turned then hurriedly where Hrothgar was sitting,
[2]Old and hoary, his earlmen attending him;
The strength-famous went till he stood at the shoulder
40 Of the lord of the Danemen, of courteous thanemen
The custom he minded. Wulfgar addressed then
His friendly liegelord: "Folk of the Geatmen
{He thereupon urges his liegelord to receive the visitors courteously.}
O'er the way of the waters are wafted hither,
Faring from far-lands: the foremost in rank
45 The battle-champions Beowulf title.
They make this petition: with thee, O my chieftain,
To be granted a conference; O gracious King Hrothgar,
Friendly answer refuse not to give them!
{Hrothgar, too, is struck with Beowulf's appearance.}
In war-trappings weeded worthy they seem
50 Of earls to be honored; sure the atheling is doughty
Who headed the heroes hitherward coming."
[1] Instead of the punctuation given by H.-So, S. proposed to insert a
comma after 'scír' (322), and to take 'hring-íren' as meaning
'ring-mail' and as parallel with 'gúð-byrne.' The passage would then
read: _The firm and hand-locked war-burnie shone, bright ring-mail,
rang 'mid the armor, etc_.
[2] Gr. and others translate 'unhár' by 'bald'; _old and bald_.
{Hrothgar remembers Beowulf as a youth, and also remembers his father.}
Hrothgar answered, helm of the Scyldings:
"I remember this man as the merest of striplings.
His father long dead now was Ecgtheow titled,
Him Hrethel the Geatman granted at home his
5 One only daughter; his battle-brave son
Is come but now, sought a trustworthy friend.
Seafaring sailors asserted it then,
{Beowulf is reported to have the strength of thirty men.}
Who valuable gift-gems of the Geatmen[1] carried
As peace-offering thither, that he thirty men's grapple
10 Has in his hand, the hero-in-battle.
{God hath sent him to our rescue.}
The holy Creator usward sent him,
To West-Dane warriors, I ween, for to render
'Gainst Grendel's grimness gracious assistance:
I shall give to the good one gift-gems for courage.
15 Hasten to bid them hither to speed them,[2]
To see assembled this circle of kinsmen;
Tell them expressly they're welcome in sooth to
The men of the Danes." To the door of the building
{Wulfgar invites the strangers in.}
Wulfgar went then, this word-message shouted:
20 "My victorious liegelord bade me to tell you,
The East-Danes' atheling, that your origin knows he,
And o'er wave-billows wafted ye welcome are hither,
Valiant of spirit. Ye straightway may enter
Clad in corslets, cased in your helmets,
25 To see King Hrothgar. Here let your battle-boards,
Wood-spears and war-shafts, await your conferring."
The mighty one rose then, with many a liegeman,
An excellent thane-group; some there did await them,
And as bid of the brave one the battle-gear guarded.
30 Together they hied them, while the hero did guide them,
'Neath Heorot's roof; the high-minded went then
Sturdy 'neath helmet till he stood in the building.
Beowulf spake (his burnie did glisten,
His armor seamed over by the art of the craftsman):
{Beowulf salutes Hrothgar, and then proceeds to boast of his youthful
35 "Hail thou, Hrothgar! I am Higelac's kinsman
And vassal forsooth; many a wonder
I dared as a stripling. The doings of Grendel,
In far-off fatherland I fully did know of:
Sea-farers tell us, this hall-building standeth,
40 Excellent edifice, empty and useless
To all the earlmen after evenlight's glimmer
'Neath heaven's bright hues hath hidden its glory.
This my earls then urged me, the most excellent of them,
Carles very clever, to come and assist thee,
45 Folk-leader Hrothgar; fully they knew of
{His fight with the nickers.}
The strength of my body. Themselves they beheld me
When I came from the contest, when covered with gore
Foes I escaped from, where five[3] I had bound,
[16] The giant-race wasted, in the waters destroying
50 The nickers by night, bore numberless sorrows,
The Weders avenged (woes had they suffered)
Enemies ravaged; alone now with Grendel
{He intends to fight Grendel unaided.}
I shall manage the matter, with the monster of evil,
The giant, decide it. Thee I would therefore
55 Beg of thy bounty, Bright-Danish chieftain,
Lord of the Scyldings, this single petition:
Not to refuse me, defender of warriors,
Friend-lord of folks, so far have I sought thee,
That _I_ may unaided, my earlmen assisting me,
60 This brave-mooded war-band, purify Heorot.
I have heard on inquiry, the horrible creature
{Since the monster uses no weapons,}
From veriest rashness recks not for weapons;
I this do scorn then, so be Higelac gracious,
My liegelord belovèd, lenient of spirit,
65 To bear a blade or a broad-fashioned target,
A shield to the onset; only with hand-grip
{I, too, shall disdain to use any.}
The foe I must grapple, fight for my life then,
Foeman with foeman; he fain must rely on
The doom of the Lord whom death layeth hold of.
{Should he crush me, he will eat my companions as he has eaten thy
70 I ween he will wish, if he win in the struggle,
To eat in the war-hall earls of the Geat-folk,
Boldly to swallow[4] them, as of yore he did often
The best of the Hrethmen! Thou needest not trouble
A head-watch to give me;[5] he will have me dripping
{In case of my defeat, thou wilt not have the trouble of burying me.}
75 And dreary with gore, if death overtake me,[6]
Will bear me off bleeding, biting and mouthing me,
The hermit will eat me, heedless of pity,
Marking the moor-fens; no more wilt thou need then
{Should I fall, send my armor to my lord, King Higelac.}
Find me my food.[7] If I fall in the battle,
80 Send to Higelac the armor that serveth
To shield my bosom, the best of equipments,
Richest of ring-mails; 'tis the relic of Hrethla,
{Weird is supreme}
The work of Wayland. Goes Weird as she must go!"
[1] Some render 'gif-sceattas' by 'tribute.'--'Géata' B. and Th.
emended to 'Géatum.' If this be accepted, change '_of_ the Geatmen' to
'_to_ the Geatmen.'
[2] If t.B.'s emendation of vv. 386, 387 be accepted, the two lines,
'Hasten ... kinsmen' will read: _Hasten thou, bid the throng of
kinsmen go into the hall together_.
[3] For 420 (_b_) and 421 (_a_), B. suggests: Þær ic (on) fífelgeban
ýðde eotena cyn = _where I in the ocean destroyed the
eoten-race_.--t.B. accepts B.'s "brilliant" 'fífelgeban,' omits 'on,'
emends 'cyn' to 'hám,' arranging: Þær ic fífelgeban ýðde, eotena hám =
_where I desolated the ocean, the home of the eotens_.--This would be
better but for changing 'cyn' to 'hám.'--I suggest: Þær ic fífelgeband
(cf. nhd. Bande) ýðde, eotena cyn = _where I conquered the monster
band, the race of the eotens_. This makes no change except to read
'_fífel_' for '_fífe_.'
[4] 'Unforhte' (444) is much disputed.--H.-So. wavers between adj. and
adv. Gr. and B. take it as an adv. modifying _etan: Will eat the Geats
fearlessly_.--Kl. considers this reading absurd, and proposes
'anforhte' = timid.--Understanding 'unforhte' as an adj. has this
advantage, viz. that it gives a parallel to 'Geátena leóde': but to
take it as an adv. is more natural. Furthermore, to call the Geats
'brave' might, at this point, seem like an implied thrust at the
Danes, so long helpless; while to call his own men 'timid' would be
befouling his own nest.
[5] For 'head-watch,' cf. H.-So. notes and cf. v. 2910.--Th.
translates: _Thou wilt not need my head to hide_ (i.e., thou wilt have
no occasion to bury me, as Grendel will devour me whole).--Simrock
imagines a kind of dead-watch.--Dr. H. Wood suggests: _Thou wilt not
have to bury so much as my head_ (for Grendel will be a thorough
undertaker),--grim humor.
[6] S. proposes a colon after 'nimeð' (l. 447). This would make no
essential change in the translation.
[7] Owing to the vagueness of 'feorme' (451), this passage is
variously translated. In our translation, H.-So.'s glossary has been
quite closely followed. This agrees substantially with B.'s
translation (P. and B. XII. 87). R. translates: _Thou needst not take
care longer as to the consumption of my dead body._ 'Líc' is also a
crux here, as it may mean living body or dead body.
{Hrothgar responds.}
Hrothgar discoursed, helm of the Scyldings:
"To defend our folk and to furnish assistance,[1]
Thou soughtest us hither, good friend Beowulf.
{Reminiscences of Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow.}
The fiercest of feuds thy father engaged in,
5 Heatholaf killed he in hand-to-hand conflict
'Mid Wilfingish warriors; then the Wederish people
For fear of a feud were forced to disown him.
Thence flying he fled to the folk of the South-Danes,
[18] The race of the Scyldings, o'er the roll of the waters;
10 I had lately begun then to govern the Danemen,
The hoard-seat of heroes held in my youth,
Rich in its jewels: dead was Heregar,
My kinsman and elder had earth-joys forsaken,
Healfdene his bairn. He was better than I am!
15 That feud thereafter for a fee I compounded;
O'er the weltering waters to the Wilfings I sent
Ornaments old; oaths did he swear me.
{Hrothgar recounts to Beowulf the horrors of Grendel's persecutions.}
It pains me in spirit to any to tell it,
What grief in Heorot Grendel hath caused me,
20 What horror unlooked-for, by hatred unceasing.
Waned is my war-band, wasted my hall-troop;
Weird hath offcast them to the clutches of Grendel.
God can easily hinder the scather
From deeds so direful. Oft drunken with beer
{My thanes have made many boasts, but have not executed them.}
25 O'er the ale-vessel promised warriors in armor
They would willingly wait on the wassailing-benches
A grapple with Grendel, with grimmest of edges.
Then this mead-hall at morning with murder was reeking,
The building was bloody at breaking of daylight,
30 The bench-deals all flooded, dripping and bloodied,
The folk-hall was gory: I had fewer retainers,
Dear-beloved warriors, whom death had laid hold of.
{Sit down to the feast, and give us comfort.}
Sit at the feast now, thy intents unto heroes,[2]
Thy victor-fame show, as thy spirit doth urge thee!"
{A bench is made ready for Beowulf and his party.}
35 For the men of the Geats then together assembled,
In the beer-hall blithesome a bench was made ready;
There warlike in spirit they went to be seated,
Proud and exultant. A liegeman did service,
[19] Who a beaker embellished bore with decorum,
{The gleeman sings}
40 And gleaming-drink poured. The gleeman sang whilom
{The heroes all rejoice together.}
Hearty in Heorot; there was heroes' rejoicing,
A numerous war-band of Weders and Danemen.
[1] B. and S. reject the reading given in H.-So., and suggested by
Grtvg. B. suggests for 457-458:
wáere-ryhtum Þú, wine mín Béowulf,
and for ár-stafum úsic sóhtest.
This means: _From the obligations of clientage, my friend Beowulf, and
for assistance thou hast sought us_.--This gives coherence to
Hrothgar's opening remarks in VIII., and also introduces a new motive
for Beowulf's coming to Hrothgar's aid.
[2] _Sit now at the feast, and disclose thy purposes to the victorious
heroes, as thy spirit urges_.--Kl. reaches the above translation by
erasing the comma after 'meoto' and reading 'sige-hrèðsecgum.'--There
are other and bolder emendations and suggestions. Of these the boldest
is to regard 'meoto' as a verb (imperative), and read 'on sæl': _Think
upon gayety, etc_.--All the renderings are unsatisfactory, the one
given in our translation involving a zeugma.
{Unferth, a thane of Hrothgar, is jealous of Beowulf, and undertakes to
twit him.}
Unferth spoke up, Ecglaf his son,
Who sat at the feet of the lord of the Scyldings,
Opened the jousting (the journey[1] of Beowulf,
Sea-farer doughty, gave sorrow to Unferth
5 And greatest chagrin, too, for granted he never
That any man else on earth should attain to,
Gain under heaven, more glory than he):
{Did you take part in a swimming-match with Breca?}
"Art thou that Beowulf with Breca did struggle,
On the wide sea-currents at swimming contended,
10 Where to humor your pride the ocean ye tried,
{'Twas mere folly that actuated you both to risk your lives on the ocean.}
From vainest vaunting adventured your bodies
In care of the waters? And no one was able
Nor lief nor loth one, in the least to dissuade you
Your difficult voyage; then ye ventured a-swimming,
15 Where your arms outstretching the streams ye did cover,
The mere-ways measured, mixing and stirring them,
Glided the ocean; angry the waves were,
With the weltering of winter. In the water's possession,
Ye toiled for a seven-night; he at swimming outdid thee,
20 In strength excelled thee. Then early at morning
On the Heathoremes' shore the holm-currents tossed him,
Sought he thenceward the home of his fathers,
Beloved of his liegemen, the land of the Brondings,
The peace-castle pleasant, where a people he wielded,
[20] 25 Had borough and jewels. The pledge that he made thee
{Breca outdid you entirely.}
The son of Beanstan hath soothly accomplished.
Then I ween thou wilt find thee less fortunate issue,
{Much more will Grendel outdo you, if you vie with him in prowess.}
Though ever triumphant in onset of battle,
A grim grappling, if Grendel thou darest
30 For the space of a night near-by to wait for!"
{Beowulf retaliates.}
Beowulf answered, offspring of Ecgtheow:
"My good friend Unferth, sure freely and wildly,
{O friend Unferth, you are fuddled with beer, and cannot talk coherently.}
Thou fuddled with beer of Breca hast spoken,
Hast told of his journey! A fact I allege it,
35 That greater strength in the waters I had then,
Ills in the ocean, than any man else had.
We made agreement as the merest of striplings
Promised each other (both of us then were
{We simply kept an engagement made in early life.}
Younkers in years) that we yet would adventure
40 Out on the ocean; it all we accomplished.
While swimming the sea-floods, sword-blade unscabbarded
Boldly we brandished, our bodies expected
To shield from the sharks. He sure was unable
{He _could_ not excel me, and I _would_ not excel him.}
To swim on the waters further than I could,
45 More swift on the waves, nor _would_ I from him go.
Then we two companions stayed in the ocean
{After five days the currents separated us.}
Five nights together, till the currents did part us,
The weltering waters, weathers the bleakest,
And nethermost night, and the north-wind whistled
50 Fierce in our faces; fell were the billows.
The mere fishes' mood was mightily ruffled:
And there against foemen my firm-knotted corslet,
Hand-jointed, hardy, help did afford me;
My battle-sark braided, brilliantly gilded,
{A horrible sea-beast attacked me, but I slew him.}
55 Lay on my bosom. To the bottom then dragged me,
A hateful fiend-scather, seized me and held me,
Grim in his grapple: 'twas granted me, nathless,
To pierce the monster with the point of my weapon,
My obedient blade; battle offcarried
60 The mighty mere-creature by means of my hand-blow.
[1] It has been plausibly suggested that 'síð' (in 501 and in 353)
means 'arrival.' If so, translate the bracket: _(the arrival of
Beowulf, the brave seafarer, was a source of great chagrin to Unferth,
"So ill-meaning enemies often did cause me
Sorrow the sorest. I served them, in quittance,
{My dear sword always served me faithfully.}
With my dear-lovèd sword, as in sooth it was fitting;
They missed the pleasure of feasting abundantly,
5 Ill-doers evil, of eating my body,
Of surrounding the banquet deep in the ocean;
But wounded with edges early at morning
They were stretched a-high on the strand of the ocean,
{I put a stop to the outrages of the sea-monsters.}
Put to sleep with the sword, that sea-going travelers
10 No longer thereafter were hindered from sailing
The foam-dashing currents. Came a light from the east,
God's beautiful beacon; the billows subsided,
That well I could see the nesses projecting,
{Fortune helps the brave earl.}
The blustering crags. Weird often saveth
15 The undoomed hero if doughty his valor!
But me did it fortune[1] to fell with my weapon
Nine of the nickers. Of night-struggle harder
'Neath dome of the heaven heard I but rarely,
Nor of wight more woful in the waves of the ocean;
20 Yet I 'scaped with my life the grip of the monsters,
{After that escape I drifted to Finland.}
Weary from travel. Then the waters bare me
To the land of the Finns, the flood with the current,
{I have never heard of your doing any such bold deeds.}
The weltering waves. Not a word hath been told me
Of deeds so daring done by thee, Unferth,
25 And of sword-terror none; never hath Breca
At the play of the battle, nor either of you two,
Feat so fearless performèd with weapons
Glinting and gleaming . . . . . . . . . . . .
[22] . . . . . . . . . . . . I utter no boasting;
{You are a slayer of brothers, and will suffer damnation, wise as you may
30 Though with cold-blooded cruelty thou killedst thy brothers,
Thy nearest of kin; thou needs must in hell get
Direful damnation, though doughty thy wisdom.
I tell thee in earnest, offspring of Ecglaf,
Never had Grendel such numberless horrors,
35 The direful demon, done to thy liegelord,
Harrying in Heorot, if thy heart were as sturdy,
{Had your acts been as brave as your words, Grendel had not ravaged your
land so long.}
Thy mood as ferocious as thou dost describe them.
He hath found out fully that the fierce-burning hatred,
The edge-battle eager, of all of your kindred,
40 Of the Victory-Scyldings, need little dismay him:
Oaths he exacteth, not any he spares
{The monster is not afraid of the Danes,}
Of the folk of the Danemen, but fighteth with pleasure,
Killeth and feasteth, no contest expecteth
{but he will soon learn to dread the Geats.}
From Spear-Danish people. But the prowess and valor
45 Of the earls of the Geatmen early shall venture
To give him a grapple. He shall go who is able
Bravely to banquet, when the bright-light of morning
{On the second day, any warrior may go unmolested to the mead-banquet.}
Which the second day bringeth, the sun in its ether-robes,
O'er children of men shines from the southward!"
50 Then the gray-haired, war-famed giver of treasure
{Hrothgar's spirits are revived.}
Was blithesome and joyous, the Bright-Danish ruler
Expected assistance; the people's protector
{The old king trusts Beowulf. The heroes are joyful.}
Heard from Beowulf his bold resolution.
There was laughter of heroes; loud was the clatter,
55 The words were winsome. Wealhtheow advanced then,
{Queen Wealhtheow plays the hostess.}
Consort of Hrothgar, of courtesy mindful,
Gold-decked saluted the men in the building,
And the freeborn woman the beaker presented
{She offers the cup to her husband first.}
To the lord of the kingdom, first of the East-Danes,
60 Bade him be blithesome when beer was a-flowing,
Lief to his liegemen; he lustily tasted
Of banquet and beaker, battle-famed ruler.
The Helmingish lady then graciously circled
'Mid all the liegemen lesser and greater:
{She gives presents to the heroes.}
65 Treasure-cups tendered, till time was afforded
That the decorous-mooded, diademed folk-queen
{Then she offers the cup to Beowulf, thanking God that aid has come.}
Might bear to Beowulf the bumper o'errunning;
She greeted the Geat-prince, God she did thank,
Most wise in her words, that her wish was accomplished,
70 That in any of earlmen she ever should look for
Solace in sorrow. He accepted the beaker,
Battle-bold warrior, at Wealhtheow's giving,
{Beowulf states to the queen the object of his visit.}
Then equipped for combat quoth he in measures,
Beowulf spake, offspring of Ecgtheow:
75 "I purposed in spirit when I mounted the ocean,
{I determined to do or die.}
When I boarded my boat with a band of my liegemen,
I would work to the fullest the will of your people
Or in foe's-clutches fastened fall in the battle.
Deeds I shall do of daring and prowess,
80 Or the last of my life-days live in this mead-hall."
These words to the lady were welcome and pleasing,
The boast of the Geatman; with gold trappings broidered
Went the freeborn folk-queen her fond-lord to sit by.
{Glee is high.}
Then again as of yore was heard in the building
85 Courtly discussion, conquerors' shouting,
Heroes were happy, till Healfdene's son would
Go to his slumber to seek for refreshing;
For the horrid hell-monster in the hall-building knew he
A fight was determined,[2] since the light of the sun they
90 No longer could see, and lowering darkness
O'er all had descended, and dark under heaven
Shadowy shapes came shying around them.
{Hrothgar retires, leaving Beowulf in charge of the hall.}
The liegemen all rose then. One saluted the other,
Hrothgar Beowulf, in rhythmical measures,
95 Wishing him well, and, the wassail-hall giving
To his care and keeping, quoth he departing:
[24] "Not to any one else have I ever entrusted,
But thee and thee only, the hall of the Danemen,
Since high I could heave my hand and my buckler.
100 Take thou in charge now the noblest of houses;
Be mindful of honor, exhibiting prowess,
Watch 'gainst the foeman! Thou shalt want no enjoyments,
Survive thou safely adventure so glorious!"
[1] The repetition of 'hwæðere' (574 and 578) is regarded by some
scholars as a defect. B. suggests 'swá Þær' for the first: _So there
it befell me, etc._ Another suggestion is to change the second
'hwæðere' into 'swá Þær': _So there I escaped with my life, etc._
[2] Kl. suggests a period after 'determined.' This would give the
passage as follows: _Since they no longer could see the light of the
sun, and lowering darkness was down over all, dire under the heavens
shadowy beings came going around them_.
{Hrothgar retires.}
Then Hrothgar departed, his earl-throng attending him,
Folk-lord of Scyldings, forth from the building;
The war-chieftain wished then Wealhtheow to look for,
The queen for a bedmate. To keep away Grendel
{God has provided a watch for the hall.}
5 The Glory of Kings had given a hall-watch,
As men heard recounted: for the king of the Danemen
He did special service, gave the giant a watcher:
And the prince of the Geatmen implicitly trusted
{Beowulf is self-confident}
His warlike strength and the Wielder's protection.
{He prepares for rest.}
10 His armor of iron off him he did then,
His helmet from his head, to his henchman committed
His chased-handled chain-sword, choicest of weapons,
And bade him bide with his battle-equipments.
The good one then uttered words of defiance,
15 Beowulf Geatman, ere his bed he upmounted:
{Beowulf boasts of his ability to cope with Grendel.}
"I hold me no meaner in matters of prowess,
In warlike achievements, than Grendel does himself;
Hence I seek not with sword-edge to sooth him to slumber,
Of life to bereave him, though well I am able.
{We will fight with nature's weapons only.}
20 No battle-skill[1] has he, that blows he should strike me,
To shatter my shield, though sure he is mighty
[25] In strife and destruction; but struggling by night we
Shall do without edges, dare he to look for
Weaponless warfare, and wise-mooded Father
25 The glory apportion, God ever-holy,
{God may decide who shall conquer}
On which hand soever to him seemeth proper."
Then the brave-mooded hero bent to his slumber,
The pillow received the cheek of the noble;
{The Geatish warriors lie down.}
And many a martial mere-thane attending
30 Sank to his slumber. Seemed it unlikely
{They thought it very unlikely that they should ever see their homes
That ever thereafter any should hope to
Be happy at home, hero-friends visit
Or the lordly troop-castle where he lived from his childhood;
They had heard how slaughter had snatched from the wine-hall,
35 Had recently ravished, of the race of the Scyldings
{But God raised up a deliverer.}
Too many by far. But the Lord to them granted
The weaving of war-speed, to Wederish heroes
Aid and comfort, that every opponent
By one man's war-might they worsted and vanquished,
{God rules the world.}
40 By the might of himself; the truth is established
That God Almighty hath governed for ages
Kindreds and nations. A night very lurid
{Grendel comes to Heorot.}
The trav'ler-at-twilight came tramping and striding.
The warriors were sleeping who should watch the horned-building,
{Only one warrior is awake.}
45 One only excepted. 'Mid earthmen 'twas 'stablished,
Th' implacable foeman was powerless to hurl them
To the land of shadows, if the Lord were unwilling;
But serving as warder, in terror to foemen,
He angrily bided the issue of battle.[2]
[1] Gr. understood 'gódra' as meaning 'advantages in battle.' This
rendering H.-So. rejects. The latter takes the passage as meaning that
Grendel, though mighty and formidable, has no skill in the art of war.
[2] B. in his masterly articles on Beowulf (P. and B. XII.) rejects
the division usually made at this point, 'Þá.' (711), usually rendered
'then,' he translates 'when,' and connects its clause with the
foregoing sentence. These changes he makes to reduce the number of
'cóm's' as principal verbs. (Cf. 703, 711, 721.) With all deference to
this acute scholar, I must say that it seems to me that the poet is
exhausting his resources to bring out clearly the supreme event on
which the whole subsequent action turns. First, he (Grendel) came _in
the wan night_; second, he came _from the moor_; third, he came _to
the hall_. Time, place from which, place to which, are all given.
{Grendel comes from the fens.}
'Neath the cloudy cliffs came from the moor then
Grendel going, God's anger bare he.
The monster intended some one of earthmen
In the hall-building grand to entrap and make way with:
{He goes towards the joyous building.}
5 He went under welkin where well he knew of
The wine-joyous building, brilliant with plating,
Gold-hall of earthmen. Not the earliest occasion
{This was not his first visit there.}
He the home and manor of Hrothgar had sought:
Ne'er found he in life-days later nor earlier
10 Hardier hero, hall-thanes[1] more sturdy!
Then came to the building the warrior marching,
{His horrid fingers tear the door open.}
Bereft of his joyance. The door quickly opened
On fire-hinges fastened, when his fingers had touched it;
The fell one had flung then--his fury so bitter--
15 Open the entrance. Early thereafter
The foeman trod the shining hall-pavement,
{He strides furiously into the hall.}
Strode he angrily; from the eyes of him glimmered
A lustre unlovely likest to fire.
He beheld in the hall the heroes in numbers,
20 A circle of kinsmen sleeping together,
{He exults over his supposed prey.}
A throng of thanemen: then his thoughts were exultant,
He minded to sunder from each of the thanemen
The life from his body, horrible demon,
Ere morning came, since fate had allowed him
{Fate has decreed that he shall devour no more heroes. Beowulf suffers
from suspense.}
25 The prospect of plenty. Providence willed not
To permit him any more of men under heaven
To eat in the night-time. Higelac's kinsman
Great sorrow endured how the dire-mooded creature
[27] In unlooked-for assaults were likely to bear him.
30 No thought had the monster of deferring the matter,
{Grendel immediately seizes a sleeping warrior, and devours him.}
But on earliest occasion he quickly laid hold of
A soldier asleep, suddenly tore him,
Bit his bone-prison, the blood drank in currents,
Swallowed in mouthfuls: he soon had the dead man's
35 Feet and hands, too, eaten entirely.
Nearer he strode then, the stout-hearted warrior
{Beowulf and Grendel grapple.}
Snatched as he slumbered, seizing with hand-grip,
Forward the foeman foined with his hand;
Caught he quickly the cunning deviser,
40 On his elbow he rested. This early discovered
The master of malice, that in middle-earth's regions,
'Neath the whole of the heavens, no hand-grapple greater
{The monster is amazed at Beowulf's strength.}
In any man else had he ever encountered:
Fearful in spirit, faint-mooded waxed he,
45 Not off could betake him; death he was pondering,
{He is anxious to flee.}
Would fly to his covert, seek the devils' assembly:
His calling no more was the same he had followed
Long in his lifetime. The liege-kinsman worthy
{Beowulf recalls his boast of the evening, and determines to fulfil it.}
Of Higelac minded his speech of the evening,
50 Stood he up straight and stoutly did seize him.
His fingers crackled; the giant was outward,
The earl stepped farther. The famous one minded
To flee away farther, if he found an occasion,
And off and away, avoiding delay,
55 To fly to the fen-moors; he fully was ware of
The strength of his grapple in the grip of the foeman.
{'Twas a luckless day for Grendel.}
'Twas an ill-taken journey that the injury-bringing,
Harrying harmer to Heorot wandered:
{The hall groans.}
The palace re-echoed; to all of the Danemen,
60 Dwellers in castles, to each of the bold ones,
Earlmen, was terror. Angry they both were,
Archwarders raging.[2] Rattled the building;
[28] 'Twas a marvellous wonder that the wine-hall withstood then
The bold-in-battle, bent not to earthward,
65 Excellent earth-hall; but within and without it
Was fastened so firmly in fetters of iron,
By the art of the armorer. Off from the sill there
Bent mead-benches many, as men have informed me,
Adorned with gold-work, where the grim ones did struggle.
70 The Scylding wise men weened ne'er before
That by might and main-strength a man under heaven
Might break it in pieces, bone-decked, resplendent,
Crush it by cunning, unless clutch of the fire
In smoke should consume it. The sound mounted upward
{Grendel's cries terrify the Danes.}
75 Novel enough; on the North Danes fastened
A terror of anguish, on all of the men there
Who heard from the wall the weeping and plaining,
The song of defeat from the foeman of heaven,
Heard him hymns of horror howl, and his sorrow
80 Hell-bound bewailing. He held him too firmly
Who was strongest of main-strength of men of that era.
[1] B. and t.B. emend so as to make lines 9 and 10 read: _Never in his
life, earlier or later, had he, the hell-thane, found a braver
hero_.--They argue that Beowulf's companions had done nothing to merit
such encomiums as the usual readings allow them.
[2] For 'réðe rén-weardas' (771), t.B. suggests 'réðe, rénhearde.'
Translate: _They were both angry, raging and mighty_.
{Beowulf has no idea of letting Grendel live.}
For no cause whatever would the earlmen's defender
Leave in life-joys the loathsome newcomer,
He deemed his existence utterly useless
To men under heaven. Many a noble
5 Of Beowulf brandished his battle-sword old,
Would guard the life of his lord and protector,
The far-famous chieftain, if able to do so;
While waging the warfare, this wist they but little,
Brave battle-thanes, while his body intending
{No weapon would harm Grendel; he bore a charmed life.}
10 To slit into slivers, and seeking his spirit:
That the relentless foeman nor finest of weapons
Of all on the earth, nor any of war-bills
[29] Was willing to injure; but weapons of victory
Swords and suchlike he had sworn to dispense with.
15 His death at that time must prove to be wretched,
And the far-away spirit widely should journey
Into enemies' power. This plainly he saw then
Who with mirth[1] of mood malice no little
Had wrought in the past on the race of the earthmen
20 (To God he was hostile), that his body would fail him,
But Higelac's hardy henchman and kinsman
Held him by the hand; hateful to other
{Grendel is sorely wounded.}
Was each one if living. A body-wound suffered
The direful demon, damage incurable
{His body bursts.}
25 Was seen on his shoulder, his sinews were shivered,
His body did burst. To Beowulf was given
Glory in battle; Grendel from thenceward
Must flee and hide him in the fen-cliffs and marshes,
Sick unto death, his dwelling must look for
30 Unwinsome and woful; he wist the more fully
{The monster flees away to hide in the moors.}
The end of his earthly existence was nearing,
His life-days' limits. At last for the Danemen,
When the slaughter was over, their wish was accomplished.
The comer-from-far-land had cleansed then of evil,
35 Wise and valiant, the war-hall of Hrothgar,
Saved it from violence. He joyed in the night-work,
In repute for prowess; the prince of the Geatmen
For the East-Danish people his boast had accomplished,
Bettered their burdensome bale-sorrows fully,
40 The craft-begot evil they erstwhile had suffered
And were forced to endure from crushing oppression,
Their manifold misery. 'Twas a manifest token,
{Beowulf suspends Grendel's hand and arm in Heorot.}
When the hero-in-battle the hand suspended,
The arm and the shoulder (there was all of the claw
45 Of Grendel together) 'neath great-stretching hall-roof.
[1] It has been proposed to translate 'myrðe' by _with sorrow_; but
there seems no authority for such a rendering. To the present
translator, the phrase 'módes myrðe' seems a mere padding for
_gladly_; i.e., _he who gladly harassed mankind_.
{At early dawn, warriors from far and near come together to hear of the
night's adventures.}
In the mist of the morning many a warrior
Stood round the gift-hall, as the story is told me:
Folk-princes fared then from far and from near
Through long-stretching journeys to look at the wonder,
5 The footprints of the foeman. Few of the warriors
{Few warriors lamented Grendel's destruction.}
Who gazed on the foot-tracks of the inglorious creature
His parting from life pained very deeply,
How, weary in spirit, off from those regions
In combats conquered he carried his traces,
10 Fated and flying, to the flood of the nickers.
{Grendel's blood dyes the waters.}
There in bloody billows bubbled the currents,
The angry eddy was everywhere mingled
And seething with gore, welling with sword-blood;[1]
He death-doomed had hid him, when reaved of his joyance
15 He laid down his life in the lair he had fled to,
His heathenish spirit, where hell did receive him.
Thence the friends from of old backward turned them,
And many a younker from merry adventure,
Striding their stallions, stout from the seaward,
20 Heroes on horses. There were heard very often
{Beowulf is the hero of the hour.}
Beowulf's praises; many often asserted
That neither south nor north, in the circuit of waters,
{He is regarded as a probable successor to Hrothgar.}
O'er outstretching earth-plain, none other was better
'Mid bearers of war-shields, more worthy to govern,
25 'Neath the arch of the ether. Not any, however,
'Gainst the friend-lord muttered, mocking-words uttered
{But no word is uttered to derogate from the old king}
Of Hrothgar the gracious (a good king he).
Oft the famed ones permitted their fallow-skinned horses
[31] To run in rivalry, racing and chasing,
30 Where the fieldways appeared to them fair and inviting,
Known for their excellence; oft a thane of the folk-lord,[2]
{The gleeman sings the deeds of heroes.}
[3]A man of celebrity, mindful of rhythms,
Who ancient traditions treasured in memory,
New word-groups found properly bound:
35 The bard after 'gan then Beowulf's venture
{He sings in alliterative measures of Beowulf's prowess.}
Wisely to tell of, and words that were clever
To utter skilfully, earnestly speaking,
Everything told he that he heard as to Sigmund's
{Also of Sigemund, who has slain a great fire-dragon.}
Mighty achievements, many things hidden,
40 The strife of the Wælsing, the wide-going ventures
The children of men knew of but little,
The feud and the fury, but Fitela with him,
When suchlike matters he minded to speak of,
Uncle to nephew, as in every contention
45 Each to other was ever devoted:
A numerous host of the race of the scathers
They had slain with the sword-edge. To Sigmund accrued then
No little of glory, when his life-days were over,
Since he sturdy in struggle had destroyed the great dragon,
50 The hoard-treasure's keeper; 'neath the hoar-grayish stone he,
The son of the atheling, unaided adventured
The perilous project; not present was Fitela,
Yet the fortune befell him of forcing his weapon
Through the marvellous dragon, that it stood in the wall,
55 Well-honored weapon; the worm was slaughtered.
The great one had gained then by his glorious achievement
To reap from the ring-hoard richest enjoyment,
[32] As best it did please him: his vessel he loaded,
Shining ornaments on the ship's bosom carried,
60 Kinsman of Wæls: the drake in heat melted.
{Sigemund was widely famed.}
He was farthest famed of fugitive pilgrims,
Mid wide-scattered world-folk, for works of great prowess,
War-troopers' shelter: hence waxed he in honor.[4]
{Heremod, an unfortunate Danish king, is introduced by way of contrast.}
Afterward Heremod's hero-strength failed him,
65 His vigor and valor. 'Mid venomous haters
To the hands of foemen he was foully delivered,
Offdriven early. Agony-billows
{Unlike Sigemund and Beowulf, Heremod was a burden to his people.}
Oppressed him too long, to his people he became then,
To all the athelings, an ever-great burden;
70 And the daring one's journey in days of yore
Many wise men were wont to deplore,
Such as hoped he would bring them help in their sorrow,
That the son of their ruler should rise into power,
Holding the headship held by his fathers,
75 Should govern the people, the gold-hoard and borough,
The kingdom of heroes, the realm of the Scyldings.
{Beowulf is an honor to his race.}
He to all men became then far more beloved,
Higelac's kinsman, to kindreds and races,
To his friends much dearer; him malice assaulted.--
{The story is resumed.}
80 Oft running and racing on roadsters they measured
The dun-colored highways. Then the light of the morning
Was hurried and hastened. Went henchmen in numbers
To the beautiful building, bold ones in spirit,
To look at the wonder; the liegelord himself then
85 From his wife-bower wending, warden of treasures,
Glorious trod with troopers unnumbered,
Famed for his virtues, and with him the queen-wife
Measured the mead-ways, with maidens attending.
[1] S. emends, suggesting 'déop' for 'déog,' and removing semicolon
after 'wéol.' The two half-lines 'welling ... hid him' would then
read: _The bloody deep welled with sword-gore_. B. accepts 'déop' for
'déog,' but reads 'déað-fæges': _The deep boiled with the sword-gore
of the death-doomed one_.
[2] Another and quite different rendering of this passage is as
follows: _Oft a liegeman of the king, a fame-covered man mindful of
songs, who very many ancient traditions remembered (he found other
word-groups accurately bound together) began afterward to tell of
Beowulf's adventure, skilfully to narrate it, etc_.
[3] Might 'guma gilp-hladen' mean 'a man laden with boasts of the
deeds of others'?
[4] t.B. accepts B.'s 'hé þæs áron þáh' as given by H.-So., but puts a
comma after 'þáh,' and takes 'siððan' as introducing a dependent
clause: _He throve in honor since Heremod's strength ... had
Hrothgar discoursed (to the hall-building went he,
He stood by the pillar,[1] saw the steep-rising hall-roof
Gleaming with gold-gems, and Grendel his hand there):
{Hrothgar gives thanks for the overthrow of the monster.}
"For the sight we behold now, thanks to the Wielder
5 Early be offered! Much evil I bided,
Snaring from Grendel:[2] God can e'er 'complish
Wonder on wonder, Wielder of Glory!
{I had given up all hope, when this brave liegeman came to our aid.}
But lately I reckoned ne'er under heaven
Comfort to gain me for any of sorrows,
10 While the handsomest of houses horrid with bloodstain
Gory uptowered; grief had offfrightened[3]
Each of the wise ones who weened not that ever
The folk-troop's defences 'gainst foes they should strengthen,
'Gainst sprites and monsters. Through the might of the Wielder
15 A doughty retainer hath a deed now accomplished
Which erstwhile we all with our excellent wisdom
{If his mother yet liveth, well may she thank God for this son.}
Failed to perform. May affirm very truly
What woman soever in all of the nations
Gave birth to the child, if yet she surviveth,
20 That the long-ruling Lord was lavish to herward
In the birth of the bairn. Now, Beowulf dear,
{Hereafter, Beowulf, thou shalt be my son.}
Most excellent hero, I'll love thee in spirit
As bairn of my body; bear well henceforward
The relationship new. No lack shall befall thee
25 Of earth-joys any I ever can give thee.
Full often for lesser service I've given
[34] Hero less hardy hoard-treasure precious,
{Thou hast won immortal distinction.}
To a weaker in war-strife. By works of distinction
Thou hast gained for thyself now that thy glory shall flourish
30 Forever and ever. The All-Ruler quite thee
With good from His hand as He hitherto did thee!"
{Beowulf replies: I was most happy to render thee this service.}
Beowulf answered, Ecgtheow's offspring:
"That labor of glory most gladly achieved we,
The combat accomplished, unquailing we ventured
35 The enemy's grapple; I would grant it much rather
Thou wert able to look at the creature in person,
Faint unto falling, the foe in his trappings!
On murder-bed quickly I minded to bind him,
With firm-holding fetters, that forced by my grapple
40 Low he should lie in life-and-death struggle
'Less his body escape; I was wholly unable,
{I could not keep the monster from escaping, as God did not will that I
Since God did not will it, to keep him from going,
Not held him that firmly, hated opposer;
Too swift was the foeman. Yet safety regarding
45 He suffered his hand behind him to linger,
His arm and shoulder, to act as watcher;
{He left his hand and arm behind.}
No shadow of solace the woe-begone creature
Found him there nathless: the hated destroyer
Liveth no longer, lashed for his evils,
50 But sorrow hath seized him, in snare-meshes hath him
Close in its clutches, keepeth him writhing
In baleful bonds: there banished for evil
The man shall wait for the mighty tribunal,
{God will give him his deserts.}
How the God of glory shall give him his earnings."
55 Then the soldier kept silent, son of old Ecglaf,
{Unferth has nothing more to say, for Beowulf's actions speak louder than
From boasting and bragging of battle-achievements,
Since the princes beheld there the hand that depended
'Neath the lofty hall-timbers by the might of the nobleman,
Each one before him, the enemy's fingers;
60 Each finger-nail strong steel most resembled,
The heathen one's hand-spur, the hero-in-battle's
Claw most uncanny; quoth they agreeing,
{No sword will harm the monster.}
That not any excellent edges of brave ones
Was willing to touch him, the terrible creature's
65 Battle-hand bloody to bear away from him.
[1] B. and t.B. read 'staþole,' and translate _stood on the floor_.
[2] For 'snaring from Grendel,' 'sorrows at Grendel's hands' has been
suggested. This gives a parallel to 'láðes.' 'Grynna' may well be gen.
pl. of 'gyrn,' by a scribal slip.
[3] The H.-So punctuation has been followed; but B. has been followed
in understanding 'gehwylcne' as object of 'wíd-scofen (hæfde).' Gr.
construes 'wéa' as nom abs.
{Heorot is adorned with hands.}
Then straight was ordered that Heorot inside[1]
With hands be embellished: a host of them gathered,
Of men and women, who the wassailing-building
The guest-hall begeared. Gold-flashing sparkled
5 Webs on the walls then, of wonders a many
To each of the heroes that look on such objects.
{The hall is defaced, however.}
The beautiful building was broken to pieces
Which all within with irons was fastened,
Its hinges torn off: only the roof was
10 Whole and uninjured when the horrible creature
Outlawed for evil off had betaken him,
Hopeless of living. 'Tis hard to avoid it
{[A vague passage of five verses.]}
(Whoever will do it!); but he doubtless must come to[2]
The place awaiting, as Wyrd hath appointed,
15 Soul-bearers, earth-dwellers, earls under heaven,
Where bound on its bed his body shall slumber
{Hrothgar goes to the banquet.}
When feasting is finished. Full was the time then
That the son of Healfdene went to the building;
[36] The excellent atheling would eat of the banquet.
20 Ne'er heard I that people with hero-band larger
Bare them better tow'rds their bracelet-bestower.
The laden-with-glory stooped to the bench then
(Their kinsmen-companions in plenty were joyful,
Many a cupful quaffing complaisantly),
25 Doughty of spirit in the high-tow'ring palace,
{Hrothgar's nephew, Hrothulf, is present.}
Hrothgar and Hrothulf. Heorot then inside
Was filled with friendly ones; falsehood and treachery
The Folk-Scyldings now nowise did practise.
{Hrothgar lavishes gifts upon Beowulf.}
Then the offspring of Healfdene offered to Beowulf
30 A golden standard, as reward for the victory,
A banner embossed, burnie and helmet;
Many men saw then a song-famous weapon
Borne 'fore the hero. Beowulf drank of
The cup in the building; that treasure-bestowing
35 He needed not blush for in battle-men's presence.
{Four handsomer gifts were never presented.}
Ne'er heard I that many men on the ale-bench
In friendlier fashion to their fellows presented
Four bright jewels with gold-work embellished.
'Round the roof of the helmet a head-guarder outside
40 Braided with wires, with bosses was furnished,
That swords-for-the-battle fight-hardened might fail
Boldly to harm him, when the hero proceeded
{Hrothgar commands that eight finely caparisoned steeds be brought to
Forth against foemen. The defender of earls then
Commanded that eight steeds with bridles
45 Gold-plated, gleaming, be guided to hallward,
Inside the building; on one of them stood then
An art-broidered saddle embellished with jewels;
'Twas the sovereign's seat, when the son of King Healfdene
Was pleased to take part in the play of the edges;
50 The famous one's valor ne'er failed at the front when
Slain ones were bowing. And to Beowulf granted
The prince of the Ingwins, power over both,
O'er war-steeds and weapons; bade him well to enjoy them.
In so manly a manner the mighty-famed chieftain,
[37] 55 Hoard-ward of heroes, with horses and jewels
War-storms requited, that none e'er condemneth
Who willeth to tell truth with full justice.
[1] Kl. suggests 'hroden' for 'háten,' and renders: _Then quickly was
Heorot adorned within, with hands bedecked_.--B. suggests 'gefrætwon'
instead of 'gefrætwod,' and renders: _Then was it commanded to adorn
Heorot within quickly with hands_.--The former has the advantage of
affording a parallel to 'gefrætwod': both have the disadvantage of
altering the text.
[2] The passage 1005-1009 seems to be hopeless. One difficult point is
to find a subject for 'gesacan.' Some say 'he'; others supply 'each,'
_i.e., every soul-bearer ... must gain the inevitable place_. The
genitives in this case are partitive.--If 'he' be subj., the genitives
are dependent on 'gearwe' (= prepared).--The 'he' itself is disputed,
some referring it to Grendel; but B. takes it as involved in the
{Each of Beowulf's companions receives a costly gift.}
And the atheling of earlmen to each of the heroes
Who the ways of the waters went with Beowulf,
A costly gift-token gave on the mead-bench,
Offered an heirloom, and ordered that that man
{The warrior killed by Grendel is to be paid for in gold.}
5 With gold should be paid for, whom Grendel had erstwhile
Wickedly slaughtered, as he more of them had done
Had far-seeing God and the mood of the hero
The fate not averted: the Father then governed
All of the earth-dwellers, as He ever is doing;
10 Hence insight for all men is everywhere fittest,
Forethought of spirit! much he shall suffer
Of lief and of loathsome who long in this present
Useth the world in this woful existence.
There was music and merriment mingling together
{Hrothgar's scop recalls events in the reign of his lord's father.}
15 Touching Healfdene's leader; the joy-wood was fingered,
Measures recited, when the singer of Hrothgar
On mead-bench should mention the merry hall-joyance
Of the kinsmen of Finn, when onset surprised them:
{Hnæf, the Danish general, is treacherously attacked while staying at
Finn's castle.}
"The Half-Danish hero, Hnæf of the Scyldings,
20 On the field of the Frisians was fated to perish.
Sure Hildeburg needed not mention approving
The faith of the Jutemen: though blameless entirely,
{Queen Hildeburg is not only wife of Finn, but a kinswoman of the murdered
When shields were shivered she was shorn of her darlings,
Of bairns and brothers: they bent to their fate
25 With war-spear wounded; woe was that woman.
Not causeless lamented the daughter of Hoce
The decree of the Wielder when morning-light came and
She was able 'neath heaven to behold the destruction
[38] Of brothers and bairns, where the brightest of earth-joys
{Finn's force is almost exterminated.}
30 She had hitherto had: all the henchmen of Finn
War had offtaken, save a handful remaining,
That he nowise was able to offer resistance[1]
{Hengest succeeds Hnæf as Danish general.}
To the onset of Hengest in the parley of battle,
Nor the wretched remnant to rescue in war from
35 The earl of the atheling; but they offered conditions,
{Compact between the Frisians and the Danes.}
Another great building to fully make ready,
A hall and a high-seat, that half they might rule with
The sons of the Jutemen, and that Folcwalda's son would
Day after day the Danemen honor
40 When gifts were giving, and grant of his ring-store
To Hengest's earl-troop ever so freely,
Of his gold-plated jewels, as he encouraged the Frisians
{Equality of gifts agreed on.}
On the bench of the beer-hall. On both sides they swore then
A fast-binding compact; Finn unto Hengest
45 With no thought of revoking vowed then most solemnly
The woe-begone remnant well to take charge of,
His Witan advising; the agreement should no one
By words or works weaken and shatter,
By artifice ever injure its value,
50 Though reaved of their ruler their ring-giver's slayer
They followed as vassals, Fate so requiring:
{No one shall refer to old grudges.}
Then if one of the Frisians the quarrel should speak of
In tones that were taunting, terrible edges
Should cut in requital. Accomplished the oath was,
55 And treasure of gold from the hoard was uplifted.
{Danish warriors are burned on a funeral-pyre.}
The best of the Scylding braves was then fully
Prepared for the pile; at the pyre was seen clearly
The blood-gory burnie, the boar with his gilding,
The iron-hard swine, athelings many
60 Fatally wounded; no few had been slaughtered.
Hildeburg bade then, at the burning of Hnæf,
{Queen Hildeburg has her son burnt along with Hnæf.}
The bairn of her bosom to bear to the fire,
That his body be burned and borne to the pyre.
The woe-stricken woman wept on his shoulder,[2]
65 In measures lamented; upmounted the hero.[3]
The greatest of dead-fires curled to the welkin,
On the hill's-front crackled; heads were a-melting,
Wound-doors bursting, while the blood was a-coursing
From body-bite fierce. The fire devoured them,
70 Greediest of spirits, whom war had offcarried
From both of the peoples; their bravest were fallen.
[1] For 1084, R. suggests 'wiht Hengeste wið gefeohtan.'--K. suggests
'wið Hengeste wiht gefeohtan.' Neither emendation would make any
essential change in the translation.
[2] The separation of adjective and noun by a phrase (cf. v. 1118)
being very unusual, some scholars have put 'earme on eaxle' with the
foregoing lines, inserting a semicolon after 'eaxle.' In this case 'on
eaxe' (_i.e._, on the ashes, cinders) is sometimes read, and this
affords a parallel to 'on bæl.' Let us hope that a satisfactory
rendering shall yet be reached without resorting to any tampering with
the text, such as Lichtenheld proposed: 'earme ides on eaxle
[3] For 'gúð-rinc,' 'gúð-réc,' _battle-smoke_, has been suggested.
{The survivors go to Friesland, the home of Finn.}
"Then the warriors departed to go to their dwellings,
Reaved of their friends, Friesland to visit,
Their homes and high-city. Hengest continued
{Hengest remains there all winter, unable to get away.}
Biding with Finn the blood-tainted winter,
5 Wholly unsundered;[1] of fatherland thought he
Though unable to drive the ring-stemmèd vessel
[40] O'er the ways of the waters; the wave-deeps were tossing,
Fought with the wind; winter in ice-bonds
Closed up the currents, till there came to the dwelling
10 A year in its course, as yet it revolveth,
If season propitious one alway regardeth,
World-cheering weathers. Then winter was gone,
Earth's bosom was lovely; the exile would get him,
{He devises schemes of vengeance.}
The guest from the palace; on grewsomest vengeance
15 He brooded more eager than on oversea journeys,
Whe'r onset-of-anger he were able to 'complish,
The bairns of the Jutemen therein to remember.
Nowise refused he the duties of liegeman
When Hun of the Frisians the battle-sword Láfing,
20 Fairest of falchions, friendly did give him:
Its edges were famous in folk-talk of Jutland.
And savage sword-fury seized in its clutches
Bold-mooded Finn where he bode in his palace,
{Guthlaf and Oslaf revenge Hnæf's slaughter.}
When the grewsome grapple Guthlaf and Oslaf
25 Had mournfully mentioned, the mere-journey over,
For sorrows half-blamed him; the flickering spirit
Could not bide in his bosom. Then the building was covered[2]
{Finn is slain.}
With corpses of foemen, and Finn too was slaughtered,
The king with his comrades, and the queen made a prisoner.
{The jewels of Finn, and his queen are carried away by the Danes.}
30 The troops of the Scyldings bore to their vessels
All that the land-king had in his palace,
Such trinkets and treasures they took as, on searching,
At Finn's they could find. They ferried to Daneland
The excellent woman on oversea journey,
{The lay is concluded, and the main story is resumed.}
35 Led her to their land-folk." The lay was concluded,
The gleeman's recital. Shouts again rose then,
Bench-glee resounded, bearers then offered
{Skinkers carry round the beaker.}
Wine from wonder-vats. Wealhtheo advanced then
Going 'neath gold-crown, where the good ones were seated
{Queen Wealhtheow greets Hrothgar, as he sits beside Hrothulf, his
40 Uncle and nephew; their peace was yet mutual,
True each to the other. And Unferth the spokesman
Sat at the feet of the lord of the Scyldings:
Each trusted his spirit that his mood was courageous,
Though at fight he had failed in faith to his kinsmen.
45 Said the queen of the Scyldings: "My lord and protector,
Treasure-bestower, take thou this beaker;
Joyance attend thee, gold-friend of heroes,
{Be generous to the Geats.}
And greet thou the Geatmen with gracious responses!
So ought one to do. Be kind to the Geatmen,
50 In gifts not niggardly; anear and afar now
Peace thou enjoyest. Report hath informed me
Thou'lt have for a bairn the battle-brave hero.
Now is Heorot cleansèd, ring-palace gleaming;
{Have as much joy as possible in thy hall, once more purified.}
Give while thou mayest many rewards,
55 And bequeath to thy kinsmen kingdom and people,
On wending thy way to the Wielder's splendor.
I know good Hrothulf, that the noble young troopers
{I know that Hrothulf will prove faithful if he survive thee.}
He'll care for and honor, lord of the Scyldings,
If earth-joys thou endest earlier than he doth;
60 I reckon that recompense he'll render with kindness
Our offspring and issue, if that all he remember,
What favors of yore, when he yet was an infant,
We awarded to him for his worship and pleasure."
Then she turned by the bench where her sons were carousing,
65 Hrethric and Hrothmund, and the heroes' offspring,
{Beowulf is sitting by the two royal sons.}
The war-youth together; there the good one was sitting
'Twixt the brothers twain, Beowulf Geatman.
[1] For 1130 (1) R. and Gr. suggest 'elne unflitme' as 1098 (1) reads.
The latter verse is undisputed; and, for the former, 'elne' would be
as possible as 'ealles,' and 'unflitme' is well supported. Accepting
'elne unflitme' for both, I would suggest '_very peaceably_' for both
places: (1) _Finn to Hengest very peaceably vowed with oaths_, etc.
(2) _Hengest then still the slaughter-stained winter remained there
with Finn very peaceably_. The two passages become thus correlatives,
the second a sequel of the first. 'Elne,' in the sense of very
(swíðe), needs no argument; and 'unflitme' (from 'flítan') can, it
seems to me, be more plausibly rendered 'peaceful,' 'peaceable,' than
'contestable,' or 'conquerable.'
[2] Some scholars have proposed 'roden'; the line would then read:
_Then the building was reddened, etc._, instead of 'covered.' The 'h'
may have been carried over from the three alliterating 'h's.'
{More gifts are offered Beowulf.}
A beaker was borne him, and bidding to quaff it
Graciously given, and gold that was twisted
Pleasantly proffered, a pair of arm-jewels,
[42] Rings and corslet, of collars the greatest
5 I've heard of 'neath heaven. Of heroes not any
More splendid from jewels have I heard 'neath the welkin,
{A famous necklace is referred to, in comparison with the gems presented
to Beowulf.}
Since Hama off bore the Brosingmen's necklace,
The bracteates and jewels, from the bright-shining city,[1]
Eormenric's cunning craftiness fled from,
10 Chose gain everlasting. Geatish Higelac,
Grandson of Swerting, last had this jewel
When tramping 'neath banner the treasure he guarded,
The field-spoil defended; Fate offcarried him
When for deeds of daring he endured tribulation,
15 Hate from the Frisians; the ornaments bare he
O'er the cup of the currents, costly gem-treasures,
Mighty folk-leader, he fell 'neath his target;
The[2] corpse of the king then came into charge of
The race of the Frankmen, the mail-shirt and collar:
20 Warmen less noble plundered the fallen,
When the fight was finished; the folk of the Geatmen
The field of the dead held in possession.
The choicest of mead-halls with cheering resounded.
Wealhtheo discoursed, the war-troop addressed she:
{Queen Wealhtheow magnifies Beowulf's achievements.}
25 "This collar enjoy thou, Beowulf worthy,
Young man, in safety, and use thou this armor,
Gems of the people, and prosper thou fully,
Show thyself sturdy and be to these liegemen
Mild with instruction! I'll mind thy requital.
30 Thou hast brought it to pass that far and near
Forever and ever earthmen shall honor thee,
Even so widely as ocean surroundeth
The blustering bluffs. Be, while thou livest,
[43] A wealth-blessèd atheling. I wish thee most truly
{May gifts never fail thee.}
35 Jewels and treasure. Be kind to my son, thou
Living in joyance! Here each of the nobles
Is true unto other, gentle in spirit,
Loyal to leader. The liegemen are peaceful,
The war-troops ready: well-drunken heroes,[3]
40 Do as I bid ye." Then she went to the settle.
There was choicest of banquets, wine drank the heroes:
{They little know of the sorrow in store for them.}
Weird they knew not, destiny cruel,
As to many an earlman early it happened,
When evening had come and Hrothgar had parted
45 Off to his manor, the mighty to slumber.
Warriors unnumbered warded the building
As erst they did often: the ale-settle bared they,
'Twas covered all over with beds and pillows.
{A doomed thane is there with them.}
Doomed unto death, down to his slumber
50 Bowed then a beer-thane. Their battle-shields placed they,
Bright-shining targets, up by their heads then;
O'er the atheling on ale-bench 'twas easy to see there
Battle-high helmet, burnie of ring-mail,
{They were always ready for battle.}
And mighty war-spear. 'Twas the wont of that people
55 To constantly keep them equipped for the battle,[4]
At home or marching--in either condition--
At seasons just such as necessity ordered
As best for their ruler; that people was worthy.
[1] C. suggests a semicolon after 'city,' with 'he' as supplied
subject of 'fled' and 'chose.'
[2] For 'feorh' S. suggests 'feoh': 'corpse' in the translation would
then be changed to '_possessions_,' '_belongings_.' This is a better
reading than one joining, in such intimate syntactical relations,
things so unlike as 'corpse' and 'jewels.'
[3] S. suggests '_wine-joyous heroes_,' '_warriors elated with wine_.'
[4] I believe this translation brings out the meaning of the poet,
without departing seriously from the H.-So. text. 'Oft' frequently
means 'constantly,' 'continually,' not always 'often.'--Why 'an (on)
wíg gearwe' should be written 'ánwíg-gearwe' (= ready for single
combat), I cannot see. 'Gearwe' occurs quite frequently with 'on'; cf.
B. 1110 (_ready for the pyre_), El. 222 (_ready for the glad
journey_). Moreover, what has the idea of single combat to do with B.
1247 ff.? The poet is giving an inventory of the arms and armor which
they lay aside on retiring, and he closes his narration by saying that
they were _always prepared for battle both at home and on the march_.
They sank then to slumber. With sorrow one paid for
His evening repose, as often betid them
While Grendel was holding[1] the gold-bedecked palace,
Ill-deeds performing, till his end overtook him,
5 Death for his sins. 'Twas seen very clearly,
{Grendel's mother is known to be thirsting for revenge.}
Known unto earth-folk, that still an avenger
Outlived the loathed one, long since the sorrow
Caused by the struggle; the mother of Grendel,
Devil-shaped woman, her woe ever minded,
10 Who was held to inhabit the horrible waters,
{[Grendel's progenitor, Cain, is again referred to.]}
The cold-flowing currents, after Cain had become a
Slayer-with-edges to his one only brother,
The son of his sire; he set out then banished,
Marked as a murderer, man-joys avoiding,
15 Lived in the desert. Thence demons unnumbered
{The poet again magnifies Beowulf's valor.}
Fate-sent awoke; one of them Grendel,
Sword-cursèd, hateful, who at Heorot met with
A man that was watching, waiting the struggle,
Where a horrid one held him with hand-grapple sturdy;
20 Nathless he minded the might of his body,
The glorious gift God had allowed him,
And folk-ruling Father's favor relied on,
His help and His comfort: so he conquered the foeman,
The hell-spirit humbled: he unhappy departed then,
25 Reaved of his joyance, journeying to death-haunts,
Foeman of man. His mother moreover
{Grendel's mother comes to avenge her son.}
Eager and gloomy was anxious to go on
Her mournful mission, mindful of vengeance
For the death of her son. She came then to Heorot
[45] 30 Where the Armor-Dane earlmen all through the building
Were lying in slumber. Soon there became then
Return[2] to the nobles, when the mother of Grendel
Entered the folk-hall; the fear was less grievous
By even so much as the vigor of maidens,
35 War-strength of women, by warrior is reckoned,
When well-carved weapon, worked with the hammer,
Blade very bloody, brave with its edges,
Strikes down the boar-sign that stands on the helmet.
Then the hard-edgèd weapon was heaved in the building,[3]
40 The brand o'er the benches, broad-lindens many
Hand-fast were lifted; for helmet he recked not,
For armor-net broad, whom terror laid hold of.
She went then hastily, outward would get her
Her life for to save, when some one did spy her;
{She seizes a favorite liegemen of Hrothgar's.}
45 Soon she had grappled one of the athelings
Fast and firmly, when fenward she hied her;
That one to Hrothgar was liefest of heroes
In rank of retainer where waters encircle,
A mighty shield-warrior, whom she murdered at slumber,
50 A broadly-famed battle-knight. Beowulf was absent,
{Beowulf was asleep in another part of the palace.}
But another apartment was erstwhile devoted
To the glory-decked Geatman when gold was distributed.
There was hubbub in Heorot. The hand that was famous
She grasped in its gore;[4] grief was renewed then
[46] 55 In homes and houses: 'twas no happy arrangement
In both of the quarters to barter and purchase
With lives of their friends. Then the well-agèd ruler,
The gray-headed war-thane, was woful in spirit,
When his long-trusted liegeman lifeless he knew of,
{Beowulf is sent for.}
60 His dearest one gone. Quick from a room was
Beowulf brought, brave and triumphant.
As day was dawning in the dusk of the morning,
{He comes at Hrothgar's summons.}
Went then that earlman, champion noble,
Came with comrades, where the clever one bided
65 Whether God all gracious would grant him a respite
After the woe he had suffered. The war-worthy hero
With a troop of retainers trod then the pavement
(The hall-building groaned), till he greeted the wise one,
{Beowulf inquires how Hrothgar had enjoyed his night's rest.}
The earl of the Ingwins;[5] asked if the night had
70 Fully refreshed him, as fain he would have it.
[1] Several eminent authorities either read or emend the MS. so as to
make this verse read, _While Grendel was wasting the gold-bedecked
palace_. So 20_15 below: _ravaged the desert_.
[2] For 'sóna' (1281), t.B. suggests 'sára,' limiting 'edhwyrft.' Read
then: _Return of sorrows to the nobles, etc_. This emendation supplies
the syntactical gap after 'edhwyrft.'
[3] Some authorities follow Grein's lexicon in treating 'heard ecg' as
an adj. limiting 'sweord': H.-So. renders it as a subst. (So v. 1491.)
The sense of the translation would be the same.
[4] B. suggests 'under hróf genam' (v. 1303). This emendation, as well
as an emendation with (?) to v. 739, he offers, because 'under'
baffles him in both passages. All we need is to take 'under' in its
secondary meaning of 'in,' which, though not given by Grein, occurs in
the literature. Cf. Chron. 876 (March's A.-S. Gram. § 355) and Oro.
Amaz. I. 10, where 'under' = _in the midst of_. Cf. modern Eng. 'in
such circumstances,' which interchanges in good usage with 'under such
[5] For 'néod-laðu' (1321) C. suggests 'néad-láðum,' and translates:
_asked whether the night had been pleasant to him after
{Hrothgar laments the death of Æschere, his shoulder-companion.}
Hrothgar rejoined, helm of the Scyldings:
"Ask not of joyance! Grief is renewed to
The folk of the Danemen. Dead is Æschere,
Yrmenlaf's brother, older than he,
5 My true-hearted counsellor, trusty adviser,
Shoulder-companion, when fighting in battle
Our heads we protected, when troopers were clashing,
{He was my ideal hero.}
And heroes were dashing; such an earl should be ever,
An erst-worthy atheling, as Æschere proved him.
10 The flickering death-spirit became in Heorot
His hand-to-hand murderer; I can not tell whither
The cruel one turned in the carcass exulting,
{This horrible creature came to avenge Grendel's death.}
By cramming discovered.[1] The quarrel she wreaked then,
That last night igone Grendel thou killedst
15 In grewsomest manner, with grim-holding clutches,
Since too long he had lessened my liege-troop and wasted
My folk-men so foully. He fell in the battle
With forfeit of life, and another has followed,
A mighty crime-worker, her kinsman avenging,
20 And henceforth hath 'stablished her hatred unyielding,[2]
As it well may appear to many a liegeman,
Who mourneth in spirit the treasure-bestower,
Her heavy heart-sorrow; the hand is now lifeless
Which[3] availed you in every wish that you cherished.
{I have heard my vassals speak of these two uncanny monsters who lived in
the moors.}
25 Land-people heard I, liegemen, this saying,
Dwellers in halls, they had seen very often
A pair of such mighty march-striding creatures,
Far-dwelling spirits, holding the moorlands:
One of them wore, as well they might notice,
30 The image of woman, the other one wretched
In guise of a man wandered in exile,
Except he was huger than any of earthmen;
Earth-dwelling people entitled him Grendel
In days of yore: they know not their father,
35 Whe'r ill-going spirits any were borne him
{The inhabit the most desolate and horrible places.}
Ever before. They guard the wolf-coverts,
Lands inaccessible, wind-beaten nesses,
Fearfullest fen-deeps, where a flood from the mountains
'Neath mists of the nesses netherward rattles,
40 The stream under earth: not far is it henceward
Measured by mile-lengths that the mere-water standeth,
Which forests hang over, with frost-whiting covered,[4]
[48] A firm-rooted forest, the floods overshadow.
There ever at night one an ill-meaning portent
45 A fire-flood may see; 'mong children of men
None liveth so wise that wot of the bottom;
Though harassed by hounds the heath-stepper seek for,
{Even the hounded deer will not seek refuge in these uncanny regions.}
Fly to the forest, firm-antlered he-deer,
Spurred from afar, his spirit he yieldeth,
50 His life on the shore, ere in he will venture
To cover his head. Uncanny the place is:
Thence upward ascendeth the surging of waters,
Wan to the welkin, when the wind is stirring
The weathers unpleasing, till the air groweth gloomy,
{To thee only can I look for assistance.}
55 And the heavens lower. Now is help to be gotten
From thee and thee only! The abode thou know'st not,
The dangerous place where thou'rt able to meet with
The sin-laden hero: seek if thou darest!
For the feud I will fully fee thee with money,
60 With old-time treasure, as erstwhile I did thee,
With well-twisted jewels, if away thou shalt get thee."
[1] For 'gefrægnod' (1334), K. and t.B. suggest 'gefægnod,' rendering
'_rejoicing in her fill_.' This gives a parallel to 'æse wlanc'
[2] The line 'And ... yielding,' B. renders: _And she has performed a
deed of blood-vengeance whose effect is far-reaching_.
[3] 'Sé Þe' (1345) is an instance of masc. rel. with fem. antecedent.
So v. 1888, where 'sé Þe' refers to 'yldo.'
[4] For 'hrímge' in the H.-So. edition, Gr. and others read 'hrínde'
(=hrínende), and translate: _which rustling forests overhang_.
Beowulf answered, Ecgtheow's son:
{Beowulf exhorts the old king to arouse himself for action.}
"Grieve not, O wise one! for each it is better,
His friend to avenge than with vehemence wail him;
Each of us must the end-day abide of
5 His earthly existence; who is able accomplish
Glory ere death! To battle-thane noble
Lifeless lying, 'tis at last most fitting.
Arise, O king, quick let us hasten
To look at the footprint of the kinsman of Grendel!
10 I promise thee this now: to his place he'll escape not,
To embrace of the earth, nor to mountainous forest,
Nor to depths of the ocean, wherever he wanders.
[49] Practice thou now patient endurance
Of each of thy sorrows, as I hope for thee soothly!"
{Hrothgar rouses himself. His horse is brought.}
15 Then up sprang the old one, the All-Wielder thanked he,
Ruler Almighty, that the man had outspoken.
Then for Hrothgar a war-horse was decked with a bridle,
Curly-maned courser. The clever folk-leader
{They start on the track of the female monster.}
Stately proceeded: stepped then an earl-troop
20 Of linden-wood bearers. Her footprints were seen then
Widely in wood-paths, her way o'er the bottoms,
Where she faraway fared o'er fen-country murky,
Bore away breathless the best of retainers
Who pondered with Hrothgar the welfare of country.
25 The son of the athelings then went o'er the stony,
Declivitous cliffs, the close-covered passes,
Narrow passages, paths unfrequented,
Nesses abrupt, nicker-haunts many;
One of a few of wise-mooded heroes,
30 He onward advanced to view the surroundings,
Till he found unawares woods of the mountain
O'er hoar-stones hanging, holt-wood unjoyful;
The water stood under, welling and gory.
'Twas irksome in spirit to all of the Danemen,
35 Friends of the Scyldings, to many a liegeman
{The sight of Æschere's head causes them great sorrow.}
Sad to be suffered, a sorrow unlittle
To each of the earlmen, when to Æschere's head they
Came on the cliff. The current was seething
With blood and with gore (the troopers gazed on it).
40 The horn anon sang the battle-song ready.
The troop were all seated; they saw 'long the water then
{The water is filled with serpents and sea-dragons.}
Many a serpent, mere-dragons wondrous
Trying the waters, nickers a-lying
On the cliffs of the nesses, which at noonday full often
45 Go on the sea-deeps their sorrowful journey,
Wild-beasts and wormkind; away then they hastened
{One of them is killed by Beowulf.}
Hot-mooded, hateful, they heard the great clamor,
The war-trumpet winding. One did the Geat-prince
[50] Sunder from earth-joys, with arrow from bowstring,
50 From his sea-struggle tore him, that the trusty war-missile
{The dead beast is a poor swimmer}
Pierced to his vitals; he proved in the currents
Less doughty at swimming whom death had offcarried.
Soon in the waters the wonderful swimmer
Was straitened most sorely with sword-pointed boar-spears,
55 Pressed in the battle and pulled to the cliff-edge;
The liegemen then looked on the loath-fashioned stranger.
{Beowulf prepares for a struggle with the monster.}
Beowulf donned then his battle-equipments,
Cared little for life; inlaid and most ample,
The hand-woven corslet which could cover his body,
60 Must the wave-deeps explore, that war might be powerless
To harm the great hero, and the hating one's grasp might
Not peril his safety; his head was protected
By the light-flashing helmet that should mix with the bottoms,
Trying the eddies, treasure-emblazoned,
65 Encircled with jewels, as in seasons long past
The weapon-smith worked it, wondrously made it,
With swine-bodies fashioned it, that thenceforward no longer
Brand might bite it, and battle-sword hurt it.
And that was not least of helpers in prowess
{He has Unferth's sword in his hand.}
70 That Hrothgar's spokesman had lent him when straitened;
And the hilted hand-sword was Hrunting entitled,
Old and most excellent 'mong all of the treasures;
Its blade was of iron, blotted with poison,
Hardened with gore; it failed not in battle
75 Any hero under heaven in hand who it brandished,
Who ventured to take the terrible journeys,
The battle-field sought; not the earliest occasion
That deeds of daring 'twas destined to 'complish.
{Unferth has little use for swords.}
Ecglaf's kinsman minded not soothly,
80 Exulting in strength, what erst he had spoken
Drunken with wine, when the weapon he lent to
A sword-hero bolder; himself did not venture
'Neath the strife of the currents his life to endanger,
[51] To fame-deeds perform; there he forfeited glory,
85 Repute for his strength. Not so with the other
When he clad in his corslet had equipped him for battle.
{Beowulf makes a parting speech to Hrothgar.}
Beowulf spake, Ecgtheow's son:
"Recall now, oh, famous kinsman of Healfdene,
Prince very prudent, now to part I am ready,
Gold-friend of earlmen, what erst we agreed on,
{If I fail, act as a kind liegelord to my thanes,}
5 Should I lay down my life in lending thee assistance,
When my earth-joys were over, thou wouldst evermore serve me
In stead of a father; my faithful thanemen,
My trusty retainers, protect thou and care for,
Fall I in battle: and, Hrothgar belovèd,
{and send Higelac the jewels thou hast given me}
10 Send unto Higelac the high-valued jewels
Thou to me hast allotted. The lord of the Geatmen
May perceive from the gold, the Hrethling may see it
{I should like my king to know how generous a lord I found thee to be.}
When he looks on the jewels, that a gem-giver found I
Good over-measure, enjoyed him while able.
15 And the ancient heirloom Unferth permit thou,
The famed one to have, the heavy-sword splendid[1]
The hard-edgèd weapon; with Hrunting to aid me,
I shall gain me glory, or grim-death shall take me."
{Beowulf is eager for the fray.}
The atheling of Geatmen uttered these words and
20 Heroic did hasten, not any rejoinder
Was willing to wait for; the wave-current swallowed
{He is a whole day reaching the bottom of the sea.}
The doughty-in-battle. Then a day's-length elapsed ere
He was able to see the sea at its bottom.
Early she found then who fifty of winters
25 The course of the currents kept in her fury,
Grisly and greedy, that the grim one's dominion
{Grendel's mother knows that some one has reached her domains.}
Some one of men from above was exploring.
Forth did she grab them, grappled the warrior
With horrible clutches; yet no sooner she injured
30 His body unscathèd: the burnie out-guarded,
That she proved but powerless to pierce through the armor,
The limb-mail locked, with loath-grabbing fingers.
The sea-wolf bare then, when bottomward came she,
{She grabs him, and bears him to her den.}
The ring-prince homeward, that he after was powerless
35 (He had daring to do it) to deal with his weapons,
But many a mere-beast tormented him swimming,
{Sea-monsters bite and strike him.}
Flood-beasts no few with fierce-biting tusks did
Break through his burnie, the brave one pursued they.
The earl then discovered he was down in some cavern
40 Where no water whatever anywise harmed him,
And the clutch of the current could come not anear him,
Since the roofed-hall prevented; brightness a-gleaming
Fire-light he saw, flashing resplendent.
The good one saw then the sea-bottom's monster,
{Beowulf attacks the mother of Grendel.}
45 The mighty mere-woman; he made a great onset
With weapon-of-battle, his hand not desisted
From striking, that war-blade struck on her head then
A battle-song greedy. The stranger perceived then
{The sword will not bite.}
The sword would not bite, her life would not injure,
50 But the falchion failed the folk-prince when straitened:
Erst had it often onsets encountered,
Oft cloven the helmet, the fated one's armor:
'Twas the first time that ever the excellent jewel
Had failed of its fame. Firm-mooded after,
55 Not heedless of valor, but mindful of glory,
Was Higelac's kinsman; the hero-chief angry
Cast then his carved-sword covered with jewels
That it lay on the earth, hard and steel-pointed;
{The hero throws down all weapons, and again trusts to his hand-grip.}
He hoped in his strength, his hand-grapple sturdy.
60 So any must act whenever he thinketh
To gain him in battle glory unending,
And is reckless of living. The lord of the War-Geats
[53] (He shrank not from battle) seized by the shoulder[2]
The mother of Grendel; then mighty in struggle
65 Swung he his enemy, since his anger was kindled,
That she fell to the floor. With furious grapple
{Beowulf falls.}
She gave him requital[3] early thereafter,
And stretched out to grab him; the strongest of warriors
Faint-mooded stumbled, till he fell in his traces,
{The monster sits on him with drawn sword.}
70 Foot-going champion. Then she sat on the hall-guest
And wielded her war-knife wide-bladed, flashing,
For her son would take vengeance, her one only bairn.
{His armor saves his life.}
His breast-armor woven bode on his shoulder;
It guarded his life, the entrance defended
75 'Gainst sword-point and edges. Ecgtheow's son there
Had fatally journeyed, champion of Geatmen,
In the arms of the ocean, had the armor not given,
Close-woven corslet, comfort and succor,
{God arranged for his escape.}
And had God most holy not awarded the victory,
80 All-knowing Lord; easily did heaven's
Ruler most righteous arrange it with justice;[4]
Uprose he erect ready for battle.
[1] Kl. emends 'wæl-sweord.' The half-line would then read, '_the
battle-sword splendid_.'--For 'heard-ecg' in next half-verse, see note
to 20_39 above.
[2] Sw., R., and t.B. suggest 'feaxe' for 'eaxle' (1538) and render:
_Seized by the hair_.
[3] If 'hand-léan' be accepted (as the MS. has it), the line will
read: _She hand-reward gave him early thereafter_.
[4] Sw. and S. change H.-So.'s semicolon (v. 1557) to a comma, and
translate: _The Ruler of Heaven arranged it in justice easily, after
he arose again_.
{Beowulf grasps a giant-sword,}
Then he saw mid the war-gems a weapon of victory,
An ancient giant-sword, of edges a-doughty,
Glory of warriors: of weapons 'twas choicest,
Only 'twas larger than any man else was
[54] 5 Able to bear to the battle-encounter,
The good and splendid work of the giants.
He grasped then the sword-hilt, knight of the Scyldings,
Bold and battle-grim, brandished his ring-sword,
Hopeless of living, hotly he smote her,
10 That the fiend-woman's neck firmly it grappled,
{and fells the female monster.}
Broke through her bone-joints, the bill fully pierced her
Fate-cursèd body, she fell to the ground then:
The hand-sword was bloody, the hero exulted.
The brand was brilliant, brightly it glimmered,
15 Just as from heaven gemlike shineth
The torch of the firmament. He glanced 'long the building,
And turned by the wall then, Higelac's vassal
Raging and wrathful raised his battle-sword
Strong by the handle. The edge was not useless
20 To the hero-in-battle, but he speedily wished to
Give Grendel requital for the many assaults he
Had worked on the West-Danes not once, but often,
When he slew in slumber the subjects of Hrothgar,
Swallowed down fifteen sleeping retainers
25 Of the folk of the Danemen, and fully as many
Carried away, a horrible prey.
He gave him requital, grim-raging champion,
{Beowulf sees the body of Grendel, and cuts off his head.}
When he saw on his rest-place weary of conflict
Grendel lying, of life-joys bereavèd,
30 As the battle at Heorot erstwhile had scathed him;
His body far bounded, a blow when he suffered,
Death having seized him, sword-smiting heavy,
And he cut off his head then. Early this noticed
The clever carles who as comrades of Hrothgar
{The waters are gory.}
35 Gazed on the sea-deeps, that the surging wave-currents
Were mightily mingled, the mere-flood was gory:
Of the good one the gray-haired together held converse,
{Beowulf is given up for dead.}
The hoary of head, that they hoped not to see again
The atheling ever, that exulting in victory
40 He'd return there to visit the distinguished folk-ruler:
[55] Then many concluded the mere-wolf had killed him.[1]
The ninth hour came then. From the ness-edge departed
The bold-mooded Scyldings; the gold-friend of heroes
Homeward betook him. The strangers sat down then
45 Soul-sick, sorrowful, the sea-waves regarding:
They wished and yet weened not their well-loved friend-lord
{The giant-sword melts.}
To see any more. The sword-blade began then,
The blood having touched it, contracting and shriveling
With battle-icicles; 'twas a wonderful marvel
50 That it melted entirely, likest to ice when
The Father unbindeth the bond of the frost and
Unwindeth the wave-bands, He who wieldeth dominion
Of times and of tides: a truth-firm Creator.
Nor took he of jewels more in the dwelling,
55 Lord of the Weders, though they lay all around him,
Than the head and the handle handsome with jewels;
[56] The brand early melted, burnt was the weapon:[2]
So hot was the blood, the strange-spirit poisonous
{The hero swims back to the realms of day.}
That in it did perish. He early swam off then
60 Who had bided in combat the carnage of haters,
Went up through the ocean; the eddies were cleansèd,
The spacious expanses, when the spirit from farland
His life put aside and this short-lived existence.
The seamen's defender came swimming to land then
65 Doughty of spirit, rejoiced in his sea-gift,
The bulky burden which he bore in his keeping.
The excellent vassals advanced then to meet him,
To God they were grateful, were glad in their chieftain,
That to see him safe and sound was granted them.
70 From the high-minded hero, then, helmet and burnie
Were speedily loosened: the ocean was putrid,
The water 'neath welkin weltered with gore.
Forth did they fare, then, their footsteps retracing,
Merry and mirthful, measured the earth-way,
75 The highway familiar: men very daring[3]
Bare then the head from the sea-cliff, burdening
Each of the earlmen, excellent-valiant.
{It takes four men to carry Grendel's head on a spear.}
Four of them had to carry with labor
The head of Grendel to the high towering gold-hall
80 Upstuck on the spear, till fourteen most-valiant
And battle-brave Geatmen came there going
Straight to the palace: the prince of the people
Measured the mead-ways, their mood-brave companion.
The atheling of earlmen entered the building,
85 Deed-valiant man, adorned with distinction,
Doughty shield-warrior, to address King Hrothgar:
[57] Then hung by the hair, the head of Grendel
Was borne to the building, where beer-thanes were drinking,
Loth before earlmen and eke 'fore the lady:
90 The warriors beheld then a wonderful sight.
[1] 'Þæs monige gewearð' (1599) and 'hafað þæs geworden' (2027).--In a
paper published some years ago in one of the Johns Hopkins University
circulars, I tried to throw upon these two long-doubtful passages some
light derived from a study of like passages in Alfred's prose.--The
impersonal verb 'geweorðan,' with an accus. of the person, and a
þæt-clause is used several times with the meaning 'agree.' See Orosius
(Sweet's ed.) 178_7; 204_34; 208_28; 210_15; 280_20. In the two
Beowulf passages, the þæt-clause is anticipated by 'þæs,' which is
clearly a gen. of the thing agreed on.
The first passage (v. 1599 (b)-1600) I translate literally: _Then many
agreed upon this (namely), that the sea-wolf had killed him_.
The second passage (v. 2025 (b)-2027): _She is promised ...; to this
the friend of the Scyldings has agreed, etc_. By emending 'is' instead
of 'wæs' (2025), the tenses will be brought into perfect harmony.
In v. 1997 ff. this same idiom occurs, and was noticed in B.'s great
article on Beowulf, which appeared about the time I published my
reading of 1599 and 2027. Translate 1997 then: _Wouldst let the
South-Danes themselves decide about their struggle with Grendel_. Here
'Súð-Dene' is accus. of person, and 'gúðe' is gen. of thing agreed on.
With such collateral support as that afforded by B. (P. and B. XII.
97), I have no hesitation in departing from H.-So., my usual guide.
The idiom above treated runs through A.-S., Old Saxon, and other
Teutonic languages, and should be noticed in the lexicons.
[2] 'Bróden-mæl' is regarded by most scholars as meaning a damaskeened
sword. Translate: _The damaskeened sword burned up_. Cf. 25_16 and
[3] 'Cyning-balde' (1635) is the much-disputed reading of K. and Th.
To render this, "_nobly bold_," "_excellently bold_," have been
suggested. B. would read 'cyning-holde' (cf. 290), and render: _Men
well-disposed towards the king carried the head, etc._ 'Cynebealde,'
says t.B., endorsing Gr.
{Beowulf relates his last exploit.}
Beowulf spake, offspring of Ecgtheow:
"Lo! we blithely have brought thee, bairn of Healfdene,
Prince of the Scyldings, these presents from ocean
Which thine eye looketh on, for an emblem of glory.
5 I came off alive from this, narrowly 'scaping:
In war 'neath the water the work with great pains I
Performed, and the fight had been finished quite nearly,
Had God not defended me. I failed in the battle
Aught to accomplish, aided by Hrunting,
10 Though that weapon was worthy, but the Wielder of earth-folk
{God was fighting with me.}
Gave me willingly to see on the wall a
Heavy old hand-sword hanging in splendor
(He guided most often the lorn and the friendless),
That I swung as a weapon. The wards of the house then
15 I killed in the conflict (when occasion was given me).
Then the battle-sword burned, the brand that was lifted,[1]
As the blood-current sprang, hottest of war-sweats;
Seizing the hilt, from my foes I offbore it;
I avenged as I ought to their acts of malignity,
20 The murder of Danemen. I then make thee this promise,
{Heorot is freed from monsters.}
Thou'lt be able in Heorot careless to slumber
With thy throng of heroes and the thanes of thy people
Every and each, of greater and lesser,
And thou needest not fear for them from the selfsame direction
25 As thou formerly fearedst, oh, folk-lord of Scyldings,
[58] End-day for earlmen." To the age-hoary man then,
{The famous sword is presented to Hrothgar.}
The gray-haired chieftain, the gold-fashioned sword-hilt,
Old-work of giants, was thereupon given;
Since the fall of the fiends, it fell to the keeping
30 Of the wielder of Danemen, the wonder-smith's labor,
And the bad-mooded being abandoned this world then,
Opponent of God, victim of murder,
And also his mother; it went to the keeping
Of the best of the world-kings, where waters encircle,
35 Who the scot divided in Scylding dominion.
{Hrothgar looks closely at the old sword.}
Hrothgar discoursed, the hilt he regarded,
The ancient heirloom where an old-time contention's
Beginning was graven: the gurgling currents,
The flood slew thereafter the race of the giants,
40 They had proved themselves daring: that people was loth to
{It had belonged to a race hateful to God.}
The Lord everlasting, through lash of the billows
The Father gave them final requital.
So in letters of rune on the clasp of the handle
Gleaming and golden, 'twas graven exactly,
45 Set forth and said, whom that sword had been made for,
Finest of irons, who first it was wrought for,
Wreathed at its handle and gleaming with serpents.
The wise one then said (silent they all were)
{Hrothgar praises Beowulf.}
Son of old Healfdene: "He may say unrefuted
50 Who performs 'mid the folk-men fairness and truth
(The hoary old ruler remembers the past),
That better by birth is this bairn of the nobles!
Thy fame is extended through far-away countries,
Good friend Beowulf, o'er all of the races,
55 Thou holdest all firmly, hero-like strength with
Prudence of spirit. I'll prove myself grateful
As before we agreed on; thou granted for long shalt
Become a great comfort to kinsmen and comrades,
{Heremod's career is again contrasted with Beowulf's.}
A help unto heroes. Heremod became not
60 Such to the Scyldings, successors of Ecgwela;
He grew not to please them, but grievous destruction,
[59] And diresome death-woes to Danemen attracted;
He slew in anger his table-companions,
Trustworthy counsellors, till he turned off lonely
65 From world-joys away, wide-famous ruler:
Though high-ruling heaven in hero-strength raised him,
In might exalted him, o'er men of all nations
Made him supreme, yet a murderous spirit
Grew in his bosom: he gave then no ring-gems
{A wretched failure of a king, to give no jewels to his retainers.}
70 To the Danes after custom; endured he unjoyful
Standing the straits from strife that was raging,
Longsome folk-sorrow. Learn then from this,
Lay hold of virtue! Though laden with winters,
I have sung thee these measures. 'Tis a marvel to tell it,
{Hrothgar moralizes.}
75 How all-ruling God from greatness of spirit
Giveth wisdom to children of men,
Manor and earlship: all things He ruleth.
He often permitteth the mood-thought of man of
The illustrious lineage to lean to possessions,
80 Allows him earthly delights at his manor,
A high-burg of heroes to hold in his keeping,
Maketh portions of earth-folk hear him,
And a wide-reaching kingdom so that, wisdom failing him,
He himself is unable to reckon its boundaries;
85 He liveth in luxury, little debars him,
Nor sickness nor age, no treachery-sorrow
Becloudeth his spirit, conflict nowhere,
No sword-hate, appeareth, but all of the world doth
Wend as he wisheth; the worse he knoweth not,
90 Till arrant arrogance inward pervading,
Waxeth and springeth, when the warder is sleeping,
The guard of the soul: with sorrows encompassed,
Too sound is his slumber, the slayer is near him,
Who with bow and arrow aimeth in malice.
[1] Or rather, perhaps, '_the inlaid, or damaskeened weapon_.' Cf.
24_57 and note.
{A wounded spirit.}
"Then bruised in his bosom he with bitter-toothed missile
Is hurt 'neath his helmet: from harmful pollution
He is powerless to shield him by the wonderful mandates
Of the loath-cursèd spirit; what too long he hath holden
5 Him seemeth too small, savage he hoardeth,
Nor boastfully giveth gold-plated rings,[1]
The fate of the future flouts and forgetteth
Since God had erst given him greatness no little,
Wielder of Glory. His end-day anear,
10 It afterward happens that the bodily-dwelling
Fleetingly fadeth, falls into ruins;
Another lays hold who doleth the ornaments,
The nobleman's jewels, nothing lamenting,
Heedeth no terror. Oh, Beowulf dear,
15 Best of the heroes, from bale-strife defend thee,
And choose thee the better, counsels eternal;
{Be not over proud: life is fleeting, and its strength soon wasteth away.}
Beware of arrogance, world-famous champion!
But a little-while lasts thy life-vigor's fulness;
'Twill after hap early, that illness or sword-edge
20 Shall part thee from strength, or the grasp of the fire,
Or the wave of the current, or clutch of the edges,
Or flight of the war-spear, or age with its horrors,
Or thine eyes' bright flashing shall fade into darkness:
'Twill happen full early, excellent hero,
{Hrothgar gives an account of his reign.}
25 That death shall subdue thee. So the Danes a half-century
I held under heaven, helped them in struggles
'Gainst many a race in middle-earth's regions,
With ash-wood and edges, that enemies none
On earth molested me. Lo! offsetting change, now,
{Sorrow after joy.}
30 Came to my manor, grief after joyance,
When Grendel became my constant visitor,
Inveterate hater: I from that malice
Continually travailed with trouble no little.
Thanks be to God that I gained in my lifetime,
35 To the Lord everlasting, to look on the gory
Head with mine eyes, after long-lasting sorrow!
Go to the bench now, battle-adornèd
Joy in the feasting: of jewels in common
We'll meet with many when morning appeareth."
40 The Geatman was gladsome, ganged he immediately
To go to the bench, as the clever one bade him.
Then again as before were the famous-for-prowess,
Hall-inhabiters, handsomely banqueted,
Feasted anew. The night-veil fell then
45 Dark o'er the warriors. The courtiers rose then;
The gray-haired was anxious to go to his slumbers,
The hoary old Scylding. Hankered the Geatman,
{Beowulf is fagged, and seeks rest.}