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J. Lesslie Hall
Beowulf - An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem
First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SCYLD.
SCYLD’S SUCCESSORS.—HROTHGAR’S GREAT MEAD-HALL.
GRENDEL THE MURDERER.
BEOWULF GOES TO HROTHGAR’S ASSISTANCE.
THE GEATS REACH HEOROT.
BEOWULF INTRODUCES HIMSELF AT THE PALACE.
HROTHGAR AND BEOWULF.
HROTHGAR AND BEOWULF.—Continued.
UNFERTH TAUNTS BEOWULF.
BEOWULF SILENCES UNFERTH.—GLEE IS HIGH.
ALL SLEEP SAVE ONE.
GRENDEL AND BEOWULF.
GRENDEL IS VANQUISHED.
REJOICING OF THE DANES.
HROTHGAR LAVISHES GIFTS UPON HIS DELIVERER.
BANQUET (continued).—THE SCOP’S SONG OF FINN AND HNÆF.
THE FINN EPISODE (continued).—THE BANQUET CONTINUES.
BEOWULF RECEIVES FURTHER HONOR.
THE MOTHER OF GRENDEL.
HROTHGAR’S ACCOUNT OF THE MONSTERS.
BEOWULF SEEKS GRENDEL’S MOTHER.
BEOWULF’S FIGHT WITH GRENDEL’S MOTHER.
BEOWULF IS DOUBLE-CONQUEROR.
BEOWULF BRINGS HIS TROPHIES.—HROTHGAR’S GRATITUDE.
HROTHGAR MORALIZES.—REST AFTER LABOR.
SORROW AT PARTING.
THE HOMEWARD JOURNEY.—THE TWO QUEENS.
BEOWULF AND HIGELAC.
BEOWULF NARRATES HIS ADVENTURES TO HIGELAC.
GIFT-GIVING IS MUTUAL.
THE HOARD AND THE DRAGON.
BRAVE THOUGH AGED.—REMINISCENCES.
BEOWULF SEEKS THE DRAGON.—BEOWULF’S REMINISCENCES.
REMINISCENCES (continued).—BEOWULF’S LAST BATTLE.
WIGLAF THE TRUSTY.—BEOWULF IS DESERTED BY FRIENDS AND BY SWORD.
THE FATAL STRUGGLE.—BEOWULF’S LAST MOMENTS.
WIGLAF PLUNDERS THE DRAGON’S DEN.—BEOWULF’S DEATH.
THE DEAD FOES.—WIGLAF’S BITTER TAUNTS.
THE MESSENGER OF DEATH.
THE MESSENGER’S RETROSPECT.
WIGLAF’S SAD STORY.—THE HOARD CARRIED OFF.
THE BURNING OF BEOWULF.
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 poem.
Oft Scyld the Scefing from scathers in numbers
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
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 afterwardsmade 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,
1That reaved of their rulers they wretched had erstwhile2
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.
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:
By praise-worthy actions must honor be got
’Mong all ofthe 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,
As himself he hadbidden, while the friend of the Scyldings
Word-sway wielded, and the well-lovèd land-prince
Long did rule them.3The 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 laidon a vessel and wafted seaward.
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
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.
And favorsno 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 theystretched under heaven
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.
 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.
 For ‘aldor-léase’ (15) Gr. suggested ‘aldor-ceare’:He perceived their distress, that they formerly had suffered life-sorrow a long while.
 A very difficult passage. ‘Áhte’ (31) has no object. H. supplies ‘geweald’ from thecontext; 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.
 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’ inv. 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
Great-minded Healfdene; the Danes in his lifetime
He graciously governed, grim-mooded, agèd.
Four bairns of his body born in succession
Woke in the world, war-troopers’ leader
Heorogar, Hrothgar, and Halga the good;
Heard I that Elan was Ongentheow’s consort,
He has three sons—one of them, Hrothgar—and adaughter 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,
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 hisretainers
Ever had heard of, and in it to share
With young and old all of the blessings
The Lord had allowed him, save life and retainers.
Then the work I find afar was assigned
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,
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 betweenantlers:
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-spirit1endured for a season,
The Monster Grendel is madly envious of theDanemen’sjoy.
Bore it bitterly, he who bided in darkness,
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 tosome old account of the creation.]
To tell from of old earthmen’s beginnings,
That Father Almighty earth had created,
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
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,
Thewarriors abided, till a certain one gan to
Dog them with deeds of direfullest malice,
A foe in the hall-building: this horrible stranger2
Was Grendel entitled, the march-stepper famous
Who3dwelt in the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness;
Thewan-mooded being abode for a season
In the land of the giants, when the Lord and Creator
Had banned him and branded. For that bitter murder,
The killing of Abel, all-ruling Father
Cain is referred to as a progenitor of Grendel, and of monstersin general.
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,
Elves and giants, monsters of ocean,
Came intobeing, and the giants that longtime
Grappled with God; He gave them requital.
 R. and t. B. prefer ‘ellor-gæst’ to‘ellen-gæst’ (86):Then the stranger from afarendured, etc.
 Some authorities would translate ‘demon’instead of ‘stranger.’
 Someauthorities arrange differently, and render:Whodwelt in the moor-fens, the marsh and the fastness, the land of thegiant-race.
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
Asleep after supper; sorrow the heroes,1
Misery knew not. The monster of evil
Greedy and cruel tarried but little,
He dragsoff thirty of them, and devours them
Fell and frantic, and forced from their slumbers
Thirty of thanemen; thence he departed
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 isfully realized.
Then, his meal-taking finished, a moan was uplifted,
Morning-cry mighty. The man-ruler famous,
The long-worthyatheling, sat very woful,
Suffered great sorrow, sighed for his liegemen,
When they had seen the track of the hateful pursuer,
The spirit accursèd: too crushing that sorrow,
The monster returns the next night.
Too loathsome and lasting. Not longer hetarried,
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
A pleasanter place of repose in the lodges,
A bed inthe 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.
2So ruled he and strongly strove against justice
Lone against all men, till emptyuptowered
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,
Endless agony; hence it after3became
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,
Strife unremitting, and peacefully wished he
4Life-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
On handsome amends at the hands of the murderer;
Grendel is unremitting in his persecutions.
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.
So the foe of mankind many of evils
Grievous injuries, often accomplished,
Horrible hermit; Heort hefrequented,
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
The light-flashing jewel, love of Him knew not).
’Twas a fearful affliction to the friend oftheScyldings
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 unlookedfor.
They invoke the aid of their gods.
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 usedthen,
Hope of the heathen; hell they remembered
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
The clutch ofthe 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!
 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, thewretchedness of man, aught of misfortune.—For‘unhælo’ (120) R. suggests‘unfælo’:The uncanny creature, greedy and cruel,etc.
 S. rearranges and translates:So he ruled and struggledunjustly, oneagainst all, till the noblest of buildings stooduseless (it was a long while) twelve years’ time: the friendof the Scyldings suffered distress, every woe, great sorrows,etc.
 For ‘syððan,’ B. suggests‘sárcwidum’:Hence in mournful words it became wellknown, etc. Various other words beginning with ‘s’ havebeen conjectured.
 The H.-So. glossary is very inconsistent in referringto 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:Hedid not desire peace with any of the Danes, nor did he wish toremove their life-woe, nor to settle for money.
Hrothgar sees no way of escape from the persecutionsofGrendel.
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,
Loathsome and lasting the life-grinding torture,
Beowulf, the Geat, hero of the poem, hears of Hrothgar’ssorrow, 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:1of heroes then living
He was stoutest and strongest,sturdy and noble.
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 himdearly;
They egged the brave atheling, augured him glory.
With fourteen carefully chosen companions, he sets out forDane-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,
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-currentstwisted
The sea on the sand; soldiers then carried
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 floaterfanned by the breeze,
Likest a bird, glided the waters,
In twenty four hours they reach the shores of Hrothgar’sdominions
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
At the end of the ocean.2Up thence quickly
The men of the Weders clomb to the mainland,
Fastened their vessel (battle weeds rattled,
War burniesclattered), the Wielder they thanked
That the ways o’er the waters had waxen so gentle.
They are hailed by the Danish coast guard
Then well from the cliff edge the guard of the Scyldings
Who the sea-cliffs should see to, saw o’er the gangway
Brave onesbearing beauteous targets,
Armor all ready, anxiously thought he,
Musing and wondering what men were approaching.
High on his horse then Hrothgar’s retainer
Turned him to coastward, mightily brandished
His lance in his hands, questioned with boldness.
“Who are ye men here, mail-covered warriors
Clad in your corslets, come thus a-driving
A high riding ship o’er the shoals of the waters,
3And hither ’neath helmets have hied o’er theocean?
I have been strand-guard, standing as warden,
Lest enemies ever anywise ravage
Danish dominions with army of war-ships.
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 haveknown. Never a greater one
Of earls o’er the earth haveIhad a sight of
Than is one of your number, a hero in armor;
No low-ranking fellow4adorned 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
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 totell me what place ye are come from.”
 ‘From hám’ (194) is much disputed. Onerendering is:Beowulf, being away from home, heard ofHrothgar’s troubles, etc. Another, that adopted by S. andendorsed 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 andnotes conflict.
 ‘Eoletes’ (224) is marked with a (?) byH.-So.; our rendering simply follows his conjecture.—Otherconjectures as to ‘eolet’ are: (1)voyage,(2)toil,labor, (3)hasty journey.
 The lacuna of the MS at this point has been supplied byvarious conjectures. The reading adopted by H.-So. has beenrendered in the above translation. W., like H.-So., makes‘ic’ the beginning of a new sentence, but, for‘helmas bæron,’ he reads ‘hringedstefnan.’ 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:Whatwarriors are ye, clad in armor, who have thus come bringing thefoaming vessel over the water way, hither over the seas? For sometime on the wall I have been coast guard, etc. S. endorses most ofwhat B. says, but leaves out ‘on the wall’ in the lastsentence. If W.’s ‘hringed stefnan’ be accepted,changeline 51above to,A ring-stemmed vessel hithero’ersea.
 ‘Seld-guma’ (249) is variously rendered:(1)housecarle; (2)home-stayer; (3)common man. Dr. H. Wood suggestsaman-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 ofGeatland,
AndHigelac’s hearth-friends. To heroes unnumbered
My father Ecgtheow was well-known in his day.
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 ofthe counsellors
Widely mid world-folk well remembers him.
Our intentions towards King Hrothgar are of the kindest.
We, kindly of spirit, the lord of thy people,
The son of King Healfdene, have come here to visit,
Folk-troop’s defender: be free in thycounsels!
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?