Listen! We have gathered the glory in days of yore
of the Spear-Danes, kings among men:
how these warriors performed deeds of courage. (ll. 1-3)
Often Scyld Scefing seized the mead-seats
from hordes of harmers, from how many people,
terrifying noble men, after he was found
so needy at the start. He wrangled his remedy after,
growing hale under the heavens, thriving honorably,
until all of them had to obey him,
those scattered about, across the whale-road,
must pay him tribute. That was a good king! (ll. 4-11)
To him was conceived an heir in days after,
young in the yards, whom God had sent
as a comfort to the people—he understood the dire distress
they had suffered before, bereft of a king
for a long while. Therefore the Lord of Life,
the Sovereign of Glory, gave to them worldly honor.
Beow was famous—prosperity sprang widely—
as Scyld’s son, throughout all the northern lands. (ll. 12-19)
So ought a young man to make good his disposition,
gracious payments from the start, even in the lap of his father,
so that loyal companions should linger with him
in old age, when war comes soon,
the people should follow him. By these praiseful deeds
one ought to flourish in every tribe everywhere. (ll. 20-25)
Then Scyld turned himself away at his given hour—
faring full of greatness—into the covenant of the Lord.
Then they brought him to the briny beach,
his beloved retainers, just as he himself had bidden
while he still wielded words, the benefactor of the Scyldings—
the first of the land, dear and old, had ruled them a long time. (ll. 26-31)
There in the harbor stood a ringed prow,
icy and outward-bound, a nobleman’s vessel.
Then they laid down their beloved prince,
the dispenser of rings, in the bosom of the ship,
the notorious by the mast. There were many treasures,
brought from far-ways, adornments laden there—
I’ve never heard of a ship equipped more fit
with war-weapons and battle-shirts,
with swords and with sarks. Many treasures
lay in his lap, which were supposed
to float far away with him into the flood’s keeping. (ll. 32-42)
No lesser gifts did they furnish him,
than the wealth of their people, more than what they gave him,
when they sent him forth at the start,
alone over the waves, while still a baby. (ll. 43-46)
Nevertheless they set over him a golden standard,
high over his head, letting the seas bear him,
giving him to the spear-waves—their hearts grieving,
minds mourning. No man knows how to say truly,
among the hall-wise or heroes under heaven,
who took in those treasures. (ll. 47-52)
Then in the strongholds was the Scylding Beow
the beloved king of the people for a very long time,
famous to his folk—his father departed elsewhere,
the prince from this earth—until from him was soon born
Halfdane the High, who held onto the joyful Scyldings,
so long as he lived, ancient and ferocious in war. (ll. 53-58)
From him, the head of the armies, came four children,
counted forth in a chain, awakened in the world,
Heorogar and Hrothgar and good Halga,
and I heard that his daughter was Onela’s queen,
the beloved bedfellow of the Battle-Scylfing. (ll. 59-63)
Then was Hrothgar given success in war,
praises in battle, so that his kinsfolk
eagerly obeyed him until the youth grew hardy,
a great company of warriors. It occurred to his mind
that he wished to command his men to construct
a great mead-house, the hall of all halls—
what the children of men had always asked for—
and there within, all would be given,
the young and the old, such as God had granted him,
everything except the common lands and the lives of men. (ll. 64-73)
Then I have learned it far and wide that the work was proclaimed
to the many tribes throughout this middle-earth,
that they must adorn that folk-stead. And so it happened in his time,
immediately among men, that it was completely finished,
the greatest of halls—he created for it the name Heorot,
he who had the widest authority of his words.
He left no promises unfulfilled and dealt out rings,
riches at his feastings. The hall towered there,
high and horn-wide, awaiting the whelming flames,
the hateful tongues. It was not so long yet
until the blade-hatred must awaken sworn in-laws
after their slaughtering malice. (ll. 74-85)
Then wretchedly a mighty monster
suffered for a space, he who dwelt in darkness,
every day hearing the joy loud in the hall.
The voice of harps was there and the ringing song
of the scop. One spoke who knew best,
of the creation of men, relating from long before.
He told that the Almighty made the earth,
a shining-bright plain, so surrounded by waters.
He established both sun and moon, victorious and triumphant,
the lamps of light for those living on land,
and ornamented all the corners of the earth
with limbs and leaves—he also shaped life itself
in all kinds of creatures which quickly scurry about. (ll. 86-98)
So these noble warriors lodged in their delights
blissfully — until their lonely opponent
made evil upon them, the fiend from hell.
That ferocious spirit was named Grendel,
the notorious border-strider, who held the moors,
the swampy stronghold, the lair of water-monsters,
an unhappy creature, keeping them a long while,
since the Shaper had condemned him
as the kin of Cain—that killing had the Eternal Lord
avenged, after the man had struck down Abel.
Cain rejoiced not in that felony, but he banished him far away,
the Measurer for those wicked deeds, from the kindred of men.
From there was conceived all sorts of monstrous things,
ogres and elves and revenants, likewise the giants
who struggled against God for many ages—
who gave them back their just deserts. (ll. 99-114)
Then Grendel departed to seek out, after the night had fallen,
that high house, how the Ring-Danes had occupied it
after their beer-taking—he discovered therein
a company of noblemen slumbering after their feast—
they knew no sorrow, no misery of mankind.
That wicked creature, grim and greedy,
was instantly ready, savage and severe,
and he snatched up thirty thanes from their rest.
From there he soon departed, exulting in his spoils,
venturing back to his home, seeking out his lair
glutted by slaughter. (ll. 115-25)
It was in the dark before dawn, the earliest morn,
when Grendel’s savage strength was revealed to men.
Then a great cry was heaved up after the banquet,
a mighty clamor at morning. The famous prince,
a noble tested true, sat unblithe, suffering
powerfully, enduring the tearing away of his thanes.
Afterwards they looked upon the trace of that loathed one,
that accursed ghast. That struggle was too strong,
hateful and long-lasting. And it was no longer a time
than the next night, when Grendel did it all again,
more violent killing, and mourned it not,
feud or felony. He was too imbrued in them. (ll. 126-37)
Then it was too easy to find those seeking
a roomier rest elsewhere, their bed in the outbuildings,
when it became signified, said soothly,
as a manifest token, the hatred of the hall-stalker.
Afterwards he who wished to escape from the fiend
held himself aloof, farther and faster from the hall. (ll. 138-43)
So ruled Grendel, and struggled against the right,
alone against all, until the best of halls stood idle.
The time was great, a season of twelve winters,
that the friend of the Scyldings suffered misery,
every woe, the broadest sorrows. Therefore it became
an open secret to men, to the sons of humanity,
through miserable songs, that Grendel struggled
a long while against Hrothgar, wearing malicious hatred,
felony and feud for many long years,
a perpetual strife—he wished for no accord
with any man among the host of the Danes,
to turn aside the soul-slaying or settle it with payment,
nor need any of the counselors expect
to receive bright gifts from the hands of a killer. (ll. 144-58)
Yet the monster was persecuting young and old,
the dark shadow of death, lurking and entrapping them.
In endless night he ruled the misty moors—
Us humans don’t even know how to trace
the turnings of such hellish secrets. (ll. 159-63)
So many enormities the enemy of mankind,
loathsome lone-stalker, often perpetrated
a shaming more severe. He inhabited Heorot,
the dear-studded hall by the darkest night—
but he might never approach that gift-seat
or its treasures because of the Measurer—
he did not know his love. (ll. 164-69)
That was a mighty wrack for the Scyldings’ friend,
a breaking of his heart. Often many sat,
the capable at council, stewing upon a course
what best to do by the much-spirited
against terror’s ferocity. (ll. 170-74)
Sometimes they offered at heathen fanes
honoring wooden gods, worshipping wordfully
so that the soul-slayer might give solace
in the people’s peril. Such was their custom,
their heathenish hope. They remembered hell
in their inner hearts. They knew not the Measurer,
the Deemer of Deeds, nor did they know Lord God—
indeed nor could they praise the Helmet of Heaven,
the Sovereign of Glory. Woe to those who must
through glowering malice shove down their souls
into the fathoming fire, who must not expect comfort
or one jot of change! It will be well for those
who are allowed after their death-day to seek the Lord
and beg for protection in the Father’s embrace! (ll. 175-88)
And so Halfdane’s son perpetually boiled
over these troubled times, nor could the wise warrior
avert these woes. Too harsh was this affliction,
loathsome and long-lasting, that had come upon his people,
the malice-grim vengeance, the greatest of night-terrors. (ll. 189-93)
Among his own Hygelac’s thane had heard,
good among the Geats, about the deeds of Grendel.
He was the strongest of power among
mankind in those days of this life,
noble and well-grown. He ordered an excellent wave-glider
readied for himself—he stated he wished to seek
the war-king across the swan-road,
the famous prince who stood in need of men.
Wise retainers reproached him but little
about that mission, though he was loved by them,
whetting his mighty spirit and peering at the portents. (ll. 194-204)
This outstanding hero had chosen champions
from the Geatish tribe, from those he found
keenest for battle—one of some fifteen men
seeking the surge-wood, the warrior leading the way,
a sea-crafty man to the limit of the shore. (ll. 205-09)
The time went forth—the ship was upon the waves,
the boat under the sea-cliffs. The warriors made ready,
mounting the prow. The currents wound about,
stream against the sand. The soldiers carried
onto the lap of the ship bright treasures,
and magnificent war-fittings. Then men shoved out,
warriors on their wanted journey, the wood tightly bound.
Then it departed over the wavy sea, hurried by the wind,
a float foamy-necked, very much like a bird,
until about the same time on the second day,
the whorled prow had traversed the distance,
so that the sailors saw land, the shining sea-cliffs,
the steep hills and the broad promontories.
The sea-crossing was sailed, their voyage had ended.
Thence they went swiftly, heroes of the Weder-Geats,
descended onto dry land, restraining the sea-wood—
battle-sarks resounding, their war-weavings—
They thanked God that the wave-path was easy for them. (ll. 210-228)
Then from the wall the Scylding warden spotted them,
who must keep watch over the wave-cliffs,
saw bright bosses borne down the gangway,
gear for an army ready for deployment.
The desire broke him, in his mind-thoughts to know
what men these were. Then he turned himself toward the shore,
riding his horse, the thane of Hrothgar, shaking forcefully,
strong spear-wood in his hand,
inquiring with carefully-chosen words: (ll. 229-36)
“Who are you, armor-bearing men,
bolstered in your byrnies, who come
leading this steep ship over the sea-streets,
hither over the waves? For a long while
I have been the border guardian, holding shore-watch,
that no one hated by the Danes could harm us
by land with a shipborne force. (ll. 237-43)
“Never more brazenly have shield-havers
landed here—you all know nothing
of the leave-words of our war-makers,
no covenant from my kinsmen.
Never have I seen a greater noble warrior
upon the earth, than that one of your number,
a man in his war-weaving—he is no back-bencher
worthied with weapons—may his singular aspect,
his mighty bearing never betray him! (ll. 244-51a)
“Now I must be advised of your origins,
before you proceed further, lying observers maybe
to the land of the Danes, going from here.
Now you far-dwellers, sea-sailors,
heed my fixed request: to hurry is best
revealing whence you have come.” (ll. 251b-57)
The eldest among them gave him answer,
the leader of the troop unlocking his word-hoard:
“We are of the people of the Geats, their kin,
and hearth-brethren of Hygelac.
My father was well-known to many peoples,
a noble first at the front called Ecgtheow.
He endured a host of winters before he went his way,
aged in the yards—readily will every wise man
remember him widely throughout the world. (ll. 258-66)
“We come with loyal hearts seeking your lord,
the son of Halfdane, the bulwark of his people.
Be good to us in your instruction!
We have a mighty mission to the famous king of the Danes—
nor must anything be kept secret here, as I see it.
You know too well, if we hear it said truthfully,
that among the Scyldings is some sort of scather,
an obscure deed-hater who reveals in the dark of night
a purposeless malice through his terror,
both an infamy and a glutting of corpses.
Out of my capacious spirit, I can teach Hrothgar this,
good counsel, how he, wise and excellent,
can vanquish this fiend, if reversal should come to him,
a ready cure for his baleful cares—
and his sorrowful wellings become the cooler.
Or else, always afterwards, he must suffer
his wretched days his close calamity,
so long as the best of houses stands there on the tall hill.” (ll. 267-85)
The warden spoke out, sitting there upon his horse,
a fearless servitor: “He who thinks well,
a sharp-witted shield-warrior, must ponder the distinction
between words and works. I hear that fact,
that this company is loyal to the lord of the Scyldings.
Go ahead, bearing your weapons and battle-tackle.
I shall guide you. Likewise I shall command
my junior watchmen to keep your ship on the sand
hold this fresh-tarred float against every enemy,
with honor, until it carries again whichever beloved man,
of your right-performing troop, across the deep currents
the wood winding-necked, unto Wederish marches,
as it is given to escape, unharmed, the battle-rush.” (ll.286-300)
So they turned themselves to go. Their float awaited them
in its mooring, swaying on the sea, fast at anchor,
the broad-bosomed boat. Helmets shone boar-fashioned
over cheek-guards, adorned with gold,
flecked and fire-hardened—the masked man,
war-minded held the life-warden. The men hurried
advancing in step, until they could perceive
the timbered hall, magnificent and gold-spangled—
it was the most famous house under the heavens
among all earth-dwellers—and inside waited the king.
Its rays of light blazed over a bevy of lands. (ll. 301-11)
Then the battle-brave soldier showed them
the bright house of heady men, so that they could
aim straight for it. That certain war-veteran
steered his horse away, speaking a word after them:
“It’s time for me to turn back—may the All-wielding Father
keep you all sound with gracious care on your mission.
I wish to resume my watch by the sea against wrathful hosts!” (ll. 312-19)
The street was stone-fretted, guiding the way
for the men in rows. Their war-byrnies glittered,
hard and hand-linked, shining ringed iron
sang in their setting, when they came marching
even to the hall, in their terrible war-coats.
Wearied from the sea, they set down broad shields,
bosses shower-hardened, against the wall of the building,
then bent down to benches, sarks resounding,
the war-armor of men. Their spears stood,
sea-men’s tackle, leaning together,
ashen shafts grey at the tip. That metal-bound troop
was worthied in weapons. Then a proud noble
asked the chosen champions about their lineage: (ll. 320-32)
“From where have you all ferried those fretted shields,
grey hauberks and masked helmets, this forest of battle-shafts?
I am Hrothgar’s herald and servant. Never have I seen
many strange men thus, more haughty of bearing.
I reckon that you come in pride, hardly in exile,
but seeking Hrothgar out of majestic intentions.” (ll. 333-39)
The courage-bold one answered him then,
the chieftain of the Weders, speaking a word after,
hardy under his helmet: “We are the table-comrades
of Hygelac—Beowulf is my name.
I wish to speak to the son of Halfdane,
that famous prince, your lord, about my errand—
if he wishes to grant us the favor, that we may
approach him so excellent.” (ll. 340-47)
Wulfgar spoke in reply—he was a prince of the Wendels—
his mindful spirit was known by many,
his valor and his wisdom: “I gladly will inquire
with the friend of the Danes, the lord of the Scyldings,
the dispenser of rings and famous prince,
as you are petitioning about your mission,
and will presently make known the answer
that the good man thinks to return to me.” (ll. 348-55)
Hastily he turned away to where Hrothgar sat
old and hoary, among his company of nobles.
He went, courage-bold so that he stood by the shoulder
of the Danish lord, knowing the glorious custom.
Wulfgar presented his message unto his friendly lord:
“Here have come foreign travelers of the Geatish people
over the ocean’s coursing. These champions name
their oldest Beowulf. They are requesting that they,
my prince, be allowed to exchange words with you.
Do not ordain them a refusal, gracious Hrothgar
in your straightforward reply—
they seem worthy in their war-gear,
in the esteem of nobles. Indeed their chief is most competent
he who guided these battle-warriors hither.” (ll. 356-70)
Hrothgar gave reply, the helmet of the Scyldings:
“I knew him when he was still a boy.
His late father was called Ecgtheow,
to whom Hrethel the Geat gave a home
and his only daughter. Now his hardened heir
comes here, seeking a loyal ally!
The sea-venturers used to say then,
those who carried coined gifts to the Geats
thither as thanks, that he had the strength
of thirty men in his hand-grip and fame in war as well.
Holy God has sent him to us as a support,
to the West-Danes, as I have hope,
against the terror of Grendel. I must offer treasures
to that good chieftain for his mindful courage.
Be of haste, bid their allied band to enter and be seen,
gathered together. Say to them wordfully as well
that they are welcome among the Danish people.” (ll. 371-89a)
“My victorious lord, ruler of the East-Danes,
has ordered me to tell you that he knows of your heritage
and you are welcome by him here, hardy hearts
from over the sea’s whelming. Now you may come inside
in your battle-wear, under your war masks,
to see Hrothgar—but let battle-boards await here,
and the wooden shafts of slaughter, the outcome of your words.” (ll. 389b-98)
Then the powerful one arose, about him many warriors,
a band of mighty thanes, some of them waiting behind there
to keep watch over the war-weapons, as the hardened one ordered then.
They hastened together, that man guiding them
under Heorot’s roof. The battle-brave went forth,
hard under helmet, until he stood at the hearth. (ll. 399-404)
Beowulf made a speech, his byrnie shining on him
the intricate mail sewn by the clever thoughts of the smith:
“May you, Hrothgar, be well! I am Hygelac’s kinsman
and dear thane. I have performed many mighty deeds
in my youth. The notorious matter of Grendel
became known to me on my stomping grounds:
shanty-singers are saying that this hall,
the best of houses, stands idle, impotent
for its warriors after the evening’s light,
the brightness under heaven, becomes obscured. (ll. 405-14)
“Then my tribesmen instructed me, the best
of our wise men, that I should seek you,
Prince Hrothgar, because they knew my skillful power,
they observed it themselves when I came back
from sorties, splattered by my enemies,
where I bound up five warriors, and destroyed
a tribe of giants, and among the waves
struck down water-beasts by night,
enduring many close calls, avenging
malice against the Weders—they asked for their woes—
I ground down our oppressors and now, against Grendel,
I must pay him back alone,
that wretched monster, that demon. (ll, 415-26a)
“Just now I wish to ask you one thing,
lord of the Bright-Danes, Hedge of the Scyldings,
one single favor, that you do not refuse me this—
shelter of warriors, generous friend of your people,
now that I have come so far, that I be allowed
to cleanse Heorot, alone, with this band of my warriors,
this troop of hardened men. I have learned as well
that this monster, out of recklessness, reckons naught
of weaponry. So I shall disdain them, so that Hygelac
might be most pleased at heart, my lord of men,
not bearing any blade or broad shield with yellow boss
into the battle, but I must grapple with the fiend
with grip alone, contend life against life,
hate against hatred. There he must trust
in the judgment of the Lord, he whom death seizes. (ll. 426b-41)
I reckon that he will, if he is allowed to win
in the war-hall, fearlessly devour Geatish warriors,
just as he has often devoured your glorious troops.
There will be no need at that moment to cover
my head, but he will have covered enough,
blotted with blood, if death seizes me—
he will bear me to bloody slaughter, thinking to taste me—
the solitary stalker will eat without the slightest regret,
marking his swampy lair. There will be no need
to sorrow for long over cleaning my corpse!
Just send Hygelac, if the contest conquers me,
this best of battle-clothes that wards my breast,
finest of garments. It is an heirloom of Hrethel,
the work of Weland. The way of the world
always goes as it must!” (ll. 442-55)
Hrothgar spoke in reply, the helmet of the Scyldings:
“For our great deeds, my friend Beowulf,
and gracious assistance you have sought us.
Your father struck the greatest of feuds
becoming the hand-slayer of Heatholaf,
amid the Wylfings. Then his sheltering people
could not keep him because of their war-terror.
From there he searched out the South-Danish folk
over the whelming waves, the Honor-Scyldings.
Then I first controlled the Danish people
and in my youth I possessed the spacious kingdom,
the heroes’ many-treasured city. At that time
Heorogar was dead, unliving my elder brother,
the son of Halfdane—he was a better man than I!
After that I managed the feud with payment,
sending olden treasures to the Wylfings
over the spine of the sea. He swore oaths to me. (ll. 456-72)
“It is sorrowful to me to speak my own heart
to any man what Grendel has done to me,
a shame in Heorot through his hateful ideas
and a fearful malice. My hall-troop has waned,
the warrior’s company. Misfortune has swept them away
into the terror of Grendel. Only God can easily
put an end to this maddened scather of deeds! (ll. 473-79)
“All too often, drunk with beer, my loyal thanes
boasted over their ale-horns that they wished
to await the enmity of Grendel in the drinking-hall
with a flurry of blades. Always after, by morning-time,
this mead-hall, this home of warriors,
was besmirched with blood, when the day blazed,
all the bench-boards were bedewed with gore,
the hall dripping with death. I had fewer loyal men,
my brave company smaller, when that killing seized them.
Sit now at my feasting and unseal your moderate mind,
your joyful victories for men, just as your heart urges you.” (ll. 480-90)
Then were benches cleared for the Geatish kindred
gathered together in the beer-hall.
There the strong-spirited went to sit,
mindful of their might. A thane attended to his office,
who held in his hands a handwrought horn,
pouring out bright mead. Sometimes a scop sang for them,
bright-voiced in Heorot. There were many joys of heroes,
no small assembly of Danes and Geats. (ll. 491-98)
Unferth made a speech, the son of Ecglaf,
who sat at the feet of the Scylding lord,
he unbound his battle-rhyme. Beowulf’s mission,
the proud sea-crosser, chagrined him greatly,
because he begrudged that any other man
ever could care for greater glory in this middle-earth,
under the heavens than he himself: (ll. 499-505)
“Are you that Beowulf who struggled against Brecca
upon the broad seas, challenging him to swim,
where you both tempted the waters out of pride
and your foolish boasting in the fathomless ocean,
risking your lives? Nor could any man,
hearty or hated, persuade either of you
from your dangerous daring, besides rowing with your hands.
There you two were covered in the currents desperately,
sizing up the sea-streets, hurrying with your hands,
gliding across the spear-waves. The ocean welled with roiling,
the whelming of winter. You two toiled
in the water’s possession for seven nights—
but he overcame you in swimming, having the greater strength.
Then the sea bore him up in the morning-time
onto the Heathoreams’ shore. From there he sought
his own backyard, dear among his people,
Brondings’ land, the fair city of your allies,
where he claimed kin, shelter, and rings.
The son of Beanstan truly made good
on his entire boast against you.
So then I expect from you a worse outcome,
although you have often availed in the rush of battle,
grim warfare, if you dare very near at hand
to await Grendel for the length of the entire night.” (ll. 506-28)
Beowulf made his reply, the son of Ecgtheow:
“What a whole lot of words, Unferth my friend,
you have spoken concerning Breca, drunk on beer,
telling of his trajectory. But I shall tell you all the truth:
that I possessed the greater strength at sea,
and waylaying in the waves, than any other man.
We chided each other, being still children,
and boasted as well—we were both still
in youthly spirits—that we would risk our lives
out on the spear-waves, and we did as we said.
We held onto naked swords, hard in our hands,
when we rowed in our swimming, thinking to protect
ourselves against the whale-fishes.
Breca never could swim a jot farther than me
in the flooding waves, no faster in the sea,
never did I wish to pull ahead of him. (ll. 529-43)
“Then we were in the sea together for five nights,
until the current drove us apart. The welling waters,
the coldest of weather, the glooming night,
and the north wind battle-grim turned against us.
The waves were cruel, and the spirits of sea-monsters
were stirred up. There my body-sark gave me
some help against their hatred, hardened and hand-linked,
the woven war-dress laying on my breast,
fretted with gold. A speckled harmer, hostile,
had me fast, tore me to the sea floor,
grim in his grip. However, it was granted me
to skewer the monster on the tip of my battle-sword.
The rush of warfare seized the mighty sea-beast
through my hand. (ll. 544-58)
“And so frequently these hating foes harassed me,
oppressing me heavily. I ministered to them
with the bitter blade, as it served them best.
They took no pleasure at all in their fullness,
those wicked things that set upon me,
sitting around the banquet-table near the sea floor—
but in the morning, wounded by the blade,
strewn up upon the sandy strand,
dreaming by the sword, so that never afterwards,
about the deep channel, would they hinder
the course of sea-farers. Light came from the east,
the bright beacon of God, and the ocean slackened
until I could see the headlands, those windy walls.
The course of events often spares the undoomed earl,
when his courage avails. (ll. 559-73)
“However, it happened to me that I slew
with my sword nine sea monsters.
Never have I learned under the vault of heaven
of a more difficult contest in the night,
nor in the sea-streams a man harder beset.
Yet I survived the clutch of foes, escaped with my life,
weary with swimming. Then the sea carried me,
the flood according to the tides onto Finnish territory,
the welling waves. I haven’t heard a peep
spoken about you, about such terrible battles,
the terror of blades. Neither Brecca nor you
ever performed much of note in the dance of battle,
with the splattered sword—not to boast much of it—
though you might have been a killer of your brothers,
your own close kin, and for that you ought to suffer
retribution in the hall, even though your wit might avail you. (ll. 574-89)
“I say something else that’s true, son of Ecglaf,
that Grendel never would have shown so many terrors,
that fearsome fighter, to your own prince,
such shame in Heorot, if your spirit, your heart,
was as cleverly pointed as you hold yourself—
but he has discovered that he need not fear much
the feuds of your people —Victory-Scyldings—
nor their fearsome onrush of their blades.
He extorts tribute, is merciful to none
of the Danish people, makes war on joy itself,
kills it and eats it, reckoning nothing of the attacks
of the Spear-Danes. But I must show him in battle
the might and courage of the Geats very soon.
He may go to mead, courageously at last, who is allowed,
after the morning light of another day,
the spangled sun shines from the south
over the children of men!” (590-606)
Then was the dispenser of treasures greatly contented
expecting relief, grey-haired and war-ready,
the lord of the Bright-Danes. He heard, the people’s ward,
in Beowulf a well-conceived plan. (ll. 607-10)
There was a laughter of heroes, a singing sound,
their words were winsome. Wealhtheow went forth,
Hrothgar’s queen, mindful of manners,
gold-fretted she greeted the men in the hall,
and the generous woman gave a cup first
to the home-warden of the East-Danes,
bidding him be blithe at the beer-taking,
cherished by the people. He accepted it gladly,
the feasting and the hall-flagon, a king victory-bold. (ll. 611-19)
Then the lady of the Helmings rounded throughout,
giving the jeweled cup to young and old,
on every side until that time arrived
when the ring-laden queen brought the mead-horn
to Beowulf, illustrious in spirit.
She greeted the Geat chieftain and gave thanks to God,
wordfully wisdom-fast, so that her wish should come true,
that she could anticipate assistance against the crimes
coming from some earl. Beowulf received the cup,
a slaughter-fell warrior, from Wealhtheow
and then, bucking to fight, spoke eloquently,
making a speech, the son of Ecgtheow: (ll. 620-30)
“I decided that, when I mounted the waves,
sitting in a sea-boat, among my cadre of warriors,
that I would work the will of your people
completely, or else I would succumb to the slaughter,
fixed in the fiend’s grip. I must perform
this deed of manly courage, or else I will await
my final day here in this mead-hall.” (ll. 631-38)
These words were most pleasing to the woman,
the boasting speech of the Geat—she went gold-laden,
the generous queen of her people to sit by her lord. (ll. 639-41)
Then there were again, as before, within the hall
glorious words spoken and a tribe in high spirits,
the voice of the victorious folk, until, almost immediately,
the son of Halfdane wished to seek his evening rest.
He knew a raid upon that high house
had been planned by the monster since the sun’s light
could be seen, until the night was darkening over all,
and that shape of shadowy night would come scurrying,
dark under a dark sky. The troops all rose. (ll. 642-51)
Then that man hailed the other, Hrothgar
to Beowulf, and bid him fair fortune,
ceding him care of the wine-hall, and speaking these words:
“Never have I before yielded up to any man,
ever since I could control hand and shield,
this majestic hall of the Danes, save to you right now.
Keep and hold it well, this best of houses.
Be mindful of fame. Reveal your mighty courage.
Keep watch for the wrathful! There will be no want of the desirable
for you if you surpass that daring deed with your life.” (ll. 652-61)
Then Hrothgar departed with his retinue of warriors,
the hedge of the Scyldings, out of the hall.
The first in war wished to seek Wealhtheow,
his queen as his consort. The glorious king had appointed
such a hall-guardian against Grendel—as men would soon learn—
who kept this unique office for the prince of Danes,
pronouncing this giant-watch. (ll. 662-68)
Indeed the chief of the Geats trusted eagerly
in his proud power, and the protection of the Measurer.
Then he undid his iron byrnie, his helmet from his head,
giving his adorned sword, best of all iron blades,
to a serving-man, and ordered him to hold that battle-gear.
Then the good man spoke some boasting words,
Beowulf the Geat, before he climbed into bed: (ll. 669-76)
“I never tallied my lone war-prowess the poorer,
my deeds of war, than Grendel would himself.
Therefore I do not wish to kill him with a sword,
deprive him of life, though I might thoroughly.
He knows not of the excellent skills, which he may strike against me,
or hew my shield, although he may be ferocious
in his malicious deeds. Yet we two must in the night
eschew the sword if he dares to seek out
a war without a weapon—knowing God,
the Holy Lord, will afterwards adjudge the glory
to whichever hand seems the better.” (ll. 677-87)
The battle-brave lay bent down, the bolster receiving
the nobleman’s face, and about him there were many
daring sea-warriors bowed down to their hall-rest.
None of them thought that he would ever seek again
from there his beloved home, his kinsfolk,
or his cherished city, where he was raised,
but they had learned that a gory death
had before seized too many great men,
the Danish people, in that wine-flowing hall. (ll. 688-96a)
But the Lord had already given them
the weft of war-fortune, to the Wederish men,
aid and assistance, so that they would overcome
their enemy entirely through a singular strength,
by one’s own might. The truth is revealed,
that mighty God has ruled over mankind
for many wide years. (ll. 696b-702a)
The demon came in the dark night,
a shadow-slider gliding. The bowmen slept,
those who must keep hold over the horned hall,
all except for one. It was a fact plain to men
that the spectral scather was not allowed
to tear them into the shadows, when the Measurer willed it not—
but that one, watching and wakeful, wrathful in his rancor,
swollen-minded awaited the end of this struggle. (ll. 702b-709)
Then he came off the moors under towering mist,
Grendel creeping, bearing God’s ire.
The wicked harmer intended to snatch up
some human in that high hall.
He came under heavy skies until he readily
perceived the wine-house, the golden hall of humanity,
spangled with treasure. Nor was this the first time
that he had come seeking Hrothgar’s home—
but never in his life-days, before or since,
would he ever find harder fortune or hall-thanes. (ll. 710-19)
Then he came to the hall, a warrior questing,
deprived of joys. The door suddenly sprang open,
fixed with fire-forged bonds, after he had touched it with his hands.
Then the battle-minded slithered through the hall-mouth
swollen with rage. Quickly after that,
the fiend stepped inside onto the paved floor,
moving maddened in mind—from his eyes there stood
an unlovely light, very much like a flame. (ll. 720-27)
He saw there in the hall many warriors,
a kindred company sleeping gathered together,
a band of bound men. Then his mind laughed,
that terrifying monster, intending to tear
every one of them asunder before the day arrived,
the lives from their bodies. Hopes of a stuffed belly
filled him. But that wasn’t how it would turn out—
that he would be allowed any longer to devour
through the dark night the kindred of men. (ll. 728-36a)
Surpassingly powerful, one man watched him,
the kinsman of Hygelac, seeing how the evil harmer
wished to proceed with his fearful talons.
Nor did that monster think to delay,
but he swiftly snatched up the very first moment
a sleeping warrior and he eviscerated him at once,
biting into his bone-locks, drinking blood from veins,
swallowing him up in gluttonous gobbets—immediately
he had chewed up the unliving entirely, feet and hands. (ll. 736b-45a)
Nearer forth he stepped inside, grabbing in his claws
the mighty-minded warrior at his rest,
the fiend stretching out towards him with his hands.
Beowulf seized him at once with malicious purpose,
setting himself against his arm. Immediately
that keeper of crimes realized that never,
in all of middle-earth or its distant corners,
in any human, had he met a greater hand-grip.
He became fearful at heart, in his very soul:
he couldn’t get away from this one soon enough! (ll. 745b-54)
His mind was eager to be gone, wishing to flee
into the night, to seek the haunts of devils,
nor was this a condition such as he had ever
before encountered during the days of his life.
Then the good man, Hygelac’s kin, was mindful
of his evening-speech, stood upright
and he locked down on him fast, fingers bursting—
the giant monster was moving outside,
the noble man stepped with him.
The notorious thing wanted to get far away,
wherever he could, thenceward on the way,
fleeing into the fen-fastness—he knew control
of his fingers was grabbed in a grim grip—
that was the most grievous journey
the harm-seeker had taken to Heorot. (ll. 755-66)
The companied hall dinned. For all the Danes,
for the city-dwellers, for every one of the keen,
there was a horrifying serving of ale. They were both angry,
ruthless and terrible opponents. The building echoed.
It was a great wonder that the wine-hall resisted
the battle-brave, that it did not just fall to the earth,
that house lovely yet mortal, but it was fastened within
and without with iron bands, smithed with crafty thoughts.
There from the floor was buckled many a mead-bench,
as I have heard, made beautiful with gold,
where the combatants struggled. (ll. 767-77)
Until this moment, Scylding wisemen never believed
that any man could ever have the means, excellent
though bound in bone, to break it apart,
tear it down by talent, unless the embrace of flame
should swallow it in its swaths. (ll. 778-82a)
A voice clambered forth, utterly unheard-of.
A thrilling horror stood within the North-Danes,
every one alone who heard the wailing from the walls,
the opponent of God singing his keening terror,
a chant without victory, bemoaning his pain,
the hostage of hell. He held him tightly,
the one who was the strongest in power of all men
back in the days of that age. (ll. 782b-90)
That shelter of heroes didn’t wish to allow
his fatal visitor to escape alive for any thing,
nor could he account much use of Grendel’s life-days
to any people. There the thanes of Beowulf
most rapidly drew their elder-blades,
wishing to protect the life of their gracious lord,
their renowned chief, where they so could.
They did not know one fact, when they entered the fray,
battle kin with hardened hearts, thinking
to chop at Grendel from every side,
seeking his soul—that no battle-blade,
none of the choicest iron upon the earth,
would wish to bite that sinful scather,
for he had bewitched the bane from triumphant weaponry,
from every sword-edge. Yet his life-leaving
must be miserable on this day in this world,
and that estranged spirit must ferry forth
into the keeping of fiends. (ll. 791-808)
Then he discovered, he who had previously
perpetrated much offense, much affliction to the hearts
of mankind—guilty against God, he discovered
that his body-home did not wish to endure,
that the mindful kinsman of Hygelac kept him
by the hand. Each was hateful to the other
while he lived. The terrifying monster knew
a bodily wound—a gaping mortal-making wound
opened in his shoulder. The sinews sprung apart.
The bone-locks burst open. War-glory was given
to Beowulf. From there Grendel must fly away,
sick to life, under the fen-fastness, joylessly
seeking his lair. He knew too well
that his life was coming to its conclusion,
the count of his days. The desire of every Dane
came true after that slaughtering battle. (ll. 809-24)
Then he had cleansed the hall of Hrothgar,
he who had recently come from afar,
wise and mighty souled, preserving it against malice.
He rejoiced in the night’s work, in his courageous glory.
The Geatish champion had matched his boast
to the East-Danes, likewise he had amended
every malady, the wicked sorrows that they suffered before
and out of terrible constraint they had had to endure
no few miseries. It was a patent token
after the battle-bold put up that hand—
arm, shoulder and all, everything attached,
Grendel’s grasping—under the steep roof. (ll. 825-36)
Then in the morning, as I have heard,
there were many grim fighters about the gift-hall,
their chieftains came from far and near,
throughout the wide ways, to gaze upon that wonder,
the hated remains. His life-parting could never
seem a sore point to any of the men
who traced the track of the glory-torn,
how he stumbled on his way thence,
overcome in his malice, into the mere of monsters,
fated and banished, bearing bloody footprints.
There the waters welled with blood,
a terrible surge of waves, all mixed together
with heated gore, the whelming of dreary death.
Fated to death he dyed the lake, deprived of joys,
after he had given up his life in his swampy lair,
his heathen soul. There hell took him. (ll. 837-52)
They turned home from there, the old retainers
likewise many young ones too, from their happy path,
proud they rode their horses back from the mere,
warriors on their chargers. There was Beowulf’s glory
announced—many kept on saying aloud
that neither south nor north, between the seas,
across the vast earth, there was no other man
under the course of the skies, that could be any better
of all the shield-bearing warriors, more worthy of the realm.
Nor did they reproach their friendly lord any bit,
joyous Hrothgar— rather he was a good king. (ll. 853-64)
Sometimes the battle-bold let their dusky horses
leap in their stride, in a contest, to wherever
the earth-ways seemed the most fair, known by choice.
Sometimes a thane of the king, a man speech-adorned,
mindful of very many verses, of the ancient ways,
and remembering a vast number, devised one word
with another, bound together truly—the poet soon began
to recite with cunning craft the quest of Beowulf
and to relate mellifluously a skillful tale,
exchanging it wordfully. He spoke of everything
he had heard told about the courageous deeds
of Sigemund, much was unknown: (ll. 865-876a)
…the struggle of the Wælsing, the wide journeys,
the feuds and the felonies, of which the sons of men
had never readily known, except Fitela by his side,
as they were always, when Sigemund wished to speak
of their travails, uncle to nephew—
through every hardship, needful comrades—
they had destroyed very many of the tribe
of giants with their swords. Not too little glory
sprung from Sigemund since his dying day,
after the battle-hardened slew a dragon,
the treasure’s watcher. The son of nobles dared
to proceed alone under the hoary stone,
an audacious deed, nor was Fitela with him.
Nevertheless he was victorious so that the sword
sliced through that many-coiled wyrm,
and stuck it into the wall, the lordly iron.
The dragon died through that deed.
The fierce opponent had gone in courageously
so that he might be allowed to enjoy the ringed hoard
of his own will. He laded his sea-boat,
bearing bright treasures into the bosom of the ship,
the heir of Waels. The hot dragon melted. (ll. 876b-97)
That one was widely the most famous adventurer
across the nations of men, a shelter of warriors
known for his brave deeds—he thrived by them before—
since the struggle of Heremod had dwindled,
his might and valor. He was betrayed among the Jutes [giants?]
sent away to die swiftly in the hands of his enemy.
Welling sorrows had hobbled him for too long.
He became a mortal ache unto his people,
to all noblemen. Likewise many a wise men
had mourned in earlier seasons over his rash forays—
they had looked to him as comfort for their afflictions,
that the son of their prince ought to prosper,
take up his patrimony, keep watch over the people,
their treasures, and their sheltering city,
the realm of heroes, where the Scyldings roam.
He become more endearing to all his allies,
to the kindred of men, that was the kinsman of Hygelac—
but his crimes carried Heremod away. (ll. 898-915)
Sometimes racing, they paced their steeds
on the fallow street. Then was the morning light
fully dawned and shining. Many retainers went,
bold-hearted to that high hall to witness
that curious wonder. Likewise the king himself,
warden of the ring-hoards, stepped out of the women’s house,
glory-fast, with a great retinue, revealing his virtues,
and his queen with him, escorted by her maidens,
measuring out the way to the great mead-house. (ll. 916-24)
Hrothgar made a speech, going up to the hall,
standing on the steps, gazing at the steep roof,
flecked with gold, and Grendel’s hand:
“For this vision may there be given
swift thanks to the All-Wielding!
I have endured many hated days,
many misfortunes at the hand of Grendel.
God can always perform wonder upon wonder,
the Herdsman of Glory. It was all too soon ago
that I did not hope to expect any cure for my woes
for the width of my life, when the best of houses
stood splattered with blood, dripping with gore,
grief strewn far and wide for every wise man,
broad-souled, who could not conceive how
they could defend this tribal treasure
from its hated foes, ghouls and spectral terrors.
Now a retainer has, through the Lord’s might,
performed the deed which we all could not before
contrive to do, despite all our wisdom. (ll. 925-942a)
“What can one say about so great a woman
who conceived such a son into the human race?
If she yet lives, may the Olden-Measurer
have been merciful to her at her child-bearing.
Now Beowulf, best of all men, I wish to love you
like my own son in spirit. Keep this new affiliation well!
Nor is there anything you will lack, wanted treasures
in this world, of what I have possession.
Very often for lesser deeds I have made reward,
hoard-worthy things, of humbler warriors
weaker in conflict. You have outdone them all yourself
with your deeds, so that your glory will live on
always and evermore. May the All-Wielding God
requite you with every good, as he has done thus far!” (ll. 942b-56)
Beowulf replied to him, the son of Ecgtheow:
“By many graces, we have performed a courageous work
by fighting, recklessly risking the unknowable strength.
I would have wished the more greatly that you might
have seen him yourself, the fiend in his fittings,
wearied and frightened. I thought to fetter him
forthwith with tight bonds on his death-bed
so that he lay here, struggling for life in my hand-grip,
unless he should relinquish his body…
I could not entrap him, when the Measurer didn’t consent,
delaying his departure. I didn’t apply myself to him
strongly enough, my deadly opponent—
Too savagely strong was the fiend in his foot-power.
Nonetheless he left behind his hand, his arm and shoulder
as a life-ward in order to make his retreat. (ll. 957-72a)
“However that wretched thing got little comfort,
nor will he live much longer, the hateful harmer
enfolded in sin, but agony has clasped him tight
in its constraining clutches, in chains of baleful death.
There he must await a greater doom, this creature
spattered with evil—how the bright Measurer
should choose to repay him.” (ll. 972b-79)
Then was the son of Ecglaf the more silent
in his vaunting words upon these war-deeds
after the noblemen gazed upon that hand
and fiendly fingers raised upon the high roof
through that warrior’s skill. Every one of those nails,
each nailbed was very much like steel before,
the battle-ready heathen’s hand-spurs
were terrifying and awful. Everyone said
that nothing harder could wish to touch him,
no battle-tested iron could wish to weaken
that monster’s bloodstained and betaloned hand. (ll. 980-90)
Then it was quickly commanded that Heorot within
be refurbished by hand. There were many of them,
men and women, who restored that wine-house,
that guest-hall. Gold-flecked weavings shone
upon the walls, many visions wonderful to all warriors,
whoever gazed upon their like. That bright building
was entirely torn up within, bound by iron bands,
the hinges cracked open. Only the roof survived,
totally unharmed, when the monster,
flecked with wicked deeds, turned to flee,
despairing of life. That is never easy
to escape from—try as one might—
but all those bearing souls must seek it out,
constrained by need, the children of humanity
dwelling on the earth, readily to that other place,
where the body-house, fixed to its final resting-place,
must sleep after the feasting. (ll. 991-1008a)
Then it was the time and the moment
for the son of Halfdane to go into the hall.
The king wished to partake in the feast himself.
Nor have I heard of a greater company of kindred
behaving better about their ring-giver.
Then the profit-bearers bent to their benches
rejoicing in their belly-fulls—they kindly consumed
many mead-cups, the kinsmen of those courageous men
in that high hall, Hrothgar and Hrothulf.
Heorot was filled up within with friends,
The Scyldings, unified at this moment,
were making no malicious intentions at all. (ll. 1008b-19)
Then the blade of Halfdane he gave to Beowulf,
and a golden ensign as recompense for his victory,
an ornamented battle-flag, a helmet and a mail-coat.
Many famous treasured swords were seen
to be borne before that warrior. Beowulf received them
graciously on the floor. He had no need to be ashamed
before the fighters on account of those costly gifts
I have never learned of many men giving another
in a very friendly way, four such treasures,
garnished with gold, upon the ale-benches.
A crest contained it from without, woven with wires
about the roof of the helmet, that head-protection
so that the well-filed relic, shower-hardened, could not
grievously harm it, when the shieldsman
must wade into the gruesome fray. (ll. 1020-34)
Then the shelter of nobles ordered eight horses,
with gilded cheeks, to be led onto the floor,
inside the enclosure. One of them stood,
adorned cleverly with a saddle, worthied with treasure—
that was the high-king’s own battle-seat
when the son of Halfdane wished to perform
the dance of swords—he never laid low on the frontline,
a warrior widely-known where the slain were falling.
And then to Beowulf, the hedge of the Ingwines
bestowed control of them both: the horses and the weapons.
He commanded him to enjoy them well.
So manfully did the famous prince repay,
the hoard-watcher of men, for the storm of battle
with horses and treasures, so that never could anyone
find fault with them, speak as one might, the truth after right. (ll. 1035-49)
Moreover, the lord of nobles gave treasures,
heritable relics to every one of those who drew
themselves down the sea-road with Beowulf,
there upon the mead-bench, and he ordered
that gold be given up for that one who Grendel
earlier murdered with malice—as he wished to kill more
except that knowing God and that man’s courage
opposed that outcome. The Measurer ruled
all of the kindred of men, just as he still does today.
Therefore good sense must be the best of all things,
the spirit’s forethought. Many beloved things,
and many hateful too, must he abide, whoever
would long enjoy this world here in these strifesome days. (ll. 1050-62)
There were chants and cheering raised together
before Halfdane’s battle-leader,
the singing wood was struck, verses often told,
when Hrothgar’s scop must make hall-glee
across the mead-benches, concerning the sons of Finn: (ll. 1063-68a)
When the swift conflict came upon them,
and the hero of the Half-Danes, Hnæf Scylding,
must fall in Frisian fighting. Nor indeed did Hildeburh
have much need to praise the troth of the Jutes—
guiltlessly she was deprived of her loved ones
at the shield-play, of sons and brothers.
they were to crumble to earth, ever since birth,
wounded by the spear. That was a miserable woman. (ll. 1068b-75)
Not at all without reason did Hoc’s daughter
bemourn her measured fate, after the morning came
when she could look upon those murdered kinsmen
under the skies, where she had cherished
the world’s greatest joys. Warfare had seized them all,
Finn’s thanes, except a very few—
so that he could not fight a battle by any means
against Hengest in the meeting-hall,
nor could elbow out by force those woeful remainders,
thanes of their prince. Yet he offered them a settlement:
that they should extend a second space on the floor for them,
a hall and a high-throne, so that they should be allowed
to have control over half of it, alongside the sons of the Jutes,
and at the gifting of treasure, the son of Folcwalda,
should every day honor the Danes, the troop of Hengest,
accustomed to rings, even as gracious
with rich treasures, golden plates, just as he would
encourage the Frisian men in the beer-hall. (ll. 1076-94)
Then on both sides, they plighted their troth,
fixed by this peaceful pledge. Without reservation,
Finn swore by oaths all this to Hengest,
that he would hold those woeful survivors
in honor, by the judgment of his advisers,
so that no man, by word or by deed,
should break the compact, nor through malicious works
ever begrudge it—even though they now followed
the killer of their own ring-giver, prince-less,
when it was very much necessary.
If any of the Frisians spoke wickedness
about the hateful murder, reminding them of the pledge,
then the sword’s edge must set it to rest. (ll. 1095-1106)
The pyre was piled high, and many-treasured gold
was heaved up out of the hoard. The Battle-Scylding,
the best of those blooded warriors, was readied for the burning.
Upon the pyre it was easily seen
the blood-splattered byrnie, the boar-crest all-golden
and iron-hard—many noble men consigned
by their injuries, cringing in slaughter. (ll. 1107-13)
Then Hildeburh ordered her very own son
committed to charring upon Hnæf’s pyre,
The bone-vessels burning, consumed in the flames.
Arm by shoulder, the lady lamented,
mourning in verse. The fiery warrior stood tall,
the greatest corpse-fire, winding up to the heavens,
crackling before the barrow. Heads were melting.
Wide wounds burst open. Blood spurted out
of bodies’ hateful bites. Fire swallowed them all,
most gluttonous of spirits—those who war had seized,
from either tribe. The profits passed into nothing. (ll. 1114-24)
Then those warriors departed, seeking their homes,
having buried their friends, seeing their way into Frisland,
their houses and high-fortresses. Hengest however
bided there the entire death-flecked winter
with Finn, entirely against his will. He remembered
his own home, although he could not sail there on the seas,
on a ring-prowed ship, the ocean welling with storms,
dark and windy. Winter locked the waves
with icy bonds, until there came another year
to the habitations of men, just as it always does
attending to time perpetually, weather glory-bright.
Then the winter sank away, the lap of the earth lovely. (ll. 1125-37a)
The exiled guest went out from the yard—
he thought more about a terrible vengeance
than about the sea-paths, if he could call to order
the miserable moot that he envisioned for the sons of the Jutes.
And so he did not shun the worldly custom,
when Hunlafing placed upon his lap,
the battle-bright blade, the best of swords,
whose edges were well-known among the Jutes.
Likewise bold-souled Finn soon succumbed
to baleful sword-blows within his very own home,
after Guthlaf and Oslaf signified their sorrows,
their grim onslaught after their sea-voyage,
reproaching their woeful apportionment.
Nor could such a wavering spirit be kept inside the breast. (ll. 1137b-51a)
Then was the hall adorned with enemy lives.
Finn was also slain, the king with his retainers,
and his queen taken. The Scylding warriors
carried unto their ships all the household goods
of that earthly king—likewise everything they could find
in Finn’s home, the golden brooches, the artful gemstones.
They led the lordly woman to Denmark,
carrying her back to her kin… (ll. 1151b-59a)
The song was sung, the verses of the minstrel.
Glee mounted back up, bench-voices resounding,
the pourers giving out wine from wondrous ewers.
Then Wealhtheow came forth, proceeding
under her golden adornments to where two good men
sat, nephew and uncle together—their peace was still whole,
the one true to the other. Likewise orating Unferth
sat at the foot of the Scylding lord—everyone trusted his spirit,
that he had great pride, although he had not kept his kin
secure in mercy in the bouncing of blades— (ll. 1159b-68a)
Then the lady of the Scyldings spoke: “Receive this cup,
my gracious lord, dispenser of treasures.
May you always prosper, gold-friend to men,
and speak in mild words unto the Geats, as one must do.
Be gracious to them, mindful of the giving,
which you have received from near and far.
One has told me that you wish to consider this warrior
for your son. Heorot has been cleansed,
the bright ring-hall—enjoy it, so long as you may,
the goodwill of many, and bequeath unto your own kin
the people and the realm, when you must look ahead
to your measured fate. I know my good Hrothulf,
that he wishes to hold our youthful ones in honor,
if you, benefactor of the Scyldings, should leave behind
the world before him. I expect that he wants to reward
our sons with only good, should he remember
everything we have done, while he was still a child,
as an honor to his desires and his worthiness.” (ll. 1168b-87)
She turned then to the bench, where her sons were,
Hrethric and Hrothmund, and the other children of heroes,
the youth all together. There also sat the good man,
Beowulf the Geat, between the two brothers. (ll. 1188-91)
A horn was passed to him, along with friendly speech,
offered him wordfully, and wound gold as well,
revealed with grace—two arm-bracelets, a fine robe,
and more rings, along with the greatest of all neck-rings
which I have ever heard of on the earth.
I have heard of none better under the sky
in hoard-treasures of heroes since Hama carried away
the necklace of the Brosings to that bright city,
the jewel and the precious thing—fleeing the crafty hatred
of Eormenric, obtaining his own enduring good.
Hygelac the Geat, the nephew of Swerting,
possessed that torque, on his final journey,
when he defended the treasure under his banner,
protected his battle-spoils. Ill chance seized him
when he for his pride sought trouble,
a feud with the Frisians. He wore that ornament,
those precious stones across the cup of waves,
prince of the realm. He fell under his shield.
It passed on then into the grasp of the Franks, the spirit of the king,
his mail-shirt and that torque together.
A lesser warrior plundered the kill
after the war-shearing. Geat men kept the corpse-field…
The hall rang with voices. (ll. 1192-1214)
Wealhtheow made a speech, speaking before that company:
“Enjoy these rings, Beowulf my dear son,
in good fortune, and the use of these garments,
these tribal treasures, and prosper well.
Declare yourself skillfully, yet be mild in counsel
to these boys. I will remember your reward for that. (ll. 1215-20)
“You have brought it about so that men will acclaim you
always, even as widely as the sea, that windy yard,
is enclosed by its walls. Be blessed so long as you live,
noble prince. Rightfully I grant you these treasures.
Be proper in your deeds to my sons, O joyful one.
Here every earl is truthful to another,
mild of mind, loyal to their manly lord.
These thanes are united, our tribe fully prepared,
these assembled men, having drunk, to do as I bid.” (ll. 1221-31)
Then she went back to her seat. It was the greatest of feasts,
the men drank wine, not knowing of what was to come,
a gruesome destiny, as it was to come visiting
many an earl, after the evening had arrived,
and Hrothgar departed to his own house,
the powerful man to his rest. Countless men
occupied the hall, just as they had often done before.
They cleared away the benches, and spread it out
with bedding and bolsters. One of those beery revelers
laid down to his floor-rest, his fated end hurrying. (ll. 1232-41)
Battle-shields were set at their heads, bright wooden boards.
There on the benches, over each noble warrior,
it was easily seen, the battle-steep helmet, the ringed byrnie,
the dangerous spear-shaft. This was their custom:
to be always ready to give battle, either at home
or in the field, or else whenever their lord
happened to need them. They were a good band. (ll. 1242-50)
Then they slid into slumber—one paid a heavy price
for his evening-rest, as it had happened to them so often
when Grendel kept the gold-hall, doing unrighteous deeds,
until his end came upon him, a slaying after his sins.
It became obvious, widely-known to men,
that an avenger still remained after that hateful one,
after that war-trouble, for a long time. (ll. 1251-58a)
Grendel’s mother, a woman, a monstrous woman,
mindful of misery, who had to abide as a water-terror,
in cold currents, ever since Cain became a blade-slayer
of his own brother, his father’s son—guilty he departed then,
marked by murder, fleeing the joys of men,
dwelling in the wastes. From there awoke
many ancient spirits. Grendel was one of them
a gory outlaw, hateful, who found in Heorot
a wakeful man awaiting battle.
There the monster attempted to seize him,
however, he remembered the extent of his power,
a sparkling gift, which God had given him,
and he trusted in the grace of the Sole Wielder,
his comfort and assistance. Through these he conquered
the fiend, humbled the hell-ghast. Abjected,
he then fled, deprived of joys, seeking his death-bed,
the enemy of mankind. And still his mother,
greedy and gloomy, wished to go forth
on a sorrowful journey, to avenge her son’s death. (ll. 1258b-78)
Then she came to Heorot, where the Ring-Danes
slept throughout the hall. At once there came a change
for the noblemen, after Grendel’s mother penetrated inside.
Her terror was lesser by a little bit, just as the strength of women,
war-terrible women is compared to weaponed men
when the bound blade, beaten by hammers,
the sword shimmering in blood shears off the boar-crest
present upon the helmet, proof against edges. (ll. 1279-87)
Then in the hall hardened edges were drawn,
swords above the seats, many broad shields
heaved up in fists. Helmets were not remembered,
nor the broad byrnie, when they perceived the terror.
She was hurrying, wishing to get out,
sheltering her life, when she was discovered.
Swiftly she kept one of the noblemen,
clutched fast, when she went out to the swamp. (ll. 1288-95)
He was the dearest of warriors to Hrothgar,
in his company of comrades between the two seas,
a powerful shield-warrior, whom she had slain in his sleep,
a fighter profit-firm. Nor was Beowulf there,
earlier he had been ordained to another house
after the treasure-giving, for the famous Geat.
There was an outcry in Heorot. She had seized in all its gore
that well-known claw. Cares were renewed,
known to that house. Nor was that a good exchange:
they had to purchase it on both sides with the lives of friends.
Then was the wise king, the grey battle-warrior
troubled in his mind, after he knew of the death,
that his dearest lordly thane was now unliving. (ll. 1296-1309)
Quickly Beowulf was hailed to the hall,
the victory-blessed man—Together in the dawning day
that certain noble came, the well-born champion
himself with his troop, where the wise man waited
whether All-Wielding God ever wished to effect
a reversal after this woeful news. Then he went
down the hall, the army-worthy man
amid his selected soldiers. The hall-wood clattered
until he addressed that wise man wordfully,
the lord of the Ingwines, asking him if he had
had an pleasant night according to his wish. (ll. 1310-20)
Hrothgar spoke, the helmet of the Scyldings:
“Do not ask after pleasantries. Sorrow is renewed
for the Danish people. Æschere is dead,
the older brother of Yrmenlaf, my rune-speaker,
and my counselor—he was my shoulder-brother
when we at the flame-point guarded our heads,
when the foot soldiers ground together,
and boar-crests crashed. Such must an earl be,
surpassingly good, and such was Æschere! (ll. 1321-29)
“Here in Heorot a flickering corpse-ghast
became his hand-killer. I don’t know where
the terrible thing dragged him on her journey back,
feast-proud, infamous for her fullness.
She revenged that feud in which you killed Grendel
last night in your violent capacity, with hard clutches,
because he had diminished and destroyed
my people for too long a time. He fell in battle,
guilty of his life—and now another comes,
a mighty malicious harmer, wishing to avenge her son,
and she has carried on the feud too far—
so it may seem to many of my thanes,
who lament in their hearts after the treasure-giving,
this hardened heart-sorrow. Now that great hand is gone,
which availed your desires in every way. (ll. 1330-44)
“I have heard spoken among the land-settlers
of my people, the hall-counselors, that they have seen
two such march-steppers, very great, holding the moors,
strange spirits. The second of them, as clearly
as any man could understand, was the image of a woman,
the other, misshapen from the form of a man,
trod the exile’s path, except that he was bigger
than any other man. They named that one Grendel
in days of yore, the land-dwellers. They know no father,
whether any secret spirit conceived them earlier.
They keep watch over an obscure land, wolf-cliffs,
windy headlands, twisted paths through the swamp,
where the mountain-stream dives down
under the cover of crags, the waters under the earth. (ll. 1345-61a)
“It is not far from here, measured out by miles,
that that lake stands, over it hangs thick-barked trees,
fast with their roots, overshadowing the water.
There one can see every night a malevolent wonder:
fire in the water. None of the sons of men who live,
though wise, can sound out that lake bottom.
Although the heath-stepper is harried by hounds,
the stag with strong horns may seek a forested security,
fearfully put to flight—he would sooner risk his life
on the shore, before he wishes to dive into it
to hide his head. That is no good place! (ll. 1361b-72)
“There the roiling waves rise upwards,
dark against the heavens, when the wind stirs
up hateful weather, until the breeze is blackened
and the skies weep. Now is the answer yours
again, and yours alone. You do not know yet
this place, this awful space, where you can find
this many-sinning thing—seek her if you dare!
I shall reward this feud with olden treasures
and coins, as I did before, with wound gold,
if you return from the waves.” (ll. 1373-82)
Beowulf made his reply, the son of Ecgtheow:
“Sorrow not, wise man! It is always better
to avenge a friend rather than mourn too much.
Each of us must expect the end of this worldly life—
let him who may strive for glory before death.
That is best thing for the companied warrior
after he is unliving. Arise, warden of the realm,
let us proceed quickly and gaze down the going
of Grendel’s kindred. I promise this to you:
he will never escape us in his sheltering,
not in the embrace of earth, nor in the hilly wood,
nor even at the bottom of the sea, go where he wishes.
Keep your patience this day, among many woes,
just as I would expect you to be.” (ll. 1383-96)
The older man leapt up, thanking God,
the Mighty Lord, for how this man spoke.
Then was his horse bridled for Hrothgar,
a steed with braided mane. The wise prince
went forth, magnificent. His retinue proceeded by foot,
shield-having. Those tracks were clearly visible
through the forest-paths, her going over the ground,
straightways she had gone across the murky moor,
bearing that best of kindred thanes soulless,
best of those who defended the homestead with Hrothgar. (ll. 1397-1407)
Then the children of noblemen climbed up
the steep stony cliffs, by narrow ascents
and close trails, an unknown road,
by precipitous headlands and many homes of water-beasts.
He went on ahead, accompanied by few
of his counselors, to look for that place,
until he suddenly found mountain-trees leaning
beyond a hoary stone, a joyless wood.
The water was below them, gory and disturbed.
To all the Danes, the friends of the Scyldings,
it was a blow to their hearts, to many a thane,
when it was revealed to all of the earls—
when they discovered Æschere’s head at the sea-cliff.
The waters roiled with blood as the men looked upon it,
heated with gore. Horns were blown at once,
a fierce war-song. The foot soldiers all sat down. (ll. 1408-24)
They saw there throughout the water, many kinds
of serpents, strange sea-dragons trying out their swimming.
Likewise, at the lake-cliffs, water-monsters were lying,
that often at morning-time slipped off to a sorrowful journey
on the sail-road, the wyrms and other wild beasts.
They scampered off on their way, bitter and boiling,
perceiving the voices the war-horns singing.
One of the Geatish warriors ended with the bow
the life of one of those wave-swimmers,
so that the hardened war-shaft slew it—
it was the slower in swimming through the water,
when the killing seized it. Quickly it was afflicted
cruelly in the waves with boar-spears savagely hooked,
attacked with malice, and drawn onto the bank,
a wondrous wave-birth. The warriors
looked upon the terrifying visitor. (ll. 1425-41a)
Beowulf made himself ready with noble armor,
he didn’t mourn for his life. His battle-byrnie,
braided by hand, broad and cleverly flecked,
must test out the swimming—it knew how
to shelter his bone-coffer, so that the battle-clutch,
the wicked grasping of the angry, could not harm his life
or his breast. Yet his bright helmet guarded his head,
which was to mingle with the lake bottom,
to seek the mixture of waters, worthied with treasure,
clasped with noble chains, just as the weapon-smith
worked it in days gone by, adored with wonders,
set it around with boar-images, so that afterwards
no sword or weapon could bite into it. (ll. 1441b-54)
It was no mean assistance that the spokesman
of Hrothgar lent him in his need, that hefted sword
was named Hrunting, it was once the most singular
of elder treasures—its edge was iron, spangled
with venomous runes, hardened in battle-sweat.
It had never been found wanting in warfare,
to any man who brandished it in his fists,
who dared to undergo the terrifying journey
to the folk-stead of his opponent. It was not the first time
that it ever had to effect a courageous deed. (ll. 1455-64)
The son of Ecglaf, however, did not remember,
crafty in his strength, what he had spoken earlier,
drunk on wine, when he loaned that weapon
to the better swordsman. He did not dare himself
to risk his life under the struggling waves,
to perform a daring deed, so he lost glory,
fame for valor. It was not like that for the other
after he had prepared himself for the fight. (ll. 1465-72)
Beowulf spoke, the son of Ecgtheow:
“Think now, O famous heir of Halfdane,
wise prince, gold-friend of men,
now that I am set to go, of what we said before:
if I must lose my life at your need,
you should always be like a father to me
in my dying. Be the firm protector of my thanes
and handy companions, if battle should take me.
Likewise, send the treasures that you gave to me,
my dear Hrothgar, to Hygelac. Then he will able to see,
when he perceives all that gold, the lord of the Geats,
the son of Hrethel, when he stares upon that bounty,
that I found a generous lord, filled with manly virtues,
a dispenser of treasure, enjoying it while I could.
And let Unferth, the widely-known man,
have my hard-edged old heirloom, the wondrous waved sword—
with Hrunting I will seek glory, or else death take me!” (ll. 1473-91)
After these words, the chief of the Weder-Geats,
didn’t wish to wait for any sort of answer,
hurrying with courage. The whelming waters received
the battle-warrior. Then it was most of the day
before he could perceive the lake-bottom.
At once, she discovered that, who had ruled
the coursing water, gore-greedy, for hundreds of half-years,
grim and gluttonous, that a certain human
tested out that monstrous home from above. (ll. 1492-1500)
Then she grasped him, seizing the war-fighter
in horrible chains, but no sooner could slash open
that hale body. She could not penetrate that corselet,
the rings shielding him without, the locked
limb-guard, with her hateful fingers.
Then the sea-wolf dragged him, when she
reached the bottom, the ringed prince, to her own home,
so he could not, no matter how courageous he was,
wield a weapon, but many marvelous sea-monsters
harried them while diving with sharp tusks,
attacking his battle-sark, terrible beasts tearing.
Then the noble warrior saw that he was in some sort
of hall of malice, where no water could disturb them,
nor, because of that roofed house could the fearful grip
of the lake touch them. He saw a fiery light,
bright beams, shining brilliantly. (ll. 1501-17)
Then the good warrior saw that deep-accursed,
mighty sea-witch, giving her a tremendous blow
with his battle-bill, his hand not holding back
its swing so that the ringed whorls sang
a greedy war-chant about her head.
Then the guest in the hall discovered
that the battle-bright blade did not wish to bite,
to harm her life—instead the edge betrayed
the prince in his need. It had endured
many hand-meets before, often shearing through helmets
and the battle-robes of the fated. This was the first time
that the glory of the brave treasure was diminished. (ll. 1518-28)
He was ever resolute, not at all late to courage,
mindful of glory, the kinsman of Hygelac.
Then the angry warrior tossed aside that blade
of winding rings, fraught with filigree,
so that it lay on the ground, stern and steel-edged.
He trusted in his own strength, the power of his hand-grip.
So must a man when he thinks to go forth
from battle, gaining enduring fame—
he must never worry about his own life.
Then he grabbed her by the shoulder—mourning not the melee—
the chief of the War-Geats and Grendel’s mother.
Then he threw his mortal enemy, battle-hard,
while he was swollen in mind, so that she bent to the floor.
But she returned the hand-lock swiftly,
with a grim grip of her own, and seized him up tight. (ll. 1529-42)
Weary at heart, the strongest of warriors,
champion on foot, was thrown over then,
so that he fell to the floor. She sat upon her hall-guest
then and drew out her dagger, broad, brown-edged.
She wanted to avenge her son, her only kin.
A braided breast-net lay across his shoulders,
and it saved his life, against point and blade alike,
withstanding the stabbing attack.
Then the son of Ecgtheow, the Geatish champion
might have perished upon the broad lake-floor,
except his battle-byrnie effected him help,
the hardened war-net, as well as Holy God
parceling out battle-victory. The knowing Lord,
Ruler of the Heavens determined it by right,
with much ease—when he stood up again. (1543-56)
Then he saw among the treasures there a victory-blessed blade,
an old sword of giant size, sturdy in its edges,
worthy for a warrior—it was the best of weapons,
except that it was far bigger that any other man
could bring to the dance of battle, excellent, adorned,
the work of giants. He snatched the ringed hilt then,
this hero of the Scyldings, stormy and sword-grim,
drew forth the whorled blade, despairing of life,
and angrily struck, so that the hard blade sheared
through her neck, breaking the bone-rings—
the sword utterly pierced the fate flesh-house.
She collapsed to the floor, the sword was dripping—
the man rejoiced at his deed. (ll. 1557-69)
The beams of light brightened, a glow stood within
even like that from heaven, shining so clearly,
the candle of the skies. He gazed through the hall,
turning by the wall, heaving up his weapon,
hard by the hilt, Hygelac’s thane, angry
and single-minded. Nor was that blade useless
to the battle-warrior, but he wished to quickly
pay back Grendel for his many bloody onslaughts
which he made upon the West-Danes,
many more times than just once—
when he slew in their sleep Hrothgar’s hearth-companions,
devoured them slumbering, fifteen Danish men,
and another fifteen he dragged away,
a hateful exchange. He requited him his reward,
the ferocious champion, so that when he saw
at rest, war-wearied Grendel lying,
deprived of life, just as the battle at Heorot
had left him earlier, injured. The corpse burst open
after it suffered in death a hard battle-swing—
Beowulf carved off his head. (ll. 1570-90)
At once the wise carls could see that,
who were with Hrothgar looking upon the water,
that the blending of waves was all mixed,
the lake splattered with blood. Grey-bearded,
the old men conversed together about good Beowulf,
saying that they did not think the noble man would return
that he would not come seeking the famous prince,
flush with victory. Then it seemed to many
that the sea-wolf had slain him. Then came the ninth hour.
The valiant Scyldings retreated from the cliff.
The gold-friend of men departed homewards from there.
The visitors still sat there, sick at heart, staring
at the lake. They thought and did not hope
that they would see their friendly lord in the flesh. (ll. 1591-1605a)
Then that sword began to wane into gory icicles,
the war-blade after the battle-sweat. That was some miracle
that it all melted much like the ice
when the Father releases the bonds of frost
and unwinds the choking ropes, that one has power
over time and season—that is the true Measurer. (ll. 1605b-11)
He did not take anything from that place, the chief of the Weather-Geats,
any more of the treasured hoard, although he saw many things,
except that head and the sword-hilt together,
spangled with riches—the sword had entirely melted,
the patterned sword burned up—the blood was too hot,
that venomous and strange monster who had died within.
At once he was swimming again, who had earlier endured
the conflict, the crumbling of the wrathful.
He dove up through the water, the churning waves were cleansed
entirely, the broad habitations, when the exorbitant ghast
was released from her life-days and this loaned creation. (ll. 1612-22)
Then the helmet of sailors came back to land,
a strong-minded swimmer, rejoicing in the sea-dance
and his powerful burden, which he bore with him.
They went down to him, thanking God,
the valiant troop of thanes, celebrating their prince
that they might see him again, unharmed.
Then the helmet and byrnie were quickly unloaded
from that strong man. The water grew still,
the lake under the skies, stained with gore.
They fared forth from there along the foot-trail,
joyful in spirit, meeting the earthen path,
the well-known way. The king-bold men
carried the head from the lake-cliffs,
with great difficulty for each of them.
Four of them had to carry it with effort
on the shafts of slaughtering spears
to the gold-hall, the head of Grendel,
until they arrived at last to that house,
fourteen ferocious and bold Geats going.
The lord of men walked among them,
proud in their company, treading the courtyard.
Then in came the master of thanes,
a deed-keen man, worthied with glory,
a warrior battle-brave, to greet Hrothgar.
Then Grendel’s head was tossed by the hair
onto the floor, where the men were drinking,
terrifying to the earls among their ladies,
a curious spectacle—the men looked upon it. (ll. 1623-50)
Beowulf made a speech, the son of Ecgtheow:
“What we have brought you gladly, son of Halfdane,
chief of the Scyldings, from the sea-dance,
as a token of glory, which you may look upon here.
I survived that unsoftly, with my life,
that underwater warfare, I dared this deed
with difficulty. The battle would be swiftly ended,
unless God should shield me. (ll. 1651-58)
“Nor could I use Hrunting any bit in the fight,
although that weapon should be availing.
But the Sovereign of Men granted to me
that I should see upon the wall, hanging fairly
a giant elder-blade. Haste guided me,
desperate for allies, to draw that weapon. (ll. 1659-64)
“Then I slew in that conflict, when I was given a moment,
the guardian of that house. Then that hooped blade,
that battle-bill burned up, when that blood burst out,
the hottest of war-sweat. I carried the hilt from there,
from my enemies, avenging those dastardly deeds,
death-killing of the Danes, as was appropriate. (ll. 1665-70)
“I promise you that you may slumber in Heorot
without sorrow, among your company of warriors
and all of your thanes, your own people,
young and old; that you have no need to fear,
prince of Scyldings, anything from that side,
the life-harming of earls, as you once did.” (ll. 1671-76)
Then was the golden hilt given into the hands
of that elder warrior, the hoary battle-chieftain,
the ancient work of giants. It turned into the keeping
of the lord of the Danes, after the crumbling of devils,
the work of miraculous smiths.
And when that fierce-hearted fiend gave up
the world, God’s adversary, guilty of murder,
and his mother also, it was turned over
into the care of this worldly king, the best
between the two seas, who doled out
coins in the Scedenish lands. (ll. 1677-86)
Hrothgar spoke up, looking upon the hilt,
the olden relic. On it was written the beginning
of ancient strife, when the Flood destroyed,
the gushing ocean, the kindred of giants,
they did wickedness—they were a nation estranged
from the Eternal Lord. The Sovereign gave
them final reward through the water’s whelming.
Such was marked upon that sword-guard,
shining with gold, correctly through rune-staves,
set down and spoken by whoever first worked
that sword, the best of iron, writhing-hilted
and patterned with snakes. (1687-98a)
Then spoke the wise leader, the son of Halfdane—
all fell silent: “He can say that, indeed, who does both
truth and right for his people, remembering
all from way back, the elder home-guardian,
that this noble was born the better man.
The fruits of your deeds are lofted up,
throughout the wide ways, my friend Beowulf,
over every tribe. Steadily you keep it all,
your power with the wisdom of your mind.
I must fulfill my friendship to you,
as we speak further. You must be a comfort
long-enduring to all your people,
a help to the heroes. (ll. 1698b-1709)
“Nor was Heremod like that,
for the sons of Ecgwela, the Honor-Scyldings.
He did not grow into a delight to them, but as a slaughter-fall
and a death-killing to the Danish people.
With swollen fury, he chopped down his table-comrades
his shoulder-brothers, until he departed alone,
the notorious prince, from the joys of man.
Although Mighty God had exalted him
with the force and pleasures of power,
pushed him forwards in front of all men,
yet a bloodthirsty breast-hoard waxed
in his spirit, giving nothing of rings
to the Danes according to their merits.
Joyless, he abided, suffering the effects of that struggle,
a long-lasting affliction upon his people.
Be instructed by this example! Understand manly virtues!
Aged in winters, I relate this song for you. (ll. 1709b-24a)
It is a wonder to speak how Mighty God
dispenses wisdom to the kindred of men
through a spacious soul, a home to command.
He owns the power over all creatures.
Sometimes he allows the mind-thoughts of man
to rove in love of his famous kinsmen,
giving him joy on earth — in order to keep well
the sheltering stronghold of mortals,
lending him such authority over his worldly share,
this broad realm, so that he imagines
no end for himself in a lapse of wisdom.
He lives well at the feast. Nothing stands in his way,
not disease or old age, nor do wicked preoccupations
darken his soul, nor does conflict or sword-hate
show itself anywhere—all the world turns
towards his pleasure. He knows not the worst— (ll. 1724b-39)
“—until some portion of pride grows up and flourishes
within him, while his warden slumbers,
the herdsman of the soul—this sleep is too deep,
bound up in its cares. The killer is so close,
who wickedly shoots from his deadly bow.
Then the bitter arrow will be struck in the breast,
under the helmet—he knows not how to shelter himself—
by the crooked guidance of accursed spirits.
It all seems too little what he has held for a long time.
He covets in evil thoughts and gives no worthy rings
for boasts, and he forgets and neglects the state of things to come,
the honorable share of which God had given him previously,
the Sovereign of Glory. At the conclusion
it eventually happens that the body-house, loaned,
lapses, falling fated—another takes it all up,
who, without mourning, doles out the treasures,
the olden-riches of noblemen, caring not for the fear. (ll. 1740-57)
“Guard yourself against this killing malice, my dear Beowulf,
best of men, and choose the better part,
the enduring good. Care nothing for pride,
famous champion! Now the profits of your power
last a short time. Too soon there will be
disease or the blade to deprive you of strength,
or else the clutch of flame or the welling of water
or the grip of the sword or the flight of the spear
or terrible old age and the brightness of your eye
will darken and diminish. All at once it shall be
that death conquers you, noble warrior. (ll. 1758-68)
“So I have reined the Ring-Danes for a hundred half-years
under the heavens and harbored them from war
against the many tribes throughout this middle-earth,
from spear and sword alike, so that I accounted
no one my enemy under the coursing of the skies.
What a reversal arrived for me in my range,
grief after the games, after Grendel became
my unwanted guest, my ancient opponent.
For that conflict I carried continually,
great sorrow about the heart. Thanks be to the Measurer,
the Eternal Lord, because I have endured in life
to look upon with my own eyes that blood-stained head
after that olden struggle! Go now to your seat,
enjoy the feasting joys, worthied in battle.
Many multitudes of renowned treasures
must be exchanged between us after the morning comes.” (ll. 1769-84)
The younger Geat was glad-minded, he went at once
to seek his seat, as the wise man bid him do.
Then fairly was the feast prepared anew
for the courage-bold, for those bench-sitters.
The night-helmet shadowed, darkness over the noble warriors.
The company all arose—the grey-haired would seek his bed,
the ancient Scylding. The Geat, the brave shield-warrior
desired to rest tremendously well. At once a hall-retainer,
guided him forth, the far-comer, wearied by his ventures—
that one attended to all the needs of thanes, in courtesy
like the battle-seekers used to have in those days. (ll. 1785-98)
The great heart rested himself then, the hall loomed,
wide and spangled with gold. Guests slept within,
until the black raven pronounced the joy of heaven
with a blithe heart. Then came the bright light
hurrying over shadow. The harmful man hastened,
the nobles were eager to return their people.
They wished to seek out their ships from there,
the courage-hearted foreigners. (ll. 1799-1806)
Then the hardened man ordered Hrunting
to be borne back to the son of Ecglaf, bidding
that he take up his sword, the admirable iron.
He said his thanks for the loan, speaking that
he reckoned it a valuable friend in war,
battle-crafty—he said no word at all
against the blade’s edge. He was a mindful man. (ll. 1807-12)
And then the travel-bold warriors were prepared
in their armor. The nobleman went as honor to the Danes,
to the high seat, where that other was sitting,
the battle-brave hero, and greeted Hrothgar. (ll. 1813-16)
Beowulf raised a speech, the son of Ecgtheow:
“Now we sea-sailors, having come from afar,
wish to say that we aim to seek Hygelac.
Here we have been entertained well,
joyfully. You have dealt with us fairly.
If I can do anything more to earn more
of your heartfelt love, O lord of men,
than I have already done, of warlike works,
I will be ready to do so right away.
If I ever hear that, over the course of the sea,
that those around you threaten you with terror,
as sometime the haters used to do,
I will bring a thousand thanes to you,
heroes as help. I know this in Hygelac,
the lord of the Geats, though he be young,
the herdsman of his people, that he will want
to bolster my claim, in words and deeds,
that I may honor you highly and bear
spear-shafts in your comfort, the support of power,
where there is need of your people.
If ever Hrethric, the son of a prince, determines
to go out to the home of the Geats, there he can find
many friends. Faraway lands are better sought
by those who are themselves good.” (ll. 1817-39)
Hrothgar prepared his reply, and answered him:
“Knowing God has sent you this wordy speech
into your heart. Nor have I heard a man more wise
in making arrangements at such a young age.
You are mighty in power and wise in your heart,
thoughtful in statement. I hold fast to the hope
that if it should occur that the spear should seize,
blood-grim battle, the heir of Hrethel,
either disease or iron, should take your lord,
the herdsman of his people, and you still have life,
that the Sea-Geats could not have a better choice
for their king, the hoard-guardian of heroes,
if you wished to receive your kinsmen’s realm. (ll. 1840-53a)
“The contents of your heart please me better
the longer I know you, my dear Beowulf.
You have brought it about that there shall be peace
in common between the Geatish people and the Spear-Danes,
and a rest from conflict and the hostile malice
which they once endured, so long as I rule
the wide realm and the mutual treasures.
Many shall welcome the other with good things
across the gannet’s bath. The ringed ships must bring
across the seas gifts and tokens of our love.
I know that these tribes will be made firm
against friend and foe, blameless in every way,
in the manner of olden times.” (ll. 1853b-65)
Then, still in the hall, the shelter of earls,
the son of Halfdane, gave to Beowulf,
twelve treasures, bidding him to seek
his own tribe in safety with those gifts,
and to come again at once.
Then the good king of noble stock kissed
the best of thanes, the prince of Scyldings
holding him by the neck. Tears fell to the earth
from the grey-haired one. There were two premonitions
within him, wise of age, but one was stronger:
that they would never again be allowed
to see each other, mindful in the moot.
That man was beloved by him so that he could not
withhold his welling breast, fast in his heart
bound in his thoughts for that well-loved man—
he longed in his blood for that warrior. (ll. 1866-80a)
Beowulf went from there, treading the grassy earth,
a warrior-prince gold-proud, exultant in treasure.
The sea-going ship, riding at anchor, awaited
its steering master. Along the way the gifts of Hrothgar
were often esteemed. He was a singular king,
without blame in everything, until old age would seize him
in the joy of his strength. It has harmed many men. (1880b-87)
Then they came to the flood, that troop
of high-spirited bachelors, bearing their ring-nets,
locked link-sarks. The coast guard observed
the return of the earls, just as before he had seen them.
He did not greet the guests with insults
from the crest of the cliffs, but he rode toward them,
saying that the Wederish people would welcome
the bright-mailed men returning by ship. (ll. 1888-95)
Then the sea-broad ship, with the ringed prow,
was loaded on the beach with war-weeds,
with treasures and with horses. The mast loomed
over Hrothgar’s hoarded-treasures.
Then he gave to the boat-warden a sword
bound with gold, which afterwards,
he would be the more worthy on the mead-bench
for that treasure, that ancient heirloom. (ll. 1896-1903a)
Then Beowulf departed in the ship, dredging
the deep water, giving up the Danish land.
A certain sea-cloak was affixed to the mast,
the sail by its rope. The swimming wood resounded.
The wind never hindered the wave-float
on its journey over the surf. The sea-goer travelled,
foamy-necked fleeting forth over the waves,
with a bound prow, over the sea currents,
until they could perceive the Geatish cliffs,
the well-known headlands. The ship pressed forward,
toiled by the wind, and the stood firm on the shore. (ll. 1903b-14)
Swiftly there was the harbor-watch ready at the shore,
who for a long time had looked out for those beloved men,
eager at the ocean. The broad-bosomed ship was curbed
in the sand, fixed by its binding anchor,
lest the force of the waves should carry
the winsome wood away. Then Beowulf ordered
the nobleman’s treasures borne onto the beach,
the frettings and the golden-vessels. It was not far
from there to seek out their dispenser of treasure,
Hygelac Hrethling, who dwelled in his home,
himself and his comrades, near the sea-wall. (ll. 1915-24)
The building was beautiful, the lord-brave king
high in his hall—and Hygd so young,
wise and well-honored, though light of the winters
she had endured under the sheltering-close,
Hareth’s daughter, nor was she ungenerous however,
nor sparing of gifts to the Geatish people, of treasured riches. (ll. 1925-31a)
Modthryth bore with her terrible crimes,
that vigorous lady of her people. None of the bold
dared to risk himself, the dear companions,
unless he were her husband—
to look her in the eyes in the daytime,
but a slaughter-band was assigned him
painfully, woven by hand. All at once,
the sword gripped by hand settled the complaint afterwards,
so that the shadowy blade must shear off a head
revealing a killing bale. Nor are these womanly customs,
not ladylike at all, though she be very beautiful,
that the peace-weaver should seek after the lives
of beloved men through an invented grudge. (ll. 1931b-44)
The kinsman of Hemming, however, put a stop to that—
as ale-drinkers spoke the second part—
that she performed less harm to the people,
fewer evil designs, after she was given first,
adorned with gold, to the young champion,
to her noble beloved, since she sought a journey
to the hall of Offa, over the fallow waves,
by her father’s plan. There she enjoyed,
while she was living, the conditions of life afterwards
at the throne of men, both good and well-known,
holding the lord of heroes in high esteem,
of all mankind—as I have heard—
the best king of the human race found
between the two seas. Therefore Offa was
worthied widely with gifts and with wars,
a spear-keen man, holding in wisdom
where he ruled. Thence sprang Eomer,
as a help to heroes, the kinsman of Hemming,
the descendant of Garmund, crafty in troubled times [or “among men”]. (ll. 1945-62)
Then the hardened warrior departed with his hand-picked crew,
treading across the sand, the sea-land, the wide beach.
The world-candle shone, the sun hurrying from the south.
They had endured the journey, going in courageously
towards the shelter of earls, the killer of Ongentheow.
They knew where the good man, the young war-king,
doled out rings within his stronghold. Hygelac
was informed at once about Beowulf’s return,
that right there in his enclosure, the shelter of warriors,
his shield-comrade had come back still living,
unharmed from the battle-dance, returning home.
Quickly room was cleared, as the ruler commanded,
within the hall for those foot-bound visitors. (ll. 1963-76)
Then he sat among them himself, who had survived
the struggles, kinsman with his kin,
after he had faithfully greeted his lord
through his set speech and by stately words.
Hareth’s daughter turned through the hall,
with cups of mead, adoring the men,
bearing drinking horns into the hands of heroes.
Hygelac began to ask fairly his own comrade
in that high hall. Curiosity broke inside him
to learn how the mission of the Sea-Geats went: (ll. 1977-86)
“How did it go for you on the road, my dear Beowulf,
which you so suddenly decided to travel far away,
seeking a struggle over the salt water
a battle in Heorot? And did you repair in any way
the well-known woes of Hrothgar, the famous prince?
For this I boiled in mind-cares, sorrow-wellings.
I did not trust in your journey. For a long time
I asked you to not meet any bit that slaughter-soul,
to let the South-Danes make their own war
against Grendel. I say thanks to God,
because I may see you again, unharmed.” (ll. 1987-98)
Beowulf replied, the son of Ecghtheow:
“That is a open fact, my lord Hygelac,
our meeting notorious to many peoples,
such a time of battle between us, Grendel and I,
was found in that same place, where so many times
before he gave them sorrow, the Victory-Scyldings,
making their lives miserable. I avenged all that
so that no kin of Grendel has any need to boast
that dawn-clashing across the earth,
who may live the longest of that hateful kind,
seized in their sins. At first I arrived there
at that ring-hall to greet Hrothgar,
immediately the famous son of Halfdane,
after he knew of the intentions of my heart,
betaught me to a seat with his own sons. (ll. 1999-2013)
“The troop celebrated—never have I seen
under heaven’s vaulting greater mead-joys
of hall-sitters. Sometimes the noted queen,
the peace-pledge between peoples,
went throughout the entire hall, bolstering
the young retainers. Often she gave out writhed rings
to the men, before she went back to her seat.
Sometimes the daughter of Hrothgar bore
the ale-horn to the assembly, the earls at the ends—
I heard the floor-sitters name her Freawaru
when she passed the studded vessel to the warriors.
She is promised, young and adorned with gold,
to the gracious son of Froda. The friend of the Scyldings
has brought this to pass, the shepherd of the realm,
reckoning the opinion that with this woman
he may settle his share of the conflict, the killing feud.
Far too infrequently, in any place, will the deadly spear
bow down after the people-slaying for a little while,
even though the bride is availing. (ll. 2014-31)
“The prince of the Heathobards could be insulted,
and all of his thanes, of his people,
when a lordly youth comes onto the floor
with his lady, accepted with honor.
But on him gleams some ancient heirloom,
rigid and ring-scrolled, a Heathobard treasure
while they were allowed to wield those weapons,
until they misplaced in the shield-play
beloved comrades and their own lives.
Then one speaks up in his beer, who sees that ringed weapon,
an old spear-fighter, he who remembers it all,
the shafted killing of men—his own heart is grim—
Misery-minded he tests out some young warrior
in the intentions of his breast, of his mind,
waking a warlike bale, and speaking these words: (ll. 2032-46)
“’Can’t you, my friend, recognize the sword,
which your father bore to the battle,
beneath his war-mask, for the very last time,
his beloved blade, where the Danes dinged him down,
ruling the war-ground, when Withergeld lay
after the crumbling of heroes, by the sharp Scyldings?
Now here the son of his killers—I don’t know his name—
goes out upon our floor, exulting in that ornament,
boasting of that crime, and bearing that treasure
which you rightfully ought to wield.’” (ll. 2047-56)
“And so he reminds and mentions it with all sorts of talk,
with painful words, until that inevitable moment comes
when that lady’s attendant, for his father’s deeds,
slumbers splattered with blood after the bite of blade,
his life forfeit. That other man will get away from there,
still living, he readily knows the land.
Then it shall be broken on both sides,
all this oath-swearing by earls, after slaughtering hate
wells up within Ingeld, and wife-love in him
become cooler after the anxious whelming.
For that reason, I do not account the allegiance
of the Heathobards, their share of the lofty truce
to the earnest Danes, fixed in their friendship. (ll. 2057-69a)
“I must speak further about Grendel, so that you may
know readily, my dispenser of treasure,
how the hand-rush of warriors ended up afterwards.
After heaven’s gem passed over the ground
the angry ghast came seeking us, terrible, night-fierce,
where we guarded the hall unharmed.
There Hondscio was attacked in battle,
fated for life-killing—he lay down first,
the girded champion. Grendel became
his mouth-killer, the well-known thane,
swallowing the entire body of the dear man. (ll. 2069a-80)
“No sooner did he wish to leave that gold-hall,
empty-handed, the bloody-toothed killer,
mindful of slaughter, but he tested my renowned strength,
his eager claw grasped me. His pouch hung down,
broad and wondrous, bound with a wrought clasp—
it was cleverly made, girded throughout
with devil’s craft and dragon’s skin.
The ferocious instigator wanted to cram me
into there, innocent, one among many.
It could not be so, after I stood upright in ire. (ll. 2081-93)
“It would be too long to tell, how I requited
in hand-payments every one of the evils
of that tribe’s affliction—there I, my prince,
worthied with my works your people.
He escaped on his way, enjoying his life
for a little while longer, nevertheless his right hand
warded his swath back in Heorot—and he came to die,
abjected, miserable in mind, at the bottom of a swamp. (ll. 2094-2100)
“The friend of the Scyldings rewarded my battle-crash
with many things: vesseled gold, many treasures,
after the morning had come, and we had sat down to feasting.
There was verse and much joy—a Scylding oldster
knowing many things, reckoning stories from long ago,
sometimes the battle-brave struck the gleeful wood,
tuning a harp to joy, and sometimes chanted a song,
true and trembling, and sometimes the great-hearted king
recounted a wondrous tale according to what is right,
and sometimes a veteran spoke to the youthful,
bound up in his age, a hoary war-fighter,
of battle-strength—his breast within him welled,
when he, wise of winters, remembered many things. (ll. 2101-14)
“So we grasped our enjoyment the whole day long
within the hall, until another night came upon mankind.
Then she was quick to return, ready for terrible wrack,
Grendel’s mother, venturing sorrowfully.
Death had seized her son, and the war-hatred of the Weders.
The horrible woman avenged her son, killed a warrior
audaciously. There the life of Æschere was torn out,
an aged and wise counselor. Neither were they allowed,
when the morning arrived, the Danish people
to burn the death-weary with brands,
nor to load it upon the pyre, the beloved man.
She had carried the body in the bosom of the fiend
under the mountainous stream. For Hrothgar
that was the worst of the worries, which the people’s king
had suffered for a long time. Then, stormy-minded
the prince implored me by your life to venture
my noble courage in the churning of waters,
to risk my life and perform a glorious act.
He promised me recompense. (ll. 2015-34)
Then I, as is widely known, discovered the deep-keeper,
fierce, terrifying. There were our hands exchanged
for a long time. The swamp welled with gore
and I chopped off the head of Grendel’s mother
in that war-hall with an overgrown sword.
With no easy effort, I carried my life from there.
I was not doomed to die at that time—
but the shelter of earls soon gave me
many treasures, the son of Halfdane.” (ll. 2135-43)
“And so the tribal king lived according to good custom—
not at all did I lose out of my recompense,
reward for my strength, but he piled on many treasures,
the son of Halfdane, much to my own glory,
and these I wish to bring to you, lord of warriors,
showing my favor. All of the good things for me
are wrapped up in you. I have very few
close kinsmen, Hygelac, except for you.” (ll. 2144-51)
Beowulf ordered the boar’s-head-standard
to be brought in, the battle-lofty helmet,
the hoary byrnie, the elaborate war-blade,
and afterwards related this account: (ll. 2152-54)
“Hrothgar gave me this battle-tackle, that wise prince,
bidding me with chosen words to tell you first
of his good will, telling that King Heorogar,
chief of the Scyldings, kept them a long time,
and not any sooner would he give to his own son,
the bold Heoroweard, though he was loyal,
this breast-covering. Enjoy them all well!” (ll. 2155-62)
I have heard that four horses followed those ornaments,
apple-fallow, swift, alike. Beowulf drew forth his favor
in steeds and riches. So must good kinsmen do,
not at all weaving together a malicious net for the other
with hidden skill, reining in death
for his hand-comrade. Hygelac’s nephew
was most loyal, hardened by conflict,
each man was mindful of the other’s satisfaction. (ll. 2163-71)
I heard also that he gave that necklace to Hygd,
that well-wrought wonder-treasure, which Wealhtheow
had given to him, the daughter of princes,
along with three horses, supple and saddle-bright.
After that her breast was worthied after that rich gift. (ll. 2172-76)
So the son of Ecgtheow displayed his bravery,
a man known by men, for his good deeds,
acting according to his reputation—
never striking down his hearth-comrades
in drunkenness—his heart was not harsh,
but he held, battle-brave, onto the spacious gift
which God had given him, the greatest power of mankind.
For a long time he was despised, as the children of the Geats
accounted him no good, nor did the lord of the Weders
wish to honor him of great worth on the mead-bench—
they all believed strongly that he was lazy,
a feeble noble. The reversal arrived
of every woe to the glory-blessed man. (ll. 2177-89)
Then the shelter of earls, the battle-ready king
ordered the heirloom of Hrethel to be brought inside,
geared with gold. There was never among the Geats
a better or richer treasure in the form of a sword.
This he laid on the lap of Beowulf and gave him
seven thousand hides of land, a home and a throne.
For both of them had inherited land
in that nation, a manor by common custom,
but the other man held a greater portion,
the broad realm itself, due to his higher state. (ll. 2190-99)
It soon came to pass, in the days to come.
in the battle-clashing, after Hygelac lay dead,
and the spiteful swords became for Heardred
his killer under the shelter of shields,
when the Battle-Scylfings sought him,
the hardened warriors assailed him with hatred,
the nephew of Hereric, in his triumphant nation. (ll. 2200-06)
Afterwards the broad realm turned to the hand
of Beowulf. He kept it well for fifty winters—
he was a wise king, an elder home-warden—
until a single dragon began to hold sway
over the darkened nights, who kept watch
over his hoard in his high house,
an unyielding stone-shelter, a path lay under it,
unbeknownst to men. I don’t know who, some man,
went inside there, who pressed forward
close to the heathen hoard. His hand could easily grab
onto cleverly-contrived treasures glittering with gold.
He could not afterwards conceal that act,
though the dragon still sleeping was deceived
by the skill of the thief—this fact the nation soon found,
the brave inhabitants, that the dragon was swollen in fury. (ll. 2207-20)
It wasn’t on purpose that he broke in the wyrm-hoard,
of his own desires, he who injured the dragon sorely,
but in close constraint, some thrall of somebody,
the children of warriors, fleeing from hateful blows,
needing a home, and he passed into that place,
a man afflicted by sin. At once he peered inside—
terror and deadly fear stood up in the hall-guest.
However that fearful shape… (ll. 2221-28a)
… When the fear pounced upon him,
seeking the jeweled cup. There were many more its like
in that buried house, ancient treasures
just as I-know-not-which men in days gone by
had hidden there, a tremendous legacy
of a noble kindred taking meditation
upon their precious treasures. Death had seized them all
in earlier times, and he who was yet alone,
a man of the multitude who went longest there,
a friend-miserable guardian, he expected the same
so that he would be allowed to enjoy
that long-owned treasure but a little time. (ll. 2231b-41a)
The barrow was entirely prepared, waiting
on land, near to the crashing waves,
newly built upon the ness, secure in constrained craft.
There the warden of rings bore within
a hoard-worthy portion of the noble treasures,
the vesseled gold and speaking just a few words: (ll. 2241b-46)
“Keep now, earth, what heroes may not,
the possessions of earls. So it was obtained
from you earlier by good men. War-death has seized them,
a fearful killing-blow, every man
of my people, who have given up their lives
and looked upon the hall-joys. I do not have anyone to bear the sword
or carry forth the gold-plated flagon,
the precious drink-vessel. The people have passed elsewhere.
The hard helmet must be, decked with gold,
deprived of its decoration. Its attendant sleeps,
who should polish the war-mask.
Likewise the mail-coat that experienced battle
over the breaking of boards and the bites of iron
decays with its warrior. Nor can the ringed byrnie
go about widely after its war-chief,
upon the back of the hero. There is no joy of the harp,
the diversion of glee-wood, nor the excellent hawk
flying through the hall, nor the swift steed
stamping in a sheltered stead. A baleful death has
destroyed many living peoples.” (ll. 2247-66)
So miserable-minded he mourned his grief,
one after all. Unblithe he turned away
by day and by night, until the welling of death
touched him by the heart. Then the old twilight-harmer
found the hoarded joys standing open,
who burning seeks barrows, the malicious dragon,
scaly, flapping through the night,
swaddled in flames—earth-dwellers
dread him greatly. It must search out
the hoard under the earth, where it wards
the heathen gold, wise in winters—
but it is no whit the better for it. (ll. 2267-77)
And so the people’s injury held onto
one of these hoard-houses in the earth
for three hundred winters, hugely grown,
until some man enraged it in its heart.
The thief bore a golden cup to his lord,
begging for a peaceful pledge from his master.
Thus the hoard was searched out, that trove of rings
diminished, that boon was granted
to the destitute man. His master looked
onto that ancient work of men for the first time. (ll. 2278-86)
Then the wyrm woke up, a quarrel was renewed—
he sniffed the scent upon the stones,
the stark-hearted found the footsteps of his foe.
The thief stepped too close to the dragon’s head,
in his secrecy. So can the undoomed survive easily
woe and vengeance, for whom the Wielder
holds his favor. The hoard-warden sought
eagerly upon the earth, wishing to find the human
who had sorely injured him as he slumbered.
Hot and rough-minded, he stirred about the barrow,
outside it all—but no one was there
in the wastelands—no one yet to fête in warfare
or fighting-work. At length he turned back
into the barrow, seeking his vesseled gold. (ll. 2287-2300a)
He discovered at once that some human
had tampered with the high-treasures, the gold.
The hoard-warden waited miserably
until the evening came—the barrow-watcher
was swollen at heart. The loathsome one wished
to requite his precious drinking-cup with fire.
Then the day darkened, to the delight of the dragon.
He did not want to wait for long by the wall,
but rushed out in flames, coursing afire.
The start of that feud was terrible
for the folk on the land, thus it would quickly
be ended painfully for their gold-giver. (ll. 2300b-11)
Then the alien spirit began to spew flaming breath,
burning the bright halls. A burning light stood tall,
a horror to all humans. The hated wind-flier wished
to leave nothing alive there. The wyrm’s warfare
was plain to see, the cruelly-hostile malice,
from near and far—how the battle-harmer
hated and harassed the Geatish people.
It rushed back to its hoard, its secret hall
just before daytime. The land-dwellers
had been seized by fire, by flames and brands.
It trusted more in its barrow its secret ways and walls.
That hope was to deceive him. (ll. 2312-23)
Then that terror was revealed to Beowulf,
the truth at once, that his very own home,
buildings’ best, had melted in the welling-burn,
the gift-throne of the Geats. That was for the good king
baleful in his breast, the most mind-sorrow.
The wise man believed he had bitterly provoked
the Wielder, the Eternal Lord, over the old law.
His breast welled within with darksome thoughts,
and these were hardly customary to him. (ll. 2324-32)
The fiery dragon had destroyed the fortress
of the people, that waterfront stronghold from without,
with flickering tongues, and for that the war-king,
the prince of the Weders, conceived a revenge.
The shelter of warriors, the lord of earls
ordered that a war-shield be wrought for him,
entirely of iron, marvelous. He knew for certain
that forest-wood could not help him,
linden against the flames. The intrepid must,
a nobleman tested true, endure the end of his days,
of this worldly life, but so would the wyrm as well,
even though he kept the hoard’s wealth for so long. (ll. 2333-44)
The prince of rings scorned the idea of seeking
out that wide-flying beast with an army,
a sizeable force of men. Not for a minute did he dread
the onslaught, nor was he, brave and strong,
much concerned about that dragon’s warmaking,
because he had survived many hateful foes,
daring difficulties, since he had cleansed,
the victory-blessed man, the hall of Hrothgar,
and devastated the family of Grendel in battle,
that despised kindred. (ll. 2345-54a)
It was hardly the least of hand-moots
when somebody struck down Hygelac,
after the Geatish king, the generous lord of the people,
in the press of battle in Friesland—
the heir of Hrethel was slain, drunk with swords,
beaten with the blade. Beowulf came away
from there by his own skill, by swimming—
he had in his arms thirty battle-dresses in all,
when he pressed on through the sea.
Not at all did the Hetware have need to celebrate
their foot-soldiers, who bore their shields against him.
Few ever returned from that battle-soldier
to seek their home. The son of Ecgtheow
swam across the churning of waters,
the miserable survivor, home to his people. (ll. 2354b-68)
There Hygd offered him the hoard and the realm,
rings and royal throne. She had no faith in her son
that he knew how to hold onto his native seat
against the foreign hordes, now that Hygelac was dead.
Nor by this could the miserable prevail upon the noble man,
with any means, to become the king over Heardred,
or wish to choose to wield that kingly power.
Yet Beowulf bolstered him among the people
with friendly advice, good will with great honor,
until he grew older and ruled the Weder-Geats himself. (ll. 2369-79a)
The sons of Ohthere, wracked exiles sought Heardred
over the sea—they had revolted against the helm of the Scylfings,
the best of the sea-kings who distributed treasure
in Sweden, the famous prince. That became his downfall.
There he received a mortal blow for his hospitality,
by the swinging of swords, the son of Hygelac,
and soon the son of Ongentheow came seeking a home
after Heardred lay dead, letting Beowulf
control the king-throne, and rule over the Geats—
and he was a good king— (ll. 2379b-90)
Beowulf remembered requital for that blow to his people
in later days—he made friends with the wretched Eadgils,
supporting his side across the broad sea, the son of Ohthere,
with warriors and weapons. He was avenged in time
for that cold and miserable foray when the king was killed. (ll. 2391-96)
So he had survived every sort of hatred,
every terrible conflict, the son of Ecgtheow,
with courageous deeds, until that one day
when he must battle against the dragon.
He departed, one of twelve, the lord of the Geats,
enraged and furious, to look for the wyrm.
He had found out whence this feud arose,
this deadly offense to men. The notorious golden cup
came into his lap by the offender’s hand.
That one was the thirteenth in that party,
who started that conflict’s beginning,
a captive mind-sad, he must go forth miserably,
guiding them to the place. He went despite his desire
unto the earthen house he alone knew,
a barrow under the hillside, near the welling sea,
the struggle of waves. That place was filled within
with jewels and twisted gold. That horrid watchman,
bold battle-ready, kept hold of golden treasures,
old under the earth—that would be
no easy bargain to obtain for any man. (ll. 2397-2416)
Then the battle-hardened king sat down
on the headland, wishing good health
for his hearth-comrades in later days,
the gold-friend of the Geats. His heart
was mournful, stirring, death-eager—
the final moment was so very close,
which must come upon the old man at last,
seeking the soul’s hoard, pulling them asunder,
life from the body. Not for very much longer
would that noble’s soul be housed in flesh. (ll. 2417-24)
Beowulf made a speech, the son of Ecgtheow:
“I survived many battle-crashes in my youth,
times of flaming fight. I remember them all.
I was seven winters old when the lord of treasures,
the lord of the people took me from my father’s house.
King Hrethel held and kept me, gave me treasure and food,
mindful of our kinship. I was in no degree hated
by him while he lived, a man in his hall,
than each of his own children:
Herebeald and Hæthcyn and my own Hygelac. (ll. 2425-34)
“For the eldest, a deathbed was laid out,
undeservedly, through the deeds of his kin,
after Hæthcyn struck him down with an arrow,
his own brother, from the horned bow,
missing his mark and shooting down his kinsman,
brother to brother, with a bloody shaft.
That was an irresolvable conflict—
a wrongful crime wearing out the heart—
a nobleman must lose his life unavenged. (ll. 2435-43)
“It would be as miserable a moment
as an old man living to see his own son
swing on the gallows, too young.
Then he would relate a verse or two,
a sorrowing song, as his son hung there,
a benefit only to ravens, and he cannot
do anything, though old and wise, to help him.
It always comes to mind, every morning,
the departure elsewhere of his heir.
He cares to wait for no one else,
within his household, no other keeper
of his goods, when that one has experienced
that deed and the malice of death.
He looks upon his son’s house sorrowfully,
the wasted joy-house, the windy resting-place
lamenting and bereft. The riders sleep,
the heroes in their hiding-place.
There is no voice of the harp, no joy in the yard,
like there used to be— (ll. 2444-59)
“Then he goes to his bed, singing a sorrow-song,
alone for his lonely one. Everything seems too wide
for him, the fields and the places of habitation. (ll. 2460-62a)
“Just like that the helmet of the Weders
endured these wellings, these sorrows at heart,
for Herebeald. No whit could he improve the feud
with that life-killer, nor could he have hatred
towards the battle-warrior for his loathsome deeds,
though he was no longer dear to him.
Then he with these miseries, when this pain befell him,
gave up the joys of mankind, choosing God’s light instead,
leaving land and the people’s hall to his heirs,
as does a prosperous man when he departs this life. (ll. 2462b-70)
“Then there was bad blood and strife between the Swedes
and the Geats across the wide water, a common quarrel,
a stern army-conflict, after Hrethel died,
until the sons of Ongentheow became bold and battle-brave,
not wishing to keep their treaties across the sea,
but near Misery Hill, they often waged a terrible
and devious shearing. My kindred allies were avenged
for those feuds and felonies, as it has been told,
although one purchased a hard bargain with his life.
The warfare overcame Hæthcyn, lord of the Geats. (ll. 2471-83)
“Then I have heard that in the morning the second brother
took revenge on his killer with the edge of the sword,
where Ongentheow was seeking out Eofor,
his war-helm split open, the elderly Scylfing
crumbled to the earth, sword-pale—the hand remembered
enough of the feud, didn’t pull back the deadly swing. (ll. 2484-89)
“I merited those treasures in warfare,
which he gave me, as was granted me
with the illumined blade. He allowed me land,
a home-joyful place. Nor was there ever any need
to go seeking the Gepidae or the Spear-Danes
or the Swedes for an inferior war-fighter,
to purchase them with treasure. (ll. 2490-96)
“Always I stalked before him on foot,
alone at the van, and so I must, as long as I live,
go do battle, so long as this sword endures,
which has often—before and after—served me well,
since I, before the hosts, became the hand-killer
of Day-Raven, the Huga champion—
he was never allowed to bring his breast-worthy
jewels back to his Frisian lord—
but the guardian of the banner crumbled in combat,
a true prince in bravery. Nor was the blade his killer,
but this battle-grip shattered his bone-house,
the pounding of his heart. Now must the sword’s edge,
the hand and the hardened blade battle over the hoard.” (ll. 2497-2509)
Beowulf starting speaking again, making a boast
for the very last time: “I dared many warlike things
in my youth. I want to seek yet another fight,
an elderly warden of his people, to perform
another glorious deed, if the wicked harmer
will seek me out from his earthen hall.” (ll. 2510-15)
Then he addressed every one of his men,
brave bearing helmets, for the final time,
his beloved comrades: “I don’t want to bear
the blade, a weapon against this wyrm,
if I knew how I could otherwise grapple gloriously
with that monster, just as I did with Grendel
long ago, yet I expect hated war-flames here,
and venomous breath. Therefore I have brought
both shield and byrnie. I do not wish to retreat
backwards one step from the guardian of the barrow,
but there must be a battle between us by this wall,
just as the way of the world assigns us,
the Measurer of every man. (ll. 2516-27a)
“I am firm of heart, renouncing the boastful word
against this battle-flyer. You all wait here
on the hillside, protected by your sarks,
men in armor, for which of us two should
be able to survive the better,
wounded after the deadly clash.
This is none of your mission, not fit for man,
except me alone, fighting against that monster,
doing a nobleman’s work. I must survive by my courage,
acquiring the gold, or else battle will seize,
the fearsome deadly bale, your own lord.” (ll. 2527b-37)
Then he arose behind his shield, the strong warrior,
hard under helmet, bearing his battle-byrnie
under the stony cliff. He trusted in the strength
of a singular man—such is not a coward’s way!
Then he saw by the wall, he who had come through
many wars alive, confirmed in his manly virtues
in the crushing clash of combat, when foot-soldiers
ground together—he saw a stone arch standing,
a stream bursting out of there, from the barrow.
The welling of that rivulet was hot with horrid fire,
nor could he pass through the deep way near to the hoard
unburnt at any time because of dragon flame. (ll. 2538-49)
Then the chief of the Weder-Geats, now he was furious,
let the words fly out of his breast, the stark-heart shouted.
His voice penetrated the cave, resounding battle-clear
under the hoary stone. Hatred was stirred up,
the hoard-warden recognized the human voice.
There was no more time to barter for peace.
From there first issued the breath of the beast
out of the stone, burning battle-venom.
—The earth thundered— (ll. 2550-58)
The warrior under the barrow swung his shield
against that that terrible alien thing, the lord of the Geats,
Then the heart of that coiled creature was eager
to seek a struggle. He drew out his sword,
the good war-king, the ancient heirloom,
not blunt of its edges. Each of those bale-seekers
was a terror to the other. Stout-hearted he stood,
lord of his company, behind his steep shield
when the wyrm quickly coiled itself together—
it awaited him in its armored scales.
Then it turned, burning, slithering forward, coiled up,
rushing toward its destiny. The shield sheltered
the life and body of that famous prince
for a shorter time, that his desire had hoped,
where for the space of that very first day,
he would not be allowed to take control
of glory in battle, just as the way of the world
had decreed for him. The lord of the Geats
raised up his hand, striking the awful flecked skin
with his mighty sword, but that blade faltered,
brown on the bony scales, biting more weakly
than its wielder had need to do, oppressed with troubles. (ll. 2559-80a)
Then the warden of the barrow was in a savage mind
after that battle-blow, casting forth deadly fire.
The battle-bright flames scattered widely.
The gold-friend of the Geats could not boast
about glorious victory. His war-bill failed him,
naked in the conflict, as it never should have,
the iron tested true. Nor was that an easy journey
when that famous man, the kinsman of Ecgtheow,
had to give up this space of ground, having
to inhabit another dwelling against one’s desire elsewhere,
just as every human must give up these loaned days. (ll. 2580b-91a)
Not long after those extraordinary creatures
crashed together again. The hoard-warden took heart,
its breast billowed with breath, a renewed voice.
He suffered dire straits, wreathed around with flames,
the one who had before ruled over his people.
Not at all did his hand-comrades, the sons of nobles,
stand around him, battle-favored—
but they fled to the forest, saving their lives.
Only one among them felt the welling of his soul
with sorrow. Nothing can ever turn aside
kinship in that man who thinks rightly. (ll. 2591b-2601)
This one was called Wiglaf, the son of Weohstan,
an admirable shield-warrior, a Scylfing prince,
kinsman of Ælfhere. He saw his lord suffering
the heat under his war-mask. Then he remembered
those honors that Beowulf granted him before,
the wealthy homestead of the Wægmundings,
every folk-inheritance that his father had owned,
and he could not hold back any longer—
the hand seized his shield, the yellow linden-wood,
drawing out his olden sword. Among men
it was Eanmund’s heirloom, the son of Ohthere.
Weohstan had become the killer in conflict
of that friendless exile, with the blade of the sword,
and he carried back to his kinsman,
the brown-flecked helmet, the ringed byrnie,
the gigantic elder sword—Onela gave him those things,
his nephew’s war-gear, the blooded battle-armor—
he spoke no word about the feud, although
he had killed his brother’s son. He held onto those ornaments
for many years, the sark and the sword,
until his own son could perform an earl’s commitments,
just like his father had before him.
Among the Geats then, Weohstan gave Wiglaf
every bit of that battle-gear, when he departed
from this life, aged onto the forth-way. (ll. 2602-25a)
This was the first time the young champion
must meet the battle-crash with his gracious lord.
Nor did his mind’s resolve melt at that moment,
neither did his father’s relic falter in the conflict.
That fact the dragon discovered when
they had met together in the fight. (ll. 2625b-30)
Wiglaf made a speech, righteous words,
saying to his comrades. His spirit was sorrowful:
“I remember the time, when we drank the mead
and we promised our lord in the beer-hall,
who gave us these rings, that we wanted to repay him
for this war-tackle, these helmets and hardened blades
whenever such a need ever came upon him.
That was why he chose us from among his troops
for this mission, as it pleased him—
He found us worthy of glory, and gave me these gifts,
reckoning us good spear-fighters, brave bearers of helmets,
even though he meant to perform this courageous deed
alone, the herdsman of the people, because of all men
he had accomplished the most glories, hardiest of deeds.
Now the day has come when our lord has need
of strength, of good battle-warriors. Let us go to him,
to help our war-first, while this heat may be so grim,
such a flaming terror. God only knows, in my case,
that it is preferable to me my flesh-home
be embraced in burning along with my gold-giver.
It doesn’t seem right to me that we should bear shields
back to our homes, unless we first should be able
to defeat our opponent and defend the life
of the prince of the Weders. I know it readily
that desert for his deeds is not such that he must,
alone among the Geatish troop, suffer sorrow
and fall in battle. Sword and helmet,
byrnie and battle-armor must be ours in common.” (ll. 2631-60)
Then he waded through the deathly reek,
bearing his war-helmet, to succor his lord,
speaking these few words: “My dear Beowulf,
perform all things well, as you once said
eagerly in your youth, that you would never allow,
while you were living, your reputation to fail.
Now you must be eager for deeds,
a nobleman resolute, defend your life
with all your strength. I will help you!” (ll. 2661-68)
After those words, the dragon came out angry,
a terrible and malicious alien, a second time,
speckled in welling flame, seeking out its foes,
those hated humans. Fire surged in waves,
burning up his shield to the boss.
The byrnie could not provide protection
for the young spear-soldier, but the youth
went in bravely under his kinsman’s shield,
when his own was destroyed in the fire.
Nevertheless the war-king recalled his heart,
striking with powerful strength and his battle-sword,
so that it crashed onto its head, compelled by violence.
Nægling shattered. Beowulf’s sword abandoned him
in the battle, ancient and grey-patterned.
It was never granted him that the iron edge could
help him in battle. His hand was too strong,
I have heard, that overtaxed every sword
with his swing, when he brought them to bear
in warfare, the wound-hardened weapon—
he was no whit the better for them. (ll. 2669-87)
Then the folk-scather rushed forward
for the third time, the wicked fire-drake,
mindful of the feud, towards the brave man,
when it found an opening, heated
and battle-grim, catching him with bitter fangs
right through the neck. Beowulf became bloody,
with fatal dripping—battle-sweat welled out in waves. (ll. 2688-93)
Then the noble by his side as I have heard
revealed his courage at his nation’s king’s
time of need, his boldness and skill
as was natural to him. He did not heed
the dragon’s head, even though his hand
of the mindful man was burned,
when he helped out his kinsman,
so that he struck the malicious monster
somewhat lower, the man in his armor,
and the sword plunged in, flecked and gold-flanged—
the flames began to weaken afterwards. (ll. 2694-2702a)
Then the king himself could still keep his wits,
drawing forth a dagger, bitter and battle-sharp,
that he carried upon his byrnie. The helmet
of the Weders cut the wyrm through its waist.
They killed the fiend—courage destroyed its life—
They had both cut it down, the kindred nobles.
So must every man be a thane at need!
This would the final moment of victory for the prince
through his own deeds, his last work in the world. (ll 2702b-11a)
At that moment the wound began, made before
by the earth-dragon, to burn and swell—
he discovered at once that a deadly malice
welled within his breast, a poison inside his body.
Then the nobleman went, wise-thinking,
to take a seat beside the wall, looking upon
the work of giants. How the stone arches,
fixed with pillars, would hold up that earth-hall
from within forever. Then thane beyond good
with his hands laved the famous prince, bloodied,
his own friendly lord with water, exhausted
by battle, and unbuckled his helmet. (2711b-23)
Beowulf made a speech, speaking despite his injury,
the wound deadly pale. He knew readily that
he had endured all of the days of his life,
his joys upon earth. They were all fleeing away,
the count of his days, death immeasurably close by:
“Now I would want to give to my own son
my war-gear, if it had been granted to me
that any legacy-warden to have come after me,
belonging to my body. I have guided my people
for fifty winters—there was no folk-king,
of any of those sitting on our borders,
that dared to meet me with war-friends,
menace us with terror. In my home I waited
my allotted time, kept my own well,
neither sought contrived conflicts
nor swore many oaths in unrighteousness.
I can rejoice in all these things, sickened
with this mortal wound, because the Wielder of Men
has no need to blame me for a murderous bale
against my kindred, when my life vanishes
from this body. Now you should go quickly
to look upon the hoard under the hoary stone,
my dear Wiglaf, now that the wyrm lies dead,
slumbering in painful wounds, bereaved of his treasure.
Be of haste now, so that I might perceive
that former weal, those golden possessions,
look eagerly upon the bright gemstones,
so that I can the more easily after the treasured hoard
give up my life and lordship, which I have long held.” (ll. 2724-51)
Then as I have heard the son of Weohstan,
after that wordful statement heeded his wounded lord,
war-sickened, bearing his ringed net,
the braided battle-sark under the barrow’s roof.
He saw then, victor-glorious and mindful, the kindred thane,
when he passed by the seat, many precious jewels,
the gold glinting, lying on the ground,
wonders on the walls, and in the den of that wyrm,
the olden out-flyer, the pitchers standing,
vessels of a long-dead race, deprived of their decorations,
without a caretaking hand. There were many helmets there,
old and rusted, many arm-bracelets,
craftily twisted about. Treasure, gold in the ground,
easily hurries away from the kindred of men—
let them hide it as they wish! (ll. 2752-66)
Likewise he saw hanging over the hoard,
a high standard all-golden, greatest of handiwork,
woven with storied skill, and from it
poured illumination so that he could perceive
the barrow floor, look across the jewelry.
There was no longer any sign of the dragon there,
seized by the sword-edge. Then as I have heard
he plundered the hoard in the tomb, all alone,
the old work of giants, the cups and dishes
loading up his bosom at his own discretion.
The standard also was taken, brightest of beacons.
The sword of his elder lord had already injured,
iron-edged, the one who had been the protector
of those treasures for a very long while,
who carried forth a lighted terror,
hot before the hoard, a deadly welling
at midnight, until he was killed in the assault. (ll. 2767-82)
The messenger was in haste, eager to return,
advancing with adornments—curiosity broke within him
whether he would met with the courage-souled warrior
still alive on the plain outside, the prince of the Weders
sick at spirit, where he had left him earlier.
Then with those treasures, he discovered his famous prince,
his own lord, bleeding, his life at an end.
Again he began to cast water upon him,
until the start of a word broke through his breast-hoard. (ll. 2783-92a)
The warrior-king spoke, aged in his sorrows,
looking upon the gold: “I give thanks to the Lord of All,
the Glory-King for these ornaments,
saying it wordfully to the Eternal Lord,
those which I am looking upon here,
the likes of which I might have acquired
for my people before my death-day.
Now I have purchased with my elderly span of life
this hoard of treasures. You all must look
to the people’s needs from here. I can be here no longer. (ll. 2792b-2801)
“Order those war-renowned to make a mound
bright after the pyre upon the cliffs by the sea—
which must tower high upon the Whale’s Ness
as a memorial to my people, so that the sea-farers
will call it afterwards Beowulf’s Barrow,
when the ships drive from afar out of the darkened flood.” (ll. 2802-08)
The bold-minded prince pulled off his golden torque
from around his neck, giving it to his thane,
the young spear-soldier, and his gold-spangled helmet,
rings and his byrnie, ordering him to use them well:
“You are final remnant of our clan, the Wægmundings—
the way of the world has swept them all away,
my own kinsmen, to their allotted fate,
chiefs in their courage. I must go after them.” (ll. 2809-16)
That was the final word of the old warrior,
out of his breast-thoughts, before he should choose
the pyre, the hot battle-flames. Then his soul turned
from his chest to seek the glory of the sooth-fast. (ll. 2817-20)
And then it came to pass that the young man
sorrowfully saw, lying on the earth, the dearest of men
at the end of his life, bearing himself in a wretched way.
His killer lay there also, the terrible earth-dragon,
bereaved of life, compelled by deadly blows.
No longer would the coiled wyrm be allowed
to control the ring-hoard, instead the iron edge
had taken him, hardened and battle-sharp,
the work of hammers, so that the wide-flyer
stilled by wounds, had collapsed onto the earth,
before the hoard-hall. Not at all could it turn
twirling in the breeze in the middle of the night
showing its terrible aspect, treasure-proud—
instead he had fallen to the ground,
from the handiwork of the first in battle. (ll. 2821-35)
Indeed there were few men in the world,
of those wielding power, as I have heard,
who could have prospered, even though
they may have been daring in every deed,
that could have rushed against that venom-scather’s breath,
or disturbed that ring-hall with his hands,
if he should discover that warden watching,
lurking in its barrow. A portion of that lordly treasure
was paid back to Beowulf in death.
Either had attained the end of this loaned life. (ll. 2836-45a)
It was not too long before the battle-slow
gave up the forest, the craven troth-breakers,
ten of them together who not dared earlier
to play with their spears, in their lord’s great need,
yet ashamed they bore their shields, their war-gear
to where the old man lay, looking upon Wiglaf.
He sat wearied, the foot-champion at the shoulder of his lord,
still bathing him in water, though it booted him no bit.
Nor could he for all the world, though he wished it well,
keep the spirit within that first-spear,
nor convert the course at all of the Wielder’s will—
The doom of God still wanted to guide the deeds
of every human being, as it still does now. (ll. 2845b-59)
Then was a grim answer easily conceived
by the young thane, to those who lost their nerve before.
Wiglaf made a speech, the son of Weohstan,
a man sorry-hearted, looking upon the unloved:
“Alas, one could say, who wishes to speak the sooth
that our lord, who gave you those treasures,
that war-tackle, that you stand there wearing,
when he often handed out helmet and byrnie
to his hall-sitters on the ale-benches,
a ruler to his retainers, the most powerful
he could find anywhere far or near—
one could say that he threw this war-gear away,
completely, terribly, when war overtook him.
Our people’s king had no reason to boast
about his armed comrades. Nevertheless, God granted,
the Sovereign of Victories, that he would avenge himself,
alone with his blade, when he needed courage.
I could only give him a small prop of life in the fight,
and I began even so to help him, beyond my measure
of strength. I was always the weaker
when I struck that mortal enemy with my sword,
but even then a weaker flame welled from its head.
Too few defenders thronged about their prince,
when his final moments came upon him. (ll. 2860-83)
“Now must all treasure-taking and sword-giving,
all the joys of home, all comfort, cease for your kindred.
Every man must turn away, deprived of their land-rights
and their families, after nobler men shall learn from afar
of your flight, this glory-shorn deed. Death
would be better for every earl than a life of shame!” (ll. 2884-91)
Then Wiglaf ordered that battle-work be announced
to the dwellings of men along the sea-cliffs,
where that war-band sat mind-miserable
the morning’s length, shield-bearing
in expectation of either the ending day
or the home-coming of their beloved lord.
He was but little silent with the new message,
he who rode down the headland,
but he truthfully told the whole tale:
“Now is the gracious giver of the Wederish people,
the lord of the Geats, fixed upon his death-bed,
abiding in deathly rest, by the wyrm’s attack.
Lying even by his side is his olden opponent,
sick from knife-wounds. His sword could not
hew a wound into that monster for any thing.
Wiglaf, the son of Weohstan, sits over Beowulf,
one earl over another, by the unliving.
Weary of mind, he keeps a head-watch
over the loved and loathed. (ll. 2892-2910a)
“Now it is the people’s expectation for a time of war
when the secret is revealed to the Franks and the Frisians,
the downfall of our king becomes blazoned about.
The feud was shaped, hard against the Hugas,
after Hygelac arrived, ferrying a fleet-army
into the land of Frisia. The Hetware attacked him
in battle, went forward bravely, with superior strength,
so that the byrnied warrior had to bow down,
falling among the foot-soldiers, giving no ornaments then,
the prince to his forces. Ever afterwards
the Merovingians have granted us no mercy. (ll. 2910b-21)
“Nor do I expect any peace or troth from the Swedish tribe,
but it was widely known that Ongentheow deprived
Hæthcyn, Hrethel’s son, of his life, at the Ravenswood,
when in their arrogance, the Geatish people sought
first the War-Scylfings. At once the old father of Ohthere,
veteran and terrible, gave back a counter-attack,
chopping down the sea-leader, rescuing his wife,
the elderly queen, bereft of gold, the mother of Onela
and Ohthere, and the Swedes dogged down
their mortal foes, until they escaped with difficulty
into the Ravenswood, deprived of their lord. (ll. 2922-35)
“Ongentheow then beset them with a huge army,
the remnants of the sword, wearied with wounds,
promising woes to the wretched troop
for the rest of the night, saying that he wished
to gut them with the blades of swords—in the morning
some would swing on gallows-trees, as game for the birds.
Comfort came at last to the sorrow-minded
all at once in the earliest morning, after they heard
the sound, the horn and trumpet of Hygelac,
when that good warrior arrived riding
down the track with a multitude of warriors. (ll. 2936-45)
“That bloody swath of Swedes and Geats,
the deadly onslaught of men, was widely apparent,
how those people aroused the feud between them.
Then the good king departed with his companions,
wise and very anguished, seeking a stronghold,
noble Ongentheow, turning to go to higher ground,
having heard of the war-skill and valor of proud Hygelac
and he trusted not in his troops, that he could
resist the sea-men, defend hoard and son and wife
against the battle-sailors. He bent backwards from there,
old under the earth-wall. Pursuit was then offered
to the Swedish soldiers—the standard of Hygelac
ran forth across that field of refuge,
after the Hrethlings thronged to the enclosures. (ll. 2946-60)
“There was grey-haired Ongentheow, in a scrum of swords,
heaved to a halt, so that the tribal lord had to submit
to the doom of Eofor alone. Furiously, Wulf, son of Wonred,
struck him with his weapon, so that the blood-sweat
sprung forth from the veins by that blow
under his hair. Yet he was not afraid for that,
the elderly Scylfing, but he swiftly repaid him
with a worse exchange for that slaughtering blow,
after the nation’s king turned back upon him. (ll. 2961-70)
“Nor might the brave son of Wonred impart a blow
in reply to the old man: he had carved through
the helmet on his head, so that he must bow down
splattered with blood, and he fell to the earth.
He was not yet fated to die, but he recovered himself
although he felt the touch of the wound. (ll. 2971-76)
“The hardened thane of Hygelac let his broad blade,
when his brother lay down, his old-sword of giants,
break over the board-wall, upon the great helmet.
Then the king bowed down himself, the herdsmen of the people—
struck to his life. There were many who bound up his brother,
quickly raised him up, when it became clear enough,
when they were allowed to control the field of slaughter.
Meanwhile one warrior rifled the other, seizing the iron sark
from Ongentheow, the hard-hilted sword, along with his helmet,
bearing the grey-hair’s gear back to Hygelac. (ll. 2977-88)
“He received the adornments and fairly promised him
recompense among the people, and made good on that,
the lord of the Geats repaying that brave war-charge,
the heir of Hrethel, when he came home,
to Eofor and Wulf, with abundant treasures,
giving either of them a hundred thousand pounds’ worth
of land and locked rings—one had no need to reproach
him for that reward, any man in middle-earth,
after they had struck down their glory—
and he gave to Eofor his only daughter,
an honor to his homestead, and his favor as pledge. (ll. 2989-98)
“That is the feud and the enmity, the war-hate of men,
for which I have an expectation that they will seek us,
the Swedish people, after they have heard that our lord
lies lifeless, who once held off all malicious people
from the hoard and realm, doing us a folk-favor
and performing furthermore still deeds of earl-ship—
after the fall of the warriors the bold Scylfings will come.
Now haste is best, that we look over our king there
bring him, who gave us rings, to the pyre’s way. (ll. 2999-3010a)
“Nor must just some of this be melted away
with the mindful king, but there is a hoard of treasure,
uncountable gold, grimly purchased,
and now at the very end, he bought these rings
with his own life. At this moment, the torch
must devour it all, the flames enfold it—
and not at all must the nobleman wear these treasures
as remembrance, nor the radiant maiden bear them
about her neck, in ringed ornaments,
but miserable-minded, he must, bereaved by gold,
tread a foreign land not just once,
now that our war-leader has put aside laughter,
playtime and the joys of music.
Therefore the spear must be wound about with hands,
many of them, morning-cold, hefted in their arms—
not at all must the voice of the harp wake the warrior,
but the dark black raven flying over the fated,
speaking many things, the eagle saying how he
prospered at the feast, while he plundered
the dead with the wolf—“ (ll. 3010b-27)
So the brave man was speaking the hateful news,
he did not dissemble in anything, either word or event.
The troop all arose, went forth unblithe
under Eagle Ness with tears welling,
looking upon that terrible portent.
Then they established in the sand
a restful bed to hold the soulless body,
he who had given them rings in former times.
That was the end-day, the going-forth of good things,
when the war-king, the prince of the Weders,
was killed in an astonishing death. (ll. 3028-37)
Before they saw there the exorbitant creature,
the loathsome dragon on the ground, lying there
opposite their lord. The fire-drake was grimly
and terrifying patterned, scorched with its flames.
It measured out fifty feet long in its laying out,
once holding its flying-joys by night.
It soon sought out a deeper den. Now fixed in death,
it had once enjoyed its earthen cave. (ll. 3038-46)
Beside it stood cups and pitchers,
dishes lying there, and precious swords,
rusty and eaten through, just as they had dwelt there
one thousand winters in the earth’s embrace.
Then was that enormous inheritance,
the gold of ancient men, wound with a spell,
so that no man would be allowed to touch
that hall of rings, unless God himself,
the Truth-King of Victories gave it to them who he wished
—he is the protector of men—to open up the hoard,
even to any human as seemed worthy to him. (ll. 3047-57)
Then it was apparent that the journey did not turn
to profit for that one who hid these ornaments inside
beneath the wall without right. Their warden was slain
before by one out of only a few. Then was the feud
cruelly avenged. It was an extravagant thing
when the courage-bold chieftain found the end
of his allotted life, when one could no longer
inhabit his mead-house with his kinsmen. (ll. 3058-65)
So it was for Beowulf, when he had sought
a contrived conflict, the guardian of the barrow—
he knew not how to maintain his own life
through what his worldly parting must effect—
as the famous princes had profoundly pronounced
their day of doom, when they died themselves,
although the man may be guilty of many sins,
constrained in heathen worship, fixed in hell’s bonds,
miserably tormented, who had plundered the field.
Nor had he perceived the gold-curse more certainly,
through the favor of the Owner. (ll. 3066-75)
Wiglaf spoke, the son of Weohstan:
“Often shall many noble men, through the desire
of one, endured this avengement, as is ordained us.
Nor can we advise our beloved lord,
the herdsmen of the realm, of any counsel,
so that he would have not gone to meet
that gold-warden, let him lie where he long
was abiding in his house until the world-end,
holding his high destiny. The hoard is revealed,
gotten grimly. That was too harshly granted
that our nation’s king was urged to go thither. (ll. 3076-86)
“I was in there, and looked over it all,
the treasures of that hall, when it was allowed me—
that journey inside under the earthen wall
was not all gently permitted me. I seized at haste
a great deal, a mighty burden, in my hands,
of those hoarded treasures, and bore it hither
to my king. He was still alive at that point,
wise and aware. He spoke a great many things
aged in his cares, and he bid me hail you all,
commanding you to work, after friendly deeds,
in the place of the pyre, a lofty barrow,
great and well-known, as he was the most praiseworthy
warrior of all men, throughout this wide earth,
so long as he was allowed to enjoy his city-wealth. (ll. 3087-3100)
“Let us waste no time now to look upon and seek
that heap of wrought gems a second time,
the wonder under those walls. I shall advise you all
to look upon that plenty of rings and broad gold
up close. Let the bier be made ready,
and done at once—when we come out and
when we bear our lord, that beloved man
to where he must remain for a long time,
in the keeping of the Sovereign.” (ll. 3101-09)
Then the son of Weohstan, the battle-brave warrior,
ordered them to be directed, the assembled heroes,
the keepers of the homesteads, to gather up
the pyre-wood from far away, the folk-leader
speaking to the good men: “Now must the fire devour—
the darkened flames mounting—the ruler of warriors,
who often endured the iron showering,
when a storm of arrows was urged by strength,
hurrying over the shield-wall,
holding to the duty of the shafts,
serving the barbed tips, rapid in their fletching.” (ll. 3110-19)
Indeed, the wise man, the son of Weohstan
called forth from the troop the thanes of the king,
seven together, the best of them—
one of the eight ventured under the wicked roof,
the battle-warriors. One carried in his hands
the kindling fire, he who went before them all.
There was no lot cast to see who plundered that hoard,
afterwards the men observed any portion of it,
abiding unguarded in the hall, lying about, loaned.
They regretted but little that they ferried out
the precious treasures. The dragon they shoved,
the wyrm over the walling cliffs, letting the waves
take it, the flood embracing the guardian of the hoard.
Then was the wound gold loaded in a wagon,
all of it uncountable, the nobleman born as well,
the hoary battle-warrior, out to Whale’s Ness. (ll. 3120-36)
Then the Geatish people prepared a splendid pyre
for him upon the earth, hung with helmets
and war-shields and bright byrnies, as he had asked,
laying their famous prince in the middle of it,
lamenting their hero, their beloved lord.
Then they began to kindle the greatest corpse-fire,
the warrior on the barrow. A woody reek mounted to the sky,
swart over the flames, a roaring fire, wound with weeping—
the stirring wind subsided—until it had broken
the bone-house, hot in the breast (ll. 3137-48a)
Dreary at heart, they lamented their mind-cares,
the killing of their lord, likewise a sorrowful chant
a Geat woman with bound hair sang sorrow-caring
for Beowulf. She spoke earnestly that she dreaded
severely the army’s invasion replete with slaughter,
the terror of troops, shame and captivity.
Heaven swallowed the smoke. (ll. 3148b-55)
Then the Weather-Geats wrought
a cairn on the cliff-head—it was high and broad,
seen widely by sailors of the wave,
and built up in ten days’ time
the beacon of the battle-brave.
The flame-remnant they surrounded with a wall,
so fore-wise men would find it most honorable.
They buried in the barrow rings and brooches,
all sorts of adornments, like those earlier
violating men had seized from the hoard—
they left the treasure of earls to be kept in the earth,
the gold on the gravel, where still it sleeps,
unavailing to humanity, as it was before. (ll. 3156-68)
Then around the barrow rode the battle-brave
sons of noblemen, twelve in all — they wished
to speak of their grief and mourn their king,
piecing together a wordful song, speaking about the man,
esteeming his noble courage and his brave deeds,
valuing him gloriously—just as was appropriate
that one celebrate his friendly lord wordfully,
loving him in the heart, when he must be brought
forth from his body-house. So the Geatish people
grieved over the fall of their lord, his hearth-companions—
they told that he was the mildest of men,
the kindest of worldly kings, most gracious
of chieftains and the most eager for praise. (ll. 3169-82)
Aaron, tremendous thanks are due to you for the scope of this project and the content. I found it through the Anglo-Saxon History and Language group on Facebook. I am considering offering a course on Beowulf through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at my local university. I had been looking for a good approach to a translation, and this is welcome impetus.
(Background: I completed my dissertation at Wisconsin under Richard Ringler and Fred Cassidy, but I was diverted early into public radio, where I spent most of my career before retirement. In recent years I’ve gone back to my original field and taught History of English and related topics through OLLI, but haven’t yet tackled Beowulf all by itself. Perhaps it’s time.)
I have never read Beowulf before. I had heard the name, and that was all. I very much enjoyed this reading and I thank all who put it into English that is easily understandable.I am 74 years old and I am so glad to have found this poetry. Thank you so much. April 12, 2018. God bless, C-Marie
Thanks for your comments on the Wanderer. My intent is to restore the anglo-saxon alliterative verse using modern words. So I am trying to follow the alliterative rules. In the Prologue I have worked out all of the alliterations except lines 10-11, where I cannot find better words that also alliterate at the beginning. However, these lines alliterate quite strongly at the word endings, with a four-line building alliteration with the word /good/ before king.
So here are the words I see, rendered in pure Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse (except lines 11-12, which are as close as I can get).
I have now studied Hugh Magennis’ Translating Beowulf and note that, apparently, nobody has ever rendered these lines in pure Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. I always thought this was possible so here’s the proof:
What! We Spear-Danes – in years-done
clan-kings – kinsmen learned;
how those princes – power framed.
Oft Scyld Scefing – scourged throngs
many masses – mead-seats he took;
awed Earls. – Since early worth
afflicted found – he then comfort-filled;
waxed under wind-clouds – worth-marked he got
to that him every – those there-seated
over whale-road – subjects paid
tribute yielded: – that was good king!
Then a son was – after begotten
young in garden, – then God sent
folk to comfort; – fiery-distress grasped;
that left them suffering – leader-less
long while. – Him sent Life-Lord
Wonders-Wielder – World-Forgiver:
Beowulf was famed – breath wide sprang –
Scyld’s son – Scandi-lands in.
So shall young groom – good works-do
from fortune-gifts – on father bosom
that to him on old – after abide
willing-comrades – when war comes;
men stand fast: – lofty-deeds sing
in able-that every-place – people prosper.
Then Scyld fell – to fate-while
full-strength fared – in Frea’s care;
they him then bore – to brim-shore
hallowed comrades – as he himself bid
when words wielded – warden-Scyldinga
loved land-ruler – long aught;
there at harbor stood – ringed-stem ship
icy and eager – oathlings were;
laid down then – loved clan-king
band-bestower – in boat bosom
mighty by mast; – there was money much
of far-away – fortune-beladen;
never heard I comelier – keel adorned
war-weapons – and battle-wardrobes
blades and body-mail; – him on bosom lay
money multitude – that must with him
on floods’ might – far adrift;
no-way he him less – legacy bestowed
throng-wealth – than those did
who him at first-craft – forth on-sent
alone over breakers – being but a child;
then got he a seat – standard golden
high over head; – let heaves bear;
giv’n to trident-king; – they had troubled hearts
mourning minds; – men cannot
say for sooth – senators
heroes under heav’n – who that haul seized.
These lines also show that, with all due respect, Burton Raffel was mistaken. When rendering archaic poetry into the same language, the scribe need not sacrifice phonetic integrity for word meanings, on a continuum. This may be true when translating a foreign language but not when restoring an archaic language. Enough of the word-roots remain in modern English that this rendering phonetically tracks the Anglo-Saxon originally more closely than anything I have seen. Because the word roots also carry modern meanings, these come through as well just the same as any other poetry–such as, for example, ee cummings. Here, most of the original alliterations are preserved. They have been re-created where required, such as in lines 46 and 49. Even on non-alliterating words, the Anglo-Saxon phonemes have been carried forward to a large extent. This should not be surprising when the word-roots are discovered and used. This rendering reads almost word-for-word on the Anglo-Saxon, yet the words have readily ascertainable meanings to modern English speakers. Some of the potential, nuanced dictionary-style meanings of the Anglo-Saxon may be lost here, but no more or less so than with other poetry. In any event, I surmise that dictionary-style meanings we may now attribute to Anglo Saxon words is, to some extent or another, based on conjecture and speculation. Using word roots seems like a better approach than conjecture-based dictionaries.
I’m happy to look over your translations and send you comments. Send them to me by email, just to keep the page comments cleaner and more scrollable, if you don’t mind. :) There is one translator that tried the verse in a “more pure” alliterative verse. Charles Kennedy’s later work was entirely alliterative. I’m not sure how much Beowulf he finished, but there is one volume of his other attempts. He made a different choice than you, which I think compromises his efforts, in that he just follows the alliteration away from the text, and adds lots of new, though well-studied ideas that are not original, in order to preserve the sounds. You are doing something quite different in your work — something that really pops as a bridge between the ancient and the modern poetry. Keep it up!