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By Anonymous

Translated by Gummere 


LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings

of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,

we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,

from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,

awing the earls. Since erst he lay

friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:

for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,

till before him the folk, both far and near,

who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,

gave him gifts: a good king he!

To him an heir was afterward born,

a son in his halls, whom heaven sent

to favor the folk, feeling their woe

that erst they had lacked an earl for leader

so long a while; the Lord endowed him,

the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.

Famed was this Beowulf: [0a] far flew the boast of him,

son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.

So becomes it a youth to quit him well

with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,

that to aid him, aged, in after days,

come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,

liegemen loyaclass="underline" by lauded deeds

shall an earl have honor in every clan.

Forth he fared at the fated moment,

sturdy Scyld to the shelter of God.

Then they bore him over to ocean’s billow,

loving clansmen, as late he charged them,

while wielded words the winsome Scyld,

the leader beloved who long had ruled....

In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,

ice-flecked, outbound, atheling’s barge:

there laid they down their darling lord

on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings, [0b]

by the mast the mighty one. Many a treasure

fetched from far was freighted with him.

No ship have I known so nobly dight

with weapons of war and weeds of battle,

with breastplate and blade: on his bosom lay

a heaped hoard that hence should go

far o’er the flood with him floating away.

No less these loaded the lordly gifts,

thanes’ huge treasure, than those had done

who in former time forth had sent him

sole on the seas, a suckling child.

High o’er his head they hoist the standard,

a gold-wove banner; let billows take him,

gave him to ocean. Grave were their spirits,

mournful their mood. No man is able

to say in sooth, no son of the halls,

no hero ’neath heaven, — who harbored that freight!


Now Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings,

leader beloved, and long he ruled

in fame with all folk, since his father had gone

away from the world, till awoke an heir,

haughty Healfdene, who held through life,

sage and sturdy, the Scyldings glad.

Then, one after one, there woke to him,

to the chieftain of clansmen, children four:

Heorogar, then Hrothgar, then Halga brave;

and I heard that — was — ’s queen,

the Heathoscylfing’s helpmate dear.

To Hrothgar was given such glory of war,

such honor of combat, that all his kin

obeyed him gladly till great grew his band

of youthful comrades. It came in his mind

to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,

a master mead-house, mightier far

than ever was seen by the sons of earth,

and within it, then, to old and young

he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,

save only the land and the lives of his men.

Wide, I heard, was the work commanded,

for many a tribe this mid-earth round,

to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered,

in rapid achievement that ready it stood there,

of halls the noblest: Heorot [1a] he named it

whose message had might in many a land.

Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt,

treasure at banquet: there towered the hall,

high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting

of furious flame. [1b] Nor far was that day

when father and son-in-law stood in feud

for warfare and hatred that woke again. [1c]

With envy and anger an evil spirit

endured the dole in his dark abode,

that he heard each day the din of revel

high in the halclass="underline" there harps rang out,

clear song of the singer. He sang who knew [1d]

tales of the early time of man,

how the Almighty made the earth,

fairest fields enfolded by water,

set, triumphant, sun and moon

for a light to lighten the land-dwellers,

and braided bright the breast of earth

with limbs and leaves, made life for all

of mortal beings that breathe and move.

So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel

a winsome life, till one began

to fashion evils, that field of hell.

Grendel this monster grim was called,

march-riever [1e] mighty, in moorland living,

in fen and fastness; fief of the giants

the hapless wight a while had kept

since the Creator his exile doomed.

On kin of Cain was the killing avenged

by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.

Ill fared his feud, [1f] and far was he driven,

for the slaughter’s sake, from sight of men.

Of Cain awoke all that woful breed,

Etins [1g] and elves and evil-spirits,

as well as the giants that warred with God

weary while: but their wage was paid them!


WENT he forth to find at fall of night

that haughty house, and heed wherever

the Ring-Danes, outrevelled, to rest had gone.

Found within it the atheling band

asleep after feasting and fearless of sorrow,

of human hardship. Unhallowed wight,

grim and greedy, he grasped betimes,

wrathful, reckless, from resting-places,

thirty of the thanes, and thence he rushed

fain of his fell spoil, faring homeward,

laden with slaughter, his lair to seek.

Then at the dawning, as day was breaking,

the might of Grendel to men was known;

then after wassail was wail uplifted,

loud moan in the morn. The mighty chief,

atheling excellent, unblithe sat,

labored in woe for the loss of his thanes,

when once had been traced the trail of the fiend,

spirit accurst: too cruel that sorrow,

too long, too loathsome. Not late the respite;

with night returning, anew began

ruthless murder; he recked no whit,

firm in his guilt, of the feud and crime.

They were easy to find who elsewhere sought

in room remote their rest at night,

bed in the bowers, [2a] when that bale was shown,

was seen in sooth, with surest token, —

the hall-thane’s [2b] hate. Such held themselves

far and fast who the fiend outran!

Thus ruled unrighteous and raged his fill

one against all; until empty stood

that lordly building, and long it bode so.

Twelve years’ tide the trouble he bore,

sovran of Scyldings, sorrows in plenty,



Not, of course, Beowulf the Great, hero of the epic.



Kenning for king or chieftain of a comitatus: he breaks off gold from the spiral rings — often worn on the arm — and so rewards his followers.



That is, “The Hart,” or “Stag,” so called from decorations in the gables that resembled the antlers of a deer. This hall has been carefully described in a pamphlet by Heyne. The building was rectangular, with opposite doors — mainly west and east — and a hearth in the middle of th single room. A row of pillars down each side, at some distance from the walls, made a space which was raised a little above the main floor, and was furnished with two rows of seats. On one side, usually south, was the high-seat midway between the doors. Opposite this, on the other raised space, was another seat of honor. At the banquet soon to be described, Hrothgar sat in the south or chief high-seat, and Beowulf opposite to him. The scene for a flying (see below, v.499) was thus very effectively set. Planks on trestles — the “board” of later English literature — formed the tables just in front of the long rows of seats, and were taken away after banquets, when the retainers were ready to stretch themselves out for sleep on the benches.



Fire was the usual end of these halls. See v. 781 below. One thinks of the splendid scene at the end of the Nibelungen, of the Nialssaga, of Saxo’s story of Amlethus, and many a less famous instance.



It is to be supposed that all hearers of this poem knew how Hrothgar’s hall was burnt, — perhaps in the unsuccessful attack made on him by his son-in-law Ingeld.



A skilled minstrel. The Danes are heathens, as one is told presently; but this lay of beginnings is taken from Genesis.



A disturber of the border, one who sallies from his haunt in the fen and roams over the country near by. This probably pagan nuisance is now furnished with biblical credentials as a fiend or devil in good standing, so that all Christian Englishmen might read about him. “Grendel” may mean one who grinds and crushes.









The smaller buildings within the main enclosure but separate from the hall.