Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 00 PRELUDE

 

B E O W U L F

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Translated by Francis B. Gummere

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PRELUDE OF THE FOUNDER OF THE DANISH HOUSE

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 before 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 before 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:[1]     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 loyal:      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,[2]

by the mast the mighty one.     Many a treasure,

fetched from afar,     was freighted with him.

No ship have I known,     so nobly prepared,

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 beneath heaven,     who harbored that freight!

[1] Not, of course, Beowulf the Great, hero of the epic.

[2] 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.

 

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