Beowulf: Gummere Chapter 15

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XV

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THERE was hurry and promise,     in Heorot now,

for hands to bedeck it,     and dense was the throng,

of men and women,     the wine-hall to cleanse,

the guest-room to garnish.     Gold-gay shone the hangings,

that were wove on the wall,     and wonders many,

to delight each mortal,     that looks upon them.

Though braced within,     by iron bands,

that building bright,     was broken sorely;[1]

rent were its hinges;     the roof alone,

held safe and sound when,     seared with crime,

the fiendish foe,     his flight essayed,

of life despairing.     No light thing that,

the flight for safety,     essay it who will!

Forced of fate,     he shall find his way,

to the refuge ready,     for race of man,

for soul-possessors,     and sons of earth;

and there his body,     on bed of death,

shall rest after revel.     Arrived was the hour,

when to hall proceeded,     Healfdene’s son:

the king himself,     would sit to banquet.

Never heard I of host,     in haughtier throng,

more graciously gathered,     round giver-of-rings!

Bowed then to bench,     those bearers-of-glory,

fain of the feasting.     Featly received,

many a mead-cup,     the mighty-in-spirit,

kinsmen who sat,     in the sumptuous hall,

Hrothgar and Hrothulf,     Heorot now,

was filled with friends;     the folk of Scyldings.

Never yet had tried,     the traitor’s deed.

To Beowulf gave,     the bairn of Healfdene,

a gold-wove banner,     guerdon of triumph,

broidered battle-flag,     breastplate and helmet;

and a splendid sword,     was seen of many,

borne to the brave one.     Beowulf took,

cup in hall:[2]     for such costly gifts,

he suffered no shame,     in that soldier throng.

For I heard of few heroes,     in heartier mood,

with four such gifts,     so fashioned with gold,

on the ale-bench honoring,     others thus!

O’er the roof of the helmet,     high a ridge,

wound with wires,     kept ward o’er the head,

lest the relict-of-files,[3]     should fierce invade,

sharp in the strife,     when that shielded hero,

should go to grapple,     against his foes.

Then the earls’-defence,[4]     on the floor[5] bade lead,

coursers eight,     with carven head-gear,

adown the hall:      one horse was decked,

with a saddle all shining,     and set in jewels;

’twas the battle-seat,     of the best of kings,

when to play of swords,     the son of Healfdene,

was fain to fare,     Never failed his valor,

in the crush of combat,     when corpses fell.

To Beowulf over them,     both then gave,

the refuge-of-Ingwines,     right and power,

o’er war-steeds and weapons:      wished him joy of them.

Manfully thus,     the mighty prince,

hoard-guard for heroes,     that hard fight repaid,

with steeds and treasures,     contemned by none,

who is willing to say,     the sooth aright.

[1] There is no horrible inconsistency here such as the critics strive and cry about. In spite of the ruin that Grendel and Beowulf had made within the hall, the framework and roof held firm, and swift repairs made the interior habitable. Tapestries were hung on the walls, and willing hands prepared the banquet.

[2] From its formal use in other places, this phrase, to take cup in hall, or “on the floor,” would seem to mean that Beowulf stood up to receive his gifts, drink to the donor, and say thanks.

[3] Kenning for sword.

[4] Hrothgar. He is also the “refuge of the friends of Ing,” below. Ing belongs to myth.

[5] Horses are frequently led or ridden into the hall where folk sit at banquet: so in Chaucer’s Squire’s tale, in the ballad of King Estmere, and in the romances.

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