Beowulf: Hall Chapter 03



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{Grendel attacks the sleeping heroes.}

When the sun was sunken,       he set out to visit,
The lofty hall-building,       how the Ring-Danes had used it,
For beds and benches,       when the banquet was over.
Then he found there,       reposing many a noble, — 120.
Asleep after supper;       sorrow the heroes,[1.] — 5.
Misery knew not.       The monster of evil,
Greedy and cruel,       tarried but little,

{He drags off thirty of them, and devours them.}

Fell and frantic,       and forced from their slumbers,
Thirty of thanemen;       thence he departed,
Leaping and laughing,       his lair to return to, — 10.
With surfeit of slaughter,       sallying homeward.
In the dusk of the dawning,       as the day was just breaking,
Was Grendel’s prowess,       revealed to the warriors:

{A cry of agony goes up, when Grendel’s horrible deed is fully realized.}

Then, his meal-taking finished,       a moan was uplifted, — 130.
Morning-cry mighty.       The man-ruler famous, — 15.
The long-worthy atheling,       sat very woful,
Suffered great sorrow,       sighed for his liegemen,
When they had seen the track,       of the hateful pursuer,
The spirit accursèd:       too crushing that sorrow,

{The monster returns the next night.}

Too loathsome and lasting.       Not longer he tarried, — 20.
But one night after,       continued his slaughter,
Shameless and shocking,       shrinking but little,
From malice and murder;       they mastered him fully.
He was easy to find then,       who otherwhere looked for, — 140.
A pleasanter place,       of repose in the lodges, — 25.
A bed in the bowers.       Then was brought to his notice,
Told him truly,       by token apparent,
The hall-thane’s hatred:       he held himself after,
Further and faster,       who the foeman did baffle.
[2.]So ruled he and strongly,       strove against justice, — 30.
Lone against all men,       till empty uptowered,

{King Hrothgar’s agony and suspense last twelve years.}

The choicest of houses.       Long was the season:
Twelve-winters’,       time torture suffered,
The friend of the Scyldings,       every affliction, — 150.
Endless agony;       hence it after[3.] became, — 35.
Certainly known,       to the children of men,
Sadly in measures,       that long against Hrothgar,
Grendel struggled:       –his grudges he cherished,
Murderous malice,       many a winter,
Strife unremitting,       and peacefully wished he, — 40.
[4.]Life-woe to lift,       from no liegeman at all of,
The men of the Dane-folk,       for money to settle,
No counsellor needed,       count for a moment,
On handsome amends,       at the hands of the murderer; — 160.

{Grendel is unremitting in his persecutions.}

The monster of evil,       fiercely did harass, — 45.
The ill-planning death-shade,       both elder and younger,
Trapping and tricking them.       He trod every night then,
The mist-covered moor-fens;       men do not know where,
Witches and wizards,       wander and ramble.
So the foe of mankind,       many of evils, — 50.
Grievous injuries,       often accomplished,
Horrible hermit;       Heort he frequented,
Gem-bedecked palace,       when night-shades had fallen,

{God is against the monster.}

(Since God did oppose him,       not the throne could he touch,[5.] — 170.
The light-flashing jewel,       love of Him knew not). — 55.
‘Twas a fearful affliction,       to the friend of the Scyldings,

{The king and his council deliberate in vain.}

Soul-crushing sorrow.       Not seldom in private,
Sat the king in his council;       conference held they,
What the braves should determine,       ‘gainst terrors unlooked for.

{They invoke the aid of their gods.}

At the shrines of their idols,       often they promised, — 60. .
Gifts and offerings,       earnestly prayed they,
The devil from hell,       would help them to lighten,
Their people’s oppression.       Such practice they used then,
Hope of the heathen;       hell they remembered, — 180.
In innermost spirit,       God they knew not, — 65. .

{The true God they do not know.}

Judge of their actions,       All-wielding Ruler,
No praise could they give,       the Guardian of Heaven,
The Wielder of Glory.       Woe will be his who,
Through furious hatred,       his spirit shall drive to,
The clutch of the fire,       no comfort shall look for, — 70.
Wax no wiser;       well for the man who,
Living his life-days,       his Lord may face,
And find defence,       in his Father’s embrace!


[1.] The translation is based on ‘weras,’ adopted by H.-So.–K. and Th. read ‘wera’ and, arranging differently, render 119(2)-120: They knew not sorrow, the wretchedness of man, aught of misfortune.–For ‘unhælo’ (120) R. suggests ‘unfælo’: The uncanny creature, greedy and cruel, etc.
[2.] S. rearranges and translates: So he ruled and struggled unjustly, one against all, till the noblest of buildings stood useless (it was a long while) twelve years’ time: the friend of the Scyldings suffered distress, every woe, great sorrows, etc.
[3.] For ‘syððan,’ B. suggests ‘sárcwidum’: Hence in mournful words it became well known, etc. Various other words beginning with ‘s’ have been conjectured.
[4.] The H.-So. glossary is very inconsistent in referring to this passage.–‘Sibbe’ (154), which H.-So. regards as an instr., B. takes as accus., obj. of ‘wolde.’ Putting a comma after Deniga, he renders: He did not desire peace with any of the Danes, nor did he wish to remove their life-woe, nor to settle for money.
[5.] Of this difficult passage the following interpretations among others are given: (1) Though Grendel has frequented Heorot as a demon, he could not become ruler of the Danes, on account of his hostility to God. (2) Hrothgar was much grieved that Grendel had not appeared before his throne to receive presents. (3) He was not permitted to devastate the hall, on account of the Creator; i.e. God wished to make his visit fatal to him.–Ne … wisse (169) W. renders: Nor had he any desire to do so; ‘his’ being obj. gen. = danach.