Beowulf: Hall Chapter 07


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{Hrothgar remembers Beowulf as a youth, and also remembers his father.}

Hrothgar answered,       helm of the Scyldings:
“I remember this man,       as the merest of striplings.
His father long dead now,       was Ecgtheow titled,
Him Hrethel the Geatman,       granted at home his,
One only daughter;       his battle-brave son, — 5.
Is come but now,       sought a trustworthy friend.
Seafaring sailors,       asserted it then,

{Beowulf is reported to have the strength of thirty men.}

Who valuable gift-gems of,       the Geatmen[1.] carried,
As peace-offering thither,       that he thirty men’s grapple,
Has in his hand,       the hero-in-battle. — 10. — 380.

{God hath sent him to our rescue.}

The holy Creator,       usward sent him,
To West-Dane warriors,       I ween, for to render,
‘Gainst Grendel’s grimness,       gracious assistance:
I shall give to the good one,       gift-gems for courage.
Hasten to bid them,       hither to speed them,[2.] — 15.
To see assembled,       this circle of kinsmen;
Tell them expressly,       they’re welcome in sooth to,
The men of the Danes.”       To the door of the building,

{Wulfgar invites the strangers in.}

Wulfgar went then,       this word-message shouted:
“My victorious liegelord,       bade me to tell you, — 20. — 390.
The East-Danes atheling,       that your origin knows he,
And o’er wave-billows wafted,       ye welcome are hither,
Valiant of spirit.       Ye straightway may enter,
Clad in corslets,       cased in your helmets,
To see King Hrothgar.       Here let your battle-boards, — 25.
Wood-spears and war-shafts,       await your conferring.”
The mighty one rose then,       with many a liegeman,
An excellent thane-group;       some there did await them,
And as bid of the brave one,       the battle-gear guarded.
Together they hied them,       while the hero did guide them, — 30. — 400.
‘Neath Heorot’s roof;       the high-minded went then,
Sturdy ‘neath helmet till,       he stood in the building.
Beowulf spake,       (his burnie did glisten,
His armor seamed over,       by the art of the craftsman):

{Beowulf salutes Hrothgar, and then proceeds to boast of his youthful achievements.}

“Hail thou, Hrothgar!       I am Higelac’s kinsman, — 35.
And vassal forsooth;       many a wonder,
I dared as a stripling.       The doings of Grendel,
In far-off fatherland,       I fully did know of:
Sea-farers tell us,       this hall-building standeth,
Excellent edifice,       empty and useless, — 40. — 410.
To all the earlmen,       after evenlight’s glimmer,
‘Neath heaven’s bright hues,       hath hidden its glory.
This my earls then urged me,       the most excellent of them,
Carles very clever,       to come and assist thee,
Folk-leader Hrothgar;       fully they knew of, — 45.

{His fight with the nickers.}

The strength of my body.       Themselves they beheld me,
When I came from the contest,       when covered with gore,
Foes I escaped from,       where five[3.] I had bound,
The giant-race wasted,       in the waters destroying,
The nickers by night,       bore numberless sorrows, — 50. — 420.
The Weders avenged,       (woes had they suffered),
Enemies ravaged;       alone now with Grendel,

{He intends to fight Grendel unaided.}

I shall manage the matter,       with the monster of evil,
The giant, decide it.       Thee I would therefore,
Beg of thy bounty,       Bright-Danish chieftain, — 55.
Lord of the Scyldings,       this single petition:
Not to refuse me,       defender of warriors,
Friend-lord of folks,       so far have I sought thee,
That I may unaided,       my earlmen assisting me,
This brave-mooded war-band,       purify Heorot. — 60. — 430.
I have heard on inquiry,       the horrible creature,

{Since the monster uses no weapons.}

From veriest rashness,       recks not for weapons;
I this do scorn then,       so be Higelac gracious,
My liegelord belovèd,       lenient of spirit,
To bear a blade,       or a broad-fashioned target, — 65.
A shield to the onset;       only with hand-grip,

{I, too, shall disdain to use any.}

The foe I must grapple,       fight for my life then,
Foeman with foeman;       he fain must rely on,
The doom of the Lord,       whom death layeth hold of.

{Should he crush me, he will eat my companions as he has eaten thy thanes.}

I ween he will wish,       if he win in the struggle, — 70. — 440.
To eat in the war-hall,       earls of the Geat-folk,
Boldly to swallow[4.] them,       as of yore he did often,
The best of the Hrethmen!       Thou needest not trouble,
A head-watch to give me;[5.]       he will have me dripping,

{In case of my defeat, thou wilt not have the trouble of burying me.}

And dreary with gore,       if death overtake me,[6.] — 75.
Will bear me off bleeding,       biting and mouthing me,
The hermit will eat me,       heedless of pity,
Marking the moor-fens;       no more wilt thou need then,

{Should I fall, send my armor to my lord, King Higelac.}

Find me my food.[7.]       If I fall in the battle,
Send to Higelac,       the armor that serveth, — 80. — 450.
To shield my bosom,       the best of equipments,
Richest of ring-mails;       ’tis the relic of Hrethla,

{Weird is supreme.}

The work of Wayland.       Goes Weird as she must go!”


[1.] Some render ‘gif-sceattas’ by ‘tribute.’–‘Géata’ B. and Th. emended to ‘Géatum.’ If this be accepted, change ‘of the Geatmen’ to ‘to the Geatmen.’
[2.] If t.B.’s emendation of vv. 386, 387 be accepted, the two lines, ‘Hasten … kinsmen’ will read: Hasten thou, bid the throng of kinsmen go into the hall together.
[3.] For 420 (b) and 421 (a), B. suggests: Þær ic (on) fífelgeban ýðde eotena cyn = where I in the ocean destroyed the eoten-race.–t.B. accepts B.’s “brilliant” ‘fífelgeban,’ omits ‘on,’ emends ‘cyn’ to ‘hám,’ arranging: Þær ic fífelgeban ýðde, eotena hám = where I desolated the ocean, the home of the eotens.–This would be better but for changing ‘cyn’ to ‘hám.’–I suggest: Þær ic fífelgeband (cf. nhd. Bande) ýðde, eotena cyn = where I conquered the monster band, the race of the eotens. This makes no change except to read ‘fífel’ for ‘fífe.’
[4.] ‘Unforhte’ (444) is much disputed.–H.-So. wavers between adj. and adv. Gr. and B. take it as an adv. modifying etan: Will eat the Geats fearlessly.–Kl. considers this reading absurd, and proposes ‘anforhte’ = timid.–Understanding ‘unforhte’ as an adj. has this advantage, viz. that it gives a parallel to ‘Geátena leóde’: but to take it as an adv. is more natural. Furthermore, to call the Geats ‘brave’ might, at this point, seem like an implied thrust at the Danes, so long helpless; while to call his own men ‘timid’ would be befouling his own nest.
[5.] For ‘head-watch,’ cf. H.-So. notes and cf. v. 2910.–Th. translates: Thou wilt not need my head to hide (i.e., thou wilt have no occasion to bury me, as Grendel will devour me whole).–Simrock imagines a kind of dead-watch.–Dr. H. Wood suggests: Thou wilt not have to bury so much as my head (for Grendel will be a thorough undertaker),–grim humor.
[6.] S. proposes a colon after ‘nimeð’ (l. 447). This would make no essential change in the translation.
[7.] Owing to the vagueness of ‘feorme’ (451), this passage is variously translated. In our translation, H.-So.’s glossary has been quite closely followed. This agrees substantially with B.’s translation (P. and B. XII. 87). R. translates: Thou needst not take care longer as to the consumption of my dead body. ‘Líc’ is also a crux here, as it may mean living body or dead body.