Beowulf: Hall Chapter 09


Download Listen as you read along.


{Unferth, a thane of Hrothgar, is jealous of Beowulf, and undertakes to twit him.}

Unferth spoke up,       Ecglaf his son,
Who sat at the feet,       of the lord of the Scyldings,
Opened the jousting,       (the journey[1.] of Beowulf,
Sea-farer doughty,       gave sorrow to Unferth,
And greatest chagrin, too,       for granted he never, — 5. — 500.
That any man else,       on earth should attain to,
Gain under heaven,       more glory than he):

{Did you take part in a swimming-match with Breca?}

“Art thou that Beowulf,       with Breca did struggle,
On the wide sea-currents,       at swimming contended,
Where to humor your pride,       the ocean ye tried, — 10.

{‘Twas mere folly that actuated you both to risk your lives on the ocean.}

From vainest vaunting,       adventured your bodies,
In care of the waters?       And no one was able,
Nor lief nor loth one,       in the least to dissuade you,
Your difficult voyage;       then ye ventured a-swimming,
Where your arms outstretching,       the streams ye did cover, — 15. — 510.
The mere-ways measured,       mixing and stirring them,
Glided the ocean;       angry the waves were,
With the weltering of winter.       In the water’s possession,
Ye toiled for a seven-night;       he at swimming outdid thee,
In strength excelled thee.       Then early at morning, — 20.
On the Heathoremes’ shore,       the holm-currents tossed him,
Sought he thenceward,       the home of his fathers,
Beloved of his liegemen,       the land of the Brondings,
The peace-castle pleasant,       where a people he wielded,
Had borough and jewels.       The pledge that he made thee, — 25. — 520.

{Breca outdid you entirely.}

The son of Beanstan hath,       soothly accomplished.
Then I ween thou wilt find thee,       less fortunate issue,

{Much more will Grendel outdo you, if you vie with him in prowess.}

Though ever triumphant,       in onset of battle,
A grim grappling,       if Grendel thou darest,
For the space of a night,       near-by to wait for!” — 30.

{Beowulf retaliates.}

Beowulf answered,       offspring of Ecgtheow:
“My good friend Unferth,       sure freely and wildly,

{O friend Unferth, you are fuddled with beer, and cannot talk coherently.}

Thou fuddled with beer,       of Breca hast spoken,
Hast told of his journey!       A fact I allege it,
That greater strength,       in the waters I had then, — 35. — 530.
Ills in the ocean,       than any man else had.
We made agreement,       as the merest of striplings,
Promised each other,       (both of us then were,

{We simply kept an engagement made in early life.}

Younkers in years),       that we yet would adventure,
Out on the ocean;       it all we accomplished. — 40.
While swimming the sea-floods,       sword-blade unscabbarded,
Boldly we brandished,       our bodies expected,
To shield from the sharks.       He sure was unable,

{He could not excel me, and I would not excel him.}

To swim on the waters,       further than I could,
More swift on the waves,       nor would I from him go. — 45. — 540.
Then we two companions,       stayed in the ocean,

{After five days the currents separated us.}

Five nights together,       till the currents did part us,
The weltering waters,       weathers the bleakest,
And nethermost night,       and the north-wind whistled,
Fierce in our faces;       fell were the billows. — 50.
The mere fishes’ mood,       was mightily ruffled:
And there against foemen,       my firm-knotted corslet,
Hand-jointed, hardy,       help did afford me;
My battle-sark braided,       brilliantly gilded,

{A horrible sea-beast attacked me, but I slew him.}

Lay on my bosom.       To the bottom then dragged me, — 55. — 550.
A hateful fiend-scather,       seized me and held me,
Grim in his grapple:       ’twas granted me, nathless,
To pierce the monster,       with the point of my weapon,
My obedient blade;       battle offcarried,
The mighty mere-creature,       by means of my hand-blow. — 60.


[1.] It has been plausibly suggested that ‘síð’ (in 501 and in 353) means ‘arrival.’ If so, translate the bracket: (the arrival of Beowulf, the brave seafarer, was a source of great chagrin to Unferth, etc.).