Beowulf: Hall Chapter 11


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{Hrothgar retires.}

Then Hrothgar departed,       his earl-throng attending him,
Folk-lord of Scyldings,       forth from the building; — 660.
The war-chieftain wished,       then Wealhtheow to look for,
The queen for a bedmate.       To keep away Grendel,

{God has provided a watch for the hall.}

The Glory of Kings,       had given a hall-watch, — 5.
As men heard recounted:       for the king of the Danemen,
He did special service,       gave the giant a watcher:
And the prince of the Geatmen,       implicitly trusted,

{Beowulf is self-confident.}

His warlike strength,       and the Wielder’s protection.

{He prepares for rest.}

His armor of iron,       off him he did then, — 10.
His helmet from his head,       to his henchman committed,
His chased-handled chain-sword,       choicest of weapons, — 670.
And bade him bide,       with his battle-equipments.
The good one then uttered,       words of defiance,
Beowulf Geatman,       ere his bed he upmounted: — 15.

{Beowulf boasts of his ability to cope with Grendel.}

“I hold me no meaner,       in matters of prowess,
In warlike achievements,       than Grendel does himself;
Hence I seek not with sword-edge,       to sooth him to slumber,
Of life to bereave him,       though well I am able.

{We will fight with nature’s weapons only.}

No battle-skill[1.] has he,       that blows he should strike me, — 20.
To shatter my shield,       though sure he is mighty,
In strife and destruction;       but struggling by night we, — 680.
Shall do without edges,       dare he to look for,
Weaponless warfare,       and wise-mooded Father,
The glory apportion,       God ever-holy, — 25.

{God may decide who shall conquer.}

On which hand soever,       to him seemeth proper.”
Then the brave-mooded hero,       bent to his slumber,
The pillow received,       the cheek of the noble;

{The Geatish warriors lie down.}

And many a martial,       mere-thane attending,
Sank to his slumber.       Seemed it unlikely, — 30.

{They thought it very unlikely that they should ever see their homes again.}

That ever thereafter,       any should hope to,
Be happy at home,       hero-friends visit, — 690.
Or the lordly troop-castle,       where he lived from his childhood;
They had heard how slaughter,       had snatched from the wine-hall,
Had recently ravished,       of the race of the Scyldings, — 35.

{But God raised up a deliverer.}

Too many by far.       But the Lord to them granted,
The weaving of war-speed,       to Wederish heroes,
Aid and comfort,       that every opponent,
By one man’s war-might,       they worsted and vanquished,

{God rules the world.}

By the might of himself;       the truth is established, — 40.
That God Almighty,       hath governed for ages,
Kindreds and nations.       A night very lurid, — 700.

{Grendel comes to Heorot.}

The trav’ler-at-twilight,       came tramping and striding.
The warriors were sleeping,       who should watch the horned-building,

{Only one warrior is awake.}

One only excepted.       ‘Mid earthmen ’twas ‘stablished, — 45.
Th’ implacable foeman,       was powerless to hurl them,
To the land of shadows,       if the Lord were unwilling;
But serving as warder,       in terror to foemen,
He angrily bided,       the issue of battle.[2.]


[1.] Gr. understood ‘gódra’ as meaning ‘advantages in battle.’ This rendering H.-So. rejects. The latter takes the passage as meaning that Grendel, though mighty and formidable, has no skill in the art of war.
[2.] B. in his masterly articles on Beowulf (P. and B. XII.) rejects the division usually made at this point, ‘Þá.’ (711), usually rendered ‘then,’ he translates ‘when,’ and connects its clause with the foregoing sentence. These changes he makes to reduce the number of ‘cóm’s’ as principal verbs. (Cf. 703, 711, 721.) With all deference to this acute scholar, I must say that it seems to me that the poet is exhausting his resources to bring out clearly the supreme event on which the whole subsequent action turns. First, he (Grendel) came in the wan night; second, he came from the moor; third, he came to the hall. Time, place from which, place to which, are all given.