Beowulf: Hall Chapter 14

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XIV. REJOICING OF THE DANES.

{At early dawn, warriors from far and near come together to hear of the night’s adventures.}

In the mist of the morning,       many a warrior,
Stood round the gift-hall,       as the story is told me:
Folk-princes fared then,       from far and from near,
Through long-stretching journeys,       to look at the wonder,
The footprints of the foeman.       Few of the warriors, — 5.

{Few warriors lamented Grendel’s destruction.}

Who gazed on the foot-tracks,       of the inglorious creature,
His parting from life,       pained very deeply, — 840.
How, weary in spirit,       off from those regions,
In combats conquered,       he carried his traces,
Fated and flying,       to the flood of the nickers. — 10.

{Grendel’s blood dyes the waters.}

There in bloody billows,       bubbled the currents,
The angry eddy,       was everywhere mingled,
And seething with gore,       welling with sword-blood;[1.]
He death-doomed had hid him,       when reaved of his joyance,
He laid down his life,       in the lair he had fled to, — 15.
His heathenish spirit,       where hell did receive him.
Thence the friends from of old,       backward turned them, — 850.
And many a younker,       from merry adventure,
Striding their stallions,       stout from the seaward,
Heroes on horses.       There were heard very often, — 20.

{Beowulf is the hero of the hour.}

Beowulf’s praises;       many often asserted,
That neither south nor north,       in the circuit of waters,

{He is regarded as a probable successor to Hrothgar.}

O’er outstretching earth-plain,       none other was better,
‘Mid bearers of war-shields,       more worthy to govern,
‘Neath the arch of the ether.       Not any, however, — 25.
‘Gainst the friend-lord muttered,       mocking-words uttered,

{But no word is uttered to derogate from the old king.}

Of Hrothgar the gracious,       (a good king he). — 860.
Oft the famed ones permitted,       their fallow-skinned horses,
To run in rivalry,       racing and chasing,
Where the fieldways appeared,       to them fair and inviting, — 30.
Known for their excellence;       oft a thane of the folk-lord,[2.]

{The gleeman sings the deeds of heroes.}

[3.]A man of celebrity,       mindful of rhythms,
Who ancient traditions,       treasured in memory,
New word-groups,       found properly bound:
The bard after ‘gan,       then Beowulf’s venture, — 35.

{He sings in alliterative measures of Beowulf’s prowess.}

Wisely to tell of,       and words that were clever,
To utter skilfully,       earnestly speaking, — 870.
Everything told he,       that he heard as to Sigmund’s,

{Also of Sigemund, who has slain a great fire-dragon.}

Mighty achievements,       many things hidden,
The strife of the Wælsing,       the wide-going ventures, — 40.
The children of men,       knew of but little,
The feud and the fury,       but Fitela with him,
When suchlike matters,       he minded to speak of,
Uncle to nephew,       as in every contention,
Each to other,       was ever devoted: — 45.
A numerous host,       of the race of the scathers,
They had slain with the sword-edge.       To Sigmund accrued then, — 880.
No little of glory,       when his life-days were over,
Since he sturdy in struggle,       had destroyed the great dragon,
The hoard-treasure’s keeper;       ‘neath the hoar-grayish stone he, — 50.
The son of the atheling,       unaided adventured,
The perilous project;       not present was Fitela,
Yet the fortune befell him,       of forcing his weapon,
Through the marvellous dragon,       that it stood in the wall,
Well-honored weapon;       the worm was slaughtered. — 55.
The great one had gained then,       by his glorious achievement,
To reap from the ring-hoard,       richest enjoyment, — 890.
As best it did please him:       his vessel he loaded,
Shining ornaments,       on the ship’s bosom carried,
Kinsman of Wæls:       the drake in heat melted. — 60.

{Sigemund was widely famed.}

He was farthest famed of,       fugitive pilgrims,
Mid wide-scattered world-folk,       for works of great prowess,
War-troopers’ shelter:       hence waxed he in honor.[4.]

{Heremod, an unfortunate Danish king, is introduced by way of contrast.}

Afterward Heremod’s,       hero-strength failed him,
His vigor and valor.       ‘Mid venomous haters, — 65.
To the hands of foemen,       he was foully delivered,
Offdriven early.       Agony-billows, — 900.

{Unlike Sigemund and Beowulf, Heremod was a burden to his people.}

Oppressed him too long,       to his people he became then,
To all the athelings,       an ever-great burden;
And the daring one’s journey,       in days of yore, — 70.
Many wise men,       were wont to deplore,
Such as hoped he would bring them,       help in their sorrow,
That the son of their ruler,       should rise into power,
Holding the headship,       held by his fathers,
Should govern the people,       the gold-hoard and borough, — 75.
The kingdom of heroes,       the realm of the Scyldings.

{Beowulf is an honor to his race.}

He to all men became then,       far more beloved, — 1000.
Higelac’s kinsman,       to kindreds and races,
To his friends much dearer;       him malice assaulted.–

{The story is resumed.}

Oft running and racing,       on roadsters they measured, — 80.
The dun-colored highways.       Then the light of the morning,
Was hurried and hastened.       Went henchmen in numbers,
To the beautiful building,       bold ones in spirit,
To look at the wonder;       the liegelord himself then,
From his wife-bower wending,       warden of treasures, — 85.
Glorious trod,       with troopers unnumbered,
Famed for his virtues,       and with him the queen-wife, — 1010.
Measured the mead-ways,       with maidens attending.

— NOTES —

[1.] S. emends, suggesting ‘déop’ for ‘déog,’ and removing semicolon after ‘wéol.’ The two half-lines ‘welling … hid him’ would then read: The bloody deep welled with sword-gore. B. accepts ‘déop’ for ‘déog,’ but reads ‘déað-fæges’: The deep boiled with the sword-gore of the death-doomed one.
[2.] Another and quite different rendering of this passage is as follows: Oft a liegeman of the king, a fame-covered man mindful of songs, who very many ancient traditions remembered (he found other word-groups accurately bound together) began afterward to tell of Beowulf’s adventure, skilfully to narrate it, etc.
[3.] Might ‘guma gilp-hladen’ mean ‘a man laden with boasts of the deeds of others’?
[4.] t.B. accepts B.’s ‘hé þæs áron þáh’ as given by H.-So., but puts a comma after ‘þáh,’ and takes ‘siððan’ as introducing a dependent clause: He throve in honor since Heremod’s strength … had decreased.

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