Beowulf: Hall Chapter 19


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{More gifts are offered Beowulf.}

A beaker was borne him,       and bidding to quaff it,
Graciously given,       and gold that was twisted,
Pleasantly proffered,       a pair of arm-jewels,
Rings and corslet,       of collars the greatest,
I’ve heard of ‘neath heaven.       Of heroes not any, — 5.
More splendid from jewels,       have I heard ‘neath the welkin,

{A famous necklace is referred to, in comparison with the gems presented to Beowulf.}

Since Hama off bore,       the Brosingmen’s necklace,
The bracteates and jewels,       from the bright-shining city,[1.]
Eormenric’s cunning,       craftiness fled from, — 1280.
Chose gain everlasting.       Geatish Higelac, — 10.
Grandson of Swerting,       last had this jewel,
When tramping ‘neath banner,       the treasure he guarded,
The field-spoil defended;       Fate offcarried him,
When for deeds of daring,       he endured tribulation,
Hate from the Frisians;       the ornaments bare he, — 15.
O’er the cup of the currents,       costly gem-treasures,
Mighty folk-leader,       he fell ‘neath his target;
The[2.] corpse of the king then,       came into charge of,
The race of the Frankmen,       the mail-shirt and collar: — 1290.
Warmen less noble plundered,       the fallen, — 20.
When the fight was finished;       the folk of the Geatmen,
The field of the dead,       held in possession.
The choicest of mead-halls,       with cheering resounded.
Wealhtheo discoursed,       the war-troop addressed she:

{Queen Wealhtheow magnifies Beowulf’s achievements.}

“This collar enjoy thou,       Beowulf worthy, — 25.
Young man, in safety,       and use thou this armor,
Gems of the people,       and prosper thou fully,
Show thyself sturdy,       and be to these liegemen,
Mild with instruction!       I’ll mind thy requital. — 1300.
Thou hast brought it to,       pass that far and near, — 30.
Forever and ever,       earthmen shall honor thee,
Even so widely,       as ocean surroundeth,
The blustering bluffs.       Be, while thou livest,
A wealth-blessèd atheling.       I wish thee most truly,

{May gifts never fail thee.}

Jewels and treasure.       Be kind to my son, thou, — 35.
Living in joyance!       Here each of the nobles,
Is true unto other,       gentle in spirit,
Loyal to leader.       The liegemen are peaceful,
The war-troops ready:       well-drunken heroes,[3.] — 1310.
Do as I bid ye.”       Then she went to the settle. — 40.
There was choicest of banquets,       wine drank the heroes:

{They little know of the sorrow in store for them.}

Weird they knew not,       destiny cruel,
As to many an earlman,       early it happened,
When evening had come,       and Hrothgar had parted,
Off to his manor,       the mighty to slumber. — 45.
Warriors unnumbered,       warded the building,
As erst they did often:       the ale-settle bared they,
‘Twas covered all over,       with beds and pillows.

{A doomed thane is there with them.}

Doomed unto death,       down to his slumber, — 1320.
Bowed then a beer-thane.       Their battle-shields placed they, — 50.
Bright-shining targets,       up by their heads then;
O’er the atheling on ale-bench,       ’twas easy to see there,
Battle-high helmet,       burnie of ring-mail,

{They were always ready for battle.}

And mighty war-spear.       ‘Twas the wont of that people,
To constantly keep them,       equipped for the battle,[4.] — 55.
At home or marching,       –in either condition,–
At seasons just such,       as necessity ordered,
As best for their ruler;       that people was worthy.


[1.] C. suggests a semicolon after ‘city,’ with ‘he’ as supplied subject of ‘fled’ and ‘chose.’
[2.] For ‘feorh’ S. suggests ‘feoh’: ‘corpse’ in the translation would then be changed to ‘possessions,’ ‘belongings.’ This is a better reading than one joining, in such intimate syntactical relations, things so unlike as ‘corpse’ and ‘jewels.’
[3.] S. suggests ‘wine-joyous heroes,’ ‘warriors elated with wine.’
[4.] I believe this translation brings out the meaning of the poet, without departing seriously from the H.-So. text. ‘Oft’ frequently means ‘constantly,’ ‘continually,’ not always ‘often.’–Why ‘an (on) wíg gearwe’ should be written ‘ánwíg-gearwe’ (= ready for single combat), I cannot see. ‘Gearwe’ occurs quite frequently with ‘on’; cf. B. 1110 (ready for the pyre), El. 222 (ready for the glad journey). Moreover, what has the idea of single combat to do with B. 1247 ff.? The poet is giving an inventory of the arms and armor which they lay aside on retiring, and he closes his narration by saying that they were always prepared for battle both at home and on the march.