Beowulf: Hall Chapter 28

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XXVIII. THE HOMEWARD JOURNEY.–THE TWO QUEENS.

Then the band of very,       valiant retainers,
Came to the current;       they were clad all in armor,

{The coast-guard again.}

In link-woven burnies.       The land-warder noticed,
The return of the earlmen,       as he erstwhile had seen them;
Nowise with insult,       he greeted the strangers, — 5.
From the naze of the cliff,       but rode on to meet them;
Said the bright-armored visitors,[1.]       vesselward traveled,
Welcome to Weders.       The wide-bosomed craft then, — 1950.
Lay on the sand,       laden with armor,
With horses and jewels,       the ring-stemmèd sailer: — 10.
The mast uptowered o’er,       the treasure of Hrothgar.

{Beowulf gives the guard a handsome sword.}

To the boat-ward a gold-bound,       brand he presented,
That he was afterwards honored,       on the ale-bench more highly,
As the heirloom’s owner.       [2.]Set he out on his vessel,
To drive on the deep,       Dane-country left he. — 15.
Along by the mast then,       a sea-garment fluttered,
A rope-fastened sail.       The sea-boat resounded,
The wind o’er the waters,       the wave-floater nowise, — 1960.
Kept from its journey;       the sea-goer traveled,
The foamy-necked floated,       forth o’er the currents, — 20.
The well-fashioned vessel o’er,       the ways of the ocean,

{The Geats see their own land again.}

Till they came within sight,       of the cliffs of the Geatmen,
The well-known headlands.       The wave-goer hastened,
Driven by breezes,       stood on the shore.

{The port-warden is anxiously looking for them.}

Prompt at the ocean,       the port-ward was ready, — 25.
Who long in the past,       outlooked in the distance,[3.]
At water’s-edge waiting,       well-lovèd heroes;
He bound to the bank then,       the broad-bosomed vessel, — 1970.
Fast in its fetters,       lest the force of the waters,
Should be able to injure,       the ocean-wood winsome. — 30.
Bade he up then take,       the treasure of princes,
Plate-gold and fretwork;       not far was it thence,
To go off in search of,       the giver of jewels:
Hrethel’s son Higelac,       at home there remaineth,[4.]
Himself with his comrades,       close to the sea-coast. — 35.
The building was splendid,       the king heroic,
Great in his hall,       Hygd very young was,

{Hygd, the noble queen of Higelac, lavish of gifts.}

Fine-mooded, clever,       though few were the winters, — 1980.
That the daughter of Hæreth,       had dwelt in the borough;
But she nowise was cringing,       nor niggard of presents, — 40.
Of ornaments rare,       to the race of the Geatmen.

{Offa’s consort, Thrytho, is contrasted with Hygd.}

Thrytho nursed anger,       excellent[5.] folk-queen,
Hot-burning hatred:       no hero whatever,
‘Mong household companions,       her husband excepted,

{She is a terror to all save her husband.}

Dared to adventure,       to look at the woman, — 45.
With eyes in the daytime;[6.]       but he knew that death-chains,
Hand-wreathed were wrought him:       early thereafter,
When the hand-strife was over,       edges were ready, — 1990.
That fierce-raging sword-point,       had to force a decision,
Murder-bale show.       Such no womanly custom, — 50.
For a lady to practise,       though lovely her person,
That a weaver-of-peace,       on pretence of anger,
A belovèd liegeman,       of life should deprive.
Soothly this hindered,       Heming’s kinsman;
Other ale-drinking,       earlmen asserted, — 55.
That fearful folk-sorrows,       fewer she wrought them,
Treacherous doings,       since first she was given,
Adorned with gold,       to the war-hero youthful, — 2000.
For her origin honored,       when Offa’s great palace,
O’er the fallow flood,       by her father’s instructions, — 60.
She sought on her journey,       where she afterwards fully,
Famed for her virtue,       her fate on the king’s-seat,
Enjoyed in her lifetime,       love did she hold with,
The ruler of heroes,       the best, it is told me,
Of all of the earthmen,       that oceans encompass, — 65.
Of earl-kindreds endless;       hence Offa was famous,
Far and widely,       by gifts and by battles,
Spear-valiant hero;       the home of his fathers, — 2010.
He governed with wisdom,       whence Eomær did issue,
For help unto heroes,       Heming’s kinsman, — 70.
Grandson of Garmund,       great in encounters.

— NOTES —

[1.] For ‘scawan’ (1896), ‘scaðan’ has been proposed. Accepting this, we may render: He said the bright-armored warriors were going to their vessel, welcome, etc. (Cf. 1804.)
[2.] R. suggests, ‘Gewát him on naca,’ and renders: The vessel set out, to drive on the sea, the Dane-country left. ‘On’ bears the alliteration; cf. ‘on hafu’ (2524). This has some advantages over the H.-So. reading; viz. (1) It adds nothing to the text; (2) it makes ‘naca’ the subject, and thus brings the passage into keeping with the context, where the poet has exhausted his vocabulary in detailing the actions of the vessel.–B.’s emendation (cf. P. and B. XII. 97) is violent.
[3.] B. translates: Who for a long time, ready at the coast, had looked out into the distance eagerly for the dear men. This changes the syntax of ‘léofra manna.’
[4.] For ‘wunað’ (v. 1924) several eminent critics suggest ‘wunade’ (=remained). This makes the passage much clearer.
[5.] Why should such a woman be described as an ‘excellent’ queen? C. suggests ‘frécnu’ = dangerous, bold.
[6.] For ‘an dæges’ various readings have been offered. If ‘and-éges’ be accepted, the sentence will read: No hero … dared look upon her, eye to eye. If ‘án-dæges’ be adopted, translate: Dared look upon her the whole day.

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