Beowulf: Hall Chapter 29

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XXIX. BEOWULF AND HIGELAC.

Then the brave one departed,       his band along with him,

{Beowulf and his party seek Higelac.}

Seeking the sea-shore,       the sea-marches treading,
The wide-stretching shores.       The world-candle glimmered,
The sun from the southward;       they proceeded then onward,
Early arriving,       where they heard that the troop-lord, — 5.
Ongentheow’s slayer,       excellent, youthful,
Folk-prince and warrior,       was distributing jewels, — 2020.
Close in his castle.       The coming of Beowulf,
Was announced in a message,       quickly to Higelac,
That the folk-troop’s defender,       forth to the palace, — 10.
The linden-companion,       alive was advancing,
Secure from the combat,       courtward a-going.
The building was early,       inward made ready,
For the foot-going guests,       as the good one had ordered.

{Beowulf sits by his liegelord.}

He sat by the man then,       who had lived through the struggle, — 15.
Kinsman by kinsman,       when the king of the people,
Had in lordly language,       saluted the dear one, — 2030.

{Queen Hygd receives the heroes.}

In words that were formal.       The daughter of Hæreth,
Coursed through the building,       carrying mead-cups:[1.]
She loved the retainers,       tendered the beakers, — 20.
To the high-minded Geatmen.       Higelac ‘gan then,

{Higelac is greatly interested in Beowulf’s adventures.}

Pleasantly plying,       his companion with questions,
In the high-towering palace.       A curious interest,
Tormented his spirit,       what meaning to see in,
The Sea-Geats’ adventures:       “Beowulf worthy, — 25.

{Give an account of thy adventures, Beowulf dear.}

How throve your journeying,       when thou thoughtest suddenly,
Far o’er the salt-streams,       to seek an encounter, — 2040.
A battle at Heorot?       Hast bettered for Hrothgar,
The famous folk-leader,       his far-published sorrows,
Any at all?       In agony-billows, — 30.

{My suspense has been great.}

I mused upon torture,       distrusted the journey,
Of the belovèd liegeman;       I long time did pray thee,
By no means to seek out,       the murderous spirit,
To suffer the South-Danes,       themselves to decide on,[2.]
Grappling with Grendel.       To God I am thankful, — 35.
To be suffered to see thee,       safe from thy journey.”

{Beowulf narrates his adventures.}

Beowulf answered,       bairn of old Ecgtheow: — 2050.
“‘Tis hidden by no means,       Higelac chieftain,
From many of men,       the meeting so famous,
What mournful moments,       of me and of Grendel, — 40.
Were passed in the place,       where he pressing affliction,
On the Victory-Scyldings,       scathefully brought,
Anguish forever;       that all I avengèd,
So that any under heaven,       of the kinsmen of Grendel,

{Grendel’s kindred have no cause to boast.}

Needeth not boast,       of that cry-in-the-morning, — 45.
Who longest liveth,       of the loth-going kindred,[3.]
Encompassed by moorland.       I came in my journey, — 2060.
To the royal ring-hall,       Hrothgar to greet there:

{Hrothgar received me very cordially.}

Soon did the famous,       scion of Healfdene,
When he understood fully,       the spirit that led me, — 50.
Assign me a seat,       with the son of his bosom.
The troop was in joyance;       mead-glee greater,
‘Neath arch of the ether,       not ever beheld I,

{The queen also showed up no little honor.}

‘Mid hall-building holders.       The highly-famed queen,
Peace-tie of peoples,       oft passed through the building, — 55.
Cheered the young troopers;       she oft tendered a hero,
A beautiful ring-band,       ere she went to her sitting. — 2070.

{Hrothgar’s lovely daughter.}

Oft the daughter of Hrothgar,       in view of the courtiers,
To the earls at the end,       the ale-vessel carried,
Whom Freaware I heard then,       hall-sitters title, — 60.
When nail-adorned jewels,       she gave to the heroes:

{She is betrothed to Ingeld, in order to unite the Danes and Heathobards.}

Gold-bedecked, youthful,       to the glad son of Froda,
Her faith has been plighted;       the friend of the Scyldings,
The guard of the kingdom,       hath given his sanction,[4.]
And counts it a vantage,       for a part of the quarrels, — 65.
A portion of hatred,       to pay with the woman.
[5.]Somewhere not rarely,       when the ruler has fallen, — 2080.
The life-taking lance,       relaxeth its fury,
For a brief breathing-spell,       though the bride be charming!

— NOTES —

[1.] ‘Meodu-scencum’ (1981) some would render ‘with mead-pourers.’ Translate then: The daughter of Hæreth went through the building accompanied by mead-pourers.
[2.] See my note to 1599, supra, and B. in P. and B. XII. 97.
[3.] For ‘fenne,’ supplied by Grdtvg., B. suggests ‘fácne’ (cf. Jul. 350). Accepting this, translate: Who longest lives of the hated race, steeped in treachery.
[4.] See note to v. 1599 above.
[5.] This is perhaps the least understood sentence in the poem, almost every word being open to dispute. (1) The ‘nó’ of our text is an emendation, and is rejected by many scholars. (2) ‘Seldan’ is by some taken as an adv. (= seldom), and by others as a noun (= page, companion). (3) ‘Léod-hryre,’ some render ‘fall of the people’; others, ‘fall of the prince.’ (4) ‘Búgeð,’ most scholars regard as the intrans. verb meaning ‘bend,’ ‘rest’; but one great scholar has translated it ‘shall kill.’ (5) ‘Hwær,’ Very recently, has been attacked, ‘wære’ being suggested. (6) As a corollary to the above, the same critic proposes to drop ‘oft’ out of the text.–t.B. suggests: Oft seldan wære after léodhryre: lýtle hwíle bongár búgeð, þéah séo brýd duge = often has a treaty been (thus) struck, after a prince had fallen: (but only) a short time is the spear (then) wont to rest, however excellent the bride may be.

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