Kirtlan The Prelude

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The Story of Beowulf

I.

The Prelude

Now we have heard,

by inquiry,

of the glory of the kings of the people,

they of the Spear-Danes,

how the Athelings were doing deeds of courage.

1

Full often Scyld,

the son of Scef,

with troops of warriors,

withheld the drinking-stools from many a tribe.

This earl caused terror when at

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first he was found in a miserable case.

Afterwards he gave help when he grew up under the welkin,

and worshipfully he flourished until all his neighbours over the sea gave him obedience,

and yielded him tribute.

He was a good king.

In after-time there was born to him a son in the Court,

whom God sent thither as a saviour of the people.

He saw the dire distress that they formerly suffered when for a long while they were without a prince.

Then it was that the Lord of Life,

the Wielder of glory,

gave to him glory.

Famous was Beowulf.

2

Far and wide spread his fame.

Heir was he of Scyld in the land of the Danes.

Thus should a young man be doing good deeds,

with rich gifts to the friends of his father,

so that in later days,

when war shall come upon them,

boon companions may stand at his side,

helping their liege lord.

For in all nations,

by praiseworthy deeds,

shall a man be thriving.

At the fated hour Scyld passed away,

very vigorous in spirit,

to the keeping

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of his Lord.

Then his pleasant companions carried him down to the ocean flood,

as he himself had bidden them,

whilst the friend of the Scyldings was wielding words,

he who as the dear Lord of the Land had ruled it a long time.

And there,

in the haven,

stood the ship,

with rings at the prow,

icy,

and eager for the journey,

the ferry of the Atheling.

Then they laid down their dear Lord the giver of rings,

the famous man,

on the bosom of the ship,

close to the mast,

where were heaps of treasures,

armour trappings that had been brought from far ways.

Never heard I of a comelier ship,

decked out with battle-weapons and weeds of war,

with swords and byrnies.

In his bosom they laid many a treasure when he was going on a far journey,

into the power of the sea.

Nor did they provide for him less of booty and of national treasures than they had done,

who at the first had sent him forth,

all alone o’er the waves,

when he was but a child.

Then moreover they set a golden standard high o’er his head,

and let the sea take him,

and gave

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all to the man of the sea.

Full sad were their minds,

and all sorrowing were they.

No man can say soothly,

no,

not any hall-ruler,

nor hero under heaven,

who took in that lading.

3

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1 See Appendix II.

2 Not the hero of the poem.

3 Cp. with this the ‘Passing of Arthur,’ as related by Tennyson.The meaning is clear.

Cp.

also Appendix.

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