University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

Ringler, Dick / Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (May 2005)

Previous Previous section

Next section Next



 

[Prologue]

Listen to the entire poem

Listen to this section

We have heard tell
of the high doings
of Danish kings
in days gone by,
how the great war-chiefs
gained their renown,
how Scyld Scefing
shattered his foes,
mastered the meadhalls
of many peoples,
conquered their kings.
He came to Denmark
as a lone foundling,
but later he thrived;
his name was renowned
beneath the skies
and kings and kingdoms
across the whale-road,
the surging sea,
swore him allegiance,
paid him tribute.
He was a peerless king!
Later the Lord
of life gave him
a son who would someday
succeed him in Denmark,
a pledge to its people:
their plight had moved him,
their time of trial
and terrible grief
lacking a leader.
The Lord bestowed
success and honor
on this son of Scyld,
and Beowulf the Dane
could boast a name
known everywhere
in Scandinavia.
In just such a manner,
with generous gifts
from his father's hoard,
a future king
insures that one day
unshrinking friends
will stand by his side
if strife should come,
will support their prince:
it is praiseworthy deeds
that win warriors'
willing allegiance.
At his foreshaped hour
Scyld departed,
grey-haired, vigorous,
into God's keeping.
Care-stricken comrades
carried his body
to the edge of the sea,
honoring the wish
he had made when still
master of his speech,
he who had so long
held the kingdom.
His ring-beaked ship
was ready to sail,
ice-clad, impatient,
eager for the voyage.
They laid their beloved
lord in its hold,
rested their ring-giver
in its roomy hull
near the heel of the mast.
They heaped beside him
fabulous wealth
from far-off lands;
I have never heard
of such magnificent things,
mailcoats and swords
and mask-helmets
and bright war-shields;
on his breast lay many
dazzling jewels
destined to travel
to the far reaches
of the flood's domain.
His men equipped him
with much more treasure
than the warriors
who had once sent him
wandering the wastes
of the wide ocean,
alone and friendless,
a little child.
Finally the Danes
affixed a golden
standard above him,
let the stream have him,
the sea-surge take him.
Their souls were troubled,
numb with mourning.
No man on earth,
not even the wisest,
can ever know
or say for certain
who received that cargo.

Previous Previous section

Next section Next




Go up to Top of Page