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

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I

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When Scyld Scefing's
ship had set sail,
leaving behind
the land of the Danes,
they crowned Beowulf
king in his stead
and for many years
he remained their leader.
His highborn son
Healfdene followed
and ruled in his turn
the realm of Denmark,
fathering four
famous children
who were given by God
to this great war-king:
Heorogar, Hrothgar,
Halga the Good,
and a blithe daughter,
the bride of Onela,
sweet bedfellow
of the Swedish king.
Glory in battle
was given to Hrothgar,
fortune in war,
so his followers all
obeyed him gladly
and his band of young
comrades increased.
It occurred to him then
to command a mighty
meadhall to be built,
richer and rarer
than the race of men
had ever seen
on earth before,
and in that stately hall
to distribute all
the gifts God
had given him,
except for public land
and people's lives.
They tell us he assigned
the task of building
that marvelous meadhall
to many races
from around the earth.
It rose quickly,
soaring to the clouds,
and soon it was finished,
noblest of buildings.
He named it Heorot,
he whose word and will
had wide dominion.
He stood by his vow,
distributing gold
from the hoard, while high
overhead the great
wooden rafters
waited for floods
of fire to enfold them,
for the fated day
when the tragic hate
of two in-laws
would flash into flame,
into fierce warfare.
A dread demon
who dwelt in the shadows
daily endured
desperate pain,
obliged to listen
to the bright music
of heroes in hall,
the harp ringing
to the song of the singer
singing the story
of earth's creation
ages ago,
how almighty God
made this glorious
world of wonders
washed by the sea,
how he set on high
the sun and moon
as undying lights
for dwellers on earth
and trimmed the distant
tracts of the world
with branches and leaves,
bringing forth life
in every kind
of earthly creature.
Thus Hrothgar's thanes
reveled in joys,
feasting and drinking,
until their foe started
his persecutions,
a creature of hell.
Grendel, they called him,
this grim spoiler,
a demon who prowled
the dark borderlands,
moors and marshes,
a man-eating giant
who had lived in a lair
in the land of monsters
ever since God
had outlawed him
along with the rest
of the line of Cain.
Abel's murder
had angered the Lord,
who avenged that deed
of violence on Cain,
driving him far
from the dwellings of men.
Spooks and spirits
are spawned from his seed,
elves and goblins
and evil ghouls
and those bold giants
who rebelled against God,
asking for trouble.
They earned their reward!

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