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

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II

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When darkness came
the demon set out
for the silent hall
to see how the Danes
had bedded down in it
after their beer-drinking.
They were sound asleep,
sated and carefree
after the banquet,
a band of warriors
slumbering softly
without sorrow or dread.
He attacked them at once
with terrible swiftness,
grimly, greedily
grabbing from their beds
thirty unlucky
thanes of the king,
gloating, glorying
in the grisly deed,
then shambling home
with his shameful spoil.
Later, in the grey
light of morning,
his vast violence
was revealed to men.
Weeping was heard
in the wake of laughter,
noises of lament.
Noble Hrothgar,
the best of rulers,
sat bowed with grief,
dazed by the dreadful
death of his friends,
while he gazed at the ghastly
gore-spattered track
left by the monster.
That lethal assault
by night was his first,
but the next evening
he again raided
the great meadhall
murdering many
men brutally,
prowling pitiless
and impenitent.
And afterward
it was easy enough
to find heroes
who preferred sleeping
in the outbuildings,
once the evil fiend's
mayhem was made
manifest to all,
the marks of his malice:
men who escaped
those cruel clutches
found quarters elsewhere.
The ruthless marauder
ravaged Heorot,
one against many,
until the wide ale-hall
stood unused at night.
As the years passed
the Danish king
sank deeper in sorrow;
it was a tragic time,
twelve winters.
The ogre's evil
went on so long
that news of his raids
was known everywhere,
leaping from land
to land in songs,
how Grendel warred
grimly with Hrothgar,
fought with him fiercely,
feuded season
after sad season,
sought no parley
of peace, no pact
with the prostrate Danes,
and was deaf to demands
for indemnity;
the king's councilors
had no cause to expect
rich reparation
from the ravager's hoard!
Instead the monster
stalked and slaughtered
old men and young,
an eerie death-shadow
lurking at night,
lying in ambush
on the misty moors.
Men never know
where wandering fiends
wait in the dark!
And so the sinister
slayer of men
roamed in blackness
and reveled in crime,
ravaging the hall,
ranging its shadows
and dim depths
in the dead of night,
for the Lord never
allowed him the joy
of that bright building
in broad daylight.
It was a cruel fate
for the king of the Danes,
misery of mind!
His men often
assembled in council,
seeking a way
to end Grendel's
evil attacks
and sudden onslaughts.
Sometimes they practiced
demon worship
at dark altars,
offered sacrifice,
asked the Devil,
the soul-slayer,
to send them help
in their dreadful need:
a damnable custom,
the hope of heathens.
Hell had possession
of their erring minds;
they were ignorant
of the Light of life,
the Lord almighty,
and of how to pray
to heaven's King,
the God of glory.
Grim is the lot
of heedless men
who hurl their souls
into the clutch of fire,
who cut themselves off
from grace forever!
Glorious the lot
of men who rely
on the Almighty for peace
and who find mercy
in the Father's arms.

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