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

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VII

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The peerless king
replied: "You have come here
to repay a debt
of past kindness.
Once, in the country
of the Wylfings, your sire
killed Heatholaf,
kindling such a feud
that afterward even
his own people
dared not harbor him,
dreading reprisals.
An outcast, exiled
by his own Geats,
he fled to Denmark
to find asylum.
I was barely more
than a boy at the time,
just beginning my reign
in this great kingdom;
my older brother,
the heir to the throne,
Healfdene's son
Heorogar the prince,
a heroic youth,
had recently died,
an abler warrior
than I. I settled
your father's feud,
freely sending
the Wylfings treasure
over the wide ocean.
I saved your father;
he swore me allegiance.
It is bitter
to be obliged to tell
anyone on earth
what awful grief
Grendel has caused me
with his grim hate-thoughts
and dreadful attacks.
My dear war-band
dwindled as fate
dashed them away
into Grendel's maw.
God, if he wished it,
could easily end
this orgy of death.
Emboldened by beer,
my best warriors
would often, emptying
their ale-cups, vow
to wait for Grendel
and his wild onslaught
here in the meadhall
with hard war-swords.
But when the light of dawn
at last appeared,
these spacious walls
would be spattered with gore,
the bench-planks splashed
with bloody stains,
the floor dripping.
My faithful band
had shrunk once again,
shamefully butchered.
Now sit at the banquet
and say what you think;
tell us how you hope
to triumph over Grendel."
Benches were cleared
in the bright meadhall
so the seafarers
could sit together;
strong in spirit,
those sturdy warriors
assumed their places.
A servant presently
brought them embossed
beer-cups and poured
the sweet mead.
Sometimes the poet
with his ringing voice
would rouse the company
of Danes and seamen
drinking together.

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