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

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XI

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Now Grendel came,
gliding like mist
across the bleak moorland,
bearing God's wrath.
The merciless monster
meant to ensnare
fresh victims
in the fear-stricken hall.
He strode rapidly
beneath the starless sky
until at last Heorot
loomed before him,
gleaming with gold.
This greedy visit
to the home of the Danes
was hardly his first,
though before tonight
he had never found
hardier hall-thanes
or harder luck.
Now Grendel came,
grim and joyless,
to the entrance door.
Its iron, fire-forged
bolts shattered
at his bare touch.
Raging and ravenous
he wrenched open
the mouth of the building
and his monstrous feet
trod on its precious
tile-covered floor;
in the eerie dark
his eyes darted
rays of raging
red hellfire.
He saw before him
in the silent hall
a throng of youthful
thanes and kinsmen
lying in their beds.
He laughed in his heart
out of pure pleasure:
he planned to separate
those sleeping men's
souls from their bodies
long before daybreak;
he looked forward
to fabulous feasting.
But fate would forbid him
to eat people
ever again
after that night,
for there lay Hygelac's
kinsman, alert
and carefully watching
how the murderer
meant to proceed.
The monster was not
minded to dawdle
but swooped suddenly
on a sleeping man;
slobbering with greed
he slit him open,
guzzled the blood
gushing from his veins
and gulped down great
gobbets of flesh;
he polished him off
completely, hands
and feet included.
The fiend stepped closer,
stretching his stealthy
steel-clawed fingers
toward a still figure
who stirred suddenly
and braced himself,
then sat bolt upright
and grabbed Grendel's
groping forearm.
The ruthless marauder
realized at once
that he had never met
another man
anywhere on earth
with such awsome strength
in his ten fingers;
but the terror that froze
his heart was of no
help in escaping.
Frightened now, he longed
to flee to the darkness
of his devils' den;
this dreadful encounter
was nothing like those
he had known before!
Beowulf recalled
his boasting words
at last night's banquet;
he leapt to his feet
and grasped Grendel
in a grip of steel.
Fingers shattered
as the fiend made
a lunge for the doorway,
longing to get clear;
the ogre intended,
if only he could,
to flee to the fens;
his fingers, he knew,
were in his foe's power.
It was a fateful trip
the twilight prowler
had taken to Heorot!
The crashes and cries
coming from the hall
filled the Danes with dread,
like draughts of bitter
and baleful beer.
Both combatants
were blind with fury.
The building shuddered
and it was a miracle
it managed to survive,
withstanding the shock
instead of collapsing,
but it was reinforced
and firmly braced
outside and in
with iron, the work
of master smiths,
though the mead-benches trimmed
with gold were shattered
into glum wreckage
(I have heard it said)
during that hostile clash.
How could the builders
of Heorot imagine
that any man
by any means
could damage it,
adorned with ivory,
could ravage and ruin it,
unless raging flames
should someday swallow it?
The sounds grew louder,
pulsing eerily;
panic and dread
harrowed the Danes
who heard the noise,
the wild wailing
through the wall of the hall,
the ghastly screams
of God's enemy,
the horrid captive
of hell keening,
howling in defeat,
held by Beowulf.
A man with more
might was not living
in those days
of this world.

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