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

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XIII

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In the morning, they say,
many warriors
gathered together
at the great meadhall.
Folk-chiefs had traveled
from far and near
to stare at a marvel:
the strange being
had left behind him
large, bloody
footprints in the ground.
His fate gratified
men who followed
that monstrous spoor
and saw how he stumbled,
sad and stricken,
dying, defeated,
dragging agonized
lagging footsteps
to the lair of sea-beasts,
where the waves were all
awash in blood,
their red surges
reeking and steaming
and heaving, hideous
with hot gore.
He died joylessly,
doomed and despairing,
forfeited life
in his fen-refuge,
and hell swallowed
his heathen soul.
Mounting their horses,
men headed
home from the water
in high spirits,
elated and laughing,
light-hearted youngsters
riding side by side
with seasoned thanes;
they talked of the hero's
spectacular success,
saying that neither
to the south nor the north
nor anywhere else
on earth, beneath
the wheeling sky,
did a warrior live
wiser or worthier
of a wide kingdom,
though they meant with this
no diminishment
of great Hrothgar,
their gracious king.
Sometimes they raced
their swift horses,
hardy warriors
in high spirits,
where the woodland ways
were wide and the tracks
safe and easy;
sometimes a thane
of the king's would perform,
a consummate poet
who knew and could sing
numberless tales,
could relate them in linked
language, in words
arrayed properly,
and who was already at work
blazoning Beowulf's
brilliant achievement,
composing a poem
of praise, skillfully
weaving its web.
This word-smith repeated
all the tales
he had ever heard
about Sigemund
the son of Wæls,
striking stories
of struggle and feud,
wickedness, wide
wanderings, stories
that no one knew
but his nephew, the young
Fitela, who heard
frequent accounts
of his uncle's old
exploits and feats
when the two kinsmen
traveled together,
slaying numerous
savage giants
with their swift swords.
Sigemund later,
after his death,
possessed undying fame:
beneath grey cliffs
the great champion
had fought a dragon
who defended a hoard.
He slew the creature
by himself, performed
the feat entirely
without Fitela's help,
swinging his sword
with such savage force
that it skewered the great
scaly horror
and its deadly point
sank deep in the rock.
Swiftly, in the sequel,
the son of Wæls
plundered the dragon's
priceless treasure
to his heart's content,
heaping his ship
with beautiful
bright ornaments;
meanwhile the monster
melted away
into sludge-puddles.
Sigemund's courage
was so absolute
that in after years
he was remembered by men
as the most exalted
of princely exiles
after the pitiful
death of the Danish
despot Heremod,
betrayed by his own
tribe to the Jutes
and murdered at once.
Mental anguish
had crippled Heremod:
he became, in the end,
an evil burden
to his own people,
who were enraged by his wrathful
and erratic deeds,
his lawless ways.
He lost the hearts
of loyal followers
who looked to him for help,
who thought that their prince
would thrive in virtue,
inherit the great
high-seat of his father
and lead Denmark.
But he lost their hearts
when sin and sorrow
usurped his mind;
whereas Beowulf
won the unbounded love
of each of the Danes
and all mankind.
Sometimes the horsemen
measured sandy paths
on their dark-hued steeds.
The day wore on
and by mid morning
a mob of chieftains
had gathered at Heorot
to gaze at the tokens
of Grendel's defeat.
Great Hrothgar
himself, the gracious
soul of Denmark,
came to join them
with a crowd of thanes,
and Wealhtheow his queen
walked by his side
down the meadhall path
with her maiden train.

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