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

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XIV

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Hrothgar made a speech
when he reached the hall
and stood on its steps,
staring upward
at the golden roof
and Grendel's arm:
"Let us give thanks
to God our lord
for his might and mercy!
How much I suffered
from Grendel! But God,
the great Protector,
can work wonder on wonder
on wonder forever!
It is a long time
since I lost hope
that anyone on earth
could ever assuage
my grief and anguish,
when this great building
stood here empty
and stained with blood
and my men were all
unmanned by terror,
my closest and wisest
counselors and friends
truly perplexed
how to protect this hall
from ghouls and goblins.
With God's assistance
this foreign prince
has performed a task
that we, with our deep
wisdom and cunning,
attempted in vain.
Whatever woman
gave birth to this man
of battles may say
with strict truth,
if she is still alive,
that the God of old
showed her great honor
when she bore that child.
Beowulf! Henceforth
I aim to love you
as my own son!
Never forget
this new relationship,
ablest of heroes!
Where I command,
you will have everything
you could ever desire.
I have often bestowed
armlets of gold
on lesser men
and less deserving,
weaker in war.
With wisdom and valor
you have brought it to pass
that your bright glory
will live forever.
May the lord God
favor and befriend you
in future years!"
The son of Ecgtheow
swiftly replied:
"I engaged in the fight
with great good will
and fought fiercely,
unfazed by Grendel
and his wicked strength.
I wish, my lord,
you could look with your eyes
on his lifeless corpse,
stained horribly
with streams of blood!
My plan for the battle
was to pin him down
with bold embraces
on a bed of death,
where his life would ebb
loathsomely away
unless the monster could find
some means of escaping.
God did not give me
the grace to hold him,
for I failed to clutch
the fiendish creature
tightly enough,
and he was too quick
lunging from my grasp,
though he left his hand
behind, in his headlong
haste, and his arm
and shoulder too.
But the shade-stalker
could not prolong his life,
his lethal existence,
by such a sacrifice
and has since died,
crushed by sins
and clasped in hell-chains,
compelled to submit
to painful bondage,
to fetters of flame,
befouled with crimes
and dreading the great
day of judgment,
when God will justly
give him his wages."
Unferth the son
of Ecglaf was silent,
much less inclined
to mocking speech
when, thanks to the hero,
the thanes of Hrothgar
saw the huge trophy
on Heorot's gable,
the fiend-like talon.
The fingertips
of the heathen foe's
horrible claw
were like nails,
like enormous spikes
of iron or steel,
and everyone agreed
that no weapon
known among men,
no matter how sharp,
could have made a wound
on that hand hanging there,
horrid with gore.

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