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

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XVII

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The followers of Finn
whom the fight had spared
returned bitterly
to towns and high
halls throughout Frisia.
But Hengest stayed on,
remaining with Finn
that murder-stained
unhappy winter,
homesick and filled
with pain, but unable
to put out to sea
in his ring-prowed ship:
it was raging with storms
and winter winds,
its waves frozen
until next spring
should renew the world,
that noble season
that never failed
to appear to men
at its proper time---
and does so still.
The dark days passed
and the earth turned green;
the exile's heart
thirsted to depart,
but his thoughts dwelt less
on the voyage ahead
than on revenge and a grim
end to the quarrel.
In his innermost heart
he treasured hatred
for the treacherous foes
and longed for vengeance,
the law of the world,
itching for battle
every morning
when he girded on
grey Hunlafing,
his trusty weapon,
the terror of the Jutes.
And so came the day
when swords drawn in anger
put an end to Finn
in his own meadhall,
when Oslaf and Guthlaf
openly complained
about the foul attack
that followed their arrival,
and about monstrous wrong.
Men were unable
to restrain their rage,
and straightway the floor
was flooded with blood,
Finn slaughtered,
the king in his court,
and his queen taken.
The elated Danes
loaded their ships
with the vast riches
of the vanquished king,
hall furniture
and heaped-up gems,
countless treasures.
They carried the lady
Hildeburh home
in their heaving ships,
restored to her people.
The story was finished;
the poet fell silent
and applause resounded
amid cries of the feast.
Cupbearers poured
wine from flagons
and Wealhtheow strode forth,
graceful in her golden necklace,
to where the great co-rulers,
Hrothgar and Hrothulf, were sitting
in unruptured friendship,
uncle and eminent nephew;
and there sat Unferth the spokesman,
fast by the feet of Hrothgar,
for they had faith in Unferth,
in his great spirit,
though he had given no quarter
once, in war, to kinsmen.
And now Wealhtheow was speaking:
"Giver of treasure,
my great consort!
Drain this beaker,
drink and be merry!
My splendid lord,
speak to these Geats
with friendly words,
as is fit and proper;
and be liberal,
lavish with the goods
that you now possess
from near and far.
They have told me
you intend to adopt
this hero as your son.
Heorot has been cleansed,
our jubilant hall,
so enjoy good fortune
as long as you can;
but leave the kingdom
to your own children,
your heirs, when death
finally comes.
I have faith that Hrothulf,
your loyal nephew,
will look on our two
youngsters with love
if you, most gracious
and dread sovereign,
should die before he does.
I trust he will treat
our two children
with mildness and mercy,
remembering
the warmth and kindness
with which we treated him
when he was himself
a helpless child."
She approached the place
where her princelings sat,
Hrethric and Hrothmund,
around them a throng
of Danish youths
and, drinking between them
on the bench,
Beowulf the Geat.

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