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

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XX

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"Wrong?" said Hrothgar,
ruler of the Danes,
"is something wrong?
Sorrow is renewed
for all Denmark!
Æschere is dead,
the older brother
of Yrmenlaf,
my counselor, confidant,
and closest friend,
the faithful comrade
who fought at my side
in bloody battles
when boar-standards clashed,
tossing in tumult;
whatever a good
soldier should be,
such was Æschere!
A sudden marauder
has slaughtered him, brought him
death in Heorot.
I do not know
if the attacker
has returned home,
glutted with feeding,
but she has grimly avenged
your daring deed
of the day before,
when you slew Grendel
with sudden hand-grip,
paying him back
for preying so long
on my loyal thanes.
He lost the fight;
but now in requital
another monstrous
visitor has come
to avenge her kinsman
and boost the blood-toll
of our baleful feud,
as is all too clear
to anyone who once
enjoyed Æschere's
generous bounty
and whose heart is now heavy.
The hand lies dead
who gave in abundance
the gifts you longed for!
I have heard men say,
my hall-comrades,
keen counselors
and countrymen,
they had been told
that two such beings,
hideous, horrible,
haunted the moors,
wandering fiends.
One of the pair,
as far as they ever
could figure out,
had a woman's form;
the wicked creature
who shared her exile
had the shape of a man
but was huge, much huger
than human beings.
For countless years
he has been called Grendel.
Nothing at all
is known of his father
or if any
ogres like him
were born before him.
The bogs are their home,
a waste world
of windswept crags
and wolf-haunted hills
where the wild torrent
drops down
to depths in the earth
unknowable by men.
It is not far,
measured in miles,
to that menacing place.
Fringing the pool
are fast-rooted trees,
their clawlike limbs
covered with ice.
At night you see something
unnatural there,
flames in the water!
No fleshly man
has dared to explore
that dark abyss.
When the high antlered
heath-stepping stag
is pursued by hounds
and seeking cover,
he will stop and make
a stand on the bank
sooner than plunge
in those sullen waves
and swim to safety.
What a sinister spot!
When stormy winds
stir up the depths,
moist exhalations
mount to the skies
until the air turns black
with icy rain
and the heavens weep.
Help us, Beowulf,
for you are our hope!
You have yet to behold
the wild wasteland
where one can find
that sinful demon---
seek it if you dare!
I will give you a trove
of golden treasure,
undreamt of wealth,
as I did before,
if you vanquish the fiend
and survive the battle."

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